Infomotions, Inc.The Doctor's Daughter / Vera, [pseud.], 1865-



Author: Vera, [pseud.], 1865-
Title: The Doctor's Daughter
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): amey; dalton; cousin bessie; ernest dalton; amey hampden; miss hampden
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Title: The Doctor's Daughter

Author: "Vera"

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THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER.

BY "VERA."
AUTHOR OF "HONOR EDGEWORTH"

"_O Tempora! O Mores!_"




PREFACE.

Charles Dickens observes with much truth, that "though seldom read,
prefaces are continually written." It may be asked and even wondered,
why? I cannot say that I know the exact reason, but it seems to me
that they may carry the same weight, in the literary world, that
certain _sotto voce_ explanations, which oftentimes accompany the
introduction of one person to another, do in the social world.

If it is permitted, in bringing some quaint, old-fashioned little
body, before a gathering of your more fastidious friends, at once to
reconcile them to his or her strange, ungainly mien, and to justify
yourself for acknowledging an intimacy with so eccentric a creature,
by following up the prosy and unsuggestive: "Mr. B----, ladies and
gentlemen," or "Miss M----, ladies and gentlemen," with such a
refreshing paraphrase as, "brother-in-law of the celebrated Lord
Marmaduke Pulsifer," or, "confidential companion, to the wife of the
late distinguished Christopher Quill the American Poet"--why should
not a like privilege be extended the labour-worn author, when he
ushers the crude and unattractive offspring of his own undaunted
energy into the arena of literary life?

Mr. B----, without the whispered guarantee of his relative importance,
would never be noticed unless to be riled or ridiculed; and so with
many a meek and modest volume, whose key-note has never been sounded,
or if sounded has never been heard.

We would all be perfect in our attributes if we could! Who would write
vapid, savourless pages, if it were in his power to set them aglow
with rare erudition, and dazzling conceptions of ethical and other
abstract subjects? If I had been born a Dickens, _lector benevole_, I
would have willingly, eagerly, proudly, favoured you with a "Tale of
Two Cities" or a "David Copperfield;" of that you may be morally
certain, however, it is no mock self-disparagement (!) that moves me
to humbly acknowledge (!) my inferiority to this immortal mind. I have
availed myself of the only alternative left, when I recognized the
impossibility of rivalling this protagonist among the _dramatis
personae_ of the great Drama of English Fiction, and have done
something of which he speaks very tenderly and delicately somewhere in
his prolific writings, one's "best." He says, "one man's best is as
good as another man's," not in its results, (I know by experience),
but in the abstract relationship which exists between the nature of
the two efforts, and I am grateful to him for having thus provided
against the possible discouragement of "small authorship."

In the subjoining pages, I offer to the world, a pretenseless record
of the impressions, opinions, and convictions which have been, I may
say, thrust upon me by a contact, which is yet necessarily limited,
with the phases of every-day life.

That some of these reflections and conclusions should not meet with
universal sympathy or approval, is not at all to be wondered at, when
we consider how much more different, than alike, are any two human
lives and lots. I do not ask my readers to subscribe to those tenets
and opinions which may seem unreal and exaggerated to them, because of
their different experience; I can only justify them in myself, by
declaring them to be the outgrowth of my own personal speculations in
the market of commonplace existence.

It has been my pleasure to probe under the surface of sorrow and song
that makes the swelling, restless tide of human passions a strange and
tempting mystery, even to itself; and though my pen may have failed to
carry out the deep-rooted ambition of my soul, there is some comfort
in the thought that I have made an effort; I have tried my young
wings, with the hope of soaring upward: if they are yet too feeble to
bear me, I am no more than the young eagle, and must rise again from
my fall, to await a gathering confidence and strength that may, or may
not, be in store for me.

A little mouse presumed to be the deliverer of a mighty lion, when
this noble beast lay ensnared and entangled in a net; it was slow and
tiresome work for the tiny benefactor to nibble now here, now there,
wherever its small teeth could find a vulnerable or yielding spot: but
a determination and decision of purpose, coupled with an undaunted and
fearless perseverance, have given issue time and again to achievements
even greater, though still less promising, than the undertaking of the
little mouse in the fable, but for those who can yet take heart, in
the face of possible failure, I think half the battle is won.

In introducing a second effort to the public, I feel called upon to
avail myself of the opportunity it affords me, of thanking many
readers for the kindness and consideration extended to my first. It
was kind of them to have dwelt at length upon its few redeeming
traits, and to have touched lightly and gently upon the cruder and
more faulty ones; it was kind of them to have taken into account every
circumstance which had any bearing upon the nature of the work: to
have alluded to the youth and inexperience of the writer. It was kind,
even of those who took it upon themselves to aver, not in the hearing
of the authoress herself, but elsewhere, that the composition was far
from being original. This latter verdict would have been the highest
tribute of all to the talent and erudition of the authoress, had they
who uttered it been capable or responsible judges of literary merit.
Being of that class, instead, who feel it urgent upon them to say
something, however garrulous or silly, when a local topic agitates
their immediate sphere, the authoress has not much reason for hoping
that their intention was really to flatter her maiden effort, by
purposely mistaking it for the work of an older, and abler hero of the
quill; however, if it might have been worthy of a maturer mind and
more powerful pen, in their eyes, a high compliment is necessarily
insinuated, even there, for the humble writer.

If the present story can lighten the burden of an idle hour of
sickness or sorrow; if it may shorten the time of waiting, or distract
the monotony of travel; if it may strike a key-note of common sympathy
between its author and its reader, where the shallow side of nature is
regretfully touched upon; if it may attract the potent attention of
even one of those whose words and actions regulate the tone and tenor
of our social life, to the urgency of encouraging, promoting and
favouring the principles of an active Christian morality, whose beauty
lies, not in the depths or vastness of its abstract conceptions, but
in its earnest, humble, and tireless labours for the advancement of
men's spiritual and temporal welfare--if it may do any one of these
things, it shall have more than realized the fond and fervent wish of
the author's heart: it shall have reaped her a golden harvest for the
tiresome task she has just accomplished, and shall have stimulated
anew her every energy, to associate itself more strongly and ardently
than ever, with the cause which struggles for men's freedom from the
fetters of a sordid and tyrant worldliness.







CHAPTER I.

Five-and-thirty years ago, before many of my fair young readers were
inflicted with the burdens of life, there came into this great world,
under the most ordinary and unpretending circumstances, a helpless
little baby girl: a dear, chubby, little thing, who at that moment, if
never afterwards in the long and intricate course of her mortal
career, looked every jot as interesting and as promising of a possible
extraordinary destiny as did the little being who, some years before
that, opened her eyes for the first time upon the elegant surroundings
of a chamber in Kensington Palace; and neither the Princess Louise of
Sachsen-Koburg, nor Edward the Duke of Kent, were any more elated or
gratified over the grand event which came into their lives on the
twenty-fourth of May, in the year of Our Lord 1819, than Amey and
Alfred Hampden were on the eighth of December, 185-, at the advent of
this little stranger into their humble home. Buried in baby finery,
this unsuspecting new-comer slumbered contentedly in a dainty cot. The
room was silent and darkened, the bright morning sunshine being shut
out by the heavy curtains which were carefully drawn across the
window: there was a ring of rare contentment in the crackle and purr
of the wood-stove, that filled a remote corner of the room with its
comfortable presence: and the sustaining spirit of wedded love, was as
pronouncedly omnipresent as befitted the interesting occasion.

Thus, so far as the eye of those who prognosticate from existing
circumstances could see, there was every prospect of comfort and
happiness in the dawning future, for this passive little bundle of
humanity lying in state in her neatly furnished basket-cradle; whether
it pleased his reverence Father Time, or not, to subscribe thus
obligingly to the wishes of a concerned few, is a secret which my pen
can best tell.

So strangely do the destinies of men and women resolve themselves out
of every day circumstances, that philosophers and moralists, with
their choicest erudition, are ofttimes puzzled over the solution of a
mysteriously chequered life, which they will not allow was guided by
the most natural and common-place accidents of existence.

That there are certain premises, from which the tenor of a yet unlived
life can be more or less accurately anticipated, no one will deny.
There are certain surroundings, certain particular circumstances,
that, from time immemorial have never failed to produce certain
infallible results; but, these abnormal pauses, and unforeseen
interruptions, that, time and again, have made of human lives the very
thing against which appearances were guarding them, are, it may be
providentially, held outside of the range of man's moral vision, and
screen themselves in ambush along either side of the seemingly smooth
vista, that spans the interval for certain individual human lives,
between time and eternity.

Such a high-sounding title as predestination, seems to lose much of
its potent charm when we take an interesting existence into our hands,
to dissect it, and analyse it, and reduce it to a rational origin.
Like decades of heterogeneous pearls, a human career with all its
varied details, glides through the fingers of the moral anatomist,
each fraction standing out by itself, suggesting its own real or
relative importance, yet associating itself ever with the rest, making
of the whole a more or less intricate, and, at best, a very uneven
chain.

When we consider that all the bewildering throng around and about us
have evolved into their present conditions of misery or joy from a
passive and innocent babyhood, we are mystified and awe-stricken;
there is so much inequality among the lots and portions of the
children of men, that it comes strangely home to us in our reverie, to
realize that the starting-point is, for one and all, the great and the
lowly, one and the same.

In its cradle, or on its mother's breast, the human creature knows no
special individuality, but when the rails of the cradle have been
climbed over, and the first foot-print stamped unaided upon the "sands
of time," a distinct personality has been established, which is the
embodiment of possible, probable, or uncertain influences--a
personality which grows and thrives upon internal stimulants
administered by an expanding mind and heart, and which leans almost
entirely for support upon the external accidents of fate or fortune
that may come in its way.

Were we as thoroughly penetrated with this conviction as we should be,
how different would be the issues of many human careers? Could we
accustom ourselves to meditate upon this truth as seriously as we
would upon a religious one, to examine our conscience from it as from
a reliable standpoint every day of our lives, what a flood of sympathy
and Christian charity would be let loose upon the social world from
converted hearts?

When men and women will thoroughly understand the strange and intimate
frame-work of human society, the wail of the pessimist will be soothed
and hushed forever: for then will they realize how dependent we poor
mortals are upon each other for sorrows or joys: then will it be plain
to them that no human life, however obscure, however trifling, is an
unfeeling thing, apart from every other, outside the daily contact of
every other.

Ah! we think, that God's creation, in all its grandeur and unrivalled
beauty, would be little worth, to a creature born to live and enjoy it
alone: and the infinite Wisdom decreed otherwise, when it gave unto
man a friend and companion in the first moments of his existence; but
is the world less desolate, less empty to a million hearts, because a
million others inhabit it as well? Has God's original intention
concerning the mutual love and companionship of His creatures,
survived unto the present day? I think the record of each reader's
large or small experience will answer this question for him eagerly
enough.

That these preliminary reflections should be the outgrowth of such an
ordinary event as the coming of a new baby into the already crowded
world may seem extravagant in more ways than one: but my object, as
the reader will see, is only to remind the forgetful majority, that
there are necessarily many reasons why men and women who have had a
common starting-point in life, should find themselves ere long at such
different goals.

I would suggest to them to consider the essential impressionability of
the human heart, especially in its period of early development, to
examine the nature of every external influence that weighs upon it,
and if the innocence of childhood has been recklessly forfeited with
time, to reserve their judgment until every aspect of the
circumstances has been impartially viewed.

I do not deny that the cradle in which I passed the first hours of
comfort and ease I have ever known, was rocked by a hand as loving as
that which rested caressingly upon the royal brow of the baby
Victoria. From the very first I was a peculiarly situated child,
surrounded by many comforts of which the majority of well-born
children are deprived, and deprived of many comforts by which
lowly-born children are surrounded. I was happiest when I was too
young to distinguish between pleasure and pain, and, as it were to
provide for the emptiness of much of my after life, destiny willed
that my memory should be the strongest and most comforting faculty of
my soul.

My mother died when I was but a few days old, and thus it is that I
have never known the real love or care of a true parent. Before I had
celebrated my third birthday there was another Mrs. Hampden presiding
over our household, but she was not my mother. This I never learned as
a direct fact, in simple words, until I had grown older; but there is
another channel through which truths of this sorrowful nature
oftentimes find their way: strange suspicions were creeping by degrees
into my heart, which with time gained great headway, and resolved
themselves into a questioning doubt, whether there had not been a day
when another, and a kinder face bent over my little cot, and smiled
upon me with a sweetness that did not chill and estrange me from it.

I had never been told in simple words, that my own mother lay under
one of those tall silent tombstones in the graveyard, where old
Hannah, our tried and trustworthy servant, was wont to go at times and
pray. No one had whispered to me that my father's second wife was, by
right, a stranger to the most sacred affections of my young soul, but
I learned the truth by myself.

When my growing heart began to seek and ask for the tender, patient
solicitude, which is to the child what the light and heat of the
summer sun are to the frailest tendril, no answer came to my mute
appeal. My little weaknesses and childish errors were never met with
that enduring forbearance which is the distinctive outgrowth of a
loving maternity. My trifling joys were rarely smiled upon, my petty
sorrows never shared nor soothed by that unsympathetic guardian of my
youth, and so I grew up by myself in a strange sort of isolation,
alienated in heart and spirit from those with whom of necessity I came
in daily contact.

And yet in many ways, my fathers' wife bestowed both care and
consideration upon me. My physical necessities were ever becomingly
attended to. I was allowed to sit at the table with her, which
privilege suggested no lack of substantial and dainty provisions, and
my governess was an accomplished and very discreet lady, whom my
step-mother secured after much trouble and worry; but here the limit
was drawn to her self-imposed duties; having done this much she rested
satisfied that she had so far outstepped the obligations of her
neutral position.

When I look back upon this period from the observatory of to-day, I
can afford to be more impartial in my judgments than I was in my youth
and immaturity. I know now, that my father's second wife was naturally
one of those selfish, narrow-hearted women, who never go outside of
their personal lot to taste or give pleasure. She had not the faintest
conception of what the cravings or desires of a truly sensitive nature
may be, and therefore knew nothing of the possible consequences of the
cold and unfeeling neglect with which my young life was blighted.

And even, had anyone told her, that her every word and action were
calculated to make a deep-rooted impression upon me, she would have
shrugged her shoulders pettishly, I doubt not, and declared that it
was "not her fault," that "some people were enough to provoke a
saint."

This was the woman whom the learned Doctor Hampden brought home to
conduct his household. He had found her under the gas-light at a
fashionable gathering, and was taken with her, he hardly knew why. She
was not very handsome, nor very winning, and certainly, not very
clever, but her family was a rare and tender off-shoot from an
unquestionably ancient and time-honored aristocracy, and, in
consequence, she carried her head high enough above the ordinary
social level, to have attracted a still more potent attention than Dr.
Hampden's.

I have heard that many a brow was arched in questioning surprise, when
the engagement was formally announced, and that nothing but the
ripening years of the prospective bride could have reconciled her more
sympathetic friends who belonged to that class of curious meddlers
that infest every society from pole to pole.

My father was undoubtedly a gentleman, and this was most
condescendingly admitted by his wife's fastidious coterie. A gentleman
by birth, by instinct, in dress, manners, taste, profession, and
general bearing. Moreover, he was a gentleman of social and political
influence, whose name had crept into journals and newspapers of
popular fame: in other words, he was one of "the men" of his day, with
a voice upon all public matters that agitated his immediate sphere.
Wherever he went, he was a gentleman of consequence, and carried no
mean individuality with him: he was that sort of a man one expects to
find married and settled in life, though here conjecture about him
must begin and end.

There are not a few men of his stamp in the world, and the reader I
doubt not has met them as frequently as I have myself. Sometimes they
are pillars of the state, leaders of political parties, with their
heads full of abstract calculations and wonderful statistics. Again
they are scientists, of a more or less exalted standing, artists,
antiquarians, agnostics, and undertakers, and they are all harmless,
respectable Benedicts, you know it without being told. You conclude it
from instinctively suggested premises, and yet in resting at such an
important conclusion nothing could have persuaded you to halt at the
every day, half-way house of courtship.

These men impress their fellow-men with the strange belief that
matrimony was for them a pre-ordained, forechosen vocation, a thing to
be done systematically according to reasons and rules, and the trivial
mind that would fain dwell upon a time in such methodical lives, when
heart predominated over head must apologize to the world of sentiment
and pass on to some less sensitive point of consideration.

My father, as I have said, was quite a consequential individual, his
very white, and very stiff, and very shining shirt-front insinuated as
much; his satiny black broadcloth confirmed it, and even the little
silk guard, that rested consciously upon his immaculate linen,
sustained the presumption. But for those and a few other reasons, he
was looked upon as a man of rigid method and severe discipline, a man
outside the grasp of ordinary human susceptibility, or, in more
familiar terms, a man "without a heart."

I remember, on one particular occasion, when the oft-ruffled serenity
of my step-mother's temperament was wonderfully agitated, that she
reproached him most touchingly for the utter absence of this tender,
palpitating organ; and turning towards her with a smile of the
blandest amusement, he explained to her, in a tone of remonstrative
sarcasm, laying two rigid fingers of one hand argumentatively in the
open palm of the other, "that no man could live without a heart," that
it was an essential element of existence, that its professional name
was derived from the Latin _cor_ or _cordis_, that it was "the great
central organ of circulation, with its base directed backward towards
the spine, and its point, forward and downward, towards the left side,
and that at each contraction it would be felt striking between the
fifth and sixth ribs about four inches from the medium line." "So you
see, my dear," he concluded calmly and coldly, "that you talk
nonsense, when you say I have no heart." That was my father's
disposition; to suspect that any one, or anything else could hope for
the privilege of making his heart beat, except this natural physical
contraction, were a vain and empty surmise indeed. And yet he had been
twice married; the question may suggest itself, had he ever loved? I
dare say he had analysed his amative propensity thoroughly, and knew
to what extent it existed within him, but when a man can reconcile
himself to the belief that on the "middle line of the skull, at the
back part of his head, there is a long projection, below which, and
between two similar protuberances, is his Organ of amativeness," or
that by which he learns "the lesson of life, the sad, sad lesson of
loving," methinks he is not outraged by a public opinion which casts
him down in disgust from the pedestal of respectable humanity, and
this option I will leave to the reader, even though the subject in
this instance be my own parent.

Whether his second wife, and the only Mrs. Hampden with whom we shall
have to deal, was disappointed in her expectations of her husband, or
not, is a something which I could only suspect, or at most, arrive at
from the indications of appearances, as I am entirely ignorant of what
the nature of such expectations may have been.

The domestic atmosphere of our home was apparently healthy, and
untroubled by foreign or unpleasant elements; our surroundings were
apparently comfortable, and the family apparently satisfied. What more
could be desired? Critics complain of the indiscreet writer, who
raises the thick impenetrable veil, which is supposed to screen a
domestic, political or social grievance from the common eye of all
three conditions. Even he who makes a little rend, with his own pen,
for his own ambition's sake, is not pardoned, and so if every picture
which the world holds up to view, presents a fair and brilliant
surface, whose business may it be to ask in an insinuating tone,
whether the other side is just as enchanting or not?

If the world insists upon calling an apparently happy home, happy in
reality, then ours was indisputably so, but the world and I have long
since ceased to agree upon matters of such a nature.

My father was married for some time to his second wife before any
material change came into their lives. I took advantage of the
interval and grew considerably, having proved a most opportune victim
on many an occasion for my disappointed step-mother's ill-humour. This
latter personage had contracted several real or imaginary disorders
and absorbed her own soul, with all its most tender attributes, in her
constant demand and need for a sympathy and solicitude which were
nowhere to be found. Her husband had retired by degrees into the
exclusive refuge of his scientific and literary pursuits, and lived as
effectually apart from the woman he had married, as far as friendly
intercourse and mutual confidence were concerned, as though they were
strangers.

And yet, whenever Mrs. Hampden found herself well enough to go out, my
father accompanied her with the most amiable urbanity; thus, from time
to time, they appeared among the gay coterie to which they always
belonged in name, looking as happy and contented as most husbands and
wives do, who, for half a dozen years or so, have been trying one
another's patience with more or less success.

Thus by a strange unfitness of things, will one unheeded uncared-for
little life drift out by itself into an open sea of dangers and
difficulties, with nothing more wholesome to distract it during the
long lonely hours of many successive days, as they come and go, than
its own morbid tendencies.

Necessarily, this abnormal growth of an impressionable young soul,
began to speak for itself, in accents which would have caught the
ready, willing ear of an attentive parent, had mine been such. In my
twelfth year I was as much a woman as I am to-day, matured and
hardened by an experience that would have blighted a more yielding and
less obdurate spirit.

Convinced, that in point of fact, I was alone in the world, dependent
upon my own resources for whatever little truant ray of sunshine I
might get from the golden flood that illuminated the world outside me,
and forced by rigid, arbitrary circumstances to train my growing
convictions into many a hazardous channel, left to myself to grope
among the dawning mysteries of life, that are a burden to age and
experience even when lightened by the helping hand of a common
sympathy, I ceased before long to struggle against these abstract foes
that made a mockery of my childish strength and resistance.

For the first few years of my life, therefore, I had been my own care,
my own and only friend, and oftentimes my own--but not only--enemy.
Occasionally my father chatted with me, but that was mostly when I was
in good humour, and would not let him get an insight into the secret
workings of my busy little heart. But, even supposing I had, with a
child's instinctive confidence in its parent, gone to him in my lonely
hours, and thrown my hands convulsively about his neck, to tell my
tale of trifling woes, what difference would it have made? Very
little. He would have given me a silver coin or two, and told me to
run away and amuse myself, that he was busy and could not spare his
time for idle amusement. No one knew this better than I did; the
memory of one such experiment tried in my very early youth will never
leave my mind: it seemed to me that no future, however laden with
compensating joys, could efface the dreary outlines which this
childish experience had stamped upon my heart.

That day, when full of a pent-up sorrow I had boldly decided to seek
comfort on my father's knee, is, and ever will be, a living, breathing
present to me. In stifled sobs, I tried to tell my little tale of
grief, and was about to bury my tear-stained face upon his shoulder,
when he raised his eyes impatiently, and brushed away, with a peevish
gesture, one of my salt tears that lay appealingly upon the smooth
broadcloth covering of his arm: he chided me for crying so very
immoderately, saying, he hated "little girls that cried," and drawing
a silver piece from his pocket, he slipped it into my little trembling
hand, and banished me from the room.

I never forgot this, from my dignified, gentlemanly father, although
in my outward conduct there was nothing which insinuated the slightest
reproach for the pain he had given me on that occasion.

When I left his cheerless presence, I remember going back to my
play-room and throwing myself wearily into my little rocking-chair,
where, with my face turned to the wall, I cried as if my baby-heart
would break.

Here I rehearsed each feature of my bitter disappointment, and as my
young spirit rose in proud and angry revolt against a fate that could
wound me so undeservedly, I flung the wretched coin, with which my
thoughtless parent sought to buy his ease and comfort from me,
violently upon the floor.

Through my blinding tears I watched it roll quietly over the carpet
and stop suddenly against the prostrate figure of a doll that lay at a
little distance from where I sat. This incident changed the whole
tenor of my rebellious thought; in the earlier part of the day I had
dressed this doll in very fine clothes, intending to carry it to the
house of a poor neighbor, who lived in the rear of my father's
premises, and whose baby-girl was confined, through some hopeless
deformity, to the narrow limits of an invalid chair.

Something prevented me from carrying out this generous design at the
time, but the discarded coin unexpectedly revived my abandoned
project, and turned my thoughts into a pleasant channel. I rose up and
dried my eyes, and putting on my little sun-bonnet, gathered up the
fashionable wax lady and the piece of despised money, and stealing
down a quiet back-stairway, I went out on my mission of charity.

When I reached the home of my little invalid friend, I peered
noiselessly in at the window, as was my custom, lest, perhaps, I
should awaken her from one of her quiet slumbers, but this time she
was not sleeping; she sat upright in her chair with pillows at her
back, and her thin hair fell from her bowed head over the worn and
dog-eared pages of her mother's prayer-book. It was her only other
companion, besides her mother and me, and through many long, lonely
hours she was wont to turn the leaves backward and forward, dwelling
with the instinctive reverence of unsullied childhood, upon the homely
and inartistic representations it contained of the beautiful Drama of
the Redemption.

Such things, though seemingly trifling to relate, at this remote
period, when the sinful and foolish vanities of the world have crowded
themselves in between me and my cherished memories of that holy epoch,
I now regard as the true and unmistakeable key-note of my after life.

For, was it not to little Ella Wray I first assumed the attitude of
the worldling: subscribing to the laws and exigencies of
conventionality before I had suspected the existence of such an
influence? When she praised me, and thanked me, and urged me to be
grateful to the kind Father who had willed my surroundings to be those
of comfort and prosperity, what did I do? Good reader! I smiled half
consciously, and thus sanctioned her belief in my domestic happiness.
I veiled the sorrow that dwelt in my young heart with the shadows of a
borrowed playfulness, and I sullied the baby innocence of my
unsuspecting soul with a smiling lie.

But even in its infancy, human nature is prone to every passing
weakness that assails it. To know that other eyes looked out from a
narrower sphere upon my individual portion, and found it rich in
advantages over many others: to feel that in spite of all my harassing
little cares, my life could assume an exterior aspect of smoothness
and happiness, was a short-lived, though powerful stimulant, even to
my childish heart; and I could not forfeit the small pleasure I took
in the consciousness, that at least my sufferings were hidden, though
my pleasures were widely known, by laying bare the actual condition of
my affairs.

Naturally enough, this feeling has but strengthened and matured with
time and experience, and to-day, scattered broadcast over the world,
are friends of my childhood, my girlhood, and my womanhood, who look
upon my life as a tolerably beautiful thing, set apart by a lenient
destiny for a perpetual sunshine to brighten.

Ah well! Who knows, in this strange world whether there are many
happier than I? May it not be that other faces wear the mask of smiles
with which I myself have played a double part? I think I know enough
of human nature now, to suspect with Reason, that this livery of
contentment and joy which dazzles our eyes at intervals, as we review
the multitudes of the laughing and the gay, is a thing to be put on
and off at will, like any other garment; and hence is it that the
earthly happiness of men and women is susceptible of a relative
definition only. I do not wish to argue that such a thing as happiness
itself has become as obsolete in our day as hoop-skirts and
side-combs, for, from the earliest reflections I have ever indulged
in, I have concluded that it is quite easy to attain to a tolerable
degree of happiness, if external influences be not too desperately at
variance with our efforts to arrive at its tempting goal: and even
now, when I have made my way through some of the densest and darkest
fogs of experience, I know I should be happy yet, if, some day, I may
see the masses in revolt against the unjust tenets of nineteenth
century _convenances_, and advocating in its stead the beautiful
doctrine of "soul to soul as hand to hand."

Possibly, all these regretful conclusions are a sequel to the early
disappointments and sorrows of my younger days, for, I admit, that
though I thrived after a fashion under their depressing influence,
they had, most necessarily, a peculiar effect upon my temperament.

The one thing that wearied me above and more than all others, was the
changeless monotony of my existence; every day a tiresome repetition
of another, which forced me to attribute little or no value to time.

I was not old enough to be sent to school, although I had entered upon
what is called the years of discretion, but my father's wife had a
high-bred fear, lest in sending me to an educational establishment I
should indulge my uncouth tendencies by cultivating unfashionable
acquaintances, that in after years, might possibly, in some remote,
indefinite way, reflect upon her own unimpeachable dignity.

There came a day, however, when exacting circumstances obliged her to
look upon the prospect of placing me at school with a more impartial
eye. A change was creeping, slowly, but surely, into our lives: hardly
for the better in one way, and yet, in the end, I must acknowledge,
that to it I owe much of the happiness I have ever known.

Whether or not my obdurate step-mother was in reality as susceptible
as a woman should be, I am not free to say; but when, after a few
years of wedded life, the prospect of maternity began to grow less
shadowy and more reliable, her heart did seem to swell at rare
intervals with a real, or assumed pity for the little woman who had
been left to wander about motherless and friendless, spending her
young life, unheeded, among the cheerless apartments of her own
father's house.

While this new phase of existence was unfolding itself before her
eyes, like the lava from a long-slumbering volcano, a kind word or
deed was born now and then of the momentary influence. She would
stroke my head with a gesture of repenting, amending tenderness, give
me a bunch of gay ribbons for my last new doll, or even read me a
thrilling tale from my Christmas book of nursery fictions; but that
impulse was necessarily short-lived, and once it became spent, the
crater of her heart closed up again, and all was as cold and quiet as
before.

To my untutored mind, this relaxation, limited though it was, became a
perplexing mystery. I was conscious of no improvement in my attitude
towards my step-mother, I had not even wished, or determined to show
her any more marked affection or respect than I had ever done, and
this, to tell the truth, was precious little.

I did not know then, that this generous impulse of hers was
independent of her own desire or will, that it filled her heart
without her sanction or command, just as her life-blood did; that it
permeated her very being, when she neither sought nor expected it, and
that as it was self-creative, so would it of itself find a
satisfactory outlet in expressions and actions of tender womanly
solicitude.

As soon as my half-brother made his entrance into the world, however,
things took another turn. I was no longer the free, unfettered
creature I had been for the first part of my life. I could no longer
dispose of my days and hours as I liked best, but was on the contrary
forced to devote many of them to occupations of a most distasteful
nature.

The coming of this insignificant stranger into our home seemed a
disturbing and restless evil in my eyes. Naturally my stepmother was
beside herself with ecstacy, but why should she have expected the rest
of the household to be as absurdly enthusiastic?

When baby slept, the silence and stillness of death were sacredly and
solemnly imposed upon all. When baby was awake, the clatter provoked
for its infantship's pleasure was noisome and deafening to all.

With the advent of this undesirable relative into our home is
associated, for me, the remembrance of all such impatient entreaties
as, "Amey, bring your toys here to baby--Amey, come and sing to
baby--Amey, come and rock baby to sleep"--and I, though striving to
encourage a good intention and a hopeful outlook, finally succumbed to
the very human perversity of my soul, and when every atom of ordinary
endurance had given out, I realized that I had ended by loathing the
very name, or sight, or idea of the unwelcome baby.

Then, came a fresh burden of domestic worries to my unfortunate
step-mother. She could not trust her darling to the care of servants;
each one that she tried seemed determined to kill the little idol;
they handled it as roughly and carelessly as if it were an ordinary
baby; shook it when it screamed and refused to rock it while it slept.
In the end, with the undaunted heroism of unselfish maternity, she
resigned herself wholly and entirely to the exclusive care of her
beloved offspring, ministering to its ever increasing and multiplying
wants, with an admirable forebearance and kindness. Poor woman! she
found more than ample field for her patience and perseverance.

Blest with the healthiest of lungs, my new step-brother had no
scruples about asserting himself loudly and peevishly at all hours of
the day and night; rending the air with prolonged and impatient
screams that wounded the sensitive mother's heart deeply, and
irritated the rest of the household beyond endurance.

By degrees its much tried parent was made to realize that this noisy
acquisition to her home was considered unquestionably and
irreclaimably, her own. No one envied it to her, and as no one sought
to share any of the possible benefits that might follow in its wake,
neither did they seek to bear any of the burden of its existence in
the smallest detail.

The overjoyed, yet afflicted mother, was welcome to whatever comfort
or happiness her prophetic soul foresaw as a recompense to all this
endless worry and trouble. Even my father grew unsympathetic, and
actually arose one night when baby's plaintive minor key was
resounding through the house, and closed his bed-room door most
emphatically, to keep out the disturbing echoes that had broken in
upon his comfortable repose.

None of this passed unnoticed by my fretted stepmother, whose open
soul absorbed every passing instance of this nature, and stowed away
its keen impressions to be acted upon later, when time had modified
her responsibilities, and granted her a little respite from the
troubles of to-day.

In the agitated meanwhile I had begun to try my young wings. I felt
myself growing inwardly and outwardly; something was stirring my heart
with unusual palpitations. I was beginning to realize that life after
all did not mean what daily passed within the narrow arena of my home;
something whispered to me that outside those paltry limits, far away
over all the spires and chimney-tops, where the sky was so bright and
blue, life, real life, unfolded itself under many a varied aspect, and
with this suspicion, sprung up a lingering dissatisfaction, a longing
for something which no words of mine could define.

How clearly does this epoch of my life stand forth from the dreary
background of experience as I look at it from the watch-tower of
to-day? How I know now that this was the farewell passage of my
childhood, which was winging its flight, and leaving me to struggle
with the naked realities of life, which had hitherto been hidden and
undreamt of mysteries to me.

Ah! that passage of childhood, what a void it makes in the growing
heart; and how quietly its place is filled by unworthier influences.
Does all the abstract wealth, which there might be in the growth and
development of those who learn the alphabet of life upon our knee,
take one pang from the natural and pardonable sorrow with which we
watch the heavy footprint of an inevitable experience, crushing out
the last frail remnant of childhood from the hearts of those who such
a little while before were our "little ones?"

There is something far more appealing to the parent's heart in the
half worn stocking of the child who toddled from its cradle to its
grave, than in the mighty quill of her grey-haired poet son, rusted
though it be in the service of his art. In the broken stem of an
unfinished life, a mother mourns a host of possibilities that can
never now be realized; if we may credit the prophecies of such
sorrowing mothers who, bending over the cradle from which some
baby-spirit has just passed into the kingdom of the little ones, tell
in broken accents of sorrow and regret of all the promises of goodness
and greatness which have been sacrificed with that life, we must truly
admit that the world in all its wealth of heroes, bold and brave, its
bards, its poets, its grand masters of the quill, the chisel and the
brush, has not on record such another career as has been blighted in
its bloom each time the stern death-angel stood beside an infant's
cot.

And, if there are evils in our day which no human power can baffle or
subdue, with which reason and morals are struggling in vain, we must
not forget, as we dwell upon them, what the possible, nay even
probable mission was, of each little pair of dimpled hands that he
crossed on each still unheaving bosom, wherein might have been buried
secrets and mysteries which the world will now never know.

Yet, methinks, this transit from the cradle to the coffin is not so
sad in all its bearings as that other death of childhood, which
introduces us, not into a safe and definite eternity, but only into
another phase of temporal life; when the toys and the picture books
are stowed away, when the mind and heart are awakening in their
beautiful, untarnished susceptibility to the impressions of a world of
perils and of sorrows.

Not unlike our final passage is it either, for we go through it once,
and once only, and from its threshold our footsteps are directed
towards good or evil, for after-life. Let us remember this always,
when we are tempted to pass our rigid judgments upon our
fellow-creatures. Let us not lose sight of these occult impediments of
fate, that may have caused our fallen brother to halt and stagger in
the way of righteousness almost in spite of his watchfulness and eager
intentions to do what is good.

Without wearying the reader with a detailed account of that period of
my life immediately associated with the advent of my interesting
half-brother, I can permit myself to mention a few things which were
only a very natural outgrowth of this altered condition of our
domestic affairs.

First and foremost be it understood that I looked upon this new-comer
as a contribution sent by nature to fill up the gap that existed
between my step-mother's affections and mine, and naturally enough,
according as this child grew he drifted our two lives farther and
farther asunder. He absorbed all the latent sympathy and love from the
maternal heart, and as such ardent sentiments had long been aliens
from my breast, he had nothing to draw from the second source but a
placid and harmless indifference.

My father held a reception occasionally in his sanctum, whither baby
was carried with great pomp and ceremony to be smiled upon approvingly
until his good humour gave way, as soon as the little features
wrinkled ominously my father waved his hand towards the door,
escorting mother, and child, and nurse with the most eager courtesy
out of the room.

I need not tell my readers that the machinery of our domestic life was
sadly awry; neither in separate parts, nor as a whole, did it work
properly or satisfactorily, the metal was harsh and the little wheels
could never be got to run briskly or smoothly. How could they? I think
of all the hopeless conditions on earth, that which aspires to be able
to blend human lives together, which have no more leaning towards one
another than virtue to vice, is the maddest and vainest of all.

An absence of common sympathies between two human hearts, will drift
them apart in spite of the hugest efforts that can be made to attract
them to a point of mutual interest; they who hope either by subterfuge
or unselfish zeal, to reconcile phases of human character that have
not originally sprung from a common root of harmonious unison or
contrast, are as sure to see their ambition as ingloriously defeated
as if they had revived the search for the philosopher's stone.

And yet how much estrangement there is among men and women who, if
they had never been bound together by the sacred and solemn pledges of
wedded love, are supposed still to live according to a precept of
universal charity? How indifferent they become to one another's
fortune or fate? How repulsive to them the very suggestion of entering
generously into one another's lives to share each other's pleasures
and pains?

The world is full of this occult antagonism; every day Christians, as
I have known them, look upon the happiness or sorrow of their brother
toilers as so much subtracted from their own glad or miserable
experience. Hence do they begrudge the smiles of fortune that cheer
another life outside their own, and are so easily satisfied to see
furrows on other brows than their own. I know that the human heart is
instinctively covetous of earthly happiness, and, in nine cases out of
ten argues that its end justifies the means, whatever they may be, of
insuring it. But I also know, that those fitful flashes of sunlight
that cross the path of struggling mortals in the course of an ordinary
human life, are too visionary and short-lived to begin to repay us for
the unworthy barter of our better selves, which is the price of such
transient joys.

What is real happiness but a memory or an anticipation? Do we realize
that it presides over our daily lives? Not until it has become a thing
of the past; and as for the happiness of anticipation, it is not worth
much when we take into account the vague uncertainty of the issues of
time, and the instability of unborn to-morrows.

In a word then, our pleasure is nothing but a negative sensation while
it lasts; we are conscious that, for the time being, the burdensome
fetters of sorrow are loosened, and our souls expand in a glorious
freedom, the power of fate is temporarily suspended, the pressure is
removed from our spirit which soars about in its native element, like
a captive bird set free, flapping its poor paralysed wings that from
long imprisonment have almost forgotten their use--but pain!

Ah! surely no one questions whether pain is a positive sensation or
not; no one at least whose head has been bowed by adversity until his
lips have touched the bitter waters, and tasted perhaps largely of
their unpleasantness! Pain is vastly more to the human heart than the
absence of pleasure; pain is not merely an emptiness, or void, created
by the flight of more cheerful influences; it has a more definite and
distinct acceptation than this would allow; it has as many dark and
melancholy meanings as there are suffering souls in existence; it has
its phases of youth and maturity, now hopeful, now despairing, either
our enemy or our friend.

It professes to dwell among the children of men with the very
strictest impartiality, for pain is an aristocrat and a pauper; pain
rides in fine carriages, and clothes itself in fine linen; it smiles
and sings as often as it mourns and weeps; pain is learned, and it is
ignorant; it underlies the deepest, tenderest love, and it instigates
the darkest, bitterest hatred; in a word it is a weed which infests
the very choicest parterres of our minds and hearts, it thrives among
the buds and blossoms of men's intellects, and abounds above all among
the flowers and fruits of his affections; it is indigenous to both
soils, and no toiler, however industrious or persevering, has ever yet
succeeded in subduing its ravages.

It is no wonder then that we sometimes go on a wild-goose chase after
pleasure; it is not surprising that the wisest of us make foolish
attempts to grasp the will-o'-the-wisp that has been coaxing and
deceiving men for centuries. It is surprising that our persistent
self-confidence persuades our better sense that where countless
generations of pleasure-seekers have failed we can hope to succeed.

This parenthetical deviation is the fruit of my deep reflections
concerning this early period of my development; it is the web which
the deft fingers of my memory have woven around many a quiet reverie;
the substance of many a fire side cogitation, the phantoms of many a
twilight's dreaming.

I doubt not, that in that world of speculative opinions and
questionings, I have met the kindred spirits of many of my fellow
beings, clad in the ideal personality with which my thought invests
people, at the cross of those four great roads towards which, from all
corners of the earth, the spirits of mankind come trooping. We have
only to close our lids upon our external surroundings and swift as
thought itself is our passage into that fairy land of our reverie.

As early as my tenth year I had begun to build castles in the open
fire and to people the gloaming with whispering shadows; somehow the
habit has grown with me through all these years, with this difference,
however: in the reveries of my womanhood the heroes and heroines come
to me, from a long vanished past, clothed in a misty reality, and
associated with every joy and sorrow of my life.

In my childhood these were typical visions, the anticipation of a
restless impatience which yearned for the touchstone of sober
experience, to-day they are the re-creation of memory, and a rehearsal
of all those circumstances that have made sober experience a
comprehensive word for me.

Not that my life has made a heroine of me either in the world's eyes
or my own. I dare say, to the passive observer, it is plain and
ordinary enough. It is when we take away the flesh and blood reality,
which is the temple of the moral man, that the common-place aspects of
life become strange and attractive.

Subtract one of those every-day lives from the busy, moving mass of
humankind and place it under the microscope; bring up to the visible
surface all that has lain hidden for years from the casual glance of
the general observer; lay bare the secret tenor of its every thought
and motive and impulse. Is it any longer the thing it seemed to be
when jostled about in the busy throng?

Pluck one of the dusty blades of grass that grow unheeded by the
roadside; there are hundreds of them at your feet so much alike that
the one you chose had no identity, whatever, until you had, by chance
or design, separated it from the rest. Bear it away to your home and
place it under a powerful lens; is it still the same uninteresting
blade it was a moment ago out in the noisy and crowded thoroughfare?
Why does your gaze become riveted upon what is revealed? Ah! you
discern that such homely things are not at all what you have been wont
to think them. You are astonished to find how each individual trifle
is in itself a wonderful creation, swarming with a hidden and undreamt
of life, feeding a multitude of appetites, satisfying countless
cravings, struggling with a most powerful vitality, and challenging
powers, whose unseen tyranny is unsuspected by more than half the
world.

No wonder, then, that a singled-out human life excites our
astonishment; no wonder that we look upon an isolated fellow-creature
as if he were not one of us, but removed by adventitious circumstances
far above or below the common level of men and women.

It is not always the exaggerating pen of the author that creates
heroes and heroines out of our prosy humanity, and it is an undeniable
and stable fact that truth is far stranger than fiction. It is because
we men and women will conceal the realities of our lives from one
another, and under the banner of an all-enduring pride, struggle for
the privilege of living under a surface of smooth, unruffled evenness,
that humanity has become susceptible of so many false and misleading
interpretations.







CHAPTER II.

As every human life has its crises and turning-points for better or
worse, it will not surprise the reader to learn that there came a day
when Destiny, having nothing else to do, probably, turned her
good-humoured attention towards mine.

The commemoration of the coming into the world of my step-mother's
illustrious darling had been celebrated with due and undue festivities
and enthusiasm from the rising to the setting of a golden June sun.
Whether from an excess of spasmodic affectionate hugging, which, by
the way, was the chief feature of these joyful monthly, and quarterly,
and half-yearly solemnities, or not, the little being in question was
most unmanageably peevish and ill-humoured for three or four days
following these occasions of ecstatic thanksgiving.

One would imagine that by this time I had had sense enough to train
myself into a placid resignation over such circumstances of my life,
as seemed to me to be presided over by some inevitable ill-luck, but,
on the contrary, a growing perversity began to stimulate me at this
epoch more eagerly than ever to rebel against decrees so openly unfair
to me, and unable or unwilling, to cope with this moral enemy that had
taken so firm a hold of me, I yielded myself up, a sort of helpless
and reckless victim to its wiles, at the sacrifice, I must admit, of
my personal peace and comfort.

Usually, at this period I surprised and annoyed myself, when, in
passing accidentally before some tell-tale mirror, I saw the
reflection of a distressed and impatient scowl: usually, too, I was
conscious of my step being quick and angry, I was not aware, however,
that it was a growing deformity of my moral nature, oozing out thus in
every look and tone and gesture.

I had no apprehension of a dawning crisis that would call upon me to
declare war against my worse or better self, for, of course, they
could not both be mistress of the field. How could I, all untaught,
suspect that upon the issue of such a victory would depend the
happiness or misery of my after life?

Fortunately for me, some kind unseen hand was stretching forth in the
hour of my need, somebody's deft fingers snatched the tangled web that
had gone so far astray in the weaving, and in the nick of time made a
hazardous effort to smoothen the silken threads for the busy loom that
waits not for the slow or the erring.

I was standing on the gravel path beside a bed of flowers that was the
object of my fondest care, one fair summer morning, immediately after
a festive celebration in baby's honour. My cherished, but homely, wall
flowers were dripping in the morning sunlight, and every leaf on my
blossomless geraniums was carefully saturated.

I stood, with my faded water-pot carelessly dangling from three
fingers of one hand, looking so absorbedly down the avenue after the
vanishing outlines of a glittering carriage that had just rolled
splendidly by, that the dregs of my water-can trickled all unheeded by
me, down the side of my new sateen frock, accomplishing what, in the
eyes of my step-mother, would seem nothing less than an absolute ruin
and wreck.

My attention was riveted upon the liveried driver and shining gilded
trimmings of this handsome conveyance, and a flood of serious
reflections suddenly burst upon me. I had begun to imagine myself the
lucky centre of a thousand and one happy possibilities. I was grown
up, and out in the world, the wife of a very rich man, with costly
plumes in my bonnet, and rich lace on my showy parasol, like the lady
who had just driven by: I was quite my own mistress, with servants and
other people to obey me. I had a dashing barouche of my own, and was
rolling in conscious grandeur past my step-mother's window, with the
back of my expensive bonnet turned towards the half-closed shutter,
through which she was sure to be peering enviously--when the laths of
the very shutter in question were shaken impatiently, and a hasty,
authoritative voice cried out, "If you've nothing else to do but spoil
your new pink frock out there, Amelia Hampden, I wish you would come
in and play with your baby-brother for awhile;" and then, as the blind
and voice were lowered, I heard the usual "enough to provoke a saint,"
which was the finishing touch to every reprimand I either did, or did
not, deserve.

History repeats itself; nothing is surer. Here was I hand in hand with
a well-known hero of the Arabian Nights, weeping in open-mouthed
sorrow and astonishment over my basket of shattered glassware. I had
broken the salutary precept which exhorts us sanguine mortals not to
count our chickens before they are hatched, and now mourned the
prescribed result, an ice-cold shower bath in a Canadian December
could hardly be a more undesirable and unlooked for intrusion than was
this unappreciated and pressing invitation of Mrs. Hampden's in my
ears at this particular moment.

The rude awakening which her words caused me made me look quite absurd
in my own eyes, and with the sudden consciousness that I had been
making a fool of myself, pondering over such shadowy improbabilities,
as they seemed to me now, I turned sharply and impatiently from the
spot where I had been standing, and passing through a rustic gateway
at the end of the walk, I flung my innocent water-pot, with a gesture
of desperate anger, in among the cedar-bushes that skirted the
causeway leading into the lawn, and passed into the house.

It has been written, that "nothing like the heavy step betrays the
heavy heart," and if this be true, the matter of weight regarding the
seat of my affections, on this particular morning, was not a trivial
one. With an inflamed and spiteful wilfulness, I stamped my feet with
a louder and heavier tread on each step, as I ascended to answer my
unwelcome summons.

When I reached my step-mother's bed-chamber, the heavy curtain of
padded repp, which was suspended for the prevention of such draughts
as might be smuggled in through key-holes, or other minute openings
caused by an ill-fitting door, was drawn quite across the entrance,
and in my hasty and unforeseeing impatience I pushed it rudely aside
with rough hands and admitted myself within the sacred precincts, just
in time to see myself branded by my own actions, an intolerable little
imp, who, on this occasion, if never before, _was_ "enough to provoke
a saint."

In drawing the curtain so hastily from the entrance, I had pushed the
panels of the door rudely in, which unexpected treatment caused that
oft-abused fixture to swing unusually far back on its hinges, and
knock with a heart-rending violence against the edge of baby's frail
little cot, over which the fretted mother was now bending
breathlessly.

In a moment the terrible nature of my misdeed burst upon me; my
step-mother's horrified countenance and the baby's frightened screams
were a simultaneous and forcible indication of what awful results may
spring from a trifling source. I became angry with myself, for once,
and with a very contrite countenance, I went towards my step-mother
and held my arms out repentantly, offering to soothe the refractory
darling, all by myself.

But, by this time her indignation had found a voice, and interrupted
my eager solicitude for reparation with a volley of well-merited
reproaches. Stamping her slipper emphatically upon the ground, and
declaring that "I would pay for this," she turned to the screaming
little mortal who was struggling nervously among lace and finery, with
no small show of an ill-temper of its own, and resumed the patient and
would be soothing lullaby, whose efficacy in the first instance had
been so ruthlessly spoiled by my impetuous conduct.

Not daring to leave the room again until summarily dismissed by the
ruling power, I stood guiltily by the doorway with a look of sullen
helplessness on my face, toying half indifferently with the ends of a
pink ribbon that was fastened artistically to my frock. Suddenly, the
unforgiving baby sent forth a fresh volley of screams, and the irate
mother turned towards me with a new and awful scowl and bade
me--"Begone" that "my very presence terrified the child."

Nothing loth to leave this scene of confusion of which I myself was
the direct cause, I turned abruptly and quitted the apartment in an
impertinent silence. My step, so long as I thought my step-mother
could hear it, was quick and haughty.

I passed along the corridor above, and down the broad front stairway,
rattling the heels of my garden shoes on the tiles of the hall below
with rather unnecessary emphasis. A loud slamming of the library
door--which shook the pendants of the gasaliers and caused a momentary
quaking of the whole house--announced my exit into the side garden,
where I threaded my way among trees and flowerbeds to a vine-covered
summer-house that stood at the end of the lawn. Arrived here, I flung
myself upon one of the rustic benches that lined the walls, and
throwing my arms at full length across the small table that stood
beside me, I laid my face down upon them and burst into tears. After
all, I was only a child, though so obstinate and impulsive: only a
child, and yet I was very miserable. Reader, have you ever been
persuaded to a popular, though strange belief, that our happiest are
our youngest days? Are you able to look regretfully back upon your
long-vanished yesterdays and wish that destiny might, for one short
moment of time, let you hold them in your hands, to live them all over
again? If so, indeed your youth must have been an exceptionally happy
one: for whether I speak from a personal experience or from
observation, I cannot agree that the paths of childhood are flooded
with Life's sunshine, or overgrown with Fortune's flowers. If we look
back upon our earliest sorrows (and who are they that have none to
look upon?), and take into consideration the narrow limits of our
capacity for either pleasure or pain when we are young, we must admit
that a broken doll or a lost penny are, after all, as fruitful of
genuine and hopeless misery in their way, as are, in after-life, a
broken heart or a lost friend.

