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ASPIRATIONS 



BY 

HELEN HAYS 



• ••••••• ^» I 



• • • •••••••••• i 

• • • ••«, .••■•••• • 



NEW YORK: 
THOMAS WHITTAKER, 

1886. 



Copyright, i^» 



• ••/••'• ^ .• • • • 



HCMWY 



MOFSESTEfHCW 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

CHAPTER I. 5 

CHAPTER IL ...••••... . IS 

CHAPTER HL 26 

CHAPTER IV. 41 

CHAPTER V. 47 

CHAPTER VL 68 

CHAPTER VIL 75 

CHAPTER VHL 90 

CHAPTER IX. , .... 103 

CHAPTER X. . , . 114 

CHAPTER XL . 124 

CHAPTER XIL 136 

CHAPTER XIIL 143 

CHAPTER XIV 156 

CHAPTER XV. 166 

CHAPTER XVL 178 

CHAPTER XVIL 189 

CHAPTER XVIIL I95 

CHAPTER XIX. ...» 206 

CHAPTER XX 216 

CHAPTER XXI 227 

CHAPTER XXIL 234 

CHAPTER XXIIL 244 

3 

514250 



4 CONTENTS. 

PACK 

CHAPTER XXIV 251 

CHAPTER XXV. , ... 263 

CHAPTER XXVL 268 

CHAPTER XXVIL 279 

CHAPTER XXVHL 289 

CHAPTER XXIX 302 

CHAPTER XXX. ..'.., 312 

CHAPTER XXXL 324 



ASPIRATIONS. 



CHAPTER I. 

It was an old brown house, weather-stained and 
dreary looking, for there was not a tree to take it in 
a loving embrace and hide its old forlornness ; hardly 
a shrub grew near it, and certainly there was no trace 
of a garden. All about it was sand, dazzling white 
sand ; and beyond the sand was fog, miles of it, 
though once in a while a shaft of broad sunlight and 
a sharp west wind would gather up the fog and send 
it flying. 

That is the way the house looked to most people. 
To old Abner Marsh and his wife it was no more 
dreary than the woodchuck's hole is to its inhabit- 
ants. They had lived there fifty years. Abner had 
fished, and mended his nets, patched his sails, and 
spliced his ropes, caulked his boats, and watched the 
varying signs of weather changes from year to year, 
without a thought of what his house looked like. 
Mrs. Marsh, in the same manner, had swept and 
scrubbed, and kneaded her dough, unmindful of 
domestic architecture, — unless the chimney smoked, 

5 



ASPIRA TIO'Nii. 



or the roof^kaked, in eitlier of ^hich cases she im- 
mediately, as a good housewife, attended to the mat- 
ter without much aid from Abner. 

But there was another pair of eyes under that old 
roof-tree, keenly awake to the rich coloring Time had 
given the old clapboards, still wider open to the long 
line of blue water meeting the horizon, the nearer 
green billows with their white caps, and the reflec- 
tions of the fitful sky. Even the fog was not with- 
out charm for those eyes as they watched it come 
drifting down, blotting out all color except that of 
one great red tossing buoy in the near foreground ; 
but better than all other aspects was that of the moon 
as she rose in queenly splendor from the waves. Then 
those eyes could not rest in slumber, but eagerly 
watched from the small window the grand pageant 
which had so few spectators ; watched the gradual 
and dignified ascent of the Queen of Night to her 
throne, and wondered if the fishes were not glad to 
have their night lamp swung so high. 

Turning from the window, a thin, flexible little 
hand would seize a piece of charcoal, made from a 
half-burned ember in the kitchen fire, and with rapid 
touches on the bare whitewashed wall reproduce long 
waving lines of water, the round moon above, and 
the outline of a far-away ship. Sometimes the ship 
would be nearer, and all sails set ; again, it would be 
a shapeless wreck, ca&t against a jutting rock; and 
again, there would be only a fragment left, and hover- 
ing over this an uncanny looking gull. Murillo would 
have delighted in the tangled pate so intent upon 
these essays, and his own beggar children could not 



ASPIRATIONS. 7 

have looked forth from eyes of a duskier, dreamier 
darkness. 

But whence came these eyes and this creative 
hand, so unlike the unimaginative Abner and his 
wife ? Years ago a sailor lad had been born and 
bred under the old roof, a wild, roving fellow, and 
Abner's only son ; glad to leave home and parents 
and humble labor for the varied fortunes of the sea, 
returning at long intervals, and bringing with him, 
as sailors do, the flotsam and jetsam of many voyages. 
Mrs. Marsh showed with satisfaction a camphor-wood 
trunk, a green silk umbrella with carved ivory handle, 
and curious Eastern looking stuffs by the yard, which 
Abner, jun., had from time to time brought home ; 
but the greatest curiosity of all, the little curly-headed 
two year old boy, chattering Italian like a paroquet, 
was not brought forward as one of these treasures, 
though he had come in the same way, and though 
Abner, jun., had never returned from another voyage, 
which should have enhanced the value of his last gift. 
Who was he t Where had he come from } Mrs. 
Marsh was not quite sure that she could answer these 
questions ; perhaps that was the reason why the cam- 
phor trunk and green umbrella had the precedence. 
Lillo certainly did not give half the trouble which 
Jack the monkey, Abner, jun.'s, first gift, had caused ; 
and now that Jack was no more, owing the ending of 
his days to what the neighbors called a " spider dump- 
ling," surely Lillo could take his place. He could and 
he did, and Mrs. Marsh was not unkind to him, and 
old Abner hked to have him about ; and the child grew 
strong and lithe, a veritable sea-urchin, and but for 



8 ASPIRATIONS. 

his "vagaries," as Mrs. Marsh bore witness, he would 
have been quite a useful member of the household. 
But what decent woman could tolerate a clean white 
wall disfigured with a burnt stick? Not even the 
mother of a Raphael. 

And so Mrs. Marsh, having no knowledge of 
Raphaels or Murillos, but having a keen instinct 
that cleanliness and godliness were closely allied, 
had recourse to her broomstick and scrubbing-brush : 
with one she reproved Lillo, with the other she re- 
moved the frescoes from the walls. 

Lillo bore both with philosophic coolness : he did 
not fear the broom-stick ; and when the glow of inspi- 
ration was over, the sketch once made, he did not 
care what became of it, and so did not mind the 
annihilating scrubbing-brush. 

Conscious of the power to reproduce what he 
wished, when it should please him, how did it matter 
that the sketches were effaced 1 Already was he 
prodigal after the manner of those who have much 
to spare. And so he scrawled on, whenever it was 
his mood so to do, — waves, flying-fish, sea-serpents, 
and mermaids, and the invariable ship coming and 
going under all sorts of conditions. From sailors* 
yarns, from the figure-heads of vessels, from old 
picture-books left by Abner, jun., he gathered his 
material, and wove into it his own imaginings and 
the varying surroundings made by wind and weather. 

In vain Mrs. Marsh remonstrated and scolded, in 
vain old Abner said, " Now, don't : " the fine frenzy 
had to have its way ; though after a while it left the 
walls, and spent itself on shingles, bits of old board, 



ASPIRATIONS, 9 

smooth cupboard-doors from dismantled schooners, 
clam-shells, and indeed any thing that offered a fair 
surface for the pencil. For the pencils were obtained 
from a peddler, who took in exchange any pretty shell 
the boy could procure. 

There is this similitude of force in all living, grow- 
ing things, — it will have its way; from that of the 
tiny seed pushing up through the black mould, and 
spreading out its small green fibres, to the power in 
a human being's brain, expanding, pushing out into 
the ideas that demand sun and air. 

" Lillo, Lillo ! " screamed Mrs. Marsh from the 
doorway one afternoon, shading her eyes from the 
glare which the sun made on the sand. 

"Where is the boy.^" she soliloquized, turning 
abruptly, and with a startled manner, towards a 
stranger, who suddenly appeared before her, and 
replied to her question. 

"If you mean the little curly-head down on the 
sands, I can tell you where he is, madam." 

"I mean our boy Lillo, sir," said Mrs. Marsh 
stiffly. " Every one knows him, in spite of his out- 
landish name, but no one can find him when he's 
wanted." 

" I dare say not ; he looks as independent as the 
wind, but he's to be found now on the other side of 
the big rock yonder. Shall I go after him for you } " 

" No, I am obliged to you. He promised to bring 
the fish for supper ; but if he's where you say, I'll get 
no fish this day. I'll warrant he's at his trumpery 
picture-makin'." 



lO ASPIRA TIONS. 

"He certainly is making a bold marine sketch, 
which I greatly admired," said the stranger very 
kindly. 

Mrs. Marsh was not to be mollified. " I am not 
sure that I know what you mean, sir, but I wish it 
was a bold haul of a fish-net. My old husband is in 
his bed, and likely to stay there ; and what we are to 
do for food, I don't know." 

" Is Lillo, then, your only dependence t '* 

"Depend upon t/iat boy.?" she queried in blank 
amazement. "No, I depend upon myself, old as I 
am ; but he can, if he chooses, get a nice mess of 
fish or crabs or clams, when the picture-fit ain't on 
him. I beg pardon, sir, will you come in and be 
seated.? I am not used to seein' many strangers." 

The gentleman took off his hat, and entered, 
saying, — 

" The boy interests me. You must know that it is 
very unusual to see so early a development of talent, 
and in so out of the way a place." 

Again was Mrs. Marsh puzzled. 

" Out of the way of what, sir .? " 

" Of ideas, of the world's current of thought." 

Poor Mrs. Marsh set her cap straight, untied and 
re-tied her apron-string. 

"Mebbe you're a furriner, sir. My son Ab had 
travelled, that's the way he used to talk; but I'm 
not used to many people, and sence father took the 
palsy I've been less clear in my mind." 

The stranger was evidently flattered to find his 
conversation resembled son Ab's, and looking good- 
humoredly about said, — 



ASPIRATIONS. II 

"What do you propose doing with the bo/? " 

"Oh, I don't do nothin' with him. I used to 
spank and to scold, but I'm past that now : he does 
as he pleases." 

" But in the future } He's growing, you know. Do 
you intend that he shall be a fisherman .^ " 

" I never intend any thing at all about that child. 
The neighbors want me to send him to Codtown to 
learn the house-painter's trade ; but like as not, ef I 
did, he'd just be up and off afore the mast, as Ab 
was." 

As she talked she drew out an oval mahogany 
table, which looked as if it might once have been in 
a ship's cabin, spread a clean, unbleached linen cloth 
upon it, and took from the dresser a few pieces of 
china and delf, and a pitcher on whose side danced a 
jolly tar. 

" You'll stay to supper, sir, I presume ; though 
I've not much to offer sence Lillo's forgotten the 
fish." 

At this moment, kicking up the sand and trailing a 
conglomerate lot of rubbish behind him, with a whistle 
and a merry, happy-go-lucky air, appeared the youth 
they were talking about. As brown as a chestnut, and 
as slender as a young birch, his large eyes lifted their 
long lashes beneath the rim of a battered old felt 
hat, in some surprise at seeing a visitor ; but though 
he grasped in one hand a variety of implements, — rod, 
net, boat-hook, and an extemporized sketch-book, — in 
the other he held aloft triumphantly a string of quiv- 
ering fish, flashing in the sunlight and sending out 
sparkles from their silvery scales. 



12 ASPIRATIONS. 

"There, granny, dear, I did remember after all, 
though you thought I wouldn't," was his salutation. 
Then turning to the stranger, he bowed as gracefully 
and as naturally as if in a drawing-room ; though at 
the same moment he tossed his traps on the floor, 
sent his hat flying into a corner, and went into the 
kitchen pantry to make his ablutions. 

"Now you see the sort he is," said Mrs. Marsh 
grimly, gathering up the various articles the boy had 
thrown down, putting them where they belonged, 
and preparing to fry the fish. 

" Yes," said the gentleman, nodding. " I see there 
is more than Yankee blood in his veins. But where 
did he get his singular name, madam .-* " 

Mrs. Marsh stooped over the frying-pan ; her aged 
cheeks were a little flushed. 

"Name t Oh, Ab gave him that name just as he 
gave the monkey his'n ! I'd ruther it had been Jack 
for the boy, and Lillo for the monkey. But the fish 
are doin' nicely now, sir ; so if you'll please draw up 
I will have your supper ready in a few moments." 

" Can I not wait for you and Lillo 1 " 

" We are not fit to sit down with you, I'm afeard ; 
but, if you don't mind, Lillo will take his." 

The boy came in laughing and insouciant^ without 
any of the hesitation or self-consciousness of the rus- 
tic, drew his chair to the table, and began convers- 
ing with the stranger as though he had known him 
always. 

" So you like our bay, sir, when it's smooth water } 
I think you said down at the rock that you weren't 
much of a sailor." 



ASPIRATIONS. 13 

" No, Tin a landsman ; but this salt air invigorates 
me, and the monotony of the life is a rest," was the 
reply in an absent manner, as if the question had 
been asked by one who could better comprehend the 
answer : then rousing himself as he saw the boy's 
interrogating gaze, he added, — 

*'I should have introduced myself before. My 
name is Barclay ; my health is somewhat broken, and 
my physicians won't let me work. Boston is a busy 
place, you know, and idlers have to leave it, so I have 
come here for a while. I am boarding at *The 
Neck ; ' you must come over there and see my books 
and pictures." 

Lillo's eyes widened. 

" Pictures, sir, — do you paint ? '* 

"Yes, after a fashion." 

"And you use colors .'' " eagerly. 

" Yes ; you shall try them if you want to." 

" Want to ! " What was not expressed in that ex- 
clamation.'* Day-dreams, hopes, aspirations, which 
the boy could not have uttered had he wished to, so 
impalpable and unformed were they; and yet so 
entirely did they sway his thoughts, that the air sud- 
denly seemed intoxicating, and this somewhat gray- 
haired man an angelic presence. The boy laid down 
his knife and fork and became perfectly silent. 

"What is the matter, Lillo.?" asked Mrs. Marsh. 

"Nothing," said the boy; but his eyes were filling, 
his throat contracting. He jumped up from the 
table, and seizing his hat rushed from the room. 

" Now, isn't he a crack-brained creature .-* " asked 
Mrs. Marsh, glad of this proof of her assertions. 



14 ASPIRATIONS. 

Mr. Barclay smiled. He fancied he could better un- 
derstand the whims of talent than could this withered 
old dame ; but, wiser as he was, he would have been 
astonished had he seen Lillo, buried in the sand, cry- 
ing as if heart-broken : for the boy could have given 
him no reason for this outburst of emotion, and, when 
it was over, dried his eyes, bathed his face, and went 
into the house again, to find Mr. Barclay gone, Mrs. 
Marsh attending to the sick man, and his half-eaten 
supper waiting for4iim on a corner of the stove. 

He ate his supper in solitary haste, gathered fire- 
wood for his grandmother, and with an unusual alac- 
rity finished up all his little duties and went to bed. 
But his brain was too active for sleep. The sough- 
ing and sobbing of the waves, so familiar, so con- 
stantly heard as to be unthought of, disturbed him, 
and he rose more than once to see if a storm were 
brewing. There were no indications of it : the moon 
had not risen, but the stars were shining. The black 
mast of a schooner was dimly visible, and far, far 
away gleamed the light which was the beacon of hope 
to mariners. At last he slept, but his dreams were 
brilliant visions of kaleidescopic fitfulness ; and he 
was awake again by the time the round red orb of 
day was soaring out of the waves. 



ASPIRATIONS, 15 



CHAPTER II. 

Mr. Barclay was a man of wealth, leisure, and 
taste, none of which he had gained by any effort of 
his own. The wealth was inherited, the leisure was 
its result, and the taste was due to education and 
refined influences, more than to any in-born quality. 
But despite this blooming hedge, the garden of his 
happiness had not been secure from sorrow. He had 
married a lovely woman, who had been the balance- 
wheel which kept his caprices from running away 
with him ; and, after a few years of entire peace and 
delightful congeniality, she had died, leaving him 
bankrupt of that which he most valued. Despond- 
ency and ill-health had followed. Restlessness had 
sent him hither and yon ; but the sights and scenes 
of foreign lands were not enjoyed, because of the 
absence of the eyes which could not share the pleas- 
ures, and of the mind which had always been so ready 
to grasp ideas. He had now conceived the notion 
that he must absorb himself in some pursuit. He had 
some little knowledge of art, he could make a fair 
sketch in water-colors ; and, as the air of the seashore 
suited him, he had come down to "The Neck" 
before it should be given over to the swarm of pleas- 
ure-seekers, to see if time would hang less heavily 



l6 ASPIRA TIONS. 

than it had done, and if he could accomplish any 
thing to relieve his melancholy. 

He had been here a week and had done nothing. 
The air was soft as spring sunshine could make it, 
uninterrupted by keen winds ; and he had paced the 
sands dejectedly, living on his loneliness, morbidly 
allowing retrospection to have its way, deceiving him- 
self with the belief that this was faithfulness, this 
was true devotion, to his lost love. It is needless to 
say that he had no children. 

Before he had risen on the morrow, after his visit 
to Mrs. Marsh, there came a knock on Mr. Barclay's 
bedroom door. The house where he was staying had 
the usual barren nudity of a seaside lodging-house, 
and he had therefore encumbered himself with more 
than a small supply of luggage in order to make his 
transient home comfortable. He supposed the knock 
to be that of the man who lit the blaze which his 
delicate health necessitated, even on a spring morn- 
ing : so he simply said, " Come," and turned over for 
another doze. 

The door was pushed gently open, but no one 
entered ; surprised at this, Mr. Barclay glanced that 
way, when he saw the curly pate and the brown eyes 
of the lad whose acquaintance he had made the day 
previous. 

" Hallo ! " was his exclamation, "you are an early 
bird. Master Lillo. Have you caught the worm } " 

" Not yet, but I can if you want me to, sir, " was 
the matter-of-fact reply, though his eager eyes were 
devouring the whole room. 

"No, you needn't," laughed Mr. Barclay. "I 



ASPIRATIONS. ly 

fancy / am the worm this time. Come in, come in. 
Just lift up that shawl over there which hangs over 
a door, go into the next room, and amuse yourself till 
I am dressed. You will find enough to keep you 
busy ; but, should you get tired, there are pencils and 
paper on the table : do what you please with them. 
Have you breakfasted ? " 

** Yes, sir." His breakfast had been a cold potato 
and a draught of milk. 

The boy obeyed instructions and found himself in 
a bewildering maze of delight. On the walls were 
fishing-rods and guns, sketches and etchings ; a beau- 
tiful crayon of a sweet-faced woman looked down be- 
nignly upon him. A tiger-skin was stretched over the 
hard wooden rocking-chair, a warm red cover was 
upon the table, books and papers were heaped about 
in all the corners, and altogether there was a warmth 
and comfort which the lad could not have described 
or analyzed ; but his tireless eyes roved from one 
thing to the other until he caught sight of an odd 
volume the title of which he could not appreciate, 
but by opening it^he soon buried himself in the life 
of Michael Angelo by Vasari. 

Here Mr. Barclay found him, to his surprise, for 
he had not supposed that his few books would be 
any thing to the boy's liking, and, summoning him 
to follow him, he took him down to share a second 
breakfast. 

This over, the mysteries of paints, both in water 
and oil, were made known to Lillo, a good supply of 
materials given to him, and his choice of the books 
also allowed. 



1 8 ASPIRATIONS. 

A miner just in possession of a huge bonanza 
could not have felt richer than did Lillo, but the 
miner could not have shared the exquisite felicity of 
this young creature as at the end of the morning he 
trudged home with his treasures. A new world was 
before him, with possibilities hitherto unthought of. 
He seemed to himself to have suddenly grown, like 
the fungus which in a single night comes up from 
the earth. 

He trod not on earth but on air, and he entered 
the little kitchen with the exultation of a young 
prince. The very tins seemed to beam upon him, 
and the cooking-stove glowed a welcome ; the cat 
purred at sight of him, and the sun showered its gold 
on the well-scoured boards. Mrs. Marsh came slowly 
out of her husband's room, looking more jaded than 
usual. 

"Well, what's up now } " was her greeting. 

" O granny, I am going to be an artist ! " 

"Humph!" 

" See all the things Mr. Barclay has given me. I 
must work now in real earnest." 

" At sign-paintin* ? " 

A look of supreme disgust was all the child 
allowed himself. 

" Sign-paintin' or house paintin's both onhealthy, 
but you'll never do much more. Hev you seen your 
gran'ther lately } " 

Like all sensitive children, Lillo hated illness : he 
hated the wan look of suffering, the nauseous drugs, 
the unnatural stillness of a sick-room. He had a re- 
bellious sort of an idea that it was unnecessary, and 



ASPIRATIONS. 19 

that if one chose one could shake it off as he would 
a venomous insect. When called upon to do any 
little service for his grandfather, he made no resist- 
ance, but it was hastened through with as much speed 
as possible. 

" No," he replied, " I have not seen him since day 
before yesterday. Does he talk any to you.? He 
never says a word to me." 

"No, he's past talkin'. I think he'll hardly live 
the day out ! " And Mrs. Marsh threw her apron up 
over her face as she sat down in the rocking-chair. 

Lillo was unutterably shocked ; all the sunshine 
seenied gone. 

" Granny, do you mean that gran'ther is dying ? " 

" Yes, child, what else .? " 

"Sha'n't I go for the doctor or the minister or 
somebody .'* " 

" No use. They can't help a poor old body that's 
worn out. The cobbler can patch up old shoes, but 
no one can mend us when we've served our time." 

Lillo crept nearer to the rocking-chair. 

" Granny, don't cry : I am here." 

" Poor boy ! " 

"And I'll try to take gran'ther's place. I can fish. 
I can manage a boat. I'll give up the paints if you 
want me to." What an effort it cost him to say 
this! 

There was no answer, only the creak of the rock- 
ing-chair. 

" You're tired, granny. Won't you go to bed, and 
let me cook the dinner .<* " 

The old woman rose and suffered him to lead her 



20 ASPIRATIONS. 

to the one little spare room, which had belonged to 
"son Ab." She was too tired to attempt to keep 
up. Then he freshened the fire and made the kettle 
boil, fried the fish and peeled the potatoes, set the 
table and warmed the plates. This done, he went on 
tip-toe to the sick-room. 

It was dark, except for the light which came from 
a crack in the wooden shutters, through which also 
came the soft spring air. He went up to the bed, — 
spotlessly clean in its patchwork plainness. He was 
curious to see what change had been wrought, what 
death looked like. He had seen more than one 
poor sailor carried up from the shore, wrapped in 
tarpaulin ; but their faces were as much hidden as 
their forms, and he could shape no idea of what this 
mysterious change consisted. 

He walked up fearlessly and listened. It was so 
strangely still. The old weather-worn and storm- 
beaten face looked gray and rigid. 

He spoke softly, as he was in the habit of doing 
now-a-days, — 

" Gran'ther ! '* 

No answer. 

" Gran'ther ! " 

No reply. 

He reached out to stroke the poor old hand, and 
drew back as if he had been struck, — it was already 
cold. But for the coldness, he was disappointed : he 
had supposed there was a grandeur about death, a 
great and lofty unlikeness to life. In this case there 
was a barely perceptible difference. The old face 
was no older, only more soundly, surely asleep. 



ASPIRATIONS. 21 

Death had come too naturally, and released the old 
man too gently, to make the transition a very palpa- 
ble one. He looked so comfortable and quiet that 
Lillo crept out again into the sunlight. It was he 
who seemed to be changed. His young eyes looked 
forth on a new world ; the bright one of the morn- 
ing still lingered in his mind, but its brightness was 
subdued, chastened. He must work now in sober 
earnest to be able to take care of his grandmother. 
The dinner waited all day. Towards night Mr. Bar- 
clay found Lillo digging for clams. 

"How, now," he cried, "my young artist, how 
many sketches have you made .-* " 

"None, sir, yet. Gran'ther is dead, and I must 
take care of granny now. The paints will keep, 
won't they, sir } " 

" Yes, child, they'll keep ; and when they're gone 
you shall have more. Take this to your grand- 
mother." He had opened his pocket-book, and ex- 
tended a little roll of bills. 

" No, I thank you," was Lillo's proud refusal. " I 
don't think she would like me to take any money 
I have not earned." 

"As you please," answered Mr. Barclay, putting 
the money back. " May I engage you, then, to take 
me boating every fine day } I want to study up the 
shore a little, and possibly I may be able to give you 
some hints as to your own sketches." 

Lillo's eyes flashed their pleasure. The bargain 
was made on the spot, and Lillo went on with his 
clam-digging. 

Thus began an intimacy which proved to be as 



22 ASPIRATIONS. 

beneficial on the one side as on the other. To the 
saddened man, whose sorrow absorbed his life and 
colored all his reflections, this boy, with his youth 
and eager talent, was a strengthening, revivifying 
tonic. Mr. Barclay found him teachable ,to an ex- 
traordinary extent : he fairly devoured all the books 
he could get, and then re-read them. The lessons, 
which became a regular matter, included all the sim- 
ple elementary studies which Lillo had begun in the 
district school, and others which Mr. Barclay's pet 
theories found advisable ; but, in addition to these, 
the boy's keen eyes had picked up many a fact in 
natural history, just as they had almost intuitively 
learned the principles of perspective. Quick also in 
the practice of his native instincts, his boating and 
fishing were a constant impetus to Mr. Barclay, who 
found him a lively, daring companion, ready to explore 
any nook, follow any channel, or dive into any undis- 
covered way. One thing which he could not be in- 
duced to subscribe to was a proposition made to him 
by Mr. Barclay as the season wore on, the refusal of 
which was their nearest approach to any real check 
of friendly feeling. 

They were sketching, as usual, together on the 
rocks and in the shade of them. Mr. Barclay, tiring 
of the work which would not yield its charm as 
readily to him as to his young companion, had taken 
up a book and was reading, partly to himself and 
partly to Lillo, when a few strangers, who by this 
time were numerous at the Neck, came peering at 
them with the careless sort of rudeness which idle- 
ness is apt to beget. Mr. Barclay closed his book 



ASPIRATIONS. 23 

impatiently, and with an air of disdain said to 
Lillo, — 

" This is unbearable ; why can't they let us alone ? " 

" Shall we go farther away ? " asked Lillo, inwardly 
indifferent to the strangers, and caring very much to 
continue his sketching. 

"No," said Mr. Barclay, "it would ruin your 
work ; but / must go farther away. * The Neck ' is 
too much of a resort now to suit me. Will you go 
with me, Lillo } " 

" Where .^ When? I don't understand you, Mr. 
Barclay." 

" I wish to adopt you, Lillo, take you home with 
me to educate you and give you the advantages 
which you cannot receive here." 

"That is very kind," said Lillo, flushing, but going 
on quietly with his sketch. 

" Of course you will be willing to promise obedi- 
ence and respect for my authority. That is hardly 
necessary for me to demand, you show so keen an 
appreciation for all that sort of thing. And after a 
while we will go abroad together, as soon as the 
schoolmasters will let us ; for, pleasant as I find it 
now to teach you, I may not have quite time enough 
to be as thorough as I ought, or I may find myself 
too rusty ; and " — Mr. Barclay was evidently plan- 
ning pretty far on into the future. 

"What would become of my grandmother, Mr. 
Barclay t " broke in Lillo. 

" Really, I had not thought of her. I suppose she 
would have no objections. She has the good sense to 
see what is for your benefit.'* 



24 ASPIRATIONS, 

"But she is alone." 

"We can arrange matters so that she need not 
remain alone." 

Lillo shook his head. 

" I can't leave granny." 

Mr. Barclay looked astonished. 

"Not leave her.? Why, child, she is already an 
aged woman with few years before her, while you 
have all your life to live." 

"Then I ought to stay with her as long as she 
needs me." 

" But she does not need you : any one can provide 
for her few wants. She would probably be much 
relieved to dispose of you, Lillo." 

The boy again shook his head. 

" I can't go, Mr. Barclay. You are very kind, but I 
can't leave granny." 

" Why, child, you have no idea of the value of the 
offer I am making. It is not every day that a poor 
lad has the chance of education and a start in the 
world." 

" I know it, sir ; or I feel it, if I don't know it. It 
is kind of you ; but as long as granny lives, I must 
stay here." 

"Pshaw!" said Mr. Barclay. "You are not the 
one to decide this affair : you are too young and ab- 
surdly quixotic. Do you want to be sent to Codtown, 
as your grandmother proposes, to learn the house- 
painter's trade.'*" 

" No," said Lillo frankly, " I don't." 

" But that will be your fate, boy, unless you accept 
my plan.'* 



ASPIRATIONS. 25 

Lillo worked on silently. His quick imagination 
had seized the possibilities of Mr. Barclay's project 
with an intensity and vividness which its author, 
sympathetic as he was, had no conception of ; but, 
widely as his fancy led him, the boy's thoughts came 
back to the poor old roof -tree and its one lonely occu- 
pant with undiminished faithfulness. 

Mr. Barclay took up his book again. He was an- 
noyed at being thwarted, as people are who are used 
to having their own way, and the more so as he knew 
his proposal was as generous as it was exceptional ; 
but he had no doubt that Lillo would finally yield, 
because it would be simply absurd for him not to do 
so. Nothing more was said at the moment. When 
the sketch was finished and criticised, and they were 
trudging home with the setting sun in their eyes, 
Mr. Barclay paused awhile before the little old house 
and said, — 

" I shall come over and talk to Mrs. Marsh to-mor- 
row, Lillo." 

" Thank you, sir," was the reply, as the boy touched 
his cap, " she will be glad to see you ; but " — He 
hesitated, and then said frankly, " I hope you won't 
ask me to leave her, for I can't do it." 

" Nonsense ! " said Mr. Barclay. " She will be glad 
to be rid of you." 

Lillo laughed. 

" Perhaps, after all, he likes his wild life too well," 
soliloquized Mr. Barclay. 



26 ASPIRATIONS. 



CHAPTER III. 

Now that Mr. Barclay's whim had really taken 
shape and been put into words, it became an ardent 
desire. To develop the undoubted genius of this fish- 
er-lad, to educate this quickly perceptive mind, and 
to make a gentleman of Lillo, had suddenly become 
the dearest wish of his heart, unsatisfied in its paren- 
tal aspirations. He had in all his life encountered 
no serious obstacles to any of his reasonable desires, 
and he would not allow himself to suppose that 
there could be any impediment in this case. The 
boy must be brought around to a better sense of the 
offer, and for this purpose he sought the grand- 
mother. 

It was really very warm weather, and the Neck 
was getting crowded for this fastidious man who had 
no great interest in human beings en masse. He 
longed now to be on some mountain-top, listening to 
the wind surging through the pines, watching the 
purple shadows on the mighty peaks, far away from 
these thin, penetrating voices which saluted him 
even in the retirement of his own apartments. With 
his dog, his gun, and his book, he had always found 
peace ; with Lillo added, there would be less for his 
devouring melancholy to prey upon. And who could 



ASPIRA TIONS. 27 

tell what profound possibilities might be drawn from 
the education of this boy? Velasquez, Titian, Leo- 
nardo, Raphael, Rubens, were the pride of the Old 
World : why should not the New possess as powerful 
creative force ? . He woke from his dreaming and 
started out for the little brown house. Mrs. Marsh 
was at home, silent and alone as usual. 

She responded to Mr. Barclay's greeting by telling 
him that Lillo had gone into town on an errand very 
early, but would soon return, and that he knew his 
lessons. Then she supposed she had given all the 
necessary information, and she resumed her knit- 
ting. 

The room was neat and cool, darkened by the heavy 
wooden outside shutters of the windows, which, being 
drawn, the sun penetrated only at their meeting. 

The old woman sat up stiffly in a high-backed 
rocking-chair. Mr. Barclay occupied one equally 
straight and high backed, without rockers. 

" I suppose Lillo has told you what I have come 
to talk about, Mrs. Marsh } " 

" No : he hasn't been at any pranks, I hope } " said 
the old woman, with a startled glance over her spec- 
tacles. 

" No : he's all right ; and I find it so pleasant to 
teach him, that I want the pleasure prolonged." 

Mrs. Marsh still had a questioning manner. 

" I may as well put it in as few words as possible. 
I want you to give the boy to me, that I may make 
something of him ; I want to send him to school and 
give him advantages impossible to gain outside of 
cities. He is so docile and affectionate that I have no 



28 ASPIRATIONS, 

hesitation in making this offer. Lillo will make a 
fine man. Will you give him to me, Mrs. Marsh .?" 

She looked incredulous : was this strange man in 
earnest, or was he beside himself t 

" Hain't you a family of your own? " she asked. 

"No, none very near to me." 

" What makes you think he'll be a fine man } " 

"There are many proofs of it. I have watched 
him closely and with interest." 

" Seems to me, then, he can get along without 
help." 

This was a new view. Mr. Barclay laughed. 

"Yes, I dare say; but it will be harder for him, 
and he will have to do without the opportunities of 
cultivation and advancement which I can give him. 
The difference will be that of one who starts in 
trade with or without capital. I wish him to have 
the capital." 

" There's no reason agin that, I'm sure ; but seems 
to me you've made a mistake." 

"How.? Why.?" 

" Did you never take a crab up out of the water, and 
watch it wriggle back when you put it on the sand ? " 

"I don't know; I suppose I have." 

" That's just the way it would be with Lillo if you 
took him away from here." 

" I am willing to risk it.** 

" What does he say t " 

" He would like the plan, I think, if he could be 
assured that you were willing; but he will not con- 
sent to leave you alone. I think I can arrange that, 
however." 



ASPIRATIONS, 29 

" Does he show that much f eelin' ? " 

" Yes, quite ; it seems to be the one reason for his 
remaining here." 

" Then I'll not drive him off," said the old woman 
firmly, taking off her spectacles to wipe away the 
moisture which had gathered upon them. 

" But, Mrs. Marsh, you have not given this enough 
consideration ; you forget that if I adopt Lillo I shall 
be in a measure obliged to see that his future is 
assured. I have some property. Should he prove 
worthy of my trust in him, worthy and grateful for 
the education I propose to give him, he will stand a 
good chance of being better off in a pecuniary sense." 

" Pecuniary sense : " the old woman said the words 
over to herself, but made nothing of them. " Prop- 
erty : " yes, she understood that. 

" It's well to have property. So you're a man of 
means, eh ! " 

**Yes." 

" But I don't think so much of the eddication : it's 
apt to spoil poor boys." 

Mr. Barclay smiled loftily, and glanced at the 
sanded floor. 

" Yes, it's apt to spoil 'em and make 'em look 
down on their parents. There was Jim Macy : he 
went away to school, and it was the ruination of him ; 
they never could do nothin' with him after that. 
He scorned bein' a Cape Cod fisherman, and I don't 
quite know whatever became of him. He had an 
uncle who did for him just what you want to do for 
Lillo ; and the uncle was master of a fine coastin' 
schooner, which went ashore off Nantucket, and he 



30 ASPIRATIONS. 

was drowned. You're very kind, Mr. Barclay, but I 
guess Lillo'll stay with me.'* 

Was there ever so persistent an absurdity 1 

Mr. Barclay rose impatiently and looked at the 
clock. There was no use in arguing. 

" Take a little time to think of this, Mrs. Marsh. 
Tell Lillo he'll find me at my rooms. I'm going for 
a swim now." 

But at this moment in came Lillo with a basket 
on his arm. 

" How dark it seems, and how cool in here ! there 
is such a glare on the sand, and those old beach- 
wagons creep like snails. How d'ye do, Mr. Barclay t 
You and granny seem to be waiting for something." 

** We were talking about you." 

Mr. Barclay, who had sat down again, felt the dis- 
advantage of a chair without rockers. Mrs. Marsh 
was quietly moving back and forth in hers, knitting 
fast all the while. He waited till Lillo had put away 
his basket and was prepared to listen. 

" I have been telling Mrs. Marsh what I told you 
yesterday, Lillo, how I should like to give you a start 
in the world." 

" It's all very kind, Mr. Barclay ; but my start's 
got to be taken here. I've engaged with Mr. Smears, 
granny, to learn house-painting." 

" Lillo ! " 

"Yes, I knew your heart was set on it, and I 
might as well begin whether I liked it or not. Mr. 
Smears is to take me for three months on trial. It'll 
be a good trudge from here to Codtown every day." 

Mr. Barclay said nothing ; he was indignant and 



ASPIRATIONS. 31 

hurt, and amazed that their ignorance could so thwart 
his well-intentioned plans, and do violence to their 
own prosperity. He drummed a tattoo on the pine 
table and was silent. 

Lillo looked up appealingly. 

*' You see, Mr. Barclay, I had planned what I was 
to do before you spoke. I didn't want to learn a 
trade, and I don't want to now ; but granny has been 
at me to do it for a long while, and now she's alone, 
I must try to please her ; and this is what came into 
my head to-day when she sent me to town to buy 
flour, and I met Mr. Smears and he began to talk 
about it too. Granny was my first friend, Mr. Bar- 
clay ; but you come next, and I hope you will believe 
I am grateful." 

"There's nothing to be grateful for. You won't 
let me help you, so there's the end of it. Come, I 
have only a day or two, so I must be off, and make 
the most of my time. I want to row over to Seal 
Island after I've had a bath ; the luncheon is already 
stowed, so you can get the boat ready. Good-morn- 
ing, Mrs. Marsh, and good-bye. I shall not see you 
again, as I leave on Thursday. I must thank you 
for allowing Lillo to be so much with me. We have 
had very good times together." 

"No obligation to me, sir, none at all. The boy 
has been happy in your company, and will miss you. 
I hope you're not offended ; but, in truth, I couldn't 
spare him, and he's full enough of nonsense without 
eddication. You know the man in the Scripters 
whose learnin' had made him mad. I'm afraid it 
would have done that to Lillo." 



32 ASPIRATIONS. 

She had risen, and was standing as stiffly erect as 
she had been sitting. 

" Possibly," said Mr. Barclay, smiling grimly as he 
glanced at the bare, clean little room, with its shin- 
ing tins, its sanded floor, and few comforts. 

"Perhaps you are right, Mrs. Marsh: if he has 
any thing in him, he will make his way in the world 
yet, and no thanks to me either." 

And so he departed. But he was very much vexed. 
So much vexed was he that he did not at all notice 
the change which had come over the day, the shifting 
of the wind, or the obscuration of the sun ; neither 
did he notice how Lillo, as he dipped his oars, glanced 
over his shoulder at an ominous gathering of the 
clouds. Lillo saw that Mr. Barclay was angry, and 
knew that silence must be maintained ; indeed, the 
boy had no wish to talk. Though he had forced him- 
self into this antagonistic attitude towards his patron, 
he had not even the ordinary consolation with which 
those who have their own way solace themselves. 
He was not having his own way. He was doing that 
which displeased himself as much as it did Mr. Bar- 
clay, but he was acting from a higher motive than 
self-pleasing. The boy loved this wan, weather- 
beaten, rough old grandmother ; and in the refusal of 
Mr. Barclay, and the acceptance of Mr. Smears, he 
knew he should please her. 

So they rowed in silence in the direction of Seal 
Island ; for though Mr. Barclay had forgotten his bath, 
he had not forgotten his intention of taking his lun- 
cheon beyond the gaze of sight-seers. 

Yet even in this was he thwarted. As the boat 



ASPIRA TIONS. 33 

bumped on the rocks, and Lillo sprang lightly out to 
moor her, he saw a flutter of white skirts, and two 
girls retreated behind the few cedar trees and huckle- 
berry bushes which were about all the vegetation the 
island could boast. 

Something very like "Confound it ! " escaped from 
Mr. Barclay. " Not alone even here. Well, perhaps 
they will have the good sense to stay out of our way. 
Get out the traps, Lillo, and we will remain where 
we are, it's too late to go farther ; " and Mr. Barclay 
drew a book from his pocket, spread his army blanket 
under a sheltering rock, and began to read. Lillo 
secured the boat, landed the provisions, and, with an 
eye to the weather, unrolled Mr. Barclay's rubber 
coat ; then with customary habit in idle moments, 
and now as a resource from the discomfort of his 
friend's displeasure, he sharpened his pencil and 
sketched. His knees were his easel, and his canvas 
an old account-book ; but a fallen pine, some grasses 
and cat-tails in proximity, and a scraggy mass of 
weeds were grouping themselves almost of themselves 
on his page when something of greater loveliness 
caught his quick eye. It was the face of a young girl, 
a child of his own age, peering at him from the thicket. 
Her figure was hidden, and her soft gray-blue eyes, 
shadowed by chestnut hair, seemed to belong to some 
creature of the woods. When she saw that she was 
discovered, she drew a branch across her place of re- 
treat and hid herself ; but a low grumble of thunder 
coming at this moment, she sprang from the trees 
towards Lillo, exclaiming, — 

" What shall we do, what shall we do } It is going 



34 ASPIRA TIONS. 

to storm, and how can we get home ? " Then paus- 
ing, and swinging her hat in her hand, with a blending 
of fright, curiosity, and timidity she said, — 

" Please let me look at your sketch. I wish I 
could draw, but I can't. I can only drum on the 
piano, and that has to be done indoors ; and it is stupid 
to stay in the house in summer-time, don't you think 
so } " 

"I suppose it is," replied Lillo bashfully, as the 
child drew nearer, and her soft breath, like the odor 
of violets, came over his shoulder. 

"Oh, how pretty that is!" she went on. "You 
draw beautifully, better than Grace. Grace is my sis- 
ter. There she is trying to hide. But what shall 
we do } We never rowed so far before, and we are 
frightened half to death in thunder-storms, at least 
Grace is. What a cross-looking man that is under 
the rock ! Is he any relation of yours ? " 

" No," said Lillo, smiling. 

Mr. Barclay at this moment turned and certainly 
scowled. He had been aroused by the thunder, and 
was now considering whether it would be possible to 
get to a place of shelter before the rain came ; then 
he heard the pretty, childish treble, and saw Lillo's 
companion. At the same time another young girl 
appeared, with a very alarmed countenance ; but she 
went boldly up to Mr. Barclay, saying, — 

" I think this is Mr. Barclay. I am Grace Alden. 
My aunt, Miss Alden, is a friend of yours, sir, I be- 
lieve." 

Mr. Barclay rose and took off his hat. 

" I have the pleasure of knowing Miss Alden." 



ASPIRA TIONS. 35 

" I am so distressed ! We have disobeyed aunt in 
coming so far alone, and now I dare not go back. 
What shall we do, sir ? — Here, Pinky, come speak to 
this friend of aunt's." 

" I am not * Pinky ' to strangers, Grace," said the 
other child, blushing, but coming forward. " Besides, 
it's raining ; and if you're going to stand still I shall 
go back to the woods." 

" Present me properly to your sister, I beg," said 
Mr. Barclay, amused, though he felt the rain on his 
nose. 

"Miss May Alden, Mr. Barclay," said the other 
girl, putting up her sun-umbrella, but Miss May was 
already scampering away. Meantime, Lillo had closed 
his sketch-book and had begun cutting down branch- 
es to pile over the rocks, beneath which they could 
crouch for a while. On this he spread the rubber 
cloth which was always in the boat ; and by the time 
Grace had brought back her sister, and Mr. Barclay 
had donned his rubber coat, the girls had quite a 
comfortable shelter ready for them. It was now 
pouring, and the sea dashing up on the rocks, the 
thunder pealing, and the air dark with the driving 
rain. Lillo, drenched to the skin, had hauled the 
boat far enough up to turn her, thus covering the 
lunch-basket. 

Mr. Barclay stood grimly beside the rocks beneath 
which the girls sat, dry and untouched. 

"Look at him," whispered May, "isn't he ugly .^ 
Just like a fountain in our square when it's covered 
with dried leaves in the autumn. Is it a Dryad or a 
Naiad, or a what do you call it, Grace ? " 



36 ASPIRATIONS. 

"Hush!" said Grace peremptorily, "he has been 
very kind to us." 

" I am so hungry, Grace, it makes me cross, — and 
what will aunt say ? She'll be worried and distracted. 
Perhaps her hair will turn white, and then always we 
shall hear her tell the story of it, — how we ran away 
and rowed out to sea, and she supposed us to be 
drowned, and the agony made her hair turn gray. 
Age will never be the cause, — as if it weren't gray 
already. Oh, dear, when will it stop raining.? 
Where's that boy } Oh, you don't know how beau- 
tifully he sketches ! He must be what aunt calls a 
genius." 

" I wish you had the genius for keeping still," said 
her sister impatiently. 

"Ah, two in a family can't have that. Come, 
Grace, let's just peek out a little. I do believe I see 
a little blue sky. There goes the fountain ! Come, 
I don't care if I do get a little wet, now that he has 
gone," and she thrust her feet out into a pool. 
" Lovely for ducks ! " 

" Come directly back, May, or I shall certainly ap- 
peal to Mr. Barclay." 

" There he comes again ! " 

"The rain is stopping, young ladies, but I am 
afraid there will be a succession of showers," said 
Mr. Barclay. " If you can tell me where to find your 
boat, I think we had better start for home." 

Grace directed him where to look for the boat ; but 
Lillo, coming up at this moment, reported, — 

" It's breaking loose, and drifting out to sea." 

This was a serious matter, and the children looked 
aghast. 



ASPIRA TLONS. 37 

"What if aunt should hear of that before we reach 
home ! Oh, please, Mr. Barclay, get us home as 
quickly as you can!" exclaimed Grace. "I really am 
very sorry to give you so much trouble. We have 
been very foolish, but we can't help ourselves now ; " 
and tears streamed from her eyes. 

" What do you say to our starting, Lillo ? " asked 
Mr. Barclay. 

" It's an ugly sea, sir, but " — 

" Oh, let us go ! " exclaimed both the girls. " We 
are not afraid." 

*' Neither am I," said Lillo stoutly, "but " — 

" Oh, please go ! " chimed the girls. 

"We will try it," said Mr. Barclay, and Lillo turned 
to obey orders. He knew Mr. Barclay was not strong, 
so the brunt of the labor would be his. He would 
do his best ; and, if the wind went down, there was 
nothing to fear. But what if the wind rose, could 
he pull the increased load to shore.? 

The girls were now in feverish haste to be off. 
Mr. Barclay, however, insisted upon their taking some 
lunch, which, hungry as they had been, they could 
now scarcely swallow. This done, they quickly 
embarked. For a while all went well. The water 
was rough, but the swell was exhilarating. Suddenly 
the wind veered, and they were in an ugly, cross sea. 
Grace, in her fright, seized Mr. Barclay's arm ; the 
boat lurched, he lost his oar, the sea poured in upon 
them. The rain came driving down again. 

" We must go back," shouted Mr. Barclay. Lillo 
tried to turn the boat, but could not, and the rain 
blinded him. 



38 ASPIRA TIONS. 

The girls huddled in the stern together, like two 
frightened doves, white, and with much dripping 
plumage. Mr. Barclay became seasick, and grew 
absolutely unable to conquer his deathly faintness. 
Lillo looked up at the clouds : not a glint of bright- 
ness was there to encourage him. The wind was, 
however, getting around to the south, he thought : 
so, drawing in his oars, he began to bail out. They 
could wait a while. Mr. Barclay wrote himself down 
a fool for his attempt. They should have waited on 
the island. How could he have allowed himself to be 
led into such a scrape by two silly chits ! What would 
that aunt of theirs think of him } But that was a 
small matter, so long as they were not drowned. 
Ugh ! that horrible faintness. 

" Lillo ! " 

" Ay, ay, sir." 

" Get back to the island." 

" Can't see it, sir." 

" We are floating out to sea ; I hear the breakers." 

" I think not, sir." 

" I am sure of it. Isn't there a line of rocks just 
about here } " 

" No, sir. Hello ! there's the lost boat." 

Mr. Barclay saw it too, and eagerly reached out to 
grasp it, more to supply himself with an oar than 
because he cared to save the boat. As he did so, the 
deathly sickness seized him : he must have fainted, 
for he lost his balance, and went over. 

There was an instant of horror, of indecision. The 
girls shrieked, and clung closer to each other. The 
waters seemed to have opened like a hungry mouth. 



ASPIRA TIONS. 39 

and closed again. Lillo threw off all the clothing he 
could loosen, and pausing only to see in what direc- 
tion he should go, plunged after his friend. Mr. 
Barclay rose a boat's-length away. He was no prac- 
tised swimmer, but he knew enough not to struggle ; 
and in a few moments Lillo had him by the hair, and 
was towing him. 

By this time, the boats were drifting from them ; 
but, as they rose on the swelling foam, they saw little 
May scramble into the bow of the *• Water-witch," 
seize an oar, and manage to keep her with her head 
towards them. Grace sat with clasped hands, crying. 

At last the distance lessened. Each wave carried 
them nearer, and with supreme satisfaction Lillo and 
Mr. Barclay tugged each other into the safe-keeping 
of the boats. 

Just as they did so, a warm, broad flash of sunlight 
penetrated the driving spray, and they saw land : 
but, what was better, a stout craft coming to meet 
them. With what cordial appreciation of dry land 
Mr. Barclay stepped ashore that day, it is needless 
to mention. 

Drenched and draggled and ill, he managed to 
restore his transient wards to their tearful relative ; 
and then seeking Lillo, he said, — 

" You've saved my life, boy. Do you know the 
obligation I am under } " 

" Indeed I don't, sir. It was an accident. I hope 
you'll be none the worse for it." 

"And you.?" 

** I mind it no more than a water-rat," said Lillo, 
shaking himself. 



40 ASPIRA TIONS. 

. " I consider myself very much in your debt, re- 
member." 

" Not at all, Mr. Barclay. I'm only too glad to 
have been of use to you. We are friends again, I 
hope." 

" Yes, we are friends," said Mr. Barclay. But he 
did not again urge his proposal. 

The next day, instead of leaving the Neck, he 
found himself too ill to leave his bed. 

Miss Alden was profuse in attentions, and Grace 
and May made daily inquiries concerning him ; but a 
doctor and nurse from Boston forbade his departure 
until late in the summer. 



ASFIRA TIONS. 41 



CHAPTER IV. 

The fourth floor of a New York second-rate board- 
ing-house is not especially to be chosen as an abiding 
place when June is bursting her roses and scattering 
perfume on the air. Birds do not tilt on the window- 
sills and sing to the unhappy prisoners, neither do 
daisies beckon to the fields of clothes-lines below ; but 
the rumble and roar of the city's chant of toil fill the 
air, already heavy with sewer-gas and petroleum. 

No one could have been more conscious of these 
things, nor felt himself more a prisoner, than the per- 
son who at this moment is listening to a distant 
hand-organ, and seeking for a glimpse of sky above 
the barren ugliness of bricks which obscure his sight. 
He is a man yet young, as you can see by his beard 
and hair, which, though unkempt, are of fine color; 
but he is a man whose experiences have aged him. 
He has been unsuccessful, has invariably lost when 
others won, stumbled and fallen where others kept 
the path ; has been baflded, pursued, defeated, in the 
battle all have to fight. He had begun fairly, as 
well as nine-tenths do, with high hopes, good cour- 
age, and no vices, but had neither satisfied himself 
nor other people. Undoubtedly there was a screw 
loose somewhere, perhaps in the original construe- 



42 ASPIRA TIONS. 

tion of the article ; the nice mechanism had proba- 
bly been too nice for its applied purpose, and when 
overworked or rusty no one had been sufficiently in- 
terested to lubricate it. It has now given token of 
stopping altogether. With the ceasing of the strug- 
gle has come a certain calmness which might easily 
be mistaken for peace ; perhaps it is peace m an im- 
perfect form, the perfection being attainable only in 
another world. At all events, this man has ceased 
repining, ceased wishing for himself; but he has one 
tender plant for whose blossoming he craves the sun- 
shine and the dew of heaven. 

" Ruth ! " 

"Yes, father." 

" Where shall we go this summer } " 

The girl looks up with startled eyes from her sew- 
ing. It is a piece of very plain sewing, — no filoselle 
and canvas with sprays of lilies or meadow-sweet ; but 
her fingers are lithe and active, and her needle flits 
quickly in and out of the under-garment. She is 
very young, very small, and very like her father. 

" I don't know, father," she responds ; " I am afraid 
you are not strong enough for a journey." 

"Very likely ! we may have to go different ways ; 
but where should _;^^2/ like to go.?" 

" Nowhere without you, father." 

"Not to some cool, shady, old farmhouse, where 
the elm-trees make a bower overhead, and the robins 
chatter among the cherries?" 

" No, father." 

" Nor to the hard sandy beach, where wave upon 
wave comes rolling up in foam, and you could gather 
shells and seaweed } " 



ASPIRA TIONS. 43 

"No, father." 

" Nor to the hills overlooking the valleys, where 
the wind sighs in the tall pines, and its breath is the 
very elixir of life ? " 

" Nowhere without you, father." 

"Come here, Ruth." 

She goes to him, and he draws her down upon his 
lap. 

" You are a very little girl to be left alone in the 
world." 

She buries her face in his coat. 

" If you cry, I can't talk to you." 

"I will stop, father." And up comes the brave little 
head ; and she bites her lips and swallows her sobs 
with an effort, which, after a while, becomes success- 
ful. 

" I can't take you where I am going, Ruth, — I wish 
I could, — and I have no one with whom to leave you. 
All my relations are too poor, they have just as much 
as th^ can do to take care of themselves ; and your 
mother's friends are all too rich and taken up with 
their own affairs to be bothered about a little waif 
like you. I used to visit at their houses, dance at 
their parties, and dine at their tables ; and I know 
just how your poor little heart would ache to be a 
dependent among any of them. They are not wicked, 
but they are cold and selfish and narrow ; and you 
would have to hear your father spoken of as an un- 
lucky dog, who ought not to have married his pretty 
wife and let her die for want of comforts and luxuries 
which he could not supply, nor left his little Ruth 
to their charity. Ah, yes, child ! I know how it 



44 ASPIRATIONS, 

would be. No, I am not angry. I am not cross. I 
am just telling you all this because when you grow 
up you will have to know it all, and rather than let 
you go to them I would put you in the orphan asy- 
lum ; but — There, there, Ruth! I know some one 
who I think will be good to my little girl and take 
care of her ; some one who has always been good 
to me, and would have bridged me over many a diffi- 
culty if I had let him know my trouble. Ah ! we 
were chums long years ago, — friends always, in 
school and out of school. He always beat me at 
every thing. I was always unlucky, but he never 
crowed over me. He has had his griefs as well as I 
mine, but they haven't put an end to him as mine 
have to me. He has a kind heart, and can be trusted 
with my one poor lamb. I will write to him and tell 
him all about little Ruth, and he will come and get 
her ; and then I can go as soon as I please, —yes, just 
as soon as I please." 

