Imatges de pàgina

grace is a rarer gift, and indeed it is hair, the bend of her wrists, the mouldonly a few times in life that one sees ing of her finger-tips, — yet these details anywhere a beauty that really controls were lost in the overwhelming gracefulus with a permanent charm. One should ness of her presence, and the atmosremember such personal loveliness, as phere of charm which she diffused over one recalls some particular moonlight all human life. or sunset, with a special and concen- A few days passed rapidly by us. We trated joy, which the multiplicity of walked and rode and boated and read. fainter impressions cannot disturb. Little Marian came and went, a living When in those days we used to read, sunbeam, a self-sufficing thing. It was in Petrarch's one hundred and twenty- soon obvious that she was far less dethird sonnet, that he had once beheld monstrative towards her parents than on earth angelic manners and celes- towards me ; while her mother, gracious tial charms, whose very remembrance to her as to all, yet rarely caressed her, was a delight and an affliction, since and Kenmure, though habitually kind, all else that he beheld seemed dream seemed rather to ignore her existence, and shadow, we could easily fancy that and could scarcely tolerate that she nature had certain permanent attri- should for one instant preoccupy his butes which accompanied the name of wife. For Laura he lived, and she Laura.

must live for him. He had a studio, Our Laura had that rich brunette which I rarely entered and Marian nevbeauty before which the mere snow er, while Laura was constantly there; and roses of the blonde must always and after the first cordiality was past, I seem wan and unimpassioned. In the observed that their daily expeditions superb suffusions of her cheek there were always arranged for two. The seemed to flow a tide of passions and weather was beautiful, and they led the powers, which might have been tu- wildest outdoor life, cruising all day or multuous in a meaner woman, but over all night among the islands, regardless which, in her, the clear and brilliant of hours, and, as it sometimes seemed eyes, and the sweet, proud mouth, pre- to me, of health. No matter : Kenmure sided in unbroken calm.

These su- liked it, and what he liked she loved. perb tints implied resources only, not a When at home, they were chiefly in the struggle. With this torrent from the studio, he painting, modelling, poetiztropics in her veins, she was the most ing perhaps, and she inseparably united equable person I ever saw; and had a with him in all. It was very beautiful, supreme and delicate good-sense, which, this unworldly and passionate love, and if not supplying the place of genius, at I could have borne to be omitted in least comprehended its work. Not in- their daily plans, since little Marian tellectually gifted herself, perhaps, she was left to me, save that it seemed so seemed the cause of gifts in others, and strange to omit her also. Besides, there furnished the atmosphere in which all grew to be something a little oppresshowed their best. With the steady sive in this peculiar atmosphere ; it was and thoughtful enthusiasm of her Puri- like living in a greenhouse. tan ancestors, she combined that grace Yet they always spoke in the simwhich is so rare among their descend- plest way of this absorbing passion, as ants, – a grace which fascinated the of something about which no reticence humblest, while it would have been just was needed; it was too sacred not to the same in the society of kings. And be mentioned ; it would be wrong not her person had the equipoise and sym- to utter freely to all the world what metry of her mind. While abounding was doubtless the best thing the world in separate points of beauty, each a possessed. Thus Kenmure made Laura source of distinct and peculiar pleas- his model in all his art; not to coin her ure, as the outline of her temples, the into wealth or fame, -- he would have white line that parted her night-black scorned it; he would have valued fame and wealth only as instruments for pro- trate its meaning, cast down her raclaiming her. Looking simply at these diant eyes, while the color mounted intwo lovers, then, it seemed as if no hu- to her cheeks. “You thought," she man union could be more noble or stain- said, almost sternly, “that I did not less. Yet so far as others were con- love my child.” cerned, it sometimes seemed to me a "No," I said, half untruthfully. kind of duplex selfishness, so profound "I can hardly wonder," she continand so undisguised as to make one ued, more sadly, "for it is only what I shudder. “Is it,” I asked myself at have said to myself a thousand times. such moments, “a great consecration, Sometimes I think that I have lived in a or a great crime ?." But something dream, and one that few share with me. must be allowed, perhaps, for my own I have questioned others, and never yet private dissatisfactions in Marian's be found a woman who did not admit that hall.

