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“And now I confess myself fairly puzzled; I suppose I ought to describe
this ball; but what points am I to seize on, by which to distinguish it from
a ball anywhere? There is not a dress or a costume of any kind that
differs a particle from those in London or Paris.” So writes Mr. Paget of a
ball in Hungary; and so may be said of a ball in the upper circles of New

Grace entered Mrs. Herbert's drawing-room, dressed for
Mrs. Seton's ball, just as her uncle was rising from a prolonged
game of picquet with her step-mother. He turned
his delighted eyes upon his niece, and commended her dress.
It was of white crape, decorated only with a wreath of lilies
of the valley, fastened to the waist, and looping up the skirt
on one side. She wore a wreath of the same flowers around
her head, drooping, as was then the fashion, to her neck.
The white long stems of lilies were neither whiter nor purer
than the stately, smooth throat they defined and set off. “It
is a pretty dress,” said Mrs. Herbert, in reply to Walter
Herbert's commendation of its simplicity and elegance;
“but as you have worn it twice this winter, dear, I am sorry
you did not accept the new one I offered to you—this will
be the ball of the season.”

Grace felt herself often compelled to a conformity to the
Vanity Fair she lived in; but in the momentous article of
the toilet she adhered to her own creed, and maintained her
self-respect in spite of the wordy batteries of her step-mother.
“I should be so happy to give you a new dress,


Page 201
my dear,” she would say, for this ball or that reception. “It
really pains me to think of the remarks that may be made
of the disparity between your's and Anne's dress. If you
would only accept a set of laces like Anne's.” But Grace
had perseveringly declined these gracious aids, and had
turned a deaf ear to the repeated suggestions of “how easy
it would be for her, if she would only give her mind to it,
to imitate the trimmings of Anne's French hats, or to embroider
collars or pocket-handkerchiefs like Anne's” Grace
was persistent in her opinion, that there was a certain dignity
in wearing a dress correspondent to the fortune of the
wearer; and she held her time—though not flattering herself
with any very valuable results from it—at too dear a
rate to be wasted in emulations of French milliners and
Parisian embroiderers. And further, in the excessive luxury
of dress, and the striving after its paltry distinction,
pervading all classes, from the “Mrs. Potiphars” to the
house-maid (up or down?) Grace saw something parvenue,
and, in honest English, vulgar. So conscience and pride both
sustained her in a simplicity, which Anne Carlton whispered,
“did very well for Grace, as every one called her a `classic
beauty,' and she was of that odd kind.” Miss Carlton had
no very lucid ideas of the classic.

“Wear this dress as often as you can, Grace,” said Mr.
Herbert, resuming the conversation where Mrs. Herbert
had dropped it; “it's quite perfect—no furbelows—not an

“Except a meek and quiet spirit, Uncle Walter.”

“No, my Grace, that fell to Eleanor in the division of
your mother's jewels.”

“True enough! But, Uncle Walter, you have not noticed
the bracelet you gave me,” she said, raising her arm lovingly
to her uncle's shoulder; “perhaps it is a talisman, and
not an ornament?”


Page 202

“May it prove so, my child—preserving you from folly
and mischance; it's an odd old thing,” he added, turning it
on her arm, as if examining the gems that were curiously
inwrought with the gold.

“Quite an antique!” said Mrs. Herbert. “How fortunate,
the present rococco style! One can wear one's heirlooms.
It was strange of your grandmother, brother, to
will you those bracelets; how came it?”

“I don't know. She bequeathed them to me, with an injunction
to give them to my wife.”

“Then there were a pair? I remember seeing poor
Fanny wear one when she was a bride—what became of the
fellow to it?”

Walter Herbert made no reply. The bracelet had called
up memories of a fair young arm on which he had clasped
its fellow, of a soft, loving, trusting eye that had looked into
his heart the while—of hopes, perished long ago! His sister-in-law's
voice made no more impression on him than the
simmering of the gas. He started away from Grace, and
walked to the window, and casting off these haunting
thoughts, he exclaimed, “Here is your carriage, Grace; it's
a cold night—don't keep the coachman waiting—don't fall
into the detestable egotisms of fine people, who think that
all sensations are bound up in their delicate bodies.”

“I am quite ready, Uncle Walter, but Anne has not come
down yet.”

Uncle Walter a-hemed, and was politely silent for a moment,
but his feelings had been set ajar by the bracelet, and
the straws blew the wrong way. He even heard the coachman
through the closed blinds stamping and clapping his
hands. “Poor fellow—it's very cold out there!” he muttered.
“Mrs. Herbert, what upon earth detains Anne? it's
half past ten!”

“Oh, that's not very late!” replied Mrs. Herbert, placidly.


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“Anne will be down shortly; we are getting later and later
in our hours, you know—but there are advantages—”

“For heaven's sake spare yourself the trouble of stating
them; they are not worth it.”

“You detest these late hours, Uncle Walter!” said

“My child, I am no reformer. If these fine people will
commit suicide, let them. The world will get on without
them. The folly is the slow poison they choose; the folly
for them, the misfortune for us sensible people, who are
bound up with them.”

“We immolate ourselves in a great cause,” said Grace
with a sigh.