Here the poor man had a wretched coughing turn, 
which made talking quite impossible, and little Ruth 
had to get his spoonful of sirup, and shake up his 
pillows ; and then she ran down-stairs for the toast, 
which might be burned by the careless cook if she 
did not attend to it. 

She was quite breathless when she came back, and 
found her father at his table with pen, ink, and paper 
before him. 

" I am only afraid, Ruth, that I can*t go as soon 
as I ought to on your account." 

" Where, father } " said the child innocently. 

" Oh ! away, — altogether. I am stronger than I 
thought." 



ASPIRA TIONS. 45 

*' How glad I am, dear father ! " 

" You shouldn't be, Ruth ; it is very wrong of me 
to keep you here in the hot city, pent up in this room. 
You look pale ; you need fresh air. Put on your 
bonnet and go to the square, and you may post my 
letter at the same time. I can't write a very long 
one. There, run off now." 

" But the toast, father ; please eat it.** 

"Well, just to please you, dear; but I oughtn't 
to," he murmured. " It's an injustice to her to keep 
the fire going, and just so much fuel wasted. But 
there's the trouble, I can't hurry matters ; " and lay- 
ing his pen down he felt his pulse, with his watch 
before him. 

"Pretty rapid, weak, too, goes by jerks; it can't 
keep up much longer, I should think. I'd like to get 
the answer to this letter; just my luck, however, if I 
don't. The parson says I mustn't call it luck ; but 
that's a bad habit of mine. I know better. I know 
it's God's will." 

Here Ruth came back, with a brown straw hat 
shading her violet eyes. 

"I am ready, father." 

"All right, little wren." 

The scratching pen and the hacking cough kept 
up a duet. 

At last the letter was finished, signed, sealed, and 
stamped. The father drew his little girl to him with 
a kiss. 

" You are just the best and bravest little daughter 
in the world." 

" And you are the dearest and sweetest father." 



46 ASPIRATIONS. 

With that she tripped off to mail his letter, glad to 
get out even into the dry and dusty streets. 

He walked to his bookshelf, reached too far for a 
volume, the strain started his cough again. A bright 
red stream bubbled up and over his lips. He sank 
into the nearest chair. "Sooner than I thought," 
he said to himself ; and then, though fainting and the 
darkness of the lonely valley shutting out the day- 
light, his thoughts were for his little one. "God 
keep her ! God in his mercy temper the wind to the 
shorn lamb." 



ASPIRATIONS. 47 



CHAPTER V. 

The letter sped on its way, its life and force con- 
tinuing long after the hand which winged it was lying 
lifeless on the still heart. It reached the Neck soon 
after Mr. Barclay had been pronounced convalescent, 
and was allowed to have visitors. On the day of its 
arrival, Mr. Barclay was sitting at a window looking 
seaward. In front of him was a table with a bowl of 
ice, a bottle of claret, a heap of new publications fresh 
from the press, a bunch of flowers from a Boston 
hot-house, a sketch of a trim little yacht, on a rustic 
easel, and a tonic or two bearing broad labels of their 
virtues with magnanimous publicity on their fronts. 

Beside him sat Miss Alden, crocheting. 

Miss Alden is a person with a talent for other 
people's affairs, having few of her own. The talent 
takes a kindly form with her, for she is generous, 
warm-hearted, and fond of making all around her 
comfortable. She is a slender lady, of an unknown 
age, with a prepossessing countenance ; her hair is 
tinged with gray ; and she assumes a style of dress, 
which, though rich in material, is severely simple in 
form. She disdains marriage as a state of life suit- 
able only for the very young and frivolous. Her 
charge of her two young nieces gives her ample occu- 



48 ASPIRATIONS, 

cupation of a sort she enjoys, and the chance of min- 
istering to her invalid friend, Mr. Barclay, is also a 
piece of good fortune which she is making the most 
of. She sent for the hot-house flowers, and one of 
the tonics is a draught which she has never known 
to fail. She has great faith in herself and in all her 
prescriptions, and it imparts a happy placidity of de- 
meanor and a certain force to all she says and does. 
People confide in her and believe in her — unless, as 
is sometimes the case, she makes a mistake and prof- 
fers her services in the wrong direction. For all peo- 
ple are not equally ready to be taken under her wing. 
Mr. Barclay is not wholly reduced to proper sub- 
jection. She knew his wife, — for Miss Alden was a 
woman grown when Mrs. Barclay was a schoolgirl, — 
and she speaks of her once in a while in a way that 
is not unpleasant to him, in a refined, gentle way, as 
if Belle were still living, which makes him more 
ready to accept her kind services than he otherwise 
would be. Though outwardly placid, Miss Alden is 
restless ; she likes to scheme and plan, likes to travel. 
When she is at home she often changes her hotel, 
or at the hotel changes her apartments. In this 
way she also occasionally errs, for her movements 
sometimes disturb other people. But her manners 
are unexceptionable, and often carry her over rough 
spots where awkwardness might bring her to grief. 
Few persons can resist kindness; even the grim 
old uncles with lots of stocks and money-bags (in 
novels) always have a tender spot which can be 
touched beneath the hard crust of their ungracious 
exterior. 



ASPIRA TIONS. 49 

The day is very warm ; and as the man with the 
mail comes in Miss Alden puts aside her crochet, and 
gently stirs a large feather fan, sending the odor of 
roses about the room. 

" Pardon me for opening my letters," Mr. Barclay 
says, with a little inclination of the head, somewhat 
hoping that his guest may go. 

" Certainly, Frank " (she always calls him by his 
Christian name), *' certainly. I will read my own at 
the same time." She has quite a budget of crested 
and monogrammed envelopes in her lap, and is soon 
absorbed in their contents. It takes her a long while ; 
and when she ceases she looks up with a little start, 
to see Mr. Barclay surveying an open newspaper and 
comparing its date with that of a blue ruled letter- 
sheet before him. He looks pale and distressed. 
She rises, pours out in a little glass the strengthening 
liquid on the table, and says gently, — 

*' You had better lie down now, Frank ; you seem 
tired. Your nurse is out too long; I must speak to 
him." 

" Pray don't. Miss Alden : it bores me to death to 
have him here all the time." Then he takes the 
draught from her hand, and says, " Read that, if you 
please. I'm sure I don't know what I can do in the 
matter, situated as I am now." 

She reads the letter, which runs thus : — 

Dear Frank, — The memory of school-days and college- 
days, and many a happy time, suggests to me the idea of making 
you my legatee. I am very rich — in one little girl. This large 
fortune I bequeath to you. Be good to her, be kind to her. I 
am too near the end of my rope to explain matters. She is to 



50 ASPIRATIONS. 

be found at my present address. I should be glad to hear that 
you will accept the trust, but, '•'■ post factum^ nullum consiliujn.^^ 
I have no time to spare. Yours in the grasp of death. 

RICHARD MORRIS. 

" What a strange letter ! " 

**He was always a strange fellow, poor Dick! 
And here's his death already announced." 

Miss Alden took the newspaper, and read the 
announcement. 

" And you know nothing more than this letter tells 
you.?" 

" Nothing. I haven't seen him for years." 

** He has taken a great liberty." 

" None too great for the occasion, if the child has 
no protector." 

" But so unconventional." 

"He was always that.'* 

" It is very strange." 

" It is indeed. If I were not so helpless just now, 
I would go on to New York." 

" Has he no relatives } " 

" I am sure I don't know." 

" But they are in duty bound to see to the child ? " 

" Not unless I declare myself disinclined to serve 
as guardian ; besides, people are not always ready to 
do their duty." 

" Has he property } " 

"I fancy not. I have lost track of him lately. 
We studied law together. He married early ; since 
then, I fear it has gone hard with him." 

" But you are not obliged to accept such a trust } " 

" No, not obliged legally, perhaps morally I am." 



ASPIRA TIONS, 5 1 

" It is very strange that he did not give you the 
choice of refusal." 

*' He rather honors me in supposing refusal impos- 
sible, and certainly a man in the grasp of death must 
look at life with clearer vision. He has honored me. 
I was somewhat dazed at first, not knowing just what 
to think ; but of course I shall do what I can for the 
child, if she is of the right stuff." 

"Ah, that is just the point ! She may not be in- 
teresting." 

" Nor tractable, which would be worse." 

"An uninteresting child is so tiresome." 

" I shall not promise to keep her with me ; there 
are plenty of schools." 

"Yes, a good boarding-school will have to be 
found ; I know of several. Of course you cannot be 
cumbered with a child : that would necessitate a maid 
and a governess." 

Miss Alden was becoming interested. 

"You do not keep a governess for your nieces, 
Miss Alden } " 

" No, I have only my maid. She serves them too, 
as much as I think well for them, — I prefer them to 
depend a little upon themselves, — and Grace and 
May go to school at home. My brother, however, is 
thinking of letting them go abroad with me this 
coming winter." 

"I wonder what this ward of mine will look like — 
if she is as pretty as her mother was ; that is quite 
an important element in this transaction." 

"But the poor child — who is with her at this try- 
ing moment ? " 



<;2 ASPIRATIONS, 

" True ! I will have to inquire. Poor Dick ! so he 
is dead. Another friend gone ! " 

" Suppose I go to the city, and bring the child here 
for your inspection ? " 

" That certainly is a very kind proposal ; I can, 
however, send a clerk on from Boston." 

"Ah ! but a young man might find it an awkward 
errand. She may need an outfit, and she may be 
delicate or ill or" — 

*' Heavens ! what am I undertaking? Miss Alden, 
you open my eyes to the difficulties. I begin to 
recall my own childhood, — the doctors, the dentists, 
the schools, and the thousand and one demands made 
by the * hostages to fortune.' It is somewhat odd, 
too, that I should be refused the child of my choice, 
and have the child of friendship forced upon me." 

Miss Alden did not understand the latter end of 
his speech: so she only repeated her offer, explaining 
that it was nothing of a journey for her, she often 
went on to the city for shopping. May and Grace 
must take their sailing and bathing orders from Mr. 
Barclay until she returned ; that would be the only 
compensation she would exact from him, if he were 
equal even to that. 

And so it was arranged. 

Miss Alden left the next day, combining her errand 
of mercy with one of convenience. Her summer 
gowns needed altering, and her dressmaker was in 
New York. 

Three days afterward came this letter to Mr. 
Barclay. 



ASPIRATIONS. 53 

My dear Frank, — I was just in time to attend the fun- 
eral, and see to the poor child. It was most fortunate that you 
allowed me to represent you. She needs every things and 
will be a very suitable companion for May and Gracie. She is 
perfectly unexceptionable j is small and slender, but much too 
quiet and pale for her age. It will take me a few days to get 
her mourning made. Her board was paid in advance by her 
poor father, who, I hear, was extremely honest, and though 
very, very poor, leaves no debts behind him. Should you 
change your mind in regard to her, I will adopt her myself. 
One or two relatives offered to take her, but she shrank from 
them all. Tell the girls her name is Ruth. I hope sea-air will 
bring a little color to her poor, pale cheeks. The city is terri- 
bly dry and dusty, and the noise is intolerable. 

I hope my nieces are models of propriety and give you no 
concern, and that your health has improved. 
Faithfully yours, 

ALTHEA ALDEN. 

P.S. — Ruth sends her love to her father's friend, Mr. Bar- 
clay. I hope you will permit her to call you uncle: it will sound 
more friendly. A. A. 

Mr. Barclay smiled and groaned. The letter was 
extremely characteristic, but he began to realize what 
he was undertaking. No more should he be left to 
himself. Already had he become of double interest 
to Miss Alden, and hers would not long be the only 
finger in the pie. It was certainly easy enough for 
Dick Morris to walk out of the world leaving his 
child behind him ; indeed, he had no alternative : the 
difficulty was left for the living man to adjust, and 
he too, having a kind heart, had no alternative. And 
then his sorrow, as usual, tinged his thoughts. If 
Belle had only been spared to him, how trifling would, 
this obligation have seemed ! With her tact and 



54 ASPIRA TIONS. 

sweet temper, how happily every thing would have 
been arranged ! But for her sake, as well as Dick's, 
he had no intention of refusing the trust imposed 
upon him. He would take a good look at the child, 
make some sort of an estimate of her points, consult 
Miss Alden as to her present needs, find a good 
school, and place her in it. Then, if the doctors had 
settled about his lungs, he would depart for the South 
of France when cool weather should set in, if only to 
escape the advice and suggestions which his guard- 
ianship would bring about his head. 

Meanwhile, little Ruth, drowsy and dazed with 
grief, was being used as a milliner's block, and 
swathed and folded in crape. To get out of the 
boarding-house, with its perpetual smell of food, was 
a pleasant change, especially as the kind lady who 
took her about always came in a trim little coLip6, 
and had a nosegay somewhere about her ; but it was 
fearfully tiresome to stand, and be measured and 
fitted and discussed, to have gloves tried on, and 
bonnets tried on, and find herself black, dismal black, 
from top to toe. It is a singular way we Christians 
have of expressing our belief in a blessed immortality, 
this swathing ourselves in the most hopeless looking 
garments we can find. 

But the preparations, though they seemed long to 
Ruth, were really finished in a short time ; and she 
found herself with a tearful smile on her face, as she 
looked in the cracked looking-glass at her new attire, 
put on for the journey, and heard the men carrying 
away her luggage, and knew that she would never 
come back to this house of sorrow. For it is a great 



ASPIRATIONS, 55 

relief to a child to get away from the scene of anguish 
and mysterious pain which darkens all the sunshine 
and compels silence and gloom. 

She sorrowed none the less for her father, but 
there was a little springing of hope, a few tender 
blades of joy in her young heart, at the prospect 
Miss Alden portrayed to her. And how honestly a 
child allows itself to be pleased, to smile even through 
tears ! it has no compunctions, no hypocritical desire 
to look afflicted, and no immoderate demand for sym- 
pathy. 

" Heavens ! what a rare, sweet face," said Mr. 
Barclay to himself, as on the day of her return Miss 
Alden led Ruth into his apartment, followed by 
Grace and May Alden, who had at once, and with child- 
ish effusion, taken their new acquaintance into their 
youthful keeping. Aloud, he said, taking her hand, — 

" I am glad to see you, my dear. You and I ought 
to have known each other before, but you find me 
laid up for a while, and so Miss Alden has kindly 
done for me what I should have done for myself." 

Ruth advanced timidly, and took the chair beside 
the invalid. There was just enough resemblance 
between the condition of this invalid, and that of the 
one to whom she had so recently said farewell, to 
make her feel at her ease, as well as to arouse her 
sorrow and her sympathy. She made no reply to 
his kind greeting other than to fix her gentle gaze 
upon him with a sad tenderness that made Mr. Bar- 
clay look vainly around for the handkerchief he had 
misplaced. 

"Was your journey fatiguing.? Have you ever 



56 ASPIRATIONS. 

before been to the seashore ? " he questioned rapidly, 
to hide his agitation. 

" No, sir." 

" A soft, low voice — an excellent thing in woman," 
again was Mr. Barclay's mental speech. 

**Then you will find much to amuse you; and 
these lively girls will have to show you all the won- 
ders of the deep, until I can get about again." 

" But I think I would rather wait upon you." 

" Oh, no, not at all ; I shall soon be all right. 
Children need air and sunshine and merriment. 
You must grow strong and gay with bathing and 
boating." 

" But I am used to taking care of things. Father 
called me his little nurse." 

There was a gentle insistence and a pleading tone 
to the soft voice, which made Mr. Barclay look at 
Miss Alden despairingly. Instead of his caring for 
her, here was this bit of a creature desiring to be his 
protector, for she went on to say, — 

" I can drop medicine very steadily, and I can keep 
the glasses and spoons so that they shine ; and I can 
make a bed up very nicely, — so father said." 

** Can you read aloud 1 " put in Miss Alden with 
gentle tact. 

** Oh, yes," said Ruth eagerly, a tinge of rose com- 
ing to her cheeks. 

** Well, I daresay Mr. Barclay will let you read to 
him once in a while. He has a nurse, you know, 
else he would be very glad to let you show him all 
your nice little accomplishments. What have you 
read.?" 



AS PI R A TIONS. 5 7 

" Oh, every thing that father liked, — * The Prin- 
cess,' and 'Aurora Leigh,* and * In Memoriam,' 
and 'The Tempest;' but father liked *The Essays 
of Elia' best of all." 

" 'The Essays of Elia' to a dying man ;" this was 
another aside from Mr. Barclay. " Poor fellow, I 
don't blame him. He wanted to laugh as well as the 
rest of us, and he had precious little to laugh at." 

" Father didn't like * Artemus Ward or ' Mark 
Twain.' He said they had no wit, it was all coarse 
humor ; and that Tom Hood and Charles Lamb were 
like wax-candles, they gave such clear fine light." 

" And what did your father say about the others, 
Tennyson and Mrs. Browning and Shakspeare .? " 
said Miss Alden, glad of the diversion of thought for 
Mr. Barclay as well as for the child. 

*' I don't remember all he told me. I think he 
said Mr. Tennyson was very much like somebody 
else — a long Latin name " — 

" Theocritus .-* " said Mr. Barclay. 

"Yes, that was the name. And he said Mrs. 
Browning had wonderful power ; and that, put them 
all together, every one of them, they wouldn't live 
as long as Robert Burns, because he " — 

"He what.?" urged Mr. Barclay, noticing the child 
hesitate. 

" Because he wrote for poor people and was a poor 
man himself." 

The child had hesitated because she knew she was 
not among poor people. The pictures, the comfort, 
the beauty of much that she saw gave her this im- 
pression ; and she supposed she was committing a 



5 8 ASPIRA TIONS. 

breach of good manners to speak as slightingly as 
her father had evidently spoken of those who were 
well off in the world. 

" And why would that make him live longer ? " 

" I don't know, sir, except that there are so many 
more poor people in the world." 

" How do you know that, Ruth ?" 

" Father said so, sir." 

" Will you be as willing to quote my words, and 
be guided by my wishes, as by those of the father in 
whose place I am to stand, dear little Ruth } " 

She looked into his very soul, it seemed to him, 
before she answered ; then the violets filled to the 
brim with dew, and throwing herself down upon him, 
she cried, — 

" If you will love me as he did, I will do any thing, 
any thing ! " 

Mr. Barclay kissed her in silence, and Miss Alden 
drew her gently away, giving her in charge to the 
two round-eyed girls, whose laughter generally had 
to be checked, but who now were mute and still. 
They wound their arms about Ruth as young fawns 
caress a hurt doe, and led her off to their favorite 
haunts on the beach where the dashing waves tossed 
their silvery crests. 

" So that is what you entitle * perfectly unexcep- 
tionable,' my dear Miss Alden," said Mr. Barclay, 
with a shade of sarcasm in his tone, when the chil- 
dren had gone. 

Miss Alden was not expecting thanks for her 
trouble. She knew that her services were fully ap- 
preciated, and she was not disposed to over-rate 



ASPIRATIONS. 59 

them. But she did not quite understand Mr. Bar- 
clay's remark. So she smoothed her soft hair with 
just a touch of her taper fingers as she "replied, — 

"Yes, I do think so. You mustn't be troubled 
by this little outburst of feeling : it is extremely 
natural, you know, under the circumstances." 

"I'm not troubled. It would have been odd had 
she shown less feeling. She is the loveliest little 
creature ; as choice as a bit of Sevres, as fine, as 
pure, as transparent, — too fine for a man's rough 
fingers." 

"Ah! you exaggerate." 

" Not at all. My eyes are fresh ; but I cannot 
hope to convey my impression to one who only finds 
her * unexceptionable.* " 

" But, Mr. Barclay, my words are very high praise, 
I assure you. I am very exigeante. I suppose you 
allude to my letter. It was written in haste ; but, 
after all, what more would you have had me say } I 
am not an enthusiast, and I have not the habit of 
over-praising." 

" I beg your pardon, Miss Alden ; I am rude. Ill- 
ness has made me overbearing. The child to me is 
as exquisite as a lily. Did you notice the play of 
expression in her face, — the sorrow and tenderness 
mingling with happiness at the thought of her being 
of some possible use to me } " 

" I saw less than you did, probably ; but she has 
a delicate prettiness, I acknowledge." 

" It is more than that, and will be as she grows. 
I am afraid I have undertaken too much." 

" Shall I take her off your hands ? " 



6o ASPIRA TIONS. 

"Not till I have made the experiment — and failed. 
But what shall I do with her at present ? " 

"Leave her to Grace and May. Children seem 
to understand each other." 

"Yes; there seems to be a free-masonry among 
them. But she must have a maid." 

"That is as you please." 

" Lessons, I suppose, need not be thought of im- 
mediately 1 " 

" No, not for warm weather." 

" And she has every thing else she needs, thanks 
to your kindness." 

" No thanks are necessary. She has a neat ward- 
robe, simple and becoming. You have no idea how 
destitute she was." 

" Poor Dick ! How hard it must have been for him 
to see such a sweet little thing deprived of all that she 
ought to have had. I wish I had known his situa- 
tion ; but pride and poverty go hand in hand, 
always." 

"Yes, I suppose that is very true. There were 
relatives at the funeral who were abundantly able to 
help him. I told you about them, I think ? " 

" You mentioned that there was some sort of an 
offer made to the child." 

"Yes, from her mother's uncle, a pompous sort of 
a man. He was quite surprised and annoyed that 
Ruth had been given to you, and tried to make her 
think it was her duty to go home with him." 

"What could have been his motive } " 

" Perhaps he was ashamed that he had not sooner 
befriended them." 



ASPIRA TIONS. 6 1 

"It is charitable to suppose so. What was his 
name ? " 

" Biggs or Boggs ; Boggs, I think. I have not a 
very good ear for names." 

" Did the child seem to know him well ? " 

" Not at all, and she shrank from even speaking to 
him. He had a certain superficial polish of manner, 
but he murdered the king's English. His coachman 
was in livery. There was an aunt, too, who, judging 
by externals, had wealth. She wore diamonds large 
as the tip of my finger. She was quite overcome at 
the funeral, and was profuse in attentions to Ruth, in 
a peculiar way. Her name was something like Ven- 
ner or Vedder. I really am ashamed of my inability 
to remember names." 

"What does it matter.? We shall never hear of 
them again." 

"No. I suppose not; that is, if you assume the 
guardianship alone." 

"And why should I not.?" 

" Really, I don't know, Frank; it is not for me to 
dictate. Belle would have been glad to have you in- 
terest yourself in so kind and unselfish a project as 
the education of this young thing ; but your relatives 
may find fault." 

" I am not accustomed to consult them." 

" No, I suppose not, but " — 

" Well, Miss Alden, I wait for your *but.' " 

" I'll not give it ; second thoughts are wise." 

"Not always. Did you not say you were willing 
to assume the task if I concluded to relinquish 
it ? " 



62 ASPIRA TIONS. 

"No, not just that. I only asked if I should take 
her out of your hands." 

"You surely wrote, that, if I changed my mind, you 
would adopt her yourself; at least, this is the impres- 
sion your letter made upon me, and I cannot be so 
utterly mistaken." 

"I may have done so under an impulse of pity; 
but, as I said just now, second thoughts are wise 
ones. I had not looked at the matter in all its 
bearings. Grace and May have the first claim upon 
me, as your relatives have upon you, Frank." 

"Ah! now I know what your 'but' means." 

Miss Alden smiled and asked, " Is it not well to 
look before you leap V 

" Quite as well for Miss Alden, but I reserve the 
masculine right to leap without looking." 

And so their conversation ended. 

Mr. Barclay did not regain strength rapidly, and 
preferred to remain in his rooms " away from the 
crowd," as he expressed it ; but Ruth came daily to 
him, with cheeks that began to rival the seashells in 
delicate color. She was entirely under Miss Alden's 
kind supervision, though the necessary maid, a deco- 
rous Irish girl (for Ruth knew no French, though 
the Aldens chattered glibly to their Alsacienne), had 
been provided. 

While Mr. Barclay was still undecided as to plans, 
and was living in invalid fashion, a card was one day 
brought to him bearing "Boggs" upon it. Mr. Bar- 
clay read it over more than once, " C. Boggs," but 
failing to remember any acquaintance of the name 
excused himself. The card was then followed by a 



ASPIliA TIONS. 63 

message, saying that Mr. Boggs was the uncle of Miss 
Ruth Morris. Recalling Miss Alden's description of 
the man, Mr. Barclay at once sent for him, wondering 
what would be his errand. 

"Ah, how d'ye do, Mr. Barclay," was the some- 
what patronizing salutation of this unknown but 
none-the-less-at-his-ease individual. *' Sorry to see 
you sick this warm weather, — very warm, very 
warm. I am quite out of sorts, too ; shouldn't have 
thought of making such an exertion but for being 
on my way to the Vineyard. Suppose you want to 
know what brought me here ; you'd admire to know, 
I suppose } " 

Mr. Barclay expressed himself as reasonably in- 
quisitive in so indifferent a manner as to contradict 
his words. 

"Well, you see," said Mr. Boggs, using his hand- 
kerchief to mop his perspiring countenance, and dis- 
playing costly sleeve-buttons, " I wa'n't altogether 
satisfied with them arrangements that our friend and 
relative Dick Morris made before he departed this 
life. I'm a man of some pride of family, and Dick 
ought to have consulted me about his daughter. 
Now, I don't suppose you were very much flattered to 
be chosen as the guardian of Ruth ; no more was I 
to be left out. I can provide for her, if I choose, 
handsomely ; but I ought to have been asked. It is 
the least a man should do who wants a favor done him 
is to ask for it, as I used to tell Dick when I'd hear of 
his being in a tight place ; but he'd only quote some 
darned Greek or Latin at me, and never give me no 
chance to help him." 



64 ASPIRA TIONS. 

Mr. Boggs paused, and Mr. Barclay felt obliged to 
respond. 

" It was not very encouraging to one who was dis- 
posed to be philanthropic or benevolent, certainly, to 
be met in that sort of way." 

"No, of course not. Glad you agree with me. 
Well, now, about Ruth. I've got children enough 
of my own, and responsibility enough ; but I am 
sorry for the girl, and want to do well by her. But 
she can't expect to eat the bread of idleness. 

Mr. Boggs seemed to expect assent to this on Mr. 
Barclay's part ; but, meeting no response, he went 
on, — 

" She ought to be brought up to earn her own liv- 
in' ; and I've been ready to give a helpin' hand to 
more than one orphan in my time, and am not goin' 
to back out now if Dick Morris didn't do as he'd 
ought to. The truth is, Dick was a trifle above the 
rest of us in his own opinion : a college education 
didn't do him no good ; it only set him up in his own 
conceit ; took all the vim out of him for business. 
Now, I left school at twelve, and went right straight 
into trade. My father had money, but he wan't the 
man to let boys hang on to him ; consequence is, I 
have a pile of my own, live in comfort, have the best 
of every thing, and don't feel like seeing a relation 
left to strangers as Ruth has been." 

" Very creditable sentiments, Mr. Boggs," was Mr. 
Barclay's rejoinder ; but Mr. Boggs was not quite 
sure that he had gained Mr. Barclay's approval. 
There was a little mocking smile on Mr. Barclay's 
countenance, and a languor of manner as he tilted a 



ASPIRATIONS. 65 

paper-cutter on his fingers, that Mr. Boggs did not 
admire. 

" Did you know Dick Morris intimately ? " he sud- 
denly asked, as if a new thought had occurred to 
him. 

"Very," answered Mr. Barclay laconically. 

" And his wife ? " 

•' Not so well." 

" He made an idol of her ; spent his money on her 
as if he had been a rich man." 

"Indeed." 

" Yes, it was a foolish match." 

" I dare say." 

" Well, what are you going to do about the child, 
Mr. Barclay t " 

" Nothing, at present." 

"Would you like me to relieve you of the bur- 
den } " 

"Thank you, no." 

" But you can't be bothered this way without some 
compensation." 

Mr. Barclay simply looked at the man with so 
astonished a gaze that Mr. Boggs was alarmed. Per- 
haps this invalid was subject to spasms preceded by 
a stare. 

" I'm ready to come down with the cash and do my 
share, Mr. Barclay." 

" You are really very generous, Mr. Boggs, but I 
shall need no assistance." 

" I suppose you know your own business best ; but, 
remember, I am a man of experience. This girl is 
very likely of the same stuff as Dick, and you oughtn't 



^ ASPIRA TIONS. 

to encourage fine-lady notions. She mustn't expect 
any thing from us if she doesn't work. You will 
send her to the common-school, of course, and then 
she can become a teacher." 

Mr. Barclay here rose, and, with an unmistakable 
air of dismissal, said, — 

"I thank you for your visit, Mr. Boggs, and for 
your interest in my ward. In assuming the relation 
of guardian to my old friend's daughter, I beg to have 
the honor of her entire control, and must ask you 
henceforth to give yourself no trouble concerning 
her. I am deeply indebted to my friend for the trust 
he has reposed in me, and shall endeavor to fulfil the 
obligation to the best of my ability, without assistance 
and without advice. Good-morning, Mr. Boggs." 

"Good-morning, Mr. Barclay, good-morning; happy 
to see you, sir, when you come my way. I am going 
to camp-meeting when I leave here. Ruth would 
have to be a Methodist if she came among us. But 
I'll offer no more advice : you know your own busi- 
ness best. But I've done my duty to the child, so 
good-morning." 

He mopped his blazing face again, and again dis- 
played the showy sleeve-buttons. 

Mr. Barclay gave a sigh of relief, lighted a cigar, 
and murmuring, " Poor Dick ! poor Dick ! " picked 
up a volume of Moliere ; but he was in no humor for 
reading. 

"So I must make a schoolmistress of my little 
wild-rose, no matter what her adaptiveness, no matter 
what her general qualities. Pour the jelly into the 
mould while it is liquid and warm, and turn it out 



AS PI R A TIONS. 67 

according to recipe. Ah, well, the man might have 
been worse ! He is only a type of an essentially 
practical and unmistakably vulgar class with whom 
success is every thing. But I do not wonder Dick 
wanted none of his help." 

Ruth came in just then with May. They had been 
bathing, and looked like Naiads with their wet locks 
hanging over their shoulders. 

"It is just too glorious to-day, uncle Frank," said 
May, who had lost all awe of her aunt's friend. 

" It is, indeed, Mr. Barclay," repeated Ruth. " The 
air is like wine." 

" Where did you get your simile, Ruth } " 

" From some of my father's books, I suppose, Mr. 
Barclay. But please do come out ; it will make you 
well, and we want you with us." 

" Did you meet any one on the sands, Ruth } '* 

" Oh, yes ! " 

" But some one you knew, a relation of yours ? " 

" No, Mr. Barclay. Who was it ? " 

*' Mr. Eoggs was here." 

The child's face grew pale and downcast. 

" Did he come for me .-* " 

" He cannot have you, Ruth. I shall keep you all 
for my very own." 



6S ASPIRATIONS, 



CHAPTER VI. 

But where was Lillo all these long summer days ? 
long, and bright, and buoyant with promise. Was he 
skimming the waves like the sea-gulls, or dreaming 
out his pictures under the full-orbed moon ? 

Early in the dew of the morning, while the sojourn- 
ers at the ''Neck "were still slumbering, he was 
trudging off to the small hamlet with the very fra- 
grant appellation of "Codtown," getting an occa- 
sional lift from a wagon on his way, and striving to 
do his best at the trade which was practised, only in 
the most primitive manner, at Mr. Smears's small 
shop. There had come a change in the boy's aspect 
and demeanor. Hitherto, he had been careless and 
light-hearted to a degree which made him more like 
the wild creatures of the forest than a beinsr bound 
down by civilization. He had lived like the wild 
creatures too, in a measure, and his joyous abandon 
had known nothing of care or perplexity. Now the 
growth of the human was asserting itself, accompa- 
nied by a repression, a gravity easily mistaken for 
sullenness, and an alteration which even grandmother 
Marsh noticed. That the boy was striving to accom- 
plish something which in its nature was foreign to 
his own, did not, of course, suggest itself to her. She 



ASPIRA TIONS. 69 

was very proud of the determination he was showing, 
and unfeignedly glad at the prospect of what she 
considered to be usefulness. But even she missed 
that at which she had scolded and growled. There 
was no merry laughter, no whistling, no flinging 
about : all was staid and decorous. His spare mo- 
ments were not now spent in decorating whitewashed 
walls and embellishing profusely in charcoal-sketches. 
His last sketch had been made the day after the 
stormy episode at Seal Island : it was an attempt to 
reproduce a laughing face set in a frame of interla- 
cing boughs. It was crude and rude, but forceful. 
Though he did not sketch, he did read, and with 
avidity. In the intervals of paint-mixing and pow- 
der-grinding and oil-measuring, from the pocket of 
blouse or overalls was produced the book which hap- 
pened at the moment to entrance him ; for he had a 
goodly lot to choose from in the box which had been 
ordered up from Boston by Mr. Barclay immediately 
after his unexpected and disastrous bath. Certainly 
it was a mixed diet, but none the less digestible, all 
this feast of fat things in literature. History, biog- 
raphy, poetry, natural history, science, and classical 
fiction were all represented in Mr. Barclay's order, 
and in the handiest form were all the books bound. 
It would have grieved a lover of bindings to have 
seen these books stacked one upon another in Lillo's 
small garret-room, with a piece of tarpaulin over and 
about them, as protection from possible leaks in the 
roof ; but no bibliopole could have surveyed them with 
greater affection than did the fisher-lad. They so far 
compensated him for his disliked occupation as to 



yo ASP//? A TIONS. 

make him oblivious for the time of every thing but 
their contents. Two or three times, Miss Alden, 
Ruth, Grace, and May had tried to find Lillo at home, 
and, faihng in this, had essayed to entertain Mrs. 
Marsh ; but the old woman had shown so much re- 
serve, and had so plainly given them to understand 
that she preferred her loneliness to their presence, 
that they had ceased their visits. Once in a while 
Lillo had seen their merry party on the beach, and 
had even followed their laughter of an evening on 
the water; but he managed to keep his own boat 
unnoticed, and would leave the allurements of the 
musical voices to fish for his granny's breakfast. If 
he had longings and regrets, they were buried in the 
first page that he next turned over. 

Meanwhile, Mrs. Marsh was getting more and 
more feeble. With the absence of her life-long com- 
panion, many of her duties had ended ; and, when the 
incentive to exertion ceases with aged people whose 
lives are spent in toil, there is often a very sudden 
decline in strength. Their interest in life wanes. 
This was the case with Lillo's grandmother. She 
still sat upright and knitted her stockings, when the 
domestic affairs were settled ; but more frequently 
her head drooped, and her knitting fell to the floor. 
Sometimes Lillo would come home late, tired and 
eager for his supper, to find her still sleeping, with a 
pallor and expression of fatigue on her countenance 
which did not escape the boy. Very tenderly would 
he regard her at such times, and step lightly for fear 
of disturbing her; but it only irritated her to waken, 
and find the cloth laid, the fire rekindled, and the boy 



ASPIRATIONS. 71 

preparing supper for himself. She did not compre- 
hend her own weakness, and Lillo invariably received 
a sound scolding for doing the most simple and neces- 
sary trifles. But his nature was too sweet to be 
spoiled by any crabbed peevishness. He could as- 
sume a slightly saucy air of indifference, which, to a 
younger woman, would have been exasperating, but 
which was wasted on Mrs. Marsh's dulled percep- 
tions, while it was a sort of armor to Lillo himself ; 
with it he could receive without injury any amount 
of buffeting. And so he took. all the scoldings and 
fault-findings. To be sure, he had always been used 
to them ; but perhaps with his growth had come an 
enlarged sense of justice, which made more apparent 
the fact of their being undeserved. 

At Mr. Smears's paint-shop, trade was dull ; there 
were no villas in the neighborhood to need frequent 
new coats, and the boarding-houses waited for their 
guests to go before they refurbished. A barrow or 
wagon had occasionally to be touched up. But after 
a few experiments it was found that Lillo, having a 
natural faculty for tools, could be usefully employed 
in more ways than one. Slight repairs, demanding 
a good eye for straight lines and a skilful use or ad- 
justment of old material, were assigned him ; and 
the boy, hating idleness, responded with alacrity. 
Day by day the tasks grew larger and more numer- 
ous. Quickly and readily he accepted them, to the 
surprise of all who watched him. 

Mr. Smears's " bound boy," which as an apprentice 
he was called, was often in demand. 

And so the summer passed, and the summer 



72 ASPIKA TIONS. 

idlers sped home, and the lodging-houses were 
closed. 

Lillo looked out over the vast expanse of water, 
with an incoming tide of hopes and wishes. His 
reading had widened his horizon. How could he 
reach the other side of that vast flood } When would 
this serfdom end, and he be master of himself } 

Keen and sharp blew the east winds over the ocean, 
piling the sand-bars higher than ever. The little 
brown house stood as bare and lonely as always, tak- 
ing the wind in its face ; but long into the dreary 
nights a clear, bright beam shot from its garret win- 
dow, like the thought which had wakened within and 
was sending rays out far and wide, scintillating and 
flashing on the wide waste of darkness. 

Wildly the autumn winds beat about the little 
house, making it groan and creak and wheeze. They 
carried tales of wreck and ravage. They screamed 
their cries of bitter joy down the chimney ; they 
hooted and howled their contempt of peace and ease 
and fireside joys, and they sighed that they could do 
no more. For the little house was undaunted, and 
sent up its curl of smoke from the chimney as if the 
winds had never breathed their fables. It had not 
stood before the ocean's mighty throe so long to be 
easily made the sport of the winds even in their win- 
try blasts. 

Then the snow hissed on the billows and tossed its 
flakes, wreathing and writhing and twisting its drifts 
about till the house was nearly buried. But still 
shone that beam, as an eye from which no accident 
or misfortune or tempest could take the brave gleam. 



ASPIRATIONS. 73 

When the long winter was over, and the sky was 
full of little downy clouds drifting like doves across 
its deep blue, Mr. Barclay returning from Florida, 
and en route to Geneva whither he had sent Ruth to 
school, desirous of making amends for an indifference 
and forgetfulness which hatred of letter-writing gave 
him the appearance of possessing, but to which he 
would not plead guilty, knocked at the door of the 
little brown house, without getting a response. He 
had noticed how tight and trim and snug it looked 
as he drew near, and now he saw that every window- 
shutter was barred, every loop-hole of ingress care- 
fully covered. What did it mean ? Had its inhabit- 
ants not wakened from their nightly slumber, or had 
they been hibernating all the winter through } 

The nearest neighbor was a half mile away. 

Again Mr. Barclay rattled the latches and ham- 
mered on the doors, only to hear the echo of his noise 
die into silence. Perhaps they had taken a holiday 
and had gone off visiting. So he cast about for a 
nook in which to wait. There was a rude bench near 
at hand where old Abner sat and wove his smaller 
seines. On it Mr. Barclay rested, looking as he did 
so at the curious scrawls and scrolls which had been 
evidently executed by Lillo. Even these gave indi- 
cations of a luxuriant fancy and freedom of touch, 
though they must have been done when he could but 
just handle a knife. 

Ah ! if he could have had that boy. 

He waited till patience was exhausted, then he 
drove to the nearest house. An anxious, angular 
woman gave him information. 



74 ASPIRA TIONS. 

" No, there was no one livin* there now sence Mrs. 
Marsh died. She died just as the old man did, only 
she was rather quicker, givin' out. * When did she 
die .-* ' Oh, jest after New Year's, and sence then no- 
body had seen the boy. He was bound to Mr. Smears, 
and give promise o' bein' amazin' smart at his callin' ; 
but he had run off, and no one knew where he was. 
Likely as not had gone to sea. Most o' the boys 
about did that. It wa'n't at all to be wondered at, 
— nobody to care for him. S'pose he had smuggled 
himself into some passin' bark or gone down to Bos- 
ting. There wa'n't no use in tryin' to find out any 
thin' more, for no one knew nothin' about him." 



ASPIRATIONS. 75 



CHAPTER VII. 

Ten years have come and gone. 

Science has spanned the ocean, and sent thought 
flashing along its wires, till time and space are as 
things of naught. Little need the novelist, there- 
fore, excuse the annihilation of ten years, — a decade 
of transition and preparation for the record of which 
the future of the lives in which we are interested 
must be responsible. 

It is an Italian night, and there is a ball given at 
the American Legation, in Florence. 

The rush and crush and glitter of balls are about 
the same everywhere, but this one was in some ways 
exceptional. There was no little national pride in 
the giving of it, and rather more than usual national 
expenditure. Much space had been secured, many 
suites of rooms thrown open, and an unusually lavish 
display of flowers offered. Many Americans were 
at that time visiting Florence. There were also 
many distinguished foreigners ; and a very successful 
portrait of an American poet by an American painter 
had just been received, and its exhibition was to be 
one of the attractive features of the evening. 

Besides, a ball in a Florentine palace, with its 



"J^ ASPIRATIONS, 

ample space, where silks and laces can have a chance 
to be seen to advantage, gives the wearer of them a 
finer background than a crowded drawing-room in 
our cities. 

Of course, the invitations had been numerous, and 
a throng had gathered early. Among the guests 
were Mr. Barclay and Miss Morris, who, with an 
English governess. Miss Marchbank, were at this 
time staying in Florence. 

In the ten years, come and gone, little Ruth has 
become a young woman. She has seen little of her 
native land, for, from the winter spent at Geneva 
with Miss Alden and her nieces, to the present 
spring, she has been constantly wandering with her 
restless guardian, — a winter here, a summer there; 
school for a time, then studying alone or with the 
temporary companions of a foreign watering-place, 
until Miss Marchbank assumed the direction of 
affairs. 

Mr. Barclay has never been in vigorous health, 
and has never settled himself down to active pur- 
suits. Having acquired the habit of seeking balmy 
airs, he has also acquired the habit of liking to 
wander. 

Miss Marchbank is a counterpoise to this tendency. 
She prefers tranquillity, and likes to consider herself 
a fixture. From the day she began with Ruth, there 
was a marked difference in the child's education. All 
the loose or tangled threads were carefully pulled this 
way and that, and made into a nice, round, even ball, 
with nothing of the slovenly, unwound skein about 
it. There may have been a tendency towards hard- 



ASPIRA TIONS. ^y 

ness in this method, but the girl herself retained 
sufficient softness to diminish it. 

And now here she is at a ball, — her first one. 
She has seen plenty of people, and has many pleas- 
ant friends ; but she has viewed society from its rim, 
watching the sheen, the iridescent hues, the bubbles, 
with a girl's merry glance, but wisely restrained from 
quaffing the enticing cup. The time has, however, 
come for her to take a sip. 

As she enters the beautiful salon of an old palace, 
surrounded by lights and pictures and flowers, we 
will glance at her. 

How can any one, who has even small charms, be 
any thing but lovely at eighteen ? And in a ball- 
dress even an ordinary girl is a thing of beauty. 

"Ruth is not of the salvia splendens order; the 
arbutus is her type." 

Some one said this of her; and some one else 
said, — 

" You mean our May-flower, do you not .? " 

Yes, she is like the New England May-flower, 
delicate, tender, slight. Soft brown hair, violet eyes, 
a well rounded face, with a color which comes and 
goes, a wistful expression on the curving lips, and an 
air of unconsciousness. She is all in white muslin, 
prettily fluted and flounced (for Mr. Barclay likes 
simplicity, and allows no dictation from costumers), 
and her ornaments are the silver filagree from 
Genoa, — just a pendant from a black velvet ribbon 
round her throat has a few clustering pearls. With- 
out any marked style or air of fashion, she yet has a 
grace which is very effective. But who is this who 



yS ASPIRATIONS. 

sweeps up to her after the presentations are over, 
and Miss Marchbank's gray satin spreads itself on a 
divan ? 

Who is this brune in gauze and amber and Isabel 
roses, who wreathes two exquisite arms about her, 
and kisses her in true American freedom, and, drag- 
ging her away from guardian and gazers into a win- 
dow's near embrasure, exclaims ? — 

*' Ruth Morris ! to think that we should meet at 
last, and here ! '* 

" When did you come ? I wrote last. You knew 
we were here. Where is Grace ? " 

" I did not know you were here. Your last letter 
never reached me till we were in London. Papa 
sent it over, and you said then that you expected to 
go to Germany." 

" So we did ; but Miss Marchbank persuaded Mr. 
Barclay to stay here. She is afraid he is beginning 
to be homesick, and she won't cross the Atlantic. 
So she inveigles him into the idea that I must study 
art." 

" I am so glad. — Grace, come here. Aren't you 
delighted t Hasn't Ruth blossomed out wonderfully } 
— Now you can be our cicerone. You must know all 
the churches by heart. Oh ! isn't Isola Bella lovely, 
ravishing.^ I am just out of my head with Italy. — 
Grace, come here." 

And Grace came. Even Grace looked pretty in 
a fluffy, graceful toilette, glittering here and there 
with jewels. But her face wore a wearied expression 
which contrasted ill with her attire, and she was 
almost pettish in her salutation. 



ASPIRATIONS. 79 

" Dear me, Ruth, you have grown ! No wonder 
you look so fresh : you have an easy time. Mr. 
Barclay indulges you im'mensely, does he not } " 

" I suppose he does, Grace. He is very kind. 
Where is Miss Alden t " 

** Oh, she never goes to balls ! She sent us with 
Mrs. Jones. Aunt is getting to be a dragon, Ruth. 
I think she dragged us abroad for fear we should 
become entangled in some noose or other. For my 
part, I should think it was time to be rid of us. I 
hate travel, and aunt knows I hate it." 

Ruth was a little shocked at the way Grace spoke. 

** Miss Alden used to be quite as kind and con- 
siderate as my guardian." 

**So she is still," put in May impetuously. "Don*t 
mind what Grace says. She is out of sorts — a little 
blue." 

** Not any more than usual, I am sure. May. I 
am tired to death of every thing, and of balls more 
than any thing. You would make me come to this, 
and now what am I to do with myself.? " 

"Enjoy it, to be sure," said Ruth lightly. "There 
are hosts of charming people here, and there is to 
be a contadina dance in costume, the saltarello or 
tarantella^ I don't know which, — something very 
pretty. And hark ! is not that music delicious t " 

" Do you dance .-* " asked May, her agile foot tap- 
ping the floor impatiently. 

" No, Mr. Barclay does not allow me to." 

"How horrid ! I shall have to remonstrate." 

"No, don't. I care nothing about it." 

" Oh, what a fib ! Breathes there a girl with soul 



So ASPIRA TIONS. 

SO dead, who never to herself hath said, this is my 
favorite waltz ? " 

" Then I may claim you for it, Miss May," put in 
a voice ; and away whisked May, like Aurora, trail- 
ing her mists behind her. 

The crowd was thickening, and Ruth had a bright 
smile or a word for many. She had introduced two 
or three youths to Grace, but Grace had snubbed 
them all, and still stood discontentedly pulling a rose 
to pieces. Ruth, sorry for her friend, whose mood 
was so out of tune with all the brilliancy about her, 
refused several agreeable offers to survey the dancers, 
and remained beside her. 

" Why, Grace ! " she remonstrated, as a cavalier 
of imposing appearance, making his profoundest 
bow, and tendering his attentions, was refused, "do 
you know that is the British charg^-d' affaires f You 
don't know what you have lost." 

"Nor do I care, Ruth. Aunt is shocked at my 
indifference to society. She is the veriest toady to 
people of distinction." 

"Oh, Grace, don't talk so! We nobodies all like 
to see how great people bear their honors. But, in 
truth, that man is delightful ; has seen much, been 
everywhere, and yet when he dines with Mr. Bar- 
clay, as he often does, is just as simple and nice as 
anybody else." 

"Well, it doesn't matter to me. I suppose you 
like all this hubbub." 

"To be sure I do. Aren't the dresses exquisite.'* 
Look at that de/-h\uQ satin and point-lace, and the 
rose garniture. Ah, Americans know how to dress ! " 



ASPIRA TIONS, 8 1 

"And how to paint. Have you seen the por- 
trait ? " said some one. 

" No," replied Ruth. 

** Allow me, then, to show it to you." 

" Come, Grace," and she presented the one friend 
to the other. 

"So you think Americans know how to paint. 
How do you dare assert so remarkable a truth sur- 
rounded by the works of Raphael } " asked Ruth. 

Her friend was the son of an American sculptor 
living in Florence, but, though born and bred in 
Firenza la beila, was violently patriotic. 

"I claim that every thing which an American at- 
tempts to do is done well. Have you been much 
among the studios here .? " 

"Very little." 

" We must make up a party to visit them ; I mean 
the studios of our own people." 

" Florentines, then } " 

" No ; Americans. Ah, you want to tease me ! 
Will you care to see some of our aspiring youths .^" 

" To be sure. The Aldens will go with us ; will 
you not, Grace ? " 

" May will, with pleasure." 

"And you too, — ah, here is the picture." 

There was a reverent host of admirers about the 
venerable head which always commands admiration, 
and plenty of outspoken enthusiasm for the artist. 
The picture was hung excellently, with drapery 
specially arranged, and candles carefully placed. 
But in a moment, at the ceasing of the wind in- 
struments and the twanging of a guitar, the throng 



82 ASPIRA TIONS. 

surged away towards the central apartment, where a 
group of gayly dressed contadini were preparing to 
dance for the benefit of the foreign visitors. 

It was a very pretty scene ; the brilliant lights, 
the sheen and shimmer of silks and jewe.ls, the peas- 
ants in their gay colors and gold necklaces, forming 
a picturesque foreground against the surrounding 
mass of more conventionally attired people, upon 
whom had fallen the hush of expectation. 

Then began the dance, which, "like all popular 
dances, represents a courtship or love-making, in 
which the lover is passionate and impetuous in his 
advances, and the maid is coy, shy, or coquettish by 
turns." 

The two dancers (for only two perform it, the 
others waiting to relieve them when fatigue obliges 
them to pause) whirled in circles about each other, 
snapping their fingers, ringing the bells of the tam- 
bourine, and thrumming the guitar. Their move- 
ments were almost too violent for grace, though they 
acted their parts with sufificient spirit ; the man ad- 
vancing, the woman receding, now balancing, now 
whirling, keeping up a constantly amorous warfare, 
until utterly exhausted. Then two more advanced, 
and went through the same actions even more wildly, 
with more abandon ; and these two sang as they 
danced. Then another couple replaced these, ending 
with the complete subjugation of the lover, who 
dropped on his knee before his panting sweetheart, 
who triumphantly beat her tambourine to announce 
her victory. 

There was great applause and much praise be- 



ASPIRA TIONS, %l 

Stowed upon the dancers, who, their labors over, 
withdrew. 

May came rushing up to Ruth, with, — 

" Was it not pretty, charming, delightful ? How I 
wish I could dance it ! — Mr. Barclay, you are an ogre 
for not letting Ruth dance." 

She had Mr. Barclay's arm, and looked up at him 
defiantly. He only answered in his quiet manner, — 

*' I dare say, but Ruth submits very placidly." 

"That's because your tyranny has reduced her to 
a state of absolute subjugation." 

" So you like the tarantella" was his unmoved 
remark. "You should witness the saltarello danced 
in the open air in or about Rome, to see it perfectly 
done. It loses by being indoors. I think, too, there 
is some restraint when they have an audience of this 
sort." 

" Very likely. — How did you like it, Grace ? " 

Ruth had been absorbed in the dance and enjoyed 
it, but, happening to glance at Grace Alden, had 
noticed her watching the dancers with a painful 
interest, which, as they ceased, left her pale and dis- 
trait e : so quickly turning towards May, she whis- 
pered, — 

" Let her alone, she is troubled about something ; " 
then aloud she said, " Mr. Barclay, it is proposed 
that we visit some of the studios ; Mr. Potter will 
introduce us. Can we go to-morrow } " 

" If you are up in any sort of time, I can go ; but 
my afternoon is engaged.** 

"Then we have only to secure Miss Marchbank, 
for of course May will induce Miss Alden to go." 



84 ASPIRATIONSi 

"With two chaperones you can dispense with me, 
I think." 

" But we want you," said Ruth and May simulta- 
neously. 

" Well, I'll go get you some ices now." 

** Take me with you, please ? " asked Grace, going 
off to join the matron under whose care they had 
come to the ball. 

"What is the matter with Grace?" demanded 
Ruth, as cosily ensconced on the same ottoman, she 
and May ate their confections and sent Mr. Potter 
off for more delights of the same kind. The refresh- 
ments were not of the light, Italian order only : there 
was a grand spread in true American style ; and Mr. 
Potter, finding the viands to his taste, made his stay 
long enough to enable the girls to chatter confi- 
dentially. 

" / think it's a love affair. Aunt says it is all non- 
sense." 

*' Really, do you think so, May } " said Ruth with a 
shade of awe. 

" I am afraid it is." 

" But why should you be afraid ? " 

"Oh, because!" 

"Really, you make things clear." 

" Well, there's time enough for Grace. Why does 
a girl want to bother about such things, when there's 
so much else to enjoy } " 

To Ruth this view was inexplicable. To love and 
be loved seemed to her the acme of bliss, which every 
poem she read, every song she sang, every thing 
lovely in nature or in art, confirmed. 



ASPIRATIONS, ' 85 

" So much else to enjoy ? " she repeated ; '' what 
else ? " 

" Why, a thousand things, — dancing, flirting, rid- 
ing, driving, travelling, dressing, — eating even, when 
you get as good things as these sweet biscuit. What 
are they made of? — cream, jelly, and sponge cake!" 

Ruth laughed, a clear, silvery laugh. A slender 
fellow looking out at the stars heard the sound, and 
turned. Surely he had seen that face before. Yes ; 
as she watched the dance, he had observed the sweet 
purity of her look, and her delicacy of color ; but he 
turned from Ruth to her companion with still more 
interest. What a dashing beauty the clear bnine had, 
and how well her costume accorded! The amber 
beads, the yellow roses, set her off bewitchingly ; and 
how her eyes sparkled ! The girls did not heed him, 
and went on talking. 

"And does the possession of a lover banish all 
these delights } " asked Ruth. 

" Certainly : one then has to be solemnly earnest, 
severely sincere, — no more fun after that. Don't 
you see how it affects Grace ? She is as sour as 
lemonade." 

