Two or Three Troubles

IF there are only two or three, I am pretty sure of a sympathetic hearing. If there were two-and-twenty, I should be much more doubtful: for only last night, on being introduced to a tall lady in deep mourning, and assured that she had been “ a terrible sufferer,” that her life, indeed, had been “ one long tragedy,” I may as well confess, that, so far from being interested in this tall long tragedy, merely as such, I stepped a little aside on the instant, on some frivolous pretence, and took an early opportunity to get out of the way. Why this was I leave to persons who understand the wrong side of human nature. I am ashamed of it ; but there it is, — neither worse nor better. And I can’t expect others to be more compassionate than I am myself.

One of my troubles grew out of a pleasure, but was not less a trouble for the time. The other was not an excrescence, but ingrained with the material : not necessarily, indeed,— far from it; but, from the nature of the case, hopelessly so.

The penny-postman had brought me a letter from my Aunt Allen, from Albany. This letter contained, in three lines, a desire that her dear niece would buy something with the inclosed, and accept it as a wedding-gift, with the tenderest wishes for her life-long happiness, from the undersigned.

“ The inclosed ” fell on the floor, and Laura picked it up.

“ Fifty dollars! — hum! —Metropolitan Bank.”

“ Oh, now, that is charming ! Good old soul she is! ”

“ Yes. Very well. I’m glad she sent it in money.”

“ So am I. ’T isn’t a butter-knife, anyhow.”

“ How do you mean ?” inquired Laura.

“Why, Mr. Lang was telling last night about his clerk. He said he bought a pair of butter-knives for his clerk Hillman, hearing that he was to be married, and got them marked. A good substantial present be thought it was, — cost only seven dollars for a good article, and couldn’t fail to be useful to Hillman. He took them himself, so as to be doubly gracious, and met his clerk at the store-door.

“ ‘ Good morning ! — good morning ! Wish you joy, Hillman ! I’ve got a pair of butter-knives for your wife. — Hey ? got any'? ’

“ ‘ Eleven, Sir.’

“ Eleven butter-knives ! and all marked Murcia Ann Hillman, from A. B., from C. D., and so on ! ”

Laura laughed, and said she hoped my friends would all be as considerate as Aunt Allen, or else consult her. Suppose eleven tea-pots, for instance, or eleven silver salvers, all in a row! Ridiculous !

“ Now, Del, I will tell you what it is,” said Laura, gravely.

Laura was the sensible one, like Laura in Miss Edgeworth’s “Moral Tales,” and never made any mistake. I was like the naughty horse that is always rearing and jumping, but kept on the track by the good steady one. Of course, I was far more interesting, and was to be married in three weeks.

“ Now, Del, I ’ll tell you what it is. Are you going to have all your presents paraded on the study-table, for everybody to pull over and compare values,—and have one mortified, and another elated, and all uncomfortable ? ”

“ Why, what can I do?”

“ I know what I wouldn’t do.”

“ You wouldn’t do it, Laura?” said I, looking steadily at the fifty-dollar note.

“ Never, Del! I told Mrs. Harris so, when we were coming home from Ellis Hall’s wedding. It looked absolutely vulgar.”

We all swore by Mrs. Harris in that part of Boynton, and it was something to know that Mrs. Harris had received the shock of such a heterodox opinion.

“ And what did Mrs. Harris say, Laura ? ”

“ She said she agreed with me entirely.”

“Did she really?” said I, drawing a good long breath.

“ Yes, — and she said she would as soon, and sooner, go to a silversmith’s and pull over all the things on the counter. There were knives and forks, tea-spoons and table-spoons, fish-knives and pieknives, strawberry-shovels and ice-shovels, large silver salvers and small silver salvers and medium silver salvers. Everything useful, and nothing you want to look at. There wasn’t a thing that was in good taste to show, but just a good photograph of the minister that married them,— and a beautiful little wreath of sea-weed, that one of her Sundayschool scholars made for her. As to everything else, I would, as far as good taste goes, have just as soon had a collection of all Waterman's kitchen-furniture.”

Laura stopped at last, indignant, and out of breath.

“ There was a tremendous display of silver, I allow,” said I; “ the piano and sideboard were covered with it.”

