Part 1 out of 5
This etext was produced by David Widger
By Charles Dudley Warner
On a summer day, long gone among the summer days that come but to go, a
lad of twelve years was idly and recklessly swinging in the top of a tall
hickory, the advance picket of a mountain forest. The tree was on the
edge of a steep declivity of rocky pasture-land that fell rapidly down to
the stately chestnuts, to the orchard, to the cornfields in the narrow
valley, and the maples on the bank of the amber river, whose loud,
unceasing murmur came to the lad on his aerial perch like the voice of
some tradition of nature that he could not understand.
He had climbed to the topmost branch of the lithe and tough tree in order
to take the full swing of this free creature in its sport with the
western wind. There was something exhilarating in this elemental battle
of the forces that urge and the forces that resist, and the harder the
wind blew, and the wider circles he took in the free air, the more
stirred the boy was in the spring of his life. Nature was taking him by
the hand, and it might be that in that moment ambition was born to
achieve for himself, to conquer.
If you had asked him why he was there, he would very likely have said,
"To see the world." It was a world worth seeing. The prospect might be
limited to a dull eye, but not to this lad, who loved to climb this
height, in order to be with himself and indulge the dreams of youth.
Any pretense would suffice for taking this hour of freedom: to hunt for
the spicy checker-berries and the pungent sassafras; to aggravate the
woodchucks, who made their homes in mysterious passages in this gravelly
hillside; to get a nosegay of columbine for the girl who spelled against
him in school and was his gentle comrade morning and evening along the
river road where grew the sweet-flag and the snap-dragon and the barberry
bush; to make friends with the elegant gray squirrel and the lively red
squirrel and the comical chipmunk, who were not much afraid of this
unarmed naturalist. They may have recognized their kinship to him,
for he could climb like any squirrel, and not one of them could have
clung more securely to this bough where he was swinging, rejoicing in the
strength of his lithe, compact little body. When he shouted in pure
enjoyment of life, they chattered in reply, and eyed him with a primeval
curiosity that had no fear in it. This lad in short trousers, torn
shirt, and a frayed straw hat above his mobile and cheerful face, might
be only another sort of animal, a lover like themselves of the beech-nut
and the hickory-nut.
It was a gay world up here among the tossing branches. Across the river,
on the first terrace of the hill, were weather-beaten farmhouses, amid
apple orchards and cornfields. Above these rose the wooded dome of Mount
Peak, a thousand feet above the river, and beyond that to the left the
road wound up, through the scriptural land of Bozrah, to high and
lonesome towns on a plateau stretching to unknown regions in the south.
There was no bar to the imagination in that direction. What a gracious
valley, what graceful slopes, what a mass of color bathing this lovely
summer landscape! Down from the west, through hills that crowded on
either side to divert it from its course, ran the sparkling Deerfield,
from among the springs and trout streams of the Hoosac, merrily going on
to the great Connecticut. Along the stream was the ancient highway, or
lowway, where in days before the railway came the stage-coach and the big
transport-wagons used to sway and rattle along on their adventurous
voyage from the gate of the Sea at Boston to the gate of the West at
Below, where the river spread wide among the rocks in shallows, or eddies
in deep, dark pools, was the ancient, long, covered, wooden bridge,
striding diagonally from rock to rock on stone columns, a dusky tunnel
through the air, a passage of gloom flecked with glints of sunlight, that
struggled in crosscurrents through the interstices of the boards, and set
dancing the motes and the dust in a golden haze, a stuffy passage with
odors a century old--who does not know the pungent smell of an old
bridge?--a structure that groaned in all its big timbers when a wagon
invaded it. And then below the bridge the lad could see the historic
meadow, which was a cornfield in the eighteenth century, where Captain
Moses Rice and Phineas Arms came suddenly one summer day to the end of
their planting and hoeing. The house at the foot of the hill where the
boy was cultivating his imagination had been built by Captain Rice, and
in the family burying-ground in the orchard above it lay the body of this
mighty militia-man, and beside him that of Phineas Arms, and on the
headstone of each the legend familiar at that period of our national
life, "Killed by the Indians." Happy Phineas Arms, at the age of
seventeen to exchange in a moment the tedium of the cornfield for
There was a tradition that years after, when the Indians had disappeared
through a gradual process of intoxication and pauperism, a red man had
been seen skulking along the brow of this very hill and peering down
through the bushes where the boy was now perched on a tree, shaking his
fist at the hated civilization, and vengefully, some said pathetically,
looking down into this valley where his race had been so happy in the
natural pursuits of fishing, hunting, and war. On the opposite side of
the river was still to be traced an Indian trail, running to the western
mountains, which the boy intended some time to follow; for this highway
of warlike forays, of messengers of defiance, along which white maidens
had been led captive to Canada, appealed greatly to his imagination.
The boy lived in these traditions quite as much as in those of the
Revolutionary War into which they invariably glided in his perspective of
history, the redskins and the redcoats being both enemies of his
ancestors. There was the grave of the envied Phineas Arms--that ancient
boy not much older than he--and there were hanging in the kitchen the
musket and powder-horn that his great-grandfather had carried at Bunker
Hill, and did he not know by heart the story of his great-grandmother,
who used to tell his father that she heard when she was a slip of a girl
in Plymouth the cannonading on that awful day when Gage met his
In fact, according to his history-book there had been little but wars in
this peaceful nation: the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the incessant
frontier wars with the Indians, the Kansas War, the Mormon War, the War
for the Union. The echoes of the latter had not yet died away. What a
career he might have had if he had not been born so late in the world!
Swinging in this tree-top, with a vivid consciousness of life, of his own
capacity for action, it seemed a pity that he could not follow the drum
and the flag into such contests as he read about so eagerly.
And yet this was only a corner of the boy's imagination. He had many
worlds and he lived in each by turn. There was the world of the Old
Testament, of David and Samson, and of those dim figures in the dawn of
history, called the Patriarchs. There was the world of Julius Caesar and
the Latin grammar, though this was scarcely as real to him as the Old
Testament, which was brought to his notice every Sunday as a necessity of
his life, while Caesar and AEneas and the fourth declension were made to
be a task, for some mysterious reason, a part of his education. He had
not been told that they were really a part of the other world which
occupied his mind so much of the time, the world of the Arabian Nights
and Robinson Crusoe, and Coleridge and Shelley and Longfellow, and
Washington Irving and Scott and Thackeray, and Pope's Iliad and
Plutarch's Lives. That this was a living world to the boy was scarcely
his fault, for it must be confessed that those were very antiquated book-
shelves in the old farmhouse to which he had access, and the news had not
been apprehended in this remote valley that the classics of literature
were all as good as dead and buried, and that the human mind had not
really created anything worth modern notice before about the middle of
the nineteenth century. It was not exactly an ignorant valley, for the
daily newspapers were there, and the monthly magazine, and the fashion-
plate of Paris, and the illuminating sunshine of new science, and enough
of the uneasy throb of modern life. Yet somehow the books that were
still books had not been sent to the garret, to make room for the
illustrated papers and the profound physiological studies of sin and
suffering that were produced by touching a scientific button. No, the
boy was conscious in a way of the mighty pulsation of American life, and
he had also a dim notion that his dreams in his various worlds would come
to a brilliant fulfillment when he was big enough to go out and win a
name and fame. But somehow the old books, and the family life, and the
sedate ways of the community he knew, had given him a fundamental and not
unarmed faith in the things that were and had been.
Every Sunday the preacher denounced the glitter and frivolity and
corruption of what he called Society, until the boy longed to see this
splendid panorama of cities and hasting populations, the seekers of
pleasure and money and fame, this gay world which was as fascinating as
it was wicked. The preacher said the world was wicked and vain. It did
not seem so to the boy this summer day, not at least the world he knew.
Of course the boy had no experience. He had never heard of Juvenal nor
of Max Nordau. He had no philosophy of life. He did not even know that
when he became very old the world would seem to him good or bad according
to the degree in which he had become a good or a bad man.
In fact, he was not thinking much about being good or being bad, but of
trying his powers in a world which seemed to offer to him infinite
opportunities. His name--Philip Burnett--with which the world, at least
the American world, is now tolerably familiar, and which he liked to
write with ornamental flourishes on the fly-leaves of his schoolbooks,
did not mean much to him, for he had never seen it in print, nor been
confronted with it as something apart from himself. But the Philip that
he was he felt sure would do something in the world. What that something
should be varied from day to day according to the book, the poem, the
history or biography that he was last reading. It would not be difficult
to write a poem like "Thanatopsis" if he took time enough, building up a
line a day. And yet it would be better to be a soldier, a man who could
use the sword as well as the pen, a poet in uniform. This was a pleasing
imagination. Surely his aunt and his cousins in the farmhouse would have
more respect for him if he wore a uniform, and treat him with more
consideration, and perhaps they would be very anxious about him when he
was away in battles, and very proud of him when he came home between
battles, and went quite modestly with the family into the village church,
and felt rather than saw the slight flutter in the pews as he walked down
the aisle, and knew that the young ladies, the girl comrades of the
district school, were watching him from the organ gallery, curious to see
Phil, who had gone into the army. Perhaps the preacher would have a
sermon against war, and the preacher should see how soldierlike he would
take this attack on him. Alas! is such vanity at the bottom of even a
reasonable ambition? Perhaps his town would be proud of him if he were a
lawyer, a Representative in Congress, come back to deliver the annual
oration at the Agricultural Fair. He could see the audience of familiar
faces, and hear the applause at his witty satires and his praise of the
nobility of the farmer's life, and it would be sweet indeed to have the
country people grasp him by the hand and call him Phil, just as they used
to before he was famous. What he would say, he was not thinking of, but
the position he would occupy before the audience. There were no
misgivings in any of these dreams of youth.
The musings of this dreamer in a tree-top were interrupted by the
peremptory notes of a tin horn from the farmhouse below. The boy
recognized this not only as a signal of declining day and the withdrawal
of the sun behind the mountains, but as a personal and urgent
notification to him that a certain amount of disenchanting drudgery
called chores lay between him and supper and the lamp-illumined pages of
The Last of the Mohicans. It was difficult, even in his own estimation,
to continue to be a hero at the summons of a tin horn--a silver clarion
and castle walls would have been so different--and Phil slid swiftly down
from his perch, envying the squirrels who were under no such bondage of
Recalled to the world that now is, the lad hastily gathered a bouquet of
columbine and a bunch of the tender leaves and the red berries of the
wintergreen, called to "Turk," who had been all these hours watching a
woodchuck hole, and ran down the hill by leaps and circuits as fast as
his little legs could carry him, and, with every appearance of a lad who
puts duty before pleasure, arrived breathless at the kitchen door, where
Alice stood waiting for him. Alice, the somewhat feeble performer on the
horn, who had been watching for the boy with her hand shading her eyes,
called out upon his approach:
"Why, Phil, what in the world--"
"Oh, Alice!" cried the boy, eagerly, having in a moment changed in his
mind the destination of the flowers; "I've found a place where the
checker-berries are thick as spatter." And Phil put the flowers and the
berries in his cousin's hand. Alice looked very much pleased with this
simple tribute, but, as she admired it, unfortunately asked--women always
ask such questions:
"And you picked them for me?"
