The Undiscovered Country


ELIHU walked rapidly down the moonlighted street. When he reached the old family house, he groped his way up from the outer door to that of the meetingroom, in which Ford lodged, and tapped upon it with his stick. There was the sort of hesitation within which follows upon surprise and doubt; then the sound of a chair pushed back was heard, and Ford came to the door with a lamp in his hand ; he looked like one startled out of a deep reverie. “ Anything the matter with Dr. Boynton ? ” he asked, after a gradual recognition of Elihu.

“ Nay,” replied the Shaker. “ Friend Boynton is better than usual, I believe. I wish to have a little talk with you, Friend Ford. Shall I come in ? ”

Ford found that he was holding the door ajar, and blocking the entrance. “ Why, certainly,” he said. He led the way, and setting the lamp on the table pushed up another chair to the corner fire-place, where some logs were burning, and where he had evidently been sitting. “ Sit down.”

The Shaker obeyed, and with his palms resting on his knees craned his neck round and peered at the different corners of the room and up at the ceiling before he spoke, “ Are you comfortable here, Friend Ford ? ”

“ Yes,” answered the young man. “ I am a sort of stray cat, and any garret is home to me. I can’t say, though, that I’ve ever occupied the dwelling of a whole community before.”

“ Yee, this building once housed a good many people. It was a cross to leave it; but our numbers have fallen away, and we crowd together for comfort and encouragement. It’s an instinct, I suppose. Well, what do you think of the Shakers, so far, Friend Ford ? ” Elihu had an astute glimmer in his eye as he asked the question.

“ Really, I hardly know what to say,” answered Ford.

“ Say what you think. We may not like the truth, but we always desire to hear it.”

“ I should probably say nothing offensive to you, if I said all that’s in my mind. I believe I think very well of you. I don’t see why you don’t succeed. I don’t see why you don’t supply to Protestantism the very refuge from the world that we talk of envying in Catholicism.”

“ That is much the position that Friend Boynton took.”

“ I don’t understand why you are a failing body. The world has tired and hopeless people enough to throng ten thousand such villages as yours.”

“ We should hardly be satisfied with the weary and discouraged,” said Elihu, without resentment. “ And our system offers few attractions. Folks are not so anxious for the angelic life in heaven that they want to begin it on earth.”

Ford smiled. “ You offer shelter, you offer a home and perfect immunity from care and anxiety.”

“ But we require great sacrifices,” rejoined the Shaker gravely. “ “We put husband and wife asunder; we bid the young renounce the dream of youth; we say to the young man, Forego; to the young girl, Forget. We exact celibacy, the supreme self-offering to a higher life. Even if we did not consider celibacy essential to the angelic life, we should feel it to be essential to communism. We must exact it, as the one inviolable condition.”

Ford sat a moment thinking. “ I dare say you are right.” He looked interested in what Elihu was saying, and he added, as if to prompt him to further talk, “ I have been thinking about it a good deal since I’ve been here, and I don’t see how you can have communism on any other terms. But then your communism perishes, because nature is the stronger, and because you can’t recruit your numbers from the children of your adherents. You must look for accessions from the enemy.”

“ Yee, that is one of our difficulties. And we have to fight the enemy within our gates perpetually. Even such of us as have peace in our own hearts must battle in behalf of the weaker brethren. We must especially guard the young against the snares of their own fancies.”

“ I dare say it keeps you busy,” said Ford.

“ It does. We must guard them from both the knowledge and the sight of love.” The word brought a flush to the young man’s face, which Elihu did not fail to note. “Friend Ford, I have understood you to wish us well ? ” He rose, and resting his arm on the chimneypiece looked down with gentle earnestness into the face of the young man, as he sat leaning back in his chair with his hands clasped behind his head.

“ Yes, certainly.”

“ You would not wittingly betray us? ”

“ Really ” —

“ I don’t mean that. You would n’t knowingly put any obstacle in our way, — any stumbling-block before the feet of those whom we are trying to lead toward what we think the true life ? ”

“ Elihu,” said Ford, “I thoroughly respect you all, and I should be grieved to interfere with you. Why do you ask me these questions ? Have you any reason to be dissatisfied with my behavior here ? ”

“ Nothing,” continued Elihu, “is so hard to combat in the minds of our young folks as the presence of that feeling in others who consider it holy and heavenly, while we teach that it is of the earth, earthy.”

“ Well ? ”

“ The more right and fit it appears, the more complex and subtle is the effect of such an example. It is impossible that we should tolerate it a moment among us after we become convinced of its existence. Self-defense is the law of life.”

“ Well, well! ” cried Ford, getting up in his turn, and confronting Elihu on more equal terms, “what has all this to do with me? ” His face was red, and his voice impatient.

Elihu was not disturbed. He asked calmly, “Don’t you know that Egeria is in love with you?”

Ford stood breathless a moment. “ Good heavens, man ! ” he shouted. “Her father is at death’s door!”

Elihu stood with his wide-brimmed hat resting on one hand; he turned it slowly round with the other. “Friend Boynton is very strangely sick. The doctor says he does n’t know how long he may last. Young people soon lose the sense of danger which is not immediate. The kind of love I speak of is the masterfeeling of the human heart; it flourishes in the very presence of death; it grows upon sorrow that seems to kill. It knows how to hide itself from itself. It takes many shapes, and calls itself by many other names. We have seen much to make us think we are right about Egeria. Have you seen nothing?”

Ford did not reply. His thoughts ran back over all the times that he had seen and spoken with Egeria, and his heart slowly and deeply beat, like some alien thing intent upou the result; and then it leaped forward with a bound.

“ Perhaps,” said the Shaker, “ I am wrong to put the question in the way I do. We deal so plainly with ourselves and with one another in such cases that I might well forget the sophistication that the world outside requires in the matter. I do not wish to do you injustice, and I shall be glad if I have opened my mind for nothing. I will merely ask whether you have not done anything or said anything to make her like you.”

“ This is preposterous,” said Ford. “Do you think these are the circumstances for love-making ? I am here very much against my will, because I can’t decently abandon a friendless man”—

“ Friend Boynton has plenty of friends here,” interrupted Elihu.

“ I beg your pardon; I know that. Then I am here because I can’t leave a dying man who seems to find comfort in my presence. And whatever may be the security which Miss Boynton has fallen into, I have had her father to remind me of his danger by constant allusions to it, as if his death were near at hand.”

“ Do you believe it is ? ”

“ That is n’t the question. The question is whether a man, being trusted with a knowledge of dangers which she does n’t know, could have any such feeling towards her as you imagine.” Ford bent a look of angry demand upon the Shaker.

“ Yee,” the latter answered, “ I think he could, if he meant the best that love means. If he knew that they were poor, and that after her father’s death she would be left alone in the world, he might very well look on her with affection even across a dying pillow, and desire to be the protector and the stay of her helplessness. I don’t wish to pry into your concerns, and if there is nothing between you and Egeria it will be enough for you to say so.”

“ Between us ! ” cried Ford, bitterly. “ I will tell you how I first met these people, and then you shall judge how much reason there is for love between her and me.”

“ Nay,” interjected Elihu, “ there is no need of a reason for love. I learned that before I was gathered in.”

Ford did not regard the interruption. “ I saw them first at a public exhibition, and I made up my mind that Dr. Boynton was an impostor; and then I went to their house with this belief. I never believed his daughter was anything but his tool, the victim of himself and the woman of the house who did the tricking. I suspected tricking in the dark, but when I attempted to seize her hand it was Miss Boynton’s hand that I caught, and I hurt her — like the ruffian I was. Afterwards the old man tried to face me down, and we had a quarrel; and I saw him next that morning here, when he flew at my throat. It’s been his craze to suppose that I thwarted his control over his daughter, and he has regarded me as his deadliest enemy. Now, you can tell how much love is lost between us.” Ford turned scornfully away, and walked the length of the room.

The Shaker remained in his place. “ Egeria is of a very affectionate and believing disposition. She would take a pleasure in forgiving any unkindness, and she would forgive it so that it would never have been. I don’t see any cause in what you say to change my mind. If you told me that you did not care for her, it would be far more to the point than all you could say to show why you don’t.”

Ford stopped, and glared at the serene figure and placid countenance. “ This is too much,” he began, and then he paused, and they regarded each other.

“ You don’t pretend now,” resumed Elihu, “ that you suspect either of them of wrong ? ”

“ No!”

“ Then, whatever the mystery is about them, you know that they are good folks. We have had much more cause than you to suspect them, but I don’t doubt them any more than I doubt myself.”

“ I would stake my life on her truth ! ” exclaimed Ford. The Shaker could not repress the glimmer of a smile. “I” — Ford paused. Then he burst out, “I have been a hypocrite, — the worst kind; a hypocrite to my own deceit! I do love her ! She is dearer to me than — You talk of your angelic life! Can you dream of anything nearer the bliss of heaven than union with such tenderness and mercy as hers ? ”

“ We say nothing against marriage in its place. A true marriage is the best thing in the earthly order. But it is of the earthly order. The angels neither marry nor are given in marriage. We seek to be perfect, as we are divinely bidden. If you choose to be less than perfect ” —

“ There can be no higher choice than love like hers. Do you assume ” —

“ Nay,” said the Shaker, “ I assume nothing. The time has been when we hoped that Egeria might be gathered in. But that time is past. She could now never be one of us without suffering that we could not ask her to undergo. She must follow the leadings of her own heart, now.”

“ Why, man, you have no right to say that she cares anything for me. It’s atrocious; it’s ” —

“ We pass no censure upon the feeling between you,” said Elihu quietly, looking into his hat, as if he were about to put it on. “ All we ask is that you will not let the sight of your affection be a snare to those whose faces should be set against such things.”

Ford regarded him with a stormy look; but he controlled himself, and asked coldly, “ What do yon wish me to do ? ”

“ Nay; that is for you to decide.”

“ Well, I must go away ! ” Ford irefully stared at the Shaker again. “ But how can I go away ? If there was ever any reason why I should remain, the reason is now stronger than ever.”

“ Yee,” said Elihu.

“ What shall I do ? If I have not been strong enough and honest enough with myself to keep from drifting into this—this affair, it is not likely that I can get out of it, — I don’t want to get out of it! Do you suppose that now I have the hope of her I wish to leave her ? Whatever her father’s state is, and whatever my duty to him is, I am bound to stay here for her sake till she sends me away. It’s my duty, it’s my privilege.”

Elihu was not visibly swept from his feet by this lover’s - logic. He said gravely, “ Now you consult your inclination rather than your sense of duty. Friend Boynton and his daughter are here by virtue of the charity we use towards all ” —

“ You shall be paid every cent! ” cried Ford impulsively.