“ Yes, and thoroughly vulgar, for that reason. A wedding-gift should be something appropriate,— not merely useful. As soon as it is only that, it sinks at once. It should speak of the bride, or to the bride, or of and from the friend, — intimately associating the gift with past impressions, with personal tastes, and future hopes felt by both. The gift should always be a dear reminder of the giver; a picture, — Evangeline or Beatrice; something yon have both of you loved to look at, or would love to. But think of the delight of cutting your meat with Edward’s present! forking ditto with Mary’s! a crumb-scraper reminding you of this one, table-bell of that one; large salver, Uncle, — rich; small salver, Uncle,— mean; gold thimble, Cousin,— meanest of all. Table cleared, ditto mind and memory, of the whole of them — till next meal, perhaps!

Laura ceased talking, but rocked herself swiftly to and fro in her chair. It is not necessary to say we were in our chambers,— as, since our British cousins have ridiculed our rocking-chairs, they are all banished from the parlor. Consequently we remain in our chambers to rock and be useful, and come into the parlor to be useless and uncomfortable in fauteuils, made, as the chair-makers tell us, “ after the line of beauty.” Laura and I both detest them, and Polly says, “ Nothing can he worse for the spine of a person’s back.” To be

“ Stretched on the rack of a too-easy chair,”

let anybody try a modern drawing-room. So Laura and I have cane sewing-chairs, which, it is needless to add, rock, — rock eloquently, too. They ware, as the boat waves with the impetus of the sea, gently, calmly, slowly, — or, as conversation grows animated, as disputes arise, as good stories are told, one after another, so do the sympathizing and eloquent rockingchairs keep pace with our conversation, stimulating or soothing, as it chances.

And now I come to my first trouble,— first, and, as it happened, of long standing now; insomuch that, when Laura asked me once, gravely, why I had not made it a vital objection, in the first place, I had not a word to reply, but just — rocked.

She, Laura, was stitching on some shirts for “ him.” They were intended as a wedding-gift from herself, and were beautifully made. Laura despised a Wheelerarid-Wilson, and all its kindred, — and the shirts looked like shirts, consequently.

I linger a little, shivering on the brink. Somehow I always say “ him,”—nowadays, of course, Mr. Sampson,—but then I always said “he” and “him.” I know why country-folk say so, now. Though sentimentalists say, it is because there is only one “ he ” for “ her,” I don’t believe it. It is because their names are Jotham, or Adoniram, or Jehiel, or Asher, or some of those names, and so they say “ he,” for short. But there was no short for me. So I may as well come to it. “His” name was America, — America Sampson. It is four years and a half since I knew this for a fact, yet my surprise is not lessened. Epithets are weak trash for such an occasion, or I should vituperate even now the odious practice of saddling children with one’s own folly or prejudice in the shape of names.

There was no help for it. There was no hope. My lover had not received his name from any rich uncle, with the condition of a handsome fortune; so he had no chance of indignantly asserting his choice to be Herbert barefoot rather than Hog’s-flesh with gold shoes. His father and mother had given his name, — not at the baptismal font, for they were Baptists, and didn’t baptize so,— but they had given it to him. They were both alive and well, and so were seventeen uncles and aunts who would all know,—in good health, and bad taste, all of them.

“ He ” had four brothers to keep him in countenance, all with worse names than his: Washington, Philip Massasoit, Scipio, and Hiram Yaw Byron ! There was the excuse, in this last name, of its being a family one, as far as Yaw went; but— However, as I said, language is wholly inadequate and weak for some purposes. There was a lower deep than America, — that was some comfort.

Hiram Yaw wasn’t sent to college, but to Ashtabula, wherever that is, and I never wish to see him. But to college was America sent,— to be “ hazed,” and taunted, and called “E Plury,” and his beak and claws inquired after, through the freshman year. I never knew how he went through,— I mean, with what feelings. Of course, he was the first, scholar. But that, even, must have been but a small consolation.

The worst of all was, he was sensitive about his name,—whether because it had been used to torment him, and so, like poor worn-out Nessus, he wrapped more closely his poisoned scarf, (I like scarf better than shirt,) —or whether he had, in the course of his law-studies and menstudies, come to think it really mattered very little what a man’s name was in the beginning; at all events, he had no notion of dismissing his own.

My own secret hope had been, that, by an Act of the Legislature, which that very season had changed Pontifex Parker to Charles Alfred Parker, Mr. Sampson might be accommodated with a name less unspeakably national. Dear me! Alfred, Arthur, Albert,— if he must begin with A.

“A was an Archer, and shot at a frog.”