“No sighing, Grace; do not be pharasaical, it does not
become you. You are rather an independent young woman
in your modes of going on, and if you do not like mingling
with a crowd when you should be going to bed—if you
truly think this an unprofitable expense of time and health
—if it really be disagreeable to you to be embraced by the
young men about town—”

“Oh, brother Walter,” interrupted Mrs. Herbert, “you
really are going too far.”

“No, Grace can bear the unvarnished truth. If our
young women are not willing to sully their purity, why do
they dance this cursed Polka? and if they are not bent on
throwing away God's best gifts, their health, their cheerfulness,
their spirit of enjoyment, the value of their existence to
others as well as to themselves, why, in the name of heaven,
do they go to balls at ten and eleven, and come home at one
or two, as the case may be, to suffer and inflict the consequences
of such insults to nature?”

“Ah, brother!” interposed Mrs. Herbert, “you must not
look for old heads on young shoulders; `in youth and beauty
wisdom is but rare.'”


Page 204

Grace sat down, folded her arms, and was silent. She did
not conceive that she expiated the folly she committed by
theoretically condemning it, and she found no consolation
in the secret impulse that carried her with the current, night
after night into the arena of Vanity Fair. Besides, she was
now in no spirits to measure the weapons of her wit with
her Uncle Walter. Happily Mrs. Herbert was always ready
to fill any awkward chasms in conversation. She could find
a plausible reason for whatever she did or permitted. With
sense enough to lay her own course, she trimmed her sails
to the breath of fashion. She was so cool in her manner,
and so rational in most of her opinions, that they were
commonly received as oracles, perhaps sometimes taken on
trust, as one accepts a sum total to escape the trouble
of scrutinizing the figures. Receiving no answer to her last
oracle, she proceeded, “One must, to a certain extent, conform
to the world one lives in.”

“Admit slavery with suitable boundaries!” murmured
Uncle Walter.

She went on, unheeding it. “The world will not conform
to an individual's principles or taste. If all people of sense
and character withdrew from the fashionable circles, what
would they be? And what is a young woman in Grace's
position to do? Surely not turn Sister of Charity, like Julia
Travers—or immure herself at home. Besides,” looking
significantly at Grace's bouquet, which was lying on the
table, “it will be but a short sacrifice. She will soon be
married, and then, like Eleanor, mere wife and mother to
the end of her life.”

“Like Eleanor, God grant it! and not like the scores of
women, who, after this fashionable course, bring their husbands
a dowry of invalidism to be transmitted to their children.”

“What can keep Anne?” ejaculated Mrs. Herbert, who


Page 205
tired of any voice but her own. She rang the bell and ordered
John to tell Miss Anne the carriage was waiting.
Uncle Walter went on—“Tell me, Grace, to-morrow, how
many overworked sleepy men you met, dragged into these
joyless revels by their wives or daughters—wretched victims!
they must be in Wall-street to-morrow at nine. And
Grace, my dear, see if poor Tallis is not biting his nails, and
looking daggers at Copley, polking with his wife. Depend
on it, Mrs. Herbert, the tendencies of this unnatural life are
bad, disgraceful to our young world, that should have a fresh
life of its own, and not fall into the rut of old world follies,
into usages that have grown out of the decay of an old
civilization. We are rotting before we have ripened.”

“Thank heaven,” said Grace, “here comes Anne at

“What in the world kept you, my dear?” asked her

“One can't always tell one's reasons,” answered the young
lady, pettishly; “and I wish you would not ask me, mamma!”

Mrs. Herbert held Grace's bouquet, while she put on her
cloak. It was composed of rose-buds, violets, and other
sweet and costly flowers of the season. Uncle Walter inhaled
its delicious odors, which, like airs from heaven,
restored the geniality of his dear old face.

“From whom, Grace?” he asked.

“From Horace Copley,” she replied, courageously.

“Pagh!” he exclaimed, putting it down; its sweetness
was gone.

“Uncle Walter!” said Grace, in a low voice, “you are
north-east to-night—not yourself.”

“I am not the trifler I sometimes am,” he replied, gravely;
and then putting his arm tenderly around her, he conducted
her to the carriage. With her foot on its step, she turned


Page 206
to him for his good-night kiss, and said, “You have filled
my atmosphere with blue devils, dear Uncle Walter—make
the `reverse passes!'”

He kissed her. “God bless you, dear child,” he said;
“God save you from temptation, and deliver you from evil!”

This was not a cheerful preparation for a ball. Grace did
the thing out of season. She gave way to tears.

There are few girls whose hearts do not soften at the sight
of tears. “What upon earth ails you, dear Grace?” asked
Anne Carlton, in a tone of real concern.

“Oh, I am—a little nervous this evening.”

“Well, one does get nervous waiting, and I beg your
pardon, Grace—and I will tell you how it was. I would not
tell mamma before your Uncle Walter, for you know he does
not understand such matters, and he only just makes game
of them. You know, of course, I expected bouquets this
evening—I felt sure of one—I had reason to; and when
Justine told me one had come for you, I felt horridly, you
know. I was sure there had been some mistake, and I
should yet get one, and I waited till the last minute. And
you know it is mortifying, when we go in together, that you
should have one—such a beauty, too—and I none at all!”

