The New Portfolio



THE sober-minded, sensible, well-instructed Dr. Butts was not a little exercised in mind by the demands made upon his knowledge by his young friend, and for the time being his pupil, Miss Lurida Vincent.

“ I don’t wonder they called her The Terror,” he said to himself. “ She is enough to frighten anybody. She has taken down old books from my shelves that I had almost forgotten the backs of, and as to the medical journals, I believe the girl could index them from memory. She is in pursuit of some special point of knowledge, I feel sure, and I cannot doubt what direction she is working in, but her wonderful way of dealing with books amazes me.”

What marvels those “ first scholars ” in the classes of our great universities and colleges are, to be sure ! They are not, as a rule, the most distinguished of their class in the long struggle of life. The chances are that “ the field ” will beat “ the favorite ” over the long racecourse. Others will develop a longer stride and more staying power. But what fine gifts those “first scholars” have received from nature ! How dull we writers, famous or obscure, are in the acquisition of knowledge as compared with them! To lead their classmates they must have quick apprehension, fine memories, thorough control of their mental faculties, strong will, power of concentration, facility of expression, — a wonderful equipment of mental faculties. I always want to take my hat off to the first scholar of his year.

Dr. Butts felt somewhat in the same way as he contemplated The Terror. She surprised him so often with her knowledge that he was ready to receive her without astonishment when she burst in upon him one day with a cry of triumph, “ Eureka ! Eureka !

“ And what have you found, my dear ? ” said the doctor.

Lurida was flushed and panting with the excitement of her new discovery.

“ I do believe that I have found the secret of our strange visitor’s dread of all human intercourse ! ”

The seasoned practitioner was not easily thrown off his balance.

“ Wait a minute and get your breath,” said the doctor. “ Are you not a little overstating his peculiarity ? It is not quite so bad as that. He keeps a man to serve him, he was civil with the people at the Old Tavern, he was affable enough, I understand, with the young fellow he pulled out of the water, or rescued somehow, — I don’t believe he avoids the whole humanu race. He does not look as if he hated them, so far as I have remarked his expression. I passed a few words with him when his man was ailing, and found him polite enough. No, I don’t believe it is much more than an extreme case of shyness, connected, perhaps, with some congenital or other personal repugnance to which has been given the name of an antipathy.”

Copyright, 1885, by HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & Co.

Lurida could hardly keep still while the doctor was speaking. When he finished, she began the account of her discovery : —

“ I do certainly believe I have found an account of his case in an Italian medical journal of about fourteen years ago. I met with a reference which led me to look over a file of the Giornale degli Ospitali lying among the old pamphlets in the medical section of the Library. I have made a translation of it, which you must read and then tell me if you do not agree with me in my conclusion.”

“ Tell me what your conclusion is, and I will read your paper and see for myself whether I think the evidence justifies the conviction you seem to have reached.”

“ Lurida’s large eyes showed their whole rounds like the two halves of a map of the world, as she said, —

“ I believe that Maurice Kirkwood is suffering from the effects of the bite of a TARANTULA! ”

The doctor drew a long breath. He remembered in a vague sort of way the stories which used to be told of the terrible Apulian spider, but he had consigned them to the limbo of medical fable where so many fictions have clothed themselves with a local habitation and a name. He looked into the round eyes and wide pupils a little anxiously, as if he feared that she was in a state of undue excitement, but, true to his professional training, he waited for another symptom, if indeed her mind was in any measure off its balance.

“ I know what you are thinkiug,” Lurida said, “ but it is not so. ‘ I am not mad, most noble Festus.’ You shall see the evidence and judge for yourself. Read the whole case, — you can read my hand almost as if it were print, — and tell me if you do not agree with me that this young man is in all probability the same person as the boy decribed in the Italian journal. One thing you might say is against the supposition. The young patient is spoken of as Signorino M . . . Ch. . . . But you must remember that ch is pronounced hard in Italian, like k, which letter is wanting in the Italian alphabet; and it is natural enough that the initial of the second name should have got changed in the record to its Italian equivalent.”