I should even prefer Archer. It needn’t be Insatiate Archer. So I kept turning over and over the painful subject, one evening,—I mean, of course, in my mind, for I had not really broached this matter of legislative action. Luckily, “ he ” had brought in the new edition of George Herbert’s Works. We were reading aloud, and “ he ” read the chapter of “ The Parson in Sacraments.” At the foot was an extract from “The Parish Register” of Crabbe, which he read, unconscious of the way in which I mentally applied it. Indeed, I think he scarcely thought of his own name at that time. But I did, twenty-four times in every day. This was the note: —

“ Pride lives with all; strange names our rustics give
To helpless infants, that their own may live;
Pleased to be known, they ’ll some attention claim,
And find some by-way to the house of fame.
‘ Why Lonicera wilt thou name thy child? ’
I asked the gardener’s wife, in accents mild.
‘ We have a right,’replied the sturdy dame;
And Lonicera was the infant’s name.”

He stopped reading just here, to look at the evening paper, which had been brought in. I read something in it, and then we all went to sit on the piazza, with the street-lamp shining through the bitter-sweet vine, as good as the moon, and the conversation naturally and easily turned on odd names. I told what I had read in the paper: that our country rivalled Dickens’s in queer names, and that it wasn’t for a land that had Boggs and Bigger and Bragg for governors, and Stubbs, Snoggles, Seroggs, and Pugh among its respectable citizens, to accuse Dickens of caricature. I turned, a little tremulously, I confess, to “ him,” saying,—

“If you had been so unfortunate as to have for a name Darius Snoggles, now, for instance, wouldn’t you have it changed by the Legislature ? ”

I shivered with anxiety.

“ Certainly not,” he replied, with perfect unconsciousness. “ Whatever my name might be, I would endeavor to make it a respectable one while I bore it.”

Laura sat the other side of me, and softly touched me. So I only asked, if that great star up there was Lyra; but all the time Anodyne, Ambergris, Abner, Albion, Alpheus, and all the names that begin with A, rolled through my memory monotonously and continually.

After we went up-stairs that night, and while I was trying in vain to do up my hair so as to make a natural wave in front, (sometimes everything goes wrong,) Laura said,—

“ Delphine ! ”

My mother mixed romance with good practical sense, and very properly said that girls with good names and tolerable faces might get on in the world, but it took fortune to make your Sallies and Mollies go down. She had good taste, too, and didn’t name either of us Louisa Prudence, like an unfortunate I once saw; and we were left, with our nice cottage covered with its vine of bitter-sweet and climbing rose, fifteen hundred dollars each, and our names, Delphine and Laura. Not a bad heritage, with economy, good looks, and hearts to take life cheerily. Still it is plain enough that a fifty-dollar note for the bride was not to be despised nor overlooked. In fact, with the exception of Polly’s present of a brown earthen bowl and a pudding-stick, it was the first approach to a wedding-gift that I had yet received. And this note was trouble the second. But of that, by-andby.

“ Delphine ! ” said Laura, softly.

Some people’s voices excoriate you. Laura’s was soft and soothing.

“ Well !”

“ Don’t say any more to — to Mr. Sampson about names.”

“ Oh, dear ! hateful ! ”

“ Delphine, be thankful it’s no worse! ”

“Mow could it be worse,—unless it were Hog-and-Hominy ? I never knew anything so utterly ridiculous ! America ! Columbia! Yankee-Doodle ! I ‘d rather it had been Abraham!”

All this I almost shouted in a passion of vexation, and Laura hastily closed the window.

“ Let me loosen your braids for you, Del,” said she, quietly, taking up my hair in her gentle way, which always had a good effect on my prancing nerves ; “ let me bathe your forehead with this, dear; — now, let me tell you something you will like.”

“ Oh, my heart! Laura, I wish you could ! for I declare to you, that, if it wasn’t for—if it didn’t—Oh, dear, dear! how I do hate that name!”

“ It is not so very good a name, — that must be owned, Del. All is, you will have to call him ‘ Mr. Sampson,’ or ‘My dear,’ or ‘You’; or, stay, you might abbreviate it into Ame, Ami. Ami and Delphine!—it sounds like a French story for youth. If I were you, I wouldn’t meddle with it or think any more about it.”

“ Such a name ! so ridiculous ! ” I muttered.

“ You have considered it so much and so closely, Del, that it is most disproportionately prominent in your mind. You can put out Bunker-Hill Monument with your little finger, if you hold it close enough to your eye. Don’t you remember what Mr. Sampson said to-night about somebody whose mind had no perspective in it? that his shoe-ribbon was as prominent and important as his soul ? Don’t go and be a goosey, Del, and have no perspective, will you ? ” And Laura leaned over and kissed my forehead, all corrugated with ray pet grief.

