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It was a significant circumstance that Grace did not communicate
to one of her friends, not even to her dear Uncle
Walter, her engagement by word of mouth. Was it that
she instinctively avoided the truth that flashes from the face
before the soul is shrouded in plastic words and conventional

Copley had recently gained in Mr. Herbert's good opinion.
He had even, on one or two occasions, eagerly praised him
in Grace's hearing, but the sigh, with which he ended, indicated
but too truly an ineradicable disapprobation of the
man. There was a singular sympathy between the old man
and the young woman; an understanding and correspondence
that did not need the intervention of words. And
Uncle Walter was a man of few words, especially on those
occasions when ordinary men are diffuse. The more intense
the heat, the less crackling was there.

Grace met Mr. Herbert, for the first time after her brief
written announcement to him of her engagement, the next
morning at breakfast. He was a very late riser, and she
was accustomed to give him his breakfast. It was their
hour of privilege and security, Mrs. Carlton being then in
the field, laying out the momentous duties of her productive
life. Grace met her uncle with her usual dutiful salutation,
and took her seat. Both parties were silent. That was no


Page 71
unusual circumstance, for there was that perfect love between
them that casteth out fear and restraint of all sorts.
They were sometimes silent through the whole meal, and
sometimes merry as children. Grace poured out a cup of
coffee; Mr. Herbert took it, but their eyes did not meet.
The servant brought in his hot toast and egg and placed them
by him. He touched neither, but sat for a few moments,
looking out of the window as far away from poor Grace
as possible, and then seizing a morning paper he turned
over its mammoth pages; it would not do; his blinded
eyes could not see the words, and the rustling only sharpened
the silence. He threw it down, rose from his seat, and
was running away like a child from what he had not courage
to face. Uncle Walter was a child. Grace sprang to him,
and throwing her arms around him, and bursting into tears,
said, “You must not go so, dear Uncle Walter. Speak one
word to me, won't you? can't you? Well, then, I will
undo, unsay it all!”

“Oh, no, no!” he cried, his heart at last finding vent in
words; “no, you have done it, my child, my all; I am foolish,
Grace—I am old—God forgive me! God bless you!”
And then gently disengaging her arms, he seated her on the
sofa, and left her sobbing there; and taking his hat and
cane, he left the room and hobbled through the long entry
from the breakfast-room to the outer door, then returned,
and half opening the door, in a sort of choking between
laughing and crying, “Mind, Grace,” he said, “you give
me notice to quit in time. I'll set up my rest with Eleanor
and May; I'll not stay in this house after the only live person
in it leaves it.”

“Engaged! let me see her note,” cried Anne Carlton to
her mother, who had summoned her daughter to her room
to receive the news. She read Grace's missive. It was a


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short reading, merely a respectful announcement of her engagement
and an injunction to present secresy.

“Secresy!” exclaimed Miss Anne, “I wonder who will
care to tell the news—men are shameful! It was only last
Thursday, at Mrs. Smith's, that Horace Copley said such
things to me, and looked more than he said.”

“My dear!”

“Oh, ma'am, you need not undertake to convince me
that he did not mean any thing—I know him. What's become
of your study of human nature, ma'am? You've missed
in your lesson this time.”

My dear!”

“Well, it's too provoking. I should have accepted Edmund
Fay or Guy Clayton if you had not harped upon what
you called a `wavering scale,' and such nonsense.”

“My dear Anne, you are not respectful. One can not
always clearly discern the future.”

“Oh, I know. But you are always in a fog, and you always
think you have nothing to do but heave your lead—
human nature! that's a riddle you can't read, ma'am!”
(After a pause,) “I never heard him admire any thing in
Grace but her aristocratic air. And she and her uncle profess
to look down upon fashion, and fortune, and the world,
and so on. I never believed them. Who is a man of the
world, if Copley is not? So dreadfully shocked they were
at our asking Belson and Count de Salle. They and Copley
are birds of a feather.”

“Not quite, my dear. Not that I defend Brother Walter
or Grace, for criticizing us; they knew I did not approve of
intimacies with those men, nor would I exclude them from
large parties, because they are not just what they should
be—`judge not,' etc.”

“Oh, mamma, what is the use of talking so? Every body
knows what Sam Belson is, and you know besides.”


