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Full text of "A woman's reason, a novel"

Ipurcbaseb for tbe library 

of tte 

TRniverait? ct Toronto 

out ot tbe proceed of tbe fun& 

bequeatbefc bp 

JL. B- ipbillips Stewart, m.n., %%.m. 

Ob. A.D. 1892 



3Soofe0 by William iDean I)otocUs. 



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HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 
Boston and New York 



\jh^9^ / 



TOW 



A Woman's Reason 



A NOVEL 



BY 



WILLIAM D. HOWELLS 

AUTHOR OF " A MODERN INSTANCE," " DOCTOR BREEN's PRACTICE,*' 
" A FOREGONE CONCLUSION, K ETC. 





BOSTON AND NEW YORK 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 

(Cfc fiitoetfibe pre?? Cambri&ac 



PS 

WW 

Copyright, 1882, u ~* 
By William D. Howeuls. 



Ail rights reserved. 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 



The day had been very oppressive, and at half- 
past five in the afternoon, the heat had scarcely 
abated, to the perception of Mr. Joshua Harkness, 
as he walked heavily up the Park Street mall in 
Boston Common. When he came opposite the 
Brewer Fountain, with its Four Seasons of severe 
drouth, he stopped short, and stared at the bronze 
group with its insufficient dribble, as if he had 
never seen it before. Then he felt infirmly about 
the ground with his stick, stepped aside, and sank 
tremulously into one of the seats at the edge of the 
path. The bench was already partly occupied by a 
young man and a young woman ; the young man 
had his arm thrown along the back of the seat 
behind the young woman ; their heads were each 
tilted toward the other, and they were making 
love almost as frankly in that public place as they 
might in the seclusion of a crowded railway train. 
They both glanced at the intruder, and exchanged 
smiles, apparently of pity for his indecency, and 



2 A woman's reason. 

then went on with their love-making, while Mr. 
Harkness, unconscious of his offence, stared eagerly 
out over the Common, and from time to time made 
gestures or signals with his stick in that direction. 
It was that one day of the week when people are 
not shouted at by a multitude of surly sign-boards 
to keep off the grass, and the turf was everywhere 
dotted with lolling and lounging groups. Perhaps 
to compensate for the absence of the sign-boards 
(which would reappear over night like a growth of 
disagreeable fungi), there was an unusual number of 
policemen sauntering about, and it was one of these 
whom Mr. Harkness was trying to attract with his 
cane. If any saw him, none heeded, and he had to 
wait till a policeman came down the mall in front of 
him. This could not have been so long a time as it 
seemed to Mr. Harkness, who was breathing thickly, 
and now and then pressing his hand against his fore- 
head, like one who tries to stay a reeling brain. 

"Please call a carriage," he panted, as the officer 
whom he had thrust in the side with his cane 
stopped and looked down at him ; and then as the man 
seemed to hesitate, he added: "My name is Hark- 
ness ; I live at 9 Beacon Steps. I wish to go home 
at once ; I Ve been taken faint." 

Beacon Steps is not Beacon Street, but it is of like 
blameless social tradition, and the name, together 
with a certain air of moneyed respectability in Mr. 
Harkness, had its effect with the policeman. 

" Sick 1 " he asked. " Well, you are pale. You 
just hold on, a minute. Heh, there ! heh !" he 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 3 

shouted to a passing hackman, who promptly- 
stopped, turned his horses, and drew up beside the 
curb next the Common. " Now you take my arm, 
Mr. Harkness, and I'll help you to the carriage." 
He raised the gentleman to his benumbed feet, and 
got him away through the gathering crowd ; when 
he was gone, the crowd continued to hang about the 
place where he had been sitting in such numbers, 
that the young man first took his arm down from 
the back of the seat, and the young woman tilted 
her head away from his, and then they both, with 
vexed and impatient looks, rose and walked away, 
seeking some other spot for the renewal of their 
courtship. 

The policeman had not been able to refrain from 
driving home with Mr. Harkness, whom he patro- 
nised with a sort of municipal kindness, on the way; 
and for whom, when he had got him in-doors, and 
comfortably stretched upon a lounge in the library, 
he wanted to go and call the doctor. But Mr. 
Harkness refused, saying that he had had these 
attacks before, and would soon be all right. He 
thanked the officer by name, after asking him for it, 
and the officer went away, leaving Mr. Harkness to 
the care of the cook who, in that midsummer time, 
seemed to have sole charge of the house and its 
master. The policeman flipped the dust from the 
breast and collar of his coat, in walking back to his 
beat, with the right feeling of a man who would like 
to be better prepared if summoned a second time to 
befriend a gentleman of Mr. Harkness's standing, and 



4 A woman's reason. 

to. meet in coming out of his house a young lady of 
such beauty and elegance as he had just encountered. 
This young lady, as he closed the door behind him, 
had run up the steps with the loop of her train in 
one hand after the fashion of ten years ago, and in 
the other a pretty travelling-bag, carried with the 
fearlessness of a lady who knows that people are out 
of town. She glanced a little wonderingly, a little 
defiantly, at the policeman, who, seeing that she 
must drop one or other of her burdens to ring, politely 
rang for her. 

"Thank you!" said the young lady, speaking a 
little more wonderingly, a little more defiantly than 
she had looked. 

"Quite welcome, Miss," returned the policeman, 
and touched his hat in going down the steps, while 
the young lady turned and stared after him, leaning 
a little over the top step on which she stood, with 
her back to the door. She was very pretty indeed, 
with blue eyes at once tender and honest, and the 
fair hair, that goes with their beauty, hanging loosely 
upon her forehead. Her cheeks, in their young 
perfection of outline, had a flush beyond their usual 
delicate colour ; the heat, and her eager dash up the 
steps had suffused them with a dewy bloom, that 
seemed momently to deepen and soften. Her love- 
liness was saved from the insipidity of faultless lines 
by a little downward curve, a quirk, or call it dimple, 
at one corner of her mouth, which, especially in 
repose, gave it a touch of humorous feeling and 
formed its final charm : it seemed less a trait of face 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 5 

than of character. That fine positive grace, which 
is called style, and which is so eminently the gift 
of exquisite nerves,- had not cost her too much ; she 
was slim, but not fragile, and her very motionless- 
ness suggested a vivid bird-like mobility ; she stood, 
as if she had alighted upon the edge of the step. At 
the opening, of the door behind her she turned alertly 
from the perusal of the policeman's retreating back, 
and sprang within. 

" How d' do, Margaret 1 " She greeted the cook in 
a voice whose bright kindness seemed the translation 
of her girlish beauty into sound. " Surprised to see 
me V She did not wait for the cook's answer, but 
put down her bag, and began pulling off her gloves, 
after shaking out her skirt, and giving that pene- 
trating sidelong downward look at it, which women 
always give their drapery at moments of arrival or 
departure. She turned into the drawing-room from 
the hall, and went up to the long, old-fashioned 
mirror, and glanced at the face which it dimly 
showed her in the close-shuttered room. The face had 
apparently not changed since she last saw it in that 
mirror, and one might have fancied that the young 
lady was somehow surprised at this. 

" May I ask why policemen are coming and going 
in and out of our house, Margaret 1 " she demanded of 
the cook's image, which, further down in the mirror, 
hesitated at the doorway. 

" He come home with your father, Miss Helen," 
answered the cook, and as Helen turned round and 
stared at her in the flesh, she continued : "He had 



6 A woman's reason. 

one of his faint turns in the Common. He 's laying 
down in the library now, Miss Helen." 

" O, poor papa !" wailed the young lady, who knew 
that in spite of the cook's pronoun, it could not be 
the policeman who was then reposing from faintness 
in the library. She whirled away from the mirror, 
and swooped through the doorway into the hall, and 
back into the room where her father lay. "The 
heat has been too much for him," she moaned, in 
mixed self-reproach and compassion, as she flew ; 
and she dropped upon her knees beside him, and 
fondly caressed his grey head, and cooed and 
lamented over him, with the irreverent tenderness 
he liked her to use with him. " Poor old fellow," 
she murmured. " It 's too bad ! You 're working 
yourself to death, and I 'm going to stay with you 
now, and put a stop to your being brought home by 
policemen. Why, you ought to be ashamed, break- 
ing down in this way, as soon as my back is turned ! 
Has Margaret done everything for you 1 Wouldn't 
you like a little light I" She started briskly to her 
feet, flung up the long window, and raising and 
lowering the shade to get the right level for her 
father's eyes, stood silhouetted against the green 
space without : a grass plot between high brick walls, 
on one of which clambered a grape-vine, and on the 
other a wisteria, while a bed of bright-leafed plants 
gave its colour in the centre of the yard. " There ! " 
she said, with a glance at this succinct landscape. 
" That 's the prettiest bit of nature I 've seen since I 
left Boston." She came back and sat down on a low 



A woman's reason. 7 

chair beside her father, who smiled fondly upon her, 
and took one of her hands to hold, while she pushed 
back his hair with the other. 

" Are you awfully glad to see mel" 

"Awfully," said Mr. Harkness, falling in with her 
mood, and brightening with the light and her pre- 
sence. " What brought you so suddenly ?" 

" Oh, that 's a long story. Are you feeling better, 
now?" 

" Yes. I was merely faint. I shall be all right 
by morning. I 've been a little worn out." 

" Was it like the last time ? " asked Helen. 

" Yes," said her father. 

" A little more like?" 

" I don't think it was more severe," said Mr. Hark- 
ness, thoughtfully. 

"What had you been doing? Honour bright, 
now : was it accounts ?" 

" Yes, it was accounts, my dear." 

" The same old wretches 1 " 

" The same old ones \ some new ones, too. They 're 
in hopeless confusion," sighed Mr. Harkness, who 
seemed to age and sadden with the thought. 

" Well, now, I '11 tell you what, papa," said Helen, 
sternly : " I want you to leave all accounts, old and 
new, quite alone till the cold weather comes. Will 
you promise 1 " 

Harkness smiled, as wearily as he had sighed. He 
knew that she was burlesquing somewhat her ignor- 
ance of affairs ; and yet it was not much burlesqued, 
after all ; for her life, like that of other American 



8 A woman's reason. 

girls of prosperous parentage, had been almost as 
much set apart from the hard realities of bread-win- 
ning as the life of a princess, as entirely dedicated to 
society, to the studies that refine, and the accom- 
plishments that grace society. The question of 
money had hardly entered into it. Since she was a 
little child, and used to climb upon her father's knee, 
and ask him, in order to fix his status in her fairy 
tales, whether he was rich or poor, she might be said 
never to have fairly thought of that matter. Of 
course, she understood that she was not so rich as 
some girls, but she had never found that the differ- 
ence was against her in society ; she could not help 
perceiving that in regard to certain of them it was 
in her favour, and that she might have patronised 
them if she had liked, and that they were glad of 
her friendship on any terms. Her father's great 
losses had come when she was too young to see the 
difference that they made in his way of living ; ever 
since she could remember they had kept to the same 
scale of simple ease in the house where she was born, 
and she had known no wish that there had not been 
money enough to gratify. Pleasures of every kind 
had always come to her as freely and with as little 
wonder on her part as if they had been, like her 
youth, her bounding health, her beauty, the direct 
gift of heaven. She knew that the. money came from 
her father's business, but she had never really asked 
herself how it was earned. It is doubtful if she 
could have told what his business was ; it was the 
India trade, whatever that was, and of late years he 



A WOMAN'S reason. 9 

had seemed to be more worried by it than he used to 
be, and she had vaguely taken this ill, as an ungrateful 
return on the part of business. Once he had gone 
so far as to tell her that he had been hurt by the 
Great Fire somewhat. But the money for all her 
needs and luxuries (she was not extravagant, and 
really did not spend much upon herself) had come 
as before, and walking through the burnt district, 
and seeing how handsomely it had been rebuilt, she 
had a comforting sense that its losses had all been 
repaired. 

" You look a little flushed and excited, my dear," 
said her father, in evasion of the commands laid 
upon him, and he touched her fair cheek. He was 
very fond of her beauty and of her style; in the 
earlier days of her young ladyhood, he used to go 
about with her a great deal, and was angry when he 
thought she did not get all the notice she ought, 
and a little jealous when she did. 

" Yes, I am flushed and excited, papa," she owned, 
throwing herself back in the low chair she had pulled 
up to his sofa, and beginning to pluck nervously at 
those little tufts of silk that roughened the cob- 
webby fabric of the grey summer stuff she wore. 
" Don't you think," she asked, lifting her downcast 
eyes, "that coming home and finding you in this 
state is enough to make me look flushed and ex- 
cited?" 

" Not quite," said her father quietly. " It 's not 
a new thing." 

Helen gave a sort of lamentable laugh. " I 



10 A woman's reason. 

know I was humbugging, and I'm as selfish as I 
can be, to think more of myself even now than I do 
of you. But, oh papa ! I'm so unhappy !" She 
looked at him through a mist that gathered and fell 
in silent drops from her eyes without clearing them, 
so that she did not see him carry the hand she had 
abandoned to his heart, and check a gasp. " I 
suppose we all have our accounts, one way or other, 
and they get confused like yours. Mine with 
with a certain person, had got so mixed up that 
there was nothing for it but just to throw them 
away." 

" Do you mean that you have broken with him 
finally, Helen % " asked her father gravely. 

" I don't know whether you call it finally" said 
Helen, " but I told him it was no use not just in 
those words and that he ought to forget me ; and 
I was afraid I wasn't equal to it ; and that I couldn't 
see my way to it clearly; and unless I could see 
my way clearly, I oughtn't to go on any longer. 
I wrote to him last week, and I thought I thought 
that perhaps he wouldn't answer it; perhaps he 
would come over to Eye Beach he could easily 
have run over from Portsmouth to see me about it. 
But he didn't he didn't he wrote a very short 
letter . Oh, I didn't see how he could write such a 
letter ; I tried to spare him in every way ; and 
yesterday he he s s sailed!" Here the storm 
broke, and Helen bowed herself to the sobs with 
which her slimness shook, like a tall flower beaten 
in the wind. Then she suddenly stopped, and ran 



A woman's reason. 11 

her hand into her pocket, and pulled out her hand- 
kerchief. She wiped away her tears, and waited for 
her father to speak ; but he lay silent, and merely 
regarded her pitifully. "I couldn't bear it any 
longer there with those geese of Merrills I 'm sure 
they were as kind as could be and so I came home 
to burden and afflict you, papa. Don't you think 
that was like me I" She gave her lamentable laugh 
again, sobbed, laughed once more, dried the fresh 
tears with her handkerchief, which she had mechani- 
cally shaped into a rabbit, and sat plucking at her 
dress as before. "What do people do, papa," she 
asked presently, with a certain hoarseness in her 
voice, "when they've thrown away their accounts?" 

"I never heard of their doing it, my dear," said 
her father. 

" Well, but when they 've come to the very end of 
everything, and there's nothing to go on with, and 
they might as well stop ? " 

" They go into bankruptcy," answered the old 
man, absently, as if the thought had often been in 
his mind before. 

" Well, that 's what I 've gone into bankruptcy," 
said Helen. " And what do they do after they 've 
gone into bankruptcy 1" 

" They begin the world again with nothing, if they 
have the heart," replied her father. 

" That 's what I have to do then begin the world 
again with nothing ! There ! my course is clear, and 
I hope I like it, and I hope I 'm satisfied !" 

With these words of self-reproach, Helen again 



12 A woman's reason. 

broke down, and bowed herself over the ruin she 
had made of her life. 

" I don't think you need despair," said her father, 
soothingly, yet with a sort of physical effort which 
escaped her self-centred grief. "Robert is such a 
good fellow that if you wrote to him " 

" Why, papa ! Are you crazy V shouted the young 
girl. " Write to him ? He 's off for three years, and 
I don't think he 'd come posting back from China, if 
I did write to him. And how could I write to him, 
even if he were in the next room 1 " 

" It wouldn't be necessary, in that case," said her 
father. " I 'm sorry he 's gone for so long," he added, 
rather absently. 

" If he were gone for a day, it couldn't make any 
difference," cried Helen, inexorably. " I argued it all 
out, and it 's a perfect chain of logic before I wrote 
to him. I looked at it in this way. I said to myself 
that it was no use having the affair off and on, any 
longer. It would be perfect misery to a person of 
my temperament to be an officer's wife, and have my 
husband with me to-day and at the ends of the earth 
to-morrow. Besides, his pay wouldn't support us. 
You told me that yourself, papa." 

"Yes," said Mr. Harkness. "But I thought 
Robert might leave the navy, and " 

"I never would have let him!" Helen burst in. 
" He would have been as unhappy as a fish out of 
water, and I wouldn't have his wretchedness on my 
conscience, and his idleness you know how long that 
splendid Captain Seymour was trying to get into 



A woman's reason. 13 

business in Boston, after he left the service : and 
then he had to go to California before he could find 
anything to do ; and do you suppose I was going to 
have Robert mooning round in that way, for ages 1 " 

" He might have gone into business with me for the 
time being," said Mr. Harkness, not very hopefully. 

" Oh yes ! you could have made a place for him, 
I know ! And we should both have been a burden 
to you, then. But I shouldn't have cared for all that. 
I would have met any fate with Eobert, if I had 
believed that I felt toward him just as I should. But, 
don't you see, papa ? If I had felt towards him in 
that way, I never should have thought of any any 
prudential considerations. That was what con- 
vinced me, that was what I couldn't escape from, 
turn which way I would. That was the point I put 
to Robert himself, and and oh, I don't see how 
he could answer as he did ! I don't see how he could !" 
Helen convulsively clutched something in the hand 
which she had thrust into her pocket. " It isn't that 
I care for myself; but oh, I am so sorry for him, 
away off there all alone, feeling so hard and bitter 
towards me, and thinking me heartless, and I don't, 
know what all, and hating me so." 

"What did he say, Helen?" asked her father, 
tenderly. She snatched her hand from her pocket 
and laid a paper, crumpled, bewept, distained, in the 
hand he stretched towards her, and then bowed her 
face upon her knees. 

Helen and her father were old confidants, and she 
had not more reluctance in showing him this letter 



14 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

than most girls would have had in trusting such a 
paper to their mother's eyes. Her own mother had 
died long ago, and in the comradeship of her young 
life her father had entered upon a second youth, 
happier, or at least tranquiller, than the first. She 
adored him and petted him, as a wife could not, and 
this worship did not spoil him as it might if it 
had been a conjugal devotion. They had always a 
perfect understanding ; she had not withdrawn her 
childish intimacy of thought and feeling from him 
to give it to her mother, as she would have done if 
her mother had lived ; he knew all her small heart 
affairs without asking, more or less in a tacit way ; 
and she had an abidingly grateful sense of his 
wisdom in keeping her from follies which she could 
see she had escaped through it. He had never 
before so directly sought to know her trouble ; but 
he had never before seen her in so much trouble ; 
besides, he had always been Robert Fenton's friend 
at court with Helen ; and he had quietly kept his 
hopes of their future through rather a stormy and 
uncertain present. 

He liked Robert for the sake of Robert's father, 
who had been captain and supercargo of one of 
Harkness and Co.'s ships, and had gone down in her 
on her home voyage when he was returning to be 
junior partner in the house, after a prosperous 
venture of his own in Wenham ice. He left this 
boy, and a young wife who died soon afterwards. 
Then Mr. Harkness, who was the boy's guardian, 
gave him and the small property that remained to 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 15 

him more than a guardian's care. He sent him to 
school, but he made him at home in his own house 
on all holidays and in vacation. These sojourns 
and absences, beginning when Robert was ten years 
old, and continuing through his school-boy age, had 
renewed alternately his intimacy and strangeness 
with Helen, and kept her a mystery and enchant- 
ment which grew with his growth, while to her 
consciousness he was simply Robert, a nice boy, who 
was now at school, or now at home, and who was 
often so shy that it was perfectly silly. When he 
was old enough to be placed in some career he was 
allowed to choose Harvard and a profession after- 
wards, or any more technical training that he liked 
better. He chose neither : the sea called him, as 
the old superstition is, and every nerve in his body 
responded. He would have liked to go into the 
trade in which his father had died, but here his 
guardian overruled him. He knew that the India 
trade was dying out. If Robert's soul was set upon 
the sea, of which there seemed no doubt, it was 
better that he should go into the navy ; at Annapolis 
he would have a thorough schooling, which would 
stand him in good stead, if future chance or choice 
ever cast him ashore to live. 

Helen was in the sophomore year of the class 
with which she was dancing through Harvard when 
Robert came home from his first cruise. She was 
then a very great lady, and she patronised the mid- 
shipman with killing kindness as a younger brother, 
though he was in fact half a year her senior. He 



16 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

now fell in love with her outright : very proud love, 
very jealous, very impatient. She could not under- 
stand it. She said to her father it was so queer. 
She never thought of such a thing. Why, Robert! 
It was absurd. Besides, he had such a funny name ; 
Fentonf But a passion like his was not to be 
quenched with reasons even so good as these. He 
went to sea again, bitterly, rapturously brooding 
over her idea, and came home in the autumn after 
Helen's class-day. All the fellows had scattered 
now ; and she was left much younger and humbler 
in her feelings, and not so great a lady for all her 
triumphs. Two of her class had proposed to her, 
and lots had come near it ; but her heart had been 
left untouched, and she perceived, or thought she 
perceived, that these young gentlemen, who were 
wise and mature enough for their age, though neither 
Solomons nor Methuselahs, were all silly boys. In 
herself, on the contrary, the tumult of feeling with 
which she had first entered the world had been 
succeeded by a calm, which she might well have 
mistaken for wisdom. She felt that she now knew 
the world thoroughly, and while she was resolved 
to judge it kindly, she was not going to be dazzled 
by it any longer. She had become an observer of 
human nature ; she analysed her feelings ; sometimes 
she made cutting remarks to people, and was dread- 
fully sorry for it. She withdrew a great deal from 
society, and liked being thought odd. She had 
begun to take lessons in painting with a number of 
ladies under an artist's criticism ; she took up 



A woman's reason. 17 

courses of reading ; she felt that life was a serious 
affair. On his return, Eobert at first seemed to 
her more boyish, more brotherly than before. But 
in talking with him certain facts of his history 
came out that showed him a very brave and manly 
fellow, and good, too. This gave her pause; so 
keen an observer of human nature at once dis- 
cerned in this young man, who did not brag of his 
experiences, nor yet affect to despise them as trifles, 
but honestly owned that at one time he was scared, 
and that at another he would have given everything 
to be ashore, an object worthy of her closest and 
most reverent study. She proceeded to idealise 
him, and to stand in awe of him. Oh yes I with a 
deep sighing breath, and a long dreamy look at him 
he! What lie had been through must have 
changed the whole world to him. After that night 
in the typhoon well, nothing could ever have been 
the same to her after that. He must find all the 
interests at home sickeningly mean. This was the 
tone she took with him, driving him to despair. 
When he again urged his suit, she said that she 
could not see why he should care for her. At the 
same time she wanted to ask him why he did not 
wear his uniform ashore, instead of that unnatural 
civil dress that he seemed so anxious to make him- 
self ridiculous in. Being pressed for some sort of 
answer, she said that she had resolved never to 
marry. After this Eobert went off very melan- 
choly upon his third cruise. But she wrote him 
such kind and sympathetic letters that he came 

B 



18 A WOMAN'S reason. 

home from this cruise, which was a short one, more 
fondly in love than ever, but more patiently, more 
pleasingly in love ; and he now behaved so sensibly, 
with so much apparent consideration for her uncer- 
tainty of mind, that she began to think seriously of 
him. But though she liked him ever so much, and 
respected him beyond anything, the very fact that 
she was wondering whether she could ask him to 
leave the navy or not, and where and how they 
should live, seemed sufficient proof to her that she 
did not care for him in the right way. Love, she 
knew, did not consider ways and means ; it did not 
stop to argue ; it found in itself its own reason and 
the assurance of a future. It did not come after 
years of shilly-shallying, and beating about the bush, 
and weighing this and that, and scrutiny of one's 
emotions. If she loved Eobert so little as to care 
what happened after they were married, she did 
not love him at all. Something like this, but 
expressed with infinite kindness was what she had 
written from Rye Beach to Robert stationed at 
Portsmouth. She ended by leaving the case in his 
hands. She forbade him to hope, but she told him 
that there had been a time, a moment, when she 
thought that she might have loved him. 

Robert took all this awry. He did not deign to 
ask her when this mysterious moment was, far less 
whether it might ever recur ; he did not answer one 
of her arguments ; he did not even come over to 
Rye Beach to combat and trample on her reasons. 
He wrote her a furious, foolish reply, in which he 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 19 

agreed with her that she had never loved him, and 
never would, and he bade her farewell. He managed 
to exchange with a friend who was bemoaning his 
hard lot in being ordered away from his young wife 
to the China station, and he sailed with their blessing 
three days after getting Helen's letter. She only 
learned of his departure by chance. 

The old man held the letter in his hand, after 
reading it, for so long a time, that at last Helen 
looked up. " It seems to me you take it pretty 
coolly, papa," she said, her lips quivering. 

" Yes, yes. Poor Robert ! poor boy !" sighed her 
father. Then while she bridled indignantly at his 
misplaced compassion, he added, " I 'm sorry, Helen. 
I think you would have come to like him. Well, 
well ! If you are contented, my dear " 

"How can you say such a thing, papa?" cried 
Helen, astonished that he should have taken what 
he understood of her letter just as Robert had done, 
" when you know, when you know I " but Helen 
could not finish what she was going to say. She 
could not own that she thought her letter susceptible 
of quite a different answer. She set her lips and 
tried to stop their trembling, while her eyes filled. 

Her father did not notice. " My dear," he said 
presently, " will you ask Margaret to make me a cup 
of tea 1 ? I feel unpleasantly weak." 

"Why, papa!" cried Helen, flying to the bell, 
" why didn't you tell me before, instead of letting 
me worry you with all this foolishness % why didn't 
you say you were not so well 1 " 



20 A woman's reason. 

" I wasn't thinking of it," said her father, meekly 
accepting her reproof. " It 's nothing. The wind 
has changed, hasn't it? I feel the east a little." 

"You're chilly?" Helen was now tempted to be 
really harsh with him for his remissness, but she did 
not stay from running after the wrap, soft and light, 
which she had brought back from the sea-side with 
her, and had thrown down with her bag in the hall, 
and though she bemoaned his thoughtlessness, as she 
flung it over him, still she did not pour out upon 
him all the self-reproach in her heart. She went 
and hurried Margaret with the tea, and then set an 
old-fashioned tea-poy beside the sofa, and when the 
tea came, she drew up her chair, and poured it 
for him. She offered to pull down the window, but 
he made her a sign to let it be ; and in fact, it was 
not cooler without than within, and no chill came 
from the little yard, on whose lofty walls the sunset 
was beginning to burn in tender red light. She 
poured herself a cup of tea when she came back, 
and when she had made her father repeat again and 
again that he felt much better, she began to see the 
absurdity of being tragic about Eobert at this late 
day, when she had so often refused him before 
without the least tragedy. This, to be sure, was 
not quite like the other refusals ; not so one-sided ; 
but really, except for Robert's own sake, what had 
she to be sorry for, and why should she pity his 
towering dudgeon % An ache, faint and dull, made 
itself felt deep in her heart, and she answered sadly, 
" Well," to her father's tentative " Helen." 



A woman's reason. 21 

He did not go on, and she asked presently, " What 
is it, papa 1 " 

" Oh, nothing. There was something I was going 
to speak to you about. But it will do another time." 
Helen recollected that once or twice before this her 
father had begun in the same way, and postponed 
whatever he had been going to say in the same fashion. 
It was not a thing to be curious about, and she had 
never pressed him to speak. She knew that he 
would speak when he really thought best. But she 
wondered now a little if his mind were still running 
upon Eobert. 

" Was it something in regard to to me, papa V 1 

"Why, yes. Yes; indirectly." 

" Well, then, don't think of it any more. I shall 
not. I 'm sorry I worried you about it." 

"About what, my dear?" asked her father, who 
could not have followed her. 

" Eobert !" said Helen, abruptly. 

" Oh ! I wasn't thinking about Eobert." 

"Because, if you were, papa, I want to tell you 
that I am quite reconciled to have everything end as 
it has done. Eobert and I will always be good friends. 
You needn't be troubled about that." 

"Oh yes, certainly," assented her father, closing 
his eyes. 

Helen sat looking at him, as if she would like to 
go on. But she was a little ashamed, and a little 
piqued that her father should shut his eyes in that 
way while she was talking of Eobert. He had taken 
the whole affair rather oddly. She had been prepared 



22 A woman's keason. 

to defend Eobert if her father were angry with him, 
as she expected ; but instead of being angry, he had 
really seemed to side with Eobert, and had somehow, 
by his reticence, implied that he would have been 
glad to have her humble herself to Eobert. 

"If you wish to sleep, papa," she said with a 
dignity wasted upon him, for he still lay with his 
eyes closed, " I will go away." 

"I'm drowsy," said her father. "But don't go, 
Helen. Sit down here." 

He made a motion for her to sit beside him, and after 
an instant's further resentment she drew up her chair, 
and laid her beautiful head down upon the cushion by 
his. She gave him a kiss, and dropped a large tear 
against his withered cheek, and wiped it away with 
her handkerchief, and then she hid her face again, and 
wept peacefully till all her tears were gone. At last 
she lifted her face, and dried her eyes, and sat. 
dreamily watching the red sunset light creeping up the 
wall on which the wisteria clambered. It rose slowly, 
leaf by leaf, till it lit an airy frond at top, that swayed 
in it like a pennon. Suddenly it leaped from this and 
left it dark, and a shiver coursed through the next 
rank of foliage. It somehow made her think of a ship 
going down below the horizon, and the waves running 
along the sky where the streamers had just hung. 
But Eobert must have been out of sight of land for 
two days and more before that 



II. 



Helen sat beside her father, while the solitude of 
the house deepened from silence to silence. Then 
Margaret came to the door, and looked in as if to 
ask whether it was not time for her to fetch away 
the tea-things. Helen gave her a nod of acquiescence, 
and presently rose, and followed her out to the kitchen, 
to tell her that she was going to her own room, and 
to say that she must be called when her father woke. 
But in the kitchen Margaret's company was a temp- 
tation to her loneliness, and she made one little 
pretext after another for remaining, till Margaret 
set her a chair in the doorway. Margaret had been 
in the house ever since Helen was born, and Helen 
still used the same freedom with her that she had 
in childhood, and gave herself the range of places to 
which young ladyhood ordinarily denies its radiant 
presence. She had indeed as much intimacy with 
the cook as could consist with their different ages, and 
she got on smoothly with the cook's temper, which 
had not been so good as her looks in youth, and had 
improved quite as little with age. Margaret was of 
a remote sort of Irish birth ; but her native land 
had scarcely marked her accent, and but for her 

23 



24 A WOMAN'S reason. 

church and her sense of place, which was sometimes 
very respectful and sometimes very high and mighty 
with those above her, she might have been mistaken 
for an American j she had a low voice which only 
grew lower as she grew angry. A family in which 
she could do all the work had been her ideal when 
she first came to Boston, but she had failed of this 
now for some thirty years, and there seemed little 
hope that the chances would still turn in her favour. 
In Helen's childhood, when she used to ask Margaret 
in moments of tenderness, following the gift of dough 
in unexpected quantity, whether she would come 
and live with her after she got married, Margaret 
had always answered, " Yes, if you won't have any- 
one else bothering round," which was commonly too 
much for the just pride of the actual second-girl. 
She had been cook in the family so long ago as when 
Mr. Harkness had kept a man ; she had pressed 
upon the retreat of the last man with a broom in her 
hand and a joyful sarcasm on her lips ; and she 
would willingly have kept vacant the place that she 
had made too hot for a long succession of second- 
girls. In the intervals of their going and coming, 
she realised her ideal of domestic service for the 
time being; and in the summer when Helen was 
away a good deal, she prolonged these intervals to 
the utmost. She was necessarily much more the 
housekeeper than Helen, though they both respected 
a fiction of contrary effect, and Helen commonly 
left her the choice of her helpers. She had not been 
surprised to find Margaret alone in the house, but 



A woman's reason. 25 

she thought it well to ask her how she was getting 
on without anybody. 

" Oh, very well, Miss Helen ! You know your 
father don't make any trouble." 

" Well, I 've come now, and we must get somebody," 
said Helen. 

" Why, I thought you was going back on Monday, 
Miss Helen," answered Margaret. 

" No, I shall not leave papa. I think he 's not at 
all well." 

" He does seem rather poorly, Miss Helen. But I 
don't see why you need any one, in the summer, this 
way." 

"Who's to go to the door?" asked Helen. 
"Besides, you couldn't take care of both of us, 
Margaret." 

"Just as you say, Miss Helen; I'd just as lives," 
answered Margaret, stubbornly. " It isn't for me to 
say ; but I don't see what you want with anybody : 
you won't see a soul." 

"0, you never can tell, Margaret. You 've had a 
good rest now, and you must have somebody to help 
you." Helen's sadness smiled at this confusion of 
ideas, and its suitableness to Margaret's peculiar 
attitude. " Get somebody that you know, Margaret, 
and that you '11 like. But we must have somebody." 
She regarded Margaret's silent and stiff displeasure 
with a moment's amusement, and then her bright 
face clouded ; and she asked softly : " Did you know, 
Margaret, that Eobert, that Lieutenant Fenton 
had sailed again ?" 



26 a woman's reason. 

" Why, no, Miss Helen ! You don't mean that 1 
Why, I thought he was going to stay the summer at 
Portsmouth." 

"He was," said Helen, in the same low voice, 
" but he changed his mind, it seems." 

" Sailors is a roving set, anyway," Margaret 
generalised. Then she added : " Did he come down 
to say good-bye to your father?" 

" Why, no," sadly answered Helen, who now 
thought of this for the first time. Her heart 
throbbed indignantly; then she reflected that she 
had kept him from coming. She looked up at the 
evening blue, with the swallows weaving a woof of 
flight across the top of the space framed in by the 
high walls on every hand, and " He hadn't time, I 
suppose," she said sadly. " He couldn't get off." 

" Well, I don't call it very nice, his not coming," 
persisted Margaret. "I'd 'a' deserted first." Her 
associations with naval service had been through 
gallant fellows who were not in a position to resign. 

Helen smiled so ruefully at this that she would 
better for cheerfulness have wept. But she recog- 
nised Margaret's limitations as a confidant, and said 
no more. She rose presently, and again asked Mar- 
garet to look in pretty soon, and see if her father 
were awake, and call her, if he were : she was going 
to her* room. She looked in a moment herself as 
as she went, and listened till she heard him breath- 
ing, and so passed on through the drawing-room, and 
trailed heavily up-stairs. 

The house was rather old-fashioned, and it was 



A woman's REASON. 27 

not furnished in the latest taste, but it made the 
appeal with which things out of date, or passing out 
of date, touch the heart. It was in fact beginning 
to be respectable because it was no longer in the con- 
test for effect, which the decorations of the newer 
houses carried on about it, and there was a sort of 
ugly keeping throughout. 

In the very earliest days of Mr. Harkness's house- 
keeping, the ornamentation of his home had reflected 
the character of his business somewhat. There had 
been even a time when the young supercargo brought 
back it was his first voyage quaint and beautiful 
shells from the East, for his wife to set about the 
tables and mantels ; but these objects, so exquisite in 
themselves, so unyielding in composition, had long 
since disappeared. Some grotesque bronzes, picked 
up in Chinese ports, to which his early ventures had 
taken him, survived the expulsion of ivory carvings 
and Indian idols and genre statuettes in terra cotta, 
(like those you see in the East Indian Museum at 
Salem) and now found themselves, with the new 
feeling for oriental art, in the very latest taste. The 
others were bestowed in neglected drawers and 
shelves, along with boxes containing a wealth of 
ghastly rich and elaborate white crape shawls from 
China, and fantastically subtle cotton webs from India 
which Helen had always thought she should use in 
tableaux, and never had worn. Among the many 
pictures on the walls (there were too many), there 
were three Stuarts, the rest were of very indifferent 
merit; large figure paintings, or allegorical landscapes, 



28 A woman's reason. 

after the taste of Cole and Poussin, in great carved 
and scrolly frames. Helen had once thought of 
making a raid upon these enemies of art, and in fact 
she had contemplated remodelling the whole equip- 
ment of the parlours, in conformity to the recent 
feeling in such matters ; but she had not got further 
than the incomplete representation of some golden- 
rod and mullein-stalks upon the panels of her own 
chamber-door ; and now that the fervour of her first 
enthusiasm had burnt itself out, she was not sorry 
she had left the old house in peace. 

" Oh, I should think you 'd be so rejoiced," said the 
chief of her friends ; " it 's such a comfort to go into 
one house where you don't have to admire the artistic 
sentiment, and where every wretched little aesthetic 
prig of a table or a chair isn 't asserting a principle 
or teaching a lesson. Don't touch a cobweb, Helen ! " 
It had never even come to a talk between her and 
her father, and the house remained unmolested the 
home of her childhood. She had not really cared 
much for it since she was a child. The sense 
of our impermanent relation to the parental roof 
comes to us very early in life ; and perhaps more 
keenly to a young girl than to her brothers. They 
are of the world by all the conditions of their active, 
positive being, almost from the first a great world 
that is made for them; but she has her world 
to create. She cannot sit and adorn her father's 
house, as she shall one day beautify and worship her 
husband's; she can indeed do her duty by it, but 
the restless longing remains, and her housewifeliness 



A woman's reason. 29 

does not voluntarily blossom out beyond the precincts 
of her own chamber, which she makes her realm of 
fancy and of dreams. She could not be the heart of 
the house if she would, as her mother is, or has 
been ; and though in her mother's place, she can be 
housekeeper, thrifty, wise, and notable, still some 
mysterious essential is wanting which it is not in her 
nature to supply to her father's house. 

Helen went to her own room, and, flinging up the 
windows, let in the noises of the streets. A few feet 
went by in the secluded place, and a sound of more 
frequent trampling came from the street into which 
it opened. Further off rose the blurred tumult of 
business, softened by the stretch of the Common, and 
growing less and less with the lapse of the long 
summer day. It was already a little cooler, and the 
smell of the sprinkled street stole refreshingly in at 
the window. It was still very light, and when Helen 
opened her blinds, the room brightened cheerfully all 
about her, and the sympathetic intimacy of her own 
closest belongings tenderly appealed to her. After 
something has happened, and we first see familiar 
things about us as they were, there comes, just before 
the sense of difference in ourselves returns to torment 
us, a moment of blind and foolish oblivion, and this 
was Helen's as she sat down beside the window, and 
looked round upon the friendly prettiness of her room. 
It had been her room when she was a child, and 
there were childish keepsakes scattered about in odd 
places, out of the way of young-ladyish luxuries, high- 
shouldered bottles of perfume, and long-handled ivory 



30 a woman's reason. 

brushes, and dainty boxes and cases, and starred and 
bevelled hand-glasses, and other sacred mysteries of 
toilet. Of the period when she had thought herself 
wedded to art there were certain charcoal sketches 
pinned against the wall, and in one corner, not very 
definite at first glance under the draperies tossed upon 
it from time to time, was her easel. On projections 
of her mirror-frame hung souvenirs of Robert's first 
cruise, which had been in the Mediterranean : ropes of 
Roman pearls ; nets and bracelets and necklaces of 
shells and beads from Venice ; filigree silver jewellery 
from Genoa ; strands and rosaries of black, barbari- 
cally scented wooden beads from the Levant : not 
things you could wear at all, but very pleasant to 
have ; they gave a sentiment to your room when you 
brought any one into it ; they were nice to have 
lying about, and people liked to take them into their 
hands : they were not so very uncommon, either, that 
you had to keep telling what they were. She had 
never thought that possibly Robert had expected her 
to wear the absurd things. With an aching recurrence 
to their quarrel (it could be called no less) and a 
penitent self-pity, she thought of it now. It did not 
seem to her that she could touch them, but she went 
languidly to the mirror and took some of them down, 
and then all at once fantastically began to array her- 
self in them : like a mad girl, she reflected. She 
threw the loops of Roman pearls and the black strands 
of Levantine beads about her neck ; she set a net of 
the Venetian shell-work on her hair, and decked her 
wrists and her lovely ears with the Genoese filigree; a 



A woman's reason. 31 

perfectly frantic combination, she mused, as she shook 
her head a little to make the ear-bobs dance. " Yes, 
perfectly frantic," she said aloud, but not much think- 
ing of the image confronting her from the mirror, 
thinking rather of Robert, and poignantly regretting 
that she had never put them on for him ; and think- 
ing that if the loss of him had made her certain about 
him too late for ever, how fatally strange that would 
be. Again she went over all the facts of the affair, 
and was able to make much surer of Robert's motives 
than of her own. She knew that if he had under- 
stood her saying that she might have loved him once 
to be any encouragement for the future, he would not 
have written as he did. She could imagine Robert's 
being very angry at the patronising tone of the rest 
of her letter ; she had entire faith in his stupidity ; 
she never doubted his generosity, his magnanimous 
incapability of turning her refusal of him into a refusal 
of her ; his was not the little soul that could rejoice in 
such a chance. She wondered if now, far out at sea, 
sailing, sailing away, three years away, from her, he 
saw anything in her letter but refusal ; or was he still 
in that blind rage 1 Did he never once think that 
it had seemed such a great thing for her to make con- 
fession, which meant him to come to her 1 But had 
she really meant that? It seemed so now, but 
perhaps then she had only thought of mingling a 
drop of kindness in his bitter cup, of trying to spare 
him the mortification of having loved a person who 
had never thought for a moment of loving him % 
From time to time, her image appeared to advance 



32 A woman's reason. 

upon her from the depths of the mirror, decked in all 
that incongruous frippery, and to say with trembling 
lips, " Perfectly frantic, perfectly frantic," while the 
tears ran down its face ; and she found a wild 
comfort in regarding herself as quite an insane, 
irresponsible creature, who did not know what she 
was about. She felt that fate ought not to hold her 
to account. The door-bell rang, and she snatched 
the net from her hair with a fearful shudder, and 
flung down all the ornaments in a heap upon her 
dressing-table. Bumping sounds in the hall below 
reminded her that in her trance before the glass, she 
had remotely known of a wagon stopping at the 
door, and presently she heard Margaret coming up 
the stairs behind the panting express-man who was 
fetching up her trunk. She fled into another room, 
and guiltily lurked there till they went out again, 
before she returned to unlock and unpack the box. 
It was one of Helen's economies not to drive home 
from the station, but to send her baggage by express 
and come up in a horse-car. The sums thus saved 
she devoted to a particular charity, and was very 
rigid with herself about spending every half-dollar 
coach-fare for that object. She only gave twenty- 
five cents to the express, and she made a merit of the 
fact that neither the coach-hire nor the charity ever 
cost her father anything. Eobert had once tried to 
prove that it always cost him seventy-five cents, 
but she had easily seen through the joke, and had 
made him confess it 

She was still busy unpacking when Margaret came 



A woman's reason. 33 

up to say that her father was awake now, and then 
she left off at once to go to him. The gas had been 
lighted in the hall and library, and that made life 
another thing. Her father was in his arm-chair, and 
was feeling decidedly better, he said he had told 
Margaret to have tea there in the library. Helen 
laughed at him for having two teas within two 
hours ; he owned to being hungry, and that reminded 
her that she had eaten nothing since an early dinner. 
When the tea and toast came in, and the cloth was 
laid half across the round table, in the mellow light 
of the study lamp, they were very cosy. Helen, 
who was always thinking of Eobert, whatever else 
she thought of, began to play in fancy at a long life 
of devotion to her father, in which she should never 
marry. She had always imagined him living with 
her, but now she was living with him, and they were 
to grow old together ; in twenty years, when he was 
eighty, she would be forty-three, and then there 
would not be much difference between them. She 
now finally relinquished the very last idea of Eobert, 
except as a brother. She did not suppose she should 
ever quite like his wife, but she should pet their 
children. 

" Helen," said her father, breaking in upon these 
ideas, " how should you like to live in the country ? " 

" Why, papa, I was just thinking of it ! That is, 
not in the country exactly, but somewhere off by 
ourselves, just you and I. Of course, I should like 
it." 

"I don't mean on a farm," pursued her father, 

c 



34 A woman's reason. 

" but in some of the suburban towns, where we could 
have a bit of ground and breathing space. I think 
it grows closer and closer in town ; at times it seems 
as if I could hardly catch my breath. I believe it 
would agree with me in the country. I can't get 
away from business entirely for a few years yet if 
the times continue so bad, I must bend all my 
energies to it, in fact and I have a fancy that the 
coming in and out of town would do me good. And 
I have a notion that I should like to build. I should 
like a new house a perfectly new house. We could 
live on a simpler scale in the country." 

"0 yes, indeed!" said Helen. "I should come 
into town to shop, with my initials worked in worsted 
on the side of my bag, and I should know where the 
bargains were, and lunch at Copeland's. / should 
like it." 

"Well, we must think about it. I daresay we 
could let the house here without much trouble. I 
feel it somehow a great burden upon me, but I 
shouldn't like to sell it." 

" no, papa ! We couldn't think of selling it. 
I should just like to let it, and then never go near 
it, or look in the same direction, till we were ready 
to come back to it." 

" I have lived here so long," continued her father, 
making her the listener to his musings rather than 
speaking to her, "that I should like a change. I 
used to think that I should never leave the house, 
but a place may become overcrowded with associa- 
tions. You are too young, Helen, to understand 



A woman's reason. 35 

how terrible it is to find one's own past grow into 
the dumb material things about one, and become, as 
it were, imprisoned in them." 

" yes," sighed the girl, " there are some dresses 
of mine that I can't bear the sight of, just because 

I felt, or said, or did certain things when I wore 
them." 

" An old house like this," Mr. Harkness went on, 

II gets to be your body, and usurps all your reality, 
which doesn't seem to live in it either, while you 
move round like a ghost. The past is so much more 
than the present. Think how much more these 
walls and these old chairs and tables have known 
of us than we now are !" 

" No, no ! Don't think of it, papa, or we shall be 
'getting into the depths again," pleaded Helen. 

" Well, I won't," consented her father, coming 
back to himself with a smile, which presently faded. 
"But it all makes me restless and impatient. I 
should like to begin a new life somewhere else, in a 
new house." He was silent a while, trifling with the 
toast on his plate ; his appetite had passed at the 
sight of the food, and he had eaten scarcely anything. 
He looked at Helen, and then at a portrait on the 
wall, and than at Helen again. 

" I 'm not much like mamma, am I, papa 1 " she 
asked. 

" Not much in face," said Mr. Harkness. 

" Do you wish I was more V she pursued timidly. 

" No, I don't think I do," said her father. 

" It would only make me more painful, if I looked 



36 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

more like her, such a helpless, selfish thing as I am," 
morbidly assented Helen. " I should only make you 
miss her the more." 

" Why, Helen, you 're a very good girl the best 
child in the world," said her father. 

"O no, I'm not, papa. I'm one of the worst. 
I never think of anybody but myself," said Helen, 
who was thinking of Eobert. " You don't know 
how many times I 've gone down on my mental 
knees to you and asked you to have patience with 
me." 

" Asked me to have patience with you V said her 
father, taking her by the chin, and pressing against 
his cheek the beautiful face which she leaned toward 
him. " Poor child ! There 's hardly a day since you 
were born that I haven't done you a greater wrong* 
than the sum of all your sins would come to. Papas 
are dreadful fellows, Helen ; but they sometimes live 
in the hope of repairing their misdeeds." 

" Write them on a slip of paper, and hide it in a 
secret drawer that opens with a clasp and spring, 
when you don't know they're there," said Helen, 
glad of his touch of playfulness. " We 've both been 
humbugging, and we know it." 

He stared at her and said, " Your voice is like 
your mother's ; and just now, when you came in, 
your movement was very like hers. I hadn't noticed 
it before. But she has been a great deal in my 
mind of late." 

If he had wished to talk of her mother, whom Helen 
could not remember, and who had been all her life 



A woman's reason. 37 

merely the shadow of a sorrow to her, a death, a 
grave, a name upon a stone, a picture on the wall, 
she would not spare herself the duty of encouraging 
him to do so. "Was she tall, like me V she asked. 

"Not so tall," answered her father. "And she 
was dark." 

" Yes," said Helen, lifting her eyes to the picture 
on the wall. 

" She had a great passion for the country," con- 
tinued Mr. Harkness, " and I liked the town. It 
was more convenient for me, and I was born in 
Boston. It has often grieved me to think that I 
didn't yield to her. I must have been dreaming of 
her, for when I woke a little while ago, this regret 
was like a physical pang at my heart. As long as 
we live, we can't help treating each other as if we 
were to live always. But it 's a mistake. I never 
refused to go into the country with her," he said as 
if to appease this old regret. " I merely postponed 
it. Now I should like to go." 

He rose from the table, and taking the study-lamp 
in his hand, he feebly pushed apart the sliding-doors 
that opened into the drawing-room. He moved 
slowly down its length, on one side, throwing the 
light upon this object and that, before which he 
faltered, and so returned on the other side, as if to 
familiarise himself with every detail. Sometimes he 
held the lamp above, and sometimes below his face, 
but always throwing its age and weariness into relief. 
Helen had remained watching him. As he came 
back she heard him say, less to her as it seemed than 



38 A WOMAN'S reason. 

to himself, " Yes, I should like to sell it. I 'm tired 
of it." 

He set the lamp down upon the table again, and 
sank into his chair, and lapsed into a reverie which 
left Helen solitary beside him. " Ah," she realised, 
as she looked on his musing, absent face, " he is old 
and I am young, and he has more to love in the 
other world, with my mother and both my brothers 
there, than he has in this. Oh, Robert, Robert, 
Robert!" 

But perhaps his absent mind was not so much 
bent upon the lost as she thought. He had that 
way fathers have of treating his daughter as an 
equal, of talking to her gravely and earnestly, and 
then of suddenly dropping her into complete 
nothingness, as if she were a child to be amused for 
a while, and then set down from his knee and sent 
out of doors. Helen dutifully accepted this con- 
dition of their companionship ; she cared for it so 
little as never to have formulated it to herself ; when 
she was set down she went out, and ordinarily she 
did not think of it. 

A peremptory ring at the door startled them both, 
and when Margaret had opened it there entered all 
at the same instant, a loud, kindly voice, the chirp 
of boots, heavily trodden upon by a generous bulk, 
that rocked from side to side in its advance, and 
a fragrance of admirable cigars, that active and 
passive perfume, which comes from smoking and 
being smoked in the best company. " At home, 
Margaret?" asked the voice, whose loudness was a 



A woman's reason. 39 

husky loudness, in a pause of the boots. " Yes 1 
Well, don't put me in there, Margaret," which was 
apparently in rejection of the drawing-room. " I '11 
join them in the library." 

The boots came chirping down the hall in that 
direction, with a sound of heavy breathing. Helen 
sprang from her chair, and fled to meet the cheerful 
sound; there was the noise of an encountering 
kiss, and a jolly laugh, and "Well, Helen!" and 
"Oh, Captain Butler !" and later, " Harkness !" and 
" Butler ! " as Helen led the visitor in. 

" Well ! " said this guest, for the third time. He 
straightened his tall mass to its full height, and 
looked out over his chest with eyes of tender regard 
upon Harkness's thin and refined face, now lit up 
after the hand-shaking with cordial welcome. " Do 
you know," he said, as if somehow it were a curious 
fact of natural history, "that you have it uncom- 
monly close in here 1 " He went over to the window 
that opened upon the little grassy yard, and put it 
up for himself, while Harkness was explaining that 
it had been put down while he was napping. Then 
he planted himself in a large leathern chair beside 
it, and went on smoking the cigar on the end of 
which he had been chewing. He started from the 
chair with violence, coughing and gesturing to forbid 
Helen, who was hospitably whispering to Margaret. 
"No, no; don't do it. I won't have anything. I 
couldn't. I 've just dined at the club. Yes, you may 
do that much/' he added to Helen, as she set a little 
table with an ash-holder at his elbow. "You've 



40 A woman's reason. 

no idea what a night it is. It 's cooler, and the air's 
delicious. I say, I want to take Helen back with 
me. I wish she 'd go alone, and leave us two old 
fellows together here. There 's no place like Boston 
in the summer, after all. But you haven't told me 
whether you 're surprised to see me." Captain 
Butler looked round at them with something of the 
difficulty of a sea-turtle in a lateral inspection. 

"Never surprised, but always charmed," said 
Helen, with just the shade of mockery in her tone 
which she knew suited this visitor. 

" Charmed, eh ? " asked Captain Butler. Appar- 
ently he meant to say something satirical about the 
word, but could not think of anything. He turned 
again to her father : " How are you, Harkness 1" 

" Oh, I 'm very well," said Harkness evasively. 
" I 'm as well as usual." 

" Then you have yourself fetched home in a hack 
by a policeman every day, do you 1 " remarked Cap- 
tain Butler, blowing a succession of white rings into 
the air. "You were seen from the club window. 
I '11 tell you what ; you 're sticking to it too close." 

" yes, Captain Butler, do get him away," sighed 
Helen, while her father, who had not sat down, began 
to walk back and forth in an irritated, restless way. 

" For the present I can't leave it," said Harkness, 
fretfully. He added more graciously: "Perhaps in 
a week or two, or next month, I can get off for a 
few days. You know I was one of the securities for 
Bates and Mather," he said, looking at Captain 
Butler over Helen's head. 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 41 

"I had forgotten that," answered Captain Butler 
gravely. 

" They left things in a complete tangle. I can't 
tell just where I am yet, and, of course, I've no 
peace till I know." 

" Of course," assented Captain Butler. "I won't 
vex you with retroactive advice, Joshua," he added 
affectionately, " but I hope you won't do anything of 
that kind again." 

" No, Jack, I won't. But you know under the 
circumstances it would have been black ingratitude 
to refuse." 

" Yes," said Captain Butler. He smoked a while 
in silence. Then he said, " I suppose it 's no worse 
with the old trade than with everything else, at 
present." 

"No, we're all in the same boat, I believe," said 
Harkness. 

" How is Marian % " asked Helen, a little restive 
under the cross firing. 

" Oh, Marian 's all right. But if she were not, she 
wouldn't know it." 

" I suppose she 's very much engaged," said Helen, 
with a faint pang of something like envy. 

" Yes," said Captain Butler. " I thought you were 
at Eye Beach, young lady." 

" I thought you were at Beverley, old gentleman," 
retorted Helen; she had been saucy to Captain 
Butler from infancy. 

" So I was. But I came up unexpectedly to-day." 

" So did I." 



42 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

" Did you ? Good ! Now I '11 tell you why i" 
came, and you shall tell me why you did. I came 
because I got to thinking of your father, and had a 
fancy I should like to see him. Did you ?" 

Helen hung her head. " No," she said at length. 

The Captain laughed. " Whom had you a fancy to 
see here, then, at this time of year?" 

" Oh, I didn't say I should tell. You made that 
bargain all yourself," mocked Helen. "But it was 
very kind of you to come on papa's account," she 
added softly. 

" What are you making there ?" asked the Captain, 
bending forward to look at the work Helen had 
taken into her lap. 

"Who I ?" she asked, as if she had perhaps been 
asked what Eobert was making. Her mind had 
been running upon him since Captain Butler asked 
her why she had come up to Boston. " Oh !" she 
recovered herself. "Why, this," she said, taking 
the skeleton frame-work of gauze and wire on her 
finger-tips, and holding it at arm's-length, with her 
head aslant surveying it, "this is a bonnet for Mar- 
garet." 

"A bonnet, hey?" said the Captain. "It looks 
like a Shaker cap." 

" Yes ?" Helen clapped it on her head, and looked 
jauntily at the captain, dropping her shoulders, and 
putting her chin out. "Now, does it ?" 

"No, not now. The Shaker sisters don't wear 
crimps, and they don't smile in that wicked way." 
Helen laughed, and took the bonnet-frame off. " So 



A woman's reason. 43 

you make Margaret's bonnets, do you 1 Do you 
make your own V 

" Sometimes. Not often. But I like millinery. 
It 's what I should turn to if I were left to take care 
of myself." 

" I 'm afraid you wouldn't find it such fun," said 
the Captain. 

" Oh, milliners make lots of money," returned 
Helen. "They must. Why, when this bonnet is 
done, you couldn't get it for ten dollars. Well, the 
materials don't cost three." 

" I wish my girls had your head for business," 
said the Captain honestly. Helen made him a 
burlesque obeisance. " Yes, I mean it," he insisted. 
" You know that I always admired your good sense. 
I 'm always talking it into Marian." 

" Better not," said Helen, with a pin "between her 
teeth. 

"Why?" 

" Because I haven't got it, and it M make her hate 
me if I had." 

" Do you mean to tell me that you 're not a sensible 
girl 1 " inquired the Captain. 

Helen nodded, and made " Yes" with her lips, as 
well as she could with the pin between her teeth. 
She took it out to say, " You should have seen my 
performances in my room a little while ago." She 
was thinking of that rehearsal before the mirror. 

" What were they I" asked the Captain. 

" Oh, as if I should tell !" Helen bowed herself 
over the bonnet, and blushed, and laughed. Her 



44 a woman's reason. 

father liked to hear the banter between her and his 
old friend. They both treated her as if she were a 
child, and she knew it and liked it; she behaved 
like a child. 

" Harkness," said the Captain, turning his fat head 
half round toward his friend, who sat a little back 
of him, and breaking off his cigar-ash into the bronze 
plate at his elbow, " do you know that your remain- 
ing in the trade after all the rest of us have gone out 
of it is something quite monumental?" Captain 
Butler had a tender and almost reverential love for 
Joshua Harkness, but he could not help using a little 
patronage toward him, since his health had grown 
delicate, and his fortunes had not distinctly prospered. 

"I am glad you like it, Jack," said Harkness quietly. 

" The Captain is a mass of compliments to-night," 
remarked Helen. 

The^Captain grinned his consciousness. " You are 
a minx," he said admiringly to Helen. Then he 
threw back his head and pulled at his cigar, uttering 
between puffs, " No, but I mean it, Harkness. There's 
something uncommonly fine about it. A man gets 
to be noblesse by sticking to any old order of things. 
It makes one think of the ancien regime somehow to 
look at you. Why, you 're still of the oldest tradi- 
tion of commerce, the stately and gorgeous traffic of 
the orient ; you 're what Samarcand, and Venice, 
and Genoa, and Lisbon, and London, and Salem have 
come to." 

"They've come to very little in the end then," 
said Harkness as before. 



A WOMAN'S reason. 45 

" Oh, I don't know about that ;" the Captain took 
the end of his cigar out and lit a fresh one from it 
before he laid it down upon the ash-holder ; " I don't 
know about that. We don't consider material things 
merely. There has always been something romantic, 
something heroic about the old trade. To be sure, 
now that it 's got down to telegraphing, it 's only fit 
for New-Yorkers. They 're quite welcome to it." 
This was not very logical taken as a whole, but we 
cannot always be talking reason. At the words 
romantic and heroic Helen had pricked her ears, if 
that phrase may be used concerning ears of such 
loveliness as hers, and she paused from her milli- 
nery. " Ah ha, young lady ! " cried the Captain ; 
"you're listening, are you? You didn't know 
there was any romance or heroism in business, did 
you 1 ?" 

" What business 1 " asked Helen. 

" Your father's business, young woman ; my old 
business, the India trade." 

" The India trade 1 Why, were you ever in the 
India trade, Captain Butler?" 

"Was i" ever in the India trade !* demanded the 
Captain, taking his cigar out of his mouth in order to 
frown with more effect upon Helen. " Well, upon 
my word ! Where did you think I got my title % 
I 'm too old to have been in the war." 

" I didn't know," said Helen. 

" I got it in the India trade. I was captain and 
supercargo many an eleven months' voyage, just as 
your father was." 



46 A woman's reason. 

Helen was vastly amused at this. " Why, papa 1 
were you ever captain of a ship 1 " 

" For a time," said Mr. Harkness, smiling at the 
absurdity. 

" Of course he was I" shouted the Captain. 

" Then why isn't he captain, now 1 " 

" Because there 's a sort of captain that loses his 
handle when he comes ashore, and there's a sort 
that keeps it. I 'm one sort and your father 's the 
other. It 's natural to call a person of my model 
and complexion by some kind of title, and it isn't 
natural to call such a man as your father so. Besides, 
I was captain longer than he was. I was in the India 
trade, young lady, and out of it before you were born." 

" I was born a great while ago," observed Helen, 
warningly. 

" I daresay you think so," said the Captain. " I 
thought / was, at your age. But you '11 find, as you 
grow older, that you weren't born such a very great 
while ago after all. The time shortens up. Isn't 
that so, Harkness 1 " 

" Yes," said Mr. Harkness. "Everything happened 
day before yesterday." 

"Exactly," said the Captain. Helen thought how 
young she must be to have already got that letter of 
Robert's so many centuries ago. " Yes," the Captain 
pursued. " I had been in the India trade twenty- 
five years when I went out of it in 1857 or it went 
out of me." He nodded his great, close-clipped 
head in answer to her asking glance. " It went out 
of a good many people at that time. We had a 



A WOMAN'S reason. 47 

grand smash. We had overdone it. We had warn- 
ings enough, but we couldn't realise that our world 
was coming to an end. It hadn't got so low as 
telegraphing, yet ; but it was mere shop then even, 
compared with the picturesque traffic of our young 
days. Eh, Harkness 1 " 

"Yes, it had lost all attraction but profit." 

"Were you ever down at India Wharf, Helen?" 
demanded the Captain. " I don't blame you ; neither 
were my girls. But were you V 

" Of course," said Helen, scorning to lift her eyes 
from her work. " The Nahant boat starts from it." 

"The Nahant boat!" repeated the Captain in a 
great rage. "In my day there was no Nahant boat 
about India Wharf, I can tell you, nor any other 
steamboat; nor any dirty shanties ashore. The 
place was sacred to the shipping of the grandest 
commerce in the world. There they lay, those 
beautiful ships, clean as silver, every one of them, 
and manned by honest Yankee crews." The Captain 
got upon his feet for the greater convenience of his 
eloquence. " Not by ruffians from every quarter of 
the globe. There were gentlemen's sons before the 
mast, with their share in the venture, going out for 
the excitement of the thing; boys from Harvard, 
fellows of education and spirit; and the forecastle 
was filled with good Toms and Jims and Joes from 
the Cape ; chaps whose aunts you knew ; good stock 
through and through, sound to the core. The super- 
cargo was often his own captain, and he was often a 
Harvard man you know what they are !" 



48 A WOMAN'S reason. 

" Nicest fellows in the world," consented Helen. 

The Captain blew a shaft of white smoke into the 
air, and then cut it through with a stroke of his 
cigar. " We had on a mixed cargo, and we might 
be going to trade at eastern ports on the way out. 
Nobody knew what market we should find in Cal- 
cutta. It was pure adventure, and a calculation of 
chances, and it was a great school of character. It 
was a trade that made men as well as fortunes ; it 
took thought and forethought. The owners planned 
their ventures like generals planning a campaign. 
They were not going to see us again for a year; 
they were not going to hear of us till we were 
signalled outside on our return. When we sailed 
it was an event, a ceremony, a solemnity; and we 
celebrated it with song from all the tarry throats on 
board. Yes, the men used to sing as we dropped 
down the bay." 

"Oh, Captain Butler, it was fine!" cried Helen, 
dropping her hands on her work, and looking up at 
the Captain in his smoke-cloud, with rapture. " Papa, 
why didn't you ever let me come down to see your 
ships sail I" 

" It was all changed before you were born, Helen," 
began her father. 

<{ yes, all changed," cried the Captain, taking 
the word away from him. " The ships had begun, 
long before that, to stop at East Boston, and we sold 
their cargoes by sample, instead of handling them 
in our warehouses, and getting to feel some sort of 
human interest in them. When it came to that, a 






A woman's reason. 49 

mere shopman's speculation, I didn't much care for 
the New-Yorkers getting it." The Captain sat down 
and smoked in silence. 

"How did the New-Yorkers get it?" asked 
Helen, with some indignant stir in her local pride. 

" In the natural course of things," said her father. 
" Just as we got it from Salem. By being bigger 
and richer." 

" Oh, it was all changed anyway," broke in the 
Captain. " We used to import nearly all the cotton 
goods used in this country, fabrics that the natives 
wove on their little looms at home, and that had the 
sentiment you girls pretend to find in hand-made 
things, but before we stopped we got to sending 
our own cottons to India. And then came the 
telegraph, and put the finishing-stroke to romance 
in the trade. Your father loads now according to 
the latest despatches from Calcutta. He knows 
just what his cargo will be worth when it gets there, 
and he telegraphs his people what to send back." 
The Captain ended in a very minor key : " I 'm 
glad I went out of it when I did. You 'd have done 
well to go out too, Harkness." 

"I don't know, Jack. I had nothing else in 
view. You know I had become involved before the 
crash came ; and I couldn't get out." 

"I think you could," returned the Captain stub- 
bornly, and he went on to show his old friend how ; 
and the talk wandered back to the great days of 
the old trade, and to the merchants, the supercargoes, 
the captains, the mates of their youth. They talked 

D 



50 A woman's reason. 

of the historic names before their date, of Cleaveland 
and his voyages, of Handasyde Perkins, of Bromfield, 
of the great chiefs of a commerce which founded the 
city's prosperity, and which embraced all climes and 
regions. The Dutch colonies and coffee, the China 
trade and tea, the North-west coast and furs ; the 
Cape, and its wines and oil ; the pirates that used to 
harass the early adventurers; famous shipwrecks; 
great gains and magnificent losses ; the splendour 
of the English nabobs and American residents at 
Calcutta ; mutinies aboardship ; the idiosyncrasies of 
certain sailors ; the professional merits of certain 
black cooks : these varied topics and interests con- 
spired to lend a glamour to the India trade as it had 
been, that at last moved Captain Butler to argument 
in proof of the feasibility of its revival. It was the 
explanation of this scheme that wearied Helen. At 
the same time she saw that Captain Butler did not 
mean to go very soon, for he had already sunk the 
old comrade in the theorist so far as to be saying, 
"Well, sir," and "Why, sir," and " I tell you, sir." 
She got up not without dropping her scissors from 
her lap, as is the custom of her sex and gave him 
her hand, which he took in his left, without rising. 

" Going to bed 1 That 's right. I shall stay a bit, 
yet. I want to talk with your father." 

"Talk him into taking a little rest," said Helen, 
looking at the Captain as she bent over her father to 
kiss him good-night. 

" I shall give him all sorts of good advice," returned 
the Captain cheerily. 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 51 

Her father held her hand fondly till she drew an 
arm's-length away, and then relinquished it with a 
very tender " Good-night, my dear." 

Helen did not mean to go to bed, and when she 
reached her own room, she sat a long time there, 
working at Margaret's bonnet, and overhearing now 
and then some such words of the Captain's as " dyes," 
"muslins," "ice," "teak," "gunny-bags," "shellac," 
"Company's choppers," a name of fearful note 
descriptive of a kind of Calcutta handkerchief once 
much imported. She imagined that the Captain was 
still talking of the India trade. Her father spoke so 
low that she could not make out any words of his ; 
the sound of his voice somehow deeply touched her, 
his affection appealed to hers in that unintelligible 
murmur, as the disembodied religion of a far-heard 
hymn appeals to the solemnity of the listener's soul. 
She began to make a fantastic comparison of the 
qualities of her father's voice and the Captain's, to the 
disadvantage of the Captain's other qualities; she 
found that her father was of finer spirit and of gentler 
nature, and by a natural transition she perceived that 
it was a grander thing to be sitting alone in one's 
room with one's heart-ache than to be perhaps foolishly 
walking the piazza with one's accepted commonplace 
destiny as Marian Butler was at that moment. At 
this point she laughed at herself, said "Poor Marian " 
aloud, and recognised that her vagaries were making 
Captain Butler an ill return for his kindness in 
dropping in to chat with her father ; she hoped he 
would not chat too long, and tire him out ; and so her 



52 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

thoughts ran upon Eobert again, and she heard no 
more of the talk below, till after what seemed to her, 
starting from it, a prolonged reverie. Then she was 
aware of Captain Butler's boots chirping out of the 
library into the hall, toward the door, with several 
pauses, and she caught fragments of talk again : "I 
had no idea it was as bad as that, Harkness 
bad business, must see what can be done, weather 
it a few weeks longer confoundedly straitened 
myself pull you through," and faintly, "Well, 
good-night, Joshua; I'll see you in the morning." 
There was another pause, in which she fancied 
Captain Butler lighting his cigar at the chimney 
of the study-lamp with which her father would be 
following him to the door ; the door closed and her 
father went slowly back to the library, where she felt 
rather than heard him walking up and down. She 
wanted to go to him, but she would not ; she wanted 
to call to him, but she remained silent ; when at last 
she heard his step upon the stairs, heavily ascending, 
and saw the play of his lamp-light on the walls with- 
out, she stealthily turned down the gas that he might 
not think her awake. Half an hour later, she crept 
to his door, which stood a little ajar, and whispered, 
"Papa!" 

"What is it, Helen I" He was in bed, but his 
voice sounded very wakeful. "What is it, my 
dear !" 

"Oh, I don't know!" she flung herself on her 
knees beside his bed in the dark, and put her arms 
about his neck " but I feel so unhappy !" 



A woman's reason. 53 

"About " began her father, but she quickly in- 
terrupted. 

" No, no ! About you, papa ! You seem so sad 
and careworn, and I 'm nothing but a burden and a 
trouble to you." 

" You are nothing but a comfort and a help to me. 
Poor child ! You mustn't be worried by my looks. 
I shall be all right in the morning. Come, come !" 

" But weren't you perplexed somehow about busi- 
ness 1 Weren't you thinking about those accounts ?" 

"No, my dear." 

"What were you thinking of?" 

" Well, Helen, I was thinking of your mother and 
your little brothers." 

"Oh !" said Helen, with the kind of recoil which 
the young must feel even from the dearest dead. 
" Do you often think of them 1" 

" No, I believe, not often. Never so much as to- 
night, since I first lost them ; the house seemed full 
of them then. I suppose these impressions must 
recur." 

"Oh, doesn't it make you feel strange?" asked 
Helen, cowering a little closer to him. 

" Why should it % It doesn't make me feel strange 
to have your face against mine." 

" No, but don't, don't talk of such things, 
or I can't endure it ! Papa, papa ! I love you so, 
it breaks my heart to have you talk in that way. 
How wicked I must be not to like you to think of 
them ! But don't, to-night ! I want you to think 
of me, and what we are going to do together, and 



54 A woman's reason. 

about all our plans for next winter, and for that 
new house, and everything. Will you? Promise !" 
Her father pressed her cheek closer against his, 
and she felt the fond smile which she could not see 
in the dark. He gave her his promise, and then 
began to talk about her going down to the Butlers', 
which it seemed the Captain had urged further after 
she had bidden him good-night. The Captain was 
going to stay in Boston a day or two, and Mr. Hark- 
ness thought he might run down with him at the 
end of the week. Helen did not care to go, but 
with this in view she did not care to say so. She 
let her father comfort her with caressing words and 
touches, as when she was a child, and she frankly 
stayed her weak-heartedness upon his love. She 
was ashamed, but she could not help it, nor wish to 
help it. As she rested her head upon his pillow she 
heard his watch ticking under it ; in this sound all 
the years since she was a little girl were lost. Then 
his voice began to sink drowsily, as it used to do in 
remote times, when she had wearied him out with 
her troubles. He answered at random, and his talk 
wandered so that it made her laugh. That roused 
him to full consciousness of her parting kiss. "Good- 
night," he said, and held her hand, and drew her 
down by it again, and kissed her once more. 



III. 

Helen woke the next morning with the overnight 
ache still at her heart : she wondered that she could 
have thought of leaving her father; but when she 
opened her shutters and let in the light, she was 
aware of a change that she could not help sharing. 
It was the wind that had changed, and was now 
east; the air was fresh and sparkling; the homi- 
cidal sunshine of the day before lay in the streets 
and on the house fronts as harmless as painted 
sunshine in a picture. Another day might transform 
all again ; the tidal wave of life that the sea had 
sent from its deep cisterns out over the land might 
ebb as quickly, and the world find itself old and 
haggard, and suffering once more ; but while it lasted, 
this respite was a rapture. 

Helen came down with something of it in her face, 
the natural unreasoned and unreasoning hopefulness 
of young nerves rejoicing in the weather's mood; 
but she began at breakfast by asking her father if he 
did not think it was rather crazy for her to be 
starting off for Beverley the very day after she 
had got home for good, and had just unpacked 
everything. She said she would go only on three 



56 A woman's reason. 

conditions: first, that he felt perfectly well; second, 
that he would be sure to come down on Saturday ; 
and third, that he would be sure to bring her back 
with him on Monday. 

" I don't think I could stand Marian Butler in her 
present semi-fluid state more than three days ; and I 
wouldn't consent to leave you, papa, except that 
while you 're worrying over business you'd really 
rather not have me about. Would you 1" 

Her father said he always liked to have her about. 

" O yes ; of course," said Helen. " But don't 
you see, I 'm trying to make it a virtue to go, and I 
can't go unless I do 1 " 

He laughed with her at her hypocrisy. They 
agreed that this was Thursday the 15th, and that he 
should come down on Saturday the 17th, and that 
he would let nothing detain him, and that he would 
come in time for dinner, and not put it off, as he 
would be sure to do, till the last train. Helen gave 
him a number of charges as to his health, and his 
hours of work, and bade him, if he did not feel 
perfectly well, to telegraph her instantly. When he 
started down town she made him promise to drive 
home. After the door closed upon him, she won- 
dered that she had ever allowed herself to thiitk of 
leaving him, and indignantly dismissed the idea of 
going to Beverley; but she went on. and packed her 
trunk so as to have it ready when the express-man 
came for it. She could easily send him away, and 
besides, if she did not go now, there was no hope of 
getting her father off for a holiday and a little change 



A WOMAN'S reason. 57 

of scene. She quitted the house in time to catch 
the noon train, and rode drearily down to Beverley, 
but not without the comfort of feeling herself the 
victim of an inexorable destiny. All the way down 
she was in impulse rushing back to Boston, and 
astonishing Margaret by her return, and telling her 
father that she found she could not go, and being 
fondly laughed at by him. She was almost in tears 
when the brakeman shouted out the name of the 
station, and if Marian Butler had not been there 
with her phaeton, in obedience to the Captain's 
telegram announcing Helen's arrival, she would have 
hidden herself somewhere, and taken the next train 
back to town. As it was, she descended into the 
embrace of her friend, who was so glad to see her 
that she tried to drive through the train, just begin- 
ning to move off, on the tiack that crossed their 
road, and had to be stopped by the baggage-master, 
who held the pony's nose till the train was well on 
its way to Portland. At the door of the cottage, 
when the pony had drawn up the phaeton there, 
with a well-affected air of being driven up, Mrs. Butler 
met Helen with tender and approving welcome, and 
said that they could never have hoped to get her father 
to come unless she had come first. "This change 
in the weather will be everything for him, and you 
mustn't worry about him," she said, laying a sooth- 
ing touch upon Helen's lingering anxieties. " If he 
has any business perplexities, you may be sure he 'd 
rather have you out of the way. I have seen some- 
thing of business perplexities in my time, my dear, 



58 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

and I know what they are. I shall telegraph to Mr. 
Butler to bring your father in the same train with 
him, and not give him any chance of slipping through 
his fingers." 

