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    Set Not Thy Foot On Graves

    by Julian Hawthorne
    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode
    New York, April 29th.--Last night I came upon this
    passage in my old author: "Friend, take it sadly home to thee--Age and
    Youthe are strangers still. Youthe, being ignorant of the wisdome of
    Age, which is Experience, but wise with its own wisdome, which is of
    the unshackeled Soule, or Intuition, is great in Enterprise, but slack
    in Achievement. Holding itself equal to all attempts and conditions,
    and to be heir, not of its own spanne of yeares and compasse of
    Faculties only, but of all time and all Human Nature--such, I saye,
    being its illusion (if, indeede, it be illusion, and not in some sorte
    a Truth), it still underrateth the value of Opportunitie, and, in the
    vain beleefe that the City of its Expectation is paved with Golde and
    walled with Precious Stones, letteth slip betwixt its fingers those
    diamondes and treasures which ironical Fate offereth it.... But see
    nowe what the case is when this youthe becometh in yeares. For nowe he
    can nowise understand what defecte of Judgmente (or effecte of
    insanitie rather) did leade him so to despise and, as it were, reject
    those Giftes and golden chaunces which come but once to mortal men.
    Experience (that saturnine Pedagogue) hath taught him what manner of
    man he is, and that, farre from enjoying that Deceptive Seeminge or
    mirage of Freedome which would persuade him that he may run hither and
    thither as the whim prompteth over the face of the Earthe--yea, take
    the wings of the morninge and winnowe his aerie way to the Pleiadies--
    he must e'en plod heavilie and with paine along that single and narrowe
    Path whereto the limitations of his personal nature and profession
    confine him--happy if he arrive with muche diligence and faire credit
    at the ende thereof, and falle not ignobly by the way. Neverthelesse--
    for so great is the infatuation of man, who, although he acquireth all
    other knowledge, yet arriveth not at the knowledge of Himself--if to
    the Sage of Experience he proffered once again the gauds and prizes of
    youthe, which he hath ever since regretted and longed for--what doeth
    he in his wisdome? Verilie, so longe as the matter remaineth _in
    nubibis_, as the Latins say, or in the Region of the Imagination, as
    oure speeche hath it, he will beleeve, yea, take his oathe, that he
    still is master of all those capacities and energies whiche, in his
    youthe, would have prompted and enabled him to profit by this desired
    occurrence. Yet shall it appeare (if the thinge be brought still
    further to the teste, and, from an Imagination or Dreame, become an
    actual Realitie), that he will shrinke from and decline that which he
    did erste so ardently sigh for and covet. And the reason of this is as
    follows, to-wit: That Habit or Custome hath brought him more to love
    and affect those very ways and conditions of life, yea, those
    inconveniences and deficiencies which he useth to deplore and abhorre,
    than that Crown of Golde or Jewel of Happiness whose withholding he
    hath all his life lamented. Hence we may learne, that what is past, is
    dead, and that though thoughts be free, nature is ever captive, and
    loveth her chaine."

    This is too lugubrious and cynical not to have some truth in it; but I
    am unwilling to believe that more than half of it is true. The author
    himself was evidently an old man, and therefore a prejudiced judge; and
    he did not make allowances for the range and variety of temperament.
    Age is not a matter of years, and scarcely of experience. The only
    really old persons are the selfish ones. The man whose thoughts,
    actions, and affections center upon himself, soon acquires a fixity and
    crustiness which (if to be old is to be "strange to youth") is old as
    nothing else is. But the man who makes the welfare and happiness of
    others his happiness, is as young at threescore as he was at twenty,
    and perhaps even younger, for he has had no time to grow old.

    _April 30th_.--The Courtneys are in town! This is, I believe, her
    first visit to America since he married her. At all events, I have not
    seen or heard of her in all these seven years. I wonder ... I was going
    to write, I wonder whether she remembers me. Of course she remembers
    me, in a sort of way. I am tied up somewhere among her bundle of
    recollections, and occasionally, in an idle moment, her eye falls upon
    me, and moves her, perhaps, to smile or to sigh. For my own part, in
    thinking over our old days, I find I forget her less than I had
    supposed. Probably she has been more or less consciously in my mind
    throughout. In the same way, one has always latent within him the
    knowledge that he must die; but it does not follow that he is
    continually musing on the thought of death. As with death, so with this
    old love of mine. What a difference, if we had married! She was a very
    lovely girl--at least, I thought so then. Very likely I should not
    think her so now. My taste and knowledge have developed; a different
    order of things interests me. It may not be an altogether pleasant
    thing to confess; but, knowing myself as I now do, I have often thanked
    my stars that I am a bachelor.

    Doubtless she is even more changed than I am. A woman changes more than
    a man in seven years, and a married woman especially must change a
    great deal from twenty-two to twenty-nine. Think of Ethel Leigh being
    in her thirtieth year! and the mother of four or five children,
    perhaps. Well, for the matter of that, think of the romantic and
    ambitious young Claude Campbell being an old bachelor of forty! I have
    married Art instead of Ethel, and she, instead of being Mrs. Campbell,
    is Mrs. Courtney.

