|Newspaper Title||The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)|
|Trove Title||The Lawyer's Story: An American Tale: In Five Chapters|
THE LAWYER'S STORY.
AN AMERICAN TALE.
IN FIVE CHAPTERS.—CHAPTER I.
IT was a cold night in January, 18—. I had promised myself a quiet evening by the fireside. But my promise was made without sufficient
foresight. Dinner was hardly cleared away when
a sharp ring at the bell indicated the presence of either a furious client or a furious beggar. It proved to be both, for it was a poor fellow whose law business I had done gratuitously for six months previously out of pure compassion for a man whose brain seemed to be wandering most Of the time. His business had not been large. He had consulted me two or three times about a legacy that he expected—l never knew whence . —and had made imaginary investments of his five hundred or thousand dollars in all the varieties of stock that the city could afford. And as a new stock struck his fancy he would come to me for advice as to its stability and the chances of its improvement, which advice I al ways gave very readily, as it cost me nothing bat time, and did him no good or harm. He was a curious-looking, gaunt, thin featured man of thirty-five or thereabouts, and his whole life seemed bound up in this expected legacy, which he never rated at over a thousand dollars, though he once hoped it might prove a hundred more, to enable him to buy ten shares of a stock that was above par. He did not come in, but waited for me in the entry, where I went out to see him. " He is dying," said he, in a loud whisper, as I appeared. " Who is dying ?" I question whether he had ever thought of such a question before. He did not know what reply to make, for he was actually ignorant of the name of the man who was to be his greatest benefactor. He stood and thought an instant, and then said: " Why, you know. He." "But who is he?" "Why he—you know—that is, you know, that I—you know—he that's going to give me the legacy, you know." " Well; if his will is made, you are all right. What do yon want to-night ?" "That's just the thing, Mr. Blackstone. His will isn't made. He's put it off and put it off, and now he is in a mighty tight place, and I'm terribly afraid if you don't hurry he'll be dead before we get there." " So I am to go and draw his will ?" " Yes, sir, if you please." " But such a night as this! Think of it, my dear air. lam not strong. Step around to Justice Hardnp's and get him to go. He'll be glad of the chance." But there was no putting off my client. I always found my charity work decidedly the most exacting and laborious that I ever did. So I wrapped myself in a cloak and eallied out into as bitter a storm as it was ever my misfortune to meet. Up one street and down another, into an alley, and now into an old half-falling house, and up a rickety staircase, which threatened to yield at every step, I followed my conductor into the presence of a dying man. It was evi dent that he was dying. The pallor of death had settled on his old and worn countenance, which was fast assuming the rigidity that pre cedes the last moment. He was a very old man. His head was en tirely bald, and his eyebrows where white as snow. His hand was wrinkled and thin, his arm attenuated beyond belief. His eye was restless, roving, anxious, indicating his desire to have done with the business on which I had come. His voice was husky as he addressed me, and I started at its unearthliness. " You are Mr. Blackstone ?" "Ism." " I want you to draw my will, and quickly, for I am going fast." I glanced involuntarily at the garret walls* the broken table and chair, and the tallow candle that made darkness visible. He turned restlessly and spoke sharply. " You think I have nothing to leave. I have enough to pay you for drawing the will, and that is all you care for, I suppose. See here!" and he produced from under his pillow a roll of bank-bills and gold, and shook them at me with an expression of triumph, at which I could not avoid a smile. I asked for ink, and it was produced—an old ink-horn that might have done serf ice in the time of Job, with a pen in it that seemed as if it had been soaked there for some centuries. Taking my seat at the three-legged table I de manded his instructions, and he gave them briefly: "I want to give all I have to that boy. He has been my best friend for two years, and has taken care of me like a friend. He knows I have a little to leave him, and I have promised it to him. Give him all—every farthing. Write, now, ' I give all I have to—' What is your name, Tom ? I never heard anything of it but Tom." " Thomas Wentworth." " And what is your name," said I. "Solomon Storms," said he, in a clear voice and great emphasis; and I heard him add, in a low tone, " Born in old Salem and died in a garret in New York." And then he muttered something I could not hear; and when he had finished I had drawn the brief form of will for him to execute, and wanted only a witness to complete its execution. I therefore left the room, intend ing to go to a friend's not far distant, and pro cure some one to act as witness with myself; but as I left the doorway I stumbled against a man who was hastening by at a furious rate, and who would have fallen but for the firm grasp he took of my collar. It was evident that he thought I was a highwayman, and, to Bay truth, his sudden grasp led me to think much the same way of him, for I seized him in stantly by the throat. We were not badly matched, and after a brief wrestle we rolled into the gutter together, and there my cloak gave way, and left me free to rise and look at my antagonist. He gathered himself up swiftly and fiercely enough ; but something in my ap pearance convinced him I was no robber, and he instantly commenced an apology for his rude ness, to which I replied by taking all the blame to myself; and then begged him, if a citizen' to save me any further trouble by stepping up to the garret I had left and witnessing the will of the old man. To this he readily assented, and we returned together to the presence of the dying miser, for •nob he evidently was. The will was Bigned, ftnd as he handed it back to me' he gave me a package of papers and money, which he re quested me to keep for his heir, and deliver when be should be dead. I wrote my name ai
