Miriam Coles Harris.

Richard Vandermarck online

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A Novel


Author of "Rutledge," "St. Phillips," etc., etc.


To S.S.H.






























O for one spot of living green,
One little spot where leaves can grow, -
To love unblamed, to walk unseen,
To dream above, to sleep below!


There are in this loud stunning tide,
Of human care and crime,
With whom the melodies abide
Of th' everlasting chime;

* * * * *

And to wise hearts this certain hope is given;
"No mist that man may raise, shall hide the eye of Heaven."


I never knew exactly how the invitation came; I felt very much honored
by it, though I think now, very likely the honor was felt to be upon the
other side. I was exceedingly young, and exceedingly ignorant, not
seventeen, and an orphan, living in the house of an uncle, an unmarried
man of nearly seventy, wholly absorbed in business, and not much more
interested in me than in his clerks and servants.

I had come under his protection, a little girl of two years old, and had
been in his house ever since. I had had as good care as a very ordinary
class of servants could give me, and was supplied with some one to teach
me, and had as much money to spend as was good for me - perhaps more; and
I do not feel inclined to say my uncle did not do his duty, for I do not
think he knew of anything further to do; and strictly speaking, I had no
claim on him, for I was only a great-niece, and there were those living
who were more nearly related to me, and who were abundantly able to
provide for me, if they had been willing to do it.

When I came in to the household, its wants were attended to by a cook
and a man-servant, who had lived many years with my uncle. A third
person was employed as my nurse, and a great deal of quarrelling was the
result of her coming. I quite wonder my uncle did not put me away at
board somewhere, rather than be disturbed. But in truth, I do not
believe that the quarrelling disturbed him much, or that he paid much
attention to the matter, and so the matter settled itself. My nurses
were changed very often, by will of the cook and old Peter, and I never
was happy enough to have one who had very high principle, or was more
than ordinarily good-tempered.

I don't know who selected my teachers; probably they applied for
employment and were received. They were very business-like and
unsuggestive people. I was of no more interest to them than a bale of
goods, I believe. Indeed, I seemed likely to go a bale of goods through
life; everything that was done for me was done for money, and with a
view to the benefit of the person serving me. I was not sent to school,
which was a very great pity; it was owing to the fact, no doubt, that
somebody applied to my uncle to teach me at home, and so the system was
inaugurated, and never received a second thought, and I went on being
taught at home till I was seventeen.

The "home" was as follows; a large dark house on the unsunny side of a
dull street; furniture that had not been changed for forty years, walls
that were seldom repainted, windows that were rarely opened. The
neighborhood had been for many years unfashionable and undesirable, and,
by the time I was grown up, nobody would have lived in it, who had cared
to have a cheerful home, I might almost have said, a respectable one, I
fancy ours was nearly the only house in the block occupied by its owner;
the others, equally large, were rented for tenement houses, or
boarding-houses, and perhaps for many things worse. It was probably
owing to this fact, that my uncle gave orders, once for all, I was never
to go into the street alone; and I believe, in my whole life, I had
never taken a walk unaccompanied by a servant, or one of my teachers.

A very dull life indeed. I wonder how I endured it. The rooms were so
dismal, the windows so uneventful. If it had not been for a room in the
garret where I had my playthings, and where the sun came all day long, I
am sure I should have been a much worse and more unhappy child. As I
grew older, I tried to adorn my room (my own respectable sleeping room,
I mean), with engravings, and the little ornaments that I could buy. But
it was a hopeless attempt. The walls were so high and so dingy, the
little pictures were lost upon them; and the vases on the great black
mantel-shelf looked so insignificant, I felt ashamed of them, and owned
the unfitness of decorating such a room. No flowers would grow in those
cold north windows - no bird would sing in sight of such a street. I gave
it up with a sigh; and there was one good instinct lost.

When I was about eleven, I fell foul of some good books. If it had not
been for them, I truly do not see how I could have known that I was not
to lie or steal, and that God was to be worshipped. Certainly, I had had
hands slapped many times for taking things I had been forbidden to
touch, and had had many a battle in consequence of "telling stories,"
with the servants of the house, but I had always recognized the personal
spite of the punishments, and they had not carried with them any
moral lesson.

I had sometimes gone to church; but the sermons in large city churches
are not generally elementary, and I did not understand those that I
heard at all. Occasionally I went with the nurse to Vespers, and that I
thought delightful. I was enraptured with the pictures, the music, the
rich clothes of the priests; if it had not been for the bad odor of the
neighboring worshippers, I think I might have rushed into the bosom of
the Church of Rome. But that offended sense restrained me. And so, as I
said, if I had not obtained access to some books of holy and pure
influence, and been starved by the dullness of the life around me into
taking hold of them with eagerness, I should have led the life of a
little heathen in the midst of light. Of course the books were not
written for my especial case, nor were they books for children, - and so,
much was supposed, and not expressed, and consequently the truth they
imparted to me was but fragmentary. But it was truth, and the
influence was holy.

