So long the silence continued, so strangely did it all at once seem imbued with a momentous meaning, that there was evident trepidation underlying the impatience in Felicia’s voice when she again spoke.
What is your profession ? ” she asked.
“ Felicia,” said Kennett, looking into her eyes, “ I am a singer. That is my profession.”
“A singer?” she repeated, vaguely. " Do you mean a professional singer ? In opera ? ”
She gazed at him blankly.
“ Now that I think of it,” he continued, “ I cannot remember ever mentioning it. But how could I dream that you did not understand! The name is so well known, it. is placarded on every blank wall; it is in every newspaper.”
He glanced about him, observed the programme she had thrown, with her hat, on the table, rose suddenly, and walked swiftly across the room. As her eyes followed him, she realized now that a quality which she had thought a natural gift — his grace, a certain deftness and suppleness of movement and attitude, and even his appropriateness of manner—was only the prosaic result of professional training in gait and pose; a sordid acquisition, worked for, paid for ; part of a stock in trade, an available asset.
It was with a certain inconsequence that because of this utilitarian value she felt, in the midst of the whirl of emotion in which she was abruptly involved, a definite sharp pang, — she, whose talent in what might be called the art of deportment had also been assiduously cultivated for merely ornamental purposes. Her sudden chagrin that he was thus deprived of an endowment of æsthetic worth, with which her respectful estimate had invested him, was only a sentimental grief, but at the moment it was almost a sense of bereavement.
He returned to his place with the programme in his hand, and showed her that printed opposite to Prince Roderic was the name of Hugh Kennett.
“ You never heard of me ? ” he asked.
There are many degrees in notability. He could hardly realize it, but she never had.
“ It is strange that you never heard of me,” he said, meditatively. “ Did they never take you to the opera, when you were at school here in New York ? ”
“ They took us to the Italian opera on Patti nights, and when there were other great .stars, and they often took us to the German opera,” said Felicia, “ but they did n’t seem to—well— to think a great deal of English light opera.”
He was a polite man, and, what is more to the purpose, he was in love. He did not openly sneer, “ Fine judges ! ” but there was much of resentful protest in the sarcastic gleam in his eye.
You did not know me, then, this afternoon, in costume ? ” he resumed.
“ No,” said Felicia, faintly.
“And you did not recognize my voice ? ”
“ No; I never heard you sing.”
“ But sometimes there is speaking.”
“ I remember that once or twice when he spoke — when you spoke — I was affected strangely, but I only thought it was a marvelous resemblance. I did not dream of anything more. How could I ! Then the singing recommenced, and I began to think about—about something else. I did not even look at that programme. My mind was absorbed. I did not notice anything very much.”
“ I thought I spoke of my profession to your brother, the evening I was introduced to him, though I had no definite intention. I supposed he knew all about it, as a matter of course.”
“ You merely mentioned business.”
After a pause he said : —
“ I knew you this afternoon, in a moment, among all those people. As soon as the performance was over I changed my dress as quickly as possible, and hurried to the street in the hope of seeing you. And when you said to your young friend that you were infatuated with the tenor I overheard it. I thought you felt that you had treated me badly in not answering my letter, and wanted me to hear it. I thought you said it under a sudden impulse to make amends.”
“ Oh, no, no. It was only a jest, — a very poor jest. I did n’t imagine that you were the tenor. It was the merest accident.”
There was another pause. Then he took her hand. “ You are not going to let this come between us ? ” he said. “ There are singers — and singers. I have a very respectable place. I may say without vanity that I stand high. I expect to stand much higher.”
He lifted his head with a quick movement ; his eyes were alight.
“ I shall do some good work ! ” he exclaimed, the tense vibration of elation in his strong, expressive voice. “ Some day I shall sing the great Wagnerian tenor rôles as they have never yet been sung. I don’t talk and boast beforehand, but I will do much to be proud of. So far I have only lacked fair opportunities, but they will come; and I am ready for them.”
