Elizabeth Stoddard.

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crossed it, and found the right shop. Seeing Drummond Street on an old
gable-end house, a desire to exchange with some one a language which
differed from my thoughts prompted me to look up Mrs. Hepburn. I soon
came to her house, and knocked at the door, which Mari opened. The
current was already changed, as I followed her into a room different
from the one where I had seen Mrs. Hepburn. It was dull of aspect,
long and narrow, with one large window opening on the old-fashioned
garden, and from which I saw a discolored marble Flora. Mrs. Hepburn
was by the window, in her high chair. She held out her hand and
thanked me for coming to see an old woman. Motioning her head toward a
dark corner, she said, "There is a young man who likes occasionally to
visit an old woman also."

The young man, twenty-nine years old, was Desmond. He crossed the
room and offered me his hand. We had not spoken since we parted at
the stairs that memorable night. He hastily brought chairs, and placed
them near Mrs. Hepburn, who seized her spectacles, which were on a
silk workbag beside her, scanned us through them, and exclaimed, "Ah
ha! what is this?"

"Is it something in me, ma'am?" said Desmond, putting his head before
my face so that it was hid from her.

"Something in both of you; thief! thief!"

She rubbed her frail hand against my sleeve, muttering, "See now,
so! - the same characteristics."

"I spoke of the difference of the rooms; the one we were in reminded
me of a lizard! The walls were faint gray, and every piece of
furniture was covered with plain yellow chintz, while the carpet was
a pale green. She replied that she always moved from her winter parlor
to this summer room on the twenty-second day of April, which had
fallen the day before, for she liked to watch the coming out of the
shrubs in the garden, which were as old as herself. The chestnut had
leaved seventy times and more; and the crippled plum, whose fruit was
so wormy to eat, was dying with age. As for the elms at the bottom of
the garden, for all she knew they were a thousand years old.

"The elms are a thousand years old," I repeated and repeated to
myself, while she glided from topic to topic with Desmond, whose
conversation indicated that he was as cultivated as any ordinary
gentleman, when the Pickersgill element was not apparent. The form of
the garden-goddess faded, the sun had gone below the garden wall. The
garden grew dusk, and the elms began to nod their tops at me. I became
silent, listening to the fall of the plummet, which dropped again
and again from the topmost height of that lordly domain, over which
shadows had come. Were they sounding its foundations?

My eyes roved the garden, seeking the nucleus of an emotion which
beset me now - not they, but my senses, formed it - in a garden miles
away, where nodded a row of elms, under which _Charles Morgeson_
stood.

"_I am glad you're here, my darling, do you smell the roses?_"

"Are you going?" I heard Mrs. Hepburn say in a far-off voice. I was
standing by the door.

"Yes, madam; the summer parlor does not delay the sunset."

"Come again. When do you leave Belem?"

"In few days."

Desmond made a grimace, and went to the window.

"Who returns with you," she continued, "Ben? He likes piloting."

"I hope he will; I came here to please him."

"Pooh! You came here because Mr. Somers had a crotchet."

"Well; I was permitted somehow to come."

"It was perfectly right. A woman like you need not question whether a
thing is convenable."

Desmond turned from the window, and bestowed upon her a benign smile,
which she returned with a satisfied nod.

This implied flattery tinkled pleasantly on my ears, allaying a doubt
which I suffered from. Did I realize how much the prestige of those
Belem saints influenced me, or how proud I was with the conviction of
affiliation with those who were plainly marked with Caste?

"Walk with me," he demanded, as we were going down the steps.

We passed out of Drummond Street into a wide open common. Rosy clouds
floated across the zenith, and a warm, balmy wind was blowing. I
thought of Veronica, calm and happy, as the spring always made her,
and the thought was a finishing blow to the variety of moods I had
passed through. The helm of my will was broken.

"There is a good view from Moss Hill yonder," he said. "Shall we go
up?"

I bowed, declining his arm, and trudged beside him. From its summit
Belem was only half in sight. Its old, crooked streets sloped and
disappeared from view; Wolf's Point was at the right of us, and its
thread of sea. I began talking of our walk, and was giving an extended
description of it, when he abruptly asked why I came to Belem.

"I know," he said, "that you would not have come, had there been any
sentiment between you and Ben."

"Thanks for your implication. But I must have made the visit, you
know, or how could I learn that I should not have made it?"

"You regret coming?"

"Veronica will give me no thanks."

"Who is she?"

