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“What's to say,
May be said briefly: She has never known
A mother's care.”

Mrs. Herbert's family were punctual church-goers, and
none of them wandered from their own fold excepting
Grace. She sometimes strayed away to hear an eloquent
preacher, or fine music, to her more eloquent; or to lend
her imagination to the ritual of the elder church. Of late,
she was invariably in her own place in Mr. Herbert's pew,
seated between Eleanor and her Uncle Walter. Poor Grace
had such strong magnetic repulsions as well as attractions,
that it overset her devotions to sit next Mrs. Herbert or
Miss Carlton.

Mrs. Herbert observed that Grace's eye was fixed on the
rector, and that even he could see the tears that stole from
that beautiful eye over her glowing cheek. Mrs. Herbert
rejoiced in salient facts in her study of human nature. “No
man resists this sort of flattery,” she thought, and she saw
the field clearing for her daughter. Eleanor's quiet demeanor
was in no way changed. She sat with her head
inclined downward, in a listening and meditative posture.

The family had returned one Sunday evening from a charity
sermon, which had made all the women in the church
cry, and most of the men give. Grace's mercury was
up to that fervid point, which is an ordinary temperature


Page 72
with enthusiastic young women of eighteen. She had a remarkably
retentive memory and imitative powers. She
repeated long passages from the sermon with Mr. Esterly's
intonation and manner. Eleanor listened for a while, with
a pensive smile, then bidding her good-night, she went to
her room.

“Oh! Uncle Walter,” exclaimed Grace, “how I wish
Eleanor had a little more enthusiasm!”

“Eleanor's enthusiasm,” replied Mr. Herbert, “turns the
mill, while yours, Grace, plays the fountain. She was out
doors yesterday, the mercury at zero, from ten A.M. to five
P.M., in behalf of this charity for which your paragon was
so eloquent, and you are so excited.”

“But do you not think, brother,” interposed his sister-in-law,
“that different persons have different demonstrations?
For instance—”

“Oh never mind the instance, ma'am,” cried Grace. “Why
do you call Mr. Esterly my paragon, Uncle Walter? I am
sure all his people are raving about him.”

“Yes, doing all they can, as they do for every clever
young clergyman, to spoil him. I grant you, young and
old rant about him—all—excepting Eleanor.” Mr. Herbert
made the exception slowly and emphatically.

The sisters occupied one apartment, and slept in the same
bed. Grace was nettled by Mr. Herbert's implied rebuke.
She could better bear the whole world's disapprobation than
her Uncle Walter's. She soon followed her sister. She
found Eleanor sitting under the gas-light, reading the Bible.
She did not directly address her, but, walking up and down
the room, continued her citations from the sermon, till, craving
sympathy, she appealed to her sister. “Now, Eleanor,
was not that exquisite?—Now hear this, Eleanor?—do
you remember this?” Finally, annoyed at her sister's faint


Page 73
assents, she exclaimed, “Do for once, Eleanor, shut up your
Bible, and listen to me. What is the use of this duty—
reading? Is that a tear?” A tear was glistening on the
Bible's leaf. “Uncle Walter was quite right—you and I
have different modes of manifesting our sensibilities. But
now, dear saint, do listen to me. Do you believe that Mr.
Esterly has the least notion how much he is admired?”

“He should have, Grace. There is a perfect sirocco of
flattery blowing upon him from every quarter.”

“And you have taken a moral alarm. You are afraid
these bad airs will cloud his fair soul? I have more faith in
him. I believe that soul is surrounded by a disinfecting atmosphere
of its own.”

“Ah, Grace! `Lead us not into temptation.'”

“Yes, I know. But, Eleanor, do you think that Mr. Esterly
suspects how much I admire his eloquence?”

“He should—if he sees your face in church, he may read
your admiration.”

“Perhaps, Eleanor, you fancy I hold up my face to show
it to him?”

Eleanor protested she thought no such thing.