That latent capacity for expression, ordinarily not more than suggested in his severely regular features, was distinctly manifest now. His face was transfigured with the light, the hope, the exultation, upon it. He wore the look of a man on the verge of achievement. — perchance on the threshold of some discovery in physics which was to revolutionize mechanical science ; or thus, perhaps, might look a general suddenly evolving a feat of strategy whereby the enemy would be surrounded, a statesman holding the destiny of a nation in his hand.
So intent of purpose, so prescient of success, so reverent of faith in the worthiness of those aims he held dear, was his face with that expression upon it, she might only gaze at him in wonder.
For she? She had as much of fashionable musical feeling as might remain to her of her fashionable musical education. She might speak knowingly, in the estimation of unmusical people, of notable productions. If in those moonlit evening talks they had ever chanced on the subject, it might have amused him to have heard her prattle enriched by such expressions as “tone color,” “ close harmony,” “ technique,” “phrasing,” “ contrapuntal effect.” In her naive assumption of dilettanteism she was perfectly sincere. With the happy confidence of ignorance she fancied she knew something of the art; she even had some faint idea that as a science it held certain values, perhaps important values ; she was aware that there are schools and movements in varied directions ; she apprehended, too, that there is an ascending scale in lyric achievement, —gradations, for example, between the rôles of Nanki Poo, Don Cæsar, Manrieo, Vasco di Gama, and Lohengrin. But in essentials, regarded from the sensible and mundane vantageground of a fine social position, with the conservatism and common sense of its atmosphere and traditions, what did this amount to? They were all tenor rôles, the possibility of an aspiration infinitely removed from any sympathies, except of a purely æsthetic and impersonal sort, which she might be expected to entertain. That such achievement might be the serious ambition, invested with force, dignity, absorption, of an earnest nature, endowed with a highly intelligent, even a highly intellectual organization ; that such a goal could be lifted to so elevated a plane of endeavor, she first realized from the look in his face.
That exultant look passed. He drew a long sigh.
” Ah, well, he said, his eyes seeking hers with a smile, “ a wise man will not forecast futurity. We had best confine our attention just now to the present; that is simple and practical. The present, as it happens, is sufficiently satisfactory. I am in demand with managers. I get a good salary. As to the profession ” — He hesitated ; his color rose. “ I don’t apologize for the profession, I am not ashamed of it. Although I am a singer, I hope I am a gentleman.”
Felicia withdrew her hand from his. “ Don’t argue it with me,” she said. “ Let me think it out and decide for myself.”
She crossed the room to the window, and stood leaning against the frame, while he sat silent, watching her. It was well for his peace that he did not realize the struggle in the mind of Madame Sevier’s pupil and John Hamilton’s sister. To be gayly and impersonally infatuated with the tenor was one thing ; to be in love with the man was a different and a much more complicated matter. Her natural bent and the acquired influences that had made her what she was placed her in revolt against this culmination. The atmosphere she had breathed was as aristocratic as the free air of a republic can be. She understood remarkably well — especially considering the fact that she had never known their deprivation—the worth of an established position in society, the value of fortune, its subtler us well as its practical value. Heretofore she had been unaware that she had gauged these things, — one does not consciously appraise the air one breathes. Now that it was brought before her she could accede to the proposition without fully realizing it, that outside her world there was a world with other standards of excellence, other estimates of values, other objects of ambition. It might be a very talented, highly artistic world, but it was not hers. The John Hamiltons, the Mrs. Stanley-Brants, the Madame Seviers, the Mrs. Graftons, — the code they exemplified, the life they typified, the status they expressed, — these made her world. And even in this alien sphere of his he was not eminent; he was merely a notable member of a moderately meritorious organization. In a crisis like this dormant intuitions abruptly develop into knowledge. She was suddenly aware that there are many gradations in that world whose existence she had ignored. He evidently stood high in a certain line, but his line was not high ; possibly he would never reach anything higher ; and he would devote all his powers to the attempt. What an ambition ! What a future ! To consecrate his varied and excellent capacities to success in a pursuit at its best grotesquely unworthy of them and of him ! Could she share a life pledged like this ? Her pride was on fire.
