The Project Gutenberg eBook of Tessa Wadsworth's Discipline: A Story of the Development of a Young Girl's Life

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Title: Tessa Wadsworth's Discipline: A Story of the Development of a Young Girl's Life

Author: Mrs. Nathaniel Conklin

Release date: August 7, 2011 [eBook #37003]
Most recently updated: January 8, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Katherine Ward, Roger Frank and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at



Nan drew Tessa’s cheek down to her lips. (Page 329)
Nan drew Tessa’s cheek down to her lips. (Page 329)


Tessa Wadsworth’s



A Story of the Development of a Young Girl’s Life


By Jennie M. Drinkwater


Author of “Growing Up,” “Bek’s First Corner,”

“Miss Prudence,” etc., etc.


“The people that stood below

She knew but little about;

And this story’s a moral, I know,

If you’ll try to find it out.”


A. L. Burt Company, Publishers

New York


Copyright 1879,

By Robert Carter & Brothers.






Mary V. Childs.



1.Hearts that Seemed to Differ9
2.The Silent Side20
3.The Last Night of the Old Year31
4.Somebody New55
5.Hearts that were Waiting65
6.Another Opportunity81
7.The Long Day90
8.A Note out of Tune101
9.The New Morning140
10.Forgetting the Bread156
11.On the Highway162
12.Good Enough to be True178
13.The Heart of Love188
14.Wheat, not Bread211
16.A Tangle244
17.The Night Before258
19.The Old Story293
20.Several Things305
22.Several Other Things338
23.What She Meant362
24.Shut in367
25.Blue Myrtle377
26.Another May390
28.Hearts Alike405




She was standing one afternoon on the broad piazza, leaning against the railing, with color enough in her usually colorless cheeks as she watched the tall figure passing through the low gateway; he turned towards the watching eyes, smiled, and touched his hat.

“You will be in again this week,” she said coaxingly, “you can give me ten minutes out of your busy-ness.”

“Twice ten, perhaps.”

The light that flashed into her eyes was her only reply; she stood leaning forward, playing with the oleander blossoms under her hand until he had seated himself in his carriage and driven away; not until the brown head and straw hat had disappeared behind the clump of willows at the corner did she stir or move her eyes, then the happy feet in the bronze slippers tripped up-stairs to her own chamber. Dinah had left her slate on 10 a chair, and dropped her algebra on the carpet, at the sound of Norah’s voice below the window.

Tessa was glad to be alone; she was always glad to be alone after Ralph Towne had left her, to think over all that he had said, and to feel again the warm shining of his brown eyes; to thank God with a few, low, joyful exclamations that He had brought this friend into her life; and then, as foolish women will, she must look into her own face and try to see it as he saw it,—cheeks aglow, tremulous lips, and such a light in the blue eyes!

She did not know that her eyes could look like that. She had thought them pale, cold, meaningless, and now they were like no eyes that she had ever looked into; a dancing, tender, blue delight.

Had he read her secret in them?

Her enthusiasm with its newness, sweetness, and freshness,—for it was as fresh as her heart was pure,—was moulding all her thoughts, strengthening her desire to become in all things true and womanly, and making her as blithe all day long as the birds that twittered in the apple-tree near her chamber window.

It mattered not how her hands were busied so long as her heart could be full of him. And he, Ralph Towne, blind and obtuse as any man would be who lived among books and not in the world at all, and more than a trifle selfish, as men sometimes find themselves to be, little thinking of the effect of his chance visits and fitful attentions, had in the last two months come to a knowledge 11 that grieved him; for he was an honorable man, he loved God and reverenced womankind. He had not time now to think of any thing but the book for which he was collecting material. It was something in the natural history line, he had once told her, but he never cared to speak of it; indeed Ralph Towne cared to talk but of few things; but she loved to talk and he loved to listen. He loved to listen to her, but he did not love her (so he assured himself), he only loved her presence, as he loved the sunshine, and he did not love the sunshine well enough to fret when the day was gloomy; in these days he did not love any body or any thing but himself, his books, and his mother.

Dunellen said that he was proud of his money and proud of a great-great-grandmother who had been cousin to one of the president’s wives; but Tessa knew that he was not proud of any thing but his beautiful white-haired mother.

Not understanding the signs of love, how could he know that Tessa Wadsworth was growing to love him; he had never thought of himself as particularly worth loving. Surely she knew a dozen men who were handsomer (if that were what she cared for), and another dozen who could talk and tell stories and say pretty things to women (if that were what attracted her); still he knew to-day that his presence and light talk (he did not remember that he had said any thing to be treasured) had moved her beyond her wont. She was usually only self-contained and dignified; but to-day there 12 must have been some adequate cause for her changing color, for the lighting and deepening of her eyes as they met his so frankly; he was sure to-day of what he had only surmised before,—that this sensitive, high-spirited, pure-hearted woman loved him as it had never entered his preoccupied mind or selfish heart to love her or indeed any human being.

“I have been a fool!” he ejaculated. “Well, it is done, and, with a woman like her, it can not be undone! Miserable bungler that I am, I have been trying to make matters better, and I have made them a thousand times worse! Why did I promise to call again this week? Why did I give her a right to ask me? I wish that I had never seen her! God knows,”—she would never have forgotten his eyes could she have seen them at this instant, penitent and self-reproachful,—“that I did not mean to trifle with her.”

Meanwhile, resting in Dinah’s chair, with the algebra and slate at her feet, she was thinking over and over the words he had spoken that afternoon; very few they were, but simple and sincere; at least so they sounded to her. She smiled as “I do care very much” repeated itself to her, with the tone and the raising of the eyes.

“Very much!” as much as she did? It was about a trifle, some little thing that she had put into rhyme for him; how many rhymes she had written for him this summer! He so often said, “Write this up for me,” and she had so intensely 13 enjoyed the doing it, and so intensely enjoyed his appreciation—his over-appreciation, she always thought.

O, Tessa, Tessa, pick up that algebra, and go to work with it. Life’s problems are too complex for your unworldliness.

She stooped to pick up Dinah’s slate, and, instead of finishing the work upon it, she wrote out rapidly a thought that had tinged her cheeks while Ralph Towne had been with her. The silent side she called it. Was it the silent side? If it were, how was it that he understood? She knew that he understood; she knew that he had understood when he answered, “Twice ten, perhaps.”

Her mother’s voice below broke in upon her reverie; fancy, sentiment, or delicate feeling of any kind died a hard and sudden death under Mrs. Wadsworth’s influence, yet she read more novels than did either of her daughters, and would cry her lovely eyes red and swollen over a story that Tessa would not deign to skip through. It was one of her mother’s plaints that Tessa had no feeling.

Ralph Towne did not give the promised “twice ten” minutes that week, nor for weeks afterward; she met him several times driving with his mother, or with his mother and Sue Greyson: her glad, quick look of recognition was acknowledged by a lifting of the hat and a “good afternoon, Miss Tessa.” Once she met him alone with Sue Greyson. Sue’s saucy, self-congratulatory toss of the head 14 stung her so that she could have cried out. “I am ashamed”—no, I am not ashamed to tell you that she cried herself to sleep that night, as she asked God to bless Ralph Towne and make him happy and good. She could not have loved Ralph Towne if she might not have prayed for him. Her mother would have been inexpressibly shocked at such a mixture of “love and religion.”

“How long have you loved Christ?” asked the minister, when Tessa was “examined” for admission to the church.

“Ever since I have known Him,” was the timid reply.

And Ralph Towne, in these miserable days, for he was miserable, as miserable in his fashion as she was in hers, was blaming her and excusing himself. What had he ever said to her? Was every one of a man’s words to be counted? There was Sue Greyson, why didn’t she turn sentimental about him? True, he had said one day when they were talking about friendship—what had he said that day? Was she remembering that? If she had studied his words—but of course, she had forgotten! What had possessed him to say such things? But how could he look at her and not feel impelled to say something warm? It could not be his fault; it must be hers, for leading him on and for remembering every trivial word. And of that she was equally sure, for how could he do any man or any woman wrong, this sincere and honorable Christian gentleman? 15

In her imagination there was no one in a book or out of a book like Ralph Towne. Gus Hammerton was a scholar and a gentleman, but she had known him all her life; Felix Harrison was gracious and good, but he was not like Ralph Towne. Ralph Towne was not her ideal, he was something infinitely better than she could think; how beautiful it was to find some one nobler and grander than her ideal! Far away in some wonderful, unknown region he had grown up and had been made ready for her, and now he had come to meet her; bewildered and grateful, she had loved him and believed in him—almost as if that unknown region were heaven.

It was her wildest dream come true; that is, it had come true, until lately. Some strange thing was happening; it was happening and almost breaking her heart.

“Tessa, you look horrid nowadays,” exclaimed Dinah, one afternoon, as Tessa came up on the piazza, returning from her usual walk. “You are white, and purple, and all colors, and you never sing about the house or talk to me or to any body. You actually ran away while Mrs. Bird was over here yesterday, and you don’t even go to see Miss Jewett! She asked me yesterday if you had gone away. When Laura was talking to you yesterday, you looked as if you did not hear one word she said.”

“I was listening.”

“And you used to have such fun talking to Gus; 16 I believe that you went up-stairs while he was here last night.”

“I had a headache; I excused myself.”

“You always go down the road. Why don’t you go through Dunellen?”

“I want to get into the country; I never walk through a street simply for the pleasure of it. I like to be alone.”

“Do you ever walk as far as Old Place?”

“That isn’t far, only three miles; sometimes I go to Mayfield, that is a mile beyond Old Place.”

“Isn’t Old Place splendid? Next to Mr. Gesner’s it is the handsomest place around.”

“It is more home-like than Mr. Gesner’s.”

“Sue likes Mr. Gesner’s better. I told her that I would take Old Place and she could have Mr. Gesner’s. Mr. Gesner’s is stone; Old Place is all wood. Do you ever see any of the Townes?”

“There are not many to be seen.”

“Counting Sue, there are three. Sue thinks that she is stylish, driving around with Mrs. Towne. She stayed a week with Miss Gesner once, too. Why don’t you and I get invited around to such places? Mrs. Towne ought to invite you. Mr. Towne used to come here often enough.”

“Used to come!” Tessa shivered standing in the sunlight. “Yes, it was ‘used to come,’” she was thinking. “I have been dreaming, now I am awake. I wish that I had died while I was dreaming.”

“Now you look pale again! I guess you are growing up,” 17 laughed unconscious Dinah; “it’s hateful and horrid to grow up; I never shall. Remember that I am always to be fifteen.”

“I hope that you never will grow up,” said Tessa, earnestly, “every thing is just as bad as you can dream.”

“Mr. Towne has given Sue coral ear-rings,” Dinah ran on. Tessa had gone down to her flower-bed to pull a few weeds that had pushed themselves in among her pansies. “He gave his mother several groups in stone for the dining-room; they are all funny, Sue says. In one, some children are playing doctor; in another, they are playing school. He gave his cousin a silk dress, and he bought himself a set of books for his birthday; he was thirty-two. Did you think he was so old?”


“I say, Tessa, Sue thinks that she is going to marry him.”

“Does she?” The voice was away down in the flowers.

“You are always among those flowers. Don’t you wish that we had a conservatory? They have a grand one at Old Place. I wonder why they have so little company.”

“Mrs. Towne is feeble; she likes a quiet house.”

“Yes, Sue says that. But Grace Geer, his cousin, is there! Mrs. Towne is to give Old Place and all its treasures to Mr. Towne upon his wedding-day; she wants a daughter more than any thing, Sue says. I wish she would take me. Sue thinks that 18 she will take her. Every other word that she speaks is ‘Mr. Ralph.’ She talks about him everywhere. Do you believe it?”

“Believe what?”

Tessa had returned to the piazza with a bunch of pansies.

“Believe that she will marry him! She has real pretty manners when she is with them, and really tries not to talk slang. But I don’t believe it. He treats her as he would treat any one else; I have seen them together.”

“Perhaps she will. People say so,” said Tessa.

Poor motherless, sisterless Sue! Was she making a disappointment for herself out of nothing? Or was it out of a something like hers?

It was certainly true that Sue Greyson had taken a summer tour with Mrs. Towne and Mr. Ralph Towne, and that she had spent more of her time during the last year at Old Place than in her own small, unlovely home. She loved her father “well enough,” she would have told you; but after the months at Old Place, she found the cottage in Dunellen a stale and prosaic affair; her father had old Aunt Jane to keep house for him, why did he need her? He would have to do without her some day. Doctor Lake was great fun, why could he not be interested in him?

“He is a stranger, not my only daughter,” her father had once replied.

“Your father will be glad enough and proud enough that he let you come to Old Place,” comforted 19 Grace Geer, when Sue told her that he missed her at home. “Ralph Towne’s wife will be a happy woman for more reasons than one; and he is interested in you, as one can see at a glance. He told his mother to-day that he should always be glad that they had come to Old Place.”


It was nearly six weeks after the day that she had watched him as far as the clump of willows that he came again. Sue Greyson had driven him into Dunellen that morning and had stopped at the gate on her return to tell her about her “grand splendid, delightful times” at Old Place.

“Cousin Grace has gone away; how we miss her music! Mr. Ralph did not care for it, but Mrs. Towne and I cared. Mrs. Towne says that I ought to have a music teacher; but I never did practice when I had one. I can’t apply my mind to any thing; Mr. Ralph says that I learn by observation. I wonder why wise men choose silly wives always,” she added consciously, playing with the reins.

“Do they?” asked Tessa, picking a lilac leaf from the shrubbery.

“Is not this what we usually call the Indian summer?” said Tessa, as she extended her hand.
“Is not this what we usually call the Indian summer?”
said Tessa, as she extended her hand.

“Cousin Grace says so. I wish I knew what ails Mr. Ralph. His mother says that he is having a worry; she always knows when he is having a worry by his eyes; they do look very melancholy, and last night I overheard him say to Mrs. Towne, ‘A man has to keep his eyes pretty wide open not to step on peoples’ toes.’ I didn’t think much of that, but he said afterward, ‘A man may do in an hour what he can’t undo in a lifetime.’ He never talks much, so I know that something is on his mind, or he would not have talked so long. She said that he must be patient and do right.”

“Why, Sue, you did not listen!”

“Of course not. They were in the library, and I was on the balcony outside the window. I heard his voice—he was walking up and down, and, I confess, I did want to know what it was all about! I thought that it might be about me, you know. But I can’t stay here all day; Mrs. Towne is to take me to spend the day with the Gesners. It is splendid there. Mr. John Gesner I don’t like, but Mr. Lewis Gesner treats me so respectfully and talks to me as if he liked to hear me talk. And Miss Gesner is loveliness personified! Mr. Towne said that he had a call to make this afternoon, and would walk home. He will be up in the four o’clock train.”

“A call to make!”

The words were in her ears all day; she dressed for her walk, then concluded to stay at home. How could he undo what he had so thoughtlessly, so mercilessly, done? Would he come and talk to her as he had talked to his mother? Would he say, “I am sorry that you have misinterpreted my words?” Misinterpreted! Did they not both speak English? Sincere, straightforward, frank 22 English? It was the only language that she knew. In what tongue had he spoken to her?

Her fluttering reverie was brought to a sudden and giddy end; the sound of a firm tread on the dried leaves under the maple-trees outside the gate, a tall figure in plain, elegant black,—the startled color in her eyes told the rest; she sprang to her feet, dropped her long, white work, shook off all outward nervousness, brushed her hair, fastened a bow of blue ribbon down low on her braids, questioned her eyes and lips to ascertain if they were safe, and then passed down the stair-way with a light, sure tread, and stood on the piazza to welcome Ralph Towne; her own composed, womanly self, rather more self-repressed than usual, and with a slight stateliness that she had never assumed with him. But he only noted that she appeared well and radiant; he understood her no more—than he understood several other things. Ralph Towne had been called “slow” from his babyhood.

“Is not this what we usually call the Indian summer? We have not had frost yet, I think,” she said easily.

His dark face crimsoned, he answered briefly, and dropped her hand.

If he had ever prided himself upon his tact, he was aware that to-day it would be a most miserable failure. How could he say, “You have misunderstood me,” when perhaps it was he who had misunderstood her? He had come to her to-day 23 by sheer force of will, not daring to stay away longer—and what had he come for? To assure her—perhaps he did not intend to assure her any thing; perhaps it was not necessary to assure her any thing. Not very long ago he had assured her that he could become to her her “ideal of a friend,” if she would “show” him how. Poor Tessa! This showing him how was weary work. “Yes,” he replied, wheeling a chair nearer the open window, “the country is beautiful.”

That look about her flexible lips was telling its own story; she was just the woman, he reasoned, to break her heart about such a fellow as he was.

“I have very little time for any thing outside my work,” he said, running on with his mental comments. All a man had to do to make himself a hero was to let a woman like this fall in love with him.

“What have you been doing?” he asked in his tone of sincere interest.

“All my own doings,” she said lightly. “Mr. Hammerton and I have been writing a criticism upon a novel and comparing notes, and I have sewed, as all ladies do, and walked.”

“You are an English girl about walking.”

“I know every step of the way between Dunellen and Mayfield. Do you walk?”

“No, I drive. My life has a lack. My book is falling through. I do not find much in life.”

“Our best things are nearest to us, close about our feet,” she answered. 24

He did not reply. Ralph Towne never replied unless he chose.

He opened his watch; he had been with her exactly ten minutes.

“I have an engagement at six,” he said.

The flexible lips stiffened. “Do not let me detain you.”

He was regarding her with a smile in his eyes that she could not interpret; her graceful head was thrown back against the mass of fluffy white upon the chair, the white softening the outlines of a face that surely needed not softening; the clear, unshrinking eyes meeting his with all her truth in them; the blue ribbon at her throat, the gray cashmere falling around her, touched him with a sense of fitness; the slight hands clasping each other in her lap, slight even with their strength, partly annoyed, partly baffled him. Mr. Hammerton had told her that she had wilful hands.

Regarding Tessa Wadsworth as regarding some other things, Ralph Towne thought because he felt; he could not think any further than he thought to-day, because he had not felt any further.

There was another friend in her life who with Tessa Wadsworth as with some other things felt because he thought, and he could not feel any further than he felt to-day because he had not thought any further.

For the first time since she had known Ralph Towne, she was wishing that he were like Gus 25 Hammerton. It had never occurred to her before to wish that he would change.

Each smiled under the survey. He was thinking, “I wish I loved you.” She was thinking, “You are a dear, big boy; I wish you were more manly.”

“You did not send me the poem you promised.”

“You said you would come soon.”

“Did you expect me?”

“Had I any reason to doubt your word?”

“You must not take literally all I say,” he answered with irritation.

“I have learned that. I have studied the world’s arithmetic, but I do not use it to solve any word of yours, any more than I have supposed that you would use it to find the meaning of any problem you might discover in my attitude towards you.”

“It is best not to dig and delve for a meaning, Miss Tessa; society sanctions many phrases that you would not speak in sincerity.”

“Society!” she repeated in a tone that brought the color to his forehead. “Is society my law-giver?”

It was very pleasant to be loved by a woman like this woman; he could not understand her, but she touched him like the perfume of the white rose, or the note of the thrush. His next words were sincere and abrupt. “You asked me some time since to burn the package of poems you have written for me. If I had done as much for you, would you destroy them?” 26

A flush, a dropping of the eyes, and a low laugh answered him.

He arose quickly, with a motion of tossing off an ugly sensation. “I am very much engaged; I do not know when I can come again. We are going west for the winter.”

She could not lift her eyes, or speak, or catch her breath. She arose, slowly, as if the movement were almost too great an effort, and stood leaning against the tall chair, her fingers fumbling with the fringe of the tidy; the room had become so darkened that the white fringe was but a dark outline of something that she could feel.

“Sue Greyson is to accompany my mother; I shall be much away, and I do not like to leave her with strangers.”

“Sue is pleasant and lively.” She had spoken, and now she could, not quite clearly yet, but a glance revealed the blood surging to his forehead, the veins swollen in his temples, even through the heavy mustache she discerned the twitching of his lips. The pain in her heart had opened her eyes wide. Had he come to make the parting final? What had she done that he should thus thrust her away outside of all the interests in his life? Did he know how she cared, and was he so sorry? Was he trying to be “patient,” as his mother had advised—patient with her for taking him at his word?

Dunellen had called her proud; this instant she was as humble as a child. 27

Slowly and sorrowfully she said, “Come again—some time.”

“Yes,” he said, as slowly and as sorrowfully, “I will.”

He was very sorry for this woman who had been so foolish as to think that his words had meant so much.

She had closed the street door and was on the first step of the stairs when her mother called to her from the sitting-room.

“What did Sir Dignified Undemonstrative have to say for himself?”

“He does not talk about himself.”

“It is your turn to get tea! It is Bridget’s afternoon out.”

Mrs. Wadsworth was a little lady something less than five feet in height, as slight as a girl of twelve, and prettier than either of her daughters; with brown hair, brown eyes, and the sprightliest manner possible.

“Young enough to be Tessa’s sister,” Dunellen declared.

But she was neither sister nor mother as her elder daughter defined the words.

“If you get him, Tessa, you’ll get a catch,” remarked Mrs. Wadsworth watching the effect of her words.

The first sound of her mother’s voice had brought her to herself, her self-contained, cautious and, oftentimes, sarcastic self.

“Have you any order about tea?” 28

Her studied respect toward her mother, was pitiful sometimes. It was hard that she could not attain somewhat of her ideal of daughterhood.

“No, but I want you to do an errand for me after tea. I forgot to ask Dine to do it on her way from school.”

“Very well,” she assented obediently.

She stumbled on the basement stairs, and found the kitchen so dark that she groped her way to a chair and sank into it, dropping her head on the table. She could hear nothing, see nothing, feel nothing—the whole earth was empty!

Where was God? Had He gone, too?

Through the open windows floated the sound of girls’ voices, as Norah and Dinah chatted and laughed in the garden. But the sound was far off; the engine whistled and screamed, but the sound was not in her world; carriages rolled past, the front gate swung to, her father’s step was on the piazza over her head, and he was calling, her dear old father, “Where are you all, my three girls?”

His fulfilled hope was bitterer than all her disappointments ever could be.

“I don’t wonder,” she said with a sob in her throat, as she arose and pushed her hair back, “I don’t wonder that he can not love me; but oh, I wish that he had not told me a lie!”

October passed; the days hurried into November; there was no more leaf-hunting for her, no more long walks down the beautiful country road, no 29 more tripping up and down stairs with a song or a hymn on her lips, no more of life, she would have said, for every thing seemed like death. She did not die with shame, as at first she was sure that she would do; she could not run away to the far end of the earth where she would never again see his face; where every face would be a new face, where no voice would speak his name; she could not dig a hole in the earth and creep into it; she could not lie down at night and shut her tired eyes, with both hands under her cheek, as she always fell asleep, and never awake again, as she would love best of all to do; she could cry out, but she could not hear the answer, “Oh, please tell me when I meant to be so good, why it had to be so hard.”

No; she had to live in a world where people would laugh at her if they only knew; how she would shiver and freeze if her mother should once begin to harp upon the sudden break. She could not bemoan herself all the time; she was compelled to live because she had been born, and she was compelled to thrive and grow cheery; there were even moments when she forgot to be ashamed, for her mother’s winter cough set in with the cold winds, and beside being nurse, she was in reality the head of the small household. Dinah was preparing to be graduated in the summer and was no help at all; instead, an hour or two every evening Tessa was asked to study with her, for she did not love study and was not quick like her sister. 30

And then she had her own special work to do, for she was a scribbler in prose and rhyme; the half dozen weeklies that came to the house contained more than once or twice during the year sprightly or pathetic articles under the initials T. L. W.

But few knew of this her “literary streak,” as her mother styled it, for she dreaded any publicity.

Miss Jewett, her father, and Mr. Hammerton were her sole encouragers and advisers; Mr. Towne was not aware that she dipped her pen in ink for any one’s pleasure but his own. Beside this work there were friends to entertain, half the girldom in Dunellen were her friends or had been at some time.

Ralph Towne often wondered how she was “taking” it; he could have found no sign of it in her face or in her life. Her father feared that she was being overworked. Mr. Hammerton’s short-sighted eyes noticed a shadow flit across her eyes, sometimes, when she was talking to him, and said to himself, “I see her often; I see a change that is not a change; there is something happening that no one knows.”


All her life she had longed for personal beauty; she loved every beautiful thing and she wanted to love her own face. It was Ralph Towne’s perfect face that had drawn her to him, his voice, and his eyes, like the woods in October.

She had studied her face times enough by lamplight and sunlight to know it thoroughly, but she could not discover the sweetness that Miss Jewett saw, or the intelligence that delighted her father; she could find without much searching the freckles on her nose, the shortness of her upper lip, the two slight marks that infantile chicken-pox had dented into her forehead, the upward tendency of her nose, and the dimple that was only half a dimple in her chin.

She was as pretty and as homely as any of the fair, blue-eyed girls in Dunellen or elsewhere: with lips that shaped themselves with every passing feeling; with eyes that could grow so bright and dark that one could forget how bright they were; with the palest of chestnut hair, worn high or low, as the little world of Dunellen demanded; with hands 32 slight and characteristic; a figure neither tall nor slender, but perfectly proportioned, rounded and graceful; arrayed as neatly and becomingly as she could be on her limited allowance, usually in plain colors, often in black of a soft texture with a ribbon of some pale tint at her throat and among her braids. A stranger might have taken her for any one of the twenty-three girls in Miss Jewett’s Bible class; that is any one of the blue-eyed ones who wore gray vails and gray walking suits.

But you and I know better.

With her self-depreciation she was one thing that she was not likely to guess—the prettiest talker in the world.

Felix Harrison had told Miss Jewett so years ago.

“I haven’t any accomplishments,” she often sighed.

“You do not need any,” Mr. Hammerton had once said.

One morning in December she chanced upon a bundle of old letters in one of Dinah’s drawers, they were written during the winter that she had spent in the city two years ago.

She drew one from its envelope; it was dated December 22, just two years ago to-day; she ran through it eagerly. How often she had remembered that day as an era; the beginning of the best things in her uneventful life! The second perusal was more slow. “I have seen somebody new; he is a friend of Aunt Dinah’s, or his mother is, or 33 was. Don’t you remember that handsome house near Mayfield, just above Laura’s? When they were building it, Laura and I used to speculate as to whom it belonged, and wonder if it would make any difference to us. She said she would marry the son (for of course there would be a handsome and learned son) and that I should come to live with her forever; and Felix said that he would buy it for me, some day; you and I used to play that we owned it but that we preferred to live nearer Dunellen and had left it in charge of our housekeeper! How often when the former owner was in Europe, I have stood outside the gates and peered in and planned how happy we would all be there. Father should rest and read, and enjoy all the beautiful walks and the woods and the streams in the meadow with the rustic bridge, and mother should have a coach and four, and you and Gus and I would have it all.

“All this preamble is to introduce the fact that the somebody new is the owner of Old Place. Isn’t that an odd name? I don’t like it; I should call it Maplewood; in the autumn it is nothing but one glory of maple. His mother named it and they have become accustomed to its queerness. His mother is wintering with a relative, an invalid, I believe; I think that she has taken the invalid to Florida and the son (the father died long ago) has come to spend the winter in the city. They say he is wise and learned (I do not see any evidence of it, however), but he certainly is a veritable Tawwo 34 Chikwo, the beauty of the world. Get out my old Lavengro and read about him.

“He is almost as dark as a gypsy, too, his eyes are the brownest and sunniest. I never saw such eyes (a sunbeam was lost one day and crept into his eyes for a home), his hair, beard, and mustache are as brown as his eyes; as brown, but not at all bright.

“He looks like a big boy, but Aunt Dinah says that he is in the neighborhood of thirty; his life has left no trace in his face, or perhaps all that brown hair covers the traces of discipline. His manner is gentleness and dignity united. But he can’t talk. Or perhaps he won’t.

“His replies (he ventures nothing else) are simple, good, kind, and above all, sincere. I have a feeling that I shall believe every word he says. That is something new for me, too. He doesn’t think much of me. He likes to hear me talk though; I have made several bright remarks for the pleasure of the sunbeam in his eyes.

“If I were his mother I should be sorry to do or say any thing to frighten it away.

“I know that he has never been in love; he could not be such a dear, grave, humorous, gentle, dignified, stupid big boy if some girl had shaken him up.

“If he were the talker that Gus Hammerton is, I should go into raptures over him. He is a doctor, too, but he has not begun practice; he has been travelling with his mother. Is it not lovely to be rich enough to do just what you like? 35

“Tell Gus that I will answer his letter sometime; you may let him read this if you like.”

This letter she tore into atoms; she glanced over the others to find Ralph Towne’s name; not once did she find it.

“I will do something to commemorate this anniversary,” she thought. “I will drop his photograph into the fire, and tear the fly-leaf out of the Mrs. Browning he gave me.”

Her name and his initials were all that was written in the book; very carefully she cut out the entire page.

“Why, child! have you seen a ghost?” her mother exclaimed, meeting her in the hall.

“Yes, but it was only a ghost; there was nothing real about it.”

That afternoon, having some sewing to do for her father, she betook herself to the chilliness of the parlor grate; her mother was in a fault-find frame of mind and Tessa’s nerves were ready to be set on edge at the least provocation.

That parlor! She would have wept over its shabbiness had she ever been able to find tears for such purposes. Wheeling an arm-chair near enough to the grate to be made comfortable by all the heat there was, she placed her feet on the fender and folded her hands over the work in her lap. It was a raw day, the sky over Mr. Bird’s house was unsympathetic, the bare branches in the apple orchard stretched out in all directions stiff and dry as if they were never to become green again; the 36 outlook was not cheering, the inlook was little more so; but how could she wish for any thing more than her father was able to give his three dear girls!

This room had seemed pretty to her in the summer when the windows were open and she could have flowers everywhere; Ralph Towne always spoke of her flowers, and he had more than once leaned back in that worn green arm-chair opposite hers, as if that stiff, low room were the place of all places that he loved to be in. In dreary contrast with his own home, how poor and tasteless this home must be! How the carpet must stare up at him with its bunches of flowers and leaves upon its faded gray ground; how plain the white shades must appear after curtains of real lace; how worn and yellowish the green rep of the black-walnut furniture; how few the books in the small bookcase; and the photographs and engravings upon the walls, how they must shock him! How meagre and coarse her dress must be to him after his mother’s rich attire!

She despised herself for pitying herself!

Sue Greyson said that Old Place was fairy-land, but in her catalogue of its attractions she had omitted the spacious library; his “den,” Mr. Towne called it. In Tessa’s imagination he was ever in that room buried among its treasures.

Was her photograph in that room? What had he done with it? Where was he keeping it? How he had coaxed for it! She had had it taken unwillingly; 37 it was altogether too much like giving herself away; but when she could refuse no longer she had given it to him. A vignette with all herself in it; too much of herself for him to understand; what would he do with it now? Burn it, perhaps, as she had burned his; but he would not be burning a ghost, it was her own self, that he had thrown away.

“I should have despised myself forever if I had not believed in him and been true,” she reasoned. “I would rather trust in a lie than not believe the truth. And how could I know that he was not true!”

She took up her work and began to sew, her reverie running on and running away with her; an ottoman stood near her, she had laid needlework and scissors upon it: how many associations there were clustering around it! It was an ugly looking thing, too; her mother had worked the cover one winter years ago when she was kept in by a cough; the wreath of roses was so unlike roses, and the parrot that was poised in the centre of the wreath, on a brown twig, was so ungainly! One night—how long ago it was—before she had ever seen Ralph Towne, Felix Harrison had been seated upon it while he told her with such a warm, shy glance that he never slept without praying for her. And Ralph Towne had scattered his photographs over it, and asked her to choose from among them, saying, “I should not have had them taken but for you.”

The ugly old parrot was dear after all. 38

“I wonder,” she soliloquized, taking slow stitches, “if having lost faith in a person, it can ever be brought back again? If he should come and say that he has been wrong—”

The gate clicked, in an instant she was on her feet, had he come to confess himself in the wrong? Oh, how she would forgive and forget! And trust him?

The tall thin figure had a stoop in its shoulders, Ralph Towne was erect; the overcoat was carelessly worn, revealing a threadbare vest and loose black necktie; it was only Dr. Lake, Dr. Greyson’s new partner.

She had been drawn to him the first moment of their meeting. As soon as he had left after his first call, she had said to Dinah: “I never felt so towards any one before; I shall be so sorry for him to go away where I can not follow him; I want to put my arms around him and coax him to be good.”

“How do you know that he isn’t good?”

“I do know it. I do not know how I know. He hasn’t any ‘women folks’ either. He is as sensitive to every change in one’s voice as the thermometer is to changes in the atmosphere. I never saw any one like him before. When I make a collection of curiosities I find in Human Nature, I shall certainly take him for one of the rarest and most interesting. It would not take two minutes to convert him from the inquisitor to the martyr at the stake. I feel as if he were a little child crying with a thorn in his finger, and he had no mother to take it out.” 39

“He was only here fifteen minutes and he was as full of fun as he could be; he ran down the piazza, and he whistled while he was unhitching his horse, and began to sing as he drove off. Oh, you are so funny! you hear a man talk slang—he is equal to Sue Greyson for that—ask mother about her cough, tell a funny story, and then think his heart is breaking with a thorn in his finger.”

Tessa would not laugh. “I want him to stay; I don’t want ever to lose him.”

“Isn’t he ugly? Such a tall, square forehead. Did you ever see such a forehead?”

“My first thought of him was, ‘oh, how homely you are.’”

But that first thought never recurred; she was too much attracted by his rapid, easy utterance and sensitive voice to remember his plain face and careless attire.

She resumed her sewing with a new train of thought and had forgotten Dr. Lake’s entrance, when Bridget came to the door with a request from Mrs Wadsworth; opening the door of the sitting-room, she found her mother leaning back in her sewing chair with a plaintive and childish expression, and Dr. Lake playing with her spools of silk, sitting in a careless attitude of perfect grace at her side. Tessa was sorry to have the picture spoiled by his rising to greet her.

“Ralph Towne, M.D.,” he was replying, “he was born with a gold spoon in his pretty mouth! It would have been better for him if it had been 40 silver-plated like mine. Quit? He’s a mummy, a cloister, a tomb! I do not quarrel with any man’s calling,” he continued, winding the black silk around his fingers, “circumstances have made me a physician. Calling! It means something only when circumstances have nothing to do with it.”

“Read the lives of the world’s best workers,” said Tessa.

“A glass of water, an empty glass, and a spoon, if you please, Miss Tessa. Do you remember—I have forgotten his name—but I assure you that I am not concocting the story—he rose to eminence in the medical profession, several rounds higher in the ladder of fame than I expect to climb—and his mind was drawn towards medicine when he was a youngster by the display of gold lace that his father’s physician flung into the eyes of the world. Gold lace made that boy a famous doctor.” Tessa brought the glasses and the water; in a leisurely manner he counted a certain number of spoonfuls of water into the empty glass. “I’m a commonplace fellow! I’m not one of the world’s workers! Neither is Ralph Towne! To have an easy life and not do much harm is the most I hope for in this world; as for the next, who knows anything about that? I say, ‘Your tongue, please,’ and drop medicine and make powders all day long for my bread and butter. I have no faith in medicine.”

“Then you are an impostor! You shall never see even the tip of my tongue.” 41

He laughed as if it were such fun to laugh.

“What is medicine to you?” he asked after counting forty drops from a vial into the water. “A woman in a crowd once touched the border of a certain garment and through faith was healed; so I take the thing that He has ordained for healing, all created things are His garment; through His garment I come nearer to Him and am healed.”

Mrs. Wadsworth looked annoyed. “So I may take cream instead of cod liver oil, doctor.”

“If you prefer it,” he answered carelessly. “Miss Tessa, you are a Mystic.”

Tessa liked to watch the motion of his fingers; his hands were small, shapely, and every movement of them struck her as an apt quotation. She was learning as much of himself from his hands as from his face.

“Now I must go and scold Felix Harrison,” he said rising. “A teaspoonful in a wineglass of water three times a day, Mrs. Wadsworth! He had an attack last night and cheated me out of my dreams. Do you know him, Mystic? If he do not leave off brain work he will make a fool of himself. A gold spoon would not have hurt him.”

He turned suddenly facing Tessa as they stood alone in the hall; he was seriousness itself now; a look of care had settled over his features. He was not a “big boy,” he was a man, undisciplined, it is true, but a man to whom life meant many disappointments and hard work. 42

“What is the matter with you? Do you ever go to sleep? If you do not give up thinking and take to nonsense and novels, I shall be called to take you through a nervous fever. Mind, I am in earnest. Don’t spend too much time in washing the disciples’ feet either; it is very charming to be St. Theresa, but you are not strong enough.”

“Thank you. I am well. Is Sue at home?”

“No, she stays at Old Place until her knight departs. He had better go soon or I shall meet him in the woods. Alone. At midnight. What is he trifling with her for? Does he intend to marry her?”

Was this his thorn? Could he love a shallow girl like Sue Greyson?

“Ought we to talk about her?” she asked gently.

“You are her friend. You are older than she is. She will not listen to me. Her father takes no more care of her than he does of you.”

“She has not cared for me lately.”

“She does care for you. You must pull her through this. Towne made a fool of a girl I know—she is married, though; it didn’t smash her affections very deep; married rich, too. But it will be a pity for Sue to have a heartache all for nix; she is a guileless piece; I would be sorry for her to have a disappointment.”

“Motherless children are always taken care of,” she answered trying to speak lightly.

In the twilight she sat alone at the parlor grate; 43 it was beginning to rain; through the mist the lights in kitchen and parlor opposite were gleaming; Dinah and Bridget were laughing in the basement; a quick, hard cough, then her father’s voice in a concerned tone sounded through the stillness.

Why was she feeling lonely and as if her heart would break, unless somebody should come, or unless somebody gave her something, or unless something happened? In story-books, when one was in such a mood, in a misty twilight something always happened.

Why were there not such strong helpers in her life as women in books always found? Compared with the grand, good, winning lover in books, what were the men she knew? Why, Dr. Lake was frivolous, Felix Harrison weak, Gus Hammerton practical and pedantic, and Mr. Towne heartless and stupid!

“Gus is here,” said Dinah, her head appearing at the door, “and he has brought you a book! But I’m going to read it first.”

“Well, I’ll come,” she answered. But she did not go for half an hour; Mr. Hammerton took the new book to her immediately and talked to her until her pale cheeks were in a glow.

The last day of the year, what a day it was!

It was like a mellow day in October; in the afternoon Tessa found herself wandering through Mayfield; as she sauntered past the school-house a voice arrested her, one of the voices that she knew 44 best in the world. She stood near the entrance listening.

That thrilling pathetic voice; it had never touched her as it touched her to-day.

    “Old  year,  you  shall  not  die;
    We  did  so  laugh  and  cry  with  you,
    I’ve  half  a  mind  to  die  with  you,
    Old  year,  if  you  must  die.”

She stood but a moment, the voice read on, but she did not care to listen; she went on at a slow pace, enjoying each step of the way past the barren fields lying warm and brown in the sunlight, past the farm-houses, past the low-eaved homestead of the Harrisons, past the iron gates of the Old Place with the voice in her ears and the sigh for the old year in her heart. She almost wished that she could love Felix Harrison; she had refused him five times since her seventeenth birthday and in May she would be twenty-five! He had said that he would never ask her again. Why should she wish for any change to come into her life? If she might always live in the present, she would be content; she had her father and mother and Dine and Gus; her world was broad enough.

The sound of wheels had been pursuing her; a sudden stoppage, then another voice that she knew called to her, “Miss Tessa, will you ride with me?”

“Perhaps you are not going my way,” she said lightly. 45

“I am going to Dunellen.” He answered her words only.

As soon as they were seated in the carriage, she said very gravely, “I wrote you a letter last night, but I burned it this morning.”

“I am sorry for that.”

The words came out with a gasp and a jerk; she did not know that words could choke like that, but she was glad as soon as she had spoken. “Mr. Towne, are you engaged to Sue Greyson?”

“Engaged! And to Sue Greyson!”

“I did not ask to be saucy—I did not believe it—but don’t be heartless—don’t be cruel—don’t be stupid, do think about her, and don’t let her die of shame.”

“Excuse me, Miss Tessa. Why should you talk to me about Sue Greyson?”

“I knew that you would not understand.”

“Perhaps you can explain.”

“I can’t explain; you ought to know.”

“What ought I to know?” he queried, looking down at her with the sunshine in his eyes.

“It seems mean in me to tell you such a thing, but I do not know of any other way for your sake and hers. I would do any thing to keep you from doing a heartless thing.”—Another heartless thing, she almost said.—“I would do any thing for Sue, as I would for Dine if she had been led into trusting in a lie.”

His face became perplexed, uncomprehending.

“Are you trying to tell me that Sue Greyson 46 thinks that I am intending to marry her and that I have given her an occasion to believe it? You are warning me against trifling with Sue?”


“How do you know that she thinks so?”

“Nonsense! How do I know any thing?”

“I should as soon have thought—” he ended with a laugh.

“A woman’s heart is not made of grains of sand to be blown hither and thither by a man’s breath,” she said very earnestly.

“Miss Tessa, you accuse me wrongfully. I have been kind to Sue—I have intended to be kind. Her life at home is too quiet for her, she has few friends and no education; you call me heartless. I thought that I was most brotherly and thoughtful.”

His sincerity almost reassured her. Had she misjudged him?

“I beg your pardon,” she said, after an uncomfortable pause. “I did not know that Old Place was a monastery and that you were a monk. If you are speaking sincerely, you are the most stupid human being that ever breathed; if you are not sincere, you are too wily for me to understand.”

The color rose to his forehead, but he was silent.

“Mr. Towne! Excuse me. I am apt to speak too strongly; but I care so much for Sue. She is only a child in her experiences; she has no fore-thought, she trusts every body, and she thinks that you are so good and wonderful. She does not understand 47 any thing but sincerity. Will you think about her?”

“I will.”

She was almost frightened, was he angry?

“Are you angry with me?” she asked, laying her hand on his arm. “You can not misinterpret me; I don’t want Sue to be hurt, and I do not want you to be capable of hurting her.”

“I understand you, Miss Tessa.”

He spoke gently; her heart was at rest again.

“You say that you can not understand whether I am wily or sincere?”

“I can not understand.”

“Neither can I. But I think that I am sincere!”

“And please be careful how you change your attitude towards her; you are unconventional enough to refuse a woman upon the slightest pretext. I know that you will say ‘I regret exceedingly, Miss Sue, that you have misinterpreted my friendly attentions.’”

“I would like to; I think many things that I do not speak, Miss Tessa.”

“Your head and heart would echo a perpetual silence if you did not,” she laughed. “The Sphinx is a chatterbox compared to you.”

As they drove up under the maple-trees before the low iron gate, he said, “Has this year been a happy year to you? Do you sleep well?”

“Wouldn’t you like to look at my tongue and feel my pulse?” she returned in her lightest tone.

“Will you not answer me?” he asked gravely. 48

“This year has been the best year of my life.”

“So has it been my best year. This winter I shall decide several things pertaining to my future; it is my plan to practice for awhile—and not marry!”

Were those last words for her? Discomfited and wounded—oh, how wounded!—her lips refused to speak.

“Good-by,” she said, just touching his hand.

He turned as he was driving off and lifted his hat, the sunshine of his eyes fell full upon her; her smile was but a pitiful effort; what right had he to say such a thing to her?

“I hope,” she said, as she walked up the path, “that I shall never see you again.”

“I wish that I had never seen her,” he ejaculated, touching his horse with the whip.

And thus a part of the old year died and was buried.

Shaking with cold, not daring to go away by herself, she irresolutely turned the knob of the sitting-room door; her face, she was aware, was not in a state to be taken before her mother’s critical eyes; but her heart was so crushed, she pitied herself with such infinite compassion, that she longed for some one to speak to her kindly, to touch her as if they loved her; any thing to take some of the aching away from that place in her heart where the tears were frozen.

When she needed any mothering she gave it to herself; with her arms around her shivering, shrinking 49 self, she was beseeching, “Be brave; it’s almost over.”

In the old days, the impulsive little Tessa had always chided herself; the sensitive little Tessa had always comforted herself; the truthful, eager, castle-building little Tessa had always been her own refuge, shield, adviser, and best comforter.

With more bosom friends than she knew how to have confidences with, with more admiring girl friends than she could find a place for, with more hearts open to her than to any one girl at school, Tessa the child, Tessa the maiden, and Tessa the woman had always lived within herself, leaned upon herself.

Mr. Hammerton said that she was a confutation of the oak and vine theory, that he had stood and stood to be entwined about, but that she would never entwine.

In this moment, standing at the door, with her hand upon the knob, a ray of comfort shone into her heart and nestled there like a gleam of sunlight peering through an opening in an under-growth, and the ray of comfort was, that, perhaps Gus Hammerton would come to-night and talk to her in his kindly, practical, unsentimental fashion, sympathizing with her unspoken thoughts, and tender towards the feelings of whose existence he was unaware.

Perhaps—but of late, did she fancy, or was it true? that he was rather shy with her, and dropped into the chair nearest to Dinah. 50

Well! she could be alone by and by and go to sleep!

So relentless was she, in that instant toward Ralph Towne that it would have been absolute relief could she have looked into his dead face: to see the cold lids shut down fast over the sunshiny eyes, to know that the stiff lips could never open to speak meaningless words, to touch his head and feel assured that, warm and soft, his fingers could never hold hers again.

“Why, Tessa, you look frozen to death,” exclaimed her mother. “How far did you go and where did you meet Mr. Towne?”

“I went to Mayfield,” she closed the door and moved towards the gay little figure reading “The Story of Elizabeth” upon the lounge. “Mr. Towne overtook me after I had passed Old Place.”

“O, Tessa,” cried Dinah, dropping her book, “Dr. Lake was here. What a pity you were out! He asked where ‘Mystic’ was. I made a list on the cover of my book of the things that he talked about. Just hear them. One ought to understand short-hand to keep up with him. Now listen.”

Tessa stood and listened.

    “‘The  Valley  of  the  Dog,
    “‘The  Car  of  Juggernaut,
    “‘Church  and  State,
51     “‘Conceit,
    “‘The  English  Government,
    “‘Ladies  as  Physicians,
    “‘The  Wicked  World,
    “‘A  Quotation  from  Scott.’

“And that isn’t half. I began to grow interested there, and forgot to write.”

“Where did the professional call come in?”

“Oh, that doesn’t take a second. He watches his patient while he talks! Oh, and he told two hospital stories, a story of his school life, and about being lost in the woods, and about a camp-meeting! He is from Mississippi. Your Mr. Towne couldn’t say so much in ten years.”

“He says that the disease in my lungs is not progressive, but that I should protect my health! I ought to spend every winter in the West Indies or in the south of Europe! South of Europe, indeed! On your father’s business! Now if I had married John Gesner I might have spent my winters in any part of the civilized world.”

“Would you have taken us?” asked Dinah.

“The future is veiled from us mercifully.”

Dinah laughed. “Mother, you forget about love.”

Love!” exclaimed Mrs. Wadsworth scornfully, “I should like to know what love is.”

“Father knows,” said Dinah. “Have you read ‘Elizabeth,’ Tessa?” 52


“I’d die before I’d act as she did, wouldn’t you? I’d die before I’d let any body know that I cared for him more than he cared for me, wouldn’t you?”

“It isn’t so easy to die.”

“Did Mr. Towne speak of Sue Greyson?” inquired Mrs. Wadsworth.


“What did he say?”


“He must have said something. Couldn’t you judge of his feelings towards her?”

“I am not a detective.”

“H’m,” ejaculated Mrs. Wadsworth, glancing up at the uneasy lips, “if he can’t talk or sing, he can say something.”


Standing alone at one of the windows in her chamber, she watched the sun go down the last night of the old year.

In her young indignation, she had called Ralph Towne some harsh names; while under the fascination of his presence, she had thought that she did not blame him for any thing; but standing alone with the happy, false old year behind her, and the new, empty year opening its door into nowhere, she cried, with a voiceless cry: “You are not true; you are not sincere; you are shallow and selfish.”

At this moment, watching the same sunset, for he had an appreciation of pretty things, he was 53 driving homeward almost as nerve-shaken as Tessa herself; according to his measure, he was regretting that these two trusting women were suffering because of his—he did not call it selfishness—he had been merely thoughtless.

Tessa’s heart could kindle and glow and burn itself out into white ashes before his would feel the first tremor of heat; she had prided herself upon being a student of human nature, but this man in his selfishness, his slowness, his simplicity, had baffled her.

How could she be a student of human nature if she understood nothing but truth?

She was in a bitter mood to-night, not sparing Ralph Towne as she would not have spared herself. The crimson and gold faded! the gray shut down over her world: “How alone I shall be to live in a year without him!”

“O, Tessa! Tessa!” cried Dinah, running up-stairs, “here’s Gus, and he has brought us something good and funny I know, for he’s so provokingly cool.”

How could she think thoughts about the old year and the sunset with this practical friend down-stairs and a mysterious package that must mean books! She had expected to cry herself to sleep; instead she read Dickens with Mr. Hammerton until the new year was upon them.

“Gus,” she said severely, with the volumes of Dickens piled in her arms up to her chin, “if I become matter-of-fact, practical, and commonplace there will be no one in the world to thank but you. 54 I had a poem at my finger tips about the old year that would have forever shattered the fame of Tennyson and Longfellow.”

“As we have lost it, we’ll be content with them,” he said. “Drop your books and let us read them.”

Before the dawn she was dreaming and weeping in her sleep, for a voice was repeating, not the voice in the school-house, nor the voice that had read Longfellow, but the voice that had spoken the cold good-by at the gate:

    “The  leaves  are  falling,  falling,
        Solemnly  and  slow;
    Caw!  Caw!  the  rooks  are  calling,
        It  is  a  sound  of  woe,
            A  sound  of  woe!”


There was the faintest streak of sunshine on the dying verbenas in her garden; the dead leaves, twigs, and sprays looked as if some one who did not care had trampled on them. She was glad that the plants were in, that there was a warm place for them somewhere.

The school children were jostling against each other on the planks, on the opposite side of the street, laughing and shouting. Nellie Bird was provokingly chanting:

        “Freddie’s  mad,
          And  I  am  glad,
    And  I  know  what  will  please  him.”

and there were two little girls in red riding hoods, plaid cloaks, and gay stockings, skipping along with their hands joined. It was a hard world for little girls to grow up in. She had run along the planks from school once, not so very long ago, swinging her lunch-basket and teasing Felix Harrison just as at this minute Nellie Bird was teasing Freddie Stone. 56

Her needle was taking exquisite stitches; Dinah liked white aprons for school wear, and this was the last of the dainty half-dozen. Her mother’s voice and step broke in upon her reverie.

“Tessa, I wouldn’t have believed it, but six of my cans of tomatoes have all sizzled up! Not one was last year, though. Mrs. Bird never has such good luck with hers as we have with ours.”

“That’s too bad. But we have so many that we sha’n’t miss them.”

“That isn’t the question. I remember how my side ached that day. Bridget was so stupid and you and Dine had gone up to West Point with Gus; he always is coming and taking you and Dine off somewhere! You are not attending to a word I say.”

“Yes, I am; I am thinking how you took us all three to look at your cans of tomatoes.”

“But you don’t care about the tomatoes. You never do take an interest in house-work. I would rather have Sue Greyson’s skin stuffed with straw than to have you around the house. And she is going to marry Ralph Towne: she passed with him this morning; they were in the phaeton with that pair of little grays! And Sue was driving! I believe that you have taken cold in some way, you must see the doctor the next time he comes; your face is the color of chalk, and your eyes are as big as saucers with dark rims under them! You sat here writing altogether too late last night.”

“It was only eleven when I went up-stairs.” 57

“That was just an hour too late. What good does your writing do you or any body, I’d like to know.”

“It is rather too early in my life to judge.”

“Your father spoils you about writing; I suppose that he thinks you are a feather in his cap; I tell him that you are none of my bringing up.”

“I am not ‘up’ yet, perhaps.”

“You may as well drop that work and take a run into Dunellen; the air will do you good. You had color enough in the summer. I want a spool of red silk, two pieces of crimson dress braid, and a spool of fifty cotton. Don’t get scarlet braid, I want crimson; and run into the library and get me something exciting; you might have known better than to bring me that volume of essays!”

She folded the apron and laid it on the pile in the willow work-basket, wrapped herself in a bright shawl, covered her braids with a brown velvet hat, and started for her walk, drawing on her gloves as she went down the path.

Her mother stood at the window watching her. “She is too deep for me,” she soliloquized; “there is more in her than I shall ever make out. She is so full of nonsense that I expect she has refused Ralph Towne, and what for, I can’t see—there’s no one else in the way.”

In Tessa’s pocket was a long and wide envelope containing the article that she had sat up last night to write; the lessons gathered from her old year she had told in her simple, quaint, forcible style. The 58 title was as simple as the article: “Making Mistakes.”

“Tessa, you are not brilliant,” Miss Jewett had once remarked, “but you do go right to the spot.”

The fresh air tinged her cheeks, she breathed more freely away from her work and her reveries; there was life and light somewhere, she need not suffocate in the dark.

It was not a long walk into the little city of Dunellen; fifteen minutes of brisk stepping along the planks brought her to the corner that turned into the broad, paved, maple-lined street. As she turned the corner, a lame child in a calico dress and torn hood staggered past her bent with the weight of a heavy basket. She stopped and would have spoken, but the shy eyes were not encouraging.

Two years ago all the world might have knocked at her gate and she would not have heard.

“Will you ride?” She lifted her eyes, with their color deepening, to find Mr. Towne sitting alone in his carriage looking down at her.