I do believe that on that June morning, when full of an untold sorrow,
I stole away to the most secret and secluded spot I could find, I was
not less miserable than I have been many a June morning since, though
the best of life's hard lessons have been learned in the meantime. It
seemed to me that all my hopes, and wishes, and endeavors would always
be vain and fruitless; I could not see a bright side anywhere I
looked. I was always doing and saying the wrong things; I was in
everybody's way: no one wanted me, no one cared for me--why was I ever
born? I had no companions. My stepmother looked down upon the
dangerous habit of allowing children to cultivate juvenile friendships
indiscriminately, and I was not sufficient unto myself for
distractions that would keep me quietly out of the way. What good was
I? I was always ill-humored, vexing my step-mother and making baby
cry. It was plain to see that I was one too many in the world, and
whatever I did with myself I would be surely trespassing upon
somebody's privilege, outraging somebody's patience, and making myself
a nuisance generally. If there was a better place, thought I, I wonder
would I go there when all this discord of my present life had killed
me? Besides, old Hannah had told me that I had another mother in that
vague "better place." Every night at Hannah's knee I recited a little
prayer for her, and asked her to watch over me, to guard me from evil
and make me worthy of joining her some day in her happy home. If my
"other mother" was so sweet and kind and good, as Hannah told me in
confiding whispers she was, why did she not come to me when I was in
tears and tell me how to be good like her? She was too far away, I
supposed, up among the blue sunlit clouds, where all was bright and
cheerful: an angel-mother with beautiful white wings like the picture
in Hannah's prayer-book, and a sweet smiling face that always looked
down on me, watching my words and actions. And while I thought thus, I
saw many such white-winged angels floating noiselessly about in an
exquisite confusion, and distant strains of music, as Hannah said they
sang, filled my listening ears. I felt myself being lifted gently by
tender, unseen hands, and I wondered whether they would bear me far up
above spire and tower, away from all the worries of this desolate
world, into that happy sphere beyond where all is peace, and joy, and
contentment.

On a sudden, I opened my eyelids and looked up. A cry of "Mr. Dalton!"
escaped my lips before I had met his answering glance. I had
understood the situation and buried my face upon his shoulder, to hide
the fast gathering tears that swelled into an after-flood and
threatened to deluge my already tell-tale cheeks. I was no longer
thrown recklessly upon the wooden summer-house bench. The gentle hands
that raised me in my dream and bore me heavenward, were not those of a
far-off angel, as I understood the term, they were the strong brawny
palms of a man of four-and-thirty years, not so strong that their
touch could not be as gentle as a mother's own, not so brawny that
they could not dry the tearful lids of a sleeping child without
disturbing its repose.

He had taken me in his arms and pillowed my drooping head upon his
manly breast. When I opened my eyes he was looking dreamily, half
sadly, half smilingly, into my face. He was not what you, reader,
would call a handsome man, for you never knew him. To you, and to all
the world perhaps but me, he would be no more than a man in a crowd.
But I need not here bring forward the wonderful power of association
which is the underlying beauty reflected from many a homely surface to
eyes that prize and cherish them. What though a thing possess not in
reality those charms with which it is identical in our minds and
hearts? That which we believe to be, is, as effectually for us as if
its existence were sanctioned and sustained by all mankind, and so far
as personal conviction goes there is no standard outside the
individual one. My idea of the beautiful is the only beautiful I can
ever really acknowledge or enjoy, and yet how far astray may it not be
from the concurrent idea of the majority, which is supposed to be the
only true standard.

With a quick though earnest purpose, Mr. Dalton laid his strong warm
hand upon my head and turned my tearful face towards him. There was a
hovering smile around the pale, calm countenance that met my shy and
half averted look.

"Who is this?" he asked, peering into my misty eyes. "Is this Amey
Hampden, I wonder, or have I made some dreadful mistake?"

I saw immediately that he suspected me of having been a naughty girl,
and my sensitive pride was breaking into revolt. I tried to force
myself from his steady hold, but his knitted fingers were as iron
fetters about me. I had nothing left to do but give way to an outburst
of rising ill-humor, or through my gathering tears, to make an humble
confession of all that had passed that morning. While I debated with
myself I was conscious of his steady gaze being fixed upon me. I saw
the half-mischievous smile vanish from the corners of his eyes and
mouth; my lips were trembling with a suppressed sorrow. He saw it, and
bending over me asked in a tender, solicitous voice:

"What is the matter, little Amey? Are you ill? Come, tell me" he
urged, with a gentle firmness turning me around and taking both my
hands in his own large ones.

"No, no, Mr. Dalton, Amey is not ill" I answered, sighing and looking
away. "I wish she was though" I continued after a pause, "ill enough
to die."

And this was all I could say, for my lips trembled ominously, though
there were now no unshed tears in my eyes.

The expression on my companion's face changed suddenly. He had worn a
half amused, half sympathetic look all along, as if my little troubles
were something he could afford to smile upon, and persuade even myself
to laugh at, but I fancy my voice must have been unusually sorrowful,
as I am sure my face was unusually tear-stained and disfigured, for he
drew me to him a little closer and toying ever so affectionately and
kindly with my flowing hair, his tone was gently remonstrative as he
said:

"Amey, do you know that you use very wicked words when you talk like
this? You are a very comfortable and fortunate little girl in many
ways, and because something disagreeable happens now and then you must
not be so impatient and want to die. If you did die now" he continued
slowly and emphatically--then paused and added, "maybe you would be
sorry."

"I don't care" came from me in a half defiant retort, "I couldn't be
sorrier than I am now. I am not comfortable and I am not fortunate,
and disagreeable things are always happening, and if I can't die
soon," I went on waxing quite tragic, "I'll run away."

I stopped short after this, thinking I had put a splendid
finishing-touch to my out-spoken determination. I do not know whether
I expected Mr. Dalton to faint with fright and surprise on hearing
such a daring declaration from me. If I did, I must have been sadly
disappointed when I detected a shadow of that hovering smile flitting
back across his features, and heard him ask in a provoking tone.

"Away! Where, Amey?"

The incisive ridicule implied in these words urged me to a still more
reckless defiance, and affecting a very cutting sneer I answered--

"Perhaps you think I am not in earnest, Mr. Dalton, but _you'll see!_
Remember I have told you that I am wretched, and it's all _her_ fault
When I am gone you can tell papa that 'twas all her doing, that she
hated me and I hated her, and I thought 'twas better to go away--and I
_will_ go away Mr. Dalton"--I emphasized--"away into the bush, and if
no one comes to take me I'll do like the babes in the woods, and the
little birds will cover me with nice green leaves when I'm dead."

There were no tears now, I had worked myself into a dry rage and could
look my monitor full in the face; my little arms were crossed with a
determination worthy of maturer years, and I was grand with the
conviction of having frightened this big man into a belief of my
rambling threats. I was a little disconcerted, however, when he looked
at me seriously and said in a slow measured tone:

"Then _this_ is not the Amey Hampden that I have known all along. She
would never have said such ugly things as those I have just heard; she
was not a selfish little girl, and would fear to displease her friends
or those who loved her."

He was winning me over, but before I yielded I must aim another arrow.

"I guess you're right after all Mr. Dalton" I answered swinging one
kid shoe in an aimless indifferent manner, and looking purposely away
at the leg of the rustic table, "cause _this_ Amey Hampden hasn't got
any friends, or any one to love her, either."

"Are you telling the truth now, Amey? Look at me and repeat that," he
interrupted quickly.

I wished to be very brave, and turned my eyes full upon him; he took
my chin in his large, warm palm and looked steadily into my face for a
moment. I was conquered, and he saw it; he stooped and kissed me, and
we both laughed as I said

"Well; you never _said_ you were my friend."

He arose, and taking me by the hand, we strolled over the lawn and
passed into the library together.

Ernest Dalton was nearly twenty-five years my senior!







CHAPTER III.

It is now an old and respected adage that "coming events cast their
shadows before," and had I only been at all alive to the growing
changes in the routine of our daily life, I might easily have detected
the outline of some hovering shadow which was heralding the advent of
some strange, and hitherto undreamt of interruption, into the
questionably peaceful monotony of my early career.

One fine August morning, some weeks after my tragic interview with Mr.
Dalton, I sat on the step of the outer kitchen stairway, which led
into an artistically cultivated vegetable patch at the rear of the
house, absorbed in the intensely interesting occupation of cutting
some elegantly-coloured ladies out of a superannuated fashion-plate.

On the step above me was my garden hat, inverted, into which I
deposited my paper "swells" according as I trimmed them: on the step
below me sat old Hannah, scraping some new potatoes, according to her
established principles of economy. We both worked diligently and
silently for awhile, and then old Hannah, pausing with a half cleaned
potatoe in one hand and a knife dripping with water in the other,
looked at me seriously for a moment and said half meditatively:

"Well now; arn't you the baby, Miss Amelia, to spend your time over
that foolish stuff; fitter for you be knitting a little garter, or
hemming a little handkerchief for yourself."

I smiled, and without raising my eyes from the critical curve of my
paper lady's bustle, which I was then rounding most carefully, I
answered:

"I suppose I might do better with my time, Hannah, if I knew how, but
as I don't, I'd rather be doing this than nothing."

"It says a lot for Miss Forty, then," Hannah put in indignantly, "to
think you're goin' into your teens before long and that's all you know
how to do!"

"Miss de Fortier did not come to teach me sewing and knitting, Hannah.
She taught me lessons."

"Lessons how are you! And what's become of them if she did? Oh, its a
fine way children are brought up in this country," the old woman went
on half in soliloquy; "a bit of this and a bit of that and not much of
either. I pity the housekeepers ye'll make yet. God help the poor men
that are waiting for ye. Many's the missing button and broken sock
they'll have to put up with!"

"Well, Hannah," I interrupted, beginning an impromptu justification
and defence--but Hannah was destined never to have her conviction
shaken, for just then I heard a sharp rapping at the library window,
and gathering up the fragments of my fashion-plate in my linen
pinafore, I ran outside and looked towards that end of the house. My
father was standing at the open casement, and beckoned me to go to
him. Whether from the novelty of the occurrence, or the instinctive
awe in which I stood of my father, I immediately let go the margin of
my pinafore, dropping scissors and ladies and all, in a most brusque
and heedless manner, and hastened into the library, while I was
smoothing out the wrinkled folds of my clean, starched apron.

In my excitement I had forgotten to wonder at the strange
circumstance, but when my little hand clutched the great knob of the
library door and turned it, and when the placid countenance of my
step-mother looked up at me from a comfortable easy-chair at the
opposite side of the room, I felt that some awful moment had dawned on
my existence. With as much nerve and self-control as a child usually
displays on such an occasion, I closed the door behind me and walked
towards the window where my father was standing.

He was clad in a gown of ruby cashmere, and wore an expensive cap and
slippers to match; the girdle was untied, leaving the rich chenille
tassels to trail almost upon the ground, and the velvet fronts so
elaborately embroidered were crushed rudely aside by his hands, which
were thrust into his breeches pockets.

When I came up to where he stood, he turned slowly around and viewed
me in my diminutive entirety from head to foot. Unable to restrain her
love of interference any longer, my step-mother here advised me
parenthetically to "stand up straight," sustaining her reasons for
thus counselling me by the cheerful intelligence that "I was disposed
to be round-shouldered any way, and should do my best to check the
deformity." I raised my head and lowered my shoulders in silent
obedience to this meek injunction, preparing myself inwardly for an
attack of a much less generous and still more personal nature than
this. What was my surprise when my father, taking a step towards me,
and placing one hand half affectionately on my head, remarked in a
rather playful and, for him, quite a frivolous tone:

"Oh, we none of us go straight to Heaven, do we, Amey? We must bend
our shoulders and droop our heads a little first."

I was grateful to him for coming thus to my rescue, although I
understood neither the meaning of his ambiguous words, nor the motives
which prompted him to use them. I see more clearly through them now,
however.

"But," he continued, taking me by the hand and leading me towards the
lounge behind him, "this is not exactly what I want to talk to you
about; I admit that you are backward in many respects, but that is not
altogether your fault."

I was looking at him with riveted attention while he spoke, sublimely
innocent of the import of a single word he uttered.

"And," he added, in a slower and more directly communicative tone, as
he disengaged his hand from mine and leaned his arm on the back of the
lounge behind me, "I have decided to send you to a first-rate school,
Amey, where you will have a chance to perfect yourself in every way;
do you think you will like to go away to school?" he asked, so timidly
that one would have thought my opinion on the matter could have some
little value.

Before I had time to master this question with all its ponderous
possibilities, my step-mother observed obligingly,

"Of course she would like it, Alfred, and even if she wouldn't you
know she ought to go; Amelia herself knows," she continued, without
looking at me, "that she is quite a dunce for her age, and will need
to work very hard in order to make up for lost time. So, your father
and I have decided," she added conclusively, "that you shall go to
boarding-school, Amelia, as early next month as you can be got ready."

The word "boarding-school" was to me, perhaps, the vaguest and most
indefinite in the English language. I knew that such places existed,
but it had never entered into my juvenile conception of things to
associate them in any way with my present or future career. In my
dreamings I had often pictured myself as grown up and matured; I had
even pictured my womanhood so far as tying two of Hannah's long aprons
about my waist, one in front and the other behind, and with a shawl
thrown cornerwise over my shoulders, to fancy myself a lady in "long
dresses" like the "Miss Hartmanns" that called upon my step-mother.

I had wished to be the wife of a great, rich man, that I might do as I
pleased with myself, and be "somebody" with my airs and graces, but I
had never met such an obstacle in the long rambles of my reverie as
"going to school." When, therefore, the subject was thrust upon me
without any preparation, I felt as if I had seen a ghost and was told
to go and speak to it, that it wouldn't harm me; and, lest the reader
should attribute my emotion to a more natural, and, I dare say,
becoming sentiment, I will confess that it was owing purely to the
nervous shock which I sustained at the unexpected mention of so
important a change in my life, that my eyes filled up with tears, and
that I gave way to other ambiguous signs of appropriate agitation.

All this, however, was neither here nor there, so far as the fixed
intention of my parents was concerned to dispose of me for an
indefinite period of time, and within three weeks of that day when the
announcement was first made to me, I was crying myself to sleep in a
narrow little bed, hundreds of miles away from my father's house.

Perhaps there was not another girl among the three hundred boarders of
Notre Dame Abbey, that had such little reason to be home-sick as Amey
Hampden; and yet--God help us! into what strange moods we are prone to
fall! When a wide-spreading distance had thrust itself between me and
the home of my early days, I could not help feeling that, after all,
my heart had tendrils like other people's, and that this separation
had torn them rudely away from the objects, few or many, worthy or
unworthy, around which they had twined with a clinging firmness.

The bare, white-washed walls of this strange dormitory brought out in
touching relief the cosy corners of my own little room at home, and
the strict and rigid discipline, to which I felt I never could
conform, made me look back with a hopeless regret upon the wandering,
aimless hours I had spent unfettered, before I became a pupil of this
bleak institution.

I did not know then, as I know now, that it is not the house which
makes the home; that white-washed walls and painted floors may melt
into artistic beauty, where glows the never smouldering fire of
Christian love; and I have searched the world in vain for many a year,
among riches and luxuries and comforts, but I have never had the
smallest glimpse of that same abiding, enduring and self-sacrificing
love which presided over me, waking or sleeping, smiling or weeping,
during my happy, yet transient sojourn, in that distant Abbey of Notre
Dame.

Within its walls my childhood melted into girlhood, and my girlhood
into womanhood, and still, when I look out over the tree-tops, away
beyond the misty mountains in the west, towards the spot where this my
truly happiest home lies nestled, when with one sweeping stroke of my
active pen I cancel twenty years of my life, and am back again a
laughing, careless girl among my school companions, what is time to
me? Only a huge and ugly shadow flitting between me and all that I
have ever loved or cherished! A shadow, however, that flickers and
bounds away, when, with her magic lantern, memory floods the vista of
the past, with the light of "other days."

When I returned to my father's house to spend a short vacation among
my earliest friends, I had entered upon my sixteenth year. I had of
course, in the interval, been visited alternately by my father and
step-mother, who kept me quite _au courant_ of all that transpired in
their fashionable world in my absence.

I had received photographs of my interesting half brother, which made
me familiar with the changes wrought in him physically, by time; but
all this had no satisfaction for me, who would rather one glimpse of
old Hannah's frilled cap, or one peep through the narrow panes of Ella
Wray's humble cottage, than all the spicy intelligences of the doings
and sayings of possibly great people, for whom, however, I cared but
very little.

At the close of our summer session of that year my father brought me
home for a visit of three months. I had grown considerably, and for a
person of tolerably good health, was very slender, which gave me the
appearance of being yet taller than I was, and I felt an instinctively
spiteful satisfaction in the consciousness that I had quite overcome
any tendencies I might ever have had towards being round-shouldered;
the regular calisthenic exercises which we went through at the convent
had made a decided change for the better in my personal appearance.

I was not long at home before I detected a resolution on the part of
my step-mother to adopt a new, and altogether plausible, attitude
towards me. I was no longer a child; that was a self-evident fact:
neither was I yet what society calls a "young lady," but now-a-days an
interesting medium has been established and acknowledged; it is the
first grade wherein the embryo society belles are initiated into all
the intricacies of high life. It has its own peculiarities, its
flutters of excitement, its rounds of pleasures, and distractions of
every kind, aye--it has even its gossip, although the whisperers are
but budding misses with golden or raven locks floating down their
backs.

It is the adolescent stage: where the lisp or drawl, most popular in
the advanced circles, is affected with unquestionable propriety: when
growing girls of susceptible sixteen, or thereabout, are meekly
subjected to a rigid training and instruction by their older and more
sophisticated sisters, when they learn "dauncing" and "tennis" and
"riding," and go to small-and-earlies where a few grown couples are
also invited to amuse them, or rather I should say instruct them.

Quite unconscious of any such prescribed routine being the "thing"
among my family circle, I was almost stupefied by the look of
distracted horror which flashed over my step-mother's face, when, the
week after my arrival, I shocked her sensitive good breeding by a
coarse betrayal of my unpardonable ignorance.

It was a perfect June day, flooded with a bright but not overwarm
sunshine; the young leaves on the maple boughs outside my bed-room
window were swaying gently against the lattice, and below in the
freshly trimmed garden the flowers were unfolding their early beauty
to the summer warmth.

I had sought the safe retreat of my room, that I might, as I had
promised, write long and loving letters to some of my much-regretted
school-friends. When all my preparations were ready, and I had dated
the first of these effusions, I was disturbed by a timid knock at the
door. I laid down my pen resignedly and went to open: it was the pert
housemaid, who delivered "Mrs. Hampden's request that Miss Amelia
would kindly begin to dress."

"Dress for what?" said I, in impatient surprise. "This is Tuesday,
Miss," the pampered maid answered insinuatingly, "Mrs. Hampden will be
at home."

"So will I, Janet," I interrupted hastily, "and my present toilet is
quite good enough for the house."

With this rejoinder I closed the door a little forcibly, and went back
to my writing. I had only time to trace--"My darling Ruby,"--when,
without intimation or announcement of any kind, my step-mother burst
into my room, with her hair half dressed, and her toilet jacket flying
loosely about her,--

"Do you want to disgrace us in the eyes of these prattling servants,
Amelia Hampden?" she began in a hoarse undertone, beckoning towards
the hall outside: "the idea of not understanding my message any better
than that," she went on in a whisper of reproachful despair. "Anyone
would know, that when you've been away so long, you will be sure to
have people calling on you, so put away that"--she added imperatively,
pointing disdainfully to my treasured writing materials--"and dress
yourself. The Merivale girls, and the Hunters, and all those others
will be here before you are half ready."

I obeyed in placid silence; this was not the first hint which
circumstances had thrown out of what was before me, while I remained
at home. We were very stylish, very fashionable people, it seemed,
although I was so unworthy of sustaining my part of the reputation, in
my insignificant opinion we were very silly and very empty-minded
creatures, and it was with this very encouraging conviction that I
proceeded to stow away my pen and paper, to renounce the rare pleasure
I had counted upon for two days before that, and to prepare myself for
the possible intrusion of some juvenile Merivales and Hunters.

Janet came in to dress my hair and fasten my new kid boots, and
otherwise bore me with endeavors to beautify me for my reception. It
was a task, however, that was soon ended, and half an hour later I was
seated in the drawing room below listening passively to the small talk
of some very well dressed girls who had opened the list of my
ceremonious callers.

Having never seen them before, my demeanor was naturally timid and
restrained, they were two sisters, and the younger one did all or most
of the talking. They were very well dressed, and altogether
non-committal, as far as speech and manners were concerned, but our
vocabulary of drawing-room chat very soon became exhausted, and with a
quiet "good afternoon" they arose and passed out.

As they left the drawing-room they were met at the door by two other
young misses who, at sight of them, raised their chins considerably
above their natural level, and swept in without condescending to
bestow even an accidental glance upon them. From where I sat I
observed all this quietly, and with an effort to suppress a smile of
bland amusement, I arose and greeted my new-comers--the Merivales!
Alice glided towards me with an air of imposing consciousness, and
thrust a tiny, gloved hand into mine, and then with a graceful gesture
she turned towards her companion and murmured faintly, "my cousin,
Miss Holgate--Miss Hampden."

I bowed and smiled, and directed them to convenient seats, the
situation was becoming more and more trying to my inclination to laugh
outright. When we were all three comfortably deposited in our chairs,
Alice Merivale turned her beaming countenance languidly towards me and
remarked that "it was a perfectly lovely aufternoon," and while I
smiled my eager corroboration, her cousin surreptitiously observed,
that it was "fairly delicious."

Then followed exclamations over my long absence, and questions too
numerous ever to require answers, they were much more finished talkers
than their predecessors, and when I thought we had touched upon every
subject which could interest us mutually, Alice asked in a most
insinuating tone if I had "known Florrie Grant before I went away to
to school?"

Florrie and Carrie Grant were the slighted heroines who had just gone
out. Fully alive to the import of her question, I affected a most
placid expression of countenance and voice, and answered that I had
not.

"I thought so," she remarked with an incisive smile, looking
significantly at her cousin, then changing her tone to one of most
provoking haughtiness, she drooped her white lids over a daintily
plush satchel she held between her hands and drawled out a languid

"How do you like her?"

I felt that I was taking in Miss Merivale's tone and words and meaning
with a wincing suspicious glance. I was being initiated, and the
sensation was so utterly different from anything I had ever
experienced before, that my self-control suffered a momentary
suspension, when words came to me I used them with a particular
emphasis.

"I think I shall like her very much," I answered, "when I have seen
more of her. I never like to judge people according to early
impressions," I continued, looking straight at the ottoman before me,
"because people so often appear to disadvantage at first," but my
arrow fell flat to the ground. Miss Merivale had not enough acumen to
detect anything personal in the innuendo; resuming her incisive smile
she exclaimed quietly

"Oh, but _some_ people you know, Miss Hampden, are always the same,
they have only one set of manners, of course I don't mean to say that
the Grants are any of these, indeed I _never do_ say _anything_
against _anyone_. Florrie, I believe, is a very nice little girl, in
her set, of course I don't know much about her as _I_ have never met
her anywhere."

"Oh, no! None of _our_ friends know her," Miss Holgate broke in with a
relish.

The elder girl frowned at this indiscreet remark, and interrupted it
with grave remonstrance, saying

"Hush, Edith! You shouldn't talk quite so plainly," then with a
wonderful tact in one so young she lit up her face with a happy
expression, appropriate to her change of subject, and asked:

"Where does Mrs. Hampden think of spending the summer, this year?"

I could vouch no information on this point, as, I had not troubled to
put the question to my step-mother myself, and so, after relating to
me in a somewhat confidential tone, all the plans and projects which
her Mama and her Aunt Ada had arranged for their holiday season, and
their strong temptation to try Riviere du Loup, where so many
fashionable people were said to be retiring just then, she finally
arose, and with an emphasized request that I would "run in" without
the least ceremony, to see her at any time, she bowed herself most
gracefully out of the room, followed by her younger and less
sophisticated relative.

I need hardly say what turn the rising tide of my impressions and
opinions took about this time. To one who had passed from the
cheerless, loveless guardianship of a worldly step-mother, into the
tender hands of patient and devoted sisters, to become, instead of a
wandering, uncared for waif, the object of the truest and holiest
solicitude that ever animated Christian hearts, this hollow mockery of
fashionable life was nothing more than a matchless absurdity.

Had I grown up to this, in the unpropitious atmosphere of my own home,
I daresay such phases of existence would have come upon me quite
naturally, and without my ever stopping to question their real or
relative solidity. But the "twig" had been differently inclined, by
hands more worthy of training tender, susceptible off-shoots. Where
can frail young innocence find a safe, secure and profitable refuge,
from the destroying influence of evil, if not within convent walls? It
is there, or nowhere, that girlhood, growing, aspiring girlhood,
ripens into a glorious womanhood. There, go hand in hand the
development of mind, and what is more necessary, if possible for a
woman, the cultivation of heart. Everyone who looks about him in the
social world, and gives a moment of calm consideration to what he sees
and hears, cannot but admit, that though surrounded by a vast field
for active and profitable labour, and with multiplied favours of
circumstances thrown in their way, our girls lead comparatively
useless lives, as if they were a recremental fraction of the human
race, than which, indeed, many are no better, since they choose to
lead such lives as can be fruitful of no direct benefit to themselves
or their fellow-mortals.

It is not because a woman is excluded (rightly or not) from the more
public arena of active life, that her energies need become paralyzed
and wasted. It is not because the popular idea of propriety would deny
her the right or opportunity to do great things for society or for the
state, in the same way as men are expected to do them, that she cannot
work her own great or little wonders in a quieter, but yet more direct
manner.

It is acknowledged that hers is the mission of the heart; it is
admitted that her sphere is in the family, and what is the mightiest
commonwealth in the world, but a family of families. Ah me! It is a
dark day with humankind when the sphere of a woman's action lies
rigidly between her toilet table and the drawing-room.

The proof that such limits as these are both unlawful and unnatural,
is, that our women who are confined within them, are conscious in
their hearts of the wrong they are doing the world and themselves.
Conscience is not yet an extinct, though it is fast becoming an
unpopular and unfashionable faculty, and men and women play the
Pharisee with a deep sense of their own worthlessness and littleness
gnawing at their spirit all the while.

I had been taught all this in time, and as early as my first vacation
at home, among the fashionable juveniles of my step-mother's circle, I
had begun to submit my valuable precepts to profitable practice. My
first callers taught me a very wholesome lesson which I have held upon
the surface of my memory through all these years.

Whenever I have witnessed a repetition of that early experience, the
past has come forcibly back to me, with all the golden admonitions of
my school-days, and I have felt myself stimulated anew, towards the
steady pursuit of those social virtues which are the outgrowth of
Christian charity, and a generous, impartial discrimination.

I have met many Alice Merivales, since my youth, who cast their
stylish shadows ominously over the lives of many a Florrie Grant, and
I have tried to sustain the weaker one, whenever it was in my power,
the evil, I regret to see, is unabating. A new generation of little
maidens is springing up around us, are they, too, destined to follow
the beaten track their elders have trodden so unworthily? Will they be
taught these nice discriminations between wealth and no wealth? Must
they, too, meet a struggling gentility with a haughty, overbearing
carriage, and elbow out less independent aspirants, whom some
capricious fortune has brought within their contact? Does one little
star in the vault above shine less brightly or twinkle less gladly
because myriads of others do likewise? After all, what vainglory need
there be in accidents of birth or fortune. They are not virtually
ours, they have been given to us, and rest upon a changing wind that,
to-morrow, may waft them far out of our Reach or sight forever.

  "All flesh is grass; and all its glory fades Like the fair flower
  dishevelled in the wind, Riches have wings, and grandeur is a
  dream!"

To attack this evil, at its root, is to expose one of the most
powerful defects of our times, for no one can deny that this spirit
which prevails among so-called well-bred people, is the evident result
of that "little learning" which is "a dangerous thing." Of this I
became more strongly convinced as I grew older.

My summer vacation was not long in coming to an end. I had whiled away
some happy hours, and days and weeks, forming fleeting pleasures and
seeing novel sights. My brother Freddie had entered very sparingly
into my pleasures, as our tastes were vastly different, and his health
on the whole rather delicate, he was a pretty boy in a sailor costume,
when I saw him after our long separation, with mild blue eyes and a
pallid countenance. He was sickly looking, with an expression of
helpless peevishness about his otherwise pleasing mouth; his hair was
wavy and of a golden colour, and his hands were thin and white, like
those of a baby girl.

His mother persuaded herself that in multiplying and dwelling upon his
complaints, she was caring for him with affectionate solicitude, and
to be told that he was not looking well, was enough to convince
Freddie that his life was hanging upon a thread, and that he must
swallow powders and pills without a question or a grimace.

One morning towards the end of August, about a fortnight before my
return to school, I heard my step-mother remark in a fretful tone that
"Freddie's old symptoms" were "beginning to threaten him again," and
that she "must send for Dr Campbell to come and see him."

I looked up with some astonishment from the book which I was reading,
and ventured to ask.

"Cannot papa cure him?"

"I suppose he could," she answered, "if he were not his father, but
Freddie won't listen to his papa's directions, and cannot be persuaded
to take the remedies he prescribes--besides," she continued
apologetically, "when your father was away last fall and Freddie had a
very miserable attack, I called in Dr. Campbell, and he cured him in a
fortnight, he is very clever," she added with slow emphasis,
straightening a fancy panel on the mantelpiece by which she stood.
There was silence for a few moments, as I went on reading.

"And he is by far the most popular person in the city," my step-mother
broke forth again, sinking into a seat near the window and folding her
arms I looked up, but did not close my book.

"Who?" I asked indifferently.

"Dr. Campbell, to be sure," she answered a little snappishly, piqued
that I had not paid more attention to her favorite subject. Still
unwilling to drop the topic without having done it fuller justice, she
went on, half in soliloquy.

"He is not married either, and has the best practice here; besides
being courted by everybody who is anything. I am confident that the
Hunters, and those people, call him in for mere trifles, just to
cultivate his friendship. I know that Laura Hunter is fairly wild
about him--and she is a chronic dyspeptic, luckily," my step-mother
added with a malicious chuckle.

"Poor girl!" I exclaimed with well feigned sympathy, "I should think
she would not care to see any one she liked under such trying
circumstances."

"Neither does she--_except Dr Campbell_--she digests him so well that
her family would like to see her live upon him altogether."

I began to see that I was serving as a target for my step-mother's
ridicule of something which wounded her jealous tendencies, she knew
that I could make no retort for or against the absent ones at whom
these sly missiles were being aimed. I knew nothing of the
circumstances so broadly treated by her, and I therefore kept silent,
and applied myself to my book with renewed interest, and left my
step-mother mistress of the field--there was no glory in the conquest,
to speak of.

Towards four o'clock of the same afternoon Freddie and I were seated
upon the library floor, matching some very irregular blocks that, when
rightly fitted together, would display to our eager eyes the vividly
coloured representations of that classic and time-honoured tale known
as the "Death and burial of Cock Robin."

We were progressing slowly, and had reached that very important part
where the "fly," as an ocular witness, gives his substantial and
straightforward evidence. I had a little narrow block between my
fingers, and was glancing carefully among the unused pieces for its
mate, repeating abstractedly all the while:

  "I, said the fly, With my little eye I saw him die."

"I, said the fly, with my little"--here the library was thrown open,
and my step-mother, accompanied by a strange gentleman, walked
laughingly into the room.

"Here are both my babies!" she exclaimed with a well feigned air of
proud maternity, as she came towards us. "Are they not good little
children?" she asked in grand condescension, looking up into the
stranger's face, then turning abruptly around she said in her formal
tone

"Amelia, this is Dr. Campbell."

I had sprung to my feet at sight of the intruders and stood distantly
in the shadow of the window curtains. I was conscious of looking
flushed and indignant, and did not relish the situation from any stand
point. The sing-song testimony of the fly was still ringing in my
ears, and I knew how very undignified and ridiculous it must have
sounded to an uninterested stranger coming in suddenly upon us in this
way.

Instead of going forward, therefore, with the careless simplicity
becoming my years, I merely inclined my head from where I stood, and
got perceptibly redder in the face. I must have looked up, since I
afterwards remembered the tall serious man standing like a dark shadow
in the doorway, but this was the only impression of him I could
recall. While he was bending over Freddie in professional solicitude,
I effected a stealthy retreat by the door that led into the garden and
saw no more of him.

In less than a month afterwards I was bending over my Algebra in the
study hall of the dear old Abbey, striving most perseveringly to
master an obstinate, unknown quantity that baffled me considerably. I
did not suspect that I was then setting myself a double task of this
nature, or that many another girl, besides myself, had first begun to
chase some "unknown" phantom through the intricate stages of life at
the same time that she was puzzling over the hidden meaning of an
algebraic equation.

I had worked at my task with a steady perseverance for nearly an hour,
but other things distracted me and I could not succeed with it. I laid
one cheek pensively in the palm of my idle hand and with the other,
which held my busy pencil, I played a random tattoo on my desk. Before
me on my paper was a confused multitude of a's and y's and z's which I
had failed to master with any satisfaction, although I had repeated
many a patient effort with placid, hopeful, good-humor.

Other thoughts quite alien to the subject I was then studying, began
to suggest themselves as a sort of refreshment to my mind. My vacation
at home among worldly people and pursuits seemed to have thrown open
before my eyes the hitherto undreamt of arena of active experience,
and whether I willed it or not my memory dwelt persistently at
intervals upon all I had seen, and heard, and done during the fleeting
summer months.

In a few moments I was far outside the limits of Notre Dame Abbey,
hovering in spirit around the neighborhood of my home, calling up
those faces and forms that had impressed me more than others. I went
back to the embarassing meeting with Dr Campbell in the library, and
as I thought over it I felt the warm blood rising within me and
suffusing both my cheeks, as it is wont to do when any of the blunders
of my life come back to me in my reverie.

What was most vexing to all in this case was that I could not resolve
my floating memories of him into any definite outline or form, he was
a mere shadow to me, that had flitted across my way for a short moment
and then left me bewildered and wondering.

I was rudely awakened from my reflections by the loud unmusical
summons of the class bell which set up a prolonged and monotonous
ringing just as I was struggling with all my vaguest and most
uncertain recollections of the much talked-of Dr Campbell.

I arose with my task undone and went listlessly down to the
class-room. I could not help the dissatisfied mood which crept over me
as I strolled lazily along the corridors and down the winding
stairway. I felt myself suspended between two distinct lives since my
return to school, two lives that ran as widely apart as the streams of
the old and new world. The common-place reality of one was a constant
and rather unwelcome intruder upon the dreamy uncertainty of the
other, and I stood midway between the powers and attractions of both,
a neutral, passive, and helpless victim.

As might be expected I was one of Sister Andre's "black sheep" or
dilatory pupils that morning. When our Algebra class was called I felt
humbled and fallen. It was the first time for many years that Amey
Hampden had been backward in her lessons, and what was worse, there
were girls in my section who had looked forward with an eager desire
to a day when my conquering spirit would be baffled.

I could detect a gathering expression of the meanest gratification on
more faces than one as I stood up to accuse myself, without any
justification whatever, of having brought my task unprepared to the
school-room. The words almost stifled me. I fain would have pleaded
illness or some other false reason for my transgression. Nothing
seemed so dreadful as to provoke a sneer from my unworthy rivals.

I could feel myself losing ground even at that moment, I, who had felt
myself so secure in my superiority, now saw myself threatened with a
most inglorious downfall--a mere trifle in the eyes of the matured and
sophisticated worldling who has had to do battle with some of the most
merciless freaks of fate, but every ambitious student knows that such
a crisis as this, under circumstances such as these, tries his moral
endurance, which is yet necessarily very limited, as severely as a
like turning-point, on a grander scale, tested that of a Caesar or a
Bonaparte.

I had made my own little conquests, and had established myself as a
leading power among my fellow-students, in a way, maybe, I took a vain
pleasure in my own successes which, after all, were only the lawful
performances of my duty, but then, it is a very plausible thing for
people to do what is expected of them now-a-days, and I had reaped a
bountiful harvest of recompense for my diligence and assiduity.

However, I now saw plainly the truth of the proverbial warning that
"Pride must have a fall," and I resolved to bear up as bravely and
worthily as my self-control would allow me. It seemed to me that
Sister Andre's tone had never been so encouraging, or so partial, as
she said:

"I see these examples are very intricate, young ladies; I am afraid I
will have to call upon Miss Hampden to solve them for us."

Some of my rivals exchanged sarcastic glances. My hour had arrived! I
stood boldly up and turned towards the dais upon which our mistress
was seated.

"I have not prepared them, Sister Andre," I answered, in a clear,
steady voice. Just then a tall, slender girl, with dark eyes and hair,
who was seated opposite to me, and whom I had never seen in our class
before, rose from her seat and went up to Sister Andre's throne. She
spoke to her in a low, inaudible tone for a few short moments, and
then went back as quietly, and resumed her place.

Sister Andre followed the stranger with a wistful glance, and then
turned her eyes upon me.

"It is all right, Amey," she said, gently, "to-morrow will do."

I sat down in a state of dumb confusion, feeling dazed and mystified.
Something urged me to affirm I had no valid reason for being excused,
and looking across towards my apparent benefactor for some vague
explanation of her conduct, I saw a re-assuring, encouraging
expression in her eyes as they met mine, so I merely smiled and said
nothing.

That evening when supper was over and the hour of recreation had
arrived, I walked to the end of the pillared hall, where our new pupil
stood gazing aimlessly out of a window that looked into our summer
play-ground, at the rear of the convent, she did not hear my
approaching step, apparently, for she never moved until I slipped my
arm gently within her own and whispered:

"I have come to thank you for the great service you have done me
to-day."

She started suddenly and looked up at me with the loveliest brown eyes
I ever saw, a smile crept into the corners of her rich red lips, which
broke asunder quietly and somewhat sadly, revealing, as they did so,
two rows of pretty, even teeth. Whether or not, I was partially
disposed to admire her on account of the sentiments with which I
approached her, I must admit that I thought I never saw such a vision
of sparkling, feminine beauty in my life as she presented at that
moment.

"Oh, Miss Hampden," she exclaimed, with a suspicion of a pretty
foreign accent "don't speak of it, please, I realized your trying
situation, and thought I knew something of the cause that provoked
it."

She had turned from the window and was toying familiarly with the blue
badge which, as a member of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin, I have
always worn, her words surprised me, and I asked with an undisguised
curiosity.

"What did you know, Miss. ----?"

"Not _Miss_" she interrupted, while I stopped, not knowing what name
to call her by, "Hortense," she emphasized, "Hortense de Beaumont,
that is my name."

"Well, Hortense, then," I repeated, "what did you know about me?"

She lifted her fine, lustrous eyes to mine, but this time they were
wistful and penetrating; then, taking my hand impulsively, she led me
to a bench that stood a little away from us, saying:

"Come and I will tell you, Amey--for I am going to call you Amey," she
put in parenthetically. We sat down, and without preamble my
interesting friend went on in her pretty foreign way to tell me the
following.

"You see, Amey," she began, "I arrived only last night at this convent
and I have come from such a long way. Oh! I was tired and _ennuyee_
when I reached here, and then every face was so strange. Oh! it was
dreadful" she exclaimed ardently, clasping her small white hands and
looking eagerly into my face. "I could not sleep at all, you may
imagine," she continued, resuming the thread of her narrative, "and
this morning I felt fatigued again and quite lonesome. I went into the
study-hall because I had nothing to do with myself, and, do you know,
Amey," she said with renewed earnestness, "when I saw you, it was so
queer, I felt sure that I knew you already. Your face was so familiar.
I looked at you all the time, while you sat bending over your task,
but you never looked at me. I was asking questions to myself about
you; I thought I should remember you, and while I was noticing you
like that, you halted suddenly in your work and began to think, and
then--oh! your face _was_ like one that I have seen somewhere, and
that I cannot now remember I knew that your thoughts had changed
quickly, and dwelt no longer on your books," she said smiling and
laying her hand gently on my two that were folded in my lap, "They
were far away, perhaps with mine, and Amey, I liked you so much then,
I did want to speak to you, but the bell just rang, and we went down
to the class-room. When Sister Andre asked for the algebra class, I
knew you would not be pleased, and looking at you eagerly, I saw
disappointment and vexation in your face. I went up then to Sister
Andre, and said 'Do not blame Miss Hampden if she is backward this
morning, it is hardly her fault. I will explain it to you better
by-and-bye, Sister,' I said, and indeed" Hortense concluded,
gesticulating prettily with both her slender hands, "it was not your
fault, as Sister Andre agreed with me when I told her of it after."

Her eyes sparkled with a _piquante_ brightness as she finished her
interesting little story. There was a rich crimson spot on each dusky
cheek, and her red lips were parted in a bewitching smile. I was
enraptured, and told her, without the slightest reserve, the whole
prospect which was looming up so darkly before me had she not come to
my rescue.

"At the same time, Hortense," I argued, "I think you like me and
sympathize with me, under a false conviction. You have surely never
seen me before, and I most certainly have never laid eyes upon you
until now. If I had, I should not be likely to forget it," I said,
insinuating something of the profound admiration, with which her
ravishing beauty inspired me, in my tone as I did so.

"O you will make me too proud, Amey!" she exclaimed so innocently,
that I leaned over and touched her peach-like cheek with my lips. She
coloured still more, as I did so. I noticed it, and I said:

"I will never tell you anything but the truth Hortense, will we be
friends enough for this?"

"Oh, yes! Surely we will be friends," she answered warmly, "not now
only, but always, will we not?" she urged warmly. I need not say how
readily I agreed, and from that moment Hortense de Beaumont and I were
all in all to each other.







CHAPTER IV

That there is some subtle sweetness in a true and stable friendship,
no one can dare deny. It is divinely ordained that men's and women's
lives will cross each other at certain stations on the long and
oftentimes tedious journey of experience, and independent of either of
them, a secret and mysterious influence, the exponent of an inherent
Christian sympathy, will work its changes on their human hearts as the
moulder on the yielding substance between his able fingers. I hold
that the friendship of which I speak is fruitful of more real
happiness in the world than any other influence of which we mortals
are susceptible, and I am well sustained in my belief.

But though so wide a field is granted to our friendship, and though it
may reveal itself under a plurality of aspects to those who seek it,
strange to say, the world knows very little about it. We speak of it
as of some regretted treasure that has been long lost to humanity. We
are half convinced that the lightning speed of modern civilization has
been too much for it, and that it is destined for time to come, to
creep on apace within the range of our backward glance, but never
within reach of our grasp.

And all the while we are only building up an opaque and dreary barrier
that will shut out much of the summer sunshine from our daily lives of
toil and trouble. Men and women who could make each other's burdens of
sorrow fewer and lighter by a mutual sympathy and devotedness, look
above each other's heads in the hurrying crowd and pass by each other,
shoulder to shoulder, wearing a mask of calm and cold neutrality over
hearts that are glowing with an unspoken kindness and affection.

"A woman," says Bulwer, "if she be really your friend, will have a
sensitive regard for your character, honor and repute. She will seldom
counsel you to do a shabby thing, for a woman friend always desires to
be proud of you. She is," he further observes, "to man _presidium et
dulce decus_, bulwark, sweetness, ornament of his existence."

And indeed his words and their import are most rational and
self-sustaining. It is no longer a matter of private or personal
opinion to decide whether the friendship of a truly good woman
benefits the man upon whom she bestows it or not. There are too many
striking arguments in her favor, thrown by the surging tide of
circumstances upon the surface of life's agitated waters, to allow a
doubt to assail her. Too often, within our own memory even, has the
slender yet firm hand of a woman been seen outstretched to snatch the
life of a brother, husband or friend from the sluggish and perilous
stream which runs slowly but surely on towards a hopeless ruin. "The
mere idea," says George Eliot, "that a woman had a kindness towards
him, spun little threads of tenderness from out his heart towards
hers" and "there are natures," she tells us, "in which, if they love
us, we are conscious of having a sort of baptism and consecration;
they bind us over to rectitude and purity by their pure belief about
us, and our sins become that worst kind of sacrilege which tears down
the invisible altars of trust. If you are not good, none is good.
Those little words may give a terrific meaning to responsibility, may
hold a vitriolic intensity for remorse." Will anyone dispute it?
Moreover, it is the teaching of the only true philosophy by which men
should regulate their interior selves: that we "love one another,"
that we mutually assist and encourage one another, that we sympathise
with each other in our joy and sustain one another in sorrow. Now,
where a natural sympathy paves the way for the practice of this lesson
of charity, how easy it is for men to bestow a beautiful living
interpretation upon the Divine ordination concerning our mutual
relationships.

The idea that a staunch and unswerving friendship is capable of
existing between two women has become quite obsolete and exploded in
our day. It is generously admitted that the frivolous tendencies which
are innate in us have too much of the upper hand to sanction any
sentiment which pre-supposes a self abnegation or exalted
disinterestedness on our part. This is a serious heresy which may
possibly be accounted for simply enough.

It is a well-attested fact, especially since the sacred precincts of
established truth have been raided by every puerile pedant and
sciolist who can handle a pen, that any absurdity whatever, so long as
it is clad "in the lion's skin" and no matter how loudly it brays, has
some fatal claim upon the rambling credulity of the multitude. And a
method of reasoning, though resting upon a general assertion which is
utterly false, has won its own disciples time and again with an easy
effort.

Even in this trifling stigma which denies us women the privilege of
being faithful to one another it is easy to see how a fraction of
truth has been led astray. It is the outgrowth of a high-sounding
syllogism, which deduces the sweeping general assertion that "all
women are traitors" from the more limited one, which is unfortunately
true and deplorable, that some women are traitors. Nevertheless, I
fail to see what relationship can possibly exist between the two parts
of the syllogism. The general is as undeniably false as the particular
is undeniably true.

I cannot conceive what pleasure human beings can derive from a
conviction into which they have coaxed themselves by earnest labor,
which has for its object the total destruction of their natural and
simple faith in their fellow creatures. We are all of us innocent
until by our words or deeds we are branded guilty And we have an
unquestionable right to the respect of other men so long as it has not
been forfeited by such actions as are reckoned misdemeanors in the
social world.

Hortense de Beaumont and I signed our treaty of friendship before we
had, either of us, awakened to a suspicion of those probable
impediments which the world is so fond of bringing face to face with
any established mutual attachment of ardent hearts. It was enough for
me that a sweet, confiding simplicity looked trustfully out of the
depths of her brown eyes and hovered with unconscious witchery around
her pretty red lips. The very way in which she raised her beautiful
chin, so hopefully, so winningly, when she talked, would have
conquered me, independent of her other attractions. Although there
were no fascinating depths to my grey eyes, and no witchery, natural
or artificial, in the smile my lips afforded, Hortense, I venture to
say, fully reciprocated the love and trust which I so earnestly
bestowed upon her. There was no uncertainty about our friendship, no
wavering, no questioning, no doubt. The embers glowed with a strong
and steady and cheerful intensity, and we sat before them basking in
their comfortable warmth, and sheltering our hearts from the chilling
coldness of the world without. Oh! these were happy days that
compensated for all the loneliness I had endured in my childhood.
After all, I had only been treasuring up my desire for companionship
and not sacrificing it, which made my sentiments only the more ardent
when an opportunity came at last to indulge them. Looking back from
that sunlit eminence upon the shadowy years of my previous life, I was
able to smile and forget everything, in the blissful consciousness
that a rare, undreamt-of happiness had overtaken me after all, and had
flooded my lot with its dazzling loveliness; and even now I see it
standing prominently above all the other varied epochs of my life I
can follow with a distinct remembrance, one day after another as they
merged into a riper period of my existence, the spot where a shadow
first came over the sunshine of our lives has never been a past to me.

I remained at Notre Dame Abbey pursuing my studies devotedly until I
was upon the threshold of my twentieth year. A letter from my father
then arrived, bidding me make whatever preparations my departure would
necessitate, that at the end of the autumn session he would come to
take me home for good. This was a sad and unexpected surprise for me.
I had just begun to be fascinated by my studies, which were now of
quite a dignified nature. I might as well add, since it cannot but
provoke a bland and suggestive smile from masculine erudition, that I
had actually taken up moral philosophy, and aspired to distinguish
myself later as a metaphysician of some repute. But alas! for the
vanity of human purposes and desires, this empty little note of my
father's came like the chillest wintry blast and smothered the small
creeping flame of my newly awakened ambition. I pleaded and prayed for
an extension of time, but the ultimate explanation was a rather
lengthy epistle from my step-mother, in which she adduced most
persuasively that "there was no help for it, that I must come home."
Canada had changed administrators, and somebody very distinguished was
expected to replace the old Governor-General. It was a most propitious
and opportune occasion for me to make my _debut_ in society, and, all
things considered, I had had quite enough instruction now to fit me
for an honorable position in the world.

How foolishly and vainly assiduous I had been! An honourable position,
according to that respectable authority, was literally no position at
all. Its preliminary stage was that of an idle pleasure-seeker; its
more progressive, that of an artful husband hunter, and its
summit--ah! its summit was where she stood herself, and where a
deplorable percentage of our society wives and mothers are standing or
strutting about with their brilliant plumage expanded, airing their
silly pride and lisping out in self-laudatory accents the story of
their empty achievements in society.

