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“And common is the common place,
And vacant chaff, well-meant for grain.”


Of the many discords of domestic life, those that proceed
from uncongeniality are most common.

Grace Herbert and her step-mother never quarreled,
neither did they bespatter their lives with bickerings; they
were both too well-bred, but they had no sympathy, and
therefore no reciprocal happiness. Mrs. Herbert had a perennial
equanimity of temper, partly constitutional, and
partly sustained by self-complacency, and a kindly disposition.
Grace was tormented with self-dissatisfaction, partly
from the pressure of high aspirations, and partly from a
well-grounded discontent with her own mode of life.

Mrs. Herbert studied Grace's happiness and convenience
in her domestic arrangements, and made known, but not unknown
sacrifices to it. She never conferred a benefit without
the particulars of its cost.

“Take the carriage, Grace, by all means,” she would say;
“to be sure I did intend going out, but I always enjoy making
a little sacrifice.” And, “I have invited your friend so-and-so
to-day; it is slightly inconvenient as the cook is away,
but I can order a dish or two from Weller's. I do not mind
a small extra expense to give you a pleasure.” Expenses
were lavished and not spoken of, when her own daughter's,
Miss Anne Carlton's pleasures were in question. So easy it


Page 183
is to float on the virtues, for which nature has made the

Mrs. Herbert was perpetually in action, doing something,
or suggesting something to be done, a disposition annoying
to one of Grace's rather indolent temperament, who, lapsed
into her own world of imagination, was disturbed, if not
fretted by Mrs. Herbert's incessant materialities.

She came into Grace's room on the morning after the
opera, with a French engraving elaborately framed. “My
dear Grace,” she said, “I have bought you a picture to hang
in the place of that old discolored Madonna by your bedside,
and then instead of that old-fashioned table under it, do
place there the one Anne gave you at Christmas.”

Mrs. Herbert seldom entered Grace's room, but when she
did, she was sure to suggest some new arrangement of its
furniture, that rather amused than annoyed her. On this
occasion, instead of the sudden irradiation of countenance,
Mrs. Herbert naturally expected from her gift Grace's brow
clouded. She rose slowly and said, with some hesitation,
“If you please, Mrs. Herbert, I will hang the picture in my
library;” and she opened the door into a small room where
she kept her books.

“It's quite out of sight here, nobody will see it; but, of
course, if you prefer it so, it's your own, and you know I
make it a point never to interfere with your preferences.”

“Thank you, ma'am,” replied Grace, and conscious how
tardy and how cold were her thanks for the picture, she now
expressed them.

“Oh, don't say a word; I was buying some new pictures
for Anne's room, and I thought it would but make the bill a
little larger to get this for you. I might have felt it by itself.
But Grace,” she added, “since you seem to set a value
on that shabby old picture, I will have it newly framed for
you; it really looks dingy on your new paper.”


Page 184

“You are very kind, ma'am,” said Grace, “but pray let
the old picture remain just as it is.” Mrs. Herbert was not
offended; she was not sensitive. She only mentally added
one item to the great account of Grace's oddity, and entered
a credit to her own magnanimity. She had scarcely
gone, and closed the door, when she reopened it. Grace
hastily wiped blinding tears from her eyes.

“You will go to Mrs. Tallis's reception with Anne and
me, this morning, Grace?”

“Excuse me, Mrs. Herbert—I detest receptions.”

“But, dear Grace, really it is your duty to go. There are
certain observances that a young lady in your position can
not omit without remark. The consequence of omitting
these minor duties is serious—the sacrifice small. Mrs. Tallis's
receptions occur but once a month. There may be some insuperable
obstacle to your going on the next occasion. Opportunities
seldom recur.”

“There's comfort in that,” murmured Grace.

“We can do our duties to society,” resumed the incessant
woman, “without interfering with our other duties. My
house-keeping is pretty thorough. Few ladies keep the run
of the new publications, magazines, and so-forth, better than
I, and, I don't boast of my charities—far from it—but you
know, my dear, I hold office in six charitable societies; so
you see one may keep up with society, without trenching
upon higher obligations.”

