S. Weir (Silas Weir) Mitchell.

Constance Trescot : a novel online

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* ' I do not. I want you to be the dear, good woman
you are. I shall neither ask nor need help."

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"You certainly will not get it from me; I think
it wicked, fooliahu"

'*Yes, yes," said Constance; **from yonr point
of view, not from mine. But you will not love me
the lesst I could not bear that. Only, dear, let
us never talk of this any more. I am not a child.
I am not hysterical or insane. I shall not trouble
your life. We will live like other people. Now,
that is all." She bent over and kissed the elder
sister, who sat staring into the fire, her hands clasped
about her knees. Accepting the kiss coldly, Susan
looked up, but finding no comfort in the set face of
her sister, her own eyes full of tears,— for she loved
with a deep and changeless love, and wished to be
able to respect as well as to love,— she rose and said
as she stood: '^I shall never have a moment's peace;
I shall always be thinking of what you may do. You
have made me very unhappy."

'*I am sorry," said Constance.

Susan left her, saying: *'I wish you were more

Despite her assertion of certainty, Constance was
not secure as to what her future course should be ;
while Susan, as their life went on in its usual way,
regained her belief that Constance would some day
acknowledge her schemes to be as absurd as they
appeared to her own good sense.

In the morning, a few days later, Constance was
leaving General Averill's house when she saw, for
only the second time since her return, the largely
built figure of Greyhurst. He came upon her sud-
denly as she stood at the gate between the high

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rows of box. His face changed. He half raised
his hand in obedience to the habit of salute, dropped
it, and went on.

She turned out of the gate, paused a moment, and
followed him. Half-way down the slope to the
main street he looked back. He saw twenty feet
behind him the tall, black-robed woman. He turned
to go up the main street. It was the busy hour
near to noon. Both were familiar figures. People
looked after them in wonder. Two gentlemen in
talk on the board sidewalk lifted their hats as she
went by, and, observing Greyhurst in front of her,
remarked on it as strange. Did Greyhurst know
who was behind himt Did she recognize the manf
They passed on. At his ofSce he looked back once
more. She was very near, and had raised her veil.
She met his gaze with steady eyes. He saw the
white face with its look of immeasurable pain, and,
passing into the house, fell on a chair, limp and wet
with the sudden sweat of an emotion akin to ter-

Nor was she less observant. She was aware of
the quick change in a face where all expressions
revealed themselves with distinctness, and went on
her way with her share of a moment of agitation,
murmuring: ''I must be to him like a ghost. I
know now that he suffers— and he shall suffer."

Prom that time she was more frequently seen in
the morning hours on the one busy street of the
town. Now and then, as if by chance, she came
upon the man she sought, but was careful not to
overdo that which would lose force by repetition*

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Twice she followed him on his homeward way. The
last time was at dusk. He became aware of her
presence as he left the verge of the town and
turned into West Street. She kept her place some
few paces behind him. He did not look back, but
was. terribly conscious of her nearness. He could
not have described or analyzed the form of dis-
tress which knowledge of her presence brought upon
him. He longed to look back at her, and was sure
that to do so would abruptly freshen the memory
of all he desired to forget. Now, for the first time,
he felt fear in its purity— such fear as the child
has when going up-stairs in the dark— fear unasso-
ciated with a definite object or distinct idea.

At his own gate he turned and looked back. The
tall black figure was but ten steps away. Of a
sudden, obeying one of those unreasonable impulses
to which he was subject, he went toward her.

For a moment she was afraid, but did not move.
He stopped before her and said: **My God I have
you no pityt Cannot you see how I suffer t"

* * Suffer ! " she cried. ' * I am glad that you suffer !
Pityt I have for you such pity as you had for
him and me!"

With no more words, she crossed the street, and
her dark figure was lost in the deepening gloom.
The man looked after her for a moment, and then
walked back to his house, and, moving heavily, went
up the steps, murmuring, *'My Qodl my God!"

Before this he had thought it hardly strange that
he met her so often, for every one met almost daily
in the one business street. He had felt it keenly.

