Read Stoddard's emotionally complex short story from 1863. Stoddard's story is told in first person by the main character, who feels trapped by her gender and her class. The story reveals the ways that law and society enforced women's subservience, even as it explores the complicity of the narrator's own sexuality in her entrapment. One major source of Stoddard's importance to American literature is the historicism of her work, the manner in which her writing embodied and subverted the tension of her present-day culture with the archetypal or received values of the American past. A pioneering predecessor of regionalist authors Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Kate Chopin, as well as a precursor of American modernism, Stoddard's writing is remarkable for its almost total lack of sentimentality, pervasive use of irony, psychological depth of richly drawn characters, intense atmospheric descriptions of New England, concise language, and innovative use of narrative voice and structure. Her investigation of relations between the sexes, a dominant focus of her fiction, analyzes emotions ranging from love and desire to disdain, aggression, and depression. You might research her further through a Google search or by consulting Wikipedia.
The two months I spent at Newport with Aunt Eliza Huell, who had been ordered to the sea-side for the benefit of her health, were the months that created all that is dramatic in my destiny. My aunt was troublesome, for she was not only out of health, but in a lawsuit. She wrote to me, for we lived apart, asking me to accompany her—not because she was fond of me, or wished to give me pleasure, but because I was useful in various ways. Mother insisted upon my accepting her invitation, not because she loved her late husband's sister, but because she thought it wise to cotton to her in every particular, for Aunt Eliza was rich, and we—two lone women—were poor.
I gave my music-pupils a longer and earlier vacation than usual, took a week to arrange my wardrobe—for I made my own dresses—and then started for New York, with the five dollars which Aunt Eliza had sent for my fare thither. I arrived at her house in Bond Street at 7 A.M., and found her man James in conversation with the milkman. He informed me that Miss Huell was very bad, and that the housekeeper was still in bed. I supposed that Aunt Eliza was in bed also, but I had hardly entered the house when I heard her bell ring as she only could ring it—with an impatient jerk.
"She wants hot milk," said James, "and the man has just come."
I laid my bonnet down, and went to the kitchen. Saluting the cook, who was an old acquaintance, and who told me that the "divil" had been in the range that morning, I took a pan, into which I poured some milk, and held it over the gaslight till it was hot; then I carried it up to Aunt Eliza.
"Here is your milk, Aunt Eliza. You have sent for me to help you, and I begin with the earliest opportunity."
"I looked for you an hour ago. Ring the bell."
I rang it.
"Your mother is well, I suppose. She would have sent you, though, had she been sick in bed."
"She has done so. She thinks better of my coming than I do."
The housekeeper, Mrs. Roll, came in, and Aunt Eliza politely requested her to have breakfast for her niece as soon as possible.
"I do not go down of mornings yet," said Aunt Eliza, "but Mrs. Roll presides. See that the coffee is good, Roll."
"It is good generally, Miss Huell."
"You see that Margaret brought me my milk."
"Ahem!" said Mrs. Roll, marching out.
At the beginning of each visit to Aunt Eliza I was in the habit of dwelling on the contrast between her way of living and ours. We lived from "hand to mouth." Every thing about her wore a hereditary air; for she lived in my grandfather's house, and it was the same as in his day. If I was at home when these contrasts occurred to me I should have felt angry; as it was, I felt them as in a dream—the china, the silver, the old furniture, and the excellent fare soothed me.
In the middle of the day Aunt Eliza came down stairs, and after she had received a visit from her doctor, decided to go to Newport on Saturday. It was Wednesday; and I could, if I chose, make any addition to my wardrobe. I had none to make, I informed her. What were my dresses?—had I a black silk? she asked. I had no black silk, and thought one would be unnecessary for hot weather.
"Who ever heard of a girl of twenty-four having no black silk! You have slimsy muslins, I dare say?"
"And you like them?"
"For present wear."
That afternoon she sent Mrs. Roll out, who returned with a splendid heavy silk for me, which Aunt Eliza said should be made before Saturday, and it was. I went to a fashionable dress-maker of her recommending, and on Friday it came home, beautifully made and trimmed with real lace.
"Even the Pushers could find no fault with this," said Aunt Eliza, turning over the sleeves and smoothing the lace. Somehow she smuggled into the house a white straw-bonnet, with white roses; also a handsome mantilla. She held the bonnet before me with a nod, and deposited it again in the box, which made a part of the luggage for Newport.
