Malbone: An Oldport Romance
AUXT JANE DEFINES HER POSITION.
THE next morning had that luminous morning haze, not quite dense enough to be called a fog, which is often so lovely in Oldport. It was perfectly still; the tide swelled and swelled till it touched the edge of the green lawn behind the house, and seemed ready to submerge the slender pier; the water looked at first like glass, till closer gaze revealed long sinuous undulations, as if from unseen water-snakes beneath. A few rags of stormcloud lay over the half-seen hills beyond the bay, and behind them came little mutterings of thunder, now here, now there, as if some wild creature were roaming up and down, dissatisfied, in the shelter of the clouds. The pale haze extended into the foreground, and half veiled the schooners that lay at anchor with their sails up. It was sultry, and there was something in the atmosphere that at once threatened and soothed. Sometimes a few drops dimpled the water and then ceased ; the muttering creature in the sky moved northward and grew still. It was a day when every one would be tempted to go out rowing, but when only lovers would go. Philip and Hope went.
Kate and Harry, meanwhile, awaited their opportunity to go in and visit Aunt Jane. This was a thing that never could be done till near noon, because that dear lady was very deliberate in her morning habits, and always averred that she had never seen the sun rise except in a panorama. She hated to be hurried in dressing, too; for she was accustomed to say that she must have leisure to understand herself, and this was clearly an affair of time.
But she was never more charming than when, after dressing and breakfasting in seclusion, and then vigilantly watching her handmaiden through the necessary dustings and arrangements, she sat at last with her affairs in order to await events. Every day she expected something entirely new to happen, and was never disappointed. For she herself always happened, if nothing else did; she could no more repeat herself than the sunrise can ; and the liveliest visitor always carried away something fresher and more remarkable than he brought.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869. by FIELDS, OSGOOD, & Co., in the Clerk'S Office of the District Court of the District of Mas-achusetts.
Her book that morning had displeased her, and she was boiling with indignation against its author.
“ I am reading a book so dry,” she said, “it makes me cough. No wonder there was a drought last summer. It was printed then. Worcester’s Geography seems in my memory as fascinating as Shakespeare, when I look back upon it from this book. How can a man write such a thing and live ?”
“ Perhaps he lived by writing it,” said Kate.
“Perhaps it was the best he could do,” added the more literal Harry.
“ It certainly was not the best he could do, for he might have died, —died instead of dried. O, I should like to prick that man with something sharp, and see if sawdust did not run out of him! Kate, ask the bookseller to let me know if he ever really dies, and then life may seem fresh again.”
“What is it?” asked Kate.
“ Somebody’s memoirs,” said Aunt Jane. “ Was there no man left worth writing about, that they should make a biography about this one ? It is like a life of Napoleon with all the battles left out. They are conceited enough to put his age in the upper corner of each page, too, as if anybody cared how old he was.”
“ Such pretty covers ! ” said Kate. “It is too bad.”
“ Yes,” said Aunt Jane. “ I mean to send them back and have new leaves put in. These are so wretched, there is not a teakettle in the land so insignificant that it would boil over them. Don’t let us talk any more about it. Have Philip and Hope gone out upon the water ? ”
“Yes, dear,” said Kate. “ Did Ruth tell you ? ”
“ When did that aimless infant ever tell anything?”
“ Then how did you know it ? ”
“ If I waited for knowledge till that sweet-tempered parrot chose to tell me,” Aunt Jane went on, “ I should be even more foolish than I am.”
“ Then how did you know ? ”
“ Of course I heard the boat hauled down, and of course I knew that none but lovers would go out just before a thunder-storm. Then you and Harry came in, and I knew it was the others.”
“Aunt Jane,” said Kate, “you divine everything : what a brain you have ! ”
“ Brain ! it is nothing but a collection of shreds, like a little girl’s work-basket, — a scrap of blue silk and a bit of white muslin.”
“Now she is fishing for compliments,” said Kate, “and she shall have one. She was very sweet and good to Philip last night.”
“ I know it,” said Aunt Jane, with a groan. “ I waked in the night and thought about it. I was awake a great deal last night. I have heard cocks crowing all my life, but I never knew what that creature could accomplish before. So I lay and thought how good and forgiving I was ; it was quite distressing.”