    It was a surprising thing--her marrying him so suddenly. But,
    appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, I have never quite made up
    my mind that Ethel was really fickle. She did it out of pique, or
    pride, or impulse, or whatever it is that sways women in such cases.
    She was angry, or indignant--how like fire and ice at once she was when
    she was angry!--and she was resolved to show me that she could do
    without me. She would not listen to my explanations; and I was always
    awkward and stiff about making explanations. Besides, it was not an
    easy matter to explain, especially to a girl like her. With a married
    woman or a widow it would have been a simple thing enough. But Ethel
    Leigh, the minister's daughter--innocent, ignorant, passionate--she would
    tolerate nothing short of a public disavowal and discontinuance of my
    relations with Mrs. Murray, and that, of course, I could not consent to,
    though heaven knows (and so must Ethel, by this time) that Mrs. Murray was
    nothing to me save as she was the wife of my friend, during whose
    enforced absence I was bound to look after her, to some extent. It was
    not my fault that poor Mrs. Murray was a fool. But such are the
    trumpery seeds from which tragedies grow. Not that ours was a tragedy,
    exactly: Ethel married her English admirer, and I became a somewhat
    distinguished artist, that is all. I wonder whether she has been happy!
    Likely enough; she was born to be wealthy; Englishmen make good
    husbands sometimes, and her London life must have been a brilliant
    one.... I have been looking at my old photograph of her--the one she
    gave me the morning after we were engaged. Tall, slender, dark, with
    level brows, and the bearing of a Diana. She certainly was handsome,
    and I shall not run the risk of spoiling this fine memory by calling on
    her. Even if she have not deteriorated, she can scarcely have improved.
    Nay, even were she the same now as then, I should not find her so,
    because of the change in myself. Why should I blink the truth?
    Experience, culture, and the sober second thought of middle age have
    carried me far beyond the point where I could any longer be in sympathy
    with this crude, thin-skinned, impulsive girl. And then--four or five
    children! Decidedly, I will give her a wide berth. And Courtney
    himself, with his big beard, small brain, and obtrusive laugh! I shall
    step across to California for a few months.

    _May 1st_.--Called this morning on Ethel Leigh--Mrs. Deighton
    Courtney, that is to say. She is not so much changed, but she has
    certainly improved. When I say she has not changed much, I refer to her
    physical appearance. Her features are scarcely altered; her figure is a
    little fuller and more compact; in her bearing there is a certain quiet
    composure and self-possession--the air of a woman who has seen the
    world, has received admiration, and is familiar with the graceful
    little arts of social intercourse. In short, she has acquired a high
    external polish; and that is precisely what she most needed. Evidently,
    too, there is an increased mental refinement corresponding to the
    outward manner. She has mellowed, sweetened--whether deepened or not I
    should hesitate to affirm. But I am quite sure that I find her more
    charming to talk with, more supple in intercourse, more fascinating, in
    a word, than formerly. We chatted discursively and rather volubly for
    more than an hour; yet we did not touch on anything very serious or
    profound. They are staying at the Brevoort House. Courtney himself, by-
    the-by, is still in Boston (they landed there), where business will
    detain him a few days. Ethel goes on a house-hunting expedition to-
    morrow, and I am going with her; for New York has altered out of her
    recollection during these seven years. They are to remain here three
    years, perhaps longer. Courtney is to establish and oversee an American
    branch of his English business.

    They have only one child--a pretty little thing: Susie and I became
    great friends.

    Mrs. Courtney opened the door of the private sitting-room in which I
    was awaiting her, and came in--beautifully! She has learned how to do
    that since I knew her. My own long residence in Paris has made me more
    critical than I used to be in such matters; but I do not remember
    having met any woman in society with manners more nearly perfect than
    Mrs. Courtney's. Ethel Leigh used to be, upon occasion, painfully
    abrupt and disconcerting; and her movements and attitudes, though there
    was abundant native grace in them, were often careless and
    unconventional. Of course, I do not forget that niceties of deportment,
    without sound qualities of mind and heart to back them, are of trifling
    value; but the two kinds of attraction are by no means incompatible
    with each other. Mrs. Courtney smiles often. Ethel Leigh used to smile
    rarely, although, when the smile did come, it was irresistibly winning;
    there was in it exquisite significance and tenderness. It is a
    beautiful smile still, but that charm of rarity (if it be a charm) is
    lacking. It is a conventional smile more than a spontaneous or a happy
    one; indeed, it led me to surmise that she had perhaps not been very
    happy since we last met, and had learned to use this smile as a sort of
    veil. Not that I suppose for a moment that Courtney has ill-treated
    her. I never could see anything in the man beyond a superficial
    comeliness, a talent for business, and an affable temper; but ho was
    not in any sense a bad fellow. Besides, he was over head and ears in
    love with her; and Ethel would be sure to have the upper hand of a
    nature like his. No, her unhappiness, if she be unhappy, would be due
    to no such cause, she and her husband are no doubt on good terms with
    each other. But--suppose she has discovered that he fell short of what
    she demanded in a husband; that she overmatched him; that, in order to
    make their life smooth, she must descend to him? I imagine it may be
    something of that kind. Poor Mrs. Courtney!

