University of Virginia Library




“Marry! that marry is the very theme
I came to talk of—”

It was not till after a night of meditation and prayer, and
its blessed sequence, sweet sleep, that Mrs. Clifford was
able to appear with serenity before her family. It was hard
to surrender hopes so long cherished, and so nearly fulfilled;
and very difficult to readjust the glass of faith to this new
point of view; but she did it, and accepted this trial, as she
had others far more grievous, with the sweet and unreserved
acquiescence of a submissive child.

Charles Fletcher came to Mapleton, and (we borrow Max's
expressive slang phrase) “he pitched into all their hearts.”
He had not been an inmate of her family twenty-four hours,
when Mrs. Clifford confided to Walter Herbert that she
could not have believed she should “so soon have come to
love him.” No one else, knowing the wealth of her affection,
and how conjoined were faith and love in her life, would
have doubted it. “It's a good sign,” she said, as if to justify
her sudden liking, “that the young man has returned
from California unsmitten with the contagious fever that
rages there—”

There!” interrupted Uncle Walter; “bless your soul,
madam, the infection has spread over the whole country, and
through every class, except children at both ends of life—
simple babes, and elderly sages, such as you and I, who, in
simplicity, have become like little children, and are so near


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the end that we can see as well as believe, that it will not
profit us to gain the whole world and lose our own souls.”

“Ah, Mr. Herbert,” replied Mrs. Clifford, “sound health
of mind as well as of body, is the best security, at all ages,
and in all circumstances, against contagion; and soundness
all this young man's conduct indicates. He went to
California for an excellent object, and having attained that,
he returns eagerly to his profession in Boston—to slow
gains, and frugal progressive life.”

“You need no studied reasons, Mrs. Clifford, to justify
your liking, or dear little Alice's sudden love. He is frank
and manly—a man more of deeds than words—and cheerful,
a quality we old people love as we love the light; charming
manners, too—a rare grace in these northern latitudes; how
should he not enter your heart, which in one respect is unlike
the kingdom of heaven, for `broad is the way, and many
there be that go in thereat.'”

“I don't know how you have done it, young man,” he
said to Charles Fletcher, an hour afterward, “but your arrival
has had a prodigious effect on us all. We were like so
many out-of-tune instruments before you came; now we are
in harmony, and play the best of music.”

“What do you mean, Uncle Walter?” asked May, who
stood beside him on the sofa, extremely puzzled—“that you
are an instrument to play on, like Grace's piano?”

“No, child; I am nothing but an old bagpipe—fit only
for weddings and such merry-makings.”

“Weddings!” May caught the word with girlish instinct.
“Oh I like merry music—I'll have you, dear old Bagpipe,
and play on you at Miss Alice's wedding, and Grace's wedding!
Won't that be fun?”

“Grace's wedding!” echoed Uncle Walter; “Grace will
never have a wedding—so she says, May.” Uncle Walter's
expressive whistle, sotto voce, finished his sentence.


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“Oh, I don't believe that, Uncle Walter. Grace,” she
called out to Miss Herbert, who was intent on a passage in
a book to which Lisle, standing beside her, had called her
attention, “Grace, don't you mean to be married, and have
a wedding?” (“Ces enfants terribles!”) If Grace heard, she
had no need to reply, for, luckily, May's attention was diverted
by Max's entrance. He rushed in, his high color
heightened, and his eye sparkling. The coming of the joyous
lad was usually like letting in a fresh mountain breeze.

“What now, Max?” asked his mother.

“Oh `there's a good time coming!'” he sang, “come to
Mapleton. I expect to see all our `rocks of Gibraltar,' Miss
Looly, Miss Sarah, and all, with wedding-rings on yet—it's
getting epidemical.”

“What do you mean, Max, if you mean any thing?”

“I do; there is more than one swallow, or one pair of
swallows, come to make our coupling summer in Mapleton
—`Single-side' no longer. Martin Seymour stopped me
under the old elm, and was giving me the programme of his
affairs, when the Major drove up with his splendid greys—
and Miss Adeline, of course.”

“Let those vulgar people pass on, Max. What of Seymour?”

