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Robert E. Lee Portrait
Page) flame as resembling a screw in
its progress. It first whirled up Ninth Street, and then the fiery torrent
rushed down the street for a distance of two squares, and then back again at the
caprice of the wind, destroying all living things that came in its way, burning
dwellings and their contents as though they were no much straw, and even
splitting into fragments the paving-stones in the street with the intense heat.
Fully five squares of houses, had they been placed in a row, were on fire at
once, and the scene was one to make the stoutest heart quail.
" People escaping from their
blazing homes, with no covering but their night-clothes ; parents seeking for
their children, and terrified little ones looking for safety in the horrid
turmoil, were all dreadful enough, but there were still more terrible scenes
witnessed. Men, women, and children were literally roasted alive in the
It is thought that eight persons
were burned to death. One of the most thrilling incidents connected with the
fire was the daring attempt made by a Mr. FLEETWOOD, fireman, to rescue a lady
from her house, which was encircled by the flames. It is thus described by the
"The burning oil, hissing and
seething, came pouring down the street, and the house, from which eleven persons
had been rescued but a moment before, was licked up by the red, fiery tongues of
the demon of Destruction. At this time the brave FLEETWOOD was bearing in his
strong arms the body, it is supposed, of Mrs. WARE or one of her daughters. His
companions were driven back by the approach of the burning element the
increasing heat and stifling smoke. Almost at the same moment the burning oil
burst through the rear part of the house, and, flowing through the entry, all
chance of escape was gone. The brave fireman endeavored to fight his way out,
still holding the woman in his arms. He reached the front door step; it was a
moment of horror; he leaped from the step, driven by the flow of burning oil
through the house, but the flames closed around him; a groan and a shriek
escaped the lips of the victims, and both fell in death. His companions
endeavored to rescue both, but it was impossible. Their crisped remains were
found but a few feet distant from each other."
The loss from the fire is
estimated at half a million. That portion of this loss, which falls to the
poorest of the sufferers, will probably be made up to them by charitable
"I NEVER was guilty of such a
thing in my life," said the Colonel, calmly.
"Never sent a valentine ?"
"Nor received one?"
" Benighted ignorance ! Here is a
man to whom the most pleasing emotions are unknown; whose heart has never been
wrung by the sight of its facsimile pierced with a barbed shaft, or softened
with a delicious couplet wrapped in roses ! I'll tell my Cousin Mary. Miss
Arundel, here is a full grown man who never sent or received a valentine."
Now if any one had been
attentively observing him they might have detected a slight change in the
indolent composure of the Colonel's handsome features. His negligent posture
became the least bit more upright, and a glance from under his sleepy eyelids
toward the lady addressed as Miss Arundel might have aroused in that same
attentive observer some little of the interest of speculation. That is, if the
attentive observer had been at hand ; which he wasn't.
Colonel Hugh Carton had been
leaning carelessly over the back of a couch on which lounged his friend and
inquisitor, Francis Graham, the boyish son of the Colonel's present host. And if
Colonel Carton had been asked some ten days ago what he thought about country
visits in general he would probably have answered, with a shrug, " Bores!" His
opinion had undergone modification by this time, however. Perhaps the Grahams
were singularly felicitous in the party of guests they contrived to draw
together ; perhaps ten days of such glorious weather as rarely falls to the lot
of February's infancy had something to do with the complacent state of his mind.
At any rate, when young Graham appealed to Miss Arundel there was in Colonel
Carton's momentary emotion a small stir of regret that this was the last evening
of his stay.
The young lady was occupied with
one of those never ending resources, the photographic albums, and she did not
look up to answer her cousin's speech. It could not possibly matter to her about
Colonel Carton and his valentines.
" What a noise you are making,
Frank !" she said. "You drown the music."
" Music !" echoed Frank. "A
dissipated entreaty to `Take this cup of sparkling wine.' You know I ought not
to listen to that, Mary. And it makes my flesh creep, and turns you all into
water nymphs and gnomes. No. Whose caricature have you got there ?"