    She addressed me as "Mr. Campbell," and I dare say she was right. Women
    best know how to meet these situations. To have called me "Claude"
    would have placed us in a false position, by ignoring the changes that
    have taken place. It is wise to respect these barriers; they are
    conventional, but, rightly considered, they are more of an assistance
    than of an obstacle to freedom of intercourse. I asked her how she
    liked England. She smiled and said, "It was my business to like
    England; still, I am glad to see America once more."

    "You will entertain a great deal, I presume--that sort of thing?"

    "We shall hope to make friends with people--and to meet old friends.
    It is such a pleasant surprise to find you here. I heard you were
    settled in Paris."

    "So I was, for several years; the Parisians said nice things about my
    pictures. But one may weary even of Paris. I returned here two years
    ago, and am now as much of a fixture in New York as if I'd never left
    it."

    "But not a permanent fixture. Shall we never see you in London?"

    "My present probabilities lie rather in the direction of California. I
    want to make some studies of the scenery and the atmosphere. Besides, I
    am getting too old to think of another European residence."

    "No one gets old after thirty--especially no bachelor!" she answered,
    with a smile. "But if you were ever to feel old, the society of London
    would rejuvenate you."

    "It has certainly done you no harm. But you have the happiness to be
    married."

    She looked at me pleasantly and said, "Yes, I make a good
    Englishwoman." That sounded like an evasion, but the expression of her
    face was not evasive. In the old days she would probably have flushed
    up and said something cutting.

    "You must see my little girl," she said, after a while.

    The child was called, and presently came in. She resembles her mother,
    and has a vivacity scarcely characteristic of English children. I am
    not constitutionally a worshiper of children, but I liked Susie. She
    put her arms round her mother's arm, and gazed at me with wide-eyed
    scrutiny."

    "This is Mr. Campbell," said mamma.

    "My name is Susan Courtney," said the little thing. "We are going to
    stay in New York three years. Hot here--this is only an hotel--we are
    going to have a house. How do you do? This is my dolly."

    I saluted dolly, and thereby inspired its parent with confidence: she
    put her hand in mine, and gave me her smooth little cheek to kiss. "You
    are not like papa," she then observed.

    I smiled conciliatingly, being uncertain whether it were prudent to
    follow this lead; but Mrs. Courtney asked, "In what way different,
    dear?"

    "Papa has a beard," replied Susie.

    The incident rather struck me; it seemed to indicate that Mrs. Courtney
    was under no apprehension that the child would say anything
    embarrassing about the father. Having learned so much, I ventured
    farther.

    "Do you love papa or mamma best?" I inquired.

    "I am with mamma most," she answered, after meditation, "but when papa
    comes, I like him."

    This was non-committal. She continued, "Papa is coming here day after
    to-morrow. To-morrow, mamma and I are going to find a house."

    "Your husband leaves all that to you?" I said, turning to Mrs.
    Courtney.

    "Mr. Courtney never knows or cares what sort of a place he lives in. It
    took me some little time to get used to that. I wanted everything to be
    just in a certain way. They used to laugh at me, and say I was more
    English than he."

    "Now that you are both here, you must both be American."

    "He doesn't enjoy America much. Of course, it is very different from
    London. An Englishman can not be expected to care for American ways and
    American quickness, and--"

    "American people?" I put in, laughingly.

    "Don't undress dolly here," she said to Susie. "It isn't time yet to
    put her to bed, and she might catch cold."

