“ COME ! hurry up there ! ”
In answer to the coarse, strong voice of Goody Jakeway, who kept the Blisset tavern, her handmaiden came from the kitchen into the parlor with a mug of hot flip for the traveler who had just alighted.
It was not strange that Guy Morgan forgot his comforting cup as he looked at the bearer. Clary was only a bound girl, but nature had made her an aristocrat outwardly and inwardly, as the proud lift of her beautiful head, the serene calm of her great brown eyes, and the lithe grace of her figure bore witness. If hard work had reddened her little hands, it had not destroyed the dimples and taper of her fingers, or the exquisite turn of her slender wrist; and her short, dark skirt of linsey-woolsey no more hid the small arched foot, than the coarse, short gown of linen check concealed her noble white throat or graceful shoulders and slight waist. She was pale, but the curved, red lips showed that her pallor was not that of illness, and if you but looked at her too hard the very hue of a pink lily flushed that clear fairness even up to the shining masses of dark brown hair, tucked away behind her tiny ears and braided in a heavy, coiled knot like the tresses of a Greek statue. If Clary had been born a duchess the world would have heard of her ; but she was born a pauper, and was bred in the poor-house. Perhaps the best blood of Old England ran in her veins, but nobody knew it, and the orphan child of an unknown woman brought in from the road-side, dying with exhaustion and cold, is not often credited with noble lineage.
Guy Morgan was Judge Morgan’s son, of Litchfield. The Morgans were an old Connecticut family who had a genealogical tree to fall back on, and Guy was now on his way home from Harvard and its law school. He had been petted in Boston society, for his family were of the Brahmin sort, and their record indorsed him ; he was mentally brilliant, too, and handsome as a young prince is supposed to be. His high, regular features and dark blue eyes were alight with intellect rather than feeling; but there lay a depth of unrevealed passion and devotion below them.
Clary did not look up at him, for she knew what eyes were upon her from behind the bar; but he looked at her, and his very heart thrilled at that wonderful beauty, that gracious shape and faultless coloring. He half drained the mug of flip and set it down on the table, turning to speak to this mortal Hebe; but she had disappeared, and nothing was left for Guy Morgan but to pay his reckoning and mount his horse, reflecting in himself, as he rode away, that Blisset was not ten miles from Litchfield, and he could and would see that face again.
Now he had seen all the loveliest women in Boston over and over; they had danced with him, walked with him, and done their best to spoil him, as women will spoil a brilliant and handsome young fellow. But not one of them, in all the pride of satin, brocade, or jewels, had ever entered so victoriously into his consciousness as this country maiden in her coarse clothes; dress adorned them, but she adorned dress, He was a well-read youth, and as he trotted briskly over the rough roads, up hill and down, the old ballad of Sir John Suckling kept jingling in his head: —
Like little mice stole in and out,
As they had feared the light.
I durst no more upon them gaze
Than on the sun in July.”
As for Clary, she did not even give him a thought; for behind the bar, watching her as an ill-conditioned cat glares at its prey, sat Lon Jakeway, the son and heir of her mistress, and the man poor Clary loved.
Goody Jakeway had taken the child from the poor-house when she was ten years old, finding it would be handy to have a pair of quick feet to run her errands, and ready hands to wait on her; for her only child, this same Alonzo, then about sixteen, had run away to sea, and her husband was a wretched, drunken idler. It was she who kept the family up, and on her rested all the care of the tavern and farm both, as much while her husband lived as after his timely death.
In the service of this rough, hard woman Clary Kent grew up, just as a harebell grows in the crevice of some sturdy bowlder, neither rightly fed nor sheltered, shaken by all wild winds that blow, nipped by stinging frosts, scorched by midsummer suns, but by the grace of God a harebell still, clad in a beauty and grace that defy position and ignore circumstance. That she had food and clothing she owed to her usefulness, yet they were doled out grudgingly, however hard she earned them ; while her sunny temper, quick perception, fidelity, and serene activity made her a real treasure.
“ Well, she’s pretty consider’ble helpful,” owned her mistress to Polly Mariner, the tailoress, as she sat by the kitchen window mending Steve the hostler’s overalls, for it was haying-time, and neither of the women of the house could spare a moment; Steve had to hire his sewing done.
“She’s everlastin’ smart, now, I tell ye,” snapped out Polly, viciously snipping at a patch which would not fit; “but you ’ll have trouble, Mis’ Jakeway. She’s a sight too good-lookin’ for a tavern gal ; somebody or ’nother will marry her up afore you can wink, so to speak, seemin’ly. You’d as good get what you can out on her whilst she stays.”
“ My land, Polly Mariner ! I guess folks ain’t in no gre’t pucker to marry gals from the poor-house. I don’t feel no call whatsoever to fetch trouble out o’ that idee. She is reasonable goodlookin’, I allow for’t; but I ’ll bet ye a cookey she won’t marry them that wants her, and them she wants won’t look at her. She’s real high-strung, considerin’; but she does well by me, and she’s got faculty.”
“ Well, if she’s got faculty, that’s the end o’ the law, I expect; but if I know human natur’, — and it’s everlastin’ queer if I don’t, considerin’ how many years I’ve done tailorin’, — you ’ll reap trouble yet out of that cretur. I never was pretty-lookin’ myself, and I allow it tried me whilst I was young; but since I’ve got along in years some I’m free to confess I don’t see why th’ Almighty makes girls good - lookin’. It fetches heaps of mischief into creation, and don’t do no great o’ good, as fur as I know.”
“ Seems to me you ’re sorter presumptoous, Polly Mariner, to find fault with etarnal Providence that way. You don’t think, do ye, ’t you ’re smarter ’n the Lord ? ”
“ Land ! how you talk, Mis’ Jakeway ! Folks can have idees, I guess, without faultin’ Providence. Well, I won’t say no more, — time ’ll show. And here’s Steve after them overalls ; my work on ’em’s worth ninepence, ef it’s worth a cent.”
And in a wrangle over the ninepence this ominous conversation ended; but not without leaving a troubled corner in Goody Jakeway’s mind, for of the three things that never return to their first place one is the spoken word.
Two years rolled away, and Clary attained the stature of her womanhood: her somewhat slender figure rounded into fuller outlines of beauty ; her girlish grace developed into stately poise and superb curves ; her soft eyes learned to darken with scorn, or flash with passion. But so far Goody Jakeway’s judgment was correct: the drovers who came to the tavern only disgusted the proud girl with their coarse admiration, although more than one would gladly have married her; the stage-drivers who stopped for a daily dram, and seasoned their flattery well with oaths, pleased her no better ; the young louts of farmers, dull, rough, uneducated, only just across the dividing line that separates the human from the bestial, and far less attractive than their own sleek herds, — these, who assembled in the bar-room to talk and drink and smoke clay pipes, were all loathsome to Clary.
