By MRS. SIDNEY S. HARRIS
Author of "Rutledge," "St. Phillips," etc., etc.
CHAPTER I. VARICK-STREET
CHAPTER II. VERY GOOD LUCK
CHAPTER III. KILIAN
CHAPTER IV. MY COMPANIONS
CHAPTER V. THE TUTOR
CHAPTER VI. MATINAL
CHAPTER VII. THREE WEEKS TOO LATE
CHAPTER VIII. SUNDAY
CHAPTER IX. A DANCE
CHAPTER X. EVERY DAY FROM SIX TO SEVEN.
CHAPTER XI. SOPHIE'S WORK
CHAPTER XII. PRAEMONITUS, PRAEMUNITUS
CHAPTER XIII. THE WORLD GOES ON THE SAME
CHAPTER XIV. GUARDED
CHAPTER XV. I SHALL HAVE SEEN HIM
CHAPTER XVI. AUGUST THIRTIETH
CHAPTER XVII. BESIDE HIM ONCE AGAIN
CHAPTER XVIII. A JOURNEY
CHAPTER XIX. SISTER MADELINE
CHAPTER XX. THE HOUR OF DAWN
CHAPTER XXI. APRES PERDRE, PERD ON BIEN
CHAPTER XXII. A GREAT DEAL TOO SOON
CHAPTER XXIII. A REVERSAL
CHAPTER XXIV. MY NEW WORLD
CHAPTER XXV. BIEN PERDU, BIEN CONNU
CHAPTER XXVI. A DINNER
O for one spot of living green, One little spot where leaves can grow,— To love unblamed, to walk unseen, To dream above, to sleep below!
There are in this loud stunning tide, Of human care and crime, With whom the melodies abide Of th' everlasting chime;
* * * * *
And to wise hearts this certain hope is given; "No mist that man may raise, shall hide the eye of Heaven."
I never knew exactly how the invitation came; I felt very much honored by it, though I think now, very likely the honor was felt to be upon the other side. I was exceedingly young, and exceedingly ignorant, not seventeen, and an orphan, living in the house of an uncle, an unmarried man of nearly seventy, wholly absorbed in business, and not much more interested in me than in his clerks and servants.
I had come under his protection, a little girl of two years old, and had been in his house ever since. I had had as good care as a very ordinary class of servants could give me, and was supplied with some one to teach me, and had as much money to spend as was good for me—perhaps more; and I do not feel inclined to say my uncle did not do his duty, for I do not think he knew of anything further to do; and strictly speaking, I had no claim on him, for I was only a great-niece, and there were those living who were more nearly related to me, and who were abundantly able to provide for me, if they had been willing to do it.
When I came in to the household, its wants were attended to by a cook and a man-servant, who had lived many years with my uncle. A third person was employed as my nurse, and a great deal of quarrelling was the result of her coming. I quite wonder my uncle did not put me away at board somewhere, rather than be disturbed. But in truth, I do not believe that the quarrelling disturbed him much, or that he paid much attention to the matter, and so the matter settled itself. My nurses were changed very often, by will of the cook and old Peter, and I never was happy enough to have one who had very high principle, or was more than ordinarily good-tempered.
I don't know who selected my teachers; probably they applied for employment and were received. They were very business-like and unsuggestive people. I was of no more interest to them than a bale of goods, I believe. Indeed, I seemed likely to go a bale of goods through life; everything that was done for me was done for money, and with a view to the benefit of the person serving me. I was not sent to school, which was a very great pity; it was owing to the fact, no doubt, that somebody applied to my uncle to teach me at home, and so the system was inaugurated, and never received a second thought, and I went on being taught at home till I was seventeen.
The "home" was as follows; a large dark house on the unsunny side of a dull street; furniture that had not been changed for forty years, walls that were seldom repainted, windows that were rarely opened. The neighborhood had been for many years unfashionable and undesirable, and, by the time I was grown up, nobody would have lived in it, who had cared to have a cheerful home, I might almost have said, a respectable one, I fancy ours was nearly the only house in the block occupied by its owner; the others, equally large, were rented for tenement houses, or boarding-houses, and perhaps for many things worse. It was probably owing to this fact, that my uncle gave orders, once for all, I was never to go into the street alone; and I believe, in my whole life, I had never taken a walk unaccompanied by a servant, or one of my teachers.
A very dull life indeed. I wonder how I endured it. The rooms were so dismal, the windows so uneventful. If it had not been for a room in the garret where I had my playthings, and where the sun came all day long, I am sure I should have been a much worse and more unhappy child. As I grew older, I tried to adorn my room (my own respectable sleeping room, I mean), with engravings, and the little ornaments that I could buy. But it was a hopeless attempt. The walls were so high and so dingy, the little pictures were lost upon them; and the vases on the great black mantel-shelf looked so insignificant, I felt ashamed of them, and owned the unfitness of decorating such a room. No flowers would grow in those cold north windows—no bird would sing in sight of such a street. I gave it up with a sigh; and there was one good instinct lost.
When I was about eleven, I fell foul of some good books. If it had not been for them, I truly do not see how I could have known that I was not to lie or steal, and that God was to be worshipped. Certainly, I had had hands slapped many times for taking things I had been forbidden to touch, and had had many a battle in consequence of "telling stories," with the servants of the house, but I had always recognized the personal spite of the punishments, and they had not carried with them any moral lesson.
I had sometimes gone to church; but the sermons in large city churches are not generally elementary, and I did not understand those that I heard at all. Occasionally I went with the nurse to Vespers, and that I thought delightful. I was enraptured with the pictures, the music, the rich clothes of the priests; if it had not been for the bad odor of the neighboring worshippers, I think I might have rushed into the bosom of the Church of Rome. But that offended sense restrained me. And so, as I said, if I had not obtained access to some books of holy and pure influence, and been starved by the dullness of the life around me into taking hold of them with eagerness, I should have led the life of a little heathen in the midst of light. Of course the books were not written for my especial case, nor were they books for children,—and so, much was supposed, and not expressed, and consequently the truth they imparted to me was but fragmentary. But it was truth, and the influence was holy.
I was driven to books; I do not believe I had any more desire than most vivid, palpitating, fluttering young things of my sex, to pore over a dull black and white page; but this black and white gate opened to me golden fields of happiness, while I was perishing of hunger in a life of dreary fact.
When I was about sixteen, however, an outside human influence, not written in black and white, came into the current of my existence. About that time, my uncle took into his firm, as junior partner, a young man who had long been a clerk in the house. After his promotion he often came home with my uncle to dinner. I think this was done, perhaps, with a view of civil treatment, on the first occasion; but afterward, it was continued because my uncle could not bear to leave business when he left the office, and because he could talk on the matters which were dearer to him than his dinner, with this junior, in whom he took unqualified delight. He often wrote letters in the evening, which my uncle dictated, and he sometimes did not go away till eleven o'clock at night. The first time he came, I did not notice him very much. It was not unusual for Uncle Leonard to be accompanied by some gentleman who talked business with him during dinner; and being naturally shy, and moreover, on this occasion, in the middle of a very interesting book, at once timid and indifferent, I slipped away from the table the moment that I could. But upon the third or fourth occasion of his being there, I became interested, finding often a pair of handsome eyes fixed on me, and being occasionally addressed and made a partner in the conversation. Uncle Leonard very rarely talked to me, and I think found me in the way when Richard Vandermarck made the talk extend to me.
But this was the beginning of a very much improved era for me. I lost my shyness, and my fear of Uncle Leonard, and indeed, I think, my frantic thirst for books, and became quite a young lady. We were great friends; he brought me books, he told me about other people, he opened a thousand doors of interest and pleasure to me. I never can enumerate all I owed to him. My dull life was changed, and the house owed him gratitude.
We began to have the gas lighted in the parlor, and even Uncle Leonard came in there sometimes and sat after dinner, before he went up into that dreary library above. I think he rather enjoyed hearing us talk gayly across his sombre board; he certainly became softer and more human toward me after Richard came to be so constantly a guest. He gave me more money to spend, (that was always the expression of his feelings, his language, so to speak;) he made various inquiries and improvements about the house. The dinners themselves were improved, for a horrible monotony had crept into the soups and sauces of forty years; and Uncle Leonard was no epicure; he seemed to have no more stomach than he had heart; brain and pocket made the man.
