GEO. WM. CURTIS
Author of Nile Notes of a Howadji, The Howadji in Syria, The Potiphar Papers, Prue and I, etc.
I. SCHOOL BEGINS II. HOPE WAYNE III. AVE MARIA! IV. NIGHT V. PEEWEE PREACHING VI. EXPERIMENTUM CRUCIS VII. CASTLE DANGEROUS VIII. AFTER THE BATTLE IX. NEWS FROM HOME X. BEGINNING TO SKETCH XI. A VERDICT AND A SENTENCE XII. HELP, HO! XIII. SOCIETY XIV. A NEW YORK MERCHANT XV. A SCHOOL-BOY NO LONGER XVI. PHILOSOPHY XVII. OF GIRLS AND FLOWERS XVIII. OLD FRIENDS AND NEW XIX. DOG-DAYS XX. AUNT MARTHA XXI. THE CAMPAIGN XXII. THE FINE ARTS XXIII. BONIFACE NEWT, SON, & CO., DRY GOODS ON COMMISSION XXXIV. "QUEEN AND HUNTRESS" XXV. A STATESMAN—AND STATESWOMAN XXVI. THE PORTRAIT AND THE MINIATURE XXVII. GABRIEL AT HOME XXVIII. BORN TO BE A BACHELOR XXIX. MR. ABEL NEWT, GRAND STREET XXX. CHECK XXXI. AT DELMONICO'S XXXII. MRS. THEODORE KINGFISHER AT HOME. On dansera XXXIII. ANOTHER TURN IN THE WALTZ XXXIV. HEAVEN'S LAST BEST GIFT XXXV. MOTHER-IN-LAW AND DAUGHTER-IN-LAW XXXVI. THE BACK WINDOW XXXVII. ABEL NEWT Vice SLIGO MOULTRIE REMOVED XXXVIII. THE DAY AFTER THE WEDDING XXXIX. A FIELD-DAY XL. AT THE ROUND TABLE XLI. A LITTLE DINNER XLII. CLEARING AND CLOUDY XLIII. WALKING HOME XLIV. CHURCH GOING XLV. IN CHURCH XLVI. IN ANOTHER CHURCH XLVII. DEATH XLVIII. THE HEIRESS XLIX. A SELECT PARTY L. WINE AND TRUTH LI. A WARNING LII. BREAKFAST LIII. SLIGO MOULTRIE vice ABEL NEWT LIV. CLOUDS AND DARKNESS LV. ARTHUR MERLIN'S GREAT PICTURE LVI. REDIVIVUS LVII. DINING WITH LAWRENCE NEWT LVIII. THE HEALTH OF THE JUNIOR PARTNER LIX. MRS. ALFRED DINKS LX. POLITICS LXI. GONE TO PROTEST LXII. THE CRASH, UP TOWN LXIII. ENDYMION LXIV. DIANA LXV. THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE LXVI. MENTOR AND TELEMACHUS LXVII. WIRES LXVIII. THE INDUSTRIOUS APPRENTICE LXIX. IN AND OUT LXX. THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PEOPLE LXXI. RICHES HAVE WINGS LXXII. GOOD-BY LXXIII. THE BELCH PLATFORM LXXIV. MIDNIGHT LXXV. REMINISCENCE LXXVI. A SOCIAL GLASS LXXVII. FACE TO FACE LXXVIII. FINISHING PICTURES LXXIX. THE LAST THROW LXXX. CLOUDS BREAKING LXXXI. MRS. ALFRED DINKS AT HOME LXXXII. THE LOST IS FOUND LXXXIII. MRS. DELILAH JONES LXXXIV. PROSPECTS OF HAPPINESS LXXXV. GETTING READY LXXXVI. IN THE CITY LXXXVII. A LONG JOURNEY LXXXVIII. WAITING LXXXIX. DUST TO DUST XC. UNDER THE MISLETOE
Forty years ago Mr. Savory Gray was a prosperous merchant. No gentleman on 'Change wore more spotless linen or blacker broadcloth. His ample white cravat had an air of absolute wisdom and honesty. It was so very white that his fellow-merchants could not avoid a vague impression that he had taken the church on his way down town, and had so purified himself for business. Indeed a white cravat is strongly to be recommended as a corrective and sedative of the public mind. Its advantages have long been familiar to the clergy; and even, in some desperate cases, politicians have found a resort to it of signal benefit. There are instructive instances, also, in banks and insurance offices of the comfort and value of spotless linen. Combined with highly-polished shoes, it is of inestimable mercantile advantage.
Mr. Gray prospered in business, and nobody was sorry. He enjoyed his practical joke and his glass of Madeira, which had made at least three voyages round the Cape. His temperament, like his person, was just unctuous enough to enable him to slip comfortably through life.
Happily for his own comfort, he had but a speaking acquaintance with politics. He was not a blue Federalist, and he never d'd the Democrats. With unconscious skill he shot the angry rapids of discussion, and swept, by a sure instinct, toward the quiet water on which he liked to ride. In the counting-room or the meeting of directors, when his neighbors waxed furious upon raking over some outrage of that old French infidel, Tom Jefferson, as they called him, sending him and his gun-boats where no man or boat wants to go, Mr. Gray rolled his neck in his white cravat, crossed his legs, and shook his black-gaitered shoe, and beamed, and smiled, and blew his nose, and hum'd, and ha'd, and said, "Ah, yes!" "Ah, indeed?" "Quite so!" and held his tongue.
Mr. Savory Gray minded his own business; but his business did not mind him. There came a sudden crash—one of the commercial earthquakes that shake fortunes to their foundations and scatter failure on every side. One day he sat in his office consoling his friend Jowlson, who had been ruined. Mr. Jowlson was terribly agitated—credit gone—fortune wrecked—no prospects—"O wife and children!" he cried, rocking to and fro as he sat.
"My dear Jowlson, you must not give way in this manner. You must control your feelings. Have we not always been taught," said Mr. Gray, as a clerk brought in a letter, the seal of which the merchant broke leisurely, and then skimmed the contents as he continued, "that riches have wings and—my God!" he ejaculated, springing up, "I am a ruined man!"
So he was. Every thing was gone. Those pretty riches that chirped and sang to him as he fed them; they had all spread their bright plumage, like a troop of singing birds—have we not always been taught that they might, Mr. Jowlson?—and had flown away.
To undertake business anew was out of the question. His friends said, "Poor Gray! what shall be done?"
The friendly merchants pondered and pondered. The worthy Jowlson, who had meanwhile engaged as book-keeper upon a salary of seven hundred dollars a year—one of the rare prizes—was busy enough for his friend, consulting, wondering, planning. Mr. Gray could not preach, nor practice medicine, nor surgery, nor law, because men must be instructed in those professions; and people will not trust a suit of a thousand dollars, or a sore throat, or a broken thumb, in the hands of a man who has not fitted himself carefully for the responsibility. He could not make boots, nor build houses, nor shoe horses, nor lay stone wall, nor bake bread, nor bind books. Men must be educated to be shoemakers, carpenters, blacksmiths, bakers, masons, or book-binders. What could be done? Nobody suggested an insurance office, or an agency for diamond mines on Newport beach; for, although it was the era of good feeling, those ingenious infirmaries for commercial invalids were not yet invented.
"I have it!" cried Jowlson, one day, rushing in, out of breath, among several gentlemen who were holding a council about their friend Gray—that is, who had met in a bank parlor, and were talking about his prospects—"I have it! and how dull we all are! What shall he do? Why, keep a school, to be sure!—a school!—a school! Take children, and be a parent to them!"
"How dull we all were!" cried the gentlemen in chorus. "A school is the very thing! A school it shall be!" And a school it was.
Upon the main street of the pleasant village of Delafield Savory Gray, Esq., hired a large house, with an avenue of young lindens in front, a garden on one side, and a spacious play-ground in the rear. The pretty pond was not far away, with its sloping shores and neat villas, and a distant spire upon the opposite bank—the whole like the vignette of an English pastoral poem. Here the merchant turned from importing pongees to inculcating principles. His old friends sent some of their children to the new school, and persuaded their friends to send others. Some of his former correspondents in other parts of the world, not entirely satisfied with the Asian and East Indian systems of education, shipped their sons to Mr. Gray. The good man was glad to see them. He was not very learned, and therefore could not communicate knowledge. But he did his best, and tried very hard to be respected. The boys did not learn any thing; but they had plenty of good beef, and Mr. Gray played practical jokes upon them; and on Sundays they all went to hear Dr. Peewee preach.
When there was a report that Mr. Savory Gray was coming to Delafield to establish a school for boys, Dr. Peewee, the minister of the village, called to communicate the news to Mr. Christopher Burt, his oldest and richest parishioner, at Pine wood, his country seat. When Mr. Burt heard the news, he foresaw trouble without end; for his orphan grand-daughter, Hope Wayne, who lived with him, was nearly eighteen years old; and it had been his fixed resolution that she should be protected from the wicked world of youth that is always going up and down in the earth seeking whom it may marry. If incessant care, and invention, and management could secure it, she should arrive safely where Grandpa Burt was determined she should arrive ultimately, at the head of her husband's dinner-table, Mrs. Simcoe, ma'am.
Mrs. Simcoe was Mr. Burt's housekeeper. So far as any body could say, Mrs. Burt died at a period of which the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. There were traditions of other housekeepers. But since the death of Hope's mother Mrs. Simcoe was the only incumbent. She had been Mrs. Wayne's nurse in her last moments, and had rocked the little Hope to sleep the night after her mother's burial. She was always tidy, erect, imperturbable. She pervaded the house; and her eye was upon a table-cloth, a pane of glass, or a carpet, almost as soon as the spot which arrested it. Housekeeper nascitur non fit. She was so silent and shadowy that the whole house sympathized with her, until it became extremely uncomfortable to the servants, who constantly went away; and a story that the house was haunted became immensely popular and credible the moment it was told.
There had been no visiting at Pinewood for a long time, because of the want of a mistress and of the unsocial habits of Mr. Burt. But the neighboring ladies were just beginning to call upon Miss Wayne. When she returned the visits Mrs. Simcoe accompanied her in the carriage, and sat there while Miss Wayne performed the parlor ceremony. Then they drove home. Mr. Burt dined at two, and Miss Hope sat opposite her grandfather at table; Hiram waited. Mrs. Simcoe dined alone in her room.