“ Remorse ? ” said Kate.
“Yes, indeed. I hate to be a saint all the time. There ought to be vacations. Instead of suffering from a bad conscience, I suffer from a good one.”
“It was no merit of yours, aunt,” put in Harry. “Who was ever more agreeable and lovable than Malbone last night ? ”
“ Lovable ! ” burst out Aunt Jane, who never could be managed or manipulated by anybody but Kate, and who often rebelled against Harry’s blunt assertions. “Of course he is lovable, and that is why I dislike him. His father was so before him. That is the worst of it. I never in my life saw any harm done by a villain ; I wish I could. All the mischief in this world is done by lovable people. Thank Heaven, nobody ever dared to call me lovable ! ”
“ I should like to see any one dare call you anything else,-—you dear, old, soft-hearted darling! ” interposed Kate.
“But, aunt,” persisted Harry, “if you only knew what the mass of young men are — ”
“Don't I ?” interrupted the impetuous lady. “ What is there that is not known to any woman who has common sense, and eyes enough to look out of a window ? ”
“If you only knew,” Harry went on, “ how superior Phil Malbone is, in his whole tone, to any fellow of my acquaintance.”
“ Lord help the rest! ’’she answered. “ Philip has a sort of refinement instead of principles, and a heart instead of a conscience, — just heart enough to keep himself happy and everybody else miserable.”
“ Do you mean to say,” asked the obstinate Hal, “ that there is no difference between refinement and coarseness ? ”
“ Yes, there is,” she said.
“Well, which is best?”
“ Coarseness is safer by a great deal,” said Aunt Jane, “ in the hands of a man like Philip. What harm can that swearing coachman do, I should like to know, in the street yonder ? To be sure it is very unpleasant, and I wonder they let people swear so, except, perhaps, in waste places outside the town ; but that is his way of expressing himself, and he only frightens people, after all.”
“Which Philip does not,” said Hal.
“ Exactly. That is the danger. He frightens nobody, not even himself, when he ought to wear a label round his neck, marked ‘ Dangerous,’ such as they have at other places where it is slippery and brittle. When he is here, I keep saying to myself, ‘ Too smooth ! too smooth ! ’ ”
“ Aunt Jane,” said Harry, gravely, “ I know Malbone very well, and I never knew any man whom it was more unjust to call a hypocrite.”
“Did I say he was a hypocrite?” she cried. “ He is worse than that; at least more really dangerous. It is these high-strung sentimentalists who do all the mischief; who play on their own lovely emotions, forsooth, till they wear out those fine fiddlestrings, and then have nothing left but the flesh and the D. Don’t tell me ! ”
“ Do stop, auntie,” interposed Kate, quite alarmed, “you are really worse than a coachman. You are growing very profane indeed.”
“ I have a much harder time than any coachman, Kate,” retorted the injured lady “Nobody tries to stop him, and you are always hushing me up.”
“ Hushing you up, darling ? ” said Kate. “When we only spoil you by praising and quoting everything you say.”
“Only when it amuses you,” said Aunt Jane. “ So long as I sit and cry my eyes out over a book, you all love me, and when I talk nonsense you are ready to encourage it ; but when I begin to utter a little sense you all want to silence me, or else run out of the room ! Yesterday I read about a newspaper somewhere, called the 'Daily Evening Voice ’; I wish you would allow me a daily morning voice.”
“ Do not interfere, Kate,” said Hal. " Aunt Jane and I only wish to understand each other.”
“I am sure we don’t,” said Aunt Jane ; "I have no desire to understand you, and you never will understand me till you comprehend Philip.”
“ Let us agree on one thing,” Harry said. " Surely, aunt, you know how he loves Hope ? ”
Aunt Jane approached a degree nearer the equator, and said, gently, “I fear I do.”
“ Fear ? ”
“ Yes, fear. That is just what troubles me. I know precisely how he loves her. Il se laisse aimer. Philip likes to be petted, as much as any cat, and, while he will purr, Hope is happy. Very few men accept idolatry with any degree of grace, but he unfortunately does.”
