The Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties; And What Came of It

[Concluded.]

THE week of Mr. Clerron’s absence passed away more quickly than Ivy had supposed it would. The reason for this may be found in the fact that her thoughts were very busily occupied. She was more silent than usual, so much so that her father one day said to her,— “ Ivy, I haven’t heard you sing this long while, and seems to me you don’t talk either. What’s the matter ? ”

“ Do I look as if anything was the matter? ” and the face she turned upon him was so radiant, that even the father’s heart was satisfied.

Very quietly happy was Ivy to think she was of service to Mr. Clerron, that she could give him pleasure, — though she could in no wise understand how it was. She went over every event since her acquaintance with him ; she felt how much he had done for her, and how much he had been to her; but she sought in vain to discover how she had been of any use to him. She only knew that she was the most ignorant and insignificant girl in the whole world, and that he was the best and greatest man. As this was very nearly the same conclusion at which she had arrived at an early period of their acquaintance, it cannot be said that her week of reflection was productive of any very valuable results.

The day before Mr. Clerron’s expected return Ivy sat down to prepare her lessons, and for the first time remembered that she had left her books in Mr. Clerron’s library. She was not sorry to have so good an excuse for visiting the familiar room, though its usual occupant was not there to welcome her. Very quietly and joyfully happy, she trod slowly along the path through the woods where she last walked with Mr. Clerron. She was, indeed, at a loss to know why she was so calm. Always before, a sudden influx of joy testified itself by very active demonstrations. She was quite sure that she had never in her life been so happy as now; yet she never had felt less disposed to leap and dance and sing. The nonsolution of the problem, however, did not ruffle her serenity. She was content to accept the facts, and await patiently the theory.

Arriving at the house, she went, as usual, into the library without ringing, — but, not finding the books, proceeded in search of Mrs. Simm. That notable lady was sitting behind a huge pile of clean clothes, sorting and mending to her heart’s content. She looked up over her spectacles at Ivy’s bright “ good morning,” and invited her to come in. Ivy declined, and begged to know if Mrs. Simm had seen her books. To be sure she had, like the good housekeeper that she was. “ You’ll find them in the book-case, second shelf; but, Miss Ivy, I wish you would come in, for I’ve had something on my mind that I’ve felt to tell you this long while.”

Ivy came in, took the seat opposite Mrs. Simm, and waited for her to speak ; but Mrs, Simm seemed to be in no hurry to speak. She dropped her glasses; Ivy picked them up and handed them to her. She muttered something about the destructive habits of men, especially in regard to buttons; and presently, as if determined to come to the subject at once, abruptly exclaimed,—

“ Miss Ivy, you’re a real good girl, I know, and as innocent as a lamb. That’s why I’m going to talk to you as I do. I know, if you were my child, I should want somebody to do the same by you.”

Ivy could only stare in blank astonishment. After a moment’s pause, Mrs. Simm continued,—

“ I've seen how things have been going on for some time ; but my mouth was shut, though my eyes were open. I didn’t know but maybe I’d better speak to your mother about it; but then, thinks I to myself, she’ll think it is a great deal worse than it is, and then, like enough, there’ll be a rumpus. So I concluded, on the whole, I’d just tell you what I thought; and I know you are a sensible girl and will take it all right. Now you must promise me not to get mad.”

“ No,” gasped Ivy.

“ I like you a sight. It’s no flattery, but the truth, to say I think you’re as pretty-behaved a girl as you’ll find in a thousand. And all the time you’ve been here, I never have known you do a thing you hadn’t ought to. And Mr. Clerron thinks so too, and there’s the trouble. You see, dear, he’s a man, and men go on their ways and like women, and talk to them, and sort of bewitch them, not meaning to do them any hurt,—and enjoy their company of an evening, and go about their own business in the morning, and never think of it again; but women stay at home, and brood over it, and think there’s something in it, and build a fine air-castle, — and when they find it’s all smoke, they mope and pine and take on. Now that’s what I don’t want you to do. Perhaps you’d think I’d better have spoken with Mr. Clerron ; but it wouldn’t signify the head of a pin. He’d either put on the Clerron look and scare you to death and not say a word, or else he’d hold it up in such a ridiculous way as to make you think it was ridiculous yourself. And I thought I’d put you on your guard a little, so as you needn’t fall in love with him. You’ll like him, of course. He likes you ; but a young girl like you might make a mistake, if she was ever so modest and sweet,— and nobody could be modester or sweeter than you,— and think a man loved you to marry you, when he only pets and plays with you. Not that Mr. Clerron means to do anything wrong. He’d be perfectly miserable himself, if he thought he’d led you on. There a’n’t a more honorable man every way in the whole country. Now, Miss Ivy, it’s all for your good I say this. I don’t find fault with you, not a bit. It’s only to save you trouble in store that I warn you to look where you stand, and see that you don’t lose your heart before you know it. It’s an awful thing for a woman, Miss Ivy, to get a notion after a man who hasn’t got a notion after her. Men go out and work and delve and drive, and forget; but there a’n’t much in darning stockings and making pillow-cases to take a woman’s thought off her troubles, and sometimes they get sp’iled for life.”