Something in her whole nature revolts ed at the idea of passing her life in any of these companionships, and beside the still but irresistible voice of nature she had found for herself a certain sort of education. Years before she went to the tavern to live, an old man from Hartford had come to spend the summer in Blisset. He was a lawyer, and a native of the place, but, having amassed enough property to live on, returned like a wild animal to his old haunts to die ; for die he did before the summer for which he had engaged board was over. He left his property to a college, but the books in his trunk and his clothes were never claimed. Old Jakeway wore out all the linen, and the clothes were cut over for Alonzo’s jackets ; the books remained, — volumes of what were once called the English classics, the Spectator, the Rambler, the Tatler, and all that genus, with a volume of Pope and one of Dryden, besides a fine edition of Shakespeare.
All these had Clary fed upon at odd moments with the avidity of a keen mind deprived of any other food, and they had been to her instead of a liberal education. Perhaps in the deepest sense of the term they had educated her liberally ; at least, they had lit the lamp, hitherto flameless, in the alabaster vase of her beauty, and added to that fair sculpture the brilliance of lofty thought and ardent feeling; but also they had unfitted her for the stolid life about her, and filled her soul with that restlessness which is the penalty of knowledge.
Of all the pregnant fables that ever streamed from Shakespeare’s pen, perhaps the saddest — to a woman — is that of Titania and Bottom. It is called comedy ordinarily; but is there a more profound pathos or a more shuddering tragedy than is contained in the story of that spiritual creature’s infatuation for the weaver with the ass’s head ? And what has time done since Shakespeare’s day but reiterate the spectacle of pure and high-minded women fondling the ass’s head that is not a mask, and whispering, in the delicate voice of devotion,
While I thy amiable cheeks do coy,
And stick musk-roses in thy sleek, smooth head,
And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.”
Clary was not quite eighteen when the prodigal son of the Jakeways returned from sea-faring ; not as the prodigal returned, in evil case outwardly, but bringing spoils of gold and garments to make him welcome. His father had long since drunk himself to death, but the tavern prospered more and more, once relieved from the drain of drunken extravagance. When Alonzo came back, he found a warm greeting and a good home ; the sunniest room in the house was swept and garnished for him ; the choicest food and most deft attendance awaited him. He stepped at once into the headship of things with the instinct of manhood : lorded it in stable and bar-room, ordered about his mother and Clary, swore glibly at old Steve, and conducted himself in as ill-conditioned a fashion as his nature dictated.
There was little, one would think, that was attractive about Alonzo Jakeway : he was below the middle height, but his broad shoulders and long arms, his powerful muscular development, and his large, sinewy hands gave him a strength disproportionate to his height ; he stooped a little, as most sailors do, and his walk was ungraceful. Nor was there anything pleasing about his face except a pair of handsome keen gray eyes, deepset under bushy brows, but capable of expressing every sort of emotion as only gray eyes can. Otherwise his features were coarse, his mouth large and sensual, with a loose under-lip, betraying, when he smiled, a set of strong white teeth, looking carnivorous as a tiger’s. All this was capped with a shock of straight pale-brown hair and a half bronzed forehead that told of foreign suns. And the picture was not altogether attractive to a calm observer who discerned it to be the index of a nature passionate, vindictive, selfish, and undisciplined; intelligent enough, and capable of attachment to a certain extent, but over all brutal. No doubt he was superior to the men who frequented Blisset tavern in many ways; his experience of the world had heightened his natural self-conceit to such an extent that his opinion was ready on every subject, and pronounced in that dictatorial manner that always imposes on conscious ignorance. Then his sullen temper and self-absorbed reserve gave him an aspect of unhappiness that is the surest appeal to a thoroughly feminine character. Yet this offers no explanation of the fact, which is as stubborn as facts proverbially are, that Alonzo had not lived in his mother’s house twentyfour hours before Clary had lost her heart out of her bosom and dropped the jewel at this swine’s feet. If there be metaphysicians who say this thing is impossible, I cannot confute them ; it is true, but inexplicable, that there are women, and men too, who are struck as by a bolt from the clouds with the one love of their lives, and reason or probability has nothing to do with it.
Why did Mary of Scotland love black Bothwell, or delicate Desdemona the Moor ? Why have the worst ruffians of history always had some woman clinging to them or to their memory until death ? And what evil woman has not shipwrecked some good man’s faith and honor, and made his life a drifting, wretched wreck ? And in obedience to this mystic and dreadful exception, which is more stringent often than law, our poor little wayside beauty fell desperately and utterly in love with Alonzo Jakeway. Now this fellow had had the ordinary experience of sailors ; he was not unacquainted with women, — of the baser sort, no doubt, but still women. He knew very well that Clary was as far above the level of those whose society he had frequented in port after port as the blue sky in heaven is above its reflection in a muddy pool; yet even from these low examples he had learned something of a woman’s nature, which is not always stamped out even by degradation and sin, and it did not take Alonzo Jake way long to see that this beautiful young creature worshiped him entirely, without any perception of his real character or instinct of his baseness. At first he was naturally flattered; but that mood only lasted long enough to put a tender expression into his eyes, a softer tone into his rough voice, and add a little consideration to the moody and sullen manners which were his home wear; and to the girl’s hungry heart these crumbs were a feast, inasmuch as they seemed to her infallible promise of returned affection, and fed her day-dreams with the very bread of heaven.
In the bar-room, condescending to his inferiors, or amusing himself with the display of his own information and supreme experience, Alonzo could be agreeable at times and affable; but there were dark hours when even the established frequenter and wit of the place, Pete Stebbins, found he was not to be approached.
These glooms, which Clary’s tender heart laid to the account of chronic pain, or sad recollection, or weariness of this dull life he lived, were in fact nothing more than attacks of ill temper which he had never learned to subdue or conceal. If he over-ate, or drank too much liquor for his digestion to endure, — though to do him justice he was never drunk, — he felt, consequently, uncomfortable and angry, and the world about him had to bear it, especially the women. Had he been brought up in polite society, where the outside friction of wellbred people from infancy does, in spite of the utmost self-indulgence and uncurbed temper, modify a man’s manner and speech, he would still have been, like a hundred others, “ street angel and house devil,” and being essentially a coward he did, even here in Blisset, restrain his evil tongue somewhat among men ; but his mother and Clary were at his mercy ; they could neither knock him down nor return his oaths. Whenever things internally went wrong with him, or outside matters swerved from the line he ordered, it was on these two shrinking women that his temper burst; for even his mother, hard, rough, enduring as she was, cowered before Alonzo, — because she loved him !
