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Oui, je suis sûr que vous m'aimez, mais je ne le suis pas que
vous m'aimiez toujours


When Eliot rejoined his friend at the appointed
rendezvous, Mrs. Billings's, Herbert listened most
eagerly to every particular of Eliot's meeting
with his father and sister, and thanked him over
and over again for so thoughtfully smoothing the
way for his interview with them in the evening.
“Oh, Eliot,” he said, “may you never have such
a hurricane in your bosom as I had when I stood
by my father and Belle, and longed to throw myself
at his feet, and take my sister into my arms.
I believe I did kiss Jennet—what the deuse ailed
the jade? she is the gentlest creature that ever
stepped. Never doubt my self-control after this,
Eliot!” Eliot's apprehensions were not so easily
removed. He perceived that Herbert was in a
frame of mind unsuited to the cautious part he
was to act. His feelings had been excited by his
rencounter with his father and sister, and though he
had passed through that trial with surprising self-possession,
it had quite unfitted him for encountering
the “botheration” (so he called it) that awaited
him at Mrs. Billings's.


Page 186

“We are in a beautiful predicament here,” he
said; “our landlady, who is one of your `'cute
Yankees,' will not let us in till she has sent our
names and a description of our persons to the
Commandant Robertson's:—this, she says, being
according to his order. Now this cannot be—I will
not implicate you—thus far I have proceeded on my
sole responsibility, and if any thing happens, I
alone am liable for the consequences. Are your
instructions to stop at this house positive?”

“Yes; and if they were not, we might not be
better able to evade this police regulation elsewhere.
I will see my countrywoman—`hawks
won't pick out hawks' e'en,' you know they say;
perhaps one Yankee hawk may blind another.”

A loud rap brought the hostess herself to the door,
a sleek lady, who, Eliot thought, looked as if she
might be diplomatized, though a Yankee, and entitled
to the discretion of at least forty-five years.

“Mrs. Billings, I presume?”

“The same, sir—will you walk in?”

“Thank you, madam. Kisel, remain here while
I speak with the lady.” Mrs. Billings looked at
the master, then at the man, then hemmed, which
being interpreted, meant, “I understand your mutual
relations,” and then conducted Eliot to her
little parlour, furnished with all the display she
could command, and the frugality to which she
was enforced, a combination not uncommon in
more recent times. A carpet covered the middle


Page 187
of the floor, and just reached to the stately chairs
that stood like grenadiers around the room, guarding
the uncovered boards, the test of the house-wife's
neatness. One corner was occupied by a
high Chinese lackered clock; and another by a
buffet filled with articles, like the poor vicar's,
“wisely kept for show,” because good for nothing
else; and between them was the chest of drawers,
that so mysteriously combined the uses which
modern artisans have distributed over sideboards,
wardrobes, &c. The snugness, order, and sufficiency
of Mrs. Billings's household certainly did
present a striking contrast to the nakedness and
desolation of our soldier's quarters, and the pleased
and admiring glances with which Eliot surveyed
the apartment were quite unaffected.

“You are very pleasantly situated here, madam,”
he said.

“Why, yes; as comfortably as I could expect.”

“You are from Rhode Island, I believe, Mrs.

“I am happy to own I am, sir;” the expression
of hostility with which the lady had begun the conference
abated. It is agreeable to have such cardinal
points in one's history as where one comes
from known—an indirect flattery, quite unequivocal.

“I have been told, madam,” continued Eliot,
“that you were a sufferer in the royal cause before
you left your native state?”


Page 188

“Yes, sir, I may say that; but I have never
regretted it.”

“The lady's loyalty is more conspicuous than her
conjugal devotion,” thought Eliot, who remembered
to have heard that, with some other property, she
had lost her husband.

“No, madam,” he replied, “one cannot regret
sacrifices in a cause conscientiously espoused.”

“Your sentiments meet my views, sir, exactly.”

“But your sacrifices have been uncommon, Mrs.
Billings; you have left a lovely part of our country
to shut yourself up here.”

