And so at last I was accepted, and my engagement with Eva was recognized as a fait accompli.

In the family of my betrothed were all shades of acquiescence. Mrs. Van Arsdel was pensively resigned to me as a mysterious dispensation of Providence. Mr. Van Arsdel, though not in any way demonstrative, showed an evident disposition to enter into confidential relations with me. Ida was whole-hearted and cordial; and Alice, after a little reconnoitering, joined our party as a gay, generous young girl, naturally disposed to make the best of things, and favorably inclined toward the interests of young lovers.

Mr. Trollope, in The Small House at Allington, represents a young man just engaged, as feeling himself in the awkward position of a captive led out in triumph, for exhibition. The lady and her friends are spoken of as marching him forth with complacency, like a prize ox with ribbons in his horns, unable to repress the exhibition of their delight in having entrapped him. One would infer from this picture of life such a scarcity of marriageable men that the capture even of such game as young Crosbie, who is represented to be an untitled young man, without fortune or principle, is an occasion of triumph.

In our latitudes, we of the stronger sex are not taught to regard ourselves as such overpoweringly delightful acquisitions, and the declaration of an engagement is not with us regarded as evidence of a lady's skill in hunting. I did not, as young Crosbie is said to have done, feel myself somehow caught. On the contrary, I was lost in wonder at my good fortune. If I had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or dug up the buried treasures of Captain Kidd, I could not have seemed to myself more as one who dreamed.

I wrote all about it to my mother, who, if she judged by my letters, must have believed "Hesperian fables" true for the first time in the world, and that a woman had been specially made and created out of all impossible and fabulous elements of joy. The child-wife of my early days, the dream-wife of my youth, were both living, moving, breathing in this wonderful reality. I tried to disguise my good fortune—to walk soberly and behave myself among men as if I were sensible and rational, and not dazed and enchanted. I felt myself orbed in a magical circle, out of which I looked pityingly on everybody that was not I. A spirit of universal match-making benevolence possessed me. I wanted everybody I liked to be engaged. I pitied and made allowances for everybody that was not. How could they be happy or good that had not my fortune? They had not, they never could have, an Eva. There was but one Eva, and I had her!

I woke every morning with a strange, new thrill of joy. Was it so? Was she still in this world, or had this impossible, strange mirage of bliss risen like a mist and floated heavenward? I trembled when I thought how frail a thing human life is. Was it possible that she might die? Was it possible that an accident in a railroad car, a waft of drapery toward an evening lamp, a thoughtless false step, a mistake in a doctor's prescription, might cause this lovely life to break like a bubble, and be utterly gone, and there be no more Eva, never, nevermore on earth? The very intensity of love and hope suggested the possibility of the dreadful tragedy that every moment underlies life; that with every joy connects the possibility of a proportioned pain. Surely love, if nothing else, inclines the soul to feel its helplessness and be prayerful, to place its treasures in a Father's hand.

Sometimes it seemed to me too much to hope for, that she should live to be my wife; that the fabulous joy of possession should ever be mine. Each morning I left my bunch of fresh violets with a greeting in it at her door, and assured myself that the earth yet retained her, and all day long I worked with the under-thought of the little boudoir where I should meet her in the evening. Who says modern New York life is prosaic? The everlasting poem of man and woman is as fresh there at this hour as among the crocuses and violets of Eden.

A graceful writer, in one of our late magazines, speaks of the freedom which a young man feels when he has found the mistress and queen of his life. He is bound to no other service, he is anxious about no other smile or frown. I had been approved and crowned by my Queen of Love and Beauty. If she liked me, what matter about the rest?

It did not disturb me a particle to feel that I was submitted to as a necessity, rather than courted as a blessing, by her parents. I cared nothing for cold glances or indifferent airs so long as my golden-haired Ariadne threw me the clew by which I threaded the labyrinth, and gave me the talisman by which to open the door. Once safe with her in her little "Italy," the boudoir in which we first learned to know each other, we laughed and chatted, making ourselves a gay committee of observation on the whole world besides. Was there anybody so fortunate as we? and was there any end to our subject-matter for conversation?

