Two and One


THE winter sun streamed pleasantly into the room. On the tables lay the mother’s work of the morning, — the neatly folded clothes she had just been ironing, A window was opened a little way to let some air into the room too closely heated by the brisk fire. The air fanned the leaves of the ivy-plant that stood in the window, and of the primrose which seemed ready to open in the warm sun. Above, there hung a cage, and a canary-bird shouted out now and then its pleasure at the sunny day, with a half-dream perhaps of a tropical climate in the tropical air with which the coal-fire filled the room. Mrs. Schroder leaned back in her old-fashioned rockingchair, and folded her hands, one over the other, ready to rest after her morning’s labor. She was willing to take the repose won by her work ; indeed, this was the only way she had managed to preserve her strength for all the work it was necessary for her to do. She had been conscious that her powers had answered for just so much and no more, and she had never been able to make further demands upon them.

When years before she was left a widow, with two sons to support and educate, all her friends and neighbors prophesied that her health would prove unequal to either work, and agreed that it was very fortunate that she had a rich relation or two to help her. But, unfortunately, the rich relations preferred helping only in their own way. One uncle agreed to send the older boy to his father’s relations in Germany, while the other wished to take the younger with him to his home in the South; and an aunt-in-law promised Mrs. Schroder work enough as seamstress to support herself.

It is singular how hard it is, for those who have large means and resources, to understand how to supply the little wants and needs of those less fortunate. The smallest stream in the mountains will find its way through some little channel, over rocks, or slowly through quiet meadows, into the great rivers, and finally feeds the deep sea, which is very thankless, and thinks little of restoring what is so prodigally poured into it. It only knows how to sway up with its grand tide upon the broad beaches, or to wrestle with turreted rocks, or, for some miles, perhaps, up the great rivers, it is willing to leave some flavor of its salt strength. So it is that we little ones, to the last, pour out our little stores into the great seas of wealth, — and the Neptunes, the gods of riches, scarcely know how to return us our due, if they would.

When Mrs. Schroder, then, refused these kindly offers, because she knew that her husband had wished his boys should be brought up together and in America, and because she could not separate them from each other or from herself, the relations thought best to leave her to her own will, and drew back, feeling that they had done their part for humanity and kinship. Now and then Mrs. Schroder received a present of a worn shawl or a bonnet out of date, and one New Year there came inclosed a dollar-bill apiece for the boys. Ernest threw his into the fire before his mother could stop him, while Harry said he would spend his for the very meanest thing he could think of; and that very night he bought some sausages with it, to satisfy, as he said, only their lowest wants.

Mrs. Schroder succeeded in carrying out her will, in spite of prophecy. Her very delicacy of body led her to husband her strength, while the boys very early learned that they must help their mother to get through her day’s work, Her feebleness of health helped her, too, in another way, — by stopping their boyquarrels.

“ Boys, don’t wrangle so ! If you knew how it makes my head ache ! ”

When these words came from the mother resting in her chair, the quarrel ceased suddenly. It ended without settlement, to be sure, which is the best way of finishing up quarrels. There are always seeds of new wars sown in treaties of peace. Austria is not content with her share of Poland, and Russia privately determines upon another bite of Turkey. John thinks it very unjust that he must give up his ball to Tom, and resolves to have the matter out when they get down into the street; while Tom, equally dissatisfied, feels that he has been treated like a baby, and despises the umpire for the partial decision.

These two boys, indeed, had their perpetual quarrel. Harry, the older, always got on in the world. He had a strong arm, a jolly face, and a solid opin-4 ion of himself that made its way without his asking for it. Ernest, on the other hand, was obliged to be constantly dependent on his brother for defence, for his position with other boys at school,— as he grew up, for his position in life, even. Harry was the favorite always. The schoolmaster — or teacher, as we call him nowadays — liked Harry best, although he was always in scrapes, and often behindhand in his studies, while Ernest was punctual, quiet, and always knew his lessons, though his eyes looked dreamily through his books rather than into them.

Harry had great respect for Ernest’s talent, made way for it, would willingly work for him. Ernest accepted these benefits: he could not help it, they were so generously offered. But the consciousness that he could not live without them weighed him down and made him moody. He alternately reproached himself for his ingratitude, and his brother for his favors. Sometimes he called himself a slave for being willing to accept them ; at other times he would blame himself as a tyrant for making such demands upon an elder brother.