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“My dear, there is a difference between Belson and Copley.
Belson lives by—I don't know what, possibly gambling;
he does not respect public opinion; he—in short, he
lives freely; whereas Copley is prudent as regards public
opinion; he has immense wealth, and does not waste it. Of
late I hear nothing against him; on the contrary, I am told
he has been confirmed, and you know he has a class in our

“All humbug, mamma—every bit of it humbug; all to
throw dust in people's eyes. Confirmed, indeed! Confirmed
on Sunday, and fooling with Mrs. Tallis every day in the
week. How easy old folks are humbugged.”

Mrs. Herbert was on the verge of irritation,—she never
went over. “I must confess I do not like this levity, Anne,”
she said; “and if you really have so low an opinion of Mr.
Copley, I own I do not see why you are not willing to give
him up to Grace.”

“Oh, low opinion; I have no such thing. I look upon
Horace Copley as the very first match in New York. I am
not in love with him. If he should marry any one else, I should
not hang myself; but to have Grace Herbert the one taken,
and I to be the one left! Besides, I never professed to be
particular. I am willing a man should amuse himself the
way he likes best. One thing please give me credit for,
mamma—I never was humbugged by Grace.” So far as
entertaining a blind faith in human virtue is humbug, Anne
Carlton may claim complete exemption from it.

“What do you mean, my child?” asked Mrs. Herbert.

“Why, I always said that Grace was contriving and working
for this prize, and would go through fire and water to
attain it. Now tell me, mamma—you understand human
nature, you know—would any girl in Grace's position pass
by the opportunities she has had, unless for an ulterior object?
Think of a girl, without fortune, rejecting the Honorable


Page 74
Mr. Grey, of a noble English family, possessing every
thing that Grace professes to admire. Tut, tut, mamma; it
is not so easy to throw dust in my eyes. Grace is getting
on—she is two-and-twenty, and past.” She paused, and
then added, “When is the wedding coming off?”

“That I don't know; probably soon—there is no reason
for delay. But, my dear, I do hope you will put the best face
on the matter, and congratulate Grace. I should be mortified
to have her suspect you of envying her good fortune;
indeed we ought always to rejoice with them that rejoice.”

“Never fear, ma'am—I can play my own cards.” Anne
was leaving the room, and turning back, “`It's an ill wind
that blows no good!'” she said, with beaming satisfaction.
“We shall have a clear riddance of old Walter Herbert

“Don't speak in that way, Anne; you know I have endeavored
to do my duty, and make a happy home for my
husband's brother—but I have thought of that.

The “well-laid schemes of mice and men” are disconcerted,
and so were Mrs. Herbert's; but before evening the
oil had flowed over the ruffled waves, and she had reverted
to her usual dead calm, and was harassing Walter Herbert
with her eternal common-places.

“If,” she said, “as would appear now, Mr. Copley has
been long decided on this final step, he has shown remarkable
constancy of purpose, and that is indicative of stability.
Don't you think so, brother?”

“Yes—and a pretty stiff will, too.”

“True, brother. But Göethe, you know, says the `educated
will makes the perfect character;' not that I mean to
say that Horace Copley is perfect. Who is? It is incident
to humanity to be imperfect. We do not expect young men
of fortune to be immaculate; he is not. But there is


Page 75
nothing that is so calculated to restore a young man to a
right course, and keep him in it, as a union with a superior
woman. A superior woman's influence is unbounded. Love
founded on reason, a deep, fixed love, is—is—”

“A head of steam, no doubt,” interrupted Walter Herbert,
who had never before listened so long to his sister-in-law's
congeries of aphorisms; “but if you please, madam,
let us talk no more about it. I thank God it is as well as it

As well!” echoed Mrs. Herbert, with spontaneous
amazement; “are you not satisfied, brother?”

Mr. Herbert threw his half-smoked cigar in the fire, and
without any other answer than a short “good-night,” he left
the lady to speculate upon the insatiable demands of a doting
old uncle, and upon other multifarious stumbling-blocks
in her favorite study of human nature.