" She seems unhappy." 

"So she is, critical and censorious and disagree- 
able. I wish aunt would let her marry, and be done 
with it." 

*' You cruel girl ! You never used to allow any 
one to abuse Grace." 

" Nor do I now. It is just because I love her that 
I see her fatal mistake, and the flaws in her are all 
occasioned by it." 



S6 ASPIRA TIONS. 

"Fatal mistake?" 

*' Yes, she is irretrievably in love, though aunt 
ignores it." 

*' With whom ? May, quick, here comes Mr. Potter, 
tell me, with whom ? " 

"An insignificant clerk, a tradesman, a" — 

The end of her sentence was lost in a profusion of 
thanks to Mr. Potter for the delicacies he was pilot- 
ing towards them. 

Then the music began again, — an entreating 
melody which May could not resist, and she was off 
again like thistle-down ; while Ruth wandered to the 
conservatory with Mr. Potter. 

It was a very jungle of perfumes, roses, lilies, and 
violets pouring out their lives for this one night's 
pleasure. 

Before a bank of cut flowers, Ruth paused. 

"Ah, what a slaughter of the innocents!" she 
said regretfully. 

The same slim fellow who had been looking at the 
stars heard her exclamation, and responded with a 
quick glance of sympathy. Ruth only saw that his 
dark eyes flashed as he passed her. 

" How many strangers are here to-night ! " lazily 
drawled Mr. Potter. 

"Are there.-* I know so few that I cannot judge." 

" Yes, there are lots of them. Here comes one of 
the kind I most dread, — a specimen of the sort who 
represent us all over the Continent, and give us our 
unenviable social reputation." 

"Oh, Mr. Potter, Americans are well thought of 
everywhere ! " 



ASPIRATIONS. 87 

"For their money-spending, yes, and that is what 
I object to." 

"Yes, and for their good-nature." 

" It would be better if they had less and demanded 
more, — their money's worth, for instance." 

Ruth laughed. " I don't care a fig whether they 
get it or not," and she drew her muslin away from 
the rose-thorns. 

" Ah ! girls can be indifferent ; more especially 
when they are " — 

" What } " 

" Heiresses." 

" I am not an heiress." 

" Oh, no ! I suppose not," said Mr. Potter dubi- 
ously 

" I assure you I am not," repeated Ruth ; "and, if 
this is the general impression, I beg that you will 
correct it." 

Here the short, stout person whom Mr. Potter had 
said was one he dreaded approached more nearly. 
She was entirely clothed in black velvet, richly 
covered with lace. Her diamonds were prominent, 
and her hair was a structure worthy of an architect. 
She looked to be forty-five. She came up to Mr. 
Potter without embarrassment, and asked for an in- 
troduction to Miss Morris, in a voice which had no 
sweetness of modulation, but was not unpleasantly 
loud or strident. 

Ruth courtesied distantly and wonderingly, as Mr. 
Potter presented Mrs. Vedder. She did not care to 
know the woman, and made no effort to conceal her 
indifference. Mr. Barclay, himself reserved, had by 



88 ASPIRA TIONS. 

his example taught Ruth to be so ; but she was not 
haughty, and at once had some pleasant little trifling 
word for the stranger. 

"My dear," was the very unexpected rejoinder, 
"you have forgotten me. I am an aunt of yours, — a 
great-aunt, I suppose I must call myself. Your mother, 
Ruth, was my niece. And how you have grown, to be 
sure ! The last time I saw you, you were only so 
high," — measuring with her hand about three feet 
from the floor, "a little, thin, pale girl ; and now you 
are — Well, 'praise to the face is open disgrace.' I 
never flatter people ; it's not my way." 

Ruth gazed at the woman, and spoke not a word. 

Could this be a relation of hers, this coarse, com- 
mon woman, whose manner and voice were so dis- 
tasteful } Yet, as she gazed, the face grew less un- 
familiar. Where had she seen it } From the depths 
of her memory came a vision of this face, associated 
with dull, dark days of childish sorrow. The very 
smell of crape seemed to emanate from the heavy 
folds of the woman's velvet gown. 

" Don't you remember me at all, Ruth } " she que- 
ried, " your aunt Abby Vedder } " 

" No," said Ruth, faltering, — " and yet " — 

" Now, just try and think. It was summertime, 
at the funeral " — 

" Oh, don't ! " said Ruth quickly. " Yes, I remem- 
ber. How do you do, aunt, Mrs. Vedder } " 

Mr. Potter seeing that something was impending, 
and that Ruth deprecated more explanations, here 
interposed kindly, — 

" You will have to postpone reminiscences, Mrs. 



ASPIRATIONS. 89 

Vedder, for I must just now take Miss Morris to Miss 
Marchbank. She will be delighted to renew your 
acquaintance, I have no doubt, on some future occa- 
sion ; " and he offered Ruth his arm, which she took 
eagerly, only halting a moment, as she saw Mrs. 
Vedder's crestfallen look, to say kindly, — 

** You must send me your card, please. — She is 
an aunt of mine, I really believe," was her honest 
avowal to Mr. Potter, whose comforting reply was, 
** Relations have an inexpressibly stupid way of turn- 
ing up when they're not wanted ; " and then they 
joined Miss Marchbank, who was yawning behind 
her fan. 

In another half hour the ball was over for Ruth, — 
her first ball, — and she had come away with a con- 
fused sound of trailing silks on marble floors, whirl- 
ing waltzes, buzzing voices, sweet reed-instruments, 
and a general depression of spirits ; for over all other 
sights and sounds came the apparition of the woman 
in black velvet, and the commonplace voice saying, 
" I am your aunt Abby Vedder." 

I wonder if balls do not oftener depress than ele- 
vate. Is there not always some sting of disappoint- 
ment, some ache of unsatisfied vanity t And yet, 
Ruth had nothing of these to annoy her. She was 
artless, and disposed to enjoy every thing that was 
put before her. But in spite of the charms of the 
evening, the real pleasure of which she had partaken, 
there was a faint regret. 



QO ASPIRATIONS. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

" Slowly, Ruth, slowly," said Mr. Barclay. 

They were sitting in a frescoed room, near a bal- 
cony filled with growing plants, and the soft, Italian 
sunshine bathed them in its light. Far away the 
hills were to be seen in waving outline again«t a 
clear blue sky ; nearer a fountain rippled and gushed 
in its marble basin. Ruth was reading aloud (as she 
did for an hour every day) Ruskin's " Remarks on 
the Nineteenth Psalm," in which are these words : — 

"The Bible is, indeed, a deep book, when depth is 
required ; that is to say, for deep people. But it is 
not intended particularly for profound persons ; on 
the contrary, much more for simple and shallow per- 
sons. And therefore the first, and generally the 
main and leading, idea of the Bible is on its surface, 
written in plainest possible Greek, Hebrew, or Eng- 
lish, needing no penetration nor amplification, need- 
ing nothing but what we all might give, — attention. 

" But this, which is in every one's power, and is 
the only thing which God wants, is just the last 
thing any one will give him." 

Ruth stopped. 

" How is it possible for any one less gifted than 
Mr. Ruskin to give the attention which he here goes 



ASPIRATIONS. 91 

on to describe ? For instance, I suppose he under- 
stands Greek and Hebrew enough to get at the exact 
meaning of each word." 

" Yes, very probably ; but go on, and see what else 
he adds." 

•* We are delighted to ramble away into day-dreams ; 
to repeat pet verses from other places, suggested by 
chance words ; to snap at an expression which suits 
our own particular views ; or to dig up a meaning 
from under a verse, which we should be amiably 
grieved to think any human being had been so happy 
as to find before. But the plain, intended, immedi- 
ate, fruitful meaning, which every one ought to find 
always, and especially that which depends on our see- 
ing the relation of the verse to those near it, and 
getting the force of the whole passage, in due rela- 
tion, — this sort of significance we do not look for; 
it being, truly, not to be discovered, unless we really 
attend to what is said, instead of to our own feelings." 

** That demands study," said Ruth. 

"Of course," responded Mr. Barclay. "f^^ 

Ruth resumed her reading ; but again Mr. Barclay - 
had to check her rapidity, at which she closed the 
book and said, — 

" My mind wanders so that I have lost the thread 
of meaning. I was thinking how difficult it is to 
apply Bible teachings to every-day life, not how diffi- 
cult it is to read them properly." 

" Has the ball had this influence } " 

" Not exactly, and yet something happened there 
which may have started my thoughts in this direc- 
tion." 



92 ASPIRA TIONS. 

"What was it?** 

" A Mrs. Vedder was introduced to me, who calls 
herself my aunt." 

'' Humph ! " said Mr. Barclay. "You did not tell 
me of this last night." 

" No, I had no opportunity ; but I did not like her. 
I was annoyed that she spoke to me, and I think I 
was rude to her." 

" And all that was contrary to Bible teaching } " 

"Yes, I think so." 

Ruth had long ago learned the ease of confession, 
and always opened her heart to her guardian, whose 
worldly wisdom was sometimes sorely puzzled just 
what to advise. Sometimes she was the teacher, 
as the young, the pure, and the unworldly can be. 

Mr. Barclay enjoyed these confidences, and never 
chilled them by any unresponsiveness. 

"Perhaps you are not a good judge of your own 
actions, my dear. I doubt if you were rude." 

"Yes, I think I was." 
: " Sometimes we are so placed that we have to de- 
'fend ourselves by a little hardness of conduct." 

" That is not the law of love." 

"It is expediency, I admit." 

Ruth looked perplexed. " I don't think I like it." 

"You are a little Puritan, my dear. Don't lay too 
much stress on small matters: there is danger of 
forgetting the large ones." 

Ruth made no reply. She submitted meekly to 
her guardian's wisdom. She was very docile. 

A plate of polished umber chestnuts was on the 
table. Mr. Barclay began opening them, saying. 



ASPIRATIONS. 93 

" So an aunt has turned up way over here in Italy. 
I thought you were safe from any approaches of that 
sort on this side of the ocean." 

"Who is she, Mr. Barclay } Do you know her } " 

" I do not know her. I suppose she must be a sis- 
ter of Mr. Boggs." 

" Oh ! " ejaculated Ruth in a tone of horror. 

" You have no devoted attachment for him, I 
believe ? " 

" No, indeed ! " 

" How about the law of love now, Ruth } " 

" But, Mr. Barclay, he was rude and unkind to my 
father." 

" Perhaps he did not mean to be ; it was only his 
coarser nature clashing against the finer qualities of 
your father's." 

" I suppose so." 

A card was here brought in. 

" Is the lady waiting } " asked Mr. Barclay. 

" No ; it was delivered at the door." 

Mr. Barclay handed it to Ruth. 

On it was inscribed : — 

" Mrs. Vedder. Casa Doiia. Wednesdays. 

" To-day is Tuesday ; to-morrow I will go see this 
aunt of yours." 

"And I too, Mr. Barclay." 

" You are not obliged to." 

" But I would rather." 

"As a penance.'* " 

"The ' amende honorable' instead." 

Here Miss Marchbank entered, all ready for the 
morning excursion. 



94 ASPIRATIONS. 

Miss Marchbank was a thoroughly practical per- 
son ; always punctual, always suitably dressed, always 
attentive to proprieties. She was scrupulous in ap- 
pearance this morning, in black silk, lavender gloves, 
and a bonnet that matched her gray hair. 

" Not ready, Ruth ? Ah, my dear child, how shall I 
ever teach you to be on time ? " and out popped her 
watch. 

" We have been a little discursive in our reading 
to-day, Miss Marchbank," apologized Mr. Barclay. 

" I am afraid so ; you are a quarter of an hour 
late," and the watch was pocketed again with a Httle 
click of the case. 

" I can slip on my things in a moment," said Ruth. 

" Oh, no ! don't do that ; you will not be tidy. 
Change your whole apparel." 

In another quarter of an hour Ruth stood equipped, 
— no daisy could have been daintier, — in two or 
three shades of brown, with some fresh field flowers 
at her waist. They drove to Miss Alden's hotel, and 
found her party ready. 

In spite of being ten years older. Miss Alden wore 
a round hat, which so displeased Miss Marchbank 
that she could hardly be polite. 

"How shocking is such an affectation of youth, 
my dear Ruth ! " she whispered, when the chance 
availed. 

Ruth smiled, and said, — 

" Ah ! if you knew her, you would not be so 
vexed." 

There was a little flutter of caresses, and kind in- 
quiries, and salutations, and comparison of experi- 



ASPIRATIONS. 95 

ences ; and, this interchange over, they started on 
their studio inspection with Mr. Potter. 

I do not propose to follow them. Miss Alden was 
bland, Miss Marchbank critical, Mr. Barclay amused, 
Grace Alden indifferent, May as bright and bubbling 
as champagne, and Ruth contemplative. The artists 
received them cordially, and made a good display of 
their works. Labor of months was quickly discussed 
in as many moments. In the home of art one be- 
comes either very reverent or very indifferent. 

In one large room of cloister-like stillness, where 
several youths were at their easels, and where several 
fine frescoes impressed the visitor, a young man, who 
had seen the gay party entering, turned hastily to- 
wards his canvas, and remained absorbed until they 
had completed their survey. He was not more than 
twenty-three, and, though among Americans, bore 
unmistakable marks of foreign parentage. The olive 
tint of his oval face, the dark, flashing eye, and the 
close curling hair were not Yankee in their origin ; 
but when he spoke, as he did soon after, his English 
was undefiled. 

" Why did you work so zealously } The girls were 
pretty, and deserving of attention," asked a student. 

" Yes ; I saw them last night." 

"All the more reason for being civil to-day. Besides, 
Mr. Barclay has the reputation of being a good buyer ; 
he is said to be choosing works of art to carry home." 

" Indeed ; when does he go ? " 

" Ah ! that I know nothing of. But I see that you 
now regret your inattention : filthy lucre has greater 
weight with you than I supposed." 



96 ASPIRATIONS. 

"As if you had not purposely made mention of 
that which was most pleasing to yourself." 

" No, no ! I deny it. But see, here is a fan that 
one of them dropped ; will you just run out and 
return it } I can't leave this wet bit of color." 

" Give it to me, if you choose ; but I'll not go after 
them now." 

" How will they get it } " 

** I know Mr. Barclay. I will return it at my con- 
venience." 

*• You know Mr. Barclay } Why the deuce, then, 
didn't you speak to him 1 " 

** I was not ready to." 

Meantime, our party proceeded to luncheon. Miss 
Alden had secured their presence for a very pretty 
festa, and they were all weary enough to enjoy it in 
an unceremonious manner. 

" What a bore all this sight-seeing is ! " exclaimed 
Grace Alden to Ruth, as she stripped a fig of its 
purplish-green coat. 

Ruth answered quietly, " I am sorry you think so ; 
perhaps the churches will suit you better." 

"No; they're all mummery and moonshine." 

" Pardon, Grace. They are to those who have no 
religious sentiment ; but to others they are the reve- 
lation of the Divine." 

" Ruth ! Oh, but I suppose you mean Roman 
Catholics !" 

" I mean nothing of the kind. I mean those who 
see in these beautiful structures the aspirations of 
humanity after all that is pure and beautiful and 
spiritual." 



ASPIRATIONS. 97 

Grace laughed thinly, a sharp, satirical little laugh. 

" What a little saint you are becoming, Ruth ! Mr. 
Barclay will have to be careful, or his destined bride 
may enter a nunnery." 

Ruth too had a fig in her fingers, which she now 
dropped ; and turning with an astonished and alarmed 
expression towards her companion, her color rising, 
she said, — 

" I cannot hear such words, Grace. I cannot im- 
agine why you wish to offend me." 

** Oh, I'll take it all back ! " said Grace carelessly, 
seeing the vivid color, and the look of mingled anger 
and pain in Ruth's gentle eyes. "But you know it's 
not an unnatural supposition." 

*' It seems to me very unnatural and — I beg your 
pardon, Grace — very unrefined." 

"It's the way of the world: so don't be a little 
prig, Ruth." 

Ruth had been so sorry for Grace, so eager to 
sympathize and do a friend's deed for what she sup- 
posed to be real suffering, that to be thus wounded 
in return seemed doubly hard to endure. She 
turned from her now, for they were scattered about 
the room at small tables, and quickly sought the cor- 
ner where Miss Marchbank and Miss Alden were 
eating salad, and discussing mosaics. May was hav- 
ing a tilt with Mr. Barclay, who liked her vivacity. 
Mr. Potter was skimming the cream on all sides, but 
seeing Grace alone went up to her. Her tongue had 
certainly been tasting bitter herbs, for she put him 
out of temper tooj and so he sauntered back to 
Ruth. 



98 ASPIRATIONS, 

" If your friend were a little older, I should think 
her a disappointed old maid ; but " — 

"What's that you say about old maids, Mr. Pot- 
ter ? " said Miss Alden. " Have a care, or Miss 
Marchbank and I will arm for battle.** 

" I have no weapons that can match yours, so I'll 
retreat behind Miss Morris's intrenchments. We are 
not going to say another word about old maids or 
young ones either ; we are going to talk about art. 
— What were your general impressions. Miss Ruth, 
after all we saw this morning t " 

" They were vague and varied, Mr. Potter." 

" You saw too much } " 

" No ; but after the galleries, the Angelicos and 
Raphaels, the Titians and the Del Sartos, modern 
art seems so timid, so crude, so young.'* 

" I should say there was nothing vague in that im- 
pression ; it is remarkably distinct, and if I were an 
artist I should feel squelched." 

" Then I should have erred in speaking, for it was. 
but half my thought : while their efforts seem timid, 
they yet excite my admiration by their industry and 
hopefulness." 

" Young Marsh is making a name for himself. I 
don't know whether you saw him ; he was in the last 
atelier we visited." 

"Yes,** said Ruth indifferently. "What does he 
paint.?'* 

"A little of every thing. I don't think he has 
quite settled down to any one branch. He comes 
out occasionally with a strong head or portrait, then 
again landscape seems to attract him. He is not 



ASPIRA TIONS. 99 

as well known as his pictures ; he seems to shun 
society." 

" I should think one would have to, or his work 
would suffer." 

" He calls himself an American, but he looks two- 
thirds Italian." 

"What did you say was his name.?" said Ruth, 
striving to rouse herself to be interested, for art in 
its essence and abstract influence was more to her 
than the artist ; and yet she wanted to forget the 
stinging pain of Grace Alden's speech. " What was 
his name .'' " 

"Marsh — A. L. Marsh. His name is wholly out 
of keeping with his appearance." 

" Who is that you are talking of t " queried Mr. 
Barclay. 

"A compatriot, an artist, and a genius by the 
very plain patronymic of Marsh," responded Mr. 
Potter. 

" How long has he been here ? " 

" Really, I don't know, — two or three winters. He 
keeps himself very much to himself." 

" Can it be Lillo, I wonder ! " said Mr. Barclay to 
Ruth. 

" Lillo ! Why, I never thought of him as any thing 
but a boy ! Marsh was his name, to be sure ; but 
would he not have recognized us .? " 

" I do not know, so many years have elapsed ; but 
I must follow this scent, and see for myself if we 
have unearthed him. Come, we must make our 
adieux. — We owe you many thanks, Mr. Potter. — 
And, Miss Alden, we must compare programmes, that 



I OO AS PI R A TIONS. 

our young people may be together as much as possi- 
ble. It quite revives old times." 

" So it does, Frank, so it does ; and you are not a 
day older than when my mischievous May ran away, 
and gave me such a fright and you such a wetting, 
do you remember ? and that talented fisher-boy swam 
after you." 

*'Yes," said Mr. Barclay, shrugging his shoulders. 
"We are just speaking of him. I think perhaps he 
has turned up again." 

" Really, how romantic ! " 

"Yes." 

Here Miss Marchbank, who was not in the least 
interested in these reminiscences, made so strenuous 
an effort that they positively did go ; but not before 
Grace made another languid attempt to pacify Ruth, 
which Ruth ignored. 

It may have seemed unforgiving in Ruth when she 
coolly put aside Grace Alden's apologetic caress, but 
she justified herself by thinking that it would have 
been hypocrisy had she consented to it. Her self- 
extenuation had the basis of honesty. She was hurt 
and displeased ; but though Grace had made her 
angry, she really tried to excuse the girl, as she 
always did when any one offended her. Never before 
had Mr. Barclay been spoken of as Grace spoke of 
him, and certainly never before had the possibility of 
a different relationship presented itself to Ruth. Not 
only was she hurt, but she was indignant ; and the 
longer she dwelt upon the matter, the more involved 
became her thoughts. 

Could it be possible that other people regarded 



ASPIRATIONS. ,/ iOI 

them in this light ? Was every one ' so ' stupid'/ 'so' 
commonplace, as to think that there could be no 
affection between two people except one that ended 
in matrimony ? Was there never a parental or fra- 
ternal relation without kinship ? Did she not prove 
daily- that she bore a daughter's love to the man who 
had taken her, a friendless little orphan, from her 
dying father ? Her very unconsciousness that there 
could be any other state of affairs was witness to its 
absurdity. But now she could no longer be uncon- 
scious. And she had no one to whom she could un- 
burden herself. Always she had gone to Mr. Barclay 
with her griefs. This was something not to be 
spoken of, not to be thought of ; and so she cried a 
few vexatious tears, and went down to Miss March- 
bank for an hour's study, striving hard to forget that 
distasteful insinuation. 

Mr. Barclay came home late from his engagement 
and his drive on the Casino, to find Miss Marchbank 
on a sofa asleep, and Ruth on the balcony watching 
the sunlight fading over the hills in all the soft 
gradations of color peculiar to an Italian sky. She 
did not greet him with her usual kiss and merry wel- 
come, but stood mutely waiting for the first word 
from him. 

"Tired, little Ruth .?" said he, coming to her and 
putting his arm around her. 

She almost shrank away from him, and said 
coldly, — 

** No, I am not tired. Will you have tea } " 

"Yes, dear child. But you are tired, and your 
hands are too cool ; we mustn't run any risk of 



102 ASPIRATIONS. 

malaria. Come in and sit down beside me. I think 
I have found our old friend Lillo." 

She overcame her coldness and embarrassment 
with an effort, calling herself a simpleton and an 
ingrate, and, drawing a cushion beside him, laid her 
head on his knee, vowing that those hateful words 
should not control her. 

Then he told her where he had been, and the in- 
quiries he had made, and whom he had met, and 
what he had seen, and how he had left a note for Mr. 
Marsh ; and when she had heard it all she rang for 
the tea, which she never allowed any one else to brew 
for him, and wakened Miss Marchbank, who always 
protested that she had not been asleep, but had only 
"just lost herself" a moment, and had heard every 
word that had been spoken. 



ASPIRATIONS, 103 



CHAPTER IX. 

Mr. Barclay, somewhat ennuy^ with travel and 
idleness, had lately become much interested in the 
founding of Protestant schools in Italy. Without 
taking any active part in the immediate conduct or 
control of these institutions, he had used his influ- 
ence for them by interesting others, by writing home 
concerning them, and by raising money. He had 
thus been very useful, aud had drawn to him those 
who were similarly interested, as well as those who 
were simply curious to watch the experiment. But 
he would not allow Ruth to even have a class in a Sun- 
day school, eagerly as she desired it. To all her argu- 
ments he opposed the conclusive one, that, were he 
to allow her the privilege she asked, his labors would 
then become of negative value ; for the police would 
soon contrive to make his residence uncomfortable, 
and, not being combative by nature, they would worry 
him into a withdrawal of all effort. But Ruth's mis- 
sionary spirit had been aroused, and, though acquies- 
cing to the necessities of the case, her mind was not 
at rest. She was longing for an opportunity to do 
good in some plain, practical way to which her powers 
might be equal. She did not give utterance to this 
longing ; on the contrary, so fearful was she of mis- 



1 04 ASPIRA TIONS, 

interpretation that she did not even venture to make 
it known to Miss Marchbank, who, however, had 
been instrumental in fostering it, by her own ac- 
counts of life in English towns, where she, as well 
as her friends, had done so much for the poor, the 
sick, and the needy. So Ruth smothered her wishes, 
and watched with envy the Sisters of Charity on 
their rounds, the Brethren of the Misericordia, and 
the pale, patient nuns, whose lives were spent in 
deeds of mercy. She had not become infatuated 
with Roman Catholicism ; neither did she ignore 
much that impressed her as useful and beautiful in 
the system. She had not been educated to the Puri- 
tan horror of its principles ; though she had been 
taught to remember, with a salutary propriety, the 
massacre of St. Bartholomew. But living, as she 
had done, so much abroad, the sharp edge of her 
Protestantism had become dulled enough to allow her 
to pray even more devoutly in a cathedral than she 
would have done in a conventicle. She thus was 
ripe for a movement of some sort. 

"Well, Ruth;" said Mr. Barclay, the day after 
their inspection of the studios, "shall we pay that 
visit to the Casa Doria .? " 

" I suppose we must, Mr. Barclay." 

" Or do you prefer the dentist's ? " 

" If the choice were given me, I think the one 
would be preferable to the other." 

" Your aunt would be flattered, would she not } " 

" I don't think it would matter to her. That is the 
worst of our petty sacrifices : nobody cares really that 
we make them." 



ASPIRA TIONS, 105 

" Then the sooner it's over, the better." 

They were in their neat little English phaeton in 
a moment, and went bowling along to their destina- 
tion. They passed a somewhat gorgeous equipage, 
from which a gloomy, red-faced woman bowed haugh- 
tily. 

"That is one of my most energetic co-laborers,'* 
said Mr. Barclay. 

" Who may she be ? " asked Ruth. 

"The Duchess of Stickingham, a very sensible, 
good woman." 

" She looks cross, and as if her roast beef were too 
rare." 

" Her looks belie her. I do not believe a person 
of simpler habits is to be found." 

Again they passed a showy turn-out, but this time 
a pale face of great beauty saluted them. 

" That is another ardent worker," said Mr. Barclay. 

" She is American, I am sure," exclaimed Ruth. 

"You are right. Her zeal only equals her love of 
splendor and show. She gives as generously as she 
spends, whether for schools or for laces." 

" Why do I not meet these people, Mr. Barclay ? " 
suddenly asked Ruth. 

" I prefer to have you all to myself," said Mr. Bar- 
clay lightly, little thinking of his words, and in truth 
regarding Ruth as too young yet to be generally in- 
troduced, having even allowed her to go to the ball 
with reluctance. His words would have been taken 
with the same lightness, but for Grace Alden's un- 
happy suggestion. Now they made Ruth grave and 
uncomfortable and embarrassed ; but also so angry 



1 06 ASPIRA TIONS. 

with herself, that she could have cried. The Casa 
Doria — the hotel where Mrs. Vedder was staying — 
was before them. It was a gloomy-looking structure, 
old, sombre, and not very clean. They were ushered 
into a small efitresol, and then a maid came to con- 
duct them up a broad flight of stone steps. She was 
Irish and untidy, and very much overdressed for her 
station. Opening a door, she said, — 

** Will yees plaze to walk in } Mrs. Vedder's not 
well." 

They walked into a high-ceiled apartment, where 
Cupids were dancing and wreathing flowers, to find 
Mrs. Vedder upon a lounge. She was still clothed 
in her pall-like velvet, — only it was cut to conceal 
rather than to uncover her charms, — and over it was 
wound a coarse-looking shawl. Her tresses were 
dishevelled, and the braids, awry from lying down 
upon them, gave a comical aspect to a face which was 
not devoid of good looks. 

She rose at once, in opposition to Mr. Barclay's 
request that she should not do so, and was profuse 
in her welcome. 

" I can't tell you how glad I am to see you," she 
said. " I am so tired of being alone. My sons leave 
me to myself, and I don't speak French or Italian, 
and I hate the horrid cookery of the Continent ; and 
I am not well, and it makes me so homesick." 

Her very eagerness was repulsive to the quiet 
Ruth, but at the same time she began to pity this 
relative. 

" How long have you been here, and why did you 
leave home .'* " asked Ruth. 



ASPIRATIONS. 107 

" Oh, I have been away ever so long ! My sons 
wanted to travel, and I thought I should like it ; but 
I don't. Do you ? " 

" Yes, very much." 

" Ah, you care for the things that I don't know 
any thing about ! I try to get up an interest in the 
pictures and statues ; but, the truth is, I don't care 
for them. When they are all undressed, they make 
me ashamed ; and when they ain't, I can't make them 
out, unless I read the guide-books." 

She was certainly honest, and her hearers smiled, 
as she hurried on in her talk, as if afraid they would 
go before she could finish all she had to say. 

" Now, my sons have had education, and know all 
about the classical antiquities, as they call them ; but 
I might as well be in Egypt, for all I can under- 
stand." 

"And your sons leave you to yourself, I under- 
stood you to say," said Mr. Barclay. 

" Yes. I s'pose its natural. Young people are 
eager to see and hear every thing that's going, and 
I don't want to be a drawback to them. That's the 
way I came to go to the ball at the Legation. I never 
go to balls, never; but, just to please the boys, I 
dressed up and went, and took cold, — got overheated, 
stood in a draught, — and all the queer, foreign doctor 
gives me is lemonade. Bridget, the girl you saw, is 
the only creature I've got to talk to. She came over 
with me. — And so you are really Ruth Morris. You 
look like your mother. — She was a pretty woman, 
Mr. Barclay, wasn't she } " 

" I agree with you, Mrs. Vedder." 



1 08 ASPIRA TIONS. 

" And Dick was a queer chap. Though I was your 
mother's aunt, Ruth, I was not more than a year or 
two older, being the youngest of a large family ; and 
your mother's mother, my oldest sister, — her name 
was Margaretta, — she died soon after your mother 
was born. Your mother was Ruth, the same name as 
your own ; and until she went off to her grandfather's, 
and then to school, we were playmates. She was a 
quiet child and very different from me ; but we were 
fond of each other, for all that, and when she was 
sent for I cried all night long. We used to meet as 
schoolgirls ; but I never cared to study, and Ruth 
was always talking about something I didn't under- 
stand. Then she married your father, and none of 
our family approved of that : so they didn't care to 
be intimate, and I don't blame them." 

" Are you related to Mr. Boggs } " asked Ruth, 
thinking it just as well to know the whole of her 
family history at once. 

"I should think I was. Cauldwell Boggs is my 
brother; but I may just as well say that we're not 
over-fond of each other. He is always scolding me 
about my boys, thinks I don't know how to manage 
them. People can give advice so cheap, you see. 
By the by, Mr. Barclay, he wants to know what you 
are going to do with Ruth." 

Poor Ruth had borne all she could, but her patience 
was not equal to this : she rose and began to exam- 
ine a distant picture, leaving the field to Mr. Barclay, 
who responded laughingly, — 

" Do with her t Eat her up, I suppose, when she 
is plump enough." 



ASPIRATIONS, 109 

Mrs. Vedder looked puzzled ; then, regarding Ruth 
curiously, said, — 

" She is very genteel, very." 

" Now I can't agree with you," replied Mr. Barclay. 

"Why not.?" 

" Because she is much too nice for that." 

"Why, isn't it nice to be genteel?" 

"No, not at all." 

Mrs. Vedder laughed good-naturedly. " I don't un- 
derstand you, but seems to me she is too fine to make 
her own way in the world." 

"There I can agree with you." 

"Then I suppose you intend to" — 

Ruth lost the rest of the question, only hearing a 
very emphatic — 

" Nothing of the sort," from Mr. Barclay, who now 
rose to go. 

Mrs. Vedder began coughing violently, but squeez- 
ing Ruth's hand begged her to come again. 

"What a relief," said Mr. Barclay, "to have that 
over ! " 

Ruth was silent. Unpleasant as had been the 
interview, she wanted to hear more of her mother ; 
and, though Mrs. Vedder was not at all to her taste, 
she felt sorry for her. She seemed to be a person of 
good heart and honest nature, whom circumstances 
had forced out of the homely, simple sphere she 
might have enjoyed. To Mr. Barclay's surprise, 
Ruth announced her intention of going again to 
inquire about Mrs. Vedder on the following day. 

" My dear, be careful. She will bore you dreadfully 
if you give her the chance," was his injunction. 



no ASPIRATIONS. 

" She is ill and a stranger, and I ought to show her 
some attention." 

*' Don't promise to go about with her.'* 

" No danger : Miss Marchbank is on guard. She 
is to leave me and call for me to-day." 

So again she went, carrying a bunch of violets. 

Mrs. Vedder was much worse and really in need 
of sympathy. She was dull and feverish, and tears 
came to her eyes when Ruth entered. 

"This is very kind of you, very kind, for I am 
sure Mr. Barclay does not approve of me. Oh, you 
may speak plainly to me ! I am used to it. I see the 
difference in people. Mr. Barclay is a proud man, 
and you are the apple of his eye. I don't wonder. 
You are like your mother, Ruth, very like her. She 
was so sweet. I don't mean to flatter you. I am 
not complimentary. I thought perhaps you would 
like to hear about your mother." 

"Of course," said Ruth, putting down her flowers, 
and touching the rumpled pillows gently, on which 
her aunt was leaning; "but let me make you com- 
fortable ; there, is not that pleasanter .? " 

" Yes, much. Ah, how I wish I had a daughter ! 
But I suppose it would have been the same with her 
as with the boys, — she would have been seeking her 
own pleasure." 

" Where are your sons ^ " 

" In Rome, I believe ; but I am not sure. They 
don't write punctually, and I'm no hand at letters." 

"But they will come to you soon, will they not ?" 

"I don't know, I never know. They are making 
collections to take home. I wish I was at home ; it 



ASPIRATIONS. Ill 

is all I want. Cauldwell told me I was foolish to come 
to Europe. He said I wouldn't enjoy it. But I never 
like to do as he says : he is so opinionated, and scolds 
so about the boys ; says they are spoiled, and will run 
through their money and mine too. I'm sure they 
are welcome to mine. What use have I for it after 
my clothes are bought .'* Are you fond of dress, 
jewelry.? * A little.' Well, just open that wardrobe. 
The key turns hard. Keys and locks and door-han- 
dles are always out of order in Europe. There, what 
do you think of those things.'*" 

Ruth was amazed. Silks, satins, and filmy fabrics 
were laid over one another in glistening profusion. 
Jackets and capes of costly lace had been flung on 
top of them indifferently. Instinctively, Ruth, with 
girlish deftness, folded each article as she surveyed it, 
until they occupied a third of the compass they had 
been in before. 

" Ah, how nice that is ! Bridget is so unhandy ; 
but she is kind, and so I put up with her, and give 
her all my old things." 

Ruth, not accustomed to seeing servants arrayed 
in cast-off finery, mildly suggested that plainer clothes 
would be more becoming. 

" Do you think so t Well, then, I suppose it must 
be correct. Mr. Barclay knows, of course ; but it 
pleases the girl, and makes her think she is some- 
body. Now open that box. Here's the key on my 
watch-chain." 

Ruth opened a large leathern-covered case, and 
her eyes were dazzled again. Rubies, emeralds, 
amethysts, turquoises, in necklaces, bracelets, and 



112 ASPIRATIONS. 

pendants, shone upon her. A diamond cross and a 
pearl locket were side by side. 

" Open the locket, Ruth ; it may interest you." 

Ruth obeyed. In it was an old-fashioned daguer- 
reotype of a child. Suddenly it seemed to her that 
she was looking in the glass, that the face was her 
own. 

*' There, that is for you. It is your own mother's 
likeness," she heard Mrs. Vedder saying. 

*• Is this my mother } " she asked, closing what 
might have been a small shop, and locking in the 
brilliants from their source of life and power. 

*' Yes, it is. We had our pictures taken together; 
and I cut out the face of this one day, and slipped it 
in here." 

" Cannot you take it out for me } " 

" Why should I .? Keep it as it is." 

** Oh, not in this valuable case ! " 

"Pshaw! that is nothing — a few pearls more or 
less. Put it in your pocket and think no more of 
it." 

And so Ruth carried home her mother's picture, 
which Mr. Barclay acknowledged to be a very pretty 
gift. 

Again and again Ruth went to inquire for her 
aunt's health, and after each report Mr. Barclay made 
less opposition to her going, until it came to be a 
daily affair. Sometimes it was only a question and 
answer, sometimes she sat for an hour. Miss March- 
bank went too; and, though she saw reasons why Mr. 
Barclay could not admire Mrs. Vedder, she upheld 
Ruth in the duty of kindness to her lonely and evi- 



ASPIRATIONS. 113 

dently unhappy relative. But to Mrs. Vedder, Ruth 
seemed a ministering angel, much more of a heavenly 
visitant than the marble-winged creatures in the 
church. 



1 1 4 ASPIRA TIONS, 



CHAPTER X. 

It was with a curious mixture of regret and pleas- 
ure that Mr. A. L. Marsh responded to Mr. Barclay's 
invitation to visit him, and sauntered forth from his 
lodgings one evening in May for this purpose. The re- 
gret arose from his entire indifference to society, and 
a preference for his quiet, almost monotonous seclu- 
sion. Having no family ties, his whole time was 
given to his profession ; and his Bohemian manner 
of life, though quite innocent, unfitted him for the 
etiquette and conventionalities imposed by society. 
The ball at the Legation had, however, been an oppor- 
tunity which he could not afford to let pass, for 
his eyes had to be fed ; and while there he had dis- 
covered that the two American girls who had most 
interested him were the friends of his childhood. 
Towards Mr. Barclay he was also most kindly at- 
tracted, remembering the spur his good friend had 
given him, and how sincere an interest he had mani- 
fested in him. But how far away those early days 
seemed ! — days of toil, of vague and restless aspira- 
tions, — and yet how clearly came back the recollec- 
tion of the little brown house, the broad, shining 
sands, the rocks at the Neck, and the old grand- 
father and grandmother whose life of hardship he 



ASPIRATIONS. 115 

had shared, and for whom he had the warmest affec- 
tion ! Yes, he recalled now Mr. Barclay's generous 
offer and his own refusal, — for the sake of the poor 
old grandmother whose last hours he had been able 
to cheer. How glad he was to think that he did not 
leave her! and with what natural pride he contem- 
plated those early struggles, the hard toil on ship- 
board, when, leaving home behind him and the graves 
of the two old people, he had started for the goal of 
his artistic hopes, the land of his birth ! 

For Lillo knew that he was Italian ; and besides 
the charm which Italy had for him, there was beneath 
all other thoughts the hope of discovering something 
about his mother. 

As yet, he had been unsuccessful. After his 
grandmother's death, he had found a few papers and 
letters which looked as if they might afford some 
clew. The letters, however, were in Italian, and he 
had been unable to read them. Among them was a 
silhouette cut in black paper, a profile of a girl whose 
clustering locks fell over her brow as his own did ; 
and it so pleased him that he made from it a sketch 
in color, using his own eyes and other portions of 
his face to supply the deficiencies which the silhou- 
ette could not give. But then, in the pressure of 
work, these things had been forgotten, and remained 
packed away in his trunk. 

It was not unnatural, that, in the prospect of renew- 
ing his acquaintance with Mr. Barclay, these thoughts 
should arise. 

The evening was enchanting ; and his long walk 
led him over the Arno with its boats, the amber 



1 1 6 ASPIRA TIONS. 

water tinted with the last rays of the setting sun, 
past the cafes where people were smoking and play- 
ing dominoes, and where there was much clashing of 
dishes and glasses. 

The flower women and the dealers of early fruits 
were going home ; but he was able to secure a bunch 
of sweet double violets, and then he found himself at 
Mr. Barclay's door. 

The room was full, — Miss Alden and her nieces, 
Ruth and Miss Marchbank, Mr. Potter, the Duchess 
of Stickingham and the pale-faced American beauty, 
Mrs. Coit, with several gentlemen whom Lillo recog- 
nized having seen at the Legation. It was hardly a 
time for reminiscences ; and Mr. Barclay made no al- 
lusion to them, but presented him to Ruth and Grace 
and May as an old friend. 

"Of course we remember you perfectly, Mr. 
Marsh, as the courageous boy who jumped overboard 
after Mr. Barclay, that day we all had such a hard 
time together at the Neck," said May, with one of 
her bewitching smiles. " Ruth was not with us. — It 
was before we knew you, Ruth." 

"Yes," said Ruth, smiling, "but I have heard the 
story related so often, that it seems as if I must have 
been one of the party." 

"Perhaps you did not hear what courage one of 
the little girls of that time showed, and what a good 
oar she pulled," said Mr. Marsh, glancing at May, 
and noticing the merry flash of her gray-blue eyes. 
" Only half of the story was told, I fear." 

"Ah, my lesser achievement was forgotten in the 
greater one of yours ! " answered May. " Besides, I 



ASPIRA TIONS. 1 1 7 

doubt if the misdemeanor of our escapade did not 
balance any merit of mine. I know I received a 
famous scolding, and aunt has never fully trusted me 
since." 

"That is not to be wondered at," said Ruth de- 
murely. "You have the faculty for getting into 
scrapes of all sorts. — But we must have a little dance 
now. You dance, I suppose, Mr. Marsh .'' " 

" No, not at all." 

"Neither do I. Then you shall come and turn 
my music for me, as I must play." 

The dancing, however, did not last long : the even- 
ing was sultry, and the elders were discussing the 
school question. The duchess left early, and Mrs. 
Coit was planning a garden-party with Mr. Potter, 
who had promised to aid her. The gardens belonged to 
an old and wealthy Italian family whose estates were 
in litigation, but who allowed the keeper of their do- 
main to rent the gardens for his own benefit. Mrs. 
Coit wished to aid the Protestant schools, and chose 
this way to do it. The party was to be in the morn- 
ing ; and, besides music and dancing, there must be a 
little bazar, — just one table of pretty trifles for the 
girls to sell, and where they could also dispense 
claret punch and flowers. 

"But," interposed Miss Alden, "how are we to 
have time for all this .^ None of us, I presume, intend 
to stay much longer in Florence. I am to leave on 
the 30th. How long do you remain, Mr. Barclay ? " 

Mr. Barclay glanced at Ruth, but she was listen- 
ing to May's lively chatter over some engravings 
Mr. Marsh was inspecting. 



1 1 8 ASPIRA TIONS. 

Here Miss Marchbank interposed. 

*' I am trying to induce Mr. Barclay to visit Spain, 
since he has abandoned Switzerland." 

" Spain in summer } " said Miss Alden. 

" Why not .-* It will be no warmer than would be a 
return to the States; and Spain is so comparatively 
fresh to the traveller, it would be a great advantage 
to Miss Morris." 

"Very fatiguing, very. Are you then really think- 
ing of home again, Frank } " 

" Only thinking. Miss Alden ; I assure you I have 
no definite plans." 

*' But it is time you did have, Frank ; you will lose 
all your nationality if you stay abroad so constantly. 
Besides, Ruth is to be considered. Do you think it 
altogether beneficial for a girl to have no settled 
home } " . 

"How do you find it affects your own nieces. Miss 
Alden } " asked Miss Marchbank. 

Now Miss Alden was quite willing to accept Miss 
Marchbank as a part of Mr. Barclay's establishment, 
but not quite so ready to accept her as a personal 
friend ; for she had noticed what had appeared to be 
a certain aggressiveness in Miss Marchbank, which 
was distasteful to her. 

" My nieces have the advantage of my personal 
care and affection. Miss Marchbank," she said with 
hauteur ; not caring to explain, what was the truth, 
that she had come abroad with Grace in hopes of 
breaking up an undesirable attachment. "Ruth, of 
course, is fortunate in having a man of leisure for her 
guardian, but that hardly suffices for a home, in my 



ASPIRATIONS. 119 

opinion ; and Mr. Barclay has always been wise 
enough to value that." 

Miss Marchbank had not lived in the world fifty 
years for nothing. She was used to snubs, and bore 
them philosophically; besides, Miss Alden snubbed 
only in a lady-like fashion. 

"But, Miss Alden, you forget that Miss Morris is 
still continuins: her studies" — 

"And if we go home we shall lose Miss March- 
bank's inestimable services," said Mr. Barclay, feel- 
ing it time to interpose. 

"Well, of course you know best, Frank, as to the 
necessity of further study. I should think Ruth 
must be by this time quite an accomplished woman." 

" So she is, in her quiet way." 

As Miss Marchbank now glided off to see that 
Mrs. Coit's black lace and glittering diamonds were 
properly cloaked for departure, Miss Alden leaned 
confidentially towards Mr. Barclay, and said, — 

"It is rumored that you intend to marry Ruth, 
Frank. May I ask if it is true } " 

"What intolerable nonsense! It is indeed time 
for me to go home if I am thus to be the subject of 
gossip. No, Miss Alden, I have no thought of such 
a thing, and pray don't let it get to Ruth's ears.'* 

" I am afraid it has done so already." 

"Then she shows her good sense in not being 
affected by it." 

"Ah, these girls are a great responsibility. There's 
Grace, whom I thought always a most sensible child, 
has taken it into her head to become attached to a 
poor young man in no way her equal. To be sure, 



1 20 AS PI R A TIONS. 

she admits the folly of it, and yields to my wish that 
for a year at least there shall be no intercourse ; but 
her temper is quite spoiled by it, and she will not be 
even civil to any other man." 

Mr. Barclay smiled. He knew Miss Alden's pref- 
erence for birth and fortune. 

" Who is her friend } " 

" Oh, a Mr. Bainbridge ! — a nobody, a clerk in 
some office." 

" What are his attractions "i " 

"You must ask Grace. I see none." 

"And May — are her affections disengaged.^" said 
Mr. Barclay lightly, glancing over at the three girls, 
who, with Lillo in the centre, were listening to some- 
thing he was relating with vivacity. 

" As far as I know, they are ; May is too fond of 
variety and excitement to bear the restrictions of an 
^affaire dii c(zur' She laughs at sentiment." 

"Take care: she may be the more in danger," said 
Mr. Barclay prophetically. 

"No, I have no fears for May; but Grace is a 
serious trouble." 

But now they were drawn into general conversa- 
tion. It was decided there would not be much time 
for elaborate preparations. Mr. Potter promised to 
levy on the colony of American artists for contribu- 
tions, and Mrs. Coit was to defray every expense of 
hiring attendants. The fete would have to be on 
the 25th, just two weeks off; for after that all the 
Americans would be on the wing. 

After all the other guests had gone, Mr. Barclay 
drew from Lillo an account of all the intervening 



ASPIRA TIONS. 1 2 1 

years since the beginning of their acquaintance. It 
was a modestly told tale of earnest labor, to which 
Ruth listened with deep interest. She knew that 
her guardian had wanted to adopt Lillo as a lad, and 
she could not help comparing their two lives, her own 
and his. While she had been given every advantage, 
every means of culture, all that wealth and influence 
could command, he had striven alone single-handed 
against the world. From the time he had turned the 
key in the door of the little brown house on the sands 
of Codtown, and had gone with his bundle on his 
back to the fishing-smack which was to meet an out- 
ward-bound vessel, he had worked unaided. Land- 
ing at Havre, he had obtained employment on the 
wharves until money enough was earned for the rail- 
way journey to Paris. In the same way at Paris he 
had lived on scant earnings by day, that he might 
study in the schools at night. From Paris he had 
gone to Vienna, to Dresden, to Munich, and at last 
to his beloved Italy. 

"And what have you to show us for all this 
labor } " asked Mr. Barclay. 

"Nothing much," responded Lillo. "You must 
remember I am yet a student. My work has been 
desultory in its choice of subjects until now. I have 
now something on my easel which I think will deter- 
mine me in future." 

" What is it t " asked Mr. Barclay eagerly. " You 
will let us see it } " 

"No, pardon me, not yet. It is not far enough 
completed to be exhibited ; and, when it is finished, 
America must have my first offering." 



122 ASPIRATIONS. 

"But our interest is so great, we should be privi- 
leged observers," urged Ruth. 

''And to Mr. Barclay's kindness I owe so much, as 
my first patron." 

" Yes, if you choose to put it that way ; though I 
much dislike the word 'patron ' so applied." 

"Thank you. It is a mere phrase : no man is more 
independent of patronage than the true artist." 

" I agree with you. You will let us, then, see 
your work } " 

"Yes, when it is a little more advanced." 

" And you will give us some trifle for our fete y — 
the merest sketch } " 

"Certainly, with pleasure." 

"That is one of the abominations artists have to 
submit to, even if it takes the very bread out of their 
mouths," said Mr. Barclay. 

" But it may put some in Mr. Marsh's this time," 
said Ruth archly, "for you know he will have us 
to sound his praises. There will be lots of rich 
people come to the fetey all the English and Ameri- 
can nobility, — I mean American 'distinction,' " she 
said, correcting herself, — "and we will point to his 
sketch, and say how kind it was in our distinguished 
young compatriot to give it to us when he is so very, 
very hard at work ; and then they'll begin to think 
they ought to know something more about this clever 
Mr. Marsh, who paints so charmingly, and they will 
hunt him up and buy him out. Ah ! you must have 
plenty of things ready to sell, for you will become 
the fashion at once." 

Lillo smiled at Ruth's ardor. It was very sweet 



ASPIRATIONS. 123 

to hear her, though his whole soul scorned such diplo- 
macy. 

But Mr. Barclay opened his eyes in amazement. 

" Ruth," he said, " do I hear aright ? have you be- 
come such an intriguer ? " 

" Oh, all girls have more or less artfulness ! " 
she replied, " and this is certainly nothing very deep 
or dreadful." 

Mr. Barclay still shook his head. "You are ad- 
vancing in worldly wisdom rapidly. We will have to 
seek the retirement of a New-England village." 

" And be twice as treacherous and gossipy." 

"Nous verrons que nous verrons." 

But Mr. Barclay had not the slightest idea of go- 
ing home. Europe suited him, and in Europe he 
intended to stay, at least for the present. 



1 24 AS PI R A TIONS. 



CHAPTER XL 

If Miss Alden had been of a less courageous 
nature, she certainly would never have attempted to 
thwart destiny, in the shape of Cupid and his darts, 
by going abroad ; for, so far from its proving curative, 
it had been distinctly an impetus in the wrong direc- 
tion. But that she could hardly have known before- 
hand, so perhaps her courage on the whole was 
experimental. Letters came and went with regular- 
ity : the promise of no personal intercourse only had 
been acceded to ; and, as this would have been rather 
difficult under the circumstances, it was not much of a 
compromise. She reasoned, she sighed, she scolded ; 
but the reasoning was scorned, the sighing slighted, 
and the scolding taken as a dose, with a wry face. 

Grace acknowledged that Mr. Bainbridge's pros- 
pects were not brilliant, nor her choice a wise one in 
a worldly way ; but she never wavered in her alle- 
giance to her lover. She argued that her father had 
not been a rich man when he married her mother, 
that everybody could not begin life with equal prom- 
ise of success, and that she would live and die an old 
maid unless allowed to do as she pleased. 

"And this you might much better do than accept 
the cramped, sordid, miserable life which poverty 



AS PI R A TIONS. 1 2 5 

entails," replied her aunt, smoothing down the folds 
of her heavy silk, and adjusting the rich and delicate 
lace at her throat. 

Very naturally she considered her own condition 
an enviable one. No sentimental nonsense had ever 
disturbed her serenity. But Grace thought it the 
very refinement of cruelty when her aunt would close 
these unsatisfactory discussions by saying, — 

" It is absolute selfishness in a woman to consent 
to a marriage with a man of small means. He has no 
chance to rise, he is tied, fettered ; family cares soon 
rob him of all ambition, and he becomes a household 
drudge." 

Then, as Grace looked her despair. May would 
scream with laughter : " Aunt Althea, how ridicu- 
lous you make things appear ! Why, Grace has no 
attachment for a waiter-man or a bootblack ! " 

But May herself was also a source of great uneasi- 
ness to her worldly aunt, whose choice of friends 
was very exacting. Never had Miss Alden allowed 
herself to be drawn into any connection with people 
whose ancestry, habits, personal appearance, or man- 
ners were in the least questionable. She had a high 
standard, and she adhered to it. She was not of an 
unkind disposition : she could tolerate chance ac- 
quaintances, who were perhaps not up to the mark, 
in a graceful way ; but she stood guard over the 
portals of her friendships. 

Now May, well brought up, tenderly nurtured in 
an atmosphere of refinement, had a most remarkable 
taste for people whom her aunt considered deplorably 
vulgar, — " loud " would have been the word which 



1 26 ASPIRA TIONS. 

would have expressed her meaning, had she ever 
used slang, — people who wore diamonds on all 
occasions, and who were very prominent at hotel- 
tables ; who gave champagne suppers, and drove fast 
horses ; who were anxious for the acquaintance of 
titled foreigners ; and who by their acts and attitudes 
demanded the attention which nothing in themselves 
deserved. 

Miss Althea Alden's appreciation of money never 
led her into the mistakes of these people, and she 
could not at all comprehend May's tolerance of them 
for an hour. 

But May, full of life, spirit, vivacity, charmingly 
pretty, dazzled by glare and glitter, fond of fun as a 
child, had been drawn into dangerous intimacy with 
some of this sort. 

A Mrs. Godfrey Gray had made ardent love to 
May, petted, admired her, invited her to visit her, 
and asked her to go about with her. But Miss Alden 
had steadily refused. 

In Mrs. Gray's train were two or three young men, 
idle, rich, and with no apparent object in life but 
amusement. 

May's innate good taste would soon have tired of 
them, — as it was, she ridiculed them constantly, — 
but her aunt's horror of them aroused a spirit of 
opposition, a childish love of teasing and mischief, 
which induced her to encourage rather than discour- 
age their attentions. And Miss Alden received no 
sympathy from Grace when May disobeyed orders 
and went to drive with Mrs. Gray. 

*'I wonder that you are so shocked, aunt. Mrs. 



ASPIRATIONS, 127 

Godfrey Gray is a very rich woman. I have heard 
her say just how many servants she kept, what high 
wages she paid, and how entirely her household is 
ruled by them. She never goes in her kitchen, rarely 
in her nursery ; and her expenses are enormous. She 
is so well versed in the price of diamonds and India 
shawls, that she can make a close guess as to just 
what was paid for them by the person who may be 
visiting her; and she always travels en pri7ice'' 

Miss Alden listened patiently, and returned 
quietly, — 

" You are young, Grace, to attempt satire. I am 
no devotee of wealth. I am simply prudent. When 
you have lived as long as I, your judgment will, I 
trust,- be riper. I do not approve of Mrs. Gray ; she 
is one of those who misrepresent us abroad, and one 
whom people of refinement at home shun." 