“I'll go, I'll go!” exclaimed Grace at the first pause. Mrs.
Herbert produced an effect on her, analogous to the monotonous
dropping of water on the head. Again, to Grace's
infinite relief, she shut the door, and Grace turned musingly
to the old picture, saying mentally, “I would not exchange
it for all the galleries of Italy! And put Anne's French thing
in the place of my mother's work-table! Oh I still see her
sitting by it, and still feel the tapping of her pale, thin fingers,


Page 185
when she would call me her `meddlesome Matty.'”
The dingy print was Raphael's “Madonna della Seggiola.”
Grace's last recollection of her mother was of her hanging
this picture beside her crib, and then folding her in her
arms, while she murmured a prayer. Time had interpreted
the action, and the vision of her parent was blended with
the glorification of maternity in the sweet Virgin-mother.
Grace should have simply told the fact to Mrs. Herbert—
Eleanor would have done so, Grace could not. How subtly
are the elements of character commingled and diversified!

Grace thus reports the “reception” in the following letter
to Alice Clifford:

Dear Alice:

“When I think that school-girls' friendships are, for the
most part, mere accidents of propinquity, I rejoice that ours,
like all true matches, was fore-ordained. I began with making
you my pet, I believe you are five years my junior, and
now you are my confidante—partly, because you are true as
steel, and will not betray what I tell you, and partly that
you will not advise me, or chide me; and you are unmarried
—kind to kind, is natural. Perhaps you will divine that I
am trying to silence my conscience that tells me my sister
Eleanor should be my confidante; that a sister—and such a
sister!—is the nearest friend, the friend Heaven bestowed;
and truly Eleanor would be my elect friend from all the
world, but that she is married. She has projected herself
into another self, and, though two make one for themselves,
they make two for the rest of us.

“I was forced to a matinée yesterday morning, my dear
Alice. The fashion of matinées, or morning receptions, was
unknown in our school-days at dear Monsieur Canda's, but
they may, by this time, have reached the utmost limit of our


Page 186
social civilization. The circles are concentric; we of this
overgrown city pertaining to the innermost, throw a fashion
in here, and, plash, every circle is correspondent to the remotest
inland town. Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Chicago
may have their matinées by this time—follies catch, like `fire
on the mountains.'

“`Let me take you,' in mesmeric fashion, to one of
these fashionable gatherings. The carriage is at the
door. I propose walking, but am prevented by one of
my step-mother's eternal remonstrances, `Dear Grace, you
have on a carriage-dress—it is not the custom to walk
to matinées. And you know, if Anne and I drive, and
you walk, it has an appearance, and people will observe. I
have heard that, in London, servants are often impertinent
to visitors who come on foot,' etc., etc. So, dear Alice, we
are not only to be moulded by the customs of London fine
people, but by the notions of London footmen. I yielded—
I always do—not gracefully, for I sat in sullen silence, annoyed
at losing the enjoyment of the glorious winter's day.
The air was clear and crisp—iced-champagne—not a city
odor in the atmosphere. People walked as if freshly charged
with life; old age was quickened, and smiling; even the
little beggars, with their alms-baskets, filled or empty it
mattered not which, instead of sadly sniveling on alone,
and dropping stealthily into the areas, were shouting along
in merry companies, or pitching pennies in playful groups.
Truly, Alice, if I had followed my bent, I would rather
have partaken of their rags and their glee, than to share the
chattering of Anne Carlton and her mother, and to be
bound up in their most insipid life.

“But we are at Mrs. Tallis's door, in the Fifth Avenue.
Half a dozen equipages, more or less splendid, precede us,
and while we await our turn, Uncle Walter, leaning on
Archibald Lisle's arm, joins us—A. L. is an old friend of


Page 187
your family. Of course you know all about him. But perhaps
you do not know how prodigiously Uncle Walter takes
to him.

“`Lisle has been supporting me,' he said; `I can bear a
grip from my old enemy'—poor uncle is suffering with a
twinge of the gout—`with such a staff to lean upon. Come,
Lisle, go into Mrs. Tallis's with us.'