It was Mrs. Tallis' habit to give the twilight hour to her
child. On the memorable evening of Grace's betrothal,
Elise had lingered longer, and clung closer than usual. Her
mother had a sweet voice, and sang old ballads enchanting
to the child. She was broken off in the midst of one by a
servant bringing in a twisted note, written on a scrap of
paper, in pencil, which Copley left as he passed homeward
from his betrothal. His eyes were hardly yet dried from
the tears he poured over Grace's hand; his hand was still
warm with the pressure of her's!

“Dear A.,” said the note, “I am engaged to G. H.!!!
I shall be here between nine and ten—and am now, and
then, and always yours devotedly, H. C.”

There were but two lines, but Mrs. Tallis remained standing
at the window and reading them, over and over, till her
little girl, who had been repeating her entreaties for five
minutes, that she would come back and finish her “story


Page 76
song,” said, taking her mother's hand in both her's, “Come,
do come, mamma—I've got a very great pain in my head,
and when you sing I don't feel it.” The mother answered
rather instinctively to the magic touch of the little hands
than apprehending the words, and again sat down, with the
child on her lap, who, laying her head on her mother's
bosom, and her hand on her head, said, “It feels better now,
mamma—now sing.” But instead of singing, Mrs. Tallis
turned the note to the mouldering April fire, and, as if yet
incredulous, read it over again. The child snatched it and
threw it in the grate, and then, frightened at its own impatience,
she burst into a fit of crying. She was of a most
quiet temperament, and usually as docile as a dove. The
mother's thoughts were for a moment recalled to the child.

“Why, what ails you, Elise?” she said; “what is the
meaning of this?”

“Oh, I don't know, mamma, what does ail me—my head
feels so—and I could not bear the sight of Mr. Copley's old

“Mr. Copley's note! How did you know it was Mr.
Copley's note?”

“Why, John said so, when he brought it to you, mamma.
I hate his notes, and I hate his presents.”

“What, the beautiful presents he sends you?”

“Yes, I do; and I don't love him a morsel, and I wish
you did not, mamma—I wish you loved papa.” There was
a moment's lull, and then the child resumed: “Mamma, do
some ladies love husbands?”

“Some do, I believe,” replied the mother, with a faint smile.

“But you don't, mamma?”

“I do not! Who told you so, Elise?”

“Nobody told me, mamma—I can tell myself. You love
me, mamma; if I am gone out, ever so little way, when I
come home you are so glad to see me, and when papa


Page 77
came home from ever so far off, you were not glad to see
him; and you always speak kind to me, and you never speak
kind to papa.”

“Hush, Elise—you talk too much.”

“Well, I will hush, mamma, if you will just sing me out
that pretty story.”

The mother resumed the singing, but her voice soon died
away; and when the child again urged her to go on, she
said, “I can not sing to-night, Elise. You must go to bed,
my child.” She rang for the nurse. The little girl held fast
to her, clung most fondly, and when forced away, she said,
“Do, mamma, come up and sing me to sleep, my head does
really hurt me—horridly—will you, mamma?”

“Yes, yes, I will, you little make-believe.”

But, alas! alas! the mother forgot her promise, and that
night, for the first time in Elise' life, Mrs. Tallis went to
her own bed, without going to her child's little couch.

Children are God's messengers. Woe to the mother
whom they do not persuade to rectitude!

On this same memorable evening, Eleanor read, and gave
the following note to her husband.

Dear Eleanor:

“You will not be surprised to hear that H. C. and I have
come to the end of our long and intricate journey. Shall
we have a glad welcome from you, and a blessing from my

G. H.”

Esterly glanced his eye over it. “Of course,” he said,
“just what I expected.” And then seeing Eleanor dissolved
in tears, exclaimed, “My dear child, you are not surprised?”

“No, no—not surprised.”


Page 78

“Nor disappointed?”

Eleanor shook her head, but not with emphasis.

“Nor dissatisfied?”

“Oh, Frank, can you ask me that?”

“Why, Eleanor, you must have foreseen this inevitable
result for the last six weeks, and you have seemed to me
to acquiesce in it.”

“Frank, you know how I have been engrossed the last
six weeks; and, besides, what could I do? Grace has
always been independent, self-directing, not a person to be
interfered with.”

“But, Eleanor, it is true I have been lost in my own
affairs, but I thought there was a tacit agreement among us
to acquiesce in Grace's decision?”

“And is a mere acquiescence what we should feel at this
crisis of our dear, noble sister's fate?”