"Not exclusively. I have noticed that she men- 
tions many people whom you visit." 

"New York is cosmopolitan, I allow." 

Grace shrugged her shoulders and went on with 
her letter. Little did she care for her aunt's burden 
of responsibility. She was selfishly absorbed in her 
own affairs, and she was honestly in love. Mr. Bain- 
bridge would have been astonished to know upon 
how high a pinnacle she had placed him ; for he was 
a modest, unassuming, and apparently unaspiring 
man, and bore his share of their difficulties in a 
much gentler spirit. Perhaps the necessary but un- 
romantic calculations suggested by the thought of 
marriage tempered his views. 

It was a charming day, and May danced into the 



128 ASPIRATIONS. 

room where her aunt and Grace were sitting, with a 
gay and naughty carelessness which nearly disarmed 
Miss Alden ; but she rose at once and left in 
silence. 

May made a little grimace, saying, — 

" Aunt can be very dignified : I would much rather 
she scolded." 

" You deserve her displeasure. It was outrageous 
in you, May, to go so directly in opposition to her 
wdshes." 

"I could not get out of it, Grace. I positively 
was cornered. I could not say, 'Mrs. Gray, my aunt 
won't let me drive with you,' as if I were a child six 
years old. Besides, she is awfully jolly, and the 
drive was delicious. We went to the Pitti Palace 
first, and afterwards in the direction of those gardens 
where Mrs. Coit is to have h^x fete. They surround 
an old gloomy prison of a palace, which is only partly 
occupied." 

"And who went with you.-^" 

"Arthur Smith and Mr. Morton." 

" How can you tolerate them } " 

" Oh, they are innocent sort of nobodies ! " 

"Innocent.?" 

" Yes ; they have not force enough to be bad." 

"Does it demand force .'^ I hardly think so." 

" You're in a preachy mood, Grace. You always 
are when you are writing to brother Bainbridge. I 
don't know any bad men, and so am not competent 
to judge just what badness does demand. But I 
always have supposed a villain had to have some 
native genius. Now, these fellows are just without 



ASPIRATIONS. 129 

one spark of that sort of thing. Why, they laugh 
at what I say as if I were a professional wit ! " 

"You are far from stupid." 

"Ah, that is a nice little concession! Come, I'll 
reward your sisterly kindness now with a confidential 
disclosure. Mrs. Coit's fitCy you know, is to be on 
the 25th. Well, it will all be over by evening, and 
that night there is to be a bal masqu^ 2X the 'Carlo 
Alberto.' Of course, aunt would never consent to 
our going. Nothing would move her, and I don't 
mean to trouble her by asking ; but I'm going all 
the same, without asking. Oh, you may look as 
horrified as you please ! All your thoughts and hopes 
and fancies revolve around brother Bainbridge. But 
I am free as air, as sunshine, — and I have always 
wanted above all things to see a bal masqu^. It 
must be so droll, so delightful. Mrs. Gray is going 
to the fete^ and will bring us home ; but she will 
arrange to have a little accident, a detention at a 
wayside inn, where we can change our dresses and 
assume our masks ; and then we will go on and have 
our fun, and nobody need be distressed about us." 

Grace looked at May in silent astonishment. 

" Why do you glare at me that way, Grace ? " 
cried May. 

"Because I cannot believe my own ears." 

" Why not .-* What harm is there in having a little 
fun for one night } " 

"You know exactly as well as I do." 

"No ; I protest I do not. All you do is to sigh 
and look sour, and care for nothing but the post ; 
while I am glad to have some diversion. Aunt is so 



I30 ASPIRATIONS. 

rigid and tiresome, that I might as well be in Kam- 
tchatka." 

*' But this bal inasqti^, — how do you know what 
sort of an affair it will be ? what people you will 
meet ? " 

" What do I care ? No one will know me. It 
requires, of course, a little daring, but it will be great 
fun." 

" And aunt, — how do you reconcile your con- 
science to deceiving her } " 

'* Please don't put the thing in such a serious way. 
There's no conscience in the matter. I want to see 
something of the world. Aunt would have me wear 
smoked-glass spectacles all my life, and I prefer to 
use my unassisted eyes. I am not going to deceive 
her." 

"You will if you do not tell her." 

"No, I won't. I will manage somehow. I am a 
person of resources." 

" And much self-deception, I fear," thought Grace, 
quite alarmed, but hoping the freak would not be 
carried out. She knew that remonstrance would 
arouse antagonism, and her letter was not yet fin- 
ished : so she bent herself to its completion, while 
May tossed over the contents of the trunks, and 
carolled a little song, putting off for a more conven- 
ient moment the duty of asking her aunt's forgive- 
ness, which she really coveted, now that the excite- 
ment of her day's pleasure had passed. As she did 
so, Ruth Morris was announced, and followed the 
servant into the room, with the freedom always ac- 
corded her. 



ASPIRATIONS. 131 

May rose from the trunks, and Grace from her 
writing. 

" I am so glad to see you," said May in her impul- 
sive way, kissing Ruth, and leading her to a comfort- 
able chair. " I am in disgrace, and doing all sorts 
of wicked things, and need sympathy." 

" You look very distressed, to be sure," answered 
Ruth, surveying the graceful, pretty girl with admi- 
ration ; " but I too come claiming sympathy." 

** How is it possible, you who have every wish of 
your heart gratified } " 

*' Envy me not, Grace," answered Ruth, with as- 
sumed solemnity. '* No one escapes trouble in this 
weary world. I have just come from my aunt, Mrs. 
Vedder." 

May and Grace both knew who Mrs. Vedder was. 

" Then no wonder you want pity," said May, with 
one of her mischievous grimaces. 

" No, dear, it is she who needs it. I only asked for 
sympathy. I have determined to go home with her." 

"You ! " screamed the girls. 

" Yes, I." 

" But will Mr. Barclay allow it ? " 

" He has given his permission." 

" Why, Ruth, how could you ask it ? " 

" I did so, because Mrs. Vedder is ill, and in need 
of kindness, and because — Well, no matter for any 
other reason." 

Grace was stung to the quick. 

" I thought you were above being influenced in 
that way," she said ; adding, however, " I shall never 
forgive myself for my foolish speech to you." 



1 3 2 ASPIRA TIONS. 

"It did hurt, I acknowledge, Grace." 

" But surely you will not leave Mr. Barclay on that 
account ? " 

" No. I have no idea of leaving him permanently. 
I love him too well to do that. But Mrs. Vedder 
really needs me, and I can be of great service to her, 
while Mr. Barclay can spare me for a while ; and then, 
perhaps, the silly talk will have died away." 

" And Miss Marchbank, what will become of her t " 

" Oh, she is already in correspondence with a family 
who have been trying to get her for a year past ! " 

" But, Ruth, do you know what you are doing ? 
what sort of people you are going among } " 

" I have an imperfect idea," said Ruth, with a dep- 
recating look. 

" And you will leave this lovely, lovely Florence, 
a summer in Switzerland, another winter perhaps at 
Nice, to go — where — to what part of our beloved 
land } " 

" To New York, first ; afterwards to some quiet, 
little spot in the country, I hope." 

" Tieiis ! cest malJietireiisey' said May ; whereupon 
Grace turned scornfully about with, — 

" Pray give us none of Mrs. Gray's execrable French 
phrases. May. She is not content with contaminating 
your manners only, but " — She stopped abruptly. 

May made another grimace in reply, and answered 
with less severity, but equal maliciousness, — 

" Positively, you envy Ruth's return to her native 
land." 

"And if I do, what then.?" 

" Why, go with her ! I would if I were you." 



ASPIRA TIONS. 1 3 3 

" I wish I could," said Grace regretfully. 

" Really, you are the most absurdly love-lorn crea- 
ture the world ever saw. — But, Ruth, what romantic 
idea possesses you to leave dear, kind Mr. Barclay 
for that stupid creature, Mrs. Vedder } " 

"She is my aunt. May." 

"I beg pardon, so she is; but that gives her no 
claim, I am sure." 

" I am not so sure ; she loved my mother." 

" But nobody cares very much for relations now-a- 
days ; besides, yours have virtually given you up." 

" Yes, I know I am a " — 

May sprang up, and stopped whatever detracting 
word was coming with a kiss. 

" You are a darling, an angel, a treasure ! I love 
you, Ruth, and so cannot allow you to say a dispar- 
aging word of yourself. This kindness to Mrs. 
Vedder indicates what you can do in the way of 
self-denial. You make me good in spite of myself, 
and so now I am going to find aunt and make my 
peace with her ; I have offended her awfully. Adieu." 
May fluttered away like the butterfly she was, trail- 
ing her pretty silk after her. 

Grace sighed. 

" I wish I could influence her as you do, Ruth." 

Ruth smiled, for she knew how self-absorbed Grace 
had become ; but she made no reply. 

" May is dazzled by that dreadful Mrs. Godfrey 
Gray, of whom I could believe any thing. I dare 
say she is a divorch\ or something of that sort." 

"Why, Grace! don't be uncharitable," remon- 
strated Ruth. 



134 ASPIRATIONS. 

"I cannot help it; she is an injury to May, and^ — 
will you believe it? — intends taking her to a horrid 
masked ball." 

"Your aunt will never allow it." 

" She is not to know it." 

" Oh, Grace, she must ! " 

" No ; May told me in confidence, and declares she 
will go." 

" But you must tell her that it is not at all a place 
where girls are ever allowed." 

" Pshaw ! she laughs at every thing I tell her. She 
says Americans are a law to themselves, and can go 
where they please." 

"She forgets that modesty and reserve are just as 
essential in one place as in another. She would not 
do such a thing in New York or Boston." 

" No, of course not." 

" We must prevent her going, Grace," said Ruth 
earnestly. 

" I sincerely hope we may." 

" Shall I consult Mr. Barclay } " 

" Perhaps it would be as well." 

Then they talked of the garden-party, and the 
various contributions for it that had been received. 

"The artists have sent some charming sketches, 
and the duchess has bought some mosaics," said 
Ruth. 

" The duchess ! How grand you have become to 
have her for a friend, Ruth ! " exclaimed Grace. 

" Really, I don't appreciate the elevation. She is a 
very earnest supporter of the schools, and a thorough- 
ly good woman ; but she is much more Mr. Barclay's 



ASPIRATIONS. 135 

friend than mine. To tell the truth, I find her hard 
to talk to." 

"And Lillo, — Mr. Marsh, I mean, — has he given 
any thing for the bazar ? " 

" Yes. We were at his rooms yesterday ; he works 
with many others in a large studio. I took my choice 
from a portfolio of studies, — a lovely little head, 
a child's, not unlike one of the Angelicos in the 
Uffizi Gallery. He was at first disinclined to offer it, 
as he said it had peculiar associations, — what, I could 
not of course guess, — but he relented at last and gave 
me the sketch. I knew it would please Mr. Barclay. 
He has already bought it." 

"What is Mr. Barclay going to do with all the 
beautiful things he has gathered about him t " 

Ruth's face saddened in expression as she an- 
swered, — 

" I do not know : he seems too restless to ever 
settle in one place, and yet he may one day tire of 
travel." 

"And you, Ruth.?" 

" I have no choice, except that for a few months I 
shall visit Mrs. Vedder." 



136 ASPIRATIONS. 



CHAPTER XII. 

"Ah! signore, why will you let people come to 
these poor shabby rooms ? " was the exclamation of 
Lillo's landlady the day after Mr. Barclay and Ruth's 
visit. 

" And why not, Bianca } " 

"Because, indeed, they are so bare, so unfit an 
appartamento for ladies to enter." 

"Indeed ! then why do you not lessen my rent ?" 
exclaimed the practical artist. But, seeing Bianca's 
crestfallen look, he glanced out of the window, and 
with a stretch of his hand toward the .hills said, — 

"This view atones for all shortcomings within. 
What care I for the broken-down sedias, or the 
cracked tazzasf 

" But the signorina, was she not shocked } The 
Americans are so grand, and to mount way up to 
this/2^;/^ must have tired her." 

"Not at all; she enjoyed it. American girls like 
variety, adventure," he said, more to himself than to 
his listener. 

"The signorina is bellissima !^^ sighed Bianca, 
glancing at her withered old face in the small mirror, 
giving a touch of her duster to the table, and gather- 
ing up the various household utensils which she had 



ASPIRATIONS. 137 

been using, for a spasmodic fit of industry had seized 
her. Days and days went by with little or no atten- 
tion to the quiet inhabitant of these upper rooms; 
but now that an American gentleman and a beauti- 
ful young lady had condescended to explore his fast- 
ness, she must be more alert. Who could tell what 
might happen should they be as foolish and romantic 
as the young signore, and prefer an outside "view " to 
interior elegance? There was no telling what those 
barbaric Americans ever would do ; and Bianca began 
calculating how much more she would increase the 
rent. 

But Lillo had already forgotten Bianca and her 
apologies. He was thinking of the delicate beauty 
of one American girl, of her gentle manners and 
sympathetic appreciation of his work. He was wish- 
ing he had such a friend, one that would take pride 
and pleasure in his achievements, one to whom he 
could confide his aspirations, one who could cheer 
and stimulate him, and for whom he would be so 
glad to strive and conquer fortune. Not often did 
he allow himself these thoughts. He was too strong, 
too determined, to yield easily to vague desires of 
this kind. But the strongest have need of affection, 
and Lillo often longed to know something of his 
mother. 

Had she been young and pretty, or staid and 
saintly } Was she living or dead, and who was she } 
Ah, he dared not ask ! He feared some mystery, 
some stain, would perhaps deface the image he had 
formed within his own breast ; some dark cloud rest 
upon the memory of one of whom, so long as he knew 



1 3 8 ASPIRA TIONS. 

no ill, he could believe every thing good and pure and 
lovely. Yes, he would not seek to draw the veil 
which circumstances had placed between him and the 
past. 

But it was a strange past ; for besides the little 
brown l^ouse on the sands, the gray fogs, the long, roll- 
ing waves and their thunder on the beach, the two old 
people whose weather-beaten visages were ever pres- 
ent to his memory, there was another picture, less 
distinct, much more shadowy, perhaps only a dream, 
but it was this, — 

It was of a night, balmy" sweet, full of soft airs 
and shining with stars ; of a garden where roses 
grew, of a fountain falling from dolphin mouths into 
marble basins. And then the garden changed to a 
ship, creaking and pulling at the ropes which held it 
to a wharf piled with bales of goods ; the scent of 
roses gave place to the smell of tar, the dripping 
fall of the fountain to the splash of waves and the 
hoarse cries of seamen. Some one bent and kissed 
him ; he could not tell whom, but it seemed to him it 
was an old woman, and that her swinging bead neck- 
lace, as well as a tear, touched his cheek. Then a 
man held him in his strong arms, and he looked up 
into a kindly face, not unlike grandfather Marsh's, 
but it was redder and rougher than grandfather's. 
Then the ship sailed out into the night, and the stars 
twinkled in the water as well as in the sky. But 
ship and water and stars ended as they do in dreams, 
with a start ; and he was again seeking clams at the 
Neck, or tugging at an unruly sail, or dragging 
home a string of fish for grandmother Marsh to fry. 



ASPIRATIONS. 139 

"Tut, what foolishness to dream in this way ! " he 
would say to himself, giving another glance at the 
heavenly blue sky, and watching the flight of some 
pigeons from a neighboring window ; then he would 
draw his easel near, and arrange the colors on his 
palette, and with rapid touch block out a picture. 

He was doing this now, when a knock was heard 
at his door, followed by a familiar, " Buon giomo T* 

" Ah, I have bearded you in your den this time ! '* 
said the same voice, and Branly Potter stalked in. 
"The lovely Bianca informed me I should find you 
here. I'm drumming for that confounded garden- 
party, as you may suppose. What a bore it is to be 
in the train of a lot of women who have nothing to 
do but get up fairs diVid fetes and fal-lals ! " 

" I should have supposed it entirely to your taste, 
almost a vocation," responded Lillo dryly. 

" Yes, I dare say you would ; but you are mistaken. 
I'm tired of even being decently civil to them all, 
and I think I'll go break stones on the roads before 
long." 

" Really, this is serious. Had you not better be- 
come a courier .? " 

" Worse and worse, — more women to trot round 
after. No, thank you. I'm going to the States in 
the fall." 

"What to do.?" 

" Any thing that turns up ; run for Congress, per- 
haps." 

"But what has happened to annoy you just now? 
Has the fair one refused to smile ? " 

"All the fair ones are frowning. Each has her 



140 ASPIRATIONS. 

own particular fish to fry. One needs to be a Machi- 
avelli to understand them. Mrs. Coit is at the head 
of \.\\\^fete, and was amply able to carry it through 
without assistance. But so soon as the duchess's 
name was mentioned in connection with it, the flut- 
ter among the females became fearful. So many 
applications have been made to take part in it, that 
half the foreign population will be enraged to have 
their services declined, and there is danger of selling 
no tickets." 

"Now is the chance for diplomacy. Use your 
skill." 

" No ; I shall let them fight it out, and then wash 
my hands of all such affairs in future. I am tired of 
being a * vagabond,' as May Alden politely puts it." 

" She is saucy." 

" Yes ; so is her sister. They are both bright 
girls." 

"Very." 

"Miss Morris is so much quieter that she is 
thought to be dull." 

" It's a mistake." 

" So I think. She wasn't dull when she faced that 
Vedder woman. By the by, do you know her sons ? " 

" Whose sons } " 

"Mrs. Vedder' s." 

" No ; I never heard of them before." 

" They have persecuted me. Th'ey consider me an 
authority on art, and consequently consult me about 
all the rubbish they are going to cart home. Do 
you know Mrs. Vedder is Miss Morris's aunt? And 
it is rumored she is going back with her." 



ASPIRATIONS. 141 

" Going to leave Mr. Barclay ? '* 

" Yes. It's a queer move ; I am quite sure she 
knew little of her before they met here. But this is 
all gossip. What trade would you advise me to take 
up, Marsh, since the courier suggestion is unavail- 
able t " 

"Bag an heiress." 

" Thanks. Your suggestions have a spice of sat- 
ire, as if my accomplishments were only in the line 
of social life." 

"As they are, unquestionably." 

" Then you painter chaps think I'm only a squire 
of dames } " 

" Oh, I did not limit your powers ! " 

" But you calmly leave it to be supposed that is all 
I am good for. Now, in return, let me tell you that 
I am going to the States to work, not to dabble in 
art or literature, but to work for my daily bread — 
with my brains if I can, but with my hands if I can't." 

" Good ! Shake hands. I hope the bread will be 
sweet, in spite of your fling at my profession." 

" You know well enough what I mean, for you are 
in earnest, and will make your profession subservient 
to your purpose, — viz., the elevation of humanity, — 
where others make it only the vehicle of selfish van- 
ity. Do you know whose face is coming out now on 
your canvas ? " 

" No, I am only experimenting." 

"Nevertheless, it is a good likeness of the little 
Mayflower, Ruth Morris." 

"That is a good name for her. Where did you 
get it?" 



1 42 AS PI R A TIONS, 

" I don*t know, — the Aldens may have suggested 
it." 

Lillo went on painting. He was making studies 
for a group of Puritans going to church in the simple, 
primitive Colonial days of New England. Sternly 
devoted to duty, despite the danger from their treach- 
erous foes, the men indicated the need of caution, not 
only in the expression of their faces, but in the wea- 
pons carried, ready for use, in their hands ; and the 
women were no less courageous. 

" Yes, I will get her to pose for me," thought 
Lillo. "She is just the sort of girl who would have 
faced these dangers with resolute calmness." 

He quite forgot his companion, until Mr. Potter 
asked him for his contribution to th^fete. 

Then he explained that Mr. Barclay and Miss 
Morris had chosen a sketch, which had gone to be 
framed, and which would be duly on exhibition, 
although it was sold. 

" Lucky fellow, to have such good friends," said 
Mr. Potter. " Well, Fll go then. But be sure you 
are on hand on the 25th, for I don't propose to be 
the only sacrificial offering to the fashionable mob." 

Lillo smiled. No man less needed an ally than 
Branly Potter. Everybody liked him, and he liked 
everybody, though he pretended to great fastidious- 
ness. 



ASPIRATIONS. 143 



CHAPTER XIII. 

It may be as well to explain how it had come about 
that Mr. Barclay had given Ruth permission to follow 
the bent of her inclination in joining her aunt for a 
while — for a little while only, as he said to himself. 
He had no intention of surrendering her to her rela- 
tives. He was a whimsical man, as we know, and 
being so made him indulgent to the whims of others. 

Ruth had come to him one day, fresh from Mrs. 
Vedder's lonely rooms in the Casa Doria, with a 
pitiful tale of her aunt's sorrows. 

" I never saw any one quite so homesick as my 
poor aunt Abby, Mr. Barclay ; she enjoys nothing, 
not even this lovely spring weather, and only longs 
for her sons to come. But they, selfish fellows, now 
write that they prefer spending the summer abroad, 
and seem quite indifferent to either her loneliness or 
her wish to return. If you could spare me, my dear 
guardian," — Ruth rarely used this word, but she was 
now in an excited mood, — "I would be so glad to 
take her home." 

" You ! " exclaimed Mr. Barclay. 

"Yes. The poor woman would be immensely 
happy, and I — Well, I should feel as if I were 
doing just a little good." 



144 ASPIRATIONS. 

"My dear little Samaritan, have you considered 
what you are talking about ? " 

" I have indeed," replied Ruth. 

" But, Ruth, you do not like Mrs. Vedder." 

Ruth blushed. 

" I do not like her unrefinement, but I have really 
learned to look a little below the surface. She has a 
very kind heart." 

"Does that atone for the thousand and one things 
that are lacking } " 

" I am not sure, I cannot say ; but I would like to 
help her." 

"And leave me.?" 

" Only for a while, Mr. Barclay." 

" I, too, have been thinking you should have some 
choice in the matter of your own actions, Ruth." 

Ruth looked up quickly. 

" Yes, you are no longer a child." 

" You do not suppose I have any wish to do any 
thing you disapprove, Mr. Barclay } " 

" No : you are very transparent, Ruth, and perhaps 
a little too docile for your own strength. I think I 
will not thwart you in this desire to be of use to 
Mrs. Vedder. You will learn more than you think, 
but you must be prepared for disagreeables and 
difficulties." 

" And you will not think me ungrateful } " said 
Ruth pleadingly. 

" No, dear, no." 

Ruth rose and kissed her guardian with a bright 
smile, saying, — 

" Mrs. Vedder will be so glad." 



ASPIRATIONS, 145 

" She ought to be," was the emphatic reply. 

Then, as Ruth left the room, Mr. Barclay solilo- 
quized. 

"I shall be very dull without her, — she is a dear 
child. My old friend, Dick Morris, never did a wiser 
or kinder thing than in leaving her to me. She has 
made my life worth living ; but she is, in truth, no 
longer a child.'* 

And then Mr. Barclay, who was walking up and 
down the room, stopped before a mirror and surveyed 
himself. 

He saw there the slender figure of a man whose 
habits had not been productive of muscular develop- 
ment, but who was nevertheless of an erect and 
graceful carriage. The face did not indicate the ex- 
act years that had passed over it, though the hair was 
beginning to be more than silvery. The eyes were 
clear and bright ; and if at their corners there wdre 
some lines which time had traced, they were no 
deeper than the furrows which care and toil also pro- 
duce in younger visages. On the whole, Mr. Barclay, 
who had no overplus of vanity, and who was quite 
willing to acknowledge his forty-eight years, had to 
be honest with himself and admit that many younger 
men might envy his appearance. But at the same 
time he felt really older than he was. When he lost 
his wife, sorrow had made him its prey. He had 
loved her deeply, truly, entirely, — as a man only 
loves once, so he honestly believed, — merging his 
whole being into that of the object so loved ; and his 
heart had never rebounded from the shock of her 
loss. This had aged him, and made him indifferent 



146 ASPIRATIONS. 

to much that interests other people. He hated 
novels, with their everlasting study of the affections ; 
he avoided music of the sentimental order ; he would 
not go to see a tragedy ; he was as sensitive to the 
sight of lovers' bliss as if he had been jilted, — and 
yet his old friend, Miss Alden, had asked him if he 
were going to marry Ruth. 

That question had recurred to him again and 
again ; and, though to him its absurdity equalled its 
vulgarity, it had helped him to decide this matter of 
Ruth's departure. He would prove how false and 
foolish the world had been in its surmises, and how 
well he could do without her gentle presence ; but he 
was afraid the poor girl would suffer from the con- 
tact with her vulgar relatives. 

And so, with not a suspicion that Mr. Barclay knew 
the gossip she had heard, Ruth arrived at the same 
conclusion that he had come to; viz., that it would all 
be forgotten in her absence. 

Of course, Mrs. Vedder was made happy. 

"You have done more to make me well than all 
the doctors in the world could do," she said to Ruth. 
"I wouldn't have believed you could be so kind, that 
first night I met you. I thought you were awfully 
stuck up, — you were as stiff as a poker, — but you 
ain't. You're a sweet little wild-rose, just such as 
I've often picked in the woods at Berryville." 

Ruth laughed. 

"Tell me about Berryville, aunt Abby." 

" I will, — only too glad to, — but first you tell me 
how Mr. Barclay finds it in his heart to let you go 
away from him. I thought — people say " — 



ASPIRA TIONS, l/^'J 

The look in Ruth's face checked her. 

" Well, I don't suppose I have any call to inquire, 
so long as he does me such a favor ; but I really don't 
see how he can do it." 

" He seldom refuses a reasonable request, and he 
has always been as kind to me as if he were really 
my father." 

Ruth emphasized the last words of her sentence ; 
and Mrs. Vedder gave a little shrug to her shoulders, 
around which were wrapped a costly shawl, that, from 
its dinginess, might have been worn by several pashas. 

''Now about Berryville, Ruth. It's an ordinary 
country town. Your uncle Cauldwell Boggs has 
built lots of houses there, and it's not so nice as it 
used to be ; but I like it, though the boys don't. They 
hate it. The old homestead was a real comfortable 
old place. Your grandmother — my oldest sister 
Margaretta — was born there ; and there she died, 
leaving your mother. But her father took her away 
when she was little. Old Mr. Sanders was very queer. 
He didn't like us, and we didn't like him. 

" I suppose he is dead," said Ruth casually. 

" No, he isn't." 

"What ! have I a grandfather, then?" 

" Yes, such as he is." 

Ruth could not help smiling at the dubious reply. 

" Well, he is queer, you know," went on her aunt 
apologetically. " He is very learned, people say. He 
has out-lived all his sons and daughters, and he 
doesn't seem to care about any thing but his books. 
When brother Cauldwell told him that you had been 
left to Mr. Barclay, he only said, * Ah ! indeed ! * and 



1 48 ASPIRA TIONS. 

that made Mr. Boggs mad; for, if he ain't very agree- 
able, he has some spirit, and he didn't like the notion 
of any of the family being sort o' begging of a 
stranger." 

Ruth winced. What dreadful things this aunt 
could say, and do it, too, as if entirely for her auditor's 
entertainment. She hardly paused to take breath : 
it was so long since she had been favored with so good 
a listener. 

"He had never cared for Dick Morris, who ran 
away with your mother, you know ; and he had no 
sort o* feeling for Cauldwell's not likin' Mr. Barclay, 
— for Cauldwell didn't like his offer refused." 

Seeing Ruth's mystification, she explained, " Mr. 
Boggs wanted to take you from Mr. Barclay, but he 
wouldn't listen to him. Perhaps it has turned out 
for the best, for Cauldwell is a hard man. People 
are apt to be who work for their livin' as he has done, 
and men are so cantankerous." 

Ruth smiled at her aunt's philosophy, and strove 
to draw her out on a more interesting theme than 
chronology ; but Mrs. Vedder was very fond of going 
into the deeps of family history, and of climbing the 
branches of her ancestral tree. 

" The Boggses are all inclined to be proud ; and 
Cauldwell thinks because he has made a fortune he is 
something very remarkable, and he is afraid my boys 
will go through all my money. It wouldn't matter 
much to me if they did. Money is a great bother. 
Mr. Vedder might have been living now, if he hadn't 
worked so hard to get it." 

Here Mrs. Vedder whisked a tear away, and went 
on, — 



ASPIRATIONS, 149 

" Mr. Sanders lives all alone in the city : we never 
see him, though." 

Ruth suddenly interrupted her. 

" Don't tell me any more about my relations, aunt 
Abby. What kind of a place is Berryville? Is it 
very rural, with arching elms and maples, such as I 
have heard are so beautiful in New-England towns ? " 

" Well, you'll have to wait and see ; I ain't a good 
hand at describin'. I like the city and all the shops. 
It's awful dull in the country, and — I say, Ruth, do 
you think you are going to like bein' with me, after 
all?" 

There seemed to be some doubt in her aunt's mind ; 
there certainly was in her own, but the girl strove to 
conquer it. 

" I want to make you happier, if I can," she said 
modestly. 

"Well," replied her aunt, "it is kind of you to give 
up so much for me ; but, now tell the truth, ain't you 
tired of joggin' all over Europe a-sight-seein' .? " 

Ruth laughed merrily, and shook her head. 

"Well, it's very queer: the boys like it too, — Jim 
and Charley. Oh, won't they be surprised to hear 
I'm going home ! Let's see, we leave on the 28th. 
They'll get my letter in time to come and say *good- 
by ' if they want to ; but I don't believe they want to. 
They're so fine now that they're sort of ashamed of 
me." 

" Oh, Mrs. Vedder, aunt Abby ! " exclaimed Ruth, 
pained to hear a mother speak thus of her sons. 

"It's just the truth, anyhow; and Cauld well would 
say it served me right." 



150 ASPIRATIONS, 

Ruth inwardly revolted at this admission. Sorry 
as she was for her aunt, this was one of the things 
which made affection for her impossible, — this want 
of proper reserve, this absence of self-respect and dig- 
nity. Ruth could only pity, but she could not admire 
her aunt. The prospect of spending months in Mrs. 
Vedder's society was not an agreeable one ; but in 
doing it she had not expected pleasure : a higher 
motive had impelled her, and, inspired by that, she 
had no intention of withdrawing. Nevertheless, it 
was a relief to get back to Miss Marchbank's calm 
and quiet presence, and to Mr. Barclay, waiting for 
his tea. 

Although they were in a great, gloomy Italian pal- 
ace, the room had an air not wholly foreign. Mr. 
Barclay always carried as many comforts about with 
him as an Englishman is charged with doing. His 
books, pictures, and papers, his wife's portrait, his 
tiger-skin rug, his American lamp and folding-chairs, 
all gave the apartment a cosiness not due to the lofty 
walls, the deep ' embrasures, and the flowery balco- 
nies. Miss Marchbank was never without her work- 
basket ; and now, in addition to all these things, the 
table was set for tea with Mr. Barclay's own Japan- 
ese service. Ruth sat down with a little sigh, partly 
of fatigue, partly of satisfaction. 

Mr. Barclay regarded her with a curious sort of 
glance, questioning without words. Miss Marchbank, 
too, seemed expectant. 

" It is quite settled," said Ruth ; " we are to go on 
the 28th. Have you heard any thing definite from 
your friends. Miss Marchbank?" 



ASPIRA TIONS. 151 

" Yes. A letter came this morning. I am to meet 
them on the 25th, at Genoa. From thence we start 
for the Pyrenees." 

" But you will not then stay for the garden- 
party ? " 

" Impossible, my dear ! — And you, Mr. Barclay, 
will you remain here } " asked Miss Marchbank. 

Ruth looked eagerly at her guardian. 

" Yes, for the present." 

At that moment Mr. Marsh was announced. Lillo 
came in at the right moment. Ruth began to feel 
as if her courage had been overestimated, when these 
separations were so near. This talk of departure was 
painful. But now the current turned. Mr. Marsh 
had brought the picture for the fete. It was a 
lovely head, — a child's soft-featured face, with great, 
glowing eyes, and a tangled mass of curls ; just such 
a child as one might see at any time down beneath 
the balcony, tossing pebbles with its companions. 
The picture was set in an old frame of niello-work, 
mounted on garnet velvet. 

** How lovely ! " " How picturesque ! " came from 
the ladies. 

Mr. Barclay looked at it critically. 

" Where did you get your model .-' " he asked. 

*' I had none," replied Lillo, laughing 

" But how can that be } The face is familiar. It 
looks like some one I've seen before." 

" That is not improbable. The commonest Italian 
child has a typical face." 

" Yes, that is true. But where have I seen this 1 
Ha ! I remember, now. It looks like the boy I saw 



1 5 2 ASPIRA TIONS, 

at Cod town, years and years ago, — your own self, I 
verily believe." 

Lillo did not deny it. On the contrary, he told 
them that it had been worked up partly from his 
own features, partly from a silhouette which he 
possessed. 

Ruth compared it now with the man's face before 
her, and also saw the likeness ; though it was, of 
course, more in feature than in expression. There 
was the same dreamy depth in the eyes ; but the 
child's face had a delicacy and richness of color, and 
the subtle, imaginative qualities which were due to 
the artist, and not to his model. Perhaps Ruth saw 
more in the man's than in the child's face to admire ; 
it certainly was one of strength and penetration and 
fine expressiveness. But looking at first, as she 
would have done at any two things, to compare them, 
she suddenly became conscious that one of them was 
not a picture ; for her gaze drooped under the return 
glance of admiration and inquiry, which quite as 
innocently had been bestowed upon her. 

The evening was warm, and they all drew near the 
balcony. Mr. Barclay and Lillo discussed art and 
artists. The elder man was fluent, and a good con- 
versationalist ; the younger a better listener, but by 
no means backward in responding. During the dis- 
cussion, Lillo mentioned that the duchess had paid 
him a visit, and commissioned him to paint her a 
picture. 

" Ah, did I not predict good fortune for you } " 
queried Ruth. 

" Yes. The visit was due to the fact that she had 



ASPIRA TIONS. 153 

seen the picture destined for the fete. She came 
across it at the frame-maker's, where she was ordering 
work. I am quite surprised to find her so simple 
and plain a person. I had the rustic idea that a 
duchess would be rather unapproachable." 

" The Americans outrival the English in exalting 
rank," observed Miss Marchbank, tossing back her 
cap-ribbons. 

" Is it not natural that all imaginative persons, 
Miss Marchbank, should environ those who occupy 
exalted positions with a little halo of superiority?" 

** I don't know, Mr. Barclay, I am not sufficiently 
gifted to be able to say ; but I do know that tuft 
hunting is as much practised by those who live under 
a republican as a monarchical government." 

Lillo laughed, as he said, — 

" It matters nothing to me whether Mrs. Smith or 
the Duchess of Stickingham buys my pictures. Ap- 
preciation is what an artist most covets. I should 
even spurn their money, only that it is a proof of the 
estimate put upon one's work." 

Ruth gave him a sympathetic little nod of approval, 
but Mr. Barclay laughed at the youthful zeal. 

"Ah, my dear fellow, you will outgrow that senti- 
ment ! "• 

" Never," said Lillo firmly. " I hate the commer- 
cial spirit. It is ruinous to art ; it degrades and 
defiles." 

" You look at it in the wrong light. Trade is one 
of the necessary evils of civilization." 

"I decline to believe in necessary evils." 

" Perhaps that word was not well chosen. * Evil ' 



1 5 4 AS PI R A TIONS, 

is a strong term to apply ; * barrier * would have been 
better." 

" Truly trade is a barrier to aspiration, to cultiva- 
tion even of the moral faculties." 

" Ah, you run away with an idea ! I did not mean 
you to take it in that sense. It is the barrier to 
greed, to man's trampling upon the right of another. 
It is one of the things to be used and not abused. 
In its simplest form, what was it but a mere exchange 
of necessities between barbarians .'' " 

" It has outgrown all the limitations of necessity." 

*' I am not so sure. Certainly, values are factitious ; 
but that is because we are no longer primitive men. 
Even our wants are of an abstract nature. We no 
longer have to depend upon our skill as marksmen 
for our meat, nor upon the hides of animals for our 
clothing ; but we must have beauty, grace, order, re- 
pose, companionship, — things that delight the mind, 
— or we starve intellectually and socially." 

Ruth listened eagerly for the reply. 

"And are these a matter of barter, Mr. Barclay?" 
questioned Lillo. 

" More or less, yes." 

" I cannot agree with you," was the response. 
*' These things are to be wrested from the world by 
the individual, as truly as the savage won his daily 
food by his own prowess." 

The talk went on after this in a leisurely way. 
The soft south wind bore upon its wings the odor of 
violets; the tinkling bells of tambourines sounded in 
the distance ; the splash of the fountain in its mar- 
ble basin lulled its little melody. In a human heart 



ASPIRATIONS. 155 

had a sweeter melody begun. Who knows just when 
and where love is born ? 

As the conversation languished, merry voices 
broke upon the stillness, and Miss Alden with her 
nieces entered 



156 ASPIRATIONS, 



CHAPTER XIV. 

The 25th of May dawned, as a day set apart for a 
gracious purpose ought to dawn, benignantly. It 
was indeed the perfection of spring and early sum- 
mer, — a warmth and breeziness, a fresh, dewy, 
sweet-scented atmosphere, and a sunny sky. 

Early in the day a throng of pleasure-seekers set 
forth for the Romano Gardens, where Mrs. Coit's 
festa was to take place; and to the glad ring of 
merry voices came the answering song of hundreds 
of birds. The hedges were white with roses. The 
oranges were in blossom, and the locust-trees were 
hung with fragrant tassels. 

In the carriages were bright toilets, vieing in fresh- 
ness and color with the blossoming shrubs ; and 
everywhere — from the silken bodice of the belle, the 
buttonhole of the dandy, to the ears of the horses, 
and the padded breasts of the liv&ried servants — 
were flowers, flowers en masse, or in a single creamy 
bud. 

Ruth had gone out early with the Aldens to 
superintend the arrangement of the bazar, but Miss 
Marchbank had vetoed the wearing of any badge or 
costume ; her only concession to the wishes of the 
others was in allowing Ruth to appear in white. 



ASPIRA TIONS. 157 

The road leading to the Romano Gardens com- 
manded fine views, but became on nearer approach 
merely a private path, hardly wide enough for two 
vehicles abreast, and quite shut in by a dense growth 
of forest trees ; so that the impatient guests found it 
pleasanter to dismount and walk to the arching en- 
trance, which, with its carved buttresses and heavy 
iron gates, looked, as May expressed it, " more like 
the approach to a cemetery than to a palace." 

But palace there was, — at least such as remained 
untouched of Time ; and, though the solid stone 
showed modern additions of brick and stucco, there 
was still an imposing breadth and grace in the 
structure. 

Architecturally it bore evidence of age, and diver- 
sity of taste on the part of its builders. With the 
revival of Greek learning in Italy, came also renewed 
admiration for the noble forms of Grecian art ; and 
the student could trace in this Romano Palace various 
types, — from the remains of its barbaric beginnings 
as a stronghold, to the lighter Corinthian capitals 
decorating the peaceful fagade. 

The habitable portion was closed and barricaded, 
the uninhabitable portion left to the embrace of moss 
and lichen and overhanging vines, — less useful, but 
more picturesque. 

The gardens, however, were in very beautiful order, 
owing to the fact that the gardener reaped a harvest 
from them both in flowers and in fruit. Devotion 
to the family might have induced him to keep out 
intruders, but hardly to spend on them the time and 
trouble to which their careful appearance bore wit- 



158 ASPIRA TIONS. 

ness. But the gay procession quickly sped past beds 
of broccoli and asparagus, to the brilliant parterres 
which yielded less substantial delights ; and even 
beyond the roses and violets, to the dense shrubbery 
of ilex and pine, and the more stately growth of for- 
est trees. For here was shade and coolness ; and 
here were splashing fountains and rustic arbors, and 
gnarled roots twisted into seats ; and here was spread 
the table of pretty trifles, with also the refreshing 
ices and light viands which a bevy of gay girls dis- 
pensed. 

The scene was pretty enough for a Watteau. 

The dense foliage, lightened by the glittering sun- 
beams ; the velvet sward ; the beautiful glimpses 
here and there of distant fields where cattle grazed, 
— all forming a charming background for the people. 

Mrs. Coit's delicate face and figure beside the 
Duchess of Stickingham's robust charms were like 
the lily and the paeony ; though both were in cos- 
tumes which were the contempt of many of the be- 
holders from the absence of cost in their preparation. 
What was the use of being a millionnaire or a 
duchess if one could not dress better than that } 

Mrs. Coit was in a lilac muslin, as delicate as the 
wistaria blossoms ; the duchess, in leafy brown of two 
or three tints, — and neither wore diamonds. Their 
deficiency in that respect, however, was made up by 
Mrs. Godfrey Gray, who sparkled and flashed like a 
prism. She had a dainty little person, and her robes 
were a marvel of the dress-making art. No wonder, 
with her chic and dash and love of splendor, that she 
disdained lesser luminaries. 



ASPIRA TIONS, 1 59 

"Positively, T never saw such a fright as that 
Englishwoman," she said to May, whose white silk 
and rose-wreathed hat became her wonderfully; "and 
Mrs. Coit is dressed like a shop-girl." 

" Or a shepherdess," put in Mr. Morton lazily. 

" Nothing could be more appropriate," said May ; 
"she is a picture just as she stands." 

Mrs. Gray smiled scornfully. She liked May Alden 
in spite of the decided way in which they often dif- 
fered. " But come," she said, " let us look at the 
fancy things. "^I haven't much interest in the Protes- 
tant schools. The Italians make better Catholics. 
But the money may as well go one way as another, 
and the fun is in spending. One never expects their 
money's worth in a place like this." 

As she approached the tables, Grace Alden whis- 
pered to Ruth, "Behold the tempter! How she jin- 
gles and jangles ! And May is as a spider in her 
web. That slender youth, who looks as if he hadn't 
two ideas beyond the cut of his coat, is Mr. Morton. 
He is one of our jetmesse dor^ ; " and Grace sighed, 
thinking how far, far superior was her poor young 
lover, toiling away at his clerkly duties, and how 
unjustly the good things of life were divided. 

Ruth had no time to reply, for already Mrs. God* 
frey Gray, with one ear for the waltz which the band 
had struck up, and the other for the sallies of a 
young naval officer who was one of a gallant deputa- 
tion from an American man-of-war lying in the Medi- 
terranean, was stripping the table of its prettiest 
treasures. 

" How much. Miss Morris ? " she was saying, at 



l6o ASPIRATIONS, 

the same time pouring out gold pieces from the silken 
meshes of a dainty purse, when her eye caught sight 
of the picture of the Italian child, which in its velvet 
and niello-work frame was a conspicuous ornament. 
" How much ? Oh, but I must have that ! Sold ! do 
you say? Oh, no ! I will pay ever so much more, and 
you can get the artist to paint another." 

" The artist must speak for himself," answered 
Ruth, turning with a graceful movement towards 
Lillo, who had just drawn near. "This picture has 
passed out of his possession, and is not to be had, 
Mrs. Gray." 

The words were uttered by Ruth in a firm, though 
gentle, manner ; but Mrs. Gray pouted and fretted 
with almost childish petulance, attracting the atten- 
tion of everybody, and there was then quite a crush of 
people. One person stopped and looked with near- 
sighted inspection at the coveted picture. As he did 
so, he drew out his glasses, exclaiming in Italian, — 

" Remarkable ! peculiar ! interesting ! " 

Then turning to Ruth, he said in broken Eng- 
lish, — 

" I could show you something very like this in the 
chdteau over there," pointing towards the chimneys 
of the palace, which were but just visible above the 
trees. 

"Indeed!" said Ruth, glad of a diversion from 
Mrs. Gray's assumed anger. "Are strangers allowed 
to enter.?" 

" Not usually," replied the gentleman, " but I can 
get in if I wish. Would you like to go } " 

" Very much. And here is Mr. Marsh ; I am sure 



ASPIRA TIONS. 1 6 1 

he would enjoy such a privilege if there are any art- 
treasures to be seen." 

** Permit me, then, to introduce myself as M. 
Petitspains, a solicitor attached to the Romano 
family," answered the stranger politely. " I have the 
honor to know Mr. Marsh by reputation." 

Ruth glanced at the spare, dried-up, little old man, 
and wondered if her guardian would object to her go- 
ing to the palace under his guidance. Miss March- 
bank was making her adieux to friends here, there, 
and everywhere ; Miss Alden was nowhere to be seen. 
Grace could not be induced to go. She had a letter 
to read in her pocket when occasion offered, and this 
would be the occasion if only they would all go and 
leave her. Lillo was ready to act as escort. He 
had never seen Ruth looking lovelier. She was in 
white, gauzy, filmy, delicate white, with the jauntiest 
little cottage-bonnet trimmed wdth daises. Her 
cheeks were just pink enough to redeem them from 
the charge of pallor ; for the heat was apt to whiten 
rather than redden them, and she was getting tired 
standing so long. 

Mrs. Gray had gone off with May in her train, and 
all her courtiers laden with spoils. Dancing had be- 
gun, and the throng had left them. 

" I shall be delighted to see the palace,'* said Ruth, 
" but I wish I could find Mr. Barclay. He might 
think it strange for me to go without him." 

"Oh, no, he won't ! " said Grace, nervously anxious 
to be rid of them. " I will tell him where you are, and 
perhaps he will follow. There he is now ! " she ex- 
claimed. 



1 62 ASPIRA TIONS. 

" We will have an opportunity of seeing the palace, 
Mr. Barclay," said Ruth, presenting the solicitor. 

"Yes: well, I will go to, if permitted," was the 
response : so they strolled off, the little solicitor glad 
of so interested an auditor as Mr. Barclay proved him- 
self. 

The way was not the one open to visitors, but 
through by-paths ; and these were so overgrown that 
more than once Ruth's delicate lace was caught by 
briars. She tried to free herself, but each time had 
to allow Lillo to disentangle her. The little solicitor 
was delighted to -find that Mr. Barclay preferred 
French to Italian, and was now deep in an account 
of the Romano litigation, which to him involved all 
Italy. 

In that charming saunter, with the echoes of the 
music following them, and the silence of the grim 
old chateau beckoning to its mysteries, a word or two 
was said never to be forgotten. 

Is it well to attempt to delineate too closely the 
delicate bloom, the first fair freshness, of a blossom, 
unless we have the brush of a genius, the power of a 
master 1 Will not the effect of color answer the pur- 
pose } 

Did Mr. Barclay notice the elation, the light joy- 
ousness of these two young people } or was he too 
absorbed in this curious mosaic work of legal diffi- 
culties which his enthusiastic companion was point- 
ing out to him } 

They resiched the /forU coc/ieW of a side entrance, 
and paused while M. Petitspains went off to procure 
keys. He soon returned, followed by an old man, 



ASPIRATIONS. 163 

who scrutinized them closely, but made no observa- 
tions. 

Unlocking the smallest of three doors, he led them 
into a vestibule, which opened at once into a wide 
hall, lighted from above, and around which ran a cor 
ridor with other doors opening into vast suites of 
apartments. The chill of emptiness, and the desola- 
tion of silence, reigned everywhere. The floors were 
of marble, the walls were partly of stone and stucco, 
and the woodwork of a heavy order, but so garnished 
with white paint and gold arabesques that the natural 
formation could not be detected. 

Ruth looked about with a little sensation of awe, 
and the aversion of youth to the chill loneliness of an 
uninhabited house. Mr. Barclay's critical gaze dis- 
approved of the loading of so much fine timber with 
heavy coats of paint. The solicitor stood in mute 
and respectful admiration ; while Lillo was the only 
one of the party, except the old man with the keys, 
who was unconstrained. In truth, the place seemed 
familiar to him, doubtless because he had seen so 
many old palaces in his rambles. 

They now ascended the broad staircase, and were 
ushered into a gallery, the heavy shutters of which 
had to be unbarred. This done, the golden sunlight 
streamed into the dusty apartment, lighting up the 
stately rows of pictures which hung upon the walls, 
revealing many the value of which was well known 
to connoisseurs. 

*' Here, monsieur," said the withered little solicit- 
or, leading the way to a distant corner. "This is 
the very vraisemb lance of the picture at your bazar. 



1 64 ASPIRA TIONS. 

Look ! Am I not right in discovering the simili- 
tude ? " 

Lillo laughingly acknowledged the truth of the 
statement, though the picture was of an older youth, 
and the costume that of mediaeval days. Mr. Barclay 
also saw it ; and Ruth might have done so had she 
not been struck with the strange actions of the old 
key-bearer, who was shuffling about impatiently, but 
at the same time watching the party with an inten- 
sity of observation for which she could not account. 
At first his gaze had wandered from one to the other, 
but at last it had rested exclusively on the painter ; 
and the crafty look had changed to open-eyed aston- 
ishment, and finally to fear, which increased as foot- 
steps neared, and an old woman hobbled into the 
gallery. 

She was in the rough, woollen gown of the Italian 
peasant, with the white camicia and red bodice ; 
around her withered old throat still clung the neck- 
lace of gold beads without which a peasant must be 
poor indeed. Her gray hair, uncovered by cap or 
tooaglia, was drawn straight back from her forehead, 
beneath which glittered eyes of remarkable bright- 
ness. Though bent with rheumatism, she did not 
walk feebly; and, judging from the rapidity of the 
words addressed to the man with the keys, her mind 
certainly was not as infirm as her body. 

She seemed to be reproaching her companion for 
some misdemeanor, as he moved uneasily away, and 
sought to make her withdraw. But her impetuous 
flow of language only increased ; and, approaching the 
visitors, she began another harangue in Italian of so 



ASPIRATIONS. 165 

provincial a dialect that only M. Petitspains could 
understand even a few words, 

" She is annoyed that Girolamo should have allowed 
us to enter to-day. She fears that the whole crowd 
in the gardens will wish to follow, and she rebukes 
him for his imprudence. I, however, will explain to 
her that we will say nothing to the others to suggest 
such a wish," went on monsieur, not noticing, as 
Ruth did, the sudden cessation of the old woman's 
voluble speech, and a sudden pallor and a quick 
movement. In another instant she had fallen, — 
not prone, not insensible, — but on her knees. They 
all sprang forward, but she pushed them violently 
aside, detaining only Lillo in a strong grasp, and 
gazing upon him with a look which combined aston- 
ishment, pleasure, and affection. Then, bursting 
into tears, she tossed her linen apron over her face, 
and sobbed aloud. 



I ^ ASPIRA TIONS. 



CHAPTER XV. 

Left to herself a moment, for all the girls had gone 
to dance, and the matrons were counting their gains, 
Grace Alden drew her letter, with its American post- 
mark, from her pocket, and sat down to its perusal. 
Though nothing of a beauty, and far less attractive 
in manner than her bright young sister, Grace 
Alden's physiognomy had good points, — a broad 
brow, steady, well-opened eyes, a nose which might 
have been smaller, and a mouth less generous ; but 
her complexion — that charm so easily acquired in 
these days of rouge and powder — was clear and rosy, 
and when she smiled she displayed very even and 
white teeth. The lovely day, the delicious air, and, 
above all, the possession of her letter, had put her 
in a good humor ; and as she opened her red parasol 
and fastened it in a convenient crevice, and drew her 
skirts of creamy silk away from the inspection of 
ants and caterpillars, — displaying thereby very pretty 
silk stockings and equally pretty feet, —she was a 
very fair sight to behold. A smile of sweet satisfaction 
was on her lips, a loving light in her eyes ; but, as she 
read, the smile faded, the light was quenched, and 
the small white hand crushed unconsciously the few 
blossoms which it held into a shapeless mass, and, 



ASPIRATIONS. 167 

before the letter was finished, the girl had swooned, 
— fallen all in a heap among her silken fineries, with 
her red parasol on top of her like a danger-signal. 
How long she remained thus, she did not know or 
care, for after a while consciousness returned, and 
she managed to get upon her feet ; but at that mo- 
ment, sailing down the path in stately and solitary 
dignity, came Miss Marchbank. 

" My dear Miss Alden ! " she exclaimed, startled 
at the pale face before her, but controlling the ap- 
pearance of surprise, "you are not well. Has any 
thing happened ? Shall I go for Miss Alden ? " 

" No, thank you," responded Grace, " I beg you 
will not alarm any one ; but if you can get a carriage 
and send me home, I will be very grateful." 

"But your sister or Miss Alden ought to be in- 
formed." 

" Not at all," said Grace eagerly. " Why should 
their pleasure be spoiled by my temporary illness } 
Please oblige me, Miss Marchbank, by saying noth- 
ing of it till you get me off ; but pray do that as 
quickly as you can." 

Miss Marchbank was a woman of decision. 

"Certainly, my dear, certainly; I will do what I 
can for you. Here is my bottle of salts, which I am 
never without," and she unfastened her vinaigrette 
from her girdle : " use it till I return ;" and, re-seating 
Grace very gently, she turned away, returning almost 
immediately with a carriage, — as near as it could be 
brought, — and Branly Potter as her aid. Useless 
were Grace's remonstrances. Both of them supported 
her, and both of them insisted upon returning with 



1 6S ASPIRA TIONS. 

her to the city. In vain she plead and besought; for 
her one supreme wish was to be alone, to hide herself 
and her agony. But, after all, it was better thus than 
if her aunt or sister had been with her; for Miss 
Marchbank, though a little fussy, was very kind. 
But it seemed an age before the laughing voices and 
falling waters and cadences 'of the music were left 
behind, and another age before they were on the 
high road for the city. 

She did not attempt to speak ; and her white face, 
with its strained and tense expression of pain, made 
it only too evident to her companions that conversa- 
tion would be insupportable. To have her carried to 
her apartment, send for a physician, and quietly un- 
dress her charge, was Miss Marchbank's resolve ; and 
she executed it without delay, writing also a note to 
Miss Alden, which Mr. Potter promised to deliver. 

Grace submitted to all in silence. She knew that 
it was useless to resist ; but she knew too that her 
illness was not to be dispelled by the customary 
"limonado" which Italian doctors seemed to think 
sufficient for all ailments, though she swallowed the 
cooling draught, and submitted to a hot foot-bath. 
But beneath her pillow lay the biting sting of her 
disease, which she had hidden there for fear of May's 
suspicious glance. To the dull pain which had suc- 
ceeded the sharp agony, came now also the remorseful 
thought, that, in her own misery, she had forgotten 
her sister, and this was the evening of the masked 
ball. 

