Infomotions, Inc.Homestead on the Hillside / Holmes, Mary Jane, 1825-1907



Author: Holmes, Mary Jane, 1825-1907
Title: Homestead on the Hillside
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): lenora; hamilton; lucy; ada; berintha; lizzie; mag; carter; leon; margaret; willie; nellie; emma; polly; anna; homestead; ada harcourt; walter; aunt eunice; rice corner
Contributor(s): Bell, Clara, 1834-1927 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 68,371 words (short) Grade range: 10-12 (high school) Readability score: 61 (easy)
Identifier: etext14089
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Title: Homestead on the Hillside

Author: Mary Jane Holmes

Release Date: November 19, 2004  [eBook #14089]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


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HOMESTEAD ON THE HILLSIDE

by

MRS. MARY JANE HOLMES







By the Same Author in uniform style:

  _Dora Deane_
  _Cousin Maude_
  _Lena Rivers_
  _Meadow Brook_
  _English Orphans_
  _Maggie Miller_
  _Rosamond_
  _Tempest And Sunshine_
  _Homestead on the Hillside_





CONTENTS

The Homestead On The Hillside

   Chapter I.     Mrs. Hamilton
   Chapter II.    Lenora And Her Mother
   Chapter III.   One Step Toward The Homestead
   Chapter IV.    After The Burial
   Chapter V.     Kate Kirby
   Chapter VI.    Raising The Wind
   Chapter VII.   The Stepmother
   Chapter VIII.  Domestic Life At The Homestead
   Chapter IX.    Lenora And Carrie
   Chapter X.     Darkness
   Chapter XI.    Margaret And Her Father
   Chapter XII.   "Carrying Out Dear Mr. Hamilton's Plans"
   Chapter XIII.  Retribution
   Chapter XIV.   Finale

Rice Corner

   Chapter I.     Rice Corner
   Chapter II.    The Belle Of Rice Corner
   Chapter III.   Monsieur Penoyer
   Chapter IV.    Cousin Emma
   Chapter V.     Richard Evelyn And Harley Ashmore
   Chapter VI.    Mike And Sally
   Chapter VII.   The Bride

The Gilberts; Or, Rice Corner Number Two

   Chapter I.     The Gilberts
   Chapter II.    Nellie
   Chapter III.   The Haunted House
   Chapter IV.    Jealousy
   Chapter V.     New Relations
   Chapter VI.    Poor, Poor Nellie

The Thanksgiving Party And Its Consequences

   Chapter I.     Night Before Thanksgiving
   Chapter II.    Thanksgiving Day
   Chapter III.   Ada Harcourt
   Chapter IV.    Lucy
   Chapter V.     Uncle Israel
   Chapter VI.    Explanation
   Chapter VII.   A Maneuver
   Chapter VIII.  Cousin Berintha And Lucy's Party
   Chapter IX.    A Wedding At St. Luke's
   Chapter X.     A Surprise
   Chapter XI.    Lizzie





CHAPTER I.

MRS. HAMILTON.


For many years the broad, rich acres, and old-fashioned, massive
building known as "The Homestead on the Hillside," had passed
successively from father to son, until at last it belonged by right of
inheritance to Ernest Hamilton. Neither time nor expense had been
spared in beautifying and embellishing both house and grounds, and at
the time of which we are speaking there was not for miles around so
lovely a spot as was the shady old homestead.

It stood at some distance from the road, and on the bright green lawn
in front were many majestic forest trees, on which had fallen the
lights and shadows of more than a century; and under whose
widespreading branches oft, in the olden time, the Indian warrior had
paused from the chase until the noonday heat was passed. Leading from
the street to the house was a wide, graveled walk bordered with box,
and peeping out from the wilderness of vines and climbing roses were
the white walls of the huge building, which was surrounded on all
sides by a double piazza.

Many and hallowed were the associations connected with that old
homestead. On the curiously-carved seats beneath the tall shade trees
were cut the names of some who there had lived, and loved, and passed
away. Through the little gate at the foot of the garden and just
across the brooklet, whose clear waters leaped and laughed in the
glad sunshine, and then went dancing away in the woodland below, was a
quiet spot, where gracefully the willow tree was bending, where the
wild sweetbrier was blooming, and where, too, lay sleeping those who
once gathered round the hearthstone and basked in the sunlight which
ever seemed resting upon the Homestead on the Hillside.

But a darker day was coming; a night was approaching when a deep gloom
would overshadow the homestead and the loved ones within its borders.
The servants, ever superstitious, now whispered mysteriously that the
spirits of the departed returned nightly to their old accustomed
places, and that dusky hands from the graves of the slumbering dead
were uplifted, as if to warn the master of the domain of the
desolation; which was to come. For more than a year the wife of Ernest
Hamilton had been dying--slowly, surely dying--and though when the
skies were brightest and the sunshine warmest she ever seemed better,
each morning's light still revealed some fresh ravage the disease had
made, until at last there was no hope, and the anxious group which
watched her knew full well that ere long among them would be a vacant
chair, and in the family burying ground an added grave.

One evening Mrs. Hamilton seemed more than usually restless, and
requested her daughters to leave her, that she might compose herself
to sleep. Scarcely was she alone when with cat-like tread there glided
through the doorway the dark figure of a woman, who advanced toward
the bedside, noiselessly as a serpent would steal to his ambush. She
was apparently forty-five years of age, and dressed in deep mourning,
which seemed to increase the marble whiteness of her face. Her eyes,
large, black, and glittering, fastened themselves upon, the invalid
with a gaze so intense that Mrs. Hamilton's hand involuntarily sought
the bell-rope, to summon some one else to her room.

But ere the bell was rung a strangely sweet, musical voice fell on her
ear, and arrested her movements. "Pardon me for intruding," said the
stranger, "and suffer me to introduce myself. I am Mrs. Carter, who
not long since removed to the village. I have heard of your illness,
and wishing to render you any assistance in my power, I have ventured,
unannounced, into your presence, hoping that I at least am not
unwelcome."

Mrs. Hamilton had heard of a widow lady, who with an only daughter had
recently removed to the village, which lay at the foot of the long
hill on which stood the old homestead. She had heard, too, that Mrs.
Carter, though rather singular in some respects, was unusually
benevolent, spending much time in visiting the sick and needy, and, as
far as possible, ministering to their comfort.

Extending her hand, she said, "I know you by reputation, Mrs. Carter,
and feel greatly pleased that you have thought to visit me. Pray be
seated."

This last invitation was superfluous, for with the air of a person
entirely at home, the lady had seated herself, and as the room was
rather warm, she threw back her bonnet, disclosing to view a mass of
rich brown hair, which made her look several years younger than she
really was. Nothing could be more apparently kind and sincere than
were her words of sympathy, nothing more soothing than the sound of
her voice; and when she for a moment raised Mrs. Hamilton, while she
adjusted her pillows, the sick woman declared that never before had
any one done it so gently or so well.

Mrs. Carter was just resuming her seat when in the adjoining hall
there was the sound of a heavy tread, and had Mrs. Hamilton been at
all suspicious of her visitor she would have wondered at the flush
which deepened on her cheek when the door opened and Mr. Hamilton
stood in their midst. On seeing a stranger he turned to leave, but his
wife immediately introduced him, and seating himself upon the sofa, he
remarked, "I have seen you frequently in church, Mrs. Carter, but I
believe I have never spoken with you before."

A peculiar expression flitted over her features at these words, an
expression which Mr. Hamilton noticed, and which awoke remembrances of
something unpleasant, though he could not tell what.

"Where have I seen her before?" thought he, as she bade them good
night, promising to come again and stay a longer time. "Where have I
seen her before?" and then involuntarily his thoughts went back to the
time, years and years ago, when, a wild young man in college, he had
thoughtlessly trifled with the handsome daughter of his landlady. Even
now he seemed to hear her last words, as he bade her farewell: "You
may go, Ernest Hamilton, and forget me if you can, but Luella does not
so easily forget; and remember, when least you expect it, we shall
meet again."

Could this strange being, with honeyed words and winning ways, be that
fiery, vindictive girl? Impossible!--and satisfied with this
conclusion Mr. Hamilton resumed his evening paper.




CHAPTER II.

LENORA AND HER MOTHER.


From the windows of a small, white cottage, at the extremity of
Glenwood village, Lenora Carter watched for her mother's return. "She
stays long," thought she, "but it bodes success to her plan; though
when did she undertake a thing and fail!"

The fall of the gatelatch was heard, and in a moment Mrs. Carter was
with her daughter, whose first exclamation was, "What a little
eternity you've been gone! Did you renew your early vows to the man?"

"I've no vows to renew," answered Mrs. Carter, "but I've paved the way
well, and got invited to call again."

"Oh, capital!" said Lenora. "It takes you, mother, to do up things,
after all; but, really, was Mrs. Hamilton pleased with you?"

"Judging by the pressure of her hand when she bade me good-by I should
say she was," answered Mrs. Carter; and Lenora continued: "Did you see
old moneybags?"

"Lenora, child, you must not speak so disrespectfully of Mr.
Hamilton," said Mrs. Carter.

"I beg your pardon," answered Lenora, while her mother continued: "I
saw him, but do not think he recognized me; and perhaps it is as well
that he should not, until I have made myself indispensable to him and
his family."

"Which you will never do with the haughty Mag, I am sure," said
Lenora; "but tell me, is the interior of the house as handsome as the
exterior?"

"Far more so," was the reply; and Mrs. Carter proceeded to enumerate
the many costly articles of furniture she had seen.

She was interrupted by Lenora, who asked, "How long, think you, will
the incumbrance live?"

"Lenora," said Mrs. Carter, "you shall not talk so. No one wishes Mrs.
Hamilton to die; but if such an afflictive dispensation does occur, I
trust we shall all be resigned."

"Oh, I keep forgetting that you are acting the part of a resigned
widow; but I, thank fortune, have no part to act, and can say what I
please."

"And spoil all our plans, too, by your foolish babbling," interposed
Mrs. Carter.

"Let me alone for that," answered Lenora. "I haven't been trained by
such a mother for nothing. But, seriously, how is Mrs. Hamilton's
health?"

"She is very low, and cannot possibly live long," was the reply.

Here there was a pause in the conversation, during which we will take
the opportunity of introducing more fully to our readers the estimable
Mrs. Carter and her daughter. Mr. Hamilton was right when he
associated the resigned widow with his old flame, Luella Blackburn,
whom be had never seriously thought of marrying, though by way of
pastime he had frequently teased, tormented, and flattered her. Luella
was ambitious, artful, and designing. Wealth and position was the goal
at which she aimed. Both of these she knew Ernest Hamilton possessed,
and she had felt greatly pleased at his evident preference. When,
therefore, at the end of his college course he left her with a few
commonplace remarks, such as he would have spoken to any familiar
acquaintance, her rage knew no bounds; and in the anger of the moment
she resolved, sooner or later, to be revenged upon him.

Years, however, passed on, and a man whom she thought wealthy offered
her his hand. She accepted it, and found, too late, that she was
wedded to poverty. This aroused the evil of her nature to such an
extent that her husband's life became one of great unhappiness, and
four years after Lenora's birth he left her. Several years later she
succeeded in procuring a divorce, although she still retained his
name. Recently she had heard of his death, and about the same time,
too, she heard that the wife of Ernest Hamilton was dying. Suddenly a
wild scheme entered her mind. She would remove to the village of
Glenwood, would ingratiate herself into the favor of Mrs. Hamilton,
win her confidence and love, and then when she was dead the rest she
fancied would be an easy matter, for she knew that Mr. Hamilton was
weak and easily flattered.

For several weeks they had been in Glenwood, impatiently waiting an
opportunity for making the acquaintance of the Hamiltons. But as
neither Margaret nor Carrie called, Lenora became discouraged, and one
day exclaimed, "I should like to know what you are going to do. There
is no probability of that proud Mag's calling on me. How I hate her,
with her big black eyes and hateful ways!"

"Patience, patience," said Mrs. Carter, "I'll manage it; as Mrs.
Hamilton is sick, it will be perfectly proper for me to go and see
her," and then was planned the visit which we have described.

"Oh, won't it be grand!" said Lenora that night, as she sat sipping
her tea. "Won't it be grand, if you do succeed, and won't I lord it
over Miss Margaret! As for that little white-faced Carrie, she's too
insipid for one to trouble herself about, and I dare say thinks you a
very nice woman, for how can her Sabbath-school teacher be otherwise;"
and a satirical laugh echoed through the room. Suddenly springing up,
Lenora glanced at herself in the mirror, and turning to her mother,
said, "Did you hear when Walter is expected--and am I so very ugly
looking?"

While Mrs. Carter is preparing an answer to the first question, we,
for the sake of our readers, will answer the last one. Lenora was a
little dark-looking girl about eighteen years of age. Her eyes were
black, her face was black, and her hair was black, standing out from
her head in short, thick curls, which gave to her features a strange
witch-like expression. From her mother she had inherited the same
sweet, cooing voice, the same gliding, noiseless footsteps, which had
led some of their acquaintance to accuse them of what, in the days of
New England witchcraft, would have secured their passport to another
world.

Lenora had spoken truthfully when she said that she had not been
trained by such a mother for nothing, for whatever of evil appeared in
her conduct was more the result of her mother's training than of a
naturally bad disposition. At times her mother petted and caressed
her, and again, in a fit of ill-humor, drove her from the room,
taunting her with the strong resemblance which she bore to the man
whom she had once called father! On such occasions Lenora was never at
a loss for words, and the scenes which sometimes occurred were too
disgraceful for repetition. On one subject, however, they were united,
and that was in their efforts to become inmates of the homestead on
the hillside. In the accomplishment of this Lenora had a threefold
object: first, it would secure her a luxuriant home; second, she would
be thrown in the way of Walter Hamilton, who was about finishing his
college course; and last, though not least, it would be such a triumph
over Margaret, who, she fancied, treated her with cold indifference.

Long after the hour of midnight was rung from the village clock, the
widow and her daughter sat by their fireside, forming plans for the
future, and when at last they retired to sleep it was to dream of
funeral processions, bridal favors, stepchildren, half-sisters, and
double connections all around.




CHAPTER III.

ONE STEP TOWARD THE HOMESTEAD.


Weeks passed on, and so necessary to the comfort of the invalid did
the presence of Mrs. Carter become, that at last, by particular
request, she took up her abode at the homestead, becoming Mrs.
Hamilton's constant nurse and attendant. Lenora, for the time being,
was sent to the house of a friend, who lived not far distant. When
Margaret Hamilton learned of the arrangement she opposed it with all
her force.

"Send her away, mother," said she one evening; "please send her away,
for I cannot endure her presence, with her oily words and silent
footsteps. She reminds me of the serpent, who decoyed Eve into eating
that apple, and I always feel an attack of the nightmare whenever I
know that her big, black eyes are fastened upon me."

"How differently people see!" laughed Carrie, who was sitting by.
"Why, Mag, I always fancy _her_ to be in a nightmare when your big
eyes light upon her."

"It's because she knows she's guilty," answered Mag, her words and
manner warming up with the subject. "Say, mother, won't you send her
off! It seems as though a dark shadow falls upon us all the moment she
eaters the house."

"She is too invaluable a nurse to be discharged for a slight whim,"
answered Mrs. Hamilton. "Besides she bears the best of reputations,
and I don't see what possible harm can come of her being here."

Margaret sighed, for though she knew full well the "possible harm"
which might come of it, she could not tell it to her pale, dying
mother; and ere she had time for any answer, the black bombazine
dress, white linen, collar, and white, smooth face of Widow Carter
moved silently into the room. There was a gleam of intense hatred in
the dark eyes which for a moment flashed on Margaret's face, and then
a soft hand gently stroked the glossy hair of the indignant girl, and
in the most musical tones imaginable a low voice murmured, "Maggie,
dear, you look flushed and wearied. Are you quite well?"

"Perfectly so," answered Margaret; and then rising, she left the room,
but not until she had heard her mother say, "Dear Mrs. Carter, I am so
glad you've come!"

"Is everybody bewitched," thought Mag, as she repaired to her chamber,
"father, mother, Carrie, and all? How I wish Walter was here. He
always sees things as I do."

Margaret Hamilton was a high-spirited, intelligent girl, about
nineteen years of age. She was not beautiful, but had you asked for
the finest-looking girl in all Glenwood, Mag would surely have been
pointed out. She was rather above the medium height, and in her whole
bearing there was a quiet dignity, which many mistook for hauteur.
Naturally frank, affectionate, and kind-hearted, she was, perhaps, a
little strong in her prejudices, which, when once satisfactorily
formed, could not easily be shaken.

For Mrs. Carter she had conceived a strong dislike, for she believed
her to be an artful, hypocritical woman, and now, as she sat by the
window in her room, her heart swelled with indignation toward one who
had thus usurped her place by her mother's bedside, whom Carrie was
learning to confide in, and of whom even the father said, "she is a
most excellent woman."

"I will write to Walter," said she, "and tell him to come
immediately."

Suiting the action to the word, she drew up her writing desk, and soon
a finished letter was lying before her. Ere she had time to fold and
direct it, a loud cry from her young brother Willie summoned her for a
few moments from the room, and on her return she met in the doorway
the black bombazine and linen collar.

"Madam," said she, "did you wish for anything?"

"Yes, dear," was the soft answer, which, however, in this case failed
to turn, away wrath. "Yes, dear, your mother said you knew where there
were some fine bits of linen."

"And could not Carrie come for them?" asked Mag.

"Yes, dear, but she looks so delicate that I do not like to send her
up these long stairs oftener than is necessary. Haven't you noticed
how pale she is getting of late? I shouldn't be at all surprised--"
but before the sentence was finished the linen was found, and the door
closed upon Mrs. Carter.

A new idea had been awakened in Margaret's mind, and for the first
time she thought how much her sister really had changed. Carrie, who
was four years younger than Margaret, had ever been delicate, and her
parents had always feared that not long could they keep her; but
though each winter her cough had returned with increased severity,
though the veins on her white brow grew more distinct, and her large,
blue eyes glowed with unwonted luster, still Margaret had never before
dreamed of danger, never thought that soon her sister's voice would be
missed, and that Carrie would be gone. But she thought of it now, and
laying her head upon the table wept for a time in silence.

At length, drying her tears, she folded her letter and took it to the
post-office. As she was returning home she was met by a servant, who
exclaimed, "Run, Miss Margaret, run; your mother is dying, and Mrs.
Carter sent me for you!"

Swift as the mountain chamois, Margaret sped up the long, steep hill,
and in a few moments stood within her mother's sick-room. Supported in
the arms of Mrs. Carter lay the dying woman, while her eyes, already
overshadowed with the mists of coming death, wandered anxiously around
the room, as if in quest of some one. The moment Margaret appeared, a
satisfied smile broke over her wasted features, and beckoning her
daughter to her bedside, she whispered, "Dear Maggie, you did not
think I'd die so soon, when you went away."

A burst of tears was Maggie's only answer, as she passionately kissed
the cold, white lips, which had never breathed aught to her save words
of love and gentleness. Far different, however, would have been her
reply had she known the reason of her mother's question. Not long
after she had left the house for the office, Mrs. Hamilton had been
taken worse, and the physician, who chanced to be present, pronounced
her dying. Instantly the alarmed husband summoned together his
household, but Mag was missing. No one had seen her; no one knew where
she was, until Mrs. Carter, who had been some little time absent from
the room reentered it, saying "Margaret had started for the
post-office with a letter when I sent a servant to tell her of her
mother's danger, but for some reason she kept on, though I dare say
she will soon be back."

As we well know, the substance of this speech was true, though the
impression which Mrs. Carter's words conveyed was entirely false. For
the advancement of her own cause she felt that it was necessary to
weaken the high estimation in which Mr. Hamilton held his daughter,
and she fancied that the mother's death-bed was as fitting a place
where to commence operations as she could select.

As Margaret hung over her mother's pillow, the false woman, as if to
confirm the assertion she had made, leaned forward and said, "Robin
told you, I suppose? I sent him to do so."

Margaret nodded assent, while a deeper gloom fell upon the brow of Mr.
Hamilton, who stood with folded arms watching the advance of the great
destroyer. It came at last, and though no perceptible change heralded
its approach, there was one fearful spasm, one long-drawn sigh, a
striving of the eye for one more glimpse of the loved ones gathered
near, and then Mrs. Hamilton was dead. On the bosom of Mrs. Carter her
life was breathed away, and when all was over that lady laid gently
down her burden, carefully adjusted the tumbled covering, and then
stepping to the window, looked out, while the stricken group deplored
their loss.

Long and bitterly over their dead they wept, but not on one of that
weeping band fell the bolt so crushingly as upon Willie, the youngest
of the flock, the child four summers old, who had ever lived in the
light of his mother's love. They had told him she would die, but he
understood them not, for never before had he looked on death; and now,
when to his childish words of love his mother made no answer, most
piteously rang out the infantile cry, "Mother, oh, my mother, who'll
be my mother now?"

Caressingly, a small, white hand was laid on Willie's yellow curls,
but ere the words of love were spoken Margaret took the little fellow
in her arms, and whispered through her tears, "I'll be your mother,
darling."

Willie brushed the tear-drops from his sister's cheek and laying his
fair, round face upon her neck, said, "And who'll be Maggie's mother?
Mrs. Carter?"

"Never! never!" answered Mag, while to the glance of hatred and
defiance cast upon her she returned one equally scornful and
determined.

Soon from the village there came words of sympathy and offers of
assistance; but Mrs. Carter could do everything, and in her blandest
tones she declined the services of the neighbors, refusing even to
admit them into the presence of Margaret and Carrie, who, she said
were so much exhausted as to be unable to bear the fresh burst of
grief which the sight of an old friend would surely produce. So the
neighbors went home, and as the world will ever do, descanted upon the
probable result of Mrs. Carter's labors at the homestead. Thus, ere
Ernest Hamilton had been three days a widower, many in fancy had
wedded him to Mrs. Carter, saying that nowhere could he find so good a
mother for his children.

And truly she did seem to be indispensable in that house of mourning.
'Twas she who saw that everything was done, quietly and in order;
'twas she who so neatly arranged the muslin shroud; 'twas her arms
that supported the half-fainting Carrie when first her eye rested on
her mother, coffined for the grave; 'twas she who whispered words of
comfort to the desolate husband; and she, too, it was, who, on the
night when Walter was expected home, _kindly_ sat up until past
midnight to receive him!

She had read Mag's letter, and by being first to welcome the young man
home, she hoped to remove from his mind any prejudice which he might
feel for her, and by her bland smiles and gentle words to lure him
into the belief that she was perfect, and Margaret uncharitable.
Partially she succeeded, too, for when next morning Mag expressed a
desire that Mrs. Carter would go home, he replied, "I think you judge
her wrongfully; she seems to be a most amiable, kind-hearted woman."

"_Et tu, Brute!_" Mag could have said, but 'twas neither the time nor
the place, and linking her arm within her brother's she led him into
the adjoining room, where stood their mother's coffin.




CHAPTER IV.

AFTER THE BURIAL.


Across the bright waters of the silvery lake which lay not far from
Glenwood village, over the grassy hillside, and down the long, green
valley, had floated the notes of the tolling bell. In the Hamilton
mansion sympathizing friends had gathered, and through the crowded
parlors a solemn hush had reigned, broken only by the voice of the
white-haired man of God, who in trembling tones prayed for the
bereaved ones. Over the costly coffin tear-wet faces had bent, and on
the marble features of her who slept within it had been pressed the
passionate kisses of a long, a last farewell.

Through the shady garden and across the running brook, whose waters
this day murmured more sadly than 'twas their wont to do, the funeral
train had passed; and in the dark, moist earth, by the side of many
other still, pale sleepers, who offered no remonstrance when among
them another came, they had buried the departed. From the windows of
the homestead lights were gleaming, and in the common sitting-room sat
Ernest Hamilton, and by his side his four motherless children. In the
stuffed armchair, sacred for the sake of one who had called it hers,
reclined the black bombazine and linen collar of Widow Carter!

She had, as she said, fully intended to return home immediately after
the burial, but there were so many little things to be seen to, so
much to be done, which Margaret, of course, did not feel like doing,
that she decided to stay until after supper, together with Lenora, who
had come to the funeral. When supper was over, and there was no longer
an excuse for lingering, she found, very greatly to her surprise and
chagrin, no doubt, that the clouds, which all day had looked dark and
angry, were now pouring rain.

"What shall I do?" she exclaimed in great apparent distress; then
stepping to the door of the sitting-room, she said, "Maggie, dear, can
you lend me an umbrella? It is raining very hard, and I do not wish to
go home without one; I will send it back to-morrow."

"Certainly," answered Margaret. "Umbrella and overshoes, too;" and
rising, she left the room to procure them.

"But you surely are not going out in this storm," said Mr. Hamilton;
while Carrie, who really liked Mrs. Carter, and felt that it would be
more lonely when she was gone, exclaimed eagerly, "Oh, don't leave us
to-night, Mrs. Carter. Don't."

"Yes, I think I must," was the answer, while Mr. Hamilton continued:
"You had better stay; but if you insist upon going, I will order the
carriage, as you must not walk."

"Rather than put you to all that trouble, I will remain," said Mrs.
Carter; and when Mag returned with two umbrellas and two pairs of
overshoes, she found the widow comfortably seated in her mother's
armchair, while on the stool at her side sat Lenora looking not unlike
a little imp, with her wild, black face, and short, thick curls.

Walter Hamilton had not had much opportunity for scanning the face of
Mrs. Carter, but now, as she sat there with the firelight flickering
over her features, he fancied that he could trace marks of the
treacherous deceit of which Mag had warned him; and when the full
black eyes rested upon Margaret he failed not to note the glance of
scorn which flashed from them, and which changed to a look of
affectionate regard the moment she saw she was observed. "There is
something wrong about her," thought he, "and the next time I am alone
with Mag I'll ask what it is she fears from this woman."

That night, in the solitude of their room, mother and child communed
together as follows: "I do believe, mother, you are twin sister to the
old one himself. Why, who would have thought, when first you made that
_friendly_ visit, that in five weeks time both of us would be snugly
ensconced in the best chamber of the homestead?"

"If you think we are in the best chamber, you are greatly mistaken,"
replied Mrs. Carter. "Margaret Hamilton has power enough yet to keep
us out of that. Didn't she look crestfallen though, when she found I
was going to stay, notwithstanding her very disinterested offer of
umbrellas and overshoes? But I'll pay it all back when I become--"

"Mistress of the house," added Lenora. "Why not speak out plainly? Or
are you afraid the walls have ears, and that the devoted Mrs. Carter's
speeches would not sound well repeated? Oh, how sanctimonious you did
look to-day when you were talking pious to Carrie! I actually had to
force a sneeze, to keep from laughing outright, though she, little
simpleton, swallowed it all, and I dare say wonders where you keep
your wings! But really, mother, I hope you don't intend to pet her so
always, for 'twould be more than it's worth to see it."

"I guess I know how to manage," returned Mrs. Carter. "There's nothing
will win a parent's affection so soon as to pet the children."

"And so I suppose you expect Mr. Hamilton to pet _this_ beautiful
child!" said Lenora, laughing loudly at the idea, and waltzing back
and forth before the mirror.

"Lenora! _behave!_ I will not see you conduct so," said the widow; to
which the young lady replied, "Shut your eyes, and then you can't!"

Meantime, an entirely different conversation was going on in another
part of the house, where sat Walter Hamilton, with his arm thrown
affectionately around, Mag, who briefly told of what she feared would
result from Mrs. Carter's intimacy at their house.

"Impossible!" said the young man, starting to his feet. "Impossible!
Our father has too much sense to marry again anyway, and much more, to
marry one so greatly inferior to our own dear mother."

"I hope it may prove so," answered Mag; "but with all due respect for
our father, _you_ know and I know that mother's was the stronger mind,
the controlling spirit, and now that she is gone father will be more
easily deceived."

Margaret told the truth; for her mother had possessed a strong,
intelligent mind, and was greatly the superior of her father, who, as
we have before remarked, was rather weak and easily flattered. Always
sincere himself in what he said, he could not believe that other
people were aught than what they seemed to be, and thus oftentimes his
confidence had been betrayed by those in whom he trusted. As yet he
had, of course, entertained no thought of ever making Mrs. Carter his
wife; but her society was agreeable, her words and manner soothing,
and when, on the day following the burial, she actually took her
departure, bag, baggage, Lenora, and all, he felt how doubly lonely
was the old homestead, and wondered why she could not stay. There was
room enough, and then Margaret was too young to assume the duties of
housekeeper. Other men in similar circumstances had hired
housekeepers, and why could not he? He would speak to Mag about it
that very night. But when evening came, Walter, Carrie, and Willie all
were present, and he found no opportunity of seeing Margaret alone;
neither did any occur until after Walter had returned to college,
which he did the week following his mother's death.

That night the little parlor at the cottage where dwelt the Widow
Carter looked unusually snug and cozy. It was autumn, and as the
evenings were rather cool a cheerful wood fire was blazing on the
hearth. Before it stood a tasteful little workstand, near which were
seated Lenora and her mother, the one industriously knitting, and the
other occasionally touching the strings of her guitar, which was
suspended from her neck by a crimson ribbon. On the sideboard stood a
fruit dish loaded with red and golden apples, and near it a basket
filled with the rich purple grapes.

That day in the street Lenora had met Mr. Hamilton, who asked if her
mother would be at home that evening, saying he intended to call for
the purpose of settling the bill which he owed her for services
rendered to his family in their late affliction.

"When I once get him here, I will keep him as long as possible," said
Mrs. Carter; "and, Lenora, child, if he stays late, say till nine
o'clock, you had better go quietly to bed."

"Or into the next room, and listen," thought Lenora.

Seven o'clock came, and on the graveled walk there was heard the sound
of footsteps, and in a moment Ernest Hamilton stood in the room,
shaking the warm hand of the widow, who was delighted to see him, but
_so_ sorry to find him looking pale and thin! Rejecting a seat in the
comfortable rocking-chair, which Lenora pushed toward him, he
proceeded at once to business, and taking from his purse fifteen
dollars, passed them toward Mrs. Carter, asking if that would
remunerate her for the three weeks' services in his family.

But Mrs. Carter thrust them aside, saying, "Sit down, Mr. Hamilton,
sit down. I have a great deal to ask you about Maggie and dear
Carrie's health."

"And sweet little Willie," chimed in Lenora.

Accordingly Mr. Hamilton sat down, and so fast did Mrs. Carter talk
that the clock was pointing to half past eight ere he got another
chance to offer his bills. Then, with the look of a much-injured
woman, Mrs. Carter declined the money, saying, "Is it possible, Mr.
Hamilton, that you suppose my services can be bought! What I did for
your wife, I would do for any one who needed me, though for but few
could I entertain the same feelings I did for her. Short as was our
acquaintance, she seemed to me like a beloved sister; and now that she
is gone I feel that we have lost an invaluable treasure--"

Here Mrs. Carter broke down entirely, and was obliged to raise her
cambric handkerchief to her eyes, while Lenora walked to the window to
conceal her emotions, whatever they might have been! When the
agitation of the company had somewhat subsided, Mr. Hamilton again
insisted, and again Mrs. Carter refused. At last, finding her
perfectly inexorable, he proceeded to express his warmest thanks and
deepest gratitude for what she had done, saying he should ever feel
indebted to her for her great kindness; then, as the clock struck
nine, he arose to go, in spite of Mrs. Carter's zealous efforts to
detain him longer.

"Call again," said she, as she lighted him to the door; "call again
and we will talk over old times when we were young, and lived in New
Haven!"

Mr. Hamilton started, and looking her full in the face, exclaimed,
"Luella Blackburn! It is as I at first suspected; but who would have
thought it!"

"Yes--I am Luella," said Mrs. Carter; "though greatly changed, I
trust, from the Luella you once knew, and of whom even I have no very
pleasant reminiscences; but call again, and I will tell you of many of
your old classmates."

Mr. Hamilton would have gone almost anywhere for the sake of hearing
from his classmates, many of whom he greatly esteemed; and as in this
case the "anywhere" was only at Widow Carter's, the idea was not
altogether distasteful to him, and when he bade her good night he was
under a promise to call again soon. All hopes, however, of procuring
her for his housekeeper were given up, for if she resented his offer
of payment for what she had already done, she surely would be doubly
indignant at his last proposed plan. After becoming convinced of this
fact, it is a little strange how suddenly he found that he did not
need a housekeeper--that Margaret, who before could not do at all,
could now do very well--as well as anybody. And Margaret did do well,
both as housekeeper and mother of little Willie, who seemed to have
transferred to her the affection he had borne for his mother.

At intervals during the autumn Mrs. Carter called, always giving a
world of good advice, patting Carrie's pale cheek, kissing Willie, and
then going away. But as none of her calls were ever returned they
gradually became less frequent, and as the winter advanced ceased
altogether; while Margaret, hearing nothing, and seeing nothing, began
to forget her fears, and to laugh at them as having been groundless.




CHAPTER V.

KATE KIRBY.


The little brooklet, which danced so merrily by the homestead
burial-place, and then flowed on in many graceful turns and
evolutions, finally lost itself in a glossy mill-pond, whose waters,
when the forest trees were stripped of their foliage, gleamed and
twinkled in the smoky autumn light, or lay cold and still beneath the
breath of winter. During this season of the year, from the upper
windows of the homestead the mill-pond was discernible, together with
a small red building which stood upon its banks.

For many years this house had been occupied by Mr. Kirby, who had been
a schoolboy with Ernest Hamilton, and who, though naturally
intelligent, had never aspired to any higher employment than that of
being miller on the farm of his old friend. Three years before our
story opens Mr. Kirby had died, and a stranger had been employed to
take his place. Mrs. Kirby, however, was so much attached to her
woodland home and its forest scenery that she still continued to
occupy the low red house together with her daughter Kate, who sighed
for no better or more elegant home, although rumor whispered that
there was in store for her a far more costly dwelling, than the
"Homestead on the Hillside."

Currently was it reported that during Walter Hamilton's vacations the
winding footpath, which followed the course of the streamlet down to
the mill-pond, was trodden more frequently than usual. The
postmaster's wife, too, had hinted strongly of certain ominous letters
from New Haven, which regularly came, directed to Kate, when Walter
was not at home; so, putting together these two facts, and adding to
them the high estimation in which Mrs. Kirby and her daughter were
known to be held by the Hamiltons, it was generally conceded that
there could be no shadow of doubt concerning the state of affairs
between the heir apparent of the old homestead and the daughter of the
poor miller.

Kate was a universal favorite, and by nearly all was it thought that
in everything save money she was fully the equal of Walter Hamilton.
To a face and form of the most perfect beauty she added a degree of
intelligence and sparkling wit, which, in all the rides, parties, and
_fetes_ given by the young people of Glenwood, caused her society to
be chosen in preference to those whose fathers counted their money by
thousands.

A few there were who said that Kate's long intimacy with Margaret
Hamilton had made her proud; but in the rude dwellings and crazy
tenements which skirted the borders of Glenwood village was many a
blind old woman, and many a hoary-headed man, who in their daily
prayers remembered the beautiful Kate, the "fair forest flower," who
came so oft among them with her sweet young face and gentle words. For
Kate both Margaret and Carrie Hamilton already felt a sisterly
affection, while their father smiled graciously upon her, secretly
hoping, however, that his son would make a more brilliant match, but
resolving not to interfere if at last his choice should fall upon her.

One afternoon, early in April, as Margaret sat in her chamber, busy
upon a piece of needlework, the door softly opened, and a mass of
bright chestnut curls became visible; next appeared the laughing blue
eyes; and finally the whole of Kate Kirby bounded into the room
saying, "Good afternoon, Maggie; are you very busy, and wish I hadn't
come?"

"I am never too busy to see you," answered Margaret, at the same time
pushing toward Kate the little ottoman on which she always sat when in
that room.

Kate took the proffered seat, and throwing aside her bonnet, began
with, "Maggie, I want to tell you something, though I don't know as it
is quite right to do so; still you may as well hear it from me as any
one."

"Do pray tell," answered Mag, "I am dying with curiosity."

So Kate smoothed down her black silk apron, twisted one of her curls
into a horridly ugly shape, and commenced with, "What kind of a woman
is that Mrs. Carter, down in the village?"

Instantly Margaret's suspicions were aroused, and starting as if a
serpent had stung her, she exclaimed, "Mrs. Carter! is it of her you
will tell me? She is a most dangerous woman--a woman whom your mother
would call a 'snake in the grass.'"

"Precisely so," answered Kate. "That is just what mother says of her,
and yet nearly all the village are ready to fall down and worship
her."

"Let them, then," said Mag; "I have no objections, provided they keep
their molten calf to themselves. No one wants her here. But what is it
about her?--tell me."

Briefly then Kate told her how Mr. Hamilton was, and for a long time
had been, in the habit of spending one evening every week with Mrs.
Carter; and that people, not without good cause, were already pointing
her out as the future mistress of the homestead.

"Never, never!" cried Mag vehemently. "Never shall she come here. She
our mother indeed! It shall not be, if I can prevent it."

After a little further conversation, Kate departed, leaving Mag to
meditate upon the best means by which to avert the threatened evil.
What Kate had told her was true. Mr. Hamilton had so many questions to
ask concerning his old classmates, and Mrs. Carter had so much to
tell, that, though they had worked industriously all winter, they were
not through yet; neither would they be until Mrs. Carter found herself
again within the old homestead.

The night following Kate's visit Mag determined to speak with her
father; but immediately after tea he went out, saying he should not
return until nine o'clock. With a great effort Mag forced down the
angry words which she felt rising within her, and then seating herself
at her work she resolved to await his return. Not a word on the
subject did she say to Carrie, who retired to her room at half-past
eight, as was her usual custom. Alone now Margaret waited. Nine, ten,
eleven had been struck, and then into the sitting-room came Mr.
Hamilton, greatly astonished at finding his daughter there.

"Why, Margaret," said he, "why are you sitting up so late?"

"If it is late for me, it is late for you," answered Margaret, who,
now that the trial had come, felt the awkwardness of the task she had
undertaken.

"But I had business," answered Mr. Hamilton; and Margaret, looking him
steadily in the face, asked:

"Is not your business of a nature which equally concerns us all?"

A momentary flush passed over his features as he replied, "What do you
mean? I do not comprehend."

Hurriedly, and in broken sentences, Margaret told him what she meant,
and then tremblingly she waited for his answer. Frowning angrily, he
spoke to his daughter the first harsh words which had ever passed his
lips toward either of his children.

"Go to your room, and don't presume to interfere with me again. I
trust I am competent to attend to my own matters!"

Almost convulsively Margaret's arms closed round her father's neck,
as she said, "Don't speak so to me, father. You never did
before--never would now, but for _her_. Oh, father, promise me, by the
memory of my angel mother, never to see her again. She is a base,
designing woman."

Mr. Hamilton unwound his daughter's arms from his neck, and speaking
more gently, said, "What proof have you of that assertion? Give me
proof, and I promise to do your bidding."

But Mag had no such proof at hand, and she could only reiterate her
suspicions, her belief, which, of course, failed to convince the
biased man, who, rising, said: "Your mother confided and trusted in
her, so why should not you?"

The next moment Margaret was alone. For a long time she wept, and it
was not until the eastern horizon began to grow gray in the morning
twilight that she laid her head upon her pillow, and forgot in sleep
how unhappy she had been. Her words, however, were not without their
effect, for when the night came round on which her father was
accustomed to pay his weekly visit, he stayed at home, spending the
whole evening with his daughters, and appearing really gratified at
Margaret's efforts to entertain him. But, alas! the chain of the widow
was too firmly thrown around him for a daughter's hand alone to sever
the fast-bound links.

When the next Thursday evening came Mag was confined to her room by a
sick headache, from which she had been suffering all day. As night
approached she frequently asked if her father were below. At last the
front door opened, and she heard his step upon the piazza. Starting
up, she hurried to the window, while at the same moment Mr. Hamilton
paused, and raising his eyes saw the white face of his daughter
pressed against the window-pane as she looked imploringly after him;
but there was not enough of power in a single look to deter him, and,
wafting her a kiss, he turned away. Sadly Margaret watched him until
he disappeared down the long hill; then, returning to her couch, she
wept bitterly.