“ Would you be willing to give it up ? ” she asked, without turning her head.
“ My profession ? ” he said, wonderingly.
She assented. There was a pause.
“ Do you realize what you ask ? ” he replied at last. " I cannot give it up. It is my living. I am fitted for nothing else. I have been in training for fifteen years.”
Again she was silent, and he marveled that she should take it so hard. He was becoming a great man in his world, — so like, yet so unlike, her world. He was applauded and praised by the public, held in respect by the magnates of his craft, admired by his associates, revered by those below him, whose ambition it was to have at some auspicious future the opportunity to imitate him. He was as far from comprehending the issues which led to contemptuous aversion of his vocation as she was from comprehending those which led to pride in it. When he spoke, she detected something in his voice she had never before heard.
“ I cannot understand why you object so seriously,” he said.
She kept her head turned persistently from him. She promised herself that she would not be influenced. She would not be touched by his sense of injury, his wounded pride. It had come to a choice, — that was evident; she could not hope he would relinquish his profession. And the choice should be a deliberate one.
The stealthy wind was rising, hardly distinguishable above the muffled noises on the streets; the air was saturated with a heavy moisture; the mist was accented at intervals by the yellow blur of the invisible lamps ; faint lightnings, fitful, vague, like indefinite, piteous phantoms, skulked across the black sky. And ever the treacherous wind was rising.
She must choose. To give him up ? That meant a great deal. She realized her inordinate sensitiveness to the disposition and temperament of those near to her. To be comprehended thoroughly ; to be her truest self without effort, explanation, or qualification ; to discover in another mind and heart the complement of her own thought and feeling ; to experience, in thus sharing the thought or feeling of that other mind and heart, its deeper, fuller development; to delight in the delight which her presence, her words, her glances, could give; to find her exacting taste satisfied, her intellectual nature met on its own level ; to feel the hours imbued with a happiness that never palled, the fulfillment of a joyous expectation, — this was what those weeks of early summer had given her. Having once known so perfect an accord, vouchsafed to few even of the most fortunate of mortals, could she, did she dare voluntarily to relinquish it ? The recollection of all she had endured during their separation surged over her in a wave of bitterness. She remembered, too, how needlessly and cruelly it had been enhanced. But she said to herself she would be dispassionate ; she would admit that her brother had great cause for annoyance, disappointment, even dismay, — he could hardly have felt these more acutely than she had done this evening ; his wife might well be distressed. But what of the conciliation due from a brother who loves his sister ; what of the sympathy one woman gives another woman’s heartache ! She resolutely withdrew her thoughts from this branch of the subject; she would not risk her happiness, she declared to herself, to be revenged on John and -Sophie by making a marriage they would bitterly deprecate. They should not influence her. The decision involved only her future and Hugh Kennett’s. No other consideration should have weight.
How should she decide ? To give him up ? Could she doit? To marry him ? To place in controversy the human heart and the implacable forces of conventionality ? — it was a dangerous experiment.
The rain was falling heavily and the wind was loud at last. Then as to the menace that the future held, as to the pallid potentialities of regret, disappointment, despair, could these vague gleams, slipping about the horizon, contend against the effulgence of love and hope ? Only a room bounded by four walls, or a realm vast as the universe? Now darkness had come, and the prophecy of winter was on the turbulent air ; or were light and summer here, and all sweet promises and dreams ?
When she suddenly turned, there was a strange commingling of expressions on her expressive face ; that tumult of thought and perplexity which had torn her with a sort of mental anguish, and had stamped her features with its intensity and its trouble, was still upon them. But a radianee was dawning in her eyes, and an amazed delight that this feeling which she could not conquer was stronger than her will. She held out her hands to him. " I cannot give you up,” she said, simply, “ I thought I could — and I cannot.”