This was a cruel dilemma. Phil was more devoted to his sweet cousin than
to any one else in the world, and he didn't want to hurt her feelings,
and he hated to tell a lie. So he only looked a lie, out of his
affectionate, truthful eyes, and said:
"I love to bring you flowers. Has uncle come home yet?"
"Yes, long ago. He called and looked all around for you to unharness the
horse, and he wanted you to go an errand over the river to Gibson's.
I guess he was put out."
"Did he say anything?"
"He asked if you had weeded the beets. And he said that you were the
master boy to dream and moon around he ever saw." And she added, with a
confidential and mischievous smile: "I think you'd better brought a
switch along; it would save time."
Phil had a great respect for his uncle Maitland, but he feared him almost
more than he feared the remote God of Abraham and Isaac. Mr. Maitland
was not only the most prosperous man in all that region, but the man of
the finest appearance, and a bearing that was equity itself. He was the
first selectman of the town, and a deacon in the church, and however much
he prized mercy in the next world he did not intend to have that quality
interfere with justice in this world. Phil knew indeed that he was a man
of God, that fact was impressed upon him at least twice a day, but he
sometimes used to think it must be a severe God to have that sort of man.
And he didn't like the curt way he pronounced the holy name--he might as
well have called Job "job."
Alice was as unlike her father, except in certain race qualities of
integrity and common-sense, as if she were of different blood. She was
the youngest of five maiden sisters, and had arrived at the mature age of
eighteen. Slender in figure, with a grace that was half shyness, soft
brown hair, gray eyes that changed color and could as easily be sad as
merry, a face marked with a moving dimple that every one said was lovely,
retiring in manner and yet not lacking spirit nor a sly wit of her own.
Now and then, yes, very often, out of some paradise, no doubt, strays
into New England conditions of reticence and self-denial such a sweet
spirit, to diffuse a breath of heaven in its atmosphere, and to wither
like a rose ungathered. These are the New England nuns, not taking any
vows, not self-consciously virtuous, apparently untouched by the vanities
of the world. Marriage? It is not in any girl's nature not to think of
that, not to be in a flutter of pleasure or apprehension at the
attentions of the other sex. Who has been able truly to read the
thoughts of a shrinking maiden in the passing days of her youth and
beauty? In this harmonious and unselfish household, each with decided
individual character, no one ever intruded upon the inner life of the
other. No confidences were given in the deep matters of the heart, no
sign except a blush over a sly allusion to some one who had been
"attentive." If you had stolen a look into the workbasket or the secret
bureau-drawer, you might have found a treasured note, a bit of ribbon, a
rosebud, some token of tenderness or of friendship that was growing old
with the priestess who cherished it. Did they not love flowers, and
pets, and had they not a passion for children? Were there not moonlight
evenings when they sat silent and musing on the stone steps, watching the
shadows and the dancing gleams on the swift river, when the air was
fragrant with the pink and the lilac? Not melancholy this, nor
poignantly sad, but having in it nevertheless something of the pathos of
life unfulfilled. And was there not sometimes, not yet habitually,
coming upon these faces, faces plain and faces attractive, the shade of
Phil loved Alice devotedly. She was his confidante, his defender, but he
feared more the disapproval of her sweet eyes when he had done wrong than
the threatened punishment of his uncle.
"I only meant to be gone just a little while," Phil went on to say.
"And you were away the whole afternoon. It is a pity the days are so
short. And you don't know what you lost."
"No great, I guess."
"Celia and her mother were here. They stayed all the afternoon."
"Celia Howard? Did she wonder where I was?"
"I don't know. She didn't say anything about it. What a dear little
thing she is!"
"And she can say pretty cutting things."
"Oh, can she? Perhaps you'd better run down to the village before dark
and take her these flowers."
"I'm not going. I'd rather you should have the flowers." And Phil spoke
the truth this time.
Celia, who was altogether too young to occupy seriously the mind of a lad
of twelve, had nevertheless gained an ascendancy over him because of her
willful, perverse, and sometimes scornful ways, and because she was
different from the other girls of the school. She had read many more
books than Phil, for she had access to a library, and she could tell him
much of a world that he only heard of through books and newspapers, which
latter he had no habit of reading. He liked, therefore, to be with
Celia, not withstanding her little airs of superiority, and if she
patronized him, as she certainly did, probably the simple-minded young
gentleman, who was unconsciously bred in the belief that he and his own
kin had no superiors anywhere, never noticed it. To be sure they
quarreled a good deal, but truth to say Phil was never more fascinated
with the little witch, whom he felt himself strong enough to protect,
than when she showed a pretty temper. He rather liked to be ordered
about by the little tyrant. And sometimes he wished that Murad Ault, the
big boy of the school, would be rude to the small damsel, so that he
could show her how a knight would act under such circumstances. Murad
Ault stood to Phil for the satanic element in his peaceful world. He was
not only big and strong of limb and broad of chest, but he was very
swarthy, and had closely curled black hair. He feared nothing, not even
the teacher, and was always doing some dare-devil thing to frighten the
children. And because he was dark, morose, and made no friends, and
wished none, but went solitary his own dark way, Phil fancied that he
must have Spanish blood in his veins, and would no doubt grow up to be a
pirate. No other boy in the winter could skate like Murad Ault, with
such strength and grace and recklessness--thin ice and thick ice were all
one to him, but he skated along, dashing in and out, and sweeping away up
and down the river in a whirl of vigor and daring, like a black marauder.
Yet he was best and most awesome in the swimming pond in summer--though
it was believed that he dared go in in the bitter winter, either by
breaking the ice or through an air-hole, and there was a story that he
had ventured under the ice as fearless as a cold fish. No one could dive
from such a height as he, or stay so long under water; he liked to stay
under long enough to scare the spectators, and then appear at a distance,
thrashing about in the water as if he were rescuing himself from
drowning, sputtering out at the same time the most diabolical noises--
curses, no doubt, for he had been heard to swear. But as he skated alone
he swam alone, appearing and disappearing at the swimming-place silently,
with never a salutation to any one. And he was as skillful a fisher as
he was a swimmer. No one knew much about him. He lived with his mother
in a little cabin up among the hills, that had about it scant patches of
potatoes and corn and beans, a garden fenced in by stumproots, as ill-
cared for as the shanty. Where they came from no one knew. How they
lived was a matter of conjecture, though the mother gathered herbs and
berries and bartered them at the village store, and Murad occasionally
took a hand in some neighbor's hay-field, or got a job of chopping wood
in the winter. The mother was old and small and withered, and they said
evil-eyed. Probably she was no more evil-eyed than any old woman who had
such a hard struggle for existence as she had. An old widow with an only
son who looked like a Spaniard and acted like an imp! Here was another
sort of exotic in the New England life.
Celia had been brought to Rivervale by her mother about a year before
this time, and the two occupied a neat little cottage in the village,
distinguished only by its neatness and a plot of syringas, and pinks, and
marigolds, and roses, and bachelor's-buttons, and boxes of the tough
little exotics, called "hen-and-chickens," in the door-yard, and a
vigorous fragrant honeysuckle over the front porch. She only dimly
remembered her father, who had been a merchant in a small way in the
city, and dying left to his widow and only child a very moderate fortune.
The girl showed early an active and ingenious mind, and an equal love for
books and for having her own way; but she was delicate, and Mrs. Howard
wisely judged that a few years in a country village would improve her
health and broaden her view of life beyond that of cockney provincialism.
For, though Mrs. Howard had more refinement than strength of mind, and
passed generally for a sweet and inoffensive little woman, she did not
lack a certain true perception of values, due doubtless to the fact that
she had been a New England girl, and, before her marriage and emigration
to the great city, had passed her life among unexciting realities, and
among people who had leisure to think out things in a slow way. But the
girl's energy and self-confidence had no doubt been acquired from her
father, who was cut off in mid-career of his struggle for place in the
metropolis, or from some remote ancestor. Before she was eleven years
old her mother had listened with some wonder and more apprehension to the
eager forecast of what this child intended to do when she became a woman,
and already shrank from a vision of Celia on a public platform, or the
leader of some metempsychosis club. Through her affections only was the
child manageable, but in opposition to her spirit her mother was
practically powerless. Indeed, this little sprout of the New Age always
spoke of her to Philip and to the Maitlands as "little mother."
The epithet seemed peculiarly tender to Philip, who had lost his father
before he was six years old, and he was more attracted to the timid and
gentle little widow than to his equable but more robust Aunt Eusebia,
Mrs. Maitland, his father's elder sister, whom Philip fancied not a bit
like his father except in sincerity, a quality common to the Maitlands
and Burnetts. Yet there was a family likeness between his aunt and a
portrait of his father, painted by a Boston artist of some celebrity,
which his mother, who survived her husband only three years, had saved
for her boy. His father was a farmer, but a man of considerable
cultivation, though not college-bred--his last request on his death-bed
was that Phil should be sent to college--a man who made experiments in
improving agriculture and the breed of cattle and horses, read papers now
and then on topics of social and political reform, and was the only
farmer in all the hill towns who had what might be called a library.
It was all scattered at the time of the winding up of the farm estate,
and the only jetsam that Philip inherited out of it was an annotated copy
of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Young's Travels in France, a copy of
The Newcomes, and the first American edition of Childe Harold. Probably
these odd volumes had not been considered worth any considerable bid at
the auction. From his mother, who was fond of books, and had on more
than one occasion, of the failure of teachers, taught in the village
school in her native town before her marriage, Philip inherited his love
of poetry, and he well remembered how she used to try to inspire him with
patriotism by reading the orations of Daniel Webster (she was very fond
of orations), and telling him war stories about Grant and Sherman and
Sheridan and Farragut and Lincoln. He distinctly remembered also
standing at her knees and trying, at intervals, to commit to memory the
Rime of the Ancient Mariner. He had learned it all since, because he
thought it would please his mother, and because there was something in it
that appealed to his coming sense of the mystery of life. When he
repeated it to Celia, who had never heard of it, and remarked that it was
all made up, and that she never tried to learn a long thing like that
that wasn't so, Philip could see that her respect for him increased a
little. He did not know that the child got it out of the library the
next day and never rested till she knew it by heart. Philip could repeat
also the books of the Bible in order, just as glibly as the
multiplication-table, and the little minx, who could not brook that a
country boy should be superior to her in anything, had surprised her
mother by rattling them all off to her one Sunday evening, just as if she
had been born in New England instead of in New York. As to the other
fine things his mother read him, out of Ruskin and the like; Philip
chiefly remembered what a pretty glow there was in his mother's face when
she read them, and that recollection was a valuable part of the boy's
Another valuable part of his education was the gracious influence in his
aunt's household, the spirit of candor, of affection, and the sane
common-sense with which life was regarded, the simplicity of its faith
and the patience with which trials were borne. The lessons he learned in
it had more practical influence in his life than all the books he read.
Nor were his opportunities for the study of character so meagre as the
limit of one family would imply. As often happens in New England
households, individualities were very marked, and from his stern uncle
and his placid aunt down to the sweet and nimble-witted Alice, the family
had developed traits and even eccentricities enough to make it a sort of
microcosm of life. There, for instance, was Patience, the maiden aunt,
his father's sister, the news-monger of the fireside, whose powers of
ratiocination first gave Philip the Greek idea and method of reasoning to
a point and arriving at truth by the process of exclusion. It did not
excite his wonder at the time, but afterwards it appeared to him as one
of the New England eccentricities of which the novelists make so much.