    Was this another evasion? The serene face betrayed nothing, but she
    had left unanswered the question that aimed at discovering how she and
    her husband stood toward each other. After all, however, no answer
    could have told me more than her no answer did--supposing it to have
    been intentional. I soon afterward took my leave, after having arranged
    to call to-morrow and accompany her and Susie on their house-hunting
    expedition. Upon the whole, I don't think I am sorry to have renewed my
    acquaintance with her. She is more delightful--as an acquaintance--than
    when I knew her formerly. Should I have fallen in love with her had I
    met her for the first time as she is now? Yes, and no! In the old days
    there was something about her that commanded me--that fascinated my
    youthful imagination. Perhaps it was only the freshness, the ignorance,
    the timidity of young maidenhood--that mystery of possibilities of a
    nature that has not yet met the world and received its impress for good
    or evil. It is this which captivates in youth; and this, of course,
    Mrs. Courtney has lost. But every quality that might captivate mature
    manhood is hers, and, were I likely to think of marriage now, and were
    she marriageable, she is the type of woman I would choose. Yet I do not
    quite relish the perception that my present feminine ideal (whether it
    be lower or higher) is not the former one. But,--frankly, would I marry
    her if I could? I hardly know: I have got out of the habit of regarding
    marriage as among my possibilities; many avenues of happiness that once
    were open to me are now closed against me. Put it, that I have lost a
    faculty--that I am now able to enjoy only in imagination a phase of
    existence that, formerly, I could have enjoyed in fact. This bit of
    self-analysis may be erroneous; but I would not like to run the risk of
    proving it so! Am I not well enough off as I am? My health is fair, my
    mind active, my reputation secure, my finances prosperous. The things
    that I can dream must surely be better than anything that could happen.
    I can picture, for example, a state of matrimonial felicity which no
    marriage of mine could realize. Besides, I can, whenever I choose, see
    Mrs. Courtney herself, talk with her, and enjoy her as a reasonable and
    congenial friend, apart from the danger and disappointment that might
    result from a closer connection. I think I have chosen the wiser part,
    or, rather, the wiser part has been thrust upon me. That I shall never
    be wildly happy is, at least, security that I shall never be profoundly
    miserable. I shall simply be comfortable. Is this sour grapes? Am I, if not
    counting, then discounting my eggs before they are hatched? To such
    questions a practical--a materialized--answer would be the only
    conclusive one. Were Mrs. Courtney ready to drop into my mouth, I
    should either open my mouth, or else I should shut it, and either act
    would be conclusive. But, so far from being ready to drop into my mouth,
    she is immovably and (to all appearances) contentedly fixed where she
    is. I suppose I am insinuating that appearances are deceptive; that she
    may be unhappy with her husband, and desire to leave him. Well, there
    is no technical evidence in support of such an hypothesis; but, again, in
    a matter of this kind, it is not so much the technical as the indirect
    evidence that tells--the cadences of the voice, the breathing, the
    silences, the atmosphere. There is no denying that I did somehow
    acquire a vague impression that Courtney is not so large a figure in his
    wife's eyes as he might be. I may have been biased by my previous
    conception of his character, or I may have misinterpreted the impalpable,
    indescribable signs that I remarked in her. But, once more, how do I
    know that her not caring for him would postulate her caring for me? Why
    should she care for either of us? Our old romance is to her as the memory
    of something read in a book, and it is powerless to make her heart beat
    one throb the faster. Were Courtney to die to-morrow, would his widow
    expect me to marry her? Not she! She would settle down here quietly,
    educate her daughter, and think better of her departed husband with
    every year that passed, and less of repeating the experiment that made
    her his! I may be prone to romantic and elaborate speculations, but I am
    not exactly a fool. I do not delude myself with the idea that Mrs. Courtney
    is, at this moment, following my example by recording her impressions of
    me at her own writing-desk, and asking herself whether--if such and
    such a thing were to happen--such another would be apt to follow.
    No; she has put Susie to bed, and is by this time asleep herself, after
    having read through the "Post," or "Bazar," or the last new novel, as
    her predilection may be. It is after midnight; since she has not followed
    my example, I will follow hers; it is much the more sensible of the two.

    _May 2d_.--What a woman she is! and, in a different sense, what a
    man I am! How little does a man know or suspect himself until he is
    brought to the proof! How serenely and securely I philosophized and
    laid down the law yesterday! and to-day, how strange to contrast the
    event with my prognostication of it! And yet, again, how little has
    happened that might not be told in such a way as to appear nothing! It
    was the latent meaning, the spirit, the touch of look and tone. Her
    husband may have reached New York by this time; they may be together at
    this moment; he will find no perceptible change in her--perceptible to
    him! He will be told that I have been her escort during the day, and
    that I was polite and serviceable, and that a house has been selected.
    What more is there to tell? Nothing--that he could hear or understand!
    and yet--everything! He will say, "Yes, I recollect Campbell; nice
    fellow; have him to dine with us one of these days." But I shall never
    sit at their table; I shall never see her again; I can not! I shall
    start for California next week. Meanwhile I will write down the history
    of one day, for it is well to have these things set visibly before one
    --to grasp the nettle, as it were. Nothing is so formidable as it
    appears when we shrink from defining it to ourselves.

    I drove to the hotel in my brougham at eleven o'clock, as we had
    previously arranged. She was ready and waiting for me, and little Susie
    was with her. Ethel was charmingly dressed, and there was a soft look
    in her eyes as she turned them on me--a look that seemed to say, "I
    remember the past; it is pleasant to see you, so pleasant as to be
    sad!" Susie came to me as if I were an old friend, and I lifted the
    child from the floor and kissed her twice.

    "Why did you give me two kisses?" she demanded, as I put her down.
    "Papa always gives me only one kiss."

    "Papa has mamma as well as you to kiss; but I have no one; I am an old
    bachelor."

    "When you have known mamma longer, will you kiss her too?"

    "Old bachelors kiss nobody but little girls," I replied, laughing.

    "We went down to the brougham, and after we were seated and on our
    way," Ethel said, "Already I feel so much at home in New York, it almost
    startles me. I fancied I should have forgotten old associations--should
    have grown out of sympathy with them; but I seem only to have learned
    to appreciate them more. Our memory for some things is better than we
    would believe."

    "There are two memories in us," I remarked; "the memory of the heart
    and the memory of the head. The former never is lost, though the other
    may be. But I had not supposed that you cared very deeply for the
    American period of your life."

    "England is very agreeable," she said, rather hastily. She turned her
    head and looked out of the window; but after a pause she added, as if
    to herself, "but I am an American!"

