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THREESCORE AND TEN.
ROUND, round my life she wove a
spell, My head went whirling round as
well, And at a rate alarming;
My captured heart went "pitapat,"
With a loud double "rat-tat-tat,"
Ah, well, but it was charming!
As in my easy-chair I sit
(I'm getting old and bent a bit),
I think how Ella sly was;
Of all the pranks she used to
To wheedle my poor heart away,
And what a "silly" I was.
Can it be she who, in a doze,
Sits opposite with nodding nose?
And by her side— Enough!
My "fire-dreams" are all
That nose has "sniffed," those
A pinch of double snuff!
Well, so it is, that in our life
We dream of some bewitching wife,
And set our hearts on beauty—
Nay, nay, I'm wrong, though snuff
A charm dwells round that
The WIFE has done her duty!
CAPTAIN CLITHEROE OF THE
I HAD come to Glen Iris stung
with the pressure of a sharp pain. One I loved once, and loved still, had been
false to me. I had been brought up as the only daughter and heiress of a rich
man. When my father died suddenly his whole property was in a state of
chaos—invested in grand schemes which, had he lived, might have realized his
wishes, but which were neither comprehensible nor available by his executors.
When all his affairs were settled there was, for my mother and myself, only a
pittance of three thousand dollars—scarcely half the sum for our sole dependence
that we had been used to spend with thoughtless self-indulgence in a single
year. In this emergency my mother was helpless. She had been accustomed all her
life to being guarded and protected, and she was as incapable of assuming
responsibility as a child.
The same stroke that robbed me of
my father and my fortune estranged my lover also. We had never been formally
engaged—Norman Howard and I. He had told me, often enough, that he loved me; and
we had made plans together about the future, through many a summer afternoon or
winter evening. I had danced with him at Newport, with the sea-breeze tossing my
hair and rustling the silken folds of my raiment. I had sung to him, talked to
him, lived for him, twelve months, and I know that, all that time, he had no
thought but that I should pass my future at his side. Still, with the
carelessness of youth, we had not talked in so many words of marriage—no binding
vow had passed between us. If there had been one, perhaps he might have kept it.
As it happened, he was out of town when my father died, and when he came back my
affairs were already made public. He was in a safe position to be prudent. He
wrote me a note of condolence, a kindly, carefully worded note, in which he took
it for granted that he must not intrude upon the sacredness of my grief—thus
putting our acquaintance at once upon the plane of a common friendship.
How terribly that note stung me!
How I suffered—silently, for I could not add my sorrows to the weary weight
beneath which my poor mother was so utterly overwhelmed. Mine is emphatically a
temperament, or was in those days, to which blessings brighten as they take
their flight. This is true of most women, though all are not honest enough to
confess it. A lover who is easy to win we may love sufficiently for our own
comfort, perhaps; but given a serious difficulty or two in the way of winning
him, a good, stubborn, roaring lion in the path, and our love intensifies itself
to adoration at once.
While my father lived and Norman
Howard was assiduous and constant in his attentions, I had been tormented with
doubts as to my own regard for him—had wondered if he were capable of arousing
the utmost intensity of my heart; but no sooner did I find that he had bowed
himself politely off the stage than I abandoned myself to the wild, unreasoning
grief of eighteen, longed for death, and felt entirely sure that earth held for
me no possible consolation, present or future.
Putting all sentimental sorrows
aside, the world wore a dark enough aspect just then. I knew not how we were to
live. I was utterly barren of resources or expedients.
My friends had followed in the
wake of my lover and my fortune. It was so long since I had seen one of them
that I could scarcely believe my eyes when Mrs. Winslow Morgan's card was handed
to me one spring morning.
She was the wife of the lawyer
who had arranged my father's affairs—a man of high rank in his profession, as
well as rich by inheritance, and the peer in birth and breeding of the proudest.
