University of Virginia Library




Je suis comme vous. Je n'aime pas que les autres soient heureux.

The temerity with which I hovered on the brink of matrimony
when a very young man could only be appreciated by a fatuitous
credulity. The number of very fat mothers of very plain families
who can point me out to their respective offspring as their once
imminent papa, is ludicrously improbable. The truth was that I
had a powerful imagination in my early youth, and no “realizing
sense.” A coral neck-lace, warm from the wearer—a shoe with
a little round stain in the sole—anything flannel—a bitten rose-bud
with the mark of a tooth upon it—a rose, a glove, a thimble
—either of these was agony, ecstasy! To anything with curls
and skirts, and especially if encircled by a sky-blue sash, my
heart was as prodigal as a Croton hydrant. Ah me!

But, of all my short eternal attachments, Fidelia Balch (since
Mrs. P. Trott) was the kindest and fairest. Faithless of course
she was, since my name does not begin with a T.—but if she did
not continue to love me—P. Trott or no P. Trott—she was
shockingly forsworn, as can be proved by several stars, usually
considered very attentive listeners. I rather pitied poor Trott—
for I knew

“Her heart—it was another's,”


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and he was rich and forty-odd. But they seemed to live very
harmoniously, and if I availed myself of such little consolations
as fell in my way, it was the result of philosophy. I never forgot
the faithless Fidelia.

This is to be a disembowelled narrative, dear reader—skipping
from the maidenhood of my heroine to her widowhood, fifteen
years—yet I would have you supply here and there a betweenity.
My own sufferings at seeing my adored Fidelia go daily into another
man's house and shut the door after her, you can easily conceive.
Though not in the habit of rebelling against human institutions,
it did seem to me that the marriage ceremony had no
business to give old Trott quite so much for his money. But the
aggravating part of it was to come! Mrs. P. Trott grew prettier
every day, and of course three hundred and sixty-five noticeable
degrees prettier every year! She seemed incapable of, or not
liable to, wear and tear; and probably old Trott was a man, indoors,
of very even behavior. And, it should be said, too, in explanation,
that, as Miss Balch, Fidelia was a shade too fat for her
model. She embellished as her dimples grew shallower. Trifle
by trifle, like the progress of a statue, the superfluity fell away
from nature's original Miss Balch (as designed in Heaven), and
when old Passable died (and no one knew what that P. stood for,
till it was betrayed by the indiscreet plate on his coffin) Mrs.
Trott, thirty-three years old, was at her maximum of beauty.
Plump, taper, transparently fair, with an arm like a high-conditioned
Venus, and a neck set on like the swell of a French
horn, she was consumedly good-looking. When I saw in the paper,
“Died, Mr. P. Trott,” I went out and walked past the
house, with overpowering emotions. Thanks to a great many refusals,
I had been faithful! I could bring her the same heart,


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unused and undamaged, which I had offered her before! I could
generously overlook Mr. Trott's temporary occupation (since he
had left us his money!)—and when her mourning should be over
—the very day—the very hour—her first love should be ready
for her, good as new!

I have said nothing of any evidences of continued attachment
on the part of Mrs. Trott. She was a discreet person and not
likely to compromise Mr. P. Trott till she knew the strength of
his constitution. But there was one evidence of lingering preference
which I built upon like a rock. I had not visited her during
these fifteen years. Trott liked me not—you can guess why!
But I had a nephew, five years old when Miss Balch was my
`privately engaged,” and as like me, that boy, as could be copied
by nature. He was our unsuspecting messenger of love, going
to play in old Balch's garden when I was forbidden the house,
unconscious of the billet-doux in the pocket of his pinafore; and
to this boy, after our separation, seemed Fidelia to cling. He
grew up to a youth of mind and manners, and still she cherished
him. He all but lived at old Trott's, petted and made much of
—her constant companion—reading, walking, riding—indeed,
when home from college, her sole society. Are you surprised
that, in all this, there was a tenderness of reminiscence that
touched and assured me? Ah—

“On revient toujours
A ses premiers amours!”

I thought it delicate, and best, to let silence do its work during
that year of mourning. I did not whisper even to my nephew
Bob the secret of my happiness. I left one card of condolence


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after old Trott's funeral, and lived private, counting the hours
The slowest kind of eternity it appeared!

The morning never seemed to me to break with so much difficulty
and reluctance as on the anniversary of the demise of Mr.
Passable Trott—June 2, 1840. Time is a comparative thing, I
well know, but the minutes seemed to stick, on that interminable
morning. I began to dress for breakfast at four—but details are
tiresome. Let me assure you that twelve o'clock, A. M., did
arrive! The clocks struck it, and the shadows verified it.

I could not have borne an accidental “not at home,” and I resolved
not to run the risk of it. Lovers, besides, are not tied to
knockers and ceremony. I bribed the gardener. Fidelia's boudoir,
I knew, opened upon the lawn, and it seemed more like love
to walk in. She knew—I knew—Fate and circumstance knew
and had ordained—that that morning was to be shoved up, joined
on, and dovetailed to our last separation. The time between was
to be a blank. Of course she expected me.

