The Old Stone House
I was riding along one autumn day through a certain wooded portion of
New York State, when I came suddenly upon an old stone house in which
the marks of age were in such startling contrast to its unfinished
condition that I involuntarily stopped my horse and took a long survey
of the lonesome structure. Embowered in a forest which had so grown in
thickness and height since the erection of this building that the
f some of the tallest trees almost met across its decayed
roof, it presented even at first view an appearance of picturesque
solitude almost approaching to desolation. But when my eye had time to
note that the moss was clinging to eaves from under which the
scaffolding had never been taken, and that of the ten large windows in
the blackened front of the house only two had ever been furnished
with frames, the awe of some tragic mystery began to creep over me,
and I sat and wondered at the sight till my increasing interest
compelled me to alight and take a nearer view of the place.
The great front door which had been finished so many years ago, but
which had never been hung, leaned against the side of the house, of
which it had almost become a part, so long had they clung together
amid the drippings of innumerable rains. Close beside it yawned the
entrance, a large black gap through which nearly a century of storms
had rushed with their winds and wet till the lintels were green with
moisture and slippery with rot. Standing on this untrod threshold, I
instinctively glanced up at the scaffolding above me, and started as I
noticed that it had partially fallen away, as if time were weakening
its supports and making the precipitation of the whole a threatening
possibility. Alarmed lest it might fall while I stood there, I did not
linger long beneath it, but, with a shudder which I afterwards
remembered, stepped into the house and proceeded to inspect its
rotting, naked, and unfinished walls. I found them all in the one
condition. A fine house had once been planned and nearly completed,
but it had been abandoned before the hearths had been tiled, or the
wainscoting nailed to its place. The staircase which ran up through
the centre of the house was without banisters but otherwise finished
and in a state of fair preservation. Seeing this and not being able to
resist the temptation which it offered me of inspecting the rest of
the house, I ascended to the second story.
Here the doors were hung and the fireplaces bricked, and as I wandered
from room to room I wondered more than ever what had caused the
desertion of so promising a dwelling. If, as appeared, the first owner
had died suddenly, why could not an heir have been found, and what
could be the story of a place so abandoned and left to destruction
that its walls gave no token of ever having offered shelter to a human
being? As I could not answer this question I allowed my imagination
full play, and was just forming some weird explanation of the facts
before me when I felt my arm suddenly seized from behind, and paused
aghast. Was I then not alone in the deserted building? Was there some
solitary being who laid claim to its desolation and betrayed jealousy
at any intrusion within its mysterious precincts? Or was the dismal
place haunted by some uneasy spirit, who with long, uncanny fingers
stood ready to clutch the man who presumed to bring living hopes and
fears into a spot dedicated entirely to memories? I had scarcely the
courage to ask, but when I turned and saw what it was that had alarmed
me, I did not know whether to laugh at my fears or feel increased awe
of my surroundings. For it was the twigs of a tree which had seized
me, and for a long limb such as this to have grown into a place
intended for the abode of man, necessitated a lapse of time and a
depth of solitude oppressive to think of.
Anxious to be rid of suggestions wellnigh bordering upon the
superstitious, I took one peep from the front windows, and then
descended to the first floor. The sight of my horse quietly dozing in
the summer sunlight had reassured me, and by the time I had recrossed
the dismal threshold, and regained the cheerful highway, I was
conscious of no emotions deeper than the intense interest of a curious
mind to solve the mystery and understand the secret of this remarkable
Rousing my horse from his comfortable nap, I rode on through the
forest; but scarcely had I gone a dozen rods before the road took a
turn, the trees suddenly parted, and I found myself face to face with
wide rolling meadows and a busy village. So, then, this ancient and
deserted house was not in the heart of the woods, as I had imagined,
but in the outskirts of a town, and face to face with life and
activity. This discovery was a shock to my romance, but as it gave my
curiosity an immediate hope of satisfaction, I soon became reconciled
to the situation, and taking the road which led to the village, drew
up before the inn and went in, ostensibly for refreshment. This being
speedily provided, I sat down in the cosy dining-room, and as soon as
opportunity offered, asked the attentive landlady why the old house in
the woods had remained so long deserted.
She gave me an odd look, and then glanced aside at an old man who sat
doubled up in the opposite corner. "It is a long story," said she,
"and I am busy now; but later, if you wish to hear it, I will tell you
all we know on the subject. After father is gone out," she whispered.
"It always excites him to hear any talk about that old place."
I saw that it did. I had no sooner mentioned the house than his white
head lifted itself with something like spirit, and his form, which had
seemed a moment before so bent and aged, straightened with an interest
that made him look almost hale again.
"I will tell you," he broke in; "I am not busy. I was ninety last
birthday, and I forget sometimes my grandchildren's names, but I never
forget what took place in that old house one night fifty years
"I know, I know," hastily interposed his daughter, "you remember
beautifully; but this gentleman wishes to eat his dinner now, and must
not have his appetite interfered with. You will wait, will you not,
sir, till I have a little more leisure?"
What could I answer but Yes, and what could the poor old man do but
shrink back into his corner, disappointed and abashed. Yet I was not
satisfied, nor was he, as I could see by the appealing glances he gave
me now and then from under the fallen masses of his long white hair.
But the landlady was complaisant and moved about the table and in and
out of the room with a bustling air that left us but little
opportunity for conversation. At length she was absent somewhat longer
than usual, whereupon the old man, suddenly lifting his head, cried
"She cannot tell the story. She has no feeling for it; she wasn't
"And you were," I ventured.
"Yes, yes, I was there, always there; and I see it all now," he
murmured. "Fifty years ago, and I see it all as if it were happening
at this moment before my eyes. But she will not let me talk about it,"
he complained, as the sound of her footsteps was heard again on the
kitchen boards. "Though it makes me young again, she always stops me
just as if I were a child. But she cannot help my showing you--"
Here her steps became audible in the hall, and his words died away on
his lips. By the time she had entered, he was seated with his head
half turned aside, and his form bent over as if he were in spirit a
thousand miles from the spot.
Amused at his cunning, and interested in spite of myself at the
childish eagerness he displayed to tell his tale, I waited with a
secret impatience almost as great as his own perhaps, for her to leave
the room again, and thus give him the opportunity of finishing his
sentence. At last there came an imperative call for her presence
without, and she hurried away. She was no sooner gone than the old man
"I have it all written down. I wrote it years and years ago, at the
very time it happened. She cannot keep me from showing you that; no,
no, she cannot keep me from showing you that." And rising to his feet
with a difficulty that for the first time revealed to me the full
extent of his infirmity, he hobbled slowly across the floor to the
open door, through which he passed with many cunning winks and nods.