a witness, and then handed the will to my late antagonist, who signed in a swift and marked handwriting: " Walter Ashman, New York City." At the rery instant of his finishing the signa ture there was a change in the old man'B counten ance ; a shudder passed over his entire frame, and lingered about his lips ; he moaned once as if he would have spoken but could not ; he fixed his weary old eyes upward as if he strove to penetrate a cloud that orerhung him, but could see nothing but mists of darkness; he looked swiftly and even wildly at each of us, and lifted his hands up imploringly, and they fell heavily on the rugged coverlet, and he was gone from the company of those that knew him not, to the presence of those who had known his boyhood eighty years before. As I turned from the bed I saw Ashman standing with his eyes fixed on the dead man, with a curious expression that puzzled me. I looked at him enquiringly, but he did not move for some moments ; and when he caught my eye fixed on him he turned abruptly from me, hurried down the staircase, and disappeared. Such was my introduction to one of the most remarkable men I have ever known. I have re lated this occurrence only for the sake of show ing how I became acquainted with him, and what I have thus far told you has nothing more to do with my story. He was not like any other man that I remem ber to have seen, either in personal appearance or mental structure. He was a strange com pound of commonplace and sentiment, fury and gentleness, polish and roughness. I had, of course, no opportunity to observe this at the period I have spoken of. It was not till some time later that my actual acquaintance with him commenced ; for, when the will of the dead miser was proved, I was not present at the Surrogate's office on the same day that Ashmun was examined, and I did not meet him again for nearly or quite a year, during which time I had entirely forgotten his features and bis personal appearance. I was seated in my office one winter morning, zealously discussing the paper, when I was inter, rupted by the entrance of a man whose appear ance arrested my attention. He was tall, fifty years or more of age, with an eye like an eagle's, small, quick, piercing, but unsteady. As he opened the door he looked at me, then at the table, then at the shelves, which contained a very liberal display of calf-skin, and finally fixing his eyes on my face, he smiled a very sadden smile, but very cold and harsh withal, and bowing po litely, ho said that he hoped he had the pleasure of addressing Mr. Blackstone. I admitted my personal identity in as amiable a tone as possible, glancing involuntarily at the same moment to wards the clock to see how near I was to the time for an important appointment. He advanced a step and stated his desire to speak with me, and also mentioned his name, "Ashman." I started immediately. Strange that I did not recognise that face. It was one to be remembered. In his youth it hai been a fine, a noble face. It still retained much of its original beauty, but the lines of life had erased much, most of the delicacy of feature which once constituted its expression. There was on it an appearance of care, a look of heavy and la borious thought, as if all the pleasant things of life had been long shut out from his soul, and bitterness of one sort or another had taken pos session. Yet there was a magnificence about his forehead and eyes, a look which was as if it might have been a memory of former splendor of intellect, land which at the same time was so indicative of a present powerful mind, that you paid involuntary respect to the man whose soul looked out of such windows. While, he continued silent for the space of forty seoonds I had resolved all this in my mind, and then apologised for not recognising him sooner, alluding to the strange scene in which I had last met him. He waived the apology with an air of the most perfect polish, and took a chair and fixed his eyes on the fire with a vacant look, void of ex pression, which puzzled me considerably. I made up my mind rapidly that he was a broken down man. But I was wrong. He was a man of large wealth, of acute intelligence, and, by the few who knew him, most envied of any in the city. I was again surprised, as he sat before me, that I had not before remembered who he was, for it suddenly flashed across my mind thathe was the wealthy, eccentric man who lived in a stately mansion in S street, of whom I had often heard during the past four years. He raised his eyes to mine, and as he caught my look a mask seemed to fall off from his face. A sudden flash of lively intelligence lit up his features, his «yes gleamed with unusual lustre, and now, with the pleasantest imaginable smile, and a voice of exceeding richness of tone, he ad dressed me: " I must apologise, Mr. Blackstone, for my apparent absence of mind. Ever since I had the pleasure of seeing you—perhaps I should say the pleasure of fighting you—l have desired to meet you again. Some remarks that you made that evening were impressed on my attention. There are certain matters which I desire to com municate to a professional man like yourself. I have never been able to make up my mind to such a communication until very