“Mother! the Major and the Clapp-trap are such good
game—but they'll keep; and since you will have it so, I'll
first tell you about Seymour, and tell you in his excellent
Yankee vernacular. He says that `the saw, and one or two
other trinkets were saved when the mill blew up, and that
he calculates to rebuild soon, and build better than ever;
and except that it was awful to have Uncle Nat blowed into
eternity, it was a providence, for now nobody disputed that
he was deranged, and that was a lasting comfort, both on
account of here and hereafter, to Amy and her folks; and
it was healing to see how the street pitied him. And Amy


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had agreed, if they were both spared, to be married next
Thanksgiving. She did not feel as if it would be consistent
to be married sooner. So, dear mother, there's all of your
special protégés, Martin and Amy. Now for the Mexican
hero! He beckoned to me as he passed, and pointed to the
inn. I followed. He conducted me to Miss Clapp's parlor,
and after a little hesitation, and precious little too, he said,
with a salute, à la militaire ('pon my honor, mother), to the
ever-blooming Adeline, that he had had the happiness to
obtain Miss Adeline's affections, and the promise of her
hand; whereupon I bowed to the bride-elect, or elector, and
complimented her in the novel phrase, `Veni, vidi, vici!'
Miss Clapp informed me that her brother, Orondates, is expected
this evening, and they proceed to-morrow to New
York, there to be married, and to embark for the tour of
Europe, Greece—think of Adeline reconnoitering the Parthenon!—Egypt,
and the Holy Land! I suppose this tour
was the Major's bait. Was it a lover of your's, Alice, or of
one of your friends, who, when he was rejected, whined
out, `Would the tower of Europe make any difference?'
By the way, Archy,” continued Max, without waiting for an
answer, “Miss Adeline inquired if I delivered a note she
gave me for you some days ago. I did, and told her so.
She says it's all-important to the Major, and to her, that it
should be answered before her marriage, and she begged
me to be sure to remind you.”

Archibald started at the sound of his own name. Neither
he nor Grace had heard one word of Max's previous rattle,
they being bent over the honeysuckle at the door-side, and
apparently absorbed in a botanical investigation. “A note!”
he said, as if mustering his recollections; “oh! I remember—I
beg Miss Adeline's pardon!” and thrusting his hand
into the depths of his pocket, he brought up an unsealed note.

“Read it aloud, Lisle,” said Uncle Walter; “we all know


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about your entanglement with that native; let's have the
last of her.”

The last of her! No, she and our ultra fashionable
friends, whose nuptials were solemnized in Grace Church,
will be returned upon us by some foreign satirist (Thackeray,
if such meat were fit for the gods), as “General Jeremiah
E. Bangs and lady,” or Mrs. Horace Copley—as the case
may be—a fine lady “from the States,” who shall remark
at a Baden ball that some future “Miss Newcome's toilette
would do at a Fifth Avenue party,” and these exceptional
people will be received, by the European reading public, as
illustrating specimens of the social results of democratic

Lisle did read the note aloud. It simply contained a request
that he would furnish Miss Clapp with a copy of the
certificate of the date of his birth, “to make the Major and
me feel secure,” wrote Miss Adeline.

“Secure!” repeated Lisle, laughing; “providentially, as
Miss Adeline would interpret it, I can do so without delay.
In the pocket of my surtout which I had on when I received
your telegraphic despatch, Alice, there is a letter from poor
old Dr. Bay, in which is enclosed said certificate. I perceived
the drift of that, but have never read the letter, nor
thought of it since the hour I received it.”

As Lisle went into the entry for the letter, Uncle Walter
said, with a significant smile—Uncle Walter's lips had hardly
been out of a smile for the last few hours—“Our friend Lisle
is losing his mind.”

“Oh, no, sir,” said Alice, springing up, and whispering in
his ear “he has just found it!”

As she bent over him, her warm dimpled cheek was close
to his lips. He kissed it, and looking at her lover with
mock gravity said, “By Jove! I could not help it!”

Lisle returned with the letter open in his hand. After


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glancing his eye at the contents, his countenance changed,
and asking Max to put the certificate into Miss Clapp's possession,
he hurried off to his apartment. May betrayed the
curiosity that others suppressed. “Uncle Walter,” she
asked, in a low voice, “did you see how frightened Mr. Lisle

“Frightened? no, May.”

“I don't mean frightened, but so different. Think Mr.
Lisle had bad news in that letter?”

“Pshaw! No, May; it was an old letter from a dead man.”