On Sunday morning we arrived in Newport, and went to a quiet hotel in the town. James was with us, but Mrs. Roll was left in Bond Street, in charge of the household. Monday was spent in an endeavor to make an arrangement regarding the hire of a coach and coachman. Several livery-stable keepers were in attendance, but nothing was settled, till I suggested that Aunt Eliza should send for her own carriage. James was sent back the next day, and returned on Thursday with coach, horses, and William her coachman. That matter being finished, and the trunks being unpacked, she decided to take her first bath in the sea, expecting me to support her through the trying ordeal of the surf. As we were returning from the beach we met a carriage containing a number of persons with a family resemblance.
When Aunt Eliza saw them she angrily exclaimed, "Am I to see those Uxbridges every day?"
Of the Uxbridges this much I knew—that the two brothers Uxbridge were the lawyers of her opponents in the lawsuit which had existed three or four years. I had never felt any interest in it, though I knew that it was concerning a tract of ground in the city which had belonged to my grandfather, and which had, since his day, become very valuable. Litigation was a habit of the Huell family. So the sight of the Uxbridge family did not agitate me as it did Aunt Eliza.
"The sly, methodical dogs! but I shall beat Lemorne yet!"
"How will you amuse yourself then, aunt?"
"I'll adopt some boys to inherit what I shall save from his clutches."
The bath fatigued her so she remained in her room for the rest of the day; but she kept me busy with a hundred trifles. I wrote for her, computed interest, studied out bills of fare, till four o'clock came, and with it a fog. Nevertheless I must ride on the Avenue, and the carriage was ordered.
"Wear your silk, Margaret; it will just about last your visit through—the fog will use it up."
"I am glad of it," I answered.
"You will ride every day. Wear the bonnet I bought for you also."
"Certainly; but won't that go quicker in the fog than the dress?"
"Maybe; but wear it."
I rode every day afterward, from four to six, in the black silk, the mantilla, and the white straw. When Aunt Eliza went she was so on the alert for the Uxbridge family carriage that she could have had little enjoyment of the ride. Rocks never were a passion with her, she said, nor promontories, chasms, or sand. She came to Newport to be washed with salt-water; when she had washed up to the doctor's prescription she should leave, as ignorant of the peculiar pleasures of Newport as when she arrived. She had no fancy for its conglomerate societies, its literary cottages, its parvenue suits of rooms, its saloon habits, and its bathing herds.
I considered the rides a part of the contract of what was expected in my two months' performance. I did not dream that I was enjoying them, any more than I supposed myself to be enjoying a sea-bath while pulling Aunt Eliza to and fro in the surf. Nothing in the life around me stirred me, nothing in nature attracted me. I liked the fog; somehow it seemed to emanate from me instead of rolling up from the ocean, and to represent me. Whether I went alone or not, the coachman was ordered to drive a certain round; after that I could extend the ride in whatever direction I pleased, but I always said, "Anywhere, William." One afternoon, which happened to be a bright one, I was riding on the road which led to the glen, when I heard the screaming of a flock of geese which were waddling across the path in front of the horses. I started, for I was asleep probably, and, looking forward, saw the Uxbridge carriage, filled with ladies and children, coming toward me; and by it rode a gentleman on horseback. His horse was rearing among the hissing geese, but neither horse nor geese appeared to engage him; his eyes were fixed upon me. The horse swerved so near that its long mane almost brushed against me. By an irresistible impulse I laid my ungloved hand upon it, but did not look at the rider. Carriage and horseman passed on, and William resumed his pace. A vague idea took possession of me that I had seen the horseman before on my various drives. I had a vision of a man galloping on a black horse out of the fog, and into it again. I was very sure, however, that I had never seen him on so pleasant a day as this! William did not bring his horses to time; it was after six when I went into Aunt Eliza's parlor, and found her impatient for her tea and toast. She was crosser than the occasion warranted; but I understood it when she gave me the outlines of a letter she desired me to write to her lawyer in New York. Something had turned up, he had written her; the Uxbridges believed that they had ferreted out what would go against her. I told her that I had met the Uxbridge carriage.
"One of them is in New York; how else could they be giving me trouble just now?"
"There was a gentleman on horseback beside the carriage."
"Did he look mean and cunning?"
"He did not wear his legal beaver up, I think; but he rode a fine horse and sat it well."
