WHEN we returned from our journey, Lulu was among the first to greet us, and with a cordial animation quite unlike the gentle, dawdling way she used to have. Indeed, I was struck the first evening with a new impulse, and a healthful mental current, that gave glow and freshness to everything she said. Mr. Lewis was gone to Cuba, she told us, and would be away a month more, but “ George ” was with her continually, and the days were all too short for what they had to do. She seemed to have attacked all the arts and sciences simultaneously, and with an eagerness very amusing to see. George had begun a numismatic collection for her, and she had made out an historic table from the coins, writing down all that was most important under each king’s reign. George had brought home some fine specimens of stones, and had interested her much in mineralogy. George liked riding, and had taught her to ride; and she now perpetually made her appearance in her rididg-habit and little jockey-cap, wishing she could do something for me here or there. George moulded, and taught her to mould; and she was dabbling in clay and plaster of Paris all the morning. George painted beautifully in water-colors, and taught her to sketch from Nature, which she often did now, in their rides, when the days were pleasant enough. George not only thrummed a Spanish guitar, but liked singing; so music went on with wonderful force and improvement. Nothing that George liked better than botany, metaphysics, and nicrology. And now Lulu was screaming at dreadful dragons’ heads on a pin’s point, or delighted with diamond - beetles and spiders’ eyes. She fairly revelled in the new worlds that were opened to her eager eye and hungry mind. No more long, tiresome mornings now. Every hour was occupied. Intelligent smiles dimpled her beautiful mouth; the weary, unoccupied, childish look vanished from her eyes; and her talk was animated and animating. For though she might not tell much that was new, she told it in a new way and with the fresh light of recent experience. Thus she became in a wonderfully short time a quite difierent woman from the Lulu of the early winter.
We acknowledged that she was become an agreeable companion. In a few weeks of home-education her soul had expanded to a tropical and rich growth. This we were talking over one night, when Lulu had been with us, and when George had come for her and extinguished us with his great hearty laugh and abundant health and activity, as the sun’s effulgence does a house-candle.
“ I don’t like that Remington, either,” said the minister, after we were left in this state of darkness.
“ But, surely, he has given Lulu’s mind a most desirable impulse and direction. How glad Mr. Lewis will be to see her so happy, so animated, and so sensible, when he comes home ! ”
“ If that makes him happy, he could have had it before, I suppose. But do you notice anything unhealthy in this mental cultivation,—anything forced in this luxuriant flowering ? Now the light of heaven expands the whole nature, I hold, into healthy and proportioned beauty. If anything is lacking or exuberant, the influence is not heavenly, be sure. What do you think of this statement ? ”
“ Very sensible, but very Hebrew to me.”
“ I never thought Lulu’s were ' household eyes,’ — but now she never speaks of husband or children, of house or home. Now that is not a suitable mental condition. Let us hope that this intellectual effervescence will subside, and leave her some thoughtfulness and care for others, and the meditation which will make her accomplishments something to enrich and strengthen, rather than excite and overrun her mind.”
“Ah! well, it is only a few weeks, not more than six, since she found out she had a soul. No wonder she feels she has been such a laggard in the race, she must keep on the gallop now to make up for lost time.”
“ But, — about the husband and children ? ”
“ Oh, they will come in in due time and take their true place. She is a young artist, and has n’t got her perspectives arranged. Be sure they will be in the foreground presently,” said I, cheerfully.
“ Let us hope so. For a wife, mother, and house-mistress to be racing after so many ologies, and ignoring her daily duties, is a spectacle of doubtful utility to me.”
To tell the truth, this want of domestic interest had often struck me also. One day, as we were talking about my children, Lulu had said that she believed herself destitute of the maternal instinct; for although she liked to see the children, of course, yet she did not miss them when away from her. And after the death of young Lewis, which happened while they were at Cuba, and which distressed my Johnnie so much that he could not for a long time bear either books or play, for want of his beloved playmate, his mother, apparently, did not lament him at all.
“ I never liked to have him with me,” she said to me, — “ partly, I suppose, because he reminded me of Montalli, and of a period of great suffering in my life. I should be glad never to think of him again. But William seemed to love and pity him always. Gave him his name, and always treated him like an only and elder son. And William is fond of the little girls, too. I don’t mean that I am not fond of them, but not as he is. He will go and spend a week at a time playing and driving with them.”
Indeed, she very often reminded me of Undine in her soulless days.