“Take mine,” said Grace; “you will really oblige me,
Anne.” Grace spoke in the sincerity of her heart. The
sweet breath of the flowers was tainted to her, and she had
a sense of relief when Anne, after decent protestation, accepted
it, saying, “It does not quite match your wreath.”

“Mrs. Seton's ball” was expected to be one of the most
brilliant fêtes of the winter. Her stately mansion, like many
other piles of brick and mortar belonging to our “merchant
princes”—whose enterprise and industry express more potent
oil than that of Aladdin's lamp—almost equaled the
palaces of Europe in the luxury of space, and outrivaled
them in costly furniture, and abounding decorations of


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bronzes, scores of statuettes, with some sculpture from the
modern statuaries, and beautiful pictures—not all copies.

As Mrs. Seton's door opened to her fair guests, such brilliancy
of light, and music, and perfume issued forth as might
come from a festa in the gardens of Gul in their bloom.
The banister was wreathed with japonicas; pots, with the
rarest roses, were placed all along the hall on each side;
and vases, filled with flowers, were in every niche and on
every table.

The young ladies met their matron escort in the cloak-room,
and met there, too, Miss Adeline Clapp, who, bedizened,
be-flounced, and be-flowered, as if to demonstrate
how much she could afford to wear at once, was a most
striking contrast and foil to Grace, even to Miss Carlton,
who was expensively and elaborately appareled, according
to the laws of those Medes and Persians, Paris milliners and
French maids.

“Dear me!” exclaimed Miss Adeline, with her imperturbable
good nature, “how glad I am to see you, girls! I have
been watching ever so long for Mr. Lisle to introduce me,
but he always misses me, somehow.”

“Oh that horror!” whispered Miss Carlton to her chaperone;
“pray give me your arm; Grace won't much mind
entering with her.”

And Grace did not. Her Uncle Walter had cast a deep
shadow over her spirits. As she entered a drawing-room,
which the attractions of the ball-room had cleared of all but
mere observers, she arrested every eye. Perhaps it was her
discord with her surroundings. It was as if the solemn peal
of an organ had struck in upon the merry music of a dance.
But it was only the sensation of a moment. The stream of a
drawing-room is too shallow for any thing more than a ripple.

“Who is that?” asked a very young gentleman of a pretty
piece of French modeling, just “come out.


Page 208

“Miss Carlton. Is not her dress lovely? Pink and silver
—perfect taste.”

“I mean the lady behind her—taller, with dark hair, and
splendid eyes.”

“Not know her! You are a stranger in New York. She
has been out four years! Dreadful! is it not?”

“What is dreadful?” asked the novice.

“Why, to be still going out, and not engaged, when one
is so old. They say she was such a belle, and splendid the
first winter. Now, of course, she can't have much attention;
and if she appears another season, she will have only
ladies to talk to.”

A hard fate, certainly, if this little flippancy were a sample
of her sex. Archibald Lisle stood in the middle of the
drawing-room with a knot of gentlemen, who were discussing
the last foreign news. He was in the midst of a sentence
when Miss Herbert entered, and he finished it so
abruptly, and with his eye averted, that his listeners turned
to see what had diverted his attention; and one of them
said, “Lisle, there's a lady beckoning to you.”

“What lady?” asked Lisle, instinctively postponing his fate.

“Why, that one that looks so like a full-blown double
hollyhock; go, Lisle—her beck looks like destiny.”

Lisle advanced, but not yielding to destiny, he passed
Miss Adeline with a bow of cold recognition, and joined
Miss Herbert, whom, his imagination being sent off into
flowery regions by the hollyhock, he mentally symbolized
by the beautiful lotus, so pure, so graceful, so queenly she
looked amid that garden of living, but very artificial flowers.
Grace had not yet gone so far into the sere and yellow leaf,
as to be left to the penance and mortification of the society
of her own sex! Two youths, with fresh moustaches, and
near their majority, had approached, eager for her hand for
the next polka—for though she was not the “belle of a first


Page 209
winter,” she was, according to the parrotry of society, the
most “distinguée” person in it. She declined their juvenile
homage, and turning from them, she greeted Lisle cordially;
and asking him if he had ever seen Mrs. Seton's winter
garden, she offered to do its honors for him, and presently
led him into a scene of such enchantment, with its soft light,
its fountain, vases, exquisite statues, flowers, and fragrance
of growing plants, and her who, to him, was the genius loci,
that he seemed translated to another world.

Grace's spirits were relieved by the change, and she was
unconsciously stimulated by a spirit correspondent to her
own. They fell upon topics that interested them both, and,
without being disturbed by the few stragglers that now and
then found their way from the ball-room, they loitered away
a half hour; to Grace, a half hour of pure enjoyment that
she seldom found in society; to Archibald, one of the few
half hours of life whose minutes have an indefinite extension,
and whose end is like a stroke of doom. The end
came—not pleasantly—by the sudden entrance of Mrs.
Tallis; she, with Copley, retreating, panting, from a protracted
polka. The meeting did not seem agreeable to
either party. Lisle bit his lips; Grace looked grave and
icy; Mrs. Tallis shrugged her shoulders, and Copley, who
had entered all gayety and devotion, was like a masquer
surprised without his mask. Mrs. Tallis sunk into the first
chair, as they all re-entered the drawing-room, protesting
that she was “tired and heated to death.”

