Pink and Blue

EVERYBODY knows that a departing guest has the most to say. The touch of the door-knob sends to his lips a thousand things which must be told. Is it strange, then, that old people, knowing they have “made out their visit,” and feeling themselves brimful of wisdom and experience, should wish to speak from the fulness of their hearts to those whom they must so shortly leave ?

Nobody thinks it strange. The world expects it, and, as a general thing, bears it patiently. Knowing how universal is this spirit of forbearance, I should, perhaps, have forever held my peace, lest I might abuse good-nature, had it not been for some circumstances which will be related a little farther on.

My little place of business (I am the goldsmith of our village) has long been the daily resort of several of my particular cronies. They are men of good minds, — some of them quite literary; for we count, as belonging to our set, the lawyer, the schoolmaster, the doctor, men of business, men of no business, and sometimes even the minister. As may be supposed, our discussions take a wide range: I can give no better notion of how wide than to say that we discuss everything in the papers. Yesterday was a snow-storm, but the meeting was held just the same. It was in the afternoon. The schoolmaster came in late with a new magazine, from which he read, now and then, for the general edification.

“ Ah ! ” said he, “ if this be true, we can all write for the papers.”

“ How’s that ? ” we asked.

“ Why, it says here, that, if the true experience of any human heart were written, it would be worth more than the best tale ever invented.”

It was a terribly stormy day. The snow came whirling against the two windows of my shop, clinging to the outside, making it twilight within. I had given up work ; for my eyes arc not what they were, and I have to favor them. Nobody spoke for a while ; all had been set to thinking. Those few words had sent us all back, back, back, thirty, forty, fifty years, to call up the past. We were gazing upon forms long since perished, listening to voices long ago hushed forever. Could those forms have been summoned before us, how crowded would have been my little shop ! Could those voices have been heard, how terrible the discord, the cries of the wretched mingling with the shouts of the happy ones ! There was a dead silence. The past was being questioned. Would it reply ?

At last some one said,—

“ Try it.”

“But,” said another, “it would fill a whole book.”

“Take up one branch, then; for instance, our— well, our courting-days. Let each one tell how he won his wife.”

“But shall we get any money by it ? ”

“ To be sure we shall. Do you think people write for nothing ? ‘Worth more ‘ are the very words used; ‘ worth more ’ what ? Money, of course.”

“ But what shall we do with all our money ? ”

“ Buy a library for the use of us all. We will draw lots to see who shall write first; and if he succeeds, the others can follow in order.”

And thus we agreed.

I was rather sorry the lot fell upon me; for I was always bashful, and never thought much of myself but once. I think my bashfulness was mostly owing to my knowing myself to be not very good-looking. I believe that I am not considered a bad-looking old man; indeed, people who remember me at twenty-five say that I have grown handsome every year since.

I do not intend giving a description of myself at that age, but shall confine myself principally to what was suggested by my friend, as above mentioned, — namely, how I won my wife.

It is astonishing how a man may be deluded. Knowing, as I did, just the facts in the case, regarding my face and figure, yet the last day of the year 1817 found me in the full belief that I was quite a good-looking and every way a desirable young man. This was the third article in my creed. The second was, that Eleanor Sherman loved me ; and the first, that I loved her. It is curious how I became settled in the third article by means of the second.

I had spent hours before my lookingglass, trying to make it give in that I was good-looking. But never was a glass so set in its way. In vain I used my best arguments, pleaded before it hour after hour, re-brushed my hair, re-tied my cravat, smiled, bowed, and so forth, and so forth. “ Ill-looking and awkward ! ” was my only response. At last it went so far as to intimate that I had, with all the rest, a canceited look. This was not to be borne, and I withdrew in disgust. The argument should be carried on in my own heart. Pure reasoning only was trustworthy. Philosophers assured us that our senses were not to be trusted. How easy and straightforward the mental process! "Eleanor loves me; therefore I cannot look ill! ”

It was on the last day of the year I have mentioned, that, just having, for the fortieth time, arrived at the above conclusion, I prepared to go forth upon the most delightful of all possible errands. All day I had been dwelling upon it, wondering at what hour it would be most proper to go. At three o’clock, I arrayed myself in my Sunday-clothes. I gave a parting glance of triumph at my glass, and stepped briskly forth upon the crispy snow. I met people well wrapped up, with mouth and nose covered, and saw men leave working to thrash their hands. It must have been cold, therefore; but I felt none of it.

Her house was half a mile distant. ’T was on a high bank a little back from the road, of one story in front, and two at the sides. It was what was called a single house; the front showed only two windows, with a door near the corner. The sides were painted yellow, the front white, with a green door. There was an orchard behind, and two poplar-trees before it. The pathway up the bank was sprinkled with ashes. I had frequently been as far as the door with her, evenings when I waited upon her home; but I had never before approached the house by daylight, — that is, any nearer than the road. I had never said anything; it wasn’t time; but I had given her several little things, and had tried to be her beau every way that I knew.

Before I began to notice her, I had never been about much with the young folks, — partly because I was bashful, and partly because I was so clumsy-looking. I was more in earnest, therefore, than if I had been in the habit of running after the girls. After I began to like her, I watched every motion,— at church, at evening meetings, at singing-school; and a glance from her eye seemed to fall right upon my heart. She had been very friendly and sociable with me, always thanked me very prettily for what little trifles I gave her, and never refused my company home. She would put her hand within my arm without a moment’s hesitation, chatting all the while, never seeming in the least to suspect the shiver of joy which shot through my whole frame from the little hand upon my coat-sleeve.

