Miss Martin

How often do I think of the first time I saw her! It was at a little place called Wytheville, in Virginia, on a pouring wet day, as I had just got out of the cars to stretch my legs and smoke, that I first caught a glimpse of a tall, slight woman standing by the baggage-car, and apparently trying to read the name on a trunk inside. I noticed, as I drew near, that she was insufficiently protected from the weather by a knitted worsted shawl; that her shoes were thin and patched; that her bonnet was of flimsy straw; and that the umbrella which she carried was evidently intended for dry weather. I was just in that stage of ill humor which comes after two days and nights in a sleeping-car; therefore I felt in no mood for taking trouble, or for making acquaintances. But in common humanity I could not see the rain pouring upon those thin shoulders without offering her a share of my own waterproof shelter. So, removing my cigar with an inward conviction that all women, in traveling, were nuisances, I said, stiffly, “Madam, will you allow me to protect you with my umbrella? ”

How she jumped, and what a frightened, nervous face she turned towards me! “ I thank you,” she began timidly, “ but I am afraid you will only deprive yourself, and,” glancing at her moist skirts with a look of apology for daring to be so wet, “ I am a little damp already, and it does not matter.”

“Still,” I persisted, “you must let me help you; cannot I find out what you wish to know in the baggage-car, and attend to it for you? ”

She was looking at me now, and had drawn back a little from the door of the car; unmistakably she was a lady, but what a hard time she must have had of it! Trouble and care of every description seemed printed on her pinched, dejected countenance. The features were very good,—clear, delicate, refined, the nostrils especially well cut and outlined; but her large black eyes, which must have been always soft and timid, seemed incapable of taking a direct look at anything; the muscles about her mouth twitched with timidity; and under her fine, pale skin the blood came and went at almost every word. She was thin à faire peur, which made her look probably older than she was; but even with every allowance for shabby clothes, delicate health, and the fact that no one ever looks to advantage in traveling, she must have seen every day of thirty years. Something about her pitiful face and despondent, dripping figure touched my heart; and before she knew where she was I had deposited her in the sleeping-car, and called the porter to rekindle the fire in the stove.

“ Now,” I said, smiling at her surprised, grateful look, “ what is it you wish to do with your luggage? ”

She clasped and unclasped her hands, in their darned cotton gloves, and then said, “ It was not my luggage, sir, thank you; it was my parrot.”

I was rather staggered, but maintained a resolute front. “ Well, your parrot, then; what was the trouble? ”

“ Oh, sir,” she replied, “ I would not lose him for a great deal; and I am afraid he is frightened in there in the dark alone.” She went on gathering courage from the sound of her own voice. “ He was always a pet, and he is so unhappy if he is not properly attended to.”

“I’ll see about him,” I said, cheerfully. “ Now, if you will take my advice, send for a cup of hot coffee, dry your feet, and let yourself rest.”

The last piece of advice escaped me in spite of myself, for she looked as though she thought it would be taking a liberty to allow herself to be comfortable. Her gratitude was warm when I returned with good news of the parrot, and by the time we were off again, watching the blue hills of Virginia fade one by one into misty cloud banks, and running with great shaking and much noise at a doubtful rate of fifteen miles an hour, we were quite old acquaintances. There were only two other women in the car, but all the berths were occupied, for every Jew in the country seemed to be suddenly called to New Orleans on important and mysterious business. Such a collection of Israelites I had never beheld before, and they seemed so marvelously full of conversation that I asked one of them, in the morning, what it was all about, having in my mind’s eye a grand Hebrew conference which was to settle the affairs of Judea on a new and striking financial basis ; and I was therefore much disappointed when he said carelessly, “ Oh, hishness, hishness,” which being interpreted meant the state of the cotton market in New Orleans. Being non-commercial myself, I was glad to turn to my shy-looking damsel, who actually smiled once or twice at some of my brilliant sallies. I soon found out all about her, and could not listen to her gentle voice and simple, sad story without liking her. It was the usual, ever-recurring tale: youth and health wasted in the vain endeavor to do rather more than two men’s work on less than a plain cook’s wages, and the struggle of seeking through all to maintain and provide comforts for a little crippled brother; then, finally, the agony of leaving him alone and suffering in the hands of Strangers, while she came to New Orleans to teach the children of a widower, whose advertisement she had luckily seen and answered in time. “ I thank God,” she said, in her patient voice, which would have been sweet except that it was so dead, — “I thank God every day more heartily for this last chance. At home [she lived in New Hampshire] there was nothing, nothing to do. I have tried even to get steady factory work for a month at a time, and could not make enough to pay for Jamie’s little bowl of milk.”

