John Jerome (4)

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CHAPTER XI.


CERTAIN philosophers contend that man is a mere machine; but there is one capital difference between a man and a machine, — I do not say there is only one, — that you cannot bribe a machine.  Now I bribed a girl with a shilling yesterday to get a letter into the post in time.  She said she could run down in eight minutes, and she did.  Our clock takes eight days to run down.  To be sure she has never been bribed to be quicker; but it is open to any man to try her with a bribe if he likes.  As to running to the post, I know she would not do it to oblige a prime-minister.  We may therefore fairly turn the contention the other way, and declare that a machine is not a mere man.

    These remarks are owing to some made by Katharina when I said the scheme was slippery, and changed at every point where I took hold of it.  She answered: "When we have finished it and set it going will be time enough to expect completeness and regularity of it as if it went by machinery."

    A man can sometimes hold his own with one woman, but never with two.

    "It will provide a mission for Katharina," Anna reminded me.  It will be a career for her; think of that!

    I did not believe that Katharina really wanted a career, any more than my dog Tobias wants a wig, or than my dun cow wants a pair of pattens, — two pairs, I mean; but when I said so they veered round again to remind me what a blessing their precious scheme would be to the community of inmates.  These were to be all comfortable, instead of always straitened and always anxious, living in pokey little places, and not knowing how to make both ends meet.

    But some people, I am convinced, would rather have pokey little places to themselves than dwell with others in larger ones.  There is a great deal of pity wasted in this world.

    I once fell asleep and dreamed that I was a frog.

    Immediately, and quite naturally, I began to croak, and thought I need not have pitied frogs for not having the gift of speech.  Croaking is just as good as talk, and much easier.  One croak, my first, has expressed all that and more.  "Croak!"  And in this, my second, I have uttered the sweetness of life, and the meaning of the world.

    I related my dream to them with the pathos that such a subject deserved and they laughed.

    They informed me that they should continue to exercise Pity, — also to make the scheme answer well if possible.  They had written to four more sets of people to join, People whom they knew personally, people gently born but dragged down by circumstances.

    So wearisome, as Anna explained, had been their struggle with life, that even Hope had got quite out of heart.

    "Then you should have gilded her anchor for her," I rejoined, "which would have pleased the old thing.  Do I hear you say that you have done so already? You never said anything so ridiculous!  Then you might have done so; you need not be ashamed of your good deeds.  You gilded her anchor for her and immediately she 'told you a flattering tale' which you repeated to all the future partners of your scheme."

    Flattery, in my opinion, has been too much abused.  It is often merely the expression of one's good wishes.  What can be more appropriate, for instance, than the flattery of the doctor who, hanging out a lamp as a guide to his patients in the dark, always makes it couleur de rose.

    "So now," I continued, "you have got all the people excepting the only two of any consequence, Godfrey and your grandmother."  Thus I continued gently to oppose them, for I was now fully determined that the scheme should be tried; and what so likely to forward it as a little judicious opposition?

    Why had I turned round, — do I hear the reader ask?

    Well, partly because of that tinker.  I had seen the tinker and his spouse the previous evening, for this good lady had now joined her husband.

    They were seated together on a bank of heather, and they were both crying because, forsooth, her wedding ring had dropped off her finger and they could not find it.

    I cast my eyes about, and almost directly I saw it lying on the ground.  I pointed it out and the tinker ran at it, but he had great difficulty in poising himself so as to pick it up.  However, he managed this at last.  She put it on, got up, and as the planet Saturn rolls on within his ring, so did she roll on within hers.  She was slightly drunk, and he was slightly sober.  It came with both to much the same thing.

    But to return to these two young ladies, — what is a man when woman gets hold of him?  Or, to put the question with direct reference to an answer, you can say, "Where is he?" — to which you can reply, "Nowhere!"

    The grandmother slowly got better, and I took her home, leaving Katharina behind, with her sister and the two little boys and Martha, in the hotel.

    The grandmother was feeble and in low spirits.  She rued her evening in the tent and her long drive in the fog.  I was in low spirits too; in fact I was perfectly miserable.

    But how can a man be expected to tell the reason to a person whom he never saw in his life, — that probably stupid, vulgar, pay-twopence-a-volume-to-a-circulating-library, disagreeable, and as likely as not dishonest person, the reader.  No! if this is simply spleen, you may make the best of it, — or not, as you please.  I was miserable, but I am pleased with sympathy.  Sometimes, when I was a little morose and inclined to be short in my answers, a wrinkled hand would be laid on mine, and rather a trembling voice would murmur: "I have no patience with you, Jack, any more than I have with him.  Throw it off, do!  Depend on it they are none of them worth all this, — not one."

    Yes, sympathy is very soothing.  Shortly I had a letter from Anna.  The families written to had all answered that they should be delighted to join the scheme, if Godfrey would be responsible for the houses in case it did not answer and they had to separate.  One of these was an artist, a second-cousin of Godfrey's.  I knew him.  He had a wife, and three boys at school.  When I was a lad I sat to him for a bandit.  I came out a capital bandit too, but I shall always say it was the hat that did it.  Costume, in a certain kind of art, is everything.  I call that sort, dog-art.  Why not?  We call a violet without scent a dog-violet, poetry without the essence, dog-poetry.  Do we though?  Never mind! my argument is the same; and every one says dog-Latin.

    In future I shall call our mongrel scientific nomenclature dog-Greek.  It is hard on the dogs perhaps, but let us not "weep for them."  They don't know that we do it.  Dog-English is coming in fast, perhaps to revenge these faithful quadrupeds on us.  They never ill use their simple language thus.  But to point out only one example of this dog-English, some of our writers have taken lately to ill-using our neat and compact verb by ramming an adverb into its midst.  They will say, —

    "To appreciatively drink bottled stout"

    "To energetically walk to Paddington;"

    "To incessantly think;"

    "To ably reason;"

    Where was this dog-English whelped?

    You should say, " to think incessantly to reason ably." Let us suppose that " bow-wow " means to drink. Do you ever hear your dog say Bow — wagging my tail —wow"?

    A North-Britisher writes better English, but he has certain pet words which the ear tires of.  To mention only one: I, who am an Englishman, never commence to eat my dinner, I always begin.

    A Scotchman is frequently so fond of this word that I have known him commence to put his hat on.

    Do I hear you saying, "What business is this of yours?" and grumbling that you shall do just as you please?  I know it, — I know you will write just as you please.  I am not responsible.

    Writing vulgar or ugly English is not an indictable offence. I only wish it was; I would indict you all.

    I would fain be tenderly careful of the language if I might, but it often pains me to think that the language cares not a straw for my pains.

    I once tied a delicate plant to a stick, designing thereby to afford it support and save it from being beaten down and trodden on.  I went away, and when I returned the plant had grown high and strong, and had tugged at the stick till it had pulled it out of the ground and borne it some way up, still carefully tied; so the stem now supported the stick.  I left it there, as I now leave the language.