“On my word, I do not,” continued Grace, vehemently.
“It is involuntary. I can not droop my head as you do, so
like the Naples Psyche—why look hurt, Eleanor? I do not
mean in imitation of that divine heathen, but truly you do
look like her, as if you were revolving all serious things in
heaven and earth. I asked our rector the other day if he
did not perceive a certain resemblance to that most spiritual
of all human forms.”


“Don't be alarmed. He was not at all struck by my
sisterly conceit.”

“What reply did he make?”

“Ah, you can be curious, sweet saint! Why, he turned


Page 74
off to the window, and said—I can't recall quite what he
did say—I know he confessed the resemblance; but let that
pass. Now, mine Eleanor—I am going to open my heart
to you!”

“Not now, not now, Grace,” said her sister hurriedly,
“it's past eleven; we must go to bed.”

“If the house were on fire, I believe you would go to
bed at eleven, Eleanor,” replied Grace, impatiently.

Both sisters proceeded to their disrobing, but when
Eleanor laid her head on her pillow, Grace sat down on the
bed-side, her dark tresses streaming over her night-dress,
and her eyes lighted with the excited and brilliant color of
her cheek, and said eagerly, “Eleanor,” and then bending
her head, she kissed her sister's cold cheek, and added in a
lower tone of her sweet, rich voice, “Eleanor, my counselor
and guide, you must hear me now!”

“Speak on, Grace,” replied Eleanor, turning her head
away from her sister.

“Yes, I will speak, and you must listen, Eleanor.”

“I hear every syllable,” replied her sister, in a tremulous

“If I have hurt your feelings, forgive me, Eleanor, but
you know when one's wide awake with one's feelings, one
can't understand how one's sister can be sleepy though it be
past eleven. I want you to make the soundings of my
heart. You shall explore its depths and shallows—take the
plummet and line of your better experience, better wisdom,
better every thing, and be my pilot. Now then—you know
that I admire our rector beyond all bounds.”

“And so love him, Grace?” asked Eleanor, in an earnest

“No, not in that wise—nor—Eleanor, I am bound to the
whole truth to you, for `perfection bears with imperfection'—
do I love him so much but that I am pleased with Horace


Page 75
Copley's attentions—eager for them—delighted when he
dances with me instead of with Anne.”

“My dear sister! how can that be?”

“It is even so. I knew you would be shocked, and still
more shocked when I confess that I would give a great deal
to know how much Copley cares for me.”

“Then surely you do not love Mr. Esterly?”

“But I like him excessively. One would be so sure of
going on to like him more and more, till liking ripened to
loving, Eleanor; and since reading Aunt Sarah's letters, I
dread the uncertainties of married life, and feel like running
for any safe harbor. A fate has pursued all of our name—
no, certainly, I do not love the rector as I expected to love.”

She paused, rose from the bed, stood for a moment meditating,
and then said:

“I will finish, though I fall to zero in your opinion. I
have sometimes thought of late, that if—I am ashamed of
my meanness—if Archibald Lisle were less reserved, and
more a man of the world, more polished—what strange
creatures we are—it would be easier to love him than the
rector;—he is intrinsically a gentleman, and might come
round. At times he has a charming self-forgetfulness; his
eye is so bewitching, it laughs, it speaks, and in spite of his
shrinking bashful sensitiveness, I have seen him look regally
down on Copley.”

“My dear sister, you do not love Mr. Esterly?”

“No; I see I do not; but on the whole I prefer him, and
if it were not that the life of a clergyman's wife is so dull,
that I should have to give up the theater and—Oh, Eleanor!
the opera, and take part in Sunday-schools, and sewing
circles, and hear of vestry-meetings, and all that sort of
thing—I do think the rector is so good, and charming, so
rich in gifts for this world and graces for heaven, that I
should not dare refuse him.”


Page 76

“Has he asked you, Grace?” said Eleanor, faintly.