As she scarcely went into society, during the absence of Mr. Lewis, Lulu had time for all this multifarious culture that I have been describing, and she was gradually coming also to reason and reflect on what she read and heard, though her appetite for knowledge continued with the same keenness. Her artistic eye, which naturally grouped and arranged with taste whatever was about her, stood her in good stead of experience ; and with a very little instruction, she was able to do wonders in both a plastic and pictorial way.
One day she showed me a fine drawing of the Faun of Praxiteles, with some verses written beneath. The lines seemed to me full of vigor and harmony. They implied and breathed, too, such an intimacy with classical thought, that I was astonished when, in answer to my inquiry, she told me she wrote them herself.
“ How delighted Mr. Lewis will be with this ! ” I exclaimed, looking at the beautifully finished drawing ; “to think how you have improved, Lulu ! ”
“ You think so? ” she answered, with glistening eyes. “ I, too, feel that I have, and am so happy ! ”
“ I am sure Mr. Lewis will be so, too,” I continued, persistently.
She answered in a sharp tone, dropping her eyes, and, as it were, all the joy out of them, —
“ Surely, I have told you often enough that Mr. Lewis hates literary women ! I am not goose enough to expect him to sympathize with any intellectdal pursuits of mine. No. Fatima in the harem, or Nourmahal thrumming her lute under a palm-tree, is his belle-idéale ; tailing that, a housekeeper and drudge.”
I cannot describe the scorn with which she said this. She changed the subject, however, at once, instead of pursuing it as she would formerly have done, and soon after left me for a drive over Milton Hills with George, with a hammer and sketch-book in the chaise.
Mr. Lewis’s business in Cuba was prolonged into May. He had estates there, and desired to dispose of them, Lulu said, so that they might for the future live entirely at the North, which they both liked better.
I could not help seeing that her affections drifted farther and farther every week from their lawful haven, and I wished Mr. Lewis safe back again and overlooking his Northern estates. I guessed how, through her pride of awakened intellect, Lula’s gratitude had wrought a deep interest in her cousin. He had rescued her from the idleness and inanity of her daily life, pointed out to her the broad fields of literary enjoyment and excellence, and inevitably associated his own image with all the new and varied occupations with which her now busy days were filled. The poetry she read he brought to her; the songs she sang were of his selection. His mind and taste, his observations and reflections, were all written over every page she read, over every hour of her life. She had been on a desert island in her intellectual loneliness. She could hardly help loving the hand that had guided her to the palmtree and the fountain, especially when she glanced back at the long sandy reach of her life.
Naturally enough, I watched and distrusted Mr. Remington, who was a man of the world, and knew very well what he was about. Of all things, he dearly loved to be excited, occupied, and amused. Of course, I was not disturbed about his heart, nor seriously supposed he would get into any entanglement of the affections and the duties of life, but I thought he might do a great deal of harm for all that.
At last, in the middle of May, Mr. Lewis returned, having failed in his desired arrangement for a permanent residence in New England. The first evening I saw them together without company, I perceived that he was struck with the new life in Lulu’s manner and conversation. He watched and listened to her with an astonishment which he could not conceal.
I never saw anything like jealousy in Mr. Lewis's manner, either at this time, or before, He was always tender and dignified, when speaking to or of her. If he felt any uneasiness now, he did not betray it. In looking back, I am sure of this. Afterwards, in company, where he might be supposed to be proud of his wife, he often looked at her with the same astonishment, and sometimes with unaffected admiration. He could not help seeing the great change in her,— that the days were taken up with rational and elegant pursuits, and that the hours were vocal with poetry and taste. The illuminating mind had brought her tulip beauty into a brighter and more gorgeous glow, and her movements were full of graceful meaning. Everything was touched and inspired but the heart. I don’t know that he felt this, or that he missed anything. She had the same easy self-possession in his presence which she had always had, — the same pet names of endearment. It was always “ Willie, dear,” or “Yes, my love,” which makes the usual matrimonial vocabulary, and which does not reward study. But he always looked at her with a calm delight, perfectly satisfied with all she said and did, and with a Southern indolence of mind and body, that precluded effort. I think he never once lost entire confidence in her, or was jealous of the hand that had unlocked such mental treasures for her.
Meanwhile her eager lip quaffed the blight cup so cautiously presented, and drained it with ever new delight. If it was mingled with delicate flattery, it only sparkled more merrily ; and if there were poison there, I am sure she never guessed it, even when it burnt in her cheek or thrilled in her dancing veins.
THE Lewises, with Mr. Remington and a large party of pleasure-seekers, went about this time on a tour to Quebec and the Falls of Montmorency. They decided to shut their house in Boston, and Lulu asked me if I would employ and look after a,protégée of hers, in whom she took some interest. The woman was a tolerable seamstress, she said, and would come to me the next day. She knew nothing about her except that she was poor and could sew.
