University of Virginia Library




“I come with joyful tidings; we shall part no more.”

Mapleton is, or was—our to-days are very unlike our yesterdays—a
secluded village in New England. It lies in a
hill and lake country with intervening valleys and meadows
that are enriched by the spring freshets with alluvial soil.
A railroad now skirts the valley, but at the epoch of our
story the simplicity of rural life was in no way invaded.
There was no monster hotel; only a two-storied inn, with its
traditions of “the Revolution,” “Shay's war,” and a flaming
ghost that once haunted its precincts. The “dollar” was
not yet “almighty” in Mapleton, but such things as contentment,
mental accomplishment, social respect, and self-respect
were there held superior to it and independent of it. No
city-earned fortunes ruffled its quiet surface, and—oh, blissful
days!—no city bees broke the silence of its summer

The village-street runs parallel to Lily Pond, a bit of
water some six or seven miles in circumference. Lily Pond
may it remain, in spite of the more dainty parlance of the
present time, and in spite of its ambitious rechristening as
Lake Bona Vista, by Colonel Donalphonso Hart, a return-volunteer
from the Mexican war, who illustrated Mapleton
by his nativity. The indigenous name of this lovely bit of
water indicates the lotus that profusely adorns its bosom in
the month of August, shooting up its long flexile stems, unfolding


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its white petals, with a pink tint as delicate as an infant's
blush, and breathing out the rich odors it seems to
have inhaled from the voluptuous sweets of summer.

Mapleton is the oldest village in the county. The beauty
of its position was accidental for, its founders being true
sons of the Pilgrim Fathers, like them eschewed the quality
of beauty as if it were a device of the wicked one.
Throughout New England the Puritans turned their backs
upon the sweet South and its cheerful sunshine, facing their
houses to the cold blasts of the North, as they did their
tempers to the rigors of life. So it came, that the shores of
Lily Pond that looked to the east and south with their
charming variety of rock, and woodland, and flowery turf,
were abandoned to unseemly barns, and slovenly yards, into
which kitchens and sheds opened, and that the houses were
built hap-hazard on either side a wide street winding in
parallel line with the winding shore; the west side being
preferred for building, as highest, and driest, and as commanding
wider fields of pasture, grain, and woodland, intervening
between it and the mountain barrier of the township.
Civilization had, however, begun its work in Mapleton. The
native taste of some of its people was cultivated; a few had
traveled, and they were beginning to adorn their rural
homes with filial love and reverence, the reverence attaching
itself to old things, the love creating new beauties. Creeping
roses sheltered and adorned the bared trunks of old
trees, Virginia creepers shot over old barns, and honey-suckles,
and the native clematis, perfumed and graced old
porches. Fences were removed, yards became “lawns,”
shrubberies were set, patches of flowers bloomed out from
the greensward, gravel-walks were laid out, piazzas erected,
and the whole screened from the cold north and envious east
wind by thick plantings of our native hemlock. All honor
be to the women of Mapleton, who, by their “Married


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Ladies' Cemetery Association,” and their “Young Ladies'
Flower Committee,” hastened on this rural millennium.

Alice Clifford's home was at the southern extremity of the
village, overlooking the lake and near its outlet, and so
placed in relation to it, that when the slant beams of the
sun touched the stream, it could be seen here and there, for
many a mile, gliding through meadows, and stealing around
high wooded hills. But (like all the masculine gender) it
disappeared from Mapleton so soon as, fed by mountain-rills,
it attained its full stature, and could no longer be recognized
for the brook that, studded with anemones and violets, issued
from Lily Pond.

Mrs. Clifford's house was the largest and best in the village.
It had been in her husband's family for three generations,
and thereby had a remote antiquity and extraordinary
traditional interest in a country where the second generation
builds its houses in Ohio, the third in Minnesota or California,
and the fourth—heaven knows where. It was at the close
of an August day, just as the day was fading into twilight,
and the delicious coolness of our northern summer evenings
was revitalizing the air, that Archibald Lisle arrived at
Mapleton, and approached Mrs. Clifford's. He stared
around him, confused by the grouping of familiar and unfamiliar
objects. A young man drove the coach, whom he
recognized as having been a chore lad at his friend's; now
he was the proprietor of a small livery establishment. “I
guess you don't hardly mistrust where you are,” he said to
Archy, as they entered a narrow avenue winding through a
wood; “Mis' Clifford's girl has had the modeling of the old
place,” he said, “and she is not a fool by a long shot; but
making this—a-venue they call it—through the grove, when
there was a broad road, straight as a die, so that you could
drive right to the front door, in the darkest night, was a
notion. To go dodging round these trees—she would not


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have one cut down—why it's—well (pausing). I should say
it was double the distance it was by the old road, and so
lonesome and confusing. But it's a slick sight here,” he
added, his voice cheerily changing, as they emerged from
the wood and saw Lily Pond reflecting the rose-tinted sky;
and the heavy cloud just lifted like a black curtain from the
horizon, permitting the last rays of the sun to shine out and
kindle, as with a flame, the topmost branches of the trees
and the summits of the opposite hills. Archibald looked in
vain for the broad front door, that, ever wide open, seemed
to speak a smiling welcome. “There's no getting in at the
old spot,” said his conductor; “go round the corner of the
house, and you'll find a kind of a fandango there.”

