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- His Sombre Rivals - 5/66 -


most of life while it lasted. According to Emerson he was as yet but in the earlier stages of evolution, and his highest manhood wholly undeveloped. Had not "music, poetry, and art" dawned in his mind? Was nature but a mechanism after whose laws he had been groping like an anatomist who finds in the godlike form bone and tissue merely? As he had sat watching the sunset a few hours previous, the element of beauty had been present to him as never before. Could this sense of beauty become so enlarged that the world would be transfigured, "radiant with purple light"? Morning had often brought to him weariness from sleepless hours during which he had racked his brain over problems too deep for him, and evening had found him still baffled, disappointed, and disposed to ask in view of his toil, _Cui bono_? What ground had Emerson for saying that these same mornings and evenings might be filled with "varied enchantments"? The reason, the cause of these unknown conditions of life, was given unmistakably. The Concord sage had virtually asserted that he, Alford Graham, would never truly exist until his one-sided masculine nature had been supplemented by the feminine soul which alone could give to his being completeness and the power to attain his full development.

"Well," he soliloquized, laughing, "I have not been aware that hitherto I have been only a mollusk, a polyp of a man. I am inclined to think that Emerson's 'Pegasus' took the bit--got the better of him on one occasion; but if there is any truth in what he writes it might not be a bad idea to try a little of the kind of evolution that he suggests and see what comes of it. I am already confident that I could see infinitely more than I do if I could look at the world through Miss St. John's eyes as well as my own, but I run no slight risk in obtaining that vision. Her eyes are stars that must have drawn worshippers, not only from the east, but from every point of the compass. I should be in a sorry plight if I should become 'all memory,' and from my fair divinity receive as sole response, 'Please forget.' If the philosopher could guarantee that she also would be 'all eye and all memory,' one might indeed covet Miss St. John as the teacher of the higher mysteries. Life is not very exhilarating at best, but for a man to set his heart on such a woman as this girl promises to be, and then be denied--why, he had better remain a polyp. Come, come, Alford Graham, you have had your hour of sentiment--out of deference to Mr. Emerson I won't call it weakness--and it's time you remembered that you are a comparatively poor man, that Miss St. John has already been the choice of a score at least, and probably has made her own choice. I shall therefore permit no delusions and the growth of no false hopes."

Having reached this prudent conclusion, Graham yawned, smiled at the unwonted mood in which he had indulged, and with the philosophic purpose of finding an opiate in the pages that had contained one paragraph rather too exciting, he took up the copy of Emerson that he had borrowed. The book fell open, indicating that some one had often turned to the pages before him. One passage was strongly marked on either side and underscored. With a laugh he saw that it was the one he had been dwelling upon--"No man ever forgot," etc.

"Now I know why she blushed slightly and hesitated to lend me this volume," he thought. "I suppose I may read in this instance, 'No woman ever forgot.' Of course, it would be strange if she had not learned to understand these words. What else has she marked?"

Here and there were many delicate marginal lines indicating approval and interest, but they were so delicate as to suggest that the strong scoring of the significant passage was not the work of Miss St. John, but rather of some heavy masculine hand. This seemed to restore the original reading, "No _man_ ever forgot," and some man had apparently tried to inform her by his emphatic lines that he did not intend to forget.

"Well, suppose he does not and cannot," Graham mused. "That fact places her under no obligations to be 'all eye and memory' for him. And yet her blush and hesitancy and the way the book falls open at this passage look favorable for him. I can win her gratitude by amusing the old major, and with that, no doubt, I shall have to be content."

This limitation of his chances caused Graham so little solicitude that he was soon sleeping soundly.

CHAPTER IV

WARNING OR INCENTIVE?

The next morning proved that the wound which Major St. John had received in the Mexican War was a correct barometer. From a leaden, lowering sky the rain fell steadily, and a chilly wind was fast dismantling the trees of their blossoms. The birds had suspended their nest-building, and but few had the heart to sing.

"You seem to take a very complacent view of the dreary prospect without," Mrs. Mayburn remarked, as Graham came smilingly into the breakfast-room and greeted her with a cheerful note in his tones. "Such a day as this means rheumatism for me and an aching leg for Major St. John."