Patience was a home-keeping body and rarely left the premises except to
go to church on Sunday, although her cheerfulness and social helpfulness
were tinged by nothing morbid. The story was--Philip learned it long
afterwards--that in her very young and frisky days Patience had one
evening remained out at some merry-making very late, and in fact had been
escorted home in the moonlight by a young gentleman when the tall, awful-
faced clock, whose face her mother was watching, was on the dreadful
stroke of eleven. For this delinquency her mother had reproved her, the
girl thought unreasonably, and she had quickly replied, "Mother, I will
never go out again." And she never did. It was in fact a renunciation
of the world, made apparently without rage, and adhered to with cheerful
But although for many years Patience rarely left her home, until the
habit of seclusion had become as fixed as that of a nun who had taken the
vows, no one knew so well as she the news and gossip of the neighborhood,
and her power of learning or divining it seemed to increase with her
years. She had a habit of sitting, when her household duties permitted,
at a front window, which commanded a long view of the river road, and
gathering the news by a process peculiar to herself. From this peep-hole
she studied the character and destination of all the passers-by that came
within range of her vision, and made her comments and deductions, partly
to herself, but for the benefit of those who might be listening.
"Why, there goes Thomas Henry," she would say (she always called people
by their first and middle names). "Now, wherever can he be going this
morning in the very midst of getting in his hay? He can't be going to
the Browns' for vegetables, for they set great store by their own raising
this year; and they don't get their provisions up this way either,
because Mary Ellen quarreled with Simmons's people last year. No! "she
would exclaim, rising to a climax of certainty on this point, "I'll be
bound he is not going after anything in the eating line!"
Meantime Thomas Henry's wagon would be disappearing slowly up the sandy
road, giving Patience a chance to get all she could out of it, by
eliminating all the errands Thomas Henry could not possibly be going to
do in order to arrive at the one he must certainly be bound on.
"They do say he's courting Eliza Merritt," she continued, "but Eliza
never was a girl to make any man leave his haying. No, he's never going
to see Eliza, and if it isn't provisions or love it's nothing short of
sickness. Now, whoever is sick down there? It can't be Mary Ellen,
because she takes after her father's family and they are all hearty. It
must be Mary Ellen's little girls, and the measles are going the rounds.
It must be they've all got the measles."
If the listeners suggested that possibly one of the little girls might
have escaped, the suggestion was decisively put aside.
"No; if one of them had been well, Mary Ellen would have sent her for the
Presently Thomas Henry's cart was heard rumbling back, and sure enough he
was returning with the doctor, and Patience hailed him from the gate and
demanded news of Mary Ellen.
"Why, all her little girls have the measles," replied Thomas Henry, "and
I had to leave my haying to fetch the doctor."
"I want to know," said Patience.
Being the eldest born, Patience had appropriated to herself two rooms in
the rambling old farmhouse before her brother's marriage, from which
later comers had never dislodged her, and with that innate respect for
the rights and peculiarities of others which was common in the household,
she was left to express her secluded life in her own way. As the habit
of retirement grew upon her she created a world of her own, almost as
curious and more individually striking than the museum of Cluny. There
was not a square foot in her tiny apartment that did not exhibit her
handiwork. She was very fond of reading, and had a passion for the
little prints and engravings of "foreign views," which she wove into her
realm of natural history. There was no flower or leaf or fruit that she
had seen that she could not imitate exactly in wax or paper. All over
the walls hung the little prints and engravings, framed in wreaths of
moss and artificial flowers, or in elaborate square frames made of
pasteboard. The pasteboard was cut out to fit the picture, and the
margins, daubed with paste, were then strewn with seeds of corn and
acorns and hazelnuts, and then the whole was gilded so that the effect
was almost as rich as it was novel. All about the rooms, in nooks and on
tables, stood baskets and dishes of fruit-apples and plums and peaches
and grapes-set in proper foliage of most natural appearance, like enough
to deceive a bird or the Sunday-school scholars, when on rare occasions
they were admitted into this holy of holies. Out of boxes, apparently
filled with earth in the corners of the rooms, grew what seemed to be
vines trained to run all about the cornices and to festoon the pictures,
but which were really strings, colored in imitation of the real vine, and
spreading out into paper foliage. To complete the naturalistic character
of these everlasting vines, which no scale-bugs could assail, there were
bunches of wonderful grapes depending here and there to excite the
cupidity of both bird and child. There was no cruelty in the nature of
Patience, and she made prisoners of neither birds nor squirrels, but
cunning cages here and there held most lifelike counterfeits of their
willing captives. There was nothing in the room that was alive, except
the dainty owner, but it seemed to be a museum of natural history. The
rugs on the floor were of her own devising and sewing together, and
rivaled in color and ingenuity those of Bokhara.
But Patience was a student of the heavens as well as of the earth, and it
was upon the ceiling that her imagination expanded. There one could see
in their order the constellations of the heavens, represented by paper-
gilt stars, of all magnitudes, most wonderful to behold. This part of
her decorations was the most difficult of all. The constellations were
not made from any geography of the heavens, but from actual nightly
observation of the positions of the heavenly bodies. Patience confessed
that the getting exactly right of the Great Dipper had caused her most
trouble. On the night that was constructed she sat up till three o'clock
in the morning, going out and studying it and coming in and putting up
one star at a time. How could she reach the high ceiling? Oh, she took
a bean-pole, stuck the gilt star on the end of it, having paste on the
reverse side, and fixed it in its place. That was easy, only it was
difficult to remember when she came into the house the correct positions
of the stars in the heavens. What the astronomer and the botanist and
the naturalist would have said of this little kingdom is unknown, but
Patience herself lived among the glories of the heavens and the beauties
of the earth which she had created. Probably she may have had a humorous
conception of this, for she was not lacking in a sense of humor. The
stone step that led to her private door she had skillfully painted with
faint brown spots, so that when visitors made their exit from this part
of the house they would say, "Why, it rains!" but Patience would laugh
and say, "I guess it is over by now."
"I'm not going to follow you about any more through the brush and
brambles, Phil Burnett," and Celia, emerging from the thicket into a
clearing, flung herself down on a knoll under a beech-tree.
Celia was cross. They were out for a Saturday holiday on the hillside,
where Phil said there were oceans of raspberries and blueberries,
beginning to get ripe, and where you could hear the partridges drumming
in the woods, and see the squirrels.
"Why, I'm not a bit tired," said Phil; "a boy wouldn't be." And he threw
himself down on the green moss, with his heels in the air, much more
intent on the chatter of a gray squirrel in the tree above him than on
the complaints of his comrade.
"Why don't you go with a boy, then?" asked Celia, in a tone intended to
be severe and dignified.
"A boy isn't so nice," said Philip, with the air of stating a general
proposition, but not looking at her.
"Oh," said Celia, only half appeased, "I quite agree with you." And she
pulled down some beech leaves from a low, hanging limb and began to plait
"Who are you making that for?" asked Philip, who began to be aware that a
cloud had come over his holiday sky.
"Nobody in particular; it's just a wreath." And then there was silence,
till Philip made another attempt.
"Celia, I don't mind staying here if you are tired. Tell me something
about New York City. I wish we were there."
"Much you know about it," said Celia, but with some relaxation of her
severity, for as she looked at the boy in his country clothes and glanced
at her own old frock and abraded shoes, she thought what a funny
appearance the pair would make on a fashionable city street.
"Would you rather be there?" asked Philip. "I thought you liked living
"Would I rather? What a question! Everybody would. The country is
a good place to go to when you are tired, as mamma is. But the city! The
big fine houses, and the people all going about in a hurry; the streets
all lighted up at night, so that you can see miles and miles of lights;
and the horses and carriages, and the lovely dresses, and the churches
full of nice people, and such beautiful music! And once mamma took me to
the theatre. Oh, Phil, you ought to see a play, and the actors, all be-
a-u-ti-fully dressed, and talking just like a party in a house, and
dancing, and being funny, and some of it so sad as to make you cry, and
some of it so droll that you had to laugh--just such a world as you read
of in books and in poetry. I was so excited that I saw the stage all
night and could hardly sleep." The girl paused and looked away to the
river as if she saw it all again, and then added in a burst of
"Do you know, I mean to be an actress some day, when mamma will let me."
"Play-actors are wicked," said Phil, in a tone of decision; "our minister
says so, and my uncle says so."
"Fudge!" returned Celia. "Much they know about it. Did Alice say so?"
"I never asked her, but she said once that she supposed it was wrong, but
she would like to see a play."
"There, everybody would. Mamma says the people from the country go to
the theatre always, a good deal more than the people in the city go. I
should like to see your aunt Patience in a theatre and hear what she said
about it. She's an actress if ever there was one."
Philip opened his eyes in protest.
"Mamma says it is as good as a play to hear her go on about people, and
what they are like, and what they are going to do, and then her little
rooms are just like a scene on a stage. If they were in New York
everybody would go to see them and to hear her talk."
This was such a new view of his home life to Philip that he could neither
combat it nor assent to it, further than to say, that his aunt was just
like everybody else, though she did have some peculiar ways.
"Well, she acts," Celia insisted, "and most people act. Our minister
acts all the time, mamma says." Celia had plenty of opinions of her own,
but when she ventured a startling statement she had the habit of going
under the shelter of "little mother," whose casual and unconsidered
remarks the girl turned to her own uses. Perhaps she would not have
understood that her mother merely meant that the minister's sacerdotal
character was not exactly his own character. Just as Philip noticed
without being able to explain it that his uncle was one sort of a man in
his religious exercises and observances and another sort of man in his
dealings with him. Children often have recondite thoughts that do not
get expression until their minds are more mature; they even accept
contradictory facts in their experience. There was one of the deacons
who was as kind as possible, and Philip believed was a good and pious
man, who had the reputation of being sharp and even tricky in a horse-
trade. And Philip used to think how lucky it was for him that he had
been converted and was saved!
"Are you going to stay here always?" asked Philip, pursuing his own train
of thought about the city.
"Here? I should think not. If I were a boy I wouldn't stay here,
I can tell you. What are you going to do, Phil, what are you going to
"Oh, I don't know," said Philip, turning over on his back and looking up
into the blue world through the leaves; "go to college, I suppose."
Children are even more reticent than adults about revealing their inner
lives, and Philip would not, even to Celia, have confessed the splendid
dreams about his career that came to him that day in the hickory-tree,
and that occupied him a great deal.
"Of course," said this wise child, "but that's nothing. I mean, what are
you going to do? My cousin Jim has been all through college, and he
doesn't do a thing except wear nice clothes and hang around and talk.
He says I'm a little chatter-box. I hate the sight of him."
"If he doesn't like you, then I don't like him," said Philip, as if he
were making a general and not a personal assertion. "Oh, I should like
"So should I, and see things and find things. Jim says he's going to be
an explorer. He never will. He wouldn't find anything. He twits me,
and wants to know what is the good of my reading about Africa and such
things. Phil, don't you love to read about Africa, and the desert, and
the lions and the snakes, and bananas growing, and palm-trees, and the
queerest black men and women, real dwarfs some of them? I just love it."
