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[Transcriber's Note:

Endnote markers have been added for the reader's convenience.]




THE WOMAN WHO DARED.




THE
WOMAN WHO DARED.

BY

EPES SARGENT.



"Honest liberty is the greatest foe to dishonest license."

JOHN MILTON.


BOSTON:
ROBERTS BROTHERS.
1870.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by
EPES SARGENT,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of
Massachusetts.

UNIVERSITY PRESS: WELCH, BIGELOW, & CO.,
CAMBRIDGE.




To ---- ----.


_Spring saw my little venture just begun;
And then your hospitable message came,
Inviting me to taste the strawberries
At Strawberry Hill. I went. How long I stayed,
Urged by dear friends and the restoring breeze,
Let me not say; long enough to complete
My rhythmic structure; day by day it grew,
And all sweet influences helped its growth.
The lawn sloped green and ample till the trees
Met on its margin; and the Hudson's tide
Rolled beautiful beyond, where purple gleams
Fell on the Palisades or touched the hills
Of the opposing shore; for all without
Was but an emblem of the symmetry
I found within, where love held perfect sway,
With taste and beauty and domestic peace
For its allies._

_We do not praise the rose,
Since all who see it know it is the rose;
And so, dear lady, praise of thee would seem,
To all who know thee, quite superfluous.
But if from any of these thoughts be shed
Aught of the fragrance and the hue of truth,
To thee I dedicate the transient flower
In which the eternal beauty reappears;
Knowing, should poison mingle with the sweet,
Thou, like the eclectic bee, with instinct sure,
Wilt take the good alone, and leave the bad._

_E. S._




CONTENTS.


PAGE

I. OVERTURE 1

II. THE FATHER'S STORY 7

III. THE MOTHER'S STORY 39

Linda's Lullaby 41

IV. PARADISE FOUND 93

The Mother's Hymn 100

V. LINDA 115

Help me, dear Chords 143

Be of good Cheer 147

VI. BY THE SEASIDE 177

Linda's Song 189

Under the Pines 203

VII. FROM LINDA'S DIARY 211

VIII. FROM MEREDITH'S DIARY 235

IX. BESIDE THE LAKE 249

NOTES 263




THE WOMAN WHO DARED.


I.

OVERTURE.


Blest Power that canst transfigure common things,
And, like the sun, make the clod burst in bloom,--
Unseal the fount so mute this many a day,
And help me sing of Linda! Why of her,
Since she would shrink with manifest recoil,
Knew she that deeds of hers were made a theme
For measured verse? Why leave the garden flowers
To fix the eye on one poor violet
That on the solitary grove sheds fragrance?
Themes are enough, that court a wide regard,
And prompt a strenuous flight; and yet from all,
My thoughts come back to Linda. Let me spare,
As best I may, her modest privacy,
While under Fancy's not inapt disguise
I give substantial truth, and deal with no
Unreal beings or fantastic facts:
Bear witness to it, Linda!

Now while May
Keeps me a restive prisoner in the house,
For the first time the Spring's unkindness ever
Held me aloof from her companionship,
However roughly from the east her breath
Came as if all the icebergs of Grand Bank
Were giving up their forms in that one gust,--
Now while on orchard-trees the struggling blossoms
Break from the varnished cerements, and in clouds
Of pink and white float round the boughs that hold
Their verdure yet in check,--and while the lawn
Lures from yon hemlock hedge the robin, plump
And copper-breasted, and the west wind brings
Mildness and balm,--let me attempt the task
That also is a pastime.

