Osgood's Predicament

by Elizabeth D. B. Stoddard

Osgood took a cane-bottomed chair whose edges had given way from the application of boot-soles, cane and umbrella ferules, and studied his predicament. He commenced this necessary study early in the morning in his room, which was in a boarding-house situated in this metropolis. The early carts were taking their way down town through a blue haze, which in the country prefigured a golden day. The milkman, the walk-sweeper, and the rag-picker, were the only creatures moving in Osgood’s neighborhood. The time was propitious for meditation and resolve, but Osgood’s head was not ready. The still Champagne that he had drank the night before buzzed in his brain. With a glass of it in his hand, under a side gas-light, in the drawing-room of his Aunt Formica, he had proposed marriage to a handsome dashing girl, and the handsome dashing girl had accepted him. They swallowed the bubbles on the “beaker’s brim,” thinking it was the Cup of Life they were drinking from. Neither supposed that the moment was one of exhilaration or enthusiasm. Osgood never felt so serious, or so determined to face the music, as he called it, which was the short for a philosophical design to march boldly through life, and shoulder its necessities with a brave spirit and a martial air.

Osgood was intelligent, agreeable, and handsome. He had advanced no further into life than to give this impression. He knew nothing more of himself than that he was intelligent, handsome, and “plucky.” He had no father or mother, but he had an aunt who had married Mr. Formica; this pair, effete in themselves, belonged to that mysterious class who are always able to get their relatives places under Government. When Osgood was eighteen they obtained a place in the Sub-Treasury, which yielded him the income of fifteen hundred dollars. Aunt Formica expected a great deal from him in the way of deportment and dress. The exigencies of his position, she observed, compelled him to do as those around him did. Of course he never laid up any of his salary, but he kept out of debt, and in doing this he fulfilled the highest duty that came within his province. His associates were young men who had more money than he, and who expected him to spend as much as they spent. The houses he visited were inhabited by people who took it for granted that all who came in contact with them were as rich as themselves. The Formica interest was large. When he went to Washington with his aunt, he went the rounds of the senators’ houses and hotels in the way of calls, dinners, and parties. When he went to Boston with her he began his visits at the right hand of Beacon Street, and branched into the streets behind it, where as good blood abides, though it has not the same advantage of the air of the Common. Wherever he went expense was involved, in the way of gloves, bouquets, cards, fees to errand boys, exchange of civilities in lunches, cigars, ale, brandy, sherry, stage, hack, and car fare, which he bore like a hero.

Lily Tree, the girl whom he proposed to marry, belonged to a family of the Formica species. It sailed through society all a-taut with convention, and was comme il faut from stem to stern. Lily and Osgood had always known each other. They passed through the season of hoop and ball, dancing-school, tableaux, and charades together; sympathized in each other’s embryonic flirtations; and were such fast friends that no one ever dreamed of any danger to them from love. But as the wagon that goes from the powder-mill in safety innumerable times at last carries the keg which explodes it, so Osgood and Lily at last touched the divine spark which threw them out of their old world into one they had not anticipated.

This was part of Osgood’s predicament.

What made him do as he had done?

Why had Lily accepted him?

She would never, he argued, consent to go out of the area which bounded her ideas, and which comprised a small portion of New York, Boston, Washington, and the tour of Europe, which meant a week in London, six months in Paris, and ten days in Rome. Unless he descended from the Sub-Treasury, and sought some business, such as making varnish, glue, buttons, soap, sarsaparilla, or sewing machines, could he marry? What shrewdness had he in the place of capital to bring to bear on the requirements of these Yankee callings? How he worried over the prospect which looked so pleasant the night before! Champagne, flowers, light, and perfume were gone from it. He pitied himself in his helplessness. The thought of Lily deprived of her delicate evening dresses, her diurnal bouquets, caramels, and her pecunious caprices, was not pleasant. He could not see her in any light that made her so agreeable as in the light that he must certainly cause her to lose.

Something practical must be done.

Naturally he looked into his pocket-book. There was eighteen dollars in it—all the money he had. It was the last day in the month, however, and he was entitled to draw one hundred and twenty-five dollars. He shut his pocket-book and looked into his closet. He found there several pairs of patent-leather boots and a brilliant dressing-gown. “Pooh!” he said, peevishly, and shut the door. He then examined his bureau: in its drawers were many socks, shirts, cravats, four sets of studs and sleeve-buttons, and five scarf-pins. He rattled the studs and buttons thoughtfully; but nothing came of it, and he closed the drawers. His eye then fell on a dress-coat which he had worn for the first time the evening before. He resolved to take the coat back to Wiedenfeldt, his tailor. This resolve was the nucleus probably of his future undertakings. He finished dressing and left the house. Before reaching Wiedenfeldt he purchased and drank a bottle of Congress Water. He also stopped at a favorite restaurant and made an excellent breakfast, and came away with a “Relampagos”—a small cigar of superior flavor—and three daily papers. His interview with Wiedenfeldt was satisfactory; the coat was taken back, and when he had settled the matter he felt as if a beginning had been made in a new and right direction.

