University of Virginia Library


Page 260


“For others say thou dost deserve, and I
Believe it better than reportingly.”

The moral atmosphere that surrounded our friends at
Mapleton during the two days that followed the explosion
of the mill, might be fairly typified by what in vulgar parlance
is termed a “dry storm;” when the wind stands due
east, and does “stand,” not a whiff stirring to relieve the
stagnation, and blow away the heavy, dark, dreary mist that
settles over and spoils every thing. But toward the close
of the second day the “clearing-up” began. Walter Herbert
and May arrived, the wind decidedly changed, and “the
sun came out.”

The fresh guests were cordially welcomed. Mrs. Clifford's
house retained that elastic quality, still characterising a few
country homes, by virtue of which they expand at the will
of the owner. She harbored none of those small selfishnesses
permitted to declining age; numbers did not burden
her, noise did not annoy her, exigencies and expedients did
not perplex her. She could give up her own apartment,
turn her only son out of doors, or do any thing a pedantic
house-keeper would not do, for a guest that she or Alice
loved, or Max desired, or that needed the succor of her hospitality.

The first bustle of arrival was over, and May's noisy demonstrations
of gladness were subsiding, when Archibald


Page 261
entered, and was met by his honest old friend (his heart betrayed
him!) with an air of resignation very different from
the feus de joie that usually marked his meetings with his
favorite. However, he summoned courage for the sympathy
due, as he supposed, to Lisle's happy prospects, and looking
from him to Mrs. Clifford, said, “I do not see the young
lady whom I too am come to fall in love with.”

Mrs. Clifford blushed, as if by proxy for Alice, and replied,
“My daughter would have been here to welcome you, but
an accident happened the other evening, which threw her
off the hinges, and she has not been well since. I have just
sent for the doctor,” she added in a lowered voice to Grace;
“I don't understand Alice's condition—she is not ill, but she
seems fluttered, and flighty, and just now she was quite irritated
at Max because he delayed in bringing her a letter
from the mail—of course there was no letter of any special
interest to expect; and when Max brought one, she did not
even break the seal while I was in the room—that dreadful
fright has put her all out.”

“She has seemed very cheerful since,” replied Grace.

“Yes, but,” persisted the anxious mother, “her spirits
have alternated with a deep pensiveness. I wish you would
coax her to come down—perhaps seeing your uncle will give
her a fresh start.”

Grace went on her errand. Her uncle's eye followed her.
“My child is looking not quite well,” he said, “pale and
drooping—and you, Archy, have you too lost ground since
you came here? or is it this accident that has knocked you
all up?”

Lisle made no reply.

Mrs. Clifford looked toward him, smiling with a sweet
secret satisfaction at her heart, not doubting the cause of
his eclipse, and said, “My daughter Alice is our mainspring
—nothing goes quite right with any of us when she is away.”


Page 262

“Ah, yes; I understand!” said Uncle Walter, and clapping
Lisle on the shoulder, he hummed,

“`When I came roun' by Mauchline town,

(for Mauchline, sing Mapleton, Archy),
“`Not dreading any body,
My heart was caught before I thought,
And by a Mauchline lady.'
Why, Archy, you are falling back into your old trick of
blushing like a girl. I thought you had outgrown it.”

Archibald murmured something unintelligible, which conveyed
but one idea—that he had something to blush for.
His eye glanced at Mrs. Clifford. There was a sweet motherly
smile on her lips—it was a dagger to poor Lisle.
“Would to heaven,” he thought, “I had made an opportunity
instead of waiting for one, to tell her of my weakness
and presumption, but here I am, wearing false colors before
my best friend.”

“Alice!” said Grace, as she entered her friend's room,
“you do not look as if you needed the doctor!”

Alice did not; her cheek was like a fresh-blown rose,
and her eyes were moistened with such tears as well up
from nature's deepest fountain of happiness. She seemed
fluttering with the joy before her, like a bird at the open
door of its cage. She held two letters in her hand, one
open, and written all over, margins and corners full.

“A love-letter?” asked Grace.

“Yes; but how could you guess it—and from whom?
Guess me that guess, dear Grace.”