“ Nay, I did n’t boast,” said the Shaker, with a gentle reproof in his tone, which put the young man to shame, “ and I did n’t merit this return from you. I merely stated a fact. You are yourself here by our concession as their friend. I have opened our mind to you upon this matter, and you know just how we feel. Farewell.”


In his preoccupation Ford let Elihu find his way out, and heard him stumbling and groping about for the outer door in the dark. All night the words and circumstances of the interview burned in his heart, and his face was hot with a transport half shameful and half sweet. Once he tried to think when his old misgivings had vanished, but he could not; he only remembered them to spurn them. In the morning he went out for a long walk, and visited the places where he had been with her. He had a formless fear and hope that he might meet her; these conflicting emotions resolved themselves into the resignation with which he went to the shop where Elihu was at work.

“ I am going away. I have no right to stay here ; it’s a violation of your rights, and it’s a profanation of her. I shall go away, hut I shall never give up the hope of speaking to her at the right time and place, and asking her to he my wife.”

Seeing that he expected an answer, Elihu said, “ You cannot do less.”

Ford did not quite like the answer. “ You don’t understand. I hope for nothing, — I have no reason to hope for anything.”

“ Nay,” said the Shaker, “ I don’t understand that. She is fond of you.”

Ford reddened, but he did not resent the words. “ What I propose to do now

— to-day — is to go away, and to come back from time to time, with your leave, and see how Dr. Boynton is doing. I should like some of you to write to me,

— I should like to write to her. Would you have any objection to that ? You don’t object to the fact, but to the appearance in this — affair, as I understand. The letters could come under cover to Sister Frances,” he submissively suggested.

“ Nay,” answered the Shaker, after deliberation, “ I don’t see how we could object to that.”

“ Thanks,” said Ford, with a nervous sigh. “ I hope you will feel it right that I should see Dr. Wilson, and ask his opinion of Dr. Boynton’s condition, before I go ? ”

“ Yee. There is Dr. Wilson, now.” Elihu leaned out and beckoned to him, and the doctor, who was turning away from the office gate, stopped his horse in the middle of the street. “ You can ask him now; he has just seen Friend Boynton.” Elihu delicately refrained from joining Ford in going to speak with the doctor.

“ I have to go away for a while,” said the young man abruptly, “ and I wanted to ask you whether there is any immediate danger in Dr. Boynton’s case to prevent my going. I should n’t like to leave him at a critical moment.”

“ No,” said the doctor, with the slowness of his thought. “ It’s one of those obscure cases. I find him very well, — very well, indeed, considering. It’s the nature of his disease to make this sort of pause. It’s often a very long pause.”

Ford went back to Elihu, whom he found quietly at work again. “ He says there’s no reason why I should n’t go,” he reported, with the excitement of a new purpose in his face. He waited a moment before he added, “ I must go and tell Dr. Boynton, now. I confess I don’t know exactly how to do it.”

“ Yee, it will be quite a little cross,” Elihu admitted.

“ Do you think,” asked Ford, after a moment’s abstraction, “ that there would be anything wrong in speaking to him about — what we have spoken of? ”

“ Nay,” said Elihu. “ I was thinking that perhaps you might like to do that. It would set his mind at rest, perhaps.”

“ Thank you,” said Ford, but he bit his nail in perplexity and hesitation.

“ I presume that will he quite a cross, too,” added Elihu, quaintly.

Ford stared at him without perceiving his jest. “ I suppose you don’t know what you’ve done in giving me the sort of hope you have ! If you have mocked a drowning man with a straw ” —

Rapt as he was in his own thoughts, when he entered the sick man’s room he could not but be aware of some great change in Boynton. When they had last seen each other, Boynton had sat up in an arm-chair to receive his visitor. Now he was stretched upon the bed, and he looked very old and frail.

“ Why, the doctor said you were better ! ” cried the young man.

“ So I am, — or so I was, half an hour ago,” replied Boynton. “ I am glad you have come early to-day. I missed you yesterday; and there is something now on which I want the light of your clearest judgment. Sit down,” he said politely, seeing that Ford had remained on foot.

The young man mechanically drew up a chair, and sat facing him.

“ I have heard a story of Agassiz,” Boynton said, “ to the effect that when he had read some book wholly upsetting a theory he had labored many years to establish, he was so glad of the truth that las personal defeat was nothing to him. He exulted in his loss, because it was the gain of science. I have not the magnanimity of Agassiz, I find, although I have tried to pursue my inquiries in the same spirit of scientific devotion. Perhaps I had a great deal more at stake : there is a difference between seeking to ascertain some fact of natural science and endeavoring to place beyond question the truth of a future existence.”

He plainly expected some sort of acquiescence, and Ford cleared his throat to assent to the preposterous vanity of his speech: “Certainly.”

“ You will bear me witness,” said Boynton, “ that I have readily, even cheerfully, relinquished positions which I had carefully taken and painfully built upon, so long as their loss did not lead to doubt of this great truth, — did not weaken the citadel, so to speak.”

“ Yes,” said Ford, with blank expectancy.

“ You know I have rested my hopes upon a power, which I believed my daughter to possess, of communicating with the world of spirits ? ”

“ Yes.”

“You remember that I abandoned without a murmur the hypothesis of your adverse control when that was no longer tenable ? ”

He was so anxious for Ford’s explicit assent that the young man again answered, “Yes.”

“ And when I was forced to accept the conclusion that her power was limited by a certain nervous condition, and had forever passed away with her restoration to complete health, did you find any childish disposition in me to shrink from the truth ? ”

« No,” said Ford, “ I did not.”

“ I thank you ! ” cried Boynton. “ These successive strokes, hard as they were to bear, had nothing mortal to my hopes in them. Now, I have had my death-blow.” Ford began a kindly dissent ; but Boynton waved him to silence. “ Unless your trained eye can see some way out of the conclusions to which I am now brought, I must give up the whole hypothesis of communion with disembodied life, and with that hypothesis my belief in that life itself. In other words, I have received my deathblow.”

No doubt Boynton still enjoyed his own rhetoric, and had a measurable consolation in his powers of graphic statement ; but there was a real passion in his words, and the young man was moved by the presence of a veritable despair. “ What facts, or reasons, have brought you to your conclusions ? ” he asked.

Boynton pushed his hand up under his pillow, and drew out an old copy of a magazine. “ Here is what might have saved me years of research and of hopes as futile as those of the seekers for the philosopher’s stone, if I had seen it in time.” Though he laid the book on the coverlet, he kept his hand on it, and had evidently no intention that Ford should look at it for himself. “ There is a paper in this magazine giving an account of a girl, in this very region, possessing powers so identical in all essentials with those of my daughter that there can be no doubt of their common origin. Wherever this unhappy creature appeared, the most extraordinary phenomena attended her: raps were evoked; tables were moved; bells were rung; flashes of light were seen; and violent explosions were heard. The writer was not blinded by the fool’s faith that lured me on. He sought a natural cause for these unnatural effects, and he found that by insulating the posts of the girl’s bedstead — for these things mostly occurred during her sleep —he controlled them perfectly. She was simply surcharged with electricity. After a while she fell into a long sickness, from which she imperfectly recovered, and she died in a mad-house.” Boynton removed his hand from the magazine, as if to let Ford now see for himself, and impressively waited his movement.

“ Excuse me,” said the young man, who found the parallel extremely distasteful, “ but I don’t see the identity of the cases. Miss Boynton seems the perfection of health, and ” —

“ Yes,” interrupted Boynton, “ there is that merciful difference. But I cannot base my self-forgiveness upon that. So far as my recklessness is concerned, her health and her sanity might have been sacrificed where her childhood has been wasted and her happiness destroyed. Poor girl! Poor girl! ”

“ I think you exaggerate,” Ford began, but Boynton interrupted him : — “Oh, you don’t know,—you don’t know ! I could n’t exaggerate the sum of her sufferings at my hands. To be wrenched from a home in which she was simply happy, and from love that was immeasurably wiser and more unselfish than mine; to be thrust on to the public exhibition of abnormal conditions that puzzled aud terrified her ; to be made the partner of my defeat and shame ; to be forced to share my aimless vagabondage and abject poverty, houseless, friendless, exposed to suspicion and insult and danger, — that is the fate to which I brought her; and for what ? For a delusion that ends in chaos ! Oh, my God ! And here I lie at last, a sick beggar, sheltered by the charity of these Shakers, whose kindness I have insulted, and a sorrow and shame to the child whose young life I have blighted, — here I lie, stripped to the last shred of hope in anything, here or hereafter. Oh, young man! I once thought that you were hard upon me, and I resented the blame you spoke as outrage ; but now I confess it merciful justice. You have your triumph ! ”

“ Don’t say that! ” cried Ford. “ I never was more ashamed of what I said to you there in Boston than I am at this moment, and I never felt the need of your kindness so much. I believe that if Miss Boynton were here, and understood it all, she would feel nothing but pity ” —

“ Oh, does that make it different ? Does that right the wrong which has been done ? ”

“ Yes,” cried the young man, with a fervor that came he knew not how or whence, “ forgiveness does somehow right a wrong! It must be so, or else this world is not a world of possibilities and recoveries, but a hopeless hell. Why, look ! ” He spoke as if Egeria were before them. “ Have you ever seen her stronger, younger, more ” — The image he had conjured up seemed to shine upon him with a smile that reflected itself upon his lips, and a thrill of tenderness passed through him. “ No one could do her harm that her own goodness could n’t repair.”

Boynton was not one to refuse the comfort of such rapture. “ Yes, you are right. She is unharmed by all that she has suffered. I have at least that comfort.” Then he underwent a quick relapse. “ But whether I have harmed her or not, the fact remains that she had never any supernatural power, and I return through all my years of experiment and research to the old ground, — the ground wliich I once occupied and which you have never left, — the ground of materialism. It is doubtless well to have something under the foot, if it is only a lump of lifeless adamant.”

“ I find it hard not to imagine something better than this life when I think of Miss Boynton! ” exclaimed Ford impetuously.

“ Very true,” said the doctor, accepting the tribute, without perceiving the passion in it; “ there has always been that suggestion of diviner goodness in her loving and self-devoted nature. But she had no more supernatural power than you or I, and the whole system of belief which I had built upon the hypothesis of its existence in her lies a heap of rubbish. And here at death’s door I am without a sense of anything but darkness and the void beyond.” A silence ensued, which Boynton broke with a startling appeal: “ In the name of God, — in the name of whatever is better and greater than ourselves, — give me some hope ! Speak ! Say something from your vantage-ground of health and strength ! Let me have some hope. I am not a coward. I am not afraid of torment. I should not be afraid of it if I had ever willed wrong to any living creature, and I know that I have not. But this darkness rushing back upon me, after years of faith and surety — it’s unendurable! Give me some hope ! A word comes from you at times that does not seem of your own authority: speak ! Say it! ”

“ You have the hope that the world has had for eighteen hundred years,” answered Ford, deeply moved.