"A lawyer on horseback should, like the beggar of the adage, ride to the devil."
"Your business now is the 'Lemorne?'"
"You know it is."
"I did not know but that you had found something besides to litigate."
"It must have been Edward Uxbridge that you saw. He is the brain of the firm."
"You expect Mr. Van Horn?"
"Oh, he must come; I can not be writing letters."
We had been in Newport two weeks when Mr. Van Horn, Aunt Eliza's lawyer, came. He said that he would see Mr. Edward Uxbridge. Between them they might delay a term, which he thought would be best. "Would Miss Huell ever be ready for a compromise?" he jestingly asked.
"Are you suspicious?" she inquired.
"No; but the Uxbridge chaps are clever."
He dined with us; and at four o'clock Aunt Eliza graciously asked him to take a seat in the carriage with me, making some excuse for not going herself.
"Hullo!" said Mr. Van Horn when we had reached the country road; "there's Uxbridge now." And he waved his hand to him.
It was indeed the black horse and the same rider that I had met. He reined up beside us, and shook hands with Mr. Van Horn.
"We are required to answer this new complaint?" said Mr. Van Horn.
Mr. Uxbridge nodded.
"And after that the judgment?"
Mr. Uxbridge laughed.
"I wish that certain gore of land had been sunk instead of being mapped in 1835."
"The surveyor did his business well enough, I am sure."
They talked together in a low voice for a few minutes, and then Mr. Van Horn leaned back in his seat again. "Allow me," he said, "to introduce you, Uxbridge, to Miss Margaret Huell, Miss Huell's niece. Huell vs. Brown, you know," he added, in an explanatory tone; for I was Huell vs. Brown's daughter. "Oh!" said Mr. Uxbridge bowing, and looking at me gravely. I looked at him also; he was a pale, stern-looking man, and forty years old certainly. I derived the impression at once that he had a domineering disposition, perhaps from the way in which he controlled his horse.
"Nice beast that," said Mr. Van Horn.
"Yes," he answered, laying his hand on its mane, so that the action brought immediately to my mind the recollection that I had done so too. I would not meet his eye again, however.
"How long shall you remain, Uxbridge?"
"I don't know. You are not interested in the lawsuit, Miss Huell?" he said, putting on his hat.
"Not in the least; nothing of mine is involved."
"We'll gain it for your portion yet, Miss Margaret," said Mr. Van Horn, nodding to Mr. Uxbridge, and bidding William drive on. He returned the next day, and we settled into the routine of hotel life. A few mornings after, she sent me to a matinee, which was given by some of the Opera people, who were in Newport strengthening the larynx with applications of brine. When the concert was half over, and the audience were making the usual hum and stir, I saw Mr. Uxbridge against a pillar, with his hands incased in pearl-colored gloves, and holding a shiny hat. He turned half away when he caught my eye, and then darted toward me.
"You have not been much more interested in the music than you are in the lawsuit," he said, seating himself beside me.
"The tutoyer of the Italian voice is agreeable, however."
"It makes one dreamy."
"Yes, a child; not a man nor a woman."
"I teach music. I can not dream over 'one, two, three.'"
" You —a music teacher!"
"For six years."
I was aware that he looked at me from head to foot, and I picked at the lace on my invariable black silk; but what did it matter whether I owned that I was a genteel pauper, representing my aunt's position for two months, or not?
"Waterbury differs from Newport."
"I suppose so."
A young gentleman sauntered by us, and Mr. Uxbridge called to him to look up the Misses Uxbridge, his nieces, on the other side of the hall.
"Paterfamilias Uxbridge has left his brood in my charge," he said. "I try to do my duty," and he held out a twisted pearl-colored glove, which he had pulled off while talking. What white nervous fingers he had! I thought they might pinch like steel.
"You suppose," he repeated.
"I do not look at Newport."
"Have you observed Waterbury?"
"I observe what is in my sphere."
He was silent then. The second part of the concert began; but I could not compose myself to appreciation. Either the music or I grew chaotic. So many tumultuous sounds I heard—of hope, doubt, inquiry, melancholy, and desire; or did I feel the emotions which these words express? Or was there magnetism stealing into me from the quiet man beside me? He left me with a bow before the concert was over, and I saw him making his way out of the hall when it was finished.
