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"Unjust, Mr. Milford."
"Well, yes; and unjust. What else?"
"Utterly incapable of appreciating the kindly motives of a woman's heart; setting down as a positive crime that act which was beneficent, and prompted only by purity and goodness of thought and purpose."
"What a monster you make me out 1 Is there no goodness in me?"
"I dare say there is, but to me you are only harsh and unfeeling. I see but your dark shades ; the bright side you turn to the world."
"Have I never done you a kindness?"
"Do I not show great pleasure in being with
"O yes, and so does the house dog; but only this morning he bit my finger."
"Have I never shown you any tenderness, Amy?" His voice grew softer and more earnest.
She looked at him as if she would pierce to the very depths of his soul. The boy with his heart on his lips was so easy to read; but the man, whose very words seemed to conceal his thoughts, how could she fathom, him? Her voice quivered as she replied :—
"Tender! no, you are only ruthless and savage; you accuse me of plotting to win a boy's love for the pleasure of trampling it under my feet; of being cruel where I meant to be kind; of doing that from which my very soul revolts, exciting a passion that I cannot return, plunging a young and loving heart into misery and despair, to gratify a woman's vanity. If this is the way you show your kindness, deliverme from your tender mercies. Mr. Milford, I do not believe that you have one glimmering of tenderness in your whole nature, especially for a woman. Why, the faintest spark that dwells in that boy's heart is a blaze of living fire, compared with your dead ashes."
Mr. Milford turned pale, his lips quivered, and he said, sadly: "Amy, duty may keep the man from saying what passion forced from the lips of the boy; nevertheless, the fire may burn alike in both hearts. It is you-who are now unjust."
"Help me to close the piano, Mr. Milford. I don't understand one word of what yon are saying. I only know that you have advised me to marry Everard. Good-night, most sage of Mentors."
He took her hand in his, and, as he held it, be said: "Oh, Amy 1 there is a woe upon my heart that is crushing me to the earth." And be released her hand.
She placed it, as if in gentle benediction, on
his arm; and, looking inquiringly into his face, said: "What can I do for you?"
He did not shrink from that hand's light pressure, or from the look of earnest, inquiring sympathy that beamed from her eves, lie said, mournfully: "There is no help for me; some of these days I will tell you all."
She bowed her head : another low, murmured "Good-night," and she was gone.
The next morning Mr. Milford souffht her in the conservatory, where she was picking the dead leaves from the plants.
"I have come to say good-by; I am going bome again."
She started; but soon recovered herself, and said, "Now? this moment?"
"Not exactly this moment."
"Can you not wait until I pick off these withered leaves? and then I will go with you into the library."
"Yes; I have an hour to spare, and I wish to talk to you."
Listlessly she walked around the plants, scarcely seeing what was before her. How she would miss him! A dreary shadow had fallen on her heart—a heavy weight.
"You are plucking the green leaves," said Mr. Milford, as he sat quietly watching her.
"Why, yes; see, here is a handful. I will take this one away with me, as the children say, 'to remember you by.'"
"You will require some reminder, no doubt; for my own part, I think there are many things we are far happier in forgetting than remembering."
"Yes; but I have no wish to forget you; the remembrance of those hours 1 passed here will be to me a thing of joy forever."
"I am ready to go into the library, Mr. Milford."
They entered the library. How tranquil and quiet it seemed! How many hours of pure happiness had they known there, when, mind revealing itself to mind, heart had learned to love heart. And now was to come that ster n good-by that so often terminates life's pleasantest intercourse.
"I wish to tell yon good-by, Amy."
"So you intimated to me before."
"I need not expect you to say 'I am sorry, Mr. Milford.'"
"No, you need not," she said, quietly, looking cold enough to freeze the warmest love.
"We have known some pleasant hours here," he said, glancing round the room—"at least, I have; hours that can never come again. My visit has been all too short, and too long," he added, mournfully.
She merely looked at him, but made no reply, though she longed to give vent to her feelings, and the weight on her heart was growing each moment heavier.