She stopped a minute, and then went on in the same gentle way, scarcely raising her voice, and looking at me as though she were afraid I should check her.

“ Perhaps you will think it strange that I should travel with a parrot, when I am so poor and have so much use for my money; but the parrot is Jamie’s. He could not keep it; he is too helpless, and the people with whom he lives are too busy; so I brought it with me in case ” — Here she broke down, not crying, but white and still, and locked in emotion, and I could easily supply the rest: she had little hope of ever seeing him again, and she could not part with the one living thing that reminded her of all she loved.

As I leaned back to give her time to regain her self-control I noticed, sitting just behind us, where he could both see and hear us without being himself observed, a very tall, stout, florid-looking Jew, who had spoken less, eaten less, and slept less than any of the others, and who appeared to be a man of great mark among them. As I caught his eye now, and saw that he had heard every word of my unsuspecting neighbor’s little history, I looked at him sternly, as much as to rebuke him for his eavesdropping. He took no notice of my look, however, but smiled carelessly, folded his arms, and gazed out of the window. I noticed him closely for the first time, and observed his colossal frame and round, close-cropped head, his thick neck and deep, square jaws, his keen dark eyes and firm upper lip, with Some surprise that so remarkable looking a man should have made so little impression on me before. He was rather dirty, it is true, but that might be, and probably was, the result of traveling. He was much better and less expensively dressed than any of his co-religionists; and, though about forty-eight or fifty years old, there was such an overflowing abundance of life and vigor in his face and figure that few younger men would have cared to cope with him. He was not a gentleman certainly, but of equal certainty he was a man of power and presence, mental and physical; and I felt at once that his brethren were right, and that Hovermann’s opinions (for I soon learned his name) on any subject with which he was familiar must be worth hearing. He took no more notice of either me or my companion that evening, but the next morning, when I looked out at sunrise from between the curtains of my sleeping-berth, I saw, with a degree of wonder which words can scarcely express, that he was standing opposite her, where she sat by the window, with a cup of hot coffee in his hand, which he was urging her to drink. I looked on, deeply interested, for it was a curious picture.

“ Take it,” he said, in his deep, foreign voice, but in perfectly pure English; “it will do you good, and you cannot wait until we stop for breakfast. You are pale and tired; take it.”

He gave her the cup, and without a word she drank the smoking contents. As she returned it to him empty, she looked up at him, but did not even say “ Thank you.” She was paler, thinner, more helpless-looking, than ever in the bright morning light, and her shabby garments showed their theadbare condition more plainly than the day before. The great burly man stood an instant looking down at her, but did not speak, and then turned on his heel and walked off. Before the morning was over, however, he came back, and my curiosity was really aroused as to what could possibly interest such a man as Hovermann in one who, though she had a certain quaint attraction for an observer of character like myself, was the last sort of woman likely to please the type to which he apparently belonged. If ever I saw a man of whom I should have predicted a strong admiration for the beauty of women, and a total indifference to their other qualities, I certainly should have done so of him; and yet here he was talking for nearly two hours, by my watch, to a faded, sickly-looking woman of thirty, who belonged to another world, from whose traditions, habits of thought, and modes of feeling his own were centuries apart.