Ivy bad remained speechless from amazement; but when Mrs. Simm had finished, she said, with a sudden accession of womanly dignity that surprised the good housekeeper,—

“ Mrs. Simm, I cannot conceive why you should speak in this way to me. If you suppose I am not quite able to take care of myself, I assure you you are very much mistaken.”

“ Lorful heart! Now, Miss Ivy, you promised you wouldn’t be mad.”

“ And I have kept my promise. I am not mad.”

“ No, but you answer up short like, and that isn’t what I thought of you, Ivy Geer.”

Mrs. Simm looked so disappointed that Ivy took a lower tone, and at any rate she would have had to do it soon; for her fortitude gave way, and she burst into a flood of tears. She was not, by any means, a heroine, and could not put on the impenetrable mask of a woman of the world.

“Now, dear, don’t be so distressful, dear, don’t! ” said Mrs, Simm, soothingly. “ I can’t bear to see you.”

“ I am sure I never thought of such a thing as falling in love with Mr. Clerron or anybody else,” sobbed Ivy, “ and I don’t know what should make you think so.”

“ Dear heart, I don’t think so. I only told you, so you needn’t.”

“ Why, I should as soon think of marrying the angel Gabriel! ”

“ Oh, don’t talk so, dear; he’s no more than man, after all; but still, you know, he’s no fit match for you. To say nothing of his being older and all that, I don’t think it’s the right place for you. Your father and mother are very nice folks; I am sure nobody could ask for better neighbors, and their good word is in everybody’s mouth; and they’ve brought you up well, I am sure; but, my dear, you know it’s nothing against you nor them that you a’n’t used to splendor, and you wouldn’t take to it natural like. You’d get tired of that way of life, and want to go back to the old fashions, and you’d most likely have to leave your father and mother; for it’s noways probable Mr. Clerron will stay here always; and when he goes back to the city, think what a dreary life you’d have betwixt his two proud sisters, on the one hand,— to be sure, there’s no reason why they should be; their gran’tker was a tailor, and their grandma was his apprentice, and he got rich, and gave all his children learning; and Mr. Felix’s father, he was a lawyer, and he got rich by speculation, and so the two girls always had on their highheeled boots; but Mr. Clerron, he always laughs at them, and brings up “ the grandpaternal shop,” as he calls it, and provokes them terribly, I know. Well, that’s neither here nor there; but, as I was saying, here you’ll have them on the one side, and all the fine ladies on the other, and a great house and servants, and parties to see to, and, lorful heart! Miss Ivy, you’d die in three years; and if you know when you’re well off, you’ll stay at home, and marry and settle down near the old folks. Believe me, my dear, it’s a bad thing both for the man and the woman, when she marries above her.”

“ Mrs. Simm,” said Ivy, rising, “ will you promise me one thing?”

“ Certainly, child, if I can.”

“ Will you promise me never again to mention this thing to me, or allude to it in the most distant manner ? ”

“Miss Ivy, now,” - began Mrs. Simm, depreeatingly.

“ Because,” interrupted Ivy, speaking very thick and fast, “ you cannot imagine how disagreeable it is to me. It makes me feel ashamed to think of what you have said, and that you could have thought it even. I suppose — indeed, I know — that you did it because you thought you ought; but you may be certain that I am in no danger from Mr. Clerron, nor is there the slightest probability that his fortune, or honor, or reputation, or sisters will ever be disturbed by me. I am very much obliged to you for your good intentions, and I wish you good morning.”