Meantime Mrs. Carter, who had been greatly chagrined at the
non-appearance of Mr. Hamilton the week before, was now confidently
expecting him. He had not yet asked her to be his wife, and the delay
somewhat annoyed both herself and Lenora.

"I declare, mother," said Lenora, "I should suppose you might contrive
up something to bring matters to a focus. I think it's perfectly
ridiculous to see two old crones, who ought to be trotting their
grandchildren, cooing and simpering away at each other, and all for
nothing, too."

"Can't you be easy awhile longer?" asked Mrs. Carter "hasn't he said
everything he can say except 'will you marry me?'"

"A very important question, too," returned Lenora; "and I don't know
what business you have to expect anything from him until it is asked."

"Mr. Hamilton is proud," answered Mrs. Carter--"is afraid of doing
anything which might possibly lower him. Now, if by any means I could
make him believe that I had received an offer from some one fully if
not more than his equal, I think it would settle the matter, and I've
decided upon the following plan. I'll write a proposal myself, sign
old Judge B----'s name to it, and next time Mr. Hamilton comes let him
surprise me in reading it. Then, as he is such a _dear_, long-tried
friend, it will be quite proper for me to confide in him, and ask his
advice."

Lenora's eyes opened wider, as she exclaimed, "_My gracious_! who but
_you_ would ever have thought of that."

Accordingly the letter was written, sealed, directed, broken open,
laughed over, and laid away in the stand drawer.

"Mr. Hamilton, mother," said Lenora, as half an hour afterward she
ushered that gentleman into the room. But so wholly absorbed was the
black bombazine and linen collar in the contents of an open letter,
which she held in her hand, that the words were twice repeated--"Mr.
Hamilton, mother"--ere she raised her eyes! Then coming forward with
well-feigned confusion, she apologized for not having observed him
before, saying she was sure he would excuse her if he knew the
contents of her letter. Of course he wanted to know, and of course she
didn't want to tell. He was too polite to urge her, and the
conversation soon took another channel.

After a time Lenora left the room, and Mrs. Carter, again speaking of
the letter, begged to make a confidant of Mr. Hamilton, and ask his
advice. He heard the letter read through, and after a moment's silence
asked, "Do you like him, Mrs. Carter?"

"Why--no--I don't think I do," said she, "but then the widow's lot is
so lonely."

"I know it is," sighed he, while through the keyhole of the opposite
door came something which sounded very much like a stifled laugh! It
was the hour of Ernest Hamilton's temptation, and but for the
remembrance of the sad, white face which had gazed so sorrowfully at
him from the window he had fallen. But Maggie's presence seemed with
him--her voice whispered in his ear, "Don't do it, father, don't"--and
he calmly answered that it would be a good match. But he could not, no
he could not advise her to marry him; so he qualified what he had said
by asking her not to be in a hurry--to wait awhile. The laugh through
the keyhole was changed to a hiss, which Mrs. Carter said must be the
wind, although there was not enough stirring to move the rose bushes
which grew by the doorstep!

So much was Mr. Hamilton held in thrall by the widow that on his way
home he hardly knew whether to be glad or sorry that he had not
proposed. If Judge B---- would marry her she surely was good enough
for him. Anon, too, he recalled her hesitation about confessing that
the judge was indifferent to her. Jealousy crept in and completed
what flattery and intrigue had commenced. One week from that night
Ernest Hamilton and Luella Carter were engaged, but for appearance's
sake their marriage was not to take place until the ensuing autumn.




CHAPTER VI.

RAISING THE WIND.


"Where are you going now?" asked Mrs. Carter of her daughter, as she
saw her preparing to go out one afternoon, a few weeks after the
engagement.

"Going to raise the wind," was the answer.

"Going to what?" exclaimed Mrs. Carter.

"To raise the wind! Are you deaf?" yelled Lenora.

"Raise the wind!" repeated Mrs. Carter; "what do you mean?"

"Mean what I say," said Lenora; and closing the door after her she
left her mother to wonder "what fresh mischief the little torment was
at."

But she was only going to make a _friendly_ call on Margaret and
Carrie, the latter of whom she had heard was sick.

"Is Miss Hamilton at home?" asked she of the servant girl who answered
her ring, and whom she had never seen before.

"Yes, ma'am; walk in the parlor. What name shall I give her if you
please?"

"Miss Carter--Lenora Carter;" and the servant girl departed, repeating
to herself all the way up the stairs, "Miss Carther--Lenora Carther!"

"Lenora Carter want to see me!" exclaimed Mag, who, together with Kate
Kirby, was in her sister's room.

"Yes, ma'am; an' sure 'twas Miss Hampleton she was wishin' to see,"
said the Irish girl.

"Well, I shall not go down," answered Mag. "Tell her, Rachel, that I
am otherwise engaged."

"Oh, Maggie," said Carrie, "why not see her? I would if I were you."

"Rachel can ask her up here if you wish it," answered Mag, "but I
shall leave the room."

"Faith, an' what shall I do?" asked Rachel, who was fresh from "swate
Ireland" and felt puzzled to know why a "silk frock and smart bonnet"
should not always be welcome. "Ask her up," answered Kate. "I've never
seen her nearer than across the church and have some curiosity--"

A moment after Rachel thrust her head in at the parlor door, saying,
"If you please, ma'am, Miss Marget is engaged, and does not want to
see you, but Miss Carrie says you may come up there."

"Very well," said Lenora; and tripping after the servant girl, she was
soon in Carrie's room.

After retailing nearly all the gossip of which she was mistress, she
suddenly turned to Carrie, and said, "Did you know that your father
was going to be married?"

"My father going to be married!" said Carrie, opening her blue eyes in
astonishment. "My father going to be married! To whom pray?"

"To a lady from the East--one whom he used to know and flirt with when
he was in college!" was Lenora's grave reply.

"What is her name?" asked Kate.

"Her name? Let me see--Miss--Blackwell--Blackmer--_Blackheart_. It
sounds the most like Blackheart."

"What a queer name," said Kate; "but tell us what opportunity has Mr.
Hamilton had of renewing his early acquaintance with the lady."

"Don't you know he's been East this winter?" asked Lenora.

"Yes, as far as Albany," answered Carrie.

"Well," continued Lenora, "'twas during his Eastern trip that the
matter was settled; but pray don't repeat it from me, except it be to
Maggie, who I dare say, will feel glad to be relieved of her heavy
responsibilities--but as I live, Carrie, you are crying! What is the
matter?"

But Carrie made no answer, and for a time wept on in silence. She
could not endure the thought that another would so soon take the place
of her lost mother in the household and in the affections of her
father. There was, besides, something exceedingly annoying in the
manner of her who communicated the intelligence, and secretly Carrie
felt glad that the dreaded "Miss Blackheart" had, of course, no Lenora
to bring with her!

"Do you know all this to be true?" asked Kate.

"Perfectly true," said Lenora. "We have friends living in the vicinity
of the lady, and there can be no mistake, except, indeed, in the name,
which I am not sure is right!"

Then hastily kissing Carrie, the little hussy went away, very well
satisfied with her afternoon's call. As soon as she was out of hearing
Margaret entered her sister's room, and on noticing Carrie's flushed
cheek and red eyes, inquired the cause. Immediately Kate told her what
Lenora had said, but instead of weeping, as Carrie had done, she
betrayed no emotion whatever.

"Why, Maggie, ain't you sorry?" asked Carrie.

"No, I am glad," returned Mag. "I've seen all along that sooner or
later father would make himself ridiculous, and I'd rather he'd marry
forty women from the East, than one woman not far from here whom I
know."

All that afternoon Mag tripped with unwonted gaiety about the house. A
weight was lifted from her heart, for in her estimation any one whom
her father would marry was preferable to Mrs. Carter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oh, how the widow scolded the daughter, and how the daughter laughed
at the widow, when she related the particulars of her call.

"Lenora, what could have possessed you to tell such a lie?" said Mrs.
Carter.

"Not so fast, mother mine," answered Lenora. "'Twasn't a lie. Mr.
Hamilton _is_ engaged to a lady from the East. He _did_ flirt with her
in his younger days; and, pray, didn't he have to come East when be
called to inquire after his beloved classmates, and ended by getting
checkmated! Besides, I think you ought to thank me for turning the
channel of gossip in another direction, for now you will be saved from
all impertinent questions and remarks."

This mode of reasoning failed to convince the widow, who felt quite
willing that people should know of her flattering prospects; and when
a few days after Mrs. Dr. Otis told her that Mrs. Kimball said that
Polly Larkins said that her hired girl told her that Mrs. Kirby's
hired girl told her that she overheard Miss Kate telling her mother
that Lenora Carter said that Mr. Hamilton was going to be married to
her mother's intimate friend, Mrs. Carter would have denied the whole
and probably divulged her own secret, had not Lenora, who chanced to
be present, declared, with the coolest effrontery, that 'twas all
true--that her mother had promised to stand up with them, and so folks
would find it to be if they did not die of curiosity before autumn!

"Lenora, child, how can you talk so?" asked the distressed lady, as
the door closed upon her visitor.

Lenora went off into fits of explosive laughter, bounding up and down
like an india-rubber ball, and at last condescended to say, "I know
what I'm about. Do you want Mag Hamilton breaking up the match, as she
surely would do, between this and autumn, if she knew it?"

"And what can she do?" asked Mrs. Carter.

"Why," returned Lenora, "can't she write to the place you came from,
if, indeed, such a spot can be found?--for I believe you sometimes
book yourself from one town and sometimes from another. But depend
upon it you had better take my advice and keep still, and in the
denouement which follows, I alone shall be blamed for a slight stretch
of truth which you can easily excuse as 'one of _dear_ Lenora's silly,
childish freaks!'"

Upon second thoughts, Mrs. Carter concluded to follow her daughter's
advice, and the next time Mr. Hamilton called, she laughingly told the
story which Lenora had set afloat, saying, by way of excuse, that the
dear girl did not like to hear her mother joked on the subject of
matrimony, and had turned the attention of people another way.

Mr. Hamilton hardly relished this, and half wished, mayhap, as,
indeed, gentlemen generally do in similar circumstances, that the
little "objection" in the shape of Lenora had never had existence, or
at least had never called the widow mother!




CHAPTER VII.

THE STEPMOTHER.


Rapidly the summer was passing away, and as autumn drew near the wise
gossips of Glenwood began to whisper that the lady from the East was
in danger of being supplanted in her rights by the widow, whose house
Mr. Hamilton was known to visit two or three times each week. But
Lenora had always some plausible story on hand. "Mother and the lady
had been so intimate--in fact, more than once rocked in the same
cradle--and 'twas no wonder Mr. Hamilton came often to a place where
he could hear so much about her."

So when business again took Mr. Hamilton to Albany suspicion was
wholly lulled, and Walter, on his return from college, was told by Mag
that her fears concerning Mrs. Carter were groundless. During the
spring Carrie had been confined to her bed, but now she seemed much
better, and after Walter had been at home awhile he proposed that he
and his sisters should take a traveling excursion, going first to
Saratoga, thence to Lake Champlain and Montreal, and returning home by
way of Canada and the Falls, This plan Mr. Hamilton warmly seconded,
and when Carrie asked if he would not feel lonely he answered, "Oh,
no; Willie and I will do very well while you are gone."

"But who will stay with Willie evenings, when you are away?" asked
Mag, looking her father steadily in the face.

Mr. Hamilton colored slightly, but after a moment replied: "I shall
spend my evenings at home."

"'Twill be what he hasn't done for many a week," thought Mag, as she
again busied herself with her preparations.

The morning came at last on which our travelers were to leave. Kate
Kirby had been invited to accompany them, but her mother would not
consent. "It would give people too much chance for talk," she said; so
Kate was obliged to content herself with going as far as the depot,
and watching, until out of sight, the car which bore them away.

Upon the piazza stood the little group, awaiting the arrival of the
carriage which was to convey them to the station. Mr. Hamilton seemed
unusually gloomy, and with folded arms paced up and down the long
piazza, rarely speaking or noticing any one.

"Are you sorry we are going, father?" asked Carrie, going up to him.
"If you are I will gladly stay with you."

Mr. Hamilton paused, and pushing back the fair hair from his
daughter's white brow, he kissed her tenderly, saying, "No, Carrie; I
want you to go. The journey will do you good, for you are getting too
much the look your poor mother used to wear."

Why thought he then of Carrie's mother? Was it because he knew that
ere his child returned to him another would be in that mother's place?
Anon, Margaret came near, and motioning Carrie away, Mr. Hamilton took
his other daughter's hand, and led her to the end of the piazza, where
could easily be seen the little graveyard and tall white monument
pointing toward the bright blue sky where dwelt the one whose grave
that costly marble marked.

Pointing out the spot to Margaret, he said, "Tell me truly, Maggie,
did you love your father or your mother best?"

Mag looked wonderingly at him a moment, and then replied, "While
mother lived I loved her more than you, but now that she is dead, I
think of and love you as both father and mother."

"And will you always love me thus?" asked he.

"Always," was Mag's reply, as she looked curiously in her father's
face, and thinking that he had not said what he intended to when first
he drew her there.

Just then the carriage drove up, and after a few good-bys and parting
words Ernest Hamilton's children were gone, and he was left alone.

"Why didn't I tell her, as I intended to?" thought he. "Is it because
I fear her--fear my own child? No, it cannot be--and yet there is that
in her eye which sometimes makes me quail, and which, if necessary,
would keep at bay a dozen stepmothers. But neither she, nor either one
of them, has aught to dread from Mrs. Carter, whose presence will, I
think, be of great benefit to us all, and whose gentle manners, I
trust, will tend to soften Mag!"

Meantime his children were discussing and wondering at the strange
mood of their father. Walter, however, took no part in the
conversation. He had lived longer than his sisters--had seen more of
human nature, and had his own suspicions with regard to what would
take place during their absence; but he could not spoil all Margaret's
happiness by telling her his thoughts, so he kept them to himself,
secretly resolving to make the best of whatever might occur, and to
advise Mag to do the same.

Now for a time we leave them, and take a look into the cottage of
Widow Carter, where, one September morning, about three weeks after
the departure of the Hamiltons, preparations were making for some
great event. In the kitchen a servant girl was busily at work, while
in the parlor Lenora was talking and the widow was listening.

"Oh, mother," said Lenora, "isn't it so nice that they went away just
now? But won't Mag look daggers at us when she comes home and finds us
in quiet possession, and is told to call you _mother_!"

"I never expect her to do that," answered Mrs. Carter. "The most I can
hope for is that she will call me Mrs. Hamilton."

"Now really, mother, if I were in Mag's place, I wouldn't please you
enough to say Mrs. Hamilton; I'd always call you Mrs. Carter," said
Lenora.

"How absurd!" was the reply; and Lenora continued:

"I know it's absurd, but I'd do it; though if she does, I, as the
dutiful child of a most worthy parent, shall feel compelled to resent
the insult by calling her father _Mr. Carter_!"

By this time Mrs. Carter was needed in the kitchen; so, leaving
Lenora, who at once was the pest and torment of her mother's life, we
will go into the village and see what effect the approaching nuptials
was producing. It was now generally known that the "lady from the
East" who had been "rocked in Mrs. Carter's cradle," was none other
than Mrs. Carter herself, and many were the reproving looks which the
people had cast toward Lenora for the trick she had put upon them. The
little hussy only laughed at them good-humoredly, telling them they
were angry because she had cheated them out of five months' gossip,
and that if her mother could have had her way, she would have sent the
news to the _Herald_ and had it inserted under the head of "Awful
Catastrophe!" Thus Mrs. Carter was exonerated from all blame; but many
a wise old lady shook her head, saying, "How strange that so fine a
woman as Mrs. Carter should have such a reprobate of a daughter."

When, this remark came to Lenora's ears she cut numerous flourishes,
which ended in the upsetting of a bowl of starch on her mother's new
black silk; then dancing before the highly indignant lady, she said,
"Perhaps if they knew what a scapegrace you represent my father to
have been, and how you whipped me once to make me say I saw him strike
you, when I never did, they would wonder at my being as good as I am."

Mrs. Carter was too furious to venture a verbal reply; so seizing the
starch bowl she hurled it with the remainder of the contents at the
head of the little vixen, who, with an elastic bound not entirely
unlike a somersault dodged the missile, which passed on and fell upon
the hearthrug.

This is but one of a series of similar scenes which occurred between
the widow and her child before the happy day arrived when, in the
presence of a select few of the villagers, Luella Carter was
transformed into Luella Hamilton. The ceremony was scarcely over when
Mr. Hamilton, who for a few days had been rather indisposed,
complained of feeling sick. Immediately Lenora, with a sidelong glance
at her mother, exclaimed, "What, sick of your bargain so quick? It's
sooner even than _I_ thought 'twould be, and I'm sure I'm capable of
judging."

"Dear Lenora," said Mrs. Carter, turning toward one of her neighbors,
"she has such a flow of spirits that I am afraid Mr. Hamilton will
find her troublesome."

"Don't be alarmed, mother; he'll never think of me when you are
around," was Lenora's reply in which Mrs. Carter saw more than one
meaning.

That evening the bridal party repaired to the homestead, where, at Mr.
Hamilton's request, Mrs. Kirby was waiting to receive them. Willie had
been told by the servants that his mother was coming home that night,
and, with the trusting faith of childhood, he had drawn a chair to the
window from which he could see his mother's grave; and there for more
than an hour he watched for the first indications of her coming,
saying occasionally, "Oh, I wish she'd come. Willie's so sorry here."

At last growing weary and discouraged, he turned away and said, "No,
ma'll never come home again; Maggie said she wouldn't."

Upon the carriage road which wound from the street to the house there
was the sound of coming wheels, and Rachel, seizing Willie, bore him
to the front door, exclaiming, "An' faith, Willie, don't you see her?
That's your mother, honey, with the black gown."

But Willie saw only the wild eyes of Lenora, who caught him in her
arms, overwhelming him with caresses. "Let me go, Leno," said he, "I
want to see my ma. Where is she?"

A smile of scorn curled Lenora's lips as she released him, and leading
him toward her mother, she said, "There she is; there's your ma. Now
hold up your head and make a bow."

Willie's lip quivered, his eyes filled with tears, and hiding his face
in his apron, he sobbed, "I want my own ma--the one they shut up in a
big black box. Where is she, Leno?"

Mr. Hamilton took Willie on his knee, and tried to explain to him how
that now his own mother was dead, he had got a new one, who would love
him and be kind to him. Then putting him down, he said, "Go, my son,
and speak to her, won't you?"

Willie advanced rather cautiously toward the black silk figure, which
reached out its hand, saying, "Dear Willie, you'll love me a little,
won't you?"

"Yes, if you are good to me," was the answer, which made the new
stepmother mentally exclaim, "A young rebel, I know," while Lenora,
bending between the two, whispered emphatically:

"She _shall_ be good to you!"

And soon, in due order, the servants were presented to their new
mistress. Some were disposed to like her, others eyed her askance, and
old Polly Pepper, the black cook, who had been in the family ever
since Mr. Hamilton's first marriage, returned her salutation rather
gruffly, and then, stalking back to the kitchen, muttered to, those
who followed her, "I don't like her face nohow; she looks just like
the milk snakes, when they stick their heads in at the door."

"But you knew how she looked before," said Lucy, the chambermaid.

"I know it," returned Polly; "but when she was here nussin' I never
noticed _her_, more I would any on you; for who'd of thought that Mr.
Hamilton would marry her, when he knows, or or'to know, that nusses
ain't fust cut, nohow; and you may depend on't, things ain't a-goin'
to be here as they used to be."

Here Rachel started up, and related the circumstance of Margaret's
refusing to see "that little evil-eyed-lookin-varmint, with curls
almost like Polly's." Lucy, too, suddenly remembered something which
she had seen, or heard, or made up--so that Mrs. Carter had not been
an hour in the coveted homestead ere there was mutiny against her
afloat in the kitchen; "But," said Aunt Polly, "I 'vises you all to be
civil till she sasses you fust!"

"My dear, what room can Lenora have for her own?" asked Mrs. Hamilton,
as we must now call her, the morning following her marriage.

"Why, really, I don't know," answered the husband; "you must suit
yourselves with regard to that."

"Yes; but I'd rather you'd select, and then no one can blame me," was
the answer.

"Choose any room you please, except the one which Mag and Carrie now
occupy, and rest assured you shall not be blamed," said Mr. Hamilton.

The night before Lenora had appropriated to herself the best chamber,
but the room was so large and so far distant from any one, and the
windows and fireboard rattled so, that she felt afraid, and did not
care to repeat her experiment.

"I 'clar for't!" said Polly, when she heard of it. "Gone right into
the best bed, where even Miss Margaret never goes! What are we all
comin' to? Tell her, Luce, the story of the ghosts, and I'll be bound
she'll make herself scarce in them rooms!"

"Tell her yourself," said Lucy; and when, after breakfast, Lenora,
anxious to spy out everything, appeared in the kitchen, Aunt Polly
called out, "Did you hear anything last night, Miss Lenora?"

"Why, yes--I heard the windows rattle," was the answer; and Aunt
Polly, with an ominous shake of the head, continued:

"There's more than windows rattle, I guess. Didn't you see nothin',
all white and corpse-like, go a-whizzin, and rappin' by your bed?"

"Why, no," said Lenora; "what do you mean?"

So Polly told her of the ghosts and goblins which nightly ranged the
two chambers over the front and back parlors. Lenora said nothing, but
she secretly resolved not to venture again after dark into the haunted
portion of the house. But where should she sleep? That was now the
important question. Adjoining the sitting-room was a pleasant, cozy
little place, which Margaret called her music-room. In it she kept her
piano, her music stand, books, and several fine plants, besides
numerous other little conveniences. At the end of this room was a
large closet where, at different seasons of the year, Mag hung away
the articles of clothing which she and her sister did not need.

Toward this place Lenora turned her eyes; for, besides being unusually
pleasant, it was also very near her mother, whose sleeping-room
joined, though it did not communicate with it. Accordingly, before
noon the piano was removed to the parlor; the plants were placed, some
on the piazza, and some in the sitting-room window, while Margaret and
Carrie's dresses were removed to the closet of their room, which
chanced to be a trifle too small to hold them all conveniently; so
they were crowded one above the other, and left for "the girls to see
to when they came home!"

In perfect horror Aunt Polly looked on, regretting for once the ghost
story which she had told.

"Why don't you take the chamber jinin' the young ladies? that ain't
haunted," said she, when they sent for her to help move the piano.
"Miss Margaret won't thank you for scattern' her things."

"You've nothing to do with Lenora," said Mrs. Hamilton; "you've only
to attend to your own matters."

"Wonder then what I'm up here for a-h'istin this pianner," muttered
Polly. "This ain't my matters, sartin'."

When Mr. Hamilton came in to dinner he was shown the little room with
its single bed, tiny bureau, silken lounge and easy chair, of which
the last two were Mag's especial property.

"All very nice," said he, "but where is Mag's piano?"

"In the parlor," answered his wife. "People often ask for music, and
it is more convenient to have it there than to come across the hall
and through the sitting-room."

Mr. Hamilton said nothing, but he secretly wished Mag's rights had not
been invaded quite so soon. His wife must have guessed as much; for,
laying her hand on his, she, with the utmost deference, offered to
undo all she had done, if it did not please him.

"Certainly not--certainly not; it does please me," said he; while
Polly, who stood on the cellar stairs listening, exclaimed, "What a
fool a woman can make of a man!"

Three days after Mr. Hamilton's marriage he received a letter from
Walter, saying that they would be at home on the Thursday night
following. Willie was in, ecstasies, for though as yet he liked his
new mother tolerably well, he still loved Maggie better; and the
thought of seeing her again made him wild with delight. All day long
on Thursday he sat in the doorway, listening for the shrill cry of the
train which was to bring her home.

"Don't you love Maggie?" said he to Lenora, who chanced to pass him.

"Don't I love Maggie? No, I don't; neither does she love me," was the
answer.

Willie was puzzled to know why any one should not like Mag; but his
confidence in her was not at all shaken, and when, soon after sunset,
Lenora cried, "There, they've come," he rushed to the door, and was
soon in the arms of his sister-mother. Pressing his lips to hers, he
said, "Did you 'know I'd got a new mother? Mrs. Carter and Leno--they
are in there," pointing toward the parlor.

Instantly Mag dropped him. It was the first intimation of her father's
marriage which she had received, and reeling backward, she would have
fallen had not Walter supported her. Quickly rallying, she advanced
toward her father, who came to meet her, and whose hand trembled in
her grasp. After greeting each of his children he turned to present
them to _his wife_, wisely taking Carrie first. She was not
prejudiced, like Mag, and returned her stepmother's salutation with
something like affection, for which Lenora rewarded her by terming her
a "little simpleton."

But Mag--she who had warned her father against that woman--she who on
her knees had begged him not to marry her--she had no word of welcome,
and when Mrs. Hamilton offered her hand she affected not to see it,
though with the most frigid politeness she said, "Good evening, madam;
this is, indeed, a surprise!"

"And not a very pleasant one, either, I imagine," whispered Lenora to
Carrie.

Walter came last, and though he took the lady's hand, there was
something in his manner which plainly said she was not wanted there.
Tea was now announced, and Mag bit her lip when, she saw her
accustomed seat occupied by another.

Feigning to recollect herself, Mrs. Hamilton, in the blandest tones,
said, "Perhaps, dear Maggie, you would prefer this seat?"

"Of course not," said Mag, while Lenora thought to herself:

"And if she does, I wonder what good it will do?"

That young lady, however, made no remarks, for Walter Hamilton's
searching eyes were upon her and kept her silent. After tea, Walter
said, "Come, Mag, I have not heard your piano in a long time. Give us
some music."

Mag arose to comply with his wishes, but ere she had reached the door
Mrs. Hamilton gently detained her, saying, "Maggie, dear, Lenora has
always slept near me, and as I knew you would not object, if you were
here, I took the liberty to remove your piano to the parlor, and to
fit this up for Lenora's sleeping-room. See"--and she threw open the
door, disclosing the metamorphose, while Willie, who began to get an
inkling of matters, and who always called the piazza "outdoors,"
chimed in, "And they throw'd your little trees outdoors, too!"

Mag stood for a moment, mute with astonishment; then thinking she
could not "do the subject justice," she turned silently away. A
roguish smile from Walter met her eye, but she did not laugh, until,
with Carrie, she repaired to her own room, and tried to put something
in the closet. Then coming upon the pile of extra clothes, she
exclaimed, "What in the world! Here's all our winter clothing, and, as
I live, five dresses crammed upon one nail! We'll have to move to the
barn next!"

This was too much, and sitting down, Mag cried and laughed
alternately.




CHAPTER VIII.

DOMESTIC LIFE AT THE HOMESTEAD.


For a few weeks after Margaret's return matters at the Homestead
glided on smoothly enough, but at the end of that time Mrs. Hamilton
began to reveal her real character. Carrie's journey had not been as
beneficial as her father had hoped it would be, and as the days grew
colder she complained of extreme languor and a severe pain in her
side, and at last kept her room entirely, notwithstanding the numerous
hints from her stepmother that it was no small trouble to carry so
many dishes up and down stairs three times a day.

Mrs. Hamilton was naturally very stirring and active, and in spite of
her remarkable skill in nursing, she felt exceedingly annoyed when any
of her own family were ill. She fancied, too, that Carrie was feigning
all her bad feelings, and that she would be much better if she exerted
herself more. Accordingly, one afternoon when Mag was gone, she
repaired to Carrie's room, giving vent to her opinion as follows:
"Carrie," said she (she now dropped the _dear_ when Mr. Hamilton was
not by), "Carrie, I shouldn't suppose you'd ever expect to get well,
so long as you stay moped up here all day. You ought to come
down-stairs, and stir around more."

"Oh, I should be so glad if I could," answered Carrie.

"Could!" repeated Mrs. Hamilton; "you could if you would. Now, it's my
opinion that you complain altogether too much, and fancy you are a
great deal worse than you really are, when all you want is exercise. A
short walk on the piazza, and a little fresh air each, morning, would
soon cure you."

"I know fresh air does me good," said Carrie; "but walking makes my
side ache so hard, and makes me cough so, that Maggie thinks I'd
better not."

Mag, quoted as authority, exasperated Mrs. Hamilton who replied
rather sharply, "Fudge on Mag's old-maidish whims! I know that any one
who eats as much as you do can't be so very weak!"

"I don't eat half you send me," said poor Carrie, beginning to cry at
her mother's unkind remarks; "Willie 'most always comes up here and
eats with me."

"For mercy's sake, mother, let the child have what she wants to eat,
for 'tisn't long she'll need it," said Lenora, suddenly appearing in
the room.

"Lenora, go right down; you are not wanted here," said Mrs. Hamilton.

"Neither are you, I fancy," was Lenora's reply, as she coolly seated
herself on the foot of Carrie's bed, while her mother continued:

"Really, Carrie, you must try and come down to your meals, for you
have no idea how much it hinders the work, to bring them up here.
Polly isn't good for anything until she has conjured up something
extra for your breakfast, and then they break so many dishes!"

"I'll try to come down to-morrow," said Carrie meekly; and as the
door-bell just then rang Mrs. Hamilton departed, leaving her with
Lenora, whose first exclamation was:

"If I were in your place, Carrie, I wouldn't eat anything, and die
quick."

"I don't want to die," said Carrie; and Lenora, clapping her hands
together, replied:

"Why, you poor little innocent, who supposed you did? Nobody wants to
die not even _I_, good as I am; but I should expect to, if I had the
consumption."

"Lenora, have I got the consumption?" asked Carrie, fixing her eyes
with mournful earnestness upon her companion, who thoughtlessly
replied:

"To be sure you have. They say one lung is entirely gone and the other
nearly so."

Wearily the sick girl turned upon her side; and, resting her dimpled
cheek upon her hand, she said softly, "Go away now, Lenora; I want to
be alone."

Lenora complied, and when Margaret returned from the village she
found her sister lying in the same position in which Lenora had left
her, with her fair hair falling over her face, which it hid from view.

"Are you asleep, Carrie?" said Mag; but Carrie made no answer, and
there was something so still and motionless in her repose that Mag
went up to her, and pushing back from her face the long silken hair,
saw that she had fainted.

The excitement of her stepmother's visit, added to the startling news
which Lenora had told her, was too much for her weak nerves, and for a
time she remained insensible. At length, rousing herself, she looked
dreamily around, saying, "Was it a dream, Maggie--- all a dream?"

"Was what a dream, love?" said Margaret, supporting her sister's head
upon her bosom.

Suddenly Carrie remembered the whole, but she resolved not to tell of
her stepmother's visit, though she earnestly desired to know if what
Lenora had told her were true. Raising herself, so that she could see
Margaret's face, she said, "Maggie, is there no hope for me; and do
the physicians say I must die?"

"Why, what do you mean? I never knew that they said so," answered Mag;
and then with breathless indignation she listened, while Carrie told
her what Lenora had said. "I'll see that she doesn't get in here
again," said Margaret. "I know she made more than half of that up;
for, though the physicians say you lungs are very much diseased, they
have never saw that you could not recover."

The next morning, greatly to Mag's astonishment Carrie insisted upon
going down to breakfast.

"Why, you must not do it; you are not able," said Mag. But Carrie was
determined; and, wrapping herself in her thick shawl, she slowly
descended the stay though the cold air in the long hall made her
shiver.

"Carrie, dear, you are better this morning, and there is quite a rosy
flush on your cheek," said Mrs. Hamilton, rising to meet her. _(Mr._
Hamilton, be it remembered, was present.) But Carrie shrank
instinctively from her stepmother's advances, and took her seat by the
side of her father. After breakfast Mag remembered that she had an
errand in the village, and Carrie, who felt too weary to return
immediately to her room, said she would wait below until her sister
returned. Mag had been gone but a few moments when Mrs. Hamilton,
opening the outer door, called to Lenora, saying, "Come and take a few
turns on the piazza with Carrie. The air is bracing this morning, and
will do her good."

Willie, who was present, cried out, "No--Carrie is sick; she can't
walk--Maggie said she couldn't," and he grasped his sister's hand to
hold her. With a not very gentle jerk Mrs. Hamilton pulled him off,
while Lenora, who came bobbing and bounding into the room, took
Carrie's arm, saying.

"Oh, yes, I'll walk with you; shall we have a hop, skip, or jump?"

"Don't, don't!" said Carrie, holding back; "I can't walk fast,
Lenora," and actuated by some sudden impulse of kindness, Lenora
conformed her steps to those of the invalid. Twice they walked up and
down the piazza, and were about turning for the third time, when
Carrie, clasping her hand over her side, exclaimed, "No, no; I can't
go again."

Little Willie, who fancied that his sister was being hurt, sprang
toward Lenora, saying, "Leno, you mustn't hurt Carrie. Let her go;
she's sick."

And now to the scene of action came Dame Hamilton, and seizing her
young stepson, she tore him away from Lenora, administering at the
same time a bit of a motherly shake. Willie's blood was up, and in
return he dealt her a blow, for which she rewarded him by another
shake, and by tying him to the table.

That Lenora was not all bad was shown by the unselfish affection she
ever manifested for Willie, although her untimely interference between
him and her mother oftentimes made matters worse. Thus, on the
occasion of which we have been speaking, Mrs. Hamilton had scarcely
left the room ere Lenora released Willie from his confinement, thereby
giving him the impression that his mother alone was to blame.
Fortunately, however, Margaret's judgment was better, and though she
felt justly indignant at the cruelty practised upon poor Carrie, she
could not uphold Willie in striking his mother. Calling him to her
room, she talked to him until he was wholly softened, and offered, of
his own accord, to go and say he was sorry, provided Maggie would
accompany him as far as the door of the sitting-room, where his mother
would probably be found. Accordingly, Mag descended the stairs with
him, and meeting Lenora in the hall, said, "Is she in the
sitting-room?"

"Is _she_ in the sitting-room?" repeated Lenora; "and pray who may
_she_ be?" then quick as thought she added, "Oh, yes, I know. She is
in there telling HE!"

Lenora was right in her conjecture, for Mrs. Hamilton, greatly enraged
at Willie's presumption in striking her, and still more provoked at
him for untying himself, as she supposed he had, was laying before her
husband quite an aggravated case of assault and battery.

In the midst of her argument Willie entered the room, with
tear-stained eyes, and without noticing the presence of his father,
went directly to his mother, and burying his face in her lap, sobbed
out, "Willie is sorry he struck you, and will never do so again, if
you will forgive him."

In a much gentler tone than she would have assumed had not her husband
been present, Mrs. Hamilton replied, "I can forgive you for striking
me, Willie, but what have you to say about untying yourself?"

"I didn't do it," said Willie; "Leno did that."

"Be careful what you say," returned Mrs. Hamilton. "I can't believe
Lenora would do so."

Ere Willie had time to repeat his assertion Lenora, who all the time
had been standing by the door, appeared, saying, "You may believe him,
for he has never been whipped to make him lie. I did do it, and I
would do it again."

"Lenora," said Mr. Hamilton, rather sternly, "you should not interfere
in that manner. You will spoil the child."

It was the first time he had presumed to reprove his stepdaughter, and
as there was nothing on earth which Mrs. Hamilton so much feared as
Lenora's tongue, she dreaded the disclosures which further remark from
her husband might call forth. So, assuming an air of great distress,
she said, "Leave her to me, my dear. She is a strange girl, as I
always told you, and no one can manage her as well as myself." Then
kissing Willie in token of forgiveness, she left the room, drawing
Lenora after her and whispering fiercely in her ear, "How can you ever
expect to succeed with the son, if you show off this way before the
father."

With a mocking laugh Lenora replied, "Pshaw! I gave that up the first
time I ever saw him, for of course he thinks me a second edition of
Mrs. Carter, minus any improvements. But he's mistaken; I'm not half
as bad as I seem. I'm only what you've made me."

Mrs. Hamilton turned away, thinking that if her daughter could so
easily give up Walter Hamilton, _she_ would not. She was resolved upon
an alliance between him and Lenora. And who ever knew _her_ to fail in
what she undertook?

She had wrung from her husband the confession that "he believed there
was a sort of childish affection between Walter and Kate Kirby, though
'twas doubtful whether it ever amounted to anything." She had also
learned that he was rather averse to the match, and though Lenora had
not yet been named as a substitute for Kate, she strove in many ways
to impress her husband with a sense of her daughter's superior
abilities, at the same time taking pains to mortify Margaret by
setting Lenora above her.

For this, however, Margaret cared but little, and it was only when
her mother ill-treated Willie, which she frequently did, that her
spirit was fully roused.

At Mrs. Hamilton's first marriage she had been presented with a
handsome glass pitcher, which she of course greatly prized. One day it
stood upon the stand in her room, where Willie was also playing with
some spools which Lenora had found and arranged for him. Malta, the
pet kitten, was amusing herself by running after the spools, and when
at last Willie, becoming tired, laid them on the stand, she sprang
toward them, upsetting the pitcher, which was broken in a dozen
pieces. On hearing the crash Mrs. Hamilton hastened toward the room,
where the sight of her favorite pitcher in fragments greatly enraged
her. Thinking, of course, that Willie had done it, she rudely seized
him by the arm, administered a cuff or so, and then dragged him toward
the china closet.

As soon as Willie could regain his breath he screamed, "Oh ma, don't
shut me up; I'll be good; I didn't do it, certain true; kittie knocked
it off."

"None of your lies," said Mrs. Hamilton. "It's likely kittie knocked
it off!"

Lenora, who had seen the whole, and knew that what Willie said was
true, was about coming to the rescue, when looking up, she saw
Margaret, with dilated nostrils and eyes flashing fire watching the
proceedings of her stepmother.

"He's safe," thought Lenora; "I'll let Mag fire the first gun, and
then I'll bring up the rear."

Margaret had never known Willie to tell a lie, and had no reason for
thinking he had done so in this instance. Besides, the blows her
mother gave him exasperated her, and she stepped forward just as Mrs.
Hamilton was about pushing him into the closet. So engrossed was that
lady that she heard not Margaret's approach until a firm hand was laid
upon her shoulder while Willie was violently wrested from her grasp,
and ere she could recover from her astonishment she herself was
pushed into the closet, the door of which was closed and locked
against her.

"Bravo, Margaret Hamilton," cried Lenora, "I'm with you now, if I
never was before. It serves her right, for Willie told the truth. I
was sitting by and saw it all. Keep her in there an hour, will you? It
will pay her for the many times she has shut me up for nothing."

Mrs. Hamilton stamped and pushed against the door, while Lenora danced
and sang at the top of her voice:

    "My dear precious mother got wrathy one day
      And seized little Will by the hair;
    But when in the closet she'd stow him away,
      She herself was pushed headlong in there."

At length the bolt, yielding to the continued pressure of Mrs.
Hamilton's body, broke, and out came the termagant, foaming with rage.
She dared not molest Margaret, of whose physical powers she had just
received such mortifying proof, so she aimed a box at the ears of
Lenora. But the lithe little thing dodged it, and with one bound
cleared the table which sat in the center of the room, landing safely
on the other side; and then, shaking her short, black curls at her
mother, she said, "You didn't come it, that time, my darling."

Mr. Hamilton, who chanced to be absent for a few days, was, on his
return, regaled with an exaggerated account of the proceeding, his
wife ending her discourse by saying: "If you don't do something with
your upstart daughter I'll leave the house; yes, I will."

Mr. Hamilton was cowardly. He was afraid of his wife, and he was
afraid of Mag. So he tried to compromise the matter by promising the
one that he surely would see to it, and by asking the other if she
were not ashamed. But old Polly didn't let the matter pass so easily.
She was greatly shocked at having "such shameful carryin's on in a
decent man's house."

"'Clare for't," said she, "I'll give marster a piece of Polly Pepper's
mind the fust time I get a lick at him."

