University of Virginia Library




“Enfin sa bouche flétrie
Ose prendre un noble accent.”

There are tides in the affairs of men; tides so strong as
to sweep every obstruction away and bear down every opposing
force. Circumstances had of late been auspicious to
Copley, and the object that for years he had pursued with
unwavering determination, was within his grasp. The Esterlys
had been out of the way. Little May, who had stood
like the angel at the gate of Paradise, pointing a sword
against him, was gone; and Uncle Walter, though the treasure
of his life was at stake, became hopeless, and resigned
himself to the common law of non-interference.

Had Lisle, before this crisis, cast off the shackles of his
reserve, risen above his self-distrust, and manifested to Grace
his unconquered and unconquerable love, she might have
responded to him, and risen by the force of her own upward
tendencies out of sight of the subtle spell that Copley had
addressed to her lower nature. But Lisle had now withdrawn
wholly from her society, and though his love was not
extinguished, it was buried deep in his heart and covered
with the ashes of despair.

Events are sometimes in such curious relation and proximity,
that one does not wonder they have been referred to
conjunctions of the stars. It was on the evening of Letty's
death, that Grace, at twilight, was sitting alone at the bay-window


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of Mrs. Herbert's library, not gazing at the tints of
parting day that smiled on the budding trees opposite, but
taking an introspective view, where, just then, a soft and
pleasing twilight pervaded too. She was endeavoring to
overpower the still small voice that yet murmured against
her lover, with such thoughts as, “how kind, how lavish he
was to dear little Herbert;” “how generously forgiving of
Frank's obstinate prejudice against him;” “how considerate
of his interests;” “how prompt and noble for poor Violet's

The door opened, and the ideal of her reverie glided in,
approached her, and bent over her chair with a low and
ardent expression of his joy in finding her, as he wished to
find her, alone. He took her hand and pressed it to his lips.
She did not withdraw it, and he saw in her beaming face a
happy augury.

The words, and the more expressive silence, the emotions,
and the demonstrations that made the two hours that followed
an epoch in the lives of both can not be told—must not be
told, for the time was sure to come when Grace would wish
all memory and record of them effaced. How many hours
of life glide away colorless and unnoted; and how vitalized
two hours may be; how bright! shedding a soft lustre over
the past, and illuminating the future and illimitable! What
swift movement have they, and yet what anchorage and
sweet rest! What outpouring of hearts, what telling of their
histories, what solving of their mysteries!

Such were not Grace's; not even then, in those two happiest
hours of all her intercourse with Copley, was there the
beatitude of a true love. But they ended as such hours do,
with promises, and plighted vows, and with some earthly
regards and arrangements. Copley had business which
would take him South for a few days, and it was therefore
agreed that their engagement should not be announced till


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he returned. In the mean time Walter Herbert was first to
be told; a note was to be written to Eleanor (a cold tremor
seized Grace at the thought of these duties) and the fact,
as in courtesy due, was to be imparted to Mrs. Herbert and
her daughter.

Copley was just transferring from his own finger to Grace's
a diamond ring, to be the symbol of betrothal; her hand
rested impassive in his, while he poured a torrent of tears
over it (whence came they? had he a good angel? and was
he then possessed by it? were questions Grace often afterward
asked herself), when, at the sound of a footstep in the
entry, approaching, he dropped it, and shot off into an alcove
at the end of the room, where he stood in shadow.

“My!” exclaimed the most unwelcome intruder. “I am
so glad, Grace Herbert, to find you at home and disengaged;
I seldom have that good luck with you. Dear me! is that
you, Mr. Copley? Oh—ah—I might have known; but
there being no light here—well, moonlight is pleasantest for
some occasions that shall be nameless. Oh, how well I remember
one moonlight night! Well now I hope I don't
intrude,” continued Miss Clapp—it could be no other than
Miss Adeline Clapp—lowering her voice to Grace; “I dare
say I have broken up a tête-à-tête again. I have not been
to Mrs. Tallis' since her reception till this morning, and I
found Mr. Copley tête-à-tête there; odd, is n't it?”

The obscurity of the room, and the imperceptiveness of
Miss Clapp, favored all parties. She did not see the look
Copley darted at her, nor did Grace perceive his sudden
paleness, nor betray her own mounting color. On went
Adeline Clapp: “Mrs. Tallis looked uncommon handsome
this morning; she had on the loveliest silk, just the color of
a dove's wing, Paris made, sleeves entire new cut. I asked
her for the pattern, and if she remembers to give it to me,
I'll send it to you, if you wish, Grace.”


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“Thank you.”

Miss Clapp proceeded: “What a kind of a superstitious
look Mrs. Tallis' little girl has. She'll not be long spared!
How she did run on this morning, Mr. Copley. I guess
Mrs. Tallis felt something she said to be rather searching—
don't you, Mr. Copley?”

“I do not remember a word she said,” replied Copley.