As Mrs. Schroder leaned back in her chair alter her morning’s labor, the door opened, and a young girl came into the room. She had a fresh, bright face, a brown complexion, a full, round figure. She came in quickly, nodded cheerily to Mrs. Schroder, and knelt down in front of the fire to warm her hands.

“ I did want to come in this morning,” she said,—“the very last day! I should have liked to help you about Ernest’s things. But Aunt Martha must needs have a supernumerary wash, and I have just come in from hanging the last of the clothes upon the line.”

“It is very good of you, Violet,” answered Mrs. Schroder, “ but I was glad to-day to have plenty to do. It is the thinking that troubles me. My boys are grown up into men, and Ernest is going ! It is our first parting. To-day I would rather work than think.”

Violet was the young girl’s name. A stranger might think that the name did not suit her. In her manner was nothing of the shrinking nature that is a characteristic of the violet. Timidity and reserve she probably did have somewhere in her heart, — as all women do, — but it had never been her part to play them out. She had all her life been called upon to show only energy, activity, and self-reliance. She was an only child, and had been obliged to be son and daughter, brother and sister in one. Her father was the owner of the house in which were the rooms occupied by Mrs. Schroder and her sons. The little shop on the lower floor was his place of business. He was a watchmaker, had a few clocks on the shelves of his small establishment, and a limited display of jewelry in the window, together with a supply of watch-keys, and minute-hands and hourhands for decayed watches. For though his sign proclaimed him a watchmaker, his occupation perforce was rather that of repairing and cleaning watches and clocks than in the higher branch of creation.

Violet’s childhood was happy enough. She was left in unrestrained liberty outside of the little back-parlor, where her Aunt Martha held sway. Out of schoolhours, her joy and delight were to join the school-boys in their wildest plays. She climbed fences, raced up and down alley-ways, stormed inoffensive dooryards, chased wandering cats with the best of them. She was a favorite champion among the boys, — placed at difficult points of espionage, whether it were over beast, man, woman, or boy. She was proud of mounting some imaginary rampart, or defending some dangerous position. Sometimes a taunt was hurled from the enemy upon her allies for associating with a “girl”; but it always received a contemptuous answer, —“You 'd better look out, she could lick any one of you ! ” And at the reply, Violet would look down from her post on the picketed fence, shake her long curls triumphantly, and climb to some place inaccessible to the enemy, to show how useful her agility could be to her own party.

The time of sorrow came at twilight, when the boys separated for their homes, — when Harry and Ernest clattered up to their mother’s rooms. They could be boys still. They might throw open the house-doors with a shout and halloo, and fling away caps and boots with no more than an uncared-for reprimand. But Violet must go noiselessly through the dark entry, and, as she turned to close the door that let her into the parlor, she was greeted by Aunt Martha’s “Now do shut the door quietly ! ” As she lowered the latch without any sound, she would say to herself, “ Why is it that boys must have all the fun, and girls all the work ? ” She felt as if she shut out liberty and put on chains. Her work began then, — to lay the tea-table, to fetch and carry as Aunt Martha ordered. All this was pleasanter than the quiet evening that followed, because she liked the occupation and motion. But to be quiet the whole evening, that was a trial ! After the tea-things were cleared away, she would sit awhile by the stove, imagining all sorts of excitements in the combustion within ; but she could not keep still long without letting a clatter of shovel and tongs, or some vigorous blows of the poker, show what a glorious drum she thought the stove would make. Or if Aunt Martha suggested her unloved and neglected dolls, she would retire to the corner with them inevitably to come back in disgrace. Either the large wooden-headed doll came noisily down from the highbacked chair, where she had been placed as the Maid of Saragossa, or a suspicious smell of burning arose, when Joan of Arc really did take fire from the candle on her imaginary funeral-pile. Knitting was no more of a sedative, though for many years it had stilled Aunt Martha’s nerves. It was singular how the cat contrived always to get hold of Violet’s ball of yarn and keep it, in spite of Violet’s activity and the jolly chase she had for it all round the room, over chairs and under tables. Even her father, during these long evenings, often looked up over his round spectacles, through which he was perusing a volume of the “ Encyclopedia,” to wonder if Violet could never be quiet.