I think unconsciously he was much influenced by Richard, whose business talent had charmed him, and to whom he looked for much that he knew he must soon lose. He was glad to make the house seem pleasant to him, and he was much gratified by his frequent coming. And Richard was peculiarly a man to like and to lean upon. Not in any way brilliant, and with no literary tastes, he was well educated enough, and very well informed; a thorough business man. I think he was ordinarily reserved, but our intercourse had been so unconventional, that I did not think him so at all. He was rather good-looking, tall and square-shouldered, with light-brown hair and fine dark-blue eyes; he had a great many points of advantage.
One day, long after he had become almost a member of the household, he told me he wanted me to know his sister, and that she would come the next day to see me, if I would like it. I did like it, and waited for her with impatience. He had told me a great deal about her, and I was full of curiosity to see her. She was a little older than Richard, and the only sister; very pretty, and quite a person of consequence in society. She had made an unfortunate marriage, though of that Richard said very little to me; but with better luck than attends most unfortunately-married, women, she was released by her husband's early death, and was free to be happy again, with some pretty boys, a moderate fortune, and two brothers to look after her investments, and do her little errands for her. She considered herself fortunate; and was a widow of rare discretion, in that she was wedded to her unexpected independence, and never intended to be wedded to anything or anybody else. She was naturally cool and calculating, and was in no danger of being betrayed by her feelings into any other course of life than the one she had marked out as most expedient. If she was worldly, she was also useful, intelligent, and popular, and a paragon in her brother's partial eyes.
VERY GOOD LUCK.
Mieux vaut une once de fortune qu'une livre de sagesse.
At last (on the day on which Richard had advertised me she was coming,) the door was opened, and some one was taken to the parlor. Then old Peter rang a bell which stood on the hall table, and called out to Ann Coddle (once my nurse, now the seamstress, chambermaid, and general lightener of his toils), to tell Miss Pauline a lady wanted her.
This bell was to save his old bones; he never went up-stairs, and he resented every visitor as an innovation. They were so few, his temper was not much tried. I was leaning over the stairs when the bell rang, and did not need a second message. Ann, who continued to feel a care for my personal appearance, followed me to the landing-place and gave my sash a last pull.
When I found myself in the parlor I began to experience a little embarrassment. Mrs. Hollenbeck was so pretty and her dress was so dainty, the dingy, stiff, old parlor filled me with dismay. Fortunately, I did not think much of myself or my own dress. But after a little, she put me at ease, that is, drew me out and made me feel like talking to her.
I admired her very much, but I did not feel any of the affection and quick cordiality with which Richard had inspired me. I could tell that she was curious about me, and was watching me attentively, and though she was so charming that I felt flattered by her interest, I was not pleased when I remembered my interview with her.
"You are not at all like your brother," I said, glancing in her face with frankness.
"No?" she said smilingly, and looking attentively at me with an expression which I did not understand.
And then she drew me on to speak of all his features, which I did with the utmost candor, showing great knowledge of the subject.
"And you," she said, "you do not look at all as I supposed. You are not nearly so young—Richard told me you were quite a child. I was not prepared for this grace; this young ladyhood—'cette taille de palmier,'" she added, with a little sweep of the hand.
Somehow I was not pleased to feel that Richard had talked of me to her, though I liked it that he had talked of her to me. No doubt she saw it, for I was lamentably transparent. "Do you lead a quiet life, or have you many friends?" she said, as if she did not know exactly the kind of life I led, and as if she had not come for the express purpose of helping me out of it, at the instance of her kindly brother. Then, of course, I told her all about my dull days, and she pitied me, and said lightly it must not be, and I must see more of the world, and she, for her part, must know me better, etc., etc. And then she went away.
In a few days, I went with Ann Coddle, in a carriage, to return the visit. The house was small, but in a beautiful, bright street, and the one window near the door was full of ferns and ivies. I did not get in, which was a disappointment to me, particularly as I had no printed card, and realized keenly all the ignominy of leaving one in writing. This was in April, and I saw no more of my new friend. Richard was away, on some business of the firm, and the days were very dull indeed.
In May he came back, and resumed the dinners, and the evenings in the parlor, though not quite with the frequency of the past winter,—and I think there was the least shade of constraint in his manner. It was on one of these May days that he came and took me to the Park. It was a great occasion; I had never been so happy before in my life. I was in great doubt about taking Ann Coddle; never having been out of the house without a person of that description in attendance before. But Ann got a suspicion of my doubt and settled it, to go—of course. I think Richard was rather chagrined when she followed us out to get into the carriage; she was so dried-up and shrewish-looking, and wore such an Irish bonnet. But she preserved a discreet silence, and looked steadfastly out of the carriage window, so we soon forgot that she was there, though she was directly opposite to us. It was Saturday; the day was fresh and lovely, and there were crowds of people driving in the Park. Once we left the carriage with Ann Coddle in it, and went to hear the music. It was while we were sitting for a few moments under the vines to listen to it, and watch the gay groups of people around us, that a carriage passed within a dozen feet, and a lady leaned out and bowed with smiles.
"Why, see—it is your sister!" I exclaimed, with the vivacity of a person of a very limited acquaintance.
"Ah," he said, and raised his hat carelessly. But I saw he was not pleased; he pushed the end of his moustache into his mouth, and bit it, as he always did when out of humor, and very soon proposed we should go back and find the carriage. It was not long, however, before he recovered from this annoyance, as he had from the unexpected pleasure of Ann's company; and, I am sure, was as sorry as I when it was time to go home to dinner.
He stayed and dined with us; another gentleman had come home with my uncle, who talked well and amused us very much. I was excited and in high spirits; altogether, it was a very happy day.
It was more than a week after this, that the invitation came which turned the world upside down at once, and made me most extravagantly happy. It was from Mrs. Hollenbeck, and I was asked to spend part of June and all of July and August, with them at R——.
At R—— was their old family home, a place of very little pretension, but to which they were much attached. When the father died, five years before, the two sons had bought the place, or rather had taken it as their share, turning over the more productive property to their sister.
They had been very reluctant to close the house, and it was decided that Sophie should go there every summer, and take her servants from the city; the expenses of the place being borne by the two young men. They were very well able to do it, as both were successful in business, and keeping open the old home, with no diminution of the hospitality of their father's time, was perhaps the greatest pleasure that they had. It was an arrangement which suited Sophie admirably. It gave her the opportunity to entertain pleasantly and informally; it was a capital summer-home for her two boys; it was in the centre of an agreeable neighborhood; and above all, it gave her yearly-exhausted purse time to recuperate and swell again before the winter's drain. Of course she loved the place, too, but not with the simple affection that her two brothers did. The young men invited their friends there without restriction, as was to be supposed; and Sophie was a gay and agreeable hostess. No one could have made the house pleasanter than she did; and she left nothing undone to gratify her brothers' tastes and wishes, like a wise and prudent woman as she was.
I did not know all this then, or my invitation might not have overwhelmed me with such gratitude to her. I reproached myself for not having loved her the first time I saw her.
Three months! Three happy months in the country! I could hardly believe it possible such a thing had happened to me. I took the note to my uncle without much fear of his opposition, for he rarely opposed anything that I had the courage to ask him, except going in the street alone. (I believe my mother had made a runaway match, and I think he had faith in inherited traits; his one resolution regarding me must have been, not to give me a chance.) He read the note carefully, and then looked me over with more interest than usual, and told me I might go. Afterward he gave me a roll of bills, and told me to come to him for more money, if I needed it.
I was much excited about my clothes. I could not think that anything was good enough to go to R——; and I am afraid I spent a good deal of my uncle's money. Ann Coddle and the cook thought that my dresses were magnificent, and old Peter groaned over the coming of the packages. I had indeed a wardrobe fit for a young princess, and in very good taste besides, because I was born with that. An inheritance, no doubt. And my uncle never complained at all about the bills. I seemed to have become, in some way, a person of considerable importance in the house. Ann Coddle no more fretted at me, but waited on me with alacrity. The cook ceased to bully me, and on the contrary, flattered me outrageously. I remembered the long years of bullying, and put no faith in her assurances. I did not know exactly why this change had happened, but supposed it might be the result of having become a young lady, and being invited to pay visits.
You are well made—have common sense, And do not want for impudence. Faust.
_Tanto buen die val niente.
Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l'admire_.
The packages finally ceased coming and the stiff old bell from being pulled; but only half an hour before the carriage drove to the door that was to take me to the boat. Ann Coddle was flying up and down the stairs, and calling messages over to Peter in a shrill voice. She was not designed by nature for a lady's maid, and was a very disagreeable person to have about one's room. She made me even more nervous than I should otherwise have been. I had never packed a trunk before, or had one packed, and might have thought it a very simple piece of business if Ann had not made such a mountain of it; packing every tray half a dozen times over, and going down-stairs three times about every article that was to come up from the laundry.