"I have got Titiens as Margaret,"
replied Miss Arundel, quietly, faithful to her book.
"Somebody dressed up to resemble
her, you mean ?" said Mr. Frank.
He made one or two more efforts
to draw his cousin into what he called conversation, failed, gave it up, hid a
yawn with some difficulty, and sauntered away. Those two were hopelessly stupid;
the one as bad as the other. And suddenly something seemed to flash upon Mr.
Frank, and he exclaimed, " By George!" and looked back ; but the relative
positions were just as he had left them.
It might have been supposed that
the Colonel, thus left free, would naturally join the young lady in her
examination of Titiens as Margaret ; but he did not. Ile only altered his
position by leaning against a dark back-ground of curtain, so as to be able to
take in the whole room, with all its arrangements, at a glance. Certainly his
hostess was a woman of tact. The general fault in these country house
assemblages was, he considered, that the guests were too much en masse too
gregarious. Now, here and there, in Mrs. Graham's drawing room, small tables
were dotted about, admirably placed, and admitting of games for two only, apart
from the rest, without being positively isolated: tables at which delightful
little flirtations could and did go on with the most comfortable freedom from
disturbance. Some one or two of these caught the Colonel's eye in its glance
round the room, and he smiled to himself slightly. It is to be feared that he
had a disposition to be cynical about them. He never flirted himself; it was an
had no charm for him ; but he
thought this a very clever plan for parceling off sundry pairs out of the mass
of guests, and making them amuse themselves and others who chose to look on.
Then his eyes came back to bliss Arundel over her book. They rested there with a
strange expression for a moment, and then dropped. Other people, perhaps, would
have seen little beauty in the face, except the beauty inseparable in a degree
at least from youth. But Colonel Carton did not see as other people did. He was
up in the clouds about Mary Arundel; up in the clouds for the first time in his
life. All that was most exalted, all that he would have been skeptical about a
fortnight ago, tinted his thoughts of her. He threw the light of stars about her
till it dazzled him. He fancied see how visionary the practical man grows when
he is touched ! he fancied that, little as he sought her, they were yet together
in perpetual, half conscious thought of each other, and reference to each
other's judgment. But his visit was over, and could pot be prolonged. He did not
yet know whether he meant to go away, having kept silence, or not.
Perhaps this uncertainty was a
charm in itself; he could not tell. By and by, when the music began again, he
left his leaning posture and approached Mary's table.
"It is a pity that pleasant
things should come to an end," said the Colonel, out of his cloud. From any one
else such a commencement as this, by an abstract proposition, might have made
her laugh; but somehow the Colonel had got into a habit of speaking to her out
of his hall finished reveries, and she was used to it.
"I don't know," responded Mary. "
They say that pleasure itself would cease to be pleasant if it had no end."
The Colonel meditated.
" That applies to the present
only ; I mean to this life," he said.
Mary did not answer. There was
such an odd mixture of grave thoughts with lighter ones in this man's talk that
he perplexed her. Just now, however, he seemed to rouse himself all at once. If
he meant to speak out there was no time for wandering off into foreign
" I never thought to close a
visit such as this with so much regret," he said. " I am obliged to leave here
tomorrow. You go also, I think ?"
"Yes, I must be at home for my
sister's wedding. It is fixed for the fourteenth."
The Colonel grew a shade paler as
he looked down upon the face that was never raised to his. "If I thought " he
He never finished. The voice of
his restless friend broke in upon him, and he stopped. He never did any thing in
" Valentine's Day," said Frank,
catching his cousin's speech, and innocently unconscious that he could have been
spared. " A very proper day too. Now, Mary, confess; haven't you a weakness for
" Carton," said Frank, solemnly,
" she is afraid of you and won't own it. Valentine's Day has never passed yet
without bringing her a cargo of what she affects to despise."