When the woman came in, I was puzzled to think where I could have seen her, which I was sure I had done somewhere, though I could not recall the where or when. In answer to my particular inquiries, as she could give me no references, she told me her husband was living, but was sick and could do nothing for his family,—in fact, that she and three children were kept alive by her efforts of various sorts. These were, sewing when she could get it, washing and scrubbing when she could not. She was very poorly dressed, but had a Yankee, go-ahead expression, as if she would get a living on the top of a bare rock.
Still puzzling over the likeness in her face to somebody I had known, I continued to ask questions and to observe face, manner, and voice, in hope to catch the clue of which I was in search. When she admitted that her husband’s intemperance had lost him his place and forbade his getting another, and said his name was Jim Ruggles, “a light broke in upon my brain.” I remembered my vision of the fresh young girl who had sprung out on our path like a morningglory, on our way to New York seven years before. The poor morning-glory was sadly trodden in the dust. It had n’t done “ no good,” as the driver had remarked, to forewarn her of the consequences of marrying a sponge. She had accepted her lot, and, strangely enough, was quite happy in it. There could be no mistake in the cheerful expression of her worn face. Whatever Jim might be to other people, she said, he was always good to her and the children; and she pitied him, loved him, and took care of him. It was n’t at all in the fashion the Temperance Society would have liked; for when I first went to the house, I found her pouring out a glass of strong waters for him, and handing it to his pale and trembling lips herself. As soon as I was seated, she locked bottle and glass carefully. Before I left her, she had given him stimulants of various sorts from the same source, which he received with grateful smiles, and then went on coughing as before.
“It’s no time now for him to be forming new habits,” said she, in answer to my open-eyed surprise; “ and it ’s best he should have all the comfort and ease he can get. As long as I can get it for him, he shall have it.”
She spoke very quietly, but very much as if the same will of her own which had led her to marry Jim Ruggles, when a gay, dissipated fellow, kept her determined to give him what he wanted, even to the doubtful extreme I saw. So she struggled bravely on during the next four weeks of Jim’s existence, keeping herself and her three children on hasty pudding, and buying for Jim's consumptively craving appetite rich mince-pies and platefuls of good rich food from an eatinghouse hard by. At the end of the four weeks he died most peacefully and suddenly, having not five minutes before swallowed a glass of gin sling, prepared by the loving hand of his wife, and saying to her, with a firm, clear voice, and a grateful smile, “ Good Amy ! always good ! ” So the weak man’s soul passed away. And as Amy told me about it, with sorrowful sobs, I was not ready to say or think she had done wrong, although both her conduct and my opinion were entirely uncanonical.
Before Mrs. Lewis returned, Amy was one day at my room and asked me when I expected her back.
“Is Mr. Lewis with her, Ma’am?” said she, hesitatingly.
“ Of course; at least, I suppose so. Why, what makes you ask ? ” said I, with surprise at her downcast eyes and flushed face.
“ I heard he had gone away. And that—that Mr. Bemington was there with her. But you know about it, most likely.”
“ No, I know nothing about it, Amy.”
“ It was their old cook told me, Mrs. Butler. And she said, — oh! all sorts of things, that I am sure could n’t be true, for Mrs. Lewis is such a kind, beautiful woman ! I could n’t believe a word she said ! ”
In my quality of minister’s wife,, and with a general distrust of cooks’ opinions, I told Amy that there was always scandal enough, and it was a waste of time to listen to it. But after she left me, I confess to a whole hour wasted in speculations and anxious reflections on Amy’s communication, and also to having taken the Dominie away from his sermon for a like space of time to consider the matter fully.
I was relieved when the whole party came back, and when the blooming, happy face of Lulu showed that she, at least, had neither thought nor done anything very bad.
The summer was becoming warm and oppressive in Boston, and we prepared to take the children and go to Weston for a few weeks. While we should be among the mountains, the Lewises proposed a voyage to Scotland, and we hoped that sometime in the early autumn we should all be together once more.
The evening before our departure Mr. Remington and Lulu spent with us, Mr. Lewis coming in at a later hour. I remember vividly the conversation during the whole of that last evening we ever passed together.
WHILE Mrs. Lewis and I were chatting in one corner on interests specially feminine, the Dominic had got Mr. Remington into a metaphysical discussion of some length. From time to time we heard, “ Pascal’s idea seems to be,” and then, “ The notion of Descartes and all that school of thinkers ”; and feeling that they were plunging quite beyond our depth, we continued babbling of dry goods, and what was becoming, till Mr. Remington leaned back laughing to us, and said, —
“ What do you think, ladies ? or are you of the opinion of somebody who said of metaphysics, ' Whoever troubles himself to skin a flint should have the skin for his pains’?”