“Asked me? no; not in so many words; but how strange
of you, Eleanor, as if the thing were questionable. Is he
not here every day or evening? does he not sit by me, and
listen to my playing for hours? Why, three evenings last
week, when you were out late on that Orphan Asylum business,
he was still here when you came home. We had read
half Petrarch. Wherever I go, I am teazed about him. I
am sure Copley is jealous of him. Every one sees but you,

“I shall be no longer blind, Grace. Come to bed, my
dear child.”

“No, I will not, till you have given me your counsel—
your opinion at least.”

“Then,” Eleanor replied, in a faltering voice, “my opinion
is, that your feelings, when quickened by his, will force
a decision in his favor. Good-night—God direct you.”

“Good-night, dear Eleanor,” said Grace, bending over
her sister to kiss her. “Tears on your cheek, Eleanor!
you frighten me; you are so dreadfully solemn about this

Another month passed away. It is to be hoped that the
rector was as faithful to his clerical duties as to his lay
devotions at the Herbert's. Grace suffered herself to
flow on with the current, secure, with Eleanor's authority,
in awaiting the decision of her feelings when the time

“I wish,” she said to her sister, “that the rector were
more lover-like. If he were, I believe the current of my
being would set to him. This morning—you know, Eleanor,
I tell you every thing, and turn my heart inside out to you
—this morning, as I was coming into the door, I dropped
my bracelet; as I turned for it, he was pressing it to his


Page 77
lips. To be sure this was a common gallantry, but very uncommon
with him. Now, Horace Copley, if I drop my
handkerchief, kisses it before returning it; or if a leaf, he
puts it in his bosom, and his bosom has its windows shut,
and blinds closed. Oh, Eleanor, you think me foolish and
vain—I am! I am!”

“Which of your bracelets was it, Grace?”

“What signifies that? Why, it was the one you gave
me at Christmas, not the coral one, but that with your hair;
you remember how he admired the pearl setting!”

It was soon after this that the Herbert family awakened
to the fact that Eleanor was becoming thin, and pale, and
nervous, not irritable, but discomposed by trifles, and tearful
when no one could guess the cause. Mrs. Herbert prescribed
and administered her favorite remedy, camomile,
but even that panacea failed. She urged change of air, but
Uncle Walter, to whom she appealed to second her, did not
seem at all alarmed by the “perturbations” in this serene
planet. However, a providential invitation—so styled by
Mrs. Herbert—came from Cuba to Eleanor, and she, with a
sudden decision that surprised her family, and alarmed her
sister, resolved to sail in the steamer on the following

“Why, did not you tell me, Mrs. Herbert?” said Grace,
impetuously, “that you thought my sister so ill? Why did
I not see it myself?”

“My dear,” replied Mrs. Herbert in her calmest manner,
“you were pre-occupied. Young ladies,” she added, with a
smile, “are often one-idead!

Nothing in the world provoked Grace so much as her
step-mother's cold truisms. A biting reply rose to her lips,
but it was repressed by the conviction that she deserved the
pain Mrs. Herbert inflicted. Her eyes filled with tears—“I
shall go to Cuba with my sister,” she said, in a much softened


Page 78
voice. This was an unexpected move, and it threw
Mrs. Herbert's whole game into confusion.

“My dear Grace!” she exclaimed, “you are too much
alarmed. There is no danger in Eleanor's case. The constitution,
as medical men say, is not consolidated before
five-and-twenty; `fluctuations are continually occurring.'”

“Nonsense, Mrs. Herbert! I beg your pardon, ma'am,
but Eleanor is not one of those flimsy things that rise and
fall with the barometer. She is a dear, sound, little woman
—body and mind. She is seriously ill—I shall go.”

“Allow me to say, Grace, you are too apt to obey your
impulses. At this moment you think only of Eleanor—to-morrow
you will remember another, and may—too late,
regret having gone away at a crisis in your life. At least,”
she added, sure into which scale Eleanor would throw her
influence, “consult your sister.”