"So do I," said Philip, "as far as I have read. Alice says it's awful
dangerous--fevers and wild beasts and savages and all that. But I
"Of course you wouldn't. But it costs like everything to go to Africa,
"I'd make a book about it, and give lectures, and make lots of money."
"I guess," said Celia, reflecting upon this proposition, "I'd be an
engineer or a railroad man, or something like that, and make a heap of
money, and then I could go anywhere I liked. I just hate to be poor.
"Is Jim poor?"
"No; he can do what he pleases. I asked him, then, why he didn't go to
Africa, and he wanted to know what was the good of finding Livingstone,
anyway. I'll bet Murad Ault would go to Africa."
"I wish he would," said Philip; and then, having moved so that he could
see Celia's face, "Do you like Murad Ault?"
"No," replied Celia, promptly; "he's horrid, but he isn't afraid of
"Well, I don't care," said Philip, who was nettled by this implication.
And Celia, who had shown her power of irritating, took another tack.
"You don't think I'd be seen going around with him? Aren't we having a
good time up here?"
"Bully!" replied Philip. And not seeing the way to expand this topic
any further, he suddenly said:
"Celia, the next time I go on our hill I'll get you lots of sassafras."
"Oh, I love sassafras, and sweet-flag!"
"We can get that on the way home. I know a place." And then there was a
pause. "Celia, you didn't tell me what you are going to do when you grow
"Go to college."
"You? Why, girls do, don't they? I never thought of that."
"Of course they do. I don't know whether I'll write or be a doctor. I
know one thing--I won't teach school. It's the hatefulest thing there
is! It's nice to be a doctor and have your own horse, and go round like
a man. If it wasn't for seeing so many sick people!
I guess I'll write stories and things."
"So would I," Philip confessed, "if I knew any."
"Why, you make 'em up. Mamma says they are all made up. I can make 'em
in my head any time when I'm alone."
"I don't know," Philip said, reflectively, "but I could make up a story
about Murad Ault, and how he got to be a pirate and got in jail and was
"Oh, that wouldn't be a real story. You have got to have different
people in it, and have 'em talk, just as they do in books; and somebody
is in love and somebody dies, and the like of that."
"Well, there are such stories in The Pirate's Own Book, and it's awful
"I'd be ashamed, Philip Burnett, to read such a cruel thing, all about
robbers and murders."
"I didn't read it through; Alice said she was going to burn it up. I
shouldn't wonder if she did."
"Boys make me tired!" exclaimed this little piece of presumption; and
this attitude of superiority exasperated Philip more than anything else
his mentor had said or done, and he asserted his years of seniority by
jumping up and saying, decidedly, "It's time to go home. Shall I carry
"No, I thank you!" replied Celia, with frigid politeness.
"Down in the meadow," said Philip, making one more effort at
conciliation, "we can get some tigerlilies, and weave them in and make a
beautiful wreath for your mother."
"She doesn't like things fussed up," was the gracious reply. And then
the children trudged along homeward, each with a distinct sense of
Traits that make a child disagreeable are apt to be perpetuated in the
adult. The bumptious, impudent, selfish, "hateful" boy may become a man
of force, of learning, of decided capacity, even of polish and good
manners, and score success, so that those who know him say how remarkable
it is that such a "knurly" lad should have turned out so well. But some
exigency in his career, it may be extraordinary prosperity or bitter
defeat, may at any moment reveal the radical traits of the boy, the
original ignoble nature. The world says that it is a "throwing back"; it
is probably only a persistence of the original meanness under all the
overlaid cultivation and restraint.
Without bothering itself about the recondite problems of heredity or the
influence of environment, the world wisely makes great account of
"stock." The peasant nature, which may be a very different thing from
the peasant condition, persists, and shows itself in business affairs, in
literature, even in the artist. No marriage is wisely contracted without
consideration of "stock." The admirable qualities which make a union one
of mutual respect and enduring affection--the generosities, the
magnanimities, the courage of soul, the crystalline truthfulness, the
endurance of ill fortune and of prosperity--are commonly the persistence
of the character of the stock.
We can get on with surface weaknesses and eccentricities, and even
disagreeable peculiarities, if the substratum of character is sound.
There is no woman or man so difficult--to get on with, whatever his or
her graces or accomplishments, as the one "you don't know where to find,"
as the phrase is. Indeed, it has come to pass that the highest and final
eulogy ever given to a man, either in public or private life, is that he
is one "you can tie to." And when you find a woman of that sort you do
not need to explain to the cynical the wisdom of the Creator in making
the most attractive and fascinating sex.
The traits, good and bad, persist; they may be veneered or restrained,
they are seldom eradicated. All the traits that made the great Napoleon
worshiped, hated, and feared existed in the little Bonaparte, as
perfectly as the pea-pod in the flower. The whole of the First Empire
was smirched with Corsican vulgarity. The world always reckons with
these radical influences that go to make up a family. One of the first
questions asked by an old politician, who knew his world thoroughly,
about any man becoming prominent, when there was a discussion of his
probable action, was, "Whom did he marry?"
There are exceptions to this general rule, and they are always noticeable
when they occur--this deviation from the traits of the earliest years--
and offer material fox some of the subtlest and most interesting studies
of the novelist.
It was impossible for those who met Philip Burnett after he had left
college, and taken his degree in the law-school, and spent a year, more
or less studiously, in Europe, to really know him if they had not known
the dreaming boy in his early home, with all the limitations as well as
the vitalizing influences of his start in life. And on the contrary, the
error of the neighbors of a lad in forecasting his career comes from the
fact that they do not know him. The verdict about Philip would probably
have been that he was a very nice sort of a boy, but that he would never
"set the North River on fire." There was a headstrong, selfish, pushing
sort of boy, one of Philip's older schoolmates, who had become one of the
foremost merchants and operators in New York, and was already talked of
for mayor. This success was the sort that fulfilled the rural idea of
getting on in the world, whereas Philip's accomplishments, seen through
the veneer of conceit which they had occasioned him to take on, did not
commend themselves as anything worth while. Accomplishments rarely do
unless they are translated into visible position or into the currency of
the realm. How else can they be judged? Does not the great public
involuntarily respect the author rather for the sale of his books than
for the books themselves?
The period of Philip's novitiate--those most important years from his
acquaintance with Celia Howard to the attainment of his professional
degree--was most interesting to him, but the story of it would not detain
the reader of exciting fiction. He had elected to use his little
patrimony in making himself instead of in making money--if merely
following his inclination could be called an election. If he had
reasoned about it he would have known that the few thousands of dollars
left to him from his father's estate, if judiciously invested in
business, would have grown to a good sum when he came of age, and he
would by that time have come into business habits, so that all he would
need to do would be to go on and make more money. If he had reasoned
more deeply he would have seen that by this process he would become a man
of comparatively few resources for the enjoyment of life, and a person of
very little interest to himself or to anybody else. So perhaps it was
just as well that he followed his instincts and postponed the making of
money until he had made himself, though he was to have a good many bitter
days when the possession of money seemed to him about the one thing
It was Celia, who had been his constant counselor and tormentor, about
the time when she was beginning to feel a little shy and long-legged, in
her short skirts, who had, in a romantic sympathy with his tastes,
opposed his going into a "store" as a clerk, which seemed to the boy at
one time an ideal situation for a young man.
"A store, indeed!" cried the young lady; "pomatum on your hair, and a
grin on your face; snip, snip, snip, calico, ribbons, yard-stick; 'It's
very becoming, miss, that color; this is only a sample, only a remnant,
but I shall have a new stock in by Friday; anything else, ma'am, today?'
Sho! Philip, for a man!"
Fortunately for Philip there lived in the village an old waif, a
scholarly oddity, uncommunicative, whose coming to dwell there had
excited much gossip before the inhabitants got used to his odd ways.
Usually reticent and rough of speech--the children thought he was an old
bear--he was nevertheless discovered to be kindly and even charitable in
neighborhood emergencies, and the minister said he was about the most
learned man he ever knew. His history does not concern us, but he was
doubtless one of the men whose talents have failed to connect with
success in anything, who had had his bout with the world, and retired
into peaceful seclusion in an indulgence of a mild pessimism about the
He lived alone, except for the rather neutral presence of Aunt Hepsy, who
had formerly been a village tailoress, and whose cottage he had bought
with the proviso that the old woman should continue in it as "help."
With Aunt Hepsy he was no more communicative than with anybody else. "He
was always readin', when he wasn't goin' fishin' or off in the woods with
his gun, and never made no trouble, and was about the easiest man to get
along with she ever see. You mind your business and he'll mind his'n."
That was the sum of Aunt Hepsy's delivery about the recluse, though no
doubt her old age was enriched by constant "study" over his probable
history and character. But Aunt Hepsy, since she had given up tailoring,
was something of a recluse herself.
The house was full of books, mostly queer books, "in languages nobody
knows what," as Aunt Hepsy said, which made Philip open his eyes when he
went there one day to take to the old man a memorandum-book which he had
found on Mill Brook. The recluse took a fancy to the ingenuous lad when
he saw he was interested in books, and perhaps had a mind not much more
practical than his own; the result was an acquaintance, and finally an
intimacy--at which the village wondered until it transpired that Philip
was studying with the old fellow, who was no doubt a poor shack of a
school-teacher in disguise.
It was from this gruff friend that Philip learned Greek and Latin enough
to enable him to enter college, not enough drill and exact training in
either to give him a high stand, but an appreciation of the literatures
about which the old scholar was always enthusiastic. Philip regretted
all his life that he had not been severely drilled in the classics and
mathematics, for he never could become a specialist in anything. But
perhaps, even in this, fate was dealing with him according to his
capacities. And, indeed, he had a greater respect for the scholarship of
his wayside tutor than for the pedantic acquirements of many men he came
to know afterwards. It was from him that Philip learned about books and
how to look for what he wanted to know, and it was he who directed
Philip's taste to the best. When he went off to college the lad had not
a good preparation, but he knew a great deal that would not count in the
"You will need all the tools you can get the use of, my boy, in the
struggle," was the advice of his mentor, "and the things you will need
most may be those you have thought least of. I never go fishing without
both fly and bait."
Philip was always grateful that before he entered college he had a fine
reading knowledge of French, and that he knew enough German to read and
enjoy Heine's poems and prose, and that he had read, or read in, pretty
much all the English classics.
He used to recall the remark of a lad about his own age, who was on a
vacation visit to Rivervale, and had just been prepared for college at
one of the famous schools. The boys liked each other and were much
together in the summer, and talked about what interested them during
their rambles, carrying the rod or the fowling-piece. Philip naturally
had most to say about the world he knew, which was the world of books--
that is to say, the stored information that had accumulated in the world.
This more and more impressed the trained student, who one day exclaimed:
"By George! I might have known something if I hadn't been kept at school
all my life."
Philip's career in college could not have been called notable. He was
not one of the dozen stars in the class-room, but he had a reputation of
another sort. His classmates had a habit of resorting to him if they
wanted to "know anything" outside the text-books, for the range of his
information seemed to them encyclopaedic. On the other hand, he escaped
the reputation of what is called "a good fellow." He was not so much
unpopular as he was unknown in the college generally, but those who did
know him were tolerant of the fact that he cared more for reading than
for college sports or college politics. It must be confessed that he
added little to the reputation of the university, since his name was
never once mentioned in the public prints--search has been made since the
public came to know him as a writer--as a hero in any crew or team on any
game field. Perhaps it was a little selfish that his muscle developed in
the gymnasium was not put into advertising use for the university. The
excuse was that he had not time to become an athlete, any more than he
had time to spend three years in the discipline of the regular army,
which was in itself an excellent thing.
