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and he has a great many good ones, — yes, a
great many."

Agnes laughed aloud. " Why do you laugh } "
said Maxwell, turning quickly.

Her blue eyes were glowing with a sweet
cordiality. "A happy thought struck me/'
she replied. " I laughed from pure pleasure.
Do you know what the thought was } "

" How should I know } "

" Well, I was wondering if you had ever
spoken ill of any one in all your life."




IX.




HATEVER may have been the brief
conversation between Agnes and Mr.
Speed at the church-door in Brooklyn,
it wholly escaped the remembrance of the for-
mer until, on the following evening, IMrs. Le-
roy made a certain proposition to her cousin.

" Agnes," said Mrs. Leroy, " we have a
rather stupid task to perform this evening.
We must look in at the Misses Van Twil-
ler's reception. The Misses Van Twiller are
two old-maid cousins of mine, with enormous
Knickerbocker ideas. They give occasional
entertainments, and they have a rigid abhor-
rence of what they call ' new people.' They
live down in Bond Street, in an old house
which their family has occupied for at least



A HOPELESS CASE.



191



fifty years. They make their receptions so
stupid and tame that people only go to them
as a matter of duty. They have a punch-bowl
of weak punch, and coffee, made on a table
loaded with old family silver, passed round at
eleven o'clock ; this is the extent of their re-
freshment. I should like immensely to get
rid of to-night's affair, and we shall only go to
it for family reasons."

" I shall have other reasons for not going
to it," said Agnes.

Mrs. Leroy raised her blond eyebrows.
" What do you mean, my dear .?" she asked.

Agnes took out her watch and glanced at
it. " I am engaged, this evening," she said.
" I have promised to go to a concert."

Mrs. Leroy looked still more surprised. "A
concert .?" she repeated. ''With whom V

"Mr. Speed," replied Agnes. "You recol-
lect Mr. Speed, of course," she added.

"Oh, perfectly," said Mrs. Leroy. "Do you
mean that you and he are going aIo?ie to-
gether?'^



192 A HOPELESS CASE.

There was no mistaking the marked empha-
sis placed on those two final words. It was
Agnes's turn to look surprised.

"Alone together?" she repeated. "Why,
yes, cousin Augusta. Why not } "

Mrs. Leroy shook her head with oracular
negation. " It will never do," she said, slowly.
"Never in the world."

" I don't understand," murmured Agnes.

" But, my dear, I understand only too well,"
exclaimed Mrs. Leroy. " You cannot go alone
with Mr. Speed — or any one else of his sex
— to a place of public amusement."

Agnes shrugged her shoulders bewilderedly.
*' For what reason } "

" My dear," replied Mrs. Leroy, with great
decision, " this sort of thing is not done ; that
is all."

" Not done 1 " repeated Agnes, still more
astonished.

" No," persisted Mrs. Leroy. " I could not
possibly hear of your going to any concert or



A HOPELESS CASE. 1 93

theatre in Mr. Speed's company, without a
matron. You might do it if you were engaged
to each other ; but as matters now stand it
would be positively not respectable."

" I have known very respectable people to
do it," declared Agnes.

Mrs. Leroy lifted her brows and drooped
her eyelids. "Not people who are in society,"
she said. " I don't doubt that it is common
enough among . . . others." The last word
was pronounced in a lowered tone, as though
its plebeian suggestiveness were painfully
clear.

" Oh, very common," said Agnes. " You
have been so much 'in society' all your life,
cousin Augusta, that you can't think how scan-
dalously people who are out of it sometimes
behave."

Mrs. Leroy's eyes hardened. "We cannot
settle this question w^ith sarcasm, Agnes —
which, by the way, you are a little too fonc'
of using, I have found."
13



194 ^ HOPELESS CASE.

''There are some questions," returned Ag-
nes, with the best-natured of looks, "that it
seems pathetic to argue. They are too trivial,
cousin Augusta. They will not stand even
the wear and tear of being quarreled over."

" I hope there is to be no quarrel," said Mrs.
Leroy, crossing her hands in her lap.

*'No, indeed," returned Agnes. "My course
shall be one of unmurmuring concession.
When Mr. Speed comes — as he probably will
come in about ten minutes — I shall tell him
what a narrow escape we have both had — how
near he has come to ruining me in the eyes of
society."

Mrs. Leroy rose, with an impatient toss of
the head. " You are incorrigible," she ex-
claimed. "What is more, you are unjust."

" Unjust t "

" Yes. You have actually striven to make
me seem in the wrong, when I am clearly
right — when I have simply saved you from
a gross impropriety."



