Helen was called home by the illness
of her father and did not return to Rosville.
She would write me, she said; but it was many weeks
before I received a letter. Ben Somers about this
time took a fit of industry, and made a plan for what
he called a well-regulated life, averring that he
should always abide by it. Every hour had its
duty, which must be fulfilled. He weighed his
bread and meat, ate so many ounces a day, and slept
watch and watch, as he nautically termed it.
I guessed that the meaning of his plan was to withdraw
from the self-chosen post of censor. His only
alienation was an occasional disappearance for a few
days. I never asked him where he went, and had
never spoken to him concerning his mysterious remark
about having been in Surrey. Neither had I heard
anything of his being there from father. Once
he told me that his father had explained the marriage
of old Locke Morgeson; but that it was not clear to
him that we were at all related.
In consequence of his rigorous life,
I saw little of him. Though urged by Alice, he
did not come to our house, and we rarely met him elsewhere.
People called him eccentric, but as he was of a rich
family he could afford to be, and they felt no slight
by his neglect.
There was a change everywhere.
The greatest change of all was in Charles. From
the night of the sleigh-ride his manner toward me was
totally altered. As far as I could discern, the
change was a confirmed one. The days grew monotonous,
but my mind avenged itself by night in dreams, which
renewed our old relation in all its mysterious vitality.
So strong were their impressions that each morning
I expected to receive some token from him which would
prove that they were not lies. As my expectation
grew cold and faint, the sense of a double hallucination
tormented me the past and the present.
The winter was over. I passed
it like the rest of Rosville, going out when Alice
went, staying at home when she stayed. It was
all one what I did, for my aspect was one of content.
Alice alone was unchanged; her spirits
and pursuits were always the same. Judging by
herself, if she judged at all, she perceived no change
in us. Her theory regarding Charles was too firm
to be shaken, and all his oddity was a matter of course.
As long as I ate, and drank, and slept as usual, I
too must be the same. He was not at home much.
Business, kept him at the mills, where he often slept,
or out of town. But the home machinery was still
under his controlling hand. Not a leaf dropped
in the conservatory that he did not see; not a meal
was served whose slightest detail was not according
to his desire. The horses were exercised, the
servants managed, the children kept within bounds;
nothing in the formula of our daily life was ever dropped,
and yet I scarcely ever saw him! When we met,
I shared his attentions. He gave me flowers;
noticed my dress; spoke of the affairs of the day;
but all in so public and matter-of-fact a way that
I thought I must be the victim of a vicious sentimentality,
or that he had amused himself with me. Either
way, the sooner I cured myself of my vice the better.
But my dreams continued.
“I miss something in your letters,”
father complained. “What is it? Would
you like to come home? Your mother is failing
in health she may need you, though she
I wrote him that I should come home.
“Are you prepared,” he
asked in return, “to remain at home for the
future? Have you laid the foundation of anything
by which you can abide contented, and employed?
Veronica has been spending two months in New York,
with the family of one of my business friends.
All that she brings back serves to embellish her quiet
life, not to change it. Will it be so with you?”
I wrote back, “No; but I am coming.”
He wrote again of changes in Surrey.
Dr. Snell had gone, library and all, and a new minister,
red hot from Andover, had taken his place. An
ugly new church was building. His best ship, the
Locke Morgeson, was at the bottom of the Indian
Ocean, he had just heard. Her loss bothered him,
but his letters were kinder than ever.
I consulted with Alice about leaving
the Academy. She approved my plan, but begged
me not to leave her. I said nothing of my determination
to that effect, feeling a strange disinclination toward
owning it, though I persisted in repeating it to myself.
I applied diligently to my reading, emulating Ben
Somers in the regularity of my habits, and took long
walks daily a mode of exercise I had adopted
since I had ceased my rides with Charles. The
pale blue sky of spring over me, and the pale green
grass under me, were charming perhaps; but there was
the same monotony in them, as in other things.
I did not frequent our old promenade, Silver Street,
but pushed my walks into the outskirts of Rosville,
by farms bordered with woods. My schoolmates,
who were familiar with all the pleasant spots of the
neighborhood, met me in groups. “Are you
really taking walks like the rest of us?” they
asked. “Only alone,” I answered.