Mrs. Butler was one of those pale, slight ladies, 
not easily imaginable apart from the kind of soft 
breakfast shawl which she wore, and which har- 
monised with the invalid purple under her kind eyes, 
the homes of habitual headache ; and the daughters 
of the marriage Captain Butler had made rather late 
in life with a woman fifteen years younger than 
himself, were as unlike their mother as their father 
was. These large, warm blondes invited all the 
coolness they could with their draperies, and stood 
grouped about her, so many statues of health and 
young good looks and perpetual good-nature, with 
bangs and frizzes over their white foreheads, and 
shadowing their floating, heavily-lashed blue eyes. 
When alone they often tended in behaviour to 
an innocent rowdiness ; they were so amiable, and 
so glad, and so strong, that they could not very well 
keep quiet, and when quiet, especially in their 
mother's presence, they had a knowingly quelled 
look : in their father's presence they were not ex- 
pected nor liked to be quiet. They admired Helen 
almost as much as they admired their mother. She 
was older than any of them, except Marian, and was 
believed to be a pattern of style and wisdom, who 
had had lots of offers, and could marry anyhodj. 
While Helen and their mother talked together, they 
listened in silence, granting their superiority, with 



A woman's reason. 59 

the eager humility of well-bred younger girlhood; 
and Marian went to see about lunch. 

Mr. Ray was coming to lunch, and Helen was to 
see him with Marian for the first time since their 
engagement. He was a man she had not known very 
well in Harvard, though he was of the class she had 
danced through with. He was rather quiet, and she 
had not formed a flattering opinion of him ; some of 
the most brilliant fellows liked him, but she had 
chosen to think him dull. That was some years ago, 
and she had not often met him since; he had been 
away a great deal. 

His quiet seemed to have grown upon him, when 
he appeared, or it might have been the contrast of 
his composure with the tumult of the young girls 
that gave it such a positive effect. He seemed the 
best of friends with them all, but in his own way. 
He spoke little and he spoke low ; and he could not 
be got to repeat what he said ; he always said some- 
thing different the second time, and if he only looked 
as if he were going to speak, his prospective sisters-in- 
law fell helplessly silent. He was not quite so tall 
as Marian, and he was much slighter ; she generously 
prided herself upon being unable to wear his gloves, 
which Jessie Butler could just get on. He was a 
very scrupulously perfect man as to his gloves, and 
every part of his dress, which the young ladies now 
criticised in detail, after he had paid his duty to 
Helen and their mother. They all used him with a 
freedom that amused Helen, and that was not much 
short of the frankness with which Marian came out 



60 A woman's reason. 

and planted a large kiss upon his lips, and then, 
without speaking to him, turned to her mother with 
an air of housekeeperly pre-occupation to ask some- 
thing about the lunch, and disappeared again. 

Mr. Eay took everything with grave composure, a 
little point of light in either of his brown eyes, and 
the slightest curve of the small brown moustache that 
curled tightly in over his upper lip, showing his sense 
from time to time of what he must have found droll 
if some one else had been in his place. He had an 
affectionate deference for Mrs. Butler that charmed 
Helen. He carved at lunch with a mastery of the 
difficult art, and he was quite at ease in his character 
of head of the family. It gave Helen a sort of shock 
to detect him in pressing Marian's hand under the 
table ; but upon reflection, she was not sure that she 
disapproved of it. 

She perceived that she must revise her opinion of 
Mr. Eay. Without being witty, his talk was bright 
and to the last degree sensible, with an edge of satire 
for the young girls, to whom at the same time he was 
alertly attentive. Helen thought his manner ex- 
quisite, especially towards herself in her quality of 
Marian's old and valued friend ; it was just what the 
manner of a man in his place should be. He talked 
a good deal to her, and told her he had spent most of 
the summer on the water, "Which accounts," she 
mused, " for his brown little hands, not much bigger 
than a Jap law-student's, and for that perfect mass of 
freckles." He said he was expecting his boat round 
from Manchester ; and he hoped that she would come 



A woman's reason. 61 

with the other young ladies and take a look at her 
after lunch. He said " boat " so low that Helen could 
just catch the word, and she smiled in consenting to 
go and look at it, for she imagined from his depreca- 
tory tone that it was something like a dory which 
might have been bestowed upon Mr. Kay's humility 
by some kindly fisherman. Walking to the shore by 
Helen's side he said something further about running 
down to Mt. Dessert in his boat, and about one of his 
men knowing how to broil a mackerel pretty well,, 
which puzzled her, and shook her in her error, just be- 
fore they came upon a vision of snowy duck and paint, 
and shining brasses, straight and slim and exquisite 
as Helen herself in line, and light as a bird dipped for 
a moment upon the water. A small boat put out for 
them, and they were received on board the yacht with 
grave welcome by Mr. Ray, whose simple dress so 
far hitherto from proclaiming itself nautical in cut or 
colour now appeared perfectly adapted to yachting. 
He did not seem to do the host here any more than at 
Captain Butler's table, but he distinguished Helen as 
his chief guest, with a subtle accent in his politeness 
that gave her quick nerves something of the pleasure 
of a fine touch in music. She was now aware that she 
admired Mr. Ray, and she wondered if he did not 
look shorter than he really was. 

She found it quite in character that he should have 
a friend on board, whom he had not mentioned to 
any of them, and whom he now introduced in his 
most suppressed tones. The friend was a tall young 
Englishman, in blue Scotch stuff; and Helen decided 



o 



62 A woman's reason. 

at once that his shoulders sloped too much ; he talked 
very far down in his throat, and he had a nervous 
laugh; Helen discovered that he had also a shy, 
askance effect of having just looked at you. 

Ray asked the ladies if they would fish, and when 
they would not, he frankly tried to entertain them in 
other ways. It came out that he could both play 
and sing; and he picked on a banjo the air of a 
Canadian boat-song he had learned at Gaspe the 
summer before. That made the girls ask him to 
show his sketches of the habitans, and Helen thought 
them very good, and very droll, done with vigour 
and chic. He made the afternoon pass charmingly, 
but what amused Helen most was Marian's having 
already got his tone about his possessions and 
accomplishments ; her instinct would not suffer her 
to afflict him by any show of pride in them, proud 
as she was of them ; and on the yacht there was no 
approach to endearments between them. " Really," 
thought Helen, " Marian will be equal to it, after 
all," and began to respect her sex. After supper, 
which Ray offered them on board, and which that 
one of the men who could broil a mackerel pretty 
well served with touches of exquisite marine cookery, 
Helen felt that it would be mean to refrain any 
longer. " Marian," she whispered to her friend 
apart, "he is perfect /" and Marian looked gratefully 
at her and breathed "Yes !" 

Helen was generous, but the proximity of this 
prosperous love made her feel very desolate and 
left behind. The aching tenderness for Robert, 



A woman's reason. 63 

which was at the bottom of all her moods, throbbed 
sorer ; she must still it somehow, and she began to 
talk with the Englishman. As she went on she 
could not help seeing that the young Butler girls, 
innocently wondering at her under their bangs, were 
suffering some loss of an ideal, and that Marian's 
averted eyes were reflecting Mr. Ray's disapproval, 
otherwise hidden deeper than the sea over which 
they sailed. 

The Englishman, after a moment of awkward 
hesitation and apparent self-question, seemed to fall 
an easy prey. He presently hung about her quite 
helplessly ; but his helplessness did not make her 
pity him. " So nice," he said, as they sat a little 
apart, after Ray had attempted a diversion with 
another Canadian barcarole, " to be able to do some- 
thing of that kind. But it isn't very common in the 
States, is it, Miss Harkness?" 

" I don't understand. Do you mean that we don't 
commonly know Canadian boat-songs'? I don't 
suppose we do." 

" No, no ; I don't mean that /" replied Mr. Rain- 
ford ; if that was the name which Helen had caught. 
" I meant being able to do something, you know, 
to keep the ball foiling, as you say." 

"Do we say ' keep the ball rolling'?" Helen 
affected to muse. 

" I heard it was an Americanism," said Mr. Rain- 
ford, laughing at the pretence she made, with her 
downward look, of giving his words anxious thought. 
"I was thinking of the Canadians when I spoke. 



64: A woman's reason. 

They seem to be up to all sorts of things. I was at 
a place last month Old Beach or Old Orchard 
something like that where the Montreal people 
come; and some of those fellows knew no end of 
things. Songs, like Mr. Ray's ; and tricks ; and 
and well, I don't know." 

Helen shook her head. " $o, we don't have those 
accomplishments in the States, as you say. We 're a 
serious people." 

"I don't know," laughed Mr. Rainford. "You 
have your own fun, I suppose." 

"In our poor way, yes. We go to lectures, and 
attend the public school exhibitions, and yes, we 
have our amusements." 

Mr. Rainford seemed carried quite beyond himself 
by these ironical impertinences. " Really, I can't 
admit that they 're all of that kind. I saw a good 
deal of an amusement at the sea-side that I was told 
was not very serious." 

"Indeed I What could it have been?" asked 
Helen, with the affectation of deep interest. 

" Oh, surely now, Miss Harkness, you don't ex- 
pect me to explain it. All the young people seemed 
to understand it ; the Canadian ladies said it was an 
American institution." She didnot help him on, 
and he had to get out of the affair as he could. He 
reddened with the effort. "I must say it seemed 
very pleasant, at least for the two people concerned." 

" Oh, only two !" cried Helen. 

The poor young man laughed gratefully, and took 
up the burden of silliness which she now left wholly 



A woman's reason. 65 

to him. " Yes ; a young lady always very charm- 
ing and " 

"A gentleman always very brilliant and inter- 
esting. Oh, yes ! " She turned about on her 
camp-stool with an unconscious air, and began to 
talk to the young Butler girls. She had provoked 
his recognition of tha situation, if he had meant 
his allusion to sea-side flirtations for that, but her 
fretted nerves did not resent it the less because she 
was in the wrong. She could have said that there 
was nothing in her words, and afterwards she did 
say so to herself; but, as if he found a personal edge 
in them, Mr. Rainford sat quite blank for a moment ; 
then after some attempts at self-recovery in talk with 
the others, he rose and went below. 

" Ned," said Marian, " where did you pick up that 
particularly odious Englishman 1 " In her vexation 
with Helen, it was necessary to assail some one. 

" He 's a very good fellow," said Ray quietly. 
"I met him in Cairo, first. He 's very clever; and 
remarkably well up in Coptic for a lord." 

All the Butlers started, as if to pounce upon Ray. 
"A lord!" they hoarsely breathed, with the bitter 
sense of loss natural to girls who might never see a 
nobleman again. 

" Why did you introduce him as Mister?" de- 
manded Marian, in accents expressive of the common 
anguish ; and somehow the revelation of her victim's 
quality seemed to Helen to heighten the folly and 
cruelty of her behaviour; it seemed to elevate it 
into a question of international interest. 

E 



66 A woman's reason. 

" I said Lord Rainford," retorted Eay. 

" You whispered it ! " cried Marian bitterly. 

" Well, he won't mind your calling him Mr. Rain- 
ford. I can explain," said Ray. "Don't change, 
now," he added mischievously. 

"As if we should I" indignantly retorted Marian. 
" And let him know that weid been talking about 
him ! No, he shall remain Mister to the end of 
the chapter with us. Are you going to bring him 
to the house ? " 

" I 'm going to Salem with him as soon as I put 
you ashore. I 'd have asked you to let me bring him 
to lunch if I 'd supposed he was on the boat. When 
I left him at Manchester this morning, he talked of 
going to Boston by the cars." 

" I think he 's hideous," said Marian, for all com- 
ment on the explanation. 

" Not pretty, but precious," returned Ray tran- 
quilly. " He 's a good fellow, but he knows he isn't 
good-looking. He 's rather sensitive about it, and it 
makes him nervous and awkward with ladies ; but he's 
a very sensible fellow among men," Ray concluded. 

There was a little unpleasant pause, and then Ray 
and Marian began talking eagerly to Helen, as if they 
felt a little ashamed, and a good deal sorry for her, 
and were anxious to get her to do or say something 
that would bring back their good opinion of her. 

They dropped anchor in a sheet of sunset red off 
Captain Butler's place, and Ray pulled them ashore 
in his small boat. Some of them tried to sing the 



A woman's reason. 67 

barcarole he had played, but the girlish voices thrilled 
sadly over the glassy tide, which was softly ebbing, 
and leaving more and more bare the drowned-looking 
boulders, heavily tressed with the dripping golden 
brown seaweed. 

Marian sat in the bow of the boat, and as she rose 
and stood there, holding out one hand to Ray to be 
helped ashore, and gathering her skirts with the 
other, she glanced towards the house : " Why, who 
is there with mamma on the verandah 1 Why, it 
can't be papa !" 

Helen looked round over her shoulder where she 
sat, and now they all looked, Eay turning his head 
and mechanically clasping Marian's hand. 

Captain Butler was walking up and down before 
his wife, who sat listening to what he was saying. 
He was talking very loud and very fast, with a sort 
of passionate vehemence ; his tones reached them, but 
they could not make out his words. He gesticulated 
as if describing some scene, and then suddenly 
stopped, and threw back his head, and seemed to 
be laughing. 

" What can amuse Captain Butler so much I " asked 
Helen, with a smile. At the same time she saw him 
draw out his handkerchief and hide his face in it, 
and sit down with his face still hidden. The panto- 
mime which they could see with such distinctness, 
and of which they yet remained so ignorant, some- 
how began to overawe them. Ray quickly helped 
them from the boat. " I am going up with you," he 
said, and with a glance at Marian, " Miss Harkness," 



68 A woman's reason. 

he added, "won't you take my arm over these 
rocks ? " 

Helen clung heavily to him as she tottered up the 
path. " I wonder what has brought Captain Butler 
to-night," she said tremulously. " He wasn't to be 
here till Saturday." 

"I fancy he's persuaded your father to come 
with him," answered Ray. " Look out for that 
stone, Miss Harkness." 

" Oh, I hope papa isn't worse again," said Helen, 
stumbling over it. She hurt herself, and was glad 
of the pain that let her give their way to the tears 
that came into her eyes. 

"No; I should think he was more likely to be 
better," said Ray, refusing to see her trouble, and 
really lifting her along. The others had fallen 
behind a little, and these two had now reached the 
gravel drive up to the piazza steps alone. 

They saw a quick parley between the Captain and 
Mrs. Butler, and he stepped in-doors through one of 
the long windows, while she came forward to the 
rail, and called out to Marian, " Your father wants 
all of you to go to the other door, Marian." 

" Why, mamma " began Marian. 

" Go, go ! " cried her mother. " Don't ask ! 
Edward, bring Helen here ! " 

" Yes, it 's some little surprise," said Ray, be- 
ginning to laugh. "Do you like surprises, Miss 
Harkness V 

"I don't believe I do," she answered, trying to 
laugh too. 



A woman's reason. 69 

Mrs. Butler came forward and took her from Kay, 
motioning or rather looking him aside, as she clasped 
the girl tight in her arms. At this moment she saw- 
Captain Butler glance stealthily at them from within 
the room ; his face was contorted and wet with tears. 
"What what is it, Mrs. Butler?" she gasped, 
weakly pulling back a little from her close embrace, 
and facing her. 

There was an instant in which the elder woman 
dwelt upon her with all of compassion and imploring 
in her eyes. Then she said, " Death, Helen. Your 
father is dead ! " 

Helen's strength came back. As if many days 
had passed since she saw him, " To-day 1 " she asked, 
still holding her hand against Mrs. Butler's breast, 
where she had pressed it. 

"At two o'clock." 

Helen softly loosed herself from Mrs. Butler's arms, 
and sat down in the chair near which they stood, 
and looked out upon the grounds sloping to the 
water, the black rocks by the shore ; the huger rocks 
that showed their backs like sleeping sea-beasts out 
of the smooth water ; the yacht darkening against 
the east; far beyond the rim of the sea, a light 
just twinkling up in the invisible tower at the 
horizon's verge. A thick darkness seemed to come 
down out of the sky over all, but Helen would not 
let it close upon her. She fought the swoon away, 
and looked up at the pitying, suffering face above 
her. 

" I am glad you told me at once, Mrs. Butler. 



70 a woman's reason. 

Thank you," she said, and sank back in her chair, 
while the other fell on her knees beside her, and 
gathered her to her heart again, and wept over her. 

" O my poor, poor child ! It 's the one certain 
thing in all the world. It will be known, and it will 
be seen. What wouldn't I have given to keep it from 
you for ever, Helen? You and my Marian were 
babies together. I used to know your mother. You 
are like a daughter to me." Helen passively sub- 
mitted to the caresses, to the kisses, dropped with 
tears upon her pale cheeks, but she did not say 
anything, or try to reply. " But it was not to be 
kept," Mrs. Butler went on. " It could not be 
hidden, and it seemed the mercifullest and best way 
not to try to keep it from you in foolish self-pity for 
a moment, more or less." 

"0 yes, yes," said Helen, like another person 
hearing of her own case. "It was best," and she 
found herself toying with the strings of her hat, 
curling them round her finger, and running them out 
in a long roll. 

" It doesn't kill, my dear. It brings its own cure 
with it. It 's sorrow, but it isn't trouble ! It passes 
over us like a black wave, but it doesn't destroy us. 
You don't realise it yet, Helen, my poor girl, but 
even when you do, you will bear it. Put your head 
down on my shoulder, dear, and I will tell you. It 
was in his office, where he had spent so many years 
at the work which had given him his honoured name 
and place in the world. My husband was there 
with him. They were turning over some books 



A woman's reason. 71 

together. He saw your father put his hand over his 
heart, and then your father sank down in his arm- 
chair, and gave a little sigh, and that was all." 

Mrs. Butler broke into a fresh sobbing on the girl's 
neck, but Helen remained silent and still, letting 
herself be clutched tight to that loving breast. 
" There was no pain, Helen, there was no suffering. 
It was a falling into rest. But before he rested 
before he drew that last little sigh, my dear he 
spoke one word. Do you know what it was, Helen 1 " 
She felt the girl tremble, and, as it were, lapse in 
her arms. " It was just your name : it was, ' Helen.' 
You were the last thing in his thoughts upon earth 
the first in heaven." 

Helen broke into a long, low wail. She rose from 
where she sat, and flung off the kind clinging arms, 
as if their pity stifled her, and fled up and down the 
verandah, a storm of grief that beat forth in thick 
sobs, and escaped in desolate moans. 

Mrs. Butler did not try to stay her, or even to 
approach her, as she wavered to and fro, and wrung 
her hands, or pressed them to her streaming eyes. 
At last, after many moments, as long as hours of 
common life, Helen suddenly checked herself, and 
dried the tears that drenched her face. There had 
come the lull which must succeed such a passion. 
She stopped before Mrs. Butler, and asked in a 
husky, changed voice, " Isn't there any train up to- 
night]" 

" Why, Helen" 

" Because if there is, I must take it. I know what 



72 A WOMAN'S reason. 

you will say, but don't say it. If you try to stop 
me, I will walk. I am going home." 

It was too soon yet for her to realise that she 
should never go home again, but the word went to 
the mother-heart that ached for her with the full 
measure of its tragic irony, and she perceived with a 
helpless throe of compassion how alone in the world 
this fair young stricken creature stood. 

Eay had sent word to his English friend that he 
should not join him again on board the yacht that 
night, briefly explaining the trouble that kept him, 
and promising to see him again on the morrow. He 
directed the yacht to put in to Salem, as had been 
arranged, and instructed his men to tell Lord Kain- 
ford about the trains for Boston. He was with 
Captain Butler and the awe-stricken girls in the 
parlour, while Mrs. Butler kept Helen on the verandah, 
and he had gathered from the captain such part of 
the story as he had not already divined. 

" Edward !" called Mrs. Butler from without, and 
he went to her where she stood with Helen, now 
perfectly silent and tearless. " Miss Harkness wishes 
to go home to-night. I shall go with her. Mr. 
Butler has just got home, and " She hesitated to 
say before Helen's affliction that he had had too 
hard a day already, and she could not let him incur 
the further excitement and fatigue; but Eay seemed 
to know. 

" Captain Butler had better stay here," he said 
promptly, " and let me go. We haven't time for the 
seven o'clock at Beverley," he addec*, glancing at his 



A woman's reason. 73 

watch, " but we can catch the eight o'clock express at 
Salem if we start at once." 

"lam ready," said Helen quietly. "My trunk 
can come to-morrow. I haven't even unlocked it." 

Ray had turned away to ring the stable bell. 
"Jerry, put my mare into the two-seated phaeton. 
Don't lose any time," he called out, stopping Jerry's 
advance up the walk for orders, and the phaeton was 
at the steps a minute or two after Mrs. Butler 
appeared in readiness to go. 

Helen went into the lighted dining-room, where 
Captain Butler and the girls had fearfully grouped 
themselves, waiting what motion of farewell she 
should make. Her face was pale, and somewhat 
stern. She went round and kissed them, beginning 
and ending with Marian, and she did not give way, 
though they each broke out crying at her touch, or 
at her turning from them. When she came to the 
Captain she put out her arms, and took him into 
them, and pressed herself to his breast in a succes- 
sion of quick embraces, while he hid his face, and 
could not look at her. 

" Good-bye all," she said, in a firm tone, and went 
out and got into the phaeton, where Mrs. Butler was 
sitting. Ray sprang to the place beside the driver. 
"Salem, Jerry. Quick!" and they flew forward 
through the evening air, cold and damp in currents, 
and warm in long stretches over the smooth road. 
She smelt the heavy scent of the spiraea in the 
swampy places, and of the milkweed in the sand. 
She said no, she was not chilly, to Mrs. Butler; 



74 A woman's reason. 

and from time to time they talked together : about 
the days beginning to get a little shorter now, and 
its not being so late as it seemed. Once Ray 
struck a match and looked at his watch, and the 
driver looked at Ray, who said, " All right," and did 
not say anything else during the drive. Again, 
after silence, Helen spoke 

" You know I wouldn't let you come with me, if 
I could help it, Mrs. Butler." 

" You couldn't help it, dear," answered the other. 
"Don't talk of it." 

The station was a blur and dance of lights ; she 
was pushed into the train as it moved away. She 
sat next the window in the seat with Mrs. Butler, 
and Ray in the seat before them. He did not look 
round, nor did Mrs. Butler sit very close, or take her 
hand, or try in any futile way to offer her comfort. 
The train seemed to go forward into the night by 
long leaps. Once it stopped somewhere on the track 
remote from a station, and Ray went out with some 
other passengers to see what had happened. Helen 
was aware of a wild joy in the delay, and of a wish 
that it might last for ever. She did not care to know 
what had caused it. As the cars drew into the Boston 
depot, she found her handkerchief, soaked with tears, 
in her hand, and she pulled down her veil over 
her swollen eyes. 

At her own door, she said, " Well, Margaret," like 
a ghostly echo of her wonted greetings, and found 
Margaret's eyes red and swollen too. 

" I knew you would come, Miss Helen," said Mar- 



a woman's reason. 75 

garet. " I told them you never would let the night 
pass over your head." 

" Yes, I would come, of course," answered Helen. 
She led the way back into the library, where there 
were lights, and where the study-lamp burnt upon 
the table at which last night she had sat with her 
father. Then, while the others stood there, she took 
up the lamp, and pushed open the drawing-room 
doors, as she had seen him do, and, as she felt, with 
something of his movement, and walked forward 
under the dimly-burning gas to the place where she 
had known he would be lying. Everything had been 
done decorously, and he appeared, as they say, very 
natural. She stood with the lamp lifted high, and 
looked down at the face, slowly and softly wiping 
the tears, and shaken now and then with a sob. 
She did not offer to kiss or touch him. She turned 
from the clay out of which he had departed, and 
walked back to the library, where it seemed as if 
he should meet her, and speak to her of what had 
happened. 

There were Mrs. Butler and Mr. Ray, and behind 
them there was Margaret. She felt how pitifully 
she must be looking at them. Some one caught the 
lamp, which had grown so light, from her hand, and 
some one had thrown up the window. That was 
right ; she should not faint now ; and now she was 
opening her eyes, and Ray's arm was under her 
neck, where she lay upon the floor, and Mrs. Butler 
was dashing her face with cologne. # 



IV. 

In those days Helen came to understand what her 
father had meant by saying, that after her mother 
and her little brothers died, the house seemed full of 
them, and that it did not make him afraid. Now 
that he had died, the house seemed full of him, and 
she was not afraid. She grew to be weak and sore, 
and almost blind from weeping ; but even when she 
cowered over the dead face, and cried and moaned to 
it, it seemed something earthly and perishable in her 
love bewailing only the earthly and perished part of 
him, while what was really himself beheld her grief 
with a high, serene compassion, and an intelligence 
with some immortal quiet in her own soul. Whatever 
it was, whether the assurance of his life after death, or 
the mere blind effect of custom, prolonging his pre- 
sence, as the severed nerves refer sensation to the 
amputated limb, and rehabilitate and create it anew, 
this sense of his survival and nearness to her was so 
vivid at times that she felt as if she might, could she 
but turn quickly enough, see him there before her ; 
that the inward voice must make itself audible the 
airy presence tangible. It was strongest with her that 
* first night, but it did not cease for long afterwards. 

I 76 



A woman's reason. 77 

He was with her as she followed him to the grave ; 
and he came back with her to the house from which 
they had borne him. 

In this sense of his survival, which neither then nor 
afterwards had any fantastic quality to her, she 
seemed to draw nearer to him than ever before. 
He understood now, he knew the depth and truth 
of her love, through all her vanities and follies. 
Something inexpressibly sweet and dear was in this 
consciousness, and remained always, when its vivid- 
ness had faded with the keen anguish of her grief. 
Such things, the common experience of all bereave- 
ment, are hard to put in words. Said, they seem 
crude and boastful, and more than what is felt ; but 
what is felt is more than can ever be said. 

Captain Butler came up the morning after Helen's 
return home, and he and Mrs. Butler remained in 
the house with her till all was over. Marian came 
up too, and Kay was there with his silent vigilance, 
from which everything seemed done without his 
agency. Helen had but to weep, to sorrow up and 
down the house ; they gave her anguish way, and 
did not mock it with words of comfort. When the 
tempests of her grief swept over her, they left her >to 
herself ; when the calm that follows such paroxysms 
came, they talked to her of her father, and led her to 
talk of him. Then she was tranquil enough. At 
some droll things that forced themselves into remem- 
brance in their talk, she even laughed without feeling 
it treason to her grief; and it was not what she 
thought or recalled of him that touched the springs 



78 A WOMAN S REASON. 

of her sorrow. It was meeting Margaret, downcast 
and elusive on the stairs, and saying sadly to her, 
"Well, Margaret;" or catching sight of Captain 
Butler sitting opposite her father's vacant chair in 
the library, his grizzled head sunk on his breast, 
and looking suddenly aged, and, at the same time, 
awkward in his bereavement, like a great boy, that 
moved her with intolerable pathos. 

Mrs. Butler went home and had out the headache 
which she had kept back while she must, by force of 
will, but every day some of them came up to see 
Helen, and reminded her without urgence that she 
was to come to them soon. She said yes, she would 
come very soon, and so remained without going 
abroad, or looking into the light of the sun. At 
night, when she lay down she wept, and in the 
morning when she woke, but through the day her 
tears were dried. She brooded upon what her father 
had said and done in the last hours they had spent 
together, his longing for change and for a new life 
that now seemed to have been prophetic of death. 
His weariness of the house that had been his home 
took a new meaning ; he must long have been more 
in the other world than in this, and but for his 
pitying love for her, he must have been glad when 
his swift summons came. She realised at last that 
he had been an old man. She had known without 
realising it that his ways were the ways of one who 
kas outlived himself, and who patiently remains in 
the presence of things that no longer interest him. 
She wondered if the tie by which she, who was so 



A woman's reason. 79 

wholly of the earth, had bound her father to it, had 
not sometimes been a painful one. She remembered 
all the little unthinking selfishnesses of the past, and 
worse than these, the consolations which she had 
tried to offer him. She thought of the gentleness 
with which he always listened to her and consented, 
and ended by comforting her; and she bitterly 
accused herself for not having seen all this long ago. 
But she had not even seen that he had a mortal 
disorder about him; she had merely thought him 
wearied with work, or spent with the heat, in those 
sinkings which had at first scr much alarmed her. 
The hand carried so often to his heart that she now 
recognised it as an habitual gesture, had given her 
no warning, and she blamed herself that it had not. 
But in truth she was not to blame. The sources of 
his malady were obscure, and even its nature had 
been so dimly hinted to him that doubtless her 
father had justified himself in keeping his fear of it 
from her. Perhaps he had hoped that yet somehow 
he could struggle to a better footing in other things, 
before he need cloud her young life with the shadow 
that hung upon his own ; perhaps the end of many 
resolutions was that he could not do it. She won- 
dered if he had himself known his danger, and if it 
was of that which he so often began to speak to her. 
But all now was dark, and this question and every 
other searched the darkness in vain. 

She seemed to stand somewhere upon a point of 
time between life and death, from which either world 
was equally remote. She was quite alien here, 



80 A woman's reason. 

without the will or the fitness to be anywhere else ; 
and she shrank, with a vague resentment, from the 
world that had taken him from her. 

This terrible touchstone of death, while it revealed 
the unimagined tenderness of many hearts, revealed 
also to her the fact that no friendliness could supply 
the love in which there was perfect unity of interest 
and desire, and perfect rest. Every day, when the 
Butlers came to her they brought her word from 
some one, from people who had known her father 
in business, from others who had casually met him, 
and who all now spoke their regret for his death. 
A rare quality of character had given him standing 
in the world that vastly greater prosperity could not 
have won him ; and men who were of quite another 
stuff had a regard for him, which perhaps now and 
then expressed itself in affectionate patronage, but 
which was yet full of reverence. They found some- 
thing heroic in the quiet constancy with which he 
fought his long, losing battle, and now that he was 
down at last, they had their honest regrets and spoke 
their honest praises. It made Helen very proud of 
her father to hear them ; she read with a swelling 
heart the paragraphs about him in the newspapers, 
and even the formal preambles and resolutions 
which expressed the loss the commerce of the city 
had suffered in the death of a merchant of his 
standing and integrity. These things set Helen's 
father in a new light to her ; but while they made 
her prouder and fonder of his memory, they brought 
her a pang that she should have known so little of 



A woman's reason. 81 

what formed his life, and should never have cared 
to know anything of it apart from herself. 

This was not the only phase in which she seemed 
to have been ignorant of him. She had always 
believed him good and kind, without thinking of 
him in that way. But now there came poor people 
to the door, who sometimes asked to see her, or 
who sometimes only sent by Margaret, to tell how 
sorry they felt for her, and to say that her father 
had at this time or that been a good friend to each 
of them. They all seemed to be better acquainted 
with him than she, and their simple stories set him 
in a light in which she had never seen him before. 
It touched Helen that they should frankly lament 
her father's death as another of their deprivations, 
more than if they had pretended merely to condole 
with her, and she did not take it ill of them, that 
they generally concluded their blessings on his 
memory with some hint that further benefactions 
would be gratefully received. The men accepted 
her half-dollars in sign that their audience was 
ended, and went away directly; the women shed 
tears over the old clothes she gave them, and stayed 
to drink tea in the kitchen. 

One day after she had already seen three or four 
of these visitors, the bell rang, and Captain Butler's 
boots came chirping along the hall, not with their 
old cheerful hint of a burly roll in the wearer's gait, 
but subdued and slow as if he approached with un- 
naturally measured tread. Helen sprang into his 
arms, and broke out crying on his breast. " Oh 

F 



82 a woman's reason. 

Captain Butler ! I felt just now that papa must be 
here. Ever since he died he has been with me some- 
how. It seems wild to say it ; but no words can 
ever tell how I have felt it ; and just before you 
came in, I know that he was going to speak to me." 

The Captain held her away at arm's-length, and 
looked into her face. "Poor child! They've sent 
me to bring you home with me, and I see that I 
haven't come a moment too soon. You have been 
alone in this house quite long enough. My God, 
if he only could speak to us ! " The Captain con- 
trolled himself as he walked up and down the library, 
with his face twitching, and his hand knotting itself 
into a fist at his side, and presently he came and sat 
down in his accustomed chair near Helen. He 
waited till she lifted her head and wiped her eyes 
before he began to speak. 

" Helen," said Captain Butler, " I told you that 
they had sent me for you, and I hope that you will 
come." 

" Yes," answered Helen, " I shall be very glad to 
go with you; but I think it's hard for Marian, 
bringing my trouble there, to be a blot on her 
happiness." 

"We won't speak of that, my dear," said the 
Captain. " If Marian can't find her happiness in 
something besides gaiety, she 'd better not think of 
getting married." 

" I wouldn't come if I thought I could endure it 
here any longer; I wouldn't come, if I had any- 
where else to go," cried Helen. 



A woman's reason. 83 

" We wouldn't let you go anywhere else," returned 
the Captain. " But we can talk of all that another 
time. What I have to say to you now is something 
for you to decide. Do you think you are equal 
to talking a little business with me 1 " 

" yes. I should like to." 

" Yes, it will take up your mind." 

The Captain paused restively, and seemed at a loss 
how to frame what he had next to say. " Helen," 
he broke out abruptly, " did you know anything 
about your father's affairs I" 

" Papa 's affairs 1 " asked Helen, with a start. 

" Oh, don't be troubled don't be troubled," the 
Captain hastened to say. " It 's all right ; perfectly 
right ; but I want to speak to you about yourself, 
and it's all right. Don't you think we'd better 
have one of these windows open V 

"Are they shut?" asked Helen. "Yes, you can 
open them, please." 

" We shall be cheerfuller with a little light," said 
the Captain, flinging back the shutters; but they 
hardly looked so. Helen had dark rings round her 
eyes, which were swollen with her long weeping ; 
she was very pale, and looked old in that black 
which, in a house of mourning, seems to grow upon 
women in a single night. She thought the Captain 
tremulous and broken ; these muscles at the sides of 
his chin hung down, as if ten years had been added 
to his age in the last fortnight. They made a feint 
of finding nothing strange in each other, and the 
Captain resumed as he sat down again : " I mentioned 



84 A woman's reason. 

your father's affairs because there has to be some 
settlement of the estate, you know ; and there are 
circumstances that make it desirable to have an 
early settlement. The business was left in a little 
confusion ; it 's apt to be the case," Captain Butler 
added quickly. 

"Yes," Helen said, "papa sometimes spoke of the 
perplexity he felt about his accounts." 

"Did he?" asked the Captain with some relief. 
" Then I suppose he gave you some idea of how he 
stood." 

" No ; he merely said they worried him." 

"Well, well. I don't know that there was any 
occasion to tell you, any occasion for alarm. There 
seems to have been no will; but that makes no 
difference. The law makes a will, and you get what 
there is that is, all there is." The Captain had a 
certain forlorn air of disoccupation, which now struck 
Helen more than what he was saying. 

" Would you like to smoke, Captain Butler?" she 
asked. 

" Why, yes, if you will let me, my dear," h'e 
said, with an eager, humble gratitude, putting his 
hand quickly into his breast-pocket. "I didn't 
know " 

Helen rose, and placed the little table at his elbow, 
and set the ash-holder on it, as she had done that 
last night when he had sat there with her father. 
They looked at each other without speaking. 

The Captain struck his match, and said apologeti- 
cally between the long whiffs with which he lit his 



A woman's reason. 85 

cigar, " I talk better with it, and I have some things 
to explain." 

He paused, and sinking back into his chair 
with a sigh of comfort which brought a dim 
smile into Helen's face, presently resumed : " As 
there is no will, and no executor, there will have to 
be an administrator. Whom should you like ap- 
pointed 1 I believe the Court appoints any one you 
wish." 

" Oh, you, Captain Butler ! " replied Helen in- 
stantly. 

" I expected this," said the Captain, " and I sup- 
pose I am as fit as any one. I 'm sure that no one 
could care more for your father's interests and 
honour, and I know rather more of his affairs than 
anybody else. You will have to make your wishes 
known in form ; but that 's easily managed. In the 
meantime, you had better be away, don't you think, 
while we are looking into things 1 I don't know 
what there is to do, exactly ; but I suppose there 's 
to be some sort of survey, or appraisal, and yes, 
you had better be away, when we are looking into 
things." 

"Do you mean away from the house?" asked 
Helen. 

"Why, yes," the Captain reluctantly assented. 
" It 's a form ; a necessary form." 

" It 's quite right," said Helen positively. " And 
yes, I had better be out of the way." 

"I'm glad you see it in that light, my dear," re- 
turned Captain Butler. "You're a good girl, 



86 A woman's reason. 

Helen, and you make it much easier for me. Pack 
up everything that belongs to you, and go as if you 
were going to stay." The Captain made a ghastly 
show of heartiness, and smoked without looking at 
Helen. " Eun over the house, and put together all 
the things that you would like to retain, and I '11 
see that they come down." Helen was trying to 
catch his eye, and he was keeping his gaze fixed 
upon the ceiling. 

" I don't think I need do that," said Helen ; " I 
should merely have to bring them back with me." 

Captain Butler took his cigar from his mouth in 
compassion, as he now looked at her puzzled face. 
" We don't mean you should come back, my dear 
child. We want you to stay with us." 

" Oh, I can't do that," said Helen quickly. 

" You can't go on living here alone," retorted the 
Captain. 

" No," Helen ruefully assented, and faced Captain 
Butler in touching dismay. 

" You see," he said, "that you must submit. 
And, Helen," he said with a show of brisk, business- 
like cheerfulness , " / think you had better sell this 
house. If I were you, I should sell it at ' once. 
You '11 never get more for it." 

" Why, what would become of Margaret ?" gasped 
Helen. 

" Well, Mrs. Butler has been talking of that 
We want a cook, and we will take Margaret." 

Helen simply looked bewildered. The Captain 
apparently found it better to go on while she was in 



A woman's reason. 87 

this daze than await her emergence from it. "And 
if I were you, I would sell the furniture and pictures 
and all the things that you have not some particular 
association with ; everything of that sort I should 
keep." Helen still made no comment, and the 
Captain went on. "I know all this is very painful, 
Helen" 

" It isn't painful," said Helen quietly. " It was 
papa's wish to sell the house. We were talking of 
it that night the night before He thought of 
building in the country." 

"Well, I'm glad to hear it," said Captain Butler. 
" Then we can push right ahead and do it." 

" It 's very sudden, though," faltered Helen. 
" Poor Margaret ! What will she say V 

" We will hear what she will say," cried the 
Captain, ringing the bell before Helen could stop him. 
Margaret answered it, drying her hands on her 
apron, as she came in, and then with a prescience of 
the coming interview, resting them folded upon that 
prop with which nature in process of time provides 
the persons of most cooks. "Margaret," said the 
Captain, " Miss Helen is going to break up house- 
keeping. She is coming to us. Mrs, Butler wished 
me to ask you to come too." 

Margaret pursed her mouth, and bent forward so 
far over the natural provision as to catch sight of the 
toe of her neatly shod small foot. " Should you 
like to come 1 " asked the Captain. 

" I 'm afraid I should feel the change," said Mar- 
garet. 



88 A woman's reason. 

" Of course," retorted the Captain shortly. " There 
is going to be a change, and you would feel it. We 
understand that. But you know me, and you know 
Mrs. Butler, and you know whether you would have 
a good place." 

" It would be a good place," said Margaret, still 
surveying her slipper. " But I think I should feel 
the change more and more." 

"Well," said the Captain impatiently, "do you 
mean yes, or no I " 

" I think I should feel the change," replied Mar- 
garet. 

The Captain was nonplussed by this dry response 
to his cordial advance, and he waited a moment 
before he asked : " Have you any other place in 
view?" 

u I had arranged," said Margaret calmly, " to go 
to a cousin's of mine that lives in the Port ; and then 
advertise for some small family in Old Cambridge 
where they only keep one girl." 

Helen had felt hurt by Margaret's cold foresight 
in having already so far counted the chances as to 
have looked out for herself; but at this expression of 
Margaret's ruling passion, she could not help smiling. 

The Captain gave an angry snort. " Very well, 
then," he said, " there is nothing to do but to pay 
you up, and let you go," and he took out his pocket- 
book. " How much is it 1 " 

"There isn't anything coming to me," Margaret 
returned with the same tranquillity " Mr. Harkness 
paid me up." 



A woman's reason. 89 

" But he didn't pay you up to the present time," 
said the Captain. 

" I should wish to consider Miss Helen my guest 
for the past two weeks," said Margaret, in the neat- 
ness of an evidently thought-out speech. 

The Captain gave a laugh; but Helen, who knew all 
Margaret's springs of action, and her insuperable pride, 
interposed : " You i may, Margaret," she said gently. 

" Thank you, Miss Helen," said Margaret, lifting 
her eyes now for the first to glance at Helen. She 
turned with a little nod of self-dismissal, and went 
back to the kitchen, leaving the Captain hot and 
baffled. 

It was some moments before he spoke again. 
" Well, then," he said ; " about selling the house : 
do you know, Helen, I think it had better be sold at 
auction 1 It might be tedious waiting for a private 
sale, and real estate is such a drug, with the market 
falling, that you might have to lose more on it after 
waiting than if you forced it to a sale now. How do 
you feel about it 1 " 

The finesse that the Captain was using in all the 
business, wreathing the hard legal exigencies of the 
case in flowers of suggestion and counsel, and putting 
on all a smiling air of volition, could never be fully 
known, except to the goodness that inspired it ; but 
he was rewarded by the promptness with which 
Helen assented to everything. 

" I shall be glad to have you do whatever you 
think is best, Captain Butler," she answered. "I 
have no feeling about the house it 's strange that I 



90 a woman's reason. 

shouldn't have and I don't care how soon it is sold, 
nor how it is sold." 

The Captain instantly advanced a step further. 
" Perhaps you wouldn't care to come back to it at 
all, any more ? Perhaps you could put your hand 
on what you 'd like to keep, and I could look after 
it for you, and " He stopped at seeing Helen 
change countenance. "Well?" 

" Did you think of selling the furniture too !* she 
asked. 

" Why, yes," assented the Captain. " I said so just 
now. I 'm afraid you 'd find it a burden after the 
house was gone. You 'd have to store it, you know. 
Still, if you don't wish it " 

" Oh, yes," said Helen, drawing a long breath, " it 
had better go !" She spoke with a gentle submis- 
siveness that smote the Captain to the heart. 

" You can keep everything you want, my dear 
you can keep it all ! " he returned vehemently. 

" That would be silly," said Helen. " Besides, 
there are very few things I should want to keep. I 
couldn't keep papa's things : they 're terrible. I 
should like you to take everything that belonged to 
him, Captain Butler except his watch and his Bible 
and give them to some poor people that could use 
them. Then I only want my own things ; and per- 
haps his chair, and " Helen stopped, and the 
Captain, not to look at her, cast a roving eye about 
the room. 

"Those Copleys, of course, you would reserve," he 
remarked presently. 



A woman's reason. 91 

" No," said Helen, " I never saw the people. You 
can sell them. But I shall keep my mother's picture, 
because I think papa would like me to." 

The sense of her father's presence expressed in 
these words touched the Captain again. He cleared 
his throat, but he was still hoarse in saying, " I think 
the Museum would buy the Copleys." Helen seemed 
too indifferent about their fate to make any reply. 

The worst was now over. Captain Butler had 
accomplished all that he wished without being obliged 
to explain anything to Helen, or to alarm her fears 
in any way, and he was unreasonably heartened by 
the fact. He might, perhaps, have stated the whole 
truth to her ignorance of affairs without being much 
more intelligible than he had been with all these 
skilful evasions. If he had said, " Your father died 
with his business in the utmost confusion, and pro- 
bably insolvent," she would scarcely have realised 
that life was not to go on just as before ; and if he 
had said, " You are left a beggar," how could Helen 
Harkness have conceived of herself in the figure of 
one of the women who had dropped their tears into 
their tea-cups in the kitchen, as they cried over the 
old clothes she had given them 1 It had wrung the 
Captain's heart to hear her talk of poor people, and 
of giving j and yet, he rose from his chair, when he 
saw Helen still safe in her ignorance, with something 
like cheerfulness. 

" You just make a memorandum of what you'd like 
reserved, Helen," he said, " and I '11 attend to it for 
you. Put your own little traps together, and I'll 



92 A woman's reason. 

send a carriage to take you down to the four o'clock 
train. Anything you think of afterwards of course 
will be kept for you." 

He left her to this task. It was at least something 
to do, and Helen went about it with an energy which 
she was surprised to find in herself. At first the re- 
proach with which the silent house seemed to use her 
indifference smote upon her, but it did not last long. 
Home had died out of it, as life had gone out of her 
father's dust ; and neither house nor grave was any- 
thing to her. She passed from room to room, and 
opened closets and drawers, and looked at a hundred 
things. She ended in despair by choosing a very few. 
If she could not keep all, why should she want any ? 
Whatever it seemed desecration to sell she put on her 
memorandum to be given away. She selected a large 
number of things for Margaret, and when she sat down 
at the old Bostonian half-past two o'clock dinner (to 
which her father had always kept), she told Margaret 
what she had done. Margaret took one or two little 
trinkets which Helen offered her in her hand, and 
declined the other gifts. 

"Why, what do you mean, Margaret?" asked 
Helen. " Why don't you take them I " 

" I shouldn't wish to, Miss Helen," said Margaret, 
pursing her mouth. 

" Well, have your own way," returned Helen. " I 
suppose this is another of your mysteries." 

"I should wish to do everything properly, Miss 
Helen.'" 

" What do you mean by properly ? Why do you 



A woman's reason. 93 

Miss Helen me, all the time ? What made you so 
stiff with Captain Butler 1 and he so kind ! " 

" Captain Butler is a very pleasant gentleman," said 
Margaret, in her neatest manner, "but I shouldn't 
wish him to think it was quite the same as going on 
here." 

" You 're very foolish. It would have been a nice 
place." 

"I wished him to understand that I felt it a 
change." 

"Well, well!" cried Helen impatiently. "You 
'must do as you please, but you needn't have been so 
cross." 

Helen's nerves were beginning to give way, and 
she went on childishly. " You act just as if we were 
going to be together always. Do you know that I 'm 
going away now, and not coming back any more ?" 

"Yes, Miss Helen." 

" And do you think this is the way to treat me at 
the last moment 1 Why don't you take the things V 

"I shouldn't wish to be under a compliment, Miss 
Helen." 

" What do you mean by being under a compli- 
ment I" 

"I shouldn't wish to be beholden." 

" Oh, you shouldn't wish, you shouldn't wish ! 
This is too bad !" whimpered Helen. " What am I 
but under a compliment to you, as you call it 1 I 
didn't think you 'd behave so at the last moment. 
But I see. You 're too proud for anything, and you 
never did care for me." 



94 A woman's reason. 

"Oh, Miss Helen!" 

" Yes ! And go to your cousin's, the quicker the 
better and have your own cross way. I 'in sure I 
don't care, if you '11 be the happier for it. I can tell 
you what you are, Margaret : you 're a silly goose, 
and you make every one hate you. The charm's 
broken between us, quite ; and I 'm glad of it." 

Margaret went out without saying anything, and 
Helen tried to go on with her dinner, but failed, and 
began her inventory again, and at last went to her 
room and dressed for her journey. She came down 
into the library just before starting, and rang for 
Margaret. When the cook appeared, the young girl 
suddenly threw her arms round her neck. " Good- 
bye," she sobbed out, "you good, old, wicked, foolish, 
stuck-up Margaret. I 'm glad you didn't come to the 
Butlers', it would have killed me to see you there ! 
Good-bye, gOod-bye ! Eemember your poor little 
Helen, Margaret, and come to see me ! I can't bear 
to look into the kitchen ! Say good-bye to it for me ! 
Oh my poor old slighted happy home ! Oh my home, 
my home, my home ! Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye !" 
She ran wildly through the well-known rooms, and 
bade them adieu with heart-breaking farewells ; she 
stooped down and kissed the lounge, on which her 
father used to lie, and spread out her empty arms 
upon it, and laid her homeless head where his had 
rested. At the sound of the bell she sprang up, and 
opened the door herself, and fled down the steps, and 
into the carriage, shrinking into the furthest corner, 
and thickly hiding her face under her black veiL 



A woman's reason. 95 

She seemed to herself part of a vast train of events, 
without control, without volition, save the will to 
obey. She did what she was bid, and the great 
movement went on. Somewhere must be arrest, 
somewhere repose, but as yet she could not foresee it, 
and she could only yield herself to the forces carrying 
her forward. She was going to the Butlers' because 
Captain Butler had told her to come; she had 
assented to everything he proposed because he had 
seemed to wish it ; but she felt that he was as power- 
less as she in the matter. If he had proposed every- 
thing of contrary effect, she must still have yielded 
the same. 

Captain Butler joined her at the station half-an- 
hour after she had left home, and just in time to step 
aboard the train with her. He was hot and looked 
vexed. When he got his breath a little, " Do you 
know," said he, " that old fool hasn't made any bills 1" 

" What old fool V asked Helen passively. 

" Margaret!" replied the Captain, with a burst. 
" Didn't you understand that she meant merely to 
refuse her wages for the last two weeks, when she 
said she wished to consider you her guest V 

" Why, yes," said Helen. 

"Well, she meant a great deal more," cried the 
Captain. "I've been round to the butcher and 
baker and all the rest, to settle their accounts, and I 
find that she 's paid for everything since we left you. 
But I shall have it out with her. It won't do. It 's 
ridiculous !" 

" Poor Margaret ! " said Helen softly. She under- 



96 A woman's reason. 

stood now the secret of Margaret's intolerable state- 
liness, and of her reluctance to mar her ideal of 
hospitality by accepting a reciprocal benefit. It was 
all very droll and queer, but so like Margaret that 
Helen did not want so much to laugh as to weep at it. 
She saw that Captain Butler was annoyed at the way 
she took the matter, and she thought he would have 
scolded her at any other time. She said very gently : 
" We must let her have her way about it, Captain 
Butler. You couldn't get her to take the money 
back, and you would only hurt her feelings if you 
tried. Perhaps I can do something for her some 
time." 

" Do you mean that you 're actually going to stand 
it, Helen?" 

" Yes, why not 1 It isn't as if anybody else did it 
for me any equal, you know. I can't feel that it 's 
a disgrace, from Margaret; and it will do her so 
much good you 've no idea how much. She 's been 
with us ever since I was born, and surely I may 
accept such a kindness from an old servant, rather 
than wound her queer pride." 

The Captain listened to these swelling words with 
dismay. This poor girl, at whose feet he saw desti- 
tution yawning, was taking life as she had always 
done, enprincesse. He wondered what possible con- 
ception she had formed of her situation. Sooner or 
later he must tell her what it was. 



V. 

Captain Butler believed that his old friend 
had died a bankrupt ; he represented the estate as 
insolvent, and the sale of the property took place at 
the earliest possible day. A red flannel flag, on 
which the auctioneer's name was lettered, was hung 
out from the transome above the front door, and at 
ten o'clock on a dull morning when the sea-turn was 
beginning to break in a thin, chilly rain, a long 
procession of umbrellas began to ascend the front 
steps, where Helen had paused to cast that look 
of haughty wonder after the retreating policeman. 
The umbrellas were of all qualities, from the silk 
that shuts into the slimness of a walking-stick, to 
the whity-brown, whale-bone ribbed family umbrella, 
under which the habitual auction-goer of a certain 
size and age repairs to her favourite amusement. 
Many of the people had a suburban look, and some 
even the appearance of having arrived by the Fitch- 
burg railroad ; but there was a large proportion of 
citizens, and a surprising number of fashionably 
dressed ladies, who, nevertheless, did not seem to 
be of that neighbourhood ; they stared curiously 
about them, as if they had now for the first time 

G 



98 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

entered a house there. They sat down in the sad 
old parlour, and looked up at the pictures and the 
general equipment of the room with the satisfied air 
of not finding it after all any better than their own. 
One large and handsome woman, whose person 
trembled and twinkled all over with black bugles, 
stood in the middle of the floor, and had the effect 
of stamping upon the supposed pride of the place. 
People were prowling all over the house, from cellar 
to garret, peering into closets and feeling of walls 
and doors; several elderly women in feeble health 
were to be met at the turns of the stairways, pressing 
their hands against their chests, and catching their 
breath with difficulty. Few, apparently, of the con- 
course had come to buy ; but when the sale began 
they densely thronged the rooms in which the bidding 
successively went on, and made it hard for one 
another to get out of the packed doorways. The 
whole morning long the auctioneer intoned his chant 
of "A half, and a half and half, do-I-hear-the-three- 
quarters?" varied with a quick "Sold/" as from time 
to time he knocked off this lot or that. The cheaper 
carpets, chairs, beds, and tables were bought for the 
most part by certain fading women who bid with a 
kind of reluctant greed, and got together each her 
store of those mismated moveables which characterise 
furnished lodgings. They wore cheap camel's hair 
wraps and thread gloves ; others, who seemed poor 
mothers of families, showed their black stubbed 
finger-tips, pressed anxiously together outside the 
edges of imitation India shawls, and bid upon the 



A woman's reason. 99 

kitchen crockery. The Copleys were bought, as 
Captain Butler had expected, by the Museum of Fine 
Arts ; the other paintings were bought by men who 
got them low to sell again, and in whose ruinous 
bazaars they were destined to consort with second- 
hand refrigerators and strips of dusty carpeting. 

Captain Butler would gladly have stayed away 
from the auction, but his duty in the matter was not 
to be avoided. Helen had given him a list of things 
to be reserved from the sale, which she had made 
out under two heads. The first was marked "For 
self," and this was very short, and easily managed 
by setting the things aside before the sale began. 
But the list of articles " To be given away," was on 
a scale which troubled the Captain's conscience, while 
it forlornly amused him, by its lavish generosity ; 
the girl had done charity to an extent that wronged 
the creditors of the estate, and that put it quite 
beyond Captain Butler's power to humour her unwit- 
ting munificence by purchasing the things to give 
away. He used a discretion with which he invested 
himself, to put all the valuable articles up at the sale, 
and bestowed in charity only the cheaper matters on 
Helen's list. Even then, the auction was an expen- 
sive affair to him. He was unable to let certain 
things, with which he* intimately associated his old 
friend, pass into the hands of strangers, especially 
things connected with the India trade. He bought 
the Chinese vases and bronze monsters, the terra 
cotta statues and ivory carvings, the outlandish 
weapons, and Oriental bricabrac, which in the age 



100 A woman's reason. 

of Eastlake mantel-shelves, then setting in with 
great severity, he discovered to be in great request. 

His dismay increased as these costly and worthless 
treasures accumulated upon his hands, for his house 
was already full of them, to the utmost capacity of 
its closets and out-of-the-way corners. Besides, he 
laid himself open to the suspicion of bidding in, and 
remained under that doubt with many. He had 
a haughty way of outbidding that stood him in no 
good stead, and went far to convince the crowd that 
all the sales to him were sham. 

The auction, which began in the basement, as- 
cended through the several stories, wandering from 
room to room till it reached the remotest attic 
chamber. Then, all the personal property had been 
sold, and it descended again to the first floor, where 
the crowd was already much thinner than at first, 
and was composed mainly of respectable-looking 
citizens who had come to bid on the house, or to 
see how much it would bring. The fashionably- 
dressed women were gone; it was not long before 
the last auction-goer's whity-brown umbrella, ex- 
panded after the usual struggle, went down the front 
steps, and round the next corner. The auctioneer 
took his stand in the parlour before the pier-glass, 
into which Helen looked that day to see whether 
her trouble with Eobert had changed her, with thtf 
long windows of the swell-front on either side of 
him. He was a young man, eager to win his 
reputation. He had been praised to Captain Butler 
as a frightfully vulgar wretch, who could get him 



A WOMAN'S reason. 101 

more for the property than any other auctioneer 
in the city, and the Captain had taken him with 
certain misgivings. As he now confronted his 
respectable audience, he kept his hat a little aslant ; 
he had an unlighted cigar in his left hand, which 
he put into his mouth from time to time, and chewed 
upon nervously ; his eyes shone with a gross, 
humorous twinkle, and his whole face expressed 
a reckless audacity, and a willingness to take other 
people into the joke of life's being a swindle, anyway. 
" Gentlemen," he said, " I feel honoured in being 
the instrument, however humble, of offering this 
property to your consideration ; this old family 
mansion, rich in tradition and association, in the very 
heart of the most select quarter of Boston. You 
have already examined the house, gentlemen, from 
attic to cellar, you have seen that it is in perfect 
repair, and that it has no concealments to make 
* nothing extenuate nor aught set down in malice/ 
as our coloured brother says in the play. I will 
not insult your intelligence, gentlemen, by dwelling 
upon its entire soundness. Built forty years ago, 
it is this day a better house than the day its founda- 
tions were laid better than nine-tenths of the 
gaudy and meretricious conceptions of modern archi- 
tecture. Plain, substantial, soberly elegant, these, 
gentlemen, are its virtues, which, like 

' A bold peasantry, their country's pride, 
When once destroyed, can never be supplied.' 

Gentlemen, I will not ask your attention to the eligible 



102 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

position of the house. I see none but Boston faces 
here, and I am proud to take it for granted that you 
need no instructions from me upon this point. When 
I say that this is one of the best sites on Beacon 
Hill, I say everything. You know the value of the 
location, you know the character of the social sur- 
roundings, you know what I mean, and all that I 
mean. I do not appeal to strangers here. I appeal 
to the old Boston blood, animated by a generous 
affection for our city and its history, and unwilling 
to see dishonour cast upon her by the sale, even in 
these ruinous times, of a property in her midst at 
less than its full value. Gentlemen, I feel that you 
will stand by me in this matter; and I have the 
pleasure of opening the sale with a bid of $10,000. 
Is this so, Mr. Wetherall? " 

The gentleman addressed, in the midst of the 
laughing crowd, nodded slightly. 

The auctioneer looked keenly at the faces in an 
irregular semicircle before him. " With a bid of 
$10,000 from Mr. Wetherall," he resumed. "Mr. 
Wetherall, gentlemen, does not want the property, 
and he does not dream of getting it at a sixth or 
seventh in any other times I should say a tenth 
of its value. But he does not choose that it shall be 
disgraced by the offer of anyignobler sum ; and, gentle- 
men, if Mr. Wetherall had not made this bid I should 
have made it myself in good faith. I am offered 
ten thousand, ten thousand, ten thous eleven, from 
Mr. Wheeler. You don't want the property either, 
Mr. Wheeler, but I thank you nevertheless. Eleven, 



A woman's reason. 103 

eleven, eleven do I hear the twelve 1 Twelve from 
Mr. White. The W.'s are doing well, but we must 
mount higher yet in the alphabet. Twelve, do I 
hear the thirteen 1 Five hundred ! Thanks : twelve 
five, twelve five thirteen. Going at thirteen, at 
thirteen fourteen ! This is something like, gentle- 
men ; this is very good as a genteel relaxation ; four- 
teen has its merits as part of the joke ; but, gentle- 
men, we must not give too much time to it. We 
must come to business, before long ; we must indeed. 
I am willing to accept these ironical bids for the 
present, but fifteen, did you say, Mr. Newell] 
Thank you for fifteen. I am offered fifteen, fifteen, 
fifteen, by an eminent American humorist ; fifteen, 
fifteen, going at fifteen % Oh come, gentlemen ! 
Some one say twenty, and let the sale begin seriously" 
Nobody had bidden twenty, but at that moment a 
greedy-eyed, nervous little man, with a hot air of 
having hurried to arrive, wedged his way through 
the people who filled the doorway, and entered the 
opener space inside with a bid of five hundred. A 
roar of laughter rewarded his ardour, and the 
auctioneer instantly went on : " Twenty thousand, 
five ; twenty thousand, five. Now we are really 
warming to the work. We have reached the point 
at which blood begins to tell. Twenty thousand, 
five from Mr. Everton do I hear the twenty- one % 
Yes, right again ; I do hear the twenty-one, and 
from Mr. Newell, who redeems his reputation from 
the charge of elegant trifling, and twenty-two from 
Mr. White, who also perceives that the time for 



104 A woman's reason. 

jesting is past. Going at twenty-two, at twenty-two, 
twenty-two ! Do I hear twenty-three ? No, only 
twenty-two, three ; I regret to say it is only twenty- 
two, three." 

A quick succession of small bids now ran the sum 
up to twenty-four thousand, at which point it hung 
in spite of all the devices of the auctioneer to urge it 
beyond. " Going, going, going," he swung his right 
hand threatingly above the open palm of his left 
" going to Mr. White at twenty-iour thousand dollars ! 
Are you all done I* He scanned the crowd, and 
pierced it to the outer circle with his audacious glance. 
"Going at twenty-four thousand dollars to Mr. 
White. Are you all done, twice % Are you all done, 
three times 1 Going once, going twice, going 
Gentlemen," said the auctioneer, putting his cigar 
in his mouth and his thumbs in his waistcoat-pockets, 
and addressing them in a low, impassioned tone, 
" Gentlemen, it 's no money for it ! I should feel 
ashamed, personally disgraced, if this property went 
for such a sum. I should know that it was owing to 
some fault of mine, some failure on my part to im- 
press its value upon you. But I have trusted to your 
own sagacity, to your own intelligence, to the fact 
that you are all Boston men, and thoroughly ac- 
quainted with the prices of adjacent property, and 
the worth of this. I may have deceived myself; but 
I appeal to you now, gentlemen, not to let me suffer 
by the confidence I have reposed in you. My pro- 
fessional repute is in your hands. If this estate goes 
at $24,000 I am a ruined man." A general laugh, in 



A WOMAN'S reason. 105 

which the auctioneer himself joined so far as to smile, 
met this appeal. He ran his eye over the assembly. 
Suddenly he exclaimed, " Thank you, Mr. Everton ! 
Was it twenty-six!" He leaned forward over his 
desk, and beamed with a flattering gratitude upon 
the new-comer. 

" No, twenty-four, fifty," replied Mr. Everton in a 
weak, dry voice. 

"Thank you all the same, Mr. Everton. You are 
none the less my preserver. Thank you for twenty- 
four, fifty. We breathe again. Twenty-four, fifty, 
do I hear the five ] Twenty-four, fifty, will 
you give me the five? Twenty-five, very good, 
twenty-five thousand, twenty-five, twenty-five just 
one-fourth of the worth of the estate in prosperous 
times. Now let me hear the twenty-six ! Gentle- 
men," said the auctioneer, again breaking from his 
chant, and lowering his voice to the colloquial tone, 
"you all know the old story of the sibyl and her 
books : how, when she came with nine copies in the 
first instance, she asked a sum which struck the 
officials as a fancy price ; how she went away and 
burnt three of the edition and then asked twice the 
original price for the six ; and how, when she had 
burnt three more, they were glad to take the rest off 
her hands at her own terms. We have here a 
parallel case." 

" Don't see the parallel," said one of the crowd. 

"Don't you, Mr. Kogers? Well, you will, pre- 
sently, when you 've failed to buy this property for 
half the money that you 'd be glad to offer the pur- 



106 A woman's reason. 

chaser for his bargain. Do I hear twenty-six from 
you, Mr. Eogers 1 " Mr. Rogers laughed and nodded. 
"Twenty-six it is from Mr. Rogers. Twenty-six, 
twenty-six, twenty-six, will you give me the seven V s 
He went on crying this sum in varying tones of exulta- 
tion, reproach, and persuasion for several minutes. 
Again and again he brought himself to the point of 
knocking off the house at that price, and then retired 
from it upon some fresh pretence of having heard a 
higher bid. But none came, or could be made to 
seem to have come ; every one to whom he turned 
with a questioning look shook his head in prompt 
denial. The auctioneer's mobile countenance took 
on an air of deep discouragement. He threw aside 
his mallet, and pulled down his waistcoat. " I won't 
sell this property at that price. I suppose there are 
men in this city who would do it, but / won't. Captain 
Butler, I should like a word with you." He came 
down from his perch, and retiring to a corner with 
the Captain talked with him in a dumb show of bitter 
and passionate appeal. When he again mounted to 
his place, he wore a look of grim despair. " Well, 
gentlemen, I have done my best to persuade Captain 
Butler to withdraw the property, and stop this bloody 
sacrifice." The crowd laughed and the auctioneer's 
eye twinkled. " But he feels bound by the terms of 
his notice to you to let the sale proceed. The pro- 
perty will be sold without reserve. Now let us see 
whether you will meet him in the same magnanimous 
spirit." Captain Butler looked on in blank amaze 
while this statement was making; but an intenser 



A WOMAN'S reason. 107 

surprise was painted upon the face of Mr. Wetherall 
as the auctioneer proceeded : " Twenty-seven, twenty- 
seven." 

" Twenty-six was the last bid," said a bystander. 

" i&ccuse me, sir," retorted the auctioneer severely, 
" I don't think I deceived myself in a nod from my 
friend Mr. Wetherall. Twenty-seven ! " 

Mr. Wetherall seemed struggling to open his 
petrified mouth in protest, when Mr. Everton quickly 
bid twenty-seven five hundred. Mr. Wetherall 
turned sharply upon him and bid twenty-eight. 
The keen auctioneer scented their rivalry, and played 
upon it so artfully that in five minutes the property 
was going at thirty thousand to Mr. Everton. He 
came to the third going, in his thrice-repeated warn- 
ing, when he once more paused, and leaning forward, 
bent a look of pitying incredulity upon the faces 
before him. " Gentlemen," he asked in an accent of 
soft reproach, " is this Boston ? " 

His audience again roared their pleasure, and the 
auctioneer, leaving his place, stepped forward and 
personally approached several gentlemen of the group 
in a conversational tone. " Mr. Wetherall, am I 
going to have nothing more from you 1 Mr. White, 
what do you say % You know this house is worth 
more than thirty thousand, and whoever buys it will 
have a dozen people after him to-morrow offering to 
take his bargain off his hands at an advance. Mr. 
Merritt, we haven't heard from you at all yet, 
I believe. You've been enjoying the show for 
nothing : it isn't your custom to dead-head yourself 



108 A WOMAN'S reason. 

on these occasions. And you, sir, I can't call your 
name, but I know your face; I 've seen it in State 
Street often can't I get a bid out of you 1 " The 
gentleman addressed coloured, and shrank further 
back in the crowd. The auctioneer smiled in perfect 
good-humour, and turned away for another word 
with Captain Butler in private. 

" Captain," he whispered, " Mr. Everton is going 
to buy this property. Do you think he will stand 
another five thousand 1 " 

Captain Butler, who seemed in a sort of daze, 
said, " I don't believe he will. But if you " 

" I '11 get it," said the auctioneer briskly, and re- 
turned to his work, into which he struck with a sudden 
and startling energy. " Going at thirty thousand, 
go . Thirty-one, thirty-one, thirty-one; at thirty- 
two; thirty- two, five ; thirty-three, thirty-three and 
five; thirty-four !" He clashed off the bids with a 
rapid confidence that would have inspired belief in the 
most sceptical. Mr. Wetherall bid thirty-four thou- 
sand five hundred, and was instantly topped by Mr. 
Everton at thirty-five. " Thirty-five, thirty-five, 
thirty-five," cried the auctioneer, "going at thirty- 
five thousand, going, going, going, and sold given 
away to Mr. Everton ! " 

Mr. Everton came forward, with a half-frightened 
look, and laid down the money necessary to secure 
his purchase, and received a provisional deed of the 
property. 

"Look here !" said Captain Butler, as soon as he 
could get the auctioneer aside, " I didn't hear any of 



A woman's reason. 109 

these bids till Wetherall's last." The Captain looked 
troubled and unhappy. 

The auctioneer laid a re-assuring hand upon his 
shoulder. " You haven't got a practised ear, Captain 
Butler, I have. Mr. Everton has got a great bar- 
gain. But it was hard, working up to that final 
point." 



VI. 

" What perplexed me the most about it," said the 

Captain to Mrs. Butler, when he came home the day 

after the sale, "was that the auctioneer had so 

misrepresented his first talk with me. He never 

asked me to withdraw the property at all ; he knew 

I couldn't; he merely offered to bet me that he 

would get thirty thousand for it. Well! I don't 

see what I could do about it. I couldn't have 

proved that the bids were fictitious, and the attempt 

to try would have made a great scandal. That 's the 

way Hibbard looks at it ; I went to him for advice ; 

I put the case to him, and he says that there 's no 

way of going back of the fact, for the auctioneer 

would swear, to save himself, that he heard the bids, 

or thought he did. Most probably he did ; it was all 

confusion; and my not having heard them proves 

nothing at all. Besides, Everton was not obliged 

to bid thirty-five thousand, and he did get a great 

bargain. The property is worth fifty, in any decent 

times. And that extra five thousand is a perfect 

godsend for Helen, poor girl ! It 's all she '11 have 

in the world. I tell you, my dear, I haven't had 

many things in life that gave me more satisfaction 
110 



A WOMAN'S REASON. Ill 

than meeting the principal creditors to-day. You 
see, when I looked into his affairs with Joshua the 
day he died I was very badly discouraged. They 
were all in confusion; he seemed to have lost his 
grip of them; I suppose it was his failing health, 
but he couldn't make head or tail of anything; and 
when I was appointed administrator I reported the 
estate insolvent. It was precipitate " 

"It was like you, my dear," said Mrs. Butler. 
" You never believe that anything is wrong till you 
believe that everything is wrong." 

" Well, well very likely," returned the Captain. 
"I had what I thought very good reasons for my 
course. But afterwards I set a shrewd hand at work 
on the books, and we found out that things were 
very much better, as I told you at the time. When 
a man's affairs are in such confusion as Joshua's, the 
confusion is usually against him, but in this case it 
was mostly for him. There wasn't a day after I 
reported the estate insolvent that the case didn't 
brighten. If it had been any other case, I should 
have been mortified at the way things turned out. 
To be sure, I didn't believe there 'd be anything for 
Helen, but before the sale I saw that unless the 
property went for nothing the estate would pay all 
Joshua's debts, dollar for dollar. This morning we 
called a meeting of the creditors. They had the 
notion they were going to lose, and they were 
prepared for that. When I told them how matters 
really stood they were tremendously taken aback. 
But they had behaved very handsomely all along, 



112 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

out of respect for Joshua's memory, and they came 
out strong now about him, and said such things 
well, /can't tell you," said the Captain. "But," he 
added confusedly, "I wish Harkness could have 
been there !" 

" Perhaps he was," said Mrs. Butler devoutly. 

"Eh?" cried the Captain sharply. "Ah! Yes! 
Well, perhaps. Old Eogers asked me to wait a 
minute, and they had a little confabulation among 
themselves, and then Eogers came forward and asked 
if there would be anything left for Helen. Then I 
told them the estate had yielded $5000 more than 
the indebtedness, so far as I knew of it ; and we had 
congratulations all round, and if Joshua had been 
alive to resume, he might have started business again 
on a better basis than ever he had in his life. I wish 
confound it ! I could be sure about those bids." 

"Why, my dear !" cried his wife, "you talk as if some 
fraud had been really committed. Can't you look at 
it as Mr. Hibbard does % Probably the man did hear 
the bids. He wouldn't have dared to pretend that he 
heard them ; it wouldn't have been safe for him." 

"No," said the Captain thoughtfully. "Why, of 
course not," he added briskly, after a moment. " Of 
course you're right about it. He wouldn't have 
dared. Where 's Helen 1 " 

He went down and found Helen on the rocks. by ' 
the sea, where she often strayed apart from the 
others; they did not follow her, they respected 
her right to what solitude she would. Her sorrow 
was no longer a thing of tears and sobs; but it 



A woman's reason. 113 

was no more comprehensible than at first; her 
bereavement still seemed the one great unreasoned 
fact of the universe. She turned the pathos of 
her bewildered smile upon the Captain, as she heard 
him climbing the rocks behind her, and rose to 
meet him. 

" No, sit down," he said. " I want to have a little 
talk with you, Helen, as your man of business." 

" You're my man of business as as papa was," 
said Helen, with a grateful look. 

" Thank you, my dear, for that," answered the 
Captain " I 've only tried to do what he would 
have done for my girls. I don't know, my dear, 
whether I had ever given you the idea that your 
father was in embarrassed circumstances V 

" yes; I knew that," said Helen. 

" Well, we won't enlarge upon the fact. It isn't 
necessary. Would you like me to go into particulars 
about the settlement of the estate 1 " 

" No," answered Helen, "that isn't necessary either. 
I shouldn't be any the wiser if you did. Tell me 
whatever you think I ought to know, Captain 
Butler." 

"I was very much afraid, my dear," said the 
Captain, " when I began to look into your father's 
affairs that there would be nothing, or worse than 
nothing, left." This did not seem to affect Helen as 
a matter of personal concern, and the Captain went 
on : " There was a time when I was afraid that the 
creditors would not get more than seventy-five per 
cent, of their money, and might be very glad to get 

H 



114 A WOMAN'S EEASON. 

that." Helen looked round at the Captain with a 
quick glance, as if here were something that touched 
her. " But as I got along towards the bottom, 
things looked better, and I saw that unless the sale 
turned out very badly, we should save ourselves. 
The sale turned out far beyond my expectations. 
Helen," cried the Captain, " the prospect now is that 
I shall pay up every cent that your father owed in 
the world, and have some five thousand dollars left 
for you." 

" Oh, Captain Butler !" 

" It isn't a great sum " 

" It 's more than I dared to dream of !" 

" But if it 's carefully handled, it can be made to 
go a great way." 

" Oh, it 's ample, ample ! But I don't care for 
that. What I think of and I feel like going down 
on my knees for it is that no one loses anything 
by papa. He would rather have died than wronged 
any one, and that any one should have suffered 
by him after he was helpless to repair the wrong, 
that would have been more than the bitterness 
of death to- me. Oh, I 'm so happy about this, 
Captain Butler; you can't think how much more of 
a comfort it is than anything else could have been ! " 

" You 're a good girl, Helen," said the Captain, 
with a reverent fondness ; " you 're your father's 
girl, my dear. He would have died a rich man if 
he had not stood by people whom he knew to be in 
a bad way, because they had helped him long ago, 
when it was no risk for them to do so." 



A woman's REASON. 115 

"He was right !" cried Helen. "He would not 
have been papa if he had done less." 

" I should not have said he was right," said Cap- 
tain Butler, "if he had not believed that he had 
already put you beyond want. He had insured his 
life for twenty-five thousand dollars in the Metro- 
politan Reciprocal ; but that went to pieces two 
years ago." 

"That's nothing. I couldn't have managed so 
much money," promptly answered Helen. " The five 
thousand will be enough, and more than enough, for 
my utmost desires. I 'm not extravagant. I can get 
on with very little, and this is wildly abundant." 

The Captain, from rejoicing in her mood, suddenly 
looked aghast, as if a terrible idea had presented 
itself. " You understand, Helen," he said, " that it 
will be some time yet six months at least before I 
can place the money due you at your disposal. It 
isn't certainly due you till all the creditors have had 
full notice to present their claims, and these have 
been passed upon by the commissioners." 

" Oh, that makes no difference," said Helen. 
"I 'm iiTno haste for the money." 