“Mr. Lisle declined. I earnestly seconded Uncle Walter,
but Mr. Lisle, though he seemed well inclined to yield to
my intreaties, persisted, alleging that he belonged to the
working world, and could not indulge in such luxuries as
matinées. Luxuries! Oh, Alice, what a diamond fountain
in the desert would such a man be in our fashionable

“Just as it came to our turn to alight, `There is Mr.
Copley and Sam Belson!' exclaimed Anne Carlton. `Oh,
mamma, look at Horace Copley's new turn-out. Is it not
splendid? Why, they are stopping! What lovely horses!
Oh I do so hope they are going in!' Copley offered me his
arm; Belson gave his to Anne. We advanced slowly,
for Mrs. Herbert was before us with Uncle Walter, who
made slow progress with his gouty feet. Mr. Lisle was
walking lingeringly away. I met his eye as he looked back.
I felt annoyed that he should have seen Horace Copley,
whom I know he distrusts, in company with Sam Belson, a
dissipated, idle—fashionable!—fellow. `Auh, Mr. Belson,'
drawled out Anne Carlton, in a coaxing tone, `come in with
us; it's so nice at a reception, if we can have two or three
gentlemen—distingués, you know! Mrs. Tallis says it's such
a bore when there are only ladies.' Both gentlemen declined;
Copley assigning his dread of entanglement in the
meshes of a reception. The drawing-room door was ajar.
Mrs. Tallis, hearing Copley's voice, came to the door and
urged these gentlemen to enter; they persisted, and she


Page 188
seemed piqued and much nettled, when, on her rëentering,
Mrs. Milnor—a regular gossip, compounded of ear
and tongue—said, `How quick one hears some voices. I
sat close by the door, but I did not recognize Mr. Copley's!'

“I found a seat near Julia Travers. You remember what
a little earnest student she was at Monsieur Canda's. She
is just as earnest now at the best tasks of life. Uncle Walter,
who had lingered at the landing of the marble stair-case,
to look at a very tolerable fresco copy of Guido's
Aurora, joined us. Mrs. Milnor laid her hand on his arm,
he shrunk from her touch. He is as electrical as a cat, and
can not endure contact with a person to whom he is antagonistic.
Nothing daunted by his repulsion, she asked him,
in an eager tone, if he knew who the lady was sitting silent
at the other end of the room?

“`Is any one silent in this Babel?' replied Uncle Walter,
without more directly honoring the question.

“`How funny you always are, Mr. Herbert! I mean
the lady in the lemon-colored silk, with a green bonnet,
and scarlet geraniums, who sits under the Cupid and

“`The Cupid and Psyche!' echoed Uncle Walter. `Ah,
Grace, do you know, the other day I brought our May here
to see Mrs. Tallis's little girl. She looked round upon all the
fine things, absolutely confounded, till, her eye lighting on
that group, her Scripture lessons came to her aid, and she
said, “I know that, Uncle Walter—I know that! It's Jacob
wrestling with the Angel.'”

“`Dear little innocent!' exclaimed Mrs. Milnor; `it may
not harm children to see naked figures; but, surely, Mr.
Herbert, at your age, you can't approve of it. (Uncle
Walter did not look any more propitious for this reference
to his age.) There's a Ganymede on the opposite side—how


Page 189
perfectly demoralizing! There now, Miss Herbert, that
lady is bowing to you. You must know her?'

“`Yes, I have that honor—Miss Adeline Clapp.

“`Oh, I almost knew it was she,' said Mrs. Milnor. `Is
Miss Clapp engaged to Mr. Lisle?'

“`I really am not favored with her confidence,' I replied.

“`Archibald Lisle engaged to Miss Clapp!' murmured
Uncle Walter, with an expression of irrepressible contempt.

“`Well, I have it on very good authority,' retorted Mrs.
Milnor. `Miss Clapp as good as told a particular friend of
mine that she is engaged to Mr. Lisle.' Uncle Walter and
I exchanged glances. Mrs. Milnor perceived she had succeeded
in fixing our attention.

“`I really think,' she continued, `that if that young
woman is interested in young Lisle, some one ought to
tell her what was told me about him.'