Before inviting the reader to follow the details of this extraordinary case as found in a medical journal, the holder of The Portfolio wishes to be indulged in a few words of explanation, in order that he may not have to apologize for allowing the introduction of a subject which may be thought to belong to the professional student rather than to the readers of these papers. There is a great deal in medical books which it is very unbecoming to bring before the general public, — a great deal to repel, to disgust, to alarm, to excite unwholesome curiosity. It is not the men whose duties have made them familiar with this class of subjects who are most likely to offend by scenes and descriptions which belong to the physician’s private library and not to the shelves devoted to polite literature. Goldsmith and even Smollett, both having studied and practised medicine, could not by any possibility have outraged all the natural feelings of delicacy and decency as Swift and Zola have outraged them. But without handling doubtful subjects, there are many curious medical experiences which have interest for every one as extreme illustrations of ordinary conditions with which all are acquainted. No one can study the now familiar history of clairvoyance prolitably who has not learned something of the vagaries of hysteria. No one can read understandingly the lives of Cowper and of Carlyle without having some idea of the influence of hypochondriasis and of dyspepsia upon the disposition and intellect of the subjects of these maladies. I need not apologize, therefore, for giving publicity to that part of this narrative which deals with one of the most singular maladies to be found in the records of bodily and mental infirmities.

The following is the account of the case as translated by Miss Vincent. For obvious reasons the whole name was not given in the original paper, and for similar reasons the date of the event and the birthplace of the patient are not precisely indicated here.

[Giornale degli Ospitali, Luglio 21, 18—.]


“ The great interest attaching to the very singular and exceptional instance of this rare affection induces us to give a full account of the extraordinary example of its occurrence in a patient who was the subject of a recent medical consultation in this city.

“ Signorino M . . . Ch . . . is the only son of a gentleman travelling in Italy at this time. He is eleven years of age, of sanguine-nervous temperament, light hair, blue eyes, intelligent countenance, well grown, but rather slight in form, to all appearance in good health, but subject to certain peculiar and anomalous nervous symptoms, of which his father gives this history.

“ Nine years ago, the father informs us, he was travelling in Italy with his wife, this child, and a nurse. They were passing a few days in a country village near the city of Bari, capital of the province of the same name in the division (compartimento) of Apulia. The child was in perfect health and had never been affected by any serious illness. On the 10th of July he was playing out in the field near the house where the family was staying when he was heard to scream suddenly and violently. The nurse rushing to him found him in great pain, saying that something had bitten him in one of his feet. A laborer, one Tommaso, ran up at the moment and perceived in the grass, near where the boy was standing, an enormous spider, which he at once recognized as a tarantula. He managed to catch the creature in a large leaf, from which he was afterwards transferred to a widemouthed bottle, where he lived without any food for a month or more. The creature was covered with short hairs, and had a pair of nipper-like jaws, with which he could inflict an ugly wound. His body measured about an inch in length, and from the extremity of one of the longest limbs to the other was between two and three inches. Such was the account given by the physician to whom the peasant carried the great spider.

“ The boy who had been bitten continued sereaming violently while his stocking was being removed and the foot examined. The place of the bite was easily found and the two marks of the claw-like jaws already showed the effects of the poison, a small livid circle extending around them, with some puffy swelling. The distinguished Dr. Amadei was immediately sent for and applied cups over the wounds in the hope of drawing forth the poison. In vain all his skill and efforts ! Soon, ataxic (irregular) nervous symptoms declared themselves, and it became plain that the system had been infected by the poison.

“ The symptoms were very much like those of malignant fever, such as distress about the region of the heart, difficulty of breathing, collapse of all the vital powers, threatening immediate death. From these first symptoms the child rallied, but his entire organism had been profoundly affected by the venom circulating through it. His constitution has never thrown off the malady resulting from this toxic (poisonous) agent. The phenomena which have been observed in this young patient correspond so nearly with those enumerated in the elaborate essay of the celebrated Baglivi that one might think they had been transcribed from his pages.

“ He is very fond of solitude, — of wandering about in churchyards and other lonely places. He was once found hiding in an empty tomb, which had been left open. His aversion to certain colors is remarkable. Generally speaking, he prefers bright tints to darker ones, but his likes and dislikes are capricious, and with regard to some colors his antipathy amounts to positive horror. Some shades have such an effect upon him that he cannot remain in the room with them, and if he meets any one whose dress has any of that particular color, he will turn away or retreat so as to avoid passing that person. Among these, purple and dark green are the least endurable. He cannot explain the sensations which these obnoxious colors produce except by saying that it is like the deadly feeling from a blow on the epigastrium (pit of the stomach).