I bade farewell at last to Miss Prior.
We parted with all friendliness and respect; from
the fact, possibly, that we parted ignorant of each
other. It was the most rational relation that
I had ever held with any one. We parted without
emotion or regret, and I started on my usual walk.
As I was returning I met Ben Somers.
When he saw me he threw his cap into the air, with
the information that he had done with his plans, and
had ordered an indigestible supper, in honor of his
resolve. As people had truly remarked, he could
afford to be eccentric. He was tired of it; he
had money enough to do without law. “Not
as much as your cousin Morgeson, who can do without
the Gospel, too.”
This was the first time that he had
referred to Charles since that memorable night.
Trifling as his words were, they broke into the foundations
of my stagnant will, and set the tide flowing once
“You went to Surrey.”
“I was there a few hours.
Your father was not at home. He asked me there,
you remember. I introduced myself, therefore,
and was politely received by your mother, who sent
for Veronica. She came in with an occupied air,
her hands full of what I thought were herbs; but they
were grasses, which she had been re-arranging, she
“‘You know my sister?’
she asked, coming close, and looking at me with the
most singular eyes that were ever on earth.”
He stopped a moment. “Not like yours, in
the least,” he continued. “’Cassandra
is very handsome now, is she?’
said your mother, ‘you astonish Mr. Somers.’
“‘You are not astonished,’
she said with vehemence, ’you are embarrassed.’
“‘Upon my soul I am,’
I replied, feeling at ease as soon as I had said so.
“’Tell me, what has Cassandra
been taught? Is Rosville suited to her?
We are not.’
“‘Veronica!’ said your mother again.
“’Mother,” and she
shook the grasses, and made a little snow fall round
her; ’what shall I say then? I am sure he
knows Cassandra. What did you come here for?’
turning to me again.
“‘To see you,’ I answered foolishly.
“‘And has Cassandra spoken
of me?’ Her pale face grew paler, and an indescribable
expression passed over it. ’I do not often
speak of her.’
“‘She does not of you,’
I was obliged to answer. And then I said I must
go. But your mother made me dine with them.
When I came away Veronica offered me her hand, but
she sent no message to you. She has never been
out of my mind a moment since.”
“You remember the particulars
of the interview very well.”
“Would she bear your supervision?”
“Forgive me, Cassandra.
Have I not been making a hermit of myself, eating
bread and meat by the ounce, for an expiation?”
“How did it look there? Oh, tell me!”
“You strange girl, have you
a soul then? It is a grand place, where it has
not been meddled with. I hired a man to drive
me as far as any paths went, into those curving horns
of land, on each side of Surrey to the south.
The country is crazy with barrenness, and the sea mocks
it with its terrible beauty.”
“You will visit us, won’t you?”
“Certainly; I intend to go there.”
“Do you know that I left school to-day?”
“It is time.”
I hurried into the house, for I did
not wish to hear any questions from him concerning
my future. Charlotte, who was rolling up an umbrella
in the hall, said it was tea-time, adding that Mr.
Morgeson had come, and that he was in the dining-room.
I went upstairs to leave my bonnet. As I pulled
off my glove the ring on my finger twisted round.
I took it off, for the first time since Charles had
given it to me. A sense of haste came upon me;
my hands trembled. I brushed my hair with the
back of the brush, shook it out, and wound it into
a loose mass, thrust in my comb and went down.
Charlotte was putting candles on the tea table.
Edward was on his father’s knee; Alice was waiting
by the tray.
“Here is Cassandra,”
said Charles, mentioning the fact as if he merely
wished to attract the child’s attention.
“Here is Cassandra,”
I repeated, imitating his tone. He started.
Some devil broke loose in him, and looking through
his eyes an instant, disappeared, like a maniac who
looks through the bars of his cell, and dodges from
the eye of his keeper. Jesse brought me a letter
while we were at the table. It was from Helen.
I broke its seal to see how long it was, and put it
“I am free, Alice. I have
left the Academy, and am going to set up for an independent
“What?” said Charles;
“you did not tell me. Did you know it, Alice?”