her child was more to her, in her secret had easily persuaded Janet to let soul, than her husband. What can they me have a peep every night at my dar- mean? Such a thought is foreign to my ling, as she slept; and once I was sur- nature.” prised to find Laura sitting by the small “Why separate the two ?” I asked. white bed. Graceful and beautiful as “I must separate them,” she anshe always was, she never before had swered, with the air of one driven to seemed to me so lovely, for she never bay by her own self-reproaching. “I had seemed quite like a mother. But had, like other young girls, my dream I could not demand a sweeter look of of love and marriage. Unlike all the tenderness than that with which she rest, I believe, my visions were fulfilled. now gazed upon her child.

The reality was more than the imaginaLittle Marian lay with one brown, tion; and I thought it would be so with plump hand visible from its full white my love for my child. The first cry of sleeve, while the other nestled half hid that baby told the difference to my ear. beneath the sheet, grasping a pair of I knew it all from that moment'; the blue morocco shoes, the last acquisition bliss which had been mine as a wife of her favorite doll. Drooping from would never be mine as a mother. If beneath the pillow hung a handful of I had not known what it was to love my scarlet poppies, which the child had husband, I might have been content with wished to place under her head, in the my love for Marian. But look at that exvery superfluous project of putting her- quisite creature as she lies there asleep, self to sleep thereby. Her soft brown and then think that I, her mother, should hair was scattered on the sheet, her desert her if she were dying, for aught I black lashes lay motionless upon the know, at one word from him!” olive cheeks. Laura wished to move "Your feeling is morbid,” I said, hardher, that I might see her the better. ly knowing what to answer. "You will wake her,” exclaimed I, in “What good does it serve to know

that?” she said, defiantly. “I say it to “Wake this little dormouse?” Laura myself every day. Once when she was lightly answered. “Impossible.” ill, and was given back to me in all the

And, twining her arms about her, the precious helplessness of babyhood, there Foung mother lifted the child from the was such a strange sweetness in it, I beck

, three or four times, dropping her thought the charm might remain ; but arain heavily each time, while the it vanished when she could run about healthy little creature remained utterly once more. And she is such a healthy, un disturbed, breathing the same quiet self-reliant little thing," added Laura, breath. I watched Laura with amaze- glancing toward the bed with a momenment; she seemed transformed. tary look of motherly pride that seemed

She gayly returned my eager look, strangely out of place amid these selfand then, seeming suddenly to pene- denunciations.




“I wish her to be so," she added. I had now, indeed, become always “ The best service I can do for her is to supersiuous when they were together, teach her to stand alone. And at some though never when they were apart. Even day,” continued the beautiful woman, they must be separated sometimes, and her whole face lighting up with happi- then each sought me, in order to discourse ness, “she may love as I have loved." about the other, Kenmure showed me

And your husband,” I said, after a every sketch he had ever made of Laupause, “ does your feeling represent ra. There she was, in all the wonderful his?"

range of her beauty, -in clay, in cameo, “ My husband,” she said, “lives for in pencil, in water-color, in oils. He his genius, as he should. You that showed me also his poems, and, at last, know him, why do you ask?”

a longer one, for which pencil and graver “ And his heart ? ” I said, half fright- had alike been laid aside. All these he ened at my own temerity.

kept in a great cabinet she had brought “ Heart ?" she answered. “He loves with her to their housekeeping; and it

seemed to me that he also treasured Her color mounted higher yet; she every fower she had dropped, every had a look of pride, almost of haughti- slender glove she had worn, every rib

All else seemed forgotten ; she bon from her hair. I could not wonder. had turned away from the child's little Who would not thrill at the touch of bed, as if it had no existence. It flashed some such memorial of Mary of Scotupon me that something of the poison land, or of Heloise ? and what was all of her artificial atmosphere was reach- the regal beauty of the past to him ? ing her already.