It is a common saying that if a horse knew its own strength no man could guide or mount one; but is it any less true that if a man knew his real strength he might do anything with women ? If Alonzo had possessed enough knowledge of character to understand himself, he could and would have led these two in a leash after him forever ; even as it was he guided them far and along cruel ways before they knew their guide and the path before them. It was this utter absorption of herself in Alonzo Jakeway that blinded Clary’s sight to Guy Morgan that day he stopped in Blisset to get his mug of flip. He might have been one of the “ plow joggers,” as Alonzo derisively styled the rural farmers thereabouts, or a pig drover, for all the notice Clary bestowed on him ; but from his retreat behind the bar Alonzo noticed the long and unmistakable stare of admiration Guy bestowed on his handmaiden, and a sort of wolfish jealousy sprang up in his breast, mingled with a sudden greed of money hitherto latent. Up to this time he had no thought of marrying Clary ; he knew very well what his mother would say to that, and he did not himself care to be tied up in legitimate bonds. He could amuse himself with her to the very brink of her ruin, or beyond it, if so he pleased, but it was not for his pleasure to live with mother and wife at daggers drawn in one house. For sin or shame he cared nothing ; the very purity of Clary’s simple and devoted nature would add a charm to the lazy pursuit whose success he never doubted; and as to her future, who cares for the fate of a flower ? Should it not wither and die when its fragrance is over ? Nothing so metaphoric passed through his mind, but this is the most delicate expression to be found for his instincts, which indeed need the veil of metaphor. But when he saw Guy Morgan’s look at Clary, and perceived that a man’s admiration could be respectful, it shot across his mind that the girl might become a great and lucrative attraction in his business. This young spark, whose aspect and dress proved his wealth and position, might be the opening wedge, and spread the fame of the beautiful bar-maid in adjacent towns. Blisset was on a frequented turnpike, and stages from Hartford to Litchfield, and so on to Albany, ran through it. A little exertion might induce them to stop there for dinner instead of at Litchfield ; and then —well, if some crazy city fool, as he phrased it, saw this girl, she might be snapped up out of his reach and use. As his wife, this would be impossible ; she would be a fixture in the tavern, and an attraction, while in this Puritan country whatever shame attached itself to a less honorable connection would redound to his discredit and injure his business.
Beside, if Clary were his wife, young sparks like Guy Morgan would have to be careful how they stared at her ; and here Alonzo stretched out one long arm and clenched fist, with a sudden gleam of ferocity in his eye that showed what vengeance would be visited on any man who meddled with his property.
So, following the devices of his own craft and will, he began to word the love he had hitherto only looked at poor Clary ; a whisper now and then, a pressure of the soft little hand in his own, a stolen kiss, a gentle carefulness, — all these produced their effect on the guileless and tender heart of this lonely girl. Busy about her house, Goody Jakeway saw nothing of Alonzo’s manœuvres ; he was not ready yet that she should; he did not, indeed, mean to have any previous storms. The plan that suited his ease and assured him success was that on some pretext or other Clary should be sent to Hartford, and he either follow her, or take her there; that she should stay long enough to make their marriage legal; and then, when the ceremony was once over, they should return to Blisset, and let his mother help herself if she could.
He found chance enough to insinuate his design into Clary’s ear : if she went to the barn to hunt eggs, he was sure to be there before her, with some excuse of inspecting harness or examining the straw, and in among the bean-vines, where she went to gather long pods for dinner, he would be diligently at work also ; when she was sent to gather wild strawberries on the hill, he lurked in the edge of a neighboring wood, and joined her, till at last, between her overpowering passion and his plausible arguments, she consented to accept his arrangements, and be in readiness to set out for Hartford as soon as his plots matured. But “ God disposes,” let us thankfully own. Before anything was even fixed upon in Alonzo Jakeway’s mind, a very small household matter, the mouse that gnawed the lion’s net, intervened. His stock of shirts began to wear out, and his mother, who had inwardly resented the fact that he came home with a goodly supply of these articles, when she bad a web of the finest Irish linen laid up these seven years waiting his need, and yards of linen cambric bought in order to ruffle them, was only too glad to install Polly Mariner in the keeping-room, with patterns and shears, thread of the best, and store of needles, in order to take in hand a dozen of ruffled shirts for my master ; for Polly was as skillful at nice sewing as at tailoring, and her stitching was not to be matched in Blisset, even by Parson Piper’s daughter. She had scarce been at work three days on the dainty fabric when there was an interruption to her duties from a very unexpected quarter. As she left her door one July day to go over to the tavern, she almost stumbled over the prostrate shape of a man lying with his head on her doorstep. At first she thought him some drunken person who had lain down there to sleep, but calling to her next neighbor, Pete Stebbins, who was feeding his hens at the back door, to come and help her, she soon discovered that the man was burning with fever and quite unconscious. He was evidently a sailor, and there was good store of pieces of eight and English guineas in his pocket, but no clew to his name anywhere about his person. Pete was ready enough to take him in and shelter him when he saw the gold pieces, and Polly promised to stop for Dr. Root. All of this made her late for her sewing that day, and Goody Jakeway sent Alonzo over to see where the seamstress was, being in a hurry to get the shirts done.
He did not find her at home, for she was in the doctor’s office ; so he sauntered into Pete’s house to make inquiry, and finding no one in the kitchen went on into the bed-room. Just as he entered the doorway the strange man recovered consciousness and opened his eyes. Alonzo started as if he had been shot, turned the color of clay, and drew back. A sort of spasm convulsed the stranger ; he clenched his hands and tried to spring at Alonzo, but his muscles refused to obey the angry will; the fevered brain gave way with the effort, and he sank again into stupor and delirium.
In Alonzo’s astonishment he quite forgot that Pete Stebbins stood by the bedside, and had eyes whose acuteness seemed to make up in rapidity of perception for the inborn laziness of his temperament.
That night when Polly went over to watch with the sick man (for Mrs. Stebbins was a deaf and dumb woman, and of no use here), Pete accosted her with, “ Say ! ye ben to the tavern to-day? ”
“ Well, I guess I have,” answered Polly. “ I ’m a-makin’ Lon Jakeway a set o’ shirts fit for a lord, and he’s in an everlastin’ takin’ to get ’em done, I do’ know what for; but Mis’ Jakeway she pesters me so, seems as if I should caterpillar. I can’t sew no faster ’n I can, if the sky falls. Stitchin’ ain’t flyin’ work, now, I tell, ye ; and it’s seventeen hunderd linen, as sure as you ’re alive ; and them ruffles ! Goshen ! I’d jest as soon put them things on to the old ram as on to Lonzo ; there ain’t no fitness, so to speak, seemin’ly, in dressin’ sech a feller in purple an’ fine linen.”