Copley was the first to recover self-possession. “I came
here, as you know,” he said, in a low voice, to Grace,
“solely to meet you. You forgot your engagement for the
first polka—three have been danced—and I concluded, from
seeing your bouquet in Miss Carlton's hand, that you were
not here. Why, may I ask,” he added, in his most deliberate
utterance, giving Grace time to circumnavigate the


Page 210
whole world of feeling while he paused on a word, “why
did you give the flowers to her?”

An evasive answer rose to Grace's lips. She gave the
true one: “Uncle Walter did not like their odor.”

“Is your Uncle Walter forever to thrust himself between—”

“Copley,” called out Mrs. Tallis, “I am fainting with this
heat—pray, order me a glass of iced lemonade.”

Copley went off to do the lady's bidding, and did not,
when he returned, recur to the interrupted topic. His
resentment had been suddenly provoked, and for once he
had spoken impulsively. But he understood the game he
was playing, and that its success depended on his adroitness.
He comprehended the advantage of piquing a woman's
curiosity. He knew that the desire of conquest is stimulated
by its uncertainty. He understood well how to calculate
the lower impulses of human nature—the nobler ones
were out of his reckoning.

Mrs. Tallis had fixed her soft brown eyes on Grace, while
Copley was speaking to her. “Has he,” she thought, “deceived
me as to their relations?” She felt an emotion of
jealousy, and abashed that she did feel it, and swallowing
the lemonade brought to her, she accepted the first hand offered,
and returned to the dancers.

Copley had withdrawn from Grace, and was sitting
moodily at a table covered with objets d'arts, apparently
occupied with examining them, but really watching Grace,
and Archibald, who stood near her, fixed by her magnetic
power over him. Near them were a cluster of observers
engaged in the usual common places of “polite” society
from Dean Swift's time to its present culmination.

“What delightful parties Mrs. Seton gives!” exclaimed a
good-natured lady. “Every thing so perfectly refined, and
elegant, and genteel. I do think the `Potiphar Papers' are


Page 211
abominable—they spread such false ideas of New York

“I suspect,” said another, “that the writer of them has
never been into our really `best society.'”

“How beautiful Mrs. Mervin's dress is—real point lace.
Do you know it cost $10,000?”


“A dead loss,” interposed a cynic. “Mrs. Mervin is so
hideous, she spoils her pretty things; she should get a lay
figure to wear her fine dresses.”

“Is not it a brilliant ball?” exclaimed a delighted young
lady. “I heard an English gentleman remark he had never
seen so many beautiful young ladies together.”

“He should not have restricted it to the young,” remarked
a very young gentleman. “There is Mrs. Tallis,
she is full five-and-twenty, and the most lovely person here.
So fascinating. I never talk to any but married ladies—
and—” He looked at Grace, and paused, not exactly
knowing how to finish with the compliment he designed for

“And elderly ones,” she said, smiling an acceptance.
Then turning to Lisle, she said, “Mrs. Tallis is exceedingly
graceful—you do not think so, perhaps?”

“I do not think this dance admits of its display.”

“You do not like the polka?”

“Not within the narrow precincts of a drawing-room, for
fine gentlemen and ladies. I thought it charming, danced
as I have seen it, by peasants on the green-sward, danced
with vigorous activity, and spontaneous glee, to their national
music, interrupted by rustic songs.”

“I am glad you see nothing worse than the want of the
open sky, and unlimited space; or perhaps knowing I sometimes
dance it, you have modified your criticism?”

His reply was interrupted by their hostess, Mrs. Seton,


Page 212
who, having too much bonhomie in her nature to be fashionably
indifferent to the pleasure of her guests, advanced,
saying, “Dear Miss Herbert, don't you dance to-night?”

“May I answer, Mrs. Seton?” said Copley, rising and
offering his arm to Grace; “Your promise to me was only
deferred.” He had watched Grace, from under his half-raised
lids, a second time that evening talking with apparent
interest to Lisle. She was conscious she had wounded him,
and, true woman, was ready to drop balm into the wound.
She gave him her hand, though after her Uncle Walter's
invective against the polka, she had half resolved never
again to dance it.

Lisle turned away, dissatisfied with Grace, and dissatisfied
with every thing around him. He could not look on her
while she was dancing the polka with Copley. There is
something akin to religion in the love of a pure and lofty
spirit. It can not brook degrading associations with the
object of its homage.