“ About the same season of the year at which the tarantular poisoning took place he is liable to certain nervous seizures, not exactly like fainting or epilepsy, but reminding the physician of those affections : all the other symptoms are aggravated at this time.

“ In other respects than those mentioned the boy is in good health. He is fond of riding, and has a pony on which he takes a great deal of exercise, which seems to do him more good than any other remedy.

“ The influence of music, to which so much has been attributed by popular belief and even by the distinguished Professor to whom we shall again refer, has not as yet furnished any satisfactory results. If the graver symptoms recur while the patient is under our observation, we propose to make use of an agency discredited by modern skepticism, but deserving of a fair trial as an exceptional remedy for an exceptional disease.

“ The following extracts from the work of the celebrated Italian physician of the last century are given by the writer of the paper in the Giornale in the original Latin, with a translation into Italian, subjoined. Here are the extracts, or rather here is a selection from them, with a translation of them into English.

“ After mentioning the singular aversion to certain colors shown by the subject of tarantism, Baglivi writes as follows : —

‘ Et si astantes incedant vestibus eo colore diffusis, qui Tarantatis ingratus est, necesse est ut ab illorum aspectu recedant ; nam ad intuitum molesti coloris angore cordis, et symptomatum recrudescantia statim corripiuntur.' (G. Baglivi, Op. Omnia, page 614. Lugduni, 1745.)

“ That is, ‘ if the persons about the patient wear dresses of the color which is offensive to him, he must get away from the sight of them ; for on seeing the obnoxious color he is at once seized with distress in the region of the heart, and a renewal of his symptoms.’

“ As to the recurrence of the malady, Baglivi says : —

'Dum color solis ardentius exurere incipit, quod contingit circa initia Julii et Augusti, Tarantati lente venientem recrudescentiam veneni percipiunt.’ (Ibid, page 619.)

“ Which I render, ‘When the heat of the sun begins to burn more fiercely, which happens about the beginning of July and August, the subjects of Tarantism perceive the gradually approaching recrudescence (returning symptoms) of the poisoning.' Among the remedies most valued by this illustrious physician is that mentioned in the following sentence.

“' Laudo magnopere equitationes in aëre rusticano factas singulis diebus, harâ potissimum matutina, quibus equitationibus morbos chronicos pene incurabiles protinus eliminavi.’

Or in translation, —

“'I commend especially riding on horseback in country air, every day, by preference in the morning hours, by the aid of which horseback riding I have driven off chronic diseases which were almost incurable.' ”

Miss Vincent read this paper aloud to Dr. Butts, and handed it to him to examine and consider. He listened with a grave countenance and devout attention.

As she finished reading her account, she exclaimed in the passionate tones of the deepest conviction : —

“ There, doctor ! Have n’t I found the true story of this strange visitor ? Have n’t I solved the riddle of the sphinx ? Who can this man be but the boy of that story ? Look at the date of the journal when he was eleven years old ; it would make him twenty-five now, and that is just about the age the people here think he must be of. What could account so entirely for his ways and actions, as that strange poisoning which produces the state they call tarantism ? I am just as sure it must be that as I am that I am alive. Oh, doctor, doctor, I must be right, — this Signorino M . . . Ch . . . was the boy Maurice Kirkwood, and the story accounts for everything, — his solitary habits, his dread of people, — it must be because they wear the colors he can’t bear. His morning rides on horseback, his coming here just as the season was approaching which would aggravate all his symptoms, — does n’t all this prove that I must be right in my conjecture, — no, my conviction ? ”

The doctor knew too much to interrupt the young enthusiast, and so he let her run on until she ran down. He was more used to the rules of evidence than she was, and could not accept her positive conclusion so readily as she would have liked to have him. He knew that beginners are very apt to make what they think are discoveries. But he had been an angler and knew the meaning of a yielding rod and an easy-running reel. He said quietly, —