That afternoon he drew his pay, and walked up town. The moment he entered his room his predicament fell upon him again, and his spirits sunk. He sat on the edge of his bed, so quiet in his misery that he began to hear the ticking of the watch in his pocket; it associated itself in his mind with the sound and motion of railroad-cars. He felt himself traveling hundreds of miles away, listening all the while to a rhythmic sound, which said, “Many a mile, many a mile.” Why should he not go “many a mile, many a mile,” in reality? He went out immediately and bought a valise. After that his demeanor was settled and tranquil. He then wrote three notes—to his chief, his Aunt Formica, and Lily. The first was a note of resignation; the second conveyed the information to his aunt that he was sick of his place, had thrown it up, and was going out of town for a change of air. He regretted, when he began his note to Lily, that he had not sent her some flowers. A momentary impulse to go and see her stayed his hand; but he remembered that she must be at Mrs. Perche’s “sit-down supper” that evening, and resumed writing. He begged her to enjoy herself, and not miss him while he was away. He did not know what to write besides, but put in a few chaotic expressions which might or might not mean a great deal.

While he put a few necessary articles in the valise he wondered where he should go, never dropping the thought that he must go somewhere. The remainder of his wardrobe, including the brilliant dressing-gown, he packed in a trunk and locked it.

He rang the bell, and when the waiter came up asked for the landlady, Mrs. Semmes. The waiter thought that it was not too late to see her in her own parlor, and lingered, with his hand on his chin and his eyes on the valise.

“Jem,” said Osgood, “I have left some boots in the closet, and some shirts in the drawers, which are at your service.”

The alacrity with which Jem changed his attitude and expression struck Osgood with a sense of pain. “How horribly selfish servants are!” he thought, taking his way down stairs. Mrs. Semmes hoped there was no trouble, and asked him to be seated. He looked at her earnestly; she was the only one to say farewell to. Never had he looked Mrs. Semmes in the face before; he had only seen the hand into which he had placed the price of his board.

“I came to tell you, Mrs. Semmes, that I am about to leave town for the present. Will you allow my trunk to remain here? If I do not return in a year and a day, break it open.”

Mrs. Semmes promised to keep the trunk; took some money due her; wondered at his going away at that time of year, and asked him his destination.

“I think I shall go to Canada,” he answered, vaguely.

“There must be snow there, by the accounts.”

“Where shall I go?” he was about to say, but checked himself.

“If you were going East,” she continued, “you would find the ground bare enough, especially in the neighborhood of the sea: the sea-winds melt the snow almost as soon as it falls.”

“I think I will go East,” he said, musingly. He sat so long without saying any thing, staring straight before him, that Mrs. Semmes began to feel fidgety. She recalled him to the present by walking to the window. He started, bade her good-by, and retired.

He tossed about all night in a feverish sleep, tormented with dreams which transformed Lily into a small child which he was compelled to carry in his arms, or furnished his Aunt Formica with a long spear, with which she pursued him, and was forever on the point of overtaking him.

At 8 o’clock A.M. he might have been seen by a detective at the Twenty-seventh Street dépôt. A few minutes after he was going through the tunnel; and, emerging from that, he considered himself fairly divided from New York. At the first station beyond the State-line of Massachusetts he consulted a map, and concluded to stop at the junction of the Old Colony Railroad. There he changed the route, and in the evening reached a town which seemed waiting to go somewhere else, where he passed the night.

The next morning he started on his travels again toward Cape Cod. Five miles beyond a large village, in a flat, sterile, gloomy region, he alighted with his baggage, and said, “This is the place for me.” The train went on, and the dépôt-master went into his little den without noticing Osgood. Several tall school-girls, who had come to watch for the train, strolled down a cross-road, and he was alone. He went to the end of the platform and surveyed the country. He stood on the edge of a wide plateau along which ran the railroad-track. Beyond that a road deviated through dismal fields, by unpainted houses, large barns, and straggling orchards. Below the plateau a wide marsh extended, intersected by crooked creeks, which gnawed into the black earth like worms. A rim of sea bordered the tongue of the marsh, but it was too far off to add life to the scene. The sedge, giving up all hope of being moistened by the salt waves, had died in great circles, which looked like mats of gray hair on some pre-Adamite monster’s buried head.

Osgood determined to pursue the windings of the road. He plowed the sand for two miles, and at a sudden turn of the road came upon a house, with a number of barns and sheds attached to it. A dog with a stiff tail ran out from a shed and barked at him, and a pale-faced woman in a muslin cap appeared at a window of the house. He knocked at the door: she opened it.

“Will thee come in?” she asked.

He entered, following her as he would have followed a ghost. She moved a chair from the wall without the least noise, and he dropped upon it. As he looked at her his identity seemed slipping away—seemed to be slipping into an atmosphere connected with her and her surroundings. She brought him some water which she dipped from a pail near by, and held the cocoa-nut dipper which contained it to his lips.

“Thee has come to us from strange parts, I reckon, from thy looks.”

“Yes,” he answered, absently; “I needed change.”

“There has been no change here since the Indians went away. If thee will look across the road thee can see the ground is strewed with the bits of shells from their feasts.”

He went to the window, and again remarked to himself, “This is the place for me.”

“Could you,” he asked, going toward her, “let me stay with you a while?”