A HOPELESS CASE. 195

"Ah," said Agnes, "there is nothing Hke
the knowledge of possessing a good cause.
That confers its own reward. Besides, it is
so fortifying ! "

Agnes spoke with the smoothest amiabihty
of tone. It was her words and not their mode
of utterance that carried a sting. Mrs, Leroy
left the room, presently, with a sense that al-
though she had conquered in her little contest
the victory was somehow spoiled for her. She
began to feel that there was no such thing as
conquering Agnes ; the girl wore a sort of con-
cealed chain-armor that blunted every blow.

Mr. Speed came punctually, that evening, at
the appointed hour. Agnes received him with-
out her bonnet.

"I have just discovered that I can't go to
the concert with you," she said.

Mr. Speed's countenance fell. " But you
agreed to go," he replied, with an almost
brusque reproachfulness.

" I did not know that Mrs. Leroy would



196 A HOPELESS CASE.

veto our plan. It is considered highly im-
proper for two unmarried people, of differing
sexes, to attend any place of amusement with-
out a married lady as their matron."

A puzzled frown darkened Mr. Speed's face;
his keen, black eyes scanned the floor a mo-
ment, then they scanned Agnes.

" I don't understand whether you are in
earnest or not," he said. ** But I half believe
you are joking."

" Not at all," replied Agnes. "This is one
of the rules of fashionable New York society
— to put the matter as roundly as possible,
Mr. Speed. You and I never heard of it be-
fore, of course ; we have lived so long outside
of the sacred limits."

" I think it a most preposterous rule," said
Mr. Speed, after looking thoughtful for a mo-
ment. He always expressed his opinions in
this downright, unequivocal way. He had as
little satire as he had humor; it was always
plain yes or no with hnn. " Don't you agree
with me .-^ " he added, in swift interrogation.



A HOPELESS CASE. 1 97

" I 'm afraid that I do," laughed Agnes.
"But it is too bad that you should be de-
prived of the concert," she went on, " after
your long journey. You take so little amuse-
ment ; you had much better go alone."

Like all men of his temperament, Mr. Speed
was suspicious, and sometimes morbidly so.
For days past he had been more unhappy than
Agnes knew, and his discomfort had sprung
from a recent sense of loneliness that had laid
no gentle touch upon his life. He had looked
forward to this evening with a keenly ardent
expectancy. It would be inexpressibly pleas-
ant to separate Agnes once again from the
uncongenial surroundings in which he had of
late discovered her. He felt that for a brief
time at least he was to get back the Agnes of
old. Her sudden announcement irritated and
distressed him. He put one of his big, gloved
hands to his massive forehead, bending his
head with a sort of melancholy fatigue.

"I shall not go alone," he said. "I shall



1 98 A HOPELESS CASE.

not go at all — unless you will consent to join
me."

"That is impossible," said Agnes, almost
pityingly. She felt sincere regret at the dis-
appointment she had been forced to inflict.
She knew that this man liked her — though
how greatly she had never permitted herself
to realize. She knew the dogged drudgery of
his brain-labor, and his deep need of just such
relaxation as would be given him by an even-
ing spent in listening to delightful music, and
in imparting his impressions to a sympathetic
friend. For a moment Agnes half made up
her mind to go and request Mrs. Leroy that
she should accompany Mr. Speed and herself
to the concert. But her resolve would not
bear afterthought ; such an arrangement must
only serve as the most disastrous makeshift.

While this idea passed rapidly through Ag-
nes's mind, a gloom had been gathering on
her guest's lowered face. He now raised his
head and looked at her quite bitterly.



A HOPELESS CASE. 1 99

" How is it impossible ? " he asked.

" I have no right to disregard Mrs. Leroy's
wishes while I remain here in her house. You
must perceive this, Mr. Speed."

" Oh, yes, I perceive it perfectly ! " he ex-
claimed, with a harsh, transient smile, that left
his features drawn and gloomy.

" What do you mean } " murmured Agnes.

Mr. Speed laughed; the laugh had some-
thing saturnine about it. " Of course your
new life tells on you already. Its glitter and
show pleases you ; the men and women, with
their graceful insipidities, have won you over.
I knew it would be that way. You are no
longer disappointed ; you begin to feel at
home here. You bow your head under the
yoke — a pretty, silver yoke, almost without
weight. Very soon your conversion will be
complete."

Agnes had colored noticeably before this
unsuspected outburst was ended. She forgot
her pity for Mr. Speed ; she now felt decidedlv



200 A HOPELESS CASE.

angry at him ; it seemed to her that his injus-
tice had quite passed the limits of endurance.