“You are going the wrong way.”

“Because I am not going your way?” he asked somewhat sternly.

“I thought that you had gone away,” she said uncomfortably.

“We go on the seventeenth.”

“You have not told me where?”

“Have I not? You have forgotten. Sue will stay at home and learn to be sensible.” 59

“I don’t like you when you speak in that tone.”

“Then I will never do it again.”

“Good-by,” she said cheerily, passing on.

His thoughts ran on—“How bright she is! She has a sweet heart, if ever a woman had! I wonder if I am letting slip through my fingers one of the opportunities that come to a man but once in a lifetime! A year or two hence will do; she cares too much to forget me.”

Her thoughts ran on-“How can you look so good and so handsome and not be true!”

With a quickened step she crossed the Park. Miss Jewett’s large fancy store was opposite the Park.

Miss Jewett was never too tired or too busy to live again her young life. Sue Greyson was sure that she had broken somebody’s heart, else she never was so eloquent in warning her about Stacey Rheid. Laura Harrison had decided that she had once lived in constant dread of having a step-mother. Mary Sherwood wondered if she had ever been a busybody, and in that experience had learned to warn her to keep quiet her busy tongue; and Tessa Wadsworth knew that she must have learned her one word of advice: “Wait,” through years that she would not talk about.

Miss Jewett was seldom alone; Tessa was glad to find the clerks absent and no one bending over the counter but Sue Greyson.

“O, Tessa,” she cried in her loud, laughing voice. “I haven’t seen you in an age.”

Miss Jewett’s greeting was a hand-clasp; among 60 all her girls (and all the girls in Dunellen were hers) Tessa Wadsworth was the elected one.

“Mrs. Towne has every thing so delicious,” Sue was rattling on; “such perfumes and such silks and such jewels. Oh, how Old Place makes my mouth water! I wish you could go over the place, Tessa; you were never even through the grounds, were you? Mr. Ralph takes great pride in keeping it nice; of course, it is really his. I’d marry any body to live there and have plenty of money and do just as I please; not that Mr. Ralph isn’t something out of the common, though. People say that he never means any thing by his attentions; Dr. Lake says—”

“I hear that you are going to St. Louis,” interrupted Miss Jewett.

“No, I’m not. And I’m as provoked as I can be and live! Something has happened; Mr. Ralph is an uneasy mortal; he never knows what he will do next, and he has changed his mind about taking me. My cake is all dough about my winter’s fun. How I cried the night she told me! The last night of the year, too, when I ought to have been full of fun. Mrs. Towne wants me to write to her, but I’d never dare, unless you would help me, Tessa, about the spelling and punctuation. Mr. Ralph would laugh until he died over my letters.

“I don’t write to Stacey now, Miss Jewett. I wrote him a letter one Sunday from Old Place and told him that he might as well cease. Mr. Ralph 61 and I had been walking through the wood and he asked me if I were engaged to Stacey! I thought it was about time to stop that.”

“Perhaps if you had been home you wouldn’t have written that letter. Stacey is a fine fellow.”

“Oh, I had thought of it, but that day I decided! Stacey can hardly support one, let alone two. Father says that I was born to have a rich husband because I have such luxurious tastes! I know that I shall die cooped up at home. I have to go out to see the sons and daughters of the land. Tessa, I don’t see how you live.”

“I do, nevertheless,” said Tessa, selecting her spool of silk.

“I shall have Dr. Lake this winter or I couldn’t exist. He says that he will take me everywhere if father will only give him the time. He is great fun, only he does get so moody and serious; sits for two hours in the office with his head in his hands. Mr. Ralph doesn’t have moods; he is always pleasant. I am going to stay these last few days at Old Place. Tessa, I am coming to stay all night with you and have a long talk.”

“I shall be very glad; I have been wishing that you would.”

“Oh, I’ll come. I have a whole budget to tell you.”

“Sue, you look thin,” said Miss Jewett, rolling up her purchases.

“I am thin. Since the night before New Years I have lost three pounds.” 62

The night before New Years! Tessa’s veil shaded her face falling between her and Sue.

“Mr. Ralph lectured me; oh, how he talked! When he will, he will, that’s the truth. His mother says that her will is nothing compared to his, and I believe it.” Sue’s face grew troubled. “He told me that I ought to read travels and histories, and throw away novels; that I ought to marry Stacey, if he is a good man and can take care of me—” Her voice sounded as if she were crying; she laughed instead and ran off.

“Something at Old Place has hurt Sue; I didn’t like the idea of Mrs. Towne taking her up; Mr. Towne—I do not know about him! Do you?”


“Ah, here comes Sarah! Rachel has a sore throat, and Mary has gone to the city to buy to-day. Light the gas, Sarah.”

The light flashed over the faces: Miss Jewett’s almost as fair as a child’s, and sweeter than any child’s that Tessa had ever seen, with a mouth in the lines of which her whole history was written, with just a suspicion of dimples in the tinted cheeks, with brown rings of soft hair touching the smooth forehead; the younger face was hurried, anxious, with a trembling of the lips, and a nervous gleam in the eyes that were so dark, to-night, that they might have been mistaken for hazel.

The door was pushed open; a crowd of girls giggled in; Tessa bowed to Mary Sherwood and moved 63 aside. She was turning over a pile of wools, selecting colors for a sacque for Dinah, when a laugh from the group thrilled her; low, deep, full, in all her life she had never heard a sound like it.

It was as sweet as the note of a thrush and as jubilant as a thoughtless girl.

“Now, Naughty Nan, you are laughing at me. But I will forgive you, because you are going away so soon. When are you coming back?”

“Never. I will allure the black bear to take me around the world.”

Naughty Nan stepped back, tossing her curls away from her face; Tessa looked down into her face, for she was a little thing; it was not a remarkable face: a broad forehead, deep set brown eyes, a passable complexion, a saucy mouth. If she would only laugh again; but she would not even speak.

How surprised Tessa would have been had she known that Naughty Nan had been studying her and wishing, “I want to be like you.”

The group of girls giggled out.

“I have fallen in love,” said Tessa.

“With Nan Gerard? Every body does. She is one of those lovable little creatures that every body spoils! It’s strange that you haven’t met her; she is Mary Sherwood’s cousin.”

“I do remember now—Mr. Hammerton told me that I must hear her laugh.”

“Her home is in St. Louis; she had never been in Dunellen until a month since; she was her father’s 64 pet and lived abroad with him until he died a year ago! He named her Naughty Nan. She has plenty of money and plenty of lovers! She is going home under the escort of Mr. Towne and his mother. Perhaps it is her laugh that has stolen his heart from Sue! Naughty Nan was to be married, but the gentleman died in consumption.”

“And she can laugh as lightly as that! If my father should die I would never laugh again.”


On the evening of the eighteenth of January, Tessa was sitting alone in her chamber, wrapped in her shawl, writing. She was keeping a secret, for she was writing a book and no one knew it but Mr. Hammerton; he would not have known it had not several questions arisen to which she could find no answer.

“I can not do without my encyclopedia,” she had said.

She had written the title lovingly—“Under the Wings.”

This chamber was her sanctuary; she was born in this room, she had lived in it ever since; her little battles had been fought on this consecrated ground, her angry tears, her wilful tears, and the few later grateful tears had fallen while kneeling at the side of the white-draped bed or sitting at the window with her head in her hands or on the window-sill. A stranger would have thought it a plain, low room with its cottage set of pale green and gold trimmings, its ingrain carpet of 66 oak leaves on a green ground, its gray paper with scarlet border, and three white shades with scarlet tassels.

The high mantel was piled with books, the gifts of her father, Mr. Hammerton, and Miss Jewett; on the walls were photographs in oval black-walnut frames of Miss Jewett, sitting at a table with her elbow upon it and one hand resting on a book in her lap, of her father and mother, she sitting and he standing behind her, and one of herself and Dinah, taken when they were fifteen and twenty-one; there were also a large photograph taken from a painting of the Mater Dolorosa, which Mr. Hammerton had given her on her fourteenth birthday and a chromo of Red Riding Hood that he had given to Dinah upon her fourteenth birthday. Upon the table at which she was writing, books were piled, and a package of old letters that she had been sorting, and choosing some to burn, among which were two from Felix Harrison. The package contained several from Mr. Hammerton, but his were never worth burning; they were only worth keeping because they were so like himself. Pages of manuscript were scattered among the books, and a long envelope contained two rejected articles that she had planned to rewrite after a consultation with Mr. Hammerton and to send elsewhere. She had cried over her first rejected article (when she was eighteen), and two years afterward had revised it, changed the title, and her father had been proud of it in print. 67

She was writing and thinking of Sue when a noisy entrance below announced her presence.

“Go right up,” said Mrs. Wadsworth’s voice. “Tessa is star-gazing in her room. Don’t stay if you are chilly. Tessa likes to be cold.”

Tessa met her at the head of the stairs.

“I’ve come to stay all night. Do you want me?”

“I want you more than I want any one in the world.”

“That’s refreshing. I wanted to see you and that’s why I came. Norah Bird said that Dine was to stay all night with her and I knew I should have you all to myself. Dr. Lake brought me. I believe that he wanted me to come. What do you stay up here for? It’s lovely down-stairs with your father and mother; she is sewing and he is reading to her. Put away that great pile of foolscap and talk to me; I’m as full of talk as an egg is full of meat.”

“Must I break the shell?”

“Your room always looks pretty and there isn’t much in it, either.”

“Of course not, after Old Place.”

“Old Place is enchanting!” Sue tossed her gloves and hat to the bed. “I’ll keep on my sacque; I want to stay up here.”

Tessa had reseated herself at the table. Sue dropped down on the carpet at her feet.

“Have they gone?”

“Oh, yes! I stayed to see them off and drove 68 to the depot with them. We called for Nan Gerard. What a flirt that girl is! Any one would think that she had known Mr. Ralph all his life.”

Sue leaned backward against Tessa; her face was feverish and excited, her thin cheeks would have looked hollow but for their high color, her eyes as she raised them revealed something new; something new and not altogether pleasant.

Tessa touched her hair and then bent over and kissed her. It was so seldom that Sue was kissed.

“You know that night—” Sue began with an effort, “the night before New Years. Mr. Ralph found me in his den, I was arranging one of his tables, and he said that he wanted to talk to me. And I should think he did! I didn’t know that he had so much tongue in his head. His mother calls him Ralph the Silent. Grace Geer calls him Ralph the Wily when nobody hears. He is Ralph the Hateful when he wants to be. How he went on! Fury! There! I promised him not to talk slang or to use ‘unlady-like exclamations.’ I was as high and mighty as he was, but I wanted to cry all the time. He said that I ought to live for something, that I am not a child but a woman. And I promised him that I wouldn’t read novels until he says that I may! He said that I didn’t know what trouble is! He has had trouble, Grace Geer says. I don’t see how. Some girl I suppose. Perhaps she flirted with him. I hope she did. But I have had trouble. Did he ever wait and wait and wait for a thing till he almost died with waiting, and 69 then find that he didn’t get it and never could? Did you ever feel so?”

The appealing eyes were looking into hers; she could not speak instantly.

“I don’t believe that you ever did. You are quiet. You have a nice home and people to love you; your mother and father are so proud of you; your mother is always talking to people about you as if she couldn’t live without you! And you don’t have beaux and such horrid things! I shouldn’t think that you would like Dine to have a lover before you have one.”

“Dine?” said Tessa, looking perplexed.

“Why, yes, Mr. Hammerton.”

“Oh, I forgot him,” replied Tessa, almost laughing.

“I wish that I had never seen Old Place. I never should have thought any thing if it hadn’t been for Grace Geer. Before I went to Old Place I expected to marry Stacey. She put things into my head. She used to call me Mrs. Ralph, and tell me how splendidly I could dress after I was married! And she used to ask me what he said to me and explain that it meant something. I didn’t know that it meant any thing. He was so old and so wise that I thought he could never think of me. Once she went home with me and she told father and Aunt Jane and Dr. Lake that they were going to lose me. He told me himself that night that he was more interested in me than in any body.”

“Did he say that?” asked Tessa, startled. 70

“Yes, he did.”

“So am I interested in your life. I want to see what becomes of you.”

“Oh, he didn’t mean that. He meant in me. But I suppose he didn’t mean any thing, or he wouldn’t have told his mother not to take me to St. Louis. You think I like him because he’s rich and handsome, but I don’t. I like him because he was so kind to me; nobody was ever so kind to me before; I can love any one who is kind to me. He gave me his photograph a year ago. It’s elegant. I’ll show it to you some time. I know he had six taken, for I saw them and counted them; he didn’t know it, though. And I heard him tell his mother that he had five taken. I never could find out where that sixth one went to. I know that his mother had one, and Grace Geer, and Miss Sarepta Towne, that’s three! And mine was four, and Philip Towne’s was five. I asked him where the other was.”

“What did he say?” asked Tessa, gravely.

“He said nothing. I know that Aunt Jane thinks my not going the queerest thing in nature, and father looked rather nonplussed and asked me what I had been doing. I am as ashamed as I can be.”

Tessa arranged her papers thoughtfully; she was pondering Grace Geer’s name for Mr. Towne.

“Perhaps he will change his mind and come home and like me,” said Sue, brightening.

“O, Sue, Sue, don’t make a disappointment for 71 yourself! When there are so many good and beautiful things in the world, why do you see only this that is being withheld?”

“Because—” with a drooping head, “I want it so.”

“There are good men and good women in the world, Sue; men and women whose word is pure gold.”

“Whose, I’d like to know?”

“Miss Jewett’s.”

“Oh, of course!”

“And Gus Hammerton’s.”

“Oh, he’s as wise and stupid as an owl!”

“Dr. Johnson could think in Latin and I should not wonder if Gus could.”

“But he’s awkward and never talks nonsense, and he wears spectacles and has a tiny bald spot on the top of his head, the place where the wool ought to grow! The girls don’t run after him.”

“They are not wise enough.”

“He’s so old, too.”

“He’s younger than Mr. Towne.”

“He doesn’t look so. And he’s poor.”

“He has a good salary in the bank.”

“Mr. Ralph has the pure gold, but it is not in his word. I only wish it was. I always pray over my love affairs; they ought to come out all right.”

“How do you know what ‘all right’ is?”

“I know what I want.”

“I’ll say to you what Miss Jewett always says Wait.” 72

“What for? I don’t know what I’m waiting for. Do you?”


“What? Tell me.”

The will of God.”

“Oh!” Sue drew nearer as if she were frightened. After a while she spoke: “I’m so sorry for dear Mrs. Towne. She has every thing in the world but the thing she wants most. She said one day that she would be willing to be the poorest woman in Dunellen if she might have a daughter. She said it one day after we had passed you; you were alone, picking up leaves near the corner by the brook. ‘A daughter like that,’ she said, and she turned to look back at you; you were standing still with the leaves in your hand. Mr. Ralph didn’t say anything, but he looked back, too. I said, ‘That’s Tessa Wadsworth.’ Mrs. Towne said, ‘Do you know her, Ralph?’ and he said, ‘I have met her several times.’”

Tessa had wiped her gold pen and slipped it into its morocco case; she closed her writing-desk as she said cheerily: “Now about this winter, Sue; what do you intend to do?”

“You don’t know how horrid it is at home! Father always has his pockets full of bottles and he doesn’t care for the things that interest me; all he talks about is his ‘cases,’ and all Aunt Jane cares for is house-work and the murders in the newspapers; Dr. Lake is splendid, but he’s so poor and he’s low-spirited when he isn’t full of fun; and when his 73 engagement with father is ended he’ll set up for himself, and it will take him a century to afford to be married.”

“Sue, look up at me and listen.”

Sue looked up and listened.

“I pray you don’t flirt with Dr. Lake.”

Sue laughed a conscious laugh.

“Men flirt; they haven’t any hearts.”

“He has. You do not know the influence for evil that you may become in his life.”

Sue’s eyes grew wild, she clung to Tessa with both hands. “You sha’n’t talk so to me. You sha’n’t. You make me afraid. I’ll try to be good. I will try.”

“How will you try?”

“I won’t try to make him like me. I am sure that he would if I should try a little. I’ll tell him about Stacey. Tessa, I don’t want to be an old maid.

Tessa’s eyes and lips kept themselves grave.

“I wouldn’t think about that. I’d do good and be good; I’d help Aunt Jane, and go with your father on his long drives—”

“I’d rather go with Dr. Lake.”

“Let your father see what a delightful daughter you can be. My father and I can talk for hours about books and places and people.”

“Hateful! I hate books. And I don’t know about places and book-people.”

“And don’t wait for Dr. Lake to come in at night.”

“I do. I made him a cup of coffee last night.” 74

“Who makes coffee for your father?”

“Oh father thought that I made it for him. But Dr. Lake knew!”

“I will read history with you this winter. Dine and I intend to study German with Gus Hammerton; you can study with us, if you will.”

“Ugh!” groaned Sue, “as if that were as much fun as getting married.”

“It may help along. Who knows?” laughed Tessa.

“I’m going to make Miss Gesner a visit next month. She asked me to-day. But they are such old men? Mr. John Gesner is an old beau! Mr. Lewis is lovely, so kind and polite. And Miss Gesner is charming when she doesn’t try to educate me. Their house is grander than Old Place and they keep more servants. I’ll forget all about Old Place before spring. Mr. John Gesner likes girls.”


“Well! Don’t be so solemn.”

“If I were to die and leave a little girl in the world as your mother left you, I would hope that some one would watch over her, and if the time came, through her own foolishness, or in the way of God’s discipline, for a disappointment to come to her, I would hope that this friend would love her as I love you to-night. She would warn her, advise her, and encourage her! Don’t go to visit Miss Gesner; she is selfish to ask you; you are bright and lively and she likes to have you to help entertain her friends—but you will not be so good 75 a daughter to your father if your heart is drawn away from his home; the best home that he can afford to give you.”

“There’s danger at home and danger abroad,” laughed Sue. “Don’t you wish that you could put me in a glass case?”

“I don’t know what to do with you.”

“Oh, something will happen to me before long. I’ll get married or die or something. I’m glad I had my things ready to go with the Townes, for now I have them ready to go to Miss Gesner’s. I wish I had a mother and my little brother hadn’t died. I’d like to have a real home like yours! I wouldn’t mind if it were as plain as this; but I’d rather have it like Old Place. Won’t Nan Gerard have a lovely time? Such a long journey, and Mr. Ralph will be so attentive, and she’ll be so proud to be with such a handsome fellow! Don’t you like to be proud of people that belong to you? I am always proud enough to go out with Mr. Ralph.”

“There is some one else to be proud of somewhere! Sue, can’t you be brave?”

“Somebody will have what I want,” said Sue. “I can’t bear to think of that. I shall have to drive past Old Place in father’s chaise with one horse, and I hate to drive with one horse! and see somebody in my place in silks and velvets and diamonds and emeralds! And she will have visitors from all over and Old Place will be full of good times and Mr. Ralph will let her do it all and be 76 so kind to her! And she will be so proud and happy and handsome. Would you like that? You know you wouldn’t. Do you think that I really must give him up?”

Sue did not see the distressed face above her; she felt that the fingers that touched her hair and forehead were loving and pitiful.

“Don’t talk so; don’t think so! Forget all about Old Place. Do you not remember Mrs. Towne’s kindness? That is a happier thing to think of than the grounds and the house and handsome furniture.”

“I wish I had told you about it before,” sobbed Sue. “You would have made it right for me; then I wouldn’t have thought and thought about it until it was real. And now I can’t believe that it isn’t true and the house is shut up with only Mr. and Mrs. Ryerson and the boy to look after things and Mr. Ralph gone not to come back—ever, perhaps. If Mrs. Towne should die, perhaps he won’t come back but go off and be a doctor; for he doesn’t want to be married, he said so; he told his mother so. I don’t want him to be a doctor and have bottles in all his pockets and smell of medicine like father and Dr. Lake. He wouldn’t be Mr. Ralph any more.”

“So much the better for you.”

“Then you don’t think that he’s so grand.”

She answered quietly, surprising herself with the truth that she had not dared to confess to herself, “No. I do not think he is so grand.” 77

“Who is?”

“Who is? George Macdonald and George Eliot and Shakespeare and St. Paul and my father and your father,” laughed Tessa.

“Hark. They are singing over the way.”

“There’s a child’s party there to-night.”

Tessa went to the window.

Loud and merry were the voices:

    “Little  Sally  Waters  sitting  in  the  sun,
    Weeping  and  crying  for  a  man.”

Sue laughed. “Oh, how that carries me back.”

“That’s good advice,” said Tessa, as the children shouted—

    “Rise,  Sally,  rise,  and  wipe  off  your  eyes.”

“I wish that I were a little girl over there in the fun,” said Sue. “Suppose we go.”

“I intended to go. Perhaps we can teach them some new games.”

No one among the children was merrier than Sue; not one any more a child.

“I think I’ll stay little,” said Sue, coming to Tessa, half out of breath. “I’m never going to grow up; it’s hateful being a woman, isn’t it?”

“You will never know,” said Tessa laughing. “There’s little Harry Sherwood calling for Sue Greyson now.”

Towards midnight, when Tessa was asleep, Sue awakened her with, “Put your arm around me, I can’t go to sleep.” 78

Sue lay still not speaking or moving.

The clock in the sitting-room struck three.

“Tessa, Tessa,” whispered a startled voice, “are you awake?”

“Yes,” rousing herself, “what is it? Is any thing the matter?”

“Oh, no,” wearily, “but it has struck one, and two, and three, and I’m afraid it will strike four.”

“I suppose it will unless the clock stops or time ceases to be.”

“What will be when time ceases to be? What comes next?”

“Forever comes next. Don’t you want it to be forever?”

“You sha’n’t talk so and frighten me. I can’t go to sleep. I thought somebody was dying or dead.”

“You were dreaming.” Tessa put a loving arm around her. “Didn’t you ever say the multiplication table in the night?”

“No, nor any other time.”

The moonlight shone in through the open window, making a golden track across the carpet.

“The moon shines on Red Riding Hood,” said Sue. “Tell me a story, Tessa.”

“Don’t you like the moonlight? Some one had a lovely little room once and she said that the moonlight came in and swept it clean of foolish thoughts.”

“What else?” in an interested voice.

“It is a long story; it is in blank verse, too, and you like rhymes.” 79

“I’ve been trying to say Mother Goose and Old Mother Hubbard.”

“I will tell you a story,” said Tessa, as wide awake as if the sun were shining. “I will rhyme it as I run along, and when I hesitate and can not make good sense and a perfect rhyme, we’ll go to sleep.”

“Well, but you must do your best.”

“I always do my best. I tell Gus and Dine stories in rhyme.”

So she began with a description of a little girl who was fair and a boy who was brave, who grew up and grew together, but cruel fate in the shape of a step-mother separated them, and he travelled all over the world, and she stayed at home and made tatting, until a hundred years went by and he came to the door a worn-out traveller and found her a withered maiden sitting alone feeding her cat. Afterward in trying to recall this, she only remembered one couplet:

    “He  was  covered  with  snow,  his  hat  with  fur,
    He  took  it  off  and  bowed  to  her.”

Once or twice Sue gave a hysterical laugh.

The story was brought to a proper and blissful conclusion; still Sue was sleepless.

“How far on their journey do you suppose they are now?”

“I’m not a time-table.”

Sue lay too still to be asleep; when she was still she was a marvel of stillness. 80

Daylight and breakfast found her in high spirits, asking advice of Mrs. Wadsworth about making a wrapper out of an old brown cashmere, and talking to Tessa about the drive that she had promised to take with Dr. Lake, saying the last thing as she ran down the steps, “I’ll come and study German if I can’t find any thing better to do.”

In all the talks afterward, Sue never alluded to this night; it was the only part of her life that she wished Tessa to forget; she herself forgot every thing except that she was miserable about Mr. Ralph and two of the lines in the story that she had laughed about and called as “stupid” as her own life:

    “The  room  in  which  she  lived  alone,  was  carpeted  with  matting;
    She  spent  the  hours,  she  spent  the  days,  in  making  yards  of


“Miss Jewett.”

“Well, dear.”

Tessa was sitting on the carpet in Miss Jewett’s little parlor with her head in Miss Jewett’s lap; Miss Jewett had been smoothing the girl’s hair for several minutes, neither speaking.

“I have lost something; I don’t dare try to find it for fear that God has taken it away from me.”

“How did you lose it?”

Tessa raised her head, paused, then spoke impressively: “I lost it through carefulness.”

“Ah! I have heard of such a thing before.”

“Oh, have you? Is any one in the world like me? I thought that no one ever made such mistakes as I do, or needed the discipline that I need!”

“My dear, all hearts are fashioned alike.”

“But all lives are not alike.”

“Not so different as you imagine; in my girls I live over my old struggles, longings, mistakes; in the history of lives lived ages ago I find the same struggles, longings, mistakes, the same need of the same discipline.” 82

“Oh, if you can help me; if you can only help me! You study the Bible, isn’t every thing in the Bible? Didn’t Paul mean that every thing was in it when he said that through the comfort of the Scriptures we have hope? I can not find any thing to suit me; you find something.”

The gaslight was more than she could bear, she dropped her head again, covering her face with both hands.

“Suppose you tell me all about it.”

All about it,” repeated Tessa in a muffled tone. “I could not if I wanted to; but I can tell you where the despair comes in.”

“That is all I want to know.”

“Well,” raising her head again and speaking clearly and slowly. “It was an opportunity to get something that I wanted. I thought I had it, I thought it was laid in my hand and I had but to clasp my fingers tightly over it to keep it forever and forever; I cared so much that I hardly cared for any thing else. I do not think that I would lose it again through caring too much. Do you think that it is just as hard for God to see us too careful as too careless?”

“How were you too careful?”

“Oh, in being wise and doing things in my own way. What I want to know is this: did He ever give any body another opportunity? If He ever did, I will hope that He will be just as tender towards me.”

“Christ came down to earth to seek the lost; a 83 lost opportunity is one of the things that He came to find. I think if you seek it for His sake, and not for your own, that He will find it for you.”

“For His sake, not for mine,” repeated Tessa, wonderingly. “How can I ever attain to that? I am very selfish.”

“Do you remember about David, whose heart was fashioned like yours, how careful he was once and what happened?”

Miss Jewett was speaking in her brisk, working voice; the troubled face had become alight.

“Now we will read about one who made a sorry mistake by being so careful that he forgot to find out God’s way of doing a certain thing. He did the thing that he wanted to do after a style of his own.”

Tessa arose and went into Miss Jewett’s bedroom; she knew that the Bible she loved best, the one pencilled and interlined, was always kept on a stand near the head of her bed. While Miss Jewett was opening it, Tessa said hurriedly and earnestly “I knew that if it were anywhere in the Bible—that if any one in the world had suffered like me—that you would know where to find them. You said last Sunday that God had written something to help us in every perplexity; but I studied and studied and could not find any thing about second opportunities. Perhaps mine is only a foolish little trouble; not a grand one like David’s.”

“Do you think that God likes to hear you say that?” 84

“No,” confessed Tessa. “I will not even think it again.”

“Have you forgotten how David attempted to bring the Ark into the city of David, and how he failed? What a mortifying and distressing failure it was, too. Now I’ll read it to you.”

One of Tessa’s pleasures was to listen to her reading the Bible; she read as if David lived across the Park, and as if the city of David were not a mile away.

Tessa kept her head in its old position and listened with intent and longing eyes.

“‘And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds and every leader. And David said unto all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good unto you, and that it be of the Lord our God, let us send abroad unto our brethren everywhere, that are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they may gather themselves together unto us: and let us bring again the Ark of our God to us: for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul. And all the congregation said that they would do so: for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people. So David gathered all Israel together from Shihor of Egypt even unto the entering of Hemath, to bring the Ark of God from Kirjath-jearim. And David went up and all Israel to Baalah, that is to Kirjath-jearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up thence the Ark of God the Lord, that dwelleth between 85 the cherubim whose name is called on it. And they carried the Ark of God in a new cart—’ In a new cart, Tessa; see how careful he was!”


“‘—Out of the house of Abinadab; and Uzza and Ahir drave the cart.’ That was all right and proper, wasn’t it?”

“It seems so to me.”

“‘And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets.’ They were joyful with all their might. Were you as joyful as that?”

“Yes: fully as joyful as that.”

“Now see the confusion, the shame, and the fear that followed those harps and timbrels and trumpets. ‘And when they came unto the threshing-floor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the Ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and He smote him, because he put his hand to the Ark: and he died before God. And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzza: wherefore that place is called Perez-uzza, to this day. And David was afraid of God that day, saying, How shall I bring the Ark of God home to me?’”

“I should think that he would have been afraid,” said Tessa; “and after he had been so sure and joyful, too.”

Miss Jewett read on: “‘So David brought not 86 the Ark home to himself to the city of David, but carried it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.’”

Tessa raised her head to speak. “I can not understand where his mistake was; how could he have been too careful of such a treasure. Oh, how terrible and humiliating his disappointment must have been! How ashamed he was before all the people! I can bear any thing better than to be humiliated.”

“My poor, proud Tessa.”

Tessa’s tears started at the tone; these first words of sympathy overcame her utterly; she dropped her head again and cried like a child, like the little child Tessa who had had so many fits of crying.

The eyes above her were as wet as her own; once or twice warm lips touched her forehead and cheek.

“Did he have another opportunity?” asked Tessa, at last. “I can understand how afraid he was. I was troubled because I gave thanks for the thing that was taken away from me. Did he find an answer to his ‘How’?”

“He was thankful, sincere, and careful.”

“I should think that was enough,” exclaimed Tessa, almost indignantly; “but I know that there was sin somewhere, else the anger of the Lord would not have been kindled. They went home without the Ark. That is saddest of all.”

“It was kept three months in the house of Obed-edom, and during those three months humbled David studied 87 the law and found that his cart, new as it was, was not according to the will of God.

“‘Then David said, None ought to carry the Ark of God but the Levites; for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the Ark of God, and to minister unto Him forever.’”

“And he could have known that before,” cried Tessa.

“‘And David gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the Lord unto his place, which he had prepared for it, and David assembled the children of Aaron and the Levites and said unto them, Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the Ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought Him not after the due order.”

“Oh, how can we know every thing to do at the first?”

“How could David have known? Now he had found the right way to do the right thing. ‘So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the Ark of the Lord God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bare the Ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon as Moses commanded, according to the word of the Lord. And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with 88 instruments of music, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy. So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the Ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the house of Obed-edom with joy.’”

“He was not afraid now,” said Tessa. “I think that he was all the more joyful because he had been so humiliated and afraid. I will think about that new cart.”

“And those three months in which he was finding out the will of God. ‘And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bare the Ark of the covenant of the Lord that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams.’ He could not help them the first time because their way was not according to His law; their joy, their thankfulness, their sincerity, their carefulness availed them nothing because they kept not His law. Uzza was a priest and should have known the law; David was king and he should have known the law.”

“But he had his second opportunity, despite his mistake.”

“And so, if your desire be according to His will may you have yours; it may be months or years, half your lifetime, but if you study His word and ask for your second opportunity through the intercession of Christ, I am sure that you will have it.”

“Sometimes I am angry, sometimes bewildered, sometimes there is hatred in my heart because I 89 have been deceived and humiliated—sometimes I do not want it back—”

“My dear,” said Miss Jewett, gravely, “discipline is better than our heart’s desire.”

“Is it? I don’t like to think so.”

When the clock in the church-tower struck midnight Tessa lay awake wondering if she could ever choose discipline before any heart’s desire.

Then she crept closer to Miss Jewett and kissed her.


With the apple blossoms came Tessa’s birthday. She had lived twenty-five years up-stairs and down-stairs in that white house with the lilac shrubbery and low iron fence. Twenty-five years with her father and mother, nineteen with her little sister, and almost as many with her old friend, Mr. Hammerton; twenty years with Laura and Felix and Miss Jewett, and not quite three years with the latest friend, the latest and the one that she had most believed in, Ralph Towne.

She was counting these years and these friends as she brushed out her long, light hair and looked into the reflection of the fair, bright, thoughtful face that had come to another birthday.

Nothing would ever happen to her again, she was sure; nothing ever did happen after one were as old as twenty-five. In novels, all the wonderful events occurred in earlier life, and then—a blank or bliss or misery, any thing that the reader might guess.

Would her life henceforth be a blank because she was so old and was growing older? 91

In one of her stories, Miss Mulock had stated that the experience of love had been given to her heroine “later than to most” and she was twenty-four!

“Not that that experience is all one’s life,” she mused; “but it is just as much to me as it is to any man or woman that ever lived; as much as to Cornelia, the matron with her jewels, or Vittoria Colonna, or Mrs. Browning, or Hypatia,—if she ever loved any body,—or Miss Jewett,—if she ever did,—or Sue Greyson, or Queen Victoria, or Ralph Towne’s mother! I wonder if his father were like him, so handsome and gentle. I have a right to the pain and the blessedness of loving; perhaps I have been in love—perhaps I am now! He shut the door that he had opened and he has gone out; I would not recall him if I could do it with one breath—

    “‘No  harm  from  him  can  come  to  me
          On  ocean  or  on  shore.’

“Well,” smiling into the sympathetic eyes, “if nothing new ever happen to me, I’ll find out all the blessedness of the old.”

For she must always find something to be glad of before she could be sorrowful about any thing.

She ran down-stairs in her airiest mood to be congratulated by her father in a humorous speech that ended with an unfinished sentence and a quick turning of the head, to be squeezed and hugged and kissed by Dinah, and dubbed Miss Twenty-Five, and then to have her mood changed, 92 all in the past made dreary, and all in the future desolate, by one of her mother’s harangues.

Mr. Wadsworth had kissed his three girls and hurried off to his business, as he had done in all the years that Tessa could remember; Dinah had pushed her plate away and was leaning forward with her elbows on the table-cloth, her face alight with the mischief of teasing Tessa about being “stricken in years.” Tessa’s repartees were sending Dinah off into her little shouts of laughter when their mother’s voice broke in:

“I had been married eight years when I was your age, Tessa.”

“It will be nine years on my next birthday,” said Tessa.

“Yes, just nine; for I was married on my seventeenth birthday; your father met me one day coming from school and said that he would call that evening; I curled my hair over and put on my garnet merino and waited for him an hour. I expected John Gesner, too. But your father came first and we set the wedding-day that night. I was seventeen and he was thirty-seven!”

“I congratulate you,” said Tessa. “I congratulate the woman who married my father.”

“Girls are so different,” sighed Mrs. Wadsworth. “Now I had two offers that year! Aunt Theresa wanted me to take John Gesner because he was two years younger than your father; but John was only a clerk in the Iron Works then, and so was Lewis. Lewis is just my age. How could 93 I tell that he would make a fortune buying nails?”

“You would have hit the nail on the head if you had known it,” laughed Dinah.

“And here’s Dine, now, she is like me. You are a Wadsworth through and through! Young men like some life about a girl; how many beaux Sue Greyson has! All you think of is education! There was Cliff Manning, you turned the cold shoulder to him because he couldn’t talk grammar. What’s grammar? Grammar won’t make the pot boil.”

“Enough of them would,” suggested Dinah.

“Mr. Towne came and came till he was tired, I suppose. I hope you didn’t refuse him.”

“No, he refused me.”

Her tone was so gravely in earnest that her mother was staggered. Dinah shouted.

Mrs. Wadsworth went on in a voice that was gathering indignation: “You may laugh now; you will not always laugh. ‘He that will not when he may, when he will he shall have nay.’ Mrs. Sherwood told me yesterday that she hoped to have Nan Gerard back here for good, and Mary looked as if it were all settled. Mr. Towne did not do much last winter, Mary said, beside run around with Naughty Nan. I’m hearing all the time of somebody being married or engaged, and you are doing nothing but shilly-shally over some book or trotting around after poor folks with Miss Jewett.”

“She will find a prince in a hovel some day,” 94 said Dinah. “He will be struck with her attitude as she is choking some bed-ridden woman with beef-tea and fall down on his knees and propose on the spot. ‘Feed me, seraph,’ he will cry.”

“He wouldn’t talk grammar, or he couldn’t spell or read Greek, and she will turn away,” laughed Mrs. Wadsworth. “Tessa, you are none of my bringing up.”

“That is true,” replied Tessa, the sorrowfulness of the tone softening its curtness.

“You always did care for something in a book more than for what I said! You never do any thing to please people; and yet, somehow, somebody always is running after you. I wish that you could go out into the world and get a little character; you are no more capable of self-denial and heroism than an infant baby; for getting along in the world and making a good match, I would rather have Sue Greyson’s skin—”

“Her father understands anatomy, perhaps you can get it, mother.”

She knows how to look out for number one. Her children will be settled in life before Tessa is engaged. You needn’t laugh, Dine, it’s her birthday, and I’m only doing a mother’s duty to her.”

Tessa’s eyes laughed although her lips were still. Her sense of humor helped her to bear many things in her life.

“You have never had a trial in your life, Tessa, and here you are old enough to be a wife and mother!” 95

“If she lived in China she could be a grandmother,” said Dinah.

“I have always kept trouble from you; that is why, at your mature age, you have so little character. In an emergency you would have no more responsibility than Nellie Bird. If you had studied arithmetic instead of always writing poetry and compositions, you might have been teaching now and have been independent.”

“Father isn’t tired of taking care of her,” said Dinah, spiritedly. “It’s mean for you to say that.”

“Why don’t you write a novel and make some money?”

“I don’t know how.”

“Can’t you learn?”

“I study all the time.”

“Why don’t you write flowery language?”

“I don’t know how.”

“It is Gus that has spoiled you; he has nipped your genius in the bud. What does he know, a clerk in a bank? I know that he tells you to leave out the long words; and it is the long words that take. I shouldn’t have had my dreadful cough winter after winter if I hadn’t worked hard to spare your time that winter you wrote those three little books for the Sunday School Union; I lay all my sickness and pain to that winter.”

Mrs Wadsworth had brought this charge against Tessa several times before, but she had never shivered over it as she did this birthday morning.

“And what did you get for them? Only a hundred 96 dollars for the three. Your father made a great fuss over them, and he really cried (his tears come very easy) over that piece you called ‘Making Mistakes.’ I couldn’t see any thing to cry over; I thought you made out that making mistakes was a very fine thing.”

“Four people from away off have written to thank her, any way,” exulted Dinah.

“People like your father I suppose.”

Dinah sprang up and began to rattle the cups and saucers; she could not bear the look in Tessa’s eyes another second.

“Dinah, I can’t talk if you make so much noise. You are very rude.”

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” cried Dinah, standing still with two cups in her hands. “It’s great fun! Nan Gerard refused Mr. John Gesner while she was here.”

“I don’t believe it,” exclaimed Mrs Wadsworth. “Those brothers are worth nearly a million.”

“Naughty Nan didn’t care.”

“She’ll jump out of the frying-pan into the fire, then; for the Townes, mother and son, are not worth a quarter of it.”

“What does she care? Mr. Lewis Gesner is a gentleman, and he knows something.”

“He said once that I was only a little doll,” said Mrs. Wadsworth. “I never liked him afterward.”

“I like him,” said Dinah; “he doesn’t flirt with the girls; he always talks to the old ladies.” 97

“What are you going to do to-day, Tessa?” inquired Mrs. Wadsworth, ignoring Dinah’s remark.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she answered, “and don’t care” was the unspoken addition.

There was one thing she was sure to do. On her way to the ten o’clock mail she would take a moment with Miss Jewett for a word, a look; for something to set her heart to beating to a cheerier tune. Ten minutes before mail time she found Miss Jewett as busy as a bee.

“Oh, Tessa,” glancing up from her desk, “I knew you would come. I had a good crying spell on my twenty-fifth birthday and I’ve looked through clear eyes ever since. I wish for you that your second quarter may be as full of hard work as mine.”

Tessa felt as if the sun were shining warm again. At the office she received her birthday present; the one thing that she most wished for; if ever birthday face were in a glow and birthday heart set to dancing, hers were when her fingers held the check for one hundred and sixty-eight dollars and fifty cents, and when her eyes ran through the brief, friendly letter, with its two lines of praise.

“I am taken with your book. It gives me a humbling-down feeling. I hardly know why.”

“Oh, it’s too good! it’s too good,” she cried, with her head close to Miss Jewett’s at the desk over the large day-book. “I was feeling as if nobody cared, and now he wants another book. As good as this, he says.” 98

Tessa lived in fairy-land for the next two hours. No, she lived in Dunellen on a happy birthday.

“Well! well! well!” exclaimed her father, taking off his spectacles to wipe his eyes, “this is what I call fine. So this is what you grew pale over last winter,” he added, looking down into a face as rosy and wide awake as a child’s waking out of sleep.

“What shall you do with so much money?”

“Spend it, of course. I have spent it already a hundred times.”

“You must return receipt and reply to the letter.”

“I had forgotten that.”

“You will find every thing on my desk. Write your name on the back of the check and I will give you the money.”

“I don’t want to do that. I want to take it into the bank and surprise Gus with it. His face will be worth another check.”

She wrote her name upon the check, her father standing beside her. Theresa L. Wadsworth. He was very proud of this name among his three girls.

“And you expect to do this thing again?”

“I do. Many times. All I want is a nook and a lead pencil.”

“Daughter, I would like something else better.”

“I wouldn’t. Nothing else. I shall not change my mind even for a knight in helmet and helmet feather.”

Mr. Hammerton’s face was worth another check; 99 he looked down at her from his high stool in a grave, paternal fashion. She remained decorously silent.

“How women do like to spend money,” he said. “At six o’clock you will not have a penny left.”

“How can I? Father is to have a farm in Mayfield, mother is to go to Europe, and Dine is to have diamond ear-rings!”

“And I?”

“I will buy you a month to go fishing! And myself brains enough to write a better book. Isn’t it comical for me to get more for my book than Milton got for Paradise Lost?”

Tessa laughed as she counted her money at tea-time; there was a twenty dollar bill and seventy-five cents! But in her mother’s chamber stood a suite of black-walnut with marble tops, in one of Dine’s drawers, materials for a black and white striped silk, on the sitting-room table a copy of Shakespeare in three Turkey morocco volumes, for her father; she had also sent a gold thimble to Sue Greyson, several volumes of Ruskin to Mr. Hammerton, Barnes on Job to Miss Jewett, and had purchased a ream of foolscap, a pint of ink, a pair of gloves, and The Scarlet Letter for herself!

“Is there any thing left in the world that you want?” her father asked.

“Yes, but twenty dollars will not buy it,” she replied, thinking of Dr. Lake’s anxious face as she had seen it that day. 100

At night, alone in the darkness, there were a few tears that no one would ever know about. Her joy in her accepted work was nothing to Ralph Towne. He did not know about her book and if he knew—would he care?


The blossom storm came and blew away the apple blossoms, the heavy fragrance of the lilacs died, and the shrubbery became again only a mass of green leaves and ugly, crooked stems; but amid this, something happened to Tessa; something that was worth as much to her as any happenings that came before it; something that had its beginning when she was a little school-girl running along the planks and teasing Felix Harrison. How much certain jarring words spoken that day and how much a certain bit of news influenced this happening, she, in her rigid self-analysis, could not determine!

She arose from the breakfast table at the same instant with her father, saying: “Father, I will walk to the corner with you.”

“We were two souls with one thought,” he replied. “I intended to ask you for a few minutes.”

They crossed the street to the planks. She slipped her arm through his, and as he took the fingers on his arm with a warm grasp, she said; “I never want any lover but you, my dear old father.” 102

“Nonsense, child! Only girls who have had a heart-break say such things to their old fathers, and your heart is as good as new, I am sure. Tessa, I want to see you married before I die.”

“May you live till you see me married,” she answered merrily. “What an old mummy you will be!”

“I have been thinking of something that I want to say to you. I am an old man and I am not young for my age—”

“Now, father.”

“I may live a hundred years, of course, and grow heartier each year, and like the ‘frisky old girl,’ die at the age of one hundred and ten, and ‘die by a fall from a cherry-tree then,’ but, still there’s a chance that I may not. And now, Daughter Tessa”—his voice became as grave as her eyes, “I want you to promise me that you will always take care of your poor little mother; poor little mother! You are never sharp to her like saucy Dine, and she rests in you like an acorn in an acorn cup, although she would be the last to confess it.”

“I promise to do my best,” Tessa said very earnestly.

“But that is only a part of it. Promise me that if she wishes to marry again, and her choice be one that you approve—”


“Approve,” he repeated, “that you will not hinder but rather further it, and keep Dine from making her unhappy about it.” 103

“I will not promise. You shall not die,” she cried passionately. “How can you talk so and break my heart?”

“Dr. Watts says that we all begin to die as soon as we are born, so I have had to do it pretty thoroughly; but he was a theologian and not a medical man. Have you promised?”

“Yes, sir,” speaking very quietly, “I have promised.”

With her hand upon his arm, they kept even step for ten silent minutes.

“Are you writing again?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then you must walk every day.”

“Oh, I do, rain or shine. I am going down the road this afternoon to look at the wheat fields and the oat fields and to see the boys and girls dropping corn!”

“And to wish that you were a little girl dropping corn?”

“No, indeed,” she said earnestly and solemnly. “I like my own life better than any life I ever knew in a book or out of a book.”

“When I count up my mercies I’ll remember that.”

She was dwelling upon those words of her father late that afternoon as she sauntered homeward with her hands full of wild flowers and grasses.

“Mystic, will you ride with me?”

A feeling of warmth and of tenderness ever crept into her heart at the sound of this voice. 104

She loved Dr. Lake.

“No, sir, thank you; I am out for a walk and when I walk I never ride.”

“But I want to talk to you—to tell you something.” She stepped nearer and stood at the carriage wheel; his voice was sharp and his white temples hollow. “Sue has refused me,” he began with a laugh. “I proposed last night, and what do you think she said? ‘Why, Dr. Lake, you are poor, and you smell of medicine.’”

“They are both true,” she said, not conscious of what reply she was making.

“Yes,” he answered bitterly, “they are both true and will be true until the end of time. Don’t you think that you could reason with her and change her mind; you have influence.” He laid his gloved hand on the hand that rested on the wheel. “It will kill me, Mystic, if she doesn’t marry me.”

So weak, so pitiful! She could have cried. And all for love of flighty Sue Greyson!

“I was sure that she would accept me. She has done every thing but accept me. I did not know that a woman would permit a man to take her day after day into his arms and kiss her unless she intended to marry him. Would you permit that?” he asked.

“You know that I would not,” she answered proudly; “but Sue doesn’t know any better; all she cares for is the ‘fun’ of the moment.”

“I have been hoping so long; since Towne went away; I can’t bear this.” 105

“There is as much strength for you as for any of us,” she said gently.

“But I am too weak to hold it.”

And he looked too weak to hold it. She could not lift her full eyes. “I am so sorry,” was all she could speak.

“There isn’t any thing worth living for anyway; I, for one, am not thankful for my ‘creation.’ I wish I was dead and buried and out of sight forever. Sue Greyson has another offer to whisper to all Dunellen. I would not stay here, I would go back to that wretched hospital, but my engagement with her father extends through another year. Well, you won’t ride home with me?”

“Not to-day, I want to be out in this air.”

“And you don’t want to be shut in here with my growling. I don’t blame you; I’d run away from myself if I could. I’ll kill half Dunellen and all Mayfield with overdoses before another night, and then take a big dose myself. Say, Mystic, you are posted in these things, where would be the harm?”

“Take it and see.”

“Not yet awhile. I am not sure of many things, but I am sure that a man’s life in this world will stare in his face in the next. And my life has not been fit even for your eyes.”

Homely, shabby, old, worn, excited, with a sharp ring in his voice and a stoop in his shoulders. What was there in him to touch Sue Greyson? Where was the first point of sympathy? 106

Tessa could have taken him into her arms and cared for him as she would have cared for a child.

“I have just seen an old man die; a good old man; he was over ninety; he prayed to the last; that is his lips moved and his old wife laid his hands together; he liked to clasp his hands when he prayed, she said. She put her ear down close to his mouth, but she could not distinguish the words. I was wishing that I could go in his place, and that he could take up my life and live it through for me. He would do better with it than I shall.”

“Is not that rather selfish?”

“Life is such a sham. I don’t believe in the transmigration of souls; I don’t want to come back and pull through another miserable existence.”

“I want you to stay this soul in this body; I do not want to lose you.”

“If every woman in the world were like you—”

“And every man were as tired and hungry as you—”

“What would he do?”

“He would hurry home to a good, hot dinner.”

“I have not eaten or drank since yesterday morning. Sue has a hot dinner waiting for me. She will sit with me while I eat, and tell me, perhaps, that she has had a letter from that fellow in Philadelphia, or that that well-preserved specimen of manhood, old John Gesner, has asked her to drive with him. Some flirtation of hers is sauce to every dish.” 107

“Poor Sue,” sighed Tessa.

“She might be happy if she would; I would take care of her.”

“Good-by,” squeezing his fingers through his glove. “Go home and eat.”

“Give me a good word before I go.”


“Is that the best word you know?”

“It is good enough.”

“Well, good day, Mystic,” he said, lifting his hat.

She went back to the grassy wayside, thinking. What right had Sue Greyson’s light fingers to meddle with a life like Dr. Lake’s? They had not one taste in common. How could he find her attractive? She disliked every thing in which he was interested; it was true that she could sing, sing like one of the wild birds down in the woods, and he loved music.

She paused and stood leaning against the rails of a fence, and looked across the green acres of winter wheat; one day in September she had stood there watching the men as they were drilling the wheat; afterward she had seen the tender, green blades springing up in straight rows, and once she had seen the whole field green beneath a light snow. The wind moved her veil slightly, both hands were drooping as her elbows leaned upon the upper rail, her cheeks were tinged with the excitement of Dr. Lake’s words, and her eyes suffused with a mist that was too sorrowful to drop with tears. A quick step on the grass at her side 108 did not startle her; she did not stir until a voice propounded gravely: “If a man should be born with two heads, on which forehead must he wear the phylactery?”

She turned with a laugh. “Gus, I would know that was you if I heard the voice and the question in the Great Desert.”

“Can’t you decide?”

“My thoughts were not nonsense.”

“Of course not, you were labelling and pigeon holing all that you have thought of since sunrise! I’ve been sitting on a stone waiting for your conference to end. Are you in the habit of meeting strange men and conversing with them.”

“Yes, I came out to meet you.”

“I only wish you did! I wish that you would make a stranger of me and be polite to me. It is nothing new for you to be wandering on a Saturday afternoon, and nothing new for you to find me.”

“I didn’t find you.”

“I intended to give you the honor of the discovery; now we will share the glory. Shall we go on?”

“I have been to my roots; do you know my roots? Do you know the corner above Old Place and the tiny stream?”

“I know every corner, and every root, and every stream. Shall I carry your flowers for you? I never can see why I should relieve a maiden of a burden when her avoirdupois equals mine. You will not give them to me? I have something to 109 read to you—something of my own composing—I composed it in one brilliant wakeful moment—you will appreciate it.”

“I do not believe it.”

“Wait until you hear it. Lady Blue, are you going to be literary and never be married! Woe to the day when I taught you all you know.”

They went on, slowly, for she liked to talk to Mr. Hammerton. “Father said something like that this morning and it troubled me; why may I not do as I like best? Why should he care to see me married before he dies?”

“Why should he not?”

“Nonsense. I can take good care of myself; beside,” with a mischievous glance into his serious eyes, “I really don’t know whom to marry.”

“Oh, you could easily find some one. If all else fail, come to me, and if I am not too busy I will take you into consideration.”

“Thanks, good friend! But you will always be too busy. What have you to read to me?”

“Something that you will appreciate. I wrote it for you. Stay, sit down, while I read it.”

“I don’t want to. You can read and walk. The mother of Mrs. Hemans could read aloud while walking up hill.”

Mr. Hammerton’s voice was not pleasant to a stranger, but Tessa liked it because it belonged to him; it was a part of him like his big nose, his spectacles, and the tiny bald spot over which, every day, he carefully brushed his hair. The color in 110 his cheeks was as pretty as a girl’s, and so was the delicate whiteness of his forehead; the bushy mustache, however, made amends for the complexion that he sometimes regretted; Tessa had once told him that his big nose, his mustache, and his awkwardness were all that kept him from being as pretty as his sister.

“I am not the mother of Mrs. Hemans.” He took a sheet of paper from his pocket-book, and showed her the poem written in his peculiarly plain, upright hand.

“Excuse my singing and I will read. You must not think of any thing else.”

“I will not.”

“You are walking too fast.”

She obediently took slower steps.

He cleared his throat and, holding the paper near his eyes, began to read. A shadow gathered in his listener’s eyes at the first four lines.

    “A  nightingale  made  a  mistake;
        She  sang  a  few  notes  out  of  tune,
    Her  heart  was  ready  to  break,
        And  she  hid  from  the  moon.
    “She  wrung  her  claws,  poor  thing,
        But  was  far  too  proud  to  speak;
    She  tucked  her  head  under  her  wing,
        And  pretended  to  be  asleep.
    “A  lark  arm  in  arm  with  a  thrush,
        Came  sauntering  up  to  the  place;
    The  nightingale  felt  herself  blush,
        Though  feathers  hid  her  face.
    “She  knew  they  had  heard  her  song,
        She  felt  them  snicker  and  sneer.
    She  thought  this  life  was  too  long,
        And  wished  she  could  skip  a  year.
    “‘O,  nightingale!’  cooed  a  dove,
        O,  nightingale,  what’s  the  use;
    You  bird  of  beauty  and  love,
        Why  behave  like  a  goose?
    “‘Don’t  skulk  away  from  our  sight,
        Like  a  common,  contemptible  fowl;
    You  bird  of  joy  and  delight,
        Why  behave  like  an  owl?
    “‘Only  think  of  all  you  have  done;
        Only  think  of  all  you  can  do;
    A  false  note  is  really  fun
        From  such  a  bird  as  you.
    “‘Lift  up  your  proud  little  crest:
        Open  your  musical  beak;
    Other  birds  have  to  do  their  best,
        You  need  only  to  speak.’
    “The  nightingale  shyly  took
        Her  head  from  under  her  wing,
    And  giving  the  dove  a  look,
        Straightway  began  to  sing.
    “There  was  never  a  bird  could  pass;
        The  night  was  divinely  calm;
    And  the  people  stood  on  the  grass,
        To  hear  that  wonderful  psalm!
    “The  nightingale  did  not  care,
        She  only  sang  to  the  skies;
    Her  song  ascended  there,
        And  there  she  fixed  her  eyes.