During the next twenty-four hours we talked to her by turns, each steadily ignoring the other’s presence, till our intercourse was in due time brought to a close by our slow progress through the wide Rue des Bons Enfans with its low red, green, and white Creole houses, broad-leaved banana-trees, and general air of indifference to the dilapidation on which innumerable chickens and goats appeared to thrive. In the excitement of arriving I lost sight of Miss Martin for a while, and when I did find her it was only to discover that she had been borne off by Hovermann, who was standing, with his usual imperturbable air, on the sidewalk, watching the cab in which he had deposited her, her parrot, and all her bundles and packages drive rapidly away.

The next time I saw Miss Martin was in the French market in New Orleans. She was trudging along with the most bewildered expression I ever saw on mortal countenance, closely followed by a fat, good-natured negress, who carried a huge market-basket, and vainly endeavored to keep her in the right path. It was on a bright, clear Sunday morning, just before New Year’s, when everything is in gala dress and every stall occupied; when Sicilian, French, Dutch, Creole, and negro craftsmen of every description, butchers, bakers, coffee-venders, market-gardeners, fishermen, Indian basket-makers, mulatto flower-girls, are packing, pushing, running, and gesticulating at once; it is a lively scene even for those used to its various phases; for Miss Martin, who was painfully endeavoring to understand the price of a large redfish, it was evidently Pandemonium, pure and simple. Her stout and shining attendant fortunately struck in to the rescue, and just as I joined them informed the stallsman, in voluble “ gullah,” “ Put him up, an’ han’ him here. Him ’ll do for bakin’, Miss Marty, sho nuff.”

I shook hands with Miss Martin, who colored excessively at seeing me, and reproached her for not having sent me her address. “I wish you would tell me something about yourself,” I went on, trying to drop into the tone of an old family friend. “ It is unkind of you to treat me as if I were a total stranger.”

She seemed so pained at this, so fearful that I would think her ungrateful, that I hastened to reassure her, even to the extent of clasping her little hand warmly, cotton gloves and all, in a way that had it belonged to a younger, prettier woman would have been suspiciously like a squeeze. She colored to the roots of her hair, and, drawing her hand quickly away, asked in a low voice, “ What do you wish me to tell you? ” We were walking along now, side by side, objects of the deepest interest and admiration to the colored dame in our wake, who lost no opportunity of calling the attention of passers-by to what she evidently considered a promising love scene, — an absurdity of which I was fully conscious even while I was replying to my companion that I wished to hear of her new home. She gave me a quick, shy, admiring glance.

“How kind you are !” she sighed, softly. “ Do I like my place? Indeed, yes. I am not quite used to so many children, but will become so in time.”

“ How many are there? ”

“ Eleven,” she sighed, “ including a little adopted niece and nephew.”

“ Then it seems that your friend, Mr. Rheingarten, is kind, too,” I said, smiling, and thinking, with some self-reproach, how very unwilling I should be to adopt a brace of orphans. “ How is your parrot? ” I asked suddenly, as it occurred to me that I had not inquired for my other fellow-traveler.

In a moment her eyes suffused with tears, and I was dismayed at having mentioned the poor bird.

“ He is quite well,” she said, quietly, however; “but Mr. Rheingarten objected to the noise he made, and I was in despair about him, until Mr. Hovermann kindly took him home.”

“Hovermann!” I exclaimed, recalling the burly Israelite with perfect accuracy and much dislike, but affecting total ignorance on the subject. “I was not aware you had any friends here! ”

I thought she blushed again, but her color came and went so, during the whole walk, that I may have been mistaken. At any rate, she answered calmly enough: “ He is the — the — Hebrew gentleman I met on the train, who was so kind to me.”

I felt a sudden rush of jealousy at her words, as unreasonable as it was unexpected to myself. What right had I to object to any one’s showing kindness to this poor little lonely woman? I scarcely knew her, I cared nothing for her; yet this was my “ dog-in-the-manger” feeling the very first day that I heard of her friendship for that odious Jew.

“You have seen him, then?” I exclaimed, in a voice which I tried to fill with stern surprise at such injudicious conduct on her part.

“ Surely, I have seen him,” she said, not in the least resenting my interference in her affairs. “ He is an intimate friend of Mr. Rheingarten, and dines with him frequently.”