There, too, she sat alone in the long summer afternoons, when the work of the house was over for the day. She held a book by the open window, or gazed for a very long time out upon the landscape. There were pine-trees near her window; but beyond she could see green meadows, and blue hills, and a glittering river, and rounded reaches of woods. She watched the clouds, or, at least, looked at the sky. She heard the birds in spring days, and the dry hot locusts on sultry afternoons; and she looked with the same unchanging eyes upon the opening buds and blooming flowers, as upon the worms that swung themselves on filaments and ate the leaves and ruined the trees, or the autumnal hectic which Death painted upon the leaves that escaped the worms.
Sometimes on these still, warm afternoons her lips parted, as if she were singing. But it was a very grave, quiet performance. There was none of the gush and warmth of song, although the words she uttered were always those of the hymns of Charles Wesley—those passionate, religious songs of the New Jerusalem. For Mrs. Simcoe was a Methodist, and with Methodist hymns she had sung Hope to sleep in the days when she was a baby; so that the young woman often listened to the music in church with a heart full of vague feelings, and dim, inexplicable memories, not knowing that she was hearing, though with different words, the strains that her nurse had whispered over her crib in the hymns of Wesley.
It is to be presumed that at some period Mrs. Simcoe, whom Mr. Burt always addressed in the same manner as "Mrs. Simcoe, ma'am," had received a general system of instruction to the effect that "My grand-daughter, Miss Wayne—Mrs. Simcoe, ma'am—will marry a gentleman of wealth and position; and I expect her to be fitted to preside over his household. Yes, Mrs. Simcoe, ma'am."
What on earth is a girl sent into this world for but to make a proper match, and not disgrace her husband—to keep his house, either directly or by a deputy—to take care of his children, to see that his slippers are warm and his Madeira cold, and his beef not burned to a cinder, Mrs. Simcoe, ma'am? Christopher Burt believed that a man's wife was a more sacred piece of private property than his sheep-pasture, and when he delivered the deed of any such property he meant that it should be in perfect order.
"Hope may marry a foreign minister, Mrs. Simcoe, ma'am. Who knows? She may marry a large merchant in town or a large planter at the South, who will be obliged to entertain a great deal, and from all parts of the world. I intend that she shall be fit for the situation, that she shall preside at her husband's table in a superior manner."
So Hope, as a child, had played with little girls, who were invited to Pinewood—select little girls, who came in the prettiest frocks and behaved in the prettiest way, superintended by nurses and ladies' maids. They tended their dolls peaceably in the nursery; they played clean little games upon the lawn. Not too noisy, Ellen! Mary, gently, gently, dear! Julia, carefully! you are tumbling your frock. They were not chattery French nurses who presided over these solemnities; they were grave, housekeeping, Mrs. Simcoe-kind of people. Julia and Mary were exhorted to behave themselves like little ladies, and the frolic ended by their all taking books from the library shelves and sitting properly in a large chair, or on the sofa, or even upon the piazza, if it had been nicely dusted and inspected, until the setting sun sent them away with the calmest kisses at parting.
As Hope grew older she had teachers at home—recluse old scholars, decayed clergymen in shiny black coats, who taught her Latin, and looked at her through round spectacles, and, as they looked, remembered that they were once young. She had teachers of history, of grammar, of arithmetic—of all English studies. Some of these Mentors were weak-eyed fathers of ten children, who spoke so softly that their wives must have had loud voices. Others were young college graduates, with low collars and long hair, who read with Miss Wayne in English literature, while Mrs. Simcoe sat knitting in the next chair. Then there had been the Italian music-masters, and the French teachers, very devoted, never missing a lesson, but also never missing Mrs. Simcoe, who presided over all instruction which was imparted by any Mentor under sixty.
But when Hope grew older still and found Byron upon the shelves of the Library, his romantic sadness responded to the vague longing of her heart. Instinctively she avoided all that repels a woman in his verses, as she would have avoided the unsound parts of a fruit. But the solitary, secluded girl lived unconsciously and inevitably in a dream world, for she had no knowledge of any other, nor contact with it. Proud and shy, her heart was restless, her imagination morbid, and she believed in heroes.
When Dr. Peewee had told Mr. Burt all that he knew about the project of the school, Mr. Burt rang the bell violently.
"Send Miss Hope to me."
The servant disappeared, and in a few moments Hope Wayne entered the room. To Dr. Peewee's eyes she seemed wrapped only in a cloud of delicate muslin, and the wind had evidently been playing with her golden hair, for she had been lying upon the lawn reading Byron.
"Did you want me, grandfather?"
"Yes, my dear. Mr. Gray, a respectable person, is coming here to set up a school. There will be a great many young men and boys. I shall never ask them to the house. I hate boys. I expect you to hate them too."
"Yes—yes, my dear," said Dr. Peewee; "hate the boys? Yes; we must hate the boys."
Hope Wayne looked at the two old gentlemen, and answered,
"I don't think you need have warned me, grandfather; I'm not so apt to fall in love with boys."
"No, no, Hope; I know. Ever since you have lived with me—how long is it, my dear, since your mother died?"
"I don't know, grandfather; I never saw her," replied Hope, gravely.
"Yes, yes; well, ever since then you have been a good, quiet little girl with grandpapa. Here, Cossy, come and give grandpa a kiss. And mind the boys! No speaking, no looking—we are never to know them. You understand? Now go, dear."
As she closed the door, Dr. Peewee also rose to take leave.
"Doctor," said Mr. Burt, as the other pushed back his chair, "it is a very warm day. Let me advise you to guard against any sudden debility or effect of the heat by a little cordial."
As he spoke he led the way into the dining-room, and fumbled slowly over a bunch of keys which he drew from his pocket. Finding the proper key, he put it into the door of the side-board. "In this side-board, Dr. Peewee, I keep a bottle of old Jamaica, which was sent me by a former correspondent in the West Indies." As Dr. Peewee had heard the same remark at least fifty times before, the kindly glistening of his nose must be attributed to some other cause than excitement at this intelligence.
"I like to preserve my friendly relations with my old commercial friends," continued Mr. Burt, speaking very pompously, and slowly pouring from a half-empty decanter into a tumbler. "I rarely drink any thing myself—"
"H'm, ha!" grunted the Doctor.
"—except a glass of port at dinner. Yet, not to be impolite, Doctor, not to be impolite, I could not refuse to drink to your very good health and safe return to the bosom of your family."
And Mr. Burt drained the glass, quite unobservant of the fact that the Rev. Dr. Peewee was standing beside him without glass or old Jamaica. In truth Mr. Burt had previously been alarmed about the effect of the bottle of port—which he metaphorically called a glass—that he had drunk at dinner, and to guard against evil results he had already, that very afternoon, as he was accustomed to say with an excellent humor, been to the West Indies for his health.
"Bless my soul, Doctor, you haven't filled your glass! Permit me."
And the old gentleman poured into the one glass and then into the other.
"And now, Sir," he added, "now, Sir, let us drink to the health of Mr. Gray, but not of the boys—ha! ha!"
"No, no, not of the boys? No, not of the boys. Thank you, Sir—thank you. That is a pleasant liquor, Mr. Burt. H'm, ha! a very pleasant liquor. Good-afternoon, Mr. Burt; a very good day, Sir. H'm, ha!"
As Hope left her grandfather, Mrs. Simcoe was sitting at her window, which looked over the lawn in front of the house upon which Hope presently appeared. It was already toward sunset, and the tender golden light streamed upon the landscape like a visible benediction. A few rosy clouds lay in long, tranquil lines across the west, and the great trees bathed in the sweet air with conscious pleasure.
As Hope stood with folded hands looking toward the sunset, she began unconsciously to repeat some of the lines that always lay in her mind like invisible writing, waiting only for the warmth of a strong emotion to bring them legibly out:
"Though the rock of my last hope is shivered, And its fragments are sunk in the wave; Though I feel that my soul is delivered To pain, it shall not be its slave. There is many a pang to pursue me; They may crush, but they shall not contemn; They may torture, but shall not subdue me; 'Tis of thee that I think, not of them."
At the same moment Mrs. Simcoe was closing her window high over Hope's head. Her face was turned toward the sunset with the usual calm impassive look, and as she gazed at the darkening landscape she was singing, in her murmuring way,
"I rest upon thy word; Thy promise is for me: My succor and salvation, Lord, Shall surely come from thee. But let me still abide, Nor from my hope remove, Till thou my patient spirit guide Into thy perfect love."
Mr. Gray's boys sat in several pews, which he could command with his eye from his own seat in the broad aisle. Every Sunday morning at the first stroke of the bell the boys began to stroll toward the church. But after they were seated, and the congregation had assembled, and Dr. Peewee had gone up into the pulpit, the wheels of a carriage were heard outside—steps were let down—there was an opening of doors, a slight scuffing and treading, and old Christopher Burt entered. His head was powdered, and he wore a queue. His coat collar was slightly whitened with-powder, and he carried a gold-headed cane.
The boys looked in admiration upon so much respectability, powder, age, and gold cane united in one person.
But all the boys were in love with the golden-haired grand-daughter. They went home to talk about her. They went to bed to dream of her. They read Mary Lamb's stories from Shakespeare, and Hope Wayne was Ophelia, and Desdemona, and Imogen—above all others, she was Juliet. They read the "Arabian Nights," and she was all the Arabian Princesses with unpronounceable names. They read Miss Edgeworth—"Helen," "Belinda."—"Oh, thunder!" they cried, and dropped the book to think of Hope.
Hope Wayne was not unconscious of the adoration she excited. If a swarm of school-boys can not enter a country church without turning all their eyes toward one pew, is it not possible that, when a girl comes in and seats herself in that pew, the very focus of those burning glances, even Dr. Peewee may not entirely distract her mind, however he may rivet her eyes? As she takes her last glance at the Sunday toilet in her sunny dressing-room at home, and half turns to be sure that the collar is smooth, and that the golden curl nestles precisely as it should under the moss rose-bud that blushes modestly by the side of a lovelier bloom—is it not just supposable that she thinks, for a wayward instant, of other eyes that will presently scan that figure and face, and feels, with a half-flush, that they will not be shocked nor disappointed?
There was not a boy in Mr. Gray's school who would have dared to dream that Hope Wayne ever had such a thought. When she appeared behind Grandfather Burt and the gold-headed cane she had no more antecedents in their imaginations than a rose or a rainbow. They no more thought of little human weaknesses and mundane influences in regard to her than they thought of cold vapor when they looked at sunset clouds.