In the course of a few days Mr. Hamilton had occasion to go for
something into Aunt Polly's dominions. The old lady was ready for him.
"Mr. Hampleton," said she, "I've been waitin' to see you this long
spell."

"To see me, Polly?" said he; "what do you want?"

"What I wants is this," answered Polly, dropping into a chair. "I want
to know what this house is a comin' to, with such bedivilment in it as
there's been since madam came here with that little black-headed,
ugly-favored, ill-begotten, Satan-possessed, shoulder-unj'inted young
one of her'n. It's been nothin' but a rowdadow the whole time, and you
hain't grit enough to stop it. Madam boxes Willie, and undertakes to
shet him up for a lie he never told; Miss Margaret interferes jest as
she or'to, takes Willie away, and shets up madam; while that
ill-marnered Lenora jumps and screeches loud enough to wake the dead.
Madam busts the door down, and pitches into the varmint, who jumps
spang over a four-foot table, which Lord knows _I_ never could have
done in my spryest days."

"But how can I help all this?" asked Mr. Hamilton.

"Help it?" returned Polly. "You needn't have got into the fire in the
fust place. I hain't lived fifty-odd year for nothin', and though I
hain't no larnin', I know too much to heave myself away on the fust
nussin' woman that comes along."

"Stop, Polly; you must not speak so of Mrs. Hamilton," said Mr.
Hamilton; while Polly continued:

"And I wouldn't nuther, if she could hold a candle to the t'other one;
but she can't. You'd no business to marry a second time, even if you
didn't marry a nuss; neither has any man who's got grow'd-up gals, and
a faithful critter like Polly in the kitchen. Stepmothers don't often
do well, particularly them as is sot up by marryin'."

Here Mr. Hamilton, who did not like to hear so much truth, left the
kitchen, while Aunt Polly said to herself, "I've gin it to him good,
this time."

Lenora, who always happened to be near when she was talked about, had
overheard the whole, and repeated it to her mother. Accordingly, that
very afternoon word came to the kitchen that Mrs. Hamilton wished to
see Polly.

"Reckon she'll find this child ain't afeared on her," said Polly, as
she wiped the flour from her face and repaired to Mrs. Hamilton's
room.

"Polly," began that lady, with a very grave face, "Lenora tells me
that you have been talking very disrespectfully to Mr. Hamilton."

"In the name of the Lord, can't he fight his own battles?" interrupted
Polly. "I only tried to show him that he was henpecked--and he is."

"It isn't of him alone I would speak," resumed Mrs. Hamilton, with
stately gravity; "you spoke insultingly of me, and as I make it a
practise never to keep a servant after they get insolent, I have----"

"For the dear Lord's sake," again interrupted Polly, "I 'spect we's
the fust servants you ever had."

"Good!" said a voice from some quarter, and Mrs. Hamilton continued:
"I have sent for you to give you twenty-four hours' warning to leave
this house."

"I shan't budge an inch until marster says so," said Polly. "Wonder
who's the best title deed here? Warn't I here long afore you come a
nussin' t'other one?"

And Polly went back to the kitchen, secretly fearing that Mr.
Hamilton, who she knew was wholly ruled by his wife, would say that
she must go. And he did say so, though much against his will. Lenora
ran with the decision, to Aunt Polly, causing her to drop a loaf of
new bread. But the old negress chased her from the cellar with the
oven broom, and then stealing by a back staircase to Margaret's room,
laid the case before her, acknowledging that she was sorry and asking
her young mistress to intercede for her. Margaret stepped to the head
of the stairs, and calling to her father, requested him to come for a
moment to her room. This he was more ready to do, as he had no
suspicion why he was sent for, but on seeing old Polly, he
half-resolved to turn back. Margaret, however, led him into the room,
and then entreated him not to send away one who had served him so long
and so faithfully.

Polly, too, joined in with her tears and prayers, saying, "She was an
old black fool anyway, and let her tongue get the better on her,
though she didn't mean to say more than was true, and reckoned she
hadn't."

In his heart Mr. Hamilton wished to revoke what he had said, but dread
of the explosive storm which he knew would surely follow made him
irresolute, until Carrie said, "Father, the first person of whom I
have any definite recollection is Aunt Polly, and I shall be so
lonesome if she goes away. For my sake let her stay, at least until I
am dead."

This decided the matter. "She _shall_ stay," said Mr. Hamilton, and
Aunt Polly, highly elated, returned to the kitchen with the news.
Lenora, who seemed to be everywhere at once, overheard it, and, bent
on mischief, ran with it to her mother. In the meantime Mr. Hamilton
wished, yet dreaded, to go down, and finally, mentally cursing himself
for his weakness, asked Margaret to accompany him. She was about to
comply with his request, when Mrs. Hamilton came up the stairs,
furious at her husband, whom she called "a craven coward, led by the
nose by all who chose to lead him." Wishing to shut out her noise, Mag
closed and bolted the door, and in the hall the modern Xantippe
extended her wrath against her husband and his offspring, while poor
Mr. Hamilton laid his face in Carrie's lap and wept. Margaret was
trying to devise some means by which to rid herself of her stepmother,
when Lenora was heard to exclaim:

"Shall I pitch her over the stairs, Mag? I will if you say so."

Immediately Mrs. Hamilton's anger took another channel, and turning
upon her daughter, she said, "What are you here for, you prating
parrot? Didn't you tell me what Aunt Polly said, and haven't you acted
in the capacity of reporter ever since?"

"To be sure I did," said Lenora, poising herself on one foot, and
whirling around in circles; "but if you thought I did it because I
blamed Aunt Polly, you are mistaken."

"What did you do it for, then?" said Mrs. Hamilton; and Lenora, giving
the finishing touch to her circles by dropping upon the floor,
answered, "I like to live in a hurricane--so I told you what I did.
Now, if you think it will add at all to the excitement of the present
occasion, I'll get an ax for you to split the door down."

"Oh, don't, Lenora," screamed Carrie, from within, to which Lenora
responded:

"Poor little simple chick bird, I wouldn't harm a hair of your soft
head for anything. But there is a _man_ in there, or one who passes
for a man, that I think would look far more respectable if he'd come
out and face the tornado. She's easy to manage when you know how. At
least Mag and I find her so."

Here Mr. Hamilton ashamed of himself and emboldened, perhaps, by
Lenora's words, slipped back the bolt of the door, and walking out,
confronted his wife.

"Shall I order pistols and coffee for two?" asked Lenora, swinging
herself entirely over the bannister, and dropping like a squirrel on
the stair below.

"Is Polly going to stay in this house?" asked Mrs. Hamilton.

"She is," was the reply.

"Then I leave to-night," said Mrs. Hamilton.

"Very well, you can go," returned the husband, growing stronger in
himself each moment.

Mrs. Hamilton turned away to her own room, where she remained until
supper time, when Lenora asked "If she had got her chest packed, and
where they should direct their letters!" Neither Margaret nor her
father could refrain from laughter.

Mrs. Hamilton, too, who had no notion of leaving the comfortable
Homestead, and who thought this as good a time to veer round as any
she would have, also joined in the laugh, saying, "What a child you
are, Lenora!"

Gradually the state of affairs at the homestead was noised throughout
the village, and numerous were the little tea parties where none dared
speak above a whisper to tell what they had heard, and where each and
every one were bound to the most profound secrecy, for fear the
reports might not be true. At length, however, the story of the china
closet got out, causing Sally Martin to spend one whole day in
retailing the gossip from door to door. Many, too, suddenly remembered
certain suspicious things which they had seen in Mrs. Hamilton, who
was unanimously voted to be a bad woman, and who, of course, began to
be slighted.

The result of this was to increase the sourness of her disposition;
and life at the Homestead would have been one continuous scene of
turmoil had not Margaret wisely concluded to treat whatever her
stepmother did with silent contempt. Lenora, too, always seemed ready
to fill up all vacant niches, until even Mag acknowledged that the
mother would be unendurable without the daughter.




CHAPTER IX.

LENORA AND CARRIE.


Ever since the day on which Lenora had startled Carrie by informing
her of her danger, she had been carefully kept from the room, or
allowed only to enter it when Margaret was present. One afternoon,
however, early in February, Mag had occasion to go to the village.
Lenora, who saw her depart, hastily gathered up her work, and repaired
to Carrie's room, saying, as she entered it, "Now, Carrie, we'll have
a good time; Mag has gone to see old deaf Peggy, who asks a thousand
questions, and will keep her at least two hours, and I am going to
entertain you to the best of my ability."

Carrie's cheek flushed, for she felt some misgivings with regard to
the nature of Lenora's entertainment; but she knew there was no help
for it, so she tried to smile, and said, "I am willing you should
stay, Lenora, but you mustn't talk bad things to me, for I can't bear
it."

"Bad things!" repeated Lenora; "who ever heard me talk bad things!
What do you mean?"

"I mean," said Carrie, "that you must not talk about your mother as
you sometimes do. It is wicked."

"Why, you dear little thing," answered Lenora, "don't you know that
what would be wicked for you isn't wicked for me?"

"No, I do not know so," answered Carrie; "but I know I wouldn't talk
about my mother as you do about yours for anything."

"Bless your heart," said Lenora, "haven't you sense enough to see that
there is a great difference between Mrs. Hamilton first, and Mrs.
Hamilton second? Now, I'm not naturally bad, and if I had been the
daughter of Mrs. Hamilton first instead of Widow Carter's young one,
why, I should have been as good as you--no, not as good as _you_, for
you don't know enough to be bad--but as good as Mag, who, in my
opinion, has the right kind of goodness, for all I used to hate her
so."

"Hate Margaret!" said Carrie, opening her eyes to their utmost extent.
"What did you hate Margaret for?"

"Because I didn't know her, I suppose," returned Lenora; "for now I
like her well enough--not quite as well as I do you, perhaps; and yet,
when I see you bear mother's abuse so meekly, I positively hate you
for a minute, and ache to box your ears; but when Mag squares up to
her, shuts her in the china closet, and all that, I want to put my
arms right round neck."

"Why, don't you like your mother?" asked Carrie, and Lenora replied:

"Of course I do; but I know what she is and I know she isn't what she
sometimes seems. Why, she'd be anything to suit the circumstances. She
wanted your father, and she assumed the character most likely to
secure him; for, between you and me, he isn't very smart."

"What did she marry him for, then?" asked Carrie.

"Marry _him_! I hope you don't for a moment suppose she married
_him_!"

"Why, Lenora, _ain't they married?_ I thought they were. Oh,
dreadful!" and Carrie started to her feet, while the perspiration
stood thickly on her forehead.

Lenora screamed with delight, saying, "You certainly have the softest
brain I ever saw. Of course the minister went through with the
ceremony; but it was not your father that mother wanted; it was his
house--his money--his horses--his servants, and his name. Now, maybe
in your simplicity you have thought that mother came here out of
kindness to the motherless children; but I tell you she would be
better satisfied if neither of you had ever been born. I suppose it is
wicked in me to say so, but I think she makes me worse than I would
otherwise be; for I am not naturally so bad, and I like people much
better than I pretend to. Anyway, I like you, and _love_ little
Willie, and always have, since the first time I saw him. Your mother
lay in her coffin, and Willie stood by her, caressing her cold cheek,
and saying, 'Wake up, mamma, it's Willie; don't you know Willie? I
took him in my arms, and vowed to love and shield him from the coming
evil; for I knew then, as well as I do now, that what has happened
would happen. Mag wasn't there; she didn't see me. If she had, she
might have liked me better; now she thinks there is no good in me; and
if, when you die, I should feel like shedding tears, and perhaps I
shall, it would be just like her to wonder 'what business _I_ had to
cry--it was none of my funeral!'"

"You do wrong to talk so, Lenora," said Carrie; "but tell me, did you
never have any one to love except Willie?"

"Yes," said Lenora; "when I was a child, a little, innocent child, I
had a grandmother--my father's mother--who taught me to pray, and told
me of God."

"Where is she now?" asked Carrie.

"In heaven," was the answer. "I know she is there, because when she
died there was the same look on her face that there was on your
mother's--the same that there will be on yours, when you are dead."

"Never mind," gasped Carrie, who did not care to be so frequently
reminded of her mortality, while Lenora continued:

"Perhaps you don't know that my father was, as mother says, a bad man;
though I always loved him dearly, and cried when he went away. We
lived with grandmother, and sometimes now, in my dreams, I am a child
again, kneeling by grandma's side, in our dear old eastern home, where
the sunshine fell so warmly, where the summer birds sang in the old
maple trees, and where the long shadows, which I called spirits, came
and went over the bright green meadows. But there was a sadder day; a
narrow coffin, a black hearse, and a tolling bell, which always wakes
me from my sleep, and I find the dream all gone, and nothing left of
the little child but the wicked Lenora Carter."

Here the dark girl buried her face in her hands and wept, while Carrie
gently smoothed her tangled curls. After a while, as if ashamed of her
emotion, Lenora dried her tears, and Carrie said, "Tell me more of
your early life. I like you when you act as you do now."

"There is nothing more to tell but wickedness," answered Lenora.
"Grandma died, and I had no one to teach me what was right. About a
year after her death mother wanted to get a divorce from father; and
one day she told me that a lawyer was coming to inquire about my
father's treatment of her. 'Perhaps,' said she, 'he will ask if you
ever saw him strike me, and you must say that you have a great many
times. 'But never did,' said I; and then she insisted upon my telling
that falsehood, and I refused, until she whipped me, and made me
promise to say whatever she wished me to. In this way I was trained to
be what I am. Nobody loves me; nobody ever can love me; and sometimes
when Mag speaks so kindly to you, and looks so affectionately upon
you, I think, what would I not give for some one to love me; and then
I go away to cry, and wish I had never been born."

Here Mrs. Hamilton called to her daughter, and gathering up her work,
Lenora left the room just as Margaret entered it, on her return from
the village.




CHAPTER X.

DARKNESS.


As the spring opened and the days grew warmer Carrie's health seemed
much improved; and, though she did not leave her room, she was able to
sit up nearly all day, busying herself with some light work. Ever
hopeful, Margaret hugged to her bosom the delusion which whispered,
"She will not die," while even the physician was deceived, and spoke
encouragingly of her recovery.

For several months Margaret had thought of visiting her grandmother,
who lived in Albany; and as Mr. Hamilton had occasion to visit that
city, Carrie urged her to accompany him saying, she was perfectly able
to be left alone, and she wished her sister would go, for the trip
would do her good.

For some time past Mrs. Hamilton had seemed exceedingly amiable and
affectionate, although her husband appeared greatly depressed, and
acted, as Lenora said, "Just as though he had been stealing sheep."

This depression Mag had tried in vain to fathom, and at last,
fancying that a change of place and scene might do him good, she
consented to accompany him, on condition that Kate Kirby would stay
with Carrie. At mention of Kate's name Mr. Hamilton's eyes instantly
went over to his wife, whose face wore the same stony expression as
she answered, "Yes, Maggie, can come."

Accordingly, on the morning when the travelers would start, Kate came
up to the homestead, receiving a thousand and one directions about
what to do and when to do it, hearing not more than half the
injunctions, and promising to comply with every one. Long before the
door the carriage waited, while Margaret, lingering in Carrie's room,
kissed again and again her sister's pure brow, and gazed into her deep
blue eyes, as if she knew that it was the last time. Even when half
way down the stairs she turned back again to say good-by, this time
whispering, "I have half a mind not to go, for something tells me I
shall never see you again."

"Oh, Mag," said Carrie, "don't be superstitious. I am a great deal
better, and when you come home you will find me in the parlor."

In the lower hall Mr. Hamilton caressed his little Willie, who begged
that he, too, might go. "Don't leave, me, Maggie, don't," said he, as
Mag came up to say good-by.

Long years after the golden curls which Mag pushed back from Willie's
forehead were covered by the dark moist earth, did she remember her
baby-brother's childish farewell, and oft in bitterness of heart she
asked, "Why did I go--why leave my loved ones to die alone?"

Just a week after Mag's departure news was received at the homestead
that Walter was coming to Glenwood for a day or two, and on the
afternoon of the same day Kate had occasion to go home. As she was
leaving the house Mrs. Hamilton detained her, while she said, "Miss
Kirby, we are all greatly obliged to you for your kindness in staying
with Carrie, although your services really are not needed. I
understand how matters stand between you and Walter, and as he is to
be here to-morrow; you of course will feel some delicacy about
remaining, consequently I release you from all obligations to do so."

Of course there was no demurring to this. Kate's pride was touched;
and though Carrie wept, and begged her not to go, she yielded only so
far as to stay until the next morning, when, with a promise to call
frequently, she left. Lonely and long seemed the hours to poor Carrie;
for though Walter came, he stayed but two days, and spent a part of
that time at the mill-pond cottage.

The evening after he went away, as Carrie lay, half-dozing, thinking
of Mag, and counting the weary days which must pass ere her return,
she was startled by the sound of Lenora's voice in the room opposite,
the door of which was ajar. Lenora had been absent a few days, and
Carrie was about calling to her, when some words spoken by her
stepmother arrested her attention, and roused her curiosity. They
were, "You think too little of yourself, Lenora. Now, I know there is
nothing in the way of your winning Walter, if you choose."

"I should say there was everything in the way," answered Lenora. "In
the first place, there is Kate Kirby, and who, after seeing her
handsome face, would ever look at such a black, turned-up nose,
bristle-headed thing as I am? But I perceive there is some weighty
secret on your mind, so what is it? Have Walter and Kate quarreled, or
have you told him some falsehood about her?"

"Neither," said Mrs. Hamilton. "What I have to say concerns your
father."

"My father!" interrupted Lenora; "my own father! Oh, is he living?"

"No, I hope not," was the answer; "it is Mr. Hamilton whom I mean."

Instantly Lenora's tone changed, and she replied, "If you please you
need not call that putty-headed man _my_ father. He acts too much like
a whipped spaniel to suit me, and I really think Carrie ought to be
respected for knowing what little she does, while I wonder where
Walter, Mag, and Willie got their good sense. But what is it? What
have you made Mr. Hamilton do?--something ridiculous, of course."

"I've made him make his will," was the answer; while Lenora continued:

"Well, what then? What good will that do me?"

"It may do you a great deal of good," said Mrs. Hamilton; "that is, if
Walter likes the homestead as I think he does. But I tell you, it was
hard work, and I didn't know, one while, but I should have to give it
up. However, I succeeded, and he has willed the homestead to Walter,
provided he marries you. If not, Walter has nothing, and the homestead
comes to _me_ and my heirs forever!"

"Heartless old fool!" exclaimed Lenora, while Carrie, too, groaned in
sympathy. "And do you suppose he intends to let it go so! Of course
not; he'll make another when you don't know it"

"I'll watch him too closely for that," said Mrs. Hamilton and after a
moment Lenora asked:

"What made you so anxious for a will? Have you received warning of his
sudden demise?"

"How foolish!" said Mrs. Hamilton. "Isn't it the easiest thing in the
world for me to let Walter know what's in the will, and I fancy
that'll bring him to terms, for he likes money, no mistake about
that."

"Mr. Hamilton is a bigger fool, and you a worse woman, than I
supposed," said Lenora. "Do you think I am mean enough to marry Walter
under such circumstances? Indeed, I'm not. But how is Carrie? I must
go and see her."

She was about leaving the room, when she turned back, saying in a
whisper, "Mother, mother, her door is wide open, as well as this one,
and she must have heard every word!"

"Oh, horror!" exclaimed Mrs. Hamilton; "go in and ascertain the fact,
if possible."

It took but one glance to convince Lenora that Carrie was in
possession of the secret. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes wet with
tears; and when Lenora stooped to kiss her, she said. "I know it all,
I heard it all."

"Then I hope you feel better," said Mrs. Hamilton, coming forward.
"Listeners never hear any good of themselves."

"Particularly if it's Widow Carter who is listened to," suggested
Lenora.

Mrs. Hamilton did not reply to this, but continued speaking to Carrie.
"If you have heard anything new you can keep it to yourself. No one
has interfered with you, or intends to. Your father has a right to do
what he chooses with his own, and I shall see that he exercises that
right, too."

So saying she left the room, while Carrie, again bursting into tears,
wept until perfectly exhausted. The next morning she was attacked with
bleeding at the lungs, which in a short time reduced her so low that
the physician spoke doubtfully of her recovery, should the hemorrhage
again return. In the course of two or three days she was again
attacked; and now, when there was no longer hope of life, her thoughts
turned with earnest longings toward her absent father and sister, and
once, as the physician was preparing to leave her, she said, "Doctor,
tell me truly, can I live twenty-four hours?"

"I think you may," was the answer.

"Then I shall see them, for if you telegraph to-night they can come in
the morning train. Go yourself and have it done, will you?"

The physician promised that he would, and then left the room. In the
hall he met Mrs. Hamilton, who with the utmost anxiety depicted upon
her countenance, said, "Dear Carrie is leaving us, isn't she? I have
telegraphed for her father, who will be here in the morning. 'Twas
right to do so, was it not?"

"Quite right," answered the physician. "I promised to see to it
myself, and was just going to do so."

"Poor child," returned Mrs. Hamilton, "she feels anxious, I suppose.
But I have saved you the trouble."

The reader will not, perhaps, be greatly surprised to learn that what
Mrs. Hamilton had said was false. She suspected that one reason why
Carrie so greatly desired to see her father was to tell him what she
had heard, and beg of him to undo what he had done; and as she feared
the effect which the sight and words of his dying child might have
upon him, she resolved, if possible, to keep him away until Carrie's
voice was hushed in death. Overhearing what had been said by the
doctor, she resorted to the stratagem of which we have just spoken.
The next morning, however, she ordered a telegram to be despatched,
knowing full well that her husband could not reach home until the day
following.

Meantime, as the hour for the morning train drew near, Carrie, resting
upon pillows, and whiter than the linen which covered them, strained
her ears to catch the first sound of the locomotive. At last, far off
through an opening among the hills, was heard a rumbling noise, which
increased each moment in loudness, until the puffing engine shot out
into the long, green valley, and then rolled rapidly up to the depot.

Little Willie had seemed unwell for a few days, but since his sister's
illness he had stayed by her almost constantly, gazing half-curiously,
half-timidly into her face, and asking if she was going to the home
where his mamma lived. She had told him that Margaret was coming, and
when the shrill whistle of the eastern train sounded through the room
he ran to the window, whither Lenora had preceded him, and there
together they watched for the coming of the omnibus. A sinister smile
curled the lips of Mrs. Hamilton who was present, and who, of course,
affected to feel interested.

At last Willie, clapping his hands, exclaimed, "There 'tis! They're
coming. That's Maggie's big trunk!" Then, noticing the glow which his
announcement called up to Carrie's cheek, he said, "She'll make you
well, Carrie, Maggie will. Oh, I'm so glad, and so is Leno."

Nearer and nearer came the omnibus, brighter and deeper grew the flush
on Carrie's face, while little Willie danced up and down with joy.

"It isn't coming here," said Mrs. Hamilton; "it has gone by," and
Carrie's feverish heat was succeeded by an icy chill.

"Haven't they come, Lenora?" she said.

Lenora shook her head, and Willie, running to his sister, wound his
arms around her neck, and for several minutes the two lone, motherless
children wept.

"If Maggie knew how my head ached she'd come," said Willie; but Carrie
thought not of _her_ aching head, nor of the faintness of death which
was fast coming on. One idea alone engrossed her. Her brother--how
would he be saved from the threatened evil, and her father's name from
dishonor?

At last Mrs. Hamilton left the room, and Carrie, speaking to Lenora
and one of the villagers who was present, asked if they, too, would
not leave her alone for a time with Willie. They complied with her
request, and then asking her brother to bring her pencil and paper,
she hurriedly wrote a few lines to her father telling him of what she
had heard, and entreating him, for her sake, and the sake of the
mother with whom she would be when those words met his eye, not to do
Walter so great a wrong. "I shall give this to Willie's care," she
wrote, in conclusion, "and he will keep it carefully until you come.
And now, I bid you a long farewell, my precious father--my noble
Mag--my darling Walter."

The note was finished, and calling Willie to her, she said, "I am
going to die. When Maggie returns I shall be dead and still, like our
own dear mother."

"Oh, Carrie, Carrie," sobbed the child, "don't leave me till Maggie
comes."

There was a footstep on the stairs, and Carrie, without replying to
her brother, said quickly, "Take this paper, Willie, and give it to
father when he comes; let no one see it--Lenora, mother, nor any one."

Willie promised compliance, and had but just time to conceal the note
in his bosom ere Mrs. Hamilton entered the room, accompanied by the
physician, to whom she loudly expressed her regrets that her husband
had not come, saying that she had that morning telegraphed again,
although he could not now reach home until the morrow.

"To-morrow I shall never see," said Carrie, faintly. And she spoke
truly, too, for even then death was freezing her life-blood with the
touch of his icy hand. To the last she seemed conscious of the tiny
arms which so fondly encircled her neck; and when the soul had drifted
far out on the dark channel of death the childish words of "Carrie,
Carrie, speak once more," roused her, and folding her brother more
closely to her bosom, she murmured, "Willie, darling Willie, our
mother is waiting for us both."

Mrs. Hamilton, who stood near, now bent down, and laying her hand on
the pale, damp brow said gently, "Carrie, dear, have you no word of
love for this mother?"

There was a visible shudder, an attempt to speak, a low moan, in which
the word "Walter" seemed struggling to be spoken; and then death, as
if impatient of delay, bore away the spirit, leaving only the form
which in life had been most beautiful. Softly Lenora closed over the
blue eyes the long, fringed lids, and pushed back from the forehead
the sunny tresses which clustered so thickly around it; then, kissing
the white lips and leaving on the face of the dead traces of her
tears, she led Willie from the room, soothing him in her arms until
he fell asleep.

Elsewhere we have said that for a few days Willie had not seemed well;
but so absorbed were all in Carrie's more alarming symptoms that no
one had heeded him, although his cheeks were flushed with fever, and
his head was throbbing with pain. He was in the habit of sleeping in
his parents' room, and that night his loud breathings and uneasy
turnings disturbed and annoyed his mother, who at last called out in
harsh tones, "Willie, Willie, for mercy's sake stop that horrid noise!
I shall never get asleep this way. I know there's no need of breathing
like that!"

"It chokes me so," sobbed little Willie, "but I'll try."

Then pressing his hands tightly over his mouth, he tried the
experiment of holding his breath as long as possible. Hearing no sound
from his mother, he thought her asleep, but not venturing to breathe
naturally until assured of the fact, he whispered, "Ma, ma, are you
asleep?"

"Asleep! no--and never shall be, as I see. What do you want?"

"Oh, I want to breathe," said Willie.

"Well, breathe then; who hinders you?" was the reply; and ere the
offensive sound again greeted her ear, Mrs. Hamilton was too far gone
in slumber to be disturbed.

For two hours Willie lay awake, tossing from side to side, scorched
with fever and longing for water to quench his burning thirst. By this
time Mrs. Hamilton was again awake; but to his earnest entreaties for
water--"Just one little drop of water, ma"--she answered:

"William Hamilton, if you don't be still I'll move your crib into the
room where Carrie is, and leave you there alone!"

Unlike many children, Willie had no fears of the cold white figure
which lay so still and motionless upon the parlor sofa. To him it was
Carrie, his sister; and many times that day had he stolen in alone,
and laying back the thin muslin which shaded her face, he had looked
long upon her--had laid his hand on her icy cheek, wondering if she
knew how cold she was, and if the way which she had gone was so long
and dark that he could never find it. To him there was naught to fear
in that room of death, and to his mother's threat he answered eagerly,
"Oh, ma, give me some water, just a little bit of water, and you may
carry me in there, I ain't afraid and my breathing won't wake Carrie
up;" but before he had finished speaking his mother was again dozing.

"Won't anybody bring me some water--Maggie, Carrie--Leno--nobody?"
murmured poor Willie, as he Wet his pillow with tears.

At last he could bear it no longer. He knew where the water-bucket
stood, and stepping from his bed, he groped his way down the long
stairs to the basement. The spring moon was low in the western
horizon, and shining through the curtained window, dimly lighted up
the room. The pail was soon reached, and then in his eagerness to
drink, he put his lips to the side. Lower, lower, lower it came, until
he discovered, alas I that the pail was empty.

"What shall I do? what shall I do?" said he, as he crouched upon the
cold hearthstone.

A new idea entered his mind. The well stood near the outer door; and,
quickly pushing back the bolt, he went out, all flushed and feverish
as he was, into the chill night air. There was ice upon the curbstone,
but he did not mind it, although his little toes, as they trod upon
it, looked red by the pale moonlight. Quickly a cup of the coveted
water was drained; then, with careful forethought, he filled it again,
and taking it back to his room, crept shivering to bed. Nature was
exhausted, and whether he fainted or fell asleep is not known, for
never again to consciousness in this world awoke the little boy.

The morning sunlight came softly in at the window, touching his
golden curls with a still more golden hue. Sadly over him Lenora bent,
saying, "Willie, Willie, wake up, Willie. Don't you know me?"

Greatly Mrs. Hamilton marveled whence came the cup of water which
stood there, as if reproaching her for her cruelty. But the delirious
words of the dreamer soon told her all. "Maggie, Maggie," he said,
"rub my feet; they feel like Carrie's face. The curbstone was cold,
but the water was so good. Give me more, more; mother won't care, for
I got it myself, and tried not to breathe, so she could sleep--and
Carrie, too, is dead--dead."

Lenora fiercely grasped her mother's arm, and said, "How could you
refuse him water, and sleep while he got it himself?"

But Mrs. Hamilton needed not that her daughter should accuse her.
Willie had been her favorite, and the tears which she dropped upon his
pillow were genuine. The physician who was called pronounced his
disease to be scarlet fever, saying that its violence was greatly
increased by a severe cold which he had taken.

"You have killed him, mother; you have killed him!" said Lenora.

Twenty-four hours had passed since, with straining ear, Carrie had
listened for the morning train, and again down the valley floated the
smoke of the engine, and over the blue hills echoed the loud scream of
the locomotive; but no sound could awaken the fair young sleeper,
though Willie started, and throwing up his hands, one of which, the
right one, was firmly clinched, murmured, "Maggie, Maggie."

Ten minutes more and Margaret was there, weeping in agony over the
inanimate form of her sister, and almost shrieking as she saw Willie's
wild eye, and heard his incoherent words. Terrible to Mr. Hamilton was
this coming home. Like one who walks in sleep, he went from room to
room, kissing the burning brow of one child, and then, while the hot
breath was yet warm upon his lips, pressing them to the cold face of
the other.

All day Margaret sat by her dying brother, praying that he might be
spared until Walter came. Her prayer was answered; for at nightfall
Walter was with them. Half an hour after his return Willie died; but
ere his right hand dropped lifeless by his side he held it up to view,
saying:

"Father--give it to nobody but father."

After a moment Margaret, taking within hers the fast-stiffening hand,
gently unclosed the fingers, and found the crumpled piece of paper on
which Carrie had written to her father.




CHAPTER XI.

MARGARET AND HER FATHER.


'Twas midnight--midnight after the burial. In the library of the old
homestead sat its owner, his arms resting upon the table, and his face
reclining upon his arms. Sadly was he reviewing the dreary past, since
first among them death had been, bearing away his wife, the wife of
his first only love. Now, by her grave there was another, on which the
pale moonbeams and the chill night-dews were falling, but they could
not disturb the rest of the two who, side by side in the same coffin,
lay sleeping, and for whom the father's tears were falling fast, and
the father's heart was bleeding.

"Desolate, desolate--all is desolate," said the stricken man. "Would
that I, too, were asleep with my lost ones!"

There was a rustling sound near him, a footfall, and an arm was thrown
lovingly around his neck. Margaret's tears were on his cheek, and
Margaret's voice whispered in his ear, "Dear father, we must love each
other better now."

Margaret had not retired, and on passing through the hall, had
discovered the light gleaming through the crevice of the library door.
Knowing that her father must be there, she had come in to comfort him.
Long the father and child wept together, and then Margaret, drying her
tears said:

"It is right--all right; mother has two, and you have two, and though
the dead will never return to us, we, in God's good time, will return
to them."

"Yes, soon, very soon, shall I go," said Mr. Hamilton.

"I am weary, weary, Margaret; my life is one scene of bitterness. Oh,
why, why was I left to do it?"

Margaret knew well to what he referred, but she made no answer; and
after he had become somewhat composed, thinking this a good
opportunity for broaching the subject which had so troubled Carrie's
dying moments, she drew from her bosom the soiled piece of paper, and
placing it in his hands, watched him while he read. The moan of
anguish which came from his lips as he finished made her repent of her
act, and, springing to his side, she exclaimed:

"Forgive me, father; I ought not to have done it now. You have enough
to bear."

"It is right, my child," said Mr. Hamilton; "for after the wound had
slightly healed I might have wavered. Not that I love Walter less;
but, fool that I am, I fear her who has made me the cowardly wretch
you see!"

"Rouse yourself, then," answered Margaret. "Shake off her chain, and
be free."

"I cannot, I cannot," said he. "But this I will do. I will make
another will. I always intended to do so, and Walter shall not be
wronged." Then rising, he hurriedly paced the room saying, "Walter
shall not be wronged, no, no--Walter shall not be wronged."

After a time he resumed his former seat, and taking his daughter's
hand in his, he told her of all he had suffered, of the power which
his wife held over him, and which he was too weak to shake off. This
last he did not say, but Margaret knew it and it prevented her from
giving him other consolation than that of assuring him of her own
unchanged, undying love.

The morning twilight was streaming through the closed shutters ere the
conference ended; and then Mr. Hamilton, kissing his daughter,
dismissed her from the room, but as she was leaving him he called her
back, saying:

"Don't tell Walter; he would despise me; but he shan't be wronged--no,
he shan't be wronged."

Six weeks from that night Margaret stood, with her brother, watching
her father as the light from his eyes went out, and the tones of his
voice ceased forever. Grief for the loss of his children, and remorse
for the blight which he had brought upon his household, had undermined
his constitution, never strong; and when a prevailing fever settled
upon him it found an easy prey. In ten days' time Margaret and Walter
alone were left of the happy band who, two years before, had gathered
around the fireside of the old homestead.

Loudly Mrs. Hamilton deplored her loss, shutting herself up in her
room, and refusing to see any one, saying that she could not be
comforted, and it was of no use trying! Lenora, however, managed to
find an opportunity of whispering to her that it would hardly be
advisable to commit suicide, since she had got the homestead left, and
everything else for which she had married Mr. Hamilton.

"Lenora, how can you thus trifle with my feelings? Don't you see that
my trouble is killing me?" said the greatly distressed lady.

"I don't apprehend any such catastrophe as that," answered Lenora.
"You found the weeds of Widow Carter easy enough to wear, and those of
Widow Hamilton won't hurt you any worse, I imagine."

"Lenora," groaned Mrs. Hamilton, "may you never know what it is to be
the unhappy mother of such a child!"

"Amen!" was Lenora's fervent response, as she glided from the room.

For three days the body of Mr. Hamilton lay upon the marble center
table in the darkened parlor. Up and down the long staircases, and
through the silent rooms, the servants moved noiselessly. Down in the
basement Aunt Polly forgot her wonted skill in cooking, and in a
broken rocking-chair swayed to and fro, brushing the big tears from
her dusky face, and lamenting the loss of one who seemed to her "just
like a brother, only a little nigher."

In the chamber above, where six weeks before Carrie had died, sat
Margaret--not weeping; she could not do that--her grief was too great,
and the fountain of her tears seemed scorched and dried; but, with
white, compressed lips, and hands tightly clasped, she thought of the
past and of the cheerless future. Occasionally through the doorway
there came a small, dark figure; a pair of slender arms were thrown
around her neck, and a voice murmured in her ear: "Poor, poor Maggie."
The next moment the figure would be gone, and in the hall below Lenora
would be heard singing snatches of some song, either to provoke her
mother, or to make the astonished servants believe that she was really
heartless and hardened.

What Walter suffered could not be expressed. Hour after hour, from the
sun's rising till its going down, he sat by his father's coffin,
unmindful of the many who came in to look at the dead, and then gazing
pitifully upon the face of the living, walked away, whispering
mysteriously of insanity. Near _him_ Lenora dared not come, though
through the open door she watched him, and oftentimes he met the
glance of her wild, black eyes, fixed upon him with a mournful
interest; then, as if moved by some spirit of evil, she would turn
away, and seeking her mother's room, would mock at that lady's grief,
advising her not to make too much of an effort.

At last there came a change. In the yard there was the sound of many
feet, and in the house the hum of many voices, all low and subdued.
Again in the village of Glenwood was heard the sound of the tolling
bell; again through the garden and over the running water brook moved
the long procession to the graveyard; and soon Ernest Hamilton lay
quietly sleeping by the side of his wife and children.

For some time after the funeral nothing was said concerning the will,
and Margaret had almost forgotten the existence of one, when one day
as she was passing the library door her mother appeared, and asked her
to enter. She did so, and found there her brother, whose face, besides
the marks of recent sorrow which it wore, now seemed anxious and
expectant.

"Maggie dear," said the oily-tongued woman, "I have sent for you to
hear read your beloved father's last will and testament."

A deep flush mounted to Margaret's face, as she repeated somewhat
inquiringly, "Father's last will and testament?"

"Yes, dear," answered her mother, "his last will and testament. He
made it several weeks ago, even before poor Carrie died; and as Walter
is now the eldest and only son, I think it quite proper that he should
read it."

So saying, she passed toward Walter a sealed package, which he
nervously opened, while Margaret, going to his side, looked over his
shoulder, as he read.

It is impossible to describe the look of mingled surprise, anger, and
mortification which Mrs. Hamilton's face assumed, as she heard the
will which her husband had made four weeks before his death, and in
which Walter shared equally with his sister. Her first impulse was to
destroy it; and springing forward, she attempted to snatch it from
Walter's hand, but was prevented by Margaret, who caught her arm and
forcibly held her back.

Angrily confronting her stepdaughter, Mrs. Hamilton demanded, "What
does this mean?" to which Mag replied:

"It means, madam, that for once you are foiled. You coaxed my father
into making a will, the thought of which ought to make you blush.
Carrie overheard you telling Lenora, and when she found that she must
die she wrote it on a piece of paper, and consigned it to Willie's
care!"

Several times Mrs. Hamilton essayed to speak, but the words died away
in her throat, until at last, summoning all her boldness, she said, in
a hoarse whisper, "But the homestead is mine--mine forever, and we'll
see how delightful I can make your home!"

"I'll save you that trouble, madam," said Walter, rising and advancing
toward the door. "Neither my sister nor myself will remain beneath the
same roof which shelters you. To-morrow we leave, knowing well that
vengeance belongeth to One higher than we."

All the remainder of that day Walter and Margaret spent in devising
some plan for the future, deciding at last that Margaret should on the
morrow go for a time to Mrs. Kirby's, while Walter returned to the
city. The next morning, however, Walter did not appear in the
breakfast parlor, and when Margaret, alarmed at his absence, repaired
to his room, she found him unable to rise. The fever with which his
father had died, and which, was still prevailing in the village, had
fastened upon him, and for many days was his life despaired of. The
ablest physicians were called, but few of them gave any hope to the
pale, weeping sister, who, with untiring love, kept her vigils by her
brother's bedside.

When he was first taken ill he had manifested great uneasiness at his
stepmother's presence, and when at last he became delirious he no
longer concealed his feelings, and if she entered the room he would
shriek "Take her away from me! Take her away! Chain her in the
cellar--anywhere out of my sight."

Again he would speak of Kate, and entreat that she might come to him.
"I have nothing left but her and Margaret," he would say; "and why
does she stay away?"

Three different times had Margaret sent to her young friend, urging
her to come, and still she tarried, while Margaret marveled greatly
at the delay. She did not know that the girl whom she had told to go
had received different directions from Mrs. Hamilton, and that each
day beneath her mother's roof Kate Kirby wept and prayed that Walter
might not die.