“Certainly it is not all we desire to feel, but most marriages,
Eleanor, are compromises.”

“Ours was not, Frank.”

“No, but Grace could hardly expect another romance,
ripened into a reality, which ours has been,” replied Esterly,
kissing his wife with the enthusiasm of a lover; “once I did
hope for its parallel for Grace. I was impatient for Lisle's
return. I thought `propinquity' only was wanting to combine
their destiny, but before he came home, Grace was
entangled in this affair—her mind, if not her heart, was preoccupied.
It's a failure I confess, but after all, not so bad.
Think how long Copley has been steadily devoted to Grace
—that augurs well.”

“I know him better than you do, Frank. Pride had
more to do with his devotion, than love.”

“All men are made of mixed elements, Eleanor. I trust
you do Copley injustice.”

“No, no, Frank, I do not. He is false. Anne Carlton


Page 79
has confided to me his insidious flattery to her. I believe
the silly girl was half hoping he would offer himself to her;
but far worse than that, he has, up to last week, kept up his
intimacy with Mrs. Tallis, and in her husband's absence has
been every day at her house—so Mrs. Milnor, who lives
opposite, told me. She says his French valet is every
morning at Mrs. Tallis' door with bouquets, and perfumed

“`Perfumed!' Does Mrs. Milnor nose them across the
street? I wonder, Eleanor, that you should listen for a moment
to such an audacious gossip—an unclean bird that lives
on carrion.” Esterly, like most men, would scarcely have
taken a gossip's word against a murderer. “I hear much
good of Copley,” he resumed, “of late. He has become a
teacher in our Sunday-school.”

“I am sorry to hear it. I have no opinion of religious
cloaks over moral delinquencies.”

“But, Eleanor, he may have thrown off the polluted garments,
and not covered them. Give him his due—have
you forgotten Violet's free papers?”

“Certainly not, Frank; but, doubtless, Grace incited him
to that good deed.”

“And will to other deeds as good. Come, come, Eleanor,
think what power she will have; what a fortune to dispense;
what a wide influence! Look on the bright side. Grace's
fate may be next best to ours.”

“Next best! Ah, Frank, you do not know Grace, if you
think a `next best' in marriage would be endurable to her.
No, she will have nothing, if not a love and confidence like
ours—ever growing; our smallest joy, and our keenest sorrow
binding us closer together; a mutual dependence, and an individual
freedom springing from reciprocal faith, love, and
charity; each a life apart, and a life together.”

“Why, Ellen! what a fine theory of marriage.”


Page 80

“A theory evolved from our experience, Frank.”

“True, my blessed wife; but ours is the fate of but one
pair in a thousand; we must take life as it is.”

“Should we not rather, Frank, try to make it what it
should be?”

“An odd question to put to a preacher by profession.
But, truly, Eleanor, how is this matter to be reformed, unless,
as Dr. Johnson proposes, we leave it to the chancellor to
couple men and women. Marriage is one of the merest
chances of life, the most difficult and painful of all social
problems. Just fancy the extravagance of expecting that
the people I tie together should be qualified for the most
complex partnership of life.”

“Then, my husband, do not lend your voice to the general
vulgar view of life, and say, `A woman must be married.'
Surely it is better she should be a lonely struggler, an `old
maid' driven into corners, than to sacrifice her truth, to live
in the closest and dearest relation of life, stripped of all that
makes life dear. Better utter isolation and desertion, than
to perjure herself by a vow of love, honor, and obedience,
that she can not keep.”

“I agree with you, theoretically, Eleanor, but practically
what is to be done? Do you know a woman who would
live single, if she could help it?”

“Yes, indeed, Frank, and so do you. Noble women who
have preferred single life to making hollow vows; poverty,
if you will have it so, to failure.”

“But these are exceptional cases, my dear.”

“So they are, but there would be many more, if women
were true to themselves, and true to their own sex. Many
a woman, when she gets a husband, looks upon herself as a
general who has won the battle, and may sleep upon his
laurels for the rest of his life, and she looks down upon her
single sisters from her matrimonial height. The first practical


Page 81
lesson she teaches her daughters is, that an `old maid'
is an impersonation of whimsicalities, at best to be pitied,
and that her condition is, at all risks, to be avoided. All
vulgar men speak of single women with scorn or pity, and
such men as you, Frank, are reconciled to such marriages as
my sister's will be, because—`she must be married!'”