“`What, in heaven's name, was told you, madam?' asked
Uncle Walter, now unable to conceal his interest, or even
to moderate it.

“`Oh, I should not like to spread the report; but of
course you will be discreet.' And perceiving, with evident
satisfaction, that there were three persons within reach of
her lowered voice, she proceeded: `You know that little
music-shop in Canal-street, kept by old Steinberg. It has
been there forever. There is no one lives in the house
but the old man and his wife. When Lisle returned from
abroad, he brought a very pretty young girl there. There
he visits her every day; and a friend of mine met him
driving out with her. Old Steinberg and his wife are respectable;
but, then, you know, foreigners never think any
thing of such things. It is really too true, as one of my
friends says, when our young men go abroad, they do as the


Page 190
Romans do, and what is worse, when they come home they
do as the Romans do.'

“So far, Uncle Walter maintained silence. `From whom
did you get this trumpery, madam?' he now asked.

“`Trumpery! Mr. Herbert. I don't call truth trumpery.
I can assure you I have good authority. My sempstress
lives next door to the Steinbergs, and she has eyes; and
besides, if you will insist upon proof—the other day I went
into Steinberg's with Sam Belson, and we both saw Mr.
Lisle in the back-room, talking with this young girl. Now,
really, Miss Clapp should have a hint of this.'

“`Certainly; and perhaps you had best apply to your
immaculate friend, Belson, to give it,' said Uncle Walter,
and walked off, muttering one of those epithets which men
lavish on women-gossips; whom they consider `cursed above
all cattle.' `I confess I should like to have this matter
cleared up, for I have some reason for fearing these surmises
are not quite without foundation.'

“After all, this Mrs. Milnor, gossip though she be, par excellence,
and absolute nuisance, is not the worst of women.
She makes herself a common sewer, through which the idle
rumors of the idle town run. She tells you of the last death,
and the last engagement, the feelings of the mourners, and
the motives of the betrothed. She publishes the freshest
discovery of a flaw in a married woman's character, and
gives—always `on the best authority'—the first intimation
of the possible ruin of a dear friend's husband, or son. But
is she who furnishes the supply worse than they who create
the demand? Does the gossip, dear Alice, differ from her
willing listener, save in more loquacity, and less caution.
But pardon my prosing; I go into society without enjoyment,
and when I come home, I moralize without profit.

“I told you I was sitting next Julia Travers, `a handsome
plain lady,' as Mrs. Herbert's man, John, calls her—Julia and


Page 191
I were friends; but, alas, our paths have widely diverged.
I wanted to speak to her of Copley, but, like a coward, I
began indirectly with, `Emily Smythe has sent me a programme
of Mrs. Seton's entertainment on Thursday. Mrs.
Tallis, and your cousin, Horace Copley, are to lead off a new
dance.' She made no reply; and I added, `Mrs. Tallis
rather defies public censure.'

“She coolly replied, `I scarcely know Mrs. Tallis. I am
here this morning by accident.'

“`And you do not go to Mrs. Seton's, Julia?'

“`No, Grace, you know I never go to parties.'

“`Do you condemn them?'

“`For myself, I do. The late hours do not suit me; and
I must take care of my health, that being essential to me.'

“`And, of course, Julia, what is not fitting for you, is not
fitting for others?'

“`That is not my conclusion, Grace. I feel my own life
to be quite charge enough. I do not undertake to regulate
the lives of others.'

“`You are very odd,' I said. `Most people are generous
enough to give their exclusive care to their neighbors' concerns.
I do go to parties, Julia. One can not turn hermit
at two-and-twenty, and parties, and receptions, and their
edifying accessories make up our social life, you know. I
dance the redowa and waltzes, and polkas. All this, I am
quite sure, is contrary to your notions.'

“She smiled with a pensive gravity (that spoke no admonition,
but left one on my conscience), and said, `We must
all keep our own accounts, dear Grace.'