Every room always seemed adorned Kenmure's step was heard in the hall, when she was in it, empty when she and, with fire in her eyes, she hastened had gone, -save that the trace of her to meet him. I seemed actually to still seemed left on everything, and all breathe freer after the departure of that appeared but as a garment she had enchanting woman, in danger of perish- worn. It seemed that even her great ing inwardly, I said to myself

, in an air mirror must retain, film over film, each too lavishly perfumed. Bending over reflection of her least movement, the Marian, I wondered if it were indeed turning of her head, the ungloving of possible that a perfectly healthy life had her hand. Strange! that, with all this sprung from that union too intense and intoxicating presence, she yet led a life too absorbed. Yet I had often noticed so free from self, so simple, so absorbed, that the child seemed to wear the tem- that all trace of consciousness was experaments of both her parents as a kind cluded, and she seemed unsophisticated of playful disguise, and to peep at you, as her own child. now out of the one, now from the other, As we were once thus employed in showing that she had her own individ- the studio, I asked Kenmure, abruptly, ual life behind.

if he never shrank from the publicity As if by some infantine instinct, the he was thus giving Laura. “ Madame darling turned in her sleep, and came Récamier was not quite pleased,” I unconsciously nearer me. With a half- said, “ that Canova had modelled her feeling of self-reproach, I drew around bust, even from imagination. Do you my neck, inch by inch, the little arms never shrink from permitting irreverthat tightened with a delicious thrill; ent eyes to look on Laura's beauty ? and so I half reclined there till I myself Think of men as you know them. dozed, and the watchful Janet, looking Would you give each of them her minin, warned me away. Crossing the en- iature, perhaps to go with them into try to my own chamber, I heard Ken- scenes of riot and shame?” mure and Laura down stairs, but I knew “ Would to Heaven I could !” said that I should be superfluous, and felt he, passionately. " What else could that I was sleepy.

save them, if that did not ?. God lets

his sun shine on the evil and on the from the sunbeams, her lips parted over good, but the evil need it most.”

the little milk-white teeth ; she looked There was a pause; and then I ven- at us with her mother's eyes. I turned tured to ask him a question that had to Kenmure to see if he could resist been many times upon my lips un- the influence. spoken.

He scarcely gave her a glance. “Go, “Does it never occur to you,” I said, Marian,” he said, — not impatiently, for " that Laura cannot live on earth for- he was too thoroughly courteous ever ever?"

to be ungracious, even to a child, - but “You cannot disturb me about that,” with a steady indifference that cut me he answered, not sadly, but with a set, with more pain than if he had struck her. stern look, as if fencing for the hun- The sun dropped behind the horizon, dredth time against an antagonist who the halo faded from the shining hair, was foredoomed to be his master in and every ray of light from the childish the end. , “ Laura will outlive me; she face. There came in its place that deep, must outlive me. I am so sure of it, wondering sadness which is more pathat, every time I come near her, I thetic than any maturer sorrow, — just pray that I may not be paralyzed, and as a child's illness touches our hearts die outside her arms. Yet, in any

more than that of man or woman, it event, what can I do but what I am seems so premature and so plaintive. doing, — devote my whole soul to the She turned away ; it was the very first perpetuation of her beauty, through time I had ever seen the little face art? It is my only dream. What else drawn down, or the tears gathering in is worth doing? It is for this I have the eyes. By some kind providence, tried, through sculpture, through paint- the mother met Marian on the piazza, ing, through verse, to depict her as she herself flushed and beautiful with walkis. Thus far I have failed. Why have ing, and caught the little thing in her I failed? Is it because I have not lived arms with unwonted tenderness. It was a life sufficiently absorbed in her ? or enough for the elastic child. After one is it that there is no permitted way by moment of such bliss she could go to which, after God has reclaimed her, the Janet, go anywhere; and when the same tradition of her perfect loveliness may graceful presence came in to us in the be retained on earth ?”

