A Counterfeit Presentment: Comedy. In Three Parts. Part Second



Constance: “ And he is still here? He is going to stay on, mother? ” She reclines in a low folding-chair, and languidly rests her head against one of the pillows with which her mother has propped her; on the bright-colored shawl which has been thrown over her he her pale hands loosely holding her shut fan. Her mother stands half across the room from her, and wistfully surveys her work, to see if there may not yet be some touch added for the girl’s comfort.

Mrs. Wyatt: “Yes, my child. He will stay. He told your father he would stay.”

Constance: “ That’s very kind of him. He ’s very good.”

Mrs. Wyatt, seating herself before her daughter: “ Do you really wish him to stay? Remember how weak you are, Constance. If you are taking anything upon yourself out of a mistaken sense of duty, of compunction, you are not kind to your poor father or to me. Not that I mean to reproach you.”

Constance: “ Oh, no. And I am not unkind to you in the way you think. I’m selfish enough in wishing him to stay. I can’t help wanting to see him again and again, — it’s so strange, so strange. All this past week, whenever I ’ve caught a glimpse of him, it’s been like an apparition; and whenever he has spoken, it has been like a ghost speaking. But I have n’t been afraid since the first time. No, there ’s been a dreary comfort in it; you won’t understand it; I can’t understand it myself; but I know now why people are glad to see their dead in dreams. If the ghost went, there would be nothing.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Constance, you break my heart! ”

Constance: “Yes, I know it. It’s because I’ve none.” She waits a little space without speaking, while she softly fingers the edges of the fan lying in her lap. “I suppose we shall become more acquainted, if he remains here ? ”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Why, not necessarily, dear. You need know nothing more of him than you do now. He seems very busy, and not in the least inclined to intrude upon us. Your father thinks him a little odd, but very gentlemanly.”

Constance, dreamily: “I wonder what he would think if he knew that the man whom I would have given my life did not find my love worth having. I suppose it was worthless; but it seemed so much in the giving; it was that deceived me. He was wiser. Oh, me!” After a silence: “Mother, why was I so different from other girls? ”

Mrs. Wyatt: “So different, Constance ? You were only different in being lovelier and better than others.”

Constance : “ Ah, that’s the mistake! If that were true, it could never have happened. Other girls, the poorest and plainest, are kept faith with; but I was left. There must have been something about me that made him despise me. Was I silly, mother? Was I too bold, too glad to have him care for me? I was so happy that I could n’t help showing it. May be that displeased him. I must have been dull and tiresome. And I suppose I was somehow repulsive, and at last he could n’t bear it any longer and had to break with me. Did I dress queerly ? I know I looked ridiculous at times; and people laughed at me before him. ”

Mrs. Wyatt: “Oh, Constance, Constance! Can’t you understand that it was his unworthiness alone, his wicked heartlessness? ’’

Constance, with gentle slowness: “No, I can’t understand that. It happened after we had learned to know each other so well. If he had been fickle, it would have happened long before that. It was something odious in me that he did n’t see at first. I have thought it out. It seems strange, now, that people could ever have tolerated me.” Desolately: “ Well, they have their revenge.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Their revenge on you, Constance? What harm did you ever do them, my poor child ? Oh, you must n’t let these morbid fancies overcome you. Where is our Constance that used to be, — our brave, bright girl, that nothing could daunt, and nothing could sadden ? ”

Constance, sobbing: “Dead, dead!”

Mrs. Wyatt: “I can’t understand! You are so young still, and with the world all before you. Why will you let one man’s baseness blacken it all, and blight your young life so ? Where is your pride, Constance ? ”

Constance: “Pride? What have I to do with pride? A thing like me! ”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Oh, child, you ’re pitiless! It seems as if you took a dreadful pleasure in torturing those who love you. ”

Constance: “You’ve said it, mother. I do. I know now that I am a vampire, and that it’s my hideous fate to prey upon those who are dearest to me. He must have known, he must have felt the vampire nature in me.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “Constance!”

Constance: “But at least I can be kind to those who care nothing for me. Who is this stranger? He must be an odd kind of man, to forgive us. What is he, mother? — if he is anything in himself; he seems to me only a likeness, not a reality.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ He is a painter, your father says.” Mrs. Wyatt gives a quick sigh of relief, and makes haste to confirm the direction of the talk away from Constance : “ He is painting some landscapes, here. That friend of his who went to-day is a cousin of your father’s old friend, Major Cummings. He’s a minister.”

