University of Virginia Library




“It is a good divine that follows his own instructions.”

Those are said to be the happiest days of our lives of
which there is least to record. Least, perhaps, to be published,
but not least to be cherished in grateful remembrance.
Who counts the drops that compose the shower which sustains
the vitality of nature? And who sets down the bright
“good-mornings,” and the peaceful “good-nights” of family
life?—the morning prayer, and the evening blessing, the
interchange of innumerable good words, and offices of affection?—the
look-outs into the beautiful and ever changing
face of nature?—the three times gathering round the table,
where mind and heart, as well as body, find their food?—the
meetings and the partings enriched by love?—the books
that vitalize and cheer the lives of high and humble?—the
responsive smiles, the recreative laughs, the shouts, caresses,
and fresh sayings (original poetry) of children?—the arrival
of friends, and the coming in of the daily mail? Where are
the blanks but in the thankless heart?

There were no startling events during the three happy
weeks that followed Archibald's arrival at Mapleton. The
earth is still, and may seem dead, when beneath its surface
are elaborating processes that are to deck it with blossoms,
and hang fruit on its trees. These three short uneventful
weeks, if measured by the æsthetic mode of sensations, were
the longest in the lives of our friends. The busily idle days
were never tedious. They wiled the hours away over their


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favorite authors, equally content whether they agreed or
differed. Village hospitalities were exchanged without the
gène of ceremony, or the folly of pretension. The early
dewy mornings found Lisle and Alice mounted for a ride.
Alice was a famous horse-woman—Grace remarked to her
now thrice happy mother, that none of her accomplishments
were lost on Lisle. The evenings were passed in moon-lit
strolls, or gatherings on piazzas, where some talked, and
others listened to music. Every house had its piano, and
Grace frankly confessed, that her vanity had been rebuked
by finding in a rural district those quite as accomplished as
herself, in the “art and mystery” of music.

Tête-à-tête rides and drives in countries of an older civilization
than ours might be excepted to, but it seemed not
even to occur to the most fastidious spinster in Mapleton,
that there was the slightest impropriety in their young
friends charming away the hours among the hills. So they
went, Archibald and Alice, or Archibald and Grace, or
all together, unscathed by gossip's tongue,

“To the beautiful streamlet by the village side,
That windeth away from the haunts of men,
To quiet valley and shaded glen;”
or they winded up through the forest path to that

“Narrow battlement”

“Sheer to the vale go down the bare old cliffs,
Huge pillars that in middle heaven upbear
Their weather-beaten capitals.”
It must be confessed there was an atmosphere about these
scenes very favorable to the growth of that little flower
called “Love-in-idleness.”

Lisle's position with these two young women, each supremely


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charming in her own way, would seem a very
dubious one, but it was quite plain that no vulgar observer
could liken him to the vacillating animal between the two bundles
of hay. It was apparent which he had elected for his
“daily food.” If there were moments when the old habits
of his heart mastered him, and when as the blood rushed to
his cheek, and an inevitable smile played on his lips at some
beaming charm of Grace, he found himself involuntarily
at her side, oblivious of Alice's presence, all his devotions
aforethought were to Alice, and Grace, for the first time in
her life was left to enact the subordinate part of an observer.

Lisle's predetermined, and therefore now duteous devotion
to Alice, left Grace much to Mrs. Clifford's companionship.
The mother's prejudices were fused and transfused in
her felicitous assurance of the fulfilment of her hopes. From
doubting the justice of her prejudices she soon came to
wonder she had ever entertained them. The moment the
obstruction was removed, the natural sympathy between the
young lady and her elder was manifest. They both belonged
to the family of the “Great Hearts.”

One evening, just before the serving of tea, the letters
and papers were brought from the mail. Lisle, with the
keen appetite of all American mankind for works of this
genus, had seized a newspaper, and was running his eye
over it.

“Do you find any news, Archy?” asked Mrs. Clifford.

“No, nothing of any consequence,” he replied, as people
usually do, who first get possession of a fresh paper, unless
it chance to contain something as startling as a revolution,
or a murder among one's acquaintance. “Oh, yes,” he
added, “here are `readings for the ladies,' a description
of a `fancy ball' at Newport; shall I read it?”

“Do read it, Archy,” replied Alice, eagerly.

“Alice has not got beyond `readings for very young


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ladies,'” said her mother; “but you may read it, Archy;
Grace and I will endure it.”