"And very amusing it is,
especially when I get an original lyric from Francis Graham. You know, Frank—"
"Ch—ut ! Don't add libel to your
other crimes. Carton, when we wore pinafores Mary promised to be faithful to me
forever. I would have kept my pact and waited for her I mean, allowed her to
wait for me," said Frank, twinkling his eye ; " but you see how it is. A wiser
man than I am condemns valentines, and my poor annual offering is rejected!"
Mary answered quickly, a little
" Frank, you carry your nonsense
too far. Of course, I am very fond of valentines, and you can send me as many as
you like. Real ones," she added, trying to speak lightly; "all done up in a
beautiful lace envelope, with " To my Valentine,' illuminated outside."
Mary stopped. There was a
movement in the room which she understood, and she rose, not altogether sorry to
" I shall remember," said the
Colonel, turning to her. And then he added : " I'm afraid I shall not see you
tomorrow ; I start early. Good night, and good by."
He might have held her hand a
little longer than was usual or necessary ; perhaps he did.
But Mary went through the other "
Good nights" with perfect calmness, and no one was sufficiently interested in
her to notice that her eyes were very bright and her cheeks had more pink in
them than usual. And the Colonel changed his dress and went to the smoking room,
after hie habit ; but he did not stay there long, and he was very silent. In the
early morning Frank Graham volunteered to accompany his friend for a mile or
two. I dare say the Colonel could have dispensed with the courtesy ; but he did
not say so, acquiescing simply.
As he rode away Colonel Carton
turned his head, and looked slowly up along the range of windows which still had
their blinds closed. It is just possible that this wistful backward look was
seen, but that is Mary's business, not ours.
COLONEL CARTON was in town ; a lonely, meditative man. He had spent a whole
dull month in
town. He had acquired secret, and probably lying
information, respecting the operas for the forth
coming season ; he had read political articles till he
was choked with politics. He had gone about from
place to place aimlessly, with a weight on his mind,
and a vague belief that there was a flaw somewhere
in the government of the universe, but where it was
he could not tell. For when Colonel Carton rode
away from the Graham's "place in the country," I
don't think he ever contemplated the possibility that
this thing which had happened to him would happen. The Colonel had never
sent a valientine in his
life before ; he sent one then. It was not a string
of mild rhymes of his own putting together ; nor a
purchased and printed piece of inane sweetness.
It is true that he, who did
nothing by halves, be thought him of the lace envelope which Mary had spoken of.
She was jesting, of course; but she, should have one. I don't know how many
respectable dealers in such fancy goods hated the Colonel for his hardness to
please ; and I should be afraid to chronicle the price at which he finally
secured a single envelope of the most delicate elaboration of design and finish.
And on the outside of this he wrote gravely, "To my Valentine." There might have
been a comical sort of dismay in his face as he looked at the sentence ; but he
was not ashamed of it ; he was too much in earnest. Whatever it looked like to
others, it meant for him, " To my wife if she will have me."
He could not have borne, of
course, that indifferent eyes should see that dainty envelope and know it for
his. But no one was to see it that is, no one but Mary. And then he had written
his letter, and the light of stars got into it and filled it. He came down out
of his cloud to write ; solemnly in earnest. The tender words which made their
escape, somehow, from his unaccustomed pen, gave him so odd a sensation when he
saw them that he was fain to lay his hand over the page and hide them from his
own eyes as he went on.
What a fool he was !
This he would have said now ; for
this valentine, which had grown under his hands into an almost sacred thing,
never was answered.
Colonel Carton was not a
conceited man ; but he had a certain proper amount of pride. What had this girl
seen in him that she should not only mock him first with an affectation of
interest, but absolutely receive his proposal with an insulting silence ?
He might not be worthy of her,
perhaps ; but he was her equal in society's eyes ; and, at any rate, an honest
man's offer of his heart and home and faithful devotion is at least worth a
reply. The Colonel's pale face used to flush a little at those times when he was
turning this over in his mind ; indeed it might be difficult to say when he was
not turning it over in some indirect fashion. He would not have told the episode
to his dearest friend by the way, I doubt whether he had a dearest friend ; if
he had, that same friend kept strangely aloof from him now. The Colonel had few
likings ; his heart would have been all his wife's, if-
Well, it was of no use to think
any more about it. And, having come to that conclusion, the Colonel would
deliberately begin again, and go over all the details of that visit which had
been so precious to him.