“Yes; we can’t expect her to be at school
all her days.”
“Cassandra,” he said suddenly, “will
you give me the salt?”
He looked for the ring on the hand which I stretched
He not only missed that, but he observed
the disregard of his wishes in the way I had arranged
my hair. I shook it looser from the comb and
pushed it from my face. An expression of unspeakable
passion, pride, and anguish came into his eyes; his
mouth trembled; he caught up a glass of water to hide
his face, and drank slowly from it.
“Are you going away again soon?” Alice
asked him presently.
“To keep Cassandra, I intend
to ask Mrs. Morgeson to come again. Will you
write Mr. Morgeson to urge it?”
“I shall ask them to give up Cass altogether
“You like her so much, do you, Alice?”
His voice sounded far off and faint.
Again I refrained from speaking my
resolution of going home. I would give up thinking
of it even! I felt again the tension of the chain
between us. That night I ceased to dream of him.
“My letter is from Helen, Alice,” I said.
“When did you see Somers?” Charles asked.
“To-day. I have an idea he will not remain
“He is an amusing young man,” Alice remarked.
“Very,” said Charles.
Helen’s letter was long and
full of questions. What had I done? How
had I been? She gave an account of her life at
home. She was her father’s nurse, and seldom
left him. It was a dreary sort of business, but
she was not melancholy. In truth, she felt better
pleased with herself than she had been in Rosville.
She could not help thinking that a chronic invalid
would be a good thing for me. How was Ben Somers?
How much longer should I stay in Rosville? It
would know us no more forever when we left, and both
of us would leave it at the same time. Would
I visit her ever? They lived in a big house with
a red front door. On the left was a lane with
tall poplars dying on each side of it, up which the
cows passed every night. At the back of it was
a huge barn round which martíns and pigeons flew
the year through. It was dull but respectable
and refined, and no one knew that she was tattooed
on the arm.
I treasured this letter and all she
wrote me. It was my first school-girl correspondence
and my last.
Relations of Alice came from a distance
to pay her a visit. There was a father, a mother,
a son about twenty-one, and two girls who were younger.
Alice wished that they had stayed at home; but she
was polite and endeavored to make their visit agreeable.
The son, called by his family “Bill,”
informed Charles that he was a judge of horseflesh,
and would like to give his nags a try, having a high-flyer
himself at home that the old gentleman would not hear
of his bringing along. His actions denoted an
admiration of me. He looked over the book I was
reading or rummaged my workbox, trying on my thimble
with an air of tenderness, and peeping into my needlebook.
He told Alice that he thought I was a whole team and
a horse to let, but he felt rather balky when he came
near me, I had such a smartish eye.
“What am I to do, marm?”
asked Jesse one morning when Charles was away.
“That ere young man wants to ride the new horse,
and it is jist the one he mus’n’t ride.”
“I will speak to Cousin Bill myself,”
“He seems a sperrited young
feller, and if he wants to break his neck it’s
most a pity he shouldn’t.”
“I think,” she said when
Jesse had retired, “that Charles must be saving
up that beast to kill himself with. He will not
pull a chaise yet.”
“Has Charles tried him?”
“In the lane in an open wagon.
He has a whim of having him broken to drive without
blinders, bare of harness; he has been away so of late
that he has not accomplished it.”
Bill entered while we were talking,
and Alice told him he must not attempt to use the
horse, but proposed he should take her pair and drive
out with me. I shook my head in vain; she was
bent on mischief. He was mollified by the proposal,
and I was obliged to get ready. On starting he
placed his cap on one side, held his whip upright,
telling me that it was not up to the mark in length,
and doubled his knuckles over the reins. He was
a good Jehu, but I could not induce him to observe
anything along the road.
“Where’s Mr. Morgeson’s mills?”
We turned in their direction.
“He is a man of property, ain’t he?”
“I think so.”
“He has prime horses anyhow.
That stallion of his would bring a first-rate price
if he wanted to sell. Do you play the piano?”
“I have not heard you.