That night Kennett sang and acted like a man inspired. His elaborate stage training, which had been a conspicuous element in the excellence of his work heretofore, was now merely a subservient adjunct — valuable, but imperceptible: — to the fiery and tender exaltation which possessed him.
“Oh, Lord! if you’re going to keep this up, Kennett, you ’ll walk over the course away from all of us,” said young Preston, during one of the waits, as, arrayed in ruby-tinted velvet, he threw himself into a chair in Kennett’s dressing-room, and elevated his feet to the back of another chair. He lifted a glass to his lips and drained it with a grace of gesture that would have done justice to ’28 port, but it was only beer.
“ Kennett must be a little tight,” said Abbott, dryly. “A man is always at his best when he is a little tight.”
Kennett only laughed. He was a notable figure as he stood among them, gay and triumphant, and with brilliant eyes. Small wonder that Felicia had not recognized him in costume. That which had met the requirement of her stringent taste, a certain neutrality, a conservatism, gave him the look of an unobtrusive and serious man, and had even rendered inconspicuous certain qualities of his personality,— the regularity of his features, his symmetry and grace of figure and gait ; for the stage hero these had a market value, and were brought out and accented by his auburn wig, his rouge, his slashed blackand-gold costume, his long, supple, easy stage stride.
Judge Hamilton reached New York the next morning.
In comparison with his father, John Hamilton might be deemed meek. There was a strong likeness between the two in appearance; the elder man being a trifle more florid, stout, bald, and hale than the younger. What little hair he possessed, however, was gray; his mustache was short, bristling, and white; he was more vehement and rapid of speech; he had an emphatic gesture of his right hand brought down upon the open palm of the left which the son had not yet acquired. He also had a habit, in excitement, of throwing back his head, widening his eyes, and dilating his nostrils, which were flexible and open, with a sound resembling a snort of indignation or of intense affirmation. At such moments he suggested a horse subjected to unusual cerebral activity.
When, his shaggy white eyebrows contracted over his big, indignant dark eyes, he listened to the reasons which led to the summer “ pleasuring,” his first impulse was to settle accounts with his unlucky son.
“ I thought it was better to take her away from there,” said John, concluding his report. “ I thought, that perhaps in changing about from place to place she would lose interest in the fellow, and may be forget him.”
The old gentleman, when his son ceased, bounded from his chair with an elasticity wonderful in a man of his years and weight. He was almost inarticulate in his wrath, us he dashed about the room ; accenting his words by a sounding thump on the floor with his stick, and now and then facing round on his anxious son.
“ By the Lord Harry,” he roared, " you ought to be in the lunatic asylum, sir ! You ought to have a guardian appointed, sir! You are not fit to manage your own affairs! Any man who can’t take better care than that of a girl like Felicia ought n’t to be trusted with business.”
He stood still suddenly, beating out the words impressively on the marbletopped table ; and the decanters and glasses — ordered by his son in the hope of a mollifying preparatory influence — rang with the vibrations.
“Good Lord, sir, I wouldn’t have believed it! I send my daughter — the best child in the world, and the most docile — to your house to make you a visit, because you and Sophie insist on having her, and because it is dull for her at home, and you let her fall in love with an oper-y singer ! ”
It is beyond the possibility of the printer’s art to intimate the scorn which the old gentleman infused into these words. He spoke them, too, with a certain remarkable nasal, rustic drawl, suggestive of extremely rural regions. Perhaps he had picked it up in his canvasses in the more remote counties of his circuit. Whenever he chose, in scorn and anger, to affect this tone, it always made his daughter wince with a disapprobation that was nearly akin to pain. He was an able lawyer, a logical reasoner, an intellectual man, accustomed to good society, but occasionally, in some crisis of temper, his personation of an ignorant country boor would have been useful in the profession he contemned.
