the treachery and the rest ? It was the conviction
that that man, though I could not put my hand on
him, had his eye on me all the while, the cer-
tainty that I never went to sleep without his know-
ing where I lay down, that I never got up but he
was advised of my next move, that I was under his
espionage day and night !
I think my steps were dogged from the time I
first left Montana, though I had no suspicion of it
until long after. The suspicion fired me and gave
me strength in the beginning, and then it paralyzed
me, when I saw how easily he eluded my pursuit,
and how defenceless I was. I could trust nobody.
The fellow sleeping at my side by the camp-fire
might be ISTevins's spy. Every stranger that looked
at me any way curiously sent a chill to my heart.
Whether there were three men or a hundred em-
ployed to watch me, I cannot tell ; but at every
point there was some one to mislead me or balk my
plan. The wilds of Montana seemed to be policed
by this terrible man. Why did n't he kill me, and
218 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
have done with it? I don't know. My life was in
his hands, and is to-day. The sense of being sur-
rounded and dogged and snared grew insupportable
at last. Can you understand how maddening it
was 1 ? I gave up the hope of meeting Nevins face
to face, and only longed to hide myself somewhere
out of his sight.
About six months ago I fell in with a man at
Shasta, one Thompson, who owned a ranch twenty
miles back in the country ; he wanted help in man-
aging his herds, and offered me a share in the stock.
This business has just turned out disastrously, as I
have said. Everything I touch turns worthless. It
was a sorry day for you, poor Joe, when you joined
fortune with me. I could sink a cork ship. I am
Jonah without Jonah's whale. If ever I am thrown
overboard, I shall be drowned, mark that.
I had to leave the ranch, and left it two days
ago. The moment I put foot in Shasta I felt I
was again under the eye of Nevins's invisible police.
I am not sure I shall escape them by going into
the army. I am not sure, on patriotic grounds, that
I ought to go into the army. My luck is enough to
bring on a national defeat.
In all these thirty-six months, Joe, I had not heard
a word from Riverrnouth, until last night. I sup-
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 219
pose you must have written to me ; if you have,
your letters missed fire. No one else, I imagine,
has been much troubled about my fate. My dear
old friend, Parson Wibird, is dead, and Miss Pal-
frey is going to marry his successor. So runs the
world away ! These two items of news gave a hard
tug at my heart-strings. I got the intelligence in
the oddest way. Last night, sitting on the porch
of the hotel, I overheard a stranger talking about
Biverniouth. You may fancy I pricked up my ears
at the word, and invented occasion to speak with
the man. He did not belong to the town, but he
appeared to have come from there lately, and I
gathered from him all I wanted to know and
more ! Joe ! there are things in the world that
cut one up more cruelly than hunger and cold. But
I can't write of this. I did not mean to write so
long a letter ; I meant only to let you know I was
alive. Indeed, I am in frightfully good health. If
I had been rich and happy, I might have been dead
these two years. " There 's nae luck aboot the
house ! "
I 'm not breathing a word of reproach against
anybody, you understand. I have n't the right. I
have made my own bed, and if I don't he in it
comfortably, there 's no one to blame except myself
220 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
I see my mistake. I ought to have stayed at Eed
Bock, and gone to work again, like a man. But
it 's too late now.
Good by, my dear Joe. I hope you are prosper-
ing, you and your tribe. There must be a lot of you
by this time ! You continue, I suppose, to have an
annual brother or sister 1 I trust Uncle Dent is well
also. He is a fine old fellow, and I Ve regretted a
thousand times that I quarrelled with him. But he
did brush my hair the wrong way. I start from
here to-morrow for the East. I have not decided
yet whether to join the army in the North or in the
"West; but wherever I go, I am, my dear boy,
Your faithful and unfortunate friend,
Mr. Joseph Twombly read these eight pages
through twice very carefully, interrupting him-
self from time to time to give vent to an ex-
clamation of surprise or pity or disapproval or
indignation, as the mood moved him.
"Poor Jack!" said Twombly. "He is a
kind of Jonah, sure enough, and I don't be-
lieve the healthiest whale in the world could
keep him on its stomach for five minutes.
"What a foolish fellow to throw himself away
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 221
in that fashion! Why in thunder didn't he
tell me where to write him ? October 31st.
That 's more than a month ago. The Lord only
knows what may have happened since then."