Constance: “What is the painter’s name? Not that it matters. But I must call him something if I meet him again.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “Mr. Bartlett.”

Constance: “ Oh, yes, I forgot.” She falls into a brooding silence. “ I wonder if he will despise me, — if he will be like in that, too? ” Mrs. Wyatt sighs patiently. “ Why do you mind what I say, mother? I’m not worth it. I must talk on, or else go mad with the mystery of what has been. We were so happy; he was so good to me, so kind; there was nothing but papa’s not seeming to like him; and then suddenly, in an instant, he turns and strikes me down! Yes, it was like a deadly blow. If you don’t let me believe that it was because he saw all at once that I was utterly unworthy, I can’t believe anything.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “Hush, Constance; you don’t know what you ’re saying.”

Constance: “ Oh, I know too well! And now this stranger, who is so like him,—who has all his looks, who has his walk, who has his voice, — won’t he have his insight, too ? I had better show myself for what I am, at once, —weak, stupid, selfish, false; it ’ll save me the pain of being found out. Pain? Oh,

I’m past hurting! Why do you cry, mother? I’m not worth your tears.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “You’re all the world to us, Constance; you know it, child. Your poor father ” —

Constance: “ Does papa really like me? ”

Mrs. Wyatt: “Constance!”

Constance: “No; but why should he? He never liked him; and sometimes I’ve wondered, if it was n’t papa’s not liking him that first set him against me. Of course, it was best he should find me out, but still I can’t keep from thinking that if he had never begun to dislike me!

I noticed from the first that after papa had been with us he was cold and constrained. Mamma, I had better say it:

I don’t believe I love papa as I ought. There ’s something in my heart — some hardness — against him when he’s kindest to me. If he had only been kinder to him " —

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Kinder to him? Constance, you drive me wild! Kind to a wolf, kind to a snake! Kind to the thief who has robbed us of all that made our lives dear; who stole your love, and then your hope, your health, your joy, your pride, your peace ! And you think your father might have been kinder to him ! Constance, you were our little girl when the war began, — the last of brothers and sisters that had died. You seemed given to our later years to console and comfort us for all that had been taken; and you were so bright and gay! All through those dreadful days and months and years you were our stay and hope, — mine at home, his in the field. Our letters were full of you, — like young people’s with their first child; all that you did and said I had to tell him, and then he had to talk it over in his answers hack.

When he came home at last, after the peace — can you remember it, Constance? ”

Constance: “I can remember a little girl that ran down the street and met an officer on horseback. He was all tanned and weather-beaten; he sat his horse at the head of his troop like a statue of bronze. When he saw her come running, dancing down the street, he leaped from his horse and caught her in his arms, and hugged her close and kissed her, and set her all crying and laughing in his saddle, and walked on beside her ; and the men burst out with a wild yell, and the ragged flags flapped over her, and the music flashed out ” — She rises in her chair with the thrill of her recollection; her voice comes free and full, and her pale checks flush; suddenly she sinks back upon the pillows:

“ Was it really I, mother? ”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Yes, it was you, Constance. And do you remember, all through your school - days, how proud and fond he was of you? what presents and feasts and pleasures he was always making you? I thought he would spoil you; he took you everywhere with him, and wanted to give you everything. “When I saw you growing up with his pride and quick temper, I trembled, but I felt safe when I saw that you had his true and tender heart, too. You can never know what a pang it cost him to part with you when we went abroad, but you can’t forget how he met you in Paris?”

Constance: " Oh, no, no! Poor papa! ” Mrs. Wyatt: “ Oh, child! And I could tell you something of his bitter despair when he saw the man " —

Constance, wearily: “ You need n’t tell me. I knew it as soon as they met, without looking at either of them.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ And when the worst that he feared came true, he was almost glad, I believe. He thought, and I thought, that your self-respect would come to your aid against such treachery.”

Constance: “My self-respect? Now I know you’ve not been talking of me.”

Mrs. Wyatt, desperately: “ Oh, what shall I do?”

Mary, the serving-woman, at the door: “If yon please, Mrs. Wyatt, I can’t open Miss Constance’s hat-box.”

Mrs. Wyatt, rising: “Oh,yes. There is something the matter with the lock. I ’ll come, Mary.” She looks at Constance.