Neither reason, time, nor absence had abated Archibald's
devotion to Grace. But now the conviction was growing,
that she had given her heart to another, and given it unworthily.
“If she decline to the level of Copley,” he
thought “the spell will be dissolved. I shall awake, and
know I have been dreaming.” Never was pleasure approached
with feelings less attuned to it than Grace's when
she suffered herself to be placed within the ring of dancers.
That word “embrace,” which Mr. Herbert had uttered so
emphatically, rang in her ears. A single true word, uttered
by one whom love invests with authority, gives a fresh force
and aspect to a familiar thing. Grace had habitually danced
the polka, like other young women, unreflectingly—shielded
by her own purity, “in wardship of her innocence.” Now,
with newly awakened perceptions, she began the giddy
whirl. Both she and Copley were people of mark. The


Page 213
ring of spectators was augmented—the circle contracted—
she felt his arm around her—she cast her own eyes down. She
felt his. She felt his hot breath on her cheek. She had a
confused intolerable sensation. Mrs. Tallis was among the
dancers. She lost her self-possession in observing Grace
and her partner. Her movement was irregular, and the two
ladies came in contact, slightly disarranging Grace's hair,
and Mrs. Tallis's point-lace. Both withdrew together to the
dressing-room. While the maid in waiting was sewing the
tear in Mrs. Tallis's magnificent lace, which her husband had
given her a few days before—at a cost of some thousands,
as a peace-offering for a taunt to which she had provoked
him—Mrs. Tallis, quite unconcerned at the accident, was
looking steadily in Grace's face. Nature had sown good
seed in Mrs. Tallis's heart, but thorns had sprung up; cruel,
and alas! common thorns in the field of a woman's life.

Grace returned Mrs. Tallis's gaze. It seemed as if the
eyes of those young women were spell-bound, as if each
were looking into the other's soul. Mrs. Tallis' suffused
with tears; she wiped them away, and then holding up her
handkerchief, an exquisite wrought-web of lace, she said,
half crying and half laughing, “Think of my steeping this
in tears! honest tears! I can not keep them back. What
odd creatures we are, Grace Herbert! Would you like to
know what has overset me so?”

Grace shook her head.

“Ah!” resumed Mrs. Tallis, “I understand that sad smile,
but you need not fear confession. I have none to make to
you. I was merely going to tell you that you made me feel
as my little Elise sometimes does, with a look from her sweet
earnest eyes. It seems to me as if an angel spake in their
glance—nothing false can stand before it.” Again the pretty
handkerchief received gracious drops. “It seems so odd,”
she continued, “that we should have been sent up here together,


Page 214
at the very moment I was feeling—well—not very
pleasantly toward you, and now the current is so changed.
I long to stretch out my hand to you—to give you a warning—may

“Certainly, but you must leave me at liberty to take or
reject it.”

“You are very proud—very reserved—but I must speak
—I am superstitious; I feel a force upon me that I can not
resist. Do not—for all the world and the glory of it—do
not marry one who does not love you—Rupert Tallis tried
that, and it has been nothing but wretchedness for us both.
Grace,” she added in a whisper that rung in Grace's ears
long after, “Horace Copley does not love you!” She had
grasped Grace's arm. Grace silently and coldly drew back.
Her pride recoiled from the communication. The wire suddenly
snapped that had conveyed the electric spark from her
soul to Mrs. Tallis's, and kindled that lady's latent and best
feeling. Her poorer self regained the ascendancy. “I have
been very foolish,” she said, “I do not know what possessed
me to run on as I have done; but you will forget it all
—come—we have been here too long, we shall be missed—
come along, Miss Herbert!”

But Grace did not follow. The plough-share that leaves
no trace on sand, makes a furrow in a richer soil. Mrs.
Tallis could revert to the gayeties of the drawing-room;
Grace could not. She sat lost in the depths of not very
pleasant reflection, when she was aroused by Miss Smythe,
who came to say that Mrs. Seton was afraid Miss Herbert
was faint or ill, that she staid away so long.

“Oh, was it only your hair falling down? what a pity to
lose your nice polka—with Mr. Horace Copley too—he is
so fascinating, and they say he never polks except with Mrs.
Tallis, and Miss Seton, and you. They say Mr. Tallis is so


Page 215
jealous of him—it must be nice to make a husband just a
very little jealous—don't you think so?”


There was something in Grace's voice or face that startled
the young lady, for looking at once serious, she said, “Oh,
Miss Herbert, I beg your pardon—I quite forgot, but you
know, if it is so, it has not come out yet. I don't believe
that Mr. Tallis has the least reason in the world to be jealous.
But do come down, dear Miss Herbert—I am engaged
for six dances ahead. Was not it nice of Mrs. Seton to
make this ball to bring me out—just because she was a
friend of poor mamma—and she's been dead so long! It
secures me partners for the winter, you know.” And then,
offering to reconduct Grace to the drawing-room without
going down the public stair-case, she threaded the private passages
of the house to one connecting with the dancing-room,
to which three or four young men had retreated. The door
stood ajar; and while they hesitated to push it against them,
one of the men made a criticism on the dancers that transfixed
them both. Miss Smythe put her handkerchief to her
mouth to suppress a titter. Grace's cheek burned. These
young men had just come from polking with young girls but
just emerged from the nursery. Where were their parents?
For the most part in bed. A few, perhaps, looking wearily on!

“Did you see Grace Herbert bolt when they came into
close quarters?” asked one of the men.

Grace revolted from hearing her name in their mouths,
and again retreated to the dressing-room, Miss Smythe following.
“Aren't men funny?” she said.

“Funny!” echoed Grace in a voice that checked her tittering.