“Mercy, Uncle Walter! I should think he would be
frightened. Do go and ask him what is in the letter—do!”

“I will, May; I am one of the `obedient parents' who
have succeeded to the obedient children of former days.”
So, glad of a pretext, he went.

Uncle Walter was watching the drifting of every straw
in Lisle's path. He tapped at Archibald's door, as if in passing
to his own, and called out, “What tidings, Lisle, from
the dead to the living?”

Archibald opened the door with the open letter still in
his hand. His face shone with a new discovered happiness.
“Come in, my dear friend,” he said, “and read this letter—
it concerns you.”

“Concerns me!” exclaimed Mr. Herbert, extremely puzzled,
and he hurried out his spectacles, and sat down to the
reading by the deepening twilight.

“You may skip the first page,” suggested Lisle; “that is
merely an outpouring of the good old doctor's affection—he
loved me from the beginning.”

“And have not I loved you `from the beginning,' you
scamp? If there were any truth in instinct you should
belong to me, for I have loved you as doting fathers love
their `dear and only sons;' but to the doctor's letter.”
(We look over Mr. Herbert's shoulder).


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Esteemed Young Friend:

(Thus began the doctor's epistle.)

“Feeling the pillars of my earthly tabernacle decaying,
I am setting my house in order, and among my relative
duties is that of transcribing the records I have made of the
birth of those whom it has been my happiness to introduce
upon this sublunary scene. Accordingly, you will find herein
the accompanying certificate under my own hand and
seal. And truly it gives me satisfaction to say (I am no
flatterer, Mr. Archibald) that my instrumentalities have
been seldom so rewarded as in your case; and it is borne in
upon my mind to attest my approbation of your life. Its
safe commencement, I may claim to be due (always under
Providence) to the skill, acquired during my studies with
the celebrated surgeon of the ever-lamented Princess Charlotte.

“Three cheers for Dr. Bay!” exclaimed Uncle Walter.

“My satisfaction has been great in seeing you ripen into
a God-fearing and man-loving man—the latter being abundantly
proved by your affectionate and dutiful conduct to
your late excellent father, your maintenance of his relict,
and your unfailing respect and kindness to her, which, she
not being a bird of your feather, was not so easy as for
water to run down hill; and further by your education of
her children, not required by the opinion of society, they
being but half blood. And further, was noted by me, your
exemplary care in life and death of the interesting orphan
Letty, besides numerous benefactions to `Uncle Phil' and
others, of which my hands have been the trusted and secret
medium. I have taken pride, too, in your uncommon success
in your profession, which I foresaw; your legal intellect


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being clearly indicated to me from the first, by a remarkable
cerebral formation; and something better than pride I have
felt (and often expressed in private duty) that you have
maintained your integrity, and neither tarried long at the
wine-cup, or fallen into `the narrow pits' abounding in a
city thick-set with temptations and flooded with vice—

“Doctor Bay, I shake hands with you!” exclaimed
Walter Herbert. “Why, Lisle, he was as loving a fool as
I am; but what is this?”

“I am now about to impart what I term a professional
secret, obtained in my medical walk, and therefore not to
be disclosed but for providential reasons. I hear that you
are in close friendship with Walter Herbert, Esq., of New
York city, and deem that my secret may be a pleasure or a
beacon to you.

“Your mother had a sister fifteen years younger than
herself, the prettiest specimen I ever met. I attended her
through a galloping consumption that rapidly developed
after a visit to the sea-shore. She died a fortnight after
your birth. I had brought her in my arms, and put her in
your mother's easy-chair at her bedside. She had seemed
quite comfortable that morning; all at once, in a breath as
it were, the paleness of death came over her; she fumbled
at the wristband of her gown, I unbuttoned it, and a bracelet
that was too large for her arm—she had emaciated—fell
over her hand—

“I see! I see!” cried Uncle Walter; “light your candles,
my dear boy, my eyes fail me!”

