University of Virginia Library




“Sweet are the uses of adversity.”

Occupation, that mighty helper, and consolation of life,
and the best occupation, thought, feeling, and doing for
others, had been Grace's friend in need. The few last days
had been divided between her ministry to Augusta Tallis,
and her solacing companionship with Alice. In a letter to
her sister, in which she had given a brief history of Clifford's
affair, she says:—

“I find dear little Alice charming. She has all the
freshness of her childhood, with a marvelous ripe judgment.

“The opportunity,” she continues, “of serving my friends
at this time, has been a providential boon to me. It has
saved me from the weary task of pondering over the past.
It has been well for Frank, too, to have his last leaden hours
lightened and brightened by working for others; not the
most cheerful work either, in poor Augusta's case; but work
that will help to cement the foundation on which the super-structure
of her future life is to rest.

“The funeral service for poor little Elise was most touching.
There was no one present but the parents, Frank, and
myself; no one to let in the world, and interrupt solemn
thought, and impair holy feeling.

“Augusta was so exhausted by the scenes of the last fortnight,
that, though she has rallied since her husband's return,
she seemed, on the morning of the funeral, hovering between


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life and death; so pallid, tremulous, and faintish, that I despaired
of her getting through with it, but after Frank came,
she was stronger, and quite calm. I never was so impressed
with the official power of a clergyman to `speak as one
having authority.'

“The little coffin was closed. I had laid a wreath of white
rose-buds, and jasmins upon it; Augusta did not notice it.
Her eyes

“`Were homes of silent prayer;'

and whether raised or cast down, were looking far beyond
the material things that surrounded her, except once or
twice when, with a consciousness of her husband's arm being
around her, she turned them on him with melancholy tenderness,
as if in grateful recognition of his support.

“Your husband, dear Eleanor, is worth all the efforts you
are making for him. I never admired him more than yesterday.
He did his office so unconventionally, so from his
heart. He spoke, probing truth, as God's commissioned
messenger should, as his divine Master did; it was sharp as
steel; but steel used for excision, and not to wound. I am
sure he has done good to both husband and wife. Strange
to say it; but I believe their child's death will prove the
greatest blessing of their life. She has fallen into the abyss
that separated them, and it is fast closing up.

“How strange of you, dear Nel, who have always done
the right thing at the right time, to fall ill just at this moment:
`it should have been hereafter.' I did the best I
could to supply your place, and went to the ship with Frank.
Archibald Lisle was with us, and had provided Frank with
all sorts of cheer and comfort; not the least among them,
charming books and late reviews. This young man is a
study to me. How in the world, in the midst of his busy
professional life, can he do so many kind deeds that cost time


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and thought? It is true, as Uncle Walter says, that the
busiest people do all the odd jobs of humanity. Why,
Archibald Lisle gave into Frank's hand six sheets of instructions
closely written, mapping out his tour for him, telling
him what to see, and—sagacious young man—what not to
see. Recommending some great economies, and warning
him against small ones as harassing, and interfering with the
great objects of his voyage.

As I look back, dear Eleanor, I think I have been
unconsciously influenced by the revelations of what seemed
to me our family doom in the old green trunk. You
remember the morning we spent over it. It filled me
with an undefinable dread of that irremediable step on
which a woman's happiness is staked. You know I have
had plenty of lovers, some too good for me, perhaps; but
I bridled my affections, and they passed on. And while
I thought I was warily watching my one persevering lover,
he mastered my weaknesses. Well, since I have finished
the game of a young woman's life, won, not lost it,
I have turned to `looking on.' I see in my dear little
friend, Alice, the predestined fate of Lisle; at present,
she rushes into his arms, with nothing beyond the sweet
confidence of an inherited and childish love. But she is now
past eighteen, and something more is dawning. I see it in
the quick mutation of her cheek, and in her sensitiveness to
every look and word of his; and it is inevitable he should
fall in love with her. If I do not much mistake, he has
already. His manners with her are gay, cordial, almost
caressing, but with nothing of that free underbred familiarity
so disgusting in our `free and easy' young men. My cheek
burns as I recur to my monstrous vanity in telling you that
I saw certain signs in Lisle that I might easily convert him
into a lover. I think my judgment was bewitched. With
me he was reserved and stately, with some occasional melting


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like a thaw in January. Now he is `more so.' If ever in
the intimate intercourse of the past week he was surprised
into a relenting, he suddenly reverted to a sort of chronic
disapprobation. I suspect he has observed my degrading
entanglement, and been disgusted—no wonder. But courage!
When he is Alice's husband, I will try to win his friendship
in the most comprehensive sense of that noble relation.

“Dear Nelly, you'll not care for these speculations when
you are longing to hear of your husband; but you will
forgive them, knowing I have always been addicted to what
Shakspeare courteously calls `maiden meditation.' I am
coming to you on Saturday, with Frank's last words and
kisses for you and the children. He went off cheered by a
promise I made (and will explain to you), that I will put
my shoulder to your obstructed wheel.

