The Guardian Angel


A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics.

VOL. XIX. —MAY, 1867. — NO. CXV.



“ So the Rev. Joseph Bellamy Stoker has called upon you, Susan Posey, has he ? And wants you to come and talk religion with him in his study, Susan Posey, does he ? Religion is a good thing, my dear, the best thing in the world, and never better than when we are young, and no young people need it more than young girls. There are temptations to all, and to them as often as to any, Susan Posey. And temptations come to them in places where they don’t look for them, and from persons they never thought of as tempters. So I am very glad to have your thoughts called to the subject of religion. ' Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.'

But Susan Posey, my dear, I think you had better not break in upon the pious meditations of the Rev. Joseph Bellamy Stoker in his private study. A monk’s cell and a minister’s library are hardly the places for young ladies. They distract the attention of these good men from their devotions and their sermons. If you think you must go, you had better take Mrs. Hopkins with you. She likes religious conversation, and it will do her good too, and save a great deal of time for the minister, conversing with two at once. She is of discreet age, and will tell you when it is time to come away,—you might stay too long, you know. I 've known young persons stay a good deal too long at these interviews, — a great deal too long, Susan Posey! ”

Such was the fatherly counsel of Master Byles Gridley.

Susan was not very quick of apprehension, but she could not help seeing the justice of Master Gridley’s remark, that for a young person to go and break in on the hours that a minister requires for his studies, without being accompanied by a mature friend who would remind her when it was time to go, would be taking an unfair advantage of Ills kindness in asking her to call upon him. She promised, therefore, that she would never go without taking Mrs. Hopkins as her companion, and with this assurance her old friend rested satisfied.

It is altogether likely that he had some deeper reason for his advice than these with which he satisfied the simple nature of Susan Posey. Of that it will be easier to judge after a glance at the conditions and character of the minister and his household.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867, by TICKNOR AND FIELDS, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts. 513

The Rev. Mr. Stoker had, in addition to the personal advantages already alluded to, some other qualities which might prove attractive to many women. He had, in particular, that art of sliding into easy intimacy with them which implies some knowledge of the female nature, and, above all, confidence in one’s powers. There was little doubt, the gossips maintained, that many of the younger women of his parish would have been willing, in certain contingencies, to lift for him that other end of his yoke under which poor Mrs. Stoker was fainting, unequal to the burden.

That lady must have been some years older than her husband, — how many we need not inquire too curiously,— but in vitality she had long passed the prime in which he was still flourishing. She had borne him five children, and cried her eyes hollow over the graves of three of them. Household cares had dragged upon her; the routine of village life wearied her ; the parishioners expected too much of her as the minister’s wife ; she had wanted more fresh air and more cheerful companionship ; and her thoughts had fed too much on death and sin,— good bitter tonics to increase the appetite for virtue, but not good as food and drink for the spirit.

But there was another grief which lay hidden far beneath these obvious depressing influences. She felt that she was no longer to her husband what she had been to him, and felt it with something of self-reproach,—which was a wrong to herself, for she had been a true and tender wife. Deeper than all the rest was still another feeling, which had hardly risen into the region of inwardly articulated thought, but lay unshaped beneath all the syllabled trains of sleeping or waking consciousness.

The minister was often consulted by his parishioners upon spiritual matters, and was in the habit of receiving in his study visitors who came with such intent. Sometimes it was old weak-eyed Deacon Rumrill, in great iron-bowed spectacles, with hanging nether lip and tremulous voice, who had got his brain into a muddle about the beast with two horns, or the woman that fled into the wilderness, or other points not settled to his mind in Scott’s Commentary. The minister was always very busy at such times, and made short work of his deacon’s doubts. Or it might be that an ancient woman, a mother or a grandmother in Israel, came with her questions and her perplexities to her pastor ; and it was pretty certain that just at that moment he was very deep in his next sermon, or had a pressing visit to make.

But it would also happen occasionally that one of the tenderer ewe-lambs of the flock needed comfort from the presence of the shepherd. Poor Mrs. Stoker noticed, or thought she noticed, that the good man had more leisure for the youthful and blooming sister than for the more discreet and venerable matron or spinster. The sitting was apt to be longer ; and the worthy pastor would often linger awhile about the door, to speed the parting guest, perhaps, but a little too much after the fashion of young people who are not displeased with each other, and who often find it as hard to cross a threshold single as a witch finds it to get over a running stream. More than once, the pallid, faded wife had made an errand to the study, and, after a keen look at the bright young cheeks, flushed with the excitement of intimate spiritual communion, had gone back to her chamber with her hand pressed against her heart, and the bitterness of death in her soul.

The end of all these bodily and mental trials was, that the minister’s wife had fallen into a state of habitual invalidism, such as only women, who feel all the nerves which in men are as insensible as telegraph-wires, can experience.

The doctors did not know what to make of her case, — whether she would live or die, — whether she would languish for years, or, all at once, roused by some strong impression, or in obedience to some unexplained movement of the vital forces, take up her bed and walk. For her bed had become her home, where she lived as if it belonged to her organism. There she lay, a not unpleasing invalid to contemplate, always looking resigned, patient, serene, except when the one deeper grief was stirred, always arrayed with simple neatness, and surrounded with little tokens that showed the constant presence with her of tasteful and thoughtful affection. She did not know, nobody could know, how steadily, how silently, all this artificial life was draining the veins and blanching the cheek of her daughter Bathsheba, one of the every-day, airbreathing angels without nimbus or aureole who belong to every story which lets us into a few households, as much as the stars and the flowers belong to everybody’s verses.

