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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
CHAPTER XXIV 251
CHAPTER XXV. , ... 263
CHAPTER XXVL 268
CHAPTER XXVIL 279
CHAPTER XXVHL 289
CHAPTER XXIX 302
CHAPTER XXX. ..'.., 312
CHAPTER XXXL 324
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
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,
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
have looked forth from eyes of a duskier, dreamier
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
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
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,
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
" 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
lO ASPIRA TIONS.
"He certainly is making a bold marine sketch,
which I greatly admired," said the stranger very
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,
" 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, —
"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
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
" You'll stay to supper, sir, I presume ; though
I've not much to offer sence Lillo's forgotten the
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.
"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
" 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."
" 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
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.
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.
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
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
" 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
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
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
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
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
"Well, what's up now } " was her greeting.
" O granny, I am going to be an artist ! "
" 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
" 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
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
" 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
" 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
There was no answer, only the creak of the rock-
" 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
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
" Gran'ther ! '*
" Gran'ther ! "
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.
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
Thus began an intimacy which proved to be as
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
impatiently, and with an air of disdain said to
" 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.
" 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.'*
"But she is alone."
"We can arrange matters so that she need not
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
" 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
" 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
"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-
" No," said Lillo frankly, " I don't."
" But that will be your fate, boy, unless you accept
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-
" 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."
" Perhaps, after all, he likes his wild life too well,"
soliloquized Mr. Barclay.
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-
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-
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-
" 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
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
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
" There's no reason agin that, I'm sure ; but seems
to me you've made a mistake."
" 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,
" Does he show that much f eelin' ? "
" Yes, quite ; it seems to be the one reason for his
" 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 ! "
" 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
" 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
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
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."
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-
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
"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
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 ? "
"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
" 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
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
" 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
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
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."
** I mind it no more than a water-rat," said Lillo,
40 ASPIRA TIONS.
. " I consider myself very much in your debt, re-
" Not at all, Mr. Barclay. I'm only too glad to
have been of use to you. We are friends again, I
" 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
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 ! "
" 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
" 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
" You are a very little girl to be left alone in the
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-
" 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
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
" 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
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
"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
" You are just the best and bravest little daughter
in the world."
" And you are the dearest and sweetest father."
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
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-
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
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
" 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
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.
" 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
" And you know nothing more than this letter tells
" Nothing. I haven't seen him for years."
** He has taken a great liberty."
" None too great for the occasion, if the child has
" 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-
" 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
"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 ? "
" 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
Three days afterward came this letter to Mr.
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.
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
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-
" 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
"Was your journey fatiguing.? Have you ever
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
" 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
** 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
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
" Because he wrote for poor people and was a poor
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
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
"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
" 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,
"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
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
"No. I suppose not; that is, if you assume the
"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
"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
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
"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
" 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
" 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
paper-cutter on his fingers, that Mr. Boggs did not
" Did you know Dick Morris intimately ? " he sud-
denly asked, as if a new thought had occurred to
"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."
" 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
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
" 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
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
"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."
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
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
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-
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.
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."
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
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
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
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
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
" 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
sweeps up to her after the presentations are over,
and Miss Marchbank's gray satin spreads itself on a
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
" 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.
" 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
** 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
"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 .? "
" 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
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
There was great applause and much praise be-
ASPIRA TIONS, %l
Stowed upon the dancers, who, their labors over,
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
" 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-
" 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."
"With two chaperones you can dispense with me,
" But we want you," said Ruth and May simulta-
" 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-
" / think it's a love affair. Aunt says it is all non-
*' Really, do you think so, May } " said Ruth with a
shade of awe.
" I am afraid it is."
" But why should you be afraid ? "
"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
" She seems unhappy."
"So she is, critical and censorious and disagree-
able. I wish aunt would let her marry, and be done
*' 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.
*' Yes, she is irretrievably in love, though aunt
*' 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
Before a bank of cut flowers, Ruth paused.