"My sister, whom Ben loves."

"Ben love a sister of yours? My God - how? when first? where? And how
came you to meet him?"

"That chapter of accidents need not be recounted. Can you help him?"

"What can I do?" he said roughly. "There is little love between us.
You know what a devil's household ours is; but he is one of us - he is
afraid."

"Of what?"

"Of mother - of our antecedents - of himself."

"I could not expect you to speak well of him."

"Of course not. Your sister has no fortune?"

"She has not. Men whose merchandise is ships are apt to die bankrupt."

"Your father is a merchant?"

"Even at that, the greatest of the name.

"We are all tied up, you know. Ben's allowance is smaller than mine.
He is easy about money; therefore he is pa's favorite."

"Why do you not help yourselves?"

"Do you think so? You have not known us long. Have you influenced Ben
to help himself?"

I marched down the hill without reply. Repassing Mrs. Hepburn's, he
said, "My grandfather was an earl's son."

"Mrs. Hepburn likes you for that. My grandfather was a tailor; I
should have told her so, when she gave me the aqua marina jewels."

"Had you the courage?"

"I forgot both the fact and the courage."

I hurried along, for it grew dark, and presently saw Ben on the steps
of the house.

"Have you been walking?" he asked.

"It looks so. Yes, with me," answered Desmond. "Wont you give me
thanks for attention to your friend?"

"It must have been a whim of Cassandra's."

"Break her of whims, if you can - "

"I _will_."

We went into the parlor together.

"Where do you think I have been?" Ben asked.

"Where?"

"For the doctor. The _baby_ is sick"; and he looked hard at Desmond.

"I hope it will live for years and years," I said.

"I know what you are at, Ben," said Desmond. "I have wished the brat
dead; but upon my soul, I have a stronger wish than that - I have
_forgotten_ it."

There was no falseness in his voice; he spoke the truth.

"Forgive me, Des."

"No matter about that," he answered, sauntering off.

I felt happier; that spark of humanity warmed me. I might not have
another. "I would," I said, "that the last day, the last moments of my
visit had come. You will see me henceforth in Surrey. I will live and
die there."

"To-night," Ben said, "I am going to tell pa."

"That is best."

"Horrible atmosphere!"

"It would kill Verry."

"You thrive in it," he said, with a spice of irritation in his voice.

"Thrive!"

Adelaide and Ann proved gracious over my gift. They were talking of
the doctor's visit. Ann said the child was teething, for she had
felt its gums; nothing else was the matter. There need be no
_apprehension_. She should say so to Desmond and Ben, and would post a
letter to her brother in unknown parts.

"Miss Hiticutt has sent for us to come over to tea," Adelaide informed
me. The black silk I wore would do, for we must go at once.

The quiet, formal evening was a pleasant relief, although I was
troubled with a desire to inform Mrs. Somers of Ben's engagement, for
the sake of exasperating her. We came home too early for bed, Adelaide
said; beside, she had music-hunger. I must sing. Mrs. Somers was by
the fire, darning fine napkins, winking over her task, maintaining
in her aspect the determination to avert any danger of a midnight
interview with Desmond. That gentleman was at present sleeping on a
sofa. I seated myself before the piano, wondering whether he slept
from wine, ennui, or to while away the time till I should come. I
touched the keys softly, waiting for an interpreting voice, and half
unconsciously sang the lines of Schiller:

"I hear the sound of music, and the halls
Are full of light. Who are the revelers?"

Desmond made an inarticulate noise and sprang up, as if in answer to a
call. A moment after he stepped quietly over the back of the sofa
and stood bending over me. I looked up. His eyes were clear, his face
alive with intuition. Though Adelaide was close by, she was oblivious;
her eyes were cast upward and her fingers lay languid in her lap. Ann,
more lively, introduced a note here and there into my song to her own
satisfaction. Mrs. Somers I could not see; but I stopped and, giving
the music stool a turn, faced her. She met me with her pale, opaque
stare, and began to swing her foot over her knee; her slipper, already
down at her heel, fell off. I picked it up in spite of her negative
movement and hung it on the foot again.

"I shall speak with you presently," she whispered, glancing at
Desmond.

He heard her and his face flashed with the instinct of sport, which
made me ashamed of any desire for a struggle with her.

"Good-night," I said abruptly, turning away.

"We are all sleepy except this exemplary housewife with her napkins,"
cried Ann. "We will leave her."

"Cassandra," said Adelaide, when we were on the stairs, "how well you
look!"