Lisle exchanged smiles with Alice, and proceeded to read
the details of the royal, sacerdotal, and heroic characters assumed
by the beaus and belles of our cities congregated at
the watering-place of highest fashion. The initials only of
the real names were given, and as Lisle read them, Grace,
who was familiar with the names of most of the notorieties
of the fashionable world, filled up the blanks. “Decidedly
the most dazzling star in this brilliant galaxy”—we quote the
paragraph, whose style might be termed adjective—“was
the fair young lady who personated the superb Queen Elizabeth.
The ugly old Queen would have bartered all the unmatchable
jewels of her regalia for the youth, grace, and
beauty of her counterfeit. The choice of this character,
much criticized by certain coteries, was (we humbly surmise)
determined by its relation to the noble Leicester. The
beauty, brilliancy, gorgeousness, sublimity, and set of the
earl's costume, were never exceeded in any country. The
diamonds were said to be of the first water, and the point
lace, and ermine were beyond dispute real—”

“Oh, pray stop, Archy,” cried Mrs. Clifford; “what fools
our people are.”

“There is ever so much more, Alice—all the romance—
but your mother won't hear it. Oh permit me, Mrs. Clifford—just
this.” He read on: “`As in our happy land there
are no musty laws, or malicious lieges to impede royal connubial
happiness, rumor reports that the hymeneal altar will
soon be lighted to unite the fortunate Mr. C—y to the
beautiful Miss C—n.' Who should they be, Miss Herbert?”
honestly asked Lisle. A painful pervading blush
overspread Grace's cheek. Lisle saw it, and wished his
question unasked. Grace saw that he observed it, and perhaps
she divined the rapid process of his mind, for she


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answered, and without faltering, “Mr. Copley and Miss

Alice, when Lisle hesitated, had risen to see for herself,
and was looking over his shoulder, her eye riveted to the
paper, when the “speechless messages” passed between him
and Grace. Not at the trashy report of the ball was she
looking; another column of the paper had caught her eye.
The color faded from her cheek, and Lisle might have heard
the beating of her heart. She rushed out of the open door,
and sank down upon the seat under the maple-tree. Neither
her mother nor Grace observed any thing unusual in her
exit. She was habitually sudden and rapid in her movements.
Lisle followed her. He seized her hand; his was
tremulous, his voice choking, as he said, “Tell me, dear
Alice—for heaven's sake tell me—”

“Oh not now,” she cried, interrupting him; “don't ask
me now. I will, perhaps, another time.” And snatching
away her hand, she sprang from him, and entering the house
by another door, went to her own room, locked herself in,
and gave way to anxieties she could not repress, and dared
not betray.

“What a cowardly wretch I am!” exclaimed Lisle, as he
walked off to the lake-side. “Shall I ever again have courage
to ask if that cursed engagement is suspended, or if
any thing has happened to it? No—nothing can. What
weakness to let this silly gossip open the door for a moment
to thoughts, to hopes, that I had shut out forever.”

Some one says that every human being is alone, however
intimate may seem the fellowship in which he lives with
those around him. Certain it is, that each of the persons
but just now gathered around the bay-window, had within
their own minds a solitary cell. It was an hour that invites
to confidence. When the outer world grows dark, one is
more inclined to throw open the windows and doors of the


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inner. Grace drew a brioche to Mrs. Clifford's feet, sat
down, laid her head on Mrs. Clifford's lap, and sighed.
Was the sigh drawn forth by the too vivid recollection of
the past suggested by the fancy ball? or was there “a little
cloud no bigger than my hand” rising in her spirit's clear
heaven, at the thought of Alice's “culminating felicity?”
“My dear Grace,” began Mrs. Clifford, and paused; but
feeling sure of herself, sure that her curiosity was not sharpened
by any dread of Grace's interference with her child's
future, that it was only prompted by pure concern for this
lovely young woman's happiness, she was about to proceed,
when Grace looked up, her eyes brimming with tears, a
smile quivering on her lips, and said, “Well, what would
you say to me? pray say it.”

“I will, my dear child, and you shall answer me or not,
as you like. I will make no inferences—think no thoughts.
I fear you have been pained by that newspaper trash?”