" And you understand," pursued the Captain, as 
if this were really the point he wished to insist on, 
" that it is only fiye thousand I* 

"0 yes, I understand perfectly," quickly an- 
swered the girl, and then she stopped, and cast a 
keen glance at the Captain, without, however, seem- 
ing to perceive his chopfallen aspect : she was, 
perhaps, looking deeper. 



116 A woman's reason. 

"You haven't brought any more letters for me, 
I suppose V she said. 

" No, I must have got everything the last time," 
replied the Captain. " I went carefully through all 
the drawers again before the sale began." 

" I shall ask you to take care of those law-papers 
for me, Captain Butler ; I don't know what to do 
with them. The letters were all recent ones. I 
thought there might have been some old ones. Not 
that I have missed any. But you did sometimes 
lose home letters when you were off on those long 
voyages of yours, didn't you ? " 

"No, very few," the Captain responded. "We 
get them nearly all, sooner or later." 

"But sometimes they had to wander about after 
you?" 

"Yes, sometimes. And sometimes they waited." 

"It must have been terribly distressing," said 
Helen, " to wait for them." 

" Well," returned the Captain, " that depended a 
good deal on whom the letter was from." Helen 
flushed a little. "There were some letters that I 
shouldn't have cared if I 'd never got. But, generally 
speaking, the fellows in the navy had the advantage 
of us in the merchant service." 

" I don't see why," said Helen. 

" Oh, their letters were addressed to them through 
the Navy Department, and of course they came the 
straightest and safest way. I recollect once at Singa- 
pore," and the Captain went on with much circum- 
stance to give a case in point. Helen had furnished 



A woman's reason. 117 

him a thread of associations which the Captain 
never willingly dropped. She listened at first 
with interest, then patience, then respect. At last 
she said it was getting a little chilly, and Captain 
Butler agreed that it was. They went back to the 
house together, and parted on the piazza, where 
Helen paused a moment to say : " I haven't thanked 
you, Captain Butler, because it seemed no use to try. 
Where should I end?" 

" Don't begin," said the Captain, with the smile 
which he kept for Helen ; she was as dear to him as 
his own daughters, and just strange enough to be a 
colour of romance in his thoughts. It always 
astonished him, and slightly abashed him that she 
should be a young lady; she had so long been a 
little girl. 

She looked fondly into his kind eyes. " It is too 
much too much !" she cried, and slipped away with 
a fallen head. 

The words made the Captain think of the money 
again, and the smile went and the trouble came 
back to his face, as he walked away to find his wife. 

" Well?" said Mrs. Butler. 

" Catharine," said the Captain, " I 'm afraid she 
thinks it 's five thousand a year." 

" no, she doesn't ! " pleaded his wife. 

" Yes, she does, my dear. She spoke of it as an 
enormous sum, and I hadn't the courage to make the 
thing clear. I began to, and then gave it up. I 
don't see what's to be done about it. I'm afraid 
it 's going to be a dreadful blow when she finds out 



118 A woman's reason. 

what it really is." Captain Butler looked ruefully 
at his wife. 

"I think you 're mistaken," said Mrs. Butler. " It 's 
her ignorance of money, that makes her think of five 
thousand, and not the income from it j but as you 've 
raised the doubt she must be told that it is not five 
thousand a year, and she must be told just how 
much it is." The Captain groaned. " But you 
needn't tell her, John. You 've gone through quite 
enough. / will tell her." 

Captain Butler looked ashamed, but relieved. 
" Well, my dear, I must let you. It 's shirking, but 
I can't help it. You can manage it better than I 
can. When I think of telling that poor child how 
very little better than a beggar she is, my tongue 
turns to a chip in my mouth." 
, " Yes, it 's hard. But suppose she 'd had nothing 1 " 

" Then something better than this might have 
been done with the creditors. Some were old 
friends. But you can't ask people to help a girl 
who has five thousand dollars. It sounds pre- 
posterous." 

"I doubt whether Helen would have allowed herself 
to be helped in that way if she had known it, and how 
could it have been kept from her 1 " Mrs. Butler 
rose to go to another room. 

" Catharine," asked the Captain, "was it at Singa- 
pore that I got that first letter of yours, after it 
had chased me round so long V 

"No; it was at Cape Town," said Mrs. Butler. 
"Why?" 



A WOMAlfs REASON. 119 

" I told Helen it was at Singapore." 

" How in the world came you to be talking to 
Helen of our old love-letters, my dear I? 

" Oh, she was asking if letters to the East didn't 
often get lost. I don't know why she should have 
happened to ask. But she did." 

" I suppose," said Mrs. Butler simply, " she is 
going to write to Robert Fenton." 

A light dawned upon Captain Butler ; he laughed 
in a shamefaced way, and then he frowned a little. 
" Why didn't she ask me outright which was the 
best way to address him V 

" How could she 1 She couldn't have asked her 
own father. You wouldn't have wished your own 
daughter to do it." 

" Yes, I should," defiantly answered the Captain. 

" Well, she wouldn't," replied Mrs. Butler. The 
Captain was silenced, but not satisfied. He suffered 
Mrs. Butler to go, but remained still with that duped 
smile, and did not half like it. 

That night Helen came rather late and tapped at 
Mrs. Butler's door. " It 's I Helen Mrs. Butler. 
Can I speak with you?" 

" Yes, come in, Helen." 

She pushed in impetuously. " I came to ask 
Captain Butler's pardon for the mean little intriguing 
way I got out of him how to address a letter to 
Robert Fenton. He must have told you ! " 

" He said you asked him if his letters from home 
weren't lost sometimes," said Mrs. Butler, with a 
little smile. " / understood, my dear," she added, 



120 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

leaning forward to smooth Helen's hair, where she 
had sunk on the cricket at her feet. " It was a 
perfectly natural thing." 

" yes, only too natural with me ! But I hate 
and detest all that beating round the bush, in me, 
even when I 'm doing it ; and what I came for now, 
Mrs. Butler, is to ask you how I had better write to 
Eobert." Neither found anything worthy of remark 
in this second avowal of purpose, which might be 
said in a manner to supersede the first. " If it 
hadn't been for my wretched shilly-shallying ways, I 
shouldn't have to write to him at all. But now I 
must. There is something something that I must 
tell him for his own sake, and for his peace of 
mind. For if a person hates any one, especially if 
it 's through a mistake, I don't think we ought to let 
any foolish pride interfere; do you, Mrs. Butler?" 

" No, Helen," said Mrs. Butler, with perfect intel- 
ligence. 

"That's what I think too, and it would be per- 
fectly easy more than easy to write and tell him 
that, and take the consequences, whatever they were. 
You see it is just this : we had a quarrel before he 
went away, or not a quarrel, but a misunderstand- 
ing ; that is, he misunderstood and he was so vexed 
with me that he wouldn't come to say good-bye. I 
don't care for that. He did perfectly right. But 
what I can't forgive is his not trying to see papa, 
and bid him good-bye. I can't bear to have him 
think any longer that I was trifling with him, and 
yet I can't write to him, when I think of the way he 



A woman's reason. 121 

treated papa. It seems very bad-hearted in him. 
Of course, I didn't see how he could have borne to 
see papa under the circumstances, and feeling the 
way he did towards me ; and, of course, if papa had 
lived it would have been different, and if it hadn't 
been for me, I know Kobert wouldn't have done it, 
for he's one of the best and kindest " Helen 
stopped, and Mrs. Butler waited a moment before 
she answered. 

"Did you ever think, Helen, that Robert loved 
your father like not like you, not like a daughter 
but like a son % " 

" Why, papa had always been a father to him !" 
cried Helen. " Why shouldn't he 1 " 

"And were you never remiss with your father, 
because you trusted that somehow, sometime, the 
love you felt for him would more than make it up to 
him?" 

" Oh, a thousand times !" cried Helen, bowing her 
head on Mrs. Butler's knees. 

The pale hand continued to stroke her hair. 
" That's a risk we all take with those we love. It's 
an earnest of something hereafter, perhaps. But for 
this world it isn't safe. Go, and write your letter, 
my dear, and give Robert all our love." 

Mrs. Butler leaned forward, and kissed the beautiful 
head good-night, and Helen, after a silent embrace, 
went back to her room again. It was easy now to 
write the letter which she had found so hard before, 
and a deep peace was in her heart when she read it 
over, and found no shadow of resentment or unkind- 



122 A woman's reason. 

ness in it. She was glad to have abased herself so 
utterly before him, to have put herself so completely 
in his power. Now he might do as he pleased, but 
he never could have it to say that he had misunder- 
stood her, or that he had cause to think her proud 
or cruel. 

" Dear Robert," the letter ran, "it is five weeks 
now since papa died. I wrote you a line to tell you 
the sad news as soon as I could bring myself to put it 
in words, and I suppose you will get that letter before 
this reaches you. But for fear that it may fail (I 
sent you a newspaper with the account, too), I will 
tell you again, that it was very sudden, and while I 
was away here at Beverley, where he expected to 
join me in a day or two. It was at his office ; 
Captain Butler was there with him. I thought I 
could tell you more about it; but I cannot. He 
died of a disease of the heart. I will send a cutting 
from another newspaper that will tell you more. 

"The day before papa died I told him every- 
thing about that last letter I wrote you, and he 
took your part. The last words he spoke of you 
were full of affection and sympathy. I thought you 
would like to know this. You were mistaken about 
that letter. Read it again, and see if it doesn't mean 
something different. But I 'm afraid you tore it up 
in your disgust with me. Well, then, I must tell 
you. / did love you all the time. There, I don't 
care what you think of me. You can't think less of 
me than I do. 

" The house has been sold, and everything in it. 



A woman's reason. 123 

Papa did not leave a will, but I know he would have 
liked you to have his watch, and I am keeping that 
for you. 

" I am with the Butlers at Beverley. They have 
been everything to me, and are everything. 

"Helen." 

In Helen's tall hand it took three sheets of note- 
paper to hold this letter ; the paper was very thin, 
but she put on a double postage to make perfectly 
sure, and she kept the letter till she went up to 
Boston, and then posted it herself in the general 
post-office. 



VII. 

Helen had been three weeks at the Butlers', and, 
in spite of their goodness, which guarded her free- 
dom, as well as all her wishes, she began to feel a con- 
straint which she could not throw off. Life had 
come to a pause with her, and when it should move 
forward it must be seriously, and even sadly; and 
she was morbidly conscious that she somehow 
clogged the joyous march of Marian Butler's days. 
There had been an effort to keep out of her sight 
the preparations for the wedding, till she had pro- 
tested against it, and demanded to see every dress. 
But this very demand emphasised the dark difference 
between her fate and her friend's, and Marian was 
apologetically happy in Helen's presence, however 
they both tried to have it otherwise. Once Marian 
had explained with tears that she would like to put 
it off for Helen's sake, if she could, but the time of 
the marriage had been fixed with regard to so many 
other matters that it could not be postponed. Helen 
had answered that Marian made her very wretched 
talking of such a thing, and that she must go at once 
if Marian spoke of it again. They had embraced 
with perfect tenderness and sympathy, and Helen 

124 



A woman's reason. 125 

had remained with the helpless feeling of her incon- 
gruity in a house of rejoicing. It seemed to her 
intolerable that she must bring her sorrow thither ; 
she suffered till she could get away with it ; all they 
did to make her feel at ease could only heighten her 
trouble. She had waited with a painful patience till 
the Captain should report to her on the settlement 
of her father's affairs, and she could begin to shape 
her future ; now that he had spoken she need wait 
no longer. 

She found Mrs. Butler in the parlour the morning 
after she had written to Kobert. 

"Mrs. Butler," she said, "I want you to let me 
go away next week." 

"I can't bear to have you talk of leaving us, 
Helen !" cried Mrs. Butler, with a wistful trouble in 
her eyes and voice, yet as if she had expected this. 

" Yes, I know," returned Helen, " but I must go. 
It 's foolish and useless to keep staying on ; and now 
that I 've made up my feeble mind about it, don't try 
to stop me." 

" Helen," said Mrs. Butler, " don't go ! We all 
want you to stay. We want you to go to Europe 
with us to be our guest, our child. Put away your 
scruples, my dear I understand them, and honour 
them and go with us." 

" You know I can't, Mrs. Butler." 

"But if your father had been living, you would 
have felt free to accept our invitation." 

" Perhaps. But it would have been different then. 
Don't press me." 



126 A woman's keason. 

" I 'm sorry, Helen," sighed Mrs. Butler. " I won't 
press you. But stay with us, my dear. It does us 
good to have you. Mr. Butler and I often talk of 
it ; we all feel it. Say that you '11 stay till we go 
away, and then we '11 feel as if we had parted 
because we must." Helen was standing before Mrs. 
Butler, who had the girl's hands in hers, as she sat 
in her easy-chair, and looked up into her evasive 
face. 

" No," said Helen, gently taking away her hands, 
and sitting down near the other, " I couldn't. Don't 
let us deceive ourselves. I 'm a shadow in the house ; 
we all know it, and feel it. Nobody's to blame, 
nobody can help it," she added quickly, to stay a 
protest from Mrs. Butler, "but it's true. You 
see how I have to take my blackness out of the 
room when your friends come ; I give them a pain- 
ful shock when they catch sight of me ; it checks 
the pleasant things they would like to say ; and I 
hate myself for glooming about the house in secret ; 
I feel that I must cast a shadow on them even 
through the walls and floors." 

" Helen, dear, there 's no friend we have who is so 
precious to us as you are ! " 

" yes yes ! I know how kind you are. But 
you see it can't be. I should have to go away at the 
time of the wedding, and you had better let me go 
before." 

" Go away at the time of Marian's wedding ? Not 
be Why, Helen!" 

"Yes. Think, Mrs. Butler! It couldn't be." 



A woman's reason. 127 

Mrs. Butler was silent. " I shouldn't care for myself, 
and I know you wouldn't care for yourselves ; but 
the others have some rights which we mustn't over- 
look. I should throw a chill over everything. I 
couldn't endure that, and you can't persuade me, 
Mrs. Butler; you mustn't try." 

Mrs. Butler looked really disconsolate. Helen 
was right ; there was no possibility of gainsaying her, 
much less of outreasoning her ; and Mrs. Butler was 
one of those feminine temperaments, rather commoner 
in New England than elsewhere, whom a good reason 
absolutely silences : they may not often have it 
themselves, but their reverence for truth and a clear 
conclusion is such that they must bow to it in others. 
The most that she could say was, "But you will 
come back to us afterwards, Helen 1 You will come 
after Marian is gone, to comfort us, won't you % It 
will be a month before we shall sail, and we should 
so like to have you with us. We shall not be gay 
ourselves, then, and you will feel more at home. I 
won't oppose you now, dear, but you '11 promise me 
that !" 

" Yes," answered Helen, " I '11 come back, then, if 
you want me." 

"And where are you going, now % Where do you 
mean to stay 1 " 

"I don't know. I thought I should go to the 
Miss Amys you remember them, don't you 1 and 
ask them to let me stay with them for the present. 
I know they sometimes take people to board." 

"O yes, I remember them on West Pomegranate 



128 A WOMAN'S reason. 

Street; one of those pleasant old houses, with the 
threshold level with the side-walk. It will be a 
good place," said Mrs. Butler, cheered with the 
thought. "You must let Mr. Butler arrange for 
you. He " 

" No," said Helen promptly j "lam not going to 
trouble Captain Butler any more. I must begin 
taking care of myself now, and I can't begin too 
soon. I have my own money, and I ought to know 
how to use it." Human nature is such a very simple 
as well as complex thing, that Helen could feel a 
childish pride in being absolute mistress of a certain 
sum, and for the moment could forget the loss that 
had endowed her with it. "I am going to be very 
saving of it, Mrs. Butler." She smiled, but the 
smile took away all hope from Mrs. Butler. She 
looked at Helen in despair, and did not know how 
to begin what she felt it on her conscience to say at 
once. 

" Oh, Helen ! " she broke out, and then checked 
herself. 

"What, Mrs. Butler V asked the girl, startled by 
her accent. 

"Oh, nothing ! I mean has Mr. Butler told you 
how much it is 1 " Mrs. Butler was ashamed of her 
flighty reluctance and indecision, and now took her- 
self firmly in hand. 

"Yes, it's five thousand dollars so much more 
than I ever " 

"Did you understand," interrupted Mrs. Butler, 
" that it 's only five thousand in all 1 Not not five 



A woman's reason. 129 

thousand a year 1 " Mrs. Butler was prepared for 
the worst dismay that Helen could show, but Helen 
showed none. On the contrary, she gave a little 
laugh. 

" Five thousand a year ? No indeed ! Why, Mrs. 
Butler, what have you been thinking of? That 
would be insanity." 

Mrs. Butler looked like one to whom the worst 
dismay might have been welcomer than this cheer- 
fulness : this might be a far more hopeless condition 
than the realisation of the fact that the sum of 
five thousand dollars was not a fortune ; Helen 
might be thinking it was. Mrs. Butler felt obliged 
to ask : "Do you know how much that will give 
you to live on I" 

"Not exactly," said Helen, "but not much, I 
suppose." 

Perhaps she thought a thousand a year. Mrs. 
Butler must still go on. "Some of Mr. Butler's 
Chicago mortgages bring him nine per cent. That 
would be five times ninety four hundred and 
fifty V 

"Oh, I should never send my money away to 
Chicago. I want it where I can put my hand on it 
at once. I shall deposit it in savings-banks like 
Margaret at six per cent., and then I shall get 
three hundred a year from it." 

" But, poor child ! you can't live upon that," 
Mrs. Butler besought her. 

" No, I must do something. I 'm determined never 
to encroach upon the principal, whatever happens. 



130 A woman's reason. 

Don't you think that 's the right way 1 I 've always 
heard that it 's perfectly ruinous to live upon your 
principal." 

Mrs. Butler could not combat these just concep- 
tions. " Have you thought what you shall do, 
Helen ?" she asked. 

"Yes, I 've been thinking about it nearly all night. 
I couldn't sleep, and I thought I might as well think. 
I couldn't decide. But one thing I have made up my 
mind I shall not do: I shall not paint holly- wood 
boxes." They both laughed, the elder lady pityingly 
and reluctantly. "In the first place, I paint 
horridly; but that wouldn't make any difference. 
What I couldn't do would be to ask the outrageous 
prices which holly-wood boxes bring from sympathis- 
ing friends when painted by young ladies in need. 
Besides, I think the market must be overstocked. 
Only consider, Mrs. Butler, how many holly-wood 
boxes must have been painted by this time, and what 
stores of them people must have laid by, that they 
couldn't give away if Christmas came twice a year 
from now till the millennium. And all so much alike, 
too : a farm-house very deep in the snow ; the moon 
monopolising the sky, and Santa Claus, very fuzzy 
all over, and much too large for his sleigh, with his 
reindeers and his pipe just of a size ; and fat robins 
at each end of the box. No, you needn't be afraid 
of holly-wood boxes from me, Mrs. Butler." 

" Oh, Helen, you queer child ! " laughed Mrs. Butler 
helplessly. 

"But I will confess that when I thought of doing 



A woman's reason. 131 

something for myself, holly- wood boxes popped into 
my head the first thing. I suppose there 's really no 
getting away from them. And, yes ! I thought of 
something else ; I thought of parlour-readings. What 
should you think of parlour-readings, Mrs. Butler?" 

Mrs. Butler visibly cowered under the proposi- 
tion, and Helen gave a wild laugh. " ' How they 
brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix,' 
don't you know 1 and Poe's ' Bells ; ' and ' Curfew 
shall not ring to-night' How would that do 1 
Don't you believe that if it could be generally given 
out, I might be handsomely bought off by public 
subscription ? But I really needn't do anything at 
once, Mrs. Butler," Helen went on seriously. "I've 
got clothes enough to last me indefinitely, for I shall 
expect to make over and make over, now; and I 
shall take a very cheap little room at the Miss Amys', 
and think it all over very carefully, and look about 
before I attempt anything. I 'm not afraid : I can 
do all sorts of things. Don't don't sympathise 
with me ! " she added, suddenly breaking. " That 
kills me ! It disheartens me more than anything." 

"She understands perfectly well how much she's 
got," Mrs. Butler reported to her husband. " She 
had worked out just how much income it would be, 
and she says she expects to do something to help 
herself. But she is so cheerful about it that I don't 
believe she does. There's something between her 
and Robert Fenton." 

" It would be the best thing that could happen," 
said the Captain, with a sigh of relief. " I hope to 



132 A woman's reason. 

the Lord it 's so ! But he 's off for three years ! " he 
added, with dismay. 

" She doesn't think of that. Or perhaps she hopes 
he can get leave to come home or something. 
Besides, such a girl as Helen could wait thirty years," 
said Mrs. Butler, viewing the affair in the heroical 
abstract. " Her hope and her trust will support her." 

"Morally, perhaps. But she would have to be 
supported otherwise," said the Captain. He refused 
to be wholly comforted by his wife's manner. Still, 
its probability, in the absence of anything more sub- 
stantial, afforded him a measure of consolation. At 
any rate it was, to his thinking, the sole hopeful out- 
look for Helen. Since the hard times began he had 
seen so much futile endeavour by able and experi- 
enced men, to get something to do for even a scanty 
living, that he had grown sceptical of all endeavour 
at self-help. Every year he was called upon to assist 
at the disillusion of a score or more of bright young 
spirits fresh from the University, with their academic 
honours still green upon their brows, and eager for 
victory in the battle of life. He knew the boys' fathers 
and mothers, and of what excellent stock they came, 
what honest fellows they were, and what good reason 
there was to believe them capable of bearing their 
part with distinction in any place demanding quality 
and talent, and training. But there seemed to be no 
such place for them ; the world in which their sires had 
prospered did not want them, did not know what to 
do with them. Through the strange blight which had 
fallen upon a land where there should be work for 



A woman's reason. 133 

every one, and success for every one willing to work, 
there seemed to be nothing but idleness and defeat 
for these young men in the city of their ancestry 
and birth. They were fit to lead in any common- 
wealth, but the commonillness apparently would not 
have them ; they were somehow anachronisms in 
their own day and generation; they were too far 
before or too far behind their time. The Captain 
saw them dispersed in a various exile. Some tried 
cattle-raising in Colorado ; some tried sheep-farming 
in Virginia, and some sheep-ranching in California. 
There were others who tried cotton-planting in the 
South and the orange-culture in Florida ; there were 
others yet, bolder and more imaginative, who tried 
the milk-farming in Massachusetts. The Captain 
heard of their undertakings, and then he saw them 
with their hats scrupulously on, at the club, which a 
few of their comrades had in a superior wisdom never 
abandoned. 

They had got back, and they were not to blame. 
Perhaps there was some error in the training of these 
young gentlemen, which had not quite fitted them 
to solve the simple yet exacting problem of making 
a living. But then, people who had worked hard 
all their lives were not now solving this problem. 
Captain Butler thought of these nice fellows, and 
how willing and helpless they were, and then he 
thought, with compassion too keen for any expression 
but grim laughter, of such a girl as Helen, and what 
her training was for the task of taking care of herself. 
It was probably the same as Marian's, and he knew 



134 A woman's reason. 

what that was. They had in fact gone to the 
same schools, and grown through the same circum- 
stances into the same society, in which everything 
they had been and had done fitted them to remain, 
and which was very charming and refined, and good 
in a good sense, and so very, very far from doing 
anything for anything but culture's, or pleasure's, or 
kindness' sake. 

At five or six years of age, Helen had begun to 
go with the other little girls of her station in life to 
a school, in which the established language was 
French, and in which she acquired a graceful and 
ladylike use of that tongue. It stood her in good 
stead when she went abroad one summer with her 
father, and she found that she spoke it as correctly 
as most English girls she met, and a great deal more 
readily. But she had too much sense to be sure of 
her accent or her syntax ; at Paris she found that 
her French was good, but with a difference, and she 
would not have dreamt of such a thing as teaching it. 
In fact she had not thought of that at any time, and 
she had no such natural gift for languages as would 
have enabled her to master it without such a design. 

From this school she went to others, where she 
was taught what people must learn, with thorough- 
ness and with an intelligence very different alike 
from the old-fashioned methods of young ladies' 
establishments, and from the hard, mechanical 
processes of the public schools. She was made to 
feel an enlightened interest in her studies; she 
liked some of them very much, and she respected 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 135 

those she did not like. Still she had not shown a 
passionate preference for any particular branch of 
learning; she had a ladylike ease and kindness 
withal ; if she really hated anything it was mathe- 
matics, but because she hated this she had been the 
more conscientiously attentive to it. She had a good 
taste in music, and fair skill. After she left school, 
she had a musical enthusiasm, in the height of 
which she devoted herself under her German in- 
structor to many hours of practice every day, and 
had her own ideas of becoming a great performer. 
But these gave way to clearer conceptions of her 
powers, and she remained an impassioned amateur 
of musical genius in others. She went devotedly to 
all the private musicales ; she was unfailing at the 
rehearsals of the Symphony Concerts, and of the 
Handel and Haydn Society. She made her father 
join the Apollo Club for her, and she made him go 
to some of the concerts with her. In those days 
her talk was of Bach and Beethoven ; she thought 
poorly of Italian music, though she was very fond of 
the Italian operas. 

It was to this period that her passion for the 
German language also belonged. She had studied 
German at school, of course, but it was not till after 
leaving school that French was relegated to its true 
place as something charming enough, but not serious ; 
and German engrossed her. She read Goethe's and 
Schiller's plays with her teacher, and Heine's songs 
with one of her girl-friends. She laid out a course 
of reading in German, which was to include Schopen- 



136 A woman's reason. 

hauer's philosophy, already familiar to her through 
the talk of a premature Harvard man, who rarely 
talked of anything else. But it never really came to 
this ; German literature presently took the form of 
drama, and after Helen's participation in a certain 
number of German plays, it yielded to the pleasing 
dance of the same name ; though not till it had 
superseded Italian as well as French in her affections. 
Dante, of course, one must always respect, but after 
Dante, there was so little in Italian as compared 
with German ! The soft throat from which the 
southern vowels came so mellow roughed itself with 
gutturals. But this, like music, was only for a time. 
In the end, Helen was always a girl of sense. She 
knew that she was not a German scholar, any more 
than a great performer, arid she would have shrunk 
with astonished modesty from the notion of putting 
such acquirements as she had in either to practical 
use. She hid them away, when her frenzy for them 
was past, as really so little that one ought to be 
ashamed of them. 

It was the same with painting or Art, as she then 
called it in which it has already been represented 
that she at one time took a great interest. She 
really liked it very much ; she had that feeling for 
form and colour without which no dressmaker can 
enable a young lady to dress exquisitely, and she 
enjoyed form and colour in painting. But by and 
by, as the class fanned itself down to the grains 
of wheat in its large measure of amiable and well- 
meaning chaff, Helen found that her place was with 



A woman's reason. 137 

the chaff. It did not need the eye of the great 
painter, glancing with a humorous gleam from her 
work at her, to teach her this ; she had felt it 
before, and she gave it up before she had conspicu- 
ously disgraced herself. She was always very glad 
to have taken to it ; the attempt to paint for herself 
had cleared and defined her taste in painting, and 
indefinitely enlarged the bounds of her knowledge 
and enjoyment. But it had not done anything more, 
and all that Helen had learnt and done had merely 
had the effect that was meant : to leave her a 
cultivated and agreeable girl, with bright ideas on 
all sorts of pleasant subjects. She was, as the sum 
of it, merely and entirely a lady, the most charming 
thing in the world, and as regards anything but 
a lady's destiny the most helpless. 

It was the fact that Helen's life now seemed 
wrenched and twisted so far from its rightful 
destiny, which bowed Captain Butler over it in such 
despair, and which well might strike pity into the 
hardiest beholder. Her old friend saw no hope for 
her but in the chance of there being something, as 
his wife suggested, between her and Robert Fenton. 
Yet it was against this hope that Helen herself had 
most strenuously steeled her heart. She had not 
the least doubt of Eobert. He was a gentleman, 
and he would take what she had written in the 
right way. She rested in such absolute faith in his 
generosity, that she shrank from the possibility of 
abusing it as from something like sacrilege. If 
Robert were that moment to come and ask her to 



138 A WOMAN'S reason. 

marry him, she would not take him till she had 
fairly won him again ; and if, when he had got her 
letter, and thought it all over, he decided that she 
was too light and flippant a girl to trust with his 
happiness, she should know just how to take it. 
She should not blame him ; she should not think 
him less kind and true ; he should be none the less 
her hero. In fact, it seemed as if his willingness to 
forget her folly would somehow mar the perfection 
of her self-sacrifice. So, while she clung the most 
fondly to the thought of him, it was with the 
austerest readiness to give him up, and even a sort 
of impatience. Women seldom reason, it is said ; 
when they do so, it must be owned that it is with 
passionate largeness. The sum of Helen's emotional 
logic was that she must plan her future with as 
much severity and seriousness, as much will to venture 
and to endure, as if there were no Robert Fenton, 
or ever had been, in the world. Her sole difficulty 
was to imagine her future, and to begin to imagine 
it, she must first escape from the affectionate restraint 
of these kind friends of hers. She had no purpose 
more definite than that. 

When she went from Mrs. Butler to her own 
room, the chamber did not seem spacious enough 
for the tumult in her mind, and now that she had 
resolved to go up to Boston that afternoon, and was, 
as it were, already in motion, the inertness of the 
place was intolerable. She put on a wrap and a hat, 
and stole out to her accustomed place on the rocks. 
it was a very still morning late in September, after 



A woman's reason. 139 

the first autumn gales had blown themselves away, 
and a glistening calm, with a deep heart of mellow 
warmth, had followed. The sea sparkled and shone 
with a thousand -radiances in its nearer levels, and 
in its distance was a blue that melted into a hardly- 
more ethereal heaven, a few white sails that might 
have been wings showing palely at its confluence 
with the sky. It washed languidly up the little 
beach of the cove, and with a slow, shouldering 
action, softly heaved against the foot of the rocks 
where the sea-weed flung up by the storm hung 
drying its masses in the sun, and trailing its ribbons 
in the tide. The air seemed to sparkle and burn 
like the sea, and was full of the same pungent, 
saline odours. 

Helen came round a knot of twisted cedars that 
hid her haunt from the house, and, climbing to the 
perch where she was used to sit, found herself con- 
fronted by a gentleman apparently in as great 
trouble as herself at their encounter. She could not 
mistake those sloping shoulders, that long neck, and 
that ineffective chin : it was Lord Rainford, not now 
in the blue yachting-stuff in which she had last seen 
him, but in a morning costume which seemed to 
make even less of him in point of personal attrac- 
tiveness. Helen held the only pass by which he 
could have escaped, and, much as she would have 
liked to let him go, it was impossible for her to 
yield without speaking. 

"Ah good-morning. I'm intruding here, I'm 
afraid, Miss Harkness," he began. 



140 A woman's reason. 

" O no," she said, and paused, not knowing just 
what else to say. 

"The fact is," the Englishman continued, " that I 
had been calling with Mr. Ray, and he went back a 
moment, and I stepped down here on the rocks, 
and " Helen perceived that he had taken in the 
fact of her crapes, visiting them with a glance of 
wistful pity, as if he would like to say something fit 
and due about her bereavement. But he only asked, 
after his abrupt pause, " Have you been always well 
since I saw you?" 

She remembered Ray's praises of Lord Rainford, 
and would have liked to put herself right with him. 
She hated to have him thinking her flippant and 
unfeeling, though she might have proved that it 
was his fault she had been so. But she could think 
of nothing more than "Thank you" to say; and 
then she asked, " Have you been well ?" 

"Oh, very!" answered Lord Rainford; "my 
American summer has quite set me up." 

This seemed to imply that he had not been very 
well when he came, but Helen did not ask. She 
was thinking that when he should have a heavier 
moustache and a beard to that feeble chin, his face 
and neck might be helped off a little, but nothing 
could ever do anything for those shoulders. She 
settled this in her mind before she said, rather 
absently, "I am glad of that. You will be going 
home soon, I suppose," she added, from mere dearth, 
though it occurred to her that this might be set 
down as an instance of the Yankee inquisitiveness 
that Englishmen are always in quest of. 



A woman's REASON. 141 

" Yes ; I 'm going to sail to-morrow," said Lord 
Rainford. "Your friends have promised to come 
and see me in England." 

"They told me," assented Helen. 

" I 'm sure they owe me a revenge in that way," 
continued the young man. "Mr. Ray has done 
me no end of kindness. In fact everybody's been 
most uncommonly kind. I couldn't say enough of 
it!" 

"I'm glad you have enjoyed your stay here," said 
Helen. "We Americans are rather weak about our 
country. We like people to like it, and take it as a 
personal favour when they do. I suppose none of 
us," she added, " does anything to set even the least 
important person in it before a stranger in a false 
light, without feeling sorry." She examined Lord 
Rainford's face for an instant before she dropped her 
eyes, and saw it kindle with a delicate intelligence. 

" I wish," he answered, " that I could be sure I 
leave everybody in America as well pleased with me 
as I am with all America." 

"Good-bye," said Helen; "we shall be making 
international allusions to the language of Shake- 
speare and Milton in another minute." 

"No," said Lord Rainford; "it seems to me you 
don't care to do that any more. Very curious," he 
added ; " I can't get the people I meet to say a good 
word for their country. They all seem ashamed of 
it, and abuse it, no end." 

" That 's because they want you to praise it," 
suggested Helen. 



142 A woman's reason. 

" Ah, but they won't let you praise it ! They '11 
let you join them in crying it down." 

" But you had better not." 

"Ah, yes; very likely. I can't think that a 
country where I've met so many nice people, and 
seen scarcely anything but order and comfort even 
in these very bad times, can be going to the dogs ; 
but I can't get anybody here to agree with me that 
is, in society. I don't understand it." 

" I can't explain/' said Helen, with a little smile, 
" except by ' the settled opposition to our institutions 
which pervades the British mind.'" 

"Ah, Chuzzlewit ; I know. But you '11 excuse my 
saying that I think your institutions have changed 
for the worse in this respect since Mr. Pogram's time. 
I think Pogramism is better than this other thing." 

"What other thing 1" asked Helen, not a great 
deal interested. 

" Why, this not talking of America at all. I find 
your people your best people, I suppose they are 
very nice, very intelligent, very pleasant only talk 
about Europe. They talk about London, and about 
Paris, and about Rome ; there seems to be quite a 
passion for Italy ; but they don't seem interested in 
their own country. I can't make it out. It isn't as 
if they were cosmopolitan ; that isn't quite the im- 
pression, though excuse my saying so they try to 
give it. They always seem to have been reading the 
Fortnightly and the Saturday Review, and the Spectator, 
and the Revue des Deux Mondes, and the last French 
and English books. It 's very odd ! Upon my word, 



A WOMAN'S reason. 143 

at one dinner the Americans got to talking to one 
another about some question of local finance in 
pounds, shillings, and pence. I don't understand it. " 

Lord Rainford seemed to find nothing ridiculous, 
but only something mysterious in this, and reddened 
a little when Helen laughed. 

" Perhaps you 're embittered because experience 
has destroyed your ideal. You expected us all to call 
you a Britisher, and to flaunt Bunker Hill Monument 
in your face." 

"Ah, now, do you think that's quite fair, Miss 
Harkness?" 

Helen stooped a little sidewise and felt about her 
skirts with her left hand for the loop of her train, in 
that peculiar clawing and grappling manner which 
once had its fascination for the idle spectator. " We 
American women are accused of not caring any- 
thing about our institutions," she said. She secured 
the loop now, and, erecting herself, gave Lord Rain- 
ford her right hand for good-bye. 

A deeper red dyed the young man's face, as he 
took her hand and detained it a moment. " Are 
you going," he asked, and hesitated before he added, 
with an abrupt change of tone : " I can't let you go, 
Miss Harkness, without saying without saying 
without trying to say how very sorry I have felt at 
at your bereavement. It came so soon after I 
first saw you that that I thought you thought 
myself not altogether wrong to tell you. But, I 
suppose, I shouldn't have spoken. I beg your 
pardon ! " 



144 A WOMAN'S reason. 

"You are very, very kind, Lord Eainford," 
answered Helen steadily, "and I thank you for 
speaking of it. I know people usually avoid speak- 
ing to others in mourning about it to spare them ; 
but it 's better to recognise it ; I like it better than 
trying to ignore it." 

"I've always felt," pursued Lord Eainford, "that 
I was painfully associated in your mind I mean I 
don't know I hope you won't always think of me 
as a particularly disagreeable part of that day's ex- 
perience." Lord Eainford still spoke with an awk- 
ward halt and hesitation, but the genuine feeling 
with which he seemed eager to leave Helen a better 
impression dignified his manner. "If you won't 
think it egotistical," he hastened to add, "I'll say 
that I believe I 'm rather a serious man ; at least I 'm 
a heavy one ; and when I attempt anything else, I 
I know I 'm disgusting more disgusting than ordi- 
narily. I was shocked I can't tell you how much I 
was shocked to think I had followed you up almost 
to the moment of that intelligence, with imbecilities 
that must have been a in distressing contrast. I 
don't know whether I make myself clear whether 
I ought to speak " 

" yes ! " cried Helen, touched at his assump- 
tion of all the blame. " I 'm so glad you have spoken 
of that, if only for the selfish reason that it gives me 
a chance to say how ashamed I am of my own part 
in it. I never thought of yours" this was not 
quite true, but we cannot be very generous and quite 
true at the same time " but it was the thought o 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 145 

my own frivolity that sometimes helped to make 
what followed so hard to bear. I was very rude." 

"0 no, no!" answered the young man. "You 
said nothing but what I richly deserved. If you 'd 
only said more, I should have liked it much better 
afterwards. But what I want you to think is, 
that I shouldn't have done so badly, perhaps, if I 'd 
been acting quite naturally, or in my own character. 
That is" 

" I 'm afraid," said Helen, " that I can't ask you to 
think that I was acting out of my character or all 
of my characters : I seem to have so many " 

" Yes," interrupted Lord Eainford, " that 's what I 
meant." 

" It seems to me that it was only too much like 
one of mine the one I 'm most ashamed of. You 
will have a pleasant time to cross, Lord Eainford," 
she added, and took away her hand. 

" Well, I don't know," said the other, accepting 
the close of this passage of their interview, and 
answering from the conscientiousness in talk which 
serves the English so well instead of conventional 
politeness, and is not so pleasant, " there are apt to 
be gales at this season, you know." 

"0 yes, yes!" returned Helen, a little vexed at 
herself. "Gales, yes. But I was thinking of the 
equinoctial storm being past. They say it 's past now.''' 

"I'm a good sailor," said Lord Eainford. "I 
think I shall take a run over again, next year." 

"You've not got enough of America in three 
months !" 

K 



146 A woman's reason. 



"No. I hope it hasn't got too much of me." 
He looked at Helen as if he expected her to say- 
something civil on the part of her hemisphere. But 
she refused to be the national voice, except very 
evasively. 

" Oh, we ought to be flattered that people care to 
come back." 

" You know," said Lord Eainford, " that I 've seen 
almost nothing of the country yet. I 've not even 
been in Washington, and I want to see Chicago and 
San Francisco." Helen did not say that she could 
not understand why, and Lord Eainford went 
on. "I 'd only a few weeks in Canada, you 
know, before I came down to Orchard Beach I 
think they call it with some Montreal people, and 
then I came to Boston, and I 've been about Boston 
and Newport ever since. People have been extra- 
ordinarily kind. I couldn't really get away, and as 
I 'm going away rather prematurely now, I must come 
back." 

From this outline of his experience, Helen knew 
quite accurately all its details. She could have 
told just what had happened to him at Newport, 
going thither with Boston introductions, what lawn- 
parties, lunches, and dinners had been made for 
him, and in whose carriage he had first driven to the 
polo grounds. He had been perhaps once at the 
Town and Country Club ; and he had been a good 
deal at the bathing-beaches, although early assured 
that nobody bathed there any more, and the Man- 
hattan Yacht Club had sailed him over all the neigh* 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 147 

bouring waters. He had seen the decay of the 
custom of Fort Day, and had been told what 
numbers of people used to go to the music in Fort 
Adams before polo began. When he returned to 
BostoD, it was too soon for society to have come 
back in full force, but enough of it had got back to 
show him with what intensity of hospitality the 
sojourning Englishman, distinguished by rank, or 
otherwise, or simply well accredited, is used among 
us. Helen knew, without asking, the houses and 
their succession, in which Lord Rainford had been 
entertained, and she could have guessed pretty well 
at what semi-civic feasts he had assisted. The 
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 
and Saturday Evening Clubs had all shared in 
him, and he had listened to part of a lecture at the 
Woman's Club. He had been taught much more 
about the charitable, penal, and educational estab- 
lishments of Boston, than any one Bostonian could 
endure to know, and he had kept his original im- 
pression that Boston reminded you of an English 
town. If he was at all astonished, as a young man, 
at the attentions heaped upon him, he must, as a 
Lord, have been too much used to consideration in 
his own country, to be surprised at it in ours. 
Men vastly his superiors in everything but birth 
liked to speak casually of him as that very nice 
young Englishman, who had dined with them, and 
to let the fact of his rank rather patronisingly escape 
them in talk. People whose secret pride and dearest 
prejudices he had unwittingly trodden into pulp in 



148 A woman's reason. 

his plump expressions of crude opinion, professed 
rather to like his frankness. They said that there 
was something in his bearing a simplicity, a direct- 
ness, an unconsciousness which showed the advan- 
tage of a standard of manners. The fact that you 
might often think him, at first glance, the most 
plebeian-looking person in company, showed his ex- 
traordinary qualities of race ; the persistence, through 
so many hundred years, of the ancestral traits, 
which, in the attrition of a democratic society 
like our own must have been obliterated long 
ago, was held to be a peculiar triumph of aristo- 
cratic civilisation. One accomplished gentleman 
had proved himself much better versed in the 
Rainford pedigree than Lord Rainford himself. 
''Talked to me about my great-grandmother," said 
the nobleman afterwards to Ray, " and my maiden 
step-aunts." 

" Good-bye," said Helen once more, and nodding, 
she turned away, and went down the rocks. 

Lord Rainford bowed, and said good-bye, too, 
following her with his eyes, but not otherwise pur- 
suing her. 

" You 're back soon," he said to Mr. Ray, when 
the latter presently joined him. 

At Salem that afternoon he came into the car 
where Helen sat. The place beside her was the 
only vacant one, and he stood leaning against the 
seat while he explained that he had been left by his 
train at that station in the morning. He looked as 
if he would like to be asked to take the vacant seat, 



A woman's reason. 149 

Helen thought ; but she was perturbed and preoccu- 
pied, she could not endure the thought of talking all 
the way to Boston, and she made no sign of invita- 
tion. She was sorry, but she could not help it. He 
hesitated an instant, and bidding her good-bye once 
more, said he was going forward into the smoking- 
car, and she did not see him again. 

She went first to the post-office, where she had never 
been before, and which was so vast, and looked so hur- 
ried and careless with those throngs of people sweep- 
ing through its corridors, that she began to question 
whether it could be safely intrusted with a letter 
for Robert. Through one of the windows opening 
in the long facade of glass above the stretch of brass 
drawers, which people were unlocking and locking 
up, all about, she saw a weary-looking clerk toss a 
little package into the air for relaxation, and then 
throw it into a distant corner, and she thought with 
a shudder, what if that had been her letter, and it 
had slipped under something and been lost ! Be- 
sides, now that she had come to the post-office, she 
did not know in which of the many letter-holes to 
trust, and she studied the neighbouring inscriptions 
without being able to make up her mind. At last 
she asked an old gentleman, who was unlocking his 
box, and he showed her ; she feigned to drop her 
letter according to his instructions, but waited till he 
went away, and then asked the clerk at the nearest 
window. He confirmed the statement of the old 
gentleman, and Helen had almost allowed her letter 
to go when she bethought herself to say to the 



150 A WOMAN'S reason. 

clerk that it was to the care of the Navy Depart- 
ment. He smiled sarcastically, Helen fancied 
and said it was quite the same thing. Then she 
dedicated a final blush to the act, and posted her 
letter, and found herself quite at a distance from the 
post-office, walking giddily along, with a fluttering 
heart full of delicious shame. She was horrined to 
think she had done it, and so glad it was done. 



VIII. 

The walk from the post-office to West Pome- 
granate Street is not very short, but Helen was at 
the Miss Amys' door before she knew. The elder 
Miss Amy came herself to answer the bell. She 
recognised Helen presently through her veil, and 
welcomed her with a decayed-gentlewoman-polite- 
ness, explaining that she and her sister kept no 
servant when their lodgers were out of town. Helen 
had begun to say, after the preliminary parley about 
health and the weather, that she had come to see if 
she could take board with them, when the younger 
Miss Amy came in. She shook her head in response 
to the elder Miss Amy's reference of the matter to 
her, and said she was sorry, but it was a mistake : 
they only let their rooms furnished now, and people 
must find table-board at some of the neighbouring 
houses. At Helen's look of disappointment, she 
said she knew it was very disagreeable going out to 
meals ; but their lodgers were nearly always gentle- 
men, and they did not mind it. 

" Is the lady who wishes the rooms a young 
person V asked Miss Amy. 

Helen saw that they thought she was looking up a 

151 



152 A woman's reason. 

jjlace for some one else, and that they were far from 
imagining her errand to be on her own behalf. They 
saw in her an amiable young lady, interesting her- 
self for some one who was out of town perhaps, and 
wished to come in for the winter. It cost Helen more 
to set them right than she could have believed ; the 
first steps downward in the world are not so painful 
from the surprise of your equals as from that of 
people on the level to which you descend. 

"It's for myself that I want the rooms," said 
Helen, and both the Miss Amys said "Oh ! " and 
then were silent, till Helen asked if they could 
recommend her to some good place where she could 
find both board and lodging under the same roof. 
The Miss Amys thought a while. All the neighbour- 
ing places were very large boarding-houses, and the 
company very promiscuous. ' \ I don't think you would 
like it, Miss Harkness," said the younger Miss Amy. 

" I 'm afraid it isn't a question of what I shall like, 
any more," said Helen bravely. " It 's necessary 
that I should economise, and if I can get a room 
there cheaply, I must not be fastidious." 

"Oh !" said the younger Miss Amy a little more 
expressively than before. 

" Still," continued the young girl, " I should like it 
better if I could find some place where there were 
not many other boarders." 

The elder Miss Amy looked at the younger with 
a blankness for which the glare of her spectacles 
was mainly responsible, and asked, " How would 
Mrs. Hewitt's do ? " 



A woman's reason. 153 

" Mrs. Hewitt's might do," assented the younger 
sister. " Her rooms are good, and the Smileys liked 
her table. But Miss Harkness would find it very 
different from what she's been used to." She 
seemed to add this caution with a certain indefin- 
able insinuation, that the change might be a useful 
lesson. 

" Oh, no doubt," said Helen, " but I shall not 
mind, if " 

" It 's quite a proper place in every way," continued 
the younger Miss Amy, "and the neighbourhood 
unexceptionable. If you can get the use of the 
parlour to see your friends in, it would be desir- 
able." 

" You won't keep all your acquaintance," she 
added, " but some will remain true. We retained 
all that we wished." 

" Yes," said Helen drily, not choosing that Miss 
Amy should assume their equality in that fashion. 
The Miss Amys had, in fact, declined to their 
present station from no great social eminence, 
but the former position had been growing in dis- 
tinction ever since they lost it, and they had so 
long been spoken of as " such gentlewomen," that 
they had come to look back upon it as something 
quite commanding ; and there was a note of warning 
for Helen in the younger Miss Amy's remark, as if 
all persons must not expect to be so fortunate as 
they. " I should like," said the young girl with 
some stateliness, "very much to see Mrs. Hewitt. 
Will you give me her address ?" 



154 A woman's reason. 

" I will write it on one of our cards," said Miss 
Amy, who found with difficulty, in a portable writ- 
ing-desk on the table, a card inscribed with The 
Misses Amy in the neat pencilling of a professional 
card-writer. The reception-room of these ladies was 
respectable in threadbare brussels, and green reps ; 
a fire of English cannel coal, in the grate, seemed to 
have been a long time laid, and the lumps of coal 
would have been the better for dusting. The house 
was clean, but it had the dusty smell, which small 
city houses have at the end of summer before their 
furnace fires are lit, and Helen had found the Miss 
Amys not such nice Miss Amys as she had thought 
them in former days, when she had come to their 
house to call upon some friends there. When the 
card was inscribed with Mrs. Hewitt's address, she 
rose to receive it. 

She felt strangely depressed, and the tears came 
into her eyes as she pulled down her veil and 
hurried away. She had packed a bag before 
leaving Beverley, with the purpose of not going 
back that night, for she had not thought but that 
she should go at once to the Miss Amys, and had 
resisted all entreaties that she would return and tell 
the Butlers about it. She would not have gone to 
the Miss Amys now on any account, and yet she felt 
somehow hurt at not finding their house open to her 
in the way she had imagined. She had a cowardly 
satisfaction in thinking that she could easily get the 
six o'clock train to Beverley after she had seen Mrs. 
Hewitt. 



A woman's reason. 155 

Like the elder Miss Amy, that lady answered her 
door in person when Helen rang, and taking the card, 
with the explanation that Helen gave her, led the 
way to her reception room. It took shape from the 
swell-front ; and the rocking-chair, into which Mrs. 
Hewitt sank, stood between the two windows, by 
which she could easily command the life without, up 
street and down. What had been the fireplace was 
occupied by a register; over the mantel hung the 
faded photograph of an officer in uniform j in the 
corner was a whatnot, with shells and daguerreotypes 
in cases, and baskets of sewing on its successive 
shelves j against the wall, opposite the windows, 
stood a sewing-machine ; the carpet was a tapestry 
of moss pattern in green colour ; the window shades 
had a band of gilt around their edges, " relieved in 
green, and the reps of the sofa and chairs were green. 
Simple and few as these appointments were, they 
had an unreconciled look, as if they had not been 
bought to match, but were fortuitous combinations 
on which some one else had lost money. 

Mrs. Hewitt asked her to sit down, but Helen 
remained standing, and said that she was a little 
pressed for time, and must ask at once if she could 
have a room with board. 

" I don't know as I 've got anything 'twould suit 
you, but we can look," said Mrs. Hewitt, apparently 
disappointed in not being first allowed to talk it all 
over. " Did you want something on suit, or singly I" 
she asked. 

" I don't know what you mean," said Helen. 



156 A woman's reason. 

" Do you want more than one room V 

"Ono! I only want one." 

The landlady preceded Helen up the stripe of 
linen that covered half the narrow carpeting on the 
cramped staircase. " Parlour," she announced on 
arriving at the first landing, as she threw open the 
door of a large room furnished in much-worn brown 
plush. " Goes with the rooms on this floor ; I always 
let 'em on suit. Now, if you wanted anything on 
suit " 

" I only want one room, and I don't care for a 
private parlour," said Helen. 

The landlady glanced up the next flight of stairs. 
" That whole floor is let to one family lady and 
gentleman and little boy and then there 's only a 
room on the top floor besides," said Mrs. Hewitt. 

" I'll look at it, please," said Helen, and followed 
the landlady up. The room had a pretty bed and 
bureau ; it was very neat, and it was rather spacious. 
" Is there any one else on this floor 1" asked Helen, 
feeling sure that the cook and second-girl must be 
her neighbours. 

The landlady pushed open the door across the 
little passage-way. " There's an art-student in this 
room," she said. 

" Art-student 1 " gasped Helen. 

" Young lady from Nashua," said the landlady. 

"Oh !" cried Helen, remembering with relief that 
art-students in our time and country are quite as apt 
to be of one sex as another, and thinking with a smile 
that she had been surprised not to smell tobacco as 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 157 

soon as Mrs. Hewitt had said " art-student." She re- 
flected that she had once been an art-student herself, 
and wondered what the sketches of the young lady 
from Nashua were like. " What would be the price 
of this room?" 

The landlady leaned against the side of the bed. 
" Seven dollars," she said in an experimental tone. 
" I used to get my ten and twelve dollars for it, right 
after the war." 

" I will take it," said Helen, who found it much 
less than she feared. " And I should like to come 
at once." 

" To-night ?" asked the landlady, looking at Helen. 

" Yes, if the room 's ready." 

"Oh, the room's ready. But did you bring a 
trunk?" 

" I forgot ! It's at the station. I can send for it." 

" yes, the express is right round the corner 
from here. You just give 'em your check. But you 
better not lose any time. They 're late sometimes, 
any way." 

"Very well," said Helen, childishly pleased at 
having transacted the business so successfully. " I 
will take the room from to-day, and I will pay you 
for the first week now." 

" Just as you please," said Mrs. Hewitt. 

Helen drew out her porte-monnaie, and said, "The 
Miss Amys can tell you about me." 

" Oh, that's all right," answered Mrs; Hewitt, 
politely. She had perhaps been perplexed to know 
how she should hint anything about references to 



158 a woman's reason. 

this young lady who took an attic room with such a 
high and mighty air. " Their card was sufficient." 

When Helen came back from her errand to the 
express office, and went to her room, she laid aside 
her things and made herself at home in it. She did 
not know in the least what her life was to be there ; 
but she felt that this, whatever it was not, was 
escape and independence, and beginning. A rapid 
calculation had shown her that her payment of 
seven dollars a week would not encroach much upon 
her capital, and somehow she would earn enough 
money to meet her other expenses. She could not 
sit still ; she rose and opened her closet and found it 
deep and convenient ; she pulled out the bureau 
drawers, and they were very sweet and clean. She 
discovered a little cupboard with shelves where she 
thought she would put her books. The room was 
very complete ; there was even a hook in the ceiling 
by the window where some one must have hung a 
bird-cage. Helen was happy, without accusing her- 
self, for the first time since her father died. She 
smiled to herself at her landlady's queerness, and was 
glad, as young people are, to be housed along with a 
character. She wondered how the art-student looked, 
and who the family could be. At the sound of the 
tea-bell she felt the emotion of a healthful hunger. 

There was a dish of cream toast, very hot and 
fragrant ; hotter, and more fragrant still, there was a 
dish of oysters, delicately stewed and flavoured j in 
a plated basket in the centre of the table was a 
generous stack of freshly sliced lady-cake. " From 



A woman's reason. 159 

Copeland's," Mrs. Hewitt explained, when she passed 
it. " Mr. and Mrs. Evans are out to tea, and I 
thought we wouldn't wait for Miss Eoot. She 's late 
sometimes. Did you like your oysters % " 

"Delicious !" said Helen. 

" Yes, I think there 's nothing like a drop not 
more than a drop of sherry in your stew, just when 
it comes to the stew. I don't believe in any thick- 
enin' myself; but if you must have it, let it be 
cracker crumbs : flour makes it so kind of slippy." 
Mrs. Hewitt went on to enlarge upon many different 
kinds of dishes, and then from whatever obscure 
association of ideas, she said : " When you first 
came in to-day, before I fairly looked at the Miss 
Amys' card, I thought you 'd been buryin' a husband. 
I don't see how I could took you if you had. Widows 
are more trouble in a house ! Boston family 1 " 

" What ?" cried Helen. 

"Your folks Boston people V* 

" yes," replied the girl, and she submitted 
with what grace she could to the inquisition into her 
past that followed. "I've never lived anywhere 
else;" and nothing seemed stranger than this when 
she came to think it over in her room. Here in the 
heart of Boston, she was as remote from the Boston 
she had always known as if it were a thousand miles 
away ; from herself of the time when she lived in 
that far-off Boston she seemed divided by centuries. 
Into what a strange and undreamt-of world she had 
fallen ! She did not dislike it. On the contrary, 
she thought she should be rather content in it. 



160 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

Without definite aims as yet for the future, she 
fancied that she should try to be wholly of her pre- 
sent world, and ignore that in which she used to live. 
Already she felt alien to it so far as to wish that the 
Butlers would not send people to call on her, nor 
come much themselves. She knew that she could 
adapt herself to her circumstances, but she dreaded 
the pain of their inability to realise her in them, and 
felt that their unhappiness about her would be more 
than she could bear. She planned a geographical 
limit within which she could live a long time and 
not meet any one whom she had known, and she 
resolved next day to begin her exploration of her 
solitude. The dark gathered into the room, and the 
window showed a black frame against the sky before 
she thought of lighting her gas. She was shaking 
her match out, as women do, when a light tap at her 
door standing ajar startled her, and then the door 
was pushed open, and the figure of a tall girl stood 
on the threshold. " Miss Eoot : Miss Harkness, I 
believe," said the figure. " Will you lend me a match, 
please % I waited for you to light your gas so as 
to be sure you had matches before I bothered you. 
It 's such a long journey down-stairs/' 

Helen smiled in her most radiant way, and got 
the matches, saying as she held them forward, 
" Won't you come in, please %" 

" No, I thank you," said Miss Eoot, taking one 
match only. "I begin badly. But you won't find 
me a great borrower. Have you got everything you 
want in your room V 1 






A WOMAN'S REASON. 161 

" Yes, everything, I believe," said Helen, sweep- 
ing it with a comprehensive glance. 

"You'll find Mrs. Hewitt pretty prompt. You 
won't have anything to complain of, unless you mind 
being talked to death. Good-night," and drawing 
the door to after her, Miss Root returned to her own 
room. 

Before she slept, Helen heard the street door open 
and shut, and then voices ascending to the third 
floor : a lady's voice, and a gentleman's voice, and a 
sleepy little boy's voice. 

u Well, this is the last time we shall take Tom to 
the theatre," said the lady's voice the voice of 
spent nerves. 

"Yes," said the gentleman's voice. "We shall 
confine ourselves to the circus after this, Tom." 

" Circuses are the best, any way," said the child's 
voice. 

" Hush ! Don't speak so !" cried the lady. 

" Why, they are, mamma," insisted the boy. 

"This is a question of morals, not of opinions, 
Tom," said the father. " You 're not to prefer 
circuses when they 're inflicted as a punishment." 

They had now reached their door, as it appeared, 
for a light flashed into the hall below as from gas 
turned up. 

The lady's voice was heard again : " His forehead 's 
burning hot ! If that child should have a fever 
Here, feel his forehead ! " 

"Forehead's all right!" responded the heavier 
voice. 



162 A WOMAN'S reason. 

"/shall give him three of aconite!" cried the 
lady. 

" Give him three thousand, but put him to bed," 
assented the gentleman. 

"Will you shut the door?" implored the lady. 
"Waking the whole house !" 

"I haven't refused, my dear," said the gentleman. 
" Why do you always " 

The door closed, expressively, and not, as Helen 
fancied, by the gentleman's hand. "The Evanses," 
she inferred. She fell asleep wondering if she could 
indeed be the same girl who had talked that morning 
to Lord Rainford on the rocks at Beverley. 



IX. 



Helen saw the Evanses in going to breakfast. 
They came down-stairs just after her, Mr. Evans 
leading his boy by his extended forefinger, and Mrs. 
Evans coming behind, and twitching something 
about the child's dress into place, as mothers do. 

"Mrs. Hewitt," said Mr. Evans, as they sat down 
at table, " I have been some time in your house, but 
you must have older friends than I, and I don't 
understand why the law has honoured me as it 
has." 

" I 'm sure / don't know what you 're talkin' 
about," said Mrs. Hewitt, pouring the coffee. 

" Well, I don't, myself," returned Mr. Evans, "and 
I thought I would get you to explain. You don't 
find yourself unusually infirm of mind, do you 1 " 

" No, I don't," replied Mrs. Hewitt candidly. 

"And you haven't experienced anything like a 
return of extreme youth % " 

"What is the man after 1" cried Mrs. Hewitt. 

" Then why should you be taken care of in any 
special manner, and why should I, of all people, be 
called upon to take care of you 1 Here 's a paper," 
Mr. Evans continued, taking a document from his 

163 



164 A woman's reason. 

pocket, "that I found slipped under my door this 
morning. It makes a personal appeal to me, in the 
name of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to 
to become your trustee. Of course, it 's very flatter- 
ing and all that, but I 'd much rather not. You 
must allow me to resign, Mrs. Hewitt. I never 
did understand business very well, and 

" How 'd they ever get into this house without my 
knowing itl That's what / should like to find 
out !" said Mrs. Hewitt, gazing absently at the paper 
which Mr. Evans had given her. 

" What does it mean V 1 he asked. 

"Pshaw!" cried his landlady. "You don't say 
you never was trusteed before % And boarded round 
as much as you have !" 

" Trusteed ! Is it so common a thing as to have 
a participial form 1 Then I needn't have any scruples 
about resigning 1" 

Mrs. Hewitt broke into a laugh. " Kesigning ! 
Bless you, you can't resign. There 's no such thing." 

" Gracious powers ! Not resign an office for which 
I don't feel myself competent " 

" Oh, come, now ! you know very well what it is. 
It 's them curtains," said Mrs. Hewitt, pointing to the 
green-and-gold-trimmed shades. 

Mr. Evans rose and curiously examined the 
shades ; his boy also slipped down out of his chair, 
and joined in the inspection. 

u Thomas, who gave you leave to quit the table 1 
Come back ! " cried Mrs. Evans. 

" My dear !" expostulated her husband, " the child 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 165 

very naturally wishes to see what sort of window- 
shade it is that thrusts an irresignable office of 
honour and profit upon his father. Look carefully, 
Tom. Regard the peculiarity of the texture; the 
uncommon tone of the colours." 

"Oh, pshaw, Mr. Evans ! You stop !" exclaimed 
Mrs. Hewitt. "When they sent in their bill, I 
told 'em 'twas too much, and I shouldn't pay it 
I didn't believe they 'd really go so far as to trustee 
me. 

"But what does it mean, Mrs. Hewitt 1" asked 
Mrs. Evans. " I don't believe Mr. Evans knows any 
more than the rest of us," 

" Why, Mrs. Evans, it means just this : that your 
husband isn't to pay me any board till this bill is 
settled, and if he does, he 's liable for it himself. 
I presume they '11 be trusteein' all of you. I shall 
have to pay it now." 

" Is that the law ?" demanded Mrs. Evans. " It 
makes one long for a delinquent debtor of one's own. 
So simple, yet so effective." 

"Well, you have it to say," said Mrs. Hewitt, 
surprisingly little ruffled by the incident, " that you 
never was trusteed in my house before." 

"I certainly have that to say," admitted Mr. 
Evans. " I 'm sorry on your account that I can't resign 
my trusteeship, and I 'm sorry on my own that it 's 
such a very sordid affair. I never happened to be 
appointed to office before, and I was feeling rather 
proud of the confidence reposed in me." 

They all rose from the table together, and Helen 



166 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

went up- stairs with the Evanses. She and Mrs. Evans 
exchanged a few words on the way, and stopped on 
the first landing to glance into the large parlour. Mr. 
Evans came after, bestriding his boy, who now had 
hold of both his forefingers like a walking Colossus 
of Ehodes. He flung open the parlour door, which 
stood ajar, in Mrs. Hewitt's manner. " Goes with 
the rooms on this floor ; I always let 'em on suit ; 
now, if you wanted anything on suit " He looked 
Helen for sympathy, and she laughed. 

" Yes, I know," she said. 

" Mrs. Hewitt won't like your joking her so much," 
said his wife. 

" She won't know it, if I do it behind her back. 
And she seems to enjoy it to her face." 

" Do you think she liked your coming out about 
that trusteeing 1 ?" 

" She didn't mind it. But I have it on my con- 
science to tell Miss Harkness that Mrs. Hewitt is, 
for all I know, a very just person and that I 'm 
surprised she let those shade-people get the advan- 
tage of her. She has a passion, like all landladies, 
for single gentlemen. She idealises them, I am 
afraid. There haven't been any single gentlemen 
in the house since we came here, two years ago. 
We sometimes fancy that her preference is founded 
upon her experience of Mr. Hewitt as a married 
gentleman, which was probably unpleasant." 

"Is is she a widow?" Helen ventured to Mrs. 
Evans. 

" Why, not exactly," said Mrs. Evans, 



A woman's reason. 167 

"It's a very neat way of putting it," said Mr. 
Evans. "She's a widow, Miss Harkness, of the 
herbaceous variety." 

" My dear, she 11 hear you," cried Mrs. Evans. 

" Very well, then, she won't understand me. I '11 
venture to say Miss Harkness doesn't." 

"No, I don't," said Helen, and looked at Mrs. 
Evans for light. 

" Her husband is living, I believe," explained Mrs. 
Evans, "but absent." 

Mr. Evans laughed again. "Not lost, but gone" 
before. Come, Tom ! We must go to work !" He 
led the way up to the next floor, and at her door 
Mrs. Evans asked Helen if she would not come in. 

Helen had a curiosity, which she thought harmless, 
to see their apartment, and she accepted the invita- 
tion in the drifting, indecisive manner which ladies 
have when they do not mean to commit themselves 
to the consequences of a self-indulgence. She did 
not feel quite sure of these people ; she had a strong 
impression that she was their social superior, but 
thrown with them as she was, she had too much 
good sense to hold stiffly aloof from them. She sat 
down without, as it were, acknowledging that she 
sat down; and she followed Mrs. Evans about 
from room to room without seeming to do so, 
as well as she could manage that difficult effect. It 
was a very pretty little apartment of four tiny rooms, 
of which the last was Mr. Evans's study : this was 
just large enough to admit his desk and chairs, and 
was packed with books on shelves to the ceiling, and 



168 A woman's reason. 

Helen inferred that he was some sort of literary man. 
She would not sit down again, but paid a frosty little 
net-work of compliments to the souvenirs of travel that 
she saw upon the tables and walls ; she praised the 
balcony on which one of the windows opened, and 
she smiled upon the flowers with which Mrs. Evans 
had filled it. In fine she guarded her distance with 
the skill that had kept the acquaintance at a stand- 
still, and yet left it resumable on more cordial terms 
at will. One is of one's world after all ; and even 
in resigning her world, as she thought she had done, 
Helen had not yet made up her mind to be of a 
lower one. 

She had promised to go down to Beverley on the 
morrow, and tell her friends what she had done, as 
the condition of their letting her come up to Boston 
at all on that wild enterprise of hers ; and though 
she would have been glad not to go, she kept her 
word. But it was really not so hard meeting them 
as she had feared. Mrs. Butler was forbearing, and 
Marian was preoccupied; the younger girls saw it 
somewhat as Helen did, and thought it an enviable 
adventure. She told them all that had happened in 
detail, and made them laugh. She partly drama- 
tised her interview with the Miss Amys, and they 
said it was perfectly delightful to think of Helen 
being patronised by such people. They wanted to 
see Mrs. Hewitt, and the fellow-boarders; they 
wished that somebody would trustee their mother ; 
they said that the life Helen was leading was fas- 
cinating. 



A woman's season. 169 

" Perhaps you wouldn't find it so fascinating if 
you were obliged to lead it," said Mrs. Butler. 

" Helen leads it, and she finds it fascinating." 

" Helen leads it out of the hardness of her heart, 
because her friends don't wish her to," returned Mrs. 
Butler fondly. 

"Mrs. Butler! Remember your promise I" said 
Helen. 

" I hope you '11 remember yours, my dear, to 
come back to us." 

" Oh ! And what are you going to do, Helen ? 
What are you going to do for a living?" demanded 
Jessie Butler. 

" Jessie !" cried her mother. " Don't be absurd ! 
Do for a living !" 

" I hope you won't think it absurd, Mrs. Butler," 
said Helen, with serious dignity, "for I really want 
to do something for a living." 

" Poor child ! " said Mrs. Butler, getting Helen's 
hand between hers, and tenderly smoothing it. 
" What could you do 1" 

" I don't know what yet. But I know I could do 
something." She felt dispirited by Mrs. Butler's 
motherly kindness, and would have liked to take 
her hand away. This was what she had dreaded, 
this feeling on the part of such friends as the Butlers 
that anything useful and practical was impossible to 
her. For the moment this feeling seemed all that 
stood between her and a prosperous career of self- 
help ; it unnerved her so terribly 

" Do tell us what you 've been thinking of trying," 



170 A WOMAN'S reason. 

persisted Jessie. She was the youngest, and she 
ventured on almost as great freedoms with her 
mother and Helen as Marian herself did. 

" Oh, I thought over a great many things as I 
came down this morning," answered Helen. " But I 
haven't settled upon anything yet. Indeed, indeed, 
Mrs. Butler ! " she exclaimed, " I 'm very much in 
earnest about it, and don't try to discourage me, 
please !" 

"I won't, dear !" Mrs. Butler assented soothingly, 
as if Helen were a sick child, and must be humoured 
in her little fancies. 

" How would plain sewing do 1" suggested Jessie. 
" Or, Wanted by a young lady, to have the care of 
small children, where she would be received as one 
of the family j no objection to the country; wages not 
so much of an object as permanent home, address 
H. H, Transcript Officer' 

They laughed at this, Helen forlornly and help- 
lessly with the rest. They could not realise her 
ambition, and they did not believe in her necessity : 
Mrs. Butler because she felt that all Helen need 
really do was to go to Europe with her, and return 
to marry Robert Fenton as soon as he could get 
leave to come home; the young girls because they 
had no experience of life, and could not imagine 
Helen's case. They were merry about her projects 
all through lunch, and Helen herself felt that she 
was behaving very ridiculously in pretending to be 
anything but the well-taken-care-of young lady that 
she had always been. The world which she had 



A woman's reason. 171 

touched yesterday became as unreal in its turn as it 
had made her old life seem. 

" I will tell you," said Marian, who had given the 
subject less attention than the rest, and had laughed 
at Helen with half her mind all the while on her 
approaching marriage ; "I will tell you. In these 
days Helen must take to some form of keramics. I 
wonder that we didn't think of it before. How 
could we discuss this subject in Beverley, of all 
places, and not think of pottery 1 Helen must 
decorate pottery for a living." 

" yes ! and she can drive over to the pottery 
this afternoon with us, and select the shapes !" 
clamoured the younger sisters. 

Their noise submerged Mrs. Butler's rebukes; 
there was open rebellion to her voice. 

" Mamma ! " cried Jessie, " you needn't try to put 
us down about this. It \s an extraordinary case ! 
We 've never had the opportunity before, to decide 
the vocation of a young lady who wants a lucrative 
employment. Do say you '11 decorate pottery for a 
living, Helen !" 

"Do! do!" pleaded all the rest. They had left 
their places and gathered round her in postures 
of supplication. 

Helen was swept along in the tide. " I don't 
know anything about keramics," she laughed, turning 
upon the group. 

" That 's the oeauty of the profession," they 
shouted in reply. " You don't need to know any- 
thing about it." 



172 A woman's reason. 

"I can't draw!" 

" Drawing's the very last thing that's wanted for 
art-pottery. Say that you '11 drive over with us and 
select the shapes !" 

" You must first begin with a bean-pot, like that 
pretty little Mrs. Gay," said Jessie Butler. "You 
ought to have heard her talk about it : so colonial, 
so in character with Beverley ! " The young girl gave 
the tone and the languish. " She decorated it with 
a flowering bean ; they say she thought that was the 
kind they baked. Perhaps you '11 find that they 've 
begun to give bean-pots an aesthetic shape. Miss 
Harkness's bean-pots will become the fashion. We 
shall have a course of beans in their native earthen- 
ware, at dinners, and when the pot comes in, every- 
body will put on their pince-nez, and crane over, and 
ask, 'Is that a Harkness, Mrs. Jones V" 

"No, no! I can't go with you!" cried Helen; 
" I 'm going back to Boston this afternoon." 

They all protested, but Helen stood firm, 
feeling that it was her one chance for life, or for 
making a living. If she was ever to put in force 
her resolutions to be something and to do something, 
she could not get away too soon from an atmosphere 
in which no one, not even herself, could regard them 
seriously. It was a trying ordeal, this pity of Mrs. 
Butler's, and this jocose incredulity of the young 
girls ; yet as Helen rode back to town, she was more 
and more satisfied that there was* something possible 
and practical in Marian's suggestion. She recalled 
some pretty shapes of pottery which she had seen 



A woman's reason. 173 

in a shop-window, and which seemed to her more 
stupidly decorated than anything she could do if she 
did her worst. They were there on sale, and some- 
body had been paid for doing them, or expected to 
be paid for it. The conclusion from the premises 
was irresistible, and Helen found herself impatient 
to arrive and begin work. She could really draw 
very prettily, though she had denied her gift; she 
was even a clever copyist ; but she knew that she 
lacked the imaginative impulse, and she had not 
cared for what she could do, because so many others 
could do it as well. 

As soon as she left the train she hastened to this 
shop, where, besides the decorated pots and vases, 
she had seen a good many uncontaminated examples 
of the Beverley ware. She was vexed to find the 
place already closed, and 'she could hardly wait for 
the morning. 

She hurried from her breakfast to the shop in the 
morning; when her purchase came home, and she 
unpacked it on her bed (the largest and safest surface 
in her room), she cowered a little to see it so great 
in quantity. She blushed to find herself making 
such an ambitious beginning, and though five dollars 
had seemed a great deal to spend, she wished for the 
moment that it had not bought quite so much. But 
this was foolish ; of course she must spoil some of 
the designs, and since she was going to try a variety 
of decorations, she should want a variety of jars. 
She set them all on the shelf of her closet, which 
she locked ; she folded up the wrapping-paper and 



174 A woman's reason. 

tucked it away ; she even concealed the string ; and 
after putting on her hat and veil for the street, she 
had to sit down and have a paroxysm of guilty con- 
sciousness before she could summon courage to go 
out on her next errand. 

She was going to a shop where they sold artists' 
materials, to get her colours, and to pick up any hints 
they could give her there about her work. They 
were not personally very well informed, but they 
sold her several little books which had keramic 
designs in them, and which would tell her all she 
wished to know. After she had bought them, she 
thought them rather poverty-stricken in their pat- 
terns, and as she passed a print-shop window she 
saw that pretty series of engravings, illustrative of 
the old fable of the storks and the babies ; and the 
keramic fitness of storks' at once struck her. The 
prints were rather expensive, and Helen thought 
that she could not get on without the whole set. 
Then, as the matter developed in her mind, a great 
idea occurred to her : Flaxman's illustrations of 
Homer. They were of course the only things to 
copy in the classic shapes. The book cost more than 
she supposed it would, but as she meant to stop 
with that, she believed she might afford it, and at 
any rate she bought it. She was afraid to look the 
whole sum in the face at first, but her hopes rose 
with her rapid walk homeward, and she finally con- 
fronted the fifteen dollars with serene courage. 

The next three weeks were given to very ardent 
if not very diligent labour. Helen had an insuper. 



A woman's reason. 175 

able shyness about her enterprise ; she managed so 
that she might put everything out of sight at a 
moment's warning, if any one came to her room. 