    “The  people  that  stood  below
        She  knew  but  little  about;
    And  this  story’s  a  moral,  I  know,
        If  you’ll  try  to  find  it  out.”

“How did you know that I need that?” she asked, taking it from his hand. “Who wrote it?”

“I did.”

“Don’t you know?”

“No. I don’t know. I copied it for you.”

“Thank you. I thank you very much. You could not have brought me any thing better.”

“I brought you a piece of news, too.”

“As good as the poem?”

“Nan Gerard thinks so. She is to be married and to live at Old Place; our castle in the air.”

“Old Place isn’t my castle in the air. Who told you?”

“A woman’s question. I never told a woman a secret yet that she did not reply, ‘Who told you?’ Mary Sherwood told me, of course. Do you congratulate Naughty Nan?”

“Must I?”

“It’s queer that I do not know that man. I have missed an introduction a thousand times. Do you congratulate her?”

“I am supposed to congratulate him. He is very lovable.”

“I thought that only women were that.”

“That’s an admission,” laughed Tessa, “you cross old bachelor.”

“You learned that from Dine.” 113

“No, I learned it from you.”

Tessa talked rapidly and lightly, perhaps, because she did not feel like talking at all.

Would he marry Nan Gerard? Why could she not be glad for Nan Gerard? Why must she be just a little sorry for herself? Why must it make a difference to her? Why must the weight of the flowers be too heavy for her hand, and why must she give them that toss over a fence across a field?

“Your pretty flowers,” expostulated Mr. Hammerton.

“I do not care for them; they were withering.”

“I have a thought; I wonder why it should come to me; I am wondering if you and I walk together here a year from to-day what we shall be talking about. My prophetic soul reveals to me that a year makes a difference sometimes.”

“I remember a year ago to-day,” she answered. “A year has made a difference.”

“Not to you or me?”

“To Nan Gerard?” she answered seriously.

“But that does not affect us.”

Did it not? A year ago to-day Ralph Towne had brought her some English violets, and she had pressed them and thrown a thought about him and about them into a poem. To-day had he taken violets to Nan Gerard?

“Lady Blue; you are absent-minded.”

“Am I? I was only labelling and pigeon-holing a thought; it is to be laid away to moulder with the dust of ages.” 114

“A thought that can not be spoken?”

“A thought that it was folly to think, and that would be worse than folly to speak.”

If he replied she did not hear; they sauntered on, she keeping the path and he walking on the grass.

A carriage passed, driving slowly. The two ladies within watched the pedestrians,—a fair-faced girl with thoughtful eyes, and a tall man with an intellectual face,—as if they were a part of the landscape of the spring.

    “‘In  the  spring  a  young  man’s  fancy—’”

laughingly quoted one of them.

“Will she accept or refuse him?” asked the other.

“If she do either it will be once and forever,” was the reply seriously given. “Did you notice her mouth? She has been very much troubled, but she can be made very glad.”

After the carriage had passed, Mr. Hammerton spoke, “I am glad we amused those people; they failed to decide whether or not we are lovers.”

“They have very little penetration, then,” said Tessa. “I am too languid and you are too unconscious.”

“There is nothing further to be said; you do not know what you have nipped in the bud.”

“I suppose we never know that.”

Dinah met them at the gate, her wind-blown curls and laughing eyes in striking contrast to the older face that had lost all its color. Tessa did not 115 see that Mr. Hammerton’s eyes were studying the change in her face; she had no more care of the changes in her face with him than with Dinah.

“I’ll be in about eight,” he said to Dinah, as Tessa brushed past him to enter the gate.

Another thing that influenced impressible Tessa this day, was a talk at the tea-table. They were sitting around the tea-table cozily, the four people who, in her mother’s thought, constituted all Tessa’s world. Mr. Wadsworth in an easy position in his arm-chair was listening to his three girls and deciding that his little wife was really the handsomest and sprightliest woman that he had ever seen, that happy little Dine was as bewitching as she could well be, and that Tessa, the light of his eyes, was like no one else in all the world. Not that any stranger sitting in his arm-chair would have looked through his eyes, but he was an old man, disappointed in his life, and his three girls were all of earth and a part of heaven to him. They were all talking and he was satisfied to listen. “I believe that some girls are born without a mother’s heart,” Mrs. Wadsworth said in reply to a story of Dine’s about a young mother in Dunellen who had slapped her baby, saying that she hated it and was nothing but a slave to it! “Now, here’s Tessa. She has no motherliness. Only this morning Freddie Stone fell down near the gate and hurt his head; his screams were terrifying, but she went on working and let him scream. As I said it is all as girls are born.”

“Yes,” answered Tessa, in the deliberate way in 116 which she had schooled herself to reply to her mother, “I know that your last assertion is true. There was a lady in school, a teacher of mathematics, she acknowledged that she did not love her own little girls as other mothers seemed to do. She stated it as she would have stated any fact in geometry; perhaps she thought that she was no more responsible for one than for the other. The mere fact of motherhood does not bring mother love within; any mother that does not give to her child a true idea of the mother-heart of God fails utterly in being a mother. She may be a nurse, a paid nurse, or a nurse upon compulsion; any hired nurse can wash a child’s face, can tie its sash and make pretty things for it to wear, and any nurse, who was never mother to a child, can teach it what God means when He says, ‘as a mother comforteth.’ Miss Jewett could not be happier in her Bible class girls if they were all her own children; she says so herself. Mary Sherwood said to her one day, ‘If my mother were like you, how different I should have been!’”

“Such a case is an exception,” returned Mrs. Wadsworth excitedly.

“Nineteen out of her twenty-three girls tell her their troubles when they would not tell their own mothers,” said Dinah. “She has twenty-three secret drawers to keep their secrets in.”

“She has time to listen to fol-de-rol. She advises them all to marry for some silly notion and let a good home slip, I’ve no doubt.” 117

“I expect that twenty-one of her girls have refused John Gesner,” laughed Mr. Wadsworth. “He will have to bribe Miss Jewett to let them alone.”

“Only twenty, father,” said Dine. “Tessa and Sue and I are waiting to do it.”

“I will make this house too uncomfortable for the one of you that does refuse him.”

“Mother! mother!” remonstrated Mr. Wadsworth gently.

“He’ll never have the honor,” said Dine. “Mr. Lewis Gesner is the gentleman; I have always admired him. Haven’t you, Tessa?”

“Yes; I like to shake hands with him; he has a trustworthy face.”

“So much for the mothers of Dunellen, Tessa; how about the fathers? Would the girls like to have Miss Jewett for a father, too?”

“Oh, the fathers have the bread-winning to do. If the mothers do not understand, we can not expect the fathers to understand. There was a girl at school who had had a hard home experience; she told me that she never repeated the second word of the Lord’s prayer; that she said instead: Our Lord, who art in heaven?”

“Oh, deary me! How dreadful!” cried Dinah, moving nearer the arm-chair and dropping her head on her father’s shoulder. “Didn’t she ever learn to say it?”

“Not while we were at school.”

“Tessa, you can talk,” said her mother.

“Yes,” said Tessa, humbly, “I can talk.” 118

“She was a very wicked girl,” continued Mrs. Wadsworth. “I don’t see how she dared; I should think that she would have been afraid of dying in her sleep as a judgment sent upon her.”

“Perhaps she did not repeat the prayer as a charm,” answered Tessa, in her clearest tones.

Dinah lifted her head to laugh.

“You upheld her, no doubt,” declared Mrs. Wadsworth.

“I sympathized with her as they who never had a pain can feel for the sick,” said Tessa, smiling into her father’s eyes.

“How did you talk to her?” asked Dine.

“What is talk? I only told her to wait and she would know.”

“It’s easy to talk,” said Mrs. Wadsworth uncomfortably. “You can talk an hour about sympathy, but you didn’t run out to Freddie Stone.”

“Why didn’t you?” inquired her father seriously.

Tessa laughed, while Dine answered.

“Mother was there talking as fast as she could talk, Bridget was there with a basin of water and a sponge, Mrs. Bird had run over, a carriage with two ladies, a coachman and a footman had stopped to look on, and oh, I was there too. He was somewhat bloody.”

“You are excused, daughter. Save your energies for a time of greater need.”

“Energies! Need!” tartly exclaimed Mrs. Wadsworth. “If she begins to be literary, she will care for nothing else.” 119

“I see no evidence of a lessening interest yet,” replied her father.

“Oh, I might know that you would encourage her. She might as well have the small-pox as far as her prospects go! A needle is a woman’s weapon.”

“You forget her tongue, mother,” suggested Dine. “Oh, Tessa, what is that about a needle; Mrs. Browning says it.”

Tessa repeated:

    “‘A  woman  takes  a  housewife  from  her  breast,
    And  plucks  the  delicatest  needle  out
    As  ’twere  a  rose,  and  pricks  you  carefully
    ’Neath  nails,  ’neath  eyelids,  in  your  nostrils,—say,
    A  beast  would  roar  so  tortured—but  a  man,
    A  human  creature,  must  not,  shall  not  flinch,
    No,  not  for  shame.’”

“Some woman wrote that when she’d have done better to be sewing for her husband, I’ll warrant,” commented Mrs. Wadsworth. Mr. Wadsworth looked grave.

“Oh she had a literary husband,” replied Tessa, mischievously. “A word that rhymed with supper would do instead of bread and butter; and he cared more for one of her poems than he did for his buttons.”

“Literary men don’t grow on every bush; and they don’t take to literary women, either,” said her mother.

“Mother, you forget the Howitts, William and Mary; what good, good times they have taking 120 long walks and writing; like you and Gus, Tessa, and Mr. and Mrs. Browning—”

“You don’t find such people in Dunellen; we live in Dunellen. Gus will choose a woman that doesn’t care for books, and so will Mr. Towne, mark my words! And so will Felix Harrison, even if he is killing himself with study.”

“He is improving greatly,” said Mr. Wadsworth, pulling one of Dine’s long curls straight. “He is going away Monday to finish his studies.”

“I honor him,” said Tessa, flushing slightly.

“Don’t,” said Dine, “he sha’n’t have you, Tessa. Don’t honor him.”

“That’s all you and your father think of—keeping Tessa. She needs the wear and tear of married life to give her character.”

“It’s queer about that,” rejoined Tessa in a perplexed tone, playing with her napkin ring. “If such discipline be the best, why is any woman permitted to be without it? Why does not the fitting husband appear as soon as the girl begins to wish for him? In the East, where it is shameful for a girl not to be married at eleven, I have yet to learn that the wives are noted for strength or beauty of character.”

“You may talk,” said her mother, heatedly, “but two years hence you will dance in a brass kettle.”

“I hope that I shall work in it,” answered Tessa, coloring painfully, however. Whether her lips were touched with a slight contempt, or tremulous because she was very, very much hurt, Dinah could 121 not decide; she was silent because she could not think of any thing sharp enough to reply; she never liked to be too saucy.

Mr. Wadsworth spoke in his genial voice: “It’s a beautiful thing, daughters, to help a good man live a good life.”

Dinah thought: “I would love to do such a beautiful thing.” Tessa was saying to herself, “Oh, what should I do if my father were to die!”

Mr. Wadsworth pushed back his chair, went around to his wife and kissed her. Tessa loved him for it.

“You have helped a good man, a good old man, haven’t you, fairy?” he said, smoothing the hair that was as pretty as Dinah’s.

“Yes,” answered his wife, and Tessa shivered from head to foot. “People all said that you were a different man after you were married.”

“I’m going over to Norah’s,” cried Dinah. “I told her that I would come to write our French together. And, oh, father! I forgot to tell you, Gus will be in about eight.”

“I don’t know that I care for chess; I can not concentrate my attention as I could a year ago.”

“Why do you run off if he is coming?” asked Mrs. Wadsworth.

“He comes too often to be attended to,” Dine answered. “Won’t you be around, Tessa?”


Tessa had resolved to give the evening to writing letters, and was passing through the dining-room with 122 a china candlestick in her hand, when her father, reading Shakespeare at the round table, on which stood a shaded lamp, detained her by catching at her dress.

“Set your light down, daughter, and stay a moment.”

With her hand upon his shoulder, she looked down over the page he was reading:

    “‘Heaven  doth  with  us  as  we  with  torches  do;
          Not  light  them  for  themselves—’”

she read aloud.

“I made my will to-day,” he said quietly; “that is, I changed it. Lewis Gesner and Gus Hammerton, my tried friends, were in the office at the time. If you ever need a friend, daughter, any thing done for you that Gus can not do—I count on him as the friend of my girls for life—go to Lewis Gesner.”

“I don’t want a friend; I have you.”

“If I should tell your mother about the will she would go into hysterics, and Dine would be sure that I am going to die; I have divided my little all equally among my three. That is, all but this house and garden, which I have given to my elder daughter, Theresa Louise. It is to be hers solely, without any gainsaying. Your mother will fume when the fact is made known to her, but I give it to you that my three girls may always have a roof, humble though it be, over their heads. The old man did not know how to make money, but he left them enough to be comfortable all their lives 123 there was never any need that his wife should worry and work, or that his daughter should marry for a home. Very good record for the old man; eh, daughter?”

She laid her cheek against the bald forehead and put both arms around his neck.

“And, Tessa, child, your mother is half right about you; don’t have any notions about marriage; promise me that you will marry—for you will, some day—but for the one best reason.”

“What is that?” she asked roguishly. “How am I to know?”

“What do you think?”

“Because somebody needs me and I can do him good.”

“A Hottentot might urge that; you will find the reason in time. Don’t make an idol; that is your temperament.”

“I know it.”

“And above all things don’t sacrifice yourself; few men appreciate being done good to! I know men, they are terribly human. Gus Hammerton is a fine fellow.”

He is terribly human,” she answered with a little laugh.

“Am I harsh towards your mother ever, do you think?” he asked in a changed tone.

“Why, no,” she exclaimed in surprise.

“I used to be. I tried to mould her. Don’t you ever try to mould any body; now run away to your work or to your book! Don’t sigh over me, I am 124 ‘well and hearty.’ How short my life seems when I look back. Such dreams as I had. It’s all right, though.”

She could not run away, for the door-bell, in answer to a most decided pull, detained her; she opened it, expecting to see Mr. Hammerton, but to her surprise, and but slightly to her pleasure, Felix Harrison stood there in broad-shouldered health.

“Good evening,” she said with some bewilderment.

“Do I startle you?” he asked in the old gracious, winning manner. “May I come in?”

“I am very glad to see you. Will you walk into my parlor, Mr. Fly?”

The one tall candle in the china candlestick was the only light in the room. She set it upon the table, saying, “Excuse me, and I will bring a light, that we may the better look at each other. The light of other days is hardly sufficient.”

“It is enough for me,” he said, pushing the ottoman towards one of the low arm-chairs. “Sit down and I will take the ottoman. The parrot recognizes me.”

Her hand moved nervously on the arm of her chair; the hand was larger now than when it had spilled ink on his copy-book, larger even than when it had written her first, shy, proud, indignant refusal.

“You are not the tempest you used to be,” he said smiling after a survey of her face. 125

Wasn’t I a tempest? I have outgrown my little breezes. In time I may become as gentle as a zephyr.”

“You always were gentle enough.”

“Not to you.”

“Not to me when I tormented you.”

“Probably I should not be gentle if I were tormented now.”

She had never decided to which of the five thousand shades of green Felix Harrison’s eyes belonged; they were certainly green; one of the English poets had green eyes, she wondered if they were like Felix Harrison’s. To-night they glittered as if they were no color at all. This face beside her was a spiritualized face; a strong mouth as sweet as a woman’s, a round benevolent chin; a low, square forehead; hair as light as her own; his side face as he turned at least five years younger than the full face; she had often laughed at his queer fashion of growing old and growing young. At times, in the years when they were more together than of late, he had changed so greatly that, after not having seen him for several days she had passed him in the street without recognition; these times had been in those indignant times after she had refused him; that they were more than indignant times to him she was made painfully aware by these changes in his rugged face.

“I have been thinking over those foolish times,” she said, breaking the silence. “I am glad that you came in to-night; I am in a mood for confessing 126 my wrong-doings; I have said many quick words; you know you always had the talent for irritating me.”

“Yes, I always worried you.”

“You did not intend to,” she said hastily, watching the movement of his lips; “we did not understand, that is all. It takes longer than a summer and a winter for heart to answer to heart.”

“We have known each other many summers and many winters.”

“And now we are old, sensible, hard-working people; having given up all nonsense we are discovering the sense there is in sense.”

He turned his face with a listening look in his eyes.

“Did not some one come in? Shall we be disturbed?”

“Not unless we wish to be. It is only Mr. Hammerton, he is a great friend of father’s. He renews his youth in him.”

“Is he not your friend?”

How well she remembered his suspicious, exacting questions!

“He is my best friend,” she said proudly.

“I wish I was in heaven,” he said, his voice grown weak. “Every thing goes wrong with me; every thing has gone wrong all my life. Father is in a rage because I will not stay home; he offered me to-day the deed for two hundred acres as a bribe. I should be stronger to-day but that he worked my life out when I was a growing boy.” 127

“A country life is best for you. Your old homestead is the loveliest place around, with its deep eaves and dormer-windows and vines. That wide hall is one of my pleasant recollections, and the porch that looks into the garden, the blue hills away off, and the cool woods, the thrushes and the robins and the whip-poor-will at twilight; that solitary note sets me to crying, or it used to when I dreamed dreams and told them to Laura! I hope that Laura will love the place too well to leave it; it is my ideal of a home; much more than splendid Old Place is.”

“I will stay if you will come and live in it with me,” he said quietly.

“I like my own home better,” she answered as quietly. “Are you stronger than you were?”

“Much stronger. I have not had one of those attacks since March. Lake warns me; but I am twice the man that he is! How he coughed last winter! I haven’t any thing to live for, anyway.”

“It is very weak for you to say that.”

“Whose fault is it that I am so weak? Whose fault is it that my life is spoiled? You have spoiled every thing for me by playing fast and loose with me.”

“I never did that,” she answered indignantly. “You accuse me wrongfully.”

“Every time you speak to me or look at me you give me hope; an hour with you I live on for months. O, Tessa,” dropping his head in both hands, “I have loved you all my life.” 128

“I know it,” she said solemnly. “Can’t you be brave and bear it?”

“I am bearing it. I am bearing it and it is killing me. You never had the water ebb and flow, ebb and flow when you were dying of thirst. Women can not suffer; they are heartless, all their heart is used in causing men to suffer. A touch of your hand, the color in your cheek, a dropping of your eyes, talks to me and tells me a lie; and then you go up-stairs and kneel down to Him, who is the truth-maker! You are a covenant-breaker. You have looked at me scores of times as if you loved me; you have told me that you like to be with me; and when I come to you and ask you like a man to become my wife, you blush and falter, and answer like a woman—no. I beg your pardon—”

The tears stood in her eyes but would not fall.

“I did not come here to upbraid you. I did not start from home with the intention of coming; but I saw you through the window with your arms around your father’s neck and I thought, ‘Her heart is soft to-night; she will listen to me.’ I was drawn in, as you always draw me, against my better judgment. I shall not trouble you again; I am going away. Tessa,” suddenly snatching both hands, “if you are so sorry for me, why can’t you love me?”

“I don’t know,” not withdrawing her hands, “something hinders. I honor you. I admire you. Your love for me is a great rest to me; I want to wrap myself up in it and go to sleep; I do not 129 want to give it up—no one else loves me, and I do want somebody to love me.”

“I will love you; only let me. Marry me and I will stay at home; I will do for you all that a human heart and two human hands can do; I will be to you all that you will help me to be.”

“But I do not want to marry you,” she said perplexed. “I should have to give up too much. I love my home and the people in it better than I love you.”

“I will not take you away; you shall have them all; you shall come to them and they shall come to you; remember that I have never loved any one but you—” the great tears were rolling down his cheeks. “I am not worth it; I am not worthy to speak to you, or even to hold your hands like this.” He broke down utterly, sobbing wearily and excitedly.

“Don’t, oh, don’t,” she cried hurriedly. “I may grow to love you if you want me to so much, and you are good and true, I can believe every word you say—not soon—in two or three years perhaps.”

His tears were on her hands, and he had loved her all her life; no one else loved her, no one else ever would love her like this; he was good and true, and she wanted some one to love her; she wanted to be sure of love somewhere and then to go to sleep. Her father should see her married before he died; her mother would never—

“You have promised,” he cried, in a thick voice. 130 “You have promised and you never break your word.”

“I have promised and I never break my word; but you must not speak of it to any one, not even to Laura, and I will not tell father, or Gus, or Miss Jewett, or Dine; no one must guess it for one year—it is so sudden and strange! I couldn’t bear to hear it spoken of; and if you are very gentle and do not try to make me love you—you must not kiss me, or put your arms around me, you know I never did like that, and perhaps that is one reason why I never liked you before—you must let me alone, let love come of itself and grow of itself.”

“I will,” he uttered brokenly, and rose up trembling from head to foot. “May God bless you!—bless you!—bless you!”

It was better for him to leave her; the strain had been too great for both.

“I must be alone; I must go out under the stars and thank God.”

She lifted her face to his and kissed him. How unutterably glad and thankful she was in all her life afterward that she gave that kiss unasked.

“God bless you, my darling,” he said tenderly, “and He will bless you for this.”

Bewildered, not altogether unhappy, she sat alone while he went out under the stars.

Was this the end of all her girlhood’s dreams?

Only Felix Harrison! Must she pass all her life with him? Must her father and mother and Gus 131 and Dine be not so much to her because Felix Harrison had become more—had become most? And Ralph Towne? Ought she to love Felix as she had loved him?

The hurried questions were answerless. She did not belong to herself; not any more to her father as she had belonged to him half an hour since with both her arms around his neck. Love constituted ownership, and she belonged to Felix through this mighty right of love; did he belong to her through the same divine right?

He was thanking God and so must she thank Him.

“Tessa,” called her father, “come here, daughter!”

With the candle in her hand, she stood in the door-way of the sitting-room. “Well,” she said.

“With whom were you closeted?” asked Mr. Hammerton, looking up from the chess-board.

The effort to speak in her usual tone lent to her voice a sharpness that startled herself.

“Felix Harrison.”

“Your old tormentor!” suggested Mr. Hammerton.

“Who ever called him that?” She came to the table, set the candlestick down and looked over the chess-board.

“She has refused him again,” mentally decided Mr. Hammerton, carefully moving his queen.

“I called you, daughter, because Gus withstood me out and out about ‘Heaven doth with us as we 132 with torches do.’ Find it and let his obstinate eyes behold!”

She opened the volume, turning the leaves with fingers that trembled. “Truly enough,” she was thinking, “a year from to-day will find a difference.”

“Now I am going over for Dine,” she said, after Mr. Hammerton had acknowledged himself in the wrong.

“Permit me to accompany you,” he said. Even with Tessa Wadsworth, Gus Hammerton was often formal. They found Dinah bidding Norah good-by at Mr. Bird’s gate; they were laughing at nothing, as usual.

“Let us walk to the end of the planks,” suggested Mr. Hammerton. “On a night like this I could tramp till sunrise.” He drew Tessa’s arm through his, saying, “Now, Dine, take the other fin.”

The end of the planks touched a piece of woods; at the entrance of the wood stood an old building, windowless, doorless, chimneyless; the school children knew that it was haunted.

“We’re afraid,” laughed Dine; “the old hut looks ghostly.”

“It is ghostly, I will relate its history. Once upon a time, upon a dark night, so dark that I could not see the white horse upon which I rode—”

“Oh, that’s splendid,” cried Dinah, hanging contentedly upon his arm. “Listen, Tessa.” 133

But Tessa could not listen. She was feeling the peace that rested over the woods, the fields; that was enwrapping Old Place, and further down the dim road the low-eaved homestead that must thenceforth be home to her. There could be no more air-castles; her future was decided. She had turned the leaf and discovered a name that hitherto had meant so little: Felix Harrison. Not Ralph Towne; a year ago to-night it was English violets and Ralph Towne. The peace that brooded over all might be hers, if only she would be content.

At this moment,—while she was trying to be content, trying to believe that she could interpret the peace of the shining stars, and while she was hearing the sound of her companion’s words, a solemn, even tone that rolled on in unison with her thoughts,—two people far away were thinking of her; thinking of her, but not wishing and not daring to speak her name.

“I can not understand, Ralph. I was sure that we would bring Naughty Nan away with us.”

“Truly, mother, I would have pleased you, if I could.”

“You are too serious for her; with all her mischievous advances,—like a white kitten provokingly putting out its paw,—she was more than half afraid of you.”

“It does not hurt her to be afraid.”

“She is most bewitching.”

“Now, mother! But it is too late; she will understand by my parting words that I do not expect to see her 134 soon again. In my mind is a memory that has kept me from loving that delicious Naughty Nan.”

“Is the memory a fancy?”

“No; it is too real for my ease of mind. If I were a poet, which I am not, I should think that her spirit haunted me.”

“Can you tell me no more of her? That daughter that I might have had!”

“I do not understand her: she is beyond me, she baffles me.”

“I read of a man once who loved a woman too well to marry any one else, and yet he did not love her well enough to marry her.”

“Was he a fool?”

“Answer the question for yourself. Are you a fool?”

“Yes, I am. I do not know my own mind. I should call another man a fool.”

“It may not be too late,” she gently urged.

“Too late for what?” he asked irritably.

“To be wise.”

In a few moments he spoke in an abrupt, changed tone—

“Mother! I have decided at last. I shall hang out my shingle in Dunellen. It is a picturesque little city, and the climate is as good for you as the south of France.”

“I am very glad,” she answered cordially. “You are a born physician, you are cool, you are quick, you are gentle; you can keep your feelings under 135 perfect control. You are not quite a Stoic, but you will do very well for one.”

“But you will not be happy at Old Place without me.”

“Why should I be without you?”

“You have noticed that large, wide brick house on the opposite side of the Park from Miss Jewett’s? It has a garden and stable; it is just the house for us; you may have two rooms thrown into one for your sitting-room and any other changes that you please.”

“I remember it, I like the situation; there are English sparrows in the trees.”

“We will take that for the present. John Gesner owns it; he will make his own price if he sees that I want it, I suppose. I do want it. There are not many things that I desire more. You and I will have a green old age at Old Place.”

“You forget that I am thirty years older than you, my son.”

By accident, one day, Mrs. Towne had come across, in one of the drawers of her son’s writing-table, a large photograph of Tessa Wadsworth, a vignette, and she had gazed long upon her; the face was not beautiful, one would not even think of it as pretty, but it was fine, intellectual, sensitive, and sweet. In searching for an old letter not long before leaving home, she had discovered this picture, defaced and torn into several pieces.

“Ralph, you will not be angry with your white-headed old mother, but were you ever refused?” 136

“No,” he said, laughing. “A dozen women may have been ready to refuse me, but not one ever did.”

“Nor accepted you, either,” she continued, shrewdly.

He arose and began to pace the floor; after some turns of excited movement, he came to her and stood behind her chair. “I know that I have been accepted; I know that I asked when I did not intend to ask—that is—I was carried beyond myself; I asked when I did not know that I was asking.”

“What shall you do now?”

“I shall ask in reality; I shall confess myself in the wrong.”

“And she?”

“And she? She has the tenderest heart in the world. She has forgiven me long ago.”

“Do not trust her eyes and forget her lips,” warned his mother. “Love is slain sometimes.”

He resumed his walk with a less confident air. He had forgotten her lips.

Would Tessa have cared to hear this? Would she have forgotten Felix, his blessing and the quiet of the holy stars?

“Oh,” cried Dinah, with her little shout (she would not have been Dinah without that little shout), “Oh, Tessa, did you hear?”

“She is star-gazing,” said Mr. Hammerton.

“It isn’t a true story,” pleaded Dinah. “You didn’t really see him hanging by the rope and the woman looking on.” 137

“My young friend, it is an allegory; that is what you will drive some man to some day.”

“You know I won’t. What is the name of that bright star?”

“It isn’t a star, it’s a planet.”

“How do I know the difference?”

“Lady Blue knows.”

“Do you call her that because her eyes are so blue or because she is a blue-stocking?”

“She is not a blue-stocking; I will not allow it. It is for her eyes.”

“Gus,” said Dinah, “I can’t understand things.”

“What things?”

“Tennyson’s Dream of Fair Women.”

“I shouldn’t think you could. I have spent hours on it trying to make it out. You look up Marc Antony and Cleopatra—”

“As if I had to.”

“Well, look up the daughter of the warrior Gileadite, and fair Rosamond, and angered Eleanor, and Fulvia, and Joan of Arc.”

“And will you read it to us, and talk all about it?” cried Dinah in delight. “I like King Lear when father reads it, but I can’t understand Shakespeare; he is all conversations.”

Mr. Hammerton laughed, and patted her head. “I will bring you the stories that Charles and Mary Lamb gathered from Shakespeare.”

“Shall we turn?” asked Tessa, slipping her hand through his arm; he instantly imprisoned her fingers. Felix would be troubled and angry she knew, 138 even at this clasp of an old friend’s hand. Jealousy was his one strong passion; he was jealous of the books she read, of the letters she received, of every word spoken to her that he did not hear; she wondered as her fingers drew themselves free, if he would ever become jealous of her prayers.

She drew a long breath as the weight of her bondage fell heavier and heavier; and then, he was so demonstrative, so lavish of his caresses, and her ideal of a lover was one who held himself aloof, who kept his hands and his lips to himself. She sighed more than once as she kept even pace with the others.

“Has the nightingale made a mistake?” asked Mr. Hammerton, as they were crossing to the gate.

“She only made one mistake. I wonder how many I can make if I do my best to make them.”

Dinah opened the gate; her father’s light streamed through the windows over the garden, down the path.

“Good night,” said Mr. Hammerton. “Oh, I just remember, what shall I do? I asked my cousin Mary to go to a lecture on Burns with me to-night, and I declare! I never thought of it until this minute.”

“Mary Sherwood will give it to you,” said Dinah. “I wonder what your wife will do with you.”

“A wife’s first duty is obedience,” he answered.

“I’d like to see the man I’d promise to obey,” said Dinah, quickly.

“I expect you would,” he said gravely. 139

Dine darted after him to box his ears, words being impotent, and Tessa went into the house. “I think I’ll pigeon-hole this day and then go to bed,” she said, a merry gleam crossing her eyes; “between my two walks on the planks to-day, I have lived half a lifetime. I hope Dr. Lake is asleep; I will never hurt Felix as he is hurt.”


Her eyes were wide open an hour before the dawn; as the faint light streamed through the east and glowed brighter and brighter along the rim of the south that she could see from her position on the pillow, she arose, wrapped a shawl about her, and went to the window to watch the new morning. On the last night of the old year she had watched the sunset standing at her western window, then the light had gone out of her life and all the world was dark; now, in the new year, her private and personal new year, the light was rising, creeping up slowly into the sky, the gold, the faint rose and the bright rose running into each other, softening, blending, glowing deeper and deeper as she watched. This new morning that was an old morning to so many other eyes that were looking out upon it; this new morning that would be again for Dinah, perhaps, and for all the other girls that were growing up into God’s kingdom on the earth! The robins in Mr. Bird’s apple orchard were awake, too, and chanticleer down the road 141 had proclaimed the opening of another new day with all his lusty might. She wondered, as she listened and looked, if Felix were standing in the light of the morning on the porch, or he might be walking up and down the long garden path. And thanking God? She wished that she were thanking God. She was thanking Him for the light, the colors, the refreshing, misty air, the robins and the white and pink wealth of apple blossoms; but she was not thanking Him because Felix Harrison loved her.

“And that night they caught nothing.”

The words repeated themselves with startling clearness. What connection could they possibly have with the sunrise? Oh, now she knew; it was because the fishermen had seen the Lord upon the shore in the morning.

She had caught nothing; all her night of toil had been fruitless; she had striven and hoped and dreamed, oh, how she had dreamed of all that she would do and become! And now she could not be glad of any thing.

The years had ended in having Felix Harrison love her; that was all. She had lived her childhood and girlhood through for such a time as this.

This new year had brought more hard things to bear than any of the old years; if she could only tell some one who would care and sympathize with her and help her not only to bear but to do and to become; but her father would be justly angry and exclaim, “Madness, daughter,” her mother would 142 laugh and look perplexed, Miss Jewett would say, “O, Tessa, Tessa, I didn’t think such a thing of you,” and Mr. Towne—but she had no right to think of him! And Gus! He would look at her steadily and say nothing; he would be disappointed in her if he knew that she could promise with her lips, with no love in her heart save the love of regret, compassion, and contrition for all that she had so unconsciously caused him to suffer. And how could she reveal to Felix, poor Felix! the plain, cold truth! how she shrank from him as soon as she was alone and could think! how as the morning grew brighter and her world more real she shrank from him yet more and more! how the very thought of his presence, of his tight arms around her, and his smooth face close to hers gave her a feeling of repulsion that she had never felt towards any human being before! She felt that she must flee to the ends of the earth rather than to endure him. But it was done; she must keep her word; he should never guess; she would write a note and slip it into his hand to-day, he would be sure to press through the crowd towards her as she came out of church. She would write it now and be at rest. Her writing-desk stood open, pages of manuscript were laid upon it. She selected a sheet of lemon-colored note paper, and wrote a message, hurriedly, in pencil. Never afterward would she write a word upon lemon-colored paper.

“Do not come to me, dear Felix—” she hesitated over the adjective, erased the words, and dropped 143 the sheet into her waste paper basket and found another: “Do not come to me, Felix, until I send for you, please. I am not strong. I want to be alone. Do not think me unkind, you know that I always did like to be alone. Do not expect too much of me; I am not what you think; I am a weak, impulsive woman, too tender-hearted to be wise, or to be just towards myself or towards you. If you want me to love you, ask it of Him, who is love; do not ask it of me, I am not love. But do not be troubled, I have given my word, I am not a covenant-breaker, I will be true.”

She folded it, not addressing it, and placed it in the pocket of the dress that she would wear to church; as she passed the window she saw Dr. Lake driving towards home. Shivering, although the sun was high enough to shine on the apple blossoms, she crept back to bed, nestling close to sleepy Dine who loved her morning nap better than the sunrise. Her confused thoughts ran hither and thither; she found herself repeating something that she and Mr. Hammerton had learned together years ago,

    “‘Yes,’  I  answered  you  last  night;
        ‘No,’  this  morning,  sir,  I  say;
    Colors  seen  by  candlelight
        Do  not  look  the  same  by  day.”

Mr. Hammerton said that he and the Wadsworth girls had learned “miles” of poetry together. The Harrisons were not at church. When had such 144 a thing happened before? Her fingers were on the note in her pocket as she passed down the aisle.

“Tessa, Tessa,” whispered a loud whisper behind her, and Sue’s irrepressible lips were close to her ear; “come home to dinner with me; you won’t want to go to Bible class, for Miss Jewett is down to Harrison’s. Father sent for her to go early this morning.”

“Why is she there?”

“Oh, somebody is sick. Felix. Dr. Lake was there in the night and father was going this morning. He was taken crazy, I believe. Come home with me, will you?”

“Very well.”

She found Dine waiting for Norah, and told her that she was going home with Sue, then rejoined Sue at one of the gates.

“I’m awful lonesome Sundays,” began Sue; “Aunt Jane has gone, I told you, didn’t I? A cousin of hers died and left some dozens of young ones and she had to go and take care of them and console the widower. ‘The unconsolable widder of Deacon Bedott will never get married again!’ but she went all the same. She said that she had brought me up far enough to take care of father.”

Sue’s lightness grated all along her nerves.

“Did you like Mary Sherwood’s hat? Too many flowers, don’t you think so? And she will wear light blue with her sallow face! Wasn’t it a queer sermon, too? Don’t you think it is wicked for ministers 145 to frighten people so? He said that we make our own lives, that we choose every day, and that every choice has an influence. You think that I don’t listen because I stare around, don’t you? I sha’n’t forget that ever, because I have just had a choice that will influence my life; and I chose not to do it. It’s hateful to have Miss Jewett away; I won’t go to Bible class, and I won’t let you, either. I have a book to read, or I can go to sleep.”

“Yes, you can go to sleep.”

“I have something to tell you,” said Sue, shyly, hesitating as she glanced into Tessa’s quiet, almost stern, face.

“Not now—in the street.”

“Oh, no, when we are by ourselves. Our parlors are lovely now; you will see how I have fixed up things. Father is so delighted to have me home that he will let me do any thing I like.”

Voices behind them and voices before them, now and then a soft, Sunday laugh; through the pauses of Sue’s talk Tessa listened, catching at any thing to keep herself from thinking.

“A rare sermon.”

“It will do me good all the week.”

“The most becoming spring hat I’ve seen.”

“He is very handsome in the pulpit.”

“Come over to tea.”

“I expect to do great things this summer.”

“If I could talk like that I’d set people to thinking.” 146

“We sha’n’t get out of trouble in this world.”

“When I can’t forgive myself, I just let go of myself, and let God forgive me.”

She wished that she could see that face; the voice sounded familiar, the reply was in a man’s voice; she felt as if she were listening, but she would have liked to hear the reply, all the more when she discovered that the talkers were Mr. Lewis Gesner and his sister.

Isn’t she handsomely dressed?” exclaimed Sue in admiration. “She passed me without seeing me. He is so wrapped up in that sister that he will never be married.”

The crowd became thinner; couples and threes and fours, sometimes only one, entered at each gate as they moved on; they passed down the long street almost alone; Dr. Greyson’s new house stood nearly a mile from the Park; there was a grass plot in front and stables in the rear.

Dr. Lake was driving around to the stables.

“I hoped that he wouldn’t be home to lunch; he’s awful cross,” said Sue, with a pout and a flush. Fifteen minutes later the lunch bell rang; Dr. Greyson hurried in as they were seating themselves at the table.

Tessa’s quickened heart-beats would not allow her to ask about Felix; she knew that her voice would betray her agitation; Dr. Lake had shaken hands and had not stopped to speak to her; his miserable face was but a repetition of yesterday.

Dr. Greyson seldom talked of anything but his 147 patients and he was interested in Felix Harrison, she knew that she had but to wait patiently.

“Susie is a perfect housekeeper, isn’t she? Somebody will find it out, I’m afraid.”

“That’s all I am,” said Sue. “Father, why didn’t you educate me?”

“Educate a kitten!”

“How is Felix Harrison?” inquired Dr. Lake.

“Bad! Bad enough. That fellow has been walking around with a brain fever. He’ll pull through with care. Miss Jewett will stay until they can get a nurse; I would rather keep her, though. I warned him months ago. I told him that it would come to this. He has thrown away his life; he’ll never be good for any thing again. I am glad that he has a father to take care of him; lucky for him, and not so lucky for his father. I wouldn’t care to see my son such a wreck as he’ll be. Why a man born with brains will deliberately make a fool of himself, I can’t understand. Teaching and studying law and what not? He will have fits as long as he lives coming upon him any day any hour; he will be as much care as an infant. More, for an infant does grow up, and he will only become weaker and weaker mentally and physically. He has been under some great excitement, I suspect. They don’t know what it is. He came home late last night; his father heard a noise in his room and went in to find him as crazy as a loon. He said that he had heard him talking in his sleep all night long for two or three nights. I hope that 148 he isn’t engaged. I know a case like his, and that poor fellow was engaged.”

“Of course that ended it,” said Sue. “A sick husband of all things. I would drown myself, if I had a sick husband.”

“Of course it ended it. It almost broke her heart, though; broke it for a year, and then a dashing cousin of his mended it.”

“Perhaps Felix hasn’t any cousin. Dr. Lake, will you have more coffee?” Sue spoke carelessly, not meeting his glance.

“Thank you, no.”

Dr. Greyson ran on talking and eating: “I told the old man the whole truth; he begged so hard to know the worst. He cried like a baby. He was proud of Felix. Felix was a fine fellow,—a noble fellow. But he’s dead now; dead, and buried.”

“Does Laura know?” inquired Sue, helping herself to sweet pickled peaches. Tessa was tasting the peaches, her throat so full of sobs that she swallowed the fruit with pain.

“No, of course not. I told Miss Jewett to tell her any thing, but be sure to keep her up. He won’t die. Why should he? It will come gradually to her. The very saddest case I know. And to think that it might have been avoided. I didn’t tell his father that, though. Felix has no one but himself to thank. I warned him a year ago. Brains without common sense is a very poor commodity. What did the minister tell you Miss Tessa? I haven’t been to church since Sue was a baby.” 149

“No wonder that I’m a heathen, then; any body would be with such a father,” retorted Sue.

Dr. Lake excused himself abruptly, and crossing the hall went into the office.

“That foolish boy has taught me a lesson. I would take a vacation this summer, only if I leave Sue at home she would run off and marry Lake before a week.”

“You needn’t be afraid,” answered Sue, scornfully. “I look higher than Gerald Lake.”

The office door stood ajar. Sue colored with vexation as the words in her high voice left her lips.

“Shall we go into the parlor?” she said rising. “You can find a book and I’ll go to sleep.”

The parlors had been refurnished in crimson and brown. Standing in the centre of the front parlor, Tessa exclaimed, “Oh, how pretty!”

“Isn’t it? All my taste. Dr. Lake did advise me, though; he went with me. Now, you shall sit in the front or back just as you please, in the most comfortable of chairs, and I will sit opposite you and snooze,—that is,” rather doubtfully, for she was afraid of Tessa, “unless you will let me tell you my secret.”

In passing through the rooms, Tessa had taken a volume of Josephus from a table; she settled herself at one of the back windows in a pretty crimson and brown chair, smoothed the folds of her black dress, folded her hands in her lap over the green volume, and looked up at Sue. Sue and a book in 150 brown paper were in another crimson and brown chair at another window; flushed and vexed she played with the edges of her book.

“Do you think that he heard what I said?” she asked anxiously.

“You know as well as I.”

She did not feel in a gentle mood towards Sue; her voice and words had rasped her nerves for the last hour.

“I didn’t intend it for him,” she was half crying, “but father provoked me. He does bother me so. I didn’t flirt with him, I was real good and sisterly. I told him to call me Sister Sue. But after it all, he asked me to marry him, and was as mad as a hornet, and said dreadful things to me when I refused him.”

She nibbled the edge of her book; Tessa had nothing to say.

“I couldn’t help it now, could I?” in a tearful voice.

“You know best.”

“I know I couldn’t. I like him. I can’t help liking him; a cat or a dog would like him. In some things, I like him better than Stacey, and I’m sure I like him better than old John Gesner.”

Tessa opened her book and looked into the handsome face of Flavius Josephus.

“Haven’t you any thing to say to me?”


“You might sympathize with me.”

“I don’t know how.” 151

Sue nibbled the edge of her book, with her eyes filled with tears. She had no friend except Tessa, and now she had deserted her!

Tessa turned the leaves and thought that she was reading; she did read the words: “The family from which I am derived is not an ignoble one, but hath descended all along from the priests; and as nobility among several people is of a different origin, so with us to be of the sacerdotal dignity is an indication of the splendor of a family.”

“Yes,” she tried to think, her eyes wandering out of the window towards the rear of Gesner’s Row, “and that is why the promise, to be made kings and priests—”

“Tessa, I think you are real mean,” said Sue, in a pathetic voice.

Tessa met her eyes and smiled. She did not like to be hard towards Sue.

“Do you think that I’ve been so wicked?”

“I think that you have been so wicked that you must either be forgiven or punished.”

“Oh, dear! Oh, dear me,” dropping her head on the arm of her chair.

Tessa turned another leaf. “Moreover when I was a child and about fourteen years of age, I was commended by all for the love I had to learning; on which account the high priests and principal men of the city came then frequently to me together, in order to know my opinion about the accurate understanding of points of the law.”

Her eyes wandered away from the book and out 152 the open window towards the rows of open windows in the houses behind the stables. At one window was seated an old man reading; in the same room, for he raised his head to speak to her, at another window, a woman was sitting reading also. She was glad that there were two. She wondered if they had been kind to each other as long as they had known each other. If the old man should die to-night would the old woman have need to say, “Forgive me.” Through the windows above came the heavy, steady whirr of a sewing-machine, with now and then a click, as if the long seam had come to its end; the bushy, black head of a German Jew was bent over it; the face that he raised was not at all like that of the refined Flavius Josephus. No one ever went to him with knotty points in the law! There were plants in the other window of the room; she was glad of the plants. It was rather mournful to be seeking things to be glad about. A child was crying, sharply, rebelliously; a woman’s sharper voice was breaking in upon it.

There was a voice in the stable speaking to a horse, “Quiet, old boy.” A horse was brought out and harnessed to a buggy without a top. Dr. Greyson climbed into the buggy and drove off. Another horse was brought out and harnessed to a buggy with a top. She persuaded herself that she was very much interested in watching people and things; she had not had time to think of Felix yet. Dr. Lake came out, sprang into the buggy, 153 and drove slowly out, not looking towards the windows where sat the two figures, each apparently absorbed in a book.

“Tessa,” in a broken voice, like the appeal of a naughty child with the naughtiness all gone, “what shall I do?”

“I don’t know,” said Tessa.

“You don’t think that I ought to marry him. He smells of medicine so.”

“I do not think any thing. If I did think any thing, it would be my thinking and not yours.”

“Do you believe that he cares so very much?”

The exultant undertone was too much for Tessa’s patience.

“I hope that he has too much good sense to care long; some day when he can see how heartless you are, he will despise himself for having fancied that he loved you.”

“You don’t care how you hurt my feelings.”

“I am not sure that you have any to be hurt.”

“You are a mean thing; I don’t like you; I wish that I hadn’t asked you to come.”

Tessa’s eyes were on Josephus again.

After a long, silent hour, during which Sue looked out the window, and nibbled the edge of her book, and during which Tessa thought of every body and every thing except Felix Harrison, Sue spoke: “I’m going up-stairs for a while; excuse me, please.”

Tessa nodded, closed her book and leaned back in the pretty crimson and brown chair. Sue came 154 to her and stood a moment; her heart was sore. If Tessa would only say something kind! But Tessa would not; she only said coolly, “Well?”

“You don’t believe that I am sorry.”

“I don’t believe any thing about it, but that you are heartless and wicked.”

Sue stood waiting for another word, but Tessa looked tired, and as if she had forgotten her presence. Why should she look so, Sue asked herself resentfully; she had nothing to trouble her? Sue went away, her arms dropped at her side, her long green dress trailing on the carpet; tenderness gathered in Tessa’s eyes as the green figure disappeared. “I don’t like to be hard to her,” she murmured.

The terrible thought of Felix pressed heavier and heavier. She took the note from her pocket and pondered each word; the cruel, truthful words! If he had read them she might have had to believe all her life that she had hastened this illness! The sunshine grew warmer, beating down upon the paving stones in the yard, the faces kept their places in the windows, the child’s shrill, rebellious cry burst out again and the woman’s sharper voice.

Sue’s steps were moving overhead; suddenly, so suddenly as to break in upon the current of her thoughts, Sue’s voice rang out in her clear soprano, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me.”

The voice grated, the words coming from the thoughtless lips grated on her ear and on her heart, 155 grated more harshly than the woman’s sharp voice in taunting rebuke.

    “Nothing  in  my  hand  I  bring,
    Simply  to  Thy  cross  I  cling.”

As soon as she had decided that she could not bear it another instant, the singing ceased. It ceased and left her in tears.


Again Tessa was spending the night with Miss Jewett; Sue Greyson had chatted away half the evening, and it was nearly eleven before Tessa could put both arms around her friend and squeeze her.

“I am hungry for a talk with you, you dear little woman, every thing is getting to be criss-cross with me nowadays; I’m so troubled and so wicked that I almost want to die. You wouldn’t love me any more if you could know how false I am. All my life I have been so proud of being true,” she added bitterly, “I despise myself.”

“Is that all?”

Miss Jewett was leaning back in her little rocker. Almost before she knew it herself, Tessa had dropped upon the carpet at her feet.

“I have come to learn of you, my saint.”

“What have you come to learn, my sinner?”

“I’m confused—I’m bewildered—I’m all in a tangle. People say, ‘pray about it’; you say that yourself; and I do pray about all the trials in my life and 157 yet—I can not understand—I am groping my way, I am blind, walking in the dark. Do you know that I believe that praying for a thing is the hardest way in the world to get it? I would rather earn it a thousand times over; I know that you think me dreadfully wicked, but do not stop me, let me pour it all out; hard praying, never ceasing, night and day, is enough to wear one out soul and body, because you must expect to get what you ask for, and if you do not after praying so long the disappointment is heart-breaking. There now! I have said it and I feel better. I have no one except you to talk to and I wouldn’t dare tell you how wicked I am. About something I have prayed with all my strength—I will not be ashamed to tell you—I know you will understand; it is about loving somebody. I have been so ashamed and shocked at girls’ love-stories and I wanted one so true and pure and unselfish and beautiful, and I have prayed that mine might be that, and I have tried so hard to make it that, and yet I get into trouble and break my own heart, which is nothing at all, and more than break some one else’s heart and do as much harm as Sue Greyson does, who is as flighty as a witch! I would rather go without things than pray years and years and be disappointed every day, or go farther and farther into wrong-doing as I do; I don’t believe that the flightiest and flirtiest of your girls does as much harm as I do, or is as false to herself as I am! And I have been so proud of being true!” 158

“My dear child.”

“Is that all you can say to comfort me?”

“Why do you pray?”

“Why do I pray?” repeated Tessa in surprise. “To get what I want, I suppose.”

“I thought so.”

“Isn’t that what you pray for?”

“Hardly. I pray that I may get what God wants.”

“Oh,” said Tessa with a half startled, little cry.

“I fear that you are having a hard time over something, child.”

“If you only knew—but you wouldn’t believe in me any longer; neither would father, or Dine, or Gus, or any one who trusts me; I will not tell you; I have lost all faith in myself.”

“Thank God for that!” exclaimed the little woman brightly.

“I am too sore and bruised to be thankful; I feel, sometimes, as if I could creep into a dark corner and cry my heart out. I could bear it if I were the only one, but to think that I must make somebody’s heart ache as mine does! I thought all my prayers would prevail to keep me from making mistakes.”

“Perhaps you have been trying to earn your heart’s desire by heaping up prayers, piling them up higher and higher, morning, noon, and night, and you have held them up to God thinking that He must be glad to take them; I shouldn’t wonder if you had even supposed that you were paying 159 Him overmuch—you had prayed enough to get what you want some time ago.”

“That is true,” answered Tessa, emphatically. “I have felt as if He were wronging me by taking my prayers and giving me so little in return. I believe that I have thought my prayers precious enough to pay for any thing. I paid my prayers, and I am disappointed that I have not my purchases.”

“Then your faith has been all in your prayers.”

“Yes; I was sure that I could not go wrong because I prayed so much.”

“And your faith has been in your faith.”

“And neither my faith nor my prayers have kept me from being false. Oh, it has been such hard work!”

Tessa’s face was drawn as if by physical pain.

“I was thinking in the night last night that I did not believe that Hannah, or Elizabeth, or Huldah, or Persis, or Dorcas ever prayed more fervently or unceasingly than I have; I have builded on my faith, no wonder that the first rough wind has shaken my foundation! Ever since Felix Harrison years ago called me a flirt, I have prayed that I might be true; and to-night I am as false as Sue Greyson.”

“Through an experience once, long ago, I learned to pray that the will of God might be done in me, even although I must be sifted as wheat.”

“I am not brave enough for that. Oh, Miss Jewett, I am afraid that God is angry with me; and I have meant to be so true.” 160

“Do you remember the time that the disciples forgot to take bread?”

“Yes, but that is not like me.”

“I think it is—just like you.”

“Then tell me.”

“It was one time when Jesus and the disciples were alone on board the ship; He had been deeply grieved with the Pharisees, sighing in His spirit over them, for they had tempted Him with asking of Him a sign from heaven. A sign from heaven! And He had just filled four thousand hungry people with seven loaves and a few small fishes!

“By and by He began to talk to the disciples; speaking with authority, perhaps, it even sounded severe to them as He charged them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.

“Then they began to talk among themselves: what had they done to be thus bidden to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees? Leaven reminded them of bread! Oh, now they knew! They had but one loaf in the ship; they had forgotten to bring bread with them; perhaps the Lord was hungry and knew that they had not enough for Him and for themselves. It may be that He overheard them reasoning among themselves, or perhaps, forward Peter asked Him if He were rebuking them for forgetting the bread; for as soon as He knew what was troubling their simple hearts, how He talked to them! Seven questions, one after another, He asked them, ending with: How is it that ye do not understand? 161

“And you are like them, child. The Lord has suffered you to be led into trouble that He may teach you something about Himself and you fall down at His feet bemoaning yourself; you forget Him and the great lessons He has to teach you and think only of yourself and some little thing that you missed doing; you missed it, blinded with tears in your eagerness to do right, you meant to be so good and true, and because you made a mistake in your blindness and eagerness, you think Him such a harsh, unloving Father that all He cares to do is to punish you! Trust Him, Tessa! Don’t moan over a loaf of bread forgotten before Him who has love enough, and power enough to give you and somebody beside a thousand thousand loaves. Do not grieve Him by crying out any longer, ‘Do not punish me; I meant to be so good?’”