Constance: “Yes, go, mother. I’m perfectly well here. I like being alone well enough.” As Mrs. Wyatt, after a moment’s reluctance, goes out, the girl’s heavy eyelids fall, and she lies still against her pillows, while the fan, released from her careless hold, slides slowly over the shawl, and drops with a light clash upon the floor. She starts at the sound, and utters an involuntary cry at the sight of Bartlett, who stands irresolute on the threshold on her right. He makes as if to retreat, but at a glance from her he remains.



Bartlett, with a sort of subdued gruffness: “ I’m afraid I disturbed you.”

Constance, passively: “ No, I think it was my fan. It fell.”

Bartlett: “I’m glad I can lay the blame on the fan.” He comes abruptly forward and picks it up for her. She makes no motion to receive it, and he lays it on her lap.

Constance, starting from the abstraction in which she has been gazing at him: “ Oh! Thanks.”

Bartlett, with constraint: “I hope you ’re better this morning ? ”

Constance: “Yes.” She has again fallen into a dreamy study of him, as unconscious, apparently, as if he were a picture before her, the effect of which upon Bartlett is to reduce him to a state of immovable awkwardness. At last he tears himself loose from the spot on which he has been petrifying, and takes refuge in the business which has brought him into the room.

Bartlett: “I came to look for one of my brushes. It must have dropped out of my traps here, the other day.” He goes up to the piano and looks about the floor, while Constance’s gaze follows him in every attitude and movement. “Ah, here it is! I knew it would escape the broom under the landlady’s relaxed régime. If you happen to drop anything in this room, Miss Wyatt, you needn’t be troubled; you can always find it just where it fell.” Miss Wyatt’s fan again slips to the floor, and Bartlett again picks it up and restores it to her: “ A case in point.”

Constance, blushing faintly: “Don’t do it for me. It is n’t worth while.”

Bartlett, gravely: “ It doesn’t take a great deal of time, and the exercise does one good.” Constance dimly smiles, but does not relax her vigilance. “ Is n’t that light rather strong for you?” He goes to the glass doors opening on the balcony, and offers to draw down one of their shades.

Constance: “It doesn’t make any difference.”

Bartlett, bluffly; “If it’s disagreeable, it makes some difference. Is it disagreeable? ”

Constance : " The light’s strong " — Bartlett dashes the curtain down — “ but I could see the mountain.” He pulls the curtain up.

Bartlett: “ I beg your pardon.” He again falls into statue-like discomposure under Miss Wyatt’s gaze, which does not seek the distant slopes of Ponkwasset, in spite of the lifted curtain.

Constance: “ What is the name? Do you know ? ”

Bartlett: “Whose? Oh! Ponkwasset. It’s not a pretty name, but it’s aboriginal. And it doesn’t hurt the mountain.” Recovering a partial volition, he shows signs of a purpose to escape, when Miss Wyatt’s next question arrests him.

Constance: “ Are yon painting it, Mr. — Bartlett? ”

Bartlett, with a laugh: “ Oh, no, I don’t soar so high as mountains; I only lift my eyes to a tree here and there, and a bit of pasture, and a few of the lowlier and friendlier sort of rocks.” He now so far effects his purpose as to transfer his unwieldy presence to a lateral position as regards Miss Wyatt. The girl mechanically turns her head upon the pillow and again fixes her sad eyes upon him.

Constance: " Have you ever been up it? ”

Bartlett: “ Yes, half a dozen times.”

Constance: “Is it hard to climb — like the Swiss mountains? ”

Bartlett: " You must speak for the Swiss mountains after you’ve tried Ponkwasset, Miss Wyatt. I’ve never been abroad.”

Constance, her large eyes dilatingwith surprise: “ Never been abroad? ”

Bartlett: “ I enjoy that distinction.”

Constance: “ Oh! I thought you bad been abroad.” She speaks with a slow, absent, earnest accent, regarding him, as always, with a look of wistful bewilderment.

Bartlett, struggling uneasily for his habitual lightness: “ I ’m sorry to disappoint you, Miss Wyatt. I will go abroad as soon as possible. I’m going out in a boat this morning to work at a bit on the point of the island yonder, and I’ll take lessons in sea - faring.” Bartlett, managing at last to get fairly behind Miss Wyatt’s chair, indulges himself in a long, low sigh of relief, and taking out his handkerchief rubs his face with it.

Constance, with sudden, meek compunction : “I’ve been detaining you.”

Bartlett, politely coming forward again: “ Oh, no, not at all! I’m afraid I’ve tired you.”