"I shall miss you, but you will scarcely miss, me, Amy."
She answered quietly, so quietly that you had to listen earnestly to catch the low tones: "It is the left that are ever the lonely."
"In this quiet little nook I have felt a perfect rain of sunshine coming down upon me; but I go, and my niche Everard will fill. Yon must write to me, Amy, and tell me when you decide to marry him. If you do not intend to become his wife, for Heaven's sake be less kind to that boy." And Mr. Milford arose, and paced the room with hurried steps.
Amy sat like a statue, the color forsook her cheek. "Are you going to attack me again on this subject?" she at length said, coldly.
Mr. Milford seated himself beside her. "Amy, forgive me if I pain you."
"I really do not understand you, Mr. Milford," she said, somewhat impatiently. "I wish to be true, but people will not let me. It is the law of my nature, and I must obey it, to give kindness to those who need it, even though it subjects me to misrepresentation and even scandal. If my motives are pure, I defy the world's opinion; I am willing to wait until justice is done me; if you will not givo it to me, perhaps others may."
"I do not mean to be unjust, Amy."
"No; but you are, notwithstanding. In acting out the good impulses of my nature, I .kaew* I do no wrong. Everard needs my kind sympathy, and he shall continue to have it. You would make a statue of me, when I am a living woman."
"Amy, I am not so foolish as to think that a woman is bound to conceal her feelings until they become so frozen within her that they actually have not the power to flow forth. I would rather see her open, candid, honest, showing her preferences in a natural way. I despise cant, affectation; I admire truth; let every man as well as woman try to act it out. There is much in life that is utterly false, and much in the relations of man and woman—a falsehood engendered by conventional codes. I would not have a woman restrain one kindly impulse for fear that the world may misinterpret or ridicule her actions; but I would have her, in being true to herself, to try and not be false to others. If I speak warmly on this
subject, you must pardon me. The darkest page in my life's history opens at this very place; and if I seem to pity and sympathize with this boy, it is because I, too, need pity and sympathy. I would ward from him the cruel blow that felled me, bleeding and bruised, to the earth."
Mr. Milford's voice quivered as memories of the past rushed over him. Amy did not look at him, but she felt that his gaze was fixed upon her.
"Scarcely twenty-two when I first met with Margaret Sommers, my whole being was absorbed in a wild worship of this fascinating but subtle woman. She drew me to her with a force I could not resist; one long, smiling look brought me to her side, one playful gesture of her soft hand laid on my arm kept me there, I was twenty-two, she was thirty-two; yet she had the power of adaptation to so wonderful an extent that no young man ever felt that he was not on a perfect equality with her, even in age. I never realized that she was one day older than I was; of the ten years that lay between us I was utterly unconscious. With that subtle power that women know so well how to use, she drew me on until my very soul seemed consumed by the devouring flame of love. I loved her madly—I adored her. Those are strong words; no man can use them more than once in a life; some not even that. She was the one thought of my life. I do not think she meant to do me wrong. She saw that I loved her, and the unselfish worship of a boy pleased her vanity. One day I told her my love with a heart whose wild beats almost smothered me. She interrupted me with a passionate burst of tears.
"' Oh, stop !' she said, 'I like you so much; you are to me as a precious young brother.'
"' No, no; not brother; I will not accept that name I' I exclaimed.
"'I can give you no other,' she sobbed, 'Oh, poor child, you make me miserable I'
"' I am not a child I' I exclaimed, passionately. 'Good heavens, I am I not a man, with a man's passions, a man's powers? Can I not love as a man V
"' Hush I hush! you only make me wretched,' she said.
"'I will go from you forever, Margaret, if you taunt me with my youth. Heaven only knows we grow old fast enough in this wretoued world. Must I go, and come back to you when I have grown older in years, in selfishness, in worldliness, and in crime V I felt mad; I scarcely knew what I was saying.