What though Spring
Brings not of Youth the wonder and the zest;
The hopes, the day-dreams, and the exultations?
The animal life whose overflow and waste
Would far out-measure now our little hoard?
The health that made mere physical existence
An ample joy; that on the ocean beach
Shared with the leaping waves their breezy glee;
That in deep woods, or in forsaken clearings,
Where the charred logs were hid by verdure new,
And the shy wood-thrush lighted; or on hills
Whence counties lay outspread beneath our gaze;
Or by some rock-girt lake where sandy margins
Sloped to the mirrored tints of waving trees,--
Could feel no burden in the grasshopper,
And no unrest in the long summer day?
Would I esteem Youth's fervors fair return
For temperate airs that fan sublimer heights
Than Youth could scale; heights whence the patient vision
May see this life's harsh inequalities,
Its rudimental good and full-blown evil,
Its crimes and earthquakes and insanities,
And all the wrongs and sorrows that perplex us,
Assume, beneath the eternal calm, the order
Which can come only from a Love Divine?
A love that sees the good beyond the evil,
The serial life beyond the eclipsing death,--
That tracks the spirit through eternities,
Backward and forward, and in every germ
Beholds its past, its present, and its future,
At every stage beholds it gravitate
Where it belongs, and thence new-born emerge
Into new life and opportunity,
An outcast never from the assiduous Mercy,
Providing for His teeming universe,
Divinely perfect not because complete,
But because incomplete, advancing ever
Beneath the care Supreme?--heights whence the soul,
Uplifted from all speculative fog,
All darkening doctrine, all confusing fear,
Can see the drifted plants, can scent the odors,
That surely come from that celestial shore
To which we tend; however out of reckoning,
Swept wrong by Error's currents, Passion's storms,
The poor tossed bark may be?

Descend, my thoughts!
Your theme lies lowly as the ground-bird's nest;
Why seek, with wings so feeble and unused,
To soar above the clouds and front the stars?
Descend from your high venture, and to scenes
Of the heart's common history come down!




II.

THE FATHER'S STORY.


The little mansion had its fill of sunshine;
The western windows overlooked the Hudson
Where the great city's traffic vexed the tide;
The front received the Orient's early flush.
Here dwelt three beings, who the neighbors said
Were husband, wife, and daughter; and indeed
There was no sign that they were otherwise.
Their name was Percival; they lived secluded,
Saw no society, except some poor
Old pensioner who came for food or help;
Though, when fair days invited, they would take
The omnibus and go to see the paintings
At the Academy; or hear the music
At opera or concert; then, in summer,
A visit to the seaside or the hills
Would oft entice them.

Percival had reached
His threescore years and five, but stood erect
As if no touch of age had chilled him yet.
Simple in habit, studious how to live
In best conformity with laws divine,--
Impulsive, yet by trial taught to question
All impulses, affections, appetites,
At Reason's bar,--two objects paramount
Seemed steadily before him; one, to find
The eternal truth, showing the constant right
In politics, in social life, in morals,--
The other, to apply all love and wisdom
To education of his child--of Linda.

Yet, if with eye anointed, you could look
On that benign and tranquil countenance,
You might detect the lines which Passion leaves
Long after its volcano is extinct
And flowers conceal its lava. Percival
Was older than his consort, twenty years;
Yet were they fitly mated; though, with her,
Time had dealt very gently, leaving face
And rounded form still youthful, and unmarred
By one uncomely outline; hardly mingling
A thread of silver in her chestnut hair
That affluent needed no deceiving braid.
Framed for maternity the matron seemed:
Thrice had she been a mother; but the children,
The first six winters of her union brought,
A boy and girl, were lost to her at once
By a wall's falling on them, as they went,
Heedless of danger, hand in hand, to school.
To either parent terrible the blow!
But, three years afterward, when Linda came,
With her dark azure eyes and golden hair,
It was as if a healing angel touched
The parents' wound, and turned their desolation
Into a present paradise, revealing
Two dear ones, beckoning from the spirit-land,
And one, detaining them, with infant grasp,
Feeble, yet how resistless! here below.

And so there was great comfort in that household:
And those unwhispered longings both had felt
At times, that they might pass to other scenes
Where Love would find its own, were felt no more:
For Linda grew in beauty every day;
Beauty not only of the outward mould,
Sparkling in those dear eyes, and on the wind
Tossing those locks of gold, but beauty born,
In revelations flitting o'er the face,
From the soul's inner symmetry; from love
Too deep and pure to utter, had she words;
From the divine desire to know; to prove
All objects brought within her dawning ken;
From frolic mirth, not heedless but most apt;
From sense of conscience, shown in little things
So early; and from infant courtesy
Charming and debonair.

The parents said,
While the glad tears shone brimming in their eyes,
"Oh!



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