Happily she was not to go with me any farther than the boat. Richard was away again on business—had been gone, indeed, since the day after we had driven in the Park: so I was to be put on board the boat, and left in charge of Kilian, his younger brother, who had called at my uncle's office, and made the arrangement with him. I had never seen Kilian, and the meeting filled me with apprehension; my uncle, however, sent up one of his clerks in the carriage to take me to the boat, and put me in charge of this young gentleman. This considerate action on the part of my uncle seemed to fill up the measure of my surprises.
When we reached the boat, the clerk, a respectful youth, conducted me to the upper deck, and then left me with Ann, while he went down about the baggage.
With all our precautions, we were rather late, for the last bell was ringing; Ann was in a fever of impatience, and I was quite uncertain what to do, the clerk not having returned, and Mr. Kilian Vandermarck not having yet appeared. Ann was so disagreeable, and so disturbing to all thinking, that I had more than once to tell her to be quiet. Matters seemed to have reached a crisis. The man at the gangway was shouting "all aboard;" the whistle was blowing; the bell was ringing; Ann was whimpering; when a belated-looking young man with a book and paper under his arm came up the stairs hurriedly and looked around with anxiety. As soon as his eye fell on us, he looked relieved, and walked directly up to me, and called me by name, interrogatively.
"O yes," I said eagerly, "but do get this woman off the boat or we'll have to take her with us." "Oh, no danger," he said, "plenty of time," and he took her toward the stairs, at the head of which she was met by the clerk, who touched his hat to me, handed the checks to Mr. Vandermarck, then hurried off with Ann. Mr. Vandermarck returned to me, but I was so engrossed looking over the side of the boat and watching for Ann and the clerk, that I took no notice of him.
At last I saw Ann scramble on the wharf, just before the plank was drawn in; with a sigh of relief I turned away.
"I want to apologize for being so late," he said.
"Why, it is not any matter," I answered, "only I had not the least idea what to do."
"You are not used to travelling alone, then, I suppose?"
"Oh no," nor to travelling any way, for the matter of that, I added to myself; but not aloud, for I had a great fear that it should be known how very limited my experience was.
"You must let me take your shawl and bag, and we will go and get a comfortable seat," he said in a few moments. We went forward and found comfortable chairs under an awning, and where there was a fine breeze. It was a warm afternoon, and the change from the heated and glaring wharf was delightful. Mr. Vandermarck threw himself back in his chair with an expression of relief, and took off his straw hat.
"If you had been in Wall-street since ten o'clock this morning you would be prepared to enjoy this sail," he said.
"Is Wall-street so very much more disagreeable than other places? I think my uncle regrets every moment that he spends away from it."
"Ah, yes. Mr. Greer may; he has a good deal to make him like it; if I made as much money as he does every day there, I think it's possible I might like it too. But it is a different matter with a poor devil like me: if I get off without being cheated out of all I've got, it is as much as I can ask."
"Well, perhaps when he was your age, Uncle Leonard did not ask more than that."
"Not he; he began, long before he was as old as I am, to do what I can never learn to do, Miss d'Esiree—make money with one hand and save it with the other. Now, I'm ashamed to say, a great deal of money comes into my pockets, but it never stays there long enough to give me the feeling that I'm a rich man. One gets into a way of living that's destruction to all chances of a fortune."
"But what's the good of a fortune if you don't enjoy it?" I said, thinking of the dreary house in Varick-street.
"No good," he said. "It isn't in my nature to be satisfied with the knowledge that I've got enough to make me happy locked up somewhere in a safe: I must get it out, and strew it around in sight in the shape of horses, pictures, nice rooms, and good things to eat, before I can make up my mind that the money is good for anything. Now as to Richard, he is just the other way: old head on young shoulders, old pockets in young breeches (only there ar'nt any holes in them). He's a model of prudence, is my brother Richard. Qui garde son diner, il a mieux a souper. He'll be a rich man one of these fine days. I look to him to keep me out of jail. You know Richard very well, I believe?" he said, turning a sudden look on me, which would have been very disconcerting to an older person, or one more acquainted with the world.
"O, very well indeed," I said with great simplicity. "You know he is such a favorite with my uncle, and he is a great deal at the house."
"Well he may be a favorite, for he is built exactly on his model; at seventy, if I am not hung for debt before I reach it, I shall look to see him just a second Mr. Leonard Greer."
I made a gesture of dissent. "I don't think he is in the least like Uncle Leonard, and I don't think he cares at all for money."
"O, Miss Pauline, don't you believe him if he says he doesn't. I'm his younger brother, whom he has lectured and been hard on for these twenty-seven years, and I know more about it than anybody else."
"Why, is Mr. Richard Vandermarck twenty-seven years old?" I said with much surprise.
"Twenty-nine his next birthday, and I am twenty-seven. Why, did he pass himself off for younger? That's an excellent thing against him."
"No; he did not pass himself off for anything in the matter of age. It was only my idea about him. I thought he was not more than twenty-five, perhaps even younger than that. But then I had nobody but Uncle Leonard to compare him with, and it isn't strange that I didn't get quite right."
"It is something of a step from Mr. Greer to Richard, I must say. Mr. Greer seems so much the oldest man in the world, and Richard—well, Richard isn't that, but he is a good deal older than he ought to be. But do you tell me, Miss Pauline, you havn't any younger fellows than Richard on your cards? Do they keep you as quiet as all that in Varick-street?"
I knew by intuition this was impertinence, and no doubt I looked annoyed, and Mr. Vandermarck hastened to obliterate the impression by a very rapid movement upon the scenery, the beauties of the river, and many things as novel.
The three hours of our sail passed away pleasantly. Mr. Vandermarck did not move from his seat; did not even read his paper, though I gave him an opportunity by turning over the leaves of my "Littel" on the occurrence of every pause.
I felt that I knew him quite well before the journey was over, and I liked him exceedingly, almost as well as Richard. He was rather handsomer than Richard, not so tall, but more vivacious and more amusing, much more so. I began to think Richard rather dull when I contrasted him with his brother.
When we reached the wharf, Mr. Vandermarck, after disposing of the baggage, gave his arm to me, and took me to an open wagon which was waiting for us. He put me in the seat beside him, and took the reins with a look of pleasure.
"These are Tom and Jerry, Miss Pauline," he said, "about the pleasantest members of the family; at least they contribute more to my pleasure than any other members of it. I squandered about half my income on them a year or two ago, and have not repented yet; though, indeed, repentance isn't in my way. I shall hope for the happiness of giving you many drives with them, if I am permitted."
"Nothing could make me happier, I am sure."
"Richard hasn't any horses, though he can afford it much better than I can. He does his driving, when he is here, with the carriage-horses that we keep for Sophie—a dull old pair of brutes. He disapproves very much of Tom and Jerry; but you see it would never do to have two such wise heads in one family."
"It would destroy the balance of power in the neighborhood."
"Decidedly; as it is, we are a first-class power, owing to Sophie's cleverness and Richard's prudence; my prodigality is just needed to keep us from overrunning the county and proclaiming an empire at the next town meeting. How do you like Sophie, Miss d'Estree? I know you haven't seen much of her—but what you have? Isn't she clever, and isn't she a pretty woman to be nearly thirty-five?"
I was feeling very grateful for my invitation, and so I said a great deal of my admiration for his sister.
"Everybody likes her," he said, complacently. "I don't know a more popular person anywhere. She is the life of the neighborhood; people come to her for everything, if they want to get a new door-mat for the school-house, or if they want a new man nominated for the legislature. I think she's awfully bored, sometimes, but she keeps it to herself. But though the summer is her rest, she always does enough to tire out anybody else. Now, for instance, she is going to have three young ladies with her for the next two months (besides yourself, Miss d'Estree), whom she will have to be amusing all the time, and some friends of mine who will turn the house inside out. But Sophie never grumbles."
"Tell me about them all," I said, consuming with a fever of curiosity.