“ Unfortunately ? ” remonstrated Hal, as far as ever from being satisfied, " This is really too bad. You never will do him any justice.”
“Ah?” said Aunt Jane, chilling again, "I thought I did. I observe he is very much afraid of me, and there seems to be no other reason.”
“The real trouble is,” said Harry, after a pause, that you doubt his constancy.”
“ What do you call constancy ? ” said she. “ Kissinga woman’s picture ten years after a man has broken her heart ? Philip Malbone has that kind of constancy, and so had his father before him.”
This was too much for Harry, who was making for the door in indignation, when little Ruth came in with Aunt jane’s luncheon, and that lady was soon absorbed in the hopeless task of keeping her handmaiden’s pretty blue and white gingham sleeve out of the butter-plate.
A MULTIVALVE HEART.
Philip Malbone had that perfectly sunny temperament which is peculiarly captivating among Americans, because it is so rare. He liked everybody and everybody liked him ; he had a thousand ways of affording pleasure, and he received it in the giving. He had a personal beauty, which, strange to say, was recognized by both sexes, — for most handsome men must consent to be mildly hated by their own. He had travelled much, and had mingled in very varied society; he had a moderate fortune, no vices, no ambition, and no capacity of ennui.
He was fastidious and over-critical, it might be, in his theories, but in practice he was easily suited and never vexed. He liked travelling, and he liked staying at home ; he was so continually occupied as to give an apparent activity to all his life, and yet he was never too busy to be interrupted, especially if the intruder were a woman or a child. He liked to be with people of his own age, whatever their condition ; he also liked old people because they were old, and children because they were young. In travelling by rail, he would woo crying babies out of their mothers’ arms, and still them ; it was always his back that Irishwomen thumped, to ask if they must get out at the next station ; and he might be seen handing out decrepit paupers as if thev were of royal blood, and bore concealed sceptres in their old umbrellas. Exquisitely nice in his personal habits, he had the practical democracy of a good-natured young prince ; he had never yet seen a human being who awed him, nor one whom he had the slightest wish to awe. His courtesy had, therefore, that comprehensiveness which we call republican, though it was really the least republican thing about him. All felt its attraction ; there was really no one who disliked him except Aunt Jane ; and even she admitted that he was the only person who knew how to cut her lead-pencil.
That cheerful English premier who thought that any man ought to find happiness enough in walking London streets and looking at the lobsters in the fish-markets, was not more easily satisfied than Malbone. He liked to observe the groups of boys fishing at the wharves, or to hear the chat of their fathers about coral-reefs and penguins’ eggs; or to sketch the fisher’s little daughter awaiting her father at night on some deserted and crumbling wharf, his blue pea-jacket over her fair ringleted head, and a great cat standing by with tail uplifted, her sole protector. He liked the luxurious indolence of yachting, and he liked as well to float in his wherry among the fleet of fishing schooners getting under way after a three days’ storm, each vessel slipping out in turn from the closely packed crowd, and spreading its white wings for flight. He liked to watch the groups of negro boys and girls strolling by the window at evening, and strumming on the banjo, —the only vestige of tropical life that haunts our busy Northern zone. But he liked just as well to note the ways of well-dressed girls and boys at croquet parties, or to sit at the club window and hear the gossip ; he was a jewel of a listener, and not easily bored even when Philadelphians talked about families, or New-Yorkers about bargains, or Bostonians about books. A man who has not one absorbing aim can get a great many miscellaneous things into each twenty-four hours; and there was not a day in which Philip did not make himself agreeable and useful to a great many people, receive a great many confidences, and give much good-humored advice about matters of which he knew nothing. His friends’ children ran after him in the street, and he knew the pet theories and wines of elderly gentlemen. He said that he won their hearts by remembering every occurrence in their lives except their birthdays.