“ An oper-y singer,” he drawled; “ light oper-y ! Comic oper-y, I suppose. They tell me that’s lower than the other kind. Comic oper-y ! Mighty comical, I’ll swear ! And you have the grit to tell me that you and Sophie hope it will not amount to anything serious! It’s damned serious! And you tell me you hope he’ll disappear from here, do you ? A man, too, with a sort of claim, — kin to that blamed fool Bob Raymond! Kin to the pa’son, sir, — kin, in a sort of way, to her cousin Amy. And you invited the man to call ! You found out nothing about him, — his business, his character, his habits, his friends! You only invited him — a perfect stranger — to your house— just because he was kin to dear cousin Bob, the pa’son! Then you took yourself off to Dakota next morning, and he came to the house every day or so! Met a girl like Felicia mighty near every day! And you hope a fellow with that much chance and that much claim will never be heard of any more ! God bless you, John, what a fool you are ! ”
It might be supposed from.these strictures that the old gentleman’s wrath would soon exhaust itself. Such an expectation would be based on a very slight knowledge of the resources of his temper. He shared none of John’s ideas as to the policy of non-explanations. Almost his first words to his daughter were on this subject. She came in with delight to meet him, having for a moment dashed aside her anxieties. She threw herself into his arms, with tears in her eyes. There was great fondness between them. He petted and spoiled her, rebuked and praised her, lavishly, inconsistently, and inconsiderately ; and his demonstrative and tyrannical affection had never seemed to her so precious as now.
“ See here, Felicia,” he exclaimed, after a hurried kiss and a tremendous hug, “what’s all this they tell me about their having introduced strangers to you ? When did you see that fellow Kennett ? ”
Perhaps it was the courage of desperation which nerved her to reply with calmness: “ I saw him yesterday afternoon, papa.”
Though Judge Hamilton became purple with wrath, he cast a glance of triumph at his son, — a glance which said bitterly, " What did I tell you ? ”
“ I find that the man is an opera singer. Did you know that?” he demanded.
“ I have known it only since yesterday,” said Felicia.
Ah — um — is that the case ? Well, I don’t blame you,” with a gulp; the old gentleman was trying to be just. “ But he is not an appropriate acquaintance for you. It is a low business, — comic opera is.”
“ I dislike it as much as you do,” said Felicia, in a low tone.
“ That’s a reasonable girl. I thought you would look at it that way,” said Judge Hamilton, with great approbation. “Yes, yes, it’s a low business; don’t wonder you disapprove of anybody connected with it. You shall not meet that man again.”
“ I don’t think I can promise you that, papa,” said Felicia, still more faintly. “ I am going to marry him.”
The color suddenly left Judge Hamilton’s face, then surged back in a deeply crimson tide. ‘‘Hey! hey!” he demanded, as if he doubted his sense of hearing.
At this moment, after his customary annunciatory tap, the brisk bell-boy entered with a card, which he handed to Judge Hamilton. Then he stood still, awaiting instructions.
Judge Hamilton hurriedly examined his pocket for his spectacle-case. He did not find it, and with a growl of impatience he gave the card to his son, for the benefit of his younger eyes. One glance at John’s perturbed countenance as he read the name was sufficient,
“ That’s the man, is it ? ” said the old gentleman, sharply. “ Yes, I thought so. Show him in. you. sir ! ” He glared at the startled bell-boy with a fierceness intended for Kennett. “ Show him in immediately! ”
As the servant vanished he walked up and down the room in a sort of angry elation. “ I ’ll settle this matter at once ! ” he cried. " Stay where you are, Felicia,” for she had risen to make her escape. “ Sit down,” he ordered, peremptorily. " I intend to put an end to this affair; I ’ll settle it.” He thumped the floor with his thick cane, in his excitement.