I had long been pondering in my mind, in my walks by day and my lyings-down at night, what should be the next step, what overt act I might commit; for something told me it was not yet time to say anything.

What could have been more fortunate for my wishes, then, than the project set on foot by the young people, of a grand sleighing-party on New-Year’s evening ? They were mostly younger than myself, especially the girls. Eleanor was but seventeen, I was twenty-three. But I determined to join this party, and it was to invite Eleanor that I arrayed myself and set forth, as above mentioned. It was a bold step for a bashful man, — I mean now the inviting part.

I had thought over, coming along, just what words I should use ; but, as I mounted the bank, I felt the words, ideas, and all, slipping out at the ends of my fingers. If it had been a thickly settled place, I should not have thought much about being watched; but, as there was only one house in sight, I was sure that not a motion was lost, that my proceedings would be duly reported, and discussed by the whole village. All these considerations rendered my situation upon the stone step at the front-door very peculiar.

I knew the family were in the back part of the house ; for the shutters of the front-room were tightly closed, as, indeed, they always were, except on grand occasions. Nevertheless, knocking at the front-door seemed the right thing to do, and I did it. With a terrible choking in my throat, and wondering all the while who would come to open, I did it. I knocked three times. Nobody came. Peddlers, I had observed in like cases, opened the outside door and knocked at the inner. I tried this with no Letter result. I then ventured to open the inner door softly, and with feelings of awe I stood alone in the spare-room.

By the light which streamed in through the holes in the tops of the shutters I distinguished the green painted chairs backed up stiffly against the wall, the striped homespun carpet, andirons crossed in the fireplace, with shovel and tongs to match, the big Bible on the table under the glass, a waxwork on the high mahogany desk in the corner, and a few shells and other ornaments upon the mantelshelf.

The terrible order and gloom oppressed me. I felt that it was no slight thing to venture thus unbidden into the spareroom,— the room set apart from common uses, and opened only on great occasions: evening-meetings, weddings, or funerals. But, in the midst of all my tribulation, one other thought would come,—1 don't exactly like to tell it, but then I believe I promised to keep nothing back; — well, then, if I must,— I thought that this spareroom was the place where Eleanor would make up the fire, when — when I was far enough along to come regularly every Sunday night. With that thought my courage revived. I heard voices in the next room, the pounding of a flat-iron, and a frequent step across the floor. I gave a loud rap. The door opened, and Eleanor herself appeared. She had on a spotted calico gown, with a string of gold beads around her neck. She held in her hand a piece of fan coral. I felt myself turning all colors, stammered, hesitated, and believed in my heart that she would think me a fool. Very likely she did: for I really suppose that she never, till then, thought that I meant, anything.

She contrived, however, to pick out my meaning from the midst of the odd words and parts of sentences offered her, and replied that she would let me know that evening. As she did not invite me to the kitchen, the only thing left me to do was to say good-afternoon and depart. I don’t know which were the queerest,— my feelings in going up or in coming down the bank.

When fairly in the road, happening to glance back at the house, I saw that one half of a shutter was open, and that a man was watching me. He drew back before I could recognize him. That evening was singing-school. That was why I went to invite Eleanor in the afternoon. I was afraid some other fellow would ask her before school was out.

When I got there, I found all the young folks gathered about the stove. Something was going on. I pressed in, and found Harry Harlow. He had been gone a year at sea, and had arrived that forenoon in the stage from Boston. They were all listening to his wonderful stories.

When school was over, I stepped up close to Eleanor and offered my arm. She drew back a little, and handed me a small package. Harry stepped up on the other side. She took his arm, and they went off slowly together. I stood still a moment to watch them. When they turned the corner, I went off alone. Confounded, wonder-struck, I plunged on through the snow-drifts, seeing, feeling, knowing nothing but the package in my hand. I found mother sitting by the fire. She and I lived together,—she and I, and that was all. I knew I should find her with her little round table drawn up to the fire, her work laid aside, and the Bible open. She never went to bed with me out.

I didn’t want to tell her. I wouldn’t for the world, if I could have had the opening of my package all to myself. She asked me if I had fastened the backdoor. I sat down by the fire and slowly undid the string. A silver thimble fell on the bricks. There was also an artificial flower made of feathers, a copy of verses headed “ To a Pair of Bright Eyes,” cut from the county newspaper, a cherry-colored neck-ribbon, a smellingbottle, and, at the bottom, a note. I knew well enough what was in the note.


“ I must decline your invitation to the sleigh-ride; and I hope you will not be offended, if I ask you not to go about with me any more. I think you are a very good young man, and, as an acquaintance, I like you very much.

.Respectfully yours,


P. S. — With this note you will find the things you have given me.”

I took the iron tongs which stood near, picked up the thimble and dropped it into the midst of the hot coals, then the flower, then the verses, then the ribbon, then the smelling-bottle, and would gladly have added myself.

My mother and I were everything to each other. We two were all that remained of a large family. I had always confided in her but still I was sorry that I had opened the package there. I might have taken it to my chamber. But then she would have known, she must have known from my manner, that something was wrong with me. I think, on the

whole, I was glad to have her know the worst. I knew that my mother worshipped me; but she was not one of those who let their feelings be seen on common occasions. I gave her the note, and no more was needed. She tried to comfort me, as mothers will ; but I would not be comforted. It was my first great hearttrouble, and I was weighed down beneath it. She drew me towards her, I leaned my head upon her shoulder, and was not ashamed that she knew of the hot tears upon my cheeks. At last I heard her murmuring softly,—

“ Oh, what shall I do? he is all I have, and he is so miserable ! How can I bear his sorrow ? ”

I think it was the recollection of these words which induced me afterwards to hide my feelings, that she might not suffer on my account.