Grace paused for a moment, struck with the fact that the
rector weighed lightly in the balance against her sister,
and then said, “Consult my sister! to what purpose? She
would never consent to my making a possible sacrifice for
her. No, Mrs. Herbert—I shall go!”

“What a headstrong girl!” thought Mrs. Herbert, as
Grace left her. “Just on the brink of this engagement—
it would have been such a relief! Well, I am more and
more convinced that there is uncertainty in this transitory

Eleanor Herbert did the work of charity, not as a servant,
working for hire, but as a child, serving with filial love. She
instructed the ignorant without esteeming it an act of piety
any more than she would have called the conducting of a
friend's child through the perils of a crowded street, an act of
friendship. “She gave with simplicity” knowledge, time, affection—all
she had to give. She was very unlike those fashionable


Page 79
ladies, who throw idle dissipations and all manner of
frivolities into one scale, and church-going, and charity subscriptions,
and Sunday-school keeping into the other, and
fancy they have fairly adjusted the scales between God and
Mammon. Eleanor was in this world, but not of it.

Sunday intervened, and found Eleanor at her post at her
Sunday-school. Weak as she was, she went through the
usual routine of instruction to the little commoners she had
gathered from the obscure lanes and dens of the city.
When her task was done, and she told them she was to be
absent from them; they eagerly gathered round her and
received each rebuke, an admonition, or a commendation,
and all a word of tender interest. The sweet accents of
Eleanor's gentle voice, the grace and refinement of her
manner were not lost upon those poor little outcasts and
outlaws. Accustomed to harsh tones, and bred amid every
species of vulgarity, a presence like hers, has to them, in addition
to its intrinsic power, the charm of surprise and
novelty; the spiritual beauty is visible and tangible. While
her little Celts were demonstrating the quality of their vehement
spirits, the rector, in passing to his duty in the school,
paused behind her. One tall stout girl dropped on her
knees, as if she were in adoration before the Virgin-mother,
and literally kissed the hem of Eleanor's garment. Half a
dozen pressed their lips to her pale hands, and one, the least
of all, and with not the cleanest of faces, sidled up to her
and said fondly: “It's your own lips, teacher, I'm after
wanting to feel!” Eleanor kissed her on both cheeks, while
her mates laughed, wondering at her audacity,—the rector,
smiling, passed on.

When the school was dismissed, he joined her in the vestibule,
and asked leave to attend her, in the carriage, to her
home. “How charmingly your little vagrants have got
on,” he said. “I saw your leave-taking. With such furnaces


Page 80
as their hearts are, and at this plastic period of their
lives, what may not such teachers as you are, Eleanor, do
for them—but did I hear you aright? are you going


“And so suddenly! But not for long, Eleanor?”

“For some months.”

“Months!” There was a real tragedy in his tone. He
had never before, in all their intimacy, called her “Eleanor.”
“What takes you away so suddenly?”

“A pressing invitation,” she replied. She was fluttered
by his manner, and, averting her head, she added, “and I
am not well.”

“But surely,” he rejoined, “not ill enough to require a
voyage—an absence of months! Have you taken medical
advice?” Eleanor shook her head. “You will not go
alone! Your sister must go with you?”

“My sister!” exclaimed Eleanor, and involuntarily raised
her eyes to his. There was a revelation in his which she
thus interpreted: What a struggle that kind suggestion
cost him! “No,” she replied, “Grace can not leave New
York now—I must go alone.” Both parties were silent for
the short distance to Mrs. Herbert's door. When they were
in the drawing-room, Eleanor sank down, really unable to
stand, on the cushioned chair Mr. Esterly drew to the fire
for her. He pressed her cold, almost lifeless hand to his
lips. That moment when a man, really in love, is about to
make his confession, and stake all upon it, is the humblest,
the most self-distrusting of his life. And besides the timidity
natural to this crisis, Esterly had not the ordinary self-complacency
that is mail of proof to most men. “I have
no right to interfere with your arrangements, Eleanor,” he
said, his voice faltering. “If I dared to hope you had any
feeling answering to mine—if my love for you—”


Page 81

Eleanor started, and looked up with surprise and enquiry.
“Love!” she repeated, in a tone of astonishment, “for

“Yes, dearest Eleanor, the profoundest, tenderest love.”