“Well, since you drive me to it, I defend my position.
It is never wise to run counter to the institutions of Providence.
Marriage is the first and greatest of these, the central
point, whence all the relations of life radiate, the source
of all political and social virtue. The husband and wife are
priest and priestess in the temple consecrated and upheld by
God himself.”

“And is this temple to be turned into a den of thieves, a
market for money-changers, Frank? Is its strength to be
impaired and its purity polluted by compromise-marriages?
You say that marriage is the source of all political and social
virtue; and so I believe, and that we must thank the low
rate of conjugal virtue, for there being so little of either.
And how should conscientious statesmen, pure patriots,
honest dealers, faithful children, loving brothers and sisters,
and loyal friends spring from marriages, such as they are.
The world has made slow progress from this starting-point,

“My dear wife, I believe you have the right, but if you
had ever undertaken one social reform, you would know
how hopeless is change of the very form and pressure of

“But remember, Frank, the mouse and the lion in the
fable. The weakest may do something by using their small
power in the right direction. Women's testimony does not
go very far, but do you, Frank, and other accepted teachers,
teach my doctrine in simplicity and godly sincerity. Don't
go on in the common rut and multiply these miserable matings


Page 82
(not unions), by saying `women must be married.' If
a woman misses her highest destiny, if she can not fold her
heart in the bands of conjugal affection, fortified by congenial
education, taste, and disposition, if she can not vitalize
her union with a religious sentiment, then for pity's sake,
dear Frank, counsel her to try `that other fate.' Teach her
that she can prepare her soul for its eternal destiny without
marriage—that she can be sister, friend, and benefactor; and
that to do her duty within the wide compass of these relations,
is far more honorable in the judgment of man, than
to be a mismated wife and incompetent mother, condemned
to stagnation instead of progress, and finding the last only
and miserable consolation in the resignation to an indissoluble

This long conversation begun at home, was finished on
their way to Grace's. Late as it was in the evening, they
both felt a desire to shelter their lukewarmness by their
promptness. They were just at Mrs. Herbert's door when
Eleanor ended her last sentence: men, the most earnest, the
most serious, do not regard marriage with the solemnity that
a thoughtful woman does. A woman casts all on that venture;
a man has other argosies at sea.

“It is a little odd, Eleanor,” said Esterly, half smiling,
“that you have bestowed no part of this lecture upon
Grace, and that here we are on our way to congratulate

“Oh, I know I was cowardly,” said Eleanor; “I now reproach
myself bitterly, but till very lately I thought that
Grace could not be dragged into this maëlstrom.”

“Well, well, my dear child, now do the next wisest thing,
and since you can not prevent this marriage, make the best
of it.”

The sisters met with tearful smiles. The common phrases
of the occasion were spoken, so beautiful when, bearing the


Page 83
soul's impress, they drop from the heart like fresh coin from
the mint and ring like true metal. Grace was not radiant,
but there was a certain satisfaction evident, such as one feels
who has struggled through an entangled path and comes out
on a clear road. But how far was this from the feeling befitting
such an occasion.

“A content so absolute,
That not another comfort like to this
Succeeds in unknown fate!”

When Mr. Herbert broke away from Grace after that
breakfast which was only a fast, he directed his course towards
the sole light that glimmered through the darkness
closing around him. And after reaching and mounting a
long stairway in Wall-street, and passing through a large
office, he went on by virtue of his general passport, into a
little den where Lisle took refuge from suitors and clerks.
Here the old friend was admitted when the rest of the
world was shut out. Here he had lounged through many a
pleasant hour, and placing no guard over his heart, and little
upon his tongue, he had rashly intimated what he most desired,
and freely told what most of all things he deprecated.
His love for the young man seemed even to himself so out
of bound, that at parting he often quoted Falstaff's words,
saying, “Ah, Archy, you have given me medicines!” But
alas! poor old man, he was in no laughing vein now. He
found Lisle arranging his affairs for his departure with Letty
Alsop's remains for the home burial. He sprang forward to
give his friend his usual cordial welcome. Walter Herbert
turned away, his face full of struggling feeling, and stood by
a window, gazing down into a little dark court, but seeing
only the desolate chambers of his own mind.