"O, I forgot you did not know them. Shall I begin with the young ladies?—(Sam, there's a stone in Jerry's off fore-foot; get down and look about it—Steady!—there, I knew it)—Excuse me, Miss d'Estree. Well,—the young ladies. There's one of our cousins, a grand, handsome, sombre, estimable girl, whom nobody ever flirts with, but whom somebody will marry. That's Henrietta Palmer. Then there is Charlotte Benson—not pretty, but stylish and so clever. She carries too many guns for most men; she is a capital girl in her way. Then there is Mary Leighton; she is small, blonde, lovely. I do not believe in her particularly, but we are great friends, and flirt a little, I am told. I quite wonder how you will like each other. I hope you will tell me your impressions. No doubt she will be rather your companion, for Henrietta and Charlotte Benson are desperately intimate, and have a room together. They are quite romantic and very superior. Pretty Miss Leighton isn't in their line exactly, and is rather left to her own reflections, I should think. But she makes up for it when the gentlemen appear; she isn't left with any time upon her hands, you may be sure. I don't know what it is about her; she never said a bright thing in her life, and a great, great many silly ones; but everybody wants to talk to her, and her silly words are precious to the man to whom she says them. Did you ever meet anybody like her?"
"I? oh no. I never met anybody," I said, half-bitterly, beginning to be afraid of the people whom I so soon should meet; and then I began to talk about the road, and to inquire how far we had yet to drive, and to ask to have a shawl about my shoulders. It was not yet seven o'clock, but the country air was fresh and cool, and the rapid driving made it cooler.
"We are almost there; and I hope, Miss d'Estree, that you won't feel as if you were going among strangers. You will not feel so long, at any rate. It is too bad Richard isn't here; you know him so much better than the rest of us. But before he comes back, I am sure you will feel as much at home as he. But here's the gate."
There was a drive of perhaps an eighth of a mile from the gate to the house: the trees and hedge were thick, so that one saw little of the house from the road. The grounds were well kept; there was a nice lawn, in front of the house, and some very fine old trees. The house was low and irregular, but quite picturesque. It fronted the road; the rear looked toward the river, about quarter of a mile distant, and of which the view was lovely.
There was a piazza in front, on which four ladies stood; one of them came forward, and came down the steps, and met me as I got out of the carriage. That, of course, was Mrs. Hollenbeck, She welcomed me very cordially, and led me up the steps of the piazza, where the young ladies stood. Terrible young ladies! I shook with fear of them. I felt as if I did not know anything, as if I did not look well, as if my clothes were hideous. I should not have been afraid of young or old men, nor of old women; but they were just my age, just my class, just my equals, or ought to have been, if I had had any other fate than Uncle Leonard and Varick-street. How they would criticize me! How soon they would find out I had never been anywhere before! I wished for Richard then with all my heart. Kilian had already deserted me, and was talking to Miss Leighton, who had come half-way down the steps to meet him, and who only gave me a glance and a very pretty smile and nod, when Mrs. Hollenbeck presented me to them. Miss Benson and Miss Palmer each gave me a hand, and looked me over horribly; and the tones of their voices, when they spoke to me, were so constrained and cold, and so different from the tones in which they addressed each other. I hated them.
After a few moments of wretchedness, Sophie proposed to take me to my room. We went up the stairs, which were steep and old-fashioned, with a landing-place almost like a little room. My room was in a wing of the house, over the dining-room, and the windows looked out on the river. It was not large, but was very pretty. The windows were curtained, and the bed was dainty, and the little mantel was draped, and the ornaments and pictures were quaint and delightful to my taste.
Sophie laid the shawls she had been carrying up for me upon the bed, and said she hoped I would find everything I needed, and would try to feel entirely at home, and not hesitate to ask for anything that would make me comfortable.
Nothing could be kinder, but my affection and gratitude were fast dying out, and I was quite sure of one thing, namely, that I never should love Sophie if she spent her life in inviting me to pay her visits. She told me that tea would be ready in half an hour, and then left me. I sat down on the bed when she was gone, and wished myself back in Varick-street; and then cried, to think that I should be homesick for such a dreary home. But the appetites and affections common to humanity had not been left out of my heart, though I had been beggared all my life in regard to most of them. I could have loved a mother so—a sister—I could have had such happy feelings for a place that I could have felt was home. What matter, if I could not even remember the smile on my mother's lips; what matter, if no brother or sister had ever been born to me; if no house had ever been my rightful home? I was hungry for them all the same. And these first glimpses of the happy lives of others seemed to disaffect me more than ever with my own.
"Vous etes belle: ainsi donc la moitie Du genre humain sera votre ennemie."
"Oh, I think the cause Of much was, they forgot no crowd Makes up for parents in their shroud."
The servant came to call me down to tea while I was still sitting with my face in my hands upon the bed. I started up, lit the candles on the dressing-table, arranged my hair, washed the tears off my face, and hurried down the stairs. They were waiting for me in the parlor, and no doubt were quite impatient, as they had already waited for the arrival of the evening train, and it was nearly eight o'clock. The evening train had brought Mr. Eugene Whitney, of whom I can only say, that he was a very insignificant young man indeed. We all moved into the dining-room; the others took the seats they were accustomed to. Mr. Whitney and I, being the only new-comers, were advised which seats belonged to us by a trim young maid-servant, and I, for one, was very glad to get into mine. Mr. Whitney was my neighbor on one hand, the youngest of the Hollenbeck boys on the other. These were our seats:
Miss Leighton, Miss Henrietta Palmer,
Miss Benson, Mr. Eugene Whitney,
The seat opposite me was not filled when we sat down.
"Where is Mr. Langenau, Charley?" said his mother.
"I'm sure I don't know, mamma," said Charley, applying himself to marmalade.
"Charley doesn't see much of his tutor out of hours, I think," said Miss Benson.
"A good deal too much of him in 'em," murmured Charley, between a spoonful of marmalade and a drink of milk.
"Benny's the boy that loves his book," said Kilian; "he's the joy of his tutor's heart, I know," at which there was a general laugh, and Benny, the younger, looked up with a merry smile.
The Hollenbeck boys were not fond of study. They were healthy and pretty; quite the reverse of intellectual; very fair and rosy, without much resemblance to their mother or her brothers. It was evident the acquisition of knowledge was far from being the principal pursuit of their lives, and the tutor was looked upon as the natural enemy of Charley, at the least.
"I don't see what you ever got him for, mamma," said Charley. "I'd study just as much without him."
"And that wouldn't be pledging yourself to very much, would it, Charley dear?"
"Wish he was back in Germany with his ugly books," cried Charley.
But—hush!—there was a sudden lull, as the tutor entered and took his place by Charley. He was a well-made man, evidently about thirty. He was so decidedly a gentleman, in manners and appearance, that even these spoiled boys treated him respectfully, and the young ladies and gentlemen at the table were more stiff than offensive in their manner. But he was so evidently not one of them!
It is very disagreeable to be among people who know each other very well, even if they try to know you very well and admit you to their friendship. But I had no assurance that any one was trying to do this for me, and I am afraid I showed very little inclination to be admitted to their friendship. I could not talk, and I did not want to be talked to. I was even afraid of the little boys, and thought all the time that Charley was watching me and making signs about me to his brother, when in reality he was only telegraphing about the marmalade.
In the meantime, without any attention to my feelings, the business of the tea-table proceeded. Mrs. Hollenbeck poured out tea, and kept the little boys under a moderate control. Kilian cut up some birds before him, and tried to persuade the young ladies to eat some, but nobody had appetite enough but Mr. Whitney and himself. Charlotte Benson, who was clever and efficient and exceedingly at home, cut up a cake that was before her, and gave the boys some strawberries, and offered some to me. Miss Palmer simply looked very handsome, and eat a biscuit or two, and tried to talk to Mr. Whitney, who seemed to have a good appetite and very little conversation. Miss Leighton gave herself up to attentions to Kilian; she was saying silly little things to him in a little low tone all the time, and offering him different articles before her, and advising him what he ought to eat; all of which seemed most interesting and important in dumb-show till you heard what it was all about, and then you felt ashamed of them. At times, I think, Kilian felt somewhat ashamed too, and tried to talk a little to the others; but most of the time he seemed to like it very well, and did not ask anything better than the excellent woodcock on his plate, and the pretty young woman by his side.
"By the way," said Sophie, when the meal was nearly over, "I had a letter from Richard to-day."
"Ah!" said Kilian, with a momentary release from his admirer. "And when is he coming home?"
I looked up with quick interest, and met Mrs. Hollenbeck's eyes, which seemed to be always on me. Then I turned mine down the table uncomfortably, and found Charlotte Benson looking at me too. I did not know what I had done to be looked at, but wished they would look at themselves and let me take my tea (or leave it alone) in peace.
"Not for two weeks yet," said his sister; "not for two whole weeks."
"How sorry I am," said Charlotte Benson.
"I think we are all sorry," said Henrietta the tranquil.
"Miss d'Estree confided to me that she'd be glad to see him," said Kilian, cutting up another woodcock and looking at his plate.