Bathsheba’s devotion to her mother brought its own reward, but it was not in the shape of outward commendation. Some of the more censorious members of her father’s congregation were severe in their remarks upon her absorption in the supreme object of her care. It seems that this had prevented her from attending to other duties which they considered more imperative. They did n’t see why she should n't keep a Sabbath school as well as the rest, and as to her not comin’ to meetin' three times on Sabbath day like other folks, they could n't account for it, except because she calculated that she could get along without the means of grace, bein’ a minister’s daughter. Some went so far as to doubt if she had ever experienced religion, for all she was a professor. There was a good many indulged a false hope. To this, others objected her life of utter self-denial and entire surrender to her duties towards her mother as some evidence of Christian character. But old Deacon Rumrill put down that heresy by showing conclusively from Scott’s Commentary on Romans xi. 1-6, that this was altogether against her chance of being called, and that the better her disposition to perform good works, the more unlikely she was to be the subject of saving grace. Some of these severe critics were good people enough themselves, but they loved active work and stirring companionship, and would have found their real cross if they had been called to sit at an invalid’s bedside.

As for the Rev. Mr. Stoker, his duties did not allow him to give so much time to his suffering wife as his feelings would undoubtedly have prompted. He therefore relinquished the care of her (with great reluctance, we may naturally suppose) to Bathsheba, who had inherited not only her mother’s youthful smile, but that self-forgetfulness which, born with some of God’s creatures, is, if not “grace,” at least a manifestation of native depravity which might well be mistaken for it.

The intimacy of mother and daughter was complete, except on a single point. There was one subject on which no word ever passed between them. The excuse of duties to others was by a tacit understanding a mantle to cover all short-comings in the way of attention from the husband and father, and no word ever passed between them implying a suspicion of the loyalty of his affections. Bathsheba came at last so to fill with her tenderness the space left empty in the neglected heart, that her mother only spoke her habitual feeling when she said, “ I should think you were in love with me, my darling, if you were not my daughter.”

This was a dangerous state of things for the minister. Strange suggestions and unsafe speculations began to mingle with his dreams and reveries. The thought once admitted that another’s life is becoming superfluous and a burden, feeds like a ravenous vulture oil the soul. Woe to the man or woman whose days are passed in watching the hour-glass through which the sands run loo slowly lor longings that are like a skulking procession of bloodless murders ! Without affirming such horrors of the Rev. Mr. Stoker, it would not be libellous to say that his fancy was tampering with future possibilities, as it constantly happens with those who are getting themselves into training for some act of folly, or some crime, it may be, which will in its own time evolve itself as an idea in the consciousness, and by and by ripen into fact.

It must not be taken for granted that he was actually on the road to some fearful deed, or that he was an utterlylost soul. He was ready to yield to temptation if it came in his way ; he would even court it, but he did not shape out any plan very definitely in his mind, as a more desperate sinner would have done. He liked the pleasurable excitement of emotional relations with his pretty lambs, and enjoyed it under the name of religious communion. There is a border land where one can stand on the territory of legitimate instincts and affections, and yet be so near the pleasant garden of the Adversary, that his dangerous fruits and flowers are within easy reach. Once tasted, tiie next step is like to be the scaling of the wall. The Rev. Mr. Stoker was very fond of this border land. His imagination was wandering over it too often when his pen was travelling almost of itself along the weary parallels of the page before him. All at once a blinding flash would come over him, the lines of his sermon would run together, the fresh manuscript would shrivel like a dead leaf, and the rows of hard-hearted theology-on the shelves before him, and the broken-backed Concordance, and the Holy Book itself, would fade away as he gave himself up to the enchantment of his delirious dream.

The reader will probably consider it a discreet arrangement that pretty Susan Posey should seek her pastor in grave company. Mrs. Hopkins willingly consented to the arrangement which had been proposed, and agreed to go with the young lady on her visit to the Rev. Mr. Stoker’s study. They were both arrayed in their field-day splendors on this occasion. Susan was lovely in her light curls and blue ribbons, and the becoming dress which could not help betraying the modestly emphasized crescendos and gently graded diminuendos of her figure. She was as round as if she had been turned in a lathe, and as delicately finished as if she had been modelled for a Flora. She had naturally an airy toss of the head and a springy movement of the joints, such as some girls study in the glass (and make dreadful work of it), so that she danced all over without knowing it, like a little lively bobolink on a bulrush. In short, she looked fit to spoil a homily for Saint Anthony himself.

Mrs. Hopkins was not less perfect in her somewhat different style. She might be called impressive and imposing in her grand costume, which she wore for this visit. It was a black silk dress, with a crape shawl, a firmly defensive bonnet, and an alpaca umbrella with a stern-looking and decided knob presiding as its handle. The dried-leaf rustle of her silk dress was suggestive of the ripe autumn of life, bringing with it those golden fruits of wisdom and experience which the grave teachers of mankind so justly prefer to the idle blossoms of adolescence.