As she grew up, there was activity enough in her life, through which her temperament could let off its steam : a large house to be cared for and kept in order, some of the lodgers to be waited upon, and Aunt Martha, with her failing strength, more exacting than ever. Her evenings now were her happy times, for she frequently spent them in Mrs. Schroder's room. One of the economies in the Schroders’ life was that their pleasures were so cheap. What with Harry’s genial gayety and Ernest’s spiritual humor, and the gayety and humor of the friends that loved them, they did not have to pay for their hilarity on the stage. There were quiet evenings and noisy ones, and Violet liked them both. She liked to study languages with Ernest; she liked the books from the City Library that they read aloud, — romances that were taken for Mrs. Schroder’s pleasure, Ruskins which Ernest enjoyed, and Harry’s favorites, which, to tell the truth, were few. He begged to be made the reader,—oth erwise, he confessed, he was in danger of falling asleep.

Violet had grown up into a woman, and the boys had become men ; and now she was kneeling in front of Mrs. Schroder’s fire.

“ Ernest’s last day at home,” she said, dreamily. “ Oh, now I begin to pity Harry! ”

“ To pity Harry ? ” said Mrs. Schroder. “ Yes, indeed ! But it is Ernest that I think of most. He is going away among strangers. He depends upon Harry far more than Harry depends upon him.”

“ It is just that,” said Violet. “ Harry has always been the one to give. But it will be changed now, when Ernest comes home. You see, he will be great then, He has been dependent upon us, all along, because genius must move so slowly at first; but when he comes back, he will be above us, and, oh ! how shall we know where to find him?”

“ You do not mean that my boy will look down upon his mother?” said Mrs. Schroder, raising herself in her chair.

“ Look down upon us ? ” cried Violet. “ Oh, no ! it is only the little that do that, that they may appear to be high. The truly great never look down. They are kneeling already, and they look up. If they only would look down upon us ! But it is the old story: the body can do for a while without the spirit, can make its way in the world for a little, and meantime the spirit is dependent upon the body. Of course it could not live without the body,—what we call life. But byand-by spirit must assert itself, and find its wings. And where, oh, where, will it rise to ? Above us, — above us all ! ”

“How strangely you talk!” said Mrs. Schroder, looking into Violet’s face, “ What has this to do with poor Ernest ?”

“ I was thinking of poor Harry,” said Violet. “ All this time he has been working for Ernest. Harry has earned the money with which Ernest goes abroad, —which he has lived upon all these years, —not only his daily bread, but what his talent, his genius, whatever it is, has fed itself with. Ernest is too unpractical to have been able even to feed himself!”

“And he knows it, my poor Ernest!” said Mrs. Schroder. “ This is why he should be pitied. It is hard for a generous nature to owe all to another. It has weighed Ernest down ; it has embittered the love of the two brothers.”

“ But it is more bitter for Harry,” persisted Violet. “ All this time Ernest could think of the grand return he could bring when his time should come. But Harry ! He brings the clay out of which Ernest moulds the statue; but the spirit that Ernest breathes into the form,—will Harry understand it or appreciate it ? The body is very reverent of the soul. But I think the spirit is not grateful enough to the body. There comes a time when it says to it, 'I can do without thee ! ’ and spurns the kind comrade which has helped it on 'so far. Vet it could not. have done without the joy of color and form, of sight and hearing, that the body has helped it to.”

“You do not mean that Ernest will ever spurn Harry ?—they are brothers ! ” said poor Mrs. Schroder.

Violet looked round and saw the troubled expression in Mrs. Schroder’s face, and laughed as she laid her head caressingly in her friend’s lap.

“ I have frightened you with my talk,” she said. “ I believe the hot air in the room bewildered my senses and set me dreaming. Yes, Harry and Ernest are brothers, and I believe they will always work together and for each other. I have no business with forebodings, this laughing, sunny day. The March sun is melting the icicles, and they came clattering down upon me, as I was in the yard, with a happy, twinkling, childish laugh. There are spring sounds all about, water melting and dripping everywhere, full of joy. I am the last person, dear mother Schroder, to make you feel sad.”

Violet got up quickly, and busied herself about the room: filled the canary’s cup with water, drew out the table, and made all the usual preparations necessary for dinner, talking all the time gayly, till she had dispersed all the clouds on Mrs. Schroder’s brow, and then turned to go away.

“ You will stay and see Harry and Ernest ? ” asked Mrs. Schroder. “ They have gone to make the last arrangements.”

“ Not now,” said Violet. “ They wall like to be alone with you. I will see Ernest to bid him good-bye.”


