few miles beyond Willowbrook ; both gentle-
men were expert anglers, and they spent their
mornings together in the season. Then there
were horseback rides, in which Prudence occa-
sionally joined. Mr. Dillingham had purchased
a fine animal, which he rode admirably.
PRUDENCE PALFREY. ISJo
" We all ride in the South," he said to Miss
Palfrey. " The people in the town stare at
me as if I were a part of a circus caravan,
but I trust they will get accustomed to the
sight. A saddle-horse is a necessity to me; I
have had one since I was six years old. To
drive around in a gig with side-lanterns, like
great goggles, as that good soul Dr. Tredick
does, would kill me. I should never get out
alive so far as Willowbrook, Miss Palfrey. I 'd
much prefer being brought here in Mr. Plun-
Plunket was a harmless, half-witted old fellow
about town who picked up a living by carry-
ing packages in a small hand-cart as aged and
shattered as himself. He had not escaped Mr.
Dillingham, whose eye for every sort of eccen-
tric character was, as I have said, exception-
The friendship between Mr. Dillingham and
Mr. Dent deepened as the weeks passed, and
the latter gentleman experienced something like
a sinking at heart whenever his thought re-
curred to the possibility that his young friend
might be tempted some time or other to desert
196 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
Rivermouth for a more extended field of oper-
" I wish to heaven, Dillingham," exclaimed
Mr. Dent one evening at the tea-table, " that
you would give up your apartments in town,
and come out here with us. There 's a cosey
room leading from the south chamber that
would make a capital study for you."
" I am afraid I should find it too pleasant,"
returned Mr. Dillingham, " and fall into a
habit of not working. Besides, my parish
calls ? I am very sensible of your kindness,
my friend ; but, really, I think I am better off
in my present quarters. You see, two ser-
mons a week keep me pretty busy. Then I
am not a lark as regards early rising. I should
be a dreadful infliction in a private house. All
Miss Palfrey's methodical domestic laws would
be overthrown at once."
" I 'd like to be an eyewitness to that," Mr.
Dent said, laughing ; " her law is as the law
of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
Prue is a regular martinet in the commissary
" I really am," spoke Prudence for herself.
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 197
" If one is not down in time, one gets a cold
"There, you see," said Mr. Dillingham.
" Now there are two things I never can do ;
I cannot endure a cold breakfast, and I never
can get down early to a warm one."
In spite of this obstacle, however, Mr. Dil-
lingham often occupied that spare room with
the southern exposure, which Mr. Dent had
mentioned, sometimes spending several days in
succession with his Willowbrook friends. Then
they met him continually in society in town,
and in point of fact saw as much of him as if
he had accepted Mr. Dent's proposition.
This intimacy could not fail to give rise to
remarks. It was soon whispered, and not too
softly, that the young minister was paying
attentions to Mr. Dent's ward. Now, though
Prudence's coldness had moderated somewhat,
and she no longer had to make exertions to
be polite to Mr. Dillingham, Mr. Dillingham
had not in the least changed his manner to
her. She was aware, and the reflection some-
times piqued her, that she was no better ac-
quainted with him after months of intercourse
198 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
than she was on the day she first saw him.
Perhaps it was her own fault they were not
warmer friends in the beginning ; but it was
not her fault now. She had learned to respect
his character, to admire his intellect, and to
derive a quiet pleasure from his presence ; but
she had evidently not taught him to like her
more than he had liked her at the start. This
was not flattering under the circumstances.
The inference was, Mr. Dillingham disliked her,
and tolerated her only on account of his friend-
ship for Mr. Dent.
Prudence secretly resented this, and formed
a misty idea that it would be an agreeable
thing to have him fall slightly in love with
her, not seriously in love, but just enough to
enable her to teach him a lesson. This idea,
in no respect a commendable one, took a more
definite shape, and became almost a wish sub-
sequently. Nice young women are not to be
treated cavalierly with impunity.
It was rumored at first that Mr. Dillingham
was very much interested in Miss Palfrey :
that was sufficiently annoying ; but later on,
rumor changed its tactics, and reported that
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 199
Miss Palfrey was very much interested in Mr.