It is needless to say that the visit was conducted with the most perfect propriety in all respects. Mrs. Hopkins was disposed to take upon herself a large share of the conversation. The minister, on the other hand, would have devoted himself more particularly to Miss Susan ; but, with a very natural make-believe obtuseness, the good woman drew his fire so constantly that few of his remarks, and hardly any of his insinuating looks, reached the tender object at which they were aimed. It is probable that his features or tones betrayed some impatience at having thus been foiled of his purpose, for Mrs. Hopkins thought he looked all the time as if he wanted to get rid of her. The three parted, therefore, not in the best humor all round. Mrs. Hopkins declared she 'd see the minister in Jericho before she 'd fix herself up as if she was goin’ to a weddin' to go and see him again. Why, he did n't make any more of her than if she 'd been a tabby-cat. She believed some of these ministers thought women’s souls dried up like peas in a pod by the time they was forty year old; anyhow, they did n’t seem to care any great about ’em, except while they was green and tender. It was all Miss Se-usan, Miss Se-usan, Miss Seusan, my dear ! but as for her, she might jest as well have gone with her apron on, for any notice he took of her. She did n’t care, she was n’t goin’ to be left out when there was talkin’ goin’ on, anyhow.

Susan Posey, on her part, said she did n’t like him a bit. He looked so sweet at her, and held his head on one side,-—law! just as if he had been a young beau ! And, — don’t tell, — but he whispered that he wished the next time I came I would n’t bring that Hopkins woman !

It would not be fair to repeat what the minister said to himself; but we may own as much as this, that, if worthy Mrs. Hopkins had heard it, she would have treated him to a string of adjectives which would have greatly enlarged his conceptions of the female vocabulary.



IN tracing the history of a human soul through its commonplace nervous perturbations, still more through its spiritual humiliations, there is danger that we shall feel a certain contempt for the subject of such weakness. It is easy to laugh at the erring impulses of a young girl; but you who remember when ——, only fifteen years old, untouched by passion, unsullied in name, was found in the shallow brook where she had sternly and surely sought her death, — (too true ! too true ! — ejus animœ Jesu miserere ! — but a generation has passed since then,) — will not smile so scornfully.

Myrtle Hazard no longer required the physician’s visits, but her mind was very far from being poised in the just balance of its faculties. She was of a good natural constitution and a fine temperament ; but she had been overwrought by all that she had passed through, and, though happening to have been born in another land, she was of American descent. Now, it has long been noticed that there is something in the influences, climatic or other, here prevailing, which predisposes to morbid religious excitement. The graver reader will not object to seeing the exact statement of a competent witness belonging to a by-gone century, confirmed as it is by all that we see about us.

“ There is no Experienced Minister of the Gospel who hath not in the Cases of Tempted Souls often had this Experience, that the ill Cases of their distempered Bodies are the frequent Occasion and Original of their Temptations.” " The Vitiated Humours in many Persons,yield the Steams whereinto Satan does insinuate himself, dll he has gained a sort of Possession in them, or at least an Opportunity to shoot into the Mind as many Fiery Darts as may cause a sad Life unto them ; yea, ’t is well if Self-Murder be not the sad end into which these hurred (?) People are thus precipitated. New England, a country where Splenetic Maladies are prevailing and pernicious, perhaps above any other, hath afforded Numberless Instances, of even pious People, who have contracted these Melancholy Indispositions which have unhinged them from all Service or Comfort ; yea, not a few Persons have been hurried thereby to lay Violent Hands upon themselves at the last. These are among the unsearchable Judgments of God !

Such are the words of the Rev. Cotton Mather.

The minister had hardly recovered from his vexatious defeat in the skirmish where the Widow Hopkins was his principal opponent, when he received a note from Miss Silence Withers, which promised another and more important field of conflict. It contained a request that he would visit Myrtle Hazard, who seemed to be in a very excitable and impressible condition, and who might perhaps be easily brought under those influences which she had resisted from her early years, through inborn perversity of character.

When the Rev. Mr. Stoker received this note, he turned very pale, — which was a bad sign. Then he drew a long breath or two, and presently a flush tingled up to his cheek, where it remained a fixed burning glow. This may have been from the deep interest he felt in Myrtle’s spiritual welfare ; but he had often been sent for by aged sinners in more immediate peril, apparently, without any such disturbance of the circulation.

To know whether a minister, young or still in flower, is in safe or dangerous paths, there are two psychometers, a comparison between which will give as infallible a return as the dry and wet bulbs of the ingenious “ Hygrodeik.” The first is the black broadcloth forming the knees of his pantaloons ; the second, the patch of carpet before his mirror. If the first is unworn and the second is frayed and threadbare, pray for him. If the first is worn and shiny, while the second keeps its pattern and texture, get him to pray for you.

The Rev. Mr. Stoker should have gone down on his knees then and there, and sought fervently for the grace which he was like to need in the dangerous path just opening before him. He did not do this ; but he stood up before his looking-glass and parted his hair as carefully as if he had been separating the saints of his congregation from the sinners, to send the list to the statistical columns of a religious newspaper. He selected a professional neckcloth, as spotlessly pure as if it had been washed in innocency, and adjusted it in a tie which was like the white rose of Sharon. Myrtle Hazard was, he thought, on the whole, the handsomest girl he had ever seen ; Susan Posey was to her as a wild-rose with its five petals to a double damask. He knew the nature of the nervous disturbances through which she had been passing, and that she must be in a singularly impressible condition. He felt sure that he could establish intimate Spiritual relations with her by drawing out her repressed sympathies, by feeding the fires of her religious imagination, by exercising all those lesser arts of fascination which are so familiar to the Don Giovannis, and not always unknown to the San Giovannis.

As for the hard doctrines which he used to produce sensations with in the pulpit, it would have been a great pity to worry so lovely a girl, in such a nervous state, with them. He remembered a savory text about being made all things to all men, which would bear application particularly well to the case of this young woman. He knew how to weaken his divinity, on occasion, as well as an old housewife to weaken her tea, lest it should keep people awake.