“Why, don't you? how odd. Don't you remember she
asked her mother `how long her papa would be gone?' and
when her mother told her a month, `I wish it were a month
now,' said she, and the tears ran down her pretty cheeks,
and her mother kissed her—she does love that child; and
then—why it's strange you did not observe—she looked up
in her mother's face, and says she, `Mamma, do you love
papa?' `Run up to the nursery, my dear,' says the mother,
and she went just like a little lamb. But my! I wonder you
did not hear her say, as she stood with her little hand on the
door, `I never send you away, mamma—I hate the nursery,
and I hate Mr. Copley.' Her mother got up and kissed
her, and checked her. I'm sure she spoke loud enough for
you to hear her, Mr. Copley.”

Copley deigned no reply, and Miss Adeline at last perceived
that her persistent monologue met with but an ungracious
reception; but nothing ever disturbed her equilibrium,
and she wound up with saying, “I feel as if it was
but friendly to you, Miss Grace, and to Mr. Copley, too, to
tell you that I surmise even that poor little child has heard
that people talk about you and her mamma, Mr. Copley;
and that is the make of people—they will keep on talking
when a gentleman pays, well, rather particular attention to
a married lady, visiting her every day, as it were, when her
husband is off on a journey.”

“Madam!” said Copley, with so fierce an expression that
even Miss Adeline started, and exclaimed, “Gracious me!


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Mr. Copley, I did not mean to touch your feelings. I admire
to see gentlemen polite to married ladies; and if you
arn't sensible of any imprudence, there's no harm done by
just my speaking between us three.”

Copley had quite recovered himself, and, taking up his
hat, he replied with his usual coolness, “Much impertinence,
madam, but no possible harm;” and then, murmuring a few
sentences to Grace, too low for Miss Clapp's greedy ear, he
took his leave.

“Miss Clapp,” said Grace, rising, “you must excuse me,

“Oh now, Grace, I can't excuse you. Miss Carlton told
me you had no engagement this evening. I have been waiting
ever since Eleanor's boy sickened to speak to you, or to
her. It seemed more suitable to consult with a married
lady; but she is always engaged, or out of town, or something.
It's about Archy; and you and she are friends to us
both. Now do listen to me.”

Grace had risen, and was quivering with impatience to
get out of Miss Adeline's grasp, but Archibald Lisle's complication
with the insatiable woman turned the tide, and she
reseated herself with resignation.

“It's a pretty long story,” began Miss Adeline; “but
then, Grace, I know you'll have a fellow-feeling, when we
get into it. But it's so dark here, won't you have lights?”
Grace rang the bell. The servant lighted the gas. “My
goodness, how pale you look!” exclaimed Miss Adeline,
staring at Grace, as the light flashed on her face, and for a
moment she was awed, without comprehending the height
and depth of feeling it expressed. But a glimpse into
heaven would not long have checked Miss Adeline's tongue
in its communication of her self-centered interests.

“I am sure,” she resumed, “you'll approve of my feelings
—there can't be two opinions about it—as brother says, it's


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only a question of time. Well, to commence at the commencement.
Archy and my brother Dates were classmates
in college. Archy was first-rate then, as he is now, and
Dates was sort o' behindhand at mathematics and those kind
of studies; and father hired Archy to give him extra lessons
which Archy did, at a pretty handsome price—you know
Archy's folks were rather poor, but we did not feel any
difference on that account. I hope all the Clapps are too
noble for that. Archy was invited down to Clapp Bank,
to celebrate his birth-day. He had paid me considerable
attention before that; and though he had not a dollar but
what he earned, and his father was a mechanic, and my
father had been a wholesale shoe-merchant, and had gone
out of business with a handsome fortune—though nothing
to compare with what we have now, with the rise of real
estate, and factory-stock, and so forth—”

“Oh, do come to the point, Miss Clapp.”

“Well, I am close upon it. I was just going to say that
none of our folks would have made any objection if Archy
had delicate views; though father had been a member of the
Legislature for five years, and Uncle Medad was in Congress;
they felt I would have selected Archy before any other
young man I knew. Well, that evening we had a first-rate
time. It was moonlight, and the young men took the girls
a rowing on the lake. Archy took me, and then we played
plays, and had forfeits; and Anne Jane Evans adjudged
Archy and I to go through the marriage ceremony to redeem
our forfeits. Pa was in his study with Judge Eastly,
and the judge went through the whole ceremony of the
Church of England service with us. I can't say I looked upon
it then as any thing more than a kind of forerunner. Well,
after commencement, Dates went off to China, and Archy
studied law, and went into practice, and never came to
Clappville again. Well, you know how it is, Grace; when


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one is attached, and is, as Dates says, expecting `relations
of reciprocity,' one don't give up the ship for a trifle. Well,
you know Archy made the tower of Europe, and while he
was gone, I did for his family just as if I were daughter and
sister. Well, last fall, Judge Eastly was down at Clappville,
and talking over old times with Dates and me, and so, says
he, `Take care, Adeline,' says he, `that that chap of a New
York lawyer don't claim you for his wife when he comes
home.' I asked the judge his meaning, and he said he referred
to the marriage ceremony, and he said there had been
two just parallel cases in Massachusetts that bound the parties.
The first lawyers had been consulted, and they gave it as
their opinion, that it was `a legal and binding contract.'
These were the judge's words.”