One night he seemed to be dying, and gathered in the room were many
sympathizing friends and neighbors. Without, 'twas pitchy dark. The
rain fell in torrents and the wind, which had increased in violence
since the setting of the sun, howled mournfully about the windows, as
if waiting to bear the soul company in its upward flight. Many times
had Walter attempted to speak. At last he succeeded, and the word
which fell from his lips was "Kate!"

Lenora, who had that day accidentally learned of her mother's commands
with regard to Miss Kirby, now glided noiselessly from the room, and
in a moment was alone in the fearful storm, which she did not heed.
Lightly bounding over the swollen brook, she ran on until the
mill-pond cottage was reached. It was midnight, and its inmates were
asleep, but they awoke at the sound of Lenora's voice.

"Walter is dying," said she to Kate, "and would see you once more.
Come quickly."

Hastily dressing herself, Kate went forth with the strange girl, who
spoke not a word until Walter's room was reached. Feebly the sick man
wound his arms around Kate's neck, exclaiming, "My own, my beautiful
Kate, I knew you would come. I am better now--I shall live!" and as if
there was indeed something life-giving in her very presence and the
sound of her voice, Walter from that hour grew better: and in three
weeks' time he, together with Margaret, left his childhood's home,
once so dear, but now darkened by the presence of her who watched
their departure with joy, exulting in the thought that she was
mistress of all she surveyed.

Walter, who was studying law in the city about twenty miles distant,
resolved to return thither immediately, and after some consultation
with his sister it was determined that both she and Kate should
accompany him. Accordingly, a few mornings after they left the
homestead, there was a quiet bridal at the mill-pond cottage; after
which Walter Hamilton bore away to his city home his sister and his
bride, the beautiful Kate.




CHAPTER XII.

"CARRYING OUT DEAR MR. HAMILTON'S PLANS."


One morning about ten days after the departure of Walter the good
people of Glenwood were greatly surprised at the unusual confusion
which seemed to pervade the homestead. The blinds were taken off,
windows taken out, carpets taken up, and where so lately physicians,
clergymen, and death had officiated, were now seen carpenters, masons,
and other workmen. Many were the surmises as to the cause of all this;
and one old lady, more curious than the rest, determined upon a
friendly call, to ascertain, if possible, what was going on.

She found Mrs. Hamilton with her sleeves rolled up, and her hair
tucked under a black cap, consulting with a carpenter about enlarging
her bedroom and adding to it a bathing-room. Being received but coldly
by the mistress of the house, she descended to the basement, where she
was told by Aunt Polly that "the blinds were going to be repainted, an
addition built, the house turned wrong-side out, and Cain raised
generally."

"It's a burning shame," said Aunt Polly, warmed up by her subject and
the hot oven into which she was thrusting loaves of bread and pies.
"It's a burning shame--a tearin' down and a goin' on this way, and
marster not cold in his grave. Miss Lenora, with all her badness, says
it's disgraceful, but he might ha' know'd it. _I_ did. I know'd it the
fust time she came here a nussin'. I don't see what got into him to
have her. Polly Pepper, without any larnin', never would ha' done such
a thing," continued she, as the door closed upon her visitor, who was
anxious to carry the gossip back to the village.

It was even as Aunt Polly had said. Mrs. Hamilton, who possessed a
strong propensity for pulling down and building up, and who would have
made an excellent carpenter, had long had an earnest desire for
improving the homestead; and now that there was no one to prevent her,
she went to work with a right good will, saying to Lenora, who
remonstrated with her upon the impropriety of her conduct, that "she
was merely carrying out dear Mr. Hamilton's plans," who had proposed
making these changes before his death.

"Dear Mr. Hamilton!" repeated Lenora, "very dear has he become to you,
all at once. I think if you had always manifested a little more
affection for him and his, they might not have been where they now
are."

"Seems to me you take a different text from what you did some months
ago," said Mrs. Hamilton; "but perhaps you don't remember the time?"

"I remember it well," answered Lenora, "and quite likely, with your
training, I should do the same again. We were poor, and I wished for a
more elegant home. I fancied that Margaret Hamilton was proud and had
slighted me, and I longed for revenge; but when I knew her I liked her
better, and when I saw that she was not to be trampled down by you or
me, my hatred of her turned to admiration. The silly man who has paid
the penalty of his weakness, I always despised; but when I saw how
fast the gray hairs thickened on his head; how careworn and bowed down
he grew, I pitied him, for I knew that his heart was breaking. Willie
I truly, unselfishly loved; and I am charitable enough to think that
even _you_ loved _him_, but it was through your neglect that he died,
and for his death you will answer. Carrie was gentle and trusting, but
weak, like her father. I do not think you killed her, for she was
dying when we came here, but you put the crowning act of wickedness to
your life when you compelled a man, shattered in body and intellect,
to write a will which disinherited his only son; but on that point you
are baffled. To be sure, you've got the homestead, and for decency's
sake I think I'd wait a while longer ere I commenced tearing down and
building up."

Lenora's words had no effect whatever upon her mother, who still kept
on with her plans, treating with silent contempt the remarks of the
neighbors, or wishing, perhaps, that they would attend to their own
business, just as she was attending to hers! Day after day the work
went on. Scaffoldings were raised--paper and plastering torn
off--boards were seasoning in the sun--shingles lying upon the
ground--ladders raised against the wall; and all this while the two
new graves showed not a blade of grass, and the earth looked black and
fresh as it did when first it was placed there.

When at last the blinds were hung, the house cleaned, and the carpets
nailed down, Mrs. Hamilton, who had designed it all the time, called
together the servants, whom she had disliked on account of their
preference for Margaret, and told them to look for new places, as
their services were no longer needed there.

"You can make out your bills," said she, at the same time intimating
they hadn't one of them more than earned their board, if they had
that! Polly Pepper wasn't of material to stand by and hear such
language from one whom she considered beneath her.

"Hadn't she as good a right there as anybody? Yes, indeed, she had!
Wasn't she there a full thirty year before any of your low-lived trash
came round a nussin'?"

"Polly," interposed Mrs. Hamilton, "leave the room instantly, you
ungrateful thing!"

"Ungrateful for what?" said Polly. "Haven't I worked and slaved like
an old nigger, as I am? and now you call me ungrateful, and say I
hain't arnt my bread. I'll sue you for slander;" and the enraged
Polly left the room, muttering, "half arnt my board, indeed! I'll bet
I've made a hundred thousan' pies, to say nothin' of the puddings, _I_
not arn my board!"

When again safe in what for so many years had been her own peculiar
province, she sat down to meditate. "I'd as good go without any fuss,"
thought she, "but my curse on the madam who sends me away!"

In the midst of her reverie, Lenora entered the kitchen, and to her
the old lady detailed her grievances, ending with, "Pears like she
don't know nothin' at all about etiquette, nor nothin' else."

"Etiquette!" repeated Lenora. "You are mistaken, Polly; mother would
sit on a point of etiquette till she wore the back breadth of her
dress out. But it isn't that which she lacks--it's decency. But,
Polly," said she, changing the subject, "where do you intend to go and
how?"

"To my brother Sam's," said Polly. "He lives three miles in the
country, and I've sent Robin to the village for a horse and wagon to
carry my things."

Here Mrs. Hamilton entered the kitchen, followed by a strapping Irish
girl, nearly six feet in height. Her hair, flaming red, was twisted
round a huge back comb; her faded calico dress came far above her
ankles; her brawny arms were folded one over the other; and there was
in her appearance something altogether disagreeable and defiant. Mrs.
Hamilton introduced her as Ruth, her new cook, saying she hoped she
would know enough to keep her place better than her predecessor had
done.

Aunt Polly surveyed her rival from head to foot, and then glancing
aside to Lenora, muttered, "Low-lived, depend on't."

Robin now drove up with the wagon, and Mrs. Hamilton and Lenora left
the room, while Polly went to prepare herself for her ride. Her
sleeping apartment was in the basement and communicated with the
kitchen. This was observed by the new cook, who had a strong dislike
of negroes, and who feared that she might be expected to occupy the
same bed.

"An' faith," said she, "is it where the like of ya have burrowed that
I am to turn in?"

"I don't understand no such low-flung stuff," answered Polly, "but if
you mean you are to have this bedroom, I suppose you are."

Here Polly had occasion to go up-stairs for something, and on her
return she found that Ruth, during her absence, had set fire to a
large linen rag, which she held on a shovel and was carrying about the
bedroom, as if to purify it from every atom of negro atmosphere which
might remain. Polly was quick-witted, and instantly comprehending the
truth, she struck the shovel from the hands of Ruth, exclaiming, "You
spalpeen, is it because my skin ain't a dingy yaller and all freckled
like yourn? Lord, look at your carrot-topped cocoanut, and then tell
me if wool ain't a heap the most genteel."

In a moment a portion of the boasted wool was lying on the floor, or
being shaken from the thick, red fingers of the cook, while Irish
blood was flowing freely from the nose which Polly, in her vengeful
wrath, had wrung. Further hostilities were prevented by Robin, who
screamed that he couldn't wait any longer, and shaking her fist
fiercely at the red-head, Polly departed.

That day Lucy and Rachel also left, and their places were supplied by
two raw hands, one of whom, before the close of the second day,
tumbled up-stairs with the large soup tureen, breaking it in fragments
and scalding the foot of Mrs. Hamilton, who was in the rear, and who,
having waited an hour for dinner, had descended to the kitchen to know
why it was not forthcoming, saying that Polly had never been so behind
the time.

The other one, on being asked if she understood chamber work, had
replied, "Indade, and it's been my business all my life." She was
accordingly sent to make the beds and empty the slop. Thinking it an
easy way to dispose of the latter, she had thrown it from the window,
deluging the head and shoulders of her mistress who was bending down
to examine a rose bush which had been recently set out. Lenora was in
ecstasies, and when at noon her mother received a sprinkling of red
hot soup, she gravely asked her "which she relished most, cold or warm
baths!"




CHAPTER XIII.

RETRIBUTION.


Two years have passed away, and again we open the scene at the
homestead, which had not proved an altogether pleasant home to Mrs.
Hamilton. There was around her everything to make her happy, but she
was far from being so. One by one her servants, with whom she was very
unpopular, had left her, until there now remained but one. The
villagers, too, shunned her, and she was wholly dependent for society
upon Lenora, who, as usual, provoked and tormented her.

One day Hester, the servant, came up from the basement, saying there
was a poor old man below, who asked for money.

"Send him away; I've nothing for him," said Mrs. Hamilton, whose
avaricious hand, larger far than her heart, grasped at and retained
everything.

"But, if you please, ma'am, he seems very poor," said Hester.

"Let him go to work, then. 'Twon't hurt him more than 'twill me," was
the reply.

Lenora, whose eyes and ears were always open, no sooner heard that
there was a beggar in the kitchen than she ran down to see him. He was
a miserable-looking object, and still there was something in his
appearance which denoted him to be above the common order of beggars.
His eyes were large and intensely black, and his hair, short, thick,
and curly, reminded Lenora of her own. The moment she appeared a
peculiar expression passed for a moment over his face, and he half
started up; then resuming his seat he fixed his glittering eyes upon
the young lady, and seemed watching her closely.

At last she began questioning him, but his answers were so
unsatisfactory that she gave it up, and, thinking it the easiest way
to be rid of him, she took from her pocket a shilling and handed it to
him, saying, "It's all I can give you, unless it is a dinner. Are you
hungry?"

Hester, who had returned to the kitchen, was busy in a distant part of
the room, and she did not notice the paleness which overspread
Lenora's face at the words which the beggar uttered when, she
presented the money to him. She caught, however, the low murmur of
their voices, as they spoke together for a moment, and as Lenora
accompanied him to the door, she distinctly heard the words, "In the
garden."

"And maybe that's some of your kin; you look like him," said she to
Lenora, after the stranger was gone.

"That's my business, not yours," answered Lenora, as she left the
kitchen and repaired to her mother's room.

"Lenora, what ails you?" said Mrs. Hamilton to her daughter at the
tea-table that night, when, after putting salt in one cup of tea, and
upsetting a second, she commenced spreading her biscuit with cheese
instead of butter. "What ails you? What are you thinking about? You
don't seem to know any more what you are doing than the dead."

Lenora made no direct reply to this, but soon after she said, "Mother,
how long has father been dead--my own father I mean?"

"Two or three years, I don't exactly know which," returned her mother,
and Lenora continued:

"How did he look? I hardly remember him."

"You have asked me that fifty times," answered her mother, "and fifty
times I have told you that he looked like you, only worse, if
possible."

"Let me see, where did you say he died?" said Lenora.

"In New Orleans, with yellow fever, or black measles, or smallpox, or
something," Mrs. Hamilton replied, "but mercy's sake! can't you choose
a better subject to talk about? What made you think of him? He's been
haunting me all day, and I feel kind of nervous and want to look over
my shoulder whenever I am alone."

Lenora made no further remark until after tea, when she announced her
intention of going to the village.

"Come back early, for I don't feel like staying alone," said her
mother.

The sun had set when Lenora left the village, and by the time she
reached home it was wholly dark. As she entered the garden the outline
of a figure; sitting on a bench at its further extremity, made her
stop for a moment, but thinking to herself, "I expected it, and why
should I be afraid?" she walked on fearlessly, until the person,
roused by the sound of her footsteps, started up, and turning toward
her, said half-aloud:

"Lenora, is it you?"

Quickly she sprang forward, and soon one hand of the beggar was
clasped in hers, while the other rested upon her head, as he said,
"Lenora, my child, my daughter, you do not hate me?"

"Hate you, father?" she answered, "never, never."

"But," he continued, "has not she--my--no, not my wife--thank Heaven
not my wife now--but your mother, has not she taught you to despise
and hate me?"

"No," answered Lenora bitterly. "She has taught me enough of evil, but
my memories of you were too sweet, too pleasant, for me to despise
you, though I do not think you always did right, more than mother."

The stranger groaned, and murmured: "It's true, all true;" while
Lenora continued:

"But where have you been all these years, and how came we to hear of
your death?"

"I have been in St. Louis most of the time, and the report of my death
resulted from the fact that a man bearing my name, and who was also
from Connecticut, died of yellow fever in New Orleans about two years
and a half ago. A friend of mine, observing a notice of his death, and
supposing it to refer to me, forwarded the paper to your mother, who,
though then free from me, undoubtedly felt glad, for she never loved
me, but married me because she thought I had money."

"But how have you lived?" asked Lenora.

"Lived!" he repeated, "I have not lived. I have merely existed.
Gambling and drinking, drinking and gambling, have been the business
of my life, and have reduced me to the miserable wretch whom you see."

"Oh, father, father," cried Lenora, "reform. It is not too late, and
you can yet be saved. Do it for my sake, for, in spite of all your
faults, I love you, and you are my father."

The first words of affection which had greeted his ear for many long
years made the wretched man weep, as he answered: "Lenora, I have
sworn to reform, and I will keep my vow. During one of my drunken
revels, in St. Louis, a dream of home came over me, and when I became
sober I started for Connecticut. There I heard where and what your
mother was. I had no wish ever to meet her again, for though I greatly
erred in my conduct toward her, I think she was always the most to
blame. You I remembered with love, and I longed to see you once more,
to hear again the word 'father,' and know that I was not forgotten. I
came as far as the city, and there fell into temptation. For the last
two months I have been there, gambling and drinking, until I lost all,
even the clothes which I wore, and was compelled to assume these rags.
I am now without home or money, and have no place to lay my head."

"I can give you money," said Lenora. "Meet me here to-morrow night,
and you shall have all you want. But what do you purpose doing? Where
will you stay?"

"In the village, for the sake of being near you," said he, at the same
time bidding his daughter return to the house, as the night air was
damp and chilly.

Within a week from that time a middle-aged man, calling himself John
Robinson, appeared in the village, hiring himself out as a porter at
one of the hotels. There was a very striking resemblance between him
and Lenora Carter, which was noticed by the villagers, and mentioned
to Mrs. Hamilton, who, however, could never obtain a full view of the
stranger's face, for without any apparent design, he always avoided
meeting her. He had not been long in town before it was whispered
about that between him and Lenora Carter a strange intimacy existed,
and rumors soon reached Mrs. Hamilton that her daughter was in the
habit of frequently stealing out after sunset, to meet the old porter,
and that once, when watched, she had been seen to put her arms around
his neck. Highly indignant, Mrs. Hamilton questioned Lenora on the
subject, and was astonished beyond measure when she replied:

"It is all true. I have met Mr. Robinson often, and I have put my arms
around his neck, and shall probably do it again."

"Oh my child, my child," groaned Mrs. Hamilton, really distressed at
her daughter's conduct. "How can you do so? You will bring my gray
hairs with sorrow to the grave."

"Not if you pull out as many of them as you now do, and use Twiggs
Preparation besides," said Lenora.

Mrs. Hamilton did not answer, but covering her face with her hands
wept, really wept, thinking for the first time, perhaps, that as she
had sowed so was she reaping. For some time past her health had been
failing, and as the summer days grew warmer and more oppressive she
felt a degree of lassitude and physical weakness which she had never
before experienced; and one day unable longer to sit up, she took her
bed, where she lay for many days.

Now that her mother was really sick, Lenora seemed suddenly changed,
and with unwearied care watched over her as kindly and faithfully as
if no words save those of affection had ever passed between them.
Warmer and more sultry grew the days, and more fiercely raged the
fever in Mrs. Hamilton's veins, until at last the crisis was reached
and passed, and she was in a fair way for recovery, when she was
attacked by chills, which again reduced her to a state of
helplessness. One day, about this time, a ragged little boy, whose
business seemed to be lounging around the hotel, brought to Lenora a
soiled and crumpled note, on which was traced with an unsteady hand,
"Dear Lenora, I am sick, all alone in the little attic; come to me,
quick; come!"

Lenora was in a state of great perplexity. Her mother, when awake,
needed all her care; and as she seldom slept during the day there
seemed but little chance of getting away. The night before, however,
she had been unusually restless and wakeful, and about noon she seemed
drowsy, and finally fell into a deep sleep.

"Now is my time," thought Lenora; and calling Hester, she bade her
watch by her mother until she returned, saying, "If she wakes tell her
I have gone to the village, and will soon be back."

Hester promised compliance, and was for a time faithful to her trust;
but suddenly recollecting something which she wished to tell the girl
who lived at the next neighbor's she stole away, leaving her mistress
alone. For five minutes Mrs. Hamilton slept on, and then with a start
awoke from a troubled dream, in which she had seemed dying of thirst,
while little Willie, standing by a hogshead of water, refused her a
drop. A part of her dream was true, for she was suffering from the
most intolerable thirst, and called loudly for Lenora; but Lenora was
not there. Hester next was called, but she, too, was gone. Then,
seizing the bell which stood upon the table, she rang it with all her
force, and still there came no one to her relief.

Again Willie stood by her, offering her a goblet overflowing with
water; but when she attempted to take it, Willie changed into Lenora,
who laughed mockingly at her distress, telling her there was water in
the well and ice on the curbstone. Once more the phantom faded away,
and the old porter was there, wading through a limpid stream and
offering her to drink a cup of molten lead.

"Merciful Heaven!" shrieked the sick woman, as she writhed from side
to side on her bed, which seemed changed to burning coals; "will no
one bring me water, water, water!"

An interval of calmness succeeded, during which she revolved in her
mind the possibility of going herself to the kitchen, where she knew
the water-pail was standing. No sooner had she decided upon this than
the room appeared full of little demons, who laughed, and chattered,
and shouted in her ears:

"Go--do it! Willie did, when the night was dark and chilly; but now it
is warm--nice and warm--try it, do!"

Tremblingly Mrs. Hamilton stepped upon the floor, and finding herself
too weak to walk, crouched down, and crept slowly down the stairs to
the kitchen door, where she stopped to rest. Across the room by the
window stood the pail, and as her eye fell upon it the mirth of the
little winged demons appeared in her disordered fancy to increase; and
when the spot was reached, the tumbler seized and thrust into the
pail, they darted hither and thither, shouting gleefully:

"Lower, lower down; just as Willie did. You'll find it, oh, you'll
find it!"

With a bitter cry Mrs. Hamilton dashed the tumbler upon the floor, for
the bucket was empty!

"Willie, Willie, you are avenged," she said; but the goblins answered:

"Not yet; no, not yet."

There was no pump in the well, and Mrs. Hamilton knew she had not
strength to raise the bucket by means of the windlass. Her exertions
had increased her thirst tenfold, and now for one cup of cooling water
she would have given all her possessions. Across the yard, at the
distance of twenty rods, there was a gushing spring, and thither in
her despair she determined to go. Accordingly, she went forth into the
fierce noontide blaze, and with almost superhuman efforts crawled to
the place. But what! was it a film upon her eyes? Had blindness come
upon her, or was the spring really dried up by the fervid summer heat?

"Willie's avenged! Willie's avenged!" yelled the imps as the wretched
woman fainted and fell backward upon the bank, where she lay with her
white, thin face upturned, and blistering beneath the August sun!

Along the dusty highway came a handsome traveling carriage, in which,
besides the driver, were seated two individuals, the one a young and
elegantly-dressed lady, and the other a gentleman, who appealed to be
on the most intimate terms with his companion; for whenever he would
direct her attention to any passing object, he laid his hand on hers,
frequently retaining it, and calling her "Maggie."

The carriage was nearly opposite the homestead, when the lady
exclaimed, "Oh, Richard, I must stop at my old home once more. Only
see how beautiful it is looking!"

In a moment the carriage was standing before the gate, and the
gentleman, who was Margaret Hamilton's husband--a Mr. Elwyn, from the
city--assisted his young wife to alight, and then followed her to the
house. No answer was given to their loud ring, and as the doors and
windows were all open, Margaret proposed that they should enter. They
did so; and, going first into Mrs. Hamilton's sick-room, the sight of
the little table full of vials, and the tumbled, empty bed, excited
their wonder and curiosity, and induced them to go on. At last,
descending to the kitchen, they saw the fragments of the tumbler
lying upon the floor.

"Strange, isn't it?" said Margaret to her husband, who was standing in
the outer door, and who had at that moment discovered Mrs. Hamilton
lying near the spring.

Instantly they were at her side, and Margaret involuntarily shuddered
as she recognized her stepmother, and guessed why she was there.
Taking her in his arms, Mr. Elwyn bore her back to the house, and
Margaret, filling a pitcher with water, bathed her face, moistened her
lips, and applied other restoratives, until she revived enough to say:

"More water, Willie. Give me more water!"

Eagerly she drained the goblet which Margaret held to her lips, and
was about drinking the second, when her eyes for the first time sought
Margaret's face. With a cry between a groan and a scream she lay back
upon her pillows, saying, "Margaret Hamilton, how came you here? What
have you to do with me, and why do you give me water? Didn't I refuse
it to Willie, when he begged so earnestly for it in the nighttime? But
I've been paid--a thousand times paid--left by my own child to die
alone!"

Margaret was about asking for Lenora, when the young lady herself
appeared. She seemed for a moment greatly surprised at the sight of
Margaret, and then bounding to her side, greeted her with much
affection; while Mrs. Hamilton jealously looked on, muttering to
herself. "Loves everybody better than she does me, her own mother, who
has done so much for her."

Lenora made no reply to this, although she manifested much concern
when Margaret told her in what state they had found her mother.

"I went for a few moments to visit a sick friend," said she, "but told
Hester to stay with mother until I returned; and I wonder much that
she should leave her."

"Lenora," said Mrs. Hamilton, "Lenora, was that sick friend the old
porter?"

Lenora answered in the affirmative; and then her mother, turning to
Margaret, said:

"You don't know what a pest and torment this child has always been to
me, and now when I am dying she deserts me for a low-lived fellow, old
enough to be her father."

Lenora's eyes flashed scornfully upon her mother, but she made no
answer, and as Mr. Elwyn was in haste to proceed on his journey,
Margaret arose to go. Lenora urged them to remain longer, but they
declined; and as she accompanied them to the door, Margaret said:

"Lenora, if your mother should die, and it would afford you any
satisfaction to have me come, I will do so, for I suppose you have no
near friends."

Lenora hesitated a moment, and then whispering to Margaret of the
relationship existing between herself and the old porter, she said,
"He is sick and poor, but he is my own father, and I love him dearly."

The tears came to Margaret's eyes, for she thought of her own father,
called home while his brown hair was scarcely touched with the frosts
of time. Wistfully Lenora watched the carriage as it disappeared from
sight, and then half-reluctantly entered the sick-room, where, for the
remainder of the afternoon, she endured her mother's reproaches for
having left her alone, and where once, when her patience was wholly
exhausted, she said:

"It served you right, for now you know how little Willie felt."

The next day Mrs. Hamilton was much worse, and Lenora, who had watched
and who understood her symptoms, felt confident that she would die,
and loudly her conscience upbraided her for her undutiful conduct. She
longed, too, to tell her that her father was still living, and one
evening when for an hour or two her mother seemed better, she arose,
and bending over her pillow, said, "Mother, did it ever occur to you
that father might not be dead?"

"Not be dead, Lenora! What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Hamilton, starting
up from her pillow.

Cautiously then Lenora commenced her story by referring her mother
back to the old beggar, who some months before had been in the
kitchen. Then she spoke of the old porter, and the resemblance which
was said to exist between him and herself; and finally, as she saw her
mother could bear it, she told the whole story of her father's life.
Slowly the sick woman's eyes closed, and Lenora saw that her eyelids
were wet with, tears, but as she made no reply, Lenora ere long
whispered, "Would you like to see him, mother?"

"No, no; not now," was the answer.

For a time there was silence, and then Lenora, again speaking, said,
"Mother, I have often been very wicked and disrespectful to you, and
if you should die, I should feel much happier knowing that you forgave
me. Will you do it, mother--say?"

Mrs. Hamilton comprehended only the words, "if you should die," so she
said: "Die, die! who says that I must die? I shan't--I can't; for what
could I tell her about her children, and how could I live endless ages
without water? I tried it once, and I can't do it. No, I can't. I
won't!"

In this way she talked all night; and though in the morning she was
more rational, she turned away from the clergyman, who at Lenora's
request had been sent for, saying:

"It's of no use, no use, I know all you would say, but it's too late,
too late!"

Thus she continued for three days, and at the close of the third it
became evident to all that she was dying, and Hester was immediately
sent to the hotel, with a request that the old porter would come
quickly. Half an hour after Lenora bent over her mother's pillow, and
whispered in her ear, "Mother, can you hear me?"

A pressure of the hand was the reply, and Lenora continued: "You have
not said that you forgave me, and now before you die, will you not
tell me so?"

There was another pressure of the hand, and Lenora again spoke:
"Mother, would you like to see him--my father? He is in the next
room."

This roused the dying woman, and starting up, she exclaimed, "See John
Carter! No, child, no! He'd only curse me. Let him wait until I am
dead, and then I shall not hear it."

In ten minutes more Lenora was sadly gazing upon the fixed, stony
features of the dead. A gray-haired man was at her side, and his lip
quivered, as he placed his hand upon the white, wrinkled brow of her
who had once been his wife. "She is fearfully changed," were his only
words, as he turned away from the bed of death.

True to her promise, Margaret came to attend her stepmother's funeral.
Walter accompanied her, and shuddered as he looked on the face of one
who had so darkened his home, and embittered his life. Kate was not
there, and when, after the burial, Lenora asked Margaret for her, she
was told of a little "Carrie Lenora," who with pardonable pride
"Walter thought was the only baby of any consequence in the world.
Margaret was going on with a glowing description of the babe's many
beauties, when she was interrupted by Lenora, who laid her face in her
lap and burst into tears.

"Why, Lenora, what is the matter?" asked Margaret.

As soon as Lenora became calm, she answered, "_That name_, Maggie. You
have given my name to Walter Hamilton's child, and if you had hated me
you would never have done it."

"Hated you!" repeated Margaret; "we do not hate you; now that we
understand you, we like you very much, and one of Kate's last
injunctions to Walter was that he should again offer you a home with
him."

Once more Lenora was weeping. She had not shed a tear when they
carried from sight her mother, but words of kindness touched her
heart, and the fountain was opened. At last, drying her eyes, she
said, "I prefer to go with father. Walter will, of course, come back
to the homestead, while father and I shall return to our old home in
Connecticut, where, by being kind to him, I hope to atone, in a
measure, for my great unkindness to mother."




CHAPTER XIV.

FINALE.


Through the open casement of a small, white cottage in the village of
P----, the rays of the September moon are stealing, disclosing to view
a gray-haired man, whose placid face still shows marks of long years
of dissipation. Affectionately he caresses the black, curly head which
is resting on his knee, and softly he says, "Lenora, my daughter,
there are, I trust, years of happiness in store for us both."

"I hope it may be so," was the answer, "but there is no promise of
many days to any save those who honor their father and mother. This
last I have never done, though many, many times have I repented of it,
and I begin to be assured that we may be happy yet."

       *       *       *       *       *

Away to the westward, over many miles of woodland, valley, and hill,
the same September moon shines upon the white walls of the
"homestead," where sits the owner, Walter Hamilton, gazing first upon
his wife and then upon the tiny treasure which lies sleeping upon her
lap.

"We are very happy, Katy darling," he says, and the affection which
looks from her large blue eyes as she lifts them to his face is a
sufficient answer. Margaret, too, is there, and though but an hour
ago her tears were falling upon the grass-grown graves where slept her
father and mother, the gentle Carrie, and golden-haired Willie, they
are all gone now, and she responds to her brother's words, "Yes,
Walter, we are very happy."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the basement below the candle is burned to its socket, and as the
last ray flickers up, illuminating for a moment the room, and then
leaving it in darkness, Aunt Polly Pepper starts from her evening nap,
and as if continuing her dream mutters "Yes this is pleasant and
something like living."

       *       *       *       *       *

And so with the moonlight and starlight falling upon the old
homestead, and the sunlight of love falling upon the hearts of its
inmates, we bid them adieu.




RICE CORNER




CHAPTER I.

RICE CORNER.


Yes, Rice Corner! Do you think it a queer name? Well, Rice Corner was
a queer place, and deserved a queer name. Now whether it is celebrated
for anything in particular, I really can't at this moment think,
unless, indeed, it is famed for having been my birthplace! Whether
this of itself is sufficient to immortalize a place future generations
may, perhaps, tell, but I have some misgivings whether the present
will. This idea may be the result of my having recently received
sundry knocks over the knuckles in the shape of criticisms.

But I know one thing--on the bark of that old chestnut tree which
stands near Rice Corner schoolhouse, my name is cut higher than some
of my more bulky contemporary quill--or rather steel--pen-wielders
ever dared to climb. To be sure, I tore my dress, scratched my face,
and committed numerous other little rompish _miss_-demeanors, which
procured for me a motherly scolding. That, however, was of minor
consideration when compared with having my name up--in the chestnut
tree, at least, if it couldn't be up in the world. But pardon my
egotism, and I will proceed with my story about Rice Corner.

Does any one wish to know whereabout on this rolling sphere Rice
Corner is situated? I don't believe you can find it on the map,
unless your eyes are bluer and bigger than mine, which last they can't
very well be. But I can tell you to a dot where Rice Corner should be.
Just take your atlas--not the last one published, but Olney's, that's
the one _I_ studied--and right in one of those little towns in
Worcester County is Rice Corner snugly nestled among the gray rocks
and blue hills of New England.

Yes, Rice Corner was a great place, and so you would have thought
could you have seen it in all its phases, with its brown, red, green,
yellow, and white houses, each of which had the usual quantity of
rose-bushes, lilacs, hollyhocks, and sunflowers. You should have seen
my home, my New England home, where once, not many years ago, a happy
group of children played. Alas! alas! some of those who gave the
sunlight to that spot have left us now forever, and on the bright
shores of the eternal river they wait and watch our coming. I do not
expect a stranger to love our old homestead as I loved it, for in each
heart is a fresh, green spot--the memory of its own early home--where
the sunshine was brighter, the well waters cooler, and the song-bird's
carol sweeter than elsewhere they are found.

I trust I shall be forgiven if in this chapter I pause awhile to speak
of my home--aye, and of myself, too, when, a light-hearted child, I
bounded through the meadows and orchards which lay around the old
brown house on my father's farm. 'Twas a large, square, two-storied
building, that old brown farmhouse, containing rooms, cupboards, and
closets innumerable, and what was better than all, a large airy
garret, where on all rainy days and days when it looked as if it would
rain, Bill, Joe, Lizzie, and I assembled to hold our noisy revels.
Never, since the days of our great-grandmothers, did little spinning
wheel buzz round faster than did the one which, in the darkest corner
of that garret, had been safely stowed away, where they guessed "the
young ones wouldn't find it."

"Wouldn't find it!" I should like to know what there was in that old
garret that we didn't find, and appropriate, too! Even the old oaken
chest which contained our grandmother's once fashionable attire was
not sacred from the touch of our lawless hands. Into its deep recesses
we plunged, and brought out such curiosities--the queerest-looking,
high-crowned, broad-frilled caps, narrow-gored skirts, and what was
funnier than all, a strange-looking thing which we thought must be a
side saddle--anyway, it fitted Joe's rocking horse admirably, although
we wondered why so much whalebone was necessary!

One day, in the midst of our gambols, in walked the identical owner of
the chest, and seeing the side-saddle, she said somewhat angrily,
"Why, children, where upon airth did you find my old stays?" We never
wondered again what made grandma's back keep its place so much better
than ours, and Bill had serious thoughts of trying the effect of the
stays upon himself.

In the rear of our house, and sloping toward the setting sun, was a
long, winding lane, leading far down into a widespreading tract of
flowery woods, shady hillside, and grassy pasture land, each in their
turn highly suggestive of brown nuts, delicious strawberries, and
venomous snakes. These last were generally more the creatures of
imagination than of reality, for in all my wanderings over those
fields, and they were many, I never but once trod upon a green snake,
and only once was I chased by a white-ringed blacksnake; so I think I
am safe in saying that the snakes were not so numerous as were the
nuts and berries, which grew there in great profusion.

A little to the right of the woods, where, in winter, Bill, Joe,
Lizzie, and I dragged our sleds and boards for the purpose of riding
down-hill, was a merry, frolicking stream of water, over which, in
times long gone, a sawmill had been erected; but owing to the
inefficiency of its former owner, or something else, the mill had
fallen into disuse, and gradually gone to decay. The water of the
brook, relieved from the necessity of turning the spluttering wheel,
now went gayly dancing down, down, into the depths of the dim old
woods, and far away, I never knew exactly where; but having heard
rumors of a jumping-off place, I had a vague impression that at that
spot the waters of the mill-dam put up!

Near the sawmill, and partially hidden by the scraggy pine trees and
thick bushes which drooped over its entrance, was a long, dark
passage, leading underground, not so large, probably, as Mammoth Cave,
but in my estimation rivaling it in interest. This was an old mine,
where, years before, men had dug for gold. Strange stories were told
of those who, with blazing torches, and blazing noses, most likely,
there toiled for the yellow dust. The "Ancient Henry" himself, it was
said, sometimes left his affairs at home, and joined the nightly
revels in that mine, where cards and wine played a conspicuous part.
Be that as it may, the old mine was surrounded by a halo of fear which
we youngsters never cared to penetrate.

On a fine afternoon an older sister would occasionally wander that
way, together with a young M.D., whose principal patient seemed to be
at our house, for his little black pony very frequently found shelter
in our stable by the side of "old sorrel." From the north garret
window I would watch them, wondering how they dared venture so near
the old mine, and wishing, mayhap, that the time would come when I,
with some daring doctor, would risk everything. The time _has come_,
but alas! instead of being a doctor, he is only a lawyer, who never
even saw the old mine in Rice Corner.

Though I never ventured close to the old mine, there was not far from
it one pleasant spot where I loved dearly to go. It was on the
hillside, where, 'neath the shadow of a gracefully twining grapevine,
lay a large, flat rock. Thither would I often repair, and sit for
hours, listening to the hum of the running water brook, or the song
of the summer birds, who, like me, seemed to love that place. Often
would I gaze far off at the distant, misty horizon, wondering if I
should ever know what was beyond it. Wild fancies then filled my
childish brain. Strange voices whispered to me thoughts and ideas
which, if written down and carried out, would, I am sure, have placed
my name higher than it was carved on the old chestnut tree.

    "But they came and went like shadows,
    Those blessed dreams of youth,"

I was a strange child, I know. Everybody told me so, and _I_ knew it
well enough without being told. The wise old men at Rice Corner, and
their still wiser old wives, looked at me askance, as 'neath the
thorn-apple tree I built my playhouse and baked my little loaves of
mud bread. But when, forgetful of others, I talked aloud to myriads of
little folks, unseen 'tis true, but still real to me, they shook their
gray heads ominously, and whispering to my mother said, "Mark our
words, that girl will one day be crazy. In ten years more she will be
an inmate of the madhouse!"

And then I wondered what a madhouse was, and if the people there all
acted as our school-teacher did when Bill and the big girl said he was
mad! The ten years have passed, and I'm not in a madhouse yet, unless,
indeed, it is one of my own getting up!

One thing more about Rice Corner, and then, honor bright, I'll finish
the preface and go on with the story. I must tell you about the old
schoolhouse, and the road which led to it. This last wound around a
long hill, and was skirted on either side with tall trees, flowering
dogwood, blackberry bushes, and frost grapevines. Half-way down the
hill, and under one of the tallest walnut trees, was a little hollow,
where dwelt the goblin with which nurses, housemaids, hired men, and
older sisters were wont to frighten refractory children into
quietness. It was the grave of an old negro. Alas! that to his last
resting-place the curse should follow him! Had it been a white person
who rested there, not half so fearful would have been the spot; now,
however, it was "the old nigger hole"--a place to run by if by
accident you were caught out after dark--a place to be threatened with
if you cried in the night and wanted the candle lighted--a landmark
where to stop when going part way home with the little girl who had
been to visit you, and who, on leaving you, ran no less swiftly than
you yourself did, half-fearing that the dusky form in the holly would
rise and try his skill at running. Verily, my heart has beat faster at
the thoughts of that dead negro than it ever has since at the sight of
a hundred live specimens, "'way down south on the old plantation."

The old schoolhouse, too, had its advantages and its disadvantages; of
the latter, one was that there, both summer and winter, but more
especially during the last-mentioned season, all the rude boys in the
place thought they had a perfect right to congregate and annoy the
girls in every possible way. But never mind, not a few wry faces we
made at them, and not a few "blockheads" we pinned to their backs! Oh!
I've had rare times in that old house and have seen rare sights, too,
to say nothing of the fights which occasionally occurred. In these
last brother Joe generally took the lead of one party, while Jim Brown
commanded the other. Dire was the confusion which reigned at such
times. Books were hurled from side to side. Then followed in quick
succession shovel, tongs, poker, water cup, water pail, water and all;
and to cap the climax, Jim Brown once seized the large iron pan, which
stood upon the stove, half-filled with hot water, and hurled it in the
midst of the enemy. Luckily nobody was killed, and but few wounded.

Years in their rapid flight have rolled away since then, and he, my
brother, is sleeping alone on the wild shore of California.

    "For scarcely had the sad tones died
      Which echoed the farewell,
    When o'er the western prairies
      There came a funeral knell;
    It said that he who went from us,
      While yet upon his brow
    The dew of youth was glistening,
      Had passed to heaven now."

James Brown, too, is resting in the churchyard, near his own home, and
'neath his own native sky.




CHAPTER II.

THE BELLE OF RICE CORNER.


Yes, Rice Corner had a belle, but it was not I. Oh, no, nobody ever
mistook _me_ for a belle, or much of anything else, in fact; _I_ was
simply "Mary Jane," or, if that was not concise enough, "Crazy Jane"
set the matter all right. The belle of which I speak was a _bona fide_
one--fine complexion, handsome features, beautiful eyes, curling hair,
and all. And yet in her composition there was something wanting,
something very essential, too; for she lacked soul, and would at any
time have sold her best friend for a flattering compliment.