Constance: “No, I’m glad to have you stay.” In the unconscious movement necessary to follow Bartlett in his changes of position, the young girl has loosened one of the pillows that prop her head. It slowly disengages itself and drops to the floor. Bartlett, who has been crushing his brush against the ball of his thumb, gives a start of terror, and looks from Constance to the pillow, and back again to Constance in despair.

Constance: “Nevermind.” She tries to adjust her head to the remaining pillows, and then desists in evident discomfort.

Bartlett, in great agony of spirit: “ I — I’m afraid you miss it.”

Constance: “ Oh, no.”

Bartlett: “ Shall I call your mother, Miss Wyatt? ”

Constance: “No. Oh, no. She will be here presently. Thank you so much.” Bartlett eyes the pillow in renewed desperation.

Bartlett: “Do you think — do you suppose I could”— Recklessly: “Miss Wyatt, let me put back that pillow for you! ”

Constance, promptly, with a little flush: “ Why, you’re very good! I’m ashamed to trouble you.”As she speaks, she raises her head, and lifts herself forward slightly by help of the chairarms; two more pillows topple out, one on either side, unknown to her.

Bartlett, maddened by the fresh disaster: “ Good Heaven! ” He flings himself wildly upon the first pillow, and crams it into the chair behind Miss Wyatt; then, without giving his courage time to flag, he seizes the others, and packs them in on top of it: “ Will that do? ” He stands hot and flushed, looking down upon her, as she makes a gentle attempt to adjust herself to the mass.

Constance: “ Oh, perfectly.” She puts her hand behind her and feebly endeavors to modify Bartlett’s arrangement.

Bartlett: “What is it?”

Constance: “Oh — nothing. Ah— would — would you draw this one a little— towards you? So! Thanks. And that one — out a little on the—other side? You’re very kind; that’s right. And this one under my neck — lift it up a little? Ah, thank you ever so much.” Bartlett, in a fine frenzy, obeying these instructions, Miss Wyatt at last reposes herself against the pillows, looks up into his embarrassed face, and deeply blushes; then she turns suddenly white, and weakly catching up her fan she passes it once or twice before her face, and lets it fall: “ I’m a little — faint.” Bartlett seizes the fan, and, after a moment of silent self-dedication, kneels down beside her chair and fans her.

Constance, after a moment: “ Thanks, thanks. You are very good. I’m better now. I’m ashamed to have troubled you. But I seem only to live to give trouble.”

Bartlett, with sudden deep tenderness: “ Oh, Miss Wyatt, you must n’t say that. I’m sure I — we all —that is— Shall I call your mother now, Miss Wyatt? ”

Constance, after a deep breath, firmly: “No. I’m quite well, now. She is busy. But I know I ’m keeping you from your work,” with ever so slight a wan little smile. “ I mustn’t do that.”

Bartlett: " Oh, you ’re not keeping me! There ’s no hurry. I can work later just as well.”

Constance: “ Then,” — with a glance at his devout posture, of which Bartlett has himself become quite unconscious,— “ won’t you sit down, Mr. Bartlett? ”

Bartlett, restored to consciousness and confusion: “ Thanks; I think it will be better.” He rises, and in his embarrassment draws a chair to the spot on which he has been kneeling, and sits down very close to her. He keeps the fan in his hand, as he talks: “It’s rather nice out there, Miss Wyatt,— there on the island. You must be rowed out as soon as you can stand it. The general would like it.”

Constance: “Is it a large place, the island ? ”

Bartlett: “ About two acres, devoted exclusively to golden-rod and granite. The fact is, I was going to make a little study of golden-rod and granite, there. You shall visit the Fortunate Isle in my sketch, this afternoon, and see whether you’d like to go, really. People camp out there in the summer. Who knows but if you keep on — gaining — this way you may yet feel like camping out there yourself before you go away? You do begin to feel better, don’t you? Everybody cries up this air.”

Constance: “It’s very pleasant; it seems fine and pure. Is the island a pretty place? ”

Bartlett, glancing out at it over his shoulder: “ Well, you get the best of it from the parlor window, here. Not that it’s so bad when you’re on it; there’s a surly,frugal, hard-headed kind of beauty about it,—like the local human nature, — and it has its advantages. If you were camping out there, you could almost provision yourself from the fish and wild fowl of the surrounding waters, — supposing any of your party liked to fish or shoot. Does your father like shooting? ”

Constance: “No, I don’t believe he cares for it.”