“ Don’t, now, Miss Ivy, go so"-

But Miss Ivy was gone, and Mrs. Simm could only withdraw to her pile of clothes, and console herself by stitching and darning with renewed vigor. She felt rather uneasy about the result of her morning’s work, though she had really done it from a conscientious sense of duty.

“ Welladay,” she sighed, at last, “ she’d better be a little cut up and huffy now, than to walk into a ditch blindfolded; and I wash my hands of whatever may happen after this. I’ve had my say and done my part.”

Alas, Ivy Geer! The Indian summer day was just as calm and beautiful,— the far-off mountains wore their veil of mist just as aerially,— the brook rippled over the stones with just as soft a melody ; but what “discord on the music” had fallen! what “darkness on the glory”! A miserable, dull, dead weight was the heart which throbbed so lightly but an hour before. Wearily, drearily, she dragged herself home. It was nearly sunset when she arrived, and she told her mother she was tired and had the headache, which was true,— though, if she had said heartache, it would have been truer. Her mother immediately did what ninety-nine mothers out of a hundred would do in similar circumstances, — made her swallow a cup of strong tea, and sent her to bed. Alas, alas, that there are sorrows which the strongest tea cannot assuage!

When the last echo of her mother’s footstep died on the stairs, and Ivy was alone in the darkness, the tide of bitterness and desolation swept unchecked over her soul, and she wept tears more passionate and desponding than her life had ever before known, — tears of shame and indignation and grief. It was true that the thought which Mrs. Simm had suggested had never crossed her mind before ; yet it is no less true, that, all-unconsciously, she had been weaving a golden web, whose threads, though too fine and delicate even for herself to perceive, were yet strong enough to entangle her life in their meshes. A secret chamber, far removed from the noise and din of the world, — a chamber whose soft and rose-tinted light threw its radiance over her whole future, and within whose quiet recesses she loved to sit alone and dream away the hours, — had been rudely entered, and thrown violently open to the light of day, and Ivy saw with dismay how its pictures had become ghastly and its sacredness was defiled. With bitter, though needless and useless self-reproach, she saw how she had suffered herself to be fascinated. Sorrowfully, she felt that Mrs. Simm’s words were true, and a great gulf lay between her and him. She pictured him moving easily and gracefully and naturally among scenes which to her inexperienced eye were grand and splendid ; and then, with a sharp pain, she felt how constrained and awkward and entirely unfit for such a life was she. Then her thoughts reverted to her parents, — their unchanging love, their happiness depending on her, their solicitude and watchfulness,— and she felt as if ingratitude were added to her other sins, that she could have so attached herself to any other. And again came back the bitter, burning agony of shame that she had done the very thing that Mrs. Simm too late had warned her not to do; she had been carried away by the kindness and tenderness of her friend, and, unasked, had laid the wealth of her heart at his feet. So the night flushed into morning; and the sun rose upon a pale face and a trembling form, — but not upon a faint heart; for Ivy, kneeling by the couch where her morning and evening prayer had gone up since lisping infancy,— kneeling no longer a child, but a woman, matured through love, matured, alas! through suffering, prayed for strength and comfort; prayed that her parents’ love might be rendered back into their own bosoms a hundred fold; prayed that her friend’s kindness to her might not be an occasion of sin against God, and that she might be enabled to walk with a steady step in the path that lay before her. And she arose strengthened and comforted.

All the morning she lay quiet and silent on the lounge in the little sittingroom. Her mother, busied with household matters, only looked in upon her occasionally, and, as the eyes were always closed, did not speak, thinking her asleep. Ivy was not asleep. Ten thousand little sprites flitted swiftly through the chambers of her brain, humming, singing, weeping, but always busy, busy. Then another tread softly entered, and she knew her dear old father had drawn a chair close to her, and was looking into her face. Tears came into her eyes, her lip involuntarily quivered, and then she felt the pressure of his-his ! — surely that was not her father’s kiss ! She started up. So, no! that was not her father’s face bending over her,— not her father’s eyes smiling into hers; but, woe for Ivy! her soul thrilled with a deeper bliss, her heart leaped with a swifter bound, and for a moment all the experience and suffering and resolutions of the last night were as if they had never been. Only for a moment, and then with a strong effort she remembered the impassable gulf.