The next day was clear and bright. The sleighing was perfect. I was miserable. I had not slept. I could not eat. I dared not go into the village to encounter the jokes which I was certain awaited me there. Early in the evening, just as the moon rose, I took my stand behind a clump of trees, half-way up a hill, where I knew the sleighs must pass.

There I stood, feeling neither cold nor weariness, waiting, watching, listening for the sleigh-bells. At last I heard them, first faintly, then louder and louder, until they reached the bottom of the bill. Slowly they came up, passing, one after another, by my hiding-place. There were ten sleighs in all. She and Harry were in the fourth. The moon shone full in their faces, and his looked just as I had often felt; but I had never dared to show it as Harry did. I felt sure that he would kiss her. A blue coverlet was wrapped around them, and he was tucking it in on her side. The hill was steep just there, so that they were obliged to move quite slowly. They were talking earnestly, and I heard my name. I was not sure at first; but afterwards I knew.

I never thought of his being in earnest before. He is a great deal older than I, and I never thought that anybody so homely and awkward as he could suppose ”

“ Jingle, jingle, jingle,” and that was all I heard. I held myself still, watched the sleighs disappear, one after another, over the brow of the hill, listened till the last note of the last bell was lost in the distance, then turned and ran.

I ran as if I had left my misery behind, and every step were taking me farther from it. But when I reached home, there it was, aching, aching in my heart, just the same as before. And there it stayed. Even now, I can hardly bear to think of those terrible days and nights. But for my mother’s sake I tried to seem cheerful, though I no longer went about with the young folks, I applied myself closely to my business, sawed my mother’s wood for exercise, learned to paint, and read novels and poetry for amusement.

Thus time passed on. The little boys began to call themselves young men, and me an old bach; and into this character I contentedly settled down. My wild oats, of which I had had but scant measure, I considered sown. My sense of my own ill-looks became morbid. I hardly looked at a female except my mother, lest she’d think that I “ could suppose.” The old set were mostly married off. Eleanor married the young sailor. People spoke of her as being high-tempered, as being extravagant, spending in fine clothes the money he earned at the risk of his life. I don’t know that it made any difference to my feelings. It might. At the time she turned me off, I think I should have married her, knowing she had those faults. But she removed to the city, and by degrees time and absence wore off tire edge of my grief. My mother lost part of her little property, and I was obliged to exert myself that she might miss none of her accustomed comforts. She was a good mother, thoughtful and tender, sympathizing not only in my troubles, but in my every-day pursuits, my work, my books, my paintings.

When I was about thirty, Jane Wood came to live near us. Her mother and young sister came with her. They rented a small house just across the next field from us. Although ours, therefore, might have been considered an infected neighborhood, yet I never supposed myself in the slightest danger, because I had had the disease. Nevertheless, having an abiding sense of my own ugliness, I should not have ventured into the immediate presence of the Woods, except on works of necessity and mercy.

The younger sister was taken very ill with the typhus fever. It was customary, in our village, for the neighbors, in such cases, to be very helpful. Mother was with them day and night, and, when she could not go herself, used to send me to see if they wanted anything, for they had no men-folks.

I seldom saw Jane, and when I did, I never looked at her. I mean, I did not look her full in the face. It was to her mother that I made all my offers of assistance.

This habit of shunning the society of all young females, and particularly of the Wood girls, was by no means occasioned by any fears in regard to my own safety. Far from it. I considered myself as one set apart from all mankind, — set apart, and fenced in, by my own personal disadvantages. The thought of my caring for a girl, or of being eared for by a girl, never even occurred to me. “ Taboo,” so far as I was concerned, was written upon them all. The marriage state I saw from afar off. Beautiful and bright it looked in the distance, like the Promised Land to true believers. Some visions I beheld of its beautiful angels walking in shining robes; strains of its sweet melody were sometimes wafted across the distance; but I might never enter there. It was no land of promise to me. A gulf, dark and impassable, lay between. And beside all this, as I have already intimated, I considered myself out of danger. My life’s lesson had been learned. I knew it by heart. What more could be expected of me ?

But, after all, we can’t go right against our natures; and it is not the nature of man to look upon the youthful and the elderly female exactly in the same light. The feelings with which they are approached are essentially different, whether he who approaches be seventeen or seventy. Thus, in conversing with the old lady Wood, I was quite at my ease. When the invalid began to get well, I often carried her nice little messes, which my mother prepared, and was generally lucky enough to find Mrs. Wood, — for I always went in at the back-door. She asked me, one day, if I could lend Ellen something to read, — for she was then just about well enough to amuse herself with a book, but not strong enough to work. Now I always had (so my mother said) a kind and obliging way with me, and had, besides, a great pride in my library. I was delighted that anybody wanted to read my books, and hurried home to make a selection.

That very afternoon, I took over an armful. Nobody was in the kitchen ; so I sat down to wait. The door of the little keeping-room was open, and I knew by their voices that some great discussion was going on. I tipped over a cricket to make them aware of my presence. The door was opened wide, and Mrs. Wood appeared.

“Nowhere is Mr. Allen,” she exclaimed. “ Let us get his opinion.’'

Then she took me in, where they were holding solemn council over a straw bonnet and various colored ribbons. She introduced me to Ellen, whom I had never before met. She was a merrylooking, black-eyed maiden, and the roses were already blooming out again upon her cheeks. She was very young, — not more than fifteen or sixteen.