The Rev. Mr. Stoker was a man of emotions. He loved to feel his heart beat; he loved all the forms of nonalcoholic drunkenness, which are so much better than the vinous, because they taste themselves so keenly, whereas the other (according to the statement of experts who are familiar with its curious phenomena) has a certain sense of unreality connected with it. He delighted in the reflex stimulus of the excitement he produced in others by working on their feelings. A powerful preacher is open to the same sense of enjoyment — an awful, tremulous, gooseflesh sort of state, but still enjoyment — that a great tragedian feels when he curdles the blood of his audience.

Mr. Stoker was noted for the vividness of his descriptions of the future which was in store for the great bulk of his fellow-townsmen and fellow-worldsmen. He had three sermons on this subject, known to all the country round as the sweating sermon, the fainting sermon, and the convulsion-fit sermon, from the various effects said to have been produced by them when delivered before large audiences. It might be supposed that his reputation as a ter* rorist would have interfered with his attempts to ingratiate himself with his young favorites. But the tragedian who is fearful as Richard or as Iago finds that no hindrance to his success in the part of Romeo. Indeed, women rather take to terrible people ; prize-fighters, pirates, highwaymen, rebel generals, Grand Turks, and Bluebeards generally have a fascination for the sex ; your virgin has a natural instinct to saddle your lion. The fact, therefore, that the young girl had sat under his tremendous pulpitings, through the sweating sermon, the fainting sermon, and the convulsion-fit sermon, did not secure her against the influence of his milder approaches.

Myrtle was naturally surprised at receiving a visit from him; but she was in just that unbalanced state in which almost any impression is welcome. He showed so much interest, first in her health, then in her thoughts and feelings, always following her lead in the conversation, that before he left her she felt as if she had made a great discovery ; namely, that this man, so formidable behind the guns of his wooden bastion, was a most tender-hearted and sympathizing person when he came out of it unarmed. How delightful he was as he sat talking in the twilight in low and tender tones, with respectful pauses of listening, in which he looked as if he too had just made a discovery, — of an angel, to wit, to whom he could not help unbosoming his tenderest emotions, as to a being from another sphere!

It was a new experience to Myrtle. She was all ready for the spiritual manipulations of an expert. The excitability which had been showing itself in spasms and strange paroxysms had been transferred to those nervous centres, whatever they may be, cerebral or ganglionic, which are concerned in the emotional movements of the religious nature. It was taking her at an unfair disadvantage, no doubt. In the old communion, some priest might have wrought upon her while in this condition, and we might have had at this very moment among us another Saint Theresa or Jacqueline Pascal. She found but a dangerous substitute in the spiritual companionship of a saint like the Rev. Joseph Bellamy Stoker.

People think the confessional is unknown in our Protestant churches. It is a great mistake. The principal change is, that there is no screen between the penitent and the father confessor. The minister knew his rights, and very soon asserted them. He gave Aunt Silence to understand that he could talk more at ease if he and his young disciple were left alone together. Cynthia Badlam did not like this arrangement. She was afraid to speak about it ; but she glared at them aslant, with the look of a biting horse when his eyes follow one sideways until they are all white but one little vicious spark of pupil.

It was not very long before the Rev. Mr. Stoker had established pretty intimate relations with the household at The Poplars. He had reason to think, he assured Miss Silence, that Myrtle was in a state of mind which promised a complete transformation of her character. He used the phrases of his sect, of course, in talking with the elderly lady; but the language which he employed with the young girl was free from those mechanical expressions which would have been like to offend or disgust her.

As to his rougher formulæ, he knew better than to apply them to a creature of her fine texture. If he had been disposed to do so, her simple questions and answers to his inquiries would have made it difficult. But it was in her bright and beautiful eyes, in her handsome features, and her winning voice, that he found his chief obstacle. How could he look upon her face in its loveliness, and talk to her as if she must be under the wrath and curse of God for the mere fact of her existence ? It seemed more natural, and it certainly was more entertaining, to question her in such a way as to find out what kind of a theology had grown up in her mind as the result of her training in the complex scheme of his doctrinal school. And as he knew that the merest child, so soon as it begins to think at all, works out for itself some kind of a theory of human nature, he pretty soon began sounding Myrtle’s thoughts on this matter.

What was her own idea, he would be pleased to know, about her condition as one born of a sinful race, and her liabilities on that account ?

Myrtle smiled like a little heathen, as she was, according to the standard of her earlier teachings. That kind of talk used to worry her when she was a child, sometimes. Yes, she remembered its coming back to her in a dream she had, when —when— (She did not finish her sentence.) Did he think she hated every kind of goodness and loved every kind of evil? Did he think she was hateful to the Being who made her ?

The minister looked straight into the bright, brave, tender eyes, and answered, “ Nothing in heaven or on earth could help loving you, Myrtle ! ”

Pretty well for a beginning !

Myrtle saw nothing but pious fervor in this florid sentiment. But as she was honest and clear-sighted, she could not accept a statement which seemed so plainly in contradiction with his common teachings, without bringing his flattering assertion to the test of another question.

Did he suppose, she asked, that any persons could be Christians, who could not tell the day or the year of their change from children of darkness to children of light ?

The shrewd clergyman, whose creed could be lax enough on occasion, had provided himself with authorities of all kinds to meet these awkward questions in casuistical divinity. He had hunted up recipes for spiritual neuralgia, spasms, indigestion, psora, hypochondriasis, just as doctors do for their bodily counterparts.