Twornbly sat pondering for some time with
his elbows on the desk ; then he folded up the
letter, and placed it in a fresh envelope, which
he directed in a large, round, innocent hand to
"Ralph Dent, Esq., Riverrnouth, N. H."
222 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
KlNG COPHETUA AND THE BEGGAR MAID.
MR. DENT had watched the increasing in-
timacy between Prudence and the young
minister with much peculiar, secret satisfac-
tion, as the reader has been informed ; and
that afternoon, while she and Mr. Dillingham
were gazing at the sunset through the embra-
sure of the fort, Mr. Dent, in spite of the pain
in his ankle, of which he had complained earlier
in the day, was walking briskly up and down
the library, building castles for the young
When a man has reached the age of Mr.
Dent, and is too rheumatic himself to occupy
castles in the air, he indulges in this kind of
architecture for the benefit of others, that is,
if he has a generous nature, and Mr. Dent had
a very generous nature. To see Prue well set-
tled in life, and to have two or three of Prue's
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 223
children playing around the arm-chair of his
old age, was his only dream now. So, in con-
structing his castles, he added to each a wing
for a nursery on a scale more extensive, per-
haps, than would have been approved by either
of the prospective tenants, if the architect had
submitted his plans to them.
Mr. Dent had never asked himself - and pos-
sibly the question would have posed him - why
he was so willing now for Prudence to marry,
when the thought of her marrying had appeared
so terrible to him in connection with his nephew.
It was John Dent's misfortune, perhaps, that
he was the first to stir Mr. Dent's parental
jealousy ; maybe Mr. Dillingham would have
fared no better, if he had come first. At all
events, he had come second, and Mr. Dent was
far from raising objections.
He was in the sunniest of humors, this after-
noon, contemplating Prue's possible happiness
and his own patriarchal comfort in it, when
Fanny brought in the evening papers, and with
them the letter which Mr. Joseph Twombly
had considerately mailed to Mr. Dent a few
224 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
He tore open the envelope carelessly, recog-
nizing Twombly's handwriting, but the sight of
John Dent's peumanship gave him a turn. He
ran over the pages hurriedly, and with various
conflicting emotions, among which a sympathy
for Jack's past and present sufferings was not,
it is to be feared, so pronounced as Twombly's
It was unquestionably a relief to know that
Jack was alive and in good health ; but it was
a little unfortunate to have the letter come
just then, when everything was going on
so smoothly. The reflection that Jack might
take it into his head to return to Rivermouth
and insist on marrying Prue, was not agreeable
to Mr. Dent. He had assented to this at one
time ; he had overlooked his nephew's poverty,
but since then John Dent had not behaved
handsomely to Prue.
Whatever Prudence's feelings were, this let-
ter could but disturb her. It would set her to
thinking of the past, and that was not desirable.
But why show her the letter, at present? he
would have to show it to her if he spoke of it ;
why not wait until he heard again from Jack,
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 225
whose plans were still with loose ends ? He
could not be put into possession of the Haw-
kins property or even informed that he was to
inherit it, for the year specified in the will
lacked several months of expiration. Moreover,
the letter was one that for several reasons
could not well be shown to Prudence ; it spoke
of her marriage as a foregone conclusion, the
very way to unsettle everything ; and then what
business had Jack to go and say there were
things in the world that cut one up more cru-
elly than hunger and cold ? What an intem-
perate kind of phraseology that was !
These reflections were struggling through Mr.
Dent's mind when he heard the clatter of hoofs
at the gate. He crumpled the letter in his
hand, and thrusting it into his pocket, has-
tened out to the front door. In the middle of
the hall he recollected what a bad state his
ankle was in, and limped the rest of the way.
"Won't you stop to tea, Dillingham?' he
cried, as he saw the young clergyman with one
foot in the stirrup, Mr. Dillingham having dis-
mounted to assist Prudence from the saddle.
" Thanks, my friend ; but to-night, you know,
226 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
is the night I am obliged to prepare my ser-
With which words Mr. Dillinghani touched
his hat to Miss Palfrey, waved his hand smil-
ingly to Mr. Dent, and rode away.
As Prudence came up the gravelled path, with
the trail of her riding habit thrown over her
arm, showing two neat bronze boots, she was
too much engaged with her own thoughts to
notice Mr. Dent closely ; at another time she
would have seen that something had disturbed
him. Mr. Dent was sharper sighted, and he
saw that Prudence was laboring under unusual
excitement. Had Dillinghani spoken at last,
and if so, how had Prue taken it ? He did not
dare to conjecture, for he felt it would be a
bitter disappointment to him if she had refused
" At any rate," Mr. Dent said to himself,
" Jack's letter is not the thing for popular
reading just now."
