University of Virginia Library




—“Why is your cheek so pale?
How chance the roses there to fade so fast?”

A change had come over Alice from the hour she had
inspected the newspaper over Lisle's shoulder. This change
was obvious to all her family, but by none referred to the right
moment, or traced to the true cause. She had been so uniformly
sparkling with vivacity since Grace's coming, and she
was habitually so frank and bright in her outer life, that in
respect to the inner, one might have made the child's inference,
who said, on looking up at the starry firmament, “if
the wrong side is so beautiful, what must the right side be?”
But alas! now both inner and outer were often clouded. It
became evidently necessary to her to have forethought and
predetermination about the little, hourly, gracious hospitalities
of home that had been spontaneous, and therefore
charming. The roses were fading from her cheek; she was
moody and pensive, and fell into reveries, and would sigh,
or smile, or blush when startled from them. She would
sometimes try to make an excuse for them; but poor Alice
was no masker, and as these sighs, from seventeen to
twenty, have an accepted interpretation, it was not strange
that Mrs. Clifford's family—including “the strangers within
her gates” should come to one conclusion. Max, in boy
fashion, rallied her in season, and much out of season, his
mother thought, when, in the sweet security of happiness


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long waited for, she smilingly interposed her shield; and Lisle,
and he was no self-exaggerating coxcomb, determined to accept
his manifest destiny, and not by further procrastination
make himself more unworthy of a love next best to that
which, to him, was unattainable. As many an ignorant seaman
is wrecked by disregarding the magnet, and relying on
his own “observation,” so are men by submitting their instincts
to what they deem their sober judgment.

Lisle had periled the happiness of more than one, when
he tore himself away from silent communion with Grace,
and invited Alice to go to the lake with him, with a purpose
—whose firmness he magnified—of putting the seal and
superscription to his fate. He had been as much puzzled as
relieved by Alice's recoil. “It could not be caprice,” thus
he reasoned, “it was mere girlishness. Well, my affairs
will soon be settled, and these useless agitations over forever—come
moderation! come tranquillity!” What a level
dull prairie of a future was this to the possible paradise that
had floated before his younger vision!

The old wholesome custom of an early dinner, an hour's
advance of the “meridian” of Queen Elizabeth's time, obtained
at Mapleton, and that family rite having been duly
performed, and a thundergust having passed away, leaving
the air fresh and fragrant, Lisle and Alice were awaiting
Grace to take a long ramble to a certain “Prospect hill”—
(the Puritan proscription of fancy extends even to names)
that overlooks a long sweep of the Hudson, and hills,
valleys, and lakes, to where the Kaatskills

“Shut in the exploring eye.”

There was some delay on Grace's part. Alice did not
take the hindrance placidly; she put on her mantilla, threw
it off, drew her gloves on and drew them off, and finally


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snatched a skein of silk from her work-basket to wind by
way of sedative. Archibald extended his hands to hold it.
Alice's eyes met his—“What are you smiling at, Archy?”
she asked in all simplicity.

“At you, dear Alice. I never shall understand womankind.”

“By `womankind,' you mean Grace or me, or perhaps
both. But I comprehend you, Archy, and I will tell you
what you are like—like a man who has a book in his hand
with a puzzling problem which he might solve by turning
the leaf, and he stands playing with his thumb and finger,
instead of turning it.”

This was not the first time that Lisle had recoiled from
Alice's frank, direct way of going to the point. It was repulsive
to his sensitiveness and reserve; but “no shrinking
now,” he thought, and he replied, with a courageous
effort, “I would have turned the leaf last evening, Alice,
when we were on the lake, but you would not let me.”

“Why, Archy, I don't see what you mean, nor what last
evening had to do with your problem. I was very wretched.
I am sure you know me well enough to know I do not like
concealments. You know I love, like the birds, to spread
my wings in broad sunshine, you know I do, but—” she

“This is rather plain speaking,” thought Lisle. He involuntarily
looked searchingly at Alice to see if she could
mean what her words implied to him, and a blush so evidently
painful flushed her face, that he averted his eye, and
both were sensibly relieved by the appearance of Amy, who
was passing through the room.

“Do, Amy,” said Alice, “see what keeps Miss Herbert.”
And as Amy, without a word, or the movement of her pale
face, obeyed, Alice exclaimed, “Poor Amy! I can not stand
seeing her so pale, and petrified; it is a wretched out-of-joint


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world; but there comes Grace at last; take care, Archy,
you are letting the silk slip. There,” she added, tossing it, a
hopeless snarl, into her work-box, “it's like every thing else,
every thing in life is snarled.”