Bartlett: “ I’m glad of that. I shall be spared the painful hospitality of pointing out the best places for ducks.” At an inquiring look from Constance: “ I ’m glad for their sakes, not mine; I don’t want to kill them.”

Constance, with grave mistrust: “ Not like shooting? ”

Bartlett: “ No; I think it’s the sneakingest sort of assassination. It’s the pleasure of murder without the guilt. If yon must kill, you ought to be man enough to kill something that you ’ll suffer remorse for. Do you consider those atrocious sentiments, Miss Wyatt? I assure you that they ’re entirely my own.”

Constance, blankly: “ I wasn’t thinking— I was thinking — I supposed you liked shooting.”

Bartlett, laughing uneasily: “ How did you get that impression? ”

Constance, evasively: “ I thought all gentlemen did.”

Bartlett: “They do, in this region. It’s the only thing that can comfort them in affliction. The other day our ostler’s brother lost his sweetheart, — she died, poor girl, — and the ostler and another friend had him over here to cheer him up. They took him to the stable, and whittled round among the stalls with him half the forenoon, and let him rub down some of the horses; they stood him out among the vegetables and allowed him to gather some of the new kind of potato-bugs; they made him sit in the office with his feet on top of the stove; they played billiards with him; but he showed no signs of resignation till they borrowed three squirrel-guns and started with him to the oak woods yonder. That seemed to ‘fetch ’ him. You should have seen them trudging off together with their guns all aslant, — this way, — the stricken lover in the middle ! ” Bartlett rises to illustrate, and then at the deepening solemnity of Constance’s face he desists in sudden dismay: “Miss Wyatt, I’ve shocked you! ”

Constance : “ Oh, no — no! ”

Bartlett: “It was shocking. I wonder how I could do it! I— I thought it would amuse you.”

Constance, mournfully: “It did, thank you, very much.” After a pause: “ I did n’t know you liked — joking.”

Bartlett: “Ah! I don’t believe I do, — all kinds. I — that is — I beg your pardon.” Bartlett turns away, with an air of guilty consciousness, and goes to the window and looks out, Constance’s gaze following him: “It’s a wonderful day!” He comes back toward her: “ What a pity you couldn’t be carried out there in your chair! ”

Constance: “I’m not equal to that, yet.”Presently: " Then you — like — nature ? ”

Bartlett: “ Why, that’s mere shop in a landscape painter. I get my bread and butter by her. At least I ought to have some feeling of gratitude.”

Constance, hastily: “ Of course, of course. It’s very stupid of me, asking.”

Bartlett, with the desperate intention of grappling with the situation: “ I see you have a passion for formulating, classifying people, Miss Wyatt. That’s all very well, if one’s characteristics were not so very characteristic of everybody else. But I generally find, in my moments of self-consciousness, when I’ve gone round priding myself that such and such traits are my peculiar property, that the first man I meet has them all and as many more, and is n’t the least proud of them. I dare say you don’t see anything very strange in them, so far.”

Constance, musingly: “Oh, yes; very strange indeed. They ’re all — wrong!”

Bartlett: “Well! I don’t know — I ’in very sorry — Then you consider it wrong not to like shooting and to be fond of joking and nature, and ” —

Constance, bewilderedly : “Wrong? Oh, no!”

Bartlett: “ Oh! I’m glad to hear it. But you just said it was.”

Constance, slowly recalling herself, with a painful blush, at last: “ I meant — I meant I did n’t expect any of those things of you.”

Bartlett, with a smile: “Well, on reflection, I don’t know that I did, either.

I think they must have come without being expected. Upon my word, I’m tempted to propose something very ridiculous. ”

Constance, uneasily: “Yes? What is that ? ”

Bartlett: “ That you ’ll let me try to guess you out. I’ve failed so miserably in my own case, that I feel quite encouraged.”

Constance, morbidly: “ I’m not worth the trouble of guessing out.”

Bartlett: “ That means no. You always mean no by yes, because you can’t bear to say no. That is the mark of a very deep and darkling nature. I feel that I could go on and read your mind perfectly, but I ’m afraid to do it. Let’s get hack to myself. I can’t allow that you’ve failed to read my mind aright; I think you were careless about it. Will you give your intuitions one more chance? ”

Constance, with an anxious smile: “ Oh, yes.”