Still Carrie Howard was generally a favorite. The old people liked her
because her sparkling eye and merry laugh brought back to them a gleam
of youth; the young people liked her, because to dislike her would
seem like envy; and I, who was nothing, liked her because she was
pretty, and I greatly admired beauty, though I am not certain that I
should not have liked a handsome rosebud quite as well as I did Carrie
Howard's beautiful face, for beautiful she was.

Her mother, good, plain Mrs. Howard, was entirely unlike her daughter.
She was simply "Mrs. Captain Howard," or, in other words, "Aunt
Eunice," whose benevolent smile and kindly beaming eye carried
contentment wherever she went. Really, I don't know how Rice Corner
could have existed one day without the presence of Aunt Eunice. Was
there a cut foot or hand in the neighborhood, hers was the salve which
healed it, almost as soon as applied. Was there a pale, fretful baby,
Aunt Eunice's large bundle of catnip was sure to soothe it, and did a
sick person need watchers, Aunt Eunice was the one who, three nights
out of the seven, trod softly and quietly about the sick-room,
anticipating each want before you yourself knew what it was, and
smoothing your tumbled pillow so gently that you almost felt it a
luxury to be sick, for the sake of being nursed by Aunt Eunice. The
very dogs and cats winked more composedly when she appeared; and even
the chickens learned her voice almost as soon as they did the cluck of
their "maternal ancestor."

But we must stop, or we shall make Aunt Eunice out to be the belle,
instead of Carrie, who, instead of imitating her mother in her acts of
kindness, sat all day in the large old parlor, thumping away on a
rickety piano, or trying to transfer to broadcloth a poor little
kitty, whose face was sufficiently indicative of surprise at finding
its limbs so frightfully distorted.

When Carrie was fifteen years of age her father, concluding that she
knew all which could possibly be learned in the little brown house
where Joe and Jim once fought so fiercely, sent her for three years to
Albany. It was currently reported that the uncle with whom she boarded
received his pay in butter, cheese, potatoes, apples, and other
commodities, which were the product of Captain Howard's farm. Whether
this was true or not I am not prepared to say, but I suppose it was,
for it was told by those who had no ostensible business except to
attend to other people's affairs, and I am sure they ought to have
known all about it, and probably did.

I cannot help thinking that Captain Howard made a mistake in sending
Carrie away; for when at the end of three years she had "finished her
education," and returned home, she was not half so good a scholar as
some of those who had pored patiently over their books in the old
brown house. Even _I_ could beat her in spelling, for soon after she
came home the boys teased for a spelling school. I rather think they
were quite as anxious for a chance to go home with the girls as they
were to have their knowledge of Webster tested. Be that as it may,
Carrie was there, and was, of course, chosen first; but _I_, "little
crazy Jane," spelled the the whole school down! I thought Carrie was
not quite so handsome as she might be, when with an angry frown she
dropped into her seat, hissed by a big, cross-eyed, red-haired boy, in
the corner, because she _happened_ to spell pumpkin, "_p-u-n pun k-i-n
kin, punkin_." I do not think she ever quite forgave me for the pert,
loud way in which I spelled the word correctly, for she never gave any
more calicos or silks, and instead of calling me "Mollie," as she had
before done, she now addressed me as "Miss Mary."

Carrie possessed one accomplishment which the other girls did not. She
could play the piano most skilfully, although as yet she had no
instrument. Three weeks, however, after her return a rich man, who
lived in the village which was known as "Over the River," failed, and
all his furniture was sold at auction. Many were the surmises of my
grandmother, on the morning of the sale, as to what "Cap'n Howard
could be going to buy at the _vandue_ and put in the big lumber
wagon," which he drove past our house.

As the day drew to a close I was posted at the window to telegraph as
soon as "Cap'n Howard's" white horses appeared over the hill. They
came at last, but the long box in his wagon told no secret. Father,
however, explained all, by saying that he had bid off Mr. Talbott's
old piano for seventy dollars! Grandma shook her head mournfully at
the degeneracy of the age, while sister Anna spoke sneeringly of Mr.
Talbott's cracked piano. Next day, arrayed in my Sunday red merino and
white apron--a present from some cousin out West--I went to see
Carrie; and truly, the music she drew from that old piano charmed me
more than the finest performances since have done. Carrie and her
piano were now the theme of every tongue, and many wondered how
Captain Howard could afford to pay for three years' music lessons; but
this was a mystery yet to be solved.




CHAPTER III.

MONSIEUR PENOYER.


When Carrie had been at home about three months all Rice Corner one
day flew to the doors and windows to look at a stranger, a gentleman
with fierce mustaches, who seemed not at all certain of his latitude,
and evidently wanted to know where he was going. At least, if _he_
didn't, they who watched him did.

Grandma, whose longevity had not impaired her guessing faculties,
first suggested that "most likely it was Caroline Howard's beau." This
was altogether too probable to be doubted, and as grandmother had long
contemplated a visit to Aunt Eunice, she now determined to go that
very afternoon, as she "could judge for herself what kind of a match
Car'line had made." Mother tried to dissuade her from going that day,
but the old lady was incorrigible, and directly after dinner, dressed
in her bombazine, black silk apron, work bag, knitting and all she
departed for Captain Howard's.

They wouldn't confess it, but I knew well enough that Juliet and Anna
were impatient for her return, and when the shadows of twilight began
to fall I was twice sent into the road to see if she was coming. The
last time I was successful, and in a few moments grandmother was among
us; but whatever she knew she kept to herself until the lamps were
lighted in the sitting-room, and she, in her stuffed rocking-chair,
was toeing off the stocking only that morning commenced. Then, at a
hint from Anna, she cast toward Lizzie and me a rueful glance, saying:
"There are too many _pitchers_ here!" I knew then just as well as I
did five minutes after that Lizzie and I must go to bed. There was no
help for it, and we complied with a tolerably good grace. Lizzie
proposed that we should listen, but somehow I couldn't do that, and up
to this time I don't exactly know what grandmother told them.

The next day, however, I heard enough to know that his name was
Penoyer; that grandma didn't like him; that he had as much hair on his
face as on his head; that Aunt Eunice would oppose the match, and that
he would stay over Sunday. With this last I was delighted, for I
should see him at church. I saw him before that, however; for it was
unaccountable what a fancy Carrie suddenly took for traversing the
woods and riding on horseback, for which purpose grandfather's
side-saddle (not the one with which Joe saddled his pony!) was
borrowed, and then, with her long curls and blue riding-skirt floating
in the wind, Carrie galloped over hills and through valleys,
accompanied by Penoyer, who was a fierce-looking fellow, with black
eyes, black hair, black whiskers, and black face.

I couldn't help fancying that the negro who lay beneath the walnut
tree had resembled him, and I cried for fear Carrie might marry so
ugly a man, thinking it would not be altogether unlike, "Beauty and
the Beast." Sally, our housemaid, said that "most likely he'd prove to
be some poor, mean scamp. Anyway, seein' it was plantin' time, he'd
better be _to hum_ tendin' to his own business, if he had any."

Sally was a shrewd, sharp-sighted girl, and already had her preference
in favor of Michael Welsh, father's hired man. Walking, riding on
horseback, and wasting time generally, Sally held in great abhorrence.
"All she wished to say to Mike on week days, she could tell him
milking time." On Sundays, however, it was different, and regularly
each Sunday night found Mike and Sally snugly ensconced in the "great
room," while under the windows occasionally might have been seen,
three or four curly heads, eager to hear something about which to
tease Sally during the week.

But to return to Monsieur Penoyer, as Carrie called him. His stay was
prolonged beyond the Sabbath, and on Tuesday I was sent to Captain
Howard's on an errand. I found Aunt Eunice in the kitchen, her round,
rosy face, always suggestive of seed cake and plum pudding, flushed
with exertion, her sleeves tucked up and her arms buried in a large
wooden bowl of dough, which she said was going to be made into loaves
of 'lection cake, as Carrie was to have a party to-morrow, and I had
come just in time to carry invitations to my sisters.

Carrie was in the parlor, and attracted by the sound of music, I drew
near the door, when Aunt Eunice kindly bade me enter. I did so, and
was presented to Monsieur Penoyer. At first I was shy of him, for I
remembered that Sally had said, "he don't know nothin'," and this in
my estimation was the worst crime of which he could be guilty.
Gradually my timidity gave way, and when, at Carrie's request, he
played and sang for me, I was perfectly delighted, although I
understood not a word he said.

When he finished Carrie told him I was a little poet, and then
repeated some foolish lines I had once written about her eyes. It was
a very handsome set of teeth which he showed, as he said,
"_Magnifique! Tree bien!_ She be another grand _Dr. Wattts!_"

I knew not who Dr. Watts was, but on one point my mind was made
up--Monsieur Penoyer knew a great deal! Ere I left Carrie commissioned
me to invite my sisters to her party on the morrow, and as I was
leaving the room Mr. Penoyer said, "_Ma chere,_ Carrie, why vous no
invite a petite girl!"

Accordingly I was invited, with no earthly prospect, however, of
mother's letting me go. And she didn't either; so next day, after
Juliet and Anna were gone, I went out behind the smokehouse and cried
until I got sleepy, and a headache too; then, wishing to make mother
think I had _run away_, I crept carefully up-stairs to Bill's room,
where I slept until Sally's sharp eyes ferreted me out, saying, "they
were all scared to death about me, and had looked for me high and
low," up in the garret and down in the well, I supposed. Concluding
they were plagued enough, I condescended to go down-stairs, and have
my head bathed in camphor and my feet parboiled in hot water; then I
went to bed and dreamed of white teeth, curling mustaches and "_Parlez
vous Francais_."

Of what occurred at the party I will tell you as was told to me. All
the _elite_ of Rice Corner were there, of course, and as each new
arrival entered the parlor, M. Penoyer eyed them coolly through an
opera glass. Sister Anna returned his inspection with the worst face
she could well make up, for which I half-blamed her and half didn't,
as I felt sure I should have done the same under like circumstances.

When all the invited guests had arrived except myself (alas, no one
asked why I tarried), there ensued an awkward silence, broken only by
the parrot-like chatter of M. Penoyer, who seemed determined to talk
nothing but French, although Carrie understood him but little better
than did the rest. At last he was posted up to the piano.

"_Mon Dieu_, it be von horrid tone," said he; then off he dashed into
a galloping waltz, keeping time with his head, mouth, and eyes, which
threatened to leave their sockets and pounce upon the instrument.
Rattlety-bang went the piano--like lightning went monsieur's fingers,
first here, then there, right or wrong, hit or miss, and oftener miss
than hit--now alighting among the keys promiscuously, then with a
tremendous thump making all bound again--and finishing up with a
flourish, which snapped two strings and made all the rest groan in
sympathy, as did the astonished listeners. For a time all was still,
and then a little modest girl, Lily Gordon, her face blushing crimson,
said:

"I beg your pardon, monsieur, but haven't you taught music?"

The veins in his forehead swelled, as, darting a wrathful look at poor
Lily, he exclaimed, "_Le Diabel!_ vat vous take me for? Von dem
musique teacher, eh?"

Poor Lily tried to stammer her apologies, while Carrie sought to
soothe the enraged Frenchman by saying, that "Miss Gordon was merely
complimenting his skill in music."

At this point the carriage which carried persons to and from the depot
drove up, and from it alighted a very small, genteel-looking lady, who
rapped at the door and asked, "if Captain Howard lived there."

In a moment Carrie was half-stifling her with kisses, exclaiming,
"Dear Agnes, this is a pleasant surprise. I did not expect you so
soon."

The lady called Agnes was introduced as Miss Hovey, a schoolmate of
Carrie's. She seemed very much disposed to make herself at home, for,
throwing her hat in one place and her shawl in another, she seated
herself at the piano, hastily running over a few notes; then with a
gesture of impatience, she said, "Oh, horrid! a few more such sounds
would give me the vapors for a month; why don't you have it tuned?"

Ere Carrie could reply Agnes' eyes lighted upon Penoyer, who, either
with or without design, had drawn himself as closely into a corner as
he well could. Springing up, she brought her little hands together
with energy, exclaiming, "Now, Heaven defend me, what fresh game
brought you here?" Then casting on Carrie an angry glance, she said,
in a low tone, "What does it mean? Why didn't you tell me?"

Carrie drew nearer, and said coaxingly, "I didn't expect you so soon;
but never mind, he leaves to-morrow. For my sake treat him decently."

The pressure which Agnes gave Carrie's hand seemed to say, "For your
sake I will, but for no other." Then turning to Penoyer, who had risen
to his feet, she said, respectfully, "I hardly expected to meet you
here, sir."

Her tone and manner had changed. Penoyer knew it, and with the
coolest effrontery imaginable he came forward, bowing and scraping,
and saying, "_Comment vous portez-vous, mademoiselle. Je suis
perfaitement_ delighted to see you," at the same time offering her his
hand.

All saw with what hauteur she declined it, but only one, and that was
Anna, heard her as she said, "Keep off, Penoyer; don't make a donkey
of yourself." It was strange, Anna said, "how far into his boots
Penoyer tried to draw himself," while at each fresh flash of Agnes'
keen black eyes, he winced, either from fear or sympathy.

The restraint which had surrounded the little company gave way beneath
the lively sallies and sparkling wit of Agnes, who, instead of seeming
amazed at the country girls, was apparently as much at ease as though
she had been entertaining a drawing-room full of polished city belles.
When at last the party broke up, each and every one was in love with
the little Albany lady, although all noticed that Carrie seemed
troubled, watching Agnes narrowly; and whenever she saw her
_tete-a-tete_ with either of her companions she would instantly draw
near, and seemed greatly relieved on finding that Penoyer was not the
subject of conversation.

"I told you so," was grandmother's reply, when informed of all this.
"I told you so. I knew Car'line warn't going to make out no great."

Juliet and Anna thought so too, but this did not prevent them from
running to the windows next morning to see Penoyer as he passed on his
way to the cars. I, who with Lizzie was tugging away at a big board
with which we thought to make a "see-saw," was honored with a graceful
wave of monsieur's hands, and the words, "_Au revoir, ma chere
Marie_."

That day Phoebe, Aunt Eunice's hired girl, came to our house.
Immediately Juliet and Anna assailed her a multitude of questions. The
amount of knowledge obtained was that "Miss Hovey was a lady, and no
mistake, for she had sights of silks and jewelry, and she that morning
went with Phoebe to see her milk, although she didn't dare venture
inside the yard. But," added Phoebe, "for all she was up so early she
did not come out to breakfast until that gentleman was gone."

This was fresh proof that Penoyer was not _comme il faut_, and Anna
expressed her determination to find out all about him ere Agnes went
home. _I_ remembered "_Dr. Watts_" and the invitation to the party,
and secretly hoped she would find out nothing bad.




CHAPTER IV.

COUSIN EMMA.


Agnes had been in town about two weeks, when my home was one morning
thrown into a state of unusual excitement by the arrival of a letter
from Boston, containing the intelligence that Cousin Emma Rushton, who
had been an invalid for more than a year, was about to try the effect
of country life and country air.

This piece of news operated differently upon different members of our
family. Juliet exclaimed, "Good, good; Carrie Howard won't hold her
head quite so high now, for we shall have a city lady, too." Anna was
delighted, because she would thus have an opportunity of acquiring
city manners and city fashions. Sally said snappishly, "There's enough
to wait on now, without having a stuck-up city flirt, faintin' at the
sight of a worm, and screechin' if a fly comes toward her." Mother had
some misgivings on the subject. She was perfectly willing Emma should
come, but she doubted our ability to entertain her, knowing that the
change would be great from a fashionable city home to a country
farmhouse. Grandmother, who loved to talk of "my daughter in the
city," was pleased, and to console mother, said:

"Never you mind, Fanny, leave her to me; you find victuals and drink,
and I'll do the entertaining."

Among so many opinions it was hard for me to arrive at a conclusion.
On the whole, however, I was glad, until told that during Cousin
Emma's stay our garret gambols must be given up, and that I must not
laugh loud, or scarcely speak above a whisper, for she was sick, and
it would hurt her head. Then I wished Cousin Emma and Cousin Emma's
head would stay where they belonged.

The letter was received on Monday, but Emma would not come until
Thursday; so there was ample time for "fixing up." The parlor-chamber
was repapered, the carpet taken up and shaken, red and white curtains
hung at the windows, a fresh ball of Castile soap bought for the
washstand, and on Thursday morning our pretty flower beds were shorn
of their finest ornaments with which to make bouquets for the parlor
and parlor-chamber. Besides that, Sally had filled the pantry with
cakes, pies, gingerbread, and Dutch cheese, to the last of which I
fancied Emma's city taste would not take kindly. Then there was in the
cellar a barrel of fresh beer; so everything was done which could be
expected.

When I went home for my dinner that day I teased hard to be allowed to
stay out of school for one afternoon, but mother said "No," although
she suffered me to wear my pink gingham, with sundry injunctions "not
to burst the hooks and eyes all off before night." This, by the way,
was my besetting sin; I never could climb a tree, no matter what the
size might be without invariably coming down minus at least six hooks
and eyes; but I seriously thought I should get over it when I got
older and joined the church.

That afternoon seemed of interminable length, but at last I saw
father's carriage coming, and quick as thought I threw my grammar out
of the window; after which I demurely asked "to go out and get a book
which I had dropped." Permission was granted and I was out just in
time to courtesy straight down, as father pointing to me, said:
"There, that's our little crazy Mollie," and then I got a glimpse of a
remarkably sweet face, which made the tears come in my eyes, it was so
pale.

Perhaps I wronged our school-teacher; I think I did, for she has since
died; but really I fancied she kept us longer that night on purpose.
At least, it was nearly five before we were dismissed. Then, with my
bonnet in hand, I ran for home, falling down once and bursting off the
lower hook! I entered the house with a bound, but was quieted by
grandmother, who said Emma was lying down, and I mustn't disturb her.

After waiting some time for her to make her appearance, I stole softly
up the stairs and looked in where she was. She saw me, and instantly
rising, said with a smile that went to my heart:

"And this must be Mary, the little crazy girl; come and kiss your
Cousin Emma."

Twining my arms around her neck, I think I must have cried, for she
repeatedly asked me what was the matter, and as I could think of no
better answer, I at last told her "I didn't like to have folks call me
_crazy_. I couldn't help acting like _Sal Furbush_, the old crazy
woman, who threatened to toss us up in the umbrella."

"Forgive me, darling," said Emma coaxingly; "I will not do it again;"
then stooping down, she looked intently into my eyes, soliloquizing,
"Yes, it is wrong to tell her so."

In a few moments I concluded Emma was the most beautiful creature in
the world; I would not even except Carrie Howard. Emma's features were
perfectly regular, and her complexion white and pure as alabaster. Her
hair, which was a rich auburn, lay around her forehead in thick waves,
but her great beauty consisted in her lustrous blue eyes, which were
very large and dark. When she was pleased they laughed, and when she
was sad they were sad too. Her dress was a white muslin wrapper,
confined at the waist by a light blue ribbon, while one of the same
hue encircled her neck, and was fastened by a small gold pin, which,
with the exception of the costly diamond ring on her finger, was the
only ornament she wore.

When supper was ready I proudly led her to the dining-room, casting a
look of triumph at Juliet and Anna, and feeling, it may be, a _trifle_
above grandmother, who said, "Don't be troublesome, child."

How grateful I was when Emma answered for me, "She doesn't trouble me
in the least; I am very fond of children."

Indeed, she seemed to be very fond of everybody and everything--all
except Sally's Dutch cheese, which, as I expected, she hardly
relished. In less than three days she was beloved by all the
household, Billy whispering to me confidentially that "never before
had he seen any one except _mother_, whom he would like to marry."

Saturday afternoon Carrie and Agnes called on Emma, and as I saw them
together I fancied I had never looked on three more charming faces.
They appeared mutually pleased with each other, too, although for some
reason there seemed to be more affinity between Emma and Agnes. Carrie
appeared thoughtful and absent-minded, which made Anna joke her about
her "lover, Penoyer." As she was about leaving the room she made no
reply, but after she was gone Agnes looked searchingly at Anna and
said:

"Is it possible, Miss Anna, that you are so mistaken?"

"How--why?" asked Emma. "Is Penoyer a bad man? What is his
occupation?"

"His occupation is well enough," returned Agnes. "I would not think
less of him for that, were he right in other respects. However, he was
Carrie's and my own music teacher."

"Impossible," said Anna, but at that moment Carrie reentered the room,
and, together with Agnes, soon took her leave.

"Penoyer a music teacher, after all his anger at Lily Gordon for
suggesting such an idea!" This was now the theme of Juliet and Anna,
although they wondered what there was so _bad_ about him--something,
evidently, from Agnes' manner, and for many days they puzzled their
brains in vain to solve the mystery.




CHAPTER V.

RICHARD EVELYN AND HARLEY ASHMORE.


Emma had not long been with us ere her fame reached the little
"village over the river," and drew from thence many calls, both from
gentlemen and ladies. Among these was a Mr. Richard Evelyn and his
sister, both of whom had the honor of standing on the topmost round of
the aristocratic ladder in the village. Mr. Evelyn, who was nearly
thirty years of age, was a wealthy lawyer, and what is a little
remarkable for that craft (I speak from experience), to an unusual
degree of intelligence and polish of manners, he added many social and
_religious_ qualities. Many kind hearted mothers, who had on their
hands good-for-nothing daughters, wondered how he managed to live
without a wife, but he seemed to think it the easiest thing in nature,
for, since the death of his parents, his sister Susan had acted in the
capacity of his housekeeper.

I have an idea that grandmother, whose disposition was slightly spiced
with a love for match-making, bethought herself how admirably Mr.
Evelyn and Emma were suited for each other; for after his calls became
frequent I heard her many times slyly hint of the possibility of our
being able to keep Emma in town always. _She_ probably did not think
so; for each time after being teased, she repaired to her room and
read for the twentieth time some ominous-looking letters which she had
received since being with as.

It was now three weeks since she came, and each day she had gained in
health and strength. Twice had she walked to the woods, accompanied by
Mr. Evelyn, once to the schoolhouse, while every day she swung under
the old maple. About this time Agnes began to think of returning
home, so Juliet and Anna determined on a party in honor of her and
Emma. It was a bright summer afternoon; and for a wonder I was
suffered to remain from school, although I received numerous charges
to keep my tongue still, and was again reminded of that excellent old
proverb (the composition of some old maid, I know), "_Children_ should
be seen and not heard;" so, seated in a corner, my hand pressed
closely over my mouth, the better to guard against contingencies, I
looked on and thought, with ineffable satisfaction, how much handsomer
Cousin Emma was than any one else, although I could not help
acknowledging that Carrie never looked more beautiful than she did
that afternoon in a neatly-fitting white muslin, with a few rosebuds
nestling in her long, glossy curls.

Matters were going on swimmingly, and I had three times ventured a
remark, when Anna, who was sitting near the window, exclaimed, "Look
here, girls, did you ever see a finer-looking gentleman?" at the same
time calling their attention to a stranger in the street. Emma looked,
too, and the bright flush which suffused her cheek made me associate
the gentleman with the letters she had received, and I was not
surprised when he entered our yard and knocked at our door. Juliet
arose to answer his summons, but Emma prevented her, saying;

"Suffer me to go, will you?"

She was gone some time, and when she returned was accompanied by the
stranger, whom she introduced as Mr. Ashmore. I surveyed him with
childish curiosity, and drew two very satisfactory breaths when I saw
that he was wholly unlike Monsieur Penoyer. He was a very fine-looking
man, but I did not exactly like the expression of his face. It was
hardly open enough to suit me, and I noticed that he never looked you
directly in the eye. In five minutes I had come to the conclusion that
he was not half so good a man as Mr. Evelyn. I was in great danger,
however, of changing my mind, when I saw how fondly his dark eye
rested on Emma, and how delighted he seemed to be at her improved
health; and when he, without any apparent exertion, kept the whole
company entertained, I was charmed, and did not blame Emma for liking
him. Anna's doctor was nothing to him, and I even fancied that he
would dare to go _all alone_ to the old mine!

Suddenly he faced about, and espying me in the corner, he said, "Here
is a little lady I've not seen. Will some one introduce me?"

With the utmost gravity Anna said, "It is my sister, little crazy
Jane."

I glanced quickly at him to see how he would receive the intelligence,
and when, looking inquiringly first at me and then at Emma, he said,
"Is it really so? what a pity!" the die was cast--I never liked him
again. That night in my little low bed, long after Lizzie was asleep,
I wept bitterly, wondering what made Anna so unkind, and why people
called me crazy. I knew I looked like other children, and I thought I
acted like them, too; unless, indeed, I climbed more trees, tore more
dresses, and burst off more hooks.

But to return to the party. After a time I thought that Mr. Ashmore's
eyes went over admiringly to Carrie more frequently than was
necessary, and for once I regretted that she was so pretty. Ere long,
Mr. Ashmore, too, went over, and immediately there ensued between
himself and Carrie a lively conversation, in which she adroitly
managed to let him know that she had been three years at school in
Albany. The next thing that I saw was that he took from her curls a
rosebud and appropriated it to his buttonhole. I glanced at Emma to
see how she was affected, but her face was perfectly calm, and wore
the old sweet smile. When the young ladies were about leaving, I was
greatly shocked to see Mr. Ashmore offer to accompany Carrie and Agnes
home.

After they were gone grandmother said, "Emma, if I's you, I'd put a
stop to that chap's flirtin' so with Car'line Howard."

Emma laughed gaily as she replied, "Oh, grandma, I can trust Harley;
I have been sick so long that he has the privilege of walking or
riding with anybody he pleases."

Grandmother shook her head, saying, "It wasn't so with her and our
poor grandfather;" then I fell into a fit of musing as to whether
grandma was ever young, and if she ever fixed her hair before the
glass, as Anna did when she expected the doctor! In the midst of my
reverie Mr. Ashmore returned, and for the remainder of the evening
devoted himself so entirely to Emma that I forgave him for going home
with Carrie. Next day, however, he found the walk to Captain Howard's
a very convenient one, staying a long time, too. The next day it was
the same, and the next, and the next, until I fancied that even Emma
began to be anxious.

Grandma was highly indignant, and Sally declared, "that, as true as
she lived and breathed, if Mike should serve her so, he'd catch it."
About this time Agnes went home. The evening before she left she spent
at our house with Emma, of whom she seemed to be very fond. Carrie and
Ashmore were, as usual, out riding or walking, and the conversation
naturally turned upon them. At last, Anna, whose curiosity was still
on the alert to know something of Penoyer, asked Agnes of him. I will
repeat, in substance, what Agnes said.

It seems that for many years Penoyer had been a teacher of music in
Albany. Agnes was one of his pupils, and while teaching her music he
thought proper to fall overwhelmingly in love with her. This for a
time she did not notice; but when his attentions became so pointed as
to become a subject of remark, she very coolly tried to make him
understand his position. He persevered, however, until he became
exceedingly impudent and annoying.

About this time there came well-authenticated stories of his being not
only a professed gambler, but also very dissipated in his habits. To
this last charge Agnes could testify, as his breath had frequently
betrayed him. He was accordingly dismissed. Still he perseveringly
pursued her, always managing, if possible, to get near her in all
public places, and troubling her in various ways.

At last Agnes heard that he was showing among her acquaintances two
notes bearing her signature. The contents of these notes he covered
with his hand, exposing to view only her name. She had twice written,
requesting him to purchase some new piece of music, and it was these
messages which he was now showing, insinuating that Agnes thought
favorably of him, but was opposed by her father. The consequence of
this was, that the next time Agnes' brother met Penoyer in the street,
he gave him a sound caning, ordering him, under pain of a worse
flogging, never again to mention his sister's name. This he was
probably more willing to do, as he had already conceived a great
liking for Carrie, who was silly enough to be pleased with and suffer
his attentions.

"I wonder, though, that Carrie allowed him to visit her," said Agnes;
"but then I believe she is under some obligations to him, and dare not
refuse when he asked permission to come."

If Agnes knew what these obligations were she did not tell, and
grandmother, who, during the narration had knit with unwonted speed,
making her needles rattle again, said, "It's plain to me that Caroline
let him come to make folks think she had got a city beau."

"Quite likely," returned Agnes; "Carrie is a sad flirt, but I think,
at least, that she should not interfere with other people's rights."

Here my eye followed hers to Emma, who, I thought, was looking a
little paler. Just then Carrie and Ashmore came in, and the latter
throwing himself upon the sofa by the side of Emma, took her hand
caressingly, saying, "How are you to-night, my dear?"

"Quite well," was her quiet reply, and soon after, under pretense of
moving from the window, she took a seat across the room. That night
Mr. Ashmore accompanied Carrie and Agnes home, and it was at a much
later hour than usual that old Rover first growled and then whined as
he recognized our visitor.

The next morning Emma was suffering from a severe headache, which
prevented her from appearing at breakfast. Mr. Ashmore seemed somewhat
disturbed, and made many anxious inquiries about her. At dinner-time
she was well enough to come, and the extreme kindness of Mr. Ashmore's
manner called a deep glow to her cheek. After dinner, however, he
departed for a walk, taking his accustomed road toward Captain
Howard's.

When I returned from school he was still absent, and as Emma was quite
well, she asked me to accompany her to my favorite resort, the old
rock beneath the grapevine. We were soon there, and for a long time we
sat watching the shadows as they came and went upon the bright green
grass, and listening to the music of the brook, which seemed to me to
sing more sadly than it was wont to do.

Suddenly our ears were arrested by the sound of voices, which we knew
belonged to Mr. Ashmore and Carrie. They were standing near us, just
behind a clump of alders, and Carrie, in reply to something Mr.
Ashmore had said, answered, "Oh, you can't be in earnest, for you have
only known me ten days, and beside that, what have you done with your
pale, sick lady?"

Instantly I started up, clinching my fist in imitation of brother
Billy when he was angry, but Cousin Emma's arm was thrown convulsively
around me, as drawing me closely to her side she whispered, "Keep
quiet."

I did keep quiet, and listened while Mr. Ashmore replied, "I entertain
for Miss Rushton the highest esteem, for I know she possesses many
excellent qualities. Once I thought I loved her (how tightly Emma held
me), but she has been sick a long time, and somehow I cannot marry an
invalid. Whether she ever gets well is doubtful, and even if she
does, after having seen you, she can be nothing to me. And yet I like
her, and when I am alone with her I almost fancy I love her, but one
look at your sparkling, healthy face drives her from my mind--"

The rest of what he said I could not hear, neither did I understand
Carrie's answer, but his next words were distinct, "My dear Carrie
forever."

I know the brook stopped running, or at least I did not hear it. The
sun went down; the birds went to rest; Mr. Ashmore and Carrie went
home; and still I sat there by the side of Emma, who had lain her head
in my lap, and was so still and motionless that the dread fear came
over me that she might be dead. I attempted to lift her up, saying,
"Cousin Emma, speak to me, won't you?" but she made me no answer, and
another ten minutes went by. By this time the stars had come out and
were looking quietly down upon us. The waters of the mill-dam chanted
mournfully, and in my disordered imagination, fantastic images danced
before the entrance of the old mine. Half-crying with fear, I again
laid my hand on Emma's head. Her hair was wet with the heavy night
dews, and my eyes were wet with something else, as I said, "Oh, Emma,
speak to me, for I am afraid and want to go home."

This roused her, and lifting up her head I caught a glimpse of a face
of so startling whiteness that, throwing my arms around her neck, I
cried, "Oh, Emma, dear Emma, don't look so. I love you a great deal
better than I do Carrie Howard, and so I am sure does Mr. Evelyn."

I don't know how I chanced to think of Mr. Evelyn, but he recurred to
me naturally enough. All thoughts of him, however, were soon driven
from my mind by the sound of Emma's voice as she said, "Mollie,
darling, can you keep a secret?"

I didn't think I could, as I never had been intrusted with one, so I
advised her to give it to Anna, who was very fond of them. But she
said, "I am sure you can do it, Mollie. Promise me that you will not
tell them at home what you have seen or heard."

I promised, and then in my joy at owning a secret, I forgot the little
figures which waltzed back and forth before the old mine, I forgot the
woods through which we passed, nor was the silence broken until we
reached the lane. Then I said, "What shall we tell the folks when they
ask where we have been?"

"Leave that to me," answered Emma.

As we drew near the house we met grandmother, Juliet, Anna and Sally,
all armed and equipped for a general hunt. We were immediately
assailed with a score of questions as to what had kept us so long. I
looked to Emma for the answer, at the same time keeping my hand
tightly over my mouth for fear I should tell.

"We found more things of interest than we expected," said Emma,
"consequently tarried longer than we should otherwise have done."

"Why, how hoarse you be," said grandmother, while Sally continued,
"Starlight is a mighty queer time to see things in."

"Some things look better by starlight," answered Emma; "but we stayed
longer than we ought to, for I have got a severe headache and must go
immediately to bed."

"Have some tea first," said grandmother.

"And some strawberries and cream," repeated Sally; but Emma declined
both and went at once to her room.

Mr. Ashmore did not come home until late that night, for I was awake
and heard him stumbling up-stairs in the dark. I remember, too, of
having experienced the very benevolent wish that he would break his
neck! As I expected, Emma did not make her appearance at the breakfast
table, but about ten she came down to the parlor and asked to see Mr.
Ashmore alone. Of what occurred during that interval I never knew,
except that at its close cousin looked very white, and Mr. Ashmore
very black, notwithstanding which he soon took his accustomed walk to
Captain Howard's. He was gone about three hours, and on his return
announced his intention of going to Boston in the afternoon train. No
one opposed him, for all were glad to have him go.

Just before he left, grandmother, who knew all was not right, said to
him: "Young man, I wish you well; but mind what I say, you'll get your
pay yet for the capers you've cut here."

"I beg your pardon, madam," he returned, with much more emphasis on
_madam_ than was at all necessary, "I beg your pardon, but I think she
has cut the capers; at least she dismissed me of her own accord."

I thought of what I had heard, but 'twas a secret, so I kept it
safely, although I almost bit my tongue off in my zealous efforts.
After Ashmore was gone, Emma, who had taken a violent cold the evening
before, took her bed, and was slightly ill for nearly a week. Almost
every day Mr. Evelyn called to see how she was, always bringing her a
fresh bouquet of flowers. On Thursday, Carrie called, bringing Emma
some ice-cream which Aunt Eunice had made. She did not ask to see her,
but before she left she asked Anna if she did not wish to buy her old
piano.

"What will you do without it?" asked Anna.

"Oh," said Carrie, "I cannot use two. I have got a new one."

The stocking dropped from grandmother's hand as she exclaimed: "What
is the world a-comin' to! Got two pianners! Where'd you get 'em?"

"My new one was a present, and came from Boston," answered Carrie,
with the utmost _sang froid_.

"You don't say Ashmore sent it to you! How much did it cost?" asked
grandma.

"Mr. Ashmore wrote that it cost three hundred and fifty dollars," was
Carrie's reply.

Grandmother was perfectly horror-stricken; but desirous of making
Carrie feel as comfortable as possible, she said, "S'posin somebody
should tell him about Penoyer?"

For an instant Carrie turned pale, as she said quickly, "What does any
one know about him to tell?"

"A great deal--more than you think they do--yes, a great deal," was
grandma's answer.

After that Carrie came _very_ frequently to see us, always bringing
something nice for Emma _or grandma_!

Meanwhile Mr. Evelyn's visits continued, and when at last Emma could
see him I was sure that she received him more kindly than she ever had
before. "That'll go yet," was grandma's prediction. But her scheming
was cut short by a letter from Emma's father, requesting her immediate
return. Mr. Evelyn, who found he had business which required his
presence in Worcester, was to accompany her thus far. It was a sad day
when she left us, for she was a universal favorite. Sally cried, I
cried, and Bill either cried or made believe, for he very
industriously wiped his eyes and nasal organ on his shirt sleeves:
besides that, things went on wrong side up generally. Grandma was
cross--Sally was cross--and the school-teacher was cross; the bucket
fell into the well, and the cows got into the corn. I got called up at
school and set with some hateful boys, one of whom amused himself by
pricking me with a pin, and when, in self-defense, I gave him a good
pinch, he actually yelled out: "She keeps a-pinchin' me!" On the
whole, 'twas a dreadful day, and when at night I threw myself
exhausted upon my little bed I cried myself to sleep, thinking of
Cousin Emma and wishing she would come back.




CHAPTER VI.

MIKE AND SALLY.


I have spoken of Sally, but have said nothing of Mike, whom, of all my
father's hired men, I liked the best. He it was who made the best
cornstalk fiddles, and whittled out the shrillest whistles with which
to drive grandma "ravin' distracted." He, too, it was who, on cold
winter mornings, carried Lizzie to school in his arms, making me
forget how my fingers ached, by telling some exploit of _his_
schooldays.

I do not wonder that Sally liked him, and I always had an idea how
that liking would end, but did not think it would be so soon.
Consequently I suspected nothing when Sally's white dress was bleached
on the grass in the clothesyard for nearly a week. One day Billy came
to me with a face full of wonder, saying he had just overheard Mike
tell one of the men that he and Sally were going to be married in a
few weeks.

I knew now what all that bleaching was for, and why Sally bought so
much cotton lace of pedlers. I was in ecstasies, too, for I had never
seen anyone married, but regretted the circumstance, whatever it might
have been, which prevented me from being present at mother's marriage.
Like many other children I have been deceived into the belief that the
marriage ceremony consisted mainly in leaping the broomstick, and by
myself I had frequently tried the experiment, delighted to find that I
could jump it at almost any distance from the ground; but I had some
misgivings as to Sally's ability to clear the stick, for she was
rather clumsy; however, I should see the fun, for they were to be
married at our house.

A week before the time appointed mother was taken very ill, which
made it necessary that the wedding should be postponed, or take place
somewhere else. To the first Mike would not hear, and as good old
Parson S----, whose sermons were never more than two hours long, came
regularly every Sunday night to preach in the schoolhouse, Mike
proposed that they be married there. Sally did not like this exactly,
but grandmother, who now ruled the household, said it was just the
thing, and accordingly it took place there.

The house was filled full, and those who could not obtain seats took
their station near the windows. Our party was early, but I was three
times compelled to relinquish my seat in favor of more distinguished
persons, and I began to think that if any one was obliged to go home
for want of room, it would be me; but I resolutely determined not to
go. I'd climb the chestnut tree first! At last I was squeezed on a
high desk between two old ladies, wearing two old black bonnets, their
breath sufficiently tinctured with tobacco smoke to be very
disagreeable to me, whose olfactories chanced to be rather
aristocratic than otherwise.

To my horror Father S---- concluded to give us the sermon before he
did the bride. He was afraid some of his audience would leave.
Accordingly there ensued a prayer half an hour long, after which eight
verses of a long meter psalm were sung to the tune of Windham. By this
time I gave a slight sign to the two old ladies that I would like to
move, but they merely shook their two black bonnets at me, telling me,
in fierce whispers, that "I mustn't stir in meetin'." Mustn't stir! I
wonder how I could stir, squeezed in as I was, unless they chose to
let me. So I sat bolt upright, looking straight ahead at a point where
the tips of my red shoes were visible, for my feet were sticking
straight out.

All at once my attention was drawn to a spider on the wall, who was
laying a net for a fly, and in watching his maneuvers I forgot the
lapse of time, until Father S---- had passed his sixthly and
seventhly, and was driving furiously away at the eighthly. By this
time the spider had caught the fly, whose cries sounded to me like
the waters of the sawmill; the tips of my red shoes looked like the
red berries which grew near the mine; the two old ladies at my side
were transformed into two tall black walnut trees, while I seemed to
be sliding down-hill.

At this juncture, one of the old ladies moved away from me a foot at
least (she could have done so before had she chosen to), and I was
precipitated off from the bench, striking my head on the sharp corner
of a seat below. It was a dreadful blow which I received, making the
blood gush from my nostrils. My loud screams brought matters to a
focus, and the sermon to an end. My grandmother and one of the old
ladies took me and the water pail outdoors, where I was literally
deluged; at the same time they called me "Poor girl! Poor Mollie!
Little dear," etc.