I had been sent in the carriage, of course; but several carriages were in advance of it before the walk, and I waited there for William to drive up. When he did so, I saw by the oscillatory motion of his head, though his arms and whiphand were perfectly correct, that he was inebriated. It was his first occasion of meeting fellow-coachmen in full dress, and the occasion had proved too much for him. My hand, however, was on the coach door, when I heard Mr. Uxbridge say, at my elbow,
"It is not safe for you."
"Oh, Sir, it is in the programme that I ride home from the concert." And I prepared to step in.
"I shall sit on the box, then."
"But your nieces?"
"They are walking home, squired by a younger knight."
Aunt Eliza would say, I thought, "Needs must when a lawyer drives"; and I concluded to allow him to have his way, telling him that he was taking a great deal of trouble. He thought it would be less if he were allowed to sit inside; both ways were unsafe.
Nothing happened. William drove well from habit; but James was obliged to assist him to dismount. Mr. Uxbridge waited a moment at the door, and so there was quite a little sensation, which spread its ripples till Aunt Eliza was reached. She sent for William, whose only excuse was "dampness."
"Uxbridge knew my carriage, of course," she said, with a complacent voice. "He knew me," I replied.
"You do not look like the Huells."
"I look precisely like the young woman to whom he was introduced by Mr. Van Horn."
"He thought it unsafe for me to come alone under William's charge."
No more was said on the subject of his coming home with me. Aunt Eliza had several fits of musing in the course of the evening while I read aloud to her, which had no connection with the subject of the book. As I put it down she said that it would be well for me to go to church the next day. I acquiesced, but remarked that my piety would not require the carriage, and that I preferred to walk. Besides, it would be well for William and James to attend divine service. She could not spare James, and thought William had better clean the harness, by way of penance.
The morning proved to be warm and sunny. I donned a muslin dress of home manufacture and my own bonnet, and started for church. I had walked but a few paces when the consciousness of being free and alone struck me. I halted, looked about me, and concluded that I would not go to church, but walk into the fields. I had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the fields; but I walked straight forward, and after a while came upon some barren fields, cropping with coarse rocks, along which ran a narrow road. I turned into it, and soon saw beyond the rough coast the blue ring of the ocean—vast, silent, and splendid in the sunshine. I found a seat on the ruins of an old stone-wall, among some tangled bushes and briers. There being no Aunt Eliza to pull through the surf, and no animated bathers near, I discovered the beauty of the sea, and that I loved it.
Presently I heard the steps of a horse, and, to my astonishment, Mr. Uxbridge rode past. I was glad he did not know me. I watched him as he rode slowly down the road, deep in thought. He let drop the bridle, and the horse stopped, as if accustomed to the circumstance, and pawed the ground gently, or yawed his neck for pastime. Mr. Uxbridge folded his arms and raised his head to look seaward. It seemed to me as if he were about to address the jury. I had dropped so entirely from my observance of the landscape that I jumped when he resumed the bridle and turned his horse to come back. I slipped from my seat to look among the bushes, determined that he should not recognize me; but my attempt was a failure—he did not ride by the second time.
"Miss Huell!" And he jumped from his saddle, slipping his arm through the bridle.
"I am a runaway. What do you think of the Fugitive Slave Bill?"
"I approve of returning property to its owners."
"The sea must have been God's temple first, instead of the groves."
"I believe the Saurians were an Orthodox tribe."
"Did you stop yonder to ponder the sea?"
"I was pondering 'Lemorne vs. Huell.'"
He looked at me earnestly, and then gave a tug at the bridle, for his steed was inclined to make a crude repast from the bushes.
"How was it that I did not detect you at once?" he continued.
"My apparel is Waterbury apparel."
We walked up the road slowly till we came to the end of it; then I stopped for him to understand that I thought it time for him to leave me. He sprang into the saddle.
"Give us good-by!" he said, bringing his horse close to me.
"We are not on equal terms; I feel too humble afoot to salute you."
"Put your foot on the stirrup then."
A leaf stuck in the horse's forelock, and I pulled it off and waved it in token of farewell. A powerful light shot into his eyes when he saw my hand close on the leaf.
"May I come and see you?" he asked, abruptly. "I will."
"I shall say neither 'No' or 'Yes.'"
He rode on at a quick pace, and I walked homeward forgetting the sense of liberty I had started with, and proceeded straightway to Aunt Eliza.
