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In the village of Rockybrook there was one beauty who did not
look as if she were born there. Eyes as dark as hers might have
been found among the other belles of the neighborhood—features
as regular, and skin as fair, for a brunette; but there was a certain
character in the complete presence of Lilian Tevis—face,
form, movements and general air—which seemed to breathe of
another climate, and to be imprinted with the habits and associations
of another country and race. She was unconscious, apparently,
of possessing any advantage over her companions, either in
looks or mental qualities, and the peculiarities of her manner
would have been attributed, probably, by any one of the neighbors,
to great natural reserve, and to a near-sightedness which
might easily make her unaware of what was passing around her.
Her father was a Quaker farmer, in good circumstances, and her
mother was an enthusiast in that poetical and spirit-nurturing
religion, so that Lilian's education, though simple as it could well
be, had conspired with her timidity to turn her thoughts in upon
herself, fostering most the imaginative and dreamy side of her

In the assorting and coupling by the village gossips, Lily Tevis


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was invariably named with the son of “Contractor Brown,” almost
the only young man in the vicinity who “had been to college.”
The contractor was a stern father, and had taken his son
into business after giving him an education, exacting such service
as kept him well out of the way of love and leisure. To go to
the city, or to the backwoods, at a minute's warning—to pass a
month on horseback overlooking workmen—to toil one week,
night and day, over estimates, and, the next week, climb hills
with surveyors and engineers—was a kind of life that promised,
at least, as his father expressed it, “to take the nonsense out of
him.” A dread of this “nonsense” indeed—a vague dislike of
everything that “didn't pay”—was the key to most of the paternal
advice, which had been distributed along through the boyhood
and youth of young Brown, and it had gradually formed his mind
to a habit of trusting nothing to utterance, or to the knowledge
of others, which would not bear the scrutiny of this practical
standard Shut off from sentiment, however, the high health and
spirits of Frank Brown found expression in exuberant gayety of
manner; and, whenever in the society of the village belles, he
was invariably so good-humored and merry, that it passed for the
only possible shape of his natural disposition. Such he was
thought to be—and such only—even by Lily Tevis, who, notwithstanding,
had a preference for him, over all the young men
she had ever seen; and, without any definite avowal of love, she
had tacitly accepted his preference as shown in slight attentions,
and felt affianced to him by some unseen chain of reciprocated
feelings and sympathies. She frankly and gladly received the
news of him, when he was absent, (brought to her by those who
thought her and young Brown “the same as engaged,”) and received


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the especial smile of the contractor, when he spoke to her
on the road, with no special sense of its misapplication.

But, though she thus let the outer world, and the feelings
which belonged to it, take their course, there was an inner world
in which Lily felt more at home, and to which her thoughts
turned oftenest during her many hours of solitude. Of this
world of poetry and imagination, her chamber door was the entering
porch; and the key of that white-curtained sanctuary shut
out behind her the visible world, with its associations and affections,
as if the threshold had been guarded by an angel. Here
were her books. Here stood the table at which she sat to read
and dream. The window opened upon the long roof of her
mother's pantry and store rooms, which had been boxed in and
floored, and converted into a terrace for flowers. It was consistent
with Mrs. Tevis's religion, and the unconfessed poetry of her
nature, to encourage her daughter in habits of seclusion and privacy,
and this terrace of flowers, visited by no other eye than Lily's
and her own, seemed to her like the field of spirit communings,
in which she wished her beloved child to meet the unseen company
that is ever about us. It had gradually become the understood
custom of the household to observe a deference toward Lilian,
with regard to the hours when she was accustomed to be
alone; and the privacy of that chamber, and of the garden-walks
around under the terrace, were looked upon as sacred. With the
reserve of character which this was calculated to deepen and render
more sensitive, and with the increasing quickness of perception
as to the want of harmony between the rude world without
and the gentle world within, it was not wonderful that Lilian
Tevis became the imaginative being that she was, or that her new


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thoughts and emotions, in this more ideal of her two worlds,
should have been as secret as this story will show.