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But now he became certain that she had of purpose
chosen to meet and follow him. This sudden sense
of being causelessly afraid for a little while occu-
pied his consciousness to the shutting out of other
thought. He was a man who had been in battle
fearless, and so rash as to be blamed for leading
his men into needless peril. What now did he
dread t He did not know, and that troubled him.
These revelations of what lies hidden in the abysses
of the mind are, at times, startling evidence of
how little we know of the world of self. That it
was not physical fear was what disturbed him most.

When seated in his library, he succeeded in fas-
tening his attention on the tangled accounts of a
bankrupt client's business. He was apt at figures
and liked to deal with them. After two hours of
hard work he began to consider the situation in
which he was placed. To have it continue would
be intolerable. He had to be absent for a week,
but must return for a day to speak at or near the
county town. Then he was to go to California and
attend to certain mining interests in which the gov-
ernor and other political friends were concerned.
He would be away at least two months, and, for
more than one reason, looked forward with relief
to this absence, and with hope as to what it might
bring into his life.

However adroitly Constance managed to make her
encounters with Greyhurst seem to be accidental,
the fact that she did not avoid him, as most women
so situated would have done, excited very natural
surprise in the little town.

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When it became common knowledge that she pur-
posely followed him, the interest and consequent
gossip increased. She had made herself liked, but
now even her closest friends felt her actions to be
indecorous and inexplicably out of relation to an
existence so full of good sense and so notable for
well-bred regard for the decencies of life. When
Mrs. Averill, greatly distressed by the gossip which
soon came to her ears, thought proper to talk of Con-
stance to Susan Hood, the latter became fully awak-
ened to the results of her sister's behavior.

To reason with her would be vain. For a mo-
ment she thought of the new rector, with whom she
had formed friendly relations, but knew, alas! how
futile would be that resort. Mrs. Averill, remem-
bering her former defeat, was indisposed to renew
her own efforts, and at last laid the matter before
her husband, who had already heard quite too much
of it.

He said: "My dear Eleanor, a lady without a
husband usually relies on one of two men— her
preacher or her doctor. Ask Dr. Eskridge to see
her. He ought to be able to influence her, if any
one can. He is a gentleman and will see this out-
rageous conduct in a proper light. As concerns
myself, I can do nothing, and whether she annoys
that man or not I do not care. But Constance must
not be talked about. I had to stop some young
fellows at the club last night."

**Do you think, Edward, that the man feels itf "

*'Tes; you asked me that before. This, or some-
thing, is affecting him deeply. Ever since he killed

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poor Trescot he has been— well, softer, less easily
put out. But of late he is moody and silent; every
one notices it."

^'I wish he would go away, or that she would.
However, I will talk to Susan, who is in despair,
and I will see the doctor.''

She did both, and, as a consequence, the next
morning Dr. Eskridge called on Mrs. Trescot. He
led a busy life, and she had seen but little of the
cheerful, ruddy, rather stout old man with small
bright eyes and alert ways. He had been at one
time in charge of the State asylum for the insane,*
and then, during the war, a surgeon in Pickett's
division of the Confederate army.

While waiting for Mrs. Trescot he looked at the
pictures, and then fell with interest upon a maga-
zine, which he laid down as Constance with both
hands made him welcome, reproaching hJTn with
neglect of an old patient.

''If I come I stay too long, and I am a busy old
fellow. I was reading in this journal an account
of Pickett's charge. I was behind his line and got
somehow too near. I have still a memorial in my
leg. May I take the journal home?"

"Of course. My husband was on the hill. How
strange it all seems!"

He looked at the mournful figure and the sad
white face, and said to her:

**You will not mind my saying that I and others
of our old army both liked and respected your

**0h, I know, I know. And he was so sure of the

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soldiers~so patient with the feeling against us!
Oh, doctor, why did I bring him heret He did not
want to come. I urged it. I am so unhappy!"

It was the usual story. We must confess to some
one— a priest, or, better, to the large, wise charity
of the doctor. It was a relief to the woman, who
was indisposed to talk of her husband even to Susan,
and still less to pour out to any one else her abid-
ing regret at having allowed her eager love to over-
rule George Trescot's wish to wait until he could
offer her a home in Boston.