“When I returned from the ship to my own room at home,
where I have not been since I first went to poor Augusta, I
found on my table the trinkets which I left on that memorable
evening scattered over the drawing-room carpet. They
were inclosed in a box, sealed and directed with Mrs. Herbert's
pedantic nicety, and on the box was lying a note from
that lady, which being characteristic, I copy for your edification:—`My
Dearest Grace, you are quite safe with Anne
and me; neither facts nor surmises shall transpire. I shall,
on this trying occasion, as I have ever endeavored, act the part
of a mother by you. H. C. has been here more than once,
and, I am happy to say, exhibits no unpleasant feeling. He
has made no allusion to that evening. It was awkward, and
he is ever taciturn, and we must allow for little peculiarities.
Mrs. Tallis' sending those trinkets to you at such an unsuitable
time is just a specimen of human nature. Death
when it comes near arouses the conscience, and excited
feeling will exaggerate. But married ladies should not trifle,
and I hope and trust that Mrs. Tallis will lay to heart the


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good lesson she has had. Afflictions do not spring out of
the ground. H. C. has made no inquiries about you, and I
advised Anne not to allude to your being at Mrs. Tallis', as
I thought you acted a little too impulsively in going there,
and, as I observed to Anne, lovers should be left to settle
their own quarrels. Of course such a sensible woman as you
are will forgive and forget, and only smile at Mrs. T.'s pique.
Your ever anxious and affectionate friend and mother,

“`S. H.'

“`Oh, what fools these mortals be!' Eleanor.”

“Here is John to tell me `the ladies have come in from
their drive, and Mrs. Herbert would like to speak to Miss
Grace in her room.' John smiled knowingly as he gave me
the message, and as I came before the front window on the
landing, `Has Miss Grace,' he asked, `seen Mr. Copley's
splendid new carriage?' It was just turning from the door,
the same equipage which he wrote to me he had `ordered
for us.' `It seems as if Miss Anne felt dreadful proud-like
in Miss Grace's place,' said John, whether in sympathy for
me, or contempt for us all, I could not quite tell, but the
latter emotion these people, whom we call our `inferiors,'
must often feel for us.

“Our step-mother looked at me with her beady eyes, as
if she expected to fathom my heart—her line is too short for
that. `You observed perhaps, dear Grace,' she said, `that
we came home in Horace Copley's carriage?'

“`John called my attention to it,' I replied.

“`Oh, I feared you might think it strange. But I have
judged it important to keep up appearances, in any event.'
She paused, I made no reply, and she proceeded: `I have
been really anxious about you, my dear, on many accounts.
I have kept very secret your being at Mrs. Tallis', for you
know the world will talk, and it would tend to widen this


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truly unhappy rupture, if Horace Copley should hear any
remarks made about the rather striking suddenness of your
friendship for Mrs. Tallis.' Again she paused, and again proceeded:
`It is but paying a due respect to society to guard
against its mistakes, and its possible censure.' And so, dear
Eleanor, she went on, and on, with a deal of `namby pamby
stuff,' and finding it did not bring me to the point, she said,
in a slightly apologetic tone, `I have thought it judicious to
keep up our relations with Horace Copley to prevent gossip
—the world never gets matters quite straight; and whether
the engagement is renewed or not, my object is to save your
reputation, Grace, from all possible damage.'

“`The engagement will never be renewed,' I said; `so
pray, ma'am, go on, and keep up your relations with Mr.
Copley, and extend them at pleasure. My reputation you
may leave in my own charge. The world happily knows
nothing of my engagement to Mr. Copley, and that I believe
is the only circumstance in my relation with him that could
damage it.'

“Mrs. Herbert was not in the least nettled. She saw she
had made a point in her game; the satisfaction of her soul
shone through her face, in spite of her evident effort to look
serious and sympathetic.

“A box of Paris finery had just been unpacked, and its
contents were strewn over the bed and chairs. Mrs. Herbert
coolly pointed out the new fashion of the hats, the new
cut of the mantillas, and the `lovely trimmings, so French,'
of the dresses. Yesterday, at Augusta Tallis' request, I had
packed away, and sent away, similar properties of hers. The
vision of this lovely mourner, eager to

“`Buy terms divine, in selling hours of dross—
Within, be fed; without, be rich no more,'
filled my mind's eye, and I rather recoiled from this `Vanity


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Fair.' Mrs. Herbert gave her own interpretation to my indifference.
`My dear,' she said, `forgive me; it really did
not occur to me, that “if the course of true love had run
smooth,” you would now be getting beautiful things for
yourself; but when you have lived as long as I have, you
will learn, my dear, that there is nothing so likely to happen
as change.'