“ Now, Mr. Allen,” said Jane, (she was not so bashful to me as I was to her,) “ let us have your opinion upon these trimmings. Remember, though, that pink and blue can’t go together.”

She turned her face full upon me, and I looked straight into her eyes. I really believe it was the first time I had done so. They were beautifully blue, with long dark lashes. She had been a little excited by the discussion, and her cheeks were like two roses. A strange boldness came over me.

“ How can I remember that,” I answered, “ when I see in your face that pink and blue do go together ? ”

Never, till within a few years, could I account for this sudden boldness. I have now no doubt that I spoke by what spiritualists call “ impression.” We were all surprised, and I most of all. Jane laughed, and looked pinker than before. She would as soon have expected a compliment from the town pump, and I felt it.

I knew nothing of bonnets, but I had studied painting, and was a judge of colors. I made a Selection, and could see that they were again surprised at my good taste. I then offered my books, spoke of the different authors, turned to what I thought might particularly please them, and, before I knew it, was all aglow with the unusual excitement of conversation. I saw that they were not without cultivation, and that they had a quick appreciation of literary merit.

And thus an acquaintance commenced. I called often, for it seemed a pleasant thing to do. As my excuse, I took with me my books, papers, and all the new publications which reached me. I always thought they appeared very glad to see me.

Being strangers in the place, they saw but little company, and it seemed to be nothing more than my duty to call in now and then in a neighborly way. I talked quite easily; for among books I felt, at home. They talked easily, too ; for they ( I say it in no ill-natured way) were women. They began to consider my frequent calling as a matter of course, and always smiled upon me when I entered. I felt that they congratulated themselves upon finding me out. They had penetrated the ice, and found open sea beyond. I speak of it in this way, because I afterwards overheard Ellen joking her sister about discovering the Northwest Passage to my heart.

This was in the fall of the year, when the evenings were getting quite long. They were fond of reading, but had not much time for it. I was fond of reading, and had many long evenings at my disposal. It followed, therefore, that I read aloud, while they worked. With the “Pink and Blue” just opposite, I read evening after evening. At first I used to look up frequently, to see how such and such a passage would strike her; but one evening Ellen asked me, in a laughing, half-saucy sort of way, why I didn’t look at her sometimes to see how she liked things. This made me color up; and Jane colored up, too. After that I kept my eyes on my book ; but I always knew when she stopped her work and raised her head at the interesting parts, and always hoped she didn’t see the red flushes spreading over my face, and always wished, too, that she would look away, — for, somehow, my voice would not go on smoothly.

Those red flushes were to myself most mysterious. Nevertheless, they continued, and even appeared to be on the increase. At first, I felt them only while reading; then, upon entering the room; and at last they began to come before I got across the field. Still I felt no real uneasiness, but, on the contrary, was glad I could be of so much use to the family. Never before was the want of men-folks felt so little by a family of women-folks. I did errands, split kindling, dug “ tracks,” (i. e., paths in the snow,) and glued broken furniture.

I always thought of Jane as “ Pink and Blue.” Sometimes I thought from her manner that she would a little rather I wouldn’t come so often. I thought she didn’t look up at me so pleasantly as she used to at first, and seemed a little stiff; but, as I had a majority in my favor, I continued my visits. I always had one good look at her when I said good-night; but it made the red come, so that I had to hurry out before she saw. It seemed to me that her cheeks then looked pinker than ever, and the two colors, pink and blue, seemed to mingle and float before my eyes all the way home. “ Pink and blue,” “pink and blue.” How those two little words kept running in my head, and, I began to fear, in my heart too ! — for no sooner would I close my eyes at night than those delicate pink cheeks and blue eyes would appear before me. They haunted my dreams, and were all ready to greet me at waking.

I was completely puzzled. It reminded me of old times. Seemed just like being in love again. Could it be possible that I Was liable to a second attack ?

One night I took a new book and hurried across the field to the Woods’, for i never was easy till I saw “ Pink and Blue ” face to face ; and then,why, then, I was not at all easy. I felt the red flushes coming long before I reached the house. As soon as I entered the room, I felt that she was missing. I must have looked blank; for Mrs. Wood began to explain immediately, that Jane was not well, and had gone to bed; — nothing serious; but she had thought it better for her not to sit up. I remained and read as usual, but, as it seemed to me, to bare walls. I had become so accustomed to reading with “Pink and Blue” just opposite, to watching for the dropping of her work and the raising of her eyes to my face, that I really seemed on this occasion to be reading to no purpose whatever. I went home earlier than usual, very sober and very full of thought. My mother noticed it, and inquired if they were well at Mrs. Wood’s. So I told her about Jane.

That night my eyes were fully opened. I was in love. Yes, the old disease was upon me, and my last state was worse than my first,—just as much so as Jane was superior to Eleanor. The discovery threw me into the greatest distress. Hour after hour I walked the floor, in my own chamber, trying to reason the love from my heart, — but in vain ; and at length, tossing myself on the bed, I almost cursed the hour in which I first saw the Woods. I called myself fool, dolt, idiot, for thus running my head a second time into the noose. It may seem strange, but the thought that she might possibly care for me never once occurred to my mind. Eleanor’s words in the sleigh still rang in my ears: “ I never thought that anybody so homely and awkward could

suppose”− No, I must not “suppose.”

Once, in the midst of it all, I calmed down, took a light, and, very deliberately walking to the glass, took a complete view of my face and figure,—but with no other effect than to settle me more firmly in my wretchedness. Towards morning I grew calmer, and resolved to look composedly upon my condition, and decide what should be done.