"I have not been to church, aunt, but to walk beyond the town; it was not so nominated in the bond, but I went. The taste of freedom was so pleasant that I warn you there is danger of my 'striking.' When will you have done with Newport?"
"I am pleased with Newport now," she answered, with a curious intonation. "I like it."
"I do also."
Her keen eyes sparkled. "Did you ever like anything when you were with me before?"
"Never. I will tell you why I like it: because I have met, and shall probably meet, Mr. Uxbridge. I saw him to-day. He asked permission to visit me."
"Let him come."
"He will come."
But we did not see him either at the hotel or when we went abroad. Aunt Eliza rode with me each afternoon, and each morning we went to the beach. She engaged me every moment when at home, and I faithfully performed all my tasks. I clapped to the door on self-investigation—locked it against any analysis or reasoning upon any circumstance connected with Mr. Uxbridge. The only piece of treachery to my code that I was guilty of was the putting of the leaf which I brought home on Sunday between the leaves of that poem whose motto is,
"Mariana in the moated grange."
On Saturday morning, nearly a week after I saw him on my walk, Aunt Eliza proposed that we should go to Turo Street on a shopping excursion; she wanted a cap, and various articles besides. As we went into a large shop I saw Mr. Uxbridge at a counter buying gloves; her quick eye caught sight of him, and she edged away, saying she would look at some goods on the other side; I might wait where I was. As he turned to go out he saw me and stopped.
"I have been in New York since I saw you," he said. "Mr. Lemorne sent for me."
"There is my aunt," I said.
He shrugged his shoulders.
"I shall not go away soon again," he remarked. "I missed Newport greatly."
I made some foolish reply, and kept my eyes on Aunt Eliza, who dawdled unaccountably. He appeared amused, and after a little talk went away.
Aunt Eliza's purchase was a rose-colored moire antique, which she said was to be made for me; for Mrs. Bliss, one of our hotel acquaintances, had offered to chaperon me to the great ball which would come off in a few days, and she had accepted the offer for me.
"There will be no chance for you to take a walk instead," she finished with.
"I can not dance, you know."
"But you will be there ."
I was sent to a dress-maker of Mrs. Bliss's recommending; but I ordered the dress to be made after my own design, long plain sleeves, and high plain corsage, and requested that it should not be sent home till the evening of the ball. Before it came off Mr. Uxbridge called, and was graciously received by Aunt Eliza, who could be gracious to all except her relatives. I could not but perceive, however, that they watched each other in spite of their lively conversation. To me he was deferential, but went over the ground of our acquaintance as if it had been the most natural thing in the world. But for my life-long habit of never calling in question the behavior of those I came in contact with, and of never expecting any thing different from that I received, I might have wondered over his visit. Every person's individuality was sacred to me, from the fact, perhaps, that my own individuality had never been respected by any person with whom I had any relation—not even by my own mother.
After Mr. Uxbridge went, I asked Aunt Eliza if she thought he looked mean and cunning? She laughed, and replied that she was bound to think that Mr. Lemorne's lawyer could not look otherwise.
When, on the night of the ball, I presented myself in the rose-colored moire antique for her inspection, she raised her eyebrows, but said nothing about it.
"I need not be careful of it, I suppose, aunt?"
"Spill as much wine and ice-cream on it as you like."
In the dressing-room Mrs. Bliss surveyed me.
"I think I like this mass of rose-color," she said. "Your hair comes out in contrast so brilliantly. Why, you have not a single ornament on!"
"It is so easy to dress without."
This was all the conversation we had together during the evening, except when she introduced some acquaintance to fulfill her matronizing duties. As I was no dancer I was left alone most of the time, and amused myself by gliding from window to window along the wall, that it might not be observed that I was a fixed flower. Still I suffered the annoyance of being stared at by wandering squads of young gentlemen, the "curled darlings" of the ball-room. I borrowed Mrs. Bliss's fan in one of her visits for a protection. With that, and the embrasure of a remote window where I finally stationed myself, I hoped to escape further notice. The music of the celebrated band which played between the dances recalled the chorus of spirits which charmed Faust:
"And the fluttering Ribbons of drapery Cover the plains, Cover the bowers, Where lovers, Deep in thought, Give themselves for life."
The voice of Mrs. Bliss broke its spell.
"I bring an old friend, Miss Huell, and he tells me an acquaintance of yours."
It was Mr. Uxbridge.
"I had no thought of meeting you, Miss Huell."