To be sure they could. Why, what did the great Richard Baxter say in his book on Infant Baptism ? That at a meeting of many eminent Christians, some of them very famous ministers, when it was desired that every one should give an account of the time and manner of his conversion, there was but one of them all could do it. And as for himself, Mr. Baxter said, he could not remember the day or the year when he began to be sincere, as he called it. Why, did n’t President Wheelock say to a young man who consulted him, that some persons might be true Christians without suspecting it ?

All this was so very different from the uncompromising way in which religious doctrines used to be presented to the young girl from the pulpit, that it naturally opened her heart and warmed her affections. Remember, if she needs excuse, that the defeated instincts of a strong nature were rushing in upon her, clamorous for their rights, and that she was not yet mature enough to understand and manage them. The paths of love and religion are at the fork of a road which every maiden travels. If some young hand does not open the turnpike gate of the first, she is pretty sure to try the other, which has no toll-bar. It is also very commonly noticed that these two paths, after diverging awhile, run into each other. True love leads many wandering souls into the better way. Nor is it rare to see those who started in company for the gates of pearl seated together on the banks that border the avenue to that other portal, gathering the roses for which it is so famous.

It was with the most curious interest that the minister listened to the various heresies into which her reflections had led her. Somehow or other they did not sound so dangerous coming from her lips as when they were uttered by the coarser people of the less rigorous denominations, or preached in the sermons of heretical clergymen. He found it impossible to think of her in connection with those denunciations of sinners for which his discourses had been noted. Some of the sharp old church-members began to complain that his exhortations were losing their pungency. The truth was, he was preaching for Myrtle Hazard. He was getting bewitched and driven beside himself by the intoxication of his relations with her.

All this time she was utterly unconscious of any charm that she was exercising, or of being herself subject to any personal fascination. She loved to read the books of ecstatic contemplation which he furnished her. She loved to sing the languishing hymns which he selected for her. She loved to listen to his devotional rhapsodies, hardly knowing sometimes whether she were in the body or out of the body, while he lifted her upon the wings of his passion-kindled rhetoric. The time came when she had learned to listen for his step, when her eyes glistened at meeting him, when the words he uttered were treasured as from something more than a common mortal, and the book he had touched was like a saintly relic. It never suggested itself to her for an instant that this was anything more than such a friendship as Mercy might have cultivated with Great-Heart. She gave her confidence simply because she was very young and innocent. The green tendrils of the growing vine must wind round something.

The seasons had been changing their scenery while the events we have told were occurring, and the loveliest days of autumn were now shining. To those who know the “ Indian summer ” of our Northern States, it is needless to describe the influence it exerts on the senses and the soul. The stillness of the landscape in that beautiful time is as if the planet were sleeping, like a top, before it begins to rock with the storms of autumn. All natures seem to find themselves more truly in its light; love grows more tender, religion more spiritual, memory sees farther back into the past, grief revisits its mossy marbles, the poet harvests the ripe thoughts which he will tie in sheaves of verses by his winter fireside.

The minister had got into the way of taking frequent walks with Myrtle, whose health had seemed to require the open air, and who was fast regaining her natural look. Under the canopy of the scarlet, orange, and crimson leaved maples, of the purple and violet clad oaks, of the birches in their robes of sunshine, and the beeches in their clinging drapery of sober brown, they walked together while he discoursed of the joys of heaven, the sweet communion of kindred souls, the ineffable bliss of a world where love would be immortal and beauty should never know decay. And while she listened, the strange light of the leaves irradiated the youthful figure of Myrtle, as when the stained window let in its colors on Madeline, the rose-bloom and the amethyst and the glory.

“Yes ! we shall be angels together,” exclaimed the Rev. Mr. Stoker. “Our souls were made for immortal union. I know it ; I feel it in every throb of my heart. Even in this world you are as an angel to me, lifting me into the heaven where I shall meet you again, or it will not be heaven. O, if on earth our communion could have been such as it must be hereafter ! O Myrtle, Myrtle ! ”

He stretched out his hands as if to clasp hers between them in the rapture of his devotion. Was it the light reflected from the glossy leaves of the poison sumach which overhung the path that made his cheek look so pale ? Was he going to kneel to her ?

Myrtle turned her dark eyes on him with a simple wonder that saw an excess of saintly ardor in these demonstrations, and drew back from it.

“ I think of heaven always as the place where I shall meet my mother,” she said calmly.

These words recalled the man to himself for a moment, and he was silent. Presently he seated himself on a stone. His lips were tremulous as he said, in a low tone, “Sit down by me, Myrtle.”

“ No,” she answered, with something which chilled him in her voice, “we will not stay here any longer; it is time to go home.”

Full time” muttered Cynthia Badlam, whose watchful eyes had been upon them, peering through a screen of yellow leaves, that turned her face pale as if with deadly passion.



Miss CYNTHIA BADLAM was in the habit of occasionally visiting the Widow Hopkins. Some said — but then people will talk, especially in the country, where they have not much else to do, except in haying-time. She had always known the widow, long before Mr. Gridley came there to board, or any other special event in her family. No matter what people said.

Miss Badlam called to see Mrs, Hopkins, then, and the two had a long talk together, of which only a portion is on record. Here are such fragments as have been preserved.

“ What would I do about it ? Why, I ’d put a stop to such carry’n’s on, mighty quick, if I had to tie the girl to the bedpost, and have a bulldog that would take the seat out of any pair of black pantaloons that come within forty rod of her,— that’s what I 'd do about it! He undertook to be mighty sweet with our Susan one while, but ever sence he ’s been talkin’ religion with Myrtle Hazard he ’s let us alone. Do as I did when he asked our Susan to come to his study, — stick close to your girl and you ’ll put a stop to all this business. He won’t make love to two at once, unless they ’re both pretty young, I ’ll warrant. Follow her round, Miss Cynthy, and keep your eyes on her.”