Yes, it was true for her that I had received plenty of instruction for
the mission which she had reserved for me, but in spite of her, now, I
was far outside the limit of her power over me. Not that I was
predisposed to cross her plans and wishes with an obstinate perversity
as of old. I had grown too sensible for that now; but I knew that
education always carries an unquestionable independence about with it,
which asserts itself firmly, though calmly, in the lace of polished
ignorance. I felt that I was now superior to my step-mother by right
of that cultivation, more even of heart than of mind, which had never
been bestowed upon her. The good Sisters of Notre Dame had lifted me
out of the chaos of fashionable ignorance, and had given me a forcible
impetus towards that rising hill of knowledge, whence I could look
down upon the fate I had escaped, with a proud and tender gratitude.
Without further ado, therefore, I wrote back a reply declaring that I
would be ready to leave my happy convent home at the period indicated,
and, inserting an artfully-worded hope that they would not be
disappointed with the fruits of my scholastic labors, I signed myself
their most obedient and respectful daughter.

In three months from that eventful date the gas-light of the Canadian
Senate Chamber was falling upon my white brocaded Watteau train, as I
advanced towards the throne where our courteous Governors stand every
winter, with a patience and forbearance worthy of a better cause. An
officer in glistening regimentals looked at my card through his
eyeglass, and dutifully called out "Miss Hampden," while I bowed, and
followed the motley procession of young and old, that were wending
their way to the galleries above.

I was no longer a child, no longer a school-girl in the eyes of the
world, but a "young lady" with ambitions and desires attributed to me
whether I thought of them or not.

It was late in November when I bade farewell to Notre Dame Abbey,
never more to darken its hallowed threshold as a pupil. That parting
was one of the saddest recollections which my memory treasures. Every
hall and stairway, every nook and corner of that solemn old building,
were bound to my heart by closest ties. It is strange how much deep
love we have to spare for places and things that enter largely into
our lives. For my part, I know that the dear old Abbey has a claim
upon my affections which no power on earth can lessen or destroy.

I left Hortense after me, and while she remained I was always with
her--not in flesh and blood indeed, but, better still, in heart and
mind and soul, shadowing her wherever she went, and revelling in the
same sweet companionship still, though a great distance stretched
between us.

Hortense and I said our first good-bye on the 25th of November, the
feast of the glorious Saint Catherine. The evening meal was over, and
the long procession of happy, laughing girls had passed out of the
refectory into the spacious recreation hall, where first I spoke to my
dear little friend. Hortense and I lingered behind. I had only one
hour more to spend with her, and it seemed that a great deal yet
remained unsaid. From where we stood we could plainly hear the buzz of
ringing voices in the crowded room beyond. There was unusual rejoicing
to-night, for it was a _conge_ in honor of Saint Catherine, but the
joyful confusion seemed only to throw our mutual sadness into more
pronounced relief, and for awhile we stood in silence, hand in hand,
half-shrouded in the darkness of the outer doorway. Then Hortense
said, in a tremulous whisper.

"Let us go into the chapel."

I took her arm tenderly, and we passed quietly along the dimly lit
corridor that led into the main portion of the building. A single gas
jet burned in the large square hall outside. We hurried across it, for
the glare was unwelcome to the tear-stained faces of both, all was
silent and still as death. Hortense opened the chapel door
noiselessly, and we glided in. Darkness here too, and yet not
darkness, for great giant shadows leaped over the vacant pews, and
chased one another over the cold, white keys of the organ. The
sanctuary light was flickering fitfully in its crystal bowl, and
peopling the holy precincts with phantom worshippers. Gleams of
silvery moonlight flooded the farther end, and brought out to
advantage every hoary blade and tree and flower that lay upon the
glistening window panes. If we had needed inspiration from external
things at this moment, how easily we could have received it. But there
was not a fibre within us that was not already awake to such
soul-stirring influences. We went on tiptoe towards the altar-rail,
and knelt upon the topmost step. To tell what followed would be to
intrude upon the sacredness of the soul's privacy. Suffice it to say
that for some solemn moments we knelt and prayed together, each
knowing well what to ask from Him who has promised that they who "ask
shall receive." When my petition was ended I turned and looked at
Hortense. She was praying still, her thin white hands were clasped and
rested on the rail before her. Her eyes were raised towards the
Crucifix that stood over the Tabernacle, her lips were slightly
parted, and a deep crimson spot glowed on each beautiful cheek. I
became spell-bound for a moment, wondering whether in Heaven she could
look any lovelier; but as I gazed upon her she raised her slender hand
and blessed herself. Her prayer was over and it was surely heard.

Half an hour after this I stood robed in my warm furs awaiting my
father's arrival. I had said my adieux to teachers and school-mates,
and was now drying my eyes for the hundredth time in expectation of a
summons to leave hurriedly. At last there was a stamping of horses'
hoofs on the cold, frozen ground outside, followed by a violent
ringing of the door-bell. The hour had come.

I stood hastily up. Now that the end was near where was the use of
delay. I took Hortense's tearless face between my trembling hands and
stooped to kiss her for the last time. I had determined to be brave at
this moment but I said "good-bye" in a broken sob and two large tears
fell upon her pale cheeks from my quivering lashes. She did not brush
them away but looking earnestly into my eyes said in a low eager voice
as though she were finishing her thought aloud.

"And we will always be friends like this, Amelia, in spite of distance
or anything?"

"Always," I answered as her lips lay upon mine and then we parted.







CHAPTER V.

From the quiet, peaceful routine of a convent life I was whirled into
the maddest and wildest confusion, at least such did it seem to me
then, when I was unsophisticated, and ignorant of the ways in which
fashionable womanhood develops itself.

My step-mother went through my wardrobe making incredible additions
and alterations, informing me as she did so that I would be the
cynosure of many searching eyes when I appeared in the drawing-rooms
which she frequented. I also received many graceful hints as to what
was expected of me in conversation and demeanour, and I did not need
any assistance whatever to realize that I was a sort of speculation,
that I would carry an insinuation of my father's wealth and my
mother's position about with me wherever I went. I was not given to
understand or to fear that my own intrinsic worth would likely be the
object of any serious consideration. My step-mother encouraged me by
saying that "Alice Merivale was out before me and was quite a success,
and all I had to do was to renew my early friendship with her" or in
other words to play the parasite as prettily as I knew how. About
this, however, I had made up my mind before I appeared in the busy
arena of fashionable society. Twice a week now I put on some of my
expensive new toilets and went with my step-mother in our handsome
conveyance to make calls. I was presented to every one of any note,
and drank tea in the best drawing-rooms the Capital could boast of. So
far my step-mother looked happy. I had not been awkward at
introductions, nor dull in conversations. I had even made some very
pithy remarks where they could do me most service, and knew the name
of a historic personage to whom Lady Pendleton alluded vaguely,
forgetting his title. I was invaded in my turn on our reception day by
all the wealth and beauty of the capital. Great, pompous dames in
heavy mantles and rustling robes sat themselves down in imposing
condescension beside me to discuss the last dinner party at Government
House, or recite a series of domestic woes brought on by that
refractory necessity--the cook. Simpering young ladies, and simpering
ladies that were no longer young, greeted me with a pretty,
patronizing courtesy, and smiled upon my remarks as sweetly as we
grown people do at the crude observances of a prattling child.

There was a time I must admit when I was only a child in the eyes of
some of these maidens. When I was ten and they were twenty how far
apart we stood in sympathies and tastes? But it is astonishing how
rapidly youth overtakes maturity. Although the inevitable disparity of
years can never be altered or overcome, the material differences which
necessarily accrue from it are easily mastered.

So far, the course of my new life ran smoothly and calmly on, but an
impediment was looming up in the near distance. Mrs. Hartmann's cards
were out for her annual brilliant "At Home." Every one was whispering
about and speculating in a hopeful way, as people do when a grand
social event of this nature is on the _tapis_. My step-mother spent
the whole of the day before among her fragments of small finery,
re-arranging tumbled laces and trimmings, and sorting her handsome
jewels. I gave my afternoon leisure to Hortense, writing her a most
minute and graphic account of my initiation into fashionable life, my
progress and its probable result.

When the eventful night came and the gas was lighted all was hurry and
flurry and confusion in our home. My step-mother and I repaired to our
rooms in quiet walking costumes which we had worn in the afternoon,
and an hour or so later we emerged in the fullest ball-toilet. I was
ready first, and gathering up my expensive train of satin and oriental
lace, I glided across the hall and tapped at my step-mother's bedroom.

In answer to a faint "come in," I admitted myself just in time to see
the faithful Janet bestowing her attention upon the bare, plump
shoulders of her mistress, who stood before her cheval glass in silent
self-contemplation.

She had only to fasten a necklet of diamonds at her throat, to gather
up her gloves and lace hand-kerchief and allow Janet to wrap her up in
her downy opera cloak, and she was ready. As she turned from the glass
her gaze fell fully upon me. I could see that she was not
disappointed, but her generous admiration in no way interfered with
the consciousness which filled her of her own superior dignity and
grace. She may have envied me my youth, for she was loth to grow old
among these gay distractions, however, she only said "you'll do nicely
Amelia" and we left the room.

We went down to the dimly-lit drawing-room where a cheerful fire
burned in the polished grate, and my stepmother rang for tea. The
little French parlor maid appeared a moment later and laid the tiny
table beside us. Two steaming cups stood invitingly on the tray, but
before taking hers my step-mother suddenly remembered she had left her
jewel case unlocked, and she hurried out of the room in a state of
anxious excitement. I turned my back to the fire and in utter
abstraction riveted my gaze upon the butterfly handles of the teacups.
I was thinking. Such circumstances as these always brought back my
simple yesterdays with a renewed force to my memory. I was thinking so
profoundly that I neither heard nor saw my father, who had appeared in
the doorway and was standing on the sheep-skin rug looking strangely
at me.

I must have felt the power of his steady gaze, for suddenly and almost
involuntarily, I raised my eyes and beheld him leaning against the
polished casement, the heavy red curtain over the entrance hanging
loosely and gracefully behind him, making an effective background for
his white hair and pensive face.

Seeing my reverie broken, he strode noiselessly across the room and
stood beside me at the fire. The thought crossed my mind that there
was something unusual in his manner and expression to-night. He passed
his hand wearily over his brow and eyes, and as if in helpless
obedience to some uncontrollable impulse he leaned forward and touched
his firm dry lips to my cheek.

I started, and why should'nt I? It was the first time my father had
ever kissed me, at least so long as I could remember. I felt a deep
blush creeping up to my very ears; in fact I was stupidly agitated,
and he saw it. With a tenderness such as his voice had not known for
many a year he said:

"Amey, you are a living, breathing vision of my happy past, to-night.
I never saw such a likeness before." His words sank into a whisper as
my step-mother's footfall sounded on the stairs outside. He heard it,
and turning away left the room abruptly. I drank my cup of tea and
prepared to leave as one moving about in a dream. This was one of the
strangest experiences I had ever had; some secret spring seemed to
have been magically touched within me, and all the pent-up love and
devotion of a life-time now flowed freely through my veins. I was
attracted most powerfully towards the cold, distant man whom I had
dreaded all along, and whom I could have hated ardently had it not
been a sin against nature.

His words, though vague, had a clear and holy meaning for me. He must
then have loved my dear dead mother, I thought fondly, when twenty
years of separation have not effaced her memory from his heart and
mind.

I was busy with these reflections as we drove through the streets of
the city towards the Hartmann's residence, and I alighted at their
door with my eyes full of unshed tears. How strangely at odds we can
be with the circumstances of our daily lives.

Very soon, however, I was obliged to dispel all such personal and
intimate ruminations. I was no longer my own property to dispose of as
I willed. I was standing in the doorway of the spacious ball-room with
a circle of new-made gentlemen acquaintances around me; my father and
his wife stood a short distance from me and watched the proceedings
without looking at them.

"May I have the fifth Miss Hampden," the very good-looking Mr.
Haliburton was asking with a smile.

"What is the dance?" I interrupted as he was about to scribble his
initials.

"A polka," he replied with sweet urbanity. I shook my head negatively
and tried to look pleasantly sorry. He raised his perfect dark
eye-brows in thorough astonishment and put in an exclamatory "Why?"

"No fast dances," I said in a seriously playful tone, "I will give you
the sixth, it is a lancers."

"Oh, this is too bad," he argued earnestly, "however," he continued
with his peculiar, winning smile, "I am thankful for any." He wrote
his name very badly on my programme, and mine on his, then with a most
graceful bow made way for a new petitioner.

I had nearly the same little dialogue with each hero that addressed
me, and as there were but four slow dances on the programme for the
evening, I was soon in a trying dilemma. Amiable and courteous as
these fashionable lions were acknowledged to be, they could not get
themselves to sacrifice the pleasure, great or small, which they found
in a waltz or polka, to sit the dance out quietly with a girl of
scruples and principles.

I had to be satisfied, therefore, with the conviction that I was
doomed to spend the greater part of the evening alone; and what was
more consoling still, this being my first appearance at a ball, I was
sure to be closely watched by many a fair rival. Already the music for
the opening dance was sounding. I was engaged for this one, and had
for my vis-a-vis my step-mother and an imposing gentleman in heavy
regimentals. My partner was an ordinary man of the period, of medium
height, with common-place moustache and neatly trimmed side-whiskers,
who made several differently worded remarks of the same meaning upon
the same subject.

I was disposed not to enjoy this evening for many reasons, and I was
conscious of going through the figures of the dance automatically and
tastelessly. I came back after each lady's chain to my tiresome
partner, wishing earnestly that it would soon be over. My step-mother
detected my listless manner, and came to me later, when the dance was
ended and I had been left by the amiable Mr. Fawcett standing before a
picture of Siddons which I was ostensibly admiring with enthusiasm.
There was a becoming smile on the lace of my step-mother, as there
always was in fashionable company, but there was no sweetness in the
anger which was interpreted by the quick, impatient words that flashed
from behind the glittering plumes of her splendid fan into my ear:

"Don't make an idiot of yourself," she said, hoarsely, coming up to
me, and standing in a well-studied attitude before the picture I was
looking at. "It is unpardonable vulgar and rude of you to take
exception to any dances on the programme, as if Mrs. Hartmann would
allow any impropriety where her own daughters are concerned." She went
on fanning herself briskly, showing nothing of her indignation in her
face.

Without raising my eyes I answered quietly: "Do not excite yourself
for nothing, you may be sure I shall not disgrace you, but I am
determined not to get into the arms of any of these men to-night."

She moved away while I was speaking and I saw no more of her until we
were preparing to leave. During the dances that intervened between the
quadrille and the lancers, that I had given to Mr. Haliburton, I had
amused myself as best I could, talking to some prosy relatives of the
family who stood around the walls, and turning over the leaves of an
artistic scrap-book that lay upon the broad window-sill at one end of
the room.

I was grateful when Mr. Haliburton came and took me away into the
crowd. I was beginning to feel tired of the situation and to wish I
were safely at home.

The second dance, however, was livelier than the first. My partner was
a vivacious flirt who made every one feel merry for a while, and I
began to enjoy it after we had gone through the first figure. We were
slower than the dancers next to us, who had finished and were waiting
for us, to change the music. I was advancing to my vis-a-vis, looking
around the room at the same time, when my eyes suddenly fell. I saw
someone in the distance watching my movements, someone who had
evidently just come in. He was not a young man, and yet he was hardly
old. I had not time to take further notice of his appearance, for the
music ceased and we began the last frolicsome figure of our dance. As
I passed into the conservatory later on Mr. Haliburton's arm I stole a
glance towards the end of the room where this "somebody" had been
standing, but he was gone. I need not have felt concerned and yet I
did. More than that, I was disappointed, and it was with an unfeigned
weariness and impatience that I threw myself into the low, basket
rocking-chair under a canopy covered with ivy to which Mr. Haliburton
conducted me.

I was glad to see him go from me, though it was but for a moment; I
would have time to reason with myself before he came back with the
ices.

When I found myself alone, I no longer checked the heavy sigh that had
lain heavy in my breast all night. I leaned my head back against the
vine-clad pillar behind me and almost sobbed. I was feeling miserable.
A footfall somewhere made me spring into an erect, sitting posture
again. I took an ivy leaf between my fingers and toyed nervously with
it I waited for a confirmation of my worst fears, that my step-mother
had followed me and heard me sigh, but there was no one. When all was
quiet again I ventured to look carefully around. The secret was out,
on a rustic bench at the other side of my graceful canopy "somebody"
was sitting alone. His profile met my full view, his pensive half-sad
profile. I looked at it for a moment and, springing up, I moved aside
my rocking chair and rushed towards him.

"Mr. Dalton!" I cried out impulsively, and then stopped suddenly
short--what if it were not he at all?

He turned and caught me in my attitude of suppressed excitement, the
bench was between us. He held out both hands over its curved back
saying:

"Amey, is it you?"

There was a strange look as of a misty uncertain pleasure in his eyes.
I gave him my small hands, for they were small when he had gathered
them into his, and we looked at one another in silence for a few
moments.

"Come here and sit down beside me little one," he said in his old
affectionate way. "How you have grown!" he exclaimed, moving one end
of the rustic seat to let me pass. I had forgotten all about Mr.
Haliburton or any one else but Mr. Dalton; the glad surprise of seeing
him absorbed every other consideration.

"Yes, but not changed, am I?" I put in, eagerly, sitting down beside
him and looking earnestly into his gravely glad face.

"Yes, you are very much changed Amey," he said in a serious yet tender
voice, "but," he continued slowly, "I should recognize you all the
better for the change." His words were meaningless to me, but then
they had always been so when we were friends long ago. "You are
changed too Mr. Dalton," I retorted reciprocatingly. "At first I did
not know you at all, and it was only by rude staring that I managed to
remember you. Where have you been all this time, that I have never
seen you?" I asked.

"Rambling all over the world," he answered dreamily. "And so you
missed me, did you?" he added, changing his tone to one of playful
enquiry. "Well, Amey, so have I missed you, at least I have often
thought of you in my travels and wondered how you were getting on. I
need not tell you," he continued teasingly, "how often I have been
haunted by the dreadful threat you made when I saw you last about--"

"Now, don't say any more," I interrupted, "I remember all that well
enough. We are all a little silly sometime in our lives," I alleged in
self defence.

"Poor Amey!" he said almost in a whisper, "you do not know how prone
human nature is to folly--yet, when you are as old as I, you will have
learned something of it."

"You speak as if you were very ancient," I exclaimed, making little of
his serious talk.

"Well," he broke in slowly, "I can't be very young now, when I had
Amey Hampden on my knee some fifteen years ago, but do not tell that
of me, like a good child," he added in playful eagerness "for, being a
bachelor yet, you see, it might harm me."

"Do you mean that it would excite formidable jealousies?" I asked
rising, and laughing carelessly, and then, half sorry for having
uttered these words I diverted his attention from them by announcing
my wish to go inside.

He arose, and accompanied me, with as much active gallantry as if he
had been twenty-five years younger. Leaning on his strong, stalwart
arm, I passed into the crowded and confused ball-room feeling
peculiarly revived, and strangely happier than when I had left it a
short half-hour before. But I could not get rid of a suspicion that
was forcing itself into my mind with regard to Mr. Dalton. There was
certainly some restraint over him, and the look in his clear, soft
blue eyes was not so steady as it used to be. And yet, what could I
expect from him more than he had given me? I did not know, but it
seemed that after our long, long separation, he ought not to be so
quiet and silent. It is true that our place of meeting was a rather
unpropitious one, but this did not satisfy me. He was not quite the
Mr. Dalton that I remembered, that, as a child I had loved, and still
I felt proudly happy to lean on his powerful arm and exchange
occasional glances and remarks with him.

We walked through the ball-room where amusement was now at its zenith,
and when we had reached the upper end Mr. Dalton paused and looked at
the gay scene before us. He had seemingly forgotten me, while his
thoughts were busy with their own weaving. We had only been there a
moment when my father advanced towards me accompanied by another
gentleman.

"Amey," he began before he had quite reached me, "have you forgotten
our friend Dr. Campbell."

I was sensibly confused as I withdrew my hand from Mr. Dalton's arm to
give it to Dr. Campbell. I bowed and smiled as at our first
introduction in the library at home, and I fear I was guilty even of
blushing, too.

Mr. Dalton, seeing my attention diverted, bowed himself gracefully
away. My father had vanished before him, and thus was I left
completely at the mercy of a trying circumstance.

Dr. Campbell broke the awkward silence happily, saying:

"It cannot be for want of an introduction, Miss Hampden, that you and
I are not friends."

"No indeed," I answered stupidly, not knowing very well what to say.

"Are you dancing this evening," he next asked, in a most composed tone
which made me envy him.

"Very little," said I. "I am exclusive on that subject."

"Which means that you will not honour me," he interrupted blandly,
looking questioningly into my face.

"Oh, no!" I exclaimed seeing how misinterpreted my words were. "I mean
with regard to the dances, not the people. I do not like fast dances."

"Neither do I particularly," he answered, offering me his arm, "except
when I sit them out. May I?" he asked in such a graceful deferential
way that I know I smiled approvingly as I slipped my hand within his
arm and went with him into the little ante-room opposite, where coals
glowed in the open fire-place and a soft rose-coloured light fell over
all the delicate splendor of the furnishings.

There were two heavy plush arm-chairs already drawn up to the fender,
and Dr. Campbell moving one gently towards me, smilingly remarked that
"we were evidently expected."

I took one and he sank into the other with a gesture of pronounced
ease. The light from the fire was full upon his face and form, and
feeling secure in the shadow of a fancy screen that had been shoved
beside my chair, I set myself earnestly to work to analyse this
wonderful man.

He was passively handsome, with a large brow and very large,
expressive eyes. They were blue, too, but not like Mr. Dalton's. They
were dreamier and more attractive. His face was quite bronzed, and his
fine mouth was admirably set off by well-curved brown moustaches. His
chin was bare but for one little bit under the lower lip. He was
caressing this seeming favorite with one white, slender hand, almost
fine enough for a lady's, while I observed him with keen scrutiny. He
was an English Canadian, I learned that before I ever saw him, born
and bred under Canadian skies, but this implies little of his bias or
disposition.

Canada has not yet shaken off the fetters of her great grandparents
sufficiently to bring out in a clear, marked way her own
individuality. Her native sons and daughters inherit too faithfully
the English, Irish, Scotch or French tenor of the characters of their
predecessors to be able to grant to our ambitious country the national
peculiarities and idiosyncracies which she covets, in order to assert
herself freely, as the mother of a people who bear her resemblance
stamped upon their mental and moral features. When a country has
succeeded in fixing a seal upon the brow of every son that is born to
her, she has secured the right of being paralleled, at least in one
respect, with the greatest nations of the world. In time, Canada will
accomplish this, for Canadians should be wonderful people. It baffles
her to-day, because it is a question of time, and in her incapacity to
influence time, Canada is only equal to Caesar's Rome, or Victoria's
Great Britain.

There was a look of keen intelligence in Dr Campbell's countenance
that pleased me particularly, something so refreshing to see, after
all the vapid expressions of uneducated men. I could easily understand
now, how he gained that _prestige_ which made conquests for him
wherever he went. Truly, I did not believe him a very widely informed
man, but he was a man of fixed principles and a man of ambition.
Moreover he had a wonderful _savoir-faire_ that carried him through
all sorts of adventitious circumstances gracefully. It is a clear
counterfeit of genuine acumen, and, with a world that knows no better,
gets just as much favor and praise.

During the fifteen minutes that we passed together in Mrs. Hartmann's
cosy morning-room, with our feet on her polished brass fender, we
learned much of one another's hidden selves, that people who had known
us both for years had failed to gather.

I went to supper on Dr. Campbell's arm and gave him a rose from my
bouquet. He saw us to our carriage when we were leaving, and promised
to call on the following Tuesday.

This is a lengthy and tedious summary of my first and last ball.

For I never went to another. What was the use? I was essentially out
of place with my principles about dancing. My step-mother stormed and
raged after the Hartmann's At Home, declaring that I had disgraced
myself and her; that such guests as I, were a burden to a hostess and
an infliction on the rest of the company. All this, along with my own
private conclusions, went far towards helping me to make up my mind,
once for all, that I had gone to my last "dance." And to be candid I
must admit that it was no effort whatever for me to abstain from these
would-be pleasures. They were literally not worth the fuss and trouble
and expense of getting to them. But I went to other gatherings which
were infinitely more enjoyable. I had many another _tete-a-tete_ with
Arthur Campbell before the winter was out. The last attraction before
Parliament closed was a "Musical" at the Merivales.







CHAPTER VI.

Alice Merivale had "come out" with the greatest eclat into our social
circles. With wealth and beauty, grace and a certain number of showy
accomplishments, she had made conquests without the slightest effort
on her part. She was a finished musician, and had a sweet, thrilling
voice. She talked pleasant nonsense, danced beautifully, flirted very
artfully, and altogether seemed the living embodiment of every
attribute which is calculated to endear a human creature to its
fellow-men. She even gave a peculiar tone to the circle she moved in,
and it was quite a forcible guarantee that a gathering was select and
most exclusive if Alice Merivale was present.

When I returned the second time from school to prepare myself for a
public life Alice Merivale was the first to call upon me. She came in
quite unceremoniously one morning, looking very beautiful in a
sealskin mantle and hat, and declared in the prettiest manner possible
that we must be great friends; we lived so near and had known each
other for such a long time that there should not be anything like
ceremony between us.

"I shall almost need you now that Aunt Ada is married and Edith has
gone to Germany" she argued in pretty plaintiveness.

I liked this, though indeed, at the time it surprised me more than a
little. I had expected to find her developed into a feather-brained,
affected young lady who was shortsighted in a great many ways. I had
never been able to dissociate the early impression she made on me from
her later redeeming phases. Poor Florrie Grant vanishing out of the
doorway under Miss Merivale's sublime contempt came back to my memory
time and again, and I made up my mind that Alice Merivale and I could
never claim to be kindred souls.

But when I saw her after the lapse of some years and observed the
perfection of her physical loveliness I could no longer harden my
heart against her. It has always been a weakness of mine to slavishly
admire feminine beauty. There is a witchery about graceful curves, and
heavy eyelids, drooping lashes and dimpled chins that stronger souls
than mine cannot resist; and when the haughty little Alice of my
girlhood stood before me in all the glory of her fresh and beautiful
womanhood I forgave her all the past.

I hardly knew what she talked about, so rapturously did I gaze, now
upon her delicate pink ear, now upon the melting curves that brought
her white chin into provoking notice, then her roguish, winning,
violet eyes with their long dark lashes and languid brows. There was
everything to love in her so far as the eye could see, from the waving
profusion of golden hair to the toe of her dainty slipper.

I had met her at all the entertainments of the season. I had watched
her pretty manoeuvres and followed her flirtations with a quiet
amusement. Her admirers were numberless and pursued her with the most
emphatic devotedness. She was an item in the individual lives of young
people of both sexes, exciting in some hearts the bitterest envy and
jealousy, and kindling the name of an all-consuming love in many
others. She had earned the palm of triumph and victory all through the
gay season, and now that the end was near she decided to gather all
those who had witnessed her conquests abroad, within her own home and
there make her retiring courtesy under peculiarly advantageous
circumstances. She was to leave in a fortnight after for an extended
tour through Europe.

It was the fifteenth of March and the Merivales' "Musical" was to
commence at eight o'clock. The wind blew fiercely through the stiff,
naked boughs of the giant maples, and drifted the light powdery snow
madly on before it. I had been in-doors all day listening to the weird
wailing of the ceaseless wind as it whistled down the chimneys and
swept past the house corners. I had written and read and stitched
until my eyes were wearied and my fingers numb, and it was only four
o'clock, that turning-point on a March day from the sunshine to the
gloaming when we women know not what to do with ourselves; when it is
too cold to go out or expect visitors, too late in the day to begin
any occupation, too dark to read with any comfort, and too early to
light the lamps. I went to the window and looked impatiently into the
street but there was no comfort to be had there; a milkman's wagon
stood over the way, his horse pawing the frozen ground while he filled
his measure with the cold white liquid. A band of little children ran
screaming by with a large dog drawing a sleigh; a beggar woman clad in
flimsy rags was mounting the steps of a neighboring house, and that
was all. I shrugged my shoulders and turned away with a smothered
yawn. The piano stood open before me, I threw myself carelessly on the
stool and thrummed languidly on the key-board for a moment or so, but
I was not in the humor to play, and with another yawn I arose, crossed
the hall and passed into my father's library.

He was usually there at this hour, but early that afternoon he had
gone into the country to see a patient, and as he would not be back
until after dinner, I appropriated his sanctum in his stead. A fire
burned in the grate, not a roaring blazing fire, but a pile of
steadily glowing coals, intensely red and hot, that kept the room
comfortable, but threw no shadow on the tinted walls.

I wheeled the light lounge that stood opposite the door towards the
fire, and sank gratefully into it to have a little "think" about the
past, all to myself. I began to distinguish the spires of Notre Dame
Abbey rising clearly out of the glowing embers. Faces that I loved
peeped through its latticed windows, smilingly, and voices that were
like the breath of summer in my ear called to me from its hallowed
portals. I was back among the scenes of my early happiness, the winter
day was flooded with summer warmth and sunshine; the birds twittered
in the fresh green foliage, and the stream murmured placidly on at the
foot of the convent garden. My languor and weariness were gone; I was
cheerful and glad again, as I had been in my careless girlhood. How
long it lasted according to time reckoned by minutes and hours, I knew
not. In my dream many days came and went with new and repeated
delights. All I know is, that when I awoke the room was shrouded in
darkness and the fire had grown cheerless and dull I started up, for
the change was a shock to me. I did not know I had fallen asleep, and
it must have been a full hour or more since I came into the library.
More than that, I felt a sharp sensation for which I could not
thoroughly account. For a moment I suspected that some one must be in
the room, then again, the unbroken stillness re-assured me that this
was mere fancy. I felt an abiding presence which seemed to hover right
around me. I raised myself on one elbow and asked in an audible
whisper:

"Is anyone here?"

A coal gave way in the fire-place and the embers loosened and fell. I
started involuntarily, but there was no answer to my question. I
rubbed my eyes briskly and stood up. As I did so, something fell upon
the floor with a clinking noise. I put my hand up instinctively to my
ears. One ruby ear-ring was missing. I groped my way to the
mantel-piece and struck a light. Stepping carefully back towards the
lounge, with my eyes buried in the carpet, I spied a glittering object
at a little distance from where I had been standing. I stooped and
picked it up. To my great surprise it was not my ruby ear-ring. It was
a small oval locket suspended from a few links of a heavy gold chain,
one of the uppermost links was crooked and broken.

I turned it over and over between my fingers, holding the candle so
that the light fell full upon it. It was not my father's; of that I
was fully certain. It had a strange, unfamiliar look about it such as
other people's small wares always have for us, and yet, the more I
examined it, the more I began to think I had seen it somewhere before.
I was mystified. As I turned my head I descried my missing ear-ring
lying in the threads of a crocheted tidy that had lain under my head.
Setting down the candle, I extricated it and restored it to my ear. I
then blew out the light and went quietly up to my own room.

I had just closed the door and secured myself against possible
intrusion when the sound of the dinner-bell broke upon my ear. I
immediately rose, and storing my newly found treasure hurriedly away,
I went down to the dining-room.

My step-mother was already there, chatting with Mrs. Hunter, who had
come in to spend a quiet hour of the afternoon, and accepted an
informal invitation to dinner.

My father had not yet returned, and as Freddie was still at college,
we were quite a cosy little dinner party in ourselves.

I apologized for my delay, accusing myself of having fallen asleep,
and with a smiling enquiry about the general health of the Hunter
family I took my seat and began to unfold my table-napkin.

"Then you did not see what came for you this afternoon, if you've been
dozing," my step-mother said pouring a ladle of soup into Mrs.
Hunter's plate.

I looked eagerly towards her and exclaimed with a smile of surprise:

"No! Did anything come?"

My step-mother glanced significantly at Mrs. Hunter, but that lady was
either very hungry or saw no fun in the allusion, for she went on
quietly tasting her soup without looking up.

This piqued my step-mother a little, I fancy, for she said with
unusual emphasis and insinuation.

"Oh, you won't be at all surprised, Amelia, it is only what you might
expect now, some more of Dr. Campbell's kind attentions, that's all."

"What is it?" I put in with an uncontrollable relish and curiosity.

"_This_ time," said my step-mother, "it is a box of the loveliest
flowers, for to-night of course."

"Dr. Campbell is very thoughtful," Mrs. Hunter here ventured to
assert, "he often sends Laura books and flowers and such pretty songs;
he is a great favorite," she added, half satisfied no doubt that she
had knocked all the sentiment out of this offering to me. But my
step-mother was not to be baffled even if she had to show me to the
highest advantage.

"Oh!" she answered, with an effort at indifference, "he knows how to
be a favorite. In his profession, especially, it is far better to
court popularity in this way. I would say he studied his own interest
in Amey's case too," she continued, spitefully, "only that he knows,
since Freddie went away, we never have any strange doctors for the
household. What do you say, Amey?" she asked in a teasing tone,
changing the nature of the subject.

"I am sure I cannot presume to interpret Dr. Campbell's motives," I
answered quietly, "but there is no reason why his gift should not be
one of friendship," I added, with conscious dignity.

Mrs. Hunter's "Of course not" put an end to this sensitive topic. It
was dangerous ground and could lead to mischief. So we all thought, I
fancy, for by tacit consent it was dropped for the rest of the meal.

After dinner we had a tame little chat in the drawing-room over our
cups of tea, and then Mrs. Hunter left, for she too had to dress for
the "Musical," and there was now not much time to spare.

Arthur Campbell's flowers were truly lovely. When I went up to my room
I saw them laid out before me, and, I must confess, I felt a little
flattered at this mark of preference from one who was so highly
esteemed by all who knew him. I raised them tenderly and examined them
one by one. They were rich and delicate and sweet smelling.

There was a little card among them with the words "Will Miss Hampden
favor the giver by wearing these flowers this evening?" neatly written
upon it; below them the clear signature "V. Arthur Campbell," was
inscribed in the same loose but neat characters.

I could not help smiling while I dressed. Maybe I was a little
conceited, but no one saw me.

The circumstances of our introduction and acquaintanceship,
altogether, were so very peculiar that I could not dwell upon them
with a sober face. Besides, Arthur Campbell was a lion in society, a
success in his profession and the desired of many calculating mothers.
What would these people say if I quietly stepped inside them in Arthur
Campbell's favor?

I took up his flowers and began to choose those I should wear. After
all, I thought, it was not always wealth and beauty that accomplished
the greatest things. I might surprise our little world yet, though my
face had no extraordinary beauty, nor my form any marvellous
grace--with which hypothesis I laid a rich spray upon my breast and,
finding it becoming, fastened it there.

Ah me! how vain and foolish our weak humanity can be at times! Some
little unexpected circumstance gives us a key-note, and we sustain it
through a heart-stirring melody that will never charm our ear save in
this misty reverie. We girls of one-and-twenty summers are so easily
borne along by every passing breath of unstable experience; so easily
stimulated by rivalry that begins in little things but may yet creep
into the great crises of our lives; so easily stung to impulsive
action by the incisive smile and word of jealousy or pride; so easily
led away by aspects that show us only their bright and cheerful side;
so easily wearied of the happy, careless monotony of our young lives!
And yet, there is an exquisite pleasure for us in the weaving of those
delicate golden webs that are destined to be torn so rudely asunder by
a prosy and matter-of-fact reality.

The thoughts suggested by Arthur Campbell's gracious offering took a
firm and exclusive hold of my mind, from the moment I saw it, until I
sat beside him in the Merivales' vast drawing-room.

He looked handsomer than ever that night, it seemed to me, as he came
smiling towards me and asked leave to take the vacant chair beside me.
Every one was busy talking and laughing, for the music had not yet
begun and we felt quite secure in our remote corner to say and do as
we pleased. It is so often quite easy to be alone in a crowd.

"I need not ask you how you are, Miss Hampden," Arthur Campbell began,
sinking down carelessly into his seat, "your looks are perfect."

"Such unworthy adulation Dr. Campbell!" I exclaimed in mock
indignation, "besides" I said, with some malice "I would like to know
how many times you have paid this compliment before it reached me."

"This is very unfair, Miss Hampden" he retorted with a pleasant smile.
"Upon my honor, I did not--well yes, to be candid, I said something
like it to Miss Merivale, but she is the only one beside yourself."

"I knew it!" I interrupted triumphantly "and I daresay she is the only
lady you have spoken to at all, since you came in, except myself."

He looked at me with his solemn blue eyes for a moment and then said
in a half jesting, half earnest, tone:

"I wish I could make you jealous."

He did not turn away his eyes after this, but let them jest in calm
scrutiny upon my half averted countenance. There was a power in his
words that thrilled me for a second or so. I may have betrayed some
agitation in my answer. I closed my fan and opened it again nervously
before I replied:

"Have you heard that I am easily provoked to jealousy?"

"Not at all," he said in quite a serious voice, "and if I heard it a
thousand times I could not believe it. You are too sure of yourself to
give way to such a sentiment."

"But we cannot rely very much upon ourselves under some
circumstances."

"Very true, and very fortunately, for we resolve to support attitudes
under some circumstances, that are neither true to ourselves, nor fair
to our fellow-creatures. Don't you think so?" he asked, taking my fan
out of my lap and looking intently at it.

"I don't think I understand you very well," I answered timidly.

Just then the sounds of voices were hushed, and the loud strains of
Rossini's _Semiramide_ filled the room. That ended our conversation
for awhile. The music proceeded with little or no intermission, for
upwards of an hour. All the vocal and instrumental talent of the city
was present, and the audience was treated to a rare and most happily
rendered repertoire. Miss Hartmann had just finished an Arietta of
Beethoven's, which was rapturously received, when Alice Merivale stole
up behind me, radiant in pale green mist--as it seemed to me--to ask
how I enjoyed the selections.

I could scarcely think of answering her until my eyes had taken in the
full beauty of her face and form.

"I want you all to be in a very good humour, before I begin" she said
coquettishly, "for I will try your patience very hard, yours
especially, Dr. Campbell," she added, looking at him now for the first
time, "you are such a merciless critic--a perfect epicure in music."

He smiled languidly at her, and swept a glance over her from head to
foot.

"Is it any wonder" he asked lazily; "when you spoil us by feasting us
with the perfection of every sort of loveliness, what else can you
expect?"

She touched him smartly on the nose with a roll of music she held in
her hand--for they were old friends--and flitted away, saying:

"It is a good thing that I have never had any faith in men of your
profession."

He looked after her in undisguised, ardent admiration. I saw it, and
if I remember well, a vague wish was creeping into my heart at the
time, that I had been as lithe and fair a creature as Alice Merivale.
Before I had dwelt much upon it however, silence was again restored
and our charming hostess had appeared before us.

Low and sweet, the first thrilling notes came from her swan-like
throat; then a strain of violin accompaniment and loud chords from the
piano, and she broke forth into a passionate refrain that held her
listeners spell-bound.

I had ceased to look at her, and was busy watching the expression on
Arthur Campbell's face. It was one of profound admiration. His eyes
were riveted upon her with a devouring look, he was lost to every
surrounding, dead to every influence for the time being but the magic
power of this beautiful voice that trembled in the scented air and
died away into a musical whisper.

She bowed and retired as the pent up emotions of her audience had
given way; exclamations of praise and enthusiasm greeted her on every
side.

She deserved all this and more, if it were possible to give it to her.
I had been enraptured myself over her singing, but still I could not
see the necessity or appropriateness of Arthur Campbell's prolonged
ecstacy. I began to think it was affected, and turned away from him to
talk to a little lady with gold-rimmed spectacles who sat quietly on
the other side of me.

When I addressed her she raised her glasses and wiped her eyes with a
dainty lace handkerchief.

"Very beautiful, was it not?" I said, for want of something more
appropriate.

"Ah! mon Dieu! oui!" she exclaimed warmly, and then proceeded to tell
me in very broken English that "Mees Alice" was the pupil of her
deceased sister, who had come from France some years before and had
undertaken the vocal instruction of _haut ton_ young ladies, in order
to save their aged mother from a destitution which threatened her,
owing to some heavy reverses which had befallen them in their native
land.

I was outwardly very sympathetic as she recited these melancholy
details. She did not suspect, poor thing, what an effort I was obliged
to make to keep track of her subject at all, and I was conscious of
having won her kind favor under false pretences. Before she could
pursue her pet topic to any fuller advantage, however, the music began
again and our newly made friendship was effectually nipped in the bud.
During the next selection, which was a lengthy piano solo by the
fashionable Miss Nibbs, I busied myself observing all that transpired
about me. Miss Nibbs herself was worthy of some notice; perched upon
the piano-stool, her flat feet barely reaching the pedals, and her
ill-formed bulky figure swaying now on one side, now on another.
Whatever Miss Nibbs had been in her youth, and to speak truly one
might doubt at this period of her existence if she had ever known a
younger day, she certainly was very much worn and used looking in her
decline. Not even the faded remnants of an earlier grace or gentility
helped to redeem the weak points of nature about her. She was a
stranger to me, and yet I could have declared with the most perfect
sanction of my moral certitude that she was the direct descendant of a
plebeian stock. Not but that she had counterfeited patrician
attributes according to her own interpretation of them as earnestly as
she knew how; but such, empty pretensions as these are too transparent
to the all-discerning eye of true gentility. They can not easily
assume that which they have no right to claim. A haughty, overbearing
demeanor, or a powerful drawl, is no guarantee of good breeding, and
these were poor Miss Nibbs' only titles to it. I will admit that, in
my fretted mood, I saw her at her worst. Not a wrinkle of her
ill-fitting bodice escaped me, not a movement of her ungainly form
passed unnoticed, I was dissecting her to a pitiful disadvantage,
following up each new discovery with a moral of my own when a
half-subdued voice whispered in my ear:

"Spare her, Miss Hampden."

I looked up significantly and met Dr. Campbell's mock-reproachful
glance, resting full upon me.

"Spare whom?" I asked, very innocently.

"Oh! you wicked critic of human frailties," he answered slowly, "whom
do you think?"

I betrayed myself with an ill-suppressed smile which broadened into a
genuine laugh as poor Miss Nibbs retired most awkwardly from her post,
very well satisfied with herself, no doubt.

During the interval that followed, Dr. Campbell amused himself with
the indulgence of a new freak. He leaned his elbow on the back of the
chair in front of us, and turning his face towards me supported his
head in the palm of his hand. There was a new expression on his
countenance which foreboded the tantalising remark that followed:

"Do you know, Miss Hampden," he began, looking at me through his half
closed eye-lids, "you are beginning to puzzle me strangely. Did any
one ever tell you you are an eccentric girl?"

"Oh dear! yes! my step-mother persuaded me to that comfortable
conviction long ago," I answered laughingly.

He followed up this agreeable retort with a most expressive "Ahem!"
and then paused a moment before adding in a very emphatic tone:

"Well, you are a queer girl, you know."

"Because I fall short of your standard, I suppose?" I interrupted,
passing my hand languidly over my brow and eyes.

"Well that is not a bad guess, Miss Hampden, but that is not the only
reason."

The shaft pierced me. Arthur Campbell was not always in a mood to
flatter. I wanted to prove to him that two could play at his little
game and I hardly knew how to match him.

"I suppose I ought to feel quite grieved at this intelligence," I
answered consciously, "but, dear me," with an artificial sigh, "I
cannot bring myself to study people's opinions; that is probably one
feature of my eccentricity?" I added in an interrogative tone, looking
aimlessly at him.

He was silent for a moment during which he looked around the room.
Then he stood up saying:

"Let us go outside, I see the music is over."

I rose and took his proffered arm and we turned towards the door. As
we passed out my eyes fell upon Mr. Dalton's solitary figure standing
by the window opposite. A stern, set expression was upon his
countenance, and his glance was riveted upon us. I inclined my head
with a smile, but he either saw not or purposely took no notice of it,
for he went on staring abstractedly until we vanished into the
adjoining room.

For a second time in our lives Arthur Campbell and I were alone amidst
suggestive surroundings such as met us as we passed under the heavy
curtain that screened the cosiest of _boudoirs_ from the general view.

There is such a special appropriateness about certain circumstances
that one cannot help speculating to some extent upon their probable
and possible issues. It is a known fact that a vast percentage of
society marriages are the outgrowth of these little stolen
_tete-a-tetes_ that are snatched from the gay confusion of some noisy
gathering. No one will be so unreasonable as to denounce the young
heart that flutters with some timid anticipation, as it forsakes the
mad merry-making of the ball room for the quiet insinuating stillness
of some reserved nook by a flickering fireside, where the flower-laden
atmosphere whispers interesting suggestions of its own. Far be it from
me to overshadow such gleams of sunlight, by censure or cruel mockery,
and when I affirm most earnestly that such flutterings of vague
expectation never animated my poor heart, so cold, so empty, so
unbelieving, it is not that I hold it outside and above such an
influence. I only lay bare the barrenness of its nature and the
trustless reserve that always made the world around me seem wrapped in
a gloomy pall, that inspired me with suspicion, if not altogether fear
of it.

I will not take the responsibility of affirming that my views were at
all odd or singular, and incompatible with the real condition of
feminine hearts at that time. Neither would I like to assure the world
that our blooming society girls of to-day are any more credulous or
unwisely susceptible than many were at the date I speak of. It has
become a popular belief, I think, that beauty coupled with a
fascinating manner in a woman, is as heartless and unfeeling as a
stone, and yet is just indifferent and neutral enough to abstain from
inflicting any more direct pain than that to which its indiscreet
victims expose themselves knowingly. There is a certain pity excited
by human moths that flutter about our drawing-rooms with their smooth
velvety wings charred and disfigured, but even in the sympathy
expressed there is a ring of "I told you so," and "beware the next
time" that makes the sufferer's burden only heavier to endure.

I can not take upon me to say that Arthur Campbell's beautiful pinions
had touched the dangerous flame with any alarming results. I believed
him to be very human in spite of his multiplied efforts to establish
himself above or below that limit. I saw, when our acquaintanceship
was only an hour old, that he was an artful man and, to no small
extent, a conceited man. I did not suspect him of regulating his life
according to the dictates of a scrupulous conscience. In fact I
daresay I was uncharitable enough to look upon him as wanting that
blessed monitor, altogether. He professed no definite religious
belief, and generally held all creeds to be equally good. Sometimes
when he wanted to excite the particular interest of some orthodox
young lady he leaned towards the agnostics, and without upholding
their tenets, exactly, wanted to know why their right to establish
themselves should be so universally questioned and condemned. He liked
to see pretty faces looking shocked, and his ears revelled in the
sound of a plaintively persuading voice that argued on the side of old
truth; he would even allow himself to be converted for the moment by a
reproachful look from indignant blue eyes. It gave a flavour to a
languid flirtation and "after all," he was wont to say, "what religion
can be better than that whose ministers are fair and beautiful women."

He was an acknowledged flirt; a regular knave of Hearts; and yet
totally unlike those professional lady-killers who carry their smooth
chins so very high above their would-be rivals in fashionable
drawing-rooms. There was no insinuation of his purpose or design about
Arthur Campbell as he stepped quietly in among the many _coteries_ of
which he was a spoiled darling. His profession excused him for his
late arrivals everywhere, and, in the bargain, granted him ample
opportunity for intruding himself upon the notice of everyone present
without being condemned for presumption or conceit. It was whispered
of him that his private life was based upon free and easy principles,
and that he was not altogether so circumspect a walker in the ways of
righteousness as he was in the ways of society. Such an accusation,
however, remained perforce under an open verdict. Too many of those
who might have decided against him had delicate glass-houses of their
own to care for, and it would likely prove a treacherous missile that
would aim at the well-propped reputation of Doctor Campbell.

I had my own private opinion about him, which never prevented me from
openly admiring his tactics, from enjoying his company, and, in a
sense, from coveting his attentions. Strangely enough, I had every
opportunity for indulging all three. We were thrown frequently
together, and I could not help seeing that he took more than a passing
notice of me. To tell the truth, until a certain time I never
questioned the possible motive that might have inspired him to seek my
company. I met him always with a cordial, and may be a very cordial,
smile. He was an interesting man, who talked well, and as such
appealed largely to my ardent appreciation. We became friends in a
very little while, and probably contributed largely towards each
other's mutual enjoyment. But very soon the all-seeing eye of a
jealous scrutiny was upon us, and we were singled out wherever we
went. Little rumors were being hatched, destined before long to creep
out from under the great fostering wing of that old hen, Gossip, who
is ever chuckling over some new and active brood. People caught the
message and repeated it with a relish. People said that young Campbell
was no fool in aspiring to succeed to Dr. Hampden's practice. People
said: Trust the fellow to spy out a rich man's only daughter. People
said: The Hampdens have made a dead set on Campbell, always asking him
to luncheon, etc. People said: He is fooling her. In fact people gave
expression to every uncomplimentary sentiment which the circumstances
could possibly suggest, and it was only then that I turned my
attention to the matter at all. I heard the floating verdicts that
were being pronounced upon us, and thenceforth I also infused a
certain purpose into our hitherto aimless relationship. I quietly
resolved to meet that respectable body so widely known as the "people"
in open combat. I needed no formidable weapon, an old halter would
answer my purpose fully, for of course my readers know that this
loud-voiced authority, this much feared power, this braying denouncer
of men's private, social, or moral attitudes is only our friend the
ass in a pretty well-fitting lion-skin, not nearly so dangerous as
timid souls imagine, a nuisance certainly, but that is all.