"She dashed aside her tears. 'Don't leave me, my young brother,' she said, calmly. 'I love you too well to see you go offin this mood, for I know not what the end might be.' "' Yon do love me, then V "' Yes, as a brother.'
"That word brother—how I hated it! I never had a sister, or I might have known what a world of tender love that word brother sometimes means.
"' Stay with me j be wise,' she said, 'Love some sweet, gentle girl nearer to you in age than I am; less world-worn, less skilled in the deceits of society. A world of woe lies on my heart to-day, my young brother. I am fresh from the bridal of the only man I have ever loved. Did you ever see that picture of a wedding-train gathered around an altar, while at the door in the street stood a poor forsaken one, gazing in, through blinding tears, on the man she loved and the man who had deserted her? Thus I stood to-day. I knew they were to be married; I went to the church; I heard the words that made them man and wife. Wife! how sweet the name, when love puts on the ring of compact 1 Now I have come home; the world will never know what I suffer; you must stay with me to comfort me, but breathe not one word of love, for that instant you leave me forever!'
"She arose; I kissed her hand with not any the less wild idolatry, and we parted. I did not leave her, as prudence taught me to do. She was even more tender to me than ever; whilst I was vainly striving to cover over the burning coals of love with the cold ashes of duty and caution. She meant me no ill, but she wrought me a great ruin. She desired to see me happy. Emma Atwood was a beautiful young girl, but senseless and unprincipled. We met frequently at the house of Margaret Sommers. I was dazzled by her beauty, but nothing more. Margaret Sommers thought she would heal the wound she had inflicted by salving them over with a marriage with this girl. How she succeeded Heaven only knows; I do not. I only know that in a fit of desperation at not being able to marry the woman I did love, I married the one I did not. I am not the only man who has committed this fearful error, nor the only one who has bitterly repented it. A few weeks of married life, and I would have given all that I was worth to be free again. Alas for man or woman when the marriage tie is only a fetter more galling, more terrible to bear than the prisoner's iron manacles, and more degrading, too. For, unless the fol. Lxiv.«—37 ,
heart, the whole heart, is given it) marriage, there is only a degradation in the union ; there can be no sacredness in that tie which is formed only through interest, ambition, or indifference. One year I lived a joyless wedded life with the woman with whom I had not one thought in common. Margaret Sommers went to Italy; two years since she died there, and now the only feeling that is left me in regard to her is a passionate regret that my young soul ever bowed to hers in a sinful idolatry. I have learned to con over thoughtfully the pages of that boyish passion, and from them I have gathered wisdom and sadness, too. The remaining part of my history I cannot dwell upon; my wife deserted her home, and proved false to her marriage vows. To me she is now dead, dead! I seek not to discover the place where guilt and infamy hide their head. She is nothing to me, in this life or the life to come. When I think of her, I thank God I am free from her; but oh, Amy I Amy 1 I mourn to think that I am not free to marry another— that other in whose society I have found such charming companionship. I have told you my history; now you know why I lift my voice to plead the cause of your boy-lover; now you know why I implore you to desist from your cruel kindness. Good-by. How I shall miss you I But you will turn to your book, and in writing forget rnf, will you not?"
She smiled a faint, sad smile.
"Good-by, Amy." 'The truthfulness of her nature triumphed, and she said, with trembling voice: "Miss you, Mr. Milford! there is not a place that will not bring you to my mind, not a song I sing, not a book I open!"
"Memory will linger lovingly around my image, Amy?" he said, with pleasure flashing in his eyes.
"Ah, yes, so lovingly."
He took her small hand in his, he looked into her clear, honest eyes, and said: "Amy, now I can curse my sad fate; hitherto I have borne it uncomplainingly, but now, now—"
"Bear it as you have ever done, Mr. Milford. Oh! I little dreamed there was so sad a grief on your heart."
"In thinking of me, pity me, too, Amy. I go to my desolate, wifeless home. Good-by."