“ You are a most sagacious young lady, and a very pretty prima facie case it is that you make out. I can see no proof that Mr. Kirkwood is not the same person as the M . . . Ch ... of the medical journal, — that is, if I accept your explanation of the difference in the initials of these two names. Even if there were a difference, that would not disprove their identity, for the initials of patients whose cases are reported by their physicians are often altered for the purpose of concealment. I do not know, however, that Mr. Kirkwood has shown any special aversion to any particular color. It might be interesting to inquire whether it is so, but it is a delicate matter. I don’t exactly see whose business it is to investigate Mr. Maurice Kirkwood’s idiosyncrasies and constitutional history. If he should have occasion to send for me at any time, he might tell me all about himself,— in confidence, you know. These old accounts from Baglivi are curious and interesting, but I am cautious about receiving any stories a hundred years old, if they involve an improbability, as his stories about the cure of the tarantula bite by music certainly do. I am disposed to wait for future developments, bearing the very singular case you have unearthed in mind, of course. It would n’t be very strange if our young gentleman had to send for me before the season is over. He is out a good deal before the dew is off the grass, which is rather risky in this neighborhood as autumn comes on. I am somewhat curious, I confess, about the young man, but I do not meddle where I am not asked for or wanted, and I have found that eggs hatch just as well if you let them alone in the nest, as if you take them out and shake them every day. This is a wonderfully interesting supposition of yours, and may prove to be strictly in accordance with the facts. But I do not think we have all the facts in this young man’s case. If it were proved that he had an aversion to any color, it would greatly strengthen your case. His ‘autipatia,’ as his man called it, must be one which covers a wide ground, to account for his self-isolation, — and the color hypothesis seems as plausible as any. But, my dear Miss Vincent, I think you had better leave your singular and striking hypothesis in my keeping for a while, rather than let it get abroad in a community like this, where so many tongues are in active exercise. I will carefully study this paper, if you will leave it with me, and we will talk the whole matter over. It is a fair subject for speculation, only we must keep quiet about it.”

This long speech gave Lurida’s perfervid brain time to cool off a little. She left the paper with the doctor, telling him she would come for it the next day, and went off to tell the result of this visit to her bosom friend, Miss Euthymia Tower.



The doctor was troubled in thinking over his interview with the young lady. She was fully possessed with the idea that she had discovered the secret which had defied the most sagacious heads of the village. It was of no use to oppose her while her mind was in an excited state. But he felt it his duty to guard her against any possible results of indiscretion into which her eagerness and her theory of the equality, almost the identity, of the sexes might betray her. Too much of the woman in a daughter of our race leads her to forget danger. Too little of the woman prompts her to defy it. Fortunately for this last class of women, they are not quite so likely to be perilously seductive as their more emphatically feminine sisters.

Dr. Butts had known Lurida and her friend from the days of their infancy. He had watched the development of Lurida’s intelligence from its precocious nursery-life to the full vigor of its trained faculties. He had looked with admiration on the childish beauty of Euthymia, and seen her grow up to womanhood, every year making her more attractive. He knew that if anything was to be done with his self-willed young scholar and friend, it would be more easily effected through the medium of Euthymia, than by direct advice to the young lady herself. So the thoughtful doctor made up his mind to have a good talk with Euthymia, and put her on her guard, if Lurida showed any tendency to forget the conventionalities in her eager pursuit of knowledge.

For the doctor’s horse and chaise to stop at the door of Miss Euthymia Tower’s parental home was an event strange enough to set all the tongues in the village going. This was one of those families where illness was hardly looked for among the possibilities of life. There were other families where a call from the doctor was hardly more thought of than a call from the baker. But here he was a stranger, at least on his professional rounds, and when he asked for Miss Euthymia, the servant, who knew his face well, stared as if he had held in his hand a warrant for her apprehension.

Euthymia did not keep the doctor waiting very long while she made ready to meet him. One look at her glass to make sure that a lock had not run astray, or a ribbon got out of place, and her toilet for a morning call was finished. Perhaps if Mr. Maurice Kirkwood had been announced, she might have taken a second look, but with the good middleaged, married doctor, one was enough for a young lady who had the gift of making all the dresses she wore look well, and had no occasion to treat her chamber like the laboratory where an actress compounds herself.

Euthymia welcomed the doctor very heartily. She could not help suspecting his errand, and she was very glad to have a chance to talk over her friend’s schemes and fancies with him.

The doctor began without any roundabout prelude.