recently, and I have been bothering my brain until this moment to determine how best to tell my story. Strangely, it never until now occurred to me that the best course I can pursue, and indeed the only possible way, is to give you a plain account of my wishes, and so much of my past history as will be ne cessary to explain them. When can you give me an hour ?" " Next Friday morning at this time, if it will Buit you, I will be at leisure," said I, after look ing over my note-book. " Could you not say evening ?" " Here at my office ?" " No, but at my house. To be frank with you, I want a friend more than a lawyer. Come and see me, hear me talk, learn what I am, and advise me as a man would advise his friend." "Now you flatter me. I shall suspect yon have some sinister motive if you give such rea sons for wishing to see me. As a lawyer I should not ask how you came to ask my advice, but I have certainly a right to know why you seek me of all others for a friend." I " Not beoause I have seen anything specially prepossessing about you." " I should think not. For you never saw me except over the death-bed of that poor dog that died on his heap of gold." " You called him a dog to his face." " Did I?" " You did, though he wbb dying. You told him, frankly, that you considered him detestable, and that his death was a good riddance to the world. I liked your boldness. It was the truth spoken co plainly, and I believe you will speak it to me. But come and see me, and talk with me, and perhaps you will better understand me. Will you come? 1'
" To-morrow evening." " I will expect you." And so he left me. I found him the next evening in bis library* It was a large room with high ceilings, and shelves loaded with rare volumes of every lan guage, old and new. Strange birds looked down from their perches with the most lifelike appear ance, and it was only on a second look that you found them to be dead. Quaint devices caught the eye in the heavy carvings, and phantoms seemed to be standing in the corners, which the faint light of a shaded lamp of costly workman ship and heavy chasing at length resolved into statues of the old gods. Reading by this lamp, and directly underneath it, sat the master of the house. His book was an old and splendid edition of Plato, and as my eye rested on the well-known imprint mark— the hammer striking the rock—and the name Basileaeper Henricum Petrum, 1566,1 smiled. His eye caught the smile, for he was accus tomed to the dim light of the room, and as he rose to welcome me, and acknowledged my bow with a most courtly reverence, he spoke in a voice whose silver tone was in accordance with the room, the light, the carvings, and the statu ary. " You find me in the humor to talk with you, I see you smile at my old companion here." "Not at your companion, sir. In faith, I seldom smile at Plato. I have oftener tean in my eyes for the grand old academician. I smiled for pleasure at meeting with bo good an edition in your hands." "Ah yes! I used formerly an old Loadon edition. Until one day, as I was strolling along a street in Amsterdam, I caught sight of this. I bought it, had it bound as you now see it, and have read every page over a hundred tunes since then. You read Plato ?" " Seldom now. I did read Plato once, most constantly; but he and Chitty hardly work well together. I have little time for dreaming." " Plato never dreamed, sir You can hardly have read him aright il you thought that." " I said not that he did. Bat yoa cannot read him without dreaming. No man can study Plato, now. None of the old philosophers, not even Aristotle, the prince of philosophers, and the original author of the ' Novum Organom'— not even Aristotle can find students now. We read, we love to read, we devour them over and over again, and always with new fancies, new phantasies, vagaries, and dreams. What were you dreaming of when I entered ? Tell me the truth, if you so love frankness/ "ByJoveyou are right! Well, lam a dreamer all the time. No one ever told me so before. I never told myself so. I like your telling me so. It is just what I want. Some one to folk to me and help me break the bonds I have put on myself. lam a machine, an automaton. I want life, freedom, freshness of thought and ac tion. Yes, I am a dreamer. And when you came in I was thinking, most complacently, as I sat under that lamp reading Plato, that I was a student, a plain sort of a man seeking know ledge. That was a dream, certainly. Look at that lamp. I had it carved. But the centre, which you do not see is more valuable than the gold which surrounds it. It came from Greece. Dug up there. I don't know where; but the Greek I bought it from swore by all the gods it was from the very spot where stood the residence of Socrates. Of course I didn't believe him; but I liked the lie, and resolved to give it gold to help it. Men would more readily believe a golden than an iron lie. I had it cased in precious metal, and I got to believing myself. I was my own first convert. So I read Plato, and dream that I am using the lamp over which he used to bend. What harm is there in it ? The dream while it lasts is as good as the reality; and if (we are snoh stuff as dreams are made of,' why we are some of us made of glorious stuff. Is it not so?" " Yes, till the sleep comes." "Ay, there it is. The waking is always ter rible." "Always?" " Yes, always. Don't frown at that. I have no faith to look out of this dream-land. My life has been one of trial, disappointment, madness; my days have been so full of pain my nights so full of hideousness, that I have no faith left in the world, in man or woman, master or servant, friend or foe, life or death. I scaroely believe in heaven or hell. You look surprised. lam sceptical of everything. I have lived so long in this old