"Indeed I shall," I said, with, a little sigh, not thinking so much about them as feeling most earnestly what a difference his coming would make, and how sure I should be of having at least one friend when he got here.
"He seems to be having a delightful time," said his sister.
"I am glad to hear that," I said, interested. "Generally he finds it such a bore. He doesn't seem to like to travel." I was rather startled at the sound of my own voice and the attention of my audience; but I had been betrayed into speaking, by my interest in the subject, and my surprise at hearing he was having such a pleasant time.
"Ah!" she said, "don't you think he does? At any rate, he seems to be enjoying this journey, and to be in no hurry to come back. I looked for him last week."
Warned by my last experience, I said nothing in answer; and after a moment Kilian said:
"Well, if Richard's having a good time, you may be sure he's made some favorable negotiation, and comes home with good news for the firm. That's his idea of a good time, you know."
"Ah!" said Sophie, gently, "that's his brother's idea of his idea. It isn't mine."
Charlotte Benson seemed a little nettled at this, and exclaimed,
"Mrs. Hollenbeck! you are making us all unhappy. You are leading us to suspect that the stern man of business is unbending. What's the influence at work? What makes this journey different from other journeys? Where does he tarry, oh, where?"
"Nonsense!" said Sophie, with a little laugh. "You cannot say I have implied anything of the sort. Cannot Richard enjoy a journey without your censure or suspicion? You must be careful; he does not fancy teasing."
"O, I shall not accuse him, you may be sure; that is, if he ever comes. Do you believe he really ever will?"
"Not if he thinks you want him," said Kilian, amiably. "He has a great aversion to being made much of."
"Yes, a family trait," interrupted Charlotte, at which everybody laughed, no one more cordially than Miss Leighton.
"Leave off laughing at my Uncle Richard," said Benny, stoutly, with his cheeks quite flushed.
"We have, dear, and are laughing at your Uncle Kilian. You don't object to that, I'm sure," and Charlotte Benson leaned forward and threw him a little kiss past the tutor, who wore a silent, abstracted look, in odd contrast with the animated expressions of the faces all around him.
Benny did not like the joke at all, and got down from his chair and walked away without permission. We all followed him, going into the hall, and from thence to the piazza, as the night was fine. The tutor walked silently through the group in the hall to a seat where lay his book and hat, then passed through the doorway and disappeared from sight.
And now above them pours a wondrous voice, (Such as Greek reapers heard in Sicily), With wounding rapture in it, like love's arrows.
The next day, the first of my visit, was a very sultry one, and the rest of the party thought it was, no doubt, a very dull one.
Kilian and Mr. Eugene Whitney went away in the early train, not to return, alas, till the evening of the following day. Miss Leighton was languid, and yawned incessantly, though she tried to appear interested in things, and was very attentive to me. Charlotte Benson and Henrietta laid strong-minded plans for the day, and carried them out faithfully. First, they played a game of croquet, under umbrellas, for the sun was blazing on the ground: that was for exercise; then, for mental discipline, they read history for an hour in the library; and then, for relaxation, under veils and sunhats, read Ruskin for two hours by the river.
I cannot think Henrietta understood Ruskin, but I have no doubt she thought she did, and tried to share in her friend's enthusiasm. Sophie had a little headache, and spent much of the morning in her room. The boys were away with their tutor in the farm-house where they had their school-room, and the house seemed deserted and delightful. I wandered about at ease, chose my book, and sat for hours in the boat-house by the river, not reading Ruskin, nor even my poor little novel, but gazing and dreaming and wondering. It can be imagined what the country seemed to me, in beautiful summer weather, after the dreary years I had spent in a city-street.
It is quite impossible to describe all that seemed starting into life within me, all at once—- so many new forces, so much new life.
My home-sickness had passed away, and I was inclined to be very happy, particularly in the liberty that seemed to promise. Dinner was very quiet, and every one seemed dull, even Charlotte Benson, who ordinarily had life enough for all. The boys were there, but their tutor had gone away on a long walk and would not be back till evening. "A la bonne heure," cried Madame, with a little yawn; "freedom of the halls, and deshabille, for one afternoon."
So we spent the afternoon with our doors open, and with books, or without books, on the bed.
Nobody came into my room, except Mrs. Hollenbeck for a few moments, looking very pretty in a white peignoir, and rather sleepy at the same time; hoping I was comfortable and had found something to amuse me in the library.
It seemed to be thought a great bore to dress, to judge from the exclamations of ennui which I heard in the hall, as six o'clock approached, and the young ladies wandered into each other's room and bewailed the necessity. I think Miss Leighton would have been very glad to have stayed on the bed, and tried to sleep away the hours that presented no amusement; but Charlotte Benson laughed at her so cruelly, that she began to dress at once, and said, she had not intended what she said, of course.
I was the first to be ready, and went down to the piazza. The heat of the day was over and there was a soft, pleasant breeze. We were to have tea at seven o'clock, and while I sat there, the bell rang. The tutor came in from under the trees where he had been reading, looking rather pale after his long walk.
He bowed slightly as he passed me, and waited at the other end of the piazza, reading as he stood, till the others came down to the dining-room. As we were seating ourselves he came in and took his place, with a bow to me and the others. Mrs. Hollenbeck asked him a little about his expedition, and paid him a little more attention than usual, being the only man.
He had a most fortunate way of saying just the right thing and then being silent; never speaking unless addressed, and then conveying exactly the impression he desired. I think he must have appeared in a more interesting light that usual at this meal, for as we went out from the dining room Mary Leighton put her arm through mine and whispered "Poor fellow! How lonely he must be! Let's ask him to go and walk with us this evening."
Before I could remonstrate or detach myself from her, she had twisted herself about, in a peculiarly supple and child-like manner that she had, and had made the suggestion to him.
He was immeasurably surprised, no doubt, but he gave no sign of it. After a silence of two or three instants, during which, I think, he was occupied in trying to find a way to decline, he assented very sedately.
Charlotte Benson and her friend, who were behind us, were enraged at this proceeding. During the week they had all been in the house together, they had never gone beyond speaking terms with the tutor, and this they had agreed was the best way to keep things, and it seemed to be his wish no less than theirs. Here was this saucy girl, in want of amusement, upsetting all their plans. They shortly declined to go to walk with us: and so Mary Leighton, Mr. Langenau, and I started alone toward the river.
It must be confessed, Miss Leighton was not rewarded for her effort, for a stiffer and more uncomfortable companion could not be imagined. He entirely declined to respond to her coquetry, and she very soon found she must abandon this role; but she was nothing if not coquettish, and the conversation flagged uncomfortably. Before we reached home she was quite impatient, and ran up the steps, when we got there, as if it were a great relief. The tutor raised his hat when he left us at the door, turned back, and disappeared for the rest of the evening.
The next morning, coming down-stairs half an hour before breakfast, I went into the library (a little room at the right of the front door), for a book I had left there. I threw myself into an easy-chair, and opened it, when I caught sight of the tutor, reading at the window. I half started to my feet, and then sank back again in confusion; for what was there to go away for?
He rose and bowed, and resumed his seat and his book.
The room was quite small, and we were very near each other. How I could possibly have missed seeing him as I entered, now surprised me. I longed to go away, but did not dare do anything that would seem rude. He appeared very much engrossed with his book, but I, for my part, could not read a word, and was only thinking how I could get away. Possibly he guessed at my embarrassment, for after about ten minutes he arose, and coming up to the table by which I sat, he took up a card, and placed it in his book for a mark, and shut it up, then made some remark to me about the day.
The color was coming and going in my face.
He must have felt sorry or curious, for he did not go directly away, and continued to talk of things that did not require me to answer him.
I do not know what it was about his voice that was so different from the ordinary voices of people. There was a quality in it that I had never heard in any other. But perhaps it was in the ear that listened, as well as the voice that spoke. And apart from the tones, the words I never could forget. The most trivial things that he ever said to me, I can remember to this day.
I believe that this was not of my imagination, but that others felt it in some degree as I did. It was this that made him such an invaluable teacher; he impressed upon those flesh-and-blood boys, in that one summer, more than they would have learned in whole years from ordinary persons. It was not very strange, then, that I was smitten with the strangest interest in all he said and did, and that his words made the deepest impression on me.
No doubt it is pleasant to be listened to by one whose face tells you you are understood; and the tutor was not in a hurry to go away. He had got up from the window, I know, with the intention of going out of the room, but he continued standing, looking down at me and talking, for half an hour at least.
