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"What can it be? Why not tell me
"You used often to set me the
example of patience, Norah, in old times—will you set me the example now?"
"With all my heart. Shall I
return to my own story as well? Yes? Then we will go back to it at once. I was
telling you that St. Crux is George's house, in Essex, the house he inherited
from his uncle. Knowing that Miss Garth had a curiosity to see the place, he
left word (when he went abroad after the admiral's death) that she and any
friends who came with her were to be admitted, if she happened to find herself
in the neighborhood during his absence. Miss Garth and I, and a large party of
Mr. Tyrrel's friends, found ourselves in the neighborhood not long after
George's departure. We had all been invited to see the launch of Mr. Tyrrel's
new yacht, from the builder's yard at Wivenhoe in Essex. When the launch was
over the rest of the company returned to Colchester to dine. Miss Garth and I
contrived to get into the same carriage together, with nobody but my two little
pupils for our companions. We gave the coachman his orders, and drove round by
St. Crux. The moment Miss Garth mentioned her name we were let in, and shown all
over the house. I don't know how to describe it to you: it is the most
bewildering place I ever saw in my life—"
"Don't attempt to describe it,
Norah. Go on with your story instead."
"Very well. My story takes me
straight into one of the rooms at St. Crux—a room about as long as your street
here; so dreary, so dirty, and so dreadfully cold that I shiver at the bare
recollection of it. Miss Garth was for getting out of it again as speedily as
possible, and so was I. But the housekeeper declined to let us off without first
looking at a singular piece of furniture—the only piece of furniture in the
comfortless place. She called it a tripod, I think. (There is nothing to be
alarmed at, Magdalen; I assure you there is nothing to be alarmed at!) At any
rate, it was a strange three-legged thing, which supported a great pan full of
charcoal ashes at the top. It was considered by all good judges (the housekeeper
told us) a wonderful piece of chasing in metal; and she especially pointed out
the beauty of some scroll-work running round the inside of the pan, with Latin
mottoes on it, signifying—I forget what. I felt not the slightest interest in
the thing myself, but I looked close at the scroll-work to satisfy the
housekeeper. To confess the truth, she was rather tiresome with her
mechanically-learned lecture on fine metal-work, and while she was talking I
found myself idly stirring the soft, feathery white ashes backward and forward
with my hand, pretending to listen, with my mind a hundred miles away from her.
I don't know how long or how short a time I had been playing with the ashes when
my finger suddenly encountered a piece of crumpled paper hidden deep among them.
When I brought it to the surface it proved to be a letter—a long letter full of
cramped, close writing. You have anticipated my story, Magdalen, before I can
end it. You know as well as I do that the letter which my idle fingers found was
the Secret Trust. Hold out your hand, my dear. I have got George's permission to
show it to you—and there it is!"
She put the Trust into her
sister's hand. Magdalen took it from her mechanically. "You!" she said, looking
at her sister with the remembrance of all that she had vainly ventured, of all
that she had vainly suffered at St. Crux. "You have found it!"
"Yes," said Norah, gayly. "The
Trust has proved no exception to the general perversity of all lost things. Look
for them, and they remain invisible. Leave them alone, and they reveal
themselves? You and your lawyer, Magdalen, were both justified in supposing that
your interest in this discovery was an interest of no common kind. I spare you
all our consultations after I had produced the crumpled paper from the ashes. It
ended in George's lawyer being written to, and in George himself being recalled
from the Continent. Miss Garth and I both saw him immediately on his return; and
he did, what neither of us could do—he solved the mystery of the Trust being
hidden in the charcoal ashes. Admiral Bertram, you must know, was all his life
subject to fits of somnambulism. He had been found walking in his sleep not long
before his death—just at the time, too, when he was sadly troubled in his mind
on the subject of that very letter in your hand. George's idea is that he must
have fancied he was doing, in his sleep, what he would have died rather than do
in his waking moments — destroying the Trust. The fire had been lit in the pan
not long before, and he no doubt saw it still burning in his dream. This was
George's explanation of the strange position of the letter when I discovered it.
The question of what was to he done with the letter itself came next, and was no
easy question for a woman to understand. But I determined to master it, and I
did master it, because it related to you."
"Let me try to master it in my
turn," said Magdalen. "I have a particular reason for wishing to know as much
about this letter as you know yourself. What has it done for others? and what is
it to do for me?"
"My dear Magdalen, how strangely
you look at it! how strangely you talk of it! Worthless as it may appear, that
morsel of paper gives you a fortune."
"Is my only claim to the fortune
the claim which this letter gives me?"