But while they were attending to my bumped head Mike and Sally were
married, and I didn't see it after all! 'Twas too bad!




CHAPTER VII.

THE BRIDE.


After Sally's marriage there occurred at our house an interval of
quiet, enlivened occasionally by letters from Cousin Emma, whose
health was not as much improved by her visit to the country as she had
at first hoped it would be; consequently she proposed spending the
winter south. Meantime, from Boston letters came frequently to Carrie
Howard, and as the autumn advanced, things within and about her
father's house foretold some unusual event. Two dressmakers were hired
from the village, and it was stated, on good authority, that among
Carrie's wardrobe was a white satin and an elegantly embroidered
merino traveling-dress.

Numerous were the surmises of Juliet and Anna as to who and how many
would be invited to the wedding. All misgivings concerning themselves
were happily brought to an end a week before the time, for there came
to our house handsome cards of invitation for Juliet and Anna, and--I
could scarcely believe my eyes--there was one for me too. For this I
was indebted to Aunt Eunice, who had heard of and commiserated my
misfortunes at Sally's wedding.

I was sorry that my invitation came so soon, for I had but little hope
that the time would ever come. It did, however, and so did Mr. Ashmore
and Agnes. As soon as dinner was over I commenced my toilet, although
the wedding was not to take place until eight that evening; but then I
believed, as I do now, in being ready in season. Oh, how slowly the
hours passed, and at last in perfect despair I watched my opportunity
to set the clock forward when no one saw me. For this purpose I put
the footstool in a chair, and mounting, was about to move the long
hand, when--

But I always was the most unfortunate of mortals, so it was no wonder
that at this point the chair slipped, the stool slipped, and I
slipped. I caught at the clock to save myself; consequently both clock
and I came to the floor with a terrible crash. My first thought was
for the hooks and eyes, which undoubtedly were scattered with the
fragments of the clock, but fortunately every hook was in its place,
and only one eye was straightened. I draw a veil over the scolding
which I got, and the numerous threats that I should stay at home.

As the clock was broken we had no means for judging of the time, and
thus we were among the first who arrived at Captain Howard's. This
gave Juliet and Anna an opportunity of telling Agnes of my mishap. She
laughed heartily, and then immediately changing the subject she
inquired after Cousin Emma, and when we had heard from her. After
replying to these questions Anna asked Agnes about Penoyer, and when
she had seen him.

"Don't mention it," said Agnes, "but I have a suspicion that he
stopped yesterday at the depot when I did. I may have been mistaken,
for I was looking after my baggage and only caught a glimpse of him.
If it were he his presence bodes no good."

"Have you told Carrie?" asked Juliet.

"No, I have not. She seems so nervous whenever he is mentioned," was
Agnes' reply.

I thought of the obligations once referred to by Agnes, and felt that
I should breathe more freely when Carrie really was married. Other
guests now began to arrive, and we who had fixed long enough before
the looking-glass repaired to the parlor below. Bill, who saw Sally
married, had convinced me that the story of the broomstick was a
falsehood, so I was prepared for its absence, but I wondered then, not
more than I do now, why grown-up people shouldn't be whipped for
telling untruths to children as well as children for telling untruths
to grown-up people.

The parlor was now rapidly filling, and I was in great danger of being
thrust into the corner, where I could see nothing, when Aunt Eunice
very benevolently drew me near her, saying I should see if no one else
did. At last Mr. Ashmore and Carrie came. Anna can tell you exactly
what she wore, but I cannot. I only know that she looked most
beautifully, though I have a vague recollection of fancying that in
the making of her dress the sleeves were forgotten entirely, and the
neck nearly so.

The marriage ceremony commenced, and I listened breathlessly, but this
did not prevent me from hearing some one enter the house by the
kitchen door. Aunt Eunice heard it, too, and when the minister began
to say something about Mrs. Ashmore she arose and went out. Something
had just commenced, I think they called them congratulations, when the
crowd around the door began to huddle together in order to make room
for some person to enter. I looked up and saw Penoyer, his glittering
teeth now partially disclosed, looking a very little fiendish, I
thought. Carrie saw him, too, and instantly turned as white as the
satin dress she wore, while Agnes, who seemed to have some suspicion
of his errand, exclaimed, "Impudent scoundrel!" At the same time
advancing forward, she laid her hand upon his arm.

He shook it off lightly, saying, "_Pardonnez moi, ma chere_; I've no
come to trouble you." Then turning to Ashmore he said, pointing to
Carrie, "She be your wife, I take it?"

"Yes, sir," replied Ashmore haughtily. "Have you any objections? If so
they have come too late."

"Not von, not in the least, no sar," said the Frenchman, bowing nearly
to the floor. "It give me one grand plaisir; so now you will please
settle von leetle bill I have against her;" at the same time he drew
from his pocket a sheet of half-worn paper.

Carrie, who was leaning heavily against Mr. Ashmore instantly sprang
forward and endeavored to snatch the paper, saying half-imploringly,
"Don't, Penoyer, you know my father will pay it."

But Penoyer passed it to Mr. Ashmore, while Captain Howard, coming
forward, said, "Pay what? What is all this about?"

"Only a trifle," said Penoyer; "just a bill for giving your daughter
musique lessons three years in Albany."

"You give my daughter music lessons?" demanded Captain Howard.

"_Oui_, monsieur, I do that same thing," answered Penoyer.

"Oh, Carrie, Carrie," said Captain Howard, in his surprise forgetting
the time and place, "why did you tell me that your knowledge of music
you acquired yourself, with the assistance of your cousin, and a
little help from her music teacher; and why, when this man was here a
few months ago, did you not tell me he was your music teacher and had
not been paid?"

Bursting into tears Carrie answered, "Forgive me, father, but he said
he had no bill against me; he made no charge."

"But she gave me von big, large mitten," said the Frenchman, "when she
see this man, who has more l'argent; but no difference, no difference,
sar, this gentleman," bowing toward Ashmore, "parfaitement delighted
to pay it."

Whether he were delighted or not, he did pay it, for drawing from his
pocket his purse, while his large black eyes emitted gleams of fire,
he counted out the required amount, one hundred and twenty-five
dollars; then confronting Penoyer, he said fiercely, "Give me a
receipt for this instantly, after which I will take it upon me to show
you the door."

"Certainement, certainement, all I want is my l'argent," said Penoyer.

The money was paid, the receipt given, and then, as Penoyer hesitated
a moment, Ashmore said, "Are you waiting to be helped out, sir?"

"No, monsieur, si vous plait, I have tree letters from madam, which
will give you one grande satisfaction to read." Then tossing toward
Ashmore the letters, with a malicious smile he left the house.

Poor Carrie! When sure that he was gone she fainted away and was
carried from the room. At supper, however, she made her appearance,
and after that was over the guests, unopposed, left _en masse_.

What effect Penoyer's disclosures had on Ashmore we never exactly
knew, but when, a few days before the young couple left home, they
called at our house, we all fancied that Carrie was looking more
thoughtful than usual, while a cloud seemed to be resting on Ashmore's
brow. The week following their marriage they left for New York, where
they were going to reside. During the winter Carrie wrote home
frequently, giving accounts of the many gay and fashionable parties
which she attended, and once in a letter to Anna she wrote, "The
flattering attentions which I receive have more than, once made
Ashmore jealous."

Two years from the time they were married Mrs. Ashmore was brought
back to her home a pale, faded invalid, worn out by constant
dissipation and the care of a sickly baby, so poor and blue that even
I couldn't bear to touch it. Three days after their arrival Mr. Evelyn
brought to us his bride, Cousin Emma, blooming with health and beauty.
I could scarcely believe that the exceedingly beautiful Mrs. Evelyn
was the same white-faced girl who, two years before, had sat with me
beneath the old grapevine.

The day after she came I went with her to visit Carrie, who, the
physicians said, was in a decline. I had not seen her before since her
return, and on entering the sick-room, I was as much surprised at her
haggard face, sunken eyes, and sallow skin, as was Mr. Ashmore at the
appearance of Emma. "Is it possible," said he, coming forward, "is it
possible, Emma--Mrs. Evelyn, that you have entirely recovered?"

I remembered what he had once said about "invalid wives," and I feared
that the comparison he was evidently making would not be very
favorable toward Carrie. We afterward learned, however, that he was
the kindest of husbands, frequently walking half the night with his
crying baby, and at other times trying to soothe his nervous wife, who
was sometimes very irritable.

Before we left Carrie drew Emma closely to her and said, "They tell me
I probably shall never get well, and now, while I have time, I wish to
ask your forgiveness for the great wrong I once did you."

"How? When?" asked Emma quickly, and Carrie contined:

"When first I saw him who is my husband, I determined to leave no
means untried to secure him for myself; I knew you were engaged, but I
fancied that your ill-health annoyed him, and played my part well. You
know how I succeeded, but I am sure you forgive me, for you love Mr.
Evelyn quite as well, perhaps better."

"Yes, far better," was Emma's reply, as she kissed Carrie's wan cheek;
then bidding her good-by she promised to call frequently during her
stay in town. She kept her word, and was often accompanied by Mr.
Evelyn, who strove faithfully and successfully, too, to lead into the
path of peace her whose days were well-nigh ended.

'Twas on one of those bright days in the Indian summer time that
Carrie at last slept the sleep that knows no awakening. The evening
after the burial I went in at Captain Howard's, and all the animosity
I had cherished for Mr. Ashmore vanished when I saw the large tear
drops as they fell on the face of his motherless babe, whose wailing
cries he endeavored in vain to hush. When the first snowflakes came
they fell on a little mound, where by the side of her mother Mr.
Ashmore had laid his baby, Emma.

    Side by side they are sleeping,
      In the grave's dark, dreamless bed;
    While the willow boughs seem weeping,
      As they bend above the dead.

And now, dear reader, after telling you that, yielding to the
importunities of Emma's parents, Mr. Evelyn at last moved to the city,
where, if I mistake not, he is still living, my story is finished. But
do not, I pray you, think that these few pages contain all that I know
of the olden time:

    Oh no, far down in memory's well
      Exhaustless stores remain,
    From which, perchance, some future day
      I'll weave a tale again.




THE GILBERTS; OR, RICE CORNER NUMBER TWO.




CHAPTER I.

THE GILBERTS.


The spring following Carrie Howard's death Rice Corner was thrown into
a commotion by the astounding fact that Captain Howard was going out
West, and had sold his farm to a gentleman from the city, whose wife
"kept six servants, wore silk all the time, never went inside of the
kitchen, never saw a churn, breakfasted at ten, dined at three, and
had supper the next day!"

Such was the story which Mercy Jenkins detailed to us early one Monday
morning, and then, eager to communicate so desirable a piece of news
to others of her acquaintance, she started off, stopping for a moment
as she passed the wash-room to see if Sally's clothes "wan't kinder
dingy and yaller." As soon as she was gone the astonishment of our
household broke forth, grandma wondering why Captain Howard wanted to
go to the ends of the earth, as she designated Chicago, their place of
destination, and what she should do without Aunt Eunice, who, having
been born on grandma's wedding day, was very dear to her, and then her
age was so easy to keep. But the best of friends must part, and when
at Mrs. Howard's last tea-drinking with us I saw how badly they all
felt, and how many tears were shed, I firmly resolved never to like
anybody but my own folks, unless, indeed, I made an exception in favor
of Tom Jenkins, who so often drew me to school on his sled, and who
made such comical-looking jack-o'-lanterns out of the big yellow
pumpkins.

In reply to the numerous questions concerning Mr. Gilbert, the
purchaser of their farm, Mrs. Howard could only reply that he was very
wealthy and had got tired of living in the city; adding, further, that
he wore a "monstrous pair of musquitoes," had an evil-looking eye,
four children, smoked cigars, and was a lawyer by profession. This
last was all grandma wanted to know about him--"that told the whole
story," for there never was but _one_ decent lawyer, and that was Mr.
Evelyn, Cousin Emma's husband. Dear old lady! when, a few years ago,
she heard that I, her favorite grandchild, was to marry one of the
craft, she made another exception in his favor, saying that "if he
wasn't all straight, Mary would soon make him so!"

Within a short time after Aunt Eunice's visit she left Rice Corner,
and on the same day wagon-load after wagon-load of Mr. Gilbert's
furniture passed our house, until Sally declared "there was enough to
keep a tavern, and she didn't see nothin' where they's goin to put
it," at the same time announcing her intention of "running down there
after dinner, to see what was going on."

It will be remembered that Sally was now a married woman--"Mrs.
Michael Welsh;" consequently, mother, who lived with her instead of
her living with mother, did not presume to interfere with her much,
though she hinted pretty strongly that she "always liked to see people
mind their own affairs." But Sally was incorrigible. The dinner dishes
were washed with a whew, I was coaxed into sweeping the back
room--which I did, leaving the dirt under the broom behind the
door--while Mrs. Welsh, donning a pink calico, blue shawl, and bonnet
trimmed with dark green, started off on her prying excursion,
stopping by the roadside where Mike was making fence, and keeping him,
as grandma said, "full half an hour by the clock from his work."

Not long after Sally's departure a handsome carriage, drawn by two
fine bay horses, passed our house; and as the windows were down we
could plainly discern a pale, delicate-looking lady, wrapped in
shawls, a tall, stylish-looking girl, another one about my own age and
two beautiful little boys.

"That's the Gilberts, I know," said Anna. "Oh I'm so glad Sally's
gone, for now we shall have the full particulars;" and again we waited
as impatiently for Sally's return as we had once done before for
grandma.

At last, to our great relief, the green ribbons and blue shawl were
descried in the distance, and ere long Sally was with us, ejaculating,
"Oh, my--mercy me!" etc., thus giving us an inkling of what was to
follow. "Of all the sights that ever I have seen," said she, folding
up the blue shawl, and smoothing down the pink calico. "There's
carpeting enough to cover every crack and crevice--all pure bristles,
too!"

Here I tittered, whereupon Sally angrily retorted, that "she guessed
she knew how to talk proper, if she hadn't studied grarmar."

"Never mind," said Anna, "go on; brussels carpeting and what else?"

"Mercy knows what else," answered Sally. "I can't begin to guess the
names of half the things. There's mahogany, rosewood, and marble
fixin's--and in Miss Gilbert's room there's lace curtains and silk
damson ones--"

A look from Anna restrained me this time, and Sally continued.

"Mercy Jenkins is there, helpin', and she says Mr. Gilbert told 'em,
his wife never et a piece of salt pork in her life, and knew no more
how bread was made than a child two years old."

"What a simple critter she must be," said grandma, while Anna asked
if she saw Mrs. Gilbert, and if that tall girl was her daughter.

"Yes, I seen her," answered Sally, "and I guess she's weakly, for the
minit she got into the house she lay down on the sofa, which Mr.
Gilbert says cost seventy-five dollars. That tall, proud-lookin' thing
they call Miss Adaline, but I'll warrant you don't catch me puttin' on
the miss. I called her Adaline, and you had orto seen how her big eyes
looked at me. Says she, at last, 'Are you one of pa's new servants?"

"'Servants!' says I, 'no indeed; I'm Mrs. Michael Welsh, one of your
nighest neighbors.'

"Then I told her that there were two nice girls lived in the house
with me, and she'd better get acquainted with 'em right away; and then
with the hatefulest of all hateful laughs, she asked if 'they wore
glass beads and went barefoot.'"

I fancied that neither Juliet nor Anna were greatly pleased at being
introduced by Sally, the housemaid, to the elegant Adaline Gilbert,
who had come to the country with anything but a favorable impression
of its inhabitants. The second daughter, the one about my own age,
Sally said they called Nellie; "and a nice, clever creature she is,
too--not a bit stuck up like t'other one. Why, I do believe she'd
walked every big beam in the barn before she'd been there half an
hour, and the last I saw of her she was coaxing a cow to lie still
while she got upon her back!"

How my heart warmed toward the romping Nellie, and how I wondered if
after that beam-walking exploit her hooks and eyes were all in their
places! The two little boys, Sally said, were twins, Edward and
Egbert, or, as they were familiarly called, Bert and Eddie. This was
nearly all she had learned, if we except the fact that the family ate
with silver forks, and drank wine after dinner. This last, mother
pronounced heterodox, while I, who dearly loved the juice of the grape
and sometimes left finger marks on the top shelf, whither I had
climbed for a sip from grandma's decanter, secretly hoped I should
some day dine with Nellie Gilbert, and drink all the wine I wanted,
thinking how many times I'd rinse my mouth so mother shouldn't smell
my breath!

In the course of a few weeks the affairs of the Gilbert family were
pretty generally canvassed in Rice Corner, Mercy Jenkins giving it as
her opinion that "Miss Gilbert was much the likeliest of the two, and
that Mr. Gilbert was cross, overbearing, and big feeling."




CHAPTER II.

NELLIE.


As yet I had only seen Nellie in the distance, and was about
despairing of making her acquaintance when accident threw her in my
way. Directly opposite our house, and just across along green meadow,
was a piece of woods which belonged to Mr. Gilbert, and there, one
afternoon early in May, I saw Nellie. I had seen her there before, but
never dared approach her; and now I divided my time between watching
her and a dense black cloud which had appeared in the west, and was
fast approaching the zenith. I was just thinking how nice it would be
if the rain should drive her to our house for shelter, when patter,
patter came the large drops in my face; thicker and faster they fell,
until it seemed like a perfect deluge; and through the almost blinding
sheet of rain I descried Nellie coming toward me at a furious rate.
With the agility of a fawn she bounded over the gate, and with the
exclamation of, "Ain't I wetter than a drownded rat?" we were
perfectly well acquainted.

It took but a short time to divest her of her dripping garments, and
array her in some of mine, which Sally said "fitted her to a T,"
though I fancied she looked sadly out of place in my linen pantalets
and long-sleeved dress. She was a great lover of fun and frolic, and
in less than half an hour had "ridden to Boston" on Joe's
rocking-horse, turned the little wheel faster than even I dared to
turn it, tried on grandma's stays, and then, as a crowning feat, tried
the rather dangerous experiment of riding down the garret stairs on a
board! The clatter brought up grandma, and I felt some doubts about
her relishing a kind of play which savored so much of what she called
"a racket," but the soft brown eyes which looked at her so pleadingly
were too full of love, gentleness, and mischief to be resisted, and
permission for "one more ride" was given, "provided she'd promise not
to break her neck."

Oh, what fun we had that afternoon! What a big rent she tore in my
gingham frock, and what a "dear, delightful old haunted castle of a
thing" she pronounced our house to be. Darling, darling Nellie! I shut
my eyes and she comes before me again, the same bright beautiful
creature she was when I saw her first, as she was when I saw her for
the last, last time.

It rained until dark, and Nellie, who confidently expected to stay all
night, had whispered to me her intention of "tying our toes together,"
when there came a tremendous rap upon the door, and without waiting to
be bidden in walked Mr. Gilbert, puffing and swelling, and making
himself perfectly at home, in a kind of offhand manner, which had in
it so much of condescension that I was disgusted, and when sure Nellie
would not see me I made at him a wry face, thereby feeling greatly
relieved!

After managing to let mother know how expensive his family was, how
much he paid yearly for wines and cigars, and how much Adaline's
education and piano had cost, he arose to go, saying to his daughter,
"Come, puss, take off those--ahem--those habiliments, and let's be
off!"

Nellie obeyed, and just before she was ready to start she asked, when
I would come and spend the day with her.

I looked at mother, mother looked at Mr. Gilbert, Mr. Gilbert looked
at me, and after surveying me from head to foot said, spitting between
every other word, "Ye-es ye-es, we've come to live in the country, and
I suppose" (here he spit three successive times), "and I suppose we
may as well be on friendly terms as any other; so, madam" (turning to
mother), "I am willing to have your little daughter visit us
ocasionally." Then adding that "he would extend the same invitation to
her were it not that his wife was an invalid and saw no company," he
departed.

One morning, several days afterward, a servant brought to our house a
neat little note from Mrs. Gilbert, asking mother to let me spend the
day with Nellie. After some consultation between mother and grandma,
it was decided that I might go, and in less than an hour I was dressed
and on the road, my hair braided so tightly in my neck that the little
red bumps of flesh set up here and there, like currants on a brown
earthen platter.

Nellie did not wait to receive me formally, but came running down the
road, telling me that Robin had made a swing in the barn, and that we
would play there most all day, as her mother was sick, and Adaline,
who occupied two-thirds of the house, wouldn't let us come near her.
This Adaline was to me a very formidable personage. Hitherto I had
only caught glimpses of her, as with long skirts and waving plumes she
sometimes dashed past our house on horseback, and it was with great
trepidation that I now followed Nellie into the parlor, where she told
me her sister was.

"Adaline, this is my little friend," said she; and Adaline replied:

"How do you do, little friend?"

My cheeks tingled, and for the first time raising my eyes I found
myself face to face with the haughty belle. She was very tall and
queenlike in her figure, and though she could hardly be called
handsome, there was about her an air of elegance and refinement which
partially compensated for the absence of beauty. That she was proud
one could see from the glance of her large black eyes and the curl of
her lip. Coolly surveying me for a moment, as she would any other
curious specimen, she resumed her book, never speaking to me again,
except to ask, when she saw me gazing wonderingly around the
splendidly-furnished room, "if I supposed I could remember every
article of furniture, and give a faithful report."

I thought I was insulted when she called me "little friend," and now,
feeling sure of it, I tartly replied that "if I couldn't she perhaps
might lend me paper and pencil, with which to write them down."

"Orginally, truly," said she, again poring over her book.

Nellie, who had left me for a moment, now returned, bidding me come
and see her mother, and passing through the long hall, I was soon in
Mrs. Gilbert's room, which was as tastefully, though perhaps not quite
so richly, furnished as the parlor. Mrs. Gilbert was lying upon a
sofa, and the moment I looked upon her the love which I had so freely
given the daughter was shared with the mother, in whose pale sweet
face, and soft brown eyes, I saw a strong resemblance to Nellie. She
was attired in a rose-colored morning-gown, which flowed open in
front, disclosing to view a larger quantity of rich French embroidery
than I had ever before seen.

Many times during the day, and many times since, have I wondered what
made her marry, and if she really loved the bearish-looking man who
occasionally stalked into the room, smoking cigars and talking very
loudly, when he knew how her head was throbbing with pain.

I had eaten but little breakfast that morning, and verily I thought I
should famish before their dinner hour arrived; and when at last it
came, and I saw the table glittering with silver, I felt many
misgivings as to my ability to acquit myself creditably. But by dint
of watching Nellie, doing just what she did, and refusing just what
she refused, I managed to get through with it tolerably well. For
once, too, in my life I drank all the wine I wanted; the result of
which was that long before sunset I went home, crying and vomiting
with the sick headache, which Sally said "served me right;" at the
same time hinting her belief that I was slightly intoxicated!




CHAPTER III.

THE HAUNTED HOUSE.


Down our long, green lane, and at the further extremity of the narrow
footpath which led to the "old mine," was another path or wagon road
which wound along among the fern bushes, under the chestnut trees,
across the hemlock swamp, and up, to a grassy ridge which overlooked a
small pond, said, of course, to have no bottom. Fully crediting this
story, and knowing, moreover, that China was opposite to us, I have
often taken down my atlas and hunted through that ancient empire, in
hopes of finding a corresponding sheet of water. Failing to do so I
had made one with my pencil, writing against it, "Cranberry Pond,"
that being the name of its American brother.

Just above the pond on the grassy ridge stood an old, dilapidated
building which had long borne the name of the "haunted house." I never
knew whether this title was given it on account of its proximity to
the "old mine," or because it stood near the very spot where, years
and years ago, the "bloody Indians" pushed those cart-loads of burning
hemp against the doors "of the only remaining house in Quaboag"--for
which see Goodrich's Child's History, page--, somewhere toward the
commencement. I only know that 'twas called the "haunted house," and
that for a long time no one would live there, on account of the
rapping, dancing, and cutting up generally which was said to prevail,
there particularly in the west room, the one overhung with ivy and
grapevines.

Three or four years before our story opens a widow lady, Mrs. Hudson,
with her only daughter, Mabel, appeared in our neighborhood, hiring
the "haunted house," and, in spite of the neighbors' predictions to
the contrary, living there quietly and peaceably, unharmed by ghost or
goblin. At first Mrs. Hudson was looked upon with distrust, and even a
league with a certain old fellow was hinted at; but as she seemed to
be well disposed, kind, and affable toward all, this feeling gradually
wore away, and now she was universally liked, while Mabel, her
daughter, was a general favorite. For two years past, Mabel had worked
in the Fiskdale factory a portion of the time, going to school the
remainder of the year. She was fitting herself for a teacher, and as
the school in our district was small, the trustees had this summer
kindly offered it to her. This arrangement delighted me; for, next to
Nellie Gilbert, I loved Mabel Hudson best of anybody; and I fancied,
too, that they looked alike, but of course it was all fancy.

Mrs. Hudson was a tailoress, and the day following my visit to Mr.
Gilbert's I was sent by mother to take her some work. I found her in
the little porch, her white cap-border falling over her placid face,
and her wide checked apron coming nearly to the bottom of her dress.
Mabel was there, too, and as she arose to receive me something about
her reminded me of Adaline Gilbert. I could not tell what it was, for
Mabel was very beautiful, and beside her Adaline would be plain; still
there was a resemblance, either in voice or manner, and this it was,
perhaps, which made me so soon mention the Gilberts and my visit to
them the day previous.

Instantly Mrs. Hudson and Mabel exchanged glances, and I thought the
face of the former grew a shade paler; still I may have been mistaken,
for in her usual tone of voice she began to ask me numberless
questions concerning the family, which seemed singular, as she was not
remarkable for curiosity. But it suited me. I loved to talk then not
less than I do now, and in a few minutes I had told all I knew--and
more, too, most likely.

At last Mrs. Hudson asked about Mr. Gilbert, and how I liked him.

"Not a bit," said I. "He's the hatefulest, crossest, big-feelingest
man I ever saw, and Adaline is just like him!"

Had I been a little older I might, perhaps, have wondered at the
crimson flush which my hasty words brought to Mrs. Hudson's cheek, but
I did not notice it then, and thinking she was, of course, highly
entertained, I continued to talk about Mr. Gilbert and Adaline, in the
last of whom Mabel seemed the most interested. Of Nellie I spoke with
the utmost affection, and when Mrs. Hudson expressed a wish to see
her, I promised, if possible, to bring her there; then as I had
already outstayed the time for which permission had been given, I tied
on my sunbonnet and started for home, revolving the ways and means by
which I should keep my promise.

This proved to be a very easy matter; for within a few days Nellie
came to return my visit, and as mother had other company she the more
readily gave us permission to go where we pleased. Nellie had a
perfect passion for ghost and witch stories, saying though that "she
never liked to have them explained--she'd rather they'd be left in
solemn mystery;" so when I told her of the "old mine" and the "haunted
house" she immediately expressed a desire to see them. Hiding our
bonnets under our aprons the better to conceal our intentions from
sister Lizzie, who, we fancied, had serious thoughts of _tagging_, we
sent her up-stairs in quest of something which we knew was not there,
and then away we scampered down the green lane and across the pasture,
dropping once into some alders as Lizzie's yellow hair became visible
on the fence at the foot of the lane. Our consciences smote us a
little, but we kept still until she returned to the house; then,
continuing our way, we soon came in sight of the mine, which Nellie
determined to explore.

It was in vain that I tried to dissuade her from the attempt. She was
resolved, and stationing myself at a safe distance I waited while she
scrambled over stones, sticks, logs, and bushes, until she finally
disappeared in the cave. Ere long, however, she returned with soiled
pantalets, torn apron, and scratched face, saying that "the mine was
nothing in the world but a hole in the ground, and a mighty little one
at that." After this I didn't know but I would sometime venture in,
but for fear of what might happen I concluded to choose a time when I
hadn't run away from Liz!

When I presented Nellie to Mrs. Hudson she took both her hands in
hers, and, greatly to my surprise, kissed her on both cheeks. Then she
walked hastily into the next room, but not until I saw something fall
from her eyes, which I am sure were tears.

"Funny, isn't it?" said Nellie, looking wonderingly at me. "I don't
know whether to laugh or what."

Mabel now came in, and though she manifested no particular emotion,
she was exceedingly kind to Nellie, asking her many questions, and
sometimes smoothing her brown curls. When Mrs. Hudson again appeared
she was very calm, but I noticed that her eyes constantly rested upon
Nellie, who, with Mabel's gray kitten in her lap, was seated upon the
doorstep, the very image of childish innocence and beauty. Mrs. Hudson
urged us to stay to tea but I declined, knowing that there was company
at home, with three kinds of cake, besides cookies, for supper. So
bidding her good-by, and promising to come again, we started homeward,
where we found the ladies discussing their green tea and making large
inroads upon the three kinds of cake.

One of them, a Mrs. Thompson, was gifted with the art of
fortune-telling, by means of tea-grounds, and when Nellie and I took
our seats at the table she kindly offered to see what was in store for
us. She had frequently told my fortune, each time managing to fish up
a freckle-faced boy so nearly resembling her grandson, my particular
aversion, that I didn't care to hear it again. But with Nellie 'twas
all new, and after a great whirling of tea-grounds and staining of
mother's best table-cloth, she passed her cup to Mrs. Thompson,
confidently whispering to me that she guessed she'd tell her something
about Willie Raymond, who lived in the city, and who gave her the
little cornelian ring which she wore. With the utmost gravity Mrs.
Thompson read off the past and present, and then peering far into the
future she suddenly exclaimed, "Oh, my! there's a gulf, or something,
before you, and you are going to tumble into it headlong; don't ask me
anything more."

I never did and never shall believe in fortune-telling, much less in
Granny Thompson's "turned-up cups," but years after I thought of her
prediction with regard to Nellie. Poor, poor Nellie!




CHAPTER IV.

JEALOUSY.


On the first Monday in June our school commenced, and long before
breakfast Lizzie and I were dressed and had turned inside out the
little cupboard over the fireplace where our books were kept during
vacation. Breakfast being over we deposited in our dinner-basket the
whole of a custard pie, and were about starting off when mother said
"we shouldn't go a step until half-past eight," adding further, that
"we must put that pie back, for 'twas one she'd saved for their own
dinner."

Lizzie pouted, while I cried, and taking my bonnet I repaired to the
"great rock," where the sassafras, blackberries, and blacksnakes grew.
Here I sat for a long time, thinking if I ever did grow up and get
married (I was sure of the latter), I'd have all the custard pie I
could eat for once! In the midst of my reverie a footstep sounded
near, and looking up I saw before me Nellie Gilbert, with her satchel
of books on her arm, and her sunbonnet hanging down her back, after
the fashion in which I usually wore mine. In reply to my look of
inquiry she said her father had concluded to let her go to the
district school, though he didn't expect her to learn anything but
"slang terms and ill manners."

By this time it was half-past eight, and together with Lizzie we
repaired to the schoolhouse, where we found assembled a dozen girls
and as many boys, among whom was Tom Jenkins. Tom was a great admirer
of beauty, and hence I could never account for the preference he had
hitherto shown for me, who my brothers called "bung-eyed" and Sally
"raw-boned." He, however, didn't think so. My eyes, he said, were none
too large, and many a night had he carried home my books for me, and
many a morning had he brought me nuts and raisins, to say nothing of
the time when I found in my desk a little note, which said--But
everybody who's been to school, knows what it said!

Taking it all round we were as good as engaged; so you can judge what
my feelings were when, before the night of Nellie's first day at
school, I saw Tom Jenkins giving her an orange which I had every
reason to think was originally intended for me! I knew very well that
Nellie's brown curls and eyes had done the mischief; and though I did
not love her the less, I blamed him the more for his fickleness, for
only a week before he had praised my eyes, calling them a "beautiful
indigo blue," and all that. I was highly incensed, and when on our way
from school he tried to speak good-humoredly, I said, "I'd thank you
to let me alone! I don't like you, and never did!"

He looked sorry for a minute, but soon forgot it all in talking to
Nellie, who after he had left us said "he was a cleverish kind of boy,
though he couldn't begin with William Raymond." After that I was very
cool toward Tom, who attached himself more and more to Nellie, saying
"she had the handsomest eyes he ever saw;" and, indeed, I think it
chiefly owing to those soft, brown, dreamy eyes that I am not now
"Mrs. Tom Jenkins of Jenkinsville," a place way out West, whither Tom
and his mother have migrated.

One day Nellie was later at school than usual, giving as a reason that
their folks had company--a Mr. Sherwood and his mother, from Hartford;
and adding that if I'd never tell anybody as long as I lived and
breathed she'd tell me something.

Of course I promised, and Nellie told me how she guessed that Mr.
Sherwood, who was rich and handsome, liked Adaline. "Anyway, Adaline
likes him," said she, "and oh, she's so nice and good when he's
around. I ain't 'Nell, you hateful thing' then, but I'm 'Sister
Nellie.' They are going to ride this morning, and perhaps they'll go
by here. There they are, now!" and looking toward the road I saw Mr.
Sherwood and Adaline Gilbert on horseback, riding leisurely past the
schoolhouse. She was nodding to Nellie, but he was looking intently at
Mabel, who was sitting near the window. I know he asked Adaline
something about her, for I distinctly heard a part of her reply--"a
poor factory girl," and Adaline's head tossed scornfully, as if that
were a sufficient reason why Mabel should be despised.

Mr. Sherwood evidently did not think so, for the next day he walked by
alone--and the next day he did the same, this time bringing with him a
book, and seating himself in the shadow of a chestnut tree not far
from the schoolhouse. The moment school was out, he arose and came
forward, inquiring for Nellie, who, of course, introduced him to
Mabel. The three then walked on together, while Tom Jenkins stayed in
the rear with me, wondering what I wanted to act so for; "couldn't a
feller like more than one girl if he wanted to?"

"Yes, I s'posed a feller could, though I didn't know, nor care!"

Tom made no reply, but whittled away upon a bit of shingle, which
finally assumed the shape of a heart, and which I afterward found in
his desk with the letter "N" written upon it, and then scratched out.
When at last we reached our house Mr. Sherwood asked Nellie "where
that old mine and sawmill were, of which she had told him so much."

"Right on Miss Hudson's way home," said Nellie. "Let's walk along with
her;" and the next moment Mr. Sherwood, Mabel, and Nellie were in the
long, green lane which led down to the sawmill.

Oh, how Adaline stormed when she heard of it, and how sneeringly she
spoke to Mr. Sherwood of the "factory girl," insinuating that the
bloom on her cheek was paint, and the lily on her brow powder! But he
probably did not believe it, for almost every day he passed the
schoolhouse, generally managing to speak with Mabel; and once he went
all the way home with her, staying ever so long, too, for I watched
until 'twas pitch dark, and he hadn't got back yet!

In a day or two he went home, and I thought no more about him, until
Tom, who had been to the post-office, brought Mabel a letter, which
made her turn red and white alternately, until at last she cried. She
was very absent-minded the remainder of that day, letting us do as we
pleased, and never in my life did I have a better time "carrying on"
than I did that afternoon when Mabel received her first letter from
Mr. Sherwood.




CHAPTER V.

NEW RELATIONS.


About six weeks after the close of Mabel's school we were one day
startled with the intelligence that she was going to be married, and
to Mr. Sherwood, too. He had become tired of the fashionable ladies of
his acquaintance, and when he saw how pure and artless Mabel was, he
immediately became interested in her; and at last, overcoming all
feelings of pride, he had offered her his hand, and had been accepted.
At first we could hardly credit the story; but when Mrs. Hudson
herself confirmed it we gave it up, and again I wondered if I should
be invited. All the nicest and best chestnuts which I could find, to
say nothing of the apples and butternuts, I carried to her, not
without my reward either, for when invitations came to us I was
included with the rest. Our family were the only invited guests, and I
felt no fears this time of being hidden by the crowd.

Just before the ceremony commenced there was the sound of a heavy
footstep upon the outer porch, a loud knock at the door, and then into
the room came Mr. Gilbert! He seemed slightly agitated, but not
one-half so much as Mrs. Hudson, who exclaimed, "William, my son, why
are you here?"

"I came to witness my sister's bridal," was the answer; and turning
toward the clergyman, he said, somewhat authoritatively, "Do not delay
for me, sir. Go on."

There was a movement in the next room, and then the bridal party
entered, both starting with surprise as they saw Mr. Gilbert. Very
beautiful did Mabel look as she stood up to take upon herself the
marriage vow, not a syllable of which did one of us hear. We were
thinking of Mr. Gilbert, and the strange words, "my son" and "my
sister."

When it was over, and Mabel was Mrs. Sherwood, Mr. Gilbert approached
Mrs. Hudson, saying, "Come, mother, let me lead you to the bride."

With an impatient gesture she waved him off, and going alone to her
daughter, threw her arms around her neck, sobbing convulsively. There
was an awkward silence, and then Mr. Gilbert, thinking he was called
upon for an explanation, arose, and addressing himself mostly to Mr.
Sherwood, said, "I suppose what has transpired here to-night seems
rather strange, and will undoubtedly furnish the neighborhood with
gossip for more than a week, but they are welcome to canvass, whatever
I do. I can't help it if I was born with an unusual degree of pride,
neither can I help feeling mortified, as I many times did, at my
family, particularly after she," glancing at his mother, "married the
man whose name she bears."

Here Mrs. Hudson lifted up her head, and coming to Mr. Gilbert's side,
stood proudly erect, while he continued: "She would tell you he was a
good man, but I hated him, and swore never to enter the house while he
lived. I went away, took care of myself, grew rich, married into one
of the first families in Hartford, and--and--"

Here he paused, and his mother, continuing the sentence, added, "and
grew ashamed of your own mother, who many a time went without the
comforts of life that you might be educated. You were always a proud,
wayward boy, William, but never did I think you would do as you have
done. You have treated me with utter neglect, never allowing your wife
to see me, and when I once proposed visiting you in Hartford you asked
your brother, now dead, to dissuade me from it, if possible, for you
could not introduce me to your acquaintances as your mother. Never do
you speak of me to your children, who, if they know they have a
grandmother, little dream that she lives within a mile of their
father's dwelling. One of them I have seen, and my heart yearned
toward her as it did toward you when first I took you in my arms, my
first-born baby; and yet, William, I thank Heaven there is in her
sweet face no trace of her father's features. This may sound harsh,
unmotherly, but greatly have I been sinned against, and now, just as a
brighter day is dawning upon me, why have you come here? Say, William,
why?"

By the time Mrs. Hudson had finished, nearly all in the room were
weeping. Mr. Gilbert, however, seemed perfectly indifferent, and with
the most provoking coolness replied, "I came to see my fair sister
married--to congratulate her upon an alliance which will bring us upon
a more equal footing."

"You greatly mistake me, sir," said Mr. Sherwood, turning haughtily
toward Mr. Gilbert, at the same time drawing Mabel nearer to him; "you
greatly mistake me, if, after what I have heard, you think I would
wish for your acquaintance. If my wife, when poor and obscure, was not
worthy of your attention, _you_ certainly are not now worthy of hers,
and it is my request that our intercourse should end here."

Mr. Gilbert muttered something about "extenuating circumstances," and
"the whole not being told," but no one paid him any attention; and at
last, snatching up his hat, he precipitately left the house, I sending
after him a hearty good riddance, and mentally hoping he would measure
his length in the ditch which he must pass on his way across Hemlock
Swamp.

The next morning Mr. and Mrs. Sherwood departed on their bridal tour,
intending on their return to take their mother with them to the city.
Several times during their absence I saw Mr. Gilbert, either going to
or returning from the "haunted house," and I readily guessed he was
trying to talk his mother over, for nothing could be more mortifying
than to be cut by the Sherwoods, who were among the first in Hartford.

Afterward, greatly to my satisfaction, I heard that though,
motherlike, Mrs. Hudson had forgiven her son, Mr. Sherwood ever
treated him with a cool haughtiness, which effectually kept him at a
distance.