“ A pretty welcome home you have given me!” said Mr. Clerron, lightly.

He saw that something was weighing on her spirits, but did not wish to distress her by seeming to notice it.

“ I wait in my library, I walk in my garden, expecting every moment will bring you, — and lo ! here you are lying, doing nothing but look pale and pretty as hard as you can.”

Ivy smiled, but did not consider it prudent to speak.

“I found your books, however, and have brought them to you. You thought you would escape a lesson finely, did you not ? But you see I have outwitted you.”

“Yes, — I went for the books yesterday,” said Ivy, “ but I got talking with Mrs. Simm and forgot them.”

“ Ah ! he replied, looking somewhat surprised. “I did not know Mrs. Simm could be so entertaining. She must have exerted herself. Pray, now, if it would not be impertinent, upon what subject did she hold forth with eloquence so overpowering that everything else was driven from your mind ? The best way of preserving apples, I dare swear, or the superiority of pickled grapes to pickled cucumbers.”

“ No,” said Ivy, with the ghost of another smile, — “upon various subjects; but not those. How do you do, Mr. Clerron ? Have you had a pleasant visit to the city ? ”

“ Very well, I thank you, Miss Geer; and I have not had a remarkably pleasant visit, I am obliged to you. Have I the pleasure of seeing you quite well, Miss Geer,— quite fresh and buoyant?”

The lightness of tone which he had assumed had precisely the opposite effect intended.

“ Ye banks and braes o’ bonny Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair ?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae weary fu’ o’ care? ”

is the wail of stricken humanity everywhere. And Ivy thought of Mr. Clerron, rich, learned, elegant, happy, on the current of whose life she only floated a pleasant ripple,— and of herself, poor, plain, awkward, ignorant, to whom he was the life of life, the all in all. I would not have you suppose this passed through her mind precisely as I have written it. By no means. The ideas rather trooped through in a pellmell sort of way; but they got through just as effectually. Now, if Ivy had been content to let her muscles remain perfectly still, her face might have given no sign of the confusion within ; but, with a foolish presumption, she undertook to smile, and so quite lost control of the little rebels, who immediately twisted themselves into a sob. Her whole frame convulsed with weeping and trying not to weep, he forced her gently back on the pillow, and, bending low, whispered softly,—

“ Ivy, what is it ? ”

“Oh, don’t ask me! — please, don’t! Please, go away ! ” murmured the poor child.

“I will, my dear, in a minute; but you must think I should be a little anxious. I leave you as gay as a bird, and healthy and rosy,—and when I come back, I find you white and sad and ill. I am sure something weighs on your mind. I assure you, my little Ivy, and you must believe, that I am your true friend,— and if you would confide in me, perhaps I could bring you comfort. It would at least relieve you to let me help you bear the burden.”

The burden being of such a nature, it is not at all probable that Ivy would have assented to his proposition; but the welcome entrance of her mother prevented the necessity of replying.

“ Oh, you’re awake ! Well, I told Mr. Clerron he might come in, though I thought you wouldn’t be. Slept well this morning, didn’t you, deary, to make up for last night?”

“ No, mamma, I haven’t been asleep.”

“ Crying, my dear ? Well, now, that’s a pretty good one ! Nervous she is, Mr. Clerron, always nervous, when the least thing ails her; and she didn’t sleep a wink last night, which is a bad thing for the nerves,—and Ivy generally sleeps like a top. She walked over to your house yesterday, and when she got home she was entirely beat out,—looked as if she had been sick a week. I don’t know why it was, for the walk couldn’t have hurt her. She’s always dancing round at home. I don’t think she’s been exactly well for four or five days. Her father and I both thought she’d been more quiet like than usual.”

The sudden pang that shot across Ivy’s face was not unobserved by Mr. Clerron. A thought came into his mind. He had risen at Mrs. Geer’s entrance, and he now expressed his regret for Ivy’s illness, and hoped that she would soon be well, and able to resume her studies; and, with a few words of interest and inquiry to Mrs. Geer, took his leave.

“ I wonder if Mrs. Simm has been putting her foot in it!” thought he, as he stalked home rather more energetically than was his custom.