“I bit my lips to keep them from answering this profound
dip into life, according to my wont, with insolence or
contempt. The `old Adam' was fast getting too strong for
the `young Melancthon,' and I discreetly returned to my
own apartment.

“Now, my dear sister, is it worth my while to try and
live longer with this woman? Her world is not our world.
You might be equal to it, and in time you might win her
over to serve God more, and mammon less; but I am not.
I must, to borrow a feather from this owl of wisdom, `arrange
my life judiciously, to preserve a due balance,' which,
I must confess, that with my habit of shifting all my feelings
from one scale to the other, I never yet have done.

“There has been a long series of petty aggressions and
provocations on the part of my step-mother and her daughter,
and of equally petty irritations and contempts on mine.
I thought myself strong enough to overcome them; I am
not. Change of air is the only cure for habits, as for chronic
diseases. So, my dear Eleanor, I will come to you, and you
and the children will bring out all that is good in me. By
and by, when Uncle Walter comes home from his summer
trip, we will arrange for him, too; and we will all, together,
stand by May's philosophy about the `little wooden house at

Grace proceeded to make arrangements for her new life;
and first of all, she inscribed on the parcel containing Mrs.


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Tallis' jewels—blessed talismans to Grace—“Vouchers of a
broken compact,
” and inclosing, and directing it to “Horace
Copley, Esq.,” she gave it into the hands of a trusty messenger.

The next day, after having assured Mrs. Herbert that the
world would take no exceptions to her removing her residence
to Mrs. Esterly's house in the absence of her husband,
she took a decorous leave of her step-mother and Miss Carlton,
and they parted forever, with mutual satisfaction, as
inmates of a common home.

Grace was shocked to find Eleanor in bed with a fever,
and much more ill than she had supposed. She was suffering
the consequence of too prolonged a strain upon her
nervous system, for Eleanor had nerves, though they were
sheathed in heavenly patience.

She had “waited on the Lord and been of good courage,”
when her boy sickened and died. She had borne with unvarying
cheerfulness the petulance engendered by the most
wearying of all diseases; she had sustained alone the burden
of domestic cares; and finally, when she had let her house
to enable her husband to repair his health by a year's travel
in Europe, and had packed her family into the little Harlem
box, and began her career of instruction, she broke down.
Courage and energy had done their work; submission and
patience were now to do theirs. She was like our precious
perpetuals; when one blossoming of roses is perfected,
another buds and goes on to maturity. The effluence of the
virtues is truly the “odor of sanctity.”

“I have come just in time,” said Grace, kissing her sister's
hot cheek; “shall I take possession of your spare room?”

“My spare-room! What a change from your spacious
apartments. How you will miss not only elegances, Grace,
but comforts.”

“Eleanor, are you turning world's-woman? Do you remember


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`how much better is a dinner of herbs,' etc.—must
I quote Scripture to you? I am not yet one of those who
`can spare the necessaries of life, but not the luxuries.'
You and your children are to me `the necessaries;' your illness
seems to me most opportune!”

“Opportune! Could any thing be more ill-timed?”

“To me, Eleanor, it does not seem so. I wanted this
seeming cloud, this providential shower, to nourish the good
seed just dropped into my heart, that it may spring up and
grow before the thorns—the natural product of the soil,
Eleanor—choke it. Perhaps you do not know it is one
thing to form good resolutions, and another to keep them.
Hitherto there has been a division of labor between us; I
have formed them and you have kept them.”

“Oh, Grace!” exclaimed Eleanor, with protest in her voice.

“Now,” proceeded Grace, “you must leave the doing to
me. Dear, good Cousin Effie will take care of the children,
and I will go daily to town and give your music-lessons. I
shall not be half so good a teacher as you are, for I have
neither your method nor your patience; but I am a more
brilliant performer, and therefore shall please the mammas,
and will try to practise your sweet patience, and so please
your pupils, who will be sure to test that virtue.”

“Come, Grace, come!” called out May Esterly, impatiently,
“and look out of your own dear little window, and
see the violets that are blowing out on my garden-bed, and
ever so many birds without any cages, on the trees, and
Harlem river is only a little way off, and if you look very
sharp, you can see the cars passing. Oh, aren't you glad you
are never going back to live in that old big house in Bond-street?”

“I am, May, I am!” replied Grace, and with a glee almost
equal to the child's, she ran away to partake the ever
fresh pleasures of childhood.


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And thus Grace Herbert, the observed of observers who,
by uniting fashion to beauty and accomplishments, was perhaps
the most admired and the most envied young woman
in all our “Vanity Fair,” renounced a marriage which would
have added to her position the brilliancy of fortune, deliberately
left a life of elegant ease and most lady-like indulgence,
to live in a very humble suburban house, and earn a frugal
living for her sister's family, by giving “lessons in music.”
Whether she were elevated or degraded by this step, must
be left to the judgment of her peers.