It was, perhaps, no drawback on the popularity of Philip Malbone that he had been for some ten years reproached as a systematic flirt by all women with whom he did not happen at the moment to be flirting. The reproach was unjust ; he had never done anything systematically in his life ; it was his temperament that flirted, not his will. He simply had that most perilous of all seductive natures, in which the seducer is himself seduced. With a personal refinement that almost amounted to purity, he was constantly drifting into loves more profoundly perilous than if they had belonged to a grosser man. Almost all women loved him, because he loved almost all; he never had to assume an ardor, for he always felt it. His heart was multivalve; he could love a dozen at once in various modes and gradations, press a dozen hands in a day, gaze into a dozen pair of eyes with unfeigned tenderness; while the last pair wept for him, lie was looking into the next. In truth, he loved to explore those sweet depths ; humanity is the highest thing to investigate, he said, and the proper study of mankind is woman. Woman needs to be studied while under the influence of emotion ; let us therefore have the emotions. This was the reason he gave to himself; but this refined Mormonism of the heart was not based on reason, but on temperament and habit. In such matters logic is only for the by-standers.
His very generosity harmed him, as all our good qualities may harm us when linked with bad ones ; he had so many excuses for doing kindnesses to his friends, it was hard to quarrel with him if he did them too tenderly. He was no more capable of unkindness than of constancy ; and so strongly did he fix the allegiance of those who loved him, that the women to whom he had caused most anguish would still defend him when accused ; would have crossed the continent, if needed, to nurse him in illness, and would have rained rivers of tears on his grave. To do him justice, he would have done almost as much for them, — for any of them. He could torture a devoted heart, but only by a sort of half-wilful unconsciousness ; he could not bear to see tears shed in his presence, nor to let his imagination dwell very much on those which flowed in his absence. When he had once loved a woman, or even fancied that he loved her, he built for her a shrine that was never dismantled, and in which a very little faint incense would sometimes be found burning for years after; he never quite ceased to feel a languid thrill at the mention of her name ; he would make even for a past love the most generous sacrifices of time, convenience, truth perhaps, — everything, in short, but the present love. To those who had given him all that an undivided heart can give he would deny nothing but an undivided heart in return. The misfortune was that this was the only thing they cared to possess.
This abundant and spontaneous feeling gave him an air of earnestness, without which he could not have charmed any woman, and, least of all, one like Hope. No woman really loves a trifier ; she must at least convince herself that he who trifles with others is serious with her. Philip was never quite serious and never quite otherwise ; he never deliberately got up a passion, for it was never needful ; he simply found an object for his emotions, opened their valves, and then watched their flow. To love a charming woman in her presence is no test of genuine passion ; let us know how much you long for her in absence. This longing had never yet seriously troubled Maibone, provided there was another charming person within an easy walk.
If it was sometimes forced upon him that all this ended in anguish to some of these various charmers, first or last, then there was always in reserve the pleasure of repentance. He was very winning and generous in his repentances, and he enjoyed them so much they were often repeated. He did not pass for a weak person, and he was not exactly weak ; but he spent his life in putting away temptations with one hand and pulling them back with the other. There was for him something piquant in being thus neither innocent nor guilty, but always on some delicious middle ground. He loved dearly to skate on thin ice, — that was the trouble, — especially where he fancied the water to be just within his depth. Unluckily the sea of life deepens rather fast.
Malbone had known Hope from her childhood, as he had her cousins, but their love dated from their meetings beside the sick-bed of his mother, over whom he had watched with unstinted devotion for weary months. She had been very fond of the young girl, and her last earthly act was to place Hope’s hand in Philip’s. Long before this final consecration, Hope had won his heart more thoroughly, he fancied, than any woman he had ever seen. The secret of this crowning charm was, perhaps, that she was a new sensation. He had prided himself on his knowledge of her sex, and yet here was a wholly new species. He was acquainted with the women of society, and with the women who only wished to be in society. But here was one who was in the chrysalis, and had never been a grub, and had no wish to be a butterfly, and what should he make of her? He was like a student of insects who had never seen a bee. Never had he known a young girl who cared for the things which this maiden sought, or who was not dazzled by things to which Hope seemed perfectly indifferent. She was not a devotee, she was not a prude ; people seemed to amuse and interest her ; she liked them, she declared, as much as she liked books. But this very way of putting the thing seemed like inverting the accustomed order of affairs in the polite world, and was of itself a novelty.