“ I have watched her like a cat, Mrs. Hopkins, but I can’t follow her everywhere,— she won’t stand what Susan Posey ’ll stand. There’s no use our talking to her, —we’ve done with that at our house. You never know what that Indian blood of hers will make her do. She ’s too high-strung for us to bit and bridle. I don’t want to see her name in the paper again, alongside of

— ” (Her voice died away, and she paused.) “ I ’d rather have her fished dead out of the river, or find her where she found her uncle Malachi ! ”

“ You don’t think, Miss Cynthy, that the man means to inveigle the girl with the notion of marryin’ her by and by, after poor Mrs. Stoker ’s dead and gone ? ”

“The Lord in heaven forbid!” exclaimed Miss Cynthia, throwing up her hands. “ A child of fifteen years old, if she is a woman to look at ! ”

“It’s too bad, — it’s too bad to think of, Miss Cynthy; and there’s that poor woman dyin’ by inches, and Miss Bathsheby settin’ with her day and night, — she has n’t got a bit of her father in her, it’s all her mother,—and that man, instead of bein’ with her to comfort her as any man ought to be with his wife,— in sickness and in health, that ’s what he promised. I ’m sure when my poor husband was sick .... To think of that man goin’ about to talk religion to all the prettiest girls he can find in the parish, and his wife at home like to leave him so soon, — it ’s a shame,— so it is, come now! Miss Cynthy, there ’s one of the best men and one of the learnedest men that ever lived that’s a real friend of Myrtle Hazard, and a better friend to her than she knows of, — for ever sence he brought her home, he feels jest like a father to her,— and that man is Mr. Gridley, that lives in this house. It’s him I ’ll speak to about the minister’s carry’n’s on. He knows about his talking sweet to our Susan, and he 'll put things to rights ! He’s a master hand when he does once take hold of anything, I tell you that! Jest get him to shet up them books of his, and take hold of anybody’s troubles, and you ’ll see how he ’ll straighten ’em out.”

There was a pattering of little feet on the stairs, and the two small twins, “Sossy” and “ Minthy,” in the home dialect, came hand in hand into the room, Miss Susan leaving them at the threshold, not wishing to interrupt the two ladies, and being much interested also in listening to Mr. Gifted Hopkins, who was reading some of his last poems to her, with great delight to both of them.

The good woman rose to take them from Susan, and guide their uncertain steps. “ My babies, I call ’em, Miss Cynthy. Ain’t they nice children ? Come to go to bed, little dears ? Only a few minutes. Miss Cynthy.”

She took them into the bedroom on the same floor, where they slept, and, leaving the door open, began undressing them. Cynthia turned her rockingchair round so as to face the open door. She looked on while the little creatures were being undressed; she heard the few words they lisped as their infant prayer ; she saw them laid in their beds, and heard their pretty good-night.

A lone woman to whom all the sweet cares of maternity have been denied cannot look upon a sight like this without feeling the void in her own heart where a mother’s affection should have nestled. Cynthia sat perfectly still, without rocking, and watched kind Mrs. Hopkins at her quasi parental task. A tear stole down her rigid face as she saw the rounded limbs of the children bared in their white beauty, and their little heads laid on the pillow. They were sleeping quietly when Mrs. Hopkins left the room for a moment on some errand of her own. Cynthia rose softly from her chair, stole swiftly to the bedside, and printed a long, burning kiss on each of their foreheads.

When Mrs. Hopkins came back, she found the maiden lady sitting in her place just as she left her, but rocking in her chair and sobbing as one in sudden pangs of grief.

“It is a great trouble, Miss Cynthy,” she said, — “a great trouble to have such a child as Myrtle to think of and to care for. If she was like our Susan Posey, now ! —but we must do the best we can ; and if Mr. Gridley once sets himself to it, you may depend upon it he ’ll make it all come right. I would n’t take on about it if I was you. You let me speak to our Mr. Gridley. We all have our troubles. It isn’t everybody that can ride to heaven in a C-spring shay, as my poor husband used to say; and life’s a road that’s got a good many thank-you-ma’ams to go bumpin’ over, says he.”

Miss Badlam acquiesced in the philosophical reflections of the late Mr. Ammi Hopkins, and left it to his widow to carry out her own suggestion in reference to consulting Master Gridley. The good woman took the first opportunity she had to introduce the matter, a little diffusely, as is often the way of widows who keep boarders.

“ There’s something going on I don’t like, Mr. Gridley. They tell me that Minister Stoker is following round after Myrtle Hazard, talking religion at her jest about the same way he’d have liked to with our Susan, I calculate. If he wants to talk religion to me or Silence Withers, — well, no, I don’t feel sure about Silence, — she ain’t as young as she used to be, but then ag’in she ain’t so fur gone as some, and she’s got money, — but if he wants to talk religion with me, he may come and welcome. But as for Myrtle Hazard, she’s been sick, and it’s left her a little flighty by what they say, and to have a minister round her all the time ravin’ about the next world as if he had a latch-key to the front door of it, is no way to make her come to herself again. I’ve seen more than one young girl sent off to the asylum by that sort of work, when, if I’d only had ’em, I’d have made ’em sweep the stairs, and mix the puddin’s, and tend the babies, and milk the cow, and keep ’em too busy all day to be thinkin’ about themselves, and have ’em dress up nice evenin’s and see some young folks and have a good time, and go to meetin’ Sundays, and then have done with the minister, unless it was old Father Pemberton. He knows forty times as much about heaven as that Stoker man does, or ever’s like to,—why don’t they run after him, I should like to know ? Ministers are men, come now; and I don’t want to say anything against women, Mr. Gridley, but women are women, that’s the fact of it, and half of ’em are hystericky when they ’re young ; and I’ve heard old Dr. Hurlbut say many a time that he had to lay in an extra stock of valerian and assafœtida whenever there was a young minister round, — for there’s plenty of religious ravin', says he, that ’s nothin’ but hysterics.”

