The life of Francis Hume began in an old yet very real tragedy. His mother, a lovely young woman, died at the birth of her child: an event of every-day significance, if you judge by tables of mortality and the probabilities of being. She was the wife of a man well-known among honored American names, and her death made more than the usual ripple of nearer pain and wider condolence. To the young husband it was an afflicting calamity, entirely surprising even to those who were themselves acquainted with grief. He was not merely rebellious and wildly distraught, in the way of mourners. He sank into a cold sedateness of change. His life forsook its accustomed channels. Vividly alive to the one bright point still burning in the past, toward the present world he seemed absolutely benumbed. Yet certain latent conceptions of the real values of existence must have sprung up in him, and protested against days to be thereafter dominated by artificial restraints. He had lost his hold on life. He had even acquired a sudden distaste for it; but his previous knowledge of beauty and perfection would not suffer him to shut himself up in a cell of reserve, and isolate himself thus from his kind.