Of course he had previously taken his turn for a while among Kate’s admirers ; but it was when she was very young, and, moreover, it was hard to get up anything like a tender and confidential relation with that frank maiden ; she never would have accepted Philip Malbone for herself, and she was by no means satisfied with his betrothal to her best beloved. But that Hope loved him ardently there was no doubt, however it might be explained. Perhaps it was some law of opposites, and she needed some one of lighter nature than her own. As her resolute purpose charmed him, so she may have found a certain fascination in the airy way in which he took hold on life ; he was so full of thought and intelligence ; possessing infinite leisure, and yet incapable of ennui ; ready to oblige every one, and doing so many kind acts at so little personal sacrifice ; always easy, graceful, lovable, and kind. In her just indignation at those who called him heartless, she forgot to notice that his heart was not deep. He was interested in all her pursuits, could aid her in all her studies, suggest schemes for her benevolent desires, and could then make others work for her, and even work himself. People usually loved Philip, even while they criticised him; but Hope loved him first, and then could not criticise him at all.
Nature seems always planning to equalize characters, and to protect our friends from growing too perfect for our deserts. Love, for instance, is apt to strengthen the weak, and yet sometimes weakens the strong. Under its influence Hope sometimes appeared at disadvantage. Had the object of her love been different, the result might have been otherwise, but her ample nature apparently needed to contract itself a little, to find room within Philip’s heart. Not that in his presence she became vain or petty or jealous ; that would have been impossible. She only grew credulous and absorbed and blind. A kind of gentle obstinacy, too, developed itself in her nature, and all suggestion of defects in him fell off from her as from a marble image of Faith. If he said or did anything, there was no appeal ; that was settled, let us pass to something else.
I almost blush to admit that Aunt Jane — of whom it could by no means be asserted that she was a saintly lady, but only a very charming one —rather rejoiced in this transformation.
“ I like it better, my dear,” she said, with her usual frankness, to Kate. “ Hope was altogether too heavenly for my style. When she first came here, I secretly thought I never should care anything about her. She seemed nothing but a little moral tale. I thought she would not last me five minutes. But now she is growing quite human and ridiculous about that Philip, and I think I may find her very attractive indeed.”
“ SOME LOVER’S CLEAR DAY.”
“ Hope ! ” said Philip Malbone, as they sailed together in a little boat the next morning, “ I have come back to you from months of bewildered dreaming. I have been wandering, — no matter where. I need you. You cannot tell how much I need you.”
“ I can estimate it,” she answered, gently, “by my need of you.”
“Not at all,” said Philip, gazing in her trustful face. “ Any one whom you loved would adore you, could he be by your side. You need nothing. It is I who need you.”
“ Why ? ” she asked, simply.
“ Because,” he said, “ I am capable of behaving very much like a fool. Hope, I am not worthy of you ; why do you love me ? why do you trust me ? ”
“ I do not know how I learned to love you,” said Hope. “ It is a blessing that was given to me. But I learned to trust you in your mother’s sickroom.”
“ Ay,” said Philip, sadly, “ there, at least, I did my full duty.”
“As few would have done it,” said Hope, firmly, — “ very few. Such prolonged self-sacrifice must strengthen a man for life.”
“Not always,” said Philip, uneasily. “Too much of that sort of thing may hurt one, I fancy, as well as too little. He may come to imagine that the balance of virtue is in his favor, and that he may grant himself a little indulgence to make up for lost time. That sort of recoil is a little dangerous, as I sometimes feel, do you know ?”
“And you show it,” said Hope, ardently, “ by fresh sacrifices! How much trouble you have taken about Emilia! Some time, when you are willing, you shall tell me all about it. You always seemed to me a magician, but I did not think that even you could restore her to sense and wisdom so soon.”
Malbone was just then very busy in putting the boat about, but when he had it on the other tack he said, “How do you like her?”
“Philip,” said Hope, her eyes filling with tears, “ I wonder if you have the slightest conception how my heart is fixed on that child. She has always been a sort of dream to me, and the difficulty of getting any letters from her has only added to the excitement. Now that she is here, my whole heart yearns toward her. Yet, when I look into her eyes, a sort of blank hopelessness comes over me. They seem like the eyes of some untamable creature whose language I shall never learn. Philip, you are older and wiser than I, and have shown already that you understand her. Tell me what I can do to make her love me ? ”
“ Tell me how any one could help it?” said Malbone, looking fondly on the sweet, pleading face before him.