"It grows quite exciting," thought I, and half feared his daughter
would not allow him to return. But either she was too much engrossed
to heed him, or had been too much deceived by his seeming indifference
when she last entered the room, to suspect the errand which had taken
him out of it. For sooner than I had expected, and quite some few
minutes before she came back herself, he shuffled in again, carrying
under his coat a roll of yellow paper, which he thrust into my hand
with a gratified leer, saying:
"There it is. I was a gay young lad in those days, and could go and
come with the best. Read it, sir, read it; and if Maria says anything
against it, tell her it was written long before she was born and when
I was as pert as she is now, and a good deal more observing."
Chuckling with satisfaction, he turned away, and had barely
disappeared in the hall when she came in and saw me with the roll in
"Well! I declare!" she exclaimed; "and has he been bringing you that?
What ever shall I do with him and his everlasting manuscript? You will
pardon him, sir; he is ninety and upwards, and thinks everybody is as
interested in the story of that old house as he is himself."
"And I, for one, am," was my hasty reply. "If the writing is at all
legible, I am anxious to read it. You won't object, will you?"
"Oh, no," was her good-humored rejoinder. "I won't object; I only hate
to have father's mind roused on this subject, because he is sure to be
sick after it. But now that you have the story, read it; whether you
will think as he did, on a certain point, is another question. I
don't; but then father always said I would never believe ill of
Her smile certainly bore out her words, it was so good-tempered and
confiding; and pleased with her manner in spite of myself, I accepted
her invitation to make use of her own little parlor, and sat down in
the glow of a brilliant autumn afternoon to read this old-time
* * * * *
Will Juliet be at home to-day? She must know that I am coming. When I
met her this morning, tripping back from the farm, I gave her a look
which, if she cares anything about me, must have told her that I would
be among the lads who would be sure to pay her their respects at early
candle-light. For I cannot resist her saucy pout and dancing dimples
any longer. Though I am barely twenty, I am a man, and one who is
quite forehanded and able to take unto himself a wife. Ralph
Urphistone has both wife and babe, and he was only twenty-one last
August. Why, then, should I not go courting, when the prettiest maid
that has graced the town for many a year holds out the guerdon of her
smiles to all who will vie for them?
To be sure, the fact that she has more than one wooer already may be
considered detrimental to my success. But love is fed by rivalry, and
if Colonel Schuyler does not pay her his addresses, I think my chances
may be considered as good as any one's. For am I not the tallest and
most straightly built man in town, and have I not a little cottage all
my own, with the neatest of gardens behind it, and an apple-tree in
front whose blossoms hang ready to shower themselves like rain upon
the head of her who will enter there as a bride? It is not yet dark,
but I will forestall the sunset by a half hour and begin my visit now.
If I am first at her gate, Lemuel Phillips may look less arrogant
when he comes to ask her company to the next singing school.
* * * * *
I was not first at her gate; two others were there before me. Ah, she
is prettier than ever I supposed, and chirper than the sparrow which
builds every year a nest in my old apple-tree. When she saw me come up
the walk, her cheeks turned pink, but I do not know if it was from
pleasure or annoyance, for she gave nothing but vexing replies to
every compliment I paid her. But then Lemuel Phillips fared no better;
and she was so bitter-sweet to Orrin Day that he left in a huff and
vowed he would never step across her threshold again. I thought she
was a trifle more serious after he had gone, but when a woman's eyes
are as bright as hers, and the frowns and smiles with which she
disports herself chase each other so rapidly over a face both
mischievous and charming, a man's judgment goes astray, and he
scarcely knows reality from seeming. But true or false, she is pretty
as a harebell and bright as glinting sunshine; and I mean to marry
her, if only Colonel Schuyler will hold himself aloof.
Colonel Schuyler may hold himself aloof, but he is a man like the rest
of us for all that. Yesterday as I was sauntering in the churchyard
waiting for the appearance of a certain white-robed figure crowned by
the demurest of little hats, I caught a glimpse of his face as he
leaned on one of the tombstones near Patience Goodyear's grave, and I
saw that he was waiting also for the same white figure and the same
demure hat. This gave me a shock; for though I had never really dared
to hope he would remain unmoved by a loveliness so rare in our
village, and indeed, as I take it, in any village, I did not think he
would show so much impatience, or await her appearance with such
burning and uncontrollable ardor.
Indeed I was so affected by his look that I forgot to watch any longer
for her coming, but kept my gaze fixed on his countenance, till I saw
by the change which rapidly took place in it that she had stepped out
of the great church door and was now standing before us, making the
sunshine more brilliant by her smiles, and the spring the sweeter for
Then I came to myself and rushed forward with the rest of the lads.
Did he follow behind us? I do not think so, for the rosy lips which
had smiled upon us with so airy a welcome soon showed a discontented
curve not to be belied by the merry words that issued from them, and
when we would have escorted her across the fields to her father's
house, she made a mocking curtsy, and wandered away with the ugliest
old crone who mouths and mumbles in the meeting-house. Did she do this
to mock us or him? If to mock him he had best take care, for beauty
scorned is apt to grow dangerous. But perhaps it was to mock us? Well,
well, there would be nothing new in that; she is ever mocking us.
* * * * *
They say the Colonel passes her gate a dozen times a day, but never
goes in and never looks up. Is he indifferent then? I cannot think so.
Perhaps he fears her caprices and disapproves of her coquetry. If that
is so, she shall be my wife before he wakens to the knowledge that her
coquetry hides a passionate and loving heart.
Colonel Schuyler is a dark man. He has eyes which pierce you, and a
smile which, if it could be understood, might perhaps be less
fascinating than it is. If she has noticed his watching her, the
little heart that flutters in her breast must have beaten faster by
many a throb. For he is the one great man within twenty miles, and so
handsome and above us all that I do not know of a woman but Juliet
whose voice does not sink a tone lower whenever she speaks of him. But
he is a proud man, and seems to take no notice of any one. Indeed he
scarcely appears to live in our world. Will he come down from his high
estate at the beck of this village beauty? Many say not, but I say
yes; with those eyes of his he cannot help it.
* * * * *
Juliet is more capricious than ever. Lemuel Phillips for one is tired
of it, and imitating Orrin Day, bade her a good-even to-night which I
am sure he does not intend to follow with a blithe good-morrow.