“That's true, sir; but you know one can do a
great deal from a sense of duty. I am not a person
that thinks of myself; I feel as if I ought to
be useful while I am spared.” Our self-sacrificing
philanthropist was driving a business, the gains of
which she had never dreamed of on her steril
New-England farm.

“I am glad to perceive, Mrs. Billings, that your
sacrifices are in some measure rewarded. You
have, I believe, the best patronage in the city?”

“Yes, sir; I accommodate as many as I think
it my duty to; my lodgers are very genteel persons
and good pay. Still, I must say, it is a pleasure to
converse with one's own people. The British
officers are not sociable except among themselves.”

“I assure you our meeting is a mutual pleasure,


Page 189
Mrs. Billings. May I hope for the accommodation
of a room under your roof for a day or two?”

“I should be very happy to oblige you, sir. It
appears to me to be a Christian duty to treat even
our enemies kindly; but our officers—I mean no
offence, sir—look down upon the rebels, and I
could not find it suitable to do what they would
not approve.”

“As to that, Mrs. Billings, you know we are
liable to optical illusions in measuring heights—
that nearest seems most lofty.” Eliot paused, for
he felt he had struck too high a note for his auditor;
and lowering his pitch, he added, “you are a
New-England woman, Mrs. Billings, and know we
are not troubled by inequalities that are imaginary.”

“Very true, sir.”

“If you find it convenient to oblige me, I shall
not intrude on your lodgers, as I prefer taking my
meals in my own room.” This arrangement obviated
all objection on the part of the lady, and the
matter was settled after she had hinted that a
private table demanded extra pay. Eliot perceived
he was in that common case where a man must
pay his quid pro quo, and acknowledge an irrequitable
obligation into the bargain: he therefore
submitted graciously, acceded to the lady's terms,
and was profuse in thanks.

Looking over the mantel-piece, and seeming to
see, for the first time, a framed advertisement suspended
there, “I perceive, madam,” he said, “that


Page 190
your lodgers are required to report themselves to
the commandant; but as my errand is from General
Washington to Sir Henry Clinton, I imagine this
ceremony will be superfluous; somewhat like going
to your servants for leave to stay in your house.
After obtaining it from you, madam, the honoured

“That would be foolish.”

“Then all is settled, Mrs. Billings. As my man
is a stranger in the city, you will allow one of your
servants to take a note for me to Sir Henry

“Certainly, sir.”

Thus Eliot had secured an important point by
adroitly and humanely addressing himself to the
social sympathies of the good woman, who, though
ycleped “a 'cute calculating Yankee,” was just that
complex being found all the world over, made up
of conceit, self-esteem, and good feeling; with this
difference, that, like most of her country people,
she had been trained to the devotion of her faculties
to the provident arts of getting along.

In conformity to the answer received to his note,
Eliot was at Sir Henry Clinton's door precisely at
half past one, and was shown into the library, there
to await Sir Henry.

The house then occupied by the English commander-in-chief,
and afterward consecrated by the
occupancy of Washington, is still standing at the
southwestern extremity of Broadway, having been


Page 191
respectfully permitted by its proprietors to retain
its primitive form, and fortunately spared the profane
touch of the demon of change (soi-disant improvement)
presiding over the city corporation.

In the centre of the library, which Eliot found
unoccupied, was a table covered with the freshest
English journals and other late publications:
among them, Johnson's political pamphlets, and a
poetic emission of light from the star just then
risen above the literary horizon—Hannah More.
Eliot amused himself for a half hour with tossing
these over, and then retired to an alcove formed
by a temporary damask drapery, enclosing some
bookcases, a sofa, and a window. This window
commanded a view of the Battery, the Sound, indenting
the romantic shores of Long Island, the
generous Hudson, pouring into the bay its tributary
waters, and both enfolding in their arms the
infant city, ordained by nature to be the queen of
our country. “Ah!” thought Eliot, as his eye
passed exultingly over the beautiful scene, and
rested on one of his majesty's ships that lay
anchored in the bay, “How long are we to be
shackled and sentinelled by a foreign power! how
long before we may look out upon this avenue
to the ocean as the entrance to our independent
homes, and open or shut it, as pleases us, to the
commerce and friendship of the world!”