While I was considering whether or not to continue my visits at the Woods’, I fell asleep just where I had thrown myself, outside the bed, in overcoat and boots. I dreamed of seeing “ Pink and Blue” carried off by some horrid monster, which, upon examination, proved to be myself. The sun shining in my face woke me, and I remembered that I had decided upon nothing. The best thing seemed to be to snap off the acquaintance and quit the place. But then I could not leave my mother. No, I must keep where I was,—and if I kept where I was, I must keep on at the Woods’, — and if I kept on at the Woods’, I should keep on feeling just as I did, and perhaps — more so. I resolved, finally, to remain where I was, and to take no abrupt step, (which might cause remark,) but to break off my visits gradually. The first week, I could skip one night,— the next, two,— and so on, — using my own judgment about tapering off the acquaintance gradually and gracefully to an imperceptible point. The way appearing plain at last, how that unloving might be made easy, I assumed a cheerful air, and went down to breakfast. My mother looked up rather anxiously at my entrance ; but her anxiety evidently vanished at sight of my face.

It did not seem to me quite right to forsake the Woods that morning; for some snow had fallen during the night, and I felt it incumbent upon me to dig somewhat about the doors. With my trousers tucked into my boots, I trod a new path across the field. It would have seemed strange not to go in ; so I went in and warmed my feet at the kitchenfire. Only Mrs. Wood was there; but I made no inquiries. Not knowing what to say, I rose to go; but, just at that minute, the mischievous Ellen came running out of the keeping-room and wanted to know where I was going. Why didn’t I come in and see Jane ? So I went in to see Jane, saying my prayers, as I went,— that is, praying that I might not grow foolish again. But I did. I don’t believe any man Could have helped it. She was reclining upon a couch which was drawn towards the fire. I sat down as far from that couch as the size of the room would allow. .She looked pale and really ill, but raised her blue eyes when she said good-morning; and then — the hot flushes began to come. She looked red, too, and I thought she had a settled fever. I wanted to say something,but didn’t know what. Some things seemed too warm, others too cold. At last I thought,— “ Why, anybody can say to anybody, ‘How do you do ? ’ ” So I said,—

“ Miss Wood, how do you do, this morning ? ”

She looked up, surprised; for I tried hard to stiffen my words, and had succeeded admirably.

“ Not very unwell, I thank you, Sir,” she replied; but I knew she was worse than the night before. My situation grew unbearable, and I rose to go.

“ Mr. Allen, what do you think about Jane?” said Ellen. “You know about sickness, don’t you ? Come, feel her pulse, and see if she will have a fever.” And she drew me towards the lounge.

My heart was in my throat, and my face was on fire, Jane flushed up, and I thought she was offended at my presumption. What could I do? Ellon held out to me the little soft hand: but I dared not touch it, unless I asked her first.

“Miss Wood,” I asked, “shall 1 mind Ellen?”

“ Of course you will,” exclaimed Ellen. “Tell him yes, Jane.”

Then Jane smiled and said,—

“ Yes, if he is willing.”

And I took her wrist in my thumb and finger. The pulse was quick and the skin dry and hot. I think I would have given a year’s existence to clasp that hand between my own, and to stroke down her hair. I hardly knew how I didn’t do it; and the fear that I should made me drop her arm in a hurry, as if it had burned my fingers. Ellen stared. I bade them good-morning abruptly, and left, the room and the house.

“ This, then,” I thought, as I strode along towards the village, “ is the beginning of the ending ! ”

That evening, I felt in duty bound to go, as a neighbor, to inquire for the sick.

I went, but found no one below. When Ellen came down, she said that Jane was quite ill. I remained in the keepingroom all the evening, mostly alone, asked if I could do anything for them, and obtained some commissions for the next day at the village.

Jane’s illness, though long, was not dangerous, — at least, not to her. To me it was most perilous, particularly the convalescence ; for then I could be of so much use to her! The days were long and spring-like. Wild flowers appeared. She liked them, and I managed that she should never be without a bunch of them. She liked paintings, and I brought over my own portfolio. She must have wondered at the number of violets and roses therein. The readings went on and seemed more delicious than ever. I owned a horse and chaise, and for a whole week debated whether it would be safe for me to take her to drive. But I didn’t; for I should have been obliged to hand her in, to help her out, and to sit close beside her all alone. All that could never be done without my betraying myself. But she got well without any drives; and by the latter part of April, when the evenings had become very short, I thought it high time to begin to skip one. I began on Monday. I kept away all day, all the evening, and all the next day. Tuesday evening, just before dark, I took the path across the field. The two girls were at work making a flower-garden. “ Pink and Blue ” had a spade, and was actually spading up the ground. I caught it from her hand so quickly that she looked up almost frightened. Her face was flushed, with exercise; but her blue eyes looked tired. How I reproached myself for not coming sooner ! At dark, I went in with them. We took our accustomed seats, and I read. “ Paradise regained ” was what I kept thinking of. Once, when I moved my seat, that I might be directly opposite Jane, who was lying on the couch, I thought I saw Ellen and her mother exchange glances. I was suspected, then, —and with all the pains I had taken, too. This rather upset me ; and what with my joy at being with Jane, my exertions to hide it, and my mortification at being discovered, my reading, I fear, was far from satisfactory.