“ But that is a most unfair comparison! ” said the minister, eagerly, “ and what I will by no means allow. By so much more as the mind is better than the body, nay, because the mind is all that is worth anything about a man, metaphysics is the noblest science, and most worthy ”-
“ I give in ! I am down ! ” said Remington.
“ But what are you disputing about ? ” said I.
“ Oh, only -Infinity ! ” said Remington. “ But then you know metaphysics does not hesitate at anything. I say, it is impossible for the mind to go back to a first cause, and if the mind of a man cannot conceive an idea, why of course that idea can never be true to him. I can think of no cause that may not be an effect.”
“ Nor of infinite space, nor of infinite time ? ” said the minister.
“ No, — of nothing that cannot be divided, and nothing that cannot be extended.”
“ Very good. Perhaps you can’t. I suppose we cannot comprehend infinity, because we are essentially finite ourselves. But it by no means follows that we cannot apprehend and believe in attributes which we are unable to comprehend. We can certainly do that.”
“ No. After you reach your limit of comprehension, you may say, all beyond that is infinite,—but you only push the object of your thought out of view. After you have reiterated the years till you are tired, you say, beyond that is infinite. You only mean that you are tired of computing and adding.”
“ Then you cannot believe in an Infinite Creator ? ” said the minister.
“ I can believe in nothing that is not founded on reason. I should be very glad to believe in an Infinite Creator, only it is entirely impossible, you see, for the mind to conceive of a being who is not himself created.”
“ Yet you can believe in a world that is not created ? ” said the minister. “You can believe that a world full of adaptations, full of signs of intelligence and design, could be uncreated. How do you make that out ? ”
“ There remains no greater difficulty to me,” said Remington, “ in believing in an uncreated world than you have in believing in an uncreated God. Why is it stranger that Chaos should produce harmony than that Nothing should produce God ? ”
He looked at us, smiling as he said this, which he evidently considered unanswerable.
“ You are quite right,” said my husband, gravely. “ It is impossible that nothing should produce God, and therefore I say God is eternal. It is not impossible that something should produce the world, and therefore I believe the world is not eternal. That point is the one on which the whole argument hangs in my mind.”
“ It does not become me to dispute a clergyman,” said Mr. Remington, smiling affectedly, as if only courtesy prevented his coming in with an entirely demolishing argument.
To my great surprise Lulu instantly answered, and with an intelligence that showed she had followed the argument entirely, —
“ 1am certain, George, that Mr. Prince has altogether the best of it. Yours is merely a technical difficulty, — merely words. You can conceive a thousand things which you can never fully comprehend. And this, too, is a proof of the Infinite Father in our very reasoning, — that, if we could comprehend Him, we should be ourselves infinite. As it is, we can believe and adore,—and, more than that, rejoice that we cannot in this finite life of ours do more.”
“ If we believed we could comprehend Him,” said I, “ we should soon begin to meddle with God’s administration of affairs.”
“ Yes,—and in fatalism I have always thought there was a profound reverence,” said Lulu.
“ Oh, are you going into theological mysteries, too ? ” said Remington, with a laugh in which none of us joined ; “ what care you, Lulu, for the quiddities of Absolute Illimitation and Infinite Illimitation ? After all, what matters it whether one believes in a God, who you allow to be the personation of all excellence, if only one endeavors to act up to the highest conceivable standard of perfection,— I mean of human perfection,— leaving, of course, a liberal margin for human frailties and defects ? One would n’t like to leave out mercy, you know.”
Whatever might be the real sentiments of the man, there was an air of levity in his mode of treating the most important subjects of thought which displeased me, especially when be said, “You adore the Incomprehensible; I am contented to adore, with silent reverence, the lovely works of His hand.” He pointed his remark without hesitation at Lulu, who sat looking into the fire, and did not notice him or it.
“ You are quite right, Mr. Prince, and my cousin is quite wrong,” said she, looking up with a docile, childlike expression, at the minister. “ One feels that all through, though one may not be able to reason or argue about it.”
“And the best evidence of all truth, my dear,” answered the delighted Dominie, “is that intuition which is before all reasoning, and by which we must try reasoning itself. The moral is before the intellectual ; and that is why we preachers continually insist on faith as an illuminator of the reason.”
“ You mean that we should cultivate faith,” I said.
