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      "Never!" repeated Astra, with proud emphasis. "I was engaged," she went on, after a moment, in an altered and tremulous tone, "to a MAN,a calm, wise, noble man,not a monster, nor a piece of mechanism. I was engaged to an earnest seeker after truth, a courageous grappler with problems that other men shunned, an honest speaker of his own thoughts and moulder of his own opinions,a man who, though he might be temporarily led astray by the very excess of his virtues of candor, boldness, and integrity, would be sure to come right in the end. He is dead,or he never lived, except in my imagination,requiescat in pace. But to you,a body without a soul, an intellect without a heart, a will without a faith, a kind of human beast of prey, intent on nothing but the gratification of his own selfish ends,to you I was never pledged. I would as soon have bound myself to a corpse, or a calculating machine.""What would I have done, love? Nothing to bring shame on you. Nothing to add to your dishonour or sharpen the agony of remorse. I should have taken my sonmy son could not be left under the shadow of a mother's shame. He and I would have vanished out of your life. You would[Pg 196] have heard no more of us. The world would have known nothing. You would have been cared for and protected from further evilprotected from your own frailty. So far, I would have done my duty as your husband to the last day of my life; but you and I would never have looked upon each other again."

      It was late when he reached his office. To his surprise, it was not empty. A gentleman was sitting by the table, with a pile of papers before him, and a weary, discontented face, as if his waiting had outlasted his patience.

      "Martin, have pity!"

      If Doctor Remy did not know, he could easily understand. He was aware that the daughter of a Southern house remains "Miss Eleanor" (or whatever the Christian name might be) to the end of her days, with the dusky home population, although, in the meantime, she may have become a great-grandmother. Moreover, various scattered shreds of rumor came to his recollection, enough to afford a tolerably accurate explanation of the blind woman's reason for desiring to see Bergan Arling at her bedside. And though the matter would seem to be no concern of his, it is certain that he gave it a moment or two of profound study, ere he answered the question which Rue had addressed to him. Indeed, it was very much Doctor Remy's habitas it is that of selfish natures in generalto consider all events mainly with reference to their bearing upon his own interests, and to hold them important or trivial, according to the degree of favorable or adverse influence which they would be likely to exert upon his fortunes.

      What, then, was the drop of bitterness in his cup of triumph?Mr. Bergan started. "My nephew, Bergan Arling, do you mean?"


      Thanks. But about the studies, Esmeralda?


      The two cousins stole out of the room together. In the studio, Diva put her arms around Astra and kissed her tenderly.Not many weeks after the preceding incidents, Bergan went out, early one afternoon, for a long, solitary ramble. It was not his wont to leave his office before dusk, but his head ached with study, and his heart with loneliness and discouragement; an intolerable weariness and irksomeness had taken possession of him; his book seemed meaningless, and his brain paralyzed; there was nothing for it but to turn from the world of thought, that had suddenly grown so insufferably arid and dead, to the living, breathing world of nature. Forest, and field, and wave, if they could not give him intelligent sympathy, could at least furnish him gentle distraction.


      She saw which boat he meant by the direction in which he flourished his walking-stick, but was not learned in distinc[Pg 35]tions of rig. The Vendetta, being under repair, did not seem to her especially lovely.