“But after all,” added Miss Smythe, “it does not prove
any thing. To the pure all things are pure, you know.”

“A much-perverted truth, Mary Smythe; you and I had


Page 216
better take the admonition we have been favored with from
the impure.”

“Admonition from those fellows—why that would be
looking for flesh in the fish-market as papa says; oh, no,
I go to church to get admonitions. But come, dear Miss
Herbert, I really must return to my partners.”

She did so, and Grace followed the little parcel of frippery,
in no humor to return to the gayety, but anxious to
observe Copley and Mrs. Tallis. The drawing-room they
entered was nearly deserted. There were a few waning
ladies there, a few wearied dancers, and a few more wearied
chaperones. One tableau-vivante struck Grace. Mrs. Tallis
sat in a chair of exquisite carving and maroon velvet that
once belonged to medieval royalty. In her sparkling eye,
brighter than the briliants that lit her hair, there was no
sign or trace of tears. Mrs. Tallis's genius for the fine art
of the toilet was the unfailing theme of Copley's admiration,
and this evening he had pronounced her dress a chef d'œvre.
Her gown was an azure-blue velvet with a berthe and flounce
of point lace. Her sleeves were looped to the shoulder
with diamond agraffes, “showing off and setting off”—so
Copley said—“her divine arms.” One was encircled with
a diamond bracelet, which, as she remarked flippantly, made
half the women in the room break the tenth commandment.
Alas! the hour was at hand when this same bracelet would
have a mournful significance in her eyes. But now, she
looked the light of a hariem, careless of any destiny beyond
it—surely the faith that a good and an evil spirit are battling
for the soul is natural!

Copley, as he stood leaning on Mrs. Tallis's chair, and
bending over her, well personated a Paynim knight in thrall,
with his auburn hyacinthine locks, his Saxon eye, and exotic
air. They did not see Grace—they were working out their
own problems.


Page 217

There was another keen observer, pensively standing by
the mantel-piece, and leaning his elbow on it. Archibald
Lisle's present had a far, and very dim perspective. Supper
was announced, and Copley, starting from his absorption,
encountered Grace's eye, and moved by a resistless force, he
sprang toward her and offered her his arm. Impulses are
unequivocal. Grace felt a triumph in that which brought
him from Mrs. Tallis's to her side, and he, rejoicing in its
effect without analyzing it, forgot Mrs. Tallis, forgot his
poor resentment at the transfer of his bouquet, and Grace
forgot all her vexations, and the evening that had begun in
clouds, ended in the coming out of one star of hope and
promise after another—preluding a fair to-morrow.

But the night was not quite ended. At the departure of
the guests, Miss Carlton's carriage was not forthcoming.
Some lady said she had one, and unfortunately but one vacant
seat to offer. Anne Carlton accepted it, saying in a
low voice to Grace, in Copley's hearing, “You will not object
to walking with Mr. Copley?” The night was fine, the
distance short, and Grace—and certainly Copley—was quite
willing to accept the necessity. They had passed beyond
the crowd of coachmen and attendants, when Grace perceived
they were followed by a light, quick footstep, and looking
behind her, she saw a woman's slight figure enveloped in
a shawl. She instinctively hurried forward. The footsteps
quickened, till they came to a corner near Mrs. Herbert's
house, where they were to turn. The figure shot before
them, and then suddenly turning, just as they were under a
lamp, she brought them to a full stop, by laying her hand
upon Copley's shoulder. The hand was so small, bare, and
wasted, that it looked like a starved child's. There must
have been a spiritual force in its touch, for Copley stood as
if he were petrified. The shawl that hooded the stranger's
head fell back, and disclosed a face young, and yet old, for


Page 218
sickness and killing sorrow had done the work of time,
sunken the eye and hollowed the cheek; but suffering, in
all its varied kind, had not effaced the divine seal from the
fair young brow, from which the long tresses of tangled
hair parted, falling back over the threadbare shawl. It was
a strange meeting! Never were strength and weakness,
security and ruin, brought into closer contact, or more awful

“You know me, Mr. Copley?” said the poor girl, gazing
into Copley's eyes, and speaking in a voice that, though low
and husky, had a most touching sweetness and gentleness in
it. “Can you forget? Oh dear! oh dear! I can not!”
Her utterance was with such effort, and so slow, that it
seemed an age to her tormented listener before he felt her
clutch on his arm loosening. He shook her off, and she
sunk to the pavement, uttering no word or groan. Grace
was shocked. She involuntarily paused, and looking back,
saw a little spaniel whimpering over the poor sufferer.

“Pray do not stop,” said Copley; “there's a watchman
coming, who will give the proper aid. These wretched
women haunt the streets all through the night; they learn
one's name, and pretend some reason for one's notice or
charity, as this poor wretch did.”

Grace made no reply. She was grieved at the spectacle
she had seen; but not suspicious. As they parted, Copley
dared to raise her hands to his lips! lips just defiled with a
cruel lie. He hastened homeward, avoiding retracing his

He need not; the poor haunter of the night-watches had
been taken to a station-house, whence she was the next day
sent, unconscious, to the hospital on Blackwell's Island.