During the service Hope sat stately in the pew, with her eyes fixed upon Dr. Peewee. She knew the boys were there. From time to time she observed that new boys had arrived, and that older ones had left. But how she discovered it, who could say? There was never one of Mr. Gray's boys who could honestly declare that he had seen Hope Wayne looking at either of the pews in which they sat. Perhaps she did not hear what Dr. Peewee said, although she looked at him so steadily. Perhaps her heart did not look out of her eyes, but was busy with a hundred sweet fancies in which some one of those fascinated boys had a larger share than he knew. Perhaps, when she covered her eyes in an attitude of devotion, she did not thereby exclude all thoughts of the outer and lower world. Perhaps the Being for whose worship they were assembled was no more displeased with the innocent reveries and fancies which floated through that young heart than with the soft air and sweet song of birds that played through the open windows of the church on some warm June Sunday morning.
But when the shrill-voiced leader of the choir sounded the key-note of the hymn-tune through his nose, and the growling bass-viol joined in unison, while the congregation rose, and Dr. Peewee surveyed his people to mark who had staid away from service, then Hope Wayne looked at the choir as if her whole soul were singing; and young Gabriel Bennet, younger than Hope, had a choking feeling as he gazed at her—an involuntary sense of unworthiness and shame before such purity and grace. He counted every line of the hymn grudgingly, and loved the tunes that went back and repeated and prolonged—the tunes endlessly da capo—and the hymns that he heard as he looked at her he never forgot.
But there were other eyes than Gabriel Bennet's that watched Hope Wayne, and for many months had watched her—the flashing black eyes of Abel Newt. Handsome, strong, graceful, he was one of the oldest boys, and a leader at Mr. Gray's school. Like every handsome, bold boy or young man, for he was fully eighteen, and seemed much older, Abel Newt had plenty of allies at school—they could hardly be called friends. There was many a boy who thought with the one nicknamed Little Malacca, although, more prudently than he, he might not say it: "Abe gives me gingerbread; but I guess I don't like him!" If a boy interfered with Abe he was always punished. The laugh was turned on him; there was ceaseless ridicule and taunting. Then if it grew insupportable, and came to fighting, Abel Newt was strong in muscle and furious in wrath, and the recusant was generally pommeled.
Reposing upon his easy, conscious superiority, Abel had long worshiped Hope Wayne. They were nearly of the same age—she a few months the younger. But as the regulations of the school confined every boy, without especial permission of absence, to the school grounds, and as Abel had no acquaintance with Mr. Burt and no excuse for calling, his worship had been silent and distant. He was the more satisfied that it should be so, because it had never occurred to him that any of the other boys could be a serious rival for her regard. He was also obliged to be the more satisfied with his silent devotion, because never, by a glance, did she betray any consciousness of his particular observation, or afford him the least opportunity for saying or doing any thing that would betray it. If he hastened to the front door of the church he could only stand upon the steps, and as she passed out she nodded to her few friends, and immediately followed her grandfather into the carriage.
When Gabriel Bennet came to Mr. Gray's, Abel did not like him. He laughed at him. He made the other boys laugh at him whenever he could. He bullied him in the play-ground. He proposed to introduce fagging at Mr. Gray's. He praised it as a splendid institution of the British schools, simply because he wanted Gabriel as his fag. He wanted to fling his boots at Gabriel's head that he might black them. He wanted to send him down stairs in his shirt on winter nights. He wanted to have Gabriel get up in the cold mornings and bring him his breakfast in bed. He wanted to chain Gabriel to the car of his triumphal progress through school-life. He wanted to debase and degrade him altogether.
"What is it," Abel exclaimed one day to the large boys assembled in solemn conclave in the school-room, "that takes all the boorishness and brutishness out of the English character? What is it that prevents the Britishers from being servile and obsequious—traits, I tell you, boys, unknown in England—but this splendid system of fagging? Did you ever hear of an insolent Englishman, a despotic Englishman, a surly Englishman, a selfish Englishman, an obstinate Englishman, a domineering Englishman, a dogmatic Englishman? Never, boys, never. These things are all taken out of them by fagging. It stands to reason they should be. If I shy my boots at a fellow's head, is he likely to domineer? If I kick a small boy who contradicts me, is he likely to be opinionated and dogmatic? If I eat up my fag's plum-cake just sent by his mamma, hot, as it were, from the maternal heart, and moist with a mother's tears, is that fag likely to be selfish? Not at all. The boots, and the kicking, and the general walloping make him manly. It teaches him to govern his temper and hold his tongue. I swear I should like to have a fag!" perorated Abel, meaning that he should like to be the holy office, and to have Gabriel Bennet immediately delivered up to him for discipline.
Once Gabriel overheard this kind of conversation in the play-ground, as Abel Newt and some of the other boys were resting after a game at ball. There were no personal allusions in what Abel had said, but Gabriel took him up a little curtly:
"Pooh! Abel, how would you like to have Gyles Blanding shy his boots at your head?"
Abel looked at him a moment, sarcastically. Then he replied:
"My young friend, I should like to see him try it. But fagging concerns small boys, not large ones."
"Yes!" retorted Gabriel, his eyes flashing, as he kept tossing the ball nervously, and catching it; "yes, that's the meanness of it: the little boy can't help himself."
"By golly, I'd kick!" put in Little Malacca.
"Then you'd be licked till you dropped, my small Sir," said Abel, sneeringly.
"Yes, Abel," replied Gabriel, "but it's a mean thing for an American boy to want fagging."
"Not at all," he answered; "there are some young American gentlemen I know who would be greatly benefited by being well fagged; yes, made to lie down in the dirt and lick a little of it, and fetch and carry. And to be kicked out of bed every morning and into bed every night would be the very best thing that could happen to 'em. By George, I should like to have the kicking and licking begin now!"
Gabriel had the same dislike of Abel which the latter felt for him, but they had never had any open quarrel. Even thus far in the present conversation there had been nothing personal said. It was only a warm general discussion. Gabriel merely asked, when the other stopped,
"What good does the fagging do the fellow that flings the boots and bullies the little one?"
"Good?" answered Abel—"what good does it do? Why, he has been through it all himself, and he's just paying it off."
Abel smiled grimly as he looked round upon the boys, who did not seem at all enthusiastic for his suggestion.
"Well," said he, "I'm afraid I shall have to postpone my millennium of fagging. But I don't know what else will make men of you. And mark you, my merry men, there's more than one kind of fagging;" and he looked in a droll way—a droll way that was not in the least funny, but made the boys all wonder what Abel Newt was up to now.
It was already dusk, but the summer evening is the best time for play. The sport in the play-ground at Mr. Gray's was at its height, and the hot, eager, panting boys were shouting and scampering in every direction, when a man ran in from the road and cried out, breathless,
"Where's Mr. Gray?"
"In his study," answered twenty voices at once. The man darted toward the house and went in; the next moment he reappeared with Mr. Gray, both of them running.
"Get out the boat!" cried Mr. Gray, "and call the big boys. There's a man drowning in the pond!"
The game was over at once, and each young heart thrilled with vague horror. Abel Newt, Muddock, Blanding, Tom Gait, Jim Greenidge, and the rest of the older boys, came rushing out of the school-room, and ran toward the barn, in which the boat was kept upon a truck. In a moment the door was open, the truck run out, and all the boys took hold of the rope. Mr. Gray and the stranger led the way. The throng swept out of the gate, and as they hastened silently along, the axles of the truck kindled with the friction and began to smoke.
"Carefully! steadily!" cried the boys all together.
They slackened speed a little, but, happily, the pond was but a short distance from the school. It was a circular sheet of water, perhaps a mile in width.
"Boys, he is nearly on the other side," said Mr. Gray, as the crowd reached the shore.
In an instant the boat was afloat. Mr. Gray, the stranger, and the six stoutest boys in the school, stepped into it. The boys lifted their oars. "Let fall! give way!" cried Mr. Gray, and the boat moved off, glimmering away into the darkness.
The younger boys remained hushed and awe-stricken upon the shore. The stars were just coming out, the wind had fallen, and the smooth, black pond lay silent at their feet. They could see the vague, dark outline of the opposite shore, but none of the pretty villas that stood in graceful groves upon the banks—none of the little lawns that sloped, with a feeling of human sympathy, to the water. The treachery of that glassy surface was all they thought of. They shuddered to remember that they had so often bathed in the pond, and recoiled as if they had been friends of a murderer. None of them spoke. They clustered closely together, listening intently. Nothing was audible but the hum of the evening insects and the regular muffled beat of the oars over the water. The boys strained their ears and held their breath as the sound suddenly stopped. But they listened in vain. The lazy tree-toads sang, the monotonous hum of the night went on.
Gabriel Bennet held the hand of Little Malacca—a dark-eyed boy, who was supposed in the school to have had no father or mother, and who had instinctively attached himself to Gabriel from the moment they met.
"Isn't it dreadful?" whispered the latter.
"Yes," said Gabriel, "it's dreadful to be young when a man's drowning, for you can't do any thing. Hist!"
There was not a movement, as they heard a dull, distant sound.
"I guess that's Jim Greenidge," whispered Little Malacca, under his breath; "he's the best diver."
Nobody answered. The slow minutes passed. Some of the boys peered timidly into the dark, and clung closer to their neighbors.
"There they come!" said Gabriel suddenly, in a low voice, and in a few moments the beat of the oars was heard again. Still nobody spoke. Most of the boys were afraid that when the boat appeared they should see a dead body, and they dreaded it. Some felt homesick, and began to cry. The throb of oars came nearer and nearer. The boat glimmered out of the darkness, and almost at the same moment slid up the shore. The solemn undertone in which the rowers spoke told all. Death was in the boat.
Gabriel Bennet could see the rowers step quickly out, and with great care run the boat upon the truck. He said, "Come, boys!" and they all moved together and grasped the rope.
"Forward!" said Mr. Gray.
Something lay across the seats covered with a large cloak. The boys did not look behind, but they all knew what they were dragging. The homely funeral-car rolled slowly along under the stars. The crickets chirped; the multitudinous voice of the summer night murmured on every side, mingling with the hollow rumble of the truck. In a few moments the procession turned into the grounds, and the boat was drawn to the platform.
"The little boys may go," said Mr. Gray.
They dropped the rope and turned away. They did not even try to see what was done with the body; but when Blanding came out of the house afterward, they asked him who found the drowned man.
"Jim Greenidge," said he. "He stripped as soon as we were well out on the pond, and asked the stranger gentleman to show him about where his friend sank. The moment the place was pointed out he dove. The first time he found nothing. The second time he touched him"—the boys shuddered—"and he actually brought him up to the surface. But he was quite dead. Then we took him into the boat and covered him over. That's all."