    But I ramble unconscionably.

    The next set of people consisted of three maiden ladies — daughters of a deceased rector — and their three nieces, from eight to ten years old, whom they were bringing up, — one of them acting as governess, and being willing for a small sum to teach the other children in the house.

    They were to have four rooms, small ones, and pay in proportion.  Concerning them I may say that they were likely to make any reasonable scheme answer.  They were such undoubted ladies that everything they did would appear to be a becoming occupation for a lady.  They had excellent sense, a good deal of vigour, and that natural joyousness which is a very uncommon endowment after early youth.

    Then there was a bachelor — a clerk in a government office — with his sister, a widow.  She, together with the sisters before mentioned, was very much given to good works; but it was fully understood that they were to do their share in keeping the house going, before they presumed to attempt anything outside.

    Thus there were to be only seven sets of people in my two houses, and all the rooms would be filled.

    I was entreated in this letter to go up to London and look at the houses.  They hoped I would do this, for I was always so kind, and Godfrey had been told of the great scheme and would meet me there; and then, as I was so good to them and always liked them to be happy, would I — oh, would I — undertake to tell their grandmother and make her like it? for they wanted to be together, and Katharina loved the two little boys, and Anna was so tired of the tents and of never seeing her own people.  Yes, — if I told the grandmother at all, of course it behooved me to make her like the scheme; so I did my best, and after her first surprise she listened and cogitated, questioning me with her questioning natural shrewdness, and smiling over the more unpractical parts of the scheme with a certain air of grim delight, which is not very grim after all.  She nodded at last: "That'll do, Jack."

    "You understand it?"

    "I understand the gist of it well enough, which is that Godfrey is responsible."

    "Then you will join?"

    "Certainly I will join.  Anna will find out almost at once what parts of her scheme will not work, and she must make Godfrey change them for her."

    "Make him?"

    "Of course!  Anna has had no power hitherto, she has simply followed his ridiculous lead; but let her once get Godfrey into a scrape, let him find himself entangled in the meshes of such a complicated plan, and he will be thankful to make use of her wits and to depend on her invention for getting him out of it or, as I hope, for leading him smoothly on in it.  She is a clever little baggage; and those two, if they can only be together, will be as happy as queens in spite of Godfrey and Another.  At least they will if, through Godfrey's over-sensitive conscience, Anna can get the upper hand."

    "They will not be together long when Another comes home," I remarked.

     "If I never have speech of him but once so long as I live, he shall that once hear a piece of my mind," said my aunt.

    "No, you would not wish a life-long division from your other granddaughter; and what future has she to look forward to but his gracious return and kind consent to a marriage with her?"

    "She is a very foolish girl."

    "She is not a very happy one just now; but as to this scheme, your judgment, you know, will be a great thing, — you will help them with your advice."

    She fell into my little trap at once, assented, and added: "But though I join the scheme entirely because Godfrey is in it, yet he really is the one supernumerary.  It cannot truly answer while he remains, and if it threatens to answer independently of him he will have to go out."

    "But is it likely to answer independently of him?"

    "Very likely indeed.  It is a good thought, that of doing without servants so far as possible, but there is nothing respectable and fitting in his turning himself into a servant out of singularity or caprice; and if you say 'out of philanthropy' you make the thing into a charity at once.  Anna's chance of what I may call reforming him lies not in his making himself into a voluntary drudge, but in his working with her to extend such a scheme as this.  He must go into it from above, not from below."

    "But he has been tricked into it," I observed, "by the promise that he shall descend."

    "Let him descend then," said my aunt, "till he is thoroughly tired of it, when, like a good wife, she can haul him up again."

    Well, — enough of this conversation.  I did go up to London, and on a fine September afternoon I let myself into the lower of my two houses with a key, and found Godfrey there before me.

    Shall I ever forget the candid air of open good will with which he sat on the kitchen dresser and looked blandly at the stove?

    "O yes, — certainly, if I would let him have leases of the two houses he should be glad to take them and do anything that his dear Anna felt to be necessary."

    Anna wished to have all the floors stained, I told him, and to do without carpets.

    Godfrey's face glowed.  It would please him much, he said, that his boys should be brought up to do without such luxury.  As to his dear Anna, he felt that she was coming on; he was proud of her.

    Deluded mortal.

    I explained to him that he must have coal bunks made at the top of each house, and that the water must be laid on, and then that he must make a lift.  He thought it would have been easy for him to have carried up the coal that would be wanted.  I said no, for it might be required sometimes when he was out doing necessary errands.  He was impressed with the reasonableness of this remark, and when we parted he walked down the street with a rapt air of sweet elation.  All seemed to be going well with him.

    When I got to my hotel I found a letter awaiting me, a joint production containing the combined wisdom of Anna and Katharina.  It ran thus.  Anna began.


    "DEAR JACK, — What about the pots and kettles?  Mrs. John Blank has been making us aware that we are not strong enough to lift them; so what is to be done?  I promised Godfrey that we would not have servants; but she says we must have one strong woman — a charwoman — to come in every morning and light the kitchen fire, put the sauce-pans on for the early dinner, and then get the hot joints out into the dishes and set these in the lift.  She must dine herself, and then she might go.  Will you break this to Godfrey?  Mrs. John Blank says it will only come to about twopence each day for each family to pay in wages.  Half a servant among seven does not seem much; but Godfrey will think we are putting in the thin edge of the wedge.

Your ever grateful
                                             "A
NNA."


    This is Anna's usual signature.  Under it followed Katharina's epistle:—


    "DEAR JACK, — When Anna told Godfrey of her scheme he appeared at first hardly to understand it; but as she unfolded it and he saw how many it would make comfortable, and also how much that was menial would fall to his own share, he could not speak for pleasure, and tears rolled down his cheeks.

    "When Anna saw this she was so touched and so shocked to think why she was inveigling him into it that she burst into tears too, and darted a displeased look at me as if it was my fault.  It was a little awkward for me.  I thought she was going to confess all; but she didn't.

    "They sat together and loved one another a good deal, and he said it was the happiest day of his life, and she said she wished she was more worthy of him.

    "What a goose he is, Jack; but oh, how good!


Your affectionate                             
"K
ATHARINA."             


    Well, we put workmen into the houses, who soon began to knock them about.  Some of the future inmates sent in furniture.  Godfrey superintended and I went home.

    It was evening.  I bought a Globe newspaper; but there were people whom I knew in the railway carriage, and we talked all the way down, — my paper, folded together, lying on the seat.  When I got out at our little country station, I forgot it and left it there.  A great deal of misery and expense, and a projected journey thousands of miles long, would have been saved to a certain person but for that momentary lapse of memory.

    I crossed the bridge over the line, and arranged to have my effects sent on, — a fish-basket was among them, — for my Malay boy having levanted, and his place not having been supplied, there was no one to meet me.

