Long Branch, one of America’s most famous watering-places, in midsummer, its softly-wooded hills dotted here and there with picturesque “frame” villas of dazzling white, and below the purple Atlantic sweeping in restlessly on to the New Jersey shore. The sultry day has been one of summer storm, and the waves are tipped still with crests of snowy foam, though now the sun is sinking peacefully to rest amid banks of cloud, aflame with rose and violet and gold.
About a mile back from the shore stands a rambling country house embosomed in a small park a few acres in extent, and immediately surrounding it masses of the magnificent shrub known as Rose of Sharon, in full bloom, in which the walls of snowy white, with their windows gleaming in the sunlight, seem set as in a bed of color. The air is full of perfume. The scent of flower and tree rises gratefully from the rain-laden earth. The birds make the air musical with song; and here and there in the neighboring wood, the pretty brown squirrels spring from branch to branch, and dash down with their gambols the rain drops in a diamond spray. A broad veranda covered with luxuriant honeysuckle and clematis stretches along the eastern front of the house, and the wide bay window, thrown open just now to the summer wind, seems framed in flowers. As we approach nearer, the deep, rich notes of an organ strike upon the ear. Some one, with seeming unconsciousness, is producing a sweet passionate music, which changes momentarily with the player’s passing mood. We pause an instant and look into the room. Here is a picture which might be called “a dream of fair women.” Seated at the organ in the subdued light is a young woman of a strange, almost startling beauty. Her graceful figure clad in a simple black robe, unrelieved by a single ornament, is slight, and almost girlish, though there is a rounded fullness in its line which betrays that womanhood has been reached. A small classic head carried with easy grace; finely chiseled features; full, deep, gray eyes; and crowning all a wealth of auburn hair, from which peeps, as she turns, a pink, shell-like ear; these complete a picture which seems to belong to another clime and another age, and lives hardly but on the canvas of Titian. We are almost sorry to enter the room and break the spell. Mary Anderson’s manner as she starts up from the organ with a light elastic spring to greet her visitors is singularly gracious and winning. There is a frank fearlessness in the beautiful speaking eyes so full of poetry and soul, a mingled tenderness and decision in the mouth, with an utter absence of that self-consciousness and coquetry which often mar the charm of even the most beautiful face. This is the artist’s study to which she flies back gladly, now and then, for a few weeks’ rest and relaxation from the exacting life of a strolling player, whose days are spent wandering