The garden door was ajar—as paid for. I entered, traversed
the vegetable beds, tripped through the flower-walk, and—oh
bliss!—the window was open! I could just see the Egyptian urn
on its pedestal of sphinxes, into which I knew (per Bob) she threw
all her fading roses. I glided near. I looked in at the window.

Ah, that picture! She sat with her back to me—her arm—
that arm of rosy alabaster—thrown carelessly over her chair—
her egg-shell chin resting on her other thumb and forefinger—
her eyelids sweeping her cheek—and a white—yes! a white bow
in her hair. And her dress was of snowy lawn—white, bridal
white! Adieu, old Passable Trott!

I wiped my eyes and looked again. Old Trott's portrait hung
on the wall, but that was nothing. Her guitar lay on the table,


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and—did I see aright?—a miniature just beside it! Perhaps of
old Trott—taken out for the last time. Well—well! He was
a very respectable man, and had been very kind to her, most

“Ehem!” said I, stepping over the sill, “Fidelia!”

She started and turned, and certainly looked surprised.

“Mr. G—!” said she.

“It is long since we parted!” I said, helping myself to a chair.

“Quite long!” said Fidelia.

“So long that you have forgotten the name of G—?” I asked,

“Oh no!” she replied, covering up the miniature on the table
by a careless movement of her scarf.

“And may I hope that that name has not grown distasteful to
you?” I summoned courage to say.

“N—no! Ido not know that it has, Mr. G—!”

The blood returned to my fainting heart! I felt as in days
of yore.

“Fidelia!” said I, “let me not waste the precious moments.
You loved me at twenty—may I hope that I may stand to you
in a nearer relation! May I venture to think that our family is
not unworthy of a union with the Balches?—that, as Mrs. G—,
you could be happy?”

Fidelia looked—hesitated—took up the miniature, and clasped
it to her breast.

“Do I understand you rightly, Mr. G—!” she tremulously
exclaimed. “But I think I do! I remember well what you
were at twenty! This picture is like what you were then—with
differences, it is true, but still like! Dear picture!” she exclaimed
again, kissing it with rapture.


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(How could she have got my miniature?—but no matter—
taken by stealth, I presume. Sweet and eager anticipation!)

“And Robert has returned from college, then?” she said, inquiringly.

“Not that I know of,” said I.

“Indeed!—then he has written to you!”

“Not recently!”

“Ah, poor boy! he anticipated! Well, Mr. G—! I will
not affect to be coy where my heart has been so long interested.”

(I stood ready to clasp her to my bosom.)

“Tell Robert my mourning is over—tell him his name” (the
name of G—, of course) “is the music of my life, and that I
will marry whenever he pleases!”

A horrid suspicion crossed my mind.

“Pardon me!” said I; “whenever he pleases, did you say?
Why, particularly, when he pleases?

“La! his not being of age is no impediment, I hope!” said
Mrs. Trott, with some surprise. “Look at his miniature, Mr.
G—! It has a boyish look, it's true—but so had you—at

Hope sank within me! I would have given worlds to be away.
The truth was apparent to me—perfectly apparent. She loved
that boy Bob—that child—that mere child—and meant to marry
him! Yet how could it be possible! I might be—yes—I
must be, mistaken. Fidelia Balch—who was a woman when he
was an urchin in petticoats! she to think of marrying that boy!
I wronged her—oh I wronged her! But, worst come to the
worst, there was no harm in having it perfectly understood.

“Pardon me!” said I, putting on a look as if I expected a
shout of laughter for the mere supposition, “I should gather—


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(categorically, mind you!—only categorically)—I should gather
from what you said just now—(had I been a third person listening,
that is to say—with no knowledge of the parties)—I should
really have gathered that Bob—little Bob—was the happy man,
and not I! Now don't laugh at me!”

You the happy man!—Oh, Mr. G—! you are joking!
Oh no! pardon me if I have unintentionally misled you—but if I
marry again, Mr. G—, it will be a young man!!! In short,
not to mince the matter, Mr. G—, your nephew is to become
my husband (nothing unforeseen turning up) in the course of the
next week! We shall have the pleasure of seeing you at the
wedding, of course! Oh no! You! I should fancy that no
woman would make two unequal marriages, Mr. G—. Good
morning, Mr. G—!”

I was left alone, and to return as I pleased, by the vegetable
garden or the front door. I chose the latter, being somewhat
piqued as well as inexpressibly grieved and disappointed. But
philosophy came to my aid, and I soon fell into a mood of speculation.

“Fidelia is constant!” said I to myself—“constant, after all!
She made up her mouth for me at twenty. But I did not stay
Oh no! I, unadvisedly, and without preparatively cultivating
her taste for thirty-five, became thirty-five. And now
what was she to do? Her taste was not at all embarked in Passable
Trott, and it stayed just as it was—waiting to be called up
and used. She locks it up decently till old Trott dies, and then
reproduces—what? Why, just what she locked up—a taste for
a young man at twenty—and just such a young man as she loved
when she was twenty! Bob—of course! Bob is like me—Bob
is twenty! Be Bob her husband!

But I cannot say I quite like such constancy!