At the sound of the opening door, Judge Hamilton faced about suddenly. The sedate, almost saturnine gentleman on the threshold did not accord with his idea of an opera singer in private life. His mental ideal was of a more pronounced type. However, he stepped quickly to the middle of the room. The hand holding his stick was trembling violently; his eyes were very fierce.
“ If I am not mistaken, sir, your name is Kennett,” he began. “ Y es, I thought so. Now, sir, I am a man of few words, — a plain man. I am told you have been visiting my daughter. I don’t approve of it. I won’t have it. I know nothing against you personally, but I won’t have an opera singer among her acquaintance. You will be so good as to discontinue your calls.”
John Hamilton, now that he was relieved of the responsibility of the crisis, was able to look at Kennett, at this trying moment, with a certain dispassionate criticism impossible earlier ; and in this calmer mood he marveled at Felicia’s infatuation. No man could fully gauge another man’s power in a matter of this sort, he reflected, but, making all allowance, what could she see in this fellow ? He looked like an honest man, with the proclivities of a gentleman, of somewhat more than average intelligence. It was perhaps the best which might be said for him that his was a lucid nature, with a certain dignity, a certain strength. Surely this was not remarkable ; there were doubtless hundreds and thousands of men equal to him in these respects, in the conventional walks of life. How had she happened to fancy the man ? She was not a fool to be attracted merely by the tawdry glitter appertaining to his vocation. What a commentary on the perversity of women that she, with her ultra-fastidious notions, should be seized upon by an infatuation like this, without even the absurd excuse of dash, romance, fascination, in its object to explain it!
Judge Hamilton’s look and tone, in their arrogance, their intolerance, were hard to endure without protest more or less insistent, but the habit of self-management had been the business of Kennett’s life ; the exercise of tact, of policy, was a daily necessity. It was with a judicious admixture of firmness, of selfrespect, and of respect for Judge Hamilton’s seniority that he replied.
“ Your daughter has promised to marry me,” he said, “ and I shall use every effort to induce her to keep her promise.”
Judge Hamilton shifted his hand from the head of his cane, and, grasping it in the middle, brandished it with a wildly threatening motion.
“ But I tell you, sir, I won’t have it! ” he exclaimed, in a stentorian roar.
She has promised to marry me,” repeated the young man.
Is every able jury lawyer an actor as well; has he something of that wonderful faculty which can instantaneously master a situation, experience an emotion, gauge and apportion its reflex action upon the natures of others ; or was there hidden away in Judge Hamilton’s intellectual being an exceptional gift of which he was half unconscious? His face suddenly cleared ; he let his cane slip through his fingers, which lightly tightened upon the gold head ; he gently tapped the floor ; he nodded two or three times, with an expression denoting perfect faith in his own words.
“ She will never do it,” he said. “ She will marry no man without my consent.” He turned upon his daughter a beautiful look of tenderness and confidence. " She is fond of her old father,” he added, simply.
It was a fine touch and very well done; all the actor’s sensitive perceptions made Kennett keenly alive to its artistic merits. The others, less discriminating, were more emotionally, and consequently more vividly impressed. Evidently this had told heavily against him. He was beginning to lose his calmness ; he attempted to argue.
“ If her happiness is at stake,” he said eagerly, “ does it not occur to you that my personal character is a matter worthy of some consideration ? I think a little inquiry would satisfy you on this score. I can ” —
“ I need inquire no further, sir, than your business,” returned Judge Hamilton, lapsing into anger. “ To me it is intolerable, unendurable. Allow my daughter to marry a singer, an operatic singer! Sir, I would not for one moment entertain the idea.”
If he could have stopped here, the affair might even yet have adjusted itself on Ids basis. Since that fine little stroke of delicate sentiment his daughter had grown white ; there were tears on her cheek. He loved her so, — her father, — and she was fond of him ; what must she do, — what must she do ?
When, however, Judge Hamilton’s astuteness and his temper were weighed in the balance, the chances were in favor of the temper as the more definite element. It shortly effaced the impression his tact had produced.