Before actually beginning upon the vases, Helen 
schooled herself in reproducing on paper the designs 
she meant to use, and this took time. She was also 
interrupted by excursions to Beverley; but she did 
not count this as loss altogether, for she was able to 
make several studies in colour of the low blackberry 
vine, now in its richest autumnal bronze, and of 
certain sea-weeds, with which she meant to decorate 
several pieces. She did three with storks, and had 
a fourth half-done when she let it fall. She wrapped 
the fragments in paper, and took them out at twilight, 
and dropped them in the street some distance away, 
that the pieces might not be traced to her, and 
so proceeded to the Flaxmans. She chose three 
subjects among these : The old nurse Euryclea recog- 
nising Ulysses as she bathes his feet ; Penelope 
carrying the bow of Ulysses to the Suitors ; and the 
meeting of Ulysses and Penelope. These all related 
to the return of the wanderer, and they went very 
prettily round the vases. Ulysses following the 
homeward car of Nausicaa from the coast on which 
she found him shipwrecked, was a subject which 
Helen instinctively rejected, though the lines were 
lovely, and she felt that she could do it easily. The 
jar which she decorated with the seaweed had a 
band of shells round the middle ; a slanting flight of 
birds encircled the vases, over which she taught the 
blackberry vine to wanton. 



176 A woman's reason. 

She had many alternating moods of exaltation 
and despair while upon this work, but when it was 
all done, and the pots set out in a fair row on her 
window-shelf, and she retired a pace or two with her 
pencil at her lip to get their entire effect, she could 
not but own that they seemed very successful. At 
that distance certain defects of drawing such as 
that which gave Penelope bearing the bow rather a 
pert and mincing look and other blemishes were 
subdued, but even when taken up severally and 
scrutinised merely at arm's length, the vases bore 
the ordeal of critical inspection very well. "And 
no one," thought Helen, "will ever look at them 
more severely than I have." 

She sank into her chair, which she drew up in 
front of her work, and indulged a long reverie. In 
this she dramatised her appearance at one of those 
charming shops where they deal in such things ; she 
set little scenes in which the proprietors called one 
another up to look at her vases ; and she dialogued 
their compliments and her own evasive acceptance of 
them. They ended by asking very respectfully if 
she could not be persuaded to employ a part of her 
leisure in doing something of the kind for them; 
and on her replying that these were for sale, they 
had instantly offered her a price for them that passed 
her wildest hopes ; that seemed so much too much, 
indeed, that she insisted upon abating something 
from it. Struck by this nobleness in her, they had 
conversed in low tones together ; and then the senior 
member of the firm had confessed that they had 



a woman's reason. 177 

some hesitation in asking her to design certain friezes 
which they were to do for a cottage at Newport, and 
their admiration for her work must be their excuse 
if they were proposing something quite out of the 
way; but they begged her to remember that two 
ladies in London had taken up decorative archi- 
tecture as a profession, and they trusted they were 
not wrong. Then Helen had replied, no, indeed ! 
She was only too much nattered by their confidence 
in her, and she would be very glad to think it over ; 
all that she feared was that she would not be able 
to meet their expectation ; at which they had laughed, 
and said they had no such fear, and had drawn her a 
check for her vases, and had added a few hundreds 
as a sort of retainer in the matter of the friezes. At 
this point Helen broke from her reveries with " What 
silly, silly nonsense ! What a simpleton I am !" 

While she was in good humour with them, she 
resolved to pack her vases in the basket that she had 
got for that purpose, and when each was carefully 
wrapped, and put in, she laughed to find the basket 
looking like that of an old Jew who used to come to 
the kitchen door to sell Bohemian glass, when she 
was a child. The matter of transportation was one 
that she did not consider till the next morning, when 
it flashed upon her that she could not go carrying 
that basket about. She must drive, and though 
this did not accord with her severe ideas of economy, 
she had to own that she had been rather lavish in 
her preparations for work, and that it would be 
foolish to try now to scrimp at an impossible point 

M 



178 A woman's reason. 

She would take a coup6 by the hour, and perhaps 
get it cheaper, if she had it several hours ; though 
when she went out for the carriage, she found the 
driver inflexible, and she had to take it at the usual 
rate. She bade him drive her to Mrs. Hewitt's door, 
and she wanted him to go up with her and carry 
down her basket ; but he, seeing her a single defence- 
less woman, boldly answered that he could not leave 
his horse ; and Helen, indignant, and trembling for 
her secret, was forced to bring it down herself. 
Happily, Miss Eoot had gone out ; the Evanses' door 
was closed ; and she encountered Mrs. Hewitt neither 
in going up nor in coming down. When she lifted 
the basket on the carriage seat she was out of 
breath, but exultant at her escape, and with unbroken 
courage she ordered the driver to go to the address 
given him. But it now occurred to her that she 
could not lug that great hamper across a crowded 
pavement into a shop-door, and she must sell her 
wares by sample. She employed the drive in taking 
out the best of the stork vases; one of the most 
characteristic Flaxmans ; and the blackberry and 
bird-banded jar. She scarcely dared look at them 
now, but as she gathered them to her bosom with 
one hand, while she caught up her skirt with the 
other to alight from the coupe, it was with quite as 
much hope as fear that her heart palpitated against 
those classic shapes. She pulled down her veil, how- 
ever, for she knew that she was blushing violently, 
and when she stepped upon the ground, she found 
herself giddy. 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 179 

The people were all busy when she entered the 
store, and the gentleman to whom * she hoped to 
speak was occupied with a lady whom Helen knew : 
a lady who gave proof of having lived abroad by the 
loud and confident voice which she had succeeded in 
managing, not like an Englishwoman but like an 
Englishman. Helen shrank from her recognition, 
and lurked about, pretending to be interested in 
distant bricabrac, and growing momentarily more 
faint and tremulous, but when the lady went out and 
the gentleman turned from closing the door after 
her, Helen came quickly forward. She plucked up 
an excited gasp from somewhere, and waiving the 
respectful kindness with which he bent to listen, 
said, " I 've something here I 'd like to show you," 
and she unfolded one of her vases, and as he took it 
up, with " Ah, yes ! Something in keramics," she 
unwrapped the others and set them on the shelf near 
which they stood. " Why, this is very nice, Miss 
Harkness," said the dealer, " very nice indeed." He 
carried all three of the vases to the light and re- 
turned with them, holding out the bird-banded jar. 
" I like this one best. You 've managed these birds 
and this vine in quite the Japanese spirit : they 're 
the only people who understand the use of uncon- 
ventionalised forms. The way your blackberry 
climbs into the neck of your vase is thoroughly 
Japanese. These storks are good, too, very effec- 
tively handled. The classic subject well, I don't 
think that 's quite so successful, do you V 

" No, I don't know that it is," said Helen, so 



180 A woman's reason. 

grateful for his praise of the others that she would 
willingly have allowed this to be a disgraceful 
failure. 

" Have you ever done anything of this kind be- 
fore 1 " asked the dealer. 

" No," replied Helen. 

" Very remarkable," said the dealer. He had set 
the vases back on the shelf again, and now gazed at 
them somewhat absently. " It shows what can be 
done with this sort of thing. See here !" he called 
to his partner, who was also disengaged. " Here 's 
something pretty, and rather new V 

" Your work, Miss Harkness ? " asked the other 
partner politely, coming up. He said much the 
same things that the first had said ; he even stopped 
a young lady assistant who was passing, and made 
her admire the jars. Then he also fell into a musing 
silence, while Helen waited with a thickly beating 
heart for the rest of her reverie to come true, and 
stayed herself against a counter, till these amiable 
partners should formulate some offer for her wares. 
The young lady assistant ebbed noiselessly away, 
and went to writing at a high desk ; the second 
partner shifted from his right foot to his left, turned 
his head abruptly, and feigned to be called suddenly 
by some duty in the direction to which he looked. 
His going roused the first partner. " Yes !" he said 
with a deep, nasal sigh, in coming to himself, and 
was sinking again into his abstraction, when he 
seemed to think of something. " Excuse me a 
moment," he said, and went and looked into the 



A woman's reason. 181 

show window, and then into a dark corner in the 
back part of the room. " I thought we had some of 
that Cambridge pottery," he called out to his 
partner. 

" No," said the other, remaining aloof, " we only- 
had a few pieces." 

" Well !" said the first, coming back to Helen. 
" I supposed we had some of it left. I was going to 
suggest, Miss Harkness, if you 're interested in this 
sort of thing, that you ought to see that North 
Cambridge ware. Have you ever seen it ?" 

" No," answered Helen faintly. 

"It isn't so native quite in sentiment as this 
Beverley ware, but it 's much more refined in form. 
It 's beautifully finished. Keally, I don't see how it 
falls short of that Copenhagen pottery in finish. If 
you have plenty of time on your hands, you couldn't 
do a better thing than go out to see them making it. 
I think it would interest you." 

" Thank you," said Helen ; her head whirled, but 
she resolved to speak steadily if it killed her. " I 
shall certainly go. I 'm glad you mentioned it. I 
never saw any of it." She fumbled piteously at the 
papers which she had taken off her vases, and 
the dealer brought some softer stuff, and skilfully 
wrapped them up for her. 

"These things are quite worthy of Japanese 
paper," he said, indicating the silky texture of the 
fabric he had used. "I'm sure I'm very much 
obliged to you for letting us see your work, Miss 
Harkness. It 's charming. I hope you '11 keep on at 



182 A woman's reason. 

it. I'm interested business-wise, you know," he 
added, " in having you ladies take up these graceful 
arts. And be sure and go to see that Cambridge 
ware. We can get some of it for you, if you wish." 
He had followed her to the door, and now opened it 
for her, with a bow. , 

" Thanks," said Helen. " I won't forget. Good- 
morning. ,J 

" Grood-morning." 

She got into the coupe, and put her vases carefully 
back in the basket, and sat down on the seat beside 
it. She quivered with the intense and bitter disap- 
pointment, and she burnt with shame, as every 
particular of her interview blazoned itself upon her 
consciousness, and she realised that she had no one 
but herself to blame for the precise result. The 
people had been thoroughly kind and sympathetic ; 
they had praised her work, and had been far more 
interested in it than she had any right to expect ; 
but their taking her on her old social plane had 
made it impossible for her to meet them on any 
other. Apparently, they had never once imagined 
that she wished to sell these things, and she had not 
known how to approach the fact. They had thought 
she wished merely to show them as matters of 
aesthetic interest, but if they had not supposed she 
came for advice, what could they think of her con- 
ceit in making such a display, and of staying and 
staying till she had all but to be turned out of 
doors ! All that about the Cambridge ware must 
have been a polite ruse to get rid of her, to spare 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 183 

her feelings while they relieved their own. What 
had kept her from telling them honestly and bravely 
what she had come for 1 Did she really expect them 
to ask her if her work was for sale, as in her reverie ; 
and then offer her that frieze to do in Newport 1 It 
was intolerable ! She literally bowed herself down 
in self-contempt, while her heart ached with the 
sickening defeat of her hopes. 

" Where to V asked a gruff voice. 

She had been sitting still in her coupe, and this 
was the voice of the driver, as he leaned over from 
his seat, and projected the demand in at the win- 
dow. 

"Oh!" cried Helen. Then she hesitated in a 
flutter. She had never thought where she should go 
next; she had not taken any next place into account. 
"Oh! Drive drive " She hesitated again, and 
then she gave the address of the street where she 
had bought her pottery. She remembered the 
decorated pieces there ; and they might like hers. 
At any rate the people did not know her, and she 
should have the courage to offer them her work. 

She began somewhat as at the other place : " I 
thought you might like to see ," and then Corrected 
herself, and said, " I wished to show you my decora- 
tion of some of the Beverley ware I got here the 
other day." 

" yes," said the shopman, warily, Helen 
thought. But she undid her vases, and saw him 
smile in approval. "They've come out very well," 
he added, as if they had been subjected to a process. 



184 A woman's reason. 

"Here are some new shapes, which we've just got 
in to-day." 

Helen only glanced at the vases he indicated. " I 
see you have some decorated pieces here," she said 
hastily. " Would you like to buy these 1 " 

The man's smile gave place to a look of something 
like anguish. He took off his hat, and scratched his 
head. " Well well not this morning, I think. 
The fact is, it 's a new thing, you know ; and these 
decorated pieces are principally to show what may 
be done with the ware. We do sell them, but we 
don't we don't buy. By and by, I hope we shall 
be able to do so, but as yet we only expect to supply 
the plain ware to ladies who wish to paint it. There 
are places where " He looked still more distressed, 
and stopped. 

Helen hastily wrapped her jars up again, and 
turned to go. The man followed her a few paces. 

" Your own work ? " he asked. 

" Yes," said Helen shortly, without looking round. 
"Drive slowly along Washington Street," she 
ordered, and as the coupe started she blamed herself 
for not re-opening the parley at the man's last ques- 
tion, and trying to learn of him something about 
those other places he had begun to mention. She 
was too much bewildered to do that, but it must 
have looked like pride. Helen resolved now that 
she would be not only bold but meek. 

She had a plan of stopping at various little shops, 
in whose windows she remembered seeing artistic 
caprices, like pictures in birch-bark, and comic 



A woman's reason. 185 

designs jig-sawed out of white-wood. They might 
somewhere take a fancy to her vases. She stopped 
accordingly wherever bricabrac showed itself in any 
sort. The street was full of people, that is to say of 
women, thronging in and out of the shop-doors, and 
intent upon spending the money of their natural 
protectors. It is always a wonderful spectacle, and 
in the circuit of a quarter of a mile, about the con- 
fluence of Washington and Winter Streets, it enforces 
itself with incomparable vividness. 

There is doubtless more shopping in New York or 
London, or Paris, but in those cities it is dispersed 
over a larger area, and nowhere in the world per- 
haps has shopping such an intensity of physiognomy 
as in Boston. It is unsparingly sincere in its expres- 
sion. It means business, and the sole business of 
the city seems to be shopping. The lovely faces of 
the swarming crowd were almost fierce in their pre- 
occupation, as they pressed into the shop-doors ; as 
they issued from them, and each lady stooped and 
caught the loop of her train in one hand, while she 
clasped half-a-dozen paper parcels to her heart with 
the other, those faces exhibited no relaxation of 
their eager purpose. Where do they all come from, 
and where does the money all come from % It is a 
fearful problem, and the imagination must shrink 
from following these multitudinous shoppers to their 
homes, in city and suburb, when they arrive frayed 
and limp and sore, with overspent allowances, and the 
hard task before them of making the worse appear 
the better reason. 



186 A woman's reason. 

Helen was dismayed to realise herself the only one 
of all her sex who wished to sell, and not to buy, 
and at the shops which she entered they were 
puzzled to conceive of her in that unique character. 
They were busy with the buyers, and when she had 
waited about patiently, and had at last found a 
moment to show her work, they only considered it 
in various patterns of indifference and refusal. For 
the most part they scarcely looked at it, and Helen 
found her scantest toleration at those places where 
she was obliged to deal with women. Commonly 
they could not put her errand and her coupe intel- 
ligibly together ; the conjunction seemed to raise 
suspicion. In one shop it raised laughter, which 
followed her from the young lady behind the counter, 
who said quite audibly to the young lady at the 
desk: " Actually in a coupe ! Think I should walk, 
myself ! " Helen, who had now hardened her sensi- 
bilities to everything, took the hint, and let the 
carriage come after her from shop to shop. But 
that served no purpose except perhaps to excite the 
fears of the driver lest she should try to escape from 
him. When every place had been tried, she still 
had her vases on her arm, which, when she got them 
back into the basket, she perceived was sore with 
carrying them. 

" Home," she said to the driver, and leaned back 
against the cushions, and closed her hot dry eyes. 
She was so benumbed by what she had undergone, 
that she did not feel very keenly, and her physical 
fatigue helped off the mental pain. Presently the 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 187 

carriage stopped, and she saw that they were in a 
jam of vehicles in front of a large jewelry store. 
There had been something the matter with her 
watch, and now she thought she would have it looked 
at ; and she dismounted and went in. She gave her 
watch to a man behind one of the counters, and 
while he screwed a glass into his eye, and began to 
peer and blow into the works, Helen cast a listless 
look into a window where there were some jars of 
limoges and plates of modern majolica. A gentle- 
man, who did not look quite like a clerk, came 
forward. Helen carelessly asked him the price of 
some of the faience. It seemed very little, and he 
explained that it was merely earthenware painted in 
imitation of the faience, and began to praise it, and 
to tell who did it. Helen did not listen very atten- 
tively; she was thinking of her own work, and 
wondering if she should have courage to ask him to 
look at it, and how, if she should, she could get it 
from the coupe without awkwardness, when he said, 
"I see you have something there in the way of our 
business." Then she saw that she had mechanically 
gathered up her three vases and brought them in 
with her on her arm ; she had long ceased to wrap 
and unwrap them. She looked at them stupidly, but 
said, "Yes, this is something I Ve been doing;" and the 
gentleman politely took them, and admired them with 
a civility that was so cordial to her after the ordeal she 
had passed through that the tears came behind her veil. 
" Do you think," she asked very timidly, " you 
would like to buy something of the kind ? " 



188 A woman's reason. 

"M m no," said the gentleman musingly, as he 
turned one of the vases over in his hand. 

Helen's breath came again, and she turned to get 
her watch, which the workman said was ready ; one 
of the wheels had caught, merely ; and there was no 
charge. She took back her vase, and nodded to the 
gentleman. He did not bow very definitively in 
return, but followed her to the door. 

"The fact is," he said, " there 's very little sale for 
these things now. The whole decoration business 
has been overdone. However," he added, after a 
pause in which he seemed to take in the fact of 
Helen's black, "we might chance to dispose of them 
for you. If you like, you can leave them here on 
sale." Helen promptly handed him the vases. 

"You mustn't form any expectations," he cautioned. 
" It will be a chance. What shall I ask for them 1 " 

"Oh, anything anything you can get," cried 
Helen desperately. "Nobody wants them." 

" Well, we '11 see," said the other, and he now set 
the vases in the window between the jars of imitation 
faience. 

Helen timidly offered him her card, and she stole 
a glance at the vases from the outside, and thought 
they looked very common, and dreadfully personal. 
Their being there gave her neither hope nor plea- 
sure. 

The door of the coupe stuck fast, and while she 
stood tugging at it, a policeman stepped up and 
opened it for her. " See here, my man," he said to 
the driver, " you 'd better get down and wait on your 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 189 

passengers decently, or give up the business. What 's 
your number 1 " and, while the man mumbled some- 
thing in explanation and excuse, Helen looked up 
into the face of her champion. She failed at first to 
recognise the civil fellow who had come home with 
her father the day of his seizure, and whom she had 
met on the steps; but the officer knew her, and 
touched his hat. 

Then she remembered him. " Oh, is it you V she 
cried, as if it were some old friend. 

" Yes," said the officer, very much pleased. 

" I 've always wanted to see you again and thank 
you," began Helen. 

" Oh, that 's all right," answered the officer. " Your 
father was a man, I can tell you. I I I was 
awfully sorry for you, Miss Harkness." He spoke 
with such simple and honest cordiality that Helen 
felt it nothing odd to be shaking hands with a 
policeman at high noon in Washington Street. 

" Thank you, you are very kind. Good-bye. I 
shall never forget your goodness to him that day." 

" Oh, don't mention it," said the policeman. He 
touched his hat again, and vanished in the crowd; 
and she reflected that she had not asked his name. 
As she looked in the direction he had gone, she saw 
not him but herself. She saw herself standing on 
the threshold of her old, lost home, and turning to 
look after this man with the stare of amused, haughty 
wonder, that a girl bred in ease and fashion, and 
fondly shielded from all that was rude or was abrupt 
in life, might fitly bend upon such a curious piece 



190 A woman's reason. 

of the social mechanism, unexpectedly and incon- 
ceivably related to herself. Her attitude implied 
secure possession in perpetuity of whatever was 
gracefully supreme in the world, of whatever was 
prosperously fastidious and aloof. It was enough 
to remember this attitude now. 

The coupe stopped at Mrs. Hewitt's narrow door, 
and the man got down and helped her out "I 
guess the horse is tired enough to stand while I carry 
this basket up for you," he said. 

Helen had no gratitude to express, and she did 
not thank him for this service when she took out 
her purse to pay him. She had kept the carriage 
two hours and a half, and he said they never counted 
less than an hour, but he would call it four dollars. 
As he folded the bills, he said he hoped she did 
not blame him for not opening the coupe door for 
her; she got out and in so often, and his horse 
always started up so when he left the box. 

" O no, no ! " cried Helen. " Only go, please." 
She closed the door behind him, and she flung herself 
upon the bed, and hid her face in her pillow, and 
drenched it with her rushing tears. Her head ached, 
and her heart was sore in her breast. All that had 
happened repeated itself with ceaseless iteration in her 
mind ; all the looks, all the tones, all the words ; they 
burnt, and rang, and hummed in her brain ; the 
long ordeal of her disappointment dramatised itself 
to the inner sense in thousand-fold swift reverbera- 
tion ; the disappointment was as bitter as if starvation 
were before her, and the shock to her pride was even 



A WOMAN'S reason. 191 

greater. She had fancied, as she now realised, that 
she should succeed because she was she ; while warn- 
ing herself that she must not expect anything but 
failure, she had secretly cherished an ideal of triumph 
that made the future a matter of fortunate inspira- 
tions and delightful toil. This was what she had 
really hoped ; and now, to her defeat was added the 
stinging sense of having been a fool. She had pro- 
bably set to work quite in the wrong way ; and she 
had been not only a fool, but such a coward as to be 
afraid to say that she wished to sell her work to 
the only people who could take a special interest in 
it. Yet they might not have cared for it either, and 
if she had spoken she would have had only one 
ignominy the more to remember. For, what puzzled 
and surprised Helen most of all was that when she 
had taken the humblest mien, and approached those 
shop-people on their own level, as it were, without 
pretension and without pride, they should have shown 
no sense of the sacrifice she had made, but should 
have trampled upon her all the same. 

The glamour was gone from her experiment. She 
was in the mood to accept any conditions of depend- 
ence ; she wondered at the vain courage with which 
she had refused the idleness and uselessness of the 
home offered her by the Butlers. 

The dinner bell rang, but she remained with her 
face in the pillow ; after a while some one tapped at 
her door, and then pushed it softly open and looked 
in, but she did not stir. Whoever it was must have 
thought her asleep, and so left her ; yet when Helen 



192 A woman's reason. 

opened her eyes there was still some one in her 
room. A shawl had been flung over her, and Miss 
Root was sitting at the window looking at her, and 
apparently waiting for her to wake up. 

"Not going to be sick, are you?" she asked. 
"You've been sleeping ever since before dinner, and 
Mrs. Hewitt asked me to look in and see how you 
were getting along. I guess you haven't taken cold ; 
she put the shawl on you." 

" O no !" said Helen, rising briskly, in the first free 
moment of waking, when care has not yet dropped 
back upon the heart. " I came in with a headache, 
and threw myself on the bed to rest." 

" That some of your work?" Miss Root indicated 
with a nod the basket which stood in the middle of 
the floor where the man had set it. The paper had 
come off one of the jars, and showed its decoration. 

" Yes," said Helen. "I did them I" A thought 
flashed into her mind: "They are for a wedding 
present ! " 

" May I look at it 1" asked Miss Root. 

" Certainly," said Helen, feeling bolder, now that 
she was protected by this little outwork of unreality 
against the invasion of Miss Root's sympathy.' She 
unwrapped two or three of the jars and set them on 
the window seat. - 

Miss Root did not trouble herself to take them up, 
but stood at a little distance and glanced at them 
with an eye that Helen saw understood and classed 
them, and that made her feel like the amateur she 
was. The girl turned away without comment. 



A woman's reason. 193 

" I saw some just like them in a window as I came 
along Washington Street. I pity any poor wretch 
that expects to live by painting and selling them." 

Miss Root could not have meant her equivocal 
speech in unkindness, for she added, looking back as 
she went out, "Don't you come down if you don't 
feel just right ; I '11 bring up your supper to you." 

Helen said she was going down, and arming her- 
self with the courage of her despair, she confronted 
the question of the tea-table with gaiety even, and 
made light of her long nap. She said she had been 
shopping all the morning, and the irony of the phrase 
in this application flattered her bitter mood. It was 
a stroke of the finest sarcasm, could they but know 
it; and in her heart she mocked at their simple 
acceptance of her statement. 

Mr. Evans said he was surprised she could sleep 
after shopping. When his wife went shopping it 
kept the whole family awake for the next twenty- 
four hours, and careworn for a week. Mrs. Hewitt 
asked about the fashions, and said that she always 
found things just as cheap and a good deal better at 
the large stores, and you spent more time and laid 
out as much money running round to the little places. 
It seemed to Helen the height of the sardonic to 
answer, " Yes, it was quite useless to go to the little 
places." 

" D'you find your letters all right, Miss Harkness?" 
asked the landlady, when this talk had taken its 
course ; " I put 'em on the corner of your mantel" 

"No," said Helen; "I didn't look." 

N 



194 A woman's reason. 

" Well, you '11 see 'em when you go back. They 
came after you went to sleep. The most curious 
stamps on / ever saw ! " 

Helen's heart stood still with fear and hope, and 
" Oh, papa, get them for my collection," pleaded the 
little boy. 

" Here," she said, rising, and making this oppor- 
tune prayer her shelter, " come up with me, and you 
shall have them;" and after due reproach from his 
mother, he was suffered to go with her. 

It was Eobert Fenton's handwriting on the en- 
velopes. " It 's my answer it 's my sentence, and 
I deserve it," she said under her breath, as she stood 
with the letters in her hand, trying to detach one of 
the stamps with her trembling fingers. 

"There," cried the boy, "you're tearing it !" 

"Never mind," said Helen; "they're bothalike. 
I'll cut this other off for you ;" but her hand shook 
so that she chopped into the letter a little with the 
scissors. 

"If I couldn't cut better than that!" roared the 
boy, anxious for the integrity of his stamp. " What 
makes you get so white, and then get so red 1 " 

"Oh, nothing, nothing!" answered Helen, inco- 
herently. " Here's your stamp," she stooped to 
give it. The child was pretty, with still grey eyes 
and full lips. " Will you kiss me, Tom," she asked 
in a very soft trembling voice, " for good luck V 
It seemed as if her fate hung upon his will, but 
when he hastily kissed her, and ran out, she still 
had not courage to open the letters. She flung 



A WOMAN S REASON. 195 

them on the bed, and locked the door, and then 
came back and looked at them. She could see a 
little of the writing in one through the hole where 
she had cut away the stamp, and she tried to make 
out the words ; they were such words as " from," and 
"for," and "with." 

If there had been but one letter, she thought, she 
should not have been afraid of it ; but this mystery 
of there being two ! She tried putting one out of 
sight under the pillow, but that did no good. Her 
sole comfort was that while they were still unopened 
she did not know the worst ; but in the meantime 
she was consumed with a terrible curiosity. She 
studied them hard, and then walked away to the 
furthest corner. 

" Oh, what is it in them 1 Indeed, I couldn't bear 
anything after to-day, indeed I couldn't!" she 
whimpered. "I can't open them!" and then she 
pounced upon one of them in a frenzy and tore it 
open. 



The character of no man is fixed till it has been 
tried by that of the woman he loves. Till then he 
has only the materials of character, and they are all 
to be shaped and ordered as newly as if he had 
never had them before. The thousand and one 
mysteries of Helen's girlish uncertainty, her fantastic 
waverings, her aesthetic coquetries with the idea of 
being in love, were as unintelligible to Fenton as 
his headlong and outspoken passion was to her. 
But while she thought his bluntness charming, in a 
way, and constantly trembled nearer and nearer 
to him in her heart, Fenton was far too simple a 
fellow to feel anything but trouble at the misgivings 
and delays which she enjoyed. When at last he 
made what he felt must be his last offer, and she 
met it with all those freshly alarmed ideals and 
metaphysical scruples, which a wiser and worse man 
would have trampled under foot, tearing her from 
herself, as she unconsciously meant, and making her 
his in her own despite, as she reluctantly wished, 
Fenton lost his head in a delirium of angry and 
wounded pride. 

When he awoke from it, irretrievably committed 



196 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 197 

to three years' exile, it was in a self-abhorrence and 
despair, and a sort of stupefaction that he should 
have done what he had done. His repentance came 
before he had forgiven Helen, and long before he had 
begun to conceive that the letter might have another 
meaning than that which he had first taken from it. 
Of his own light, perhaps, he never saw more in it 
than it seemed to say. It was without reading it 
again, without having the heart to look at it, that 
he hated himself for what he had done, and loathed 
himself for his futile desire to make reparation. It 
was impossible to repair his fault, and if it were 
possible, it would be despicable to attempt it. 
. He went haggardly about his duty, a machine that 
did its work, but with no more mind upon it than a 
machine. There came long spaces of time in which 
he afterwards recognised that he had not known 
what he was doing; that he had been altogether 
absent without having been anywhere else; he awoke 
from these absences as from a profound, dreamless 
torpor, and with a start of fear and amaze, to find 
that all had been going well in the meantime, that 
he had been talking, eating, and drinking, and 
shrewdly attentive to whatever immediately con- 
cerned him. It would have been hard for him to 
say whether the time when he was on duty, and no 
one spoke to him, or the leisure in which he was 
intimately thrown with his brother officers was the 
more terrible : his solitude was dense with piercing 
regrets, that stung for ever in the same place ; his 
association with others was tormented by an un- 



198 A woman's reason. 

forgettable remorse, which, if it seemed to grant him 
a moment's oblivion, awoke him presently, from 
somebody's joke or story, to the consciousness that 
it had only been more deeply and inwardly gnawing 
his soul. 

Some sort of action was indispensable, but action 
which did not relate to Helen, was none. He began 
to write letters to her. He had no idea of sending 
them, but it had grown insufferable to be perpetually 
talking to her as he was in those airy dramas within 
himself; and since his words could not be made 
audible, he must let them take visible shape. This 
became his daily habit ; and before the ship reached 
Eio de Janeiro he had accumulated a score of letters, 
which he bitterly amused himself by reading over, 
and considering, and putting by without destroying. 
He kept them, and found a sort of miserable relief 
in communing with them instead of his intangible 
thoughts. His industry did not escape the idle 
vigilance of the ship's comradery ; but at sea every 
one must be suffered his whim, and after laughing 
at Fenton's, they left him to it, in the feigned belief 
that it was a book he was writing : a marine novel, 
they decided. Each thought it in the way of 
his rightful joke to say, "Don't put me into it, 
Fenton," till Fenton, who worked up slowly to his 
repartees, found presence of mind at last to answer, 
" No ; I can't afford to make it dull, you know," and 
then they left him quite alone, with a roar at the 
expense of the chance victim. Before the laugh was 
over, Fenton had almost ceased to know what it was 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 199 

about, and had wholly ceased to care. He was quite 
too miserable to be glad of the immunity he had 
won. 

He went on with his letter-writing; but on the 
eve of arrival at Rio de Janeiro he destroyed all his 
work, and set about writing one letter, which should 
be his last. It was his purpose to post this without 
reference to consequences, as an act of final expia- 
tion. He was not without some trembling illusion 
that there might be a letter awaiting him : he did not 
dare to think from Helen, and he could not think 
from whom else. But his letter was to go before he 
knew what was in that, or even whether it existed. 
He had no reason to suppose it did exist ; it was in 
fact as purely a figment of his distempered fancy as 
' a starving man's visions of feasting ; and when he 
had faithfully posted his letter before going to the 
consul to ask if there were anything for him, he 
could not make out that it was disappointment that 
sickened him to find there was nothing. But a mail 
was expected the following day, and he kept his 
wrecked hopes adrift upon its possibilities during the 
night. 

The mail brought him no letter, but it brought 
the consul a copy of The Boston Advertiser, which he 
politely offered to Lieutenant Fenton unopened, not 
having the leisure just then for the newspaper. 
Fenton unfolded it with indifference, and mechani- 
cally glanced at the marriages. The paper was of a 
date four or five days after he had sailed, and the 
name of Helen Harkness did not appear in the mar* 



200 A woman's reason. 

riage list. He had not expected that it would, 
nevertheless he had looked at the marriages on her 
account; and he was about laying the paper aside 
when the record of a single death caught his eye. It 
was the death of Helen's father, with a dozen lines 
of mortuary praise. He dropped the paper. 

"Nothing in the Advertiser?" asked the consul, 
who was busy about some letters, without looking 
up. 

"Too much !" said Fenton, pulling his cap over 
his eyes. 

The consul thought this was a joke, and laughed 
in a companionable, uninterested way. Fenton 
looked at him and saw his innocence, and then he 
sat a long time in silence, with his arms folded, and 
his head down. At last he asked the consul if he 
could give him a sheet of paper and an envelope, and 
briefly wrote the second of the two letters which had 
reached Helen together. In her desperation, she 
had found no resource but to open them according 
to the order of the dates in their postmarks, and she 
had seized first upon that of the 9th. It began 
simply, Helen, and it ran in this way : 

" I hope you will have patience to read this letter 
through, though I have forfeited all right to a hear- 
ing from you. I am not going to make an appeal 
for your forgiveness, because I know I ought not to 
have it. I have suffered, not all that I ought to 
suffer, but all that human nature can suffer for that 
letter I sent you from Portsmouth. But I shall not 
try to work upon your pity ; I believe that I have 



A woman's reason. 201 

that already. I only wish you to understand that in 
again renouncing all pretensions to your regard, I do 
it with a full approval of your conduct to me. I do 
not blame you in the least thing. I see that I was 
altogether to blame. I see what I did not see before : 
that you never cared for me, and that you tried 
with all your heart, to be kind to me, and yet not to 
give me hope. I thank you for your goodness, and 
I beg you to believe, when you have read this letter, 
that my eyes are open at last, and that if I keep on 
loving you, it is because my love of you has become 
my life, and that I know I am no more worthy to 
love you than I am to live. I cannot help one or the 
other, but I can keep either from being troublesome 
to you, and I will. So I do not ask you to admit 
any of my former pretensions, but only to let me be 
your friend, in whatever humble and useful way I 
can. I consider myself a disgraced man, and I shall 
expect nothing of you but the kind of forbearance 
and patience you would show some repentant criminal 
who was depending upon your countenance for 
strength to reform himself. 

"I know you have told Mr. Harkness of my 
Portsmouth letter, and that he must be very much 
incensed with me. But though I do not ask your 
forgiveness, Helen, I do beseech you to try to get 
me his. I owe him all the little good there is in me, 
and I owe him all that I am and have done in this 
world. I could not tell you how dearly and truly I 
honour and love him. The thought that I came 
away without trying to take leave of him chokes 



202 A woman's reason. 

me; but after writing you that fatal letter, every- 
thing that was right and decent became impossible. 
" Good-bye, Helen. 

" Robert Fenton." 

When Helen had finished this letter, which, in- 
deed, she seemed instantly to divine rather than to 
read, she not only kissed it but pressed it to her 
breast and locked her arms upon it, clasping it close, 
as if it were some living thing and could feel the 
wild, happy tumult of her heart. She wept long 
and sweetly over it. It might not have been the 
perfection of reason to another, but to her all the 
parts were linked together by an impenetrable and 
infrangible logic. Nay, it was not that, it was not 
eloquence; it was the sum of everything, it was 
love, and however hapless love to the writer, it was 
heaven-prospered passion to Helen, who seemed in 
that fond embrace to implore, to forgive, to console 
Robert, as if he were there present and she had 
fallen upon his neck. They were happy, and they 
were happy together ; it was so much to know that 
she need never wish to know more. 

For some time, in the rush of her emotion, she did 
not realise that it was not an answer to her own 
letter. But it was infinitely more. It forestalled 
and anticipated her letter, as that, when it came 
to his hand, would in its turn be both appeal and 
response to him. Best of all, his letter made the 
first advance towards reconciliation, and assumed for 
Robert the blame for what she had suffered. She 



A woman's reason. 203 

knew that he was not wholly to blame, but as a 
woman she liked to have him say that he was, and 
she liked him to be generously first in owning him- 
self wrong that always seems a man's part. 

She had almost forgotten the letter of later date, 
the letter of the 10th, which still lay unopened 
before her. That, too, would be precious, but never 
so dear as this of the 9th, which should always be 
first in the history of their love; the other, no matter 
how sweet it proved, must always remain second. It 
was, in fact, not a fortunate inspiration. In his grief 
at the news which he had just read, Fenton's mind 
had reverted to the old relation in which he had 
first known Helen, and in the presence of the 
bereavement that they had both suffered in the loss 
of one who had been no less a father to him than to 
her, he addressed her as a sister, and signed himself 
as her brother Robert These words, coming upon 
the different tenderness his other letter had evoked, 
seemed to push her coldly from him, to disown their 
love and to ignore it, to take her at a certain disad- 
vantage with respect to the sorrow in which they 
humbly asked a brother's share; they made her 
jealous in a wild sort of her sorrow, they inde- 
scribably wounded her so that she threw the letter 
from her and wept bitter tears for the happy ones 
she had shed. It was such a letter as no woman 
would have written if she had been a man ! She 
should not know which letter to answer now, nor 
how to answer either ; for if she answered the first 
as she would have done, might not Robert think her 



204 A WOMAN'S reason. 

bold and unfilial 1 and if she answered the second as 
she ought, would she not appear reserved and cold 
with him upon whom her heart had just thrown itself 
with such tender abandon 1 The letters made two 
Koberts of him, and left her to despair between them. 

She passed a hapless night, and in the morning 
she took the first train after breakfast for Beverley, 
where she appeared at the Butlers' before ten o'clock, 
asking in such a high hysteric key for Mrs. Butler, 
who was not yet down, that they led her at once to 
her room. There she threw up her veil, revealing 
eyes tragic with tears and want of sleep, and gave 
the two letters into Mrs. Butler's hand while she hid 
her face in Mrs. Butler's pillow. 

"O Helen, Helen!" said the elder lady, when 
she had spelled through these documents in the dim 
light, " how glad I am for you ! Come, look at me, 
my dear, and let me see your happy face ! This 
makes up your quarrel, and you are Why, 
Helen !" she cried, when the girl obeying, bent 
those eyes of tragedy upon her, " what is the matter? 
Don't you didn't you " 

"0 yes, I care for him all the world !" Helen 
broke out " But the more I care for him the worse 
it is, and unless you can help me out of this trouble, 
Mrs. Butler, I shall surely go crazy. Oh, how in- 
delicate it is of me to come to you ! But I don't 
know what to do I don't know what to do ; I 'm 
so horribly alone ! And it 's such a very strange, 
ridiculous thing !" She did not suffer herself to 
pause, while Mrs. Butler stared compassionately at 






A woman's reason. 205 

her, till she had put her in full possession of her 
perplexity, and explained how it had poisoned all 
her joy. 

Mrs. Butler did not laugh at her ; she was one of 
those high spirits who perceive the sacred rather 
than the absurd, and amidst the girl's wild talk, she 
saw the reasonableness of pain that to a coarser 
sense would only have been ludicrous. " You must 
not think of this second letter at all, Helen," she said 
seriously. " Shall I tear it up 1 " 

"Oh, oh!" said Helen, half-reaching for it, and 
yet holding her hand. " It 's about papa, and it 's 
from him /" She caught her breath, and trembled for 
Mrs. Butler's decision. 

" I didn't think of destroying it," said the other, 
" but I 'm not going to let you have it back. This is 
the only letter you've got, Helen, for the present," 
she added, handing the girl the first, and putting the 
second under her pillow. " The letter that you sent 
him the other day wouldn't that be a kind of 
answer to this V 1 

"Why, yes !" cried Helen with electrical perception. 

" Well, then, answer the first. I want you to let me 
keep this till till I can give it back to Mrs. Fenton." 

"Oh!" said Helen. 

" And kiss me, my dear," said Mrs. Butler fondly ; 
" and bathe your eyes yonder. And if you touch the 
left hand-bell, Marian will come up." 

"Oh!" said Helen in the same shaken tone as 
before. " Shall you shall you tell her V 

" No ; you shall," replied Mrs. Butler. But when 



206 A woman's reason. 

Marian came, it was Mrs. Butler who had to explain 
the embrace in which Helen seized her, and which, 
first returning with mechanical affection, she now 
returned with rapturous intelligence. 

"Engaged?" she exulted. "Oh, Helen, Helen, 
Helen !" 

"Why," cried Helen, laughing from her happy 
heart, and pulling away from her friend, " I don't 
know what you call it. I 've written him a making- 
up letter, and he's written me one, and they've 
crossed on the way." 

" Oh, tlmt 's an engagement," said Marian, with 
the authority of a connoisseur. 

"But he hasn't got my letter yet, and I'm not 
engaged till he has." 

" That 's nothing. He 's engaged, because you 've 
got his, and in an engagement the man counts for 
everything ; the girl goes without saying." Marian 
Butler was at that period full of those airs of self- 
abnegation with which women adorn themselves in 
the last days of betrothal, and the first of marriage, 
and never afterwards. 

They talked Helen's whole affair over, in the 
light of the full candour which she was able to bring 
to bear upon it now for the first time. As to feelings 
she must still have her reserves ; but as to facts, she 
made them little by little all theirs ; it helped her to 
realise Robert to be talking of him by his name, and 
to hear. others doing so. At the sound of approach- 
ing footsteps without, Marian said 

"Now mother, those children are not to know 



A woman's reason. 207 

about this. They 're too forthputting now, especially 
Jessie." 

Ignorant of this supreme interest, the younger 
sisters were richly content with Helen's further 
account of her boarding-house life, which she con- 
tinued to them like an instalment of some intoxica- 
ting romance. When she came to the end of her 
chapter, she stopped with a manner that roused their 
worst suspicions. 

" Oh, she 's keeping something back ! " complained 
Jessie, and "Oh, oh !" went up from the others. 

"Yes!" cried Helen, "I'm keeping back the best 
of all, because it doesn't seem as if I could tell it." 

While they all stared, she abruptly began the 
confession of her experiment iu decorative keramics. 
She was by this time in high spirits, and she poured 
it all out, illustrating, mimicking, not sparing her- 
self in the minutest particular of conceited expecta- 
tion or forlorn reality. It was all past now, far past, 
and was part of a former existence which she had 
suddenly outlived by an untraversable period of 
time. It made them laugh, Marian with amusement, 
and Mrs. Butler with a sort of grieving compassion ; 
as for the young girls, it seemed to them the wildest 
and most enviable adventure that ever was known 
out of a book. 

" And you didn't meet a soul not a soul you 
knew 1 " asked Mrs. Butler. 

"O no; no one shops in Boston now, you know; 
and I was perfectly safe. But I shouldn't have 
cared." 



208 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

" I should have been glad of it !" cried Jessie 
Butler. " I should have liked to lug my basket up 
and poke it into their carriage-doors, and offer to 
sell them the things, and see how they would look!" 

" Jessie !" said her mother. 

" Well, never mind. Go on, go on, Helen !" 

" That's all," said Helen, who had brought them 
back to the period of her return to her room and her 
long desperate slumber. " No, the worst is to come! 
Miss Root came in while I was asleep, and discovered 
them ; and what do you think I told her 1 I told her 
I had been doing them for a wedding present ! " 

There was fresh sensation at this, but Jessie ex- 
claimed, "Marian Butler shall never have those 
vases in the world. They shall be sold ! The idea ! 
I will go up and sell them ! " 

" No," said Helen soberly ; " she must take them, 
Jessie, to save me from fibbing, if nothing else. 
Besides, you suggested painting pottery, Marian, and 
they're Beverley ware all very appropriate, you 
see. And some of them are not so bad. And I 
can't give you anything better till my ship comes 
home /" 

At this idea of a ship, and of its coming home, 
Helen and Marian simultaneously pressed each other's 
hands, where they sat side by side on the lounge, 
with delicious intelligence. Marian said that she 
should prize Helen's present more than anything else 
that could be given her, and that its history, which 
could not be known out the family, would make it all 
the more precious ; the legend would be something 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 209 

to tell the future age. It would be great to say, 
u Only think of your great-grandmother going about 
the whole day with these beautiful things, and not 
being able to sell them for a crust of bread to keep 
her from starving." 

" Marian," said her mother, " I can't let you make a 
joke of it. I can't help thinking how wretched it would 
have been if poor Helen had really been in need." 

" Indeed I was in need, Mrs. Butler," said Helen, 
" while I was doing those things. I felt just as 
destitute ! And I worked at them, early and late, as 
if my* life depended upon it." 

" Oh, that 's a very different thing, my dear," said 
Mrs. Butler. "It was only play poverty, after all. 
Think if you had really been some poor girl, with 
nothing, and had met with such a disappointment !" 

" I don't believe I could have suffered more," said 
Helen, confidently. 

" I 'm glad you 've no means of knowing certainly. 
But now that you 've tried your experiment, Helen, 
hadn't you better end this little escapade, and come 
back to us? Things have come about very fortu- 
nately," she added quickly, at a look of refusal in 
Helen's eye, " and your failure to earn a living makes 
it easier for me to tell you something that's been 
rather weighing upon my mind." 

She spoke with a double sense to Helen, who 
understood that it was not her failure, but the letter 
from Robert which made it easy for Mrs. Butler to say 
what followed. 

"We have concluded not to wait a month after 

o 



210 A woman's reason. 

Marian is married, before we sail, but to go the next 
week. We shall not try to run them down Girls," 
she broke off, and speaking with the tone of authority 
which they knew when they heard it, " go and see 
where your father is," and when they were gone, she 
resumed, "but we shall follow them up pretty 
closely, and we shall meet them in Venice just before 
they start from Trieste for Egypt. Now, Marian !" 

"And there," said Marian, "Miss Harkness, who 
has come to that point with the bride's family, will 
join the happy couple, and make one of their party 
up the Nile. It 's to be a trusteeship, Helen," 
she cried, "it can't be resigned; you must come. 
We are going to take a dahabeiah at Cairo, with some 
Philadelphia friends of Ned's, very quiet people whom 
he took a great fancy to ; and I want you along to 
do the correct, and elegant, and superior thing for 
Boston, and leave me to uninterrupted enjoyment of 
the sillies. Yes, Helen, you must come. Ned wishes 
it as much as I, and I can't tell you how much that 
is. We want to take you away from yourself, and 
we promise to bring you back in a year " She 
hesitated : "I was pausing for want of an idea, but 
say improved in every way." 

"Oh, I can't !" lamented Helen. She leaned back 
upon the lounge, and brooded upon the matter in a 
silence to which the others left her unmolested. " It 
isn't because it doesn't seem the loveliest and kindest 
thing in the world, Marian, and I've no peasant- 
pride that would prevent me from accepting it ; and 
it isn't because I think I should do better to go on 



A woman's reason. 211 

trying to take care of myself, Mrs. Butler. I know 
that I 'm a distinct failure in that way, and I haven't 
any heart or conceit for further experiments. But 
I must stay ! He will come back I know he will 
come back, as soon as he gets that letter of mine 
and he must find me here waiting for him. It would 
be a shocking kind of treachery if I were away." 

" You could write to him now that you were going 
with us," said Marian, a good deal shaken by the 
heroism of Helen's position, "and he could meet you 
somewhere abroad." 

Mrs. Butler said nothing. 

" The second letter might miss," replied Helen, as 
if the first letter could not. 

" You could keep writing," urged Marian, " before 
you sailed, and then from Europe." 

" No ; it wouldn't do. He must find me here 
waiting for him ; and I mustn't stir from the spot 
till he gets back. I don't know how to explain it 
exactly. But it would look very queer and light- 
minded, wouldn't it, if I went off junketing up the 
Nile, while he was thinking all the time that I was 
forlornly waiting for him in Boston, and was as un- 
happy as he till we met 1 Besides, I feel this way 
about it, after what has passed between us : I ought 
not to be on a high horse of any sort when Bobert 
comes back. I feel that it is his right and his due 
to be able to stoop to me a little ; and it would only 
be a just reparation for me to be in very humble 
circumstances when I met him. Doesn't that seem 
like a kind of reason to you, Mrs. Butler 1 " 



212 A woman's reason. 

"Yes," assented Mrs. Butler doubtfully; "a little 
romantic !" 

" Do you think so 1 " asked Helen, rather hurt ; 
"I hoped you would think it sensible." 

" I do, my dear, I do," Mrs. Butler hastened to 
reply, " from your point of view." 

"There's this, too," Helen added, not quite 
appeased, after a hesitation. "Robert hasn't any 
money, but his pay ; and I only have such a very little, 
that we couldn't begin living like rich people ; and 
the question is whether I had better keep on living 
as I used to do, or whether I hadn't better get 
accustomed to something very plain and simple at 
once." 

"Yes," said Mrs. Butler, while Marian fidgeted 
in protest, but said nothing. 

" I try to look at it quite dispassionately, and in 
the light of common sense, without any foolishness, 
and it seems to me that I shouldn't be doing right 
unless I were making some sacrifice for Robert, and 
suffering, don't you know, in some way; I should 
not be happy unless I were. You know," she said 
softly, " that I don't think I always used Robert very 
well. I don't mean that I meant to ; but I didn't 
understand myself ; and now that I do, and under- 
stand him, I should be detestable, if I went off to be 
pleased and diverted, while he was hurrying home 
with his mind burning upon the thought that I was 
waiting here in perfect wretchedness till he came- 
Don't you see 1 ? I must be here, and I must be 
wretched, to be perfectly true to him !" 



A woman's reason. 213 

"You are right, Helen !" cried Mrs. Butler, deeply- 
moved by this divine logic of the heart. "Hush, 
Marian, don't speak ! You know she is right. 
Come here, Helen !" The matron embraced the girl 
in the fervour of that youth which women of all ages 
have /in common. " We won't say anything more of 
this /matter, Marian, and we will just tell your father 
that Helen can't go. You won't mind my letting out 
a little of your secret to him ? " 

" no !" blushed Helen. " I had expected you to 
tell him." 

Captain Butler would once have teased the girl 
about her happiness. But since her father's death he 
seemed not to have been able to treat her lightly ; 
her loss and her uncertain future made her a serious 
affair to him; and now that her father was gone, 
Helen was startled at times to find how much his old 
friend was like him. There were tones and move- 
ments of strange resemblance ; perhaps the impression 
came partly from Captain Butler's impaired health ; 
he was certainly not well, and that made her think 
of her father. He took what Mrs. Butler told him 
very much as her father would have done, she thought, 
and he expressed his satisfaction almost as quietly. 
His only revenge was to ask : 

" Shall you answer in care of the Navy Department, 
or would you like to telegraph a reply I" 

" Oh, Captain Butler," cried Helen, " could I tele* 
graph?" 

" Yes," said the Captain. " How would you word 
your despatch ? " 



214 A woman's reason. 

"Mr. Butler !" said his wife in reproach. 

"I I don't know !" gasped Helen. 

"It wouldn't reach him, now, any sooner than 
your letter of three weeks ago. He '11 find that at 
Hong Kong when he gets there, and you wouldn't 
know where to hit him with a telegram on the way. 
If your letter was posted at Eio, the Muskingum " 

" Messasauga," Helen softly corrected him. 

" Was it Messasauga 1 is going round the Cape 
of Good Hope, and she must have passed that point 
a week ago, and she won't stop at any other tele- 
graphic port, probably. Here," said the Captain, 
with rising interest, "I '11 show you his course." 

He got a chart out of the library, and Helen began 
to study navigation with the impassioned devo- 
tion which love lends to intellectual pursuits. One 
observes this ardour in two young persons of opposite 
sexes who take up some branch of literature or science 
together, which they might not perhaps have thought 
of, if they had not thought of each other. It has been 
known to cast a purple light upon metaphysics. 
Helen borrowed the chart and brought it away with 
her. 

It was a happy day, and its memory remained to 
sweeten the days in the increasing bustle of pre- 
paration for Marian's wedding, when Helen saw 
her friends less and less, and then the days when 
she saw them no more. 



XI. 

Helen's letter, crossing the letter Fenton wrote 
at Rio de Janeiro, reached him at Hong-Kong. It 
added, after the first hours of rapture, the anguish of 
a hopeless longing to the remorse he had been suffer- 
ing. It was no longer a question of her forgiveness ; 
but he did not find it easier, now that he had the 
assurance of her love, to forgive himself for his rash- 
ness ; he thought of her alone in her sorrow, without 
the instant sympathy and support which she had a 
right to expect from him, even if there had been no 
tie but their common affection for her father between 
them; and his whole life centred in an impulse to 
return to her somehow from the banishment he had 
inflicted upon himself. But he had himself made 
return impossible for the present at least by the 
terms on which he had sought exile ; he must wait 
and he must suffer that would have been simple 
enough and he must also make her wait and suffer. 
When he came to this conclusion, as he always must, 
it was with a mental shock that was like a veritable 
concussion of the brain, that left him weaker day by 
day, and that broke him at last. He fell sick of a 
disorder that baffled the science of the surgeon when 
he visited him in his room. 



216 A woman's reason. 

" "What the devil is the matter with you 1 I 
believe in my soul you 're trying to make a die of it," 
said the doctor, a cheerful, elderly man, tight in his 
uniform. 

" No man ever wanted to live as I do," answered 
Fenton. 

" Well, then, you must brace up. I '11 give you a 
tonic. Make you up a bottle and send it to you." 
The doctor felt his pulse again and said, "You're 
either down with the climate, and that affects your 
spirits, or else it 's your spirits that affect your health. 
But in any case you must brace up." As Fenton lay 
perfectly still with his face turned away, Dr. Simmons 
passed his hand over the top of his head where a per- 
spiration of perplexity had gathered in the scattering 
down. "I can't minister to a mind diseased, you 
know," he suggested. 

" No," said Fenton. 

"You must go to some other shop." 

He got himself with difficulty out of Fenton's door 
into the ward-room, and presently sent him the 
bottle. It seemed to make him worse, and the 
doctor visited him again in renewed mystification. 
After the usual inspection, he sat looking at Fenton 
as before, and then said casually, " What a lucky 
chap Nixon is, going home on leave so soon ! " 

Fenton sat up. " Going home! O my God !" He 
fell back on his pillow, and the doctor nodded his 
head. 

"I thought so. You're homesick. Nixon isn't 
going home ; but if you keep on in this way, you are 



A woman's reason. 217 

in a box. This thing will kill you as sure as you 
live, if you don't fight it, and if you've got particular 
reasons for living, as you intimated the other day, 
you 'd better make the most of them. Get leave and 
go off somewhere for a while. Amuse yourself ; try 
to forget about it. You can worry it off somehow. 
You must ; and so I tell you." 

" Two days after I sailed the man who had taken 
care of me all my life, and been more than a father 
to me, died suddenly, and left his only child alone in 
the world," said Fenton desperately. " How am I to 
worry that off I I ought to be there to help her, to 
take care of her, to show the gratitude that common 
decency " 

" "Well, that is bad," assented the doctor. " But 
she 's got friends, of course V 

" Oh, friends, yes !" 

" And of course she '11 be looked after. You must 
try to see the bright side of it," added the doctor. 
"There 's a bright side to everything." 

" Do you think so ? Then I '11 tell you the bright 
side to this. I came away in a quarrel with them 
a quarrel where I was to blame without seeing them 
or saying a word to them ; and I can't ask leave to 
go home, because I made a point of getting ordered 
here. That 's the bright side of it !" 

" It isn't very dazzling," admitted the doctor, with 
the smile that men put on at other men's troubles 
of sentiment. "But it isn't a thing to be morbid 
about. You can write home and explain. You 're 
a little under the influence of the climate here ; you'll 

\ 



218 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

see all these things differently when you're used 
to it. I 'd better give you some quinine. There 's 
no use in giving way ; you '11 only make bad worse." 

The shame of having confessed to an anxiety that 
another seemed to find so slight was a powerful 
auxiliary in the effort of will that Fenton made to 
overcome its physical effects. He succeeded so far 
that he was able to go on duty again, after a week 
or two, and to live doggedly on from day to day in 
that double consciousness where the secret trouble 
remains a dull, incessant ache underneath all the out- 
ward conditions. It began to be a superstition with 
him that something must happen, some chance of 
escape must offer ; he could not yet bring himself to 
the thought of the last resort, though the knowledge 
that at the end of all he could resign and go home 
continually tempted him. 

Helen's letters, as they came, were brave and hopeful, 
and Fenton only wrote of the time when they should 
meet ; he instinctively wrote as if this time must be 
near. Then the mere lapse of days and weeks began 
to have its effect as it does in every human affliction ; 
it lessened his burden by making it a thing of custom, 
to which his life adjusted itself. He had not less to 
bear, but he had learned better how to bear it ; and 
the pride and joy which he had felt in Helen's love, 
even when he felt himself least worthy of it, seemed 
more and more his right, and less and less his unlaw- 
ful possession. Apparently she was pleasantly placed 
in the house which she amusingly described to him, 
and she was living quietly and trustfully on there, 



A woman's reason. 219 

waiting for his return. She wrote him very freely 
about everything else, but she shrank from telling 
him of her experiment in decorating pottery for 
sale, because she would not let him know that she 
had ever thought herself in need. She never spoke 
of any need in her life except his return ; she only 
spoke of that in answer to his letters saying that he 
would use every effort to get back, and then she said 
that they must both have patience, and that she 
would be content to wait all her days for him, rather 
than have him do anything that he would not have 
done if she had not wished. She said something 
that made Fenton smile, about her knowing that he 
would not dream of deserting his post of duty ; and 
then she begged his forgiveness if she had seemed to 
express any fear of such a thing ; and again she said 
that she was very well and very contented, and that 
he must not worry about her, and she only wished 
that he could look into her little room at Mrs. 
Hewitt's, and see how comfortable she was. 

To the next letter, which reached him a month 
later, she put a postscript in which she offered to 
give him back every word that bound him to such 
a helpless and foolish creature as she was, but told 
him that it would kill her if he consented. "If it 
were not for thinking of you, Eobert, I should 
hardly have the courage to keep up. If you were 
ever to be unkind to me again, no matter if it were 
entirely my fault, I could not forgive you, but I 
should die in the attempt. There are some things," 
she added, with subtle relevancy, "about my everyday 



220 A woman's reason. 

life, and its cares and difficulties, that make me wish 
for your advice, but you are too far away for that ; 
and if you were here, I should not have the troubles, 
and should not need the advice. It all comes from 
my not having any head for figures, and not calcu- 
lating beforehand instead of afterwards, when it 
does no good ; and then I have to pay a poor girl's 
penalty for flinging money away as no rich girl 
ought." 

The day she wrote, Helen had met in the street 
one of the women whom she had put down on her 
list of the things "To be given away" before the 
auction, for certain tables, chairs, and bedsteads, 
which Captain Butler, in the use of a wise discretion, 
had ordered to be sold for the benefit of the estate. 
Mrs. Sullivan, though poor, was not proud, and she was 
one of those who had formerly profited by the sums 
which Helen saved from hack-hire. She now thanked 
her for a small present of old clothes, which, being 
sent her before Captain Butler's agency in Helen's 
charities began, had really reached her. Helen 
saw the expectation of future old clothes in the 
woman's eye, and thought it right to cut off her vain 
hope. 

"I'm afraid I shall not have any more clothes 
for you very soon," she said coldly. "I must wear 
my old things myself after this." Then, with some 
exasperation at being invited to an impossible bene- 
ficence, where she had already done so much, she 
added : " I hope you found the furniture useful, 
Mrs. Sullivan?" 



A woman's reason. 221 

"What foornitoor, Miss?" quavered the poor 
woman, reduced to destitution by the idea of the 
prosperity that had evaded her; and it came out 
that she had never received the things intended for 
her. 

Helen did not pause to inquire how this had 
happened. " There has been some misunderstanding, 
Mrs. Sullivan," she said loftily; "but I don't intend 
that you shall be the sufferer by it." She gave Mrs. 
Sullivan everything she had in her porte-monnaie 
except some horse-car tickets. "It may not be so 
much as the furniture was worth, but it's ready 
money, and no doubt you can buy things with it that 
you would rather have." 

Mrs. Sullivan was apparently not inclined to this 
opinion ; the loss because uncertain seemed greater ; 
but she did not fail to invoke God's favour upon 
Helen, and she asked for her washing, as an amend 
for the unmerited deprivation which the Sullivan 
family had undergone through her. Helen hurried 
home, and found that she had given Mrs. Sullivan 
all her money but ten dollars, and that now she 
must encroach upon her capital at last. She must 
go to the lawyer in whose hands Captain Butler had 
left her money, and ask him for some of it. She 
could have wept for vexation at her rashness, and 
shame for the necessity to which it had brought her ; 
but the sum of her varying moods was the mood of 
self-pity in which she wrote that postscript to Robert. 
She was sorry for it as soon as she had posted the 
letter, but even then she merely regretted it as the 



222 A woman's reason. 

expression of a mood, which she had always said was 
foolish in writing a letter. 

Fenton had never imagined her poor, or in need 
of any kind ; the fancy of a lover does not deal with 
material circumstances; but he now made ample 
amends for past failure. He took unsparing blame 
to himself for the false delicacy that had kept him 
from asking in what state her father's affairs had 
been left, for not jnaking her tell him how much or 
how little she had. At this first vague hint of cares 
and difficulties, of the necessity of saving, which 
she had allowed to escape her, he saw her in a 
poverty that scarcely stopped short of the municipal 
coup-kitchen. With the distance which he had put 
between them, how could he hope to help her? 
How could he even intimate his longing to do so, 
without wounding her ? - He wore himself out in vain 
contrivance for getting his pay to her in some 
secret and anonymous way. 

Her next letter was cheerful and happy, with no 
hint of trouble ; but he could see nothing in it but 
a feint of gaiety, a pretence to keep him in heart 
about her; and the effect of time and will were 
undone in him. 

" I don't understand all this bother of yours, 
Fenton," said the doctor, to whom he applied once 
more. " But I guess you 've got to go home. You 're 
dying here." 

" Going home doesn't follow," replied Fenton. 

"You're useless, and worse than useless, as you 
are, here," continued the doctor. " I know how you 



A woman's reason. 223 

feel about it ; you feel that it 's a disgrace to give 
up; but you're sick, and you're as irresponsibly 
sick as if you had the consumption. You have got 
to look at it in that light." 

" I can't go," said Fenton. 

" Oh, very well," retorted the doctor. " I can't 
force a man to live." 

That night, as Fenton sat in the wardroom with 
two or three others, who were smoking and reading, 
while he pretended to read, the figure of Helen sud- 
denly glided out of the empty air, and paused full 
form before him ; it melted by slow degrees away, 
her face vanishing last, and leaving him with a sense 
of her strange look : it was neither sad nor reproach- 
ful, but of a peculiarly sweet and gentle archness. 

He turned a ghastly countenance on the doctor, 
whom he found looking at him across the table. He 
trembled to his feet, and the doctor ran round and 
helped him to his room. "Well?" he impatiently 
demanded, when they were alone in his room. 

"She's dead! I saw her ghost!" whispered 
Fenton. The perspiration, which stood in drops on 
his forehead, bathed the clammy hand with which 
he clutched the doctor's warm hairy fist. 

" I agree to the ghost," the doctor answered cheer- 
fully, " but I guess she isn't dead, all the same." 

" You think not ?" queried Fenton with a childish 
submissiveness. " But but I saw her !" 

" Oh, no doubt," replied Simmons. " If you keep 
on at this rate, you '11 see a ball-room full of her ! 
It 's a phenomenon of your condition. You turn in, 



224 a woman's reason. 

now, and I '11 make you up a bottle that will keep 
her away till to-morrow night, anyway." 

The surgeon had the professional humanity, and 
he would have pitied Fenton as the doctor pities his 
patient, even if he had felt no personal kindness for 
him. But he really had a liking for the young fellow; 
he respected him as the most striking case of 
nostalgia that had ever come under his notice. The 
case was all the more interesting from the character 
of the man, which was one of stubborn endurance in 
everything; his pride was as evident as his quick 
temper ; and yet here he was, beaten down, perfectly 
broken up, by a purely moral disorder. " If I had 
not got that man away," Doctor Simmons could say 
in imaginable boastings that were to hold future 
wardrooms in awe, "he would have died, sir; died 
of sheer home-sickness !" 

Of any other sort of sickness with which the 
nostalgia was complicated, no intimation seemed to 
have penetrated to the doctor's thickened conscious- 
ness ; it was long since he had had any love affairs of 
his own ; the passion, as he had observed it later in 
life, was not apt to manifest itself in any such con- 
dition as Fenton's ; he ascertained that the apparition 
was that of the lieutenant's adoptive sister, and he 
rested in that knowledge. But the fact that patients 
suffering from nostalgia were sometimes haunted by 
visions of absent friends was an incident of the 
malady noted in the books, and upon its occurrence 
every possible means should be made to secure their 
return home. 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 225 

It was upon this authority and this conviction 
that Doctor Simmons approached the Admiral in 
Fenton's behalf. He explained the case with scien- 
tific zeal, and then dwelt upon the peculiar circum- 
stances which rendered it impossible for Mr. Fenton 
to apply for leave to return, while he was at the 
same time in such a condition of mind that to con- 
demn him for service by medical survey, and send 
him home in that way, would be simply sentencing 
him to death. The doctor acknowledged the irre- 
gularity of his own proceeding in making this appeal; 
but he urged the extremity and the delicacy of the 
case in justification : Mr. Fenton would certainly 
not survive if he remained in the station; Doctor 
Simmons staked his professional reputation upon 
that, and without presuming to suggest anything, he 
begged the Admiral to consider whether some public 
interest could not be served by Mr. Fenton's return 
on duty. The next day Fenton received orders to 
sail by the first steamer from Yokohama with de- 
spatches for Washington. It was at the time of the 
war between Japan and Corea, in which, as is well 
known, certain eventualities threatened to compro- 
mise American interests. 

When Doctor Simmons visited his patient after 
the orders reached him, he was rewarded for the tact 
with which he had accomplished his difficult task by 
Fenton's accusation that he had brought the result 
about. He expected this, and in the interest of 
science, he met the accusation with lies so prompt 
that they would have carried conviction to any mind 

P 



226 a woman's reason. 

less sore and disordered than Fenton's. He told him 
that his orders were a god-send, and advised him 
not to trouble himself about how or why they had 
been given. In fact the situation admitted of 
nothing but obedience ; upon the face of it there was 
no point that the most self-accusing scruples could 
lay hold of; and Fenton discovered with helpless 
shame that all the natural forces in him were fighting 
against his broken will. He was quite ready for the 
steamer that sailed in a few days for Yokohama and 
San Francisco ; and he accepted his good fortune 
upon the best terms he could. When it was too late 
he began to realise his obligation to the man who 
had saved his life, and given it back to him with 
such hope as now rioted in his heart at every thought 
of Helen and of home. He was a week out from 
Yokohama, and he could do nothing but write a 
letter to the surgeon, trying to make up for his past 
thanklessness by a vain and remote profusion of 
gratitude. 

He was, as he figured it, only a fortnight from 
San Francisco, and unless he suffered some detention 
at Washington, only a little over three weeks from 
Helen. The possibility that he might be ordered 
away upon some other service before he saw her 
occurred to him, but only as one of those disasters 
which each of us regards as too cruel and monstrous 
ever to happen to himself. He bet on the highest 
figures in the pools formed to guess at the run of the 
ship from day to day j and the lady who held the 
pools was not long in divining the cause of his 



A woman's reason. 227 

sanguine faith in a short passage. Mrs. Bowers was 
going to join her husband iu San Francisco; the 
similarity of. their objects gave them a natural 
interest in each other, and a man of Fenton's ordi- 
nary good sense and reserve was capable of confiding 
in this sympathising listener, with the lover's in- 
genuous egotism, so incredible to us later in life. 
He talked continually of Helen to her, when perhaps 
she would much rather have had him talk about 
himself, as they walked up and down the deck to- 
gether; he told her everything but Helen's name, 
which she threatened she would have yet before they 
got to San Francisco. In the meantime they always 
spoke of Helen as the Mystery. It was folly, but it 
made Fenton transcendently happy; these confidences 
brought Helen nearer, they realised her ; they almost, 
in the spiritualists' phrase, materialised her. The 
time came when, the moonless night being propitious, 
he told Mrs. Bowers of the apparition of Helen, and 
asked her what she thought of it. She said that she 
thought it the most wonderful thing she had ever 
heard of : but she owned that she did not know what 
it meant. She added that she should always stand 
in awe of a person who had had such a thing happen 
to him; and then she pressed the arm on which 
she hung, and giggled; and the next moment she 
shrieked. There had been a sudden, violent wrench 
and shock ; her cry was answered, after a moment's 
deathly silence, by a confused clamour from all 
parts of the ship; and the passengers came rush- 
ing up from below, where they had been playing 



228 A woman's reason. 

euchre, and singing hymns, and eating bacon and 
Welsh-rabbit, and implored one another to say what 
had happened. According to usage everywhere in 
cases of accident, there was no authority to turn to 
for information ; the officers of the ship were each 
about his duty, and they severally and collectively 
underwent severe criticism from the passengers for 
their absence from the scene of the common dismay 
and curiosity. 

Fenton was the first, in virtue of his office and 
mission, to learn that the ship had broken her shaft, 
and must put back to Yokohama. He received his 
sentence with desperate fortitude. 

" I think we might get you back in time for the 
next boat," said the captain, considerate of the haste 
of a bearer of despatches, " but it would be only a 
chance. This is a sailing craft now. With a fair 
wind all the way, we might do it j but that 's almost 
too much to hope for. Of course we might meet the 
next boat on her way home before we make Yoko- 
hama, but that would be still more of a chance." 

"Well, I must go back with you, that's all," 
replied Fenton. 

"Yes, there 's nothing else for it, that I see." 

The passengers in the saloon were divided between 
two minds, and inclined in about equal numbers to 
hold a service of song and thanksgiving for their 
delivery from danger, and to organise an indignation 
meeting for the adoption of resolutions condemning 
the captain for snubbing a committee of inquiry, 
which had presented a just interrogation as to his 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 229 

purposes, in view of the accident. It appeared, from 
the best informed, that the captain had at once put 
his ship about, not only without consulting the pas- 
sengers' wishes, but evidently without considering 
whether it was not quite as feasible to push on to 
San Francisco as to return to Yokohama. There 
were attempts to commit some of the stewards to 
the former hypothesis. 

About noon the next day, the captain spoke a ship, 
which, under a full press of canvas, was making 
speed eastward that mocked the laggard reluctance 
of the steamer on her backward course. She proved 
to be the clipper Meteor, bound for San Francisco, 
for a freight of wheat to Europe. The captain invited 
Fenton on to the bridge. 

" There 's your chance," he said, " if you want to 
risk it. But you must be quick about it." 

" How much of a chance is it 1 " asked Fenton. 

" Those clippers often make very quick runs. She 's 
bound straight for where you want to go. I can't 
advise, and I don't know whether they '11 take you." 

"I'll risk it!" said Fenton. If he had been 
given more time to hesitate he might have refused 
the risk ; but he was not given the time. He 
scratched a line to Helen, telling her what had 
happened, for the captain of the steamer to post 
in Yokohama when he got back, so that she might 
have some intelligence of him in case of further 
delay; but, when he had finished his letter, he, 
decided that it would distress her with needless 
anxiety if it reached her before his arrival, and that 



230 A woman's reason. 

it would in all probability come after him ; and so he 
put it into his pocket, instead of giving it to the 
captain. In the meantime, there was further un- 
intelligible parley with the clipper; she shortened 
sail and hove-to, and before the other passengers 
had well realised the fact, Fenton and his baggage 
were in the boat which the steamer had lowered, 
and was rising and sinking on the long swells that 
stretched between her and the other ship. Mrs. 
Bowers had parted from him with effusion : "I know 
you'll find her alive and well," she whispered in 
generous sympathy; and he volunteered to look 
Mr. Bowers up in San Francisco, and tell him all 
about everything. 

The other passengers received the adieux which 
he waved and bowed them, in that awe which 
Americans like to feel for any representative of the 
national dignity : we see so little of it. Fenton had 
put on his uniform to affect as powerfully as possible 
the imagination of the captain of the clipper, who 
was quite master to refuse him passage, after all; 
the captain of the steamer had not thought it best 
to make too plain his purpose in sending out a boat 
to the hasty stranger. 

Both his precaution and Fenton's had been well 
taken. When Captain Eollins of the Meteor came 
to understand the reason why his ship had been 
stopped, he discharged a blast of profanity of a range 
that included nearly everything in animated nature, 
except Lieutenant Fenton, who stood sternly patient 
before him, until he should finish ; perhaps it devoted 



A woman's reason. 231 

him the more terribly by this exception. When the 
captain stopped for breath, Fenton leaned over the 
rail, and motioned off the steamer's boat which lay 
rocking on the sea by the ship's side ; he had taken 
the precaution to have his baggage brought on board 
with himself. 

" I am bearer of despatches to Washington from 
the flag-ship at Hong-Kong. Of course, you expect 
to take me on to San Francisco, and I expect to pay 
you for the best quarters you can give me. I am 
Lieutenant Fenton of the Messasauga. What is your 
name ?" 

" Rollins," growled the captain. 

" Here, my man," said Fenton to one of the sea- 
men, "take these things to Captain Rollins's room." 

The uniform and the secure bearing had their 
effect ; few men knew just what is the quality and 
the authority of a bearer of despatches; the sailor 
obeyed, and the skipper submitted. He was by no 
means a bad fellow ; he belonged to the old school 
of sea-captains, now almost as extinct as the pirates 
whose diction they inherited ; his furious blasphemies 
were merely what in another man would have been 
some tacit reflections upon the vexatious nature of 
the case. 

Fenton found himself neither uncomfortable nor 
really unwelcome on the Meteor. Upon the hint 
given him, the captain turned out of his room for 
the lieutenant, and he caused some distinct improve- 
ments to be made in the ship's fare. There were a 
number of Chinese in the steerage, and among the 



232 A woman's reason. 

passengers in the cabin a young American lady re- 
turning with her mother from a visit to her brother 
in China, and a man from Kankakee, Illinois, who 
had been out looking up the sorghum-culture in its 
native land. The sea-monotony which Fenton's 
coming had broken for the moment promptly returned 
upon this company. The young lady had not Mrs. 
Bowers's art of making attentions to herself appear 
an act of devotion to Helen, and Fenton offered her 
only the necessary politeness. What companionship 
he had was with the Kankakee man, a small, meagre, 
melancholy figure, full of an unembittered discourage- 
ment. Continual failure in life had apparently sub- 
dued him into acquiescence in whatever happened, 
without destroying his faith in the schemes he pro- 
jected ; he was disheartened with himself, not with 
them, and he had the gentleness of a timid nature 
which curiously appealed to the gentleness of Fen- 
ton's courage. He confessed that the first encounter 
between the lieutenant and the captain of the ship 
had given him apprehensions, and he insinuated a 
deep admiration for Fenton's behaviour in that 
difficult moment. He attached himself to the stronger 
man, and accepted him in detail with a simple devo- 
tion, which seemed to refer as much to Fenton's 
personal presence as to his moral qualities ; and, in 
fact, the lieutenant was then a gallant figure. The 
oval of his regular face had been chiselled by his 
sickness into something impressively fine ; with his 
good nose and mouth, his dark moustache and im- 
perial, and his brown tint, he was that sort of young 



A woman's reason. 233 

American whom you might pronounce an Italian, 
before you had seen the American look in his grey 
eyes. His slight figure had a greater apparent height 
than it really attained. 

" You see," explained the Kankakee man, whose 
named proved to be Giffen, " my idea was that if I 
could go right in among the Chinese people, and find 
out how the thing was carried on, and mebbe talk 
with some of their leading agriculturists about it, I 
could do more to get the sorghum culture going 
among us in six months than the agricultural depart- 
ment of Washington could in six years. It 's bound 
to come. It won't come in my time, nor through 
anything I 've done, but that sorghum interest is 
bound to be a big thing with us yet. We 've got 
the climate, and we 've got the soil for it. I '11 allow 
I 've had sorghum on the brain ever since I first saw 
it ; but that 's no reason I 'm mistaken about it. I 
know it 's got to come, and if I could have hit it the 
way I expected, I could have done more good, and 
made more money in two years after I got home 
than I 'd known what to do with." 