Grace did not find it quite so easy to reply as she had
imagined it would be. If she answered according to her
first impulse, “not in the least,” Mrs. Clifford would naturally
rejoin, “what then has disturbed you?” a question
she dared not answer to herself. Time was when she would
have playfully equivocated. She was less of a world's woman
than she had been, much less easily tempted from the
narrow way into little convenient detours. As she hesitated,
a way of escape opened, and she plunged into it. She raised
her head and began, not without faltering, but with a firm
purpose to go on. “When first I came to you, Mrs. Clifford,”
she said, “Alice begged me to explain to you my relations
with Horace Copley; I could not. I did not know you
well enough, and I saw plainly that you did not like me.”

“My dear Grace!” exclaimed Mrs. Clifford, interrupting
her, “that was not because—it was because—”

“Never mind why it was, or why it was not,” said Grace,


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smiling, but dreading more to hear the explanation than
Mrs. Clifford to make it; “my, why, was very simple. You
know we shrink from exposing our follies to those who do
not love us. You did not then even like me; but taking to
myself the sweet comfort that you do now love me, I will
tell you all about the great moral blunder of my life, and
then you may judge for yourself how much I can care for
that silly gossip.” Here both ladies were startled by sounds
from Alice's room. “Is that Alice's voice?” asked Grace.
“I thought she was out walking with Mr. Lisle?”

“I thought so too,” said her mother, and concerned at the
sorrowful tone of Alice's voice, she was going to her, but
returned to her seat, saying, “Oh, I understand it. She is
soothing Daisy—I can not see into her devotion to that
child. She is, to be sure, a piteous little object, but this devotion
is so engrossing. There is no personal interest, however
strong, that she does not suspend at the call of that

“Pity stronger than love, Mrs. Clifford? that was never
heard of.”

Mrs. Clifford shook her head, smiled, and said, “Go on,
Grace; we will not let them interrupt us again.”

(We use our privilege to make a parenthetical visit to
Alice's apartment.

“What ails you, my Alice?” said the fond child, as Alice
threw herself on the bed, and hid her streaming eyes on
the child's bosom. “Nothing ails me, Daisy,” she replied,

“Nothing! what a story, Alice. Only foolish little children
cry for nothing, not grown-up ladies; and you know
who said so when he shut me in the closet. Don't cry, my
own Alice.”

“I will not, darling,” said Alice, smiling, or trying to


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smile through her tears; “we'll neither of us cry, till we
must—poor Daisy.”)

At the conclusion of Grace's relation to Mrs. Clifford,
which was made without any glosses, she said, “There it is,
dear Mrs. Clifford—the history of my lost years.”

“Lost! don't call them so. You have reaped a precious
harvest, and thrown the chaff away.”

“No, Mrs. Clifford, not so; my convictions are too strong
to yield to the soothing of your affection, wise and good as
you are; and so good that you cannot understand the evil
nurtured by such a life as mine has been, the subordination
of every noble aim to frivolity, self-indulgence, and littlenesses
of all sorts. You may allow something for the spell
the man wrought upon me, which truly I cannot conjure
up again by any effort of imagination, or even of memory.
I was the victim of an illness that could only prevail in a
vitiated atmosphere. I saw through my step-mother's poor
little artifices to blind me, that she was trying to circumvent
me. I knew it was the ambition of Anne Carlton's life to
marry Horace Copley, and worst of all, he played her off
against me, and made me a party to the wretched game.
And I went on, from year to year, fancying and trying to
find the qualities, the virtues that should justify me to my
own self-respect. It was the common childish folly of self-blinding,

“Thank God, you were saved, dear Grace.”

“I do thank God for it, Mrs. Clifford. How long I repelled
the teachings and aids of His providence. There was
the admonition of my sister's life, of her true marriage, and
yet I looked down upon her Christian course as a very
humble career, no model for me. True, there were few men
in our set calculated to instruct my judgment or elevate my


Page 213

“But you knew Archibald Lisle?” interposed Mrs. Clifford,
involuntarily recurring to her paragon.

“Yes, he was occasionally thrown in my way”—Grace's
voice sensibly faltered—“and I confess light and darkness
are not more different than he and Copley. I did not heed
the contrast; no, it was not till Mrs. Tallis' disclosure, when
my own follies were mirrored in hers, as in a magnifying-glass,
that I recoiled. A fountain of life sprang from her
sorrow, and in her darkened chamber we both `saw light.'”