“ There are other considerations ” — persisted Kennett.
“ Can’t you take No for an answer ? ” interrupted the old gentleman, aggressively. “ There is no use in discussing the matter.”
Kennett turned suddenly to Felicia. His self-possession was gone at last. She had never thought to see him so shaken. His voice was strained; the hand that held his hat was trembling; the look of appeal he bent upon her, charged with a sort of helplessness in significant contrast with his strength as she had known him heretofore, was very potent with the woman who loved him. Her heart beat fast; she looked at him piteously.
“ I will take my answer only from you, Felicia,” he said.
The tone in which he pronounced her name, the fact that he dared utter her name at all, set the old gentleman’s blood boiling. He again grasped his cane in the centre and made a hurried stride forward ; then he turned sharply and fixed his angry eyes on his daughter.
“ Give him his answer,” he commanded ; “ his answer is No ! ”
She made no reply.
“ I will be obeyed, Felicia! ” he thundered. “ Send the man about his affairs! Give him his answer; his answer is No ! You shall obey me ! Send him away — or I 'll disinherit you — I 'll write any will this night, and cut you off without a cent! ”
“ Lord, Lord! ” groaned John, in his corner. “ To threaten a girl like Felicia ! And he calls me a lunatic ! ” But John groaned this reflection very sotto voce indeed.
Felicia had risen ; her color had come back in a brilliant spot on either cheek ; her eyes were bright.
“ You bring money into this discussion, papa,” she said. “ I will not obey you for such a reason. I will not send him away so that I may inherit your money. I feel very well satisfied that he will take care of me. Besides,” she added proudly, “ I am not a beggar. I have my own property that mamma’s father left me.”
The old gentleman glared at her in a baffled way during this defiance, and as she concluded he gave a loud snort of scorn and anger.
“ Lord, yes,” he exclaimed, contemptuously, " you have got that! I’d lost sight of that vast estate. Oh, yes, you ’ve got your mother’s share.”
“ And you can leave your money to whom you please. I don’t want it! ” cried Felicia, unappeasable now.
In this spirit of mutual defiance the contest was waged afterward. There was no more of softening on either side. Felicia could not forgive her father’s threat of disinheritance ; it had kindled even more resentment than John’s mistaken and disingenuous policy of silent antagonism. Judge Hamilton, on his side, could not forgive her infatuation, and it held for him the element of dismayed astonishment. He was one of those men whose critical faculty is not disarmed by partiality. His very fondness for his daughter made him keenly alert to her faults, and he had decided, upon what he deemed abundant evidence, that a pronounced worldly-mindedness was one of those faults, — that she had an undue appreciation of a fine establishment, of the newest and most desirable attainment in equipage, diamonds, laces, the triumphs of the dressmaker’s and milliner’s arts. He desired that she should enjoy these good and valuable things, that she should appreciate them fully, and yet that she should in some sort spiritually ignore them. The reverse danger, the unreasoning relinquishment of all this gilded and refined mammon, he had not felt called upon to fear.
In this emergency he took Madame Sevier into his confidence. His feeling toward this lady was somewhat contradictory. When, ten years before, he had opened his eyes to the fact that his daughter was growing into a tall, dreamy, awkward girl, extremely fond of books and abnormally ignorant of everything else, he selected a notable French boarding-school as offering the influences likely to ward off the danger that, she would develop Into a desultorily intellectual and socially untrained woman. With the result of the experiment he was not altogether satisfied ; yet he could hardly say what was lacking. She was, as he desired, educated, yet not over-educated ; her taste was schooled, her social gifts were cultivated ; she had a good Freach and Italian accent, and spoke both languages fluently ; she sang and played on the piano and harp very creditably, according to the authorities, — he admitted his incapacity to judge in this regard ; she understood life and society,—there was no doubt about that. Sometimes he called the vague fault he felt in this product of Madame Sevier’s civilization frivolity; sometimes, vanity, petty-mindedness, artificiality. It did not occur to him that he had desired an impossibility: worldly training with simplicity; intellect without its self-assertion, social culture without its imperative demands and its intolerance. He was as greatly surprised that the moderately near approximation to his ideal which his daughter embodied should not be content with the society of Blankburg divinity students, thus negativing her intellectual tendencies, as that she should ignore her worldly training by giving a serious thought to a man in Hugh Kennett’s position in life. He forgot now all that he had said in disapprobation of Madame Sevier, her methods and achievement, and turned to her for aid, as he had done ten years before.