"You have no idea, Harry," she said to me, the first evening after our engagement had been declared, "what a time we've been having with Aunt Maria! You know she is mamma's oldest sister, and mamma is one of the gentle, yielding sort, and Aunt Maria has always ruled and reigned over us all. She really has a way of ordering mamma about, and mamma I think is positively afraid of her. Not that she's really ill-tempered, but she is one of the sort that thinks it's a matter of course that she should govern the world, and is perfectly astonished when she finds she can't. I have never resisted her before, because I have been rather lazy, and it's easier to give up than to fight; and besides one remembers one's catechism, and doesn't want to rise up against one's pastors and masters."

"But you thought you had come to a place where amiability ceased to be a virtue?" said I.

"Exactly. Ida always said that people must have courage to be disagreeable, or they couldn't be good for much; and so I put on all my terrors, and actually bullied Aunt Maria into submission."

"You must have been terrific," said I, laughing.

"Indeed, you ought to have seen me! I astonished myself. I told her that she always had domineered over us all, but that now the time had come that she must let my mother alone, and not torment her; that, as for myself, I was a woman and not a child, and that I should choose my lot in life for myself, as I had a right to do. I assure you, there was warm work for a little while, but I remained mistress of the field."

"It was a revolutionary struggle," said I.

"Exactly,—a fight at the barricades; and as a result a new government is declared. Mamma reigns in her own house and I am her prime minister. On the whole I think mamma is quite delighted to be protected in giving me my own way, as she always has. Aunt Maria has shaken dreadful warnings and threatenings at me, and exhausted a perfect bead-roll of instances of girls that had married for love and come to grief. You'd have thought that nothing less than beggary and starvation was before us; and the more I laughed the more solemn and awful she grew. She didn't spare me. She gave me a sad character. I hadn't been educated for anything, and I didn't know how to do anything, and I was nothing of a housekeeper, and I had no strength; in short, she made out such a picture of my incapacities as may well make you tremble."

"I don't tremble in the least," said I. "I only wish we could set up our establishment to-morrow."

"Aunt Maria told me that it was ungenerous of me to get engaged to a man of no fortune, now when papa is struggling with these heavy embarrassments, and can't afford the money to marry me, and set me up in the style he would feel obliged to. You see, Aunt Maria is thinking of a wedding twice as big as the Elmores, and a trousseau twice as fine, and a brown-stone front palace twice as high and long and broad as the Rivingtons; and twice as many coupés and Park wagons and phaetons as Maria Rivington is to have; and if papa is to get all this for me, it will be the ruin of him, she says."

"And you told her that we didn't want any of them?" said I.

"To be sure I did. I told her that we didn't want one of these vulgar, noisy, showy, expensive weddings, and that I didn't mean to send to Paris for my things. That a young lady who respected herself was always supplied with clothes good enough to be married with; that we didn't want a brown stone palace, and could be very happy without any carriage; and that there were plenty of cheap little houses in unfashionable streets we could be very happy in; that people who really cared for us would come to see us, live where we would, and that those who didn't care might keep away."

"Bravo, my queen! and you might tell her how Mad. Récamier drew all the wit and fashion of Paris to her little brick-floored rooms in the old Abbey. People will always want to come where you are."

"I don't set up for a Récamier," she exclaimed, "but I do say that where people have good times, and keep a bright pleasant fireside, and are always glad to see friends, there will always be friends to come; and friends are the ones we want."

"Ah! we will show them how things can be done, won't we?"

"Indeed we will. I always wanted a nice little house all my own where I could show what I could do. I have quantities of pet ideas of what a home should be, and I always fancied I could make things lovely."

"If you couldn't, who could?" said I, enchanted.