TWO years passed away. At the end of this time Mrs. Schroder died. They had passed on, as years go, slowly and quickly. Sometimes, as a carriage takes us through narrow city-streets, and we look in at the windows we are passing, we wonder at the close, life that is going on behind them, and we say to ourselves, “ How slow the life must be within those confined walls ! ” At other times, when our own life is cramped or jarred by circumstances, we look with envy on the happy family-circles we see smiling within, and have a fancy that the roses have fallen to others, and we only have the thorns. There are full years, and there are years of famine, just as there come moments to all that seem like a life-time, and lives that hurry themselves away in a passing of the pendulum. It is of no use to shake the hour-glass; yet, when we are counting upon time, the sands hurry down like snow-flakes.

It was true, as Violet had foreboded, that Harry missed Ernest. He went heavily about his work, and the house seemed silent without him. Harry confessed this sadly to Violet, when his brother had been gone about a year. They had heard from Ernest in Florence, that he was getting on well. He had found occupation in the workshop of a famous sculptor, and had time besides to carry out some of his own designs.

“ He writes me,” said Harry, “ that he will be able now to support himself, and that he does not need my help. Do you know, Violet, that takes the life out of me ? I feel as if I had nothing to work for. I always felt a pride in working for Ernest, because I thought he was fitted for something better. Violet, it saddens me to think he can do without me. I go to my daily work; I lift my hammer and let it fall; but it is all mechanically; there is no vital force in the blow. It is hard to live without him.”

“ This is what I was afraid of,” said Violet. “ I was afraid he would think he could do without us. But he cannot do without you.”

“ Say that he cannot do without us” said Harry ; “ for he needs you, as I need you, and the question is, with which the need is greater.”

Violet turned red and pale, and said,—

“ We cannot answer that question yet.”

After Mrs. Schroder died, it was sad enough in the old rooms. In the daytime, when Harry was away at his work, Violet would go up-stairs and put all things in order, and make them look as nearly as possible as they did when the mother was there. Harry came to pass his evenings with Violet.

A few days after his mother’s death, he said to Violet, —

“ Is it not time for you to tell me that it is I who need you more than Ernest ? He writes very happily now. He is succeeding; he has an order for his statue. He writes and thinks of nothing else but what he will create, — of the ideas that have been waiting for an expression. I am a carpenter still, I shall never be more, and my work will always be less and lower than my love. Could you be satisfied with him ? He has attained now, Ernest has, what he was looking for; and have I not a right to my reward ? ”

The tears tumbled from Violet’s eyes.

“ Dear, noble Harry ! I am not ready for you yet. I do believe he is above us both, and satisfied to be above us both ; but I am not ready yet.”

A day or two afterwards, Harry brought Violet a letter from Italy. It was from an artist friend of Ernest’s, whose wife and mother had kindly received him into their home. Carlo wrote now that Ernest had been taken very ill. They thought him recovering, but he was still very low, and his mind depressed, and he continued scarcely conscious of those around him. He talked wildly, and begged that his home friends would come to him ; and though his new Italian friends promised him all that kindness could give, Carlo wrote to ask if it were not possible for his brother or his mother to come out. He had been working very hard, was just finishing an order that had occupied him the last year, and he had overtasked his mind as well as his body.

“ You will go to him ! ” exclaimed Violet, when she had read the letter.

“If nothing better can be done,” answered Harry. “ Only yesterday I made a contract for work with a hard master. It would be difficult to break it; but I will do it gladly, if there is nothing better to be done.”

“You mean that you would like to have me go to Ernest,” said Violet.

“ Will you go ? ” asked Harry. “ That will be the very best thing.”

Aunt Martha broke in here. She had been sitting quietly at the other side of the table, as usual, apparently engrossed with her knitting.

“ You do not mean to send Violet to Italy, and to take care of Ernest?” she exclaimed. “ What are you thinking of? I would never consent to Violet's going alone ; it would not be proper.”

Violet grew crimson at the reproof. She was standing beneath the light, and turned away her head.

“ Not if I were Harry’s betrothed ? ” she asked.

Aunt Martha looked up quickly. She saw the glad, relieved expression of Harry’s face.

“ If you are engaged to Harry, that is different, indeed ! ” she said.