“ W-e-ll,” drawled Pete. “I expect he’s a hard cretur. I don’t reelly want to tell on’t ‘ a-flyin’ all abroad,’ as the hymn-book says, but he come in here to-day for suthin’ or ’nother, and opened the door jest as this sick feller kinder come to. I’d gin him a swingein’ dose of brandy, ye see, fourth proof, only jest sort o’ laced with water, an’ I guess it stung. He riz up in bed and he see Lonzo, and Lon he see’d him. Good Jerus’lem ! I wisht you’d seen Lonzo’s physimogony; he was jest the color of a cold biled turnip. I never did ! And this feller he sot his teeth and kinder give a spring. Law ! he could n’t do it no more ’n a broken-kneed grasshopper ; he gin out dyrect, and went off stupid agin. But you bet there’s suthin’ out o’ shape betwixt ’em ! ”
“ Well, I b’lieve you ! ” exclaimed Polly. “ And what’s more, I mistrust Lonzo is kind of sweet on Clary Kent. I hope ’t ain’t so ; she’s a real pretty girl, — as good a girl as ever was ; but I keep an eye out, you may rely on’t, and things looks real dubious. I don’t say nothin’, for Goody Jakeway ain’t aware on’t, and she’d like to kill anybody short o’ royal blood that durst to marry Lon ; but I b’lieve I ’ll speak to Clary. I reelly think’t’s my duty.”
“ Oh Lord ! don’t ye do it, then! ” groaned Pete (whose real name, by the way, was Petrarch !). “ I’ve allers noticed when women-folks got a-goin’ on dooty, they’d say the meanest, hatefulest things that ever was ! Say ye like to torment a gal, an’ take her down mortally, an’ you ’ll mabbe see how’t is, reelly; but say it’s ‘dooty,’ an’ there ain’t no whoa to ye, no more ’n to my old mare when she gets her head. I don’t see where it’s folks’s dooty to say pesky things, any way ; ef it’s suthin’ real agreeable, why ” —
But here the harangue was cut off by a cry from the bedroom ; they found the patient stupid no longer, but raving and crying out fiercely, “ I ’ll fetch him, my lass ; cheer up, Mary ! D-d rascal! Let me go ! let me go ! I want to get at him ! ”
Polly was an accomplished nurse, and under her medicaments the poor fellow became more quiet; but at intervals through the night he talked wildly, always on one theme, — a poor girl’s desertion, the girl seeming to be his sister, and his fierce desire to get hold of the man and punish him. In the later hours of the night his ravings grew less and he weaker; only once he sprang up and glared at the door, swearing a great oath. “ It’s you, is it ? I’ve run you to earth, you villain ! I’ve got her marriage lines, and I ’ll clap you into Bridewell if I don’t kill you first! ”
Polly stroked and coaxed and sung a sweet old hymn to him, till she could persuade him to swallow a cup of strong skull-cap tea, and either from pure exhaustion or the mild narcotic and stimulating warmth of his dose he fell into uneasy slumber; and then she stole out and called Pete, who was making a fire in the kitchen, and asked him if he found anything in the stranger’s wallet except money.
“ Well, I did n’t look no further; when I come to the sinners o’ war, why I see ’t was all right. Folks that hez money in their pockets is giner’lly about right, ’cordin’ to my b’lief. I ’ll fetch the puss an’ see.”
“ I wisht you would,” said Miss Polly. “ I’ve got my own misgivin’s, ’count o’ what he said; seems to hev suthin’ on his mind.”
So Pete brought the old wallet, worn and shrined, and left it with Miss Polly, who searched it thoroughly, and at last discovered in its inmost fold, indeed, where it had slipped between lining and outside, a dirty and creased but quite legible certificate of marriage between Mary Harris, of Liverpool, England, and Alonzo Jakeway, of Blisset, America.
Polly was a woman of discretion, though she loved to talk. She resolved not to make her discovery public, for to trust it to Pete was as if it were printed in the local column of a county paper ; he served as the news medium for all Blisset, where only one copy of any journal, the small, dull sheet of the Hartford Weekly Courant as it existed in 1790, was taken, and that only by the minister.
She answered Pete’s inquiries astutely, when he came back from the shed, by displaying an old brass ring, a slip from an English paper with ship news on it, a true-lover’s-knot of blue ribbon with a curl of gold hair caught in its tie, and half a rollicking ballad, such as hawkers sold about the old country.
“ Had your labor for your pains, did n't ye ? ” chuckled Pete.
“’T wa’n’t no great o’ labor,” laughed Polly, disagreeably conscious that her own small buckskin purse contained Alonzo Jakeway’s secret, and perhaps poor Clary’s heart-break.
It would indeed have been a good day for Alonzo that had spared him those new shirts, and sent Polly Mariner in another direction! But her discovery bore consequences she did not dream of, though they delayed long. After it she kept a closer watch than ever on Clary, and made up her mind that she must interpose at once to save the girl from ruin.
Alonzo had gone to New York the day after his interview with the stranger, if such the mere recognition could be called, but returned as soon as possible. He would not have gone at all except on urgent business, and he came back by way of Hartford, in order to persuade his old aunt that she ought to send out to Blisset for Clary to come and stay with her a while, to wait upon her. Aunt Smith was held in great regard by Goody Jakeway. She was the only near relative her husband had left; but that never would have commended her to the good graces of her niece in Blisset, except for the fact that she was the widow of a well-to-do grocer who had kindly left her all his goods and chattels to dispose of as she would, to the great anger of his own relations. When Alonzo reached home, with an urgent invitation from his aunt to have Clary come and visit her, it happened that Polly Mariner, so as to see better, had taken one of the shirts up-stairs to a south window. The next room was Clary’s, and Polly could not help overhearing a conversation between her and Alonzo that betrayed to her their plans, for their voices were quite unguarded; Goody Jakeway being three miles off at a quilting, and Clary quite certain that the tailoress was where she left her two hours before, in the keeping-room, not in the least suspecting that the sharp ears of this equally sharp-eyed woman were just the other side of a thin partition in one of the unused tavern bedrooms. Polly could bide her time, but she saw that in this instance she must be prompt. To-day was Tuesday, and on Thursday Clary was to go to Hartford ; for Alonzo well knew that however his mother might grumble she could not, or rather dared not, offend his Aunt Smith by denying her request. So after tea, when Polly was ready to go home, she asked Clary to walk along with her and fetch back some red balm flowers she had promised Goody Jakeway, as her task at the shirts was done now. They stopped at the minister’s house on the way, and Polly made her companion sit down in the hall while she herself went into Parson Piper’s study, and came back with a folded paper in her hand. Then she hurried Clary on, and as soon as they had reached the spinster’s queer little brown house, she drew her into the parlor, and without a word of explanation laid before her Alonzo Jakeway’s marriage certificate. It was Polly’s belief that a sharp, quick thrust is the truest mercy; but it was not pleasant to see Clary’s beautiful face turn dead and white as a marble mask. Her hand clutched at her throat a moment as if something choked her, and then she gasped, “ I don’t believe it! ”
“Well, child, that don’t make it so,” said Polly sadly. “ It looks true, and I’ve took means to find if so be ’t is or ’t is n’t; but Parson Piper he hain’t a doubt on ’t. He’s heered tell of the man that’s put his name to ’t, him that married ’em; he’s chaplain to some seaman’s meetin’-house or ’nother over there to Liverpool. Any way, if ever that sick feller comes to rights, he ’ll know the upshot on ’t.”