“ Yes: not the faith that is blind, hut the faith that sees, that is positive ; that which leads, not that which follows; the faith that weighs argument and decides on it; in short, the native intuitions which are a necessary part of the mind.”
“ I see, and I shall remember,” said Lulu. “ I shall never forget all you say, Mr. Prince.”
It was this sweet frankness, and the clearness with which her lately developed intellect acted, that made us begin to respect Lulu as well as to love her. She seemed to be getting right-minded at last.
When Mr. Lewis came, the conversation turned on other subjects ; but it was quite late at night before we were willing to part with our friends. The shadow of misgiving which hangs over even short separations was deeper than usual with me from the thought of the voyage. Lulu had been so many times across the sea that she had no fear of it; and she went up-stairs with me to say last words and give last commissions with her usual cheerfulness. Notwithstanding the relief which I had felt during the evening from her expressions of a moral and religious kind, I yet had a brooding fear of the effect of association with a mind so lively and so full of error as Remington’s. What help or what sustaining power for her there might be in her husband I could not tell; but be it more or less, I feared she would not avail herself of it. Indeed, I feared that she was daily becoming more alienated from him, as she pursued onward and upward the bright mental track on which she had entered. And it was seeing that she had not yet begun to con the alphabet of true knowledge, that disturbed me most. If I could have seen her thoughtful for others, humble in her endeavor after duty, I should have hailed, rejoicingly, her intellectual illumination. As it was, I could not help saying to her, anxiously, before we went downstairs, —
“ I don’t like Mr. Remington's notions at all, my dear ! — I don’t mean merely his theological notions, but his ideas of life and duty seem to me wrong and poor. You will forgive me, if I say, you cannot be too careful how you allow his views to act on your own sense of right and wrong.”
“ What! — George ? Oh, dear friend, it is only his nonsense ! He will take any side for the time, only to hear himself talk. But he is the best fellow that ever breathed. Oh, if you only knew his excellence as well as I do ! ”
“ My dear Lulu ! ” I expostulated, greatly pained to see her glowing face and the almost tearful sparkle of her eyes, as she defended her cousin, “ your husband is a great deal the best guide for you, — in action, and I presume in opinion. At all events, you are safest under the shadow of his wing. There is the truest peace for a wife.”
Whether she guessed what was in my mind I don’t know ; I did not try much to conceal it. But she shook her curls away from her face as if irritated, and answered in a tone from which all the animation had been quenched, —
‘‘No. I have been a child. I am one no longer. Don’t ask me to go back. I am a living, feeling, understanding woman ! George himself allows it is perfectly shocking to be treated as I am,—a mere toy! a plaything ! ”
George again! I could scarcely restrain my impatience. Yet how to make her understand ?
“ Don’t you see, Lulu, that George ought never to have dared to name the subject of your and your husband’s differences ? and do you not see that you can never discuss the subject with anybody with propriety ? If, unhappily, all is not as you, as we, wish it, let us hope for the. effect of time and right feeling in both ; but don’t, don’t allow any gentleman to talk to you of your husband's treatment of you ! ”
Lulu listened in quiet wonderment, while, with agitated voice and trembling mouth, I addressed her as I had never before done. I had constantly avoided speaking to her on the subject. She. looked at me now with clear, innocent eyes, ( I am so glad to remember them !) and placed her two hands affectionately on my shoulders.
“ I know what you mean, — and what you fear. That I shall say something, or do something undignified, or possibly wrong. But that, with God’s help, I shall never do. Such happiness as I can procure, aside from my husband, and which ! had a right to expect through him, — such enjoyment as comes from intellectual improvement and the exercise of my faculties, this is surely innocent pleasure, this I shall have. And George,— you must not blame him for being indignant, when he sees me treated so unworthily.— or for calling Lewis a Pacha, as he always does. You must think, my dear, that it is n’t pleasant to be treated only like a Circassian slave, and that one may have something better to do in life than to twirl jewelled armlets, or to light my lord’s chibouk ! ”
She looked all radiant with scorn, as she said this,—her eyes flashing, and her very forehead crimson. I could see she was remembering long months and years in that moment of indignant anger. Seeing them with her eyes, I could not say she was unjust, or that her estrangement was unnatural.
Now, then, good friend, good bye! Don’t look anxious. Don’t fear for me. I am not happy, but I shall know how to keep my self from misery. You and your excellent husband have done more for me than you know or think ; and I shall try to keep right.”
She left me with this, and we parted from both with a lingering sweet friendliness that dwells still in our memories.
“ It would be horrible to be on these terms, if she loved him,” said the minister, that night, after I had told him of our parting interview.
