Page images
[ocr errors]


“Her name was Grace Hyde. She was eighteen, and I was twenty-one when she promised to be my wife. I was just finishing my professional studies, and had my own way to make in the world; but I was strong to do my work and to fight my battles, for Grace was awaiting the result. Her love would strengthen me, and her hand would reward my victory.

“ 'I will not fetter you, Paul,” she said, 'I know how the promise of many young lives have been unfulfilled, because the daily needs of life and the necessity of a practical answer to the questions, 'What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed ? ' have wearied the spirit not yet ready for its life-work, crippled its energies, and chained it to an ignoble service, while the nobler work it might have done, waits for another. Give all the time you need to the highest culture, the fullest development of your intellectual strength, find for yourself a fitting sphere of labor, and then, Paul, I will go with you, and

, together we will make life beautiful.'

I could not combat her resolution. She was firm, and her father said: “Grace is right; in the future you will acknowledge it.

So I finished my studies in the University, and went to Paris. Grace, pale and tearful, with her little hands in mine, said: "Be worthy of your best self, and may God forever guide and bless you, dear Paul. And then we parted.

'Í had not been away three months, when a letter from Grace announced her father's death. 'An attack of apoplexy,' she wrote.

Poor mother, it is a terrible blow to her; I know not how she will bear it. I pray that I may help her, and that God will give me power to comfort her. After that, her letters were not sad, but there was a subdued cheerfulness, or it might have been an effort to be cheerful, and there was an impatient looking forward to my return. She had such trust in me, such a noble ambition for me, I was always stronger and better after reading her words. Her influence was around me continually, and the temptations of Paris life were all powerless. I could not disappoint her trust. I would try to be worthy of her.

'I had been in Paris nearly two years, and was preparing to return, when one day a letter, directed in an unknown hand, was given to me. I opened it hastily, with a presentiment of coming ill, for I had heard nothing from Grace for many weeks. There were three words

from Dr. Merton, the family physician of the Hydes: "DEAR Paul: Grace does not wish to alarm her mother, and therefore wishes me to write. Her days are numbered. Come quickly, if you would see her.'

You can imagine the slow passing of the days that were bearing me to Grace. She was dying; she might be gone before I could reach her; and, as if in mockery of my impatience, the dull, monotonous ticking of the clock sounded in my ears, and the minutes passed so slowly. At last we reached New-York. A few hours' ride in the cars, and I was in A— I went immediately

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


to her house, but there was a strange name on the door-plate. I rang, and inquired where Mrs. Hyde had removed.

The servant gave me the street and number. I soon found the house, a small cottage, in a retired street. What was the cause of this removal ?' I asked myself. Why had they left their old home? and why had Grace never mentioned it in her letters ? Was it possible that poverty had been added to the sorrow of that great bereavement, and Grace had concealed it to avoid giving me pain?' Absorbed in these thoughts, I stood at the door of the cottage, just as Dr. Merton was passing out. He grasped my hand. “Welcome home, Paul,” he said. They are all expecting you. Grace is quiet; she

' " does not suffer now. I tell you, Paul, there is no use in trying to keep her here. She belongs to a better world. Angels like her are not given to us for a long time. They do their work quickly and go

home. * IIe had led me into the little parlor, and in a few words, told me all that Grace had concealed from me. Mr. Hyde had died insolvent. His creditors had seized upon every thing. Mrs. Hyde had rented a small house, and furnished it plainly with the little remnant of the estate which was left them. Few, even of their most intimate friends, knew how very small this remnant was. Grace obtained a large class of pupils in music, and at night, when she returned, weary from her lessons, she taught classes in French. With a brave heart she worked, sustained by the consciousness that her mother was saved from toil and her little brothers were unconscious of the loss they had sustained.

“The constant, wearying toil, was too much for one so wholly unused to it. While the spirit was very strong, and the heroic young girl found peace in living for others, the warning came. She must rest. A little longer she struggled, then sank, and there was no help for her. Her earthly work was done.

The old man wept like a child. I could not weep. In my heart a rebellious voice was saying: 'It must not be. Grace shall not die. Life is worthless without her."

“That evening she was my wife. I begged that it might be so: that I might not lose sight of her while she remained. How beautiful she was

in that hour, with the dark hair brushed back from the pale forehead, the unnatural brightness that shone in her eyes, and the burning crimson in her cheek.

"To love and cherish till death us do part. Are those words uttered, with a full feeling of their significance, when hopes are bright and life seems only to have commenced ? To us they were full of solemn import. Death might come to do his work in one week, one day, one hour; and I should have no Grace, no wife.

But she was mine, mine! and together we waited the summons that should separate us. In the few

days that remained, she told me of the bright hopes of the future, our future, that had sustained her in the days of trial, and of the faith that had made all things

"If I had known it would end so, Paul,” she said, 'I would have

my Grace

easy to bear.

[ocr errors]

soon come.



told you ; but I thought I was stronger, and would work bravely

I without telling you any thing that would pain you, and you would

But it is all right. I shall be yours in the other home. Walk worthily here, Paul. Consecrate yourself to a noble life : remember all the dreams of your youth, and let them become living realities in your life, and perhaps in the home to which I am going, I shall know it all.

'Thus the days passed till the messenger came, and Grace went with him.'