There were no more games, there was no other talk, that evening. When the boys were going to bed, Gabriel asked Little Malacca in which room Jim Greenidge slept.
"He sleeps in Number Seven. Why?"
"Oh! I only wanted to know."
Gabriel Bennet could not sleep. His mind was too busy with the events of the day. All night long he could think of nothing but the strong figure of Jim Greenidge erect in the summer night, then plunging silently into the black water. When it was fairly light he hurried on his clothes, and passing quietly along the hall, knocked at the door of Number Seven.
"Who's there?" cried a voice within.
"It's only me."
"Come in, then."
It was Abel Newt who spoke; and as Gabriel stepped in, Newt asked, abruptly,
"What do you want?"
"I want to speak to Jim Greenidge."
"Well, there he is," replied Newt, pointing to another bed. "Jim! Jim!"
Greenidge roused himself.
"What's the matter?" said his cheery voice, as he rose upon his elbow and looked at Gabriel with his kind eyes. "Come here, Gabriel. What is it?"
Gabriel hesitated, for Abel Newt was looking sharply at him. But in a moment he went to Greenidge's bedside, and said, shyly, in a low voice,
"Shall I black your boots for you?"
"Black my boots! Why, Gabriel, what on earth do you mean? No, of course you shall not."
And the strong youth looked pleasantly on the boy who stood by his bedside, and then put out his hand to him.
"Can't I brush your clothes then, or do any thing for you?" persisted Gabriel, softly.
"Certainly not. Why do you want to?" replied Greenidge.
"Oh! I only thought it would be pleasant if I could do something—that's all," said Gabriel, as he moved slowly away. "I'm sorry to have waked you."
He closed the door gently as he went out. Jim Greenidge lay for some time resting upon his elbow, wondering why a boy who had scarcely ever spoken a word to him before should suddenly want to be his servant. He could make nothing of it, and, tired with the excitement of the previous evening, he lay down again for a morning nap.
Upon the following Sunday the Rev. Amos Peewee, D.D., made a suitable improvement of the melancholy event of the week. He enlarged upon the uncertainty of life. He said that in the midst of life we are in death. He said that we are shadows and pursue shades. He added that we are here to-day and gone to-morrow.
During the long prayer before the sermon a violent thunder-gust swept from the west and dashed against the old wooden church. As the Doctor poured forth his petitions he made the most extraordinary movements with his right hand. He waved it up and down rapidly. He opened his eyes for an instant as if to find somebody. He seemed to be closing imaginary windows—and so he was. It leaked out the next day at Mr. Gray's that Dr. Peewee was telegraphing the sexton at random—for he did not know where to look for him—to close the windows. Nobody better understood the danger of draughts from windows, during thunder-storms, than the Doctor; nobody knew better than he that the lightning-rod upon the spire was no protection at all, but that the iron staples with which it was clamped to the building would serve, in case of a bolt's striking the church, to drive its whole force into the building. As a loud crash burst over the village in the midst of his sermon, and showed how frightfully near the storm was, his voice broke into a shrill quaver, as he faltered out, "Yes, my brethren, let us be calm under all circumstances, and Death will have no terrors."
The Rev. Amos Peewee had been settled in the village of Delafield since a long period before the Revolution, according to the boys. But the parish register carried the date only to the beginning of this century. He wore a silken gown in summer, and a woolen gown in winter, and black worsted gloves, always with the middle finger of the right-hand glove slit, that he might more conveniently turn the leaves of the Bible, and the hymn-book, and his own sermons.
The pews of the old meeting-house were high, and many of them square. The heads of the people of consideration in the congregation were mostly bald, as beseems respectable age, and as the smooth, shiny line of pates appeared above the wooden line of the pews they somehow sympathetically blended into one gleaming surface of worn wood and skull, until it seemed as if the Doctor's theological battles were all fought upon the heads of his people.
But the Doctor was by no means altogether polemical. After defeating and utterly confounding the fathers who fired their last shot a thousand years ago, and who had not a word to say against his remaining master of the field, he was wont to unbend his mind and recreate his fancy by practical discourses. His sermons upon lying were celebrated all through the village. He gave the insidious vice no quarter. He charged upon it from all sides at once. Lying couldn't stand for a moment. White lies, black lies, blue lies, and green lies, lies of ceremony, of charity, and of good intention disappeared before the lightning of his wrath. They are all children of the Devil, with different complexions, said Dr. Peewee.
But if lying be a vice, surely, said he, discretion is a virtue. "My dear Mr. Gray," said Dr. Peewee to that gentleman when he was about establishing his school in the village, and was consulting with the Doctor about bringing his boys to church—"my dear Mr. Gray," said the Doctor, putting down his cigar and stirring his toddy (he was of an earlier day), "above all things a clergyman should be discreet. In fact, Christianity is discretion. A man must preach at sins, not sinners. Where would society be if the sins of individuals were to be rudely assaulted?—one more lump, if you please. A man's sins are like his corns. Neither the shoe nor the sermon must fit too snugly. I am a clergyman, but I hope I am also a man of common sense—a practical man, Mr. Gray. The general moral law and the means of grace, those are the proper themes of the preacher. And the pastor ought to understand the individual characters and pursuits of his parishioners, that he may avoid all personality in applying the truth."
"Clearly," said Mr. Gray.
"For instance," reasoned the Doctor, as he slowly stirred his toddy, and gesticulated with one skinny forefinger, occasionally sipping as he went on, "if I have a deacon in my church who is a notorious miser, is it not plain that, if I preach a strong sermon upon covetousness, every body in the church will think of my deacon—will, in fact, apply the sermon to him? The deacon, of course, will be the first to do it. And then, why, good gracious! he might even take his hat and cane and stalk heavily down the broad aisle, under my very nose, before my very eyes, and slam the church door after him in my very face! Here at once is difficulty in the church; hard feeling; perhaps even swearing. Am I, as a Christian clergyman, to give occasion to uncharitable emotions, even to actual profanity? Is not a Christian congregation, was not every early Christian community, a society of brothers? Of course they were; of course we must be. Little children, love one another. Let us dwell together, my brethren, in amity," said the Doctor, putting down his glass, and forgetting that he was in Mr. Gray's study; "and please give me your ears while I show you this morning the enormity of burning widows upon the funeral pyres of their husbands."
This was the Peewee Christianity; and after such a sermon the deacon has been known to say to his wife—thin she was in the face, which had a settled shade, like the sober twilight of valleys from which the sun has long been gone, though it has not yet set—
"What shocking people the Hindoos are! They actually burn widows! My dear, how grateful we ought to be that we live in a Christian country where wives are not burned!—Abraham! if you put another stick of wood into that stove I'll skin you alive, Sir. Go to bed this instant, you wicked boy!—It must be bad enough to be a widow, my dear, let alone the burning. Shall we have evening prayers, Mrs. Deacon?"
In the evening of the day on which the Doctor improved the drowning, and exhorted his hearers to be brave, Mr. Gray asked Gabriel Bennet, "Where was the text?"
"I don't know, Sir," replied Gabriel. As he spoke there was the sound of warm discussion on the other side of the dining-room, in which the boys sat during the evening.
"What is it, Gyles?" asked Mr. Gray.
"Why, Sir," replied he, "it's nothing. We were talking about a ribbon, Sir."
"A ribbon we saw at church, Sir."
"Well, whose was it?" asked Mr. Gray.
"I believe it was Miss Hope Wayne's."
"You believe, Gyles? Why don't you speak out?"
"Well, Sir, the fact is that Abel Newt says she had a purple ribbon on her bonnet—"
"She hadn't," said Gabriel, breaking in, impetuously. "She had a beautiful blue ribbon, and lilies of the valley inside, and a white lace vail, and—"
Gabriel stopped and turned very red, for he caught Abel Newt's eyes fixed sharply upon him.
"Oh ho! the text was there, was it?" asked Mr. Gray, smiling.
But Abel Newt only said, quietly:
"Oh well! I guess it was a blue ribbon after all."
"The truth is, Gyles;" said Abel to Blanding, his chum, "Gabriel Bennet's mother ought to come and take him home for the summer to play with the other calves in the country. People shouldn't leave their spoons about."
The two boys went in to tea.
In the evening, as the pupils were sitting in the dining-room, as usual, some chatting, some reading, others quite ready to go to bed,
"Mr. Gray," said Abel to Uncle Savory, who was sitting talking with Mrs. Gray, whose hands, which were never idle, were now busily knitting.
"Suppose we have some game."
"Certainly. Boys, what shall we do? Let us see. There's the Grand Mufti, and the Elements, and My ship's come loaded with—and—well, what shall it be?"
"Mr. Gray, it's a good while since we've tried all calling out together. We haven't done it since Gabriel Bennet came."
"No, we haven't," answered Mr. Gray, as his small eyes twinkled at the prospect of a little fun; "no, we haven't. Now, boys, of course a good many of you have played the game before. But you, new boys, attend! the thing is this. When I say three—one, two, three!—every body is to shout out the name of his sweet-heart. The fun is that nobody hears any thing, because every body bawls so loud. You see?" asked he, apparently feeling for his handkerchief. "Gabriel, before we begin, just run into the study and get my handkerchief."
Gabriel, full of expectation of the fun, ran out of the room. The moment he closed the door Mr. Gray lifted his finger and said,
"Now, boys! every body remain perfectly quiet when I say three."
It was needless to explain why, for every body saw the intended joke, and Gabriel returned instantly from the study saying that the handkerchief was not there.
"No matter," said Mr. Gray. "Are you all ready, boys. Now, then—one, two, three!"
As the word left Mr. Gray's lips, Gabriel, candid, full of spirit, jumped up from his seat with the energy of his effort, and shouted out at the top of his voice,
—It was cruel. That name alone broke the silence, ringing out in enthusiastic music.
Gabriel's face instantly changed. Still standing erect and dismayed, he looked rapidly around the room from boy to boy, and at Mr. Gray. There was just a moment of utter silence, and then a loud peal of laughter.
Gabriel's color came and went. His heart winced, but not his eye. Young hearts are tender, and a joke like this cuts deeply. But just as he was about to yield, and drop the tell-tale tear of a sensitive, mortified boy, he caught the eye of Abel Newt. It was calmly studying him as a Roman surgeon may have watched the gladiator in the arena, while his life-blood ebbed away. Gabriel remembered Abel's words in the play-ground—"There's more than one kind of fagging."