    I may have spent five minutes in the station when, coming out, I found that the train I had travelled down in had been shunted on to the other rails and was waiting just beyond the platform.  My friends saw me and waved something pink at me.  It was the Globe newspaper.

    They flung it forth.  It opened in the descent, fell full face on a heap of wet mud, and got so dirty that I left it there and went home without it.  When I reached home I perceived that the house was empty.  The servants were attentive, the rooms were fresh and well lighted.  I could not detect any change, but something that had all the worst effects of a change, something accustomed which had become unbearable, assured me that the place was empty.

    I knew what it meant; it had driven me from my own country twice before.  Still, as I said to myself that night, "many fellows travel and stay away for years, entirely for their own pleasure."

    I was very bad company to Myself that evening.  There was nothing bitter and contemptuous that I did not say to Myself, and I got from Myself as good as I gave.

    I went to bed, and saw the dark out and the new day in, and saw the sun come up, and felt more miserable than ever.

    At last I fell asleep.  I had slept, I know not how long, when I seemed to hear, athwart a deep chasm into which I was peering, a sort of gentle — I may say apologetic — knocking.  I took no notice, but soon saw that the knocking was caused by a gnome, a small and very shabby one, who was tapping feebly at the side of the chasm.

    The tapping went on at short intervals for about a quarter of an hour, when I observed that I was awake.  There was silence, followed by a sort of female hue and cry, — two or three people were running upstairs, and they fell on my door with such an ecstasy of banging and shaking and thumping that I could not have made myself heard in answer, however loudly I had shouted.  So I was quiet till they ceased and listened.  I then said, "Is anything the matter?"

    "O sir," cried my housekeeper, "we thought you were dead!"

    "Is anything else the matter?" I shouted.

    "Nothing so very particular, sir," she replied.

    I began to get up.  I found it was eleven o'clock.  I am a sound sleeper.  There was no man-servant to come into my room and rouse me as usual; hence these ineffectual tappings, — and hence a good deal besides.

    While I was at breakfast my housekeeper came in to apologize for the noise she and her subordinates had made, and to tell me that my aunt's man on his way to the station had left a note.  My dog, in fact, was at that moment touzling the note, and under his auspices it was already open on the rug; for I had looked on it as merely a piece of waste paper.

    In a shaking hand it demanded my presence.  No doubt I knew what the writer feared, and would I come and advise with her as soon as I possibly could?


 
CHAPTER XIII.


I SET forth hastily with Tobias.  Now whether or not Tobias is a literary dog, and takes to reviewing line in the dog's form of it, I cannot say; but the fact is certain that printed paper has an extraordinary fascination for him, and he no sooner sees a leaf of it than he tries to tear it to pieces, just as a reviewer might.  Then he brings it me, who am his world and his public, and lays it at my feet.

    I am afraid he is a beast.  However, he does but act according to his lights or his darks, whichever you like to call them.  Tobias saw the rejected "Globe" and brought it to me.  Well, I did not throw the paper away, or he would have rushed after it again and brought it back.  It had been dried in the wind.  I folded and put it in my pocket.

    My heart seemed to be lying in the dust for my own feet to tread on it; and what an indifferent and cruelly peaceful world I was walking in.  However, — enough of that.  I heard a sweet voice singing as I came up to the open window.  Katharina, — yes, there she sat, her head bent low over some writing materials.  Like a moth I made for the candle.

    "You did not send for me?"

    "No, grandmother did.  I had better ring and let her know that you are here."

    "Is anything the matter?"

    "Oh no, Jack, — not that I know of."

    "Then you have seen her this morning?"

    "Seen her?  Of course, — several times but Jack, you know the stud belongs to me; grandmother does not object, so I am going to sell the stud."

    The stud consisted of one rather elderly cob.

    She looked more like Mary Queen of Scots than ever: a Mary smiling, innocent, — speaking in modern English and dressed in a garb of a golden brown colour, made of some soft material which gave her a delightfully domestic air.

    I looked at her.  Another might be expected any day.  Perhaps he would see her in that very gown, that very day.

    "Jack, what makes you look so dull this morning?"

    "Nothing that I can tell to you.  What about selling the stud?  It would amuse me to hear of it."

    "I have made some advertisements.  Tommy, as you know, is rather old, and he goes very well unless he takes it into his head to cogitate; then he stops, and will not stir unless I stand up in the carriage and hit him with the butt end of the whip.  Still, he has always been our stud.  Grandmother cannot drive now, so I shall sell the whole.  But how to say what is true, and yet get any one to buy him!  What do you think of such an advertisement as this? 'To be sold without reserve the Hertfordshire highflyer, beautiful horse; four legs, a fine gray tail, a pleasant eye' —"

    Thus far Katharina.

    "If you please, sir, mistress would like to see you upstairs."

    Upstairs I went, and there my aunt sat.

    "O Jack, O my good, kind nephew! — oh! what is to be done?  You've seen it?"

    "Seen it?  No.  Seen what?"

    "He's married."

    "Married!  Who is married?"

    "Another."

    I had seen Katharina below, joyous, contented, calm.

    I looked earnestly at the grandmother, and with anxious pity sat down by her and took her hand.  In one instant she divined my thought, snatched her hand away with a vigour and a bitterness indescribable.  "So you think my wits are to blame, and not my circumstances?  It was all in the papers last night, the evening papers."

    I pulled the sheet of the Globe from my pocket.

    "If any other man ever had such a name as his," she continued, "there is a chance for Katharina.  If not, there is none."

    Well, — there, looking me in the face, was the name of Another, — his baptismal name, a very singular one, and his surname equally singular.

    If this record were not true, I could tell the names at once to the reader.  As it is, I must invent two, as strange and not at all like them, to call him by.  If any one finds him out, even through this disguise, it will serve him right.

    This was the paragraph: —

    "Accident to Mrs. Tudor Smutt.  A carriage accident, which was very near having disastrous consequences, took place at the Tiverton and Hemyock Junction yesterday.  Mr. Tudor Smutt, of a family well known in this neighbourhood, had just left the station, and with his wife and his three step-daughters had entered an open carriage, when the train starting off frightened the horses, and they ran away at a frightful rate, — finally overthrowing the carriage at the foot of the hill, and actually tossing Mrs. Tudor Smutt on to the top of a newly cut hawthorn hedge.  Mr. Smutt was not hurt, and his daughters were rescued from the overturned phaeton without injury beyond a few bruises; but Mrs. Smutt's arm was badly sprained, and her face was much cut and torn by the thorns.  She was taken back to Tiverton with her family, and they are now staying at the Castle Hotel," etc.

    I was amazed and sat silent, revolving the matter in my mind.  I had supposed that Another was still in the East.

    "Do you think there is a mistake in the Christian name?" said my aunt.  "Another has two brothers."  Then she paused, till I told her that one of these brothers was but lately married to a young girl, and the second, to my certain knowledge, was with his regiment at Bermuda, — having lately returned from his leave.