"And how was it you didn't hit it?" asked 
Fenton. 

" Well, you see," said the Kankakee man, whose 
name was Giffen, "I found I couldn't talk the lan- 
guage, for one thing. And then I couldn't seem to get 
anybody interested. I did try to get into the country 
districts, but I couldn't make any great headway: 
such a prejudice against foreigners amongst the 
Chinese ; and I hadn't very much money with me, 



234 A WOMAN'S reason. 

and I concluded to give it up. But I found out 
enough to know that our people can't grow sorghum 
on the Chinese plan and make it pay ; labour 's too 
dear and we 've got to employ machinery. I 've got 
the idea of a sorghum-planter, that, if I can get any 
one to take hold of it, is going to make somebody's 
fortune. Have you ever been to Alaska I" 

" No," said Fenton. 

" They say there 's good soil in Alaska, and there 's 
nothing to prevent it 's being a great agricultural 
country except the frost four or five feet down. Sun 
can't get at it on account of the moss. But you 
scrape that moss off once, and lejb the sun have a fair 
show for one summer, well, I believe the thing can 
be done, if any one had the sense to go about it the 
right way. And I've got my eye on a kind of 
coffee they grow on the Sandwich Islands, that I 
believe can be introduced with us, if the right parties 
can be got to take hold of it." 

The good weather continued for another week, 
with westerly winds that carried the Meteor on her 
course till she had made nearly three thousand miles 
since leaving Shanghai. Each day took him two 
hundred or two hundred and fifty nearer home, and 
Fenton looked forward to a prosperous run all the 
way to San Francisco with hopes that he dutifully 
disguised to himself as fears. Towards the end of 
the week, the wind began to haul back to the south- 
ward, and fell till it scarcely stirred a ripple on the 
sea, but he did not lose courage. He explained to 
the other passengers that they could afford to los< 



A woman's reason. 235 

a few days' time and still make one of the greatest 
runs on record. They heard him with the trust due 
a man of his experience and profession, and when 
the wind again sprang up in the west, they paid him 
the honours of a prophet with the idle zeal of people 
at sea, glad even of the distraction which respect for 
another's wisdom afforded them. But the wind 
suddenly backed from the west to the south, a 
strange yellow tinge spread over the purple sky, 
and faded to a dull grey, through which the sun 
burnt only the space of its rayless ball. The 
mercury fell, and the wind dropped again to a dead 
calm, from which it rose in sharp gusts that settled, 
as the day closed, into a heavy gale from the north- 
west. The ship drove before, the storm for three 
days and nights. "When the fourth morning broke 
she seemed to have been blown beyond its track; 
but one of her masts was gone ; the sails hung in 
ribbons from the yards; the tangled and twisted 
shrouds swept her deck, and all but two of her boats 
had been carried away. The first observation pos- 
sible since the storm began showed that she had 
been driven nearly a thousand miles to the south- 
east; but she was put upon her course again, and 
laboured on till night-fall. At nine o'clock the pas- 
sengers huddled together in the cabin heard a cry 
of "Hard down your helm!" and the ship struck 
with a violence that threw them to the floor ; then 
recoiling, she struck again, with a harsh, grating 
force, and ceased to move. In this instant of arrest 
Fenton found his feet, and scrambled to the deck 



236 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

The Meteor hung upon a coral reef, that defined itself 
under the starlight in the curving line of breakers 
on either hand. The seas swept over her where she 
lay on her beam-ends, and at every rush of the 
breakers she pounded heavily on the reef. Beyond 
it was a stretch of smoother water, from which 
seemed to rise a low irregular mass of rock, forming 
with the reef a rude quadrangle. There was no hope 
for the ship, and no hope for her people unless they 
could somehow reach this rock. It was useless 
to launch the boats in such a sea; they tried 
one, but it filled as soon as it touched the water, 
and nothing remained but to carry a line, if it could 
be done, to the island beyond the reef. The captain 
called for volunteers, but the men hung back. It 
was not the time to parley ; Feriton passed one end 
of the line round his waist, and plunged into the 
gulf under the lee of the ship. When he reached 
the rock, he found that two sailors had followed 
him, and these now helped him to pull in the heavier 
line attached to the cord, which he had made fast to a 
point of the rock. A hauling rope was carried along 
this line, and in the glare of the lights burned on 
the ship, they began to bring her people away one 
by one. A sailor mounted into the sling running 
upon the rope, with a woman or child in his arms, 
and was hauled to the rock and back again to the 
ship; and all the women and children were set 
ashore, even some poor creatures among the Chinese, 
before any of the men were suffered to land. These 
followed, till none of the passengers but the China- 



a woman's reason. 237 

men were left. They stood huddled together at the 
bow, which had shifted round under the blows of 
the surf, and was hanging seaward, and the lights, 
burning now green, now crimson, now purple, showed 
them tossing their arms into the air, as if in some 
weird incantation, as they tried to free the wet 
joss-papers that clung to their lingers; their shrill 
supplications pierced through the roar of the 
breakers. The captain reported that he tried to 
make them understand how they were to reach the 
reef ; but they would not or could not understand. 
He and his officers then flung themselves upon 
the line, straining under the seaward lapse of the 
wreck ; and at the same moment the vessel parted 
amidships, and the bow where the Chinese were 
grouped weltered back with them into the sea. The 
lights died out, and the ship's bell, which had been 
tolling dismally as she pounded on the reef, suddenly 
ceased to sound. The broken hulk grew up once 
more in the dark, and the roar of the breakers rushed 
loud again upon the moment of horror that had been 
like a moment of silence. 

When Fenton first touched the rock where all the 
survivors of the wreck were now gathered, it rose 
scarcely a foot above the water at the highest point, 
and by the time the captain reached it, they stood 
knee-deep in the rising tide. An hour after midnight 
it was high-tide, and it was only by holding fast to 
each other that they could keep their footing. 

The moon broke from the clouds, and one of the 
sailors whipped out his knife, with a cry of " Look 



238 A WOMAN'S reason. 

out for yourselves!" and made a cut at something 
in the water. Fenton looked, and saw that the sea 
around them was full of sharks. He helped the 
captain form the men about the women and children, 
and they fought the fish away with cries, and 
thrusts of their knives, and blows of the splinters 
and fragments of the wreck which the breakers had 
flung them over the reef, till the tide turned, and 
the most hideous of their dangers had passed for the 
time. 

With the first light of day came their first gleam 
of hope. One of the ship's boats, which must have 
been carried around the line of their reef, came 
floating to them, bottom up, on the refluent tide from 
the other quarter. It proved to be so little injured 
that the captain and some of his men were able to 
put off in it to the wreck, where they found tools for 
repairing it, and abundant stores. When they 
returned to the rock, they had a mast with its sail 
ready to be stepped, lying in the boat, and several 
pairs of mismated oars, which they had picked up 
outside. But it was the smallest of the boats, and 
the castaways counted each other with cruel eyes as 
it drew near. The rock where they stood was one of 
those dead atolls in which the Pacific abounds : a tiny 
coral isle, once tufted with palms, and gay with per- 
petual green, which the sinking of the ocean's floor 
had dropped below the tide, and left lurking there 
with its guardian reef, a menace and a deadly peril to 
navigation. Somewhere within a day's sail there must 
be other islands of kindred origin, but with a certain 



A woman's reason. 239 

area of dry and habitable land, which the boat might 
reach. But who should go, and who should wait 
her uncertain return % It was not a question of the 
women and children, nor of their husbands and 
fathers, but when all these had crowded into the 
boat, seven men remained upon the rock. 

"Captain Eollins, there isn't room for us all in 
that boat," Fen ton heard his voice saying: "I ask 
no man to share my risk, but I 'm going to stay here, 
for one." 

" I don't ask any man to stay," said Captain 
Eollins. " I 've left sixteen thousand dollars in gold, 
all I 've got in this world, on the ship, so as to 
keep the boat as light as I could ; but, as you say, 
lieutenant, she can't hold us all." 

There was a little pause ; then three sailors, with 
a shame-faced avoidance of Fenton's eye, pushed past 
him toward the boat. 

One of the passengers an Englishman-'-Krose up. 
" My good men," he said, " you 're surely not coming." 

" Yes, we are," replied one of them surlily. " Why 
shouldn't we come as well as you ? " 

" But the boat is too full already ! " he expostulated. 
" You endanger the lives of the passengers /" he cried, 
with that respect for the rights of the travelling 
public which fills the Englishman when he writes to 
the Times of the inattention of the railway company's 
servants. 

" Let the passengers get out, then," said the sailor. 
" We don't want 'em here." His joke raised a laugh 
among his fellows.. " Come along, John; come along, 



240 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

Jake," he called to the seamen who still remained 
with Fenton. 

" No ; guess not," said one of them quietly. 

The matter-of-fact, every-day character of the 
details of the calamity, the unchanged nature of the 
actors in this tragedy of life and death, robbed it of 
reality to Fenton's sense, and made it like some 
crudely represented fiction of the theatre. 

The figure of Giffen interposed itself between him 
and the captain who stood at the bow of the boat, in 
the act of offering his hand in farewell. "Excuse 
me" he said, answering Fenton's look, "I 'm going to 
stay. But I want Captain Eollins, if he gets back, 
to write to my brother, George Giffen, at Kankakee." 

The harsh name, so grotesquely unrelated to any- 
thing that was there or then, awoke Fenton from his 
maze. Was there a world beyond these seas where 
there were towns and fields, chimneys and trees, the 
turmoil of streets, the quiet of firesides % His heart 
seemed to close upon itself, and stand still, as the 
image of Helen sewing beside the little table in the 
library, in the way he always saw her, possessed him. 
The next moment, this in its turn was the theatrical 
vision, and he was standing on a point of rock in a 
wilderness of waters, the boat at his feet, and the 
broken wreck upon the reef a stone's-cast away. He 
took from his breast the water-tight packet in which 
he carried his despatches, and wrote upon the back 
of one of them a line to Helen ; with her address, and 
a request that it might be forwarded to her. " Here 
are some letters," he said, handing the packet to the 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 241 

captain, with a light-headed sense of sending them 
to some one in another life. 

"Why, bless you, man!" cried Captain Kollins, 
" I shall find land before night, and I shall be back 
for you here by this time to-morrow morning ! " 

" Yes, yes !" returned Fenton. " Don't stay, now," 
he added impatiently. " Good-bye." 

The four men on the rock watched the boat till she 
showed so small in the distance that they could no 
longer be sure whether they saw her or not ; then 
they turned their eyes upon each other. Whatever 
the two seamen left behind with Fenton may have 
thought of his looks, he could not congratulate him- 
self upon theirs. But he said, " You are the men who 
followed me with the line last night." 

" Yes, sir," answered one of them. 

" You 're not afraid, any way," said Fenton, as if 
this were the most that could be said for them. 

" I guess we get along," said the man, " I rather be 
on this rock, than that boat, with so much people." 

" What are you ? " asked Fenton ; for the man spoke 
with a certain accent and a foreigner's hesitation. 

"I'm Fayal man; I live at Gloucester, Massa- 
chusetts ; John Jones." 

Fenton recognised the name under which most 
Portuguese sailors ship. "And who are you?" he 
asked of the other, who was as tall and fair as the 
Portuguese was dark and short. 

He grinned, and the latter answered for him. " He 
don't speak much English. He 's some Dutchman ; 
Icelander, I guess." 

Q 



242 A WOMAN'S reason. 

"Very well," said Fenton. "You know where 
we are, and what the chances are." 
"Yes, sir." 

"I reckon," said Giffen, "we can make out to 
worry along somehow till the boat gets back." The 
sailors had begun to breakfast on the stores the 
boat had brought off from the wreck and left for them 
on the rock, and Giffen turned to with them. 

"It won't do to count too much upon the boat's 
coming back," replied Fenton, suddenly hungry at 
sight of the others eating. "They may find land 
before night, and they may not find it for two weeks. 
At any rate, the sharks will be back before they 
are." 

Giffen's jaw dropped, with a large morsel bulging 
his cheek. 

"Come, man!" cried Fenton sharply, "you'd 
better have crowded into the boat with the others, 
if you're sorry you stayed." 

"I don't suppose I've got any great physical 
courage," said Giffen, in his slow weak voice. " But 
I 'm not sorry I stayed. I 'm ready to do whatever 
you say. I 'm a born high- private, if ever there was 



one." 



" I beg your pardon," Fenton began, ashamed of 
his petulant outburst. 

" Oh, that's all right," said Giffen quietly. * "But 
I 'm in earnest, I 'd rather follow some other man's 
luck, any time." 

" I shall not ask you to do anything that I 'm not 
ready to do myself," returned Fenton. "We must 



A woman's reason. 243 

get out to the wreck," he added, including the Portu- 
guese, " and see what we can make of it. And the 
sooner we get to it the better." 

" 1 5 m - ready," said the sailor, closing the clasp 
knife with which he had been eating; and the 
Icelander, who seemed to understand everything 
through him, pocketed his knife also. 

They waded into the shoal water, and swam round 
the stern of the ship where it overhung the reef, and 
tried to board her. But there was no means of 
doing this, unless they passed the reef, and ventured 
into the sea beyond, where they knew the sharks were 
waiting. They returned to their rock, and began 
to gather up the pieces of shattered spars and planks, 
that the rising tide was bringing in, and with such 
odds and ends of cordage and rags of sail as clung 
to these fragments, they contrived a raft, on which 
they hoped to float out to the wreck when the tide 
turned once more. After the raft was finished and 
made fast to the rock, they climbed upon it, and, 
launching upon the ebb, drifted out through a break 
in the reef, and contrived to clamber up her broken 
timbers. They could see that this fragment of a 
ship must soon go to pieces, under the incessant 
blows of the waves ; and Fenton and Giffen made 
all haste in their search for tools and materials to 
strengthen their float so that they might put to sea 
on it if the worst came to the worst. The sailors 
began ransacking the wreck with a purpose of their 
own, and in the end, they all owed their lives to the 
rapacity which left no part of the ship unsearched; 



24:4: A WOMAN'S REASON. 

for it was the Portuguese who found wedged in 
among the shattered timbers of the hulk, where some 
caprice of the waves had lodged it, the boat that 
had foundered the night before. Every blow of the 
sea had driven it tighter into the ruin, and it was an 
hour's struggle in the dark, waist-deep in water, 
amid the bodies of the drowned Chinamen, and just 
within the line of the sharks that were preying upon 
them, before the boat could be cut out. When they 
pulled it up on the deck at last, it was in a condition 
that must have seemed desperate to less desperate 
men; but in this extremity Giflen developed the 
shiftiness of a dabbler in many trades, and his rude 
knack with the saw and hammer rendered the 
battered boat seaworthy. Fenton found a bag of 
flour, water-soaked without, but fresh and dry within ; 
a few biscuit and some peas and beans, with which 
he provisioned her; and a shot gun, with a store 
of water-proof cartridges, with which he armed her. 
With Giffen's help he fashioned a mast out of 
one of the broken yards, and patched together 
a sail from the shreds and tatters of canvas hang- 
ing about it. The wreck was settling more and 
more deeply into the sea when they launched their 
boat at sunset, and returned to the rock where they 
made her fast. 

The last man to come over the side of the ship 
was the Portuguese, who carried in either hand a 
buckskin bag. 

"That's Captain Eollins's money," said Fenton. 
" Take good care of it " 



A woman's reason. 245 

"All right. I look out for it," answered the 
sailor. 

With the refluent tide the sharks came back again. 
The dead Chinamen came with them, and seemed to 
join in beleaguering the castaways, crouching in 
their boat, which pulled at her moorings, as if strug- 
gling to escape the horrors that hemmed them round. 
They had found no water on the wreck, and a con- 
suming thirst parched them. When the morning 
broke it showed them the surf beating over the reef 
where the ship had hung, and the sea strewn with its 
fragments. 

"We can't stay here," said Fenton. "We must 
find land for ourselves somewhere and water." 

"That's so," admitted GifFen, with feeble acquies- 
cence. 

" I know they never come back for us," said the 
Portuguese. " I goin' tell you that, yesterday." 

They cut their boat from her moorings, and ran 
lightly away before the breeze that carried them 
where it would. 

The sky was again of the blue of the weather that 
had prospered the first weeks of the Meteor's voyage ; 
again its vast arch was undimmed by a cloud from 
horizon to horizon ; and it only darkened to a deeper 
blue, filled with large southern stars, when the sun 
dropped below the sea, and the swift tropical night 
closed round them. 

The castaways, voyaging none of them knew 
where, and trusting for rescue to whatever chance of 
land or passing sail befriended them, with the danger 



246 A woman's reason. 

of tempest, and the certainty of starvation after a 
given time, before them, had already divided them- 
selves into two camps, tacitly distrustful if not 
hostile ; the sailors guarded between them the booty 
that they had brought from the wreck, and Fenton 
and Giffen watched by turns with the gun in their 
hands. But at daybreak, a common joy united 
them. On the edge of the sea a line of dark points 
printed itself against the sky, and, as they approached, 
these points rounded into tufts, and then opened into 
the feathery crests of cocoa palms, with broken 
stretches of delicious verdure between the stems. 
The long white wall beneath, that glistened in the 
rising sun, like a bank of snow, expanded into a 
smooth, sloping beach; the deep surf flashed and 
thundered along the outer reef; and then the little 
coral isle, encircling its slumbrous lagoon, took shape 
before their eyes. They tacked and wore to find a 
passage through the reef, and so, between the islets 
of the palm-belt, over smooth depths of delicate 
yellow and apple-green, they slipped .into the still 
waters of the lake, and ran across to the white coral 
beach. They fell upon the sand, and scooped with 
their hands a hollow into which oozed a little water 
that they could drink ; and then they kindled a fire 
with some matches that Giffen had brought from the 
wreek, and roasted the shell-fish the sailors found 
among the rocks. 

" I think this goin' to be nice place, Cap'n," said 
the Portuguese, stretching himself face downwards on 
the clean sand, when he had eaten and drunken his 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 247 

filL "Plenty to eat, plenty to drink, nothin 7 to do. 
By-V-by some ship goin' to come here. We 're all 
right, heigh?" 

The little brown-faced man lifted to Fenton's face 
his black eyes, sparkling like a rat's with the content 
of a full stomach. 

The Icelander laughed as. if he had understood his 
shipmate, and while the Portuguese luxuriously 
dropped off to sleep, he wandered away, leaving 
Fenton and Giffen to prospect for the best place to 
put the hut they must build. " I don't like the way 
those fellows take it, exactly," said the latter. " They 
let themselves up pretty easy when it comes to a 
question of work," he added, with a mild sense of 
injury in his tone. 

But the Icelander returned after a while with a 
large turtle he had caught, and with his hat full of 
turtles' eggs, which he had found in the sand. The 
Fayal man, when he awoke, joined him in a second 
foraging expedition, and they came back laden with 
fish and birds. John Jones showed himself skilled 
in primitive methods of roasting and broiling on hot 
stones. He opened the bag of flour, and made a 
store of bread, which he baked in the ashes ; and by 
the time Fenton and Giffen had finished the rude 
shelter they had been knocking together for the 
night, in the cocoa grove, he called them to a supper 
which a famine far less fastidious than theirs must 
have found delicious. 

" Well, you are a cook," said Giffen, with the 
innate disrespect for his art, which our race feels. 



248 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

" But you Ve got enough here for a regiment," he 
added, looking round on the store of provisions, 
cooked and uncooked, which was heaped up on the 
sand. 

" Oh, plenty more where that come from," said the 
Portuguese. "They all good cold. I don't like 
cookin' to-morrow; want to eat and sleep for a 
week." 

The Icelander had strayed away again, and they 
saw him climbing the palms, and strewing the earth 
beneath with cocoa-nuts. " Jake seems to be laying 
out for a week's rest too," said Giffen. 

The Portuguese laughed at the joke. " You better 
take that money up to your house, Cap'n," he said 
to Fenton. 

" Where is it 1 " asked Fenton. 

The Portuguese showed the two bags, where he 
had placed them, in a tuft of grass. 

Fenton hesitated a moment. " You can bring it up 
with you when you get through here," he said finally. 

The Portuguese and his ship-mate came carrying 
up the provision to the hut, after Fenton and Giffen 
had stretched themselves on their beds of grass. 

" Cap'n," he said, waking Fenton, "here's the 
money. What we goin' do with that boat ? " 

" Let her be where she is ; nothing can happen to 
her," answered Fenton, heavy in heart and soul, and 
sodden with sleep, as he placed his hand on the 
bags the sailor had put down beside him. 

" Yes," chuckled the Portuguese, " I guess nobody 
goin' steal her." 



A woman's reason. 249 

The bailors did not come into the hut ; they began 
to build a shelter of their own, and the noise of their 
work followed Fenton into his sleep. He had 
watched for three days and nights; he could not 
rouse himself from the deathly slumber into which 
he dropped again in spite of a formless fear that 
beset him ; but he woke toward morning, with this 
terror, which proved more potent than the fatigue 
that drugged him. The money was still there; 
the sailors were peacefully snoring in their hut ; and 
Giffen lay asleep across the gun. He staggered down 
to look at the boat. It was safe where they had left 
it, and he returned to their shelter, where he watched 
an hour, as he thought; then he woke Giffen, and 
bidding him call him in his turn, when he could no 
longer keep awake, he fell asleep once more. It 
must have been his visit to the boat that suggested 
the dream which seemed to begin as soon as he closed 
his eyes. He dreamed that they were at sea again 
in the boat, and that they saw a sail in the offing, so 
near that those on board, who did not see them, 
must hear them if they united in one loud cry. They 
rose up together for the effort, but their voices died 
in a gasp on their lips. Fenton burst into a groan 
of despair. 

"My Lord!' what's the matter?" cried Giffen, 
shaking the dreamer. Fenton scrambled to his feet ; 
the money-bags were still there, but the sailors" were 
gone ; he tore open the bags ; they were filled with 
shells and sand. He rushed down to the beach; 
the boat had disappeared; on the horizon a sail, 



250 A woman's reason. 

no bigger than the petal of a flower, flickered and 
faded. 

It was sunset, and they had slept through the 
night and the whole day. 

Fenton turned a look on his fellow-captive, which 
Giffen met with a face of ghastly self-upbraiding. 
"My God," he said, "I fell asleep! I hated to 
wake you, and I fell asleep before I knew it !" 

"It doesn't matter," replied Fenton, with the 
nerveless quiet of his despair. "Sooner or later, 
they meant to do it." 

They turned blankly from the fact ; it was days 
before they could confront it in speech ; and then, 
with the conjecture that the sailors had set out in 
search of some inhabited land, where they could 
enjoy the spoil of the ship, their desertion remained 
incredible, unimaginable. 



XII. 

It has been intimated that Helen entered upon 
her new life at Mrs. Hewitt's with social pre- 
occupations in her own favour which she was by- 
no means prepared to surrender; and she did not 
think of yielding them, even in the abjectest 
moments of her failure and humiliation. In the in- 
terval of idleness that followed, she was again purely 
and simply a young lady, not attached by any sort 
of sympathy to the little boarding-house world, though 
she had always meant to treat it with consideration. 
But it is impossible that one who has been bred to 
be of no use should not feel an advantage over all 
those who have been bred to be of some use; and if for 
no other reason Helen must have confessed, wittingly 
and unwittingly, by a thousand little recoils and 
reserves, that her fellow-boarders and herself 
could never meet on a level. It was perfectly easy, 
however, to keep aloof. After the first necessary 
civilities with the Evanses, she only met them on the 
stairs or at the table, where the talk was mainly be- 
tween Mr. Evans and Miss Koot, the art-student. It 



252 a woman's reason. 

appeared from the casual confidences of the landlady 
that Miss Eoot was studying to be a painter, and that 
some of her work was beautiful Mrs. Hewitt owned 
that she was no judge of painting, but she said that 
she knew what she liked. She told Helen also that 
Mr. Evans was one of the editors of Saturday After- 
noon, a paper which she praised because she said it 
gave you the news about everybody, and kept you 
posted, so that you could tell just where they were 
and what they were doing, all the while ; she believed 
that Mr. Evans was not connected with this admir- 
able part of the paper : he wrote mostly about the 
theatres and the new books. 

Helen was amused by some of his talk at the table ; 
but she was not at all sure about the Evanses. She 
could not tell exactly why ; one never can tell exactly 
why, especially if one is a lady. Mrs. Evans seemed 
well enough educated and well enough dressed ; she 
had been abroad the usual term of years ; she neither 
unduly sought nor repelled acquaintance ; but from 
the first, Helen was painfully aware of not having 
heard of her ; and one is equally uncertain of people 
of whom one has heard nothing, or heard too much. 
As soon as she learned what Mr. Evans's business 
was, she understood, of course, that they could never 
have been people that people knew ; and, Were they 
not a little Bohemian 1 she asked, rather tepidly, one 
day, when an old friend of hers, whom she happened 
to meet, broke into effusive praise of them, on hearing 
that Helen was in the same house with them. 

" My dear," said Miss Kingsbury, summing up in 



a woman's reason. 253 

a word the worst that a New England woman can say 
of a man, "he is easy-going ! But he is very kind ; 
and she is the salt of the earth." 

" And some of the pepper ! M suggested Helen. 

" A little of the pepper, without doubt. But not 
a grain more than is good for him. He would be 
nothing without her," she added, in the superstition 
ladies love to cherish concerning the real headship 
of the family. " She makes up all her own things, 
and teaches that boy herself. And you have another 
person there who is really a character : Miss Eoot 
If you see any of her work, you '11 see that she is an 
artist; but you'll have to see a great deal of her 
before you find out that she 's the best soul in the 
world. With her little time, and her little money, 
she does more good 1 She 's 'practical, and she knows 
just how to help people that want to help themselves : 
poor girls, you know, trying to learn things, and get 
into occupations. And so rectangular she is ! " 

Miss Kingsbury ran off, professing an instant and 
pressing duty. " I 'm coming to see you very soon. 
Good-bye, Helen dear ! You know how I feel for 
you," she added tenderly. 

Many other people, returning to town, looked 
Helen up, and left cards, and messages of friendly 
interest. She did not see any one that she could 
help seeing ; she was doubly exiled by her bereave- 
ment and her poverty from the gay and prosperous 
world they belonged to ; she knew that they were 
kind, and meant well, but she knew that hencefor- 
ward she could have few interests in common with 



254 a woman's reason. 

them. She was happiest when she was quite alone 
with her sorrow and with her love, which seemed to 
have sprung from it, and to be hallowed by it. Their 
transmutation gave her memories and her hopes a 
common sweetness, which was sometimes very- 
strange ; it seemed as if Eobert were present with 
her when she thought of her father, and that her 
father came to share all her thoughts of Robert. 

Her old life had otherwise almost wholly dropped 
away from her. After her return from Beverley, Mar- 
garet came often to see her, but the visits were a 
trial to Helen ; and perhaps Margaret saw this, for she 
came at longer and longer intervals, and at last came 
no more. Helen supposed that she had taken a place, 
but waited patiently till she should reappear. 

She spent a great part of each day in writing to 
Robert and thinking about him, and trying to con- 
trive their common future, and she made over all 
her bonnets and dresses. She saved a good deal of 
money by not buying anything new for the winter, 
and after her benefaction to Mrs. Sullivan, she found 
that even with these economies, she had nothing to 
buy spring dresses. But that mattered very little ; 
she had not cared, after she first put on black, to 
mark the degrees of mourning punctiliously; she had 
always dressed quietly, and now she could wear 
what she wore last year without treason to her grief. 
The trouble was that she would soon need money 
for other things, before any interest would be due 
from the money in Mr. Hibbard's hands, and she 
spent several days in trying to put into dignified 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 255 

and self-respectful terms the demand she must make 
upon him for part of her capital. She felt rather 
silly about it, and the longing to do something to 
earn a little money for herself revived. At the 
bottom of her heart was the expectation, always 
disowned and silenced, that Robert would somehow 
soon return; she had told Mrs. Butler that she 
knew he would come back as soon as he got her 
letter ; but after the first keen pang of disappoint- 
ment and surprise with which she realised that he 
could not at once ask leave of absence, or resign 
without a sort of ignominy, she heroically accepted 
the fact of a prolonged separation. She had caused 
it, she said to herself, and she must bear it; she 
must do everything she could to help him bear it. 
She idealised him in his devotion to duty, and 
worshipped him as if he had been the first man to 
practise it She was more than -ever determined 
not to be a burden to him in any way ; she deter- 
mined to be a help to him, and she had planned a 
pretty scene in which she brought out a little hoard 
of earnings, in addition to her five thousand dollars, 
and put them into Robert's hand the day after their 
marriage. It would be doubly sweet to toil for 
Robert ; in the meantime it was sweet to dream for 
him ; and she had not yet decided how the sum she 
intended to bestow upon him was to be earned, 
when she found herself obliged to borrow of the 
future rather than able to lend to it. But she 
resolved all the more severely to replace with in- 
terest what she borrowed; she would not leave a 



256 a woman's reason. 

stone unturned ; and she forced herself, in going to 
Mr. Hibbard's office, to pass the store where she 
had left her painted vases on sale six months before. 
She said to herself that they would be all in the 
window still; but when she dared to lift her eyes 
to it there were none. Then she said that they 
must have been taken out, and stuck away in some 
corner as too hopelessly ugly and unsaleable. 

The proprietor of the store came forward with 
a smile of recognition, and of something more. 
" This is really a coincidence," he said. " We have 
just sold your vases, and I was beginning to wonder 
where I should send you the money; I find there 
is no address on the card you gave me." 

He filliped her card with one hand against the 
other, and looked at her with friendly pleasure, 
while she stayed herself against a show-case with 
a faintness which he could not see. 

" Sold them ! " she whispered. 

"Yes, all three. Mr. Trufitt was looking at 
them yesterday, and asked me who did them. This 
morning he called and took them." 

" How dared he ] " cried Helen in a tumult of 
indignation, none the less appalling because wholly 
unintelligible to the person of whom she made the 
demand. At. the mere name of Trufitt a series of 
odious facts had flashed without sequence into her 
thought : his obtuse persistence in love ; his bald- 
ness; his stinginess; the fit of his pantaloons; his 
spiritual aridity, and his physical knobbiness. She 
hardly knew for which of hi qualities she disliked 



a woman's reason. 257 

him the most, but she recognised with perhaps 
superior disdain that after learning that the vases 
were her work, he had turned over for a whole day 
in his frugal mind the question of buying them. 
After presuming to think of owning her vases, he 
had also presumed to hesitate ! It was intolerable. 

"What right " she began on the innocent 
means of the offence, but corrected herself so far as to 
ask instead, " Why did you tell him who did them V 

" Really," said her victim, with just pique, " I saw 
no reason why I shouldn't. You gave me no charges 
on that point, and I gave the matter no reflection. 
I seized the first chance that offered to sell them 
for you." He looked hurt and vexed ; perhaps he 
had made his little romance about serving this very 
pretty young lady in her trouble and need. 

Helen would not consider his kindness; in her 
own vexation she continued to treat him de haut en 
has. "I can't allow him to keep my vases," she 
said. " You must send for them." 

"The vases were on sale," returned the proprietor, 
" and I sold them in good faith. I can't ask them 
back." 

"/ will ask them back," said Helen grandly. 
" Good-morning." When she put her hand on the 
bell-pull at Mrs. Hewitt's, she remembered that the 
shopman had not given her the money for her vases, 
and that she had again left him without her address. 
This was some satisfaction, but it was not enough : 
she would not rest till she had her vases back again, 
and had broken them into a thousand pieces. 

R 



258 A WOMAN'S reason. 

But she found that the first thing she must do was 
to write to the people who had sold them, and 
apologise for the strange return she had made for 
the interest they had taken in her, recognising the 
justice of their position and the absurdity of her 
own. It was not an easy note to write, but she 
contrived it at last, and that gave her courage to 
think how she should get her vases back from Mr. 
Trufitt, who had bought them, and had certainly a 
right to keep them. She knew why he had bought 
them, and this enraged her, but it did not help her ; 
she felt that it would be putting herself in an asking 
attitude, however imperiously she demanded them 
again. If he yielded, it would be in grace to her ; 
and he might refuse very likely he would refuse. 
She had not decided in her own mind what she 
should do in this event, when she received a reply 
from Messrs. Pout & Lumley, enclosing Mr. Trufitt's 
money for her vases, less their commission. Messrs. 
Pout & Lumley regretted that their Mr. Lumley had 
not clearly understood Miss Harkness's wishes in 
regard to the vases she had left with them; but 
finding themselves unable to ask their return from 
the gentleman who purchased them, they had no 
course open to them but to send her the money for 
them. 

Helen saw that she must have written her address 
at the top of her letter of apology, and that she must 
have seemed to them to have repented of her mag- 
nificent behaviour on another ground, and to have 
tacitly asked for the money. 



A woman's reason. 259 

She broke into a laugh at the hopeless complica- 
tion. 

" Keally," she mused, " I don't know whether I 'd 
better be put into the Home for Little Wanderers 
or into the Insane Hospital," and for the present 
there seemed no safety but in entire inaction. She 
was so much abashed at the result of her yester- 
day's work, that she remained with Messrs. Pout & 
Lumley's letter in her hand, wondering when she 
should have courage to go out again and renew her 
attempt to see Mr. Hibbard. At first she thought 
she would write to him, but there seemed something 
fatal about her writing to people on business, and 
she hesitated. It was impossible to use this money 
of Mr. Trufitt's; she was quite clear as to that, 
and, with various little expenses, her money had 
dwindled to less than three dollars since her inter- 
view with Mrs. Sullivan. She let the morning slip 
away in her irresolution, and then she decided to 
put the whole affair off till the next day. She felt 
a comfort in the decision, merely as a decision, 
and she began to enjoy something like the peace of 
mind which moral strength brings. Perhaps the 
weather had something to do with her willingness 
to postpone any duty that must take her out of 
doors; it was a day that would scarcely have invited 
her to an errand of pleasure. For almost a week the 
weather had been relenting, and the warmth of 
yesterday had brought a tinge of life to the bare 
slopes of the Common, where for three months past 
the monumental dumpings of the icy streets had 



260 A WOMAN'S reason. 

dismally accumulated ; and along the base of these 
heaps, a thin adventurous verdure showed itself, 
like that hardy vegetation which skirts the snow- 
line on the Alps. As Helen walked across the 
planking on her way to Mr. Hibbard's office, she 
had heard a blue-bird in the blue soft air high 
through the naked boughs of the elms, making 
querulous inquiry for the spring ; and there had 
seemed a vernal respite even in the exasperation of 
the English sparrows. The frozen year, in fact, was 
awaking to consciousness, with secret pangs of 
resuscitation that now declared themselves in an 
easterly storm of peculiar spitefulness, driving 
against the umbrellas, which she saw ascending the 
narrow hillside street, in gusts that were filled from 
moment to moment with sleet and rain and snow. 

In the little grate in her room the anthracite had 
thrown off its first gaseous malice, and now lay a 
core of brownish-red under a soft, lurid blur of flame; 
and she stood before it thinking to herself that, 
rather than go out in that weather, she would spend 
some of Mr. Trufitt's money, as she called it, and 
smiling faintly at the demoralisation which had 
succeeded her heroics, when some one rapped at her 
door. She turned away from the fire, where she had 
stood smoothing the front of her dress in the warmth, 
with a dreamy eye on the storm outside, and opened 
the door rather resentfully. Mrs. Hewitt was there 
with a card in her hand, which she had apparently 
preferred to bring in person, rather than send up by 
the general housework girl. Before she gave Helen 



A woman's reason. 261 

the card, she said, with a studied indifference of 
manner that might well have invited confidence 

" I heard him askin' for you, and I showed him 
into the parlour on the second floor, till I could find 
out whether you wanted to see company." 

Mrs. Hewitt made her own inferences from the 
flush and then the pallor with which Helen received 
the card; and while Helen stood staring at it, she 
added suggestively, "Seemed to have some kind of a 
passel, or something, 't he brought with him in the 
carriage." 

" Oh ! " said Helen, as if this idle detail had 
clinched the matter, " then will you tell him, please, 
that I '11 be down in a minute." 

She hastily made a woman's imperceptible changes 
of hair and ribbon, and descended to the parlour, 
with her line of behaviour distinctly drawn in her 
mind. After a first impulse to refuse to see her 
visitor, and then a full recognition of the stupidity 
of such a thing, she saw that she must be frankly 
cordial. Mrs. Hewitt had hospitably put a match to 
the soft-coal fire laid in the grate, and it was now 
lustily snapping in the chilly air of the parlour ; but 
Lord Rainford was not standing before it. He stood 
with his back to the door, with his hat in his hand, 
and his overcoat on, looking out into the storm, whose 
national peculiarities might well have interested him; 
he turned when Helen came in, and she greeted him 
with a welcome which she felt must have the same 
effect of being newly-kindled as the fire in the grate. 
He did not seem to notice this, but began a huddled 

V 



262 A woman's reason. 

and confused explanation of his presence, as if it 
ought to be accounted for and justified upon special 
grounds. Helen pulled the wrap she had flung on 
tightly round her, and concealing the little shiver 
that the cold air struck through her, asked him to 
sit down. 

"The fact is," he said, "that I was anxious to 
put this little parcel into your own hands, Miss 
Harkness, and to make sure that it had reached you 
in safety." He gave her the package he had been 
holding, and then offered to relieve her of it. 

" Oh, thank you," said Helen, ignoring it as well 
as she could, while refusing to give it up. She had 
gathered from the fact that Lord Rainford would 
not have felt authorised to present himself to her at 
that moment, if he had not this commission from the 
Rays, that the Rays had sent her the parcel by him, 
and she began to unravel the maze, in which he was 
involving them both, by that clew. There had been 
something in what he said about London, and Nice, 
and Rome, and Alexandria; but whether he had 
been with her friends at any or all of these points, 
she had not made out. 

"Where did you see the Rays last ? " she asked. 
" Were the Butlers with them, or " 

Lord Rainford laughed. " Why, the fact is," he 
exclaimed, " I haven't seen them at all ! They made 
no stop in England, through some change of plans." 

"Yes, I know," said Helen. 

" And later, I gave up my winter in Egypt. I 
found that I couldn't go up the Nile, and get back 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 263 

in time, in time for the visit I had intended to 
make to America ; and and I had decided to come 
to America, and so I came ! " 

"Yes," said Helen, a little dazed still. She 
added, to gain time for reflection rather than to 
seek information, " And you are fond of the Atlantic 
in the middle of March ] " 

" It wasn't so bad. We 'd a very good passage. I 
found myself so well here, last year, that I 've been 
impatient ever since to come back." 

"I'm glad America agrees with you," returned 
Helen vaguely. 

"Why, I'm not here for my health, exactly," 
said Lord Rainford. " I 'd some other objects, and 
Mr. Ray asked me to bring the little box from his 
wife for you." 

" yes, I understand ! They sent it to you 
from Egypt." 

" Precisely. I assure you it wasn't an easy 
matter to get it through your Custom House un- 
opened." 

" How did you manage 1 By bribery and corrup- 
tion?" 

" No. I won't say I wasn't tempted to try it. 
But I don't altogether like that sort of thing even in 
countries where they naturally expect it; and I 
couldn't feel that the inspector whose hands I fell 
into did quite expect it. I told him that it con- 
tained a present from one lady to another, and that 
I would rather deliver it unopened, if he could trust 
me to come back and pay the duty in case it proved 



264 A woman's reason. 

to be anything subject to duty. I gave him my 
card and address, and I did go so far as to offer 
to deposit a sum of money with him as surety." 

" How very, very kind of you !" cried Helen, begin- 
ning to be charmed. 

" Oh, not at all," said Lord Eainford, colouring a 
little. " I merely mentioned it because it led up to 
something that interested me. He looked at my 
card, and then he looked at me, and said, ' That it 
wasn't necessary between gentlemen!'" 

Helen laughed at the man's diverting assumption 
of a community of feeling with Lord Eainford. 
M You must have been edified," she said, " with such 
an early example of American equality." 

Lord Rainford looked rather mystified and a little 
troubled. " I don't know. I rather liked it, I believe," 
he said tentatively ; as one does who has not been 
taken in quite the way he expected. 

"You are easily pleased," cried Helen; and he 
seemed still more perplexed. 

But as if he set these speeches down finally to 
some ironical intention in her, he went on : " He 
said I could * take the box along/ and then he 
looked at the address on it, and said, ' Oh, 't 's all 
right 1 I know Miss Harkness."' 

" Who in the world could it have been V wondered 
Helen. " I never dreamt that I had a friend at 
court or the Custom-House." 

Lord Rainford took out his pocket-book, and, to 
do this, he had to unbutton his overcoat. " Won't 
you lay off your coat?" asked Helen. "I believe 



A woman's reason. 265 

we shall not freeze to death here, now. The fire is 
really making an impression." 

" Thank you," he said, obeying. " He gave me his 
card. I have it here somewhere. Ah, here it is !" 

Helen received it and gazed at the name. " No!" 
she said, returning it with a shake of the head, 
"it doesn't throw any light on my acquaintance, and 
I don't exactly understand it." 

"Perhaps it was some other lady of the same 
name." 

" Perhaps. But I haven't asked you yet when 
you arrived ; and that ought to have been the first 
question." 

He seemed willing to evade it ; but he said gravely 
that he had arrived that morning. " The fact is," 
he added, " I had them send the luggage to the hotel, 
and I took the liberty of driving directly here." 

" Why, this is zeal in stewardship ! " cried Helen. 
She felt a girl's thrill of pleasure in it. To see Lord 
Eainford was like meeting an old friend ; she had 
parted from the Eays and Butlers long since he had ; 
but his coming on an errand from them seemed like 
news from them, and she found herself at home with 
him, and truly touched by his kindness. She had 
been too little abroad to consider whether she was 
behaving like an English girl under the circum- 
stances, and she ended by behaving like an American 
girl. " Now, Lord Kainford," she said, " I'm going 
to do all I can to reward you, and if you were a 
woman you would feel very lavishly rewarded ; I 'm 
going to open this box at once in your presence." 



266 A woman's reason. 

" I 'm sure you 're very good," said Lord Kainford. 

She put the box on a little table near them, 
and "I hope it isn't the kind that opens with a 
screw-driver," she continued, breaking the line of 
barbaric seals which held the edge of the paper 
covering, and then coming to a second wrapper tied 
with an oriental cord of silk, for which she required 
the aid of Lord Rainford's penknife. " What a 
pity to break and cut such things ! " she sighed. 

"Why, I don't know," said the young man, not 
feeling the occidental strangeness to which the paper 
and the cord were poetry. " It 's the way they put 
things up, there. I dare say their dragoman had it 
done at a bazaar." 

" Their dragoman ! At a bazaar!" cried Helen, 
and now he dimly sympathised with her mood, 
and said, " yes ! yes !" while she tore away 
wrapper after wrapper, vaguely fragrant of musk 
or sandal, and came at last to a box, inlaid with 
mother-of-pearl in the Persian fancy. She opened 
this, and found, under a note from Marian Ray, a 
set of gold jewelry, ear-rings, bracelets and neck- 
lace rich in the colour of the unalloyed metal, and 
fascinating in their fantastic naivett of design ; as 
old as man, as young as childhood. 

" Ah, yes," said Lord Rainford, smiling back her 
rapture in the trinkets. " Those goldsmith's things. 
They 're very pretty. And it 's amusing to see those 
fellows work. They set up their little forge in the 
street before their doors, and make the things you Ve 
ordered while you're waiting." 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 267 

" And the high, white house-walls, and the yellow 
sun, and the purple shadows all round them 1" cried 
Helen, dangling the necklace from her fingers. 

"Well ah yes; you're quite right," said Lord 
Eainford. But he added conscientiously, " There 
isn't much sun, you know. The street is very 
narrow; and I don't know about the walls being 
white; they're apt to be coloured." 

" Oh !" deeply sighed the girl, as she dropped the 
pretty things back into their box. " Marian has cer- 
tainly outdone herself," she said, shutting the lid. 
She re-opened it, and took out the necklace again, 
and one by one the bracelets and the ear-rings, and 
stood absently regarding them, held a little way off, 
with her head on one side. She was thinking of the 
night before her father died, when she put on that 
silver filigree of Robert's, and she had forgotten the 
young man before her. He made a little movement 
that recalled her to herself. " Oh, I beg your pardon," 
she said softly. He had his hat in his hand, and she 
saw that he had taken up his overcoat. " Must you 
go ? I can never thank you enough for all the trouble 
you have taken." She stopped, for she had a sudden 
difficulty. It seemed savagely inhospitable, after 
what Lord Rainford had done, in the way he had 
done it, not to attempt some sort of return. But 
she felt sure he must see at a glance that she was not 
in her own house : the bare spectacularity of the keep- 
ing ; the meagre decoration of the mantelpiece and 
whatnot ; the second-hand brown plush furniture ; the 
fire, burning on the hearth, as in a scene set for some 



268 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

home of virtuous poverty on the stage, must all be 
eloquent of a boarding-house, even to unpractised 
eyes ; and Helen was in doubt what she ought to do 
under all the circumstances. She decided upon a bold, 
indefinite course, and asserted that they would see 
each other again before he left Boston. 

" Thank you," he said. But he did not go. He 
looked vaguely round the room. 

" Your umbrella 1 " she suggested, joining actively 
in the search. 

"Ah, I don't think I brought one," he said 
speciously. 

When he was gone, Helen put on the trinkets, 
and found them very becoming, though, as she 
frankly owned to her reflection in the glass, a dark 
girl would have carried them off better. "That 
comes," she mused, "from Marian's want of feeling 
for colour. I 'm sure she chose them." She smiled 
a little superiority at the mirrored face, and then 
she started away from it in dismay. Of course Lord 
Rainford had hesitated in that way, because he 
promised the Customs' officer to come back and pay 
duty on the box ; and she had not offered to let him 
take it, and he could not ask for it. There seemed 
no end to this day's contretemps. He had not given 
her his address, and there was no telling, after that 
sort of parting, when she should see him again, if 
she ever saw him again. She had placed him in a 
cruelly embarrassing position, for he had given his 
card to that Mr. Kimball. The name was inspira- 
tion; she could at least go to the Custom-House, 



A woman's reason. 269 

and pay the duty herself, and trust to some future 
chance of telling Lord Rainford that she had saved 
his honour with Mr. Kimball. Kimball ! She only 
wondered that she should have remembered the 
name. 

She had no idea where the Custom-House was, but 
she wrapped herself against the storm, and took 
a carriage at the nearest hack-stand. The janitor 
and messengers, who passed her from one to another 
in the Custom-House, were of opinion that Mr. Kim- 
ball was on duty in East Boston, but the last who 
asserted this immediately added, "Oh, here he is 
now !" and called after a figure retreating down a 
corridor, " Kimball ! Here ! You 're wanted ! " and 
Helen found herself, box in hand, confronted with 
her old friend, the policeman. 

" Why, is it you V y she cried, as joyously as if she 
had met him in some foreign land. 

" Well, I thought it must be you," he said, with 
the half -shy, half -jocose respect of that sort of 
Americans in the presence of a fashionable woman. 
It amuses them to see the women putting on style, 
as they would say ; but they revere them as ladies 
all the same. Kimball touched his hat, and then 
pushed it back on his head in token of standing un- 
covered while they talked. 

Helen could not wait till she had transacted her 
own business before she said, " But I thought you 
were a policeman !" 

" Well, so I was the last time I saw you," returned 
Kimball. " I left the force about two months ago. 



270 a woman's reason. 

Got kind of sick of it myself, and my wife was always 
in a tew about the danger, and bein' out so much 
nights, and the new collector was a friend of mine, 
and he gave me this place," said Kimball briefly, 
putting the case into Helen's hands. " That fellow 
behave himself after that 1 " 

" yes," answered Helen, knowing that Kimball 
meant the hackman whom he had rebuked in her 
behalf; " he was very civil" 

"I thought I could fetch him," said Kimball, "I 
don't know as anything, while I was on the force, 
done me so much good as a chance like that now and 
then." He dropped his eyes suggestively to the box 
in Helen's hands ; but he did not otherwise manifest 
any consciousness of it, and he left Helen to take her 
own time to say how glad she was to see him again, 
and how grateful she had always been to him. 
When she arrived, in due course, at the box r he 
merely permitted himself a dry smile. " I told him 
I knew you," and this time Helen understood Lord 
Rainford, and not the hackman. " I knew it would 
be all right." 

"It was very kind of you, Mr. Kimball, and it's 
only a chance that it wasn't all wrong. Lord Rain- 
ford told me all about it, and I forgot to let him have 
the box to bring back to you till after he had gone, 
and then I hurried off with it myself, at once. I 
couldn't endure that you should think for a moment 
he hadn't kept his word." s 

"Of course not," said Kimball sympathetically. 
"Full of diamonds V he asked jokingly, as he 



A woman's reason. 271 

received it from her. He opened the lid, and then 
frowned regretfully at the trinkets. " Gold, do you 
suppose 1 " 

"0 yes, they must be gold," said Helen. "It's 
a present." 

" Just so. And of course you don't know what 
they cost. Well, now, I 'm sorry, Miss Harkness," 
said Kimball, with a deep-drawn sigh of reflection. 
u I guess I 've got to have these things valued." 

'* Of course," said Helen, with a beating heart, 
at the bottom of which, perhaps, she accused the 
punctilious folly of forcing the jewels to official 
knowledge. She had her feminine limitations of 
conscience in regard to smuggling, and did not see 
why it could be wrong to bring in dutiable goods if 
the Customs' officers did not know it ; she had come 
out of regard to Lord Rainford, and not at all from 
tenderness for the public revenue ; and she had a 
sort of vague expectation that the Government would 
politely decline to levy any impost in recognition of 
her exemplary integrity. " You just sit here," said 
Kimball, finding her a chair which one of the 
messengers had temporarily vacated, "and I'll see 
about it for you. I'll be back in half a minute." 
He was gone much longer, and then he returned 
with an official paper in his hand, and a fallen coun- 
tenance. " Well, I done everything I could, Miss 
Harkness," he said in strong disgust. He was a man 
who had enjoyed official consequence largely as a 
means of doing people unexpected favours, and he 
was deeply mortified at the turn this affair had 



272 A woman's reason. 

taken. " You 've got to pay fourteen dollars and 
seventy-five cents on this box. I wouldn't say it to 
every one, and I shouldn't want it reported, but 1 
think it's a regular swindle." 

"0 no," said Helen sweetly, but with a deep 
inward bitterness, and finding her pocket with that 
difficulty which ladies seem always to have, she found 
her pocket-book, and in it two dollars and a half. 
" I shall have to leave the box with you and come 
again," she said : after resolving to borrow Mr. 
Trufitt's money for the payment of possible but im- 
probable duties, she had come away and left it at 
home in the letter enclosing it. 

" No, take the box along," said Kimball, measur- 
ably consoled at this unexpected turn. " It 's just 
the way with my wife. Never knows how much 
money she takes with her, and comes back with her 
bank-bills balled up into little balls like gun-wads, 
and her silver lay in* round all over the bottom of 
her bag what there is to lay round. Never gets 
home 'th more than sixty-two and a half cents. 
Don't you fret, Miss Harkness ; I'll make it all right, 
and you can make it all right with me, any time." 

He would not listen to Helen's protests, but forced 
the box back into her hands, and walked along the 
corridor to the vestibule with her, largely waiving 
each return of her self-reproach and gratitude, and 
at the door resolutely changing the subject, as 
he took a card from his waistcoat-pocket. " Lord 
Rainford ! Curious chap. Lord Rainford ! Don't 
know as I ever saw many lords before," he said with 



a woman's reason. 273 

Yankee caution. " Don't know as I ever saw any," he 
added with Yankee conscientiousness. He pondered 
the card with a sarcastic smile, as if amused that any 
fellow-creature should seriously call himself a lord, and 
then broke out in a sort of repentance : " Well, he 's 
a gentleman, I guess. Had his declaration made out 
fair and square, and opened up all his traps, first off, 
like a man. Forced 'em on to your notice, as you may 
say. No hangin' back about him. Well !" he added, 
after a final inspection of the card, " it wa'n't quite 
regular, as you may say, to let him take the box 
along without openin' it ; but a man has some discre- 
tion, I suppose ; and well, the fact is, I took a 
fancy to the fellow. Seemed kind of human, after 
all." 

"Oh, Mr. Kimball," cried Helen, deeply enjoying 
the inspector's condescension, but with a sudden 
superficial terror at the thought that she had not 
Lord Rainford's address, and should not know how to 
inform him that his word had been kept for him, 
" let me see his card, please !" 

" Why, certainly, take it along," said Kimball. " Or 
I don't know," he added sheepishly. "I thought 
my wife might like to see it kind of a novelty, you 
know." 

" Oh, thank you ! I don't want to keep it," said 
Helen, returning it after a swift glance. " I merely 
wanted to look at it. Thank you, ever so much !" 

When she reached home she wrote two letters : 
one to Kimball, enclosing the money he had lent her, 
and another to Lord Rainford, telling him what she 



274 A woman's reason. 

had done. She felt that finally the whole affair was 
very funny, and she suffered herself to run into a 
sprightly little account of her adventure, which she 
tore up. She wrote it all out fully in the letter to 
Eobert, to which she gave up the whole afternoon ; 
but to Lord Eainford she merely said that she 
thought he would have been amused at Mr. Kimball's 
remarks. 



XIII. 

The next day Lord Rainford came to acknowledge 
her note in person, and he excused himself for coming 
rather early on the ground of an intolerable im- 
patience to know what Mr. Kimball had said. 

" Oh, did I promise to tell you 1 " asked Helen, 
not well remembering just what she had written. 

"No, I can't say that you did," said he with a 
candour which she began to see was unfailing. " But 
I thought, perhaps, you might." 

"I'm not sure about that. But I was thinking 
that if you were disappointed when you were here 
before not to find any of us aggressively American, 
you might be consoled by studying Mr. Kimball ; he 's 
so absolutely and wholly American, that he takes 
every other condition of things as a sort of joke." 

" Ah, yes," said Lord Rainford, " I understand. 
I think I observed something of the sort in that 
class of people. But I didn't meet it in society." 
He looked at her inquiringly, as if he spoke under 
correction. 

Helen laughed. u Oh, society has all been to 
Europe, and has lost the old American point of view 
or thinks it has." 



276 A woman's reason. 

" Thinks it has 1 " he repeated with interest. 

" Why, I mean that, with all that acquiescence 
which you found so monotonous, there wasn't one of 
those people except a very few sophisticated in- 
stances who looked at you at all as people in Euro- 
pean society would. You were hopelessly improbable 
to them, no matter how hard they tried to realise 
you, as a nobleman. Excuse me !" cried Helen, " I 
d idn't intend to be personal ! " 

" Oh, not at all, not at all. It's very interesting, 
I 'm sure. It 's quite a new view of the matter. And 
you " 

" Now you are personal ! " 

" No, no, I don't mean that. Or, yes, perhaps I 
did." 

" Well, then, even I, although I 'm able to lecture 
so clearly and dispassionately about it, I 'm not sure 
that I 'm able to take the social state of Europe 
seriously, either." 

" Really 1 I didn't find you such deeply-dyed 
democrats." 

"We're not in our opinions; you found that 
out ; nor in our practice, I suppose. But in our tradi- 
tions and I 've been talking so bookishly already " 

" Oh, it 's quite what they told me to expect in 
Boston!" 

" Then you won't mind my saying in our envir-on- 
ment? said Helen, with a laugh, "we are. For in- 
stance and now I 'm going to be horribly personal 
as long as we supposed that Mr. Ray had introduced 
you as Mr. Rainford, you were real enough ; but as 



A woman's eeason. 277 

soon as we found that you were Lord Rainford, you 
vanished back into the stage-plays and the story- 
books." 

" Oh, I 'm very sorry," he said, with an accent of 
so much earnestness that she laughed again, and 
now with a mischievous pleasure, which he must 
have perceived : for he added more lightly, " It 's 
really very uncomfortable, you know, to be going 
about as a fictitious character." 

"You can't help it, and we can't," said Helen. 
"But I suppose if you were to live here a very long 
while, and were to be very, very good, we might begin 
to believe a little in your probability." 

They talked of other matters, and she let her 
visitor go, with an uneasy misgiving which haunted 
her throughout the morning, and still lingered 
about her when Clara Kingsbury came later in the 
afternoon to beg her to lunch with her the next 
day. 

"I know you've not been going out, but this will 
be an errand of charity. Last night I picked up, of 
all things in the world, a live lord, and before I 
knew it, I had asked him to lunch with me, and he 
had accepted. I suppose that lords are lunched 
very much like other mortals, if lords are mortal 
but really when he told me that he had met you, I 
was ready to weep on the first person's neck for joy. 
You do know him, don't you : Lord Rainford, whom 
you met last fall at the Butlers 1 " 

" yes," said Helen, " he brought me a message 
from them yesterday." 



278 a woman's reason. 

" How very odd ! " cried Miss Kingsbury, (( I 
wonder he didn't mention meeting you yester- 
day." 

" He didn't mention going to lunch with you to- 
morrow,'' said Helen defensively, betraying the fact 
that she had seen him since. 

Miss Kingsbury ignored it. " Then it must be his 
English reticence. How droll they are! I should 
think it would worry them to keep things on their 
minds the way they do. You must let me send the 
coup6 for you ! Lord Rainford, and Miss Harkness 
for the first time in many months, as the play-bills 
say : really, for a lunch in Lent " 

"Oh ! I think you must excuse me, Clara," Helen 
began. " You know I can't meet people." 

" I quite understand, dear," said Miss Kingsbury. 
" There are not going to be people, or I shouldn't 
have ventured to ask you. There are only to be 
Professor and Mrs. Fraser : Lord Rainford wanted 
especially to talk over Aztec antiquities with him, 
and I promised to get him to come. But I must 
have some other young lady besides myself; I can't 
let it be all Aztecs and antiquities. You must come 
to keep me in countenance, sitting up there behind 
the tea-pot like a a teocallis." 

Helen laughed, and Clara immediately kissed her. 
If it were to be such a mild little affair, she felt 
that she could certainly go ; she could see how Clara 
would hate to seem to have paired herself off with 
Lord Rainford, and she said, " Well, Clara, I will go ; 
but I believe that, so far as Lord Rainford is con- 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 279 

cerned, I shall go as an act of penance. He was 
here this morning again." 

" Oh !" popped out of Miss Kingsbury's mouth. 

" And I 'm afraid I said something inhospitable 
to him something, at any rate, that I 'd like to do 
away the impression of." 

" Oh ! do tell me what it was, Helen dear ! I 'm 
always saying such hideous things to people ! " 

Helen explained, and Miss Kingsbury silently 
reflected. " I suppose my joking about it annoyed 
him." 

" What did he say V pleaded Miss Kingsbury. 

" He said it was very uncomfortable going about 
as a fictitious character." 

" But you didn't make him a fictitious character, 
Helen !" 

" No ; but I can see how he might misunder- 
stand " 

"They're very sensitive," assented Miss Kings- 
bury, with a sigh. "Really," she continued more 
briskly, "for people who have gone tramping about 
the world ever since they could walk and they 
began to walk very early and crushing other people's 
feelings quite into the mire, they're extraordinarily 
sensitive. One would think that they had always 
behaved themselves with the utmost delicacy and 
consideration, instead of scolding and criticising and 
advising wherever they went." 

" Yes," said Helen. " But all that doesn't excuse 
me, if I said too much." 

" Well, then," said Miss Kingsbury, u come and take 



280 A woman's reason. 

some of it back ; or all Tell him that the British 
aristocracy is the one only solid and saving fact of 
the universe ! Good-bye, dear ! Don't worry about 
it. I daresay he was delighted ! " 

Helen was afterwards sorry that they had not 
dressed a little more. She was necessarily in mourn- 
ing, and Lord Eainford was dipped in the gloom of 
her crape, and of three black silks: Mrs. Fraser's 
best black silk, Miss Kingsbury's Vermont aunt's only 
black silk, and the black silk which Miss Kingsbury 
herself wore, in some mistaken ideal of simplicity. 
Helen longed to laugh, but remained unnaturally 
quiet. 

Perhaps the black silks were too much for the 
Aztecs. Lord Eainford had the Englishman's stiff- 
ness, and Professor Fraser had the professor's stiff- 
ness ; they seemed unable to get upon common 
ground, or to find each other's point of view. They 
became very polite and deferential, and ended by 
openly making nothing of each other. The Frasers 
were obliged to go early, and Helen shortly after- 
wards made a movement towards departure. 

Miss Kingsbury laid imploring hands on her. 
" Don't go ! " she tragically breathed. " Stay, and 
try to save the pieces ! " and Helen magnanimously 
remained; under the circumstances it would have 
been inhuman to go. She brightened at Miss 
Kingsbury's imploring appeal ; and they had a gay 
afternoon. When she said at last that now she 
really must go, she was scared to find that it was 
half-past four. She hurried on her sack and bonnet 



A woman's reason. 281 

and rubbers, and when she came down-stairs, Lord 
Rainford, of whom she had deliberately taken leave, 
was there, hospitably followed out of the drawing- 
room by Miss Kingsbury. 

" I forgive your not taking the coupe," she said 
subtly, seizing Helen's hand for a grateful pressure 
at parting. 

" I much prefer to walk, I assure you," said Helen, 
" after being mewed up in the house all day yester- 
day. Good-bye." 

Miss Kingsbury's man opened the door, and Lord 
Rainford stood aside for Helen to pass out. But he 
hurried after her. 

" If you're walking, Miss Harkness," he said, with 
an obvious effort to continue the light strain in which 
they had been laughing and talking, " I really wish 
you 'd let me walk with you." 

" Why, certainly," said Helen. " I shall be very 
glad." 

But they walked away together rather soberly, 
as people do after a merry time indoors. There was 
a constraint on them both which Helen had to make 
a little effort to break. Whatever caused it on his 
part, on hers it was remotely vexation that she had 
allowed the afternoon to slip away without going to 
see Mr. Hibbard about her money. She must wait 
again till the morning. 

" I 'm afraid," she said, " that you found Professor 
Fraser rather an unsatisfactory Aztec." 

"0 no. Not at all! He's extremely well in- 
formed, I daresay. But we approach the subject 



282 A woman's reason. 

from very different points. He is interested mainly 
in the pottery, as the remains of an arrested indigen- 
ous civilisation ; and I, as an amateur Egyptologist, 
was rather hoping to ah hear something new 
about the monuments the architectural evidences. 
But the ground has been pretty thoroughly traversed 
in Mexico, and we can only look for fresh results 
now in Yucatan and Central America." 

He hurried off the statement without apparent 
interest in the matter, and with something of present 
impatience. The effect was to make Helen laugh a 
little, at which he seemed grateful. 

"I suppose you have come over to look up the 
ground for yourself," she began ; but he hastily 
interrupted. 

" No, I can't say I came for that, exactly. I can't 
say I came for that. I should like extremely to see 
those things for myself; but I didn't come for 
that." 

Helen was amused at his scrupulous insistence on 
the point, and had a mischievous temptation to ask 
him just why he had come, then ; but she contented 
herself with saying, " I always wonder that English 
people care to come to America at all. I 'm afraid 
that if we had Germany and Italy at our doors, we 
shouldnt care to cross the Atlantic for a run to 
Colorado and back." 

" The Continent is rather an old story with us, 
you know. Of course the towns are a good deal 
alike here, after you leave Boston, and there is 
nothing to see in the usual sight-seeing way; but 



A woman's reason. 283 

the conditions are all new, and they 're interesting ; 
yes, they 're interesting. But I can't say exactly " 

Helen felt a nervous inability to let him define, as 
he clearly intended, that it was not exactly the new 
conditions either that had brought him to America, 
and she turned a smiling face from the anguish of 
sincerity that was urging him on, and looked about 
her with the hope that something in their surround- 
ings would suggest escape for them both. 

"I suppose," she said, "that you know Boston 
very well by this time % " 

"No, I don't know it very well," replied Lord 
Eainford. "But I believe I know something about 
this quarter of it. This is where your principal people 
live professional people, and large merchants V* 

" All sorts of people live everywhere, now," said 
Helen, with a little touch of her superiority; "and 
I can't say that Beacon Street is any better than 
Commonwealth Avenue. Papa was in the India 
trade," she continued, " and we lived just here in 
Beacon Steps." She remembered what Captain 
Butler had said of the India trade and its splendour, 
and she had a tender filial pride in speaking of it. 

Lord Eainford had not caught the word. "In 
trade 1 " he repeated. 

" His business was with Indian products of all 
sorts," Helen explained. 

"Ah, yes," said Lord Eainford. He walked on 
in a silence which Helen did not heed particularly. 
He must have been pondering the complications of 
American society, through which he was walking 



284 A woman's reason. 

about the most exclusive quarter of Boston with the 
daughter of a person who had bartered beads and 
whisky to the aborigines for peltries ; for, " Beally," 
he said at last, " I didn't suppose there were enough 
of them left in this region to make it worth any one's 
while. But perhaps he carried on the business at a 
distance in the West?" 

They came to an involuntary pause together, in 
which they stared at each other. " What do you 
mean ? " cried Helen. 

" Upon my word I don't know whether I ought 
to say," returned Lord Bainford. 

" You didn't you didn't suppose," Helen con- 
tinued, "that papa traded with our Indians?" 
Lord Bainford's silence confessed his guilt, and she 
added with a severity which she could not mitigate, 
" Papa's business was with India ; he sent out ships 
to Calcutta ! " 

" Oh oh ! " said her companion. " I beg your 
pardon." 

Helen made a polite response, and began to talk 
of other things ; but in her heart she was aware of 
not pardoning him in the least; and she had an 
unworthy satisfaction in leaving him in evident 
distress when they parted. 

The next morning, at the earliest permissible 
hour, Mrs. Hewitt brought her his card, with a 
confidential impressiveness that vexed Helen almost 
to the point of asking Mrs. Hewitt to say that 
Miss Harkness was not well, and begged to be 
excused; but she repented of the intention before 



A woman's reason. 285 

it was formed, and went down to receive her 
guest. 

She received him coldly, and his manner confessed 
the chill by an awkward constraint in the common- 
places that passed before he broke out abruptly 
with, " I 'm afraid I must have annoyed you, Miss 
Harkness. I 'm not ready I don't suppose I 've 
any tact at all but it would grieve me to think 
that I had misunderstood you yesterday in a way to 
vex you." 

"Oh, don't speak of it ! " cried Helen, with the 
generosity which his frankness evoked. " There 
was never anything of it, and now it's all gone." 
She began to laugh at the droll side of his blunder, 
and she said, " I was afraid that I must have seemed 
very rude the other day, in openly reducing you 
to a fairy prince." 

"No, I rather liked that," said Lord Eainford. 
" It interested me, and it explained some things. 
I 'm sure people get on better in the end by being 
frank." 

" Oh," said Helen, " there 's nothing like frank- 
ness," and at the same moment she felt herself an 
intricate and inextricable coil of reservations. 

" I think the Americans particularly like it," he 
suggested. 

" We expect it," said Helen, with a subtlety which 
he missed. 

He went on to say, with open joy in the restora- 
tion of their good understanding : M The distinctions 
you make in regard to different kinds of trade rather 



286 A WOMAN'S reason. 

puzzle me. I don't see why cotton-spinning should 
be any better than shoe-manufacturing ; but I 'm told 
it is." 

" Why, certainly," said Helen. 

" But I don't see the ' certainly ' ! " he protested, 
with a laugh. 

" Oh, but it is ! " she explained. 

" Ah," he returned, with the air of desisting, 
" it 's my defective education, I suppose. But if 
people go into trade at all, I don't see why they 
shouldn't go into one thing as well as another. It 
appears all the same to us." 

The little word slipped out ; and neither of them 
thought of it at the time. He went away, happy 
in having made his peace ; she parted from him 
with sufficient cordiality, and as soon as he was 
gone, this word by which he had unconsciously dis- 
tinguished between them and classed her, began to 
rankle and to sting. When it came to herself, she 
had the national inability to accept classification, 
which seems such a right and wise arrangement to 
Europeans, and which some Americans uphold till 
it comes to themselves. 

She could not get rid of her resentment by asking 
herself what Lord Bainford's opinions and prejudices 
were to her, and resolving not to see him if he came 
again ; and she was so hot with it, when she went out 
in the afternoon to Mr. Hibbard's office at last, that 
she must have seemed to the clerk, who told her he 
was not in, to have some matter of personal question 
with the delinquent lawyer. 



a woman's reason. 287 

She stopped a moment on her way home at the 
window of a picture-store, attracted by some jars of 
imitation faience, and she went in to ask about them; 
the sight of them suddenly revived her belief that 
she could still do something of the kind, and spare 
herself the shame of encroaching upon her capital 

A gentleman turned round from looking at them 
on the inside of the window, and she confronted 
Lord Rainford. "Ah, Miss Harkness!" he said. 
" Was it you who were spell-bound outside there by 
these disagreeable shams ? " 

His words struck her new hopes dead. "They 
are ghastly," she said, with society hardness. Then 
Miss Root's words came involuntarily to her lips, 
"I pity the poor wretch that expects to live by 
painting and selling them." That door, she felt, 
was for ever closed against her, even if she starved 
on the outside. The shock brought the tears into 
her eyes behind her veil, and she remained staring at 
the fictitious faience without seeing it. 

" Frankly, now," said Lord Rainford, "don't you 
think that all effort in that direction is misdirected, 
and that the world was better before people set 
about prettifying it so much V 

' 'Frankly," said Helen hysterically, "I don't be- 
lieve I like frankness as much as you do." 

He laughed. " If you have ever decorated pottery, 
Miss Harkness, I take it all back." 

"Oh, it isn't a question of that," said Helen 
breathlessly. "It 's a question of what else the poor 
girl, who probably did the things, shall turn to if she 



288 a woman's reason. 

stops doing them." She had a kind of dire satisfac- 
tion in dramatising her own desperation; and the 
satisfaction was not diminished by the fact that these 
ideas had come into her head since she had denounced 
frankness, to which they had no relation whatever. 
She had meant if she meant anything by that 
denunciation to punish him for the tone of his talk 
in the morning. She had not forgotten his patri- 
cian us. But the talk was now far from that, and 
he had not been punished. 

" Ah," he said, with feeling that she respected in 
spite of her resentment, "I should be sorry if I 
seemed indifferent to that side of the question. It 
was only that I hadn't thought of it." 

"I didn't mean that," she returned, with an aim- 
lessness from which she thought to escape by asking, 
" Is there anything up-stairs 1 " 

" Yes," he said ; "a very beautiful picture I 
fancy a very American picture." 

" The two things ought to tempt me," said Helen, 
passing on as if to terminate their casual inter- 
view. 

She mounted the thickly-carpeted stairs, which 
silenced the steps behind her; but she was not 
surprised to find the portihre held back for her to 
enter the pretty little gallery, or to find Lord Rain- 
ford beside her, when she stood within. There was 
a gentleman there with his hat off, after our fashion 
in picture-galleries at home, and two suburban ladies 
with a multiplicity of small paper parcels, in awe- 
stricken whisper; but they all presently went out, 



A woman's reason. 289 

and left her alone with Lord Rainford before the 
painting. 

A yellow light fell rich into an open space in the 
primeval New England forest, and revealed the 
tragedy of an arrest for witchcraft, an old woman 
haled away in the distance by the officers, with her 
withered arms flung upward in prayer or impre- 
cation ; and in the foreground a young girl cower- 
ing at the door of the cabin, from which her mother 
has just been torn. The picture was an intense ex- 
pression of the pathos of the fact, which seemed as 
wholly unrelated to canvas or pigment, in the painter's 
poetic treatment, as if it were his perfect dream of 
what he had meant to do. 

" Yes ! " said Helen, with a deep sigh of the 
impassioned admiration with which she always 
devoted her being for the moment to the book or 
picture she liked. 

"One of your Boston painters'?" asked the 
Englishman. 

" The one," answered Helen, and she launched out 
in a fury of praise, while he continued attentive to 
her rather than to her words. 

"I suppose you can't understand how it afflicts 
me," he said finally, " to find any of the errors and 
sufferings of Europe repeated here." 

Helen laughed as people do at mysterious griev- 
ances. "Why, no; as far as such things are 
historical, I believe we're rather proud of them. 
They do something to satisfy the taste for the 
picturesque, though after all they're such a mere 

T 



290 A woman's reason. 

morsel that we land in Europe perfectly raven- 
ous." 

"If they were all historical, I shouldn't mind," 
said the young man. " It was finding our current 
superstitions accepted here that surprised and dis- 
appointed me." 

"You don't mean to tell me that you find any 
imperfections domestic or foreign in us now ?" 

"Ah, you get beyond my joking depth very soon," 
he protested. " I told you once that I was a serious 
person." 

"I didn't believe you could be serious about it !" 

" I was, I assure you. I suppose it was my habit 
of taking things very seriously that put me at odds 
with matters at home, and that puts me at odds 
with matters here, where I fancied that I might be 
rather more of the regular order." 

" I don't understand," said Helen ; and being 
curious, and being fatigued, she dropped into one of 
the chairs that the suburban ladies had vacated. 

" I mean that this morning I was trying to express 
the feeling which has made me a sort of white crow 
among my own people, and which doesn't seem even 
credible here. I was very far indeed from wishing 
to imply disrespect for any sort of usefulness which 
is the only thing I really respect in the world. Did 
you understand me to do so 1 " 

"Not exactly that," said Helen, with a reserve 
which he must have seen was as yet inexpugnable. 

" I daresay it was one of the misfortunes of my 
being a sickly boy, bred at home, apart from other 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 291 

boys, and indulging himself in all sorts of fancies ; 
but I used to imagine that in America our distinc- 
tions criterions didn't exist. When I began to 
know Americans, at home as well as here, it seemed 
to me that they were often rather more subser- 
vient more eager to get on with people of rank, 
than Englishmen even. I confess it baffled me, and 
you 're the only American if you '11 excuse my being 
so personal, as you say who has at all explained it 
to me. I can see now how they may have a romantic 
an historical interest in knowing such people, and 
that they are not merely tuft-hunters in the ordinary 
sense." 

Helen could not tell whether he was speaking in 
irony or in earnest ; she dropped the glance she was 
lifting to his face, in a little fear of him. 

" I daresay I 've been mistaken about other 
matters appearances ; and I 'm vexed that I should 
have said something this morning that I saw put 
me further than ever in the wrong with you. I 
assure you that I don't think better of myself for 
belonging to an order of things that I believe to be 
founded and perpetuated in ignorance and injustice. 
I would really rather have been one of the pilgrims 
who came over in the May-Blossom " 

" Flower," said Helen, helplessly correcting him. 