When the laugh was over, Gabriel's had been loudest of all.
The next day when school was dismissed, Abel asked leave to stroll out of bounds. He pushed along the road, whistling cheerily, whipping the road-side grass and weeds with his little ratan, and all the while approaching the foot of the hill up which the road wound through the estate of Pinewood. As he turned up the hill he walked more slowly, and presently stopped and leaned upon a pair of bars which guarded the entrance of one of Mr. Burt's pastures. He gazed for some time down into the rich green field that sloped away from the road toward a little bowery stream, but still whistled, as if he were looking into his mind rather than at the landscape.
After leaning and musing and vaguely whistling, he turned up the hill again and continued his walk.
At length he reached the entrance of Pinewood—a high iron gate, between huge stone posts, on the tops of which were urns overflowing with vines, that hung down and partly tapestried the columns. Immediately upon entering the grounds the carriage avenue wound away from the gate, so that the passer-by could see nothing as he looked through but the hedge which skirted and concealed the lawn. The fence upon the road was a high, solid stone wall, along whose top clustered a dense shrubbery, so that, although the land rose from the road toward the house, the lawn was entirely sequestered; and you might sit upon it and enjoy the pleasant rural prospect of fields, woods, and hills, without being seen from the road. The house itself was a stately, formal mansion. Its light color contrasted well with the lofty pine-trees around it. But they, in turn, invested it with an air of secrecy and gloom, unrelieved by flowers or blossoming shrubs, of which there were no traces near the house, although in the rear there was a garden so formally regular that it looked like a penitentiary for flowers.
These were the pine-trees that Hope Wayne had heard sing all her life—but sing like the ocean, not like birds or human voices. In the black autumn midnights they struggled with the north winds that smote them fiercely and filled the night with uproar, while the child cowering in her bed thought of wrecks on pitiless shores—of drowning mothers and hapless children. Through the summer nights they sighed. But it was not a lullaby—it was not a serenade. It was the croning of a Norland enchantress, and young Hope sat at her open window, looking out into the moonlight, and listening.
Abel Newt opened the gate and passed in. He walked along the avenue, from which the lawn was still hidden by the skirting hedge, went up the steps, and rang the bell.
"Is Mr. Burt at home?" he asked, quietly.
"This way, Sir," said the nimble Hiram, going before, but half turning and studying the visitor as he spoke, and quite unable to comprehend him at a glance. "I will speak to him."
Abel Newt was shown into a large drawing-room. The furniture was draped for the season in cool-colored chintz. There was a straw matting upon the floor. The chandeliers and candelabras were covered with muslin, and heavy muslin curtains hung over the windows. The tables and chairs were of a clumsy old-fashioned pattern, with feet in the form of claws clasping balls, and a generally stiff, stately, and uncomfortable air. The fire-place was covered by a heavy painted fire-board. The polished brass andirons, which seemed to feel the whole weight of responsibility in supporting the family dignity, stood across the hearth, belligerently bright, and there were sprays of asparagus in a china vase in front of them. A few pictures hung upon the wall—family portraits, Abel thought; at least old Christopher was there, painted at the age of ten, standing, in very clean attire, holding a book in one hand and a hoop in the other. The picture was amusing, and looked to Abel symbolical, representing the model boy, equally devoted to study and play. That singular sneering smile flitted over his face as he muttered, "The Reverend Gabriel Bennet!"
There were a few books upon the centre-table, carefully placed and balanced as if they had been porcelain ornaments. The bindings and the edges of the leaves had a fresh, unworn look. The outer window-blinds were closed, and the whole room had a chilly formality and dimness which was not hospitable nor by any means inspiring.
Abel seated himself in an easy-chair, and was still smiling at the portrait of Master Christopher Burt at the age of ten, when that gentleman, at the age of seventy-three, was heard in the hall. Hiram had left the door open, so that Abel had full notice of his approach, and rose just before the old gentleman entered, and stood with his cap in his hand and his head slightly bent.
Old Burt came into the room, and said, a little fiercely, as he saw the visitor,
"Well, Sir!" he repeated, more blandly, apparently mollified by something in the appearance of the youth.
"Mr. Burt," said Abel, "I am sure you will excuse me when you understand the object of my call; although I am fully aware of the liberty I am taking in intruding upon your valuable time and the many important cares which must occupy the attention of a gentleman so universally known, honored, and loved in the community as you are, Sir."
"Did you come here to compliment me, Sir?" asked Mr. Burt. "You've got some kind of subscription paper, I suppose." The old gentleman began to warm up as he thought of it. "But I can't give any thing. I never do—I never will. It's an infernal swindle. Some deuced Missionary Society, or Tract Society, or Bible Society, some damnable doing-good society, that bleeds the entire community, has sent you up here, Sir, to suck money out of me with your smooth face. They're always at it. They're always sending boys, and ministers in the milk, by Jove! and women that talk in a way to turn the milk sour in the cellar, Sir, and who have already turned themselves sour in the face, Sir, and whom a man can't turn out of doors, Sir, to swindle money out of innocent people! I tell you, young man, 'twon't work! I'll, be whipped if I give you a solitary red cent!" And Christopher Burt, in a fine wrath, seated himself by the table, and wiped his forehead.
Abel stood patiently and meekly under this gust of fury, and when it was ended, and Mr. Burt was a little composed, he began quietly, as if the indignation were the most natural thing in the world:
"No, Sir; it is not a subscription paper—"
"Not a subscription paper!" interrupted the old gentleman, lifting his head and staring at him. "Why, what the deuce is it, then?"
"Why, Sir, as I was just saying," calmly returned Abel, "it is a personal matter altogether."
"Eh! eh! what?" cried Mr. Burt, on the edge of another paroxysm, "what the deuce does that mean? Who are you. Sir?"
"I am one of Mr. Gray's boys, Sir," replied Abel.
"What! what!" thundered Grandpa Burt, springing up suddenly, his mind opening upon a fresh scent. "One of Mr. Gray's boys? How dare you, Sir, come into my house? Who sent you here, Sir? What right have you to intrude into this place, Sir? Hiram! Hiram!"
"Yes, Sir," answered the man, as he came across the hall.
"Show this young man out."
"He may have some message, Sir," said Hiram, who had heard the preceding conversation.
"Have you got any message?" asked Mr. Burt.
"No, Sir; but I—"
"Then why, in Heaven's name, don't you go?"
"Mr. Burt," said Abel, with placid persistence, "being one of Mr. Gray's boys, I go of course to Dr. Peewee's Church, and there I have so often seen—"
"Come, come, Sir, this is a little too much. Hiram, put this boy out," said the old gentleman, quite beside himself as he thought of his grand-daughter. "Seen, indeed! What business have you to see, Sir?"
"So often seen your venerable figure," resumed Abel in the same tone as before, while Mr. Burt turned suddenly and looked at him closely, "that I naturally asked who you were. I was told, Sir; and hearing of your wealth and old family, and so on, Sir, I was interested—it was only natural, Sir—in all that belongs to you."
"Eh! eh! what?" said Mr. Burt, quickly.
"Particularly, Mr. Burt, in your—"
"By Jove! young man, you'd better go if you don't want to have your head broken. D'ye come here to beard me in my own house? By George! your impudence stupefies me, Sir. I tell you go this minute!"
But Abel continued:
"In your beautiful—"
"Don't dare to say it, Sir!" cried the old man, shaking his finger.
"Place," said Abel, quietly.
The old gentleman glared at him with a look of mixed surprise and suspicion. But the boy wore the same look of candor. He held his cap in his hand. His black hair fell around his handsome face. He was entirely calm, and behaved in the most respectful manner.
"What do you mean, Sir?" said Christopher Burt, in great perplexity, as he seated himself again, and drew a long breath.
"Simply, Sir, that I am very fond of sketching. My teacher says I draw very well, and I have had a great desire to draw your place, but I did not dare to ask permission. It is said in school, Sir, that you don't like Mr. Gray's boys, and I knew nobody who could introduce me. But to-day, as I came by, every thing looked so beautifully, and I was so sure that I could make a pretty picture if I could only get leave to come inside the grounds, that almost unconsciously I found myself coming up the avenue and ringing the bell. That's all, Sir; and I'm sure I beg your pardon for troubling you so much."
Mr. Burt listened to this speech with a pacified air. He was perhaps a little ashamed of his furious onslaughts and interruptions, and therefore the more graciously inclined toward the request of the young man.
So the old man said, with tolerable grace,
"Well, Sir, I am willing you should draw my house. Will you do it this afternoon?"
"Really, Sir," replied Abel, "I had no intention of asking you to-day; and as I strolled out merely for a walk, I did not bring my drawing materials with me. But if you would allow me to come at any time, Sir, I should be very deeply obliged. I am devoted to my art, Sir."
"Oh! you mean to be an artist?"
"Phit! phit! Don't do any such silly thing, Sir. An artist! Why how much does an artist make in a year?"
"Well, Sir, the money I don't know about, but the fame!"
"Oh! the fame! The fiddle, Sir! You are capable of better things."
"For instance, Mr. Burt—"
"Trade, Sir, trade—trade. That is the way to fortune in this country. Enterprise, activity, shrewdness, industry, that's what a young man wants. Get rid of your fol-de-rol notions about art. Benjamin West was a great man, Sir; but he was an exception, and besides he lived in England. I respect Benjamin West, Sir, of course. We all do. He made a good thing of it. Take the word of an old man who has seen life and knows the world, and remember that, with all your fine fiddling, it is money makes the mare go. Old men like me don't mince matters, Sir. It's money—money!"
Abel thought old men sometimes minced grammar a little, but he did not say so. He only looked respectful, and said, "Yes, Sir."
"About drawing the house, come when you choose," said Mr. Burt, rising.
"It may take more than one, or even three or four afternoons, Sir, to do it properly."
"Well, well. If I'm not at home ask for Mrs. Simcoe, d'ye hear? Mrs. Simcoe. She will attend to you."
Abel bowed very respectfully and as if he were controlling a strong desire to kneel and kiss the foot of his Holiness, Christopher Burt; but he mastered himself, and Hiram opened the front door.
"Good-by, Hiram," said. Abel, putting a piece of money into his hand.
"Oh no, Sir," said Hiram, pocketing the coin.
Abel walked sedately down the steps, and looked carefully around him. He scanned the windows; he glanced under the trees; but he saw nothing. He did every thing, in fact, but study the house which he had been asking permission to draw. He looked as if for something or somebody who did not appear. But as Hiram still stood watching him, he moved away.