"Really," she exclaimed, "for one who
prides himself on being an exact thinker, you
leap to conclusions in a most surprising way.
But I don't know, Mr. Speed, that I ought
even to criticise your singular statements ;
they are sufficiently unwarranted to be met
with silence."

" Yes — contemptuous silence ! " broke forth
Mr. Speed. He laughed again ; then his eyes
swept Agnes's face with a kind of sullen ex-
citement. " Oh," he went on, waving both
hands for an instant before him, in the most
uncharacteristic fashion, " I don't doubt that I
am seeing my last of you. What woman ever
resisted admiration when it was backed by
wealth and all these superficial refinements }
You are not going to be an exception, — why
should you be } This evening you have put
me off with a neat little formulated objection ;
next week, if I came here, you would meet me



A HOPELESS CASE. 201

with aristocratic coolness. I was well enough
in Brooklyn — that stupid Brooklyn, where
there were no elegant Mr. Gascoignes, Mr.
Schuylers, Mrs. Leroys. Then if I came again,
you would be engaged; you would laugh at
the idea of treating me cWiWy nozv — a poor
tutor, a scribbler for the newspapers, a fellow
that is actually writing a book ! Oh, I see the
drift of things very clearly. I had better save
you the trouble of dismissing me in good
earnest ! "

" You are right ! " said Agnes, starting to
her feet. There were two scarlet spots in her
cheeks as she spoke. " I think the difficulty
might as well be ended that way at once."

Agnes was very angry. Without waiting
for a reply, she walked quickly toward the
door and disappeared from the room. Reach-
ing the hall, she began to ascend the stairs ;
her heart was beating with indignation ; she
felt herself to have been insulted, and cause-
lessly.



202 A HOPELESS CASE.

She had almost mounted the stairway when
she heard Mr. Speed's step sound in the mar-
bled hall. She half turned, looking down-
ward. The light struck Mr. Speed's face in a
peculiar way, revealing every lineament. Ag-
nes saw, in one brief glance, that her guest
looked unnaturally haggard ; perhaps she saw
something else in his face — a desperate suf-
fering that resembled absolute agony.

A new pang of compassion pierced her
heart ; her anger vanished on the instant. She
turned fully ; the man's name was on her lips ;
she meant to call him back. She herself was
almost completely in shadow^, so that he could
only have discerned her figure, and no more.
Just then she saw him walk with haste toward
the door, open it, and disappear.

Agnes went slowly up-stairs to her own
room. The tears had filled her eyes. With
sharp intensity of recollection, she had re-
called the dreary actuality of this man's life.
She remembered his numberless good traits,



A HOPELESS CASE. 203

his intellect, his ambition, his decisive faults,
which sprang from the morbid conditions of a
reflective, valetudinarian nature, experiencing
no cheerful visitations by reason of its close-
applied vigilance in the pursuit of scientific
truth ; she remembered all this, and more,
blaming herself for not having sooner felt its
extenuating weight.

The whole matter haunted Agnes during
the next day. Just at evening of this day she
received a letter from Mr. Speed, full of elo-
quent apology. Her tears started again as
she read it.

She answered the letter at once, taking
some time to write it. " He will come again,
I am sure," she told herself, after her response
was sealed, " and I shall be glad to have him
come."

But it was many days before Mr. Speed
came again.





X.

HREE weeks glided away. The nov-
elty had somewhat worn off from
Agnes's changed life. Not that she
had grown accustomed to the whirl of merry-
making that surrounded her, but that its be-
wildering effects had now wholly ceased, and
left her the coolest and most self-poised of
observers. Mrs. Leroy often watched her in
puzzled silence. It could not be denied that
her cousin had " taken " with a number of
people. She was sought after and even
courted ; she had been very far from a failure.
And yet, in spite of her youth, all this atten-
tion seemed to fall upon her with a strangely
dispassionate result. Far from turning her
head, civility and favoritism had only set it



A HOPELESS CASE. 205

more firmly upon her shoulders. At times
there was something in the manner of Agnes
that roused Mrs. Leroy's covert ire ; the girl's
indifference seemed to verge upon ironical
amusement ; she was still as much withdrawn
as ever from^ the world she had entered ; it
was this suggestion of remoteness that now
and then sharply tantalized her kinswoman.
" I half believe that she actually despises the
whole thing," had more than once swept
through Mrs. Leroy's thoughts. But the
solidness of her own self-esteem had pre-
vented Agnes's cousin from brooding long
upon so clear an improbability.