The next morning I went early to the flower-garden, and, before anybody was stirring, had it all hoed and raked over, so that no more hard work could be done there. I didn’t go in. Thursday night I went again, and again Saturday night. The next week I skipped two evenings, and the next, three, and flattered myself I was doing bravely. Jane never asked me why I came so seldom, but Ellen did frequently; and I always replied that I was very busy. Those were truly days of suffering. Nevertheless, having formed my resolution,I determined to abide by it. God only knew what it cost me. On the beautiful May mornings, and during the long "after tea,” which always comes into country-life, I could watch them, watch her, from my window, while the planting, watering, and weeding went on in the flower-garden. I saw them go in at dark, saw the light appear in the keeping-room, and fancied them sitting at their work, wondering, perhaps, that nobody came to read to them.

One day, when I had not been there for three days and nights, I received, while at work in my shop, a sudden summons from home. My mother, the little boy said, was very sick. I hurried home in great agitation. I could not bear the thought that sickness or death should reach ray dear mother. Mrs. Wood met me at the door, to say that a physician had been sent for, but that my mother was relieved and there was no immediate danger. I hurried to her chamber and found — Jane by her bedside. For all my anxiety about my mother, I felt the hot flush spreading over my face. It seemed so good to see her taking care of my mother! In ray agitation, I caught hold of her hand and spoke before I thought.

“Oh, Jane,” I whispered, “I am so glad you are here!”

Her face turned as red as fire. I thought she was angry at my boldness, or, perhaps, because I called her Jane.

“ Excuse me,” said I. “ I am so agitated about mother that I hardly know what I am about.”

When the doctor came, he gave hopes that my mother would recover ; but she never did. She suffered little, but grew weaker and weaker every day. Jane was with her day and night; for my mother liked her about her bed better than anybody. Oh, what a strange two weeks were those ! My mother was so much to me, how could I give her up ? She was the only person on earth who cared for me, and she must die ! Yet side by side in my heart with this great grief was the great joy of living, day after day, night after night, under the same roof with Jane. By necessity thrown constantly with her, feeling bound to see that she, too, did not get sick, with watching and weariness, — yet feeling myself obliged to measure my words, to keep up an unnatural stiffness, lest I should break down, and she know all my weakness!

At last all was over, — my mother was dead. It is of no use,— I never can put into words the frenzied state of my feelings at that time. I had not even the poor comfort of grieving like other people. I ground my teeth and almost cursed myself, when the feeling would come that sorrow for my mother’s death was mingled with regrets that there was no longer any excuse for my remaining in the same neighborhood with Jane. I reproached myself with having made my mother’s death-bed a place of happiness; for my conscience told me that those two weeks had been, in one sense, the happiest of my life.

By what I then experienced I knew that our connection must bo broken off entirely. Half-way work had already been tried too long. Sitting by the dead, body of my mother, gazing upon that face which, ever since I could remember, had reflected my own joys and sorrows, I resolved to decide once for all upon my future course. I was without a single tie. In all the wide world, not a person cared whether I lived or died. One part of the wide world, then, was as good for me as another. There was but one little spot where I must not remain ; all the rest was free to me. I took the map of the world. I was a little past thirty, healthy, and should probably, accidents excepted, live out the time allotted to man. I divided the land mapped out before me into fifteen portions. I would live two years in each; then, being an old man, I would gradually draw nearer to this forbidden “little spot,” inquire what had become of the Woods, and settle down in the same little house, patiently to await my summons. My future life being thus all mapped out, I arose with calmness to perform various little duties which yet remained to be done before the funeral could take place.

Beautiful flowers were in the room; a few white ones were at my mother’s breast. Jane brought them. She had done everything, and I had not even thanked her. How could I, in that stilf way I had adopted towards her ?

My father was buried beneath an elmtree, at the farthest corner of the garden.

I had my mother laid by his side. When the funeral was over, Mrs. Wood and her daughters remained at die house to arrange matters somewhat, and to give directions to the young servant, who was now my only housekeeper. At one time I was left alone with Jane ; the others were up stairs. Feeling that any emotion on my part might reasonably be attributed to my affliction, I resolved to thank her for her kindness. I rushed suddenly up to her, and, seizing her hand, pressed it between my own.

“ I want to thank you, Jane,” I began, “ but — -1 cannot.”

And I could not, for I trembled all over, and something choked me so that I could not speak more.

“ Oh, don’t, Mr. Allen ! ” she said; and the tone in which she uttered the words startled me.

It seemed as if they came from the very depths of her being. Feeling that I could not control myself, I rushed out and gained my own chamber. What passed there between myself and my great affliction can never be told.

In a week’s time all was ready for my departure. I gave away part of the furniture to some poor relations of my father’s. My mother’s clothing and the silver spoons, which wore marked with her maiden name, I locked up in a trunk, and asked Mrs. Wood to take care of it. She inquired where I was going, and I said I didn’t know. I didn’t, lor I was not to decide until I reached Boston. I think she thought my mind was impaired by grief, and it was. I spent the last evening there. They knew I was to start the next forenoon in the stage, and they really seemed very sober. No reading was thought of. Jane had her knitting-work, and Mrs. Wood busied herself about her mending. The witcliy little Ellen was quite serious. She sat in a low chair by the fire, sometimes stirring up the coals and sometimes the conversation. Jane appeared restless. I feared she was overwearied with watching and her long attendance on my mother, for her face was pale and she had a headache. She left the room several times. I felt uneasy while she was out; but no less so when she came back,— for there was a strange look about her eyes.

At last I summoned all my courage and rose to depart.

“I will not say good-bye,”I said, in a strange, hollow voice ; “ I will only shake hands, and bid you good-night.” I shook hands with them all, — Jane last. Her hand was as cold as day. I dared not try to speak, but rushed abruptly from the house. Another long night of misery !