"Ah, what a slaughter of the innocents!" she
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 ! "
"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
" Ah ! girls can be indifferent ; more especially
when they are " —
" What } "
" I am not an heiress."
" Oh, no ! I suppose not," said Mr. Potter dubi-
" I assure you I am not," repeated Ruth ; "and, if
this is the general impression, I beg that you will
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.
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
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.
" 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."
" How is it possible for any one less gifted than
Mr. Ruskin to give the attention which he here goes
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
•* 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-
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.
" 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
" Perhaps he did not mean to be ; it was only his
coarser nature clashing against the finer qualities of
" 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
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
" 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
Ruth smiled, and said, —
" Ah ! if you knew her, you would not be so
There was a little flutter of caresses, and kind in-
quiries, and salutations, and comparison of experi-
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
" 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."
"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
" How will they get it } "
** I know Mr. Barclay. I will return it at my con-
*• 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
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
" 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
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
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
" 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
" 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
"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
" I should think one would have to, or his work
" He calls himself an American, but he looks two-
"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.
"A compatriot, an artist, and a genius by the
very plain patronymic of Marsh," responded Mr.
" 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
" 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
*'Yes," said Mr. Barclay, shrugging his shoulders.
"We are just speaking of him. I think perhaps he
has turned up again."
" Really, how romantic ! "
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
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
"Tired, little Ruth .?" said he, coming to her and
putting his arm around her.
She almost shrank away from him, and said
** 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
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.
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-
"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,
" She looks cross, and as if her roast beef were too
" 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
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
" How long have you been here, and why did you
leave home .'* " asked Ruth.
" 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-
"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."
Mrs. Vedder looked puzzled ; then, regarding Ruth
curiously, said, —
" She is very genteel, very."
" Now I can't agree with you," replied Mr. Barclay.
" 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.
" She is ill and a stranger, and I ought to show her
*' 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
" 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
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
Ruth opened a large leathern-covered case, and
her eyes were dazzled again. Rubies, emeralds,
amethysts, turquoises, in necklaces, bracelets, and
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
*' 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
" 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
And so Ruth carried home her mother's picture,
which Mr. Barclay acknowledged to be a very pretty
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-
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
1 1 4 ASPIRA TIONS,
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
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
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
"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
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
" 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
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."
"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
to hear her, though his whole soul scorned such diplo-
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
" 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
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
May made a little grimace, saying, —
" Aunt can be very dignified : I would much rather
" You deserve her displeasure. It was outrageous
in you, May, to go so directly in opposition to her
"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
"And who went with you.-^"
"Arthur Smith and Mr. Morton."
" How can you tolerate them } "
" Oh, they are innocent sort of nobodies ! "
" 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
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 ? "
"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
rigid and tiresome, that I might as well be in Kam-
*' 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
" 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
"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-
May rose from the trunks, and Grace from her
" 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.
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
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-
" 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
"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.
" 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-
"I cannot help it; she is an injury to May, and^ —
will you believe it? — intends taking her to a horrid
"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
" 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
" 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
" 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
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-
" I do not know : he seems too restless to ever
settle in one place, and yet he may one day tire of
"And you, Ruth.?"
" I have no choice, except that for a few months I
shall visit Mrs. Vedder."
"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
" 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
" 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
"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
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
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
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
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.
"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
" 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
"What to do.?"
" Any thing that turns up ; run for Congress, per-
"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
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
"Now is the chance for diplomacy. Use your
" 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
"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."
" 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
1 42 AS PI R A TIONS,
" I don*t know, — the Aldens may have suggested
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-
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."
"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."
" 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
"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
" And you will not think me ungrateful } " said
" No, dear, no."
Ruth rose and kissed her guardian with a bright
smile, saying, —
" Mrs. Vedder will be so glad."
" She ought to be," was the emphatic reply.
Then, as Ruth left the room, Mr. Barclay solilo-
"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
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
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."