"Flower I beg your pardon than one of the 
robbers who came over with the Conqueror ! " 

He seemed to think this a pre digious tribute ; but 
Helen could not even make a murmur of grateful 
acceptance. Those radical ideas, in which he expected 



292 A woman's reason. 

her to sympathise, were ridiculous to her ; she had 
always heard them laughed at, and she could not 
imagine how an Englishman of rank could entertain 
them, though she had heard that such Englishmen 
sometimes did, for a while. To hear him talking in 
that way made him seem not so much unnatural as 
impossible ; it was so unexpected from him that she 
felt a little uneasy, as if he were not quite in his right 
mind ; but she had so far a compassion for his mania 
that she could not find it in her heart to tell him 
that he had totally misconceived her, and he went on 
to explain further. 

" And I was merely trying to say that I thought 
it odd in a society where you are all commoners 
together " 

" Commoners ! " cried Helen, in astonished recogni- 
tion of the fact. 

He did not heed this effect in her, but went 
on "That there should be any such distinctions 
as ours. I '11 go further, and say that I thought it 
preposterous; and the other day, when I fell into 
that unaccountable blunder in regard to the India 
trade, I had no such feeling as you as you 
might have supposed. If I venture to speak of 
something that Mr. Kay let drop in one of his 
letters about your determination to trust to your- 
self and your own efforts, rather than accept any 
sort of dependence, it 's because I wish to tell you 
how much I revere and and honour it. It only 
endeared you to me the more ! Miss Harkness ! " 
he cried, while she began to look about her with a 



a woman's reason. 293 

wild hope of escape, " it was for your sake that I 
came back ! " 

They were quite alone, and if it were to come to 
this, it might as well have come to it here as any- 
where else : Helen realised the fact with a superficial 
satisfaction, following her superficial terror of the 
publicity of the place. " Ever since I first saw you " 

" Oh, don't say any more ! Indeed, you mustn't ! 
Didn't the Kays didn't they tell you " 

"I haven't seen them. Before I went home I 
knew that your father's circumstances But I beg 
you to do me at least the kindness to believe that it 
made no difference at all. God knows I never con- 
sidered the circumstances or made them an instant's 
question." 

" You are very kind, Lord Rainford ; generous 
but" 

" No. It pleased me to think you had nothing. 
I would rather have found you as I have than in the 
best house in your town; I don't like people of 
fashion at home ; and when it comes to what is called 
position, or loss of it, here " 

Helen tried to interpose again, but he would not 
let her speak. 

" What Ray told me only made me the more impa- 
tient to see you again, and to assure you to tell you 
how wholly I sympathised with your ideas ; and to 
prove my sincerity in any way you choose. If you 
dislike going to England and I could very well 
imagine you might, for some reasons I will come 
here. It 's indifferent to me where I live, so that I 



4 



294 A woman's reason. 

honestly live out my opinions. I love you for what 
you are, for your courage, your sincerity, your truth 
to yourself; and if you think that your having 
your being " 

" Oh, it isn't that at all !" cried Helen piteously, 
compassionately. To a girl who had never dreamt of 
being loved for anything but herself, and, in her 
quality of well-born and well-bred American, could 
not imagine herself less than the equal of princes, 
Lord Eainford's impassioned misconceptions con- 
tained as many offences as could have been put into 
as many words; but she forgave them all to the 
pain that she saw that she must inflict. He had 
misunderstood everything: all her assumptions of 
equality, on his own plane, had been thrown away 
upon him ; she had only been his equal as he ordained 
it, and condescended to her level. But she could not 
be angry with him, since she was to crush him with 
the word she must speak. She had never forgiven 
herself for her reckless behaviour the first time they 
met ; and now he must have taken all her kind suf- 
ferance, all her hospitable goodwill of the past week 
which she had shown in atonement as invitation 
for him to hope, even to expect. She hung her 
head, but she must stop him at once, and, " Oh ! 
Lord Kainford," she murmured, " I 'm engaged !" 

He turned very white. " I beg your pardon," he 
said, simply and quietly. 

" I've been very greatly to blame from the begin- 
ning; I see it now, and I ought to have seen it before. 
But that first day, when I met you, I was very unhappy 



A woman's reason. 295 

I hardly knew what I did ; I 'm afraid I didn't care. 
I had driven away the dearest friend I had "by my 
foolishness ; and he had left me, hating me ; it made 
me desperate ! But it all came right very soon 
again ; and it 's he It 's cruel of me to be telling 
you this ; but I want you to believe that I do prize 
your regard, and that since you've been here this 
time, I 've only tried to do what I could to remove 
that first impression, and to to to You must 
forgive me !" 

" yes," said the young man with a bewildered 
look. 

"I do see how good you are, and I respect Any 
girl might be proud and glad, if she were not 
bound" 

"Good-bye," said Lord Eainford abruptly. She 
took his hand in a clinging, pitying pressure; she 
would have liked to detain him, and say something 
more, to add those futilities with which women vainly 
seek to soften the blow they deal a man whom they 
value, but do not love. But the useless words would 
not come to her lips, and she must let him go with- 
out them. 



XIV. 

Helen hurried home, and ran up to her room. 
She had thought she wanted to hide ; but now she 
found that she wanted to walk, to run, to fly, to get 
into the open air again, to escape from herself some- 
how. She was frantic with the nervous access of 
which, now that Lord Rainford was gone, she had 
fallen the prey. She was pulling on her gloves, as 
she rushed down-stairs, and she almost ran over the 
servant, who was coming up with a card in her hand. 
She stopped short, and the girl gave her the card. 

"For me!" she cried in wild exasperation. "I 
can't see anybody ! Say that I 'm going out. I 
can't see any one !" 

A little old gentleman, with his overcoat on, and his 
hat in his hand, who must have overheard her, came 
out of the reception-room, and stood between the 
foot of the stairs and the street-door. 

" I wish to see you, Miss Harkness, on very im- 
portant business." 

" I can't see you now. I can't see any one ! I 
don't know you, sir ! Why do you come to me 1" 
she demanded indignantly, and quivering with im- 
patience. 



A woman's REASON. 297 

"My name is Everton. I bought your father's 
house when it was sold last fall at auction, and I 
came to see you in regard to some circumstances 
connected with that purchase." 

" I don't know anything about the circumstances," 
cried Helen. " You must wait till Captain Butler 
gets home." 

" I was sure," said Mr. Everton, with insinuation 
that arrested her in spite of herself, " that you knew 
nothing of the circumstances, and from what I knew 
of your father, I felt certain that his daughter would 
like to know of them." 

" Please tell me what you mean," said Helen, and 
with a glance at the gaping servant-girl she pushed 
open the reception-room door. Mr. Everton politely 
refused to enter first, and he softly closed the door 
when they were both within. 

" It is simply this, Miss Harkness," said Mr. 
Everton, who had a small, hard neatness of speech, 
curiously corresponding to his small, hard neatness of 
person. " I have reason to believe in fact, I have 
evidence that I was the victim of a fraud on the part 
of the auctioneer ; and that I was induced to outbid, 
by five or six thousand dollars, bids that were cried 
by the auctioneer, but that had never been made at 
all." 

" I don't understand," faltered Helen. 

Mr. Everton explained, but she shook her head. 

" This is all a mystery to me. Why don't you 
wait till Captain Butler returns ? Why do you come 
to me V* She suddenly added : " Or, no ! I am glad 



298 A woman's reason. 

you came to me. I can't suffer any doubt to rest 
in your mind for an instant : if you have been 
wronged, that 's quite enough. Thank you for com- 
ing." She rose with a splendour which seemed to 
increase her stature, and diminish Mr. Everton's. 
" I was just going out, and if you will come with 
me I will go at once to Mr. Hibbard's office with 
you. He has charge of my affairs in Captain 
Butler's absence. If there has been any mistake, 
I am sure that he will have it corrected imme- 
diately." 

She started out with Mr. Everton at her side, and 
swept haughtily on for several squares. Then she 
found herself trembling. " I wish you would call a 
carriage, please," she said faintly. 

When they arrived at Mr. Hibbard's office, Mr. 
Everton allowed her to pay for the carriage he had 
shared with her. She could not quell her excite- 
ment when she entered the lawyer's private room 
with him. "Mr. Hibbard," she began, in a key 
which she knew sounded hysterical, and which she 
despised, but was helpless to control, " Mr. Everton 
thinks that he was cheated in the purchase of our 
house ; and I wish j*du to hear his story, please, and 
if it is so, I wish him to be righted, no matter what 
it costs." 

"Sit down,". said the lawyer. He placed a chair for 
Helen, and allowed Mr. Everton to find one for him- 
self, and then waited for him to begin. Mr. Everton 
was not embarrassed. He behaved like a man secure 
of his right, and told his story over again, straight- 



s 




A woman's reason. 299 

forwardly and clearly. Mr. Hibbard smiled so lightly 
and carelessly at the end, that Helen felt at once 
that it must be all rubbish, and that it would be 
perfectly easy for him to undeceive Mr. Everton. 

" Why didn't you come to me directly with this 
story, Mr. Everton ?" asked the lawyer. 

" I don't know, Mr. Hibbard," returned the old 
man keenly, "that I'm obliged to account to you 
for my motives. I don't know but that I should 
have preferred to communicate with you through my 
lawyer, if it had not been for this young lady, who 
felt sure that you would see justice done." 

The lawyer smiled at an assertion which was 
evidently not made to weigh with him. " You ought 
to know by this time, Mr. Everton, that justice is an 
affair of the Courts, and that lawyers look after their 
clients' interests." 

"I don't want you to look after mine at the ex- 
pense of justice, Mr. Hibbard," said Helen nervously, 
pulling herself back to the point from which she had 
lapsed at Mr. Hibbard's smile. * 

" We will try to do what is right," said the lawyer, 
in a way that made her .feel rather silly. " But we 
won't do anything rashly because two romantic young 
people have decided that it is right without con- 
sulting any one else." 

If Mr. Hibbard expected Mr. Everton to enjoy 
this joke he was mistaken. "I am quite willing," 
said the old gentleman grimly, " to leave the affair 
to the Courts." 

"If I hadn't your word for that, Mr. Everton," 



300 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

returned the lawyer briskly, ." I should doubt your 
willingness to do anything of the kind." 

"Why?" 

"Because you know as well as I do, that you 
have no case, that all your suspicions and impressions, 
and conjectures and hearsay, wouldn't amount to 
that in Court" The lawyer snapped his fingers. 
" You know very well that you went to Miss Harkness 
to fortify yourself at the expense of the weakness 
you hoped to find in her, and that you have done an 
irregular and ungentlemanly thing in annoying her 
with this matter. I am sorry to say it to so old a 
man as you. Did you expect to extort money from 
her? Probably you were surprised that she chose 
to consult me at all. Miss Harkness, I advise you 
to go home, and think no more about this matter. 
There 's nothing of it !" 

The lawyer rose, as if to end the interview, but 
Mr. Everton remained seated, looking through the 
papers of a long pocket-book he had taken from his 
coat, and unfolded upon his knee, and Helen re- 
mained seated too, fascinated by the old man's 
quiet self-possession. 

"I have something here to show you," he said 
tranquilly, offering the lawyer the paper which he 
had found. " And I wish you to understand," he 
added, " that I am not here to be instructed as to 
the conduct of a gentleman, or to account for my 
conduct in any way. I prefer that you should 
not attempt to account for my possession of this 
paper ; and if you ask me any questions in regard to 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 301 

it, I shall not answer them. It is sufficient for you 
to consider whether it is worth while for you to 
go into Court against it. I was willing, and am 
still so, to spare the scandal attending such an affair 
in Court, but I am determined to have the sum out 
of which I have been defrauded." 

The lawyer was reading the paper without apparent 
attention to what Mr. Everton was saying, but 
when he had gone through the paper again, he 
turned to Helen, and said reluctantly, " Miss Hark- 
ness, it 's my duty to tell you what this paper is : 
it's a confession from the auctioneer that he did 
invent a series of bids by which he ran the price of 
the house up from thirty to thirty-five thousand 
dollars. I haven't the slightest idea that the case, 
if brought into Court, would be decided in Mr. 
Everton's favour on any such evidence as this ; in 
fact, I think it would not be easy to bring the case 
into Court at all. But Mr. Everton hasn't obtained 
the paper for any such purpose. He has obtained 
it with a view of frightening you into the pay- 
ment of a sum I don't know what figure he 
has fixed on in his mind to keep the matter still. 
Now, I advise you not to pay anything to keep it 
still not a cent." He folded up the paper and 
handed it back to Mr. Everton, who put it into his 
pocket-book again. 

"Will you let me see it, please?" said Helen 
gently. He gave her the paper, and she read it, 
and then restored it to him. After a while she said, 
" I am trying to think what papa would have done. 



302 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

"Wasn't Captain Butler at the auction wouldn't lie 
have suspected, if anything had gone wrong 1 " 

" Yes, certainly," said the lawyer. 

" And if he had had any misgivings " 

"He would have come to me with them, and I 
should have told him not to pay the slightest atten- 
tion to them," said Mr. Hibbard promptly. " My dear 
Miss Harkness, the whole thing is preposterous. That 
fellow Mortimer is a scamp, but he isn't such a scamp 
as he professes to be. If Mr. Everton will excuse 
my frankness, I will say that I believe this is purely 
a financial transaction between himself and Mortimer. 
The fellow had heard of Mr. Everton's suspicions, 
and when he wanted money very badly, he went to 
him, and sold out for a sum which Mr. Everton's 
delicacy would prevent him from naming ; but pro- 
bably something handsome, though Mortimer has 
been going to the dogs lately, and he may have sold 
out cheap." 

Mr. Everton, having folded up his paper and put 
it back into his pocket-book, and restored that to his 
breast-pocket, rose, and buttoned his coat over it. 
" I 'm sorry, Miss Harkness," he said, " that you 
haven't a better adviser. I can't expect you to act 
independently of him, and that 's your misfortune. 
I knew your father, and he was a very honest man. 
Good-morning." 

" He was too honest," cried the lawyer, " to make 
any difficulty about paying you your cut-throat 
usury." 

"My loan came at a time, Miss Harkness, when 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 303 

your father could get money nowhere else, and it 
saved him from bankruptcy. Good-afternoon." 

He took no notice of the lawyer in quitting the 
room, and when he was gone the latter broke out 
with, "I hope he will press this to an issue! I 
think I could give him something to think of if I 
could get a chance at him in open Court. The old 
scoundrel, to come to you with this thing ! But he 
knew better than to come to me first. I wonder he 
dared to come at all ! Miss Harkness, don't be 
troubled about it ; there 's nothing of it, I assure 
you ; nothing that need give you a moment's anxiety 
as to the result. You may be absolutely certain that 
this is the end of the whole affair ; he would never dare 
to go into Court with that paper in the world. It 
was given to him, you may rest satisfied, for the sole 
purpose of extorting money from us privately, and 
with the agreement which Mortimer would know 
how to make perfectly safe for himself that it was 
never to be used in any public or legal way. Mr. 
Everton has made his attempt, and has failed ; that 's 
all. You '11 hear no more of it." 

"Is it true," asked Helen gently, and with an 
entire absence of the lawyer's resentful excitement, 
"that he lent papa money when he could get it 
nowhere else % " 

"In any ordinarily disastrous time your father 
could always have got money, Miss Harkness. But 
the time that Everton alluded to was one when it 
could be got only of usurers like himself. He made 
your father pay three or four times what any man 



304 a woman's reason. 

with a Christian conscience would have asked for 
it* 

" And did it save papa from bankruptcy 1 " 

"Everybody was in difficulties at that time; 
and" 

"Do you think," pursued Helen, as if it were a 
branch of the same inquiry, " that he really supposes 
the auctioneer cheated 1 " 

" Very likely he had his suspicions. He 's full of 
all sorts of suspicions. I daresay he suspects that 
you and I were in collusion in regard to this matter, 
and prepared for him if he should ever come upon 
such an errand." 

"Oh !" murmured Helen. 

"Why should you worry yourself about it, 
Miss Harkness 1 As it was, he bought the house at 
a ruinously low figure, and it 's worth now a third 
more than he paid for it six months ago." 

"But you don't think it is possible the auctioneer 
could have done such a thing % " 

"Oh, possible yes, but extremely improbable." 

"It makes me unhappy, very unhappy," said 
Helen. " I can't bear to have any doubt about it. 
It seems a kind of stain on papa's memory." 

" Bless my soul, my dear young lady ! " cried the 
lawyer, " what has it to do with your father's 
memory?" 

" Everything, if I don't see the wrong righted." 

" But if there hasn't been any wrong 1 " 

" Ah, that 's the worst : we can't find out , Mr. 
Hibbard, you never heard any one else express any 



A woman's reason. 305 

misgivings about the sale?" The lawyer shifted a 
little in his chair, and betrayed a fleeting uneasiness, 
which he tried to hide with a laugh. Helen was 
instantly upon him : " Oh, who was it % n 

"I haven't admitted that it was anybody." 

" But it was ! You must tell me !" 

" There 's no reason why I shouldn't. It was as in- 
nocent a person as yourself: it was Captain Butler!" 

"Captain Butler!" 

" And I can tell you, for your entire satisfaction, I 
hope, that he went to the auctioneer and laid his 
doubts before him, and the auctioneer solemnly 
assured him that the bids were all bona fide, just as 
he now solemnly assures Mr. Everton that they were 
fictitious. But Captain Butler was not so shrewd as 
Mr. Everton he didn't make the auctioneer put 
himself in writing." 

Helen pulled her veil over her face. " And is 
is there no way of solving the doubt 1 ?" she made 
out to ask. 

"There is no doubt to solve, in my mind," said 
Mr. Hibbard. " I advised Captain Butler to dismiss 
the matter altogether, as I now advise you. I tell 
you that you 've heard the last of Mr. Everton in 
this connection." 

Helen did not answer. But presently she said, 
" Mr. Hibbard, I was going to come to you for 
some money. I understood from Captain Butler 
that you had charge of what was left for me, and that 
I could get it of you whenever I wanted it." 

u Yes, certainly." 

U 



306 A woman's reason. 

." In such sums as I like 1 " 

The lawyer laughed. " In any sums short of the 
amount of Mr. Everton's claim." 

Helen was daunted to find herself unmasked ; hut 
she only put on the holder front. " But if I wish to 
pay that claim % " 

" Then I should intervene, and say the claim did 
not exist." 

" But if the money is mine ?" she urged. 

" If you insisted upon taking up all your money, 
I should, as Captain Butler's friend, and as the old 
friend of your father, refuse to let you have it, unless 
you explicitly promised me that you would not give 
it to Mr. Everton. For it would literally be giving 
it to him." 

" And if I said that you had no right to refuse 
it ? If I told you that I was of age, and that I was 
determined to have it without conditions V 

"Then I should make bold to defy you at any 
risk till I had laid the whole matter before Captain 
Butler, and heard from him in reply. Now, my dear 
Miss Harkness," said the lawyer, " I know just how 
you feel about this matter, and I want you to believe 
that if I thought it was just, I should not only be 
willing to have you pay Mr. Everton's claim, but 
should urge you to pay it, even if it beggared 
you." 

" Would it would it take all the money V* faltered 
Helen. 

" Yes, all. But it isn't to be thought of ; the 
whole thing's in the air; it's preposterous." The 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 307 

lawyer went carefully and judicially into the whole 
case, and clearly explained the points and principles 
to Helen, who listened silently, and to all appearance 
with conviction. At the end he asked cheerfully, as 
he prepared to write a cheque, " And now, how 
much money shall I let you have to-day 1 " 

" None !" said Helen, " I couldn't bear to touch 
it. I know that you feel as you say ; and it seems 
as if you must be right. But if I spent a cent of 
that money I could never be happy again unless I 
knew absolutely that there was nothing in this 
claim." 

The lawyer smiled despairingly. " But you never 
can know absolutely !" 

" Then I will never touch the money." 

" Really, really," cried the lawyer, " this is too 
bad. Do you want me to give you this money to 
throw into the street 1 I honestly believe that the 
first man who picked it up there would have as much 
right to it as Mr. Everton." 

" Yes, but nobody knows" said Helen, rising. " I 'm 
sorry to give you all this trouble, and take up your 
time ; and I wish that I needn't seem so obstinate 
and unreasonable ; but indeed, indeed I can't 
help it." 

" Confound the old rascal ! " exclaimed Mr. Hib- 
bard. " I wish I 'd indulged myself in kicking him 
out of doors. Miss Harkness, I '11 inquire into this 
matter, and in the meantime I '11 write to Captain 
Butler. Do you think that I can do more 1" 

" No." 



308 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

" And now I shall be glad to give you any money 
on account." 

" I can't take any," said Helen ; " it would be 
quite the same thing. I never could pay it back, 
and if it turned out that it belonged to him, I should 
be either a beggar or a thief." 

The lawyer gave a roar of expostulation. " But 
if you are out of money what will you do V 

" I have a little yet. Captain Butler supplied me 
with money before he went away, and I have still 
some of it left." This was true. She had been 
using what she called Mr. Trufitt's money, and she 
had a dollar and seventy-five cents left of the sum 
that Captain Butler had made her believe was hers. 

The lawyer, on his part, forbore to explain that 
the money Captain Butler gave her must have been 
in anticipation of interest on the five thousand 
dollars he held for her. He only said, u But you 
will accept a loan from me 1" 

"No; I shouldn't feel that I was making any 
sacrifice then." 

"But why, under heaven, should you make a 
sacrifice V demanded the business man of the girl. 

" I must to feel true to myself," she answered ; 
and something like this absurdity she repeated in 
answer to all his prayers and reasons, and went 
away empty-handed at the end. 



XV. 

That evening Helen tapped at Miss Root's door, 
and entered in response to the girl's invitation to 
"Come in!" When she showed herself within, 
" Oh, excuse me ! " cried Miss Root, in the reedy- 
note which ladies make when they have pins in their 
mouths. She had her lap full of sewing, and she 
obviously could not get up. "I thought it was 
Bridget." 

"Bridget wouldn't be coming to you on. my 
errand," said Helen with a bluntness which at once 
made its way with Miss Root. 

"What is your errand V* she asked, taking three 
pins out of her mouth for the purpose. 

" I must earn some money, somehow. I thought 
perhaps you could tell me advise me " 

" I can tell you, but I can't advise you," said Miss 
Root, bending over her work, and treating Helen's 
extremity as one of the most natural things in. life. 
" I earned money enough to come to Boston and 
study Art" she pronounced it with the conventional 
capital rather disdainfully, as if she would have chosen 
a homelier expression if she could have thought of 
one " by helpin' mother take boarders. We took 



310 A woman's reason. 

'em our summers, and I taught winters. That's the 
way I earned some money. But I suppose you don't 
want to take boarders." 

Helen hardly knew how to interpret the gleam in 
Miss Root's eye. But, " No," she answered simply, 
" I shouldn't know how to do that." 

" Well, neither do most of the boardin'-house 
keepers. " She stopped here so definitively that Helen 
was obliged to take the word if the conversation was 
to go on. 

" I thought," she faltered, " that perhaps you could 
tell me how to do something with my pencil that 
would sell. I can sketch a little." 

" Yes," said Miss Root non-committally ; " I re- 
member." 

"And it seems to me, that if I knew how to go 
about it, I ought to be able to turn the study I have 
given it to some account" 

" I suppose," said Miss Root, " that it's for some 
charity." 

" For some charity ! " cried Helen. " No, indeed ! 
it 's for myself." 

"Oh," said the other. "Then if I were you, I 
wouldn't throw my time away. You '11 never succeed. " 

" I don't want to succeed as an artist," retorted 
Helen with a little pique. " But I have really come 
to the point where I must either earn some money, 
or else borrow or beg it. There are plenty of people 
who would be ready to give it or lend it, but I can't 
let. them, and I hoped that you might be able to tell 
me how to earn it." 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 311 

Miss Root shook her head. " Of course, I like 
your spirit ; it 's the right spirit ; but I can't help you 
in that way. I've never sold a thing yet, and I 
don't know when I shall, if I ever shall. If I didn't 
love to paint, I should quit and go home by the first 
train. But I do love it, and I 'm goin' to stick to it 
till I begin to starve. I don't ever expect to get 
married thatw&s finished up long ago ! and mother's 
married again, and here I am without a chick or a 
child to trouble me, or trouble about me. But if I 
had a cat to keep, I shouldn't try to keep it on Art. 
Oh, I presume that after years and years, I can sell 
a picture, maybe ; but I know painters in this city 
real artists " she put the words unsparingly, as with 
a conscience against letting Helen suppose herself 
for a moment anything of the kind " that would be 
glad to give all they do for a regular income of a 
thousand dollars a year. If you 've a mind to paint 
gimcracks," she added, and this was the only way in 
which she deigned to acknowledge her privity to 
Helen's previous performance, " you can sell 'em if 
some simpleton sets the fashion of buying 'em, or if 
people know you did 'em. But I presume that ain't 
what you want." 

" No, indeed," said Helen, shuddering at the 
thought of Mr. Trufitt, and helplessly loathing her- 
self for being at that moment a pensioner on his 
bounty ; " it would be better to starve." 

"Or," pursued Miss Root, "you might teach 
drawing. People have to throw away their money 
somehow. But, if I understand, you don't want to 



312 A woman's reason. 

go to people that have money to throw away for that 
any more than the other thing." 

"No," murmured Helen. She knew that Miss 
Root had at once divined that she had come to her 
instead of going to any friends of her former life 
because she did not choose to let them pity her, and 
help her to any sort of trivial work out of pity. In 
the girl's straightforward sincerity she felt the com- 
fort that the feminine soul finds in the frankness of 
a man, and she subtly perceived that, for all her show 
of indifference, Cornelia liked her, and was touched 
by the advance she had made in coming to her. In 
fact, Miss Root prided herself on her large-minded- 
ness, a quality which she applied more impartially 
to people about her than is generally done. Her 
liberality was not merely for people of her own origin 
and experience, but for others who had known better 
fortunes, and had lost them, or who had them still 
and were unhappy in them ; and the severity which 
accompanied her large-mindedness began with her- 
self, and extended only to envious and detracting 
spirits. If the secrets of Miss Root's soul could be 
unveiled, it would be seen that she had been obliged 
from the beginning to discipline herself into accepting 
Helen as worthy her esteem and regard, in spite 
of her beauty, her style, and her air of a finer world 
than Cornelia Root had known, except at a distance. 
The struggle was sharp, but it had ended in the 
interest of large-mindedness. When Mrs. Hewitt 
assumed, in Helen's absence from dinner, while she 
was lunching at Miss Kingsbury's, to be confidentially 



A woman's reason. 313 

speculative about the English lord who seemed to be 
coming to see Miss Harkness pretty often, and 
spending a good deal of time when he did come, and 
so tittered, Cornelia led off a generous opposition. 
" I don't know," she said, "how much a lord's time 
is worth ; but if it ain't worth any more than some 
of the fellows' time that used to come flirtin' round 
with our summer boarders, I don't see how he could 
put it in much better. I guess he ain't after her 
fortune, any way ; and I guess he ain't goin' to find 
much more of a lady anywhere. If he wants to 
marry her, I shan't object, even if they don't ask 
me to the weddin'. I shouldn't want much to marry 
a lord for my own pleasure ; but I don't believe 
but what if Miss Harkness does she '11 be a credit 
to him." 

Cornelia had steadfastly set her face against know- 
ing or caring anything about the affair, and such was 
now her discipline that she believed she could keep 
it up till the end, whenever that was. She had not 
only snubbed Mrs. Hewitt the day before, but this 
evening, when Helen early withdrew from tea, pale, 
and with the evidence of having passed a day of great 
nervous excitement, she refused even to enter into 
discussion of what Mr. Evans called the phenomena, 
in the light of philosophico-economic speculation. 

"Here," he contended, "are a most interesting 
series of facts. I suppose that never, since the 
earliest settlement of Boston, has a member of the 
British aristocracy called three times, on three suc- 
cessive days, upon a young lady resident in a board- 



314 A WOMAN'S reason. 

ing-house, even of such acknowledged gentility as 
ours. If Mrs. Hewitt will excuse me, I will assume 
that it is not the merits of her establishment which 
have attracted him, but that he has been drawn here 
by that charm in Miss Harkness which we all feel. He 
knew her in other days in better days and nobly, 
and like a nobleman, he has sought her out in our 
humble midst if that is a correct expression and 
laid his coronet if it is a coronet which he keeps 
somewhere concealed about his person, at her feet. 
As no human girl of the American persuasion was 
ever known to refuse a lord, if she got the chance, 
the inference is irresistible that our noble friend was 
instantly accepted, and has already written home to 
have his ancestral halls whitewashed up for the recep- 
tion of his bride." 

" Well, you may twist it and you may turn it as 
much as you please, Mr. Evans, and call it philosophico- 
economic speculation, or anything you want to," re- 
turned Miss Root. " I call it gossip ; and I never 
did gossip, and I never will. I don't care if she 
was goin' to marry twenty lords; it's none of my 
business. All I know is that she has behaved her- 
self like a perfect lady ever since she 's been in the 
house." 

" New Hampshire for ever ! " cried Mr. Evans. 
" The granite ribs of your native State speak in every 
syllable, Miss Root. But you will acknowledge that 
you did hate her just a little, won't you, for her 
superiority to us all which she can't conceal and 
that you would recognise the hand of Providence in 



A WOMAN'S reason. 315 

the dispensation, if his lordship had jilted her to- 
day?" 

"No, I wouldn't !" retorted Cornelia, all the more 
vehemently for her perception of the malicious truth 
in the insinuation. 

"Why, that 's exactly what my wife said, when I 
taxed her with the same thing. It must be so. 
Now don't," said her tormentor, as Cornelia rose from 
the table, "let her see any change in your manner 
because you think she 's going to marry a lord." 

It was the insinuation in this charge that made 
it extremely difficult for Cornelia Root to adjust her 
behaviour to the occasion: if Miss Harkness was 
going to marry that lord and Cornelia Eoot was 
principled against inquiring she was not going to 
make the slightest change, and yet she was aware 
that some extra internal stiffness, which she must be 
careful not to show, would be requisite for this uni- 
formity. When it appeared from Helen's application 
that she could not be going to marry the lord, at least 
for the present, Cornelia had to guard against self- 
betrayal in a too precipitate relaxation. The note of 
despair in Helen's confession that she could not go to 
people to ask pupils for the same reason that she could 
not ask them to buy her gimcracks, touched Cornelia, 
or as she would have said, it made her feel for the 
girl. But feeling was the last thing, according to her 
belief, that any honest person ought to show. She 
was going to help her, but she was not going to let 
her see that she was capable of any such weakness 
as sympathy; and she had before her the difficult 



316 A woman's reason. 

task of treating Helen just as she would have 
treated a girl who had always been poor, and of not 
treating her any worse. " There are a good many 
things that women take up nowadays," she said, 
with an aspect of hard indifference. " Some of 'em 
learn telegraphin' that must pay almost a cook's 
wages ; some of 'em go into the hospitals, and learn 
to be professional nurses that takes you about two 
years before you can get a certificate, and then it 's a 
killin' life ; there are the public schools, but there are 
so few vacancies, and you have to wait and wait for 
months, even after you 're prepared." 

She looked at Helen as if she thought that Helen 
was probably not prepared, and Helen shook her 
head assentingly. "No," she sighed, "I couldn't 
wait. But perhaps I shouldn't want to do anything 
for a great length of time," she said innocently, with 
the thought of Robert's return in her mind. "It 
might only be for a limited period." 

" That 's what I supposed," said Miss Root. 
" That 's the great trouble. If a man takes a thing 
up, he takes it up for life, but if a woman takes it up, 
she takes it up till some fellow comes along and tells 
her to drop it. And then they 're always complainin' 
that they ain't paid as much as men are for the same 
work. I 'm not speakin' of you, Miss Harkness," she 
said, with a glance at Helen's face, "and I don't 
know whether I want to join in any cry that '11 take 
women's minds off of gettin' married. It 's the best 
thing for 'em, and it 's about all they 're fit for, most 
of 'em, and it 's nature : there 's no denyin' that 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 317 

But if women are to be helped along independent of 
men and I never was such a fool as to say they 
were why, it's a drawback. And so most of 'em 
that can't wait to prepare themselves for anything, 
because they don't expect to stick to anything, 
they turn book-agents, or sell some little paytented 
thing ; or they try to get a situation in a store." 

Cornelia began to sew furiously, as if in an exas- 
peration with her sex, that she could not otherwise 
express. " And you may be sure," she said, after a 
silence, " that every one of 'em tries to do something 
better than she's lit for, and that she despises her 
work, and thinks she ain't paid half enough for it." 

Helen did not heed this last outburst. She was 
trying, with a sickening chill at heart, to realise her- 
self in the character of those resolute young women 
who had sometimes won a furtive access to her by 
asking at the door for Miss Harkness, and sending 
up their names as if they were acquaintances, and 
then suddenly developing their specimen copy of the 
book for which they were taking subscriptions, or 
the needle-threader or thimble -case, or convertible 
pen-wiper and boot-buttoner which they were selling. 
She could as little imagine herself behind the counter 
of a Washington Street fancy or variety store, stand- 
ing all day in the hot, dry air, and shrilly piping 
"Ca-ish!" as she had heard those poor shop-girls 
doing, while they rapped on the counter with their 
pencils for the cash-boy, and munched a surreptitious 
lunch of crackers and chocolate creams. If it must 
come to this, she did not know what she should do. 



318 A woman's reason. 

She was as firm as ever that she would not touch the 
money in Mr. Hibbard's hands as long as the least 
doubt tainted it ; but she began to be frightened at 
herself, and at the prospect before her. 

" And is there is there nothing else V she asked, 
in a voice which she tried to make steady, and only 
succeeded in making almost as low as a whisper. 

" O yes," said Miss Eoot ; " there 's the theatre." 

Helen's heart gave a throb of hope. She used to 
play a good deal in private theatricals ; she had acted 
a French monologue once, and she had taken a part 
in a German vaudeville ; everybody had praised her, 
and she had unquestionably borne the palm from all 
her dramatic competitors. A brief but brilliant 
future dazzled before her : an actress who was 
evidently a lady, and carried the air and tone of 
good society with her on the stage ; triumphs and 
gains in cities distant from Boston in an incognito 
strictly preserved ; and then a sudden but inexorable 
retirement after a given time : it was easy work for 
Helen's lively fancy to contrive all this, with a 
shining amplification, as rapid and full as if she had 
dreamed it in sleep. " Yes 1 " she said with an interest 
which she could not at once forbid herself. 

" I had a friend," pursued Miss Root, "a friend 
well, she was a kind of connection, and she came up 
to Boston the same time I did crazy to go on the 
stage. . She used to act in the school exhibitions, 
and I guess she got her head turned ; anyway 
nothing else would do her. But she was real modest 
about it ; they all are ; she only wanted to play little 



A woman's reason. 319 

parts like Juliet, and Ophelia, and Lady Macbeth. 
Well, she went to a manager, and he was very kind 
and pleasant, and I guess he saw what a simple 
goose she was, and he told her he would let her 
have a chance to show what she could do, and he 
gave her a place in the ballet." 

"In the ballet 1" palpitated Helen. The colours 
had already begun to fade from her vision of his- 
trionic success, and the crazy structure now trembled 
to its fall. 

"She thought," resumed Cornelia, "just as I 
presume you do, that it was dancin'. She said she 
couldn't dance any j her folks had always been 
strict orthodox, and wouldn't let her learn ; and he 
laughed and said most of the ballet never danced at 
all. She 'd have to go on as a peasant, or something 
like that, with a lot of others, first off ; and as soon 
as he could he 'd give her a few words to say, and 
she could see how she got along. It wa'n't playing 
Ophelia exactly, but she was dead set on going on 
to the stage, and so she took up with his offer, and 
glad enough, and she got six dollars a week from 
the start." 

" And has she ever ever got on 1 " asked Helen 
faintly. 

"Well, the only time I ever saw her was one 
night when she had the part of a page. I guess she 
must have been on the stage as much as a minute, 
and she said at least a dozen words. But I couldn't 
seem to stand it, to see any friend of mine up before 
all those people in boy's clothes; and she seemed 



320 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

pretty long for a page, and kind of bony, and I went 
away after the first act; I was afraid she might 
come on again." 

Helen smiled and shuddered; the idea of boy's 
clothes was final, even in a reverie, and she hung her 
head in innocent shame. 

" Now," said Cornelia, with a keen glance at her 
abasement, and apparently convinced that she had 
brought her low enough, " if you really do want to 
do something, I can get you a chance to try." 

Helen started. " In the theatre ? Oh, I couldn't." 

Cornelia laughed. " No, not in the theatre. But 
there J s a friend of mine well, he 's a kind of a con- 
nection too used to have a photograph saloon down 
in our place ; used to have it on wheels, and get it 
dragged round from one village to another ; and he 's 
got Boston-bit too ; and so he 's come up, and he 's 
opened a gallery down in Hanover Street ; well, it 's 
pretty far down. Well, he hain't got a very high 
class of custom, that 's a fact ; and if he had he 
wouldn't have this work to do, I presume." 

" What is it 1" asked Helen. 

" It 's colourin' photographs." 

" O yes ; I 've seen them," said Helen, remem- 
bering some examples of the art, hung aloft in oval 
frames, in country parlours, of which they were 
cherished ornaments. 

" It ain't a very high kind of art," said Miss Koot, 
as if she found something to reprove in Helen's tone, 
" but it ain't every one that can do it, low as it is." 

" I 'm sure I don't depreciate it," returned Helen. 



A woman's reason. 321 

" I should be only too glad if you thought / could 
do it." 

" I guess I can get you the chance to try," said 
Cornelia; and now, as if she wished to leave the 
subject and prevent the premature acknowledgments 
which she felt she had not yet earned, she unpinned 
her sewing from her knee, and stood up holding it 
at arm's-length from her. 

" The trouble is," she mused aloud, " that you 
can't tell how it's going to hang, after all your 
worry." 

" Why don't you let me drape it on you V 1 asked 
Helen. 

Cornelia dropped the lifted arm, and let the skirt 
trail on the floor. " Well, if you think, Miss Hark- 
ness, that I've been hintin' round for anything of 
that kind !" 

" I don't," said Helen. " Honestly ! But I like to 
fit dresses. I used to help our cook with hers." 

Cornelia Root had to discipline with uncommon 
severity the proud spirit that revolted at having the 
same hands drape its corporeal covering which had 
draped the person of an Irish cook. She subdued 
it, but it was not in human nature that she should 
yield gracefully. " I guess I better go to a dressmaker 
with it," she said. " I don't want to trouble you." 

"It won't be any trouble, indeed," said Helen, 
taking the dress from her. 

After fifteen minutes of lively discussion, of pin- 
ning back and pulling forward, and holding up and 
letting drop, during which Cornelia twisted her neck 

X 



322 A woman's reason. 

half off, as she said, looking at her own back, she 
mounted a chair and surveyed herself in the glass. 
" Well, you have got a touch, Miss Harkness," she said. 

"O yes," returned Helen simply. "I know that." 

" Well, why in the world " Cornelia began. But 
she checked herself. 

"Why what?" asked Helen. 

" Ob, nothing," returned Cornelia, with the outward 
hauteur which was apt to mark a spiritual struggle 
with her. " I '11 see Zenas Pearson to-morrow about 
those photographs." 

" That will be very kind of you," said Helen. 

The next day Cornelia brought her three of the 
unsparing likenesses in which the art of photography 
sometimes unmasks its objects. One was a gentleman 
in what he would have called chin-whiskers, with 
his hair gathered in a puff over his forehead, and 
a gold watch-chain wandering across his bulging 
shirt-front. The other was a lady in middle life, 
with her small features losing themselves in the 
obese contour out of which her eyes looked over 
little cushions of fat. The gentleman was to be 
painted of a fair complexion, and the lady as a 
brunette. The third picture was the likeness of this 
lady's child, which was to be coloured in accordance 
with her present appearance in the spirit-life as 
reported by a writing-medium. 

"I don't envy you the job, any," said Cornelia 
Root. "Zenas apologised for not havin' any place 
for you to work in his gallery, but I told him I 
guessed you 'd rather work a while at home first." 



A woman's reason. 323 

"0 yes," murmured Helen, lost in a heart-sick 
contemplation of her subjects. 

"He can allow you two dollars apiece for 'em. 
It 's better than nothin', and it ain't much better, and 
so I told him," said Cornelia. 

" Oh, it 's quite enough ; quite," returned Helen. 

After her first despair, she resolved to be very faith- 
ful and conscientious in her work, and try to make 
the poor things look as well as she could. She had 
finished them all by the end of the week, but when 
Cornelia carried her work to Mr. Pearson, he was 
critical of it. " Of course," he said, " she 's done her 
best, and so far forth she 's earned her money ; but 
anybody can see with half an eye that she ain't a 
natural artist. There ain't any touch about it." 

"Good gracious, Zenas Pearson !" cried Cornelia. 
" Do you expect to get an artist to paint up those 
scarecrows of yours 1 " 

She put Zenas down, but he offered her no more 
work, and she was too proud, in Helen's behalf, to 
ask for it. She was more deeply hurt and dis- 
couraged than Helen herself appeared. The latter, 
in fact, professed a sense of relief when Cornelia, 
with a blunt reluctance, owned the truth. 

I couldn't do any more, if he had given them to 
you for me. I know that I don't do them well, and 
they 're so hideous, that if I were the greatest artist 
in the world I couldn't help making them wooden 
and staring. I must try something else ; and I 've 
been thinking I 've been wondering if I couldn't 
write something and sell it. Do you know any 



324 A woman's reason. 

people women who write for the magazines, or 
the newspapers, rather % " 

"Well, I know one girl: she's an art-student, 
and she helps herself out by corresponding writes 
for two or three papers up-country, and out West ; 
but I never saw any of her stuff, and I don't want 
to ; for of all the perfect simpletons ! " Cornelia was 
expressively silent j she added thoughtfully : " Yes, 
I guess it must be pretty easy to do, if that girl can 
do it. I wonder I didn't think of it before. Why 
don't you ask that ridic'lous Mr. Evans I He 's the 
literary editor of Saturday Afternoon, and I guess he 
could tell you all about it." 

" I don't like to trouble him," said Helen. 

" Well, / do, then," retorted Cornelia. "What's 
he here for?" 

"I can't let you," said Helen, thoughtfully folding, 
the dollar-bills that Cornelia had brought her. 
" This money will last a little while, and perhaps 
perhaps," she concluded rather faintly, " I can think 
of something to do by the time it 's gone. I know 
I 'm very weak and silly," she said, lifting her suf- 
fused eyes to Cornelia's. 

"Not at all!" cried Cornelia; and that evening 
she cornered Mr. Evans, as she said, and attacked 
him about some sort of newspaper work for a friend 
of hers. 

He was sitting before his fire in a deep chair, 
with his feet on the hearth of the open soap-stone 
stove ; Cornelia assailed him from a higher chair at 
a little distance. " Some young man you 're trying 



A woman's reason. 325 

to help along ?" he asked, smiling up into Cornelia's 
eyes. 

" You know it ain't any young man!" cried the 
girl. 

" Oh ! You didn't say," returned Mr. Evans 
coolly. He asked presently, "Why does Miss Hark- 
ness want to write for the papers V 

" Mr. Evans ! I think you 're too bad ! I never 
said it was Miss Harkness." 

"But you won't say it isn't." 

" I won't say anything about it. There ! And if 
you can't give me any advice without askin' who 
it is" 

" Oh, that isn't necessary now. But what I do 
wish to ask, Miss Root and I think you owe it to 
yourself to answer frankly is simply this : are you 
sure that you are trying to befriend Miss Harkness 
from the highest motive 1 " 

"Highest motive 1 " demanded Cornelia, whom such 
an appeal must always arrest. " What does the man 
mean ? " She was on such terms of offence and de- 
fence with Mr. Evans, that she often cast aside all 
formalities of speech in dealing with him and came 
down to sincerities that seemed to afford him the 
purest delight. 

" What do I mean 1 Why, I mean this and a 
person who pretends to keep such a conscience as 
you do, always dusted off and ready for use in any 
emergency, ought to be able to answer without pre- 
varication. Are you sure that you are not doing 
more to help this Miss Harkness because she is a 



326 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

lady of fallen fortunes, than you would do for some 
poor girl who was struggling up, and trying to sup- 
port inebriate parents, and pay a younger brother's 
way through college % " Cornelia opened her mouth 
to protest, but he hastened to prevent her. " Wait! 
Don't commit yourself ! Are you sure that her 
being visited by a lord has nothing to do with your 
beneficent zeal 1 Are you sure that you are not 
indulging a native disposition to curry favour with 
worldlings and vanities, generally 1 Are you certain 
that at the best you are seeking anything better than 
the self-flattery that comes through the ability to 
patronise a social superior 1 I merely ask you to 
reflect. " 

These were precisely the doubts which Cornelia had 
already exorcised ; but they all sprang into new life 
at the touch of the laughing malice that divined 
them. 

" I declare," she said, " you are enough to provoke 
a saint !" 

"I'm glad to see it," said Mr. Evans. "Now, 
I 'm not a saint, and I can be frank and open about 
a great many things that I observe saints like to 
fight shy of. A saint especially a female one is 
about as difficult a party to bring to book as any I 
know. Now / don't mind acknowledging all these 
shameful motives which you feel that you must blink. 
/ don't mind saying that the notion of throwing 
something in the way of a young lady who has 
moved in the first circles, and still associates with 
lords and ladies on equal terms, is quite intoxicating 



A woman's reason. 327 

to me, and that I will help you in this work with far 
more pleasure than if she were a mechanic's or farmer's 
daughter." He smiled at the rueful misgiving painted 
in Cornelia's countenance. " Come, Miss Root, what 
kind of newspaper work does your patrician pro- 
Ug4e think she can do 1 " 

" I don't know as I want to talk with you about 
it," said Cornelia. " You had no business to find out 
who it was." 

" I know I know. It was my fatal gift of divina- 
tion. A random guess, and your own guilty soul 
did the rest. Well, go on, Miss Root. You know 
that you 're not going to let a selfish pique interfere 
with an opportunity to do good to one above us," 
he added. 

" I should suppose," said Cornelia grimly, " that you 
would know a great deal better than I do what she 'd 
best try. I presume she could do most any kind of 
writin'." 

" That is the presumption in regard to all refined 
and cultivated people till they prove the con- 
trary, which they usually do at the first oppor- 
tunity." 

" I should think," pursued Cornelia, whose courage 
always rose in view of any but moral obstacles, " that 
she could write notices of books. Seems as if almost 
anybody could write them" 

" Yes," assented the journalist. " It seems as if 
anybody did write the greater part of them." He 
took up some books from his tables. "Here are 
three novels, if she wants to try her hand on them, 



328 A woman's reason. 

and she can review the batch together. That is the 
way we do. There 's quite a range in these : one is 
an old writer of established fame, one has not quite 
proved himself yet, and one is unknown. You 
would naturally think that if such books are works 
of art they would go to people of experience and 
reflection for review, but that is a mistake : they 
go to people who can be the most flippant and im- 
pertinent about them, and we find, as a general rule, 
that the young ladies who write for us can be more 
flippant and impertinent than the young men." He 
laughed as he handed the books to Miss Root, and 
watched her face. 

" If I could ever tell," she said, taking them from 
him, " how much you believed of what you said, it 
would be one satisfaction." 

" No, no, that isn't it, Miss Root : what you 
would like to know is how much you believe of what 
I say. Very little, I imagine. The philanthropist's 
ability to reject any truth that tells against him or 
her is unbounded." 

"Well," said Cornelia, "I 'don't know as I care, so 
long as you give her this chance." 

" Oh, it 's perfectly safe : she '11 be sure to fail," 
said the editor. " Tell her I want the notices next 
week, sometime. In the meantime, / don't know 
who 's writing them." 

He did not betray himself in any way during the 
ensuing week, and he left Cornelia unmolested with 
a secret which she did not know whether she ought 
or ought not to keep. Helen worked very hard at 



A woman's reason. 329 

the criticisms; she had it on her conscience to do 
them very fairly and justly, because when she had 
read the books carefully through she perceived for 
the first time how much thought and labour must 
go to the construction of even indifferent stories; 
and she felt that it would be a sin not to do justice 
to all this in the case of novels which were certainly 
not first-rate. She thought that she ought to be 
careful about her style, and not say anything in a 
slipshod or slovenly way. She wrote out her 
reviews in her neatest hand, and then she copied 
them all, so that there was not one blot or erasure. 
She determined that if Mr. Evans accepted them, 
Miss Root should tell him who had done them, for 
there were some points which she was doubtful 
about, and on which she would like his instruction. 
She was very simple and humble in the matter, and 
in her own mind looked up to the journalist in his 
professional quality with an awe that she had not 
hitherto felt for anything connected with Saturday 
Afternoon. Her father used sometimes to buy that 
paper, and send it to her when she was away from 
home, and she had read its social gossip with a high- 
minded disapproval of the entertainment it gave her. 
She never thought of looking at the notices of books 
in it, and when she first heard that Mr. Evans was 
connected with it she had resolved to be very careful 
what she said before him, and she had partly with- 
drawn from anything like intimacy with Mrs. Evans 
for that reason. It was very well for Clara Kings- 
bury ; Clara Kingsbury was a kind of public character 



330 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

herself, with her charities and enterprises, her Homes 
and her Fairs, which were always needing newspaper 
mention ; but for Helen it was another affair. Even 
now, while the question of the acceptance of her 
work was pending, Helen asked herself whether she 
would like to have the Butlers know that she wrote 
for the Saturday Afternoon, and was quite sure that she 
would not. " If he should take them, and you tell 
him who did them, please ask Mr. Evans not to 
mention it to any one," she said in giving her manu- 
script to Cornelia Root, who had suffered everything 
in the guilty consciousness that he knew already 
who had done them. 

" I ain't afraid," she said to Mr. Evans, in discharg- 
ing herself of the business, "that you'll mention it; 
but if you should have to refuse them, and then if you 
should show out any way that you knew, it would 
about kill me." 

" Rely upon me, Miss Root," returned the editor. 
" I have rejected such loads of young-lady literature, 
that I have become perfectly hardened, and never show 
out in any way that I know there are young ladies or 
literature in the world. Ah ! " he added, carelessly 
opening the manuscript, " the bold, free hand of 
fashion ; pages neatly pierced at the upper right-hand 
corner, and strung upon a narrow red ribbon with 
notched edges; faint odour of the young person's 
favourite perfume. Yes, this is the real thing !" 
He laughed in the way that Cornelia Root had more 
than once said she could not stand when talking with 
him about serious things. 



A woman's reason. 331 

She went out after leaving the manuscript with 
him in the morning, and shortly afterwards Helen 
received the card of Mr. Hibbard, who was waiting 
for her in the reception-room. It was rather a shock 
at first, and then she found a sort of relief in the 
second anxiety, as people do in playing one care off 
against the other. She said to herself, in putting 
her ear-rings in before the glass, that he must have 
heard from Captain Butler, and that if Captain Butler 
sided with Mr. Hibbard, she should not know what 
to do ; she would have to yield, or at least let the 
whole matter rest till she had heard from Robert, to 
whom she had written all about it. 

" Good-morning, Miss Harkness," said the lawyer, 
absently dropping her proffered hand, "I have a 
cablegram here from Captain Butler." 

" Oh, I thought you must have," said Helen, 
in the pause which he suffered to take place before 
he went on, with a frown at the paper in his 
hand. 

" He telegraphs me from Naples, in answer to my 
letter, and directs me to obey your wishes as to pay- 
ing Mr. Everton's claim." 

The lawyer lifted his eyes and looked into Helen's 
face, as if to wait her orders ; and her heart sank. 
This was what she had been eager and urgent to do 
when they last met : it had seemed to her then that 
she could not rest till Mr. Everton's claim, just or 
unjust, was paid, since its existence involved a doubt 
of fraud. But, in fact, she had, not being able to 
help herself, rested very well, and she had begun to 



332 A woman's reason. 

hope that the doubt could be somehow cleared away 
without the cost of everything to her. 

"Is that all he says?" she asked feebly. 

" No ; he says he will write." He handed her the 
despatch, which she mechanically read, and then 
twisted round her finger. 

"What do you think, Mr. Hibbard?" she asked 
at last pitifully. 

The lawyer must have seen so many people halt 
between their interest and their sense of abstract 
right, and gladly take advantage of any doubt in 
their own favour, that he could not have wondered 
at her hesitation. But he was obliged to say, " I 
can do nothing now but receive your instructions. I 
will contest the claim to the last, or I will pay it." 
He again explained the matter, and put the points 
clearly before her. 

" And there must always be this doubt about it, 
even if we gained the case 1 " she asked. 

" Always. Even if that scamp himself were . to 
declare in our favour, and acknowledge that he had 
played upon Everton's suspicion, the doubt would 
remain." 

" Then, I can't bear it ! You must pay Mr. 
Everton ! " cried Helen. " Anything, anything is 
better than living upon stolen money !" At the 
same time that she pronounced this heroic truth, 
which indeed came from her inmost heart, she burst 
into human tears for the loss of all that she could 
call her own. 

" Miss Harkness," said the old lawyer, " I would 



a woman's reason. 333 

not let you do this I would take the responsibility 
of disobeying you and Captain Butler both ; but but 
I must tell you that my inquiries into the matter have 
not been satisfactory. I have talked confidentially 
with several of the gentlemen who were present at 
the sale, and I find that they all carried away the 
impression that there was something queer about the 
bidding towards the last. Now, as I said before, I 
don't believe that Everton's understanding with 
Mortimer will ever allow him to press the question 
to an issue, and that you could rest legally secure in 
the possession of this money ; but this, as I conceive, 
isn't the point with you." 

" O no, no, no ! And thank you, thank you, 
Mr. Hibbard, for letting me decide the matter and 
thank God for helping me to decide it rightly before 
you told me this. Whatever happens now, I shall 
have the consolation of knowing that I wasn't 
influenced by the fear of what people would think 
or say. I know that I should have been, but I know 
that I wasn't." She dried her eyes, and controlled 
her quivering lips. " Don't lose an instant, please, 
about paying him, and pay him every cent. And 
oughtn't I oughtn't I to say something, do some- 
thing to show that I was sorry that he was kept out 
of the money so long V* 

"I don't think Mr. Everton will care for that," 
said Mr. Hibbard. " The money is what he wants. 
I will pay it ; and then what will you do, Miss 
Harkness 1 You were coming to me for money, you 
said j you mustn't allow any mistaken feeling " 



334 A woman's reason. 

" no, I won't." 

"I am sure that Captain Butler will wish me to 
be your banker till he comes home." 

" Yes, certainly ; but I have a little money yet," 
said Helen, following Mr. Hibbard to the door. 



XVI. 

The lawyer was mistaken in supposing that Mr. 
Everton cared for nothing in the affair except the 
money. He came that afternoon to make his ac- 
knowledgments to Helen, who felt it her duty to 
receive him when he called, and he showed himself 
capable of responding generously to her own action. 

"I am well aware," he said, "that I owe this 
reparation to you, Miss Harkness, and I wished you 
to understand that I could appreciate your conduct. 
The original claim is now fully satisfied, but the 
interest on the money that I have been kept out of 
would have amounted during the past seven months 
to something like two hundred dollars a little short 
of two hundred dollars. I have written to your 
attorney that we will say nothing about this sum, 
that we will consider it paid." 

"Thank you," said Helen blankly. It was not, 
perhaps, that she was insensible to Mr. Everton's 
magnanimity, but just then she was studying his 
personal appearance with a strange fascination. 
She found something horrible in the neatness of this 
little old man's dress, in the smug freshness of his 
newly-shaven face, which had the puckered bloom 



336 A woman's reason. 

of an apple that hangs upon the tree far into the 
winter's cold, and even in the smoothness and clean- 
ness of his conspicuous linen. 

He returned her absent gaze, winking his little, 
red-lidded eyes. He presently said, " I have had to 
lay out a great deal of money on the house, and I 
thought this might as well go into the general account. 
The structure was very good, but there were many 
things that needed going over, the plumbing espe- 
cially. I have had the plumbing put into perfect 
order. Mrs. Everton was very particular about it 
the ladies are, I believe. I think you would be 
pleased to see the improvement." 

" Yes," said Helen. 

" I have had brass pipes put in nearly everywhere j 
Mrs. Everton had heard that they were very much 
superior, and I was willing to do anything to gratify 
her : she was very low at the time." 

He coughed behind his hand, and Helen awoke 
from her daze to say gently, " Oh, I hope she's better." 

" Thank you," returned the old man. " But she 
is dead." 

"Oh!" 

" Yes, she was so far gone that she could not be 
moved from our old house. I never expected she 
could, but I made the changes to please her, and 
she went over them all in the architect's plans. I 
spared no expense. I don't suppose," said Mr. 
Everton, with a sort of brisk appeal to Helen, " that 
you would know the place now : the old cornices all 
down, and fresh paint and paper everywhere." 



A woman's REASON. 337 

Helen did not reply ; but she looked at the man 
with a pathetic wonder, which he apparently did not 
feel. 

" I think," he continued, with a certain insinuation, 
"it would interest you to see the changes." 

"0 no !" Helen broke out. 

Mr. Everton looked at her and passed his tongue 
over his red lips, fringed with dry cuticle at their 
edges, in apparent perplexity. " I don't mean to say," 
he resumed, " that the general plan of the house is 
changed ; that couldn't be done ; Mrs. Everton saw 
that herself. In many respects she was a woman you 
could reason with. It was a great blow to lose her." 

" It must have been," said Helen, relenting again ; 
but wondering a little why Mr. Everton should speak 
to her of these matters. 

He explained for himself. " Your burying your 
father such a short time before I buried Mrs. Everton 
it seems a sort of coincidence, a kind of bond, as 
one may say, and makes me feel as if as if you 
could appreciate my feelings." 

" I am sorry for you with all my heart," said Helen. 
" I didn't know," she added vaguely, " that you had 
met with any bereavement." 

" Yes ; she 's dead," sighed the old man. " It isn't 
as if I were broken, or hadn't kept my health. I 'm 
as well as ever I was. And as strong. I'm as good 
for business as any two young men I know of. But 
it's when I come home from business that I feel it ; 
that's where the rub comes in ; it's lonely. Yes, it 's 
lonely." 

Y 



338 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

" yes," said Helen, surprised into sympathetic 
confidence by the simple words. " I often felt it in 
my father's case, especially towards the end, when 
he seemed to live so much in the recollection of the 
past, and I knew that I was scarcely any companion- 
ship for him." 

"Your father," said Mr. Everton dryly, "was a 
much older man than I am, and he was all broken 
up before he died ; I used to notice it. I don't be- 
lieve," he went on, " but what you'd like the house 
as well as ever, if you saw it. I should be very sorry 
to think I'd done anything to it that you didn't 
like." 

"It's very, very kind of you to say so, Mr. Everton." 
returned Helen cordially. "And you mustn't 
think at all about it. When I made up my mind to 
part with it, I made up my mind never to care what 
became of it" 

"Well, that was the right spirit," said Mr. Ever- 
ton. 

" And if the changes you have made in it gratified 
your wife in her last days, I can only be glad of them. 
I shall always think of my old home as it used to 
be ; if it were burned to the ground, it would remain 
there, just as I left it, as long as I live." 

" Well, I 'm pleased to hear you say so," said the 
old man. " I like to see a young lady sensible " 

" Oh, I 'm not sensible," protested Helen ; " but I 
like what you 've done because you did it to gratify 
your wife in her last days ; that makes it sacred." 

" I was always on good terms with her," said the 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 339 

widower ; " and I always determined to wait a proper 
time, if I should want to marry again. But if you 
believe you 've found the right one, there 's no sense 
in waiting too long." 

He looked inquiringly at Helen, who was some- 
what mystified at the turn the conversation had taken. 
But she said politely, " no." 

11 1 should want you should like the house on your 
own account," he continued, still more irrelevantly. 

" On my own account 1 " faltered Helen. 

" Because I want it to be yours," cried the old man, 
with a sort of violence. " I appreciate the course you 
have taken in regard to the fraud that was practised 
upon me at the sale, and I say that you have acted 
nobly. Yes, nobly ! And I should wish to give the 
house to you as a mark of of my esteem ; that, and 
everything else I have. I 'm alone in the world, and 
nobody has any real claim on me, no matter what 
her relations may expect, and I will deed the house 
to you to-day, if you say so ! " 

It all seemed like a dream of romance to Helen ; it 
was fabulous, it was incredible, it must be impossible. 
She began to think that the old man was insane, and 
involuntarily left her chair. But there was nothing 
abnormal about him, unless it was the repressed 
excitement in which he sat blinking at her, as he went 
on : " The house can be your home to-morrow to- 
day, if you like. You have only to say the word." 
He seemed to form some sort of hope or expectation 
from her continued silence, and now he rose. " If 
you 're willing, there 's nobody to interfere, and I 



340 A woman's reason. 

should soon teach them, to attend to their own busi- 
ness if they attempted it. My mind is as clear and 
my health is as good as ever it was, and I would do 
everything I could for you. I admire you, and I 
respect you. I think you have right principles, and 
that 's a very important thing. I should be proud of 
you. To be sure, we haven't been much acquainted ; 
and I suppose it 's only reasonable you should want 
time to think it over. I 'm in no hurry; though, as 
I said, my own mind is made up." 

" I don't understand what you mean," gasped 
Helen. " What do you mean 1 Why should you 
give me your property ] and why " 

Her eyes dwelt hopelessly upon his face, in which 
a smirk of cunning insinuation struggled with an 
anxious perplexity. He again passed his tongue over 
his dry, red lips, and then cleared his throat, and 
breathed hard : "I mean all I have ; not that house, 
but half-a-dozen houses, and everything I 'm worth. 
I 'm not afraid of what people would say. If we 're 
both of one mind, the difference in age is nothing." 
At a sign of renewed impatience from Helen, he 
added desperately : " I want you to be my wife ! " 

She recoiled, with a shudder, and her teeth closed 
in a nervous paroxysm. " Oh ! " she uttered, in 
abhorrence far beyond rejection ; and, creeping softly 
by the wall to the door, with her eyes fixed warily 
upon him, as if he were some nightmare spider that 
might spring upon her, she vanished out of it, and 
fled up-stairs to her own room, where she bolted her- 
self in. 



A woman's reason. 341 

The half -hour of self-loathing that she passed, with 
her burning face in her pillow, could not have been 
more cruel if what had happened were some shame- 
ful deed of her own. She searched her soul for cause 
of blame, but she could find nothing worse there 
than the consciousness of having suffered herself for 
one inappreciable instant to dream of her home com- 
ing back to her by the wild poetic chance which the 
old man's words had intimated. This point of time, 
fine and tenuous as it was, had been vast enough for 
her to paint a picture on, where she and Robert, dim 
figures of grateful reverence, had seemed piously to 
care for the declining years of their benefactor, and 
to comfort his childless solitude at their fireside. 
But the silly vision, for which she grieved and blushed, 
was innocent, as she felt even in the depths of her 
self-abasement, and the thought of it ended in the 
reaction through which she rose from the bed, and 
dashed off" a letter commanding Mr. Hibbard to pay 
the interest on the money due Mr. Everton, to the 
last cent, and not to accept any sort of concession 
from him. But the horror of his offer survived, an 
incredible fact, which she could not reject. His age, 
in asking to mate itself with her youth, had seemed 
to dishonour both, and had become unspeakably ugly 
and revolting to her. She wondered what kind of 
young girl it could be that would marry an old man, 
and what he had seen in her that made him think 
she could be such a girl. Nothing, she was sure ; 
and therefore this humiliation, when she was so 
blameless, must be her punishment for sins from the 



342 a woman's reason. 

consequence of which she had seemed to escape ; for 
the way in which she had tortured Robert ; for her 
flirting, as she did that first day, with Lord Rainford ; 
for liking to be admired, and for, perhaps, trying to 
make people admire her. Yes, that must be it; and 
as soon as she had fitted the burden to her spirit, she 
rose up with strength to bear it. Whatever men 
have contrived to persuade themselves, in these latter 
days, as to the relations of cause and effect in the 
moral world, there are yet few women who do not 
like to find a reason for their sufferings in their sins, 
and they often seem still to experience the heroic 
satisfaction in their penalties, which nothing but the 
old-fashioned Christian's privity to the designs of 
Providence can give. 

When Cornelia Root came home to tea she 
knocked at Helen's door, and passed in round the 
jamb a hand with which she produced the effect of 
rejecting all responsibility for the letter it conveyed. 
" I guess it's from Mr. Evans," she said, refusing to 
look in. "I don't know what 's in it." 

Helen was ready, in her penitence, almost to wel- 
come the worst ; but the envelope only conveyed a 
printed slip from the publishers of the Saturday 
Afternoon, in which they thanked her for her 
contribution, and begged to enclose their cheque in 
payment. She rapped in her turn at Miss Root's 
door. " Just to tell you the good news," she ex- 
plained to Cornelia's inquiring face, while a laugh 
fluttered out of her throat, which just failed of being 
a sob. " They 've accepted them ! " She escaped 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 343 

again into her own room, before Cornelia conld 
formulate that strictly truthful expression of her 
feelings without which she would not speak at all. 
She joined Helen a little later, and underwent the 
pangs of remorse in arranging with her to call on 
Mr. Evans that evening and confess the authorship of 
the reviews preparatory to asking his candid criticism 
and his advice about future work. Cornelia's heart 
smote her in the presence of Helen's unsuspicious 
rejoicings ; she languished for the moment when she 
could own that Mr. Evans had wickedly divined their 
secret from the first, and she found no relief, but 
rather an added anguish in the skilful duplicity with 
which he received Helen's avowal. 

He was alone when they knocked at his door, for 
Mrs. Evans was putting their boy to bed after the 
usual conflict with his entreaties and stratagems. 
" Is it possible 1" he demanded with a radiant deceit. 
" Why, this is delightful, Miss Harkness. We are 
quite an aesthetic colony here, under Mrs. Hewitt's 
hospitable roof with Miss Root's art-work and your 
literature and my journalism. Really !" He deepened 
Cornelia's sense of nefarious complicity by the smile 
aside which she could not reject. " Have you written 
much for publication % " 

" I 'm afraid you must see that I haven't," said 
Helen, with a straightforward honesty that Cornelia 
felt ought to have made Mr. Evans ashamed of him- 
self; "and I wished you to tell me just where I 
have failed in my work, and, if you will be so good, 
how I can improve it." 



344 A woman's reason. 

This seemed to Helen a perfectly simple and natural 
request, and she was not, perhaps, altogether without 
the feeling that Mr. Evans ought to be gratified at 
her approaching him for instruction. 
. " Well, there you set me rather a difficult task, 
Miss Harkness," he said evasively. "We usually 
expect the fact that we are willing to print a con- 
tribution to suffice as criticism in its favour." 

" Yes," pursued Helen, " but you want beginners 
to do better and better, don't you % I 'm not saying it 
to fish up a compliment from you ; but I wish really 
and truly that you would tell me what my faults 
are. Please specify something," she said with an 
ingenuous sweetness which smote Cornelia to the 
soul, but which apparently glanced effectlessly from 
the editor's toughened spirit. He laughed, as if 
other ladies had said the like to him before. 
"Indeed, I shall not be hurt at anything you say !" 
cried Helen. 

"It's a little academic," said the editor. "But 
that 's a good fault. It had better be that than be 
smart." - 

"0 yesj I detest smartness in everything." 
She wondered just what Mr. Evans meant by 
academic, but she did not like to ask, and she 
consoled herself by reflecting that he had said it 
was a good fault to be academic. 

" I don't know," he continued, " that it is the 
best plan to tell the plots and explain the char- 
acters so fully as you've done; but that can be 
easily remedied." 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 345 

"I see," said Helen. "It destroys the reader's 
interest in the story." 

" Yes," assented the editor, " and in the review a 
little. And I don't think it 's best to sum up very 
deliberately at the end, and to balance considera- 
tions so formally." 

" No 1" said Helen. She had thought it was well ; 
and she began to wonder why it was not. 

"But that part can be easily omitted. And I 
shouldn't quote from the book unless I could give 
something very significant or characteristic. Your 
sentences are a little long. And it is rather late in 
the day to open with an essay, however brief, on the 
general effect and tendency of fiction. I think I 
should always begin directly with the book in hand, 
and let those ideas come in incidentally." 

" Yes, to be sure," said Helen eagerly. 

Mr. Evans put down her manuscript, which he had 
taken up from the table, and added lightly, " I shall 
have to work it over a little before it goes to the 
printers, and then when you have it in the proof 
you will see what I've done, and get a better 
notion of what I mean than I could give you in 
words." 

" Oh, thank you very much. That will be so 
kind of you!" exclaimed Helen. She added: "I 
was careful to write only on one side of the paper. 
I heard that the printers preferred it." 

"Quite right/' said Evans with a smile at this 
innocence. Cornelia Root felt the irony of it, but it 
was simply amiable to Helen. "They do, very 



346 a woman's reason. 

much. It 's beautiful copy. By the way, here is the 
Afternoon for this week, if you want to look it over. 
You're one of us now, you know." 

"Thank you, I shall be very glad of it," said 
Helen, taking the paper he offered her. 

Mr. Evans seemed to have all his work about 
him, and she thought that she ought not to keep 
him any longer. She said good-night, but Cornelia 
lingered a little ; she could not help it ; she could 
not rest till she knew from the editor, taken alone 
and defenceless, whether he thought Helen would 
ever be able to help herself by writing, and she told 
him so in as many words. 

" I saw you attempting to pierce my inmost soul 
all the time, Miss Koot," said the editor. " And I 
tell you frankly, you won't get the truth out of me. 
Miss Harkness is a very cultivated young lady." 
He bent over her MS., which he had again drawn 
towards him. " She possesses a neat and polished 
style. I could imagine that in letter-writing she 
would have all the charm that tradition attributes 
to your sex in that art. In addressing the object 
of her affections" Cornelia gave a start of indignant 
protest and disclaimer, which had no effect upon Mr. 
Evans, who went smoothly on "she must be 
fascinating, and I have no doubt the fashionable 
friends to whom she describes our humble boarding- 
house me'nage think she writes delightfully. But 
in appealing to the general reader through the 
medium of the public prints, Miss Harkness seems 
to think it advisable to present her ideas and im- 



a woman's reason. 347 

pressions in the desiccated form. Her review has 
all the fixed and immovable grace, all the cold and 
dignified slipperiness, of a literary exercise." He 
looked up, and laughed out his enjoyment of the 
righteous despair in Cornelia's face. 

She dropped upon the corner of a chair. "She's 
got to do something," she said. 

" no, she hasn't," returned Mr. Evans cheerily. 
" She hasn't kept her secret so well as you have, Miss 
Root ; and yesterday a fashionable friend of hers 
stopped her coupe at the pavement, and called me 
up to the window to say that she was so glad I 
was giving Miss Harkness a chance to write for 
Saturday Afternoon, and was sure that I would find 
her very clever. She was always such a brilliant 
girl, and said such delightful things ! Miss Kings- 
bury asked me if I didn't think it was dreadful, her 
having lost everything, and being thrown upon her 
own resources in this way, and I said I did ; but 
I don't. And then Miss Kingsbury explained that 
of course she, and numerous other persons of wealth 
and respectability, would be only too glad to have 
Helen Harkness come and spend her days with them, 
but she could not bear the idea of dependence ; and 
wasn't her trying to do something for herself splen- 
did 1 And I said that I thought it was ; but I 
don't. And Miss Kingsbury said she knew it would 
appeal to me, and I said that it did ; but it doesn't. 
Why should it appeal to me, why should I think it 
splendid that a healthy young woman refuses to be 
a loafer and a pauper ? Why, under heaven, shouldn't 



348 A woman's reason. 

she do something for herself ? The town is full of 
young women who are obliged to do something for 
themselves. That 's the kind of splendour that 
appeals to me the involuntary kind, like my own. 
Is it any worse for Miss Harkness to work for a 
living than for the tens of thousands of other girls 
who are doing it ? You have worked for a living 
yourself, Miss Root. Do you want me to regard you 
as splendid 1 " 

Cornelia examined her just spirit in silence for a 
moment. " It 's different with us," she answered, 
" because we were brought up to work. We never 
expeeted anything else, and it isn't so much of a 
hardship for us, as it is for a girl like her who is used 
to being taken care of, and never had to do or think 
for herself." 

" Ah, my dear Miss Root, it is the princess in exile 
who appeals to us both ! But is she more to be 
praised for refusing to eat the buttered roll of others' 
prosperity than the peasant-maids who have never 
had the chance of refusing I" 

" She 's more to be pitied !" 

" Right again, Miss Root ! You are always right. 
By the way, why didn't you urge Miss Harkness to 
attempt something in art 1 Miss Kingsbury asked 
me if I couldn't get her some book to illustrate ! 
She said that Miss Harkness's sketches were exqui- 
site, and she asked me if I had ever seen any of 
them. Have you ? " 

" Yes," Cornelia reluctantly admitted. 

"Well?" 



A woman's reason. 349 

"They're hopeless!" cried Cornelia, with an in- 
voluntary vehemence that delighted Evans. 

" And you thought that if she couldn't draw she 
could write ! That was quite natural." 

"It was her own idea," urged Cornelia. 

" And it was your idea that she should write for 
me ! Very good, very right, very like a philan- 
thropist !" 

" Now, you know well enough, Mr. Evans," began 
Cornelia, " that you were perfectly free to refuse 
Miss Harkness's writin' ; and I ain't goin' to praise 
you up for takin' it, if that 's what you 're after." 

" That 's what I 'm after ; but I knew I shouldn't 
get it before you told me. Who praises an editor 
for anything % You and Miss Kingsbury will only 
think I 've done my duty when I 've sat up 
till midnight putting this pretty rubbish into 
shape." 

"Is it so bad as that ? " asked Cornelia, aghast. 
" Why didn't you give it back to her, and tell her it 
was rubbish ? It would have been the best for her 
in the end !" 

" Because I have a timid and truckling spirit, Miss 
Root, and you know it. Because I have scarcely the 
heart to refuse the rubbish of ladies who tell me they 
have produced it in the interest of some worthy 
charity, or for the purpose of eking out their pin- 
money ; and I 'm naturally helpless in the presence 
of a lady who has written it for bread as I am given 
to understand." Cornelia was silent, and the editor 
continued gleefully : " A woman can sometimes do 



350 A woman's reason. 

something without damaging others. But when a 
lady undertakes to help herself, some man has to 
suffer for it ; and why shouldn't I be the victim ? I 
usually devote Saturday night to working on a little 
play I 'm trying to write, but I daresay the time will 
be much better employed in rewriting Miss Hark- 
ness's reviews." 

He watched the travail of Miss Root's soul in her 
honest eyes with a smile of unrelenting enjoyment. 
" Besides, I like to befriend gentility in adversity as 
well as you do, Miss Root. The thought that I am 
actually earning money, without her knowing it, for 
a young lady of Miss Harkness's condescension, does 
my mean and servile little soul more good than I 
can well describe." 

Cornelia burst forth with a sort of groan, " Oh, it 's 
all wrong, I know it is ! But what is a girl fit for 
that 's been brought up just as a lady 1 If there 's 
anything under the sun that she can honestly do, 
without imposing upon other people, and putting 
them to twice the trouble she takes for herself, for 
goodness' sake, let her do it !" 