It had sometimes crossed Lilian's mind, that the thoughts and
occupations on which she set the most value, were those in which
Frank Brown had no share—for his conversations, when in her
presence, were usually divided between news and fun—but she
had felt no need, up to the time when our story commences, of
looking beyond his preference and attention, for companionship
or sympathy. A new light had lately broken in upon her, however.
In one of the periodicals which graced her well-stored table,
a new writer had made his appearance. Poems, over the signature
of “Ernest,” came, in successive numbers, and, from the
very first which she had read, they had singularly riveted her attention.
Without being finished as elaborately as those of other
writers, they had a certain close truthfulness to her own emotions,
and to the instincts of her own nature, which made them seem
like words she might have uttered in her sleep, or revelations,
that she might have made from her inmost being, in the clairvoyance
of magnetism. Though she had, herself, never written in
verse, and though the subjects were such as she had never talked
upon, and the language new, and with no imitation of any other
poet whom she had read, there was recognition in her heart for
the truth of every line. She had a spirit kindred to the writer's,
whoever he might be; and whether or not he had seen and known
her in other worlds, (as she could scarce help believing,) he was
now the interpreter of her soul.

For the successive numbers of the periodical in which appeared


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the poems of “Ernest,” Lilian waited with feverish impatience.
Each new one seemed truer and deeper, in its voicing forth of
what her soul had, hitherto, only left unsaid. She committed
them to memory with the first reading of them, and they haunted
her, waking and sleeping, in her walks and in her dreams.
Toward the writer, whoever he might be, she began to feel the
confidingness of intimacy and friendship. That, in some spiritguise
or other, he visited her mind, and could be made conscious
of what therein responded to his own beautiful thoughts, was a
conscious feeling in her bosom which amounted to a conviction.
It was with a resistless desire to record and retain the mementoes
of this intercourse, that she first took pen and paper. She had
no intention to send the letter to “Ernest” which she then
wrote. That one of these transcripts of reverie was afterward
sent to him, enclosed to the editor of the periodical to which he
was a contributor, and that it resulted in an actual correspondence,
in which neither knew the real name of the other, was a
reality which came about, Lilian scarce knew how. She had followed
the dictation of timidity in using a fictitious signature;
and, in arranging to receive the replies through a channel which
would not betray her residence, she was prompted by the dread
of seeming forward and strange to those who would not understand
the nature of the correspondence. With the beginnings
thus explained, the two following letters, from a more advanced
stage of the epistolary acquaintance, will, perhaps, be read comprehendingly:—


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All asleep around me, dear Ernest, save the birds and insects
to whom night is the time for waking. The stars and they are
the company of such lovers of the thought-world as you and I,
and, considering how beautiful night is, nature seems to have arranged
it for a gentler and loftier order of beings, who alternate
the conscious possession of the earth with those who wake by day.
Shall we think better of ourselves for joining this nightingale
troop, or is it (as I sometimes dread) a culpable shunning of the
positive duties which belong to us as creatures of sunshine?
Alas! this is but one of many shapes in which the same thought
comes up to trouble me! In yielding to this passion for solitude
—in communing, perhaps selfishly, with my own thoughts, in preference
to associating with friends and companions—in writing,
spiritually though it be, to you, in preference to thinking tenderly
of him—I seem to myself to be doing wrong. Is it so? Can I
divide my two natures, and rightfully pour my spirit's reserve
freely out to you, while I give to him who thinks me all his own,
only the every-day affection which he seems alone to value? Yet
the best portion of my nature would be unappreciated else—the
noblest questionings of my soul would be without response—the
world I most live in would be utterly lonely. I fear to decide
the question yet. I am too happy in writing to you. I will defer
it, at least, till I have sounded the depths of the well of angels
from which I am now quenching my thirst—till I know all the joy
and luxury which, it seems to me, the exchange of these innermost
breathings of the soul can alone give.