    Then she said: "And I have telegraphed to the Castle Hotel.  I had difficulty in hiding what I was about from Katharina, and I have got no answer."

    She had requested to know whether Mr. Tudor Smutt was still at the Castle Hotel, Tiverton, and desired that if he was he would immediately communicate with her.  While I sat with her came an answer to her telegram.  Mr. Tudor Smutt was in the hotel, but was about to start for the North.  That was all; and the answer came from the proprietor of the hotel, not from Another.

    I did not tell Katharina's grandmother that she had herself destroyed her chance of finding out what she wanted to know, but I thought so.  If he had come home he had intended for some reason or other that Katharina should not know it.  If he had married he had not courage to tell her so, and but for this accident her family might not have known it for months.  If he had got himself into a scrape, he was just the kind of man to trust to circumstances for working him out of it.

    "Katharina will break her heart," sobbed the good old grandmother; "and it's such a slight to us all; and she has waited so long and been so patient.  And I always disliked him to that degree; and it was such a cruel disadvantage, her being bound to him for so long, that, as I did make up my mind to it and she depends on him, it is doubly hard that he should throw us over."

    To make a long story short, as I sat still talking I turned with a sudden start; not that any sound had called my eyes in that direction, only that I was conscious of a presence in the room, — some one not moving, only being.

    Within the door, standing silent as a vision, her eyes a little widened by wonder, her cheek a little paled by suspense, and her two hands put forward as if (sweet thing!) to ward off some evil news, — she knew not what, — stood Katharina.

    "There is something for me to hear," she said without moving, and in a tone so low and dim that I caught her words with difficulty.

    Neither of us spoke.

    "If he is dead," she began, and her eyes with their far-away look rested on mine, — "if he is dead, no one can say I was not kind."

    She spoke with the tone and air of one talking in sleep, — in a low, passionless, expressionless fashion.  It was almost a whisper, and still she seemed to be holding off the answer with her hands.

    "He is not dead, my dear and precious child," murmured her grandmother; and then she slowly bent forward and tears rained upon her hands.

    "Is he ill?"

    "No."  We both spoke then.

    "What is it all, then?  What is the matter?  Nobody knows whether anything is the matter or not."

    "That was Jack's voice?"

    "Yes, my dear, Jack is here.  Don't you see him?  You must not be frightened, Katharina."  Presently we got her to sit down and drink some water, and very soon we had told her all we knew.

    Her comment on it was unexpected: "Somebody must have stolen his name."

    She and her grandmother were both sobbing now with all their hearts; but presently recovering herself my venerable relative burst forth into such a tirade against Another, showered upon him such a hailstorm of contemptuous words, and peppered him with such epithets of scorn, that I lifted myself bolt upright to gaze at her as I sat between the two, — and found Myself, as is often the case on momentous occasions, drawn away from the main question to consider the accidental ornaments and fringes of circumstance in which it was dressed.

    What a fine indignation there was in that agèd face, what a flash in the usually cold blue eyes, what a flush of pure red over the clear-cut features!

    When she saw my attentive surprise she soon collapsed again, and Katharina spoke on the other side with a calm almost equally unexpected.

    "You have always been my good, good friend."  She laid her hand on my arm.  "You have seen the state of the case, but you have always perceived what was my duty, and helped me to do it and to be loyal."

    "The state of the case!" I exclaimed.  I hated myself when I had said it; but the words had been uttered, and they rang in my own ears as they manifestly stung hers.  Her eyelids drooped as if they were weighed down by a beautiful shame, and her face was all coloured with one blush of pure carnation.  I felt that her confession had been made inadvertently.  She had ceased to love him, but she meant to be faithful to her engagement.

    I looked at her as she sat for two or three moments, still, as if in a dream.  I felt keenly how dear she was, how dear she always had been to me; but I knew she was far from suspecting this.

    "We have been friends so long," I began, "that if you have said anything you did not mean to say, surely you will depend on me forever to consider the words unsaid."

    No answer.  She manifestly could not recover herself.

    "I shall wish just as much as ever to help you, in spite of this report in the paper; and there is still a possibility of explanation.  What would you like me to do?"

    "I don't know."

    I had not believed her capable of being so much out of countenance; but, as if the sound of her words roused her by their whispered unlikeness to her usual voice, she manifestly struggled with her shy astonished trouble, — and presently she breathed more freely, the blush faded, and she said almost in her usual tone, "I should like that you and grandmother would consult as to what is best to be done."

    "I shall not believe that he has done this thing," she presently added, "unless some one, whom I can trust, actually sees him with this lady, and he, himself, acknowledges that he has married her."

    No other possibility than that Another had married "this lady" ever entered her mind for a moment.

    A few years ago, when railroads were not, if a man with a wife and family and a lot of luggage set forth from some given hotel, and another man set forth in chase of him, he was sure sooner or later to be found.  By the coach, or by the post-horses he had used, he could be traced from stage to stage.  It is different now.  People buy tickets at a railway station, and nobody hears their names or knows anything about them.

    Now I am not writing this book to chronicle the flight of Another, or my chase after him, though I had a long one.

    Sometimes I tried to believe that I wished her first thought was correct, and that "somebody else had stolen his name;" but when I had reached the hotel at Tiverton, and been told that the Tudor Smutts were off with the three young ladies, and when I had been favoured with a minute description of Tudor Smutt himself, — I gave up that, was sure that the fugitive was Another, and sure also that he felt he should be chased, and was doing what he could to hide himself.

    But why?  He had committed no offence that he was likely to get anything worse than scorn and contumely for.  I was thinking of this while eating a hasty dinner in the coffee-room of the hotel, when in walked Godfrey and Anna; the former in a mild state of incredulity, — he could not believe Another would be so dishonourable; — the latter in a high state of indignation, her grandmother had written to her on the previous night.

    "Odious little horror," exclaimed Anna when the waiter had left us, and she could take to personalities, as ladies always do on such occasions, "I could tear his little heart out with pleasure, if he had one!"

    "My sweetest Anna," said Godfrey in his candid leisurely style, "can this be you?  Be calm!  Let us not be unjust, and say things that afterwards we shall have reason to be sorry for.  No one, my dearest wife, is in general so reasonable as you are."

    "O Godfrey!" exclaimed Anna, "don't!  I can't always be straining up to your level.  I don't want to be reasonable."

    Godfrey looked mildly disturbed, and she went on: "But I hope he has done this thing, — Oh, I do hope that with all my heart!"

    "Well," I exclaimed, when I saw him set his great hands on his large knees and look at her almost with alarm, "this is as fine an autumnal evening as I ever saw, and we must set off in fifty minutes, for we have to travel all night; we are going to Liverpool.  Waiter, what is there in the hotel?"

    I had rung furiously, and in a short time food of various sorts was on the table.  Anna and Godfrey were seated before it, and we were all making as good a meal as if such a man as Another had never been born.