A short time after, Mary
Arundel's sister married Mr. Temple, a Member of Congress. Mary was living a
grand life, he thought. If he had only known !
"LET me come in a bit, Carton.
What an awful time it is since you were here !"
"Just two years," replied the
Colonel, thoughtfully. " I hadn't this room then."
Frank Graham laughed, and made a
grimace at the superfluity of looking glass which surrounded him.
"No: you may get a view of
yourself in any position you like. I don't know why you were put here ; one of
the mysteries of domestic polity, I suppose."
The Colonel shivered slightly, as
a blast of wind sounded round the house and finished up with a dismal moan at
"The fire is comfortable," he
said. "If I recollect rightly, it's different weather from that we had this time
two years. Many people here, Frank ?"
" Well yes; pretty fair. You know
most of them. The Temples are here. And Mary Arundel is with them. Carton, don't
be angry with a fellow ; but, do you know, I used to fancy—"
" There's just fifteen minutes to
dress in," said the Colonel, rising with his usual deliberation ; "and I don't
know that I can do it, so—"
" In polite language, I'm to
`take and hook it,' eh? Well, I'll not hinder such a get up as yours. By by."
Colonel Carton gave exactly five
out of the fifteen minutes remaining to meditation; which did him very little
service. So he would have to meet her again. How? He tried to settle this
question, and failed. After all, it did not depend entirely upon himself; it was
as well, perhaps, to leave it to chance.
Ile was down in excellent time,
notwithstanding the wasted five minutes; and it fell to his lot to take Miss
Arundel in to dinner.
I don't suppose that a more
taciturn couple ever descended a staircase together. The Colonel had renewed his
acquaintance with Miss Arundel indeed, but with the most inimitable distance and
gravity. No one, seeing them meet, would have suspected the existence of those
past passages in their lives which once drew them so closely together. And the
Colonel did not think it necessary to make conversation either. Beyond the
barest civilities he said nothing, and seemed quite content that Mary's
attention should be wholly engrossed by her other neighbor.
That night the Colonel played
chess with Mrs. Temple at one of the convenient little tables before mentioned.
It was rather a silent game, so that they could not have made much progress
toward intimacy by means of words ; neither can I tell how it was that before he
checkmated her the Colonel caught himself' speaking to Mrs. Temple with his old
peculiar mixture of frankness and reserve accorded only to his friends, while
she listened to him, and answered him too, as though they had known each other
from childhood instead of having met for the first time an hour or two ago. The
psychologist might resolve it into a simple question of natural affinities; at
any rate, whatever the cause, the result is certain, that these two sought each
other out front the first night of their meeting as old friends might have done.
" My sister is going to sing,"
said Mrs. Temple, one evening, as the pieces were placed. " I'm afraid this will
be a poor game, for I always listen to Mary. You have heard her ?"
" No," the Colonel was not aware
that Miss Arundel sang at all.
"Yet you must have met here once
before, I think ?"
" That is strange. Perhaps it was
ah, yes, I remember; singing was forbidden to her just then; she is never very
strong. Do you play first ?"
Colonel Carton propelled the
king's pawn into its accustomed square, and appeared to watch his adversary's
move with interest.
"Miss Arundel is much quieter
than she was two years ago. I remember that she was the life of all pleasure
arrangements. If she is in delicate health that explains it."
"Ask her," said Mrs. Temple,
laughing. " She will tell you it's old age. Mary is odd."
The Colonel looked at her
ladyship's blonde face and fair hair speculatively. She must be at least five
years younger than Mary, he thought. And then, with a finger on the piece he was
about to move, he stopped. As a rule, he did not care for amateur singing;
people in the constant habit of hearing first rate professionals seldom do. But
this was another thing, altogether different from the amateur singing of his
experience. He kept his eyes on the board steadily, but Mrs. Temple saw that he
was not thinking about the game.