Dillingham. Gossip, like Providence, is inscru-
table in its ways ; it has its laws, we may
suppose, clearly denned, if one could get at
them ; but they are not to be reached by in-
ductive reasoning, and it must remain a mys-
tery how it came to be believed in Rivermouth
that Prudence was very unhappy in conse-
quence of her unreturned love for Mr. Dilling-
To say that she did not hear of this exas-
perating story as soon as it was born, would
be to -say that Prudence had no intimate fe-
male friend, and there was Miss Veronica Bly-
" And there is n't the least shadow of truth
in it, Prue ? ' said Veronica.
" Not the faintest. How absurd ! I don't
care that for him," said Prudence, measuring
off an infinitesimal portion of her little finger's
tip, " nor he for me. He and Uncle Ralph
talk fish-hooks and theology and war, and I
don't believe Mr. Dillingham has noticed
whether I am sixteen or sixty."
" Dear me," said Veronica, thoughtfully.
200 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
" Mortifying, is n't it ? "
" To be sure it is."
" I like him, of course," continued Prudence ;
" he is extremely agreeable, and all that. If
there was, or could be, anything more, I should
be the first to tell you."
" Dear me," repeated Veronica. " And it
came so straight from the Goldstones, you
know." And Veronica, who had put her inter-
rogation rather solemnly, became unnecessarily
merry over the absurdity of the thing.
" The Goldstones ? " said Prue. " I am very
grateful to them ! '
After they had parted, Prudence thought of
the abrupt change of mood in her friend, and
it brought her to a full stop in the middle of
the bridge, for Prudence was walking in from
Rivermouth. Then she recalled a trivial inci-
dent that had taken place a few nights before
in town, at a party at the Blydenburghs'. It
had made no impression on her at the time,
but now she recalled it. Veronica had missed
her bracelet late in the evening, a valuable
bracelet, a large opal with diamonds. She had
been in the garden ; she had danced in the
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 201
parlors ; and had gone twice to the supper-
room. The bracelet was not to be found in
the house, and Veronica with several of the
guests, among others Prudence and Mr. Dil-
lingham, went into the garden to search for it
in a certain arbor where ices had been served.
There were a score or two of Chinese lanterns
hung about the trellis-work, and the place was
as light as day. In bending over the sward
Mr. Dillingham had inadvertently brushed
against Veronica's shoulder, that snowy
shoulder which had such an innocent arch way
of shrinking from the corsage, and Veronica
had started back with a pretty cry, blushing
absurdly. Mr. Dillingham had been discon-
certed for an instant, then he had bowed in a
formal way to Veronica.
This little scene came up before Prudence's
eyes again, and she walked on in a revery.
" It would be a very good match, though,"
said Prudence, thinking aloud.
The piece of gossip which Miss Blydenburgh
had unfolded to her friend vexed that young
lady exceedingly. The other rumor, placing
Mr. Dillingham at her feet, had vexed her too ;
202 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
but that could have been borne. It sank into
insignificance beside this new version, in which
she was made to play the heroine with dis-
hevelled hair and unrequited affections, a role
to which she was not kindly disposed ; for
Prudence was as proud as Mrs. Lucifer, if I
may make the comparison without assuming
the responsibility of creating the personage.
Prudence's prompt impulse was to fall back
on her former frosty manner towards Mr. Dil-
liugham ; but that was hardly practicable now ;
besides, the Rivermouth censors would be sure
to misconstrue her indifference and attribute it
to wounded vanity.
Her wisest course was to treat Mr. Dilling-
ham naturally, and let the shameless scandal
die of its own inanity. He would never hear
the silly report ; there was no one who would
venture to touch on so delicate a matter with
him. Even the Widow Mugridge, who was
capable of almost anything in that line, might
be pictured as shrinking before such an attempt ;
for though Mr. Dillingham was as generally
affable and approachable as the sunshine, his
familiarity did not breed contempt. In the sea
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 203
of adulation that dimpled around him, there
was a gentle under-tow of wholesome respect.
The young clergyman's independence and sharp-
ness, when called for, were quite well under-
stood in the parish. He had wit, but no humor ;
and the difference between wit and humor, it
seems to me, is just the difference between an
open and a shut penknife. So there was no
chance of anybody coming to him with tittle-
tattle, especially about Miss Palfrey.
Having settled this in her mind, Prudence
calmed ; but the gossip still rankled in her
bosom, and she felt it would be a most satisfy-
ing vindication and triumph if Mr. Dillingham
would only fall in love with her mildly, and
afford her the opportunity of proving that she
did not care for him, in that w^ay.