"I was wrong," she said; "and it was I who
killed him. But for me, he would be alive now—

**My dear," he said, "we do what seems best
to us, and who can predict the far-away results*
I tell a man to go to Europe, and the ship goes
down at sea. Am I to blame t"

"Oh, that is different. I was selfish. I did not
do what was best. I should have known it was not.
I loved as few women love. I could not wait; I
wanted him near me always. I should be ashamed
to confess how I felt. How did I come to speak
of itt I never do."

He saw that she was wiping her eyes as he re-
turned :

"You are in a mood to assume blame. You are
wrong. Mr. Trescot was fully advised by older men,
his friends, that it was wise to come here. And, after
all, I am right, and there is no use in our vain regrets.
If we use the errors or mistakes of the past to wreck
our present and make us useless— what of that?"

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**Am I useless, doctort"

He saw that he was astray, and said: ''No; I
must be pardoned— you are not; but if I am not
mistaken, you are doing that which will surely end
in ruining your health and making you useless."

She drew herself up and regarded him with
steady eyes. This man understood her and the
strain to which she was subjecting herself. That,
too, was a relief.

**I am sure that you know I am right," he urged.
*'And let me say a few words more. You are ex-
citing talk and gossip by what you are doing.
Your sister and your friends are hurt and troubled
and— pardon me— ashamed."

**They have asked you to come here and try to
make me do as other weak, helpless women have

**Yes; but I should not so state it."

''Doctor, you are the one person I can or will
talk to freely of this matter. Listen to me."

"I will."

"This man murdered my husband. If he had
killed your wife, you would have shot him as you
would any other wild beast."

"I would," he said.

"This accursed town goes through the farce of
a trial. He is free. He prospers. Except a few,
who cares for the death of a Yankee officer? The
man will go to the legislature— perhaps, some day,
to Congress. At first people are a little shocked.
It was pretty bad, they say. Does no one here pun-
ish a murderer? No one! I, at least, cannot sit


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down and do nothing. I am still too much of a
woman to kill him; and, after all, death does not
punish— or, if it does, should I ever know? I
mean to ruin this man, and I can. These mild
women who love in their weak way are shocked.
What does that matter to me?"

'*I will tell you how it matters," he said. **I
have heard you rave in your illness. I, at least,
can understand ; I, at least, cannot altogether blame
you. But there are two or three things I want
to urge upon you. I do not propose to discuss
the right and wrong of this matter; but I entreat
you to listen to me as patiently as I have listened
to you."

*a will do so."

'*You are following Greyhurst at times. No, do
not interrupt me; let me have my say. It has ex-
cited unpleasant talk— too unpleasant to repeat At
the club and among the women it is discussed"— he
hesitated— ** even laughed at." He knew how bitter
was the medicine. **I wish to be frank with you.
I know this man. He is by birth and early breed-
ing a gentleman. I am making no plea for him.
Who, indeed, could? I am sure that not only has
he not escaped self -torment, but that your follow-
ing him is probably a severe punishment. But what
of yourself?"

**0f myself, doctor? I have never in this mat-
ter given myself a thought."

''No, no; and that is the trouble. You are think-
ing of one thing, and are regardless of everything
else, of every one else— of sister, friends, of all who

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love you. If any woman I did not know and like
as I do you were to take so petty a mode of aveng-
ing a wrong as great as you have suffered, I should
not hesitate to say how it looks to me and to those
you cannot fail to respect.'*

**What do you mean, doctor?"

"I mean that it is vulgar."

She colored slightly. '*Tou have certainly the
courage of your opinions—"

*'And, too," he said, *'a very great regard for
a lady who should be far above the use of such

Nothing he had said or could have said affected
her as did this sentence. She saw it all in a minute,
and gave way at once.

*'If it be true that he suffers through me, I am
glad to have hurt the man. But I see the force of
what you say. I shall not do as I have done; and
there are other ways which will neither annoy my
friends nor make me seem ridiculous."

** Thank you," he said, well pleased. "But that
is not all. You speak of other ways. Take care.
The steady thinking on anything that involves emo-
tion is full of peril to a woman like you; in fact,
to any one, man or woman."

**I know that. It is true, and I am guarding my-
self with care. I have taught myself to deal coldly
with this matter. I keep myself busy. I ride; I
read ; I draw ; I go among your poor. I have had my

'*But what do you mean to do?"