“ I want to confer with you about our friend Lurida. Does she tell you all her plans and projects ? ”

“ Why, as to that, doctor, I can hardly say, positively, but I do not believe she keeps back anything of importance from me. I know what she has been busy with lately, and the queer idea she has got into her head. What do you think of the Tarantula business ? She has shown you the paper she has written, I suppose.”

“ Indeed she has. It is a very curious case she has got hold of, and I do not wonder at all that she should have felt convinced that she had come at the true solution of the village riddle. It may be that this young man is the same person as the boy mentioned in the Italian medical journal. But it is very far from clear that he is so. You know all her reasons, of course, as you have read the story. The times seem to agree well enough. It is easy to conceive that Ch might be substituted for K in the report. The singular solitary habits of this young man entirely coincide with the story. If we could only find out whether he has any of these feelings with reference to certain colors, we might guess with more chance of guessing right than we have at present. But I don’t see exactly how we are going to submit him to examination on this point. If he were only a chemical compound, we could analyze him. If he were only a bird or a quadruped, we could find out his likes and dislikes. But being, as he is, a young man, with ways of his own, and a will of his own, which he may not choose to have interfered with, the problem becomes more complicated. I hear that a newspaper correspondent has visited him so as to make a report to his paper, — do you know what he found out ? ”

“ Certainly I do, very well. My brother has heard his own story, which was this : He found out he had got hold of the wrong person to interview. The young gentleman, he says, interviewed him, so that he did not learn much about the sphinx. But the newspaper man told Willy about the sphinx’s library and a cabinet of coins he had; and said he should make an article out of him, anyhow. I wish the man would take himself off. I am afraid Lurida’s love of knowledge will get her into trouble ! ”

Which of the men do you wish would take himself off ? ”

“ I was thinking of the newspaper man.”

She blushed a little as she said, “ I can’t help feeling a strange sort of interest about the other, Mr. Kirkwood. Do you know that I met him this morning, and had a good look at him, full in the face ? ”

“ Well, to be sure! That was an interesting experience. And how did you like his looks ? ”

“ I thought his face a very remarkable one. But he looked very pale as he passed me, and I noticed that he put his hand to his left side as if he had a twinge of pain, or something of that sort, — spasm or neuralgia, — I don’t know what. I wondered whether he had what you call angina pectoris. It was the same kind of look and movement I remember, as you must, too, in my uncle who died with that complaint.”

The doctor was silent for a moment. Then he asked, “ Were you dressed as you are now ? ”

“ Yes, I was, except that I had a thin mantle over my shoulders. I was out early, and I have always remembered your caution.”

“ What color was your mantle ? ”

It was black. I have been over all this with Lurida. A black mantle on a white dress. A straw hat with an old faded ribbon. There can’t be much in those colors to trouble him, I should think, for his man wears a black coat and white linen, — more or less white, as you must have noticed, and he must have seen ribbons of all colors often enough. But Lurida believes it was the ribbon, or something in the combination of colors. Her head is full of Tarantulas and Tarantism. I fear that she will never be easy until the question is settled by actual trial. And will you believe it? the girl is determined in some way to test her supposition ! ”

“ Believe it, Euthymia ! I can believe almost anything of Lurida. She is the most irrepressible creature I ever knew. You know as well as I do what a complete possession any ruling idea takes of her whole nature. I have had some fears lest her zeal might run away with her discretion. It is a great deal easier to get into a false position than to get out of it.”

“ I know it well enough. I want you to tell me what you think about the whole business. I don’t like the look of it at all, and yet I can do nothing with the girl except let her follow her fancy, until I can show her plainly that she will get herself into trouble in some way or other. But she is ingenious, — full of all sorts of devices, innocent enough in themselves, but liable to be misconstrued. You remember how she won us the boat-race ? ”

“ To be sure I do. It was rather sharp practice, but she felt she was paying off an old score. The classical story of Atalanta, told, like that of Eve, as illustrating the weakness of woman, provoked her to make trial of the powers of resistance in the other sex. But it was audacious. I hope her audacity will not go too far. You must watch her. Keep an eye on her correspondence.”

The doctor had great confidence in the good sense of Lurida’s friend. He felt sure that she would not let Lurida commit herself by writing foolish letters to the subject of her speculations, or similar indiscreet performances. The boldness of young girls, who think no evil, in opening correspondence with idealized personages is something quite astonishing to those who have had an opportunity of knowing the facts. Lurida had passed the most dangerous age, but her theory of the equality of the sexes made her indifferent to the bylaws of social usage. She required watching, and her two guardians were ready to check her, in case of need.