It did make a difference in Aunt Martha’s thoughts. In the first place, it gave her pleasure. Harry was well-to-do in the world, lie would make a good husband for Violet, and a kindly one. She liked him better than she did Ernest. She had supposed Violet would marry one or other of the boys, and, “just because things went at cross-grain in the world,” she had always supposed Violet would prefer Ernest. She had never liked him herself. He was always spinning cobwebs in his brain; she never could understand a word of his talk. She did not believe he would live, and then Violet would be left a poor widow, as his mother had been left when her Hermann died. She remembered all about that. Ernest’s absence had encouraged her with regard to Harry ; but two years had passed, and it seemed to her the two were no nearer an engagement.

But now it was settled ; and if this foolish plan of Violet’s going to Italy had brought it about, the plan itself wore a different color.

Aunt Martha said no more of the impropriety. She reserved her complainings for the subject of the trouble of getting Violet ready, all of a sudden, for such a voyage.

Little trouble fell to Aunt Martha’s share. Violet went about it gladly. She advised directly with a friend who could tell her from experience exactly how little she would want, while Harry completed all the business arrangements. The activity, the adventure of it, suited Violet’s old tastes. She had no dread of a solitary voyage, of passing through countries whose languages she could not speak. Though burdened with anxiety for Ernest and for Harry, she went away with a glad heart. Unconsciously to herself, she reversed her old exclamation, saying to herself, —

“ The men, indeed, should not have all the work, and the women all the play ! ”

The journey was in fact easily accomplished. At another time Violet’s thoughts would have been occupied with the scenes she passed through. Now she travelled as a devotee travels heavenward, making a monastery of the world, and convent-walls out of rays from Paradise. She thought only of the end of her journey; and everything touched her through the throbbings of her heart. On shipboard, she was busy with the poor old sick father whom his children were carrying homo to his native land. In passing through Paris, she used all her time in helping a sister to find a brother; because her energy was always helpful. In travelling across France, she looked at her companions, asking herself to what home they were going, what friends they were bound to meet. From Marseilles to Leghorn, she was the only one of the women-passengers who was not sick ; and she was called upon for help in different languages, which she could understand only through the teachings of her heart.

It was this same teacher that led her to understand Ernest’s friends in Florence, when she had found them, and that led them to understand her. Ernest was in much the same state as when they wrote. He was growing stronger, but his mind seemed to wander.

“ And do you know, dear lady,” said Monica, Carlo’s mother, “ that we fear he has been starving, — starving, too, when we, his friends, had plenty, and would have been glad to give him ? He was to have been paid for his work when he had finished it; and he had given up his other work for his master, that he might complete his own statue. Oh, you should see that ! He is putting it into the marble,—or taking it out, rather, for it has life almost, and springs from the stone.”

“ But Ernest?” asked Violet.

“ Well, then, just for want of money, he was starving, — so the doctor says, now. I suppose he was too proud to write home for money, and his wages had stopped. And he was too proud to eat our bread. That was hard of him. Just the poor food that we have, to think he should have been too proiul to let us give it him ! — that was not kind.”

Ernest did not recognize Violet at first, but she took her place in the daily care of him. Monica begged that she would prepare food for him such as he had been used to have at home. She was very sure that would cure him. It would be almost as good for him as his native air. She was very glad a woman had come to take care of him. “ His brother’s betrothed, — a sister, — she would bring him back to life as no one else could.”

Violet did bring him back to life. Ernest had become so accustomed to her presence in his half-conscious state, that he never showed surprise at finding her there. He hardly showed pleasure; only in her absence his feverish restlessness returned ; in her presence he was quiet.

He grew strong enough to come out into the air to walk a little.

“ I must go to work soon,” he said one day. “ Monsieur wall be coming for his Psyche.”

“ Your Psyche ! I have not seen it.! ” exclaimed Violet. “ I have not dared to raise the covering.”

They went in to look at it. Violet stood silent before it. Yes, as Monica had said, it was ready to spring from the marble. It seemed almost too spiritual for form, it scarcely needed the wings for flight, it was ethereal already, — marble only so long as it remained unfinished.

At last Violet spoke.

“ Do not let it go ! Do not finish it; it will leave the marble then, I know ! Oh, Ernest, you have seen the spirit, and the spirit only! Could not you hold it to earth more closely than that ? It was too bold a thought of you to try to mould the spirit alone. Is not the body precious, too? Why will you be so careless of that ? ”

“ If the body would care for me,” said Ernest, “ I would care for the body. Indeed, this work shows that I have eared for the body,” he went on. “ One of these days, I shall receive money for my work; I have already sold my Psyche. One lives on money, you know. But it is but a poor battle,—the battle of life. I shall finish my Psyche, give it to the man who buys it, and then ”—

“ And then you will come home, come home to us !” said Violet; “ and we will take care of you. You shall not miss your Psyche ! ”

“ And then,” continued Ernest, shaking his head, “ then I shall go into Sicily. I shall help Garibaldi. I shall join the Italian cause.”