After tea Prudence told her guardian what
had passed between her and Mr. Dillingham.
He had asked her to be his wife, but so nl>
ruptly and unexpectedly, that he had startled
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 227
her more than she liked. He had, without any
warning, leaned forward and taken her hand
while they were looking at the sunset in the
bastion of the ruined fort ; then he had stepped
down from his horse, much as King Cophetua
must have stepped down from the throne, and
stood at her stirrup-side.
Prudence felt it would be dreadfully senti-
mental to repeat what Mr. Dillingham had said
to her, so she did not repeat his words, but
gave Mr. Dent the substance of them. The
young man perceived that the suddenness of
his action had displeased Prudence, and begged
to be forgiven for that, and for the abruptness
of his words, if they seemed abrupt to her ;
they did not seem so to him, for he had car-
ried her presence in his thought from the hour
he first saw her. If during the past months
he had concealed his feelings in regard to her,
it was because he knew his own unworthiness,
and did not dare to hope for so great happi-
ness as her love would be to him. He had
betrayed his secret involuntarily ; the hour, the
place, and her nearness must plead for him.
" He really turned it very neatly," said Prue,
228 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
trying to brush off the bloom of romance which
she was conscious overspread her story, though
she had endeavored to tell it in as prosaic a
manner as possible.
" He 's a noble fellow," exclaimed Mr. Dent
warmly, " and is worthy of any woman, the
best of women, and that 's you."
" He is noble," said Prudence, meditatively ;
" and as he stood there, looking up at me, I
think I more than half loved him."
" And you told him so ! ' cried Mr. Dent.
" No, I did not," said Prudence, with a per-
plexed expression clouding her countenance.
" The words were on my lips, but I could not
say them. I could not say anything at first ;
he quite took away my breath. When I was
able to speak I was full of doubt. I do not
know if I love him. I esteem him and admire
him ; he has genius and goodness, and I can
understand how a woman might be very proud
of his love ; but when he asked me to marry
him, it startled me and pained me, instead of
. of making me very happy, you know."
Mr. Dent did not know at all ; Prudence's
insensibility and hesitation were simply incom-
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 229
preliensible to him ; but he nodded his head
appreciatively, as if he took in the whole situ-
" What did you say to him ? '
" Almost what I am saying to you."
" But that was not a very definite answer to
a proposal of marriage, it strikes me."
" I asked him not to refer to the subject
again at present."
" That was dodging the question, Prue."
" I wanted time, uncle, to know my own
In effect, Prudence had neither accepted nor
rejected the young minister.
" Rather nattering for a man of Dillingham's
character and position," thought Mr. Dent, " to
be kept cooling his heels in an anteroom that
" You see, uncle, it was too important a step
to be taken without reflection. Thoughtless
people should not be allowed to marry, ever."
" How long will it take you, Pruc, to know
your mind ? "
" I don't know," she said, restlessly ; " a
week a month, perhaps."
830 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
" And in the mean time Dillingham will con-
tinue Ids visits here just the same ? '
" Just the same. I arranged all that."
"0, you arranged all that ? '
" But won't it be a little awkward for every-
body ? "
" I suppose so," said Prudence, looking
wretched as she thought it over.
Mr. Dent was too wily to say anything more,
for he saw that if Prudence was urged in her
present wavering humor to give Dillingham a
conclusive answer, it might possibly be in the
However, the ice was broken, that was one
point gained ; the rest would naturally follow ;
for Prue could not long remain blind to the
merits of a man like Dillingham, after know-
ing that he loved her. Mr. Dent laughed in
his sleeve, thinking how sly it was in the
young parson to corner Prue up there in the
old fort, and attempt to carry her by storm.
A vague exultation at Prue's not allowing her-
self to be taken in this sudden assault, formed,
in spite of him, an ingredient in the good
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 231
Mr. Dillingham passed the following evening
at Willowbrook as though nothing unusual had
occurred between him and Miss Palfrey. If
the beggar maid, instead of accepting King
Cophetua on the spot, as I suppose the minx
dic^ _ _ h a d reserved her decision for a month
or two to consider the matter, the king could
not have behaved meanwhile with more tact
and delicacy than Mr. Dillingham exercised on
this evening and in his subsequent visits.