    A wonderful night followed.  Little pricks in the salmon-coloured west sparkled and shook, reporting themselves as small adornments loath to be overlooked.  The jewellery of heaven, visible in all the worlds that go round this our little sun!  Have their possible inhabitants better eyes than we?  Can they discriminate this active globe, the earth, and the small green island lying on the sides of the north, and the tiny lines scored upon it which go by the name of railroads, and the flying carriages with their trail of snow-white scud?

    I tell you candidly that I do not know whether they can or not, but I do know that the sleep of the just is occasionally accompanied by the snoring of the just; and if it pleases us to think that the inhabitants of Orion, of Rigel or Aldebaran, may possibly see our railway trains, it is only fair to suppose that they can also hear us snore, — hear Godfrey at least.  At the same time I consider that the guard who once looked in at a junction was distinctly mistaken, for he declared that "that gentleman's snoring was enough to wake the dead, and leave as much noise over as ought to make Niagara Falls ashamed of themselves for having pretended to be anyway obstreperous."

    Anna and I did not argue with that guard.  The person that I argued with was Myself.  As for her, she slumbered, for she was used to the marital serenade.  This was the gist of my argument.

    I.    So you are secretly glad, you mean hound, that this poor sweet girl, whom you pretend to love, has probably met with a misfortune which is likely to wreck her happiness utterly.

    Myself.    This really is not like you, Sir.  She could not have been happy with Another.  He is a prig; he is precise, domineering, egotistic, cold.

    I.    But still he is the man of her choice.

    Myself.    And it appears that he has run away from her; and your conduct will be almost as bad, Jack, if, this proving to be true, you step up and try to work upon her feelings.

    I.    She might do worse.

    Myself.    Perhaps, but that you will never know, for if you go limping up to her, she will have to take you.

    I.    She shall never take me against her true wish.

    Myself.    She must.

    I.    That is a lie!

    Myself.    It is not!  Do you propose to do other than confess your life-long love.

    I.    What chance shall I have if I do not?

    Myself.    And what chance has she if you do?  You saved the lives of both her sisters; you act like a son to her old grandmother.

    I.    These are old arguments.  I yielded to them when she was eighteen.  I went away; I almost ate my heart out in absence; and what is she the happier?  Now let me alone !

    Myself.    But you won't do it, Jack; I hope better of you.

    I.    "Man is born to trouble as the sparks to fly upward."  Well, if I am to forego my only chance of happiness

    Myself.     [Interrupting.] — and of tricking her, while she smarts under this indignity, into a mere marriage of esteem.

    I.    — my only chance of happiness, as I was saying, I shall have to make myself scarce again.  I'll go away.  O my Katharina!  Yes, I must go; I think I'll go to America.

    We were waiting in a station while this argument was proceeding.  Day had dawned.  Godfrey had awoke, and was shivering a little; and Anna said to me, Oh, so pathetically, "Dear Jack, I cannot bear it!"

    "Bear what?"

    "To hear you sigh so.  Don't!"

    "He is hungry, no doubt," said Godfrey; "emptiness is enough to make a fellow sigh."

    I made no cavil, but let the explanation pass.  We had better have come up straight to London, and then proceeded to Liverpool at once, for we had several delays while getting across to the North-western Line.


 
CHAPTER XIV.


WHEN we reached Liverpool we divided, and made research in the different hotels.  No need to chronicle our failures.

    I had begun to give up hope, and to feel what a ridiculous position we were in, when Godfrey and Anna, thinking they had got a clue, went off to Edinburgh, and I, tired and vexed, returned to my hotel, sat down in the coffee-room, and began to consider what I would do next.  A family sat at a table near me.  I took no notice of that family.  "Dear papa," was appealed to a good deal.  I did not notice his answers, — never so much as looked at him.  "Dear mamma," a ponderous woman very much bedizened with jewels, wore her arm in a sling.  My attention was not arrested even by that.  I merely observed that her hair was too black to be of true English product, and her nose a little too aquiline.  I was reminded by them all of Jewesses, but not strongly reminded.

    Being tired I half dozed, dropped my hat on the polished floor with a smart report, and, starting up awake, met the eyes of the man.  He had been sitting with his back to me and had turned at the noise.

    Tudor Smutt!

    I was so astonished that I sat dumb; and he, rising, said to the ladies that he had forgotten to give orders about his letters, and glided out of the room.  I doubt whether he was sure that I recognized him.  I followed.  He quickened his pace, made for a vestibule.  My steps were behind him.  He hurried to a door that he might escape me.  It proved to be merely a cupboard-door.  He bolted into the cupboard and shut himself up; but I opened the door, peeped into the little dark place, and there he stood, — red in the face and deeply ashamed of himself.

    "Tudor Smutt, I believe?" quoth I, rather blandly.

    "Ah!  Oh!  Yes indeed!  I believe it is Jerome.  Who could have expected to meet you here?"

    "I fully expected to meet you here," was my reply.  "I have been chasing you up all the way from the Castle Hotel at Tiverton.  Hadn't you better come out?"

    He came out and sat down; he was now white to the lips.

    "Anything said before that lady (I hope you will be careful, Jerome; I hope you don't mean to be inconsiderate) might wreck, — well, it might wreck my chance of happiness altogether."

    "You had better look out, then," I answered aloud, "and tell me all I want to know, or I shall have to apply to that lady."

    "What — what — I mean what do you want to know?"

    "I want to know whether that lady is your wife."

    "Yes, she is."

    "Prove it!  You had better be quick; they will be coming out directly."

    "Prove — prove it?  How can I, on the spur of the moment?  Is not my word enough?"

    "Nonsense, Smutt!  Why am I to suppose that your word is any better than your deed?"

    "On my sacred honour, Jerome."

    "Your sacred honour!  I like that!  Have done with such rubbish, and answer me."

    "You are insulting me!  How dare you?  What right have you to asperse the character of my wife with your vile doubts?"

    "There, don't tremble so!  This bluster, ridiculous as it may be under the circumstances, becomes you better.  Have you got your marriage certificate about you? or has she?"

    "No.  What do you want it for?"

    "That I may see when you were married, and where."

    "We were married in London, on the third of August, at St. George's, Bloomsbury.  I met with her on my return voyage."

    "And the clergyman's name, or the clerk's?"

    He told me.

    "We must telegraph for that certificate at once.  You have been base enough, by your own account, to marry one woman without releasing another from a promise that you have held her to for several years; and it is my belief that you meant to go off to America, and save yourself the disgrace of making any explanation at all.  Waiter," I continued, as one of that fraternity passed through the vestibule, "please to let Mrs. Smutt know that Mr. Smutt has gone out for a few minutes."

    I made him get his hat.

    "Why are you in such a hurry?" he exclaimed nervously.

    "Because I do not want to be in your company longer than can be helped."

    It was a shame I said that, under the circumstances, — which were that I was inwardly glad to believe as I did that he really was married, and that I had always disliked him heartily.