“ Well, Laura, what can be worse ? I declare — almost I think, Laura, I would rather he should have some great defect.”

“ Moral or physical ? Gambling ? one leg ? one eye ? lying ? six lingers ? How do you mean, Del ? ”

“ Oh, patience! no, indeed! — six fingers! I only meant”—

And here, of course, I stopped.

“ Which virtue could you spare in Mr. Sampson ?” said Laura, coolly, fastening my hair neatly in its net, and sitting down in her rocking-chair.

When it came to that, of course there were none to be spared. We undressed, silently, — Laura rolling all her ribbons carefully, and I throwing mine about; Laura, consistent, conservative, allopathic, High-Church,—I, homœopathic, hydropathic, careless, and given to Parkerism. It did not matter, as to harmony. Two bracelets, but no need to be alike. We clasped arms and hearts all the same. By-and-by I remembered, —

“Oh ! what ’s your good news, Laura ? ”

“Ariana Cooper and Geraldine Parker are both married,—both on the same day, at Grace Church, New York.”

“Is it possible ? Who told you ? How do you know ? ”

“I read it in the ‘ Evening Post,’ just before I came up-stairs. Now guess,— guess a month, Del, and you won’t guess whom they have married.”

“No use to guess. They ’ve found somebody in New York at their aunt’s, I suppose. Both so pretty and rich, they were likely to find good partis.”

“ Merchants both, I think. Now do guess! ”

“How can I? Herbert Clark, maybe, — or Captain Ellington ? No, of course not. A merchant ? Julius Winthrop. I know Ariana was a great admirer of a military man. She used to say she would have loved Sidney for his chivalry, and Raleigh for his graceful foppery; and Pembroke Dunkin she admired for both. It isn’t Pembroke?”

And here I sighed over and over, like a foolish virgin.

“Now, then, listen. Here it is in the paper,” said Laura.

“‘Married, at Grace Church, by the Rev. So-and-So, assisted, etc., etc., Ossian Smutt, Esq., of the firm of S. Hamilton & Company, to Ariana, eldest daughter of the late George S. Cooper. At the same place, and day, Hon. Unity Smith, M. C., to Geraldine Miranda, daughter of the late Russell Parker of Pine Lodge. The happy quartette have left in the Persia for a tour in Europe. We wish them joy.’ ”

“ Ugh ! Laura! goodness! well, that outdoes me,” I screamed, with a sudden sense of relief, that set me laughing as passionately as I had been crying. For, though I have not before owned it, I had been crying heartily.

The Balm of a Thousand Flowers descended on my lacerated heart. To say the truth, I had dreaded more Ariana's little shrug, and Geraldine Parker’s upraised eyebrows, on reading my marriage, than a whole life of that name, on my own account merely. But now, thank Heaven, so much trouble was out of my way. Mrs. Unity Smith, and Mrs. Orlando— no, Ossian Smutt, could by no possibility laugh at me. Mrs. A. Sampson wasn’t bad on a card. It would not smut one, anyhow. I laughed grimly, and composed myself to sleep.

The next morning had come the pleasant letter from my Albany aunt, with the fifty-dollar note. Laura continued rocking, fifty strokes a minute, and stitching at the rate of sixty. I held the note idly, rubbing up my imagination for things new and old. Laura, being industrious, was virtuously employing her thoughts. As idleness brings mischief, and riches anxiety, I did not rock long without evil consequences. Eve herself was not contented in Eden. She had to do all the cooking, for one thing, — and angels always happening in to dinner! For my part, the name of Adam would have been enough to spoil my pleasure. Here Laura interrupted my thoughts, which were running headlong into everything wicked.

“ What do you say ? ”

“ What do you ? ” I answered ; for, like other had people, I had the greatest respect for good people’s opinions.

“ I think — a small — silver salver! ”

“ Do you think so, really ? ”

“ Yes, Del. That will be good ; silver, you know, is always good to have; and it will be handsome and useful always.”

“What! for us ? ”

“Yes, — pretty to hand a cup of tea on, or a glass of wine, — pretty to set in the middle of a long table with a vase of flowers on it, when you have the Court and High-Sheriff to dine,— as you will, of course, every year,— or with your spoon-goblet. Oh, there are plenty of ways to make a small silver salver useful. Mrs. Harris says she doesn’t see how any one can keep house without a silver salver.”

The last sentence she said with a laugh, for she knew I thought so much of what Mrs. Harris said.

“ We’ve kept house all our lives without one, Laura.”