[Mr. Froude thinks that was the trouble with Bloody Queen Mary, but the old physician did not get the idea from him.]

“ Well, and what do you propose to do about the Rev. Joseph Bellamy Stoker and his young proselyte, Miss Myrtle Hazard ? ” said Mr. Gridley, when Mrs. Hopkins at last gave him a chance to speak.

“Mr. Gridley,” — Mrs. Hopkins looked full upon him as she spoke,— ‘‘people used to say that you was a good man and a great man and one of the learnedest men alive, but that you did n’t know much nor care for much except books. I know you used to live pretty much to yourself when you first came to board in this house. But you’ve been very good to my son; . . . . and if Gifted lives till you .... till you are in ... . your grave, .... he will write a poem — I know he will — that will tell your goodness to babes unborn.”

[Here Master Gridley groaned, and repeated to himself silently,

“ Scindentur vestes, gemmæ frangentur et aurum,
Carmina quum tribuent fama perennis erit,”

All this inwardly, and without interrupting the worthy woman’s talk.]

“ And if ever Gifted makes a book, — don’t say anything about it, Mr. Gridley, for goodness’ sake, for he would n’t have anybody know it, only I can’t help thinking that some time or other he will print a book, — and if he does, I know whose name he ’ll put at the head of it. — ‘ Dedicated to B. G., with the gratitude and respect —’ There, now, I had n’t any business to say a word about it, and it’s only jest in case he does, you know. I’m sure you deserve it all. You’ve helped him with the best of advice. And you’ve been kind to me when I was in trouble. And you’ve been like a grandfather” [Master Gridley winced, —why couldn’t the woman have said father ? — that grand struck his ear like a spade going into the gravel] “to those babes, poor little souls ! left on my door-step like a couple of breakfast rolls, — only you know it’s the baker left them. I believe in you, Mr. Gridley, as I believe in my Maker and in Father Pemberton, — but, poor man ! he’s old, and you won’t be old these twenty years yet.”

[Master Gridley shook his head as if to say that was n’t so, but felt comforted and refreshed.]

“You’ve got to help Myrtle Hazard again. You brought her home when she came so nigh drowning. You got the old doctor to go and see her when she came so nigh being bewitched with the magnetism and nonsense, whatever they call it, and the young doctor was so nigh bein’ crazy, too. I know, for Nurse Byloe told me all about it. And now Myrtle’s gettin’ run away with by that pesky Minister Stoker. Cynthy Badlam was here yesterday crying and sobbing as if her heart would break about it. For my part, I did n’t think Cynthy cared so much for the girl as all that, but I saw her takin’ on dreadfully with my own eyes. That man’s like a hen-hawk among the chickens, — first he picks up one, and then he picks up another. I should like to know if nobody but young folks has souls to be saved, and specially young women ! ”

“ Tell me all you know about Myrtle Hazard and Joseph Bellamy Stoker,” said Master Gridley.

Thereupon that good lady related all that Miss Badlam had imparted to her, of which the reader knows the worst, being the interview of which the keen spinster had been a witness, having followed them for the express purpose of knowing, in her own phrase, what the minister was up to.

It is not to be supposed that Myrtle had forgotten the discreet kindness of blaster Gridley in bringing her back and making the best of her adventure. He, on his part, had acquired a kind of right to consider himself her adviser, and had begun to take a pleasure in the thought that he, the worn-out and useless old pedant, as he had been in the way of considering himself, might perhaps do something even more important than his previous achievement to save this young girl from the dangers that surrounded her. He loved his classics and his old books ; he took an interest, too, in the newspapers and periodicals that brought the fermenting thought and the electric life of the great world into his lonely study; but these things just about him were getting strong hold on him, and most of all the fortunes of this beautiful young woman. How strange ! For a whole generation he had lived in no nearer relation to his fellow-creatures than that of a half-fossilized teacher; and all at once he found himself face to face with the very most intense form of life, the counsellor of threatened innocence, the champion of imperilled loveliness. What business was it of his ? growled the lower nature, of which he had said in “Thoughts on the Universe,” — " Every man leads or is led by something that goes on four legs.”

Then he remembered the grand line of the African freedman, that makes all human interests everybody’s business, and had a sudden sense of dilatation and evolution, as it were, in all his dimensions, as if he were a head taller, and a foot bigger round the chest, and took in an extra gallon of air at every breath. Then — you who have written a book that holds your heart-leaves between its pages will understand the movement—he took down “ Thoughts on the Universe ” for a refreshing draught from his own wellspring. He opened as chance ordered it, and his eyes fell on the following passage : —

The true American formula was well phrased by the late Samuel Patch, the Western Empedocles, 'Some things can be done as well as others.’ A homely utterance, but it has virtue to overthrow all dynasties and hierarchies. These were all built up on the OldWorld dogma that some things can NOT be done as well as others.”