“What has happened?” said Lisle affectionately, laying


Page 84
his hand on the old man's shoulder. “What is the matter,

“Matter!” He turned round as if wound up to a pitch of
fierceness, and then like an angry child melting into tears,
he said in a broken voice, “Nothing but what should have
been expected—she's gone, Lisle.”

“Gone! dead—who?”

“Oh, no, not dead, but lost for ever to me, and to you.
Grace, my darling is—is—engaged!”

No further question was put, no word spoken; each understood
the other perfectly. The young man turned white
as the unwritten paper on his desk; and after Walter Herbert
left him, he sat as if paralyzed for half an hour; then
giving his clerks their instructions, he shut himself up till
the hour of his departure. He tried to master himself, but
Letty was dead, and Grace worse than dead, and the world
was very dark to him.

After fulfilling his engagement with Mrs. Tallis on the
evening of his betrothal, Copley returned to his mother's
house. He passed the drawing-room from which the punctual
lady had retired at her stated time, and went to his
own sitting-room, where he found Sam Belson awaiting him,
and the flood-gates being open, he did not shut them.

“Why, bless my soul!” exclaimed Belson, throwing his
unfinished cigar away, “what dead earnest you seem to
be in.”

“I am earnest and triumphant. You know, Sam, I have
been pursuing this one object for years.”

Belson laughed, shrugged his shoulders, and replied,
“Yes, so you have, Cope, with some pleasant little détours;
you are capital, Copley.”

“Capital! why, what do you mean?”

“Nothing, nothing, I assure you; I am only amused to


Page 85
see you as much elated as if you had conquered a kingdom.”

“I have—my kingdom.”

“Not by the knights Valor and Love, though you seem
to say so.”

“I do say so; and what can you say to the contrary?”

“Pshaw! Cope, don't fire up; that is not your cue.
Why, did you ever suppose after you minded the fortress
with that lawsuit, that it would not yield? You remember
I told you that was a masterly tactic.”

“You have misunderstood me; upon my honor you
have, Sam,” said Copley, reddening; “and certainly you
do not know Miss Herbert.”

“Nor ever shall. The lady once refused to permit me to
be introduced to her. I shall not ask the favor a second
time, though since that memorable epoch, she has stooped
from her pride of place. They are devilish poor, I hear.
She ought to overlook my foibles, being near of kin to

“As to that, Sam, Miss Herbert is like other women,
comme-il-faut. They do not know, or care, or think about
such matters. But if you imagine she has been governed
by a sordid motive, your judgment may be the natural
result of your own experience, but I assure you, it is a false

Belson looked askance at Copley with an indescribable
leer of derision, and Copley, maintaining his seriousness, and
betraying a sincere indignation, which his faith in Grace inspired,
Belson said, “Come, come, Copley, don't let us fall
out now; I thought you had got beyond woman-worship.
Upon my word, I meant no special disrespect to Miss Herbert;
I only do not imagine she is an exception to the sex.
Show me a disinterested patriot among politicians, a parson
who preaches for the pure love of souls, a just merchant, and


Page 86
I will show you a woman who has no price. Pshaw! Copley,
they can all be bought: you know it. A poor girl, ever so
innocent—like young Jessie—with a few baubles, and soft
words, and fine dresses; Tallis' wife, with a little larger
amount of the same coin; the mass of them, with a trousseau,
a nuptial ceremony, and an establishment; and a reduced
gentlewoman, be she ever so well-born, clever, and
accomplished—and your affiancée is all this—will let herself
be knocked off to the bid of half a million, and the mirror
of all the Graces into the bargain,” and Belson bowed low to
Copley as he finished.

The poisoned chalice was returned to Copley's lips. He
was silent.

“Good-night to you, Copley,” resumed Belson, after a
long pause. “I am going West. You need not ask me to
the wedding. I never countenance weddings or funerals.
But after this is over, the wedding I mean, we may take up
life together, and yet spin some glittering threads. Good-night,
pleasant dreams to you—dreams a month long, and
then awake to married life with what appetite you may.

This was said much in the temper and voice of the first
nuptial greeting to the first pair:

“Live while ye may,
Yet happy pair: enjoy, till I return,
Short pleasures, for long woes are to succeed.”