When Arthur Campbell and I vacated the crowded drawing-room,
therefore, and passed into the quiet retreat opposite, many a
significant glance followed us besides poor Mr. Dalton's. I knew it
and so did he, although no mention was made of it by either of us. We
had drifted imperceptibly into that phase of a growing friendship
which is silent upon certain interesting topics. We often talked in a
vague and general way about the tender influences, but never now by
any chance allowed our random remarks to convey any personal
reflections. We were puzzling over one another, which is a fatal
resource for unfortified hearts, but we prided ourselves upon our
well-guarded and invulnerable affections, and, in a way, playfully
defied the inevitable to conquer us.

Arthur Campbell held the heavy drapery aside until I had glided into
the room. He then drew it briskly across the doorway and followed me
to an ebony cabinet before which I had stood to look at a comical
crockery pug that lay on one of its tiny shelves. He glanced over my
shoulder at my interesting distraction, and was silent for a moment. I
could feel his breath upon my hair and ear, then he said slowly:

"You seem to be fond of animals, which is your favorite?"

An answer rushed to my lips and I was conscious of a mischievous
expression creeping over my face. Had I reflected for a moment I might
never have uttered it, but before I had time to weigh my words, they
had been pointedly pronounced.

"Man--of course," I said; "Which is yours?"

He did not answer as quickly as I had, and yet I did not dare look at
him or speak again. After a moment's pause, however, I ventured to
raise my eyes towards the cabinet, and as I did so, how my heart
thumped, how my cheeks reddened. He had stretched one hand out to
reach some object that stood on one of the ebony brackets above me,
and the reflection in the little square mirror before us was, to say
the least, rather suggestive. The bracket being higher than the mirror
was not visible in it. The effect produced therefore was that of a
broadcloth sleeve, carefully brought around two slender shoulders, and
a handsome manly countenance leaning a little towards a blushing
maiden's face. Worse than all, he too happened to look into the glass
at the same moment, and our eyes in shrinking from one another's
glance met under an awkward circumstance. He looked steadily at Amey
Hampden in mirrorland, and then said in a very conventional tone,
turning his eyes towards the bracket:

"Pardon me, I want to show you something."

It was a beautiful white dove which, though lifeless, had retained
much of its grace and softness. In its beak was a dainty little card
upon which was inscribed in large characters: "Love one another."

"Do you like it?" he asked after we had examined it silently for a
moment.

"The idea is certainly original," I answered evasively.

"Yes, but do you like it?" he repeated

"Which?" I asked, "the bird, or the idea altogether?"

"The idea altogether."

"Oh! ye-e-s," I drawled as indifferently as I possibly could. "It is a
very chaste conception on the whole--but--"

"But what?"

"Oh! there is not much in it after all."

"Miss Hampden! you astonish me! Not much in loving one another,
especially with such an exalted, enduring love as that which the dove
symbolises."

"You mistake me, Dr Campbell," I interrupted suddenly, looking up at
him, but I did not finish, for some one just vanished out of the
doorway as I turned my head. The curtain was still swaying when I
stopped my remark abruptly, and Arthur Campbell following my glance,
strode towards the entrance and looked indignantly out. The passage
was clear, and he returned, laughing, saying the eavesdropper was no
one more formidable than the draught. I was not so easily convinced,
however, and asked to go back in to the drawing-room where the
merriment was still unabating. He did not seem quite pleased, but
nevertheless offered me his arm unhesitatingly, and we passed in among
the noisy crowd just in time for the summons to supper.







CHAPTER VII.

When I awoke the morning after the Merivales' Musical, the forenoon
was already pretty well advanced and a light, warm fire was burning in
my room. Outside, the winter wind was shrieking plaintively, and over
every pane of the window were dense layers of frosty ferns and
grasses. It wanted a few minutes for the half hour after ten by the
prattling little time-piece on the mantel. I arose and dressed
languidly, feeling dull and oppressed and rang for a cup of strong
coffee. I felt no appetite for breakfast, and drawing my warm, heavy
wrapper around me I wheeled a low easy chair toward the fire and sank
wearily into it.

It may be a wise policy for the votaries of gaslight pleasures to
maintain that there is no baneful result arising from a constant
pursuit of such distractions, but, however wise this attitude may be,
I hardly think it can rely upon the sanction of our conscience. It is
certainly not sound truth. For the abnormal life which society
prescribes for her followers is fruitful of most injurious
consequences. Evil effects do not always thrust themselves upon our
notice in any directly pronounced way. Very often those which are most
pernicious have a stealthy and unobtrusive progress, and it is only
when their destructive mission is well accomplished that we become
aware of their existence. There are physical, moral, and mental
wrecks, the playthings of every varying circumstance that agitates the
sea of life, who are living examples of the truth I uphold: men and
women who have made an oblation of their greatest energies and
capacities to lay upon the altars of a profitless materialism. This is
of course the extreme limit of worldliness, but in many cases it had a
tame and semi-respectable beginning, originating from circumstances as
seemingly safe as those which make up our own individual lives. Who
can tell whether danger will allow us to tempt and tease her with
impunity. The fortifications around our personal lots are not so
stable as we imagine, and they require our constant and vigilant
supervision. While we are feasting and rioting the scouts of the enemy
are conspiring strongly against us.

For myself I say, that every indulgence of this kind invariably brings
me an uncomfortable re-action, and I have never been able to satisfy
myself with the explanation which is popularly received regarding it.
It is not merely the result of physical disorder, of that I am sure.
There is not a morbid tendency, ever so latent within me, that is not
brought forcibly to the surface during this re-action, and I never
realize so fully that the pleasures of the senses are empty and
fleeting as when I have given myself up to an unbridled indulgence of
any of them. I have rested my eyes upon every conceivable form and
phase of animate and inanimate beauty in my life-time, and to-day my
poor eyes are tired and dissatisfied. My ear, that has been inclined
to every sort of sweet and sad melody, is still waiting and hoping for
a soul-stirring refrain that will never reach it; and my heart, that
has quickened at glad surprises and fluttered during hours of the
world's happiness, is still asking, still searching for a joy that
will minister in full to its demands. No wonder then that so many of
us pause in the midst of our gay confusion, and ask ourselves wearily:
"What is the use?"

What is the use of all these vain efforts of ours to feed our inner
appetites with a diet that can never nourish or sustain? What is the
use of all these monotonous beginnings that never have any tangible
end? What is the use of playing so burdensome a part upon the social
stage? What is the use of deceiving ourselves and our fellow-men, when
there is such a glorious cause of truth to fight for? Ah! it is the
way of the world, and that is a power which we fear to defy. The way
of the world! These little words have justified sin and crime over and
over again. They have masked the vilest cunning with a surface of
unquestionable propriety; they have quietly sanctioned one fashionable
folly after another, until vice and virtue are brought to one level,
ay, and if needs be, the former triumphs, and the latter is shoved
aside to make headway for its counterfeit. It is the way of the world
that poverty be sneered at and denounced, that humility be ridiculed,
that modesty be mocked, not openly not daringly, but by covert and
cutting insinuation, the ever are weapon of the moral coward. It is
the way of the world that sorrow be held pent up in hearts that are
dying for care and sympathy, the way of the world that selfish motives
be the best, that might is right, and indeed who can say our dazzling,
splendid, cruel world has not its way? And we, its victims, its
votaries, what recompense have we?

Such reflections as these trooped in solemn order before my mental
vision as I sat staring into the coals, that frosty morning after the
Merivales' entertainment. Every circumstance of the preceding night
rehearsed itself in my memory. I repeated Arthur Campbell's every
word. I had not forgotten one. I recalled Mr. Dalton's steady look,
even Miss Nibbs' funny little personality rode upon the embers, and
brought a faint smile to my pensive countenance. I teazed myself with
interrogative conjectures of every kind, now leaning towards one, and
now towards another. Somehow the vagaries of our hope or of our fancy,
like ourselves, look their best by gas-light, and show a very
disappointing complexion in the open daylight. While I sat thus
weaving and tangling the webs of my aimless thought, the door opened
and my step-mother glided in with a dainty little note between her
fingers.

"Lazy girl," she muttered in a half yawn, throwing the note into my
lap. "Rouse yourself, and read this. An answer is wanted."

It was from Alice Merivale, to my surprise, and appeared to have been
scratched off in a hurry:

"If you have nothing on hand for the afternoon, dear Amey, I wish you
would come over at about one o'clock and take luncheon with me. It is
so stupid. A. M."

I folded it up and smiled, as I went in search of my writing
materials.

In half an hour after I was waiting to be admitted into their house. I
was shown into Alice's apartment according to her direction. She was
lying on a lounge by the fire, with her delicate hands clasped over
her shapely head. Her long, yellow hair fell in soft braids on each
slender shoulder. She wore a _negligee_ of white, with delicate
trimmings of swan's down and looked, on the whole, the living
impersonation of luxury and beauty. When I was shown in she greeted me
with a languid smile, but did not alter her comfortable position.

"I am so glad you've come, Amey," she said looking up at me where I
stood beside her. "Just throw your becoming wearables anywhere there
and come and sit down for a chat."

I did as she told me, and a moment later we were both settled
luxuriously before the glowing embers ready for mutual entertainment.

"Did you think I was crazy, Amey, when you received my note this
morning?" Alice asked, drawing the vagrant folds of her soft wrapper
about her.

"Well, no, Alice," I answered slowly, "but I found it a little queer,
that was all."

"Queer world, is'nt it Amey?"

I smiled, and still looking into the fire said, as if in soliloquy.

"How much alike we girls are. I came to that very conclusion an hour
ago before my own embers."

"What reason have _you_ to think that?" she said, with a wondering
look in her beautiful blue eyes.

"Every reason in the world."

"And I have so often envied you, Amey Hampden, and thought you a
fortunate and happy girl beside a wretch like me."

"Alice!" I broke in, in consternation "how can you talk like this?
You, the spoilt darling of Fortune herself, you, the cynosure of so
many eyes, the possessor of untold worldly comfort and happiness."

"Go on, go on, I like that," she interrupted ironically.

"Well, you know you are," I added emphatically.

"A wretch! yes, without a doubt" she answered firmly. "I am rich in
that which can buy everything but peace of mind and contentment of
heart. I am fortunate enough to escape that experience which gives a
flavor and a charm to existence. I am the cynosure of eyes that are
content with surface glitter only, and the possessor of comforts and
happiness that have made my life the empty, blighted thing it is."

She paused while the sound of her altered voice vibrated in the room,
then laughed a merry, artful little laugh and rising languidly to her
feet, added:

"Oh, dear! oh dear! what funny people we are!"

Before any more was said upon this tender subject we went down to
lunch, laughing and chatting as gaily as though we were the
freest-hearted creatures in existence.

We spent an hour in discussing the good things below, and then went
back arm-in-arm to the cosy apartments we had vacated above. The fire
had been renewed and our seats still in the same suggestive places
attracted us towards them again. Alice threw herself upon her lounge
and hummed a snatch of her last night's selection, which she suddenly
interrupted with a fully-indulged yawn out of which again emerged a
taunting

"Come now Amelia, _a quoi penses-tu_?"

"I was thinking of you," I answered, "you are such a queer girl."

"You will be still further convinced of that opinion when you know a
little more about me," she said in a jocosely earnest tone. "You know
I intend to go to Europe in a fortnight, ostensibly to see the
time-honored sights, to gloat over venerable art, and improve my mind
generally with such a broad view of experience, but Oh! what a blind
that is!" she exclaimed in mock indignation. "Of course everybody
knows that I am being sent out to seek my fortune, matrimonially
speaking. I am too rich, and too beautiful, and too accomplished to be
thrown away upon a self-made Canadian. I must go in search of
patrician smiles across the sea, and win them for a plausible cause."

She curled her lips into an expression of supreme disgust, as she
finished, and began to toy with the end of one golden braid.

"You don't mean half of what you say, Alice," I interposed quietly.
"Since you are not satisfied with all the good things the gods have
provided so far, I know only one other that can infuse a soul into
your vapid and savor less comforts. It is possible for your present
gloom to be dispelled by the warmth and brightness of a sunshine that
cheers the loneliest lives, and I think you can never be happy without
it."

"What is it?" she asked curtly.

"Love," I answered, "honest, stable, earnest love."

"Faugh!" she exclaimed, flinging her delicate braid away from her
caressing fingers, "is that all?"

"That is all, a mere trifle if you will, but it is the axis around
which men's temporal happiness revolves."

"Men's perhaps, but not women's," she added proudly. "I tell you what,
Amey, the world waits for no one, each age has its manners, and
customs, its social peculiarities and special features since the
beginning of time men have had to be led by the age in which they
lived, and ours is no exception. Once upon a time marriage was a
contract conducted on the great principle of buying and selling.
Civilization with deft and tender fingers has smoothened away the
rough and repulsive aspect of such a custom, and our ministers now
ask, with a bland affectation of pastoral solicitude, 'Who _giveth_
this woman away?' Giveth her! forsooth; and in nine cases out of ten
how dearly is she bought! Why, we women are selling our bodies and our
souls too, for that matter, every day that comes and goes. But we
cannot help it," she added after a short pause, "and fortunately
circumstances are trained to suit our dilemma. I shall go across the
Atlantic for inspection, and if all goes well I shall return bespoken
for life. I shall certainly not marry for love, and as compensation
must be found somewhere, I will marry for position. I have the wealth
myself."

Her words chilled me. Their tone was cold and hard. I looked at her
and said half sadly,

"Alice, why do you talk like this? You have drifted into this peevish
sort of pessimism without forethought. How can you deliberately sit in
a shadow when the sun is shining all around you. With beauty and
riches and intelligence you have the keys to a world of happiness. I
cannot think why you should choose to hold this dreary outlook before
your eyes. It seems a strange contrast to the popular belief that
prevails about your happy condition."

She curled her thin, pretty lips into a smile of incisive sarcasm and
drew a weary breath before she answered me. Then she said in a half
melancholy tone:

"Yes, I know that it is the fate of rich people to be envied. I know
that my different circumstances are coveted by girls that are a
thousandfold happier than I, and it is a miserable thing to realize,
but how can I help it? Amey, to tell you the wretched truth, I am sick
of life, and if there can be respite for me in death, I wish I might
die tonight. You may think this is the fruit of a gloomy mood, but it
is the result of long reflection. Last night I was gay, I sang and
played and chatted merrily. Men admired and flattered me, but what is
left of it all to-day? Nothing but ashes. I know that what they said
was not sincere, and still I remember it all with a girlish
gratification. If we were always singing and dancing, and fooling one
another, life might be more endurable, but these intervals of dreary
re-action are a dear price for our social pleasures." She paused for a
moment and then added slowly.

"Sometimes I am tempted to renounce my wordly life and go quietly into
some holy retreat where all such troubles are kept at bay, and then
the thought becomes repulsive when I think of how worthless I have
been, and how worthless I would still be among useful women."

She laughed drearily as she uttered these words and came towards the
fire saying

"What a fuss I make about a little human life, eh Amey?"

"It is right that you should," I answered gravely, "it is dearer to
you I suppose than anything in the world."

She stroked my hair affectionately and we both looked into the fire.
One of her dainty slippers rested on the fender, one of her jewelled
hands lay tremulously on my shoulder.

I knew that something should be said to her while this mood was on
her, but what right had I to speak? I, who advocated every dreary
conviction she had just uttered! I, who was so wretched and tired of
my own life, what could I say to cheer or encourage her? My heart was
full, but my lips were dumb. Something was telling me that there was
no perfect happiness for women on earth, but I could not permit myself
to express so gloomy a belief at this critical moment, when a fair,
young, beautiful creature stood waiting beside me for a stimulus to
hope and perseverance.

While I sat reflecting, she herself interpreted my mental soliloquy.

"This is the way with all of us, Amey," she said in a quieter and
gentler tone. "I never knew a woman who, if she told the truth, could
pride herself on being happy. It is beyond the narrow limits of our
present sphere. The maids that wait upon us envy us and think that in
our places they would have nothing left to wish for. The discontented
seamstress that stitches away at my expensive dresses fancies they
must shelter a happy heart, whose lot she covets; and all the while I
am wishing for anything else in the world besides what I have. Whether
we marry or remain single, life is a burden to us. We go on from day
to day wondering how we may best dispose of ourselves. And nothing
ever comes of it but this miserable discontent which leaves no
possible margin for hope for the morrow. If one could only make a
virtue of the resignation which is thrust upon one by an undaunted
destiny," she concluded with a long-drawn sigh, "one might be the
better for it."

"Yes," I answered earnestly, "if one only could! I do believe that the
only sweetness in life is in being good, and those only who have never
practised virtue, doubt it. For myself, when I have devoted some time
sincerely to my religious duties I know that I feel a better, and most
certainly a happier, woman. My life has a higher aim, my ambition a
safer guide, and my efforts a more stable support, but I am not always
faithful to my good resolutions and I am easily won away from
devotional pursuits."

"Well then, Amey, you must blame yourself if you are not thoroughly
happy," Alice interrupted almost fiercely. "You have this great
advantage over me. I have no religion. I never had any. I am supposed
to belong to the Church which we occasionally frequent. I am supposed
to take a lively interest in foreign missions and the Jews. I am
supposed to sanction a doctrine which has never been explained to me;
but do I? Not I. Only for the instinctive belief which I cannot help
holding in God and a life to come, I would be no more than a very
animal; and only for a something within me--a sort of moral regulator,
which the Church calls conscience, I would never stop to question what
is right or what is not. This is all the religion I have ever known. I
have been brought up with the conviction that most creeds are
tolerable, but that my own is the most fashionable, and it is
certainly an easy one to live by, so I have never questioned it much.
I should not care to fast or abstain or kneel as much as you Catholics
do. I should abhor accusing myself, in sincere humility, of my
wrong-doing, or making amends for every trifling misdemeanor, and as
my religion does not ask me to do anything I dislike, I cannot quarrel
with it."

"Certainly not, if you are happy in it" I put in quietly.

"I am not happy in it" she answered snappishly "but I could be I dare
say, if it only assumed an authority over me; if it commanded where it
counsels; if it exacted where it approves only, if it bound me under
pain of grievous sin as yours does."--

"Ah! if it did! if it did, it would be no longer the same religion. It
would lose nine-tenths of its present advocates. However, it is not my
intention to enter upon a religious dissertation. I would not disturb
your present convictions deliberately for the world, but if you wanted
my assistance or asked it, I should be glad to give it to you. One
thing I will tell you, however, before I go" I added, rising and
confronting her, "it is a deep wrong you do your soul in allowing it
to be assailed by so many doubts which you do not take the trouble to
satisfy. There are many like you, Alice, I know a dozen whose souls
are riding the unstable surface of a religious speculation. This is
tempting God, and you owe yourself the duty of satisfying every want
of your inner being. There is a why and a wherefore for everything,
therefore clear away the dark clouds that lie between you and Truth.
Study and read and reflect, until you can lay your hand in good faith
upon your heart, and say: Now I have found the consoling truth, now my
doubts have disappeared and my belief is made sure, and staunch, and
consoling. That religion which shall best purify you, whose motives
are entirely supernatural, which shall oblige you to exalt all
humanity over yourself, which shall infuse a holy motive into your
every thought, word and deed, which shall fill your life with a
purpose unlike any it has hitherto known, shall make you happy here
and hereafter--and if you like, you can find it with a little search."

We said no more on any subject. The afternoon was well-advanced
already, and bidding her a fond good-bye, I left her with a promise to
see her again before her departure for her much talked-of trip.

Leaving the Merivales' house, I wended my way in a moody silence
toward my own home. The wind was rising and small snowflakes were
drifting cheerlessly about in the raw wintry air. I bowed my head
against the storm and plodded silently on. I was thinking of many
things the while, and allowing myself to become absorbed in an earnest
rehearsal of my own prosy life. Other people passed by me with better
reasons to sigh I am sure, and yet mine was a deep-drawn breath, full
of meaning and misery, which I would have controlled had I not been so
distracted and absent-minded at the time.

I doubt if anything could have awakened me from my reverie so suddenly
and so effectually as the measured slow accent which broke upon my ear
at this juncture.

"How do you do Amey?"

Simple enough: a mere conventional greeting if you will, but I felt it
vibrate through my whole system. I looked up and saw Mr. Dalton
standing before me. The way was narrow, and he had moved aside into
the deep snow to let me pass. Involuntarily, I stood and looked up at
him. I felt more kindly toward him than I had ever done before, I knew
not why. In some vague uncertain way he had been associated with my
recent thoughts, not asserting himself as any distinct feature in
connection with my cogitation, but underlying it with a merely
insinuated influence that made his presence felt in a secret,
undetermined sort of way. I had been wondering about him and
questioning his motives within myself as I plodded through the
sprinkled streets and now, he was standing before me, a real
personage, the substance of a dreamy memory of him which I had been
dwelling upon since my departure from the Merivales'.

When we had stopped and saluted one another an awkward silence ensued.
I felt as if he had read my secret in my tell-tale countenance, but
his face wore that passive look it always wore and his voice was calm
and commonplace as usual as he asked.

"Are you going home now?"

"Yes" I answered, "I have been visiting Alice Merivale. I had luncheon
with her and a little talk."

"I will go back with you if you like," said he turning around to
follow me.

I assented of course, and we hurried on to where the path was wider
that we might be companionable and walk side by side.

"You had a little talk you say? I fling discretion to the winter wind,
and ask, what about?"

"It is a wonder you don't say whom about" I returned with some
emphasis.

"It is" he answered. "I must have been distracted indeed not to have
put it in that way, however, it will do now, will it not?"

"Quite as well" said I, "for early or late the question can elicit no
definite answer, as we talked of no one."

"What?"

"Surprising, isn't it?" I asked satirically, "nevertheless it is the
startling truth."

"Maybe so," said he softly. "I thought on the day after an event such
as last night's young girls had a great deal to say in confidence
about people and things. I see I have been mistaken, although--"

"Although what?"

"Well--although last night lay itself particularly open to an
interesting criticism, I think."

"Musical evenings generally do I think."

"I mean everything else but the music."

"What else was there?"

"Desperate flirting or earnest love-making, I wish I knew which."

"I wish I could tell you really, Mr. Dalton, but you seem to know more
about the matter already than I do."

"I cannot help it Amey," he said in a muffled tone, then looking up.
"It promises to be a stormy night," he added in an entirely new voice.

"I am afraid so" I answered, standing before our own gate. "Will you
come in for a moment?"

"Thank you, I have an engagement, good afternoon."

"Good afternoon."

He raised his hat and turned away and I passed into the house filled
with the strangest emotions I had ever known. I went straight to my
own room and threw myself into a capacious easy-chair near the fire.
The gray shadows of the early winter evening were just touching
everything around me. I was in an excited mood and for what? A new
suspicion had suddenly thrust itself in between me and a happy,
satisfying conviction which I had cherished of late. The reader will
not question whether there is one thing in life more annoying or more
discouraging than to see one's settled belief in anything suddenly
uprooted and tossed about by unexpected yet not unpleasant
circumstances. Some small whispering voice from the farthest depths of
my heart struggled to the surface now and asked me plainly and
brusquely to come to an understanding with my inner self once for all,
instead of leaning in this half-decided way, now towards one
conviction, now towards another.

"I cannot help it, Amey." What was he going to say? What did he think?
Why did he stop there? "Desperate flirtation, or earnest love-making.
I wish I knew which." Queer thing to say, that. But what a queer man
he was! What did it matter to him which it was? Did he mean to allude
to Arthur Campbell and me, or was he perhaps thinking of himself and
somebody? Why did I dismiss him summarily? If I had urged him to come
in he would have consented, and we might have talked it out. We each
thought a great deal more than we said, but after all, maybe it was
well as it stood. What could he ever be to me more than an old
friend--twice my age--and maybe I was too precipitate and
presumptuous. How did I know he thought of me in any other light than
the child he had always known me? I stood up with this impediment
thrown voluntarily in the way, and took off my street apparel. In a
quarter of an hour later dinner was served, and I went down cheerfully
to the dining-room.







CHAPTER VIII.

To age and experience, I doubt not that this period of my life seems
childish and aimless. There is something in a pair of spectacles,
astride the wrinkled noses of maturity, that makes the world of
sentiment seem a mere nursery where growing boys and girls amuse
themselves carelessly before stepping into their manhood or womanhood.
Can it be that this glowing love of which poets sing, is, after all,
survived by such a short, uncertain thing as a human life? When we are
young it is so easy to believe our love will last unto the very end,
and this conviction darts a golden sunbeam across the unborn years: a
sunbeam in which our heaviest sorrows become dancing motes, a sunbeam
which spans the full interval allotted us between this world and the
next. But it is only rational to fear that some of those huge, black
shadows which are ever flitting through the "corridors of time" will
cross our sunbeam when we least expect it, and yet this is a warning
we will not hear, until a personal experience teaches it to our hearts
in sorrowful accents.

I had toyed with my own conjectures and speculations all through the
gay season. Every where I went I met the same people. I saw the
origin, progress, and final consummation of many a love-match, from
the formal introduction of both parties, to the glittering tell-tale
diamond on the finger of a dainty hand. I had learned many lessons
both from passive observation and active experience, and now as the
season of feasting and flirting and merry-making was waning into the
quietude of advancing spring, I had only to sit me down and rehearse
the wonderful little past which had come and gone, bringing wonderful
changes to many another heart besides Amey Hampden's.

May came, with its dazzling sunshine and its whispers of summer
warmth, and the birds carolled as birds have done every spring-time
since the world began. June came, and the bare branches sent forth
their tender buds to greet it. The birds flitted from bough to bough
and carolled louder and lustier than ever. It was the early
summer-time; that short but blissful interval between the ravages of
spring and the tyranny of scorching mid-summer. It is our misfortune
in Canada to know nothing whatever of the beauty of that spring-time
which has been flattered and idolized by poets' pens in every age.
With us this intermediate season is nothing more nor less than an
eminently uninteresting transition, invariably announced by such
harbingers as bare and brown and dirty roads; slushy pathways, running
with melted snow and ice; a warm, wet and foggy atmosphere, with great
drops falling constantly from the twigs of the trees and the drenched,
black eaves of the houses. It is a time for macintoshes and sound
rubbers; a golden age for patent cough mixtures and freckles, the
sworn destroyer of artificial curls and long clothes. It is true that
a glad, golden sunshine floods the earth at times, but what of that,
when sullied, muddy streams are rushing and bubbling on with a roaring
speed, plunging into hollow drains at every street-corner; when sulky
foot-passengers pick their uncomfortable way through all the debris of
what had been the beauty of the dead season. Fashionable young men,
with the extremities of their expensive tweeds turned carefully up,
choose their steps over the treacherous crossways, leaning upon their
silk umbrellas with an unfeigned expression of utter disapproval, and
ladies in trim ulsters and very short skirts pilot themselves along
the unclean thoroughfares, with very emphatic airs of impatience and
disgust. This is certainly not the season, in those Canadian cities
whose winters are so severe, when "the young man's fancy lightly turns
to thoughts of love." If there is a time in the year when this worthy
sentiment is ignored, and I may say deliberately ostracised, by
Canadian youth, it is in the spring. But like all earthly
circumstances, this, too, dies a natural death, and is succeeded by a
truly enjoyable and suggestive period, that of early summer. It has
been my experience to meet with many people who become the victims of
a depressing melancholy in the spring. Some acknowledge that it is a
presentiment, and resign themselves to many morbid feelings about the
uncertain issue of this period of the year; but common sense rejects
this theory. It is only natural that after having indulged our every
energy while the air was bracing and cold, after having walked and
talked, and feasted and danced, and made merry without interruption
day and night during the winter months, we should feel a physical
prostration in the end, and as a consequence something of a mental
depression as well. For my own part, I have always had a reflective
and serious spell in the spring-time. Those things that a few months
before would have dazzled my eyes and tempted my senses, seem empty
and vapid and worthless, and I go on wondering over my recent follies
and weaknesses as if I were never to commit them again. It is true
that the contemporary season of Lent has something to do with these
effects. "Remember, man, thou art but dust," is not the most
enlivening of warnings which can be submitted to us for moral
digestion, and we who carry these solemn words back from church on
Ash-Wednesday morning need not be surprised if our gayer inclinations
desert us almost immediately.

All these changes had followed fast upon the receding items of my
interesting season, and it was now summer time. My half-brother came
back from college, an altered youth, as uninteresting in his
transition as the season I have just described. He was an overgrown
boy, of that age when boys are seldom interesting except to one
another; that age of physical, mental and moral conflict, when the
anxious mother can scarcely trust the testimony of her confidence in
the future greatness of her growing son; when the calculating father
becomes agitated in his eagerness to know if his bashful heir will
favor religious, professional, or commercial tendencies, and when the
grown-up sister tries to anticipate in a grown-up sisterly way what
sort of a drawing room item her now unsophisticated relative will
prove to be. This last is the most trying speculation of all. How big
a boy's feet invariably look in a fashionable sister's eyes! how long
his arms, and how shapeless his hands! Poor blushing youth, is not the
ordeal worst for himself, at that period when he scarcely dares trust
the most modest of monosyllabic discourses to be articulated by those
lips that are warning a waiting public of the dawn of whiskerdom!
Freddy, once so lithe and graceful and pretty, had been transformed
into an ungainly being, all length, without breadth or thickness. He
had not even the advantage of the average immatured youth, he had
neither muscle nor physical bulk. He was still a delicate boy with a
nervous cough and a fretted look. He was more than ever peevish and
self-willed, with this only difference. In his earlier years his
selfishness was at least manifested in a dependent sort of way; his
thousand wants were made known in impatient requests. Now, it spoke in
imperative accents and decided in its own favor, regardless of the
comfort or concern of any other person. Of course I was not surprised,
for "as the twig is bent so is the tree inclined," but my step-mother
was disappointed with the results of all her anxious solicitude, and
began to see when it was vain, how thankless such indulgent efforts
prove in the end. Freddy's soul was altogether absorptive, taking in
whatever offerings gratified him, but yielding no return, and I ask,
is there anything so discouraging to an ardent love as this cold
neutrality, which proves, without a scruple, that all affection
lavished upon it is an irretrievable waste.

As fortune or accident would have it, I was destined to see very
little of this relation. Before he had been a fortnight at home I
received a letter from Hortense de Beaumont's mother, informing me of
the serious illness of my little friend, and entreating me, if it were
at all possible or convenient, to go to them for a little while, as my
name was constantly on the lips of the dear invalid.

I had begun to wonder at the breach in the correspondence between
Hortense and myself, but it had not then been so protracted as to have
excited my fears. I attributed her delay to a thousand and one
possible impediments, and went on, hoping each day would put an end to
my vague conjectures. That day was come at length but the tidings were
not what I had prepared myself to hear. I persuaded myself that her
mother's excessive love had exaggerated the unfortunate condition of
my little friend's health, but, nevertheless determined to go to her
as soon as possible. I showed the letter to my father, who had long
ago become familiar with the name and attributes of this loved
companion, and having obtained his sanction to my eager proposals, I
set about making immediate preparations for my journey.

Before ten days had elapsed I was nearing my destination and Hortense
de Beaumont's home. My father had entrusted me to the wife of a
professional friend of his who was travelling with her son, and whose
route opportunely corresponded with mine at this particular time. But
I may say with truth that I travelled alone, for with the exception of
a few crude observations now and then, the silence of discretion was
unbroken between us. The lady was old, bulky, and the victim of a
prolonged bilious attack all the way. The son was a red-haired
gentleman with very new gold-rimmed spectacles and a scented silk
handkerchief. We travelled by rail to Prescott, keeping our peace in
contemplative sullenness all the while. The day was hot and dusty, and
the car as uncomfortable as it could possibly be.

I sheltered my tell-tale face behind a friendly paper, and distracted
myself with an impartial view of the surrounding country. It was early
in the afternoon, and the full sunshine lay hot and strong upon the
tilled and furrowed fields that stretched away as far as the eye could
see on either side. Picturesque little farm houses skirted the road
here and there, and stalwart men with their bronzed arms bared to the
elbows rested pleasantly on their instruments of toil as the train
rushed past them, shouting and waving their broad-rimmed hats until we
had left them far behind. Immediately in front of me propped up by
innumerable coats and bundles, my lady patron dozed heavily. The thick
green veil that screened her bilious expression from the general view
quivered and heaved as each deep-drawn breath escaped her powerful
nostrils. In her fat lap lay her folded hands with their half-gloves
of thick black lace, the pitiful victims of countless flies. The
exertion of eating a sandwich had sent her to sleep. The remnants of
this popular refreshment were now being actively appreciated by a
hungry, buzzing multitude that made their very best of their golden
opportunity. Her hopeful heir sat at a little distance on the same
seat twirling his thumbs with an apparently decided purpose. Once or
twice he drew his scented handkerchief from his side pocket with an
artful flourish and frightened the troublesome swarm away from his
parent's sleeping form, but seeing their undaunted determination to
restore themselves almost immediately, he respectfully stowed the
scented article away with a final flourish and re-applied himself to
the interrupted pleasure or task of twirling his thumbs with an
apparent purpose.

Busied with my own intimate thoughts I escaped an _ennui_ that would
otherwise have proved almost unbearable, and was pleasantly enough
distracted until the first monotony of fields and farm houses was
broken by the outskirts of the romantic town of Prescott--romantic,
because to the traveler who steps from the dusty afternoon train and
alights amid its unpropitious surroundings, it suggests itself
strongly as a living illustration of a "deserted village," as
melancholy to look upon as ever sweet Auburn could have been. My
drowsy chaperone was awakened too suddenly, and was therefore very
cross and ill-humored for some time after. It was with difficulty we
persuaded her to follow us along the track, at the end of which loomed
up a dismal wooden building whither we directed our vagrant steps, not
knowing what better to do. Here we deposited our sundry parcels and
awaited some crisis, we hardly knew what. We were informed that our
boat would not reach there before evening, and to escape the monotony
of our new surroundings we decided to board the ferry which was now
nearing shore, and spend the intervening hours with our neighbors
across the line. The comfort and compensation which my drowsy
chaperone found in a capacious rocking-chair on the upper deck of the
ferry restored her ruffled temperament to its original neutrality,
much to her hopeful heir's gratification, and sinking into its
sympathetic depths, she made a worthy effort to repair her recent
rudely broken slumbers.

Her son, with alarming gallantry, placed an easy-chair near the
railing of the deck for me, paid the triple fare and discreetly kept
at a distance. His bashfulness and timid reserve recommended him to my
genuine admiration as much as if it had been pure amiability, or a
desire to do me a good turn that had prompted him to leave me to
myself.

I was gathering experience on new grounds and I feared interruption
from any one. The briny odor of the St. Lawrence carried on the soft
summer breeze was grateful and refreshing to me. The brightest
sunlight I ever saw was dancing and riding on the green sparkling
ripples that wrinkled the broad surging surface before me. Beside me
on a bench under the awning sat a party of American ladies from the
other side--at least so I conjectured, and with reason. A look decided
it. They were clad in pronouncedly cool costumes, dresses that would
make a full ball toilet in Canada, but which exposed much prettiness
to the ruthless action of the sun and wind on this hot midsummer
afternoon. They were using their lips and tongues in a violent manner,
accompanying commonplace remarks with the most exaggerated varieties
of facial expressions I ever saw. But they were only harbingers of
what one meets on landing. These strangely attired damsels in
elaborate head-gear and high-heeled shoes strutted about the streets
of Ogdensburg in any number. They give life to the pretty town I must
admit, and excite the interest of the uninitiated tourist who is
accustomed to judge women, especially, according to the standard
peculiar to Canada. It is a wonder to me that the drowsy and vapid
condition of Ogdensburg's _vis-a-vis_ does not check, in some measure,
the animation and spirit of that busy town. There was more life there
on that sleepy summer afternoon than I have seen in a month in some of
our cities, with all their pretensions. It is only fair to the United
States to admit that the spirit of progress and enterprise underlies
every square inch of its soil and animates every fibre of its
constitution.

In the evening we boarded our boat for the West, and began our journey
in earnest. I shall never forget this trip, and I cannot but wonder
why. I was alone, for the most part, with my thoughts, which were far
from being cheerful companions; still, whenever I steal into the
adytum of my memory I find it there to greet me with its peculiar
associations.

The evening being warm and sultry we remained on deck for many hours
after supper. There was no moon, but heaven's vault was alive with
twinkling stars. I sat a little apart from my friends, leaning over
the railing, looking abstractedly into the dark restless water. I was
disturbed once by my considerate cavalier, who brought me a shawl,
saying the night air was likely to provoke rheumatism or neuralgia, or
such other inconveniences to which our flesh is heir.

I took it with a grateful smile, made a limited remark upon the beauty
of the panorama before us, enquired solicitously about the old lady's
comfort and spirits, and then considering my duty accomplished, I
wrapped myself warmly in the folds of my shawl and settled myself
cosily for another reverie.

With a wonderful acumen, the gaunt gentleman seized the insinuating
situation, and considering himself summarily dismissed, he edged away
by stealthy strides and left me to my cogitations once again.

Strangely enough, I began to think of Mr. Dalton, and my several
interviews with him. He had puzzled me, that was all, there was no
harm in wondering about him, surely, if I did not give too much time
and attention to the possibly dangerous subject. After all, there was
something in him so different from other men, even from Arthur
Campbell. There was always some deep, happy meaning to his simplest
words, and his most commonplace conceptions of things were flavored
with this mystifying attraction whatever it was.

That he had had some peculiar experience was evident in his every
look, and tone, and word. His very reserve betrayed him and excited
people's curiosity about his past career. I had known him all my life,
and he had always been the same. I had sat upon his knee with my tiny
arms twined about his neck, he had told me thrilling tales, had played
with me, and had kissed me--not often--but on two or three occasions
the last time was just before I went to school. Then, when I came
back--how strange it was--he seemed surprised to see me grown and
matured, while he apparently had remained the same.

I suppose he saw that I was no longer the dependent child who confided
to him her petty joys and sorrows, but a young lady, self-conscious
and reserved to a certain extent; a young lady with her own pronounced
tastes and settled opinions, whose life had drilled out into an
independent channel away from the early source which he had been
pleased to control and guide.

Perhaps he was taking the right course, and that I had no need to feel
disappointed over his attitude towards me, but I was disappointed all
the same. I thought he would always be a dear friend, on whom I could
lean and rely, but here my thought was checked. Would I have been
satisfied with his _friendship_? Could I have kept within its narrow
limits and been content to see him lavish something still more
precious upon another?

We are frank at the tribunal of our own most intimate thought, and I
know what answer came whispering itself into my heart at this crisis.
I roused myself from my reverie and looked out at the changing scenery
before us. We were among the Thousand Islands.

Dark broken outlines of trees and rock, with here and there the
glimmer and twinkle of a light, the murmur of broken wavelets touching
the shore on every side, and the faint sound of happy human voices
somewhere in the misty distance, were what greeted my eyes and ears. I
could see nothing defined in the wild panorama about me, only that the
darkness was broken here and there, by a darker something, from which
tall pine-tops reared themselves majestically, less shrouded than the
rest. It was a soul-stirring sight, so gloomy, so misty, so silent. I
was almost sorry later to have looked upon the same scene by daylight,
although the hand of man has put an artificial touch here and there,
which, by the light of day, improves the general view.

After all, what are nature's grandest phases to us unless they suggest
something of our own selves? I have never been able to look upon
mountain or valley with other than my corporal eyes, and I have always
admired those places in a half-regretful way, where the print of human
footsteps is unknown. There is no perfect beauty in the external world
without the presence of man, and all that silent waste of prairie land
and towering mountain, which stretches away in an unbroken monotony
towards our northern limits, is to me a lifeless, useless mass, and
will be so until it has submitted every inch of its wild, untrodden
surface to the honest industry of toiling humanity. When these giant
mountain-tops look down in friendly patronage upon the gables and
towers, and curling smoke-wreaths of some struggling hamlets lying at
their feet, I shall see their grandeur and admire it, but where dumb
nature sits in lone and pensive solitude away from the hum of golden
industry, beyond the reach and influence of civilization, it has for
me only a cold surface of beauty like the sleep of death.

This thought came back to me on the following day, when we were riding
the restless waters of Lake Ontario. As far as the eye could see in
any direction nothing was visible but waves and sky. I tried to
imagine myself doomed to live alone with nature's reckless beauty,
such as I saw it then above and around me, and my heart shivered at
the mere thought of such a terrible destiny. I know "there is society
where none intrude," but I prefer to believe "it is not good for man
to be alone." All the richest and rarest charms of Nature or of Art
have never had more than a relative value for me, but give me one
short moment of sympathetic human companionship, and with its borrowed
light I see beauty above and around me everywhere. Yet how hard it is
for us to find this influence that gifts the hours of time with golden
opinions, and bears them away as if to the measure of some hallowed
strains. There were human souls of every nature beside me, while I
leaned over that sunny deck, looking vacantly out upon miles and miles
of heaving water, and yet it was to me as if I stood alone calling
after friends that could not hear my far-off voice, no bond of mutual
interest, care or devotion united me to any one among that motley
crowd. To them perhaps, I was not even a definite individual, but only
a fraction of the bulk that moved about the boat in moody silence.

If circumstances such as these did not cross our daily lives at
certain intervals, I wonder what would become of all the wholesale
moralising and reflections which they engender for most of us. We, who
are the playthings of the moods of fate, what would we do with
ourselves if these moments of quiet reverie and placid realizations
were taken away from us altogether? One thing is certain. Many a noble
generous deed, the outgrowth of one pensive hour, would never have
been performed; many lives now re-united and happy on account of some
calm impartial meditation, would be drifting in lonely wretchedness
asunder, the victims of some hasty, ill-explained impediment, that a
little reason could easily have removed.

Thus busily entertained by my own peculiar cogitations, time sped
without bringing me as much _ennui_ as I had feared. When night fell
again we were in view of Toronto City and looked upon our journey as
well nigh accomplished. So much is suggested by the distant prospect
of giant towers and steeples, the glimmer of countless lights and the
muffled buzz of active reality, as one sees and hears them from the
deck of a steamer nearing the shore. There were the lusty shouts of
boatmen on the wharf, rising above the ringing of discordant bells,
and the rumble of railway trains. There was clanging and clashing of
metal on every side, hauling of ropes, pitching and heaving of
merchandise, with now a shrill scream from the throat of some dainty
craft hard by, and again a hoarse sepulchral response from a larger
vessel as it came or went. There was a buzz of human voices expressive
of every sort of agitation and confusion, and quietly through it all,
the great waves slapped against the shore with a heavy monotonous
splashing, and bounded back in sullen fury into the depths beyond.

The half-hour after ten rang clearly out from an illuminated clock in
a distant tower, as we picked our steps along the narrow gangway, and
deposited ourselves with a sense of infinite relief on _terra firma_
once more.







CHAPTER IX.

Hortense was very ill and Madame de Beaumont very disconsolate, when I
reached them. The lively, sparkling look was all gone from the pretty
face I had learned to love so dearly, only a wasted remnant of her
former beauty remained. Who could detect the change more keenly than
I? I, who had feasted upon every line and curve that constituted her
physical perfection, whose memory had been fed upon the recollection
of their rare loveliness, and whose hope had lived upon this
expectation of seeing her soon again.

When I arrived she was sleeping, the still quiet sleep of an infant,
her breast scarcely heaving as the feeble breath came and went. Her
mother was standing by the open doorway in an adjoining room looking
in upon the peaceful invalid with tearful eyes. She advanced on
tip-toe to meet me, and twining her arms around me led me away down a
dimly-lit corridor into a cosy sitting-room at the end, where a
cheerful gas-light greeted us. Our noiseless entrance disturbed the
solitary occupant, who, as we crossed the threshold, rose up abruptly
from where he sat by a small table near the window, and gathering up
the books which he had been reading, strode eagerly towards a
curtained doorway opposite, and vanished behind the waving drapery,
just as we passed into the room.

There was an uneasy look in Madame de Beaumont's eyes for a second or
two as they followed the receding figure. Then with an affectation of
ordinary solicitude she turned and said to me,

"I did not know that anyone was here. We disturbed Bayard at his
studies I am afraid."

"Let us go somewhere else," I suggested a little eagerly.

"Oh," she answered, shaking her head significantly, "that would not
bring him back I assure you, we may as well be comfortable here as
elsewhere, now. He is such a queer boy."

She was evidently under the impression that I knew something definite
about this person who, in spite of his suggestive name, seemed timid
and strange as a fawn, but as I had a burning desire to know
everything about Hortense's illness I was not tempted to indulge this
secondary curiosity, so his name was summarily abandoned for the dear
invalid's.

Madame de Beaumont could not account in any definite or satisfactory
manner for her daughter's present condition. It was the result, she
said, of a growing indisposition that had stolen over her lately, and
this was why her fears had such little hope lest her complaint should
prove a constitutional decline that would baffle all the skilful
efforts of her physicians.

"She began," the mother said in a voice of sobs, "by renouncing all
her pleasures. She did not care for one thing and was too tired for
another. She took no interest in anything that had distracted her
before; she would only read, and write letters to you and in the end
she renounced even these relaxations. The doctors suspect that some
mental strain may have been worrying her, but I can think of none. All
that we could do to make her happy and comfortable we did, and I have
never heard her complain, or wish for anything that she had not
already. What will I do if I lose her?" Madame de Beaumont suddenly
cried, burying her face in her hands and weeping bitterly. "Her
father, you know, died of consumption," she added in a hopeless
whisper, raising her head and looking at me sorrowfully.

It was a sad scene and one that I was not prepared to meet. I had
assured myself that Madame de Beaumont's letter was exaggerated, and
now it seemed not to have conveyed to me half vividly enough the
actual state of the unfortunate circumstances.

We had some slight refreshment served on the little table before us,
but neither of us could partake of it heartily. I swallowed some
mouthfuls of food more out of duty than anything else, and indulged
myself with a cup of strong tea, my favorite beverage, after which we
repaired quietly to the sick-room to have a look at Hortense before
retiring.

Faint glimmers of light, leaping from the night lamp that burned dimly
on a table by the bedside, danced in flickering shadows every now and
then upon her pallid cheeks, but still she slept quietly and
peacefully. One would think it was the sleep that knows no earthly
waking were it not for the warm look of her paleness, and the feeble
throbbing of something in her thin white neck.

"She will spend the whole night like this," her mother whispered,
drawing me away. "The nurse watches her steadily and Bayard occupies
the next room, but they are never disturbed. She dozes quietly the
whole night long. To-morrow she will know you and talk to you. You
must go to your room now, my dear, for you are tired and travel-worn.
Come, I will show you the way," she added, putting her arm around my
waist and leading me out of the room.

When we reached the door we were met by the timid hero of the
sitting-room, who now found himself almost in our arms. He was making
a stealthy entrance, and we a stealthy exit, and we came upon one
another so suddenly that we all three stood motionless and silent for
an awkward second or so.

Madame de Beaumont relieved the stupid situation by saying, "Miss
Hampden, this is my son, I suppose you know him already by name."

I was too surprised to say or do anything appropriate. I merely raised
my eyes and inclined my head a little, and worked my way through the
door with an impatience almost equal to that with which he had flown
from the room which we had invaded an hour or so before.

In a few minutes more I was safe and secure in my own apartment, free
to sit down quietly and make out a calm realization of the whole state
of affairs for my own private benefit. The figure I had just left
standing in the opposite doorway came back to me now, more
clearly-defined in memory than he was to my corporal eyes as they
rested on him. He was a handsome fellow, very handsome, but how
strange looking, with his rich embroidered gown falling about him in
heavy folds, and his cap shoved back off his brow, throwing his marked
features into exquisite relief, this was Hortense's brother of whom
she had never spoken to me, whose name I had never heard until
to-night! This was Bayard de Beaumont!

I stood up and began to unfasten my trinkets, and my eyes were
instinctively raised to a picture which hung over the mirror beside
me. It consisted of two photographs in a pretty delicate frame, one
was Bayard's, the other was a woman's, not his mother's, nor his
sister's. It was of some one I had never seen. I raised the lamp above
my head and scrutinized it. It was a beautiful face, but one of cold,
passive loveliness. There was something in the handsome mouth which
made me wince as I looked upon it, and those large speaking eyes. What
a depth theirs was, too deep, I thought, too alluring, might not one
get lost in such labyrinths as these?

I gazed upon the picture until my hand, exhausted, trembled with the
lighted lamp it held, and even then I had not seen it half enough but
I turned away and went on in moody thoughtfulness with my final
preparations for retiring.

I knelt and said my evening prayers, with many a struggle against
teasing distractions, I must admit.

Such a queer nature was mine! I do not know whether others resemble me
or not in this respect, but from my young girlhood, I have always been
led away by those faces, books, sounds or pictures, that are
suggestive of any kind of deep or pent up emotion. I know not exactly
whether it be that I look upon them as associated in some dim distant
way with my own uneventful life, yet how could that be? What have
vagrant strains of unfamiliar music conceived by unknown minds, and
played by unseen hands to do with the mechanism of one undreamt of
human soul? What can those heart-moving pages of the authors I love,
have to do with the issue of an existence of which they have never
heard nor thought? What part could these fascinating faces have played
in the personal drama of my life, when they have never been called
upon to bestow even the tame smile of conventional greeting upon me?
What bearing could those speaking pictures have upon the story of my
individual experience when they are often the only reflection of days
long past and forgotten, children of some pensive artist's fancy that
never had another life outside of his conception, than that infused by
brush or chisel? Yet it always seems to me that as I look into those
books and faces, or as I lend my ear to those engaging sounds, some
chord vibrates within me that makes me feel as if my memory were
struggling to awake from some lethargy: scenes and sorrows of my
yesterdays come back for a short moment to my vivid recollection, and
seem to hang around these powerful incentives in a misty halo. It may
be the caprice of an extravagant imagination, it may be the freak of a
foolish fancy, an empty day-dream, an idle reverie, but to me while it
lasts, it is sweeter than any reality.

Thus was it with this picture that hung upon my bedroom wall that
night. I could not take my eyes from it. There I lay, tired and
travel-worn, on an easy bed; but the light burned beside me and I
could not sleep. Something held my gaze fixed upon the opposite wall.
I could but stare and wonder at the curious loveliness of that woman's
face, and ask myself doubtfully over and over again whether such
beauty always engenders proportionate happiness for its possessor.