I had often met Mrs. Morgan in society; but I had only seen the surface of her
life—met her as we meet any one who helps us tie rose garlands round the hours
we are wasting. That she should have called on me now was matter of profound
astonishment. I took a sort of sullen pride in receiving her in my plain
mourning calico—conforming, as I called it, to my altered fortunes. I believe my
manner was sufficiently haughty and unamiable; but she did not seem to notice
it. She talked with me for a while on indifferent subjects; then she asked me if
I had made any plans for the coming summer. I was vexed at what seemed to me an
impertinent liberty; and I answered that she would hardly expect me to flourish
at Newport or Saratoga, so I should not be likely to have the pleasure of
her. She was very patient; almost
apologizing, as if it had been she, not I, that was in fault.
"Forgive me," she said, "forgive
me, dear Miss Tremaine. I did not mean to wound you. I only asked the question
as the easiest way of arriving at what I wished to say. But plain speaking is
always best. Mr. Morgan told me that you had intimated to him a desire to do
something for your own support, and I had a proposal to make to you. I am sure
you would not fancy teaching—you have not the temperament to be happy or
successful in it; and I did not know but you might like to fill a position for
which I am commissioned to find a suitable incumbent. My brother, Miles
Clitheroe, is proprietor of the large calico mills at Glen Iris, He is in want
of a designer to get up his patterns, and it seems to me that this occupation
might just suit you. Do you remember drawing those flowers and bits of sea-weed
which we all admired so much at Newport last summer? I know you love sketching,
and I think you could make it quite as remunerative as any thing else you could
Here she mentioned a salary
liberal beyond my hopes, including a pleasantly-situated cottage home for my
mother and myself. All this time I had not interrupted her. Now she waited for
me to speak.
"I am ashamed," I said,
earnestly, "to accept your great kindness, when I think how ungraciously I
received you. How little I imagined that you came on such an errand! The
employment is exactly what I should like best, and nothing could be so welcome
as the prospect of a new home, far away from all past associations."
"Then you accept?"
"With thanks which I won't try to
shape into words. Mrs. Morgan, when you came I felt as helpless and as hopeless
as if I were shipwrecked on an island where no sail ever comes. You have brought
me hope—a new lease of life."
Mrs. Morgan looked at me
smilingly, with her kindly yet shrewd eyes. She said—
"You are eighteen, an age when we
are as extravagant in our gratitude as in our despair. You owe me no thanks. I
have been acting as much for my brother's interest as yours. I am selfish, too,
a little. I come to Glen Iris for a month of every summer. I shall be glad to
find a friend there."
In two weeks' time I was settled
in my new home. Mr. Clitheroe had been absent at the time of my arrival,
unavoidably, Mrs. Morgan said; but the overseer of the works had rendered me all
needful assistance, and already I was as comfortably settled as if I had lived
there a twelvemonth. The change seemed to do my mother much good. She was
charmed with our new home, than which, indeed, I had never seen any thing
lovelier. Our cottage stood on a high bluff overhanging the river. It was
sheltered by higher hills, crowned with forest trees in the rear. In front, on
the other side of the river, stretched miles of pastoral peace. The river itself
was a rapid, rushing stream, fretting its way over rocks and through gorges;
with now and then a break, where its bed was smooth, and its tranquil waters
mirrored the overhanging tree-boughs and the clouds of sunset and dawning. Below
us, half a mile farther down the stream, were the great mills, and the thickly
clustering houses where the workmen lived. Mr. Clitheroe's own stately mansion,
built of a beautiful gray stone, was above us, half hidden from our view by the
I knew he had come home, and I
expected he would call that evening. I had dressed myself with some care for the
occasion. I was anxious to produce an agreeable first impression, for I was
dependent on his patronage for my sole prospects of a comfortable future. I had
been called a beauty in the days when I was considered a rich heiress. In those
days I had not troubled myself to decide whether the general verdict was true;
but to-night I looked at myself more critically, and was convinced that it was
not. My features were irregular; though my skin was clear it was dark; and my
hair and eyes were black as a Spanish woman's. There might be a charm in such
features when kindled by love or enthusiasm; but in repose, as I looked at them
in my mirror, I saw little to attract. It was not the style of face to show well
in my sombre black attire. Bright colors did wonders for me—hitherto I had
always worn these. Now, I thought, if my future success depended on my beauty my
prospects were not flattering.