I might do the same if her pleading eyes would let me. But she seems
to cling to me even when she is most provokingly saucy; and though I
cannot see any love in her manner, there is something in it very
different from hate; and this it is which holds me. Can a woman be too
pretty for her own happiness, and are many lovers a weariness to the
* * * * *
Juliet is positively unhappy. To-day when she laughed the gayest it
was to hide her tears, and no one, not even a thoroughly spoiled
beauty, could be as wayward as she if there were not some bitter arrow
rankling in her heart. She was riding down the street on a pillion
behind her father, and Colonel Schuyler, who had been leaning on the
gate in front of his house, turned his back upon her and went inside
when he saw her coming. Was this what made her so white and reckless
when she came up to where I was standing with Orrin Day, and was it
her chagrin at the great man's apparent indifference which gave that
sharp edge to the good-morning with which she rode haughtily away? If
it was I can forgive you, my lady-bird, for there is reason for your
folly if I am any judge of my fellow-men. Colonel Schuyler is not
indifferent but circumspect, and circumspection in a lover is an
insult to his lady's charms.
* * * * *
She knows now what I knew a week ago. Colonel Schuyler is in love with
her and will marry her if she does not play the coquette with him. He
has been to her house and her father already holds his head higher as
he paces up and down the street. I am left in the lurch, and if I had
not foreseen this end to my hopes, might have been a very miserable
man to-night. For I was near obtaining the object of my heart, as I
know from her own lips, though the words were not intended for my
ears. You see I was the one who surprised him talking with her in the
garden. I had been walking around the place on the outer side of the
wall as I often did from pure love for her, and not knowing she was on
the other side was very much startled when I heard her voice speaking
my name; so much startled that I stood still in my astonishment and
thus heard her say:
"Philo Adams has a little cottage all his own and I can be mistress of
it any day,--or so he tells me. I had rather go into that little
cottage where every board I trod on would be my own, than live in the
grandest room you could give me in a house of which I would not be the
"But if I make a home for you," he pleaded, "grand as my father's, but
built entirely for you--"
"Ah!" was her soft reply, "that might make me listen to you, for I
should then think you loved me."
The wall was between us, but I could see her face as she said this as
plainly as if I had been the fortunate man at her side. And I could
see his face too, though it was only in fancy I had ever beheld it
soften as I knew it must be softening now. Silence such as followed
her words is eloquent, and I feared my own passions too much to linger
till it should be again broken by vows I had not the courage to hear.
So I crept away conscious of but one thing, which was that my dream
was ended, and that my brave apple-tree would never shower its bridal
blossoms upon the head I love, for whatever threshold she crosses as
mistress it will not now be that of the little cottage every board of
which might have been her own.
* * * * *
If I had doubted the result of the Colonel's offer to Juliet, the news
which came to me this morning would have convinced me that all was
well with them and that their marriage was simply a matter of time.
Ground has been broken in the pleasant opening on the verge of the
forest, and carts and men hired to bring stone for the fine new
dwelling Colonel Schuyler proposes to rear for himself. The whole town
is agog, but I keep the secret I surprised, and only Juliet knows that
I am no longer deceived as to her feelings, for I did not go to see
her to-night for the first time since I made up mind that I would have
her for my wife. I am glad I restrained myself, for Orrin Day, who had
kept his word valiantly up to this very day, came riding by my house
furiously a half hour ago, and seeing me, called out:
"Why didn't you tell me she had a new adorer? I went there to-night
and Colonel Schuyler sat at her side as you and I never sat yet,
and--and--" he stammered frantically, "I did not kill him."
"You--Come back!" I shouted, for he was flying by like the wind. But
he did not heed me nor stop, but vanished in the thick darkness, while
the lessening sound of his horse's hoofs rang dismally back from the
So this man has loved her passionately too, and the house which is
destined to rise in the woods will throw a shadow over more than one
hearthstone in this quiet village. I declare I am sorry that Orrin has
taken it so much to heart, for he has a proud and determined spirit,
and will not forget his wrongs as soon as it would be wise for him to
do. Poor, poor Juliet, are you making enemies against your bridal day?
If so, it behooves me at least to remain your friend.
* * * * *
I saw Orrin again to-day, and he looks like one haunted. He was riding
as usual, and his cloak flew out behind him as he sped down the street
and away into the woods. I wonder if she too saw him, from behind her
lattice. I thought I detected the curtain move as he thundered by her
gate, but I am so filled with thoughts of her just now that I cannot
always trust my judgment. I am, however, sure of one thing, and that
is that if Colonel Schuyler and Orrin meet, there will be trouble.
* * * * *
I never thought Orrin handsome till to-day. He is fair, and I like
dark men; and he is small, and I admire men of stature. But when I
came upon him this morning, talking and laughing among a group of lads
like ourselves, I could not but see that his blue eye shone with a
fire that made it as brilliant as any dark one could be, and that in
his manner, verging as it did upon the reckless, there was a spirit
and force which made him look both dangerous and fascinating. He was
haranguing them on a question of the day, but when he saw me he
stepped out of the crowd, and, beckoning me to follow him, led the way
to a retired spot, where, the instant we were free from watching eyes,
he turned and said: "You liked her too, Philo Adams. I should have
been willing if you--" Here he choked and paused. I had never seen a
face so full of fiery emotions. "No, no, no," he went on, after a
moment of silent struggle; "I could not have borne it to see any man
take away what was so precious to me. I--I--I did not know I cared for
her so much," he now explained, observing my look of surprise. "She
teased me and put me off, and coquetted with you and Lemuel and
whoever else happened to be at her side till I grew beside myself and
left her, as I thought, forever. But there are women you can leave and
women you cannot, and when I found she teased and fretted me more at a
distance than when she was under my very eye, I went back only to
find--Philo, do you think he will marry her?"
I choked down my own emotions and solemnly answered: "Yes, he is
building her a home. You must have seen the stones that are being
piled up yonder on the verge of the forest."
He turned, glared at me, made a peculiar sound with his lips, and then
stood silent, opening and closing his hands in a way that made my
blood run chill in spite of myself.
"A house!" he murmured, at last; "I wish I had the building of that
The tone, the look he gave, alarmed me still further.
"You would build it well!" I cried. It was his trade, the building of
"I would build it slowly," was his ominous answer.
* * * * *
Juliet certainly likes me, and trusts me, I think, more than any other
of the young men who used to go a-courting her. I have seen it for
some time in the looks she has now and then given me across the
meeting-house during the long sermon on Sunday mornings, but to-day I
am sure of it. For she has spoken to me, and asked me--But let me
tell you how it was: We were all standing under Ralph Urphistone's big
tree, looking at his little one toddling over the grass after a ball
one of the lads had thrown after her, when I felt the slightest touch
on my arm, and, glancing round, saw Juliet.