“ Garibaldi! The cause ! ” exclaimed Violet. “ Are you not ashamed to plead it? You know you would go then not for others, but to throw away your own life ! You are tired of living, and you seek that way to rid yourself of life ! Confess it at once ! ”

“ Very well, then,” answered Ernest, “ it is so.”

“ Then do not sully a good cause with a traitor’s help,” said Violet, “nor take its noble name. The life you offer would be worth no more than a spent ball. You have been a coward in your own fight, and Garibaldi does not — nor does Italy — want a coward in his ranks. Oh, Ernest, forgive me my hard words! but it is our life that you are spending so freely, it is our blood that you want to pour out! If you cannot live for yourself, for me, will you not live for Harry’s sake ? ”

“ For you, for you. Heart’s-Ease ! ” exclaimed Ernest, calling Violet by one of her old childish names. “ But Harry lives for you, and you for him; and God knows there is no life left for me. But you are right: I am a coward and a bungler, because I can create no life. I give myself to you and him.”

Violet stood long before the statue of Psyche, cold as the marble, with hot fires raging within.

“ He loves me, loves me as Harry does! His love is deeper, perhaps,—higher, perhaps. He was not above me, — he lifted me above himself, looked up to me ! He dies for me ! ”

Presently she found Ernest.

“Ernest, you say you will do as we wish. I must go home directly, and without you. I shall take a vessel from Leghorn. Harry and I planned my going home that way. It is less expensive, more direct; and I confess I do not feel so strong about going home alone as I did in coming. My head is full of thoughts, and I could not take care of myself; but I would rather go alone. You will stay here, and we will write to you, or Harry will come for you. But you must take care of yourself; you must not starve yourself.”

Her Italian Friends accompanied her to the vessel and bade her good-bye. Ernest was with them. She wrote to Harry the day she sailed. The vessel looked comfortable enough ; it was wellladen, and in its hold was the marble statue of a great man, — great in worth as well as in weight.

A few weeks after Violet left, Harry appeared in Florence. He had just missed her letter.

“ I came to bring you both home,” he said. “ I finished my contract successfully, and gave myself this little vacation.”

Harry was dismayed to find that Violet was gone.

“ But we will return directly, and arrive in time, perhaps, to greet her as she gets home.”

Monica urged,—

“ But you must not keep him long. See how much he has done in Italy ! You will see he must come back again.”

“Monsieur” had been for his statue, and was to send for it the next day, more than satisfied with it.

Harry was astonished.

“ Five hundred dollars ! It would take me long enough to work that out! Ah, Ernest, your hammering is worth more than mine ! ”

Harry’s surprise was not merely for the money earned. When he saw the white marble figure, which brought into the poor room where it stood grandeur and riches and life and grace, he wondered still more.

“ I see now,” he said. “ Yon spent your life on this. No wonder you were starving when your spirit was putting itself into this mould ! ”

Harry was in a hurry to return. Ernest’s little affairs were quickly settled. Harry was surprised to find Italian life was so like home life in this one thing: he had been treated so kindly, just as he would have been in his own home,— just as Mrs. Schroder, and even Aunt Martha, would have treated a poor Italian stranger who had sought a lodging in their house; they had welcomed Harry with the same warmth and feeling with which they had all along cared for Ernest. This was something that Harry knew how to translate.

“ When we were boys,” he said to Ernest, as they set out to return, “ and you used to talk about Europe, we little thought I should travel into it so carelessly as I did when I came here. I crossed it much as a pair of compasses would on the map: my only points of rest were the home I left and the one I was reaching for.”

Much in the same way they passed through it again. Harry spoke of and observed outward things, but everything showed that it was but a superficial observation. His thoughts were with Violet.

“ ‘ The Nereid ! ’ are you very sure the Nereïd is a sound vessel ? ” he often asked.

“ What should I know of the Nereïd ? ” at last answered Ernest, impatiently.

“ I believe you don't care a rush for Violet ! ” cried Harry. “ You can have dreams instead! Your Psyche, your winged angels and all your visions, they suffice you. While for me, —I tell you, Ernest, she is my flesh and blood, my meat and drink. To think of her alone on that ocean drives me wild; that inexorable sea haunts me night and day.”