I went to the door and looked
out. The flush of the early summer, the fair promise of the June, rested in
dreamy tenderness over all the landscape. Rock and river, field and sky, it
seemed like a fairy realm whence trouble and care were banished. And yet, as I
looked longer, there seemed a pensive sorrow in the scene: not grief exactly,
but something which whispered how soon the glory would pass—how brief was the
spell—and so made us love it all the better.
As I looked a gentleman came down
the rocky path from the stone mansion on the hill. Of course it was Mr.
Clitheroe. I shall remember always how he looked to me as I saw him first in
that June twilight. About him, at least, there was nothing dreamy. He was a
tall, vigorous man, who might have served for an illustration of muscular
Christianity. His face was a firm, manly one, with its well-cut features, its
decided mouth, and the clear-seeing hazel eyes, which yet kept their own
secrets. He wore a full, brown beard, and his hair, a shade darker, was thick
and strong. Every thing about him betokened endurance, courage, energy—but, I
thought then, no especial tenderness or sentiment. He was unmistakably a
gentleman. Not finical in his politeness; not even very graceful; but with the
true spirit and essence of courtesy pervading his whole demeanor.
Meeting thus on the very
threshold of my dwelling he needed no introduction.
"Miss Tremaine, of course," he
said, with a cordial smile; and I expressed in polite phrase my pleasure at
meeting Mr. Clitheroe.
He came in and sat for an hour. I
liked him exceedingly. I had never seen a man whom I
would have preferred as a friend.
He seemed so thoroughly dependable. I liked to hear him talk. He was not
eloquent, but he had a manly, straightforward way of arriving at conclusions. He
was fearless and independent in thought; and I felt sure he would never swerve
in practice from the inflexible law of right. Duty with him would be duty, no
matter over what rugged paths, to what scenes of pain, or peril, or even death
itself, she should lead him on. Yet he was very far from fascinating. I had
heard his sister speak of him with an enthusiasm which I hardly comprehended;
for he did not seem to me a man about whom it would be possible to weave romance
"What do you think of him?" I
asked my mother, after he had left us.
"I think he is good, Florence."
It was her sole comment; and I
came afterward to know how true it was.
The summer passed on, and I saw
him often. As strangers in a place which offered little opportunity for making
congenial friends it was natural that he should be attentive to us, and he was.
His society was my only recreation, and I grew to take real pleasure in it—as
much pleasure, at least, as I could take in any thing. My heart was heavy enough
in those days. If my father had lived, and—remaining in my former position—any
thing had separated me from Norman Howard, I do not think I should have suffered
very deeply. Probably I should very soon have seen some one who possessed equal
attractions for me; and, at any rate, with so many sources of pleasure at hand,
I should have found it easy enough to forget one fickle boy. Now the case was
different. I had a great many long, lonely hours, and I spent them in brooding
over and idealizing the past.
Mr. Howard sang well, and danced,
admirably. He had almost brought his brilliant playing to the perfection of a
science. He was handsome. His coats were made in Paris, and his hatter hung out
his sign on the Rue de Rivoli. I believe these were his chief attractions—his
salient points. You will confess it did my imagination credit that I should have
been able to idealize him into the one man of the universe—a chevalier sans peur
et sans reproche. I wore widow's weeds mentally for this New York Bayard of
mine. I even managed to grow pale and thin, and I began to write melancholy
verses descriptive of the place where I wanted to take my final repose. I sang
to a dirge-like air, as I sat over my drawings:
"Come not, when I am dead,
To drop thy foolish tears upon my
To trample round my fallen head,
And vex the unhappy dust thou
wonldst not save. There let the wind sweep and the plover cry,
But thou—go by."