Will you sing ’A place in thy memory, dearest,’
some time for me?”
“Are you fond of flowers and the like?”
“Very fond of them.”
“So am I; our tastes agree. Here we are,
Charles came out when he saw us coming
over the bridge, and Bill pulled up the horses scientifically,
giving him a coachman’s salute. “You
see I am quite a whip.”
“You are,” said Charles.
“What a cub!” he whispered
me. “I think I’ll give up my horses
and take to walking as you have.”
On the way home Bill held the reins
in one hand and attempted to take mine with the other,
a proceeding which I checked, whereupon he was exceedingly
confused. The whip fell from his clutch over the
dasher, and in recovering it his hat fell off; shame
kept him silent for the rest of the ride.
I begged Alice to propose no more
rides with Cousin Bill. That night he composed
a letter which he sent me by Charlotte early the next
“Why, Charlotte, what nonsense is this?”
“I expect,” she answered
sympathizingly, “that it is an offer of his
hand and heart.”
“Don’t mention it, Charlotte.”
“Never while I have breath.”
In an hour she told Phoebe, who told
Alice, who told Charles, and there it ended.
It was an offer, as Charlotte predicted. My first!
I was crestfallen! I wrote a reply, waited till
everybody had gone to breakfast, and slipping into
his room, pinned it to the pincushion. In the
evening he asked if I ever sang “Should these
fond hopes e’er forsake thee." I gave him
the “Pirate’s Serenade” instead,
which his mother declared beautiful. I saw Alice
and Charles laughing, and could hardly help joining
them, when I looked at Bill, in whose countenance
relief and grief were mingled.
It was a satisfaction to us when they
went away. Their visit was shortened, I suspected,
by the representations Bill made to his mother.
She said, “Good-by,” with coldness; but
he shook hands with me, and said it was all right
The day they went I had a letter from
father which informed me that mother would not come
to Rosville. He reminded me that I had been in
Rosville over a year. “I am going home soon,”
I said to myself, putting away the letter. It
was a summer day, bright and hot. Alice, busy
all day, complained of fatigue and went to bed soon
after tea. The windows were open and the house
was perfumed with odors from the garden. At twilight
I went out and walked under the elms, whose pendant
boughs were motionless. I watched the stars as
they came out one by one above the pale green ring
of the horizon and glittered in the evening sky, which
darkened slowly. I was coming up the gravel walk
when I heard a step at the upper end of it which arrested
me. I recognized it, and slipped behind a tree
to wait till it should pass by me; but it ceased,
and I saw Charles pulling off a twig of the tree,
which brushed against his face. Presently he sprang
round the tree, caught me, and held me fast.
“I am glad you are here, my
darling. Do you smell the roses?”
“Yes; let me go.”
“Not till you tell me one thing. Why do
you stay in Rosville?”
The baby gave a loud cry in Alice’s
chamber which resounded through the garden.
“Go and take care of your baby,”
I said roughly, “and not busy yourself with
“Cassandra,” he said,
with a menacing voice, “how dare you defy me?
How dare you tempt me?”
I put my hand on his arm. “Charles,
is love a matter of temperament?”
“Are you mad? It is life it
is heaven it is hell.”
“There is something in this
soft, beautiful, odorous night that makes one mad.
Still I shall not say to you what you once said to
“Ah! you do not forget those words ’I
Some one came down the lane which
ran behind the garden whistling an opera air.
“There is your Providence,”
he said quietly, resting his hand against the tree.
I ran round to the front piazza, just
as Ben Somers turned out of the lane, and called him.
“I have wandered all over Rosville
since sunset,” he said “and at last struck
upon that lane. To whom does it belong?”
“It is ours, and the horses are exercised there.”
such a night,
Troilus, methinks, mounted the Trojan
And sighed his soul towards the Grecian
Where Cressid lay that night.’”
such a night,
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand,
Upon the wild sea banks, and waved her
To come again to Carthage.’”
“Talk to me about Surrey, Cassandra.”
“Not a word.”
“Why did you call me?”
“To see what mood you were in.”
“How disagreeable you are!
What is the use of venturing one’s mood with