studio, we also could ask no more. The blinds of the piazza doorway We had music and moonlight, and opened, the sweet sea-air came in, the were happy. The atmosphere seemed low and level rays of yellow sunset en- more human, less unreal. Going up tered as softly as if the breeze were stairs at last, I looked in at the their chariot; and softer and stiller and nursery, and found my pet seeming sweeter than light or air, little Marian rather flushed, and I fancied that she stood on the threshold. She had been stirred uneasily. It passed, whatever in the fields with Janet, who had woven it was ; for next morning she came in for her breeze-blown hair a wreath of the to wake me, looking, as usual, as if a wild gerardia blossoms, whose purple new heaven and earth had been coined beauty had reminded the good Scotch- purposely for her since she went to woman of her own native heather. In sleep. We had our usual long and her arms the child bore, like a little important discourse, – this time tend

a great sheaf of graceful gold- ing to protracted narrative, of the en-rod, as large as her grasp could bear. Mother-Goose description, — until, if In all the artist's visions he had seen it had been possible for any human nothing so aerial, so lovely; in all his being to be late for breakfast in that passionate portraitures of his idol, he house, we should have been the offendhad delineated nothing so like to her. But she ultimately went down Marian's cheeks mantled with rich and stairs on my shoulder, and, as Kenwine-like tints, her hair took a halo mure and Laura were out rowing, the



baby put me in her own place, sat in efforts, I arrived only in time to acher mother's chair, and ruled me with company Kenmure home at night, after a rod of iron. How wonderful was the the funeral service. We paused at the instinct by which this little creature, door of the empty house, - how empty! who so seldom heard one word of pa- I hesitated, but Kenmure motioned rental severity or parental fondness, yet me to follow him in. knew so thoroughly the language of We passed through the hall and both! Had I been the most depraved went up stairs. Janet met us at the of children, or the most angelic, I could head of the stairway, and asked me if I not have been more sternly excluded would go in to look at little Marian, from the sugar-bowl, or more over- who was sleeping. I begged Kenmure whelmed with compensating kisses. to go also, but he refused, almost

Later on that day, while little Marian savagely, and went on with heavy step was taking the very profoundest nap

into Laura's deserted room. that ever a baby was blessed with, Almost the moment I entered the (she had a pretty way of dropping asleep child's chamber, she waked up sudin unexpected corners of the house, denly, looked at me, and said, “ I know like a kitten,) I somehow strayed into you, you are my friend.” She never a confidential talk with Janet about her would call me her cousin, I was always mistress. I was rather troubled to find her friend. Then she sat up in bed, that all her loyalty was for Laura, with with her eyes wide open, and said, as nothing left for Kenmure, whom in- if stating a problem which had been deed she seemed to regard as a sort of put by for my solution, “ I should like objectionable altar, on which her dar

to see my mother.” lings were being sacrificed. When she How our hearts are rent by the uncame to particulars, certain stray fears questioning faith of children, when they of my own were confirmed. It seemed come to test the love which has so that Laura's constitution was not fit, often worked what seemed to them Janet averred, to bear these irregular miracles, — and ask of it miracles inhours, early and late ; and she plain- deed! I tried to explain to her the tively dwelt on the untasted oatmeal in continued existence of her beautiful the morning, the insufficient luncheon, mother, and she listened to it as if her the precarious dinner, the excessive eyes drank in all that I could say, and walking, the evening damps. There

But the apparent distance bewas coming to be a look about her tween earth and heaven bafiled her such as her mother had, who died at baby mind, as it so often and so sadly thirty. As for Marian — but here the baffles the thoughts of us elders. I complaint suddenly stopped; it would wondered what precise change seemed have required far stronger provoca- to her to have taken place. This alltion to extract from the faithful soul fascinating Laura, whom she adored, one word that might seem to reflect and who had yet never been to her what on Laura.

other women are to their darlings, — did Another year, and her forebodings heaven seem to put her farther off, or had come true. It is needless to dwell bring her more near ? I could never on the interval. Since then I have know. The healthy child had no morsometimes felt a regret almost insatia- bid questionings; and as she had come ble, in the thought that I should have into the world to be a sunbeam, she been absent while all that gracious must not fail of that mission. She was beauty seemed fading and dissolving kicking about the bed, by this time, like a cloud ; and yet at other times in her nightgown, and holding her pink it has appeared a relief to think that little toes in all sorts of difficult attiLaura would ever remain to me in the tudes, when she suddenly said, looking fulness of her beauty, not a tint faded, me full in the face : “If my mother was not a lineament changed. With all my so high up that she had her feet upon


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