"And Bayard loved her," I went on in mental soliloquy. "This strange,
handsome fellow with the sad face and solemn air." Did he still love
her, I wondered, or was she called away in her youthful grace and
loveliness to where he could only see her with the eyes of faith? Did
he now live upon her cherished memory, isolated from all the profane
distractions of social life? Where was she, or who was she, and why
had Hortense never spoken of her in all her intimate conversations
with me? Was she his wife? May not this picture have got there in some
accidental way? She might be a relative. It might have happened that
they were just the same size and style of portrait, and were put
together on that account. But no! something in the faces of both
insinuated a close relationship. They were more to one another, I felt
sure, than friend or relative. There was love, quiet, steady,
absorbing love in his great dark eyes, as if in resting upon the
beauty of that other face they had found happiness and repose forever.
They even suggested something of a reproachful love, as if they found
those attractions too winning, and not human enough. I almost coveted
the respectfully devouring glance of those contemplative brown eyes,
for we women with faces of very ordinary fabric cannot believe that
men love us altogether as they would if our cheeks were like damask
roses and our eyes like dew-kissed violets. Nor do we blame them. Yet
how often does it come to pass that a woman's beauty is the
stumbling-block to her earthly happiness? With only a face for her
fortune, many a bright-eyed, laughing belle has gone out to seek
sorrow and misery. The world is full of them, they are rolling in easy
carriages up and down the thoroughfares of life, each a pampered and
dearly bought idol of some powerful old Croesus, whom to love would be
to outrage every principle of nature and worthy sentiment, and,
therefore, to live upon milk and honey and be clad in the finest of
purple, beauty will sanction her own destruction, living a loveless
life, ever haunted by a memory of something brighter and happier that
might have been. And all for this, that others may look with
admiration, and possibly with envy upon her glittering wealth, or that
she may reflect some of the social power and prestige of the man who
marries her. She may escape destitute gentility; she may pass into the
higher walks of refined society, may be waited upon by many servants,
and be the cynosure of eyes that under other circumstances had never
deigned to favor her with a casual notice. What of that? She may, at
last, recline in an expensive casket, and rich exotics may lie in
splendid profusion about her, there may be tolling of many bells and
sighing of many friends, but after that? Does the grave show any more
respect to these remnants of dainty humanity stowed away in the
stillness of an artistic vault, than to the handful of pauper human
bones that crumble to their final dust under the unmarked, unnoticed
sod?

With such reflections as these, and while my eyes were still fixed
upon the fascinating photograph I fell into a deep sleep.

I dreamed strange things that night. Phantom forms with a dark mystic
beauty about them glided round me. I saw a woman with long raven
tresses and tear-dimmed eyes shrouded in flowing draperies, leaning
over a narrow rustic bridge under which dark and muddy water ran in a
gurgling stream. Her elbow leaned upon the railing, and her pensive
face lay half-buried in one slender hand. She was looking into the
depths below, and a great misery was written upon her handsome
features. I dreamed that I was hurrying by the spot where she was
standing, eager to reach the other side unobserved by her. As I stole
with noiseless tread behind her, I heard her talking to the waters in
a slow and humdrum monotone:

"Even if I did it," she was saying "he wouldn't care now. No! Bayard
wouldn't care, no one would care. Would you care?" She screamed,
turning suddenly around and clutching me tightly with both trembling
hands. My blood ran cold, my very hair stood up on end, as I saw the
wild glitter in her dark, lustrous eyes, and the hopeless frenzy in
her harsh and hollow laugh. I wrestled once, with all the strength I
could command, and with a piercing scream I awoke! Cold clammy drops
lay on my face and hands. My heart was throbbing wildly against my
breast. I lay prostrate, paralyzed with fear, staring into the outer
gloom. It was just at the turn of the darkness when things are
outlined though still colorless and shadowy, and I could see the
delicate frame opposite me suspended by invisible cords from an
invisible nail--that cursed thing that had haunted me in my sleep and
reduced me to this painful condition.

There was a flicker of light through the keyhole and crevices of my
bed-room door at this crisis. Someone turned the handle cautiously and
finding the bolt drawn from the inside, whispered huskily.

"What is the matter?"

I could not recognize the voice, but sitting up in my bed, I answered
faintly:

"Oh! it is nothing. I have had a dreadful nightmare, that is all."

The light flickered again and the cautious footsteps retreated,
leaving me alone with the dusk and my fears. I fell back upon my
pillow and crept under the warm coverings. I was weak and shivering,
and a violent pain darted through my head. In a few moments that
seemed like hours to me, I fell asleep again. This time it was a
quiet, dreamless slumber, which restored me greatly, and refreshed my
looks and my humor for breakfast.

When I awoke a second time, a bright morning sunshine flooded the
room. The birds sang lustily outside my window, carts and carriages
rumbled along the road; bells were ringing and all the voices of
industry and activity were united in a great chorus which proclaimed
the advent of another day.

No one spoke of my tragic experience when I appeared at the breakfast
table. Madame de Beaumont and her son were already in the dining-room
when I went down, and we took our seats almost immediately. Hortense
was still sleeping, they said, and looked quite refreshed after the
night.

"I hope I did not disturb her when I screamed?" I ventured to remark.

"When you screamed!" Madame de Beaumont exclaimed in bewilderment.

"Yes! did you not hear me?" I asked, just as astonished.

"No indeed," she answered, "did you Bayard?" turning towards her son
who sat at the upper end of the table.

"Miss Hampden had supper too late last night," he said, evading a
direct reply, "and that with traveling, and the excitement of seeing
Hortense so very ill, would disturb any one's slumber."

I thought he intended that the subject of my nightmare, should be
summarily dismissed with this explanation, and feeling a little
unkindness in the arbitrary way in which he expressed himself, I
turned to Madame de Beaumont and with a self-justifying tone remarked:

"It is the first time in my life I have ever had a nightmare, and I
cannot account for it. I had been looking at a picture that hangs over
the looking-glass in the room you gave me, and do you know it
suggested such a queer train of thought, that immediately on falling
asleep I dreamed of it, and such a dream! It would have frightened any
one."

Madame de Beaumout busied herself among the tea-things while I spoke,
and never raised her eyes, but Bayard, laying down his knife and fork,
turned his gaze full upon me. There was a covert sneer, I thought, in
the look which he directed at me so steadily, and feeling painfully
mystified and uncomfortable under the whole situation, I bent my head
over my chocolate and sipped it slowly for need of a better
distraction. After a moment or so of unflinching staring, the
courteous Bayard resumed his breakfast with double the appetite, it
seemed to me, with which he began it. This was my uncongenial
initiation into my friend's home.







CHAPTER X.

Before the week was out, Hortense, to the surprise and delight of us
all, was able to move about from one room to another. She looked white
and wasted still, but her old manner had returned to her in a great
measure, and she laughed and chatted eagerly with us, one after
another, thus giving strong confirmation to the hopes expressed by her
medical adviser, who now predicted a rapid convalescence.

The sun was warm and invigorating, and nature at the very climax of
her summer beauty, the leaves green and plentiful, and the breeze
gentle and refreshing. Everything in the external world tempted one to
"fling dull care away" and be happy while these propitious moments
lingered with time.

Madame de Beaumont and her son were so hopeful now of Hortense's
complete recovery that they ventured to leave home for a week or ten
days to attend to some family business that had been delayed on
account of her serious illness, but it was with many a parting
injunction, regarding the care and attention that should be
unceasingly bestowed upon her darling during her enforced absence,
that the solicitous mother left me in charge. Anxious to fulfil my
pledge to the very letter. I gave myself up to the exclusive
companionship of my little friend from that moment. It was indeed a
pleasure and a recreation for me, now that she was able to laugh and
talk as before.

Two weeks had elapsed since my arrival in Toronto and many strange
conjectures had held possession of my mind during this comparatively
short interval. I had seen nothing, I may say, of the quiet hero of
the household. His time was spent either in the solemn seclusion of
his own apartments or out of doors. Occasionally we met going out of,
or coming into, a room, going up or down stairs or passing along some
corridor. We nearly always had meals together, and on a few occasions
he even sat with us for an hour after dinner, but of what good was
that? The conversation was tame and impersonal when we were all
together, and when we two met by accident there was a quiet mutual
greeting which began and ended on the spot.

I was still of the opinion that he was a handsome man and a fine
fellow altogether, but the suspicion that he was shrouded in mystery
repelled me, despite my best intentions and desires. I have never
taken to those deep natures that talk in discreet monosyllables and
cling to the sheltering refuge of such safe subjects as are the
substance of everybody's and anybody's chit-chat. Maybe I judge them
harshly when I persuade myself that the records of their past could
not stand the open daylight of a free-and-easy discussion. This
verdict is, however, the suggestion of my instinct, and need not carry
weight with anyone but myself.

Lest any of the ardent believers in the pre-eminent curiosity of
womankind be wondering how I could have restrained my burning desires
to ferret out the secrets of this man's life for so long, I must
hasten to inform them that conjointly with this feminine weakness I
had a most unyielding pride, a pride that absorbed _even_ my
curiosity. Though I pined to know the wonderful story of his past,
this prevailing vice forbade me to quench my devouring thirst at the
fountainhead of satisfaction.

Hortense had not volunteered to open the subject with me, neither had
her mother, though both must have known full well that my suspicions
were aroused. I did not therefore intend to ask a confidence which
could not be given willingly and freely. It was virtually nothing to
me what this man did or did not, and as his experience had probably a
painful halo about it, I was not eager to refer to it in the remotest
possible way.

Before he left with Madame de Beaumont he came into the sitting-room
where I was standing, looking out of the window, to bid me good-bye.

He wore a traveling costume of a becoming gray color, and held his hat
in one gloved hand. I heard him come in, but purposely did not look
around. As he was generally engaged with business of his own when he
went in or out of a room, I was not supposed to know that, on this
particular occasion, he was making a flattering exception for me. I
went on biting my lips abstractedly, with my head leaning against the
casement. He cleared his throat emphatically, but what was that to me?
"Ahem" was not enough like either of my names, to justify my looking
around.

He walked to the mantel-piece and inspected its familiar furnishings
for a moment, making what seemed to me unnecessary noise and fuss as
he did so. I would have given worlds for a pair of keen eyes at the
back of my head during this artful performance, but as no such
abnormal desire could be favored, I had to be satisfied with my
conjectures and suppositions about his motives, and the various
expressions that were chasing one another over his face as he went
through this programme of failures.

At last, having spent his every indirect effort to attract my absorbed
attention, he took a book from the table, and placing it deliberately
under his arm, as if it were one of the many things that brought him
into the room, he strode quietly towards me, saying in a very
non-committal and yet courteous tone.

"I shall say goodbye, Miss Hampden, I hope you will take every care,
of yourselves, and that we shall find you well on our return."

"Thank you," I answered, very politely, "there will be no fear of me.
Good bye."

He took the tips of my three longest fingers, my thumb and little
finger not having been ordained by nature to meet the cordial grasp of
men of this stamp, and having repeated his good-bye, he stalked out of
the room in conscious dignity and grandeur.

I made a mocking face, I know I did, when his back was turned. I hated
him for not taking more notice of me than this. I did not want any
violent attentions or silly love-making from him. He need not think I
was a frivolous heart-hunter, for I was not. If I had been a man, he
would have discussed politics or science or newspaper topics with me
long before this. How did he know I could not match him in these being
a woman? He was one of those wonderful erudites, I supposed, who think
that a girl's conversational power lies rigidly between dry goods and
sentiment. Poor things! What a heresy they foster? But what need I
care? He was a glum, unsociable recluse anyway, may be at a loss for a
second idea to keep his mind busy. He was certainly not worth worrying
about, so I gathered up my needle-work that rested on the window-sill,
and with a deliberate sullenness went in search of Hortense.

She had fallen asleep on the lounge in her bedroom, and the old nurse,
having closed the shutters and drawn the curtains to keep out the
afternoon light, was seated in the adjoining room, busily knitting a
stocking.

Free, therefore, to dispose of myself as I wished for the next hour, I
put on my things and went to stroll about the busy streets of the
city.

Avoiding the fine, open thoroughfares, where business and pleasure
were airing themselves, I leisurely turned down a gloomy by-way which
was lined on either side by the massive walls and rear wings of huge,
dismal, commercial establishments. Not a soul was visible anywhere, it
was long and narrow and dirty, with deep ruts in the mud that lay in a
thick covering over the road. It was intercepted, some distance down,
by another street much worse to look at, and a little farther on, the
woeful panorama became still more awful and repulsive. A little
passage which seemed to have strayed away from all connection with
human decency or sympathy ran to the left. It was so very narrow that
though the surrounding buildings straggled up to only an ordinary
height, the daylight scarcely penetrated it. And indeed it is to be
wondered whether a bright sunlight would not but bring out more
clearly than ever the appalling features of the place. Could gold and
silver sunbeams hope to beautify the heaps of refuse and rubbish that
were piled up here and there at intervals against some staggering
fence? Could a flood of sunlight improve the dingy house-fronts that
looked drearily out upon this cheerless prospect, or lend a charm to
the hardened faces of those that peered through dirty window-panes, or
who stood idly in some rickety doorway?

The spectacle was indeed heart-stirring.

  "Why shines the sun except that he Makes gloomy nooks for grief to
  hide? And pensive shades for melancholy When all the earth is bright
  beside?"

The words seemed written on the dingy house-tops before me, and borne
on the gusty breeze that wafted noxious odors far and wide. My heart
turned sick, and yet this was what I had come out to see. I could not
have gone away from a lively city like this, where towers and steeples
of lofty and majestic buildings reared themselves in proud beauty
towards heaven, without having also looked on the picture's gloomy
side. Where so much wealth and fashion and finery dazzled the casual
eye, there must, said I, be also 'poverty, hunger and dirt,' and were
my words not fully verified now?

I have been warned more than once of the danger of going unattended
along these haunts of misery and vice, but whether or not it is
because my motive is one of pure philanthropy, and my sentiments
exclusively sympathetic I do not know, I have, however, escaped up to
this without interference from the lowly inhabitants of these obscure
corners, and can vouch for the latent gallantry of many a ragged hero,
who restored a fallen umbrella or parcel with as much courtesy as his
brother clad in broadcloth ever showed me.

That human mind which feasts exclusively upon the dainty morsels of
life is only half educated, though there are grand fragments of
knowledge and experience to be gathered among the haunts of high art,
and where stand the immortal monuments of power and fame, though the
heart may swell with a just enthusiasm at sight of the marvels which
have risen out of gold piles, the coffers of nations or individuals, I
hold that all the majesty of the best-spent wealth has not power to
awaken such a depth of feeling in the human breast as one of these
tottering huts with its mouldy walls and mud-spattered window-panes,
the "Home Sweet Home" of flesh and blood as real and as sensitive as
our pampered own.

To think that in the world's great capitals there is squalor which
could never compare with what my eyes then beheld! Think of Murray
Hill and the Alaska District, Fell's Point, or the Basin, and what a
sea of human wrecks we contemplate in a fraction of America's
continent alone. And again, think of the waste of wealth the wide
world over. Think how vice is wined and dined, and clad in the finest
of fabrics, while honest humanity, in helpless hunger, cries out to
ears that are deaf and hearts that have turned to stone. Oh, well may
it be said that the rich man's chances of heaven are as those of the
camel going through the eye of a needle, if the recording angel
pencils down the use and abuse of every dangerous penny that might
have been well spent, and was not.

With such reflections as these I turned my steps slowly back through
the dingy by-ways.

The afternoon was waning, and the hour was near when daily toil would
be suspended, and the workers would repair to these their miserable
homes. I had met a few already with their picks and shovels on their
ragged shoulders, and had stood to see them vanish under these crooked
doorways where little children lingered waiting and watching for their
cheerless coming. I saw some others lay down the instruments of their
honest labor outside the corner entrance of a large but smoky row of
wooden tenements that skirted one gloomy street. A doorway cut through
the sharp angles of the corner of the building, allowed a small canopy
to project in a triangular peak over two dirty battered steps that led
into a dimly-lit room on the ground floor. Suspended from the point of
the canopy was a lamp of a dull red color, which with rain spatterings
and droppings, and a long-standing accumulation of cobwebs and dust
had grown barely translucent, and must have emitted but a sickly light
at night-fall. A worn and ragged rope-mat lay on the second step, and
across the upper half of the dilapidated door (which was of glass) a
faded screen was drawn that kept the inner room secure from the
curious gaze of passers-by.

Those who had been born and brought up under the shadow of this
ominous establishment, must have known many a tale of sorrow and woe
that owed its origin to that vile ground-floor.

I discovered, on closer scrutiny, that some faded letters across the
dirty lamp, intimated to the general public that this was the "Ace of
Spades." And in the money-till of the Ace of Spades, doubtless was the
price of many a poor man's toil, the bread and meat of his hungry
children squandered and sacrificed with a fiendish recklessness.
Within the dingy walls of the Ace of Spades was bartered the domestic
happiness of many a home that had been cheerless enough, God knows,
without this extra curse.

I shivered as I passed it by, to think that amid such haunts of misery
and starvation, a place like this could flourish, growing fat upon the
life-blood of famishing humanity, and a pity that is akin to a most
contemptuous hatred swelled my breast, when I asked myself: What sort
of being presides over this soul-trap? Can it be rational? Can it have
a soul? Can it ever understand what even animal sympathy is?

The gold that is stolen from the rich man's coffers has some claim to
respectability, over these ill-gotten coins that are so many mouthfuls
of bread snatched from the jaws of perishing hunger.

I turned away feeling sick at heart, and directed my vagrant steps
towards home. All the pomp and glory of the world's wealth were dimmed
and darkened before my eyes by this huge black shadow of penury and
suffering, that had darted across my way at that moment. If such
thoughts as these could be ever with us, if such vivid reminders of
the shallowness and vanity of earth's transient splendors would abide
with us constantly, how paltry would our idolized and coveted honors
appear, and how much more profitable would our wasted energies become!
But our minds are frivolous, and easily distracted from great pursuits
by petty, external circumstances. We become too readily absorbed in
the study of our own selves, and those elements of experience that may
yield us pleasure or pain during our sojourn among mortal men. Very
often our own instability of purpose annoys and discourages us. Our
spirit has desired the accomplishment of one thing, but our contrary
flesh has silenced these better demands in gratifying its own caprice.
It takes us a very long time to learn the danger of trusting our
fallible natures too far. The man who goes forward to defy temptation,
telling himself he will not fall, is running down towards a steep
precipice, and has not the power of self-control when he reaches the
critical point.

I was faithful to my wholesome meditation while I sauntered back alone
through the busy streets. When I raised my eyes to look upon
glittering carriages, bearing beauty and ease and comfort along the
highway, I said to myself in all sincerity, What will it avail them in
the end?

But, gentle reader, if I have found fault with the weakness of human
nature, and censured its infidelity to noble purposes, it is because I
have taught myself the realization. Think you, I have stood where my
brothers and sisters have fallen? or have been much the better for
knowing so well where the straight path of duty lies?

When I entered the house of my friend I left the best part of my new
convictions upon the threshold, and bounded up the stairway with as
light a step as if life's darkest phases were unheard of mysteries to
me.

Hortense was still lying on the lounge, and the curtains were still
drawn, but her eyes were wide open, and the rosy warmth of a recent
happy slumber lay on each delicate cheek.

I crept softly towards her, lest perhaps I should find her dozing, but
her sleep had not left a languid trace behind. She looked up at me
with a bright smile, saying,

"Oh, you naughty truant, where have you been?"

"I went for a little walk," I answered, stooping over her and kissing
her brow. "I saw you were sleeping, and having nothing to do, I took a
fancy to explore the town. Have you been awake long?"

"Oh, yes! for hours!" she said playfully. "I have counted my fingers
about a dozen times. I have discovered that that picture between the
windows hangs to one side, and the table-cover is longer at the back
than in the front. That bottle casts a shadow just like a man's face
and--"

"Oh, come!" I broke in, "you are improvising as you go along. You
would not look so rosy and good-humored if you had been lying awake
all that time. You will not make me believe such ponderous fibs," I
added, throwing my hat and parasol wearily on the bed.

"You are quite too cute, Amey," she answered, rising slowly and taking
my arm affectionately, "in fact you are a genius my dear," she added
in a pompous tone.

"So they all tell me," I retorted quietly, "and yet I feel very much
like other people."

"Well, you are not like other people, indeed you are not!" she
exclaimed earnestly. "If you were I would never have liked you."

"Don't you like 'other people'?"

"Not generally, some other people I do, but not all _Mon Dieu! non pas
tous !_" she added, shaking her head emphatically and looking
abstractedly before her.

The current of her thought must have changed suddenly, for she raised
her face with a bright expression upon it now and said

"Let us do something--something to keep us alive--What shall it be?"

"We might drink your cod liver oil," I suggested; "it is recommended
for that purpose, is it not?"

"How smart you are Miss Hampden!" she exclaimed. "Well, I will leave
all that sport to yourself, it has no charm for me, I know," she then
cried, interrupting herself, "let us go to your room, and you will
show me all your pretty things. I have not seen anything since you
came, such a prisoner as I have been."

"I hope you will feel repaid," I said, putting one arm tenderly around
her frail waist, and leading her out, "but I have not much to show
you, Hortense."

We repaired to my room at the other end of the corridor, and Hortense,
seating herself on a pile of pillows on the floor, insisted on being
shown all the new jewellery and trinkets that had been bestowed on me
when I "came out."

This trivial circumstance is, I am fully conscious, quite enough to
provoke the blandest of smiles from masculine lips.

"Such a paltry distraction for sensible people!" I hear them utter. So
be it; we will not dispute the point in our own favor, but we will
confess that whether it reflect or not upon the tone and dignity of
our leading tastes, there is an undeniable gratification for every
woman in the contemplation of another's wardrobe or jewel-box. It is a
rest for our eyes that are wearied of gazing upon our own familiar
belongings, to search among the novel trinkets of a friend. We like to
touch them, to hold them, to try them in our ears, or on our fingers,
or to twine them around our wrists, not that we covet them either, for
a moment's inspection gratifies us, and we tire of them quickly.

It is an inherent peculiarity I dare say, and most certainly a
harmless one. We all have it to some extent. I will admit that it has
its abuses like all other innocent things, that it is often a powerful
channel for individual venom and an incentive to the emptiest vanity.
There are women I know, who buy bonnets on purpose to vex Mrs. Jones,
their rival neighbor, and I have seen Mrs. Parvenue, time and again,
indulging a magnificent caprice with some rare luxury, upon which
straitened aristocracy was bestowing covetous and admiring glances.
Our daily observations confirm the fact that feather brained
_protegees_ of fortune, expend much wealth, and flaunt much finery for
the passive pleasure of being looked at with wonder by a struggling
gentility; and the essence of their gratification, virtually lies in
the consciousness that they are provoking a scrutiny, at least, from
better-bred people not in possession of such solid wealth as affords
them these material comforts.

All this however is an abuse, the offspring of most sordid and
contemptible motives. It is the unmistakable brand of the plebeian,
and compromises the one who favors it, beyond amendment. It is well to
mention it, however, for there are persons of limited observation, and
there must needs be persons of a limited experience at all times who,
for want of knowing the whole truth, will be tempted to pass a
comprehensive general verdict where a particular one only is deserved.
It is the misfortune of good to be counterfeited by a simpering evil
which works its wonders among the uninitiated, and for this reason, it
is not injudicious to openly discuss both sides of a question before
adopting a partiality for either one.

When however as in our case, the pleasure is equally divided between
the owner of the fine things and the one who appreciates them, there
is a possibility of spending a very happy hour in their inspection.
When one is free, as I was, to take up each pretty trinket separately
and tell its little story to an attentive ear and a sympathetic heart,
the circumstance becomes quite propitious for an interchange of
friendly confidences, as we shall see.

I had opened and closed more than a dozen jewel-cases. I had revealed
to my friend's devouring gaze, my newest acquisitions in silver and
gold, and how earnestly she had admired them all. It was refreshing to
me to watch her as she clasped my bracelets on her slender wrists, and
hung my ear rings from her delicate little ears; now exclaiming over
the novelty of one, now listening eagerly to the whispered account
about another. At last we had emptied out the great box that held all
these little cases of morocco and plush, and putting them back one by
one, I turned the tiny key in its tiny lock, and opening my trunk
lodged it safely inside. Hortense was sitting beside me still, pouring
out a volley of impulsive praise upon what I had just shown her, and
as I raised the lid of my trunk, with the privilege of an intimate
friend she leaned over and peeped curiously in.

"What is in that red case there Amey?" she asked half timidly, then
looking apologetically into my face added: "You see my curiosity is
not satisfied yet."

"That is my ivory-covered prayer-book I told you of," said I, drawing
it from its seclusion and laying it in her lap. "I seldom use it, it
is too showy."

"It is very handsome" she muttered under her breath. "From your
father," she continued, speaking to herself, "a Christmas gift. How
lovely!"

She put it gently back in its padded holder, and returned it to me.
Then peeping into the open trunk once more she said

"Don't be cross, old woman, I want to know all your things, so that I
could recognize them any where again. I like them, chiefly because
they belong to you. What is in that Japanese box over there?"

"Oh, that is not worth showing you," I said, with a smile of ridicule.
"I keep all my odds and ends there, broken and old-fashioned trinkets.
It is a very uninteresting heap, I assure you."

"I don't care," she persisted obstinately. "You must let me see them.
I like old broken stuff, it will be a change from all the finery I
have been feasting on."

"Well, if you will, you will I suppose, you tantalising child!" I
exclaimed in mock resignation, dragging out the shabby receptacle upon
which lingered the faint outlines of Japanese ladies in brilliant
costumes.

"I hope you will like the contents," I remarked derisively, handing
her the box. "While you are improving your mind studying them, I shall
just restore some order to these dilapidated quarters," I said, as I
turned around towards my neglected dressing table that was reduced to
a most confusing state of chaos.

The fragments rattled and clinked awhile between her busy fingers, and
then were silent. I was so occupied with my new purpose that I did not
notice the stillness at first, but suddenly I looked around in
questioning scrutiny. The box lay on the floor beside her, unheeded.
Between her fingers was some small, shining thing, upon which her eyes
were fastened greedily. While I stood watching her, she turned her
head slowly round and in a quiet, almost supplicating, tone said,

"Amey, come here."

I went and knelt beside her, laying one arm fondly around her neck.

"What do you want?" I asked, hardly noticing what she held in one
slender palm.

"Where did you get this Amey? Do you mind telling me?"

She looked up into my face as she spoke, with such pleading sorrowful
eyes, that I snatched the trinket impulsively from her and turned it
over in my own hand.

It was the forgotten locket I had found in the library on that March
afternoon before the Merivales' musical. A change passed over my own
face at sight of it, and it was with some agitation I answered
Hortense's timid question:

"It is a strange thing how you came by this. I have never seen it but
once, the night I found it, until now."

"You found it then," she murmured slowly with her eyes still buried in
my face. "Have you ever opened it?"

I laughed dryly and said, "It is a queer thing, isn't it, but I never
have."

"Open it now," she interrupted seriously. I took it between my fingers
and after repeated efforts managed to open it. There were two small
photographs inside. One was Ernest Dalton's--and the other was mine!

A crimson flush deluged my face and neck, my hand trembled and the
locket fell into Hortense's lap. She raised her solemn eyes now grown
sadder and more solemn than ever, and said in a voice more plaintive
and pleading than any voice I ever heard before,

"Then you know him?"

I was mystified. I could hardly remember afterwards what I had
answered to her strange question. I think I said in a seemingly
indifferent voice,

"Is it Mr. Dalton?"

But I know she looked at me with an expression of infinite reproachful
longing and asked,

"Have you a doubt of it?"

"But I never gave him a picture of mine," I argued, "and moreover, I
never had pictures taken like this one. If it is he, where did he get
this, and why did he put it here?"

She shot a wincing, suspicious glance at me from under her white lids
and repeated huskily,

"You never gave him this picture?"

"On my word, I did not Hortense," I answered. "How could I? It never
belonged to me. I never saw it in my life until this moment. We cannot
be sure that it is my portrait."

"Look at those eyes and that mouth, and the hair waving over that
brow," she muttered, half in soliloquy, with her gaze still bent upon
the mysterious locket. "Of course it is you, Amey Hampden, and no one
else."

"Well, it is a dark puzzle to me," I said, "and I wish I could explain
it."

Then suddenly remembering the other strange feature of the
circumstance, I turned impulsively to Hortense and observed:

"I did not know that you and Mr. Dalton were friends. I never heard
him mention your name."

"Nor did I know that you and he were friends," she interrupted, a
little incisively, I thought. "I never heard him mention _your_ name."

"That is strange" said I, "for he has known me from my infancy. I have
sat upon Mr. Dalton's knee time and again, listening to his thrilling
anecdotes and telling him my petty confidences."

"Have you?" very indifferently.

"Yes, and that is why I am morally certain this picture can in no way
be associated with me, for there is no reason why Mr. Dalton should
have one and keep it secret. Besides, I ought to know" I argued
warmly, "whether I had ever had such pictures taken, and whether he
had been given one or not."

"Well it is very like you, Amey," Hortense resumed in a more calm and
friendly tone "So much so, that when I saw you for the first time at
Notre Dame Abbey, I recognized you from this."

"Oh then you have seen this before," I exclaimed.

A deep, red shadow flitted across her face for one moment and she
answered timidly.

"Yes, he showed it to me, but when I met you I could not remember
where it was I had seen your face before. It troubled me then, and it
has often puzzled me since. Now, the whole mystery is solved" she
said, rising from her lowly seat, and going towards the window. She
still held the locket in one open palm, and I know she muttered, half
audibly, as she turned away

"Who else could it be?"

From that moment Hortense was not the same. She tried hard to appear
her old self. She even laughed and chatted more merrily than ever, but
I felt rather than saw the difference. There was some undertone of
mystery about this affair, that she was striving to hide from me, and
that conviction built up an ugly barrier between our hitherto
unswerving loves. I had never broached any subject to her that
required to be spoken of reservedly or discreetly. I would not have
had her know that secrets should exist between us, and therefore I
could not help feeling the sting of these unfortunate circumstances
that had been so strongly evolved out of chance.

Of one thing I was certain that Hortense did not look upon Earnest
Dalton as an ordinary friend or acquaintance. Ordinary friends have
not the same influence over us as he seemed to exercise over her. We
do not blush at the mention of their names, nor are we agitated by
every little reminder of their lives or persons. We can think of them
without a far-away look in our eyes, and can speak of them without a
tremor in our voice or a sudden change of expression in our
countenance.

"If she loves him" said I, in my reverie, that night, and why should
she not, it is no wonder that this strange likeness should be
disagreeable to her. It has given me some pleasure to see this thing
that only looks like me so carefully stowed away in his locket. There
is every reason why the same discovery should grieve her--if she cares
for him.

I then went back in memory to that dull March afternoon, I had passed
in quiet reflection before the library fire. How vividly it all rose
up before me. My sudden awakening from a stupid slumber, my firm
conviction that some one else was in the room, my timid whispering
question, the tinkling sound of something falling upon the floor, and
my subsequent surprise on finding this queer, unfamiliar trinket lying
at my feet. Now that it was proven to be Ernest Dalton's, the mystery
was thicker than ever. How had it come there? I asked myself this
perplexing question over and over again. Perhaps it had been lying in
the folds of the upholstering for days or months, and that by chance I
had disturbed it when I threw myself wearily upon the sofa. Mr. Dalton
often came to sit and talk with my father of an evening when we were
out. In fact we were never surprised to see him drop in at any moment,
and it was quite likely, I concluded, that he had lost the little
ornament without knowing it, and as no one of the household had made
mention of it to him, as they would have done had it been found, he
evidently thought it useless to speak about it under the
circumstances, and out of his silence and mine grew this new aspect of
affairs.

Satisfied with the probability of this solution, I dismissed the first
view of the subject and gave my thought and attention to that other
more interesting one, which compromised, to all appearances, my little
friend's affections. There was no doubting her sentiment. All the
artful veneering she could ever put upon her words or actions had no
power to deceive me. There was no indifference in her indifferent
attitudes, none at least that was real. Who could tell better than I,
who had myself gone through the ordeal? I knew too well what the
nature of such a conflict was, not to have detected its workings when
they were going on under my very eyes. Besides, was there not some
strange new feeling awakened within my own breast, by this unexpected
turn of the tide; and was I not striving to guard it and hide it,
maybe as vainly as my friend, for all I knew.

I had been making vague conjectures about Ernest Dalton for some time,
wooing the possibility if not the probability of being more closely
associated with his life some day, than I was at this period. His
words had always an underlying signification for me apart from that
which any casual listener would detect, and I had studied him so!
Every outline of his face and figure was engraven upon my memory, the
very curves of his ears, the shape of his figure, the form of his
eye-brows, the fit of his collar, the pattern of his neck-ties, all
were quite familiar to me. I had taken a pleasure in noticing them,
and a still greater pleasure in telling them to myself over and over
again. Surely then, he was more to me than all those other people who
came and went and left not a trace of their personality inscribed upon
my mind or heart. In spite of my wilful protestations, and avowals of
indifference, I must have been living all along in the fetters of
happy slavery, else, why so many fond recollections of a past that
was, after all, but the interesting progress of a prosy human life?

It takes very little to settle our doubts sometimes, and rudely awaken
us from dreams and fancies that have colored our idle hours with a
tinge of exquisite gladness. The best of us are jealous in the
abstract, though even in words and deeds we are above the paltry
passion; and the fear that, while we are holding our idol at a
distance the better to feast our eyes upon the beauty of its form,
intruders are creeping dangerously near to it is enough to stimulate
us to prompt action.

We make a rush forward to seize our treasure and bear it triumphantly
away where no one dares to trespass. But Mr. Dalton had not sanctioned
nor encouraged such a regard for me, and I was proud, more than
anything else, more proud than loving, more proud than persevering.
For my own peace of mind I would not stop to analyse my real feeling
towards him. A passive friendship seemed to satisfy him, why should it
not also satisfy me? He saw that Arthur Campbell showed a preference
for me and might seriously engage my affections at any moment. But he
did not care evidently. Perhaps he thought he was too old; maybe he
was poor, maybe he was not sure of a return of love from me? Did this
uncertainty justify him? Not in my eyes. Faint heart never won fair
lady. A man who "never tells his love" cannot be judged by the same
standard as the pensive maid who lets

  "Concealment like a worm i' the bud Feed on her damask cheek."

If I were a man, I would win the object of my love in spite of destiny
herself, and therefore have I little faith in timid hearts that shrink
from such impediments as inevitably obstruct that course that never
does run smooth.

The man who loves a woman as a true woman deserves to be loved, will
never give her a second place in his regard before the world. We have
nothing to be ashamed of in our honest loves and therein lies a rigid
test. It is true that in our day it makes a great difference to us
whether certain persons attract the potent attention of fashion's
votaries or not. A plain face, or an awkward gait, or an eccentric
manner, can turn the tide of a whole human life; for such superficial
irregularities have proved many a time to be a stumbling block to our
most willing affections, when we could have loved and cherished a soul
were it not for these accidents of the flesh: an uncouth demeanor, an
unpolished exterior, an old fashioned accent, or something just as
trifling which our modern propriety ridicules. It has come to this, I
know, in our times, that the world expects an explanation or an
apology of some kind, when people of social standing allow themselves
to be wooed and won by persons whose lives are not regulated according
to the popular taste. Men marry beauty and talent and accomplishments
as though any of these things were solid enough to maintain their
prospective fortunes and women betroth themselves to men and manners,
and are satisfied that if they have nothing to eat, they will always
have something to look at. The great majority of rejected men in the
higher walks of civilization, as the word is used in our day, are
whole-souled fellows, whose clothes have the misfortune to fit awry,
whose shoes are clumsy, and whose ways are natural. It omens ill for
the human race that in spite of its much vaunted development and
progress, there should be such a mental poverty and moral weakness
prevailing among the representative classes. It is nothing else than a
serious reflection upon this self-glorifying century of ours, to note
how subservient our people are to harmful, social regulation, and how
indifferent they have become to those moral restrictions that encroach
upon the liberty of these questionable conventionalities.

These, however, are not the people that are ever associated with the
mention of the nobler and grander phases of human life. We pity them
for sacrificing their better selves to so thankless and perishable a
cause, and we would redeem them by gentle persuasion if they were
willing, but there are aspects of the situation upon which our eager
solicitude may not trespass, and having reached this limit we must
turn away with a shrug of the shoulders and leave them to their own
hazardous guidance.

Ernest Dalton was not one of these, although he happened to be
markedly favored by persons of every distinction and rank. He was
received with a smile and a pleasant greeting wherever he went. He had
won the goodwill of social, political and scientific magnates, and yet
it could not be said of him, as of many another such luminary, that he
paid too dear for his whistle. He had not purchased his popularity
with servile adulation and at a sacrifice of his own personal dignity.
The smiles of the world are too transient and uncertain to repay one
for such a compromising tribute, especially when we can provoke them
in a worthier and more respectful manner. I doubt, however, if ever a
laurel-crown were worn more comfortably than Ernest Dalton could have
worn his.

And yet he was a very plain man, who spoke with an ordinary accent,
who wore unfashionable clothes, who never boasted of pedigree, but who
earned a distinct individuality about with him though he never
intruded it upon others. He was affable and agreeable without that
exaggeration of either quality which spends itself in profuse
laudation of social comets. He was a favorite but not a parasite, and
could lay his hand sincerely upon the clumsy waistcoat that sheltered
his sterling heart and say to that world of artifice and cunning. _Non
serviam._

Surely if it is possible to extract any sweetness from a world-given
fame or distinction, it is when that world has thrust it on us, and
not when we have begged and striven and pined for it, and bribed
hidden forces to unite in supporting and advocating our cause. There
is no flavor to the cup of fortune when we have used our
fellow-mortals as stepping-stones to the rank or wealth which brings
us within reach of it.

It may seem that I had an exaggerated view of Mr. Dalton's standing in
society, but it was the popular view that every one fostered, and
could not, therefore, be magnified by my personal appreciation of his
true worth. I had always admired him, even before I began to think of
him in any particular way, the thought that he had been one of the few
kind patrons of my neglected youth, seemed to bring him yet nearer to
my deepest regard as I grew older.

But he had changed with my life. He was not now what he had been in my
younger days. No one would have thought, to watch us together or
listen to our aimless conversation, that we had ever been more than
ordinary acquaintances. This vexed me. I wanted him to show me more
attention on account of our long-standing relationship. I thought he
could have presumed upon our early friendship to call me by name
before strangers, or in some way insinuate that I was more to him than
all that motley crowd of fashionable humanity that flitted and buzzed
around us.

Ah! there are many such petty needs as this gnawing at our poor,
dissatisfied hearts. Things are going wrong on all sides of us, and
the beautiful harmonious mechanism of life that enthusiasts sing
about, seems nothing but a helpless repetition of jarring discords for
some of us. The circumstances of our varied experience do not fit into
the places allotted them, and we find ourselves often in false and
painful positions, with no alternative but to endure patiently or
peevishly what men call the inevitable.

If only we did not wish so ardently for those things that may not be!
Why does not the human heart control itself with some philosophy that
can despoil forbidden fruit of all its tempting qualities? Why need we
covet probabilities that may never be nearer to realization than they
are now?

This sort of reasoning had helped me in some measure to combat the
worrying dissatisfaction that threatened to preside over what should
be the happiest epoch my life. I drifted into a voluntary
forgetfulness of old associations. I stifled the suggestive voice of
memory, and since this is the way of the world, thought I, let me
subscribe to its profane regulations as well as the rest. I will be
the plaything of chance, and risk my lot for better or worse.

But here was an impediment, already, which awakened the long dormant
memories of my past. Here was something that needed investigation, and
might possibly in its issue, interfere with my worldly-wise policy. I
could not tell yet, but the time must come now when these vagaries
would end in one thing or another.

With these conflicting reflections storming my pillow, I fell asleep.
My mind was tired, and I slept the heavy, dreamless slumber of
exhaustion. When I awoke again it was morning, although it seemed to
me, I had but a moment before turned over and closed my drooping eyes.

I arose and dressed abstractedly and went in search of Hortense. We
were to have breakfast in her room, she informed me, as she was
feeling unusually lazy. I looked at her curiously and saw less color
and freshness in her cheeks, less sparkle and vigor in her eyes.

"You are sure it is laziness, Hortense?" I asked leaning over her, and
touching my lips to hers.

"Why, of course it is," she answered, stretching her arms drowsily
over her head and laughing lazily. "You have all been so good to me,
that I feel quite spoiled," she added, rising slowly and coming
towards the dainty, impromptu breakfast-table which had been set for
us, near the open window. Our meal proceeded in subdued gaiety. We
talked and laughed about many things, as if neither heart was busy
with other and deeper reflections, and we did not fail to do justice
to the tempting provisions before us.

When the meal was over Hortense said

"I do not like the way you have dressed your hair this morning Amey,
you do not look like yourself at all."

I laughed and answered indifferently

"Oh! it will do well enough. What difference does it make?"

"Well, it does make a difference, Miss!" she broke in with playful
emphasis. "It makes the difference that I am going to do it over. Come
into the dressing-room and I will make a perfect beauty of you. You
shall see."

I arose and followed her into the adjoining room, where she placed two
seats before a long mirror that reached nearly to the floor. Mine was
a low footstool, and hers a padded chair. I threw myself down at her
feet, and drawing out my hairpins gave myself up entirely to the
gratification of her latest caprice.

Very soon her old humor broke out in merry little peals of laughter,
as she turned me into a Japanese or Feejee Islander, by appropriate
arrangements of my plentiful hair; or her old partiality asserted
itself as she praised my flowing tresses and made me assume attitudes
that were peculiar to the representation of Faith or Undine.

"Oh! now you look like pictures of Mary Magdalene!" she exclaimed
suddenly, as I stooped to pick something off the floor. "Stay that way
just for a moment. I hear _la bonne_ coming and I want her to see you.
Here she is." There was a hurried tap at the door and _la bonne_ came
in, with a face so full of purpose that we forgot our fanciful
amusement. She advanced towards me with a little folded paper which
she held out saying

"Mademoiselle, c'est un telegram!"

It was probably from Mde de Beaumont, I thought, announcing her
return, and quietly signing the necessary paper, I tore open the
sealed message and read it.

The room began to turn about me. The words grew blurred before my eyes
I raised my hands in distraction to my head and fell sobbing on
Hortense's knees.

"Amey, dear Amey, what is the matter?" She cried, eagerly bending over
me with quick starting tears of sympathy in her eyes.

"My father!" I moaned, "my poor father!"

"Is he ill or what? Do tell me what ails him Amey?"

"Worse than that, he is dying," I sobbed out convulsively. "He will be
dead before I get back. Oh! What will I do!"

"Do not cry so, Amey dear," Hortense interrupted faintly. "It may not
be so bad as you think; These telegrams always sound so blunt and
dreadful. While there's life, there's hope, you know. Come and get
ready immediately, time is your best friend now."

I took her arm and went passively with her to my own room. Her
fortitude sustained me greatly. I rolled my flowing hair up again
carelessly enough, God knows, this time, and began my preparations for
my sorrowful journey home.

Hortense talked to me all the time and kept my own maddening thoughts
at bay. I gathered together only those things I would urgently
require, and gave her my keys to attend to all the rest when I was
gone.

In an hour from the time I had received the dreadful intelligence of
my father's sudden and serious illness, I was taking leave of
Hortense, with a bitter sorrow and fear within my heart.

"Good-bye Amey, and may God bless and comfort you!" she said
reverently, with both hands clasped about my neck, "and remember," she
added, kissing away my fast falling tears, "if ever you have need of a
friend to love you, or serve you, or comfort you, you must come to me,
will you not Amey? tell me you will."

"You are very kind Hortense," I answered in a broken sob, "some day I
may have cause to remember these words."

"And you will act upon them, Amey? Will you not?" she put in eagerly.
"Can you doubt that my heart will ever be a refuge for you? If you
think anything of me you will make me this promise before we part."

I looked steadily at her through all my blinding tears, and saw the
hallowed light of the noblest and most generous human sympathy
reflected on her wasted countenance. I could never doubt her again, no
matter what strange or suspicious things came to pass. I took her
thin, warm hands in mine and answered firmly:

"I promise you, Hortense, when I need the love and devotion of
sustaining friendship, I shall come to you. Good-bye!"

And then we parted.

I stopped on my way to the depot to send a telegram to Mde. de
Beaumont, apprising her of the cause of my enforced departure, and
entreating her to come home as soon as possible lest Hortense should
have another attack of illness. Having discharged this duty, I gave
myself up entirely to my own sad thoughts.







CHAPTER XI.

It was evening when the train reached my destination, a quiet,
pleasant, Autumn evening. The tinted leaves were stirring gently on
the boughs, and here and there an early star was twinkling in the
dusky vault above me. As soon as the noise and tumult had abated a
little, I arose and sauntered slowly towards the doorway of the now
deserted car. On the platform outside stood Mr. Dalton and Freddy,
looking anxiously at the passengers as they filed out from each exit.

Freddy saw me first and cried out impulsively. "Here she is!"

Mr. Dalton turned quickly around and hurried towards me.

"What is the news?" I asked, studying both their faces. "Is he dead?"

"No Amey," Mr. Dalton answered with a voice of deep sympathy, "it is
not so bad as that, though he is very ill indeed!"

"Thank God!" I muttered, "I shall see him and speak to him then after
all."

I got into the carriage with them and drove towards home. Mr. Dalton
did not wait for me to question him, but began to tell me the sad
story of my father's sudden prostration, as soon as the horses' heads
were turned away from the noisy depot.

He had been sitting with him the night before, he said, and they
talked quite cheerfully as usual over their cigars. "He had even been
quizzing me as an old bachelor," Mr. Dalton observed, with a faint
smile, "telling me I had wasted my life in solitude, and all that kind
of thing. It was a fine night and we sat smoking and chatting until it
was quite late, when suddenly I looked at my watch and started up. It
was near midnight."

"Although I have no one to scold me for keeping late hours," said I,
"I must hurry away now; it is time for respectable Christians to be
dreaming."

"And are you a respectable Christian, Dalton?" he interrupted,
playfully.

"Well I might be worse," said I.

"Yes yes, old fellow, that's true" he answered, "I wish more of us
were like you. You're a good fellow Dalton," he continued, rising up
and slapping me vigorously on the shoulders.

With this we shook hands and bade one another goodnight. I lit a fresh
cigar and went out by the library door. There was a bright moonlight
outside, and I sauntered quietly down the causeway towards the street
beyond. I had just reached the gate when I heard Mrs. Hampden's screams
in the distance. I listened and heard her call my name. I flung down
my cigar and rushed back towards the library. The door was open and
your father was lying on the floor with his eyes closed. I persuaded
them all to be quiet, for the servants, and Mrs. Hampden, and Fred
here had all rushed frantically in. We despatched a messenger
immediately for the doctor and in a little while we had the patient
removed to his room, where he now lies. "We are awaiting a crisis" he
added in a low tone, as we drew up in front of our doomed house, "the
doctor says nine hours will bring one change or another."

We stepped out of the vehicle and passed quietly in. Not a sound was
audible anywhere. I went up to my own familiar, little room, and flung
my hat and other out-door apparel listlessly upon the bed. I bathed my
eyes and smoothed my hair, before going out to encounter any one of
the household. In the dimly lighted hall outside, I met old Hannah,
who dropped her apron from her eyes at my approach and whispered:

"The Lord be praised, Miss Amelia but I am glad to see you back. How
do you feel yourself?"

"Oh! I am all right Hannah" I answered, "but how is poor papa, will he
ever get better?"

"God is good Miss Amelia and he does what's best" she put in vaguely,
"when our time comes, you know, the best of us has to go. It's right
to be prepared for the worst, for the will of God must be our will
too."

Her words brought the hot, blinding tears into my eyes again.

"Can I go to him?" I asked, leaning towards her, "Could I speak to
him, would he know me?"

She shook her head silently for a moment and then said:

"The doctor will be here in half an hour or so, perhaps he'd let you
in to see him when he comes. In the meantime" she added, "come down
and eat a bit, for I am sure you don't look much too well yourself."

"What doctor have you?" I asked after a moment's reflection.

"Well, there's two, you know," she answered me gravely, "but Dr
Campbell comes the oftenest. Dr. Jasper and himself came together last
night but he's been here twice to-day already. Oh! he's been so kind
and attentive Miss Amelia, it would do you good to see him."

I changed the subject by asking bluntly, "Where's Mrs. Hampden?"

Hannah hesitated a moment and moved towards the stair.

"She's lying down" she said, "the shock's made her weak."

I followed and we descended into the dining-room below. Some tea
things were spread out upon a tray and Hannah brought in the urn. I
sat down and resting my elbows carelessly on the table, I buried my
face in my hands. With a strict injunction to take some supper Hannah
left me, having various duties to perform outside. The strong aroma of
the freshly-made tea was almost enough to satisfy me. At any rate I
did not pour out any immediately. I was too tired, too dazed, too
everything to exert myself in anyway. My head was still unsteady from
the motion of the car. My eyes burned from the bitter tears I had
shed. My lips were parched, and dry, and feverish, my temples throbbed
with a dull oppressive pain, and my heart was very heavy. I heaved a
deep unsuppressed sigh which died away into a plaintive moan. My lids
closed wearily and two large hot tears fell upon the smooth white
linen table-cloth.

"Amey, my poor child," said someone, laying a heavy hand upon one of
my shoulders. I started and raised my eyes involuntarily. Mr. Dalton
was standing by my chair looking down upon me with an infinite pity in
his face.

"I thought no one was here" I said coldly. "When did you come in?"