They clasped hands fervently, he lingered an instant, then, opening the door, went out. She caught the sounds of his retreating footsteps as they died away, and a passionate burst
of tears overcame her. It was bat for a moment; her own impetuosity scared her, and she dashed her tears away. How silly, she thought, to waste all this feeling! I once met with a man who said that his rule was never to become so interested in anything that he could not relinquish it without an effort or a sigh of regret. It is a wise rule, perhaps ; and yet that man did not seem happy with his cold, unloving heart, that had no affections and no regrets. "Better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all."
Thus people meet on the great ocean of life; a strong sympathy attracts them, they interchange thoughts, exchange civilities, clasp hands, and part forever. Are they to be pitied that they have ever met, even though the waves of time have divided them again, after bringing them so closely together? Would it have been happier for them if they had never known, never seen each other 1 Surely not; they have spoken noble thoughts, and that's a precious thing; they have acted beneficially on each other's nature; they have softened each other's prejudices; the strong man has learned a lesson from the gentle woman; she, in turn, has gathered some noble truths from him. It is good, then, that they met, even though they may never meet again; though restlessness and regret ensue for a while, they will relapse into their old accustomed ways again, richer in precious memories.
Amy now turned to her book; she worked at its pages undisturbed. Even Kverard had gone; he had come to bid her good-by; he was going South. lie was moody and reserved, and seemed rather ashamed of his display of feeling at their former meeting. The book progressed; thoughts noble and pure flashed out; she threw heart and soul in the task, and wrote without giving the audience she was tohave one thonght. She had no fear of "the kind public" before her eyes ; she wrote from her heart to her heart. She attempted no popular style; she wrote out of the very fulness of her earnest and beautiful nature. There were unmistakable marks of talent in the pages; would the world recognize them? That public to which an author appeals for sympathy and recognition seldom errs in its decision regarding a book submitted to its judgment. True genius always finds recognition; and if an author does not succeed, do not let him set it down to the obtuseness of the public, but to his own shortcomings. And while Amy was busy with her pen, her thoughts reverted frequently to Mr. Milford. She had beard nothing from hint, not even received a
message. Men are not apt to treasure np the memories of the past like women; they have so much that is stirring to engross them that what to a woman is something to be remembered forever is often to a man only something to beforgotten. "Men,"thought Amy, "havenot the gift to recollect women as women remember men; we women cling with a tenacity of memory that is sometimes our greatest torture to every scene where a man is concerned in whom we took an interest. We think over what he said, how he said it, and how he looked. I can shut my eyes at this moment, and make a perfect likeness of Mr. Milford as I last saw him; I can close my ears and hear his exact tones; I can sit in the midst of a crowd, and see but him, though he is not present. We women make our hearts a vast gallery of beautiful pictures, and steal in the dim twilight to ponder among the images of what has been. How much wiser would it be, if with the occasion passed away the memory of it, if we would wipe off the impression, have no picture-gallery for memory to sigh and linger in. I am not particularly interested in Mr. Milford—"
Here outraged conscience rose up and said, with indignation: "You are; for months you have dwelt upon his memory; in writing yonr hook the idea of him played like a subtle lightning through your thoughts. Ah! you have only yielded to woman's destiny; art if the husband to whom you have given your hand, but another has your heart." Was it so f She covered her face with her hands; a burning blush overspread her cheeks ; a revelation of self burst upon her. Horrible, degrading revelation! she loved the husband of another, loved him before she knew the sad truth, and loved him unasked! She, too, who had intended to do without man's love, to lead a life devoted to art, unruffled by any thought of love; after all, she was only human—intensely woman.
But the book was finished; she must hunt up a publisher. "Hunt up a publisher"—how much is contained in those few words! She made a list of the principal New York publishing houses, and, with her manuscript in hand, went forth'on her errand. The first gentleman to whom she applied scaroely deigned to look over the clean, delicately-written pages, so clear and so plain that the blindest printer need not err in printing. The publisher pronounced immediately upon the work; "it was not written in a style to take with the public."