Clary said not another word; like a stunned creature she set her face toward the tavern and dragged her slow steps thither; while Polly, knowing that Alonzo had gone to fetch his mother home from the quilting, hastened back to give the certificate into Parson Piper’s hands again, and the worthy man proposed, as he was going to drive over to Litchfield early in the morning, that he should take the paper over and have an attested copy made of it, to guard against accident.
He and Polly both knew that accident meant Alonzo, but with proper respect for the decencies kept the knowledge to themselves. And well they might have dreaded his rage, for poor Clary, after a night of dreadful anguish and struggle with herself, resolved to tell him at once. A less simple and humble nature might have trembled and dallied with some temporizing arguments, but Clary had in her soul one desire, of Heaven’s own planting, that had divine endurance and strength, — the honest desire to do right. She knew it was utterly wrong even to love Alonzo if he was another woman’s husband, and she meant to give all her energies to unlearn the passion that held her in such dear slavery. But the first step was plain and near: she must tell him, to begin with, that she knew his double-dealing, and then take the rest of her life to forget her past.
It is true that she ought, according to the strict code of feminine morals, to have ceased at once to have any tender feeling toward such a sinner ; but poor Clary loved him! It was like taking her life in her hand to withdraw him to the barn on some pretext early in the morning, and tell what she had discovered. The storm that ensued was fearful. Alonzo Jakeway was not accustomed to thwarting; he would just as soon have expected the white rose-bush by the window to uproot itself and try to scratch him as to have Clary rebel if he asked of her the most menial service, but to have her fly in his face like this was outrageous.
Having partially exhausted his fury in words and threats poured out upon the trembling creature before him, he thrust her roughly aside, and hurried over to Pete Stebbins’s house to see if the sick man was yet able to speak rationally, determined to stop his tongue by either force or bribes, and to tell some plausible lie to Clary; for he had already declared to her with a fearful oath that the story was false. He had kept close watch over this stranger’s condition, not personally, but through others, and he knew very well that his delirium had continued and his strength grown less every day ; but he did not know that in those ravings his own name had more than once met Pete Stebbins’s ear and aroused his suspicions.
To-day Alonzo hurried to the house, determined to end the suspense that enraged him. The morning was calm and full of July’s rich odors; beds of fern breathed their delicate perfume on the fresh, soft air, and the silence of summer filled all the sky ; the sad, broad fields, the granite ribs of earth, the quiet woods, all were lapped in peace. There was not a sound in Pete Stebbins’s old red house as the angry man strode across to the bedroom, whose door stood ajar, and where lay the heart of all silence, majestic death. Though the couch on which those pulseless limbs lay straight and cold was poor, with no folds of drapery or garlanded blossoms, though the sheet that revealed the immobile outline was coarse and scant, no king lying in state had more serenity on his white brow or more awful meaning in his pallid lips than this dead sailor, for his face was at once accuser and judge of the criminal before him. And as Alonzo stood and stared at that sculptural mask, memory forced upon him another vision, another face, twin to this, except as woman never is twin to man, crowned with just such clustering gold, lit with such great blue eyes as he knew lay beneath those sealed lids; and he heard a voice saying in sonorous English accents, —
“ Whom God hath joined together let not man put asunder ! ”
He turned away silently, and quitted the house like one in a dream ; but as he left the door Pete’s yellow dog leaped up and flew at him, and the trivial attack turned back the unwonted current of his thought. He kicked the creature out of his path, and felt a fierce thrill of joy to think that just so this babbler had been flung from his track ; there was only the certificate now, and this he must coax out of Polly Mariner.
But Polly was not to be coaxed; her black eyes snapped as she told him with serene but triumphant contempt that Parson Piper had it in his possession and was gone to Litchfield.
“ ’T ain’t no use to swear ! ” she remarked blandly. “ You can’t get it today, nohow, and you can’t ondo it if you could. Black an' white don’t lie ; ” and Alonzo bitterly owned to himself that this was true.
However, he did see the certificate in due time, and vindicated the parson’s penetration as well as Miss Polly’s; for no sooner had the document been placed in his hands than he tore it in pieces and threw them all from the open window, looking round to see only a calm smile on the parson’s face, and to hear, —
“ You have done no harm, young man ; that was but an attested copy, and there are more. Beside that, the original is not in reach.”
Nothing now remained for the baffled man but to make the best of the situation, and the best was bad. The affair could not be kept from his mother, of course, and she was furious ; her rage all fell upon poor Clary, who found it easier to bear than the other anguish which had befallen her, and who did her best to please and serve her mistress, in the vain hope of some future peace. It so happened that her term of bondage was not quite over; it had been specially extended in her case to her nineteenth year, because she was eleven years old when the authorities indentured her to Mrs. Jakeway. It might have been the first result of that woman’s wrath to turn Clary out of the house; but she could not do so legally, and when the first bursts of fury had expended themselves she felt that the girl’s services were worth too much to part with, and she could at least have the satisfaction of making her feel in every fibre what presumption and crime she had been guilty of, not only in daring to love Alonzo, but in supposing he really meant to marry her, and then in “ turning up her nose at him,” as Goody Jakeway expressed it, merely because she imagined he was married over seas ! So Clary’s daily bread was doled out to her with a full allowance of coarse taunts, bitter reproaches, vulgar revilings, and the low but torturing scoffs a coarse and hard woman knows too well how to bestow on a sensitive, shrinking girl whom she has in her power. Truly she watered her food with her tears, and her nights were full of an anguish which the torments of the day only delayed till their hour and power should come upon her. But worst of all — far, far worse than his mother’s fiercest tyranny—was the persistent endeavor of Alonzo to make her put aside her sense of right and duty and elope with him.
He swore by every oath he knew that the woman he once married in Liverpool was dead, — dead long ago; but he could not prove it. Then he said the marriage never was legal, for there were no witnesses ; but this excuse revolted Clary more than his first subterfuge appeased her. He uttered every lie he could think of, and used every threat his experience suggested; and when they all failed against the strength of a pure purpose in this fragile, heart-broken, wretched girl he pleaded with the traitor within her, divining in his devilish subtlety that she loved him as only a woman can love, in spite of his anger, his cruelty, his lies, or his attempts to make her as evil as himself. It was his tender words, the passion in his beautiful eyes, the thrill of sadness and longing in his voice, that shook and melted her very soul ; from which she withdrew, trembling and tempted, to fall on her knees and beg for strength from Heaven to deny herself as well as her lover. And all this obstinacy, as he called it, only fired Alonzo’s determination to obtain the prize. Had she been easy of attainment, no doubt his desire to marry her, once fulfilled, would have degenerated into coldness and indifference. It had indeed at first been rather as a matter of policy and gain that he proposed to give her a legitimate right to share his position in the house ; but now he was in vital earnest about it, and the more strenuously she resisted anger, threat, or prayer, the more he set himself to form new plans to subdue her, and the more furiously he flung himself against all the obstacles that she opposed to him, — lying awake by night and brooding darkly by day over the invention of a new malice or a closer tightening of grip that might make her yield. For, once married, he could defy his mother and order her out of the house if he chose; while as to Mary Harris, he had long ceased to fear her, since her brother was dead, and she had nobody now to help or interfere for her.
