CONFESSIONS OF CLAUD
AUTHOR OF "AN AMBITIOUS WOMAN," "TINKLING CYMBALS," "A GENTLEMAN
OF LEISURE," " SOCIAL SILHOUETTES," " THE HOUSE
AT HIGH BRIDGE," ETC.
TICKNOR AND COMPANY
Copyright, 1886, by EDGARFAWCETT; and 1887, by
TICKNOR " COMPANY.
All rights reserved.
"L1CTROTTP"D AHD PRINTSD
BY RAND AVBRY COMPANY.
TO MY FRIEND,
IN THE HOPE THAT ONE WHO HAS ALREADY GIVEN TO
THE WORLD SO MUCH OP BRILLIANT IMAGINATION
AND UNIQUE FANCY,
MAY FIND AMID THE GLOOM AND TRAGEDY OF
A SLENDER PARDON FOR ITS EXISTENCE
AND A FAINT EXCUSE FOR ITS
THE CONFESSIONS OF CLAUD.
MORE than thirty years ago, in a part of New-
York which was then open field and is now
densely-populated city, I, Otho Claud, first saw
the light. My home was a square, prim cottage,
guiltless of a single ornament. From its rear
doorway, across rolling acres clad in the short
verdure which isa sure
token of barren or neg
lected soil, you could see the waters of the Hud
son, sparkling and spacious. Our house stood in
a solitude ; hundreds of yards lay between our
selves and the nearest neighbor. To the north
of that abundant native rock
whose bulky and rigid recurrences form so con
tinual a feature of Manhattan Island, and whose
stolid challenge against the expanding metropolis
has met tardy but certain defiance.
Oftenon winter nights I have watched that
rocky mass from the window of my little bed
chamber, looming black and jagged against the
8 TUE CONFESSIONS OF CLAUD.
brilliant stars. Child as I was, I soon realized
it to be overhung with the doom of destruction.
Slowly, like a devouring monster, I knew that
the city crept every year closer to where we
dwelt. So many of us look for romance only
in the age of a great town " in its hoary cathe
drals, its scholastic universities, its feudal towers.
But the youth of a city,stretching its big, stronglimbs like an awakening giant, carelesslyand even
lazily levelling a forest, quenching a stream or
crushing a hill,has in this gradual birth of mightand prowess a sombre romance quite its own.
I think that my early childhood must have
shaped some thought like this. Each new yearbrought the sure advance closer. And it was the
steadfast, pitilessmarch of a foe. Dull booms
from blasting-works began to reach us throughthe more temperate seasons. Every spring weheard them a little more clearly. I knew what
they meant ; I had learned ; I was now eight
years old. We held our home by no legal right :we were mere squatters upon an unguarded terri
tory, valueless when first found, but now gainingwith speed in worth and note. Soon we mustfare to other quarters. The fiat of dismissal
might reach us to-morrow; it might be delayedfor many morrows yet.
Inmy childish way I had grown to hate the
enlarging city. It seemed to me like a dark and
monstrous threat. I traced the shadow of it in
TUE CONFESSIONS OF CLAUD. 9
my parents' faces. It made me fear my father
more, as it made me love my mother more. He
was a German, she a Frenchwoman. Their mar
riage had been a hasty and stolen one, and their
voyage to America almost a flight. My motherhad been the petted daughter of a wealthy Breton
bourgeois. Leopold Clauss had come to his farmin the capacity of a serving-man. He milked the
cows, stalled the sheep, tossed the hay. Mymother, naturally delicate, had been most gentlyreared. Of keen intelligence, she had richlyprofited by the tutorship of an old erudite priest,whom her father held in devout esteem. She was
good, beautiful, obedient ; there had been sometalk of giving her to the church. For her to lookwith tenderness upon a farm-servant like LeopoldClauss would have been deemed something abominable. But one night she fled with him. Sheloved him, and she fled with him.
In a foreign land, beset with ills of want andtoil, facing a wholly new and often bitter modeof existence, she remained his clinging, uncom
plaining wife. Nothing could alienate her affection. I have seen many good women since I first
recognized her goodness, but no feminine naturehas ever touched mine with just the same chasteand sweet force.