Celia, in one of her letters--it was during her first year at a woman's
college, when the development of muscle in gymnastics, running, and the
vigorous game of ball was largely engaging the attention of this
enthusiastic young lady--took him to task for his inactivity. "This is
the age of muscle," she wrote; "the brain is useless in a flabby body,
and probably the brain itself is nothing but concentrated intelligent
muscle. I don't know how men are coming out, but women will never get
the position they have the right to occupy until they are physically the
equals of men."
Philip had replied, banteringly, that if that were so he had no desire to
enter in a physical competition with women, and that men had better look
out for another field.
But later on, when Celia had got into the swing of the classics, and was
training for a part in the play of "Antigone," she wrote in a different
strain, though she would have denied that the change had any relation to
the fact that she had strained her back in a rowing-match. She did not
apologize for her former advice, but she was all aglow about the Greek
drama, and made reference to Aspasia as an intellectual type of what
women might become. "I didn't ever tell you how envious I used to be
when you were studying Greek with that old codger in Rivervale, and could
talk about Athens and all that. Next time we meet, I can tell you, it
will be Greek meets Greek. I do hope you have not dropped the classics
and gone in for the modern notion of being real and practical. If I ever
hear of your writing 'real' poetry--it is supposed to be real if it is in
dialect or misspelled! never will write you again, much less speak to
Whatever this decided young woman was doing at the time she was sure was
the best for everybody to do, and especially for Master Phil.
Now that the days of preparation were over, and Philip found himself in
New York, face to face with the fact that he had nowhere to look for
money to meet the expense of rent, board, and clothes except to his own
daily labor, and that there was another economy besides that which he had
practiced as to luxuries, there were doubtless hours when his faith
wavered a little in the wisdom of the decision that had invested all his
patrimony in himself. He had been fortunate, to be sure, in securing a
clerk's desk in the great law-office of Hunt, Sharp & Tweedle, and he had
the kindly encouragement of the firm that, with close application to
business, he would make his way. But even in this he had his misgivings,
for a great part of his acquirements, and those he most valued, did not
seem to be of any use in his office-work. He had a lofty conception of
his chosen profession, as the right arm in the administration of justice
between man and man. In practice, however, it seemed to him that the
object was to win a case rather than to do justice in a case.
Unfortunately, also, he had cultivated his imagination to the extent that
he could see both sides of a case. To see both sides is indeed the
requisite of a great lawyer, but to see the opposite side only in order
to win, as in looking over an opponent's hand in a game of cards. It
seemed to Philip that this clear perception would paralyze his efforts
for one side if he knew it was the wrong side. The argument was that
every cause a man's claim or his defense--ought to be presented in its
fullness and urged with all the advocate's ingenuity, and that the
decision was in the bosom of an immaculate justice on the bench and the
unbiased intelligence in the jury-box. This might be so. But Philip
wondered what would be the effect on his own character and on his
intellect if he indulged much in the habit of making the worse appear the
better cause, and taking up indifferently any side that paid. For
himself, he was inclined always to advise clients to "settle," and he
fancied that if the occupation of the lawyer was to explain the case to
people ignorant of it, and to champion only the right side, as it
appeared to an unprejudiced, legally trained mind, and to compose instead
of encouraging differences, the law would indeed be a noble profession,
and the natural misunderstandings, ignorance, and different points of
view would make business enough.
"Stuff!" said Mr. Sharp. "If you begin by declining causes you
disapprove of, the public will end by letting you alone in your self-
conceited squeamishness. It's human nature you've got to deal with,
not theories about law and justice. I tell you that men like litigation.
They want to have it out with somebody. And it is better than
From Mr. Hunt, who moved in the serener upper currents of the law, Philip
got more satisfaction.
"Of course, Mr. Burnett, there are miserable squabbles in the law
practice, and contemptible pettifoggers and knaves, and men who will sell
themselves for any dirty work, as there are in most professions and
occupations, but the profession could not exist for a day if it was not
on the whole on the side of law and order and justice.
"No doubt it needs from time to time criticism and reformation.
So does the church. You look at the characters of the really great
lawyers! And there is another thing. In dealing with the cases of our
complex life, there is no accomplishment, no learning in science, art, or
literature, that the successful practitioner will not find it very
advantageous to possess. And a lawyer will never be eminent who has not
Philip thought he had a very good chance of exercising his imagination in
the sky chamber where he slept--a capital situation from which to observe
the world. There could not have been an uglier view created--a shapeless
mass of brick and stone and painted wood, a collected, towering
monstrosity of rectangular and inharmonious lines, a realized dream of
hideousness--but for the splendid sky, always changing and doing all that
was possible in the gleams and shadows and the glowing colors of morning
and evening to soften the ambitious work of man; but for the wide
horizon, with patches of green shores and verdant flats washed by the
kindly tide; but for the Highlands and Staten Island, the gateway to the
ocean; but for the great river and the mighty bay shimmering and
twinkling and often iridescent, and the animated life of sails and
steamers, the leviathans of commerce and the playthings of pleasure, and
the beetle-like, monstrous ferry-boats that pushed their noses through
all the confusion, like intelligent, business-like saurians that knew how
to keep an appointed line by a clumsy courtesy of apparent yielding.
Yes, there was life enough in all this, and inspiration, if one only knew
what to be inspired about.
When Philip came home from the office at sunset, through the bustling
streets, and climbed up to his perch, he insensibly brought with him
something of the restless energy and strife of the city, and in this mood
the prospect before him took on a certain significance of great things
accomplished, of the highest form of human energy and achievement; he was
a part of this exuberant, abundant life, to succeed in the struggle
seemed easy, and for the moment he possessed what he saw.
The little room had space enough for a cot bed, a toilet-stand,
a couple of easy-chairs--an easy-chair is the one article of furniture
absolutely necessary to a reflecting student--some well-filled
book-shelves, a small writing-desk, and a tiny closet quite large enough
for a wardrobe which seemed to have no disposition to grow. Except for
the books and the writing-desk, with its heterogeneous manuscripts,
unfinished or rejected, there was not much in the room to indicate the
taste of its occupant, unless you knew that his taste was exhibited
rather by what he excluded from the room than by what it contained. It
must be confessed that, when Philip was alone with his books and his
manuscripts, his imagination did not expand in the directions that would
have seemed profitable to the head of his firm. That life of the town
which was roaring in his ears, that panorama of prosperity spread before
him, related themselves in his mind not so much as incitements to engage
in the quarrels of his profession as something demanding study and
interpretation, something much more human than processes and briefs and
arguments. And it was a dark omen for his success that the world
interested him much more for itself than for what he could make out of
it. Make something to be sure he must--so long as he was only a law
clerk on a meagre salary--and it was this necessity that had much to do
with the production of the manuscripts. It was a joke on Philip in his
club--by-the-way, the half-yearly dues were not far off--that he was
doing splendidly in the law; he already had an extensive practice in
The law is said to be a jealous mistress, but literature is a young lady
who likes to be loved for herself alone, and thinks permission to adore
is sufficient reward for her votary. Common-sense told Philip that the
jealous mistress would flout him and land him in failure if he gave her a
half-hearted service; but the other young lady, the Helen of the
professions, was always beckoning him and alluring him by the most subtle
arts, occupying all his hours with meditations on her grace and beauty,
till it seemed the world were well lost for her smile. And the
fascinating jade never hinted that devotion to her brought more drudgery
and harassment and pain than any other service in the world. It would
not have mattered if she had been frank, and told him that her promise of
eternal life was illusory and her rewards commonly but a flattering of
vanity. There was no resisting her enchantments, and he would rather
follow her through a world of sin and suffering, pursuing her radiant
form over bog and moor, in penury and heartache, for one sunrise smile
and one glimpse of her sunset heaven, than to walk at ease with a
commonplace maiden on any illumined and well-trod highway.
It is the desire of every ambitious soul to, enter Literature by the
front door, and the few who have patience and money enough to live
without the aid of the beckoning Helen may enter there. But a side
entrance is the destiny of most aspirants, even those with the golden key
of genius, and they are a long time in working their way to be seen
coming out, of the front entrance. It is true that a man can attract
considerable and immediate attention by trying to effect an entrance
through the sewer, but he seldom gains the respect of the public whom he
interests, any more than an exhibitor of fireworks gains the reputation
of an artist that is accorded to the painter of a good picture.
Philip was waiting at the front door, with his essays and his prose
symphonies and his satirical novel--the satire of a young man is apt to
be very bitter--but it was as tightly shut against him as if a publisher
and not the muse of literature kept the door.
There was a fellow-boarder with Philip, whose acquaintance he had made at
the common table in the basement, who appeared to be free of the world of
letters and art. He was an alert, compact, neatly dressed little fellow,
who had apparently improved every one of his twenty-eight years in the
study of life, in gaining assurance and confidence in himself, and also
presented himself as one who knew the nether world completely but was not
of it. He would have said of himself that he knew it profoundly, that he
frequented it for "material," but that his home was in another sphere.
The impression was that he belonged among those brilliant guerrillas of
both sexes, in the border-land of art and society, who lived daintily and
talked about life with unconventional freedom. Slight in figure, with
very black hair, and eyes of cloudy gray, an olive complexion, and
features trained to an immobility proof against emotion or surprise, the
whole poised as we would say in the act of being gentlemanly, it is
needless to say that he took himself seriously. His readiness, self-
confidence, cocksureness, Philip thought all expressed in his name--Olin
Mr. Brad was not a Bohemian--that is, not at all a Bohemian of the
recognized type. His fashionable dress, closely trimmed hair, and dainty
boots took him out of that class. He belonged to the new order, which
seems to have come in with modern journalism--that is, Bohemian in
principle, but of the manners and apparel of the favored of fortune. Mr.
Brad was undoubtedly clever, and was down as a bright young man in the
list of those who employed talent which was not dulled by conscientious
scruples. He had stood well in college, during three years in Europe he
had picked up two or three languages, dissipated his remaining small
fortune, acquired expensive tastes, and knowledge, both esoteric and
exoteric, that was valuable to him in his present occupation. Returning
home fully equipped for a modern literary career, and finding after some
bitter experience that his accomplishments were not taken or paid for at
their real value by the caterers for intellectual New York, he had
dropped into congenial society on the staff of the Daily Spectrum, a
mighty engine of public opinion, which scattered about the city and
adjacent territory a million of copies, as prodigally as if they had been
auctioneers' announcements. Fastidious people who did not read it gave
it a bad name, not recognizing the classic and heroic attitude of those
engaged in pitchforking up and turning over the muck of the Augean
stables under the pretense of cleaning them.
Mr. Brad had a Socratic contempt for this sort of fault-finding. It was
answer enough to say, "It pays. The people like it or they wouldn't buy
it. It commands the best talent in the market and can afford to pay for
it; even clergymen like to appear in its columns--they say it's a
providential chance to reach the masses. And look at the "Morning GooGoo"
(this was his nickname for one of the older dailies), "it couldn't pay
its paper bills if it hadn't such a small circulation."