Tessa’s head kept its position. When she raised it, after a long silence, she said: “I will not think so any more; you don’t know what I suffered in thinking that He is punishing me.”

“‘How is it that ye do not understand?’”

“Because I think about my own troubles and not of what He is teaching me,” said Tessa humbly.


In June, Tessa gathered roses for Miss Jewett, and every evening filled the tall glass vase with white roses for the tea-table; in June, Dunellen Institute closed for the season and Dinah was graduated; henceforth she would be a young lady of leisure, or a young lady seeking a vocation. In June, Mrs. Wadsworth scolded Tessa for “taking it so coolly about the dreadful thing that had come upon young Harrison.”

“How many times have you called to see Laura since her poor brother has been so poorly?”

“I have called every two days,” answered Tessa in her quietest tones.

“Oh, you have! Why didn’t you say so? You are so still that people think you do nothing but pick roses. Anxious as I am, you might have told me how he was getting on. How was he yesterday?”


“Did you see him?”

“Yes.” 163

“Was he sitting up?”

“Yes, he had been sitting up half an hour.”

“How does he look?”

“His eyes are deep in his head, his voice is as weak as a child’s, he burst into tears because Laura did not come when he touched his bell for her.”

“Was he cheerful?”

“He smiled and talked.”

“Are you going to-day?”

“Yes; Dr. Lake will call for me about five.”

“You and Dr. Lake are getting to be great friends.”

“Are we?”

“Do you know what he says about Felix?”

“He can say nothing but that he may never be himself again.”

“Yes, he did; but you mustn’t repeat it; promise me.”

“There is no need for me to promise.”

“He said that his mind will grow weaker and weaker. Do you know that he has been having fits for two years?”

“Yes, I am aware of it.”

“Isn’t it a dreadful, horrible thing? But he always was a little wild and queer, not quite like other folks. I was sure that he would die; he may yet, he may have a relapse. I should think that they would rather have him dead than grow silly. I suppose that Laura will never be married now; he will never be fit to be left alone. His father can 164 marry though, and that would leave her free. I never object to second marriages, do you?”

“That depends upon several things.”

“My father was married three times. I had two stepmothers, and might have had four if he had lived longer. Some people think, but I never did, that an engagement is as good as a marriage, do you?”


“Of course, I knew that you would think so. But I never had any high-flown ideas about engagements. I was engaged to John Gesner—your father doesn’t know it to this day—he has high and mighty ideas about things like you. You ought to have some feeling about Felix Harrison, then, for he always wanted you. Professional men are always poor; Dr. Lake is not much of a ‘catch.’”

“I think he is—or will be—to the woman who can appreciate him.”

“I beseech you don’t you go to appreciate him.”

“I do now—sufficiently,” she answered, smiling.

Two weeks later, having seen Felix several times during the interval, Dine brought her a letter late in the afternoon.

Felix always had written her name in full, saying that it was prettier than the one that she had given herself in baby-days; the penmanship appeared like a child’s imitation of his bold strokes.

Not daring and not caring to open it immediately, she put on her hat and went out to walk far past the end of the planks down into the green 165 country. She thought that she knew every tree and every field all the long way to the Harrison Homestead.

Opening the letter at last, she read:

My Friend,—I suppose you know all the truth. I wrung it out of Dr. Greyson to-day after you left me. You may have known it all the time. Father has known it, but not Laura. I shall never be what I once was; I know it better than any physician can tell me. If I live to forget every thing else (and I may), I think that I shall never forget that night. But I shall not let my mind go without a struggle; I shall read, I shall write, I shall travel, when I am able. I have been reading Macaulay to-day. I shall be a burden to father and Laura, and to any who may nurse me for wages. But I shall not be a burden to you. I know that you meant that you would never break our covenant, when you said: ‘Promises are made to be kept,’ but I will break it. I am breaking it now. You did belong to me when you last said good-by and laid your young, strong hand over my poor fingers; but you do not belong to me as you read this. As I can not know the exact moment when you read it, I can never know when you cease to belong to me. Laura and father intend to take me away; do not come to me until I return. No one knows. In all my ravings, I never spoke your name; it was on my mind that I had promised not to speak of it, and I never once forgot. But your 166 presence was in every wild and horrible dream; you were being scalped and drowned and burned alive, and often and often you sat beside me holding my hand; many many times you came to me and said, ‘I will keep my word,’ but something took you away; you never went of your own accord. I have asked them all what I raved about and every name that I spoke, but no one has answered ‘Tessa.’ Write to me this once, and never again, and tell me that you agree, that you are willing to break the bond that held us together such a little while. I am a man, and a selfish one at that, therefore I rejoice that you were mine. You can have but one answer to give. I will not accept any devotion from you that may hinder your becoming the happy wife of a good man. Do not be too sorry for me. Laura will expect you to write to her, but I pray you, do not write; I should look for your letters and they would take away the little fortitude I have. Be a good girl; love somebody by and by. You have burned a great many letters that I have written. This is the last.”

    “F.  W.  H.”

Again and again she read it, pausing over each simple, full utterance. He could never say to her again, “You have spoiled my life.” She had done her best to atone for the sorrow that she had so unwittingly caused him, and it had not been accepted by Him who had planned all her life. There was nothing more for her to do. The letter was like 167 him. She remembered his kindly, gracious ways; his eagerness to be kind to her, how he would sit or stand near her to watch her as she talked or worked; how timidly he would touch her dress or her hand; how his face would change if she chanced to look up at him; how his pale green eyes would glitter when she preferred the society of Gus Hammerton or any other of the Dunellen boys, ever so long ago, as they were boys and girls together; almost as long ago as when she was a little girl and he a big boy and he would bring her fruit and flowers! On their Saturday excursions after nuts or berries or wild flowers, how he would fall behind the others when she did and catch her hand if they heard a noise in the woods or lost themselves for half a minute among a new clump of trees.

In the long, happy weeks that she had passed at the Homestead, in the days when his mother was alive, how thoughtful he had been of her comfort, how he had tried to please her in work or play! One evening after they had all been sitting together on the porch and telling stories, she had heard his mother say to his father: “Tessa has great influence over Felix, I hope that she will marry him.”

“I won’t,” her rebellious little heart had replied. And at bedtime she had told Laura that she meant to marry a beautiful young man with dark eyes who must know every thing and wear a cloak. “And Felix has light eyes,” she had added. 168

She laughed and then sighed over the foolish, innocent days when girlhood and womanhood had meant only wonderful good times like the good times in fairy tales and Bible stories.

Then for the last time she read his letter and tore it into morsels, scattering them hither and thither as she walked.

She had done all she could do; he could not keep hold of her hand any longer.

The last bit of paper fluttered on the air; she gave a long look towards the dear old Homestead; she could see the spires of the two churches at Mayfield, the brass rooster on the school-house where Felix had taught, and then she turned homeward to write the letter that would release him from the covenant whose keeping had been made impossible to them. As she turned, the noise of wheels was before her, the dust of travel in her face; she lifted her eyes in time to return a bow from Ralph Towne and to feel the smile that lighted the face of the white-haired lady at his side.

In the dusk she came down-stairs, dressed for a walk, with several letters in her hand.

“Whither does fancy lead you, daughter?” her father asked as she was passing through the sitting-room. He was lying upon the lounge with a heavy shawl thrown over him; his voice came quick and sharp as though he were in pain.

She moved towards him instantly. “Why, father, are you sick?”

“No, dear, not—now,” catching his breath. “I 169 have been in pain and it has worn upon me. Greyson gave me something to carry with me some time ago, I have taken it three times to-day and now I shall go to sleep?”

“Are you sure you feel better?” she asked caressing the hand that he held out to her. “Let me stay and do something for you.”

“No. I must go to sleep. Run along. I have sent your mother away, and now I send you away.”

She lingered a moment, stooping to kiss the bald forehead and then the plump hand.

Her father was very happy to-night, for her mother, of her own accord, for the first time in fifteen years, had kissed him.

He held Tessa’s hand thinking that he would tell her, then he decided that the thought of those fifteen years would hurt her too sorely.

“I thought that you meant to tell me something,” she said.

“No; run along.”

Along the planks, along the pavement, across the Park, she walked slowly, in the summer starlight, with the letters in her hand.

    “Star  light!  Star  bright!
    I  wish  I  may,  I  wish  I  might,
    See  somebody  I  want  to  see  to-night.”

A child’s voice was chanting the words in a dreamy recitative.

“Dear child,” sighed Tessa, with her five and twenty years tugging at her heart. 170

She longed for a sight of Miss Jewett’s untroubled face to-night; if she might only tell her about the right thing that she had tried to do and how the power to do it had been taken from her!

But no one could comfort her concerning it; not her father, not Miss Jewett, not Ralph Towne, not Gus Hammerton, not Felix!

One glance up into the sky over the trees in the Park helped her more than any human comforting. It was a new experience to have outgrown human comforting; she thought that she had outgrown it that day—the last day of the year; still she must see Miss Jewett; it would be a rest to hear some one talk who did not know about Felix or that other time that the sunshiny eyes had brought to life again. Would they meet as heretofore? Must they meet socially upon the street or at church?

If it might have been that he might remain away for years and years—until she had wholly forgotten or did not care!

Miss Jewett was almost alone; there was no one with her but Sue Greyson tossing over neckties to find a white one with fringe.

Through the silks there shone on the first finger of Sue’s left hand the sparkle of a diamond; she colored and smiled, then laughed and held her finger up for Tessa’s inspection.

“Guess who gave it to me,” she said defiantly.

It could not be Dr. Lake—Tessa would not speak his name; it must be her father—but no, Sue would not blush as she was blushing now; it could not 171 be Mr. Gesner! Tessa’s heart quickened, she was angry with herself for thinking of Mr. Gesner. Mr. Towne! But that was not possible.

“Can’t you guess?” Sue was enjoying her confusion.

“No. I can’t guess.”

“Say the Man in the Moon. I as much expected it. It’s from Stacey! I knew you would be confounded. Wasn’t I sly about it? We are to be married the first day of October. We settled on that because it is Stacey’s birthday! It is Dr. Lake’s too. Isn’t it comical. Stacey is twenty-three and the doctor is twenty-nine! Stacey is a year younger than I. I wish that he wasn’t. I think that I shall change my age in the Bible. When I told Dr. Lake, he said that I seemed inclined to change some other things in the Bible. Don’t you tell, either of you. It’s a profound secret. Wasn’t father hopping, though? But I told him that I would elope if he didn’t consent like a good papa; and now since Stacey’s salary is raised he hasn’t a bit of an excuse for being ugly about it. I am going to have all the new furniture, too; I bargained for that. Won’t it be queer for me to live so far away? Stacey is in a lace house in Philadelphia, don’t you remember? You ought to see the white lace sacque that he brought me for an engagement present; it’s too lovely for any thing. Why, Tessa, you look stunned, are you speechless? Don’t you relish the idea of my being married before you? You ought to have seen Dr. Lake when 172 I showed my ring to him! He turned as white as a sheet and trembled so that he had to sit down; all he said was, ‘May God forgive you.’ Don’t you think that it was wicked in him to say that? I told him that it sounded like swearing. Yes, I’ll take this one, please. And, oh, Tessa, I want you to help me to buy things. I am to have a dozen of every thing. I shall be married in white silk; I told father that he would never have another daughter married so that he might as well open his long purse. We shall go to the White Mountains on our wedding tour. It’s late in the season, of course, but I always wanted to go to the White Mountains and I will if we are both frozen to death. I know that you are angry with me, but I can’t help it. You are just the one to believe in love. I have always liked Stacey; he has just beautiful hands, and his manners are really touching. You ought to see him lift his hat; Mr. Towne is nowhere.”

“What will your father do?” asked Miss Jewett.

“Oh, Aunt Jane must come back, she hasn’t captivated the widower yet; or he might get married himself. I think that I’ll suggest it. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a double wedding? I’ll let father be married first; Stacey and I will stand up with them.”

Sue went off into a long, loud peal of laughter; Miss Jewett smiled; Tessa spoke gravely: “Sue, your mother would not like to hear that.”

“Oh, bother! She doesn’t think of me. I want some silks, too, please. I shall have to make Stacey 173 a pair of slippers and a lot of other pretty things. And oh, Tessa, I haven’t told you the news! The queerest thing! Dr. Towne—we must call him that now—has bought that handsome brick house opposite the Park and is going into practice. Dr. Lake says that of course people will run after him while they would let him starve!”

“Then he’ll smell of medicine, too,” Tessa could not forbear suggesting.

“Yes, and have bottles in all his pockets. I’m going to see your mother; she cares more about dress than you and Dine put together. If your father should die, she would be married before either of you. I won’t come if you look so cross at me.”

At that moment Mr. Hammerton pushed open the door; he had come for gloves and handkerchiefs. Tessa selected them for him and would then have waited for her word with Miss Jewett, had not one of the clerks returned from supper.

“Come, Lady Blue, I am going your way.”

“Father is not well to-night; he will not play chess.”

“I am going all the same, however; you shall play with me, and Dine shall read the ‘Nut Brown Maid.’”

As they were crossing the Park, they met Dr. Lake; he was walking hurriedly; she could not see his face.

“What do you think Lake said to me last night? We were talking—rather, he was—about trouble. 174 He has seen a good deal of it one time and another I imagine; his nerves are so raw that every thing hurts. For want of something to suit him in my own experience, I quoted a thought of Charles Kingsley’s. He turned upon me as if I had struck him—‘A man in a book said that.’ A man in a book did say it, so I had nothing to say. Something is troubling you, what is it?”

“More than one something is troubling me. I just heard a bit of news.”

“Not good news?”

“I can not see any good.”

He repeated in a hurried tone:

    “‘Good  tidings  every  day;
        God’s  messengers  ride  fast.
    We  do  not  hear  one  half  they  say,
    There  is  such  noise  on  the  highway
        Where  we  must  wait  while  they  ride  past.’”

“Perhaps I do not hear one half they say this time; the half I do hear is troublesome enough. Some day, when I may begin ‘five and fifty years ago,’ I will tell you a story.”

“Will it take so long for me to become worthy to hear it?”

“I wish I might tell you; you always help me,” she said impulsively.

“Is there a hindrance?”

“It is too near to be spoken of.”

She was not in the mood for chess, but her father brightened at Mr. Hammerton’s entrance, 175 arose, threw off the shawl, and came to the table, saying that he would watch her moves. He seated himself close to her, with an arm across the back of her chair, once or twice bringing his head down to the chestnut braids.

“How alike you are!” exclaimed Mr. Hammerton.

“Yes, I am very pretty,” replied Mr. Wadsworth, seriously.

Mrs. Wadsworth had taken her work over to Mrs. Bird for a consultation thereupon; Dine fell asleep, resting her curly head on the book that Mr. Hammerton had brought her.

When Mr. Hammerton arose, Mr. Wadsworth went to the door with him to look out into the night; Tessa said good night and went up-stairs; the sleepy head upon the book did not stir.

“I never can find a constellation,” remarked Mr. Wadsworth. “Tessa is always laughing at me.”

“Step out and see if I can help you.”

They moved to the end of the piazza leaving the door wide open; the sleepy brown eyes opened with a start—was she listening to words that she should not hear?

Mr. Hammerton had surely said “Dinah.” And now her father was saying—was she dreaming still?—“Take her, and God bless you both. I have nothing better to hope for my darling. She will make you a good wife.”

“Let it remain a secret I want her to love me without any urging. She must love me because I 176 am necessary to her and not merely because I love her.”

Could Tessa have heard his voice, she would never again have accused him of coldness.

“I shall have to wait—I expect an increase of salary. I am not sure that she thinks of me otherwise than as a grown-up brother—but I will bide my time. I know this—at least I think I do—that she does not care for any one else.”

“I am sure of that,” said her father’s voice. “You do not know how you have taken a burden from me, my son! I have hoped for this.” Startled little Dinah arose and fled.

She would never tell, no, not even Tessa; but how could she behave towards him as if she did not know?

“Tessa, did you ever have a secret to keep?”

“Yes. Laura told me once that she had a gold dollar and I’ve never told until this minute.”

“But this is a wonderful, beautiful, happy secret; the wonderfulest and beautifulest thing in the world. And I shall never, never tell. You will never know until you discover it yourself.”

“I want to know something to be glad of.”

“You will be glad of this. As glad as glad can be. It is rather funny that neither of us ever guessed; and you are quick to see things, too.”

“Perhaps I do know, pretty sister.”

“No, you don’t. I should have seen in your manner. Perhaps I dreamed it; or perhaps an angel came 177 and told me. It is good enough for an angel to tell.”

    “‘Good  tidings  every  day,
        God’s  messengers  ride  fast.’”

repeated Tessa.

“Tessa,” with her face turned away, “do you like Gus very much?”

“Do I like you very much? I should just as soon think of your asking me that.”

“Better than Felix or Mr. Towne or Dr. Lake, or any of the ten thousand young men in Dunellen?”

“Why, Dine, what ails you? Are you asking my advice? He hasn’t been making love to my little sister, has he?”

“No,” said Dinah, “I wonder if he knows how. Daisy Grey’s father is dead. There will have to be a new Greek professor at the Seminary. She liked her father.”


The afternoon sun was shining down hot on the head of the soldier on his tall pedestal in the Park; he stood leaning on his gun, his eyes intently peering from under the broad visor of his cap; at his feet a group of children were playing soldiers marching to the war; at the pump, several yards distant, a small boy was pumping for the others to drink, a tall boy was lifting the rusty dipper to his lips while a ragged little girl was wistfully awaiting her turn; nurses in white caps were rolling infants’ chaises along the smooth, wide paths; ladies in shopping attire were sauntering with brown parcels in their hands; half-grown boys were lolling on the green benches with cigars and lazy words in their mouths; girls in twos and threes were strolling along with linked arms mingling gay talk with gay laughter; in the arbor seven little girls and three little boys were playing school: a little boy who stammered was trying to spell Con-stan-ti-no-ple, a rosy child in white was noisily repeating “Thirty days hath September,” a black-eyed boy 179 was shouting “The boy stood on the burning deck,” and a naughty child was being vigorously scolded by the teacher, who held a threatening willow switch above her head. “You are the dreadfulest child that ever breathed,” she was declaring. “You are the essence of stupidity, you are the dumbest of the dumb.”

A serious voice arrested the willow switch: “I didn’t like to be scolded when I was a little girl, it used to make me cry.”

The willow switch dropped; the various recitations came to a sudden pause. “But she is such a dreadful bad girl,” urged the teacher.

Tessa Wadsworth lingered with her reticule, three parcels, a parasol, and Sartor Resartus in her hands.

You come and be teacher and tell us a story,” coaxed the naughty child.

But Tessa laughed and moved on, to be stopped, however, by a quick call. “Tessa Wadsworth! I declare that you are a pedestrian.”

The voice belonged to a pair of blue eyes, and a slight figure in drab.

“Well, now that you have caught me what will you have?”

“I’ll be satisfied with a walk across the Park. Didn’t you know that I was home? Gus said that he would tell you.”

“Have you had a pleasant time?”

“Oh, I always manage to enjoy myself. How is it that you always stay poking at home?” 180

“I seem to have found my niche at home. Every one needs me.”

“Dunellen is a poky little place, but Nan thinks it is splendid.”

“I expect to spend the winter away from home and I don’t want to go. I don’t see why I must. Mother has been promising for years that the first winter that Dine was out of school I should go for three months, more or less, to an old aunt of hers for whom I was named; she has lost all her seven boys and lives on a farm down in the country with the dearest old husband that ever breathed. If I had such a dear old husband I should always want to be alone with him.”

“That sounds just like you. I wanted Naughty Nan to come home with me, but she wouldn’t or couldn’t. You can’t think how thin she has grown, and she mopes like an old woman. I had to coax her to laugh just once for me before I came away. I suppose that I oughtn’t to tell, but I will tell you; you are as deep as the sea. You know Dr. Towne?”


“Well it is all his fault,” said Mary Sherwood in a mysterious low voice.

“Did he give her something to take outwardly and she took it inwardly?” asked Tessa gravely.

“That’s like you, too. You are always laughing at somebody. How he flirted with poor little Naughty Nan nobody knows!”

“How she flirted with him, you mean.” 181

“No, I don’t. She was in earnest this time. He made her presents and took her everywhere; he always treated her as if—”

“—She were his mother.”

“I won’t talk to you,” cried Mary indignantly, “you don’t know any thing about it. You haven’t seen how white and thin she is! It’s just another Sue Greyson affair; and every body talks about how he flirted with her. I comforted Nan by saying that he had done the same thing before and would again.”

“Did that comfort her?”

“It made her angry. I don’t see how she can mourn over a man with a false heart, do you?”

“She would have no occasion to mourn over a man with a true heart.”

“Do you think that he changes his mind?” asked Mary anxiously.

“No, I think that he does not have any mind to change; he has no mind to flirt or not to flirt; he simply enjoys himself, not caring for the consequences.”

“H’m! What do you call that?”

“I do not call it any thing; it would be as well for you not to talk about your cousin.”

“So Gus said; I had to tell him. I’m afraid that Nan will die.”

“No, she will not. It will make her bitter, or it will make her true.”

“Nan is so cut because people talk.”

“When is she coming to Dunellen?” 182

“She wouldn’t come with me! How I did coax her! She will come in September. She says that she will stay with me until she is married.”

“Then she doesn’t intend to take the veil because of this?”

“She did say so—seriously—that she would enter a convent—”

“A monastery!” suggested Tessa.

“Where the monks are,” laughed Mary, “I think that would suit her better.”

“And believe me—Dr. Towne is not capable of doing a cruel or a mean thing—don’t talk to your cousin about him.”

“Oh, me! there he is now coming towards us! On our path, too. I’ll break the rules and run across the grass if you will.”

It was certainly Ralph Towne. He was walking slowly with his eyes bent upon the ground.

“He looks like a monk himself,” whispered Mary, “he wouldn’t look at us for any thing.”

“Halt!” commanded the small military voice near the monument. He turned to look at the children; Tessa was close enough to feel the sunshine in his eyes although his face was not towards her; he stood watching the soldiers as they tramped on at the word of command; her dress brushed against him, she could have laid her hand on his arm; lifting her eyes with all her grief and disappointment at his indifference she met his fully; they were grave and very dark, not one gleam of recognition; how greatly he had changed! His eyes appeared 183 larger, not so deep set as she remembered them, and there were many, many white threads running through his hair. Had Naughty Nan effected all this? With a slight inclination of his head he passed on.

“He does look as if he had a ‘mind to do or not do’ something,” said Mary! “I hope that he can’t sleep nights. He almost slew me with his eyes; I can’t see why such naughty hearts should look through such eyes!”

“They don’t,” said Tessa, “a good heart was looking through those eyes.”

“H’m! I believe it!”

Tessa had walked three blocks in a reverie, scolding herself for her sympathy with the changed face, trying to feel indignant that he had passed her by so coolly, and trying to despise him for so soon forgetting what she could never forget, when, lo! there he stood again, face to face with her, speaking eagerly, his hand already touching hers.

“Miss Tessa, what has happened to your eyes?”

“Excuse me,” she stammered, “I did not see you.”

“How do you do?” he asked more coolly as she withdrew her hand.

“Did you not just pass me in the Park?”

“I have not crossed the Park to-day.”

“Then I met your ghost.”

“Can you not be a little glad to meet me in the flesh?”

“Mary Sherwood was with me and she recognized you; she saw you before I did.” 184

He laughed the low amused laugh that she had heard so often. “My cousin Philip will believe now that he might be my brother—my twin brother—but that he appears older than he is. He has come to Dunellen to take a professorship. He is to be Greek teacher at the Seminary instead of Professor Grey. Philip is a rare linguist; he is a rare scholar. It is the Comedy of Errors over again. I suppose that he did not talk to you and say that he was glad to see you again.”

“He bowed, he could not but do it. I expect that he thought I recognized him, as I certainly did. You will look like him some day, but he will never look like you.”

“Your distinction is not flattering. May I ask a kindness of you?”

“Do you need to ask that?” she answered hurriedly.

“My mother is homesick in Dunellen. Will you call upon her?”

She colored, hesitating. After a second, during which she felt his eyes upon her, she said, “Yes.”

“Philip’s father and mine were twins; it is not the first time that we have been taken for each other. He has a twin sister.”

“And he is like his sister.”

“Yes, he is like his sister. Imagine me teaching Greek or preaching in the Park—Phil is a preacher, of course, and an elocutionist. You will hear of him; he does not live in a cloister; he is always doing something for somebody.” 185

“He is a disciplined man; I never saw a person to whom that word could be so fitly applied.”

“And you never thought of applying it to me.”

“I confess that I never did,” she said laughing.

“You can see a great deal at a glance.”

“That is why I glance.”

“Probably you know that I have come to Dunellen to work.”

“I congratulate Dunellen,” she answered prettily.

“I hope that you may have reason to do so. May I tell my mother that you will call?”

“Yes—if you wish,” she said, doubtfully, buttoning a loose button on her glove. “Good afternoon, Dr. Towne.”

She passed on at a quickened pace, her cheeks glowing, her eyes alight. A stranger, meeting her, turned for a second look. “She has heard good news,” he said to himself.

Had she heard good news? She had seen the man that she had so foolishly and fondly believed Ralph Towne to be; she had learned that she could not create out of the longings of her own heart a man too noble and true for God to make out of His heart. Her ideal had not been too good to be true; just then it was enough for her to know that her ideal existed. Her heart could not break because she was disappointed in Ralph Towne, but it would have broken had she found that God did not care to make men good and true. And Ralph Towne 186 would become good and true some day. And then she would be glad and not ashamed that she had trusted in him; she could not be glad and not ashamed yet. She did not love the man that could trifle with Sue or flirt with Nan Gerard. She had loved the ideal in her heart, and not the soul in his flesh. He could not understand that; he would call it a fancy, and say that she could make rhyme to it, but that she could not live the poem. Perhaps not; if she had loved him she might have lived a different poem; her living and loving, her doing and giving, would be a poem, anyway; she did not love Ralph Towne to-day, she was only afraid that she did. He could not understand the woman who would prefer Philip Towne’s saintliness; he was assured that his money would outweigh it with any maiden in Dunellen—with any maiden but Tessa Wadsworth; he was beginning to understand her. “She did not ask me to call,” he soliloquized. The stranger passing him also, gave him also a second glance, but he did not say to himself, “He has heard good news.” Was it good news that the woman that he had thoughtlessly deceived held herself aloof from him and above him?

“She loved me once,” he soliloquized, “and love with her must die a hard death.”

How hard a death even Tessa herself could not comprehend; she understood years afterward when she said: “I thought once that I never could be as glad as I had been sorrowful; but I learned that 187 the power to be glad was infinitely greater than the power of being sorrowful.”

That evening her father called her to say: “The new professor is to preach Sunday evening before church service in the Park; you and I will go to hear him.”


The day lilies were in bloom, and that meant August; it meant also that her book was written, rewritten, and ready to be copied.

“Oh, that my poor little book were as perfect as you,” she sighed one morning as she arranged them with their broad, green leaves for the vases in parlor and sitting-room. “But God made you with His own fingers, and He made my book through my own fancies.”

She had worked early and late, not flagging, through all the sultry days. “You will make yourself sick,” her mother had warned, “and it will cost you all you earn to buy beef tea and pay the doctor; so where is the good of it?”

She had read her manuscript aloud to her father, and he had laughed and wiped his eyes and given sundry appreciative exclamations.

“That writing takes a precious sight of time,” her mother had remonstrated.

“That is because I am human.” Tessa had answered soberly. 189

“Suppose it is refused.”

“Then I’ll be like William Howitt; his book was refused four times and he stood on London bridge ready to toss it over. I do not think that I will do as Charlotte Bronte did; she sent a rejected manuscript to a publisher wrapped in the wrapper in which the first publisher had rolled it. I suppose that his address was printed on it.”

She had run on merrily as she had placed the cool, pure lilies in the vase; but her heart was sinking, nevertheless. It had always taken so little to exhilarate or depress her.

“Must you write to-day?” inquired her mother one morning in an unsatisfied tone.

“Several hours.”

“I wanted you to make calls with me and to help me with the currant jelly and to put those button-holes into my linen wrapper.”

“I can do it all, but I must write while I am fresh.”

The first hour she wrote wearily; then she lost the small struggles in her own life and became comforted through the comfort wherewith she comforted others. Not one thing was forgotten, not one household duty shirked, the jelly was made to perfection, the button-holes worked while her mother was taking her afternoon nap, the calls were pushed through, and then Mrs. Wadsworth proposed a call upon Mrs. Towne.

“I promised your Aunt Dinah that I would call.”

Tessa demurred although she remembered her 190 promise; she much preferred calling some time when Aunt Dinah should be with her; Mrs. Wadsworth insisted and Tessa yielded more graciously in manner than in mind.

Mrs. Towne received them most cordially and gracefully; an expression flitted over her eyes as Tessa looked up into them that she never forgot; it touched her as Dr. Lake’s eyes did, sometimes; what could this beautiful old mother need in her? Whatever it might be, she felt fully prepared to give it.

Mrs. Wadsworth was as effusively talkative as usual; Tessa replied when spoken to; lively, fussy, pretty little Mrs. Wadsworth did not compare to her own advantage with her womanly daughter. Mrs. Towne looked at Tessa and thought of the picture that she had seen; it was certainly excellent only that the picture was rather too intellectual; in the picture she might have written “Mechanism of the Heavens” but sitting there in the crimson velvet chair with a pale blue bow among her braids and her soft gray veil shading her cheek she was more like the daughter that she had ever dreamed of—simple, sweet, and thoroughly lovable Mrs. Towne was a trifle afraid of a woman who looked too intellectual. Would she forgive Ralph and trust him again? She was sure that she would until Tessa unbuttoned her glove and drew it off; the slight, strong hand was a revelation; the girl had a will of her own. But might not her will be towards him? “I wish that I knew nothing,” 191 thought the mother, “the suspense will weary me, the disappointment will be nearly as much for me as for the boy.”

Meanwhile, unconscious Tessa, with the glove in her fingers, was far away in the Milan cathedral on the wall opposite her, looking into the arches of the choir, feeling the sunlight through the glimmering painted windows, thinking about the procession of the scarlet-robed priests, and wondering about the hidden chancel; if the picture were upon her wall how it would glow and become alive in the western light, the drooping banners would stir with the breath of the evening, the censers would swing and the notes of the organ would bear her up and away. Away! Where? Was not all her world in this little Dunellen?

“My son is always busy; he rushes into every thing that he undertakes.”

The mother had a voice like the son’s; the soul of sincerity was in it; the sincere, sympathetic voice, the rush of feeling, love, regret, and sense of loss that it brought filled her eyes too full to be raised. At that instant Mrs. Towne was observing her; her heart grew lighter, hoping for the thing that might be.

Mrs. Towne held Tessa’s hand at parting. “I am an old woman, so I may ask a favor of a young one, will you come soon again?”

“Thank you, yes.”

“And often?”

Then she had to promise again. Dr. Towne was 192 seldom at home; she thought of this when she promised. She was thinking of it that evening in the early twilight as she weeded among her pansies. Dine said that it was a wonder that she had not turned into a pansy herself by this time.

“Daughter, why do you sigh?”

Her father was seated in a rustic chair on the piazza with a copy of Burns unopened upon his knee; he had left the store earlier than usual that afternoon, complaining of the old pain in his side.

“My sigh must be very loud or your ears very sharp,” she replied, lifting her head. “I will bring you some perfect pansies.”

He took them and looked down at them; she stood at his side smoothing the straggling locks on his bald forehead with her perfumed, soiled fingers. “I think that if I knew nothing about God but that He made pansies, I should love Him for that,” she said at last.

“Is that what you were sighing over?”

“The sigh came out of the heart of the pansy. I wish I knew how to love somebody.”

“Is that what you were sighing over?”

“I do not know how,” rubbing the soil from her fingers, “to love when I lose faith. I do not know how and it worries me.”

“You mean that you do not know how to honor and trust when you lose faith. Are you so far on the journey of life as that? Must I congratulate you, daughter?”

“No; teach me.” 193

“No human teaching can teach you to love where you have lost faith.”

“Well; nobody asks me to!”

“If any body ever does, look at your own failings; that pulls me through.”

“I understand that,” still speaking in a troubled voice, “but all the love and patience do no good; people do not change because we love them.”

“No, they do not change, but we change.”

“That is not enough for me; I am not satisfied with the blessing of giving, I want the other somebody to have the blessing of receiving.”

“We do not know the end.”

“You two people do find queer things to talk about,” cried a lively voice behind them. “If I knew what mystical meant, I should say that it was you and Tessa. Don’t you want to hear all about Mrs. Towne, and what a lovely room we were taken into?”

“Yes, dear, and how her hair was fixed and just how she was dressed.”

Tessa ran back to her pansies; Mrs. Wadsworth had found a theme to enlarge upon for the next half hour. As Tessa worked among the flowers, a poem that she had learned that day while making the button-holes sang itself through and through her heart.

    “Oh  the  hurt  and  the  hurt  and  the  hurt  of  love!
        Wherever  the  sun  shines,  the  waters  go,
    It  hurts  the  snowdrop,  it  hurts  the  dove,
        God  on  His  throne,  and  man  below.
194     But  sun  would  not  shine  nor  waters  go,
        Snowdrop  tremble  nor  fair  dove  moan,
    God  be  on  high,  nor  man  below,
        But  for  love—the  love  with  its  hurt  alone.
    Thou  knowest,  O,  Saviour,  its  hurt  and  its  sorrows,
        Didst  rescue  its  joy  by  the  might  of  Thy  pain;
    Lord  of  all  yesterdays,  days,  and  to-morrows,
        Help  us  love  on  in  the  hope  of  Thy  gain!
    Hurt  as  it  may,  love  on,  love  forever;
        Love  for  love’s  sake  like  the  Father  above,
    But  for  whose  brave-hearted  Son  we  had  never
        Known  the  sweet  hurt  of  the  sorrowful  love.”

“I am not sincere in repeating that,” she mused. “I don’t love on, love forever—and I don’t want to! If I were in a book, every thing would make no difference, nothing would make a difference—would love on, love forever—and I don’t know how. I wish I did. It would not change him, but it would make me very glad and very good! I can not attain to it.”

The grazing sound of wheels brought her back to the pansies, then to Dr. Lake; he had driven up close to the opening in the lilac shrubbery.

“Ah, Mystic.”

“Good evening, doctor.”

It was the first time that they had been alone together since Sue’s engagement. She had been dreading this first time. She arose and brushed her hands against each other, moving towards the opening in the lilacs.

“I saw you, and could not resist the temptation of stopping to speak to you.” 195

“Thank you,” she said warmly. “Will you have a lily?”

“No, lilies are not for me. Briers and thorns grow for me.”

“Where are you riding to now?”

“Felix Harrison came home yesterday worse than ever. I was there in the night and am going again. Why don’t he die now that he has a chance? Catch me throwing away such an opportunity.”

“I hope that you will never have such an opportunity,” she answered, not thinking of what she was saying.

“That’s always the way; the lucky ones die, the unlucky ones live.”

“Can you not resist the temptation to tell me any thing so trite as that?”

“Don’t be sharp, Mystic.”

She was leaning against the low fence, her hands folded over each other, a breath of air stirring the wavy hair around her temples, and touching the pale blue ribbon at her throat, a white, graceful figure, speaking in her animated way with the flush of the pink rose tinting her cheeks and a misty veil shadowing her eyes.

“A very pretty picture in a frame-work of brown and green,” thought the old man in the rustic chair on the piazza.

But she never thought of making a picture of herself, she left such small coquetries to girls who had nothing better to do or to think of. She had her 196 life to live and her books to write! Nevertheless two pairs of eyes found her pleasant to look upon. Dr. Lake’s experiences had opened his eyes to see that Tessa Wadsworth was unlike any woman that he had ever known; she was to him the calm of the moonlight, the fragrance of the spring, and the restfulness of trust.

In these weeks of his trouble, had she been like some other of the Dunellen girls, she would have found her way without pushing into his heart by the wide door that shallow Sue had left ajar.

His heart was open to any attractive woman who would sympathize with him; to any woman who would be glad of what Sue Greyson had thrown away; she might have become aware of this but for her instinctive habit of looking upward to love; even the tenderest compassion mingled with some admiration could not grow into love with her in her present moods; she was too young and asked too much of life for such a possibility.

In these days every man was too far below George Macdonald and Frederick Robertson, unless indeed it might be the new Greek professor; in her secret heart she had begun to wonder if Philip Towne were not something like them both; perhaps because in his sermon that Sunday twilight in the Park he had quoted a “declaration of Robertson’s”—“I am better acquainted with Jesus Christ than I am with any man on earth.”

The words came to her as she stood, to-night, talking with Dr Lake; she was wishing that she 197 might repeat them to him; instead she only replied, “Why shouldn’t I be sharp? You are a man and therefore able to bear it.”

“Not much of a man—or wholly a man. I reckon that is nearer right. I never saw a man yet that a blow from a woman’s little finger wouldn’t knock him over.”

“Not any woman’s finger.”

“Any thing would blow me over to-night. Why do women have to make so many things when they are married?” he asked earnestly.

“To keep the love they have won,” she said with a mischievous laugh. “Don’t you know how soon roses fade after they are rudely torn from the protection and nourishment of the parent stem?”

“Rudely! They flutter, they pant, they struggle to tear themselves loose! Why do you suppose that she prefers Stacey to me?”

“I don’t know all things.”

“You know that. Answer.”

“She does not prefer him. He is the smallest part of her calculations. Marriage with you would make no change in her life; she seeks change; she has never been married and lived in Philadelphia—therefore to be married and live in Philadelphia must be glorious.”

“Then if I had money to take her anywhere and everywhere she would have married me. I’ll turn highwayman to get rich then. She shows me every pretty thing she makes; dresses up in all her new dresses and asks me if I feel like the bridegroom 198 lends me her engagement ring when she is tired of it. I’d bite it in two if I dared—reads me his letters and asks me to help her answer them for she can only write a page and a half out of her own head.”

Tessa laughed; it was better to laugh than to be angry, and Sue could not be any body but Sue Greyson.

“She says that her only objection to him is his name and age; she likes my name better, and scribbles Sue Greyson Lake over his old envelopes. I would like to send him one of them. I was reading in the paper this morning of a man who shot the girl that refused him; if I don’t shoot her it will not be her fault, she is driving me mad. If I can’t have her myself, he sha’n’t!”

She dropped her hands and turned away from him.

“Mystic.” But she was among the pansies again.

“Mystic,” with the tone in his voice that she would never forget, “come back. Don’t you throw me over; I shall go to destruction if you do.”

“I can not help you. You do not try to help yourself.”

“I know it. I don’t want to be helped. I drift. I have no will to struggle. She plays with me like a cat with a mouse. I do not know what I am about half the time. I will take a double dose of morphine some night. I wonder if she would cry if she saw me dead. Men have done such things with less provocation; men of my temperament, too. Would you be sorry, Mystic?” 199

She stretched out her hands to take his hand in both hers: “Don’t talk so,” she said brokenly. “You know you do not mean it; why can’t you be brave and good? I didn’t know that men were so weak.”

“I am weak—I have strayed, I have wandered away—but I can go back.”

Long afterward she remembered these words; they, with his last “good-by, Mystic,” were all that she cared to remember among all the words that he had ever spoken to her.

She did not speak; she moved her fingers caressingly over his hand, thinking how pliant and feminine, how characteristic, it was.

“I know a woman’s heart,” he ran on lightly; “she is not a sacred mystery to me, as the fellows say in books. I dissected an old negro woman’s heart once; she died of enlargement of the heart, so that it was as much a study as the largest heart of her kind. Sue is going out to-night with Towne and his mother—it’s a pity that he wouldn’t step in now—she might let us all have a fair fight, and old Gesner, too, with his simpering voice! She would take Gesner only he doesn’t propose. ‘Thirty days hath September.’ I wish it had thirty thousand. When I was a youngster, and got a beating for not learning that, I little thought that one day I would learn it and count the days every night. Oh, that rare and radiant first of October! Do you know,” bending forward and lowering his tone, “that she is more than half inclined to throw him over?”

“She is never more than half inclined to do 200 anything,” answered Tessa indignantly. “I wish that he were here to keep her out of mischief. Why do you stay so much with her? Surely you have business enough to keep you out of her presence.”

He laughed excitedly. “Keep a starving man away from bread when he has only to stretch out his hand and snatch it.”

“You have found that your doll is stuffed with sawdust, can’t you toss it aside?”

“I love sawdust,” he answered, comically.

“Then I’m ashamed of you.”

“You haven’t seen other men tried.”

“It is no honor to you to be thinking of her under existing circumstances.”

“I would run away with her to-night if she would run with me.”

“Then I despise you.”

“You love like a woman, Mystic; I love like a man.”

“I hope that no man will ever dishonor himself or dishonor me with love like that.”

As he stooped to pick up his glove, his breath swept her cheek; she started, almost exclaiming as she drew back, flushed and bewildered. He colored angrily, then laughed an excited, reckless laugh, and gathered the reins which had been hanging loose.

“Dr. Lake,” in a hurried, tremulous voice, “please don’t do that. Oh, why must you? Why can’t you be brave?” Her voice was choking with tears. “I did not think such a thing of you.” 201

“Of course you didn’t! But I will not do it again—I really will not. I am half mad as I told you. Good night, Mystic.”

“Good night,” she said sadly.

He held the reins still lingering.

“Will you ride with me again some day?”

“No, I don’t like to hear you talk.”

Again she went back to her pansies; the innocent pansies with their faint, pure breath were more congenial. As he drove under the maples, he muttered words that would have startled her as much as his tainted breath.

“Do you like it in this world, little pansies?” she sighed.

Her father laid his book within a window on the sill, and came down to her to talk about the buds of the day-lilies; her mother fanned herself with a palm-leaf fan and complained of the heat; Dinah ran down-stairs, fresh and airy in green muslin with a scarlet geranium among her curls, and after standing still to ask if she looked pretty, ran across to the planks to walk up and down with Norah Bird with their arms linked and their heads close together.

Tessa sighed again, remembering the old confidential talks with Laura when they both cared for the same things before she had outgrown Laura. There were so many things in her world to be sighed about to-night; the thought of Felix threw all her life into shadow; Norah and Dinah were laughing over some silly thing, and her mother 202 was vigorously waving the fan and vigorously fretting at the heat and the dust in this same hour in which Felix—her bright, good Felix—was moaning out his feeble strength. She had not dared to ask Dr. Lake how he was; what comfort would it be to know that he was a little better or a little worse? How could she talk to him of her busy life and take him a copy of her book? She was counting the days, also; for in October her book would surely be out.

“You think more of that than you would of being married,” Dinah had said that day.

“So I do—than to be married to any one I know.”

“Do you expect to find somebody new?”

“Perhaps I do not expect to find any one at all,” she had answered.

“Oh, don’t be so dreary,” laughed Dinah.

Was that dreary? Once it might have seemed dreary; a year ago with what a smiting pain she would have echoed the word, but it was not a dreary prospect to-night as she stood with her father’s arm about her.

A new thing had happened to disturb her; Dinah was becoming shy and constrained in the presence of Mr. Hammerton; last summer she would run out to meet him, hang on his arm and chatter like a magpie; this summer she would oftener avoid him than move forward to greet him; this shamefacedness was altogether new and very becoming, yet the elder sister did not like it. There 203 was no change in Mr. Hammerton, why should there be change in Dinah or in herself? He came no oftener than he had come last summer, he manifested no preference, sometimes she thought that this non-manifestation was too studied; gifts were brought to each, were it books or flowers. Did poor little Dine care for him, and was she so afraid of revealing it? Or, had she decided that it was for her sake that he came, and did she leave them so often together alone that it might be pleasanter for both? More than once or twice when he was expected, she had pleaded an engagement with Norah, and had not appeared until late in the evening.

“I wonder what’s got Dine,” their mother had remarked, “she seems possessed to run away from Gus.”

Their father had looked annoyed and exclaimed, “Nonsense, mother, nonsense.”

Tessa’s reverie was ended by Mr. Hammerton’s quick step upon the planks.

“He was here last night,” commented Mrs. Wadsworth as he crossed the street.

“Good evening, good people,” he said opening the gate. “You make quite a picture! If you had fruit and wine I should rub up my French or Spanish. I think that I am not too late; I did not hear until after tea that Professor Towne is to read tonight in Association Hall; some of your favorites, Lady Blue. Will you go, you and Dine?”

“Oh, yes, indeed; that is just what I want.” 204

“It is to be selections from ‘Henry V.,’ ‘The High Tide,’ ‘Locksley Hall,’ I think, and a few lighter things. You will think that you would rather elocute ‘The High Tide’ than even to have written it.”

“That is impossible. Did you tell Dine?”

“No, but I will. It was proper to ask the elder sister was it not?”

“I am not Leah,” said Tessa seriously, “call Rachel.”

“Rachel! Rachel!” he called, beckoning to Dinah. Dinah whistled by way of reply and dropped Norah’s arm.

“Have you brought me Mother Goose or a sugar-plum?” she asked lightly. “And why do you call me Rachel?”

“Don’t talk nonsense, children,” said Mr. Wadsworth very gravely. The color deepened in Mr. Hammerton’s cheeks and forehead as he met the old man’s grave eyes. “Mother, let’s you and I go too,” proposed Mr. Wadsworth, “we will imagine it to be twenty-seven years ago.”

“I only wish it was,” was the dissatisfied reply.

That evening was an event in Tessa’s quiet life: she heard no sound but the reader’s voice, she saw no face but his; she drew a long breath when the last words were uttered.

“Was it so good as all that?” whispered Mr. Hammerton. “You shall go to the Chapel with me next Sunday and hear him preach about ‘Meditation.’” 205

Dr. Towne, his mother, and Sue Greyson were seated near them; she did not observe the group until she arose to leave the hall.

“Wasn’t it stupid?” muttered Sue, catching at her sleeve. “And isn’t he perfectly elegant? Almost as elegant as the doctor.”

“You will not forget your promise?” Mrs. Towne said as Tessa turned towards her.

“Has Miss Tessa been making you a promise? She does not know how to break her word,” said Dr. Towne.

“You do not need to tell me that; her eyes are promise-keepers.”

Mrs. Towne kept her at her side until they reached the entrance and would have detained her until Professor Towne had made his way to them, had not Mr. Hammerton understood by the moving of her lips that she was not pleased and hurried her away.

“I hope that I shall never become acquainted with Professor Towne,” exclaimed Tessa nervously, as Mr. Hammerton drew her hand within his arm.

“Why not? I thought that you were wrapped up in him as the young ladies say.”

“Suppose I make a hole in him and find him stuffed with sawdust.”

“You could immediately retire into a convent.”

Dinah had mischievously fallen behind with her father and mother.

“Then I could never find my good man?”

“Must you find him or die forlorn?” 206

For several moments she found no answer: then the words came deliberately; “Perhaps I need not; I wonder why I thought there was a must in the matter; why may I not be happy and helpful without ending as good little girls do in fairy stories? I need not live or die forlorn—and yet—Gus, you are the only person in the whole world to whom I would confess that I would rather be like the good little girl in the fairy story! Please forget it.”

“It is too pleasant to forget,” he answered. “I do not want you to be too ambitious or too wise for the good old fashions of wife and mother!”

“How can any woman be that!” she exclaimed indignantly.

“May you never know.”

“What an easy time Eve had! All she had to do was to be led to Adam. She would not have chosen him a while afterward; he was altogether too much under her influence.”

“That weakness has become a part of our original sin.”

“It isn’t yours,” she retorted.

“Am I so different from other men?” he asked in a constrained voice.

“Most assuredly. I should as soon think of a whole row of encyclopedias falling in love.”

Mr. Hammerton was silent, for once repartee failed him.

Suddenly she asked, “Is your imagination a trial to you?” 207

“Haven’t you often told me that I am stupid as an old geometry.”

“And I hate geometry.”

“You read, you write, you live, you love through your imagination. You wrap the person you love in a rosy mist that is the breath of your hopeful heart, and you see your hero through that mist. Of course the mist fades and you have but the ugly outline—then, without stopping to see what God hath wrought, you cry out, ‘Oh, the horrible! the dreadful!’ and run away with your fingers in your ears.”

A few silent steps, then she said, “I deserve that. It is all true. Why did you not tell me before?”

“I left it to time and common sense.”

“It will take a great deal of both to make me sensible,” she answered humbly, and then added, “if suffering would root out my fancies—but I am like the child that tumbles and tumbles, and then tumbles again. I need to be guided by such a steady hand. Sometimes I do long so for somebody to do me good.”

Her companion’s silence might be sympathetic; as such she interpreted it, or she could not have said what she never ceased wondering at herself for saying—“I am not disappointed in love; but I am disappointed in loving. I thought that love was once and forever. Poets say so.”

“Yes, but we do not know how they live their poetry.”

“I know that my poetry fails me when extremity comes.” 208

“Has the extremity come?”

“Yes,” she said bravely.

“And that is another thing that I am not to know.”

“Not for five and fifty years. I will pigeon-hole all my experiences for you—if there is no one to object on my side or yours.”

“What about the reading? Was it all that you expected?”

“Wait a minute; call Dine before we talk it over.”

They had outwalked the others; Mr. Hammerton’s strides would not be pleasant to keep pace with in the long walk of life, as Dinah had once told him. It was a truth that no one recognized so well as himself, that he lacked the power of adaptation; he was too tall or too short, too broad or too narrow, too crooked or too straight for any niche in Dunellen, but the one that he had found in his boyhood by the snug, safe corner in the home where Dinah was growing up to entangle herself in his heart, and Tessa, lovable and wise, to enthrone herself in his intellect. In the game of forfeits, when he had been doomed to “Bow to the wittiest, kneel to the prettiest, and kiss the one you love the best,” in the long ago evenings, when they were all, old and young, children together, he had always bowed to Tessa and knelt to bewitching little Dine and kissed her. Now he bowed to Tessa, but he did not kiss Dine.

They stood waiting near a lamp-post; he, fidgeting as usual, she, straight and still. 209

“Lady Blue, you never put me on a pedestal, did you?”

“No, you never kept still long enough.”

Professor Towne passed them with Mrs. Towne leaning upon his arm; Mrs. Towne bowed and smiled, he lifted his hat in recognition of Tessa’s hesitating half inclination.

“Why, Tessa! Do you know him?”

“I almost spoke to him one day by mistake; I did not intend to bow, but he looked at me—I suppose the bow bowed itself.”

“He has a noble presence! He is altogether finer physically than his cousin.”

“I don’t know that he is,” she answered wilfully. Dinah came willingly enough; they walked more slowly and talked.

“Tessa,” began Dine abruptly as they were brushing their hair at bedtime, “isn’t Gus a fine talker?”

“Is he like Coleridge? He could talk four hours without interruption, but sometimes his listeners, learned men too, did not understand a word of it.”

“I do not always understand Gus.”

“Gus does not ramble; he is plain enough.”

Dine brushed out a long curl and looked down upon it. “I shall ask him to give me a list of books that I ought to read.”

“I confess that while I understand what he says I do not understand him. If you do, you are wiser than I.”

“I guess that I am wiser than you.”

“I used to think that I understood people; I have 210 come to the conclusion that I do not understand even my own self.”

“Do you like garnet? I want a garnet in some material this winter. Gus says that I am a butterfly.”

“Yes, you are pretty in warm colors.”

Tessa drew a chair to the open window and sat a long time leaning her elbows on the sill with her face towards the Harrison Homestead. Felix had always been so proud of the old house with its tiled chimney-pieces, with its ancient crockery brought from Holland and the iron bound Bible with the names of his ancestors; for two hundred years the place had been held in the Harrison name, a great-great-grandfather having purchased the land from the Indians. He had said once to her, “I have a good old honest name to give to you, Tessa.” She would have worn his name worthily for his sake; if it might be,—but her father would hold her back,—why should she not sacrifice herself? Was not Felix worthy of her devotion? What other grander thing could she ever do? The moon was rising; she changed her position to watch it and did not leave it until it stood high above the apple orchard.


Early one evening Tessa was writing alone in her own chamber; Dinah was spending a few days in Dunellen; while Dinah was away she wrote more than usual out of her loneliness.

Becoming wearied she laid the neat manuscript away and began scribbling with a pencil on a half sheet of foolscap; the disconnected words revealed the thoughts that had been troubling her all day.

“Counsel. Waiting. Asking. Deception. Years and years. Oh, I want to go to heaven.”

A tap at the door sounded twice before it broke upon her reverie; absent-mindedly she opened the door, but the absent-mindedness was lost in the flash of light that burst over her face when she recognized, in the twilight, the one person in all the world whom she wished to see.

“Oh, I was wishing for you! Did some good spirit send you.”

“I have been feeling all day that you wanted me,” said the little woman suffering herself to be drawn into the room. “What are you doing?” 212

“Feeling wicked and miserable and wanting to go to heaven.”

“You are not the kind to go to heaven, you are the kind to stay on earth; what would you do in heaven if you do not love to do God’s will on earth?”

Tessa drew her rocker nearer the open window and seated her guest in it, moved a low seat beside it, and sat down folding her hands in her lap.

“What shall I do on earth?” she asked.

“What you are told.”

“I can not always see or hear what I must do.”

“That’s a pity.”

“Can you?”

“I could not once; I can now.”

“How can you now?”

“Because I desire but one thing—and that is always made plain to me.”

“But how can you get over wanting things?”