Ann, elevating her candle, remarked my eyes shone like a cat's.

"Hiticutt's tea was too strong," added Adelaide; "it dilates the
pupils. I am sorry you are going away," and she kissed me; this favor
would have moved me at any other time, but now I rejoiced to see her
depart and leave me alone. I sat down by the toilet table and was
arranging some bottles, when Mrs. Somers rustled in. Out of breath,
she began haughtily:

"What do you mean?"

A lethargic feeling crept over me; my thoughts wandered; I never spoke
nor stirred till she pulled my sleeve violently.

"If you touch me it will rouse me. Did a child of yours ever inflict a
blow upon you?"

She turned purple with rage, looming up before my vision like a peony.

"When are you going home?"

I counted aloud, "Sunday - Monday," and stopped at Wednesday. "Ben is
going back with me."

"_He_ may go."

"And not Desmond?"

"Do you know Desmond?"

"Not entirely."

"He has played with such toys as you are, and broken them."

"Alas, he is hereditarily cruel! Could _I_ expect not to be broken?"

She caught up a glass goblet as if to throw it, but only grasped it so
tight that it shivered. "There goes one of the Pickersgill treasures,
I am sure," I thought.

"I am already scarred, you see. I have been 'nurtured in
convulsions.'"

The action seemed to loosen her speech; but she had to nerve herself
to say what she intended; for some reason or other, she could not
remain as angry as she wished. What she said I will not repeat.

"Madam, I have no plans. If I have a Purpose, it is formless yet. If
God saves us what can you do?"

She made a gesture of contempt.

"You have no soul to thank me for what may be my work," and I opened
the door.

Ben stood on the threshhold.

"In God's name, what is this?"

I pointed to his mother. She looked uneasy, and stepping forward put
her hand on his arm; but he shook her off.

"You may call me a fool, Cassandra, for bringing you here," he said in
a bitter voice, "besides calling me cruel for subjecting you to these
ordeals. I knew how it would be with mother. What is it, madam?" he
asked imperiously, looking so much like her that I shuddered.

"It is not you she is after," she hotly exclaimed.

"No, I should think not." And he led her out swiftly.

I heard Mrs. Somers say at breakfast, as I went in, "We are to lose
Miss Cassandra on Wednesday." I looked at Desmond, who was munching
toast abstractedly. He made a motion for me to take the chair beside
him, which I obeyed. Ben saw this movement, and an expression of pain
passed over his face. At that instant I remembered that Desmond's
being seen in the evening and in the morning was a rare occurrence.
Mr. Somers took up the remark of Mrs. Somers where she had left it,
and expatiated on it till breakfast was over, so courteously and so
ramblingly that I was convinced the affair Ben had at heart had been
revealed. He invited me to go to church, and he spent the whole of the
evening in the parlor; and although Desmond hovered near me all day
and all the evening, we had no opportunity of speaking to each other.






CHAPTER XXXII.


On Tuesday morning Adelaide sent out invitations to a farewell
entertainment, as she called it, for Tuesday evening. Mrs. Somers,
affecting great interest in it, engaged my services in wiping the
dust from glass and china; "too valuable," she said, "for servants to
handle." We spent a part of the morning in the dining-room and pantry.
Ann was with us. If she went out, Mrs. Somers was silent; when present
she chatted. While we were busy Desmond came in, in riding trousers
and whip in hand.

"What nonsense!" he said, touching my hand with the whiplash. "Will
you ride with me after dinner?"

"I must have the horses at three o'clock," said his mother, "to go to
Mrs. Flint's funeral. She was a family friend, you know." The funeral
could not be postponed, even for Desmond; but he grew ill-humored at
once, swore at Murphy, who was packing a waiter at the sideboard, for
rattling the plates; called Ann a minx, because she laughed at him;
and bit a cigar to pieces because he could not light it. Rash had
followed him, his nose against his velveteens, in entreaty to go with
him; I was pleased at this sign of amity between them. At a harder
push than common he looked down and kicked him away.

"Noble creature," I said, "try your whip on him. Rash, go to your
master," and I opened the door. Two smaller dogs, Desmond's property,
made a rush to come in; but I shut them out, whereat they whined so
loudly that Mrs. Somers was provoked to attack him for bringing his
dogs in the house. An altercation took place, and was ended by Desmond
declaring that he was on his way after a bitch terrier, to bring it
home. He went out, giving me a look from the door, which I answered
with a smile that made him stamp all the way through the hall. Mrs.
Somers's feelings as she heard him peeped out at me. Groaning in
spirit, I finished my last saucer and betook myself to my room and
read, till summoned by Mrs. Somers to a consultation respecting the
furniture coverings. Desmond came home, but spoke to no one, hovering
in my vicinity as on the day before.