He walked faster as he approached the gate. He opened it; flung it to behind him, broke into a little trot, and almost tumbled over Gabriel Bennet and Little Malacca as he did so.
The collision was rude, and the three boys stopped.
"You'd better look where you're going," said Gabriel, sharply, his cheeks reddening and swelling.
Abel's first impulse was to strike; but he restrained himself, and in the most contemptuous way said merely,
"Ah, the Reverend Gabriel Bennet!"
He had scarcely spoken when Gabriel fell upon him like a young lion. So sudden and impetuous was his attack that for a moment Abel was confounded. He gave way a little, and was well battered almost before he could strike in return. Then his strong arms began to tell. He was confident of victory, and calmer than his antagonist; but it was like fighting a flame, so fierce and rapid were Gabriel's strokes.
Little Malacca looked on in amazement and terror. "Don't! don't!" cried he, as he saw the faces of the fighters. "Oh, don't! Abel, you'll kill him!" For Abel was now fully aroused. He was seriously hurt by Gabriel's blows.
"Don't! there's somebody coming!" cried Little Malacca, with the tears in his eyes, as the sound of a carriage was heard driving down the hill.
The combatants said nothing. The faces of both of them were bruised, and the blood was flowing. Gabriel was clearly flagging; and Abel's face was furious as he struck his heavy blows, under which the smaller boy staggered, but did not yet succumb.
"Oh, please! please!" cried Little Malacca, imploringly, the tears streaming down his face.
At that moment Abel Newt drew back, aimed a tremendous blow at Gabriel, and delivered it with fearful force upon his head. The smaller boy staggered, reeled, threw up his arms, and fell heavily forward into the road, senseless.
"You've killed him! You've killed him!" sobbed Little Malacca, piteously, kneeling down and bending over Gabriel.
Abel Newt stood bareheaded, frowning under his heavy hair, his hands clenched, his face bruised and bleeding, his mouth sternly set as he looked down upon his opponent. Suddenly he heard a sound close by him—a half-smothered cry. He looked up. It was the Burt carriage, and Hope Wayne was gazing in terror from the window.
AFTER THE BATTLE.
Hiram was summoned to the door by a violent ringing of the bell. Visions of apoplexy—of—in fact, of any thing that might befall a testy gentleman of seventy-three, inclined to make incessant trips to the West Indies—rushed to his mind as he rushed to the door. He opened it in hot haste.
There stood Hope Wayne, pale, her eyes flashing, her hand ungloved. At the foot of the steps was the carriage, and in the carriage sat Mrs. Simcoe, with a bleeding boy's head resting upon her shoulder. The coachman stood at the carriage door.
"Here, Hiram, help James to bring in this poor boy."
"Yes, miss," replied the man, as he ran down the steps.
The door was opened, and the coachman and Hiram lifted out Gabriel.
They carried him, still unconscious, up stairs and laid him on a couch. Old Burt could not refuse an act of mere humanity, but he said in a loud voice,
"It's all a conspiracy to get into the house, Mrs. Simcoe, ma'am. I'll have bull-dogs—I'll have blunderbusses and spring-guns, Mrs. Simcoe, ma'am! And what do you mean by fighting at my gate, Sir?" he said, turning upon Little Malacca, who quivered under his wrath. "What are you doing at my gate? Can't Mr. Gray keep his boys at home? Hope, go up stairs!" said the old gentleman, as he reached the foot of the staircase.
But Hope Wayne and Mrs. Simcoe remained with the patient. Hope rubbed the boy's hands, and put her own hand upon his forehead from time to time, until he sighed heavily and opened his eyes. But before he could recognize her she went out to send Hiram to him, while Mrs. Simcoe sat quietly by him.
"We must put you to bed," she said, gently, "and to-morrow you may go. But why do you fight?"
Gabriel turned toward her with a piteous look.
"No matter," replied Mrs. Simcoe. "Don't talk. You shall tell all about it some other time. Come in, Hiram," she added, as she heard a knock.
The man entered, and Mrs. Simcoe left the room after having told him to undress the boy carefully and bathe his face and hands. Gabriel was perfectly passive, Hiram was silent, quick, and careful, and in a few moments he closed the door softly behind him, and left Gabriel alone.
He was now entirely conscious, but very weak. His face was turned toward the window, which was open, and he watched the pine-trees that rustled gently in the afternoon breeze. It was profoundly still out of doors and in the house; and as he lay exhausted, the events of the last few days and months swam through his mind in misty confusion. Half-dozing, half-sleeping, every thing glimmered before him, and the still hours stole by.
When he opened his eyes again it was twilight, and he was lying on his back looking up at the heavy tester of the great bedstead from which hung the curtains, so that he had only glimpses into the chamber. It was large and lofty, and the paper on the wall told the story of Telemachus. His eyes wandered over it dreamily.
He could dimly see the beautiful Calypso—the sage Mentor—the eager pupil—pallid phantoms floating around him. He seemed to hear the beating of the sea upon the shore. The tears came to his eyes. The ghostly Calypso put aside the curtain of the bed. Gabriel stretched out his hands.
"I must go," he murmured, as if he too were a phantom.
The lips of Calypso moved.
"Are you better?"
Gabriel was awake in a moment. It was Hope Wayne who spoke to him.
About ten o'clock in the evening she knocked again gently at Gabriel's door. There was no reply. She opened the door softly and went in. A night-lamp was burning, and threw a pleasant light through the room. The windows were open, and the night-air sighed among the pine-trees near them.
Gabriel's face was turned toward the door, so that Hope saw it as she entered. He was sleeping peacefully. At that very moment he was dreaming of her. In dreams Hope Wayne was walking with him by the sea, her hand in his: her heart his own.
She stood motionless lest she might wake him. He did not stir, and she heard his low, regular breathing, and knew that all was well. Then she turned as noiselessly as she had entered, and went out, leaving him to peaceful sleep—to dreams—to the sighing of the pines.
Hope Wayne went quietly to her room, which was next to the one in which Gabriel lay. Her kind heart had sent her to see that he wanted nothing. She thought of him only as a boy who had had the worst of a quarrel, and she pitied him. Was it then, indeed, only pity for the victim that knocked gently at his door? Was she really thinking of the conqueror when she went to comfort the conquered? Was she not trying somehow to help Abel by doing all she could to alleviate the harm he had done?
Hope Wayne asked herself no questions. She was conscious of a curious excitement, and the sighing of the pines lulled her to sleep. But all night long she dreamed of Abel Newt, with bare head and clustering black hair, gracefully bowing, and murmuring excuses; and oh! so manly, oh! so heroic he looked as he carefully helped to lay Gabriel in the carriage.
NEWS FROM HOME.
Abel found a letter waiting for him when he returned to the school. He tore it open and read it:
"MY DEAR ABEL,—You have now nearly reached the age at which, by your grandfather's direction, you were to leave school and enter upon active life. Your grandfather, who had known and respected Mr. Gray in former years, left you, as you know, a sum sufficient for your education, upon condition of your being placed at Mr. Gray's until your nineteenth birthday. That time is approaching. Upon your nineteenth birthday you will leave school. Mr. Gray gives me the best accounts of you. My plans for you are not quite settled. What are your own wishes? It is late for you to think of college; and as you will undoubtedly be a business man, I see no need of your learning Greek or writing Latin poetry. At your age I was earning my own living. Your mother and the family are well. Your affectionate father,
"P.S.—Your mother wishes to add a line."
"DEAR ABEL,—I am very glad to hear from Mr. Gray of your fine progress in study, and your general good character and deportment. I trust you give some of your leisure to solid reading. It is very necessary to improve the mind. I hope you attend to religion. It will help you if you keep a record of Dr. Peewee's texts, and write abstracts of his sermons. Grammar, too, and general manners. I hear that you are very self-possessed, which is really good news. My friend Mrs. Beacon was here last week, and she says you bow beautifully! That is a great deal for her to admit, for her son Bowdoin is one of the most elegant and presentable young men I have ever seen. He is very gentlemanly indeed. He and Alfred Dinks have been here for some time. My dear son, could you not learn to waltz before you come home? It is considered very bad by some people, because you have to put your arm round the lady's waist. But I think it is very foolish for any body to set themselves up against the customs of society. I think if it is permitted in Paris and London, we needn't be so very particular about it in New York. Mr. Dinks and Mr. Beacon both waltz, and I assure you it is very distingue indeed. But be careful in learning. Your sister Fanny says the Boston young men stick out their elbows dreadfully when they waltz, and look like owls spinning on invisible teetotums. She declares, too, that all the Boston girls are dowdy. But she is obliged to confess that Mr. Beacon and Mr. Dinks are as well dressed and gentlemanly and dance as well as our young men here. And as for the Boston ladies, Mr. Dinks tells Fanny that he has a cousin, a Miss Wayne, who lives in Delafield, who might alter her opinion of the dowdiness of Boston girls. It seems she is a great heiress, and very beautiful; and it is said here (but you know how idle such gossip is) that she is going to marry her cousin, Alfred Dinks. He does not deny it. He merely laughs and shakes his head—the truth is, he hasn't much to say for himself. Bless me! I've got to take another sheet.
"Now, Abel, my dear, do you know Miss Wayne? I have never heard you speak of her, and yet, if she lives in Delafield, you must know something about her. Your father is working hard at his business, but it is shocking how much money we have to spend to keep up our place in society properly. I know that he spends all his income every year; and if any thing should happen—I cry my eyes out to think of it. Miss Wayne, I hear, is very beautiful, and about your age. Is it true about her being an heiress?
"What is the news—let me see. Oh! your cousin, Laura Magot, is engaged, and she has made a capital match. She will be eighteen on her next birthday; and the happy man is Mellish Whitloe. It is the fine old Knickerbocker family. Fanny says she knows all about them—that she has the Whitloes all at her fingers' ends. You see she is as bright as ever. It is a capital match. Mr. Whitloe has at least five thousand dollars a year from his business now; and his aunt, Patience Doolittle, widow of the old merchant, who has no children, is understood to prefer him to all her relations. Laura will have a little something; so there could be nothing better. We are naturally delighted. But what a pity Laura is not a little taller—about Fanny's height; and as I was looking at Fanny the other day, I thought how sorry I was for Mr. Whitloe that Laura was not just a little prettier. She has such a nose; and then her complexion! However, my dear Abel of course cares nothing about such things, and, I have no doubt, is wickedly laughing at his mamma at this very moment for scribbling him such a long, rambling letter. What is Miss Wayne's first name? Is she fair or brunette? Don't forget to write me all you know. I am going to Saratoga in a few days—I think Fanny ought to drink the waters. I told Dr. Lush I was perfectly sure of it; so he told your father, and he has consented.