The gravity of Grace's face was a striking contrast to the


Page 263
playfulness of Alice, as she replied, “Is it from Mr.

“Oh!” exclaimed Alice, throwing up her hands, “an
Egyptian darkness has settled upon this house! No, no, it
is not from Mr. Lisle—it has nothing to do with Archy. If
you will let that ring be quiet, that you have taken off and
put on twenty times in the last twenty seconds, and listen to
me, I will tell you from whom it comes.” No listening
could have been more satisfactory than Grace's now became.
“This letter you see, Grace, is directed to my mother. You
must take it to her for me; and you must give her some explanations
before she reads it, which I will now make to you.
Poor dear mother, she will feel horribly at first, I know, for
she had set her hopes in another direction; but that was not
fore-ordained, and cannot come to pass. I have my love-story
to tell you, Grace—it's very short, just begun indeed.
I shall only give you a few facts, your fancy shall do the
filling-up. A year ago, last June, I went with some friends
to Rye-beach. The morning after our arrival there, I saw
this dear little Daisy of ours on the beach, with her nurse,
who told me the child had been brought there with her
mother, both for the benefit of sea air. The mother was ill at
the hotel. I made friends with the child, and the next morning
she brought me an invitation to her mother's room. I
found her, a little woman, wasted and very ill, and made
almost perfect through suffering. She had married—oh,
long ago—and married for love, Grace, a sort of wild Irishman,
who took her by storm. He was handsome and eloquent,
she said. She had quite a fortune from an aunt, and
no parents, no protector, only one brother—a boy then. Her
husband turned out a drunkard, and every thing horrid.
He squandered her fortune. In the first three years of her
marriage, she had two boys born. Seven years ago Daisy
was born, the half-alive, suffering child she is now. Well,


Page 264
dear Grace, in this fiery furnace of affliction, there was an
angel—Mrs. Maltby's brother Charles—Charles Fletcher.”

“The writer of these letters, Alice?”

“The same—the same—the same; the best, the most
charming—the noblest—”

“The `facts,' if you please, my dear child; I am to weave
the `filling-up,' you know.”

Alice, smiling, reverted to her narrative. “Charles
Fletcher was getting on as a lawyer in Boston when his
sister's affairs came to the worst. He wrote for the papers,
translated for the booksellers, worked day and night, to supply
her necessities, and the wretch, her husband, drained
her of these precious earnings, by threatening to take her
children from her. Her health failed, and her fears lest this
poor little helpless Daisy should fall into her father's hands
drove her near to insanity. Her brother got possession of
the boys, and sent her, with Daisy, to Rye-beach. The day
after I first saw her she suddenly became much more ill, and
begged me to write to her brother that she felt her death
rapidly approaching. She had no help or comfort on earth
but Charles, she said. I wrote, and he came. She lived a
month; we took care of her together. Such a brother he
was, Grace—so cheerful, and yet so sympathizing, with such
sweet heavenly thoughts for her, `just the food she needed,'
she said. Her weak, wearied spirit seemed to rise on his
strong wings of faith and hope. `The moment Charles
opens the door,' she said, `and I see his face, and hear his
voice, it seems as if sunshine and sweet fresh air came into
my room.' Oh, Grace, such a brother as he was!”

“And such a lover!” said Grace, imitating Alice's fervent

“No, no, Grace. The mill had to explode before we came
to that part.”

“Ah! I comprehend; but go on with your `facts.'”


Page 265

“Mrs. Maltby took a strange fancy to me, and would not
let me out of her sight, except for the refreshment of a drive
or walk.”

“Charles Fletcher had a simultaneous necessity of the
same refreshment?”

“Yes, Grace, that is one of my facts. A few days before
Mrs. Maltby died, she was thrown into spasms by a letter
from her husband threatening to take possession of the children.
In this extremity, Charles resolved to take the boys
beyond his reach, to California, and establish them in San
Francisco. He had previously received great offers from
friends there, which he had rejected, preferring Boston, with
the slow gains of his profession, to running after sudden fortune.
But what was to be done with Daisy? I offered—I
could not help it, you know—to take her home with me.
Her father did not know of my existence, and would have
no clue to her. I wrote to my mother to ask her co-operation;
a mere outline—no `filling-up,' Grace. My mother
needs none; want is the key to her supplies. We have
scrupulously kept our secret. One week after his sister's
death, Charles Fletcher sailed for California.”

