“Confound your fickle soul!” muttered Ackland. “I punished her as she did not deserve; and I risked more than life in doing so. If her heart had not been as good as gold and as kind as Heaven she never would have looked at me again.”
Ackland is quite as indifferent to the sex as ever, but Eva has never complained that he was cold to her.
The Christmas holidays had come, and with them a welcome vacation for Hedley Marstern. Although as yet a briefless young lawyer, he had a case in hand which absorbed many of his thoughts—the conflicting claims of two young women in his native village on the Hudson. It must not be imagined that the young women were pressing their claims except as they did so unconsciously, by virtue of their sex and various charms. Nevertheless, Marstern was not the first lawyer who had clients over whom midnight oil was burned, they remaining unaware of the fact.
If not yet a constitutional attorney, he was at least constitutionally one. Falling helplessly in love with one girl simplifies matters. There are no distracting pros and cons— nothing required but a concentration of faculties to win the enslaver, and so achieve mastery. Marstern did not appear amenable to the subtle influences which blind the eyes and dethrone reason, inspiring in its place an overwhelming impulse to capture a fortuitous girl because (to a heated imagination) she surpasses all her sex. Indeed, he was level-headed enough to believe that he would never capture any such girl; but he hoped to secure one who promised to make as good a wife as he would try to be a husband, and with a fair amount of self-esteem, he was conscious of imperfections. Therefore, instead of fancying that any of his fair acquaintances were angels, he had deliberately and, as some may think, in a very cold-blooded fashion, endeavored to discover what they actually were. He had observed that a good deal of prose followed the poetry of wooing and the lunacy of the honeymoon; and he thought it might be well to criticise a little before marriage as well as after it.
There were a number of charming girls in the social circle of his native town; and he had, during later years, made himself quite impartially agreeable to them. Indeed, without much effort on his part he had become what is known as a general favorite. He had been too diligent a student to become a society man, but was ready enough in vacation periods to make the most of every country frolic, and even on great occasions to rush up from the city and return at some unearthly hour in the morning when his partners in the dance were not half through their dreams. While on these occasions he had shared in the prevailing hilarity, he nevertheless had the presentiment that some one of the laughing, light-footed girls would one day pour his coffee and send him to his office in either a good or a bad mood to grapple with the