"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
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
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
"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
" 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
There seemed to be some doubt in her aunt's mind ;
there certainly was in her own, but the girl strove to
" I want to make you happier, if I can," she said
"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
" 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."
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
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
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
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
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
" Ah, did I not predict good fortune for you } "
" 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
" 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
" 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
" 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?"
" 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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
" How much. Miss Morris ? " she was saying, at
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,
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-
" 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
"Indeed!" said Ruth, glad of a diversion from
Mrs. Gray's assumed anger. "Are strangers allowed
" 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-
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-
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
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-
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,
who scrutinized them closely, but made no observa-
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
*' 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
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
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.
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,
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-
" 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
This thought did not come to her till long after
she had been put to bed, and in the darkened room
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
Just then a man on horseback pressed towards
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
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
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
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-
** 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.
"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
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
"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
" 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-
"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
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
" 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
"But, Ruth, what is it } No one has told me."
" It is a nervous shock. We don't know the
"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.
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-
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
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-
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-
" 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
" 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
" 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
" 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
*'Just what I propose doing. Let us do it to-
"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
" 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."
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-
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
" It is a charming little romance ; but I shall
have to begin at the beginning, if you are inclined to
" 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
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
" 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
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
"And how did the Count Nicolo accept this, and
what proof does Mr. Marsh bring.?" asked Branly
"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-
"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."
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
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-
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
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.
" 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,
" None of which I care for," interrupted Lillo.
The lawyer glared upon him, so great was his
" 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-
"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.
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-
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
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
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
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.
" 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
"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
" 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
'* 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
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-
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
" 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
"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 ! '*
"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
" 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-
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
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
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
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
" 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
" 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
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
" 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
"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
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.
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
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-
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
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-
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
*' 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,
" 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
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, —
"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
" 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-
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
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
** 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-
"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
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.
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
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-
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
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^
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
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
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
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
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
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
" 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
*' 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
" 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
" 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
** 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
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
" 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.
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,
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-
"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
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-
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-
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
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
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
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.
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
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-
" 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
" 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
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.
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
" 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-
"Ah, that is all very well in theory, but not in
practice ! "
" 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-
" 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
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-
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
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
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,
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
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."
"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
" 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
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-
"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
" 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
" 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
" 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
" Well, I suppose I must," answered Miss Alden
resignedly. " You may get my bonnet."
ASPIRA TIONS, 263
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
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
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.
" 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
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
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
" I did not put it that way," said Ruth, blushing
" 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."
" 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
" 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."
" 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
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
"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
"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
" 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
" I must go to Mrs. Vedder," she said to Sister
Camilla, after a day or two spent in this silent, pros-
" 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, —
" 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
She was not mistaken. Ruth slept like a tired
child, — once in a while sighing softly, and waking to
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-
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
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-
" 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-
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
Ruth turned them over. " Are these all ? " she
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
" 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
" 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
" 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."
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-
"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
" 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
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
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-
"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 ? "
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-
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-
"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
"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
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
"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
" 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."
" Nor May's marriage ? "
" No ; to Branly Potter, I suppose, as a matter of
" Yes. I should have thought he would have writ-
" 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
" 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
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
There was a thrill of deep emotion in his voice,
when he at last found courage to speak.
" 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
" 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
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-
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
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.
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
302 ASPIKA TIONS.
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
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.
" 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."
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
" 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
" 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-
" It is uncommonly kind. I don't see that we can
refuse. I wonder if my velvet dress is in proper
" 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
" 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
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-
"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
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
" 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
" Why will you persist in talking about them } "
Grace laughed. She was really wild with sup-
" 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-
Grace tossed away her work and went to the win-
dow, saying, —
" I believe I'll go out, I need exercise. My head
" I should think it might, if folly ever causes head-
ache ; and please get me some note-paper. I must
write our acceptance.
"Oh, you may change your mind. Fresh air is
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.
3 1 2 AS PI R A TIONS.
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
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
But Grace did not instantly recover from her sur-
prise. She was constrained and perhaps a little awk-
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
" Without doubt."