Through all this summer it is not to be supposed Guy Morgan had forgotten the beautiful girl of Blisset tavern. Many an excuse he made to himself for extending his drives or rides as far as that little village; many a time the yellow gig and high-stepping black horse stopped before the door and were taken round to the barn, while he sat down to a common country dinner for the sake of being waited on by Clary. Deeper and deeper did the fair image that already occupied Guy Morgan’s heart sink into that goodly abode, though Clary never had given him a sly look or a flitting smile. It was the old merry-go-round of life repeated. Guy loved her ; she loved Alonzo ; he loved — himself! and, knowing him to be jealous as no one but a selfish man can be, Clary dared not offer the commonest courtesies of life to any other man, much less Guy Morgan. She keenly appreciated this handsome young fellow’s grace, refinement, high breeding, and kindliness, but it was with a passion of self-devotion which only a woman in love—a woman like her — can know, that she rejoiced to keep even her outward manner cold and reserved except to him she loved. Polly Mariner’s sharp eyes, however, soon perceived the situation. She knew very well that the Morgans would not countenance Guy’s infatuation, and she knew too that he was a gentleman, — a word that mean! something in those days,—and would not harm Clary in word or deed, so she only smiled to herself at the little drama before her ; for, like most women, she held the love of a man to be a light matter, never vital, and rather enjoyed seeing masculine struggles upon the baited hook, just as a trout-fisher becomes interested in the beautiful creature that spins and splashes at the end of his companion’s line.
But now, when Polly saw that Clary’s troubles were growing heavier and more unendurable day by day, the courageous and sensible woman borrowed a tame old horse and rather dilapidated sulky, and set out for Litchfield alone,—on “ law business,” she said. She went to Guy Morgan’s office, for he had begun to practice law, and laid the ease before him, confiding to him certain steps she had already taken.
He heard her with ill-concealed rage and grief; but as the interview ended he said, —
“You have done all you can, Miss Mariner; you will not have to wait a great while, I think, for results. But meanwhile you must promise me that if any new development happens you will send for me at once. I suppose you will not leave Blisset ? ”
“ My sakes ! I guess not. I would n’t leave there for nothing you could mention ! She don’t mistrust that I’m her friend, Clary don’t. I’ve hed to fetch this trouble on to her. ‘ Faithful are the wownds of a friend,’ Scripter says, but it don’t say but what they hurt jest as much as the wownds of an inimy. I think they do wuss, becos you ’re kind of obleeged to keep in about ’em ; can’t spit out, so to speak, as’t were.”
Mr. Morgan smiled, and Polly, whipping up her old horse, drove back to Blisset, feeling as if she had some strong support to fall back on, whatever occurred. She would have relied on Parson Piper, but that worthy man lay at death’s door with typhus fever, and if ever he recovered, which Dr. Root doubted, wagging his head with great solemnity, he would be mouths in getting back to life and strength again ; and Polly judged wisely in concluding that she should need some one having authority in any contention with Alonzo Jakeway.
About the end of August, when it seemed to Clary that endurance would fail and life with it, Alonzo appeared to be relieved from some pressure of thought and doubt that had long kept him meditative and gloomy. A dull tire lit his gray eyes with a sort of evil satisfaction ; and though his mother, with feminine persistence, kept up her nagging and reviling of poor Clary, and made her life a burden, he let the poor girl alone for a while, neither threatening nor coaxing her. Polly watched the whole thing steadily. She distrusted Alonzo none the less for his present forbearance. She would gladly have extended comfort to Clary, but the girl avoided her carefully, and seemed to shrink from her very sight; so the good woman bided her time, not without wonder at the long delay of her measures for Clary’s help, but with no fears as to their ultimate result.
It was now the second week in September, when one morning Alonzo Jakeway came down-stairs and asked his mother where she had put his scarlet stockings with gold clocks. These stockings were the pride of his heart, for he had a weakness for finery, and these scarlet hose of heavy silk, goldembroidered, he had brought with him from abroad, and they figured at every feast Blisset knew, in gorgeous contrast with a pair of black velvet breeches, a red satin vest, also gold-embroidered, and a coat of fine French cloth with silver buttons.
There was to be a wedding to-night in Goshen, and Alonzo’s dress must be in readiness. Clary had ironed one of his new shirts, clear-starched the frill, and done up his laced cravat to a nicety, lingering over the task as if it were a pleasure, as indeed it still was her delight to do any service for the man she loved. But this morning he could not find the stockings, and great was his wrath ; he stormed and swore, and his mother hunted over all his possessions and her own too, but in vain. At length, with a face of dark menace, Alonzo left the house, and returned in two hours with the village constable and a search-warrant from the nearest justice of the peace, who lived in Noppit. On the authority of this, every room in the house was examined, — the hostler’s hair trunk, the bags of a miller stopping over night on business, the chest of drawers in the school-teacher’s room, who had just come there to board, and last of all Clary’s little blue chest, where her small store of clothes lay in due order, with sprigs of cedar and sweet basil strewn amongst them.
There, in the folds of her best sprigged cotton gown, her only Sunday gown, lay the red stockings!
Clary was horror struck. Her dry lips could not part to speak ; her knees refused to support her; she sunk into the nearest chair, and all the spectators cried out upon her guilty face.
So does man judge! The very agony of insulted innocence is accepted as the aspect of guilt. Shame and horror hang out the same signals with convicted crime. There are not two ways for the blood to leave the heart, or to rush back to it, — one way of sin and another of purity ; and Clary was condemned in the eyes of all who saw her by the very semblance of her guiltlessness.
But nothing availed her now; not her solemn asseverations of innocence when speech at last returned.
Law and justice— if indeed it is not a matter of libel to mention these together — were somewhat ignorantly and clumsily administered in Blisset. A sudden trial was held before the Noppit justice. There were enough to swear that Clary had meant to marry Alonzo Jakeway, and the match had been broken off some time ; doubtlesss she bore him a grudge, accordingly, and stole the stockings in revenge.