Mr. Brad, however, was not one of the editors, though the acceptance of
an occasional short editorial, sufficiently piquant and impudent and
vivid in language--to suit, had given him hopes. He was salaried, but
under orders for special service, and was always in the hope that the
execution of each new assignment would bring him into popular notice,
which would mean an advance of position and pay.
Philip was impressed with the ready talent, the adaptable talent, and the
facility of this accomplished journalist, and as their acquaintance
improved he was let into many of the secrets of success in the
"It isn't an easy thing," said Mr. Brad, "to cater to a public that gets
tired of anything in about three days. But it is just as well satisfied
with a contradiction as with the original statement. It calls both news.
You have to watch out and see what the people want, and give it to 'em.
It is something like the purveying of the manufacturers and the dry-goods
jobber for the changing trade in fashions; only the newspaper has the
advantage that it can turn a somersault every day and not have any
useless stock left on hand.
"The public hasn't any memory, or, if it has, this whirligig process
destroys it. What it will not submit to is the lack of a daily surprise.
Keep that in your mind and you can make a popular newspaper. Only,"
continued Mr. Brad, reflectively, "you've got to hit a lot of different
"You'd laugh," this artist in emotions went on, after a little pause, "at
some of my assignments. There was a run awhile ago on elopements, and my
assignment was to have one every Monday morning. The girl must always be
lovely and refined and moving in the best society; elopement with the
coachman preferred, varied with a teacher in a Sunday-school. Invented?
Not always. It was surprising how many you could find ready made, if you
were on the watch. I got into the habit of locating them in the interior
of Pennsylvania as the safest place, though Jersey seemed equally
probable to the public. Did I never get caught? That made it all the
more lively and interesting. Denials, affidavits, elaborate
explanations, two sides to any question; if it was too hot, I could
change the name and shift the scene to a still more obscure town. Or it
could be laid to the zeal of a local reporter, who could give the most
ingenious reasons for his story. Once I worked one of those imaginary
reporters up into such prominence for his clever astuteness that my boss
was taken in, and asked me to send for him and give him a show on the
"Oh, yes, we have to keep up the domestic side. A paper will not go
unless the women like it. One of the assignments I liked was 'Sayings of
Our Little Ones.' This was for every Tuesday morning. Not more than
half a column. These always got copied by the country press solid. It
is really surprising how many bright things you can make children of five
and six years say if you give your mind to it. The boss said that I
overdid it sometimes and made them too bright instead of 'just cunning.'
"'Psychological Study of Children' had a great run. This is the age of
science. Same with animals, astronomy--anything. If the public wants
science, the papers will give it science.
"After all, the best hold for a lasting sensation is an attack upon some
charity or public institution; show up the abuses, and get all the
sentimentalists on your side. The paper gets sympathy for its
fearlessness in serving the public interests. It is always easy to find
plenty of testimony from ill-used convicts and grumbling pensioners."
Undoubtedly Olin Brad was a clever fellow, uncommonly well read in the
surface literatures of foreign origin, and had a keen interest in what he
called the metaphysics of his own time. He had many good qualities,
among them friendliness towards men and women struggling like himself to
get up the ladder, and he laid aside all jealousy when he advised Philip
to try his hand at some practical work on the Spectrum. What puzzled
Philip was that this fabricator of "stories" for the newspaper should
call himself a "realist." The "story," it need hardly be explained, is
newspaper slang for any incident, true or invented, that is worked up for
dramatic effect. To state the plain facts as they occurred, or might
have occurred, and as they could actually be seen by a competent
observer, would not make a story. The writer must put in color, and
idealize the scene and the people engaged in it, he must invent dramatic
circumstances and positions and language, so as to produce a "picture."
And this picture, embroidered on a commonplace incident, has got the name
of "news." The thread of fact in this glittering web the reader must
pick out by his own wits, assisted by his memory of what things usually
are. And the public likes these stories much better than the unadorned
report of facts. It is accustomed to this view of life, so much so that
it fancies it never knew what war was, or what a battle was, until the
novelists began to report them.
Mr. Brad was in the story stage of his evolution as a writer. His light
facility in it had its attraction for Philip, but down deep in his nature
he felt and the impression was deepened by watching the career of several
bright young men and women on the press--that indulgence in it would
result in such intellectual dishonesty as to destroy the power of
producing fiction that should be true to life. He was so impressed by
the ability and manifold accomplishments of Mr. Brad that he thought it a
pity for him to travel that road, and one day he asked him why he did not
go in for literature.
"Literature!" exclaimed Mr. Brad, with some irritation; "I starved on
literature for a year. Who does live on it, till he gets beyond the
necessity of depending on it? There is a lot of humbug talked about it.
You can't do anything till you get your name up. Some day I will make a
hit, and everybody will ask, 'Who is this daring, clever Olin Brad?'
Then I can get readers for anything I choose to write. Look at Champ
Lawson. He can't write correct English, he never will, he uses
picturesque words in a connection that makes you doubt if he knows what
they mean. But he did a dare-devil thing picturesquely, and now the
publishers are at his feet. When I met him the other day he affected to
be bored with so much attention, and wished he had stuck to the livery-
stable. He began at seventeen by reporting a runaway from the point of
view of the hostler."
"Well," said Philip, "isn't it quite in the line of the new movement that
we should have an introspective hostler, who perhaps obeys Sir Philip
Sidney's advice, 'Look into your heart and write'? I chanced the other
night in a company of the unconventional and illuminated, the 'poster'
set in literature and art, wild-eyed and anaemic young women and
intensely languid, 'nil admirari' young men, the most advanced products
of the studios and of journalism. It was a very interesting conclave.
Its declared motto was, 'We don't read, we write.' And the members were
on a constant strain to say something brilliant, epigrammatic, original.
The person who produced the most outre sentiment was called 'strong.'
The women especially liked no writing that was not 'strong.' The
strongest man in the company, and adored by the women, was the poet-
artist Courci Cleves, who always seems to have walked straight out of a
fashion-plate, much deferred to in this set, which affects to defer to
nothing, and a thing of beauty in the theatre lobbies. Mr. Cleves gained
much applause for his well-considered wish that all that has been written
in the world, all books and libraries, could be destroyed, so as to give
a chance to the new men and the fresh ideas of the new era."
"My dear sir," said Brad, who did not like this caricature of his
friends, "you don't make any allowance for the eccentricities of genius."
"You would hit it nearer if you said I didn't make allowance for the
eccentricities without genius," retorted Philip.
"Well," replied Mr. Brad, taking his leave, "you don't understand your
world. You go your own way and see where you will come out."
And when Philip reflected on it, he wondered if it were not rash to
offend those who had the public ear, and did up the personals and minor
criticisms for the current prints. He was evidently out of view. No
magazine paper of his had gained the slightest notice from these
sublimated beings, who discovered a new genius every month.
A few nights after this conversation Mr. Brad was in uncommon spirits at
"Anything special turned up?" asked Philip.
"Oh, nothing much. I've thrown away the chance of the biggest kind of a
novel of American life. Only it wouldn't keep. You look in the Spectrum
tomorrow morning. You'll see something interesting."
"Is it a--" and Philip's incredulous expression supplied the word.
"No, not a bit. And the public is going to be deceived this time, sure,
expecting a fake. You know Mavick?"
"I've heard of him--the operator, a millionaire."
"A good many times. Used to be minister or consul or something at Rome.
A great swell. It's about his daughter, Evelyn, a stunning girl about
sixteen or seventeen--not out yet."
"I hope it's no scandal."
"No, no; she's all right. It's the way she's brought up--shows what
we've come to. They say she's the biggest heiress in America and a
raving beauty, the only child. She has been brought up like the
Kohinoor, never out of somebody's sight. She has never been alone one
minute since she was born. Had three nurses, and it was the business of
one of them, in turn, to keep an eye on her. Just think of that. Never
was out of the sight of somebody in her life. Has two maids now--always
one in the room, night and day."
"Why, the parents are afraid she'll be kidnapped, and held for a big
ransom. No, I never saw her, but I've got the thing down to a dot.
Wouldn't I like to interview her, though, get her story, how the world
looks to her. Under surveillance for sixteen years! The 'Prisoner of
Chillon' is nothing to it for romance."
"Just the facts are enough, I should say."
"Yes, facts make a good basis, sometimes. I've got 'em all in, but of
course I've worked the thing up for all it is worth. You'll see.
I kept it one day to try and get a photograph. We've got the house and
Mavick, but the girl's can't be found, and it isn't safe to wait. We are
going to blow it out tomorrow morning."
The Mavick mansion was on Fifth Avenue in the neighborhood of Central
Park. It was one of the buildings in the city that strangers were always
taken to see. In fact, this was a palace not one kind of a palace, but
all kinds of a palace. The clever and ambitious architect of the house
had grouped all the styles of architecture he had ever seen, or of which
he had seen pictures. Here was not an architectural conception, like a
sonnet or a well-constructed novel, but if all the work could have been
spread out in line, in all its variety, there would have been produced a
panorama. The sight of the mansion always caused wonder and generally
ignorant admiration. Its vastness and splendor were felt to be somehow
typical of the New World and of the cosmopolitan city.
The cost, in the eyes of the spectators, was a great part of its merits.
No doubt this was a fabulous sum. "You can form a little idea of it,"
said a gentleman to his country friend, "when I tell you that that little
bit there, that little corner of carving and decoration, cost two hundred
thousand dollars! I had this from the architect himself."
The interior was as fully representative of wealth and of the ambition to
put under one roof all the notable effects of all the palaces in the
world. But it had, what most palaces have not, all the requisites for
luxurious living. The variety of styles in the rooms was bewildering.
Artists of distinction, both foreign and native, had vied with each other
in the decoration of the rooms given over to the display of their genius.
All paganism and all Christianity, history, myth, and the beauties of
nature were spread upon the walls and ceilings. Rare woods, rare
marbles, splendid textures, the product of ancient handiwork and modern
looms, added a certain dignity to the more airy creations of the artists.
Many of the rooms were named from the nations whose styles of decoration
and furnishing were imitated in them, but others had the simple
designation of the gold room, the silver room, the lapis-lazuli room, and
so on. It was not only the show-rooms, the halls, passages, stairways,
and galleries (both of pictures and of curios) that were thus enriched,
but the boudoirs, retiring-rooms, and more private apartments as well.
It was not simply a house of luxury, but of all the comfort that modern
invention can furnish. It was said that the money lavished upon one or
two of the noble apartments would have built a State-house (though not at
Albany), and that the fireplace in the great hall cost as much as an
imitation mediaeval church. These were the things talked about, and yet
the portions of this noble edifice, rich as they were, habitually
occupied by the family had another character--the attractions and
conveniences of what we call a home. Mrs. Mavick used to say that in her
apartments she found refuge in a sublimated domesticity. Mavick's own
quarters--not the study off the library where he received visitors whom
it was necessary to impress--had an executive appearance, and were, in
the necessary appliances, more like the interior bureau of a board of
trade. In fact, the witty brokers who were admitted to its mysteries
called it the bucket-shop.