“I can not.”

“I do not understand.”

“I mean only this, dear child; I do want things, but I want God’s will most of all.”

“Sometimes I think I do, and then I know that I do not. Do you think,” lowering her voice and speaking more slowly, “that He ever deceives any body?”

“He sometimes, oftentimes, allows them to be deceived,—is that what you mean?”

“He does not do it.”

“No, but He allows others to do it.” 213

“Not—when—they pray—about it and ask what they may do—would He let somebody who prayed be deceived?”

Miss Jewett was removing her gloves. She smoothed out each finger and thumb before she spoke, and laid them on the window-sill.

“I have been trying to think—oh, now, I know! Do you not remember one whom He permitted to be deceived after asking His counsel?”

“No. I thought the thing impossible. I do not see how such a thing can be.”

“It can be; it has been. What for, do you suppose?”

“To teach some lesson. I am learning—oh, how bitterly!—that His teaching is the best of His gifts.”

“So it is, child; but oh, how we have to be crushed before we can believe it. Is your life so hard? It appears a very happy life to me.”

“So every one else thinks. I suppose it would be, but that I make my own trials; do I make them? No, I don’t! How can I make things hard when I only do what seems the only right thing to do. Tell me about that somebody who was deceived—like me,” she added.

“He was a priest; he ministered before the Lord, and he believed in David, because he was an honorable man, and high in the king’s household; so when David came to him and said: ‘The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know it,’ of course, he believed him, 214 and when he asked him for bread the old priest would have given it, not thinking that in harboring the king’s son-in-law he was guilty of treason; but he had no bread; he had nothing but the shew-bread, which only the priests might eat. He did not dare give him that until he asked counsel of the Lord. No priest had ever dared before, and how could he dare? But David and his men were starving, they dared go to no one else for help; but the priest didn’t know that, poor, old, trustful man, so he asked counsel, and having obtained permission, he gave to David the hallowed bread. That was right, because our Lord approves of it; then David asked for Goliath’s sword, and he gave him that, and went to sleep that night as sweetly as the night before, I have no doubt, because he had asked counsel of the Lord and followed it.”

“Did any harm come to him?” asked Tessa, quickly.

“Harm! He lost his head; Saul slew him for treason; and he pleaded before the king: ‘And who is so faithful among all thy servants as David, which is the king’s son-in-law, and goeth at thy bidding, and is honorable in thine house?’ God could have warned him or have brought to his ears the news that David was an outlaw, but He suffered him to be deceived and lose his life for trusting in the man who was telling him a lie.”

After a silence Tessa said: “He had to obey! I’m glad that he obeyed; I believe that was written 215 just for me. I asked God once to let somebody love me, and I trusted him, because I thought that God had given him to me—and it has broken my heart with shame. I did not know before that He let me be deceived; I knew that I was obeying Him, but I thought that my humiliation was my punishment for doing I knew not what.”

“Now I know the secret of some of your articles that I have cried over; not less than ten people told me how much they were helped by that article of yours, ‘Night and Day.’”

“I have three letters that I will show you sometime; I know that my trouble has worn a channel in my heart through which God’s blessing flows; except for that I should have almost died.”

“You do not look like dying; your eyes are as clear as a bell, and there’s plenty of fun in you yet.”

“The fun and sarcasm are a little bit sanctified, I think; I never say sharp things nowadays.”

“Perhaps the answer to your prayer has not all come yet; sometimes the answer is given to us to spoil it or use as we please, just as the mother gives the child five cents in answer to his coaxing, and the hap or mishap of it is in his hands. Perhaps He has given you the wheat, and you must grind it and bake it into bread; be careful how you grind and how you knead and bake! To some people, like Sue Greyson, He gives bread ready baked, but you can receive more, and therefore to you He gives more—more opportunity and more discipline. To be born with a talent for discipline, Tessa, is a 216 wonderful gift, and oh, how such have to be taught! Would you rather be like flighty Sue?”

“No, oh, no, indeed,” shivered Tessa, “but she can go to sleep when I have to lie awake.”

“Now I must go.”

“I’ll walk to the end of the planks with you.”

Tessa was too much moved to care to talk; the walk with Miss Jewett was almost as silent as her walk homeward alone.


If Miss Jewett had not been once upon a laughing time a girl herself, she would have wondered where the girls in Dunellen found so much to laugh about. Nan Gerard laughed. Sue Greyson laughed, and Tessa Wadsworth laughed; they laughed separately, and they laughed together; they cried separately, too, but they did not cry together. Nan knew that it was September, because she had planned to come to Dunellen in September; Sue knew, because so few days remained before her wedding-day; and Tessa knew, because she found the September golden rod and pale, fall daisies in her long walks towards Mayfield; she knew it, also, because her book was copied and at the publishers’, awaiting the decision over which she trembled in anticipation night and day. One morning, late in the month, she found at the post-office a long, thick, yellow envelope, containing two dozens of pictures; several of them she had seen long ago in Sunday-school books, those that were new to her, appeared cut or torn from some book; the letter enclosed with the pictures requested 218 her to write a couple of books and to use those pictures.

“I’ve heard of illustrating books,” she laughed to herself, “but it seems that I must illustrate pictures.”

Coaxing Miss Jewett into her little parlor, she showed her the pictures, and read aloud the letter.

“I think it is a great compliment to you,” said the little woman, admiringly. “You do not seem to think of that.”

“Father will think so. You and he are such humble people, that you think me exalted! Women have become famous before they were as old as I.”

“You may become famous yet.”

“It isn’t in me. Genius is bold; if it were in me, I should find some way of knowing it. My work is such a little bit, such a poor little bit. But I do like the letter.”

“You will be glad of it when you are old.”

“I am glad of it now.”

She read it again: the penmanship was straggling and ugly.

“I do not know how to talk to you; you remind me of Tryphena and Tryphosa; St. Paul would know what to say to you. You seem to have no worldliness in your aims. Your style is impressive. I think that we can keep your pen busy. Your last manuscript is still in the balance.”

“If it be found wanting, what shall I do! The suspense wears upon me.” 219

“I begin to understand why mediocrity is long-lived. Don’t be a goose, child.”

Mr. Wadsworth was at his desk; he read the letter through twice without comment.

“Well!” she said, playing with a morsel of pink blotting paper.

“It’s beautiful, daughter.”

She wondered why it did not seem so much to her as it did to him and to Miss Jewett.

“I expect that Dine will take to authorship next.”

Tessa’s lips were keeping a secret, for Dine was writing a little story. When had she ever failed to attempt the thing that Tessa had done? She had not taken Tessa’s place in school, and had been graduated much nearer the foot of her class than Tessa had ever stood; still she had Tessa’s knack of writing stories, and telling stories, and had, at her urging, written a story for boys, which Tessa had criticised and copied; Dinah’s penmanship being very pretty, but not at all plain. The letter made no allusion to the fate of Dinah’s story; somewhat anxious about this, she slipped the bulky envelope into her pocket and turned her face homewards. Her winter’s work was laid out for her; there was nothing to do but to do it.

So full was she with plans for the books that she did not hear steps behind her and at her side until Sue Greyson nudged her.

“Say, Tessa, turn down Market Street with me; I have something to tell you.” The serious, startled 220 voice arrested her instantly. What new and dreadful thing had Sue been doing now? Her only dread was for Dr. Lake.

“I’ve been ordering things for dinner; we have dinner at four, so I can afford to run around town in the morning. I’m in a horrid fix and there’s nobody to help me out.”

“What about?”

I haven’t been doing any thing; it’s other people; it’s always other people,” she said plaintively, “somebody is always doing something to upset my plans. You do not sympathize with me, you never do.”

“I do not know how to sympathize with any thing that is not straightforward and true, and your course is rather zigzag.”

“Dr. Towne said—”

“You haven’t been talking to him,” interrupted Tessa, flushing.

“No, only he called to see father and I was home alone and he asked me what ailed me and I had to tell him that I didn’t want to be married.”

“Well, what could he say?”

“He said, ‘Stay with your father and be a good girl,’” laughed Sue, “the last thing I would think of doing. Father looks so glum and says, ‘Oh, my little girl, what shall I do without you! I wish that fellow was at the bottom of the sea!’ So do I, too. I don’t see why I ever promised to marry him! I think that I must have been bereft of my senses.” 221

“Why not ask him to wait a year—you will know your own mind—if you have any—by that time.”

“Oh, deary me! I’d be married to John Gesner or some other old fool with money by that time! You don’t mind being an old maid, but I do!”

“How do you know that I don’t mind?” Tessa could not forbear asking.

“Oh, you wouldn’t be so happy and like to do things. I believe that I like Gerald a great deal better any way.”

She grew frightened at Tessa’s stillness; there was not one sympathetic line in the stern curving of her lips.

“Have you told Dr. Lake that?”

“You needn’t cut me in two,” laughed Sue uneasily, “men can’t sue women for breach of promise can they?”

“Answer me, please.”

Sue hesitated, colored, stammered, finally confessed in a weak voice that tried hard to be brave, “Yes, I have! There now! You can’t hurt me! Father said last night that if I had taken Lake he would have given me the house and every thing in it ‘for the old woman to keep house with,’ you know! And then he said that it was hard for me to leave him now that he is growing old, that he would have to marry somebody that wouldn’t care for him, that he never had had much pleasure in his life, that Gerald was a good physician and they could work together and how happy we might all 222 have been! He was mad enough though when he first discovered that Gerald was in love with me; he threatened to send him off. But that’s his way! He is one thing one day and another thing the next! And I couldn’t help it, Tessa, I really, really couldn’t, but I was so homesick and just then Gerald came in—he looked so tired, his cough has come back, too—and when he said ‘How many days yet, Susan?’ I said quick, before I thought, ‘I like you a hundred times better! I would rather marry you than Stacey.’ And then he turned so white that I thought he was dead, and he said something, I don’t know whether it was swearing or praying—and caught me in his arms, and said after that he would never let me go! And then I said—I said—I couldn’t help it—that I would write to Stacey and send back the ring and he took it off and tossed it out the window! I And then I made him go and find it! Stacey can give it to some other girl. I didn’t hurt it. I always took it off when I swept or wet my hands. Life is so uncertain, I thought that he might want it again.”

“Life is uncertain. I never realized it until this minute.”

“Now your voice isn’t angry,” said poor Sue eagerly. “I want you to think that I have done right.”

“When my moral perceptions are blunted, I will.”

“Go away, saying ‘moral perceptions.’ I don’t know what Dr. Towne will think either. Well, 223 what’s did can’t be undid! Now Gerald says that I sha’n’t put it off, but that I’ve got to marry him on that day. I know that you think it is horrid, but you never have lovers, so you don’t know! I don’t see why, either. You are a great deal prettier than I am. When I am tired, I am the lookingest thing, but you always look sweet and peaceful. Don’t you think that I ought to please father and stay home? Why don’t you say something? Are you struck dumb?”

“I can not understand it—yet.”

“I think that I have made it plain enough,” cried Sue, angrily. “You must be very stupid. You like Gerald so much—I used to be jealous—that you ought to be glad for him!”

“I do like him. I like him so well, Sue, that I want him to have a faithful and true wife. O, Sue! Sue Greyson! What are you to take that man’s life into your hands?”

“I don’t know what you mean. I love him, of course! If you think so much of him, why don’t you marry him?”

“The question is not worth a reply.”

“You ought to comfort me; I haven’t any mother,” returned Sue, miserably.

“It is well for her that you haven’t.”

“I don’t see why you can’t let me be comfortable,” whined Sue; “every thing would be lovely if you didn’t spoil it all. Gerald is as wild as a lunatic. He shall write to Stacey or father shall, or I’ll be married beforehand and send him the 224 paper. I could do it in ten days. Do come home with me, I want you to see my wedding dress! It’s too lovely for any thing. My travelling dress is an elegant brown; I got brown to please Stacey, but Gerald likes it.”

“It’s a good idea to choose a color that gentlemen like generally; life is so uncertain.”

“So it is,” replied Sue, unconsciously. “I think that you might congratulate me,” she added, with her hysterical laugh. “You didn’t think that your gold thimble would make pretty things for Dr. Lake’s wife, did you?”

“I congratulate you! I hope that I may congratulate him, in time. Dr. Lake is trying to pour a gallon into a half pint. I hope that one of you will die before you make each other very miserable.”

“You mean thing,” said Sue, almost crying.

“I do not mean to hurt you, Sue, but you are doing something that is wretched beyond words. Don’t you care at all for that poor fellow who loves you?”

“Gerald loves me, too,” she answered proudly. “You are ugly to me, and I haven’t any body that I dare talk to but you. Mary Sherwood says that telling you things is like throwing things into the sea; nobody ever finds them.”

“I must be very full of rubbish.”

“We are going to Washington on our bridal trip; we can’t stay long, for father will not spare Gerald. I shall ask nobody but Dr. Towne and his 225 mother, and Miss Jewett, and you, and Dine. Will you come?” she asked hesitatingly.

“I will come for Dr. Lake’s sake.”

“I got a letter from Stacey this morning. I haven’t opened it yet; it will make me very sad. I wish that I wasn’t so sensitive about things. It’s a dreadful trouble to me. I looked in the glass the first thing this morning expecting that my hair would be all white. I’m dying to show you my things; do come home with me.”

“Sue, do you ever say your prayers?”

“To be sure I do,” she replied, with a startled emphasis.

“Then be sure to say them before you write to that poor fellow.”

“I wish that you would write for me. Will you come the night before and stay all night with me? I shall be so afraid that the roof will tumble in, or somebody come down the chimney to catch me, that I sha’n’t sleep a wink.”

The curves of Tessa’s lips relented. “Yes, I will come. If somebody come they shall catch me, too.”

“You are a darling, after all. We are to be married about noon; Day is to send in the breakfast and the waiters—that was the plan, and if father isn’t too mad, I suppose he’ll do the same now.”

She stood still at the corner. “Well, if I do not see you—good-by till the last night of your girlhood.”

“Last night of my girlhood,” repeated Sue. “What are the other hoods?” 226


“Oh, yes, and widowhood,” she said lightly.

Tessa turned the corner and walked rapidly along the pavement. “Motherhood,” she was thinking, “the sweetest hood of all! But I can sooner think of that in connection with a monkey or a butterfly than with Sue.”

At the next corner another interruption faced her in the forms of Mary Sherwood and laughing Naughty Nan.

The lively chat was ended with an expostulation from Nan. “Now, Mary Sherwood, hurry. You know that I must do several things this afternoon. I’m going to Mayfield and Green Valley with the handsome black bear, Miss Wadsworth.”

It was the day for her afternoon with Mrs. Towne; it had chanced that she had given to her every Tuesday afternoon. It touched her to find the white-haired, feeble, old lady watching for her at the window. Tessa loved her because she was cultured and beautiful; she loved her voice, her shapely, soft hands, her pretty motions, her elegant and becoming dress, and because—O, foolish Tessa, for a reason that she had tossed away, scorning herself—she was Ralph Towne’s mother. Not once in all these times had she met Dr. Towne in his own home; not until this afternoon in which he was to take Miss Gerard driving.

“My mother is engaged with callers, Miss Tessa; she asked me to take you to her sitting-room, and to take care of you for half an hour.” 227

“I am sorry to trouble you,” said she confusedly. “I want to see Miss Jewett; I will return in half an hour.”

“And not give me the pleasure of the half hour? When have you and I had half an hour together?”

She remembered.

“On the last night of the old year, was it not? Come with me and ‘take off your things.’ Isn’t that the thing to say?”

Unwillingly she followed him; he wheeled a chair into one of the wide windows overlooking the Park, laid away hat, sacque, and gloves, then seated himself lazily in the chair that he had wheeled to face her own. It was almost like the afternoons in the shabby parlor at home; so like them that she could not at first lift her eyes; in a mirror into which she had glanced, she had noticed how very pale lips and cheeks were and how dark her eyes were glowing.

He bent forward in a professional manner and laid two fingers on her throbbing wrist. “Miss Tessa, what are you doing to lose flesh so?”

With that, she lifted her eyes, the color coming with a rush. “Wouldn’t you like to see my tongue, too?”

“I know your tongue; it has a sharp point.”

“I am sorry.”

“No you are not,” he answered settling himself back in an easy position, and taking a penknife from his pocket to play with. The small knife, with the pearl handle; how often she had seen that 228 in his fingers. “You are a student, of human nature; tell me what you think of me.”

How could she give to that amused assurance the bare, ugly truth!

“How many times have you changed your mind about me?”

“Once, only once.”

“Then your first impression of me was not correct.”

With her usual directness, she answered, “No.”

The blade snapped. If she had seen but his face she would have supposed that he had cut himself. She hastened to speak: “Some one says that we must change our minds three times before we can be sure.”

“But I do not want to wait until you are sure.”

“I am sure now.”

“No doubt. Tell me now.”

How many times his irresistibly boyish manner had forced from her words that she had afterward sorely regretted!

“You will not be pleased. You will dislike me forever after.”

“Much you will care for that.”

“Shall I not?” smiling at the humor in his eyes. “I think that I do not care as I once did for what people think of me; the question nowadays is what I think of them.”

“I will remember,” he said urgently, “that I brought it all upon my own head.”

How could he guess that in her heart was lodged 229 one unpleasant thought of him? Had she not a little while—such a little while since—cared so much for him that he was grieved for her?

“You must promise not to be cross.”

“I promise,” taking out his watch. “You may hammer at me for twenty minutes. I have an engagement at half past three.”

Did Nan Gerard care as she had cared once? Would the sound of his wheels be to Naughty Nan what they were to her a year ago? A blue and gold edition of Longfellow was laid open on its face on the broad window-sill; she ran her forefinger the length of both covers before she could temper her voice; she did not wish to speak coldly, and yet her heart was very cold towards him.

“I think that you took me by surprise at first; I thought you were the handsomest man in the world—”

“You have changed that opinion?” he said, laughing.

“Yes; I should not think of describing you as handsome now; I should simply say that you were tall, dark, with deep-set, not remarkable, brown eyes, a quiet manner, given to few words—not at all remarkable, you are aware.”

“Go on, I am not demolished yet.”

“Your spirit I created out of my own fancies; I gave you in those enthusiastic days a heart like a woman’s heart, and a perfect intellect. You were my Sir Galahad, until I knew that some things you said were not—quite true?” 230

“Not quite true!” he repeated huskily.

Her eyes as well as her fingers were on the blue covers.

“Not true as I meant truth. Your words did not mean to you what they meant to me—I beg your pardon; do not let me savor of strong-mindedness, but I speak from my heart to your heart. You asked me a question frankly, I have answered it frankly. You said some things to Sue that you ought not to have said and that hurt me; I began to feel that you are not sincere through and through and through. At first I believed wholly in you and then I believed not at all. I was very bitter. And it hurt me so that I would rather have died.”

Her tone was as cold and even as if she were reciting a theorem in Legendre.

“So you died because you were not true, but you did not go to heaven because you had never lived, and therefore I can not expect to find you again. I did not know before how sad such a burial is.”

“Why can not you expect to find me again?”

“To find what? That fancy? If there is any one in the world as good, as true, as strong, gentle and sympathetic as my ideal, I surely hope to find that he is in the world.”

“You thought that his name was Ralph Towne, and now you know that his name is not Ralph Towne.”

“I do not know what his name may be.”

“You think the real Ralph Towne is a stranger not worth knowing?” 231

“He is a stranger, certainly; whether or not he is worth knowing you know best.”

She laughed, but not the suspicion of a smile gleamed in his eyes; she had forgotten that they could be as dark and stern as this.

“Time will show you, Miss Tessa,” he said humbly.

“I am sharp. I did not mean to be. But it cuts me so when I think that you can flirt with girls like Sue and Miss Gerard. Do you know of what it reminds me? Once the enemy fell upon the rear of an army and smote all that were feeble, when they were faint and weary; it was an army of women and little children, as well as men, and they did not go forth to war; all they asked was a peaceable passage through the land.”

The door was pushed softly open; Tessa lifted her eyes to behold the rare vision of shining gray silk, and real lace, a fine face crowned with white braids and lighted by the softest and brownest of brown eyes.

“My dear.” All her motherhood was concentrated in the two worn-out words.

“Now you may run away, Ralph.”

“I am very glad to,” he said. “Good afternoon, Miss Tessa.”

Tessa could not trust her voice to speak; raising her eyes she met his fully as he turned at the door to speak to his mother; a long searching look on both sides; neither smiled.

“Tessa, have you been quarrelling with my boy?” 232

“No, ma’am.”

“Has he been quarrelling with you?”

“No, ma’am.”

Mrs. Towne seated herself in the chair that Dr. Towne had vacated, arranged her dress and folded her hands in her lap.

“It is Nan Gerard again! What a flirt that girl is! She called yesterday and Ralph chanced to come in while she was here; she gave him such an invitation to invite her to drive with him that he could not—that is, he did not—refuse. I wish that he wouldn’t, sometimes; but he says that he is amused and no one is harmed. I am not so sure of that. I do not understand Miss Gerard. I think that I do not understand girls of this generation. But I understand you.”

“I wish that you would teach me to be as wise.”

“You will be by and by. Do you know what I would like to ask you to promise?”

“I can not imagine.”

“I have studied you. If you will give yourself five years to think, to grow, you will marry at thirty the man that you would refuse to-day. You are impetuous to-day, you form your judgments rashly, you despise what you can not understand, and you are not yet capable of the love that hopeth all things, endureth all things, that suffereth long and is kind.”

“That is true; I am not capable of it. I have no patience with myself, nor with others.” 233

“If you will wait these five years, your life and another life might be more blessed.”

“Mrs. Towne! No one loves me. There is no occasion for me not to wait. I could promise without the least difficulty for the happiness or unhappiness of marriage is as unattainable to me to-day as the happiness or unhappiness of old age.”

“I will not ask you to promise, my daughter, but I will ask you to promise this; before you say to any man, ‘Yes,’ will you come to me and talk it all out to me? As if I were really your mother!”

Tessa promised with misty eyes.

“I promised to show you an old jewel-case this afternoon,” said Mrs. Towne in a lighter tone. “I wish that I might tell you the history of each piece.” She brought the box from a small table and pushed her chair nearer Tessa that she might open it in her lap. “This emerald is for you,” she said, slipping a ring containing an emerald in old-fashioned setting upon the first finger of Tessa’s left hand; “and it means what you have promised. All that your mother will permit me, I give to you this hour.”

“You are very kind to me.”

“I am very kind to myself. All my life I have wanted a daughter like you: a girl with blue eyes and a pure heart; one who would not care to flirt and dress, but who would love me and talk to me as you talk to me. I am proud of my boy, but I want a daughter.” 234

“I am not very good; you may be disappointed in me.”

“I do not fear that. This, my mother gave me,” lifting pin and ear-rings from the box. A diamond set in silver formed the centre of the pin; the diamond was surrounded by pearls of different sizes. “I was very proud of this pin. I did not know then that I could not have every thing in the world and out of it. This pin my father gave me.”

Tessa laid it in her hand and counted the diamonds; it was a diamond with nine opals radiating from it, between each opal a small diamond. “It looks like a dahlia,” she said. “I love pretty things. This ring is the first ring that I ever had.”

“People say that the emerald means success in love,” replied Mrs. Towne. “I did not remember it when I chose that for you. Perhaps you would prefer a diamond.”

“I like best what you chose,” said Tessa, taking from among the jewels, bracelet, pin, ear-rings and chatelaine of turquoises and pearls, and examining each piece with interested eyes. “These are old, too.”

“Every thing in this box is old. Some day you shall see my later jewels. You will like this,” she added, placing in her hands a bracelet formed of a network of iron wire, clasped with a medallion of Berlin iron on a steel plate; the necklace that matched it was also of medallions; the one in the centre held a bust of Psyche; upon the others were busts of men and women whom Tessa did not recognize; 235 to this set belonged comb, pin, and ear-rings.

“These belonged to my mother. How old they are I do not know. See this ring, a portrait of Washington, painted on copper, and covered with glass. It is said to be one of the finest portraits in the country. I used to wear it a great deal. My father gave it to me on my fifteenth birthday. Have I told you that Lafayette kissed me when I was an infant in my mother’s arms?”

While Tessa replaced the treasures with fingers that lingered over them, with the new weight of the emerald upon her finger, and the new weight of a promise upon her heart, Mrs. Towne related the story of the kiss from Lafayette.

Tessa was a perfect listener, Mrs. Towne thought; the lighting or darkening of her eyes, a flush rising to her cheeks now and then, the curving of the mobile lips, an exclamation of surprise or appreciation, were most grateful to the old heart that had found after long and intense waiting the daughter that she could love and honor.

In the late twilight Dr. Towne returned; Tessa was still listening, with the jewel-case in her lap.

“I have missed my husband with all the old loneliness since we came into Dunellen,” she was saying when her tall son entered and stood at her side.

“Mother,” he said, in the shy way that Tessa knew, “you forget that you have me.” 236

“No, son, I do not forget; but your life is full of new interests. Yesterday I did not have ten minutes alone with you.”

“It shall not happen again.”

“I have persuaded Tessa to stay and hear Philip to-night; she says that he is like a west wind to her.”

“He would not fall upon the hindmost in your army, Miss Tessa.”

“I am sure that he would not.”

“Not if they coaxed him to?”

“He should have manliness enough to resist all their pretty arts, and enticing ways.”

“Mother, can’t you convince her? She has been rating me soundly for flirting, when it is the girls that are flirting with me.”

“It takes two to flirt,” replied his mother.

Dr. Towne was sent for as they were rising from the dinner table; Mrs. Towne and Tessa crossed the Park alone; at the entrance of the Lecture Room Sue Greyson met them.

“I had to come,” Sue whispered, seizing Tessa’s arm. “Father is so horrid and hateful, and said awful things to me just because I asked him to write to Stacey. The letter is written anyhow, and I’m thankful it’s over. Father says that he won’t give me the house, and that I sha’n’t be married under his roof. He is mad with Gerald, too, and told him to leave his house. So Gerald left and went to see a patient. He is so happy that he don’t care what father says.” 237

As they passed down the aisle, Tessa’s dress brushed against Felix Harrison; he was sitting alone with his father.

“Why! Felix Harrison! Did you ever?” whispered irrepressible Sue.

The Lecture Room was well-lighted, and well-filled. Professor Towne was the fashion in Dunellen. During the opening prayer there was a stir in one of the pews behind Tessa; she did not lift her head, her heart beat so rapidly that she felt as if she were suffocating.

“Poor fellow,” came in Sue’s loud whisper close to her ear. “They have taken him out! I should think that he would know better than to go among folks.”

Tessa could not follow the speaker for some minutes; the lights went out, she could not catch her breath; Mrs. Towne took her hand and held it firmly, then the lights came dim, through a misty and waving distance, her breath was drawn more easily, she could discern the outline of the preacher, and then his dark face was brought fully into view, his voice sounded loud in her ears; for some time longer she could not catch and connect his words; then, clear and strong, the words fell from his lips, and she could listen and understand—

“Good is the will of the Lord concerning me.”

If Felix could have listened and understood, would he have been comforted, too?

His voice held her when her attention wavered; afterward, that one sentence was all that had fastened 238 itself; and was not that enough for one life time?

At the door, Dr. Towne stood waiting for his mother, and Mr. Hammerton and Dinah were moving towards the group.

“I knew that you would be here,” said Dinah, “so I coaxed Gus away from father. I couldn’t wait to tell you that your books have come. Two splendid dozens in all colors; I had to open them. You don’t mind? Gus and I each read a brown one; we think the crimson and blue ones must be splendid.”

Sue drew Tessa aside to coax in her plaintively miserable voice, “Come home with me; father will say things, and I shall be afraid.”

“I can’t help you, Sue.”

“You mean you won’t. I’ll elope with Dr. Lake, and then Dunellen will be on fire, and you don’t care.”

“I’m not afraid. He has good sense, if you haven’t.”

“I’ll come and see you to-morrow, then.”

“Well, that will do.”

“Nobody ever had so much trouble before,” sighed Sue as she went off.

Mr. Hammerton was in high glee and teased Tessa all the way home about her book.

“The milk pails were on the fence twice, Lady Blue, that is tautology.”

“Oh, they kept them there.”

“And the grandmother was always knitting.” 239

“She always did knit.”

“Lady Blue, you are on the road to Poverty; he who walks the streets of Literature will stop at the house of Starvation. Homer was a beggar; Terence was a slave; Tasso was a poor man; Bacon was as poor as a church mouse; Cervantes died of nothing to eat. Are you not beginning to feel the pangs of hunger? Breath and memory fail me, or I would convince you. Collins died of neglect; Milton was an impecunious genius; every body knows how wretchedly poor Goldsmith was; and wasn’t poor old prodigious Sam Johnson hungry half his life? Chatterton destroyed himself. I tremble for you, child of Genius! Author of ‘Under the Wings,’ what hast thou to say in defence of thy mad career?”

“Don’t mind him, Tessa,” consoled Dinah, “he does like your book; he said that he had no idea that you could do so well; that there was great promise in it, that it revealed a thoughtful mind—he said it to father—that the delineation of character was fine, and that it had the real thing in it. What is the real thing?”

“Read it and you will know.”

“If it isn’t asking too much,” began Tessa, timidly, “I wish that you would write me a criticism, Gus. I like the way that you talk about books. Not many know how to read a book, and still fewer know how to talk about it. Will you, please?”

“You overrate my judgment; sentiment is not in my line; I have done my share in reading books; I 240 do not know that I have got much out of them all. My own literary efforts would be like this:

    “‘Here  lies—and  more’s  the  pity!
    All  that  remains  of  Thomas  New-city.’

“His name was Newtown.”

Dinah gave her little shout.

“Then you will not promise,” said Tessa, disappointedly. “I’m not afraid of sharp criticism; I want to do my poor little best; I do not expect to do as much as the girls in books who write stories. I do not expect any publisher to fall in love with me as he did in St. Elmo, wasn’t it?”

“What do you expect to do?”

“I hope—perhaps that is the better word—to give others all the good that is given me; I believe that if one has the ‘gift of utterance’ even in so small a fashion as I have it, that experiences will be given to utter; the Divine Biographer writes the life for the human heart to read, interpret and put into words! And to them is given a peculiar life, or, it may be, a peculiar appreciation of life; heartaches go hand in hand with headaches.

“I was born into my home that I may write my books; my poor little books, my little, weak, crooked-backed children! Would Fredrika Bremer have written her books without her exceptional home-training, or Sara Coleridge, or any other of the lesser lights shine as they do shine, if the spark had not been blown upon by the breath of their home-fires? When I am sorry sometimes that I 241 can not do what I would and go where I would, I think that I have not gathered together all the fragments that are around loose between the plank walk and the soldiers’ monument! Said mother, ‘How do you make a book? Do you take a little from this book and a little from that?’”

“What did you say?” asked Dine.

“Oh, I said that I took a tone from her voice, an expression from father’s eyes, a curl from your head, a word from Gus’s lips, a laugh from Sue Greyson, a sigh from Dr. Lake, an apple blossom from Mr. Bird’s orchard, a spray of golden rod from the wayside, a chat from loungers in the Park, a wise saying from Miss Jewett—”

“That’s rather a conglomeration,” said Dinah.

“That is life, as I see it and live it.”

“What do you take from yourself?” asked Mr. Hammerton.

“I have all my life from the time that I cried over my first lie and prayed that I might have curly hair, to the present moment, when I am glad and sorry about a thousand things.”

“What did mother say?”

“She said that any one could write a book, then.”

“Let her try, then! It’s awful hard about the grammar and spelling and the beginning a chapter and ending it and introducing people!”

“Yes, it’s awful hard or awful easy,” replied Mr. Hammerton. “Which is it, Lady Blue?”

“Ask me when I have written my novel! Did you hear from the afternoon mail, Dine?” 242

“Yes,” said Dine, grimly, “I should think I did hear. Mother and I have had a fight! Father took care of the wounded and we are all convalescing. Aunt Theresa has written for one of us to come next week; kindly says that she will take me if mother can not spare you; I said right up and down that I wouldn’t go, and mother said right down and up that I should go, that she couldn’t and wouldn’t spare you! Aunt Theresa has the rheumatism, and it’s horrid dull on a farm! I was there when I was a little girl, and she sent me to bed before dark; I’m afraid that she will do it again; if she does I’ll frighten her out of her rheumatics. Mother will not let you have a voice in the matter, Tessa; who knows but you might meet your fate? The school-teacher boards with them; he is just out of college. Mother sha’n’t make me go!”

“I do not choose to go; but I could have all my time to myself. A low, cosy chamber and a fire on the hearth, no one to intrude or hinder.”

“But the school-master!” added Mr. Hammerton.

“He’s only a boy; I could put him into my book.”

“We’ll draw lots; shall we?”

“If mother is determined, the lot is drawn.”

“And father wants you, I know; he had an attack of pain before tea. I wish that I was useful and couldn’t be spared.”

“May I not have a vote; I am a naturalized member of the family?”

“You would want Tessa, too,” said Dinah.

“Would I?” he returned, squeezing the gloved 243 fingers on his arm, whereupon Dinah became confused and silent.

Tessa found her books upon the hall table; her father, Mr. Hammerton, and Dinah followed her into the hall to watch her face and laugh over her exclamations.

“Your secret is out,” cried her father; “at Christmas there will be a placard in Runyon’s with the name of the book and author in flaming red letters! You can not remain the Great Unknown.”

“I feel so ashamed of trying,” said Tessa, with a brown cover, a red cover, and a green cover in her hands, “but I had to. I’ll be too humble to be ashamed. ‘Humility’s so good when pride’s impossible.’”

Several copies were taken up-stairs; Miss Jewett’s name was written in one, Mrs. Towne’s in another, Mr. Hammerton’s in one that he had selected, and in one, bound in a sober gray, she wrote,

Felix Harrison. In memory of the old school days when he helped me with my compositions.

“T. L. W.”

She never knew of his sudden, sharp cry over it: “Oh, my life! my lost life! my wasted life!”


Mrs. Wadsworth’s strong will triumphed, as it usually did, and Dinah was sent into the country early in the last week of September, with a promise from Tessa that she would release her from her durance as soon as one of her books was finished and herself spend the remainder of the winter with the childless old people who had been looking forward to this pleasure from winter to winter ever since Tessa was ten years old. Half Dunellen had pacified Dinah with the promise of long weekly letters, and she knew that Tessa and her father would write often. “I am not strong enough to write letters,” her mother had said. “Tessa will tell you every thing.” “I will add a postscript whenever Tessa will permit,” said Mr. Hammerton, which queerly enough consoled homesick Dinah more than all the other promises combined.

Sue had not come to talk to Tessa and she dared not go to Dr. Greyson’s for fear of influencing her. She had met Dr. Lake once; he had lifted his hat with a flourish, but would not stop to speak to her.

And now it was Wednesday and Sue’s wedding day had been set for Friday. 245

At noon, among other letters, her father brought her a note from Felix Harrison:

“I must see you; I want to talk to you. Come Wednesday afternoon.”

How she shrank from this interview she did not understand until she could think it over years afterward. In those after years when she said, “I do not want to live my life over again,” she remembered her experiences with Felix Harrison; more than all, the feeling of those weeks when she had felt bound. It was also in her mind when she said, as she often did say, in later life, “I could never influence any one to marry.” How often an expression in the mature years of a woman’s life would reveal a long story, if one could but read it.

Another word of hers in her middle age, “I love to help little girls to be happy,” was the expression to years of longing that no one had ever guessed; her mother least of all.

But she had not come to this settled time yet; it was weary years before she was at leisure from herself. It was Wednesday noon now and Felix had sent for her; she shrank from him with a shrinking amounting to terror; he would touch her hand, most certainly, and he might put his arm around her and kiss her; she would faint and fall at his feet if he did; he might say that she had promised him, that she was bound to him, that he would never let her go; that he was gaining strength and that she must become his wife or he would die!

Why could he not write his message? What 246 could he have to say to her? Was it not all said and laid away to be remembered, perhaps, and that was all? Then the memory of the old Felix swept over her, and she bowed her head and wept for him! She had held herself in her heart as his promised wife for six long weeks, how could she shrink from him? Was he not to her what no other man would ever become? Was she not to him the one best and dearest?

“I wonder,” she sobbed, “why he had to be the one to love me; why was not the love given to one whom I could love? Why must such a good and perfect gift as love be a burden to him and to me? If some one I know—”

The cheeks that were wet for Felix Harrison burned at the thought of one she knew!

“Oh, I wonder—but I must not wonder—I must be submissive; I must bow before the Awful Will.”

In that hour it was harder to bear for Felix Harrison to love her than for Ralph Towne to be indifferent.

“What are you going to do this afternoon?” inquired her mother at the dinner table.

“Take my walk! And then the thing that comes first”

“You never have any plan about any thing; any one with so little to do ought to have a plan.”

“My plan is this—do the next thing! I find that it keeps me busy.”

“The next thing, hard or easy,” said Mr. Wadsworth. 247

“Hard! Easy!” repeated Mrs. Wadsworth in her ironical voice. “Tessa never had a hard thing to do in her life. It will be my comfort in my last hours, Tessa, that you have been kept from troubles and disappointments.”

“You might as well take the comfort of it now,” said Tessa.

“Not many young women of your age have your easy life,” her mother continued; “you have no thought where your next meal will come from, or where you will live in your old age, or where—”

“I know where all my good things come from,” interrupted Tessa, reverently; “the how, the when, and the what that I do not know—that I am waiting to know.”

“That is like you! Not a thought, not a care; it will come dreadful hard to you if you ever do have trouble.”

Tessa’s tears ever left in her heart a place for sweet laughter; so light, so soft, so submissive, and withal so happy was the low laugh of her reply that her father’s eyes filled at the sound. Somebody understood her.

Mrs. Wadsworth looked annoyed. Her elder daughter’s words baffled her. Tessa was shallow and she sighed and asked her if she would take apple pie.

Tessa ate her pie understanding how she was a trial to her mother, but not understanding how she could hinder it. Could she change herself? or could her mother change herself? 248

“I wish that it were easier for me to love people,” she said coming out of a reverie, “then I would not need to trouble myself about not understanding them.”

“I thought that you were a student of human nature,” said her father.

“I always knew that she couldn’t see through people,” exclaimed her mother.

“I do not; I never know when I am deceived.”

“My rule is,” Mr. Wadsworth arose and stood behind his chair, “to judge people by themselves and not by myself.”

“Oh, the heartaches that would save,” thought Tessa. At the hour when she was walking slowly towards Felix, her black dress brushing the grass, her eyes upon the harvested fields lying warm in the mellow sunlight, and on her lips the sorrowful wonder, he was sitting alone in the summer-house, his head dropped within his hands. He was wondering, too, as all his being leaped forward at the thought of her coming, and battling with the strong love that was too strong for his feeble strength.

When her hand unlatched the gate, he was not in the summer-house; she walked up the long path, and around to the latticed porch where Laura liked to sew or read in the afternoons; there was no one there; the work-basket had been pushed over, cotton and thimble had rolled to the edge of the floor, the white work had been thrown over a chair, she stood a moment in the oppressive silence, trembling and half leaning against a post; the tall 249 clock in the hall ticked loudly and evenly: forever—never, never—forever! Her heart quickened, every thing grew dark like that night in the lecture-room, she was possessed with a terror that swept away breath and motion. A groan, then another and another, interrupted the never—forever, of the clock, then a step on the oil-cloth of the hall, and she dimly discerned Laura’s frightened face, and heard as if afar off her surprised voice: “Why, Tessa! O, Tessa, I am so glad!”

The frightened face was held up to be kissed and arms were clinging around her.

“I’m always just as frightened every time—he was in the summer-house and father found him—he can speak now—it doesn’t last very long.”

“I will not stay, he needs you.”

“Not now, no one can help him; father is with him. If this keeps on Dr. Greyson says that some day he will have to be undressed and dressed just like an infant. He has been nervous all day, as if he were watching for something. O, Tessa, I want to die, I want him to die, I can’t bear it any longer.”

Tessa’s only reply was her fast dropping tears.

“If he only had a mother,” said Laura; “I want him to have a mother now that he can never have a wife! If he only had been married, his wife would have clung to him, and loved him, and taken care of him. Don’t you think that God might have waited to bring this upon him until he was married?”

“Oh, no, no, no!” shivered Tessa; “we do not 250 know the best times for trouble to come. I shall always believe that after this.”

“He always liked you better than any one; do you know that he has a picture of you taken when we went to the Institute? You have on a hat and sacque, and your school books are in your hand.”

“I remember that picture! Has he kept it all this time?”

“If he asks for you—he will hear your voice—will you go in?”

“No, I can not see him,” she answered nervously.

“Then I will walk down to the gate with you. He will be sure to ask, and I do not like to refuse him.”

Walking slowly arm in arm as they used to walk from school years ago, they passed down the path, at first, speaking only of Felix, and then as they neared the gate, falling into light talk about Laura’s work, the new servant who was so kind to Felix, the plants that Laura had taken into the sitting-room, “to make it cosy for Felix this winter,” the shirts that she had cut out for him and their father, and intended to make on the machine; about the sewing society that was to meet to-morrow, a book that Felix was reading aloud evenings while their father dozed and she sewed, some Mayfield gossip about Dr. Towne, and their plan of taking Felix travelling next summer. Tessa listened and replied. She never had any thing to say about herself. Laura thought with Mrs. Wadsworth that Tessa had never had any “experiences.” Miss Jewett 251 and Tessa’s father knew; but it was not because she had told them. What other people chattered about to each other she kept for her prayers.

Laura cried a little when Tessa kissed her at the gate. “I wish that you wouldn’t go; I want you to stay and help me. Will you come again soon?”

“I can’t,” she answered hurriedly.

“Did Felix know that you were coming to-day?”

Tessa’s eyes made answer enough; too much, for Laura understood.

“I will not tell him that I know—but I had guessed it—I heard him praying once while we were away, and I knew that he was giving up you.”

Tessa kissed her again, and without a word hurried away, walking with slower steps as she went on with her full eyes bent upon the ground.

Was it so much to give up Tessa Wadsworth? What was she that she could make such a difference in a man’s life? Was she lovable, after all, despite her quick words and sharp speeches? She was not pretty like Dinah, or “taking” like Sue; it was very pleasant to be loved for her own sake; “my own unattractive self,” she said. It would be very pleasant in that far-off time, when she reviewed her life, to remember that some one had loved her beside her father and Dine and Miss Jewett! And a good man, too; a man with brains, and a pure heart!

Her ideal was a man with brains, and a pure heart; then why had she not loved Felix Harrison?

“Oh, I don’t know,” she sighed. “I can’t understand.” 252 Slowly, slowly, with her full eyes on the ground she went on, not heeding the sound of wheels, or gay voices, as a carriage passed her now and then; but as she went on, with her eyes still full for Felix, a light sound of wheels set her heart to beating, and she lifted her eyes to bow to Dr. Towne.

In that instant her heart bowed before the Awful Will in acceptance of the love that had been given to her, even as other things in her lot had been given her, without any seeking or asking.

“I can bear it,” she felt, filling the words with Paul’s thought, when he wrote, “I can do all things.”

Dr. Towne drew the reins: she stood still on the edge of the foot-path.

“My mother misses you, Miss Tessa.”

“Does she? I am sorry, but I have to be so busy at home.”

His sympathetic eyes were on her face. “I thought, that you were never troubled about any thing,” he said.

“I am not—when I can help it.”

“I left Sue Greyson up the road looking for you; I could not bring her to meet you, as my carriage holds but one; there was news in her face.”

“Then I will go to hear.”

The light sound of his wheels had died away before she espied Sue’s tall figure coming quickly towards her.

“Oh, Tessa! How could you go so far? Your 253 mother said that you were here on this road, and that I should find you either up a tree or in the brook; I’ve got splendid news! guess! Did you meet Dr. Towne? He stopped and talked to me, but I wouldn’t tell him. He and his mother will know in time. Now, guess.”

“Let me sit down and think. It will take time.”

They had met near the brook at the corner of the road that turned past Old Place; on the corner stood a tall, bare walnut-tree, the gnarled roots covered a part of the knoll under which a slim thread of water trickled over moss and jagged flat stones, and then found its clear way into a broader channel and thence into the brook that crossed one of the Old Place meadows.

These roots had been Tessa’s resting-place all summer; how many times she had looked up to read the advertisement of the clothier in Dunellen painted in black letters on a square board nailed to the trunk; how many times had she leaned back and looked down into the thread of water at the moss, and the pebbles, the tiny ferns and the tall weeds, turning to look down the road towards May field where the school-house stood, and then across the fields—the wheat fields, the corn fields—to the peach orchard beyond them, and beyond that the green slope of the fertile hill-side with its few dwellings, and above the slope the crooked green edge that met the sky—sometimes a blue sky, sometimes a sky of clouds, and sometimes gray with the damp clouds hanging low; thinking, as her eyes 254 roved off her book, of some prank of Rob’s or some quaint saying of Sadie’s, of some little comforting thought that swelled in grandma’s patient, gentle heart, or of something sharp that Sadie’s snappish mother should say; sometimes she would take the sky home for her book and sometimes the weeds and the pebbles and the brook; and when it was not her book it was Felix—poor Felix!—or Dr. Lake, whom she loved more and more every day with the love that she would have loved a naughty, feeble, winsome child; or Mr. Towne, of his face that was ever with her like the memory of a picture that she had lingered before and could never forget, or of his voice and some words that he had spoken; or of her father and his failing strength and brave efforts to conceal it; sometimes a kind little thing that her mother had done for her, some self-denial or shame-faced demonstration of her love for her elder daughter, sometimes of Dine’s changeful moods, and often of the book of George Eliot’s that she was reading, or the latest of Charles Kingsley’s that she was discussing with Mr. Hammerton; thinking, musing, feeling, planning while she picked up a pebble or tore a weed into bits, or wrote a sentence in her pocket notebook! It was no wonder that this gnarled seat was so much to her that she lost herself and lost the words that Sue was speaking so rapidly.

“You are not listening to me at all,” cried Sue at last “I might as well talk to the tree as to talk to you!” 255

“I am listening; what is it?”

“It’s all settled—splendidly settled—and I’m as happy as Cinderella when she found the Prince! Now guess!”

“Well, then,” stooping to pick a weed that had gone to seed, “I guess that you have come to your right mind, that you will marry Stacey on Friday and all will go as merry as a marriage bell should.”

“What a thing to guess! That’s too horrid! Guess again.”

“You have grown good and ‘steady,’ you will keep house for your father and be what he is always calling you,—the comfort of his old age,—and forego lovers and such perplexities forever.”

“That’s horrider still! Do guess something sensible.”

“You are going to marry Dr. Lake. Your father has stormed and stormed, but now he has become mild and peaceable; you are to be married Friday morning and start off immediately in the sober certainty of waking bliss.”

“Yes,” said Sue very seriously, “that is it. Every thing is as grand as a story-book, except that father will not give me the house for a wedding present. Oh, those wretched days since I saw you last! I did think that I would take laudanum or kill myself with a penknife. You don’t know what I have been through. Old Blue Beard is pious to what father has been; Gerald, he kept out of the house. I should have run away before 256 this, only I knew that father would come around and beg my pardon. He always does.”

Tessa stooped to dip her fingers in the water.

“And this is your idea of marriage,” she said quietly.

“No, it isn’t. I never looked forward to any thing like this; I always wanted something better. I am not doing very well, although I suppose there are girls in Dunellen who would think Gerald a catch.”

“Oh, Sue, Sue! when he loves you so! If he could hear you, it would break his heart!”

“Take him yourself then, if you think he’s so much,” laughed Sue. “Nan Gerard will get the catch!”

“Sue, I am ashamed of you!” exclaimed Tessa rising. “I am glad if you are happy—as happy as you know how to be. I want you to be happy—and do be good to Dr. Lake.”

How Sue laughed!

“Oh, you dear old Goody Goody,” she cried, springing to her feet and throwing her arms around Tessa. “What else should I be to my own wedded husband? But it does seem queer so near to Old Place to be talking about marrying Dr. Lake.”

“We’ll remember this place always, Sue, and that you promised to be kind to Dr. Lake.”

“Yes, I’ll remember,” with a shadow passing over her face. “The next time you and I sit here it will be all over with me. I shall be out of lovers 257 for the rest of my natural life.” She laughed and chatted all the way home; her listener was silent and sore at heart.

“You will come to-morrow night and see the last of me, won’t you? This is what I came to ask you, ‘the last sad office’ isn’t that it? Sue Greyson will never ask you another favor.”

“Yes, I will come.” She had always loved Sue Greyson. She did not often kiss her, but she kissed her now.

“Don’t look so. Laugh, can’t you? If it is something terrible, it isn’t happening to you.”

“The things that happen to me are the easiest to bear.”

Sue crossed over to the planks and went on pondering this, then gave it up to wonder how she would wear her hair on her wedding morning; Tessa would make it look pretty any way, for she was born a hair-dresser.

And Tessa went in and up-stairs, thinking of a remark of Miss Jewett’s: “I should not understand my life at all, it would be all in a tangle, if it were not for my prayers.”


Two of the pretty crimson and brown chairs were drawn to the back parlor grate; Sue had kindled a fire in the back parlor because she felt “shivery,” beside, it had rained all day; the wedding morning promised to be chilly and rainy.

Early after tea Dr. Greyson had been called away; Dr. Lake had not returned from a long drive, the latest Irish girl was singing lustily in the kitchen; Sue and Tessa were alone together before the fire. The white shades were down, the doors between the rooms closed, they were altogether cozy and comfortable. Almost as comfortable, Tessa was thinking, as if there were no dreaded to-morrow; but then she was the only person in the world who could see any thing to be dreaded in the to-morrow. Tessa’s fingers were moving in and out among the white wool that she was crocheting into a long comforter for her father; Sue sat idly restless looking into Tessa’s face or into the fire.

Now and then Tessa spoke, now and then Sue ejaculated or laughed or sighed. 259

“Life is too queer for any thing,” she said reflectively. “Don’t you know the minister said that Sunday that we helped to make our own lives? I have often thought of that.”

Tessa’s wool was tangled, she unknotted it without replying.

The rain plashed against the windows, a coal fell through the grate and dropped upon the fender.

“I wonder how Stacey feels,” said Sue. “Perhaps he is taking out another girl to-night. That ring was large, it will not fit a small hand; perhaps he sold it, you can always get three quarters the worth of a diamond, I have heard people say.”

Tessa’s lips were not encouraging, but Sue was not looking at her.

“Gerald has the wedding ring in his pocket; I tried it on this noon. I wanted to wear it to get used to it, but he wouldn’t let me. He is sentimental like you. I expect that he is really enjoying carrying it around in his pocket. S. G. L. is written in it.”

The rain plashed and Tessa worked; suddenly the door-bell gave a sharp clang, a moment later little Miss Jewett, in a waterproof, was ushered in.

“I had to come, girls. I hope I don’t intrude.”

“Intrude!” Both of Sue’s affectionate arms were around the wet figure. “Tessa is thinking of glum things to say to me, do sit down and say something funny.”

The long waterproof was unbuttoned and hung 260 upon the hat-stand in the hall, the rubbers were placed upon the hearth to dry, and the plump little woman pressed into Tessa’s arm-chair. Moving an ottoman to her side, Tessa sat with her arm upon the arm of her chair.

“I’m so glad to see you,” Sue cried, dropping into her own chair. “What a long walk you have had in the rain just to give me some good advice. Don’t you wish that Tessa was going off, too?”

“Tessa will not go off till she is good and ready,” replied Miss Jewett, “and then she will go off to some purpose.”

“Make a good match, do you mean?”

“If she can find her match,” caressing the hand on the arm of the chair.

“Oh, Miss Jewett, tell us a story! A real love story! Humor me just this once, this last time! I don’t like advice and I do like love stories.”

“Do you, too, Tessa?”

“Yes, I shall write one some day! They shall both be perfect and love each other perfectly. It shall not be an earthly story, but a heavenly one.”

“That would be too tame,” said Sue. “I should want it to be a little wicked.”

“That would be more like life—”

“And then get good in the end! That is like life, too,” interrupted Sue. “Now, go on, please.”

“Very well. To-night is an event, I suppose I may as well celebrate it. I will tell you about a 261 present I had once, the most perfect gift I ever received.”

“But I wanted a love story.”

“And you think that my story can not be that? Sometimes I think that unmarried people live the most perfect love stories.”

Lifting the mass of white wool from Tessa’s lap and taking the needle, she worked half a minute before she spoke; Sue’s curious, bright eyes were on her face, Tessa’s were on the wool she was playing with.

“Twenty-five years ago, when I was younger than I am now, and as intense and as full of aspirations as Tessa here, and as full of fun, as you, Sue Greyson, I boarded one winter with a widow. She was quite middle-aged and lived alone with her chickens and cat, very comfortably off, but she wanted a boarder or two for company. My store was a little affair then, but I was a busy body; I used to study and sew evenings. Ah, those evenings! I often think them over now as I sit alone. I shall never forget that winter. I grew. The widow and I were not alone; before I had been there a week a young man came, he was scarcely older than I—”

Sue laughed and looked at Tessa.

“He was to sail away in the spring to some dreadful place,—that sounds like you, Sue,—to be a missionary!”

“A missionary!” exclaimed Sue.

“Every evening he read aloud to us, usually 262 poetry or the Bible. Poetry meant something to me then—that sounds like you, Tessa. One evening he read Esther, one evening Ruth, and when he read Nehemiah, oh, how enthusiastic we were! He talked and talked and talked, and I listened and listened and listened till all my heart went out to meet him.”

“Ah,” cried Sue, “to think of you being in love, Miss Jewett. I didn’t know that you were ever so naughty!”