Eleanor sunk back, and covered her face with her handkerchief,
while she suffered Esterly to retain her hand, and
he felt (and the consciousness thrilled his whole being) the
delicate pressure that returned the grasp of his. He told her,
in a few fervid sentences, the “history and mystery” of his
love—how it came, and how it grew, and how it had of late
been repressed and abated of hope by her growing reserve,
and how he had thought it possible that through her frank
sister he might win her. Suddenly he felt Eleanor's hand
become nerveless, he heard a low sigh, her handkerchief
dropped, and he saw that she was colorless as marble, and
as senseless. He rang the bell, and so violently that Mrs.
Herbert, Grace, Anne Carlton, the servants, rushed in at
once, and Walter Herbert, just coming through the hall-door,
was there too. “She is dead!” shrieked Grace. Uncle
Walter laid her on a sofa. Esterly dropped on his knees
beside her, and laid his hand on her heart. “She is not
dead!” he said, in a voice choked with emotion. Water,
eau de cologne, hartshorn, all the restoratives at hand, were
produced. Grace, half frantic between sudden terror and
sudden joy, was dashing all on at once. Mrs. Herbert, always
imperturbable, brought order out of confusion, but it
was a long time (to Grace it seemed an eternity) before the
hue of life returned to Eleanor's cheek. When it did, Esterly,
who had never once turned his eyes from her, uttered
a fervent “Thank God!”

Uncle Walter had read the riddle aright. “Come away,
Esterly,” he said, “you and I are not wanted here—at present.”

“It does not answer,” said Mrs. Herbert, “for any one to


Page 82
undertake more than they can do.” If Mrs. Herbert were
exploded from the crater of a volcano, as Grace once said
of her, her first utterance would have been a flat truism.
“Now, my dear Eleanor,” she continued, “I trust you will
not take up those vagrants again, when you come back from
Cuba. I am sure no one has more feeling for the poor than I
have; but really such work should be left to people of strong
nerves, which neither you nor I possess.”

“So I think, mamma,” said Miss Anne; “to people that
are used to it. Dear me, Eleanor, how frightened I was!
Do you know I thought Mr. Esterly had been sent for, because
you were dying. Oh, Grace, did not I look pale?”

Grace, without listening to Miss Anne's silly egotisms, was
supporting Eleanor to their own apartment. There, Eleanor
felt something like self-reproach while she was receiving
Grace's tender ministrations.

Grace, entirely unsuspecting, was exclaiming at due intervals,
“I am glad Frank Esterly sees now how ill you are.
I suppose you broke down at church, and that was why he
came home with you. I shall never work for him as you
have done! If he had one spark of discernment, he would
prefer you to me—he does not comprehend you—how
should he, you are so reserved lately? You used not to be
so, Eleanor. How glad I am that you are going to Cuba!
and I will tell you now, that you are so much better, I am
going with you! Don't make des grands yeux at me,” she
continued, as she saw her sister's flush of gratitude and love;
“it is all arranged, Eleanor!”