    "There is, no doubt, a deep-rooted and substantial repose in English
    life such as is scarcely to be found elsewhere," I said; "but, for all
    that, I have often thought that the best part of domestic happiness
    could exist nowhere but here. Here a man may marry the woman he loves,
    and their affection for each other will be made stronger by the
    hardships they may have to pass through. After all, when we come to the
    end of our lives, it is not the business we have done, nor the social
    distinction we have enjoyed--it is the love we have given and received
    that we are glad of."

    "Mamma," inquired Susie, "does Mr. Campbell love you?"

    We both of us looked at the child and laughed a little. "Mr. Campbell
    is an old friend," said Ethel. After a few moments she blushed. She
    held in her hand some house-agents' orders to view houses, and these
    she now began to examine. "Is this Madison Avenue place likely to be a
    good one?" she asked me.

    "It is conveniently situated and comfortable; but I should think it
    might be too large for a family of three. Perhaps, though, you don't
    like a close fit?"

    "I don't like empty rooms, though I prefer such rooms as there are to
    be large. But it doesn't make much difference. Mr. Courtney moves about
    a good deal, and he is as happy in a hotel as anywhere. These American
    hotels are luxurious and splendid, but they are not home-like to me."

    "I remember you used to dislike being among a crowd of people you
    didn't know."

    "Yes, and I haven't yet learned to be sociable in that way. A friend is
    more company for me than a score of acquaintances. Dear me! I'm afraid
    New York will spoil me--for England!"

    "Perhaps Mr. Courtney may be cured of England by New York."

    She smiled and said, "Perhaps! He accommodates himself to things more
    easily than I do, but I think one needs to be born in America to know
    how to love it."

    Under the veil of discussing America and things in general, we were
    talking of ourselves, awakening reminiscences of the past, and
    discovering, with a pleasure we did not venture to acknowledge, that--
    allowing for the events and the years that had come between--we were as
    much in accord as when we were young lovers. Yes, as much, and perhaps
    even more. For surely, if one grows in the right way, the sphere of
    knowledge and sympathy must enlarge, and thereby the various points of
    contact between two minds and hearts must be multiplied. Ethel and I,
    during these seven years, had traveled our round of daily life on
    different sides of the earth; but the miles of sea and land which had
    physically separated us had been powerless to estrange our spirits.
    Nothing is more strange, in this mysterious complexity of impressions
    and events that we call human existence, than the fact that two beings,
    entirely cut off from all natural means of association and communion,
    may yet, unknown to each other, be breathing the same spiritual air and
    learning the same moral and intellectual lessons. Like two seeds of the
    same species, planted, the one in American soil, the other in English,
    Ethel and I had selected, by some instinct of the soul, the same
    elements from our different surroundings; so that now, when we met once
    more, we found a close and harmonious resemblance between the leaves
    and blossoms of our experience. What can be more touching and
    delightful than such a discovery? Or what more sad than to know that it
    came too late for us to profit by it?

    Oh, Ethel, how easy it is to take the little step that separates light
    from darkness, happiness from misery! Remembering that we live but
    once, and that the worthy enjoyments of life are so limited in number
    and so hard to get, it seems unjust and monstrous that one little hour
    of jealousy or misunderstanding should wreck the fair prospects of
    months and years. Why is mischief so much readier to our hand than
    good?

    We got out at a house near the Park. I assisted Ethel to alight, and,
    as her hand rested on mine, the thought crossed my mind--How sweet if
    this were our own home that we are about to enter!--and I glanced at
    her face to see whether a like thought had visited her. She maintained
    a subdued demeanor, with an expression about the mouth and eyes of a
    peculiar timid gentleness, and, as it were, a sort of mental leaning
    upon me for support and protection. She felt, it may be, a little fear
    of herself, at finding herself--in more senses than one--so near to me;
    and, woman-like, she depended upon me to protect her against the very
    peril of which I was the occasion. No higher or more delicate
    compliment can be paid by a woman to a man; and I resolved that I would
    do what in me lay to deserve it. But such resolutions are the hardest
    in the world to keep, because the circumstance or the impulse of the
    moment is continually in wait to betray you. Ethel was more fascinating
    and lovely in this mood than in any other I had hitherto seen her in;
    and the misgiving, from which I could not free myself, that the man
    whom Fate had made her husband did not appreciate or properly cherish
    the gift bestowed upon him, made me warm toward her more than ever. I
    could scarcely have believed that such blood could flow in the sober
    veins of my middle age; but love knows nothing of time or age!

    "I do not like this house," Susie declared, when we had been admitted
    by the care-taker. "It has no carpets, nor chairs, nor pictures; and
    the floor is dirty; and the walls are not pretty!"

    "I suppose one can have these houses decorated and furnished at short
    notice?" Ethel asked me.

    "It would not take long. There are several firms that make it their
    specialty."

    "I have always wanted to live in a house where the colors and forms
    were to my taste. I don't know whether you remember that you used to
    think I had some taste in such matters. Mr. Courtney, of course,
    doesn't care much about art, and he didn't encourage me to carry out my
    ideas. A business man can not be an artist, you know."