“Did thee come to the Marsh End station this morning?”

“Yes; my valise is there.”

“Thy parents are rich?”

“I have none.”

“Thee has been well cared for, though.”

“I have not left home because of any—” Misfortune, he was about to say, but that did not seem to be the right word; so he tried to think of something else to say. She saw his embarrassment, and said, quickly,

“I never have harbored a stranger; but if Peter likes, he may take thee.”

Osgood thanked her so pleasantly that she determined he should stay. She asked him his name, his age, his place of residence, his business, and his intentions. Except in regard to the latter, his answer proved satisfactory; and when Peter returned at noon from the distant shore with a load of sea-weed, she introduced Osgood as if he were an old acquaintance of whom Peter was in a state of lamentable ignorance. He pushed his hat on the back of his head, shook hands with Osgood, and said, “Maria, will thee give me my dinner?” taking no further notice of Osgood till she had placed it on the table. It consisted of stewed beans, boiled beef, apple-pie, and cheese. Osgood ate half a pie, and established himself in Peter’s good graces.

“Thee will learn that Maria’s pie-crust beats all,” he said.

“Thee is ready to consent,” said his wife, “to keep young Osgood a while?”

“I don’t know yet,” answered Peter.

But after dinner he harnessed his horse and went to the dépôt for Osgood’s valise, which he carried upstairs and deposited in the spare room. He then invited Osgood to take a look at the premises. He wished to make his own investigations in regard to Osgood without Maria’s intervention. They lingered by the pig-sty, and while Peter scratched the pigs with a cord-wood stick, exchanged views of men and things. Peter saw the capabilities of Osgood’s character, and easily divined the manner of life he had led. He knew him to be selfish from ignorance, and because he had early formed the habits which impose self-indulgence. Something in the young man’s bearing won his heart—a certain impetuous simplicity and frankness which made him long to be of service to a nature unlike his own. Osgood found Peter genial, shrewd, and sad. Such a man he had never met. It seemed to him that Peter could set him straight in his own estimation; there was no nonsense about the old man, and yet he could see deep feeling in his dark, cavernous eyes. The feeling which had oppressed him passed away, and another took its place which contained restoration, and faith in the future. He got into Peter’s way by attempting to help fodder the cattle and “slick up” the barn. When the work was done, and while Peter fastened the barn-doors with an ox-bow, Osgood looked about him. It was a March afternoon; no wind blew, and no sun shone; but the gray round of the sky, which neither woods nor hills hid from his sight, rolled over him in soft commotion. The reddish, barren fields stretched in their flatness beyond his vision, and the narrow roads of yellow sand ran to nowhere. The world of God, he thought, he saw for the first time; and, away from the world of men, felt himself a man.

He looked so kindly upon Maria when he entered the house that she delayed the stream of the tea-kettle which she held over the teapot to admire him. The supper was the dinner—cold, with an addition of warm biscuits; and again Osgood ate himself into Peter’s good graces.

The evening was passed in silence. Peter smoked, Maria mended, and Osgood reflected. A violent storm arose in the night, which lasted three days. They were improved by Maria and Peter in overhauling garden-seeds in the garret, and in setting up a leach-tub in the wood-house. Osgood assisted. When he was alone with Maria she talked to him of the boy who was lost at sea, and of the girl who died in childhood; with the hungry eyes of a bereaved mother she looked upon him, and his heart was touched with a new tenderness. When he was alone with Peter the old man sounded the depths of the young man’s soul with wise, pathetic, quaint speech; he went over the ground of his own life, which had been passed on the spot where he now was, with the exception of several mackerel voyages, and one in a merchant vessel to some of the southern ports of Europe. But when together Peter and Maria never talked with Osgood on personal matters. Between them a marital silence was kept, which was more expressive than the conjugal volubility which ordinarily exists; it proved that they had passed through profounder experiences.

When the storm ceased Peter went to the station for his Boston newspaper, which he read to Maria, who took it afterward and read it over to herself. Brother Quakers, Peter’s neighbors, who lived out of sight, dropped in from time to time to exchange a word with Maria, or hold talks outside with Peter, with one foot in the rut and the other on the wagon-step. The present subject of interest, Osgood discovered, was the approaching Quarterly Meeting, and the mackerel fishery. Peter asked him to accompany himself and Maria to the town where the meeting was to be. They breakfasted at sunrise, when the day arrived, in full dress—Peter in a snuff-colored suit, and Maria in a series of brown articles—dress, shawl, and bonnet. They started in good spirits in an open wagon, with an improvised seat for Peter in front. Beyond a belt of pine woods stood the meeting-house, and a mile beyond the meeting-house lay the town, before a vast bay. Osgood drove alone into the town, and spent several hours there. He visited the shops to find some trifle for Maria, and then went through the town down to the shore. How happy he grew in the pure wind and the gay morning light! The gulls rode over the foaming wave-crests and dipped into their green walls, and hawks swooped between the steadfast sky and heaving deep. The sea traveled round and round before his eyes with a mad joy, and tempted him to plunge into it. He wrote his name in the heavy sand with a broken shell, and the water filtered out the letters; then he paved it in pebbles with the word Strength.