**Now there, my dear doctor, I must stop. I do

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not know. I mean to ruin this man, to drive him
to despair."

As she spoke the doctor considered her resolute
face. He had an insecure belief that she would
in some way compass her ends. She would collect
this debt of vengeance, with usury thereto. How
she would do it he could not imagine. He expressed
his doubts, and even more than he felt, in the hope
of inducing her to give up altogether her use of
means full of danger to her mental health. She
turned on him at last with her reply :

''You say that I am powerless and that I shall
not only harm myself, but hurt all who love me,
and yet do this man no real injury. I want one
friend who will credit me with not being a fool,
and what I say is for you alone.''

**That, of course, Mrs. Trescot.'*

She then told him what she had done with the tele-
gram and the letter.

''I cannot blame you," he said, as she finished a
perfectly calm statement. **I do not blame you.
I shall say no more. I had far rather you left
vengeance to Him who soon or late is sure to pun-
ish as man cannot. I see that I, at least, am un-
able to convince you. But take care; you are on a
dark and dangerous way. I shall say no more to
Mrs. Averill than that you will occasion no further
talk by what you do."

**Yes," she said, rising; ** thank you, my good doc-
tor. I shall be glad to have you put an end to this
gossip. (}ood-by."

He went out to his gig, saying to himself as he

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drove away: '^The man is doomed. If she persists
he will do something— Gtod knows what. He will
be unable to bear it. These sensitive people never
can stand still and wait. They are always nettled
into doing something.'' He began to consider, as
he drove into the country, whether he had ever seen
any one like Constance Trescot. He at last smiled
with the satisfied nod of a man who has f onnd what
he was looking for. There was something feline in
her delicate ways, her grace of movement, her neat-
ness, the preservation of primitive passions and in-
stincts, her satisfaction in the chase and in tor-
turing. "Let us add," said the old doctor, '*the
human intelligence, and we have her. Get up, Bob !
It is as near as we shall ever get."
Two days later the doctor received a note :

**My dear Doctob:

'^ Yesterday, as Susan wanted to hear a real stump-
speech, Colonel Dudley rode with us to Ekron ; and
there, on the edge of the woods, he got us a standing-
place (every one was very kind) close to the speak-
ers. I soon had enough of the sectional eloquence;
but Susan, who was taken with the humor of it,
would not go. I had been told that that man was not
to be present. When he got on the stump, not ten
feet from us, for a moment he spoke to the people
behind him. Colonel Dudley said to me: 'Come
away; I did not expect this.' Susan said: *I must
go.' I said : *No ; I will not go ; I will not be driven
away.' As I refused he turned and saw me. I can-
not describe to you with what satisfaction I saw

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what before I had only gaessed. I cannot describe
how his face changed. His voice broke for a mo-
ment, and then he went on. He was embarrassed.
That might well be; but there was more. He got
confused and then was clear again. Some one said
he was drunk. Although he tried not to look at me,
the speech was evidently a failure, and the crowd
surprised. As he stepped down I said: *Now we
will go.'

**I write because I was seen by many who will
think that I went purposely or should have left at
once. I wish you, who will hear of it, to know that
I did not break my promise.

** Believe me, with grateful remembrance,
*' Constance Tebscot.''

'*But she stayed, for all that,'* said the doctor.
''How will itendT'

Others were as curious; and over the cocktails
and juleps at the club on the evening of the stump-
speaking, the ex-Confederates and others discussed
this novel vendetta. As the doctor entered with
Colonel Dudley, a young fellow was describing the
scene and the evident effect upon Greyhurst. An-
other, a little older, said: *'I saw her follow him
down the street. How the deuce could she want to
come back heret It must be awful."

''Yes; for him."

Said Dudley: "You boys had better drop that I
took this lady to the meeting. No one knew that Mr.
Greyhurst was to speak. And let me, as an old fel-
low, remind you that we do not discuss ladies here."

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^'Oh, but, colonel, this was such an amazing

** Would make a good article," said the editor, as
they sat down.

'*But never will, sir," remarked the doctor,
sharply, over the shrubbery of his julep.

**0f course not," said the editor.

The young fellows apologized, and the colonel
began to chat with the doctor.