In other ways she cared for him greatly. In-
deed, she had a strong desire for his friendship.
Every one had always liked her ; she had never
been courteously snubbed before, or snubbed at
all, and had no taste for it. The hurt went
deeper than her vanity. It was a shocking nov-
elty to encounter a person a person whom she
esteemed, too whose whole demeanor said to
204 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
her as plainly as words, but politely, of course :
" Miss Palfrey, when you laugh, and say sharp
things to ine, I srnile upon you ; when you are
demure and repentant and inclined to be
friendly, I srnile upon you all the same ; for,
really, I do not care whether you are amiable
or unamiable. It is a matter that concerns
you, and you alone."
If Mr. Dillingham had studied Prudence from
her infancy, and had wished to win her regard,
he could not have proceeded more judiciously.
It is true, John Dent did not win her by this
method ; but she was younger then, and maybe
off her guard. Perhaps if John Dent had had
it to do over again, he might not have found
it so easy. "What is efficacious at seventeen or
eighteen is by no means certain of success at
Prudence did not think often of John Dent
at this epoch. The phantom that had haunted
her so long had somehow withdrawn itself.
For four of five months now she had breathed
with a conscious sense of freedom from the
past. Mr. Dent's letters to Montana and Cali-
fornia had brought no response, and the sub-
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 205
ject of the will was one that could well lie in
abeyance. Nothing could be done about it, and
it was not agreeable to talk or think about.
Mr. Dent observed with pleasure Prudence's
growing appreciation of Mr. Dillingham, and
had some views which he cautiously kept to
himself. Nothing would have delighted him
more than to see Prue well married now, how-
ever much the idea of losing her had distracted
him two or three years before ; but he was
not going to interfere. He had once come
near making her very unhappy, and had learned
to distrust his own sagacity in matters of the
heart. He purposed in the present case to let
things take their own course.
Things were taking their course, perhaps a
little lazily, but on the whole to his satisfac-
tion. Prudence was never so lovely or sweet-
tempered, and Mr. Dent wondered time and
again that Dillingham did not see more clearly
than he seemed to see that Prudence was a
very charming young person. Mr. Dillingham
held the stirrup for her to mount Jenny, he
folded her shawl neatly under the carriage-seat,
and was remiss in none of those attentions
206 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
which a well-bred man pays to a lady, young
or old ; but in everything he did or said there
was an air of having been introduced to Miss
Palfrey yesterday. To be sure, he had once
or twice addressed her as " Miss Prudence,"
instead of Miss Palfrey, striking her speechless
with astonishment ; but then he had corrected
himself in the same breath.
" Why in the deuce does n't he call her
Prue, like everybody else ? " muttered Mr. Dent.
" He has known her five months intimately,
and Jack called her Prue after fifteen minutes'
acquaintance. But that was Jack all over."
The autumn of this year was unprecedent-
edly lovely, - - it was one prolonged Indian
summer, and horseback rides early in the
morning were the chief diversion at Willow-
brook, where Mr. Dillinghain frequently re-
mained overnight to accompany Mr. Dent and
his ward. If Mr. Dillingham had a consti-
tutional objection to breakfasting with the
larks, he had none whatever to rising at five
o'clock to take a four-mile gallop along the
Rivermouth lanes, now wonderful with their
brilliant foliage. Prudence was an excellent
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 207
horse-woman, and never lagged behind her com-
"As she fled fast through sun and shade
The happy winds upon her played,
Blowing the ringlet from the braid."
Mr. Dillingham must have been a stupid
fellow if he did not notice how this autumnal
weather heightened Prue's beauty. She had
caught a trick of color from nature, and made
the rosy maple-leaves by the roadside seem
tame in tint compared with her rich lips and
On one of these excursions Mr. Dent was
unlucky enough to sprain his ankle, and the
rides came to an end, at least Mr. Dent's did.
Mr. Dillingham, who came often now to read
and chat with his friend, rode alone several
mornings, and then, rather to the surprise of
Prudence, invited her to bear him company.
" Would it be proper for me to go, uncle ? ' :
asked Prudence, standing with drooped eyelids
by Mr. Dent's lounge.