" Then he has but to assert his rights, and get his
" If he will."
" Oh, pshaw ! of course he will. He is no fool.
You must insist, if he is squeamish, on Ruth's ac-
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
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
" 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 ? "
" 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,
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
" Mr. Barclay," she begins, but her voice falters.
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."
"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
" 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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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-
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.*
" 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-
" * 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
" 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.
" 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
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."
He looked at Grace contemplatively, and she re-
sponding, said, —
"Few men would have accepted the trust so
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
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
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
BY MRS. WILLIAM J. (HELEN) HAYS.
A DOMESTIC HEROINE. A Story for Girls.
i2mo, doth, ;^i.oo.
" This story is in the order of Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney's works, and
is intended especially for girls in their teens. . . . The story is a very
pleasing one, told in an attractive style." — The Denver Tribune.
A LOVING SISTER. A Story for Big Girls. i2mo,
" Those who read Mrs. Hays's pleasing story of * A Domestic Hero-
ine ' will be glad to greet this its sequel." — The Living Church,
CASTLE COMFORT. A Story for Children. i2mo,
cloth. Illustrated. ;^i.oo.
" This is one of those pleasant stories of child-life which always de-
light the little people of a family." — The Independent,
CITY COUSINS. A Story for Children. i2mo, cloth.
" In ' City Cousins ' we have a daintily told story by Mrs. W. J.
Hays, who has the * open sesame * to the childish heart. Mrs. Hays
writes well, and her stories always have a purpose." — The Sunday-
Hew York : THOMAS WHITTAKER, 2 and 3 Bible House.
BY LUCY ELLEN GUERNSEY.
LOVEDAY'S HISTORY. A Story of Many Changes.
i2mo, cloth. ^^1.50.
" A very clever romance of the middle of the sixteenth century." —
New York Times,
"It is delightfully written, and has the genuine sixteenth-century
flavor," — The Congregationalist.
THE FOSTER-SISTERS; or, Lucy Corbet's
Chronicle. i2mo, cloth. ^1.50.
THE CHEVALIER'S DAUGHTER. Being one
of the Stanton-Corbet Chronicles. i2mo, cloth. ;^i.5o.
LADY BETTY'S GOVERNESS; or, The Cor-
bet Chronicles. i2mo, cloth. ^1.25.
LADY ROSAMOND'S BOOK. Being a second
part of the Stanton-Corbet Chronicles. 12 mo, cloth.
WINIFRED; or, After Many Days. 12 mo, cloth.
New York: THOMAS WHITTAKER. 2 and 3 Bible House.
TO BE HAD AT ALL THE LIBRARIES.
HER GENTLE DEEDS. By Sarah Tytler, author
of "Citoyenne Jacqueline," etc. Just out. i2mo, cloth.
THE STRENGTH OF HER YOUTH. By
Sarah Doudney. i2mo, cloth. Illustrated. ^1.25.
OLDHAM; or, Beside all Waters. By Lucy
Ellen Guernsey. i2mo, cloth. Illustrated. $1.50.
"Her story is pleasant, her description of characters and places
excellent, and her lessons pure and good." — The Christian at Work.
THE HOME OF FIESOLE. A Story of the Times
of Savonarola. i2mo, cloth. Illustrated. $\.2^.
** It is an intensely interesting story of Savanarola and his times,
which it would profit any one to read." — Sunday Gazette (Akron, O.).
" Skilfully wrought, and full of beauty and historic interest." — The
New York Observer.
HEROES OF ANCIENT GREECE. A Story of
the Days of Socrates the Athenian. By Ellen Palmer.
i2mo, cloth. Illustrated. $\.2^.
" A pleasant love story of the Peloponnesian War. The social and
political manners of Athens and Sparta are well depicted. There is
a little of Herodotus, something of Thucydides and Xenophon, a
touch of Greek religion, philosophy, and Socrates." — The Literary
New York : THOMAS WHITTAKER, 2 and 3 Bible House.
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