Peter and Maria were waiting for him when he returned to the meeting-house with the wagon.

“Thee has been skylarking,” she said.

“After something for you,” he answered, putting in her hand a handsome work-basket.

“Has thee so much money that thee must waste it on me, Osgood?”

But she was pleased with the gift. They rode home amicably. Peter, as a favor, allowed Osgood to drive, while he imparted to Maria sundry bits of information gained at the meeting.

“Mackerel” went in and out at Osgood’s ears without gaining his attention, till he caught at something Peter said about the Bonita. He listened. Three vessels were about to sail from the town on a mackerel voyage, and the Bonita was one of them. He comprehended that Peter owned half the Bonita, and a plan struck him. He inquired into the subject, and obtained its history. That evening he proposed going on a mackerel voyage, which proposal so fired Peter that he declared he had a mind to go too; but Maria quenched his enthusiasm by going over the programme of work that must be done at home. She made no opposition to Osgood’s going, but set before him in plain terms the hardships of such a voyage. He was not to be deterred, and Peter gave his consent, promising him a small share of the profits.

Osgood wrote to his Aunt Formica that night, assuring her that he already felt much better, and that he was about to enter into a new business, of which she should hear more. He also wrote Lily Tree a minute, lengthy epistle. He described his situation with Peter and Maria; told her how much board he paid—two dollars and fifty cents a week—and how well he had learned to do chores. He fed the pigs every day; he wished that she could see how well they thrived on the diet lately introduced by Peter and himself—a dry mash of boiled potatoes and meal, with an occasional horseshoe thrown in as a relish. Would she, he wondered, have enjoyed the day that he, Maria, and Peter made soft soap? He mentioned his intended voyage, and asked her if she liked sailors. Could he have the hope, he continued, of her sympathy in his future enterprises, which perhaps would differ from those she had thought of for him? He avowed a change in himself. Would it affect her?

He sealed his letters, and began pacing his little room. Writing home had brought his old life near him again; the distance it had come to reach him seemed enormous.

“It was only a few days ago,” he thought, “and yet I am so different!”

He rolled up his paper window-curtain and softly raised the window. The moon made the landscape look more vast and desolate than it was in the light of day. Under the horizon it revealed a strip of sea which shone as if it were the portal of another world whose light was reflected thereon. Osgood felt that he was an imprisoned soul this side of it. The light gave him an intimation of immortality. “Where is Lily’s soul?” he asked. “Has she any dream beyond the life she is in?”

When Lily received Osgood’s note she was angry; so was Mrs. Formica when she received hers. An intuition that Osgood repented his rashness touched Lily’s pride, and preserved her silence. When the second letter came, she thought he had the intention of experimenting with her; a test, she concluded, was unendurable, not to be submitted to. Should she test him, and proclaim the engagement she meditated? it would be a relief to do something. She could not reach him with a letter, for he had gone on a mackerel voyage beyond the limits of the post-office. She decided differently according to the light she had. Unlike Osgood, she was chained to the place she was in. She was alone, too; her mother was occupied with neuralgia, and her father was out of town half his time, on mysterious agencies which referred to canals. The newspaper reporters at Albany were well acquainted with Mr. Tree’s name while they were putting into short-hand the doings of the Legislature. Mrs. Formica had no suspicion that Lily was the cause of Osgood’s disappearance; she would not have regretted his absence so much on these grounds, for a match with Lily was not desirable.

Within a month Lily’s engagement to Mr. Barclay Dodge was announced. He was a young man of fortune, whose father owed his rise in the world to corn starch, and who had made himself known by spending large sums of money on pictures, landscapes mostly, which had been indorsed by the public in exhibitions.

Mr. Barclay Dodge was happy; he had for more than two years followed Lily through all vicissitudes attendant upon the career of a young girl in society. From an exhilaration the pursuit had become a desperation. He had never suspected any man of being his rival, and accounted for the acquaintance between Lily and Osgood by believing that Lily was related to the Formica family. How she managed so suddenly to convince Barclay Dodge that it was safe for him to propose is a mystery which none but a disappointed, contrary woman may reveal. He had the usual penetration of his sex in regard to such mysteries; he was a man of sense and experience, but he was in love, and when a man is in love he only analyzes himself, and all that he learns is, that his love must be gratified.

In the whirl of his attentions, and the congratulations of her friends, the time passed quickly; not so quickly, however, as to avert the plan by which the Fates were to bring her to a knowledge of herself.

Barclay proposed an immediate marriage. Lily declined the proposal with so much vehemence that he dared not insist. He pulled his mustache in rage after he left her, and wondered why he did not insist. By what means, he cogitated, could he make her yield her will to his? Her resistance he set down to coyness; all women had freaks; they were alike in such matters. He divined after a while that she would let go the lasso at any moment if he proved restive; so he played the submissive to perfection. If she ever saw his eyes flame, or any gesture which contained a threat, he never knew it; but every revelation from him was a revelation to her of herself, and this was to be her education and her punishment.

“Where is your friend Osgood?” he asked once.

“He has been away a long time,” she answered, looking him full in the face, but with rather a stony expression in her eyes.

“He is your relative?”

“Oh no.”

“No? I thought so, always seeing you in the same places.”