Euthymia noticed that her friend had been very much preoccupied for two or three days. She found her more than once busy at her desk, with a manuscript before her, which she turned over and placed inside the desk, as Euthymia entered.

This desire of concealment was not what either of the friends expected to see in the other. It showed that some project was under way, which, at least in its present stage, the Machiavellian young lady did not wish to disclose. It had cost her a good deal of thought and care, apparently, for her waste-basket was full of scraps of paper, which looked as if they were the remains of a manuscript like that at which she was at work. “ Copying and recopying, probably,” thought Euthymia, but she was willing to wait to learn what Lurida was busy about, though she had a suspicion that it was something in which she might feel called upon to interest herself.

“ Do you know what I think ? ” said Euthymia to the doctor, meeting him as he left his door. “ I believe Lurida is writing to this man, and I don’t like the thought of her doing such a thing. Of course she is not like other girls in many respects, but other people will judge her by the common rules of life.”

“ I am glad that you spoke of it,” answered the doctor ; “ she would write to him just as quickly as to any woman of his age. Besides, under the cover of her office, she has got into the way of writing to anybody. I think she has already written to Mr. Kirkwood, asking him to contribute a paper for the Society. She can find a pretext easily enough if she has made up her mind to write. In fact, I doubt if she would trouble herself for any pretext at all if she decided to write. Watch her well. Don’t let any letter go without seeing it, if you can help it.”

Young women are much given to writing letters to persons whom they only know indirectly, for the most part through their books, and especially to romancers and poets. Nothing can be more innocent and simple-hearted than most of these letters. They are the spontaneous outflow of young hearts easily excited to gratitude for the pleasure which some story or poem has given them, and recognizing their own thoughts, their own feelings, in those expressed by the author, as if on purpose for them to read. Undoubtedly they give great relief to solitary young persons, who must have some ideal reflection of themselves, and know not where to look since protestantism has taken away the crucifix and the Madonna. The recipient of these letters sometimes wonders, after reading through one of them, how it is that his young correspondent has managed to fill so much space with her simple message of admiration or of sympathy.

Lurida did not belong to this particular class of correspondents, but she could not resist the law of her sex, whose thoughts naturally surround themselves with superabundant drapery of language, as their persons float in a wide superfluity of woven tissues. Was she indeed writing to this unknown gentleman ? Euthymia questioned her pointblank.

“ Are you going to open a correspondence with Mr. Maurice Kirkwood, Lurida ? You seem to be so busy writing, I can think of nothing else. Or are you going to write a novel, or a paper for the Society, — do tell me what you are so much taken up with.”

“ I will tell you, Euthymia, if you will promise not to find fault with me for carrying out my plan as I have made up my mind to do. You may read this letter before I seal it, and if you find anything in it you don’t like, you can suggest any change that you think will improve it. I hope you will see that it explains itself. I don’t believe that you will find anything to frighten you in it.”

This is the letter, as submitted to Miss Tower by her friend. The bold handwriting made it look like a man’s letter, and gave it consequently a less dangerous expression than that which belongs to the tinted and often fragrant sheet with its delicate thready characters, which slant across the page like an April shower with a south wind chasing it.


MY DEAR SIR, — You will doubtless be surprised at the sight of a letter like this from one whom you only know as the Secretary of the Pansophian Society. There is a very common feeling that it is unbecoming in one of my sex to address one of your own with whom she is unacquainted, unless she has some special claim upon his attention. I am by no means disposed to concede to the vulgar prejudice on this point. If one human being has anything to communicate to another, — anything which deserves being communicated, — I see no occasion for bringing in the question of sex. I do not think the homo sum of Terence can be claimed for the male sex as its private property on general any more than on grammatical grounds.

I have sometimes thought of devoting myself to the noble art of healing. If I did so, it would be with the fixed purpose of giving my whole powers to the service of humanity. And if I should carry out that idea, should I refuse my care and skill to a suffering fellow-mortal because that mortal happened to be a brother, and not a sister ? My whole nature protests against such one-sided humanity ! No ! I am blind to all distinctions when my eyes are opened to any form of suffering, to any spectacle of want.