“ I am beginning to fear that it can be helped,” she said. Her thoughts were still with Emilia.
“ Perhaps it can,” said Phil, “ if you sit so far away from people. Here we are alone on the bay. Gome and sit by me, Hope.”
She had been sitting amidships, but she came aft at once, and nestled by him as he sat holding the tiller. She put her face against his knee, like a tired child, and shut her eyes ; her hair was lifted by the summer breeze ; a scent of roses came from her ; the mere contact of anything so fresh and pure was a delight. He put his arm around her, and all the first ardor of passion came back to him again ; he remembered how he had longed to win this Diana, and how thoroughly she was won.
“ It is you who do me good,” said she, “O Philip, sail as slowly as you can.” But he only sailed farther instead of more slowly, gliding in and out among the rocky islands in the light north wind, which for a wonder lasted all that day, — dappling the bare hills of the Isle of Shadows with a shifting beauty. The tide was in and brimming, the fishing-boats were busy, white gulls soared and clattered round them, and heavy cormorants flapped away as they neared the rocks. Beneath the boat the soft multitudinous jelly-fishes waved their fringed pendants, or glittered with tremulous gold along their pink translucent sides. Long lines and streaks of paler blue lay smoothly along the enamelled surface, the low amethystine hills lay couched beyond them, and little clouds stretched themselves in lazy length above the beautiful expanse. They reached the ruined fort at last, and Philip, surrendering Hope to others, was himself besieged by a joyous group.
As you stand upon the crumbling parapet of old Fort Louis, you feel yourself poised in middle air; the sea-birds soar and swoop around you, the white surf lashes the rocks far below, the white vessels come and go, the water is around you on all sides but one, and spreads in pale blue beauty up the lovely bay, or, in deeper tints, southward, towards the horizon line. I know of no ruin in America which nature lias so resumed ; it seems a part of the living rock ; you cannot imagine it away.
It is a single round, low tower, shaped like the tomb of Cæcilia Metella. But its stately position makes it rank with the vast sisterhood of wavewashed strongholds ; it might be King Arthur’s Cornish Tyntagel ; it might be the teocallis tower of Tuloom. As you gaze down from its height, all things that float upon the ocean seem equalized. Look at the crowded life on yonder frigate, coming in full-sailed before the steady sea-breeze. To furl that heavy canvas a hundred men cluster like bees upon the yards, yet to us upon this height it is all but a plaything for the eyes, and we turn with equal interest from that thronged floating citadel to some lonely boy in his skiff.
Yonder there sail to the ocean, beating wearily to windward, a few slow vessels. Inward come jubilant white schooners, wing-and-wing. There are fishing-smacks towing their boats behind them like a family of children ; and there are slender yachts, that bear only their own light burden. Once from this height I saw the whole yacht squadron round Point Judith, and glide in like a flock of land-bound sea-birds ; and above them, yet more snowy and with softer curves, pressed onward the white squadrons of the sky.
Within, the tower is full of débris, now disintegrated into one solid mass, and covered with vegetation. You can lie on the blossoming clover, where the bees hum and the crickets chirp around you, and can look through the arch which frames its own fair picture. In the foreground lies the steep slope overgrown with bayberry and gay with thistle blooms ; then the little winding cove with its bordering cliffs ; and the rough pastures with their grazing sheep beyond. Or, ascending the parapet, you can look across the bay to the men making hay picturesquely on far-off lawns, or to the cannon on the outer works of Fort Adams, looking like vast black insects that have crawled forth to die.
Here our young people spent the day ; some sketched, some played croquet, some bathed in. rocky inlets where the kingfisher screamed above them, some rowed to little craggy isles for wild roses, some fished, and then were taught by the boatmen to cook their fish in novel island ways. The morning grew more and more cloudless, and then in the afternoon a fog came and went again, marching by with its white armies, soon met and annihilated by a rainbow.