Mr. Brad's article on "A Prisoned Millionaire" more than equaled Philip's
expectations. No such "story" had appeared in the city press in a long
time. It was what was called, in the language of the period, a work of
art--that is, a sensation, heightened by all the words of color in the
language, applied not only to material things, but to states and
qualities of mind, such as "purple emotions" and "scarlet intrepidity."
It was also exceedingly complimentary. Mavick himself was one of the
powers and pillars of American society, and the girl was an exquisite
exhibition of woodland bloom in the first flush of spring-time. As he
read it over, Philip thought what a fine advertisement it is to every
impecunious noble in Europe
That morning, before going to his office, Philip strolled up Fifth Avenue
to look at that now doubly, famous mansion. Many others, it appeared,
were moved by the same curiosity. There was already a crowd assembled.
A couple of policemen, on special duty, patrolled the sidewalk in front
in order to keep a passage open, and perhaps to prevent a too impudent
inspection. Opposite the house, on the sidewalk and on door-steps, was a
motley throng, largely made up of toughs and roughs from the East Side,
good-natured spectators who merely wanted to see this splendid prison,
and a moving line of gentlemen and ladies who simply happened to be
passing that way at this time. The curbstone was lined with a score of
reporters of the city journals, each with his note-book. Every window
and entrance was eagerly watched. It was hoped that one of the family
might be seen, or that some servant might appear who could be
interviewed. Upon the windows supposed by the reporters to be those from
which the heiress looked, a strict watch was kept. The number, form, and
location of these windows were accurately noted, the stuff of the
curtains described in the phrase of the upholsterer, and much good
language was devoted to the view from these windows. The shrewdest of
the reporters had already sought information as to the interior from the
flower dealers, from upholsterers, from artists who had been employed in
the decorations, and had even assailed, in the name of the rights of the
public whom they represented, the architects of the building; but their
chief reliance was upon the waiters furnished by the leading caterers on
occasions of special receptions and great dinners, and milliners and
dress-makers, who had penetrated the more domestic apartments. By reason
of this extraordinary article in the newspaper, the public had acquired
the right to know all about the private life of the Mavick family.
This right was not acknowledged by Mr. Mavick and his family. Of course
the object of the excitement was wholly ignorant of the cause of it, as
no daily newspaper was ever seen by her that had not been carefully
inspected by the trusted and intelligent governess. The crowd in front
of the mansion was accounted for by the statement that a picture of it
had appeared in one of the low journals, and there was naturally a
curiosity to see it. And Evelyn was told that this was one of the
penalties a man paid for being popular.
Mrs. Mavick, who seldom lost her head, was thoroughly frightened and
upset, and it was a rare occasion that could upset the equanimity of the
late widow, Mrs. Carmen Henderson. She gave way to her passion and
demanded that the offending editor should be pursued with the utmost
rigor of the law. Mr. Mavick was not less annoyed and angry, but he
smiled when his wife talked of pursuing the press with the utmost rigor
of the law, and said that he would give the matter prompt attention.
That day he had an interview with the editor of the Daily Spectrum; which
was satisfactory to both parties. The editor would have said that Mavick
behaved like a gentleman. The result of the interview appeared in the
newspaper of the following morning.
Mr. Mavick had requested that the offending reporter should be cautioned;
he was too wise to have further attention called to the matter by
demanding his dismissal. Accordingly the reporter was severely
reprimanded, and then promoted.
The editorial, which was written by Mr. Olin Brad, and was in his best
Macaulay style, began somewhat humorously by alluding to the curious
interest of the public in ancient history, citing Mr. Froude and Mr.
Carlyle, and the legend of Casper Hauser. It was true, gradually
approaching the case in point, that uncommon precautions had been taken
in the early years of the American heiress, and it was the romance of the
situation that had been laid before the readers of the Spectrum. But
there had been really no danger in our chivalrous, free American society,
and all these precautions were long a thing of the past (which was not
true). In short, with elaboration and great skill, and some humor, the
exaggerations of the former article were minimized, and put in an airy
and unsubstantial light. And then this friend of the people, this
exposer of abuses and champion of virtue, turned and justly scored the
sensational press for prying into the present life of one of the first
families in the country.
Incidentally, it was mentioned that the ladies of the family had before
this incident bespoken their passage for their annual visit to Europe,
and that this affair had not disturbed their arrangements (which also was
not true). This casual announcement was intended to draw away attention
from the Fifth Avenue house, and to notify the roughs that it would be
useless to lay any plans.
The country press, which had far and wide printed the interesting story,
softened it in accordance with the later development. Possibly no
intelligent person was deceived, but in the estimation of the mass of the
people the Spectrum increased its reputation for enterprise and smartness
and gave also an impression of its fairness. The manager, told Mr. Brad
that the increased sales of the two days permitted the establishment to
give him a vacation of two weeks on full pay, and during these weeks the
manager himself set up a neat and modest brougham.
All of which events, only partially understood, Mr. Philip Burnett
revolved in his mind, and wondered if what was called success was worth
the price paid for it.
The name of Thomas Mavick has lost the prominence and significance it had
at the time the events recorded in this history were taking place. It
seems incredible that the public should so soon have lost interest in
him. His position in the country was most conspicuous. No name was more
frequently in the newspapers. No other person not in official life was
so often interviewed. The reporters instinctively turned to him for
information in matters financial, concerning deals, and commercial, which
were so commonly connected with political, enterprises. No loan was
negotiated without consulting him, no operation was considered safe
without knowing how he was affected towards it, and to ascertain what
Mavick was doing or thinking was a constant anxiety in the Street. Of
course the opinion of a man so powerful was very important in politics,
and any church or sect would be glad to have his support. The fact that
he and his family worshiped regularly at St. Agnes's was a guarantee of
the stability of that church, and incidentally marked the success of the
Christian religion in the metropolis.
But the condition of the presence in the public mind of the name of a
great operator and accumulator of money who is merely that is either that
he go on accumulating, so that the magnitude of his wealth has few if any
rivals, or that his name become synonymous with some gigantic cleverness,
if not rascality, so that it is used as an adjective after he and his
wealth have disappeared from the public view. It is different with the
reputation of an equally great financier who has used his ability for the
service of his country. There is no Valhalla for the mere accumulators
of money. They are fortunate if their names are forgotten, and not
remembered as illustrations of colossal selfishness.
Mavick may have been the ideal of many a self-made man, but he did not
make his fortune--he married it. And it was suspected that the
circumstances attending that marriage put him in complete control of it.
He came into possession, however, with cultivated shrewdness and tact and
large knowledge of the world, the world of diplomacy as well as of
business. And under his manipulation the vast fortune so acquired was
reported to have been doubled. It was at any rate almost fabulous in the
When the charming widow of the late Rodney Henderson, then sojourning in
Rome, placed her attractive self and her still more attractive fortune in
the hands of Mr. Thomas Mavick, United States Minister to the Court of
Italy, she attained a position in the social world which was in accord
with her ambition, and Mavick acquired the means of making the mission,
in point of comparison with the missions of the other powers at the
Italian capital, a credit to the Great Republic. The match was therefore
a brilliant one, and had a sort of national importance.
Those who knew Mrs. Mavick in the remote past, when she was the
fascinating and not definitely placed Carmen Eschelle, and who also knew
Mr. Mavick when he was the confidential agent of Rodney Henderson, knew
that their union was a convenient and material alliance, in which the
desire of each party to enjoy in freedom all the pleasures of the world
could be gratified while retaining the social consideration of the world.
Both had always been circumspect. And it may be added, for the
information of strangers, that they thoroughly knew each other, and were
participants in a knowledge that put each at disadvantage, so that their
wedded life was a permanent truce. This bond of union was not ideal, and
not the best for the creation of individual character, but it avoided an
exhibition of those public antagonisms which so grieve and disturb the
even flow of the current of society, and give occasion to so much witty
comment on the institution of marriage itself.
When, some two years after Mr. Mavick relinquished the mission to Italy
to another statesman who had done some service to the opposite party, an
heiress was born to the house of Mavick, her appearance in the world
occasioned some disappointment to those who had caused it. Mavick
naturally wished a son to inherit his name and enlarge the gold
foundation upon which its perpetuity must rest; and Mrs. Mavick as
naturally shrank from a responsibility that promised to curtail freedom
of action in the life she loved. Carmen--it was an old saying of the
danglers in the time of Henderson--was a domestic woman except in her own
However, it is one of the privileges of wealth to lighten the cares and
duties of maternity, and the enlarged household was arranged upon a basis
that did not interfere with the life of fashion and the charitable
engagements of the mother. Indeed, this adaptable woman soon found that
she had become an object of more than usual interest, by her latest
exploit, in the circles in which she moved, and her softened manner and
edifying conversation showed that she appreciated her position. Even the
McTavishes, who were inclined to be skeptical, said that Carmen was
delightful in her new role. This showed that the information Mrs. Mavick
got from the women who took care of her baby was of a kind to touch the
hearts of mothers and spinsters.
Moreover, the child was very pretty, and early had winning ways.
The nurse, before the baby was a year old, discovered in her the
cleverness of the father and the grace and fascination of the mother.
And it must be said that, if she did not excite passionate affection at
first, she enlisted paternal and maternal pride in her career.
It dawned upon both parents that a daughter might give less cause for
anxiety than a son, and that in an heiress there were possibilities of an
alliance that would give great social distinction. Considering,
therefore, all that she represented, and the settled conviction of Mrs.
Mavick that she would be the sole inheritor of the fortune, her safety
and education became objects of the greatest anxiety and precaution.
It happened that about the time Evelyn was christened there was a sort of
epidemic of stealing children, and of attempts to rob tombs of occupants
who had died rich or distinguished, in the expectation of a ransom. The
newspapers often chronicled mysterious disappearances; parents whose
names were conspicuous suffered great anxiety, and extraordinary
precautions were taken in regard to the tombs of public men. And this
was the reason that the heiress of the house of Mavick became the object
of a watchful vigilance that was probably never before exercised in a
republic, and that could only be paralleled in the case of a sole heir-
apparent of royalty.
These circumstances resulted in an interference with the laws of nature
which it must be confessed destroyed one of the most interesting studies
in heredity that was ever offered to an historian of social life. What
sort of a child had we a right to expect from Thomas Mavick, diplomatist
and operator, successor to the rights and wrongs of Rodney Henderson, and
Carmen Mavick, with the past of Carmen Eschelle and Mrs. Henderson?
Those who adhered to the strictest application of heredity, in
considering the natural development of Evelyn Mavick, sought refuge in
the physiological problem of the influence of Rodney Henderson, and
declared that something of his New England sturdiness and fundamental
veracity had been imparted to the inheritor of his great fortune.
But the visible interference took the form of Ann McDonald, a Scotch
spinster, to whom was intrusted the care of Evelyn as soon as she was
christened. It was merely a piece of good fortune that brought a person
of the qualifications of Ann McDonald into the family, for it is not to
be supposed that Mrs. Mavick had given any thought to the truth that the
important education of a child begins in its cradle,
or that in selecting a care-taker and companion who should later on be a
governess she was consulting her own desire of freedom from the duties of
a mother. It was enough for her that the applicant for the position had
the highest recommendations, that she was prepossessing in appearance,
and it was soon perceived that the guardian was truthful, faithful,
vigilant, and of an affectionate disposition and an innate refinement.