She gave him her most ardent sympathy, — who feels another’s woe so keenly as one whose own interest is also involved ? She threw up her hands ; she elevated her fine gray eyes, her delicate black eyebrows, and her thin, expressive shoulders. And she said, with the intensest and most sincere feeling, “ A-h-h, mais mon Dieu, c’est trop fort ! ” An eloquent dismay was depicted on every feature: on the curves of her short upper lip; on the thin dilating nostrils of her classic nose ; in the flush that overspread the clear pallor of her complexion ; on the delicate network of wrinkles that corrugated her frowning brow, and extended to the dense black hair which she dared to dress, in this day of curls and bangs, in the fashion of forty years ago, — in soft loose waves on each side of her broad low forehead. Her favorite pupil, the show young lady of the Institute, who had been with her for ten years, whom she was accustomed to point out as an exemplification of what she and the Institute could do, — her Félicité, of whom she was so fond and so proud, — to marry a singer in light opera, and thus reinforce the fascinations of the stage hero for silly schoolgirls! She, the model, the intellectual, — it would have surprised Alfred Grafton, the extent to which Felicia’s intellectuality was esteemed at the Institute,—she, the clear-beaded, the solid-minded ! Ah-h-h! such an example to the other young ladies! What, could Madame Sevier do but call upon her bon Dieu, maintain that this was affreux, and promise to see Felicia at once ?
She was eminently calculated to influence Felicia. The magnetism of her presence, her superior mental qualities, the adroitness of her tact, the graceful tenderness of her demonstrations of affection, the force of long association, all conspired to bring their strength to any cause she might espouse. This time, however, she was too thoroughly interested to avail herself fully of these aids. Her tact at a moment of peril was not equal to her earnestness, —which affords gratifying evidence of the sincerity inherent in the human soul. Beyond this Madame Sevier was at a disadvantage. An argument which can be supported only by commonplace truisms — so obvious that nobody denies them — is necessarily weak. She could only declare in varied phrase that marriage is a serious matter; that a freak, a passing fancy, should not be allowed to jeopardize solid happiness ; that only in romances is emotion the all in all of existence. It might have been better if she had stopped here, but —
“ Ah, ma chère, c’est trop affreux ! Only reflect. How public ! how notorious ! And your father and brother are so violent, so imprudent. Ah-h-h, my dear, these family storms will be heard of. You are notable. The Institute is so notable ! There will be paragraphs. Ah, yes, indeed ; the reporters are hungry for items. Paragraphs in the newspapers about the beautiful heiress, a former pupil of the well-known Sevier Institute, who is bent on marrying a singer! What an esclandre ! Ah, just Heaven! I would not have that happen for a great deal. Give it up, my dear Felicia. Think of the Institute ! Think of ME ! ”
It may be doubted if Judge Hamilton’s partisan did his cause much service.
So strained and unnatural a situation could not long remain unchanged. It was radically and very suddenly altered one afternoon, when Felicia walked down to the public parlor of the hotel, met Hugh Kennett, and accompanied him to St.-Church, where they were quietly married.
In an hour thereafter. Judge Hamilton, his son, Sophie, and the children had left New York ; the two gentlemen metaphorically shaking the dust from their indignant feet, and literally bestowing hearty maledictions on the devoted city and all it contained.
Fanny N. D. Murfree.