If I looked as flat as I felt, she did not notice it, but continued: —

“ He has been kindness itself to me. When he found that Mr. Rheingarten objected to my parrot, he took it home with him. But that is only the least of his good deeds,” and she clasped her hands together in her earnestness. “ He has sent my poor little brother to a hospital in New York where they care for crippled children, and where they often cure them; and — and — they have given me hopes that one day ” — But this was more than she could trust herself to put into words; so only the broken voice and quickly covered face told me what it was to her to hope again.

I felt ashamed of what I had done for her. How insignificant my few poor attentions were contrasted with such real kindness as this. But, man-like, my humility only made me more irritable.

“ Mr. Hovermann should feel honored by your preference; you did not disappear from him without a word, so of course he is able to show his interest.”

“ I had taxed your kindness already so much,” she said, softly, “ I could not bear to burden you with my helplessness. Here we are at my home,” she added, quickly, as we turned from our long walk up Camp Street into a very dismal namesake of one of the Muses. It was so early in the morning that we met no one, except here and there a young girl hurrying to mass at some dingy-looking church in the distance, or a straggler returning late from market, like ourselves. We passed slowly by the small, trim white houses, with oleander - trees in front and rose-bushes arranged in precise order on each side, whose symmetry was constantly broken and elbowed out of the way by queer little Creole buildings with tiled roofs and huge green shutters of solid wood.

“ Where do you live? ” I asked, looking curiously around.

She pointed to a tall, narrow house with iron balconies and a formal-looking little front yard, before the gate of which we soon Stopped; and I said, “ I hope you will let me come and see you, now that I have discovered your hidingplace.”

An unmistakable flush of pleasure lighted up her pale face, as with a few hurried words she tried to pass me and go in at the gate.

“ Wait a moment ! ” I cried, keeping my hand on the latch, and disregarding the old negress, who was pouring forth eager explanations as to how to open it. “ I had so many things to ask you. Why are you in such a hurry? ” She glanced towards the house, as if by way of answer, and gave me one of those frightened, hunted looks with which I had grown so familiar on the train. I opened the gate at once, unwilling that she should be embarrassed by the caprice of others; but I was not generous enough to spare her a parting stab inflicted by myself, although I knew how I would make her shrinking, grateful nature suffer: “ I see I am not a privileged friend like Mr. Hovermann,” and, raising my hat, I was gone before she could answer a word.

Several times after this I saw Miss Martin at the same hour and at the same place; I need not explain, with the utmost lack of intention on her part, though I cannot say as much for myself. I always walked with her on her way home as far as she would allow, each time with a growing interest, which so surprised me that I came to the conclusion it must be the effect of the climate and the unaccustomed life, utterly refusing to admit to myself that it might be from any real feeling of affection. Then came a week during which I was very busy, and though, occasionally, the care-worn face of my “old maid,” as I always called her to myself, came to my mind, I steadily put it aside, as I did everything else not associated with business; and I might have gone on putting it aside forever, had not my daily routine been broken in upon by a letter from my far-off home winch troubled me exceedingly. I determined to leave that very afternoon. In my anxiety my mind reverted to Miss Martin, and I felt so sure of sympathy from her that, as soon as my trunk was packed, I jumped into a car, and in a few moments stood before her white abode. A strong pull at the gate-bell brought the inevitable colored girl to the door, who surveyed me, critically and with great interest, across the garden and through the fence before she thought of coming and unlocking the gate.

“ Who you wants to see?” she asked at length, after treating me to a friendly nod. “ Mr. Rheingarten ain’t home; he nebber come home from de sto’ till fo’ clock.”

“ If you will be kind enough to unlock the gate, I will tell you what I wish,” I replied sternly; and then she complied. “Now show me to the parlor, and tell Miss Martin I would like to see her.”