That unfortunate lady was in her sitting-room, starching muslins, when Mr. Clerron entered. She had surmised that he was gone to the farm, and had looked for his return with a shadow of dread. She saw by his face that something was wrong.

“ Mrs. Simm,” he began, somewhat abruptly, but not disrespectfully, “may I beg your pardon for inquiring what Ivy Geer talked to you about, yesterday ? ”

“ Oh, good Lord! She ha’n’t told you, has she?” cried Mrs. Simm,—her fear of God, for once, yielding to her greater fear of man. The embroidered collar, which she had been vigorously beating, dropped to the floor, and she gazed at him with such terror and dismay in every lineament, that he could not help being amused. He picked up the collar, which, in her perturbation, she had not noticed, and said,—

“ No, she has told me nothing; but I find her excited and ill, and I have reason to believe it is connected with her visit here yesterday. If it is anything relating to me, and which I have a right to know, you would do me a great favor by enlightening me on the subject.”

Mrs. Simm had not a particle of that knowledge in which Young America is so great a proficient, namely, the “knowing how to get out of a scrape.” She was, besides, alarmed at the effect of her words on Ivy, supposing nothing less than that the girl was in the last stages of a swift consumption; so she sat down, and, rubbing her starchy hands together, with many a deprecatory “ you know,” and apologetic “ I am sure I thought I was acting for the best,” gave, considering her agitation, a tolerably accurate account of the whole interview. Her interlocutor saw plainly that she had acted from a sincere conscientiousness, and not from a meddlesome, mischievous interference ; so he only thanked her for her kind interest, and suggested that he had now arrived at an age when it would, perhaps, be well for him to conduct matters, particularly of so delicate a nature, solely according to his own judgment. He was sorry to have given her any trouble.

“ Scissors cuts only what comes between ’em,” soliloquized Mrs. Simm, when the door closed behind him. “It ever I meddle with a courting-business again, my name a'n’t Martha Simm. No, they may go to Halifax, whoever they be, ’fore ever I’ll lift a finger.”

It is a great pity that the world generally has not been brought to make the same wise resolution.

One, two, three, four days passed away, and still Ivy pondered the question so often wrung from man in his bewildered gropings, “What shall I do?” Every day brought her teacher and friend to comfort, amuse, and strengthen. Every morning she resolved to be on her guard, to remember the impassable gulf. Every evening she felt the silken cords drawing tighter and tighter around her soul, and binding her closer and closer to him. She thought she might die, and the thought gave her a sudden joy. Death would solve the problem at once. If only a few weeks or months lay before her, she could quietly rest on him, and give herself up to him, and wait in heaven for all rough places to be made plain. But Ivy did not die. Youth and nursing and herb-tea were too strong for her, and the color came back to her cheek and the languor went out from her blue eyes. She saw nothing to be done but to resume her old routine. It would be difficult to say whether she was more glad or sorry at seeming to see this necessity. She knew her danger, and it was very fascinating. She did not look into the far-off future; she only prayed to be kept from day to day. Perhaps her course was wise; perhaps not. But she had to rely on her own judgment alone; and her judgment was founded on inexperience, which is not a trustworthy basis.

A new difficulty arose. Ivy found that she could not resume her old habits. To be sure, she learned her lessons just as perfectly at home as she had ever done. Just as punctual to the appointed hour, she went to recite them; but no sooner had her foot crossed Mr. Clerron’s threshold than her spirit seemed to die within her. She remembered neither words nor ideas. Day after day, she attempted to go through her recitation as usual, and, day after day, she hesitated, stammered, and utterly failed. His gentle assistance only increased her embarrassment. This she was too proud to endure; and, one day, after an unsuccessful effort, she closed the book with a quick, impatient gesture, and exclaimed,—

“ Mr. Clerron, I will not recite any more ! ”

The agitated flush which had suffused her face gave way to paleness. He saw that she was under strong excitement, and quietly replied,—

“ Very well, you need not, if you are tired. You are not quite well yet, and must not try to do too much. We will commence here to-morrow.”

“ No, Sir,—I shall not recite any more at all.”

“ Till to-morrow.”

“ Never any more ! ”

There was a moment’s pause.