“Our families have been acquainted always.”

“Do you think he is handsome?”


“He is too short” (Barclay was tall), “and his eyes have a wandering, unsettled look.”

“He is following his destiny by them,” she answered, bitterly. “I wish that I could follow mine as a man can.”

“Do you mean that you would like to follow Osgood’s eyes?”

“By no means; I must see destiny by your eyes.”

The words were pleasant, but the tone was malicious. It made his heart bound as if an invisible foe had come into his atmosphere to do battle with him, and he could do nothing.

“‘With the vapors all around, and the breakers on our lee,
Not a light is in the sky, not a light is on the sea.’—

barring the lantern abaft,” roared Osgood, from the deck of the schooner Bonita, which was tossing outside Cape Malabar.

“You may sing t’other side of your mouth afore long,” bawled back the skipper. “We ain’t fur from the Cormorant Rocks; the wind p’r’aps will shove us on the ledge.”

“What, when we are just going home with full barrels?”

“The mackerel may be briled in Tophet for all we know.”

The skipper was at the helm; Osgood and he were in the radius of a lantern which revealed their faces to each other. Outside of that was pitch darkness; the rain drove in fierce slants against them, and the wind howled all round the sea.

The skipper did not look concerned, neither did Osgood; but they were both wondering which would first break over the Bonita, the light of morning or the sea.

“Them boys are asleep, I s’pose, wet to the bone?” the skipper yelled.


“Let ’em sleep; there ain’t a lanyard loose.”

“What time must it be?”

“Hard onto ’leven. My old woman’s turned in long afore this, she has; allus goes to bed on the stroke o’ nine.”

“She has thought of you to-night?”

“She has give me a prayer or so; she’s the strictest kind. Now I’ll luff, there is a lull comin’; peskiest storms that have lulls in ’em. You don’t hear a swashing to a distance now?”



A sound, not of wind nor sea, approached them—a rapid, rushing, cutting sound.

“Up with the helm!” shrieked the skipper to himself. “God Almighty, she is down on us!”

Osgood leaped up. The bowsprit of a large ship was over him; he threw up his arms instinctively and caught at something; he felt his feet drawing over the skipper’s head, and that he thumped it with his boots. He knew no more. The great ship crushed and plowed the Bonita into the waves as easily as a plow buries in the sod the stubble of the corn-field. Nothing signaled her destruction except the exclamation of the skipper; nothing remained in the wide sea to show it. Her timbers and the sleeping crew went to the bottom together. Morning dawned on the wild scene, revealing no floating spar, no rib of boat, no stave of tub or barrel, no sailor’s hat, no remnant of sail, no shred of clothing; the jaws of the sea had closed over all. The ship, a Liverpool liner, driven out of her course by the storm, cruised round the spot for a few hours, and then went on her way, taking Osgood with her. He had clung to the folds of the forward sail; and there he was found with his left wrist dislocated, his body strained and sore, and his mind wandering. He was no romantic sight with his red flannel shirt, fishy trowsers, cowhide boots, and hands pickled in brine. Still the ship’s surgeon took to him, and found, when Osgood came to himself, that he had taken to a gentleman. He lent him a suit of customary black, and introduced him to his acquaintances. Osgood would have enjoyed the voyage across the Atlantic but for the horror which had fallen on his mind from the catastrophe of the Bonita.

“How old are you?” the surgeon asked him.

“About the first of March I was twenty-three; since then I have grown so old I have lost the reckoning.”

“I’ll have to give you quinine, my boy.”

“Give me some of the tincture of Lethe.”

“It is of no use to one to forget; don’t be soft.”

“Let us reason together, Sawbones.”

The Doctor agreed, and Osgood began his story with, “Poor Peter,” and finished it with asking, “Do you think I love her?”

“I’ll bet a guinea,” said the Doctor, “that she is married.”

“She isn’t,” replied Osgood, indignantly.

“I am sure that she is engaged, as you call it, to somebody besides yourself.”

“I know better.”

“What do you propose doing when you get home?”

“What can I do with thirty dollars, which I left with Peter by-the-way?”

“We shall see what we shall see when we come face to face with Aunt Formica. I intend going the rounds with you in New York. I am a student.”

He carried Osgood to his country-home beyond Liverpool, where they staid till the ship was ready to sail again. He amused his mother and sisters with stories of Osgood’s adventures on sea and land, and represented him in the light of a “Jarley’s wax-works” hero, till he was fairly cured of his melancholy.

Five months from the day on which he left New York Osgood returned, and stood on his Aunt Formica’s door-steps with Dr. Black. They looked like a pair of Englishmen. Both had shiny, red noses, shiny, hard, narrow-brimmed hats, and shiny, narrow-toed boots, and the nap had brushed off their coats.

Osgood looked into the familiar area with emotion, and the Doctor looked at the windows with curiosity.

“They must be out of town,” he said; “the house has been put in brown hollands.”

But Osgood knew the habits of his aunt—knew that from the first of July till the first of October the house was put on an out-of-town footing; and that she skirmished between city and country, or watering-place. The bell was answered by a servant he did not know.

“I wish to see Mrs. Formica,” he said, brushing past her, and entering the dark parlor. “Dr. Black and friend say.”

