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´╗┐Title: Clemence - The Schoolmistress of Waveland
Author: Babcock, Retta
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Clemence - The Schoolmistress of Waveland" ***

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American Fiction Project.)



CLEMENCE,

THE

Schoolmistress of Waveland,

BY RETTA B. BABCOCK,

AUTHOR OF "GRAHAM LODGE; OR, LAURA CLIFFORD'S LIFE ROMANCE."

       *       *       *       *       *

    Not many friends my life has made;
      Few have I loved, and few are they
    Who in my hand their hearts have laid;
      And these are women. I am gray,
    But never have I been betrayed.

                                    J. G. HOLLAND.

       *       *       *       *       *

CLEVELAND, OHIO:

PRINTED BY THE LEADER PRINTING COMPANY, NO. 142 SUPERIOR STREET.

1870.



PREFACE.


The favor with which a generous public received a former volume of the
writer's, induced her, after a lapse of nearly two years, to essay
another effort of a similar nature.

In the present work, _facts_ were chosen for a basis, as calculated to
interest, where the wildest dream of the novelist would pall upon the
satiated mind. It has been remarked, in a homely phrase by another, that
"what comes from the heart, reaches the heart," and if the present
fruits of long and unremitting mental labor, sustained often amid such
trial and discouragements, as seldom fall to the lot of mortal to bear,
should find sympathy and appreciation with the mass of readers, the aim
of the writer will have been fully accomplished.



CLEMENCE,

THE

SCHOOLMISTRESS OF WAVELAND.



CHAPTER I.


"Dearest mother, do not grieve for me, it breaks my heart."

The sweet, sad voice of the speaker quivered with unshed tears, as she
knelt before the grief-bowed figure on the sofa, and took one of the
little, shrunken, tear-wet hands in both her own, with the devotion of a
lover.

"Have you not often told me of the sin of distrusting the All-wise
Being, who has cared for us all our lives thus far? Let us put our trust
in Him, and He will 'never leave nor forsake us.' Can you not trust Him,
precious mother?"

"My child, I could bear it for myself; but you, my all of earth, my
heart's dearest treasure, to be exposed to poverty and toil for your
daily bread--who have been so delicately reared that the winds of heaven
have not been permitted to blow too roughly upon you! My poor,
fatherless darling, how can you bear it?"

"'God is our father.' We are not friendless, nor alone. 'He who
tempereth the wind to the shorn lamb,' will guide and guard me. Let us
commit ourselves to His care."

She knelt down, and the sunshine, stealing in at the window that May
afternoon, circled her young head like a glory. Faint and tremulous rose
the sweet voice in prayer, and little widow Graystone's sobs ceased, and
a kind of awe stole over her as she listened. And a sweet peace filled
her soul, for "angels came and ministered unto her." Up from the
mother's heart went a pleading cry. "God keep my darling from harm!" and
as she gazed fondly upon the beautiful face before her, with its exalted
look of wrapt devotion, a fierce pain struggled at her heart, for she
thought of the time in the not distant future, when her only one would
be motherless.

One little year ago she had been the imperious woman of fashion, and
Clemence had seemed little more than a child, in spite of the seventeen
summers that had smiled upon her young head. Indeed, she had often
experienced a feeling akin to contempt at the unworldliness of her
daughter, and sighed in secret to see Clemence just as agreeable to Carl
Alwyn, the poor but talented artist, as she was to young Reginald
Germaine, the heir to half a million.

"Just like your father, my dear," she would say, scornfully, "and nobody
knows what I have suffered from his low notions. Just to think of his
always insisting upon my inviting those frightful Dinsmore's to my
exclusive entertainments, because, years before you were born, Mr.
Dinsmore's father did him some service. Why can't he pay them for it,
and have an end of it? It is perfectly shocking! The idea of bringing
_me_, a Leveridge of Leveridge, into contact with such vulgar people."

"Mamma!" and Clemence's fine eyes glow with generous indignation, "how
_can_ you speak thus of one of the noblest traits of my father's
character? I love and honor him for it, and I ask God daily to make me
worthy to be the child of such a parent."

"Well, my dear," cooly replies mamma, "if it will afford you any
satisfaction to hear it, you resemble him in every respect. In fact, I
see more plainly every day, there is not a trait of the Leveridge's
about you, deeply as I deplore it. I had hoped to have a daughter after
my own heart. I sometimes think you do not wish to please me in
anything."

"Oh!" cried Clemence, "how greatly you misunderstand me. You do not know
how much I love you. I have often wished that we were poor, so I could
have you all to myself, to show, by a lifetime of devotion, what is in
my heart."

The delicate lady, splendid in misty lace and jewels, gave a little
nervous shudder at the bare thought of poverty.

"What strange fancies you have, child, and how little you know of the
realities of life." But gazing into the pure face, with a vague dread
for that future, and knowing that One alone knew whether it might
contain happiness or misery for her darling, she said, with visible
emotion, "You are a good girl, Clemence, and whatever may be in the
future, remember that I always sought your welfare as the one great
object of my existence. Always remember that, Clemence."

"I will, my own dearest mother," the girl answered brokenly; and neither
could see the other through a mist of tears.

Was it a presentiment of their coming fate?