This accusation struck poor Clary dumb. She knew such pitiful meanness was as far from her soul as earth from heaven; but she could see that the judge, a heavy, plodding old farmer, believed it; he judged her, as we all do other people, from his inward self, and the case was hopeless. It remained only for the constable to swear that he found the said red silken hose in her chest, hid in her Sunday gown, and the judge was outwardly as well as inwardly convinced. He pronounced her guilty, sentenced her to pay a fine of one hundred dollars, or, in default of ability to pay such fine within the two weeks ensuing, to receive thirty lashes on her bare back at the whipping-post on Blisset green; and in the mean time to be conveyed to the lock-up, a bare little room with grated windows, above the store and post-oflice of the village, being partitioned off from the public hall, which occupied the second story of the store, and reached from the outside by an open stairway.
For the first time in her life Clary Kent fainted when she heard this sentence. Worn out with long suffering, constant labor, and the intense heat of the past summer, the flesh could not endure one more buffet from the spirit, and in a state of merciful senselessness she was carried back to Blisset, taken up the outer stair, and left to recover as she might on the rough sacking cot provided for the rare occupants of the strong room.
When she came to herself she longed to faint again, for the whole force of the situation rushed upon her like a flood, and the judge’s sentence was burnt in upon her brain as with hot irons. A hundred dollar fine! and she had not a hundred cents. Another girl in her place might have gathered some small store from the generosity of the tavern guests, but Clary so disliked notice, was so sure to slip out quietly when her service was ended, that those who wished to give her money got no opportunity to do so, and those who would have given it from habit were glad of the chance to escape the tax. Guy Morgan would as soon have offered gold to the haughtiest woman in Boston as to Clary. Yet even if all these had bestowed gratuities upon her, she would have been nowhere near possessing a hundred dollars ; it was as unattainable to her as the wealth of Croesus.
And the alternative !
She had once accidentally passed the whipping-post when a man had paid the old-time penalty of stealing. An awful fascination chained the child, then only thirteen years old, to the spot; but she had never forgotten the barbaric spectacle. She could see still the thongs that lashed him to the post, the bare, glistening back, the descending lash, the purple welt that followed ; she could recall with the distinctness of absolute vision the quiver of that sturdy figure, the groans he vainly tried to repress, the brutal jeers of the crowd, and the red blood that spattered on to the snow under the victim’s feet. And all this lay before her ! All ? A thousand-fold more, for she was a woman, and the lash was no more dreadful in her eyes than the exposure of her sacred person, the violence done to her virgin modesty. She did not once think of hope. Her nature had been so long crushed into earth by misfortune and suffering that her first impulse was to despair. She fell off the cot on to her knees, and, prostrate on the floor, prayed with the whole force of a desperate soul that God would let her die before the day of her trial caine.
From this absorption she was roused by the trembling voice of Polly Mariner, who had climbed the stair and was calling her through the grated door. Clary rose, and looked at her with a shudder.
“ Keep up your heart, child ! — keep up ! ” sobbed Polly, crying as much with rage as with sorrow, for she had only just heard the story, and referred the whole thing to its right source directly. “ You ’ll be took care of; there’s them will see to ’t. Look here ; I’ve fetched ye a blanket an’ a big sheet. It’s warm weather, but September sunshine ain’t reliable ; mabbe you ’ll want bedclothes. And I’ve spoke to the constable, an’ he’s goin’ to fetch ye a piller and suthin’ to eat. You won’t be here long, noways. I’m a-goin’ over to Litchfield, post-haste, to fetch help. Keep up your sperits.”
“ Oh, Miss Polly,” sighed the girl, inspired with hope by the cheery voice and assurance, “ can anybody help me ? ”
“ Land, yes ! Anybody can pay your fine, can’t they ? I could myself, ef I had the dollars. I hain’t got ’em, but I ’ll get ’em.”
A thrill of stronger hope awoke in the girl’s heart.
“ Oh, then I know Lon will pay it! He will ! he will! Oh, I ain’t a bit afraid, Miss Polly ; he ’ll get me out.”
“ He ! ” ejaculated Polly, with a scorn type is powerless to express. “He help you ! Why, if you war n’t in trouble, I should say you was the biggest fool in Blisset. Why, if you knowed beans, you’d know he was to the bottom of all on’t. Do you expect them stockin’s walked into your chist an’ crawled inside o’ your gown of themselves ? ”
Clary’s eyes grew dark with horror ; it was true, somebody must have put them there.
“ May be’t was her,” she said tremulously ; meaning, as Polly well knew, Goody Jakeway.
“ Not a bit of it; she’s ugly enough, but she ain’t ’cute enough. Besides, she don’t want to lose ye; she’s buzzin’ round now like a bee in a tar barrel to get somebody to help her, but there won’t none o’ the decent gals in Blisset go where Lon Jakeway is.”
Clary did not notice this small scoff which Polly really could not help giving; she only went on, —
“I know Lonzo will pay for me. Why, Polly, he — he likes me ! ” and here a warm blush suffused her beautiful face. “ He — well, I never told anybody before, but he wants to marry me just the same. He says that woman’s dead, and I only waited to be sure ; he’s promised to find out. Do you think he’d let me he whipped ? ” Her piteous voice changed to a ring of scornful triumph as she asked the question, but Polly responded promptly, —
“ Yes, I do; but there’s them that won’t. I ’ll fix it. Land ! there ’s threeo’clock bell over to Noppit; lecter preparatory, but I ain’t goin’. I must hurry up. Good-by child ; I ’ll be here airly in the mornin’. Keep up your sperits ! ”
But “ spirits ” will not come at call, and Clary sank into despondence as soon as Polly’s face disappeared. She was roused again by the constable, who fetched her some supper and a pillow, and when dusk fell, worn out by emotion, she laid her weary limbs along the cot and fell fast asleep.
It was at the dead of night that she awoke, hearing her name again; this time it was Alonzo Jakeway; her heart bounded as she recognized his voice. But it sank to deeper depths when he made known the object of his visit: it was to tell her that if she would marry him at once he would pay the fine and set her free. Here was a trial fit for a martyr of old time ; she had but to do that which her heart had all along prompted, and she was saved. But there was one question first to ask : —
“You know I didn’t steal them, Lon?”
“ I do’ know who knows it better,” was the surly reply. “ Look here, Clary Kent, I’ve got ye now, tight and sure. I’ve planned and plotted on’t along back, so’s it should be tight and sure. I put them stockin’s there, for I meant to get a grip on ye. Now take your choice, — to be stripped and whipped, or marry me. If you ’re a half-way decent gal, you won’t demur much.”
Clary sprang back from the grating, all her blood on fire with the dastardly insult. She seemed to grow tall and strong; her voice, softer than any cooing flute, took on the ring of a clarion.
“ Go away ! ” she said. “ I had rather die than marry you now, Lonzo Jakeway ! ”
“ Wait a bit! ” he sneered. “ I guess a fortnight'll change your mind; bread an’ water and locked doors is pretty convincin’,” and with an evil laugh he turned away and stole softly down the stairs.