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You are waking, Ernest, I well know. With this fragrant air
and this thought-stirring moon, you would not sleep. I have requested
you to keep me in ignorance of where you are—whether
far away or near—and of all that could modify or conflict with
my fancy's conception of you. But, wherever you are, the lustrous
orb that throws a beam in at my window, throws another
to your upward eye, and by these electric threads, joined in the
luminous circle of the moon, thought passes between us. Oh,
how beautiful were the words in which you clothed one of these
thoughts—your thought and mine—in the poem which came yesterday!
How adorable is the gift, thus to be able to transfer
them, in unchanged eloquence, from the inarticulate world of reverie
to the language in which others can share them! Angelic
poet! Glorious master of two existences, and beautiful in both!
Accept my appreciation and my homage! Listen to me, over
this arch of moonbeams, built radiantly between us!

Ah me! these are strange words that I have written. My
flushed cheek betrays to me that my spirit draws my heart along
with its dreamtide! I should not write to you with this trembling
hand, and these impassioned syllables. I must drop my curtain
and shut out this moon, and still my disturbed spirit. I will try
to sleep. Good night, Ernest, and may the calm angels that
watch over us, bring to you the inspired visions for which you
wait, and tranquil dreams to

Your spirit worshipper,


The letter which follows was not in reply to the foregoing. It
was written after several had been exchanged on the subject to


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which it mainly refers, as best explaining the feelings entertained
by the writer toward her whom he addressed:—


You refuse to let me once rest my eyes upon you. I can
understand that there might be a timidity in the first thought of
meeting one with whom you had corresponded without acquaintance,
but it seems to me that a second thought must remind you
how much deeper and more sacred than “acquaintance,” our
interchange of sympathies has been. Why, dear Ermengarde,
you know me better than those who see me every day. My
most intimate companion knows me less. Even she to whom I,
perhaps, owe all confidence, and who might weep over the reservation
of what I have shared with you, had she the enlargement
of soul to comprehend it—even she knows me but as a child
knows the binding of a book, while you have read me well.
Why should you fear to let me once take your features into my
memory, that this vague pain of starry distance and separation
may be removed or lessened?

I must see you. I have thought, as you know, that we could
realise a presence by exchange of thought—that the eyes need
have no part in the interchange of minds. I even took pleasure
in believing—that I had, in this common-place and material
world, one viewless link—one friendship with a spirit, of whom
my mortal eyes knew nothing. But I was wrong. I feel, now,
that I have more need than others to see you, since I know, more
than others, what your features should confirm and interpret.
There is a point, in mere intellectual appreciation, where the
heart irresistibly comes in, and demands to see, with real eyes,


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the form in which is enshrined such an idol. That the reverse is
also true—that mere thoughtless affection comes to a point where
the mind demands that it, too, shall have something to worship—
is a more frequent discovery in intimacies. But I will not misrepresent
my present impulse by coldly reasoning upon it. It is
struggling in my heart, and pleading earnestly to see you. Will
you longer deny me, dear Ermengarde?

By your sweet confirmation of the truthfulness of my poem, in
your last letter, I was deeply touched. There was that in it
which I felt to be simply sincere, and which proved to me that I
have in you the treasure without which a poet cannot live—entire
appreciation by one mind and heart. I had wanted this—oh,
how painfully and deeply—till you first wrote to me! Criticism,
and success over competitors had satisfied me that what I wrote
was truly measured, but I needed to know that it was also felt,
and that I was loved for writing it. The world's admission of the
poet's merit is vague and cold. There are hours when he can neither
realize nor believe it. But in the sweet praise of one to
whose heart his meanings have gone home—one who recognizes,
by the inner woof of her own spirit, the fibre from which his
charmed words were spun—one who sees his better nature when
she looks upon him, and thinks of his best gifts first, at the moments
when he comes up to her memory—in such an appreciator,
kind and ever ready to encourage and commend, the poet feels
his best happiness bound up. He turns to her from the world.
He thinks of her in sadness. He writes with her sweet eyes
looking on. Other affections may employ his instinctive tenderness,
and his gay and thoughtless hours; but, in his soul's retirement
he asks for an interpreter who can enter with him—for the
sweet reader of what common affections never reach.