There, now ! ” he said, talking to himself in his usual way, “isn’t that good ? It always seems to me that I find something to the point when I open that book. ‘ Some things can be done as well as others,’ can they ? Suppose I should try what I can do by visiting Miss Myrtle Hazard ? I think I may say I am old and incombustible enough to be trusted. She does not seem to be a safe neighbor to very inflammable bodies ! ”

The Fire-hang-bird was in her nest, the little hanging chamber, when Master Byles Gridley called at The Poplars to see her. Miss Cynthia, who received him, saw fit to carry him somewhat abruptly up to Myrtle’s room. She welcomed him very cordially, but colored as she did so, — his visit was a surprise. She was at work on a piece of embroidery. Her first instinctive movement was to thrust it out of sight with the thought of concealment; but she checked this, and before the blush of detection had reached her cheek, the blush of ingenuous shame for her weakness had caught and passed it, and was in full possession. She sat with her worsted pattern held bravely in sight, and her cheek as bright as its liveliest crimson.

“ Miss Cynthia has shown me up to the boudoir,” he said, or I should not have ventured into the adyta of this ancient temple. A work of art, is it, Miss Myrtle Hazard ? ”

“ Only a pair of slippers, Mr. Gridley, — for my pastor.”

“ Oh ! oh ! That is well. A good old man. I have a great regard for the Rev. Eliphalet Pemberton. I wish all ministers were as good and simple and pure-hearted as the Rev. Eliphalet Pemberton. And I wish all the young people thought as much about their elders as you do, Miss Myrtle Hazard. We that are old love little acts of kindness. You gave me more pleasure than you knew of, my dear, when you worked that handsome cushion for me. The old minister will be greatly pleased, — poor old man ! ”

“ But, Mr. Gridley, I must not let you think these are for Father Pemberton. They are for — Mr. — Stoker.”

“The Rev. Joseph Bellamy Stoker! He is not an old man, the Rev. Joseph Bellamy Stoker. He may perhaps be a widower before a great while. — Does he know that you are working those slippers for him ? ”

“ Dear me! no, Mr. Gridley. I meant them for a surprise to him. He has been so kind to me, and understands me so much better than I thought anybody did. He is so different from what I thought; he makes religion so perfectly simple, it seems as if everybody would agree with him, if they could only hear him talk.”

“ Greatly interested in the souls of his people, is n’t he ? ”

“ Too much, almost, I am afraid. He says he has been too hard in his sermons sometimes, but it was for fear he should not impress his hearers enough.”

“ Don't you think he worries himself about the souls of young women rather more than for those of old ones, Myrtle ? ”

There was something in the tone of this question that helped its slightly sarcastic expression. Myrtle’s jealousy for her minister’s sincerity was roused.

“ How can you ask that, Mr. Gridley ? I am sure I wish you or anybody could have heard him talk as I have. There is no age in souls, he says ; and I am sure that it would do anybody good to hear him, old or young.”

“No age in souls, — no age in souls. Souls of forty as young as souls of fifteen ; that’s it.” Master Gridley did not say this loud. But he did speak as follows : “ I am glad to hear what you

say of the Rev. Joseph Bellamy Stoker’s love of being useful to people of all ages. You have had comfort in his companionship, and there are others who might be very glad to profit by it. I know a very excellent person who has had trials, and is greatly interested in religious conversation. Do you think he would be willing to let this friend of mine share in the privileges of spiritual intercourse which you enjoy ? ”

There was but one answer possible. Of course he would.

“ I hope it is so, my dear young lady. But listen to me one moment. I love you, my dear child, do you know, as if I were your own—grandfather.” (There was moral heroism in that word.) “ I love you as if you were of my own blood ; and so long as you trust me, and suffer me, I mean to keep watch against all dangers that threaten you in mind, body, or estate. You may wonder at me, you may sometimes doubt me ; but until you say you distrust me, when any trouble comes near you, you will find me there. Now, my dear child, you ought to know that the Rev. Joseph Bellamy Stoker has the reputation of being too fond of prosecuting religious inquiries with young and handsome women.”

Myrtle’s eyes fell, — a new suspicion seemed to have suggested itself.

“ He wanted to get up a spiritual intimacy with our Susan Posey, — a very pretty girl, as you know.”

Myrtle tossed her head almost imperceptibly, and bit her lip.

“ I suppose there are a dozen young people that have been talked about with him. He preaches cruel sermons in his pulpit, cruel as death, and coldblooded enough to freeze any mother’s blood if Nature did not tell her he lied, and then smooths it all over with the first good-looking young woman he can get to listen to him.”

Myrtle had dropped the slipper she was working on.

“ Tell me, my dear, would you be willing to give up meeting this man alone, and gratify my friend, and avoid all occasion of reproach ? ”

“ Of course I would,” said Myrtle, her eyes flashing, for her doubts, her shame, her pride, were all excited. “ Who is your friend, Mr. Gridley ? ” “An excellent woman, — Mrs. Hopkins. You know her, Gifted Hopkins’s mother, with whom I am residing. Shall the minister be given to understand that you will see him hereafter in her company ? ”

Myrtle came pretty near a turn of her old nervous perturbations. “ As you say,” she answered. “ Is there nobody that I can trust, or is everybody hunting me like a bird ? ” She hid her face in her hands.

“You can trust me, my dear,” said Byles Gridley. “Take your needle, my child, and work at your pattern, — it will come out a rose by and by. Life is like that, Myrtle, one stitch at a time, taken patiently, and the pattern will come out all right like the embroidery. You can trust me. Good by, my dear.”

“ Let her finish the slippers,” the old man said to himself as he trudged home, “and make ’em big enough for Father Pemberton. He shall have his feet in ’em yet, or my name is n't Byles Gridley ! ”