“ You jes go right in. You can’t miss de parlor; it’s de fust room you comes to; I’m gwine down to de drug-sto’ fur some qui-nine; ” and before I could remonstrate she was flying towards Camp Street. However, I was well acquainted with the customs of New Orleans darkeys, and with great indifference I went quietly into the hall, and stopped to reconnoitre. There was indeed no doubt about the parlor, for the door was wide open, and some one was playing on the piano. As I listened, I perceived that the touch was that of a finished musician, and that he was wandering from one exquisite melody of Lizst’s songs to another. I stepped softly to the door, and found, to my infinite astonishment, that the author of this delicious harmony was my stout fellow-traveler, Mr. Hovermann, who was sitting in front of the piano; while near him, with her face turned towards him and a look of perfect peace and contentment illuminating her whole appearance, sat Miss Martin. For a moment she did not see me, so I had a full, long look at her before she turned. Her hands were lying in her lap, and her body was bent a little forward, while she gazed eagerly towards the piano; and the perfect stillness of her attitude, or something, perhaps, in her expression, made me think of one awaking from the dead. In a moment, however, she glanced towards me, and I felt instantly that I had brought her back to this world. She rose with all her old nervousness, and if Mr, Hovermann and I had not been each perfectly aware of the other’s identity we should never have discovered it from her few incoherent words of introduction. Why was she so embarrassed? Could if be possible that she fancied I was jealous of the ubiquitous Israelite? Or, equally absurd, was he supposed to be jealous of me ? I became at once quite gushing; but, there was no doubt about it, Hovermann did not respond. The more friendly I was, the more constrained and undemonstrative he became; and beneath his watchful gaze I felt as though I must have come for the sole purpose of being stared at by this silent son of Judah!

At last I could stand it no longer, and was just on the point of leaving, without having said anything I came to say, when he rose, and, bowing coldly to me, went out without a word.

“ I thought you taught eleven children,” I said, in rather an aggrieved tone, ignoring the appealing looks of my companion. “ I did not know you passed your time in such tête-à-tâtes as this.”

“ Mr. Hovermann came to bring me a letter from Jamie’s doctor,” she said, in a low, pained voice. “ I have never seen him at this hour before.”

“ I am doubly unfortunate, then,” I replied, stiffly, “ in having interrupted your first interview.”

She made no answer, and, looking up, I saw that large tears were rolling slowly down her face. Instantly I was filled with compunction for what I had done, and, taking her hands both in mine, I begged her to forgive me; and all the while I saw her face as I had seen it when I stood in the door-way, and I wished I had gone away and left it so forever. Her pardon was not hard to gain; I sat near her, and would still have held her hands as a mark of penitence, but she drew them nervously away; and I asked her many questions about her life, and led her on to talk of herself as she had never done before.

“It is time for me to go,” I said at last, as some word on her side recalled the forgotten purpose of my visit. “ I have not told you I am going to New York this evening.”

“ This evening! ” She stopped, and grew so ghastly white that for a moment I was frightened.

“It is nothing,” she gasped, in answer to my inquiries. “ You spoke suddenly, and I — I am a little homesick. Shall you be there long? ”

“ It will depend on circumstances,” I answered, gravely. “ I am called North by bad news, — news in which I am sure you will be interested: my poor little boy is very ill with diphtheria ” —

“ Your — your — what ? ” she said, slowly. “ I did not understand.”

“My boy,” I replied anxiously, for her manner had grown so strange that I felt uneasy about leaving her. “ He is my only child, and I am terribly anxious about him.”

She rose, came to me, and took my hand; not timidly now; indeed, without any of her old manner at all. “ You will not lose him,” she said excitedly. “ God will spare him to you. It is only now and then that he chooses a person who must bear everything in the way of suffering, and then the others escape. Don’t you see it is all balanced? ” and she laughed.

“ Miss Martin, for Heaven’s sake do not speak so! You frighten me,— you pain me dreadfully!” I cried, really thinking for a moment that she had suddenly lost her mind.

“Please go,” she said wearily, dropping my hand. “ You seem to forget that there are eleven children up-stairs waiting to say their lessons;” and she was moving towards the door, but I sprang before her, and stopped her for one moment.

“ Good-by,” I said dejectedly. “ I cannot bear to say good-by to you in this way, but you will not tell me what I have done; and I can only repeat that I regret having offended you, and that I shall remember you always.”