And he coolly took the seat beside me in the window, leaving to Mrs. Bliss the alternative of standing or of going away; she chose the latter.
"I saw you as soon as I came in," he said, "gliding from window to window, like a vessel hugging the shore in a storm."
"With colors at half-mast; I have no dancing partner."
"How many have observed you?"
"Several young gentlemen."
"Oh no, butterflies."
"They must keep away now."
"Are you Rhadamanthus?"
"And Charon, too. I would have you row in the same boat with me."
"Now you are fishing."
"Won't you compliment me. Did I ever look better?"
His evening costume was becoming, but he looked pale, and weary, and disturbed. But if we were engaged for a tournament, as his behavior indicated, I must do my best at telling. So I told him that he never looked better, and asked him how I looked. He would look at me presently, he said, and decide. Mrs. Bliss skimmed by us with nods and smiles; as she vanished our eyes followed her, and we talked vaguely on various matters, sounding ourselves and each other. When a furious redowa set in which cut our conversation into rhythm he pushed up the window and said, "Look out."
I turned my face to him to do so, and saw the moon at the full, riding through the strip of sky which our vision commanded. From the moon our eyes fell on each other. After a moment's silence, during which I returned his steadfast gaze, for I could not help it, he said: "If we understand the impression we make upon each other, what must be said?"
I made no reply, but fanned myself, neither looking at the moon, nor upon the redowa, nor upon any thing.
He took the fan from me.
"Speak of yourself," he said.
"I am what I seem, a man within your sphere. By all the accidents of position and circumstance suited to it. Have you not learned it?"
"I am not what I seem. I never wore so splendid a dress as this till tonight, and shall not again."
He gave the fan such a twirl that its slender sticks snapped, and it dropped like the broken wing of a bird.
"Mr. Uxbridge, that fan belongs to Mrs. Bliss."
He threw it out of the window.
"You have courage, fidelity, and patience—this character with a passionate soul. I am sure that you have such a soul?"
"I do not know."
"I have fallen in love with you. It happened on the very day when I passed you on the way to the Glen. I never got away from the remembrance of seeing your hand on the mane of my horse."
He waited for me to speak, but I could not; the balance of my mind was gone. Why should this have happened to me—a slave? As it had happened, why did I not feel exultant in the sense of power which the chance for freedom with him should give?
"What is it, Margaret? your face is as sad as death."
"How do you call me 'Margaret?'"
"As I would call my wife—Margaret."
He rose and stood before me to screen my face from observation. I supposed so, and endeavored to stifle my agitation.
"You are better," he said, presently. "Come go with me and get some refreshment." And he beckoned to Mrs. Bliss, who was down the hall with an unwieldy gentleman.
"Will you go to supper now?" she asked. "We are only waiting for you," Mr. Uxbridge answered, offering me his arm.
When we emerged into the blaze and glitter of the supper-room I sought refuge in the shadow of Mrs. Bliss's companion, for it seemed to me that I had lost my own.
"Drink this Champagne," said Mr. Uxbridge. "Pay no attention to the Colonel on your left; he won't expect it."
"Neither must you."
The Champagne did not prevent me from reflecting on the fact that he had not yet asked whether I loved him.
The spirit chorus again floated through my mind:
"Where lovers, Deep in thought, Give themselves for life."
I was not allowed to give myself—I was taken .
"No heel-taps," he whispered, "to the bottom quaff."
"Take me home, will you?"
"Mrs. Bliss is not ready."
"Tell her that I must go."
He went behind her chair and whispered something, and she nodded to me to go without her.
When her carriage came up, I think he gave the coachman an order to drive home in a round-about way, for we were a long time reaching it. I kept my face to the window, and he made no effort to divert my attention. When we came to a street whose thick rows of trees shut out the moonlight my eager soul longed to leap out into the dark and demand of him his heart, soul, life, for me .
I struck him lightly on the shoulder; he seized my hand.
"Oh, I know you, Margaret; you are mine!"
"We are at the hotel."
He sent the carriage back, and said that he would leave me at my aunt's door. He wished that he could see her then. Was it magic that made her open the door before I reached it?
"Have you come on legal business?" she asked him.
"You have divined what I come for."
"Step in, step in; it's very late. I should have been in bed but for neuralgia. Did Mr. Uxbridge come home with you, Margaret?"