Lisle eagerly went forward and found a picturesque porch,
whose door was open with the old look of hospitality. He
entered and passed through a passage, not into the “dwelling-room”
that lived in his dear remembrance, but into a
modernized apartment with a bay-window of plate glass,
opening upon a terraced garden extending to the lake.

More in keeping with this novel aspect than were the accustomed
inmates, was the graceful figure that rose from the
piano at his entrance. “I am very glad to see you, Mr.
Lisle,” said Grace Herbert, extending her hand, “and sorry
that I am the only one of your friends here to welcome you
—but don't look so disappointed (did Archibald look disappointed?)—you
were not expected for an hour. Mrs. Clifford
has gone to the village on business, Max is out shooting, and
Alice,” she was putting her hand on the bell to ring for a
servant to call Alice, when a sound was heard, more like the
rush of a startled bird, than a footstep, and Alice, gliding
down stairs, entered, her face radiant with a welcome
sweeter than words could make it. “Oh, how glad my
mother will be to find you really here, Archy! and I am so
glad; and were n't you,” Alice faltered, at a loss for the right


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word, and then added, not quite as if she had found it,
“surprised to find Miss Herbert here? I meant you should
be, Archy.”

“I certainly had no expectation of finding Miss Herbert
here,” he replied, with a slight embarrassment, and averting
his eye.

“Ah, Mr. Archy,” thought Alice, “you are as glad as
you are surprised, though you try hard not to appear so;”
and then observing his abstracted look, she said, “I am afraid
it does not seem like home to you.”

“Oh, yes, Alice, your mother's home will always be and
seem home to me; but I confess to a lingering love of the
old look. I miss the many doors whose slamming and banging
were pleasant to my boyish ears—the `entry door' and
the `bed-room door,' and the `t'other-room door,' and,
above all, the old cupboard that Arthur and I used to ransack
and rifle; but here,” he added, turning to the window, “here
it is unchanged—here, the same sparkling ripple on Lily
Pond; every `pulse of wind' and wave is the same as when we
were last fishing on it; I can recall every indentation of the
shore that Arthur and I followed, mapping out our future;
I can point out the trees that we climbed, and the trees we
scored together—grown very little taller,” he added, turning
his moistened eye to Alice, “like you.”

“Take care, Mr. Lisle,” said Grace, “you are on dangerous
ground. Alice is sensitive on the point of height. I
quote to her my Uncle Walter, who says `the nicest things
are done up in the smallest parcels,' and I promise her height
shall reach to the stature of the largest heart.”

“But you were a tall child,” said Lisle. “I well remember
thinking so when you stood on the `high rock,' your
little figure relieved against the sky, shouting to Arthur and
me to return, as we were going out for an evening's fishing,
and take you into the boat.”


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“I remember it so well; and what a bad child I was,
throwing my basket of berries into the lake in my vexation.”

Both Archibald and Alice were silent at this point, but
both remembered that he kindly rowed back, took her in
his arms, coaxed and caressed her into good humor, and
carried her home; and Alice remembered that she did not
much regret, when fondled in his arms, the loss of the

Again Archibald recurred to the landscape. “There,”
he said, “is our dear old pic-nic ground, and the log-bridge.
But what is that spire coming up over Simmons'
hill, a church?”

“Oh, no, that is a saw-mill built since you were here; the
very thing the village is in a turmoil about.”

“You have made a charming transformation,” said Lisle,
after another survey of the premises, “by removing the old
barn, making this new approach, and grading the ground to
the shore. How have you managed it?—your mother so
detested changes.”

“And she detests them just as much as ever, but she
says, `Youth is stronger than age,' and so she yields to the
inevitable. I shall not tell you by what potent charms and
spells it has been done. I shall wish it all back in the old
way, if it does not seem like home to you. But there comes
my mother.”

Archibald sprang forward to meet her.

“Home is in your mother's face, Alice,” said Grace; “what
a harvest radiance it has. I wonder if another generation
will show such faces as your mother's and my Uncle Walter's,
so full of what the poets call `autumnal beauty,' the traces
and records of their beneficient day.”

“I don't know,” said Alice, murmuring her words, as if
she were thinking aloud, rather than speaking; and while intently


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watching the meeting of Archibald and her mother,
she added, “People never are what you expect, even those
you feel most certain of.”