He did not answer me with words but I shall never forget the way he
looked when I asked this unfeeling question. His reproachful glance
brought the color to my pale cheeks. I felt ashamed and sorry for
having spoken thus, and I sought to excuse myself in a measure by
saying, "I feel so wearied and distracted, I hardly know what I am
doing."

"Drink a cup of tea, it will refresh you," he said with much deep
solicitude in his voice.

He poured it out himself and laid it down beside me. It was an action
as gentle and graceful as any woman's. Through all my grief and
fatigue, I could not but notice it.

I took it from him and sipped it obediently, while he, with his hands
thrust into his pockets, walked up and down the room in silent
meditation. Before I had finished, the door opened again and Freddy
appeared saying:

"Doctor Campbell is with my father now. He has asked to see you."

Remembering Hannah's words that he might allow me to talk a little to
my father, I jumped from my seat at the sound of this intelligence and
hurried after Freddy.

Mr. Dalton held the door open for me as I passed, and though he spoke
not a word, I knew immediately that he had put a wrong construction
upon my eager response to this summons. It was not a time for
explanations, however, and I hastened past him and up the broad
stairway outside.

At the door of the sick-room Doctor Campbell stood waiting for me. He
put out both hands eagerly and clasped mine. When we are condoling
with one another in such hours as this, we throw off the restraint of
conventionality and stand before one another, as two human souls,
bound by the holy ties of an earnest sympathy; the question of
ordinary decorum becomes suspended, while we weep with our afflicted
brother and sister, and we call one another tenderly and respectfully
by name, though the next moment we must be distant and reserved as
before.

Doctor Campbell led me quietly into the room where my father lay
prostrate, the victim of a dreadful illness. There was hardly any
change discernible in his placid features, only a haggard line about
his mouth that told of inward pain and struggle. His face was a little
flushed and his breathing labored. He opened his eyes so, we
approached the bed and smiled at me. Doctor Campbell seeing that he
recognized me stole from the room and left us alone.

"Poor Amey!" Were the first faint words he uttered closing his eyes
wearily again.

"Do you feel any better?" I asked bending over him and touching my
lips to his brow.

He shook his head on the pillow and muttered feebly:

"It's all over with me, child, only a matter of time."

"Maybe not, father" I argued, but with little confidence. There was
something ominous in his changed expression, something that smote my
heart with a solemn fear as I looked with anxious scrutiny upon him. I
stole from the room for a moment, and went in search of Doctor
Campbell. He was in the library standing before the book shelves when
I entered.

"I want to know Doctor," said I, full of my purpose, "whether my
father is in danger of immediate death."

He started at my question and turned quickly around.

"I am afraid that his chances of life are few indeed Amey," he
answered earnestly. "Perhaps it is as well to let you know."

"It is better" said I, "it is your duty," and with these words I left
the room as abruptly as I had entered it.

It was indeed his duty, for it concerned the destiny of a human soul
that was soon to pass from time into eternity. My father was really
dying, and every moment was of infinite value to him now. As soon as
this terrible realization was thrust upon me, I dried my eyes
deliberately, and calmed my agitated feelings. There will be plenty of
time for grief afterwards, I said to myself, when I am friendless and
alone in the world.

No one had thought of caring for my poor father's spiritual needs in
this awful hour. My step-mother considered her best was done when the
services of two able medical men had been secured, and no one else
wished to make any delicate suggestions while she was assuming the
management. I had arrived therefore in the nick of time, for before
the sun was very high in the heavens on the morning following my
return, my father lay cold and white upon his bed.

All night long, I had watched and prayed with him. Now and then his
feeble voice broke forth in earnest responses, as his dim gaze fell
upon the bronze crucifix I had placed between his fingers, and once
when I had paused to listen to his breathing, he uttered plaintively:
"More, Amey, go on."

How I thanked God for this favor! I, who had prayed so often on bended
knees and with tearful eyes for the ultimate conversion of my father.
When I placed the lighted candle in his dying hand and saw him receive
the last rites of Holy Church, I felt that all the gloom and sorrow of
my heart had been lifted and dispelled in a moment.

When the gray of the early morning crept in through the latticed
window, his eye-lids drooped slowly and shut the things of earth from
his mortal gaze forever.

His lips trembled with a final effort. "Have mercy on me, O God,
according to thy great mercy," and with the words "Father, into thy
hands I commend my spirit!" his last breath was spent, and his voice
echoed into eternity.







CHAPTER XII.

It was easy for us to understand the cause of my father's sudden
illness and death, when we came to enquire into our financial
condition. The family treasury had been well-nigh emptied of its
contents, by a series of pecuniary losses that had been sustained
unknown to us by my unfortunate father previous to his demise. He had
risked his money with good motives and a hopeful outlook, but the
realization had brought such a merciless contradiction to his sanguine
expectations that he gave way under the cruel and unlooked for blow,
and passed out of the medley and confusion in which he had been thrown
by Fate to grope his way unaided and alone. Although we were no longer
what the world calls rich, we were by no means left destitute or poor.
We were, of course, called upon by the exigencies of our altered
circumstances to make many sacrifices. As this was an inevitable
necessity, it was as well for us to put our shoulders bravely and
generously to the wheel and accept the decree with a respectful
resignation. "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away" and men's
defiant or wailing attitudes under an unexpected visitation of
adversity only re-act to their own ultimate prejudice and do not
lessen the heavy burden by a feather-weight.

My step-mother took a rather sensible though worldly view of her
position. She silently resolved that if abnegation were at all
compulsory, and sacrifices demanded by the new tide of affairs, they
would of course be practised, but not where the eye of curious pity
could penetrate.

The world, that had honored and respected her as the wife of a wealthy
man, should never through any fault of hers gain an insight into her
reversed fortunes. This very consciousness, that she had the
scrutinizing eye of society to deceive and a deep misery to veneer
with smooth words and a false glitter, that a fashionable pity had to
be defied and coldly rejected, lent her a heroic fortitude, schooled
her to a forbearance worthy of less sordid motives and flavoured her
very misfortunes with a vital determination that half-soothed the pain
they naturally inflicted.

In the first sad hours of our bereavement we were comforted and
consoled by many friends. I believe that my father was universally
mourned as a good citizen, of sterling worth; he had been no man's
enemy, and had served a goodly number of his fellow-creatures nobly
and generously, without ostentation or self-glory. He was ever a
careful and indulgent, though not an affectionate parent, and now that
he was gone I could afford to interpret his indifference, even in this
way, in a new and more partial manner. He had had no conception of
what the needs of a clinging, susceptible heart may be, and
transgressed entirely out of his ignorance and not through any wilful
intent to make his coldness or carelessness keenly felt.

We never know what our true estimate of any one is until he or she has
been removed beyond the power of our amending or repentant love. If
such a one be called beyond that bourne whence there is no coming
back, how soft, and hallowed, and subdued a light is shed by our
tender, respectful, and sorrowing memory upon what once had been
incentives to our unforgiving and deeply injured pride. If such a one
be cast by accident of circumstances or fate so far away from the
yearning glance of our regretful eyes, so far beyond that pass, where
pleading, human voices become lost in thousand-tongued confusions, how
changed the once bright picture of our lives becomes; how vain and
purposeless all other aims, save that which, with the powerful
strength of a hope that is half despair, pursues the object of our
rash unkindness, with outstretched hands and plaintive tone,
beseeching for a pardon that may never greet our mortal ears? I, who
had lived an obstinate alien from the love and devotion of my parent,
who never went outside the narrow, rigid circle of my unyielding pride
to tempt or merit his regard, now felt a great void left within my
heart which nothing on earth could ever fill again.

When the veil of my former prejudice was rent asunder, and I could
only see the still white features and the folded hands of him from
whose timid love I had become a voluntary exile, how I hated the
sensitive young heart that had turned away in cold rebellion, when its
duty was to glow with an undaunted, even servile fidelity.

Perhaps it was because I found myself so utterly alone, for this death
closed up the narrow by-ways of mutual sympathy that had ever existed
between the widowed Mrs. Hampden and myself. An elder brother of hers
had come to attend her husband's funeral, and had evinced the deepest
and most exclusive solicitude and compassion for her in her
bereavement. He took an intense interest in Fred, holding him at arm's
length for a flattering inspection of his physical perfections, and
looked upon me as some curious outside appendage to the family
pretensions.

They revelled in one another's sustaining sympathy and love, holding
confidential councils by themselves for hours at a time in my late
father's library. I was not intruded upon in my early grief by their
condolences or companionship, they left me uninterrupted to my
broodings and my tears, as if I had not the same right to the
privileges of investigating our altered affairs as they.

Oh, how slow and how weary are those moments of solitary anguish, when
the great tide of universal sympathy is ebbing from us in our grief!
How oppressive the silence of suffering when no soothing accent of
tender and comforting encouragement breaks upon our listening,
impatient ears! How feeble the heart when no helping hand is nigh! How
cheerless the prospect upon which the smile of a sustaining love has
ceased to play!

About a fortnight after the funeral, on a gloomy October day, as I sat
by the window in the privacy of my own room, looking out at falling
leaves, and fading flowers, and drifting clouds, old Hannah rapped
timidly at the door and informed me that "Mrs. Hampden and the
gentleman would like to see me down stairs."

I arose listlessly and sauntered down to the library where they had
all three been just assembled in solemn conclave. My step-mother, in
her fresh black costume and stiff white cap, was seated in a rocking
chair near the door, wearing a placid look of the most harmless and
innocent neutrality: her solicitous brother occupied the extreme outer
margin of a chair by the centre-table, on which his bony hands with
their well-trimmed finger nails were modestly resting, becomingly
folded. The hind legs of his sparingly patronized seat were thrust
into the air by the weight of his high-bred humanity being entirely
deposited upon the front ones. Fred occupied the sofa, where he was
comfortably stretched at full length, with his arms thrown carelessly
over his head which was resting tenderly in his palms.

When I came into the room the three pairs of eyes were simultaneously
turned towards me. My step-mother gave me a gradual look beginning
with the hem of my skirts and reaching my serious face by slow
degrees. Her solicitous brother, without apology or explanation,
lowered his spectacles which, during the family conference, had been
shoved up on his capacious brow, and directed an unflinching stare at
me in the vicinity of my eyes. Fred, who could not take me all in at
once without disturbing himself somewhat, satisfied himself with a
full gaze upon as much of my outline as was easily defined in his
recumbent attitude.

"Have you sent for me?" I asked, indifferently, not addressing anyone
in particular, my aim being merely to break the monotonous silence
which prevailed during my inspection.

The solicitous brother dropped his lower jaw as if he intended to
answer me, after he had given me to understand that I had either
shocked or surprised him very much, or both, and said

"--a--yes, young lady--yes, we have sent for you--a--be seated, young
lady, be seated," he continued, disengaging his modest hands from
their becoming, mutual clasp, and waving one in a graceful, curved
line towards an unoccupied seat in a remote end of the room.

"We think it our duty," he began, in a sepulchral monotone, fastening
his spectacles upon me as if he intended to add, "to frighten you out
of your very wits," which was a rash presumption on my part, however,
for he only said, "to submit to you the result of our careful
investigation into the affairs of your late lamented father." I nodded
a quiet assent, my step-mother pressed a deep-bordered handkerchief to
her eyes, and Fred looked vacantly at the pattern on the wall.

"As you are aware," he continued, clearing his throat which had grown
somewhat rusty from his pompous exordium "the late respected gentleman
in question did not leave matters in as satisfactory a condition as
might have been desired--in fact--eh--well, altogether, the residue of
his once considerable fortune makes but a paltry annuity for his
bereaved survivors. Were Mrs. Hampden the only claimant she would even
then have but a widow's mite, but there are others, unf--others, as
you know, these others, ahem, ahem, of course, have a sort of right to
a reasonable share, although they have youth and energy on their side,
which she has not--however--that is not the point," he put in hastily,
as he detected an uneasy gesture from the object of his solicitude.
"The subject which we have to submit to your consideration, young
lady, is this--we have decided that in her present condition of health
and spirits, Mrs. Hampden is unfit to remain here in the gloomy
presence of depressing associations--in fact it is a question whether
she shall ever be able to resume her domestic duties in this place,"
here the handkerchief with the deep border was again produced, and the
doleful widowed countenance buried in its folds. "We deem it
advisable," said the solicitous brother, casting a look of tender,
heart-stirring compassion upon his afflicted relative, "to remove her
to her native town, where her surroundings will be less suggestive of
the recent heavy loss she has been called upon to sustain, and where
her crushed energies may regain some of their old buoyancy." The
shapely shoulders of the afflicted relative shook with convulsive
sobs, after which melancholy interruptions the solicitous brother
proceeded in a less feeling and more business-like tone.

"As circumstances have kept you estranged from the friends and
immediate relatives of your late father's surviving wife, we feared
you might not be willing to accompany her on this journey. Her son, of
course, would not desert her in any case just now but being still
under age, must submit himself to her immediate guardianship,
therefore, young woman, if you have any particular friends or
relatives of your own whom you would like to visit for an indefinite
time, we beg that you notify them and prepare yourself as soon as
possible. It is Mrs. Hampden's desire that the furniture be disposed
of for safe-keeping, and the house carefully locked and secured before
her departure; I trust, therefore, that you will not delay in
considering the subject, and that you will kindly submit your decision
to us as soon as possible."

There was a dead silence for a few moments after this eloquent
address.

"Is that all?" I then asked coldly and firmly, rising from my seat,
and looking at him straight in the face.

"A--ahem--yes, young lady. I think there is no other point left to be
discussed" the solicitous brother simpered, dropping the hind legs of
his chair and coming towards the door to escort me, and "I trust you
will not experience any inconvenience" he added in a half conciliatory
tone--"we lost no time--eh--in making known our decision to you."

"Oh, you are very kind and considerate. I shall always feel deeply
indebted to you!" I retorted quietly as I swept past him, out of the
room.

I went back to my vacant seat by the window, and threw myself wearily
into it--then--it had come to this--that I was politely turned out of
my own home with no option, no alternative but to seek whatever
shelter I best could find among strangers! It was hard, to be left at
the mercy of such a bitter fate as this! So young, so friendless, so
proud, and a woman!

I did not burst into tears at the melancholy realization, tears were a
mockery then: there was too much fire flaming in my eyes, and boiling
my blood with indignation; my bosom heaved with quick-drawn sighs, and
my lips were smiling in angry scorn. This, then was the result of
their secret conferences, to get rid of me! It was not a difficult
task, if they only knew it, for my pride would fight more than half
their battles for them, and carry me anywhere, to the farthermost
corner of the earth, rather than see me trespass upon their privacy or
interfere with their selfish plans. I was their toy, their tool, they
were not honest enough to challenge me in fair and open combat, they
plotted without me, and behind my back, I would not buckle on my
sword, for so unworthy an engagement, no matter what the issue cost
me. I would let them carry the day. It is the only kind of triumph
designing heroes ever know, and we who are above the cowards'
subterfuge, can well afford to give them this, we would not have it
said, we stood to meet them, lest it might be inferred, that we had
come down from the pedestal of our untarnished dignity, to their
inglorious level.

But these boisterous reflections soon became spent. I could not afford
to be quite so defiant, I, who was alone in the wide world? A serious
duty lay before me, the future, with its burden of uncertain sorrows
lay at my feet, the past was nothing to me now, but a receding vision
of happiness more secure than any I was ever likely to know again. I
must go in search of a home, where would I turn my eyes? North, South,
East or West? they were all strange alike to me? I thought of
Hortense, and my parting promise to her, but there was no comfort in
the remembrance of it now. Any other test of friendship but this! How
could I live under one roof with uncongenial souls like Bayard de
Beaumont? How did I know whether they would welcome me now, when I was
homeless, and in a sense dependent?

I thought of the dear, distant Abbey, where I had passed the happiest
days of my not over-happy life--but it was now some years since I had
left its safe seclusion, and those who had known me and cared for me,
were likely scattered and gone.

I would be greeted with that reserved kindness which good stranger
hearts extend to any homeless waif--and that, would be worse than all!
I thought of my fashionable companions, who had pampered me, and
courted me, in my palmy days. How different they all appeared to me
now, when I was in need of their kindness and favour! Alice Merivale
was away, pleasuring in England, the Hartmanns! the Hunters! the
Pendletons! what a cold shoulder they would turn to me, any of them,
did I seek their shelter in comparative poverty!

And even if they welcomed me, and ministered to my every want, could I
rest quietly beneath their roofs? Could I subdue my rebellious pride
and accept their patronage humbly and gratefully "Ah no," said I,
rising up, with a deep-drawn sigh, "I must think of some other plan,
none of these would ever do?"

While I was yet standing in deliberation by the window, the door
opened softly, and my step-mother glided in. I turned, and looked at
her for a moment, as she advanced towards me and then directed my gaze
back again in silence to the street below. She came nearer and laid
her thin hand upon my shoulder. I recoiled involuntarily.

"Amey" she began in the gentle tones of an eager peace maker, "I have
come to talk to you a little about the subject just mentioned by my
brother."

"Is there anything he left out, pray?" I interrupted incisively.

"No," she answered reproachfully, "but you may not understand our
motives properly?"

"Through no fault of his then," I muttered half savagely, "he was most
explicit, I thought!"

"You are inclined to be unfair to us Amey, and we are trying to do
everything for the best," said my step-mother persuasively.

"That depends on what you mean, by _the best_" I interrupted curtly.

"We mean, the welfare of all concerned," she broke in, "my brother
insists upon my returning with him, and Freddie will, of course,
accompany me. So might you," she added courteously, "but I think it
would not be wise. You would not be happy among my relatives, of that
I am sure. So we think, that leaving you the option of a choice from
among your own numerous friends, is the most discreet policy of all."

"You are very kind," said I, with choking sarcasm, "to have thought of
me at all. You might have given me up with the furniture for
safe-keeping, or locked me securely away here in the house until your
return."

"Don't be so unkind, Amey," my step-mother pleaded amicably, "you
ought to know, that I am concerned in your welfare and will not leave
here, until I see you comfortably lodged."

"Like the furniture?" said I.

She did not answer this with words, but I felt her scrutinizing look
directed full upon me, I knew I was in a most uncharitable and
provoking mood, but I was not responsible, heaven knows, for what I
said or did under such maddening influences. I did not want to give
full vent to my momentary hatred and indignation, and as my step
mother's attitude was tempting me strongly to indulge both, I turned,
and said as calmly as I could:

"Have you anything in particular to say to me, that I have not heard
before? If not, I think we had better separate!"

"I thought you would not object to discuss our projected plans, a
little, with me," she answered with a subdued peevishness. "If you
were not so cold and proud, I would like to offer you a few
suggestions and in some way prove to you, that my guardianship,
limited though it may be, is not merely a formal responsibility."

"What would you have me do?"

"I can't say definitely--but if you would only rouse yourself to a
full realization of your position, there is a great deal in your power
to do. You are an orphan now, and reject my authority in every way--it
is evident that we can never be friends. Why don't you look about you,
for love and devotion that will make a happy substitute for what you
have lost? You are no longer a child; you are quite able to face the
more serious responsibilities of life. If you gave your present
attention to this, there would be no necessity for your going among
strangers."

"If I gave my attention to what?" I interrupted sullenly.

"You understand me very well--if you wished, you could make yourself
very comfortable. Some of the best chances which the city affords are
within your reach; other girls would not need to have them pointed out
so."

"I suppose you mean marriage!" I said indifferently. "Well, there is
just this difference between me and other girls, on this point, _I_
shall never choose matrimony as the lesser of two evils. I shall never
seek it as a refuge, nor grasp it as a ready alternative; _I_ have
been brought up to look upon it as a sacrament, of course, I must
allow for that," I added pointedly.

"That is a very high-sounding principle indeed," she replied, "but it
can hardly be applied just now. You can't help the issues of fate, and
if you were worthy of men's special admiration and love before this, I
suppose a change in your condition, or in the outward circumstances
that affect you but indirectly, can make no difference--" She stopped,
and after an effective pause added, "It will make none to Arthur
Campbell, anyway, of that I am sure."

"Arthur Campbell has never asked me to become his wife," I broke in
emphatically.

"That is your own fault. You have not given him proper encouragement."

"No, because I am not at all certain that I would accept him."

"Then you are a fool," she cried out warmly and indignantly, "and you
deserve your lot. He is everything that one could wish, as far as
wealth and appearance, and family and rank, are concerned. He was,
moreover, a favorite of your poor father's and his friend to the end,"
she added with a tremulous voice, "and your poor father often spoke of
you being married to Arthur Campbell," she continued, persuasively, "I
heard him say it time and again."

"My father said this, you are sure," I exclaimed, looking eagerly into
her face.

"He did indeed, I remember well having heard him," she answered with
deep emphasis.

"But, my father did not know," I began in a low murmur, looking
wistfully out at the yellow leaves and fleeting clouds. I stopped
suddenly, remembering that I was not alone. Before either of us could
speak again Hannah appeared in the doorway with the afternoon mail
between her hands.

This interrupted our _tete-a-tete_. My step-mother took the bundle of
letters, from which she handed me three, and went away to share the
contents of her own with her sympathetic relatives below. Two of mine
were familiar to me; one bearing an English post-mark was from Alice
Merivale, the other was Hortense's dear writing.

I tore them open and, resuming my seat, read them leisurely. How
different they were in every respect! One the effusion of a worldly,
artful, diplomatic beauty, the other an earnest interpretation of the
loving, ardent sentiments of a whole-souled emotional child woman.

Alice had not yet heard of my father's death, and her closely-written
pages told tales of fashionable pleasures and distractions of every
sort. She had yachted and hunted, and bathed and danced, she had dined
with the pompous Lord Mayor of London; she had hung on the braided
coat sleeve of high military relics of modern antiquity, and had been
kissed on both cheeks by all the wrinkled-lipped dowagers of the
surrounding country.

She had been riding and driving, eating and drinking, walking and
talking, with magnates of every age, sex and condition. "At first it
perfectly appalled me, Amey love," she wrote in her strange, facetious
way, "none but the upper, upper cream of humanity wherever I went. Of
course it is taken for granted that I am worthy of the great
privileges extended to me. Everything is so intensely exclusive in
this Christian country. People whose hands are soiled with the stain
of labour, I don't care how refined or how honest it is, never by any
chance find themselves at the mahogany board of aristocracy.
Coat-sleeves bearing the finger-marks of honourable industry could not
safely rub against the sleek broadcloth of high-life unless by
sacrificing some of their beautiful (?) hieroglyphics and forfeiting
to some extent the reputations they have earned and not inherited."

"I wonder what some of these starched patricians would do in our
country, Amey? for there respectable commercial industry is wined and
dined without question by Her Majesty's worthy representatives, the
least evil, I suppose, would be the complete loss of appetite, that
would be sure to assail them."

"I can't tell how much longer we may remain here," her interesting
letter continued, "Papa is still hopeful of wonderful results, there
are some placid suitors going about, loaded with a burden of pedigree
and the honours of their dead, and I know that my sanguine parent
fondly expects, that he shall awake some morning and find our
generation made famous by such a burden being condescendingly laid
before my satin slippers. _Vanitas Vanitatum!_ But, how grand it would
be? Picture it, think of it, common place men! Sir Maximus and Lady
Adlepait? How would the obscure Miss Hampden, fancy that? To be sure,
this indefinite suitor has nought but the borrowed chivalry of his
departed ancestors, and if he seek to crown me at all (which is only a
heart-rending possibility) it must be with the laurels, hard won by
the heroes of a former generation. His silky hands will be full of
nothing more tempting than slender veins of genuine blue-blood--but,
as papa says--what do we want any more money for, we have enough for
any ordinary human life-time?"

"If the project of my anxious parent should assume any definite or
reliable outlines, I shall let you know immediately, for I have
implicit faith in you, and I know you would never betray me, I must
tell my novel experiences and opinions to some one, and the best
someone is you. Take every care of yourself, while I am absent, some
day you will be coming to my manor-house on a visit. I will try to get
a husband who has some unmarried masculine relatives, so as to keep up
the fun of my own courtship among my particular girl-friends. I intend
to make the most of my life while it lasts, I believe in the world I
am most sure of, so don't trouble me with any of your pious lectures,
they only upset me, and make me feel very gloomy. Give my love to
every one who thinks of asking about me, and write a long, chatty,
gossiping letter, very soon to your sincere ALICE."

Her bright, spicy pages had wooed me away from all my gloomy thoughts
and surroundings. My tired spirit had flown across the broad Atlantic
at sight of her missive, and reveled for a few happy moments, amid
phantom pleasures. Now, with her finished letter lying in my listless
fingers, upon my lap, I was creeping back to my sorrows from this
outward sunshine, that had fallen in a golden flood, upon the dark
shadows of my present miseries. The slow awakening to my actual
condition reminded me of my third, unnoticed letter. I took it up
aimlessly, it was unfamiliar to me, and turned it over in my hand.

"Who is it from?" I muttered in quiet astonishment, tearing the thick
envelope across with a half amused curiosity. The reader will not
wonder that my curiosity became still more deeply aroused as I took
out the neatly folded paper which was enclosed, and read the
following--

"MY DEAR AMEY,--I have learned with profound regret of your dear
father's recent demise, and hasten to offer you my most earnest
condolence. It is a great grief, I know, but not without its
consolations, for it is our beautiful privilege, to live in hope,
awaiting the day of a happy re-union with those who are not lost but
only gone before.

"In the early hours of our sorrow, no matter what its nature may be,
we cannot incline ourselves to look upon the brighter side, which our
friends will endeavour to hold up to us; therefore I will not intrude
my feeble words of comfort upon you now; my object in writing to you
at present is to ask you whether you intend to live on with your
father's second wife or not?

"If you should find yourself in any dilemma pertaining to this
critical question, I wish you to understand, that my house and home
(such as they are) will always be open to you. You have a right to
them, and nothing would give me greater pleasure, than to have you
with me. In a sense we are strangers, for circumstances have kept us
apart, but, I think I love you more dearly than any of those with
whose names and lives you are more familiar.

"I am the only surviving relative of your dear, dead mother in this
country; our fathers, being brothers, but as I lost mine in my early
youth, I was brought up in my uncle's house, with your mother for a
little sister.

"It now happens, that you may need the shelter of a real home. I wish
I had better to offer you, but such as it is, I beg you will not
hesitate to accept it, if it can relieve you from greater discomforts.

"I am, my dear Amey,

"Your loving and sincere cousin,

"BESSIE NYLE."

My hands fell into my lap a second time; I was almost dazed with
astonishment. To think that at the very moment when I was puzzling
over the melancholy enigma, of where to find a home whose shelter
could be both generously given and comfortably received, this strange
but earnest offer should suggest itself.

Without a moment's hesitation or forethought, I sat down and wrote a
hurried reply, accepting with eager enthusiasm the shelter of her home
and love, adding, that circumstances would force me to avail myself of
her cordial hospitality even sooner, perhaps, than she expected, as my
step-mother was leaving the house in a week from that date and would
like to see me safely disposed of before her departure.

It was only when this letter was sealed and dispatched that I began to
analyse my extraordinary situation and its possible issues. It is true
that at the time of my decision I saw only a haven of rest rising out
of the gloom and mists that hung heavily about me, some definite
shelter from the storm of confusion and sorrow that had broken upon my
life so suddenly.

But when time wore on a little I began to question myself uneasily
about the step I had so precipitately taken. To act upon my cousin's
kind suggestion, was to go away from all my dearest and fondest
associations; it would oblige me to give up my past life, sorrows and
joys alike; to abandon the few friends, in whose companionship I had
found one of my rarest delights, and to go among strangers who could
not care for me except in a relative or, at most, an indirect way.

What would they say? those who pretended to be interested in my
welfare and happiness, when they found I had gone to a new home among
new faces and strange hearts, would they miss me? Would they wish me
back? or would they soon forget me amid the other gay distractions of
their daily lives?

Should I let them know that I was to leave so soon for an indefinite
length of time? If they were anxious about me they could come and find
it out; but they had come after the funeral and I would not see them;
how could they tell I wanted them now? It was the penalty of my former
indifference that I must need sympathy and consolation when they had
both passed out of my reach.

What a dreary, endless thing life seemed at this period!

A sort of lethargy had taken firm hold of all my senses. I went about
like one dreaming, sighing and weeping, and wishing I were dead. My
heart lay like a heavy stone within my breast, and a dark impenetrable
gloom seemed to have shut out all the brightness of life from my eyes
forever.

It was dreary Autumn weather besides, and that fed my morbid
tendencies considerably, the wind was plaintive and the leaves were
dying, the very sunshine looked pale and cold.

A few days after my reply to cousin Bessie's generous offer I received
a second letter from her which was earnest and loving, and gentle as
the first. She expressed great delight at my decision and ensured me
the heartiest of welcomes on my arrival.

It was now the eve of our departure and most of our preparations were
consummated. I sat in my usual retreat by the window looking out for
the last time upon everything that could remind me of a period when I
was less miserable than I was then. Now, that I had nothing to
distract or busy me, I could sit with folded hands communing with my
past and making uncertain conjectures about my future.

I could be happy with Hortense de Beaumont, I thought, if her family
were not so strange--and yet--could I? after what had passed. My
friendship with her had cost me more than I had ever feared or dreamed
of and still it was not her fault nor my own. It had been our fate,
that we should both have loved the same man, at least not love him,
but be capable of loving him, which is a different thing. She really
loved Ernest Dalton and I?--might have loved him at any moment, but
that moment must never come now.

Hortense should never have cause to think regretfully of what might
have been, were it not for Amey Hampden; I should never stand in her
way except to guard her, to shield her from sorrow or harm.

I could imagine too well what the pain would be to love and to lose in
this instance, and I should therefore never inflict it upon any heart
whose happiness was as dear to me as my own. It is true that up to
this, Ernest Dalton had never spoken to me of his love, how could I
then presume to sacrifice him, when he was not mine to give or to
hold? Ah! whoever does not believe in any love but that which finds an
outlet in articulate words, knows little or nothing about its power or
depth. There is a voiceless love that is neither seen nor heard by
other eyes and ears--and I believe it is the best--underlying the
framework of our lives; it is a part of every pulse and fibre of our
being, no one may know it, no one may heed it, but it glows on
undaunted, with its steady, faithful purpose, ministering to its own
great needs out of the fulness and abundance of its own intensity.
Such is the nature of the noblest sentiments which have ever inspired
a human heart, the love of God is a silent love, but it is also an
active, self-abnegating love, the love of country is a silent love,
too great, too sacred for paltry, feeble words. Is it an active love?
History knows best.

And our love for one another, may it not lean towards this wonderful
perfection? May it not be a silent love of that silence which is far
more expressive than words? May it not brighten our eyes and quicken
our pulse, though our lips look so neutral and dumb? Does any one
doubt it? Anyone at least, whose own keen perceptions have left him
above the necessity of falling in with the ready-made judgments and
opinions of the surface-scanning multitude?

I do not say that such was Ernest Dalton's regard for me; I do not say
that at this time he loved me, I mean in a particular way; but I do
say, because I do think, that he acted as if he could. I was not quite
the same to him as every other woman friend, he had not spoken to me
on many occasions since my return from school; but though they were
few they were sufficient to convince me of this.

If a person be honest and trustworthy, the art of veneering is almost
beyond his grasp. His smile is a true smile, and his frown a sincere
frown; he will not caress you with one hand and cruelly smite you with
the other; he can never be a friend to your face and a foe when your
back is turned. If he loves you it is written on every feature of his
truthful countenance, if he despises you he will show it to you alone.
I doubt if there ever lived a more honest or trustworthy being than
Ernest Dalton.

It was a temptation to fall in love with a man like him, with his
depth of character and his strength of feeling, with truth and wisdom
on his lips, with honor and virtue in his heart. According to our
common ideas of men and what we would like them to be, it was little
wonder that Hortense and I both knowing Ernest Dalton, should have
leaned towards him impulsively from the first, though his years were
double our own. So tall and so dignified as he was, with such a
striking face and such engaging manners, so courteous, so clever, so
good, and he was not yet old, the sprinkling of gray in the hair that
crept over his handsome brow seemed to lend fresh vigour to his looks
and confirm the character which his appearance otherwise insinuated.

But all this was nothing to _me now_, no more than if it had been some
passing dream of summer sun-light and flowers; no more than if some
optical illusion had dazzled my eyes and gladdened my heart for a
short moment, and left me as suddenly again, with my tame and
common-place reality.

I must not even dwell upon the memory of what might have been, for I
was pretty sure to marry some one else, and then Ernest Dalton could
never come back to me in any other light than that of a devoted
friend. "I have saved myself in time," said my thought, as I stood up
and went away from the window, "a day might have come when to give him
up would be to renounce the happiness of my whole life--that day that
I had sometimes fondly, though vainly, dreamed of, with all its
witching possibilities and which now lay crumbled to dust at my feet.

"What else could I expect?" said I, with a weary sigh, "Is not pain
the fate of the great majority, is not sorrow the portion of the
children of men?" Anyhow, I was not likely to see Mr. Dalton ever
again. I had sent him his locket, with a few words explaining that
"_it had been found_ in the library, and _being identified_ as his, I
was happy to return it, hoping that its temporary loss had not caused
him uneasiness or worry."

I thought that was the best way of returning it, under the
circumstances, and the safest for me, it would prevent any awkward
explanations, and accomplish the chief end as effectually as a
personal interview. This opinion, however, was not Mr. Dalton's, for as
I turned from the window I could hear the shrill ringing of a bell
below, and a moment later Hannah came to announce--

"Mr. Dalton!"

"I cannot see him!" I said, "I am busy and tired--and--tell him, I do
not see any one, that will do!"

"Miss Amelia, I think you'd better come," old Hannah suggested, with a
respectful, suasive tone, "he says he is the oldest friend you have,
and so interested in your welfare, you might show him a little more
deference, that's just what he said, when he saw me looking reluctant
about obeying his wish. You know Miss he's always been like a limb of
the family--and it seems unfair."

"Yes, yes Hannah, I will go!" I interrupted eagerly, "tell him, I
shall be down in a moment." I flew to the glass, and began to smoothen
my ruffled hair, it was better after all to go down, as if nothing
were the matter, he was only my friend, my good, trustworthy friend,
and I was not treating him as he merited to be treated in this
capacity.

Having restored some order to my appearance, I followed old Hannah
down the broad stairway, and entered the drawing-room. He was standing
by the mantel, with his back turned, as I went in; in one hand, he
held his hat and stick, in the other some vagrant trifle he had taken
from the mantel-piece, and which he was studying with seemingly great
interest and attention.

At the sound of my foot-fall, he turned slowly around, and came
forward to greet me; his face was very serious, and his manner steady
and quiet.

"I am glad you have come Amey!" he said, as he took my hand and held
it tenderly for a moment, "I feared you would send me away again
to-day--although, I do not wish to intrude upon you in your grief. I
hear, you are going away!" he then added, motioning me to a seat, and
throwing himself half wearily into another, "Is it true?"

"Yes, my cousin, Mrs. Nyle, has written for me," I answered timidly,
"and I have decided to go--to-morrow!"

"To-morrow!" he repeated with some surprise.

"Yes, to-morrow morning, the others take the afternoon train for their
destination," I said quietly.

"How long do you think you will remain away?" he next asked.

"I cannot tell, it will all depend upon circumstances."

"What circumstances, Amey?"

I coloured a little, and looked across the room. It was his privilege
as a friend to ask these questions I supposed, although I was not
quite prepared to answer them.

"Whether I like my new home and friends, and whether they like me," I
began awkwardly.

"Oh, that is what you mean?" he exclaimed gently, interrupting my
reply.

I was silent, this was not a safe subject, what else did he think I
could have meant?

"I suppose if I had not called this afternoon, you would have gone
without bidding me good-bye," he resumed, after a short pause.

"I have not said any good-byes," I answered with an effort to justify
myself. "I didn't see the use" I added, half scornfully, "I am not the
Amey Hampden to the world, now, that I used to be."

"You are to me--you will always be!"

This was a most stable friendship. How good and sincere he was!

"Thank you, Mr. Dalton, it is kind of you to say so, a friend in need,
you know, is a friend indeed."

"It is the only time I could ever feel that I was your friend, Amey,"
he said, with a half melancholy voice, "even when you were a little
child, you never took much notice of me, unless something had gone
wrong."

I liked this allusion to the past, it was timely, and brought out our
present relationship clearly and comfortably. I laughed, and looked at
him freely, as I answered:

"That must have been pretty often, for it seems to me that things have
been going wrong all my life," then fearing to strike a dangerous
key-note, I added, hastily, "but I must not complain, there are
hundreds of people more miserable than I in the world."

"I know one, at any rate, who is," he interrupted, in an undertone. "I
have to thank you for returning my locket," he continued, in the same
strain, as if it had been suggested by the first remark, "I had given
it up as an irretrievable loss."

"Oh! then you got it safely," I exclaimed, with a forced
gratification, "I am so glad it was found, for your sake."

"I would not like to lose it now, it is older than you are, Amey," he
observed, without changing his sonorous voice.

"Is it indeed?" I answered, not knowing what else to say.

"I lost it on the day of the Merivales' last 'At Home,'" he went on,
as if talking to himself, "I had it when I came in here, and I missed
it when I went out."

"You were not here on that day, were you?" I interrupted, impulsively,
after which I could have bitten the end of my tongue off.

He was confused for a moment; it was the first time I had ever seen
him in the least agitated, and in my curious astonishment I lost all
self-control.

"I would remember if you had been here, for the day is clearly stamped
in my memory: it was cold and stormy," I argued, warmly, "I don't
think anyone went out of doors that could help it; it was drifting and
blustering so."

"So it was," he answered, evasively, "what a good memory you have."

"For trifles--yes," said I, somewhat playfully. A pause ensued, during
which he looked straight before him at the pattern on the carpet I
twisted my rings abstractedly round my fingers, trying to think of
something safe to talk about, when, to my surprise, he stood up
abruptly before me, and held out his hand.

"It is growing late," he said, with a friendly smile, "and I must not
detain you; this is," (and he took my timid fingers firmly in his own
deep grasp) "good-bye, I suppose?"

His full gaze was upon me I could feel it I could see it even before I
had raised my eyes.

"This is good-bye," I repeated, meeting his glance bravely and openly.

"Good-bye then, and may God bless you, Amey," he said, with a deep,
earnest voice; "Sometimes when your memory flies back to your old
home, give a kindly thought to your old friends as well, for we shall
often, often think of you."

He was holding my hand all the while, which is not forbidden between
such friends as we were, and without taking it away, I looked
reproachfully into his face, and said:

"Don't think so little of me as to imagine I need this parting
rejoinder, Mr. Dalton; I can ill afford to forget my few good friends,
and you have always been one to me. I hope when we meet again, I will
have no more to reproach you with in this respect than you will have
against me. I could not say more than this."

"Oh, yes you could," he faltered, laying his other hand over my
captive fingers, "but it is better not, my--Amey, at least--never
mind, I was forgetting--good-bye once again, and God bless you."

I could feel the touch of his trembling hands upon my own; I could
hear the sound of his agitated voice vibrating around me--and I might
never see him again!

I stood motionless for a few seconds in the open doorway where he had
just left me, feeling dazed and bewildered. His presence seemed to
linger a little with me after he had gone! Something in the very
atmosphere thrilled me as if his spirit had tarried to witness the
re-action that now took place, and had in tender pity shrouded me with
its consoling and protecting love.

I felt miserable and lonely, and creeping up the stairway again, I
returned to the refuge of my room, and threw myself wearily on my bed.
The twilight was beginning to fall, and with its advancing shadows
came trooping before my tearful eyes all the various episodes of my
chequered life.

To think that mine were what the world had ever called favoured
circumstances! I knew a hundred and one persons who looked upon me as
a happy, gifted girl, because, forsooth, I had had money and position
because I had education and social advantages! If this was what the
world called happiness, what then could its misery be?

The question tormented me, whether in the end it were better to follow
in the dazzling wake of this all-conquering worldliness, and by
crushing all my scruples arise to a new life of careless, thoughtless
gaiety, like Alice Merivale's; or whether the whispers of my better
impulse were the more salutary and satisfactory of the two, and bound
me in all conscience to an obedience and sanction of its precepts.

It was too late now, however, to discuss this point any longer with
myself. I had acted so far upon a magnanimous resolve, which, though
doomed to cast a shadow upon my own personal lot, would flood another
life with the beauty and glory of a compensating sunshine.

"It is more blessed to give than to receive," I said, inwardly, and if
I persevere in this generous determination, though it engender
repeated acts of self-denial, I cannot but be recompensed in the end.
My new home and friends will distract me greatly from my broodings,
and by and by all these ephemeral sorrows will have passed away, as
young sorrows always do, leaving but a faint trace behind them.

"But, if Ernest Dalton be in love with Hortense de Beaumont," said the
little voice on the plaintiffs side, "why does he show you such signs
of preference as these; is that the course, of a truly honourable
man?"

"Surely!" said the defence "If I magnify evidences of a substantial
friendship into something more serious, that is not his
fault--besides, he may love me in a way, but he must love her
better--and, in any case, supposing he should love me best, if I offer
him no encouragement, if I even positively refuse him, Hortense's
happiness cannot but be ultimately benefited by it."

I arose, in a little while, and bathed my face, for the dinner-hour
was near, and I had to play my part for the last time, before the trio
below.

When I went down, they were already seated around the table, my
step-mother in solemn consciousness at one end, and her solicitous
brother looking meekly up at her from the other. Fred had all one side
to himself, the other, was reserved for me.

It was a quiet, formal meal, disturbed now and then by a curt
monosyllable from one or the other of us. We had not much to say to
each other, considering that it was our last repast around that family
board, the dishes and cutlery had all the chat and confusion among
themselves. When it was over, I went back to my own quarters and
attended to my final preparations, the time of my departure was now
near at hand.

Next morning I looked in vain for some friendly face at the depot. No
one had thought of me at the last, though most of my friends had heard
of my intended departure. I could not be convinced so soon that I was
no longer the same person whom these people had flattered and courted
a few short months ago.

Our home, disturbed by the hand of death, was no longer a temple of
society worship where gas-light revels would be held and the comets of
the gay world gathered together to feast. Henceforth, I was an orphan
girl with limited means and uncertain prospects. Some day, if I
married well, these people would suddenly remember my past glories and
then, these slumbering friendships would be likely to revive; to open
their hearts and homes to me again. Until then I must consider myself
as set aside, not rudely, nor coldly, but with a negative intimation
of my altered circumstances which has quite sufficient force for any
soul so keen and sensitive as mine.

In one sense, of course, it was all the same to me. I had never
counted upon these social ties to any extent, and would not feel their
loss acutely but--these poor human hearts of ours--how they will yearn
for other human sympathies and regards? I could have been resigned to
leave my home and early associations if I might take away with me the
soothing conviction that my absence left a void somewhere, anywhere,
that would always be a void until I came back to fill it. I had an
exalted notion of fidelity and remembrance then, which has been
roughly used upon the touchstone of experience since.

But as even this frail compensation was denied me, I saw more clearly
than ever how urgent it was for me to go forth resignedly where
thousands of my fellow-toilers were struggling already, and, without
looking back upon my brighter yesterday, press onward patiently and
forbearingly in the course which an unexpected reverse had opened out
for me.

When night fell I was lodged in my new home.







CHAPTER XII.

My cousin Bessie, or Mrs. Robert Nyle, lived in a small, comfortable
house, on a quiet street, in a small comfortable city, not more than a
day's journey from the place of my former residence.

I had, of course, made many conjectures about the relative merits and
demerits of the new home towards which I was travelling in all haste.
With nothing more accurate to build upon than my cousin's reserved
letters and my own vivid imagination, it could hardly be expected that
I could arrive very near the truth in my speculations about my
uncertain destiny.

Nor did I. I had pictured my cousin Bessie as quite a morbid and prosy
character, suspended midway between a hopeless resignation and a
helpless despair. I thought there must be lines of sadness about her
mouth and a profusion of silver in her hair, I had almost heard her
plaintive sighs, and had begun to invent cures for her nervous
headaches. I do not know why such gloomy foresights loomed up before
me, unless it be because I fancied she was poor and yet educated, and
in our circle at that time it was generally believed that people so
situated were eminently miserable and uncomfortable. We will not be
satisfied with the uncertain until we have made mental sketches of the
people and places connected with it, even though they be all awry, as
mine were in this instance.

Cousin Bessie was a tall, graceful woman with chestnut brown hair and
fine soft eyes, her figure was slight as a girl's, though she was no
longer young, and her step was as active and light as ever it could
have been in her maiden days. She was not a beautiful woman, but there
was as much kindness and dignity combined in her dear face as to make
it more attractive than many a handsome one. I was simply charmed with
her appearance and manner, and made up my mind that I had no further
reason to be solicitous about my future happiness after she had taken
me securely under her charge.

Cousin Bessie's household consisted of her husband, Robert Nyle, and
their two children, Zita and Louis. Mr. Nyle, who was somewhat older
than his wife, was one of these placid, easy going husbands that the
world knows little about on account of their retirement and admirable
domestic qualities. Zita was then a pretty, growing girl of sixteen
summers and Louis a handsome boy of eighteen.

I lived with cousin Bessie for many seasons, and at the end of that
time I had become more truly attached to her and her dear family than
I had ever been to my own. Yet they were plain people, living a quiet,
unostentatious life in the very heart of social exuberances, they were
not rich either, in fact they had little more than medium comforts, of
those which it takes money to buy, but the sweetness and happiness of
their home was not of that kind which gold can gather, it is richer
and rarer far than that.

It pleased me to find that they were not wealthy nor worldly. I had so
little now, myself, that richer relatives would have pitied me and
been urged to bestow petty charities upon me now and then, when my own
diminished income proved insufficient to meet the great demands that
stylish living could not fail to make upon it.

"I hope you won't feel like a captive bird in this little cage of
ours," cousin Bessie remarked with a quiet smile the morning after my
arrival. "I offered it only as a shelter, Amey, you know, until you
can make yourself more comfortable elsewhere."

I looked at her reproachfully and answered without hesitation:

"I am glad you do not specify my time. I hope I may take as long as I
like, to find some place I prefer to this."

"Oh certainly!" said she, with a covert amusement. "You are more than
welcome to remain here, as long as you are contented."

There was a time, when I would have doubted the possibility of my
being satisfied under circumstances such as these, but to look upon
respectable seclusion from a distance, is not really to see, and
understand what it is; there is a latent charm about it, which is
known only to those who embrace it with cheerful hearts.

Cousin Bessie had no servants, not even one, fashionable humanity,
think of _that_! This surprised and even disappointed me at first, but
soon it also became absorbed by that all prevailing spirit of quiet
contentment that presided over their domestic circle, and kept the sun
shining when it was shadow outside.

I did not question cousin Bessie about the necessity for dispensing
with menial assistance. It was a delicate subject, but when Zita and
Louis and Mr. Nyle went away, one morning after breakfast, I began to
clear away the dishes and make myself generally useful.

Cousin Bessie watched me from her corner by the kitchen table, where
she was engaged in preparing some sundries for the next meal and when
I had made my last trip with an armful of the breakfast equipage, she
looked up with a meaning smile, and said,

"This is the see-saw of life, Amey, yesterday you were away up, and
to-day you are away down."

"It is the safer place of the two, Cousin Bessie, don't you think so?"

"Well, if I did not think it, Amey, my life would hardly be worth
living," she answered with a quiet emphasis.

"Why? You don't think you will always be down, do you?" I asked
timidly, plunging a cup and saucer into the boiling water.

"I don't know; we were better off once, in one way, but it is a long
time ago," she answered, taking a large white apron from a peg beside
her in the wall, and offering it to me, "Put this over your dress,
child, and take off your pretty rings," she put in parenthetically,
and then went on--

"Robert was a man of wealth when we married, we had a fine house with
servants and horses and every such luxury--while the money was there
he lavished it upon us: but he lost heavily one year, there was a bank
failure first, and a series of smaller misfortunes followed quickly in
its wake. We had to sacrifice house and horses, and all, and come down
the ladder to our present station. The children found it hard in the
beginning, but they have come to look upon it now, nearly as their
father and I do."

"But you are not poor, cousin Bessie," I interrupted, as I dried a
plate briskly with my linen cloth.

"No: not poor exactly: but we must be careful and economical for
awhile, until Zita and Louis are educated: we will make every
sacrifice that is necessary to grant them a thorough education. When
they are rich in knowledge they won't mind how empty their purses are;
they will feel themselves equal to the best in the land. When they
have finished their courses here, if they show themselves susceptible
to a still higher training, we will make still greater restrictions
upon our household expenses to favor any particular talent they may
have developed. Robert and I decided that long ago."

"I suppose it is a good plan," I said half doubtfully, "if it does not
unfit them for their after-life."

"You mean it may raise them above their station?" cousin Bessie
interrupted eagerly. "Well, you are not the only one who thinks that,
but it never shall. We have seen such a possible danger ahead and have
laboured to avert it I have done my utmost all their lives to bring
them up to frugal habits. We have taught them to live sparingly in
every way; to shun those people and places that tempt one to idle
amusements and questionable pastimes, and never to seek the society of
such persons as are brought up to pity or ridicule poverty and
struggling gentility. They are fond of one another, and in their
mutual companionship do not miss the intercourse which is denied them
with the outside world. I have explained to Zita that the saint whose
name she bears was a poor servant-maid, who was looked down upon and
ignored by those who were better favored by the world; and that like
her, she must be poor and humble in spirit, satisfied to be a little
nobody here if she can be happy hereafter. Louis learned the story of
his royal patron saint when he was a lisping baby at my knee, and
understands now, I think, how secondary material prosperity is to the
advancement of the moral man. I am almost sure he could wear a crown
and rule a nation, and yet look upon such glories as mere accidents of
existence, that must be subject to higher aims and occupations."

"Then you are happy in the possession of very exceptional children,
Cousin Bessie," said I, shaking my towel and hanging it up to dry. My
task was finished, and I sat down beside my industrious cousin who was
now up to her elbows in a basin of flour.