“ You must not lose patience, my dear. In a few days you will recite as well as ever. A fine notion, forsooth, because you have been ill, and forgotten a little, to give up studying! And what is to become of my laurels, pray,—all the glory I am to get by your proficiency ? ”

“ I shall study at home just the same, but I shall not recite.”

“ Why not ? ”

His look became serious.

“ Because I cannot. I do not think it best,— and—and I will not.”

Another pause.

“ Ivy, do you not like your teacher ?”

“ No, Sir. I hate you !

The words seemed to flash from her lips. She sprang up and stood erect before him, her eyes on fire, and every nerve quivering with intense excitement, He was shocked and startled. It was a new phase of her character,— a new revelation. He, too, arose, and walked to the window. If Ivy could have seen the workings of his face, there would have been a revelation to her also. But she was too highly excited to notice anything. He came back to her and spoke in a low voice,—

“ Ivy, this is too much. This I did not expect.”

He laid his hand upon her head as he had often done before. She shook it off passionately.

“ Yes, I hate you. I hate you, because ” -

“ Because I wanted you to love me ? ”

“ No, Sir; because I do love you, and you bring me only wretchedness. I have never been happy since the miserable day I first saw you.”

“ Then, Ivy, I have utterly failed in what it has been my constant endeavor to do.”

“ No, Sir, you have succeeded in what you endeavored to do. You have taught me. You have given me knowledge and thought, and showed me the source of knowledge. But I had better have been the ignorant girl you found me. You have taken from me what I can never find again. I have made a bitter exchange. I was ignorant and stupid, I know,— but I was happy and contented; and now I am wretched and miserable and wicked. You have come between me and my home and my father and mother,— between me and all the bliss of my past and all my hope for the future.”

“ And thus, Ivy, have you come between me and my past and my future ; — yet not thus. You shut out from my heart all the sorrow and vexation and strife that have clouded my life, and fill it with your own dear presence. You come between me and my future, because, in looking forward, I see only you. I should have known better. There is a gulf between us; but if I could make you happy”-

“I don’t want you to make me happy. I know there is a gulf between us. I saw it while you were gone. I measured it and fathomed it. I shall not leap across. Stay you on your side quietly ; I shall stay as quietly on mine.”

“ It is too late for that, Ivy, — too late now. But you are not to blame, my child. Little sunbeam that you are, I will not cloud you. Go shine upon other lives as you have shone upon mine ! light up other hearths as you have mine! and I will bless you forever, though mine be left desolate.”

He turned away with an expression on his face that Ivy could not read. Her passion was gone. She hesitated a moment, then went to his side and laid her hand softly on his arm. There was a strange moistened gleam in his eyes as he turned them upon her.

“ Mr. Clerron, I do not understand you.”

“ My dear, you never can understand me.”

“ I know it,” said Ivy, with her old humility ; “ but, at least, I might understand whether I have vexed you.”

“ You have not vexed me.”

“ I spoke proudly and rudely to you. I was angry, and so unhappy. I shall always be so; I shall never be happy again; but I want you to be, and you do not look as if you were.”

If Ivy had not been a little fool, she would not have spoken so; but she was, so she did.

“ I beg your pardon, little tendril. I was so occupied with my own preconceived ideas that I forgot to sympathize with you. Tell me why or how I have made you unhappy. But I know; you need not. I assure you, however, that you are entirely wrong. It was a prudish and whimsical notion of my good old housekeeper’s. You are never to think of it again. I never attributed such a thought or feeling to you.”

“ Did you suppose that was all that made me unhappy ? ”

“ Can there be anything else ? ”

“ I am glad you think so. Perhaps I should not have been unhappy but for that, at least not so soon ; but that alone could never have made me so.”

Little fool again ! She was like a chicken thrusting its head into a corner and thinking itself out of danger because it cannot see the danger. She had no notion that she was giving him the least clue to the truth, but considered herself speaking with more than Delphic prudence. She rather liked to coast along the shores of her trouble and see how near she could approach without running aground; but she struck before she knew it.

Mr. Clerron’s face suddenly changed. He sat down, took both her hands, and drew her towards him.