Memory yields to me her image now, with tintsthat seem to live, with lines that hold a vital
grace. She had great, dark, shining eyes, that
10 TIIE CONFESSIONS OF CLAUD.
appeared equally to express a controlled melan
choly and a profound patience. Her black hair,of a charming wave and gloss, was so plenteousthat it seemed to overburden the slim support
of her frail white throat. Especially when she
drooped under fatigue I would observe this effect ;it was then that the fragilityof her body made
her resemble some plant whose crest of bloom too
heavily weights the stem. Her brow had a sort
of holy arch, and the curving lashes cast a faint
little shade upon her pale cheek. She was devot
edly fond of me. And I, if I had been more like
her, should probably have cared for her less. Asit was, she inspired in me something like wonder.She seemed as secure above all the baser gusts of
passion as the white top of an alp is above ordi
nary tempest. I used to ask myself, after I grewolder, what she had given me, if she had given me
any thing. It is true that she had dropped somesort of leaven into my nature. I will not only
grant this ; I will assert more. By heredity I hadreceived from her a distinct set of good impulses,and by education she had nurtured these into firmif not hardy growth. The heritage from my fatherhad been of darker and sterner stuff. I was not
to know in full,until a still later day, of the evilflaws which he had transmitted to me.
He was a man of great physical beauty. Frommy earliest recollection he had cultivated a vegetable-garden lying near our plain abode, and I
THE CONFESSIONS OF CLAUD. 11
had often admiringly watched the supple movements of his commanding frame, the fine play ofhis massive yet just limbs, the careless gold curlsgleaming from the rough hat which surmounted aface of chiselled symmetry. It was this beautythat had won my mother's headstrong and im
politic passion ; perhaps it was this beauty that
now kept her unfailingly constant. He had a
light-blueeye, as cold as steel,as expressionless asice. I always shrank from that eye of his ; I had
seen it glittercruelly,and I had soon in a vagueyet secure way determined that a coarse brain laybehind it,a hard heart below. He ignored me forsix good days in the week, and would accept meas a fact, so to speak, on the seventh. But it wasnot as a pleasant fact ; it was, on the contrary, as
a mouth to feed, a form to clothe. I was alwaysin dread lest he should strike me ; I had seen our
neighbors strike their children and send them
screaming or limping into the squalid huts that
were their dreary homes. But though sometimesharsh of order and epithet,my father always refrained from dealing me a blow. He did not hate
me ; he did not in any sense cherish me. He was
simply indifferent to my needs, aims, hopes, joysor ills. He completely lacked the paternal instinct ; he had begotten me, and there was an end.Most Germans tenderly love their children. I donot know that I should call him brutal for not
loving me, since there are many brutes that will
12 THE CONFESSIONS OF CLAUD.
face death for their offspring. And moreover,there was a distinct reason that such a strange
man as he should regard me precisely as he did.
That reason was the lavish affection of my mother.
I think that if I had been anyone except her
son " and her son by his own fatherhood " he
would never have forgiven her for the enduringworship she paid me. It would have seemed tohim intolerable that another than himself could so
engross her thought, her life. He was often rude
in speech to her ; he would show her by act and
phrase the fret and hurt of his struggles againstneed ; lie would upbraid and reproach and satirizeher ; but beneath all his curt or even savage de
portment slept for her an immense and fervent
fondness. I have seen his cold eye melt as it met
hers ; I have seen his big,shapely frame tremble
as he took her own slight one in his embrace.
Here he was indeed brutal, for he loved as a brute
may love, and he compassed the object of his idolatry with a rampart of suspicious hates. This in
cessant and alert jealousy was an experience thathad for me no real beginning ; its stormy horizondipped into the haze of infancy ; I could neverremember any time when my father had not had a
grudge against somebody or something because oftoo much regard for his wife. The bounds of madness are hard to draw; human nature foreverstalks abroad with greeds and prejudices that ifcolored a trifle more vividly would tempt the cell
THE CONFESSIONS OF CLAUD. 13
and the chain. I believe that my father, in this
one headlong and insensate trait of his, was irre
sponsibly mad ; and the pages which I now mean
to write shall most pitiablyhave missed their purport if I do not win some few converts to mysombre theory. I have known him to kill a pooroutcast dog becau