This thought did not come to her till long after 
she had been put to bed, and in the darkened room 



ASPIRATIONS. 169 

Miss Marchbank was sitting silently beside her. But 
now it was too late to do any thing. Mr. Potter had 
gone back to the///^, the day was nearly over. Her 
thoughts became clouded. She was again a child, 
wandering in green fields, listening to the birds, or 
she was tossing on the ocean. Scene after scene pre- 
sented itself ; and then a familiar voice called her, and 
she sat bolt upright, until Miss Marchbank's gentle 
force obliged her to recline again. 

The day had fled with rapidity. Dance succeeded 
dance ; and now long shadows lay upon the velvet 
turf. Every one was going. May Alden had been 
the centre of a gay group all the afternoon. Even 
Mrs. Gray had danced no more, and been no more 
the recipient of gallantries and adulation. . Her co- 
quetry, her wit, her archness, her beauty, had won 
all the naval officers ; and the lazy Mr. Morton had 
worked himself into the belief that May had bestowed 
her tenderest glances and brightest sallies upon him. 

Whether there is a limit even to vanity and its 
successes, I leave for others to determine ; but cer- 
tainly May's brightness and gayety suddenly waned. 
She had entirely avoided her sister and Ruth. She 
had kept away from Miss Alden, who, indeed, was im- 
mersed in Mrs. Coit and the duchess ; and she had 
adhered to Mrs. Gray with the determination of fol- 
lowing her fancy to its utmost limit. But now, sitting 
at her leisure in the luxurious victoria, having resisted 
all her aunt's " becks and nods and wreathed smiles," 
she lapsed into a silence and revery so entirely in 
contrast to her former jubilant spirits, that Mr. Mor- 
ton was puzzled to observe it. Mrs. Gray did not 



I/O ASPIRA TIONS. 

trouble herself to observe any thing. Her vis a vis 
was a new capture, a fresh sensation ; and she was 
enchanted to find him absorbed in her charms, to 
the neglect of all others. 

The drive was necessarily slow. There were many 
vehicles before them, equally many behind ; and they 
had not reached the town where Mrs. Gray proposed 
to diverge, and stop at a small wayside albergo. 
Here they were to rest, change dresses, assume dis- 
guises, and, under cover of cloaks and mantles, re- 
turn to the city in time for the ball. 

The maids, with all necessary toilet appointments, 
had been sent early in the day to make proper 
arrangements. Mrs. Gray was going as Juliet, her 
cavalier as Romeo. May was to be a nun, and Mr. 
Morton a friar. 

Had there been nothing equivocal in this freak, no 
spice of mischief, May would not have cared to take 
part in it ; but she retained still a childish love of 
daring to do what her elders condemned. Already 
there was in her mind a curious reversion of feeling 
towards her companions, and wonder at herself that 
she should find pleasure in their society. How could 
any one think them witty, wise, or intelligent } Mrs. 
Gray's voice was shrill and discordant as a peacock's. 
Mr. Morton languished like a lackadaisical frog. 
Even the day seemed to have grown hot and dusty. 

" Why so triste ? " asked Mr. Morton, attempting 
to be sympathetic. 

. May disdained answering with any thing but a 
pout. 

Just then a man on horseback pressed towards 



ASPIRATIONS. 171 

them. It was hard work to get through the crowd, 
but he made out to do so ; and May saw, with a little 
quiver of annoyance, that it was Branly Potter. 

At this moment, Mrs. Gray ordered her coachman 
to turn out into the cross-road. 

By this, May supposed they would avoid meeting 
Mr. Potter, whose salute she had purposely shunned. 

What concern of his was it that they were not 
going directly to Florence } And yet here he was 
nearly side by side, turning into the cross-road too. 
A spy ! purposely watching her, sent by Grace and 
Ruth, or possibly by Mr. Barclay. She remembered 
now that Mr. Barclay had said some trifling thing 
which made her suppose Ruth had told him her in- 
tention ; and she knew Mr. Barclay disliked and dis- 
approved of Mrs. Gray, and had avoided her all day. 
But what cared she for Mr. Barclay's likes or dis- 
likes } He was always a man of whims and caprices. 
Had he chosen to take up Mrs. Gray, he would have 
found a score of apologies for her frivolities. She 
was not to be snubbed or scorned by Mr. Barclay, 
with all his old-fashioned prejudices. And she would 
have "a good time " for once; for, of course, she 
must sooner or later renounce Mrs. Gray, and yield 
herself again a slave to duty and propriety and aunt 
Althea. 

Perhaps there was less regret in the alternative 
than she tried now to believe, though she strove to 
persuade herself that she was a victim. A pretty, 
piquante, pouting victim she was indeed, lifting her 
drooping lashes up to give Ned Morton a disdainful 
glance, and set him wondering in his lethargic way 



1/2 ASPIRATIONS. 

what he had done to displease her and how he best 
could propitiate the capricious damsel. Flowers, bon- 
bons, — these were the only things he knew of which 
would bring smiles, and these were not to be had 
at the moment. A vague idea came that conversa- 
tion might be made, if he only knew what to talk 
about ; but for the life of him nothing would come, 
except, " I say, what stunning buttons these servants 
have on their liveries ! " and " I wonder now how far 
we've gone," — to both of which brilliant comments 
there was no response ; and just as he had concluded 
that he would ask what number gloves she wore, 
and get up a bet on the winning horse at the next 
race, the victoria stopped and Branly Potter rode 
up. 

May was herself again in an instant, — not a trace 
of her recent sulkiness. She pretended great sur- 
prise at seeing Mr. Potter, tossed her bouquet and 
fan to Mr. Morton, was out of the carriage and chat- 
ting with Mrs. Gray and her cavalier before Mr. Mor- 
ton had recovered from his surprise. They all went 
into the small, sanded room which was the only par- 
lor of the osteria, but Branly Potter came boldly up 
to May and said, — 

"I am sorry to summon you from so pleasant a 
party, Miss Alden, but I am under bonds not to ap- 
pear without you. If I could have captured you before 
you started, I would have done so ; but the crowd hin- 
dered me." 

** But I do not intend to be captured, if you please, 
Mr. Potter, — thanking you all the same for your con- 
sideration," haughtily responded May. 



ASPIRATIONS. 173 

"No, I suppose you would hardly allow the term ; 
but, all the same, you must come home with me." 

" MustJ' repeated May with even more hauteur : 
" I am not used to that expression either ; but I sup- 
pose Ruth Morris and Grace have made a tool of you, 
Mr. Potter, and in a manner forced you to take up 
the role of dictator. Drop it, please, at once, and be 
your own natural self. I haven't the smallest inten- 
tion of going home with you." 

Branly Potter had a temper of his own as quick as 
May's, and he happened just now to be in no patient 
mood ; for, in addition to her sauciness, Ned Morton 
was grinning with satisfaction at the encounter. 

" Perhaps I am a little rough. Miss Alden, com- 
pared with your" — he was going to say "present 
companions," but he checked himself — "compared 
with " — He stumbled into something stupid about 
" hating to carry messages, etc.," and then declared 
it was stupidly warm and tiresome, and his horse 
needed looking after, but that he would be with her 
again in a moment ; and May turned with a grimace 
to Ned Morton. But in a moment more Mrs. Gray 
came up and said, " What is all this about your sister, 
May .? Mr. Potter says she is ill." 

** Grace ! " exclaimed May. 

" Yes. He tells me he has come for you ; he has 
gone to have his horse looked after, and wants me to 
send you back." 

" I told him I would not go : it is all a subterfuge." 

" Indeed, I am afraid it is true. He asked me to 
tell you, said he was always awkward and was afraid 
of frightening you, but that Miss Marchbank and he 



174 ASPIRATIONS. 

had to go home with your sister hours ago. It is too 
bad, isn't it ? " 

" I should say it was," put in the interesting and 
original Ned Morton. " It's a confounded nuisance, 
that's what it is, and that prig has invented the whole 
thing." 

"Oh, no!" laughed Mrs. Gray. "He wouldn't 
have taken that trouble, would he. May 1 " 

** I am sure I don't know," answered May gloomily. 

" But I am sure of it," persisted the gallant Morton. 
"He just wants to have you all to himself on the drive 
home." 

" I am afraid you judge him by yourself, Ned," said 
Mrs. Gray, still smiling sarcastically, and noticing 
that May had grown a little pale. " I don't imagine 
your sister would be the better for your return, May. 
You may as well have your fun out. An hour or two 
later will make no sort of difference. I dare say it's 
only a headache." 

But May's fears, as well as her conscience, troubled 
her. Mrs. Gray's advice was cold and heartless. 
Already she had turned to see about dinner, and dis- 
cuss the coming excitement ; while her maid was tak- 
ing up her shawls and looking after her fineries. 

" Is Grace positively ill } " demanded May of 
Branly Potter when he returned. 

" Positively ; but I don't want you to be alarmed. 
She has had a letter or something, — at least Miss 
Marchbank thought so from some words she dropped 
just as she was coming to, you know." 

" Coming to .? " 

" Yes : she had fainted once or twice." 



ASPIRA TIONS. 1 7 5 

" Good heavens ! Mr. Potter, why did you not tell 
me at once ? Come, don't wait a moment." 

"Going, absolutely ! " exclaimed Mrs. Gray. "What 
a sentimental child ! — lose all this evening's pleasure 
because your sister has the blues or a fit of ill tem- 
per.?" 

"Yes, I am going," responded May, now quite 
serious. " I am sorry to disarrange your plans, but 
you will please pardon me ; and if you would be so 
kind as to come too " — She hesitated as she saw 
Mrs. Gray's consternation. 

"I ! I ! Indeed not. You surely cannot know what 
you ask. Fifine may go with you for propriety's sake, 
but you have Mr. Potter's escort : that is enough." 

May knew very well it was not enough, that all 
her coterie in Florence would be shocked to see her 
driving in the evening with Mr. Potter ; that it was 
not conventional, and that Mrs. Gray knew it was not. 
But how could she expect any thing else from Mrs. 
Gray, and had she not over and over again defended 
just this sort of independence } Oh, it was all very 
nice when her own feelings were not concerned, but 
now Mrs. Gray appeared to be utterly selfish and in- 
different ; and poor, poor Grace, what could be the 
matter } 

Her thoughts were in much of a jumble ; but pres- 
ently she found herself in the victoria again, and alone 
with Fifine. Where was Branly Potter } Absolutely 
he had ridden off and left her ! 

It was dark when she reached the hotel, and Fifine 
was complaining in bad, but dramatic, French that 
madame was cruel to send them thus, that no money 



I *j6 ASPIRA TIONS. 

should tempt her to return, and that if mademoiselle 
would accept her services she would leave her erratic 
mistress on the moment. To all of which May made 
no reply. She was thinking, wishing, hoping, and 
praying, all at once, that nothing of real danger had 
happened to Grace. 

When she entered, she was met by Ruth, who only 
whispered, — 

" She is quiet now, but her fever is high. Miss 
Alden is with her. Miss Marchbank would not have 
left her, but she has to start for Genoa to-night ; I 
am going to see her off, and will then return to you. 
Mr. Barclay will stay here, to be of assistance if 
necessary." 

"But, Ruth, what is it } No one has told me." 

" It is a nervous shock. We don't know the 
cause." 

"Branly Potter says there was a letter." 

" Did he } I don't think Miss Alden knows." 

" Miss Marchbank said so." 

" I will ask her, if you wish. The doctor allows no 
conversation. He says she must have perfect quiet, 
that there is just a possible danger of brain-fever." 

" Ruth ! " was all May could utter, and fell back 
in her chair. 

" Yes, dear ; it is very sad, and we all so soon 
to part. But Mr. Barclay will stay ; and he is so very, 
very kind, and always knows just what to do." 

Mr. Barclay came in at this moment, and hurried 
Ruth off ; for Miss Marchbank had delayed her de- 
parture to oblige them, and now it was absolutely 
necessary to speed her on her going. 



ASPIRATIONS. 177 

Tea was brought, and drank in silence ; Miss 
Alden coming in at the last mcfment, and giving 
May the merest shadow of a smile, drinking her tea 
and gliding off again without a word. 

May never knew how that evening went. She re- 
membered it as a dull blank, with now and then a 
picture of the garden party flashing and fading into 
a ghostly pantomime of masked figures. She knew 
that Ruth returned, and that Mr. Barclay said some- 
thing kind to her, and that after awhile she fell 
asleep ; and then the morning came, and Miss Alden 
kissed her and said the danger was over, that Grace 
was sleeping beautifully, and if there should be no 
return of fever she should see her sister. Ruth, 
too, was sympathetic, and told her that Miss March- 
bank had seen Grace crumple up a letter which was 
under her pillow, and that fearing it might be lost, or 
fall into wrong hands, she had dropped it in an 
empty vase standing near the bedside. 

Bathing her swollen eyes, and rousing herself from 
her stupor, May rose from the chair where she had 
been all night, and followed Ruth to Grace's room. 
Ruth, too, had been up all night, alternating with 
Miss Alden in the watching. 

Was it possible that a few hours' suffering could 
work such a change } May looked at Grace with 
wonder. White as an Easter lily, with great circles 
of shadow about her closed eyes, lay the sleeping 
girl. She was quiet now, but Ruth said her breath- 
ing had been like the convulsive sobbing of a fright- 
ened child. 



1^8 ASPIRATIONS, 



CHAPTER XVI. 

Ruth had gone from the room, Miss Alden was 
asleep on the lounge ; and May still sat looking at 
her sister, when she remembered what Ruth had told 
her about a letter. Surely there could be no harm 
in her finding out just what had occasioned all this 
trouble. Her sisterly love overbore her sense of 
honor, and she carefully plucked from the vase the 
crumpled envelope with its American post-mark. 
Silently as she did it, the movement was seen ; for 
at that moment Grace opened her eyes, and looked 
steadily at her. May in her agitation dropped the 
letter, and knelt beside her sister, regardless of all 
the caution she had received, crying, — 

** Grace, darling, forgive me ! But I must know 
what is the matter." 

" Read it," said Grace languidly. " You may as 
well know. But don't criticise. Just let me get 
over it as best I can. And you had better tell aunt 
and Ruth. The worst is passed now. I shall be 
well again in a few days. Only I beg you will all try 
to forget and forgive, as I shall do." 

May picked up the letter and read, — 

" My dear Grace, — Your last letter reached me on the 
1st; and its kind assurances of regard made me feel very 
grateful for your friendship, but very regretful that Fate had 



ASPIRA TIONS. 1 79 

ever allowed me to be so presumptuous as to suppose that I 
could make you happy. The more I consider the difficulties 
that have surrounded me, the more convinced I am that we 
have both been unwise and hazardous in entering into an en- 
gagement which could only be productive of disappointment 
and vexation. True, I did at one time see this in a different 
light. I hoped for advancement, I trusted to rise ; and in this 
hope and trust I made the offer of myself to you : for I knew 
well what a noble, generous spirit is yours, and I should have 
been a happy man indeed had I been able to secure you for my 
life-partner. But since then great changes have occurred. It 
is needless to enter into business details. You know I have 
worked like a slave, and with little or no remuneration beyond 
the meeting of my daily wants. You know, also, that I have 
others depending upon me. You cannot know or understand 
the complications of unfortunate investments, so I will not 
dwell on them : enough is it to say, that, harassed by toil and 
unceasing exertions, I have concluded that I will no longer in- 
dulge the hope of winning you. I am the further induced to do 
this by the offer of a situation in a large South-American house, 
which will require a residence in Porto Rico. It will be need- 
less for you to remonstrate, as you may be tempted to do, be- 
cause I have not given you the alternative of choice. I knew 
you too well to do so. I knew you were capable of any sacri- 
fice ; and I knew also, that, in view of your devoted attachment, 
I should be weak if I allowed myself to vacillate. I therefore 
write only to request that you will look at the whole transaction 
as I have done, as simply something forced upon us by circum- 
stance, as a business matter, in fact, rather than one of senti- 
ment. Be assured that I shall always esteem you as a most 
noble, generous, high-minded friend, a woman worthy of the 
best that the world can bestow, and one whom I shall always 
respect." 

May had flung the letter down when she reached 
these words, with an angry and contemptuous cry; 
but Grace bade her pick it up again, and read a clip- 



l8o ASPIRATIONS, 

ping from " -^wspaper, which was attached. It was 
from a local newspaper of the town in which Mr. 
Bainbridge's family resided, and read thus : — 

" We hear with pleasure of the appointment of our promising 
young townsman, Robert Bainbridge, to the consulship of Porto 
Rico. This, in connection with his approaching marriage to the 
wealthy widow of one of the firm whom he represents in that 
distant city, is a matter deserving of our heartiest congratula- 
tions." 

" The base traitor ! the cowardly knave ! " broke 
from May's wrathful lips, as she again glanced over 
the neatly written document, — in which there was 
not an i without a dot, not a t uncrossed, not a word 
misspelled, or a comma left out. 

" Hush, dear ! " said Grace. 

"Indeed, I will not hush," said May. "It's the 
coldest, crudest, most mercenary thing I ever read, — 
not one word of regret, of remorse, or of pity. He 
is a mongrel, without the first faint tinge of gentle- 
manly blood in his veins. If I were a man, I would 
shoot him, only he'd not be worthy of an honorable 
bullet." 

" May ! May ! " implored Grace. 

" I cannot help it, Grace. I must give vent to my 
feelings. I have not half expressed my scorn and 
indignation. How did you ever love him } How 
could he ever have persuaded you to believe in him t 
How were you so blind } " But seeing her sister's 
pallor and agitation checked her, and she exclaimed. 
" But pray forgive me, Grace. You are suffering, 
and I am only adding to your pain. I will go away 



AS PI R A TIONS. 1 8 1 

and storm by myself, if only yon will promise to get 
well, and let no one know you careT 

Fortunately, at that moment, Ruth came back, and 
May had to see some people who had called. Among 
them was Mr. Potter, who was not especially grati- 
fied to find that his excuses for leaving her the pre- 
vious evening were received with an apparent forget- 
fulness that there had been any need of excuse. 
Indeed, she seemed to be oblivious to every thing 
that had transpired, and was not even aroused to any 
interest in an account of the masked ball, and Mrs. 
Godfrey Gray's performance thereat, notwithstanding 
the sensation it had made, and the gossip which was 
already afloat. 

" You are tired, I suppose," he ventured to say, 
when he found that she was not listening to a word, 
and was listlessly pulling her yesterday's bouquet to 
bits. 

" Yes, I am tired," she repeated, " tired to death 
of every thing and everybody. Oh, don't be shocked 
at my rudeness ! — for I can be very rude, as you saw 
yesterday, — but Grace's illness has upset me. I am 
sick of all the nonsense and flummery of society. I 
want to go home, and forget that I have ever been 
abroad, learn to do something useful, and settle 
down." 

*'Just what I propose doing. Let us do it to- 
gether." 

"What!" said May, flashing her startled gaze 
upon him. " Why should you ? You have a thou- 
sand opportunities, where I have but one. A man 
seems an enviable being to me : he has the choice 



1 82 . ASPIRATIONS. 

of every thing, can mould his own destiny ; while we 
have to smile and simper till we secure a favorable 
partly or eat our hearts out with useless ambition, 
and crush out every spark of individuality, to suit 
the caprice of fashion and society." 

Her companion smiled, and looked at her as if she 
had suddenly been transformed, but was not altogether 
displeased at this exhibition of novel points. 

"And what of the favorable /^r//.* if that succeeds, 
does all go well .'' " 

*' Oh, charmingly in the eyes of the world ! " this 
with a fine scorn of manner. 

His brow darkened, as he said, — 

" Ah, you fashionable girls may sneer as you 
like ! It is the caprice of an idle moment. None 
of you would marry simply for affection. You all 
demand the entourage of fortune, in some shape or 
other." 

" Do we, indeed } and how about you of the 
stronger sex t I suppose none of the gifts that daz- 
zle have any charms for you. You are sublimely 
above such weakness." 

"We are getting absurd, Miss May. * You're 
another,' never convinces." 

" No, certainly not. Let us have a truce. Mor- 
alizing is not my style. Are you really going home, 
Mr. Potter .? " 

** Really, yes ; and to work." 

" What sort .? " 

" I don't know." 

" Don't be a literary man or an artist." 

"Why not?" 



ASPIRA TIONS. 1 83 

" Oh, I hardly know ! only there are so many, and 
it is so often an excuse for elegant idleness." 

" Does it matter to you what I am ? " 

" No, I don't think it does." 

" You are delightfully honest. Why do you under- 
take, then, to advise me } " 

" From motives of general interest in the welfare 
of the world." 

" How flattering ! " 

" Yes ; it doesn't do to be too selfish. One must 
be wide in one's sympathies." 

"Just now, I wish you were narrower." 

She looked at him, and saw honest and genuine 
feeling in his face, and a positive fright seized her. 
Had he been Ned Morton, she would have been 
tempted, by her anger and grief at Grace's misfortune, 
to lead him on, and amuse herself at his expense by 
way of vicarious reprisal, — a girlish and absurd re- 
venge, but none the less satisfactory ; but Branly Potter 
inspired respect. He was not specially deferential, 
and he was often awkward, but he was manly, — and 
that goes farther than any thing else with some girls. 
But her faith in men had received a blow. Who 
could have suspected that Grace's lover would have 
proved so false } Had he not been all that one would 
suppose correct and proper and faithful, even if lack- 
ing in some attributes which win general admira- 
tion .? She had called him ** brother" Bainbridge be- 
cause of his faultless appearance and rather religious 
aspect. If so grave and earnest a person could pur- 
sue such a crooked path, why might not others do 
the same? With quick perception of what might 



1 84 ASPIRATIONS, 

follow, if this personal talk went on, she turned about 
and tacked, as many a little craft finds it safer to do 
when the wind blows from a dangerous quarter. And 
Branly Potter allowed her to do as she wished. He 
was certainly in love ; he acknowledged it, he knew 
it : but he was not so far gone as to put himself 
where he could not retreat, for he was by no means 
sure of this pretty, bewitching, but possibly capri- 
cious girl. 

Mr. Barclay soon after entered, and asked if they 
had heard the news about Mr. Marsh the painter. 
They had not, and were glad of a turn in the tide of 
conversation. 

" It is a charming little romance ; but I shall 
have to begin at the beginning, if you are inclined to 
listen." 

" Pray do," exclaimed May. " He has always in- 
terested me from the day he saved us from the waves 
off the Neck, Mr. Barclay ; and he showed even then 
the stuff of a hero." 

Branly Potter, not knowing what this allusion 
meant, was disposed to be contemptuous, but suc- 
ceeded only in being jealous ; he, however, listened 
to Mr. Barclay with patient politeness. 

" Heroes are somewhat scarce now-a-days, and I 
don't know that being the subject of an accident of 
fortune or fate, as people term the chances and 
changes of this life, entitles one to the name of hero 
in any proper sense of its meaning ; but certainly it 
is not a little unusual for a poor fisher-lad like Lillo 
Marsh to turn out the heir of a princely family and 
fortune, and unusual events certainly do cast a glow 



ASPIRATIONS, 185 

of romance around the most ordinary of mortals. But 
let me begin my story in my own way. 

" The Romanos, as you may be aware, are as old, if 
not older, than the Medicis, and as proud of their 
native city as any of the Florentines, but in a way 
far different. It was their province to do the harder, 
coarser work for their contemporaries. Instead of 
interesting themselves in cinque cento architecture 
and the revival of learning, they toiled simply to amass 
the wealth, which, after all, was the moving force of 
the new growth. They were known as hardy, brawny, 
rough men ; having commercial relations not only 
with their fellow Tuscans, but with the Genoese and 
Pisans. They disdained no personal effort to secure 
success, and many of them became masters of vessels 
and traders with foreign ports. But, with the force 
of this strong animal nature, they were also men of 
violent passions, and were known to be quarrelsome 
and headstrong even in their own families. True as 
this was of the Romanos of the twelfth or thirteenth 
centuries, it remained true of them down to the later 
period, when, with fortunes wasted and estates rav- 
aged by Northern enemies, they had little left of their 
ancient magnificence. The Romanos of the present 
have dwindled down to a mere handful. Nicolo, the 
Count Romano, head of the family, and owner of the 
villa where our garden party was held, is an old, dis- 
appointed, and sorrow-stricken man. He had one 
son, a wild, lawless fellow ; and one daughter, a young 
shrinking creature, afraid of her very shadow. On 
these two children all his hopes and happiness de- 
pended ; and yet, so inconsistent can a man be, he 



1 86 ASPIRA TIONS. 

had done nothing to insure either their obedience or 
respect. He neglected their education, he allowed 
every indulgence, and yet, when their wishes clashed 
with his, saw no reason why they should be unsub- 
missive. The usual result followed. The son ran 
away from home and became a sailor. Returning by 
stealth to see his sister, he countenanced her in an 
attachment for one of his comrades, — an ordinary sea- 
man like himself, — to whom she was married secretly, 
which, on the count's discovery, led to a dreadful quar- 
rel that caused the daughter's death. She left a 
child, however, to whom the count became deeply 
attached, and who was cared for by an old family ser- 
vant until it was three or four years old, when the 
father claimed it ; and the uncle stole it, or rather 
had it conveyed to the ship on which they both were 
employed. The count never knew what became of 
the child. His son never returned, neither did his 
son-in-law, whom, by the way, he had never acknowl- 
edged. Grief and disease wore upon him ; and, like a 
vulture eager for its prey before its victim's death, a 
distant relative began a series of law-suits which em- 
barrassed the estates, though they did not succeed in 
depriving the count of his patrimony. 

" You will not now be surprised at the finale of my 
tale. 

" At the fete in the Romano Gardens, M. Petits- 
pains, a solictor interested in Count Nicolo's affairs, 
saw a remarkable resemblance in a little picture 
painted by Lillo Marsh to one in the Romano gal- 
lery, which led to a comparison, and finally to the 
greater discovery by the servants in a resemblance 



ASPIRATIONS, 187 

of both pictures to Lillo himself, and his identifica- 
tion as the Count Nicolo's grandson. 

"The wife of Girolamo, the steward, had been the 
nurse of Lillo's mother and of Lillo himself. She 
was overcome with surprise and remorse, and nothing 
could convince her of the possibility of mistake. She 
had connived at the child's removal from his grand- 
father in revenge for the mother's death, but had suf- 
fered deeply in consequence ; for, never hearing any 
thing more of him, she had supposed that the usual 
fate of sea-going people had befallen them all, — the 
father, the uncle, and the child. Undoubtedly the 
uncle was lost at sea, and the father also, but not in 
the voyage which conveyed the child to its American 
grandparents." 

"And how did the Count Nicolo accept this, and 
what proof does Mr. Marsh bring.?" asked Branly 
Potter. 

"The count was eager to have the story substan- 
tiated," went on Mr. Barclay; "as eager as Mr. 
Marsh was reluctant. But M. Petitspains, with 
deft, lawyer-like penetration, gained from Lillo so 
much that was conclusive, that there seemed really no 
reason to doubt." 

" But why was the count so willing, and Mr. 
Marsh so unwilling } " asked May. 

"The count is in his dotage. Past errors, past 
failures, have weakened him, and made him long for 
a strong arm to lean upon, besides the better inclina- 
tion to make reparation, if that be possible. With 
Lillo there is the manly disinclination to appear an 
adventurer, or to take undue advantage of what 



1 88 ASPIRATIONS. 

might possibly be only a romantic similarity. Be- 
sides, he is all American, self-made, democratic, with 
no wish to wear a title, or make himself conspicu- 
ous." 

"And what will he do.?'* 

" He is going home for papers which may decis- 
ively prove what is now only conjectured." 

" Home } To America 1 " 

"Yes. The count is impatient with the restless 
eagerness of age, so he has promised to go at once. 
He will take the same steamer, probably, that Ruth 
and Mrs. Vedder cross in, so that he may return as 
speedily as possible." 

" And then > " 

" I really can tell you nothing more, but I suppose 
in due course of time he will be the Count Romano." 



ASPIRATIONS, 189 



CHAPTER XVII. 

When Mr. Marsh found himself undergoing close 
and repeated questionings from M. Petitspains, and 
the recipient of embraces and caresses from the aged 
crone in the Romano picture-gallery, he felt him- 
self an actor in what might prove to be more than 
a comedy. But when that same evening, he had 
parted from his friends, and had been conducted into 
the presence of Count Nicolo, with only Mr. Barclay 
and M. Petitspains as audience, it seemed to him 
a broad farce. That he — a simple-minded Ameri- 
can citizen, a dauber of paints, an unknown fisher-lad 

— should be a supposed aspirant to Italian nobility, 
was too absurd. He felt himself, as I have said, 
an actor, playing an unexpected part in a surprising 
drama ; and though there was enough reality in all 
that had transpired, and enough connection with 
that which had been always a dream to him, — viz., 
his days of infancy, — he now found himself most 
reluctantly forced to accept the truth, and comply 
with the count's request to return to the States and 
collect every vestige of paper which might have 
any power to prove his identity. 

He found the count as Mr. Barclay described him, . 

— an old, sorrowful man, living in an out of the way 



1 90 ASPIRA TIONS. 

part of Florence, unvisited, forgotten by the gay- 
world, absorbed in the one only thing which inter- 
ested him, — simply the defence of his property, 
which, little comfort as it yielded him, was yet a some- 
thing which aroused the only remains of his old spirit ; 
a something which he would keep, if to retain it was 
only to withhold it from the clutches of the ravening 
aggressor who assailed it. The new hope which the 
discovery of his possible and probable heir aroused 
was as marrow to his bones and warmth to his veins. 
His whole being was stimulated. To have the aid 
of a young, fresh, vigorous spirit in the warfare he 
was waging; to make the possession of his prop- 
erty an impossibility to his enemy in the future, as 
well as in the present, — was even more than he could 
have hoped. With tremulous eagerness, he was con- 
fident of success ; and he welcomed Lillo with senile 
tenderness that would have touched the young man's 
heart could he have forgotten that this same man's 
anger and wretched failure of parental duty had been 
the cause of his mother's misfortunes. 

Their meeting was peculiar. Lillo did not speak 
Italian with ease. Count Nicolo knew no English ; 
but M. Petitspains was an enthusiastic interpreter. 

By the glimmering light of candles, in the gloomy 
apartment, might be seen the remarkable family 
likeness between the grandfather and grandson ; but 
it seemed to be purely physical, for in the young 
man's steadfast gaze there was none of the older 
man's vacillating weakness. Mr. Barclay noticed 
the almost contemptuous indifference of Lillo when 
M. Petitspains enlarged and dilated upon the mag- 



ASPIRA TIONS. 1 9 1 

nificence of being a Romano, and the questioning 
disappointment which crept into the old man's coun- 
tenance at the negative part which Lillo took in the 
discussion. 

The candles flamed and flared. The lawyer pre- 
sented every point of the necessary legalities, and 
with rapid pen wrote out remarks, directions, expla- 
nations ; his little wizened face shining with acute- 
ness. On his left sat the white-haired count, wrapped 
in some sort of a loose cloak, which, from its braids 
and frogs, seemed a remnant of military service. In 
his delicate white hand, with its signet ring, was held 
a metal snuff-box, from which he carefully took a 
pinch at odd intervals. His gaze was fastened with 
intensity upon the young painter, who, after the cor- 
dial recognition vouchsafed him, had drawn somewhat 
into the shadow of some overhanging drapery, and 
leaned carelessly upon the carved back of a prie- 
dieti. 

Lillo's fine features were just a little flushed, and 
his foot tapped the polished floor uneasily. The or- 
deal was not agreeable to him, and it was with great 
reluctance that he assented to the propositions urged. 
He had not intended an immediate return to Amer- 
ica, and it interfered with his professional plans so 
to do ; but when his grandfather clasped his hands, 
and wept, he could not have refused, if only from 
motives of pity. But besides the pity, and independ- 
ently of all other considerations, there was now the 
desired opportunity of making certain the proofs of 
a legal marriage between his father and mother, with- 
out which he would never ask Ruth Morris to be his 



192 ASPIRATIONS, 

wife. To be sure, he had in an unguarded moment 
given her an inkling of his admiration, and had been 
made glad by the sweet confidence with which that 
inkling had been received ; but he would not have 
felt himself justified in asking her to accept a name 
to which, perhaps, he had no right. 

" You will go then and return as speedily as pos- 
sible } " urged monsieur. 

Lillo nodded. 

" And you will accept your aged relative's offer of 
a permanent home as his only son and heir?" 

" Pardon, I cannot promise that." 

** Why not } why not } Every advantage is to ac- 
crue, — the estates, the title, the political honor, 
the" — 

" None of which I care for," interrupted Lillo. 

The lawyer glared upon him, so great was his 
astonishment. 

" You forget that I have a profession," said Lillo. 

" But that need not interfere." 

" I have made my own career ; I am satisfied : why 
should I burden myself with all these empty honors 
and unwelcome privileges ? " 

"Because you are a Romano," said the lawyer 
decisively, with a wave of his hand. 

" Because I am but half a Romano, left to fight 
my own battle with the world, disowned, discarded, 
neglected, forgotten," said Lillo indignantly. 

" Pardon me, that is not truth : your grandfather 
loved you ; you were taken from him ; he would have 
nourished you as the apple of his eye." 

"As he did my mother, perhaps," said Lillo satiri- 
cally. 



ASPIRATIONS, 193 

"Ah, young man ! " pleaded the little lawyer, "you 
little know the keenness of a parent's disappointment 
when a child marries wilfully, secretly, out of her 
station. But let that pass : her wrongs have been 
atoned for by years of acute remorse and humilia- 
tion. Accept, I beg you, this grandparent's contri- 
tion. Look at him ; see his eager hope : wouJd you 
cloud it } " 

"I have no wish to add to his sorrows," replied 
Lillo, forced to answer. 

" Then give him the satisfaction he so desires." 

" I promise nothing," said Lillo again, rising from 
his leaning attitude and preparing to depart, ** noth- 
ing that may harass my future movements. You 
will please make my " (here he hesitated) " my grand- 
father — if that is the title the Count Nicolo prefers 
me to use — understand how much I thank him for 
his proposal and warmth of recognition, and assure 
him that I shall either bring or send him the papers 
I possess. I will do that, but I will bind myself to 
nothing more." He drew himself up with some hau« 
teur, and the old count looked from one to the other 
with pleading inquiry. M. Petitspains was much dis- 
concerted, but strove to maintain a smiling aspect. 

" I will trust to your better nature, your generos- 
ity. You cannot be so cruel as to disappoint this 
aged parent ! This has come upon you too suddenly. 
You have really had no time to consider ; and you 
will better appreciate the brilliancy of position, 
wealth, family, an ancient name, when you find how 
the world regards this opportunity. Ah, young man, 
I have no fear but that all will come around as we 



1 94 ASPIRA TIONS. 

wish ! Every thing happens to those who wait. This 
time next year, no one in Italy will be so much sought 
after, no one better known for his fine prospects, than 
the young Count Lillo Romano, grandson and heir 
of the Count Nicolo." His beaming smile and as- 
sured tones revived hope in the aged count, who rose, 
and, as Lillo departed, placed upon his reluctant 
hand the signet ring from his own finger. 

" I feel like a thankless prodigal son, who prefers 
the husks and the swine from sheer choice," said 
Lillo to Mr. Barclay as they separated. 

It was indeed wonderful how quickly the story got 
about, and how soon congratulations came pouring 
in. Between the day of his leaving and that of the 
fete^ a week had hardly elapsed ; and yet numerous 
cards were left, and carriages rolled away from the 
studio, to Bianca's delight, who saw in this attention 
a recognition of her lodger's importance which might 
bring her in an increase oifrajtchi. 

How the news spread, Lillo did not know, but he 
shrewdly suspected M. Petitspains had a hand in it. 
He had little time to speculate, however, on this or 
any other question : the arrangement of his affairs, 
the finishing of pictures already ordered, and the 
preparation for his journey, took up all his time. 



ASPIRATIONS, 195 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

At the last moment of the steamer's sailing, in 
which Mrs. Vedder and Ruth were to leave, they 
were surprised by the appearance of her son. He 
came aboard in haste, and showed no especial pleas- 
ure in so doing ; for, in truth, he had been forced to 
this by a quarrel with his elder brother and a failure 
of funds. But he seemed to be more resisrned to 
his fate when he discovered that his mother had so 
young and pretty a companion in her travels, and 
he soon made it apparent that he intended to assume 
every cousinly right. But Ruth was far from respon- 
sive. At a first glance she had conceived an aver- 
sion difficult to conceal, and a nearer acquaintance 
froze her into an icicle of reserve, which increased 
Mr. Vedder's ill-humor. 

Lillo Marsh was also on the same steamer, under 
no new name or title. But Ruth was conscious of 
but one presence, and that was Mrs. Vedder's. 

I do not know whether the ocean malady has been 
analyzed in these analyzing days, but I am confident 
that no aspiring, elevating emotions are ascribed to 
it. Ruth found it absolutely degrading. She felt 
herself indulging all sorts of regrets. She wished 
she had never seen her aunt, never heard of her 
cousins, never left Mr. Barclay. 



1 96 ASPIRA TIONS. 

In the pauses of intense misery her ears were 
filled with Mrs. Vedder's complaints of the way the 
world treated her, particularly the little world of ex- 
clusive people journeying to their republican homes 
with a fresh stock of aristocratic ideas. "Snub- 
bing," as Mrs. Vedder expressed it, was dealt out in 
large measure. She could not understand why she 
was the object of so much indifference. What had 
she done or left undone t 

The poor woman had not a particle of tact, and 
intruded herself on people without knowing how 
repugnant she was to them. Neither could she com- 
prehend why her beloved Charley was not regarded 
with admiring eyes. Was he not outwardly all that 
a gentleman need be ? 

And why did not Ruth like him } What other 
girl but would be pleased with his attention } To be 
sure, he was a little frisky, and sometimes made mis- 
takes. 

Ruth listened to her aunt's complaints as she 
listened to the throb of the engine, and the rush of 
the waves, — with the apathy of despair. 

Should she ever behold her native land, she would 
never again trust herself off of terra firnia. 

One day she seemed stronger, and the stewardess 
urged her to leave her berth. Muffled in wraps, and 
attended by Mrs. Vedder, she did so. It was the 
first sight of her which had gladdened Lillo's eyes 
since their departure. He noticed keenly her pallor, 
her listlessness, and the fatigue of Mrs. Vedder's 
presence. With delicacy he sought to divert her ; 
but she scarcely brightened, her depression re-acting 



ASPIRATIONS. 197 

upon himself. It seemed to him that he must have 
been mistaken in those vague but happy imaginings 
in which he had indulged. Even the day was an 
uncertain one, — the sky full of gray clouds, the sun 
glancing out only at intervals. No one spoke to 
them. Mrs. Vedder's voice intimidated those who 
might have approached the interesting languid young 
invalid ; and Mr. Vedder's cigar-smoke made an im- 
pregnable halo about them. It was impossible that 
the conversation should be any thing better than the 
merest commonplace ; and yet it was with a quick 
perception of jealous regard that Lillo saw Charley 
Vedder assume the proprietary right to be Ruth's 
guardian and escort, and strive to make his trifling 
words carry an accent of meaning wholly lost on 
Ruth. 

Poor Ruth was sadly homesick, and the mere men- 
tion of Mr. Barclay brought tears to her eyes. 

Uneasy and discomposed, Lillo wondered if, after 
all, the absurd reports — absurd until now — con- 
cerning Mr. Barclay and his young ward had any 
foundation. 

Was it altogether impossible that their strong affec- 
tion for each other had taken a different coloring } 
Why should he have supposed as entirely a matter of 
course that the love of which he was so conscious 
should be returned } Had not many a young girl 
given similar recognition of an unconcealed passion, 
and then acted in the most deliberate and contradic- 
tory manner. Even granting that she was free from 
the guile of coquetry, might she not have been mis- 
taken in her own feelings ? 



1 98 ASPIRA TIONS. 

Every lover can thus torment himself. It is but a 
phase of the tender passion, that such doubts should 
ebb and flow. And it was not an unreasonable sup- 
position for an imaginative person to hold, that Mr. 
Barclay should have reared and educated a charming 
young girl with the intention of making her his wife, 
— a wife of his own modelling. He knew that this 
view was held by many. But why, then, should Mr. 
Barclay have allowed Ruth to leave him even for a 
few months 1 Perhaps the separation was to be a 
test. Perhaps he was generous enough to wish her 
to see the world for herself, unbiassed by his presence 
or advice; and perhaps, too, she was only just now 
appreciating how very much she cared for him. 
Lillo's thoughts ran in this current all that day. So 
long as Ruth staid on deck, he remained beside her, 
loath to give her into Charley Vedder's keeping ; for, 
in addition to the cigar-smoke, Mr. Vedder had made 
frequent visits to the steamer's bar. But Ruth's 
mood was one of such utter indifference, that, had 
there been an opportunity for serious conversation, 
Lillo would not have seized it ; for moods can be as 
unconquerable as barriers of stone. The day grew 
darker, the wind higher, and Mr. Vedder found stimu 
lants even more necessary than before. Indeed, so 
unsteady had his nerves become, that Lillo was obliged 
to persuade him to seek the retirement of his berth ; 
but he was not a youth accustomed to yield to per- 
suasion which conflicted with his own views. No, 
he would not go, and he would persist in maudlin 
attentions to Ruth, who at last roused to the true 
condition of her cousin rose hastily for the purpose 



ASPIRA TIONS. 1 99 

of going to the cabin. How she rose, and how both 
young men advanced with her, and the one in eager 
haste to baffle the other sprang before in such a way 
as to confuse the heated brain of his companion, can 
hardly be told : enough that one of them plunged 
down the narrow companion-way, striking his head 
in his fall, and lying senseless. 

There was instant stir and commotion. The sur- 
geon was summoned, and a crowd of excited, ques- 
tioning people gathered around. 

Lillo hurried Ruth to her state-room, and returned 
to his unfortunate acquaintance. The surgeon was 
applying remedies, and there did not seem to be much 
harm done. But Mrs. Vedder was frantic in her accu- 
sations. In vain the cooler heads tried to calm 
her. " Hush ! hush !" they said. But she began to 
weep, and amid her sobs asserted that the young 
painter had been the cause of the fall. It seemed 
absurd to notice her, but Lillo essayed to stem the 
reproachful torrent of her speech. She would not 
listen to him. Nothing and no one could convince 
her that she was mistaken ; not even Ruth could 
change her : so after that Lillo kept away from her as 
she desired. This affair did not increase the Vedders' 
popularity. Mr. Vedder remained in seclusion the 
rest of the voyage, and Mrs. Vedder maintained her 
anger. Ruth forbore any further defence of Lillo, 
and the journey came soon to an end, — heavy fogs 
making it still more dreary. Her great-uncle, Mr. 
Boggs, met them on landing, and was profuse in his 
welcome. His studs were larger than ever, and his 
voice even more resonant. 



200 ASPIRATIONS. 

" Glad to see you, Miss Morris, glad to see you with 
your aunt. She's the proper person for you to be 
with. Never did like the idea of your livin' on a man 
who was neither kith nor kin to you. Hope you ain't 
too fine a lady through his foolish notions. Goin* to 
be somethin* and do somethin' now, ain't you } " 

Ruth opened her large eyes and looked at him as 
she might have done when she was the little friend- 
less girl of years before. Her present desolation 
nearly equalled that of those long-forgotten days. 

"Now, Cauldwell," interposed Mrs. Vedder, "don't 
be too aggravatin* just as I've reached my native land. 
The stars and stripes make me feel good-natured, 
and I don't want to be riled. Get my things through 
the custom-house, and let Charley and Ruth come on 
with me. Charley's not well, and Ruth's had an 
awful sea-sick time. We'll go to the Fifth Avenue 
and get a good dinner, and take the evening train 
straight to Berryville. See here," and her voice 
dropped to a whisper, " there's a lot of lace sewed 
inside the trimming of one of my wrappers ; take care 
that they don't find it out. And I've got lots of gloves 
and things that haven't been worn, that they'll want 
to charge duty on ; but it's none of the Government's 
business : I am not a smuggler, and they've no right 
to suspect me. The custom-house is a mean, mis- 
erable concern, anyway." 

While Mr. Vedder harangued her brother, and the 
luggage was being inspected, Lillo drew near to bid 
Ruth good-by. He had necessarily kept aloof, — for 
Mrs. Vedder's unreasoning aversion and his own self- 
respect obliged him to, — but he was none the less 



ASPIRA TIONS. 20 1 

determined to know Ruth's whereabouts and plans, 
even if, as he feared, there might be little chance of 
his ever having any share in them. 

She was standing in all the confusion of the wharf, 
looking absently toward the bay and the far-away ves- 
sels. Her color rose as Lillo approached and offered 
his arm. 

"Let us get a little out of the crowd," he said, 
drawing her away from the bustling and pushing 
people. " Our rather unsatisfactory journey has pre- 
vented me from asking you where you are going, and 
how long you will remain with your aunt : may I not 
know ? " 

" Certainly, as far as I can know myself. But truly 
I am much confused. Mr. Boggs has just now sug- 
gested that I must * be something and do something : ' 
what would you advise ? " 

Lillo looked amused as he said, " Is it worth while 
considering what such a man thinks } " 

" Oh," said Ruth, " I don't think he is alone in his 
views : everybody is expected to be something or do 
something extraordinary now-a-days. I am afraid my 
guardian has hardly prepared me to meet the expec- 
tations of society." 

" Society is a tremendous humbug. But how long 
are you to remain with these people } '* 

" I really don't know," said Ruth ruefully. " If I 
had known that Mr. Vedder was to return with his 
mother " — She stopped short. 

" Does he annoy you in a way that I can help } " 
asked her companion, blazing up. 

" Oh, no, no ! " she cried, fearful of these two com- 



202 ASPIRA TIONS. 

ing in conflict again ; " and I hope you will forgive 
the rudeness you have suffered from them/' 

"That's a trifling matter; but may I not hear 
from you? I am on my way to Codtown, as you 
know, and expect to return by next week's steamer." 

" So soon ? " 

** Yes ; there will be nothing to detain me, and my 
newly found relative will be impatient. Mr. Barclay 
will want to hear all about you. May I not visit 
Berryville, if that is where you are going, so that I 
can report.^" 

" Of course," replied Ruth, unconscious of the little 
bitterness with which her companion spoke, for she 
was thinking how desolate she would be. So long as 
he had been near, she had been sure of some one 
who understood her and sympathized with her. She 
looked up at him now with a glance, which, had he 
been in a more hopeful state of mind, would have 
carried enlightenment. He mistook its tenderness for 
regret at her separation from Mr. Barclay. 

" And the Aldens, too, — you will have some mes- 
sage for them ? " he went on, wishing to prolong the 
conversation, yet jealous and unsatisfied with its 
turn. 

'* Yes. I must write at once to May. Poor Grace 
will not care much. You know that her engagement 
is broken } " 

" I heard so. Does she care t " 

The little mocking tone did not escape Ruth. 

" She is wretched." 

" Is it possible } I supposed good little girls obeyed 
their parents and guardians, and had no feeling in 



ASPIRA TIONS. 203 

these matters. Miss Alden, I presume, believing the 
young man too poor, forbade his addresses." 

*'You are mistaken," said Ruth gravely. 

At this moment, Mr. Boggs and Mrs. Vedder, hav- 
ing superintended the opening of numerous boxes, 
drew near, and at the same moment Charley Vedder 
appeared with a hack ; and Lillo released Ruth's hand 
from his arm. He looked at her with a certain ques- 
tioning intentness, which made the color again flush 
her pale cheeks, and tint even her pretty little ears, 
in which there were no rings. 

** You will come see me," she said earnestly. " I 
want to hear all that romantic story of yours, your 
own version of it, and whether you are going to be 
Count Romano ; and besides, I shall feel quite a 
stranger in my native land." 

" You will miss Mr. Barclay," said Lillo ; add- 
ing, "If you wish me to come, I will certainly do 
so." 

Then Mrs. Vedder, who had stood by rather awk- 
wardly, with a very nonchalant nod, put out her hand, 
and said, — 

" I believe, Mr. Marsh, I was mistaken on the 
steamer. I was all riled up and disturbed by that acci- 
dent. Charley says I was a fool to act so. You must 
come and see us in Berryville ; we are all goin' there 
soon. Ain't this custom-house business a bother ? 
But you ain't got the traps we have. Now, just look 
at Ruth : she's as pretty as a picture to-day. That's 
all because she's on dryland. The ocean don't agree 
with her, nor with me either. Isn't the weather hot 
here in New York t I'm all wrapped up in my seal- 



204 ASPIRATIONS. 

skin, so they shouldn't charge duty on it. Well, good- 
by. Don't forget to come and see us." 

Ruth got into the carriage with a dull, desolate 
feeling that she had made some great mistake. Every 
thing had suffered a sea-change. She had been so 
happy in the last few months, had so thoroughly 
enjoyed her youth, her liberty, her friends, — and, 
above all, the new and exquisite sensations which had 
come like the first sweet breath of summer, the mere 
shadow of a hope as evanescent as the perfume of 
wild-flowers, a something intangible and yet joyful, 
a something which she could not translate, for which 
speech had no words. And now where was it t 

Not long was she allowed to indulge in revery. An 
earnest discussion had arisen as to what should be 
ordered for dinner, and Mrs. Vedder had loudly in- 
veighed against the cookery of the Cunard steamers. 

" Oh, dear me ! " she said. " We must have a real 
good spread. It is late for shad, I suppose, June shad 
ain't good for much. Ruth's looking as thin as one 
now ! I suppose strawberries are plenty. Oh, how 
hungry I am, and how glad to get away from all those 
foreign fixin's ! Cauldwell, I advise you never to go 
abroad." 

" I never mean to : America is good enough for 
me," said Mr. Boggs, clearing his throat as if for a 
speech, and addressing his sister as from a rostrum, 
with a wave of his hand, on which glittered a huge 
carbuncle. 

"I suppose," he continued, "you saw much of the 
deplorable effects of dram-drinking in those towns 
and villages where grapes are raised." 



ASPIRA TIONS. 205 

Ruth thought with a shuddder of his nephew's 
habits, and feared lest a personal reproof might be 
coming; but Mr. Boggs's words were but the preface 
to a long address on the follies of the day. He 
liked to hear himself talk, and did not expect replies. 
But Mrs. Vedder also liked to talk, and had no inten- 
tion of letting him have all his own way. Was she 
not fresh from scenes that his eyes had never beheld, 
and had she not met people of much more impor- 
tance than Mr. Boggs had any conception of } 

But the bad pavement over which they were pass- 
ing made Mr. Boggs's elocution jerky, and the rusty 
springs of the hack deprived his expressions of grace ; 
besides, the blocked and tangled mass of vehicles, 
with swearing drivers, made it necessary for both of 
them to shout : so after a while conversation was 
abandoned, and they drove on in silence, leaving 
Ruth to her desolate meditations. 

** Here we are at last ! " exclaimed Mrs. Vedder, 
as the carriage stopped before the gleaming white 
front of the Fifth-avenue Hotel. "Now for a good 
dinner ! '* 



206 ASPIRATIONS. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

"A NOTE from Miss Alden, sir; the man waits for 
a reply," said Mr. Barclay's servant, presenting the 
billet on a silver salver. 

Mr. Barclay was at his writing-table this warm 
morning, with a heap of correspondence before him. 
He tore open Miss Alden's note and read : "Can you 
come to me for an hour's talk this afternoon } I need 
your advice." 

" Certainly. I will be with you at four p.m. We 
can drive afterwards, if you wish," was his reply. 

He had staid in Florence solely on Miss Alden's 
account, as her niece's illness had prevented her from 
leaving when all their American and English friends 
had departed ; but he was finding it very irksome. 
The Protestant schools were closed ; the Duchess 
of Stickingham was on her way home ; Mrs. Coit 
had gone to Switzerland; and Mr. Barclay, without 
Ruth or Miss Marchbank, found the days too long 
for him. He missed his young ward sadly ; and, as 
the possibility of losing her altogether was thereby 
suggested to him, there came unbidden the query, 
whether, in spite of all reasons against such a 
step which he had always argued so plausibly, he 
should not secure himself against such a loss. Yes, 



ASPIRA TIONS. 207 

in his loneliness and ill-health and depression, he had 
allowed himself to look at their relation from the 
vulgar point of view which he had so condemned, 
and really was thinking seriously if he had not bet- 
ter make Ruth his wife. To be sure, he did not 
deceive himself with any absurd idea of being in love 
again. A man never really could be that but once 
in his life, and his past was an unusually sacred one, 
too sacred to be even thought of in connection with 
this present plan, which, after all, was perhaps more 
for Ruth's benefit than his own. But, though he had 
no such love to offer, he was sure that no one's society 
was so necessary to him as that of Ruth's. Had he 
not trained and trimmed and guided her young life 
entirely to his liking.-^ Had he not instilled his own 
views, principles, and opinions, even to such an ex- 
treme that he had actually seen the need of her view- 
ing the world for a while through her own eyes, as an 
educational advantage ? And who could be more 
sweetly devoted to his comfort than Ruth t Ah, how 
much he missed her pretty ways, her attention, her 
docility ! How much he missed their talks and 
walks and readings } How silent and empty the 
rooms were, how vacant his time ! And who could 
understand her so well, who could make her so 
happy, who knew her every wish and thought } 
Surely no one but himself. 

And yet, there was the possibility that even now 
she might be making new ties, new friendships, which, 
if they did not sever, might weaken old ties. For 
Ruth was young, and Mr. Barclay remembered with 
a sudden uneasiness that novelty and change some- 



208 ASPIRATIONS, 

times worked wonders with young people. Of one 
thing he was certain : she had no thought unknown 
to him, she had no friendships made under his eye 
that he need fear Even her personal attributes 
were presented to him with strange force and per- 
sistence as he sat thinking these thoughts, with his 
pen in his hand, and his note-paper before him. Her 
sweet face rose before him like a vision ; and he 
almost heard her soft footfall, and smelt the faint 
fragrance of her fineries. As he dawdled over his 
letters, he imagined her by his side, questioning, 
criticising, examining, as had been her wont, and as 
he had allowed. She was a very lovely girl, a rare 
refinement in her by nature, and the daughter of a 
man he had loved. Why should he not follow 
this impulse ? Would there, could there be but one 
answer if he did } Ah, again came that vague un- 
easiness as to what change might have already been 
begun in her ! 