The soft morning wind came in at the open door and window, with a scent of rose and honeysuckle: the pretty little room was full of the early sunshine in which there is no glare: I can see it all now, and I can hear, as ever, his low voice.
He talked of the book I held in my hand, of the views on the river, of the pleasantness of country life. I fancy I did not say much, though I never am able to remember what I said when talking to him. Whatever I said was a mere involuntary accord with him. I never recollect to have felt that I did not agree with and admire every word he uttered.
How different his manner from last night when he had talked with Mary Leighton; all the stiffness, the half-concealed repelling tone was gone. I had not heard him speak to any one, except perhaps once to Benny, as he spoke now. I was quite sure that he liked me, and that he did not class me with the others in the house. But when the breakfast-bell rang, he gave a slight start, and his voice changed; and such a frown came over his face! He looked at his watch, said something about the hour, and quickly left the room. I bent my head over my book and sat still, till I heard them all come down and go into the breakfast-room. I trusted they would not know he had been talking to me, and there was little danger, unless they guessed it from my cheeks being so aflame.
At breakfast he was more silent than ever, and his brow had not quite got over that sudden frown. At dinner he was away again, as the day before.
The day passed much as yesterday had done. About four o'clock there came a telegram from Kilian to his sister. He had been delayed, and Mr. Whitney would wait for him, and they would come the next evening by the boat. I think Mary Leighton could have cried if she had not been ashamed. Her pretty blue organdie was on the bed ready to put on. It went back into the wardrobe very quickly, and she came down to tea in a gray barege that was a little shabby.
A rain had come on about six o'clock. At tea the candles were lit, and the windows closed. Every one looked moped and dull; the evening promised to be insufferable. Mrs. Hollenbeck saw the necessity of rousing herself and providing us some amusement. When Mr. Langenau entered, she met his bow with one of her best smiles: how the change must have struck him; for she had been very mechanical and polite to him before. Now she spoke to him with the charming manner that brought every one to her feet.
And what was the cause of this sudden kindness? It is very easy for me to see now, though then I had not a suspicion. Alas! I am afraid that the cheeks aflame at breakfast-time were the immediate cause of the change. Mrs. Hollenbeck would not have made so marked a movement for an evening's entertainment: it seemed to suit her very well that I should talk to the tutor in the library before breakfast, and she meant to give me opportunities for talking to him in the parlor too.
"A dreary evening, is it not?" she began. "What shall we all do? Charlotte, can't you think of something?"
Charlotte, who had her own plans for a quiet evening by the lamp with a new book, of course could not think of anything.
"Henrietta, at least you shall give us some music, and Mr. Langenau, I am sure you will be good enough to help us; I will send over to the school-room for that flute and those piles of music that I've seen upon a shelf, and you will be charitable enough to play for us."
"I must beg you will not take that trouble."
"Oh, Mr. Langenau, that is selfish now."
Mrs. Hollenbeck did not press the subject then, but made herself thoroughly delightful during tea, and as we rose from the table renewed the request in a low tone to Mr. Langenau: and the result was, a little after eight o'clock he came into the parlor where we sat. A place was made for him at the table around which we were sitting, and Mrs. Hollenbeck began the process of putting him at his ease. There was no need. The tutor was quite as much at ease as any one, and, in a little while, imperceptibly became the person to whom we were all listening.
Charlotte Benson at last gave up her book, and took her work-box instead. We were no longer moping and dull around the table. And bye and bye Henrietta, much alarmed, was sent to the piano, and her poor little music certainly sounded very meagre when Mr. Langenau touched the keys.
I think he consented to play not to appear rude, but with the firm intention of not being the instrument of our entertainment, and not being made use of out of his own accepted calling. But happily for us, he soon forgot all about us, and played on, absorbed in himself and in his music. We listened breathlessly, the others quite as much engrossed as I, because they all knew much more of music than I did. Suddenly, after playing for a long while, he started from the piano, and came back to the table. He was evidently agitated. Before the others could say a word of thanks or wonder, I cried, in a fear of the cessation of what gave me such intense pleasure,
"Oh, sing something; can't you sing?"
"Yes, I can sing," he said, looking down at me with those dangerous eyes. "Will it give you pleasure if I sing for you?"
He did not wait for an answer, but turned back to the piano.
He had said "if I sing for you," and I knew that for me he was singing. I do not know what it was for others, but for me, it was the only true music that I had ever heard, the only music that I could have begged might never cease, but flood over all the present and the future, satisfying every sense. Other voices had roused and thrilled, this filled me. I asked no more, and could have died with that sound in my ears.
"Why, Pauline! child! what is it?" cried Mrs. Hollenbeck, as the music ceased and Mr. Langenau. again came back to the circle round the table. Every one looked: I was choking with sobs.
"Oh, don't, I don't want you to speak to me," I cried, putting away her hand and darting from the room. I was not ashamed of myself, even when I was alone in my room. The powerful magic lasted still, through the silence and darkness, till I was aroused by the voices of the others coming up to bed.
Mrs. Hollenbeck knocked at my door with her bedroom candle in her hand, and, as she stood talking to me, the others strayed in to join her and to satisfy their curiosity.
"You are very sensitive to music, are you not?" said Charlotte Benson, contemplatively. She had tried me on Mompssen, and the "Seven Lamps," and found me wanting, and now perhaps hoped to find some other point less faulty.
"I do not know," I said, honestly. "I seem to have been very sensitive to-night."
"But you are not always?" asked Henrietta Palmer. "You do not always cry when people sing?"
"Why, no," I said with great contempt. "But I never heard any one sing like that before."
"He does sing well," said Mrs. Hollenbeck, thoughtfully.
"Immense expression and a fine voice," added Charlotte Benson.
"He has been educated for the stage, you may be sure," said Mary Leighton, with a little spite. "As Miss d'Estree says, I never heard anyone sing like that, out of the chorus of an opera."
"Well, I think," returned Charlotte Benson, "if there were many voices like that in ordinary choruses, one would be glad to dispense with the solos and duets."
"Oh, you would not find his voice so wonderful, if you heard it out of a parlor. It is very well, but it would not fill a concert hall, much less an opera house. No; you may be sure he has been educated for some of those German choruses; you know they are very fine musicians."
"Well, I don't know that it is anything to us what he was educated for," said Charlotte Benson, sharply. "He has given us a very delightful evening, and I, for one, am much obliged to him."
"Et moi aussi" murmured Henrietta, wreathing her large beautiful arms about her friend, and the two sauntered away.
Mary Leighton, in general ill-humor, and still remembering the walk of the last evening, desired to fire a parting-shot, and exclaimed, as she went out, "Well, I think it is something to us; I like to have gentlemen about me."
"You need not be uneasy," said Mrs. Hollenbeck, a little stiffly. "I think Mr. Langenau is a gentleman."
But at this moment his step was heard in the hall below, and there was an end put to the conversation.
Last night, when some one spoke his name, From my swift blood that went and came A thousand little shafts of flame Were shivered in my narrow frame.
The next morning was brilliant and cool, the earth and heavens shining after the rain of the past night. I was dressed long, long before breakfast: it would be so tiresome to wait in my room till the bell rang; yet if I went down-stairs, would it not look as if I wanted to see Mr. Langenau again? I need not go to the library, of course, but I could scarcely avoid being seen from the library if I went out. But why suppose that he would be down again so early? It was very improbable, and so, affectionately deceived, I put on a hat and walking-jacket and stole down the stairs. I saw by the clock in the lower hall that it was half an hour earlier than I had come down the morning before; at which I was secretly chagrined, for now there was no danger, alias hope, of seeing Mr. Langenau.
But probably he had forgotten all about the foolish half-hour that had given me so much to think about. I glanced into the library, which was empty, and hurried out of the hall-door, secretly disappointed.
I took the path that led over the hill to the river. It passed through the garden, under the long arbors of grapevines, over the hill, and through a grove of maples, ending at the river where the boat-house stood. The brightness of the morning was not lost on me, and before I reached the maple-grove I was buoyant and happy. At the entrance of the grove (which was traversed by several paths, the principal coming up directly from the river) I came suddenly upon the tutor, walking rapidly, with a pair of oars over his shoulder. He started, and for a moment we both stood still and did not speak. I could only think with confusion of my emotion when he sang.
"You are always early," he said, with his slight, very slight, foreign accent, "earlier than yesterday by half an hour," he added, looking at his watch. My heart gave a great bound of pleasure. Then he had not forgotten! How he must have seen all this.