"Do you remember Mrs. Plumer, the large, handsome woman from New Orleans, whom you saw when we dined at your Uncle Magot's last summer? She has come on, and will be at the Spring this year. I am told Mr. Plumer is a very large planter—the largest, some people say, in the country. Their oldest daughter, Grace is as school in town. She is only fourteen, I believe. What an heiress she will be! The Moultries, from South Carolina, will be there too, I suppose. By-the-by, now old is Sligo Moultrie? Then there are some of those rich Havana people coming. What diamonds they wear! It will be very pleasant at the Springs; and I hope the little visit will do Fanny good. Dr. Maundy is giving us a series of sermons upon the different kinds of wood used in building Solomon's Temple. They are very interesting; and he has such a flow of beautiful words and such wavy gestures, and he looks so gentlemanly in the pulpit, that I have no doubt he does a great deal of good. The church is always full. Your Uncle Lawrence has been to hear a preacher from Boston, by the name of Channing, and is very much pleased. Have you ever heard him? It seems he is very famous in his own sect, who are infidels, or deists, or pollywogs, or atheists—I don't know which it is. I believe they preach mere morality, and read essays instead of sermons. I hope you go regularly to church; and from what I have heard of Dr. Peewee, I respect him very highly. Perhaps you had better make abstracts of his sermons, and I can look over them some time when you come home.
"Speaking of religion, I must tell you a little story which Fanny told me the other day. She was coming home from church with Mr. Dinks, and he said to her, 'Miss Newt, what do you do when you go into church and put your head down?' Fanny did not understand him, and asked him what he meant. 'Why,' said he, 'when we go into church, you know, we all put our heads down in front of the pew, or in our hands, for a little while, and Dr. Maundy spreads his handkerchief on the desk and puts his face into it for quite a long time. What do you do?' he asked, in a really perplexed way, Fanny says. 'Why,' said she, gravely, 'Mr. Dinks, it is to say a short prayer.' 'Bless my soul!' said he; 'I never thought of that.' 'Why, what do you do, then?' asked Fanny, curiously. 'Well,' answered Dinks, 'you know I think it's a capital thing to do; it's proper, and so forth; but I never knew what people were really at when they did it; so I always put my head into my hat and count ten. I find it comes to about the same thing—I get through at the same time with other people.' He isn't very bright, but he is a good-hearted fellow, and very gentlemanly, and I am told he is very rich. Fanny laughs at him; but I think she likes him very well. I wish you would find out whether Miss Wayne really is engaged to him. Here I am at the very end of my paper. Take care of yourself, my dear Abel, and remember the religion and the solid reading.
"Your affectionate mother,
Abel read the letters, and stood looking at the floor, musingly. His school days, then, were numbered; the stage was to be deepened and widened—the scenery and the figures so wonderfully changed! He was to step in a moment from school into the world. He was to lie down one night a boy, and wake up a man the next morning.
The cloud of thoughts and fancies that filled his mind all drifted toward one point—all floated below a summit upon which stood the only thing he could discern clearly, and that was the figure of Hope Wayne. Just as he thought he could reach her, was he to be torn away?
And who was Mr. Alfred Dinks?
BEGINNING TO SKETCH.
The next morning when Gabriel declared that he was perfectly well and had better return, nobody opposed his departure. Hope Wayne, indeed, ordered the carriage so readily that the poor boy's heart sank. Yet Hope pitied Gabriel sincerely. She wished he had not been injured, because then there would have been nobody guilty of injuring him; and she was quite willing he should go, because his presence reminded her too forcibly of what she wanted to forget.
The poor boy drove dismally away, thinking what a dreadful thing it is to be young.
After he had gone Hope Wayne sat upon the lawn reading. Suddenly a shadow fell across the page, and looking up she saw Abel Newt standing beside her. He had his cap in one hand and a port-folio in the other. The blood rushed from Hope's cheek to her heart; then rushed back again. Abel saw it.
Rising from the lawn and bowing gravely, she turned toward the house.
"Miss Wayne," said Abel, in a voice which was very musical and very low—she stopped—"I hope you have not already convicted and sentenced me."
He smiled a little as he spoke, not familiarly, not presumptuously, but with an air which indicated his entire ability to justify himself. Hope said:
"I have no wish to be unjust."
"May I then plead my own cause?"
"I must go into the house—I will call my grandfather, whom I suppose you wish to see."
"I am here by his permission, and I hope you will not regard me as an intruder."
"Certainly not, if he knows you are here;" and Hope lingered to hear if he had any thing more to say.
"It was a very sudden affair. We were both hot and angry; but he is smaller than I, and I should have done nothing had he not struck me, and fallen upon me so that I was obliged to defend myself."
"Yes—to be sure—in that case," said Hope, still lingering, and remarking the music of his voice. Abel continued—while the girl's eyes saw how well he looked upon that lawn—the clustering black hair—the rich eyes—the dark complexion—the light of intelligence playing upon his face—his dress careful but graceful—and the port-folio which showed this interview to be no design or expectation, but a mere chance—
"I am very sorry you should have had the pain of seeing such a spectacle, and I am ashamed my first introduction to you should have been at such a time."
Hope Wayne lingered, looking on the ground.
"I think, indeed," continued Abel, "that you owe me an opportunity of making a better impression."
"Hope! Hope!" came floating the sound of a distant voice calling in the garden.
Hope Wayne turned her head toward the voice, but her eyes looked upon the ground, and her feet still lingered.
"I have known you so long, and yet have never spoken to you," said the musical voice at her side; "I have seen you so constantly in church, and I have even tried sometimes—I confess it—to catch a glance from you as you came out. But I am not sorry, for now—"
"Hope! Hope!" called the voice from the garden.
Hope looked dreamily in that direction, not as if she heard it, but as if she were listening to something in her mind.
"Now I meet you here on this lovely lawn in your own beautiful home. Do you know that your grandfather permits me to sketch the place?"
"Do you draw, Mr. Newt?" asked Hope Wayne, in a tone which seemed to Abel to trickle along his nerves, so exquisite and prolonged was the pleasure it gave him to hear her call him by name. How did she know it? thought he.
"Yes, I draw, and am very fond of it," he answered, as he untied his port-folio. "I do not dare to say that I am proud of my drawing—and yet you may perhaps recognize this, if you will look a moment."
"Hope! Hope!" came the voice again from the garden. Abel heard it—perhaps Hope did not. He was busily opening his port-folio and turning over the drawings, and stepped closer to her, as he said:
"There! now, what is that?" and he handed her a sketch.
Hope looked at it and smiled.
"That is the farther shore of the pond with the spire; how very pretty it is!"
"Oh! that is the old church, and there is Mr. Gray's face at the window. How good they are! You draw very well, Mr. Newt."
"Do you draw, Miss Wayne?"
"I've had plenty of lessons," replied Hope, smiling; "but I can't draw from nature very well."
"What do you sketch, then?"
"Well, scenes and figures out of books."
"How very pleasant that must be! That's a better style than mine."
"Because we can never draw any thing as handsome as it seems to us. You can go and see the pond with your own eyes, and then no picture will seem worth having." He paused. "There is another reason, too, I suppose."
"What is that?" asked Hope, looking at her companion.
"Well," he answered, smiling, "because life in books is always so much better than real life!"
"Is it so?" said Hope, musingly.
"Yes, certainly. People are always brave, and beautiful, and good, in books. An author may make them do and say just what he and all the world want them to, and it all seems right. And then they do such splendidly impossible things!"
"How do they?"
"Why, now, if you and I were in a book at this moment, instead of standing on this lawn, I might be a knight slaying a great dragon that was just coming to destroy you, and you—"
"Hope, Hope!" rang the voice from the garden, nearer and more imperiously.
"And I—might be saved by another knight dashing in upon you, like that voice upon your sentence," said Hope, smiling.
"No, no," answered Abel, laughing, "that shouldn't be in the book. I should slay the great dragon who would desolate all Delafield with the swishing of his scaly tail; then you would place a wreath upon my head, and all the people would come out and salute me for saving the Princess whom they loved, and I"—said Abel, after a momentary pause, a shade more gravely, and in a tone a little lower—"and I, as I rode away, should not wonder that they loved her."
He looked across the lawn under the pine-trees as if he were thinking of some story that he had been actually reading. Hope smiled no longer, but said, quietly,
"Mr. Newt, I am wanted. I must go in. Good-morning!" And she moved away.
"Perhaps your cousin Alfred Dinks has arrived," said Abel, carelessly, as he closed his port-folio.
Hope Wayne stopped, and, standing very erect, turned and looked at him.
"Do you know my cousin, Mr. Dinks?"
"Not at all."
"How did you know that I had such a cousin?"
"I heard it somewhere," answered Abel, gently and respectfully, but looking at Hope with a curious glance which seemed to her to penetrate every pore in her body. That glance said as plainly as words could have said, "And I heard you were engaged to him."
Hope Wayne looked serious for a moment; then she said, with a half smile,
"I suppose it is no secret that Alfred Dinks is my cousin;" and, bowing to Abel, she went swiftly over the lawn toward the house.
A VERDICT AND A SENTENCE.
Hope Wayne did not agree with Abel Newt that life was so much better in books. There was nothing better in any book she had ever read than the little conversation with the handsome youth which she had had that morning upon the lawn. When she went into the house she found no one until she knocked at Mrs. Simcoe's door.
"Aunty, did you call me?"
"I was on the lawn, Aunty."
"I know it, Hope."
The young lady did not ask her why she had not sought her there, but she asked, "What do you want, Aunty?"
The older woman looked quietly out of the window. Neither spoke for a long time.
"I saw you talking with Abel Newt on the lawn. Why did he strike that boy?" asked Mrs. Simcoe at length, still gazing at the distant hills.
"He had to defend himself," said Hope, rapidly.
"Couldn't a young man protect himself against a boy without stunning him? He might easily have killed him," said Mrs. Simcoe, in the same dry tone.
"It was very unfortunate, and Mr. Newt says so; but I don't think he is to bear every thing."
"What did the other do?"
"He insulted him."
The tone in which the elderly woman spoke was trying. Hope was flushed, and warm, and disconcerted. There was so much skepticism and contempt in the single word "indeed!" as Mrs. Simcoe pronounced it, that Hope was really angry with her.