“ Well, she don’t, you see. Did she ever ? ”
“ With such mind and heart as she had, I suppose. On the other hand, what did he marry?”
“-Grace and beauty — and promise. Of course, like every man in love, he took everything good for granted.”
“ The sweetest flower in my garden,” said the minister, “ should perfume no stranger’s vase, however, nor dangle at a knave’s button-hole.”
“ Because you would watch it and care for it, water and train it, and make it doubly your own. But if you did neither ? ”
“ I should deserve my fate,” said he, sorrowfully.
THE first letter we received from Mrs. Lewis was from the North of Scotland, where the party of three, increased to one much larger, were making the tour of the Hebrides. I cannot say much for either the penmanship or the orthography of the letter, which was incorrect as usual ; but the abundant beauty of her descriptions, and the fine sense she seemed to have of lofty and wild scenery, made her journey a living picture. All her keen sense of external life was brought into activity, and she projected on the paper before her groups of people, or groups of mountains, with a vividness that showed she had only to transfer them from the retina: they had no'need of any additional processes. She made no remarks on society, or inferences from what she saw in the present to what had been in the past or might be in the future. It was simply a power of representation, unequalled in its way, and yet more remarkable to us for what it failed of doing than for what it did.
We could not but perceive two things. One, that she never spoke of home-ties, or children, or husband: not an allusion to either. The other, that every hill and every vale, the mounting mist and the resting shadow, all that gave life and beauty to her every-day pursuits, which seemed, indeed, all pictorial,— all these were informed and permeated, as it were, with one influence,—that of Remington. An uncomfortable sense of this made me say, as I finished the letter, —
“ I am sorry for the poor bird ! ”
“ So am I,” answered the minister, with a clouded brow; “ and the more, as I think I see the bird is limed.”
“ How ? ” I said, with a sort of horrified retreat from the expressed thought, though the thought itself haunted me.
My husband seemed thinking the matter over, as if to clear it in his own mind before he spoke again.
“ I suppose there is a moral disease, which, through its connection with a newly awakened and brilliant intellect, does not enervate the whole character. I mean that this connection of moral weakness with the intellect gives a fatal strength to tin: character, — do you take me ? ”
“ Yes, I think so,” said I.
“She is lofty, self-poised, — confident in what never yet supported any one. Pride of character does not keep us from falling. Humility would help us in that way. Unfortunately, that, too, is often bought dearly. I mean that this virtue of humbleness, which makes us tender of others and afraid for ourselves, is at the expense of sorrowful and humiliating experience.”
“ You speak as if you feared more for her than I do,” said I, struck by the foreboding look in his face.
“ You women judge only by your own hearts, or by solitary instances; and you forget the inevitable downward course of wrong tendencies. Besides, she has neither lofty principle nor a strong will. You will think I mistake here ; but I don’t mean she has not wilfulness enough. A strong will generally excludes wilfulness, — and the converse.”
This conversation made me nervous.
I had such an intense anxiety for her now, that I could not avoid expressing it often and strongly in my letters to her. I wondered Lewis was not more open-eyed. I blamed him for letting her run on so heedlessly into habits which might compromise her reputation tor dignity and discretion, if no worse. Then I would recall her manner the last evening she was with us, when, although her want of self - regulation was very apparent, not less so was the native nobleness and purity of her soul. I could not think of this “ unsphered angel wofully astray ” without inward tears that dimmed the vision of my foreboding heart.
Could Lewis mistake her indifference ? Could he avoid suffering from it ? Could he, for a moment, accept her conventional expletives in place of the irrepressible and endearing tokens of a real love ? Could he see what had weaned her from him, and was still, like a baleful star, wiling her farther and farther on its treacherously lighted path? Could he see, — feel? — had he a heart? These questions I incessantly asked myself.
In the last days of summer we went with the children to Nantasket Beach.
We had walked to a point of rocks at some distance from the bay, above which we lodged, and were sitting in the luxury of quiet companionship, gazing out on the water.
The ineffable, still beauty of Nature, separated from the usual noises of actual life, —the brilliant effect of the long reaches of color from the plunging sun, as it dipped, and reappeared, and dipped again, as loath to leave its field of beauty,—then the still plash against the rocks, and the subsidence in murmurs of the retiring wave, with all its gathered treasure of pebbles and shells, — all these sounds and sights of reposeful life suggested unspeakable thoughts and memories that clung to silence. We had not been without so much sorrow in life as does not well afford to dwell on its own images; and we rose to retrace our steps to the measure of the eternal and significant psalm of the sea.