A few minutes later Greyhurst entered the smoke-
filled room. Without speaking to any one else, he
went over to where Dudley sat. "Will you do me
the favor to speak to me a few minutes? Not out-
side," he added a little louder, as men looked
around. The old Confederate rose, saying, "Of
course; but let no one take away my julep."

"Not outside," Greyhurst repeated. "Up-stairs,

Dudley followed him to the room above, where
were two candles, some chairs, a poker-table, and
mildewed walls.

"Let us sit down," said Greyhurst. "I shall not
keep you long."

"Very good; it is chilly here. What is itt"

Greyhurst said: "You will, I know, pardon me
if I am wrong ; but you as much as told me I must
leave the board of the orphan home. I have since
learned, or inferred, that Mrs. Trescot was behind
the matter."

"Yes, in a way; indirectly. In fact, I have no
reason to conceal from you that she declined to
leave in the hands of the managers the money she

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gave, becanse you were on the board. I thought her
justified, but of course I could not bring a lady's
name into the matter when I talked to you.'' Dud-
ley was not a man to excuse his actions. He expected
' an angry answer. To his surprise, Greyhurst said
quietly :

''Yes, she was justified. May I ask if, when you
rode out with her to the meeting this afternoon, you
were aware that I was to speakt"

''I was not. Is that all?" asked the colonel, as he
stood up.

*'Yes, that is all," said Greyhurst, in tones both
sad and gentle; ''and, sir, I trust that you will ac-
cept my excuses for such unusual questions."

"It is all right," said the colonel. Then, seeing
that Greyhurst still lingered, standing, with one
thumb on the table, something struck him in this
large, square-shouldered man with the dark eyes.
Either curiosity or faintly felt pity, or both, made
him say:

"Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Yes; if I may keep you a few minutes."

"Pray, go on."

"I am in a situation. Colonel Dudley, which is
very unusual. I was unfortunate a year ago— most
unfortunate; and since Mrs. Trescot has returned
to St. Ann I fear that my presence, our accidental
encounters, our— well, I find it difficult to avoid
her. I put it as a man must do about a lady. It
has become unendurable." He did not wish to com-
plain that he was haunted by this living ghost. He
looked steadily at the old colonel, and added: "I

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hope I make myself understood t" He was unwill-
ing to say that she followed him.

'*I suppose," said Dudley, coldly, *'that I must
admit that you do. It is plain enough as you put
it— unusual, too, as you state; but let me add that
I do not propose to discuss with you this lady's

Greyhurst said promptly: *'I did not expect you
to do that. I wish to ask advice of an older man as
to what, as a gentleman, I should do."

"I can't give it, Mr. Greyhurst. There are rea-
sons why even to be asked is disagreeable to me. I
allowed you to question me in regard to my presence
with Mrs. Trescot at that meeting. I answered you
frankly. But I did not like it, sir; I did not like
it. If I had declined to reply we should have quar-
reled. I think this talk had better end before my
temper gives out— or yours."

Greyhurst had been looking down as they talked,
seeming to weigh his words. Now, with something
like a wan smile on his dark face, he said quickly,
as he looked up: **No man. Colonel Dudley, can
ever quarrel with me again, or make me quarrel."

Dudley's face cleared as he said at once, in his
frank, pleasant way: "I misunderstood. You must
pardon me. I am free to say to you that, little as I
like or approve this lady's course, you, sir, can do
nothing. I did not mean to advise, but now I have
done so, and I have only this to add. None of us
who know Mrs. Trescot are likely to stop her. I
saw her at the meeting. If ever a woman hated a
man, she hates you. Whether she is justified in her

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course or not, you know best. You have made me
speak out, and I have had to express myself in a
way, sir, which is not agreeable to me and cannot
be pleasant to you."

''I have said that she is justified," said Greyhurst,
slowly. **I have had no day since— since I killed
that man which has not been full of regret. I do
not hesitate to say so to you. But a man must live.
I cannot go away ; I have not the means. What can
I do?"

**Do? Damn it! you can do nothing."

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Online LibraryS. Weir (Silas Weir) MitchellConstance Trescot : a novel → online text (page 17 of 23)