“At last the time came that he must go—the very last evening. I thought that those evenings could never end, but they did. I could hardly see my stitches for tears; I was making over a black bombazine for the widow, and the next evening I had to rip my work out! He read awhile,—he was reading Rasselas that night,—and then he dropped the book and talked of his work and the life he expected to lead.

“‘You ought to take a wife,’ said the widow.

“‘No woman will ever love me well enough to go to such a place with me,’ he said.

“Just then I dropped the scissors and had to bend down to pick them up. The widow went out into the kitchen to set the sponge for her bread and clear out the stove for morning, and we stayed alone and talked. We talked about whether he would be homesick and seasick, and how glad he would be of letters from home; not that he had many friends to write to him, though; and I sewed on and on, and threaded my needle, and dropped my scissors, and 263 almost cried because all I cared for in the wide world would sail away with him, and he would never know!

“‘The best of friends must part,’ he said when she brought in his candle and lighted it for him.

“In the morning, we all arose early and took our last breakfast together by lamplight. She shook hands with him twice, and wished him all sorts of good wishes, and then he held out his hand to me and said, ‘Good-by.’ I said, ‘Good-by.’ And then he said, ‘You have given me a very pleasant winter; I shall often think of it.’ And I said, ‘Thank you,’ and ran away up-stairs to cry by myself. That was five and twenty years ago—before you were born, Sue, and before Tessa could creep; there were wet eyes in the world, before you were born, girls, and there will be wet eyes long after we are all dead; and always for the same reason—because somebody loves somebody.

“He is a hard worker—I rejoice in his life. Five years ago he came home, but not to Dunellen; he had no friends here; after resting awhile he returned to his field of labor, and died before he reached it, but was buried in the place he loved better than home.

“I thought of him and loved him and prayed for him through those twenty years. I think of him and love him and give thanks for him now, and shall till I die and afterwards!”

“Why didn’t you go with him?” asked Sue.

“He did not ask me.” 264

“Would you if he had?”

“I certainly should.”

“Couldn’t you bring him to the point? It would have been easy enough.”

“The gentleman did the asking in those days,” Sue laughed. “And wasn’t he ever married?”


“What a pity! I thought that every thing always went right for people like you and Tessa. But I don’t see where the perfect gift comes in, do you, Tessa?”

“Yes, but I’m afraid that I don’t want such a perfect gift. I couldn’t bear it—twenty years.”

“Tell me—I can’t guess. Did he give you something?”

“No, he did not.”

“Didn’t he love you?

“No, he did not love me.”

“Where is the gift then?”

“My love for him was my perfect gift. It was given by One in whom there is no shadow of turning.”

“I am not strong enough to receive such a gift,” said Tessa looking troubled.

“Oh, dear me, I hope not. Oh, dear me, horrid! What a story to tell the night before my wedding! All I care about is about being loved! I didn’t know that the loving made any difference or did any good! That story is too sorrowful. Gerald would like that.”

The long ivory needle moved in and out; the 265 fair face, half a century old, was full of loveliness.

“That is for you to remember all your life, Sue.”

“I sha’n’t. I shall forget it. I only remember pleasant things.”

“I wonder if Fredrika Bremer were as happy as you, Miss Jewett. She says that a gentleman inspired her with a ‘pure and warm feeling,’ that it was never responded to, and yet it had a powerful influence upon her development.”

“Was she real?” inquired Sue. “I thought that she only wrote books.”

“It takes very real people to write,” answered Tessa. “The more real you are, the more you are called to write.”

Slipping off the low chair, down to the rug, Sue laid her head in Miss Jewett’s lap, the white wool half concealing the braids and curls and frizzes, the thin, excited face was turned toward the fire, the brown eyes, wild and yet timid, were misty with tears.

Miss Jewett and Tessa Wadsworth were the only people in the world who had ever seen this phase of Sue Greyson.

Dr. Lake had never seen her subdued or frightened. At this instant she was both. There were some things that Sue could feel; there were not any that she could understand.

“Sometimes,” said Sue, in a hollow whisper, “I’m so afraid, I want to run away; I was afraid I might run away and so I asked Tessa to come to-night.” 266

“My dear!” Miss Jewett’s warm lips touched her forehead.

“Oh, it isn’t any thing! I like Gerald; I adore him. I wouldn’t marry him if I didn’t! I am always afraid of a leap into the dark, and I am always jumping into dark places.”

“It is a leap for him, too, Sue; you seem to forget that,” suggested Tessa.

“You always think of him, you never think of me.”

“It is a pity for no one to think of him; if I were to be married to-morrow, I should cry all night, out of pity for the hapless bridegroom.”

“Tessa, you ridiculous child,” exclaimed Miss Jewett.

“In books,” Sue went on, still with her face turned from them, “girls choose the one they are to marry out of all the world. Why don’t we?”

“We do,” said Tessa.

“We don’t. We take somebody because he asks us and nobody else asks.”

I will not. I do not believe that God means it so. He chooses that we shall satisfy the best and hungriest part of ourselves, and the best part is the hungriest, and the hungriest the best; we may not have opportunity in one year, or two years, or ten years, but if we wait He will give us the things we most need! He did not give us any longing simply to make us go crying through the universe; the longing is His message making known to us that the good thing is. I will not be false 267 to myself, cheating myself by shutting my eyes and saying, ‘Ah, this is good! I have found my choice,’ when my whole soul protests, knowing that it is a lie. I can wait.”

“Oh, Tessa!” laughed Sue. “Doesn’t she talk like a book? I never half know what she means when she goes into such hysterics. Do you expect to get all your good things?”

“All my good things! Yes, every single one; it is only a question of time. God can not forget, nor can He die. I shall not be discouraged until I am sure that He is dead.”

“O, Tessa, you are wicked,” cried Sue.

“You remind me of something,” said Miss Jewett. “‘Blessed are all they that wait for Him.’”

“I can’t wait for my blessings,” said Sue; “I want to snatch them.”

Gently pushing aside Sue’s head, Tessa found her work and her needle; she worked silently while Sue laughed and grumbled and Miss Jewett talked, not over Sue’s head as Tessa’s habit was, but into her heart.

“Sue, I shall lose you in Bible class.”

“I never answered any questions or studied any lesson, you will not care for my empty place. Gerald is getting awfully good; he reads the Bible and Prayer-book every night; every morning when I go in to fix up his room, I find them on a little table by his bed; I suppose he reads in bed nights. He used to be bad and talk dreadful things when he first came; did you ever hear him, Tessa?” 268


“But he’s awful good now; he thinks that people ought to go to church, and say their prayers; I hope he will keep it up; I will not hinder him. I want to be good, too.”

Tessa’s needle moved in and out; she did not hear Sue’s voice, or see the kneeling, green figure; her eyes were looking upon the face she had looked down into that evening in January, such a little time since; and she was hearing her voice as she heard it in the night. Had she forgotten so soon? Or was it the remembrance that gave her the unrest to-night? Was she conscious without understanding? And had her Ralph Towne done this? After having withdrawn himself from Sue, was he keeping her from seeing the good and the happiness of marriage with Dr. Lake? Would the thought of him come between her and the contentment that she might have had?

But no, she was putting herself into Sue’s position; that would not do; it was Sue’s self and not her own self that she must analyze! If she could tell Ralph Towne her fears to-night, his eyes would grow dark and grave, and then he would toss the feeling away with his amused laugh and say, “Sue is not deep enough for that! She did not care for me. Why must you think a romance about her?”

Was she not deep enough for that? Who could tell that?

She listened to Sue’s lively talk and tried to believe that his reply would be just; the one most 269 bitter thought of all was, that if she were suffering it was through his selfishness or stupidity. Why must he be so stupid about such things? Had he no heart himself?

Sue was laughing again. “Oh, dear! I must be happy; if I am not I shall be unhappy! It would kill me to be unhappy! I never think of unpleasant things five minutes.”

The sound of wheels near the windows, and a call to “Jerry” in a loud, quick voice, brought them all to a startling sense of the present.

“There he is,” cried Sue, springing lightly to her feet.

Tessa was relieved that she said “he” instead of “Gerald” or “Dr. Lake.”

“If you will not stay all night, too, Miss Jewett, he shall take you home.”

“I can not, dear. I only came because I wanted to talk with Sue Greyson once more before I lost her.”

Rubbers and waterproof were hurried on, and Tessa was left alone with the fire, the rain, and her work.

Suppose that it were herself who was to be married to-morrow—

Would she wish to run away? Run away from whom? Although her Ralph Towne had died and been buried, that old, sharp, sweet, memory was wrapped around her still; it would always be sweet although so sharp—and bitterly, bitterly sharp although so sweet; if it might become wholly the one 270 or wholly the other, but it could never be that; never unless she learned Love’s lesson as Mrs. Towne had laid it before her. But that was so utterly and hopelessly beyond her present growth!

Would he despise her if he could know how much that happy time was in her thoughts? Was she tenacious where stronger minds would forget? He would think her weak and romantic like the heroine of a story paper novel; that is, if he could think weak any thing so wholly innocent.

She trusted the emerald ring on her finger; at times it burned into her flesh; sometimes she tore it off that she might forget her promise, and then—oh, foolish, incomprehensible, womanly Tessa!—she would take it again and slip it on with a reverence and love for the old memory that she could not be ashamed of although she tried.

Had she been too hard upon Ralph Towne in their latest interview? Why need she have given shape to her hitherto unspoken thoughts concerning his life; she could not tell him of her prayers that he might change and yet become—for it was not too late—the good, good man that she had once believed him to be. He had taken away her faith in himself; he might give it back, grown stronger, if he would. If he only would!

Dr. Greyson’s step was in the hall; Sue’s voice was less excited, her father was speaking quietly to her. Sue, poor Sue! She would never be again the free, wild Sue Greyson that she was to-night.

Tessa felt Dr. Lake’s mood; she could have written 271 out his thoughts, as he drove homeward in the rain; she dreaded his hilarious entrance, how his eyes would shine, with tears close behind them!

Her reverie was interrupted by the entrance that she dreaded. “Ah, Mystic, praying for my happiness here alone! I know you are. I come to be congratulated.”

“I congratulate you,” she said rising and taking his hand. Not so very long afterward, when she saw his cold, dead hands folded together and touched them, she remembered with starting tears this soft, hot, clinging clasp.

“You didn’t dream of this two months ago, did you?” he cried, dropping into the chair that Sue had been sitting in. “You didn’t know that I was born under a lucky star despite all my woeful past. I have turned over a new leaf; I turned it over to-night in the rain; it is chapter first. Such a white page, Mystic. Don’t you want to write something on it for me?”

“I wouldn’t dare.”

“Oh, yes, you would! What do you wish for me? Write that.”

“I wish for you—” she rolled the white wool over her hand.

“Well, go on! Something that must come true!”

“—The love that suffers long and is kind.”

“Whew!” He drew a long breath. “There is no place for that in me.”

Sue entered noisily. She did every thing noisily.

“Come here, Susan.” Dr. Lake caught her in 272 his arms, but she slipped through them, moving to Tessa’s side, seating herself upon the rug, and resting both hands in Tessa’s lap.

“I was reading the other day”—he stooped to smooth Sue’s flounce—“of a fellow who fell dead upon his wedding day, as soon as the knot was tied. Perhaps it was tied too tight and choked him. Suppose I drop dead, Susan, will you like to be a bewitching young widow so soon? Whom would you find to flirt with before night?”

“Gerald, you are wicked!”

“Probably this bridegroom had heart disease. I haven’t heart disease, except for you, my Shrine, my Heart’s Desire.”

“Isn’t he wretched, Tessa? He tells me all kinds of stories about people dying of joy!”

He bent forward, drawing her towards him backward, and with both arms around her, kissed the top of her head and her forehead.

“You mustn’t do so before folks,” said Sue shaking herself free.

“Mystic isn’t folks! She is my guardian angel.”

“I know that you would rather have married her.”

“But she wouldn’t rather have married me, would you, Mystic?”

“I can’t imagine it,” returned Tessa, as seriously as he had spoken. “Set your jealous heart at rest, Sue.”

“I never thought of it, but once in my life,” he continued, musingly, “and that was when I was 273 down in the deeps about you, Susan; I did think that she might drag me out—a drowning man, you know, will catch at a straw. It was one night when she was weeding her pansies and refused to ride with me. I’m glad that you never did refuse me, Mystic, you couldn’t be setting there so composedly.”

“Oh, yes, I would; I should have known that you were insane.”

“I was insane—all one week.”

“I believe that,” said Sue.

“I wonder what we shall all be thinking about the next time that we three sit here together! It will be too late for us to go back then, Susan; the die will be cast, the Rubicon crossed, another poor man undone forever. Are you regretting it, child?” drawing her again towards him backward and gazing down into her face. “Shall we quit at this last last minute? Speak the word! You never shall throw it up at me, that I urged you into it. It will be a mess for us if we do hate each other after awhile.”

“I will never hate you, Gerald.”

“But I might hate you, though, who knows?” smoothing her hair with his graceful, weak hands.

“Then Tessa shall be peacemaker,” said Sue straightening herself.

“No; I will not,” replied Tessa, gathering her work and rising. “Sue, you will find me up-stairs.”

“Then I’m coming, too; I don’t want to stay and 274 be sentimental. Gerald will talk—I know him—and I will cry, and how I would look to-morrow! I want you to do a little fixing for me and to try my hair low and then high.”

“I like it high,” said Dr. Lake.

“I don’t. I like it low. Tessa you shall try it low, like Nan Gerard’s. Say, Gerald, shall I put on my dress after she has fixed my hair and come down and let you see it.”

“I think I have seen it. Didn’t you try it on for me and tell me that that fellow liked it? I hate that dress; if you dress to please me, you will wear the one you have on now.”

“This old thing! I see myself. No, I shall wear my wedding dress. It fits to perfection. I want to look pretty once in my life.”

“You will never look prettier than you do this minute! Come here,” opening his arms towards her.

“No, I won’t. Let me alone, Dr. Lake.”

Tessa was already on the stairs; Sue ran towards her laughing and screaming, the parlor door was closed with a bang.

“Now he’s angry,” cried Sue, tripping on the stairs. “I don’t care; he wants me to stay and talk sentiment, and I hate being sentimental. And, Tessa, you sha’n’t talk to me, either.”

“Where is your father?” inquired Tessa, standing on the threshold of Sue’s chamber.

“In the dining-room drying his feet and drinking a cup of coffee.” 275

“Don’t you want to go down and say good night? He will lose every thing when he loses you.”

Sue hesitated. “I don’t know how to be tender and loving, I should make a fool of myself; he isn’t over and above pleased with this thing anyway; he never did pet me as your father has petted you. Your father is like a mother. He said once when I was a little girl that he wished that I had died and Freddie had lived; Freddie was two years older and as bright as a button. Father loved him. I shall never forget that; I shall never forgive him no matter how kind he is to me. And he swears at me when he is angry with me; he used to, but Gerald told him that he should not swear at his wife! Father said that he didn’t mean any thing by it. Gerald will be kinder to me than father has been; father swears at me in one breath and calls me the comfort of his old age in the next. You can’t turn him into your father if you talk about him all night.”

“But he will be glad if you go down; he will think of it some day and so will you.”

“He isn’t sentimental and I can’t be. Besides I have some things to put into my trunk, and I want to put a ruffle into my wrapper that I may have it all ready. It’s eleven o’clock now; we shall not be asleep to-night.”

Tessa urged no more; it was not her father who was drying his feet and drinking his coffee down-stairs alone on the night before her wedding day. How he would look at her and take her into his arms with tears. 276

Sue opened her trunk. “Gerald’s things are all in. It does seem queer to have his things packed up with mine. And when we come home every thing will go on just the same only I shall be Mrs. Lake instead of Miss Greyson.”

As Tessa stood behind her arranging her hair, She said, “There, I like that. I almost look like Nan Gerard. What do you think she said to-day? She was here with Mary Sherwood to see father and they saw Mr. Ralph in my album. ‘That’s the man I intend to marry,’ she said, ‘eyes, money, and all.’ Mary scolded her but she only laughed. She said that if she couldn’t get him, she should take the professor, for he was just as handsome and could talk about something beside paregoric and postmortem examinations.”

Tessa said nothing. How she had pitied Nan Gerard, and how harshly she had misjudged Dr. Towne. She was awakened in the night by Sue’s voice—

“Put your arm around me, Tessa.”

The long night ended at last in the dull dawn, for it was raining still. Tessa had slept fitfully; Sue had lain perfectly quiet, not speaking again or moving.

At eleven o’clock Sue and Dr. Lake were married. Dr. Greyson sat with his head in his hands, turned away from them, his broad frame shaking from head to foot; Tessa did not look at Dr. Lake: she sat on a sofa beside Mrs. Towne, with her eyes fixed on the carpet. Sue cried and laughed together 277 when her father kissed her; she drew herself to the full height of Mrs. Gerald Lake, when Dr. Towne shook hands with her. At half past twelve the bride and bridegroom were driven to the depot; Tessa remained to give a few orders to the servants, and was then taken home in Dr. Towne’s carriage.

“It seems to me as lonely as a funeral,” she said; “and Sue is laughing and eating chocolate cream drops this very minute. Marriage should be a leap into the sunshine.”

“I hope that yours will be,” her companion said in his gravest tone.

“If it ever is, you may rest assured that it will be. It will be the very happiest sunshine that ever shone out of heaven.”

She was learning to talk to Dr. Towne as easily as she talked to her father, for he was the one man in the world that she was sure that she would never marry; she knew that he desired it as little as she did herself.

“Why will it be so happy?”

“Because I shall wait till I am satisfied.”

“Satisfied with him? You will never be that.”

“Then I shall wither in single blessedness; I shall be unhappily not married instead of unhappily married.”

“Philip Towne is your ideal.”

“I know it,” she said. “I like to think that he is in the world. He makes me as happy as a pansy.” 278

“Women are never happy with their ideals.”

“They seldom have an opportunity of testing it; Professor Towne has a pure heart and he has brains.”

Dr. Towne answered in words that she never forgot, “That is what he says of you.”

“Oh, I am so glad! I like to have that said of me better than any thing.”

She remembered, but she would not tell him, that a lady had said of him, having seen him but a few moments, and not having heard him speak, that he was a “rock.”

“And I love rocks and know all about them,” she had added.

“They give shadow in a weary land,” Tessa had thought. “I have been in a weary land and he has not been a shadow to me.”

After a silent moment he spoke, “Don’t you think that you were rather hard on me last week?”

“Yes,” she said frankly, “I have thought it all over; I intended to tell you that I was sorry; I am sorry; I will not do so again.”

“Till next time?”

“There shall not be any next time; in my thoughts I have been very unjust to you; I have come nearer hating, really hating you, than any other person I ever knew. I am sorry; I am always sorry to be unjust.”

One look into the sunshiny eyes satisfied her that she was forgiven. It almost seemed as if they were on the old confidential footing. 279

“Have you gathered any autumn leaves?” he asked.

“Yes, some beautiful ones. I did not get any last year—” She stopped, confused.

She had lived through her year without him. Was he remembering last October, too?

About sunset it cleared; she was glad for Dr. Lake’s sake; about the bride she did not think; Sue would be thankful if none of her bridal finery were spoiled.

The evening mail brought a letter from Dinah.

There were two pieces of news in it, in both of which Tessa was interested. The school-master was twenty-one years of age, “a lovable fellow, the room grows dark when he goes out of it, and he likes best the books that I do.” This came first, she read on to find that Professor Towne’s mother and sister had come this summer to the house over the way, that Miss Towne was “perfectly lovely” and had been an invalid for fifteen years, not having put her foot to the ground in all that time; she could move about on the first floor, but passed most of her time in a chair, reading, writing, and doing the most beautiful fancy work. She was beautiful, like Professor Towne, but the mother was only a fussy old lady. Her name was Sarepta!

Dinah’s letters were rather apt to be ecstatic and incoherent. Tessa wrote five pages in her book that night and a foolscap sheet to Dinah.

She fell asleep thinking of what Professor Towne had said about her.


All through the month of October she felt cross, sometimes she looked cross, but she did not speak one cross word, not even once; she was not what we call “sweet” in her happiest moods, but she was thoroughly sound in her temper and often a little, just a very little, sharp. Never sharp to her father, however, because she reverenced him, and never to her mother because she was pitiful towards her; she could appreciate so few of life’s best havings and givings, that Tessa could never make her enjoyment less by speaking the thoughts that, at times, almost forced their own utterance; therefore her mood was kept to herself all through the month.

There was no month in the year that she loved as well as she loved October; in any of its days it was a trial to be kept within doors.

She would have phrased her mood as “cross” if she had had the leisure or the inclination to keep a diary; she had kept a journal during the first year of her friendship with Ralph Towne and 281 had burned it before the year was ended in one of her times of being ashamed of herself.

One of the happenings that irritated her was the finding in her desk a scrap of a rhyme that she had written one summer day after a talk with Ralph Towne; she dropped it into the parlor grate chiding herself for ever having been so nonsensical and congratulating herself upon having outgrown it.

It was called The Silent Side and was the story of a maiden wandering in the twilight up a lane bordered with daisies, somebody didn’t come and her eyes grew tired of watching and her heart beat faint with waiting, so she wandered down the daisy-bordered lane! She did feel a little tender over the last lines even if she were laughing over it:

    “‘Father,’  she  said,  ‘I  may  not  say,
    But  will  you  not  tell  him  I  love  him  so?”

Had any one in all the world of maidenhood beside her ever prayed such a prayer? Old words came to her: “Thou knowest my foolishness.”

The rhyme was dated the afternoon that Ralph Towne had said—but what right had she to remember anything that he had said? He had forgotten and despised her for remembering; but he could not despise her as much as she despised herself!

Why was it that understanding him as she certainly did understand him, that she knew that she 282 would fly to the ends of the earth with him if he should take her hand and say, “Come”; that is, she was afraid that she would. It was no marvel that the knowledge gave her a feeling of discomfort, of intense dissatisfaction with herself; how woefully wrong she must be for such a thing to be true!

On the blank side of a sheet of manuscript, she scribbled a stanza that haunted her; it gave expression to the life she had lived during the two years just passed.

    “A  nightingale  made  a  mistake;
        She  sang  a  few  notes  out  of  tune;
    Her  heart  was  ready  to  break,
        And  she  hid  from  the  moon.”

In this month her book was accepted; that check for two hundred and six dollars gave pleasure that she and others remembered all their lives; with this check came one for fifteen dollars for Dinah; she almost laughed her crossness away over Dine’s little check.

Dine’s reply was characteristic:

“Thus endeth my first and last venture upon the literary sea; I follow in your wake no longer.

“If it were matrimony now—

“John (isn’t John a grand, strong name?) doesn’t like literary women. He reads Owen Meredith to me, and Miss Mulock. He says that I am like Miss Mulock’s Edna.”

Each letter of Dine’s teemed with praises of John Woodstock; she thought that he was like Adam Bede, or Ninian in “Head of the Family,” or perhaps 283 Max in “A Life for a Life”; she was lonely all day long without him, and as happy as she could be on earth with him all the long evenings.

Tessa frowned over the letters; Dine made no allusion to him in letters written to her father and mother; her whole loving, girlish heart she poured out to Tessa. And Tessa cried over them and prayed over them.

Sue returned from her bridal tour undeniably miserable; even the radiant mood of Dr. Lake was much subdued. Tessa met them together at Mrs. Towne’s one evening, two days after the coming home, and was cut to the heart by their manner towards each other: she was defiant; he, imploring.

“I’m sorry I’m married any way,” she exclaimed.

“Don’t say that,” he remonstrated, his face flushing painfully.

“I will say it—I do say it! I am sorry!”

“You know that you don’t mean it.”

“Yes, I do mean it, too.”

Dr. Towne glanced at Tessa and gave an embarrassed laugh. Mrs. Towne’s expression became severe; Tessa could have shaken Sue. Nan Gerard turned on the music stool with her most perfect laugh; Tessa could have shaken her for the enlightenment that ran through it.

“We will have no more music after that,” said Professor Towne.

Sue bade Tessa good night holding both her hands. “I wish I had married Stacey,” she whispered. 284

“Don’t tell Dr. Lake, I beg of you.”

“Oh, he knows it. Come and see me.”

“No, I will not. You shall not talk to me about your husband.”

“I will if I want to. You must come.”

“Do come,” urged Dr. Lake coming towards them. But she would not promise.

The last Saturday evening in October found Tessa alone before the fire in Mrs. Towne’s sitting-room; Mrs. Towne was not well, and had sent for her to come; she had gone to her sleeping room immediately after tea, and asked Tessa to come to her in two hours.

She was in a “mood”; so she called it to herself, a mood in which self-analysis held the prominent place; her heart was aching, she knew not for what, she hardly cared, if the aching might be taken away and she could go to sleep and then awake to find the sun shining.

For the last hour she had been curled up in a crimson velvet chair, part of the time with her head bowed upon the arm; there were tears on her eyelashes, on her fingers, and on the crimson velvet. In the low light, she was but a gray figure crowned with chestnut braids, and only that Ralph Towne saw when he entered noiselessly through the half open door.

Tessa thought that no one in the world moved so gently or touched her so lightly as Ralph Towne. He stood an instant beside her before she stirred, then she raised her head slowly, ashamed of her 285 flushed, wet cheeks. She could not hide from the moon.

“Well?” she said, thinking of her eyes and cheeks.

“Are you dreaming dreams alone, here in the dark?”

“I’m afraid so; I dream too many dreams; I want something real; I do not like the stuff that dreams are made of.”

“You are real enough.” He leaned against the low mantel with one elbow resting upon it; she did not lift her eyes; she was afraid. Had he come to say something to her?

“Miss Tessa.”

She did not reply, she was rubbing her fingers over the crimson velvet.

“I have been thinking of something that I wish to say to you.”

“Well, I am approachable,” in a light, saucy voice.

“Think well before you speak; it is a question that, middle-aged as I am, I never asked any woman before; I want to ask you to become my wife.”

She had raised her eyes in surprise, unfeigned surprise.

“You need not look like that,” he said irritably; “you look as if you had never thought of it.”

“I have not—for a long time; perhaps I did once—before I became old and wise. I am surprised, I can not understand it; I was so sure that you could never care for me.” 286

“Why should I not? It is the most natural thing in the world.”

“I do not think so; I can not understand.”

“Accept it upon my testimony, do not try to understand it.”

He betrayed no feeling, except in his quickened tone; she was too bewildered to be conscious of any feeling at all; she listened to the sound of her own voice, as if another were speaking; she remembered afterward, that for once in her life she had heard the sound of her own voice. She was thinking, “My voice is pleasant, only so cold and even.”

“Will you not answer me?”

She was thinking; she had forgotten to answer.

“Why should you like me?” she said at last.

“There’s reason enough, allow me to judge; but you do not come to the point.”

“I do not know how.”

“I thought that coming to the point was one of your excellences.”

“Your question—your assertion rather—is something very new.”

She could see the words; she was reciting them from a printed page.

“Don’t you know whether you like me or not?” he asked in the old assured, boyish way.

“No, I do not know that; if I did I should care for what you are saying, and now I do not care. Once, in that time when I loved you and you did not care, I would have died with joy to hear you say what you have said; my heart would have 287 stopped beating; I should have been too glad to live; but perhaps when that you went away and died, the Tessa that loved you went away and died, too. I think that I did die—of shame. Now I hear you speak the words that I used to pray then every night that you might speak to me, and now I do not care! When I was little I cried myself sick once for something I wanted, and when mother gave it to me I was too sick and tired to care. No, I do not want to marry you, Dr. Towne, I am too sick and tired to love you.”

“Why do you not want to marry me?”

“Because—because—” she looked up into his grave eyes—“I do not want to; I am not satisfied with you.”

“Why are you not satisfied with me?”

“I do not know.”

“Are you disappointed in me? Have I changed?”

“Oh, no,” she said sorrowfully, “you have not changed—not since I have known you this time. It is like this, as if I were blind when I knew you before, and I loved you for what you were to me; but as I could not see you, I loved you for what I imagined you to be, and now, I am not blind, my eyes are wide, wide open, and I look at you and wonder ‘where is the one I knew?’ I do not know you; you are a stranger to me; I would love you if I could; I can not say yes and not love you. I have never told any one, but I may tell you now. While you were away at St. Louis, I promised to marry some one; he had loved me all my life, and 288 I was so heart-broken because of the mistake that I had made about you; and I wanted some one to care for me, so that I might forget how I loved somebody that did not love me. And then I was wild when I knew what I had done! I did not love him; I felt as if I were bound in iron; I shall never forget that. I do not want to feel bound in iron to you. Why did you not ask me last year when you knew how I cared for you?”

He dropped his eyes, the hot color flushing even to his forehead. “I could not—sincerely.”

“Why did you act as if you liked me?”

“I did like you. I did not love you. I did not understand. I can not tell you how unhappy I was when I found that you had misunderstood me. I would not have hurt you for all the universe; I did not dream that you could misunderstand me; I was attracted to you; I did not know that I manifested any stronger feeling. Surely you have forgiven me.”

“Yes, I have forgiven you; I did not really blame you; I knew that you did not understand. You are a stupid fellow about women.—You are only a stupid, dear, big boy.”

“But you do not answer me.”

“I have answered you. Do you ask me sincerely now?” she asked curiously.

“You know I do,” he said angrily.

“Do you ask me because Miss Gerard has refused you?” with a flash of merriment crossing her face. 289

“I never asked Miss Gerard.”

“Did you flirt with her?”

“I suppose you give it that name. I was attracted towards her, of course, but I soon found that she had no depth; she would cling to me, I could not shake her off. I took her to Mayfield this morning; she asked to go, I could not refuse the girl. She has made several pretty things for me; I showed my appreciation by buying pieces of jewelry for her; was that flirting? I never kissed her, or said I loved her, or talked any nonsense to her.”

“Of course not. You do not know how.”

“I know how to talk sense, Miss Tessa.”

“Are you asking me because your mother loves me so much?”

“Is it so hard for you to believe that I love you?”

“Yes,” she said, her eyes filling at his tone, “I can not believe it. It is as if you had put both hands around my throat and choked my breath away and then said politely, ‘Excuse me.’”

“Is my love so little to you as that?”

“I have not seen it yet; you say you love me, that is all.”

“Is not that enough?”

“It can not be enough, for it does not satisfy me. I have believed so long that you despised me; one word from you can not change it all.”

“Is there something wrong about me?”

“Wrong? Oh, no. How could there be? I do believe that you are a good man.” 290

“You think that you can not be happy with me?” he asked patiently.

“I am happy enough always, everywhere; I was as happy as a bird in a tree before I knew you; you set me to crying for something, and then held out your hand empty.”

“I love you; isn’t that full enough?”

“No, that is not full enough. I want you to be all that I believed you to be. I shall not be satisfied till then. When you think of me you may think of me hungering and thirsting for you to be all that I can dream of your being—all that God is willing to make you.”

The light had died out of his eyes.

“Do you know some one that does satisfy you?”

“I know good people, but they do not satisfy me.”

“Philip Towne?”

“I should as soon think of loving St. John.”

“Tell me, do you love him?”

“Dr. Towne, I never thought of such a thing!” she said with quick indignation.

“You are a Mystic; Dr. Lake has named you true. Come, be sensible and don’t talk riddles; don’t talk like a book; talk plain, good sense; say yes, and leave all your whims behind you forever.”

“Loving you was a whim; shall I leave that behind forever?”


“Then I could not endure your presence; it is that that keeps you near me now. It is not enough 291 for you to love me; I should die of hunger if I did not love you.”

“Love me, then.”

Her head went down upon the arm of the chair; she covered her face with both hands; a childish attitude she often assumed when alone.

“I can’t, I can’t! I want to; I would if I could! it’s too late; I can’t go back and see you as you were—”

“I have asked you to forgive me.”

“I do, I do; but I do not love you as I want to love you. I shall never marry any one, you may be sure of that; I do not want to be married. Why must I? Who says I must?”

“I say so.”

“Your authority I do not recognize. The voice must come from God to my own heart.”

“Lift your head. Look at me.”

She obeyed.

“I wish you to understand that I am not to be trifled with; this is definite; this is final; I have asked and you have refused. You need not play with me thinking that I shall ask you again, I never shall. Remember, I never shall.”

“I do not wish you to ask me again.”

“Then this ends the matter.”

“This ends the matter,” she repeated.

“My mother is not well, she will miss you; you will stay with her just the same. She will not surmise any thing. She loves you as I did not know that one woman could love another.” 292

“Is that why you wish to marry me?”

“No. I know my own mind. I have loved you ever since I knew you, but I was not aware of it; I did not know it until I knew that Miss Gerard was not like you.”

“Oh, I am so sorry! This is the hardest of all. But I might grow not to like you at all; I might rush away from you; it takes so much love and confidence and sympathy to be willing to give one’s self.”

“I am not in a frame of mind to listen to such things; you forget that you have thrown me away for the sake of a whim!”

“I want to tell your mother; I can not bear for her to be so kind to me—”

“It isn’t enough to hurt me, but you must hurt her, also. She would not understand—any more than I do—why you throw me away.”

“I will not tell her, but I shall feel like a hypocrite. You will not utterly despise me.”

“You can not expect me to feel very kindly towards you. Why may I not lose all but the memory of you?”

“You may. I am willing,” she answered wearily. “Oh, I wanted to be satisfied with you.”

He had left the room with his last words, not waiting for reply.

And she could only cry out, with a dry, hard sob, “Oh, Ralph, Ralph, I wanted to be satisfied with you!”


One afternoon in the reading-room she found two notices of her book; one was in Hearth and Home, the other in The Lutheran Observer; the former ran in this style:

“‘Under the Wings’ by Theresa Louise Wadsworth is the most lifelike representation of a genuine live boy that we have seen for many a day. We are almost tempted to think that the author was once a boy herself she is so heartily in sympathy with a boy’s thoughts and feelings. It is a book that every boy ought to read, and we are confident that no boy can read it without being bettered by it.”

The other she was more pleased with:

“Rob is a genuine boy, with all manner of faults and pranks; but a tender, truthful heart, and a determination for the right that brings him through safely. But specially is he delightful in juxtaposition with Nell, a little girl who says the quaintest things in the most laughable, most lovable manner. Altogether it is a thoroughly enjoyable book, sweet 294 and saintly, too; though not saintly after the cut and dried style of youthful piety.”

She turned the papers with a startled face as if the lady in the black cloak near her had guessed what she had looked for and had found; as if the blonde mustache hidden behind Emerson surmised that she had written a book and wondered why she had not attempted something deeper; as if Mr. Lewis Gesner reading a newspaper with his forehead puckered into a frown knew that she was slightly a blue-stocking, and decided that she might better be learning how to be a good wife for somebody.

“I am commonplace,” she soliloquized, running down the long flight of stairs; “ten years ago when my heroines were Rosalie and Viola, and their lovers bandits or princes in disguise, who would have believed that I could have settled down into writing good books for good little children?”

That evening Mr. Hammerton took from his memorandum book three square inches of printed matter, neatly and exactly folded, and dropped it into her hand.

“There’s a feather in your cap, Lady Blue; it is plucked from the Evening Mail.”

She read it, by the light of the shaded lamp, standing at the sitting-room table. Mrs. Wadsworth looked up from her work, regarding her curiously; Tessa did not observe the expression of pride and love that flitted across her face. Mrs. Wadsworth loved Tessa more than she loved any other 295 human being; indeed, with all her capacity for loving; but Tessa would never discover it. Mrs. Wadsworth was not aware of it, herself; Mr. Wadsworth saw it and was glad. Tessa read eagerly:

“‘Under the Wings’ is the title of an excellent book by Theresa Louise Wadsworth issued in neat form by——. The characters of the boyish hero—wilful, merry, irreverent, honest, and bold, and the heroine—happy, serious, inquiring, and lovable, are drawn with no mean skill, while the other personages, the kind and pious grandmother, the snappish, but well-meaning mother, the deacon, and others, are sketched with scarcely less truth and vividness. The development of the Christian faith in the soul of wild Rob is traced easily and naturally, the incidents are numerous and interesting; the whole movement of the story is in helpful sympathy with human hearts.”

“What is it, daughter?” inquired her father arranging the chess-men.

“She is modest as well as famous. I will read it,” said Mr. Hammerton, “and here’s your letter from Dine; I knew that that would insure my welcome. Do you know, I forgot to inquire for myself? I never did such a thing before. Father will go to the mail, however.”

Moving apart from the group, she ran through the long letter; coloring and biting her lips as she read. Mrs. Wadsworth’s little rocker was drawn to the table; the light from the tall lamp fell over her face and hair, touching her hands and her work; 296 the low, white forehead, the wavy hair, the pretty lips and chin were pleasant to look upon; when she was in a happy state of mind, this little lady was altogether kissable.

“What does Dine say?” she asked.

“Not much. No news,” stammered Tessa.

“Hurry then and let me read it.”

“Excuse me, it is purely confidential, every vestige to be consigned to the flames. You are to have a letter in a day or two.”

Mr. Hammerton gave her a quick glance and moved his queen into check. She took the letter into the parlor for a second perusal.

“Oh, Tessa, my dear, big, wise sister, I’ve got something to tell you. What should I do if I hadn’t somebody to tell? At first I thought I wouldn’t tell you or any body, and then I knew I must. Norah knows, but she will never tell. She does not know about Gus. I have never told that, but she knows about my wonderful John! I don’t know how to begin either; I guess I will begin in the middle; all the blanks your own imagination must fill. You know all about John; I’ve told you enough if your head isn’t too full of literary stuff to hold common affairs; I’m in love and he is, too, of course. I should not be if he were not. I mean I should not tell of it if he were not. I’m glad that you are not the kind of elder sister that can’t be told such things, for I could not tell mother, and I would not dare tell dear, old father. 297 Not that it is so dreadful to be in love, even if I have known him but seven weeks to-night; I fell in love with him the instant he raised his eyes and took hold of my hand. Living under the same roof and eating together three times a day (he eats so nicely), and ciphering and studying and reading together, and going to church and prayer-meeting and singing-school together, make the time seem ten times as long and give twenty times as many opportunities of falling in love decorously as I could have found in Dunellen in a year! But I am not apologizing for that. It’s too delightfully delicious to have a real lover! Not that he has asked me yet! I wouldn’t have him do it for any thing; it would spoil it all. But we both knew it as Adam and Eve knew it! Now the dreadfulness of it is that I have no right to do such a thing. I came here believing that I was lawfully and forever engaged to dear old Gus, spectacles, chess-board, dictionary and all. Not that he ever said a word to me! Don’t you know one night I told you that I had a secret? How glad I was of it then! I couldn’t sleep that night and for days I felt dizzy; for Gus had been my hero ever since he told me stories when I was a wee child. And so of course I thought I loved him. What is love, anyway? Who knows? That secret was this: I heard dear, old, wise Gus tell father that he loved me (just think, me!) and that he was waiting for me to love him, dear, old boy! He would not try to make me love him, he wanted it to come naturally; 298 he would not speak to me or urge me, he wanted to find me loving him and then he would ask me to give him what belonged to him. Wasn’t it touching? I didn’t know that he could be so lover-like. I didn’t know that he ever would love anybody because he always talks books and politics and only made fun when I told him news about the girls. How could I help loving him when I knew that he loved me. Isn’t that enough to make anybody love anybody?

“Just as soon as I saw my wonderful John, then I knew that I did not love Gus, that I never had loved him, that I never could love him. No, not to the end of time. If I had married him, I suppose that I should have been satisfied and thought I was as happy as I could be—I don’t know, though. He was wise to let me wait and have a choice: it is cruel to ask girls before they have seen some one else; we do not know what we do want until we see it—or him. I am writing at the sitting-room table; John has not come home from the mail; Aunt Tessa knits a long, blue stocking and Uncle Knox is asleep with the big white and black cat on his knees.

“I never could stay here but for John and Miss Towne. I have told her about John; she likes John. Every one does.

“I want you to see my knight; he is not tall, he is broad-shouldered, with the loveliest complexion and blonde mustache, blue eyes, shining blue eyes, and auburn curly hair! that is, rather auburn; I 299 think it is more like reddish gold. I wish that you could hear him talk about making life a glorious success. He makes me feel brave and strong. Oh, isn’t it a beautiful thing to live and have some one love you! I wish that you loved somebody; I do not like to be so happy and have you standing out in the cold. John thinks that you are wonderful; I tell him that he will forget me when he has heard you talk.

“Wise old Gus is a thousand miles over my head when he talks to me, but John walks by my side and speaks the thoughts that I have been thinking, only in so much more beautiful language; and he likes all the books I like, and my favorite poems and hymns. How will you break it to Gus? He must be told. He wrote to me two weeks ago, a long, interesting letter all about Dunellen news, which I haven’t dared answer yet. I suppose I must. I showed it to John; he asked how old he was, and now he calls him ‘The Venerable.’ He must not keep on thinking about me, for I never, never can like him, even if I never marry John. Do break it to him in some easy, pleasant way; he will never imagine that you know that he likes me. He never showed it any, I am sure. I always thought that it was you, and mother thinks so; I heard her telling father.

“Be sure to write immediately, for I am as unhappy as I can be. And be sure to tell me what he says and how he takes it. Mary Sherwood wrote me that Sue told her that she and Dr. Lake had 300 awful quarrels, and that once they didn’t speak to each other for three days only in her father’s presence. I never could quarrel with John. There he comes. I’ll be writing when he comes in and not look up, and then he will come behind my chair and touch my curls when auntie isn’t looking.

“Write soon. Your ever loving Dine.

“P.S.—John calls me Di: he doesn’t like Dine.”

Crumbling the letter in both hands, she laid it upon the coals; then she stood with one foot on the fender, leaning forward with her forehead upon the mantel, thinking, thinking. Before she was aware the door was opened and some one came behind her and put both arms around her.

“Is any thing the matter with Dine?”

“Oh, no,” shaking herself loose from his arms and creeping out of them.

He pushed the ottoman nearer and seated himself upon the parrot and the roses; she stood on the edge of the rug, with her arms folded across her breast to keep herself quiet; how could she tell him the truth? He was not a boy to laugh and cry and fling it off; he had loved Dine as long as Felix Harrison had loved her! He would take it quietly enough; she had no dread of an outburst; it might be that Dine’s silence in regard to his letter had been a preparation; surely every hard thing that came had its preparation; the heavy blow was never sent before the word of warning.

“She is not sick?” he asked. 301

“Sick!” She lingered over the word as if help would come before it were ended. “Oh, no, she is well and happy.”

“Does she write you secrets?”

“She always tells me her secrets.”

“Has any phenomenon occurred?”

“It isn’t a phenomenon; it is something as old as Eve and as new as Dinah. She thinks she has found her Adam.”

“Ah!” in a constrained voice.

She saw nothing but the fire; the long poker was laid across the fender, a handful of ashes had fallen through the grate. “Such things have to come, like the measles and mumps; I did hope, however, to keep her out of the contagion. But Mother Nature is wiser than any sister.”

“Why is it to be regretted?”

“Because—oh, because, I have learned that one’s eyes are always wide open afterward—they weep much and see clear; one can never be carelessly happy again; I wanted her to stay a little girl. Selfishly, perhaps. I thought there was time enough.”

“It is settled then—so soon?”

“Nothing is settled, but that two people are in love, or believe themselves to be. Am I not a cynical elder sister?”

“Is this her first experience?”

“Who can say when a first experience is! Tennyson and moonlight walks are aggravating at their age.” At their age! She felt as old as Miss Jewett to-night. 302

“I hope he is worthy of her. She is a jewel.”

“She would not love him if he were not,” said the elder sister proudly.

“This is a secret?”

“Yes; I know that I can trust you. It will be time enough to tell father and mother when he brings her home and kneels at their feet for their blessing.”

“Who is he?”

“John Woodstock, the school-master. He has neither father nor mother, he is beautiful and good, enthusiastic and fascinating.”

She had not once lifted her eyes to his face; his fingers had clasped and unclasped themselves; his voice was not as steady as usual.

“That notice was a very pretty puff, Lady Blue.”

“Yes, I like it I will paste it into my notebook.”

“Is that all you have seen?”

“No, I saw two in the reading-room, but I like this better.”

“Are you writing now?”


“You are not on the lookout for Adam.”

“No. I will write and he shall search for me. Haven’t you heard of that bird in Africa, which if you hunt for him, you can not find, but if you stay at home, he will come to you?”

He had risen and stood in his usual uneasy fashion. “My congratulations to Dine.”

“I will tell her.” 303

He lingered on the hearth-rug, then at the door with his hand upon the knob.

“Good night. I shall be busy for a week or two; do not expect to see me.”

“You will come when you can?”

“Certainly.” He went out and closed the door.

She stood in the same position with her arms folded for the next half hour. How could Dine know what love was? How could she give up a man like Gus Hammerton for a light-haired boy who talked of making life a glorious success? He had his heartache now; it had come at last after all his years of watching Dine growing up: and no one could help him, he must fight it out alone; she remembered what he had said about quoting from a book for Dr. Lake. What “book man” could help him to-night? Would he open a book or fall upon his knees?

Was he sorrowful to-night too, Ralph Towne? How gentle he had been with her and how patient! They had met several times since; once, in his mother’s presence, when he had spoken to her as easily as usual; at other times in the street; he had lifted his hat and passed on; the one glimpse of his eyes had been to reveal them very dark and very stern. She could hear Mr. Hammerton’s voice calling back to her father from the gate; they both laughed and then his quick tramp sounded on the planks.

The tramp kept on and on for hours; the moon arose late; he walked out into the country, now 304 tramping along the wayside and now in the road; it was midnight when he turned his face homeward and something past one when he silently unlocked the door with his night-key and found his way to his room. There was a letter there from Dinah; his sister had laid it on his bureau. It was brief, formal, and ambiguous; she had subscribed herself “Your young, old friend, D.” She did not say that she was glad of his letter, she did not ask him to write again. “She thinks that she must not write to me,” he thought, “darling little Dine! I would like to see that John Woodstock!”


The November sky was full of clouds; Tessa liked a cloudy sky; the dried leaves whirled around her and rustled beneath her feet, fastening themselves to her skirt as she walked through them; she had stepped down into the gutter to walk through the leaves because they reminded her of her childish days when she used to walk through them and soil her stockings and endure a reprimand when her mother discovered the cause of it; then she had liked the sound of the leaves, now she only cared for them, as she did for several other things,—for the sake of the long ago past! She imagined herself a ten-year-old maiden with big blue eyes and long, bright braids hanging down her back and tied together at the ends with brown ribbon; she was coming from school with a Greenleaf’s Arithmetic (she ciphered in long division and had a “table” to learn), “Parker’s Philosophy” and “Magnall’s Questions” in her satchel. The lesson to-morrow in that was about Tilgath-pilneser; she had stumbled over the queer name, so she would be sure to remember it. There were crumbs in the 306 napkin in the satchel, too, she had had seed cake for lunch; and a lead pencil that Felix Harrison had sharpened for her at noon, when he had come down-stairs to ask Laura for his share of the lunch, and there was a half sheet of note paper with her spelling for to-morrow from “Scholar’s Companion” written on it; perhaps there was a poorly written and ill-spelled note from Gus Hammerton’s cousin, Mary Sherwood, and there might be a crochet needle and a spool of twenty cotton!

She smiled over the inventory, lingering over each article; oh, if she only were going home from school with that satchel, to help her mother a little, play with Dine, and in the evening to look over her lessons sitting close to her father and then to coax him for a story. And then she would go to bed at eight o’clock to awake in the morning to another day. Mr. Hammerton said that it was a premature “Vanitas vanitatem” for her to declare that “growing up” was as bad as any thing a girl could dream!

But then he did not know about poor Felix, and he could never guess what she had dreamed that she had found in Ralph Towne—and how empty life was because of this thing that had mocked her. Empty with all its fulness because of something that never had been; something that never could be in him.

In those satchel-days her greatest trouble had been an interminable scolding from her mother, or the having to give to Dine her own share of cup-custard, when one chanced to be left from tea. 307

It was a raw day; the wind played roughly with her veil; the fields were bleak, and the long lines of fence, stretching in every direction and running into places that she did not know and would not care for, gave her a feeling of homesickness. Homesickness with the home she had lived in all her life not a mile distant, with every one that she loved or ever had loved within three miles; every one but Dine, and Dine was as blithe and satisfied as any girl could be.

Still she was homesick; she had been homesick since that evening by the fire in Mrs. Towne’s sitting-room. Homesick because she had dreamed a dream that could never come true; now that he had asked her in plain, straightforward, manly words to love him and become his wife, her heart had opened, the light shone in, and she read all that the three years had written; she had loved him, but the love had been crushed in shame—in shame for her mistake.

“There she is now,” cried a voice in the distance behind her.

She turned to find Dr. Lake stopping his horse; he sprang out, not lightly, not like himself, and assisted his wife to the ground.

“She prefers your company, it seems,” he said, holding the reins with one hand and giving Tessa the other. “Talk fast now, for I shall not be gone long; I want to get home.”

“You can go home, I’ll come when I like,” replied Sue. 308

“We stopped at your house,” said Sue, as he drove on; “I asked him to leave me while he goes to Harrison’s; that Felix is always having a fit or something. Do you think Gerald looks so sick?” squeezing her hand under the folds of Tessa’s crimson and gray shawl that she might take her arm.

“He is much changed; I did not like to look at him; has he been ill?”

“Oh, you didn’t hear then! It was day before yesterday! He was thrown out; the horse ran away; he isn’t hurt much; he thinks he is, I do believe. I am not a nurse, I don’t know how to coddle people and fuss over them. The horse is a strange one that father had taken to try, and he threw Gerald out and ran away and smashed the buggy, and a farmer brought him home. He did look as white as a sheet and he hasn’t eaten any thing since; he went out yesterday and insisted upon coming out to-day. Father says that he’s foolhardy; but I guess he knows that he isn’t hurt; I sha’n’t borrow trouble anyway. He mopes and feels blue, but he says nothing ails him; he’s a doctor and he ought to know. Where are you going?”

“Not anywhere in particular; I came out for the air; we will walk on slowly.”

“We might go as far as your seat on the roots. Wasn’t that time an age ago? I didn’t feel married-y one bit. I want to go over to Sherwoods to-night to the Sociable, but Gerald says that I am heartless to want to go. I don’t think I am. I didn’t get married to shut myself up. Gerald never 309 has any time to go anywhere with me, and it’s just as stupid and vexatious at home as it ever was. Don’t you ever get married.”

“Are you keeping your word?”

“What word?”

“The promise you made me that day by the brook.”

“About Gerald? Oh, sometimes I keep it and sometimes I don’t. He always makes up first, I will say that for him. He will never let me go to sleep without kissing him good night.”

“Then you did not tell Mary Sherwood that once you did not speak for three days?”

“Bless you, no; Gerald would not let that be true; it was no goodness in me that it wasn’t true, though; perhaps I told her that.”

“Do you talk to her about him?”

“Now, Granny, suppose I do!”

Tessa stood still. “Promise me—you shall not take another step with me till you do—that you will not talk to any one against him.”

“I won’t. Don’t gripe my hand so tight. He is my husband, he isn’t yours! When he’s contrary, I’ll be contrary, too, and I’ll tell people if I like.”

“Then you forfeit my friendship; remember I am not your friend.”

“Tessa Wadsworth! you hateful old thing! you know I shall have to give in, for you are my best friend! There,” laughing, “let me go, and I’ll promise! I’ll say all the ugly things I have to say to his own face.” 310

They walked on slowly; Sue rambling on and Tessa listening with great interest.

“I had a letter from Stacey last week; Gerald has it in his pocket; he dictated the answer, and I wrote it in my most flourishing style. I’ve got somebody to take good care of me now—if he doesn’t get sick! I don’t like sick people; I made him some gruel yesterday and it was as thick as mush. Oh, the things he promises me when he gets rich! Gets rich! All he wants is for me to love him, poor dear! What is love? Do you know?”

“To discover is one of the things I live for; I know that it suffers long.”

“That’s poetry! I don’t want to suffer long and have Gerald sick. I had to get up last night and make him a mustard plaster, and do you believe I was so sleepy that I made it of ginger? He never told me till this morning.”

In half an hour he drove up swiftly behind them.

“Susan, you can get in; I don’t feel like getting out to help you. I feel very bad, I want to get home.”

He laid the reins in her hand. “You may drive; good-by, Mystic; you and I will have our talk another day.”

“Come and see us,” Sue shouted back.

The horse trotted on at good speed; Sue’s blue veil floated backward; Tessa walked on thinking of Dr. Lake’s pain-stricken face and figure.

Her first words to Mary Sherwood that evening were: 311

“How is Dr. Lake?”

“Sick. Worse. Very sick, I suspect. Their girl told our girl that Mrs. Lake was frightened almost to death.”

“I hope she is,” said Nan Gerard, “she deserves to be.”

Tessa kept herself in a sofa corner all the evening.

Nan said that she was a queen surrounded by courtiers, for first one and then another came for a quiet talk. When she was not talking or listening, she was watching: figures, faces, voices, motions, all held something in them worth her studying; she had been watching under cover of a book of engravings Professor Towne, for some time before he came and stood at the arm of her sofa.

She was shy, at first, as she ever was with strangers, but no one could be shy with him for a longer time than five minutes. Dine’s last letter had contained an account of an afternoon with Miss Towne, with many quotations from her sayings.

“My sister thinks that your sister is a saint,” said Tessa; “she has written me about her beautiful life.”

“All about her invalids, I suppose. Shut-ins she calls them! Invalids are her mania; she had thirty-five on her list at her last writing; she finds them north, south, east, and west.”

“Dine loves to hear about them; Miss Towne gives her some of their letters to read to Aunt Theresa. Dine runs over every morning to hear about last night’s mail. I am looking forward to 312 my good times with her if she will be as good to me as she is to my little sister.”