    A telegraph office was close at hand.  I telegraphed in Tudor's presence to the clergyman then officiating at St. George's, Bloomsbury; for it was Wednesday morning, and I felt sure there would be service going on.

    I was right.  That very clergyman answered: Service was just over; what did I want?

    In less than an hour I got what I wanted.  He telegraphed the words of an entry which set forth that on the third of August he, A. B., had performed the ceremony of marriage between Tudor Smutt, bachelor, and Lavinia Cohen, widow.

    For a "consideration" to the clerk, as he told me, I could have a certified copy of the register by post the next morning.

    Tudor took out his purse to pay for the messages.

    "No, thank you," quoth I, "but I will accept a little information from you if you will give it.  Why did you run away?  Did you really think such people as we are were likely to sue you for breach of promise?"

    "I thought the circumstances might get to the ears of my wife and displease her; and of course I desire harmony in my own house."

    "Oh, then," said I, "you were not able to get it settled on you.  Ah! I see.  You have to keep her in good humour."

    He darted an angry look at me, and drew himself up.  "Do you mean to insinuate that I married her for her money?" he exclaimed.

    "Tudor," quoth I, counting the change and putting it in my pocket, "you are quite safe, man; we are not going to do anything to you; and (I speak for myself) I should scorn to annoy an innocent lady because she happens to be your wife.  In return for this, the least you can do is to receive my little insinuations with civility.  Of course you may deny their truth if you can.  I have now got what I want; pray consider yourself free."

    So he departed, — for the first few steps with amazing dignity, and then with a certain urgency and alacrity.  About an hour after, I saw him taking a drive.  He was packed into an open carriage with his wife and her three daughters.  The former was resplendent in flying feathers and dangling chains.

    I heard afterwards that he had actually contemplated a trip to America, and had almost persuaded his wife to take it as part of their wedding tour.  This was on account of their name having got into the papers.  Luckily for the wife, her accident proved to be, in reality, of no consequence at all; but the dread of exposure had filled his little soul with despair.

    I wrote to Katharina, sparing her the details of her late lover's contemptible bearing and poltroonery, but sending her a copy of the marriage certificate, and telling her I hoped she would soon forget Tudor and meet with some man more worthy of her.  Then I mentioned that I was about to take a tour abroad, and hoped to be in London some time in the following spring, — time enough, in fact, to see them all in the houses and their great experiment fully answering.  I have a conscience, as I hope, and various long arguments with myself had convinced me of my duty.  I did not even return home, but sent to my housekeeper for my traps, and shortly stepped on board one of the finest steamers of the finest line bound for New York.

    The sea, especially when it is stormy, has a strange fascination, — a strangely exhilarating effect on me.  It takes half the sting from trouble, and more than half the disadvantage from lameness.  My sea-legs are almost as good as another man's.  But, alas! on landing I met with an accident.  I got a fall, and injured the lame foot again.

    I was carried to an hotel; and without wanting in the least to excite pity, for nothing is further from my thought than the least pity for myself, I must admit that for about six weeks I had an evil and painful time of it.  I spent it chiefly lying on a bed or a couch, — receiving such kindly visitors as chose to come and see me, and writing the later chapters of this book.

    I saw nothing whatever of the American continent excepting the sky, which is not at all like our sky, — the snow, which has not the least the effect of our snow, — and one street, which was not like our streets.

    In case you should desire to argue with me, I will tell you the why and the wherefore of these things; and then I shall not feel obliged to care, whatever you may say.

    First I must observe that the human eyes are impressed by the effects more than by the facts of nature, are beguiled by colour to forget form, and deceived by light as much as by darkness.

    The sky was vastly more blue and high to my eyes, for we were much farther south.  Also the dark was a much deeper and purer darkness.  But the snow was not so white.  No, I say it was not!  Because the light from that sky got down into it, searched it out, and, so to speak, burrowed into it.  So that, where it had not been trodden, it might have been better compared to delicately drifted swan's-down than to opaque "icing" on the top of a wedding cake, which is the effect of English snow.  In the same latitudes of Europe I have not seen like effects.

As to that street, the difference between it and our streets, if not organic, was convincing.

    It had not that solid, stolid, majestic air of dirt, that ancient, strong, old-fashioned, last-forever, don't-care-for-you sort of aspect, that one meets with in parts of our old towns.

    No, it was painted up, which gave it the look of being not substantial enough.  It was impudent and gimcracky.  And whereas our folks in their streets stump about in cold weather looking as solid as milestones, these had the air of draped laths.

    But they were most kind and friendly laths.  Some of them had come back from Europe in the same ship with me; and they came evening after evening, ladies as well as men, and sat with me or played at chess and at whist.  I made several friends whom I hope to keep and behave better to in the future than in the past; for I am sensible of having been snappish to them when I was in pain, and they did not resent it.

    Some of these friends, Mr. and Mrs. Ezra P. Smyth and Mr. and Mrs. James Z. Pelliver, helped to write this book at my dictation; in fact I dictated it all to them, as far as the commencement of my voyages; but the best of it was that thought it was all pure fiction.  They had no notion that it chronicled anything but my invention, and would come in evening after evening to beguile me into going on with it because they thought it amused me.  But to proceed.  I had a kind and skilful doctor, a very good fellow, an Englishman; and he also had come over with me, and was studying some branch of chemistry.  He called in a New Yorker too, and they both agreed.

    About the middle of January I was pronounced quite well enough to travel, and they recommended me to go as far south as I could.

    I had noticed for some time that my friends the Pellivers were very fond of leading the conversation to an uncle of theirs, a wonderful man, a celebrated bone-setter, — a quack, in short, and neither more nor less.

    The third time this subject came up, it was brought a long way round before it reached home.  I observed the process with amusement.

    It professed to take its rise with certain devout remarks on the rarer gifts bestowed by the Creator on particular highly favoured mortals.  Now, there was St. Francis of Assisi!  There could be no doubt that he really had the power to tame and attract many kinds of wild animals, just as Rarey in modern days, indeed in these days, could tame the most vicious horse in a few minutes.  Then as to another rare gift, that of almost instantaneous calculation, — calculation so swift that those who possessed the power could not follow their own paths and explain the process; like the lightning they started and were instantly at the goal.  They need only mention Babbage, for instance, and the Calculating Boy.  I rather thought that Babbage and the Calculating Boy were one and the same person; but I said nothing, and they proceeded.  It was impossible, they said, to deny the existence of such gifts, and it would be a great foible to demand an investigation as to their nature before availing one's self of them; just as much as it would be to decline the services of those rare mortals who almost from childhood could tell by the merest touch, and sometimes by a look, when a bone was out of its place, having at the same time a heaven-taught knack of putting it in again.  There was a celebrated man in London who had such a gift.  Their uncle had been over to Europe and had visited and compared notes (so far as a man could who knew no language but his own) with the most gifted of that fraternity, and thought this London man the greatest of them all.  Had I ever heard of him?  Yes; I had.  As I was going South I should pass their uncle's location.  He was a quack doctor, it was true.  Might he look at me?  I said that to please them I would have let him look at me if I had had anything for him to exercise his craft upon.