" Very just sentiments ; but what is it V 

" Well, one thing it Isn't ; and that 's writing for 
the papers, and I shall tell her so !" 

" You have no right to abuse my confidence, Miss 
Root," said the editor with superficial gravity, 
through which his laughter broke when she turned 
desperately upon him. " Miss Harkness's failure is 
my secret. If it is a failure. / supposed it was a 
shining success ! There are very few young ladies 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 351 

who can get editors to write their articles for them, 
and then let them pocket the proceeds." 

" I should think," said Cornelia, " that you would 
be ashamed to make fun of everything the way you 
do. It seems as if you didn't have a morsel of com- 
passion for the poor thing." 

"Ah, there it is again! Accept her inefficiency 
and applaud her failure because you pity her ! Do 
you think the ladies are ever going to do anything 
for themselves as long as the world is asked and 
expected to take that attitude 1 Did you tell her that 
she was an artist, and then work up her sketches for 
her? Have a morsel of compassion yourself, Miss 
Boot ! I 'm going to have large masses of it. I 'm 
going to rewrite Miss Harkness's whole review ! " 

His laugh followed Cornelia as she climbed the 
stairs in slow and heavy perplexity to her room. 

Helen in her room was light-heartedly writing to 
Robert, and telling him that though she had now 
absolutely nothing in the world, she had never felt 
so happy since her_ father died, for now she had 
found at last that she could do something and be 
of some use. She could not grieve, even for his sake, 
for the loss of the money paid back to Mr. Ever- 
ton ; the thought of it now was such a perfect horror. 
She said that some time she should tell him why, 
but not now ; and she turned from the odious sub- 
ject to describe her interview with Mr. Evans, who 
had been so frankly kind and encouraging. She had 
not said anything to Robert about Lord Rainford 
yet, and she wondered whether she ought. Some 



352 A woman's reason. 

time, of course, she must do so ; but she was afraid 
it might be difficult to make the whole affair clear to 
Robert at that distance. It was something that could 
be much better spoken than written; she resolved 
at least to leave her letter open till morning, and 
decide then what she should do. 

She was not sleepy, but she felt a pleasant languor, 
such as comes after the fortunate close of a period of 
strong excitements, and she sat down before the fire, 
which was giving out its last delicious glow, to 
indulge her fatigue a little more luxuriously. She 
looked back over what had happened during the 
week with satisfaction, now that it was past ; she 
was glad not only that she had paid that horrible old 
man his money, but that she had been right, and not, 
as she had sometimes feared, morbid and conceited 
about wishing him to be paid. She felt that she had 
behaved in a sensible and business-like manner ; that 
Captain Butler's action proved this ; and that all the 
events sustained her in her first instinctive impulse. 
At this safe removal in time and space, Mr. Everton's 
proposal did not seem so simply horrible ; it began 
to reveal some amusing aspects; she broke into 
a little murmur of laughter when she thought of 
certain moments of perplexity for him. 

As for the money, it was a little matter: it was 
five thousand dollars in the abstract, but in reality 
it was only six dollars a week; and with the pro- 
spect of literary work from Mr. Evans, and perhaps 
other editors, she could easily make that up: she 
had earned ten dollars by her pen already. 



A woman's reason. 353 

She unfolded the paper that Mr. Evans had given 
her, and the crepitation of its leaves sent a light 
shiver through her. What would the Butlers say- 
when she sent them the next number with her 
reviews marked in it? She knew from her own 
fine reluctance that it would surprise them disagree- 
ably ; and she fancied Jessie Butler supporting, and 
Mrs. Butler forgiving, while Marian Ray denounced 
her new attempt. But, she reflected, she would 
often have to disagree with Marian Ray ; and what- 
ever people said of the society gossip in the Saturday 
Afternoon, it was a good literary paper ; everybody 
acknowledged that. She heard herself defending it 
to Marian, and, in the rapid process of reverie, it 
had come to her saying plainly to Marian that she 
saw no disgrace in writing for the newspapers, and 
that the only disgrace could be in writing dishonestly 
and vulgarly for them. She had said she had Clara 
Kingsbury's approval, and Marian had laughed and 
answered, " Oh, if she had Clara Kingsbury's ap- 
proval ! " and had retreated again to Naples ; for 
Helen now had the newspaper quite open, and 
was looking for the book-reviews occupying the place 
which hers would have the next Saturday. They 
were rather appallingly well written ; she could see 
that they were indefinitely better done than hers ; 
she wondered if they were Mr. Evans's, and she gave 
a little sigh of dismay ; while her eye wandered idly 
to the next column, where a name arrested it. 

The name was Fenton's ; and the paragraph in 
which it occurred seemed to become alive and sentient 

z 



'654= a woman's reason. 

under her eyes. It was a despatch from Washington, 
rehearsing, with telegraphic brevity, the facts of 
the wreck of the Meteor, as furnished to the State 
Department by the Consul at Tahiti, from the state- 
ments of the survivors. 

Five days after the disaster the French ship 
Belle Paysanne, which brought them to that port, had 
fallen in with an open boat containing Captain Rollins 
and a number of the Meteor's crew and passengers, 
who reported that Lieutenant Fenton and three 
others had volunteered to remain on the reef where 
the Meteor struck till the overladen boat could find 
land and return to them. The Belle Paysanne 
altered her course, and visited the scene of the 
catastrophe; but the wreck had then disappeared, 
and there were no traces of the men left behind. 
A week later, however, the ship picked up another 
of the Meteor's boats, with the two sailors who had 
remained with Lieutenant Fenton. From the narra- 
tive of these men it seemed that the wreck had 
broken up the day after Captain Eollins abandoned 
her, and that Lieutenant Fenton, who had lingered 
on board after helping to launch the boat, was 
caught in the wreck and carried down with her. His 
companion, a passenger named Giffen, was rescued 
by the seamen ; but he had been so badly bruised by 
the floating timbers that he died the following day. 

They confirmed the statements of Captain Rollins 
and all the other survivors, concerning the heroic 
behaviour of Lieutenant Fenton, who had chosen to 
remain on the rock rather than imperil the lives 



a woman's reason. 355 

of the passengers in Captain Rollins's boat, and 
who had been most efficient throughout the events 
that followed the striking of the ship. The boat 
in which the men were found was in a ruinous 
condition, and was set adrift after their rescue. A 
large sum of money, belonging to Captain Rollins, 
which they had recovered from the wreck before 
it broke up, was restored to him. 



XVII. 

Helen did not come down to her breakfast, and 
Cornelia Eoot, who was finishing hers about the 
time there began to be question at Miss Hark- 
ness's absence, said she would step in and see what 
the matter was after she got on her things. She 
found Helen sitting before the empty grate ; the gas 
was burning, and the bed untouched ; and a thrill 
of terror went through her lest Helen should be 
sitting there dead. When, after bidding her good- 
morning in vain, she ventured to touch her on the 
shoulder, Helen looked round, with a stare that, for 
the moment, made Cornelia repent being so bold. 
"For the good Lord's sake 1" cried the girl, " what is 
it, Miss Harkness ? " 

"Oh, nothing, " said Helen. She began to laugh, and 
tried to hide under her hands the newspaper she had in 
her lap, and then, as if at her failure in this, she began 
to weep piteously. " Look !" she exclaimed, opening 
the paper, and pointing to the story of the shipwreck, 
" he 's dead ! And those men killed him. Oh, I 've 
thought it all out !" 

Cornelia took the paper, and, after a swift glance 
at the paragraph, put it aside without questioning 



A woman's reason. 357 

her. "I guess you better lie down, Miss Hark- 
ness, and try to get some rest. I 'm going to have 
your fire made up." 

She got her to bed, and then she conferred with the 
landlady outside the door ; she ended by sacrificing her 
own preference for a female physician, and calling in 
the doctor who, Mrs. Hewitt recollected hearing Miss 
Harkness once say, had taken care of her father. 

She sent a note to Miss Kingsbury telling her 
that she was afraid Miss Harkness was going to 
be sick, and asking her to come to see her; but 
word was returned that Miss Kingsbury was in New 
York, and would not be home till the latter part of 
the week. It was then too late to move the sick 
girl to her friend's house. 

It did not need the light which Miss Kingsbury 
threw on her relation to Lieutenant Fenton to enable 
Helen's fellow-boarders to understand what had 
happened. Cornelia Root had understood it at 
once, with austere resolution not to recognise her 
own privity to the fact even to herself ; Mrs. Evans 
had divined it, and talked it over with her husband, 
who halted between remorse for having laughed at 
Helen's contributions and secret question whether he 
would not be justifiable in using a parallel incident 
in his play ; Mrs. Hewitt guessed it out, in a hungry 
inability to talk it over with anybody, and got her 
first real comfort out of the expansive desolation in 
which Miss Kingsbury confided to them all her 
grief for what had happened, and stated the facts as 
fully as she knew them. 



358 A woman's reason. 

"Well, it didn't stand to reason," said Mrs. 
Hewitt, " that she would care so much for a brother, 
and an adopted one, at that." 

"Ono!" cried Clara. "It was much more than 
that!" 

She got a professional nurse to relieve the devotion 
of all Helen's volunteer nurses ; and from this young 
woman Mrs. Hewitt at first hoped everything, but 
only to be the more keenly disappointed ; for, so far 
from reporting the tenor of Helen's delirium, the 
nurse wholly refused to talk of her patient. She 
would sit at Mrs. Hewitt's own table, and blink at 
Mrs. Hewitt through her glasses, and never say a 
word, morning, noon, or night, until Mrs. Hewitt did 
not know what would become of her. Mrs. Hewitt's 
disgust with the nurse authorised the first full laugh 
which Evans had permitted himself since Helen's 
sickness began. It was after a favourable turn had 
taken place ; nevertheless Cornelia Eoot bent upon 
him a look of keen reproof. 

" Oh, come now, Miss Eoot ! " he protested, "I'm 
not going to stand that. I 've just succeeded, after 
infinite pains and argument, in convincing Mrs. 
Evans that I didn't cause Miss Harkness's fever by 
laughing at her literature whilst I was putting it into 
shape that night ; and I still believe that if she had 
died my wife would have required me to deliver 
myself up to justice. But I am an innocent man, 
and I won't have you going round and looking as 
though this never would have happened if it hadn't 
been for me." 



a woman's reason. 359 

Cornelia opened her mouth to deny the accusation, 
but Evans hastily interposed. "Do you mean to 
say that you haven't thought that you haven't felt 
that I was somehow to blame for the whole thing 1 " 
She refused to answer, with a dignity that did not 
avail her. "Don't fall back upon the fact that I 
lent her the newspaper ! I didn't invent the facts, 
at any rate; but I've suffered under the ban of 
public opinion quite as if I had, and now I 'm going 
to stop it." 

"What nonsense !" said Cornelia. "But if your 
conscience pricks you for anything, Vm not going to 
comfort you." 

" Oh, it isn't my conscience that pricks me 1 It 's 
your conscience, and Mrs. Evans's conscience, that 
have goaded me to desperation. I can get on very 
well with my own conscience." 

As soon as Helen could be safely taken away, 
Clara had her carried to her house, where she com- 
pleted her convalescence amidst every superfluity of 
luxury. For many weeks she remained gathering 
strength, and listlessly accepting service and favour 
that she never could repay ; but at last the day came 
when the tide of life rose high enough in her veins 
to beat in feeble revolt. 

"You know," she said, "this must end some 
time, Clara. I 'm not your mother or sister. You 
can't keep on taking care of me, as if I belonged to 

you." 

" You do belong to me, Helen dear," cried her 
friend, with a rush of generous tenderness. "Don't 



360 a woman's reason. 

talk of anything ending, but just stay on and on. 
Why shouldn't you ? What would you do I" 

"Ah, that 's the old question !" 

11 1 didn't mean that ! I meant, why should you 
try to do anything % n 

" I suppose, because I 'm not a lily of the field, for 
one thing." Clara laughed gratefully for the gleam 
of gaiety from Helen, whose sadness had been heavy 
on her heart. " I should be glad enough never to 
do anything, or even be anything again. You 
understand, Clara, what I've been through?" she 
asked. 

"You hinted something once, and I could guess 
the rest." 

" Then we won't speak of it. It 's such a mercy 
we needn't ! But you can see that all the past is 
swept away from me. There 's nothing left ; I have 
to begin everything new, with new ideas and new 
objects. I used to be ambitious about helping my- 
self, but I'm not now; even my pride in that is 
broken." The tears of self-pity started to her eyes. 
" Yes, I would be humbly grateful if I needn't do 
anything. But I must. And the old question comes 
back: what?" 

"Oh, Helen," said her friend devoutly, "if you 
would only stay and be a companion to me 
anything !" 

Helen smiled. " To cheer you up read to you 
keep you interested go pleasure journeys with you % 
Yes, I should be a gay companion." 

"Well, then, my housekeeper, if you will insist 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 361 

upon usefulness and I don't blame you for it ; I 
should myself. Why shouldn't you be my house- 
keeper 1 I have heard of girls trying that ! " 

" I should be glad to learn housekeeping of you, 
Clara. You know I don't know anything about it, 
and that you know everything. I used to pretend 
to keep house for papa ; but Margaret really did it 
all. I must be fit for something ; but I can't tell 
what it is, yet." 

"I can't bear to hear you talk so, Helen. Why 
don't you try writing again 1 I 'm sure Mr. Evans 
would be glad to have you." 

" Don't 1 " cried Helen. " I couldn't think of any- 
thing I tried before that." She touched her 
calamity with the word, and then struggled to get 
away from it with a curious effort of her broken 
spirit, which Clara said afterwards made her think of 
a crippled bird trying to fly. "I'ma fearful problem, 
Clara. But don't worry over me any longer, now. 
There must be some very simple answer to me if we 
take time to think it out j and I 'm afraid I 'm willing 
to take all the time you '11 let me. I '11 accept any 
sort of disguised charity at present ; and if you want 
to start a subscription for me, Clara, you may. Only, 
don't let me know about it." # 

A thought seemed to strike Miss Kingsbury, 
which kept her silent for a moment. " There was a 
Hungarian lady here last year, who had a plan of 
gardening for girls vegetable and flower gardening. 
I wonder if you met her." 

" No," said Helen. 



362 A woman's reason. 

" She was at the Kelloggs'. She was Mrs. Kellogg's 
religion for the time being." Helen did not catch 
hopefully at the gospel of the Magyar prophetess, 
but looked with a rueful surprise at her friend, who 
went on : " Then there has been a good deal of talk 
about farming for women, small fruits, and poultry." 
She threw out the suggestion diffidently, but 
gathered courage when once it was projected from 
her. " I suppose one becomes interested in it, and 
gets very fond of the poor little things." 

"Which, Clara the berries or the chickens?" 
asked Helen, with a lifeless laugh. " I should want 
to eat the berries ; but I can't imagine eating poultry 
of one's personal acquaintance." 

" Oh, I meant having an affection for the chickens ; 
you 'd have to let other people eat them." She 
joined in Helen's laugh at the futility of her sugges- 
tions ; but she added : "Well, we must think out the 
answer to you. There 's no hurry." 

" no." 

That afternoon Margaret came with a heart full 
of proud contrition to blame herself for having been 
in Ireland for the past three months, and for having 
just learned of Helen's sickness and whereabouts. 
She wept over Helen's sorrows, and over her wasted 
looks and hollow eyes ; and the girl was freer to 
talk with her of what had happened than she had 
yet felt with any one else. 

She told her about the shipwreck, of which 
Margaret had not heard before, and she showed her 
a scrap of paper, the cover of an official despatch. 



a woman's reason. 363 

"Here are his last words. He wrote them to me 
while he was standing on that rock in the middle of 
the sea, and they came from Washington after I was 
taken sick." 

" Oh, Miss Helen, Miss Helen, how did you ever 
live to tell the tale?" 

Helen did not answer. " We were engaged, and 
he was coming home," she said, with a sort of crazy 
satisfaction in the poignancy of Margaret's sym- 
pathy. She threw the burden of suffering upon her 
for the time, and talked with an unsparing hardness 
for herself. " But I deserved it I deserved it all." 
Her thin hands trembled in her lap, and her head 
shook. "Where are you living no Wj^ Margaret V 
she broke off abruptly. 

" Why, Miss Helen," answered Margaret, with a 
blush, " I 'm living in the Port, in a house of my 
own." 

" In a house of your own!" 

" Yes, Miss Helen." Margaret hesitated. "You 
see, there was an old fellow on the ship coming 
back, that had been out to Ireland too, and he kept 
talking so much about it all the way, and never 
leaving me a moment's peace, that I thought maybe 
I 'd better. And so, I did three weeks ago." 

"Did what?" 

"Married him, Miss Helen." Margaret seemed 
doubtful of the effect of the intelligence upon Helen ; 
she hastened to add in excuse, " He 's a very quiet 
body, and he works at the glass-works in East 
Cambridge. We have a nice little house, and I 






364 a woman's reason. 

should be much pleased to have you come out some 
day and see it, Miss Helen. The worst of it is, that 
there isn't enough to keep a person busy, and I 'm 
thinking that maybe I '11 take a boarder. There 's 
a spare room. He 'd like to see you, Miss Helen. 
I Ve told him a good deal about you." 

" Thank you, Margaret, I will come out some day. 
I should like to see your husband." 

" Oh, he 's no great things. But he 's a very quiet 
body." 

Helen was looking at the bonnet on Margaret's 
head, and she answered rather absently, " Yes." 
The bonnet was a combination of purple fruits and 
magenta flowers, caught in a net of lace, as if to 
protect them from the depredations of birds and 
insects. " Where did you get your bonnet, 
Margaret?" 

" In Hanover Street, Miss Helen," said Margaret. 
11 1 don't think it 's very good ; do you 1 I paid 
enough for it ; but money won't buy the like of the 
bonnets that you used to make me, Miss Helen." 

" You'd better let me see what I can do with this. 
The shape isn't bad," said Helen critically. 

"Oh, I couldn't, Miss Helen. After what I've 
said to you ! I should feel as if I 'd hinted." 

" You needn't ' be under a compliment ' for it, 
Margaret," said Helen, with a sudden inspiration; 
" You may pay me for making over the bonnet !" 

"Oh, Miss Helen!" 

" Yes. I need the money. I must work for my 
living now." 



A woman's reason. 365 

" How good of you !" said Clara, when she found 
Helen with the bonnet in her hands the next day, 
and learned whose it was. 

"It's good for me," returned Helen. "Margaret 
pays me for doing it. Perhaps this is the solution." 

Clara permitted herself a silence in which her 
imagination kindled with the idea. " Helen," she 
cried, " it is splendid ! Why shouldn't you do some- 
thing of the sort ? There 's nothing disgraceful 
about it, and with your taste, your genius, you could 
make every bonnet a work of art as they do those 
picture-dresses in London." 

They talked the scheme over, and as soon as 
Helen was strong enough to attempt it, they put it 
in practice. Clara wanted her to set up a shop in 
her drawing-room, but they devolved upon some- 
thing more modest in the end, and Helen took Mrs. 
Hewitt's parlour floor. Clara advanced the capital ; 
a tasteful and rkherchA stock of frames and feathers 
and ribbons was chosen, and Helen embarked in the 
enterprise under the favouring smiles of a world at 
once fashionable and sympathetic and high-minded. 
It would not be easy to say just how the scheme 
came to final ruin. But when once a lively lady 
had said Miss Harkness's bonnets had so much touch, 
and another had answered, "0 yes, they were all 
touch," and both had then tittered in tacit recogni- 
tion of a certain amateurish lack in them, it was 
well on the way to failure. By the time that a 
visiting New York lady had said Miss Harkness 
seemed to be quite a Boston fashion, and had 



366 A woman's reason. 

been answered, " O no ; a Boston passion" she was 
no longer so. Clara Kingsbury wore her Harkness 
bonnet to the bitter end (as some one phrased 
it), but she was notoriously interested, and her 
heroic devotion counted for nothing. All Helen's 
gains went to pay the assistant whom she had taken 
from a well-known milliner's shop, with a just 
conviction of her own unfitness for practical details ; 
and when her stock was exhausted, and the ladies 
had given away her bonnets to their second-girls, 
she had nothing but her debt to Clara for her pains. 
They cried over the failure together when they had 
to face it at last, and Clara inveighed against the 
hollowness and ingratitude of the world. But Helen 
took the blame upon herself. " It was arrogant in 
me to suppose that I could succeed in any business 
without serving an apprenticeship to it without 
beginning at the bottom. It was like those silly 
women who go on the stage, and expect to begin at 
the very top, over the heads of people who have 
faithfully worked all their lives learning to be actors. 
It's just!" 

"That doesn't make it any the easier to bear," 
Clara repined. 

" It does for me," said Helen. " If the things that 
have happened to me were not just, I couldn't endure 
them." 

Clara took her in her arms, vowing that she was 
the best and bravest creature in the world, and that 
she had never done anything except suffer unmerited 
wrong. She would not hear any talk of the money 



a woman's reason. 367 

she had advanced ; she professed that if their under- 
taking had succeeded, she had always intended to 
take her share of the profits, and that she was more 
than willing to take her share of the loss. How 
little it was, compared to Helen's, who had lost time 
and labour, and everything but courage ! She did 
not understand how Helen kept up. 

"Because I must" Helen explained. "You can 
bear things that you must bear. I suppose that's 
what makes death endurable to those that have to 
live on." Clara was silent in awe of her sad wisdom, 
and she went on more lightly : " Besides, this hasn't 
been altogether a loss to me, this experience. I 've 
learnt a good many things. I 've really learnt how to 
make bonnets, for one thing, and I believe I can be 
of some little use to others as well as myself. I 've 
got a new idea, and I 'm going out to talk with 
Margaret about it." 

" With Margaret ! Oh, Helen, dear, what is it ? 
I 'm afraid " 

" That it 's something foolish % It isn't. It 's only 
something distasteful something very humble. It 's 
something Miss Boot suggested." 

Clara was only partly comforted. " Miss Root is 
terribly severe. She doesn't know how to spare 
people's sensibilities." 

" She 's had to do with people who have no business 
to have any sensibilities like me. I 've thought it 
all out, Clara." A woman instinctively respects 
another woman who says this, and believes her; 
Clara listened attentively. " I 've thought it all out, 



368 a woman's reason. 

and I see that I haven't talent enough to be first-rate 
in anything. I couldn't endure to be a second-rate 
artist or writer ; but I don't mind being a second- 
rate milliner ; and that 's what I 'in going to be, if I 
can. And now I won't tell you anything more about 
my scheme till I see whether it 's practicable. People 
will laugh, but they won't sneer, and if they pity me, 
I shall be glad and grateful for their pity." 

Clara tried to get from her some details of her 
plan, but she would not give them ; she would not 
leave her any comfort but the fact that she could not 
say or do anything to prevent her trying to carry out 
her plan. 

She went out to Margaret's in the horse-cars, and 
walked down the little side street to the end of the 
row of French-roof cottages, in the last and poorest 
of which Margaret was so proud of living. Helen's 
sickness and convalescence, and her subsequent ex- 
periment in aesthetic millinery, had carried her through 
the summer and the early fall ; the young elms along 
the side-walk had dropped their last yellow leaves, 
and the grass in the narrow door-yards lay limp and 
flat after the heavy November frosts; around, the 
open lots stretched brown and bare, swept by an east 
wind that brought the salt savour of the bay rank 
across them. A few slatternly goats, lank and 
heavy-uddered, wandered over the dismal expanse, 
as if to crop the battered tomato-cans and old boots in 
which it abounded. 

Margaret's house had never had more than one 
coat of pinkish-brown paint, and it looked rather 



A woman's reason. 369 

thinly clad for the season; but within, a pungent 
heat from the furnace, which did more than anything 
else to make Margaret feel that she was an American 
householder, struck into the parlour where she re- 
ceived Helen. It was curious and amusing to see 
how little Margaret had profited by her life in 
Beacon Steps, in arranging and decorating her best 
room. There were no evidences of the better taste 
to which she had been accustomed half her days ; she 
had simply tried to make her parlour as like all the 
other parlours in that row as she could, with a wood- 
coloured ingrain carpet, tan terry furniture, and a 
marble-topped centre-table ; if she had been a Pro- 
testant, she would have had a large gilt-edged Bible 
on this ; as it was, she had an infant Jesus in wax 
under a glass bell. 

Helen stopped her in her ceremonious preparations 
for making company of her. *' Margaret," she said 
abruptly, " I want to come and live with you, if you 
think you can trust me for my board a while." 

"Indeed, Miss Helen," said Margaret with a splen- 
dour that was worth more than money to her, "I 
don't know what you mean, exactly ; but if you do 
mean to come and live with me, there 11 be no talk 
of board." 

"Well, well," returned Helen, "we'll talk of that 
later; we're both pretty headstrong." Margaret 
deprecated this, as far as Helen was concerned, with 
a flattered simper. " But now 1 11 tell you what I 
want to do. You know I 've been trying to set up 
for a fashionable milliner in Boston." 

2 A 



370 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

" Yes, Miss Helen," sighed Margaret. 

" And I 've made a failure of it. The fashionable 
people don't want my bonnets." 

" They 're a set of hateful things, Miss Helen," cried 
Margaret, "and the best of them isn't fit to scrub 
your floors for you." 

Helen laughed at the unmeasured zeal of Mar- 
garet's loyalty, expressed in terms so little fit for the 
polite ears of those they devoted to condemnation. 
" No, no, Margaret ; they were quite right, and I was 
all wrong. I didn't know how to make bonnets 
when I began." 

"Miss Helen, if there 's been one person spoke to 
me on this very street about that last bonnet you 
done over for me, there 's been a hundred ! Every- 
body says it 's the becomingest bonnet, with more 
real Beacon Street style to it than any they ever saw 
me have on ! " 

"Well, I 'm very glad," answered Helen patiently; 
" and that brings me to what I wanted to say. " If I 
didn't know how to make bonnets before I began, I 
did know when I got through perhaps by spoiling 
so many." Margaret sniffed a disdainful denial of 
the premises, and remained with inflated nostrils, 
while Helen went .on. " And what I think is this : 
that if I could come out here, and take your spare 
room, you might tell your friends those poor girls 
that sometimes waste so much on bonnets that I 
could do their work for them just as well, and a 
great deal cheaper " 

"You work for them good-for-nothing hussies, Miss 



A woman's reason. 371 

Helen ! No, indeed ! It 's bad enough having jou. 
work for ladies if they choose to call themselves 
such after they throw your bonnets back on your 
hands but as for them trollops of general house- 
work and second-girls, let them fling their money 
away ; they 're soon enough parted from it ; but you 
shan't take a stitch for them." 

" Margaret, Margaret !" cried Helen. " I 'm not 
strong enough to talk to you, if you go on in that 
silly way. I haven't a cent of my own in the world, 
and I must work, or I must beg. The question is 
whether you will let me have your spare room to 
live and work in, or whether you will turn me out 
of doors." 

" Oh, Miss Helen, how can you say such a thing?" 

"Well, then, don't talk so !" 

"You can have the whole house, and all that we 
can do for you, and you shall not pay a penny 
for it." 

<\ Helen rose. " Very well, then, I shall not take it. 
You don't want me to have the room, and that 's your 
way of putting me off. I understand you, Margaret. 
But I did suppose that after all these years you 'd 
lived with us, you wouldn't turn me into the streets." 

She sank weakly into her chair again, and Mar- 
garet called to all the saints to witness if she did not 
wish to do in every particular exactly what Helen 
desired. 

"Well, then," demanded Helen tragically, "will 
you let me pay you five dollars a week, and make all 
your bonnets for you 1 " 



372 A woman's reason. 

" Yes, yes ! Indeed I will, Miss Helen !" 

"And never let your horrid, wicked, foolish old 
pride interfere with your taking the money if I 
ever get it to pay you 1 " 

Margaret solemnly promised, and Helen said, 
"Let me go to the room at once, then. I'm so 
tired !" and suffered herself to be helped up-stairs to 
the little chamber, which Margaret had adorned in 
the worst taste of Limekiln Avenue, with chromos 
over the chimneypiece, and a set of painted furni- 
ture, grained to match the oak-paper on the walk 
It was like the inside of an ugly box j but Helen 
fell upon the clean bed, and slept a sleep which, 
carried her well through the afternoon, and left her 
refreshed and encouraged to begin the long fight, in 
which she forced Margaret from one stand after an- 
other in her determination to treat her as a lady 
guest. But she understood Margaret well enough 
to know where to hold her hand, and when Margaret 
sent him to eat his supper in the kitchen, and sat stiffly 
down in fresh linen cuffs and collar to pour the tea, 
for her in the dining-room, and would not touch 
anything on the table herself, Helen knew better than 
to interfere. 

When work began to come to her, she resolutely 
set her face against the indignant majesty with which 
Margaret would have treated the poor girls her 
customers. It was clearly Margaret's intention to 
make them feel that it was an honour and a privilege 
to have their bonnets made by her Miss Helen ; at 
first she remained present at their interviews > brow 



A woman's reason. 373 

beating them by her haughty silence into acquiescence 
with every suggestion of Miss Helen's, and reducing 
them to a submission so abject that Helen was sure 
some of them ordered just the ribbons and flowers 
they did not want, and others bought bonnets when 
they had merely come to talk them over. Margaret 
followed to the door one hapless creature who had 
failed, in her confusion, to give any order, with allu- 
sions to people who wasted other people's time for 
nothing so cuttingly sarcastic, that Helen revolted, 
and positively forbade her to interfere ; after that 
she was obliged to content herself with a haughty 
reception and dismissal of the customers. 

Helen did her best to serve the simple, stupid 
things cheaply and well. She knew that she saved 
them money, and she made their mistaken tastes her 
own, and in that way sometimes corrected them, 
without their knowing it, and launched them 
upon the world a little less formidable in shape 
and crude in colour than they had intended. But 
she instinctively studied to obey one of the first laws 
of business, and that was to supply an existing 
demand till she had created another. She did not 
attempt to make her shop for finally it was nothing 
more nor less a school of aesthetics, as she had in 
first attempting millinery ; she advised and suggested, 
but she decided nothing. She put both her pride and 
her preferences into the pocket where she bestowed 
her customers' money, and kept only a conscience 
about giving them the material worth of it. They 
were a great variety of poor girls and women, begin- 



374 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

ning with the cooks and second-girls of Margaret's 
acquaintance, whose patronage founded Helen's pro- 
sperity, and rising through economical mothers of 
families to the upper ranks of seamstresses and 
" sales-ladies." One day there came a young coloured 
girl, when luckily Helen was alone ; Margaret would 
never have "demeaned" herself by receiving her, but 
Helen received her, and in due time sent her forth 
resplendent in a white hat trimmed in orange and 
purple. 

This incident of her new career seemed to give it an 
ultimate stamp of authenticity, and it afforded her 
such saddened satisfaction as could come to her 
through a sense of recognised usefulness. She spoke 
of it to Miss Kingsbury and Cornelia Root, who 
equally approved; the former because she admired 
everything Helen did, and the latter because she 
found it, as Helen herself did, a final testimony to 
her practicality. 

"It's all very well in that way," said Mr. Evans, 
whom Cornelia had not been able to refrain from 
triumphing over with a fact that refuted all his 
predictions of renewed failure for Helen. " So is 
any one who caters to a depraved popular taste of 
any sort, practical But what I want you to consider 
is whether there is not something immoral in 
allowing a savage preference for purple and orange 
to indulge itself. If I read my Ruskin aright, I 
understand that there is some sort of occult con- 
nection between a feeling for colour and righteousness. 
Now you say that Miss Harkness allows her customers 



A woman's reason. 375 

to array themselves in whatever hue of the rainbow 
they like best; that she daily and hourly violates 
her own sense of right in colour for the sake of 
money. Don't you call that immoral V 

" What do you have anything to do for with a 
paper that publishes all those personals and society 
gossip 1 " demanded Cornelia in her turn. 

" Oh, I 'm a poor, weak, erring male man ! But 
I've frequently been taught that when "Woman 
entered the arena of business, it would be in some 
way that would elevate and ennoble affairs. I 
shudder to think what will become of us when 
women go into politics, if they show themselves so 
ready in business at all the tricks of trade. But 
I 've noticed that when Ladies I 'm not speaking of 
women now determine to be practical, they let no 
consideration stand in their way : they aim to suc- 
ceed. Look at the unprincipled way they conduct 
their fairs for benevolent objects ! What prices ! 
What swindling lotteries of all sorts ! No, your 
Miss Harkness is like the rest ; and it appears to me 
that at the present moment she is pandering to a 
very depraved taste in ribbonry, and I see nothing 
to admire in the mere fact that she is making a 
living by it. Lots of people make a living by selling 
crooked whisky." 

Cornelia Koot disdained to reply. She only said : 
"You talked very differently when she was lyin' 
sick here in the house ; you couldn't pity and praise 
her enough, then." 

Evans laughed shamelessly. " Well, I was afraid 



376 a woman's reason. 

she was going to die, and we always try to make 
interest with the other world by being kind to 
people about to go into it. But we never keep it up 
after if they turn back." 

He succeeded no better than he meant in un- 
settling Cornelia Root's mind in regard to Helen. 
He wished his wife, who usually made her own 
bonnets, to go out to the Port and order them of 
Helen, and in turn suffered much the same sort of 
reproach which he was fond of addressing to Cornelia. 
Mrs. Evans said he had never before wished her to get 
her bonnets in Cambridgeport, and she understood 
that Miss Harkness had quite all the work she could 
do. She had helped to take care of Helen during 
her sickness, and had been devotedly kind to her, 
like every one else in the house ; but a woman likes 
to place her own limits to her benevolence, especially 
towards other women ; and the husband will commit 
an error who attempts to extend them. She asked 
him why he did not wish her to get her bonnets of 
some of the common milliners in Hanover Street, 
and he was unable to say why. 



XVIII. 

The world of fashion, on whose bonnets Helen had 
experimented in learning her business, accepted the 
hearsay of her success in a humbler way with self- 
satisfaction, and attributed far greater things to her 
than she achieved. It understood that she was 
making money, and several fictions in regard to the 
sums she had amassed had a ready currency. The 
world intended to look her up, when it had time ; 
it was neither hard-hearted nor indifferent, but it 
was preoccupied. There were ladies who meant 
almost every day to drive out and see Helen ; there 
were others who refrained because they fancied she 
would rather not have them come ; but all were un- 
feignedly glad that the poor thing had found some- 
thing at last that she could do. Her experiment 
in aesthetic millinery had thrown a great deal of 
light on her former Endeavours ; people said there 
was hardly anything she had not tried. In fine, 
they practically left her acquaintance and her memory 
in the keeping of Clara Kingsbury, who remained 
faithful to both, and perhaps did the best thing for 
them in rather hushing them up. She was herself a 
little sensitive about Helen's first experiment, and 



378 A woman's reason. 

she was aware that many people held her indirectly- 
responsible for the enthusiasm with which they had 
encouraged it. She always answered inquiries about 
Helen in an elusive way; she generalised her, and 
passed her over as quickly as possible, so that 
really the world had it to say that, so far from 
having dropped Helen, she had dropped herself. 
It was certainly not to blame for having heard 
nothing of her failing health, which began to break 
some six months after she had established herself at 
Margaret's. She had worked very hard, for she had 
incurred expenses during her fever at Mrs. Hewitt's, 
for which she was still in debt to Clara Kingsbury, 
and she had cherished the secret determination 
to reimburse her for all her losses through her. 
She had not earned enough to do this, but she had 
worn herself thin and pale by the time the advancing 
spring made it a year since she had heard of Robert's 
death. Her friend wished her to give up and go 
down to her cottage with her ; but Helen refused to 
do more than spare herself a little, and she was still 
at Margaret's when the Butlers and Rays arrived 
from Europe. 

They had been abroad longer than they had in- 
tended, because Captain Butler had continued in 
feeble health ; but now they had come home to stay, 
as Marian wrote from London before they sailed. 
They were all going to be in Beverley together till 
Ray could decide whether to buy or to build in 
Boston, and Marian said that the first thing must 
be an indefinite visit from Helen. There was a 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 379 

tone of peremptory hospitality in her letter, which 
made Helen, in spite of her affection for them, 
dread the return of her old friends. She was much 
more comfortable with Clara Kingsbury, who had 
become the friend of her adversity, who realised it, 
and took it seriously ; and she could see that it was 
still a freakish piece of wilfulness to the Butlers. 
Marian somehow treated her as if she were a little 
girl, and rather an absurd little girl. She knew that 
she could right herself against Marian's assumptions 
of sincerity and wisdom, but she shrank weakly from 
the effort, and she foresaw that she should not have 
the physical strength to make it. 

In fact she yielded at once when Marian drove out 
to Cambridgeport and took possession of her. She 
was not even to be allowed to wait till they were 
settled at Beverley, but was to go down with them ; 
and Marian came from the hotel where they were 
stopping for the day to fetch her. 

Marian had always been large and blonde; she 
now showed a tendency to stoutness ; she was very 
English in dress, and she had the effect of feeling as 
if she looked very English. In fact, she had visited 
so much at great English houses that she was ex- 
periencing the difficulty, which sometimes besets 
American sojourners in England, of distinguishing 
herself from the aristocracy, or at least the landed 
gentry. The illusion shortly yields to American air, 
but it is very perfect while it lasts. 

Marian had a nurse for her little boy, and she 
called this^nurse by her surname simply; she was 



380 A WOMAN'S reason. 

quite English in her intonation, and she was at the 
same time perfectly honest and unaffected in these 
novel phases, and as thoroughly good and kind- 
hearted as ever. But her handsome hulk and her 
airs of a large strange world made Helen feel 
undersized and provincial ; in spite of all she could 
do, and in spite of her accurate knowledge of just 
what Marian Ray was and had always heen, her 
friend made her feel provincial. She had heen 
almost two years out of society, and for the last 
six months her relations had heen with inferior 
people; she asked herself if she might not really 
have retrograded in mind and manners, and she 
gladly escaped from Marian to the others ; to the ex- 
uberant welcome of the younger girls; to the pitying 
tenderness of Mrs. Butler ; to the quiet and cordial 
simplicity of Ray, his quiet seemed to have been 
intensified by absence. But what went most to her 
heart was Captain Butler's tremulous fondness, and 
the painful sense that the others were watching, 
whether they would or not, for the effect of his 
broken health upon her. He brightened at meeting 
Helen ; they said afterwards that he had not seemed 
for a long time so much like himself ; and they left 
him to entertain her while they made a show of 
busying themselves about other affairs. It was pro- 
bably an indulgence they had agreed to grant his 
impatience. He kept her little worn hands in his, 
and looked at her forefinger, roughed with the needle, 
and deeply tinted with the stuffs in which she worked, 
and it seemed to be this sight that suggested his words: 



A woman's reason. 381 

41 1 managed very badly for you, my dear! If it 
hadn't been for my hesitation when I first doubted 
that rascal, I could have made terms for you with 
the creditors. I don't wonder you would never accept 
help from me ! It 's very good of you to come to us 
now." 

" Oh, Captain Butler, you break my heart ! Did 
you think that was the reason 1 I only wished to 
help myself. Indeed, indeed, that was all. I 
wouldn't have accepted any provision from the 
creditors." 

"You need never have known it. That could 
have heen arranged," said Captain Butler. 

"It's been a mercy, the work my only mercy !" 
cried the girL " Oh, Captain Butler ! " She caught 
her hands away and hid her face in them, and let the 
blaek wave of her sorrow go over her once more. 
When it was past, she lifted her dim eyes to those of 
the old man. u Did you read about *it all about it?" 

" Yes, my dear, and many a night I 've lain awake 
and thought about it J" 

"Did you ever think that he might still be alive 
that perhaps those men came away and left him, and 
he escaped somehow % Don't tell me that you did 
if you never did !" 

The old man remained silent. 

" Then they must have killed him to get that 
money " 

" No j probably they told the truth. It might 
very well have happened as they said," pleaded 
Captain Butler, 



382 A WOMAN'S REASOIT. 

"Ah, you know it couldn't !" 

Again his hopeless silence assented, and Helen 
said, with a long, deep sigh, "That is all. You 
know how I must have felt. There is no use talking 
of it. I only wanted to see you and speak of it just 
once, because I knew you would know. Thank you ! " 
she said, with a wandering pitifulness that forced a 
groan from her old friend's lips. 

"For crushing your last hope, Helen 1" 

" Ah ! it 's better not to have false hopes." 

She stole her hands back into his, and after a while 
she began to tell him quietly of her life, and what 
she had done and expected to do ; and he gave her 
the comfort of his fatherly praise, in which there was 
no surprise or foolish admiration, such as afflicted 
her in most people's knowledge of her efforts. 

"I don't have to work very hard," she explained, 
in answer to a question of his ; " not harder than I 
wish; and I have got to working at last as other 
people do who earn their living, without thinking at 
all that it 's I that am doing it. That 's a comfort, 
a great comfort. And I know my trade, and I'm 
sure that I do good work. Do you remember when 
I told you that I should be a milliner if I were ever 
left to take care of myself ? " 

"I remember, Helen." 

They were both silent j then she said, with a light 
sigh, " I 'm only feeling a little fagged now." 

14 You must stay with us, Helen," began Captain 
Butler. 

"I shall be glad enough to stay a while," she 



A woman's reason. 383 

answered evasively, and in her own mind she had 
already fixed the term. 

It was inevitable, perhaps, that she should extend 
the term. The summer was a vacant time, at best, 
and she could let the luxury cf Captain Butler's 
house flatter her feeble health into strength again 
without such a bad conscience as she would have had 
if she felt that she was spoiling her future, or if she 
had got back her strength very rapidly. The family 
did not see many people, and only saw them in a 
quiet informal way in which Helen could share. The 
world, with which she had never had any quarrel, 
took her back kindly enough ; it discreetly suppressed 
its curiosity ; it spoke of bonnets and ribbons in her 
presence with a freedom that was wiser and politer 
than an avoidance of such topics would have been ; 
it sent her invitations to little luncheons and low 
teas, and accepted her excuses gracefully, and always 
renewed the invitations, just as if she had come. 

The old affection enfolded and enfeebled her. It 
was quite as bad as she had feared. She said to her- 
self sometimes that it would be better to break off at 
once and go back to Margaret's ; but she did not do 
so. The thought of the little wooden house baking 
beside the dust of Limekiln Avenue, andher own 
low chamber gathering heat and mosquitoes from 
day to day under the slope of the slated mansard, 
opposed itself to the actuality of the Butler cottage, 
with its wide verandahs that looked seaward through 
cool breaks of foliage on the lawn dropping smoothly 
to the boulders on the beach j with its orderly succes- 



384 A woman's reason. 

sion of delicate meals ; with the pretty chintzed and 
muslined room in which she seemed to drowse her 
life away, safe from the harms that had hunted her 
so long ; and she felt how easy it would be to accept 
indefinitely the fond hospitality that claimed her. 
She said that she must not; but in the meantime 
she did. She had the soft, feline preference for 
sunny exposures and snug corners which is to blame 
for so much frailty of purpose, or so much purpose- 
less frailty in women; and now she was further 
weakened by ill-health. She stayed on and on, in 
spite of the feeling that they all regarded her as a 
poor, broken thing, who could no longer be the ideal 
of the young girls, or the equal friend of Marian. 

Mrs. Ray was much preoccupied with her baby, 
with the house that Ray had decided to build, with 
the friends abroad from whom she heard and to 
whom she wrote. She carried with her an impres- 
sion of wealth, an odour of opulence, which accorded 
well with her affluent personality ; she accepted her 
lot of rich woman with a robust satisfaction which 
would have been vulgar except for her incorruptible 
good-heartedness. She never talked of money, but 
she was a living expression of large expenditure; 
and in discussing the plans of her new house with 
Helen, she had an unconsciousness of cost, as related 
to questions of convenience or beauty, which went 
further to plunge Helen into hopeless poverty than 
any boast of riches could have done. Her manner 
was none the less effective for her assumption that 
Helen was equally able to pay for such a house. She 



A woman's reason. 385 

was not planning altogether for her own comfort and 
splendour, though these were duly provided for ; but 
she was looking after the wellbeing of everybody in 
her household, and she was as willing to lavish upon 
the servants' quarters as her own. 

" I think it 's barbaric," she said, " to make those 
poor creatures, because they do our work, pass their 
days in holes in the ground and coops under the roof, 
and I 'm determined that they shall be decently 
housed with me, at least. I 'm making the architect 
work out this idea it was something I talked over 
with" she added, with the effect of feeling it 
absurd to shrink from saying it "Lord Rainford." 

They both continued quietly looking at the plan, 
but the word had been spoken, and they no longer 
talked of the servants' quarters in Marian's house. 
Helen leaned back in her chair, with her listless hands 
in her lap, and Marian took up the work she had 
laid down before unfolding the plan. 

"When did you see him last?" asked Helen. 

" Qh, he came to see us off at Liverpool," returned 
Marian. 

"Was he well?" 

" Yes, as well as he usually is. I believe he 's 
never very strong, though he 's never in a bad way. 
He 's much better than he used to be." 

Helen was silent. Then she began, as if in- 
voluntarily : " Marian " and stopped. 

"WelH" 

She was forced to go on. " Did you know " 

" He told Ned. Now, Helen," she added quickly, 

2b 



386 A woman's reason. 

"I promised Ned not to open this subject with 
you ! * 

" You haven't," returned Helen with quiet sadness, 
"/opened it. I knew that we should have to speak 
of it some time. I feel that I was not to blame, and 
I have never felt sorry for anything but his disap- 
pointment." 

" He never blamed you. He understood just how 
it happened, and how he had mistaken you. He is 
the soul of delicate appreciation." 

"Yes, I know that." 

" And his only trouble was, that he should have 
forced you to say that you were engaged." 

" Yes." 

" And I don't believe that any of us grieved more 
sincerely for you than he did." 

" Oh, I believe it." 

"Well," said Marian, breaking her needle in ex- 
pression of her resolution, "I won't talk with you 
about Lord Rainford, Helen ; for I can only talk 
with you in one way about him, and I promised Ned 
not to do that ! " 

"What way ? " asked Helen. 

" You know ! " 

" Now," cried Helen, " you must tell me all about 
it 1 If I didn't believe that I had suffered as much as 
he, I couldn't forgive myself. How did he find out 
about about Robert 1 " She whispered the last 
word. 

"We told him 1" 

" And he was sorry for me he 



A woman's reason. 387 

"Yes." 

"How kind he is!" 

" Yes, he is kind," said Marian. "He'sa good deal 
changed since he was here." Helen looked the 
interest which she did not otherwise express, and 
Marian continued : " He 's giving up a good many of 
his wild Utopian ideas about democracy, and all that 
kind of thing. You know, at one time before he 
first came out to America he thought of dividing 
up his estates amongst the labourers on them." 

" What a strange idea !" 

" Yes. But there was some legal obstacle to that 
I don't know what and now he 's devoting him- 
self to making his people comfortable in the station 
where he finds them. He conforms a great deal more 
than he used to, in every way. I think his acquaint- 
ance with America did him good: he saw what a 
humbug democracy and equality really were. He 
must have seen that nobody practically believed in 
them ; and we must say this for the English, that 
they 're too honest to get any pleasure merely from 
the names of things. He must have found that 
people here were just as anxious about position and 
occupation as they are in England." 

" He seemed very much puzzled by it," said Helen. 
"I couldn't understand why." 

" Because he was very sincere ; the English are all 
sincerer than we are. They accept rank and royalty, 
and carry it out in good faith ; and we accept de. 
mocracy, and then shirk the consequences. That's 
what Ned says. I wonder that the Englishmen who 



388 a woman's reason. 

have been here, or seen us running after titles 
abroad, can keep from laughing in our faces I And I 
don't wonder that Lord Eainford was cured of his 
fancies in America. Why, he actually, at one time, 
was a sort of republican !" 

"A very curious sort," said Helen. "He said 
that Americans were all commoners." 

Marian paused. " Did he say that 1 Well," she 
added with heroic resolution, " I suppose we are." 

"I don't think so," said Helen. "Or at least it 
wasn't delicate of him to say so." 

" I don't believe he meant anything by it. He 
gave us to understand or Ray at least that he 
particularly admired you for your courage in earning 
your own living, and being no more ashamed of your 
work than if you were noble." 

"Yes," said Helen thoughtfully, "I suppose it 
might be natural for him, if he had those notions, to 
idealise us here, just as it would be for one of us to 
idealise them : it would be his romance." 

" Certainly," said Marian, with eager assent, as if 
this mood ought to be encouraged in Helen, " that is 
just the way." 

" And, perhaps," Helen went on, " it would have 
been better for me if I had been such a girl as he 
supposed trying to help myself because I respected 
work, and all that. But I wasn't." 

" Of course not." 

" I was merely doing it because I couldn't bear to 
be a burden to any one ; and I 've never had any 
higher motive. " 



a woman's reason. 389 

"And I'm sure it's high enough," said Marian. 
"And crazy enough to suit any one," she added. 
" He would like it all the better when he found out 
what it really was ; especially now that his own ideas 
have changed a little." 

"He was an aristocrat at heart all the time," 
returned Helen. " If I had been born to work for 
my living, like the poor girls whom I make bonnets 
for" 

" It would have been another thing, quite. We 're 
all inconsistent. I don't deny it. There 's no merit 
in working for a living, whatever disgrace there is 
in not doing it. You don't find your Bridgets and 
Norahs, or your Sadies and Mamies so very superior 
to human weaknesses that you wish the rest of us to 
form ourselves on the pattern of working girls." 

"0 no," said Helen, with humorous sadness. 
"They're poor silly things, most of them, and as 
full of prejudice and exclusiveness as any one. I 've 
never seen distinctions in society so awful as the 
distinction between shop-girls and parlour-girls. 
Their differences seem such a burlesque of ours, that 
sometimes I can hardly help laughing at the whole 
thing. I supposed once that all work-people were 
on a level ; but really I had no idea of inequality 
till I came down to them. I daresay," she added, 
" Lord Rainford's experience in coming down to us 
must have been something like it. But it didn't 
make it any pleasanter to have him suggest his sur- 
prise. And I don't know that I need feel particularly 
flattered at his singling me out for praise because I 



390 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

choose to help myself rather than be wholly depen- 
dent I Ve always been partly so. It isn't a thing, 
as you say, that I deserve the least credit for." 

" I never said that about you," protested Marian, 
" and I do think it 's a credit to you or would be, 
if there were any necessity for it." 

"Any necessity for it 1" 

" I will speak now," cried Marian, " hospitable or 
inhospitable ; and I don't see how it has anything to 
do with it." Helen understood perfectly that these 
enigmatical sentences were the report, so far as they 
went, of some discussion between Marian and her 
husband, and that she was now about to break some 
promise she had made him out of half- conviction. 
" Do you expect, Helen Harkness, to go back to that 
horrid shanty, and spend the rest of your life in 
making servants' bonnets 1 " 

" Yes till I have learnt how to do better work." 

"Well, then, I think it 's a shame !" Helen drew 
herself up, but Marian did not quail. " I think that 
you might have had some little consideration for us 
for all your friends, if you had none for yourself. 
"Why should it have been any more disgraceful to 
accept help from papa from your father's old friend, 
who felt towards you just as he does towards his 
own children than to take up such work as that % 
If it comes to that, why shouldn't you be dependent 
upon us, as well as dependent on them V 

" I 'm not dependent on them," said Helen, " and 
you have no right to say such a thing, Marian." 
But she felt herself physically unable to cope with 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 391 

Marian's misrepresentation, or the no-reasons with 
which she supported it. 

11 1 say it for your good, and to let you see how it 
appears to others. It will kill you to go back there. 
I can't bear to think of it." 

" It won't kill me," answered Helen sadly, " but I 
shouldn't be frightened by that if it were true. 
Why do you think I should be so anxious to live 1 " 

"Helen!" 

"Yes, seriously. What is there left for me in 
this world?" 

" There 's everything if you would see it so." 

"Everything?" 

" Helen," said Marian, dropping her hands, with 
the sewing in them, into her lap, " you force me to 
break one of the most solemn promises I ever made 
in my life. But I don't care ; if I can do any good 
by it, I will break it. And I want you to understand 
that I speak entirely on my own responsibility, and 
quite against Ned's advice and orders. We saw a 
great deal of Lord Rainford while we were in 
England, and everything we saw made us like him 
more and more." 

Helen feebly put herself on the defensive, but 
without saying anything, and Marian continued 

" He 's very greatly improved, in every way. He 's 
better, and he's better-looking." 

"I thought him improved the last time he was 
here," said Helen impartially. 

" He 's the kind of man who doesn't show to advan' 
tage out of his own surroundings," returned Marian, 



392 A WOMAN'S reason. 

pursuing her apparent advantage. " We visited him 
at one of his places, in the country : an old house of 
the fifteenth century, that kings and queens had 
slept in, and that had been in his family almost as 
long as it had been built. You never saw such a 
place, Helen ! There wasn't much of a park, but 
there were groups and avenues of beautiful old trees 
all about, and lawns so fine and close, that it seemed 
as if they had been woven and laid down there just 
for our visit; ivy all over the front of the house, 
and such gardens, with peaches and pears and roses 
trained along their high walls just like Tennyson's 
poems ; and an exquisite keeping about everything that 
I never could make you understand unless you had 
been there. But everything was so fit that you felt 
as if that low English sky was part of the place, 
and the arrangement of the clouds had been studied 
for it. There wasn't a jar or a hitch in anything, 
and Lord Eainf ord himself came in in such a way that 
you would have thought he was as much a guest as 
ourselves." 

"Yes," assented Helen; " I suppose they've brought 
the art of all that to perfection." 

"It isn't an art with them; it's nature second 
nature. This was only one of his places the smallest 
of them, but there wasn't the least effect of owner- 
ship about him ; and it wasn't from him, you may be 
sure, that we found out the good he was doing !" 

" No ; I could imagine that. He must find a great 
happiness in it. I 'm glad " 

" Oh, he didn't seem very happy. Not that he 



A woman's reason. 393 

made any parade of melancholy. But you can tell 
whether such a man is happy or not, without his 
saying so, or looking so, even." 

Helen was silent, and Marian made a bold push. 
"You know what I mean, Helen, perfectly well. 
He didn't speak to me about it, but he told Ned 
everything, and Ned told me ; and I don't believe 
he 's forgotten you, or ever will." 

" He had better, then," said Helen, with a momen- 
tary firmness. " He must." 

" Didn't you tell him that if you were not en- 
gaged" 

" Oh, did he say that 1 Then don't talk to me of 
his delicacy, Marian ! It was shameful to repeat it." 

" What nonsense ! Mightn't he say it, if he were 
asking Ned whether he thought you really would 
have cared for him if you hadn't been 1 " 

" Did he ask that ?" 

" I don't know. But if he had, would it have 
been anything so very strange ? Not half so strange 
as your saying it if you didn't mean it. Why did 
you say it, Helen ?" 

" You know well enough, Marian. Because I felt 
sorry for him; because I had to say something. 
Did Ned did Mr. Eay encourage him to think that 
I meant " 

"Of course he didn't. He never ventured a word 
about it. He seems to think, like all the rest of us, 
except me, that you 're a very peculiar kind of porce- 
lain, with none of the flaws of common clay, and I 
ean't persuade him you're a girl like other girls. 



394 A WOMAN'S reason. 

But if you come to the common sense of the matter, 
I don't see why Lord Eainford shouldn't have sup- 
posed you meant what you said, and that when it 
was all over " 

"Marian!" 

" Why he shouldn't have begun to have some 
hopes again. I'm speaking for your good, Helen, 
and I'm going to speak plainly. I don't see why 
you shouldn't marry him now ! If you have no pity 
for yourself, if you jtrefer to go on with the wretched 
life you 've planned, I don't see why you shouldn't 
have a little compassion for him. You're spoiling 
his life as well as your own." 

Helen had to struggle from under the crushing 
weight of this charge by an effort that resulted in 
something like levity. " Oh, I don't know that it 's 
spoiling his life. He seemed to care for me as an 
element of social and political reform, and wanted 
to marry me because I illustrated a theory. Per- 
haps, if you told him I didn't really illustrate it, 
he would be quite willing to accept the situa- 
tion ! " 

She left Marian where she was sitting, and the 
subject for that day. But the next week Ray went 
off to town by a train earlier than usual one morn- 
ing, and Marian went restlessly about the house. 
The moment she found herself alone with Helen, she 
began abruptly : " Helen, I won't have you thinking 
it 's the same thing, my talking to you the other day 
about Lord Eainford, as it would be if Eobert 
Fenton had lived." 



a woman's reason. 395 

" No," said Helen, recognising the fact that it had 
seemed so to her. 

" I wish to talk as if he never had lived." 

"You can't do that!" 

" Yes, I can ; for now it is the same, so far as Lord 
Rainford is concerned. If you said anything to make 
him believe that it would have been different if you 
had not been engaged, then you owe him another 
chance. If you ever did or said anything to en- 
courage him ' 

" Encourage him !" 

"Without knowing it But you can't deny that 
he might have thought you encouraged him deliber- 
ately that first day " 

" No," said Helen, with a guilty sense that did not 
suffer her to protest against Marian's cruelty in going 
back to that. 

"Then I say you must listen to him. Helen, I'm 
speaking entirely for your good. I didn't like him 
at first, either ; but now I know how nice he really 
is. I do want you to reconsider! You would be 
happy with him ; he would make any woman happy, 
and he would be simply in heaven with you. And 
you 're adapted to the life you would lead in England. 
You could be fashionable or unfashionable, just as 
you liked ; and if you wanted to be useful, to do 
good, and that sort of thing, you 'd have every chance 
in the world. You 'd be a great success, Helen, in 
every way. I do want America to be well represented 
over there ! And don't you see what a great thing 
his offering himself to you is % It 's almost unprece- 



396 a woman's reason. 

dented! I hardly know any other American girl 
who hasn't been married for her money in Europe ; 
they're always married for their money, even by 
cheap little continental counts and barons ; and for 
an English lord to marry a poor American girl, why, 
it's like an American man marrying a woman of 
rank, and that never was heard of ! I want you to 
look at it on all sides, Helen ; and that 's the reason 
I 'm almost perjuring myself in talking to you of it 
at all. I did promise Ned so solemnly ; but if I didn't 
speak now, I shouldn't have another chance before " 

She suddenly stopped herself, and Helen, who 
had been borne down by her tide of words, lifted 
her head again : " Before what, Marian 1 " 

"Before he comes!" cried Marian hysterically. 
" He 's coming here to-day !" 

Helen rose. "Then I must go," she said quietly. 
" It would be indelicate, it would be indecent, for 
me to be here. I wonder, Marian, you could set 
such a trap for me." 

Marian forgave the offensive charge to Helen's 
excitement. " Trap," she repeated. " Do you call it 
a trap, when I might have let him come without 
saying a word to you 1 I wanted to do it ! And I 
should have had a perfectly good excuse ; for we didn't 
know ourselves that he was coming, till this morning. 
He wrote us from New York, and he started for 
Boston last night. I didn't even know he was in 
the country indeed I didn't !" she added, beginning 
to quail, woman as she was, under the awfulness of 
the reproach in Helen's eyes. " We couldn't tell 



A woman's reason. 397 

him not to come ! How could we tell him not to 
come *? There wasn't even time 1" 

"Yes," said Helen brokenly, "I know. I don't 
blame you. But you see that I can't stay." 

"No, I don't," retorted Marian, "I don't see any- 
thing of the kind." 

"It would be shameful it would be a trap for 
him." 

" He 's a man, and he '11 never dream of such a 
thing; he's a gentleman, and he won't think so !" 

" But / shall," returned Helen definitively. " It 
will look as if I had been waiting for him here; 
as if I wished to see him. It leaves me no freedom ; 
it binds me hand and foot. If he spoke to me again, 
what could I say % Don't you see, Marian 3 " 

"No, I don't," said Marian. But she denied with 
her lips only. 

" No matter ; it 's quite time I was back with 
Margaret. I will get ready, and go up to Boston at 
once." 

" Helen ! And when he 's crossed the ocean to 
see you 1 " 

" If he 's done that, it 's all the more reason why I 
shouldn't see him. He had no right to come. It 
was very presumptuous ; it was unfeeling." 

" You encouraged him to believe that if you had 
not been engaged to Robert Fenton you would have 
accepted him. What was he to think 1 Perhaps he 
felt that, as a gentleman, he was bound to come." 

Helen panted breathless. "I must go away," 
was all she could say at last. 



398 A woman's reason. 

" Oh, very well ! " cried Marian. " You see how 
awkward you make it for us." 

" I know. I 'm very sorry. But I can't help it. 
How soon do you expect him % " 

" Ned went up to Boston to meet him. I don't 
know which train they'll be down on," returned 
Marian coldly. 

"Then there isn't a moment to be lost," said 
Helen, hurrying to the door. "Will you let Jerry 
take me to the station 1 " she asked formally. 

" Oh, certainly," replied Marian, with equal state. 

A few minutes later Mrs. Butler came to Helen's 
room, her gentle eyes full of sympathetic trouble. 
" Marian is feeling terribly. Must you go, dear V 

" Why, yes, Mrs. Butler. Don't you see that I 
must?" returned Helen, without desisting from her 
packing, while Mrs. Butler sank upon a chair near 
the trunk. 

" Yes, of course ; Marian sees it too ; if you are fully 
resolved not to to give him any hope. But she 
thought we all thought that perhaps . Helen, 
dear, I don't wish to pry into your affairs ; I have 
no right " 

" Oh, Mrs. Butler !" cried Helen, dropping an 
armful of clothes chaotically into her trunk, in order 
that she might give the tears, with which she was 
bedewing them, free course upon Mrs. Butler's neck, 
" you have all the right in the world. Say anything 
you please to me ; ask anything ! How should I 
take it wrong 1 " 

"There's nothing I wish to ask, dear. If you're 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 399 

quite firm if your mind is entirely made up there 's 
nothing to say. I wouldn't urge you to anything. 
But we all have such a regard for him that if you 
should . It seemed such a fortunate way out of all 
your struggles and sorrows " 

"And Robert? Do you ask me to forget him, 
Mrs. Butler, so soon ? " 

" Oh, no, my dear ! I should be the last to do 
that ! But wives lose their husbands and husbands 
their wives, and marry again. They don't forget 
their dead ; but in this world we can't live for the 
dead ; we must live for the living. Don't look at it 
as if it were forgetting him or betraying him in any 
way. As long as you live you must understand 
that he can be nothing to you !" 

" Oh, I do understand it," sobbed the girl. " My 
heart has ached it all out, long ago, and night and 
day I know it. And that 's what makes me wish I 
were dead too." 

Mrs. Butler ignored this outburst. "And this 
young man is so good and he is so true to you " 

" Oh, is that the reason I should be untrue to 
myself?" 

"No, dear, it isn't any question of that. It's 
merely a question of examining yourself about it, of 
making sure of your own mind when you see him 
again. The children are all romantic about it be- 
cause it 's a title, and they like to think of a splendid 
marriage for you ; but if it were only that, I should 
be very sorry. I 've seen enough of splendid mar- 
riages, and I know what risks American girls take 



400 A woman's reason. 

when they marry out of their own country, and their 
own kind of thinking and living. But this isn't the 
same thing, Helen indeed it isn't. He likes you 
because you 're American, and because you 're poor ; 
and the last thing he thinks of is his title. No, dear. 
If he were some penniless young American, he 
couldn't be any better or simpler. Mr. Butler and I 
both agreed about that." 

"Captain Butler!" cried Helen, with the tragedy 
of Et tu, Brute, in her tones, and the effect of pre- 
paring to fall with dignity. 

"Yes. He says he never saw any young man 
whom he liked better. They formed quite a friend- 
ship. He was very sweet and filial with Mr. Butler ; 
and was always making him talk about you 1" 

A throe of some kind passed through Helen, and 
the arm round Mrs. Butler's neck tightened convul- 
sively. 

" I never approved," continued the elder lady, " of 
what people call marrying for a home ; but I thought 
we all thought that if,- when you saw him again, 
you felt a little differently about everything, it would 
be such an easy way out of all your difficulties. We 
approve all of us of your spirit, Helen ; we quite 
understand how you shouldn't wish to be dependent, 
and we admire your courage and self-respect, and all 
that ; but we don't like to see you working so hard 
wearing your pretty young life away, wasting your 
best days in toil and sorrow." 

" Oh, Mrs. Butler ! the sorrow was sent, I don't 
know why ; but the work was sent to save me. If 



A woman's reason. 401 

it were not for that I should have gone mad long 
ago !" 

" But couldn't anything else save you, Helen 1 
That's what we want you to ask yourself. Can't 
you let the sunlight come back to you " 

" No, no ! " cried Helen, with hysterical self-pity ; 
" I must dwell in the valley of the shadow of death 
all my life. There is no escape for me. I 'm one 
of those poor things that I used to wonder at people 
always in black, always losing friends, always carry- 
ing gloom and discouragement to every one. You 
must let me go. Let me go back to my work and 
my poverty. I will never leave it again. Don't ask 
me. Indeed, indeed, it can't be ; it mustn't be ! For 
pity's sake, don't speak of it any more !" 

Mrs. Butler rose and pressed the girl to her heart 
in a motherly embrace. " I won't, dear," she said, 
and went out of the room. 

Helen heard her encounter some one who had just 
come up the stairs, at the head of which a briefly- 
murmured colloquy took place, and she 'heard in 
Jessie Butler's penetrating whisper: " Will she stay 1 
Will she accept him 1 Is she going to be Lady Eain- 
f ord 1 Oh, I hope" 

"Hush, Jessie!" came in Mrs. Butler's whisper, 
and then there was a scurry of feet along the matting, 
and a confusion of suppressed gaiety, as if the girls 
were running off to talk it over among themselves. 

Helen would not make allowance for the innocent 
romance it was to them. She saw it only as a family 
conspiracy that the Butlers ought all to have been 

2c 



402 A woman's reason. 

ashamed of, and she began again to pack her trunk 
with a degree of hauteur which, perhaps, never before 
attended such a task. Her head was in a whirl, but 
she worked furiously for a half-hour, when she found 
herself faint, and was forced to lie down. She would 
have liked to ring and ask for a biscuit and a glass 
of wine ; but she would not, she could not consent to 
add the slightest thing to that burden of obligation 
towards the Butlers which she now found so odious, 
and on which they had so obviously counted, to 
control her action and force her will. 

She lay on the bed, growing more and more bitter 
against them, and quite helpless to rise. She heard 
a carriage grate up to the door on the gravel outside, 
and she flung a shawl over her head to shut out the 
voices of Eay and Lord Rainford ; she felt that if 
she heard them she must shriek ; and she cried to 
herself that she was trapped, trapped, trapped ! 

Some one knocked lightly at her door, and Marian 
entered in answer to a reckless invitation from the 
pillow. It seemed an intolerable piece of effrontery, 
and Helen wondered that Marian was able to put on 
that air of cold indifference in proposing to ask her 
to come down and meet Lord Rainford before he 
had been in the house ten minutes. 

"Helen," said Marian, in a stiff tone of offence, 
1 'Mrs. Wilson is here, and wants you to come over 
and take lunch with her. I couldn't do less than 
promise to give you her message. Shall I say that 
you 're lying down with a headache V 

"Oh, not at all, Marian," said Helen; "there's 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 403 

nothing the matter with me. I'm perfectly well. 
Please tell Mrs. Wilson that I shall be very glad to 
come, and that I '11 be down directly." 

She was already twisting up her hair before the 
glass with a vigour of which she could not have 
believed herself capable. But the idea of flight, of 
escape, inspired her ; in that moment she could 
have fought her way through overwhelming odds 
of Butlers ; her lax nerves were turned to steel. 
" Marian," she said, " I will ask Mrs. Wilson to drive 
me to the station this afternoon, and I'll be very 
glad if you can send my trunk there." 

" Oh, certainly," said Marian. 

u I know I 'm making it horrid for you," added 
Helen, beginning to relent a little, now that she felt 
herself safe, " but I can't help it. I must go, and I 
must go at once. But Mrs. Wilson is such a kind 
old thing, and she's asked me so often, and I can 
easily make her understand that I must come now or 
not at all, and if she knows that you 're expecting 
other people your letting me go to her for lunch the 
last day won't seem strange." 

" Oh, not at all," said Marian, with a slight laugh, 
whose hollowness was lost upon Helen. 

Mrs. Butler said she was to come and visit them 
as soon as they got back to town ; she kissed her as 
lovingly as ever, and the Captain was affectionately 
acquiescent ; but the young girls were mystified, and 
Marian was cold. Helen tried to make it up to her 
by redoubled warmth in parting ; but this was not 
to be done, and as soon as she was out of the house 



404 a woman's reason. 

she began to feel how ungracious she had been to 
Marian, who had certainly done everything she 
could, and had behaved very honourably and can- 
didly. In the undercurrent of reverie which ran 
along evenly with Mrs. Wilson's chat, she atoned to 
Marian with fond excuses and explanations, and 
presently she found herself looking at the affair 
from the Butlers' point of view. It did not then 
appear so monstrous ; she relented so far as to 
imagine herself, for their sake and for Lord Rain- 
ford's, consenting to what seemed so right and fit 
to them. She saw herself, in pensively luxurious 
fancy, the lady of all that splendid circumstance 
at which Marian had hinted, moving vaguely on 
through years of gentle beneficence and usefulness, 
chivalrously attended in her inalienable sadness by 
her husband's patient and forbearing devotion; 
giving him, as she could from a heart never his, and 
now broken, respect and honour that might warm 
before her early death to something like tenderness. 
It was a picture that had often been painted in 
romance, and it satisfied her present mood as well as 
if its false drawing and impossible colour were true 
to any human life that had ever been or could be. 

By the time she reached Mrs. Wilson's cottage 
Ray drove up to the Butlers', and met the surmise 
of his wife and sisters-in-law with monosyllabic 
evasion till he could be alone with Marian. " I 
didn't bring him," he explained then, " because the 
more I thought of it the less I liked our seeming to 
trap Helen into meeting him." 

" Oh, indeed ! " said Marian. " That was her own 
word ! " 



a woman's reason. 405 

"Then you told her? I might have expected 
that. Well, it was quite right. What did she 
say?" 

" Everything unpleasant that she very well could. 
You would have thought that really we had taken 
the most unfair advantage of her, and had placed 
her where she couldn't say no, if she wished." 

" I could see how it might look that way to her," 
said Ray, " and that 's what I was afraid of. It was 
extremely awkward, every way. We couldn't very 
well tell him not to come, and we couldn't very well 
tell her to go ; the only thing I was clear of was 
that we must tell her he was coming, and let her 
decide upon her own course." 

" That 's what I did, and she decided very quickly 
she 's gone." 

Ray looked worried. It 's tantamount to turn- 
ing her out of doors, I suppose, and yet I don't 
know what else we could have done. Well ! I 
might as well have brought him straight here, and 
saved myself all the diplomacy of getting old Wilson 
to take him home for the night." 

Marian did not for the present ask what was the 
diplomacy which Ray had used. " Mr. Wilson ! " 
she shrieked. " You got Mr. Wilson to take him 
home for the night ? " 

" Yes," returned her husband quietly. " What is 
so very remarkable about my getting Wilson to do 
it?" 

She did not answer, but burst from her door 
with a cry for Mrs. Butler that brought all her sisters 
also. " Mother, Lord Rainford has gone home with 
Mr. Wilson!" 



406 A woman's reason. 

Mrs. Butler was dumb with sensation that silenced 
all her daughters but Jessie. This young lady, not 
hitherto noted in the family for her piety, recog- 
nised a divine intention in the accident : " I call 
it a special Providence ! " she exclaimed ecstatic- 
ally. 

" What is it all about 1 " inquired Ray. 

" Oh, nothing," replied his wife. " Nothing at 
all ! Merely that Helen was in such haste to get 
away that she accepted an invitation to lunch with 
Mrs. Wilson, and has just driven over there with 
her. I suppose she '11 accuse us of having plotted 
with the Wilsons to ' trap ' her, as she calls it." 

" Marian ! " said Mrs. Butler, with grave reproach. 

" I don't care, mother ! " retorted Marian, with 
tears of vexation in her eyes. " Can't you see that 
she '11 accept him over there, and that I shall be 
cheated out of having brought them together, when 
I had set my heart on it so much 1 I didn't sup- 
pose Helen Harkness could be such a goose, after all 
she 's been through ! " 

" My dear," said her mother, " I don't wish you to 
speak so of Helen ; and as for her accepting him 
Children," she broke off to the younger girls, " run 
away ! " and they obeyed as if they had really been 
children. " Edward," she resumed, " how in the 
world did you contrive with Lord Rainford ? " 

" Well, Mrs. Butler," said Ray, " with men, there 
was only one way. He had told me so much, you 
know, that I could take certain things for granted, 
and I made a clean breast of it at last, on the way 
home. I told him she was here, and that I thought 
it wasn't quite fair bringing him into the house 



A woman's reason. 407 

without giving her some chance to protest or 
escape." 

"It was terrible," said Mrs. Butler, "but I see 
that you had to do it. Go on." 

" And he quite agreed with me, that it wouldn't 
be fair to either of them. I don't know that I 
should have spoken if I had not seen old Wilson in 
the car. I asked him if he wouldn't give Rainford 
a bed for the night ; and he was only too glad. 
That 's all. I told him he could walk over here 
this evening, and meet her on equal terms." 

" That won't be necessary now," said Marian 
bitterly. " I congratulate you on the success of your 
diplomacy, Ned ! " 

" Perhaps it is providential, as Jessie says," mur- 
mured Mrs. Butler. 

" Oh, very providential ! " cried Marian. " It 's 
as if it had all been arranged by the providence of 
the theatre. I hate it ! Instead of taking place 
romantically and prettily, among her old friends, 
she 's obliged it to take place fancically, by a vulgar 
accident, where there can be nothing pleasant about 
it." 

"Why, Marian," said her mother. "Do you 
think she will accept him 1 " 

" Accept him ? Of course she will ! She is dying 
to do it I could see that all the time and I could 
hardly have patience with her for not seeing it her- 
self. She 's old enough." 

" Well, never mind about that," said Ray, authori- 
tatively. " We have done what we all saw to be 
right, and we must let the consequences take care of 
themselves." 



I 



408 a woman's reason. 

"Oh, it's very easy to say that," cried Marian. 
" But, for my part, I 'ni sorry I did right." 

" Well, your doing wrong in this case wouldn't 
have helped. My doing right alone was enough to 
put everything at sixes and sevens." 



XIX. 

A SERIES of trivial chances brought Helen and 
Lord Rainford together alone, before she could get 
away from the Wilsons' after lunch. The first 
train for town did not start till three, and it was 
impossible that she should shut herself up in her 
room and avoid him until that time. In fact she 
found that there was nothing in his mere presence 
that forced her to any such defensive measure, while 
there was much in the fatal character of the situa- 
tion, as there is in every inevitable contingency, to 
calm if not to console her ; and the sense of security 
that came from meeting him by accident, where she 
was perfectly free to say no, and could not seem by 
the remotest possible implication to have invited an 
advance from him, disposed her in his favour. They 
met certainly with open surprise, but their surprise 
was not apparently greater than that of the Wilsons 
in bringing their guests together; and when Mr. 
Wilson explained that he owed the pleasure of 
Lord Rainford 's company for the night to a domestic 
exigency at the Butlers', Helen divined that Ray's 
thoughtfulness had given her this chance of escape, 
and wondered if Lord Rainford was privy to it. 
But he was listening with his head down to Mrs. 