You may ask me why I address you, whom I know little or nothing of, and to whom such an advance may seem presumptuous and intrusive. It is because I was deeply impressed by the paper which I attributed to you, — that on Ocean, River, and Lake, which was read at one of our meetings. I say that I was deeply impressed, but I do not mean this as a compliment to that paper. I am not bandying compliments now, but thinking of better things than praises or phrases. I was interested in the paper, partly because I recognized some of the feelings expressed in it as my own,— partly because there was an undertone of sadness in all the voices of nature as you echoed them which made me sad to hear, and which I could not help longing to cheer and enliven. I said to myself, I should like to hold communion with the writer of that paper. I have had my lonely hours and days, as he has had. I have had some of his experiences in my intercourse with nature. And oh! if I could draw him into those better human relations which await us all, if we come with the right dispositions, I should blush if I stopped to inquire whether I violated any conventional rule or not.

You will understand me, I feel sure. You believe, do you not? in the insignificance of the barrier which divides the sisterhood from the brotherhood of mankind. You believe, do you not? that they should be educated side by side, that they should share the same pursuits, due regard being had to the fitness of the particular individual for hard or light work, as it must always be, whether we are dealing with the “ stronger ” or the " weaker ” sex. I mark these words because, notwithstanding their common use, they involve so much that is not true. Stronger! Yes, to lift a barrel of flour, or a barrel of cider, —though there have been women who could do that, and though when John Wesley was mobbed in Staffordshire a woman knocked down three or four men, one after another, until she was at last overpowered and nearly murdered. Talk about the weaker sex! Go and see Miss Euthymia Tower at the gymnasium ! But no matter about which sex has the strongest muscles. Which has most to suffer, and which has most endurance and vitality ? We go through many ordeals which you are spared, but we outlast you in mind and body. I have been led away into one of my accustomed trains of thought, but not so far away from it as you might at first suppose.

My brother ! Are you not ready to recognize in me a friend, an equal, a sister, who can speak to you as if she had been reared under the same roof ? And is not the sky that covers us one roof, which makes us all one family ? You are lonely, you must be longing for some human fellowship. Take me into your confidence. What is there that you can tell me to which I cannot respond with sympathy ? What saddest note in your spiritual dirges which will not find its chord in mine ?

I long to know what influence has cast its shadow over your existence. I myself have known what it is to carry a brain that never rests in a body that is always tired. I have defied its infirmities, and forced it to do my bidding. You have no such hindrance, if we may judge by your aspect and habits. You deal with horses like a Homeric hero. No wild Indian could handle his bark canoe more dexterously or more vigorously than we have seen you handling yours. There must be some reason for your seclusion which curiosity has not reached, and into which it is not the province of curiosity to inquire. But in the irresistible desire which I have to bring you into kindly relations with those around you, I must run the risk of giving offence that I may know in what direction to look for those restorative influences which the sympathy of a friend and sister can offer to a brother in need of some kindly impulse to change the course of a life which is not, which cannot be, in accordance with his true nature.

I have thought that there may be something in the conditions with which you are here surrounded which is repugnant to your feelings, — something which can be avoided only by keeping yourself apart from the people whose acquaintance you would naturally have formed. There can hardly be anything in the place itself, or you would not have voluntarily sought it as a residence, even for a single season. There might be individuals here whom you would not care to meet, — there must be such, but you cannot have a personal aversion to everybody. I have heard of cases in which certain sights and sounds, which have no particular significance for most persons, produced feelings of distress or aversion that made them unbearable to the subjects of the constitutional dislike. It has occurred to me that possibly you might have some such natural aversion to the sounds of the street, or such as are heard in most houses, especially where a piano is kept, as it is in fact in almost all of those in the village. Or it might be, I imagined, that some color in the dresses of women or the furniture of our rooms affected you unpleasantly. I know that instances of such antipathy have been recorded, and they would account for the seclusion of those who are subject to it.

If there is any removable condition which interferes with your free entrance into and enjoyment of the social life around you, tell me, I beg of you, tell me what it is, and it shall be eliminated. Think it not strange, O my brother, that I thus venture to introduce myself into the hidden chambers of your life. I will never suffer myself to be frightened from the carrying out of any thought which promises to be of use to a fellow-mortal by a fear lest it should be considered “unfeminine.” I can bear to be considered unfeminine, but I cannot endure to think of myself as inhuman. Can I help you, my brother ?