"They are my chief comfort, to tell you the truth," she answered, as
if in soliloquy, while she sifted handfuls of the white powder through
her busy fingers, "and I thank God for this great compensation that
has survived all my other pleasures. There is no wretchedness, I
think, like that which must fill the heart of a mother whose children
have strayed away from her loving, clinging solicitude into the
by-ways of folly or vice. It is a dark blight upon the most buoyant
heart that ever swelled with maternal devotion. I sometimes think I
would rather have never existed, that I could forfeit all the grand
privileges of a created being destined for a noble end, rather than
have become the mother of impious and vicious children."

"Then it is well you have saved yours from such a common fate," I put
in warmly, "for I think in the world's present stage, young people
have a monopoly of all the evil tendencies to which our flesh is
prone."

"You are right there Amey, and more's the pity," cousin Bessie
answered, leaning her white palms on the sides of the dish and looking
out of the kitchen window away over the steeples of the distant
church, as if her glance fell upon the whole wicked world at once.
"There is hardly a channel of sin and guilt that has not been explored
by these young persons, who should not even know of the existence of
such dangers. So much fine manhood is wasted in folly and dissipation;
so many noble energies devoted to degrading causes, so much mental
greatness given to solving the mysteries of villainy and roguery. Oh!
it is written on the brow of modern youth, in flaming characters," she
exclaimed, closing her fingers tightly over the edges of the dish,
upon which her hands still rested. "When I pass along the busy streets
of the town, I see the wickedness of the world on many a fair young
face, and my heart swells with a great desire to know whose life is
being saddened by their extravagances. 'They are dear to someone,
surely,' I say to myself, 'there must be some one from whom they are
trying to hide their deeds of darkness,' and I could almost stop to
plead in favor of that lingering love, that they turn back from the
beck and call of temptation to that other wholesome course which
yields reward both here and hereafter. I cannot help this strong
sentiment that stirs within my breast. I love the beauty of blooming
human nature; I like to see the glow of physical and moral health upon
its beaming countenance, and the stimulus to noble purposes in its
restless heart, but it seems as if this never can be again with the
majority."

"It is a sad outlook, Cousin Bessie, but there must be a remedy
somewhere," I suggested, full of the enthusiasm which had
characterized her remarks.

"Remedy? Yes, of course there's a remedy," she retorted emphatically,
"but the world's votaries have elbowed it out. What can one expect
from a baby girl who has been brought up for the world, but that she
shall be of the world? Little misses who can waltz before they know
the 'Our Father,' who are taught manners before morals, and are given
for their absolute standard 'what others will say.' Can they become
good women? It would be a paradox to suppose so. And our boys in
knickerbockers who smoke cigars and buy ten cent novels, who speculate
in the market of experience with ill-gotten gain, who form opinions of
life from dime shows and contact with veterans in vice; can they grow
in virtue and integrity after such an initiation as this? It would be
nothing less than a moral phenomenon if they did. Yes there is a
remedy, and its application is needed at the very root of the evil.
Let fathers and mothers look abroad over the heads of their prattling
offspring, and realize the fate that is awaiting them if they do not
take proper and timely precautions. I attribute much blame to them
because I have seen results of their carelessness grow and magnify
under my own eyes."

Here the door-bell rang violently, and interrupted cousin Bessie's
wholesome homily on the social irregularities of the day. As her hands
were still buried in flour I started to my feet and answered the hasty
summons. A man in ragged attire stood leaning against the outer post
of the doorway. His soft hat was slouched over one eye, and his
turned-up faded coat-collar but half-concealed the fragments of a
soiled shirt front that lay open on his breast inside. When I
confronted him, he advanced a step and said, with his eyes directed
towards his boots,

"Will you give me a little help, miss, for God's sake. I am starving
and can get no work."

Cousin Bessie from her place by the window could hear his words, and
coming to the door, she looked at him from head to foot. He was young
and stalwart, though so destitute.

"I will give you some work and pay you well for it" she said. "Come,
you are a strapping young fellow and won't find it hard to do."

He was silent for a moment and still kept looking at his dilapidated
boots.

"I will give you the price of an honest, independent supper" she
continued, "that is better than begging it. You will relish it, I
know."

"It's done ma'am" said he, kicking his dusty toes against the step
where he stood. "Show me the work."

Cousin Bessie looked significantly at me and led him out to where his
occupation lay. As she turned to leave him, with a strict injunction
to do it well, he raised his hat from his head and turned reverently
towards her.

"I'll do it as well as mortal hands can do it ma'am" he said with a
tremor in his hoarse husky voice. "You're the first woman as has
spoken a kind word to me since--since--I buried the one that 'ud have
made my life different if she'd lived."

"Your mother?" Asked Cousin Bessie gently.

"No, ma'am, she was more, she was my wife, but only for a year. When I
lost her I lost my luck and my courage, and everything. I've hardly
done a day's good since."

He drew the back of one brawny, dirty hand across his eyes and turned
away his head. Cousin Bessie was looking at him with a great pity in
her countenance.

"Have you a child?" she next asked.

"One, ma'am, a little girl, but not like the mother."

"Where is she?"

"On the streets, like myself, begging her bread and going to ruin," he
answered in dogged despair.

"How old is she?" cousin Bessie asked, with renewed interest.

"Maybe thirteen or thereabout, ma'am, poor, small thing," he replied
with a dash of fatherly love.

"Can she read or write?" was cousin Bessie's next query.

"I couldn't say, ma'am. I never taught her. I've been a heartless
wretch and didn't mind about her much."

"I am afraid you have done her a great injustice," said cousin Bessie,
turning to re-enter the house. "I hope you will try to make some
amends. Begin your work, like a good fellow, and I will see you again
before you go."

She came back to her duties in the kitchen with a thoughtful face and
a slow, measured step.

"Is your hero in rags at his work?" I asked playfully, when she had
closed the door behind her.

"Yes, I am glad to say," she answered, "manual labor is what these
fellows want. I shall keep him busy until evening, now that he has
started, it will only cost me a few pence, and it will keep him out of
so much harm."

There was a pause of a few moments after this. Cousin Bessie then
looked up and said, half regretfully:

"I wish I had a few spare dollars now. I could, perhaps do some good
with them."

"What is your latest freak?" asked I, returning her steady glance.

"I would like to send for his little girl," said she, "the winter is
coming on, and there will be extra work to do, in consequence. She may
be smart enough to clean our windows and wash the wainscoting. She
could run errands and answer the door for a trifle, and we might teach
her her prayers and her catechism and send her to church on Sunday,
which is never done for her now."

"But you do not know who or what she may be," I argued dissuasively.

"That is nothing," she persisted. "She is only a child, and our house
is so small that no harm can be done in it unknown to me. I think it
would do her good if she came. You and Zita might take an interest in
her and make something respectable of her poor, empty life."

"Perhaps you are right, Cousin Bessie," I conceded, "let us send for
her, I can easily afford to clothe her, it will be such a pleasure to
me to contribute towards the success of one of your good works."

And so we sent for her. Next day she arrived, carrying a miniature
wooden box in one hand and a little old faded umbrella in the other.
She was small and dark, with sharp, black eyes and pale features. Her
short hair clustered thickly around her brow and over her ears, from
which hung suspended a pair of long brass ear-rings. A ring of the
same valuable material was conspicuous on one small finger. She was
very ragged and careless-looking, but had an intelligent sparkle in
her quick glance that diverted one's attention from her appearance.

"What is your name?" asked Cousin Bessie, admitting her into the hall.

"Snip, ma'am," she answered, sweeping a glance from the ceiling to the
floor.

"Snip!" we both exclaimed.

"Well, that's what the Grimes and the Dwyers and all them calls me,
anyhow," she argued, with a perfectly placid countenance.

"What does your father call you?" cousin Bessie asked.

"Sometimes he says 'little 'un,' and more times it's 'girly.' I ain't
particular about names, ma'am, suit yourself," she said, without a
change of expression, which was one of stolid earnestness.

"Well, then, we'll call you 'Girly' for the time being," cousin Bessie
interposed, smiling and directing a glance of sly amusement at me.

"I hope you will be a very good little girl while you are in my house
and we shall all be very good to you," Cousin Bessie began in a
premonitory tone. "You must give up your old friends now and listen to
us instead and--" here she paused, as if the next sacrifice had to be
delicately proposed. "I don't like to see those ear-rings nor that
ring with you, they are not becoming to a poor little girl."

Up went the two small hands to the ear-rings, which were hurriedly
dragged out, she pulled the tight brass ring from her finger,
revealing a dark blue circle where it had lain, and gathering them
together in her little palm she looked us straight in the face and
said with great earnestness

"D'ye suppose I care a continental for finery?" Then curling her red
lips as if she had discovered that we so misjudged her, she shook her
bushy head sideways with an emphatic gesture and said with a fiery
indignation, which amused us intensely

"Not I! I hate it! I wore it for spite. I'll give this to either of
you ladies now, and I'll never ask to lay eyes on it again."

Cousin Bessie took them from her saying,

"You look better without them, Girly," then changing her tone to one
of gentle, solicitous enquiry, she asked the pert little stranger,

"Do you ever go to church, Girly, or say any prayers?"

The child's face became shadowed for a moment and her lips quivered.
When she spoke, her voice had lost its bright carelessness, it was low
and broken.

"I'll tell you the truth ma'am, if I died for it. P'raps you'll think
me awful wicked but I'll tell you, now you asked me. One Sunday
morning I was walking past the big church in the far end of the town,
an' the bells began to ring and ring, an' says I, 'I think I'll just
go in an' watch them prayin' but when I peeped in no one was inside. I
turned to the man that pulled the ropes an' asked him when it 'ud
begin. 'In fifteen minutes' says he, like a growl, 'this is the first
bell.' So I ran back to our house, for father and I had a room then
with the Grimes, an' I got some water in the little basin an' washed
my face an' hands good an' clean. I brushed my hair down an' took out
my green shawl that I keep clean an' whole for sometimes, an' put it
on. I got back in lots of time to the church an' crep' into one of the
big seats, waitin' for the music to begin. In a few minutes, along
came a grand little lady, all dressed in velvet, with yellow hair and
a big bonnet, an' a gentleman with her, an' she stood at the door of
the pew an' beckoned me out. 'There's room enough for us all, Miss,' I
whispered, pushing farther down the seat, but here the gentleman
rapped his stick on the wood an' said so cross 'Hurry out, hurry out
there.'"

Here her voice broke into a sob which, however, she swallowed bravely,
and went on after a moment's pause "So I went then to another, a
little one with no cushings on it, 'cause I thought grand people
didn't own that, but I was only there a little while when a fat woman
came rollin' up to me an' catchin' me by the arm said, 'Here, I am not
payin' for this pew for other people to sit in, this is my pew.' I was
mad then, I knew she wasn't a lady, an' I made a face when I was
gettin' out, an' says I, 'Oh, dear' Missis Porpoise, who said it
wasn't your pew, you want a whole pew to yourself anyhow.' The aisles
was all wet, for 'twas a rainy mornin', an' I wasn't goin' to kneel
there with my green shawl on, so I made a bold stroke and darted into
another pew. This time 'twas alright: this was a kept one for
strangers, an' I had it all to myself. The music began, an' oh! it was
so nice! I was quite gettin' over all my temper when such a swell of a
lady came up the aisle with such a swell of a gentleman, an' landed in
beside me. They didn't turn me out, 'cause they'd no right to, but
they did worse. She looked at me an' turned such a mouth on her, then
gathered up her fine flounces as if I was goin' to eat 'em, an' looked
at the gentleman so complainin'-like. Then she pulled out a little bit
of a red and white handkerchief, an' hides her nose in it. I knew well
enough what she was up to, an' didn't mind her at first, but it ain't
pleasant havin' people makin' faces an' stuffin' their noses before
you, an' so I got up an' asked 'em to let me out. When I was passin'
her I gathered in my rags tight an' held my shawl up to my nose just
like she had done, an' says I, in a whisper, as if to myself, 'oh, you
dirty beggars, let me get away from you.' The people in the next pew
looked back an' laughed, an' I saw the color risin' up in her face as
I turned away. I left the church after that, an' says I, 'there's no
room for the poor to be good, I guess I won't try it again; an' you
can bet I didn't," she added, with an emphatic nod of her bushy head,
and a sparkling wrath in her black eyes.

"But that wasn't right, Girly," said cousin Bessie, "it is not that
way in every church, nor is everybody like those three persons you
happened to come across."

"It's equal to me, ma'am; I got enough of it," she retorted, quickly,
"when its fine on a Sunday now, I go to the grave-yard, my mother is
there an' it's a big place, there's room for all kinds in it. I sit
down an' cry a bit, an' ask her to pray for the poor, for they have a
hard time of it here, but I don't think she can hear me, for I'm not
much the better of my prayers."

Cousin Bessie and I here exchanged glances again. Such a hardened
little heart as this was in one so young. We did not remonstrate with
her then, but attended to her more immediate physical wants, there was
something worth caring for in the little waif, and we determined to do
it slowly and surely.

Before the week expired we had initiated her into the ways of the
house, and transformed her exterior, to begin with, into that of a
civilized and respectable member of the great human family.







CHAPTER XIII.

The winter was coming on, as Cousin Bessie had said every leaf was
blown from its bough, and the Autumn sky was grayer and cloudier than
ever.

It was a lonely season, especially for one with such a heart full of
memories as mine, the wind spoke to me in the most plaintive of
whispers, now with the voice of one absent friend, now with that of
another. I had no definite grief at this period under the safe
protecting roof of my good, kind relatives, only that there was an
emptiness about my comfort, which made it incomplete and not quite as
satisfactory as it should have been.

Something was stirring in my breast as if with fluttering wings
against these fetters of the flesh! Something was always asking,
always wishing, always urging me, to do I knew not what '_Taedium
vitae_.' It is the merciless enemy of mortal man! the robber of our
peace, the skeleton in the closet, the dreg in our pleasure-cup, the
ruthless spoiler of our fancy-woven webs! It is the separate sorrow of
men and women, and is the summing up of the stones of all human lives.

Some have grown weary of idleness, pleasure and wealth, and some are
more weary of cold and starvation, and toil, the student is weary of
study, and the artist is weary of art, the vicious grow weary of vice,
and great men grow weary of fame; old men grow tired on their journey,
and children get tired at their play, it is one of those "touches of
nature" that makes our world become "kin." For a sigh is a whisper of
sorrow, no matter what breast may have heaved it, and pain is a pall,
thick and heavy, laid over hopes that are dead.

Some of us have strange lives! secrets, known only to ourselves, that
change the face of all nature before our eyes, we are sent adrift on
every passing current, to explore the truths of experience for
ourselves, and sad lessons some of them are, which we read through our
gathering tears, and learn with a beating heart!

As the autumn months drifted on towards a bleak November, I became
more and more absorbed, looking wistfully out of the windows, or
sitting dreamily before the fire. I often thought of that better land,
whither my angel-mother had flown years ago, my father had gone there
now, too. Would it not be well if I were with them? Only one more
little mound of earth, rising beside theirs, one solitary little
mortal falling back from the weary pilgrimage, and lying down to rest
by the roadside, one heavy heart less among that throbbing multitude,
one faint toiler more, borne from the crowded vineyard.

With my elbows resting on my knees and my face buried in my palms, I
sat and thought of all such weird possibilities, as I looked vacantly
into the fire. There are times when the world, with its exuberance of
pleasure and wealth, is powerless to tempt or cheer us, when its most
splendid pageantry is vapid and shallow to our tired gaze, when its
laughter and song are a noisy discord, that deafens and distracts us!
when its pledges and promises are instruments of selfish purposes and
hidden cunning, and its policy, the exponent of a rabid and
far-reaching materialism. These are moments, when our passions are at
high tide, with our conscience riding on the topmost surface-waves,
they are propitious intervals, if we choose to make the best of them,
or they may only be fitful breaks in the glad monotony of our sensual,
easy-going lives--breaks, that our evil tendencies most often survive,
seeing them rise, and surge, and ebb, in fearless defiance, and then
quietly resuming their old sway, when the moral struggle has subsided!

One afternoon, I made an effort to rouse myself from this growing
lethargy, which had begun to undermine the whole tenor of my
character. Zita and Louis were away, at their schools, and cousin
Bessie was busy as usual over household duties, Girly was frying meat
in the kitchen, and the frizzling, seething noises had almost sent me
to sleep in my chair, where I sat sewing. It wanted a half hour yet of
dinner-time, so I put on my hat and jacket and sauntered out into the
open air.

It was a bracing November day, the dead leaves lay crisp and trodden
by the roadside, and the gray clouds flitted in their solemn silence
across the low-leaden sky, a light wind swayed the naked tree-tops,
and tinged the beaming faces of pedestrians with a healthy roseate
hue. This was a happy contrast to my cheerless mood, and with a
quickened step, I overtook the stream of gayer people that thronged
the lively thoroughfare, and gave myself wholly up to every passing
distraction.

I had no particular business to discharge, except to run away from
myself, and therefore every little peculiarity, every minute feature
of men, women, or things, that suggested themselves to my aimless
scrutiny were carefully reviewed and criticized. I went placidly on
now casting a passing glance on exhibitions of stale confectionery,
now on a display of attractive millinery, again it was a "ten cent"
establishment, offering such bargains as might puzzle the most
economical house-wife, and finally my attention was caught by a
succession of dazzling windows, with their bewildering panorama of
Japanese figures and coloured _bric-a-brac_, windows crowded with fans
and parasols, and variegated lamp-shades, oriental trays and
glove-boxes, pieces of ware, from whose dirty green surface emptily
peered the pale faces of native Japanese, there were whisk-holders,
and wall-baskets, and all sorts of ornaments trimmed in Japanese
fabrics, looking coaxingly out at the public.

Scrolls and mats, panels and firescreens, whereon the hand of art had
caused to spring and flourish these slender Eastern stalks, which
sprout in drooping foliage, at the summit of their lanky height. There
was an endless variety gathered into this limited space, it was a
scene which should provoke a regretful tear, for memory's sake, from
the patriotic oblong eye of any exiled Japanese.

My eyes still wandered over these many-hued trifles, and my mind was
still busy with its vagrant reflections, when a gruff voice said in my
ear:

"Move on there--do you hear."

I started, and saw Zita on one side and Louis on the other; they were
returning from their day's mental toil, and had spied me loitering by
the shop windows. I joined them, and in happy, careless concourse, we
trod our way towards our home. When we reached the house the lamps had
been lighted and the curtains drawn, dinner steamed upon the table.

Feeling better for my walk, I sat down with rosy cheeks and sharpened
appetite to my evening meal. As I was about to begin Mr. Nyle handed me
a letter, which had arrived during my absence. I took it up and looked
at it curiously, a smile broke over my countenance as I did so, for I
recognized Hortense's delicate handwriting.

All during dinner this welcome little letter lay in my lap. Every now
and then I touched it caressingly, as if trying to read it with my
finger-tips, and wondered how long it would be before cousin Bessie
would move her chair away from the table, that I might retire and
gratify myself with its contents.

So much for human foresight and wisdom! We hold our misery in our own
hand, and we do not know it, we look with impatient smiles and
longing, upon that whose fruit is sorrow for our hearts, and we cannot
see it or realize it.

Dinner was over at last, and I glided away from the happy circle to
the quietude of my own quarters I lit the lamp, and seating myself
comfortably in a rocking chair, tore open my friend's letter, and read
as follows:

"My dearest Amey

"I have looked forward with such impatient eagerness to this pleasure
of answering your last dear letter, and now that an opportunity
occurs, I hardly know what to say to you.

"Perhaps it is because there is so much I _might_ tell, if it were
only time, when the time comes you, and only you, shall know all, you
must not blame me for my present reserve, for at best, I could but
half tell it now, any way.

"It is something that has lain on my heart, day and night, for some
years, and that is likely at last to make me happier than I have been
for many a day. You will be glad of it, because it will have made your
poor Hortense so happy. It concerns some one else, about whom, you
must have made many strange conjectures, since your recent visit to
me, I was doubtful then, or I would have told you a little, but now I
feel more sure, and see my way better.

"However, I must not bewilder you with words in the beginning. I shall
only repeat that I see much happiness in the near distance for
Hortense de Beaumont. Heaven grant that nothing shall now come between
me and this long-looked for realization. Mamma sends you her fondest
love, and so does your own HORTENSE."

"_You will be glad, because it will have made your poor Hortense so
happy_!" These words seemed to stand out from all the rest, and
attract my attention more forcibly. "_Some one about whom you must
have made many strange conjectures since your recent visit to me._"
Ah! it was clear enough to me now. She may as well have written her
story through; but, was it not what I had expected? What I had
prepared for? Why should the announcement of its accomplishment shock
or surprise me now? He was nothing to _me_,--but a friend! as friends
we had parted, and if we ever met again, it should only be as
friends--perhaps not even as the friends we were then, if he were
Hortense de Beaumont's husband.

I folded her letter slowly and quietly, and put it safely away; I
wanted never to see it, or read it again, it was the story of my dear
friend's happiness, and it should not bring sorrow, or disappointment
to me, so long as I professed to love her, or sympathize with her. So
kind, so thoughtful, so affectionate a little creature as she had ever
shown herself to me. How many of her heart's treasures she had freely
lavished upon me during the course of our eventful friendship!

If she had had the better fortune of the two, it was her luck, and she
deserved it. "_Heaven grant that nothing now shall come between me and
this long-looked for realization_!" Poor child! how fond she was of
him, could any one cast an impediment between such loves as these?

I turned down the light, and left the room: there were laughter and
merry-making below, perhaps they would help me to forget these gloomy
thoughts. I stepped lightly down the narrow stairway, and entered the
cosy sitting room, where the family were assembled, with a pleasant,
careless countenance.

They were engaged in a lively discussion when I came into the room;
cousin Bessie had just conveyed the tidings, that an invitation had
been left that afternoon for "Zita and Amey" from Mrs. Wayland
Rutherby, asking them to go in on the following day, as Pansy and Lulu
Rutherby had a young lady staying with them, and would like to
introduce her to their friends. "Louis and Papa and myself" she was
just adding, "are expected to drop in after dinner, when there will be
music and a little dancing."

"Did you say we would go, Cousin, Bessie?" I put in, coming towards
her and drawing up a seat beside hers.

"Of course, you will go," she answered emphatically. "Sophie Rutherby
is my old school-friend, and we never refuse her."

"But I prefer not to go Cousin Bessie, I have not been out anywhere
since--my father's death."

"Nonsense child! you are not going to mope away your young life like
this," she broke in indignantly, "however, if you have any scruples,
you can come away after dinner, before the active pleasures
begin--there will be no one there in the afternoon but you and Zita.
Surely you cannot object to that."

So it was settled, that we were to go to Mrs. Rutherby's, and the
eventful afternoon came in due time. Zita was a little longer than
usual before her looking-glass on that occasion, and was as pretty and
fresh as a mountain daisy, when she came down at last to join me
below.

We were received with gushing, girlish enthusiasm, by Pansy and Lulu
Rutherby, in their rare and expensive toilets, they were both pretty
and lively, and we talked and laughed during our first half-hour
together, as though we had been old friends all our lives. Pansy and
Lulu took poor Zita by storm, they showed their latest programmes of
dances, and repeated for her benefit the newest compliments which had
been paid to them by their respective admirers, since they had last
entertained her.

Mrs. Rutherby and her senior guest, the mother of the younger lady,
sat side by side on a remote sofa exchanging confidential whispers
about their daughters. Miss Longfield, the Rutherby's "girl friend,"
and I, of necessity found ourselves thrown together, a little way from
the rest. She was a tall, pale girl with a very high _chignon_, a very
stiff satin dress, and very queer little shoes with very pronounced
heels.

"You belong to Canada, I suppose?" she began looking at me
speculatively from head to foot.

"Yes, I have always lived here," I answered, returning the speculative
glance and concluding that Miss Longfield's complexion was decidedly
sallow.

"Then you've been to Court, I guess?" she next asked.

"To Court," I exclaimed, raising my voice and my eyebrows.

"Why, yes" she retorted somewhat indignantly, "you've got Royalty over
here, haven't you?"

"Oh! now I understand," said I with a covert smile, "you mean, have I
been presented to Her Royal Highness?"

She nodded her _chignon_ affirmatively with a satisfied air, and began
biting her under lip, which operation, however, was immediately
interrupted by an expressive--"It must be awfully nice."

I took the trouble to give my American friend a lengthy description of
our drawing-room receptions, in which she became ardently interested,
never interrupting me until I had come to the end. She then surprised
me with the question.

"Don't you have any refreshments?" put in a high key.

"Not until we get home," said I laughing. "The ceremony is virtually
over when the people have been presented."

This rather disappointed her, I am afraid, but what could I do? She
dismissed the subject summarily by touching upon another new one--that
of our winter sports. I had to describe the tobogganing costumes,
their effect at night when bonfires were burning in the vicinity of
the hills, the sensation of going down, and the excitement of trudging
back again to the top. She listened admirably and seemed thoroughly
appreciative of my generous effort to entertain her. When I had
finished, she remarked very quietly.

"It must be real nice, and ever such good fun, but I could never try
it. It would smother me right there--I'm always under doctors' orders,
you know," she added in a subdued, confidential whisper, "I've got
seven diseases?"

"Have you indeed?" I exclaimed in genuine consternation. "You don't
look as if you had," I continued by way of encouragement, but without
effect, for she interrupted me, fretfully saying:

"Oh, yes I do! Anyone would know I had anaemia, I am so pale, and
dyspepsia, for I eat so few things, and such a little at a time; then
there's dyscrasia, comes from poverty of the blood, and my
palpitations, that prevent me from having any pleasures worth calling
so, besides these," she added, putting her reckoning finger upon her
thumb, "I suffer from neuralgia, and acute rheumatism, and," (on the
second finger of the other, hand, which represented seven) "an
inflammation of the spine. So now, what do you think of that?"

"Well, really I am very sorry for you, poor Miss Longfield'" I said
with an effort to let my sympathy overcome my burning desire to laugh
outright; "you have been very unfortunate indeed, to have contracted
so many diseases at once."

"Oh my constitution has always been weak," she sighed; "I take some
twenty different medicines, I believe," she added, as if she were
trying to frighten me out of the room, "you'd hardly believe it, I
know, you are so healthy."

Here we were interrupted by Mrs. Longfield's plaintive voice reminding
her invalid daughter that she had been sitting "to one side too long,"
and would "excite her spinal inflammation" if she did not "straighten
up against the cushions of her chair."

Miss Longfield sighed peevishly, as she fell back in languid obedience
to this solicitous injunction; she was constantly exposing herself
thus rashly to the mercy of her chronic complaints. Shortly after
this, dinner was announced, and we were mutually delighted, I expect,
to find the latest turn of our conversation, which threatened to be
flat and uninteresting, thus brought to a happy, though abrupt
termination.

As soon after dinner as manners would allow me to leave, I bade good
evening to my amiable hostesses, who were profuse in their regrets and
expressions of disappointment at my early departure, and I sauntered
quietly back to cousin Bessie's house.

It was not yet dark, though the moon was visible in the clear sky, and
relieved, to find myself once more alone, I walked with purposely slow
and leisure steps towards my home, rehearsing in my mind, with much
genuine amusement, my recent brilliant and highly intellectual
conversation with Miss Longfield.

As I drew near the Nyles' gate, its familiar squeak and the
accompanying clash of its iron latches, broke upon my ear. I started,
and peering through the gathering dusk, I saw the figure of a man turn
into the street and stride rapidly away in the opposite direction from
the one I was then pursuing. My heart gave a great leap, I hardly knew
why, and the blood rushed into my face, something caught in my throat
and I gave a short, hysterical cough. I had reached the gate, and the
air around it was yet laden with the scent of a rich cigar, though the
figure had passed into the distant gloom.

I pushed it open nervously, and it fell to with the same squeak and
clash as before. I stopped for a moment, and leaning over the low
railing I looked eagerly up and down the silent street. The moon
struggled through a feathery cloud at this instant, and flooded the
scene before me with its gentle light; I saw a figure again, beyond
the shadows of the tall, bare trees that lay upon the white moonlit
walk, it stopped, and turned sharply around, a little red light was
moving with it, back towards where I was standing.

My heart beat loud and fast, as the footsteps drew nearer and nearer.
I recoiled impulsively behind the projecting post beside me: I was a
coward at the last moment, the scent of the cigar became stronger and
stronger, the ring of advancing footsteps quicker and louder--they had
reached the gate and paused--there was only the post between us now. I
held my breath, and did not dare to move while this suspense lasted.
Would he never move on? I asked myself. How foolish I was to have
waited there at all? I felt tempted to make one bound and spring up
the garden-steps, but I had not courage enough even for this.

While I was busy with these thoughts, the interesting figure receded
to the outer end of the sidewalk and scanned the upper portion of the
house eagerly. I then heard him mutter an impatient "Pshaw!" under his
breath, and he turned to walk away.

All my deserted courage rushed back to me the instant I saw him moving
from me. I sprang from my hiding-place, and leaning my arms upon the
bars of the gate as before, I said timidly:

"Who is that?"

The figure halted suddenly and turned around. In a moment he was
standing beside me with his hat in one hand, the other extended
towards me.

"Why, Dr Campbell, can this be _you_?" I cried in slow bewilderment.

"Yes, Miss Hampden, it is I" he answered nervously, "Are you glad to
see me?"

"Glad" I repeated, half reproachfully, "why should I not be glad? I am
delighted to see you. Won't you come in" I asked, making a movement to
open the gate.

"I have just been to the house, asking for you," he said. "They told
me you had gone out to dine, and they could not say exactly when you
would come back. I have only to-day to spend in the town, and was
feeling quite disappointed at not finding you at home, when the
clashing of the gate arrested my attention. But tell me," he
interrupted gently, "How are you, how have you been since I saw you
last?"

"Oh, I have been well enough, thank you. Cousin Bessie is the very
personification of kindness, and gives me every comfort. I only hope
you have been as well treated as I have," I returned, with an effort
at ordinary civility.

He did not answer immediately; he looked away from me and then said
slowly.

"I have been pretty well--but not well enough. I have been studying
and working very hard."

"What, _you?_" escaped me before I could control it. He laughed an odd
little laugh and added: "Yes--_me_, I have not gone out to a dance or
pleasure party of any kind since--since you left. I have lived with my
books, day and night"

"You must have had some ominous vision in your sleep, Dr. Campbell," I
said with unrestrained surprise, "to have become converted to such
sedentary habits in so short a time."

"Yes, you are right," he answered curtly and somewhat eagerly, "I had
a strange, beautiful vision that showed me the folly and emptiness of
my life more plainly than anything else could ever have done, and I
thank that vision that I have been able to make amends in time for the
omissions and transgressions of the past."

I was half frightened at his earnest voice and serious expression, I
hardly knew what to answer him. When I did speak, I was conscious of a
tremor in my voice that must have betrayed something of the suspicion
his words had awakened in me.

"Your better life is worthier of you, Dr Campbell," I managed to
reply. "You were disposed, I must admit, to make too little of your
energies, which are above the ordinary level."

"It was hardly my fault," he said sadly, "I was in a sort of stupor, I
believe. I rejected the light of faith and morals from my life, and
tried to imagine myself above it. What else could I expect but the
result which followed?"

He was terribly in earnest, his brow was deeply contracted and his
face was whiter than the pale moonlight.

"Then you are a better man for it in every way, I perceive," was my
timid rejoinder.

"I hope so, Amey, I have tried hard to be."

I was startled by the mention of my own name in such a solemn tone,
but my heart was swelling with a rushing tide of sympathy for the man
who had so pronounced it.

"Then you will not regret it, believe me," I said, infusing a buoyant
encouragement into my voice.

"No, I will not, I feel sure," he answered, disengaging his hands and
leaning one elbow on the bar to support his face in his palm. We stood
for a few seconds in silence, during which I looked abstractedly into
the space before me. I knew that his eyes were turned upon me,
although I could not see them. Suddenly he said in a low tone, almost
in a whisper.

"I wish I could read your thoughts, Amey?"

I looked at him quickly, and laughed. Before I had time to make any
reply, the door of the house was opened wide, and cousin Bessie
accompanied by her husband and Louis, stepped out upon the platform. A
beam of lamplight fell full upon Arthur Campbell's face, which was
stern and white, he gave me his unsteady hand, and said brusquely:

"Good-night! I will come and see you to-morrow if you will let me?"

He raised his hat, and bowing with a touch of his old grace and
gallantry, he strode away.

"Well, well Amey!" said Mr. Nyle, in a teasing voice as I turned and
confronted the family trio. "I never would have thought this of _you_!
you might have told us something about it, I'm sure--eh Bessie?"

"Oh we have no right to know her little secrets" cousin Bessie gently
answered, while she drew on one glove. "Amey is sure not to do
anything foolish, I feel certain of that. Is that the gentleman who
called to see you a little while ago, Amey?" she asked, with a very
discreet curiosity.

"Yes, Cousin Bessie, it is Dr. Campbell, he attended my father in his
last illness, you know, I told you about him," I explained very
earnestly.

"Oh yes, dear I remember! he seems to be a very nice person: I hope he
will come again to see you before he goes."

"He asked leave to come to-morrow!" I answered "I suppose you don't
mind?"

"Not in the least, child, why should I?" she put in, somewhat
playfully. "Come Robert! come Louis!" she added, as she descended the
steps leading to the gate. "We are not over early. I hope you won't be
lonesome, Amey," she said, turning back, with one hand on the open
gate.

"Not she," Mr. Nyle broke in, with mischief in his tone, "she'll keep
herself busy with such pleasant thoughts that she will never miss
us--go on."

He held the gate open until Cousin Bessie and Louis had passed out. I
was standing on the topmost step waiting to see them off, and Mr. Nyle,
looking at me to attract my attention, struck an attitude exactly like
that in which they had surprised Dr. Campbell, leaning just as
languidly upon the bars.

  "How silver-sweet sound lovers tongues by night, Like softest music
  to attending ears!"

He exclaimed, in such a ridiculously sentimental tone, that we all
laughed outright, and cousin Bessie pulling him forcibly away by the
coat-sleeve, looked over his shoulder at me and said consolingly:

"Never mind, Amey, he can't throw stones from a glass house, he did
this kind of thing many a time in his own day--you know you did," she
added, linking her arm within his, and turning her eyes upon his
beaming face with a dash of revived tenderness and old love. I caught
his answering glance, with its accompanying smile so full of a deep
meaning, and the tears came into my eyes. I bade them good-night and
went quietly into the house.







CHAPTER XIV.

Next day Arthur Campbell came to see me, as he had said, and in Cousin
Bessie's humble little parlor, by the cheerful glowing embers, asked
me to become his wife. I might have known it--perhaps I did know it,
in spite of my wilful perverseness in denying it to myself, but I had
not imagined it to be like this. There was no thrill or joy for me in
the sound of his earnest voice, no definite sensation of that
happiness which is said to attend this circumstance, no prospect of
golden pleasures in the near future, that would find us united in
these holy bonds.

It was a simple proposal of marriage from the lips of a man I
respected and liked; a man of talent, and wealth and position, who
flattered me by so generous an offer of his love. There was a glow of
fire about his sentiment, mine had none, and yet I could not have
given him up at that moment for all the world. I liked him, and I
wanted to teach myself to like him still more. He had given up the
attractions of worldly life on my account, and had gone back to the
simple faith of his boyhood, he said my memory had been his only
safe-guard where he had hitherto known no law, that I had "started up
in the darkness of his life" like a steady and hopeful beacon-light
that beckoned him on to better purposes.

"Whether you consent to marry me, or not" said he "I shall always be
the better of having known and loved you, and, if you cannot love me
in return, it will satisfy you perhaps to know that you have done me a
great good otherwise."

I sat in silence for a moment, listening to the deep vibrations of his
solemn voice, ringing through the quiet little room, the hand that
supported my thoughtful face had grown cold and clammy, something
weighed upon my heart, like an unfolded mystery, pregnant with sorrow
or joy, I knew not which. He stood beside me, leaning one elbow
against the broad, old fashioned mantel, and looking into the fire--at
length I raised my eyes, and said with a timid voice.

"I do not deserve your love, Arthur--though I would now, if I could,
if it were in my power."

"What do you mean Amey?" he interrupted with solemn enquiry.

I fidgeted with the folds of my drapery, for another few seconds, and
then answered nervously:

"I hardly know, myself," then lifting up my eyes to his serious face
again, I said as frankly as I knew how. "You have not asked me,
Arthur, whether I have ever loved any one else before?"

He kept on, looking steadily at me, until his blue eyes seemed to have
penetrated the very farthest depths of my soul; then, he answered,
slowly, and with thrilling emphasis.

"You have loved Ernest Dalton, I know. Is there any one else?"

I dropped my lids instantly, and folded my hands tightly together, his
words went through and through me. I hardly knew what to say next, but
feeling that it was urgent upon me to speak in some way, I asked in a
subdued tone, with my eyes still lowered upon my folded hands,

"How do you know I loved Ernest Dalton?"

He laughed, not gaily, nor carelessly, and taking a stride across the
room, turned and said, "It is enough, that I know it, Amey. I don't
ask you to confide your past secrets to me--neither do I blame you for
having been attached to Dalton, he is a good fellow, and though I am
not half as worthy as he is, I presume to covet the same prize that he
does--our luck is in your hands!"

"Ernest Dalton has never spoken to me, of love or marriage," I put in
hastily.

"And Arthur Campbell has" said he, pausing in his rapid strides again,
and standing close beside me--"that should make some difference?"

"So it does, and I give him the preference!" I said, rising from my
seat, and extending my cold, nervous fingers towards him. "It is true
that I have dwelt upon Ernest Dalton's memory with a glowing, girlish
enthusiasm. I have thought of him by day and by night. I have fancied
my love returned, and imagined how happy we could be together. I have
watched him with jealous eyes as he came and went, in and out of our
circles at home. I have wished him near me, when I was desolate and
miserable, and could endure no one else--but now, I would not have
things different from what they are: all that can be a finished,
sealed irrevocable past to you and me. I will marry you, if you are
satisfied with my disposition; I will devote my whole life to your
happiness, Arthur, and if I can help it you shall never have cause to
reproach me, or regret the step you have taken. If you love me, you
will not find it hard to trust me enough, even for this!"

"Amey, that is all I want to hear--you have spoken openly and
honourably, you have done me the fullest justice I could ask. I
believe your simple, earnest promises, I could not do otherwise, it
would kill me to doubt you now. I shall go back to my toil with a
lighter heart than I have had for many a day."

He left for home on the following morning, and as he rolled out of the
depot of our little town I sat alone by the fireside, where,
yesterday, I had pledged myself to him, twisting and turning a
sparkling diamond upon my finger. It was a handsome seal of our
plighted loves; inside, on the smooth round gold, the words "Arthur
and Amey" with the date of the month and year were neatly inscribed.







CHAPTER XV.

Alice Merivale came home for Christmas, that is, in the early part of
December. She had been announced for weeks before, and her immediate
circle were considerably agitated over the welcome tidings, and in
quite a flutter of conjecture and expectation concerning the result of
her extended trip.

Two days after her arrival I received a hasty little note from her, in
which she insisted upon my going to spend the holidays with her, as
she had thousands of topics to discuss with me, and was longing to lay
eyes on me again after so protracted an interval of separation.

The prospect was a pleasant one to me; that interval to which she
alluded had brought me many a reason for wishing to return to my old
home, for a little sojourn among those friends and scenes that had
special claims upon my memory and affections. I submitted her kind
offer to cousin Bessie for a decision, and was of course, encouraged
to accept it, on the grounds that I had never taken a day of real
recreation since I had come to live with her.

The day before I left was snowy and windy, and cold; it was my
birthday. Cousin Bessie took me by the hand, and leading me into the
sitting-room after luncheon, said:

"Sit there, Amey," motioning me to a low rocker that stood on one side
of the fire, while she drew up an easy chair for herself on the other,
"I want to talk to you."

With wondering surprise I threw myself into my seat and looked at her
with eager impatience, waiting for her to begin. She did not lose much
time, only while she picked up her knitting from a work-basket on the
table beside her. When she had put her needle safely through the first
stitch she turned her eyes kindly upon me and began:

"So this is your birthday, Amey? Poor Amey; I remember the day you
were born, well. I never thought at that time the world would be such
a see-saw as it has since shown itself to be. I never expected I would
be called upon to offer you the shelter of my humble roof."

I rocked myself slowly to and fro, and with a sigh answered:

"What would I have done without you, Cousin Bessie?"

This brought a sudden thought into my mind, it was so strange that it
should never have crossed my mind before, I looked up quickly into
cousin Bessie's face and asked with a puzzled and eager curiosity:

"How did you come to know I wanted a home, Cousin Bessie. Who told you
of my father's death?"

She laughed a quiet, suspicious little laugh and then replied:

"I have been waiting for this question ever since you came, and it has
been a continual wonder to me that you have not asked it. However, I
will tell you all about it to-day, and it is a long, long story from
the beginning," said she, laying her knitting down upon her lap and
taking off her glasses, which she wore only while working.

"Your mother and I, as I told you already, were brought up together in
her father's house She was as like you, my child, as your image in the
glass, and on this account I have felt that ever since you have been
with me, I have been living my young days over again with my poor,
dead Amelia, that was as dear as life to my heart. I have told you
about our school days and earlier experiences. I will now tell you the
strange sequel, for I think it is time you knew it.

"When your mother was in her eighteenth year she went to visit a
widowed aunt of hers who was very wealthy, and whose entire fortune
was supposed to be accumulating for your mother's ultimate
inheritance. While she was there she met a young student who fell
violently in love with her, and whose regard she fully reciprocated.
They were both young, and handsome and ardent; both well educated and
highly accomplished, and both devotedly attached to each other. When
your mother came back he nearly died of loneliness and grief, and she
was little better, moping around the house in quiet corners, brooding
over the fire and losing interest in her former occupations. Her
father noticed the change and suspecting the truth, discountenanced it
from the very first. He did not say much to Amey herself, but I saw
that he was resolved to throw impediments in the way of their love's
progress. He called it 'stuff' and in his desire to suppress and
condemn it, he was warmly supported by his maiden sister, who had long
ago decided that Amey's husband should be entirely of her choosing,
and should be one whose social position would restore to the Hartney
family some of the _prestige_ which they had lost through reverses.

"Amey's mother was dead at this time, which accounts for the domestic
reins being altogether in the severe Miss Hartney's hands. For awhile,
however, all bade fair to progress favorably between the young people,
some letters even had been exchanged between them, when one day Miss
Hartney came sailing into the library with a covert light of triumph
in her little piercing eyes, with the announcement to your mother, her
father and myself, who were seated around the table with our different
occupations, that she was 'going off for a few days, to Aunt Liddy's,'
and wanted to know whether we had 'any messages to send?'

"The color rushed into your poor mother's cheeks. She bowed her head
very low over her papers and muttered.

"'Oh yes, give Aunt Liddy my fondest love and tell her I am making all
haste with the screen I have promised her. I shall send it to her in
less than three weeks,' she added, daring now to look up when her
agitation had subsided.

"'Perhaps you would rather take it up yourself, eh?'" said her aunt,
pinching her ears in malicious playfulness. 'I guess I know something
about this screen for Aunt Liddy, it is a screen in more ways than
one--ha-ha,' she exclaimed in taunting mockery, but still with an
effort to keep up a simpering pretence to good-humor.

"Your mother was afraid to say a word, her father had brought her up
to look upon this sister of his as a limb of a jealous law, that would
crush or annihilate her if she slighted or disrespected her in any
way. But the crimson spots came back into her cheeks, and she fell
into a sullen, indignant silence, that lasted long after her
contemptible relative had left us with her incisive good-byes. That
was a fatal visit for your poor mother's hopes, when her aunt returned
she was armed to the teeth for her combat, it began the day after her
arrival; she had invited herself to come and sit with us as we busied
ourselves around the table in the library, as before; she wheeled her
chair towards the window, and leaning back among its cushions, she
began artfully.

"'Aunt Liddy was asking me what would make a nice wedding present,
girls; she expects to be called upon to make one very soon;' the color
crept into your mother's cheeks, and her brown hair almost touched the
paper she wrote upon. 'I told her I would ask you,' Miss Hartney
added, pointedly, 'as you're likely to know more about modern tastes
than I.'"

"'It depends on the sort of person it is intended for,' I said, very
indifferently, without looking up from my work; 'no two people
appreciate the same gift in exactly the same way.'

"'Well, Aunt Liddy does not know very much about the prospective
bride; the groom is her friend, he is a young student of the
University there,' your mother paused, but did not raise her eyes.
'His name is--Dalton,' Miss Hartney went on with an insinuation of
malicious triumph.

"Cousin Bessie!" I cried, leaning forward with quick eagerness and
interrupting her story, "_Dalton_, did you say?"

"Yes, Ernest Dalton," she answered me quietly. "Ernest Dalton whom you
now know, and who is the cause of your being with me to-day."

I looked at her vacantly for a moment, and falling back languidly in
my seat, muttered faintly, "Go on."

"Where was I?" she resumed, looking wistfully into the space between
us; "Oh, yes--where Miss Hartney pronounced Ernest Dalton's name so
flourishingly--your mother looked up at her with a blanched face when
she said this, and asked:

"'Do you know for certain that what you say is true?'

"'Oh! my dear Amey--really--you frighten me,' her aunt exclaimed, with
dilated eyes and recoiling gesture, 'I am sure I can't say whether it
is Gospel truth or not, I only know what I heard and what I saw!'

"'What you _saw_?' your mother interrupted, huskily. 'What did you
_see_, Aunt Winnie?'

"'I saw this Mr. Dalton paying such attentions to a young lady while I
was there as would convince anyone of the truth of the rumours that
are afloat about him,' she simpered out, half-defiantly.

"'His sister, perhaps' your mother muttered, knocking her ivory
pen-handle nervously against her white teeth.

"'No, indeed--nor his cousin neither,' Miss Hartney retorted, with a
covert little sneer. 'What is it to you any way, child, who she is, or
what he does?' she then asked with cruel mischief.

"'It is all the world to me, Aunt Winnie,' your mother made answer,
rising up in solemn dignity, with a white face and quivering lips, 'It
is my life to me, for I love this man.'

"'Whatever are you talking of, child!' her aunt screamed, leaning her
thin hands on the arms of her chair, and bending towards her niece in
furious consternation. 'Pretty work this is; how will your father like
it, I wonder,' she gasped, sinking back again among her cushions in a
dry rage.

"'I don't care how anyone likes it,' said your mother quietly and
sadly. 'I am old enough now to know my own duty. I shall love, and
marry whoever I please.'

"'Well! upon my word--you don't mean to say so--do you, Queen Amelia?'
Miss Hartney returned in cold irony. 'Well then, my dear, you had
better be wider awake to your own interests,' she went on, 'for your
first attempt is going sadly against you already, poor child. I'm glad
your choice pleases you, you are not fastidious--but to all
appearances your regard is not reciprocated very warmly. May be, he is
only amusing himself during your absence, I can't say. He would be a
great fool not to take you when you are so willing, and aunt Liddy is
so fond of you, and getting old now--but it is evident that he enjoys
the society of the other girl. Aunt Liddy herself, with all her
partiality for you, confessed that Ernest Dalton's manner is much more
distant and reserved with you, than with this Inez Campuzano, with her
Spanish beauty, enough to intoxicate any silly, sentimental youth.'

"'Go on, aunt Winnie, said your suffering mother,' looking up at her
tormentor, with a glance of reproachful sarcasm. 'Go on, this is very
comforting, and you seem to relish it. What else?'

"'What else?' Miss Hartney repeated, with all the dainty sarcasm of a
disappointed old maid. 'Well! since you will know, child, I may as
well tell you--the brave Mr. Dalton is not alone in the field; he has
a powerful rival; one of those dark, heroic-looking Frenchmen of high
birth and fierce tempers. He swears he will have Mlle. Campuzano's
hand, or Ernest Dalton's heart-blood--at least this is the story I
have heard; she, in all her rich southern foreign loveliness, plays a
becomingly passive part, and is wooed, they say, first by one and then
by the other. If I were you, Amelia, I would never marry any one who
was not more faithful to me, than this, there will be little happiness
in store for you, if you do; he has plainly slighted you, in giving
cause for such vile rumours while I was in the town, and could hear of
his unbecoming behaviour--give him up child, he is altogether unworthy
of you.' Miss Hartney added, infusing something of a would-be sympathy
and solicitude unto her shrill accents.

"Your mother stood for a moment toying nervously with her white,
trembling fingers. She was so proud. My poor, dear Amelia, and this
taunting intelligence smote her to her heart's core. She swallowed a
great choking sob, and drove the blinding tears that lay upon the
surface of her large sad eyes back into the deep caverns from whence
they had sprung. She then sat quietly down, and resumed her writing.
In a month from that date, my dear Amey," cousin Bessie added in a low
hushed voice, "she was married to your father, Alfred Hampden, who had
wooed her in the meantime."

The hot tears were rolling down my cheeks during this latter part of
my mother's love-story, and when cousin Bessie looked and saw them,
she buried her own face in her hands, and wept silently for few
moments.

"And how did it end?" I asked through my sobs, impatient to know every
detail.

"Sadly enough," said cousin Bessie, wiping her eyes with a little
linen handkerchief, and folding her hands on her knees. "The truth
came out when it was too late. Young Dalton's actions had been
misconstrued by a malicious rumor, as many a good person's are. He had
interested himself somewhat in Mlle. Campuzano at the request of the
very man who, it was said, had determined to murder him, being a
devoted and earnest friend to him all along. He waited patiently for a
little while, thinking it would all come right in time; at length, he
wrote such a pleading letter to your mother, urging her to renew her
old trust in him, and to do him the justice, if not the kindness, of
believing his solemn assurances, before the careless gossip of their
mutual enemies. This letter reached our house on her wedding-day after
she had left for her honey-moon trip.