"Yes—the letter is your only
claim. Shall I try if I can explain it in two words? Taken by itself, the letter
might, in the lawyer's opinion, have been made a matter for dispute—though I am
sure George would have sanctioned no proceeding of that sort. Taken, however,
postscript which Admiral Bartram
attached to it (you will see the lines if you look under the signature on the
third page), it becomes legally binding, as well as morally binding, on the
admiral's representatives. I have exhausted my small stock of legal words, and
must go on in my own language instead of in the lawyer's. The end of the thing
was simply this. All the money went back to Mr. Noel Vanstone's estate (another
legal word! my vocabulary is richer than I thought), for one plain reason—that
it had not been employed as Mr. Noel Vanstone directed. If Mrs. Girdlestone had
lived, or if George had married me a few months earlier, results would have been
just the other way. As it is, half the money has been already divided between
Mr. Noel Vanstone's next of kin, which means, translated into plain English, my
husband and his poor bedridden sister—who took the money formally, one day, to
satisfy the lawyer, and who gave it back again generously the next to satisfy
herself. So much for one half of the legacy. The other half, my dear, is all
yours. How strangely events happen, Magdalen! It is only two years since you and
I were left disinherited orphans, and we are sharing our poor father's fortune
between us after all!"
"Wait a little, Norah. Our shares
come to us in very different ways."
"Do they? Mine comes to me by my
husband. Yours comes to you—" She stopped confusedly, and changed color.
"Forgive me, my own love!" she said, putting Magdalen's hand to her lips. "I
have forgotten what I ought to have remembered. I have thoughtlessly distressed
"No!" said Magdalen. "You have
"You shall see."
With those words she rose quietly
from the sofa, and walked to the open window. Before Norah could follow her she
had torn the Trust to pieces, and had cast the fragments into the street.
She came back to the sofa and
laid her head with a deep sigh of relief on Norah's bosom. "I will owe nothing
to my past life," she said. "I have parted with it as I have parted with those
torn morsels of paper. All the thoughts and all the hopes belonging to it are
put away from me forever!"
"Magdalen! my husband will never
allow you—I will never allow you myself—"
"Hush! hush! What your husband
thinks right, Norah, you and I will think right too. I will take from you what I
would never have taken if that letter had given it to me. The end I dreamed of
has come. Nothing is changed but the position I once thought we might hold
toward each other. Better as it is, my love—far, far better as it is."
So she made the last sacrifice of
the old perversity and the old pride. So she entered on the new and nobler life.
A month had passed. The autumn
sunshine was bright even in the murky streets; and the clocks in the
neighborhood were just striking two as Magdalen returned alone to the house in
"Is he waiting for me?" she
asked, anxiously, when the landlady let her in.
He was waiting in the front room.
Magdalen stole up the stairs and knocked at the door. He called to her
carelessly and absently to come in—plainly thinking that it was only the servant
who applied for permission to enter the room.
"You hardly expected me so soon?"
she said, speaking on the threshold, and pausing there to enjoy his surprise as
he started to his feet and looked at her.
The only traces of illness still
visible in her face left a delicacy in its outline which added refinement to her
beauty. She was simply dressed in muslin. Her plain straw-bonnet had no other
ornament than the white ribbon with which it was sparingly trimmed. She had
never looked lovelier in her best days than she looked now, as she advanced to
the table at which he had been sitting, with a little basket of flowers that she
had brought with her from the country, and offered him her hand.
He looked anxious and care-worn
when she saw him closer. She interrupted his first inquiries and congratulations
to ask if he had remained in London since they had parted—if he had not even
gone away for a few days only to see his friends in
Suffolk? No: he had been in
London ever since. He never told her that the pretty parsonage-house in Suffolk
wanted all those associations with herself in which the poor four walls at
Aaron's Buildings were so rich. He only said he had been in London ever since.
I wonder," she asked, looking him
attentively in the face, "if you are as happy to see me again as I am to see
"Perhaps I am even happier, in my
different way," he answered, with a smile.
She took off her bonnet and
scarf, and seated herself once more in her own arm-chair. "I suppose the street
is very ugly," she said; "and I am sure nobody can deny that the house is very
small. And yet—and yet it feels like coming home again. Sit there, where you
used to sit, and tell me about yourself; I want to know all that you have
done—all that you have thought even—while I have been away." She tried to resume
the endless succession of questions by means of which she was accustomed to lure
him into speaking of himself. But she put them far less spontaneously, far less
adroitly, than usual. Her one all-absorbing anxiety in entering that room was
not an anxiety to be trifled with. After a quarter of an hour wasted in
constrained inquiries on one side, in reluctant replies on the other, she
ventured near the dangerous subject at last.
"Have you received the letters I
wrote to you from the sea-side?" she asked, suddenly, looking away from him for
the first time.
"Yes," he said, " all."
"Have you read them?"