Grace's interest was now thoroughly excited. “Good
heaven,” she exclaimed, “you do not mean—”

“Hear me through, Grace Herbert. I don't mean any
thing but what is fair and above board. Well, I won't
repeat all that the judge and Dates said. The judge thought
that with my large fortune in hand, for by this time, you
know, pa was deceased, and the estate settled; the judge
thought that Archibald, knowing the points of the law,
would claim me, whether or no. Well, Dates was ambitious
for me, and he thought Archy was not quite up to my mark,
and wanted me to keep it hushed up. I did not say much,
but I had my own feelings. It's true, I did not know
Archy's views, but knowing he would have the best of the
bargain, I did not hesitate. I knew the day he landed. I
laid all my plans, straight-work, as you would mark out a quilt.
Matrimony is a solemn duty; and to be sure, I own I had
entered on it rather lightly, but not without feeling—perhaps
it was the same with Archy. I meant to behave
honorably, and give him opportunities of falling in love,
before we took up the stiches; and so I told Dates; and


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have written him the same since I came to New York.”
Miss Adeline paused, and Grace's face expressing, even to
her dull perceptions, something of the mingled wonder and
disgust she felt,

“I see,” she resumed, “that you don't quite feel with me.
Perhaps you think it would have been more prudent for me
to have told him at once that we were as good as man and

“Oh, no—no, no, Miss Clapp, never tell him that.”

“Never! why, we are; and can't you see it must not run
on as it is now. He takes no hints, and he's all the while
paying attention to the girl Letty Alsop—at old Steinberg's.
I have found out who she is; it is not prudent, as
regards her, and if Archy has really forgotten all about that
evening, as he pretends to, don't you think it's quite time he
was reminded? Now that's just the question I came to ask

Grace had not heard this long story without arriving at
the conviction, that Archibald Lisle had entangled himself
with this inevitable woman. “What is to be done?” thought
she, rapidly reviewing in her own mind Adeline Clapp's
story; “that noble fellow must not be caught by this `mousing
owl,' but what can I do for him?—nothing. It is not a
matter for a third person's meddling. Archibald Lisle will
be the best manager of his own affairs, and the sooner he
gets out of the web this horrid woman has spun about him
the better.” And so, with effort suppressing a smile, she
said, “Miss Clapp, I see but one course for you to pursue,
that is, to make known at once to Mr. Lisle what your
brother calls your `relations of reciprocity.' He will, as he
chooses, confirm or dissolve them at once—good-night.”

“She might have had the politeness to wait till I got out
of the door,” said Miss Adeline, as Grace fleetly vanished up
the stair-case.


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“`Dissolve them, indeed'—that he can't do; and dissolve
five thousand five hundred a year—it's all at seven per cent.
—that he won't do; but I kind o' dread to throw open the
blinds at once; what is the use of asking advice?”

Some of our readers may recoil with as much displeasure
from Grace's betrothal as she felt disgust at the presumption
of Miss Clapp's expectations, for there are those who in
spite of the discordant matches of every day, will as freshly
wonder at every new one as the child, who on looking at an
old man with a young wife, exclaimed, “What a poor two
you make!” Not that the world, in general, by which comprehensive
phrase is designated the particular circle in which
Miss Herbert moved, would feel any thing other than perhaps
a momentary sensation at her rare good fortune. The
general feeling in relation to any woman being, that she is
better off in port than afloat.

But there may be some, who comprehending the nobility
of Grace's nature, will feel a keen disappointment at this
crisis of her fate, having believed that though uncontrolled,
unguided, unwarned, she would, in Ida Roorbach's phrase,
“have worked out her own salvation,” and not have yielded
at last to extraneous influences. She had clung to her distasteful
home with the one dear compensation of her Uncle
Walter's presence, though solicited by the advantageous
parties, enumerated by Mr. Herbert to Lisle, and others
quite as advantageous, unknown to him. She was now the
victim of an illusion, an illusion to which an imaginative
unoccupied young women, cast into a state of society with
which she has few sympathies, is most miserably exposed.

Letter-writing was not Copley's speciality, but he wrote,
each day of his short absence, sincerely, and therefore earnestly.
He spoke of the future as a fait accompli. Grace
passed carelessly over his request that the finishing up, and
decorations of his house, should be controlled by her judgment


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and taste, who “was soon to be its adored mistress;”
and over his exultation in cheating the town of its gossip—
though with this she rather sympathized, to dwell on his
professions of ardent love, his impatience to return and
bask in the summer of her kindness, after the “polar winter
he had endured,” and like phrases, common coin in common
circulation. Grace took them at their current value.
The happiness of being loved is next to that of loving, and
perhaps she felt that the perfection of the one made up for
the still haunting consciousness of the imperfection of the