When I judged, from the sounds below stairs, tlmt my little servant had breakfast ready, I went down and forced myself to cat; for I was feeling deathly faint, and knew I needed food. I gave directions for the disposition of some remaining articles, and for closing the house, then walked rapidly towards the publichouse in the village, where my trunks had already been carried. I was very glad that I should not have to pass the \\ oods’. I saw the gil ls out in their garden just before I left, and took a last long look, but was sorry I did ; it did me no good.

I was to go to Boston in the stage, and then take a vessel to New York, whence I might sail for any part of the world. When I arrived at the tavern, the Boston stage was just in, and the driver handed me a letter. It was from the mate of the vessel, saying that its sailing would be delayed two days, and requesting me to take a message from him to his family, who lived in a small village six miles back from what was called the stageroad. 1 went on horseback, performed my errand, dined with the family, and returned at dark to the inn. After supper, it occurred to me to go to the Woods’ and surprise them. I wanted to see just what they were doing, and just how they looked,—just how she looked. But a moment’s reflection convinced me that I had much better not. But be quiet I could not, ami I strolled out of the back-door of the inn, and so into a wide field behind. There was a moon, but swift dark clouds were flying across it. causing alternate light and shadow. I strayed on through field and meadow, hardly knowing whither I went, yet with a half-consciousness that I should find myself at the end by my mother’s grave. I felt, therefore, no surprise when I saw that I was approaching, through a field at the back of my garden, the old elm-tree. As I drew near the grave, the moon, appearing from behind a cloud, showed me the form of a woman leaning against the tree. She wore no bonnet, — nothing but a shawl thrown over her head. Her face was turned from me, but I knew those features, even in the indistinct moonlight, and my heart gave a sudden leap, as I pressed eagerly forward. She turned in affright, half screamed, half ran, then, recognizing me, remained still as a statue.

“ Mr. Allen, you here ? I thought you were gone,” she said, at last.

“Jane, you here?” said I. “You ought not; the night is damp; you will get sick.”

Nevertheless, I went on talking, told what had detained me, described my journey and visit, and inquired after her family, as if I had been a month absent. I never talked so easily before; for I knew she was not looking in my face, and forgot how my voice might betray me. I spoke of my mother, of how much she was to me, of my utter loneliness, and even of my plans for the future.

“ But I am keeping you too long,” I exclaimed, at last; “this evening air is bad ; you must go home.”

I walked along with her, up through the garden, and along the road towards her house. I did not offer my arm, for I dared not trust myself so near. The evening wind was cool, and I took off my hat to let it blow upon my forehead, for my head was hot and my brain in a whirl. We came to a stop at the gate, beneath an apple-tree, then in full bloom. I think now that my mind at that time was not —exactly sound. The severe mental discipline which I had forced upon myself, the long striving to subdue the strongest feelings of a man’s heart, together with my real heart-grief at my mother's death, were enough, certainly, to craze any one. I was crazy ; for I only meant to say “ Good-bye,” but I said, “ Good-bye, Jane; I would give the world to stay, but I must go.” I thought I was going to take her hand; but, instead of that, I took her face between my own two hands, and turned it up towards mine. First I kissed her cheeks. “ That is for the pink,” I said. Then her eyes. “ And that is for the blue. And now I go. You won’t care, will you, Jane, that I kissed you ? I shall never trouble you any more ; you know you will never see me again. Good-bye, Jane! ”

I grasped her hand tightly and turned away. I thought I was off, but she did not let go my hand. I paused, as if to hear what she had to say. She had hitherto spoken but little; she had no need, for I had talked with all the rapidity of insanity. She tried to speak now, but her voice was husky, and she almost whispered.

“ Why do you go ? ” she asked.

“ Because I must, Jane,” I replied. “ I must go.”

“ And why must you go ? ” she asked.

“ Oh, Jane, don't ask me why I must go ; you wouldn’t, if you knew ”−

There I stopped. She spoke again. There was a strange tone in her voice, and I could feel that she was trembling all over.

Don't go, Henry.”

Never before had she called me Henry, and this, together with her strong emotion and the desire she expressed for me to stay, shot a bright thought of joy through my soul. It was the very first moment that I had entertained the possibility of her caring for me. I seemed another being. Strange thoughts flashed like lightning across my mind. My resolve was taken.

“ Who cares whether I go or stay ? ” I asked,

“I care,” said she.

I took both her hands in mine, and, looking full in her face, said, in a low voice, —

“Jane, how much do you care ?”

“ A whole heart full,” she replied, in a voice as low and as earnest as my own.

She was leaning on the fence ; I leaned back beside her, for I grew sick and faint, thinking of the great joy that might bo coming. “Jane,” said I, solemnly, “you wouldn’t marry me, would you ? ”

“ Certainly not,” she replied. “ How can I, when you have never asked me ? ”

“ Jane,” said I, and my voice sounded strange even to myself, “ I hope you are not trifling;.— you never would dare, did you know the state I am in, that I have been in for — oh, so long! But I can’t have hidden all my love. Can’t you see how my life almost is hanging upon your answer ? Jane, do you love me, and will you be my wife ?”

“ Henry,” she replied, softly, but firmly, “ I do love you. I have loved you a long, long time, and I shall be proud to be your wife, if—you think me worthy.”

It was more than I could bear. The sleepless nights, the days of almost entire fasting, together with all my troubles, had been too much for me. I was weak in body and in mind.

“ Oh, Jane !” was all I could say. Then, leaning my head upon her shoulder, I cried like a child. It didn’t seem childish then.