house in lonesome quiet, reading, study ing, dreaming, as you called it, that it all seems to me like a dream, and there seems to be nothing real around me. "I am tired of living in this way. I have one object in life that I want to resume. It is a search that I gave over year ago as vain, and I have been thinking of renewing it ever since. You must help me. Can you ?" " I wili think of it." " Cautious ? Very welL Will you prepare a will for me, a plain, simple will, one that I can believe will survive me—will outlast ty+ dream which I call me?" "Impossible." " Impossible! I have not heard the word be fore in years. I once found a queer-looking stone in Egypt. It was an altar-stone of some old heathenish temple. I wanted to smoke to bacco in a pipe made of a piece of that stone, and to ponder on the evanescent nature of men's temples, altars, and creeds. I suggested the wish to my Arabs. An almost universal shrug of the shoulder was the reply, and old Ibrahim opened his lips to utter that word, or the Arabic for it. I stopped his mouth with a piece of gold and there lies the pipe. I smoked tobacco in it a fortnight afterwards, Bitting in a newly opened tomb, on a mummy which I chose to think was once a worshipper at that altar. Three or four thousand years ago, had some swarthy neighbor of his suggested such a future mischance to him and the altar, he would have said impossible. But it was so, nevertheless, as I enjoyed thinking while I studied the hieroglyphics on his breast." " And yet you ask me to make for you a docu ment that will admit of your faith in its validity and perpetuity. How do you know what revo lutions may overturn law, or what freak of fancy may mislead my brain, or what doubt will haunt yours, founded on some dark spot in the paper which my clerk nses to eagross it, which your imagination will construe into an erasure fright fully loaded with future discussions and manifold interpretations ? Make you a will that you can have faith in ? My dear sir, you are trifling with me." My singular friend looked at me for two minutes without reply. He was manifestly ex amining my face, to determine whether I was serious. At length an odd smile flashed out of one corner of his right eye, and at the same time an expression of quiet satisfaction settled on his countenance. " I understand yon, and I thank you again for your frank ridicule. It will help me, I think. Stephen" (to his bailer, who entered in response
to the bell), " some wine and tobacco. Do you use a pipe or cigar, sir ?" ? A pipe, if you will allow me." " Allow you! I believe there is not a cigar in the house. I took it for granted you were a man of my sort, and I only asked you be cause—" " You had some little donbt about it." " Exactly so. And now to business. If, in deed, I can call it so. For it is more to gratify a whim that I have asked you here than with the expectation of receiving any valuable aid or advice. lam afraid that my desire is out of my reach or yours. Draw your chair up to the grate. Help yourself to the Madeira. There is claret or brandy, if you prefer it. I drink no wine but the long cork." « Nor I." " Odd again. You learned that, of course, in travel. But, pardon me, lam wasting your valu able time, and must not detain you longer from my story." "My dear sir, the evening is wholly at your disposal." "Is it so? I thank you heartily. I may then take time to relate all that I wish. Stephen, some more coal on the grate. The night is growing furious out of doors. Listen to the snow on the window. Is it not terrible ? God of heaven, I shudder at the thought that my child may be out in this tempest, unclothed, un loved, desolate, forsaken, lost—lost—lost!" Chaptsb IL "I ABKKD you to prepare a wQL" began my companion, after a silence of a minute or two, during which the smoke was ascending in curl ing rings from the bowl of his pipe, and lost it self in the darkness of the upper part of the room. But none passed from his lips, for he seemed to be too much buried in thought to permit him to smoke, and the golden mouth-piece rested mo tionless on his lip until he spoke: " I made my will fifteen years ago. It lies in that case yonder. You shall read it some day. It is perhaps as well as any new one I could pre pare. But it is in favor of one who was, I then thought, in the world, and whom I should soon meet, and whom I should educate to be worthy the great estate I oould give her. But I have never met her. I have never heard of her. I know not if she be alive, or whether her fair locks that I so loved onoe have lain in the dust for nearly a soore of yean. No, lam wrong. Ido know that she is not dead. I said I had faith im nothing. I have in that. Though I have not seen my child in seventeen years, yet I know that she lives, and that I shall see her before I die. I know it as well as I know my own existence. I have not dreamed that. Ko ; I have learned it, and believed it, and it is true. Somewhere within the circumference of the world I have a child, and that is all I know of her residence, and yet she is my child, my own child! " I have searched creation for her. For five years I did nothing but hum the world over for her, and for ten years past I have done nothing but dream over that search, except when I have started off on its renewal, and come back to dream and start again. I have sought her from Russia to the Cape of Good Hope, from Hud son Bay to Patagonia. " You smile, but I am serious. This search is my whole life, and though for some years I have abandoned it, my faith is growing so strong that I shall yet meet her in the world that I am determined to renew it again. " You would think me a maniao if I should relate the thousand follies I have oommitted in this all-engrossing pursuit. I once stopped * Russian sleigh on