I stepped aside as I spoke, and as she went slowly by me, without a word or look, I saw that her face was as the face of one who had died that living death which knows no resurrection.

“ At Paris it was, at the opera there,
And she looked like a queen in a book that night,
With a wreath of pearls in her raven hair, -
And a brooch on her breast so bright.”

A strange contrast to our other meetings, but none the less true. It was at the opera in Paris that I next saw Miss Martin; and though I cannot swear to the wreath of pearls, she was beautifully and richly dressed, and of her looks I need only say she was attracting a good deal of admiring attention, even there, when I first looked at her; not that I recognized her, by any means, for it was two years since we had parted in New Orleans, and she had changed so completely that I should not have found her out at all had I not happened to glance at her companion, whom I knew in a minute as Hovermann. He had not altered in the least, for he had the same watchful, quiet, decided air now, listening to Faust, which had impressed me so unpleasantly during our interview in New Orleans.

Once he turned and spoke to his companion; and something in the quick, nervous way in which she looked up at him gave me the first inkling of her identity. For a moment I was stunned, bewildered: could that be Miss Martin, — that the care-worn, friendless woman who stood on the platform at Wytheville and shared my umbrella; who wept for her parrot, and appealed by her poverty, sorrow, and helplessness to the compassion of all who beheld her ? I thought at first it must be an optical delusion, and closed my eyes a moment in hopes of clearer vision; but when I opened them again there she sat, leaning back in her velvet fauteuil with all the dignified grace and accustomed languid repose of one born to the purple. Yes, it was indeed she, — fair, stately, refined: her lovely features no longer disfigured by ill health and wearing anxiety; her luxuriant, fair hair shaken out of its prim, old-maidish braids, and so artistically dressed as to show to the best advantage her small head; but still, though glorified by health and wealth, and bright with peace and happiness, unmistakably my own Miss Martin. Once I thought she felt my steady gaze, for she looked all about the house, resting her eyes for a moment on me, but not recognizing me behind my opera-glasses. I was so much interested in watching her that I had not noticed the fall of the curtain at the close of the act till I saw that a number of people were entering her box. I rose to follow, feeling that at last the chance I had so long desired of meeting her again had come. At the door of her box I met Hovermann, who held out his hand, and in his quiet way said that his wife would be pleased to see me; to go in, —I needed no introduction. His wife! Then she had married him, after all, and I looked with a scowl at his substantial figure, as he walked away. What right had he, or any one else, to marry my old maid?

She did not see me until I was close at her side; then she looked up, and with her old deprecating manner said simply, “ I knew that you were here.”

“ I was not sure,” I answered softly, “ that you recognized me, but I was in hopes you had not quite forgotten me.

“ I did not see you,” she replied, with the old flush I knew so well, “ only I knew you were here. Have you met Mr. Hovermann ? ”

“ Yes,” I replied, “at the door. It is rather late to congratulate you on your marriage, but that is your own fault. If you had let me know sooner, you should have had all my best wishes in due time.”

She looked steadily at her fan, as she answered slowly, “I had no right to think you would continue your interest in a mere traveling companion to whom you had been kind.”

“I wrote to you at Mr. Rheingarten’s,” I put in, “ asking for your little brother’s address in New York. Then I sent a friend to inquire at the door, and the answer was that you had left, and that they did not know where you were. What was I to do ? You had chosen to disappear, and I could not force you to remember or confide in me.”

“ I was ill,” she said, sadly, — “ very ill. Mr. Rheingarten would have sent me to the Charity Hospital; but Mr. Hovermann took me home to his own house, and as soon as I was strong again we were married, and we have been abroad ever since.”