"Shortly after her return, her aunt Liddy died, and as she was left
sole heiress to the money and property, she was obliged to go to the
funeral: there, she met Ernest Dalton once again. I believe their
interview was heart-rending. She had her dignity as the wife of
another man to sustain, and he had that dignity to respect, but he
cleared himself in her eyes, and they bade one another a long farewell
in the stillness of the death-chamber, with only the peaceful
slumberer, who lay with the eternal sleep upon her cold drooped lids,
as their witness and their safe-guard.

"Your poor mother was never the same again, and succumbed to the very
first trial that beset her after this. She died, while you were yet
struggling into existence. Heaven had pity upon her blighted life, and
called her from the world of shadows and sighs that encompassed her
round about. They repented--all of them--when repentance was only
remorse, and kissed her dead lips with a passionate pleading for
pardon, that was terrible to see.

"They christened you, calling you by her name, and Ernest Dalton was
asked to be your god-father: these were the only amends they were ever
able to make. I hope Heaven was merciful to them all, for they are
dead and gone now," Cousin Bessie added, wiping fresh tears of bitter
sadness from her eyes, "but it was a cruel wrong they did her--a
cruel, cruel wrong," she repeated, swaying herself to and fro, and
looking vacantly into the fire.

"And Ernest Dalton is my guardian, my god-father?" I said in a husky
whisper, leaning towards her.

"Yes dear, did he never tell you? He couldn't speak of your mother, I
suppose," she answered when I had shaken my head in a mute reply to
her question; "he couldn't, God help him. I heard he carries her
picture and his to this day, in a little locket on his watch-chain,
and that he lives in voluntary singleness, determined that no one
shall ever replace her in his love."

The tears were swimming in my eyes again: something throbbed and
burned within my head, and my heart lay full and heavy in my breast. I
remembered the little locket I had found, and saw Hortense's and my
mistake about it now; but I would not speak of it then, I could not. I
thought of Hortense's mysterious letter, and puzzled over it in
painful confusion, but I would not mention that either, until it had
shown me its meaning more definitely. One thing I did ask, with a
trembling, unsteady voice:

"What became of this Miss Campuzano, did you hear, Cousin Bessie?"

"She married the Frenchman, dear, as she intended from the first. She
liked the name and the prospect altogether of becoming his wife."

"What was his name?"

"Bayard de Beaumont, a good one it is I believe."

"Bayard de Beaumont!" I fairly screamed after her. "Oh, Cousin
Bessie," I cried--"how very strange all this is, my nerves are on fire
with agitation. I know him. I have met him, he is the brother of my
little friend Hortense, whose family name I never happened to tell
you."

"Well! that is the man, and a poor prize he had in his Spanish
beauty," cousin Bessie went on. "She was as dazzling as the sunlight,
and as beautiful as the richest exotic, but she was as heartless as a
stone. He was the maddest man in love, they said, that ever lived. He
made an idol of that woman and simply worshipped her, and she smiled
upon him, the cold cruel traitress, as she smiled upon everybody; won
his heart and his senses with her artful wiles, and in the belief that
he was rich, as well as high-born, she married him."

"And they were not happy?" I put in eagerly.

"Happy!" Cousin Bessie repeated with terrible emphasis. "I don't think
they were happy at the close of their wedding-day. She who had been
all smiles, all sweetness before, showed herself in her true colours
then. I have been told, that while they were traveling on their
wedding-day, she coolly remarked to him that, 'there was no reason now
why she should take the trouble to be always in a stupid good-humour,
that he had taken her 'for better, for worse,' and if it was 'for
worse' she couldn't help it.'"

"You can imagine how broken-hearted he became," Cousin Bessie
proceeded, seeing how impatient I was to learn the whole story. "He
grew morbid and gloomy at first, now appealing to her with the remnant
of his former passionate love for her, now indulging her every
caprice, thus hoping to guard against occasions that might provoke her
quick and cutting sarcasm; but he was always coldly and cruelly
baffled; he had married beauty and grace, and external loveliness in
the height of its perfection, but oh! what a soul was coupled with all
this!" Cousin Bessie exclaimed, shrinking into herself. "She was the
most eminently and systematically selfish woman that ever lived, and
she lived to weep and regret it. When she saw that her shameful
behaviour alienated her from the love her husband had once cherished
and professed for her, she declared herself injured and deceived, and
determined to revenge herself. This she did, at the risk of her very
soul."

"What did she do?" I asked in breathless enquiry.

"Had recourse to opium" said Cousin Bessie with a curl of her lip, and
a shrug of her honest shoulders. "And kept at it" she continued,
"until she brought herself to where she is to day!"

"Where?" I asked again, in a hushed whisper.

"To the mad-house, for she has become a raving maniac. Her last
subterfuge was too much for her, and I only hope it may not have
compromised her eternal happiness, in vainly striving to gratify a
fiendish, unreasonable wrath, and avenge imaginary wrongs. Poor thing,
her beauty was a fatal gift to her!"

With the other strange features of cousin Bessie's story still
uppermost in my mind, it is little wonder that I sank back dumfounded
and dazed, into my chair, as these final words resounded in my ears. I
could see Bayard de Beaumont, with his grave, solemn face standing
under a shadow of sorrow and gloom before me. What an infinite
sadness, his seemed to me now, when I knew all! And my dream! How
strange, how true it was. How well I knew that there was danger in
that handsome face, with its intriguing loveliness, and its mock
sincerity!

The outer door closed, while I sat silently thinking, and Louis and
Zita came in with happy, beaming faces, and their school-books piled
upon their arms. Cousin Bessie rose up, with a warning look at me, and
kissed them both, tenderly, in her usual way.

The subject of our afternoon chat was hushed in a moment, and we gave
our attention to the simple discussion of domestic topics, but it
seems to me, if Zita or Louis had been in the least suspicious they
could easily have detected the strained, unnatural efforts which
cousin Bessie and I both made to appear disinterested and free from
distractions, during the rest of that evening.







CHAPTER XVI.

By noon, next day, I had reached my old home, and was folded in Alice
Merivale's warm embrace. How beautiful she looked, standing on the
platform of the depot as we steamed in? So tall, and graceful, and
lady-like, so handsomely dressed, so striking in every particular!

I was proud to be claimed by her, when I came out, and be led
enthusiastically away by her, into their comfortable sleigh, among
their rich and luxurious robes: in twenty minutes we were at the
house, where a cordial reception greeted me on every side.

The news of my engagement had got ahead of me; there is no bridling
intelligences of this nature, whether they go up with the smoke out of
our chimneys, or creep through the key-holes of our doors, it is hard
to say, but get abroad, they must, and do.

They are served up at the _recherche_ repasts of fashionable families,
and keep time with the stitches of gossip-loving milliners and
dress-makers, they are the great prevailing attraction at tea-socials,
sewing societies and bazaars, and are not unfrequently discussed over
the genial "rosy" or behind a flavoured cigar. Rumour is the worst
epidemic that has ever visited humanity.

But as there is nothing to be ashamed of, in half of what Rumour says
about us, we may as well meet it with a friendly face, and this I did,
when my old friends teazed or congratulated me in their peculiar way.
I shall not dwell at length upon the details of my first visit to my
old home: those persons and circumstances that may interest the
reader, more particularly, shall alone claim my attention. Ernest
Dalton was not in town, he had left some days before my arrival, and
had given no definite promise to return at a late or early date. I
only learned, that he had "gone away."

Arthur Campbell, I do not count, of course, for I saw him every day at
least, sometimes twice and oftener, in the twenty-four hours; and
Alice Merivale? She had her own story, which I may as well finish for
the reader, as I pass by.

She had been home, about three weeks, when a dashing young Englishman
took the Capital by storm. One of those tall, lean, wiry-looking
fellows with clothes so well-fitting that a pocket-full of bank-notes
would have utterly destroyed the desired effect. He wore very long and
very pointed shoes, and a peculiar little hat, made of hideous tweed,
with flaps tied over the low crown with fluttering ribbons. He carried
a tall, lean, wiry-looking stick, not a bad counterpart of himself, if
it had only had a tweed cap on one end, and a pair of tooth-pick shoes
on the other, with here and there a little slit for a silk
handkerchief, or a reserved cigar. His drawl was perfect, and his
eye-glass as bright--as his wits.

In his outer pocket, he carried a little plush card-case, stuffed with
little printed visiting cards, on whose immaculate surface, the
name--Mr. Sylvester Davenport Clyde--lay in conscious dignity and
beauty. Away down in the left hand corner, like a parenthetical
guarantee of Mr. Clyde's imposing social standing, was neatly
inscribed--Portland Place, London, England.

Mr. Sylvester Davenport Clyde, of Portland Place, London, England, a
pleasure tourist in Canada, with a (figurative) mortgage on every town
he visited, and a claim on the hand of one of Canada's fairest
daughters.

It would be too hazardous of me, perhaps to declare that he had no
claim upon her heart, but with the most perfect sanction of the most
scrupulous discretion, I can safely avow, that she never loved him,
for she owned to me, she did not. She laughed most boisterously at
him, when he took his maiden snow-shoe tramp, and actually displeased
him with her ridicule, when he came up the toboggan hill after an
unfortunate slide, making strenuous efforts to shake the wet snow from
under his stiff, linen cuffs; his yellow gloves were sadly spoiled,
and his eye-glass broken; his hat was injured by being blown off in
the descent, and there were other still more grievous consequences
which need not be mentioned, since the mercy of the darkness kept them
from the general view.

She married him, however, before he returned to Portland Place. Her
father and mother shouldered the responsibility of paraphrasing his
genteel pretensions by enumerating, for the gratification or envy of
other Canadian husband-seekers, the many titled connections and
immediate relatives of their prospective son-in-law.

If all they said were true he must have been related to half the
landed aristocracy of that world-famed metropolis. What surprised me,
above and beyond all comprehension, was, that Mrs. Merivale, for a
lady who had completely forgotten that "prepositions govern the
objective case," could remember with such accurate fidelity the
endless syllables of these high-sounding titles, and the intricate
channels and by-ways through which the original blue blood came down
the stream of vanished generations into the narrow vessels that made
Mr. Sylvester Davenport Clyde's humanity sacred and precious to
fashionable eyes.

There was not much mention of whose son he was, his social prestige
had a more remote source than his immediate parentage. He was greater
as a grandson, immortal as a nephew, a very idol on fashion's shrine
when his relations by marriage were taken into account. He had endless
cousins of high-bred notoriety, who had again married into still
greater and grander families, all of whom Mrs. Merivale now reckoned
as easily at her fingers' ends, as she could the days of the week, or
seasons of the year. In this brainless boy who was, and ever must be
an alien to the finer susceptibilities and nobler aspirations of true
and sturdy manhood, the Merivales were pleased to see, a full and
happy realization of all their fondest hopes. Alice would be courted
and flattered in the highest circles; was not that what their dream
had been from the first?

And Alice herself was seemingly satisfied. Her better nature had been
crushed out entirely by her frivolous pastimes and pursuits. There was
no re-action now, no leaping up of the old flame which cast great ugly
shadows over her other life. She had stifled her struggling
conscience, had laughed its keen remonstrances to scorn, and now she
was free. Nothing now would do her but a ceaseless round of pleasures
and gay distractions. Nothing but feasting, and merry-making and song.
There must be no lull in the din of glad confusion, no pause in the
ring of that restless mirth--that mock pacifier of human scruples that
stirs and stimulates us to-day, but that to-morrow drives our deepest
misery to remorse.

They were married after Easter, and such a wedding as it was! Half the
merchants of the town might have retired upon their profits when it
was over if they had had any hankering after good society, which they
did not happen to have. Her bridal equipage, of course, came from
England and was chosen by the Dowager Lady Trebleston, a great-aunt of
the groom, who was not at all distinguished for any particular ability
to choose a wedding outfit with extraordinary taste or economy, but
whose name lent a flavour to the choice, as "Dresden" does to china,
or "Cambridge" to sausages.

It was quite disappointing to Mrs. Merivale if any of her visitors had
heard of Lady Trebleston's name, in connection with the bridal array,
before she had had the opportunity and exquisite pleasure of imparting
it. Still, she had many such disappointments, for the news had spread
like wild-fire at its first mention, and floated through the town on
every lip, regardless of discrimination.

The wedding-presents were marvels of beauty and wealth, and such an
array as there was. Alice contemplated them with many a sweeping
glance of open admiration, which was generally followed by the dancing
of a light pirouette around the room, and an exulting cry of "Who
wouldn't get married after that, eh, Miss Hampden?"

As this was not the time for remonstration of any sort, on my part, I
remained utterly passive throughout, watching the proceedings in their
origin and progress with a curious and puzzling eye. Alice was full of
the occasion; she danced and sang, and skipped about the house, in the
maddest manner possible, hugging us all around whenever some new
addition arrived to her already magnificent collection of gifts.

Such a trying on of dresses, and mantles and hats. Such endless
speculations about the ultimate crisis of the whole affair, and how it
would all come off. What the papers would say, and what people would
think. Such an arranging of after-sports, travels, and elaborate
receptions. I expected the hair, of not only the men, women, and
children, but of all the fur-bearing animals of the town, whether
alive, or in door mats, to stand rigidly on end with consternation at
sight of such realizations, and the teeth of all the combs and saws in
the country, to water with envy when the great climax would have
arrived.

No one spoke of her marriage as a great and solemn change coming into
her life. No one foresaw cheerful glimpses of a happy, domestic life,
presided over by a steady sustaining unity of loves. No pictures were
drawn of quiet, fireside pleasures, in their future home, no praises
uttered of a woman's hallowed power to make life's burdens easy for
him whose happiness she is free to make or mar.

Every one said how bright a star this dazzling bride would be; the
comet of many seasons, the cynosure of many jealous and many admiring
eyes. No one said: "how loving, how devoted she will be, a model wife,
a patient helpmate, the joy and comfort of her husband's days." This
was a minor consideration. I suppose, the world knows nothing of these
stay-at-home little housewives, the angels of many a happy hearth,
whose busy fingers, beaming smiles and gentle accents are the rest and
refuge of many a toil-worn weaver at life's heavy loom. To lay aside
the world's distressing cares at sunset, to wipe his moistened brow,
and "homeward plod his weary way" to his cabin small and lowly, where
glows this cheerful love in one dear breast, in one sweet face, is to
the uncouth "ploughman" a joy, a comfort, which many a prince doth
envy.

It is not I who say it, but our century has proven beyond a question,
unfortunately, that the full Christian interpretation of the Divine
ordination concerning those "whom God hath joined together" has, like
many other principles of rigid morality, become for the most part
dependant upon that honest, toiling, sterling mass of humanity upon
which society looks down with a haughty forbearance or condescending
patronage. When we want a type of genuine manhood, let us leave the
lighted hall, where gilded folly revels, let us leave the solemn
chamber of science and of art, men have chilled it with the foul and
withering breath of infidelity and materialism, let us leave the busy
arena of commerce, men are gloating over gain and gold in their hidden
corners; let us rest with that sturdy, active, middle-class, where the
mechanic's ingenious conceptions puzzle and captivate the most
listless observer; let us watch the busy minds and busier fingers of
those men, so fascinated by their daily toil, that all the world
outside their own great pursuits has become a power beyond them, which
they neither flatter, nor defy. If the labour of the right hand be the
touchstone of men's inward morality, then how conclusively my theory
is sanctioned by the black and brawny fingers of the human industry,
whose praises I could sing forever; there is no treacherous ambush in
such natures, as I speak of now; no hidden recesses, where the animal
man may lay in wait to assault or overcome the spiritual man. Every
lurking tendency to evil is easily blighted by that stimulating
activity which brings moisture to the furrowed brow, which strengthens
the sinewy arm, and stamps its wholesome seal upon the broad and
hardened hand!

It seems odd enough, to say, that among such are found the greatest
and noblest phases of humanity, and yet, is it not so? Is not that man
great and noble, whose honest path lies straight within the precincts
of righteousness? who has lifted himself above the power of sordid
influences, who looks upon mortal throes as the stepping-stones to
immortal joys? that man to whose watchful eyes the shallow side of
nature is ever uppermost, he who serves but one master, whose only
policy is honesty, whose only stimulus is the ever-abiding promise of
a blissful hereafter, and whose attitude towards his fellow-creatures
is one of charity and kind forbearance?

I have wandered a little, while noting down the details of Alice
Merivale's fashionable wedding, and though I feel that it is doing Mr.
Sylvester Davenport Clyde a cruel injustice to bring him to the front
again, beside such pictures of exalted humanity as we have just been
contemplating, I owe it, in amendment, for my trespass upon the
reader's patience, to proceed with the interrupted thread of my story,
and can therefore only trust to the generosity of his disposition not
to dwell at any length upon the compromising nature of the contrast,
but to remember Mr. Clyde, in his more interesting character of
bridegroom, at a very showy and stylish wedding ceremony.

When the great event had come and gone, no one could tell exactly
whether half his or her sanguine expectations had been fulfilled or
not. I had an uneasy suspicion, at the time, that the soundness of the
family's mental organization had become temporarily suspended, from
Mrs. Merivale down--they seemed to have gone stark mad.

It was six weeks after the ceremony of pelting a glittering carriage
with white slippers and rice, as it rolled away from their
festive-looking mansion, that Mrs. Merivale dropped down into an
easy-chair one afternoon with the greatest languor and physical
depression, and declaring that "those fashionable weddings were enough
to knock a body up for a month," quietly fell asleep among her
comfortable cushions.







CHAPTER XVII.

There is only a little more labor for my long-used wheel, and the
threads of my uneven life will have run on to the crisis. I cannot
console myself with the thought that it has been watched through its
tedious progress, by loving or partial glances: the bobbin was faulty
and stiff at times, and the worker grew pensive and weary. Sometimes,
the sunlight broke over my toil, and I sang to the wheel as it was
rolling; but sometimes again there were shadows, and the wheel was
then heavy and slower. Sometimes, the threads grew so tangled, that I
sighed with impatience and worry, the weft bears the marks in the
weaving--they are plain, in unwinding the pirns--and still, 'twas a
labor of love, this patchwork of sunlight and shadow, this discord of
sorrow and song.

"The fragment of a life, however typical, is not the sample of an even
web" said George Eliot, and who knew the nature of the warp and weft
of our human fabric better than she! We pass from our joy to our
sorrow, as the night passes into the day, it is part and parcel of the
mechanism of our daily lives, smiling and sighing, we spin and we
weave till the twilight's gray dusk overtakes us--then our tired hands
are folded together, and the Master takes care of the rest.

From Alice Merivale's wedding, I was called to Hortense de Beaumont's
bedside. In the comparatively short interval of our separation, she
had wasted almost beyond recognition. We were mistaken when we
persuaded ourselves, that she had baffled her former attack, she had
never quite rallied, and when the March winds began to blow, her frail
constitution gave way anew. She drooped so quickly, that it was too
late when real danger was apprehended, to take her to a warmer refuge.
Madame de Beaumont looked little better than her invalid daughter from
weeping and worrying, when I arrived.

On the second day, only, was I allowed to see Hortense, and what a
change I saw! There was death in every feature, every curve of her
once beautiful face. She revived as usual, when I was announced, and
wanted to sit up and talk a great deal more than the attending
physician would allow, or than she was really able to do. They took
advantage of this desire of hers, to coax her to nourish herself more
than she was wont.

"If you take your prescriptions and obey orders, I shall let you have
a half-hour's conversation with your friend every day," said the
doctor one morning, in a bargaining tone; "if not" he added, pausing,
and looking at her seriously--after which he shook his head slowly and
emphatically, and said no more.

"Very well then, I will try to take them doubled if you like" she
answered faintly, directing a playful glance towards me, and breaking
into one of her old smiles. "I must talk to her!"

She could not "take them doubled," poor child, but she made heroic
efforts to swallow them as prescribed, in order that she might have
her talk with me. My poor Hortense! She never had but the one
half-hour's conversation with me, for she passed into a better world,
before the birds had learned their summer songs.

"Put away that book, and come here, my Amey" she said faintly one
afternoon, as I sat by her bedside watching with her. I closed the
volume and going nearer to her, sat on the margin of her bed, and took
her delicate hands in mine.

"I have something to tell you now--my big secret--that I wrote you
about, you know."

She began in broken sentences, her breath was weak and short, and her
voice like an echo.

"It would not be so long if you knew about--about Bayard,
poor--Bayard, and that dreadful--" she stopped, and a crimson spot
appeared on each pallid cheek. I leaned over her gently, and said in a
soothing whisper:

"May be I do know it, my little woman. Is it about Bayard's
unfortunate marriage? If so, they have told me the whole sad story."

She bowed her head, in answer to my question and muttered feebly:

"I am so glad because I hate to speak of it, but my secret is not
that. Do you know where Inez is now?"

I nodded affirmatively. "Well, first when she went there, Bayard had a
dreadful sickness, and he wanted to die--called out to death at every
moment to come and rescue him, though he was not prepared; he would
not hear of forgiving Inez, he declared he hated her, and was glad of
her affliction, and still, with these sentiments he wanted to die! Oh,
how I prayed against his prayer!" she exclaimed, with an effort of
enthusiasm, "how I begged of God, to turn a deaf ear to his mad
supplication, and lend a willing one to mine. I suffered an agony of
suspense, and at last, the crisis came, he struggled with it,
conquered it, and got better. So far my prayer was heard, but my
trouble was not over, he regained his health and his strength, but he
was a changed man otherwise. He hated his past life and the woman who
was so intimately associated with it; he became gloomy and reckless,
gave up his religion with all its practices of piety, and abandoned
himself to books of science, such as are the ruin of human souls all
over the world. I remonstrated with him hourly, but without avail--" a
slight coughing interrupted her here, I gave her a drink and shook up
her pillows, and feeling somewhat refreshed, she lay back again and
continued:

"Mamma thought that his solitude was perhaps his great enemy and wrote
to his college chum, Mr. Dalton, to come and visit us for a little
while." At the mention of Ernest Dalton's name a faint pink colour
rose steadily into her face. "He came and spent three months with us,
but did little good in the way we had hoped he could, but he was kind
and consoling in another way. He gave poor mamma great comfort while
he remained; when he left they sent me to Notre Dame, I don't know
why, although it proved a great blessing in the end.

"My mother used to write me about Bayard's moods, which were now often
worse, and never better. Ah! no one knew what a burden of grief I
carried to and from the class-room of Notre Dame Abbey. Sometimes I
felt that only for my mother, death would be a merciful relief, which
is a sad conviction for one so young. One day," she said, lowering her
voice almost to a whisper and folding her thin hands over the white
counter-pane "I was praying in the chapel and I began to think
seriously of all my troubles, how dark and gloomy they looked and how
weak and cowardly I seemed! Suddenly a little voice within me began to
ask: 'Why don't you make some desperate effort to save those whose
misfortunes are making you so miserable? Why would you not try some
daring sacrifice for instance, so that your brother be set free and
the ultimate recovery and conversion of his wife be obtained?' I
hesitated and looked through my gathering tears at the flickering lamp
in the sanctuary. What sacrifice could I make? _I_ had no pleasures,
no real comforts in life--nor the prospect of any--except one, and
even that was only a shadowy, misty hope, the merest uncertainty; but
it was my dearest, best-loved fancy, and I could not do more then than
resign it, so I knelt down, Amey, where you and I knelt side by side a
few nights later before you went away, and--" a sob came into her
throat and tears dimmed her eyes; my own were moist in expectation of
what was coming. She rested a little, and allowing her tears to fall
unwiped upon her cheeks, she took up the broken thread and added:

"I pledged myself to Our Blessed Lady, in soul and body for all the
days of my life, if, by her holy intercession the double conversions
of Bayard and Inez might be accomplished before I died."

"You mean that you promised--"

"Never to marry," she added eagerly "although at that time, only
Heaven knew how I had grown to love Ernest Dalton. I did not know he
was _your_ friend then, Amey. I fancied he had spoken in a
particularly kind way to me and he could not but see how fondly I
cherished his every word and look--but I gave him up--the only
sacrifice I had to lay upon that altar of supplication. Afterwards I
saw that what I had done out of solicitude for the welfare of those
who are nearest and dearest to me on earth would, perhaps, have been
exacted of me by the cruel irony of fate. Ernest Dalton loved you all
along, I suspected it on that day when we examined his locket
together, and your strange, conscious look when I spoke of him
convinced me of it easily."

"Poor Hortense," I muttered in a half sob.--"He is my guardian, my
god-father, and the picture in his locket is not mine at all, it is my
mother's."

"Amey! Your mother's?"

"Yes, he loved her years ago before she married my father. There was
some misunderstanding between them and they drifted apart, but he has
always been faithful to her memory up to this. They say I am very like
her," I added slowly, folding my hands and looking away towards the
distant gray clouds outside.

"Her living image," said Hortense, wistfully, "if I may judge by that
little picture, but you--didn't you love him too, Amey?" she asked
with an eager look, stroking my hand gently with her own delicate
palm.

"It is a time for confessions, Hortense," I answered timidly, "or I
should never tell you this, however, we may as well be frank with one
another now. I thought I did, until I had reason to suspect that you
loved him also, from that moment I resigned him to you and refused to
think of him ever again, except as an old, esteemed and devoted
friend. I did not know at that time that he had ever known my mother,
nor did I suspect the existence of the close ties that bind us to one
another in a different way. I only knew that in encouraging my regard
for him, I might be trespassing upon the peace and happiness of your
life and that is something that Amey Hampden never would or could do
to Hortense de Beaumont above all other living creatures."

"You thought he would return my love in time and that we would
ultimately be happy together, and with this hope you made your
sacrifice did you?" she questioned eagerly.

"I did, my darling little friend! I would not come between you and
your life's projects, for all the world," I answered, clasping her
wasted form in my strong, loving embrace. "I would have been well
repaid, when I saw you happy with my help."

She leaned her head upon my shoulder and wept in silence for a moment.
I would have checked her, but there were sobs in my own voice, and
water in my eyes. At last when I had calmed myself a little, I stroked
her hair kindly and consolingly, entreating her to be quiet and
composed. "You shall harm yourself, with crying, and they will blame
me" I urged, "so cheer up like a good little woman, and be yourself
again."

She looked up quickly, as I spoke, the fresh tears trembled on her
lids, like dew upon the petals of some woodland flower, but a smile,
as bright as the sun-ray that dispels the dew-drop broke over her wan
and wasted countenance, as she answered:

"Blame _you_! Oh Amey I have never been so happy, as with you. You
have been more than a sister to me, you have done for me what no one
else in the world would have thought of doing for another but Amey
Hampden!"

"It has brought you no benefit, my little woman" I said regretfully,
"although I believed your happiness was partly in my hands at the
time."

"It has brought me more than you can ever realize, Amey," she
interrupted, falling back among her pillows, tired from her exertion.
"It has held the cup of a soothing friendship to my parched and
fevered lip whose draught has dispelled every sorrow that lay hopeless
and heavy upon my heart. If life could tempt me, now, to return to my
former vigour and strength, it need only hold up to my dying eyes the
picture of your unselfish heroism. When one has a friend, such as you
have been, the pleasures of the world have a double sweetness; in a
little while" she added, lowering her voice, and looking away towards
the western horizon, into which the setting sun had begun to dip his
yellow rays, "I will have left all these things behind me; the joys
and sorrows of my young life will recede together into the mists of
time, as I go on to my eternity--but, I know there will be some
remaining who will carry my memory, the memory of my little life, that
was not more than half spent, through all the years of her own happy
one, someone to pray for me, to commune with me in spirit, even when I
have passed into that shadow-land. And that will be you, my Amey.
Perhaps it will comfort you then, to remember that I died in peace and
contentment after all--for my poor prayer has been heard in heaven.
When I wrote you that last letter, about my dawning compensation, I
could see that I had not made my sacrifice in vain, Bayard was
changing, every one saw it, resolving himself into the better man, he
has since become, and more than that, Amey--oh, how it thrills me to
think of it!" she exclaimed with reverent ardour "a change has taken
place elsewhere! We received a letter from the superintendent of the
asylum where poor Inez is confined, telling us that she had many lucid
moments of late, and that her attendants had frequently found her upon
her knees, with streaming eyes and trembling hands, imploring
forgiveness for her past follies. This was soon followed by a second
one, which urged Bayard to go to her: her health and strength were
failing, it said, and there were great hopes of her recovering her
senses before death. His name, it further stated, was ever on her
lips.

"Bayard had a terrible struggle with his pride and his passions. He
walked the room through the whole of one livelong night, sighing and
moaning, and talking to himself in muttered syllables--mamma and I
could hear him, and he prayed unceasingly, again and again. I renewed
my promises and my life oblation. Towards morning Bayard grew calmer
and when the sun rose he unlocked his door and came to seek us in our
seclusion. How pale his handsome face had grown! How wild and
dishevelled his wavy hair! How marked were the lines of misery and
care around his mouth and eyes! He came to my bed and leaned tenderly
over me, I could see the traces of his recent conflict so plainly
then."

"'Good-bye, little sister,' he said, 'I am going away for a few days,
take care of yourself during my absence,--and pray for me.' He kissed
me with his cold, dry lips and turned away. When he came back a week
later there was a peaceful sadness where his misery had been. He had
seen Inez again; had sat by her death-bed and held her dying hand in
generous forgiveness. He believed her then that she sorely repented of
her past. Her dark hair had turned almost white, and where rich curves
of beauty had marked the outlines of her face and form there were
hollows and angles of emaciation and suffering. She died with a
pleading for pardon and mercy upon her lips, and Bayard came back a
better man. He says he will devote the remainder of his life to an
atonement for his past, and this is what I have been waiting to hear
before I could die in peace. I cannot presume to say," Hortense added
humbly, "that my poor prayers alone could have brought about these
wonderful conversions, but I suppose they have helped, the good
sisters at Notre Dame always told us to 'ask and we should receive,'
and I believe them now. What is the pledge I have made to the fruit it
has yielded? The happiness which the world affords is well lost in
such a cause as this. Is it not, my Amey?"

"Indeed it is," I answered earnestly, "but all the same I think you
have done the most noble and heroic of Christian actions in enlisting
against your own earthly happiness to favor such a cause however
worthy it may be."

"I do not regret it now, Amey," she said with a sweet, sad smile;
"when we look back upon our lives from the watch-tower of a dawning
eternity we are glad to see some noble effort standing out in relief
from all the daily transgressions that confront us. I wish now there
were more such purposes in my empty life."

"This one comprised all others, it seems to me," I put in, earnestly,
"you renounced even the possible and uncertain joys of the world. You
lived under the yoke of this voluntary self-sacrifice, which was
bringing you nearer and nearer every day to your reward."

"I have been well repaid," she answered faintly, closing her tired
lids wearily, and folding her hands; after a pause she opened them and
continued:

"When they saw how ill I was they sent for Mr. Dalton again, and he
came to see me. He told me you were on your way to visit Miss
Merivale, who was to be married in a little while, and that you were
said to be engaged to Doctor Campbell, which was puzzling news to me
at that time. He spoke sympathetically but not regretfully, I thought,
of your engagement, and I wondered more than ever what relationship
existed between Ernest Dalton and you. He praised Doctor Campbell in
the highest terms and said that you had 'made a man of him' for life.
Bayard was glad to have Mr. Dalton with us and kept him for several
weeks. He left with a promise to return soon again, I suppose he likes
to comfort Bayard while his sorrows are fresh," she added, closing her
eyes languidly and sighing faintly.

Just then Mdme. de Beaumont came in on tip-toe with some tempting
morsel for her little invalid. This broke the strain of confidence,
and as Hortense showed symptoms of exhaustion and drowsiness, after
taking her nourishment, we lowered the blinds and stole from the room.
In a few moments she was fast asleep.







CHAPTER XVIII.

By degrees Hortense succumbed to her disease. There were no happy
revivals of her old mood now; no flickering of the old vitality that
had brightened other lives besides her own.

She dozed nearly all day long, speaking very little and hardly heeding
the questions that were breathed into her ears. The April thaw had set
in and the air was moist and chilly. There was something cloudy and
oppressive in the very atmosphere one breathed, but as the days wore
on the sunshine grew warmer and brighter, and the birds hopping from
twig to twig cleared their little throats and sang forth a merry
greeting to the advancing summer-time.

The sunshine that flooded the world without grew warmer and brighter,
it is true, but the sunshine of hope that gladdens sorrow-stricken
human hearts in hours of wearisome suspense became colder and dimmer
as each new day confirmed the painful fears of Hortense's friends
concerning her ultimate recovery.

The time had at last arrived when death's dreadful warning rested on
every feature of her wasted countenance. We no longer exchanged
cheerful glances of mutual encouragement as we glided in and out of
her chamber. All was solemn and silent as the awful visitor whose
advent was now unmistakably and hopelessly announced.

There were tears, and sobs, and aching hearts that could not plead to
Hope now, for Hope had grown powerless and passive; and so we waited
in sorrow and suspense for the dismal day that was so surely at hand,
praying and watching with our loved one while the flame faintly
flickered with a dying effort within her soul.

May came--the bright, golden month of song and sunshine--and still the
faint flame flickered, leaping up at times with a delusive strength
and activity, then sinking down again until it almost expired forever.
One afternoon I returned late. I had gone out into the fields in
search of a handful of Mayflowers. I thought they might bring a smile
to my darling's lips, and for hours I had wandered about the open
country searching amid the tender early blades for violets--white or
blue.

I was coming back as, the sun began to set, feeling tired and
low-spirited. I had found but a few little flowers, for the season was
late, and I was eager to reach my destination with them while the
freshness of their beauty glowed on their tiny leaves. When I stole to
her room, however, the door was partly closed, and Bayard was walking
slowly up and down the corridor outside.

"You cannot go in now," he said in a whisper, laying one hand tenderly
upon my shoulder, "Father Douglas is with her. Go and wait in the
little front room," he added "I will call you when she is alone
again."

I turned softly around, and crept on tip-toe to the sitting-room, at
the end of the passage; the door was partly open, and I glided in
noiselessly. In an easy chair, by the open window, with his back
towards me, sat Ernest Dalton, alone.

He did not hear me, and I stood with my hand upon the casement,
wondering what I had better do: it was only for a moment, however. He
was not the same man to me now, with whom I had parted so strangely,
after my father's death; he was neither Hortense's lover nor mine, but
a good friend to us both; he was my guardian, and the only father I
had left.

It seemed strange to me, at that instant, that I ever should have
looked upon him differently, I, who had sat upon his knee in my
childhood, and cried myself to sleep within his arms, why should I
shrink from him now, when his shoulders were bending with their burden
of sorrow, and his hair growing silver, with the bitter touches of
time?

By right, he should have been my father! My poor mother had loved him
so! perhaps he was thinking of her, as he sat there, looking vacantly
out towards the west. I stole my hand from the casement, and crept
towards him slowly and gently. Still he did not heed me, he was sunk
in a reverie too profound; a little footstool lay on the floor at his
feet, I dropped myself quietly upon it, and looked up with a smile
into his face.

"Mr. Dalton!" was all I could say at the moment.

He started, as if from sleep, and turned his sad blue eyes upon me,
with a quiet wonder.

"It is you little Amey, is it?" he said, at length, taking both my
hands and bending down towards me. "How are you, little one; are you
well and happy?"

"I am not little Amey any more, Mr. Dalton," I answered, with my hands
still in his, and my eyes turned up to his good, honest face. "I have
grown into a great woman since I saw you last; I have learned many
things--sorrowful things; they have told me the story of my mother's
life, and it has changed the whole nature of my own."

"They have told you?--did they tell you all?" he asked in a low,
tremulous voice.

"Yes, everything," I answered warmly; "Mrs. Nyle has given me every
detail."

He looked at me steadily for a moment in silence, and the tears
gathered in his blue eyes--but they did not fall. When they had gone
back again he drew the footstool nearer, and began to stroke my hair
with one gentle hand.

"Amey," he said, "I have been waiting for this day through many a long
and lonely year. I might have hastened it, I suppose, but I could
not--however, perhaps it is time enough now. You know, now," he
continued, taking my hands in his again and holding them firmly
together, "why I have watched you, and followed your progress through
childhood and girlhood, into your blooming womanhood. You know why I
shared your little joys and sorrows in your youth; why I persuaded
your father to send you to Notre Dame, when I saw how miserable your
life was at home. During your absence I managed to find out the only
surviving relative I knew you had. I feared a day might come when you
would find yourself in need of such a friend, and indeed such came to
pass. When you returned from school I met you in the Hartmanns' ball
room; I had come in late on the evening train, and found an invitation
among my letters; I knew you had come home, and expected to find you
there, so I hastened thither, and saw you, as you know, first when you
were dancing, and next in the conservatory. I shall never forget how
you looked that night, Amey; it was as if time had rolled its iron
portals back, and that forth from the buried past came the dearest and
holiest associations of my life. I saw in you, as plainly as if the
'loved and lost' one her self had stood before me, the image proud and
beautiful, of my first and only love."

"My mother?" I faltered.

"Your mother," he repeated.

"I remember now," I said, with slow, sad emphasis, "that papa looked
strangely at me that night too, and did what he had not done for years
before, he kissed me kindly and tenderly, and muttered something about
my being the 'image of his happy past,' and of his never having seen
'such a likeness before.'"

"It is little wonder, child," Mr. Dalton answered, looking wistfully
into the space between us. "He loved her, too, poor Hampden--every one
did--but I loved her first, and best--yes, I know I loved her best.
How I watched your every look and tone and gesture at this time,
Amey," he exclaimed eagerly, "they were constantly bringing back my
vanished youth, and casting fitful gleams of sunshine across my wintry
track. And you took to me. I could see the reflection of the old
love-light, faint though it was, in the eyes that were only like hers,
and not really hers--yes it was a living pledge of her early love each
time you watched for me, and welcomed me, or singled me out in a
crowded room from all the rest. It was her inheritance, that she left
you, wherewith to gladden the life that Fate had urged her to
darken,--and you did it, my little one, though it could never be quite
the same."

"I loved you, and watched you jealously, God knows I did, but it was
not with that other dead love, which shall never be revived on earth.
In the sight of heaven we belonged to one another, a pledge is a
pledge, in spite of all the subterfuges and impediments of destiny,
and we were pledged to one another. Therefore do I weep my widowed
love, as if men had called her mine, as well as heaven."

"You were the only living reminder of my past to me, and as such I
cherished and guarded you. One day I almost forgot that you were only
what you are to me--it was the anniversary of that betrothal day, and
though the winter wind blew cold and fierce without, something of the
old fire glowed anew within my breast. I said to myself as I sauntered
along the quiet street, 'I will go and see my _other_ Amey, in
commemoration of this eventful day, perhaps she will smile a familiar
smile and speak words of kindness, like those my heart remembers, of
long ago.'"

"I went up to the house and asked, as usual, for your father," he
said, breaking into a sad smile. "They told me he was in his library,
and with the privileges of an old friend I walked unceremoniously in.
It was nearly dark there, and the fire was smouldering quietly among
the gathering ashes, there was a lounge drawn up before it, on which
my 'other' Amey lay sleeping. My coming in did not disturb her; she
never moved, one hand was thrown carelessly over her shapely head, the
other hung down beside her, a rich red glow was on each pretty cheek
and the shadow of a smile upon the lips so like those silent sealed
ones that twenty odd years before had spoken their love into my
listening ear.

"I looked down upon her, scarcely daring to breathe, lest the spell be
broken. We were alone in the room--we two, and it was a day pregnant
with stirring remembrances for me. Even supposing the spirit of my
loved and lost one kept guard beside her sleeping child, would she
check the honest impulse that seized me at that moment? Would she
cover the unconscious lips, that in deepest reverence and most
hallowed and respectful love I stooped and kissed? Would she,
Amey--tell me do you think she would?" he pleaded, with a wistful
sadness.

"I don't think so, Mr. Dalton," I replied in solemn earnest. "If things
had been otherwise, no one would have had a better right to do so than
you. Even as it is, your faithful, I may say religious, love for my
poor angel-mother recommends you before all others to my everlasting
esteem and affection. Besides--" I added a little playfully--"I am your
god-child, you know!"

"I have not forgotten it, bless you '" he answered. "You have her
spirit in you," he then muttered, as if in soliloquy, and then went on
to say--

"It was on that day, that I lost this little amulet of mine--this
priceless treasure, with the image of her beauty within, I have worn
it for twenty years and more, I shall wear it until I die! I knew I
lost it in that library, and used to assure myself that it was safe,
though I would not mention it to any one. At last, you returned it to
me, and I restored it to its accustomed place. It is all I will have,
in a little while, when Arthur Campbell has taken you away from me."

I have never been able to say very much in the trying moments of my
life, and so when Mr. Dalton's story was ended, I only looked out of
the window upon the gathering twilight, listening to the echo of his
plaintive accents, as they settled down upon my heart forever. After a
pause, he spoke again:--"You have promised to marry Campbell, have you
not?" he asked.

"Yes Mr. Dalton, I think he is a worthy fellow, don't you?" I replied.

"He is Amey, he is. I trust you will both be happy," was the
distracted rejoinder, and then Bayard knocked timidly at the door; I
knew what the summons meant and starting to my feet at once, I went
and obeyed it.







CHAPTER XIX.

It was my last vigil by Hortense's bed-side--for, when morning came
with its glad sun-beams, her spirit had passed away--there was no
struggle, no pain, only a sinking to rest, a falling to sleep; a quiet
transit from life's worrying turmoil, into the hallowed peace of
death!

With a handful of fresh violets, and a cross upon her breast, a lily,
white and newly-gathered, in her hand, the emblem of that purity in
which her eternal sleep had overtaken her, she lay within the quiet
precincts of her little room.

Many tears were shed, and many sighs were heaved about her! So young,
so fresh a flower in life's great garden, lying before us with its
broken stem!

We bade her our last farewell, and resigned her to the grave; I, who
had loved her with all the intimate intensity of a glowing friendship,
kissed her cold lips again and again, and turned away from her,
forever. Mr. Dalton wiped the moisture from his eyes, as he stooped
over the coffin lid, and touched her brow, fondly but reverently, with
his trembling lips, Mdme. de Beaumont fell upon the prostrate figure
of her darling, and in their last mortal embrace, swooned away! Bayard
leaning slowly over her, with a face almost as pallid as her own,
muttered in feeble sobs--"My angel! my guardian angel!" and with one
long, lingering kiss, the last he could ever give her, he turned from
her, baptized anew in her self-abnegating love, a conscious and
contrite penitent.

When the funeral was over and peace and quiet were in a measure
restored to the agitated hearts of her mother and Bayard, I made my
silent preparations to depart. Mr. Dalton had left before me. Madame
de Beaumont parted from me with the greatest reluctance, and indeed, I
was not over anxious to leave her so soon after her severe
bereavement, but my duty now lay elsewhere.

It was with the greatest profusion of gratitude and expressions of the
deepest appreciation and regard, that Bayard and his mother bade me
their last farewells. We went together to Hortense's grave in the
morning, and prayed awhile; I plucked one little sprig of early clover
that had struggled into bloom above her, and carried it away with me
as the last parting souvenir of my deeply lamented friend.

When I returned to the comfort and quiet of Cousin Bessie's home, from
which I had been estranged for many months, I began to feel the
re-action of all my recent exertions setting in. I struggled against
it with all the violence of a perverse inclination to combat it, but I
was baffled; I grew weaker day by day, and at length succumbed to the
depressing influence of a slow fever.

How good, and generous and thoughtful, dear Cousin Bessie proved
herself a thousand times over during my tedious illness. Never
complaining, never impatient, though at times I was so peevish and
trying, night after night she tended me with her own loving hands,
cheering me up when I was disposed to be gloomy, with the happiest of
predictions about my near recovery. At last, I began to show the
effects of her careful nursing, and was well enough to be helped
downstairs by Girly, or Zita or some one of that loving household--and
even here their untiring solicitude pursued me; there was no end to
the diversity of the distractions they provided for me, foremost among
which was an invitation written by Louis urging Arthur Campbell to
come and spend a few weeks at the house.

Cousin Bessie has most seriously maintained to this day that we
treated her very shabbily on this occasion; she declares she shall
never forgive Arthur, but she says it so good-humouredly that I am
tempted to suspect her sincerity.

That she should have brought us together in the fulness and generosity
of her heart, and that we should have taken advantage of the
opportunity she afforded us of enjoying one another's company from
morning until night, to plot and plan a speedy escape from her
immediate guardianship, seemed to her a selfish and ungrateful return
for so great a favour.

But she was too kind-hearted to wear her pleasant scowl very long. Mr.
Nyle would talk of a time when "somebody" that he "had since had
reason to know very well had committed just such an appalling offence,
herself and," he argued, very suggestively, "unless that 'somebody'
has had reason to regret and repent of her own rash ingratitude," he
"could not see why she should interfere with other people, who were
tempted to follow in her footsteps."

Zita and Louis laughed merrily at such allusions from their father,
whose own eyes sparkled with the "light of other days," as he spoke
them, and Cousin Bessie either bowed her head much lower than usual
over her knitting as she heard them, or looked playfully up at her
husband with a quick revival of the old time love in her pleasant,
earnest features, and entreated him to "have sense, for mercy's sake
and not have the children laughing at him."

In the first week of June, while the young summer sunshine was bright
and pleasant, Arthur and I were married, Zita was my pretty bridesmaid
and Louis our gallant groomsman; our only guests were the Rutherbys
and Mr. Dalton.

Cousin Bessie gave us a cosy wedding breakfast, and it was amid
riotous merry-making and boisterous good wishes for a long and happy
future we drove away from the little gate, where some months before
that we had begun the chapter whose joyful sequel was now in progress.

The rest is an old story, familiar to many homes and hearts, the story
of that wedded happiness which is the outgrowth of two steady,
abiding, enduring loves. I have been happier as Arthur Campbell's wife
than I could ever have been as Ernest Dalton's, and I shall state why:

When we are young, we develop a tendency to exalt and idealize the
common-place phases of life beyond all limits of reason or
possibility. We flatter our buoyant expectations with the conviction
that there is honey in the heart of every trifling flower we must
gather by life's dusty roadside, and that it needs but the magic touch
of our own hand to have it brought to the surface. This is a pleasant
delusion, which, however, is susceptible of being rudely and roughly
dispelled by an impartial experience as we grow older, when this
exaggerated tendency creeps into our loves, and it is there it holds
the fullest sway, and does the maddest mischief, the danger of a
disenchanting awakening is still greater and more hazardous. For when
we love in an abstract sense we exclusively, love in utter oblivion of
the exactions of real life; we never stop to consider that that love
which purposes to endure and strengthen with time must be coupled with
a broad, impartial view of the stubborn circumstances, which are the
facts of existence. A love that is all poetry and moonshine dies a
sudden death in the face of practical dilemmas.

I have become convinced of this many a time, though my experience of
wedded life is necessarily limited. Arthur and I have counted the
grocer's bills, and made out the wash account, with the pleasantest
smiles and most playful manner possible; and I have felt as I leaned
upon his shoulder and scanned the items before us, that he was the
dearest and best of husbands, whereas--Mr. Dalton, oh shades of poetry
and song! imagine Ernest Dalton poring over a soapy wash account. I
mention it, and Arthur joins me in the merry laugh the bare thought of
it provokes.

Mr. Dalton, however, was always our good, kind friend, while he
remained in our town. To the spirit of emigration that pervaded our
cities some years later we owe his loss. He stole away without letting
any one know of his definite purpose, and buried himself in the
solitude of the North-West prairies.

For a time he was a punctual correspondent, but there came a breach
and a pause, during which we learned of his serious illness, and
subsequently of his death. To the end he had remembered us, and no one
grieved for him more earnestly, more deeply than Arthur and I.

Some weeks after the announcement of his death had been made known to
us, I received a little box which had been found among his personal
belongings, addressed to me. It contained the identical locket which
had been in my possession once before, and which was now bequeathed to
me with injunctions to wear it faithfully, in memory of the two
departed ones, whose time-worn pictures lay safely stowed away within.

His money and other properties he bequeathed to the little fair-haired
prattler now playing at my knee. We have called him Ernest Dalton
Campbell, but Arthur says we must keep that until he is big, and in
the meantime has christened him "Toddles," which is very absurd to my
thinking, but to which, with all the edifying obedience of a Christian
wife I am bound to submit now, as well as in every matter of greater
or less moment.

I thought I had finished my story when I laid down my pen, a few
months ago, and gave a long-drawn sigh of infinite relief. Time has,
however, hastened the development of a few more items, that may be of
more or less interest to those readers who have kindly followed the
_dramatis personae_, that have been flitting through these chapters,
with a partial attention.

As I write the closing words my _dramatis personae_ come trooping to
the front, to group themselves for the final tableau--Cousin Bessie
and her faithful husband are the central and leading figures; her
hands are folded, and a happy, peaceful smile plays around the corners
of her good-humoured face.

On one side of her stands Zita, a pretty, blushing bride, leaning on
Philip Rutherby's arm; so ardent is the young bridegroom in his
admiration that he threatens to spoil the whole effect, if we keep him
before the public eye for very long. Louis is not with them, he has
been sent away to college.

On the other side of the leading figures, Dr. and Mrs. Campbell, with
a roguish gray-eyed darling, are grouped affectionately together; they
all look very happy, but I think Mrs. Campbell is the most so of any.
At a little distance from this last small circle stands our old
friend, Girly, now grown beyond all recognition into a pleasing and
promising womanhood; and away in the misty background a long-forgotten
trio loom out in sombre sullenness; they are Mrs. Hampden, and Fred
and the 'solicitous brother.' Fred is a hopeless dyspeptic, who can
give his mind to nothing else but his digestion, which unfortunate
circumstance frets his new disenchanted parent and provokes his no
longer solicitous uncle.

They are all in apparent ill-humour, so we will screen them off from
our laughing, happy band, as we rise to make our final curtsey and
retire behind the curtain of our private, domestic lives.






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