Bartlett: “ All those traits and tastes which we both find so unexpected in me are minor matters at the most. The great test question remains. If you answer it rightly, you prove yourself a mind-reader of wonderful power; if you miss it— The question is simply this: Do I like smoking? ”

Constance, instantly, with a quick, involuntary pressure of her handkerchief to her delicate nostrils: “ Oh, yes, indeed ! ”

Bartlett: “ Miss Wyatt, you have been deluding me. You are really a mindreader of great subtlety.”

Constance: “ I don’t know — I can’t say that it was mind-reading exactly” — She lifts her eyes to his, and catches the gleaming light in them; all at once she breaks into a wild, helpless laugh, and striving to recover herself with many little moans and sighs behind her handkerchief laughs on and on: “ Oh, don’t! I ought n’t! Oh dear, oh dear! ” When at last she lies spent with her reluctant mirth, and uncovers her face, Bartlett is gone, and it is her mother who stands over her, looking down at her with affectionate misgiving.



Mrs. Wyatt: “ Laughing, Constance? ” Constance, with a burst of indignant tears: “Yes, yes! Isn’t it shocking? It’s horrible! He made me.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ He? ”

Constance, beginning to laugh again: “Mr. Bartlett; he’s been here. Oh, I wish I would n't be so silly! ”

Mrs. Wyatt: “Made you? How could he make you laugh, poor child? ” Constance: “ Oh, it ’s a long story. It was all through my bewilderment at his resemblance. It confused me. I kept thinking it was he, — as if it were some dream, — and whenever this one mentioned some trait of his that totally differed from his, don’t you know, I got more and more confused, and — Mamma ! ” — with sudden desolation — “I know he knows all about it! ”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ I am sure he does n’t. Mr. Cummings only told him that his resemblance was a painful association. He assured your father of this, and wouldn’t hear a word more. I’m certain you ’re wrong. But what made you think he knows? ”

Constance, solemnly: “He behaved just, as if he did n’t.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Ah, you can’t judge from that, my dear.” Impressively: “ Men are very different.”

Constance, doubtfully: “ Do you think so, mamma? ”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ I’m certain of it.” Constance, after a pause: “Mamma, will you help take this shawl off my feet?

I ’m so warm. I think I should like to walk about a little. Can you see the island from the gallery?”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Do you think you’d better try to leave your chair, Constance ? ”

Constance: “Yes, I’m stronger this morning. And I shall never gain, lounging about this way.” She begins to loose the wraps from her feet, and Mrs. Wyatt coming doubtfully to her aid she is presently freed. She walks briskly toward the sofa, and sits down quite erectly in the corner of it. “ There! That’s pleasanter. I get so tired of being a burden.” She is silent, and then she begins softly and wearily to laugh again.

Mrs. Wyatt, smiling curiously: “What is it, Constance? I don’t at all understand what made you laugh.”

Constance. “ Why, don’t you know? Several times after I had been surprised that he did n’t like this thing, and had n’t that habit and the other, he noticed it, and pretended that it was an attempt at mind-reading, and then all at once he turned and said I must try once more, and he asked, ‘Do I like smoking?’ and I said instantly, ‘ Oh, yes! ’ and then I began to laugh — so silly, so disgusting, so perfectly flat! And I thought I should die, it was so ridiculous! Why, it was like having a whole tobacconist’s shop in the same room with you from the moment he came in; and when I said it was n’t mind-reading exactly, of course he understood, and— Oh. dear,

I’m beginning again! ” She hides her face in her handkerchief and leans her head on the back of the sofa: “ Say something, do something to stop me, mother! ” She stretches an imploring left hand toward the elder lady, who still remains apparently but half convinced of any reason for mirth, when General Wyatt, hastily entering, pauses in abrupt irresolution at the spectacle of Constance’s passion,



Constance:Oh, ha, ha, ha! Oh, ha, ha, ha, ha! ”

General Wyatt: “Margaret! Constance!” At the sound of his voice, Constance starts up with a little cry, and stiffens into an attitude of ungracious silence, without looking at her father, who turns with an expression of pain toward her mother.

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Yes, James. We were laughing at something Constance had been telling me about Mr. Bartlett. Tell your father, Constance.”

Constance, coldly, while she draws through her hand the handkerchief which she has been pressing to her eyes: “I don’t think it would amuse papa.” She passes her hand across her lap, and does not lift her heavy eyelashes.

Mrs. Wyatt, caressingly: “ Oh, yes, it would; I ’m sure it would.”