Alice was not addicted to talking riddles. Grace looked
at her open face, trying in vain to penetrate her meaning.

“She is delighted to see Archy,” continued Alice, “that's
all right; she is almost as much overcome with joy, as when
I brought Max home. How her gladness shines out
through her tears, like the sun through a shower—dear

There was something in Alice's accent, and the shake of
her head as she made this exclamation, which implied that
“dear mother” had said, or felt something that crossed Alice's
hope or purpose. Did her quick eye detect the expression
of dissatisfaction that shot over her mother's face, as she
glanced her eye from Lisle to Miss Herbert? She could
not have heard her say, for she hardly spoke above a

“You should have been our only guest for the next
month, Archy; it is so long since I have seen you.”

An epoch that was to color all Lisle's future life had now
arrived; and that our readers may judge him leniently, they
must know the misconceptions on which he is about to act.
As he was uninformed of Miss Herbert's relations with
Copley beyond the point of her engagement to him, he was
perplexed by its prolonged secresy, and could see no good
reason for it. He had not met Grace since the day of
Esterly's departure. He had repeatedly ridden out to Harlem
to visit his friend's wife, but had been finally discouraged
by the uniform answer to his inquiries “that she did not yet
leave her room.” Once he had asked for Miss Herbert at her
step-mother's house, and was told that she was at her sister's,


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without a hint of her permanent abode there. The complete
suspension of social intercommunication in New York during
the hot months, accounts for his not hearing the fact,
the nine days' wonder of her fashionable friends, of Grace
having become a paid teacher of music; or their gossiping
conjectures in relation to the apparent conclusion of Copley's
devotion to her.

After Archibald withdrew for the night, he sat down by
his open window, and with his eye resting on the moon-lit
lake, he gave free course to his thoughts, much as follows:
“Keeping this engagement secret must be some arrogant
whim of Copley's. The fellow always delighted in silence
and darkness, as if by investing himself in mystery he could
become a demi-god. An unmotived secret must be repulsive
to Grace Herbert's nature, as I once imagined it. Fortunate
for me that dear old man told it to me; it was a stunning
blow, but it disenchanted me. I ceased to worship from the
moment I knew she had declined to his level. And her
content seems so absolute, as if, instead of this hateful compromise
with the world, she had made safe and noble
anchorage, not a venture out at sea. If she were but infatuated;
but she is calm and satisfied—satisfied with Copley!

“How quietly happy she seems; no more those alternations
of spirit and gentleness, of pride and softness, those
sudden mutations that, in my blind idolatry I thought so
charming, `each a lovelier wonder than the last.' Now she
seems so self-forgetting, her brilliancy so softened, like sunshine
through a curtained window, in such musical accord
with the simplicity of this household, that if I did not know
beyond the possibility of doubt that she had trafficked herself
away in the market of weak and vulgar women, I
should fall back into my old slavery; my old idolatry.”

By degrees, as his eye continued on the familiar scenes of
his boyhood, his thoughts reverted to Arthur Clifford, and


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through that medium, to Alice. Lisle had too sound a mind,
or rather too sound a faith, to fall into the bad scepticism
which doubts the power of any woman to resist seduction
to her vanity, or temptation to her poor worldly ambition.
The individual had fallen, not the sex.

“Dear Arthur!” thought Lisle, “Alice is just such a sister
as you would have desired—is she not all that a lover
could ask? Would not ninety-nine men in a hundred prefer
her with her not too much, nor too little intelligence, her cheerfulness
and all the sweetening qualities for every-day life, to
Grace Herbert; and shall I be the hundredth to shiver in
the shadow of the greatness that is not for me? When poor
Letty died, I reproached myself for having forgone a certain
and attainable blessing for one unattainable. I am tired
of my isolation.” And then he thought, as he had often
thought, with a shudder, of the weary waste of life in a
boarding-house, of the oozing out of his best affection, of the
providence that had from his youth bound him up with the
Clifford family, of the long-continued inestimable affection
of Alice's mother, of the impulsive—love? No, Archibald
would have blushed at that presumption—affection Alice
had already manifested for him; and he came to a decision,
and was struggling to fortify it against old prepossessions,
when his bachelor meditations were interrupted by cautious
footsteps on the stairs. Some one entered the room next
his, shut the door, and burst into sobbings that it seemed
could no longer be suppressed. Soon after, Mrs. Clifford,
whose ears were open day and night to the wants of her
household, came to the relief of the sufferer, for relief it appeared.
The sobbing ceased, and a dejected voice was
heard in response to the soothing tone of Mrs. Clifford, which
continued far into the night and long after Archibald became
oblivious of his neutral-tinted future, and was dreaming of
his present bright surroundings.