" Would it be proper ! '' he echoed. " Why,
the female population of Rivermouth would turn
out in a body, and DiHingham would certainly
208 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
meet the fate of old Floyd Ireson, who, as you
remember, was ' tarred and feathered and car-
ried in a cart by the women of Marblehead ' ! "
" Very well, then," cried Prue, gayly, " I '11
ride Kate instead of Jenny. Jenny pokes
along so, and Mr. Dillingham likes a rapid
" ' Pokes along so ! ' what a phrase from a
young lady's lips ! ' ' said Mr. Dent, critically.
" I said polks," cried Prue, shamelessly.
Mr. Dillingham unbent a little that morning.
Being in some sense a host, he was constrained
to look after the entertainment of his guest
and render himself agreeable. The ride was
without incident, save its uninterrupted pleas-
antness, and Prudence returned with her cheeks
in bloom and her gray eyes with the daybreak
Three or four days afterwards the young
minister rode up to the gate just before sun-
down, and asked if Miss Palfrey would repeat
her gallop. He had discovered a road leading
to some old earthworks overlooking the harbor,
where the sunset was a thing to see. Kate
was saddled, and the two young people went
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 209
off in a cloud of dust, Mr. Dent leaning on a
cane at the drawing-room window and smiling
on them like an amiable Fate.
Mr. Dent's sprained ankle was a phenomenal
case, and I am strongly tempted to prepare an
elaborate paper on the subject for the pages
of the " Boston Medical and Surgical Gazette."
At the time of the accident he turned his
foot in the stirrup while dismounting - - it was
thought serious enough to merit Dr. Tredick's
attention, who relieved Prudence's solicitude by
treating the injury lightly. But the weakened
limb did not recover its strength, even after a
course of arnica bandages that ought to have
caused a new leg to grow, or at least to have
mended the old one though it had been frac-
tured in twenty places.
The ankle did not get well, and science in
the person of Dr. Tredick was at a loss to ex-
plain why, and more especially to explain why
it should be most troublesome in the afternoons.
Mr. Dent was able in the morning to walk on
the piazza or go about the house without ex-
cessive inconvenience; but towards three or
four o'clock, at which hour Mr. Dillingham
210 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
generally appeared to inquire after the invalid,
Mr. Dent found it necessary to take to the
lounge in the parlor, or to sit with his foot
supported by another chair.
"Don't mind me, Dillingham," Mr. Dent
said one day, with touching cheerfulness. " I
shall be all right after a while. I miss our
rides confoundedly, and I know you detest rid-
ing alone. However, there's Prue ; she's bet-
ter than nobody."
" 0, you flatter me ! " says Prue.
" I fear I have already drawn heavily on
Miss Prudence's complaisance," replied Mr. Dil-
lingham. He did not correct himself this time.
But Prudence was passionately fond of riding,
and to ride with Mr. Dillingham was like waltz-
ing with a good partner. She did not require
other incitive. So it came about, owing to Mr.
Dent's slow recovery, that she often accompa-
nied the young minister alone, not caring greatly
now what people said. She was doing nothing
wrong, and the innocent enjoyment was an off-
set to any malicious criticism.
Mr. Dillingham had thawed perceptibly, and
in a stately style was very gracious to her.
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 211
Prudence's passing desire to have him love her
a little had evaporated ; she was content with
his friendship. The severest precision could
have discovered nothing to cavil at in Pru-
dence's conduct. As in the old time she had
not flirted with John Dent, so in the new she
did not flirt with Mr. Dillingham. She made
no eyes at him, as Mr. Dent would have stated
it, and would have stated it regretfully.
There was not much conversation during
these horseback excursions, which usually had
the fort for destination ; a swift gallop through
the bracing autumn air, a halt in the lonely
redoubt to breathe the horses and see the sun-
set, and a dashing gait homeward, being the
ends in view.
It was a charming landscape which unrolled
itself, like a colored map, at the foot of the
precipitous hill crowned by the deserted earth-
works. First came a series of cultivated fields,
orchards, and gardens, nestled among which
were red-roofed barns and comfortable white
farm-houses, with striped chimneys, peering
through the leafless tree-tops. Then came the
river spanned by a many-arched bridge, linking
212 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
the picturesque town with the open country.
Here and there along the wharves the slender
masts of fishing-smacks shot up sharply. The
clusters of round islands in the harbor were
like emeralds set in turquois, for the water at
this point, at certain seasons, is of a singularly
opaque blue. Beyond the town lay the bright
salt marshes softly folded in an azure arm of the
sea. All this, in the glow of the declining sun,
was fair to look upon.
