« AnteriorContinua »
it gets. I hope it may please him, but ferocious refection, and sat down at his you shall see."
They went back to the publisher's private room and talked awhile. Then the small boy came up with some vague message about a gentleman — business
wants to see you, sir, etc., according to the established programme; all in a vacant, mechanical sort of way, as if he were a talking-machine just running down.
The publisher told the small boy that he was engaged, and the gentleman must wait. Very soon they heard The Butcher's heavy footstep as he went out to get his raw meat and vitriol punch.
“Now, then,” said the publisher, and led forth the confiding literary lamb once more, to enter the fatal door of the critical shambles.
"Hand me your manuscript, if you please, Mr. Hopkins. I will lay it so that it shall be the third of these that are coming to hand. Our friend here is a pretty good judge of verse, and knows a merchantable article about as quick as any man in his line of business. If he forms a favorable opinion of your poems, we will talk over your propositions."
Gifted was conscious of a very slight tremor as he saw his precious manuscript deposited on the table under two others, and over a pile of similar productions. Still he could not help feeling that the critic would be struck by his title. The quotation from Gray must touch his feelings. The very first piece in the collection could not fail to arrest him. He looked a little excited, but he was in good spirits.
"We will be looking about here when our friend comes back," the publisher said. "He is a very methodical person, and will sit down and go right to work just as if we were not here. We can watch him, and if he should express any particular interest in your poems, I will, if you say so, carry you up to him and reveal the fact that you are the author of the works that please him."
They waited patiently until The Butcher returned, apparently refreshed by his
table. He looked comforted, and not in ill humor. The publisher and the poet talked in low tones, as if on business of their own, and watched him as he returned to his labor.
He took up the third. Blossoms of the Soul," etc. He glared at it in a dreadfully ogreish way. Both the lookers-on held their breath. Gifted Hopkins felt as if half a glass more of that warm sherry would not hurt him. There was a sinking at the pit of his stomach, as if he was in a swing, as high as he could go, close up to the swallows' nests and spiders' webs. The Butcher opened the manuscript at random, read ten seconds, and gave a short, low grunt. He opened again, read ten seconds, and gave another grunt, this time a little longer and louder. He opened once more, read five seconds, and, with something that sounded like the snort of a dangerous animal, cast it impatiently into the basket, and took up the manuscript that came next in order.
Gifted Hopkins stood as if paralyzed for a moment.
"Safe, perfectly safe," the publisher said to him in a whisper. "I'll get it for you presently. Come in and take another glass of wine," he said, leading him back to his own office.
"No, I thank you," he said faintly, "I can bear it. But this is dreadful, sir. Is this the way that genius is welcomed to the world of letters?"
The publisher explained to him, in the kindest manner, that there was an enormous over-production of verse, and that it took a great part of one man's time simply to overhaul the cart-loads of it that were trying to get themselves
Gifted explained that he was "clerk" in a "store," where they sold dry goods and West India goods, and goods promiscuous.
"O, well, then," the publisher said, "you will understand me. Do you know a good article of brown sugar when you see it?"
Gifted Hopkins rather thought he did. He knew at sight whether it was a fair, salable article or not.
"Just so. Now our friend, there, knows verses that are salable and unsalable as well as you do brown sugar. Keep quiet now, and I will go and get your manuscript for you. There, Mr. Hopkins, take your poems, -they will give you a reputation in your village, I don't doubt, which is pleasant, but it will cost you a good deal of money to print them in a volume. You are very young: you can afford to wait. Your genius is not ripe yet, I am confident, Mr. Hopkins. These verses are very well for a beginning, but a man of promise like you, Mr. Hopkins, must n't throw away his chance by premature publication! I should like to make you a present of a few of the books we publish. By and by, perhaps, we can work you into our series of poets; but the best pears ripen slowly, and so with genius. Where shall I send the volumes?"
Gifted answered, to parlor No. 6, Planet Hotel, where he soon presented himself to Master Gridley, who could guess pretty well what was coming. But he let him tell his story. "Shall I try the other publishers?" said the disconsolate youth.
"I would n't, my young friend, I
would n't. You have seen the best one of them all. He is right about it, quite right: you are young, and had better wait. Look here, Gifted, here is something to please you. We are going to visit the gay world together. See what has been left here this forenoon."
He showed him two elegant notes of invitation requesting the pleasure of Professor Byles Gridley's and of Mr. Gifted Hopkins's company on Thursday evening, as the guests of Mrs. Clymer Ketchum, of 24 Carat Place.
MRS. CLYMER KETCHUM'S PARTY.
MYRTLE HAZARD had flowered out as beyond question the handsomest girl of the season. There were hints from different quarters that she might possibly be an heiress. Vague stories were about of some contingency which might possibly throw a fortune into her lap. The young men about town talked of her at the clubs in their free-and-easy way, but all agreed that she was the girl of the new crop,-"best filly this grass," as Livingston Jenkins put it. The general understanding seemed to be that the young lawyer who had followed her to the city was going to capture her. She seemed to favor him certainly as much as anybody. But Myrtle saw many young men now, and it was not so easy as it would once have been to make out who was an especial favorite.