The conversation that day was very gay and incoherent, — little fragments of all manner of things ; science, sentiment, everything: “ Like a distracted dictionary,” Kate said. At last this lively maiden got Philip away from the rest, and began to cross-question, him.
“Tell me,” she said,“about Emilia’s Swiss lover. She shuddered when she spoke of him. Was he so very bad ? ”
“ Not at all,” was the answer. “ You had false impressions of him. He was a handsome, manly fellow, a little over .sentimental. He had travelled, and had been a merchant’s clerk in Paris and London. Then he came back, and became a boatman on the lake, some said, for love of her.”
“ Did she love him ? ”
“ Passionately, as she thought.”
“ Did he love her much ? ”
“ I suppose so.”
“Then why did she stop loving him ? ”
“ She does not hate him ? ”
“ No,” said Kate, “ that is what surprises me. Lovers hate, or those who have been lovers. She is only indifferent. Philip, she had wound silk upon a torn piece of his carte-de-visite, and did not know it till I showed it to her. Even then she did not care.”
“ Such is woman ! ” said Philip.
“Nonsense,” said Kate. “She had seen somebody whom she loved better, and she still loves that somebody. Who was it ? She had not been introduced into society. Were there any superior men among her teachers ? She is just the girl to fall in love with her teacher, at least in Europe, where they are the only men one sees.”
“ There were some very superior men among them,” said Philip. “ Professor Schirmer has a European reputation ; he wears blue spectacles and a maroon wig.”
“ Do not talk so,” said Kate. “ I tell you, Emilia is not changeable, like you. sir. She is passionate and constant. She would have married that man or died for him. You may think that your sage counsels restrained her, but they did not ; it was that she loved some one'else. Tell me honestly. Do you not know that there is somebody in Europe whom she loves to distraction ? ”
“ I do not know it,” said Philip.
“ Of course you do not know it,” returned the questioner. “ Do you not think it?”
“ I have no reason to believe it”
“That has nothing to do with it.”said Kate. “Things that we believe without any reason have a great deal more weight with us. Do you not believe it ? ”
“No,” said Philip, point-blank.
“It is very strange,” mused Kate. “ Of course you do not know much about it. She may have misled you, but I am sure that neither you nor any one else could have cured her of a passion, especially an unreasonable one, without putting another in its place. If you did it without that, you are a magician. Philip, I am afraid of you.”
“There we sympathize,” said Phil. “ I am sometimes afraid of myself, but I discover within half an hour what a very commonplace and harmless person I am.”
Meantime Emilia found herself beside her sister, who was sketching. After watching Hope for a time in silence, she began to question her.
“Tell me what you have been doing in all these years,” she said.
“ O, I have been at school,” said Hope. “ First I went through the High School ; then I stayed out of school a year, and studied Greek and German with my uncle, and music with my aunt, who plays uncommonly well. Then I persuaded them to let me go to the Normal School for two years, and learn to be a teacher.”
“A teacher!” said Emilia, with surprise. “Is it necessary that you should be a teacher? ”
“Very necessary,” replied Hope. “ I must have something to do, you know, after I leave school.”
“To do?” said the other. “Cannot you go to parties ? ”
“Not all the time,” said her sister.
“Well,” said Emilia, “in the mean time you can go to drive, or make calls, or stay at home and make pretty little things to wear, as other girls do.”
“ I can find time for that too, little sister, when I need them. But I love children, you know, and I like to teach interesting studies. I have splendid health, and I enjoy it all. I like it as you love dancing, my child, only I like dancing too, so I have a greater variety of enjoyments.”
“ But shall you not sometimes find it very hard ? ” said Emilia.
“ That is why I shall like it,” was the answer.
“What a girl you are!” exclaimed the younger sister. “ You know everything and can do everything.”
“ A very short everything,” interposed Hope.
“Kate says,”continued Emilia, “that you speak French as well as I do, and I dare say you dance a great deal better ; and those are the only things I know.”
