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GAINS AND LOSSES.
By Mrs. Ada H. Thomas Nickles.
ALENA REDWAY leaned against the window, looking outward. The dull November day was deadening down into a dun twilight. Sullen clouds lay low in the west, beneath which no gilding of sunset showed. A wide, far-stretching reach of moorland, wet and desolate, a dead river, a gray horizon, which on sunbright days showed misty lakes of oaklands, an air heavy and dank, and black with the smoke from the furnace-mouths of the city, whose Briareus' arms stretched out nearly here in straggling, illy-built houses, vulgar and worthless were they as their occupants, pushed out into the street, unfenced, intruded upon by wandering hordes of cattle and swine driven in from the grazing country beyond, spattered with the filth of the road, and infested with rude, boisterous children, this was the scene on which she looked. It hurt her eyes now as she gazed. There was no beauty in the country, -no broken bluffs nor rich coloring of forest foliage, only a desolate plain and slug gish river. Here was the poverty of Nature, but a poverty not of pride nor of decency, a reposeful consciousness of suffering need.
She, standing in the circle of her posiJULY, 1864.
tion, the halo of generations of wealth. and culture surrounding her, could look beyond her atmosphere of ease and refinement, upon the people battling with the realities of life for bread to hold soul to body, and clothing sufficient for a precarious comfort, weary, heart-aching, dead, perhaps, as this moor, but like it neither intrusive nor vulgar, and recog nize the kinship with no abasement of soul; but such as those yonder, squalid, peevish, fretful, filthy, or horribly mirthful, destitute of common pride or affection, — only yesterday, as she passed, she beheld a loose, blear-eyed female beating her child in a manner that chilled her blood, these wretches, hardly above the beasts that perish, - ugh, she hated them. She liked a dog. There was Vinton, old fellow, shaking his shaggy sides, his wistful eyes full of a brute-pleading for admittance. She shrugged her shoulders, shaking off the troublesome thoughts, and ran to the door, calling "Vinton." He came in slowly, wagging his tail in token of gratitude, rubbing his head against her.
She always was a child with her old playmate. The three years of her societylife, the artificial restraints and knottings of her outside existence, she threw entirely away from her here at home. Old Vin was her old pet, her good old rogue, her fine fellow, as she kneeled down on
the rug patting his head, stroking his sides, shaking his paws. The face now was one of happy joyfulness, the play of expression free and perfect, which would have rendered the plainest features pleasing. But Galena hardly needed that to make her beautiful.
Her head was finely formed, firmly set, the forehead broad and full, eyebrows straight and strong, eyes gray-blue, with lids opening widely for a straightforward outlook, a mouth well fashioned, not small nor full, but with lips that might roll out sentences well clipped and curt you could tell. The face spoke well. There was truth, will, reticence, honesty, a poise seldom seen in a girl of twenty,—giving promise of a self-reliant spirit, a little too confident and hard, perhaps, as circumstances might mould it. For the rest, her hair was dark brown, sombre, gathering no outward light in ripples of curls, but straight, though fine and soft, combed off from the low forehead, and knotted with a sprig of scarlet geranium in a profuse coil low on the neck behind. Her dress was a scarlet brocaded silk, gleaming into swift glancings of light and shade at every movement. She liked bright coloring in dress and hues; dead tints hurt her always. The flowers of summer and autumn pleased her best. The violets and anemones of spring, the pale tints of crocus, wax flowers, and hyacinths, looked to her as though the frequent rains and snow-meltings had washed out their beauty, leaving in them only a faint, fady representation of their natural brightness.
Just above the mantle, in a frame of oak and ivy leaves entwined, hung the picture of a magnificently beautiful woman. Dreamy-eyed, with that latent brightness that, not glowing in tinted cheeks, burns out under drooping lids, and swells forth floods of sweetness in smiles that drown one in an intoxicating burst of beauty. The hair was bronze, clinging in curls about a forehead and cheeks of marble whiteness. This was the shadow of the woman who had been the one poem of Charles Redway's life, whose glorious beauty he had hidden under the grass before Galena had learned
to understand the passionate meaning and intensity of the kisses she childishly received and returned.
There was a deep, in-looking expression to Galena's eyes at times, fearless and bright as they were, that looked as her mother's had; but otherwise there was little in face or feature that resembled her. There was less striking beauty, less expression, but more strength in outward expression, I mean. Looking at the pictured face with the full, passionate lips and introverted eyes, I should say the only weakness there was outward and apparent. I know she could have taken hold of God's most terrible providences, and held them with never a word of complaint, if thereby another were saved a
I have seen women whose wills never came in contact with one opposing but they faltered, yet I have known them walk uncomplainingly and cheerfully a life-path beside which physical suffering by wild horses or Indians were happiness. But the sweet face above the mantle was pictured only; the real had hidden its possible suffering in a surer grave than the calmness of a reticent life.
A whirl of carriage wheels came up from the street, and Vin responded with erect ears and swinging tail, snuffing the air as though scenting the coming of friends. Galena raised herself from her kneeling posture, and hurried to the window to catch a glance of a remarkably handsome, distinguished-looking man.