His natural revery was broken by steps in the
adjoining drawing-room—the communicating door


Page 192
was open, and he heard a servant say, “Sir Henry
bids me tell you, sir, he shall be detained in the
council-room for half an hour, and begs you will
excuse the delay of dinner.”

“Easier excused than endured!” said a voice,
as soon as the servant had closed the door, which
Eliot immediately recognised to be Mr. Linwood's.
“I'll take a stroll up the street, Belle—a half hour
is an eternity to sit waiting for dinner!”

“If Dante had found my father in his Inferno,”
thought Isabella, “he certainly would have found
him waiting for dinner!”

The young lady, left to herself, did what we believe
all young ladies do in the like case—walked
up to the mirror, and there, while she was readjusting
a sprig of jessamine with a pearl arrow
that attached it to her hair, Eliot, from his fortunate
position, contemplated at leisure her image.
The years that had glided away since we first introduced
our heroine on her vist to Effie, had
advanced her to the ripe beauty of maturity. The
freshness, purity, and frankness of childhood remained;
but there was a superadded grace, an
expression of sentiment, of thought, feelings, hopes,
purposes, and responsibilities, that come not within
the ken of childhood. Form and colouring may
be described. Miss Linwood's hair was dark, and,
contrary to the fashion of the times (she was no
thrall of fashion), unpowdered, uncurled, and unfrizzed,
and so closely arranged in braids as to


Page 193
define (that rare beauty) the Grecian outline of her
head. Her complexion had the clearness and purity
that indicates health and cheerfulness. “How
soon,” thought Eliot, as he caught a certain look
of abstraction to which of late she was much addicted,
“how soon she has ceased to gaze at her
own image; is it that she is musing, or have her
eyes a sibylline gaze into futurity!” Those eyes
were indeed the eloquent medium of a soul that
aspired to Heaven; but that was not, alas! above
the “carking cares” of earth.

We must paint truly, though we paint the lady
of our love; and therefore we must confess that our
heroine was not among the few favoured mortals
whose noses have escaped the general imperfection
of that feature. Hers was slightly—the least
in the world—but incontrovertibly of the shrewish
order; and her mouth could express pride and
appalling disdain, but only did so when some unworthy
subject made these merely human emotions
triumph over the good-humour and sweet affections
that played about this, their natural organ and interpreter.

Her person was rather above the ordinary height,
and approaching nearer to embonpoint than is common
in our lean climate; but it had that grace and
flexibility that make one forget critically to mark
proportions and dimensions, and to conclude, from
the effect produced, that they must be perfect. We
said we could describe form and colour; but who


Page 194
shall describe that mysterious changing and all-powerful
beauty of the soul, to which form and
colour are but the obedient ministers?—who, by
giving the form and dimensions of the temple, can
give an idea of the exquisite spirits that look from
its portals?

Eliot was not long in making up his mind to
emerge from his hiding-place, and was rising, when
he was checked by the opening of the library door,
and the exclamation, in a voice that made his pulses
throb—“Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins

All, Jasper?” replied Miss Linwood, starting
from her meditations, and blushing as deeply as if
she had betrayed them—“all thy sins; I should
be loath to charge my prayers with such a burden.”

“Not one committed against you, Isabella,”
replied Meredith, in a tone that made it very
awkward for Eliot to present himself.

“It would make no essential difference in my
estimation of a fault whether it were committed
against myself or another.”

“Perhaps so!”

Miss Linwood took up one gazette, and Meredith
another. Suddenly recollecting herself—“Oh,
do you know,” she said, “that Eliot Lee is in town?”

“Now,” thought Eliot, “is my time.”