“She took it up, kissed it, and said, `Do, sister, send it to
him!' There was a flutter of the heart, and she was gone!
Now, Mr. Archibald, your mother was one of the silent


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kind, over-prudent (if that can be said of a woman); she
ever wore a seal upon her lips; but sudden grief—Helen
was her idol—mastered her, and her heart gushed out like
an opened fountain, and many things, she said (taken unawares)
not suitable to repeat; but the amount was that
Helen had been privately married to Walter Herbert; that
your mother, jealous of the child's honor, had a boiling indignation
against Mr. Herbert, and had forbidden all communication
with him till such time as he should come and
claim his wife. Your mother was a set woman, and Helen
of a compliant disposition, a reed in her hands—I speak in no
disrespect to your honored parent, for she had the virtues
related to setness, justice, rectitude, love, etc.; and besides
she had just gone through a period of nervousness, and
what was wrong in her usually, was more so, as is often the
case with ladies in circumstances. That last look of Helen's,
and her last action, impressed me. Her love, clearly, was
stronger than death, and it was borne in upon my mind that
your mother's judgment had been over strict, and when I
looked upon the deceased, so meek and beautiful, so without
spot and blemish, like sacrificial doves, I felt for him whom
she had loved. And now hearing he is your friend, and
thinking he may have long ago repented of all that was
wrong in this lamented marriage, you can, at your discretion,
inform him, that one, much his elder, pitied more than
he blamed him, and that I trust it may cheer his latter
days to find his chosen young friend is, as it were, akin to

Walter Herbert dropped the letter, and murmuring,
“Thank God, thank God,” he fell upon Archibald's neck,
and kissed him as tenderly as the father kisses the boy at his
knee. As soon as he could command his voice, he said,
“The good doctor is right—it is another and a blessed tie to


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you, Archy; henceforth I hold you as my son. At a future
time—not now; now I am too full of both joy and sorrow—
I will tell you how my whole life has been pervaded and
colored by this early and only love.” And then, as Archibald
said, he raised his eyes, and extending his arms in
invocation, exclaimed, “My angel in heaven!” and his face
was radiant as if the star of his morning beamed from heaven
upon him.

The twilight had deepened into night, the new moon had
dropped behind the hills, the evening-star had followed her,
Mars had traversed a broad space in the firmament, Jupiter
had risen far enough above the horizon to drop a thread of
light athwart the lake, and the lowest star in Orion shone
over the eastern hills, when Archibald and Grace, who had
been in the light of these skyey processes, but not observant
of them, returned from floating on the lake in Max's “sulky.”
Finding all the family retired to bed, and oblivious of that
periodical duty, they sat down together on the door-step.
They had taken no note of the evening hours. These hours
had glided from them in mutual histories of their past misjudgments,
distrusts, blunders, and failures, and in a blending
of their present joy that, like a rushing flood, swept them all

They were like two beatified spirits on the threshold of
another world—behind them darkness, entanglement, and
obstruction, before them a land of promise, bright with love
and faith, lights now glowing in their firmament, and there
to shine forever and forever.

A momentary silence, surpassing the offices of words, was
broken by a stealthy footstep and a low pettish cry; and
turning round, they saw, by the light of the entry lamp,
little May stealing in, in her long white night-dress, looking
like one of the child-angels in St. Cecilia's choir.


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“Oh, Grace,” she said, “why don't you come to bed?
I have been awake, and waiting for you, ever—ever—ever
so long.” Grace kissed her, and smiled, but said nothing.
May looked from Grace to Archibald: there too she met a
smile of ineffable happiness, and the bright little creature,
brightening all over, exclaimed exultant, “Oh, I know—
I know you are to be married, Grace, and we shall have
your wedding, and Uncle Walter will be my bagpipe.”

“You remind me, my dear child,” said Mrs. Clifford, after
a long and satisfactory conversation the next day, with Grace,
“of a dear friend of mine (that unnamed friend was the
great religious and moral writer who is acknowledged
throughout Christendom as a beloved master and teacher)
who, when he was a young man, addressed a letter to two
young women, his intimate friends, adjuring them to consecrate
themselves to a single life, in order to demonstrate
how happy, beneficent, and honored it might be. He, not
long after, married one of these young women, Grace.”

“And, dear Mrs. Clifford, he did not `love Cæsar less
that he loved Rome more.' He did not disparage one condition,
by preferring the other. Am I not true to my
theories? While I contended that there might be golden
harvests reaped in the fields of single life, that it was not a
condition to be dreaded, scorned, or pitied, but infinitely
preferable to the bankruptcies in married life, did I not
admit there was a happier fate?—and is not that fate

“It is—it is! You are `equal to either fortune,' Grace,
`married or single.' May others profit by your theories.”