It was two o'clock when Mrs. Tallis alighted at her own


Page 219

“Is Mr. Tallis at home?” she asked of the servant who
admitted her.

“Yes, madam; he came home two hours since. He is in
the library.”

“Good-night, Rupert,” she said, opening the library door
in passing it.

“Come in, Augusta.”

“I can't. I am tired and sleepy.”

“Who came home with you?”

“Not my husband:

“`More water glideth by the mill,
Than wots the miller of.'

“Pshaw, Augusta, who did come home with you?”

“Ask your servant—the only escort you provided me,”
she replied, and pettishly shut the door.

Tallis did not degrade himself by questioning the servant,
and went to his own apartment, without the small satisfaction
he might have had from ascertaining the fact that his
wife was not attended by Copley.

Mrs. Tallis went to her own room, and first, as women,
gentle and simple, are given to do, surveyed herself in the
glass. Her sparkling brilliancy had abated under the pressure
of late hours and sundry dissatisfactions, but it was with
a very pleasant consciousness that she turned away to the
crib of her sleeping child, a girl of four years—a guardian
angel, lent to keep sacred the marriage vow. The maternal
instinct was very strong in Mrs. Tallis's heart. She bent
over her child, and kissed her. There is a test in the
touch of innocence—it calls up sad, self-accusing thoughts.
Augusta Tallis dropped a tear on her child's soft cheek—
there was a contrite prayer in that tear.


Page 220


“Thank you, my dear friend. Yes, I am getting into the
old track famously. Some of my old clients have welcomed
me cordially; and though I was cruelly knocked down from
those `steeps so hard to climb' of my profession, yet I am in
no wise discouraged. True, my competitors shot ahead of
me, but I shall gain upon them. There is nothing like the
whip and spur of necessity; in our land, the poor workingman
is on vantage-ground, the general sympathy is with
him, and if he be capable, and in earnest, he has plenty of
work to do. I have delivered two Lectures, made up of my
foreign observations, which were well received, and filled my
pockets. I have had many requests to repeat them. I shall
not. A man should not be diverted from his profession by
`fancy work.' I have offers from booksellers and editors
that will profitably fill my leisure hours, if I have them.
Thus, you see, I can answer your inquiry satisfactorily. I
do not `regret the obligations' I have assumed for my step-brothers.
I have economical quarters, and by avoiding
hotel-life, and all superfluous indulgence, I shall compass my
great object—their education; and after that, Yankee boys
can take care of themselves.

“Do not, my dear Mrs. Clifford, be too anxious about
your son Max. A very young man, without counsel and
oversight, without indeed a friend, as he has been in my
absence, could scarcely escape entanglements in this city.
But take courage—he will come out right.

“Letty is very happy at old Steinberg's. My step-mother
did not quite understand her—Letty is the `china vase.'
My German lessons seem no task, but a pure enjoyment to
her, and she is rapidly fitting herself, by music and drawing-lessons,
etc., etc., and by disciplining the little Steinbergs, for
her future career as teacher.


Page 221

“My dear friend, don't think me a coxcomb when I tell
you that I am learning to pity a girl hunted down by a
pertinacious lover. You may regard my relations with Miss
Clapp purely comical; to me, they seem deeply tragical.
If I have an antipathy, like that some people indulge for cats
and spiders, it is just for such a specimen of humanity as this
Adeline Clapp, too well-meaning to be shaken off, too obtuse
and self-complacent to perceive ridicule, and too good-natured
to be provoked. There is no weapon that can
wound her, and alas! no armor that can repel her. Her
brother was my class-mate. Her father had a place called
Clapp-bank, near Cambridge. They were wealthy, had
plenty of horses, and good fishing-ground, and abounded
in the animal luxuries tempting to college lads kept on
pretty straight commons. They were hospitable, and we
ready enough, occasionally, to accept their hospitality.
Clapp gave me a dinner on my twenty-first birth-day, just
before I was graduated. We had a dance in the evening—
a merry-making without any very scrupulous restrictions.
Miss Adeline was a buxom girl, then some seventeen. I,
however much I may have been profited—or corrupted—
by the world since, was a shy lad then, and Miss Adeline's
free and easy style was very acceptable to me, inasmuch as
it knocked down fences I should not have had the courage
to surmount. It was a moonlight evening. We romped in
the garden, and took little episodical rowings, tête-à-tête, on
the bay; I may have made extravagant love to the girl, but
I can not by an `honest trifle be betrayed to deepest consequences.'
The woman is incessant. She butters me with
presents. Both slippers and a smoking cap were sent
anonymously, and labeled, `worked by the giver's hand.'
Then came a dressing-case with her name full blown out.
This I returned, with a savage note, saying my small apartment
allowed me no room for superfluities. She is ubiquitous.