Mrs. Formica came in a moment after with a slight air of amazement, which increased to astonishment when she saw her nephew. She gave a little yelp as he embraced her, and said, “Where have you been?”

“To Cape Cod, and to Europe. I have been shipwrecked, aunt—that is, I lost my mackerel venture, and have been taken care of by my noble friend, Dr. Black.”

Aunt Formica grew pale at the word “shipwrecked,” and turned to Dr. Black. Something in his face made her extend her hand and give him a warm welcome.

“Black may stay here while he is in port, mayn’t he? He will amuse you with yarns about me.”

“Of course,” she replied. “Now tell me the whole story.”

Between Osgood and the Doctor it was related.

“Why did you ever go from me?” she asked, wiping away a real tear.

“I believe, aunt, I shall keep up the business of going—it suits me. I can never live through your conventional cramps.”

She did not think it prudent to combat him just then; but made a mental memorandum that something must be done that would change his foolish resolution. A plan developed at dinner that evening.

“I had a note yesterday from Mrs. Senator Conch,” said Mrs. Formica. “She will be in Saratoga this week, and begs me to meet her there. Formica and I have been talking it over, Osgood, and we think that it will be pleasant for Dr. Black and you to go up for a week. You will go, Doctor?”

“Thank you, Madam, provided Osgood is not averse.”

“Any of our set there?” Osgood asked.

“The Trees went up last Saturday with Barclay Dodge. They are making an extensive tour this year.”

“What’s Barclay Dodge along for?”

“He is engaged to Lily Tree!”

“Ah!” said Osgood, looking at the Doctor, who could not help giving him a malicious grimace. “How long since? It’s a capital match, ain’t it?”

“The engagement must have been announced soon after you left.”

This reply put Osgood in a brown study. What impulse, he mused, had prompted Lily to give herself to Barclay Dodge? Would he have done so?

Dr. Black commented on Osgood’s face, and considered himself in a fair way to make studies.

“As far as money goes,” continued Mrs. Formica, “it may be called a good match; but certainly not as far as family goes.”

“Family!” echoed Dr. Black, softly.

“His father was a tradesman,” explained Mr. Formica, “while Lily can go back to her great-grandfather before trade need be mentioned.”

“Old Mr. Tree’s father,” remarked his wife, “was a brigadier-general in the Revolution.”

“He was a drover, for all that,” said Osgood.

Mrs. Formica changed the theme, and talked of Saratoga.

“We’ll go,” Osgood said, crossly; “but I must first go to my tailor.”

Mrs. Formica held a private conversation with him after dinner, gave him a check, and told him not to worry about the future: she had a plan in view.

“Plans go by contraries with me, aunt.”

“You owe it to me not to be perverse.”

“I can’t pay any debt.”

Previous to going to bed Dr. Black and Osgood smoked several cigars.

“You strike me,” said the Doctor, “as growing to the dramatic just now. One event runs into another with monstrous rapidity among you Americans. How you differ from the English! How is it that you catch fortune by the hair so?”

“We are passionate and quick-witted.”

“And then you repudiate with ease.”

“Bah! you imitate Sydney Smith.”

“I did not mean in the sense of State bonds precisely.”

“I think,” Osgood groaned, “that I begin to feel like a snob again. What shall I do to be saved?”

“Go on in the groove that is making for you. I’ll stand by and be the chorus. When I hear thy plaints of misery I will let fall the tear; but remember that ‘laws determine even the fates.’”


Except a dispute between the Doctor and Osgood concerning a slouched hat, which the Doctor would not wear, the party succeeded in starting and arriving amicably at the Union in Saratoga. In a few hours Mrs. Formica knew who was there. The Trees were at the Union. Mrs. Senator Conch had taken a cottage; but the Senator himself had stopped at Albany for a day to confer with the Governor. Old Madam Funchal of Philadelphia was at Congress Hall, with her train, and Mrs. Romeo Pipps Bovis and husband, from Boston. All her friends were round her; that is, the traveling set she was in the habit of meeting; and her spirits rose to the occasion. These particulars she detailed, in a white muslin morning-dress, to Osgood, who, dressed in a new cream-colored suit, lounged in the doorway of a small parlor off the hall. He shouldered round just in time to come face to face with Lily Tree, who was passing on the arm of Barclay Dodge. She stopped, of course, to shake hands with Mrs. Formica, whose apparently warm kiss fell on the edge of a braid of her chestnut hair with the weight and coldness of a snow-flake. Her face settled into rigidity when she turned to speak to Osgood, and, like a transparent boy, he looked, with all the earnestness his gray eyes were capable of, straight into hers. Aunt Formica and Barclay read a story at once upon the text his countenance furnished; but they both made the mistake of believing that Lily had rejected him. Lily was too much occupied in managing her own feelings to divine Osgood’s. The imperative necessity of concealment, which all tutored women feel, governed her. She laughed a great deal, though nobody said a witty thing, and kept her eyes going between Mrs. Formica and Barclay with a steadiness which equaled the movements of the wax women in the Broadway shop windows. Mr. Formica and Dr. Black added themselves to the party, and the relief of an introduction to the Doctor came to Lily. She approached him, and his honest face induced her to skirmish lightly with him; but not a word did he utter of the whys and wherefores of his being with Osgood. He would not, at any rate, extend his self-elected office of chorus so far as to include her. He felt a dislike toward her. She was too thin, he thought; there was an air of wear and tear about her which was not pleasant. He felt, too, that she knew more than Osgood; and a woman, in his estimation, should never be the intellectual superior of a man she might make choice of. But the Doctor was an Englishman; his ideas of women had been developed by the cynical Thackeray and the material Dickens. There was a line between the two classes of women he only believed to exist—the bad capable woman and the good foolish woman—which could never be crossed by one or the other. The elements which go to make up a man, of good and evil mixed, never enter into the composition of the women of Englishmen of the present time. It is possible that Lily discovered Dr. Black’s impression: she discovered it so nearly that she was certain Osgood had talked of her with him. Why had he? she wondered.