“ Yes, — but I often wish we had one, for all that. As Mrs. Harris says, ‘It gives such an air ! ’ ”

What a dreadful utilitarian Laura was, I thought. Now, the whole world and Boston were full of beautiful things,— full of things that had no special usefulness, but were absolutely and of themselves beautiful. And such a thing I wanted,— such a presence before me,— “ a thing of beauty and of joy forever,”— something that would not speak directly or indirectly of labor, of something to be wrought out with toil, or associated with common, every-day objects. When that life should come to which I secretly looked forward,— when my soul should bound into a more radiant atmosphere, where the clouds, if any were, should be all goldand silver-tinted, and where my sorrows, love-colored, were to be sweeter than other people’s joys,— in that life, there would be moments of sweet abandonment to the simple sense of happiness. Then I should want something on which my mind might linger, my eye rest,— as the bird rests for an instant, to turn her plumage in the sun, and take another and loftier flight. Not a word of all this, which common minds called farrago, but which had its truth to me, did I utter to Laura. Of course, none of these things bear transplanting or expressing.

“ Laura, do you like that statue of Mercury in Mrs. Gore’s library ? ”

“ Very much. But I am sure I should be tired of seeing it every day, standing on one toe. I should be tired, if he was n’t.”

“Mrs. Gore says she never tires of it. I asked her. She says it is a delight to her to lie on the sofa and trace the beautiful undulations of his figure. How airy! It looks as if it would fly again without the least effort,—as if it had just ‘new-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill’! Don’t you think it perfect, Laura ?”

“ Well — yes, — I suppose so. I am not so enthusiastic as you are about it.”

“ Why don’t you like it ? ”

I would not let Laura see how disappointed I was.

“ One thing, — I don’t like statuary in any attitude which, if continued, would seem to be painful. I know artists admire what gives an impression of motion; and I like to look at Mercury once ; as you say, it gives an idea of flight, of motion,— and it is beautiful for two minutes. But then comes a sense of its being painful. So that statue of Hebe, or Aurora,— which is it? — looks as if swiftly coming towards you; but only for a minute. It does not satisfy you longer, because the. unfitness comes then, and the fatigue, and your imagination is harassed and fretted. I think statuary should be in repose, — that is, if we want it in the house as a constant object of sight. Eve at the fountain, or Echo listening, or Sabrina fair sitting

“‘Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
With twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of her amber-dropping hair! ’

No matter, if she is represented employed. The motion may go so far.”

I suppose I looked blank.

“ Oh, don’t think I am not glad to admire it. I thought you were thinking of it for Aunt Allen’s gift,” continued Laura.

“ And so I was. It costs just fifty dollars. But I think you are right about it. And, besides, do you like bronze, Laura ? ”

“ I like marble a great, great deal best. There is a bronze statue of Fortune, and a Venus, at Harris & Stanwood’s, that are called ‘so beautiful!’ — and I wouldn’t have them in my house.”

Here was an extinguisher. Laura did n’t like bronze. And Laura was to be in my house, whether bronzes were or not.

The sun shone brightly through the bitter-sweet that ran half over the window, and lighted on the corner of an old mahogany chest.

“ That reminds me! ” said I, suddenly. “ Yesterday, I was looking at crockery, and there was the most delightful cabinet!—real Japan work, such as we read of; full of little drawers, and with carved silver handles, and a secret drawer that shoots out when you touch a spring at the back. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing to stand in the parlor, Laura ? ”

“For what, Del? Could you keep silver in it ? How large is it ? ”

“Why, no,— it wouldn’t be large enough to hold silver. And, besides, I don’t know that I want it for any such purpose. It would hold jewelry.”

“ If you had any, Del.”

“ There ’s the secret drawer,— that would be capital for anything I wanted to keep perfectly secret.”

“ Such as what ? ”

“ Oh, I don’t know what, now ; but I might possibly have.”

“ I can’t think of anything you would want to shut up in that drawer,” said Laura, laughing at my mysterious face, which she said looked about as secret as a hen-coop with the chickens all flying out between the slats. “In the first place, you haven’t any secrets, and are not likely to have ; and next, you will show us (Mr. Sampson and me) the drawer and spring the first thing you do. And I shall look there every week, to see if there ’s anything hid there ! ”

“ Oh, bah ! ” said I to myself; “ Sumner told me that cabinet was just fifty dollars.”