I used to wonder whether even his
hard heart would not be moved if, some day, he should read upon a tombstone my
name—that pretty name he had praised so often—Florence Tremaine.
When Mrs. Morgan came, in August,
I made a merit to myself of not being infected by her exuberant happiness.
Realizing the change in my circumstances, I think she attributed my melancholy
to that cause, and so pitied and forgave it.
She had been gone two months when
one night Mr. Clitheroe came and asked me to walk with him. I was looking worn,
he said, and he was sure I needed air and exercise. I looked toward my mother.
It was her nature to rely utterly on some one; to take what that some one said
on trust, and be thankful to be saved the trouble of forming an opinion. My dear
father had been her oracle while he lived—now it was Mr. Clitheroe. Of course
she seconded him on this occasion, and made me get my bonnet and shawl.
We walked silently for a time,
climbing up the rocky path which led by his gray stone mansion, and pausing at
length on the summit of a hill which commanded the whole rich and beautiful
landscape. I sat down to rest for a few moments on a rustic seat, and he stood
at a little distance. I remember stealing a look at him as he stood there, his
bold, manly figure clearly defined against the sunset sky, and his face tender,
more tender than I had ever seen it, with some unspoken thought. At length he
drew nearer to me, and said, its a low tone which vet went straight to my heart,
"Florence Tremaine, I am not
skilled in lover's phrases—I never said before to any woman what I now say to
you. But if my words are abrupt my heart is true. I love you. You have grown
into my life until I care for no future unless you share it. Can you love me,
It flashed through my thoughts in
an instant what a blessed thing it would be if I could love him—how much his
proposal proffered me!—love, not only, but ease, rest, freedom from care, a
guide, a friend, a protector. If only Norman Howard had never crossed my path!
But I could not wrong may own nature by marrying, for any worldly reason, Miles
Clitheroe, when my whole heart was full of another image.
Whatever my faults were I was
honest, and not ungenerous. I told Mr. Clitheroe the whole truth. I concealed
nothing—not even the longing I had had to die—the utter weariness of life.
That man had a noble nature. Some
would have turned from me with vexation or indifference. He did not. Loving me
intensely, as I knew he did—I, who had never been intensely loved before—he did
not seem to think at all of his own suffering, his heart was so full of pity for
mine. He laid his hand on my hair, and said, oh! so sadly, "Poor child! poor Florence!"
I believe at that moment he would
have given up all his own hopes with joy but to have secured me the fulfillment
of mine. Standing beside him, a feeling of how good he was—a sense of his
compassion, so tender and so generous—stole into my heart, and I felt that I
could not give up all his regard. Clinging to his hand, I cried, passionately,
"Do not take your friendship away
from me, Mr. Clitheroe. You do not know how mach I care for it. It is the only
comfort I have left in life. Think how lonely we should be if you should stay
away! Promise to like me still—to come and see
us as often as you used, or you
will break my heart."
He took my hand tenderly into his
own. He bent over me, and whispered,
"I will never break your heart,
little Florence. You shall never suffer a pang which I can spare you. Do not
think that your brave honesty, of which not one woman in a thousand would have
been capable, can alienate my friendship from you. I will not stay away from
you, or change toward you. I will never be less your friend; only I will try to
think of you differently—think of you as one who can never be mine."
Oh the unutterable pathos that
thrilled in his voice as he said those words! I could never forget it. I should
know all my life long that one man had loved me.
We went home after that. Somehow
the face of the night seemed changed. The moon that rose looked like a phantom
moon, gazing from the depths of a past, far-off and irrevocable. At my door we
parted. He asked me to make his excuses to my mother—he could not come in that
I kept my own counsel. I would
not pain my mother, or wrong him, by hinting aught to her of the love I had
rejected. I did not understand my own feelings at all; if I had I should have
known that a chord had been struck in my heart which had never vibrated to the
touch of Norman Howard.