"Yes, in Mrs. Bliss's carriage; I wished to come before she was ready to leave."
"Well, Mr. Uxbridge is old enough for your protector, certainly."
"I am forty, ma'am."
"Do you want Margaret?"
"You know exactly how much is involved in your client's suit?"
"You know also that his claim is an unjust one."
"I shall not be poor if I lose; if I gain, Margaret will be rich."
"'Margaret will be rich,'" he repeated, absently.
"What! have you changed your mind respecting the orphans, aunt?"
"She has, and is—nothing," she went on, not heeding my remark. "Her father married below his station; when he died his wife fell back to her place—for he spent his fortune—and there she and Margaret must remain, unless Lemorne is defeated."
"Aunt, for your succinct biography of my position many thanks."
"Sixty thousand dollars," she continued. "Van Horn tells me that, as yet, the firm of Uxbridge Brothers have only an income—no capital."
"It is true," he answered, musingly.
The clock on the mantle struck two.
"A thousand dollars for every year of my life," she said. "You and I, Uxbridge, know the value and beauty of money.
"Yes, there is beauty in money, and"—looking at me—"beauty without it."
"The striking of the clock," I soliloquized, "proves that this scene is not a phantasm."
"Margaret is fatigued," he said, rising. "May I come to-morrow?"
"It is my part only," replied Aunt Eliza, "to see that she is, or is not, Cinderella."
"If you have ever thought of me, aunt, as an individual, you must have seen that I am not averse to ashes."
He held my hand a moment, and then kissed me with a kiss of appropriation.
"He is in love with you," she said, after he had gone. "I think I know him. He has found beauty ignorant of itself; he will teach you to develop it."
The next morning Mr. Uxbridge had an interview with Aunt Eliza before he saw me.
When we were alone I asked him how her eccentricities affected him; he could not but consider her violent, prejudiced, warped, and whimsical. I told him that I had been taught to accept all that she did on this basis. Would this explain to him my silence in regard to her?
"Can you endure to live with her in Bond Street for the present, or would you rather return to Waterbury?"
"She desires my company while she is in Newport only. I have never been with her so long before."
"I understand her. Law is a game, in her estimation, in which cheating can as easily be carried on as at cards."
"Her soul is in this case."
"Her soul is not too large for it. Will you ride this afternoon?"
I promised, of course. From that time till he left Newport we saw each other every day, and though I found little opportunity to express my own peculiar feelings, he comprehended many of my wishes, and all my tastes. I grew fond of him hourly. Had I not reason? Never was friend so considerate, never was lover more devoted.
When he had been gone a few days, Aunt Eliza declared that she was ready to depart from Newport. The rose-colored days were ended! In two days we were on the Sound, coach, horses, servants, and ourselves.
It was the 1st of September when we arrived in Bond Street. A week from that date Samuel Uxbridge, the senior partner of Uxbridge Brothers, went to Europe with his family, and I went to Waterbury, accompanied by Mr. Uxbridge. He consulted mother in regard to our marriage, and appointed it in November. In October Aunt Eliza sent for me to come back to Bond Street and spend a week. She had some fine marking to do, she wrote. While there I noticed a restlessness in her which I had never before observed, and conferred with Mrs. Roll on the matter. "She do be awake nights a deal, and that's the reason," Mrs. Roll said. Her manner was the same in other respects. She said she would not give me any thing for my wedding outfit, but she paid my fare from Waterbury and back.
She could not spare me to go out, she told Mr. Uxbridge, and in consequence I saw little of him while there.
In November we were married. Aunt Eliza was not at the wedding, which was a quiet one. Mr. Uxbridge desired me to remain in Waterbury till spring. He would not decide about taking a house in New York till then; by that time his brother might return, and if possible we would go to Europe for a few months. I acquiesced in all his plans. Indeed I was not consulted; but I was happy—happy in him, and happy in every thing.
The winter passed in waiting for him to come to Waterbury every Saturday; and in the enjoyment of the two days he passed with me. In March Aunt Eliza wrote me that Lemorne was beaten! Van Horn had taken up the whole contents of his snuff-box in her house the evening before in amazement at the turn things had taken.
That night I dreamed of the scene in the hotel at Newport. I heard Aunt Eliza saying, "If I gain, Margaret will be rich." And I heard also the clock strike two. As it struck I said, " My husband is a scoundrel ," and woke with a start.
This work is in the Public Domain.