In the afternoon Adelaide and I went in the carriage to make calls
upon those we did not expect to see in the evening. She wrote P.P.C.
on my cards and laughed at the idea of paying farewell visits to
strangers. The last one was made to Mrs. Hepburn. A soft melancholy
crept over me when I entered the room where I had met Desmond last. We
should probably not see each other alone again. Mrs. Somers's policy
to that effect would be a success, for I should make no opposition to
it. Not a word of my feelings could I speak to Mrs. Hepburn - Adelaide
was there - provided I had the impulse; and Mrs. Hepburn would be the
last to forgive me should I make the conventional mistake of a scene
or an aside. This old lady had taught me something. I went to the
window, curious to know whether any nerve of association would vibrate
again. Nothing stirred me; the machinery which had agitated and
controlled me was effete.

Mrs. Hepburn said, as we were taking leave:

"If you come to Belem next year, and I am above the sod, I invite you
to pass a month with me. But let it be in the summer. I ride then, and
should like you for a companion."

She might have seen irresolution in me, for she added quickly, "You
need not promise - let time decide," and shook my hands kindly.

"Hep, is smitten with you, in her selfish way," Adelaide remarked, as
we rode from the door. She ordered the coachman to drive home by the
"Leslie House," which she wanted me to see. A great aunt had lived
and died there, leaving the house - one of the oldest in Belem - to her
brother Ned.

"Who is he like?"

"Desmond; but worse. There's only a year's difference in their ages.
They were educated together, kept in the nursery till they were great
boys and tyrants, and then sent abroad. They were in Amiens three
years."

"There are Desmond and Ben; they are walking in the street we are
passing."

She looked out.

"They are quarreling, I dare say. Ben is a prig, and preaches to Des."

While we were in the house, and Adelaide talked with the old servant
of her aunt, my thoughts were occupied with Desmond. What had they
quarreled on? Desmond was pale, and laughed; but Ben was red, and
looked angry.

"Why do you look at me so fixedly?" Adelaide asked, when we were in
the carriage again.

It was on my tongue to say, "Because I am beset." I did not, however;
instead I asked her if she never noticed what a rigid look people wore
in their best bonnets, and holding a card-case? She said, "Yes," and
shook out her handkerchief, as if to correct her own rigidity.

After an early tea she compelled me to sing, and we delayed dressing
till Mrs. Somers bloomed in, with purple satin and feather head-dress.

"Now we must go," she said, "and get ready."

"What shall you wear?" Mrs. Somers asked, advising a certain ugly,
claret-colored silk.

"Be sure not," said Adelaide on the stairs. "That dress makes your
hair too yellow."

I heard loud laughing in the third story, and heavy steps, while I
was in my room; and when I went down, I saw two gentlemen in evening
dress, standing by Desmond, at the piano, and singing, "_Fill, fill
the sparkling brimmer_." They were, as Ann informed me, college
friends of Des, who had arrived for a few days' visit, she supposed;
disagreeable persons, of course. They were often in Belem to ride,
fish, or play billiards. "Pa hates them," she said in conclusion. Mr.
Somers entering at this moment, in his _diplomatique_ style, his gouty
white hands shaded with wristbands, and his throat tied with a white
cravat, appeared to contradict her assertion, he was so affable in his
salutations to the young men. Desmond turned from the piano when he
heard his father's voice, and caught sight of me. He started toward
me; but his attention was claimed by one of the gentlemen, who had
been giving me a prolonged stare, and he dropped back on his seat,
with an indifferent air, answering some question relating to myself.
He looked as when I first saw him - flushed, haughty, and bored. His
hair and dress were disordered, his boots splashed with mud; and it
was evident that he did not intend to appear at the party.

Adelaide called me to remain by her; but I slipped away when I thought
no more would arrive, and sought a retired corner, to which Mr. Somers
brought Desmond's friends, introducing them as the sons of his college
chums, and leaving them, one lolling against the mantel, the other
over the back of a chair. They were muzzy with drink, and seemed to
grow warm, as I looked from one to the other, with an attentive air.

"You are visiting in Belem," said one.