“ Was that first in your thoughts?” Boynton swiftly rejoined. “ Was it all you could think of ? ”

“ It was first in my thoughts, it was all I could think of,” repeated Ford.

“ But you have rejected that hope.”

“ It left me. It seemed to have left me. I don’t realize it now as a faith, but I realize that it was always present somewhere in me. It may be different with those who come after us, to whom it will never have been imparted; but we who were born in it, — how can we help it, how can we escape it ? ”

“ Is that really true?” mused Boynton aloud. “ Do we come back only to that at last ? Have you ever spoken with a clergyman about it? ”

“ Oh, no! ” cried Ford.

“ I should like to talk with a clergyman— I should like to talk with the church about it! There must be something in organization— But it is of no use, now ! Theories, theories, theories ! A thousand formulas repeat themselves to me; the air is full of them ; I can read and hear them.” He put his hands under his head and clasped them there. “ And there is absolutely nothing else but that ? Nothing in science ? ”

“ No.”

“ Nothing of hope in the new metaphysics ? ”

“ No, nothing.”

“ Nothing in the philosophy that applies the theories of science to the moral world ? ”

“ Nothing but death.”

“ Then that is the only hope,—that old story of a credulous and fabulous time, resting upon hearsay and the witness of the ignorant, the pedantic wisdom of the learned, the interest of a church lustful of power ; and that allegory of the highest serving the lowest, the best suffering for the worst, — that is still the world’s only hope ! ” He paused; and then he recurred to the thought which he had dropped : “ A clergyman, — a priest! — I should like to know the feelings of such a man. He fulfills an office with which his older has been clothed for two thousand years; he bears the tradition of authority which is as old as the human race; he claims to derive from Christ himself the touch of blessing and of healing for the broken spirit. I have often thought of that, — what a sacred and awful commission it must be, if we admit its divine origin ! Yes, I should like to know the feelings of such a man. I wonder if he feels his authority perpetually reconsecrated by the anguish, the fears, the prayers, the trembling hopes, of all those who have lain upon beds of death, or wept over them ! Poor human soul, it should make him superhuman ! What a vast cumulative power of consolation must come to a priest in our time ! He is the church incarnate, the vicar of Christ, the helpful brother of the helpless human race, — it’s a tremendous thought. I should like to talk with such a man.”

“ Would you really like to see a minister ? ” asked Ford. “ Because ” —

“ No, — no,” said Boynton. “ At least, not now, not yet; not till I have clearly formulated my ideas. But there are certainly some points that I should like to discuss— Oh, words, words! Phrases, phrases, — this glibness tires me to death ! I can’t get any foot-hold on it, — I slip on it as if it were ice.” He lay in a silence which Ford did not interrupt, and which he broke himself, at last, in a mood of something like philosophical cheerfulness: “I can find reason, if not consolation, for my failure, — reason in the physical world. I shall take the first opportunity of committing my ideas to paper. Has it never struck you as very extraordinary that all the vast mass of evidence which has been accumulating in favor of spiritualism for the last twenty years, until now it is literally immense, should have no convincing power whatever with those who have not been convinced by their own senses ? Why should I, as soon as personal proof failed me, instantly lapse from faith in it ? ”

“ I am afraid,” Ford said, “ that I have not thought sufficiently about the matter.”

“ I believe I can explain why,” Boynton continued. “ It is because it is not spiritualism at all, but materialism, — a grosser materialism than that which denies; a materialism that asserts and affirms, and appeals for proof to purely physical phenomena. All other systems of belief, all other revelations of the unseen world, have supplied a rule of life, have been given for our use here. But this offers nothing but the barren fact that we live again. If it has had any effect upon morals, it has been to corrupt them. I cannot see how it is better in its effect upon this world than sheer atheism. It is as thoroughly godless as atheism itself, and no man can accept it upon any other man’s word, because it has not yet shown its truth in the ameliorated life of men. It leaves them where it found them, or else a little worse for the conceit with which it fills them. Yes, yes ; I see now. I see it all.”

The vigor of his speculative power buoyed him triumphantly above the abyss into which other men would have sunk. Ford listened with the fascination which the peculiar workings of Boynton’s mind had always had for him, and he felt his heart warm towards him with sympathy that was at once respectful and amused, as he thus constructed a new theory out of the ruin of all his old theories.

“All the research in that direction,” Boynton presently continued, “ has been upon a false basis, and if anything has been granted it has been in mockery of an unworthy hope. I wonder that I was never struck before by that element of derision in it. The Calvinist gets Calvinism, the Unitarian Unitarianism ; each carries away from communion with spirits the things that he brought. If men live again, it. has been found that they live only in a frivolous tradition of their life in this world. Poor creatures ! they seem lamed of half themselves, — the better half that aspires and advances ; they hover in a dull stagnation, just above this ball of mire ; they have nothing to tell us ; they bring us no comfort and no wisdom. Annihilation is better than such an immortality! ”

Ford saw that Boynton did not expect any comment from him, and he did not interrupt his monologue. “ “What I ought to have asked was not whether there was a life hereafter, but whether there was a life hereafter worth living. I stopped short of the vital question. I fancied that it was essential to men to know surely that they should live again; but now I recognize that it is not essential in itself.” He lay musing a while, and then resumed: “ I had got them to bring me a Bible before you came in. I wanted to consult it upon a point raised by Elihu, yesterday. There are a great many new ideas in the Bible,” he added, simply; “ a great many new ideas in Job, and David, and Ecclesiastes, and Paul, — a great many in Paul. Would you mind handing it to me from the table ? Oh, thanks! ” he said, as he took the volume which Ford rose to give him. “ This old record, which keeps the veil drawn so close, and lets the light I wanted glimmer out so sparely in a few promises and warnings, against the agonized Despair of the Cross, or flings the curtain wide upon the sublime darkness of the Apocalypse, is very clear upon this point. It tells us that we shall live hereafter in the blessing of our good will and the curse of our evil will; the question whether we shall live at all is left in abeyance, as if it were too trivial for affirmation. What a force it has, as it all comes back ! I seem to have thought of it for the first time. And what a proof of its truth there is in our experience here ! We shall reap as we have sown, and so much is sown which we cannot reap here — And if I should be doomed to spend eternity in asking whether I be really alive ! No, no ; God does n’t make a jest of us.” He turned to Ford. “ I am curious,” he said, “ to know how this strikes you, as you sit here in the full possession of your powers. I know very well, and you know, how men in their extremity are apt to turn back to the faith taught them at their mother’s knees; and perhaps the common experience is repeating itself in my case. But you are in no such extremity. Does there seem to you any truth here?” He laid his hand on the book, and looked intently at Ford.

“ It seems to be all the truth of the sort that there is.”

“ What do you mean by that ? ” asked Boynton.

“ I express myself badly. But it’s hard to express yourself well on this matter. I mean to say that whatever truth there was in that record has not been surpassed or superseded.”

“ And is that all you have to say ? ”

“ That’s all I could say till I had looked into the question. It seems to me that it is all any one could say.”

“ No doubt,” said Boynton, with disappointment, “ from your stand-point, — from the scientific stand-point. You say that there is nothing else, but you imply that this is not much.”

“No,” said Ford, “I think it’s a great deal. I think it ought to be enough, if one cares ” —

“ That ’s the scientific attitude ! ” cried Boynton ; “ that’s the curse of the scientific attitude ! You do not deny, but you ask, ‘ What difference ? ’ ”

“ At least,” said Ford, with a smile, “ you can let even such a poor representative of the scientific side as I am be glad that you see the fallacy of spiritualism.”

“ Oh, I don’t pronounce it a fallacy,” returned Boynton. “ I only say that it has proved fallacious in my hands, and that as long as it is used merely to establish the fact of a future life it wall remain sterile. It will continue to be doubted, like a conjurer’s trick, by all who have not seen it; and those who see it will afterwards come to discredit their own senses. The world has been mocked with something of the kind from the beginning ; it’s no new thing. Perhaps the hope of absolute assurance is given us only to be broken for our rebuke. Life is not so long at the longest that we need be impatient. If we wake, we shall know; if we do not wake, we shall not even know that we have not awakened.” He added, “It is very curious, very strange, indeed, but the only thing that I have got by all this research is the one great thing which it never included, — which all research of the kind ignores.”

Ford perceived that he wished him to ask what this was, and he said, “ What is that ? ”

“ God,” replied Boynton. “ It may be through an instinctive piety that we forbear to inquire concerning him of those earth-bound spirits. What could they know of him ? Many pure and simple souls in this world must be infinitely nearer him. But out of all that chaos I have reached him. No, I am not where I started: I have come in sight of him. I was anxious to know whether we should live hereafter; but whether we live or not, now I know that he lives, and he will take care. We need not be troubled. As for the dead, perhaps we shall go to them, but surely they shall not return to us. That seems true, does n’t it ? ”

“ It’s all the truth there is,” said Ford.

Boynton smiled. “ You are an honest man. You won’t say more than you think. I like you for that. I have a great wish to ask your forgiveness.”

“ My forgiveness ? I have nothing to forgive ! ”

“ Oh, yes. I involved you in the destiny of a mistaken and willful man ; I afflicted you with the superstitious manias of a lunatic who fancied that he was seeking the truth when he was only seeking himself. I have burdened you with a sense of my wish that you should stay here, because I still hoped to work out something to my own glory and advantage ” —

“ I never knew it; I can’t think it,” interrupted Ford. “It was my privilege to stay. These have been the best days of my life, — the happiest.” He stopped ; he believed that Boynton must know the meaning that rushed from his heart into the words ; but the old man evidently found only a conventional kindliness in them.

“ Thank you,” he said. “ It is very strange to find you my friend after all, and to meet you on common ground, — I who have wandered so far round, and you who have continued forward with none of my aims. It would be interesting if a third could stand with us. I should like to see how far a minister of the gospel could come towards us. I should like to talk with a minister : not a theologian, but an ecclesiastic, — some one who embodied and represented the idea of a church.”

“ Do you mean a Catholic priest ? ” asked Ford.

“ No, not that, — not just that; but still some one in whom the priestly character prevailed.”

“ I will be glad to gratify any wish you have in the matter, Dr. Boynton,” said Ford. “ I imagine it would be easy to get a clergyman to visit you from the village, and I ’ll go to any one you want to see.”