My uncle sat a long time, with his head resting on the table before him, before he spoke again. Then he continued : 'It is thirty years since Grace's mother and brothers came to my home. Mrs. Hyde lived but a few years, and one by one the brothers -there were three of them - made homes for themselves, and I was left alone.

•In this room I kept the books and plants she loved, and her porrait hung always above my study-table; and so I almost lived in her presence. But there were times, when my loneliness seemed insupportable, and life was a weary burden, I would gladly lay down, that I might go to her.

Once I have seen her. Do not doubt it, Miriam. Five years ago, I was very ill for many weeks. Grace's portrait was taken from the library, and carried to my chamber, that during the long days when I had only servants for attendants, I might have her face continually before me. The disease gained ground, and my physician insisted that I must have some more suitable attendant, I had at that time no near friend or relative within many miles' distance, and so Dr. Ives brought Jane Hope to the house. I had met her frequently in the homes of my patients, and knew her as a faithful nurse.

In my half-dreaming moods, I had fancied that Grace was with me, and it was not always pleasant to be awakened by the touch of a hand, larger and rougher than hers, and to hear a voice that had precision and hardness in its tones, when I had been dreaming of the voice so long silent. But I learned to know Jane better, and to value her practical knowledge.

One night the narcotics I had taken, instead of producing their usual effect, had brought on a state of feverish wakefulness. Strange, shadowy forms floated around me, sometimes taking to themselves the faces of friends I had known in boyhood. I could not drive them away. I rubbed my eyes, and said, “There is the table, and there the window. There is nothing between me and them;' but the next minute the space would be filled with my ghostly visitors. Stephen Grant, who in college bore the name of Euclid Grant, from his devotion to his favorite study, and something of a mathematical precision in every action, stood at the foot of my bed, in the dim light, wearing the same look of imperturbable gravity, his head covered with triangles, and his hands filled with circle and squares. In a low, monotonous voice, he was reciting the causes of my disease, and prescribing for its cure :

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

'Let A B be the disease, and C D the time. Then to the square of — - He was interrupted by the dancing entrance of the young girl, who thirty-five years before had taught him lessons with which Euclid had nothing to do. She came with the freshness of springtirne around her, bearing in her hands arbutus flowers, violets, and daisies, which she threw upon our Euclid. They fell upon him, and wreathed themselves around the angles, circles, and squares in which he had buried himself. Then a violin on the table commenced playing a lively strain; and tables, chairs, and ghostly forms in wild confusion mingled in the dance, and I saw no more.

When I awoke, the light still burned dimly, and the portrait of my lost Grace looked tenderly, pityingly upon me, and I knew that through all the long years of loneliness, thus had she looked down upon my desolate home. When my sorrow had seemed greater than I could bear, one thought had strengthened me: the thought that in the home to which she had gone, I should never more be lonely: she would be mine forever.

But that night, the earthly future seemed so long, and the way leading through it so weary and desolate, in my agony I cried : 'How long! oh! how long!' Then the face changed. It became a living face, as full of tenderness as before, but wearing a cheerful, hopeful look; and - you will think it a dream, 'Miriam, but I was not sleeping - I saw her as plainly as I see you now. She seemed to step down from the canvas, and noiselessly to approach me. I tried to rise. I stretched forth my arms to clasp her; but the waving of her hand repelled me, and her upward look seemed to say, "Not here, but there. She drew nearer, and then I saw Jane Hope, my kind, faithful nurse, by her side. Then she took Jane's hand in her own - that little, pale hand — and holding it a moment, she placed it in mine, and said, in those_low, sweet tones, thrilling my whole being : Take her, Paul, my Paul : she will help you and comfort you, till you come to me. waiting for you, Paul : in His time you will come, and then, my

- I knew nothing more of that strange night, nor of many following days and nights.

During the days of convalescence, the portrait had such a happy look; and when Jane brought me the tempting delicacies, she could so well prepare, there was a smile of sweet contentment on the face. So I learned to watch for Jane's coming, and to be very happy when she sat by me, busy with her sewing, or when I could watch her moving around the room, giving those indescribable touches to its arrangements which do so much to please the eye.

· When I was well enough to go out, Jane came one morning to tell me she was going away. I told her all, and asked her to stay with me always. The next week we were married ; and my kind, good nurse has proved the kindest and best of wives.'

A strange ending to all of Paul Eastman's early hopes: a strange awakening from his young dreams. From Grace, the beautiful and gifted Grace, purified by suffering, whose saintly life was a holy memory in the hearts of all who loved her, to cold, stern,


I am


[ocr errors]


practical Jane Hope, the faithful house-keeper, and alas ! nothing more, how great the change!

Did the young wife, looking down upon his earthly needs, send a messenger to give Paul Eastman a wife, who should mend his stockings, and keep his house clean ; make his gruel and his bed ; nurse his gout and prescribe for his rheumatism, or was it an overdose of morphine that did the work? Who shall say? He firmly believed that Jane was sent to him by Grace, and so he is content; while I-I only tell the tale as 't was told to me.' MIRIAM GRAY.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

That our last, sad, dreary hour,

We may meet serene, and sleeping,
O'er our rest the gray skies lower,

And alone the rain-clouds weeping.
Brooklyn, January, 1858.


« PreviousContinue »