I was driven to books; I do not believe I had any more desire than most
vivid, palpitating, fluttering young things of my sex, to pore over a
dull black and white page; but this black and white gate opened to me
golden fields of happiness, while I was perishing of hunger in a life of
dreary fact.

When I was about sixteen, however, an outside human influence, not
written in black and white, came into the current of my existence. About
that time, my uncle took into his firm, as junior partner, a young man
who had long been a clerk in the house. After his promotion he often
came home with my uncle to dinner. I think this was done, perhaps, with
a view of civil treatment, on the first occasion; but afterward, it was
continued because my uncle could not bear to leave business when he left
the office, and because he could talk on the matters which were dearer
to him than his dinner, with this junior, in whom he took unqualified
delight. He often wrote letters in the evening, which my uncle dictated,
and he sometimes did not go away till eleven o'clock at night. The first
time he came, I did not notice him very much. It was not unusual for
Uncle Leonard to be accompanied by some gentleman who talked business
with him during dinner; and being naturally shy, and moreover, on this
occasion, in the middle of a very interesting book, at once timid and
indifferent, I slipped away from the table the moment that I could. But
upon the third or fourth occasion of his being there, I became
interested, finding often a pair of handsome eyes fixed on me, and being
occasionally addressed and made a partner in the conversation. Uncle
Leonard very rarely talked to me, and I think found me in the way when
Richard Vandermarck made the talk extend to me.

But this was the beginning of a very much improved era for me. I lost my
shyness, and my fear of Uncle Leonard, and indeed, I think, my frantic
thirst for books, and became quite a young lady. We were great friends;
he brought me books, he told me about other people, he opened a thousand
doors of interest and pleasure to me. I never can enumerate all I owed
to him. My dull life was changed, and the house owed him gratitude.

We began to have the gas lighted in the parlor, and even Uncle Leonard
came in there sometimes and sat after dinner, before he went up into
that dreary library above. I think he rather enjoyed hearing us talk
gayly across his sombre board; he certainly became softer and more human
toward me after Richard came to be so constantly a guest. He gave me
more money to spend, (that was always the expression of his feelings,
his language, so to speak;) he made various inquiries and improvements
about the house. The dinners themselves were improved, for a horrible
monotony had crept into the soups and sauces of forty years; and Uncle
Leonard was no epicure; he seemed to have no more stomach than he had
heart; brain and pocket made the man.

I think unconsciously he was much influenced by Richard, whose business
talent had charmed him, and to whom he looked for much that he knew he
must soon lose. He was glad to make the house seem pleasant to him, and
he was much gratified by his frequent coming. And Richard was peculiarly
a man to like and to lean upon. Not in any way brilliant, and with no
literary tastes, he was well educated enough, and very well informed; a
thorough business man. I think he was ordinarily reserved, but our
intercourse had been so unconventional, that I did not think him so at
all. He was rather good-looking, tall and square-shouldered, with
light-brown hair and fine dark-blue eyes; he had a great many points of

One day, long after he had become almost a member of the household, he
told me he wanted me to know his sister, and that she would come the
next day to see me, if I would like it. I did like it, and waited for
her with impatience. He had told me a great deal about her, and I was
full of curiosity to see her. She was a little older than Richard, and
the only sister; very pretty, and quite a person of consequence in
society. She had made an unfortunate marriage, though of that Richard
said very little to me; but with better luck than attends most
unfortunately-married, women, she was released by her husband's early
death, and was free to be happy again, with some pretty boys, a moderate
fortune, and two brothers to look after her investments, and do her
little errands for her. She considered herself fortunate; and was a
widow of rare discretion, in that she was wedded to her unexpected
independence, and never intended to be wedded to anything or anybody
else. She was naturally cool and calculating, and was in no danger of
being betrayed by her feelings into any other course of life than the
one she had marked out as most expedient. If she was worldly, she was
also useful, intelligent, and popular, and a paragon in her brother's
partial eyes.



Mieux vaut une once de fortune qu'une livre de sagesse.

At last (on the day on which Richard had advertised me she was coming,)
the door was opened, and some one was taken to the parlor. Then old
Peter rang a bell which stood on the hall table, and called out to Ann
Coddle (once my nurse, now the seamstress, chambermaid, and general
lightener of his toils), to tell Miss Pauline a lady wanted her.

This bell was to save his old bones; he never went up-stairs, and he
resented every visitor as an innovation. They were so few, his temper
was not much tried. I was leaning over the stairs when the bell rang,
and did not need a second message. Ann, who continued to feel a care for
my personal appearance, followed me to the landing-place and gave my
sash a last pull.