Drawing a fresh sheet from a quire, and dipping 
his pen leisurely in the ink, he began writing. 

" My DEAR Ruth, — It is with a strange feeling of surprise 
that I find myself compelled to consider why I allowed you to 
leave me." 

No, that was not what he wanted to say : so he 
began over again. 

** My dear Ruth, — Since your departure, I find myself a 
strange and lonely being. All Florence is changed. Ever}-- 
body except the Aldens has gone. Grace is yet very weak, 
and her aunt very uneasy about her ; while May is as fresh as a 
rose, and vexed with impatience to be off. I cannot leave my 



ASPIRA TIONS. 209 

old friend to the untender mercies of innkeepers and servants, 
therefore I linger. But a constant undercurrent of wonder at 
myself for letting you leave me is ebbing and flowing through 
all these lonely days. I did not appreciate my dependence upon 
you, and, in truth, have come to look at our relative positions in 
a very remarkable way. I believe I am growing old, Ruth, — 
not so much outwardly as inwardly, — which is a very curious 
admission for me to make just now to you, meditating, as I do, 
the asking of the greatest favor a man can ask or a woman can 
grant. But you and I have always been very honest to each 
other, and to tell you any flattering falsehood would be as for- 
eign to my nature as to yours. Old I am, and clinging more to 
the idea of home and established ways : it is this which has 
been bringing me around to the conviction that I must cease to 
be your guardian. I have positively fought against this idea, 
mainly because it was the common one of the stupid people 
who think all friendships between man and woman must culmi- 
nate in matrimony, but also because it seemed ungenerous to 
offer you so little and ask so much. But here I am asking it, 
after all, — and why ? Because I see no other way of keeping 
you all to myself." 



The little silver travelling-clock here rang out 
three clear notes ; and Mr. Barclay, remembering a 
necessary errand before going to Miss Alden, as well 
as the need of dressing, was forced to lay aside his 
pen for a more convenient season. There was no 
haste required, and he wanted to put his ideas very 
deliberately on paper. So he rose and began his 
toilet. It was past four when he reached Miss 
Aldeu's, and found her waiting for him. 

" The girls are out, most opportunely," she said, as 
she greeted him. 

" What ! not Grace ? I thought she was yet too 
ill." 



2 1 ASPIRA TIONS. 

"For any lengthened exertion yet, she is. But 
May has urged her into making an attempt. They 
took the maid, and Branly Potter was to drive them. 
But I must go home, Frank. These girls have kept 
me now in a perpetual worry for so long that I have 
reached the limit of my patience. Never, never 
again shall I be induced to chaperone marriageable 
girls : it is too great a responsibility. My brother 
has relied too much upon me. May's freaks of in- 
dependence, her intimacy with Mrs. Gray, and her 
wilful opposition to my views have been most har- 
assing ; while Grace's engagement terminated, as I 
knew it would, in disaster, — not that I supposed the 
man would do quite what he did, but I knew no good 
could come of the affair." 

" Is she getting over it ? '* 

"Yes, I think she is. Our difference of opinion 
previous to the iclaircisseincnt has prevented me 
from being in her confidence ; but I see that her 
natural pride is asserting itself. She never mentions 
the man's name." 

" Naturally," said Mr. Barclay. 

" Oh, yes ! I trust such folly will never be repeated. 
But I sent for you, Frank, to have a business talk, 
and I must not allow myself to digress. Here is a 
letter from my brother that has troubled me greatly, 
and I can't quite make it out. He has lost heavily 
in recent speculations, but I fail to see why it should 
affect me. Suppose you read it and explain : a third 
person can always do better than an interested 
party." 

Miss Alden handed Mr. Barclay the letter, and 



ASPIRA TIONS. 211 

took up her crochet. Her needle flew in and out of 
the fleecy wool, and the diamonds on her slender fin- 
gers flashed with each movement. Her soft, rich 
black silk and creamy lace became her well ; but her 
face looked worn and thin, and her eyes were some- 
what dim, as if they had recently shed tears. 

Mr. Barclay read in silence, but rose hastily as he 
ended, and stood before the window. 

"Well, what do you make of this strange docu- 
ment, Frank, which to me was so perplexing } " 
asked Miss Alden anxiously. 

Mr. Barclay came back from the window with 
heightened color. 

" It does not contain good news,'* he said quietly. 
But something in his tone made Miss Alden's work 
slip from her fingers ; seeing which, he took her hand 
very gently and drew it to his lips. 

" What is it, Frank } what is it that you have dis- 
covered ? " she asked ; and her voice trembled. 

" Be courageous, my dear friend ; there are many 
things worse than the loss of money in this world." 

" Oh, no, no ! " she cried ; " not to those who have 
no power of making it. Nothing but crime and sin 
can be worse." 

" The loss of those we love," he began gently, re- 
membering the blight upon his own life ; but she 
quickly broke in — 

** Those losses Heaven consoles; sorrow carries 
its own balm; but money — Oh, it is simply what 
we cannot do without ! But how does my poor 
brother stand } Is he penniless ? " 

"I fear he is," 



2 1 2 ASPIRA TIONS, 

" And I ? how will it affect me ? '* 

" I am afraid " — 

" Oh, there you must be mistaken, Frank ! My 
brother may be involved, but it cannot do me much 
harm. To be sure, I must help him as far as I can ; 
but — Why do you look so at me ? " 

** Is it possible you do not know ? " 

" No ; I see no cause " — 

" For hope that any thing remains." He com- 
pleted her sentence, as a surgeon might, with incisive 
firmness, plunge in his scalpel. 

" Frank ! " 

*' My dear friend, do not deceive yourself. Your 
brother has used your funds as well as his own." 

She rose now in her excitement, and her eyes flashed 
with a strange light ; but in a moment more she had 
dropped into her chair, and was sobbing violently. 

Mr. Barclay went for water, and found a carafe on 
the sideboard, and a glass, into which he poured a 
few drops from the little flask his own invalidism 
necessitated carrying ; but already Miss Alden had 
conquered her hysteria, and was fanning herself. 

" Forgive my outburst, I beg of you," she said 
feebly. " I could not bring myself to believe that 
was the truth ; but I see now it must be as you say. 
What shall I do.? what shall I do.? Alas! here 
come the girls. Let us keep them ignorant a little 
longer." 

" By all means," quickly responded Mr. Barclay, 
admiring her quick repossession of herself, and her 
equally brave desire to bear her trouble alone. " But 
remember I am every way at your service." He 



ASPIRATIONS, 213 

had not time to say more ; for, like a summer breeze, 
May burst laughing in, and Grace followed, leaning 
on Branly Potter, and looking still like an Easter 
lily. 

" We have bought all the shops out, auntie,*' cried 
May, "for I knew this was my last chance when I 
saw how well Grace bore the fatigue ; there is no 
earthly excuse now why she should remain in Flor- 
ence. I tried to inveigle Mr. Potter to wager that 
we would return when he does ; but he had no faith 
in my betting-book, — nor in me, either, I am afraid.'* 
But catching a very expressive glance from her now 
confessed lover, she stopped and looked from one to 
the other. 

"Something is the matter," she said decidedly, 
and with a little sniff of her pretty nose, as if she 
smelt something in the air. 

" Matter enough," said Mr. Barclay, gallantly has- 
tening to assist Grace to a chair and a footstool and 
a fan, and any thing and every thing which would 
cover Miss Alden's emotion. " You are too giddy. 
May, for a good nurse ; I shall have to take Grace 
under my wing.'* 

"With all my heart,'* answered May, waving her 
hands in a fresh pair of palest primrose gants de 
Suede. " As soon as you please, I will resign ; only 
I hope she will not be the torment of your existence 
as she is of mine, with her proud determination to 
give up every wish and whim of her own, and become 
a perfect saint. Saints always were my abhorrence, 
and Grace is fast becoming one : so take her, Mr. 
Barclay, and welcome.'* 



2 1 4 ASPIRA TIONS. 

Poor Grace smiled faintly, and looked appealingly 
to Mr. Barclay, saying, — 

"It's all because I wouldn't be extravagant and 
buy a pair of amber bracelets for these wretchedly 
thin wrists of mine, and would make her take the 
money for some tortoise-shell things which she wants 
to give away. An easy way to procure saintliness, 
is it not ? " 

" Oh, the motive is quite equal to many that have 
gained niches in the chapels ! We don't measure 
the deed," answered Mr. Barclay, wondering why the 
talk would run on money, and pitying Miss Alden 
deeply. He was touched, too, with the new, sweet 
expression of Grace's face. She looked wan and 
weary, and no longer had the bright girlishness of 
May ; but there was a look of calm serenity which 
indicated that she had conquered in the trial to which 
she had been subjected, and would hereafter be equal 
to the duties her life might impose, with perhaps an 
added power of sympathy with the wants and woes 
of humanity, which her own pain had taught her. 

Mr. Barclay thought he had never seen her looking 
lovelier ; and it pained him to think what was before 
these girls who had not known even the restrictions 
of small means. All their lives they had lived in 
luxury ; not in wanton wastefulness or in pompous 
show, but in the delightful ease of gratified desires, 
as pure and healthful and refined as education and 
culture inspire. To what now might they be hurry- 
ing.? — to privation, toil, care, want. It made him 
chilly as he sat there with Miss Alden's hopeless, sad 
glance meeting his in dumb anguish. She had taken 



ASPIRATIONS. 215 

up her crochet ; but the needle seemed to catch in 
the wool, her fingers were so tremulous : and in the 
pauses of May's lively rattle he caught the sound of 
one or two sighs which were almost sobs. Poor 
woman, what a crushing grief this was to her ! For, 
besides the loss of money, both he and she knew that 
there was loss of honor. He would not go till he 
could assure her of his sympathy and aid, and beg 
her to keep the worst of the tidings from these inno- 
cent girls. There was no need of their knowing all. 
It was late before Branly Potter ceased making les 
beaux yeiix to May, and she to him, — for if ever two 
people were to outsiders confessedly " in love," and 
yet unwilling to acknowledge it, these were ; and 
for May, Mr. Barclay had little apprehensiveness. 
Her very happiness was a shield ; not even poverty 
could sting her with its usual venom. But for the 
aunt, whose pride was intense, and whose locks were 
even grayer than his own ; and for the girl whose 
recent acute experience of sorrow rendered her as a 
bruised reed, — Mr. Barclay was full of pity. So he 
staid on. But he gained no chance to express him- 
self that evening; for after awhile Miss Alden, unable 
to bear the strain of suppressed feeling, excused her- 
self, and as she left the room seemed to have become 
shrunk and bent under the burden of her woe. 



2 1 6 ASPIRA TIONS. 



CHAPTER XX. 

Mr. Barclay went to his rooms with almost as 
much depression as Miss Alden displayed. His sym- 
pathetic nature was disturbed, and he was deeply 
concerned about these friends. He saw nothing be- 
fore them, no way out of their trouble. What could 
they do .? and how should he help them } He was 
translating some hymns for the use of the schools, 
and he sat down to his work with the uncomfortable 
feeling that it was hardly difficult enough to absorb 
him, that as a man he might be doing more ; but his 
habits were too fixed now to change, and, as far as 
money went, there was no need for him to do more. 
But he knew that, had he been a business-man, some- 
thing would have suggested itself by which he could 
have aided these unfortunate women. Miss Alden 
was too proud, he knew, to easily accept favors which 
she would never be able to repay; and yet she was 
entirely unfitted by her age and manner of life for 
arduous exertion of any sort. He cast about for 
any method whereby she could aid herself, and put 
aside as utterly impracticable every thing that was 
suggested. The customary self-sustaining work of 
middle-aged people was the keeping of schools, board- 
ing-houses, and accounts, or sewing. All these might 



ASPlRATIOiVS. 217 

do for women of tougher fibre ; but for his friend they 
seemed as absurd as engineering or any of the pur- 
suits of men. Why, he did not stop to define. And 
as for the girls, poor tender young things, how his 
heart ached for them ! It quite absorbed him, and 
the letter he meant for Ruth was put aside as of sec- 
ondary importance, something that could be attended 
to when his thoughts were less painfully occupied. It 
seemed too selfish to be considering his own affairs, 
when these friends of his were overtaken by dis- 
aster. 

Just then Branly Potter came in ; and Mr. Barclay 
thought it best to give him some hint of the state 
of Miss Alden's affairs, wondering what effect it 
would have. The young fellow seemed positively 
elated by it, and confessed that he had been holding 
off from any communication with May's aunt because 
May would not let him speak ; but now she must 
give way. He would not only speak, but he would 
insist upon immediate marriage ; as, no matter how 
poor he might be, they were poorer, and together 
they could bear the brunt of unkind fortune. 

Mr. Barclay smiled in spite of himself at Branly*s 
eagerness and quick solution of his part of the prob- 
lem, and then he sighed to think how quickly poor 
Miss Alden would be obliged to succumb and yield 
her favorite ideas of prudence, etc. But Mr. Potter 
succeeded in cheering him, and imparted some of his 
own hopeful spirit ; and together they walked over to 
Miss Alden's rooms, and found the girls alone, read- 
ing and sewing, their aunt not having risen. 

"Aunt is not at all well," said Grace, putting down 



2l8 ASPIRATIONS. 

her book as she welcomed the two men, and May- 
laid aside her sewing. 

" I was afraid she would be affected by the painful 
news she received yesterday," said Mr. Barclay, as 
Branly Potter drew May into the recess of a cur- 
tained window. 

Grace looked startled. 

** Has she not told you } Is it possible you do not 
know } " he asked hurriedly. 

** No ; she has told me nothing. She seems fever- 
ish and dull. I am afraid we have staid here too 
long ; our maid tells me there is much illness about. 
What is it, Mr. Barclay, that troubles aunt t " 

" Oh, if she has said nothing, it will be as well to 
wait ! I was rash ; but I supposed, of course, you 
knew." 

*' Oh, pray, Mr. Barclay, tell me all ! I can bear 
any thing now, — any thing. Is any one ill } " 

"Ah, dear child, you do not know what you ask!" 
said Mr. Barclay, looking pitifully at this slender, 
dark-eyed young thing, who had so recently been 
struck with so cruel a blow, and who seemed to have 
grown so much older and wiser than her years. 

"No one is ill," he continued. "But there is an 
entanglement in your aunt's and your father's busi- 
ness affairs — a great loss — much embarrassment," 
he stumbled on, hardly knowing what he was saying ; 
when she suddenly interrupted him, putting one of 
her pretty hands on his arm with a quick gesture, 
saying, — 

" Is that all } and do you fear telling me that?'' 

" To be sure : it's deplorable, dreadful." 



ASPIRA TIONS. 2 1 9 

*'Not at all, unless there has been something 
fraudulent ; " and then she stopped, with a sudden 
flush of color. The supposition took away her breath, 
and it was in a whisper she said, " That only can 
make loss of money the bitter thing you think it." 

He waived her questioning look, and said, — 

" You are brave indeed, dear Grace. But remem- 
ber you know nothing of hardship. It is my fear for 
you that makes me think so much of the mere loss 
of money. You have been so delicately reared, and 
know nothing of the trials of adversity." 

" But I know where to look for guidance," she 
answered reverently. 

Then Mr. Barclay asked to see her aunt, and she 
went to find out if he could be received. 

Meanwhile, Branly Potter had urged his suit with 
May, and made her acknowledge that it was now 
time for him to speak to her aunt, whose acquies- 
cence he hoped to obtain. But it had taken many 
words and much persuasion, for she felt that it was 
positively taking an undue advantage of her aunt to 
gain her consent while under the depressing influence 
of evil tidings ; but the young man was accustomed 
to have his own way, and as soon as Mr. Barclay re- 
appeared he was also allowed an interview. He found 
Miss Alden supported by pillows in an easy-chair; 
but there was the flush of fever on her cheeks, and 
its glitter in her eyes. By great effort she had risen 
to receive her old friend ; and, notwithstanding all 
his kind assurances, she had not grown calm. When 
Branly, after a few hurried expressions of sympathy, 
made known his errand, she quickly responded, — 



220 ASPIRATIONS. 

"You find me hors de combat^ Mr. Potter. I ap- 
preciate your affection for my neice, but I am no 
longer capable of exercising calm judgment in the 
matter. I have always regarded marriage as excel- 
lent and desirable if the parties to it were of. equal 
birth, education, and fortune, with a strong leaning 
towards the surplus being in the masculine hands ; 
but my point of view was from the comfortable ranks 
of those who possess competence. I find myself 
deprived now of the very means of existence. My 
nieces are equally destitute. My friend Mr. Barclay 
is our only dependence. He promises to take us 
home at his own cost, though of course my jewels 
will recompense him. If, knowing all this, you still 
persist in asking my permission to marry May, you 
are either a — a fool — or a very high-minded 
man." 

" I will take the latter, if you please," said Branly, 
laughing, in spite of the gravity of the discussion, and 
pressing Miss Alden's hot hand. " I love May very 
much, and I flatter myself that she cares a little for 
me, — at all events, she has promised to, — and I don't 
see that we can do better than join forces at once ; 
for, if I have the right to protect her, I can also assist 
you, my dear Miss Alden." 

Miss Alden put her hand over her eyes. '*It does 
increase one's faith in human nature to see such an 
exhibition of kindness, but common prudence de- 
mands that I should ask you if you can do this with- 
out an utter sacrifice of all your plans and projects." 

"My dear Miss Alden, all my plans and projects 
centre in your niece." 



ASPIRA TIONS. 22 1 

"Ah, well, it is a mystery to me ! But I suppose 
we are not all able to fathom mysteries." 

And then Mr. Potter withdrew, very well satisfied 
with this conclusion. 

So it came about, that, after many conferences and 
much discussion, there was a hasty departure from 
Florence and a rapid journey to England ; and Mr. 
Barclay had to have passports visM, and luggage for- 
warded, and make preparation for the quiet little cer- 
emony which they concluded to have performed in 
London. It was rather rapid work ; and, in addition, 
Miss Alden's condition was alarming. She rallied 
from the first prostration; but at times her brain 
appeared to be affected, and fits of silence were fol- 
lowed by intervals of spasmodic talking, which were 
more painful to hear than the silence was to endure : 
for the theme was invariably of bold projects and 
plans which her listeners could not but think the fan- 
tasies of mental disorder. 

Grace's devotion to her aunt was noticeable. She 
was far from strong, but all her energy of character 
manifested itself. To be sure, she had the quiet and 
patient sympathy of all, but Mr. Barclay remarked 
that Miss Alden turned to Grace for more complete 
understanding. Was it any wonder that he found 
himself admiring her gentle womanliness and self- 
sacrifice, and that even her countenance had an in- 
crease of beauty for him } 

*' You have certainly the gift of sympathy, Grace," 
he said to her one day, after she had been more than 
usually taxed to divert her aunt. 

" Do you think so .? " she said, smiling in that half- 



222 ASPIRATIONS, 

sad way which had unconsciously become a habit. 
" Is it any thing uncommon ? " 

" It is very rare, and is seldom a birthright : one 
has to gain it through suffering. But all sufferers 
do not possess it : they rather hug their own pains to 
themselves, and forget all about other people." 

" That seems to me a poor and trivial relief. What 
is the adage about a trouble shared V 

" You have proved its truth. But, Grace, you are 
too young for so much wisdom." 

She shook her head. 

" We must find some way for you to forget. The 
time has not arrived for you to need so much philoso- 
phy. You must not mistake a little breeze for a 
great blow.** 

Again she shook her head, as she said, " What I 
want is work, Mr. Barclay. When we get home, will 
you help me find it } " 

" Certainly," he said gravely, wondering what she 
could do. 

** Next to religion and philosophy comes work, as 
a panacea for our many ills." 

" What can you possibly know about it } " 

" Oh, one can know intuitively a great deal with- 
out absolute experience ! I have done a great deal 
of thinking lately." 

" More than has been good for you, I fear. But 
may I ask what sort of work you desire t " 

** It puzzles me a little. I am not a skilful needle- 
woman, and I am afraid I don't know enough about 
mathematics to teach in schools ; but I think I might 
get writing or copying to do." 



ASPIRA TIONS. 223 

Mr. Barclay here remembered his own work of late, 
and the bright thought struck him that it would be 
well to transfer it to her hands. 

"Are you fond of translating } " he asked. 

*' I can read French and German with some ease," 
she replied modestly. 

" And Italian ? " 

" Not so well." 

" I want some help in a hymnal I am preparing, — 
in fact, if you can render some of the verses into 
prose, together we might make them jingle, — and 
perhaps it would be as well for you to begin with such 
work before undertaking any thing which would 
bring you in contact with strangers, who would neces- 
sarily be more exacting." 

A bright look of gratitude made Grace's eyes glis- 
ten. 

"This is extremely kind. I will begin as soon as 
we have a quiet moment, and at least try what I can 
do. Really, Mr. Barclay, you have been our haven 
of refu!2:e in this storm." 

At this Mr. Barclay politely demurred, attributing 
all to the happy accident of their being together. 
They were now in London, and making haste to have 
May's marriage over in time to take the steamer 
home. But Miss Alden, at the last moment, had 
taken a freak to postpone it ; declaring they had been 
too precipitate, and that such unseemly haste was 
not dignified. Notwithstanding Mr. Potter's family 
had all concurred, and that a younger brother was to 
be best man, she shut herself up, and declined to have 
any part in the proceedings. In vain Mr. Barclay 



224 AS PI R A TIONS. 

remonstrated, and Grace argued, and May wept : there 
seemed to be really no way out of the dilemma but 
to take their own course, regardless of her disappro- 
bation. But this was a most disagreeable thing to 
do ; for no outsider could detect in Miss Alden's ir- 
reproachable appearance and manner the distraught 
condition of her mind, and her nieces' love and re- 
spect for her were undiminished. Thus several weeks 
elapsed, as May was inclined to wait, hoping for a 
change; but at last there was no alternative, and 
so after interviews with the American authorities 
and legal representatives, and clerical dignitaries, the 
little party, minus Miss Alden, drove to St. George's 
and had the ceremony performed. 

It was a dull day, and the drizzle did not lend a 
cheerful aspect to the wedding. Mr. Barclay gave 
the bride away ; and the bride herself was teary and 
pale, but not more so than her bridesmaid, who, 
however, strove to do her part courageously. There 
were few lookers-on, but that they did not mind ; and, 
as soon as the service was concluded, Branly Potter 
hurried May off to catch a train which was to take 
them to Scotland, for he was determined to have a 
little honeymoon which should be as bright as he 
could make it. 

Thus Grace and Mr. Barclay were daily together. 
The translating had progressed favorably, Grace prov- 
ing herself more capable than he could have sup- 
posed ; and as Miss Alden preferred to be much 
alone, maintaining a proud disapprobation, they were 
necessarily dependent upon each other for society. 

Who does not know the power of propinquity? 



ASP IRA TIONS. 225 

Neither would have admitted for a moment that 
there was any thing but the coolest, calmest friend- 
ship between them. Both had their own sad memo- 
ries into which they withdrew as into the shadow 
of cathedral aisles ; and yet, in these retreats they 
found less and less gloom. The afternoon light 
from ruby panes shone not with a richer glow than 
did the mellow radiance which was more and more 
surely revealing the depths of these two hearts each 
to the other. 

With a pang of remorse, the elder was the first 
to discover that he no longer lived in the past, and 
measured every happiness by the sorrow of his youth. 
He felt himself a traitor to the dear companion of 
early days, and would have torn himself away from 
this sweet-faced, gentle girl as from an evil influence, 
had not all the heroism of his manhood demanded 
that he should not desert her. 

This may seem absurd in the face of his written, 
but unsent, letter to Ruth ; but a totally different rea- 
son for his proposal to Ruth had urged him to that 
action, — one which he fancied far less recreant to 
the beloved object of his early affections; and he 
smiled, as he tore it up, to think how purely a matter 
of benefit to Ruth, and convenience to himself, that 
idea had been. And yet it was painful for him to ad- 
mit the truth ; so painful, that Grace feared she had 
in some way lost his confidence and approbation. 
And, in her anxiety on this account, it first became 
evident to her how surely his untiring kindness and 
gentleness of character were effacing the memory of 
that sad attachment of hers for a man, who, though 



2 26 ASPIRA TIONS. 

he had proved himself unworthy, yet remained en- 
shrined as a broken image might retain its place on 
an altar deserted of its worshippers. 

Ah, poor weak and blind children of a tender 
mother ! Nature knows no unmotherly preferences : 
as she commands, we obey ; thinking ourselves wise, 
profound, so above the common herd, that even our 
affections have a finer and firmer texture, — one that 
will withstand time, silence, distrust, and death itself. 



ASPIRA TIONS. 227 



CHAPTER XXI. 

Perhaps nothing is more depressing and mortify- 
ing than to find that which one has supposed to be 
almost an heroic action entirely deprived of its best 
element, to have our poetry reduced to common 
prose. And yet this conviction is just what pressed 
upon Ruth, as she paced her close hotel-room the 
night of her arrival in New York. Her aunt, now 
that she was on her native shore, and having her son 
with her, was in a most satisfied and happy condi- 
tion of mind, and appeared to Ruth not only not to 
need her, but to find her just a little unsociable and 
inflexible. For, elated with having made a successful 
voyage, and free from the critical and uncongenial 
persons she had met, Mrs. Vedder had loudly pro- 
tested her gladness at the dinner-table, and had even 
suggested, but quite contrary to Ruth's wishes, a trip 
to a watering-place before settling down at home. 

It had been a day of remarkable loveliness and 
early June freshness. Even the city felt its charm ; 
for as yet there had been little of the intense heat 
which bakes and burns, and makes New York a ter- 
ror by night and by day. 

The balconies and court-yards, the restaurant win- 
dows and the parks, were smiling with flowers. 



228 ASPIRATIONS. 

Heaps of them, loosely strewn or trimly set in bas- 
kets, and tied and wired in bouquets, were on all the 
street-corners, compelling, by their sweetness, the 
banishment of evil odors ; and on the table in her 
room Ruth had found a choice bunch without card 
or name attached. So delicate an attention had not 
come from the Vedders ; and poor Ruth put her face 
down in the blossoms, and wet them with her tears. 
Her sacrifice of inclination had lost all purpose and 
merit. She was tired, disappointed, and disheart- 
ened. Her pompous uncle reminded her of the sad 
days of her childhood in this great, noisy city ; and 
the thought of close association with him and his still 
more repugnant nephew became abhorrent. How 
should she escape ? Must she be tied to these 
people until Mr. Barclay should release her .'' Was 
there no way out of this enforced bondage, none 
the less enthralling that she had forged the bonds 
herself.^ She could not sleep. The dinner upon 
which Mrs. Vedder had so felicitated herself, had 
hardly been tasted ; and the evening had only been 
gotten through by going to the theatre, where Char- 
ley Vedder found some pretty actresses who were 
more responsive than Ruth, and towards whom Ruth 
felt almost grateful for securing his attention. 
Morning came at last, but brought no relief to the 
exhausted, dejected girl. Mrs. Vedder was even in 
higher spirits than on the previous day, and had 
a new programme made out, which included much 
shopping, visiting, and many excursions ; for she 
was honestly desirous of entertaining Ruth in her 
own way, and had not the faintest conception that 



ASPIRATIONS, 229 

there could be any other which would be more agree- 
able. Mr. Boggs harangued again from the depths 
of the newspaper, but principally on political matters 
and side issues of small moment to any uninterested 
in local affairs. He had an overbearing way of deliv- 
ering the slightest opinion ; and both his nephew 
and sister made no attempt to thwart him, though 
their irritation was visible. He objected to every 
proposal, was urgent to have his nephew enter into 
some business arrangement which was repugnant to 
the luxurious young man, and finally told his sister 
that she must attend to her affairs, as his own were 
of paramount importance and called him home. To 
this there was no remonstrance. But he did not go 
until he had again made Ruth wince by unfeeling 
allusions to her father, and his own regret that she 
should have been brought up by so unpractical a man 
as Mr. Barclay ; for, he added, — 

" I've no sort of idea your accomplishments are of 
any financial value." 

" I don't know," said Ruth, smiling a sad sort of 
smile, " having never tested them in that way ; " but 
quite sure that her guardian was guilty in the light 
of Mr. Boggs's accusations. 

"But you may have to, you know," said Mr. Boggs, 
resuming what might better be called a monologue 
than a conversation. "You may have to. Your 
father didn't leave a cent ; your grandfather doesn't 
know you, and, if he did, would just as likely leave 
his fortune to the Lenox Library. He's nothing but 
an old bookworm. Now, if I'd had a hand in the 
care of you, you'd have been at Vassar or some- 



230 ASPIRATIONS. 

where else, instead of dawdling over Europe ; and by 
this time you could have had a good situation in the 
public schools. My influence would have procured 
that. But I did my best. I warned Mr. Barclay, 
and I offered to do my share. He was too proud 
and stuck-up to listen to me ; and, if ever you suffer, 
it'll not be my fault. Has he made provision for 
you, in case he marries ? or does he mean to marry 
you?" 

This question capped the climax. 

They were sitting in the public parlor, — Mrs. Ved- 
der gazing out of the window at the throng in the 
street ; Charley with his back to the empty fire- 
place, twisting his thin mustache, and watching Ruth 
as she leaned back in the cushions of a sofa, with a 
book in her lap. She was tired and pale, — almost 
as white as her muslin draperies, with their falls of 
creamy lace, — but her only sign of uneasiness had 
been in a little nervous movement of her hands. 
Now the color poured into her face. She looked at 
Mr. Boggs with an expression in which were blended 
indignation and contempt ; but, meeting his self- 
confident and impertinent gaze, she regained her 
composure, and said very quietly, — 

" I am not in the habit of discussing my private 
affairs in this manner, Mr. Boggs ; nor do I think 
your interest in me warrants any inquiry of the sort. 
You forget that we are comparative strangers." 

Mr. Boggs glared, Charley Vedder drew in a half- 
suppressed whistle, and Mrs. Vedder turned from the 
window to see what was going on within. The scowl 
on her brother's face, and Ruth's returned paleness^ 



ASPIRATIONS. 231 

would have warned any one else ; but she was too 
obtuse, and instantly asked what was the matter. 

** Matter enough," growled Mr. Boggs. "A decent 
question deserves a decent answer ; but I'm not fine 
enough for this elegant piece of goods you've got 
hold of, Mrs. Vedder." 

"O Cauldwell!" ejaculated his sister, "don't be 
cross so soon ; you're forever finding fault with Jim 
and Charley, but you might let Ruth alone. — Come, 
Ruth, don't mind him : he is always preaching. Let's 
go out and shop. I want lots of things, and it's ever 
so much easier to buy things here than where they 
jabber French at you." 

She rose and trailed one of her new French gar- 
ments after her, in which she was as dazzling as the 
Queen of Sheba; and Ruth followed, glad of the 
chance to escape, but in no mood for the doubtful 
pleasure promised. 

The day had grown very warm, with the sudden 
fiery heat which comes like a simoom ; and, though 
Mrs. Vedder took a cab as she went about from place 
to place, Ruth became more and more wearied. The 
city was entirely new to her, and many of its ways 
contrasted singularly with her foreign experiences ; 
none more so than the tardiness or indifference 
manifested in the shops. 

But Mrs. Vedder was thoroughly happy. She 
chaffed the clerks, joked with their superiors, and 
tumbled about the fineries as remorselessly as if they 
were her own ; and, when at the end of her pur- 
chases, sighed that she had no more money to spend, 
or wants to gratify. After an ice at a restaurant, 



232 ASPIRA TIONS. 

they drove about the town, despite the glare from 
the heated pavements. With Mrs. Vedder as cice- 
roncy it was no wonder that Ruth became hopelessly 
mixed as to localities ; and she had only a confused 
sense of row upon row of tall and narrow buildings, 
incongruous architecture, and showy equipages, min- 
gled with the painful remembrance of the corner 
drug-shop where she had procured her father's last 
bottle of medicine, which was doubly enforced by 
Mrs. Vedder's pointing out the dingy boarding-house 
from which her poor father had been carried to his 
last resting-place. Had Ruth been of the sternest 
stuff, she could hardly have steeled herself to bear 
two such blows as she received that day from her 
well-meaning, but callous, relatives, without giving 
evidence of it. As it was, she became ill enough to 
excuse herself from any more immediate expeditions, 
and shut herself in her room for at least twenty-four 
hours, — hours of lonely self-reproach and regret, 
and a dull sense of resistance. 

The heat had not abated, and the incessant roar 
of the surging multitude about the hotel made her 
long for quiet. Not even a letter had come to cheer 
her, and Mr. Vedder had made this the topic of fre- 
quent jest, — striving to pierce the thick armor of a 
reserve which she had found it necessary to wear in 
his presence. He was the type of man she most 
disliked, — frivolous, insincere, sensual, and selfish, 
and yet attracted to her by one of those peculiar and 
inexplicable attachments which have no foundation 
in any congruity of nature, and seem to be merely 
wanton freaks. Why he persisted in his attentions. 



ASPIRA TIONS. 233 

she could not conceive. He loudly admired the 
powdered and painted damsels of the ballet ; was as 
quick to perceive the fine points of a handsome 
woman as of a fast horse, and in much the same 
terms ; and, in short, had no sense of appreciation 
of any thing delicate or sensitive. Ruth did not 
think of herself as I have put it, but she knew she 
had nothing in common with Mr. Vedder, — no point 
of approach in any one way; and yet he, in these few 
days, had striven to pose as her lover. 

If any thing had been needed to complete her un- 
happiness, this accomplished it; and, without coming 
to any definite conclusion, she was casting about for 
a way of escape. She could not bring herself to 
speak to her aunt, whose satisfaction at her son's re- 
gard for Ruth made her supremely happy, and who 
was purposely delaying her departure from the city, 
"that Charley might have more of a chance." 

She had no intimate friends in town, and no desire 
to seek their advice (notwithstanding one has said 
very wisely, " Men choose a course of action, women 
an adviser ") in any case ; for an instant, the thought 
of her unknown grandfather flashed across her mind, 
to be quickly put aside. But help was nearer than 
she thought. 



234 ASPIRATIONS. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

New York is thought to be too crude and new, 
too barren of old historic mould, to bear upon its 
exterior any of the clinging ivy of romance. Com- 
merce has its grip upon much that might have been 
retained to suggest that past which is not wholly 
devoid of dignity, and which had a delicate flavor 
which is fast disappearing under the rank growth of 
excessive wealth. But, in spite of its mercantile ad- 
vancement, there are some quarters of the city which 
are more interesting to the student of human nature 
than might be supposed possible. One of these is 
situated between the two extremes of business and 
fashion. It is comparatively quiet and unassuming ; 
but it has some points of elegance and picturesque- 
ness dear to its denizens, and wears upon its face an 
expression of ease and contentment which comes 
from a sense of superiority to the vulgar haste with 
which the towering tenements in the upper part of 
the city rear themselves. Just beyond this pleasant 
quarter are abodes of vice and misery, and perhaps 
because of their close proximity stands one of the 
oldest churches in the town, — a structure suggestive 
of mediaeval architecture, with its castellated Nor- 
man towers and oaken doors ; a church that was once 



ASPIRATIONS. 235 

the resort of the wealthy, but which now opens its 
pews principally to the poor. Faithfully and regu- 
larly are its services maintained, without any of the 
modern arts with which people are lured to their 
duty, but with a simplicity and earnestness which 
commend themselves to the humble and God-fearing 
worshipper. 

Not far from the church, in one of the side streets 
which diverge from this region, is the mission-house 
of the old church, — a place where its charities are dis- 
pensed, and from which proceed other Christian in- 
dustries. It is under no ecclesiastical rule other than 
that of the parish rector, nor is it obligatory that its 
affairs shall be administered by a sisterhood ; though 
its active work and good organization are undoubt- 
edly due to the same spirit of self-abnegation and 
Christian love which animate the sisterhoods. It is a 
centre of influence for good, physically, morally, and 
spiritually, combining as it does a lodging-house for 
the church's homeless ones ; an infirmary for its sick ; 
a dispensary for the ailing ; a meeting-place for its 
workers ; and rest, refreshment, advice, as well as 
food and clothing, for the needy. 

On this warm summer morning St. Armand's had 
been unusually well attended. A few families of 
distinction still cling to it, and many short sojourn- 
ers in the neighborhood find it a welcome retreat. 
All these and more had shared in the services, as well 
as strangers from the near hotels ; among them, our 
little, disappointed Ruth, who, hearing it mentioned, 
had found her way to it alone, without the irksome 
attendance of her cousin. She had walked the whole 



236 ASPIRATIONS. 

distance down the glaring avenue, with the hot sun 
in her eyes, and was glad to get within the sombre 
coolness of St. Armand's ; but the services had 
soothed her, and she had lingered till nearly all the 
congregation had dispersed, when, rising suddenly, a 
faintness came over her which obliged her to resume 
her seat. 

" Are you not well } " said an even-toned voice in 
her ear ; and, looking up, she saw a gentlewoman in 
garments of black, but with the rigid simplicity of a 
Quaker's dress. The face within the small poke- 
bonnet was so sympathetic that Ruth would have 
been glad to respond, but her voice failed her : she 
could only gasp " water," and then the darkness of 
unconsciousness overpowered her. 

When she recovered, she was in the open air, sup- 
ported by the lady, and having stimulants proffered 
her by the sexton. Quickly rallying, she made an at- 
tempt to walk, and would have summoned a cab ; but 
the lady was urgent to have her remain until stronger, 
and begged that she might accompany her to the 
mission-house. 

*' It is but a short walk, and the effort may revive 
you. Let me have my way, and do something for 
you. I am known as the Sister Camilla, and it is 
my vocation to aid the sick and suffering." 

The calm voice, in which there was a ring of resem- 
blance to that of some one of her own friends, and 
the persuasive manner, carried the point. Ruth took 
her new friend's arm, and walked away. 

"This is my first Sunday in New York since I 
was a little child," she explained ; " and I did not 



AS PI R A TIONS. 237 

realize the heat of the day, in coming so far. I am 
Miss Morris." 

" Of Morristown 1 " questioned Sister Camilla. 

" No, of New York. But I have been abroad so 
long with my guardian, Mr. Barclay, that I am almost 
an alien." 

" I know a Mr. Barclay of Boston. Is he not related 
to Miss Alden .? " 

"Oh," joyfully exclaimed Ruth, "it is the same 
one ! No, he is not related to Miss Alden, but we are 
all friends. Oh, this is charming ! " 

" Indeed it is," responded the quiet sister, regard- 
ing her young companion with admiration; "for 
now I can claim you for more than a moment's rest. 
I should like to hear about the schools in Italy, for 
which Mr. Barclay has done so much." 

" And I shall be so glad to have something to tell 
Mr. Barclay about you." 

" Not about me, but my work," said Sister Camilla. 
"And h^re we are at the mission-house. You will 
dine with me now, and let me be assured that your 
faintness was but temporary. May I send any word 
for you to your friends t " 

" Oh, I have none ! " came forth from Ruth, with 
an ingenuous earnestness that made Sister Camilla 
pause in surprise and pain. 

" What do you mean, my child ? " she asked. 

Whether it was due to an overburdened mind, or 
the strange, quaint unworldliness of the religiatscy 
and her simple directness, and the peaceful atmos- 
phere of her quiet, darkened apartment, acting upon 
an imaginative nature, Ruth could not have defined ; 



238 AS PI R A TIONS. 

but, in another moment, she was opening her griefs 
to Sister Camilla as to a confessor. To no one else 
could she have so spoken, and to no one better quali- 
fied to listen. She did not speak of the one thing 
even yet hidden to herself, — the vague and tender 
longing of her heart, — but she spoke of her utter 
disappointment, her dissatisfaction, her wasted effort ; 
she told how she had really longed to be useful to 
her aunt, but how entirely impossible it was ; and 
then she touched lightly upon the new and repug- 
nant situation in which Mr. Vedder's attentions had 
placed her. 

** Clearly, this is a case for me," said Sister Ca- 
milla, smiling, as Ruth paused in her impassioned 
speech, and pressed her hand held out so cordially. 

" Oh, can you help me t Can you suggest to me 
what I shall do t You must be so wise, so clear- 
sighted," cried Ruth. 

** Do you think you could endure to share what I 
can offer, — for a while t " said Sister Camilla. 

"Endure ! Why, this seems peace and heaven itself, 
compared to what is before me ! Let me share your 
work too : it is what I have longed to do." 

" But the Vedders, — how will you explain t Must 
I do it for you .? " 

" No ; I can be brave. They will be angry enough, 
but that will not hurt them. I will tell my aunt that 
this is just what I need. She is generous enough to 
yield, not because she will understand, but because 
she has doubted me from the first. Poor woman, she 
was wise enough to see that we 'had no affinity ! " 

" And her son } " 



ASPIRA TIONS. 239 

"I cannot imagine how he may regard it," and 
Ruth drew herself up proudly. 

" Is he capable of revenge ? '* 

" I do not know. He is both weak and wicked." 

" An undesirable compound. But how do you know 
that you will like my monotonous toil, my meagre 
hospitality } " 

" Something assures me of peace here," answered 
Ruth, glancing at the chaste and simple neatness of 
the room, and the calm exterior of her companion. 

" Can you put aside these pretty garments "i " said 
the sister, touching Ruth's gauzy habiliments, which 
glittered with beads of iridescent hue ; "for of course 
they would be superfluous here." 

" Gladly ; " and she thought, but did not say, " They 
are symbols of a false happiness, while yours indicate 
a useful life and higher aspirations." 

" Come with me, then, and see our rooms for the 
sick people. Perhaps they may intimidate you." 

She opened the door, and led Ruth to where the 
narrow cots in their white draperies stood, — some 
empty, some bearing pale-faced invalids. Every 
thing was neat and spotless ; but it was the abode of 
suffering, and the cross upon the wall was the token 
of its only hope. 

" You cannot alarm me," said Ruth, as she watched 
the pale faces brighten at the sister's approach, and 
heard her words of cheer. 

"Then, if you are resolute, we will take counsel 
here," said Sister Camilla, opening another door, dis- 
closing a small oratory. In silence they knelt on the 
cushions before a reading-desk which held a Bible 



240 ASPIRA TIONS. 

and a Book of Common Prayer, and in silence they 
arose, feeling no need of speech. The compact was 
made. 

After that they had a genuine love-feast. A note 
had been despatched to Mrs. Vedder ; and Ruth, re- 
covering some of her vivacity, talked brightly of her 
travels, of their mutual friends, of books and music. 
Sister Camilla had no depressing austerity of de- 
meanor : she was cheerful, even gay, with a fund of 
anecdote, and quickness of repartee. The dining- 
table was spread on a vine-covered piazza, where 
flowers bloomed, and birds in cages sang. It opened 
into a little, narrow city garden, trimly set with box, 
but making a spot of greenery most pleasant to the 
eye, despite the brick walls surrounding it. 

Ruth could scarcely understand her own rise of 
spirits. Her faintness had gone entirely, and Sister 
Camilla's companionship enabled her to be herself 
again, — something she had not been during all the 
Vedder period. Unconsciously with them she with- 
held herself, spoke in commonplaces, ventured no 
deep thoughts, was guarded at all points, as one 
must be with coarse or even common natures, unless 
they wish their sanctities trampled upon. Now she 
spoke of sweet and serious things long treasured in 
her mind, and found in Sister Camilla a responsive- 
ness and understanding that warmed and exalted her. 

But this peace was rudely broken. St. Armand's 
bell had begun to summon them to afternoon prayers, 
— the day was waning, — when, with loud and impet- 
uous haste, Mrs. Vedder burst in upon them. 

" What is all this nonsense, Ruth } Why did you 



ASPIRA TIONS. 24 1 

frighten me half out of my wits sending me word 
you were sick ? Who is your friend ? " (this in a 
stage-whisper). " A nun, to be sure. None of your 
nuns for me : I've seen enough of them in Europe. 
Come, I want you to go to Central Park with me. I 
haven't been able to get my nap, and my head aches. 
Come along. Charley will meet us, and to-morrow 
we must be off for Saratoga." 

" I find that Sister Camilla is a friend of Mr. Bar- 
clay's, aunt Abby," said Ruth. ** She has been most 
kind to me. I was quite ill in church this morning." 

Sister Camilla had risen at once, and welcomed 
Mrs. Vedder, who chose to be very distant, in a child- 
ish, undignified way that she once in a while assumed 
when displeased. 

" Oh, indeed ! Well, I thought you were foolish 
to come so far down-town. I've got a carriage at 
the door: a ride will do you good." 

Ruth knew that the storm had to be met ; perhaps 
it would be better to break the news to her aunt 
gently, and without disturbing Sister Camilla : so she 
said she would go; "to return as soon as I can," she 
whispered to her new friend. 

"What is that you were saying to that woman } " 
Mrs. Vedder asked, as soon as they were in the 
carriage. " I don't like her looks. What does she 
dress up in that way for 1 Who is she, anyhow } And 
what possessed you to dine there instead of at the 
hotel, where you can get any thing you want that's 
to be had for money." 

Ruth despaired of making Mrs. Vedder, whose 
religious feelings were very crude, comprehend her 



242 ASPIRA TJONS. 

new plan or Sister Camilla : so she wisely forebore 
an explanation, but, in as direct a way as she could, 
told her aunt that Sister Camilla had invited her to 
make her a visit, and she had accepted. 

*' What ! stay in that dismal hole this hot summer 
weather? You're crazy, Ruth; you're out of your 
senses ! " 

" No, aunt Abby, I prefer it to Saratoga." 

** Nonsense, nonsense ! " 

" But I have quite made up my mind." 

Then Mrs. Vedder stormed, and became more and 
more angry. She had lost all the humility with which 
her foreign disappointments had invested her; and 
she boldly told Ruth that she believed she was pin- 
ing for Mr. Barclay, and that Charley was a great 
deal more suitable ; that she ought to be kinder to 
him, and not treat him as if he were the scum of the 
earth. It was the old story of the lioness and her 
whelp. She forgot every thing but her own griev- 
ance; and the crowd of amusement-seekers in the 
Park, that Sunday afternoon, turned their startled 
gaze upon the occupants of the landau, where a red 
and voluble woman sat beside a pale and delicate girl, 
who received the storm of words in silence. But this 
phase of the situation wore off by the time they 
reached the hotel ; and Mrs. Vedder, whose moods were 
very variable, became tearful and penitent. But Ruth 
was not to be shaken. With quiet determination, 
she packed and locked her trunks, wrote her letters, 
and made her preparations. She pitied her aunt, but 
her conviction that she had made a grievous mistake 
in thinking that she could be conducive to her happi- 
ness remained the same. 



ASPIRATIONS, 243 

They parted the next day, kindly, even affection- 
ately, — for all the quarrel; Charley only maintain- 
ing a sullen scorn. Several letters for Ruth were 
in his pocket. He took them out, and burned them, 
one by one, in the gaslight of the smoking-room. 
Mrs. Vedder was quite sure Ruth would soon join 
her at Berryville. 



244 ASPIRA TIONS, 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

Saratoga is a social vortex, which gathers in all 
sorts and conditions of men, from the gravest to 
the gayest, — the clergyman and the gambler being 
led thither by as contrary roads as can well be con- 
ceived; and it would be an endless task to attempt 
to delineate the mixed motives which propel the 
crowd towards its refreshing waters. 

It was not therefore surprising that the two men 
of my story most interested in a certain charming 
young woman should have met in Saratoga, under 
circumstances far from pleasing to either. One was 
perplexed, uncertain, and desponding, as the more 
sensitive, artistic nature is so apt to be when the 
world's jar and confusion disturb its delicate balance. 
The other was vexed, snarling, and sore at the depri- 
vation of any thing which his selfishness craved. 
Neither would have approached the other, had they 
not been in a measure forced to do so by meeting at 
a public table, and the angry one being desirous of 
getting a chance to wreak his wrath to its fullest ex- 
tent. To Lillo's annoyance, the story of his life had 
gone before him. He had been to Codtown, was 
returning, and had stopped at Saratoga to find a man 
with whom he had business relations. 



ASPIRA TIONS. 245 

Before he knew it, he was a centre of attraction. 
Cards were showered upon him, introductions sought, 
invitations given, and a bevy of pretty girls making 
him the target of their bright attacks. 

" The Count Romano " they insisted upon calling 
him, with true republican distaste for the plain *' Mr.'* 
But it was as Mr. Marsh that he responded. 

" Find yourself quite a lion, don't you } " said 
Charley Vedder, between the puffs of his cigar, as 
the two strolled towards one of the springs, after a 
brief allusion to Miss Morris, in which Charley 
managed to convey an impression that she was to 
rejoin them shortly. 

"Oh, any thing serves as a subject for gossip in 
this warm weather," said Lillo absently. 

"Have you been interviewed by the newspaper 
men > " 

" Not yet." 

"They know how to do it in a devilish under- 
handed way." 

"It's rather hard lines to earn one's living by that 
sort of rubbish," said the painter, in the same non- 
chalant manner with which the talk had begun. 

"Then you've no objection to furnishing the beg- 
gars with their means of subsistence .-* " 

" I am not anxious to do it," said the other, and 
turned to join an acquaintance. 

"I'll give them a few points," muttered Vedder, 
casting a glance fraught with malice after the artist, 
who was now the centre of a group of men whom 
Vedder knew only as people of social worth and 
standing, but who would have none of him. The 



246 ASPIRATIONS, 

opportunity was not slow in coming. A reporter, 
with his roll of yellow paper, was on the piazza of the 
hotel, taking notes, as Vedder returned. A cigar 
and a glass of whiskey soon established harmonious 
relations between them, and the catechism which fol- 
lowed enabled Charley to do what he wished without 
much mental effort. 

The following morning Mr. Vedder was absent 
from the breakfast-table when Lillo appeared. He 
thus lost half his sport at seeing the latter turn over 
the pages of a morning journal, glance down a cer- 
tain column, crush the paper suddenly, and thrust it 
aside ; while the veins of his temples swelled, and the 
angry flash of his eyes betokened a storm. Rising 
impetuously, he left his breakfast half eaten, and 
sought the open air. Who had thus dared to make 
his affairs the subject of so much idle talk, was as 
nothing compared with what he read between the 
lines. The innuendoes, the hints which made his 
blood boil, were of Ruth ; and the climax was capped 
by an insinuation that the artist's rival was by no 
means his junior. Of course there were no names, 
and there was a misty veil of sentiment concealing 
facts ; so that the whole read more as an emanation 
from the writer's brain than a veritable history. But 
Lillo saw it all, and it burned into his brain like 
caustic. His hot, Italian blood was in a ferment, 
and yet he scorned himself for his anger. Why 
should he rave at the wretched scribbling of this 
penny-a-liner } He flung himself into the crowd on 
its way to some boat-races, and strove to forget the 
insult. Had his passion for Ruth needed any stimu- 



ASPIRATIONS. 247 

lus, it received it now. Her grace, sweetness, and 
companionable qualities were not of an order to 
inspire furious ardor ; but a Cleopatra might have 
been satisfied with the sudden blaze that rose in his 
breast, and made her seem the only necessary acqui- 
sition to his happiness. What would success, fame, 
the fulfilment of his wishes be without her ? Apples 
of Sodom, indeed ! He wanted nothing of his Ro- 
mano relative ; but, if the title would win her, he 
would take it. He had the necessary proofs of his 
rights ; but, unless she so ordered, they should never 
be presented. And then came the chilling doubt of 
Mr. Barclay's prior claim. Why might not a man 
fight for the object of his affections as in primitive 
times.!* Why couldn't he seize her and ride like 
young Lochinvar.? Must he stand idly by and let 
that gray -haired " dotard " mildly take as his due all 
her wealth of young affection } And then he reverted 
to the newspaper's cut-and-dried phrases, in which 
he was alluded to as a disappointed aspirant, etc. 
Who could have done it t A rollicking set of men 
drove past him, and Charley Vedder gave him a 
familiar nod. Then came like a flash the few words 
of the day before. Could it be possible that this fool 
had been amusing himself in so contemptible a man- 
ner } and if he had, how could he punish him ? He 
was impervious to slights, or the ordinary way in 
which gentlemen rebuked each other. Nothing but 
a sound thrashing would make an impression on him. 
The temptation to give it increased as he went on ; 
his fists clinched involuntarily, and the desire to 
whip the scoundrel was so strong that he found him- 



248 ASPIRATIONS. 

self following the man to the stand where a good view 
was to be had of the boats. 

A gleaming, pretty sheet of water, on which the 
dazzling sun was pouring his hottest rays ; crowds of 
gayly dressed women in pleasure-boats, in carriages, 
on foot ; men of all ages, with the ribbons of their 
favorites in their button-holes, laughing, cheering, 
betting ; and the long line of rowers bared to the 
waist, bending to their oars, as they sent their skiffs 
over the water with electric rapidity, — this was the 
scene before him. But he was in no mood to enjoy 
it. A pretty throng of girls saluted him. 

" Who will win ? " " Which do you think has the 
best chance ? " ** Be on our side, do ! " "See, there's 
Harry Holton ; what splendid muscle ! " " Did you 
ever see the equal of this abroad } " These were the 
words flying about his ears, when he heard a strange, 
cracking sound. The boats had flashed past : it 
could not come from them. The hub-bub of voices 
increased as each one strove to exalt his favorite; but 
the laughter rose to a shrill shriek, for now, not only 
was the cracking heard, but there came a great crash, 
and down went half of the stand whereon stood so 
merry a throng of human beings. The light jest, 
the lively banter, merged into groans and screams. 
Dense confusion ensued. Those not on the struc- 
ture crowded about to succor those who were. Men 
and women fought frantically to push their way in 
and out, displaying the usual selfishness of fear. It 
was a time of wildest disorder, and the little squad of 
country police were at their wit's end to know what 
to do. 



ASPIRA TIONS, 249 

Lillo had been one of the first to notice the sway- 
ing of the light structure, as well as to hear the 
cracking sound, and had leaped quickly aside, grasp- 
ing as he did so the girl nearest him, and pushing 
several others towards the steps. These were then 
in no danger, but it had been impossible to save 
more ; and though the water was by no means deep, 
nor the stand very high, there were many who might 
be seriously injured. He had dashed therefore into 
the water, and with the alertness of one accustomed 
to it was soon relieving others, and giving orders to 
the clumsy but well-intentioned countrymen about 
him, who were only too glad to be directed. In the 
exercise of this authority he was obliged to divest 
himself of as much of his clothing as he could tear 
off, and plunge into deeper water. He found the 
current strong, but not strong enough to warrant a 
curious, dragging sensation which now thwarted his 
movements, and which, striking out to rid himself of, 
he became conscious was the grasp of a man. 