    "You yourself would have become an artist if--" I began; but I was
    approaching dangerous ground, and I stopped. "This dining-room might be
    done in Indian red," I remarked--"the woodwork, that is to say. The
    walls would be a warm salmon color, which contrasts well with the cold
    blue of the china, which it is the fashion to have about nowadays. As
    for the furniture, antique dark oak is as safe as anything, don't you
    think so?"

    "I should like all that," said she, moving a little nearer me, and
    letting her eyes wander about the room with a pleased expression, until
    at length they met my own. "If you could only design our decoration for
    us, I'm sure it would be perfect; at least, I should be satisfied.
    Well, and how should we... how ought the drawing-room to be done?"

    "There is a shade of yellow that is very agreeable for drawing-rooms,
    and it goes very well with the dull peacock-blue which is in vogue now.
    Then you could get one of those bloomy Morris friezes. There is some
    very graceful Chippendale to be picked up in various places. And no
    such good furniture is made nowadays. But I am advising you too much
    from the artist's point of view."

    "Oh, I can get other sort of advice when I want it." She looked at me
    with a smile; our glances met more often now than at first. "But it
    seems to me," she went on, "that the way the house is built docs not
    suit the way we want to decorate it. Let us look at a smaller one. I
    should think ten rooms would be quite enough. And it would be nice to
    have a corner house, would it not?"

    "If the question were only of our agreement, there would probably not
    be much difficulty," I said, in a tone which I tried to make merely
    courteous, but which may have revealed something more than courtesy
    beneath it.

    In coming down-stairs she gathered her dress in her right hand and put
    her left in my arm; and then, in a flash, the picture came before me of
    the last time we had gone arm-in-arm together down-stairs. It was at
    her father's house, and she was speaking to me of that unlucky Mrs.
    Murray; we had our quarrel that evening in the drawing-room, and it was
    never made up. From then till now, what a gulf! and yet those years
    would have been but a bridge to pass over, save for the one barrier
    that was insurmountable between us.

    "What has become of that Mrs. Murray whom you used to know?" she asked,
    as we reached the foot of the stairs. She relinquished my arm as she
    spoke, and faced me.

    I felt the blood come to my face. "Mrs. Murray was in my thoughts at
    the same moment--and perhaps by the same train of associations." I
    answered, "I don't know where she is now; I lost sight of her years
    ago--soon after you were married, in fact. Why do you ask?"

    "You had not forgotten her, then?"

    "I had every reason to forget her, except the one reason for which I
    have remembered her--and you know what that is! Have you mistrusted me
    all this time?"

    "Oh, no--no! I don't think I really mistrusted you at all; and long ago
    I admitted to myself that you had acted unselfishly and honorably. But
    I was angry at the time; you know, sometimes a girl will be angry, even
    when there is no good reason for it. I have long wished for an
    opportunity to tell you this, for my own sake, you know, as well as for
    yours."

    "I hardly know whether I am most glad or sorry to hear this," I said,
    as we moved toward the door. "If you had only been able to say it, or
    to think it, before ... there would have been a great difference!"

    "The worst of mistakes is, they are so seldom set right at the time, or
    in the way they ought to be. Come, Susie, we are going away now. Susie,
    do you most like to be American or English?"

    "English," replied Susie, without hesitation.

    Her mother turned to me and said in a low tone:

    "I love her, whichever she is."

    I understood what she meant. Susie was the symbol of that inevitable
    element in our lives which seems to evolve itself without reference to
    our desires or efforts; but which, nevertheless, when we have
    recognized that it is inevitable, we learn (if we are wise) to accept
    and even to love. Save for the estrangement between Ethel and myself,
    Susie would never have existed; yet there she was, a beautiful child,
    who had as good a right to be as either of us; and her mother loved
    her, and, as it were, bade me love her also. I took the little maiden
    by the hand and said, "You are right, Susie; the Americans are the
    children of the English, and can not expect to be so wise and
    comfortable as they. But you must remember that the Americans have a
    future before them, and we are not enemies any more. Will you be
    friends with me, and let me call you my little girl?"

    "I shouldn't mind being your little girl, if I could still have the
    same mamma," was Susie's reply. "Papa is away a great deal, and you
    could be papa, you know, until he came back."

    I made some laughing answer; but, in fact, Susie's frank analysis of
    the situation poignantly kindled an imagination which stood in no need
    of stimulus. Ah, if this were the Golden Age, when love never went
    astray, how happy we might be! But it is not the Golden Age--far from
    it! Meanwhile, I think I can assert, with a clear conscience, that no
    dishonorable purpose possessed me. I loved Ethel too profoundly to wish
    to do her wrong. Yet I may have wished--I did wish--that a kindly
    Providence might have seen fit to remove the disabilities that
    controlled us. If a wish could have removed Courtney painlessly to
    another world, I think I should have wished it. There was something
    exquisitely touching in Ethel's appearance and manner. She is as pure
    as any woman that ever lived; but she is a woman! and I felt that, for
    this day, I had a man's power over her. Occasionally I was conscious
    that her eyes were resting on my face; when I addressed her, her aspect
    softened and brightened; she fell into little moods of preoccupation
    from which she would emerge with a sigh; in many ways she betrayed,
    without knowing it, the secret that neither of us would mention. I do
    not mean to imply that she expected me to mention it. A pure woman does
    not realize the dangers of the world; and that very fact is itself her
    strongest security against them. But, had I spoken, she would have
    responded. It was a temptation which I could hardly have believed I
    could have resisted as I did; but such a woman calls out all that is
    best and noblest in a man; and, at the time, I was better than I am!