He stood and talked with me for some moments, and then desperately I made a movement to go on. I do not believe, at least I am not sure, that at first he had any intention of going with me. But it was not in human nature to withstand the flattery of such emotion as his presence seemed always to inspire in me; and then, I have no doubt, he had a certain pleasure in talking to me outside of that; and then the morning was so lovely and he had so much of books.
He proposed to show me a walk I had not taken. There was a little hesitation in his manner, but he was reassured by my look of pleasure, and throwing down the oars under a tree, he turned and walked beside me. No doubt he said to himself, "America! This paradise of girlhood;—there can be no objection." It was heavenly sweet, that walk—the birds, the sky, the dewiness and freshness of all nature and all life. It seemed the unstained beginning of all things to me.
The woods were wet; we could not go through them, and so we went a longer way, along the river and back by the road.
This time he did not do all the talking, but made me talk, and listened carefully to all I said; and I was so happy, talking was not any effort.
At last he made some allusion to the music of last night; that he was so glad to see that I loved music as I did. "But I don't particularly," I said in confusion, with a great fear of being dishonest, "at least I never thought I did before, and I am so ignorant. I don't want you to think I know anything about it, for you would be disappointed." He was silent, and, I felt sure, because he was already disappointed; in fear of which I went on to say—
"I never heard any one sing like that before; I am very sorry that it gave any one an impression that I had a knowledge of music, when I hadn't. I don't care about it generally, except in church, and I can't understand what made me feel so yesterday."
"Perhaps it is because you were in the mood for it," he said. "It is often so, one time music gives us pleasure, another time it does not."
"That may be so; but your voice, in speaking, even, seems to me different from any other. It is almost as good as music when you speak; only the music fills me with such feelings."
"You must let me sing for you again," he said, rather low, as we walked slowly on.
"Ah; if you only will," I answered, with a deep sigh of satisfaction.
We walked on in silence till we reached the gate: he opened it for me and then said, "Now I must leave you, and go back for the oars."
I was secretly glad of this; since the walk had reached its natural limit and its end must be accepted, it was a relief to approach the house alone and not be the subject of any observation.
Breakfast had began: no one seemed to feel much interest in my entrance, though flaming with red roses and red cheeks.
They were of the sex that do not notice such things naturally, with much interest or admiration. They had hardly "shaken off drowsy-hed," and had no pleasure in anything but their breakfast, and not much in that.
"How do you manage to get yourself up and dressed at such inhuman hours?" said Mary Leighton, querulously.
"You are a reproach to the household, and we will not suffer it," said Charlotte Benson.
"I never could understand this thing of getting up before you are obliged to," added Henrietta plaintively.
But Sophie seemed well satisfied, particularly when Mr. Langenau came in and I looked down into my cup of tea, instead of saying good-morning to him. He did not say very much, though there was a good deal of babble among the others, principally about his music.
It was becoming the fashion to be very attentive to him. He was made to promise to play in the evening; to bring down his books of music for the benefit of Miss Henrietta, who wanted to practice, Heaven knows what of his. His advice was asked about styles of playing and modes of instruction; he was deferred to as an authority. But very little he seemed to care about it all, I thought.
THREE WEEKS TOO LATE.
Qui va a la chasse perd sa place.
De la main a la bouche se perd souvent la soupe.
Distance all value enhances! When a man's busy, why, leisure Strikes him as wonderful pleasure. Faith! and at leisure once is he, Straightway he wants to be busy.
Two weeks more passed: two weeks that seem to me so many years when I look back upon them. Many more walks, early and late, many evenings of music, many accidents of meeting. It is all like a dream. At seventeen it is so easy to dream! It does not take two weeks for a girl to fall in love and make her whole life different.
It was Saturday evening, and Richard was expected; Richard and Kilian and Mr. Eugene Whitney. Ah, Richard was coming just three weeks too late.
We were all waiting on the piazza for them, in pretty toilettes and excellent tempers. It was a lovely evening; the sunset was filling the sky with splendor, and Charlotte and Henrietta had gone to the corner of the piazza whence the river could be seen, and were murmuring fragments of verses to each other. They were not so much absorbed, however, but that they heard the first sound of the wheels inside the gate, and hurried back to join us by the steps.
Mary Leighton looked absolutely lovely. The blue organdie had seen the day at last, and she was in such a flutter of delight at the coming of the gentlemen that she could scarcely be recognized as the pale, flimsy young person who had moped so unblushingly all the week.
"They are all three there," she exclaimed with suppressed rapture, as the carriage turned the angle of the road that brought them into sight. Mrs. Hollenbeck, quite beaming with pleasure, ran down the steps (for Richard had been away almost two months), and Mary Leighton was at her side, of course. Charlotte Benson and Henrietta went half-way down the steps, and I stood on the piazza by the pillar near the door.
I was a little excited by their coming, too, but not nearly as much so as I might have been three weeks ago. A subject of much greater interest occupied my mind that very moment, and related to the chances of the tutor's getting home in time for tea, from one of those long walks that were so tiresome. I felt as if I hardly needed Richard now. Still, dear old Richard! It was very nice to see him once again.
The gentlemen all sprang out of the carriage, and a Babel of welcomes and questions and exclamations arose. Richard kissed his sister, and answered some of her many questions, then shook hands with the young ladies, but I could see that his eye was searching for me. I can't tell why, certainly not because I felt at all shy, I had stepped back, a little behind the pillar and the vines. In an instant he saw me, and came quickly up the steps, and stood by me and grasped my hand, and looked exactly as if he meant to kiss me. I hoped that nobody saw his look, and I drew back, a little frightened. Of course, I know that he had not the least intention of kissing me, but his look was so eager and so unusual,
"It is two months, Pauline," he said; "and are you well?" And though I only said that I was well and was very glad to see him, I am sure his sister Sophie thought that it was something more, for she had followed him up the steps and stood in the doorway looking at us.
The others came up there, and Kilian, as soon as he could get out of the meshes of the blue organdie, came to me, and tried to out-devotion Richard.
That is the way with men. He had not taken any trouble to get away from Mary Leighton till Richard came.
A young woman only needs one lover very much in earnest, to bring about her several others, not so much, perhaps, in earnest, but very amusing and instructive. Richard went away very quickly, for I am sure he did not like that sort of thing.
It was soon necessary for Mr. Kilian to suspend his devotion and go to his room to get ready for tea.
When we all assembled again, at the table, I found that he had placed himself beside me, next his sister, little Benny having gone to bed.
"Of course, the head of the table belongs to Richard; I never interfere there, and as everybody else is placed, this is the only seat that I can take, following the rose and thorn principle."
"But that principle is not followed strictly," cried Charlotte Benson, who sat by Mary Leighton. "Here are two roses and no thorn."
"Ah! What a strange oversight," he exclaimed, seating himself nevertheless. "The only way to remedy it will be to put the tutor in your place, Miss Benson, and you come opposite Miss Pauline. Quick; before he comes and refuses to move his Teutonic bones an inch." Charlotte Benson changed her seat and the vacant one was left between her and Mary Leighton.
This is the order of our seats, for that and many following happy nights and days:
Richard, Mary Leighton, Henrietta, The Tutor, Mr. Eugene Whitney, Charlotte Benson, Myself, Charley, Kilian, Sophie.
Mary Leighton looked furious and could hardly speak a word all through the meal. It was particularly hard upon her, as the tutor did not come, and the chair was empty, and a glaring insult to her all the time.
Kilian had done his part so innocently and so simply that it was hard to suspect him of any intention to pique her and annoy Richard, but I am sure he did it with just those two intentions. He was as thorough a flirt as any woman, and withal very fond of change, and I think my pink grenadine quite dazzled him as I stood on the piazza. Then came the brotherly and quite natural desire to outshine Richard and put things out a little. I liked it all very much, and was charmed to be of so much consequence, for I saw all this quite plainly. I laughed and talked a good deal with Kilian; he was delightful to laugh and talk with. Even Eugene Whitney found me more worth his weak attention than the beautiful and placid Henrietta.
The amusement was chiefly at our end of the table. But amidst it, I did not fail to glance often at the door and wonder, uncomfortably, why the tutor did not come.
As we left the table and lingered for a few moments in the hall, Richard came up to me and said, as he prepared to light his cigar, "Will you not come out and walk up and down the path here with me while I smoke?"
I began to make some excuse, for I wanted to do nothing just then but watch the stairway to see if Mr. Langenau did not come down even then and go into the dining-room.
But I reflected how ungracious it would seem to refuse this, when he had just come home, and I followed him out into the path.