Prudence carefully but not ostensibly avoided
being left alone with him, and there was none
of that awkwardness or constraint attending
the resumption of purely friendly intercourse
which Mr. Dent had anticipated.
Observing that the young people no longer
rode horseback, Mr. Dent hastened the cure
of his ankle, and the rides were resumed un-
der his supervision ; but the bridle-path lead-
ing to the old earthworks was tacitly ignored
by all parties. Prudence and Mr. Dillingham
had gone that road once too often if nothing-
was to come of it.
Mr. Dillingham retraced his steps so skil-
fully, and had come back with so good grace
232 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
to the point from which he had diverged, that
Prudence began to doubt if she had not dreamed
that tender episode of the old fort, and to
question if the old fort itself were not a fig-
ment. The whole scene and circumstance had
become so unreal to her that one morning,
riding alone, as she sometimes did now, she
let Jenny turn into the rocky path leading to
the crest of the hill, and secured ocular proof
that the ruined earthwork at least was a fact.
Standing there in the embrasure, she felt for
an instant as if the young clergyman's hand
rested on her own. That same evening Mr.
Dillingham made it all seem like a delusion
again by talking to her and smiling upon her
just as he had done the month previously.
But the recollection that he had asked her to
be his wife, and that she had a response to
make to the momentous question, now and
then came over Prudence like a chill.
Rather vexatiously for Mr. Dent, somewhat
restlessly for his ward, and perhaps not alto-
gether happily for Mr. Dillingham, however
composed he seemed, two weeks went by.
COLONEL PEYTON TODHUNTER.
AT the end of those two weeks, Mr. Billing -
ham, who had not spoken to Mr. Dent
relative to the position of affairs between him-
self and Prudence, took occasion to do so one
December afternoon, as he was sitting with his
friend before the open wood-fire in the library.
There is a quality in an open wood-fire that
stimulates confidence ; it is easy, in the warm,
mellow glow, to say what it would be impos-
sible with other accessories to put into unre-
luctant words ; there is no place like an old-
fashioned chimney-side in which to make love
or to betray the secret of your bosom.
Mr. Dent was in an unusually receptive state
for the young minister's confidence. The slow
process by which Prudence was arriving at a
knowledge of her own mind did not rhyme
well with her guardian's impatience, and was
234 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
beginning to depress him. He had expected,
as a matter of course, that his friend Dilling-
liam would seize the first opportunity, and he
had given him several, to broach the subject ;
but two weeks had elapsed, and the young man
had not spoken. Mr. Dent drew a distressing
inference from this silence. Perhaps while Pru-
dence was pondering what to do, Mr. Dilling-
ham was regretting what he had done. Mr.
Dent ached to give the young minister an en-
couraging word ; but he could not, without a
sacrifice to his dignity, be the first to touch
upon the topic. He desired above all things
that Prudence should wed Dillingham, but he
was not going to throw her at his head.
When Mr. Dillingham saw fit, then, this
December afternoon, to break through his reti-
cence, his friend welcomed the confidence ea-
gerly. The younger man was gratified, but
presumably not surprised, to find that Mr.
Dent had his interests very much at heart.
" Nothing in the world, Dillingham, would
make me happier," Mr. Dent was saying, with
his hand resting on the young minister's
shoulder, when Fanny came into the room and
gave Mr. Dent a card.
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 235
" ' Colonel Peyton Todhunter,' ' Mr. Dent
read aloud. " What an extraordinary name !
Wants to see me ? I don't know any Colonel
Todhunter. Another subscription to the sol-
diers' fund, maybe. Show him in, Fanny."
" Perhaps I had better withdraw," suggested
" Not at all ; he gentleman will not detain
me long, and I have a great deal to say to
Mr. Dillingham rose from the chair and
walked to the farther part of the library, where
he occupied himself in looking over a portfolio
of Hogarth prints. Presently Fanny, with a
rather confused air, ushered in the visitor,
a compactly built gentleman somewhat above
the medium height, with closely cut hair, light
whiskers and mustache, inclining to red, and a
semi-military bearing. He wore, in fact, the
undress uniform of an officer of artillery.
"Mr. Dent, - Mr. Ralph Dent?" inquired
"Yes, sir; I am Mr. Ralph Dent."