When I found myself in the parlor I began to experience a little
embarrassment. Mrs. Hollenbeck was so pretty and her dress was so
dainty, the dingy, stiff, old parlor filled me with dismay. Fortunately,
I did not think much of myself or my own dress. But after a little, she
put me at ease, that is, drew me out and made me feel like talking
to her.

I admired her very much, but I did not feel any of the affection and
quick cordiality with which Richard had inspired me. I could tell that
she was curious about me, and was watching me attentively, and though
she was so charming that I felt flattered by her interest, I was not
pleased when I remembered my interview with her.

"You are not at all like your brother," I said, glancing in her face
with frankness.

"No?" she said smilingly, and looking attentively at me with an
expression which I did not understand.

And then she drew me on to speak of all his features, which I did with
the utmost candor, showing great knowledge of the subject.

"And you," she said, "you do not look at all as I supposed. You are not
nearly so young - Richard told me you were quite a child. I was not
prepared for this grace; this young ladyhood - 'cette taille de
palmier,'" she added, with a little sweep of the hand.

Somehow I was not pleased to feel that Richard had talked of me to her,
though I liked it that he had talked of her to me. No doubt she saw it,
for I was lamentably transparent. "Do you lead a quiet life, or have you
many friends?" she said, as if she did not know exactly the kind of
life I led, and as if she had not come for the express purpose of
helping me out of it, at the instance of her kindly brother. Then, of
course, I told her all about my dull days, and she pitied me, and said
lightly it must not be, and I must see more of the world, and she, for
her part, must know me better, etc., etc. And then she went away.

In a few days, I went with Ann Coddle, in a carriage, to return the
visit. The house was small, but in a beautiful, bright street, and the
one window near the door was full of ferns and ivies. I did not get in,
which was a disappointment to me, particularly as I had no printed card,
and realized keenly all the ignominy of leaving one in writing. This was
in April, and I saw no more of my new friend. Richard was away, on some
business of the firm, and the days were very dull indeed.

In May he came back, and resumed the dinners, and the evenings in the
parlor, though not quite with the frequency of the past winter, - and I
think there was the least shade of constraint in his manner. It was on
one of these May days that he came and took me to the Park. It was a
great occasion; I had never been so happy before in my life. I was in
great doubt about taking Ann Coddle; never having been out of the house
without a person of that description in attendance before. But Ann got
a suspicion of my doubt and settled it, to go - of course. I think
Richard was rather chagrined when she followed us out to get into the
carriage; she was so dried-up and shrewish-looking, and wore such an
Irish bonnet. But she preserved a discreet silence, and looked
steadfastly out of the carriage window, so we soon forgot that she was
there, though she was directly opposite to us. It was Saturday; the day
was fresh and lovely, and there were crowds of people driving in the
Park. Once we left the carriage with Ann Coddle in it, and went to hear
the music. It was while we were sitting for a few moments under the
vines to listen to it, and watch the gay groups of people around us,
that a carriage passed within a dozen feet, and a lady leaned out and
bowed with smiles.

"Why, see - it is your sister!" I exclaimed, with the vivacity of a
person of a very limited acquaintance.

"Ah," he said, and raised his hat carelessly. But I saw he was not
pleased; he pushed the end of his moustache into his mouth, and bit it,
as he always did when out of humor, and very soon proposed we should go
back and find the carriage. It was not long, however, before he
recovered from this annoyance, as he had from the unexpected pleasure of
Ann's company; and, I am sure, was as sorry as I when it was time to go
home to dinner.

He stayed and dined with us; another gentleman had come home with my
uncle, who talked well and amused us very much. I was excited and in
high spirits; altogether, it was a very happy day.

It was more than a week after this, that the invitation came which
turned the world upside down at once, and made me most extravagantly
happy. It was from Mrs. Hollenbeck, and I was asked to spend part of
June and all of July and August, with them at R - - .

At R - - was their old family home, a place of very little pretension,
but to which they were much attached. When the father died, five years
before, the two sons had bought the place, or rather had taken it as
their share, turning over the more productive property to their sister.

They had been very reluctant to close the house, and it was decided that
Sophie should go there every summer, and take her servants from the
city; the expenses of the place being borne by the two young men. They
were very well able to do it, as both were successful in business, and
keeping open the old home, with no diminution of the hospitality of
their father's time, was perhaps the greatest pleasure that they had.
It was an arrangement which suited Sophie admirably. It gave her the
opportunity to entertain pleasantly and informally; it was a capital
summer-home for her two boys; it was in the centre of an agreeable
neighborhood; and above all, it gave her yearly-exhausted purse time to
recuperate and swell again before the winter's drain. Of course she
loved the place, too, but not with the simple affection that her two
brothers did. The young men invited their friends there without
restriction, as was to be supposed; and Sophie was a gay and agreeable
hostess. No one could have made the house pleasanter than she did; and
she left nothing undone to gratify her brothers' tastes and wishes, like
a wise and prudent woman as she was.