You should have seen the girl's face then. Except the lilies and gold of hair, the fascinating beauty of the mother's face glowed into wonderful life. This was her betrothed, her love, her most perfect among men. How he towered above others, a very giant in beauty, in intellect, in grace! And he had chosen her. felt so proud for him, so humble for herself. How beautiful the world seemed! how gracious and good God was to her! Even as she thought the dun gray of the marshland grew warmed and vivified with the one great principle of love eternal, perfect, embracing, in which and through which all was perfection and order.
The brown, filthy houses yonder, with
their miserable occupants, the squalid, vicious children, screaming and rolling in the mud of the marsh, swearing, cursing, beating and being beaten,-she shuddered. It was cold out there, and beside, a draft from the door had chilled her firewarmed arms; but here was warmth, love, peace, — Edward.
She turned to him her face full of greeting, holding out her hands. "I am glad you have come. I've been growing terribly blue this afternoon."
A half-smile just bent his lip, -an outside smile, having nothing to do with dimples or eyes. He held her back at arm's length, taking in the whole bright picture, glowing eyes and cheeks, scarlet and jewels, surveying it proudly as one would a picture belonging to one. He nodded his head in approval.
"It's been so long since I've seen you," she said.
"Has it? I thought it was only a
Yes, to be sure, a week; it had seemed ages to her, and a sudden sharp pang shot through her heart that it had been "only a week" to him; but it passed again in the generous, womanly thought of his outside interests.
"I must congratulate you on your
"Thank you! I was confident of it for weeks."
"You can't tell how anxious I was for days beforehand. I could take no work nor book. I could hardly receive callers, I was so possessed with the fear of your defeat."
"You should have had more confidence in my star, Galena. I felt as cool and secure as an expert oarsman on a trial race. I knew the shape of the boat, the strength of the current, and the nerve that dealt the strokes. It was out of reason that I should fail."
"So confidence wins the race always."
"All trumpery, little girl. If a man will hold his own, the world wont take it away from him."
"You are confident of your place, then, " she said, smiling up at him.
"Yes," he said, positively. He was cool in his judgments, this man. He measured men and things with a calculative skill that gave him an astonishing power over circumstances. This girl he read as fully as though her heart lay opened to his gaze. A fresh, intense life she had, he knew, whose every possibility was ready for his mould to fashion. He felt no misgivings as to his capability of forming this rich life; no questionings of the right he had to surround this impressionable nature he had chanced upon with the fascinations of his strong will and powerful intellect troubled the serenity of his conscience.
This existence belonged to him. He was born to sway souls, to bend wills, to rule minds. The world with its people was spread out before him to take and use for his profit or pleasure. Besides, he loved this girl, here, in his fashion. She was new, and full of a crude strength of which she was wholly unaware. loved him passionately; she never did anything weakly, or by halves. It gave him pleasure, this deep, unquestioning love,- a pleasure that he felt certain would have been pain had she been placed in a position where to have accepted it would have called for a sacrifice from his ambition. It was in his favor that it was not so, that through the fulfilment of his love there opened a wider scope for his ambitious desires.
She looked at him in an honest, questioning way.
"These woman-fancies are beyond my power of solution," he answered, smiling. "I love you, as men love, strongly, and am always very happy when I'm with you; but when we men are out in the air, there is the lawsuit of to-day, the political speech of to-morrow, to intrude their presence, and drive away all fancies or thoughts of pleasure."
She hummed, in a clear, rich voice,
She shook her head half sadly as she finished it. "And now that you take your place among men, crowned and acknowledged king, I'm afraid my half year' even will be sadly intruded upon." You must find your happiness where other women find it, in following the footsteps of your king. You mustn't be getting blue, mind, because he can't get out of his war-chariot to look after your embroideries."
"No, but I should want my tapestries to appear of value to him, just as his jousts and battles and victories would be to me. I should want him to look up from his war-chariot occasionally, and wave his scarf at me, and think how much he owed to my stimulating smile that his conquests were so many, his arm so invincible."
to nature, mystify my brain with a ceaseless cloud of tobacco smoke, and go to overturning the whole state and social distinctions as the spirits tip tables?"
"With the like results of general confusion? No, not by any means; but as leader in a measure, to carry the people up into a better knowledge of the power in them."
"In short, to invite each man to reign along with me. A pretty muss I'd be getting into. It is all well enough, this talk of universal rights,' the sovereign people,' and the one-in-many' before election. You must not hurl my political speeches at my head after I've taken my seat in the senate chamber, nor expect that the campaign I've been through in promises is to be redeemed in fact. We politicians are great exaggerators. The truth is, little girl, women don't understand the necessary falsities of our position. We have to measure our phrases and ideas, and make them fit the inevitable circumstances that are around us. don't do for me to say to the world, I will have this, or that, or the other!' It presents arms immediately, and ten chances to one that I'm not finished on the spot; but, instead, I rub down the prejudices, flatter the self-love, and the result is, I'm pushed right along into the position I desire."
"It seems to me very like deception," she said, honestly.
"That's it, exactly. I knew you'd exclaim at it. You see you women have morbid ideas of truth and morality and religion, which is very well in every-day life; but when you carry these into the making of laws, you lose sight of land entirely. You'd run the ship of state into a sand-bar of conscience as sure as you had hold of the rudder, little girl; so whatever course I take, don't question, but wait for the result."