"But you have not read it, sir; let me leave it with you for your inspection."
"My dear young lady"—and the gentleman looked down upon her as if compassionating . her ignorance—" we publishers can tell at a glance the style of a work and its chances of success. I myself have a peculiar gift this way, and I am convinced your book will not sell. I declined having anything to do with it." "Well, sir, then I will bid you good-niorning." And Amy gathered up the leaves of her manuscript, which the gentleman had been carelessly turning over, and departed. When she cleared the office, she breathed freely again. How hard, how cold the man was! what a disagreeable beginning to the duty before her! Through some of the narrowest and dirtiest of the streets of the city she wended her way, and at length reached a publishing house. She opened the door and walked in. Piles of salable and unsalable books were heaped in disorderly array on the counter; the place had a dreary, dark look that sent a chill to her very heart. There was a youth perched up on a high bench behind a very high desk; she approached him.
"Could she see the publisher?" She laughed
with a sort of desperation at her own question.
"He was in the back room; if she would
walk in there, she would find him." And into
the back room she walked.
She started back; she had hoped to find a gentleman as old and ugly as the one she had just left, but here was one both young and handsome. How should she face him with her rejected manuscript? He was seated before a pile of written papers, which he was busily engaged in reading. He looked up as he heard the unwelcome sounds of the rustling of a woman's dress, and not a very pleased expression flitted over his face. Amy colored as she met the inquiring look of the keen blue eye she found suddenly fixed upon her.
"I have brought you this manuscript to see if you will undertake the publishing of it," she said.
"What is it?" asked the gentleman, coolly; and he looked the question, "Pray, what is your name?"
"My name," she said, interpreting his look, "you will find on the title-page; here it is."
He looked at it; he remembered having heard it; she had written for such and such a magazine. Slowly he turned over the pages, while she examined his well-formed head, his straight features, and beard that a Turk would have rejoiced in. "Is he never going to ask one to be seated ?" she thought.
"Will you be seated?" he said, suddenly,
as if divining her thoughts. She seated herself, and he undertook to enlighten her as to the shadows of putting out a book.
"It was no trifle to come before the public, and invite criticism."
"The public! Why," said Amy, "I have not given that dreaded monster a thought while writing."
"Perhaps so; but that public is to be your umpire. Now, very few •published books are successful; you must hit the popular taste. Why, one-half of the works that are published scarcely pay the expense of printing. I refuse B manuscript every day in the week—Sundays excepted." And he laughed.
"Dear me! This is certainly very cheering to a young aspirant. Why, then, do so many people publish, and why do so many publish again and again?"
"With the same feeling that induces some persons to continue purchasing lottery tickets, in the hope of getting a prize at last."
"Well, are you willing to read my manuscript, and to see if you think I have any chance of success?"
"O yes; but I warn you, even if I accept it for publication, that it is all a lottery in which you are embarking. Your book may be successful, and it may not; most likely it will not."
"I 'll run the risk." And, bidding the publisher "good-morning," she found herself once more in the streets.
The book was published, and in due course of time made its appearance. It was a story of love, powerfully worked out, and natural, and true. Tho public were "astonished, amazed; the best book since 'Jane Eyre.' New York was delighted, immensely proud to point to the gifted authoress as a New Yorker." But, dear reader, we tell you, though it is not generally known, that piles of that " very successful novel," that "best book since 'Jane Eyre,'" lie heaped up, this very day, in the publishing room. And while the world congratulated Amy Dale on the entire success of her book, it was a sad secret between her publisher and herself that the sale of it little more than defrayed the expense of publishing. weariness, disgust ensued; sharp criticisms assailed her; though many cried, "Go on; this is only a good beginning." "Go on!" why, she had not the power; she had rowed herself over the stream, and instead of finding flowers on the other side, her hands were bleeding from the thorns. Thorns! — what thorns? Only those sharp criticisms, dear reader, for which you freshly cut your pen and sat down with such pleasure