This meant death, unless he could get free. Vainly 
he struggled to see who was thus clutching him with 
drowning desperation. The more he strove, the 
more frantic and fast became the other's grasp. But 
now their positions changed ; for Lillo, with the art of 
a practised swimmer, made a movement which threw 
the man beneath him, and then both sank. But, as 
the clear water bubbled over them, he saw Charley 
Vedder's distorted features. 

For an instant a fiendish joy took possession of 
him ; but in another he was aware not only of his own 
danger, but also of the necessity for a cool and calm 



250 ASPIRATIONS. 

effort that should save them both. He was so used 
to the water, that many of his movements were invol- 
untary ; and, indeed, now there seemed to be two dis- 
tinct and separate lines of thought flashing along the 
electric wires of his nerves. With one he main- 
tained his composure, his presence of mind, and un- 
impassioned action. With the other he was absorbed 
in that retrospection which is so common to crises 
like this. 

As they sank, he remembered that he had a com- 
mon case-knife in his pocket ; and, though he was 
fast losing strength, he managed to get it out, and 
cut away the clothing in Vedder's grasp. In a mo- 
ment more he had risen to the surface, free. With 
one long inspiration of the pure air, and a glance at 
his whereabouts, he dove for Vedder, but in doing so 
struck an unseen rock. Stunned, bewildered, but 
half-conscious, he tried to grapple for his late com- 
panion. He had a frantic desire now to save him : it 
seemed to him an awful necessity, that he must do 
it or be guilty of his death ; and again he struggled 
and sought, but all in vain. Nothing but mud and 
pebbles met his touch ; and with a weary, hopeless 
prostration he let himself go, thick darkness shut- 
ting him out of life and light and happiness. 



ASPIRATIONS. 251 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

On the second floor of one of those cheap and con- 
venient London lodging-houses, in a room which is 
but sparely furnished, sits Miss Alden, knitting. Her 
face looks worn and anxious, and she seems to be 
impatient for the coming of some one for whom she 
is waiting, as she turns towards the door whenever 
a passing vehicle jars its loosely hung hinges. But 
she has not long to wait, as the small travelling clock 
has hardly struck six when Grace enters alone. She 
is tired and agitated, and falls listlessly into a seat as 
her aunt's knitting stops, and a scrutinizing glance 
asks as plainly as words for information. But Grace 
apparently forgets her aunt's presence : she leans 
wearily back, takes off her gloves, pushes the hair 
from her temples, and seems lost in thought. 

" Well, was your walk pleasant } " queries Miss 
Alden. 

Grace starts, and says, " Oh, yes, about as usual ! " 

*'Why did not Mr. Barclay come for his cup of 
tea ? " 

" He has friends at his hotel, he wanted to meet " 
— And Grace falters under the still keen and scru- 
tinizing glance. 

" Has any thing happened } " 

" How, when, where 1 " vaguely asks Grace. 



252 AS PI R A TIONS. 

** Between you two," comes out the frank reply. 

" Why do you ask, Aunt Althea ? What should, 
what could happen ? " 

" Much," is the brief answer. 

Grace looks up, and meets the same unswerving 
glance. Her aunt is quite well now, but her tem- 
per is less under control than it used to be. They 
are waiting for the rather tardy bride and groom, who 
have staid in the lake region half the summer, and 
they are expecting to return with them to America; 
and, meanwhile, the translating of which I have spoken 
has been completed. 

" You are keeping something from me, Grace," re- 
sumes her aunt. 

" Why do you think so .? " 

" From your manner. You know very well what 
I expect to hear." 

" Is it not quite natural that I should dislike to 
disappoint you } " 

"Grace ! " almost screams her aunt, " have you re- 
fused Mr. Barclay.?" 

" I have," comes resolutely but painfully forth from 
the girl's compressed lips. 

" I will not believe it," says her aunt, rising and 
coming towards her: "you are not such an utter 
fool." She even puts her hand on her niece's shoul- 
der, as if to see whether she is really in the flesh and 
speaking sense. 

" I am quite what you call me, if doing as I have 
determines it," Grace answers. 

" Oh, oh, oh ! " moans Miss Alden, " you surely 
do not know your own mind ; you cannot justify this 



ASPIRATIONS. 253 

in any one way. Why, I thought you had entirely 
forgotten that wretched creature who was so base, 
so dishonorable ! It is positively weak and wicked in 
you, Grace, to cling to him : he may be married by 
this time. I hope he is." 

" I hope so, too," is the quiet response. 

** What t do you know what you say ? Are you in 
your right mind ? " 

" I trust so, aunt." 

" Then what under the sun has made you act thus } 
I have been hoping so much that every thing was 
working around to the desirable conclusion I had 
promised myself. It has been evident enough that 
you two were absorbed in each other, and I did think 
you were becoming rational enough to look at life in 
a common-sense way. Where would you find a man 
to be a truer friend than Mr. Barclay ? " 

"Nowhere," Grace says, in that same wearied, quiet, 
acquiescent tone which so irritates her aunt. 

*' Then why don't you explain t " 

" I cannot hope to, aunt : you and I have never 
quite understood each other." 

"Oh, I beg to differ," says Miss Alden impatiently. 
" I have always understood you as being unpractical 
and unwise in the extreme, led by your feelings 
rather than by your judgment." 

" Perhaps so," again feplies the girl, wondering if 
it would do any good to tell her aunt that she too 
has a very well-defined opinion as to her relative's 
lack of sympathy. 

" But I never supposed you were quite such a fool 
as this," continues Miss Alden. 



254 ASPIRATIONS. 

Grace does not seem to care in the least for her 
aunt's reproaches, which sting the more. 

" It is so ungrateful of you, besides, to refuse a man 
twice your age, — one who has done so much for us, 
who is so chivalric, so kind," — Miss Alden is now 
weeping — "one whom I have known and respected 
so long, and he too so long devoted to the memory 
of his first wife, who was a lovely woman, an angel 
indeed." 

Grace winces. 

" I cannot understand it," continues Miss Alden, 
who suddenly dries her tears and bluntly queries, 
"Are you in love with any one else } " 

But Grace rises now, and her listlessness is ex- 
changed for a dash of her old spirit and fire. 

" That is my affair, if you please, aunt ; and do let 
us cease this useless discussion. Mr. Barclay has 
asked me to marry him, and I have declined the 
honor : that is all." 

** Indeed, it is not all. How are we to live ? What 
will you do 1 You forget our humiliating position." 

" I forget nothing," says Grace proudly, wearied 
with conflicting emotions within and without. " Help- 
less as I am, unfitted as I am for my own mainte- 
nance, I would rather die than marry any one simply 
for a support." 

The girl spoke with so much earnestness and 
dignity, that for a moment her aunt was subdued, 
but her old habits of thought regained the ascend- 
ency. 

"Ah, that is all very well in theory, but not in 
practice ! " 



ASPIRATIONS, 255 

" I hope I may live long enough to prove its truth 
in both," responded Grace, leaving the room. 

When she returned, her eyes were red with weep- 
ing ; but the housemaid was bringing in the tea, and 
she sat herself down to pour it out. The postman's 
whistle was heard soon after, and the letters for a 
while served to divert Mies Alden's attention. But 
she returned to the charge immediately after, for one 
of the envelopes contained a brief and hurried note 
from Mr. Barclay, bidding her good-by, and telling 
her that he had left a sufficient sum at his banker's 
at her disposal until Mr. and Mrs. Potter's return, 
when he supposed some other and more permanent 
arrangement for her comfort could be decided upon. 
There was no allusion to Grace, and no intimation of 
where he was going, and she read it in blank despair. 

But it was useless to question Grace. The girl's 
reticence was complete ; and, though she was evi- 
dently unhappy, she showed a self-command which 
Miss Alden could not but admire. 

The next day Grace was gone for so long a time 
that again her aunt was on the tip-toe of expectation. 
It was very wearisome for this once active woman to 
sit alone in the dull lodging-house, pondering her 
unhappy fate, her disappointments, her misfortune. 
Set aside from all the busy currents of a world that 
she had so long enjoyed, and to know that all her in- 
fluence with her nieces had been as naught, it was 
more than wearisome. And yet, so strangely do we 
all adapt oui selves to an altered course, that she 
gazed from her window with a languid interest in the 
children playing in the street, and found herself won- 



256 AS FIR A TIONS. 

dering what would be the next scene in their domes- 
tic drama. 

" Here I am at last," cried Grace, entering with 
her arms full of bundles, assuming a gayety she did 
not feel, and striving to amuse her very much vexed 
and injured companion, who had been silent and dis- 
traite in her presence since the evening previous. 
" Here I am, and you cannot guess what I have here, 
or whom I have met ! " 

Miss Alden made no response. She had not been 
nursing her wrath in all these long, silent hours for 
nothing, nor was she to be easily appeased. Grace 
tossed her bundles on the table, saying, — 

" I was looking for the office of the Decorative 
Art Society, when my good genius led me to inquire 
for the Duchess of Stickingham. A pompous old 
butler nearly annihilated me for supposing her to be 
in town so late in the season. But when I assured 
him that I knew she did occasionally come to town, 
and that she would very much regret not meeting an 
American friend, he yielded to my persuasions, let 
me in, and actually brought me wine and biscuits in a 
grand, old library, which was dim and dark and mys- 
terious as any haunted chamber. Of course I had to 
wait and wait, but I knew the duchess would come ; 
for she had told me in Florence that she made it a 
point to be in the city on Tuesdays if she were near 
enough to do so. And at last she came, was as 
sweet and kind and interested as if we had always 
known each other. It was a great relief to me, for 
I knew the old butler had been nervous about admit- 
ting me, and had kept strict guard on my movements ; 



ASPIRA TIONS. 2Sy 

giving me the slight refreshment as much for an ex- 
cuse to be in and out of the room, as for my comfort. 
Well, the short and long of it is, that I can get all 
the work I want ; and here are crewels and silks and 
canvas enough to keep me busy till May comes, and 
long after, if you prefer London to New York." 

Grace stopped for want of breath. Her aunt drew 
herself up in a stiffly dignified and disdainful manner. 

" It is bad enough that we are paupers, without 
making the world aware of it. I cannot commend 
this sort of beggary." 

Grace did not retort : she knew that her aunt was 
smarting under a sense of injury; but she was hurt 
too, and could not trust herself to argue. She took 
off her hat, opened her work-basket, and began to 
embroider. But it was difficult not to let the tears 
impearl the design. The false view her aunt took 
of her honest effort to be independent and self-sus- 
taining did not encourage her to make the explana- 
tion she knew was due to her relative. And other 
reasons also made that difficult. She was not sure 
that she could ably defend the attitude she had 
assumed towards Mr. Barclay. Sometimes she re- 
proached herself as bitterly as her aunt could do ; and 
then, again, she neither repented nor was willing 
to have any one suppose that she did. 

The hours seemed to drag themselves along. Her 
work was difficult, for she had the disadvantage of 
inexperience to contend with, although she had been 
well supplied with patterns, and received many useful 
hints ; but these were not equal to the practised skill 
required. To be sure, the duchess had given her the 



258 ASPIRATIONS, 

privilege of instruction in the classes at the Kensing- 
ton school ; but she was at so great a distance, and 
would be so obliged to leave her aunt alone, that she 
could but infrequently avail herself of these opportu- 
nities. 

It was a dreary time, but she worked on coura- 
geously; although the bitter feeling that she was 
misunderstood, and under her aunt's displeasure, was 
not cheering. 

Miss Alden^s correspondence seemed to have 
wonderfully increased. She spent hours at her little 
table with pen and ink, and seemed so absorbed that 
Grace hardly knew what to make of it. She had 
always held a ready pen, but as soon as her reverses 
overwhelmed her had declared her intention of cut- 
ting loose from society, and had left all her letters 
unanswered. 

One day she looked up at Grace with a quizzical 
smile and a trace of her old good-humor, saying, — 

" How much will you get for that piece of work, 
child.?" 

Her niece had become so used to her indifference 
in this direction, that, for a minute or two, she was 
at a loss how to account for so unusual a remark ; 
and she was slow in answering. 

"About twenty shillings, I suppose; nearly five 
dollars, you know." 

" Humph ! that's little enough." 

"Yes; but you see," Grace went on to explain, 
" I will do better after a while. They can't pay me 
quite as much as my time is worth yet ;" and then, 
seeing the undiminished look of interest on her 



ASPIRATIONS. 259 

aunt*s countenance, she proceeded at' further length. 
*' My next order will bring me more, as it is for mark- 
ing house-linen for the duchess ; and such lovely linen 
as it is, too, — heavy as satin damask, and so fine. 
Ah ! it is a nice thing to be able to possess beautiful '* 
— But here she stopped, checking her sudden flow 
of confidence as she saw her aunt's brow darkening. 

" For goodness' sake, Grace, don't remind me of 
that absurd freak of yours in going to the duchess. 
She doubtless looks upon you as a polite species of 
beggar, or a representative of American audacity." 

"I don't agree with you. She is large-minded 
enough to respect the wish to make one's industry 
remunerative ; indeed, she told me very kindly that 
she admired the step I had taken." 

"Polite humbug! You know well enough she 
wouldn't put you on her visiting-list." 

" I really don't know. It would, of course, be a 
mere form if she did, when all my time must be given 
to turning an honest penny. Poor people have no 
leisure for visits ; it is one of the hardships of their 
life. But, either way, the duchess is no sham, and 
she shows her honest interest in working women." 

" Working-women ! " repeated Miss Alden scorn- 
fully. " Yes, I suppose that is what we are." 

" It is good Saxon, I believe," said Grace, smiling, 
and drawing a long silken thread through her pretty 
fingers, which had learned to move more swiftly and 
accurately than she had ever supposed they could do ; 
" but, dear aunt, you needn't include yourself, unless 
you propose to do a little dressmaking, which I fear 
may soon become necessary." 



26o ASPIRATIONS. 

"No dressmaking for me !" exclaimed Miss Alden, 
holding up her hand with a deprecating gesture. 
" I'd scrub first ; and I may as well confess first as 
last, Grace, that I have earned a little money." With 
what shy pride this was said, and how painfully Miss 
Alden blushed as Grace's merry laugh pealed out ! 
She hadn't laughed in so long a time that it fairly 
frightened Miss Alden. 

" Hush, child, hush ! It is no laughing matter, I 
assure you. Look ! here is a check you will have to 
get cashed for me. I couldn't endure the thought of 
touching Mr. Barclay's money after your cruel treat- 
ment of him ; and so I set my wits to work, and wrote 
to several literary friends, who have secured me the 
post of foreign correspondent to a newspaper at 
home." 

" You, aunt Althea ! " 

" Yes : why not 1 1 " 

Grace couldn't speak ; her work had slipped from 
her grasp, her spools and scissors were falling, — she 
was completely dumbfounded. 

With a curious blending of pride and humility, 
and an abject sort of submissiveness, Miss Alden, 
drumming on the table nervously with a paper-cut- 
ter, went on, " I know it seems absurd ; but what is 
it, after all-, but relegating to pen and ink the power 
of speech with which we entertain others .^ And 
that I have done all my life. I have a fund of expe- 
rience to draw upon which will last some time. To 
be sure, I am not in active connection with the usual 
sources of supply of newspaper correspondents ; but 
with the aid of foreign journals and reviews I may 



ASPIRATIONS. 261 

be able to continue to please " (she could not get out 
the word "employers") "my — ah — the people for 
whom I write. And, Grace, I want you to see if 
you can get me a free admission to the Museum ; for 
of course, with the aid of the resources of the British 
Museum, I can make my letters quite readable." 

Grace had lost much of her girlish impulsiveness, 
but it was not all gone ; and she sprang from her 
chair, courtesied profoundly before her aunt's little 
table, and seizing her hand pressed it to her lips. 

" Grace, don't be so ridiculous ! " said her aunt, 
drawing away her hand, and giving her a little slap 
with the paper-cutter. " Sit down and behave your- 
self." 

"How can I.?" exclaimed Grace. "Oh, isn't this 
richness ! " She was quoting Mr. Squeers, but Miss 
Alden did not recognize the authority. 

" Richness ! No, indeed : the pay is hardly better 
than yours." 

" It is a triumph, nevertheless," said Grace, wiping 
her eyes, for she had laughed till the tears came ; 
"and I congratulate you with all my heart. Let me 
see, the duchess will be just the one to get me a 
ticket for the Museum." 

" Then I will do without it," promptly replied Miss 
Alden. 

" Oh, no, you won't ! " said Grace, looking out the 
window. " Why, what is this ? A brougham, men 
in livery, a splendid pair of bays ! " 

"Do stop your nonsense," said Miss Alden. But 
that moment the housemaid handed in a note, which 
Grace read. 



262 ASPIRATIONS, 

" The duchess has placed her carriage at our dis- 
posal for a drive, aunt : will you go ? " 

" Are you quite certain there is no error ? '* 

** Quite. It is a friendly little note. She is not 
in town, you know, and says she will take it kindly 
if we will exercise the horses. The air will do you 
good." 

" Well, I suppose I must," answered Miss Alden 
resignedly. " You may get my bonnet." 



ASPIRA TIONS, 263 



CHAPTER XXV. 

When Mr. Barclay received from Grace Alden her 
grateful, but none the less decided, refusal of his 
offer of marriage, he was completely and humiliat- 
ingly surprised ; as much so as a younger or more 
self-confident man might have been. He could not 
understand it ; and, with more precipitation than was 
common to him, he rushed off to the Continent 
again, eager to get away from surroundings that 
embarrassed him. All his friends knew that he had 
espoused Miss Alden's cause, and had been, as she 
said, chivalric in his kindness ; and he wanted to 
escape from their inquiries. Ruth had written him 
of her failure of intention, and had told him how en- 
tirely she was satisfied to remain with Sister Camilla 
till he should command otherwise. She had no wish 
to do any thing in opposition to his wishes, but she 
confessed that she would be glad to assist Sister 
Camilla in her work, and live for a while with some 
more distinct object in view than amusement or even 
cultivation ; and he saw no reason to refuse. In fact, 
he knew it would be good and useful employment. 
He had a high estimation of the sisterhood to which 
Miss Camilla Deforest belonged, and on the whole 
he would prefer not to have Ruth with him until he 



264 ASPIRA TIONS. 

had become used to his disappointment ; for, of 
course, he had been very absurd, very ridiculous, and 
wholly mistaken, just as Ruth had been, and it was 
by no means an agreeable thing to have to acknowl- 
edge it. Yes, Ruth could get along without him ; 
but how about this other young creature, for whom 
he had conceived so tender a regard, but who had 
cast him off, not disdainfully, not contemptuously, 
but alas, quite firmly ? Did she know her own mind? 
Was it not possible that her painful experience of 
one man's faithlessness had led her to doubt all ? 
Perhaps he had not waited long enough ; he had been 
in too much haste, and in his suddenness had put an 
end to her sweet confidence and trust in him as an 
adviser. Why had he not exercised more patience, 
and been better satisfied with those long, quiet hours 
in which this girl's true and tender, though resolute, 
nature had been as open to his contemplation as the 
field flowers are to the sun } And why, too, had 
never a doubt that he would win her crossed his 
mind } Were girls of the present so different from 
those of the past } Ah, he had been too sure, he 
had forgotten his age ! 

These were not pleasant thoughts, and Mr. Bar- 
clay found himself quite moody and morose. He 
missed Ruth : she had been his occupation, he had 
lived quite out of his grief in her. But there was no 
desire to repeat that unsent note. No one must ever 
know of that : it had been a momentary folly. After 
a while he would go home, and Ruth should return to 
him, and be the head of his house, the stay of his old 
age. But, meanwhile, what should he do with him- 



ASPIRA TIONS. 265 

self ? He was in Switzerland, whither he had gone 
so hurriedly ; and a letter from Branly Potter, long 
detained because of his uncertain movements, in- 
formed him that Branly, having received an excellent 
offer in Colorado, was to sail, with his wife, the last 
of August, but that Miss Alden had decided to re- 
main in England for the winter. This puzzled him 
still more. How could he go home and leave Grace 
alone with her aunt in a foreign city ? What if she 
had severed the bond that held him, was he not still 
her friend ? Nettled, vexed, disappointed, hurt, he 
had yet enough magnanimity to forget his own 
trouble when he thought of hers. Hers was to be a 
fight with fortune, single-handed, and without other 
weapons than merely youth and courage. Ah, hers 
was a sad experience for one so young ! and since 
Miss Alden's mental disturbance he felt her to be 
very unreliable. The more he thought, the more per- 
plexed he became.- He could not thrust himself 
upon these lonely women as a dictator, nor could he 
even open his purse to Grace with the hope that she 
would use it now : indeed, he knew she would not ; 
and yet how was suffering — absolute, positive suffer- 
ing — to be averted t 

It was now the last of August. The weather was 
uncertain. It was too late to be lingering in the 
mountains, and he had invitations for the autumn at 
English country-houses. But Mr. Barclay was no 
sportsman. He had liked to carry a gun about with 
him when wandering ; but none of the keen zest of 
killing, or the fine fury of the chase, ever possessed 
him. However, a man could do as he pleased in those 



266 ASPIRATIONS. 

houses which opened their hospitable doors so sys- 
tematically to large parties of people, and their libra- 
ries fortunately equalled their stables, in most cases. 

So he concluded to accept one, at least, of the 
invitations, though he knew it would cost him con- 
siderable annoyance ; but that had to be met sooner 
or later. 

As the train whizzed along which was carrying 
him to Paris, a few days later, he suddenly made up 
his mind to another and an entirely different course. 
He would not go to the country ; he would do some- 
thing more effective, even if it was quixotic. Staid 
and tranquil as was his usual demeanor, his eye began 
to flash, and his cheek to burn, at the scheme which 
now presented itself. But of this scheme it will not 
now be necessary to say more than that it gave Mr. 
Barclay considerable exercise of ingenuity. While 
he was leaning back on the cushions of the railway- 
carriage, with all his customary luxurious appoint- 
ments about him, he remembered that he had not 
looked at a newspaper for weeks, that in his absorp- 
tion he had even neglected to write to Ruth, and that 
her letters had been few and far between, and also in 
one of her latest she had mentioned the intense heat 
of New York as being something terrible, worse than 
any thing she had imagined. 

Now, with a pang of remorse, he wondered if 
she had been ill ; but of course in that case Miss 
Deforest would have forwarded intelligence. No, 
Ruth was young and vigorous, though so fair and 
slender. And yet he was a little uneasy, just 
enough so to make him wish he had been less neg- 



ASPIRA TIONS. 267 

lectful. Taking up an Italian journal shortly after, 
he saw the death of Count Romano, which set him 
wondering whether the young American painter 
would change his mind and assume the title and for- 
tune that belonged to him. 

Arriving in Paris, he lost no time in getting on to 
Calais, and from thence to London ; but here, tired 
and travel-worn as he was, instead of going to the 
Langham, his usual comfortable resort, he made a 
cabman drive him to a little inn of the East End 
where nobody who was anybody ever went ; and, so 
far from registering at his banker's, he took good 
care to avoid it, leaving most of his luggage at the 
railway-station, and carrying only what was barely 
necessary for his immediate wants. But even at this 
inn he did not stay long. Evidently Mr. Barclay 
was getting more and more capricious. 



268 ASPIRATIONS. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

" I HAVE been here at least three weeks, and as yet 
have seen nothing of the homes of your poor people, 
Sister Camilla. You make me too much of a guest," 
remonstrated Ruth one morning, when the July sun 
was pouring down torrid beams upon the blistering 
earth. " Every day you go and come on your errands ; 
while I sit here in this cool and darkened room, doing 
nothing worth speaking of. Why cannot I go with 
you to-day } " 

Sister Camilla paused as she replied. She was 
just going out, and her hand was on the door. " I 
have feared you were unequal to it ; but you are not 
doing nothing when you regulate my accounts, and 
give little Dora music-lessons, and look over my 
linen, and prepare my basket of supplies." 

"But I don't feel as if that were any thing, when 
I see you going and coming, night and day, in and 
out among those who are suffering. Let me go with 
you occasionally, now, —to-day, — as a beginning." 

Miss Deforest assented reluctantly. She had not 
wished Ruth to see all that she saw, and was accus- 
tomed to ; but Ruth's desire was sincere, and she 
allowed herself to be persuaded. 

It did not take long to reach the quarter where her 



ASPIRATIONS, 269 

ministrations led her. The poor and the rich have 
often only a few layers of brick between them, how- 
ever wide the spiritual distinction. The heat made 
it hardly possible for the aged and infants to remain 
within doors : they swarmed on the door-steps, under 
awnings, and wherever air and shade could be found. 
But there were many who could not do this ; and 
Ruth's heart ached when they mounted up rickety 
stairs to the stifling bedrooms, where wan and weary 
people were struggling with fatal illness, or children, 
too weak to move, turned their glassy gaze upon the 
visitors. 

Sister Camilla saw that Ruth was growing faint 
and pale, and made her errands shorter on this ac- 
count; but not until she had been a messenger of aid 
and strength to many. To one she gave medicine, 
to another wholesome advice, to all that needed it 
food, and sometimes money ; but, to each and all, 
words of sympathy and hope, which drew forth 
thanks, and occasionally the merest shadow of a smile. 

" How do you stand it 1 " said Ruth, as they turned 
their steps homewards. " It was too much for me, I 
confess ; hut fou, — it is your life." 

"Yes, it is my life," said Sister Camilla gravely, 
" chosen deliberately." 

" It can never be mine," said Ruth hopelessly. " I 
am beginning to think myself a failure every way." 

" You must not do that. Take it more patiently. 
You are very young yet." 

*' But is it not true that only women who have had 
some trouble, some great sorrow or disappointment, 
ever give themselves up to a life of renunciation } " 



270 ASPIRA TJONS. 

She Spoke as if thinking aloud, and the color rushed 
to her face as she became conscious that her com- 
panion regarded her with a quizzical little smile. 

"Oh, forgive me!" she cried. "I was debating 
the question in my own mind. I was not intending 
to question j^z^" 

Sister Camilla seized her little hand, and squeezed it. 

" I understand," she said. " You, like all the rest 
of the world, think only a man can drive a woman to 
good works." 

" I did not put it that way," said Ruth, blushing 
again. 

" No, but you mean it. You think a lover is a neces- 
sary adjunct to a woman's happiness ; and that, if he 
prove false, she may then turn her attention to some- 
thing else : well, I admit that to be a very moving 
force among women, and rightly. Nothing is sweeter 
and lovelier or more ennobling, than a tender and 
true affection ; but it does not come to all. Many live 
and die without it. Look at our professional women, 
— authors, artists, editors, teachers, nurses, physi- 
cians. Are they all heart-broken people t " 

" Oh, no ! of course not ; at least I suppose not, " 
faltered Ruth, who by this time had sunk into a bam- 
boo chair in the little parlor of the mission-house, 
and was waving a palm-leaf fan. 

" You have started me on one my hobbies," said 
Sister Camilla, " and I will have to give you a little 
sketch of my own career, by way of illustration, if you 
care to hear it." 

" If I care," repeated Ruth reproachfully ; " you 
know I shall be delighted." 



ASPIRATIONS. 271 

" Take this lemonade, then, and don't look so ut- 
terly dejected. Ah, Ruth, that far-away expression 
of your eyes tells me a tale ! " 

Ruth's color came and went again. 

" It is only the heat," she said, but Miss Deforest 
knew better. 

" No matter, dear, that will all come right, — * so 
he be brave, so he be true.' Well, to go on about 
my indifferent self. When I had emerged from a 
very lively and untrammelled girlhood, I had what 
may be called a very keen intuition that marriage 
was not to be my portion. I was not pretty to begin 
with, nor had I any other ' attractions ' in the way of 
wealth or wit ; and, though I tried very hard to be- 
lieve I was talented, my genius never seemed to be 
properly appreciated by other people." 

Ruth laughed. 

" Now, that was the very hardest thing I had to 
bear, though I can laugh with you about it easily 
enough ; for no matter what people say about useful- 
ness, those who can entertain others by the least 
show of any one talent are much more highly re- 
garded than the poor hum-drum, useful people." 

" Oh ! there it seems to me you must be mistaken," 
put in Ruth. 

"No, I am not," said her companion emphatically. 
" See what a fuss is made over a good picture or a 
successful novel if it is by a woman. But who hears 
of the humble one, she who in a quiet home exercises 
as much financial ability as a railroad king, and makes 
of that home a haven of peace for some weary man, 
and nurtures his children for lives of industry and 



272 ASPIRATIONS. 

self-respect ? No one. But let a woman have a 
voice like a bird, something that she hardly has to 
make an effort to use, — I don't speak of the artificial 
cultivation of it demanded novv-a-days, — and her 
name is known through all the civilized world. But 
I only say this to prove the truth of my assertion 
about usefulness not being so much appreciated as 
talent. Well, as I have said, here I was with youth, 
health, strength, no prospect of marriage, no genius : 
what was I to do } My grandmother died ; I was an 
orphan, and she had indulged me greatly. Her death 
opened my eyes to the selfish vanity that possessed 
me. Could I not do something for somebody t I 
asked myself in those days of sorrow. I had been 
indifferent to religious duties ; but I now went to 
church, and gradually became convinced that in the 
faithful performance of Christian duties there was a 
higher peace than in the pursuit of any pleasure. I 
studied nursing, and found it an excellent means of 
helping others. One thing led to another, and here I 
am, — heart whole, happy, and pledged, as you see 
me, to a life which is my choice." She paused, and 
just then there was a peal of thunder, and in a few 
moments more a driving shower obliged them to close 
the windows ; but not until Ruth's quick ear caught, 
above the sound of wind and rain, the hoarse cry of 
a new's-boy shouting an "extra." It jarred upon 
the quiet of the room and the even tones of Sister 
Camilla's voice, and they both listened as the sound 
drew nearer. " Boat-races ! " " Saratoga ! " ** Acci- 
dent ! " — " Hark ! what is it } " said Ruth. ■— " Lives 
lost ! " came again the cry, now beaten down by 



ASPIRA TIONS. 273 

the blast, and again rising above the sweeping 
gale. 

"I will send out for a newspaper," said Sister 
Camilla. ** I am afraid the morning visits have 
been too much for you, Ruth; or are you timid 
when it lightens t " 

" I don't know," faltered Ruth. " I feel oppressed, 
alarmed ; what does that dreadful cry reiterate ? " 

" Oh, it is nothing ! We never mind those sensa- 
tional things : the least occurrence serves as a pre- 
text to issue an 'extra.' Ah, here comes Mary with 
a paper, wet with rain ! " and she held its dripping 
sheet away from her, reading aloud as she did so, — 

" An accident on Saratoga Lake ; the breaking 
down of a platform ; men, women, and children pre- 
cipitated into the lake. Daring conduct of a young 
artist. Fears that his life may be lost. Drowning of 
Mr." — Sister Camilla stopped suddenly, and looked 
at Ruth. 

"Go on," she said, but growing steadily whiter. 
" What are the names t " 

"There are only two mentioned," said Sister 
Camilla, putting down the paper; "no one that we 
know, probably. At least, only one is familiar to 
me ; and you are ill, and had better not look at the 
details." 

" I must," said Ruth, seizing the paper and glan- 
cing hurriedly at it. "Mr. Marsh and Mr. Vedder;" 
both names stood prominently before her as she 
repeated them aloud. " Which is drowned } or are 
both ? " she asked in a pitiful, beseeching voice. 

"It is not known yet; these things are always 



274 ASPIRA TIONS. 

exaggerated," said Sister Camilla, in the way that 
people try to soften dread tidings. 

"I am so confused," murmured Ruth. "There 
must be some mistake : he was to return to Italy. 
Perhaps it is some one else." 

" Yes, perhaps," said Sister Camilla, equally con- 
fused, for she knew nothing of Mr. Marsh ; and, 
though Ruth had spoken of Charley Vedder, she 
could not imagine that any thing happening to him 
would cause quite such intensity of anguish as was 
now apparent. But she had no time to consider, for 
Ruth was falling unconscious beside her, as white as 
her dress, and as motionless. 

The storm had subsided when the young girl had 
recovered sufficiently to be carried to her room, but 
she looked as did the flowers in the garden when the 
gale was over. She tried to rise, but her strength was 
gone ; and all the long hours of the night were spent 
in a wakefulness which alarmed Sister Camilla. She 
could not close her eyes without visions of terror and 
pain ; and the faces of the old and young she had 
seen the day before were confused with those of her 
former companions. 

" I must go to Mrs. Vedder," she said to Sister 
Camilla, after a day or two spent in this silent, pros- 
trate way. 

" It is impossible ! " was the answer. " Besides, 
she has left Saratoga." 

" You have heard from her } " 

" I telegraphed for information." 

** Please tell me all," urged Ruth. 

Sister Camilla looked steadily at her for a few 
moments, and then said, — 



ASPIRATIONS, 275 

" Yes, I will tell you ; for suspense is always harder 
to bear than definite news, however ill they may be. 
Charley Vedder was drowned. Mrs. Vedder was 
taken home by Mr. Boggs. The accident was not 
as severe as at first supposed, for his was the only 
life lost ; the other people were more or less injured.'* 

To her surprise Ruth simply said, "Thank God!" 
and turned away her face. 

" Surely you do not thank God that the man's life 
was lost," said Sister Camilla in her bewilderment. 

Ruth shuddered and grasped her hand ; with a 
burst of tears she sobbed, — 

"I did not think of him — forgive me — I had for- 
gotten him. I was so grateful — that no one else " 
— She stopped convulsively. 

" No one else ! " repeated Sister Camilla thought- 
fully. "Were you interested in any one else ? " 

" Yes," said Ruth between her sobs. " But I am 
so sorry for poor Mrs. Vedder. Poor, poor aunt 
Abby, whose heart must be broken ! And now I can 
do her no worse harm than to let her see me. She 
will never forgive me." 

Sister Camilla, like a wise woman, forbore ques- 
tions. It was much of an emigma to her ; but she 
knew that this outburst of violent grief was better 
than the quiet, pent-up stillness and suffering of the 
last few days. Ruth sobbed till exhaustion and sleep 
followed; and, when this phase of her illness was 
reached. Sister Camilla knew that recovery would 
follow. 

She was not mistaken. Ruth slept like a tired 
child, — once in a while sighing softly, and waking to 



2/6 ASPIRATIONS. 

weep; but re-assured at finding the calm, tranquil 
face of Sister Camilla beside her, or bending with a 
motherly tenderness to offer the nourishment of beef- 
tea or jelly. 

" I do not deserve this," she said once, after an ice 
had been given her. " Your poor people should have 
these good things, and you ; but not I who have 
proved my weakness and miserable insufficiency." 

" Tut, tut ; none of us are of brass or iron, child. 
And you have not had a mother's nurture ; any one 
can see that at a glance," was the reply. 

" What do you mean. Sister Camilla } " asked Ruth, 
brightening a little. 

"Just that, my dear," said the sister roguishly. 
'* Men are very good in their way, but not at bringing 
up young women. How little Mr. Barclay knows of 
girls, is proved by you. Why, he hasn't the shadow 
of a doubt but that you are as giddy and gay at this 
moment as the flies that are whirling in the sunshine ! '* 

"He knows I am with you," said Ruth, remon- 
strating. 

Sister Camilla laughed. "I accept the implied 
trust, but all the same consider myself justified in my 
assertion. What mother would have left a tender 
young creature like you to meet such possibilities 
and probabilities as you have done } Ah, it was like 
a man ! " 

" Now, Sister Camilla, you shall not abuse Mr. Bar- 
clay : he is the dearest, kindest of men," said Ruth. 

" Of course ; but he went out of his sphere in un- 
dertaking your education and bringing up." 

Ruth saw by the twinkle in Sister Camilla's eye 



ASPIRATIONS, 277 

that she wanted a tilt ; but again the heavy weariness 
of sadness overcame her, and she answered faintly, — 

*' He could not have saved me this." 

" Oh, yes, he could ! " said the sister, " at least in a 
measure. * Make doors upon a woman's wit, and it 
will out of the window; shut that, 'twill out at the 
key-hole ; close that, and it will fly with the smoke 
from the chimney.* That means we are good at con- 
triving and baffling destiny, which men are not. But 
now tell me where would you most like to go, — to 
the mountains or the sea .'* " 

"Oh, to neither!" 

"Now, that is selfish, my dear: you cannot get 
strong in this hot city." 

" Well, what does it matter ? I am of no use." 

" No, I know it ; but you can be by getting well." 

"To whom .?" 

"To me, to yourself, to Mr. Barclay, and perhaps 
to some one else in the vague, indefinite future." 

Ruth turned away. 

" I am quite in earnest," proceeded Sister Camilla. 
" Some of my poor people are going away, thanks to 
the ' Fresh-air fund ; ' the rest are to be under the 
care of Sister Anne till I return : for I must have an 
outing, you know." 

"Ah, if it is for you, I will go anywhere!" re- 
sponded Ruth. 

" Well, it is for me as well as for you : change is 
absolutely necessary. Where would you rather go ? " 

Ruth was still a moment. Her thoughts flew back 
to the childish pleasures of days spent with May and 
Grace Alden after her father's death ; she remem- 



27S ASPIRATIONS. 

bered the glittering sands, the light-house, the long 
roll of the waves, the rocks, the salt smell of marshy- 
land ; and it seemed as if a breath of that air would 
indeed put new life in her. 

"To the sea," she said. 

"And so be it," answered Sister Camilla. And 
then she put a package of letters before Ruth, — one 
from Scotland, one from London, and one from the 
Engadine. 

Ruth turned them over. " Are these all ? " she 
asked. 

"Yes, all." 

Ruth sighed. 



ASPIRATIONS, 279 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

Here stands the old brown house which has been 
looking out to sea these long, long years, in the face 
of fogs and driving storms, over the glittering sands, 
out to the line where sky and ocean meet, waiting for 
the ship to come in which shall bring to it life and 
happiness. It looks no older, no more weather-worn, 
than it used to look when a merry boy went whistling 
through its doors, or old Abner Marsh sat in the sun- 
shine mending his nets ; and it seems still to be a 
picturesque part of the land or water scape. Its 
doors and windows rattle at the passing gust, and 
here and there it has been propped or strengthened 
by a heavy beam, which, with a little red paint and a 
few tiles, are all its modern improvements. But its 
ship has come in, — as our ships so often do, without 
our knowing it. For from the chimney curls a thin 
thread of blue smoke, and in the sitting-room is the 
customary litter of an artist's working-room. No 
frescoes and dadoes here, no brasses and bronzes 
and tapestries, to delight the artistic eye ; nothing 
but an easel, some mahl-sticks, sketches, stretchers, 
and canvas. The floor is still one of bare boards ; 
but the open shutters of the windows let in the sun- 
shine and the broad sweep of the distant sea, which 



280 ASPIRA TIONS. 

is SO much rest to the eye, so suggestive to the 
mind. 

It is meant to be a place for work, and not one of 
ease or amusement ; but its owner touches neither 
paint nor pencil. He is recovering from something 
worse than illness, — a fit of disdain, of bitter self- 
reproach, of dissatisfaction with all the world. Why- 
had he not staid always in this little old brown house 
and been contented t Why had fame or fortune 
tempted him, and what had they brought him that 
he should have been lured to listen for a moment to 
their siren voices .-* Never again would he swerve 
from his allegiance to art. And then that horrid day 
at Saratoga hung still like a black cloud between 
him and his brightest dreams. 

He had been rescued by a boat, when so far ex- 
hausted by the blow on his head, and his efforts to 
evade the clutch of a drowning man, that it had been 
several days before he could rush from the scene of 
horror to the quiet of the one spot on the earth which 
had for him no painful suggestions. For with his 
recollections of Italy came the remembrance of Ruth ; 
and she to whom he had poured out his story in page 
after page of burning words, she to whom he had left 
his fate, the decision of his career, the choice of a 
titled name, had disdained even to reply. 

What wonder, then, that his work stands undone, 
and that the days crawl on in their slow length, leav- 
ing him to his lethargy. 

The visitors at the Neck have all gone, the houses 
are closed, the sands are deserted. The days are 
getting shorter, the gales are begirining. So Lillo 



ASPIRATIONS. 281 

now ventures abroad. He has become thin and worn 
and haggard from so much thought and so Httle 
exercise. He stops a little, as with his oars and fish- 
ing-lines he makes his way to a boat ; but he has 
resolved to shake off this deadly oppression, and be 
himself again. 

If he could have saved that miserable life, which 
had been almost in his hands, he would have been 
better satisfied. Often that despairing, dreadful 
glance comes to him ; and often his own hateful wish 
for revenge, rises like a ghost in his memory. And 
how wasted was all that passion ! spent on a girl who 
had given him one or two tender smiles, who had 
made him the whim of the moment. Was she, in- 
deed, so fair and false as to wilfully deceive him ? or 
had he been so weakly presumptuous and mistaken ? 
He knew little of women ; they were more or less 
mysteries to him, as they are to so many men. But 
if she had cared ever so little, would she not have 
answered his letter } Where was her grace ? where 
her courtesy ? Could the letter have miscarried } 
Not likely ; but, whether it had or not, he should 
never know. For, of course, she would be Mrs. Bar- 
clay some time or other ; that was more than likely, 
as the miserable scribbler had insinuated. It must 
have been apparent to everybody but himself. And 
what a dreadful waste of time was all this question- 
ing, surmising, and useless, vain speculation ! So he 
fights his despondency, and goes out to wage war 
with the elements. 

It is a bleak, wild day, and he notes the white 
curling foam of the breakers tossing high against the 



282 ASPIRA TIONS. 

rocks. Nature is unsympathetic only to those who 
do not love her. For those who do, she has always 
an undertone that responds to the mood one is in. 
The sun may shine UDon one's sorrow, but it does 
not gladden : it is only the smiling mask which 
makes the world believe that death and decay are for- 
gotten. The gray sky, the tossing waves, the gloom, 
were in keeping with Lillo's turn of thought ; and it 
was with keen desire for a contest that he loosened 
his boat, and sent her flying. At least, the air of 
heaven was his, and its saltness gave him strength. 
His good right arm had power to breast the waves. 
And what better life need a man ask than this wild 
freedom t Perish dreams ! Let them fade, — given 
this strong actuality of life and force. 

But, as he pulled valiantly against the strong cur- 
rent, new thoughts came to him. Ruth had been 
his personification of all that was lovely in woman- 
hood. Why should he forget her because of her 
apparent disdain .-* He became convinced that he 
had erred. She was as true, as gentle, as perfect and 
fair a flower as ever, whether she loved him or not ; 
and he vowed that nothing should expel her image. 
To be more worthy of her, more capable of trusting 
her, and so of trusting all women, was the higher 
and nobler way of solving his difficulties. It was 
puerile to be jealous and doubting. Time would yet 
give him the opportunity to make all clear between 
them. And, meanwhile, he would work. The resolve 
brightened his mental horizon ; but, around and about 
him, sky and sea were uniting towards denser gloom. 

He had gone farther than he knew, and Seal 



ASPIRA TIONS. 283 

Island was before him. It was a barren little spot 
still, with only its few shrubs and a hut which served 
as a shelter for fishermen ; and, as he guided his craft 
among its rocks, he was surprised to see another 
small boat drawn upon its beach, for the fog was 
rolling in, and to any one unaccustomed to these 
waters, a return to the mainland would be a difficult, 
if not a dangerous, thing. To warn any unwary trav- 
eller seemed to be only ordinary civility, for the 
boat was one of the sort hired by guests. So Lillo 
shouted, "boat ahoy!" at the top of his lungs. For 
a while there was no answer ; but presently from a 
far corner came a slim, straight, black-robed figure, 
more like a Florentine nun than a Codtown visitor. 
In her hand was a book, and on her head was a 
small poke-bonnet, and so absorbed was she in her 
near-sighted reading, and slow strolling, that she 
neither heard nor saw what was before her. Lillo 
moored his boat, sprang from it, and, with accus- 
tomed grace, doffed his cap, and stood in her path 
before she discovered him. Then with a startled 
smile she closed her book, and gave him a calm and 
cool salutation. 

"Are you aware, madam,'* said he, "that it is 
already hardly possible for you to return to the main- 
land ? And may I ask who has been so stupid as to 
bring you here such a day } " 

"You may ask, but I am not certain that I shall 
answer," said the lady; "seeing that it will oblige 
me to exonerate all the men at the Neck, who 
warned me of my foolishness. But, really," and she 
glanced hastily at the forbidding sky, "I had not 



284 ASPIRA TIONS. 

been aware that the fog was driving in at this rate, 
I was so interested in my book ; but this is bad, isn't 
it ? " and she turned towards the path which led to 
the hut, as if to get something she had left there. 

"Pardon me, if you are alone, pray get into my 
boat at once, and I will take you back. Is it possible 
you rowed here by yourself? Few ladies attempt it." 

"Ah, that is just what made me try it. But I am 
not alone. Could you manage to carry two of us .-* " 

" If you are quick," answered Lillo, going back to 
where his craft was now tossing restlessly. "A bad 
bargain," he muttered, as he peered into the thick- 
ening distance. " Just like a woman ! I've half a 
mind to make her stay where she is, as a lesson." 

He bent to loosen the knot which secured the other 
boat, but decided that it would be better not to 
strive to manage a tow, and re-tied it again ; when a 
hand was laid lightly on his sleeve, and a remem- 
bered voice thrilled him with its sweetness. 

" Is it possible that this is you t " 

He was instantly erect, himself in every fibre. 

" Miss Morris ! " was all he said, but his eyes 
devoured her. 

"She is pale, she is thin, she has been ill and 
suffering. Am I in a dream t " he asked himself. 
But again her sweet voice spoke. 

"This is Miss Deforest, Mr. Marsh, — or am I to 
say Count Romano } — and she tells me we have no 
time to lose, that you think there is some danger. 
We had no idea we were so venturesome ; at least, I 
trusted to Sister Camilla*s excellent seamanship." 

She stopped confused at his intent gaze, and at 



ASPIRATIONS. 285 

the strange situation. She was dressed in a dark 
brown cloth, faced and hooded with velvet ; and her 
hair was coiled under a cap of the same, with a snowy- 
sea-bird's wing fastened with a glittering aigrette of 
curious stones. At her feet were the cushions and 
shawls which they had brought from the boat to the 
hut. He saw her as if she were a picture, and not a 
living reality ; and his own voice sounded strange and 
far away as he replied, — 

"There is not a moment to lose. Indeed, I am 
not sure but that discretion would advise your re- 
maining here till the fog lifts. The wind seems to 
be rising ; if so, it would be hard pulling, but safer 
than to risk this. — What is your opinion, Miss 
Deforest > " 

Sister Camilla saw his uncertainty had arisen at 
sight of Miss Morris. She saw, also, that the embar- 
rassment of these two must have been caused by- 
more than was now apparent ; and as she peered into 
the fog she said, — 

"I don't fancy the prospect before us, either way ; 
but, if you will be good enough to share our captivity, 
I shall be less anxious than if we are left to our own 
responsibility." 

He seized the chance, flung his oars back into the 
boat, and drew her high and dry out of the waves. 

** Now, I suppose we must return to the hut, if we 
wish to keep off this penetrating moisture," said 
Sister Camilla, somewhat relieved to see that on 
neither countenance was there any thing more than 
constraint, and that even this was fast disappearing 
from Ruth's. 



286 ASPIRATIONS, 

Lillo took the wraps and cushions in his keeping, 
saying rather brusquely as he did so, " I thought all 
visitors in this part of the world knew more than to 
trust wind or weather to-day ; and, indeed, I cannot 
imagine what brought you here. I have been told 
that all the houses are closed for the season." 

" So they are, — at least, all but the one we are 
in," answered Miss Deforest ; " and when a wilful 
child who has been ill expresses a wish, it is wise to 
grant it, don't you think so ? " 

" Have you been ill } " said Lillo, turning to Ruth, 
who lagged behind, and wondering if she had known 
that he was in this neighborhood too. 

" Yes ; and I had so pleasant a remembrance of 
happy days spent here long ago, that I wanted to see 
the Neck once more. I did not know — at least I 
'was not sure — that this was where you used to 
live." 

Unhappy speech ! it turned his hope to bitterness. 
He stalked on moodily, pushed into the hut, threw 
down the cushions, and went out again, saying he 
would soon return. 

" Who is this, Ruth ? and what is the matter with 
him } " asked Miss Deforest. ** He is an Adonis in 
the rough, is he not ? " 

" Have I not told you his story } " responded 
Ruth. "O Sister Camilla, he is angry with me; 
but why, I do not know." 

"Oh, is he the young count whose history is so 
romantic ? " 

"The same, but " — - 

" You said so little that I had to imagine much. 



ASPIRA TIONS, 287 

But here he comes with fire-wood : that is thoughtful 
and practical. I like him, dear." 

" Hush ! ** said Ruth, smiling. 

In a few minutes there was a light blaze dancing 
in the rude fireplace ; and, though the little hut was 
bare and smoky, there was a homely comfort in the 
warmth. 

" Now for my provisions ! " said Sister Camilla, 
opening a basket and displaying a well-stocked larder. 

" You had better be frugal : there is no knowing 
how long you may have to stay here," said Lillo. 

" Oh, you only want to frighten us ! " 

" Indeed, no ; it is possible that night may add to 
your discomfort." 

" That is not a pleasant suggestion." 

"Necessarily, truth is apt to be unpleasant." 

" Now, there I differ with you. But I thought I 
heard oars : could anybody be coming for us ? " 

" I will go and see." 

" Pardon me, let me look out ; you stay with Miss 
Morris. — I will return in a moment, Ruth." 

Sister Camilla pushed open the door and vanished. 

Lillo took a long look at Ruth. She did not raise 
her eyes, but it seemed to her he must hear her 
heart beat. 

" I must say one word," he hurriedly murmured : 
" did you get my letter } " 

" What letter ? " she asked, in a surprise that it 
would have taken a clever actress to feign. 

" One that I mailed to you two days after leaving 
New York. I addressed it to Mrs. Vedder's care, at 
the Fifth-avenue Hotel." 



288 AS FIR A TIONS. 

" I never received it." 

There was no mistaking those words nor the sim- 
ple directness of her gaze ; but Sister Camilla this 
moment entered, saying, '*I was wrong: there is no 
boat, it was the beating of the waves. We are indeed 
stranded: the fog is worse than ever." 



ASPIRATIONS. 289 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

There was nothing to do but wait for the fog to 
lessen, and Sister Camilla buried herself in her book. 
Lillo stirred up the driftwood fire ; and Ruth, perched 
on an upturned box, sat dreamily watching him, a 
faint flush of color in her cheeks, and a gladness in 
her eyes that Miss Deforest had never seen in them 
before. The girl seemed to be so contented with 
the peace of the present moment that she made no 
effort at conversation ; but at last, as Lillo suffered 
the fire to rest, and began tracing with a stick in the 
soft, white ashes, — an old habit of his, — she gathered 
her wandering wits together, and said, — 

** I have never heard the conclusion of your story. 
Are you going to Italy .«* and will you assume the 
title which belongs to you, Mr. Marsh t " 

" You know, then, that my grandfather is dead t '* 
he quickly returned. 

" I saw the death announced," she replied. 

"And any thing else .'' ** 

" Nothing of consequence." 

He looked narrowly at her as he said, "The news- 
papers cannot let people alone : why they meddle 
with personal concerns so much, I am at a loss to 
understand ; for me they are the most trivial of mat- 
ters." 



290 ASPIRATIONS. 

"I hope you do not resent a friendly interest," 
Ruth said gently. 

" Indeed not/' was the quick reply, with an equally 
quick look of gratitude. " No, I am not going to 
Italy, unless," and then he checked himself, glanced 
at Sister Camilla, who was reading intently, and said 
in a low tone, ** unless you send me there." 

Ruth's eyes dropped ; but he at once resumed 
more audibly, ** My grandfather's death makes the 
position now much more difficult, for the lawyers 
tell me that the informalities of my papers, — which 
are nevertheless genuine, — and the legal differences 
of the two countries, would involve long-continued 
litigation, which would be a great bore to me ; the 
game not being worth the candle. My Italian cousin, 
who is next of kin, will probably regard me as an 
amiable lunatic forgiving up what he thinks so much 
to him so easily. But what do I want of a title 1 " 

Sister Camilla now laid down her book and drew 
near. Ruth's delighted sympathy and appreciation, 
and the young artist's enthusiastic disdain, were 
charming to her : so she purposely said, — 

" Is not a title considered by all respectable and 
ambitious Americans the proper handle to one's 
name.^ I am afraid, Mr. Marsh, you are not up to 
the times." 

" I am not up to society's shams. Miss Deforest. 
If titles are emblems of honor, let those who have 
them keep them : my crest is a painter's brush. 
You know it is said, I forget by whom, that those 
who now wear coats-of-arms were wearing coats with- 
out arms a short time ago." 



ASPIRA TIONS. 2 Q I 

Miss Deforest laughed; but Ruth said softly, — 

" You forget, though, that you have the right to 
some family distinction." 

"No, I do not consider it a right in one sense; for 
I think I owe more to the poor old fisher-folk who 
cared for me, than to the proud family who cast me 
off, and made my poor mother suffer." He rose as 
he spoke, and his tall young figure seemed to touch 
the top of the hut. 

" Then you wilfully renounce the pomps and vani- 
ties offered you } " said Miss Deforest. 

"Yes, wilfully. Whatever I can do to make a 
name for myself will be a better satisfaction than the 
empty honors of the Romanos. But I must go now 
and see to our prospect for getting home to-night," 
and he left the hut. 

"What a delightful young democrat!" said Sister 
Camilla mischievously, watching Ruth's expressive 
face. " He does not seem to consider for a moment 
what a feather in his cap a title would be, nor how 
the girls would dote on it." 

Ruth's lip curled, and a proud satisfaction in her 
young hero could not be concealed. 

" He has the right spirit. I am so glad he thinks 
the title unnecessary." 

" Why, what difference does it make to you, dear } " 

" Oh, none particularly ! " faltered Ruth, conscious 
that Sister Camilla was laughing in her sleeve ; " but 
I like to hear noble sentiments expressed." 