In a few minutes the party fell apart as naturally as it had come together. Lily went on her walk with Barclay; after which she retired to dress for luncheon, but instead of appearing thereat kept her room till evening.

Osgood avoided every body; he was tormented with an idea that Lily had suffered. There was no reason for his thinking so; he derived the idea from reasoning with himself—reasoning which meeting with her had put in play. In the evening he went to the drawing-room, and waited till he saw her come in. Barclay, who was waiting too, darted toward her, but Osgood reached her first. When Barclay saw Lily take the arm which Osgood offered her, he turned away; but changing his mind again went up to them.

“Osgood,” he said, in a frank voice, “you have not congratulated me on my engagement to your friend Lily.”

Talk of heroes and martyrs; was not Lily both, at that moment, standing between these two men, with her hair dressed by a barber, and wearing a pale blue silk?

She eyed with a dainty air a little bouquet she held in her hand, of tea-roses and geraniums, and applied it to her nose with great deliberation. She felt an impetus from Osgood’s arm. He had not answered Barclay, but was dragging her decorously out of the drawing-room. When they were alone he spoke to her.

“I have faced death since I saw you. I have grown a man; but until now, I did not know that I loved you. Which man do you belong to?”

“I have faced life since I saw you,” she answered, in a silvery voice, “and I belong to Barclay Dodge.”

“Let us go back.”

She tossed her bouquet over the railing of the veranda with a vindictive smile which would have astonished Osgood had he seen it.

Barclay was on the threshold; he looked at Lily and missed the bouquet; it was not in Osgood’s button-hole—what could she have done with it? He looked at Osgood, and saw that his teeth were set with a passion which he could understand. Lily sat down in the nearest chair, and the young men moved away together.

“There is no need of any nonsense between us,” said Osgood; “I was under a wrong impression regarding your engagement. I do offer my congratulations.”

“Thank you,” said Barclay, dubiously. And then they looked at each other with mad eyes. What a relief it would have been if they could have fought to the death!

Osgood left Barclay abruptly, and sought his Aunt Formica.

“Aunt!” he said, in a mild voice, “you need not ask Conch to blow any horn for me. I am going to sea.”

“You will be better when she is married,” she answered, significantly.

“I intend to before that. Your surmise is incorrect. You do not know that I ran away from Lily, as well as from you and the Sub-Treasury.”

“What do you mean?”

“I offered myself to her; she accepted me, and on the strength of it I left her immediately. What do you think of me?”

She is a little wretch. Did you care for her very much?”

“I thought she couldn’t make a poor man a good wife, after I had asked her to be such. And I thought a poor man wouldn’t be a good husband.”

“It was the height of foolishness in both of you. It is most unwise for two people who have had luxuries separately to join and give them up.”

“Luxuries! I wish you knew Peter and Maria.”

“Osgood, you are morbid.”

“Now, aunt, hear me. I am resolved to choose my own life; you must let me go. Whatever way I go, I shall not disgrace you. Formica may give me a sailor’s outfit, if he chooses. Meantime let us enjoy ourselves for the remainder of the week.” Notwithstanding she saw that he was determined, she applied to Senator Conch for a place, and he promised her one for Osgood in a department at Washington. When she told Osgood of it, he deigned no reply; but shook his head so fiercely that she forebore to trouble him.

Every day that he saw Lily she learned his nature by the contrast Barclay offered; she also learned to doubt herself. She never had been worthy of Osgood; it was fit that she should marry Barclay. She doubted whether she could keep up the strain, which she knew Osgood’s love would impose upon her, of self-abnegation, self-denial, isolation, and independence. She was not sure that she did not prefer enervation with Barclay to action with Osgood. Barclay watched them both. Jealousy gnawed his soul, not because he doubted Osgood, but because he had a suspicion that Lily once felt an interest in Osgood, which might be on the point of awakening. He tried experiments upon her feelings, pinched them, tore them up by the roots, extracted them with wrenches of his will, applied slow fire; but he learned nothing. His motive was so palpable to Osgood that he more than once felt on the point of knocking him down, and had he seen any encouraging sign from Lily he would have done it. He sometimes sighed over Barclay’s failure, hateful as his conduct was.