Poor Clary ! this was her bitterest hour. The bandage was torn from her eyes, and she saw the man — no! not the man she loved, but the real man, who had borne about as a garment the image and superscription of her God. Death would not have been as hard. In the agony of bereavement and disgust she tossed on her pallet till daybreak, and then she heard a heavy foot-step toil up the stairs; it was Polly Mariner. She said, trying to smile, —
“ Well, dear, I can’t fetch it about today. The feller that’s got the money he’s took an’ gone off to Boston of an arrand, but he ’ll come back, — yes, he will; he’s a-comin’ shortly, and I’ve left a billet for him. You ’ll hev to stay here a spell, mabbe, but it’ll all come right.”
Clary looked at her with dull eyes. “ There won’t ever anything come right any more,” she said, stupidly ; and this was the fixed belief of her soul.
In vain Polly brought her food of the nicest she could prepare, decent clothing, a Bible, a hymn-book, Boston’s Fourfold State, and Jenks’s Devotion, her whole store of literary amusement; or thrust through her grating early apples and late peaches, or musky hunches of wild grapes ; she could not coax a smile over the beautiful wan face, or instill a spark of hope into the breaking heart.
She had told Clary the truth as far as it went. She found Guy Morgan had gone to Boston, and she left a letter to be given him as soon as he returned ; but for security the black boy who waited on the office slipped the queer, ragged note into a legal volume, and then forgot all about it. Polly’s errand had been vainer than she knew.
So the days wore on ; Clary still in the dull desolation that possessed her, and Polly fuming to herself at Guy’s delay. She would have made another journey to Litchfield, but she dare not leave Clary alone ; some vague fear was always present with her when she saw or recalled the girl’s set face ; so she waited as well as she could, not for Guy alone, but for the result of measures she had taken long before to deliver Clary from Alonzo’s net. More than once or twice in the dead of night the desperate man visited Clary again, and poured threats and persuasions through the grating, hut never did he receive any answer of word or look. Still he clung to the belief that at the last moment he should conquer, and went away in that conviction ; for he could no more understand her pure and lofty nature than a worm of earth can interpret the seraphs of heaven.
At last the end of these weary hours drew near. Miss Polly, grown desperate, dispatched Pete Stebbins by sunrise to Litchfield with a strenuous message to Guy Morgan. But the day crept on and he did not come, for the axle of Pete’s old wagon gave out half-way there, and he had first to clear the road of the obstruction, and then walk the remaining five miles; happily for Polly she knew nothing of this delay. It was the first day of October, and the languid splendor of early autumn brooded in soft glory over the low hills about Blisset; the woods were lit here and there by a scarlet bough, and one great maple like a torch of fire flamed on the little green ; nothing stirred, but the sad chirping of the crickets rose sharp and grievous as a dirge from the damp grass, and now and then a wailing south wind shed a bright leaf softly to the ground. A ring of curious people crowded already about the whipping-post, and close by it stood Alonzo Jakeway, waiting for his victim’s appearance.
Just at ten o’clock the constable came down the stairs of the strongroom leading Clary ; her white feet were bare below her short stuff petticoat, revealing their exquisite shape and dimpled beauty, and over her shoulders a dark blue blanket was loosely thrown.
In her cell she had only the simplest necessities of toilet, so she had knotted the rich masses of her hair loosely on the top of her head, tucking in the ends to keep it in place as well as she could. Her beautiful, despairing face was like molded alabaster, so pure, so pallidly transparent, and her great brown eyes were filled with unutterable woe ; she was brought forward, and her hands passed around the post and lashed there. Alonzo Jakeway went up to her and whispered a word. She looked at him as one who saw him not; but when the constable, with sudden roughness, tore the blanket from her shoulders, and the sculptural shoulders and ivory neck were bared to sight, over every glistening surface and perfect outline a scarlet flush swept like the reflection of sudden flame, and in the agony of outraged womanhood an appeal burst from her parted lips : —
“ O Lon ! Lon ! save me ! ”
But like a tiger gloating over his prey, the man, who was less man than brute, stood moveless. A fierce and bestial joy filled his soul: he saw this proud girl humbled to the ground, and was greedily glad; his hunger of wrath and revenge tasted blood, and as his red and eager eyes met hers with a look of scorn the uplifted lash descended along those snowy shoulders, and a piercing, horrid shriek rent the air as a long purple welt marked the smooth and polished skin. But hardly was the constable’s arm raised again when something burst madly through the crowd ; the whip was torn from his hands ; the thongs that bound her cut apart; and as if the lash had stung her to life Clary’s first instinctive motion was to lift her hand, and loosening her heavy hair drop its dusk veil over her shoulders. She did not see how like a flash Alonzo Jakeway was sent flat to the ground, nor yet that the interposer in this drama was Guy Morgan, whose black horse stood now foaming and panting while his master counted out the fine to the indignant constable. Polly Mariner, sobbing and chattering, got a big camlet cloak about poor Clary and led her away to her own house.
And now into this homely drama, in the commonplace chariot of a creaking chaise, entered another actor, who should have been here long before if winds and waves had not delayed Polly Mariner’s letter to Liverpool. When Alonzo Jakeway recovered from the thorough thrashing which Guy Morgan proceeded to give him with the same lash that had seared Clary’s shoulders, his eyes opened on the living face of Mary Harris, his wife, to whom Polly Mariner had written, sending all her little savings that she might come to Blisset and prove her rights.
It was in the eternal fitness of things that she should never after forgive Polly for this intervention, for on her head, with the cowardice and brutality of his nature, Alonzo visited his anger and unsated cruelty ; and no one who knew him expected any better result. But she had saved Clary from the like fate, Polly thought, and that was enough for her; for to no human being did the poor girl ever reveal her midnight interviews and her murdered affection. Clary lay long at Polly Mariner’s house ill of a dreadful fever, and when at last she recovered, Heaven visited her, in mercy, with utter oblivion of the past ; she was even more intelligent and lovely than ever, but her memory was a blank. Under Polly’s care she was taken to Boston, and put in charge of an old lady, one of Guy’s friends, who was rich and lonely, and romantic enough even in her age to sympathize with young love.
Here the poor girl found shelter, protection, and affection in her new world of consciousness ; and here she received for a few years the training and education of a lady.
It was nothing to her that Alonzo Jakeway became a hopeless drunkard and died like his father before him, or that Polly Mariner, her truest friend, fell a victim to that typhus fever which decimates some New England towns at uncertain intervals.
Clary had no past; and if ever her awakening intelligence questioned it, she was always answered that she was an orphan, and Mrs. Grey had taken her when she was very ill. In time Guy Morgan visited her, and renewed the attentions she did not remember; and now she received them with shy sweetness, for she loved him as fervently as she had loved Alonzo. After their marriage he went to live in a flourishing Western city, and Clary was for a life-time the pride and delight of his home and heart; transmitting her beauty as a heritage to children and grandchildren, who are to this day as ignorant as she mercifully remained till the hour of her death of Clary’s Trial.
Rose Terry Cooke.