“Why, what is the matter, my child? What has happened?”
asked her mother, as she entered from the garden,
following Grace.

“Oh, enough, Mrs. Clifford,” replied Lisle. “Alice has
just been spelling Amy's face, and run her head afoul of the
great question of evil.”

“And, like most people, under twenty, Miss Alice probably
expects to solve it. Stop where you are, my child; do
all you can to avoid evil, and lessen misery, and accept and
endure what you can not cure; a philosophy I have just been
practicing under my plum-trees. Let those theorize about
evil that have nothing else to do; it has been a good puzzle
for idle brains ever since Adam's time, and is like to last as
long as there are men and women—and curculios. But, my
dear friends, it is quite time for you to be off; you will be
late at home.”

“We have been waiting for Grace, mother. It's hard waiting
even for you, Grace; truly, `those serve who wait.'”

“Those of your restless temper, Alice. While you have
been impatient, Miss Herbert has been helping me to fill a
basket with our late raspberries.”

While Grace went for her hat, Alice asked “why she was
not summoned to the raspberry-picking?”

Mrs. Clifford well knew why; she was feeling, too, the
weary task of waiting, and she would not interrupt any
opportunity that seemed to indicate its end. She did not
notice Alice's question, but said, “The raspberries are for
old Mrs. Denham—just leave them, in your way, Alice, and
take this lovely bouquet which Grace has tied up for me, to
the sick girl at Smith's.”


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“Ah, mother, you find Grace is not quite the superfluous
fine lady you took her for one little month ago.”

“No, indeed, Alice,” said Mrs. Clifford, who had not only
righted a wrong judgment but had enough candor (the
rarest of the virtues) to confess it. “I knew that temperament
and training were against Grace, and I did not believe
that she was strong enough to master them. I have not the
prevailing habit of deferring to my juniors, but in regard to
Grace, your instincts, Alice, were truer than my judgment.”

“Dear, generous Mrs. Clifford,” thought Lisle, “it is plain
that you are as ignorant as the rest of the world of Miss
Herbert's engagement; if you were not, such praise would
be keen irony to one who, instead of `mastering,' has
weakly yielded to the worst and weakest of temptations.”

Grace came from her room equipped for the walk. “Now,
dear mother,” said Alice, “your last directions.”

“After you have dropped the bouquet, and the raspberries,
you may leave the last Edinburgh at Crofts'. Poor
fellow! he is on his crutches yet. Time was, Archy, when
it would have gone hard to send off a fresh Edinburgh, but

“Oh, mother,” interrupted Alice, “is there any other

“Nothing, but just to step round (“mother's `step
round,'” whispered Alice to Archy, “is a half mile's circuit'),'
to Goddard's, and see if all is going right there. Poor Amy
is so troubled; and stay, don't you want to take the `Heart
of Mid Lothian' to Mrs. Goddard; she says `nothing appeases'
her like one of `Mister Scott's novels.' And when
you are there, tell Goddard, or leave word for him, that he
may have the calf.”

“Mother! Clover's calf?—your Ayrshire?”

“Yes, he fancied it, and it may divert his mind.”


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“No doubt any thing he can convert into five dollars will
divert Goddard's mind. Is there any thing else?” added
Alice, springing from the door-step, and looking back smilingly
at her mother.

“Yes, one thing, Archy; be kind enough to drop in and
tell the Clarkes we expect them to tea. Ask them to bring
the children—they'll amuse poor Daisy. And, oh, just one
thing more; take up the little whip I bought for Benny.”

It was thus, by diffusing her thoughtful benefactions
noiseless, and nurturing as the dews, that Mrs. Clifford had
become the general providence of Mapleton. There were
no “poor” there in the technical sense, but wherever humanity
is, there is its lot—wounds, into which the healing
balsam of sympathy may be dropped, and diseases of mind
and body that thoughtful wisdom may alleviate.

There had been sorrowful passages in Mrs. Clifford's life;
griefs that have few parallels; but no egotistic murmur, or
useless wail escaped her. They were indicated only by her
quick susceptibility to the sorrows of others; if these did not
admit relief she shut her eyes to them, and genially partook
the happiness of the happy.