“ Well, not now, — not now. Not to-day. Perhaps to-morrow. I should like to think it over first. I may have some new light by that time. I should like to look up some other points, here. There is a text somewhere in Paul — it is a long time since I read it — Wait! ‘ We are saved by hope. But hope that is seen’ — that is seen—‘is not hope; for what a man seeth' — Very significant, — very significant! ” he added, more to himself than to Ford. “ Saved! Really, there seems to have been no question with them about the mere existence ! ” He lay quiet for a long time, with his hands folded behind his head, and a dreamy light was in his eyes. Ford heard the ticking of an insect in the wainscot. “ Who is it,” Boynton asked suddenly,“ that speaks of the undiscovered country ? ”

“ Hamlet,” replied Ford.

“ It might have been Job, —it might have been Ecclesiastes, — or David. ‘ The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.’ Is that it ? ” “ Yes. They commonly misquote it,” added Ford mechanically.

“ I know, — they leave out bourn. They say, the undiscovered country whence no traveler returns. But it’s the same thing. Yes ; and Hamlet says no traveler returns, when he believes that he has just seen his father’s spirit! The ghost that comes back to prove itself can’t hold him to a belief in its presence after the heated moment of vision is past! We must doubt it; we are better with no proof. Yes ; yes ! The undiscovered country — thank God, it can be what those babblers say! The undiscovered country — what a weight of doom is in the words — and hope ! ”

One of the sisters came in, and he seemed to forget Ford, who presently went away with an absent-minded salutation from him. Boynton had taken up the book, and while the sister propped his head with the pillows, he fluttered the leaves w ith impatient hands.


At the gate Ford turned towards Elihu’s shop, intending to explain why he had not been able to speak of Egeria to her father. In his liberation from Boynton’s appeals for sympathy, his thoughts thronged back to her; he framed a thousand happy phrases, in which he opened his heart, and she always answered as he wished. His face burned with the joyful shame of these thoughts, and he did not hear his name the first time it was called from a buggy standing at the office gate. The gay voices had hailed him a third time when he looked round, and slowly recognized Phillips and Mrs. Perham making frantic signs to him from the vehicle. They laughed at his stupefaction, and his sense of their intrusion mounted as he dragged himself across the street. Mrs. Perham leant out of the buggy and gave him her hand.

Well, Mr. Ford ! Is this the way you receive your friends ? We have been chasing all over this outlandish place for you ; we have spent an hour with the sisters here, and have questioned them down to the quick, so that we know all about you; and we were just going to drive away in despair without seeing you.”

“ I’m very unfortunate,” said Ford.

“ To be caught at the last moment ? How good you always are ! You don’t know how I’ve pined for your little speeches; they ’re tonic. Yes, Mr. Ford ! ” she cried, with a daring laugh, “ Mr. Perham is very well, for him, — I knew you were going to ask! — or I should n’t be philandering about the country in this way.” Ford glanced at Phillips, who trifled with the reins and looked sheepish.

“ You should have gone over to Egerton before this, my dear fellow,” he said. “ There have been some charming people over there.”

Have been! His modesty,” cried Mrs. Perham, “ and my humility ! We are at Egerton yet, Mr. Ford ! ”

“ Oh, certainly. But Ford has us in Boston.”

“ Ah, very true,” said Mrs. Perham. “ There was quite a little buzz of excitement for a while, when Mr. Phillips first explained the romantic circumstances. The young ladies drove over the next Sunday to Shaker meeting, on purpose to interview you, but they had n’t the courage. It was one of Mr. Perham’s bad days, or I should have come, too ; and we should have sent Mr. Phillips over long ago, if there had been any Mr. Phillips to send. But he’s only just got back to Egerton.”

“ Yes, my dear fellow, I carried out our little programme to the letter, — I wish I could say to the spirit; but your defection prevented. I found Butler at Egerton, and he jumped at the chance of driving on with me, in a manner that made your flattering consent seem nothing. We drove to Greenfield, and then followed up the valley of the Connecticut. It was indescribable, my dear friend. You have lost no end of material. I must really try to reproduce it for you some time. I thought of you often. I was always saying, ‘ Now, if Ford were here ! ’ Two or three times I was actually on the point of writing to you. But you know how that is ; you never wrote to me. I 'm very glad to hear from our sisters, here, that the old gentleman is better. Is he still in his craze ? ” Phillips spoke with anxious rapidity, and with a certain propitiation of manner ; but Ford did not relax the displeasure of the looks with which he had heard of his explanation of the romantic circumstances.

“ You ought to get something out of him ; you ought to write him up ; he 'd make a capital paper,” said Mrs. Perham. “ I shall be on the lookout for him in your articles. And your Shaker experiences! The young ladies were sure you had turned Shaker, Mr. Ford, and they picked you out in the dance. We had such fun over it! ” She continued, pulling down the corners of her mouth, “ Oh, but we were all very respectful,, Mr. Ford. We admired your self-devotion in staying here ; especially, as you could n’t esteem them.”

“ I don’t know what you mean,” began Ford, with a sternness that would have silenced a less frivolous spirit.

“ Why, have n’t you heard ? ” cried Mrs. Perham, leaning forward, and dropping her tone confidentially, while Phillips made some inarticulate attempts to hinder her speaking. “ The poor old gentleman was quite tipsy that morning when they stopped up there at that country hotel, and they had to be turned out-of-doors. Is it possible you have n’t heard that ? ”

“ Yes, I 've heard that,” said Ford.

“ I always said,” continued Mrs. Perham, “it was cruel to the girl ; for she was n’t responsible for her father’s habits, poor thing! Then of course you don’t believe it ? ”

“ No! ”

“ And you believe that all those manifestations took place there ? ”

“ No ! ”

“ An armed neutrality ! Well, it’s the only tenable position, and I shall take it myself in regard to the other affair. I never thought how convenient it must be.”

Phillips found his voice : “ Mrs. Perham, it’s delightful chatting here ; but I have to remind you that we shall be late for dinner if we stay any longer.”

“ Oh, that’s true,” admitted Mrs. Perham. “ Good-by, Mr. Ford. Do come over and see us, if you can tear yourself away from your protégés for a few hours. It’s very strange, his lingering along so ! Good-by ! ”

“ Good-by, my dear friend! ” said Phillips, trying to throw some exculpation into his afflicted face. “ I am going back to Boston at the end of the week. Can I do anything for you there ? ” He did not wait for an answer, but lifted the reins and chirruped to his horse.

Ford caught the wheel in his hand, and stopped it. “ Hold on ! ” he said, quite white in the face. “ What other affair, Mrs. Perham ? ”

“ Other affair ? ” she repeated. “ Oh ! about the water-proof, you know.”

“ No, I don’t know about the waterproof. What do you mean ? ”

“ Is it possible the Shakers have n’t told you ? Perhaps they did n’t think it worth mentioning. You know your friends — I forget the name; Boyntons ? — had passed the night before they reached the Elm Tavern in a schoolhouse up here ; and the teacher found them there in the morning, and lent the young lady her water-proof. They were to send it back from Vardley Station ; but as they never went to Vardley Station, they naturally never sent it back.”

“ I don’t believe it! ” cried Ford.

“ Mr. Phillips always told me you were a terrible skeptic! ” said Mrs. Perham. “ I merely had the story from the mother of the school-teacher, herself! We happened to stop at her house to ask the way, and when we inquired if the Boyntons were still here, she came out with this story. She’s a very voluble old lady. I dare say she tells it to every one. What is your theory about it ? ”

Ford released the wheel which he had been gripping, and, giving it a contemptuous push, turned away without a word.

Mrs. Perham craned her head round to look back after him. “ What a natural man ! ” she said, with sincere admiration. “ He’s perfectly fascinating.” She burst into a laugh. “ Poor Mr. Phillips ! He looked as if he wished you had been my authority.”

Phillips shrugged his shoulders, and said dryly, “ I hope you are satisfied, Mrs. Perham.”

“ Why, no, I am not,” she candidly owned, with a touch of real regret in her voice. " I only meant to tease him; but if he’s in love with her, I suppose he ’ll take it to heart.”

“ In love with whom ? ” asked Phillips.

“ Sister Diantha.”

Phillips stared at her.

“ Well, with this medium, then, — this Medea, Ashtaroth, Egeria, — I don’t know what her name is.” As Phillips continued to stare at her, Mrs. Perham gave a shrill laugh. “ Really, you are a man, too. I shall never dare take on such easy terms with you again, Mr. Phillips, — never ! I don’t wonder men can’t understand women : they don’t understand their own simple sex. Of course he’s in love with her, and must have been from the first.”

“ Well, then, allow me to say, Mrs. Perham, that if you think he’s in love with Miss Boynton I don’t quite see what your object was. I felt that it was an intrusion to come over here, at the best.”

“ Oh, thanks, Mr. Phillips ! ”

“ And it appears to me that it was extraneous to repeat those stories to him.”

“ Extraneous is good! And you have an ally in my own conscience, Mr. Phillips. I wanted to see a natural man under the influence of a strong emotion, and I don’t like it, I think. I did n’t suppose ho was so serious about her. But I don’t believe any harm’s done. He won’t give her up on account of what I’ve said; and if he does, perhaps she ought to be given up.” Phillips dealt the horse a cut of the whip, and left the talk to Mrs. Perham, as they drove away.

In the last quarter hour before dinner, while she sat absently feeling on the porcelain-toned piano in the hotel parlor for the music of the past, two ladies who wished to see her were announced. One of these visitors proved to be a Shaker sister, whom Mrs. Perham recognized, and who introduced her companion, a short, squarely built young woman, as Miss Thorn.

They took seats, though Mrs. Perham had risen and remained standing, and Miss Thorn said without preamble, “ I teach in the school-house in Vardley, where Dr. Boynton stopped this spring. I heard from my mother this noon that a lady and gentleman had been asking the way to the Shaker Village, who seemed to know Dr. Boynton.”

“ No, I don’t know him,” said Mrs. Perham.

Phillips came forward, from a corner of the parlor. “ I know Dr. Boynton ; at least I saw him and Miss Boynton in Boston once.”

“ I thought,” said Miss Thorn, “ that I ought to come and tell you that my mother didn’t understand about that — that water-proof.”

“ Oh, yes,” said Mrs. Perham ; “ we thought it so curious.”

“ I was sure,” said Phillips, with an attempted severity, “ that there was some mistake.” The severity had no apparent effect upon Mrs. Perham, but Miss Thorn, who had been talking in some sort to both, now addressed herself wholly to him: —

“I was away from home when you stopped, to-day. I thought you would like to know there was a misunderstanding. The water-proof was as much a gift as anything ; though that would n’t have excused them if they had thought I wanted it again. But anybody could see that Miss Boynton was stupid then with the fever, and did n’t half know where she was or what she was doing. She had been walking late, the night before, through the snow, and they had slept on the benches before the stove.” Phillips bowed, and looked at Miss Thorn, who resumed with increasing stiffness : “ I never wondered at his not remembering it; he seemed too flighty for anything. I knew they were here all summer at the Shakers. I don’t,” said Miss Thorn, “ pass any judgment on my mother for the way she looked at it; but I ’d have given anything if she had n’t spoken.” The tears started to her eyes, and she bit her lip as she rose.