She was standing beside her father, and if ever she looked pretty it
was just then, for the day was warm and she had taken off her great
hat so that the curls flew freely around her face that was dimpled and
flushed with some feeling which did not allow her to lift her eyes.
Had she touched me? I thought so, and yet I did not dare to take it
for granted, for Colonel Schuyler was standing on the edge of the
crowd, frowning in some displeasure at the bare head of his provoking
little betrothed, and when Colonel Schuyler frowns there is no man of
us but Orrin who would dare approach the object of his preference,
much less address her, except in the coldest courtesy.
But I was sure she had something to say to me, so I lingered under the
tree till the crowd had all dispersed and Colonel Schuyler, drawn away
by her father, had left us for a moment face to face. Then I saw I was
"Philo," she murmured, and oh, how her face changed! "you are my
friend, I know you are my friend, because you alone out of them all
have never given me sharp words; will you, will you do something for
me which will make me less miserable, something which may prevent
wrong and trouble, and keep Orrin--"
Orrin? did she call him Orrin?
"Oh," she cried, "you have no sympathy. You--"
"Hush!" I entreated. "You have not treated me well, but I am always
your friend. What do you want me to do?"
She trembled, glanced around her in the pleasant sunshine, and then up
into my face.
"I want you," she murmured, "to keep Orrin and Colonel Schuyler apart.
You are Orrin's friend; stay with him, keep by him, do not let him run
alone upon his enemy, for--for there is danger in their
She could not say more, for just then her father and the Colonel came
back, and she had barely time to call up her dimples and toss her head
in merry banter before they were at her side.
As for myself, I stood dazed and confused, feeling that my six feet
made me too conspicuous, and longing in a vague and futile way to let
her know without words that I would do what she asked.
And I think I did accomplish it, though I said nothing to her and but
little to her companions. For when we parted I took the street which
leads directly to Orrin's house; and when Colonel Schuyler queried in
his soft and gentlemanlike way why I left them so soon, I managed to
"My road lies here"; and so left them.
* * * * *
I have not told Orrin what she said, but I am rarely away from his
vicinity now, during those hours when he is free to come and go about
the village. I think he wonders at my persistent friendship,
sometimes, but he says nothing, and is not even disagreeable to--me.
So I share his pleasures, if they are pleasures, expecting every day
to see him run across the Colonel in the tavern or on the green; but
he never does, perhaps because the Colonel is always with her now, and
we are not nor are ever likely to be again.
Do I understand her, or do I understand Orrin, or do I even understand
myself? No, but I understand my duty, and that is enough, though it is
sometimes hard to do it, and I would rather be where I could forget,
instead of being where I am forced continually to remember.
* * * * *
Am I always with Orrin when he is not at work or asleep? I begin to
doubt it. There are times when there is such a change in him that I
feel sure he has been near her, or at least seen her, but where or
how, I do not know and cannot even suspect. He never speaks of her,
not now, but he watches the house slowly rising in the forest, as if
he would lay a spell upon it. Not that he visits it by daylight, or
mingles with the men who are busy laying stone upon stone; no, no, he
goes to it at night, goes when the moon and stars alone shed light
upon its growing proportions; and standing before it, seems to count
each stone which has been added through the day, as if he were
reckoning up the months yet remaining to him of life and happiness.
I never speak to him during these expeditions. I go with him because
he does not forbid me to do so, but we never exchange a word till we
have left the forest behind us and stand again within the village
streets. If I did speak I might learn something of what is going on in
his bitter and burning heart, but I never have the courage to do so,
perhaps because I had rather not know what he plans or purposes.
She is not as daintily rounded as she was once. Her cheek is thinner,
and there is a tremulous move to her lip I never saw in it in the old
coquettish days. Is she not happy in her betrothal, or are her fears
of Orrin greater than her confidence in me? It must be the latter, for
Colonel Schuyler is a lover in a thousand, and scarcely a day passes
without some new evidence of his passionate devotion. She ought to be
happy, if she is not, and I am sure there is not another woman in town
but would feel herself the most favored of her sex if she had the half
of Juliet's prospects before her. But Juliet was ever wayward; and
simply because she ought to increase in beauty and joy, she pales and
pines and gets delicate, and makes the hearts of her lovers grow mad
with fear and longing.
* * * * *
Where have I been? What have I seen, and what do the events of this
night portend? As Orrin and myself were returning from our usual visit
to the house in the woods--it is well up now, and its huge empty
square looms weirdly enough in the moonlighted forest,--we came out
upon the churchyard in front of the meeting-house, and Orrin said:
"You may come with me or not, I do not care; but I am going in amongst
these graves. I feel like holding companionship with dead people
"Then so do I," said I, for I was not deceived by his words. It was
not to hold companionship with the dead, but with the living, that he
chose to linger there. The churchyard is in a direct line with her
house, and, sitting on the meeting-house steps one can get a very good
view of the windows of her room.
"Very well," he sighed, and disdained to say more.
As for myself, I felt too keenly the weirdness of the whole situation
to do more than lean my back against a tree and wait till his fancy
wearied of the moonlight and silence. The stones about us, glooming
darkly through the night, were not the most cheerful of companions,
and when you add to this the soughing of the willows and the
flickering shadows which rose and fell over the face of the
meeting-house as the branches moved in the wind, you can understand
why I rather regretted the hitherto gloomy enough hour we were
accustomed to spend in the forest.
But Orrin seemed to regret nothing. He had seated himself where I knew
he would, on the steps of the meeting-house, and was gazing, with chin
sunk in his two hands, down the street where Juliet dwelt. I do not
think he expected anything to happen; I think he was only reckless and
sick with a longing he had not the power to repress, and I watched him
as long as I could for my own inner sickness and longing, and when I
could watch no longer I turned to the gnomish gravestones that were no
more motionless or silent than he.
Suddenly I felt myself shiver and start, and, turning, beheld him
standing erect, a black shadow against the moonlighted wall behind
him. He was still gazing down the street but no longer in apathetic
despair, but with quivering emotion visible in every line of his
trembling form. Reaching his side, I looked where he looked, and saw
Juliet--it must have been Juliet to arouse him so,--standing with some
companion at the gate in the wall that opens upon the street. The
next moment she and the person with her stepped into the street, and,
almost before we realized it, they began to move towards us, as if
drawn by some power in Orrin or myself, straight, straight to this
abode of death and cold moonbeams.