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I feel that you will not persist in refusing me. With thoughts
so genial and sympathetic as yours, there must be a heart of
kindness beating in unison, and I cannot long plead earnestly in
vain. Tell me but where you are, and by what name you are
known to those who are so blessed as to look upon you, and I will
fly to your side, or arrange to meet you, with as guarded delicacy
as you will. Only let me once see you—once take and treasure
your living image in my soul's memory—and I ask no more.
Hear me, dear Ermengarde, and let me write myself, not alone
your unseen poet, but

Your friend,

There was an arrival of two Quaker ladies and a young gentleman
at the Astor—(Mrs. and Miss Tevis, and Mr. F. Brown,
as it read on the register)—one lovely evening in June. The
ladies had come down from Rockybrook “to shop,” and as Mrs.
Tevis had chanced to hear that “friend Frank” was also meditating
a journey to town, she had bespoke his protection and company,
though (a little to her surprise) Lilian had not seemed
positively pleased when this accidental good fortune was first

Spite of Lilian's perverseness, however, Frank had succeeded
in making the journey agreeable—his high spirits and privileged
ease of manner, acting with their usual charm on the quiet
reserve of the lovely Quakeress, and, to the mother's eye, all
things flowing with a full tide in the current of an understood
affection. Lilian had had many a restless misgiving, notwithstanding,
as she sat on the steamer's deck, listening to the amusing


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chat of her presumed lover. She was going to town on a
concealed errand. It was after writing a reluctant assent to the
fervent plea of her secret correspondent for a meeting, that she
had expressed the wish for a journey, which had led her mother
to discover some necessities that were before unthought of, for a
shopping visit to New York. Mrs. Tevis needed seldom more
than a hint to anticipate or guess at her daughter's wishes, and
she had foreshadowed this one, with that unconscious maternal
clairvoyance, which all who have had such mothers will understand.

Lilian felt, by no means, certain that she should not confide
her secret to Frank before its purpose was carried out. She
longed to do so. Her deeply cherished habit of affection for him
seemed to claim a confidence on the subject as his right, while, on
the other hand, she both feared his disapproval, and dreaded that
he might fancy it to be a coquetry intended to bring him to an
avowal. That she had secretly corresponded with another, had
admired that other for exactly the qualities which Frank seemed
entirely deficient in, and that she was about to see his rival, and
weigh, one against the other, the attractions of the two—were
truths which could be made to wear a very culpable aspect,
though an almost irresistible instinct prompted her to divulge all.
She had not owned to herself that she loved this unseen poet. It
was the theory by which she kept up her self-justification, that a
friendship growing out of mere interchange of thoughts, need not
interfere with the constancy of an affection founded on such intimacy
as hers with Frank. She sighed only, in trying to separate
the two, that their qualities were not combined in one. That a
lover who had the winning and attaching every-day qualities of
Frank Brown, could not also be a high-souled poet, alive to the


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loftier and more elevating converse of the soul, seemed to her in
accordance with that universal imperfectness of human allotment,
over which philosophers and bards have, from time immemorial,
made moan. She only hoped that in this secret intellectual intimacy,
she was not cultivating an ideal preference which would
make her real love seem poor and insufficient. How the two—
Ernest and Frank—would compare, as real men, was the problem
which entirely occupied her, at present, and which the interview
of the next morning was most excitingly to solve.

The breakfast of the three visitors from Rockybrook, at the
Astor House table, was inexplicably embarrassed by reserve, on
the day which was to bring Lilian and Ernest for the first time
together. Mrs. Tevis concluded that the lovers had had a quarrel.
After making several efforts to enliven the conversation, she
discreetly gave it up, biding her time for an explanation. Lilian
looked flushed and restless. She feared momently that Frank
would propose some engagement which would make it necessary
to plead other occupation for that day. He was, fortunately,
silent as to the disposal of her morning, however. His own
business in town seemed to be the only matter in his thoughts.
They rose from table and separated, to Lilian's infinite relief,
with only a mention of meeting again for dinner.