Constance: “You can tell it then, mamma.”

Mrs. Wyatt: " No; you, my dear. You tell it so funnily; and ” — in a lower tone—“ it’s so long since your father heard you laugh.”

Constance: “ There was nothing funny in it. It was disgusting. I was laughing from nervousness.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Why, Constance” —

General Wyatt: “Never mind, Margaret. Another time will do.” He chooses to ignore the coldness of his daughter’s bearing toward himself: “I came to see if Constance were not strong enough to go out on the lake this morning. The boats are very good, and the air is so fine that I think she ’ll be the better for it. Mr. Bartlett is going out to the island to sketch, and ” —

Constance : “ I don’t care to go.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Do go, my daughter! I know it will do you good.”

Constance: “I do not feel strong enough.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ But you said you were better, just now; and you should yield to your father’s judgment. ”

Constance ; “ I will do whatever papa bids me.”

General Wyatt: “I don’t bid you. Margaret, I think I will go out with Mr. Bartlett. We will be back at dinner.” He turns and leaves the room without looking again at Constance.



Mrs. Wyatt: “ Oh, Constance! How can you treat your father so coldly? You will suffer some day for the pain you give him ! ”

Constance: “Suffer? No, I’m past that. I’ve exhausted my power of suffering.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ You have n’t exhausted your power of making others suffer.”

Constance, crouching listlessly down upon the sofa: “ I told you that I lived only to give pain. But it ’s my fate, not my will. Nothing but that can excuse me.”

Mrs. Wyatt, wringing her hands: “ Oh, oh! Well, then, give me pain if you must torment somebody. But spare your father, — spare the heart that loves you so tenderly, you unhappy girl.”

Constance, with hardness: “ Whenever I see papa, my first thought is, If he had not been so harsh and severe, it might never have happened! What can I care for his loving me when he hated him ? Oh, I will do my duty, mother ; I will obey; I have obeyed, and I know how. Papa can’t demand anything of me now that is n’t easy. I have forgiven everything, and if you give me time I can forget. I have forgotten. I have been laughing at something so foolish, it ought to make me cry for shame.”

Mrs. Wyatt: “ Constance, you try me beyond all endurance! You talk of forgiving, you talk of forgetting, you talk of that wretch! Forgive him. forget him, if you can. If he had been half a man, if he had ever cared a tithe as much for you as for himself, all the hate of all the fathers in the world could not have driven him from you. You talk of obeying ” —

Mary, the serving-woman, flying into the room: “Oh, please, Mrs. Wyatt! There are four men carrying somebody up the hill. And General Wyatt just went down, and I can’t see him anywhere, and ” — Mrs. Wyatt: “ Yon 're crazy, Mary! He hasn’t been gone a moment; there isn’t time. It can’t be he!” Mrs. Wyatt rushes to the gallery that overlooks the road to verify her hope or fear, and then out of one of the doors into the corridor, while Constance springs frantically to her feet and runs toward the other door.

Constance: “Oh, yes, yes! It’s papa! It’s my dear, good, kind papa! He’s dead; he’s drowned; I drove him away; I murdered him! Ah-h-h-h!” She shrinks back with a shriek at sight of Bartlett, whose excited face appears at the door: “ Go! It was you, you who made me hate my father! You made me kill him, and now I abhor you! I ” —

Bartlett: “Wait! Hold on ! What is it all? ”

Constance: “Oh, forgive me! I did n’t mean — I didn't know it was you, sir! But where is he? Oh, take me to him! Is he dead?” She seizes his arm, and clings to it, trembling.

Bartlett: “Dead? No, he isn’t dead. He was knocked over by a team coming behind him down the hill, and was slightly bruised. There’s no cause for alarm. He sent me to tell you; they ’ve carried him to your rooms.”

Constance: “Oh, thank Heaven!” She bows her head with a sob upon his shoulder, and then lifts her tearful eyes to his: “ Help me to get to him! I’m weak.” She totters and Bartlett mechanically passes a supporting arm about her. “ Help me, and don’t — don’t leave me!” She moves with him a few paces towards the door, her head drooping; but all at once she raises her face again, stares at him, stiffly releases herself, and with a long look of reproach walks proudly away to the other door, by which she vanishes without a word.

Bartlett, remaining planted, with a bewildered glance at his empty arm: “ Well, I wonder who and what and where I am! ”

W.D. Howells.