It was not late, but the streets were otherwise deserted, and we four
seemed to be alone in the whole world. Breathing with Orrin and almost
clasping his hand in my oneness with him, I watched and watched the
gliding approach of the two lovers, and knew not whether to be
startled or satisfied when I saw them cross to the churchyard and
enter where we had entered ourselves so short a time before. For us
all to meet, and meet here, seemed suddenly strangely natural, and I
hardly knew what Orrin meant when he grasped me forcibly by the arm
and drew me aside into the darkest of the dark shadows which lay in
the churchyard's farthest corner.
Not till I perceived Juliet and the Colonel halt in the moonlight did
I realize that we were nothing to them, and that it was not our
influence but some purpose or passion of their own which had led them
to this gruesome spot.
The place where they had chosen to pause was at the grave of old
Patience Goodyear, and from the corner where we stood we could see
their faces plainly as they turned and looked at each other with the
moonbeams pouring over them. Was it fancy that made her look like a
wraith, and he like some handsome demon given to haunting churchyards?
Or was it only the sternness of his air, and the shrinking timidity of
hers, which made him look so dark and she so pallid.
Orrin, who stood so close to me that I could hear his heart beat as
loudly as my own, had evidently asked himself the same question, for
his hand closed spasmodically on mine, as the Colonel opened his lips,
and neither of us dared so much as to breathe lest we should lose what
the lovers had to say.
But the Colonel spoke clearly, if low, and neither of us could fail to
hear him as he said:
"I have brought you here, Juliet mine, because I want to hear you
swear amongst the graves that you will be no man's wife but mine."
"But have I not already promised?" she protested, with a gentle uplift
of her head inexpressibly touching in one who had once queened it over
hearts so merrily.
"Yes, you have promised, but I am not satisfied. I want you to swear.
I want to feel that you are as much mine as if we had stood at the
altar together. Otherwise how can I go away? How can I leave you,
knowing there are three men at least in this town who would marry you
at a day's notice, if you gave them full leave. I love you, and I
would marry you to-night, but you want a home of your own. Swear that
you will be my wife when that home is ready, and I will go away happy.
Otherwise I shall have to stay with you, Juliet, for you are more to
me than renown, or advancement, or anything else in all God's world."
"I do not like the graves; I do not want to stay here, it is so late,
so dark," she moaned.
"Then swear! Lay your hand on Mother Patience's tombstone, and say, 'I
will be your wife, Richard Schuyler, when the house is finished which
you are building in the woods'; and I will carry you back in my arms
as I carry you always in my heart."
But though Orrin clinched my arm in apprehension of her answer, and we
stood like two listening statues, no words issued from her lips, and
the silence grew appalling.
"Swear!" seemed to come from the tombs; but whether it was my emotion
that made it seem so, or whether it was Orrin who threw his voice
there, I did not know then and I do not know now. But that the word
did not come from the Colonel was evident from the startled look he
cast about him and from the thrill which all at once passed over her
form from her shrouded head to her hidden feet.
"Do the heavens bid me?" she murmured, and laid her hand without
hesitation on the stone before her, saying, "I swear by the dead that
surround us to be your wife, Richard Schuyler, when the house you are
building for me in the woods is completed." And so pleased was he at
the readiness with which she spoke that he seemed to forget what had
caused it, and caught her in his arms as if she had been a child, and
so bore her away from before our eyes, while the man at my side
fought and struggled with himself to keep down the wrath and jealousy
which such a sight as this might well provoke in one even less
passionate and intemperate than himself.
When the one shadow which they now made had dissolved again into two,
and only Orrin and myself were left in that ghostly churchyard, I
declared with a courage I had never before shown:
"So that is settled, Orrin. She will marry the Colonel, and you and I
are wasting time in these gloomy walks."
To which, to my astonishment, he made this simple reply, "Yes, we are
wasting time"; and straightway turned and left the churchyard with a
quick step that seemed to tell of some new and fixed resolve.
* * * * *
Colonel Schuyler has been gone a week, and to-night I summoned up
courage to call on Juliet's father. I had no longer any right to call
upon her; but who shall say I may not call on him if he chooses to
welcome me and lose his time on my account. The reason for my going
is not far to seek. Orrin has been there, and Orrin cannot be trusted
in her presence alone. Though he seems to have accepted his fate, he
is restless, and keeps his eye on the ground in a brooding way I do
not comprehend and do not altogether like. Why should he think so
much, and why should he go to her house when he knows the sight of her
is inflaming to his heart and death to his self-control?
Juliet's father is a simple, proud old man who makes no attempt to
hide his satisfaction at his daughter's brilliant prospects. He talked
mainly of the house, and if he honored Orrin with half as much of
his confidence on that subject as he did me, then Orrin must know many
particulars about its structure of which the public are generally
ignorant. Juliet was not to be seen--that is, during the first part of
the evening, but towards its close she came into the room and showed
me that same confiding courtesy which I have noticed in her ever since
I ceased to be an aspirant for her hand. She was not so pale as on
that weird night when I saw her in the churchyard, and I thought her
step had a light spring in it which spoke of hope. She wore a gown
which was coquettishly simple, and the fresh flower clinging to her
bosom breathed a fragrance that might have intoxicated a man less
determined to be her friend. Her father saw us meet without any
evident anxiety; and if he was as complacent to Orrin when he was
here, then Orrin had a chance to touch her hand.
But was he as complacent to Orrin? That I could not find out. I am
only sure that I will be made welcome there again if I confine my
visits to the father and do not seek anything more from Juliet than
that simple touch of her hand.
* * * * *
Orrin has not repeated his visit, but I have repeated mine. Why?
Because I am uneasy. Colonel Schuyler's house does not progress, and
whether there is any connection between this fact and that of Orrin's
sudden interest in the sawmills and quarries about here, I cannot
tell, but doubts of his loyalty will rise through all my friendship
for him, and I cannot keep away from Juliet any longer.
Does Juliet care for Colonel Schuyler? I have sometimes thought no,
and I have oftener thought yes. At all events she trembles when she
speaks of him, and shows emotion of no slight order when a letter of
his is suddenly put in her hand. I wish I could read her pretty,
changeful face more readily. It would be a comfort for me to know that
she saw her own way clearly, and was not disturbed by Orrin's comings
and goings. For Orrin is not a safe man, I fear, and a faith once
pledged to Colonel Schuyler should be kept.
I do not think Juliet understands just how great a man Colonel
Schuyler promises to be. When her father told me to-night that his
daughter's betrothed had been charged with some very important
business for the Government, her pretty lip pouted like a child's. Yet
she flushed, and for a minute looked pleased when I said, "That is a
road which leads to Washington. We shall hear of you yet as being
presented at the White House."