“ He has always been the one to help you! ” I cried, with some bitterness, and then stopped abruptly, for I became aware that the man of whom I was speaking was close beside me. I could not tell from his face if he had heard me, for it was as imperturbable as ever. All through that last act of Faust I watched my old maid closely, and her quiet grace and gentleness, her dignity and loveliness, impressed me with silent wonder; and for the first time in my own breast arose the feeling that I too, in those old days, had recognized some of the promise of sweetness and bloom enfolded in that poor plant, which had needed only the sunlight to make it all I now saw it. Only Hovermann was wiser, for he appreciated it at its true value at once, and secured it. I knew my own heart, and felt that my punishment was just, for I had been false to my best and highest instincts when I was ashamed to acknowledge, even to myself, the true cause of my interest in my old maid. When the curtain fell I stood like one in a dream, till I heard Hovermann’s voice: —

“Will you put my wife in her carriage? ” he said to me, as I turned. “ I would like to speak to a friend, and will join you at the door; ” and the next instant he was gone. Silently I folded her cloak around her, and gave her my arm. The delicate kid fingers lying on my black sleeve made me think of another walk which we had taken together, and where we had scarcely been more entirely alone than in this great surging crowd to-night; and I asked her abruptly, “ Do you ever wear cotton gloves now ? ”

“ No,” she said, looking at me in surprise; “ why do you ask? ”

“Because,” I replied, passionately, “ I should like to see you in a rusty alpaca and a plaid shawl and cotton gloves again.”

I felt her hand tremble on my arm, but she only laughed, and said, “ Thanks, I should be sorry to wear anything of the sort. I cannot bear cotton gloves.”

“ They are not generally popular, I believe,” I remarked, shortly, thinking that after all women were just alike, and found their only true happiness in details of dress.

“ Did your little boy get well? ” she asked in her low voice, as we began to descend the great staircase.

“ My little boy! ” I repeated, in some surprise. “ Ah, yes, thank you. He did not have diphtheria, after all. His grandmother is always so anxious that she took alarm at nothing.”

“ How thankful you must have been, — you and his mother! ” she murmured, softly.

“ His mother! Did you think I was married ? ” I said, stopping suddenly, to the great discomfort of our neighbors.

“ Did you not know my wife died years ago, — died when the child was born? ”

She did not answer, only grew so awfully white that I drew her a little aside from the crowd, into one of the deep, arched embrasures, and waited in terror lest she should faint. My own brain was in a whirl, and I have no idea now what I talked about, — whether I poured out my real feelings, or whether I laughed and chatted about the singers we had just heard; and I doubt if she knew much better, as we each stood thinking of the truth discovered too late.

“ At any rate,” I said, as I drew her cloak more closely around her shivering form, “I shall see you now every day; we shall not be wholly parted.”

She did not answer, and I did not receive so much comfort or pleasure from my own words as to expect her to show any. So we went slowly and silently down to the carriage; there we found Mr. Hovermann patiently waiting for us, and he made no comment upon the length of time we had taken to follow him. Indeed, he scarcely seemed to notice us, which was a relief, for I had dreaded that his quick eyes might read all the agitation upon his wife’s face. Again, for one moment, as I held her hand, and looked at her standing there in her soft, clinging white draperies, her head uncovered and starred with jewels, I thought of her on that platform at Wytheville, in the pouring rain, which the little knitted shawl could not keep out, and I felt that I would gladly give everything I possessed in the world to have my Cinderella in all her poverty, but free!

With a hurried clasp of her hand, and without a word to her husband, I left her standing there, and turned quickly away. The next morning, after a sleepless night, as I walked up and down my room, wondering how soon I might venture to call upon her. I received the following note from Mr. Hovermann:

My DEAR SIR, — You will not, I am sure, be surprised to learn that when you receive this letter my wife and I will have left Paris. Our destination is of little consequence to you, as it is not my intention that you and Mrs. Hovermann shall ever meet again. Our acquaintance with her began on the same day; our opportunities were very nearly equal, any little advantage which I had over you in that respect being more than counterbalanced by the fact that she cared for you, and did not for me. I have been married to her for two years, during which I have been trying to make her forget the past; but in one interview you have undone my work, and I must begin it all over again. I have therefore determined that it is best to deny ourselves the pleasure of ever seeing you again, and shall consider no trouble too great to accomplish this object. I remain, sir, Yours, etc.


He had his will; I have never seen her since.

Annie Porter.