“If we both had French partners, dear,” replied the elder maiden, “ they would soon find the difference in both respects. My dancing came by nature, believe, and I learned French as child, by talking with my old uncle, who was half a Parisian. I believe I have a good accent, but I have so little practice that I have no command of the language compared to yours. In a week or two we can both try our skill, as there is to be a ball for the officers of the French corvette yonder.” And Hope pointed to the heavy spars, the dark canvas, and the high quarter-deck which made the “Jean Hoche ” seem as if she had floated out of the days of Nelson.
The calm day waned, the sun drooped to his setting amid a few golden bars and pencilled lines of light. Ere they were ready for departure, the tide had ebbed, and, in getting the boats to a practicable landing-place, Malbone was delayed behind the others. As he at length brought his boat to the rock, Hope sat upon the ruined fort, far above him, and sang. Her noble contralto voice echoed among the cliffs down to the smooth water ; the sun went down behind her, and still she sat stately and noble, her white dress looking more and more spirit-like against the golden sky; and still the song rang on, —
I’d smile on thee, sweet, as the angels do;
Sweet as thy smile on me shone ever,
Douglas, Douglas, tender and true.”
All sacredness and sweetness, all that was pure and brave and truthful, seemed to rest in her. And when the song ceased at his summons, and she came down to meet him,—glowing, beautiful, appealing, tender, — then all meaner spells vanished, if such had ever haunted him, and he was hers alone.
Later that evening, after the household had separated, Hope went into the empty drawing-room for a light. Philip, after a moment’s hesitation, followed her, and paused in the doorway. She stood, a white-robed figure, holding the lighted candle ; behind her rose the arched alcove, whose quaint cherubs looked down on her ; she seemed to have stepped forth, the awakened image of a saint. Looking up, she saw his eager glance ; then she colored, trembled, and put the candle down. He came to her, took her hand and kissed it, then put his hand upon her brow and gazed into her face, then kissed her lips. She quietly yielded, but her color came and went, and her lips moved as if to speak. For a moment he saw her only, thought only of her ; it was as if he lived over again with her all the fresh, pure happiness of the past.
Then, even while he gazed into her eyes, a flood of other memories surged over him, and his own eyes grew dim. His head swam, the lips he had just kissed appeared to fade away, and something of darker, richer beauty seemed to burn through those fair features ; he looked through those gentle eyes into orbs more radiant, and it was as if a countenance of eager passion obliterated that fair head, and spoke with substituted lips, “ Behold your love.” There was a thrill of infinite ecstasy in the work his imagination did ; he gave it rein, then suddenly drew it in and looked at Hope. Her touch brought pain for an instant, as she laid her hand upon him, but he bore it. Then some influence of calmness came ; there swept by him a flood of earlier, serener memories ; he sat down in the window-seat beside her, and when she put her face beside his, and her soft hair touched his cheek, and he inhaled the rose-odor that always clung around her, every atom of his manhood stood up to drive away the intruding presence, and he again belonged to her alone.
When he went to his chamber that night, he drew from his pocket a little note in a girlish hand, which he lighted in the candle, and put upon the open hearth to burn. With what a cruel, tinkling rustle the pages flamed and twisted and opened, as if the fire read them, and collapsed again as if in agonizing effort to hold their secret, even in death ! The closely folded paper refused to burn, it went out again and again ; while each time Philip Malbone examined it ere relighting, with a sort of vague curiosity, to see how much passion had already vanished out of existence, and how much yet survived in utterances that might drive him to desperation if revealed. For each of these inspections he had to brush aside the calcined portion of the letter, once so warm and beautiful with love, but changed to something that seemed to him a semblance of his own heart just then, — black, trivial, and empty.
Then he took from a little folded paper a long tress of dark silken hair, and, without trusting himself to kiss it, held it firmly in the candle. It crisped and sparkled, and sent out a pungent odor, then turned and writhed between his fingers, like a living thing in pain. What part of us has earthly immortality but our hair ? It dies not with death. When all else of human beauty has decayed beyond corruption into the more agonizing irrecoverableness of dust, the hair is still fresh and beautiful, defying annihilation, and restoring to the powerless heart the full association of the living image. These shrinking hairs, they feared not death, but they seemed to fear Malbone. Nothing but the hand of man could destroy what he was destroying ; but his hand shrank not, and it was done.