the route to Siberia to see if she were in it. I boarded a schooner in a gale of wind off the coast of Peru to ask for a list of her passengers. I never saw a means of convey - ance or a group of persons that I did not think it possible she was there, and unless I examined and satisfied myself I would be in despair for weeks afterward with the idea that I had missed her. Nay, I turned at every faoe I met, looked under evey bonnet, and hurried up and down street after street of strange oities with no other object. Sometimes I forgot that I was looking for a human being, and looked as I would for a lost ring or jeweL I was asked a thousand timea what I was searching after. In those labyrin thine catacombs of Egypt I was so mad as to go through every chamber, and look behind every pile of mummies, if perchanoe I could find some trace of her there! " Can you understand what I mean ? I was a monomaniac, insane, mad; and when I shall have told you my story you will hardly think it strange that I was mad. To have loved what I loved, to have lost what I lost, were surely enough to have maddened one more than man. Sometimes I think lam mad now. Sometimes I lie awake in the night-time, and believe that all this terrible story of my love and loss is a myth, a fancy, a dream, and that I am a young, strong, joyful man again, and I look around my room in the dim fire-light, and I call ' Eve! Eve!' and when the door does not open, and she does not come and lie down by me, I shudder, and remember what I am, and I shrink under the cover and tremble, and lie like a frightened child, lonesome, and beyond all words desolate. " And I cannot longer remain alone. I have sought you to tell my story to some one that could talk with me—to whom I could talk—that the weight of this one terrible thought on my soul may be in some measure lessened. " I was a wild boy. My father had a respect able property, sufficient to make my allowance liberal, and the result was my ruin. Yes, ruin is the word. I was absolutely ruined. I went to college, kept fast horses, good wines, drank freely myself, and made my rooms the resort of all who loved the good things of the world. It was my pride to have brilliant scenes in my rooms, to be constantly surrounded by the gay, the laughter-loving, the free. Sometimes I studied, and I ranked at least respectably as a scholar. I delivered the farewell address of my class, which I remember was esteemed an honorable appointment. I graduated, and fancied myself a man. I was still a boy, but a boy of ardent, dreamy nature. I had no restraint of mind, no sort of discipline. The effect of the reckless life I had led for four years in college was pre cisely what might have been anticipated in my after-life. I did not understand any of the laws of life, and I cared nothing for them. My wish was my law. Desire was always the reason for possession. Hence, perhaps, all my suffering. " I had never loved a woman. Rare truth! I was twenty-one, and had never known that I could love. I had looked into many pretty faces, and, if the truth were known, I had pressed my lips to many soft cheeks; nay, to many red lips, perhaps, that were not unwilling ; but that was in the country where I was brought up, and no one thought all that very wrong. The year after I graduated a new era commenced with me. " I will not stop to describe to you the exceed ing beauty of Eve Gray. She was beautiful; let that suffice. I met her at my own home,
and did not reoognise the child I had known from childhood. She was like a vision of hea ven to me, and somehow she learned to regard me very much aa a girl of thirteen would regard a boy of the same age, not as a woman of nine teen, learned already in the world's ways, would look on a man of twenty-two. "We rambled over the hills together. We sat 6ide by side in the glen. The moonlight was not different to us from the sunshine. We made all alike, and we loved each other. She was my angel. God sent her to me, I believed, to renew my soul, to make me a new man, or a man for the first time, by making me a child again, inno cent, and full of fresh, warm feeling, untutored, unfeigned. As I looked into her matchless eyes beaming with lore and life, and on her features radiant with beauty, I blessed God and believed in Him and heaven. I could not tell you half our love. It was pure and perfect. She reverenced me and I worshiped her. Well, was that wrong ? God never meant to forbid our worshipping beauty, so we only acknowledge His command over it. In worshiping His beautiful things we worship Him. " And she was beautiful. Yes, I must tell you of her. I love to linger on that beauty now, and recall the features which my boy lips hare caressed a thousand times, the brow that was so calm with thoughts of me. " You have been in Florence. Do you remem ber that picture of the Virgin by Carlo Doloi, known in the catalogue of the Gallery of the Pitti Palace as La Santitrima Annunziata? That calm and heavenly face in its matchless outline was hers. A thousand times I have looked from her countenance to that canvas and back at her speaking features in their serenity and calmness, and wondered where the painter saw her, for he must hare seen her, in dreams or in reality. "She was very graceful. No motion was abrupt. If she rose or walked, or seated her self, or threw her form on the leaves or on the grass, all that she did was graceful, gentle, and beautiful. If she spoke, the words escaped from her lips not as if forced out by any impulse or volition, but as if her thoughts, pure and holy always, had beoeme living, and were making themselves known in a sweet flow of music. "Her form was full and perfectly rounded; her foot was exquisitely small; her h*nd per fectly fairy in its proportion; I feared to grasp those