"Every one of them; many times
Her heart beat as if it would
suffocate her, She had kept her promise bravely. The whole story of her life,
from, the time of the home-wreck at Combe-Raven, to the time when she had
destroyed the Secret Trust in her sister's presence, had been all laid before
him. Nothing that she had done, nothing even that she had thought, had been
concealed from his knowledge. As he would have kept a pledged engagement with
her, so she had kept her pledged engagement with him. She had not faltered in
the resolution to do this—and now she faltered over the one decisive question
which she had come there to ask. Strong as the desire in her was to know if she
had lost or won him, the fear of knowing was, at that moment, stronger still.
She waited and trembled; she waited, and said no more.
"May I speak to you about your
letters?" he asked. "May I tell you—"
If she had looked at him, as he
said those few words, she would have seen what he thought of her in his face.
She would have seen, innocent as he was in this world's knowledge, that he knew
the priceless value, the all-ennobling virtue, of a woman who speaks the truth.
But she had no courage to look at him—no courage to raise her eyes from her lap.
"Not just yet," she said,
faintly. "Not quite so soon after we have met again."
She rose hurriedly from her chair
and walked to the window, turned back again into the room and approached the
table, close to where he was sitting. The writing materials scattered near him
offered her a pretext for changing the subject, and she seized on it directly.
"Were you writing a letter," she asked, "when I came in ?"
"I was thinking about it," he
replied. "It was not a letter to be written without thinking first." He rose, as
he answered her, to gather the writing materials together, and put them away.
"Why should I interrupt you?" she
said. "Why not let me try whether I can't help you instead. Is it a secret?"
"No—not a secret."
He hesitated as he answered her.
She instantly guessed the truth.
"Is it about your ship?"
He little knew how she had been
thinking in her absence from him of the business which he believed that he had
concealed from her. He little knew that she had learned already to be jealous of
"Do they want you to return to
your old life?" she went on. "Do they want you to go back to the sea? Must you
say Yes or No at once?"
"If I had not come in when I did,
would you have said Yes?"
She unconsciously laid her hand
on his arm, forgetting all inferior considerations in her breathless anxiety to
hear his next words. The confession of his love was within a hair's-breadth of
escaping him, but he checked the utterance of it even yet. "I don't care for
myself," he thought. "But how can I be certain of not distressing her?"
"Would you have said Yes?" she
"I was doubting," he answered—"I
was doubting between Yes and No."
Her hand tightened on his arm; a
sudden trembling seized her in every limb; she could hear it no longer. All her
heart went out to him in her next words.
"Were you doubting for my sake?"
"Yes," he said. "Take my
confession in return for yours—I was doubting for your sake."
She said no more—she only looked
at him. In that look the truth reached him at last. The next instant she was
folded in his arms, and was shedding delicious tears of joy, with her face
hidden on his bosom.
"Do I deserve my happiness?" she
murmured, asking the one question at last. "Oh, I know how the poor narrow
people who have never felt and never suffered would answer me if I asked them
what I ask you. If they knew my story they would forget all the provocation, and
only remember the offense—they would fasten on my sin, and pass all my suffering
by. But you are not one of them? Tell me if you have any shadow of a misgiving!
Tell me if you doubt that the one dear object of all my life to come is to live
worthy of you! I asked you to wait and see me: I asked you if there was any hard
truth to be told to tell it me here with your own lips. Tell it, my love, my
husband!—tell it me now!"
She looked up, still clinging to
him as she clung to the hope of her better life to come.
"Tell me the truth!" she
"With my own lips?"
"Yes!" she answered, eagerly.
"Say what you think of me with your own lips."
He stooped and kissed her.
THIS week we publish, on
and 57, another double-page drawing by Thomas Nast, the subject of which is the
great event of the day—EMANCIPATION.
In the centre of the picture is a
negro's free and happy home. Here domestic peace and comfort reign supreme, the
reward of faithful labor, undertaken with the blissful knowledge that at last
its benefit belongs to the laborer only, and that all his honest earnings are to
be appropriated as he may see fit to the object he has most at heart—his
children's advancement and education.
On the wall hangs a portrait of
President Lincoln, whom the family can not
sufficiently admire and revere. They regard him with feelings akin to
veneration, and in each heart there is honest love and gratitude for him. Near
this is a banjo, their favorite musical instrument, a source of never-ending
enjoyment and recreation.
At the top of the picture the
Goddess of Liberty appropriately figures. The slaves have often heard of her
before, but have rather regarded her as a myth. Underneath is old Father Time,
holding a little child (the New Year), who is striking off the chains of the
bondman and setting him at liberty forever.
On the left are incidents of
everyday occurrence in slave life; and, in happy contrast, on the right we see
some of the inevitable results of freedom and civilization. One of the scenes
represented is a slave sale. We can not do better than quote verbatim some parts
of a report which appeared in the Tribune of March 11, 1859. The sale consisted
of 436 slaves—men, women, and children—and were the property of Mr. Pierce M.