“ It did n’t make any difference to us,” said Diantha, who had hitherto sat a silent and inscrutable glimmer of spectacles in the depths of her Shaker bonnet. “ It got hung up among our things while she was sick, and when she got well she couldn’t seem to remember about it. She thought she must have brought it from the cars with her for her own.”

Miss Thorn waited, and then resumed stiffly, “ I never suspected or blamed them the least bit. As soon as I could,

I went over to the Shakers this morning, and told them the way I felt, and that I wanted to come to you. Diantha felt as if she would like to come with me, and I brought her. That’s all.” Miss Thorn rose with a personal primness that by contrast almost softened the Shaker primness of Diantha into ceremony.

Phillips experienced the rush of an emotion which, upon subsequent analysis, he knew to be of unquestionable genuineness. “ My dear young lady,” he said, “ I ask you to do me the justice to believe that I never had an injurious suspicion of Miss Boynton. Her father had attempted a line of life that naturally subjected himself and her to question, but I never doubted them. I have a positive pleasure in disbelieving anything to their disadvantage in connection with — with — your generous behavior to them. Did—did Mr. Ford speak of the matter to you ? Did he wish any expression from me in their behalf? Because ” —

“ He no need to ask anything as far as we 're concerned,” interposed Diantha.

“ No,” said Phillips. “ I can only repeat that I was sure there was a misunderstanding, and that you’ve done us a favor in coming. Is there any way in which I could be of use to Dr. Boynton ? I should he most happy if I thought there was.”

Miss Thorn left the reply to Diantha, who said as they went out, “ There ain’t anything as I know of.”

“ Really,” commented Mrs. Perham, “ this is edifying. I have n’t felt so put down for a long while. I don’t see what more we could do, unless we joined with Miss Thorn and Sister Diantha in presenting Miss Boynton with a piece of plate, as a slight token of gratitude for her noble example in borrowing a waterproof and keeping it. She has classed the water-proof with the umbrella, as a thing not to be returned. Is that the principle? Well, if Mr. Ford is going to marry her ” —

“ Going to marry her! ” cried Phillips.

“ Why, of course. Did you think anything else ? Is marriage such an unnatural thing ? ”

“ No. But Ford’s marrying is.”

“ That remains to be seen. If he’s going to marry her, he can’t believe in her too thoroughly. I ’ve an idea that the Pythoness is insipid; but if Mr. Ford likes insipidity, I want him to have it. I think we ought to drive over to the Shakers, and assure him in person that we did n’t believe anything and we did n’t mean anything. You shall do all the talking, this time ; you talk so well.”

“ Thanks,” said Phillips, “ I suspect I’ve done my last talking to Ford.”

“ And you won’t go ? ” demanded Mrs. Perharn, with a laugh. “ Then I must go alone, some day. Meantime, I know how to keep a secret. I hope Miss Thorn may be able to teach her mother.”


Ford stood still, looking at the ground, while Phillips and Mrs. Perharn drove away. His impulse to pluck Phillips from his place, and make him pay in person for that woman’s malice, was still so vividly present in his nerves that he seemed to have done it; but when the misery of Phillips’s face, intensifying as Mrs. Perharn went on from bad to worse, recurred to him, he broke into a laugh.

Sister Frances came out of the office. “Friend Edward,” she said, “was that wicked woman speakin’ to you about Egery?”

“ Yes.”

“ Don’t you believe her ! Don’t you believe a word she said! ” cried the Shakeress, with hot looks of indignation. “ I know just how it all happened ” —

“ I don’t wish to know. I should feel disgraced if I let you tell me. Whatever happened, this woman lied. Where is Egeria ? ”

“ Oh ! ” cried Frances. “ She has gone to Harshire with Rebecca. She won’t be back till mornin.” She bent on the young man a look of wistful sympathy.

“ Well! ” he cried, throwing up his hands desperately, as if the morrow were a time so remote that it never would come, “ I must wait.”

“ She’d been plannin’ to go a long while,” Frances apologized, “and her father seemed so well this mornin’ she thought she might” —

“ Oh, yes, yes!” answered Ford dejectedly. He knew that he somehow had driven her away by his behavior of the day before, and that he had himself to blame for this delay in which he stifled. He turned about, with some wild purpose of following her to Harshire, and speaking to her there, when he heard Franees calling him again: —

“ Friend Edward, I don’t know as you know that Egery’s expectin’ friends tomorrow.”

“ Friends ? No, what friends ?” asked Ford. “ Has she gone to meet them at Harshire ? ” he added stupidly.

“Well, no; she only got the letter yesterday. I suppose her father did n’t think to tell you of it. I don’t know as you ever heard her speak of the young man that come with ’em as far as the Junction that day they missed their train. He was with ’em a while in Boston, and he come from the same place they did, Down East. He’s been twice to find ’em there in Maine, this summer; but he could n’t hear any word of ’em till just now. They was children together, Egery and Friend— Well, I never could remember names.”

“ Oh, never mind ! ” exclaimed Ford, with a deathly pallor. “ I know the name, — I know the man ! ” And now he turned again, and hurried beyond a second recall from the trouble in which Frances saw him groping down the road, like one in the dark. When he had got out of her sight, he walked a little into the wayside woods, and stumbling to the ground gave himself to the despair which had blackened round him. His first feeling was a generous regret that now he could not let his love speak the contempt in which he held the wrong he had heard done her; this feeling came even before the sense of hopeless loss to which he abandoned himself with a lover’s rashness. He meekly owned that the man whom he marveled now that he could ever have forgotten as a rival was one of those in whom women confided and were not disappointed, — who made constant friends and good husbands ; and, questioning himself, he could not be sure that her happiness would be as safe in his own keeping. He remembered with abject humiliation the last time he had met this man, and the savagery with which he had wreaked upon him the jealousy which he would not then admit to himself, and in which he had refused to consider even her at his prayer. The turmoil went on for hours, but always to this effect. The most that he could hope, when he crept homeward at dusk, sore as if bruised in body by the conflict in his mind, was that he might steal away before he saw them together. With tills intent, to which he had worked with difficulty in the chaos of his dreams, he set about putting his books and other belongings together, but he gave up, tremulous and exhausted, before the task was half done. He fell to thinking again, and this time with a sort of sullen resentment, in which he said to himself that his love had its own rights, and that he would not betray them. It had a right to be heard, at any cost; and he began to despise his purpose of hurrying away as mock-heroic. It was like a character in a lady’s novel to leave the field to a rival whom he did not yet know to he preferred; the high humility, in which he had thought to yield Egeria without her explicit authority to a man whom he judged his better, sickened him. He saw that it was for her to choose between them, and it was the part of a coward and a fool to go before she had chosen. As matters stood, he had no right to go; she had a preëminent right to know from him that he loved her.

He hungrily dispatched the supper he had left standing on his table, and then kindled a brushwood fire on his hearth; he sat down before it in his easy-chair, and, stayed by the clearer mind at which he had arrived, he experienced a sensual comfort in the blaze. Presently he was aware of drowsing; and then, suddenly, he awoke. The dawn came in at the windows; he perceived that he had passed the night in his chair. A loud knocking continued at his door, while he gathered his scattered wits together. At length he cried, “ Come in ! ” and the farmer from over the way entered.

“ I don’t suppose ye know what’s happened ? ” he said.

“No,” said Ford, “I don’t, if it’s anything in particular.”

“No. Well. I thought maybe ye’d like to know. The old man’s dead. Died sudden this mornin’.”

“ What ? Who ? What old man ? ”

The farmer nodded his head in the direction of the village. “ Dr. Boynton. I thought ye’d like to know it.”

“ Thank you,” said Ford. He rose and stood at one corner of the hearth ; the farmer, from the other, stiffly stretched his hard, knotted hand towards the ashes of the dead fire.

Ford went out and walked up through the village, whose familiar aspect was all estranged, as if he himself had died, and were looking upon it from another world. At the office he found a group of Shakers listening to Boynton’s physician, who, on his appearance, addressed more directly to him what he was saying of the painless death Boynton must have died in his sleep. “ The first part of the night he was very restless, and several times he said that he would like to see you and talk with you; but he would not let them send; said he had n’t formulated his ideas yet.” The doctor involuntarily smiled in recalling a turn of the phraseology so newly silent forever. “ I wonder if he has formulated them now to his satisfaction.” Ford made no response, and the doctor asked, “ Did he speak to you, yesterday, of the case of an electrical girl ? ”


“ I inferred as much from something he said, when I saw him in the afternoon. I had lent him the magazine containing the account. He found an analogy between that case and Miss Boynton’s that I had not anticipated. It seems to have put a quietus to his belief in her supernatural gifts.”

“ Yes,” Ford assented, as before.

“ He told me that it had depressed him to the lowest point. But when I saw him he had quite recovered his spirits.” He added thoughtfully, “ You can’t say that a man dies because he wishes to die ; though it sometimes seems as if people could live if they would. When I parted with Dr. Boynton he had what I might call an enthusiasm for death. It might be described, in other words, as a desire, amounting almost to frenzy, to know whether we live again, and a willingness to gratify that desire at the cost of not living at all.”

“ He dwelt habitually on that question,” said Ford, with difficulty. “ But when I talked with him yesterday, he seemed at rest on the main point.”

“ Yes, I don’t know but he was. Perhaps I had better say that he was impatient to verify itHe talked of nothing else during the evening, Sister Frances tells me; though he fell off quietly to sleep at last.”

“ Well,” said Ford drearily, “he has verified it now.”

“ Yes, and in the old way, — the way appointed for all living. He knows now. Did it ever occur to you, sir,” added the doctor, philosophically, “ what ignorance all our wisdom is compared with the knowledge of a child that has just died ? ”

“ If it knows anything at all.”

“ Oh, certainly, — if it does know.”

“ We are sure it knows,” said Elihu. They walked out together, and before the doctor mounted his buggy to drive away they stood a moment looking at the closed windows of the infirmary. “It’s useless, now, to talk of causes,” said the doctor. “ The heart had been affected a long time ” —

“ He is dead, all the same,” said Ford.

“ Oh, yes, he is dead,” assented the doctor. “ What I meant to say was that while no human foresight could have prevented the result, I confess its suddenness surprised me. One moment he was with us, and the next ” —

“ He was n’t,” interrupted Ford, restively. “ That’s all we can know : and neither he nor all the myriads that have gone that way can tell us anything more.”