“And you had no explanation before parting?”

“Not in words. It would have been neither prudent nor
honorable in Mr. Fletcher, his future being uncertain, and a
provision for the children his first duty.”

“But there was a `filling-up' Alice? looks, tones, as expressive
as words, and as binding to your hearts?”

“We could not help that, Grace; nor could we help
speaking when we met.”

“Oh, no; your romantic meeting was a fact that deserved
the `filling-up' you gave it. But how quietly we all received
the idea that you had been picked up and brought home by
a passing traveler!”

“Luckily for us, the parlor was dark and empty when we


Page 266
came in, and Mr. Fletcher just laid me on the sofa, and made
his escape. To tell the truth, Grace, I was more delighted
than surprised to see him. His expected arrival with commercial
despatches was mentioned in a Californian letter,
which my eye strangely fell upon the other evening, when I
was looking over Archy's shoulder at the gossip from Newport—the
time that I rushed out, and Archy followed me—
do you remember, Grace?”

Grace nodded affirmatively. She well remembered.

“I was in a horrid fright,” resumed Alice; “I knew
Maltby had threatened a deadly revenge, and that he was in
New York to await, as I supposed, Mr. Fletcher's arrival;
and feeling that Charles was near at hand, I had a most
vivid imagination of the worst that could happen. But the
fellow took advice, and instead of presenting a revolver, he
met Charles at his landing with a writ for illegal detention
of the children. Charles gave security for his appearance,
and rushed up here. He had but one night to stay. He
was delayed on his way, and providentially arrived late. We
exchanged some ten words, Grace—just as good as ten
volumes. Perhaps you think I was too soon won, but you
will not when you know him. Think what a good brother
he has been; and good brothers always make good husbands.”

Grace was the last person in the world to give a faint
sympathy. “It does not matter, dear Alice,” she said,
“whether your heart has been taken by storm or siege, so
it has fallen into the right hands. The Eastern conjurer,
who makes a plant spring from the ground, bud, blossom,
and bear fruit while you are looking at it, shadows forth
such a love as your's. But what a queer world it is! I am
ready to rub my eyes, and ask if I am awake?”

“Well!” said Alice, pausing, and looking steadfastly in
Grace's eyes, and smiling very archly, “you are not wide


Page 267
awake yet, Grace—but you soon will be; it's dawn now,
daylight is coming.”

“Give me the letter for your mother,” said Grace, her
heart smiling at Alice's prognostic, if she controlled her lips;
“I long to have my task over, Alice; I dread her disappointment.”

“Oh, so do I; but I did not suspect you knew her delusion.
Dear mother! she is a poor dissembler. Who would
have taken me for the most discerning person of this superior
family? I am the only one that has not been stone-blind.
Go, dear Grace; my mother will be perfectly
reconciled as soon as she knows Charles—I am sure of
that.” Alice spoke from a natural, and, happily, a well-founded
faith in her lover. Grace's face was turned from
her, or she would have seen the intimation in it that no man
on earth could fill up the chasm made by the loss of Archibald.
“Besides,” continued Alice, “my mother must have
been disappointed at last—Mr. Archy has not profited by his
excellent opportunity of falling in love with me, and never

Grace stood with the door half open, awaiting Alice's
words; she reclosed it. “You are right, dear Alice,” she
said, “and your frankness shames me. I will not have any
further concealment from you. When Mr. Lisle came back
to me in the wood, he told me what passed before you parted
from him; he was forced to it, I believe, by a sense of the
wrong he had done you, and the greater wrong he had done
to his own truth.”

“Oh, he told you more than that! You need not confess,
Grace—your burning cheek tells his whole story, and I can
tell it in two lines:

“`My life has been a task of love,
One long, long thought of you.'”