Believe me your most sincere well-wisher, LURIDA VINCENT.

Euthymia had carried off this letter and read it by herself. As she finished it, her feelings found expression in an old phrase of her grandmother’s, which came up of itself, as such survivals of early days are apt to do, on great occasions.

“ Well, I never ! ”

Then she loosened some button or string that was too tight and went to the window for a breath of out-door air.

Then she began at the beginning and read the whole letter all over again.

What should she do about it ? She could not let this young girl send a letter like that to a stranger of whose character little was known except by inference,— to a young man, who would consider it a most extraordinary advance on the part of the sender. She would have liked to tear it into a thousand pieces, but she had no right to treat it in that way. Lurida meant to send it the next morning, and in the mean time Euthymia had the night to think over what she should do about it.

There is nothing like the pillow for an oracle. There is no voice like that which breaks the silence of the stagnant hours of the night with its sudden suggestions and luminous counsels. When Euthymia awoke in the morning, her course of action was as clear before her as if it had been dictated by her guardian angel. She went straight over to the home of Lurida, who was just dressed for breakfast.

She was naturally a little surprised at this early visit. She was struck with the excited look of Euthymia, being herself quite calm, and contemplating her project with entire complacency.

Euthymia began, in tones that expressed deep anxiety.

“ I have read your letter, my dear, and admired its spirit and force. It is a fine letter, and does you great credit as an expression of the truest human feeling. But it must not be sent to Mr. Kirkwood. If you were sixty years old, perhaps if you were fifty, it might be admissible to send it. But if you were forty, I should question its propriety ; if you were thirty, I should veto it, and you are but a little more than twenty. How do you know that this stranger will not show your letter to anybody or everybody? How do you know that he will not send it to one of the gossiping journals like the Household Inquisitor ? But supposing he keeps it to himself, which is more than you have a right to expect, what opinion is he likely to form of a young lady who invades his privacy with such freedom ? Ten to one he will think curiosity is at the bottom of it, — and, — come, don’t be angry at me for suggesting it, — may there not be a little of that same motive mingled with the others ? No, don’t interrupt me quite yet, you do want to know whether your hypothesis is correct. You are full of the best and kindest feelings in the world, but your desire for knowledge is the ferment under them just now, perhaps more than you know.”

Lurida’s pale cheeks flushed and whitened more than once while her friend was speaking. She loved her too sincerely and respected her intelligence too much to take offence at her advice, but she could not give up her humane and sisterly intentions merely from the fear of some awkward consequences to herself. She had persuaded herself that she was playing the part of a Protestant sister of charity, and that the fact of her not wearing the costume of these ministering angels made no difference in her relations to those who needed her aid.

“ I cannot see your objections in the light in which they appear to you,” she said gravely. “ It seems to me that I give up everything when I hesitate to help a fellow-creature because I am a woman. I am not afraid to send this letter and take all the consequences.”

“ Will you go with me to the doctor’s, and let him read it in our presence ? And will you agree to abide by his opinion, if it coincides with mine ? ”

Lurida winced a little at this proposal. “ I don’t quite like,” she said, “ showing this letter to — to ” — she hesitated, but it had to come out — “ to a man, — that is, to another man than the one for whom it was intended.”

The neuter gender business had got a pretty damaging side-hit.

“ Well, never mind about letting him read the letter. Will you go over to his house with me at noon, when he comes back after his morning visits, and have a talk over the whole matter with him? You know I have sometimes had to say must to you, Lurida, and now I say you must go to the doctor’s with me and carry that letter.”

There was no resisting the potent monosyllable as the sweet but firm voice delivered it. At noon the two maidens rang at the doctor’s door. The servant said he had been at the house after his morning visits, but found a hasty summons to Mr. Kirkwood, who had been taken suddenly ill and wished to see him at once. — Was the illness dangerous ? The servant-maid did n’t know, but thought it was pretty bad, for Mr. Paul came in as white as a sheet, and talked all sorts of languages which she could n’t understand, and took on as if he thought Mr. Kirkwood was going to die right off.

And so the hazardous question about sending the letter was disposed of, at least for the present.

Oliver Wendell Holmes.