To be disembarrassed of her mother's presence, by sending
her out to make some purchases, upon which she pleaded want
of spirits to accompany her, was Lilian's first move after breakfast.
She did this with a self-reproach and unwillingness which


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almost brought her to an outpouring of her heart's whole secret
to her mother, but the undercurrent of her destiny prevailed.
With a kiss and a careful injunction to her that she should take
a book and read away her melancholy mood, Mrs. Tevis closed
the door upon her daughter, and she was left to the fulfillment
of her engagement, without dread or interruption.

It lacked but a few minutes of eleven, when Lilian descended
to the ladies' drawing-room of the Astor. She found it, as she
had presumed she should do, and as it usually is at that hour of
the morning, deserted. The deep window looking out upon St.
Paul's leafy church-yard, was unoccupied, and it was here that
she was to sit, as the clock struck eleven, and, with a book
pressed to her lips as an indication that she was “Ermengarde,”
and that “Ernest” was at liberty to approach and address her as
an acquaintance. Everything looked fortunately conspiring to
give pleasure to the interview. Not a guest had chanced to remain,
to overhear the conversation which would needs be embarrassing
enough, even were they alone; the shutters had been
closed to a twilight dimness by the servants; and the air of the
morning was of the genial and sweet temperature which favors
the interchange of the sympathies. The lovely and trembling
Quakeress of Rockybrook thought she never had breathed air
more delicious—in a city though she recognized its balm.

It lacked one minute to eleven. Was she watched? A head
was certainly thrust past the opening of the door, and as certainly
it seemed to her that it was the quick movement of her lover's.
How unspeakably embarrassing would be his entrance at that
moment! How should she explain her interview with a stranger?
By what name—knowing only the name of “Ernest” for him
whom she expected—should she introduce to Frank Brown the


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person with whom he would find her in conversation? Alas
these were difficulties against which she had neglected to provide
The punishment of her culpable concealments seemed now to be
inevitably upon her. Her heart, for that minute of suspense,
came to a stand still.

Eleven! She closed her eyes and pressed the book to her
lips, and, with her face turned away from the opening door,
awaited the approach of an entering and hesitating step, which
she overheard as the slow clock pealed out its heavy reverberations.
How should she speak! Her breath choked with the
quick pantings in her throat. She crowded the volume convulsively
to her lips, and dropped her head in utter confusion upon
her bosom.

But the step was near her. One whom she did not dare to
look on, had approached, and now stood silent and motionless
behind her. Another moment of stillness that seemed an eternity
to Lilian, and she felt a warm breath upon her temple.

“Ermengarde!” said a low voice, and, to her sudden and utter
consternation, a kiss was impressed upon her cheek, and an enclosing
arm drew her into its embrace!



And the revelation of the mystery dawned on the mind of the
astonished girl, for, in a voice of half-mischief, and half-tenderness,
he said:

“Not Frank, but `Ernest!'”

In the tight clasp of the lovers to each other's arms, which
occupied the next minute, there was not much explanation—but
there was no end to their wondering, afterward, how they possibly
could have been so in the dark as to their respective inner characters,


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how they should have lacked the confidingness to mingle
intellects as well as amusements and idle nothings, and how they
could have thought themselves lovers with the reserves which
they had cherished for other sympathies and admirations. It
served them as a lesson in the capability of one love for all the
interchanges of mind and heart, and taught them what might
have been deferred till it was far more difficult to learn—that it
is best to be sure, before going abroad for new varieties of happiness,
that the material for what we desire is not in the bosom that
already belongs to us.
As a wife to the poet and to the man,
Lilian easily and well played her part, and it was hard for either
to tell in which of the two characters of the other, life found its
more urgent want replied to.

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