“She is looking forward to you; your sister’s enthusiasm never flags when she may talk of you.”

The talk drifted into books; Mr. Hammerton drew nearer, his questions and apt replies added zest to the conversation; Tessa mentally decided that he was more original than the Professor; the Professor’s questions were good, but no one in all her world could reply like Gus Hammerton; she was proud of him to-night with a feeling of ownership; in loving Dine, had he not become as near as a brother to her?

This feeling of ownership was decidedly pleasant; with it came a safe, warm feeling that she was taken care of; that she had a right to be taken care of and to be proud of him. No one in the world, the most keen-eyed student of human nature, could ever have guessed that he was suffering from a heartache; he had greeted her with the self-possession of ten years ago, had inquired about the “folks at home,” and asked if Dine were up in the clouds still. Could Dine have made a mistake? Had she dreamed it?

Professor Towne moved away to go to Nan Gerard; Tessa listened to Mr. Hammerton, he was telling her about a discovery in science, and half comprehending and not at all replying she watched Professor Towne’s countenance and motions. She could hear about this discovery some other time, but she might not have another opportunity to 313 study the Professor. He was her lesson to-night. As he talked, she decided that he did not so much resemble his cousin as her first glance had revealed; his voice was resonant, his manner more courteous; he was not at all the “big boy,” he was dignified, frank, and yet reserved; simple, at times, as his sister might be, and cultured, far beyond any thing she had ever thought of in regard to Dr. Towne; he was as intellectual as Gus Hammerton, as gracious as Felix Harrison, with as much heart as Dr. Lake, a physical presence as fascinating as Dr. Towne, and as pure-hearted and spiritualized as only himself could be. She had found her ideal at last. She had found him and was scrutinizing him as coolly and as critically as if he were one of the engravings in the book in her lap. She would never find a flaw in him; when she wrote her novel he should be her hero.

“Why, doctor! Have the skies fallen? Did you hear that we were all taken with convulsions?”

Nan Gerard’s laugh followed this; the doctor’s reply was cool and commonplace.

“What is the title of your book?” Mr. Hammerton was asking. “‘Hepsey’s Heartache?’ ‘Jennie’s Jumble?’ ‘Dora’s Distress?’ ‘Fannie’s Fancy?’ or it may be ‘Up Top or Down Below,’ ‘Smashed Hopes or Broken Idols.’”

“I will not answer you if you are not serious.”

“I thought that young ladies gloried in sentiment.”

She turned the leaves of her book. 314

“Lady Blue, I can not be a just critic; I can not take a sentimental standpoint; you take it naturally and truly; you are right to do so; it is your mission, your calling, your election. Do not think that I despise sentiment and the ideal world of feeling—”

“You know that I do not think that,” she interrupted earnestly.

“These questions of feeling can not be tackled like a problem in mathematics, and an answer given in cold, clear cut, adequate words; such a problem I like to tackle; such an answer I like to give; but these sentimental questions in ‘Blighted Hopes’ are many sided, involved, and curvilinear; they are for the theologian, metaphysician, and mystic. What can you and I say about life’s hard questions after Ecclesiastes and Job?”

“Then you think I am presuming?”

“Did I not just say that sentiment is your mission? The story of each human life has a pathos of its own, and each is an enigma of which God only knows the solution.”

She colored and dropped her eyes; he did not dream that she knew any thing of the “pathos” in his life. How kind she would be to him!

“You are living your solution; perhaps you will help me to find mine.”

“I can’t imagine any one in the world knowing you well enough to be of any help to you.”

“Very likely; but I am not on a throne of rocks, in a robe of clouds, crowned with a diadem of snow!” 315

“It’s a little bit warm at the foot of Mount Blanc,” she replied laughing.

“Then you shall live at the foot.”

“Dine and I,” she answered audaciously.

“Not Dine! She has gone away from us; she would rather listen to a love-ditty from the lips of her new acquaintance than a volume of sober sense from us.”

“I had not thought to be jealous. She is not taking any thing from me.”

“Be careful; never tell her any thing again; if you write to her that Mary wears a black silk to-night, and that Nan has geranium leaves in her hair, she will run and tell him. She will never keep another secret for you.”

Tessa looked grave. She never would be supreme in her little sister’s heart again. Perhaps this evening she had arrayed herself in garnet and gone with him to the mite society, and was laughing and playing games, fox and geese, or ninepins, in somebody’s little whitewashed parlor, forgetting that such a place as Dunellen was down upon the map.

“Gus, we want you,” said Mary Sherwood, approaching them. “The girls are having a quarrel about who wrote something; now, go and tease them to your heart’s content.”

“Wrote what?” asked Tessa.

“Oh, I don’t know. Why are you so still? You are sitting here as stately and grand and pale and intellectual—one must be pale to look intellectual, 316 I suppose—as if you had written Middlemarch. I thought that you never went home without a separate talk with every person in the room, and there you sit like a turtle in a shell. What change has passed over the spirit of your dream?”

“I feel quiet; I feel as if I were afraid that some one would push against me if I should attempt to cross the room.”

Mary was called away and she drew herself into her sofa corner; the two long rooms were crowded; bright colors were flashing before her eyes, the buzz and hum of merry talk filled her ears; a black silk in contrast with a gray or blue cashmere; a white necktie, a head with drooping curls, a low, fair forehead, a pair of square shoulders in broadcloth, an open mouth with fine teeth, sloping shoulders of gray silk, a slender waist of brown, a coat-sleeve with cuff and onyx cuff-button, a small hand with a diamond on the first finger, and dark marks of needle-pricks on the tip of the same finger, a pearl ear-ring in a red, homely ear;—Tessa’s eyes saw them all, as well as the rounded chin, the fretful lip, the humorous lines at the corner of the eye, the manner that was frank and the manner that was intended to be, the lips that were speaking truth and the lips that were dissembling, the eyes that were contented and the eyes that were missing something—a word, perhaps, or a little attention, the eyes that brightened when some one approached, the eyes that dropped because some one was talking nonsense to some one else;—it was 317 a rest to dwell upon these things and forget that Dr. Lake was suffering and Sue frightened.

The gentlemen’s faces she did not scan; it was fair, matured women like Mrs. Towne and Miss Jewett, and sprightly, sweet girls like Nan Gerard that she loved.

Dr. Towne was hedged in a corner, behind a chair, conversing or seeming to converse with a gentleman; he was not a lady’s man, he could not be himself in the presence of a third or fourth person, that is himself, socially; he could be himself professionally under the gaze of the multitude. Tessa smiled, thinking how uncomfortable he must be and how he must wish himself at home. Was he longing for his leisure at Old Place, where, as a society man, nothing was expected of him? Did he regret that he had come out “into the world”? Was the old life in his “den” with his book a dream that he would fain dream again? Perhaps that book that had loomed up before her as containing the wisdom of the ages was not such a grand affair after all? Who had ever thought so beside herself? Who had ever worshipped him as hero and saint beside herself? He was not looking like either, just now, for his face was flushed with the heat of the room and he was standing in a cramped position.

“The bear is in his corner growling,” said Nan Gerard bending over her. “How ungracious he can be when he wills. Sometimes he is positively rude to me.” 318

“Is there but one bear?”

“You know well enough whom I mean. I expect that Mrs. Lake is mad enough because she couldn’t come! How prettily she makes up; I have seen her when she really looked elegant. Homely girls have a way of looking prettier than the pretty ones. How grave you are! You don’t like my nonsense, do you?”

“I was thinking of poor Sue.”

“Oh yes; sad, isn’t it? She’ll be married in less than two years, if he dies, see if she isn’t. I can’t understand what her attraction is! She has a thousand little airs, perhaps that is it. I am to sleep with you to-night. May I?”

“Thank you,” said Tessa warmly, “I am very glad.”

“There, the bear is looking at us. He’ll be over here; now I’ll go over to the piano and see if I can make him follow me; I’ve had great fun doing that before now—you don’t do such things;” Nan shook her curls back with a pretty movement, threw a grave, alluring glance across the heads, and through the lights at the bear, then moved demurely away.

The color touched his eyes; he looked amused and provoked; Tessa saw it while her eyes were busy with the lady in the chair near him; would he follow her? Mr. Hammerton returned.

    “‘Why,  William,  on  that  old  gray  stone,
        Thus  for  the  length  of  a  half  a  day,
    Why,  William,  sit  you  thus  alone,
        And  dream  the  time  away?’


Only six ladies have found their way to you in the last half hour; with what sorcery do you draw them towards you? Tessa,” speaking in a grave tone, “it’s a beautiful thing for a woman to be attractive to women!”

“It is a very happy thing.”

“Will you go to supper with me or do you prefer to sit on the old gray stone? You once liked to go with me to get rid of poor Harrison; is there any one that you wish to rid yourself of now? In these extremities I am at your service.”

“Are you taking me to rid yourself of a pertinacious maiden?”

“No, the girls do not trouble me; I wish they would; if Naughty Nan would only run after me, now—there! there goes Towne; he’s after her, I know.”

Tessa enjoyed the roguish, demure eyes with which she made room for him at her side, and flashed back a congratulation in return for the little nod of triumph which Nan telegraphed to her.

“You are in league, you two; I can see that with my short-sighted eyes; say, you and he were prime friends once, weren’t you?”

“We are now.”

“Humph! as they say in books! Why don’t you bring him with your eyes, then?”

“What for?” she asked innocently.

“Oh, because he has money; he is a moral and respectable young man, also.” 320

“You are something of a phrenologist; tell me what he is.”

“I will not. You will be thinking about him instead of about me.”

“I will be thinking of your deep knowledge of human nature, of your unrivalled penetration. Don’t you know that a woman likes to hear one man talk about another?”

“But you would not take my opinion, nevertheless.”

“True; I prefer my own unless yours confirm mine. Tell me, please, what is he!”

“I have never given him five minutes’ thought.”

“You know his face; look away from him and think.”

“He isn’t a genius; but he has brains,” replied Mr. Hammerton slowly; “he is very quiet, as quiet as any man you know; he is very gentle, his manner is perfection in a sick room—and nowhere else, I fancy—”

“That’s too bad.”

“Remember that I do not know him; I am speaking as a phrenologist; I have never been introduced to him. He does not understand human nature, he could live a year under the roof with you or me, particularly you, and not feel acquainted with you; he is shy of women, he never knows whether they are talking sense or nonsense; he is not a lady’s man in the least, you may drop your handkerchief and stoop for it, he would never know it.”

“Neither would you.” 321

“He can keep a secret, that he can do to perfection. Tell him that you are in love with him and he will never, never tell! He is no musician. Naughty Nan may break her wrists and the keys of the piano, they will not unlock his ears or his heart; he is not fluent in conversation, he states a fact briefly, he answers a question exactly, he has no more to say; but he is a good listener, he does not forget; he is sympathetic, but he does not show it particularly, very few would think that he has any heart at all; I will wager that not two people in the world know him, understand, or can easily approach him; his temper is even, but when he is angry ‘beware the fury of a patient man!’ He likes to see things orderly; he seldom raises his voice; he is exceedingly deliberate, and while he is deliberating he would do or leave undone many things that he would afterward regret. He will rush into matrimony, or he will be in love for years before he knows it; his temperament is bilious. Now, Lady Blue, have I described a hero fit for a modern romance?”

“No, only a commonplace man. All you have said is literally true.”

“He is a good man,” said Mr. Hammerton, emphatically. “I mean, good as men go, in these days. Naughty Nan is to be congratulated. Do you not think so?”

“Perhaps,” said Tessa doubtfully.

“I believe that he is planning an attack on the citadel under my charge; I will move off, and give 322 him an opportunity; I want to talk to the Professor.”

How many years ago was it since Felix had attended one of Mary Sherwood’s little parties? Not more than three or four; she remembered how he used to hear her voice in its lightest speaking, how soon he became aware whenever she changed her position; how many times she had raised her eyes to meet his with their fixed, intense gaze; how his eyes would glitter and what a set look would stiffen his lips. And oh, how she had teased him in those days by refusing his eagerly proffered attentions and accepting Gus Hammerton in the matter-of-fact fashion in which he had suggested himself as ever at her service! In all the years she could remember these two, Gus, helpful and friendly, not in the least lover-like (she could as easily imagine the bell on the old Academy a lover), and Felix, poor Felix,—he would always be “poor Felix” now,—with his burning jealousy and intrusive affection.

Was he asleep now, or awake and in pain? Was he lying alone thinking of what he might have been but for his own undisciplined eagerness, not daring to look into the future nights and days, that would be like these, only more helpless, more terrible?

The talk and laughter ran on, her cheeks were hot, her head weary; she longed for a cool pillow and a dark chamber; some one was speaking, she lifted her eyes to reply.

“Miss Tessa, my mother misses you every hour.” 323

“I am very sorry. There is room on my sofa, will you sit down?”

“No. I was too hasty in our last conversation,” bending so low that his breath touched her hair, “I come to ask you to reconsider; will you?”

“Do you want such an answer as that would be?”

“That is what I do want; then you will be sure, so sure that you will never change—”

“I am not changeable.”

“I think you are; in six months I will come to you again, when shall it be?”

“So long! If you care, the suspense will be very hard for you. I do not like to hurt you so.”

“I prefer the six months.”

“Well,” speaking in her ordinary tone, “do not come to me, wherever I may be—we may both be in the next world by that time—”

“We shall not be so much changed as to forget, shall we?”

“Or not to care? I will write you a letter on the first day of June; I will mail it before ten o’clock.”

She laid her hand in his; he held it a moment, neither speaking.

“Oh, you are here,” cried a voice.

And she was talking the wildest nonsense in two minutes, with her eyes and cheeks aflame.

At half past one the last guests had departed; Mary paused in a description of somebody’s dress and asked Tessa if she would like to go to bed. 324

“I have always wished to get near to you,” said Nan, leading the way up-stairs. “I knew that there was a place in your heart for me to creep into.”

Tessa had a way of falling in love with girls; that night she fell in love with Nan Gerard; sitting on the carpet close to the register in a white skirt and crimson breakfast sacque, bending forward with her arms clasping her knees, she told Tessa the story of her life.

Tessa was seated on the bed, still in the black silk she had worn, with a white shawl of Shetland wool thrown around her; she had taken the hair-pins out of the hair and the long braid was brought forward and laid across her bosom reaching far below her waist.

She braided and unbraided the ends of it as Nan talked about last winter and Dr. Towne.

“I like to talk to you; I can trust you, I wouldn’t be afraid to tell you any thing; I can not trust Mary, she exaggerates fearfully. I don’t mind telling you that I came near falling in love with that handsome black bear; it was only skin deep however; I think that I have lost my attraction for him, whatever it was; I never do take falling in love hard; why, some girls take it as a matter of life and death; I think the reason must be that I can never love any one as I loved Robert. He was a saint. Yes, he was; you needn’t look incredulous! I am not sentimental, I am practical and I intend to marry some day. People call me a flirt, perhaps 325 I am, but my fun is very innocent and most delightful.

“I know this: Ralph Towne would not like me if I were the only girl in existence; he wants some one who can think as well as talk; you wouldn’t guess it to hear him talk, would you?

“Did you ever see a man who could not talk some kind of nonsense? There’s Gus Hammerton, can’t he talk splendid nonsense? Some of his nonsense is too deep for me.

“Now, I’ve been trying an experiment with Dr. Towne, he is such an old bear that I thought it would do no harm; I made up my mind to see if it were possible for a marriageable woman to treat a marriageable man as if he were another woman! I don’t know about it though,” she added ruefully.

“Has it failed?”

“I think it has—rather. He does not understand—”

“No man would understand.”

“I would understand if he would treat me as if I were Nathan instead of Nan; what grand, good friends we could be!”

“I am glad that you can see that it has failed. How do you detect the failure?”

“I have eyes. I know. His mother does not understand either. I think that I shall begin to be more—”


Nan colored. “Was I unmaidenly? I have resolved never to ask him to take me anywhere again; 326 I have made him no end of pretty things, I will do it no more. I would not like to have him lose his respect for me.”

“It usually costs something to try an experiment; I am glad that yours has cost you no more.”

“So am I, heartily glad. My next shall be of a different nature. Did you never try an experiment?”

“Not of that kind; I tried an experiment once of believing every thing that somebody said, and acting upon it, as if it meant what it would have meant to me.”

“And you came to grief?”

“I thought so, at first. Life is a long story, isn’t it?”

“It’s an interesting one to me. I kept a journal about my experiment; I’ll read it to you, shall I?”

“I would like it ever so much if you like me well enough to do it.”

“Of course I do,” springing up. “And after I read it to you, you shall write the ‘final’ for me.”

In the top drawer of the bureau, she fumbled among neckties, pocket-handkerchiefs, and a collection of odds and ends, and at last, brought out a small, soft-covered, thin book with edges of gilt.

“I named it ‘Nan’s Experiment,’” she said seriously, reseating herself near the register. “If you wish to listen in comfort, draw that rocker close to me, and take off your boots and heat your feet. If you are in a comfortable position, you will be 327 in a more merciful frame of mind to judge my misdoings.”

Tessa obeyed, and leaned back in the cushioned chair, braiding and unbraiding her hair as she listened.

The journal opened with an account of the journey by train to St. Louis. The description of her escort was enthusiastic and girlish in the extreme.

“Is it nonsense?” the reader asked.

“Even if it were, I haven’t travelled so far away from those days that I can not understand.”

She read with more confidence.

Ralph Towne would have been pleased with the intentness of Tessa’s eyes and the softening of her lips.

“You dear Naughty Nan,” cried Tessa, as the book fell from the reader’s hands.

“Then you do not blame me so much?”

“It is only a mistake. Who does not make a mistake? It sounds rather more than skin-deep, though.”

“Oh, I had to throw in a little agony to make it interesting. I don’t want him to think—”

“What he thinks is the price you pay for your experiment.”

“Now write a last sentence, and I’ll keep it forever; the names are all fictitious; no one can understand it; I’ll find a pencil.”

Tessa held the pencil a moment. Nan on her knees watched her. 328

“Something that I shall remember all my life—whenever I do a foolish thing—if I ever do again.”

“Do you know Jean Ingelow?”

“She is the one Professor Towne reads from?”

“Yes. I will write some words of hers.”

The pencil wrote, and Nan, on her knees, read it word by word.

    “I  wait  for  the  day  when  dear  hearts  shall  discover,
        While  dear  hands  are  laid  on  my  head;
    ‘The  child  is  a  woman,  the  book  may  close  over,
        For  all  the  lessons  are  said.’
    “I  wait  for  my  story—the  birds  can  not  sing  it,
        Not  one  as  he  sits  on  the  tree;
    The  bells  can  not  ring  it,  but  long  years,  O  bring  it!
        Such  as  I  wish  it  to  be.”

“Thank you, very much. You write a fine hand. ‘Such as I wish it to be?’ No one’s story is ever that—do you think it ever is?”

“We will do our best to make ours such as we wish it to be.”

“Professor Towne is to have a private class in elocution after the holidays, and I’m going to join. He says that I will make a reader. I wish that you would join too.”

“I wish I might, but I shall not be at home; I am to spend a part of the winter away.”

“Oh, are you? Just as I have found you. But you promise to write to me?”

“Yes, I will write to you; I beg of you not to try any experiments with me,” she added laughing.

“Don’t be afraid,” said Nan, seriously. 329

“I wish you would make a friend of Miss Jewett; you will be glad of it as long as you live.”

“I am doing it; but I don’t want you to go away.”

“I shall come back some day, childie.”

Nan moved nearer, still on her knees, drew Tessa’s cheek down to her lips,—her warm, saucy, loving lips,—saying, “My counsellor.”

Dr. Greyson’s house stood opposite. Tessa went to the window to see if the light were still burning in Sue’s chamber; Sue had forgotten to drop the curtains; the room was well-lighted; Sue was standing in the centre of the room holding something in her hand; Tessa saw Dr. Greyson enter and Sue moved away.

She lay in bed wide awake watching the light.

“Good-by, Mystic; you and I will have our talk another day.”

The tears dropped slowly on the pillow.


The snow-flakes were very large, they fell leisurely, melting almost as soon as they touched Tessa’s flower bed; she was sitting at one of the sitting-room windows writing. She wrote, as it is said that all ladies do, upon her lap, her desk being a large blank book; her inkstand stood upon the window-sill; the cane-seated chair in front of her served several purposes, one of them being a foot-rest; upon the chair were piled “Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases,” “Recreations of a Country Parson,” a Bible, the current numbers of the Living Age and Harper’s Magazine, and George Macdonald’s latest book.

Her wrapper was in two shades of brown, the ruffle at her throat was fastened by a knot of blue velvet; in one brown pocket were a lead pencil, a letter from an editor, who had recently published a work upon which he had been busy twenty years and had thereby become so famous that the letter in her pocket was an event in her life, especially as it began: “My dear Miss Tessa, I like your letter and I like you.” 331

Her father was very proud of that letter.

In the other brown pocket were a tangle of pink cord, a half yard of tatting, and a shuttle, and—what Tessa had read and reread—three full sheets of mercantile note from Miss Sarepta Towne.

Dinah was seated at another window embroidering moss roses upon black velvet; the black velvet looked as if it might mean a slipper for a good-sized foot. There was a secret in the eyes that were intent upon the roses; the secret that was hidden in many pairs of eyes—brown, blue, hazel—in Dunellen in these days before Christmas.

There was not even the hint of a secret in the eyes that were opening “Thesaurus” and looking for a synonym for Information.

“Poor Tessa!” almost sighed happy Dinah, “she has to plod through manuscript and books, and doesn’t know half how nice it is to make slippers.”

Poor Tessa closed her book just then and looked out into the falling snow.

“Perhaps we shall hear that he’s dead to-day,” said Dinah, brushing a white thread off the velvet. “I have expected to hear that every day for a week.”

“But you said that he talked real bright last week.”

“So Sue said. I have not seen him. He knows that I have called, that is enough; I do not want to see him, I know that my face would distress him.”

“Poor fellow,” said Dine, compassionately, “how 332 he used to talk! The stories that he has told in this room. Oh, Tessa, I can’t be thankful enough for every thing! To think that John should get such a good position in the Dunellen school! How things work around; he would not have had it but for Mr. Lewis Gesner! John and I are going there to spend the evening next week; Miss Gesner asked him to bring me. And oh, Tessa, do you think that Gus takes it much to heart?”

“If I did not know I should not think that he had any thing to take to heart!”

“I suppose his heart bleeds in secret,” said Dinah pensively. “Well, it isn’t my fault. You don’t blame me.”

“I never blame any one.”

“Father and mother are very polite to John.”

“They are never rude to any one.”

“Say, Tessa, are you glad about me, or sorry?”

“Am I not always glad about you?”

“Well, about John?”

“I like John; he is a good boy; but you can not expect me not to be disappointed about Gus!”

“You think that Gus is every thing.”

“I think that he is enough.”

“Perhaps—perhaps—” but Dinah became confused and dared not finish.

Tessa felt her thought. Perhaps—but what a queer perhaps; who could imagine it?

The sharp Faber scribbled upon waste paper for some minutes; it scribbled dates and initials and names, and then “Such as I wish it to be.” 333

“There goes Dr. Towne,” said Dinah.

Tessa lifted her head in time for a bow. Then she scribbled, “A nightingale made a mistake.”

The letter in her pocket had closed thus: “You have the faculty of impressing truth in a very pleasant manner; your characters are spirited, your incidents savor of freshness, your style is rather abrupt however, it will be well to consider that.”

A busy life, busy in the things that she loved best, was her ideal of happiness.

She scribbled—“Dec. 15. Dinah making roses. Miss Towne wishing for me. Is any one else? What do I wish? My naughty heart, be reasonable, be just, be sure, do not take a thing that you want, just because you want it.”

Dinah was wondering how Tessa’s face could look so peaceful when she was not engaged nor likely to be. Tessa was at peace, she was at rest concerning Dr. Lake. Before the storm was over, he would be glad that he had been born into a life upon the earth. In this hour—while Dine was working her roses and Tessa scribbling, while the snow-flakes were melting on Dr. Towne’s overcoat and Nan Gerard was studying “The Songs of Seven” to read to the Professor that evening—Sue and her husband were alone in Sue’s chamber.

“Sue, I haven’t heard you sing to-day.”

“How can I sing, Gerald, when you are so sick?”

“Am I so sick? Do you know that I am?”

“I think I ought to know; don’t I see how father looks? and didn’t Dr. Towne say that he would 334 come and stay with you to-night? Are not people very sick when they have a consultation?”

“Sometimes. What are you doing over there?”

“It is time for your powder; you must sleep, they all say so. Will you try to go to sleep after you take this?”

“Yes, if you will sing to me.”

He raised himself on his elbow and took the spoon from her hand. “You have been a good wife to me, Susan.”

“Of course I have. Isn’t that what I promised. There, you spilled some; how weak your fingers are! you are like a baby. I don’t like babies.”

“Don’t say that,” falling back upon the pillow. “I want you to be womanly, dear, and true women love babies.”

“They are such a bother.”

“So are husbands.”

“When you get well, you will not be a bother! Can’t you talk any louder?”

“Sit down close to me. How long have I been sick?”

“Oh, I don’t know! The nights and days are just alike.”

“I expect that you are worn out. We will go to sleep together. I wish we could.”

“You mustn’t talk, you must go to sleep.”

“Say, Susan,” catching her hand in both his, “are you glad you married me?”

“Of course I am glad; that is, I shall be when you get well.” 335

“You wouldn’t like a feeble husband dragging on you all your days, would you?”

“No, I wouldn’t. Who would? Would you like a feeble wife dragging on you all your days?”

“I would like you, sick or well.”

“I knew you would say that. You and Tessa and Dr. Towne are sentimental. What do you think he said to me last night. ‘Be very gentle and careful with him, do not even speak loud.’”

“He is very kind.”

“As if I wouldn’t be gentle!”

“Bring your chair close and sing.”

“I don’t feel like singing; this room is dark and hot, and I am sleepy.”

“Well, never mind.”

She pushed a chair close to the low bed and sat down; he took her hand and held it between his flushed hot hands. “God bless you forever, and ever, my darling wife!”

“That’s too solemn,” said Sue in an awed voice; “don’t say such things; I shall believe that you are going to die, if you do. Do go to sleep, that’s a good boy.”

He laid his finger on his wrist keeping it there a full minute.

“Are you stronger?” she asked eagerly. “Father will not say when I ask him and Dr. Towne only looked at me.”

He lifted her hand to his lips and smiled.

“Now sing.”

“What shall I sing?” 336

“Any thing. Every thing. ‘Jesus, lover of my soul.’ I always liked that.”

The clear, strong voice trembled nervously over the first words; she was afraid, but she did not know what she was afraid of; his eyelids drooped, he kept tight hold of her hand.

She sang the hymn through and then asked what he would like next.

“I was almost dreaming. Sue is a pretty name, so is Gerald; but I would not like my boy to be named Gerald. Theodore means the gift of God; I like that; Theodore or Theodora. If you ever name a child, will you remember that?”

“I shall never name a child; I don’t like children well enough to fuss over them. Now, what else?”

“‘Jerusalem the golden.’”

“Oh, you don’t want that! It’s too solemn. I won’t sing it, I’ll sing something livelier. Don’t you like ‘Who are these in bright array?’”

The eyelids drooped, he did not loosen his clasp, and she sang on; once, when she paused, he whispered, “Go on.”

The snow fell softly, melting on the window-sill, the wood fire burnt low, she drew her hand away and went to the stove to put in a stick of wood; he did not stir, his hands were still half-clasped; through the half-shut lids, his eyes shone dim and dark. She was very weary; she laid her head on the white counterpane near his hands and fell asleep. Dr. Greyson entered, stood a moment near the door and went out; Dr. Towne came to the 337 threshold, his eyes filled as he stood, he closed the door and went down-stairs; he opened the front parlor door, thinking of the two as they stood there together such a little time since, and thinking of Tessa’s face as he saw it that morning. “She will love him always if he leaves her now,” he said to himself; “when she is old, she will look back and grieve for him. Tessa would, but Sue—there’s no reckoning upon her. Why are not all women like Tessa and my mother?”

He drove homeward, thinking many thoughts; of late, in the light of Tessa’s words, he could behold himself as she beheld him; she would have been satisfied, could she have known the depth of his self-accusation; “No man but a fool could be such a fool,” he had said to himself more than once. “There is no chance that she will take me.”

Meanwhile Sue awoke from her heavy sleep; it was growing colder, the snow was falling and not melting, the room was quite dark.

“I have been asleep,” said Dr. Lake.

“And now you are better,” cried Sue, joyfully. “I knew that you were moping and had the blues.”

Through that night and the next day, Miss Jewett watched with Sue; before another morning broke, Sue—poor widowed Sue!—was taken in hysterics from the room.


Tessa dropped the curtains, arranged the heavy crimson folds, and lighted the gas.

“I shall do this many times in my imagination before spring,” she said. “The curtains in my room, Dine says, are Turkey red, and my gas will be one tall sperm candle. Just about twilight you will feel my ghost stealing in, the curtains will fall, and invisible hands play among them, the jets will start into light, and then the perfume of a kiss will touch your forehead and hair. The perfume shall be that of a pansy or a day-lily, as you prefer.”

“I would rather have your material lips; I am not fond of ghostly visitants; I shall feel you always beside me; I shall not forget you even in my sleep.”

“You are too kind to me,” said Tessa, after a moment, during which she had donned her brown felt hat and buttoned her long brown cloth cloak. The feeble old lady in the arm-chair flushed like a girl under the gratitude of Tessa’s eyes; her eyes filled slowly as Tessa came to her and kissed her. 339

“I am very old womanish about you; it must be because I am not strong; I would never let you go away out of my presence if I could hinder it.”

“I want to stay with you; I am never happier than I am in this room; but I must go; it is a promise; and I must go to-morrow. Uncle Knox will meet me at the train with a creaky old buggy and a half-blind white horse; then we shall drive six miles through a flat country with farm-houses scattered here and there to a cunning little village containing one church and one store and about forty dwellings. Our destination is a small house near the end of the principal street where live the most devoted old couple in the world! Aunt Theresa and Uncle Knox are a pair of lovers; it is beautiful to see them together; it is worth travelling across the continent; they never forget each other for an instant, and yet they make no parade of their affection; I am sure that they will both die upon the same day of the same disease. Their life is as lovely as a poem. I have often wondered how they attained it, if it were perfect before they were married or if it grew.”

She was standing under the chandelier buttoning her gloves, with her earnest face towards the lady in the arm-chair.

“It grew,” said a voice behind her. Dr. Towne had entered unperceived by either. “Is that all?”

“Isn’t that enough?” she asked slightly flushing.

“Yes, I think that it is enough; but I know that it was born and not made. It did not become perfect 340 in a year and a day. See if your aunt hasn’t had an experience that she will not tell you.”

“And my uncle?” she asked saucily.

“Men do not parade their experiences.”

“Providing they have any to parade,” she replied lightly. “I’m afraid that I don’t believe in men’s experiences.”

“Don’t say that, my dear,” said Mrs. Towne anxiously.

“I will not,” Tessa answered, suddenly sobered, “not until I forget Dr. Lake.”

“Am I to have the mournful pleasure of taking you home, Miss Tessa? My carriage is at the door.”

“I have tried to persuade her to stay all the evening,” said Mrs. Towne.

“I have an engagement. My encyclopedia is coming to-night to talk over to me something that I have been writing.”

“Is he your critic?” inquired Dr. Towne.

“Yes, and an excellent one, too. Don’t you know that he knows every thing?”

“Then perhaps he can tell me something that I want to know. Would it be safe to ask him?”

“If it is to be found in a book he can tell you,” said Tessa seriously.

“It is not to be found in any poem that was ever written or in any song that was ever sung.”

“Then it remains to be written?”

“Yes; don’t you want to write it?”

“I must learn it by heart first; I can not write what I have not learned.” 341

“Ralph, you shall not tease her,” interrupted his mother, “she shall not do any thing that she does not please.”

“Not even go into the country for three months in winter,” he said.

“What will Sue do without you, Tessa?” asked Mrs. Towne.

“I have been with her five days; she cried and clung to me. I do not want to leave her, there are so many reasons for me to stay and so few for me to go. Miss Gesner came this afternoon and promised to stay all night with her. She is a little afraid of Miss Gesner; with Miss Jewett and me, she cried and talked about him continually; the poor girl is overwhelmed.”

“She will be overwhelmed again by and by,” said Dr. Towne.

“Ralph! I never heard you say any thing so harsh of any one before.”

“Is truth harsh?” he asked.

“If it be mild to-morrow, I will go to Sue; I will take her down to Old Place for a month; she always throve there.”

“She will be dancing and singing in a month,” returned Dr. Towne.

“Well, let her!”

“But you must not be troubled, mother. I shall make her promise not to talk to you and go into hysterics.”

“My son, she is a widow.”

“‘And desolate,’” he quoted. 342

“Tessa, will you write to me every week, child?”

“Every week,” promised Tessa, as she was drawn into the motherly arms and kissed again and again.

Her own mother would not kiss her like that. Was it her mother’s fault or her own?

As soon as they were seated in the carriage and the robe tucked in around her, her companion asked, “Shall we drive around the square? The sun is hardly set and the air is as warm as autumn.”

“Yes,” she answered almost under her breath. In a moment she spoke hurriedly, “Does your mother think—does she know—”

“She is a woman,” he answered abruptly.

“I wish—oh, I wish—” she hesitated, then added—“that she would not love me so much.”

“It is queer,” he said gravely.

They drove in silence through the town and turned into the “mountain road”; after half a mile, they were in the country with their faces towards the glimmer of light that the sunset had left.

“Miss Tessa, my mother believes in me.”

“I know that.”

“You do not weigh my words sufficiently. They do not mean enough to you.”

“Is that so very strange?”

“Yes, it is strange when I tell you that I know I was a fool! When I tell you that I have repented in dust and ashes. I did not understand you, nor myself, a year ago—I am dull about understanding people. I think that I am not quick 343 about any thing; I can not make a quick reply; I have labored at my studies; I was not brilliant in school or college; I am very slow, but I am very sure. If you had been as slow as I, our friendship would never have had its break; you were too quick for me; but you understood me long before I understood myself; I did not understand myself until I was withdrawn from you. Do you believe that?”

“Yes, I believe it. But you should have waited until you did understand.”

“It is rather tough work for a man to confess himself a fool.”

Tessa said nothing.

“I do not ask to be excused, I ask to be forgiven; to be borne with. Will you be patient with me?”

“I do not know how to be patient. I am too quick. I have been very bitter and unjust towards you; I judged you as if you were as quick as I am; I have even wished you dead; it does not do for us to be in a class together.”

“Not in the short run; we haven’t tried the long run yet, and you are afraid to do that?”

“I suppose I am. I am afraid of something; I think that I am afraid of myself.”

“If you are not afraid of me, I do not care what you are afraid of.”

“I am not afraid of you—now.”

“Then if you do—reject me, it is because you are not satisfied with your heart toward me?” 344

“Yes, that will be the reason,” she said slowly.

“And none other?”

“There is no reason in yourself; now that you have seen how you were wrong; the reason will all be in myself.”

“Are you coming any nearer to an understanding with yourself?” he asked quietly.

He had spoken in this same tone to a patient, a little child, not two hours since.

The tone touched her more deeply than the words.

“I do not know. I am trying not to reason. I have worn myself out with reasoning. You are very still, but I know that this time is terrible to you; as terrible as last year was to me! Believe me, I am not lightly keeping you in suspense. Truly I can not decide. There is some hindrance; I do not know what it is.”

“I do not wish to hurry you; you shall have a year to decide if you prefer. It is very sudden to you; you need time and quiet to recover from the shock; you are very much shaken. You are not as strong as you were two years ago. The strain has been too great for you; when you have decided once for all time and all eternity, your eyes will look as they looked two years ago. All I ask you is be sure of yourself! I promise not to trouble you for a year; I am sorry to be troubling you now. Are you very unhappy?”

She was trembling and almost crying.

“You shall not answer me, or think of answering me until you are ready; I deserve to suffer; I 345 do not fear the issue of your self-analysis; when you have recovered from the shock and can feel that you have forgiven me, then you will know whether you love me, whether you trust me. Will you write to me?”

“No, sir.”

He laughed in spite of his vexation; she resented the laugh; he was altogether too sure of his power.

“You must not be so sure,” she began.

“I shall be just as sure as—you please.”

“You think that I am very perplexing.”

“You are full of freaks and whims; you are a Mystic. Dr. Lake truly named you. I used to think you a bundle of impulses, and now I find you sternly adhering to a principle. If your whim be founded on principle, and I verily believe it is, I honor you even when I am laughing at you.”

“Don’t laugh at me; I am too miserable to bear that. Be patient with me as if I were ill.”

“You are not strong enough to go from home. If you do not feel well, will you write for me to come and bring you home?”

“I am well enough.”

“Promise me, please.”

“I can not promise,” she answered decidedly.

They were neither of them in a mood for further talk; she felt more at rest than she had felt for two years; there was nothing to think of, nothing to be hurried about; she had a whole year to be happy in, and then—she would be happy then, too. As for him—she could not see his face, for they had 346 turned into the cross-road, thickly wooded, that opened into the clearing before the gates of Old Place.

He spoke to his horse in his usual tone, “Gently, Charlie.” He stooped to wrap the robe more closely about her feet; as he raised himself, she slipped her ungloved hand into his. “Don’t be troubled about me, I will not be troubled; I will not reason; but don’t be sure; perhaps when the year is over I shall not be satisfied.”

“Then you must take another year.”

“You will not be so patient with me another year; I shall not take another year.”

“Tessa, you are a goose; but you are a darling, nevertheless.”

“You do not understand me,” she said, withdrawing her hand.

“I am too humble to expect ever to do that. You have never seen our home. Is it too late to go over the place to-night?”

“I will go with your mother some time; she has described every room to me.”

“Who is that fellow that you were engaged to?”

“He is not a fellow.”

“Who is he?”

“Felix Harrison.”

“Ah!” Then after a pause, “Tell me the whole story.”

The whole story was not long; she began with his school-boy love, speaking in short sentences, words and tone becoming more intense as she went on 347

“I did not mean to be so wrong; but I was so unhappy and he cared—”

“What shall I do without you all winter?”

“What have you done without me every winter?” she asked merrily.

With an effort she drew herself away from the arm that would have encircled her. Morbidly fearful of making another mistake, she would not answer his words or his tone.

“The witches get into me at night,” she said, soberly, “and I say things that I may regret in the sunlight.”

“It is not like you to regret speaking truth. Remember, I do not exact any promise from you; but if the time ever come that you know you love me, I want you to tell me so.”

“I will.”

He drove up under the maple trees, before the low iron fence, as he had done on the last night of the old year; another old year was almost ended; they stood holding each other’s hand, neither caring to speak.

Ralph Towne would not have been himself, if he had not bent and kissed her lips; and she would not have been herself, had she not received it gravely and gladly. After that it was not easy to go in among the talkers and the lights; she stood longer than a moment on the piazza, schooling herself to bear scrutiny, to answer with unconcern; still she felt dizzy and answered the first questions rather at random. 348

“Going around in the dark has set your wits to wool-gathering,” said her mother.

“We waited tea,” said Dinah.

“You did not come alone, daughter?” asked her father.

“No, sir. Dr. Towne brought me.”

“We are very hungry,” said Mr. Hammerton.

“We will talk over the book before chess, Gus, if you please. I have some packing to do, and I am very tired.”

“How is Sue?” inquired her mother.

“Very well.”

“Is she taking it hard?”

“Perhaps. I do not know what hard is.”

“Is her mourning all ready?”


“A young widow is a beautiful sight,” observed Mrs. Wadsworth pathetically.

“Probably some one will think so,” said Mr. Hammerton, speaking quickly to save Tessa from replying.

“Take off your things, Tessa,” said Dinah. “I want my supper.”

“It’s his night, isn’t it?” asked Mr. Hammerton, teasingly; Dinah colored, looked confused, and ran down-stairs to ring the tea-bell.

The door-bell clanged sharply through the house as they were rising from the table. “I was young myself once,” remarked Mr. Hammerton.

“I don’t believe it,” retorted Dinah, putting her hands instinctively up to her hair. 349

“You’ll do, run along,” laughed her father. “Oh, how old I feel to see my little girls becoming women.”

“I should think Tessa would feel old,” replied Mrs. Wadsworth, significantly.

“I do,” said Tessa, rising. “Where is your criticism, Mr. Critic; I have some packing to do to-night, so you may cut me to pieces before chess.”

“No matter about chess,” said Mr. Wadsworth.

“Yes, it is; I will not be selfish.”

“Then run up and talk over your bookish talk, mother and I will come up presently.”

The sitting-room was cozy and home-like, even after the luxury of Mrs. Towne’s handsome apartment. “I don’t want to go away,” sighed Tessa, dropping into a chair near the round black-and-green covered table. “Why can’t people stay at home always?”

“Why indeed?” Mr. Hammerton moved a chair to her side and seating himself carelessly threw an arm over the back of her chair.

How many evenings they had read and studied in this fashion, with Dine on a low stool, her curly head in her sister’s lap.

“They will never come again.”

“What?” asked Tessa opening the long, yellow envelope he had taken from his pocket.

“The old days when you and Dine and I will not want any one else.”

“True; Dine has left us already.”

“But you and I are content without her!” 350

“Are we? I am not sure! Gus your penmanship is perfect; when I am rich, you shall copy my books.”

“How rich?”

“Oh, rich enough to give you all you would ask,” she answered thoughtlessly. “I expect that I shall have to undergo a process as trying as vivisection; but I will not flinch; it is good for me.”

“Don’t read it now; save it for the solitude of the country.”

“No, I am anxious to see it; you can be setting up the chess-men; I don’t want to take you away from father.”

With the color rising in his cheeks, he arose and moved the chess-board nearer; standing before her, he began slowly to arrange the pieces. The three large sheets were closely written; she read slowly, once breaking into a laugh and then knitting her brows and drawing her lips together.

“Are you not pleased? Am I not just?”

“A critic is not a fault-finder, necessarily; you are very plain. I will consider each sentence by itself in my solitude; you are a great help to me, Gus. I thank you very much. You have been a help to me all my life.”

“I have tried to be,” he answered, taking up a castle and turning it in his fingers.

“I will rewrite my book, remembering all your suggestions.”

“You remember that Tennyson rewrote ‘Dora’ four hundred and forty-five times, that Victor Hugo 351 declared that his six hundredth copy of ‘Thanatopsis’ was his best, and that George Sand was heard to say with tears in her eyes that she wished she had rewritten ‘Adam Bede’ just once more and you have read that Tom Brown Hughes—”

“Go away with your nonsense! I told Dr. Towne that you were my critic and that you knew every thing.”

“Do you tell him every thing?” he asked, letting the castle fall upon the carpet.

“That isn’t every thing.”

“Will you play a game with me?”

“No, thank you. I am too tired for any thing so tiresome.”

“You are ungrateful. Did I not teach you to play?”

“You did not teach me to play when I am tired.”

“You have promised to write to me, haven’t you?” he asked.

“No, I haven’t! If you only knew how many I have promised; and Aunt Theresa has a basket quilt cut out for me to make, sixty-four blocks! How can you have the heart to suggest any thing beside?”

“How many persons have you refused to write to?”

“I just refused one.”

“Am I the only one you have refused?”

“Oh, no,” slipping the folded sheets into the envelope, “there is Mr. Gesner and Dr. Greyson and Professor Towne and—” 352

“Dr. Towne?” His uneasy fingers scattered several pawns over the black-and-green covering.

“Yes, and Dr. Towne! And he was very good about it, he only laughed.”

“Lady Blue, speak the truth.”

“About whom?”

“The latter. I am not concerned about the others.”

“I told you the truth and you do not believe me. Don’t you know that the truth is always funnier than a fabrication?”

“If you ask me, perhaps I will come down and stay over a Sunday with you.”

“Will you? Oh, I wish you would! I expect to be homesick. Uncle Knox will be delighted to have you to talk to.”

“I do not think that I shall travel fifty miles on a cold night to talk to him.”

“Then I am sure that you will not to talk to me.”

“You do not know what I would do for you.”

“Yes, I do. Any thing short of martyrdom. Don’t you want to go in and see John Woodstock? He is a pretty boy. There come father and mother. You will excuse me if I do not make my appearance again to-night; you know I have been with Sue and I am so tired.”

“And you will not write to me?”

“What for? You may read Dine’s letters.”

“Tell me true, Tessa,” he answered catching both her hands, “did you refuse to write to Dr. Towne?” 353

“Yes, I did.”

“Why, may I ask?”

“For the same reason that I refuse to write to you—no, that is not quite true—” she added, “but it is because I don’t want to write to either of you.”

“Have all these years given me the right to ask you a question?”

He still held both hands.

She answered seriously, “Yes. You are all the big brother I have.”

“Then I will not ask it,” dropping her hands and turning away.

“Say good-by, then.”


“I have not said any thing to displease you, have I?”

“You will not write to me?”

“No, I can’t. I would if I could. I will tell you—then you will understand and not care—somebody—”

“What right has somebody—”

Mrs. Wadsworth entered laughing, Mr. Wadsworth was close behind.

“Excuse me, sir; I can’t stay to play to-night. Good night, Lady Blue. A pleasant visit and safe return.”

An hour later Tessa was kneeling on the carpet before her open trunk squeezing a roll of pencilled manuscript into a corner.

A tap at the door was followed by a voice, “Daughter, may I come in?” 354

“If you will not mind the confusion.”

He closed the door and seated himself on a chair near the end of the trunk.

“There is a confusion somewhere that I do mind,” he began nervously.

She looked up in surprise. “Why, father, is there something that you don’t like? Don’t you like it about Dine?”

“Daughter, if you are so blind that you will not see, I must tell you. I like it well enough about Dine, but I do not like it about you?”

Was it about Dr. Towne? How could he object to him? For he could not be aware of her objection.

“I am afraid that you are teasing Gus rather too much.”

“Teasing Gus! I never really teased him in my life. We have never quarrelled even once.”

“I thought that women were quick about such things, but you are as blind as a bat.”

“Such things?” She was making room for a glove box, a pretty one of Russia leather that Gus had given her. “He never cares for what I say!”

“How do you know that?”

“How do I know?” she repeated in perplexity, making space in a corner while she considered her reply. “Don’t you know why he can not be teased by what I say and do?”

“I know this—he has asked me if he may marry you some day.”

Me! You mean Dine. You can’t mean me. I know it is Dine.” 355

“Oh, child,” laughing heartily, “why should I mean Dine? Why should it not be you?”

“It must be Dine,” she said positively. “Didn’t he say Dine?”

“Am I in my dotage?”

“Couldn’t you misunderstand?”

“No, I could not. What is the matter with you, to-night? You act as if you were bewildered.”

“So I am.”

“One evening, on the piazza, was it in May or June? I was not well and I said so to him; and he answered by telling me that he had always thought of you, that he had grown up hoping to marry you. Dine! Am I blind? Have I been blind these ten years?”

“Didn’t he say any thing about Dine?”

“We spoke of her, of course. I would not tell you, but I see how you are playing with him; he will not intrude himself. O, Tessa, for a bright girl, you are very stupid.”

“I am not bright; I am stupid.”

“This sisterly love is all very well, but a man can not bear to have it carried too far. He is pure gold, daughter; he is worthy of a princess. Now don’t worry; you haven’t done any harm. Go to bed and go to sleep; you have had too much worry this last week.”

“I know it must be Dine.”

“If you did not look half sick, I would be angry with you. I thought women were quick witted.” 356

“I suppose some are,” she said slowly. “He will never ask me, never.”

“Why not?” he asked sharply.


“Because you haven’t thought of it. If you do not like any one—and I don’t see how you can—you don’t, do you?”

“I don’t—know.”

“There! There, dear, don’t cry! Go to sleep and forget it.”

“I thought it was Dine. I have always thought that it was Dine.”

“Well, good night. Don’t throw away the best man in the world. I have known him ever since he wore dresses, and he is worthy—even of you. Put out your light and go to sleep. Don’t give him a heartache.”

“Oh, I won’t, I won’t—if I can help it!”

“Don’t have any whims. There, child, don’t cry! Kiss me and go to sleep.”

She did not cry; she was stunned and bewildered; it was too dreadful to be true; even if she did love Ralph Towne she would not love him if it would make unhappy this friend and helper of all her life! This new friend should not come between them to make him miserable. Even if the old dream about Ralph Towne could come true, she would not accept his love at the cost of Gus Hammerton’s happiness. Was he not her right arm? Was he not her right eye? She had never missed him because he had always lived in her life; he was as much a part of 357 her home as her father and Dine; she would give up any thing rather than hurt him. Had she not suffered with him when she thought that he was unhappy about Dine? She had loved him so much that she had never thought of loving him; she had been so proud that he had loved Dine. Was it his influence that had kept her from loving Felix Harrison? Was he the hindrance that was coming between her and Dr. Towne? Was she troubled because she could not honor and trust Dr. Towne as she had unconsciously honored and trusted this old, old friend? If the illusion about Ralph Towne had never been dispelled, she would not have discovered that Gus Hammerton was “pure gold” as her father had said. They were both miserable to-night because of her—and she had permitted one of them to kiss her. Ralph Towne had left her once to fight out her battle alone—he had not been the shadow of a rock in her weary land—she could think of this now away from the fascination of his presence; but, present or absent, there was no doubt, no reasoning about the old friend; he had been tried, he was steadfast and true. True, she had forgiven Ralph Towne; but her forgiveness had not wrought any change in him. He was the Ralph Towne of a year ago, with this difference that now he loved her. Had his love for her wrought any change in him? Was he not himself? Would he not always be himself? Was she satisfied with him if she could feel the need of change? 358

A year ago would she have reasoned thus? Where love is, is there need of reasoning to prove its existence, its depth or its power of continuance? She knew that she loved God; she knew that she loved her father. If she loved Ralph Towne, why did she not know that, also?

Why must she reason? Why might she not know? She did not know that she loved him. Did she know that she did not love him? Wearied even to exhaustion, her head drooped until it touched the soft pile in the open trunk; there were no tears, not a sound moved her lips; she was very glad that she was going away.

If she might tell Gus, would he not talk it over to her and make it plain? It would not be the first matter in which he had taught her to discern between the wrong and the right. Was there a wrong and a right in this choosing?

The large tears gathered and fell.

Ralph Towne could not help her; he would say caressingly, “Love me, and end the matter.” In her extremity he was not a helper. Would he ever be in any extremity of hers?

The tears fell for very weariness and bewilderment. What beside was there to shed tears about? She was so weary that she had forgotten.

A laugh in the hall below; the sound of a scuffle, another laugh, and the closing of the street door.

Those two children!

Dinah burst into the room, still laughing. “Why, 359 Tessa! All through! You look as if you wanted to pack yourself up, too,” she cried in a breezy voice. “The candle is almost burnt down.”

“No matter. Don’t get another.”

“Your voice sounds as if you were sick. Mother has been expecting you to be too sick to go.”

“I shall not be sick,” rising, and dropping the lid of her trunk. “Tell me about the night you overheard Gus talking to father on the piazza.”

“I did tell you, didn’t I? He did not mind because John came tonight; didn’t you hear him tease me? About that night? Oh, I was asleep, and they were on the piazza; of course I don’t know how long they had been talking, nor what suggested it, but I heard him say,—really I’ve forgotten just what, it was so long ago,—but father said that he was so glad and happy about it, or it meant that. I suppose I may have missed some of it. Poor old Gus said that he knew I did not care for any one else. Isn’t it touching? Poor fellow! And I didn’t then. I never should if I hadn’t gone away and found John. Lucky for me, wasn’t it? Gus never looked at me as he did at you tonight, anyway; I guess he’s transferring.”

Long after midnight Tessa fell asleep; her last thought shaping itself thus:

“I can not reason myself into loving or not loving, any more than I can reason the sun into shining or not shining.”

On her way to the train the next morning, she mailed a letter addressed— 360

    “Ralph  Towne,  M.  D.,

Her tender, passionate, truth-loving, bewildered heart had poured itself out in these words:

“I am so afraid of leading you to think something that is not true; something that I may have to contradict in the future. When I am with you, I forget every thing but you; when I am alone, my heart rises up and warns me that I may be making another mistake, that I only think I love you because I want to so much, and that I should only worry you with my caprices and doubts if I should marry you. You have been very patient with me, but you might lose your patience if I should try it too far. I will not marry you until I am sure; I must know of a certainty that I love you with the love that hopes, endures, that can suffer long and still is kind. You do not know me, I am hard and proud; when I went down into the Valley of Humiliation because of believing that you loved me when you did not, I was not gentle and sweet and forgiving—I was hard and bitter; I hated you almost as much as I had loved you. Now I must think it all through and live through all those days, the days when I loved you and the days when I hated you, before I can understand myself. I could marry you and we could live a life of surface peace and satisfaction, and you might be satisfied in me and with me; but if I felt the need of loving you more 361 than I did love you, my life would be bondage. If the pride and hardness and unforgivingness may be taken away and I may love you and believe in you as I did that day that you brought me the English violets, I shall be as happy—no, a thousand times happier than I was then. But you must not hope for that; it is not natural; it may be that of grace such changes are wrought, but grace is long in working in proud hearts. You are not bound to me by any word that you have spoken; find some one gentle and loving who will love you for what you are and for what you will be.”