Mrs. Clifford had been tempted to interrupt Grace, to remonstrate
against her self-condemnation, to give words of
her own conviction of the nobleness of Grace's nature, which
impressed her far more than the weaknesses she so courageously
unveiled, but she had too much respect for the offices
of conscience to interfere with them, so she stifled the words
that her heart sent to her lips, and said, “So, my dear child,
you and poor Mrs. Tallis dropped your `load,' and pressed
on to the delectable city.”

“This is our purpose. She has helpful company—I must
go the long way alone.”

“Aone, Grace! You surely have not made a vow to
that effect?”

“No, not a vow, but a resolution springing from conviction.
After my age, you know, Mrs. Clifford, the affections
lose something of their flexibility, the requisitions are more
severe, and the chances of marriage much more rare.”

“You are three-and-twenty, I believe?” said Mrs. Clifford,
with a dissenting smile.

“Yes, just three-and-twenty.”

“Well, upon consideration, I believe you are right. The
chances are fewer, but, like the Sybil leaves, the richer for
those that are lost.”

“But you admit there is small probability of such a marriage
as now would alone content me, a marriage like that


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of which our Alice is on the threshold, where to the enchantments
of love is added a trust in character so secure
that there can be no after falling from that grace.”

“My dear child, the world would soon come to an end
with this refining. Would you prohibit all inferior unions?”

“If I could? No, marriage is a general law, and divine,
and therefore with all its abuses far more good than evil
comes of it.”

“Yes, yes, Grace,” exclaimed Mrs. Clifford, the sudden
clouding of her face betraying the pang of grievous memories,
“if one must go through life with the ever fresh sense
of irreparable loss, there is left the blessed compensation of
children, the holy relation of brother and sister, the vital
charities of home. And after all,” she continued, her voice
resuming its ordinary tone of cheerfulness, “after all, I believe
matrimonial disturbances are for the most part among
idle people. They rarely occur in the middle classes. To
be sure, marriage is rather a coarse partnership there, but it
is surprising how evenly they trudge on through life together.
Why, Grace, our rustic people generally regard single life
as not only helpless and joyless, but almost ridiculous.”

“Then, dear Mrs. Clifford, is it not high time that better
opinions should prevail? As slaves must be trained for
freedom, so women must be educated for usefulness, independence,
and contentment in single life. They must look
forward to it, not quite as I do, perhaps, as the only alternative
to the happiest married life—that is my idiot-syncrasy
as you would term it—but as a mode of life in which one
may serve God and humanity, and thus educate the soul, the
great purpose of this short life. So considered, single life
would not long be regarded as either `helpless, joyless, or
ridiculous,' and that dreaded stigma, `old maid,' would soon
cease to be a stigma, and in the lapse of ages possibly become


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“Oh, as to that, Grace, I know as many of the real scarecrows,
the ideal `old maids' among pretentious, sickly, fussy,
gossiping, crabbed wives as can be found among single
women from Maine to Georgia. And I have known old
maids who have sustained to the end the doctrine of `perseverance
of (single) saints,' inclining me to the opinion of one
of my married friends, who says, that it is because matches
are made in heaven that some of the loveliest women are
exempted from the—curse, she called it. That is going a
little further than you do, Grace?”

“Yes, I only ask that single life should be made a blessing.”

“And a choice, Grace?”

“Yes, a choice in many positions, the chances being
against a satisfactory marriage.”

“Oh, my dear child, what is quite satisfactory in life?
it's all a compromise.”

“I hate compromises, Mrs. Clifford.”

“Just what I heard Archy say, yesterday, and just so
emphatically, not to say bitterly; and here he comes, and
you may finish the discussion with him, while I go and look
for Alice.” “She,” thought the joyful mother, “is sure of
the happiest married life, and Grace—well—if single, her
life will be a beautiful one, but it's rather premature at three-and-twenty
to set the seal upon it.”

“Finish the discussion with Archibald Lisle?” thought

She did not allude to it, or to any thing that bore the
remotest relation to it. It mattered not what trifle “light
as air,” she and Lisle now talked of when they were tête-à-tête,
there was a certain thrill and mellowness in the tones
of their voices that, if our readers have ever felt or observed,
they know how much more is expressed than meets the


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Grace sat looking out at one window, Lisle at the other.
The twilight deepened into night. Nothing more startling
was said than, “The dew is heavy this evening;” “There is
a new moon;” or, “Is that planet Jupiter?” Yet they
sat immoveable, dreading an approaching footstep. An
opened paradise would not have tempted either to leave the
other, and still, Archibald felt much like the poor wretch
who knows the peril of lingering near the draught he has
forsworn. Grace had the solace of believing that she
periled no one's happiness but her own.