I think her father anticipates the same. For he told me a few minutes
later that he had sent for tutors to teach his daughter music and the
languages. And I noticed that at this she pouted again, and indeed
bore herself in a way which promised less for her future learning than
for that influence which breathes from gleaming eyes and witching
smiles. Ah, I fear she is a frivolous fairy, but how pretty she is,
and how dangerously captivating to a man who has once allowed himself
to study her changes of feeling and countenance. When I came away I
felt that I had gained nothing, and lost--what? Some of the
complacency of spirit which I had acquired after much struggle and
* * * * *
Colonel Schuyler has not yet returned, and now Orrin has gone away.
Indeed, no one knows where to find him nowadays, for he is here and
there on his great white horse, riding off one day and coming back the
next, ever busy, and, strange to say, always cheerful. He is making
money, I hear, buying up timber and then selling it to builders, but
he does not sell to one builder, whose house seems to suffer in
consequence. Where is the Colonel, and why does he not come home and
look after his own?
I have learned her secret at last, and in a strange enough way. I was
waiting for her father in his own little room, and as he did not come
as soon as I anticipated, I let my secret despondency have its way for
a moment, and sat leaning forward, with my head buried in my hands. My
face was to the fire and my back to the door, and for some reason I
did not hear it open, and was only aware of the presence of another
person in the room by the sound of a little gasp behind me, which was
choked back as soon as it was uttered. Feeling that this could come
from no one but Juliet, I for some reason hard to fathom sat still,
and the next moment became conscious of a touch soft as a rose-leaf
settle on my hair, and springing up, caught the hand which had given
it, and holding it firmly in mine, gave her one look which made her
chin fall slowly on her breast and her eyes seek the ground in the
wildest distress and confusion.
"Juliet--" I began.
But she broke in with a passion too impetuous to be restrained:
"Do not--do not think I knew or realized what I was doing. It was
because your head looked so much like his as you sat leaning forward
in the firelight that I--I allowed myself one little touch just for
the heart's ease it must bring. I--I am so lonesome, Philo,
I dropped her hand. I understood the whole secret now. My hair is
blonde like Orrin's, and her feelings stood confessed, never more to
be mistaken by me.
"You love Orrin!" I gasped; "you who are pledged to Colonel Schuyler!"
"I love Orrin," she whispered, "and I am pledged to Colonel Schuyler.
But you will never betray me," she said.
"I betray you?" I cried, and if some of the bitterness of my own
disappointed hopes crept into my tones, she did not seem to note it,
for she came quite close to my side and looked up into my face in a
way that almost made me forget her perfidy and her folly. "Juliet," I
went on, for I felt never more strongly than at this moment that I
should act a brother's part towards her, "I could never find it in my
heart to betray you, but are you sure that you are doing wisely to
betray the Colonel for a man no better than Orrin. I--I know you do
not want to hear me say this, for if you care for him you must think
him good and noble, but Juliet, I know him and I know the Colonel, and
he is no more to be compared with the man you are betrothed to
"Hush!" she cried, almost commandingly, and the airy, dainty, dimpled
creature whom I knew seemed to grow in stature and become a woman, in
her indignation; "you do not know Orrin and you do not know the
Colonel. You shall not draw comparisons between them. I will have you
think of Orrin only, as I do, day and night, ever and always."
"But," I exclaimed, aghast, "if you love him so and despise the
Colonel, why do you not break your troth with the latter?"
"Because," she murmured, with white cheeks and a wandering gaze, "I
have sworn to marry the Colonel, and I dare not break my oath. Sworn
to be his wife when the house he is building is complete; and the oath
was on the graves of the dead; on the graves of the dead!" she
"But," I said, without any intimation of having heard that oath, "you
are breaking that oath in private with every thought you give to
Orrin. Either complete your perjury by disowning the Colonel
altogether, or else give up Orrin. You cannot cling to both without
dishonor; does not your father tell you so?"
"My father--oh, he does not know; no one knows but you. My father
likes the Colonel; I would never think of telling him."
"Juliet," I declared solemnly, "you are on dangerous ground. Think
what you are doing before it is too late. The Colonel is not a man to
be trifled with."
"I know it," she murmured, "I know it," and would not say another word
or let me.
And so the burden of this new apprehension is laid upon me; for
happiness cannot come out of this complication.
* * * * *
Where is Orrin, and what is he doing that he stays so much from home?
If it were not for the intent and preoccupied look which he wears when
I do see him, I should think that he was absenting himself for the
purpose of wearing out his unhappy passion. But the short glimpses I
have had of him as he has ridden busily through the town have left me
with no such hope, and I wait with feverish impatience for some fierce
action on his part, or what would be better, the Colonel's return. And
the Colonel must come back soon, for nothing goes well in a long
absence, and his house is almost at a standstill.
* * * * *
Colonel Schuyler has come and, I hear, is storming angrily over the
mishaps that have delayed the progress of his new dwelling. He says he
will not go away again till it is completed, and has been riding all
the morning in every direction, engaging new men to aid the dilatory
workmen already employed. Does Orrin know this? I will go down to his
house and see.
* * * * *
And now I know Orrin's secret. He was not at home, of course, and
being determined to get at the truth of his mysterious absences, I
mounted a horse of my own and rode off to find him.
Why I took this upon myself, or whether I had the right to do it, I
have not stopped to ask. I went in the direction he had last gone, and
after I had ridden through two villages I heard of him as having
passed still farther east some two hours before.
Not in the least deterred, I hurried on, and having threaded a thicket
and forded a stream, I came upon a beautiful open country wholly new
to me, where, on the verge of a pleasant glade and in full view of a
most picturesque line of hills, I saw shining the fresh boards of a
new cottage. Instantly the thought struck me, "It is Orrin's, and he
is building it for Juliet," and filled with a confusion of emotions, I
spurred on my horse, and soon drew up before it.
Orrin was standing, pale and defiant, in the doorway, and as I met his
eye, I noticed, with a sick feeling of contempt, that he swung the
whip he was holding smartly against his leg in what looked like a very
"Good-evening, Orrin," I cried. "You have a very pleasant site
here--preferable to the Colonel's, I should say."
"What has the Colonel to do with me?" was his fierce reply, and he
turned as if about to go into the house.
"Only this," I calmly answered; "I think he will get his house done
He wheeled and faced me, and his eye which had looked simply sullen
shot a fierce and dangerous gleam.
"What makes you think that?" he cried.
"He has come back, and to-day engaged twenty extra men to push on the
"Indeed!" and there was contempt in his tone. "Well, I wish him joy
and a sound roof!"
And this time he did go into the house.