Butler, and were sold to pay his debts. It took place near the city of Savannah,
"There were no light mulattoes in
the whole lot of the Butler stock, and but very few that were even a shade
removed from the original Congo blackness. They have been little defiled by the
admixture of Anglo-Saxon blood, and for the most part could boast that they were
of as pure a breed as the bluest blood of Spain.
"None of the Butler slaves have
ever been sold before, but have been on these two plantations ever since they
were born. [We should have said before that old Major Butler left the property
to his two sons, and those sold were only half of them, the others still
remaining as before.] Here have they lived their humble lives and loved their
simple loves; here were they born, and here have many of them had children born
unto them; here had their parents lived before them, and are now resting in
quiet graves on the old plantations that these unhappy ones are to see no more
forever; here they left not only the well-known scenes dear to them from very
babyhood by a thousand fond memories, and homes as much loved by them, perhaps,
as brighter homes by men of brighter faces; but all the clinging ties that bound
them to living hearts were torn asunder, for but one half of each of these two
unhappy little communities was sent to the shambles, to be scattered to the four
winds, and the other half was left behind. And who can tell how closely
intertwined are the affections of a little band of four hundred persons living
isolated from all the world beside, from birth to middle age? Do they not
naturally become one great family, each man a brother unto each?
"It is true they were sold 'in
families,' but let us see: A man and his wife were called 'a family;' their
parents and kindred were not taken into account; the man and wife might be sold
to the pine woods of North Carolina, their brothers and sisters be scattered
through the cotton fields of Alabama and the rice swamps of Louisiana, while the
parents might be left on the old plantation, to wear out their weary lives in
heavy grief, and lay their heads in far-off graves over which their children
might never weep. And no account could be taken of loves that were as yet
unconsummated by marriage, and how many aching hearts have been divorced by this
summary proceeding no man can ever know.
"And the separation is as utter,
and is infinitely more hopeless, than that made by the angel of death, for then
the loved ones are committed to the care of a merciful Deity, but in the other
instance to the tender mercies of a slave-driver. These dark-skinned
unfortunates are perfectly unlettered, and could not communicate by writing even
if they should know where to send their missives. And so to each other, and to
the old familiar places of their youth, clung all their sympathies and
affections, not less strong, perhaps, because they are so few. The blades of
grass on all the Butler estates are outnumbered by the tears that are poured out
in agony at tho wreck that has been wrought in happy homes, and the crushing
grief that has been laid on loving hearts."
The quiet and reserved deportment
of the slaves during the few days that preceded the sale, when the buyers,
coming from far and near, had leisure to examine them, particularly of the
women, is spoken of thus:
"The women never spoke to the
white men unless spoken to, and then made the conference as short as possible.
And not one of them all, during the whole time they were exposed to the rude
questions of vulgar men, spoke the first unwomanly or indelicate word, or
conducted herself in any regard otherwise than as a modest women should do.
Their conversation and demeanor were quite as unexceptionable as they would have
been had they been the highest ladies in the land; and through all the insults
to which they were subjected they conducted themselves with the most perfect
decorum and self-respect.
"And now come the scenes of the
last partings—of the final separations of those who were akin, or who had been
such dear friends from youth that no ties of kindred could bind them closer—of
those who were all in all to each other, and for whose bleeding hearts there
shall be no earthly comfort—the parting of parents from children, of brother
from brother, and the rending of sister from a sister's bosom; and oh, hardest,
cruelest of all, the tearing asunder of loving hearts, wedded in all save the
one ceremony of the Church—these scenes pass all description; it is not meet for
pen to meddle with tears so holy."
In the picture above this is a
slaver from Africa laden with its precious freight of hundreds of human beings,
packed as close as possible. In the same picture are runaway slaves. One of them
has already been overtaken by the unerring scent of the carefully-trained
blood-hound; another has yielded up his life rather than his liberty; and some
others are trying hard to make their escape to the dismal swamp. The lower
picture shows us the overseer compelling the negroes to work by the power of the
The other side of our picture
shows us the negroes receiving pay for their faithful labor—their just due for
services rendered their employer—and the children going to school.
NATURE, that will not be
commanded, never To arbitrary method hath submitted:
And time, that tends on nature,
men not ever Have into limitary system fitted.
We call a year a year, and bid it
Three hundred five and sixty
days: who'll trust it? Mere fiction! since a fraction still stays over,
And we, to keep our plan, must
Even if within the hundredth of a
We could approach precision, that
small fraction Would still bear our discomfiture within it, And doom our nicest
system to destruction.
Then let us follow nature, glad
Since her fast footstep not her
best trap catches; Content to time her progress by the beating Of her own bosom,
not of our wise watches.