Page 268

“You are a diviner, Alice.”

“Oh no, Grace, we have been playing at child's play—
French blindfold, and my wand alone touched the right person.
Why, Grace, I have seen from the first day we were
together in New York that he was in love with you; I saw
it in the glance of his eye, I heard it, Grace, in the tone of
his voice. You see I know the signs, my dear. He was
one man when you were present, sensitive to his fingers'
ends; and another when you were absent, careless, listless,
quite uninspired.”

You are not inspired, Alice,” Grace replied, with rather
a sad smile. “There is a mixture of human error with your
wonderful clairvoyance. Mr. Lisle frankly confessed to me
that, from the moment my uncle told him of my engagement
to Copley, he had struggled for the mastery of the passion
that he acknowledged had mastered him; and from that
moment—he did not say so—but I saw it, plainly, I had
sunken fathoms deep in his opinion.”

“To rise like a goddess from the waves, Grace, as soon as
he knew you were free, and how nobly you had freed yourself.”

“He does not know it, Alice.”

“Does not know it!—you did not tell him? I shall. I
am no longer bound by my old, foolish promise. I will go
this minute and tell him, and heap coals of fire on his
head. I'll teaze him a little first, though—he deserves it
from me. I will copy his moon-struck manner, and quote
his own words in his tragic tone: `Do you—can you—will
you love me.' Oh, it was shabby of him to offer me an
empty casket, but I'll forgive him, and send him off to you.”

“No, no, dear Alice, I'll not have him challenged; he
must find out the truth before long, and then, if—perhaps—”

“No ifs and perhapses, dear Grace. You must have
your own way if you must; it will all soon be settled like a


Page 269
book, and then,” she added, her sweet face radiant, “what
is to become of your fine-spun plans for your single life? It
would have been great; as Max said of Sylvia May, `you
would have made a splendid old maid,' but one can't shirk
one's destiny, and I knew you were not to make a partie
with that glorious trio of Scott's heroines, Rebecca,
Minna, and Flora Mac Ivor. No, you and I must sink down
into the inglorious herd of married women.”

“Now go, you do not look quite so much as you did like
the `awful messenger that drew Priam's curtain at the dead
of night;' go to my dear mother, and all good angels help
you—and me. And oh, Heaven grant that she may never
know what a tug poor Archy has had to do the duty she
expected of him.”

That “it never rains, but it pours,” is an adage destined
to be exemplified that evening at Mapleton. Grace returned
to her uncle from her long interview with Mrs. Clifford, and
told him his hostess begged to be excused till the morning.
“Upon my word,” he said, looking into Grace's eyes, where
he saw the marks of recent tears, and yet, in her whole expression,
the serenity of the securest happiness; “Upon my
word, this is an odd place, this Mapleton—breezy, showers,
but no clouds. One wonders where the rain comes from.”

“You will not be left to wonder long, dear uncle. Secresy
has no affinity with Mapleton. A guest is expected to-morrow,
and at his arrival, whatever may now seem mysterious
will be explained to you.”

“I am glad of it. Life is all rather a puzzle to me, and I
am not fond of any superfluous mysteries, nor am I fond of
being left alone, as you know, my child. May has run off
to that weird little Daisy, as you call her, and poor Archy,
with all the marks of love upon him, is musing by the lake-side.
Ah, here comes that pleasant lad, Max.”


Page 270

“Thank you, sir,” said Max, “and I hope I have come to
some pleasant purpose, for I have brought the last Boston
paper for you.” “Hallo, Archy,” he called out to Lisle,
who was coming in from his lake-side musing, “here's a
note for you. I'll ring for candles. I would give five dollars
to see the inside of that note, Archy.” Candles were
brought, but Lisle seemed not to partake Max's curiosity,
for after recognizing the hand-writing, he remained as if
indifferent to open the note or not. Mr. Herbert eagerly
unfolded the paper, and at the first paragraph that struck
his eye, he exclaimed, “Lord bless us!” and reading it
through, he finished with dropping the paper, clapping his
hands, and crying “excellent, perfectly satisfactory!” and
he prolonged every syllable of the last word, so as to emphasize
the full contentment of his heart. “Not that we,
any of us, care a straw,” he added, resuming the paper, “but
it's so fitting. Hear, hear friends. `Newport Items:—The
fashionables assembled at this world-renowned watering
place, have been startled by the announcement of Mr. H.
C*****'s (the millionaire) engagement to the beautiful,
rich, and accomplished Miss C****** (“six stars, Grace,
after the C”). The contracting parties (with the bride
elect's intellectual mother) have left for New York, and are
to be married privately in Grace Church.”