“`And pretty poor accountants young women are!' said
a certain Mrs. Hall, who had drawn near, and was listening;
and who, the opposite of Julia Travers, is a self-constituted
`judge in all matters and things.' `Waltzing,' she continued,
`is bad enough—even Lord Byron could not stand that;


Page 192
but polking is perfectly horrid. I heard a young woman
with my own ears—she a wife, and a mother, too—say to
Horace Copley, that the black off his coat had soiled the
corsage of her dress. What do you think of that, Miss

“`That it probably was a mistake, ma'am; as I fancy Mr.
Copley does not wear coats from which the “color comes
off.” I am engaged, Mrs. Hall, for a polka at Miss Seton's
ball, and I will promise you that my white tulle shall have
no soil upon it; neither, I trust, will my reputation.'

“`Oh, if you are engaged to Mr. Copley, as the world
says,' retorted the coarse woman, `I don't say there's any
harm in your polking with him.'

“I am sure Julia Travers felt the blush that burned my
cheek, as suddenly rising, she whispered, `Don't, dear Grace,
polk with my cousin Horace.' I would have sprang after
her to ask, `Is it to the polka, or to your cousin Horace, that
you object?' but even I dare not follow out such an impulse
at a matinée.

“I was recalled to my surroundings by Mrs. Hall. `I
heard you observe,' she said, `that Miss Travers was “odd.”
She is, decidedly. What does she come to receptions for,
with her pretensions. Even I never do voluntarily. I was
caught this morning.'

“`Then, madam,' said Uncle Walter, who had again
returned to my side, `you have been betrayed into choice
company. One does not often meet Miss Travers.'

“`I do not admire her. It is not a good sign for a young
woman to cut and carve a way of life for herself. All the
Traverses are odd.'

“`I quite agree with you, Mrs. Hall,' said Anne Carlton.
`Julia Travers is decidedly odd, though a very nice girl,
you know; clever, and charitable, and all that sort of


Page 193

“`Pray, Miss Anne,' said Uncle Walter, `what do you
mean by odd?'

“`Oh, now, Mr. Herbert, as if you did not know what
odd means. I always did hate definitions at school. Why,
odd, you know, means—odd.'

“Uncle Walter put up his quizzical lips, as if to whistle.
Mrs. Hall came to the rescue of the foolish girl. `Mr.
Herbert is teazing you, Miss Anne,' she said. `He knows
well enough what you mean. It's ridiculous for a girl of
Miss Travers's age to stand apart, and say, “I am holier
than thou.” You know, Mr. Herbert, it is absurdly odd
for a girl of her fortune to be Visitor at the Half Orphan,
and Manager of the Colored Orphan Asylum! To drill little
negro children! I hear she has her mornings for receiving
her poor.' (Dear Julia, think of her modest charities being
so pounced upon by this bird of prey.)

“`Quite a Sister of Charity!' ejaculated Anne, glancing at
her own handsome image in an opposite mirror, and smoothing
down her ermine.

“`As to charities, subscribing to societies, and being kind
to the poor, that's all right,' said Mrs. Hall; `but as to making
it a profession, that is only suitable for a spinster of forty
or fifty.'

“`Or for an unoccupied widow?' mischievously suggested
Uncle Walter.

“`Yes,' retorted Mrs. Hall, `if she fancy self-glorification.
I confess I do not. I quite agree with you, Miss Carlton.
Miss Travers is every way odd. When she goes to the
country, she walks eight or ten miles a day—I should not
wonder if she wore a Bloomer.'

“`How very unfeminine,' piped Anne.

“`Yes, she is every way singular,' pursued Mrs. Hall.
`She has gone off to the Swedenborgians, or some other
absurd sect.'


Page 194

“`Presumed to do her own thinking. Very odd,' said
Uncle Walter.

“`Yes, indeed,' replied Mrs. Hall, growing red, `it's
worse—it's presumptious for any young woman to start off
into a new faith, instead of humbly adhering to that she was
brought up in, and which her parents will answer for, and
not she.'

“I ventured to put in my oar, and told Mrs. Hall that it
was a cousin of Miss Travers who had committed the absurdity
of changing her faith.

“`Ah, so it was,' she said. `Julia Lowe; but I fancy
that without that little particular, I have made out my

“`And yet, dear Mrs. Hall,' said Anne, `you have not
mentioned half her odd ways. She dresses, you know, quite
in a style of her own.'