He turned to look at Ernest, and saw him pale and livid.

“ God forgive me ! ” he said. “ I know you love her, too ! But it is our old quarrel ; we cannot understand each other, yet cannot live either of us without the other. Yet I am glad to quarrel even in the old way. That is pleasant, after all, is it not ? ”

They had a long, stormy voyage home; and a delay in crossing France had made them miss the steamer they hoped to take. At each delay, Ernest grew more silent, sadder, his face darker, his features thinner and more sharpened. Harry was wild in his impatience, and angry, but more and more thoughtful and careful for Ernest.

At last they reached the harbor, A friend met them who had been warned of their arrival by telegraph from Halifax. He met them to tell them of ill news ; they would rather hear it from him.

The Nereïd was lost, — lost just outside the Bay,—the vessel, the crew, all the passengers,—in a fearful storm of a week ago, the very storm that had delayed their own passage.

“ Let us go home,” said Harry.

“ Where is it ? ” asked Ernest.

“ Why were we not lost in the same storm ? ” cried Harry. “ How could we pass quietly along the very place ? ”

The brothers went home into the old room. Kindly hands had been caring for it,—had tried to place all things in their accustomed order. Even the canary had come back from Aunt Martha’s parlor.

There was a letter on the table. Harry saw that only. It was Violet’s letter, which she wrote on leaving Leghorn. He tore it from its cover, — then gave it, opened, to Ernest.

“You must read it for me,— I cannot ! ” and he hurried into an inner room.

Ernest held the letter helplessly and looked round. For him there was a double desolation in the room. The books stood untouched upon the shelves; his mother’s work-basket was laid aside. Suddenly there came back to him the memory of that last day at home,—the joyous spring-day in March,—which was so full of gay sounds. The clatter of the dropping ice, the happy laugh of the water breaking into freedom, the song of the canary, now hushed by the presence of strangers, — the thoughts of these made gay even that moment of parting. And with them came the image of the dear mother and of the warm-hearted Violet. Oh, the parting was happier than the return ! Now there was silence in the room, and absence, — such unuse about all things, — such a terrible stillness! He longed for a voice, for a sound, for words.

In his hands were words, her own, her last words. Half unconsciously he read through the letter, as if unwillingly too, because it might not belong to him. Yet they were her words, and for him.


“ Do you know that I love him ? — that I love Ernest ? I ought to have known it, just because I did not know how to confess it to myself or you. I thought he was above us both; and when I pitied myself that he could not love me, I pitied you, and my pity, perhaps, I mistook for love of you. Perhaps I mistook it, for I know not but I was conscious all the time of loving him. I learned the truth when I stood by the side of his Psyche, and saw, that, though she hovered from the marble, though he had won fame and success, he was unsatisfied still. It is true, he must always remain unsatisfied, because it is his genius that thirsts, and it is my ideal that he loves, not me. But he is dying ; he asks for me. You never could refuse him what he asked. You will give me to him ? If you were not so generous and noble-hearted, I could not ask you both for your pardon and your pity. But you are both, and will do with me as you will.

“ Your


As Ernest finished reading, as he was fully comprehending the meaning of the words which at first had struck him idly, Harry opened the door and came in. Ernest could not look up at first. He thought, perhaps, he was about to darken the sorrow already heavy enough upon his brother.

But when Harry spoke and Ernest looked into his face, he saw there the usual clear, strong expression.

“ I am going to tell you, Ernest, what I should have said before, — what I went to Florence to tell you.

“ After Violet left, the whole truth began to come upon me. She loved you; I had no right to her. She pitied me ; that was why she clung to me. You know I cannot think quickly. It was long before it all came out clearly ; but when it did come, I was anxious to act directly. I had finished my work; I went to tell you that Violet was yours; she should stay with you in that warm Italian air that you liked so much; she should bring you back to life. But I was too late. I know not if it is my failure that has brought about this sorrow, or if God has taken it into His own hands. I only know that she was yours living, she is yours now. I must tell you that in the first moment of that terrible shock of the loss, there came a wicked, selfish gleam of gladness that I had not given her up to you. But I have wiped that out with my tears, and I can tell you without shame that she is yours, that I have given her to you.”

“ We can both love her now,” said Ernest.

“ If she were living, she might have separated us,” said Harry ; “ but since God has taken her, she makes us one.”

And the brothers read together Violet’s letter.