" Especially by one so graceful, so gifted, so 
manly." 

Ruth looked up. " I did not say so." 



292 ASPIRA TIONS. 

"But I do." 

"Are you jesting, or in earnest?** 

"In sober earnest. He is admirable. And to 
think that we found him in this desert spot, — a 
chevalier sans peur et sans reprochey — this suits my 
idea of romance ! '* 

Ruth still was not sure she understood Sister Ca- 
milla s banter, nor did she altogether like the looking 
at Lillo as a mere hero of romance. To her he was 
a very real embodiment of the bravest, manliest sen- 
timents ; besides, she was pondering what he meant 
by saying he would not go to Italy unless she sent 
him there. 

Sister Camilla gathered her skirts about her, and 
sat down at Ruth's feet. " Forgive me," she whis- 
pered, " I never can resist a little teasing. I will 
say no more, after I have told you that you are look- 
ing like a new creature." 

Ruth bent down and kissed her. The door of the 
hut now blew open, and they could see the gulls fly- 
ing, the white-caps tossing, and the fog breaking. 

" We have wind enough now," said Lillo, coming 
in. " Will you venture home } " 

" If you will take Miss Morris in your boat," said 
Sister Camilla, "and not otherwise. For, though I 
can pull a strong oar, I should not like to risk such 
a stiff breeze as this, with more than myself as pas- 
senger." 

"Very well," said Lillo ; "as you please." 

They were soon embarked, glad not to have the 
discomfort of a night on Seal Island ; and, though 
the low band of yellow light in the west bespoke 



ASPIRA TIONS. 293 

the need of haste, the short day drawing to its close 
did not intimidate them. 

It was indeed hard pulling for a while, and there 
was enough to do to manage their boats ; but, as they 
neared the shore and shoal water, Lillo leaned over 
his oars and said, — 

"Have you any conception of all the miserable 
doubt I have been in these past few months, Ruth ? " 

"No," she answered. "I thought you did not 
care, — that you had forgotten every thing." 

" Then you did wonder a little why I neither wrote 
nor came ? " 

"Yes." 

She did not tell him how she had suffered, nor did 
he ask her more. He was satisfied to be near her, 
to look at her sweet face, to note the tender outline 
of her features, — more delicate than when in stronger 
health, — and to breathe the same atmosphere. He 
was so happy that he could hardly believe himself 
to be the gloomy, morose, dissatisfied creature of the 
morning. He leaped to the shore in time to take 
Miss Deforest's oars and secure her boat; then 
they walked up the sands in the dim light, the wind 
blowing the drifting clouds about, and a few stars 
peeping here and there in the dark space. As they 
approached the house where Miss Deforest was 
lodging, a ruddy light streamed from the doorway ; 
and the lounging men on the step moved off uneasily 
under Lillo's sharp rebuke to them for allowing 
ladies to go on the water alone in such rough weather, 
— though their inattention had given him such un- 
looked-for happiness. 



294 ASPIRA TIONS. 

*• You will stay a while longer at the Neck, I sup- 
pose, Miss Deforest," said Lillo as they separated. 

"Long enough to visit your studio, if you will 
allow us to-morrow," she replied. 

He laughed at the idea of calling his old house a 
studio, but promised to show them any of his studies 
that they cared to see. 

People in love are not supposed to be so material 
as to suffer the commonplace pangs of hunger, but 
Lillo's man of all work was kept busy that evening 
over his kitchen-fire; and when he raked out its em- 
bers, it was with some dismay that he heard orders 
for breakfast which would oblige him to be stirring 
early, having exhausted all his resources on the even- 
ing meal. He had so long had his own leisurely 
way, that it was also a surprise to him to have to put 
the whole house in as trim shape as a ship's cabin, 
and to see his master trailing in heaps of woodland 
treasures which he had gone miles to gather in the 
early morning. The shells and seaweed which 
adorned the small sitting-room had to yield preced- 
ence to masses of crysanthemums, in white, yellow, 
and red ; but the man smiled knowingly, when, later 
in the day, two ladies made their appearance. 

"So this is your den," said Ruth, "the place of 
poetic visions," as she glanced at the low walls, the 
bare boards, and the quaint, stiff, straight chairs. 

" Oh, no ! not my den ; these are my ancestral 
halls," said Lillo, laughing, " the palace of the Marsh- 
Romano." 

"It would not be a bad idea to link the two 
names," said Miss Deforest. "It, in a way, estab- 



ASPIRA riONS. 295 

lishes your right to relinquish the title, or not, as 
you please." 

"That shall be as Ruth chooses," he would have 
liked to respond, but he had to check himself. The 
reversion from the exultant frame of mind which had 
been his had set in, and he was now again in suspense. 

" Look," he said, as he threw open the wooden 
shutters; "the title to this is one that no one can 
dispute." 

The broad blue expanse of water lay calm in the 
autumnal sunshine, dotted here and there with the 
white sails of the fishing-smacks. Ruth seated her- 
self near the window, and gazed in silent abstraction. 

Meanwhile, Lillo drew out his sketches and stud- 
ies for Miss Deforest's inspection, saying, as he did 
so, — 

"They are hardly worth looking at. I have done 
no good work for months, but I shall begin in ear- 
nest as soon as I have secured a studio in New 
York." 

" I am glad you intend to do that. This may do 
very well as a place to dream in, but every artist 
needs the friction of active city life ; besides, your 
work requires good, living models." 

"Yes, seclusion will not answer; one must be in 
the world. — By the by, Miss Morris " (he did not dare 
to say " Ruth " before Miss Deforest), " what has be- 
come of all our little Italian world of friends ? Where 
are the Aldens and Mr. Barclay ? " 

"Surely you've heard of the Aldens' loss of for- 
tune," answered Ruth. 

"Not a word." 



296 ASPIRATIONS, 

" Nor May's marriage ? " 

" No ; to Branly Potter, I suppose, as a matter of 
course." 

" Yes. I should have thought he would have writ- 
ten." 

" Oh, when a fellow's happy, he forgets his friends ! 
I am glad, however, to hear of his good luck. Do 
you know what he is about ? " 

" He is going to Colorado. Their steamer was due 
some days ago, but I am afraid I have missed seeing 
May. We have wandered about so, that letters have 
miscarried, or not been forwarded ; and my illness 
made me negligent about writing." 

"And Miss Grace, — where is she } " 

"With her aunt in London. She writes that she 
is very busy. She has found a good friend in the 
Duchess of Stickingham. You remember her. What 
a contrast she was to Mrs. Coit ! Grace is deter- 
mined to maintain herself, and has resisted all May's 
inducements to go with her to the West. She and 
her aunt are almost penniless. Indeed, I don't know 
what they would have done, had it not been for my 
guardian." 

" And is Mr. Barclay well } Does he soon return t '* 

" Ah, that I cannot answer ! He has been very 
mysterious lately. He must be well, for he has been 
to Switzerland; but whether I am to join him abroad, 
or he is to return, I really do not know." 

Lillo received this answer with another chill of 
anxiety and impatience. He knew that Miss De- 
forest was to leave the Neck on the morrow, and 
the prospect of more uncertainty was unendurable. 



ASPIRA TIONS. 297 

It was well that Mr. Barclay could not hear his men- 
tal apostrophe. Miss Deforest now arose from look- 
ing over a portfolio, and suggested a walk ; but Ruth 
seemed quite contented to remain where she was. 
She had not paid much attention to the studies and 
sketches : she was thinking of the old Italian gar- 
dens and palace, and contrasting them with the little 
brown house she was in, and wondering whether it 
was quite right, after all, to throw off the burden of 
ancestral honors, and be contented to toil obscurely 
on, as Lillo proposed to do. To be sure, here was 
peace and primeval simplicity ; but might not the other 
career be better, wider, larger, more suited to his tal- 
ents } Could not his influence be made more condu- 
cive to the good of others } She was quite lost in 
these abstractions, as she arose dreamily to do her 
companion's bidding. 

Lillo misconstrued her absence of mind immedi- 
ately as a lack of interest, and he too became moody. 
There seemed to be less sunshine in the day, as they 
all emerged from the house. But the good sister had 
her surmises ; and, as they neared the sands, she 
turned quickly away, and said she must go home to 
pack, leaving her young friends to themselves. It 
was the opportunity Lillo had coveted, but his lips 
seemed sealed. The ocean, in its limitless expanse, 
was suggestive of the futurity before him. He too 
had his thoughts of Ruth, and her sweet womanhood, 
as momentous, as conflicting, as her views of his 
career. 

There was a thrill of deep emotion in his voice, 
when he at last found courage to speak. 



298 ASPIRATIONS. 

" Ruth,*' was all he said. 

She turned towards him at once, but seeing his 
excitement, became, as women will, all eagerness to 
avert an issue. 

" How bright and clear the view is to-day ! Who 
would have supposed yesterday, that the sun would 
ever shine again, and where do the fogs come from so 
suddenly } It must be a dreadfully dangerous coast. 
An old woman on the beach, the other day, told me 
she had lost her father, her husband, and three sons, 
all by the sea. And yet we think it so beautiful, for- 
getting its cruel hunger, its deadly enmity." - 

" Ruth, I must speak to you." 

" Yes," she sort of gasped. 

"You know I love you." 

She did not say " yes " again, but her face lost its 
look of alarm for one of tender sadness. Love comes 
as a great and solemn trust to a girl of her nature. 
She listened intently as he went on, now rapidly, now 
slowly, — watching her as he spoke, and wondering 
if she understood him. 

" You must have known this long ago. I would 
have spoken before. The letter I wrote you contained 
the expression of it, but that never reached you ; and 
the withholding of an answer made me desperate, 
I am not worthy of you, but no one is. I would 
strive to be, if you would let me. Am I mistaken in 
daring to hope that you care a little for me .'* " 

She could not speak yet, the joy and the pain were 
too exquisite ; but he saw her lips parting with the 
words that trembled to escape. 

" I must speak the whole truth now, and tell you 



ASPIRA TIONS. 299 

that I have tried to live without you. When no 
answer came, I was wounded, and it added to the 
doubt I have had all along ; for, you know, it is 
thought by so many " — But here he stopped, unwil- 
ling to put his doubts in shape. 

"Yes, I know," said Ruth, made calmer by this 
allusion. 

" But it is not true, Ruth. Tell me so, for I cannot 
live without you. All my interest even in my pro- 
fession has died within me ; only you can waken it. 
Do speak to me, Ruth ! " 

His tones had varied from the simplest, manliest 
utterance to the passionate pleading which intense 
feeling only could impart, and Ruth felt so shaken 
by it that she could scarcely command her voice. 
She had thought of him as always so strong and 
joyous ; but she rallied her forces and whispered, — 

"What shall I say.? That I, too, have tried living 
without you, and found it impossible." 

He could not take her in his arms as he would 
have liked to do, but he grasped her hands as if she 
might possibly escape him. 

"And you are not in any way bound } " 

" No. Mr. Barclay has never demanded what the 
world expected, nor do I think my gratitude could 
have gone so far." 

" Then you have no absurd heroics to overcome. 
You will be my wife 1 " 

" I will," came slowly and softly, but firmly, from 
her now smiling lips ; and once again, as when a boy, 
Lillo felt as if the earth were air, and he had wings. 

They never knew how that day spent itself. There 



300 ASPIRATIONS. 

was so much to say, so much that remained unsaid ; 
but Ruth managed to make known the failure of all 
her aims, and her utter inability to be or do any 
thing remarkable, which all the more satisfied her 
lover, as giving him the larger share of her affec- 
tions. 

They strolled till again the stars were twinkling as 
on the night before, here and there in wind-swept 
spaces, and the fishing-boats were coming in over the 
tossing waves. Long lines of light darted from the 
cottage windows where busy women were making 
suppers ready for the hungry toilers of the sea, and 
the voices of little children trilled out shrill welcomes 
to the deep bass of fathers' and brothers' voices. 
There was a homely warmth and gladness even on 
this chill, windy coast, and it found a response in the 
happiness of these two young hearts full of their 
new, deep joy. 

Sister Camilla met Ruth with a playful reproof 
that needed no defence, for she knew intuitively what 
had happened. Hers was no ascetic soul narrowed 
to the small groove of one set of duties. She could 
feel for those who were happy as well as for those 
who sorrowed, which is sometimes the more difficult 
task. 

Lillo concluded to turn the key in the door of his 
little house on the sands, and go with his friends to 
the city. It was rather late in the season, but he 
had now a new impetus towards climbing the ladder 
of fame, which, if not synonymous with that of for- 
tune, ought to be ; and there was much to be done in 
the way of establishing himself for the winter's work. 



ASPIRATIONS. 301 

As yet there could be no immediate hope of marriage, 
for besides Mr. Barclay's approbation, of which he 
was by no means sure, in view of any such prepara- 
tions, Mr. Barclay's purse would also be an important 
factor, — a truth, however, not so apparent to him as 
to Ruth. 



302 ASPIKA TIONS. 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

It is a cold, cheerless day in London ; and Grace 
Alden cannot help comparing its inclemency with the 
bright, soft airs of Italy, or the abundant sunshine 
of her American home. She is the more inclined to 
do this because of her loneliness and sadness at hav- 
ing to part with her buoyant young sister, who came 
upon herself and her aunt with the suddenness of a 
cyclone one morning, and expected them to at once 
take leave of the Old World for the New, and join 
fortunes with her and her young husband. This Miss 
Alden would not do. No amount of persuasion or 
argument could induce her to leave London now that 
she had tasted the sweets of independence, in the 
shape of checks for her foreign letters ; and least 
of all would she go to the horrid West, the frontier, 
the place of barbarisms, the uncivilized chaos of 
society. Branly Potter urged that its new life, its 
freshness, were just what she needed, and that no- 
where else could she be so entirely respected for 
herself alone as in their new home. He was to hold 
some responsible position connected with the mines, 
and felt amply able to assist Grace and Miss Alden in 
any effort they might wish to make. But Miss Al- 
den was invincible. No new country for her, "Bet- 



ASPIRA TIONS. 303 

ter fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay/' 
though this Western Cathay was a much worse place 
to her imagination than the Eastern one, a place of 
dreary uncouthness and disorder, sterile of refine- 
ments. So Mr. and Mrs. Potter had begged and urged 
in vain, and had at last said "good-by" reluctantly; 
for they felt convinced that sooner or later Miss Al- 
den must yield, and it would be so much pleasanter to 
have Grace go with them at once than to be worried 
about her until she joined them. Grace, of course, 
had to make the best of her aunt's decision, though 
better than any one else did she know what it meant, 
— steady toil, hard fare, and small pay. She looks 
around her now at the faded carpet, the cheap furni- 
ture, the battered fire-irons, and the dull fire. Her 
work is beside her ; so is a clever book that has found 
its way to her through the kindness of some friends 
(for friends had found them out, in spite of themselves), 
but she has no time to read. She looks at it long- 
ingly, but takes up her needle resolutely, thinking 
what pleasure it would have been to go with May to 
that far away West, where with new courage and 
hope she could have helped to make her sister's 
little home a happy one. And she smiles with a sad 
sort of contempt at her own forlornness, and her 
aunt's preference for this dingy drudging to the 
plunge into the more primitive conditions of Western 
life. What indeed could be more absurd than their 
weak struggle to be ladies and working- women com- 
bined .? This is her way of regarding her aunt's 
high-flown notions. She knows better, she knows 
that nothing she does in the way of work can render 



304 ASPIRATIONS. 

her less a lady than she has always been ; but, for all 
that, she prefers to say she is not one, that she has 
descended to a lower social scale, and is contented. 
This is partly the result of her aunt's long-continued 
conversations, partly the effect of all her trouble ; for, 
with all her courage and determination, hardship has 
worn upon her. It is a trial to get up early these 
dark mornings, and do what she can before their fire 
is lighted, and breakfast brought in ; and it is a still 
greater one to go out for the petty marketing which 
her small pelf obliges her to do rather than trust to 
her avaricious landlady. She thinks it would not 
have been hard to do any of these things if she had 
been brought up to them, — these small economies 
or the sacrifice of ease ; but she remembers only 
too well the luxury of her American home, where, 
with no mother and an indulgent father, there had 
been as lavish outlay as in many foreign palaces. 

Miss Alden breaks in upon her meditations with a 
question which answers itself concerning the post- 
man. The letters are a never-failing excitement ; and 
they have just been brought in by the poor, hard- 
working Httle housemaid, for whom Grace has more 
fellow-feeling than she ever had for any of the maids 
in her father's fine house. Instantly both are ab- 
sorbed in their correspondence. Only those who 
have few interests know the value of letters. Busy, 
active people find no time for them ; gay, worldly 
people think them a bore ; and even the studious and 
reflecting would rather not be forced to attend to 
them. Letters seem to have had their day ; the 
constant influx of news in the journals and maga- 



ASPIRA TIONS. 305 

zines, from all quarters of the world, having taken 
their place. The sprightliness, the grace, the charm 
of letters are no longer appreciated, except by those 
who pay for them. But this is not the case with 
Miss Alden and her niece. Both are glad to forget 
their surroundings, and hear of the sayings and do- 
ings of their friends ; and frequent travelling has made 
letters a necessity. Miss Alden goes through her 
pile first, and is about gathering them together for 
re-perusal, when she sees something in Grace's man- 
ner that attracts her attention. The girl has appar- 
ently forgotten the letters, though but a few minutes 
before absorbed in them, and is gazing into the half- 
burnt coals of the fire as if she saw a wraith. 

" Grace ! " calls her aunt. 

"Yes." 

" What is the news } who have you heard from } " 

"Several people." This is spoken so mechanically 
that Miss Alden's ire is aroused. 

" That is rather vague." 

"Yes," is still the abstracted answer, and Grace 
still peers into the dull fire. 

" Who are they ? " 

"Oh, one and another! — the Browns, Miss Per- 
kins, Lily Everett." 

" They are of no consequence," says Miss Alden 
impatiently. " I wonder you keep up with them." 

No answer. 

Grace is wondering if her fate is always to meet 
her in a letter, as far as she can form any thought 
at all ; but she struggles to be unconcerned and 
indifferent, and succeeds, for directly Miss Alden 



306 ASriRA TIONS. 

asks the meaning of the note with the duchess's 
crest. 

" Oh, that is an invitation ! " answers Grace, now 
crushing the other letters into her work-basket. 
" The duchess wishes us to spend a few days with 
her." 

" No ; you don't say so .^ " 

" Yes ; here, read it." She is quite alert now. 

Miss Alden devours the gracious request, written 
in the larg^, flowing style she likes so well. It is in 
the third person, and was probably penned by her 
Highness's secretary or governess ; but that is no 
matter. It pleases Miss Alden, who, to Grace's sur- 
prise, begins to think of ways and means immedi- 
ately. 

" It is uncommonly kind. I don't see that we can 
refuse. I wonder if my velvet dress is in proper 
shape." 

" Why, aunt, will you really go 1 " 

" I think I ought to, she has been so kind, so at- 
tentive. Just think of all the fruit and flowers and 
game we have had lately." 

"Yes, she has been kind; but I am not so sure 
that all those gifts came from one source : we have 
other friends, you know." 

"None who would so go out of their way to do us 
a kindness : no, no one but " — And she checked 
herself, for she now never mentioned Mr. Barclay. 

"But surely you forget how difficult it will be. 
There's the cost of the journey, some necessary out- 
lay besides, and — Why, we haven't enough even 
to tip the servants." 



ASPIRA TIONS. 307 

" A very vulgar thing to do, in my opinion. Yes, 
I daresay" — this is said with a sigh — "that I shall 
have to spend a little more than is prudent ; but I 
must go, if only for your sake, child." And Miss 
Alden glances in the looking-glass in an inquiring 
way, as if to see whether society will discover her 
attempt to keep up with it on lessened resources. 

" Oh, don't count me in, please ! " says Grace : " I 
have too much to do." 

" Nonsense ! lose such a chance as this, — 'twould 
be absurd ! " 

" My wardrobe would forbid it, if nothing else did. 
I cannot appear in the necessary freshness. My 
silks are old-fashioned, and my evening dresses all in 
disorder from being boxed so long ; and as for gloves, 
I am on my last pair now." 

** Why, how careless you must be, Grace ! My 
things are all as good as ever. My brocade and my 
satin are older than my velvet, but the three are all 
very handsome, even if rather antiquated in style ; 
but I would rather have them that way than be taken 
for nouveau riche by my splendor." 

Grace leans back in her chair, and laughs softly to 
herself. 

" It is nouveau pauvre with us, as your words 
betray. Poor dear aunt, don't cheat yourself into 
thinking there will be any possible pleasure in this 
attempt ! I cannot go." 

" O Grace, don't thwart me in every thing ! " 

" I'm sorry, but it is impossible." 

" Now, don't you suppose all sorts of people go to 
these places? Literary persons never have any 



308 ASPIRA TIONS. 

money. Look at Carlyle and his wife, — poor as 
church-mice always." 

Miss Alden already felt herself of the guild of 
authors, as may be perceived. 

" They never appeared in gay society, so far as I 
know," said Grace. " They would have scorned to, 
with their hatred of shams." 

Miss Alden saw the mistake of her illustration. 

" Well, it was Carlyle's business to preach, mine is 
to entertain ; it is necessary, therefore, that I en- 
deavor to see something which will serve my pur- 
pose." 

"I quite agree with you, if it is feasible." 

" Then you will go too t " 

" Ah, that is not necessary ! Really, I cannot. 
Don't ask me to. Look at all this work. It will 
take me till Christmas to finish it." 

Miss Alden went into another room to look over 
her fineries. She did not know that almost all of 
Grace's had been sold, and she hoped by dint of 
coaxing yet to accomplish her end. Grace seized 
the opportunity while her aunt was out to again 
look at her letters. One was from Ruth, full of her 
new happiness. This alone was unexpected, for 
Grace had had a theory of her own in regard to 
Ruth, which this letter completely upset ; and the 
other was from her father's business-agent, enclos- 
ing a draft for a respectable sum, and a statement 
which overpowered all the other news. It was to 
this effect : All Mr. Alden's affairs had been set- 
tled in such a manner, through the kindness of a 
friend, that Mr. Alden himself would be able to re- 



ASPIRA TIONS. 309 

sume business, and had gone to California with that 
intention ; and that later, if Miss Alden and her 
aunt would join him, he should be glad to have them 
do so. 

The one thing that checked Grace's gladness at 
reading this was the uncertainty as to whom the 
friend, the financial friend, might be. Her thoughts 
were in a whirl. Was their misery soon to be ended.? 
Was her father really free from all reproach t It 
had come upon her so suddenly that it seemed 
unreal. Her father seldom wrote to her. She 
hardly knew his friends, — brokers, bankers, men of 
money ; hard men, as she supposed, not likely to do 
any greatly unselfish deed, men who laughed at sen- 
timent, and thought generosity a weakness. Could 
any of these have changed his nature, and, in viola- 
tion of his training, become a benefactor.? No, it 
was not possible. It was all out of order, incompre- 
hensible. She would wait for further intelligence 
before throwing this bomb in Miss Alden's way. 
The news might prove untrue. It was hard to be- 
lieve, even if true, and no good could be gained by 
disturbing her aunt. In her heart of hearts, she be- 
lieved there was but one man in all the world capa- 
ble of doing so noble a deed ; and a great tide of 
shame and regret rushed over her as she thought of 
him. Where was he ? Why had he been so quick 
to take her at her word } 

She pretended to be very much absorbed in her 
work when Miss Alden came into the room again, but 
her hand trembled so that her stitches went wrong. 

Miss Alden was full of the new project. 



3 I O ASPIRA TIONS. 

" I find, my dear " (she did not often now-a-days 
say to her niece "my dear") "that I am in better 
trim than I supposed. My evening attire is all that 
a woman of my age needs, — substantial, dignified, 
almost elegant. If I could be as sure of my morn- 
ing gowns, I would be quite satisfied. What do you 
suppose, Grace, is en regie for breakfast dress? 
Would my plain black silk answer 1 " 

" I don't know. I suppose so. All the shop- 
women wear black silk. I mean the fine shopwomen 
who preside over the small-fry." 

" Grace ! " 

Grace looked up smilingly, quite unconscious of 
the vexation she had caused. 

"I wish you would be serious. For pity's sake, 
don't associate me with such people.'* 

" I beg your pardon, but really some of them are 
fine-looking women." 

" Canaille^ all of them. What they do or don't do 
does not interest me. Have they the faintest idea 
of harmony or artistic fitness in dress } " 

" They have but feeble appreciation of either, 
very likely, though they sometimes light on what is 
becoming. Now I think of it, I believe their black 
silks are all given to them by the firms who employ 
them." 

" Why will you persist in talking about them } " 

Grace laughed. She was really wild with sup- 
pressed excitement. 

" I know what I will do, aunt. I will go to some 
celebrated establishment, Redfern's perhaps, and ask 
them just what would be the proper thing for you. 



ASPIRA TIONS. 311 

They will expect an order, of course, but no matter ; 
I'll just mention the duchess, and they'll send you 
any thing you want to look at." 

" Grace ! " 

" Yes, it's polite stealing of their ideas ; but to keep 
up with society, one mustn't be too particular. We 
can find out that way just what is worn, and then 
hire some poor little sewing-woman to copy." 

" I do not know what has gotten into you. This 
sounds like Mrs. Godfrey Gray. Do behave your- 
self." 

Grace tossed away her work and went to the win- 
dow, saying, — 

" I believe I'll go out, I need exercise. My head 
throbs." 

" I should think it might, if folly ever causes head- 
ache ; and please get me some note-paper. I must 
write our acceptance. 

"Not mine." 

"Oh, you may change your mind. Fresh air is 
wonderfully beneficial." 

She was gone only a half hour, long enough to 
calm and collect herself, and consider whether she 
had not better inform her aunt of the news. It 
seemed so selfish to keep it to herself, even if it 
were unreliable ; for she was not at all disposed to 
accept it as a certainty after so much harassing 
trouble and doubt and wearing anxiety. When she 
returned, she found her aunt in conversation with a 
gentleman who was in the shadow of their cheap, 
stuffy curtains, nor did she at first recognize Mr. 
Barclay. 



3 1 2 AS PI R A TIONS. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

Young people exact far more sympathy in their 
love-affairs than do their elders ; for when a person 
of maturity risks all in a venture of the affections, 
and loses, it is looked upon as a mistake which age 
and experience should have prevented. No one 
thinks it a very deep wound, probably because the 
person of maturity has learned the art of hiding the 
pain, and does not bemoan his fate as a younger man 
would do in similar circumstances. 

Mr. Barclay had not been without his share of 
trials, and had learned philosophy ; but he suffered 
nevertheless. The loss of his wife had been an in- 
tense sorrow, out of which he had come unimbittered, 
though broken in health and spirits. Time (scene- 
painter, as well as scene-shifter) had brushed his 
healing wing over the past, and mellowed its pictures 
into a dreamy distance, a poetic vision which was not 
without a certain charm for a contemplative nature. 
This new stroke was a fresh, keen, cutting one, a 
disappointment that bade fair to sour him ; the more 
apt since he had so buried himself in London that 
no friend had been able to find him. 

He had gone about from one suite of rooms to 
another, finding fault upon trifling pretexts, dissatis- 



ASPIRA TIONS. 3 1 3 

fied, ill at ease, not staying long enough in one place 
to discover whether it suited him or not, and at last 
settling down in an obscure quarter where his ser- 
vant could hardly make him comfortable. , 

But he was not to be moved again. It was no small 
matter for one so accustomed to space and ease, 
and a large way of living, to relinquish his usual 
habits ; but he had a purpose in doing it, from which 
he was not to be deterred by any personal inconven- 
ience. He became much addicted to long and soli- 
tary walks, and equally given to silence and medita- 
tion. He looked thin and altered, even much older. 
The people who noticed him thought him in ill-health, 
and would have recommended Nice or Mentone 
rather than the approaching dull, dreary, English 
winter, if he had encouraged their confidence, which 
he did not do. They were not friends. They had" 
only seen him in the street or at church, but his 
appearance attracted them. 

Although with so pre-occupied an air, he seemed 
always looking for some one, expecting some one ; but 
this was only apparent to close observers. Others 
thought him a very dignified, gentlemanly, sad sort 
of a man, rather at a loss for something to do. But 
these observations came from the very few with whom 
he had to have some contact, such as his landlady 
and her lodgers. 

He had never been attentive to small economies ; 
but now he showed so new an interest in the cost of 
commodities, and was so very frugal, that his servant 
came to the conclusion that he had lost heavily, and 
that want of money was the key to all his peculiari- 



3 1 4 ASPIRA TIONS, 

ties. It did look as if this were the case, for his busi- 
ness correspondence had certainly increased, and his 
letters took up much of his time. 

But when Ruth's letter, telling of her happiness, 
came to him, it was like a dash of cold water. He 
seemed to suddenly wake up to the fact that his 
whims had swayed him too long, and that his ward's 
claim upon him had been neglected. To his serving- 
man's surprise, he gave orders to have every thing 
in readiness for an early steamer. He was going to 
the United States. 

After this he was his usual self again, — went to 
the Travellers* Club and everywhere else that he 
had the e7ttree; and on his list of people to visit or 
leave cards for was Miss Alden. 

Thus it was that late in the chilly afternoon of the 
day that Grace had been so startled by her home 
news, Mr. Barclay made his appearance. She showed 
her surprise quite artlessly ; but he arose in his quiet 
way, and greeted her as if they had met the day 
before. 

Miss Alden was nonplussed ; but, as she had never 
understood the cause of their separation, she made 
no attempt to fathom it now. She had been talking 
of every thing and everybody as of old, heartily glad 
to see her friend again, and hoping much from his 
coming, when he had told her of his intention of 
going home. This had dispirited her, and so checked 
the flow of her ideas, that it was a relief to have Grace 
enter. 

But Grace did not instantly recover from her sur- 
prise. She was constrained and perhaps a little awk- 



ASPIRATIONS. 315 

ward. She took off her gloves and stood before the 
fire, as if too chilled to speak. 

" Mr. Barclay has brought a budget of news, Grace," 
said her aunt, " quite a godsend to us in our dulness. 
And the most charming news too — about Ruth " — 

" Yes, I know about Ruth," was all Grace replied, 
looking far into the fire. 

" How long have you known } Why didn't you 
tell me t " cried her aunt ; then turning to Mr. Bar- 
clay, she said, — 

" Ah, Frank, young people are so selfish. They 
think we have no romance left in us, that we are 
contented to plod on the latter half of our lives in 
stupid senility, sans eyes, sans teeth, sans every thing." 

Mr. Barclay smiles faintly, and looks at Grace, as 
if he agreed with Miss Alden ; but Grace does not 
respond. She is thinking how really ill Mr. Barclay 
is looking, how changed he is. 

" But charming as the news of Ruth may be, in 
the light of a love-story," Miss Alden resumes, " I 
hope there is to be a substantial pecuniary foundar 
tion to her happiness." 

" I hope so," Mr. Barclay says. 

" Mr. Marsh is really one of the Romano family, is 
he not?" 

" Without doubt." 

" Then he has but to assert his rights, and get his 
money." 

" If he will." 

" Oh, pshaw ! of course he will. He is no fool. 
You must insist, if he is squeamish, on Ruth's ac- 
count." 



3 1 6 AS PI R A TIONS. 

" Ah, they must decide for themselves ! " 

" But Ruth is, as it were, your own daughter : you 
must look out for her interests/* 

Why would Miss Alden persist in putting Mr. Bar- 
clay into the position of a pater familias ? thought 
Grace. She quite resented it, and strove to turn the 
talk into another channel. But Miss Alden returned 
again and again to the subject, and went even farther 
into reminiscences and recollections, and reminded 
Mr. Barclay of a dozen things he had forgotten. 
And then she came back to the present again, and 
told Grace that their friend had come to say good-by, 
that he was going to New York. 

They had all drawn about the fire, in the dusk, and 
no one saw Grace shiver and turn white as her aunt 
gave her this item of intelligence. She murmured 
something indistinctly, and Miss Alden went on with 
her monologue. 

It was about their unhappy lot, their reverses, her 
sadness at having to part with her old friend, her 
general dissatisfaction with every thing and every- 
body ; and it ended in tears, which obliged Miss 
Alden to leave the room suddenly for the want of a 
handkerchief. 

" Does your aunt not know, has she not heard, that 
your father's business-affairs have been arranged, 
and that the worst is over } " asks Mr. Barclay, now 
addressing Grace for the first time. 

" I have not told her," responds Grace. " I have 
but just heard it myself, and I have been afraid of 
raising false hopes. Can you tell me any thing } Is 
it quite true, Mr. Barclay ? " 



ASPIRATIONS, 317 

" So far as I know, yes." 

" And who has been so kind to him ? ** 

" Ah, there you ask too much ! " 

** But I never heard of any friend of his that could 
have or would have done such a thing. It is alto- 
gether unusual, — something chivalric." 

Grace clasps her hands in front of her, and gazes 
more steadily than ever into the fire. Mr. Barclay 
sees that her eyes are moist, and notices that her low 
voice trembles ; but he answers calmly and coolly, — 

** No, it is nothing remarkable, — just one friend 
assisting another. It is done every day." 

" Oh, I beg your pardon ! I am sure it is not, and 
I know but one person in all the world capable of 
doing such a thing." 

" You overrate it. But I trust it may be the means 
of making you happier; though work is, I believe, 
your panacea." 

Mr. Barclay says this a little satirically, and Grace 
hesitates to speak again ; but she remembers that 
he is going away, and she may never have another 
opportunity. 

" Mr. Barclay," she begins, but her voice falters. 

"Well." 

His tone is not re-assuring, it is curt and cold. 

" May I thank you ? " she says, with great timidity. 

'' For what t " 

" For every thing." 

"No, Grace." 

"But, Mr. Barclay" — She stops. It seems impos- 
sible to go on, and he does not help her. He just 
glances at her, and that is all. He has no desire to 



3 1 8 ASPIRA TIONS. 

repeat his foolish absurdity ; and she looks so prettily 
girlish in the firelight, so winning and lovable, that 
he dares not trust himself to be very kind. Of course 
she is grateful ; that is taken for granted : and it is 
going to be very hard for him to say good-by to her. 
But what is the use of all these words ? An old man 
like him should have known better than to have 
thought it possible for her to love him. 

" Don't feel obliged to say any thing, Grace," he 
at last takes pity on her to reply. 

" But I must," she persists : *' I have been so 
proud, so mistaken, so ungrateful." 

" In what } " he asks, as coolly as ever, but with 
inwardly rising excitement. 

" In every way. I thought you pitied me only, 
and that, perhaps, if your sympathy had not been 
taxed, you might have chosen Ruth. I did not want 
to stand in her way. I did not want to be pitied; 
and — and — O Mr. Barclay, do forgive me !" 

Mr. Barclay rises now, and takes the sobbing girl 
in his arms, as he whispers, — 

"Am I not, then, quite the mistaken one.? Is it 
possible that you do love me, Grace } " 

He hardly believes her when she says, " Yes ; " but 
he is contented to let her remain sobbing on his 
shoulder, where, to her intense astonishment, Miss 
Alden finds her. 

" My dear Grace ! " she exclaims, as she stops with 
a tragic gesture in the middle of the room. ** What 
is the matter } " 

Grace hurriedly rushes from the room, and Mr. 
Barclay leads Miss Alden to a chair, saying, — 



AS PI R A TIONS. 3 1 9 

" She will be better soon ; her nerves are over- 
taxed. When she is composed, may I have a little 
quiet talk with her, and with you ? " 

" Certainly, certainly. I have wanted to tell you 
how exasperated Grace's conduct made me, but I 
have had no chance. I knew how unwise she was, 
but I thought she had sense enough to appreciate 
the honor of being your wife, Frank." 

" I have something else to speak of," replied Mr. 
Barclay ; and then he told her of her brother's better 
fortune. Miss Alden received it with more equa- 
nimity than might have been expected. She was 
glad, of course, but she should never go to California 
or Colorado under any circumstances. For the rest 
of her life she should devote herself to literary pur- 
suits, but Grace might join her father as soon as she 
pleased. 

" I will attend to that," replied Mr. Barclay, which 
somewhat confuses Miss Alden, who cannot make 
out just how matters stand. But the tea-tray now 
comes in, and the housemaid lights the lamp ; and, 
after a while, Grace returns, with re-arranged toilet, 
and flushed cheeks, and a little tremor that makes 
her seem sweeter than ever to Mr. Barclay. 

Miss Alden has letters to write, and goes to her 
bedroom, leaving Grace and Mr. Barclay to them- 
selves ; and then comes a long explanation which 
satisfies both of them, though Grace cannot forgive 
herself for inflicting so much pain, and she is more 
than ever convinced that no one in the world can 
equal Mr. Barclay's tender, generous kindness. He 
does not tell her what he has done. He does not 



3 20 ASPIRA TIONS. 

acknowledge any thing. But she knows that he has 
been guarding her for weeks ; that she has never 
gone out alone in the crowded thoroughfares, that he 
has not been near; and that he has almost impover- 
ished himself to help her father. She finds it out 
in the subtle way that is attributed to a woman's 
instinct ; and she no longer hesitates to tell Mr. Bar- 
clay that he is a prince among men, and that she has 
never loved, and never can love, any one else half so 
much. 

It is compensation for all he has undergone. He 
is happier than he had supposed it possible for him 
ever to be, with a fulness and a depth that is quite 
different from the ecstatic joy of youth ; and he is 
quite untroubled as to whether Grace's gratitude is 
the spring of her affection. He knows better. He 
sees her beaming eyes, her vivacity, hears her soft, 
ringing laugh, and is sure that her pure gladness is 
caused by his return to her, so quick has been the 
revulsion from doubt to trustfulness. When Miss 
Alden has finished her letters, she joins the happy 
pair again, and Grace whispers to her aunt the glad 
tidings. 

Miss Alden is more stirred by this than by what 
has gone before. She pressed Mr. Barclay's hand, 
and kissed Grace with a degree of fervor that had 
been absent from her caresses a long while. 

When Mr. Barclay has at last left them at a late 
hour, Grace feels obliged to inform her aunt that he 
is no longer a rich man. This is rather a sobering 
fact, but Miss Alden bears up wonderfully. 

" No matter, child ; you and I have gained some 



ASPIRATIONS. 321 

Strength by our vicissitudes. So long as he is not 
absolutely indigent, we must not let this be a barrier 
to your happiness." 

Grace smiles, as she thinks how differently her 
aunt now regards these matters, and immediately 
enters into her aunt's plans for visiting the duchess, 
— plans which gild Miss Alden's dreams by day and 
night. 

Mr. Barclay lingered in London, but no longer a 
sad and weary man in quest of something to fill his 
vacant hours. All his days were full with an inter- 
est which only a wholly new and fresh hold upon 
life could have given. Grace would not consent to 
leaving her work unfinished, or her engagements 
broken ; and Miss Alden was deeply immersed in 
the construction of a series of essays which she pro- 
posed to publish under the title of ** English Country 
Homes." 

It may be surmised that her experience was not 
as wide as many would have thought necessary, and 
that her observations were rather limited, since her 
visit to the duchess at Longwood was the basis of 
her book. But Miss Alden had already discovered 
that the literary faculty is one that will not allow 
itself to be circumscribed, and that a large class may 
be judged from a single species. She therefore gave 
free rein to her imagination, and made much use of 
facts conveyed to her by others ; but her visit to 
Longwood remained the solid structure of her book. 
And the visit was truly a delightful one. Grace 
made wondrous efforts to have her aunt's toilet all 
that she desired : so Miss Alden's mind was at ease 



322 ASPIRATIONS. 

to enjoy the distinguished society which paid her so 
much attentive consideration ; and the duchess, being 
a really good woman, was as simply gracious and 
hospitable as Miss Alden could desire. 

She staid ten days, and made diligent use of her 
opportunity, coming back to her plebeian lodgings 
with as much literary enthusiasm as if she were a 
Goldsmith, and wondering how she could ever have 
been contented in not having a hand at forming 
people's opinions, or stimulating their ideas. So en- 
tirely absorbed was she in her new career, that she 
forgot to make inquiry of Grace as to just how Mr. 
Barclay's fortune had so dwindled. 

Letters from the Potters came with every mail, 
describing their curious Western experiences ; the 
chaotic state of affairs in which mining life had 
thrown them being always a subject of congratula- 
tion with Miss Alden, in that she was not weakly 
drawn to follow them. 

"Imagine, Grace, seeing women in costumes by 
Worth, out in that town of Leadville ! It reminds 
me of that verse in Proverbs, — or is it elsewhere ? — 
that speaks of a ring of silver in a swine's nose. The 
sense of incongruity is the same." 

Grace laughs at all her aunt says now-a-days, in 
that quiet, contented, happy way which makes her 
so much more companionable than when she was so 
sadly depressed. But Grace has grown very staid, 
notwithstanding her happiness, and does not like any 
allusion made to the difference of age between her- 
self and her lover. She wants to meet Mr. Barclay 
more than half-way, and is positively glad of all her 



ASPIRA TIONS. 323 

bitter experience, thinking rightly that it has made 
her wiser and better. She is wiser and better ; but 
Mr. Barclay finds her none too grave, and is sur- 
prised that she so readily adapts herself to him in all 
his plans for the future, going even beyond him in 
consideration and prudence. 



324 ASPIRATIONS. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

The winter sped on, and Mr. Barclay did not re- 
turn to his native land. Nor did Ruth go to him, 
though the choice of doing so was given her. Under 
Sister Camilla's wise and motherly care, she was liv- 
ing a wholly different life from the one of pleasant 
wandering she had spent with Mr. Barclay. Simple 
duties, housewifely arts, and thoughtful care of the 
ignorant and the needy filled her hours ; saving her 
leisure to cheer and stimulate Lillo, whose hard- 
working life was a constant denial of the supposition 
that an artist's career is one only of dreams and aspi- 
rations. 

A letter of hers to her guardian, however, must 
now be given, to show how she was developing. 

" You know all about my leaving Mrs. Vedder, and the fear- 
ful occurrence which so soon followed that affair. But you can 
hardly know how much I dreaded ever seeing her again. I flat- 
tered myself that there would never be any necessity for my 
doing so ; and that she was as glad to be left alone, as I was 
willing to leave her. But Sister Camilla could or would not 
look at the matter as I did. She implored me to see my aunt, 
and do what I might to soothe her sorrow. It was an ordeal 
which I wished to evade. But Sister Camilla never lets a duty 
rest ; and at last I yielded, and wrote to my aunt, asking if I 
could see her. To my surprise she assented, and appointed a 
time for me to visit her. Lillo would not let me go alone, 



ASP IRA TIONS. 325 

though I insisted that he should not appear as my escort. We 
therefore started one cold morning, on an early train, and 
reached Berryville in less than three hours. No one but a hired 
man met us at the station, which was wrapped in snow, and 
had few signs of life about it, standing, as it did, on the edge 
of a little village which seemed another Sleepy Hollow. We 
drove about two miles out of the town, over a hilly road, which 
in summer must be very picturesque, and came to rather an 
ornate villa-sort-of-a-place, with a pretentious gateway, and an 
abundance of deciduous trees. Here I made them let me walk, 
leaving Lillo with the man who had driven us ; for, much as I 
feared to meet aunt Abby, much more was I unwilling to have 
Mr. Marsh possibly insulted by her, when she knew (as I meant 
to tell her) that he was to be my husband. 

" Well, I reached the house, and was shown to a gaudy parlor, 
full of useless and hideous bric-a-brac. Vulgarity was in every 
line of its satin and velvet furniture, in its glaring color and ab- 
sence of taste ; and I shuddered to think what would have been 
my fate, if a kind Providence had not rescued me from the 
hands that had fashioned this. Not a book was to be seen, 
unless you call those gilt-hasped albums which contain the cari- 
catured features of fat and lean humanity, simpering on their 
pages, books. (O dear Mr. Barclay^ how I thank you for not 
leaving me to my rich relations !) If all had only been plain and 
poor and clean, how much sweeter my thoughts would have been ! 
I was all in a ferment by the time I was allowed to go up-stairs. 
Aunt Abby had been making her toilet, and I could hardly see 
her for the folds of crape which swept around her and in yards 
on the floor behind her ; but the flashing light of her diamonds 
helped me on a little. And I looked in her face to see that she 
had sent for me, not to soothe, not to sympathize, not to let me 
see that sorrow was refining her; but to rebuke, to reproach, to 
sting me ! I looked in vain for the suffering I really expected 
and hoped to see. It was not there. She answered my look 
with positive defiance, as she said, — 

" ' So you've come at last, have you ?' 

" ' Yes,' I replied, * Aunt Abby ; and I would have come be- 
fore, if I had thought I could do you any good.* 



326 ASPIRATIONS. 

" She laughed contemptuously as she said, * Do me good ! I 
think you need to do that to yourself.' 

" * There's no doubt of that,' I answered ; ' but I meant some- 
thing rather different, — I know yours was a sudden and terri- 
ble sorrow.' 

" * Oh, there, there ! ' she cried out, * for pity's sake, stop ! You 
might have prevented it all : it was your hatefulness to Charley 
that made him more than ever careless and wild, — you, with 
your stuck-up, proud notions of being above us all. Cauldwell 
was right, for once, when he gave you that lecture. Mr. Barclay 
spoiled you out and out. Charley was a fool for his pains, and 
so was I. I wish I had never seen you, I wish you had staid 
in Europe, with all your high-falutin ideas. And then to have 
you come and tell me you want to do me good, when you know 
you hate us all; and think' — But here her sobs made her 
inarticulate. 

" I was so horrified that I could not move. I longed to rush 
from the room. I felt as guilty as if every word she uttered 
were entirely true, and I suppose I looked as I felt ; for after 
a while she ceased crying, and said in a voice less sharp, but still 
angry, 'I suppose you'll marry that Italian count, now; but I 
don't see what you find in hhn.^ 

" The quick revulsion of feeling that this caused enabled me 
to speak; and, summoning all my dignity, I said as gently as I 
could, for all my indignation, anger, and a sense of the absurdity 
of the situation, now that she had turned with so evident curi- 
osity to my affairs, — 

" ' Aunt Abby, you and I have both made serious mistakes ; 
pardon me for supposing, even for a moment, that I could be 
of any use to you now or at any other time. I thought that 
I might offer sympathy without offence, but I see my error. I 
have but added to your troubles in coming here. I will go now. 
Good-by.' 

" At this she relented a little, and looked ashamed ; but still 
she said, ' You might have saved Charley ; you might have given 
him a chance. I don't see why you couldn't have been kinder, 
and I don't know what you find in that footy painter. It's all 
because Mr. Barclay hadn't the sense to bring you up as he 



ASPIRATIONS. 327 

ought to have done. He's got all those stuck-up Boston 
notions, and he's spoiled you ; and, after all, I don't know 
whether you are going to be his wife, or the other one's. 
Whichever it is, poor Charley might have been given a chance.' 

" All this tirade gave me a chance to collect myself, and be 
cool : so I repeated something of the same sort that I had said 
before, and tried to get away ; but now she softened still more, 
and wept and wailed and deplored her miseries. 

"Will you, can you, believe me when I tell you that in 
another hour I had begged Lillo to go to the city without me, 
and that I staid in that wretched house a whole week? 

"When the crape and diamonds came off, aunt Abby was 
another woman. She begged my pardon ; she implored me to 
forget every thing she had said ; she unearthed all her treasures 
in the way of photographs of her children, and souvenirs of 
their infancy ; and she so drained my sympathies that I was as 
limp and lifeless as a rag. For a whole week I staid, and 
listened to ber monologues. I received Mr. Boggs every time 
he came to see aunt Abby; heard all his boastful harangues 
with all the patience at my command. I hope he did not detect 
my weariness, for I really tried to be interested in what he 
talked about. Sister Camilla says we must forget the outer 
rind of the individual, and remember only his spiritual essence. 
But I find it so hard to do this. We are not all as able to do it 
as she is. Every one interests her, because she is always think- 
ing of souls more than of bodies. 

" But, my dear Mr. Barclay, I now fully realize what a kind- 
ness yours has been. What if I had been living all these years 
under these influences ! " 

Again she wrote, — 

" I have been to see my grandfather. It is a curious sort of 
thing to look at one's blood relations from such an outside 
point of view. Sister Camilla went with me. He lives in one 
of the old houses on V. Square, alone, with only strange old 
colored servants, as queer as himself. The house is very 
spacious, but very bare of every thing but books. He is a man 



328 ASP IRA TIONS. 

of fine presence, but reminds me of one of his own volumes, 
uncut. He may have plenty of wisdom within, but no one is 
the better for it; and the reserved cover is stiff with want of 
usage. Imagine what I would have been, left to his untender 
mercies! I should have grown into some sickly specimen of 
sun-deprived plant, without force enough of my own to find 
sun and air and moisture ; and so again I thank you, dear Mr. 
Barclay. Sister Camilla and I strove to interest him in St. 
Armand's, whose bell has rung in his ears year in, year out, 
without producing so much as an echoing tinkle in his heart. 
He listened to us politely, expressed some cut-and-dried plati- 
tudes about religion, and turned at once to show his fine stock 
of Bibles in all languages and bindings. The print, the covers, 
the edition, were all in all to him ; but no farther did he go. 
I never saw so near an approach to a look of despair on Sister 
Camilla's fine features. I think, if she had been alone, she 
would have made some attempt to probe into his poor old 
heart, and stir it to some purpose; but having me with her 
restrained her zeal, for she hopes that in time I may gain some 
good influence, but I see no chance of it. He is as fixed and 
firm as an old fossil." 

Thus ran the letters. Mr. Barclay read them aloud 
to Miss Alden and Grace. 

" My dear Mr. Barclay," commented Miss Alden, 
"you made a mistake in letting Ruth go home with 
that horrid woman. But how sweetly grateful the 
child is ! and how fortunate that she should have met 
Miss Deforest ! " 

" Yes, it is more than fortunate, for I never could 
have given her half so much help in all her difficul- 
ties. But I do not regard her going as a mistake. In 
no other way could she have gained quite such an 
experience. A human life is a serious trust. I never 
realized the fact so entirely as now." 



ASPIRATIONS. 329 

He looked at Grace contemplatively, and she re- 
sponding, said, — 

"Few men would have accepted the trust so 
generously." 

It is a soft, early summer morning, the sky flecked 
with white clouds, and the air full of promise and 
balmy freshness, — a morning when Nature rejoices 
that the winter with its dreariness and darkness is 
over, and the time of singing of birds has come. 
The neighborhood of St. Armand's, having a square 
with plenty of velvet turf and shady trees, is very 
pleasant in the early summer; though St. Armand's 
itself is no brighter, tucked away as it is among 
the poor, dismal little houses that have seen better 
days a very long while ago. It does its best, how- 
ever, to be cheerful this morning ; and its old cracked 
bell has rung as usual for prayers, and its few old 
women have been devout worshippers. They stop 
and talk, and look wonderstruck, to see several car- 
riages driving up ; and all the poor children from far 
and near throng about its entrance as Sister Camilla 
appears with large baskets of flowers, and gives them 
right and left to the forlorn little waifs. The flowers 
seem to instantly invest them all with an appearance 
of festive preparation, which atones for ragged clothes 
and unwashed faces, and the shrill little voices rise 
as joyfully in the air as those of the twittering spar- 
rows. The old organ raises its voice too, and peals 
forth the "Wedding March;" and, though the guests 
are not very many, the fact that there are two brides 
quite overawes the spectators. 



330 ASPIRA TIONS. 

The group about the altar is a picturesque one, in 
spite of the prim snugness of the men's morning- 
coats : for the brides are all filmy lace and shining 
silk ; and Sister Camilla, in her nun's dress, stands 
beside Ruth ; and Miss Alden, in turquoise-blue 
velvet, hovers over Grace. The chancel is filled with 
graceful plants, and the votive offerings beneath the 
picture of " The Empty Cross *' are of fairest and 
purest blossoms. 

After the ceremony they leave St. Armand's to its 
silent pews and much better filled than usual alms- 
box, and all drive over to the north side of the 
square, where an accommodating architect has fitted 
up one of the old houses with the brick and marble 
fronts into an artistic haunt for a colony of people 
who want something green for their eyes to rest on 
when they look out of their windows, and where Mr. 
Barclay, as well as Mr. Marsh, have suites of apart- 
ments. Strange to say, it is just beside the house 
where Ruth's queer and crusty old grandfather lives, 
whose acquaintance has been made so recently, and 
who, though he does not come to the wedding-feast, 
sends a gift of old folios which Mr. Barclay pro- 
nounces very unique. Some one suggests that 
checks to Ruth's order would have been of more im- 
mediate and practical value, which Lillo indignantly 
repudiates. Well he may, now that orders for pic- 
tures are coming in so fast he can hardly fill them ; 
this he attributes not to his genius, not to any of his 
own ability, but to the lift his romantic story has 
given him. Americans, he says, care more for ro- 
mance than for art, though why they separate the 



ASPIRATIONS. 331 

two is not so palpable. Another giver of gifts is 
Mrs. Vedder, who was in the church swathed in crape 
blacker than midnight. She was not to be outdone 
by the duchess, who gave Grace some beautiful lace 
and antique bric-d-bmc : so she sends diamonds, — 
big blazmg brilliants, for Ruth to wear when (as she 
insists) she is the Countess Romano. 

The house on the square has been re-arranged and 
re-built under Lillo's eye. All its wide space has 
been compressed into suites of apartments, full of 
quaint conceits and pretty devices for making small 
homes convenient. There are all the cosey corners 
for lounging-chairs or tea-tables ; the portihes^ the 
brasses, the stained glass, the tiles, rest and refresh 
the eye upon the interior as do the old trees and 
clipped grass and waving shadows upon the exterior. 
But in addition to all these the Romano cousin has 
sent over old chairs and tapestries from the Italian 
palace. He is only too glad to be left in undisturbed 
possession of the estate, and willingly cedes all else 
that Lillo asks, — which is only enough for artistic 
"properties." America is more to him than Italy, 
and Ruth more than America, and she has decided 
that their lives shall be spent here, between this city 
home and the old house on the sands, which holds 
still for them its charm of silence and rest and sim- 
plicity ; a place where their love may brood and grow 
strong of wing ; where the spirit of faith and peace 
and hope shall prepare them for the conflicts of the 
outer world, and contemplation shall enrich and ripen 
their souls. 



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