One November afternoon, in the middle of
the month, Prudence and Mr. Dillingharn drew
rein within the parade-ground of the old forti-
fication just as the sun was sinking. The em-
brasure at which they halted formed the frame
of a fairy picture in which sea and sky and
meadow were taking a hundred opaline tints
from the reflection of the sunset. While the
horses stood champing the bits, and panting,
the two riders let the reins slip idly from their
fingers, and sat watching the scene in silence.
In a few minutes the vivid colors faded out
of the sky, save at the horizon, where a strip
of angry scarlet still lingered, leaving the land-
scape of a soft pearly gray. By and by t^o
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 213
strip of scarlet melted into cinnabar, then into
faint gold, then into silver, then into indistin-
guishable ashes-of-roses like the rest, and the
early twilight stretched across land and sea.
"It is like a dream, is n't it ? " murmured
Prue to herself, for at the instant she had for-
gotten the presence of her companion.
Mr. Dillingham leaned forward without speak-
ing, and laid his hand lightly on Prudence's,
which rested ungloved on the black mane of
The girl lifted her eyes with a swift move-
ment to the face of the young minister, and
then very slowly withdrew her hand.
" Prue ! " said Mr. Dillingham, softly.
214 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
R. JOSEPH TWOMBLY was sitting on a
-J-L high stool at a desk in the counting-
room of Messrs. Rawlings & Sons, the Chicago
bankers. It was after bank hours, and the
office was deserted. The gray-haired head book-
keeper, and the spruce young clerks who occu-
pied the adjoining desks, had been gone an hour
or more. The monotonous ticking of the chro-
nometer, pinioned against the wall above the
massive iron safe, was the only sound that
broke the quiet of the room, except when
Twombly made an impatient movement with
one of his feet on the attenuated rungs of the
stool, or drummed abstractedly with his fingers
on the edge of the desk.
An open letter lay before him, and beside it
an envelope bearing a Shasta postmark and
addressed to Joseph Twombly at Rivermouth.
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 215
This letter had just come to him inclosed in
one of the deacon's, and was to this effect :
SHASTA, CAL., October 31, 186-.
MY DEAR JOE : -
You will probably be surprised to receive a letter
from me after all these months of silence, or, rather,
years, for it is nearly three years, is n't it, since we
parted ? I have been in no mood or condition to
write before, and I write now only because I may
not have another chance to relieve you of any un-
certainty you may feel on my account. I have
thought it my duty to do this since I came to the
resolve, within a few days, to give up my hopeless
pursuits here and go into the army. If you do not
hear from me or of me in the course of four or six
months, you will know that my bad luck, which be-
gan in Montana, has culminated somewhere in the
South. Then you can show this to my Uncle Dent,
or even before, if you wish ; I leave it to your dis-
cretion. Perhaps I shall do something in the war ;
who knows ? It is time for me to do something. I
am a failure up to date. I 'm not sure I am a
brave man, but I have that disregard for life which
well fits me to lead forlorn-hopes, and I've led
many a forlorn-hope these past three years, Joe.
Ever since the day we said good by at Red Rock,
216 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
I have been on the go. I have not stayed more than
a month in any one spot, except this last half-year
at a ranch in the neighborhood of Shasta, where I
went into the stock-raising business with another man!
(who did n't know I was the spirit of Jonah revisit-
ing the earth), and would have made my fortune, if
the cattle-disease had not got into the herd just as
we were on the point of selling out at great profit.
I was not aware that I had the cattle-disease myself,
but I fancy I must have given it to the herd.
What had I been doing all the rest of the time ]
- for it took me only six months to ruin my friend
the stock-raiser. I had been searching for George
Nevins, Joe Twombly !
What a story I could tell you, if I had the heart
and the patience to go over it all again ! How I
first heard of him in California, where I tracked
him from place to place, sometimes only an hour or
so behind him ; once I entered a mining-camp just
as he went out the other side, confound his clever-
ness ! how I followed him to Texas, and thence to
Montana again, and from there to Mexico, where I
lost trace of him ; what I suffered mentally and
physically in those mad hunts would not be believed
if I could write it out ! - - how I worked my way
frora town to town, and from camp to camp, only
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 217
halting here and there to earn a few dollars to help
me on. Hunger, thirst, cold, and heat, I have known
them all, Joe, as few men have known them. Shall
I tell you and that is the strangest thing! what
took the life out of me more than the poverty and