Once, indeed, at Mabel's earnest request, Mrs. Gilbert and Nellie were
invited to visit her, and as the former was too feeble to accomplish
the journey, Nellie went alone, staying a long time, and torturing her
sister on her return with a glowing account of the elegantly-furnished
house, of which Adaline had once hoped to be the proud mistress.

For several years after Mabel's departure from Rice Corner nothing
especial occurred in the Gilbert family, except the marriage of
Adaline with a rich bachelor, who must have been many years older than
her father, for he colored his whiskers, wore false teeth and a wig,
besides having, as Nellie declared, a wooden leg! For the truth of
this last I will not vouch, as Nellie's assertion was only founded
upon the fact of her having once looked through the keyhole of his
door, and espied standing by his bed something which looked like a
cork leg, but which might have been a boot! What Adaline saw in him to
like I could never guess. I suppose, however, that she only looked at
his rich gilding, which covered a multitude of defects.

Immediately after the wedding the happy pair started for a two-years'
tour in Europe, where the youthful bride so enraged her bald-headed
lord by flirting with a mustached Frenchman that in a fit of anger the
old man picked up his goods, chattels, and wife, and returned to New
York within three months of his leaving it!




CHAPTER VI.

POOR, POOR NELLIE.


And now, in the closing chapter of this brief sketch of the Gilberts,
I come to the saddest part--the fate of poor Nellie, the dearest
playmate my childhood ever knew, she whom the lapse of years ripened
into a graceful, beautiful girl, loved by everybody, even by Tom
Jenkins, whose boyish affection had grown with his growth and
strengthened with his strength.

And now Nellie was the affianced bride of William Raymond, who had
replaced the little cornelian with the engagement ring. At last the
rumor reached Tom Jenkins, awaking him from the sweetest dream he had
ever known. He could not ask Nellie if it were true, so he came to me;
and when I saw how he grew pale and trembled, I felt that Nellie was
not altogether blameless. But he breathed no word of censure against
her; and when, a year or two afterward, I saw her given to William
Raymond, I knew that the love of two hearts was hers; the one to
cherish and watch over her, the other to love and worship, silently,
secretly, as a miser worships his hidden treasure.

       *       *       *       *       *

The bridal was over. The farewells were over, and Nellie had
gone--gone from the home whose sunlight she had made, and which she
had left forever. Sadly the pale, sick mother wept, and mourned her
absence, listening in vain for the light footfall and soft, ringing
voice she would never hear again.

Three weeks had passed away, and then, far and near the papers teemed
with accounts of the horrible Norwalk catastrophe, which desolated
many a home, and wrung from many a heart its choicest treasure. Side
by side they found them--Nellie and her husband--the light of her
brown eyes quenched forever, and the pulses of his heart still in
death!

I was present when they told the poor invalid of her loss, and even
now I seem to hear the bitter, wailing cry which broke from her white
lips, as she begged them to unsay what they had said, and tell her
Nellie was not dead--that she would come back again.

It could not be. Nellie would never return; and in six weeks' time the
broken-hearted mother was at rest with her child.




THE THANKSGIVING PARTY AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.




CHAPTER I.

NIGHT BEFORE THANKSGIVING.


"Oh, I do hope it will be pleasant to-morrow," said Lizzie Dayton, as
on the night before Thanksgiving she stood at the parlor window,
watching a dense mass of clouds, behind which the sun had lately gone
to his nightly rest.

"I hope so, too," said Lucy, coming forward and joining her sister;
"but then it isn't likely it will be. There has been a big circle
around the moon these three nights, and besides that, I never knew it
fail to storm when I was particularly anxious that it should be
pleasant;" and the indignant beauty pouted very becomingly at the
insult so frequently offered by that most capricious of all things,
the weather.

"Thee shouldn't talk so, Lucy," said Grandma Dayton, who was of Quaker
descent, at the same time holding up between herself and the window
the long stocking which she was knitting. "Doesn't thee know that when
thee is finding fault with the weather thee finds fault with Him who
made the weather?"

"I do wish, grandma," answered Lucy, "that I could ever say anything
which did not furnish you with a text from which to preach me a
sermon."

Grandma did not reply directly to this rather uncivil speech, but,
she continued: "I don't see how the weather will hurt thee, if it's
the party thee is thinking of, for Mr. Graham's is only ten rods or so
from here.

"I'm not afraid I can't go," answered Lucy; "but you know as well as I
that if the wind blows enough to put out a candle, father is so
old-maidish as to think Lizzie and I must wear thick stockings and
dresses, and I shouldn't wonder if he insisted on flannel wrappers!"

"Well," answered grandma, "I think myself it will be very imprudent
for Lizzie, in her present state of health, to expose her neck and
arms. Thy poor marm died with consumption when she wasn't much older
than thee is. Let me see--she was twenty-three the day she died, and
thee was twenty-two in Sep--"

"For heaven's sake, grandmother," interrupted Lucy, "don't continually
remind me of my age, and tell me how much younger mother was when she
was married. I can't help it if I'm twenty-two, and not married or
engaged either. But I will be both before I am a year older."

So saying, she quitted the apartment, and repaired to her own room.

Ere we follow her thither we will introduce both her and her sister to
our readers. Lucy and Lizzie were the only children of Mr. Dayton, a
wealthy, intelligent, and naturally social man, the early death of
whose idolized, beautiful wife had thrown a deep gloom over his
spirits, which time could never entirely dispel. It was now seventeen
years since, a lonely, desolate widower, at the dusky twilight hour he
had drawn closely to his bosom his motherless children, and thought
that but for them he would gladly have lain down by her whose home was
now in heaven. His acquaintances spoke lightly of his grief, saying he
would soon get over it and marry again. They were mistaken, for he
remained single, his widowed mother supplying to his daughters the
place of their lost parent.

In one thing was Mr. Dayton rather peculiar. Owing to the death of
his wife, he had always been in the habit of dictating to his
daughters in various small matters, such as dress, and so forth, about
which fathers seldom trouble themselves. And even now he seemed to
forget that they were children no longer, and often interfered in
their plans in a way exceedingly annoying to Lucy, the eldest of the
girls, who was now twenty-two and was as proud, selfish, and
self-willed as she was handsome and accomplished. Old maids she held
in great abhorrence, and her great object in life was to secure a
wealthy and distinguished husband. Hitherto she had been unsuccessful,
for the right one had not yet appeared. Now, however, a new star was
dawning on her horizon, in the person of Hugh St. Leon, of New
Orleans. His fame had preceded him, and half the village of S---- were
ready to do homage to the proud millionaire, who would make his first
appearance at the Thanksgiving party. This, then, was the reason why
Lucy felt so anxious to be becomingly dressed, for she had resolved
upon a conquest, and she felt sure of success. She knew she was
beautiful. Her companions told her so, her mirror told her so, and her
sweet sister Lizzie told her so more then twenty times a day.

Lizzie was four years younger than her sister, and wholly unlike her,
both in personal appearance and disposition. She had from childhood
evinced a predisposition to the disease which had consigned her mother
to an early grave. On her fair, soft cheek the rose of health had
never bloomed, and in the light which shone from her clear hazel eye,
her fond father read but too clearly "passing away--passing away."

If there was in Lucy Dayton's selfish nature any redeeming quality, it
was that she possessed for her frail young sister a love amounting
almost to adoration. Years before, she had trembled as she thought how
soon the time might come when for her sister's merry voice she would
listen in vain; but as month after month and year after year went by,
and still among them Lizzie stayed, Lucy forgot her fears, and
dreamed not that ere long one chair would be vacant--that Lizzie would
be gone.

Although so much younger than her sister, Lizzie, for more than a
year, had been betrothed to Harry Graham, whom she had known from
childhood. Now, between herself and him the broad Atlantic rolled, nor
would he return until the coming autumn, when, with her father's
consent, Lizzie would be all his own.

    Alas! alas! ere autumn came
      How many hearts were weeping
    For her who 'neath the willow's shade
      Lay sweetly, calmly sleeping.




CHAPTER II.

THANKSGIVING DAY.


Slowly the feeble light of a stormy morning broke over the village of
S----. Lucy's fears had been verified, for Thanksgiving's dawn was
ushered in by a fierce, driving storm. Thickly from the blackened
clouds the feathery flakes had fallen until the earth far and near was
covered by a mass of white, untrodden snow.

Lucy had been awake for a long time, listening to the sad song of the
wind, which swept howling by the casement. At length, with an
impatient frown at the snow which covered the window pane, she turned
on her pillow, and tried again to sleep. Her slumbers, however, were
soon disturbed by her sister, who arose, and putting aside the
curtain, looked out upon the storm, saying half-aloud, "Oh, I am
sorry, for Lucy will be disappointed."

"I disappointed!" repeated Lucy; "now, Lizzie, why not own it, and say
you are as much provoked at the weather as I am, and wish this horrid
storm had stayed in the icy caves of Greenland?"

"Because," answered Lizzie, "I really care but little about the party.
You know Harry will not be there, and besides that, the old, ugly pain
has come back to my side this morning;" and even as she spoke a low,
hacking cough fell on Lucy's ear like the echo of a distant knell.

Lucy raised herself up, and leaning on her elbow looked earnestly at
her sister, and fancied ('twas not all fancy), that her cheeks had
grown thinner and her brow whiter within a few weeks. Lizzie proceeded
with her toilet, although she was twice obliged to stop on account of
"the ugly pain," as she called it.

"Hurry, sister," said Lucy, "and you will feel better when you get to
the warm parlor."

Lizzie thought so, too, and she accelerated her movements as much as
possible. Just as she was leaving the room Lucy detained her a moment
by passing her arm caressingly around her. Lizzie well knew that some
favor was wanted, and she said, "Well, what is it, Lucy? What do you
wish me to give you?"

"Nothing, nothing," answered Lucy; "but do not say anything to father
about the pain in your side, for fear he will keep you at home, and,
worse than all, make me stay, too."

Lizzie gave the required promise, and then descended to the breakfast
parlor, where she found her grandmother, and was soon joined by her
sister and father. After the usual salutation of the morning the
latter said "There is every prospect of our being alone to-day, for
the snow is at least a foot and a half deep, and is drifting every
moment."

"But, father," said Lucy, "that will not prevent Lizzie and me from
going to the party to-night."

"You mean, if I choose to let you go, of course," answered Mr. Dayton.

"Why," quickly returned Lucy, "you cannot think of keeping us at home.
It is only distant a few rods, and we will wrap up well."

"I have no objections to your going," replied Mr. Dayton, "provided
you dress suitably for such a night."

"Oh, father," said Lucy, "you cannot be capricious enough to wish us
to be bundled up in bags."

"I care but little what dress you wear," answered Mr. Dayton, "if it
has what I consider necessary appendages, viz., sleeves and waist."

The tears glittered in Lucy's bright eyes as she said, "Our party
dresses are at Miss Carson's, and she is to send them home this
morning."

"Wear them, then," answered Mr. Dayton, "provided they possess the
qualities I spoke of, for without those you cannot go out on such a
night as this will be."

Lucy knew that her dress was minus the sleeves, and that her father
would consider the waist a mere apology for one, so she burst into
tears and said, rather angrily, "I had rather stay at home than go
rigged out as you would like to have me."

"Very well; you can stay at home," was Mr. Dayton's quiet reply.

In a few moments he left the room, and then Lucy's wrath burst forth
unrestrainedly. She called her father all sorts of names, such as "an
old granny--an old fidget," and finished up her list with what she
thought the most odious appellation of all, "an old maid."

In the midst of her tirade the door bell rang. It was the boy from
Miss Carson's, and he brought the party dresses. Lucy's thoughts now
took another channel, and while admiring her beautiful embroidered
muslin and rich white satin skirt, she forgot that she could not wear
it. Grandma was certainly unfortunate in her choice of words, this
morning, for when Lucy for the twentieth time asked if her dress were
not a perfect beauty, the old Quakeress answered:

"Why, it looks very decent, but it can do thee no good, for thy pa has
said thee cannot wear it; besides, the holy writ reads, 'Let your
adorning--'"

Here Lucy stopped her ears, exclaiming, "I do believe, grandma, you
were manufactured from a chapter in the Bible, for you throw your holy
writ into my face on all occasions."

The good lady adjusted her spectacles, and replied, "How thee talks! I
never thought of throwing my Bible at thee, Lucy!"

Grandma had understood her literally.

Nothing more was said of the party until dinner time, although there
was a determined look in Lucy's flashing eye, which puzzled Lizzie not
a little. Owing to the storm, Mr. Dayton's country cousins did not, as
was their usual custom, come into town to dine with him, and for this
Lucy was thankful, for she thought nothing could be more disagreeable
than to be compelled to sit all day and ask Cousin Peter how much his
fatting hogs weighed; or his wife, Elizabeth Betsey, how many teeth
the baby had got; or, worse than all the rest, if the old maid, Cousin
Berintha, were present, to be obliged to be asked at least three
times, whether it's twenty-four or twenty-five she'd be next
September, and on saying it was only twenty-three, have her word
disputed and the family Bible brought in question. Even then Miss
Berintha would demur, until she had taken the Bible to the window, and
squinted to see if the year had not been scratched out and rewritten!
Then closing the book with a profound sigh she would say, "I never,
now! it beats all how much older you look!"

All these annoyances Lucy was spared on this day, for neither Cousin
Peter, Elizabeth Betsey, or Miss Berintha made their appearance. At
the dinner table Mr. Dayton remarked quietly to his daughters, "I
believe you have given up attending the party!"

"Oh, no, father," said Lucy, "we are going, Lizzie and I."

"And what about your dress?" asked Mr. Dayton.

Lucy bit her lip as she replied, "Why, of course, we must dress to
suit you, or stay at home."

Lizzie looked quickly at her sister, as if asking how long since she
had come to this conclusion; but Lucy's face was calm and unruffled,
betraying no secrets, although her tongue did when, after dinner, she
found herself alone with Lizzie in their dressing-room. A long
conversation followed, in which Lucy seemed trying to persuade Lizzie
to do something wrong. Possessed of the stronger mind, Lucy's
influence over her sister was great, and sometimes a bad one, but
never before had she proposed an open act of disobedience toward their
father, and Lizzie constantly replied, "No, no, Lucy, I can't do it;
besides, I really think I ought not to go, for that pain in my side is
no better."

"Nonsense, Lizzie," said Lucy. "If you are going to be as whimsical
as Miss Berintha you had better begin at once to dose yourself with
burdock or catnip tea." Then, again recurring to the dress, she
continued, "Father did not say we must not wear them after we got
there. I shall take mine, anyway, and I wish you would do the same;
and then, if he ever knows it, he will not be as much displeased when
he finds that you, too, are guilty."

After a time, Lizzie was persuaded, but her happiness for that day was
destroyed, and when at tea-time her father asked if she felt quite
well, she could scarcely keep from bursting into tears. Lucy, however,
came to her relief, and said she was feeling blue because Harry would
not be present! Just before the hour for the party Lucy descended to
the parlor, where her father was reading, in order, as she said, to
let him see whether her dress were fussy enough to suit him. He
approved her taste, and after asking if Lizzie, too, were dressed in
the same manner, resumed his paper. Ere long the covered sleigh stood
at the door, and in a few moments Lucy and Lizzie were in Anna
Graham's dressing-room, undergoing the process of a second toilet.

Nothing could be more beautiful than was Lucy Dayton, after party
dress, bracelets, curls, and flowers had all been adjusted. She
probably thought so, too, for a smile of satisfaction curled her lip
as she saw the radiant vision reflected by the mirror. Her bright eye
flashed, and her heart swelled with pride as she thought, "Yes,
there's no help for it, I shall win him sure;" then turning to Anna
Graham, she asked, "Is that Mr. St. Leon to be here to-night?"

"Yes, you know he is," answered Anna, "and I pity him, for I see you
are all equipped for an attack; but," continued she, glancing at
Lizzie, "were not little Lizzie's heart so hedged up by brother Hal, I
should say your chance was small."

Lucy looked at her sister, and a chill struck her heart as she
observed a spasm of pain which for an instant contracted Lizzie's
fair, sweet face. Anna noticed it, too, and springing toward her,
said, "What is it, Lizzie? are you ill?"

"No," answered Lizzie, laying her hand on her side; "nothing but a
sharp pain. It will soon be better;" but while she spoke her teeth
almost chattered with the cold.

Oh, Lizzie, Lizzie!

For a short time, now, we will leave the young ladies in Miss Graham's
dressing-room, and transport our readers to another part of the
village.




CHAPTER III.

ADA HARCOURT.


In a small and neat, but scantily furnished chamber, a poor widow was
preparing her only child, Ada, for the party. The plain, white muslin
dress of two years old had been washed and ironed so carefully that
Ada said it looked just as well as new; but then everything looked
well on Ada Harcourt, who was highly gifted, both with intellect and
beauty. After her dress was arranged she went to the table for her old
white gloves, the cleaning of which had cost her much trouble, for her
mother did not seem to be at all interested in them, so Ada did as
well as she could. As she was about to put them on her mother returned
from a drawer, into the recesses of which she had been diving, and
from which she brought a paper carefully folded.

"Here, Ada," said she, "you need not wear those gloves; see here"--and
she held up a pair of handsome mitts, a fine linen handkerchief, and a
neat little gold pin.

"Oh, mother, mother!" said Ada joyfully, "where did you get them?"

"I know," answered Mrs. Harcourt, "and that is enough."

After a moment's thought Ada knew, too. The little hoard of money her
mother had laid by for a warm winter shawl had been spent for her.
From Ada's lustrous blue eyes the tears were dropping as, twining her
arm around her mother's neck, she said, "Naughty, naughty mother!" but
there was a knock at the door. The sleigh which Anna Graham had
promised to send for Ada had come; so dashing away her tears, and
adjusting her new mitts and pin, she was soon warmly wrapped up, and
on her way to Mr. Graham's.

"In the name of the people, who is that?" said Lucy Dayton, as Anna
Graham entered the dressing-room, accompanied by a bundle of something
securely shielded from the cold.

The removal of the hood soon showed Lucy who it was, and with an
exclamation of surprise she turned inquiringly to a young lady who was
standing near. To her look the young lady replied, "A freak of Anna's,
I suppose. She thinks a great deal of those Harcourts."

An impatient "pshaw!" burst from Lucy's lips, accompanied with the
words, "I wonder who she thinks wants to associate with that
plebeian!"

The words, the look, and the tone caught Ada's eye and ear, and
instantly blighted her happiness. In the joy and surprise of receiving
an invitation to the party it had never occurred to her that she might
be slighted there, and she was not prepared for Lucy's unkind remark.
For an instant the tears moistened her long silken eyelashes, and a
deeper glow mantled her usually bright cheek; but this only increased
her beauty, which tended to increase Lucy's vexation. Lucy knew that
in her own circle there was none to dispute her claim; but she knew,
too, that in a low-roofed house, in the outskirts of the town, there
dwelt a poor sewing woman, whose only daughter was famed for her
wondrous beauty. Lucy had frequently seen Ada in the streets, but
never before had she met her, and she now determined to treat her with
the utmost disdain.

Not so was Lizzie affected by the presence of "the plebeian." Mrs.
Harcourt had done plain sewing for her father, and Lizzie had
frequently called there for the work. In this way an acquaintance had
been commenced between herself and Ada which had ripened into
friendship. Lizzie, too, had heard the remark of her sister, and,
anxious to atone as far as possible for the unkindness, she went up to
Ada, expressed her pleasure at seeing her there, and then, as the
young ladies were about descending to the parlors, she offered her
arm, saying, "I will accompany you down, but, I have no doubt scores
of beaus will quickly take you off my hands."

The parlors were nearly filled when our party reached them, and Ada
half-tremblingly clung to Lizzie's arm, while, with queen-like grace
and dignity, Lucy Dayton moved through the crowded drawing-room. Her
quick eye had scanned each gentleman, but her search was fruitless.
_He_ was not there, and during the next half-hour she listened rather
impatiently to the tide of flattery poured into her ear by some one of
her admirers. Suddenly there was a stir at the door, and Mr. St. Leon
was announced. He was a tall, fine-looking man, probably about
twenty-five years of age. The expression of his face was remarkably
pleasing, and such as would lead an entire stranger to trust him, sure
that his confidence would not be misplaced. His manners were highly
polished, and in his dignified, self-possessed bearing, there was
something which some called pride, but in all the wide world there was
not a more generous heart than that of Hugh St. Leon.

Lucy for a moment watched him narrowly, and then her feelings became
perfectly calm, for she felt sure that now, for the first time, she
looked upon her future husband! Ere long Anna Graham approached,
accompanied by the gentleman, whom she introduced, and then turning,
left them alone. Lucy would have given almost anything to have known
whether St. Leon had requested an introduction, but no means of
information were at hand, so she bent all her energies to be as
agreeable as possible to the handsome stranger at her side, who each
moment seemed more and more pleased with her.

Meantime, in another part of the room Lizzie and Ada were the center
of attraction. The same kindness which prompted Anna Graham to invite
Ada was careful to see that she did not feel neglected. For this
purpose Anna's brother, Charlie, a youth of sixteen, had been
instructed to pay her particular attention. This he was not unwilling
to do, for he knew no reason why she should not be treated politely,
even if she were a sewing woman's daughter. Others of the company,
observing how attentive Charlie and Lizzie were to the beautiful girl,
felt disposed to treat her graciously, so that to her the evening was
passing very happily.

When St. Leon entered the room the hum of voices prevented Ada from
hearing his name; neither was she aware of his presence until he had
been full fifteen minutes conversing with Lucy. Then her attention was
directed toward him by Lizzie. For a moment Ada gazed as if
spellbound; then a dizziness crept over her, and she nervously grasped
the little plain gold ring which encircled the third finger of her
left hand!

Turning to Lizzie, who, fortunately, had not noticed her agitation,
she said, "What did you say his name was?"

"St. Leon, from New Orleans," replied Lizzie.

"Then I'm not mistaken," Ada said inaudibly.

At that moment Anna Graham approached, and whispered something to Ada,
who gave a startled look, saying, "Oh, no, Miss Anna; you would not
have me make myself ridiculous."

"Certainly not," answered Anna; "neither will you do so, for some of
your songs you sing most beautifully. Do come; I wish to surprise my
friends."

Ada consented rather unwillingly, and Anna led her toward the
music-room, followed by a dozen or more, all of whom wondered what a
sewing woman's daughter knew about music. On their way to the piano
they passed near St. Leon and Lucy, the former of whom started as his
eye fell upon Ada.

"I did not think there was another such face in the world," said he,
apparently to himself; then turning to Lucy, he asked who that
beautiful girl was.

"Which one?" asked Lucy; "there are many beauties here to-night."

"I mean the one with the white muslin, and dark auburn curls," said
St. Leon.

Lucy's brow darkened but she answered, "That? oh, that is Ada
Harcourt. Her mother is a poor sewing woman. I never met Ada before,
and cannot conceive how she came to be here; but then the Grahams are
peculiar in their notions, and I suppose it was a whim of Anna's."

Without knowing it, St. Leon had advanced some steps toward the door
through which Ada had disappeared. Lucy followed him, vexed beyond
measure that the despised Ada Harcourt should even have attracted his
attention.

"Is she as accomplished as handsome?" asked he.

"Why, of course not," answered Lucy, with a forced laugh. "Poverty,
ignorance, and vulgarity go together, usually, I believe."

St. Leon gave her a rapid, searching glance, in which disappointment
was mingled, but before he could reply there was the sound of music.
It was a sweet, bird-like voice which floated through the rooms, and
the song it sang was a favorite one of St. Leon's, who was
passionately fond of music.

"Let us go nearer," said he to Lucy, who, nothing loath, accompanied
him, for she, too, was anxious to know who it was that thus chained
each listener into silence.

St. Leon at length got a sight of the singer, and said with evident
pleasure, "Why, it's Miss Harcourt!"

"Miss Harcourt! Ada Harcourt!" exclaimed Lucy. "Impossible! Why, her
mother daily toils for the bread they eat!"

But if St. Leon heard her, he answered not. His senses were locked in
those strains of music which recalled memories of something, he
scarcely knew what, and Lucy found herself standing alone, her heart
swelling with anger toward Ada, who from that time was her hated
rival. The music ceased, but scores of voices were loud in their call
for another song; and again Ada sang, but this time there was in the
tones of her voice a thrilling power, for which those who listened
could not account. To Ada the atmosphere about her seemed charmed,
for though she never for a moment raised her eyes, she well knew who
it was that leaned upon the piano and looked intently upon her. Again
the song was finished, and then at St. Leon's request he was
introduced to the singer, who returned his salutation with perfect
self-possession, although her heart beat quickly, as she hoped, yet
half-feared, that that he would recognize her. But he did not, and as
they passed together into the next room he wondered much why the hand
which lay upon his arm trembled so violently, while Ada said to
herself, "'Tis not strange he doesn't know me by this name." Whether
St. Leon knew her or not, there seemed about her some strong
attraction, which kept him at her side the remainder of the evening,
greatly to Lucy Dayton's mortification and displeasure.

"I'll be revenged on her yet," she muttered. "The upstart! I wonder
where she learned to play."

This last sentence was said aloud; and Lizzie, who was standing near,
replied, "Her father was once wealthy and Ada had the best of
teachers. Since she has lived in S---- she has occasionally practised
on Anna's piano."

"I think I'd keep a piano for paupers to play on," was Lucy's
contemptuous reply, uttered with no small degree of bitterness, for at
that moment St. Leon approached her with the object of her dislike
leaning upon his arm.

Ada introduced Lizzie to St. Leon, who offered her his other arm, and
the three kept together until Lizzie, uttering a low, sharp cry of
pain leaned heavily as if for support against St. Leon. In an instant
Lucy was at her side; but to all her anxious inquiries Lizzie could
only reply, as she clasped her thin, white hand over her side, "The
pain--the pain--take me home."

"Our sleigh has not yet come," said Lucy. "Oh, what shall we do?"

"Mine is here, and at your command, Miss Dayton," said St. Leon.

Lucy thanked him, and then proceeded to prepare Lizzie, who, chilled
through and through by the exposure of her chest and arms, had borne
the racking pain in her side as long as possible, and now lay upon the
sofa as helpless as an infant. When all was ready St. Leon lifted her
in his arms, and bearing her to the sleigh, stepped lightly in with
her, and took his seat.

"It is hardly necessary for you to accompany us home," said Lucy,
overjoyed beyond measure, though, to find that he was going.

"Allow me to be the judge," answered St. Leon, and other than that,
not a word was spoken until they reached Mr. Dayton's door. Then,
carefully carrying Lizzie into the house, he was about to leave, when
Lucy detained him to thank him for his kindness, adding that she hoped
to see him again.

"Certainly, I shall call to-morrow," was his reply, as he sprang down
the steps, and entering his sleigh, was driven back to Mr. Graham's.

He found the company about dispersing, and meeting Ada in the hall,
asked to accompany her home. Ada's pride for a moment hesitated, and
then she answered in the affirmative. When St. Leon had seated her in
his sleigh he turned back, on pretext of looking for something, but in
reality to ask Anna Graham where Ada lived, as he did not wish to
question her on the subject.

When they were nearly home St. Leon said, "Miss Harcourt, have you
always lived in S----?"

"We have lived here but two years," answered Ada; and St. Leon
continued:

"I cannot rid myself of the impression that somewhere I have met you
before."

"Indeed," said Ada, "when and where?"

But his reply was prevented by the sleigh's stopping at Mrs.
Harcourt's door. As St. Leon bade Ada good night he whispered, "I
shall see you again."

Ada made no answer, but going into the house where her mother was
waiting for her, she exclaimed, "Oh, mother, mother, I've seen
him!--he was there!--he brought me home!"

"Seen whom?" asked Mrs. Harcourt, alarmed at her daughter's agitation.

"Why, Hugh St. Leon!" replied Ada.

"St. Leon in town!" repeated Mrs. Harcourt, her eye lighting up with
joy.

'Twas only for a moment, however, for the remembrance of what she was
when she knew St. Leon, and what she now was, recurred to her, and she
said calmly, "I thought you had forgotten that childish fancy."

"Forgotten!" said Ada bitterly; and then as she recalled the unkind
remark of Lucy Dayton she burst into a passionate fit of weeping.

After a time Mrs. Harcourt succeeded in soothing her, and then drew
from her all the particulars of the party, St Leon and all. When Ada
had finished her mother kissed her fair cheek, saying, "I fancy St.
Leon thinks as much of little Ada now as he did six years ago;" but
Ada could not think so, though that night, in dreams, she was again
happy in her old home in the distant city, while at her side was St.
Leon, who even then was dreaming of a childish face which had haunted
him six long years.




CHAPTER IV.

LUCY.


We left Lizzie lying upon the sofa, where St. Leon had laid her. After
he was gone Lucy proposed calling their father and sending for a
physician, but Lizzie objected, saying she should be better when she
got warm. During the remainder of that night Lucy sat by her sister's
bedside, while each cry of pain which came from Lizzie's lips fell
heavily upon her heart, for conscience accused her of being the cause
of all this suffering. At length the weary night watches were
finished, but the morning light showed more distinctly Lizzie's white
brow and burning cheeks. She had taken a severe cold, which had
settled upon her lungs, and now she was paying the penalty of her
first act of disobedience.

Mr. Dayton had sent for the old family physician, who understood
Lizzie's constitution perfectly. He shook his head as he said, "How
came she by such a cold? Did she go to the party?"

"Yes, sir," replied Mr. Dayton.

"And not half-dressed, I'll warrant," said the gruff old doctor.

Lucy turned pale as her father answered, quickly and truthfully as he
thought, "No, sir, she was properly dressed."

Lizzie heard it, and though speaking was painful, she said, "Forgive
me, father, forgive me; I disobeyed you. I wore the dress you said I
must not wear!"

An exclamation of surprise escaped Mr. Dayton, who, glancing at Lucy,
read in her guilty face what Lizzie generously would not betray.

"Oh, Lucy, Lucy," said he, "how could you do so?"

Lucy could only reply through her tears. She was sincerely sorry that
by her means Lizzie had been brought into danger; but when the doctor
said that by careful management she might soon be better, all feelings
of regret vanished, and she again began to think of St. Leon and his
promise to call. A look at herself in the mirror showed her that she
was looking pale and jaded, and she half-hoped he would not come.
However, as the day wore on she grew nervous as she thought he
possibly might be spending his time with the hated Ada. But he was
not, and at about four o'clock there was a ring at the door. From an
upper window Lucy saw St. Leon, and when Bridget came up for her, she
asked if the parlor was well darkened.

"An' sure it's darker nor a pocket," said Bridget, "an' he couldn't
see a haporth was ye twice as sorry lookin'."

So bathing her face in cologne, in order to force a glow, Lucy
descended to the parlor, which she found to be as dark as Bridget had
said it was. St. Leon received her very kindly, for the devotion she
had the night before shown for her sister had partially
counterbalanced the spitefulness he had observed in her manner when
speaking of Ada at the party. Notwithstanding Bridget's precautions,
he saw, too, that she was pale and spiritless, but he attributed it to
her anxiety for her sister, and this raised her in his estimation.
Lucy divined his thoughts, and in her efforts to appear amiable and
agreeable, a half-hour passed quickly away. At the end of that time
she unfortunately asked, in a very sneering tone, "how long since he
had seen the sewing girl?"

"If you mean Miss Harcourt," said St. Leon coolly, "I've not seen her
since I left her last night at her mother's door."

"You must have been in danger of upsetting if you attempted to turn
round in Mrs. Harcourt's spacious yard," was Lucy's next remark.

"I did not attempt it," said St. Leon. "I carried Miss Ada in my arms
from the street to the door."

The tone and manner were changed. Lucy knew it, and it exasperated
her to say something more, but she was prevented by St. Leon's rising
to go. As Lucy accompanied him to the door she asked how long he
intended to remain in S----.

"I leave this evening, in the cars for New Haven," said he.

"This evening?" repeated Lucy in a disappointed tone, "and will you
not return?"

"Yes, if the business on which I go is successful," answered St. Leon.

"A lady in question, perchance," remarked Lucy playfully.

"You interpret the truth accurately," said St. Leon, and with a cold,
polite bow he was gone.

"Why was he going to New Haven?" This was the thought which now
tortured Lucy. He had confessed that a lady was concerned in his
going, but who was she, and what was she to him? Anyway, there was a
comfort in knowing that Ada Harcourt had nothing to do with it!

Mistaken Lucy! Ada Harcourt had everything to do with it!




CHAPTER V.

UNCLE ISRAEL.


The lamps were lighted in the cars, and on through the valley of the
Connecticut the New Haven train was speeding its way. In one corner of
the car sat St. Leon, closely wrapped in cloak and thoughts, the
latter of which occasionally suggested to him the possibility that his
was a "Tomfool's" errand; "but then," thought he, "no one will know it
if I fail, and if I do not, it is worth the trouble."

When the train reached Hartford a number of passengers entered, all
bound for New Haven. Among them was a comical-looking, middle-aged
man, whom St. Leon instantly recognized as a person whom he had known
when in college in New Haven, and whom the students familiarly called
"Uncle Israel." The recognition was mutual, for Uncle Israel prided
himself on never forgetting a person he had once seen. In a few
moments St. Leon was overwhelming him with scores of questions, but
Uncle Israel was a genuine Yankee, and never felt happier than when
engaged in giving or guessing information.

At length St. Leon asked, "Does Ada Linwood fulfil the promise of
beauty which she gave as a child?"

"Ada who?" said Uncle Israel.

"Linwood," repeated St. Leon, arguing from the jog in Uncle Israel's
memory that all was not right.

"Do you mean the daughter of Harcourt Linwood, he that was said to be
so rich?"

"The same," returned St. Leon. "Where are they?"

Uncle Israel settled himself with the air of a man who has a long
story on hand, and intends to tell it at his leisure. Filling his
mouth with an enormous quid of tobacco, he commenced: "Better than
four years ago Linwood smashed up, smack and clean; lost everything he
had, and the rest had to be sold at vandue. But what was worse than
all, seein' he was a fine feller in the main, and I guess didn't mean
to fail, he took sick, and in about a month died."

"And what became of his widow and orphan?" asked St. Leon eagerly.

"Why, it wasn't nateral," said Uncle Israel, "that they should keep
the same company they did before, and they's too plaguy stuck up to
keep any other; so they moved out of town and supported themselves by
takin' in sewin' or ironin', I forgot which."

"But where are they now?" asked St. Leon.

Uncle Israel looked at him for a moment, and then replied, "The Lord
knows, I suppose, but Israel don't."

"Did they suffer at all?" asked St. Leon.

"Not as long as I stuck to them, but they sarved me real mean,"
answered Uncle Israel.

"In what way?"

"Why, you see," said Uncle Israel, "I don't know why, but somehow I
never thought of matrimony till I got a glimpse of Ada at her father's
vandue. To be sure, I'd seen her before, but then she was mighty big
feelin', and I couldn't ha' touched her with a hoe-handle, but now
'twas different. I bought their house. I was rich and they was poor."

Involuntarily St. Leon clinched his fist, as Uncle Israel continued:
"I seen to getting them a place in the country and then tended to 'em
generally for more than six months, when I one day hinted to Mrs.
Linwood that I would like to be her son-in-law. Christopher! how quick
her back was up, and she gave me to understand that I was lookin' too
high! 'Twas no go with Ada, and after awhile I proposed to the mother.
Then you ought to seen her! She didn't exactly turn me out o' door but
she coolly told me I wasn't wanted there. But I stuck to her and kept
kind o' offerin' myself, till at last they cut stick and cleared out,
and I couldn't find them, high nor low. I bunted for more than a year,
and at last found them in Hartford. Thinkin' maybe they had come to I
proposed again, and kept hangin' on till they gave me the slip again;
and now I don't know where they be, but I guess they've changed their
name."

At this point the cars stopped until the upward train should pass
them, and St. Leon, rising, bade his companion good evening, saying,
"he had changed his mind and should return to Hartford on the other
train."




CHAPTER VI.

EXPLANATION.


Six years prior to the commencement of our story New Haven boasted not
a better or wealthier citizen than Harcourt Linwood, of whose
subsequent failure and death we have heard from Uncle Israel. The
great beauty of his only child, Ada, then a girl of nearly thirteen,
was the subject of frequent comment among the circle in which he
moved. No pains were spared with her education, and many were the
conjectures as to what she would be when time had matured her mind and
beauty.

Hugh St. Leon, of New Orleans, then nineteen years of age, and a
student at Yale, had frequently met Ada at the house of his sister,
Mrs. Durant, whose eldest daughter, Jenny, was about her own age. The
uncommon beauty of the child greatly interested the young Southerner
and once, in speaking of his future prospects to his sister, he
playfully remarked, "Suppose I wait for Ada Linwood."

"You cannot do better," was the reply, and the conversation
terminated.

The next evening there was to be a child's party at the house of Mrs.
Durant, and as Hugh was leaving the house Jenny bounded after him,
saying, "Oh, Uncle Hugh, you'll come to-morrow night, won't you? No
matter if you are a grown-up man, in the junior class, trying to raise
some whiskers! You will be a sort of restraint, and keep us from
getting too rude. Besides, we are going to have tableaux, and I want
you to act the part of bridegroom in one of the scenes."

"Who is to be the bride?" asked Hugh.

"Ada Linwood. Now I know you'll come, won't you?"

"I'll see," was Hugh's answer, as he walked away.

Jenny well knew that "I'll see" meant "yes," and tying on her bonnet,
she hastened off to tell Ada that Uncle Hugh would be present, and
would act the part of bridegroom in the scene where she was to be
bride.

"What! that big man?" said Ada. "How funny!"

Before seven the next evening Mrs. Durant's parlors were filled, for
the guests were not old enough or fashionable enough to delay making
their appearance until morning. Hugh was the last to arrive, for which
Jenny scolded him soundly, saying they were all ready for tableaus.
"But come, now," said she, "and let me introduce you to the bride."

In ten minutes more the curtain rose, and Hugh St. Leon appeared with
Ada on his arm, standing before a gentleman in clerical robes, who
seemed performing the marriage ceremony. Placing a ring on Ada's third
finger, St. Leon, when the whole was finished, took advantage of his
new relationship, and kissed the lips of the bride. Amid a storm of
applause the curtain dropped, and as he led the blushing Ada away he
bent down, and pointing to the ring, whispered, "Wear it until some
future day, when, by replacing it, I shall make you really my little
wife."

The words were few and lightly spoken, but they touched the heart of
the young Ada, awakening within her thoughts and feelings of which she
never before had dreamed. Frequently, after that, she met St. Leon,
who sometimes teased her about being his wife; but when he saw how
painfully embarrassed she seemed on such occasions, he desisted.

The next year he was graduated, and the same day on which he received
the highest honors of his class was long remembered with heartfelt
sorrow, for ere the city clocks tolled the hour of midnight he stood
with his orphaned niece, Jenny, weeping over the inanimate form of his
sister, Mrs. Durant, who had died suddenly in a fit of apoplexy. Mr.
Durant had been dead some years, and as Jenny had now no relatives in
New Haven, she accompanied her uncle to his Southern home. Long and
passionately she wept on Ada's bosom as she bade her farewell,
promising never to forget her, but to write her three pages of
foolscap every week. To do Jenny justice, we must say that this
promise was faithfully kept for a whole month, and then, with
thousands of its sisterhood, it disappeared into the vale of broken
promises and resolutions.

She still wrote occasionally, and at the end of each epistle there was
always a long postscript from Hugh, which Ada prized almost as much as
she did Jenny's whole letter; and when at last matters changed, the
letter becoming Hugh's and the postscript Jenny's, she made no
objection, even if she felt any. At the time of her father's failure
and death, a long unanswered letter was lying in her portfolio, which
was entirely forgotten until weeks after, when, in the home which
Uncle Israel so _disinterestedly_ helped them to procure, she and her
mother were sewing for the food which they ate. Then a dozen times was
an answer commenced, blotted with tears, and finally destroyed, until
Ada, burying her face in her mother's lap, sobbed out, "Oh, mother, I
cannot do it. I cannot write to tell them how poor we are, for I
remember that Jenny was proud, and laughed at the schoolgirls whose
fathers were not rich."