Through the torture which Barclay applied to her she saw the passion which tortured him. Could a woman have been quailed into love she would have been at his feet; for he broke loose from his feigned submission and savagely demanded an equal return of his love. Then came the full measure of her punishment. She was incapable of rising to the strength, height, and abandon of Barclay’s love. She was just as unworthy of him as she was of Osgood.

How she hated herself!

Somehow she heard that Osgood was going to sea. It is probable that Aunt Formica’s feminine malice directed the disclosure to her ears. She staggered Dr. Black a moment after she heard the report by asking if it was true.

“It is,” he answered, with dignity, though inwardly scared.

She asked no other question of him, but snapped her fan together and walked away.

“Lily does not want you to go to sea,” he said, when next he saw Osgood.

Osgood blew a ring of cigar smoke into the air and watched its disappearance.

“If wedding rings would only disappear that way!” said the Doctor.

Osgood blew another. “Include engagement rings,” he said.

“One did vanish,” replied the Doctor, slyly.

“I do not believe so. I swear she wears two this moment.”

He left the Doctor, shut himself in his room, and wrote a long letter to Peter about himself, Lily, and Barclay, and posted it.

“Peter will understand me,” he thought; “and more than that, he will understand Lily.”

The last day of the Formicas’ stay in Saratoga came. Osgood and Dr. Black appeared in traveling costume. Lily saw them enter the breakfast-room, and followed them with her father. As she passed their chairs, she asked, “Do you go to-day?” Osgood bowed. Dr. Black engaged Mr. Tree in making a remark.

“Why do you go?” she asked.

“Because Barclay stays,” he whispered.

She turned a fiery red and passed on. He looked across the table once and met her eyes. She thought they said “Farewell.” A wild wish rose in her heart which compelled all her nature to give way to it, to speak to him once more; to see him alone, and force him to tell her if he loved her. She resolved to find him somewhere, at all hazards.

Dr. Black watched her also. His comment was, that she was “coming to a crisis,” and was beautifully following out the laws which governed her sex. “Why can’t they be something without hysterics?” he lamented. “Osgood will break down if he is not got away.” He mechanically turned back his wristbands.

Lily waited in an ante-room, whose door Osgood must pass on his way out, and when he came, beckoned to him.

“Say your farewell to me as you feel it,” she said, her eyes in a blaze.

“I can not.”

“You shall.”

Her eyes and her voice threw him into a tumult; had he followed the desire which assailed him, he would have taken her in his arms and carried her off. As it was, he looked at her, with a far-off look, as if he were calling some one to his aid.

“Osgood, Osgood!” she cried.


She wrung her hands.

“Lily!” he said again.

“No, no, you need not speak; you may go.”

Both of them gained a victory.

“After I have gone,” he said, “if you think it proper, will you visit Peter and Maria?”

“Peter and Maria?”

“The friends I found when I left you, who helped me to find a better self—a self that at last finds you.”

“I will go.”

“To-morrow, then, I will write you of them.”

He was gone.

In a few days she received a letter which contained the narrative of his sojourn with Peter and Maria, and a letter of introduction to them. She showed the letter to Barclay.

“Shall you meet him there?”

She gave him no answer.

“On what terms are you with yourself?” he continued.

“To answer candidly, bad terms.”

“Could you marry that beggar on better?”

“Alas! no.”

“Tell me, are you satisfied with your choice?”

She looked so irresolute that he trembled and was sorry that he had asked the question. Her better angel took wings, however, and she laid her hand on his shoulder, saying, “I make no other.”

So she went on her travels with Barclay in her train, and Osgood went on a voyage in the Stormy Petrel as third mate. When autumn came, and the travelers had returned to town, Lily grew miserable. One day she told Barclay that she wanted to read him a poem. He composed himself to listen, and she read “The Palace of Art.”

“‘What is it that will take away my sin,
And save me lest I die?’”—

she repeated.

“Barclay,” she entreated, “let me throw your royal robes away, and go to those friends of Osgood’s, where I may learn that I am either worthy of you or of him.”

A stormy scene ensued. He would neither allow her to go, he said, nor would he give her back her promise to him. But she was firm, and said that she must go. His imprecations and his tears agitated her, but did not shake her resolution. She had a battle with her father also when she mentioned the subject, but she triumphed over him so far as to make him promise to accompany her. She sent the letter of introduction to Peter, and received a pithy reply from him. He advised her to come. With Peter and Maria she learned why Osgood wished her to visit them. She left them with a request that they should allow her to return whenever she should wish.

She found Barclay sullen and unhappy; but in spite of himself she convinced him that they were not intended for each other. It was a work to persuade him to the contrary; but at last they parted not as foes but friends.

When the engagement was annulled she took pains to ascertain from the owners of the Stormy Petrel what time she was expected home, and before the date of her arrival she went on a visit to Peter and Maria.

There she studied the Marine List till she saw that the Stormy Petrel was in port. She said nothing of the fact to Peter, but as he read the Marine List too, he found it out for himself. He went away in his wagon a few mornings afterward, and when he returned Osgood was beside him.

“Thee is as white as a ghost, Lily,” said Maria, after a few minutes.

Osgood put his arm round her, and they kissed each other. Peter pushed his hat on the back of his head, and kissed Maria, and said, “Give me my dinner.”