Ann McDonald was the only daughter of a clergyman of the Scotch Church,
and brought up in the literary atmosphere common in the most cultivated
Edinburgh homes. She had been accurately educated, and always with the
knowledge that her education might be her capital in life. After the
death of her mother, when she was nineteen, she had been her father's
housekeeper, and when in her twenty-fourth year her father relinquished
his life and his salary, she decided, under the advice of influential
friends, to try her fortune in America. And she never doubted that it
was a providential guidance that brought her into intimate relations with
the infant heiress. It seemed probable that a woman so attractive and so
solidly accomplished would not very long remain a governess, but in fact
her career was chosen from the moment she became interested in the
development of the mind and character of the child intrusted to her care.
It is difficult to see how our modern life would go on as well as it does
if there were not in our homes a good many such faithful souls. It
sometimes seems, in this shifting world, that about the best any of us
can do is to prepare some one else for doing something well.
Miss McDonald had a pretty comprehensive knowledge of English literature
and history, and, better perhaps than mere knowledge, a discriminating
and cultivated taste. If her religious education had twisted her view
of the fine arts, she had nevertheless a natural sympathy for the
beautiful, and she would not have been a Scotchwoman if she had not had
a love for the romances of her native land and at heart a "ballad"
sentiment for the cavaliers. If Evelyn had been educated by her
in Edinburgh, she might have been in sentiment a young Jacobite. She had
through translations a sufficient knowledge of the classics to give her
the necessary literary background, and her study of Latin had led her
into the more useful acquisition of French.
If she had been free to indulge her own taste, she would have gone far in
natural history, as was evident from her mastery of botany and her
interest in birds.
She inspired so much confidence by her good sense, clear-headedness, and
discretion, that almost from the first Evelyn was confided to her sole
care, with only the direction that the baby was never for an instant,
night or day, to be left out of the sight of a trusty attendant. The
nurse was absolutely under her orders, she selected the two maids, and no
person except the parents and the governess could admit visitors to the
nursery. This perfect organization was maintained for many years, and
though it came to be relaxed in details, it was literally true that the
heiress was never alone, and never out of the sight of some trusted
person responsible for her safety. But whatever the changes or
relaxation, in holidays, amusements, travel, or education, the person who
formed her mind was the one who had taught her to obey, to put words
together into language, and to speak the truth, from infancy.
It is not necessary to consider Ann McDonald as a paragon. She was
simply an intelligent, disciplined woman, with a strong sense of duty.
If she had married and gone about the ordinary duties of life at the age
of twenty-four, she would probably have been in no marked way
distinguished among women. Her own development was largely due to the
responsibility that was put upon her in the training of another person.
In this sense it was true that she had learned as much as she had
imparted. And in nothing was this more evident than in the range of her
literary taste and judgment. Whatever risks, whatever latitude she might
have been disposed to take with regard to her own mind, she would not
take as to the mind of another, and as a consequence her own standards
rose to meet the situation. That is to say, in a conscientious selection
of only the best for Evelyn, she became more fastidious as to the food
for her own mind. Or, to put it in still another way, in regard to
character and culture generally, the growth of Miss McDonald could be
measured by that of Evelyn.
When, from the time Evelyn was seven years old, it became necessary in
her education to call in special tutors in the languages and in
mathematics, and in certain arts that are generally called
accomplishments, Miss McDonald was always present when the
lessons were given, so that she maintained her ascendency and her
influence in the girl's mind. It was this inseparable companionship, at
least in all affairs of the mind, that gave to this educational
experiment an exceptional interest to students of psychology.
Nothing could be more interesting than to come into contact with a mind
that from infancy onward had dwelt only upon what is noblest in
literature, and from which had been excluded all that is enervating and
degrading. A remarkable illustration of this is the familiar case of
Helen Keller, whose acquisitions, by reason of her blindness and
deafness, were limited to what was selected for her, and that mainly by
one person, and she was therefore for a long time shielded from a
knowledge of the evil side of life. Yet all vital literature is so close
to life, and so full of its passion and peril, that it supplies all the
necessary aliment for the growth of a sound, discriminating mind; and
that knowledge of the world, as knowledge of evil is euphemistically
called, can be safely left out of a good education. This may be admitted
without going into the discussion whether good principles and standards
in literature and morals are a sufficient equipment for the perils of
This experiment, of course, was limited in Evelyn's case. She came in
contact with a great deal of life. Her little world was fairly
representative, for it contained her father, her mother, her governess,
the maids and the servants, and occasional visitors, whom she saw freely
as she grew older. The interesting fact was that she was obliged to
judge this world according to the standards of literature, morals, and
manners that had been implanted in her mainly by the influence of one
person. The important part of this experiment of partial exclusion, in
which she was never alone' an experiment undertaken solely for her safety
and not for her training-was seen in her when she became conscious of its
abnormal character, and perceived that she was always under surveillance.
It might have made her exceedingly morbid, aside from its effect of
paralyzing her self-confidence and power of initiation, had it not been
for the exceptionally strong and cheerful nature of her companion. A
position more hateful, even to a person not specially socially inclined,
cannot be imagined than that of always being watched, and never having
any assured privacy. And under such a tutelage and dependence, how in
any event could she be able to take care of herself? What weapons had
this heiress of a great fortune with which to defend herself? What sort
of a girl had this treatment during seventeen years produced?
To the private apartment of Mr. Mavick, in the evening of the second
eventful day, where, over his after-dinner cigar, he was amusing himself
with a French novel, enters, after a little warning tap, the mistress of
the house, for, what was a rare occurrence, a little family chat.
"So you didn't horsewhip and you didn't prosecute. You preferred to
"Yes," said Mavick, too much pleased with the result to be belligerent,
"I let the newspaper do the wriggling."
"Oh, my dear, I can trust you for that. Have you any idea how it got
hold of the details?"
"No; you don't think McDonald--"
"McDonald! I'd as soon suspect myself. So would you."
"Well, everybody knew it already, for that matter. I only wonder that
some newspaper didn't get on to it before. What did Evelyn say?"
"Nothing more than what you heard at dinner. She thought it amusing that
there should be such a crowd to gaze at the house, simply because a
picture of it had appeared in a newspaper. She thought her father must
be a very important personage. I didn't undeceive her. At times, you
know, dear, I think so myself."
"Yes, I've noticed that," said Mavick, with a good-natured laugh, in
which Carmen joined, "and those times usually coincide with the times
that you want something specially."
"You ought to be ashamed to take me up that way. I just wanted to talk
about the coming-out reception. You know I had come over to your opinion
that seventeen was perhaps better than eighteen, considering Evelyn's
maturity. When I was seventeen I was just as good as I am now."
"I don't doubt it," said Mavick, with another laugh.
"But don't you see this affair upsets all our arrangements? It's very
"I don't see it exactly. By-the-way, what do you think of the escape
suggested by the Spectrum, in the assertion that you and Evelyn had
arranged to go to Europe? The steamer sails tomorrow."
"Think!" exclaimed Carmen. "Do you think I am going to be run, as you
call it, by the newspapers? They run everything else. I'm not politics,
I'm not an institution, I'm not even a revolution. No, I thank you. It
answers my purpose for them to say we have gone."
"I suppose you can keep indoors a few days. As to the reception, I had
arranged my business for it. I may be in Mexico or Honolulu the
"Well, we can't have it now. You see that."
"Carmen, I don't care a rap what the public thinks or says. The child's
got to face the world some time, and look out for herself. I fancy she
will not like it as much as you did."
"Very likely. Perhaps I liked it because I had to fight it. Evelyn
never will do that."
"She hasn't the least idea what the world is like."
"Don't you be too sure of that, my dear; you don't understand yet what a
woman feels and knows. You think she only sees and thinks what she is
told. The conceit of men is most amusing about this. Evelyn is deeper
than you think. The discrimination of that child sometimes positively
frightens me--how she sees into things. It wouldn't surprise me a bit if
she actually knew her father and mother!"
"Then she beats me," said Mavick, with another laugh, "and I've been at
it a long time. Carmen, just for fun, tell me a little about your early
"Well"--there was a Madonna-like smile on her lips, and she put out the
toe of her slender foot and appeared to study it for a moment--"
I was intended to be a nun."
"Spanish or French?"
"Just a plain nun. But mamma would not hear of it. Mamma was just a bit
"I never should have suspected it," said Mavick, with equal gravity.
"But how did you live in those early days, way back there?"
"Oh!" and Carmen looked up with the most innocent, open-eyed expression,
"we lived on our income."
"Naturally. We all try to do that." The tone in Mavick's voice showed
that he gave it up.
"But, of course," and Carmen was lively again, "it's much nicer to have a
big income that's certain than a small one that is uncertain."
"It would seem so."
"Ah, deary me, it's such a world! Don't you think, dear, that we have
had enough domestic notoriety for one year?"
"Quite. It would do for several."
"And we will put it off a year?"
"Arrange as you like." And Mavick stretched up his arms, half yawned,
and took up another cigar.
"It will be such a relief to McDonald. She insisted it was too soon."
And Carmen whirled out of her chair, went behind her husband, lifted with
her delicate fingers a lock of grayish hair on his forehead, deposited
the lightest kiss there--"Nobody in the world knows how good you are
except me," and was gone.
And the rich man, who had gained everything he wanted in life except
happiness, lighted his cigar and sought refuge in a tale of modern life,
that was, however, too much like his own history to be consoling.
It must not be supposed from what she said that Mrs. Mavick stood in fear
of her daughter, but it was only natural that for a woman of the world
the daily contact of a pure mind should be at times inconvenient. This
pure mind was an awful touchstone of conduct, and there was a fear that
Evelyn's ignorance of life would prevent her from making the proper
allowances. In her affectionate and trusting nature, which suspected
little evil anywhere, there was no doubt that her father and mother
had her entire confidence and love. But the likelihood was that she
would not be pliant. Under Miss McDonald's influence she had somewhat
abstract notions of what is right and wrong, and she saw no reason
why these should not be applied in all cases. What her mother would
have called policy and reasonable concessions she would have given
different names. For getting on in the world, this state of mind has its
disadvantages, and in the opinion of practical men, like Mavick, it was
necessary to know good and evil. But it was the girl's power of
discernment that bothered her mother, who used often to wonder where the
child came from.
On the other hand, it must not be supposed that the singular training of
Evelyn had absolutely destroyed her inherited tendencies, or made her as
she was growing into womanhood anything but a very real woman, with the
reserves, the weaknesses, the coquetries, the defenses which are the
charm of her sex. Nor was she so ignorant of life as such a guarded
personality might be thought. Her very wide range of reading had
liberalized her mind, and given her a much wider outlook upon the
struggles and passions and failures and misery of life than many another
girl of her age had gained by her limited personal experience. Those who
hold the theory that experience is the only guide are right as a matter
of fact, since every soul seems determined to try for itself and not to
accept the accumulated wisdom of literature or of experienced advisers;
but those who come safely out of their experiences are generally sound by
principle which has been instilled in youth. But it is useless to
moralize. Only the event could show whether such an abnormal training as
Evelyn had received was wise.
When Mrs. Mavick went to her daughter's apartments she found Evelyn
reading aloud and Miss McDonald at work on an elaborate piece of