In the weeks that followed, Tessa learned to the full the meaning of homesickness. No kindness could have exceeded the kindness that she hourly received from uncle and aunt and from the inmates of the cottage over the way; still every night, or rather early every morning, she fell asleep with tears upon her cheeks; she longed for her father, her mother, for Dine and Gus, for Miss Jewett, for Nan Gerard, and even poor, grief-stricken Sue; for Mrs. Towne’s dear face and dear hands she longed inexpressibly, and she longed with a longing to which she would give no sympathy for another presence, an unobtrusive presence that would not push its way, a presence with the aroma of humility, gentleness, and a shy love that persisted with a persistence that neither the darkness of night nor the light of day could dispel.

Lying alone in the darkness in the strange, low room, with a fading glow upon the hearth that lent an air of unreality to the old-fashioned furniture, she congratulated herself upon having been 363 brave and true, of having withheld from her lips a draught for which she had so long and so despairingly thirsted; she had been so brave and true that she must needs be strong, wherefore then was she so weak? Sometimes for hours she would lie in perfect quiet thinking of Mr. Hammerton; but thinking of him as calmly as she thought about her father. There was no intensity in her love for him, no thrill, save that of gratitude for his years of brotherly watchfulness; she would have been proud of him had he married Dine; his friendship was a distinction that she had worn for years as her rarest ornament; he was her intellect, as her father was her conscience, but to give up all the others for him, to love him above father, mother, sister—to give up forever the hope of loving Ralph Towne some day—she shuddered and covered her face with her hands there alone in the dark. Cheery enough she was through the days, sewing for Aunt Theresa and falling into her happiest talk of books and people, thoughts and things, reading aloud to Uncle Knox, and every evening reading aloud the pages of manuscript that she had written that day, and every afternoon, laying aside work or writing, to run across to the cottage for a couple of hours with Miss Sarepta.

Miss Sarepta at her window in her wheelchair watched all day the black, brown, or blue figure at her writing or sewing, and when the hour came, saw the pencils dropped into the box, the leaves of manuscript gathered, the figure rise and toss 364 out its arms with a weary motion; then, in a few moments the figure with a bright shawl over its head would run down the path, stand a moment at the gate to look up and down and all around, and then, with the air of a child out of school, run across the street and sometimes around the garden before she brought her bright face into the watcher’s cosy, little world.

Miss Sarepta’s mother described Tessa as “bright, wide awake, and ready for the next thing.”

Miss Sarepta told Tessa that while knowing that good things were laid up for her, she had no thought that such a good thing as Tessa Wadsworth was laid up for this winter’s enjoyment and employment.

It may be that the strain of the day’s living added to the feverishness of the night’s yearnings; for when darkness fell and the wind sounded in the sitting-room chimney, her heart sank, her hands grew cold, her throat ached with repressed tears, and when she could no longer bear it, the daily paper having been read aloud and a letter or two written, she would take her candle and bid the old people as cheery a good night as her lips could utter and hasten up-stairs to her fire on the hearth to reperuse her letters and to dream waking dreams of what might be, and when the fire burned low to lie awake in the darkness, till, spent in flesh and in spirit, she would fall asleep.

At the beginning of the third week, she took herself to hand; with a figurative and merciless 365 gripe upon each shoulder she thus addressed herself: “Now, Tessa Wadsworth, you and I have had enough of this; we have had enough of freaks and whims for one lifetime; you are to behave and go to sleep.”

Behaving and going to sleep took until midnight with the first attempt, and she dreamed of Dr. Lake and awoke crying. Was Sue crying, too? Sue had loved her husband, his influence would color all her life, she might yet become her ideal of a woman; womanly. Sue’s hand had been in his life; had not his hand with a firmer grasp tightened around her life?

Tessa did not forget to be metaphysical even at midnight with the tears of a dream on her eyelashes.

Was every one she loved asleep, or had some one dreamed of her and awoke to think of her?

“God bless every one I love,” she murmured, “and every one who loves me.”

The next night by sheer force of will she was asleep before the clock struck eleven, and did not dream of home or once awake until Hilda, the Swedish servant, passed her door at dawn.

Her letters through this time were radiant, of course. Mrs. Towne only, with her perfect understanding of Tessa, detected the homesickness, or heartsickness. Tessa was wading in deep waters; she did not need her, else she would have come to her. She had learned that it was her characteristic to fight out her battles alone. 366

Had Ralph any thing to do with this? He had suddenly grown graver, not more silent; in the morning his eyes would have a sleepless look, the sunshine seemed utterly gone from them; once he said, apropos of nothing, after a long fit of abstraction: “It is right for a man to pay for being a fool and a knave, but it comes terribly hard.”

“I suppose it must,” she had replied, “until he learns how God forgives.”

In her next letter to Tessa, Mrs. Towne had written, “Do you know how God forgives?” and Tessa had replied, “You and I seem to be thinking the same thought nowadays, and nowanights, for last night it came to me that loving enough to forgive is the love that makes Him so happy.”

This letter was the only one of all written that winter that Mrs. Towne showed to her son. It was not returned to her. Months afterward he showed it to Tessa, saying that that thought was more to him than all the sermons to which he had ever listened. “Because you didn’t know how to listen,” she answered saucily, adding in a reverent tone, “I did not understand it until I lived it.”

The letter had been written with burning cheeks; if he might read it, she would be glad; it would reveal something that she did not dare tell him herself; but she had no hope that he would see it.

“Tessa is not so bright as she was,” observed Miss Sarepta’s mother, “she’s more settled down; I guess that she has found out what she means; it takes a deal of time for young women to do that.”


It was a trial to Sarepta Towne that the sun did not rise and set in the west, for in that case her bay window would have been perfect.

Dinah had named this window “summer time:” on each side ivy was climbing in profusion; on the right side stood a fuchsia six feet in height; opposite this an oleander was bursting into bloom; a rose geranium and a pot of sweet clover were placed on brackets and were Tessa’s special favorites; one hanging basket from which trailed Wandering Jew was filled with oxalis in bloom, another was but a mass of graceful and shining greens.

In the centre of the window on a low table stood a Ward’s case; into this Dinah had never grown tired of looking; Professor Towne had constructed it on his last visit at home, and one of the pleasures of it to Miss Sarepta had consisted in the talks they had while planning it together. Among its ferns, mosses, berries, and trailing arbutus they had formed a grotto of shells and bits of rocks; the floor was bits of looking-glass; tufts of eye-bright were mingled with the mosses and were now in bloom, 368 and Miss Sarepta was sure that the trailing arbutus would flower before Tessa could bring it home to her from the woods.

“This room is full of Philip and Cousin Ralph,” Sarepta had said; “his picture is but one of the things in it and in this house to remind me of Cousin Ralph.”

“Sarepta breathes Philip,” her mother replied.

“We are twin spirits like Blaise and Jacqueline Pascal. Do you know about them, Tessa?”

“I know that he was a monk and she a nun.”

“That is like me, and not like Philip,” said Miss Sarepta; “he shall not be a monk because I am a nun!”

“His wife will be jealous enough of you, though,” said Mrs. Towne; “not a mail comes that he does not send you something. How would she like that?”

“Philip could not love any one that would come between us. Tessa, do you admire my brother as much as I wish you to do?”

“I admire him exceedingly,” said Tessa, looking up from her twenty-fifth block of the basket quilt; “he is my ideal. I knew that I had found my ideal as soon as I saw him; I did not wait to hear him speak.”

And that he was her ideal she became more and more assured, for in February he spent a week at home and she had opportunity to study him at all hours and in any hour of the day. He had lost his fancied resemblance to Dr. Towne, or she had lost it in thinking of him as only himself. The long 369 talks, during which she sat, at Miss Sarepta’s side, on a foot cushion, work in hand, the basket blocks, or some more fanciful work for Miss Sarepta, she remembered afterward as one of the times in her life in which she grew. She told Miss Sarepta that she and her brother were like the men and women that St. Paul in his Epistles sent his love to. “He ought to marry a saint like Madame Guyon; I think that it would be easier to revere him as a saint than to marry him. I can’t imagine any woman forgiving him, or loving him because he needs her love; he stands so far above me, I could never think of him as at my side and sometimes saying, ‘Help me, Tessa,’ or, ‘What do you think?’”

“Now we know your ideal of marriage,” laughed Mrs. Towne. “Philip is a good boy, but he sometimes needs looking after.”

“Stockings and shirt buttons!”

“And other things, too. He is forgetful, and he’s rather careless. How much he is taken up with that reading class!”

“In a monkish way,” smiled Miss Sarepta. “He was full of enthusiasm about Ralph, too, mother.”

“How is it, Miss Tessa, do you admire Dr. Towne as much as you do St. Philip?” inquired the old lady with good-humored sarcasm.

“He is not a saint,” said Tessa, “he needs looking after in several matters besides stockings and shirt buttons.”

“Philip talks about him! What is it that he says he is, Sarepta?” 370

“In his profession just what he expected that he would be,—quick, quiet, gentle, sympathetic, patient, persevering; he has thrown himself into it heart and soul. Philip used to wonder if he would ever find his vocation; his life always had a promise of good things—”

“But he was slow about it; not quick like Philip; he should have begun practice ten years ago. What has he been doing all this time?”

“We can see the fruit of his doing, mother; it does not much matter as to the doing itself. Don’t you know that six years are given to the perfecting even of a beetle?”

“I don’t know about beetles and things; I know that I used to think that my boy would outstrip Lydia’s boy.”

“Mother! mother!” laughed Sarepta, “you mind earthly things. I shall never run a race with anybody. Can’t you be a little proud of me?”

Sarepta Towne had her brother’s eyes, but her hair was brighter, with not one silver thread among its short curls; her fair, fresh face was certainly ten years younger than his. In summer her wrappers were of white; in winter she kept herself a bird in gay plumage; always the singing-bird, in white or crimson. When Philip Towne said “My sister,” his voice and eyes said “My saint.”

Once, after a silence, Tessa asked about her “Shut-ins.” “How did it come into your heart at first?”

“It is a long story; first tell me what your heart 371 has been about. It has been painting your eyes darker and darker.”

“It is a very foolish heart then; it was only repeating something that I learned once and did not then understand. I do not know that I can say it correctly, but it is like this:

    “‘God’s  generous  in  giving,  say  I,
    And  the  thing  which  he  gives,  I  deny
    That  He  ever  can  take  back  again.
    He  gives  what  He  gives:  be  content.
        He  resumes  nothing  given;  be  sure.
    God  lend?  where  the  usurers  lent
    In  His  temple,  indignant  He  went
        And  scourged  away  all  those  impure.
    He  lends  not,  but  gives  to  the  end,
        As  He  loves  to  the  end.  If  it  seem
    That  He  draws  back  a  gift,  comprehend
    ’Tis  to  add  to  it  rather,  amend
        And  finish  it  up  to  your  dream.’”

“Well?” said Miss Sarepta.

“Once,—a long time ago, it seems now,—He gave me something; it was love for somebody; and then He took it—or I let it go, because it was too much trouble to keep it; I did not like His gift, it hurt too much; I was glad to let it go, and yet I missed it so; I was not worthy such a perfect gift as a love that could be hurt in loving; I could love as I loved all beauty and goodness and truth, but when I found that love must hold on and endure, must hope and believe, must suffer shame and loss, I gave it up. God was generous in giving; He 372 gave me all I could receive, and when He would have given me more, I shrank away from His giving and said, ‘It hurts too much. I am too proud to take love or give love if I must be made humble first. I wanted to give like a queen, not stooping from my full height, and I wanted to give to a king: instead, I was asked to give—just like any common mortal to another common mortal, and that after we had misinterpreted and misunderstood each other, and I had written hard things of him all over my heart, and what he had thought me, nobody knows but himself! And now I think, if I will, that I may have the love again finished up to my dream; finished above any thing that I knew how to ask or think, and it is altogether too good and perfect a gift for me; so good that I can not keep it, I must needs give it away.”

Tessa had told her story with quickened breath, not once lifting the eyes that were growing darker and darker.

Miss Sarepta’s “thank you” held all the appreciation that Tessa wished.

“And now,” after another silence, for these two loved silences together, “you want to know about my dear Shut-ins. Philip named them from the words, ‘And the Lord shut him in.’ It began one day when I was sitting alone thinking! I am often sitting alone thinking; but this day I was thinking sad thoughts about my useless, idle life, and I had planned my life to be such a busy life. There was nothing that I could do to help along; I had to sit 373 still and be helped; and I shouldn’t wonder if I cried a little. That was five years ago, we were living in the city then; in the middle of my bemoanings and my tears, I spied the postman crossing the street. How Philip laughed when I told him that I loved that postman better than any man in all the world! That day he brought me several lovely things: one of them a book from Cousin Ralph, and a letter from Aunt Lydia; that letter is the beginning of my story. She told me about a little invalid that she had found and suggested that I should write one of my charming letters to her. Of course you know that I write charming letters! So I wiped away my naughty tears and wrote the charming letter! In a few days, my hero, the postman, brought the reply. That was my first Shut-in letter. Bring me the album, I will show you Susie.”

Tessa brought it and Miss Sarepta opened it on her lap to an intelligent, serious, sweet face.

“She has not taken a step for many years; she is among the youngest of many children; her great love is love for children, she teaches daily thirteen little ones. The one thing in her life that strikes me is her faithfulness. There is nothing too little for her to be faithful in. One of her great longings used to be for letters; oh, if the postman would only bring her a letter! For a year or two I wrote every week, the longest, brightest, most every-day letters I could think of. And one day it came to me that if we had such a good time together, why should we not find some other to 374 whom a letter or a book would be as a breath of fresh air. I pondered the matter for a month or two, but I couldn’t advertise for an invalid, and none of my friends knew of any. One morning I glanced through a religious paper, and tossed it aside, then something moved me to pick it up again, and there she was! The one I sought! That was Elsie. Look at her pale, patient face. For fourteen years she has lived in one room. And hasn’t she the brightest, most grateful, happiest heart that ever beat in a frail body or a strong one? Her poems are graceful little things; I will show you some of them. She had been praying six months for a helpful friend, when she received my first letter. Her letters are gems. You shall read a pile of them. And she had a Shut-in friend, to whom I must write, of course. She is Mabel. I have no picture of her. When she was well, they called her the laughing girl; she has lain eleven years in bed!”

“Oh, dear me!” sighed Tessa.

“Don’t sigh, child. She writes in pencil as she can not lift her head. I call her my sunbeam. She often dates her letters ‘In my Corner.’ So another year went on with my three Shut-ins. I forgot to cry about my folded hands and useless life. One day it came into my mind to write a sketch and call it, ‘Our Shut-in Society’; to write all about Mabel and Elsie and Sue, and send it to the paper in which I had found Elsie’s first article.

“And that sketch! How it was read! I received letters 375 from north, south, east, and west concerning it. Was there really such a society, and were there such happy people as Mabel, Elsie, and Susie? One who had not spoken aloud for fourteen years would love to write to them; another who had locked her school-room door one summer day, and come home to rest, had been forced to rest through eight long years, and was so lonely, with her sisters married and away; another, quite an old man, who had lain for six years in the loft of an old log-cabin, was eager for a word or a paper. How his letter touched us all! ‘The others have letters, but when the mail comes naught comes to me,’ he wrote. But you will be tired of hearing my long story; you shall see their letters; you must see Delle’s letters; she sits all day in a wheelchair, and has no hope of ever taking a step; she has a mother and a little boy; the brightest little boy! Her poems have appeared in some of our best periodicals; we are something beside a band of sufferers, Miss Tessa; some of us are literary! My most precious letters are from Elizabeth; her fiftieth birthday came not long since; for ten years her home has been in one room; she has written a book that the Shut-ins cry over.

“And oh, we have a prisoner! A Shut-in shut up in state’s prison. A young man with an innocent, boyish face; he ran away from home when he was a child and ran into state’s prison because no one cared what became of him. His letters are unaffected and grateful; he does want to be a good 376 boy! Thirty-six are on my list now; I would find more if I had strength to write more; some of them have more and some less than I; many of them have Shut-ins that I know nothing about. We remember each other on holidays and birthdays! The things that postmen and country mail-carriers have in their mail-bags are funny to see: flower seeds, bits of fancy work, photographs, pictures, any thing and every thing!

“They all look forward to mail-time through the night and through the day.

“And, speaking humanly, my share in it, all I receive and the little I give, came out of my self-bemoanings and tears; my longing to be a helper in some small way!

“Now if you want to help me, you may cut some blocks of patch-work for me. One of the Shut-ins is making a quilt to leave as a memorial to her daughter, and I want to send my contribution to the mail to-night; and you may direct several papers for me, and cover that book, ‘Thoughts for Weary Hours.’ I press you into my service, you see.”

“Miss Sarepta, I am ashamed.”

“Shame is an evidence of something; go on.”

“I am ashamed that I am such a dreamer.”

“Philip says that you are a dreamer.”

“I care for my writing.”

“Mowers work while they whet their scythes,” quoted Miss Sarepta.


In March, Tessa found myrtle in bloom, and took a handful of the blue blossoms mingled with sprays of the green leaves to Miss Sarepta.

“Spring has come,” she said dropping them on the open book in Miss Sarepta’s lap.

“If spring has come, then I must lose you.”

“Every hand that I know in Dunellen is beckoning me homewards; my winter’s work is done.”

That evening—it was the sixth of March, that date ever afterward was associated with blue myrtle and Nan Gerard—she was sitting at the table writing letters; in the same chair and at the same place at the table where Dinah had written her letter about Gus and her wonderful John; Aunt Theresa was knitting this evening also, and Uncle Knox was asleep in a chintz-covered wooden rocker with the big cat asleep on his knees.

She had written a letter to Mabel and one to Elsie, lively descriptive letters, making a picture of Miss Sarepta’s book-lined, picture-decorated, flower-scented room and a picture of Miss Sarepta, also 378 touching lightly upon her own breezy out-of-door life with its hard work and its beautiful hopes. The third letter was a sheet to Mrs. Towne; the sentence in ending was one that Mrs. Towne had been eagerly and anxiously expecting all through the winter: “My ring reminds me of my promise; a promise that I shall keep some day, perhaps.”

“Tessa, are you unhappy, child?” asked Aunt Theresa with a knitting needle between her lips.

“Unhappy! Why, auntie, what am I doing?”

The tall lamp with its white china shade stood between them. Aunt Theresa took the knitting needle from its place of safety and counted fourteen stitches before she replied.

“Sighing! When young people sigh, something must ail them. What do you have to be miserable about?”

“I am not miserable.”

“Tell me, what are you miserable about?”

“Sometimes—I am not satisfied—that is all.”

“I should think that that was enough. What are you dissatisfied about? Haven’t you enough to eat and to drink and clothes enough to wear? Haven’t you a good father and mother who wouldn’t see you want for any thing? What is it that you haven’t enough of, pray?”

“I do not know that I am wishing for any thing—to night. I am learning to wait.”

“Yes, you are! You are wishing for something that isn’t in this world, I know.”

“Then I’ll find it in heaven.” 379

“People don’t sigh after heaven as a usual thing. You read too many books, that’s what’s the matter with you. Reading too many books affects different people in different ways; I’ve seen a good deal of girls’ reading.”

Tessa’s pen was scribbling initials on a half sheet of paper.

“I know the symptoms. Some girls when they read love-stories become dissatisfied with their looks; they look into the glass and worry over their freckles or their dark skins, or their big mouths or turn-up noses; they fuss over their waists and try to squeeze them slim and slender, and they cripple themselves squeezing their number four feet into number two shoes. But you are not that kind. And some girls despise their fathers and mothers because they can’t speak grammar and pronounce long words, and because they say ‘care’ for carry and ‘empt’ for empty! And they despise their homes and their plain, substantial furniture. But you are not that kind either. Your face is well enough, and your father and mother are well enough, and your home is well enough.”

Tessa was scribbling Dunellen, then she wrote R. T. and Nan Gerard.

“And you are not sighing for a lordly lover,” continued Aunt Theresa, with increasing energy “You don’t want him to wear a cloak or carry a sword. Your trouble is different! You read a higher grade of love-stories, about men that are 380 honorable and true, who would die before they would tell a lie or say any thing that isn’t so. They are as gentle as zephyrs; they would walk over eggs and not crack them; they are always thinking of something new and startling and deep that it can’t enter a woman’s mind to conceive, and their faces have different expressions enough in one minute to wear one ordinary set of muscles out; and they never think of themselves, they would burn up and not know it, because they were keeping a fly off of somebody else; they are so high and mighty and simple and noble that an angel might take pattern by them. And that is what troubles you. You read about such fine fellows and shut the book and step out into life and break your heart because the real, mannish man, who is usually as good as human nature and all the grace he has got will help him be, isn’t so perfect and noble as this perfect man that somebody has made out of his head. You can’t be satisfied with a real human man who thinks about himself and does wrong when it is too hard to do right, even if he comes on his bended knees and says he’s sorry and that he’ll never do such a thing again. You want to love somebody that you are proud of; you are too proud to love somebody that is as weak as you are. And so you can’t be satisfied at all! Why must you be satisfied?”

“Why should I not be?”

“For the best reason in the world; to be satisfied in any man, in his love for you and in your love for 381 him, would be—do you know what it would be? It would be idolatry.”

Aunt Theresa’s attention was given to her knitting; she did not see the shining of Tessa’s eyes.

“Be satisfied with God, child, and take all the happiness you can get.”

Tessa’s pen was making tremulous capitals.

“Be satisfied with, if you can, but not in, some good man who stumbles to-day and stands straight to-morrow; I fought it out on that line once, and so I know all about it.”

This then was the experience that Dr. Towne had said that she must ask for; had he guessed that it would be altogether on his side?

This was it, and this was all. Uncle Knox’s old eyes had a look for his old wife that they never held for any other living thing, and as for Aunt Theresa, how often had Tessa thought, “I want to grow old and love somebody the way you do.”

Might she be satisfied with God and love Ralph Towne all she wanted to?

“Why, Theresa,” exclaimed Uncle Knox, opening his eyes and staring at his wife, “I haven’t heard you talk so much sentiment for thirty years.”

“And you will not in another thirty years. But Tessa was in a tangle—I know eggs when I see the shells—and I had to help her out.”

A tap at the window brought Tessa to her feet. A neighbor had brought the mail; she took the papers and letters with a most cordial “thank you” and came to the table with both hands full. The 382 papers she opened and glanced through; the letters she took up-stairs to read. The business-looking envelope she opened first; she read it once, twice, then gave an exclamation of delight. Oh, how pleased her father would be! Her manuscript had given such perfect satisfaction that, although written for pictures, the pictures would be discarded and new ones made to illustrate her story. Gus would congratulate her, and Miss Jewett; this appreciation by the publisher was the crown that the winter’s work would always wear for her. With a long breath, she sighed, “Oh, what a blessed winter this has been to me!”

The long, white envelope was from Mrs. Towne, the chocolate from Sue, the cream-colored from Dinah, the pale blue from Miss Jewett, the pink from Nan Gerard, and the square white from Laura Harrison. Mr. Hammerton had not once written; a kind message through her father or Dinah was all evidence he had given of remembrance. Mrs. Towne’s letter was opened before the others. What would Dine or Miss Jewett or Laura think of this? The faint perfume was the lady herself, so real was her presence that Tessa felt her arms about her as she read.

“Sue does not come to me as often as in the winter,” she wrote; “the Gesners, one and all, are proving themselves more alluring. Miss Gesner will be a good friend to her. If you could hear her laugh and talk, you would think of her as Sue Greyson and never as the widowed Mrs. Lake. 383 She is Dr. Lake’s widow, certainly she is not his wife. Ralph growls about it in his kind way, but I think that he did not expect any thing deeper from her. Nan Gerard was with me all day yesterday; she was as sweet and shy as a wild flower. Nan’s heart is awake. Am I a silly old woman? I dream of you every night. I would be a washer-woman and live in Gesner’s Row, if I might have you for my daughter, never to leave me. Now I am a silly old woman and I will go to bed.”

The perfumed sheet was passed to the reader’s lips before the next envelope was torn open.

Dinah’s letter was a sheet of foolscap; it was written as a diary.

The first entry was merely an account of attending a concert with John; the second stated in a few strong words the failure of a bank. Old Mr. Hammerton had lost a large amount of money and had had a stroke of paralysis.

The third contained the history of a call from Sue; how tall and elegant she looked in her rich mourning, and how she had talked about her courtship and marriage all the time.

The fourth day their father had had an attack of pain, but it had not lasted as long as usual.

The last page was filled in Dine’s eager, story-telling style:

“Just to think, Tessa, now I know the end of my romance. It was dark last night just before tea, and I went into the front hall for something 384 that I wanted to get out of the hat-stand drawer. The sitting-room door stood slightly ajar; I did not know that Gus was with father until I heard his voice. I did not listen, truly I did not; after I heard the first sentence I didn’t dare stir for fear of making my presence known. I moved off as easily and swiftly as I could, but I heard every word as plainly as if I had been in the room. It is queer that I should overhear the beginning and the ending of poor Gus’s only romance, isn’t it? I heard him say, ‘Every thing is changed in my plans; father is left with nothing but his good name, my mother is aged and feeble, my sister is a widow with a child; her money is gone, too. I am the sole support of four people. I could not marry, even if I desired to do so. And since I have definitely learned that she does not think of me, and never has thought of me, and that she thinks of some one else, the bachelor’s life will be no great hardship.’

“I had got to the parlor door by that time, so, of course, I never can know father’s answer. But isn’t it dreadful? I suppose that he is over the disappointment, for his voice sounded as cool as usual; too cold, I thought. I should have liked him better if he had been in a flutter. I shall never tell any body but John. Poor old, wise old, dear old Gus! He will pursue the even tenor of his unmarried way, and no one will ever guess that he has had a romance. Perhaps Felix Harrison has had one, too. Perhaps every body has.” 385

So it was Dinah, after all. And she had fought her long, hard fights all for nothing.

It was Dine, and now her father would understand; he would not think her blind and stupid; he would not be disappointed that she had not chosen his choice!

And that it was herself that Gus Hammerton had loved, the wife of John Woodstock always believed. And that it was herself, Tessa never knew; for not knowing that he had stood at the window that night that Dr. Towne had brought her home, and witnessed their parting at the gate, how could she divine that “definitely learned that she does not think of me,” had referred to her?

Mr. Wadsworth had listened in utter bewilderment, recalling Tessa’s repeated declaration that it was Dinah. “I am in my dotage,” he thought; “for I certainly understood that he said Tessa.”

“My wish was with your wish,” he said.

“She will be better satisfied,” Mr. Hammerton answered in his most abrupt tone. “He is a fine man; I can understand his attraction for her.”

Mrs. Wadsworth entered at that instant and the conversation was too fraught with pain to both ever to be resumed; therefore it fell out that Mr. Hammerton was the only one in the world who ever knew, beyond a perhaps, which of the sisters he had asked of the father.

That Tessa had not been influenced by his importunate and mistaken urging, was one of the 386 things that her father was thankful for to the end of his days.

“Poor Gus! The dear, brave boy,” sighed Tessa over her letter. “And my worry has only been to reveal to me that I can not reason myself into loving or not loving.”

A paragraph in Nan Gerard’s letter was dwelt long upon; then the daintily written pink sheet dropped from her fingers and she sat bending forward looking into the glowing brands until the lights were out down-stairs and Hilda’s heavy step had passed her door.

“Oh, Naughty Nan!” she said rousing herself, “I hope that you love him very, very much. Better than I know how to do!”

The paragraph ran in this fashion:

“I have had a very pretty present; I really believe that I like it better than any thing that Robert ever gave me. It is a ring with an onyx: on the stone is engraved two letters in monogram. You shall guess them, my counsellor, and it will not be hard when I whisper that one of them is T. I am very happy and very good. ‘Nan’s Experiment’ is burnt up and with it all my foolishness. ‘Such as I wish it to be.’ I think of that whenever I look at my ring. Tell me all about your lovely Miss Sarepta. I like to know how I shall have to behave before her. We are to be married next month.”

Did Nan know the hurt and the hurt and the hurt of love? No wonder that she was “shy” with 387 Mrs. Towne. Why had not Mrs. Towne told her? Must she write and congratulate Naughty Nan whose story was such as she wished it to be?

The letters that she had written that evening were on the bureau; the sudden remembering of the line that she had written in Mrs. Towne’s brought her to her feet with a rush of shame like the old hot flashes from head to foot; she seized the letter and rolling it up tucked it down among the coals; it blazed, burning slowly, the flame curled around the words that she had been saved just in time from sending; the words that would never be written or spoken.

The room was chilly and the candle had burnt out before she went to bed; the lights opposite had long been out. The room was cold and dark and strange; outside in the darkness the night was wild.

It was too late; her conflict had lasted too long; her pride and disdain had killed his love for her; perhaps he felt as she did in that time when she had wanted some one to love her, and he had taken Naughty Nan as she had taken Felix.

She had lived it all through once; she could live it all through again; she could have slept, but would not for fear of the waking. Oh, if it would never come light, and she could lie forever shielded in darkness! But the light crept up higher and higher into the sky, Hilda passed the door, and Uncle Knox’s heavy tread was in the hall below.

Another day had come, and other days would always be coming; every day life must be full of 388 work and play, even although Dr. Towne had failed in love that was patience; she had suffered once, because he was slow to understand himself, and plainly he had suffered to the verge of his endurance, because she was slow in understanding herself!

The day wore on to twilight; she had worked listlessly; in the twilight she laid her work aside, and went over to the cottage.

“I have something to show you,” said Miss Sarepta; “guess what my last good gift from Philip is.”

“I did not know that he had any thing left to give you.”

“It is the last and best. A flower of spring!” From a thick envelope in her work-basket, she drew out a photograph, and, with its face upward, laid it in Tessa’s hand.

A piquant face: daring in the eyes, sweetness on the lips.

“Nan Gerard!” cried Tessa, catching her breath with a sound like a sob.

“Naughty Nan! And they are to be married here in this room, that I may be bridesmaid.”

“Oh, how stupid I was!”

“Why, had you an inkling of it?”

“Several of them, if I had had eyes to see!”

“It came last night, and I lay awake all night, thinking of the woman that Philip will love henceforth better than he loves me.”

“Oh, how can you bear it?” Tessa knelt on the 389 carpet at her side, with her head on the arm of the chair.

“I could not, at first. I could not now, if I did not love Philip better than I love myself.”

So her sorrow had become Miss Sarepta’s! She drew a long breath, and did not speak.

“Don’t feel so sorry for me, dear. I have known that in the nature of things,—which is but another name for God’s will,—this must come. Even after all the years, it has come suddenly. Will she love my brother?”

“I am sure she will; more and more as the years go on!”

“Every heart must choose for itself,” said Miss Sarepta dreamily, “and the choice of the Lord runs through all our choices.”

Tessa’s lips gave a glad assent.

A letter from Dinah that evening ended thus. “Father is not at all well; I think that he grows weaker every day. To-day he said, ‘Isn’t it almost time for Tessa to come?’”

At noon the next day she was in Dunellen.


May came with blossoms, lilacs, and a birthday, she smiled all to herself over last year’s reverie; the anniversary of the day in which she had walked homewards with Mr. Hammerton and accepted Felix in the evening followed the birthday; a sad anniversary for Felix, she remembered, for he had her habit of retrospection.

The days slipped through his mind, Laura had told her; he would often ask the day of the week or month. He had become quiet and melancholy, seemingly absorbed in the interest of the moment. He had greeted Tessa as he would have greeted any friend, at their last interview, and she had left him believing that his future would not be without happiness. A year ago to-day, Mr. Hammerton had said that a year made a difference, sometimes. And this year! How the events had hurried into each other, jostling against each other like good-humored people in a crowd! A year ago to-day she had thought of Nan Gerard as the wife of Ralph Towne; to-day she was sailing on the sea, Professor Towne’s wife; just as naughty as ever, but rather 391 more dignified. A year ago to-night she had held herself the promised wife of her old tormentor, Felix Harrison; since that night all his future had become a blank, the strong man had become as a little child; since that day Dine had found her wonderful John; since that day Dr. Lake had had his heart’s desire, and had been called away from Sue, leaving her a widow; the hurrying year had taken from Gus a long hope and had given him a future of hard work with meagre wages. And Dr. Towne! But she could not trust herself to think of him. They met as usual, not less often; he had grown graver since last year, and had thrown himself heart and soul into his work: never demonstrative, his manner towards her, had, if possible, become less and less intrusive; but ever responsive, having nothing to respond to, now, but a gentle deference, a shyness that increased; a stranger would have said, meeting him with Tessa Wadsworth, that he was intensely interested in her, but exceedingly in doubt of finding favor.

But Tessa could not see this; she felt only the restraint and chilliness.

Once they were left suddenly alone together; he excused himself and abruptly left her; clearly, he had no reply to make to her letter; his love was worn out with her freaks and whims.

“I deserve it,” she said, taking stern pleasure in meting out justice to herself.

One afternoon in late May, she found herself on the gnarled seat that the roots had braided for 392 her; she had been gazing down into the brook and watching a robin-redbreast taking his bath in it, canary-fashion; she watched him until he had flown away and perched upon a post of the Old Place meadow fence, then her eyes came back to the water, the stones, and the weeds.

“I always know where to find you!” The exclamation could be in no other loud voice; she recognized Sue before she lifted her eyes to the tall, black-draped figure. If Sue had had a sorrow, there was no trace of it in voice or countenance.

“Isn’t it dusty? How I shall look trailing around in all this black stuff! What do you always come here for? Do you come to meet somebody?”

“It seems that I have come to meet you.”

“Don’t you remember how you talked to me here that day? I did keep my promise; I was good to Gerald. Poor, dear Gerald! I have nothing to reproach myself with.”

“Did mother send you here?”

“She said that I would find you between the end of the planks and Mayfield. Come through the grounds of Old Place with me. I want you to see Mrs. Towne’s flowers and a new arbor that Dr. Towne has been putting up.”

“No, thank you,” said Tessa rising and tossing away a handful of withering wild flowers.

“You don’t know how lovely the place is. Dr. Towne is always thinking of some new thing to do; I asked him if it were for that grand wife that he has been waiting so long for, and, do you believe, he 393 said ‘Yes,’ as sincerely as could be. He looked up at his mother and smiled when he said it, too. I believe they know something. Nan Gerard didn’t get him any way! Won’t she have a lovely time travelling! I always did want to go to Europe; Gerald never would have taken me. I can’t believe that he’s dead, can you?”

As Tessa was busy with her veil and did not speak, Sue rattled on.

“Did you know that I’ve been making another visit at Miss Gesner’s? They call their place Blossom Hill, and it has been so sweet with blossoms.”

“Is she as lovely as ever?”

“I don’t know,” said Sue, doubtfully; “sometimes I think that she is stiff and proud; the truth is she doesn’t like to have her old brother pay attention to me. She thinks that he is too old a boy for such nonsense; but he doesn’t think so! Good for me that he doesn’t. What are you walking so fast for? I went to drive with him every day after business hours; we did look stylish!”

“With Miss Gesner, too?” queried Tessa, in a voice that she could not steady.

“No, indeed,” laughed Sue, “and that’s the beauty of it. What did we want her along for? Of course we talked about Gerald; we talked a great deal about him. I told him how kind he had been to me and how I adored him and how I mourned for him. I am sure that I cried myself sick; Dr. Towne gave me something one night to keep me from having hysterics! I should have died of 394 grief if Mrs. Towne hadn’t taken me to Old Place; she was like a mother, and he was as kind as kind could be! It was like the other time before I was engaged to Gerald; I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t that time. The Gesners were kind, too; I thought at first that Miss Gesner really loved me; but she began to be stiff after she saw her brother kiss me. I couldn’t help it; I told him that it was too soon for such goings on.”

“O, Sue!” cried Tessa, wearily. “And he loved you so.”

“Gerald! Of course he did! But that’s all past and gone! He can’t expect me never to have any good times, can he? He didn’t leave me any money to have a good time with! I’m too young to shut myself up and think of his grave all the time. You and father are the most unreasonable people I ever saw! Why, he thinks because he thinks of mother every day, and wouldn’t be married for any thing, that I must be that kind of a mourner, too! It’s very hard; nobody ever had so much trouble as I do. I never used to like John Gesner, but you don’t know how interesting he can be. He took off my wedding ring one day and said it didn’t fit. It always was a little too large. Gerald said that I would grow into it,” she said, slipping it up and down on her finger and letting it drop on the grass.

“There!” with a little laugh as she stooped to look for it, “suppose I could never find it. Is that what you call an omen, Tessa? Help me look!”

“No, let it be. Let it be buried, too.” 395

“There! I have found it. You needn’t be so cross to me. I wonder why you are cross to me. Gerald Raid once that you would be a good friend to me forever.”

“I will, Susie,” said Tessa, fervently.

“You always liked Gerald. What did you like him for?” asked Sue, curiously.

As the answer was not forthcoming, Sue started off on a new branch of the old topic. “Mr. John Gesner is going to Europe this fall, or in the winter; he is going on business, but he says that if he had a wife to go around with him that he would stay a year or two. Wouldn’t that be grand? Nan Gerard will have to be home when the Seminary opens, anyway. It would be grand to travel for two years.”

“Why does not Miss Gesner go with him?”

“Oh, she wouldn’t leave Lewis. Lewis and Blossom Hill are her two idols. Mr. John says that if he were married, he would build a new house right opposite, and he asked me as we passed the grand houses which style I liked best. There was one with porticoes and columns, I chose that. He said that it could be built while he was away, and be all ready for him to bring his bride home to. But you are not listening; you never think of what I am saying,” Sue said, in a grumbling, tearful voice. “My friends are forever misunderstanding me. Gerald never misunderstood me. What do you think Dr. Towne said to me? He said that when I am old, I shall love Gerald better than any one; 396 that what comes between will fall out and leave that time. Won’t it be queer? He said that women ought to think love the best thing in the world. I cried while he was talking. I can love any body that is kind to me. When I told John Gesner that, he said, ‘I will always be kind to you.’ But you are not listening; I verily believe that you care more for that squirrel than you do for me!”

“See it run,” cried Tessa. “Isn’t it a perfect little creature? If you will come and stay a week with me, we will take a walk every day.”

“I can’t—now,” Sue stumbled over her words. “Say, Tessa, Mr. Gesner has given me a set of pearls. I can wear pearls in mourning, can’t I?”

“With your mourning, you can wear any thing.”

“Can I? I didn’t know it. It’s awful lonesome at home; lonesomer than it ever was.”

“I would come and stay a week with you, but I do not like to leave father; he is not so strong as he was last summer.”

“You wouldn’t let Mr. Gesner come and spend the evening; I haven’t asked him, but I’m going to ask him the next time I see him.”

Dr. Greyson called for Sue late in the evening. “I have the comfort of my old age hard and fast,” he said; “she will never want to run away from me again, will you, Susie?”

“I don’t know,” said Sue, with a hard, uncomfortable laugh; “you must keep a sharp lookout. I may be in Africa by this time next year.”


“Father is very feeble,” said Mrs. Wadsworth one day in June. “I shall persuade him to take a vacation. Lewis Gesner told him yesterday that he must take a rest; do you notice how he spends all his evenings on the sofa? I think that if Gus would come and play chess as he used to that it would rouse him.”

The week of Mr. Wadsworth’s vacation ran into two weeks and into a month; Dr. Greyson fell into a friendly habit of calling daily; Mr. Lewis Gesner and Mr. Hammerton came for a chat with him on the piazza as often as every other day, sometimes one of them would pass the evening beside his lounge in the sitting-room. Mr. Hammerton amused him by talk of people and books with a half hour of politics thrown in; and Mr. Gesner with his genial voice and genial manner helped them all to believe that life had its warm corners, and that an evening all together, with the feeble old man on the lounge an interested listener, was certainly one of the cosiest. 398

“Father, why have you kept Mr. Gesner to yourself all these years?” Tessa asked after one of these evenings.

“I would have brought him home before, if I had known that you would have found him so charming.”

“He is my ideal of the shadow of a rock in a weary land,” she answered; “I do not wonder that his sister’s heart is bound up in him. How can brothers who live together be so different?”

“John is well enough,” said her father, “there’s nothing wrong about him.”

“He makes me creep,” said Tessa, vehemently, thinking of a pair of bracelets that Sue had brought to show her that day.

Mr. Wadsworth lay silent for awhile, then opening his eyes gazed long at the figures and faces that were all his world; Mrs. Wadsworth’s chair was at the foot of the lounge, the light from the lamp on the table fell on her busy hands, leaving her face in shadow; Dinah was reading at the table, with one hand pushed in among her curls; Tessa had dipped her pen into the ink and was carelessly holding it between thumb and finger before writing the last page of her three sheets to Miss Sarepta.

“Oh my three girls!” he murmured so low that no one heard.

Mrs. Wadsworth, in these days, was forgetting to be sharp, and hovered over him and lingered around him as lovingly as ever Tessa did. 399

“Doctor,” said Tessa, standing on the piazza with Dr. Greyson late one evening, “do you think that he may die suddenly?”


“Any time, when the pain comes?”

“Any hour when the pain comes.”

“Does mother know?”

“I think that she half suspects; she has asked me, and I have evaded the question.”

“Does he know it?”

“He has known it since March.”

Since he had wanted her to come home!

“Perhaps he has told mother.”

“She would only excite him and hasten the end.”

“She can be quiet enough when she chooses. I am glad—oh, I am so glad—”

“Is the doctor gone?” cried Dinah rushing out, “father wants him. He has the pain dreadfully.”

The paroxysm was severe, but it passed away; Dr. Greyson decided to remain through the night; he fell asleep in the sitting-room and was awakened by Tessa’s hand an hour before dawn.

“Thank you, dear,” said Mr. Wadsworth to his wife as she laid an extra quilt across his feet.

They were his last words. Tessa always liked to think of them.

July, August, and September dragged themselves through sunny days and rainy days into October. Tessa had learned that she could live without her father. There was little outward change in their home, the three were busy about their usual work 400 and usual recreations; friends came and went; Tessa wrote and walked; gave two afternoons each week to Mrs. Towne, sometimes in Dunellen and sometimes at Old Place; ran in, as of old, for a helpful talk with Miss Jewett, not forgetting that she must be, what Dr. Lake had said,—a good friend to his wife. These were the busy hours; in the still hours,—but who can know for another the still hours?

Mr. Hammerton and Mr. Lewis Gesner proved themselves to be invaluable friends; Tessa’s warm regard for Mr. Gesner, even with the shock that came to her afterward, never became less; he ever remained her ideal of the rock in the weary land.

Two weeks after her father’s funeral, she had stood alone one evening towards dusk among her flowers: she had been gathering pansies and thinking that her father had always liked them and talked about them.

There was a sound of wheels on the grass and a carriage stood at the opening in the shrubbery; the face into which she looked this time was not worn, or thin, or excited; a dark face, with grave, sympathetic eyes, was bending towards her.

“I wish that I could help you,” he said.

“I know you do. No one can help me. I do not need help. I am helped.”

“The air is sweet to-night.”

“And so still! Do you like my pansies?”


“Will you take them to your mother, and tell her that I will come to-morrow.” 401

“I will tell her; but I will keep the pansies for myself, if you will give them to me.”

She laid them in his hand with fingers that trembled.

“Do they say something to me?”

“They say a great deal to me!”

“What do they say?”

“I can not find a meaning for you. They must be their own interpreter.”

“But I may think that you gave them to me to keep as long as I live.”

“Yes; to keep as long as you live.”

“When you have something to say to me—something that you know I am waiting to hear—will you say it, freely, of your own accord.”

“Yes, freely, of my own accord.”

“I regret to trouble you; but if you ever waited, you know that it is the hardest of hard work.”

“I know,” said Tessa, her voice breaking; “but you may not like what I say.”

“Perhaps you will say what I like then.”

“I will if I can.”

What had she to say, freely, of her own accord? I think that it was the knowledge of what she would say by and by when she was fully sure that helped her to bear the loneliness of this summer and autumn.

And thus passed the summer that she had planned for rest. November found her making plans for winter. Her last winter’s work had been sent to her, one volume with its new illustrations, and the other, 402 with but one new picture; her father had looked forward to them; she sent copies to Elsie, Mabel, and Sue, also to Felix Harrison and Mr. Hammerton; Miss Jewett and Mrs. Towne made pretty and loving speeches over theirs; Tessa wondered, why, when she had written them with all her heart, they should seem so little to her now.

“Where is your novel, Lady Blue,” Mr. Hammerton, asked one evening.

“I think that I shall live it first,” she answered, seriously. “I couldn’t love my ideal well enough to put him into a book, and the real hero would only be lovable and commonplace, and no one would care to read about him—no one would care for him but me.”

“It must be something of an experience to learn that one’s ideal can not be loved, and rather humiliating to find one’s self in love with some one below one’s standard.”

“That’s what life is for,—to have an experience, isn’t it?”

“It seems to be some people’s experience,” he said, looking as wise as an owl, and as unsympathetic.

November found Sue making plans, also. Her plans came out in this wise: she called one morning to talk to Tessa; Tessa was sewing in her own chamber, and Sue ran up lightly, as lightly as in the days before Gerald Lake had come to Dunellen.

“Busy!” she said blithely, her flowing crape veil fluttering at the door. 403

“Not too busy. Come in.”

Sue talked for an hour with her gloves on, then, carelessly, as she described some pretty thing that the Professor’s wife had brought from over the sea, she drew the glove from her left hand, watching Tessa’s face. The quick color—the quick, indignant color—repaid the manœuvre; the wedding ring—the new wedding ring—was gone, and in its stead blazed a cluster of diamonds.

“You might as well say something,” began Sue, moving her hand in the sunlight.

“I have nothing to say. I wonder how you dare come to me.”

“Why shouldn’t I dare? I know it seems soon; but circumstances make a difference, and Mr. Gesner has to go to Europe next month. He took the other ring; I couldn’t help it—I wouldn’t have kept it safe with a lock of his hair in a little box—but he said that I shouldn’t have this unless I gave him that.”

Tessa’s head went down over her work; she had not wept aloud before since she was a little girl, but now the sobs burst through her lips uncontrolled. That ring that Dr. Lake had carried that day in the rain not fourteen months ago!

Sue sprang to her feet, then dropped back into her chair and wept in sympathy, partly with a vague feeling of having done some dreadful thing, partly with the fear that life in a foreign land might not be wholly alluring; Mr. Gesner was kind, but poor Gerald had loved her so! 404

“O, Tessa! Tessa! don’t,” she cried. “Stop crying and speak to me.”

“Go away from me. Go home. I will not speak to you.”

For a moment Sue waited, then she arose and moved towards the door, standing another moment, but as Tessa did not turn or speak, she went down-stairs, not lightly, hushed by the revelation of a grief that she could not understand.

“Good-by, Mystic; you and I will have our talk another day,” said Sue.
“Good-by, Mystic; you and I will have
our talk another day,” said Sue.


Early in December, in a snow-storm, Sue Lake was married to John Gesner.

“Some things are incomprehensible,” declared Mrs. Wadsworth, plaintively, looking at the snow, “to think that she should marry an old beau of mine. So soon, too. How a widow can ever think—”

Tessa refused to see her married until the last moment. “You must be a good friend to me through thick and thin,” Sue coaxed, and Tessa went the evening before; but the evening was long and silent, for Tessa could not talk or admire Sue’s outfit. The pretty brown and crimson chairs were again wheeled before the back parlor grate; but when Sue went out to attend for the last time to her father’s lunch, there was no hilarious entrance, and Tessa’s tears dropped because they would not be restrained.

Sue’s talk and laughter sounded through the hall; but Tessa could hear only “Good-by, Mystic; you and I will have our talk another day.” 406

“Kiss me and say you are glad,” prayed Sue, when they went up to Sue’s chamber to exchange white silk and orange blossoms for travelling attire. “It’s horrid for you to look like a funeral. Mrs. Towne looks glum, and Miss Gesner had to cry!”

The snow-flakes were falling and melting, as they were falling and melting the day that Sue sang for Dr. Lake; there was a fire in the air-tight to-day, and by some chance the low rocker had been pushed close to the side of the white-draped bed. Sue seated herself in it to draw on her gloves and for a last hurried, hysteric flow of words.

“I’ll write to you from Liverpool, Tessa. I hope that we sha’n’t have any storms; I might think that it was a judgment. I don’t want to be drowned; I want to see London and Paris and Rome. Isn’t it queer for me to be married twice before you are married once!”

“You may be married three times before I am married once,” said Tessa, opening a bureau drawer to lay away an old glove box.

“Oh, no, I sha’n’t! I’ll stay a rich widow, but it was distressed to stay a poor one. Did I tell you that Stacey is married? I was so delighted. He’s got a good wife, too; real sober and settled down. So I didn’t do so much harm after all your fuming and fussing. I like to make people comfortable when I can. And now we’re happy all around just like a book. I wonder what will become of you before I get back. I expect that Dine 407 will be married. John is as tickled as he can be! It’s lovely to be an old man’s darling; I am to have my own way about every thing. I’m glad that he wasn’t a widower; I hate widowers!”

A tap at the door summoned Sue. “Good-by, dear old room!” she cried gayly. “You’ve seen the last of me. I hope that you will get every thing you are waiting for, Tessa.”

As once before on Sue’s wedding day, Tessa was taken home in Dr. Towne’s carriage.

“I wonder if he knows,” she said.

“If he do it can not trouble him. He understood her.”

“I am beginning to understand what the hurt of love is.”

“What is it?”

“Don’t you know?”

“I think that you are teaching me.”

“It is a lesson that we have learned together. I used to wonder why God ever let us hurt each other; perhaps that is the reason, that we may learn together what love is!”

“Do not the students ever come to the end of the chapter and learn the next lesson?”

“I do not know what the next chapter is.”

“Perhaps if we study hard we may learn that together.”

“Great patience is needed to learn a lesson with me.”

“I have a great deal of patience.”

“I’m afraid that I haven’t.” 408

“Having confessed our sins, suppose that we forget them.”

“I can’t forget mine.”

“Can you forget mine?”

She tried to speak, but the words stumbled on her lips.

“Look up and answer me.”

She could not look up; she could not answer.

“Tessa, say something.”

“Something,” she said childishly between laughter and tears.

After a moment, during which her glove had been unbuttoned and rebuttoned and he had leaned back, holding the reins loosely, she spoke:

“You have been patient with me. I will not have any more whims or fancies—I know now beyond any need of reasoning—”

“What do you know?”

“Something very happy.”

“And now shall we be as happy as Sue and her rich old lover?”

“Do you see this ring?” touching the emerald. “It means that I must tell your mother that I am satisfied, fully and entirely and thoroughly, before I say ‘Yes.’”

Can you tell her that?”

“Ask her and she will tell you.”

“Tessa, it has been a weary time.”

“I think that there must always be a weary time before two people understand each other; I am so glad to have ours come before—” 409

The sun set behind clouds on Sue’s second wedding day. Tessa tried to write, she tried to read, she tried to sew, she tried to talk to her mother and Dine; but failed in every thing but sitting idle at one of the parlor windows and looking out at the snow. There was a long evening in the shabby parlor; quiet talk, laughing talk, and merry talk mingled with half sentences, as many things both old and new were talked about.

There were several happenings after this; one of them, of course, was Dinah’s marriage to her wonderful John; Tessa’s wedding gift to her was a deed of the house in which they had both been born. Another happening, perhaps, as much in the nature of things as Dinah’s marriage, although the girls could not bring themselves to think so, was their mother’s marriage to Mr. Lewis Gesner. Tessa remembered her promise to her father; she spoke no word against it, and by repeated chidings kept Dinah’s words and behavior within the limits of deference.

Pretty little Mrs. Wadsworth was a radiant bride, and the bridegroom was all that could be desired; Mrs. Wadsworth prudently concealed her elation at having married a man richer than Tessa’s husband and with a residence far handsomer. Mr. Lewis Gesner became the kindest of husbands and Miss Gesner was a model sister-in-law.

On her own wedding day, one of Tessa’s grateful thoughts was that her father would rejoice to know that his “three girls” were in happy homes. 410 Miss Jewett’s congratulation was a dower in itself: “Your fate was worth waiting for, Tessa.”

“Another poor man undone through you, Lady Blue,” said Mr. Hammerton. “I might have known that you were growing up to do it.”

“Is Tessa married?” Felix asked in his slow way. “I hope that he will take good care of her.”

Another happening was the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. John Gesner and son. The baby had been born in Germany and could call his own name before he came home to Blossom Hill.

The name was a surprise to Tessa: “Theodore, because it has such a pretty meaning,” Sue told her. “His father wanted John or Lewis, but I insisted; I said that I would throw the baby away if I couldn’t name him!”

She petted him and was proud of his rosy face and bright eyes, but confided to Tessa that he was a great deal of trouble, and that she hated that everlasting “mamma, mamma.”

“I don’t understand you, Tessa, you treat your little girl as if she were a princess.”

That afternoon Tessa and the baby were alone on one of the balconies at Old Place; baby in her betucked and beruffled white frock and white shoes was taking her first steps alone, and baby’s mother was kneeling before her with both arms out-stretched to receive her after the triumph.

Baby’s father stood in a window watching them; but for the eyes that, just now, were like the woods in October his face would have been pronounced 411 grave; the white threads in his hair were beginning to be noticeable, and before baby would be old enough to drive all around the country with him, his hair would be quite white.

“An earnest man with a purpose in his life,” Dunellen said.

“Must you go out again so soon?”

Baby was crowing over her success, and the mother’s arms were holding her close.

“There’s a poor woman with a little baby that I must see to-night.”

“A girl-baby?”

“Yes,” smiling down at her, “a girl-baby.”

“Poor little girl-baby! Poor little girl-baby!” she said, pressing her lips to baby’s hair.

“What were you thinking when the baby ran into your arms just now?”

“I was thinking,” holding the beruffled little figure closer, “that it isn’t such a hard world, after all, for little girls to grow up in.”