Eleanor drew her sister down, and kissed her. “Grace,”
she said, “I have something far more generous to ask of
you, than going to Cuba with me; but leave me now, for a
while, till I am rested, and can summon resolution to tell you
what it is.” When Eleanor was left to herself, a strong current
of happiness set out from her heart, and swept away all the


Page 83
disquietudes that had perturbed that serene region. When,
after a refreshing sleep, she awoke, Grace was sitting on her
bed-side, fondly watching her. “Grace,” she said, looking
up with a very serious smile, “I hardly know whether my
waking thoughts are dreams, or my dreams realities. I am
very happy, but I am sure I could not be so, if I thought I had
done you a wrong, or crossed you in any way.” She paused.
Grace gazed, as if a faint light were dawning. “I was myself
deceived,” continued Eleanor, “surprised more than I
can tell you, when, this morning—”

“`Deceived!' `surprised!'” exclaimed Grace, springing
away from her sister; “I see—I see it all,” she said, rushing
up and down the room, while the clouds of frail humanity
shadowed her fine face. But the sun broke through, and
throwing her arms around her sister, half laughing, and half
crying, she said, “it is all right and fitting, Eleanor. We
have had a pretty game of blind-fold between us. Your
eyes bandaged with your modesty, mine with my vanity.
Oh, what a fool! what a giddy, presumptuous fool I have
been! How patient you were with me! How could I
imagine that Frank Esterly was my lover, when you were
made for him, and his parish, Eleanor? Now, I see plainly
that he always treated me as a brother should treat a dear
sister. I thank him for that. Well, my silly vanity is punished,
but my woman's pride is safe. I never loved him—
you know that.”

“Yes, and that conviction has given me inexpressible
comfort this evening, Grace.”

Comfort! what a word to use at this culminating point
of your life. Sisters are different, as our sententious step-mother
would remark.” After a moment's consideration, she
added, “I understand it all now. It was sisterly love I was
trying to fuse into something more fervent. Truly, Eleanor,
I like the brother better than the lover.”


Page 84

“Rest there, Grace, in that blessed conclusion, and listen
to me for a moment. I must seem to you, and to others
not quite as kind observers as you are, a love-sick girl. But
it was not a hopeless affection for Frank Esterly that wore
me away to this pale shadow of myself, but my contrition
for my insensibility to the blessings of my life, for my
repining, because one was denied me—for my jealousy of my
dear sweet sister—for the jealousy and envy that corroded
and ate away every good purpose, and holy resolution. I
combated, but grew weaker, and not stronger, from day to
day. The only extenuation I could find for myself was in
the conviction, that you did not love Frank Esterly, and
were rushing into a difficult service to which you had no

“I was, Eleanor; you were right, as you are right in every
thing, but your conscientious self-tormenting, and that, I
suppose, only makes you the truer saint. Now, let me go
and tell dear Uncle Walter.”

Eleanor assenting, Grace went, but to her extreme disappointment,
he expressed no surprise, but merely bowed his
head with a pleased and provoking affirmation “I know—
I know.”

“But you did not know, Uncle Walter, you did not

“Suspect! No, child, I was sure Eleanor was predestined
to this holy calling. Frank Esterly saw on her serene brow
the Turkish sentence of Fate, `It is written,' and he accepted
his destiny. He is a wise and happy man—Frank.
He has built his house upon a rock, and now, if the floods
come, and the rain descends, and the winds blow, the house
will not fall—it is founded on a rock.”

“Yes, for the rock of Gibraltar is not more stable than
our little Eleanor. But, uncle, do you know that all this while
that Frank Esterly has been haunting our house, I never


Page 85
dreamed of this, and—never tell, Uncle Walter—I even
fancied, vain goose that I was, that he was in love with

“I knew that, too, my child.”

“Uncle Walter!—and did not tell me—let me blindly
run my head against a post.”

“I knew there would be no head or heart-breaking—
you would dodge the post. You are destined to many a
hair-breadth 'scape, Grace, but our mistakes and follies are
our best teachers, our `sternest, and our best,' if we early
enough take the lesson, and lay it to heart—experience can
scarcely be called a `stern-light' to a girl just eighteen.”
Walter Herbert sighed deeply, and his face took one of those
expressions of sad memories, that often alternated with its
benign playfulness. Grace's thoughts reverted to the intimations
of his life in the green morocco trunk. Both were