As we turned away, we both perceived at once a sail in the distance, against the western sky. It had just rounded the nearest point and was coming slowly in with a gentle breeze, when it suddenly tacked and put out to sea again. It had come so near, however, that with our glass we saw that it was a small boat, holding two persons, and with a single sail.
Immediately after, a dead calm succeeded the light wind which had before rippled the distant waves, and we watched the boat, lying as if asleep and floating lazily on the red water against the blazing sky, —or rather, itself like a cradle, so pavilioned was it with gorgeous cloud-curtains, and fit home for the two water-sprites lying in the slant sunbeams.
Walking slowly home, we felt the air to be full of oppressive languor, and turned now and then to see if the distant sail were yet lightened by the coming breeze. When we reached the inner bay, we mounted a rock, from which, with the lessened interval between us, I could distinctly see the boat. One of the occupants— a lady—wore a dark hat with a scarlet plume drooping from it. She leaned over the gunwale, dipping her hands in the blazing water and holding them up against the light, as if playing rainbows in the sunset. The other figure was busy in fastening up the sail, ready to catch the first breath of wind.
As we stood looking, the water, which during the last few minutes had changed from flaming red to the many - colored hues of a dolphin’s back, suddenly turned slate-colored, almost black. Then a low scud crept stealthily and quickly along the surface, bringing with it a steady breeze, for perhaps five minutes. We watched the little boat, as it yielded gracefully to the welcome impetus, and swept rapidly to the shore. Fearing, however, from the sudden change of weather, that it would soon rain, we cast a parting look at the boat, and started on a rapid walk to the house.
This last glimpse of the boat showed us a tall figure standing upright against the mast, and fastening or holding something to it, while the lady still played with the water, bending her head so low that the red plume in her hat almost touched it. She seemed in a pleasant reverie, and rocked softly with the rocking waves. It was a peaceful picture,— the sail set, and full of heaven’s breath, as it seemed.
Before we could grasp anything,— even if there had been anything to grasp on the level sand, — we were both taken at once off our feet and thrown violently to the ground. I had felt the force of water before, but never that of wind, and had no idea of the utter helplessness of man or woman before a wind that is really in earnest. It was with a very novel sense of more than childish incapacity that I suffered the Dominie to gather up capes, canes, hats, and shawls, and, last of all, an astonished woman, and put them on their way homewards. However, long before we reached the housedoor we were drenched to the skin. The rain poured in blinding sheets, and the thunder was like a hundred cannon about our ears. It was so sudden and so frightful to me that I had but one idea, that of getting into the piazza, where was comparative safety. Having reached it, we turned to face the elements. Nothing could be seen through the thick deluge. The ocean itself, tossing and tumbling in angry darkness, seemed fighting with the other ocean that poured from the black wall above, and all was one tumult of thunderous fury. This elemental war lasted but a short time, and gave place to a quiet as sudden as its angry burst. It was my first experience of a squall. It is always difficult for me to feel that a storm is a natural occurrence,—so that I have a great reverence for a Dominie who stands with head uncovered, with calm eyes, looking tranquilly out on the loudest tempest.
“ Beautiful! wonderful ! ” he murmured, as the lightning fiercely shot over us, and the roar died away in long billows of heavy sound.
Afterwards he told me he had the same Unbounded delight in a great storm as he had at the foot of Niagara, or in looking at the stars on a winter night: that it stirred in his soul all that was loftiest,— that for the time he could comprehend Deity, and that “ the noise of the thundering of His waters” was an anthem that struck the highest chords of his nature. What is really sublime takes us out of ourselves, so that we have no room for personal terror, and we mingle with the elemental roar in spirit as with something kindred to us. I guessed this, and meditated on it, while I stopped my ears and shut my eyes and trembled with overwhelming terror myself. Clearly, I am a coward, in spite of my admiration of the sublime. The Dominie, being as good as he is great, does not require a woman to be sublime, luckily ; and I think, as I like him all the better for his strength, he really docs not object to a moderate amount of weakness on my part, which is unaffected and not to bo helped. When animal magnetism becomes a science, it will be seen why some spirits revel and soar, and some cower and shrink, at the same amount of electricity. So the Dominie says now ; and then —he said nothing.