Page 222
She meets me in my walks—crosses me in my pleasures.
My first dinner with the charming Esterlys was half spoiled
by her presence; and a few days since, when I was invited
by my friend, Lieutenant Orne, to a breakfast on board a
government ship, there also came my `hobgoblin.' There
were more guests than seats, and I had just ensconced myself
in a delightful nook behind Mrs. Esterly and her sister,
when my name was called out from another table by my
friend, the lieutenant. `Here Lisle,' he said, `make your
way here. Your friend, Miss Clapp, bids me tell you she
has reserved a chair for you beside herself.' The dreadful
woman half rose to show me the place gaping for me.
There was a general pause till I should make my way, and
over the chairs and benches I went, jostling one person and
displacing another, and submitted to my destiny as one does
to inevitable death. She was as complacent as if I had
voluntarily forced my way to her, and began talking about
`the commission.' But I have not told you of that. A
week or two since she overheard Mr. Walter Herbert advise
me to get the appointment of Commissioner of Deeds for
Massachusetts. Nothing would have been easier, as I have
friends in Boston. But before I had taken a step—in five
days, came the commission, officially signed and sealed, with
a private letter from a certain Medad Clapp, who informs
me he has the honor to be one of the Governor's Council,
and that, at the earnest request of his niece, he has obtained
the appointment for me. `Uncle Medad,' she said, `never
puts his hand to the plough-share, and turns back.' Dear
Mrs. Clifford, is this relentless Clapp plough-share to drive
through me? No matter what coldness my manner expresses,
this woman heeds it as little as a steamer does a slight incrustation
of ice. But to return to the breakfast. As soon
as the general hum permitted, and with only a slight depression
of her voice, she referred to `that birth-day fête.'


Page 223
She asked me, with a tone and look that perplexes and
annoys me every time I think of it, `If I remembered Judge
Eastly?' `No?' `You don't mean so? Don't remember
the judge sitting in pa's sanctum when we came in from

“`No, Miss Clapp, I remember nothing of that evening,
but that it was a mad boy-and-girl frolic, and that I drank
too much iced champagne.' She tittered at this, and `hoped
the time would come when I should recall it with pleasure,'
etc., etc.

“Is it possible that the champagne affected my brain
more than I was aware of, or that I said or did something
which has compromised me with these odious people?

“Keep my counsel, my dear friend; my predicament is
too ridiculous for sympathies less elastic than yours. Above
all, do not tell Alice. If she love a laugh as she did four
years ago, I shall lose all the dignity of age and travel, and
be her butt when I come to Mapleton—God speed the

“Yours faithfully,
A. L.
“P.S.—I am told that the Clapps, by their factory stock,
and the rise of real estate, have become enormously rich.
This fact accounts for Miss C.'s confident expectation that I
shall throw myself at her feet. That will be `when ourselves
we do not own.'”

Mrs. Clifford's letter, to which the foregoing is an answer,
intimated a curiosity to know Lisle's impression of Grace
Herbert since his return. He did not, our readers may
have observed, once mention her, except in connection with
her sister at the naval breakfast. He at first wrote “Mrs.
Esterly, and her glorious sister,” then struck his pen through
“glorious,” and wrote “captivating,” then effaced that, and


Page 224
substituted “beautiful,” and finally burned the sheet, and
took a fresh one, using no suggestive adjectives.

“Trifles light as air are confirmations strong” to more
issues than one!


* * * “He's a trump—take my word for it, Dates.
He lectured at the Mercantile last evening. I went early,
and got a seat directly in front of him. It seemed as if he
could not keep his eyes off from me! The house was
choke-full, and all attention. You might have heard a pin fall.
He was posted up about every thing t'other side, and told us
a lot about Greece and Athens, and Egypt and Thebes.
There were a number of literary characters present, distinguished
authors and authoresses that write in the Magazines.
He got, they say, $400 by this Lecture alone! Don't he
know how to coin money out of talents? He looks like a
different individual—so genteel!—you can't think!

“I am leaving no stone unturned to sound his feelings.
I must say he rather plays off, but shyer fish than he have
been caught by poorer bait than is at the end of a Clapp line!
Don't you say so?

“No, Dates—I can answer you sincerely. I don't feel
uneasy about Miss G. H.—I own she's a striking individual,
and as I told you in my last, she rather took up his attention
at her sister Esterly's, but then she's other fish to fry. She's
thought to have the best chance of getting a millionaire—a
young man at the top of fashion. He's said not to be as
moral as Plymouth-rock, but fortune and fashion, you know,
will cover a multitude of sins with us girls. G. H. is very
set-up and ambitious, and she'll take nothing below the head.


Page 225
I hinted as much to Archy—`a word to the wise,' you
know—at the same time I alluded to the individual that
could put one at the head—not speaking plain, but in a sort
of parable way.

“Now, my dear brother Dates, don't you let on of past
or future
till I make the motion.

“P.S.—Tell Malvina I have bought a love of a bonnet at
$50—don't scold, Dates! As Colonel Trump says, we must
not spare ammunition if we would win the battle.

“Please ask aunt to drop my subscription to the Seaman's

We must be as discreet as Miss Adeline, and keep her
secret for the present. In the meantime, she sits in her
web watching her prey, inextricably inclosed, as she believes,
in its meshes. Miss Adeline wished to come up to the
standard of her own æsthetic ideas. She believed law was
on her side. She would have equity too. She would resolve
that dreadful problem of necessity and free-will by seeing
her victim throw himself at her feet, unconscious that he was
bound to her by a chain that no skill or force of his could