    When we were in the brougham again, I said, "If you will allow me, I
    will drive you to a house I have seen, which belongs to a man with whom
    I am slightly acquainted. He is on the point of leaving it, but his
    furniture is still in it, and, as he is himself an artist and a man of
    taste, it will be worth your while to look at it. He is rather deaf,
    but that is all the better; we can express our opinions without
    disturbing him. Perhaps you might arrange to take house and furniture
    as they stand."

    "Whatever you advise, I shall like to do," Ethel answered.

    We presently arrived at the house, which was situated in the upper part
    of the town, a little to the west of Fifth Avenue. It was a comely
    gabled edifice of red brick, with square bay-windows and a roomy porch.
    The occupant, Maler, a German, happened to be at home; and on my
    sending in my card, we were admitted at once, and he came to greet us
    in the hall in his usual hearty, headlong fashion.

    "My good Campbell," he exclaimed, in his blundering English, "very
    delighted to see you. Ah, dis will be madame, and de little maid! So
    you are married since some time--I have not know it! Your servant,
    Madame Campbell. I know--all de artists know--your husband: we wish we
    could paint how he can--but it is impossible! Ha, ha, ha! not so! Now,
    I am very pleased you shall see dis house. May I beg de honor of
    accompany you? First you shall see de studio; dat I call de stomach of
    de house, eh? because it is most important of all de places, and make
    de rest of de places live. See, I make dat window be put in--you find
    no better light in New York. Den you see, here we have de alcove, where
    Madame Campbell shall sit and make her sewing, while de husband do his
    work on de easel. How you like dat portiere? I design him myself--oh,
    yes, I do all here; you keep them if you like; I go to Germany, perhaps
    not come back after some years, so I leave dem, not so? Now I show you
    my little chamber of the piano. See, I make an arched ceiling--groined
    arch, eh?--and I gild him; so I get pretty light and pretty sound,
    not? Ah! madame, I have not de happiness to be married, but I make my
    house so, dat if I get me a wife, she find all ready; but no wife come,
    so I give him over to Herr Campbell and you. Now we mount up-stairs to
    de bed-rooms, eh?"

    In this way he went over the entire house with us. His loud, jolly
    voice, his resounding laugh, his bustling manner, his heedless, boy-
    like self-confidence, and his deafness, made it impossible to get in a
    word of explanation, and, after a few efforts, I gave up the attempt.

    "Let him suppose what he likes," I said aside to Ethel, "it can make no
    difference; he is going away, and you will never see him again. After
    all these years, it can do no great harm for us to play at being Mr.
    and Mrs. Campbell for an hour!"

    "It is a very beautiful house," she said, tacitly accepting what I had
    proposed. "It is such a house as I have always dreamed of living in. I
    shall not care to look at any others. Will you tell him that we--that I
    will take it just as it stands. You have made this a very pleasant day
    for me--a very happy day," she added, in a lower tone. "Every room here
    will be associated with you. You will come here often and see me, will
    you not? Perhaps, after all, you might use the studio to paint my--or
    Susie's portrait in."

    "I shall inflict myself upon you very often, I have no doubt," was all
    I ventured to reply. I could not tell her, at that moment, that we must
    never see each other again. She--after the manner of women--probably
    supposes that a man's strength is limitless; that he may do with
    himself and make of himself what he chooses; and she supposes that I
    could visit her and converse with her day after day, and yet keep my
    thoughts and my acts within such bounds as would enable me to take
    Courtney honestly by the hand. But I know too well my own weakness, and
    I shall leave her while yet I have power to do so. Tomorrow--or soon--I
    will write to her one last letter, telling her why I go.

    Sudden and strange indeed has been this passionate episode in a life
    which, methought, had done with passion. It has lasted hardly so many
    hours as I have lived years; and yet, were I to live on into the next
    century, it would never cease to influence me in all I think and do. I
    can not solve to my satisfaction this problem--why two lives should be
    wasted as ours have been. Courtney could have been happy with another
    wife, or with no wife at all, perhaps; but, for Ethel and me, there
    could be no happiness save in each other. But were she free to-day, the
    separation that has already existed--long though it has been--would
    only serve to render our future union more blissful and complete. We
    have learned, by sad experience, the value of a love like ours, and we
    should know how to give it its fullest and widest expression. But oh!
    what a blank and chilly road lies before us now!

    I drove her back to her hotel; we hardly spoke all the way; my heart
    was too full, and hers also, I think; though she did not know, as I
    did, that it was our last interview. It must be our last! Heaven help
    me to keep that resolution!