"That is true," I replied.

"It is too confoundedly aristocratic for me; it knocks Beacon Street
into nothingness."

"Where is Beacon Street?"

"Don't you know _that_? Nor the Mall?"

"No."

Our conversation was interrupted by Ben, whom I had not seen since the
day before. He had been out of town, transacting some business for
his father. We looked at each other without speaking, but divined each
other's thoughts. "You _are_ as true and noble as I think you are,
Cassy. I must have it so. You _shall not_ thwart me." "Faithful
and good Ben, - do you pass a sufficiently strict examination upon
yourself? Are you not disposed to carry through your own ideas without
considering _me_?" Whatever our internal comments were, we smiled upon
each other with the sincerity of friendship, and I detected Mr. Digby
in the act of elevating his eyebrows at Mr. Devereaux, who signified
his opinion by telegraphing back: "It is all over with them."

"Hey, Somers," said the first; "what are you doing nowadays?"

"Pretty much the same work that I always have on hand."

"Do you mean to stick to Belem?"

"No."

"I thought so. But what has come over Des. lately? He is spoony."

"He is going backward, may be, to some course he omitted in his career
with you fellows. We must run the same round somehow, you know."

"He'll not find much reason for it, when he arrives," Mr. Devereaux
said.

Miss Munster joined us, with the intention of breaking up our
conclave, and soon moved away, with Mr. Digby and Devereaux in her
train.

"I have changed my mind," said Ben, "about going home with you."

"Are your plans growing complicated again?"

"Can you go to Surrey alone?"

"Why not, pray?"

"I have an idea of going to Switzerland to spend the summer. Will
Veronica be ready in the autumn?"

"How can I answer? Shall you not take leave of her?"

"Perhaps. Yes, - I must," he said excitedly; "but to-morrow we will
talk more about it. I shall go to Boston with you; pa is going too.
How well you look to-night, Cassy! What sort of dress is this?" taking
up a fold of it. "Is it cotton-silk, or silk-cotton? It is soft and
light. How delicate you are, with your gold hair and morning-glory
eyes!"

"How poetical! My dress is new, and was made by Adelaide's
dressmaker."

"Mother beckons me. What a headdress that is of hers!"

"What beckons you to go to Switzerland?" I mused.

I listened for Desmond's voice, which would have sounded like a silver
bell, in the loud, coarse buzz which pervaded the rooms. All the women
were talking shrill, and the men answering in falsetto. He was
not among them, and I moved to and fro unnoticed, for the tide of
entertainment had set in, and I could withdraw, if I chose. I took a
chair near an open door, commanded a view into a small room, on the
other side of the hall, opened only on occasions like these; there
was no one in it. Perceiving that my shoelace was untied, I stooped to
refasten it, and when I looked in the room again saw Desmond standing
under the chandelier, his hands in his pockets, his eyes on the floor,
his hair disordered and falling over his forehead; its blackness was
intense against the relief of the crimson wall-paper. Was it that
which had unaccountably changed his appearance?

He raised his head, looked across the hall, and saw me.

"Come here," he signaled. I rose like an automaton, and cast an
involuntary glance about me; the guests were filing through the
drawing-room, into the room where refreshments were laid. When the
last had gone, I left the friendly protection of the niche by the
fire-place, and stood so near him that I saw his nostrils quiver! Then
there came into his face an expression of pain, which softened it. I
had wished him to please me; _now_ I wished to please him. It seemed
that he had no intention of speaking, and that he had called me to
him to witness a struggle which I must find a key to hereafter, in the
depths of my own heart. I watched him in silence, and it passed. As
he pushed the door to with his foot, the movement caused something
to swing and glitter against his breast - a ring on his watch-ribbon
smaller than I could wear, a woman's ruby ring. The small, feminine
imp, who abides with those who have beams in their eyes, and helps
them to extract motes from the eyes of others, inspired me. I pointed
to the ring. Dropping his eyes, he said: "I loved her shamefully, and
she loved me shamefully. When shall I take it off - cursed sign?" And
he snapped it with his thumb and finger.

I grew rigid with virtue.

"You may not conjure up any tragic ideas on the subject. She is no
outcast. She is here to-night; if there was ruin, it was mutual."

"And your other faults?"

"Ah!" he said, with a terrible accent, "we shall see."

There was a tap on the door; it was Ben's. I fell back a step, and
he came in. "Will you bring Cassandra to the supper-room?" he said,


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