Meanwhile Agnes found her time quite im-
peratively occupied. She had gone to many
entertainments, of various sorts, with Mrs.
Leroy. Schuyler had driven her out twice in
his remarkably elegant dog-cart, famed, amid
a small admiring constituency, for the quiet
taste of its appointments and the blooded
quality of the horses that drew it. Livingston



206 A HOPELESS CASE.



JMaxwell had also driven her out, on several
occasions, and his marked preference for her
society had given rise to frequent comments.
Occasionally, during the brief intervals of soli-
tude that Agnes secured between her close-
crowding engagements, she would re-peruse
the letters which she had received from the
Cliffe family in their Western home. Her
own answers were often dashed off with a
perilous rapidity. " If I have been incoher-
ent and unsatisfactory," she would sometimes
write in remorseful postscript, '' recollect the
absurdly flurried life that I am living, and
pardon me." Now and then she would stand
and gaze at the unread books which she had
brought with her to Lafayette Place. "What
would Uncle Robert say," she repeatedly asked
herself, " if he knew that I have not looked
into any of the volumes which were his part-
ing gift } " Her uncle had always taken de-
light in directing Agnes's reading ; he was a
man familiar with the best books, and full of



A HOPELESS CASE. 20/

emphatic theories regarding those that should
be cultivated by youthful minds. Poor Mari-
anna had not proved a very apt recipient of
his tutelage, and Agnes had been made to
profit by his daughter's deficiencies. The
past would rise appealingly to Agnes as she
looked on these unopened volumes ; she would
remember the refined quiet of her Brook-
lyn home, the congeniality with progressive
thought, in all its varied details, shown
through happy domestic evenings about the
low sitting-room light, when Mr. Speed would
drop in, when he and her uncle would argue,
discuss, investigate, when Mrs. Cliffe would
gently break into the conversation with her
shrewd, wise objections, when Marianna's
ready laughter would bubble up at the least
provocation, and when Agnes herself would
contradict, disclaim, or capitulate, in a spirit of
good-humored yet forensic debate. At these
moments everything had been sincere, natural,
spontaneous. How different from the arti-



208 A HOPELESS CASE.

ficial, hectic atmosphere of her present hfe !
Throughout the past fortnight she had seen
walls lined with gems of rare painting, and
apartments thronged with lavish beauties of
decoration. But the homely comfort of that
modest sitting-room, its rows of choice books,
its well-selected engravings, its tastefully
simple furniture, and its distinct air of intel-
lectual repose, set against all recent memories
a more than rivaling charm. The tears al-
ways started whenever Agnes read those let-
ters from the West. Not seldom she would
find them awaiting her after a return from
some fashionable gathering, and then the in-
tensity of contrast would take fresher force.
Then, too, the mutinous knot would rise larger
in her throat, and the yearning of homesick-
ness pierce her with greater keenness.

" It is an unfamiliar life to me ; I have
nothing in my experience that corresponds
with it," said Meta Schuyler, one day, when
Agnes had sketched some of the chief details



A HOPELESS CASE. 209

in her tranquil past. Meta now sought the
society of Agnes almost constantly; it seemed
to affect her with some potent fascination.

" I suppose you think it was a very tame
life," said Agnes.

"Tame.? Oh, I am no judge of what is
tame," Meta responded. " I have lost my
power of judging enjoyable things ; the gayer
my surroundings are, the duller they seem.
But my early childhood was an immensely
different affair from yours. Like you, I was
brought up by an aunt and an uncle. But my
aunt was too assailed by fashionable engage-
ments to remember me very often, at first. I
had a French nurse, whose name was Ang^-
lique, and whose temper was demoniacal. She
controlled my youthful destiny ; I now and
then saw my guardians at dessert ; my uncle
was nearly always at the club, but once in a
while he would come into the nursery and give
me a kiss. One day, in my tenth year, I fell
sick ; my aunt was filled with remorse at her
14



2IO A HOPELESS CASE.

neglect, and nursed me through a dangerous
fever. After that she and T were inseparable.
Before I was fifteen I knew all her friends.
I have had no regular coming out into soci-
ety ; I plucked the fruit very early, or rather
it dropped into my lap. When I had got to
be nineteen I had the experience and the dis-
illusion of twenty-five."

" I am sure that you have had many ad-
mirers," said Agnes, after a silence. "And
yet you have not married."

" That is very pretty of you. You mean
that it is not my own fault if I have not
married."

'' Well, yes."

Meta lowered her eyes. " It was both our
faults," she said, with infinite sadness, and
very faintly.

" I think that I understand you," said Ag-
nes, in soft exclamation.