    "This man frequently found out that people had little bones out when they did not know it."

    "But I had been attended by some of the first English surgeons, and, as they knew, by one in New York."

    They were not satisfied.

    "And besides, if these were wrong it must be too late to do anything now."

    They were not convinced.

    Well, would I at least think it over?

    I promised that I would.

    "And as to going to see their old uncle, — he did not pretend to be a general practitioner; would I go and see him on my return?"

    I replied by warm thanks for their friendship and their great wish to serve me; and then I shirked the subject.  We parted, and I went South, where I enjoyed my usual health and limped about exactly as usual; but — cutting that three months or so out of my life, for my travels are not worth recording — I go on to about the last day of March, when, on a beautiful morning, descending from a railway car, I saw written up the very name of the place where this kindly old uncle lived.  It was a junction, and I shall always be thankful for a disappointment that befell me there.  A friend, who was to have met me, let me know that he could not come for two or three days; and there I was left stranded.

    But —


"There's a Divinity that shapes our ends,
 Rough-hew them how we will."


    A wagon drove into the station, with a somewhat countrified looking old fellow in it who demanded some parcels, mentioning the bone-setter's name.  I stepped forward and mentioned mine.  He was the very man.  He had heard of me from his niece and nephew.  He was cordial, and insisted.  I could, I must, I should, — he was sure I would, — come and see him and his two daughters.

    Come I did.  "It was strange," I remarked, "that you should have driven into the station just as I was there."

    "Many strange things happen to such as wait on the ways of Providence," said he with his Yankee tone and a certain devoutness of manner.  "I s'pose you air aware that you came to me by that appintment."

    I answered by informing him that his art could not help me.  I had no bone out.

    He smiled.  "Wa'll, you have," he answered.

    "How do you know?" I exclaimed.

    "He was silent for at least five minutes, while we jolted over a road so vile that any man but an American would thankfully have walked on it rather than driven.  Then he said, "It will hurt you to the pint of making you holler, but we'll talk of that byme by."

    I had not the least intention of anything more than talk.

    Then we drew near to a pretty house with many trees about it, and three pretty girls in the porch.

    Two of them were extremely tall.  Those, he said, were his daughters; they had both suffered from delicate lungs, and for their sake he had come to the South.  "The young lady in the flowered pinafore," he continued, "is a friend."  He was a very large tall man himself, almost gigantic.

    So I was introduced to his two daughters and to the young lady in the flowered pinafore.  It was, in point of fact, a sort of apron with a bib.  I had often seen Katharina wear such a one when she was painting.  It was made of a kind of cream-coloured stuff which, I think, is called tick, and it was worked all about with oranges, lemons, and leaves.

    I made myself as agreeable as I possibly could to those girls.  We had a very pleasant afternoon.  I drove them over to a merry-making at another farmhouse, and we did not return till late.  When the girls had retired, the father began again to talk, and that in a fashion almost paternal.  In short, he examined the lame foot.

    "You air very onbelieving," he remarked.

    "There is nothing in reason that I would not give to walk as other men do," I replied, at the same time letting him know that I knew a cure was not possible.

    "Well, we ken talk about the fee afterwards," said be, purposely misunderstanding me.  "So you've consulted several of the faculty, here and there.  It 's not often I've had a chance of gitting a rise out of a Britisher."

    This audacious confidence astonished me, and he sent me off to bed admonishing me to sleep well.  He laughed and chuckled all the way upstairs as he conducted me to my room, as if something gave him keen delight, and then he left me.

    It was about ten o'clock the next day, I think, that he said: "Wa'll, Jacob — Jacob 's my man — is here; and you've slept over it.  What do you say?"

    I looked into the confident eyes of the gigantic old fellow, and almost to my own astonishment replied: "I say yes, and God speed you."  Two minutes before I had not intended to give him any such answer.

    Wa'll, as he would have said, it behooves me to made this chronicle very brief, and yet I can tell all.

    There was a couch in his room.  Jacob asked me to sit on it, — to look out of the window, and let him hold my arms.

    In two minutes, the old man's soft hands being on my foot, I felt a most outrageous and astonishing wrench in it.  I shouted, "hollered," as he would have said.

    The chronicle is over.

    The next thing I noticed was that several bees were buzzing in my ears, and I vainly endeavoured to lift my hands and dash them away; and then I noticed that this buzzing of bees had resolved itself into the sound of voices, the voices of girls.

    "He looks very strong.  Why did he faint?" quoth the voice of her with the flowered pinafore.

    "They 'most always do," said Jacob.

    A nice little hand was busy with my necktie.

    "Here is some coffee, Mr. Jerome," said another of the girls.  So I sat up and drank it; and at the same time feeling sorry for my host, — who stood apart looking at me, as I supposed, with deep gravity and discomfiture, — I said, "This is a bad beginning, is it not, Doctor?"

    "Ahem!" was all his answer.

    "Now you girls ken go, ef you feel like it," he presently added.

    He sat looking at me for at least five minutes, and said nothing.  Then he proceeded, "You may put your foot to the ground, ef you feel like it."

    I did so.

    "Wa'll, what do you say 'bout it?" he next inquired.

    "It feels very odd — very strange.  It seems to me to go flat on the ground like the other foot."

    He took out his watch, and sat staring at it and at me for perhaps three minutes more; then he said, "Wa'll, sir! now you ken stand up — and — now you ken walk to the window, ef you feel like it."

    I did get up.  I walked to the window, just as other men walk, — but gently and almost reverentially, the joy was so subduing.  I walked, and I never limped more.

    Oh how sweet were those words of quiet authoritative permission.  They often appear to sound in my ears even to this day; and how sweet were the first steps across that floor, — even so sweet, I thought (if it could be so), as their steps who walk in the Golden Street of the New Jerusalem.

    He desired that I would stay there a week to be under his charge, and that he might be sure I was all right.

    Of course I did so.

    "And 'bout that fee," he one day began.

    I begged him to name anything he pleased.

    "You will give it?"

    "Thankfully!"

    "That doctor of yourn in New York?  He was a Britisher?"

    "Yes, but he does not practise in New York; and he is gone home again."

    "My folks wrote to me 'bout you, and I wrote to him."

    "Nobody told me that."

    "No.  I gave my view of what might be wrong, and said he could send his patient to me; and he told them that I was a quack and was quite mistaken, and he never even answered me."

    "Indeed!"

    "Wa'll — I de-mend of you that you search out that man, ef he is in his own location, and let him see this foot of yourn, which I calc'late 'll make him feel small.  And you ken tell him that I said it was a very simple case."  Here he chuckled, and seemed to think he had no more to say.

    "I will.  But that is not all?  Surely you will accept a real fee."

    "Who gave you that watch you wear?  You told me it was a chronometer,  — a good one."