Something— I know not what, and probably never shall know — made me rise from my rocking-chair, and walk to the chamber-window. At that moment, a man with a green bag in his hand walked swiftly by, touched his hat as he passed, and smiled as he turned the corner out of sight. A little spasm, half painful in its pleasure, contracted my chest, and then set out at a thrilling pace to the end of my fingers. Then a sense of triumphant fulness, in my heart, on my lip, in my eyes. Not the name, but the nature passed,—strong to wrestle, determined to win. Not the body, but the soul of a man, passed across my field of vision, armed for earthstrife, gallantly breasting life. What mattered the shape or the name, — whether handsome or with a fine fortune ? How these accidents fell off from the soul, as it beamed in the loving eye and firm lip !

“ The moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must ” lead “ me”

And gently as the fawn follows the forest-keeper does my heart follow his, to the green pastures and still waters where he loves to lead. I did not think whether he had a name.

“ Are you considering what to put into the secret drawer, Del ? ”

“ Yes, — rather.”

Again Laura and I sat and rocked,— this time silently, for my head was full, and I was holding a stopper on it to keep it from running over; while Laura was really puzzled about the way to make a dog’s eyes with Berlin wool. As I rocked, from association probably, I thought again of Eve, — who never seems at all like a grandmother to me, nor even like “ the mother of all living,” but like a sweet, capricious, tender, naughty girl. Like Eve, I had only to stretch forth my hand (with the fiffcy-dollar note in it) and grasp “ as much beauty as could live” within that space. Yet, as fifty dollars would buy not only this, but that, and also the other, it presently became the representative of tens of fifties, hundreds of fifties, thousands of fifties, and so on,— different fifties all, but all assuming shapes of beauty and value ; finally, alternately clustering and separating, gathering as if in all sorts of beautiful heads, — angel heads, winged children, — then shooting off in a thousand different directions, leaving behind landscapes of exquisite sunsets, of Norwegian scenery, of processions of pines, of moonlight seen through arched bridges, of Palmyrene deserts, of pilgrims in the morning praying. Then came hurdygurdy boys and little flower-girls again, mingling with the landscapes, and thrusting their curly heads forward, as if to bid me not forget them. Then they all ran away and left me standing in a long, endless hall with endless columns, and white figures all about,—in the niches, on the floor, on the walls, — each Olympian in beauty, in grandeur, in power to lift the entranced soul to the high region where itself was created, and to which it always pointed. The white figures melted and warmed into masses and alcoves, and innumerable volumes looked affectionately at me. They knew me of old, and had told me their delightful secrets. “ They had slept in my bosom, and whispered kind things to me in the dark night.” Some pressed forward, declaring that here was the new wine of thought, sparkling and foaming as it had never done before, from the depths of human sympathy; and others murmured, “ The old is better,” and smiled at the surface-thoughts in blue and gold. Volumes and authors grew angry and vituperative. There was so much to be said on all sides, that I was deafened, and, with a shake of my head, shook everything into chaos, as I had done a hundred times before.

“What are you thinking of, Del?” said Laura, pointing the dog’s eye with scarlet wool, to make him look fierce. “ You have been looking straight at me for half a minute.”

“ Half a minute ! have I ? ”

That wasn’t long, however, considering what I had seen in the time.

“ At Cotton’s, yesterday, I saw, Laura, a beautiful engraving of Arria and Pætus. She is drawing the dagger from her side, and saying, so calmly, so heroically,— ‘My Pætus! it is not hard to die ! ’ ”

I had inquired the price of this engraving, and the man said it was fifty dollars without the frame.

“ Those pictures are so painful to look at! don’t you think so, Del ? And the better they are, the worse they are ! Don’t you remember that day we passed with Sarah, how we wondered she could have her walls covered with such pictures ? ”

“ Morrill brought them home from Italy, or she wouldn’t, perhaps. But I do remember, — they were very disagreeable. That flaying of Marsyas! and Christ crowned with thorns! and that sad Ecce Homo ! ”

“ Yes,— and the Laocoön on that centre bracket! enough to make you scream to look at it! I desire never to have such bloody reminders about me; and for a parlor or sitting-room I would infinitely prefer a dead wall to such a picture, if it were by the oldest of the old masters. Who wants Ugolino in the house, if it is ever so well painted ? Supping on horrors indeed !”

We rocked again,— and Laura talked about plants and shirts and such healthy subjects. But, of course, my mind was in such a condition, nothing but fifty-dollar subjects would stay in it; and, most of all, I must not let Laura guess what I was thinking of.