Meta looked up, with the brisk gesture of
a bird suddenly raising its head. '' You are



A HOPELESS CASE. 211

wonderfully clever," she said ; " but take care
that you make no mistake."

"Oh, I observe," said Agnes, with an an-
swering smile ; " I put two and two together."

Meta now posed her head a little on
one side. "And what conclusions have you
drawn .? " she asked.

Agnes hesitated for a moment. " That
neither's fault is irreparable," she said, with
great sweetness in her voice.

Meta looked at her, with a mournful calm
filling her brown eyes. " If you tried to re-
pair the past," she murmured, " it would be
useless ; it would be too late."

Agnes was seated quite near to the speaker,
but she now leaned nearer still. She laid
her palm against the back of Meta's hand, and
let her fingers gently clasp what they had
touched. " Do you want me to try } " she said.

Meta's eyes suddenly filled with a wistful
lustre. " Oh, no, no," she faltered ; " how
could you possibly succeed } "



212 A HOPELESS CASE.

Agnes still clasped Meta's hand. " Let
me tell you," she said. She went on speak-
ing, with quickened voice. " I might say to
both of you that each needs the other, at
his best, at her best. I might say to both
that both are hungry for a more satisfying
life, full of healthier humanity, wiser pursuit,
more vital occupation. I might say" . . .

Meta suddenly caught Agnes's hand in
both her own. She held it so for an instant,
looking fixedly at her companion. Then she
let the hand fall, and turned slightly away.
The abruptness of this act had made Agnes
pause. " It would all be useless trouble
now," she said, in rapid, excited tones. "Ag-
nes, shall I tell you why 1 " Meta rose ; the
color had grown vivid in either cheek, light-
ing her face with a brilliant beauty.

" You puzzle me," said Agnes, who still
remained seated.

'' Oh, have you not seen } " exclaimed
Meta, clasping her hands together and stoop-



A HOPELESS CASE. 213

ing toward Agnes. "You are so apart from
all this new existence of yours, that I some-
times think you willfully remain so. Then
again I know that I wTong you — that it is
no calculated withdrawal — that you are sim-
ply your own dear self, always, and so cast
in another mold from ours that while your
sincerity charms us, your stronger, differing
nature compels you toward this unconscious
reserve. . . . But, Agnes, though you have
not seen it, Oscar Schuyler has changed
since you and he met. He does not think
of me any longer — and for one powerful
reason. . . . Oh, Agnes, he is in love with
yo2c I "

Agnes rose. She had growm pale. " No,
no," she said, " you are wrong ! "

Meta shook her head. *' I believe it," she
declared. "I believe it as firmly as I do not
believe that you care for him."

It happened that very soon afterward Mrs.
Leroy entered the room and put an end to



214 A HOPELESS CASE.

this conversation. About ten minutes later
Schuyler's card was sent up to Agnes. The
hour was then a little after two o'clock.

Agnes handed the card to Meta. "Will
you not come down with me.-*" she said.

Mrs. Leroy was watching both girls keen-
ly, beneath a demeanor of apparent uncon-
cern. " No, thanks," said Meta ; " I must
go, presently."

Agnes went down-stairs alone. " I have
come to propose an idea to you," said Schuy-
ler, shortly after he had shaken hands with
her. " To-day is wonderfully mild for the
season. You scarcely know Central Park ;
you told me that you wanted to explore it.
I should like you to go up there and stroll
about with me for a little while."

" Is it the proper thing to do } " inquired
Agnes, after a pause.

*' Do you think that I would ask you to
offend propriety } "

" I hope not. But I have not yet quite



A HOPELESS CASE. 21$

mastered the subtleties of Mrs. Grundy's pro-
hibitions. She would not permit us to go to
the theatre without a matron."

'' I know. But she will allow us to take
a walk in Central Park without one."

" Are you sure } "

" I am sure. I know her code by heart.
I ought, by this time."

" Very well," said Agnes, after another
pause, " I will speak with my cousin."

She left the room, remained absent perhaps
a quarter of an hour, and returned wearing
her bonnet. "Cousin Augusta gives her per-
mission," she said. " But we are to take a
street-car. A close carriage would be highly
objectionable. But I suppose you know this,
knowing 'the code' so well."

" Of course," said Schuyler, with a grim
smile. " I thought of asking you to let me
drive you up in my trap ; but one of my
horses has gone lame ; they generally select
a beautiful day for any such proceeding.



2l6 A HOPELESS CASE.

However, if we got out we should be bored
by having the wagon wait for us in one
particular spot. As it is, we can ramble
about wherever we please ; we can make
thorough gypsies of ourselves."

During the ride to the Park, Agnes spoke


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