“ Ivy, perhaps I have been misunderstanding you. I will at least find out the truth. Ivy, do you know that I love you, that I have loved you almost from the first, that I would gladly here and now take you to my heart and keep you here forever ? ”

“ I do not know it,” faltered Ivy, half beside herself,

“ Know it now, then ! I am older than you, and I seem to myself so far removed from you that I have feared to ask you to trust your happiness to my keeping, lest I should lose you entirely; but sometimes you say or do something which gives me hope. My experience has been very different from yours. I am not worthy to clasp your purity and loveliness. Still I would do it, ifTell me, Ivy, does it give you pain or pleasure ? ”

Ivy extricated her hands from his, deliberately drew a footstool, and knelt on it before him, — then took his hands, as he had before held hers, gazed steadily into his eyes, and said,—

“Mr. Clerron, are you in earnest? Do you love me ? ”

“ I am, Ivy, I do love you.”

“ How do you love me ? ”

“ I love you with all the strength and power that God has given me.”

“ You do not simply pity me ? You have not, because you heard from Mrs. Simm, or suspected, yourself, that I was weak enough to mistake your kindness and nobleness,— you have not in pity resolved to sacrifice your happiness to mine ? ”

“No, Ivy,— nothing of the kind. I pity only myself. I reverence you, I think. I have hoped that you loved me as a teacher and friend. I dared not believe you could ever do more; now something within tells me that you can. Can you, Ivy? If the love and tenderness and devotion of my whole life can make you happy, happiness shall not fail to be yours.”

Ivy’s gaze never for a moment drooped under his, earnest and piercing though it was.

“Now I am happy,” she said, slowly and distinctly. “Now I am blessed. I can never ask anything more.”

“ But I ask something more,” he replied, bending forward eagerly. “ I ask much more. I want your love. Shall I have it? And I want you.”

“ My love ? ” She blushed slightly, but spoke without hesitation. “ Have I not given it,— long, long before you asked it, before you even cared for my friendship ? Not love only, but life, my very whole being, centred in you, does now, and will always. Is it right to say this? — maidenly ? But I am not ashamed. I shall always be proud to have loved you, though only to lose you,— and to be loved by you is glory enough for all my future.”

For a short time the relative position of these two people was changed. I allude to the change in this distant manner, as all who have ever been lovers will be able to judge what it was; and I do not wish to forestall the sweet surprise of those who have not.

Ivy rested there (query, where ?) a moment; but as he whispered, “ Thus you answer the second question ? You give me yourself too ? ” she hastily freed herself. (Query, from what ?)

“ Never! ”

“ Ivy! ”

“ Never! ” more firmly than before.

“ What does this mean?” he said, sternly. “ Are you trifling ? ”

There was such a frown on his brow as Ivy had never seen. She quailed before it.

“ Do not be angry! Alas! I am not trifling. Life itself is not worth so much as your love. But the impassable gulf is between us just the same.”

“ What is it ? Who put it there ? ”

“ God put it there. Mrs. Simm showed it to me,”

“ Mrs. Simm be-! A prating gossip ! Ivy, I told you, you were never to mention that again,— never to think of it; and you must obey me.”

“ I will try to obey you in that.”

“ And very soon you shall promise to obey me in all things. But I will not be hard with you. The yoke shall rest very lightly,— so lightly you shall not feel it. You will not do as much, I dare say. You will make me acknowledge your power every day, dear little vixen ! Ivy, why do you draw back ? Why do you not come to me ? ”

“ I cannot come to you, Mr. Clerron, any more. I must go home now, and stay at home.”

“ When your home is here, Ivy, stay at home. For the present, don’t go. Wait a little.”

“ You do not understand me. You will not understand me,” said Ivy, bursting into tears. “ I must leave you. Don’t make the way so difficult.”

“ I will make it so difficult that you cannot walk in it.”

His tones were low, but determined.

“ Why do you wish to leave me ? Have you not said that you loved me ? ”

“ It is because I love you that I go. I am not fit for you. I was not made for you. I can never make you happy. I am not accomplished. I cannot go among your friends, your sisters. I am awkward. You would be ashamed of me, and then you would not love me ; you could not; and I should lose the thing I most value. No, Mr. Clerron, — I would rather keep your love in my own heart and my own home.”