    "No one gave it to me; I bought it."

    "You put no value on it, then, beyond the money you gave for it?"

    "None.  It is yours if you will do me the honour to accept it."

    "I will, sir."

    He took it nobly, and I hope is wearing it to this day.

    What a fine accomplishment is walking!

    I admired myself as I stepped out.

    I had dawdled away a good deal of time in the South, — doing little more than set up such birds as I shot for a little local museum, and making careful drawings of such fish and insects as I could get at that time of year.

    But now I longed for my native country.  Everything seemed changed.  There was no reason why I should not return, — every reason why I should.

    Anna and Katharina had written many times and had expressed the most kindly solicitude, and they amused me with accounts of what they were about.  They were installed and reigning in the houses.  Most of the ladies had made astonishing and most ridiculous mistakes at first; that was because they had not given their whole intelligence and interest to the problems before them.

    Anna and Katharina had now done so, as it appeared.  They had studied these household matters, and got the better of them.  They could now be thoroughly their old selves.  They seemed to have subdued their work to their hands, and they did it far better than servants ever can.

    High praise, this.  They said, moreover, that they were happy; for Godfrey was settled, and they were together.  I did not tell them of my intended return, or anything about my visit to the old doctor.

    It was about the middle of April when, after a prosperous voyage, I saw the roof of my own house again.  It looked very comfortable.  I spare my readers the joy and congratulations of my good housekeeper.

    I meant to go to London the next day, but there was no good train till noon; so, in the mean time, I walked out toward the now deserted house which had so long been Katharina's home.

    And lo! it was by no means deserted.  I saw some people drawing up blinds.  It had evidently been let.  So I did not approach the windows closely, but turned away into a little lawn before spoken of, — little lawn at the edge of the wood, where were always one or more fallen trees, and where silver-birches leaned out their slender trunks toward the light.  There Katharina and her sisters in their childhood had loved to play.  It was here that she had made me the offer.  Sweet thing, how often I had teased her about it!  And there, in that very same place, a newly felled tree was lying.

    I went and sat down on it, and I took off my hat and gave thanks.

    Well, — and then, so inconsistent is man, that I began to blame myself for having fled from England; and I almost reached the point of wishing that I had written to her, and got (who could be sure I might not?) some word of affection — perhaps of hope — in reply, as my old self.  And next I felt what a fool I was; and all on a sudden a little crackling noise close at hand made me turn, and in an instant a girlish figure came darting out of the shrubbery and ran into my arms.

    Katharina!

    She could not check herself; but yet, as the strange man starting up received her in his arms, she saw who it was.  Her momentary air of consternation vanished.  I beheld again the beautiful blush, so rare on her face, and before either of us spoke the first kiss had been given and returned.

    And then Katharina drew back and gazed at me.  She was naturally astonished to meet me there, for I had given her no notice of my intended return.  It warmed my heart to find her delighted and agitated.  First she was a good deal out of countenance; then she wept a little.

    And I — well, I got her to sit by me on the tree-trunk, and felt as much as she did that our parting had not promised any such meeting.  The manner of it had taken us both unawares; and, her surprise being not yet over, she heaved up a little sob, and said, "I was sometimes afraid, dear Jack, that we should never see you again."

    "So you thought of me?"

    "You know we did.  Were you lonely when you were ill?"

    "Very.  And so you thought of me, — a poor limping fellow?"

    Katharina looked up.  I was holding one of her hands rather tightly clasped in mine; I did not feel able or willing to give it up.  She looked at me, as I said, and then she looked round.  I felt, as clearly as if she had said it, that she remembered where we were.  Her bosom heaved; her fair cheek mustered colour.  She had quickly recovered after her tears.  She now drew her hand away, and sat a minute or two looking rather shy — rather demure.

    And then our eyes met again.  I know not what mine expressed, but in hers was shining a certain tender defiance, a sweet audacity.  She put her hand through my arm; and, as if she would not look at me longer, she leaned her forehead against my sleeve and laughed and said, "If he thinks I shall ever do it again he never was more mistaken in his life."

    No!  I did it that time — I mean I made the offer, — with some of the thankfulness for my position and the reverence for her womanhood that I felt.

    Enough to say that it was not declined; and we sat a little longer under the sweet April sky, among budding leaves, and with tufts of primroses and violets and wood-anemones at our feet.

    She told me she had come from London to stay a few days in her former home with some old friends who had taken the house, and I began to feel that I had something difficult to tell her.

    I declare I was half frightened, and broke into the subject pell-mell.

    "And I wanted to speak — as to that limp, Katharina!"

    Her answer might have been addressed to the tree-stump opposite, for she looked only at it.  "I thought it was agreed long ago that he did not limp worth mentioning."  So then, as she had made reference to Another, he had to be discussed; after which, if I had intended to be jealous, I might have found it difficult.

    But that came to pass which I had foreseen.  When this sweet and precious creature heard the great news she felt as if she had been cheated.  I knew she felt that she had been very easily won.  I ought to have let her know at first, she said; and I perceived that, if it had been so, matters would have been different.

    So, then, I administered as much of that impassioned flattery of the affections as I had at command; and by degrees Katharina graciously forgave me, as I told her, for not being quite such a bad match for her as she had expected.

    "You wished to be very generous and make a great sacrifice," I said, when she had let me take her hand again, and when her smiles had begun to peep out at all the corners of her eyes and mouth.

    "No, Jack," she answered in a deprecating tone, "but — it was not fair of you!"

    "Every one would have said, 'How noble of her to marry that limping cousin just because he has been in love with her all her life!'  You would have liked that!"

    "No, Jack," she repeated; and she looked demure.

    "Did you never suspect, then, that you had the lame man's heart?  Did not you generously decide to accept his hand?"

    "Generously?  No.  But when you went away, Anna said she was almost sure that you loved me; and almost directly I began to love you too.  I could not help it."

    "This is the most delightful news I was ever told in my life.  You believed Anna fully, of course?"

    "I hoped it was true; and I thought" —

    "What a sweet creature you are, Katharina, — and I had no notion you were so handsome!  You thought what?"

    I was standing before her.

    "If I tell you, it is only to let you see how much I perceive that you are different.  I am grateful, of course, very grateful; but you will have now to make me love you as your new self."

    "I promise to try; but you thought?"

    "Oh, I thought — but I changed my mind the moment I saw you.  I thought, if it was necessary, I might perhaps do it again."

    I never pledged myself to chronicle everything, — all the little incidents of this delightful morning.  Suffice it to say that I received that last speech in a natural and proper manner.

    And now what more?

    Am I expected to relate the experiments made in those houses?  I think not, my dear readers.  I think I shall here bring my first book to a conclusion.  The second will be better, more sensible, and more amusing, for Katharina will help me to write it; and if she makes you laugh as much as she has made me laugh over their acts and deeds, their work and their mistakes, their triumphs and their contentment in the said houses, you will be secure of at least one joyous day.


Adieu.

 


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