There had been times when Murray Bradshaw would have offered his heart and hand to Myrtle at once, if he had felt sure that she would accept him. But he preferred playing the safe game now, and only wanted to feel sure of her. He had done his best to be agreeable, and could hardly doubt that he had made an impression. dressed well when in the city, - even elegantly, he had many of the lesser social accomplishments, was a good dancer, and compared favorably in all such matters with the more dashing young fellows in society. He was a better
talker than most of them, and he knew more about the girl he was dealing with than they could know. "You have only got to say the word, Murray," Mrs. Clymer Ketchum said to her relative, "and you can have her. But don't be rash. I believe you can get Berengaria if you try; and there's something better there than possibilities." Murray Bradshaw laughed, and told Mrs. Clymer Ketchum not to worry about him; he knew what he was doing.
It so happened that Myrtle met Master Byles Gridley walking with Mr. Gifted Hopkins the day before the party. She longed to have a talk with her old friend, and was glad to have a chance of pleasing her poetical admirer. She therefore begged her hostess to invite them both to her party to please her, which she promised to do at once. Thus the two elegant notes were accounted for.
Mrs. Clymer Ketchum, though her acquaintances were chiefly in the world of fortune and of fashion, had yet a certain weakness for what she called clever people. She therefore always variegated her parties with a streak of young artists and writers, and a literary lady or two; and, if she could lay hands on a first-class celebrity, was as happy as an Amazon who had captured a Centaur.
"There's a demonish clever young fellow by the name of Lindsay," Mr. Livingston Jenkins said to her a little before the day of the party. "Better ask him. They say he's the rising talent in his line, architecture mainly, but has done some remarkable things in the way of sculpture. There's some story about a bust he made that was quite wonderful. I'll find his address for you." So Mr. Clement Lindsay got his invitation, and thus Mrs. Clymer Ketchum's party promised to bring together a number of persons with whom we are acquainted, and who were acquainted with each other.
Mrs. Clymer Ketchum knew how to give a party. Let her only have carte blanche for flowers, music, and champagne, she used to tell her lord, and
she would see to the rest,-lighting the rooms, tables, and toilet. He need n't be afraid: all he had to do was to keep out of the way.
Subdivision of labor is one of the triumphs of modern civilization. Labor was beautifully subdivided in this lady's household. It was old Ketchum's business to make money, and he understood it. It was Mrs. K.'s business to spend money, and she knew how to do it. The rooms blazed with light like a conflagration; the flowers burned like lamps of many-colored flame; the music throbbed into the hearts of the promenaders and tingled through all the muscles of the dancers.
Mrs. Clymer Ketchum was in her glory. Her point d'Alençon must have spoiled ever so many French girls' eyes. Her bosom heaved beneath a kind of
breastplate glittering with a heavy dew of diamonds. She glistened and sparkled with every movement, so that the admirer forgot to question too closely whether the eyes matched the brilliants, or the cheeks glowed like the roses. Not far from the great lady stood Myrtle Hazard. She was dressed as the fashion of the day demanded, but she had added certain audacious touches of her own, reminiscences of the time when the dead beauty had flourished, and which first provoked the question and then the admiration of the young people who had a natural eye for effect. Over the long white glove on her left arm was clasped a rich bracelet, of so quaint an antique pattern that nobody had seen anything like it, and as some one whispered that it was "the last thing out," it was greatly admired by the fashion-plate multitude, as well as by the few who had a taste of their own. If the soul of Judith Pride, long divorced from its once beautifully moulded dust, ever lived in dim consciousness through any of those who inherited her blood, it was then and there that she breathed through the lips of Myrtle Hazard. The young girl almost trembled with the ecstasy of this new mode of being, soliciting every sense with light, with perfume, with melody,
- all that could make her feel the wonderful complex music of a fresh life when all its chords first vibrate together in harmony. Miss Rhadamantha Pinnikle, whose mother was an Apex (of whose race it was said that they always made an obeisance when the family name was mentioned, and had all their portraits painted with halos round their heads), found herself extinguished in this new radiance. Miss Victoria Capsheaf stuck to the wall as if she had been a fresco on it. The fifty-year-old dynasties were dismayed and dismounted. Myrtle fossilized them as suddenly as if she had been a Gorgon, instead of a beauty.
The guests in whom we may have some interest were in the mean time making ready for the party, which was expected to be a brilliant one; for 24 Carat Place was well known for the handsome style of its entertain
Clement Lindsay was a little surprised by his invitation. He had, however, been made a lion of several times of late, and was very willing to amuse himself once in a while with a peep into the great world. It was but an empty show to him at best, for his lot was cast, and he expected to lead a quict domestic life after his student days were over.