“`Simple, and becoming, is it not Anne?' said Uncle

“`Mr. Herbert is laughing at you,' said Mrs. Hall, and
with an uneasy consciousness that she partook his ridicule,
and that her shafts had fallen short of their aim, she went
off to another apartment.

“`How very clever Mrs. Hall is!' ejaculated Anne.
Certain qualities, Alice, are ascribed to certain persons, and
always reiterated at the mention of their names by the parrots
of society. And Mrs. Hall is clever, if a quick perception
of the absurdities of her fellow-creatures, and a
coarse portraiture of them are clever. She had faculties that
might have blessed her generation, and provided for this
late period of her life the solaces `that wait on age.' Instead
of this, she lives, for the most part, in retirement without
repose, brooding on follies she has no temptation to commit,
and vituperating vices to which she was never exposed.
She withdraws from our fashionable society, not from superiority,


Page 195
but defect of sympathy. She pours contempt upon
all social arrangements, but has none of her own. She has
achieved her reputation by not letting `I dare not' wait upon
`I would.' She was early cut off from the dearest ties of life,
and relieved from its ordinary duties. She had no child of
her own. But was there none she might have succored?
Were there none ignorant, she might have instructed?
None fallen, she might have raised? Was there no barren
field she might have sown, and now be binding her golden
sheaves—a sister of mercy, like Julia Travers, instead of the
withered, bitter thing she is.

“While Uncle Walter was amusing himself, talking sense
or laughing at folly—Uncle Walter can always pick an oily
meat out of the shell of society—and my step-mother—who
has a universal toleration for the wearers of velvet and
ermine—was protracting her visit, I wandered about the
fine apartments, examining marble statues, and groupes in
bronze; Sèvres, and Etruscan vases, a real Turner, Landseers,
and Schæffers, and yet but half enjoying them amidst stereotype
discussions of possible engagements, and actual weddings,
and all that goes before and after. Profound questions
were agitated, such as, whether Mr. Seville gave his
daughter her bridal diamonds, or whether they were presented
by her lover? Whether a certain `most lovely
brocade' were imported by its wearer, or bought at Stewart's?
Whether the last English nobleman afloat among
us, said Miss Brown was the most beautiful woman he ever
saw, and Miss Smith the most graceful, or vice versâ? Whether
Horace Copley danced four or six times with Mrs. Tallis
at the `bachelors' breakfast?' I did linger listening
when this question arose; it was decently debated in low
tones, and I was suddenly cut off from it by that odious
Miss Clapp, who came tramping up to me to ask after
Eleanor, as if she were her intimate friend.


Page 196

“`What a pleasant dinner we had there,' she said. `A
dear lovely child her May is—but a little saucy—don't you
think so? Eleanor—(Eleanor!—how dare she)—dresses so
sweetly. I admired her lavender poplin, so suitable for a
clergyman's wife. Archibald Lisle seemed very much depressed;
don't you think so?' She paused, and I answered
that `I thought him in excellent spirits.'

“`Now did you? Well, you have not known him as
long as I have. He used to be as lively as a cricket. But
of course he feels the old gentleman's death, and then, as I
have reason to know, he left his family destitute; and his
widow has to turn every which way to get on; and I daresay
Archy feels for her, though he is but a step-son. You
seem to be very absent, Miss Grace,' she continued, obtuse
as she is, observing my apparent listlessness, `but I can excuse
it; I know, that in your situation, it would plague me
to hear people talk, as they do, about a certain gentleman's
flirtation with a certain married lady.'

“`Dear me!' exclaimed a Mrs. Melsy, who passes for the
best-natured woman in society—a mere vitiated sweet—
`how critical people are! I am sure I can not see any harm
in gentlemen offering little pleasant gallantries to married
ladies, and married ladies accepting them. It's very hard
to turn them over to us old ladies while they are young,
and as handsome as Mrs. Tallis is—a certain gentleman
is so fascinating, and she did not marry for love, poor

“`Take care,' said Miss Adeline, nudging Mrs. Melsy,
and pointing to little Elise Tallis who sat on my knee, examining
the charms on my watch-chain, `take care, “little
pitchers have big ears!'”