“ If we suppose him to he somewhere in a state of conscious being,” observed the doctor, “ we can suppose that rellection to be a trial to him, after a life so much devoted to the effort of working out the proof of something different.”

“ He had been a spiritualist; and not a selfish or ignoble one,” answered Ford, oppressed by the doctor’s speculative mood, and letting his impatience appear. A voice was in his ears, repeating the things that Boynton had said. In the pauses of it, he brooded on the chances that had thrown upon him for sympathy and comfort in his last days the man for whom he had once felt and shown such contempt. The dark irony, the broken meaning, afilicted him, and he lurked about, stunned and helpless, waiting till Egeria should come, and dreading to see the grief in which he had no rights. He thought of her trouble, not of his own ; it blotted even his jealousy from his mind, and left him acquiescent in whatever fate befell. The time for what he had intended to do was swept away ; he could now only wait passively for events to shape themselves.

Hatch did not come that day, and Ford took such part as Elihu assigned him in the sad business of fulfilling Boynton’s wishes. These had been casually expressed from time to time to Frances, and referred to his removal to his old home, where he desired to be laid by the side of his wife. When Hatch arrived, the second morning, he assumed charge of the affair, as a family friend ; and Ford, lapsing from all active concern in it, shut himself in his own room, and waited for he knew not what. In the evening, Hatch came to see him. They had already met in the presence of the Shakers, but doubtless neither felt that they had met till now, since their parting in Boston. Hatch received awkwardly the civility which Ford awkwardly showed. He would not sit down, and he said abruptly that he had come to say that Miss Boynton was going back in the morning to her home in Maine, where the funeral was to be. He added that Frances and Elihu were going with her, on the part of the family; aud after a hesitation he said, “ Would n’t you like to attend the funeral, too ? ”

“ Has she authorized you to invite me ? ” asked Ford.

“Well, no,” said Hatch. “I don’t suppose she wanted to put that much of a burden on you. It’s a long ways.”

Ford reflected a long time. “You are going, I suppose? ”

“ Why, of course,” said Hatch.

Ford pondered again, “ Under the circumstances,” he said, “ I believe that I ought n’t to let my own preference have any weight. Miss Boynton is going with friends to her own home, and I could n’t be of any use. I propose to do what I think would be least afflicting to her by not going.” He hesitated, and presently added, tentatively, “ I believe she would prefer it.”

“ You ought to know best,” said Hatch.

“ Well, I believe that I am right. Tell her that I will not try to see her before she goes ; but — but — some other time.” He said this tentatively also, and with an odd sort of faltering, as if somehow Hatch might advise him better. “ I thank you for coming.”

“ Well, sir,” said the young fellow, standing with his feet squarely apart in the way that Ford had hated him for in Mrs. Le Roy’s parlor, “ you must do what you think is best. I want to thank you, too. Dr. Boynton was a good friend to me, and from all I hear you were a good friend to him, — at last. You’ve behaved like a man. They all say here that the doctor could n’t have got along without you.”

“ They overpraise me,” said Ford, helped to a melancholy irony by Hatch’s simple patronage.

“ No, sir,” replied Hatch, “ I don’t think so. And you must have found it pretty tough, feeling the way you did about him.”

“ No,” said Ford, “ it was not so tough as it might seem. I liked him. It is n’t a logical position ; he never squared with my ideas ; but I know now that he was a singularly upright and truthful man.”

“ That’s so, every time,” said Hatch.

“ I don’t care for my consistency in the thing; I’d rather do him justice. I ’ve come to his own ground, and yours: I want to say that when I interfered with him there in Boston he had a noble motive, and I had an ignoble one.”

“If you ’re not firing over my head,” said Hatch, “ and if I catch your meaning rightly, I’m bound to confess that the doctor had got mixed up with a pretty queer lot in the course of his researches. But he was all right himself. I pinned my faith to him, right along. But if you mean that you ’re going in for anything like spiritualism, I advise you to hush it up among yourself. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve about come to that conclusion. And I think Miss Egeria’s had enough of it.”

His mention of her name in this connection was at first puzzling, and at last so offensive to Ford that he found it harder than he had thought to say what he now said. After a dry assent to Hatch’s proposition, he added, “ I dare say you ’re right. Mr. Hatch, I treated you shabbily when we met last. I am sorry for that, and ashamed of it. I should have behaved better, if I had understood better ” —

“ Oh, I know how it was, myself,” Hatch interrupted. “ Or I did when I came to think of it,” Ford looked at him as if he did not comprehend his drift; and Hatch continued, “ It was pretty rough at the time, but I suppose I should have acted just so, in your place. Well, sir ! I hope we part better friends, now,” he said, offering his hand. “ I think that’s what the old doctor would have liked. Some of his ideas were most too large a fit for this world, but he was pretty practical about others.”

Ford took the proffered hand, and followed Hatch to his door, wholly baffled and unsettled. He longed to have it all out with him, but this was not possible, and he submitted as he best could. He had thought himself right in resolving not to follow Egeria home, or vex her with his presence before she went; but he was not sure of this now; and he spent the time intervening before her departure in an anguish of indecision. But he let her go without seeing her, and in the afternoon he went away, too.


He did not go back to his old lodging in Boston, but spent a day at a hotel till he could find other quarters. It was intolerable to think of meeting any one he knew, and he had such a horror of Mrs. Perham’s possible return that he asked at the door whether she had come back, before he went in to make ready for removal.

When the change was effected, all change seemed forever at an end. The days went by without event; he could not write, but he took up again his study with the practical chemist, and pushed on with that through an unstoried month which brought him through the bluster and chill of September to the mellow heart of October.

A chasm divided him from all that he had been, and he tried to keep from thinking across it. But his mind was full of broken glimpses of the past; of doubts of what he had done ; of vague wonder if he should ever hear from her again, and how ; of crazy purposes, broken as fast as formed, of going where he might look on her, if it might be only that, and know that she was still in life. There were terrible moments in which his heart was wrung with the possibility that bis conjecture had been all wrong, and that she might be lingering in cruel amaze that he had never made any sign to her, and puzzling over the problem which his refusal to see her, or to stand with her at her father’s grave, had left her.

One evening when he came home, he found a flat, square package, which had arrived through the mail after going first to his old address. It was directed in an old-fashioned, round hand, and it yielded softly to the touch with which he fingered it before he tore it open. It proved to hold a handkerchief, which he recognized as his own, fragrantly washed and ironed; and he found a little note pinned to it, and signed F. Plumb, explaining that the handkerchief had been found in his room. While he stood scowling at it, and trying to make out who F. Plumb was, and where he had left the handkerchief, he turned the scrap of paper over, and saw written in pencil on the back, as if the writer had wished to whisper it there,—

“ I do not know as you heard that Egeria is back with us. FRANCES.”

Now he knew, now he understood.

All the hopes that had seemed dead sprang to life again.

He caught up a paper, and looked at the time-tables. The last train passing Vardley would leave in fifteen minutes. He turned the key in his door, and two hours later he was rounding the dark point of the wooded hill that intervenes between the station and the Shaker village, where a light sparely twinkled in the window of Elihu’s shop. He had walked, as he supposed, but his pace was more like a run from the train ; and his heart thundered in his ears as he sat and panted on Elihu’s door-step, trying to gather courage to go in. At last he went in without the courage.

Elihu was amazed, certainly, but hardly disquieted. He shut upon his thumb the book that he was reading, and pushed his spectacles above his forehead. “ Friend Ford ! ” he said.

“ Yes ! ” answered the young man, still striving for breath, as he pressed the Shaker’s hand. “ I have come — I have come ” —

“ Yee,” Elihu assented ; " sit down. We did not expect you, but the family will be glad to see you. Have you kept your health ? ”

Is she well? Is she going to stay with you ? When did she come back ?” The questions thronged upon one another faster than he could utter them, and he stopped perforce again.

“ I suppose you mean Egeria. Yee, she is well. She came back last week. I — I — wrote to you from her place that she was coming back.” Elihu colored with a guilty conscience.

“ I never got your letter. I only heard two hours ago that she was with you.”

“ She only stayed to settle up things there. I don’t know as Humphrey ever told you that her grandfather left his property to her ? ”

“ I don’t know — Yes, yes, — he did.”

“ There were n’t any of her folks left there, and her father had brought her up in such a way, late years, that she was pretty much a stranger outside of her grandfather’s house. When she got back there, she found that it was more like home to her here than anywhere else. Friend Hatch stayed a spell, to help her settle up the property, and then he had to go West again. As soon as she could she came to us.”

“ Elihu,” said Ford, who had listened with but half a sense, " I have come here to speak to her. Shall I do it ? I want you to advise me. I want you to tell me ” —

“ Nay, I must not meddle or make in this business,” said the Shaker.

“ You did meddle and make in it once,” retorted Ford, unresentfully but inflexibly, “ and I recognized your right to do so, from your point of view ; I submitted to you. We can’t withdraw from each other’s confidence now. I have a claim upon your advice. Besides, in all worldly knowledge that comes through acquaintance with women, I am as much a Shaker as you are. I only know that I must speak with her. If she cares anything for me, as you said she did, I must speak. But when ? Shall I go away again, and come back after a while ? Since we last talked together have you learned anything that makes you think she would be willing to spend her life among you ? If you have, I will leave her alone. She could be at peace here ; and I — I have only brought her trouble and sorrow so far. Even if she cared for me, I would leave her to you — No, I wouldn't! I could n’t do that! By all that a man can be to a woman, I oughtn’t to do it! But what do you say ? ”

Elihu had tilted his chair upon its hind-legs, and he rocked back and forth without bringing its fore-legs, to the ground. " I have n't seen anything in her that would make me think she would like to stay with us. And I have heard that she intends to leave us as soon as she can find something to do in the world outside. Frances wants she should go to friends of hers in Boston that would help her find something. They’ve been talking about it this afternoon, and Egeria’s mind seems quite made up about going.”

“ Well,” repeated Ford, “ may I speak with her ? ”

“ I can’t answer you. I felt it a cross laid upon me to interfere against your showing your feeling for her here ; but to interfere in behalf of it is a cross which I don’t have any call to take up — twice.”

“ Can I stay here to-night ? ” asked Ford.

“ Yee. They can give you a room at the office;”

“ Do you suppose Mrs. Williams could put me up some sort of bed in my old place ? I would rather sleep there.”

“ Oh, yee, I guess so. I will step down with you and see.”

“ No, I ’ll go alone. If she can’t, I ’ll come back to the office. Good-night.”

“ Good-night,” said Elihu, with his flicker of a smile.