So the letter was never answered, and as St. Leon about that time
started on a tour through Europe, he knew nothing of their change of
circumstances. On his way home he had in Paris met with Harry Graham,
who had been his classmate, and who now won from him a promise that on
his return to America he would visit his parents, in S----. He did so,
and there, as we have seen, met with Ada Harcourt, whose face, voice,
and manner reminded him so strangely of the Ada he had known years
before, and whom he had never forgotten.

As the reader will have supposed, the sewing-woman whose daughter
Lucy Dayton so heartily despised was none other than Mrs. Linwood, of
New Haven, who had taken her husband's first name in order to avoid
the persecutions of Uncle Israel. The day following the party St. Leon
spent in making inquiries concerning Mrs. Harcourt, and the
information thus obtained determined him to start at once for New
Haven, in order to ascertain if his suspicions are correct.

The result of his journey we already know. Still he resolved not to
make himself known immediately, but to wait until he satisfied himself
that Ada was as good as beautiful. And then?

A few more chapters will tell us what then.




CHAPTER VII.

A MANEUVER.


The gray twilight of a cold December afternoon was creeping over the
village of S----, when Ada Harcourt left her seat by the window,
where, the livelong day, she had sat stitching till her heart was sick
and her eyes were dim. On the faded calico lounge near the fire lay
Mrs. Harcourt, who for several days had been unable to work on account
of a severe cold which seemed to have settled in her face and eyes.

"There," said Ada, as she brushed from her gingham apron the bits of
thread and shreds of cotton, "there, it is done at last, and now
before it is quite dark I will take it home."

"No, not to-night," said Mrs. Harcourt; "to-morrow will do just as
well."

"But, mother," answered Ada, "you know Mrs. Dayton always pays as soon
as the work is delivered, and what I have finished will come to two
dollars and a half, which will last a long time, and we shall not be
obliged to take any from the sum laid by to pay our rent; besides, you
have had nothing nourishing for a long time; so let me go, and on my
way home I will buy you something nice for supper."

Mrs. Harcourt said no more, but the tears fell from her aching eyes as
she thought how hard her daughter was obliged to labor, now that she
was unable to assist her. In a moment Ada was in the street. The
little alley in which she lived was soon traversed, and she about
turning into Main Street, when rapid footsteps approached her, and St.
Leon appeared at her side, saying, "Good evening, Miss Harcourt; allow
me to relieve you of that bundle."

And before she could prevent it he took from her hands the package,
while he continued, "May I ask how far you are walking to-night?"

Ada hesitated a moment, but quickly forcing down her pride, she
answered, "Only as far as Mr. Dayton's. I am carrying home some work."

"Indeed!" said he, "then I can have your company all the way, for I am
going to inquire after Lizzie."

They soon reached their destination, and their ring at the door was
not, as usual, answered by Bridget but by Lucy herself, whose sweet
smile, as she greeted St. Leon, changed into an angry scowl when she
recognized his companion.

"Ada Harcourt!" said she, and Ada, blushing scarlet, began: "I have
brought--" but she was interrupted by St. Leon, who handed Lucy the
bundle, saying:

"Here is your work, Miss Dayton, and I hope it will suit you, for we
took a great deal of pains with it."

Lucy tried to smile as she took the work, and then opening the parlor
door she with one hand motioned St. Leon to enter, while with the
other she held the hall door ajar, as if for Ada to depart. A tear
trembled on Ada's long eyelashes, as she timidly asked;

"Can I see your grandmother?"

"Mrs. Dayton, I presume you mean," said Lucy haughtily.

Ada bowed and Lucy continued: "She is not at home just at present."

"Perhaps, then, you can pay me for the work," said Ada.

The scowl on Lucy's face grew darker as she replied, "I have nothing
to do with grandma's hired help. Come to-morrow and she will be here.
How horridly cold this open door makes the hall!"

Ada thought of the empty cupboard at home, and of her pale, sick
mother. Love for her conquered all other feeling, and in a choking
voice she said, "Oh, Miss Dayton, if you will pay it you will confer a
great favor on me, for mother is sick, and we need it so much!"

There was a movement in the parlor. St. Leon was approaching, and with
an impatient gesture Lucy opened the opposite door, saying to Ada,
"Come in here."

The tone was so angry that, under any other circumstances, Ada would
have gone away. Now, however, she entered, and Lucy, taking out her
purse, said, "How much is the sum about which you make so much fuss?"

"Two dollars and a half," answered Ada.

"Two dollars and a half," repeated Lucy, and then, as a tear fell from
Ada's eye, she added contemptuously, "It is a small amount to cry
about."

Ada made no reply, and was about leaving the room when Lucy detained
her, by saying, "Pray, did you ask Mr. St. Leon to accompany you here
and bring your bundle?"

"Miss Dayton, you know better--you know I did not," answered Ada, as
the fire of insulted pride flashed from her dark blue eyes, which
became almost black, while her cheek grew pale as marble.

Instantly Lucy's manner changed, and in a softened tone she said, "I
am glad to know that you did not; and now, as a friend, I warn you
against receiving any marks of favor from St. Leon."

"What do you mean?" asked Ada, and Lucy continued:

"You have sense enough to know that when a man of St. Leon's standing
shows any preference for a girl in your circumstances it can be from
no good design."

"You judge him wrongfully--you do not know him," said Ada; and Lucy
answered:

"Pray, where did you learn so much about him?"

Ada only answered by rising to go.

"Here, this way," said Lucy, and leading her through an enter passage
to the back door, she added, "I do it to save your good name. St.
Leon is undoubtedly waiting for you, and I would not trust my own
sister with him, were she a poor sewing girl!"

The door was shut in Ada's face, and Lucy returned to the parlor,
where she found her father entertaining her visitor. Seating herself
on a crimson ottoman, she prepared to do the agreeable, when St. Leon,
rising, said, "Excuse my short call, for I must be going. Where have
you left Miss Harcourt?"

"I left her at the door," answered Lucy, "and she is probably halfway
to 'Dirt Alley' by this time, so do not be in haste."

But he was in haste, for when he looked on the fast-gathering darkness
without, and thought of the by streets and lonely alleys through which
Ada must pass on her way home, he felt uneasy, and biding Miss Dayton
good night, he hurried away.

Meantime, Ada had procured the articles she wished for, and proceeded
home, with a heart which would have been light as a bird had not the
remembrance of Lucy's insulting language rung in her ears. Mrs.
Harcourt saw that all was not right, but she forbore making any
inquiries until supper was over. Then Ada, bringing a stool to her
mother's side, and laying her head on her lap, told everything which
had transpired between herself, St. Leon, and Lucy.

Scarcely was her story finished when there was a rap at the door, and
St. Leon himself entered the room. He had failed in overtaking Ada,
and anxious to know of her safe return, had determined to call. The
recognition between himself and Mrs. Harcourt was mutual, but for
reasons of their own, neither chose to make it apparent, and Ada
introduced him to her mother as she would have done any stranger. St.
Leon possessed in an unusual degree the art of making himself
agreeable, and in the animated conversation which ensued Mrs. Harcourt
forgot that she was poor--forgot her aching eyes; while Ada forgot
everything save that St, Leon was present, and that she was again
listening to his voice, which charmed her now even more than in the
olden time.

During the evening St. Leon managed in various ways to draw Ada out on
all the prominent topics of the day, and he felt pleased to find that
amid all her poverty she did not neglect the cultivation of her mind.
A part of each day was devoted to study, which Mrs. Harcourt, who was
a fine scholar, superintended.

It was fast merging toward the hour when phantoms walk abroad ere St.
Leon remembered that he must go. As he was leaving he said to Ada, "I
have a niece, Jenny, about your age, whom I think you would like very
much."

Oh, how Ada longed to ask for her old playmate, but a look from her
mother kept her silent, and in a moment St. Leon was gone.




CHAPTER VIII.

COUSIN BERINTHA AND LUCY'S PARTY.


Cousin Berintha, whom Lucy Dayton so much disliked and dreaded, was a
cousin of Mr. Dayton, and was a prim, matter-of-fact maiden of fifty,
or thereabout. That she was still in a state of single blessedness was
partially her own fault, for at twenty she was engaged to the son of a
wealthy farmer who lived near her father. But, alas! ere the wedding
day arrived, there came to the neighborhood a young lady from Boston,
in whose presence the beauty of the country girl grew dim, as do the
stars in the rays of the morning sun.

Berintha had a plain face, but a strong heart, and when she saw that
Amy Holbrook was preferred, with steady hand and unflinching nerve,
she wrote to her recreant lover that he was free. And now Amy, to whom
the false knight turned, took it into her capricious head that she
would not marry a farmer--she had always fancied a physician; and if
young B---- would win her, he must first secure the title of M.D. He
complied with her request, and one week from the day on which he
received his diploma Berintha read, with a slightly blanched cheek,
the notice of his marriage with the Boston beauty. Three years from
that day she read the announcement of Amy's death, and in two years
more she refused the doctor's offer to give her a home by his lonely
fireside, and a place in his widowed heart. All this had the effect of
making Berintha rather cross, but she seldom manifested her spite
toward any one except Lucy, whom she seemed to take peculiar delight
in teasing, and whose treatment of herself was not such as would
warrant much kindness in return.

Lizzie she had always loved, and when Harry Graham went away it was
on Berintha's lap that the young girl sobbed out her grief, wondering,
when with her tears Berintha's were mingled, how one apparently so
cold and passionless could sympathize with her. To no one had Berintha
ever confided the story of her early love. Mr. Dayton was a schoolboy
then, and as but little was said of it at the time, it faded entirely
from memory; and when Lucy called her a "crabbed old maid," she knew
not of the disappointment which had clouded every joy and imbittered a
whole lifetime.

At the first intelligence of Lizzie's illness Berintha came, and
though her prescriptions of every kind of herb tea in the known world
were rather numerous, and her doses of the same were rather large, and
though her stiff cap, sharp nose, and curious little eyes, which saw
everything, were exceedingly annoying to Lucy, she proved herself an
invaluable nurse, warming up old Dr. Benton's heart into a glow of
admiration of her wonderful skill! Hour after hour she sat by Lizzie,
bathing her burning brow, or smoothing her tumbled pillow. Night after
night she kept her tireless watch, treading softly around the
sick-room, and lowering her loud, harsh voice to a whisper, lest she
should disturb the uneasy slumbers of the sick girl, who, under her
skilful nursing, gradually grew better.

"Was there ever such a dear, good cousin," said Lizzie, one day, when
a nervous headache had been coaxed away by what Berintha called her
"mesmeric passes;" and "Was there ever such a horrid bore," said Lucy,
on the same day, when Cousin Berintha "thought she saw a white hair in
Lucy's raven curls!" adding, by way of consolation, "It wouldn't be
anything strange, for I began to grow gray before I was as old as
you."

"And that accounts tor your head being just the color of wool,"
angrily retorted Lucy, little dreaming of the bitter tears and
sleepless nights which had early blanched her cousin's hair to its
present whiteness.

For several winters Lucy had been in the habit of giving a large
party, and as she had heard that St. Leon was soon going South, she
felt anxious to have it take place ere he left town. But what should
she do with Berintha, who showed no indications of leaving, though
Lizzie was much better?

"I declare," said she to herself, "that woman is enough to worry the
life out of me. I'll speak to Liz about it this very day."

Accordingly, that afternoon, when alone with her sister, she said,
"Lizzie, is it absolutely necessary that Berintha should stay here any
longer, to tuck you up, and feed you sage tea through a straw?"

Lizzie looked inquiringly at her sister, who continued: "To tell you
the truth, I'm tired of having her around, and must manage some way to
get rid of her before next week, for I mean to have a party Thursday
night."

Lizzie's eyes now opened in astonishment, as she exclaimed, "A party!
oh, Lucy, wait until I get well."

"You'll be able by that time to come down-stairs in your crimson
morning-gown, which becomes you so well," answered Lucy.

"But father's away," rejoined Lizzie; to which Lucy replied:

"So much the better, for now I shan't be obliged to ask any old
things. I told him I meant to have it while he was gone, for you know
he hates parties. But what shall I do with Berintha?"

"Why, what possible harm can she do?" asked Lizzie. "She would enjoy
it very much, I know; for in spite of her oddities, she likes
society."

"Well, suppose she does; nobody wants her round, prating about white
hairs and mercy knows what. Come, you tell her you don't need her
services any longer--that's a good girl."

There was a look of mischief in Lizzie's eye, and a merry smile on her
lip, as she said, "Why, don't you know that father has invited her to
spend the winter, and she has accepted the invitation?"

"Invited her to spend the winter!" repeated Lucy, while the tears
glittered in her bright eyes. "What does he mean?"

"Why," answered Lizzie, "it is very lonely at Cousin John's, and his
wife makes more of a servant of Berintha than she does a companion, so
father, out of pity, asked her to stay with us, and she showed her
good taste by accepting."

"I'll hang myself in the woodshed before spring--see if I don't!" and
burying her face in her hands, Lucy wept aloud, while Lizzie, lying
back upon her pillow, laughed immoderately at her sister's distress.

"There's a good deal to laugh at, I think," said Lucy, more angrily
than she usually addressed her sister. "If you have any pity, do
devise some means of getting rid of her, for a time, at least."

"Well, then," answered Lizzie, "she wants to go home for a few days,
in order to make some necessary preparations for staying with us, and
perhaps you can coax her to go now, though I for one would like to
have her stay. Everybody knows she is your cousin, and no one will
think less of you for having her here."

"But I won't do it," said Lucy, "and that settles it. Your plan is a
good one, and I'll get her off--see if I don't!"

The next day, which was Saturday, Lucy was unusually kind to her
cousin, giving her a collar, offering to fix her cap, and doing
numerous other little things, which greatly astonished Berintha. At
last, when dinner was over, she said, "Come, cousin, what do you say
to a sleigh ride this afternoon? I haven't been down to Elizabeth
Betsey's in a good while, so suppose we go to-day."

Berintha was taken by surprise, but after a moment she said just what
Lucy hoped she would say, viz., that she was wanting to go home for a
few days, and if Lizzie were only well enough, she would go now.

"Oh, she is a great deal better," said Lucy, "and you can leave her as
well as not. Dr. Benton says I am almost as good a nurse as you and I
will take good care of her--besides, I really think you need rest; so
go, if you wish to, and next Saturday I will come round after you."

Accordingly, Berintha, who suspected nothing, was coaxed into going
home, and when at three o'clock the sleigh was said to be ready, she
kissed Lizzie good-by, and taking her seat by the side of Lucy, was
driven rapidly toward her brother's house.

       *       *       *       *       *

"There! haven't I managed it capitally!" exclaimed Lucy, as she
reentered her sister's room after her ride; "but the bother of it is,
I've promised to go round next Saturday, and bring not only Berintha,
but Elizabeth Betsey, and her twins! Won't it be horrible! However,
the party'll be over, so I don't care."

Cousin Berintha being gone, there was no longer any reason why the
party should be kept a secret, and before nightfall every servant in
the house was discussing it, Bridget saying: "Faith, an' I thought it
was mighty good she was gettin' with that woman."

Mrs. Dayton was highly indignant at the trick which she plainly saw
had been put upon Berintha, but Lucy only replied, "that she wished it
were as easy a matter to get rid of grandma!"

On Monday cards of invitation to the number of one hundred and fifty
were issued, and when Lizzie, in looking them over, asked why Ada
Harcourt was left out, Lucy replied, that "she guessed she wasn't
going to insult her guests by inviting a sewing girl with them. Anna
Graham could do so, but nobody was going to imitate her."

"Invite her, then, for my sake, and in my name," pleaded Lizzie, but
Lucy only replied:

"I shall do no such thing;" and thus the matter was settled.

Amid the hurry and preparation for the party, days glided rapidly
away, and Thursday morning came, bright, beautiful, and balmy, almost,
as an autumnal day.

"Isn't this delightful!" said Lucy, as she stepped out upon the
piazza, and felt the warm southern breeze upon her cheek. "It's a
wonder, though," she continued, "that Madam Nature didn't conjure up
an awful storm for my benefit, as she usually does!"

Before night she had occasion to change her mind concerning the day.

Dinner was over, and she in Lizzie's room was combing out her long
curls, and trying the effect of wearing them entirely behind her ears.
Suddenly there was the sound of sleigh bells, which came nearer, until
they stopped before the door. Lucy flew to the window, and in tones of
intense anger and surprise, exclaimed, "Now, heaven defend us! here is
Cousin John's old lumber sleigh and rackabone horse, with Berintha and
a hair trunk, a red trunk, two bandboxes, a carpet-bag, a box full of
herbs, and a pillowcase full of stockings. What does it all mean?"

She soon found out what it all meant, for Berintha entered the room in
high spirits. Kissing Lizzie, she next advanced toward Lucy, saying,
"You didn't expect me, I know; but this morning was so warm and
thawing that John said he knew the sleighing would all be gone by
Saturday, so I concluded to come to-day."

Lucy was too angry to reply, and rushing from the room, she closed the
door after her, with a force which fairly made the windows rattle.
Berintha looked inquiringly at Lizzie, who felt inadequate to an
explanation; so Berintha knew nothing of the matter until she
descended to the kitchen, and there learned the whole. Now, if Lucy
had treated her cousin politely and good-naturedly, she would have
saved herself much annoyance, but on the contrary, she told her that
she was neither expected nor wanted there; that parties were never
intended for "such old things;" and that now she was there, she hoped
she would stay in her own room, unless she should happen to be wanted
to wait on the table!

This speech, of course, exasperated Berintha, but she made no reply,
although there was on her face a look of quiet determination, which
Lucy mistook for tacit acquiescence in her proposal.

Five--six--seven--eight--struck the little brass clock, and no one had
come except old Dr. Benton, who, being a widower and an intimate
friend of the family, was invited, as Lucy said, for the purpose of
beauing grandma! Lizzie, in crimson double-gown, and soft, warm shawl,
was reclining on the sofa in the parlor, the old doctor muttering
about carelessness, heated rooms, late hours, etc. Grandma, in rich
black silk and plain Quaker cap, was hovering near her favorite child,
asking continually if she were too hot, or too cold or too tired,
while Lucy, in white muslin dress and flowing curls, flitted hither
and thither, fretting at the servants, or ordering grandma, and
occasionally tapping her sister's pale cheek, to see if she could not
coax some color into it.

"You'll live to see it whiter still," said the doctor, who was
indignant at finding his patient down-stairs.

And where all this time was Berintha? The doctor asked this question,
and Lucy asked this question, while Lizzie replied, that "she was in
her room."

"And I hope to goodness she'll stay there," said Lucy.

Dr. Benton's gray eyes fastened upon the amiable young lady, who, by
way of explanation, proceeded to relate her maneuvers for keeping "the
old maid" from the party.

We believe we have omitted to say that Lucy had some well-founded
hopes of being one day, together with her sister, heiress of Dr.
Benton's property, which was considerable. He was a widower, and had
no relatives. He was also very intimate with Mr. Dayton's family,
always evincing a great partiality for Lucy and Lizzie, and had more
than once hinted at the probable disposal of his wealth. Of course
Lucy, in his presence, was all amiability, and though he was usually
very far-sighted, he but partially understood her real character.
Something, however, in her remarks concerning Berintha displeased him.
Lucy saw it, but before she had time for any thought on the subject
the door-bell rang, and a dozen or more of guests entered.

The parlors now began to fill rapidly. Ere long St. Leon came, and
after paying his compliments to Lucy, he took his station between her
and the sofa, on which Lizzie sat. So delighted was Lucy to have him
thus near that she forgot Berintha, until that lady herself appeared
in the room, bowing to those she knew, and seating herself on the
sofa, very near St. Leon. The angry blood rushed in torrents to Lucy's
face, and St. Leon, who saw something was wrong, endeavored to divert
her mind by asking her various questions.

At last he said, "I do not see Miss Harcourt. Where is she?"

"She is not expected," answered Lucy carelessly.

"Ah!" said St. Leon; and Berintha, touching his arm, rejoined:

"Of course you could not think Ada Harcourt would be invited here!"

"Indeed! Why not?" asked St. Leon, and Berintha continued:

"To be sure, Ada is handsome, and Ada is accomplished, but then Ada is
poor, and consequently can't come!"

"But I see no reason why poverty should debar her from good society,"
said St. Leon; and Berintha, with an exultant glance at Lucy, who, if
possible, would have paralyzed her tongue, replied:

"Why, if Ada were present, she might rival somebody in somebody's good
opinion. Wasn't that what you said, Cousin Lucy? Please correct me, if
I get wrong."

Lucy frowned angrily, but made no reply, for Berintha had quoted her
very words. After a moment's pause she proceeded: "Yes, Ada is poor;
so though she can come to the front door with a gentleman, she cannot
go out that way, but must be led to a side door or back door; which
was it, Cousin Lucy?"

"I don't know what you are talking about," answered Lucy; and
Berintha, in evident surprise, exclaimed:

"Why, don't you remember when Ada came here with a gentleman--let me
see, who was it?--well, no matter who 'twas--she came with a
gentleman--he was ushered into the parlor, while you took her into a
side room, then into a side passage, and out at the side door, kindly
telling her to beware of the gentleman in the parlor, who could want
nothing good of sewing girls!"

"You are very entertaining to-night," said Lucy; to which Berintha
replied:

"You did not think I could be so agreeable, did you, when you asked me
to keep out of sight this evening, and said that such old fudges as
grandma and I would appear much better in our rooms, taking snuff, and
nodding at each other over our knitting work?"

Lucy looked so distressed that Lizzie pitied her, and touching
Berintha she said, "Please don't talk any more."

At that moment supper was announced, and after it was over St. Leon
departed, notwithstanding Lucy's urgent request that he would remain
longer. As the street door closed after him she felt that she would
gladly have seen every other guest depart also. A moody fit came on,
and the party would have been voted a failure had it not been for the
timely interference of Dr. Benton and Berintha. Together they sought
out any who seemed neglected, entertaining them to the best of their
ability, and leaving with every one the impression that they were the
best-natured couple in the world. At eleven o'clock, Lizzie, wearied
out, repaired to her chamber. Her departure was the signal for others,
and before one o'clock the last good night was said, the doors locked,
the silver gathered up, the tired servants dismissed, and Lucy, in her
sister's room, was giving vent to her wrath against Berintha, the
party, St. Leon, and all.

Scolding, however, could do her no good, and ere long, throwing
herself undressed upon a lounge she fell asleep, and dreamed that
grandma was married to the doctor, that Berintha had become her
stepmother, and, worse than all, that Ada Harcourt was Mrs. St. Leon.




CHAPTER IX.

A WEDDING AT ST. LUKE'S.


The day but one following the party, as Lucy was doing some shopping
down street she stepped for a moment into her dressmaker's, Miss
Carson's, where she found three or four of her companions, all eagerly
discussing what seemed to be quite an interesting topic. As Lucy
entered, one of them turning toward her said; "Oh, isn't it strange?
Or haven't you heard?"

"Heard what?" asked Lucy; and her companion replied:

"Why, Ada Harcourt is going to be married. Miss Carson is making her
the most beautiful traveling dress, with silk hat to match--"

"Besides three or four elegant silk dresses," chimed in another.

"And the most charming morning-gown you ever saw--apple green, and
dark green, striped--and lined with pink silk," rejoined a third.

By this time Lucy had sunk into the nearest chair. The truth had
flashed upon her, as it probably has upon you; but as she did not wish
to betray her real emotions she forced a little bitter laugh, and
said, "St. Leon, I suppose, is the bridegroom."

"Yes; who told you?" asked her companion.

"Oh, I've seen it all along," answered Lucy carelessly. "He called
with her once at our house!"

"But you didn't invite her to your party," said mischievous Bessie
Lee, who loved dearly to tease Lucy Dayton. "You didn't invite her to
your party, and so he left early, and I dare say went straight to Mrs.
Harcourt's and proposed, if he hadn't done so before. Now, don't you
wish you'd been more polite to Ada? They say he's got a cousin South,
as rich and handsome as he is, and if you'd only behaved as you
should, who knows what might have happened!"

Lucy deigned Bessie no reply, and turning to another young lady,
asked, "When is the wedding to be?"

"Next Thursday morning, in the church," was the answer; and Bessie Lee
again interposed, saying, "Come, Lucy, I don't believe you have ever
returned Ada's call, and as I am going to see her, and inquire all
about that Cousin Frank, suppose you accompany me, and learn the
particulars of the wedding."

"Thank you," said Lucy; "I don't care enough about it to take that
trouble;" and soon rising she left the shop.

If Lucy manifested so much indifference, we wot of some bright eyes
and eager ears which are willing to know the particulars, so we will
give them as follows: When St. Leon left Mr. Dayton's it was ten
o'clock, but notwithstanding the lateness of the hour he started for
the small brown house on "Dirt Alley," where dwelt the sewing woman
and her daughter, who were both busy on some work which they wished to
finish that night. Ada had stopped for a moment to replenish the fire
when a knock at the door startled her. Opening it she saw St. Leon,
and in much surprise said, "Why, I supposed you were at the party."

"So I have been," said he; "but I grew weary, and left for a more
congenial atmosphere;" then advancing toward Mrs. Harcourt, he took
her hand, saying, "Mrs. Linwood, allow me to address you by your right
name this evening."

We draw a veil over the explanation which followed--over the
fifty-nine questions asked by Ada concerning Jenny--and over the _one_
question asked by St. Leon, the answer to which resulted in the
purchase of all those dresses at Miss Carson's and the well-founded
rumor that on Thursday morning a wedding would take place at St.
Luke's church.

Poor Lucy! how disconsolate she felt! St. Leon was passing from her
grasp, and there was no help. On her way home she three times heard of
the wedding, and of Ada's real name and former position in life, and
each time her wrath waxed warmer and warmer. Fortunate was it for
Berintha and grandma that neither made her appearance until tea-time,
for Lucy was in just the state when an explosive storm would surely
have followed any remark addressed to her!

The next day was the Sabbath, and as Lucy entered the church, the
first object which met her eye was St. Leon, seated in the sewing
woman's pew, and Ada _tolerably_ though not _very_ near him! "How
disgusting!" she hissed between her teeth, as she entered her own
richly-cushioned seat, and opened her velvet-bound prayer book.
Precious little of the sermon heard she that day, for, turn which way
she would, she still saw in fancy the sweet young face of her rival;
and it took but a slight stretch of imagination to bring to view a
costly house in the far-off "Sunny South," a troop of servants, a
handsome, noble husband, and the hated Ada the happy mistress of them
all! Before church was out Lucy was really sick, and when at home in
her room she did not refuse the bowl of herb tea which Berintha kindly
brought her, saying "it had cured her when she felt just so."

The morning of the wedding came, and though Lucy had determined not to
be present, yet as the hour approached she felt how utterly impossible
it would be for her to stay away; and when at half-past eight the
doors were opened she was among the first who entered the church,
which in a short time was filled. Nine rang from the old clock in the
belfry, and then up the broad aisle came the bridal party, consisting
of Mr. and Mrs. Graham, Charlie and Anna, Mrs. Harcourt, or Mrs.
Linwood as we must now call her, St. Leon and Ada.

"Was there ever a more beautiful bride?" whispered Bessie Lee; but
Lucy made no answer, and as soon as the ceremony was concluded she
hurried home, feeling almost in need of some more catnip tea!

In the eleven o'clock train St. Leon with his bride and her mother
started for New Haven, where they spent a delightful week, and then
returned to S----. A few days were passed at the house of Mr. Graham,
and then they departed for their southern home. As we shall not again
have occasion to speak of them in this story we will here say that the
following summer they came North, together with Jenny and Cousin
Frank, the latter of whom was so much pleased with the rosy cheeks,
laughing eyes, and playful manners of Bessie Lee that when he returned
home he coaxed her to accompany him; and again was there a wedding in
St. Luke's, and again did Miss Carson make the bridal outfit, wishing
that all New Orleans gentlemen would come to S---- for their wives.




CHAPTER X.

A SURPRISE.


"Reuben," said Grandma Dayton to her son one evening after she had
listened to the reading of a political article for which she did not
care one fig, "Reuben, does thee suppose Dr. Benton makes a charge
every time he calls?"

"I don't know," said Mr. Dayton; "what made you ask that question?"

"Because," answered grandma--and her knitting needles rattled loud
enough to be heard in the next room--"because, I think he calls mighty
often, considering that Lizzie neither gets better nor worse; and I
think, too, that he and Berintha have a good many private talks!"

The paper dropped from Mr. Dayton's hand, and "What can you mean?"
dropped from his lips.

"Why," resumed grandma, "every time he comes he manages to see
Berintha alone; and hain't thee noticed that she has colored her hair
lately, and left off caps?"

"Yes; and she looks fifteen years younger for it; but what of that?"

Grandma, whose remarks had all been preparatory to the mighty secret
she was about to divulge, coughed, and then informed her son that
Berintha was going to be married, and wished to have the wedding
there.

"Berintha and the doctor! Good!" exclaimed Mr. Dayton. "To be sure,
I'll give her a wedding, and a wedding dress, too."

Here grandma left the room, and after reporting her success to
Berintha, she sought her granddaughters, and communicated to them the
expected event. When Lucy learned of her cousin's intended marriage
she was nearly as much surprised and provoked as she had been when
first she heard of Ada's.

Turning to Lizzie she said, "It's too bad! for of course we shall have
to give up all hopes of the doctor's money."

"And perhaps thee'll be the only old maid in the family, after all,"
suggested grandma, who knew Lucy's weak point, and sometimes loved to
touch it.

"And if I am," retorted Lucy angrily, "I hope I shall have sense
enough to mind my own business, and not interfere with that of my
grandchildren!"

Grandma made no answer, but secretly she felt some conscientious
scruples with regard to Lucy's grandchildren! As for Berintha she
seemed entirely changed, and flitted about the house in a manner which
caused Lucy to call her "an old fool, trying to ape sixteen." With a
change of feelings her personal appearance also changed, and when she
one day returned from the dentist's with an entire set of new teeth,
and came down to tea in a dark, fashionably-made merino, the
metamorphose was complete, and grandma declared that she looked better
than she ever had before in her life. The doctor, too, was improved,
and though he did not color his hair, he ordered six new shirts, a new
coat, a new horse and a pair of gold spectacles!

After a due lapse of time the appointed day came, and with it, at an
early hour, came Cousin John and Elizabeth Betsey, bringing with them
the few herbs which Berintha, at the time of her removal, had
overlooked. These Bridget demurely proposed should be given to Miss
Lucy, "who of late was much given to drinking catnip." Perfectly
indignant, Lucy threw the herbs, bag and all, into the fire, thereby
filling the house with an odor which made the asthmatic old doctor
wheeze and blow wonderfully during the evening.

A few of the villagers were invited, and when all was ready Mr. Dayton
brought down in his arms his white-faced Lizzie, who imperceptibly
had grown paler and weaker every day, while those who looked at her as
she reclined upon the sofa, sighed, and thought of a different
occasion when they probably would assemble there. For once Lucy was
very amiable, and with the utmost politeness and good nature waited
upon the guests. There was a softened light in her eye, and a
heightened bloom on her cheek, occasioned by a story which Berintha,
two hours before, had told her, of a heart all crushed in its youth,
and aching on through long years of loneliness, but which was about to
be made happy by a union with the only object it had ever loved! Do
you start and wonder? Have you not guessed that Dr. Benton, who that
night for the second time breathed the marriage vow, was the same who,
years before, won the girlish love of Berintha Dayton, and then turned
from her to the more beautiful Amy Holbrook, finding, too late, that
all is not gold that glitters? It is even so, and could you have seen
how tightly he clasped the hand of his new wife, and how fondly his
eye rested upon her, you would have said that, however long his
affections might have wandered, they had at last returned to her, his
first, best love.




CHAPTER XI.

LIZZIE.

    Gathered 'round a narrow coffin,
      Stand a mourning, funeral train,
    While for her, redeemed thus early,
      Tears are falling now like rain.

    Hopes are crushed and hearts are bleeding;
      Drear the fireside now, and alone;
    She, the best loved and the dearest,
      Far away to heaven hath flown.

    Long, long, will they miss thee, Lizzie,
      Long, long days for thee they'll weep;
    And through many nights of sorrow
      Memory will her vigils keep.


In the chapter just finished we casually mentioned that Lizzie,
instead of growing stronger, had drooped day by day, until to all save
the fond hearts which watched her, she seemed surely passing away. But
they to whom her presence was as sunlight to the flowers, shut their
eyes to the dreadful truth, refusing to believe that she was leaving
them. Oftentimes during the long winter nights would Mr. Dayton steal
softly to her chamber, and kneeling by her bedside gaze in mute
anguish upon the wasted face of his darling. And when from her
transparent brow and marble cheek he wiped the deadly night sweats, a
chill, colder far than the chill of death, crept over his heart, and
burying his face in his hands he would cry, "Oh, Father, let this cup
pass from me!"

As spring approached she seemed better, and the father's heart grew
stronger, and Lucy's step was lighter, and grandma's words more
cheerful, as hope whispered, "she will live." But when the snow was
melted from off the hillside, and over the earth the warm spring sun
was shining, when the buds began to swell and the trees to put forth
their young leaves, there came over her a change so fearful that with
one bitter cry of sorrow hope fled forever; and again, in the lonely
night season, the weeping father knelt and asked for strength to bear
it when his best-loved child was gone.

"Poor Harry!" said Lizzie one day to Anna, who was sitting by her,
"Poor Harry, if I could see him again; but I never shall."

"Perhaps you will," answered Anna. "I wrote, to him three weeks ago,
telling him to come quickly."

"Then he will," said Lizzie, "but if I should be dead when he comes,
tell him how I loved him to the last, and that the thought of leaving
him was the sharpest pang I suffered."

There were tears in Anna's eyes as she kissed the cheek of the sick
girl, and promised to do her bidding. After a moment's pause Lizzie
added, "I am afraid Harry is not a Christian, and you must promise not
to leave him until he has a well-founded hope that again in heaven I
shall see him."

Anna promised all, and then as Lizzie seemed exhausted she left her
and returned home. One week from that day she stood once more in
Lizzie's sick-room, listening for the last time to the tones of the
dying girl as she bade her friends adieu. Convulsed with grief Lucy
knelt by the bedside, pressing to her lips one little clammy hand, and
accusing herself of destroying her sister's life. In the furthest
corner of the room sat Mr. Dayton. He could not stand by and see
stealing over his daughter's face the dark shadow which falls but once
on all. He could not look upon her when over her soft brown eyes the
white lids closed forever. Like a naked branch in the autumn wind his
whole frame shook with agony, and though each fiber of grandma's heart
was throbbing with anguish, yet for the sake of her son she strove to
be calm, and soothed him as she would a little child. Berintha, too,
was there, and while her tears were dropping fast, she supported
Lizzie in her arms, pushing back from her pale brow the soft curls
which, damp with the moisture of death, lay in thick rings upon her
forehead.

"Has Harry come?" said Lizzie.

The answer was in the negative, and a moan of disappointment came from
her lips.

Again she spoke: "Give him my Bible--and my curls--when I am dead let
Lucy arrange them--she knows how; then cut them off, and the best, the
longest, the brightest is for Harry; the others for you all. And
tell--tell--tell him to meet--me in heaven--where I'm--going--going."

A stifled shriek from Lucy, as she fell back fainting, told that with
the last word, "going," Lizzie had gone to heaven!

An hour after the tolling bell arrested the attention of many, and of
the few who asked for whom it tolled nearly all involuntarily sighed
and said, "Poor Harry! Died before he came home!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the night before the burial, and in the back parlor stood a
narrow coffin containing all that was mortal of Lizzie Dayton. In the
front parlor Bridget and another domestic kept watch over the body of
their young mistress. Twelve o'clock rang from the belfry of St.
Luke's church, and then the midnight silence was broken by the shrill
scream of the locomotive as the eastern train thundered into the
depot. But the senses of the Irish girls were too profoundly locked in
sleep to heed that common sound; neither did they hear the outer door,
which by accident had been left unlocked, swing softly open, nor saw
they the tall figure which passed by them into the next room--the room
where stood the coffin.

Suddenly through the house there echoed a cry, so long, so loud, so
despairing, that every sleeper started from their rest, and hurried
with nervous haste to the parlor, where they saw Harry Graham, bending
in wild agony over the body of his darling Lizzie, who never before
had turned a deaf ear to his impassioned words of endearment. He had
received his sister's letter, and started immediately for home, but
owing to some delay did not reach there in time to see her alive.
Anxious to know the worst, he had not stopped at his father's house,
but seeing a light in Mr. Dayton's parlors, hastened thither. Finding
the door unlocked, he entered, and on seeing the two servant girls
asleep, his heart beat quickly with apprehension. Still he was
unprepared for the shock which awaited him, when on the coffin and her
who slept within it his eye first rested. He did not faint, nor even
weep, but when his friends came about him with words of sympathy he
only answered, "Lizzie, Lizzie, she is dead!"

During the remainder of that sad night he sat by the coffin pressing
his hand upon the icy forehead until its coldness seemed to benumb his
faculties, for when in the morning his parents and sister came he
scarcely noticed them; and still the world, misjudging ever, looked
upon his calm face and tearless eye, and said that all too lightly had
he loved the gentle girl whose last thoughts and words had been of
him. Ah, they knew not the utter wreck the death of that young girl
had made, of the bitter grief, deeper and more painful because no
tear-drop fell to moisten its feverish agony. They buried her, and
then back from the grave came the two heart-broken men, the father and
Harry Graham, each going to his own desolate home, the one to commune
with the God who had given and taken away, and the other to question
the dealings of that Providence which had taken from him his all.

Days passed, and nothing proved of any avail to win Harry from the
deep despair which seemed to have settled upon him. At length Anna
bethought her of the soft, silken curl which had been reserved for
him. Quickly she found it, and taking with her the Bible repaired to
her brother's room. Twining her arms around his neck she told him of
the death-scene, of which he before had refused to hear. She finished
her story by suddenly holding to view the long, bright ringlet which
once adorned the fair head now resting in the grave. Her plan was
successful, for bursting into tears Harry wept nearly two hours. From
that time he seemed better, and was frequently found bathed in tears,
and bending over Lizzie's Bible, which now was his daily companion.

Lucy, too, seemed greatly changed. She had loved her sister as
devotedly as one of her nature could love, and for her death she
mourned sincerely. Lizzie's words of love and gentle persuasion had
not been without their effect, and when Mr. Dayton saw how kind, how
affectionate and considerate of other people's feelings his daughter
had become, he felt that Lizzie had not died in vain.

Seven times have the spring violets blossomed, seven times the flowers
of summer bloomed, seven times have the autumnal stores been gathered
in, and seven times have the winds of winter sighed over the New
England hills since Lizzie was laid to rest. In her home there have
been few changes. Mr. Dayton's hair is whiter than it was of old, and
the furrows on his brow deeper and more marked. Grandma, quiet and
gentle as ever, knits on day after day, ever and anon speaking of "our
dear little Lizzie, who died years ago."

Lucy is still unmarried, and satisfied, too, that it should be so. A
patient, self-sacrificing Christian, she strives to make up to her
father for the loss of one over whose memory she daily weeps, and to
whose death she accuses herself of being accessory. Dr. Benton and his
rather fashionable wife live in their great house, ride in their
handsome carriage, give large dinner parties, play chess after supper,
and then the old doctor nods over his evening paper, while Berintha
nods over a piece of embroidery, intended to represent a little dog
chasing a butterfly and which would as readily be taken for that as
for anything else, and for anything else as that.

Two years ago a pale young missionary departed to carry the news of
salvation to the heathen land. Some one suggested that he should take
with him a wife, but he shook his head mournfully, saying, "I have one
wife in heaven." The night before he left home, he might have been
seen, long after midnight, seated upon a grassy grave, where the
flowers of summer were growing. Around the stone which marks the spot
rose bushes have clustered so thickly as to hide from view the words
there written, but push them aside and you will read, "Our darling
Lizzie."



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