delicate fingers in mine. There were two features of her face that attracted more atten tion than any other. These were her lips and her eyes. The former were chiseled with all the skill which cut the lips of the first Eve, and they were as tempting as Adam found them before. But there was a slight and constant curl on her upper lip, a shade of contempt for all the world a consciousness of superiority, a pride of soul that bound her to my proud heart more than aught else. " Her eyes were of a deep blue, flashing with lustre, and they gleamed through the bars which her long lashes placed across them with a radi ance which startled you. On me they never looked save lovingly, and now that so many years have passed since I last met their gate, I thank God that that last look of hers was full of woman love! Yes, I thank God, for when I re member her and her pure faith I believe in Him! and I refuse to doubt even where I dare not believe. We are boys till some great event makes men of us. We can't date the change exactly; but, when we analyse our lives past, we remember that just about the time of some terrible blow, just about the date of some over whelming joy or sorrow, we grew suddenly thoughtful and reasonable, or, in other words, we became men. So it was with me. My mother died. To me it was terrible. I had not thought she could leave me alone; but so it was, and I was desolate in my grief. It was in that hour of agony that I learned the blessedness of Eve's gentle love. It was then that her presence soothed me, kept me on my knees when I would have been lamenting, and her tiny hand pushed back the hair from my forehead, and her holy lips spoke words of comfort to me. " She lived close by my father's place, and I found myself now constantly with her. I forgot everything but Eve. I gave up all the ordinary enjoyments and employments of life for the sake of her company. We read, walked, rode, talked, dreamed together. And while I grew like her in the depth and gentleness of my love, she grew like me in the energy and determination of mine. We forgot everything else. We lived for three months in a wild dream of joy. " This was the way it ended. Our fathers were political opponents, and in a contest of unusual closeness, certain hard words were spoken by one or the other, which resulted in a quarrel of no small fierceness. At first it did not interfere with the meeting of the two families; but when it had come to open blows in a public highway, and the binding of both parties over to keep the peace, lest a duel should ensue, it became impos sible for us to continue our frank intimacy. We had still private meetings. There was a deep wood near the line of the two parks where we met daily, and sometimes twice a day. There we read or talked, and-whiled away many a fine summer afternoon. How distinctly I now remember it! Seated here in my city mansion, surrounded by these relies of the wealth and learning and arts of the Old World, with the roar of carriages coming in to us from the crow ded street, and the swift tramp of multitudes hastening to a thousand scenes of pleasure or of pain, I remember that bank where the dead leaves lay thick all summer long, and the shawl thrown down for her to sit on, and the sunshine scarcely stealing through the branches of the trees, and the sharp chirp of the woodpecker, and the chirrup of the squirrel, and the call of the crow far overhead, and the solemn sound of the wind in the tall hickory and oak trees, and the rare beauty of the girl who sat by my side and read from my book, while her hand lay on my shoulder or was pressed in mine. Why we were very children, you say, and so we were; but angels nor the sons of God ever loved with more of love than we. We were full-grown; we were gods in our own affection! " Our love sped bravely thus, unti- one morn ing she came to me terrified lest her father had discovered our meetings. We walked together to the river bank and planned various things in the future, which now suddenly hung like a black cloud over our glorious present. Then we ex changed vows of everlasting love, and wrote them down, and called each other by the sacred name of husband and wife. It was no play. It was a solemn reality with us both ; and no one ever went to the altar in magnificent church, or spoke the vows of marriage in the presence of a multitude, with more meaning or earnestness, or with a higher conception of the greatness of those vows, than we in the forest, on the river bank, on that summer afternoon. The wine is with you, Mr. Blaokstone. " Eve Gray was a woman. You smile. 1 will smile too. I tell you the whole story there. She was a woman. Well, what of that ? I was
a man. Each had faults belonging to the sex, and both bad pride abounding. Her pride was backed by TOe waywardness and the weakness of her sex, mine by the folly, unkindness, mad ness of mine. We were living in the present. We had no future. We lived for the pawing hours. A slight thing disturbed the serenity of J our lives. She was calm and determined, I bois terous and obstinate. I never could tell precisely what the difficulty between us was. When it was all over I tried in rain to recall the origin of the quarrel. It was some trifle. I can only remem ber that in the progress of it much was said about my obstinate adherence to a refusal to be at a certain dinner or evening party at which she wished to meet me. Certainly it was nothing more than that; but the end was a general over hauling of all our offences against each other, and one afternoon, in a Bmall tempest of passion, we parted. "We thought the parting was for a day or a week at most. Alas for the sad uncertainty of human prophecy ! We met no more for years, and that little thoughtlessness was our ruin. " I was obliged to leave my