“God forbid!” exclaimed Meredith. Miss Linwood
looked at him with an expression of question
and astonishment, and he adroitly added, “Of course,


Page 195
if he is in town he is a prisoner, and I am truly
sorry for it.”

“Spare your regrets—he comes in the honourable
capacity of an emissary from his general to

“It is extraordinary that he has not apprized me
of his arrival—you must be misinformed.”

Isabella recounted the adventure of the morning,
and concluded by saying, “He must have some
reason for withholding himself—you were friends?”

“Yes, college friends—boy friendship, which
passes off with other morning mists—a friendship
not originating in congeniality, but growing out of
circumstances—a chance.”

“Chance—friendship!” exclaimed Isabella, in
a half suppressed tone, that was echoed from the
depths of Eliot's heart. He held his breath as she
continued—“I do not understand this—the instincts
of childhood and youth are true and safe.
I love every thing and everybody I loved when
I was a child. I now dread the effect of adventitious
circumstances—the flattering illusions of
society—the frauds that are committed on the
imagination by the seeming beautiful.” Isabella
was perhaps conscious that she was mentally giving
a personal investment to these abstractions,
for her voice faltered; but she soon continued with
more steadiness and emphasis, and a searching of
the eye that affected Meredith like an overpowering
light—“chance friendship! This chance friendship


Page 196
may remind you of a chance love, growing out
of circumstances too.”

“No, no, Isabella, on my honour, no. In these
serious matters I am a devout believer in the divinity
that shapes our ends. The concerns of my
heart never were, never could be at the mercy of
the blind, blundering blockhead chance.”

“Then, if it existed,” continued Isabella, her eye
still riveted to Meredith's face, where the pale olive
had become livid—“if it had existed you would
not—or rather, if you speak truly, you could not
cast aside love for the sister as carelessly as you
do friendship for the brother.”

“If it existed!—my thanks to you for putting
the question hypothetically; you cannot for a moment
believe that I ever offered serious homage to
that pretty little piece of rurality, Bessie Lee!
Certainly, I found her an interesting exception
to the prosaic world she lives in—a sunbeam
breaking through those leaden New-England clouds
—a wild rose-bud amid the corn and potatoes of
her mother's garden-patch. She relieved the inexpressible
dulness of my position and pursuits. It
was like finding a pastoral in the leaves of a statute-book—Aminte
in Blackstone.”

Poor Eliot: his ears tingled, his brain was giddy.

“The case may have been reversed to Bessie,”
answered Isabella, “and you may have been the
statute-book that gave laws to her submissive heart.”

Ça peut-être!” replied Meredith; but he immediately
checked the coxcomb smile that curled


Page 197
his lips, for it was very plain that Miss Linwood
would bear no levity on the subject of her friend;
and he added, apparently anxiously recalling the
past,—“No—it is impossible—she could not make
so egregious a mistake—she is quite unpresuming
—she must have understood me, Isabella.” There
was now emotion, serious emotion in his voice.
“Bessie Lee was not a simpleton; she must have
known what you also know”—he faltered. Eliot
would have given worlds for a single glance at Isabella's
face at this moment; but even if the screen
between them had fallen he could not have seen
it, for she had laid her hands on the table and
buried her face in her palms. “I appeal,” continued
Meredith, “from this stage of our being, troubled
and darkened with distrust, to our childhood—that
you say is true and unerring:—then, Isabella, believe
its testimony, and believe that, from the
fountain which you then unsealed in my heart,
there has ever since flowed a stream, never diverted,
and always increasing, till I can no longer control
it. Not one word, not one look, Isabella?
Again I appeal to the past:—were you unconscious
of the wild hopes you raised when you said, `I
love everybody that I loved in my childhood?”'

“Oh!” cried Isabella, raising her head, “I did
not mean that—not that!”