"I am very sorry, aunt," he replied, "but I cannot help remembering also that it is not altogether an ill wind, for it will blow me over into a cosey parlor and very charming society--that is, if Miss St. John will give me a little aid in entertaining her father."

"So we old people don't count for anything."

"That doesn't follow at all. I would do anything in my power to banish your rheumatism and the major's twinges, but how was it with you both at my age? I can answer for the major. If at that time he knew another major with such a daughter as blesses his home, his devotion to the preceding veteran was a little mixed."

"Are you so taken by Miss St. John?"

"I have not the slightest hope of being taken by her."

"You know what I mean?"

"Yes, but I wished to suggest my modest hopes and expectations so that you may have no anxieties if I avail myself, during my visit, of the chance of seeing what I can of an unusually fine girl. Acquaintance with such society is the part of my education most sadly neglected. Nevertheless, you will find me devotedly at your service whenever you will express your wishes."

"Do not imagine that I am disposed to find fault. Grace is a great favorite of mine. She is a good old-fashioned girl, not one of your vain, heartless, selfish creatures with only a veneer of good breeding. I see her almost every day, either here or in her own home, and I know her well. You have seen that she is fitted to shine anywhere, but it is for her home qualities that I love and admire her most. Her father is crippled and querulous; indeed he is often exceedingly irritable. Everything must please him or else he is inclined to storm as he did in his regiment, and occasionally he emphasizes his words without much regard to the third commandment. But his gusts of anger are over quickly, and a kinder-hearted and more upright man never lived. Of course American servants won't stand harsh words. They want to do all the fault-finding, and the poor old gentleman would have a hard time of it were it not for Grace. She knows how to manage both him and them, and that colored woman you saw wouldn't leave him if he beat and swore at her every day. She was a slave in the family of Grace's mother, who was a Southern lady, and the major gave the poor creature her liberty when he brought his wife to the North. Grace is sunshine embodied. She makes her old, irritable, and sometimes gouty father happy in spite of himself. It was just like her to accept of your offer last evening, for to banish all dullness from her father's life seems her constant thought. So if you wish to grow in the young lady's favor don't be so attentive to her as to neglect the old gentleman."

Graham listened to this good-natured gossip with decided interest, feeling that it contained valuable suggestions. The response seemed scarcely relevant. "When is she to be married?" he asked.

"Married!"

"Yes. It is a wonder that such a paragon has escaped thus long."

"You have lived abroad too much," said his aunt satirically. "American girls are not married out of hand at a certain age. They marry when they please or not at all if they please. Grace easily escapes marriage."

"Not from want of suitors, I'm sure."

"You are right there."

"How then?"

"By saying, 'No, I thank you.' You can easily learn how very effectual such a quiet negative is, if you choose."

"Indeed! Am I such a very undesirable party?" said Graham, laughing, for he heartily enjoyed his aunt's brusque way of talking, having learned already the kindliness it masked.

"Not in my eyes. I can't speak for Grace. She'd marry you if she loved you, and were you the Czar of all the Russias you wouldn't have the ghost of a chance unless she did. I know that she has refused more than one fortune. She seems perfectly content to live with her father, until the one prince having the power to awaken her appears. When he comes rest assured she'll follow him, and also be assured that she'll take her father with her, and to a selfish, exacting Turk of a husband he might prove an old man of the sea. And yet I doubt it. Grace would manage any one. Not that she has much management either. She simply laughs, smiles, and talks every one into good humor. Her mirthfulness, her own happiness, is so genuine that it is contagious. Suppose you exchange duties and ask her to come over and enliven me while you entertain her father," concluded the old lady mischievously.

"I would not dare to face such a fiery veteran as you have described alone."

"I knew you would have some excuse. Well, be on your guard. Grace will make no effort to capture you, and therefore you will be in all the more danger of being captured. If you lose your heart in vain to her you will need more than German philosophy to sustain you."

"I have already made to myself in substance your last remark."

"I know you are not a lady's man, and perhaps for that very reason you are all the more liable to an acute attack."

Graham laughed as he rose from the table, and asked, "Should I ever venture to lay siege to Miss St. John, would I not have your


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