home suddenly to attend to some business for my father in a Southern city. Eve heard nothing of this, of course, and naturally supposed that I was pettish, and she grew more angry. " I wrote to her from Charleston. The letter never reached her. Her father doubtless sup pressed it. I was obliged to go from that city to Europe. I was absent two years, and then heard, by a casual remark in a letter from my father, that Eve was married. " I was in Florence wheu I heard it. The blow was terrible. I found myself, an hour, two, four hours after I had opened the letter, standing with it in my hand before that picture of Carlo Dolci of which I have spoken, gazing at the heaven I had lost Then came over me like a flood the memories of the grand old forest in which my years of greatest joy were dead and buried, and I seemed to be in their grave with them, listening to the solemn wind moaning in the trees above them. I shuddered when I awoke to perfect consciousness. I was now a new, another man. The second great change in my life had occurred, and I was a wanderer on the face of the earth, homeless and hopeless. " Men laugh at human love. I have some times laughed at it myself, but never since then. I tell you that blow shook my whole soul. There was no part of it in which it did not over throw everything, from the heaven in which dwelt the memory of Eve, to the,depths where lay, unknown before, remorse for the'last part ing that I now knew my own madness had caused. " Year after year passed on, and I wandered all over the world. Wealth I had in overflowing measures, and I sought pleasure through the world. I need not tell you how I found it* Money will buy it everywhere; and I laughed then, as I laugh now, at the cant which says no pleasure can be bought. I tell you gold buys all but heaven itself, and gold bought me four years of the most joys, most keen, rich pleasures that the world ever dreamed of. And after those four years I returned to my own country with a heart that I thought proof againrt all the beauty even of my young wife Eve, as I had once called her. " I must retrace my Bteps a little way in this story. " Henry Gordon and Joseph Gordon were two sons of a family remotely related to Eve Gray. The Gordon family were our near neighbors, but not our friends. Ido not know where the feud between us originated, but I was born to it, and taught by my father to consider them as here ditary enemies. They were certainly not a family calculated to win love. There were no ladies in the house. The old man lived with his twin sons in a half-ruined house that was very like his fortune. The boys were ill-featured, shaggy-headed fellows, upon whom I practised my father's principles when we were at school together. I thrashed them, as you lawyers say, iointly and severally. I first whipped Henry for being impertinent, and then Joseph for interfer ing, and the next day both of them together for daring me to strike them. This was all boyish nonsense ; but it was the commencement of an enmity that has grown more violent daily and yearly to this day, and which helped to curse my life. You see that I admit frankly that my own evil passions have caused all my trials. " At length I made the enmity mortal by what I thought great fun, though it was serious in its consequences on the boys. They were bad boys enough, and worse scamps were not in the coun try. But I cjnfess to some compunctions of conscience when they were convicted, through my instrumentality, of robbing the solitary pear tree in the yard of a poor woman, and were sen tenced by a village justice, my old friend and ally, to a sojourn of a few days in the county gaoL From that day I knew that my life was in danger hourly. " You must understand my character in those days to be able to appreciate the effect which this enmity produced. I was accustomed to make much of all such emotions, and my mis taken father taught me that I was to live for family alliances and enmities. " Joseph Gordon had been a suitor of Eve before I saw her after leaving college. She knew him thoroughly, and as thoroughly detested him, but as a country neighbor she was forced to be on ordinary good terms with him, especially as he had never declared himself as a lover. But when he saw the growing intimacy of Eve with me his anger was boundless. He followed us one day to the old forest, and thrust himself rudely into our company, and took the oppor tunity to insult me in Eve's presence. I repeated the lessons of school-days. I gave him a terri ble beating then and there, with Eve looking on> trembling, beseeching, yet, I verily believe, en joying the scene when she knew I was victor. He became after that like a bloodhound in pur suit of revenge. He shot my dogs. He ham strung my best horse. He even dared to at tempt to get me to fight him with pistols, and I thrashed him again for the insult. There was no method he did not pursue to annoy and per secute me. And he has had his revenge. " Eve Gray had been the wife of Henry Gor don more than four years when I returned and heard the story of her marriage. She told me all. How she had resisted entreaties, threats, and commands ; how she had been deceived; and, finally, spirit-broken and ready to die, had sought peace and death rsther than that immo lation. And when they had driven her to des pair—when they had persecuted her even to the threshold of death, she still resisted with super human power, until, suspecting at the last her concealed reasons and the unknown source of all her strength, they left in her way a paper in which they had caused a notice of my death to be printed, and she read it and remembered no more. For weeks she was insensible or deli rious, and when she awoke to reason they told her she was married, and the wife of Henry Gordon.