“The child had probably had the vulgar adage expounded
to her, for she looked up archly, and called out to her
mother, `Mamma, the ladies are talking about you!'


Page 197

“`What good or evil are you speaking of me, dear
ladies?' asked Mrs. Tallis, approaching us.

“`I can tell you, mamma; they said you were handsome,
and you did not love papa, and ever so much about a gentleman—I
guess they meant Mr. Copley.'

“`Hush, you little fool!' said her mother.

“`Why, what a little Pickle it is!' said Mrs. Melsy; `we
were only saying—'

“Oh, Alice! my cheeks had been growing hotter and
hotter as these women brought into the market-place, and
bandied between them, the secret tormenting disquietudes
that I have hardly the courage to confess to myself, and
never to intimate to another. I said something about
Uncle Walter being waiting for me, and pushing my way
between Mrs. Melsy and Miss Clapp, I rushed from drawing-room
to drawing-room, through the whole suite of
apartments, library, conservatory, boudoir, and all, looking
for Mrs. Herbert or my Uncle Walter, and seeing neither,
and coming upon the grand stair-case, I took flight by myself.
Could I have acted more absurdly if I had been but
fifteen? I left them, no doubt—those silly women, and
Mrs. Tallis—persuaded that I am a love-sick, jealous girl.
Well, the farce—tragedy it seemed to me—was not quite
ended. At the door-step I met Horace Copley. He could
not fail to see my agitation. I stood for an instant confused
and hesitating. He gazed steadily in my face, but made no
inquiry or comment. He never says or does a thing that
another man would—perhaps this is in part the secret of his
indefinable power over me. He told me he had just come
to Mrs. Tallis's door in the hope of meeting me. He came
home with me. He did not speak once during our walk.
Yes, once. We met Archibald Lisle; he made a mis-step
in passing, and nearly fell to the pavement. `A blundering
fellow!' exclaimed Copley. The exclamation was natural


Page 198
enough, but there was something in his tone that, now that
I recall it, does not please me. Copley followed me to our
drawing-room. The piano was open, and we both went to
it as if by a common instinct. He had left his flute here the
day before. He asked me to play some of his favorite airs
—he accompanied me. He plays exquisitely—always Italian
music—I love better the German—and usually that which
is the fashion of the day.

“Suddenly—oh, Alice! I could not tell you this if you
were not a hundred miles from me—while we were singing
that thrilling duet from Don Giovanni, `La ci darem la
mano,' he threw down his flute, seized both my hands, and
gazed in my eyes with a passionate tenderness I never saw
in his before; I withdrew my hands, he exclaimed, `My
head is giddy!' and rushed out of the house.

“My heart bounded, as at a release, as the outer door
closed after him—truly, truly, Alice!

“You may think I deceive myself when I confess, that I
burst into tears, and that I actually did not hear my Uncle
Walter's heavy step till he was before me, followed by Mrs.

“`Why, here you are, my dear child—why!—what has

“`Nothing, sir—nothing.'

“`Nothing that you will tell—that means!' and then laying
his dear old hand on my head—oh there is a benediction
in its touch, Alice—he kissed me, and whispered, `God
help you, my dear child—I can't.'

“Yours ever, dearest Alice,
G. H.
“P.S. Of one thing I am morally certain. Copley never
looked at Mrs. Tallis, never spoke to her, as he looked and
spoke to me this morning.”

Poor Grace! Horace Copley breakfasted with Mrs. Tallis


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that morning, before her doors were thrown open to the
world. He had flattered her, till the heightened color in her
cheek put out, as he said, the roses in the bouquet he had
brought her, labeled, “Pour la rose de vingt-cinq ans.

But Grace was not deceived. There could not be a
stronger contrast than between his ardent, steady gaze in
Mrs. Tallis's beautiful face, and the perplexed look of blended
hope and fear, of homage and love, that he raised to Grace's
face; between his assured tone to the married woman's
greedy ear, and the tremulous voice of curbed passion, in
which he said truly, “My head is giddy.”