“ Do you like enamelled watches, Laura,— those pretty little ones made in Geneva, I mean, worth from forty to sixty dollars ? ”

“ How do you mean? Do I like the small timepieces ? or is it the picture on the back ? ” said Laura.

“ Oh, either. I was thinking of a beauty I saw at Crosby’s yesterday, with the Madonna della Seggiola on the back. Now it is a good thing to have such a picture about one, any way. I looked at this through the microscope. It was surprisingly well done; and I suppose the watches are as good as most.”

“Better than yours and mine, Del? ” said Laura, demurely.

“Why, no, — I suppose not so good. But I was thinking more of the picture.”

“ Oh ! ” said Laura.

I was on the point of asking what she thought of Knight’s Shakspeare, when the bell rang and Polly brought up Miss Bussell’s card.

Miss Russell was good and pretty, with a peach-bloom complexion, soft blue eyes, and curling auburn hair. Still those were articles that could not well be appraised, as I thought the first minute after we were seated in the parlor. But she had over her shoulders a cashmere scarf, which Mr. Russell had brought from India himself, which was therefore a genuine article, and which, to crown all, cost him only fifty dollars. It would readily bring thrice that sum in Boston, Miss Russell said. But such chances were always occurring. Then she described how the shawls were all thrown in a mess together in a room, and how the captains of vessels bought them at hap-hazard, without knowing anything about their value or their relative fineness, and how you could often, if you knew about the goods, get great bargains. It was a good way to send out fifty or a hundred dollars by some captain you could trust for taste, or the captain’s wife. But it was generally a mere chance. Sometimes there would be bought a great old shawl that had been wound round the naked waist and shoulders of some Indian till it was all soiled and worn. That would have to be cut up into little neckscarfs. But sometimes, too, you got them quite new. Papa knew about dry goods, luckily, and selected a nice one.

Part of this was repulsive,, — but, again, part of it attractive. We don’t expect to be the cheated ones ourselves.

The bell rang again, and this time Lieutenant Clarence Herbert entered on tiptoe : not of expectation particularly, but he had a way of tiptoeing which had been the fashion before he went to sea the last time, and which he resumed on his return, without noticing that in the mean time the fashion had gone by, and everybody stood straight and square on his feet. The effect, like all just-gone-by fashions, was to make him look ridiculous ; and it required some sell-control on our part to do him the justice of remembering that he could be quite brilliant when he pleased, was musical and sentimental. He had a good name, as I sighed in recalling.

We talked on and on, instinctively keeping near the ground, and hopping from bough to bough of daily facts.

When they were both gone, we rejoiced, and went up-stairs again to our work and our rocking. Laura hummed,—

“ ‘The visit paid, with ecstasy we come,
As from a seven-years’ transportation, home,
And there resume the unembarrassed brow,
Recovering what we lost, we know not how,’—

“ What is it ? —

“'Expression,—and the privilege of thought.’ ”

“ What an idea Louisa Russell always gives one of clothes ! " said Laura. “ I never remember the least thing she says. 1 would almost as soon have in the house one of those wire-women they keep in the shops to hang shawls on, for anything she has to say.”

“ I know it,” I answered. “ But, to tell the truth, Laura, there was something very interesting about ber clothes to me to-day. That scarf! Don’t you think, Laura, that an India scarf is always handsome ? ”

“ Always handsome? What! all colors and qualities ? ”

“ Of course not. I mean a handsome one, — like Louisa Russell’s.”

“ Why, yes, Del. A handsome scarf is always handsome, — that is, until it is defaced or worn out. What a lileral mood you are in just now!”

“ Well, Laura,”—I hesitated, and then added slowly, “don’t you think that an India scarf has become almost a matter of necessity? I mean, that everybody has one ? ”

“ In Boston, you mean, I understand the New York traders say they sell ten cashmere shawls to Boston people where they do one to a New-Yorker.”

“ Mrs. Harris told me, Laura, that she could not do without one. She says she considers them a real necessary of life. She has lost four of those little neckscarfs, and, she says, she just goes and buys another. Her neck is always cold just there.”

“ Is it, really ? ” said Laura, dryly. “ I suppose nothing short of cashmere could possibly warm it! ”

“ Well, it is a pretty thing for a present, any way,” said I, rather impatiently; for I had settled on a scarf as unexceptionable in most respects. There was the bargain, to begin with. Then it was always a good thing to hand down to one’s heirs. The Gores had a long one that belonged to their grandmamma, and they could draw it through a gold ring. It was good to wear, and good to leave. Indicated blood, too,— and — and_ In short, a great deal of nonsense was on the end of my tongue, waiting my leave to slip off, when Laura said,—

“Didn’t Lieutenant Herbert say he would bring you Darley’s ‘Margaret’?”