The drawing-room door opened, and Helen Ruthven
appeared, calling out, “Isabella Linwood—a
tête-à-tête—ten thousand pardons—but, Isabella


Page 198
dear, as the charm is broken, do come here, and you
too, Mr. Meredith—here is the drollest looking fellow
at Sir Henry's door. He was walking straight
into the hall, when the sentinel pointed his bayonet
at him. `Now don't,' said he, `that's a plaguy sharp
thing, and you'll hurt me if you don't take care; I
only want to speak a word to my kappen,' meaning
captain, you know. Finding the sentinel would not
let him pass, he screamed out to me as I was coming
up the stairs, `Miss, just please give my duty
to Gin'ral Clinton, and ask him if he wont be so
accommodating as to let me speak to Kappen Lee.'

Was it not comical?”

“What did you say to the poor fellow?” asked
Isabella, who at once concluded he was the coadjutor
in her preservation.

“Say, my dear child! of course, nothing.”

They were now all gazing at the personation of
Kisel, seated on the door-step, his head down, and
he apparently absorbed in catching flies. “I think
I know the poor fellow,” said Meredith, who recognised
some odd articles of Kisel's odd apparel—
“he is a half-idiot, who from his infancy attached
himself to Eliot Lee, and clung to him as you have
seen a snarl of drifted seaweed adhere to a rock.
I am amazed that a man of Lee's common sense
should have such an attendant.”

“I honour him for it,” said Isabella; “honest,
heartfelt, constant affection, elevates the humblest
and the meanest. From all I have heard of Eliot
Lee,” she continued, after a moment's pause, “it


Page 199
is not his fault if his friends in all conditions of life
do not cling to him.”

Isabella's remark was commonplace enough,
but the tremulous tone in which it was uttered
struck Miss Ruthven. Judging, as most persons
do, from her own consciousness, she thought there
was but one key to a young lady's emotions; and
whispering to Isabella, she said, “Your blush is
beautiful, but a tell-tale.”

“False, of course, then,” replied Isabella, nettled
and embarrassed; and suddenly recollecting she
had an unperformed duty towards the uncouth lad
at the door, she left the drawing-room (declining
Meredith's attendance) to perform it.

“This Captain Lee,” said Miss Ruthven to
Meredith, “must be a gentleman I sometimes saw
at West Point. Our Charlotte was half in love
with him.”


“`Indeed,' yes; but be pleased now, Mr. Meredith,
to recall your absent thoughts, and attend to
me, who am cast upon your tender mercies. I
have a word to charm back the wanderers—Isabella
Linwood!—Ah, I see you are here—now
tell me honestly, do you not think that was a false
sentiment of hers? do you think one must of necessity
be constant in friendship or love? You are
in the constant vein now, but hear me out. Suppose
I am interested, in love if you please, with a
particular individual—I see another who is to him
Hyperion to a satyr, and by a fixed law of nature


Page 200
one attraction must be overcome by the other. It
is not a deliberate or a voluntary change—it certainly
is not caprice: I am but the passive subject
of an irresistible power.”

“The object still changing, the sympathy true,”
said Meredith, with a satirical smile.

“That was meant,” replied Miss Ruthven,
“for a piquant satire: it is a mere truism,” and
fixing her lustrous eyes on Meredith, she continued:
“The heart must have an object, but
we are at the mercy of chance; and should we
cling to that first thrown in our way when taste is
crude and judgment unripe, and cling to it after
another appears ten thousand times more worthy?
Should we, when daylight comes, shut out
the blessed sun, and continue to grope by a rushlight?
We cannot—it will penetrate the crevices
and annihilate the stinted beam that we thought
enough for us in the luminary's absence. Ah,
Mr. Meredith, there is much puling parrotry about
constancy, and first love, and all that—I am sure
of it,
am sure the object may change, and the
sympathy remain, in the truest, tenderest hearts.
That sympathy—a queer name, is it not?—is always
alive and susceptible, a portion of the soul, a
part of life; a part! life itself.”

There was a strange confusion of ideas in Meredith's
mind as he listened to this rhapsody of Helen
Ruthven. By degrees one came clearly out of
the mist: and “is the girl in love with me?” was
his mental interrogatory.