Ford’s bed had not been taken down, and while the farmer’s wife made it ready for him with fresh sheets he kindled a roaring fire on his hearth. He sat a long time before it, turning over and over in his mind the same doubt which had tormented him when he last sat there. But he could not believe that Frances and Elihu would have let him come back if there had been any grounds for this fear. It had burnt in his heart to ask Elihu, and solve it; but that seemed a sort of cowardice, and he had withheld the question. He would not know the truth now till he had put his own fate to the test, and spoken in defiance of whatever the answer might be.

The next morning he perceived an undercurrent of deeply subdued excitement in such of the family as he met at the office, and a sympathy which he afterwards remembered with compassion.

The brothers and sisters all shook hands with him, and, refraining from recognition of the suddenness of his return, said they were glad to see him back. “ And that’s more than we can say to some of the friends from the world outside! ” exclaimed Diantha, when her turn came. Ford was touched by this friendliness ; a man so little used to being liked might overvalue it; but he looked impatiently about for Frances, and the sisters knew how to interpret his glance.

“ She’s gone over to put the infirmary to rights a little,” Rebecca explained. She added casually, “ Egery’s over there with her, I guess. She wanted to go.”

The sisters decently turned from the door, but they stood a little way back from the window, and looked at him there as he crossed the street.

The door of the little house stood open, and Ford saw Frances within, dusting where there was no dust, and vainly rubbing the neat chairs with a cloth. The bed where Boynton had lain was dismantled: it seemed as if he might have risen to have it made for him. Ford expected to hear his voice, and a lump hung in his throat. When his sad eyes met those of Frances, he saw that hers were red with weeping. She gave her hand and said, " Good-morning, Friend Edward. I’m real glad to see you back again. We’ve all missed you. I was just thinkin’ how you and Friend Boynton seemed to have been with us always. He went to a better place; but where did you go ? Do you think the world outside is better ? I wish you could feel to stay with us, Edward ! ”

“ It is n’t possible,” said Ford, smiling sadly. “ The only point on which I should agree with you is that the world outside is not so good a place.”

“ Well, that’s a great deal.”

“ It is n’t enough.”

“ Really,” said Frances, “ it’s discouragin’ to hear you and Egery go on. You say everything that’s good of the Shakers, but you won’t be gathered in.”

“ I think everything that’s good of you. I honor and reverence you; I do everything but envy you. It’s another world that calls me.”

“ Yee,” sighed the Shakeress, “ that’s just the way with Egery. I suppose I have been here so long that I don’t see anything strange in Shakers. The other people are the ones that are strange to me. But I can see’t it’s different with Egery. She’s had so much queerness in her life already’t I guess she don’t want to have much- more. Was you surprised to hear’t she ’d got back ? ”

“ I was very glad; and I ’m very grateful to you, Frances” —

“ I s'posed the handkerchief must be yours,” Frances interrupted, with artful evasion. She went on to give some particulars of Boynton’s funeral and of their sojourn in Egeria’s old home and of her affairs. “ It was real kind and good of Friend Hatch to stay as long as he did, and help her, especially as they do say he’s engaged to be married out West, there.” Something like a luminous concussion seemed to take place in Ford’s brain. The burden suddenly lifted from his soul left him light and giddy, and he clung for support to the door-post, while Frances prattled on : “ Well, Humphrey says he’s a master-hand for business, and he’s sure to get along. He’s been a good friend to Egery, all through, and her father before her. I guess if Friend Boynton had taken his advice, there would n’t been so much sufferin’ for her. Well, she’s back with us again. But it’s only till she can find something for herself in the world outside. I suppose it’s natural for her to want to be like folks. That’s the way I look at it.”

Ford’s heart throbbed. “ Do you think I’m like folks, Frances ? ”

“Not much,” replied Frances.

“ Do you think I could be, — for her sake ? ”

A flash of joy, succeeded by a red blush, went over the pale face of the Shakeress. “ You ’d oughtn’t to talk to me of such things, Edward. You know it ain’t right.”

“I know — I know,” pleaded the young man. “I know it’s all wrong. But — but I knew you knew about it, and I thought — I thought ” —

“ She’s up in the orchard, by her apple-tree ! ” cried Frances, with hysterical abruptness. “ Don’t you say another word to me ! ” But after Ford left the room she ran to the door, and watched him going up the orchard aisle.

Egeria stood leaning against the tree, and looking another way, and she might well have been ignorant of his approach through the fallen grass, till she heard his husky voice : ■—

“I — I have come back— I would have come before, but I didn’t know you were here ” — He had some intention of excusing himself, because in his cogitations it had occurred to him that she must have wondered why he had not come. But she only turned on him that face of intense resistance, changing to question, and then to wild appeal. “ For Heaven’s sake,” he exclaimed, “don’t look at me in that way! What is the matter ? ”

“ Oh, why did you come back ? ” she cried. “Why could n’t you have stayed away, and left me in peace ? ”

He stood motionless, while his hopes seemed to fall in a tangible ruin round him. He saw now how eagerly he had built them on the fears of those fantastic communists, and how fondly he had hidden from himself all the reasons against them. He could have laughed at the ghastly wreck, but that he was too sick at heart. He moved his feet heavily, as if the long grass were fetters about them, and he tried to go; but without some other word he could not. “Well,” he said, at last, “if you ask me, I can’t tell you. I can go away again, and not molest you any more. Only, before I go, tell me — you’ve not told me yet — that you forgive me, Egeria.” Her whispered name had been so often on his lips that he now spoke it aloud for the first time without knowing it. “ Since your father is gone, I must be more hateful to you than ever. But I am going out of your way now; try to forgive me and to tell me so ! Let me have your pardon to take with me.” She broke into a low sound of weeping, while he waited for her response. “Well, I will go. It’s best for me to know finally that, although you have tolerated me here, at the bottom of your heart you have always abhorred me.”

“ No, no ! I didn’t say that.”

“Not in words, —no.”

“ But if you made me say that I forgave you ” —

“Make you say it? Nothing under heaven could make you say it! What is it you mean ? ”

She looked up, and ran her eye in piteous search over his face.

“ When you first came there, in Boston, and when you hurt me ; when we went after the leaves, and I forgot him ; when I talked with you in the garden, and blamed him; when I went with you into the woods, and neglected him, almost the last day he lived — Oh, even if I could n’t, I ought to hate you ! Did you expect — Yes, I will, — I will never let you go, now, till you tell me whether it was true. He is gone, and I have no one to help me. I shall have to do for myself; but whatever my life is to be, I am going to have it my own ; and it is n’t mine if that is true.”

“ If that is true? ” repeated Ford, in stupefaction. “ If what is true ? ”

But the impulse which had carried her to this point failed her, apparently, and left her terrified at her own daring. She cowered at the involuntary step he made toward her, as a bird stoops for flight. “ If what is true ? ” he reiterated. “ Tell me what you mean ! ”

He wondered if perhaps some rumor of his talk with Elihu had come to her, and she had wished to punish his presumption in trusting the Shaker’s conjecture regarding her; if she were resolved to wreak upon him her maidenly indignation at the community’s meddling. It seemed out of keeping with her and all the circumstances ; but he could think of nothing else, and he darkly approached it: “ If you have heard anything here that makes you think that I have come to you in anything hut the humblest, the most reverent, spirit, I beseech you not to believe it! Has Elihu — or Frances — Is it something they have said ? ”

“ No,” she said, and still shrunk away, as if he might be able to force the truth from her.

“ Then, what is it ? Surely you won’t leave me in this perplexity ? If there is anything that I can do or undo ” —

“ No ! Oh, go, for pity’s sake ! ”

“ I can’t go now,” said the young man. “ I won’t go till you have told me what you mean. You must tell me.”

She cast a strange glance at him. “If you make me tell you, that would show that it was true ; and he was right when he used to say— I don’t want to believe it! Go, and let me try to think that you came here by chance, and that you stayed for his sake. Indeed, indeed, I can get to thinking again that you never tried to influence me in that way! ”

“ In what way ? ” he asked, but now a gleam of light, lurid enough, began to steal upon his confusion. Her alternate eagerness and reluctance to he with him ; the broken questions, the gestures, the looks, the tones, that had crossed with mystery the happiness he had known with her in the last weeks before her father’s death, and made it at its sweetest fearful and insecure, recurred to him with new meaning, and a profound compassion qualified his despair, and made him gentle and patient. “ Is it possible,” he asked, “ that you mean that old delusion of your father’s about me ? And could you believe that I would try to control you against your will — to use some unnatural power over you? Ah!” he cried, “ I could n’t take even your forgiveness, now ; for you might think that I had extorted it! ” He looked sadly at her, but she did not speak, and he had a struggle to keep his pity of her from turning to execration of the unhappy man whose error could thus rise from his grave to cloud her soul; but he ruled himself,—not without an ominous remembrance of his former attempts to separate her cause from her father’s,— and brokenly continued : “ Well, I have deserved that, too. But I know that before he died your father came to a clearer mind about those things, and I believe that now, wherever he is, nothing could grieve him more than to know that he had left you in that hideous superstition.” He looked with grave tenderness at her hidden face. “ How could you think ” — and now his tone expressed his wounded self-respect as well as his sorrow for her — “ that I could be so false to both of us ? ”

“I didn’t always think,” she whispered. “I — I was afraid ” —

“ But what made you afraid that such a thing could be ? I am a brute, — I know that; I gave you early proof of that, — but I hoped there was nothing covert in me.”

“ You said once that people influenced others without knowing it; and once — that night when we came from the woods — you said it was a spell that made me lose the way, and would n’t let me blame you ” —

“ And you really had those black doubts of me in your heart ? I thought you were suffering me here because you were good and merciful. And you were always watching me to find out whether I was not using some vile magic against you ! ”

“ No, no ! Not always,” she protested, lifting her face. “ Did I say that ? ”

“ No, you did n’t say it! Well, you had the right to hurt me iu any way you could ; and I give you the satisfaction of knowing that nothing could hurt me worse than this.”

“ Oh, I did n’t mean to hurt you I Don’t think that! And I forgave you ; yes, I did forgive you! I never hated you — not even that morning there by the fountain when I thought you had hurt him. And when you said I ought, it made me wonder if what he used to say — And then I could n’t get it out of my mind ! But I never meant to tell you by a single word or look, if it killed me.”

“ I believe you. It was something not to be spoken. I think now 1 can go without your pardon. It seems to me that we are quits.”