410 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

Wilson's explanation of the chance that had given 
them the pleasure of Miss Harkness's company ; she 
wondered if he were wondering whether she knew 
that he was coming and had fled on that account ; 
but it was impossible to guess from anything he said 
or looked, and she began to believe that Bay had 
not told him she was with them. With impartial 
curiosity she took note of the fact that his full-grown 
beard had unquestionably improved his chin; it 
appeared almost as if something had been done for 
his shoulders ; certainly his neck was not so long ; or 
else she had become used to these traits, and they 
did not affect her so much as formerly. More than 
once during the lunch she thought him handsome ; 
it was when his face lighted up in saying something 
pleasant about seeing America again. He pretended 
that even twenty-four hours of American air had 
made another man of him. Mr. Wilson said that 
he did not know that there had been any American 
air for a week, and Lord Rainford said that he did 
not mind the heat ; he believed he rather liked it. 

" But you certainly haven't got it to complain of 
here," he added. 

" Oh, no, it 's always cool on the North Shore," 
Mrs. Wilson explained. ** We shall not let you go 
home this afternoon, Miss Harkness," she turned to 
say to Helen; "you would certainly perish in 
Cambridge." 

" Port," added Helen, with inflexible conscience ; 
she never permitted herself or any one else the 
flattering pretence that she lived in Old Cambridge. 
" You must," she continued quietly. " I 've made 
all my preparations." This fact was final with a 



A woman's reason. 411 

woman, and Mrs. Wilson could only make a murmur 
of distress, and beg her at least to go by a later 
train, but Helen was firm also about the train ; she 
said her trunk would be at the station, and she 
must go then. If she had her formless intention 
that this should be discouraging to Lord Eainford, 
she could see no such effect in him ; he remained 
unmoved, and she began to question whether at 
sight of her he might not have lost whatever illusion 
he had cherished concerning her. She said to her- 
self that she knew she had changed, that she had 
grown older and thinner, and plainer every way. 
If this were so, it was best; she hoped with a 
pang that it was so. She ought to have thought 
of it before ; it might have saved her from giving 
Marian pain. Of course he had entirely ceased to 
care for her. 

After lunch Mr. Wilson betrayed signs of heavi- 
ness, which obliged his wife to the confession that 
nothing could keep Mr. Wilson awake after lunch. 
She sent him away for his nap, and she was going 
to lead her guests down over the lawn for a look at 
the sea from the rocks by the shore, when a servant 
came with some inexorable demand upon her. 

" You know the way, Miss Harkness," she said. 
" Take Lord Rainford down there, and I will be 
with you in a moment." 

She hurried away with the maid, and Helen 
descended the piazza steps and sauntered past the 
beds of foliage-plants across the grass with her charge. 
He did not leave her in a moment's doubt of his 
mind or purpose after they were beyond hearing. 

"Do you know why I have come back 1 ?" he 



412 A woman's reason. 

asked abruptly, and striving to catch the eyes she 
averted. 

" How should I " she began, but he spared her 
the sin of even an insinuated ignorance. 

" I came back for you," he said with a straight- 
forward sincerity that shamed her out of all evasion. 

" Then I am sorry for that," she replied frankly, 
" for you had better have forgotten me." 

" That wasn't possible. I couldn't have forgotten 
you when I knew you were not free ; how could I 
forget you now ? For the last year my life has been 
a count of days, hours, minutes. If I have come 
too soon, tell me, and I will go away till you let me 
come again. I can wait !" 

He spoke with the strength but not the vehemence 
of his passion, and she stayed her fluttered nerves 
against his quiet. If it were to be reasonably talked 
over, and dismissed like any other impossibility, it 
would be very simple; she liked him for making 
it so easy ; she felt humbly grateful to him ; she 
imagined that she could reconcile him to his fate. 

" You must forgive me," he added, " if what I say 
is painful. I will spend my life in atoning for it." 

" There is nothing to forgive on my part. If you 
can have patience with me." 

"Patience?" 

"Oh, I don't mean what you think !" 

" I hope I haven't seemed impatient. I couldn't 
excuse myself if I had. No one could have re- 
spected, revered your bereavement more than I ; and 
if I -thought that I had sinned against it in coming 
now " 

"No no " 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 413 

" It seemed to me that I had a kind of warrant 
permission in something you said something, 
nothing that took away all hope and then became 
my hope " 

"Oh," she trembled, "what did I say?" 

" Nothing," he said, " if you remember nothing. 
I abide by what you say now." 

She was thrilled with an aesthetic delight in his 
forbearance, and with a generous longing to recognise 
it. " I know what you mean, and I blame myself 
more than any words can say for letting you sup- 
pose It was my culpable weakness I only 
meant to save you to spare you all I could ! " A 
dismay came into his face that she could not endure 
to see. " Oh, don't look so ! Did you did you 
really come back on account of that V 

"I misunderstood you I see. Not perhaps at 
first ; but afterwards. I came back because I thought 
you told me that if you had been free you might 
have answered me differently then." 

" Yes, that 's what the words said ; but not what 
they meant!" She silently grieved for him, walking 
a little apart, and not daring to lift her eyes to his 
face. He would not speak, and she had perforce to 
go on. " Why did you ever care for mef she 
implored at last, rushing desperately at the question, 
as if there might be escape on that side. 

"Why?" he echoed. 

"Surely, the first time we met what was there 
to make you even endure me V 

"Endure?" He seemed to reflect. "I don't 
think you were to blame. But it never was a ques- 
tion of that. You you were my fancy. I can't 



414 A woman's reason. 

tell you better than that. And you have always 
been so. It isn't for what you did ; it isn't for what 
you said." 

It seemed hopeless. They walked on, and they 
only ceased from walking because they had reached 
the brink of the rocks beyond which lay the sea. 
She stood there looking on its glassy levels, which 
shivered against the rocks at her feet in impulses 
that were like her own feeble and broken purposes. 
In a certain way life was past with her ; there could 
be no more of what had been, no longer the romantic 
tenderness, the heroic vision of love; but there 
could be honour, faith, affection. The sense of this 
passed vaguely through her heart, and exhaled at 
her lips in a long, hopeless sigh. 

At the light sound he spoke again. " But I didn't 
come back to make good any claim upon you. I 
came to see you again because I must, and because 
it seemed as if I had the privilege of speaking once 
more to you. But perhaps I haven't." 

" Oh, certainly, you have that !" she weakly 
assented. 

" I don't urge you to anything. I only tell you 
again that I love you, and that I believe I always 
shall. But I don't ask your answer now or at any 
given time. I can wait your will, and I can abide 
by it then, whatever your answer is." 

A heavy weight was on her tongue, which hin- 
dered her from making her answer " No." A ship 
lagging by in the offing as if it panted with full 
sails for every breath of the light breeze, the whole 
spectacle of the sea, intimated a reproach, poignant 
as fleeting and intangible. She felt herself drifting 



A woman's reason. 415 

beyond her own control, and any keeping would be 
better than none ; she longed for rest, for shelter ; 
she no longer cared for escape. There was no 
reason why she should refuse the love offered her. 
She could not doubt its truth ; its constancy even 
charmed her a little; she was a little in love, 
pensively, reluctantly, with a love for herself so 
steadfast, so patient, so magnanimous. The sense 
of her own insufficiency to herself, the conviction 
that after all, and at the very most, she was a half 
success only even in the sordid and humiliating 
endeavour which was the alternative, unnerved 
her. 

"Oh, what shall I sayf she asked herself; and 
then looked up in terror lest she had uttered the 
words. But she had not. He met her inquiring 
glance only with a look of sympathy, in which per- 
haps the hope suggested by her hesitation was be- 
ginning to dawn. She appealed to him against 
himself. 

"I wish you had not come back* You have 
' made a great mistake." 

His countenance fell again. 

"A mistake 1" 

" Yes, you are mistaken in me. I 'm not at all 
what you think me. If I were that, I shouldn't 
be here, now, begging you for mercy. If I were 
not so foolish, so fickle-minded, that no words can 
describe me, he would never have left me ; he would 
have been alive and with me. Oh ! " she cried, " I 
can't let any one else trust me or believe in me for 
an instant. It isn't as if I were bereft in any 
common way ; it 's as if I had killed him !" 



416 A woman's reason. 

Lord Kainford remained so little moved by this 
assumption of guilt that she added, " Ah, I see you 
won't believe me ! " 

" No," he said. " I understood something of that 
from Ray ; and if I hoped only to be your friend 
if I knew I was never to see you again I should 
still say that you were wrong in blaming yourself 
now ; that you were right then in wishing to make 
sure of yourself before you married him. It would 
have been unjust to him to have done less." 

"Oh, does it seem so to youT' she implored. 
" That was the way it seemed to me then." 

" And it ought always to seem so. If you 've 
made it my privilege to speak to you of this matter " 

" Oh, yes, yes ! " 

" Then I say that I think what you did in that 
matter ought to be your greatest consolation now. 
It may be one of those eccentricities which people 
have found in my way of thinking, but I can't 
feel less reverently towards marriage than that." 

He had never seemed so noble, so lovable even, 
as at that moment. Her heart turned toward him 
in a fervent acceptance of the comfort, the support 
he offered her; it thanked him and rejoiced in 
him ; but it was heavy again with its former 
dismay when he said, " I don't urge you to any 
decision. Remember I am always yours, whether 
you refuse me or not." 

She perceived then that it was not really a ques- 
tion of her and Robert, but of her and Lord Rain- 
ford, and that the decision to which he did not 
urge her must rest finally with her. If she could 
have been taken from herself without her own 



A woman's reason. 417 

consent, passively, negatively, it would have been 
another affair. 

She gathered herself together as best she could. 
" I am acting very weakly, very wrongly. I 've 
no excuse but that this is all a surprise to me. I 
didn't know you were in this country. I didn't 
dream of ever meeting you again till three hours 
ago, when Mrs. Ray told me you were coming. 
Then I ran away from her to avoid meeting you. 
Yes, I had better be frank ! It seemed horrible to 
me that I should meet you in her house ; you could 
never have believed that I hadn't wished to meet you." 

" That 's what I should be glad to believe, if I 
could. But I saw I agreed with Ray that it 
might not be leaving you quite free in every way; 
and so I was glad to accept his suggestion that I 
should come here first till something could be 
arranged till you could be told." 

"That was like Mr. Ray," interrupted Helen. 
" I see how it has all happened ; and oh, I 'm so 
sorry it 's happened ! " 

The young man turned pale. But he answered 
courageously, " I 'm not. I had to know whether 
there was any hope for me ; I had to know it from 
you. 

" Yes," she assented, moved by his courage. 

" And I should not have gone away without at 
least making sure that there is none, and that is all 
I ask you now." 

" But if I can 't tell you 1 I must wait I must 
think. You must give me time." 

" Did I seem to be impatient 1 " he asked with 
exquisite deference and protest. 

2 D 



418 A woman's reason. 

" No. It must have been my own impatience 
I don't know what and you mustn't try to see 
me again unless " A deep blush dyed her face. 
She had put some paces between them, with a sort 
of nervous dread that he might offer his hand in 
parting. She now said abruptly, " Good-bye," and 
turned and ran up toward the house, leaving him on 
the rocks by the sea. 

Mrs. Wilson met her half-way across the lawn. 
" I was coming to join you," she began. 

"Lord Rainford is there," said Helen. "Mrs. 
Wilson, I find that I must see Mrs Eay again 
before I go to town. Could you let them drive 
me across, and then to the station 1 " 

" Why, certainly," said Mrs. Wilson in the 
national terms of acquiescence. 



XX. 

At first Fenton's arrival on the island had seemed, 
like the breaking of the steamer's shaft, the storm, 
the shipwreck, the escape to the reef, and the voyage 
in the open boat, one step in a series in which there 
was no arrest, and in which there was at least the 
consolation of movement from point to point. But 
this consolation ceased with his last glimpse of the 
sail, in which all hope of escape fainted and died ; 
and it did not revisit him when he gathered courage 
to explore the fairy solitude of the atoll. It was 
so small as to have been abandoned even by 
the savages of those seas, who forsake their over- 
peopled islands, and wander from reef to reef 
in search of other homes, and it would never be 
visited from the world to which he had belonged. 
The whalers that sometimes stop for water at the 
coral islands would not touch at this little point of 
land, lifted, like a flower among its thorns, above 
those perilous rocks. It had probably never been 
laid down on any chart; in a century which had 
explored every part of the globe, it must be a spot 
unknown to civilised men. The soil showed like 
snow through the vegetation that thinly covered 
it, and the perpetual green on white repeated itself 



420 a woman's reason. 

in the trailing vines that overran the coral blocks, 
with narrow spaces of sea between, which Fenton 
leaped, in his round of the island, to find himself 
again and again on the white soil of the groves, 
through which the palm struck its roots, and anchored 
itself fast to the reef. At the highest point the land 
rose fifteen feet above the sea ; at the widest place 
it measured a hundred yards ; and if he had fetched 
a compass of the whole, he would have walked less 
than two miles. They should not starve ; the palms 
would yield them abundant fruit through the un- 
varying year ; the sea, he knew, was full of fish. As 
he emerged from the grove at the point at which he 
had started, Giffen called out to him, " What 's that 
on the tree right by your shoulder 1 " Fenton looked 
round, and the bright blossom near him turned into 
a bird. He put out his hand ; it did not move ; and 
when he lifted it from its perch, it rested fearlessly 
on his palm. He flung it from him with a sickening 
sensation, and GifFen came running towards him. 

" Hallo ! what 's the matter V demanded Fenton. 

" I thought mebbe it was poison ! " 

" There 's nothing to kill us here," Fenton replied. 
"Come, we must begin to live." 

The sailors had left behind the remnant of the 
bag of flour, and the peas and beans. Giffen had 
carried them up to the hut, and one day Fenton 
found that he had made a garden and planted it with 
them. They came up quickly, and then, as if the soil 
lacked vitality, they withered away, all but a vine 
sprung from a seed that Giffen found among the peas. 



A woman's reason. 421 

He tenderly cherished this vine, which he hoped 
would prove a musk-melon, or at least a cucumber ; 
in due time it turned out a gourd. " My luck," he 
said, and gathered his gourds, for drinking-cups. 

In the maze which had deepened upon Fenton, 
the whole situation had an unreality, as of some- 
thing read long ago, and half-forgotten, and now 
slowly recalled, point by point; and there were 
moments of the illusion in which it was not he who 
was imprisoned there on that unknown island, but 
the hero of adventures whom he had envied and 
admired in boyhood, or known in some romance of 
later life. The gun and the cartridges which they 
treasured so carefully after they found traces of 
a former savage habitation ; the tools which they 
had brought from the wreck, and which they used 
in shaping the timbers for their hut; the palm- 
leaves they plucked for its thatch ; the nuts they 
gathered for their food and drink; the fishing- 
lines they twisted from the fibre of the cocoa-bark ; 
the hooks they carved from the bones of the birds 
they ate, and the traps they set for game when the 
wild things once so tame began to grow wary ; their 
miserable economies of clothing; the rude arts by 
which they fashioned plates from shells, and cooking 
utensils from the clay they found in sinking their 
well ; the vats they made to evaporate the sea-water 
for its salt : all these things seemed the well-worn 
properties and stock experiences of the castaways of 
fiction; he himself the figment of some romancer's 
brain, with which the author was toying for the 



422 A woman's reason. 

purposes of his plot, to be duly rescued and restored 
to the world when it should serve the exigency of 
the tale. Once when this notion was whimsically 
repeating itself to Fenton in the silence and solitude, 
it brought a smile to his haggard face, and when 
Giffen asked him what the matter was, he told him. 
" No," said Giffen, "it ain't much like us." 
That two modern men should be lost out of a 
world so knit together with telegraphs and railroads 
and steamships, that it seemed as if a whisper at any 
point must be audible at all others, was too grotesque 
a fact, too improbable for acceptance. It was not 
like them, and it was not like any one he could 
think of, and when he tried to imagine some con- 
temporary and acquaintance in his case, it became 
even more impossible than when he supposed it of 
himself. 

There were ironical moods in which he amused 
himself with the carefully ascertained science of the 
story-tellers as he recalled it, and in which he had a 
fantastic interest in noting how near and yet how far 
from the truth their study came. But there were 
other times when the dreary sense of the hackneyed 
character of the situation overpowered him, and he 
dropped his work and lay with his face in the sand, 
helpless and hopeless for hours, sick of the re- 
petition of such stale inventions. There was no 
greater reality in it all, when he recalled the narra- 
tives of men actually cast away on desert islands, 
though there were moments when the sum of what 
they had suffered seemed to accumulate itself upon 



A woman's reason. 423 

his soul, and his heart and hand were heavy with 
their sorrows. 

Yet in spite of all, the simple and wholesome con- 
ditions of his life were restoring him to physical 
health, which reacted upon his mind at last ; and one 
morning he woke with a formless, joyful expectation 
that was like a hope. It was merely the habit of 
hope, reviving from a worn-out despair, but he sprang 
to his feet with a buoyancy of soul that he had not 
known since the storm first began to close round the 
Meteor. 

Hitherto, the thought of Helen had been fruitless 
torment, which he banished when he could, but now, 
all at once, he found it an inspiration and an incen- 
tive ; he thought of her gladly ; she seemed to call 
him. 

He left Giffen to kindle the fire for their breakfast, 
and ran down to the lagoon for a morning bath. 
The sun shone on a long black object that stretched 
across the main channel from the sea, and swimming 
out to it, he found it the trunk of a tree which had 
drifted to their island. With Giffen's help he got 
it inside of the reef, and floated it to their beach, 
and he could not rest till they had dragged it up 
out of the water. It was a message from the world 
they had lost, and the promise of rescue and return 
to it. At the bottom of his heart he knew that it 
might have drifted a thousand miles before it reached 
them, but it was as easy to believe that it came from 
land within a day's sail ; it was of a timber unknown 
to the atolls ; the pebbles that it held in the net- 



424 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

work of its roots were from shores where there were 
hills and rivers, from peopled shores that they might 
reach if they had any craft in which they could 
venture to sea. 

Giffen walked up and down beside the log, and 
examined it critically, stooping aside, and glancing at 
it as if to make sure of its soundness in every part. 

" Well?" demanded Fenton. 

" Chop it along the top, and shape it up at the ends, 
and dig it out ; and maybe we can fix some sort of 
outrigger to it, like they use on their canoes around 
here. I've seen pictures of 'em." 

He made the suggestion with melancholy diffidence 
but Fenton caught at it eagerly. The wood was very 
hard, and it cost them weeks of labour, with the 
tools they had, before they were ready to launch their 
canoe upon the lagoon. But even in those placid 
waters, it proved hopelessly unseaworthy. Some 
fatal defect of construction, which their skill could 
not remedy, disabled it, and it capsized with Giffen, 
v/ho was caught in the outrigger, and with difficulty 
saved from drowning by Fenton. 

" Well, sir," he said, as he walked dripping to their 
hut, " we've got a lot of good firewood in that thing. 
I believe if you hadn't had me around, you could have 
made it go." 

But the idea of escape had taken full possession of 
Fenton's mind, and the failure of the canoe turned it 
all upon another scheme which had begun to haunt 
it. They had kept a fire burning night and day ever 
since they had landed on the island, to attract the 



A woman's reason. 425 

notice of any ship that came in sight; but now 
Fenton determined to build a tower on the highest 
point, and light a beacon on it, so that no lookout on 
those seas could fail of the smoke by day or the 
flame by night." 

"All right," assented Giffen, "it will kind of 
occupy our minds any way." 

" Don't say that !" cried Fenton, with a pang. 

"Well, I won't," returned GifFen penitently. 

The tower was to be not only a beacon for friendly 
sail, but a refuge from wandering savages who 
caught sight of it. They must make it the centre 
of defences to which they could resort if they were 
attacked, and which they could hold against any 
such force as would probably land on their atoll. 

Fenton drew a plan, and by nightfall they had dug 
the foundations of their fortress. They burnt some 
of the coral blocks, which they brought from the 
reef, for lime, and laid their walls strongly in 
mortar. 

The days passed, and as they toiled together, Fen- 
ton had at last the heart to talk to his fellow-castaway 
of the world to which they were preparing to return. 
He found that to speak of his affairs in that world made 
it not only credible again, but brought it very near. 
He told Giffen that he was going to be married as 
soon as he got back to Boston, and that he was going 
to leave the navy, and try to get into some sort of 
business ashore. He described Helen to his comrade, 
and what she wore when he saw her last ; and then 
he added, that she must be in black now, for she 



426 A woman's reason. 

had lost her father, who died very suddenly a few 
days after he sailed. 

" I behaved badly," he added, with the feeling 
that always struggled for utterance when he thought 
of this, and which it was a relief to speak out now. 
" We had a misunderstanding, and I came off with- 
out saying good-bye to him." 

" That was pretty rough," said Giffen. "But you 
can make it all right when you get back." 

"Oh, it's all right now with her," rejoined Fenton 
quickly. 

"And with him too, I reckon," suggested his 
comrade. 

" Yes, it must be," sighed Fenton. If the situation 
was in anywise incomprehensible to Giffen, he did not 
try to explore it. He remained deferentially content 
with what Fenton had volunteered, and he was 
sympathetically patient when Fenton tried to make 
him understand where Mr. Harkness's house was, by 
a plan of the Common, which he drew on a smooth 
surface of the plastered wall, with Park Street running 
up one side, and Beacon Street along the other, and 
Beacon Steps ascending from it into the quiet Place, 
where the house stood. He made a plot of the house, 
up-stairs and down, with the different rooms marked 
off : Helen's room at the front, Mr. Harkness's 
room; the room that he used to have when he 
came home from school; the parlours, and the 
library. He lingered fondly on the details; and 
then he mapped the whole town for Giffen, ac- 
curately placing the principal streets and squares and 



A woman's reason. 427 

public buildings. He marked the lines of railroad 
running out of the city, and the different depots. 
"This," he said, placing the Albany Station, "is 
where you would have to start for Kankakee. It 's 
a little south of Chicago, isn't it 1 on one of the 
lines from Chicago to St. Louis ? There 's a Kanka- 
kee line, isn't there 1" He laughed for joy in the 
assent which seemed to confirm the existence of the 
places ; the sound of the names alone re-established 
them. At times he stealthily glanced from this work 
at the rim of the sea, where, as he had been silently 
making-believe while he talked, there must be a sail. 
But he bore the inevitable disappointment patiently, 
and returned enthusiastically to his map ; he pro- 
jected another map in sections, on a larger scale, 
where the details could be more fully given. 

Giffen did not speak much of his own life ; it was 
nothing worth speaking of, he said ; but sometimes 
at night he would drop a hint or scrap of his history 
from which Fenton could infer what remained un- 
spoken. It was the career of a feeble nature, con- 
stantly pushed to the wall in the struggle of a 
new country. All his life, Giffen had failed; he 
had always had bad crops, bad partners, bad luck, 
hard times ; if he went away from home to better 
his condition, he made it worse ; when he came 
back he found that he would have done better 
to stay away. He bought on a rising market, and 
sold with the first fall in prices. When a crash 
came, it found him extended ; the return of prosperity 
overtook him without money or credit. He had 



428 A woman's reason. 

tried all sorts of things with equal disaster : he had 
farmed, he had kept store, he had run a sawmill, 
he had been a book-agent, and agent for many patent 
rights. In any other country he would have remained 
quietly in some condition of humble dependence ; 
but the unrest of the new world had infected him ; 
he had spent his life in vain experiments, and his 
last venture had been the most ruinous of all. He 
had sold everything to get the means of going to 
China, and when the common calamity, that could 
scarcely be said to have blasted any hopes of his, 
overtook him, he was coming home little better than 
a beggar. 

Even in that solitude he made Fenton his ideal, 
with the necessity that is in such natures to form 
themselves upon some other, and appreciated his 
confidence and friendship as gratefully as if they 
had been offered in the midst of men where he must 
have been chosen out of a multitude for Fenton's 
kindness. On his part, Fenton learned to admire 
the fineness of spirit which survived all circumstance 
in this poor fellow ; and when his hopes were highest, 
he formed plans of doing something for Giffen in 
the world. 

When they had finished their tower, and removed 
into it, he bade him make one more errand to the 
hut they had abandoned, and get fire to light the 
beacon. 

Giffen refused. " No, sir ; better not have any of 
my luck about it." 

But he was off, early in the day that followed, to 



A woman's reason. 429 

cut wood for their beacon ; and it was he who dis- 
covered that they could make the densest smoke by 
day in drying the fuel for the flame by night. 

" Don't you think we ought to do something with 
that canoe again V' he asked one day. 

"No, not yet," answered Fenton. "There'll 
be time enough for that if the beacon doesn't suc- 
ceed. But it will succeed." He formlessly felt the 
need of economising all the materials of hope within 
him. If he turned so soon from the beacon to some 
other device for escape, he knew that he must lose 
his faith in it, and he could not bear the thought of 
this loss. He was passionately devoting himself to 
the belief that it must bring a ship to their rescue. 
He divided the day and night into regular watches, 
and whenever he came to relieve GifFen, he questioned 
him closely as to every appearance of the sea ; when 
he lay down to sleep he hastened to take upon him- 
self the burden of disappointment with which he 
must wake, by saying to himself, " I know that he 
will not see anything." He contrived to postpone 
the anguish of his monotonous failure to conjure 
any sail out of the empty air by saying, as each 
week began, that now they must not expect to see 
anything for at least three days, or five days, or 
ten days to come. He invented reasons for these re- 
peated procrastinations, but he was angry with GifFen 
for acquiescing in them ; he tried to drive him into 
some question of them, by making them fantastic, 
and he was childishly happy when GifFen disputed 
them. Then he urged other and better reasons : if 



430 A woman's reason. 

it were fine, he said that nothing but stress of 
weather would bring them a ship, and that they 
could only hope for some vessel blown out of her 
course, like the Meteor ; when it was stormy, he 
argued that any vessel sighting their beacon would 
keep away from it till the storm was past, but would 
be sure to come back then, and see what their fire 
meant. 

"Yes," said Giffen, "but if we are going to keep 
that fire up at the rate we have for the last three 
months, we must begin to cut our cocoa palms." 

"It isn't three months ! " cried Fenton. 

Giffen proved the fact by the reckoning he had 
kept on a block of coral in the tower : the tale of 
little straight marks, one for each day, was irrefutable. 

"Why did you keep that count?" cried Fenton 
desperately. " Let the time go, I say, and the 
quicker it goes, and the sooner we are both dead, the 
better ! Put out the fire ; it 's no use." 

He left Giffen in the tower, and wandered away, 
as far away as the narrow bounds of his prison 
would permit. He stopped at a remote point of the 
island, which he had not visited since the first day 
when he had hastened to explore the atoll. The 
hoarse roaring of the. surf, that beat incessantly upon 
the reef, filled the air j the sea was purple all round 
the horizon, and the sky blue above it ; flights of tern 
and petrel wheeled and shrieked overhead : the sun 
shone, tempered by the delicate gale, and all things 
were as they had been half a year ago, as they must 
be half a year hence, and for ever. In a freak of the 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 431 

idle curiosity that sometimes plays on the surface of 
our deepest and blackest moods, he descended the 
low plateau to look at a smoother and darker rock 
which showed itself at the point where the reef 
began to break away from the white sand. A growth 
of soft sea-mosses clothed the rock, and it had a 
fantastic likeness to a boat in shape. The mosses 
waved back and forth in the water ; the rock itself 
appeared to move, and Fenton fell upon it, and 
clutched it, as if it had been some living thing 
struggling to escape him. He pulled it up on the 
sand, and then he sank down beside it, too weak to 
stir, too weak to cry out ; the tears ran down his 
face, like the tears of a sick man's feebleness. 

Giffen found him beside the boat, which they 
righted together without a word. 

" Well, sir," he said at last, " I 'm glad you found 
her." He went carefully over the places where it 
had been patched, with a solemn and critical 
scrutiny. " That 's our boat," he added. 

" Yes, I thought so," assented Fenton. 

" And those fellows " 

Neither of them put into words his conjecture as 
to the fate of the men who had abandoned them : 
they accepted in silent awe the chance of escape 
which this fate, whatever it was, had given them; 
but late that night, when they lay hopefully sleepless 
in their tower, Giffen said, " I don't know as they 
meant to leave us for good. I reckon, if they 'd got 
through all right, they 'd have come back for us." 

" Yes, we must believe that," replied Fenton. 



432 A woman's reason. 

How the boat had reached their atoll, and when, 
remained the secret of the power that had given it 
back to them. It was enough for them that the little 
craft was not beyond repair; it was thoroughly water- 
logged, and it must be some time before they could 
begin work upon it; but they spent this time in 
preparing material, and gathering provision for their 
voyage. They stocked it with nuts, and dried and 
salted fish sufficient to last them for six weeks ; they 
filled Giffen's crop of gourds with water. "More of 
a tank than cucumbers or musk-melons would have 
been, after all ; and better than cocoa-nuts," he 
quietly remarked. They were of one mind, what- 
ever happened, never to return to their atoll ; they 
had no other definite purpose ; but they talked now 
as if their escape were certain. 

" It stands to reason," said GifFen, "that it's meant 
for us to get back, or else this boat wouldn't have 
been sent for us;" and he began to plan a life as 
remote from the sea as he could make it. "When 
I put my foot on shore, I ain't going to stop walking 
till I get where salt water is worth six dollars a 
quart; yes, sir, I'm going to start with an oar on 
my shoulder ; and when some fellow asks me what 
that thing is, I 'm going to rest, and not before ! " 

They built a fire on the tower that would last all day 
and night, and then they set sail out of the lagoon, 
and through the breakers beyond the reef. The 
breeze was very light, but the sky was clear, with 
the promise of indefinite good weather ; and before 
nightfall they saw the plumes of their palms form 



a woman's reason. 433 

themselves into the tufts into which they had grown 
from the points they had first discovered on the 
horizon; they became points again, and the night 
softly blotted them from the verge of the ocean. 

They had neither compass nor sextant ; under 
strange stars and alien constellations they were 
wandering as absolutely at the will of the winds and 
waves as any savages of those se'as. For a while 
they saw the light of their beacon duller and paler 
on the waters where their island had been. This, 
too, died away, and the night fell round them on the 
illimitable sea. 

Fenton stood the first watch, and when he gave 
the helm to Giffen, he simply bade him keep the 
boat before the wind. In the morning, when he 
took it, he asked if the wind had shifted or freshened, 
and still kept the boat before it. Toward sunset they 
sighted a series of points on the horizon, which, 
as they approached, expanded into the plumage of 
palms ; the long white beach of an atoll grew from 
the water, and they heard faintly the thunder of the 
surf along the reef. It looked larger than their 
own island, and they scanned it anxiously for some 
sign of human life. But there were no huts under 
the palms, and no smoke rose above their fronds. 

The breeze carried their boat toward the shore, 
and Fenton decided to pass the night on the atoll. 
If it were, as it looked, larger than the atoll they 
had abandoned, it must be known to navigation, and 
sooner or later it might be visited by ships for water; 
or the beche-de-mer, which abounds in the larger 

2 E 



434 a woman's reason. 

reefs, might bring American traders for a freight 
of the fish for China. They might find traces of 
European sojourn on the island, and perhaps some 
hint by which they could profit when they set sail 
again. 

In the failing light, they stove their boat on the 
reef, but the breaker that drove them upon it carried 
them beyond, ana 1 once in the smooth lagoon, they 
managed to reach the shore before the boat filled. 
They pulled her up on the sand, and climbed to the 
top of the low plateau on which the palms grew; 
but it was now so dark that they could see nothing, 
and they waited for the morning to show them the 
familiar paths and trees of their own atoll, and their 
tower gleaming white through the foliage in the dis- 
tance. They walked slowly towards it in silence, 
and when Giffen reached it, he busied himself in 
searching the ashes of the beacon for some spark of 
fire. He soon had a blaze ; he brought water from 
the well, and boiled the eggs of the sea-birds, which 
he gathered from their nests in the sedge. He broke 
some young cocoa-nuts, and poured the milk into 
the shells they had made for drinking-cups, and then 
he approached Fenton, where he sat motionless and 
vacant-eyed, and begged him to eat, humbly, as if he 
expected some outbreak from him. 

" No," said Fenton quite gently. " But you eat. 
I'm not hungry." 

" I reckon," said Giffen piteously, " the wind must 
have changed in the night without my knowing it, 
and brought us right back." 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 435 

" Very likely," answered Fenton. " But it makes 
no difference. It was to be, any way." 

He hardly knew how the days began to pass 
again; he no longer thought of escape; but a 
longing to leave some record of himself in this 
prison, since he was doomed never to quit it, grew 
up in his heart, and he wrote on the walls of his 
tower a letter to Helen, which he conjured the 
reader, at whatever time he came, to transcribe and 
send to her. He narrated the facts of his ship- 
wreck, and the barren history of his sojourn on the 
island, his attempt to escape, and his return to it. 
He tenderly absolved her from all ties and promises, 
and prayed for her happiness in whatever sort she 
could find it. In this surrender he felt the pang 
which the dead may be supposed to know, when the 
soul passes into the exile of eternity, and sees those 
it leaves behind inevitably committed to other affec- 
tions and other cares. Sometimes it seemed to him. 
as if he might really be dead, and all his experience 
of the past year a nightmare of the everlasting 
sleep. 

The tern that were nesting on the atoll when he 
first landed, and that visited it every six months to 
rear their young, were now a third time laying their 
eggs in the tufts of coarse thin grass. He thought 
these visits of the birds were annual, and there was 
nothing in the climate to correct his error, or group 
in fixed periods the lapse of his monotonous days. 
There was at times more rain, and again less rain ; but 
the change scarcely divided the year into seasons ; 



436 a woman's reason. 

flower and fruit were there at all times, and spring, 
summer, autumn, and winter, with their distinct 
variety, were ideas as alien as hills, and valleys, and 
streams, in this little land, raised for the most part 
scarcely a man's height above the sea, where there could 
never even be the names of these things in any native 
tongue. Once or twice the atoll felt the tremor of 
an earthquake, that perhaps shook continental shores, 
or perhaps only sent its vibrations along the ocean 
floor, and lifted, or let fall beneath the waves, some 
tiny point of land like their own ; and once there had 
fallen a shower of ashes from the clear sky, which 
must have been carried by a wind-current from some 
far-off volcano. This, with the log that had drifted 
to their reef, was their sole message from beyond the 
wilderness that weltered around them from horizon 
to horizon, and knew no change but from calm to 
storm, and then to calm again. The weather was 
nearly always fair, with light winds or none; and 
often they saw an approaching cloud divide be- 
fore it reached their atoll and pass on either hand, 
leaving it serenely safe between the two paths of 
the tempest. At last, how long after their return 
Fenton could not tell, in his indifference to the 
passage of the weeks and days, a change came over 
the sky different from any that had portended other 
storms, and before night a hurricane broke from it 
that heaped the sea around their island, and drove it 
across the lagoon and high over the plateau. For 
two days and nights it beat against the walls of their 
tower ; then the waters went down, and the ravaged 



a woman's reason. 437 

atoll rose from the sea again. But when Fenton 
clambered to the top of the tower, and looked out, he 
saw that it could no longer be a refuge to them. 
The trees of the cocoa groves were blown down and 
flung hither and thither ; their tops were twisted off 
and tossed into the lagoon ; their trunks lay tangled 
and intertwisted, as if they had been straws in the 
frolic of a whirlwind. The smooth beach of the 
lagoon was strewn with fragments of coral, torn from 
the reef and tossed upon it ; the grassy level where 
the sea-birds nested was scattered with their dead 
bodies, caught among the coarse herbage and beaten 
into the white sand. 

He left Giffen cowering within, and ran down 
from the tower to look for the boat. He found it 
lodged in a heap of cocoa fronds, and wedged fast 
among some blocks of coral; and he hurried back 
with his good news. He met GifFen at the door. 
"All right," he said to the anxious face. "The boat 
is safe, and we must get her afloat. You see we can't 
stay here." 

"No," said Giffen, "we can't stay." He looked 
drearily out over the wreck of their fairy isle, and 
then with a sigh he turned into the tower again, 
and crouched down in the corner where Fenton had 
left him. 

"What's the matter? Are you sick, Giffen?" 
demanded Fenton. 

Giffen did not answer, but rose with a stupid air, 
and came out into the sun. He shivered, but 
gathered himself together, and in a dull mechanical 



438 a woman's reason. 

way set about his usual work of getting breakfast. 
He ate little, but when Fenton had finished, he went 
with him, and helped him to cut the boat free. It 
was hard getting it out of the mass of rocks and 
boughs, and it was noon before they had dragged 
her back from the point where the sea had carried her 
to a free space where they could begin to repair her. 

At the end of a week they had her afloat in the 
lagoon once more, and provisioned from the stores 
accumulated in the tower. 

The morning when they were to set sail, Giffen 
could not rise from his bed of grass. " I can't go," 
he said ; " I 'm sick." 

Fenton had seen that he was ailing with a fear 
from which he revolted in a frenzy of impatient exer- 
tion. If they were but once at sea again, he had 
crazily reasoned with himself, then they could not 
help themselves, and, sick or well, they must make 
the best of it. This illusion failed him now, and he 
abandoned himself to a cynical scorn of all that had 
hitherto supported and consoled him. Every act of 
self-sacrifice, every generous impulse, seemed to him 
the part of a fool or a madman. Till now he had 
thought that he had somehow endured and dared all 
things for Helen's sake, that anything less than he 
had done would have been unworthy of her; but 
now the devil that was uppermost in him mocked 
him with the suggestion that the best he could ever 
have done for her was to live for her, and do his 
utmost to return to her. As he stood looking at the 
face of the poor wretch who had twice betrayed him 
to despair, and who, at last, in this supreme moment, 



a woman's reason. 439 

had fallen helpless across the only avenue of escape 
that remained to him, he trembled with a strong temp- 
tation. He turned away, and went down to the lagoon- 
beach, where the boat swung at anchor, and the sail, 
on which he had worked late the night before, lay 
on the sand, ready to be stepped. The boat lightly 
pulled at its moorings on the falling tide, and he felt 
the strain as if it had been anchored in his heart. 
He drew it to the shore ; he stepped the mast, and 
ran up the sail, which filled and tugged in the 
morning breeze. He dropped it again, and went 
back to Giffen. 

As the days passed, he watched with the sick man, 
and brought him the water he craved, and the food 
he loathed ; there was nothing else to be done. One 
night Giffen roused himself from the torpor in which 
he remained sunken, for the most part, and asked : 
" Did you ever hear that people were not afraid to 
die when they came to if?" 

" I 've heard that yes," said Fenton. 

" I just happened to think of it ; because this is the 
first time, since I can remember, that I wasn't afraid. 
I was awfully afraid to stay with you on that rock 
when the captain's boat went away ; but I ain't sorry 
for it now. No, sir, you 've behaved to me like a 
white man from the start ; and now, I '11 tell you 
what I want you to do. I 'm all right here, or I 
will be, pretty soon, I reckon and I don't want you 
to lose any more time. The boat 's ready, and now 's 
your last chance. Don't you mind me ; I' d only 
bring you bad luck, any way. If you find land, or 
a ship picks you up, you can come back and see how 
I 'm getting along." 



440 A WOMAN'S REASON. 

What had been Fenton's temptation became the 
burden of the sick man's delirium, and he frantically- 
urged him to go while there was still time. He 
seemed to wear this notion out through mere iter- 
ation ; and at last, when he awoke one day, " I 
dreamt," he said, "that there was a ship!" That 
night, sleeping or waking, he raved of a ship that 
had come to take them away. The third morning 
after, he opened his eyes, and looked into his com- 
rade's face with ominous recovery of intelligence. 
" Has it come V he asked eagerly. " The ship V 

"No, you dreamed it, Giffen," returned Fenton, 
with a tender compassion unalloyed by self-pity. 

" My luck," said Giffen. He gasped, and made a 
mechanical effort to rise. He gave a sort of cry, 
and fixed a stare of wild demand on Fenton, who 
caught him in his arms. 

Fenton covered up the dead face with a branch of 
palm, and walked giddily out into the sun. It was 
rising a red, rayless ball, and against this disk the 
figure of a ship seemed printed. He passed his hand 
over his eyes, but when he took it away, the spectre 
remained. He thought he saw a boat lying at the 
lagoon-beach, and her crew advancing up the sand 
toward him, men with friendly, home-like faces. 
They wavered and glided in the vision his watch- 
worn eyes reported to his reeling brain. 

Then one of them called out to the strange figure, 
with matted hair, and long beard, and haggard eyes, 
that had stopped as if with the impulse to turn and 
fly," Hallo ! ' 



A woman's reason. 441 

A shudder went through Fenton as he stayed him- 
self, and faced the men again. He could not speak, 
but the men waited. At last, " For God's sake," he 
gasped, "are you something in a dream V 

" No," replied the leader with slow gentleness, as 
if giving the idea consideration. " We 're a boat's 
crew from the whale-ship Martha Brigham of New 
Bedford, come ashore to see what that smoke means. 
Who are you 1" 



XXI. 

"I WISH to speak with you, Marian instantly !" 
cried Helen, re-appearing at the Butlers'. Marian 
was alone in her room ; Mrs. Butler was lying down, 
and the younger sisters were on the rocks by the 
sea, looking across the cove to the rocks on the 
Wilson place, as if they might hope to rend from 
them the secret of what had happened when Helen 
and Lord Rainford met in the Wilson cottage. With 
the inhumanity of their youth and inexperience they 
thought it very funny, and they had come away 
where they could enjoy this sense of it, apart from 
those to whom it seemed a serious affair. 

It had become so serious to Marian, that she 
quaked in rising to meet Helen, as if she had been 
rising to meet Helen's ghost, and she no more 
thought of asking her to sit down than of offering a 
chair to an apparition. 

" I didn't know he was to be there, Helen, indeed 
I didn't," she made out to say, after the moment in 
which she had remained fascinated by the intensity 
of the girl's face. 

" Oh, it 's long past, that !" cried Helen. " What 
I wish you to tell me is simply this, Marian Ray : Is 
your husband part of your whole life, and was he 
from the very first instant V 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 443 

"From the very first instant?" 

" That you were married so that you couldn't 
think, couldn't consider whether you cared for him 
loved him?" 

" Of course ! It was all settled long before. 
Did" 

" I knew it ! And if it isn't settled before, it 's no 
time afterwards?" 

" What an idea ! What do you mean, Helen ?" 

" And it 's all false about girls that marry a man 
because they respect and honour him, and then have 
a romantic time finding out that they love him 1 " 

" What nonsense ! It 's the most ridiculous thing 
in the world ! But " 

" I was sure of it! If there 's anything sacred about 
marrying, it 's the love that makes it so ; and they 
might as well marry for money or position ! " She hid 
her face in her hands, and then burst out again : " But 
I will never have such a hideous thing on my con- 
science such a ghastly wrong to him / He said 
himself that if I wasn't sure that I cared for Robert, 
it would have been unjust to marry him ; and now 
how is it better with him t It 's worse ! He said 
it to comfort me, and it seems monstrous to turn his 
words against him ; but if the truth kills him he had 
better die ! Yes, a thousand times ! And don't 
suppose I didn't see all the advantages of accepting 
him that you did ; and that I wasn't tempted to 
persuade myself that I slwuld care for him. I only 
blush and burn to think that I saw them, and that 
I 've come away, even now, without crushing every 
spark of hope out of him ! I do respect and honour 
him yes, he is high-minded and good every way; but 



444 A woman's reason. 

if I don't love him, his being so good is all the more 
reason why I shouldn't marry him. Hush ! Don't 
say a word, Marian !" she cried, hastening to spoil 
her point, as women will, with hysterical insistence. 
" That dreadful old man who bought our house came, 
while you were gone, and offered himself to me one 
day : it makes me creep ! How would it be any 
better to marry Lord Rainford, if I didn't love him, 
than to marry Mr. Everton ? " 

She did not wait for the indignant protest that 
was struggling through Marian's bewilderment at 
this extraordinary revelation and assumption. "I 
shall always say that you meant the kindest and 
best ; but if you try to argue with me now, I shall 
never forgive you ! Good-bye, dear !" She flew at 
her friend, and catching her round the neck, convul- 
sively kissed her, and ran out of the house, without 
seeing any one else. " To the station," she gasped, 
climbing into the Wilson phaeton. "And, do 
hurry, please ! " 

Mrs. Butler came into Marian's room as soon as 
Helen had driven away. " Well V she said. 

" Oh, she's refused him, or just the same thing ! 
How shall we meet him 1 What shall we do V 

" I'm not concerned about that. What will she 
do, poor thing? That's what wrings my heart. 
She has thrown away the greatest chance that a 
girl ever did : wealth, position, devoted goodness, 
the truest and noblest heart! Marian!" cried 
Mrs. Butler, abandoning herself for a moment to 
her compassionate impatience, " why did she do 
it?" 

"She said she didn't love him," answered 



a woman's reason. 445 

Marian shortly, with a cast of contempt in the 
shortness. 

" Well, well," said Mrs. Butler, with resignation. 
She had found, as every woman must, who lives to 
her age, that life has so many great interests besides 
love, that for the time she was confused as to the 
justice of its paramount claim in a question of mar- 
riage. 

In fact, Helen found her champions in two men. 
When Mrs. Butler stated the case to the Captain, 
he promptly approved of Helen's decision. 

Mrs. Butler stood surprised. " Why, do you think 
that people ought to marry from a fancy?" she 
asked. 

" I hope my girls will never marry without it," 
said the Captain. 

Marion reported the result to Ray, with a vexation 
at Helen's ridiculous behaviour, which he allowed 
her to vent freely before he answered her a word, 
chewing the end of his cigarette, as they walked to 
the house together from the beach, where she found 
him pulling his dory up on the sand. " It 's not 
only that she 's thrown away such a splendid chance, 
but she 's thrown it away for the mere memory of a 
man who couldn't compare with Lord Rainford in 
any way even if he were alive. And when Robert 
Fenton was alive, she wasn't certain, till it was too 
late, that she cared for him ; and kept him waiting 
for years and years, till she could make up her mind, 
and had to quarrel with him then before she was 
sure of it. And now for her to pretend that she 
never . can care for any one else, and that she can't 
marry Lord Rainford because she doesn't love him 



446 A woman's reason. 

as if she were a girl of seventeen, instead of twenty- 
five ! Oh ! I Ve no patience with her ! " 

Ray said nothing for a moment. Then, " There 's 
some difference between not being sure you do, and 
being sure you don't," he remarked quietly, " and 
the difference doesn't seem to be in Rainford's 
favour." After a moment, he asked, without look- 
ing at her, " What did you marry me for ? " 

" What nonsense ! You know ! " 

"Yes, I always thought it was for love. How 
would you like to have me think it wasn't I" 

" Don't be absurd !" cried his wife. But his 
words went deep, and at the bottom of her heart she 
felt in them a promise of the perpetual reconsecra- 
tion of their marriage. 

A story was at one time current (and still has its 
adherents among those who knew vaguely something 
of Helen's romance) to the effect that Fenton returned 
at a moment when his presence seemed a miracle 
opportunely wrought to save her from further 
struggle, and to reward her for all her suffering and 
self-sacrifice in the past. It fixed with much accu- 
racy of date and circumstance the details of their 
dramatic meeting at the little house in the Port, 
where she found him waiting for her one hot, dusty 
afternoon in the summer, when she came back, 
broken in health and spirit, from a visit with some 
friends at the sea-side. If the story had been true, 
it would have brought them together the very day 
Helen refused Lord Rainford. 

But, as a matter of fact, she went back to her work 
of making bonnets for cooks and second-girls in 



a woman's reason. 447 

Margaret's cottage on Limekiln Avenue, under con- 
ditions that would have caused an intelligent witness 
of it to wonder whether she were not expiating an 
error rather than enjoying the recompense of devotion 
to a high ideal. The rewards of principle are often 
scarcely distinguishable from penalties, and the 
spectator is confounded between question of the 
martyr's wisdom and a dark doubt of the value of 
living out any real conviction in a world so badly 
constituted as this. Helen, however, was harassed 
by neither of these misgivings. She never regretted 
her refusal of Lord Rainford, except for the pain it 
inflicted ; she never blamed herself for anything but 
the hesitation in which she was tempted to accept 
him without loving him. Her sense of self-ap- 
proval grew only the stronger and clearer with 
the trials which gathered upon her in what might 
have seemed to others a sort of malign derision. 
Her custom fell off, and the patrons who remained 
to her grew inevitably more and more into an odious 
mastery; their exactions increased as her health 
failed, and she could not always keep her promises 
to them ; they complained that other people's bon- 
nets were better made, and " more in the style." 

One night she overheard through the thin parti- 
tion that separated her chamber from Margaret's a 
tipsy threat from Margaret's husband that he was 
going to be master in his own house ; and that he 
was going to turn that girl and her bonnets into the 
street. He went off to his work in the morning, 
sullen and lowering, and she and Margaret could 
not look at each other. She fled to Boston for the 
day, which she passed in incoherent terror at Clara 



448 A woman's reason. 

Kingsbury's ; when she turned from this misery the 
next morning and ventured back to Margaret's, an 
explosion at the glass-works, so opportune that it 
seemed to her for a black instant as if she were 
guilty of the calamity through which she escaped, 
had freed her from all she had to dread from Mar- 
garet's husband. 

But quite the same end of her experiment had 
come. Margaret could not live upon the littie 
sum that Helen paid her for board ; in spite of her 
impassioned devotion to her darling, and her good 
intention (witnessed again and again to all the 
saints), she was forced to break up her little 
establishment and find a servant's place ; and Helen 
did not know where else to go. 

In her extremity she appealed, of course, neither 
to the Butlers nor to Clara Kingsbury, but to Cor- 
nelia Koot, and this proved to be the most fortunate 
as well as the most natural course. Zenas Pearson 
had just moved his photographic establishment up 
from Hanover Street to the fashionable quarter of the 
town, and had applied to Cornelia for some pretty- 
appearing, respectable girl, to stay in the front room 
and receive people, and show them the different 
styles of photographs, and help them to decide in 
what shape and size they would be taken. There 
was nothing mean about Zenas Pearson, and he was 
willing, he told Cornelia, to pay the right girl ten 
dollars a week as a start-off, and to put it up to 
twelve within the year if she behaved herself, and 
showed any sconce for the business. 

Cornelia trembled with excitement and eagerness 
in laying the proposition before a person so perfectly 



A woman's reason. 449' 

adapted to the place in every respect as Helen, and 
they did not lose an instant in going to Zenas and 
closing with him. Did she want to come right 
off? he asked Helen, and at a little hesitation on her 
part he looked more closely at her worn face and 
said, " Well, take a week to recuperate, and come 
the 20th. I don't know as I '11 be ready for you 
much before that time, any way." 

She spent the week with the Butlers, who were 
now too well used to her eccentricity to attempt any 
protest against this new phase of it. They had all 
reconciled themselves to her refusal of Lord Bain- 
ford ; even Marian Bay had accepted the inevitable, 
and she and Helen had a long quiet talk about the 
matter, in which they fully made up what had 
almost been a quarrel between them about it, and 
Marian told her the latest news of him, and how 
splendidly he had behaved about her, justifying 
and applauding her with a manly self-abnegation 
which permitted no question of her conduct through- 
out. 

* Yes, he is very generous," said Helen, with a 
sigh ; and something happened that day which made 
her feel that the word was hardly adequate. She 
had gone with Marian, who wished to give some 
instructions about a picture she was having framed, 
to the shop where Helen had her memorable meet- 
ing with Lord Bainford ; and when the business 
was finished the proprietor said with a certain hesi- 
tation : " Miss Harkness, you remember being in 
our place about a year ago with an English gentle- 
man who was looking at some imitation limoges 
in the window 1 " 

2 F 



450 a woman's reason. 

Helen looked an amazed, and perhaps alarmed, 
assent. 

" He came back and bought them after you went 
away, and said he would send his address ; but 
we've never heard of him from that day to this, 
and we don't want his jars and his money. I 
thought perhaps you could tell me who he was." 

" Yes," said Helen, " it was Lord Kainford. But 
he 's in England now." 

" Oh ! " said the proprietor. And as she said 
nothing more, he presently bowed himself apolo- 
getically away. 

" Why didn't you let me give his address 1 M 
asked Marian, who had been checked in a wish to 
do so by a glance from Helen. 

" I don't believe he ever intended to take them 
away ; he thought they were hideous," Helen an- 
swered. She added presently, " He must have gone 
back to buy them because I said that the poor 
wretch who painted them was to be pitied ! " 

Marian had now been at home more than six 
months, and her Anglo-mania had in some degree 
abated. She no longer expected to establish an 
hereditary aristocracy and a State Church among 
us, whatever she secretly wished to do. She had 
grown resigned to the anomalies of our civilisation 
in some degree. She had rediscovered certain traits 
of it that compared favourably even with those of 
England ; but she cherished a conviction that an 
English noble was the finest gentleman in the world ; 
that her own husband was still finer was a mystery 
of faith, easily tenable, though not susceptible of 
exegesis. 



A woman's reason. 451 

She now preserved the silence of one whose point 
has been sufficiently made for her, and left Helen to 
recognise it. Helen was not reluctant to do so. 
" Yes, Marian," she said fervently, " considering 
what had just happened, that was very magnani- 
mous in him. It was exquisite ! " 

" Oh, it was merely what he owed to himself as a 
gentleman," said Marian, with well-concealed triumph. 

It seemed to be a day of trial for Helen. A 
gaunt, shabby man, coming down the pavement 
towards them, lifted his hand half-way to his hat 
at sight of her, and then, as if seeing himself 
unrecognised, dropped it to his side again, and 
slunk by. Helen turned and stopped him. " Mr. 
Kimball ! Is that you !* 

" Yes, what there is left," answered Kimball, with 
a ghost of his old quizzical smile, and the spectre 
of his municipal, office -holding patronage of manner, 
as he took Helen's extended hand. 

Why why what 's the matter V 1 

" Well, I 've been sick for a spell back. Just 
got to knocking round again," said Kimball eva- 
sively. " You don't look over and above well your- 
self, Miss Harkness." 

" No, no, I 'm rwt well. But I 'm better now. 
Are you " She stopped, with her eyes upon his 
conspicuous shabbiness, and, through an irresistible 
association of ideas, she added "Mr. Kimball, I 
hope you got the money that I returned to you 
safely V 

Kimball hung his head, and kicked the pave- 
ment with his toe. "Well, no," he answered re- 
luctantly, " I didn't." 



452 a woman's reason. 

" You didn't get it \" 

" It 's all right. I told my wife at the time that 
I knew you sent it. But I guess somebody in the 
Post-Office got the start of me." 

" Why didnt you tell me 1 " demanded Helen. 

" Well, you know, I couldn't do that," said Kim- 
ball. 

Helen took out her purse. There were only twelve 
dollars in it, and Marian had walked on, so that she 
could not borrow of her, and make up the whole sum 
at once. But she put the money in Kimball's hand, 
and said, u I will bring you the rest this very day. 
Shall I bring it to the Custom-House 1 " 

"0 no ; there 's been a change, you know. My 
collector was kicked out, and all our heads went 
into the basket together. I ain't there any more. 
I guess we'll call this square now. I don't feel 
just right about taking this money, Miss Hark- 
ness. But I 've been sick, and my wife ain't very 
well herself; and well, I guess it's a godsend." 
His lips twitched. " I feel kind of mean about it, 
but I '11 have to stand it. There ain't a thing in 
the house, or I wouldn't take it. My wife and me 
both said we knew you sent it." 

" Who in the world is your shabby friend, Helen 1 " 
demanded Marian when Helen had overtaken her at 
last. 

" Oh, he used to be in the Custom-House. He 's 
a character. He's the one who told Lord Rain- 
ford, when he offered to deposit money for the duties 
on those Egyptian things he brought me from you, 
that it wasn't necessary between gentlemen 1 " 

" How amusing !" 



A woman's reason. 453 

" Yes, I thought it was amusing too. But I don't 
think I can ever laugh at him again." She shut 
her lips till she could command her voice sufficiently 
to tell what had just passed between her and Kim- 
ball. 

Marian continued to be amused by it. In the 
flush of her re-Anglicisation, she said it was a very 
American affair. But she added that something 
ought really to be done for the chivalric simple- 
ton, and that she was going to tell Ray about 
him. 

During the week that Helen spent with the 
Butlers, before she was to take her place in Zenas 
Pearson's Photographic Parlours, as he called them, 
the wisdom of her decision was tested by another 
incident or accident one of those chances of real 
life which one must hesitate to record because they 
have so much the air of having been contrived. 
From her life in the Port she had contracted the 
suburban habit of lunching at restaurants, so alien 
to the Bostonian lady proper j and one day, when 
she was down town alone, she found herself at a 
table in Parker's, so near that of two other ladies 
that she could not help hearing what they said. 
They were both dressed with a certain floridity, and 
one was of a fearless, good-humoured beauty, who 
stared a great deal about the room and out of the 
window, and, upon the whole, seemed amused to 
realise herself in Boston, as if it were a place whose 
peculiarities she had reflected much upon, without 
being greatly awed or dazzled by them. " We used 
to see a great many Bostonians in California when 
the Pacific road was first opened. They came out 



454 a woman's reason. 

there in shoals, and I afterwards met them in Japan, 
men, I mean, of course. I had quite a flirtation 
with one the pleasantest one I ever met." The 
lady breathed, above the spoil of the quail-on-toast 
before her, a sigh to the memory of this agreeable 
passage of her life. " Yes, a regular flirtation. It 
was on the steamer coming to San Francisco ; and 
he was on his way home to be married, poor fellow, 
and I suppose he thought, Now or never! The 
steamer broke her shaft, and had to put back to 
Japan, and he took passage home on a sailing vessel 
that we hailed, and she was lost, and the last that 
was known of him he was left on a reef in the 
Pacific with three others, while a boatful of people 
went off to prospect for land. When the boat came 
back they were gone, and nobody ever knew what 
became of them." 

" And whatever became of the girl, Mrs. Bowers 1" 

" Oh, as to that this deponent saith not. Con- 
soled herself, I suppose, in the usual way." 

The two women laughed together, and began to 
pull up their sacks, which had dropped from their 
shoulders into their chairs behind them. 

Helen tried to speak, but she could not. She 
tried to rise and seize the woman before she left 
the room, to make her render some account of her 
words. But the shame of a terrible doubt crushed 
her with a burden under which she could not 
move. When the waiter, respectfully hovering near, 
approached at last, and, viewing her untouched plate, 
suggestively asked if he could bring her anything 
more, she said "No," and paid her check and came 
out. 



A woman's reason 455 

It was a beautiful day, but she walked spiritlessly 
along in the sunshine that seemed to smile life into 
everything but her ; and she feebly sought to adjust 
the pang of this last blow to some misdeed of her 
own. But she could not. She could only think 
how she should once have contrasted Lord Rain- 
ford's nobleness with Robert's folly, and indignantly 
preferred him. But now she was aware of not 
having the strength to do this of not being able 
to pluck her heart from the idea to which love and 
loss had rooted it ; and she could not even wish to 
wish anything but to die. In another world, per- 
haps if there were any other world Robert could 
explain and justify the weakness for which she could 
not do other than pity him here. 

Her brain was so dull and jaded withal, that when 
she dragged herself wearily up the steps at the 
Butlers' door, she felt no surprise that it should be the 
old Captain who opened it to her, or that he should 
seek to detain her in the drawing-room alone with 
him. At last she found something strange in his 
manner, something mysterious in the absence of all 
the others, and she asked, "What is it, Captain 
Butler?" 

He seemed troubled, as though he felt himself 
unequal to the task before him. " Helen," he began, 
"do you still sometimes think that those men's story 
about Robert wasn't true ? " 

"I know it wasn't true. I always knew they 
killed him. Why do you ask me that ? " 

" I didn't mean that," returned the Captain, with 
increasing trouble, " but that perhaps he " 

She turned upon him in awful quiet. , " Captain 



456 a woman's reason. 

Butler, don't try to soften or break any bad news 
to me ! What is it I haven't borne that you think 
I must be spared now ? You will make it worse, 
whatever you are keeping back. Did they leave 
him there to starve on that rock 1 Did " 

" No no. It isn't that. Mrs. Butler thought 
that I could prepare we 've had news " 

" News 1 prepare ? Oh, how can you mock me 
so 1 For pity's sake, what is it V 

The Captain's poor attempt to mediate between 
her and whatever fact he was concealing broke down 
in the appeal with which he escaped from Helen 
through the open door, and called his wife. She 
came quickly, as if she had been waiting near ; and 
as on that day when she had told the girl of her 
father's death, she took her fast in her arms. Per- 
haps the thoughts of both went back to that hour. 

" Helen Helen Helen ! It's life this time! 
You have borne the Worst so bravely, I know you 
can bear the best. Kobert is here !" 

The papers of that time gave full particulars of 
Fenton's rescue from the island on which he was 
cast away, and the reader can hardly have forgotten 
them. It is unnecessary even to record the details 
of his transfer, after several months, from the whaler 
which took him off, to another vessel homeward 
bound, and of his final arrival in San Francisco. 
When the miracle of his resurrection had become 
familiar enough for Helen to begin to touch it at 
here and there a point, she asked him why he 
did not telegraph her from San Francisco as soon 
as he landed, and instantly answered herself that 



A woman's reason. 457 

it would have killed her if he had done so; and 
that if he had not been there at once to help her 
bear the fact of his being alive, she could not have 
borne it. 

They were married, and went to live in a little 
house in a retired street of Old Cambridge, and 
Margaret came to live with them. She sacrificed 
to this end an ideal place in an expressman's family 
in East Somerville, where she had the sole charge 
of the housework for twelve persons; but it was 
something that Miss Helen kept no other girl ; and 
it was everything that she could be with her when 
Lieutenant Fenton should be ordered away to sea 
again. He had six months' leave, and he tried to 
find some occupation which would justify him in 
quitting the navy. He found nothing, and in the 
leisure of this time Helen and he concerned them- 
selves rather with their past than their future. 
They rehabilitated every moment of it for each other ; 
and, as their lives came completely together again, 
he developed certain limitations which at first 
puzzled her. She did not approach that passage 
which related to Lord Rainford without trying to 
establish defences from which, if necessary, she 
could make reprisals; and she began by abruptly 
asking one day, "Robert, who is Mrs. Bowers 1" 

" Did she turn up 1 " he asked in reply, with a 
joyous guiltlessness that at once defeated and utterly 
consoled his wife. "That was very kind of her! 
Rut how did she find you out 1 I never told her 
your name I " 

" She never turned up directly," said Helen ; 



458 A woman's reason. 

and then she told him how she happened to know 
of Mrs. Bowers, and of the bad half-hour that lady 
had given her. 

" Well, she might call it a flirtation," said Fenton, 
" but I didn't know it was one. / thought it was 
just walking up and down the deck and talking 
about you." 

"I'd rather you wouldn't have talked to that kind 
of people about me," returned Helen, with a retro- 
spective objection which she tried in vain to make 
avail her. 

" How should I know what kind of person she 
was % I never took the least notice of anything she 
did or said." 

This was heavenly hopeless, and Helen resolved 
that for the present at least she would not inculpate 
herself. But she found herself saying, " Well, then, 
I'm going to tell you about something that all came 
from my being desperate about you, and flirting a 
little one day just after you sailed." She went on 
to make a full and free confession, to which her 
husband listened with surprisingly little emotion. 
He could not see anything romantic in it at all. 
He could not see anything remarkable in Lord 
Eainford. 

" You can't," he said finally, " expect me to admire 

a man who came so near making an Enoch Arden of 

. . > 

me. 

" Oh, you know he never came near doing any- 
thing of the kind, Robert." 

" He came as near as he could. Do you wish me 
to admire him because you refused him % You 
refused me three times." 



a woman's reason. 459 

" I wish you to to appreciate him." 
Fenton laughed. " Oh, well, I do that, of course. 
I 've no doubt he was a very good fellow ; and I 
daresay he 's behaving more sensibly than I did. 
From what you tell me, I think he '11 get over his 
disappointment. Perhaps he '11 end by marrying 
some one who will help him to complete his reaction, 
and cure him of all his illusions about us over here. 
But his buying that pottery was nothing. He would 
have been a very poor creature if he had resented 
your refusal ; I know that from my own experience." 
He would not be serious about Lord Eainford ; he 
made her share in the good-natured slight with which 
husband and wife always talk over the sorrows of un- 
lucky pretendants. He professed to find something 
much more admirable in Kimball's quiet acceptance 
of the loss he had incurred through Helen : that, he 
said, was fine, for Kimball was supported by no 
sentimental considerations, and had no money to 
back his delicacy. He looked Kimball up, and made 
friends with him ; and a man who could do nothing 
to advance his own fortunes had the cheerful auda- 
city to suppose that he might promote another's. 
He wrote to Washington, and tried to get Kimball 
appointed assistant-keeper of one of the lighthouses 
on Cape Ann ; but, pending the appointment of a 
gentleman who had " worked " for the newly-elected 
Congressman, Kimball found a place as night-watch- 
man in a large clothing-house, where he distinguished 
himself, when off duty one day, by quelling a panic 
among the sewing-girls at an alarm of fire, and getting 
them safely out of the building. The newspaper 
Mat following this affair seemed to have silently 



460 A woman's reason. 

wrought upon the imagination of a public-spirited 
gentleman, who about that time was maturing his 
plans for the establishment of our well-known Ever- 
ton Institute of Industrial Arts for Young Ladies. 
The Institute was opened on a small scale in the resi- 
dence of Mr. Everton at Beacon Steps, which he 
devoted to it during his life, and at his death it 
was removed to the new building at West Newton ; 
but from the first Kimball was put in charge as 
janitor, and still holds his place from the trustees. 

He came rather apologetically to announce his 
appointment to the Fentons. " I don't seem to feel," 
he said, " as if it was quite the thing to go in there 
without saying ' By your leave ' to you, Mrs. Fenton. 
I hain't forgot the first time I was in the house ; 
and I don't suppose I ever passed it without lookin' 
up at them steps and thinkin' of you, just how you 
appeared that day when you came runnin' up with 
your bag in your hand, and I let you in." 

" Yes, I remember it too, Mr. Kimball. But you 
mustn't think of it as my old home, and you mustn't 
feel as if you were intruding. If the place could be 
anything to me after Mr. Everton had lived there, I 
should be glad to think of you and Mrs. Kimball in 
it, looking after those poor girls, as I know you will." 

" I guess we shall do the best we know how by 
'em. And whatever Mr. Everton is and I guess 
least said 's soonest mended, even amongst friends, 
about him in some respects you can't say but what 
it's a good object. If he can have girls without 
any dependence but themselves taught how to do 
something for their own livin', / guess it's about 
equal to turnin' the house into a church. And I 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 461 

guess the old gentleman 's about right in confinin' it 
to girls brought up as ladies. I ain't much on caste 
myself, as I know of, but I guess that 's the class of 
girls that need help the most." 

" yes, indeed ! " cried Helen fervently. " Of 
all helpless creatures in the world, they are the 
most to be pitied. I know you '11 be kind to them, 
Mr. Kimball, and save their poor, foolish feelings as 
much as you can, and not mind their weak, silly little 
pride, if it ever shows itself." 

" I guess you can depend upon me for that," said Kim- 
ball. " I understand girls pretty well or I ought to, 
by this time. And once a lady, always a lady, I say." 

Helen even promised to come with her husband 
to see the Kimballs in her old home. She cour- 
ageously kept her promise, and she was rewarded 
by meeting Mr. Everton there. He received her 
very cordially, showing no sort of pique or resent- 
ment, no more, Fenton suggested, than Lord Rain- 
ford himself, and took her over the house, and 
explained all his plans to her with a flattering con- 
fidence in her interest. There were already some 
young ladies there, and he introduced Helen to 
them, and, in the excess of his good feeling, hinted 
at the desirability of her formally addressing them 
as visitors to schools are expected to do. She 
refused imperatively ; but to one of the girls with 
whom she found herself in sympathy she opened 
her heart and told her own story. " And oh !" she 
said at the end, "do learn to do something that 
people have need of, and learn to do it well and 
numbly, and just as if you had been working for 
your living all your life. Try to notice how men do 



462 A woman's reason. 

things, and when you 're at work, forget that you 're 
a woman, and, above all, a young lady." 

After she came away, she said there was one 
more thing she wished to say to that girl. 

"What was that]" asked Fenton. 

" Not to omit the first decent opportunity of 
marrying any one she happened to be in love with." 

" Perhaps it wasn't necessary to say that," sug- 
gested her husband. 

" No," sighed Helen j " and that 's what undoes 
all the rest." 

When the Butlers heard of this visit of hers to 
her old home, it seemed to them but another in- 
stance of that extraordinary fortitude of spirit which 
they had often reason to admire in her. Marian 
Ray could not suffer it to pass, however, without 
some expression of surprise that Fenton should have 
allowed her to go : she was a little his rival on 
behalf of Lord Rainford still, and she seized what 
occasions she could for an unfavourable comparison of 
their characters. In fact, now that he had really 
come back, she had not wholly forgiven him for 
doing so ; but the younger sisters rejoiced in him 
as a thoroughly satisfactory equivalent for the 
romance they had lost in the nobleman. If Helen 
was not to be Lady Rainford, it was consoling to 
have her the wife of a man who had been cast away 
on a desert island, and had been mourned for dead 
a whole year and more. They were disappointed, 
however, that he should not be always telling the 
story of his adventures, but should only now and 
then drop bits of it in a scrappy way, and once 
but once only when he and Helen were at 



A WOMAN'S REASON. 463 

Beverley, they pinned him down to a full and minute 
narration. 

" Ah, but," said Jessie Butler, when all was told, to 
the very last moment of his meeting Helen after his re- 
turn, " you haven't said how you felt, any of the time." 

" Well, you know," answered Fenton, rising, and 
going over to where Helen sat dwelling on him with 
shining eyes, " I can look back and see how I ought 
to have felt at given points." 

" But but how did you feel," pursued one of his 
rapt auditors, " when " 

"No, no," said Fenton, "that will do! I've 
given you the facts ; you must make your own 
fiction out of them. And I think, while you're 
at it, j'ou 'd better get another hero." 

"Never!" exclaimed Jessie Butler. "We want 
you. And we want you to behave something like a 
hero, now. You can, if you will. Can't he, Helen V 

" I never can make him," said his wife fondly. 

" Then that 's because he doesn't appreciate his 
own adventures properly. Now " 

" Why," explained Fenton, " the adventures were 
merely a lot of things that happened to me." 

" Happened to you !" cried his champion against 
himself in generous indignation. "Did it merely 
happen to you to put that rope round you and swim 
ashore with it when the ship struck 1 Did it merely 
happen to you to stay there, and let the others go 
off in the boat V 

Fenton affected to give the arguments serious 
thought. " Well, you know, I couldn't very well 
have done otherwise under the circumstances/' 

" You needn't try to get out of it in that way ! 



464 A woman's reason. 

You have every attribute of a real hero," persisted 
his worshipper. 

The hero laughed, and did his best to bear the 
part like a man. Another of the young girls took 
up the strain. 

" Yes, you would be entirely satisfactory if you 
had only had some better companion in misfortune." 

"Who, Giffen?" 

" Yes. He seems so hopelessly commonplace," 
sighed the gentle connoisseur of castaways. 

* He was certainly not more than an average 
fellow-being," said Fenton, preparing to escape. 
" But he was equal to his bad luck." 

When he and Helen were alone, he was a long 
time silent. 

" What is the matter, Robert 1 " she asked 
tenderly at last. 

" Oh, nothing," he said. " But whenever it comes 
to that point, I'm afraid that Giffen knew I wanted 
to leave him to die alone there ! " 

" You didrit want to ! " she protested for him. 

"Ah, don't put it that way!" he cried. "The 
best you can say for me is that I didn't do it." 

She could only tell him that she loved him more 
dearly for the temptation he confessed, than if there 
had been no breach in his armour. He had a simpli- 
city in dealing with all the incidents of his experience 
which seemed to her half divine. When she hotly 
invoked justice upon the wretches who had stolen 
the boat and abandoned him and Giffen on the 
island, he said, " Oh, what could atone for a thing 
like that 1 The only way was for them to escape 
altogether." He would not even let her denounce 



A woman's reason. 465 

them as cowards ; he contended that they had shown 
as much mere courage in remaining to rifle the ship 
as he had in anything. Giffen, he said, was the only 
one to be admired, for Giffen was afraid all the time, 
and yet remained to share his fate. But Helen con- 
tended that this was nothing wonderful ; and again 
she wished to praise him for what he had suffered. 

"Ah, don't!" he said, with tragic seriousness. 
" There 's nothing in all that. It might all have 
happened to a worse man, and it has happened to 
many a better one. It hurts me to have you 
value me for it. Let it go, and give me a little 
chance for the future." He was indeed eager to 
escape from all that related to that passage of his 
life, and Helen learned to believe this. At certain 
moments he seemed to be suffering from some 
strange sort of mental stress, which he could not 
explain, but which they both thought must be the 
habit of anguish formed in his imprisonment on the 
atoll. It sometimes woke him from his sleep 
the burden, but not the drama, of nightmare a 
mere formless horror, which they had to shape and 
recognise for themselves. 

It grew less and less as the time passed, and when 
his orders came to report for duty at Washington, 
they had strength for the parting. He supposed 
that he was to be sent to sea again, but he found that 
he was to be put in charge for the present of the revenue 
cutter for provisioning the lighthouses on the Rhode 
Island coast ; and when removed from this service, 
he was appointed commandant at the Narragansett 
Navy Yard. It is there that Helen still finds her 
home in a little house overlooking the Bay, on the 

2 G 



466 A woman's keason. 

height behind the vast sheds in which two frigates 
of obsolete model, began in Polk's time, are slowly 
rotting on the stocks, in a sort of emblematic ex- 
pression of the present formidable character of the 
American navy. 

Fenton is subject to be ordered away at any 
moment upon other duty ; but till his orders come 
he rests with Helen in as much happiness as can 
fall to the share of people in a world of chance and 
change. The days of their separation have already 
faded into the incredible past : and if her experi- 
ence ever had any peculiar significance to her, it is 
rapidly losing that meaning. 

She remains limited in her opinions and motives 
by the accidents of tradition and circumstance that 
shape us all ; at the end she is neither more nor less 
than a lady, as she was at the beginning. She has 
acquired no ideals of woman's work or woman's des- 
tiny ; she is glad to have solved in the old way the 
problems that once beset her ; and in all that has 
happened she feels as if she had escaped, rather than 
achieved. She is the same, and yet not quite the 
same ; for one never endures or endeavours to one's- 
self alone ; she keeps her little prejudices, but she 
has accumulated a stock of exceptions to their appli- 
cation ; hex sympathies, if not her opinions, have 
been enlarged ; and, above all, her unconsciousness 
has been trained to meet bravely and sweetly the 
duties of a life which she is content should never be 
splendid or ambitious. 



PS 

2025 
W65 
1882 



Howells, William Dean 
A woman's reason 



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