After this the weeks wore on, the
harvest-moon waned, the November winds blew their dirge notes, the Christmas
bells rang, and then the new year came in, white with snows, pale with
prophecies of the events it was bringing us—1861.
All this time Mr. Clitheroe kept
his word. He came to see us as frequently as ever. He was just as good. No son
could have been more devoted to my mother—no brother more thoughtfully kind to
me. But there was a difference which I felt. He was too kind, too brotherlike. I
could see that he was keeping his word—thinking of me as one who could never be
his. And after a while this became sharp pain. Somehow —I never knew how or
when—the pale phantom of a dead love, whose visitations I had so long sought for
and welcomed, ceased entirely to haunt me. It would not come when I did call for
it; and I knew it was because it had been the ghost of a dream, not of a
reality. I knew that my love for Norman Howard had never been the passionate
outpouring of a woman's heart; it had been but the nursling of idleness and
sentimentality. It would have moved me no more to meet him now than to have seen
may old music-master at the street corner. And now also I knew that I did love
at length—that all the happiness I ever cared to have was in Miles Clitheroe's
But I myself had shut the door
against him by which he sought to enter my heart, and I could never be such a
traitor to my womanhood as to raise a signal of distress. Let the ship go down
if she must, and the black waters of oblivion close over her; better so than to
seek inglorious safety. And now I was not sentimental or mock-heroic; I was
I used to sit and watch furtively
Mr. Clitheroe's face sometimes when he was reading to us. What a strong,
masterful face it was! I had never seen those clear hazel eves misty with tears
or with tenderness—never save that one night. I wondered if he had forgotten it.
Could the love be dead which had moved him so powerfully then—which spoke in
word, and tone, and eye-glance? Be it dead or living, he made no sign. I had
sealed my own fate when I told him I was ready to die for Norman Howard. I began
to hate that old memory as fiercely as I had ever cherished it.
Now indeed I began to wish I had
not so earnestly entreated Mr. Clitheroe to continue his visits. It was hard to
meet him as his mere friend should when I remembered what words he had said to
me once—words which no man was ever likely to say again, which I should never
care to hear from any other. I longed to go away from Glens Iris—away from
him—where the thought of what might have been would never spring into life at
sight of his face.
At length events came, so mighty
and so unlooked-for, that every one was ashamed to think of themselves. Men and
women forgot their private sorrows in the hour of their country's peril, and the
whole nation's heart beat as one heart in response to the guns fired at Sumter.
It was late in April when one
afternoon Mr. Clitheroe came to our cottage. My mother was lying down in her own
room. I was quite alone in the little parlor. It had become a daily event for
him to come in after meal-time and tell me what was doing. As usual, he gave me
the brief summary. Then, looking at him, I saw he had more to say. Soon it came:
"I am going too, Florence. I have
raised a company from among my own men. They are used to me, and they will obey
me better than any one else. I have just written to my sister, and you are the
only other friend I care to tell. Will you bid me God-speed?"
I meant to answer bravely.
"God-speed you, and God bless—" I
got so far, and then every thing grew dark about me. I had never fainted before,
and I thought I was dying. It was my last thought before the darkness closed
When I opened my eyes again I was
lying on the sofa, and he was bending over me with the old look in his eyes—the
look they had worn that night. He had not called even my mother. Tenderly as a
woman he had bathed my face, and waited for my recovery. When he saw that I was
better he said,
"Was it the thought of my peril
that moved you so? Florence, do you love me at last?"
"I never loved any one else!" I
cried. "Oh believe me! If it is too late for you to give me back what you
offered me once, still you must believe the truth. That other was no love; it
was a girlish folly, and I grew morbid and sentimental over it, because, after
misfortune overtook me, I had nothing else to think about. I have known, (Next