There was no moon, but the stars were very bright, and the air was sweet with the flower-beds in the grass along the path we walked.
The house looked gay and pleasant as we walked up and down before it, with its many lighted windows, and people with bright dresses moving about on the piazza. Richard lit his cigar, and said, after a silence of a few moments, with a sigh, "It is good to be at home again."
"But you've had a pleasant journey?"
"No; the most tiresome that I ever made, and this last detention wore my patience out. It seemed the longest fortnight. I could not bear to think of you all here, and I away in such a dismal hole."
"I suppose Uncle Leonard had no pity on you, as long as there was a penny to be made by staying there."
"No; I spent a great deal of money in telegraphing to him for orders to come home, but he would not give up."
"And how is Uncle Leonard; did you go to Varick-street?"
"No, indeed; I did not waste any time in town. I only reached there yesterday."
"I wonder Uncle Leonard let you off so soon."
"He growled a good deal, but I did not stay to listen."
"That's always the best way."
"And now, Pauline, tell me how you like the place."
"Like it! Oh, Richard, I think it is a Paradise," and I clasped my hands in a young sort of ecstacy.
He was silent, which was a sign that he was satisfied. I went on after a moment, "I don't wonder that you all love it. I never saw anything half so beautiful. The dear old house is prettier than any new one that could be built, and the trees are so grand! And oh, Richard, I think the garden lying on the hillside there in the beautiful warm sun, with such royal flowers and fruit, is worth all the grape-houses and conservatories in the neighborhood. Your sister took us to three or four of the neighboring places a week or two ago. But I like this a hundred times the best. I should think you would be sorry every moment that you have to spend away from it."
"I hope one of these days to live here altogether," he said in a low tone.
It was so difficult for Richard to be unreserved that it is very likely this was the first time in his life that he had ever expressed this, the brightest hope he had.
I could fancy all these few words implied—a wife, children, a happy home in manhood where he had been a happy child.
"It belongs to Kilian and me, but it is understood I have the right to it when I am ready for it."
"And your sister—it does not belong at all to her?"
"No, she only keeps house for us. It would make a great change for Sophie if either of us married. But then I know that it would give her pleasure, for I am sure that she would not be selfish."
I was not so sure, but, of course, I did not say so. At this moment, while Richard smoked and I walked silently beside him, a dark figure struck directly across the path before us. The apparition was so sudden that I sprang and screamed, and caught Richard by the arm.
"I beg your pardon," said the tutor, with a quick look of surprise at me and then at Richard, and bowing, strode on into the house.
"That's the German Sophie has taken for the boys, is it?" said Richard, knitting his brows, and looking after him, with no great approbation. "I don't half like the idea of his being here: I told Sophie so at starting. A governess would do as well for two years yet. What kind of a person does he seem to be?"
"I don't know—that is—I can't tell exactly. I don't know him well enough," I answered in confusion, which Richard did not see.
"No, of course not. You would not be likely to see him except at the table. But it is awkward having him here,—so much of the week, no man about; and one never knows anything about these Germans."
"I thought—your sister said—you knew all about him," I said, in rather a low voice.
"As much as one needs to know about a mere teacher. But the person you have in your house all the time is different."
"But he is a gentleman," I put in more firmly.
"I hope he is. He had letters to some friends of ours. But what are letters? People give them when they're asked for them, and half the time know nothing of the person for whom they do the favor, besides his name and general standing. Hardly that, sometimes." Then, as if to put away a tiresome and unwelcome subject, he began again to talk about the place.
But I had lost my interest in the subject, and thought only of returning to the house.
"Don't," I said, playfully putting out my hand as he took out another cigar to light. "You have smoked enough to-night. Do you know, you smoke a great deal more than is good for you."
"Well, I will not smoke any more to-night if you say so. Only don't go in the house."
"Oh, yes, you know we only came out to smoke."
He stood in front of the path that led to the piazza and said, in an affectionate, gentle way, "Stay and walk a little longer. I have not told you half how glad I am that you are here at last."
"Oh, as for that, you've got a good many weeks to tell me in. Besides, it's getting chilly," and I gave a little shiver.
"If you're cold, of course," he said, letting me pass and following me, and added, with a shade of anxiety, "Why didn't you tell me before? I never thought of it, and you have no shawl."
I felt ashamed of myself as I led the way up the piazza steps.
In the hall, which was quite light, they were all standing, and Mr. Langenau was in the group. They were petitioning him for music.
"Oh, he has promised that he will sing," said Sophie; "but remember he has not had his tea. I have ordered it for you, Mr. Langenau; it will be ready in a moment."
Mr. Langenau bowed and turned to go up the stairs. His eye met mine, as I came into the light, dazzled a little by it.
He went up the stairs; the others after a few moments, went into the parlor. I sat down on a sofa beside Mrs. Hollenbeck. Richard was called away by a person on business. There was a shaded lamp on a bracket above the sofa where we sat; Mrs. Hollenbeck was reading some letters she had just received, and I took up the evening paper, reading over and over an advertisement of books. Presently the servant came to Mrs. Hollenbeck and said that Mr. Langenau's tea was ready. She was sent up to tell him so, and in a few moments he came down. When he reached the hall, Sophie looked up with her most lovely smile.
"You must be famished, Mr. Langenau; pray go immediately to the dining-room. I am sorry not to make your tea myself, but I hear Benny waking and must go to him. Will you mind taking my place, Pauline, and pouring out tea for Mr. Langenau?"
I was bending over the paper; my face turned suddenly from red to pale. I said something inaudible in reply, and got up and went into the dining-room, followed by the tutor.
It was several minutes before I looked at him. The servants had not favored us with much light: there was a branch of wax candles in the middle of the table. Mr. Langenau's plate was placed just at one side of the tray, at which I had seated myself. He looked pale, even to his lips. I began to think of the terrible walks in which he seemed to hunt himself down, and to wonder what was the motive, though I had often wondered that before. He took the cup of tea I offered him without speaking. Neither of us spoke for several minutes, then I said, rather irresolutely, "I am sure you tire yourself by these long walks."
"Do you think so? No: they rest me."
No doubt I felt more coquettish, and had more confidence than usual, from the successes of that evening, and from the knowledge that Richard and Kilian and Eugene Whitney, even, were so delighted to talk to me; otherwise I could never have said what I said then, by a sudden impulse, and with a half-laughing voice, "Do not go away again so long; it makes it so dull and tiresome."
He looked at me and said, "It does not seem to me you miss me very much." But such a gleam of those dark, dangerous eyes! I looked down, but my breath came quickly and my face must have shown the agitation that I felt.
At this moment Richard, released from his engagement in the library, came through the hall and stopped at the dining-room door. He paused for a moment at the door, walked away again, then came back and into the room, with rather a quicker step than usual.
"Pauline," he said, and I started visibly, "They seem to be waiting for you in the parlor for a game of cards."
His voice indicated anything but satisfaction. I half rose, then sank back, and said, hesitatingly, "Can I pour you some more tea, Mr. Langenau?"
"If it is not troubling you too much," he said in a voice that a moment's time had hardened into sharpness.
Oh, the misery of that cup of tea, with Richard looking at me on one side flushed and angry, and Mr. Langenau on the other, pale and cynical. My hands shook so that I could not lift the teakettle, and Richard angrily leaned down and moved it for me. The alcohol in the lamp flamed up and scorched my arm.
"Oh Richard, you have burned me," I cried, dropping the cup and wrapping my handkerchief around my arm. In an instant he was all softness and kindness, and, I have no doubt, repentance.
"I am very sorry," he said; "Does it hurt you very much? Come with me, and I will get Sophie to put something on it."
But Mr. Langenau did not move or show any interest in my sufferings. I was half-crying, but I sat still and tried with the other hand to replace the cup and fill it. Seeing that I did not make much headway, and that Richard had stepped back, Mr. Langenau said, "Allow me," and held the cup while I managed to pour the tea into it. He thanked me stiffly, and without looking at either of them I got up and went out of the room, Richard following me.
"Will you wait here while I call Sophie to get something for you?" he said a little coldly.
"No, I do not want anything; I wish you would not say anything more about it; it only hurt me for a moment."
"Will you go into the parlor, then?"
"No—yes, that is," I said, and capriciously went, alone, for he did not follow me.
I was wanted for cards, but I would not play, and sat down by one of the windows, a little out of the light. This window opened upon the piazza. After a little while Richard, walking up and down the piazza, stopped by it, and said to me: "I hope you won't think it unreasonable in me to ask, Pauline; but how in the world did you happen to be making tea for that—that man in there?"