Master Byles Gridley had known what society was in his earlier time, and understood very well that all a gentleman of his age had to do was to dress himself in his usual plain way, only taking a little more care in his arrangements than was needed in the latitude of Oxbow Village. But Gifted must be looked after, that he should not provoke the unamiable comments of the city youth by any defect or extravagance of costume. The young gentleman had bought a light sky-blue neckerchief, and a very large breastpin containing a gem which he was assured by the vendor was a genuine stone. He considered that both these would be eminently effective articles of dress, and Mr. Gridley had some trouble to convince him that a white tie
and plain shirt-buttons would be more fitted to the occasion.
On the morning of the day of the great party Mr. William Murray Bradshaw received a brief telegram, which seemed to cause him great emotion, as he changed color, uttered a forcible exclamation, and began walking up and down his room in a very nervous kind of way.
It was a foreshadowing of a certain event now pretty sure to happen. Whatever bearing this telegram may have had upon his plans, he made up his mind that he would contrive an opportunity somehow that very evening to propose himself as a suitor to Myrtle Hazard. He could not say that he felt as absolutely certain of getting the right answer as he had felt at some previous periods. Myrtle knew her price, he said to himself, a great deal better than when she was a simple country girl. The flatteries with which she had been surrounded, and the effect of all the new appliances of beauty, which had set her off so that she could not help seeing her own attractions, rendered her harder to please and to satisfy. A little experience in society teaches a young girl the arts and the phrases which all the Lotharios have in common. Murray Bradshaw was ready to land his fish now, but he was not quite sure that she was yet hooked, and he had a feeling that by this time she knew every fly in his book. However, as he had made up his mind not to wait another day, he addressed himself to the trial before him with a determination to succeed, if any means at his command would insure success. himself with faultless elegance: nothing must be neglected on such an occasion. He went forth firm and grave as a general going into a battle where all is to be lost or won. He entered the blazing saloon with the unfailing smile upon his lips, to which he set them as he set his watch to a particular hour and minute.
The rooms were pretty well filled when he arrived and made his bow before the blazing, rustling, glistening, waving, blushing appearance under
which palpitated, with the pleasing excitement of the magic scene over which its owner presided, the heart of Mrs. Clymer Ketchum. He turned to Myrtle Hazard, and if he had ever doubted which way his inclinations led him, he could doubt no longer. How much
dress and how much light can a woman bear? That is the way to measure her beauty. A plain girl in a simple dress, if she has only a pleasant voice, may seem almost a beauty in the rosy twilight. The nearer she comes to being handsome, the more ornament she will bear, and the more she may defy the sunshine or the chandelier. Murray Bradshaw was fairly dazzled with the brilliant effect of Myrtle in full dress. He did not know before what handsome arms she had,- Judith Pride's famous arms, which the high-colored young men in top-boots used to swear were the handsomest pair in New England, right over again. He did not know before with what defiant effect she would light up, standing as she did directly under a huge lustre, in full flower of flame, like a burning azalea. He was not a man who intended to let his sen
timents carry him away from the serious interests of his future, yet, as he looked upon Myrtle Hazard, his heart gave one throb which made him feel in every pulse that this was a woman who in her own right, simply as a woman, could challenge the homage of the proudest young man of her time. He hardly knew till this moment how much of passion mingled with other and calmer motives of admiration. He could say I love you as truly as such a man could ever speak these words, meaning that he admired her, that he was attracted to her, that he should be proud of her as his wife, that he should value himself always as the proprietor of so rare a person, that no appendage to his existence would take so high a place in his thoughts. This implied also, what is of great consequence to a young woman's happiness in the married state, that she would be treated with uniform politeness, with satisfactory evidences of affection, and with
a degree of confidence quite equal to what a reasonable woman should expect from a very superior man, her husband.
If Myrtle could have looked through the window in the breast against which only authors are privileged to flatten their features, it is for the reader to judge how far the programme would have satisfied her. Less than this, a great deal less, does appear to satisfy many young women; and it may be that the picture just drawn, fairly judged, belongs to a model lover and husband. Whether it does or not, Myrtle did not see this picture. There was a beautifully embroidered shirt-bosom in front of that window through which we have just looked, that intercepted all sight of what was going on within. She only saw a man, young, handsome, courtly, with a winning tongue, with an ambitious spirit, whose every look and tone implied his admiration of herself, and who was associated with her past life in such a way that they alone appeared like old friends in the midst of that cold, alien throng. It seemed as if he could not have chosen a more auspicious hour than this; for she never looked so captivating, and her presence must inspire his lips with the eloquence of love. And she was not this delirious atmosphere of light and music just the influence to which he would wish to subject her before trying the last experiment of all which can stir the soul of a woman? He knew the mechanism of that impressionable state which served Coleridge so excellently well,
"All impulses of soul and sense
Had thrilled my guileless Genevieve;
The rich and balmy eve," —
though he hardly expected such startling results as happened in that case,which might be taken as an awful warning not to sing moving ballads to young ladies of susceptible feelings, unless one is prepared for very serious consequences. Without expecting that Myrtle would rush into his arms, he did think that she could not help listening