Walter Herbert looked where he always first looked for
sympathy, to Grace, and exclaimed, “Why, my child, you
do not even look surprised.”

“I am not,” she answered coolly. “I had a letter from
my step-mother, this morning, containing the news.”

“You had! Why did you not tell me?”

“For the best reason in the world, I forgot it.”

“That's odd. The letter must be rich. Let me see it,

She drew it from her pocket. At the first indication of


Page 271
Copley's name, Lisle's eye instinctively turned to Grace's
face, and fell to perusing it as one reads a document for life
or death, but he read nothing there: not a muscle moved;
there was no change from red to pale, or pale to red, till
extending the letter toward her uncle, Lisle took it to
pass it. Their eyes met. There is a power in the eye to
transmit the spirit swifter than the telegraph, more potent
than the spoken or the written word. When the cry of
“land! land!” assured Columbus of his fulfilled hope, we
venture to say there was not a more effulgent joy in his face
than in Archibald Lisle's when Grace's eye met his.

Walter Herbert read his sister-in-law's letter to himself.
We transcribe it for the benefit of our readers.

My Ever Dear Grace:

“I have often remarked to you that the affairs of this life
never turn out according to our short-sighted expectations.
L'homme propose, et Dieu dispose. Who could have expected
that Mrs. Tallis' rash interference with your prospects
would have led to Anne's gain. But so it is. (Then
followed a deal of twaddle; `she trusted that Anne would
not be dazzled with her brilliant future, and that she herself
should “continue humble, and occupied with her duties,'”
etc., etc.) The letter concluded, “As I have often remarked,
every thing is mixed in this world, and truly, my
dear Grace, my happiness is alloyed by the thought of your

“I felt it right for obvious reasons early to apprize you
of Anne's engagement, as you might hear it at a time when
it would not be pleasant to manifest emotion; now, forewarned,
you will be fore-armed.

“I feel it also my duty as your only surviving mother,
to express the hope that you will learn wisdom from this


Page 272
trial, and put a rein (while you are still young) on your
too impulsive temperament. As I often say, a wrong step
may (as in the present case) be irretrievable. My kind love
to our dear Eleanor. Mr. Copley and Anne would add
theirs, but they are at the Yacht-race. It is a true solace
to a mother's heart to find them so harmonious in their

“Think with what advantages she will make the tour of
Europe. She is wild with joy. But pardon me, dear Grace
I would not hurt your feelings. I always say there is nothing
so sacred as feelings.

“Ever affectionately, and sincerely your attached,

Marianna Herbert.
“P. S.—I hope to see brother Walter in town, and to
make satisfactory arrangements about shutting up my house.
I regret the inconvenience to him, but of course I do not
feel it consistent with my duty to Anne, to let her go without

Bon voyage to them all,” exclaimed Uncle Walter,
chuckling, as he threw aside the letter; but after a moment
his countenance assumed a graver aspect. He was not a
man to look upon a sin, or even a folly with any thing so
harsh as scorn, or so comfortable as complacency. “Miserable
creatures,” he said, “of ritual religion, ritual moralities,
and human policies. We are well quit of them, dear Grace,
Ah, friends! many a relation is better in the ending, than in
the beginning.”

“Much, much better,” said Grace, with an emphasis that
startled Archibald from a reverie, in which hope beamed
from a mass of bitter feelings, self-reproaches for past blindness,
false judgments, fluctuating purposes, and compromises


Page 273
with the affections—the affections of heavenly birth, and
destiny, too sacred to be approached by that genius of
universal tinkering—compromise.