As he had not asked me to follow, I of course had no alternative but
to ride on. As I did so, I took another look at the house and saw with
a strange pang at the heart that the plastering was on the walls and
the windows ready for glazing. "I was wrong," said I to myself; "it is
Orrin's house which will be finished first."
* * * * *
And what if it is? Will she turn her back upon the Colonel's lofty
structure and take refuge in this cottage remote from the world? I
cannot believe it, knowing how she loves show and the smiles and
gallantries of men. And yet--and yet, she is so capricious and Orrin
so determined that I do not know what to think or what to fear, and I
ride back with a heavy heart, wishing she had never come up from the
farm to worry and inflame the souls of honest men.
* * * * *
And now the Colonel's work goes on apace, and the whole town is filled
with the noise and bustle of lumbering carts and eager workmen. The
roof which Orrin so bitterly wished might be a sound one has been
shingled; and under the Colonel's eye and the Colonel's constant
encouragement, part after part of the new building is being fitted to
its place with a precision and despatch that to many minds promise the
near dawning of Juliet's wedding-day. But I know that afar in the east
another home is nearer completion than this, and whether she knows it
too or does not know it (which is just as probable), her wilful,
sportive, and butterfly nature seems to be preparing itself for a
struggle which may rend if not destroy its airy and delicate wings.
I have prepared myself too, and being still and always her friend, I
stand ready to mediate or assist, as opportunity offers or
circumstances demand. She realizes this, and leans on me in her secret
hours of fear, or why does her face brighten when she sees me, and her
little hand thrust itself confidingly forth from under its shrouding
mantle and grasp mine with such a lingering and entreating pressure?
And the Colonel? Does he realize, too, that I am any more to her than
her other cast-off lovers and would-be friends? Sometimes I think he
does, and eyes me with suspicion. But he is ever so courteous that I
cannot be sure, and so do not trouble myself in regard to a jealousy
so illy founded and so easily dispelled.
He is always at Juliet's side and seems to surround her with a
devotion which will make it very difficult for any other man, even
Orrin, to get her ear.
* * * * *
The crisis is approaching. Orrin is again in town, and may be seen
riding up and down the streets in his holiday clothes. Have some
whispers of his secret love and evident intentions reached the ear of
the Colonel? Or is Juliet's father alone concerned? For I see that the
blinds of her lattice are tightly shut, and watch as I may, I cannot
catch a glimpse of her eager head peering between them at the
flaunting horseman as he goes careering by.
* * * * *
The hour has come and how different is the outcome from any I had
imagined. I was sitting last night in my own lonely little room, which
opens directly on the street, struggling as best I might against the
distraction of my thoughts which would lead me from the book I was
studying, when a knock on the panels of my door aroused me, and almost
before I could look up, that same door swung open and a dark form
entered and stood before me.
For a moment I was too dazed to see who it was, and rising
ceremoniously, I made my bow of welcome, starting a little as I met
the Colonel's dark eyes looking at me from the folds of the huge
mantle in which he had wrapped himself. "Your worship?" I began, and
stumbling awkwardly, offered him a chair which he refused with a
gesture of his smooth white hand.
"Thank you, no," said he, "I do not sit down in your house till I know
if it is you who have stolen the heart of my bride away from me and if
it is you with whom she is prepared to flee."
"Ah," was my involuntary exclamation, "then it has come. You know her
folly, and will forgive it because she is such a child."
"Her folly? Are you not then the man?" he cried; but in a subdued tone
which showed what a restraint he was putting upon himself even in the
moment of such accumulated emotions.
"No," said I; "if your bride meditates flight, it is not with me she
means to go. I am her friend, and the man who would take her from you
is not. I can say no more, Colonel Schuyler."
He eyed me for a moment with a deep and searching gaze which showed me
that his intellect was not asleep though his heart was on fire.
"I believe you," said he; and threw aside his cloak and sat down. "And
now," he asked, "who is the man?"
Taken by surprise, I stammered and uttered some faint disclaimer; but
seeing by his steady look and firm-set jaw that he meant to know, and
detecting as I also thought in his general manner and subdued tones
the promise of an unexpected forbearance, I added impulsively:
"Let the wayward girl tell you herself; perhaps in the telling she
will grow ashamed of her caprice."
"I have asked her," was the stern reply, "and she is dumb." Then in
softer tones he added: "How can I do anything for her if she will not
confide in me. She has treated me most ungratefully, but I mean to be
kind to her. Only I must first know if she has chosen worthily."
"Who is there of worth in town?" I asked, softened and fascinated by
his manner. "There is no man equal to yourself."
"You say so," he cried, and waved his hand impatiently. Then with a
deep and thrilling intensity which I feel yet, he repeated, "His name,
his name? Tell me his name."
The Colonel is a man of power, accustomed to control men. I could not
withstand his look or be unmoved by his tones. If he meant well to
Orrin and to her, what was I that I should withhold Orrin's name.
Falteringly I was about to speak it when a sudden sound struck my
ears, and rising impetuously I drew him to the window, blowing out the
candles as I passed them.
"Hark!" I cried, as the rush of pounding hoofs was heard on the road,
and "Look!" I added, as a sudden figure swept by on the panting white
horse so well known by all in that town.
"Is it he?" whispered the dark figure at my side as we both strained
our eyes after Orrin's fast vanishing form.
"You have seen him," I returned; and drawing him back from the window,
I closed the shutters with care, lest Orrin should be seized with a
freak to return and detect me in conference with his heart's dearest
Silence and darkness were now about us, and the Colonel, as if anxious
to avail himself of the surrounding gloom, caught my arm as I moved to
relight the candles.
"Wait," said he; and I understood and stopped still.
And so we stood for a moment, he quiet as a carven statue and I
restless but obedient to his wishes. When he stirred I carefully lit
the candles, but I did not look at him till he had donned his cloak
and pulled his hat well over his eyes. Then I turned, and eying him
"If I have made a mistake--"
But he quickly interrupted me, averring:
"You have made no mistake. You are a good lad, Philo, and if it had
been you--" He did not say what he would have done, but left the
sentence incomplete and went on: "I know nothing of this Orrin Day,
but what a woman wills she must have. Will you bring this fellow--he
is your friend is he not?--to Juliet's house in the morning? Her
father is set on her being the mistress of the new stone house and we
three will have to reason with him, do you see?"
Astonished, I bowed with something like awe. Was he so great-hearted
as this? Did he intend to give up his betrothed to the man whom she
loved, and even to plead her cause with the father she feared? My
admiration would have its vent, and I uttered some foolish words of
sympathy, which he took with the stately, rather condescending grace
which they perhaps merited; after which, he added again: "You will
come, will you not?" and bowed kindly and retreated towards the door,
while I, abashed and worshipful, followed with protestations that
nothing should hinder me from doing his will, till he had passed
through the doorway and vanished from my sight.