" Suppose we give it up for a
time ?" said she. He looked up quickly, with a slight smile.
"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Temple;
not unless you wish it ; I move the bishop."
Foolish play, as Mrs. Temple
knew, and utterly foreign to his usual tactics; but she said nothing, and the
Colonel lost the game in a few moves.
"For the first time!" said she,
triumphantly; " we will not begin again tonight."
Colonel Carton acquiesced. Mary
was still at the piano, and likely to remain there. When such assemblies as
these get hold of a fine voice, there is very little mercy shown to its owner.
By and by the Colonel got restless, and went up again to Mrs. Temple.
"You said your sister was not
strong. Won't she be tired?"
" Yes," said Mrs. Temple ; " I
shall put a stop to it."
Perhaps she expected him to
accompany her to the piano, but he did not; neither did he join the group of
enthusiasts who loaded the singer with thanks and flattery. Mary and be were
seldom near each other ; when they were, it was as though they had both touched
an iceberg, and never again could thaw into any degree of kindliness or warmth.
Yet still the Colonel staid on. He had only come down for a day or two, but a
week was gone already. He did not know how closely those keen eyes of young
Graham's watched him, nor how perplexed the young man was with his behavior.
"They make love like crowned
heads," said Frank ; " that is, if it isn't all a sell ; I never saw such
stately politeness between lovers."
But there was no love making in
the case ; nothing at all like it.
And one evening Colonel Carton
determined with himself that he had staid too long already, and would positively
take his departure the next morning. He was standing indolently in the doorway
of the back drawing room when he made this decision; and round the fire, in that
coziest of retreats, he saw Mrs. Temple and her sister, two or three other young
ladies, and Frank Graham, all in some animated discussion all, that is, except
Mary. Her face was turned toward the fire, and the profile, which was all he
saw, struck him with its expression of weary listlessness. Suddenly Mary turned
and looked at him a strange look, averted hastily in a moment, for she had not
known that he was there. But the Colonel saw the quick rush of color over her
face saw her put up one hand to hide it, and felt desperately that he must go
away, or once again he should be a fool.
" Carton !" cried Frank, darting
up, and drawing him toward the group. " The very man I wanted. He never sent one
in his life. I heard him boast about it in that very room. Isn't it a true bill,
Carton? I've adopted your opinions. Bear witness with use that valentines are
silly, childish, nonsensical, every thing that's had."
The Colonel, with a bitterness
that the occasion did not seem to demand, replied,
" As mediums for inflicting pain
and unwarrantable insult, I think them admirable, Frank." Every one looked up at
the Colonel as he said this. Even Frank began rashly, "Hallo, old fellow, I
didn't think " and then stopped, not knowing what to say. Mrs. Temple was the
first to break the uneasy silence, which she did with an assumed indifference.
"Colonel Carton judges them
harshly. I have had many a laugh over mine before I was married. I don't get any
now. I remember that the last I had was on my wedding morning, and I never
" Never opened it !" repeated
Frank. " What a shame !"
"No. It wasn't likely I could
attend to such matters then. When I took off the outside cover, and saw what it
was, I threw it with a lot of old letters into my traveling desk, and there it
is now for any thing I know to the contrary. It's odd I never had the curiosity
to look for it; suppose
have a search now? Frank, you may
fetch the desk, if it isn't too heavy for you."
No one spoke while Mrs. Temple
unlocked the traveling desk, which looked rather ponderous for a lady's use. No
one noticed the tall figure behind her chair; no one saw the lips compressed and
white, the head bending lower and lower, and the long fingers pressing into each
other as Mrs. Temple dived into the secret recesses of the desk. He saw it all
now; all his blind stupidity, and what it had caused, flashed across him as Mrs.
Temple held up the long hidden envelope. Half a dozen small hands were stretched
out eagerly for it; one, larger than these, suddenly pressed somewhat heavily on
" Mrs. Temple, may I entreat of
your goodness to restore to me that letter?"