Once more he turned to go, but she implored, all her face red with generous remorse, “ Oh, not till you’ve forgiven me! I never thought how it would seem to you. Indeed I never did! ”

He smiled sadly. “Forgive you? Oh, that’s easy. But even if it were very hard, I could do it. I can see how it has been with you from the first, and how, with what you had been taught to think of me by your father, — I don’t blame him for it; he was as helpless as you were, — you perverted my careless words and gave them a sinister meaning that I never dreamt of. But what can I do, or say, to leave you with better thoughts of me ? ”

“ I could see that you were kind and good even when I was the most afraid,” she murmured. “ But after the way we had begun together, and all that you had done to us, — and said to him, — sometimes I could n’t understand why you were here, or why you stayed, and then ” —

“ I don’t wonder ! I had n’t given you cause to expect any good of me ; and if I were to tell you why I stayed, as I once hoped I might, I could n’t make it appear an unselfish reason. Oh, my dearest! ” he cried, “ I loved you so that I could n’t have taken your love itself against your will! Ever since I first saw you, and all the time that I had lost you, my whole life was for you ; and when I found yon again, how could I help staying till you drove me from you? Good-by, and if any thought of yours has injured me let me set it against my telling you this now.” She had slowly averted her face; she did not shrink from him, but she did not return his good-by, and he waited in vain for her to speak. Then, “Shall I go?” he asked in foolish anti-climax.

“ No ” —

The blood rioted in his heart. “And do you still believe that of me ? ”

“ I believe — what you say,” she whispered.

“ But why do you believe me ? Do I make you do it ?”

“ I don’t know — yes, something makes me.”

“ Against your will ?”

“ I can’t tell.”

“ Do you think it is a spell, now?”

“ I don’t know.”

“ And are you afraid of it ? ”

“ No” —

“ What is it, Egeria ? ” he cried, and in the beseeching look which she lifted to his, their eyes tenderly met. “ Oh, my darling ! Was this the spell ” —

The rapture choked him; he caught her hand and drew her towards him.

But at this bold action, Sister Frances, who had not ceased to watch them, threw her apron over her head.


The powers of the family were heavily taxed by the consideration of a case without precedent in its annals. On the report of Sister Frances and the subsequent knowledge of Elihu, it became necessary to act at once. Probably no affair of such delicate importance had ever presented itself to a society vowed to celibacy as the fact of a courtship and proposal of marriage which had taken place with their privity, and with circumstances so peculiar that they could not wholly feel that they had withheld their approval.

“ What I look at, Elihu,” said Frances, “ is this : that we can’t any of us say but what it’s the best thing that can happen to Egery, so long as she ain’t going to be gathered in. And what I want to know is whether we’ve got to turn our backs on her because she’s doin’ the best she can, or whether we ’re goin’ to show out that we feel to rejoice with her.”

“ Nay, we can’t do that,” replied Elihu, in sore embarrassment. “ There are no two ways about it but what our natural feelings do go with her,—to some extent. I ’m free to confess that when Friend Ford came and told me, just now, I felt ” — Elihu apparently found himself not so free to confess, after all. He stopped abruptly, and added, “ But that’s neither here nor there. What we’ve got to do now is not to withhold our sympathy from these young people, who are doing right in their order, and at the same time not to relax our opposition to the principle.”

“ Love the sinner and condemn the sin,” suggested Laban.

“ Nay,” replied Elihu, rejecting the phraseology rather than the idea, “not exactly that.”

“ I can’t understand,” interposed Rebecca, with her sex’s abhorrence of an abstraction, “where and how they’re goin’ to get married. There ain’t any Shaker way of marry in’, and I don’t know what we should do with our young folks, if they got married here. I don’t suppose we should have one of ’em left by spring.”

“ Nay,” said Elihu, “ we might as well give up at once.” He rocked himself vigorously to and fro ; but his hardening face did not lose its anxious expression.

“ Where will they get married ? ” asked Rebecca. “ She has n’t got anywheres to go. Her own folks are all dead, at home, and she has n’t got any home.”

“ I don’t know. They can’t get married here,” returned Elihu.

“ They can’t go right off to a minister and get married now, so soon after her father’s death. And besides, she ain’t ready. She has n’t got anything made up.”

The question of clothes agitated even these unworldly women, and they debated and deplored Egeria’s unprepared condition, urging that she must have this, and could not do without that, till Elihu could bear it no longer. “ I feel,” he cried, “ that it is unseemly for us to consider these things ! It identifies us practically with a state which we only tolerate as part of the earthly order. We must not have anything to do with it from this time forth.”

“ Well, Elihu, what shall we do?” demanded Diantha. “ We might send him away, but we can’t turn her out-ofdoors. Do you want he should go on courtin’ her here?” Elihu opened his lips to speak, but only emitted a groan. “ We have got to bear our part. I guess the rule against marriage ain’t any stronger than the rule of love and charity, — so long as we don’t any of us marry, ourselves.”

“ Well, well!” cried Elihu, “settle it amongst you. Only remember, they can’t marry here.” He took his hat, and went into Humphrey’s room, where the latter had remained, discreetly absorbed in his accounts ; and Laban, finding himself alone with the sisters, hastened to follow Elihu. Their withdrawal was inspiration to Frances: —

“ I guess I can go down to Boston with Egery, and fix it with my sister so ’t she can stay and be married from her house whenever she gets ready.” When the sensation following her solution of the problem allowed her to speak she added, “ The question is how much it ’ll be right for us to do for her. She has n’t got a thing.”

The sisters justly understood this to mean their degree of complicity in decking Egeria for the unholy rite, and they entered into the question with the seriousness it merited. They began by agreeing with Elihu that the only way was to have nothing to do with the matter; and having appeased their consciences, they each made such concessions and sacrifices to the exigency as they must. Before spring, when the wedding took place, the sisters had found it consistent with an enlarged sense of duty to present the bride with a great number of little gifts, of an exemplary usefulness, for the most part, but not wholly inexpressive of a desire, if not a sense, of beauty. Their conceptions of the world’s fashions were too vague to allow of their contributing to the trousseau, and such small attempts as they made in that direction were overruled by Frances’s sister, a decisive and notable lady, who, however, ordained that certain of the decorative objects, as hooked rugs and embroidered tidies, were as worthy a place in Mrs. Ford’s simple house as most of the oldfashioned things that people liked nowadays.

With Frances, the question whether she should or should not be present at the wedding remained a cross which she bore all winter, and which grew sorer as the day approached. When it actually came, she meekly bowed her spirit and remained away. But she found compensation in the visit which she paid her sister directly afterwards, and which she spent chiefly in helping Egeria set in order the cottage Ford had taken in one of the suburbs. He had worked hard at his writing all winter, and they had no misgivings in beginning life on his earnings, and on the small sum Egeria had inherited from her grandfather, later.

It is now several years since their marriage, and they have never regretted their courage. They had their day of carefulness and of small things, — that happy day which all who have known it remember so fondly, — but this is already past. One of those ignoble discoveries which chemists sometimes make in their more ambitious experiments has turned itself to profit, almost without his agency, and chiefly at the suggestion of his wife, whose more practical sense perceived its general acceptability; and the sale of an ingenious combination known to all housekeepers now makes life easy to the Fords. He has given up his newspaper work, and has built himself a laboratory at the end of his garden, where the income from his invention enables him to pursue the higher chemistry, without as yet any distinct advantage to the world, but to his own content. It is observed by those who formerly knew him that marriage has greatly softened him, and Phillips professes that, robbed of his former roughness, he is no longer so fascinating. Their acquaintance can scarcely be said to have been renewed since their parting in Vardley. Ford was able to see Phillips’s innocence in what occurred; but they could never have been easy in each other’s presence after that scene, though they have met on civil terms. Phillips accounts in his own way for not seeing his former friend any more. “ As bricabrac,” he explains, when ladies inquire after their extinct acquaintance, “Ford was perpetually attractive ; but as part of the world’s ordinary furniture he can’t interest me. When he married the Pythoness, I was afraid there was too much bricabrac; but really, so far as I can hear, they have neutralized each other into the vulgarest commonplace. Do you use the Ford Fire Kindler ? He does n’t put his name to it, and that is n’t exactly the discovery that is making his fortune. He has come to that, — making money. And imagine a Pythoness with a prayer - book, who goes to the Episcopal church, and hopes to get her husband to go, too ! No, I don’t find my Bohemia in their suburb.” From time to time Phillips proposes to seek that realm in what he calls his native Europe; but he does not go.

Perhaps because Mrs. Perham is there, widowed by Mr. Perham’s third stroke of paralysis, and emancipated to the career of travel and culture, which she has illustrated in the capitals of several Latin countries. To do her justice, she never turned the water-proof affair to malicious account, nor failed to speak well of Ford, for whom she always claimed to feel an unrequited respect.

As to Hatch, one of the first of those deep and full confidences between Ford and Egeria which follow engagement related to the man in whom he had feared a rival. Egeria knew merely that Hatch had repaid with constant services some favors that her father had been able to do him in their old home, and that he had continued faithful to Boynton when all others had dropped away from him.

“ I wish I had understood how it was when he came to me there in Boston,” said Ford. He added simply, “ I treated him very badly, because I thought he was in love with you.”

“ Was that any reason why you should treat him badly ? ” asked Egeria.

Ford reflected. “ Yes, I suppose it was. I was in love with you, too. But he’s had his turn. He’s left me with the feeling that perhaps ” —

“ Perhaps what ? ”

“ Perhaps — nothing ! ”

Egeria divined what he did not say. “ He has n’t left me with that feeling,” she said reproachfully.

Since that time Hatch is no longer on the road, as he would phrase it, but has gone into business for himself at Denver, where he married last year, with duly interviewed pomp and circumstance, the daughter of one of the early settlers, a hoary patriarch of forty-three, who went to Denver as remotely as 1870. He called upon the Fords When he came East on his wedding journey, and he and Ford found themselves friends. The Western lady thought Egeria a little stiff, but real kind-hearted, and one of the most stylish-appearing persons she ever saw. In fact, Egeria shows a decided fondness for dress, and after the long hunger of her solitary girlhood she enters, with a zest which Ford cannot always share, into all the innocent pleasures of life. She likes parties and dinners and theatres; since their return from Europe she has given several picnic breakfasts, where her morning costume has been the marvel of her guests. The tradition of her life before marriage is locally very dim ; it is supposed that she left the stage to marry. This is not altogether reconcilable with the appearance of quaint people in broadbrims, or in gauze caps and tight-sleeved straight drab gowns, with whom she is sometimes seen in her suburb ; but as the Fords are known to go every summer to pass a month in an old house belonging to the Vardley Shakers, their visitors are easily accounted for.

The grass has already grown long over Boynton’s grave. They who keep his memory think compassionately of his illusions, if they were wholly illusions, but they shrink with one impulse from the dusky twilight through which he hoped to surprise immortality, and Ford feels it a sacred charge to keep Egeria’s life in the full sunshine of our common day. If Boynton has found the undiscovered country, he has sent no message back to them, and they do not question his silence. They wait, and we must all wait.

W. D. Howells.