“ Oh, but, Henry, I won’t, then, if you feel so badly about it,” said she, half laughing. Then, changing her tone, she begged me to become calm. But in vain. The barriers were broken down, and the tide of emotion, long suppressed, must gush forth. She evidently came to this conclusion. She stood quiet and silent, and at last began timidly stroking my hair. I shall never forget the first touch of her hand upon my forehead. It soothed me, or else my emotion was spent; for, after a while, I became quite still.

“ Oh, Jane,” I whispered, “ my sorrow I could bear; but this strange happiness overwhelms me. Can it be. true V Oh, it is a fearful thing to be so happy! How came you to love me, Jane ? You are so beautiful, and I — I am so”−

“You are so good, Henry!” she exclaimed, earnestly,— “too good for me! You are a true-hearted, noble soul, worthy the love of any woman. If you weren’t so bashful,” she continued, in a lower tone, “ I should not say so much ; but — do you suppose nobody is happy but yourself? There is somebody who scarcely more than an hour ago was weeping bitter tears, feeling that the greatest joy of her life was gone forever. But now her joy has returned to her, her heart is glad, she trembles with happiness. Oh, Henry, it is a fearful thing to be so happy ! ’ ”

I could not answer; so I drew her close up to me. She was mine now, and why should I not press her closely to my heart, — that heart so brimful of love for her ? There was a little bench at the foot of the apple-tree, and there I made her sit down by me and answer the many eager questions I had to ask. I forgot all about the dampness and the evening air. She told how her mother had liked me from the first,—how they were informed, by somefew acquaintances they had made in the village, of my early disappointment, and also of the peculiar state of mind into which I was thrown by those early troubles; but when she began to love me she couldn’t tell. She had often thought I cared for her, — mentioned the day when I found her at my mother’s bedside, also the day of the funeral; but so well had I controlled my feelings that she was never sure until that night.

“ I trust you will not think me unmaidenly, Henry,” said she, looking timidly up in my face. “ You won’t think worse of me, will you, for — for almost offering myself to you?” .

There was but one answer to this, and I failed not to give it. ’T was a very earnest answer, and she drew back a little. Her voice grew lower and lower, while she told how, at my shaking hands the night before, she almost fainted, — how she longed to say “ Stay,” but dared not, for I was so stiff and cold : how could she say, “Don’t go, Mr. Allen; please stay and marry me”? — how she passed a wretched night and day, and walked out at evening to be alone, — how she felt that she could go nowhere but to my mother’s grave, — and, finally, how overwhelmed with joy she was when I came upon her so suddenly.

All this she told me, speaking softly and slowly, for which I was thankful; for I liked, to feel the sweet words of healing, dropping one by one upon my heart.

In the midst of our talk, we heard the front-door of the house open.

“ They are coming to look for me,” said Jane. “You will go in?”

Hand in hand we walked up the pathway. We met Ellen half-way down. She started with surprise at seeing me.

“ Why, Mr. Allen !” she exclaimed, “ I thought you a hundred miles off. Why, Jane, mother was afraid you had fallen down the well.”

She tripped gayly into the house.

“Mother ! ” she called out,—“you sent me for one, and I have brought you two.”

Jane and I walked in Land in hand; for I would not let her go. Her mother looked surprised, but well pleased.

“ Mrs. Wood,” said I, “ Jane has asked me to stay, and I am going to.”

Nothing more was needed; our faces told the rest.

“ Now Heaven be praised,” she replied, “ that we are still to have you with us! I could not help thinking, that, if you only knew how much we cared for you, you would not have been in such a hurry to leave us.” And she glanced significantly towards Jane.

The rest of the evening was spent in the most interesting explanations. I passed the night at the village inn, as I had intended, — passed it, not in sleep, but in planning and replanning, and in trying to persuade myself that “ Pink and Blue ” was my own to keep.

The next day I spent at the Woods’. It was the first really happy day of my life. In the afternoon, I took a long walk with Jane, through green lanes, and orchards white and fragrant with blossoms. In the evening, the family assembled, and we held sweet council together. It was decided unanimously, that, situated as I was, there was no reason for delaying the wedding, — that I should repossess myself of the furniture I had given away, by giving new in exchange, the old being dearer to both Jane and myself, — and, finally, that our wedding should be very quiet, and should take place as soon as Jane could be got ready. Through it all I sat like one in a dream, assenting to everything, for everything seemed very desirable.

As soon as possible, I reopened my house, and established myself there with the same little servant. It took Jane about a mouth to get ready, and it took me some years to feel wholly my own happiness.

The old house is still standing; but after Mrs. Wood died, and Ellen was married, we moved into the village; for the railroad came very near us, cutting right through the path “across the held.” I had the bodies of my father and mother removed to the new cemetery.

My wife has been to me a lifelong blessing, my heart’s joy and comfort. They who have not tried it can never know how much love there is in a woman’s heart. The pink still lingers on her cheek, and her blue eye has that same expression which so bewitched me in my younger days. The spell has never been broken. I am an old man and she is an old woman, and, though I don't do it before folks, lest they call us two old fools, yet, when I come in and find her all alone, I am free to own that I do hug and kiss her, and always mean to. If anybody is inclined to laugh, let him just come and see how beautiful she is.

Our sons are away now, and all our daughters are married but one. I ‘m glad they haven’t taken her,—she looks so much as her mother did when I first knew her. Her name is Jane Wood Allen. She goes in the village by the name of Jennie Allen ; but I like Jane better, — Jane Wood.

That is a true account of “ How I won my wife.”