"I don't see why you should treat Mr. Newt in that manner," said she, haughtily.
"In what manner, Hope?" asked the other, calmly, fixing her eyes upon her companion.
"In that sneering, contemptuous manner," replied Hope, loftily. "Here is a young man who falls into an unfortunate quarrel, in which he happens to get the better of his opponent, who chances to be younger. He helps him carefully into the carriage. He explains upon the spot as well as he can, and to-day he comes to explain further; and you will not believe him; you misunderstand and misrepresent him. It is unkind, Aunty—unkind."
Hope was almost sobbing.
"Has he once said he was sorry?" asked Mrs. Simcoe. "Has he told you so this morning?"
"Of course he is sorry, Aunty. How could he help it? Do you suppose he is a brute? Do you suppose he hasn't ordinary human feeling? Why do you treat him so?"
Hope asked the question almost fiercely.
Mrs. Simcoe sat profoundly still, and said nothing. Her face seemed to grow even more rigid as she sat. But suddenly turning to the proud young girl who stood at her side, her bosom heaving with passion, she drew her toward her by both hands, pulled her face down close to hers, and kissed her.
Hope sank on her knees by the side of Mrs. Simcoe's chair. All the pride in her heart was melted, and poured out of her eyes. She buried her face upon Mrs. Simcoe's shoulder, and her passion wept and sobbed itself away. She did not understand what it was, nor why. A little while before, upon the lawn, she had been so happy. Now it seemed as if her heart were breaking. When she grew calmer, Mrs. Simcoe, holding the fair face between her hands, and tenderly kissing it once more, said, slowly,
"Hope, my child, we must all walk the path alone. But you, too, will learn that our human affections are but tents of a night."
"Aunty, Aunty, what do you mean?" asked Hope, who had risen as the other was speaking, and now stood beside her, pale and proud.
"I mean, Hope, that you are in love with Abel Newt."
Hope's hands dropped by her side. She stepped back a little. A feeling of inexpressible solitude fell upon her—of alienation from her grandfather, and of an inexplicable separation from her old nurse—a feeling as if she suddenly stood alone in the world—as if she had ceased to be a girl.
"Aunty, is it wrong to love him?"
Before Mrs. Simcoe could answer there was a knock at the door. It was Hiram, who announced the victim of yesterday's battle, waiting in the parlor to say a word to Miss Wayne.
"Yes, Hiram." He bowed and withdrew. Hope Wayne stood at the window silent for a little while, then, with the calm, lofty air—calmer and loftier than ever—she went down and found Gabriel Bennet. He had come to thank her—to say how much better he was—how sorry that he should have been so disgraced as to have been fighting almost before her very eyes.
"I suppose I was very foolish and furious," said he. "Abel ran against me, and I got very angry and struck him. It was wrong; I know it was, and I am very sorry. But, ma'am, I hope you won't—ch—ch—I mean, won't—"
That unlucky "ma'am" had choked all his other words. Hope was so lofty and splendid in his eyes as she stood before him that he was impressed with a kind of awe. But the moment he had spoken to her as if he were only a little boy and she a woman, he was utterly confused. He staggered and stumbled in his sentence until Hope graciously said,
"I blame nobody."
But poor Gabriel's speech was gone. His mouth was parched and his mind dry. He could not think of a word to say; and, twisting and fumbling his cap, did not know how to go.
"There, Miss Wayne!" suddenly said a voice at the door.
Hope and Gabriel turned at the same moment, and beheld Abel Newt entering the room gayly, with a sketch in his hand. He nodded to Gabriel without speaking, but went directly to Hope and showed her the drawing.
"There, that will do for a beginning, will it not?"
It was a bold, dashing sketch. The pine-trees, the windows, the piazzas—yes, she saw them all. They had a new charm in her eyes.
"That tree comes a little nearer that window," said she.
"How do you know it does?" he replied. "You, who only draw from books?"
"I think I ought to know the tree that I see every day at my own window!"
"Oh! that is your window!"
Gabriel was confounded at this sudden incursion and apparent resumption of a previous conversation. As he ran up the avenue he had not remarked Abel sketching on the lawn. But Abel, sketching on the lawn, had observed Gabriel running up the avenue, and therefore happened in to ask Miss Wayne's opinion of his drawing. He chatted merrily on:
"Why, there's your grandpapa when he was a little grand-baby and had an old grandpapa in his turn," said he, pointing at the portrait he had remarked upon his previous visit in that parlor. "What a funny little old fellow! Let me see. Gracious! 'twas before the Revolution. Ah! now, if he could only speak and tell us just what he saw in the room where they were painting him—what he had for breakfast, for instance—what those dear little ridiculous waistcoats, with all their flowery embroidery, cost a yard, say—yes, yes, and what book that is—and who gave him the hoop—"
He rattled on. Never in Hope's lifetime had such sounds of gay speech been heard in that well-arranged and well-behaved parlor. They seemed to light it up. The rapid talk bubbled like music.
"Hoop and book—book and hoop! Oh yes. Good boy, very good boy," said Abel, laughing. "I should think it was a portrait of the young Dr. Peewee—the wee Peewee, Miss Hope," said the audacious youth, sliding, as it were, unconsciously and naturally into greater familiarity. "Ah! I know you know all his sermons by heart, for you never look away from him. What on earth are they all about?"
What a contrast to Gabriel's awkward silence of the moment before! Such a handsome face! such a musical voice!
In the midst of it all Hiram was heard remonstrating outside:
"Don't, Sir, don't! You'll—you'll—something will happen, Sir."
There was a moment's scuffling and trampling, and Christopher Burt, restrained by Hiram, burst into the room. The old man was white with wrath. He had his cane in one hand, and Hiram held the other hand and arm.
He had come in from the garden, and as he stopped in the dining-room to take a little trip to the West Indies, he had heard voices in the drawing-room. Summoning Hiram to know if they were visitors, he had learned the awful truth which apprised him that his Hesperidian wall was down, and that the robbers at that very moment might be shaking his precious fruit from the boughs. To be sure he had himself left the gate open. Do you think, then, it helps a man's temper to be as furious with himself as with other people? He burst into the room.
There stood Hope: Abel at her side, in the merry midst of his talk, with his sketch in his hand, his port-folio under his arm, and his finger pointed toward the portrait; Gabriel, at a little distance, confounded and abashed by an acquaintance between Hope and Abel of which he had no previous suspicion. The poor boy! forgotten by Hope, and purposely trampled down by the eager talk of Abel.
"Hope, go up stairs!" shouted the old gentleman. "And what are you doing in my house, you scamps?"
He lifted his cane as he came toward them. "I knew all this fighting business yesterday was a conspiracy—a swindling cheat to get into this house! I've a mind to break your impudent bones!"
"Why, Sir," said Abel, "you gave me leave to come here and sketch."
"Did I give you leave to come into my parlor and bring boys with you, Sir, and take up the time of my grand-daughter? Hope, I say, go up stairs!"
"I only thought, Sir—" began Abel.
"Now, in Heaven's name, don't make me angry, Sir!" burst in the old gentleman, almost foaming at the mouth. "Why should you think, Sir? What business have you to think, Sir? You're a boy, Sir—a school-boy, Sir! Are you going to dispute with me in my own house? I take back my permission. Go, both of you! and never let me see your faces again!"
The old man stood pointing with his cane toward the door.
"Go, both of you!" repeated he, fiercely. It was impossible to resist; and Abel and Gabriel moved slowly toward the door. The former was furious at finding himself doomed in company with Gabriel. But he betrayed nothing. He was preternaturally calm. Hope, dismayed and pale, stood looking on, but saying nothing. Gabriel went quietly out of the room. Abel turned to the door, and bowed gravely to Hope.
"Remember, Sir," cried the old man, "I take back my permission!"
"I understand, Sir," replied Abel, bowing to him also.
He closed the door; and as he did so it seemed to Hope Wayne as if the sunshine were extinguished.
Abel Newt was fully aware that his time was short. His father's letter had apprised him of his presently leaving school. To leave school—was it not to quit Delafield? Might it not be to lose Hope Wayne? He was banished from Pinewood. There were flaming swords of suspicion waving over that flowery gate. The days were passing. The summer is ending, thought he, and I am by no means saved.
Neither he nor Gabriel had mentioned their last visit to Pinewood and its catastrophe. It was a secret better buried in their own bosoms. Abel's dislike of the other was deepened and imbittered by the ignominy of the expulsion by Mr. Burt, of which Gabriel had been not only a companion but a witness. It was an indignity that made Abel tingle whenever he thought of it. He fancied Gabriel thinking of it too, and laughing at him in his sleeve, and he longed to thrash him. But Gabriel had much better business. He was thinking only of Hope Wayne, and laughing at himself for thinking of her.
The boys were strolling in different parts of the village. Abel, into whose mind had stolen that thought of the possible laughter in Gabriel's sleeve, pulled out his handkerchief suddenly, and waved it with an indignant movement in the air. At the same moment a carriage had overtaken him and was passing. The horses, startled by the shock of the waving handkerchief, shied and broke into a run. The coachman tried in vain to control them. They sprang forward and had their heads in a moment.
Abel looked up, and saw that it was the Burt carriage dashing down the road. He flew after, and every boy followed. The horses, maddened by the cries of the coachman and passers-by, by the rattling of the carriage, and their own excitement and speed, plunged on with fearful swiftness. As the carriage flew by, two faces were seen at the window—both calm, but one terrified. They were those of Hope and Mrs. Simcoe.
"Stop 'em! stop 'em!" rang the cry along the village street; and the idling villagers looked from the windows or came to the doors—the women exclaiming and holding up their hands, the men leaving whatever they were doing and joining the chase.
The whole village was in motion. Every body knew Hope Wayne—every body loved her.
Both she and Mrs. Simcoe sat quietly in the carriage. They knew it was madness to leap—that their only chance lay in remaining perfectly quiet. They both knew the danger—they knew that every instant they were hovering on the edge of death or accident. How strange to Hope's eyes, in those swift moments, looked the familiar houses—the trees—the signs—the fences—as they swept by! How peaceful and secure they were! How far away they seemed! She read the names distinctly. She thought of little incidents connected with all the places. Her mind, and memory, and perception were perfectly clear; but her hands were clenched, and her cheek cold and pale with vague terror. Mrs. Simcoe sat beside her, calmly holding one of Hope's hands, but neither of them spoke.