    Susie was not at all impressed by the pathos of the situation; she
    babbled all the time, and thus, at all events, afforded us an excuse
    for our silence. At parting, one incident occurred that may as well be
    recorded. I had shaken hands with Ethel, speaking a few words of
    farewell, and allowing her to infer that we might meet again on the
    morrow; then I turned to Susie, and gave her the kiss which I would
    have given the world to have had the right to press on her mother's
    lips. Ethel saw, and, I think, understood. She stooped quickly down,
    and laid her mouth where mine had been. Through the innocent medium of
    the child, our hearts met; and then I saw her no more.

    _May 3d_.--Of course, it may not be true, probably it is not;
    mistakes are so easily made in the first moments of such horror and
    confusion; the dead come to life, and the living die. Or, at the worst,
    he may be only wounded or disabled. At all events, I decline to
    believe, save upon certain evidence, that the poor fellow has actually
    been killed. Were it to turn out so, I should feel almost like a
    murderer; for was not I writing, in this very journal, and perhaps at
    the very moment the accident occurred, that if my wish could send him
    to another world, I would not spare him?

    _Later_.--I have read all the accounts in the newspapers this
    morning, and all agree in putting Courtney's name among the killed.
    There can be no doubt about it any longer; he is dead. When the
    collision occurred, the car in which he vas riding was thrown across
    the track, and the other train crashed through it. Judging by the
    condition of the body when discovered, death must have been nearly
    instantaneous. Poor Courtney! My conscience is not at ease. Of course,
    I am not really responsible; that is only imagination. But I begin to
    suspect that my imagination has been playing me more than one trick
    lately.

    And now, with this new state of affairs so suddenly and terribly
    brought about, what is to be done? I am as yet scarcely in a condition
    to reflect calmly; but a voice within me seems to say that something
    else besides my conscience has been awakened by Courtney's death. Can
    it be that imagination, dallying with what it took for impossibilities,
    could so far mislead a man? Well, I shall start at once for the scene
    of the disaster, and relieve the poor fellow's widow of whatever pain I
    can. Ethel Courtney a widow! Ah, Ethel! Death sheds a ghastly light
    upon the idle vagaries of the human heart.

    _May 15th_.--_Denver_, _Colorado_.--Magnificent weather
    and scenery; very different from my own mental scenery and mood at this
    moment. I am sorely out of spirits; and no wonder, after the reckless
    and insane emotion of the first days of this month. One pays for such
    indulgences at my age.

    I have been re-reading the foregoing pages of this journal. Was I a
    fool or a coward, or was I merely intoxicated for eight-and-forty
    hours? At all events, Courtney's tragic end sobered me, and put what I
    had been doing in a true light. I am glad my insanity was not permitted
    to proceed farther than it did; but I have quite enough to reproach
    myself with as it is. So far as I hare been able to explain the matter
    to myself, my prime error lay in attributing, in a world subject to
    constant change, too much permanence to a given state of affairs. The
    fact that Ethel was the wife of another man seemed to me so fixed and
    unalterable that I allowed my imagination to play with the picture of
    what might happen if that unalterable fact were altered. Secure in this
    fallacy, I worked myself up to the pitch of believing that I was
    actually and passionately in love with a woman whose inaccessibility
    was, after all, her most winning attraction. Moreover, by writing down,
    in this journal, the events and words of the hours we spent together, I
    confirmed myself in my false persuasion, and probably imported into the
    record of what we said and did an amount of color and hidden
    significance that never, as I am now convinced, belonged to it in
    reality. Deluded by the notion that I was playing with a fancy, I was
    suddenly aroused to find myself imbrued in facts. The whole episode has
    profoundly humiliated me, and degraded me in my own esteem.

    But I am not at the bottom of the mystery yet. Was I not in love with
    Ethel? Surely I was, if love be anything. Then why did I not ask her to
    marry me? Would she have refused me? No. That last look she gave me
    from under her black veil, when I told her I was going away.... Ah, no,
    she would not have refused me. Then why did I hesitate? Was not such a
    marriage precisely what I have always longed for? During all these
    seven years have I not been bewailing my bachelorhood, and wishing for
    an Ethel to cheer my solitary fireside with her gracious presence, to
    be interested in my work and hopes, to interest me in her wifely and
    maternal ways and aspirations? And when at last all these things were
    offered me, why did I shrink back and reject them?

    Honestly, I can not explain it. Perhaps, if I had never loved her
    before, I might have loved her this time enough to unite my fate with
    hers. Or, perhaps--for I may as well speak plainly, since I am speaking
    to myself--perhaps, by force of habit, I had grown to love, better than
    love itself, those self-same forlorn conditions and dreary solitudes
    which I was continually lamenting and praying to be delivered from.
    What a dismal solution of the problem this would be were it the true
    one! It amounts to saying that I prefer an empty room, a silent hearth,
    an old pair of slippers, and a dressing-gown to the love and
    companionship of a refined and beautiful woman!--that I love even my
    own discomforts more than the comfort she would give me! It sounds
    absurd, scandalous, impossible; and yet, if it be not the literal
    truth, I know not what the truth is. It is amazing that an educated and
    intelligent man can live to be forty years old and still have come to
    no better an understanding of himself than I had. Verily, as my old
    author said, thought is free, but nature is captive, and loveth her
    chain. Yes, my old author was right.
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