And yet I do not want to do his will or take Orrin to that house. I
might have borne with sad equanimity to see her married to the
Colonel, for he is far above me, but to Orrin--ah, that is a bitter
outlook, and I must have been a fool to have promised aught that will
help to bring it about. Still, am I not her sworn friend, and if she
thinks she can be happy with him, ought I not to do my share towards
making her so?
I wonder if the Colonel knows that Orrin too has been building himself
I did not sleep last night, and I have not eaten this morning.
Thoughts robbed me of sleep, and a visit from Orrin effectually took
away from me whatever appetite I might have had. He came in almost at
daybreak. He looked dishevelled and wild, and spoke like a man who had
stopped more than once at the tavern.
"Philo," said he, "you have annoyed me by your curiosity for more than
a year; now you can do me a favor. Will you call at Juliet's house and
see if she is free to go and come as she was a week ago?"
"Why?" I asked, thinking I perceived a reason for his bloodshot eye,
and yet being for the moment too wary, perhaps too ungenerous, to
relieve him from the tension of his uncertainty.
"Why?" he repeated. "Must you know all that goes on in my mind, and
cannot I keep one secret to myself?"
"You ask me to do you a favor," I quietly returned. "In order to do it
intelligently, I must know why it is asked."
"I do not see that," objected Orrin, "and if you were not such a boy
I'd leave you on the spot and do the errand myself. But you mean no
harm, and so I will tell you that Juliet and I had planned to run away
together last night, but though I was at the place of meeting, she did
not come, nor has she made any sign to show me why she failed me."
"Orrin," I began, but he stopped me with an oath.
"No sermons," he protested. "I know what you would have done if
instead of smiling on me she had chanced to give all her poor little
heart to you."
"I should not have tempted her to betray the Colonel," I exclaimed
hotly, perhaps because the sudden picture he presented to my
imagination awoke within me such a torrent of unsuspected emotions.
"Nor should I have urged her to fly with me by night and in stealth."
"You do not know what you would do," was his rude and impatient
rejoinder. "Had she looked at you, with tears in her arch yet pathetic
blue eyes, and listened while you poured out your soul, as if heaven
were opening before her and she had no other thought in life but you,
"Hush!" I cried, "do you want me to go to her house for you, or do you
want me to stay away?"
"You know I want you to go."
"Then be still, and listen to what I have to say. I will go, but you
must go too. If you want to take Juliet away from the Colonel you must
do it openly. I will not abet you, nor will I encourage any
"You are a courageous lad," he said, "in other men's affairs. Will you
raise me a tomb if the Colonel runs me through with his sword?"
"I at least should not feel the contempt for you which I should if you
eloped with her behind his back."
"Now you are courageous on your own behalf," laughed he, "and that is
better and more to the point." Yet he looked as if he could easily
spit me on his own sword, which I noticed was dangling at his heels.
"Will you come?" I urged, determined not to conciliate or enlighten
him even if my forbearance cost me my life.
He hesitated, and then broke into a hoarse laugh. "I have drunk just
enough to be reckless," said he; "yes, I will go; and the devil must
answer for the result."
I had never seen him look so little the gentleman, and perhaps it was
on this very account I became suddenly quite eager to take him at his
word before time and thought should give him an opportunity to become
more like himself; for I could not but think that if she saw him in
this condition she must make comparisons between him and the Colonel
which could not but be favorable to the latter. But it was still quite
early, and I dared not run the risk of displeasing the Colonel by
anticipating his presence, so I urged Orrin into that little back
parlor of mine, where I had once hoped to see a very different person
installed, and putting wine and biscuits before him, bade him refresh
himself while I prepared myself for appearing before the ladies.
When the hour came for us to go I went to him. He was pacing the floor
and trying to school himself into patience, but he made but a sorry
figure, and I felt a twinge of conscience as he thrust on his hat
without any attempt to smooth his dishevelled locks, or rearrange his
disordered ruffles. Should I permit him to go thus disordered, or
should I detain him long enough to fit him for the eye of the dainty
Juliet? He answered the question himself. "Come," said he, "I have
chewed my sleeve long enough in suspense. Let us go and have an end of
it. If she is to be my wife she must leave the house with me to-day,
if not, I have an hour's work before me down yonder," and he pointed
in the direction of his new house. "When you see the sky red at
noonday, you will know what that is."
"Orrin!" I cried, and for the first time I seized his arm with
something like a fellow-feeling.
But he shook me off.
"Don't interfere with me," he said, and strode on, sullen and fierce,
towards the place where such a different greeting awaited him from any
that he feared.
Ought I to tell him this? Ought I to say: "Your sullenness is uncalled
for and your fierceness misplaced; Juliet is constant, and the Colonel
means you nothing but good"? Perhaps; and perhaps, too, I should be a
saint and know nothing of earthly passions and jealousies. But I am
not. I hate this Orrin, hate him more and more as every step brings
us nearer to Juliet's house and the fate awaiting him from her
weakness and the Colonel's generosity. So I hold my peace and we come
to her gate, and the recklessness that has brought him thus far
abandons him on the instant and he falls back and lets me go in
several steps before him, so that I seem to be alone when I enter the
house, and Juliet, who is standing in the parlor between the Colonel
and her father, starts when she sees me, and breaking into sobs,
"Oh, Philo, Philo, tell my father there is nothing between us but what
is friendly and honorable; that I--I--"
"Hush!" commanded that father, while I stared at the Colonel, whose
quiet, imperturbable face was for the first time such a riddle to me
that I hardly heeded what the elder man said. "You have talked enough,
Juliet, and denied enough. I will now speak to Mr. Adams and see what
he has to say. Last night my daughter, who, as all the town knows, is
betrothed to this gentleman"--and he waved his hand deferentially
towards the Colonel--"was detected by me stealing out of the garden
gate with a little packet on her arm. As my daughter never goes out
alone, I was naturally startled, and presuming upon my rights as her
father, naturally asked her where she was going. This question, simple
as it was, seemed to both terrify and unnerve her. Stumbling back, she
looked me wildly in the eye and answered, with an effrontery she had
never shown me before, that she was flying to escape a hated marriage.
That Colonel Schuyler had returned, and as she could not be his wife,
she was going to her aunt's house, where she could live in peace
without being forced upon a man she could not love. Amazed, for I had
always supposed her duly sensible of the honor