I did not know all this then, or my invitation might not have
overwhelmed me with such gratitude to her. I reproached myself for not
having loved her the first time I saw her.

Three months! Three happy months in the country! I could hardly believe
it possible such a thing had happened to me. I took the note to my uncle
without much fear of his opposition, for he rarely opposed anything that
I had the courage to ask him, except going in the street alone. (I
believe my mother had made a runaway match, and I think he had faith in
inherited traits; his one resolution regarding me must have been, not to
give me a chance.) He read the note carefully, and then looked me over
with more interest than usual, and told me I might go. Afterward he gave
me a roll of bills, and told me to come to him for more money, if I
needed it.

I was much excited about my clothes. I could not think that anything was
good enough to go to R - - ; and I am afraid I spent a good deal of my
uncle's money. Ann Coddle and the cook thought that my dresses were
magnificent, and old Peter groaned over the coming of the packages. I
had indeed a wardrobe fit for a young princess, and in very good taste
besides, because I was born with that. An inheritance, no doubt. And my
uncle never complained at all about the bills. I seemed to have become,
in some way, a person of considerable importance in the house. Ann
Coddle no more fretted at me, but waited on me with alacrity. The cook
ceased to bully me, and on the contrary, flattered me outrageously. I
remembered the long years of bullying, and put no faith in her
assurances. I did not know exactly why this change had happened, but
supposed it might be the result of having become a young lady, and being
invited to pay visits.



You are well made - have common sense,
And do not want for impudence.

_Tanto buen die val niente.

Un sot trouve toujours un plus sot qui l'admire_.

The packages finally ceased coming and the stiff old bell from being
pulled; but only half an hour before the carriage drove to the door that
was to take me to the boat. Ann Coddle was flying up and down the
stairs, and calling messages over to Peter in a shrill voice. She was
not designed by nature for a lady's maid, and was a very disagreeable
person to have about one's room. She made me even more nervous than I
should otherwise have been. I had never packed a trunk before, or had
one packed, and might have thought it a very simple piece of business if
Ann had not made such a mountain of it; packing every tray half a dozen
times over, and going down-stairs three times about every article that
was to come up from the laundry.

Happily she was not to go with me any farther than the boat. Richard
was away again on business - had been gone, indeed, since the day after
we had driven in the Park: so I was to be put on board the boat, and
left in charge of Kilian, his younger brother, who had called at my
uncle's office, and made the arrangement with him. I had never seen
Kilian, and the meeting filled me with apprehension; my uncle, however,
sent up one of his clerks in the carriage to take me to the boat, and
put me in charge of this young gentleman. This considerate action on the
part of my uncle seemed to fill up the measure of my surprises.

When we reached the boat, the clerk, a respectful youth, conducted me to
the upper deck, and then left me with Ann, while he went down about
the baggage.

With all our precautions, we were rather late, for the last bell was
ringing; Ann was in a fever of impatience, and I was quite uncertain
what to do, the clerk not having returned, and Mr. Kilian Vandermarck
not having yet appeared. Ann was so disagreeable, and so disturbing to
all thinking, that I had more than once to tell her to be quiet. Matters
seemed to have reached a crisis. The man at the gangway was shouting
"all aboard;" the whistle was blowing; the bell was ringing; Ann was
whimpering; when a belated-looking young man with a book and paper under
his arm came up the stairs hurriedly and looked around with anxiety. As
soon as his eye fell on us, he looked relieved, and walked directly up
to me, and called me by name, interrogatively.

"O yes," I said eagerly, "but do get this woman off the boat or we'll
have to take her with us." "Oh, no danger," he said, "plenty of time,"
and he took her toward the stairs, at the head of which she was met by
the clerk, who touched his hat to me, handed the checks to Mr.
Vandermarck, then hurried off with Ann. Mr. Vandermarck returned to me,
but I was so engrossed looking over the side of the boat and watching
for Ann and the clerk, that I took no notice of him.

At last I saw Ann scramble on the wharf, just before the plank was drawn
in; with a sigh of relief I turned away.

"I want to apologize for being so late," he said.

"Why, it is not any matter," I answered, "only I had not the least idea
what to do."

"You are not used to travelling alone, then, I suppose?"

"Oh no," nor to travelling any way, for the matter of that, I added to
myself; but not aloud, for I had a great fear that it should be known
how very limited my experience was.

"You must let me take your shawl and bag, and we will go and get a
comfortable seat," he said in a few moments. We went forward and found
comfortable chairs under an awning, and where there was a fine breeze.
It was a warm afternoon, and the change from the heated and glaring
wharf was delightful. Mr. Vandermarck threw himself back in his chair

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Online LibraryMiriam Coles HarrisRichard Vandermarck → online text (page 1 of 16)