“Yes, — he is to bring it to-morrow. What a pretty name Clarence Herbert is! Lieutenant Clarence Herbert, — there ’s a good name for you! How many pretty names there are ! ”

“You wouldn’t be at a loss to name boys,” said Laura, laughing, — “like Mr. Stiekney, who named his boys One, Two, and Three. Think of going by the name of One Stickney ! ”

“ That isn’t so bad as to be named ‘The fifteenth of March.’ And that was a real name, given to a girl who was born at sea. I wonder what she was called ‘for short.’ ”

“Sweet fifteen, perhaps.”

“That would do. Yes, —Herbert, Robert,” said I, musingly, “ and Philip, and Arthur, and Algernon, Alfred, Sidney, Howard, Rupert ” —

“ Oh, don’t, Del! You are foolish, now.”

“ How, Laura ? ” said I, consciously.

“ Why don’t you say America ? ”

“ Oh, what a fall! ”

“Enough better than your fine Lieutenant, Del, with his taste, and his sentiments, and his fine bows, and ‘ his infinite deal of nothing.’”

I sighed and said nothing. The namefancies had gone by in long procession. America had buried them all, and stamped sternly on their graves.

“What made you ask about Darley's ‘ Margaret,’ Laura ? ”

“ Oh, — only I wanted to see it.”

“ Don t you think,” said I, suddenly reviving with a new idea, “ that a portfolio of engravings is a handsome thing to have in one’s parlor or library ? Add to it, you know, from time to time; but begin with ‘Margaret,’ perhaps, and Retzsch's ‘Hamlet’ or ‘Faust,’—or a collection of fine wood engravings, such as Mrs. Harris has,— and perhaps one of Albert Dürer’s ugly things to show off with. What do you think of it, Laura ? ”

“ Do you ever look at Mrs. Harris’s nowadays, Del ? ”

“Why, no,— I can’t say I do, now. But I have looked at them when people were there. How she would shrug and shiver when they would put their fingers on her nice engravings, and soil, or bend and break them at the corners! Somebody asked her once, all the time breaking up a fine Bridgewater Madonna she had just given forty dollars for, ‘What is this engraving worth, now?’ She answered, coldly,— ‘Five minutes ago I thought it worth forty dollars: now I would take forty cents for it.’ ”

“ Not very polite, I should say,” said Laura. "And rather cruel too, on the whole ; since the offence was doubtless the result of ignorance only.”

“I know. But Mrs. Harris said she was so vexed she could not restrain herself: and besides, she would infinitely prefer that he should be mortally offended, at least to the point of losing his acquaintance, to having her best pictures spoiled. She said he cost too much altogether.”

“ She should have the corners covered somehow. To be sure, it would be better for people to learn how to treat nice engravings, — but they won’t; and every day somebody comes to see you, and talks excellent sense, all the while either rolling up your last ‘Art Journal,’ or breaking the face of Bryant’s portrait in, or some equal mischief. I don’t think engravings pay, to keep, — on the whole ; do you, Del ? ” And Laura smiled while she rocked.

“ Well, perhaps not. I am sure I shouldn’t be amiable enough to have mine thumbed and ruined ; and certainly, if they are only to be kept in a portfolio, it seems hardly worth while.”

“ So I think,” said Laura.

This vexatious consideration —for so it had become — of how I should spend my aunt’s money, came at length almost to outweigh the pleasure of having it to spend. It was perhaps a little annoyance, at first, but by repetition became of course great. The prick of a pin is nothing; but if it prick three weeks, sleeping and waking, “ there is diiferences, look you ! ”

“ What shall I do with it?” became a serious matter. Suppose I left the regions of art and beauty particularly, and came back and down to what would be suitable on the whole, and agreeable to my aunt, whose taste was evidently beyond what Albany could afford, or she would not have sent me to the Modern Athens to buy the right thing. Nothing that would break ; else, Sèvres china would be nice: I might get a small plate, or a dish, for the money. Clothes wear out. Furniture, — you don’t want to say, “ This chair, or this bureau or lookingglass, is my Aunt Allen’s gift.” No, indeed! It must be something uncommon, recherché, tasteful, durable, and, if possible, something that will show well and sound well always. If it were only to spend the money, of course I could buy a carpet or fire-set with it. And off went my bewildered head again on a tour of observation.

[To be continued.]