"See here," she added, "I have just begun to think what we have to start with. All the pictures in this little room are mine, bought with my own allowance; they are my very own. Pictures, you know, are a great thing, they half furnish a house. Then you know that six thousand dollars that grandmamma left me! Besides, sir, only think, a whole silver cream-pitcher and six tablespoons! Why Harry, I'm an heiress in my own right, even if poor papa should come to grief."

Something in this talk reminded me of the far-off childish days when Susie and I made our play-houses under the old butternut tree, and gathered in our stores of chestnuts and walnuts and laid our grave plans for life as innocently as two squirrels, and I laughed with a tear in my eye. I recounted to her the little idyl, and said that it had been a foreshadowing of her, and that perhaps my child angel had guided me to her.

"Some day you shall take me up there, Harry, and show me where you and she played together, and we will gather strawberries and lilies and hear the bobolinks," she said. "How little the world knows how cheap happiness is!"

"To those that know where to look for it," said I.

"I heard papa telling you that half the estates on which good New England families live in comfort up there in the country don't amount to more than five thousand dollars, yet they live well, and they have all those lovely things around them free. Here in this artificial city life people struggle and suffer to get money for things they don't want and don't need. Nobody wants these great parties, with their candy pyramids and their artificial flowers and their rush and crush that tire one to death, and yet they pay as much for one as would keep one of those country houses going for a year. I do wish we could live there!"

"I do too—with all my heart, but my work must lie here. We must make what the French call an Interior here in New York. I shall have to be within call of printers and the slave of printers' devils, but in summer we will go up into the mountains and stay with my mother, and have it all to ourselves."

"Do you know, Harry," said Eva after a pause, "I can see that Sophie Elmore really does admire Sydney. I can't help wondering how one can, but I see she does. Now don't you hope she'll get engaged to him?"

"Certainly I do," said I, "I wan't all nice people to be engaged if they have as good a time as we do. It's my solution of the woman question."

"Well, do you know I managed my last interview with Sydney with reference to that? I made what you would call a split-shot in croquet to send him from me and to her."

"How did you do it?"

"Oh, don't ask me to describe. There are ways of managing these men that are incommunicable. One can play on them as upon a piano, and I'll wager you a pair of gloves that Sydney goes off after Sophie. She's too good for him, but she likes him, and Sophie will make him a nice wife. But only think of poor Aunt Maria! It will be the last stroke that breaks the camel's back to have the Elmores get Sydney."

"So long as he doesn't get you, I shall be delighted," said I.

"Now only think," she added, "this Spring I was drifting into an engagement with that man just because I was idle, and blasé, and didn't know what to do next, and didn't have force enough to keep saying 'No' to mamma and Aunt Maria and all the rest of them."

"And what gave you force?"

"Well, sir, I couldn't help seeing that somebody else was getting very prettily entangled, and I felt a sort of philosophic interest in watching the process, and somehow—you know—I was rather sorry for you."


"Well, and I began to feel that anybody else would be intolerable, and you know they say there must be somebody."

"But me you could tolerate? Thank you, for so much."

"Yes, Harry, I think you are rather agreeable. I couldn't fancy myself sitting a whole evening with Sydney as I do with you. I always had to resort to whist and all sorts of go-betweens to keep him entertained; and I couldn't fancy that I ever should run to the window to see if he were coming in the evening, or long for him to come back when he was on a journey. I'm afraid I should long quite the other way and want him to go journeys often. But Sophie will do all these things. Poor man! somebody ought to, for he wouldn't be a bit satisfied if his wife were not devoted. I told him that, and told him that he needed a woman capable of more devotion than I could feel and flattered him up a little—poor fellow, he took to it so kindly! And after a while I contrived to let fall a nice bit of a compliment I had once heard about him from a lady, who I remarked was usually a little fastidious, and hard to please, and you ought to have seen how animated he looked! A mouse in view of a bit of toasted cheese never was more excited. I wouldn't tell him who it was, yet I sent him off on such a track that he inevitably will find out. That's what I call sending Sophie a ball to play on. You see if they don't have a great wedding about the time we have our little one!"

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