"That moment she was changed, fearfully changed. The gentle, trusting, confiding gir was suddenly transformed into a proud, revenge fill, but oh, how beautiful and lovely woman She had thought she could never survive such a union, but she grew fairly splendid in the hatred of her husband, which now gave her life. Every day she learned more and more his vileness, and suffered more and more of his cruelty, but she had seemed to thrive tfhder wrongs. The world knew nothing of all this, though Gordon's repu tation was none of the best. " My return was like a resurrection from the dead. When she saw me and knew that I was living, and not, as she had supposed, a shade among the other shapes that filled her haunted past, she has often since told me that her emo tions were first and only unspeakable joy that she had in the world a hope of aid against the bru tality of the man to whom she was bound. For she hoped all things, though her life seemed hopeless. " She loved me better than in the old time. How did I know it ? I knew it by my own soul; by her soul; by her eye jby her voice sby all that makes us akin to that we love. I met her at the gayest rout of the season. She did not know me at the first, in my dark dress and with my bearded face. But as I approached her she trembled, and when I spoke she nearly fainted. " The next day I called on her. There was a child of two years old by her side —her child ; and the mother's love for me seemed to pass to her by inheritance, for she sprang into my arms as I stretched them out to her and called me 'papa.' I remember now the exquisite blush which stole over the mother's face like a crim son light, changing and brightening her beauty: ' Not papa, my child, but uncle. You may call him Uncle Walter.' " I caught the delicate idea, and her look, as she raised her eyes to mine, was as plain as if she had spoken and asked me to be her brother. I answered with a glance. So the bargain was made, and we were brother and sister thence forth. "Faugh ! What cant was that! I knew it then. I knew there was no such bond possible* and that love was love always, and this time madness. But I cared not. She or lor both of us must perish. I saw it all. I knew the end must come. Yet I plunged into the flood that swept us along. That same night, return ing from another assembly, her carriage set us down at her door. In the dim light I clasped her close to me, and she, unresisting, let me press my lips to her cheek, and eyes, and lips, and soothed herself with the idea that I washer brother. " Shall I tell you of the madness that now took possession of us? How day by day we sapped the foundations of our honor, our reli gion, our salvation ? It was not she that did it. It was both of us—ignorant, stupid, suicidal that we were. We knew tbe end. Our eyes were wide open from the first. She never doubted that she was lost when I met her in the crowd; and from that moment she had regarded her de struction here and forever as sure. But what sweet destruction! Those hours were purchased by the sacrifice of eternity, and they were cheap at that!" Ashmun rose from his chair, and walked up and down the room while he continued, furi ously : « They were like goblets of wine in the crater of Vesuvius. They were like water to the lips of Dives. They were hours which in their mad flight compressed more joy, more wild, exulting joy, than a thousand lifetimes ever knew, before or since. " And the end came with speed. A year had passed in this dream. We met daily; and the days had the wings of angels—fallen angels, if you please—but they were winged gloriously. " One evening I was startled by a furious ringing of my door-bell, and a message from Eve demanded my immediate presence. I was sur prised. I had seen her but a moment of each day for a week, for he child was ill, and she had devoted all her time to it. " I was shown to her room, and found her standing silent and motionless by the dead body of her child, with her stern eyes fixed on the face of her husband, who, with his brother, were at a little distauce. I had not met Joseph Gordon since my return from Europe, but I had heard of him as a gambler and a companion of the de based of both sexes. As he saw me enter the room he sprang furiously towards me. " ' What business have you here ?' " 'I have not come uninvited.' '"You are at least not needed. Thomas, show him the door.' "' Stop, Walter Ashmun. I sent for you. I desired you to be here to-night. Walter, you are the only friend I have on earth. My father and mother are both dead. I have no living relative but one old uncle who has forgotten, if indeed he ever saw me. You were once nearer and dearer to me than all others. Yes, Henry Gordon, before I knew you he called me wife! Perhaps I was not his wedded wife in law. But I have been your wife, and I am so no longer. I renounce you. I will not be called by your name. I abhor you, and I will leave you. "' Walter, see that dead child! He has mur dered her. Yes, I said the word. The poor, sick child lifted her lips with some lingering love for him, and in his drunken mood he struck her —struck the gentlest child that ever sought a father's kiss, and she lay down and died. Then he struck me. Here—look at my cheek. It tingles yet with madness. And then he went ont to his drunken companions, and I sent for yon.' "' Enough of this,' said Joseph Gordon, while Henry stood as if in a drunken stupor. "' Will you leave thiß house, or must I put you out ?' " I was perplexed not a little. But Joseph Gordon gave me no time for reflection. He ad vanced and took me by the collar, and I had no hesitation in striking him a blow that loosened his grasp and nearly floored him. He seized a chair, the first weapon at hand, and struck at me. I avoided the blow, closed with him, shook his life nearly out of him, and threw him out of the door and down the stairs, doubtless breaking some bones, and leaving him senseless at the foot of the staircase. " Then I walked down, bewildered, not know ing what I did, and as I passed out into the street I felt the touch of Eve's hand on my arm. "' I will go with you, Walter. Take me somewhere to die.' " I was not surprised nor startled. It seemed perfectly natural. We walked along the street together to my home. We entered the door as the door of our own house. We sat in this library. Yes, in this room, in that chair yonder, and she shuddered as she buried her face in my breast, and then looked up at me with a pale but peaceful face, and the struggle was over. "Oneweek after that we were on the sea. You look shocked. You had not anticipated this of Eve Gray. I know it was a terrible, a deadly sin. I know there is no blacker page in all that the recording angel has written than the one which bears this story. " But in some respects it was palliated. She had been defrauded into the marriage. Perhaps it were better to say she had never been married to him, for she never remembered any such ceremony, though it was duly performed during her delirium by a hired scoundrel of a priest. She had been bitterly wronged by her husband. She was abused, ill-treated, outraged in the most villainous manner. His debauched, debased, and abandoned character was notorious. What could she do ? She had no friends in all the world but me. Her parents were dead; her for tune was gone. You say she should have ob tained a divorce before she came to me. You are right. But when love and madness are in the soul, prudence and judgment take their leave. There was our error and our sin. We debased our union by that deep stain. And although the error was repaired soon, yet Eve never recovered from the damning sense of her error—her first impurity of deed. [to be CONTINCED.I