IN the fright, excitement, and thorough wetting, I forgot about the boat,—or rather, no misgiving seized me as to its safety. But, on coming to breakfast the next morning, we felt that there was a great commotion in the house. Everybody was out on the piazza, and a crowd was gathered a short distance off. Somebody had taken off the doors from the south entrance, and there was a sort of procession already formed on each side of these two doors. We went out in front of the house to listen to a rough fisherman who described the storm in which the little boat capsized. He had stood on the shore and just finished fastening his own boat, for he well knew the signs of the storm, when he caught sight of the little sail scudding with lightning-speed to the landing. Suddenly it stopped short, shook all over as if in an ague, and capsized in an instant. The storm broke, and although he tried to discern some traces of the boat or its occupants, nothing could be seen but the white foam on the black water, glistening like a shark’s teeth when he has seized his prey. In the early morning he had found two bodies on the sand. The water, he said, must have tossed them with considerable force, — yet not against the rocks at all, for they were not disfigured, nor their clothing much torn. As the man ceased relating the story, the bodies were brought past us, covered by a piano-cloth which somebody had considerately snatched up and taken to the shore. They were placed in the long parlor on a table.
My husband beckoned to me to come to him. Turning down the cloth, he showed me the faces I dreamily expected to see. I don’t know when I thought of it, but suppose I recognized the air and movement so familiar, even in the distant dimness. No matter how clearly and fully death is expected, when it comes it is with a death-shock,—how much more, coming as this did, as if with a bolt from the clear sky !
In their prime,—in their beauty, — in their pride of youth, — in their pleasure, they died. What was the strong man or the smiling woman, — what was the smooth sea, the shining sail,—what was strength, skill, loveliness, against the great and terrible wind of the Lord ?
So here they lay, white and quiet as sculptured stone, and as placid as if they had only fallen asleep in the midst of the tempestuous uproar. All the clamor and talking about the house had subsided in the real presence of death ; and every one went lightly and softly around, as if afraid of wakening the sleepers.
She had never looked so beautiful, even in her utmost pride of health and bloom. Her dark luxuriant hair lay in masses over brow and bosom, and her face expressed the unspeakable calm and perfect peace which are suggested only by the sleep of childhood. The long eyelashes seemed to say, in their close adherence to the cheek, how gladly they shut out the tumult of life ; and the whole cast of the face was so elevated by death as to look rather angelic than mortal.
His face was quiet, too, — the manliness and massive character of the features giving a majestic and severe cast to the whole countenance, far more elevated than it had while living.
We could only weep over these relics. But where was the deepest mourner ? Nu one had even seen these two before, or could give any account of them.
On making stricter inquiry and looking at the books, we found that Mr. and Mrs. Lewis had arrived first. Mr. Lewis had taken his gun and a boat, and gone out at once to sboot. The lady had been in her room but a short time, when another gentleman arrived, wrote his name, and ordered a boat. She, had scarcely seen any one, but the boatman saw her step into the boat, and described her dress.
A message was at once sent to “ the Glades,” where Mr. Lewis had gone, and where he was detained, as we had supposed, by the storm. Before he reached the house, however, all necessary arrangements were completed for removing any associations of suffering. No confusion remained; the room was gently darkened, and the bodies, robed in white, lay in such peaceful silence as soothes and quiets the mourner.
As the. carriage drew up to the door, we both hastened to meet Mr. Lewis, to take him by the hand, and to lead him, by our evident sympathy, to accept his terrible affliction with something like composure. In our entire uncertainty as to his feelings, we could only weep silently, and hold his hands, which were as cold as death.
He looked surprised a little at seeing us, hut otherwise his face was like stone. His eyes,—they, too, looked stony, and as if all the expression and life were turned inward. Outwardly, there seemed hardly consciousness. He sat down between us, while wo related all the particulars of the accident, which he seemed greedy to hear, — turning, as one ceased, to the other, with an eager, hungry look, most painful to witness. He made us describe, repeatedly, our last glimpse of the unconscious victims, and then, pressing our hands with a vice-cold grip, said, in a dry whisper, - -
“ Where are they ? ”
We led him to the door. He went in, and we softly closed it after him. As we went up-stairs to our own room, we heard deep groans of anguish. We knew that his heart could not relieve itself by tears.
My husband read the “ prayer for persons in great affliction,” and then we sat silently looking out on the peaceful sea. In the great stillness of the house, wc heard the calm wave plash up on the smiling sands, and watched the silver specks in the distance as they hovered over the blue sea. So soft, so still, it had been the day before, — and where we now saw the placid wave we had seen it then. Yet there had two lives gone out, as suddenly as one quenches a lamp.
flunking, but not speaking, we waited. The report of a pistol in the house struck us to the heart. I believe we felt sure, both of us, of what it must be. He had loved her so much! And now we were sure, that, in the tension of his grief, reason had given way. When we saw them next, there were three where two had been, in the marble calm of death.