" My name is Todhunter, Colonel Todhun-
ter, of South Carolina."
236 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
Mr. Dent bowed somewhat formally, for he
was an uncompromising Union man, and a
South Carolinian colonel a prisoner on parole,
he supposed was not a savory article to his
"Of South Carolina?" repeated Mr. Dent,
placing a chair at the colonel's disposal.
" Perhaps I ought to say, sir," said Colonel
Toclhunter, seating himself stiffly, " that I am
in the United States army. I am one of the
few West Point officers born in the South who
have stuck to the old flag. Stuck to the old
Mr. Dent complimented him on his loyalty,
and begged, with a slight access of suavity, to
know how he could be of service to him.
" I come on very unhappy business ; business
of a domestic nature, sir," said the colonel,
glowering at Mr. Dillingham as much as to say,
" "Who in the devil is that exceedingly lady-like
young gentleman in the white choker ? "
" Whatever your business is," said Mr. Dent,
disturbed by this gloomy preamble, " do not
hesitate to speak in the presence of my friend,
the Rev. Mr. Dillingham. Mr. Dillingham,
PRUDENCE PALFEEY. 237
The two gentlemen bowed distantly.
" I am the bearer of bad news for you, sir,"
said the colonel, turning to Mr. Dent. " Your
" Gad, I knew it was Jack ! ' : muttered Mr.
Dent. " My nephew, Colonel Todhunter ? I
hope he is in no trouble."
" In very serious trouble, sir. In fact, sir,
you must prepare yourself for the worst. In a
skirmish with the enemy last month, near Rich
Mountain, he was wounded and taken prisoner,
and has since died. He was in my regiment,
sir; the 10th Illinois."
Mr. Dent, who had partly risen from his
chair, sank back into the seat. Though Jack's
letter, when it came a fortnight before, had an-
noyed him, he had been glad to know the boy
was alive and well, gladder than he acknowl-
edged to himself. The intelligence of Jack's
death, dropping upon him like a shell from a
mortar, for the colonel had acquitted himself
of his duty with military brevity and precision,
nearly prostrated Mr. Dent.
" Dear me, Dillingham," lie said huskily,
" this is very sad."
238 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
He sat for several moments without speak-
ing, and then, recollecting his position as host,
he begged the young minister to ring for Fanny
and ask her to bring in some sherry and bis-
cuits for the colonel.
Mr. Dent took a glass of the wine mechan-
ically, which he held untasted in his hand,
leaving it to Mr. Dillingham to entertain the
" Did I understand you to say you were from
South Carolina?" asked Mr. Dillingham, break-
ing through the thin ice of his reserve.
" From South Carolina, sir," replied the
" That is also my State," said the young
clergyman. " I am distantly connected by mar-
riage with one branch of the Todhunters,
" I come from the Peyton branch, sir. I beg
a hundred pardons, sir, but I did not quite
catch your name when our afflicted friend did
me the honor."
" Ah, yes, I recollect," said the colonel, fix-
ing his eye abstractedly on the ceiling, and
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 239
fingering his glass, " a Todhunter did marry a
Dillinghani ; but it was one of the other branch.
However, sir, delighted to make your acquaint-
ance ; delighted " ; and Colonel Todhunter, who
had not spared the sherry, shook hands effu-
sively with Mr. Dillingham, who immediately
froze over again.
The conversation between them still went on,
with a difference, and the colonel explained
how he came to be the bearer of the mournful
news just delivered. Young Dent had joined
his regiment only a short time before, but he
had taken a liking to the young man ; saw his
ability with half an eye, sir. Was terribly cut
up when the report came in that young Dent
was hurt. Dent had mentioned the fact of his
uncle living at Rlvermouth, and the colonel,
being at Boston on private affairs, determined
to bring the information in person. The report
of Dent's death in the rebel hospital or rather
in an ambulance, for he died on the way to
the hospital, sir had reached the colonel as
he was on the point of starting for the North.
After this the conversation flagged ; the colo-
nel made several attempts to leave, but the de-
240 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
canter of sherry seemed to exert a baleful fas-
cination over him. Finally he departed.
" Upon my word, Dillingham," said Mr.
Dent, " this grieves me more than I can tell
" I can understand your sorrow," said Mr.
Dillingham softly. " I once lost a nephew, and
though he was only a child, and I was very
young then, the impression lingered with me
for years. It was my first knowledge of
" I have known death before," said Mr. Dent