“ Ivy, can you be happy without me ? ”

“ I shall not be without you. My heart is full of lifelong joyful memories. You need not regret me. Yes, I shall be happy. I shall work with mind and hands. I shall not pine away in a mean and feeble life. I shall be strong, and cheerful, and active, and helpful; and I think I shall not cease to love you in heaven.”

“ But there is, maybe, a long road for us to travel before we reach heaven, and I want you to help me along. Ivy, I am not so spiritual as you. I cannot live on memory. I want you before me all the time. I want to see you and talk with you every day. ’Why do you speak of such things? Is it the soul or its surroundings that you value ? Do you respect or care for wealth and station ? Do you consider a woman your superior because she wears a finer dress than you ? ”

“I? No, Sir! No, indeed! you very well know. But the world does, and you move in the world ; and I do not want the world to pity you because you have an uncouth, ignorant wife. I don’t want to be despised by those who are above me only in station.”

“ Little aristocrat, you are prouder than I. Will you sacrifice your happiness and mine to your pride ? ”

“ Proud perhaps I am, but it is not all pride. I think you are noble, but I think also you could not help losing patience when you found that I could not accommodate myself to the station to which you had raised me. Then you would not respect me. I am, indeed, too proud to wish to lose that; and losing your respect, as I said before, I should not long keep your love.”

“But you will accommodate yourself to any station. My dear, you are young, and know so little about this world, which is such a bugbear to you. Why, there is very little that will be greatly unlike this. At first you might be a little bewildered, but I shall be by you all the time, and you shall feel and fear nothing, and gradually you will learn what little you need to know ; and most of all, you will know yourself the best and the loveliest of women. Dear Ivy, I would not part with your sweet, unconscious simplicity for all the accomplishments and acquired elegancies of the finest lady in the world.” (That’s what men always say.) “ You are not ignorant of anything you ought to know, and your ignorance of the world is an additional charm to one who knows so much of its wickedness as I. But we will not talk of it. There is no need. This shall be our home, and here the world will not trouble us.”

“ And I cannot give up my dear father and mother. They are not like you and your friends ”-

“ They are my friends, and valued and dear to me, and dearer still they shall be as the parents of my dear little wife ”-

“ I was going to say ”-

“ But you shall not say it. I utterly forbid you ever to mention it again. You are mine, all my own. Your friends are my friends, your honor my honor, your happiness my happiness henceforth; and what God joins together let not man or woman put asunder.”

“ Ah ! ” whispered Ivy, faintly ; for she was yielding, and just beginning to receive the sense of great and unexpected bliss, “but if you should be wrong, — if you should ever repent of this, it is not your happiness alone, but mine, too, that will be destroyed.”

Again their relative positions changed, and remained so for a long while.

“ Ivy, am I a mere schoolboy to swear eternal fidelity for a week ? Have I not been tossing hither and thither on the world's tide ever since you lay in your cradle, and do I not know my position and my power and my habits and my love ? And knowing all this, do I not know that this dear head ”-etc., etc., etc., etc.

But I said I was not going to marry my man and woman, did I not ? Nor have I. To be sure, you may have detected premonitory symptoms, but I said nothing about that. I only promised not to marry them, and I have not married them.

It is to be hoped they were married, however. For, on a fine June evening, the setting sun cast a mellow light through the silken curtains of a pleasant chamber, where Ivy lay on a white couch, pale and still, — very pale and still and statuelike ; and by her side, bending over her, with looks of unutterable love, clasping her in his arms, as if to give out of his own heart the life that had so nearly ebbed from hers, pressing upon the closed eyes, the white cheeks, the silent lips kisses of such warmth and tenderness as never thrilled maidenly lips in their rosiest flush of beauty, — knelt Felix Clerron ; and when the tremulous life fluttered back again, when the blue eyes slowly opened and smiled up into his with an answering love, his happiness was complete.

In a huge arm-chair, bolt upright, where they had placed him, sat Farmer Geer, holding in his sadly awkward hands the unconscious cause of all this agitation, namely, a poor, little, horrid, gasping, crying, writhing, old-faced, distressed-looking, red, wrinkled, ridiculous baby! between whose “ screeches ” Farmer Geer could be beard muttering, in a dazed, bewildered way, — “ Ivy’s baby ! Oh, Lud ! who’d ’a’ thunk it ? No more’n yesterday she was a baby herself. Lud ! Lud!”