But Archibald Lisle was not a man to be turned from a
purpose he had deliberately and conscientiously formed, nor
voluntarily to yield himself to the charm of one woman
when he had indicated allegiance to another; and when
Alice opened the door, and instinctively drew back, and
then, to cover her involuntary movement, said, “How
stupidly you are sitting here;” he replied, “Waiting for
you, Alice. The evening is lovely; will you take a row
on the lake?”

“The boat is not there, Archy. Mother lent it this afternoon—she
is always lending it.”

“I know the large boat is out, but Max's sulky is there.
That carries two.”

“And we are to go, and leave Grace?”

“Miss Herbert just remarked the dew was heavy,

“Oh, that won't do, Archy. My life, in a way, is of some
value too.” Then changing her play to earnest, “You will
go, dear Grace,” she said. “I will bring your shawl.”

And with her fleet foot, she was running to Grace's room,
when she called out, “Come back, Alice. I shall not go
out this evening. And,” she added, in a tone which Archibald
thought superfluously frigid—to Alice's ear it betrayed
pique—“I beg you not to abridge Mr. Lisle's pleasure. I


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have letters to write, and shall not see you again. So,
good-night to you both.”

Alice whispered emphatically,

“Oh, Grace!”

And as she impressed on her friend's cheek a “good-night”
blessing, she thought “how tiresome of them to keep
up this childish play of `hide and go seek.'”

Not only fate and reason had seemed to Lisle to govern
his decision in his first evening's meditation at Mapleton, but
he felt impelled to it by providential suggestions. It was
plain to him, and so would have seemed to any observer,
that Alice's affection might soon be ripened into love. She
was certainly more than he deserved, and he persuaded himself
that, in addition to all others, “most excellent reasons,”
loyalty to his departed friend demanded that he should
throw himself at the feet of that friend's sister, and not sulkily
turn his back upon so rich a destiny.

But, alas! what weak auxiliaries are reason and reflection
against the absolutism of a long indulged love. From his
first meeting with Grace Herbert, to the present moment,
she had been to him like the sun of a polar summer; and at
Mapleton, unclouded by the obstructions of her town life,
her light had continually shone, giving an enchanting lustre
to his world. Still, “she is not what she seems,” he incessantly
repeated to himself, “and if she were, she is lost to
me. Once pledged to Alice, duty will strengthen me, and I
shall break these bonds that I now struggle in vain with.”
So for the last three days he had sought an opportunity of
asking what he felt quite too sure of getting. Opportunities
came, and were permitted to pass. Now, out on the lake
he looked up to the polar star, and mentally symbolizing,
thought there could not be a truer guide than the dear little
girl beside him. She sat, too, pensively looking at the stars,
making of them, also, perhaps, types of her heart's mysteries.


Page 218

“Alice,” Lisle said, in a low voice.

Alice started, recalled from a world of her own fond
dreaming, and as he hesitated,

“Well, Archy, what is it?” she asked.

“Is that star just setting, Mars?”

“Mars! Why, Archy, what are you thinking about?”

That was just what he, for the last half hour, had been
trying to tell.

“No, indeed,” continued Alice, “that is the evening-star,
Venus. I have been watching her, and wondering if in all
the latitudes of our continent she is now the evening-star.
Can you tell me?”

“No, I am sure I can not; but why do you wish to

“Oh if I could tell you, Archy!” she exclaimed, her manner
becoming intensely earnest. “I wish I could,” she
added, and her tears flowing; “but I cannot now—I can
not.” Archibald was sorely perplexed; occupied with his
own anxieties (forgive an egotism rare to him), he fancied
she must have some, he knew not what reference to him,
and he was relieved when she added, “Do let us go home,
Archy. We have both been very stupid, and now we are
something worse; but don't speak to me again, Archy—I
had rather you would not.”

Lisle did not, and he rowed to the shore, feeling (it is a
simile somewhat musty) like a shrinking, cowardly wretch,
who hears at the dentist's door, “He's not at home.”