Clemence thought often, amid the gloom that followed, that it was; and
many times in her dream-haunted slumbers, murmured, "Always remember
that, Clemence; always remember that."

If the stylish Mrs. Graystone, who could boast of the most aristocratic
descent, and whose haughty family had considered it quite a
condescension when she married the self-made merchant--if the little
lady had sinned very deeply in wishing to secure for her only child a
husband in every way suitable, in her opinion, to a descendant of the
Leveridges of Leveridge, she was destined to a full expiation of her
wrong, and her towering pride to a fall so great that those who had
envied her her life-long prosperity, would say with ill-concealed
delight--"served them right! what will become of their lofty ambition
and refined sensibilities now, I wonder?"--"I knew it would not last
forever."--"It's a long lane that never turns;" with many more remarks
to the same effect.

"Between you and me and the four walls of this room," said one Mrs.
Crane to her neighbor, "I don't pity them Graystones as much as I
should, if they hadn't always carried their heads so high above
everybody else, who was just as good as themselves, if they couldn't
trace back their descent to the landin' of the Pilgrims."

"This is a free and glorious republic, where every man can follow the
bent of his own inclinations, provided he don't intrude upon his
neighbor's rights. Who gave their blood and sinew to the putting down of
them are southern secessionists that threatened the dissolution of our
Union? Who, indeed, but P. Crandall Crane! and I'm proud to say that I'm
the wife of that patriotic man. True, he could not go to war himself, on
account of me and the children; but, I dare say, if he could have
prevailed upon me to give him up to the cause of liberty, he'd have
clomb rapidly to the highest pinnacle of earthly glory, and to-day I'd
have been Mrs. General Crane, a leader of the brilliant society at
Washington, with _my_ name in the papers as 'the wife of our
distinguished General Crane,' or the 'stately and dignified lady of the
brave General;'" &c., &c.

"But, no, P. Crandall was a husband and father; so when he was drafted,
I fell upon his neck and wept. 'How can I give you up?' was all I could
utter through my tears. Touched by my grief, my husband refused to be
torn from me, and magnanimously renounced all the honors that crowded
thick and fast upon his unwilling brow. 'Enough,' he answered,
'Isabella, I will stay by your side. Duty never points two ways, and
_my_ duty is to stay with my family. I will give up all for your sake,
and though I may never realize the happiness my fond fancy painted;
though I may never enter the crowded ball-room, with my proud and happy
wife leaning confidingly upon my arm, while a band, concealed amid
flowers, plays in a spirited manner, 'See, the conquering hero
comes,'--though I see the flattering ovations, the substantial dinners,
the moonlight serenades, the waiting crowd shouting my name impatiently:
'Crane! Crane! let us have a speech from the gallant General P.
Crandall!'--yes, even though the aristocratic brown-stone mansion, which
was to have been a testimonial of esteem from admiring friends; though
all these fade before me like the beautiful mirage that proves only an
illusion of the senses, yet I am equal to this act of self-denial, and
submit to pass my life in obscurity, unknown and unappreciated.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Overcome by such magnanimity, I fainted upon his bosom. After that my
dreams were haunted by gory battle-fields, in which P. Crandall figured
in every imaginable scene of suffering and danger. My delicate nerves
had received a severe shock, and yet I did not mean to be weak, in the
hour of trial, for it is the duty of a faithful wife, such as I sought
to be, to sustain her partner in the hour of adversity."

       *       *       *       *       *

"My companion, meanwhile, was not inactive. He sought out the obscure
retreat of a distant branch of our family, a poor widow, who lived with
her only son, an active and industrious mechanic. He renewed the
acquaintance which we had allowed to drop some years before, and set
before her in glowing colors the chance that opened for the young man to
achieve a high and glorious destiny. Fired with patriotic zeal, he even
went so far as to promise to take the support of the mother upon
himself, while her son was absent working for the cause of liberty, and
making for himself an honorable name, and succeeded so well, that he was
thus enabled to send a substitute in his place to represent the family,
so to speak. Nor did he stop here. Not contented with these efforts, he
set about finding some other way in which he could show his zeal for the
cause. At length a bright thought struck him. He became an Army
Contractor."

"Of the service he has done the Government from that auspicious moment,"
concluded the lady, craning her long neck with an air of pardonable
pride, and fingering the massive chain that depended from it with a
caressing fondness, "I need not speak. Indeed, it speaks for itself. But
I may say that the country which he served has not proved ungrateful,
but has shown its ability to reward true merit in a substantial manner.
I will, however, add that when the intelligence arrived that the man he
had sent forth to represent his honor had perished in the first battle,
he generously took the surviving relative into his own house, provided
her with every comfort, and pays her weekly the sum of one dollar fifty,
for what little errands she does for me and the children. What I wished
to elucidate," added the speaker, energetically, "is this--that no one
can't put _me_ down, knowin' as I do my own rights. In fact, I may say,
knowin' that I'm a sharer in the success that P. Crandall has achieved
in a modest way, and that I heartily _dispise_ aristocrats, who want to
walk over everybody that is what they call self-made, and that make such
a fuss about _herredittery_ rights, and all that."

It was a noticeable fact with the lady, that when she got excited, as
she was at present, her natural deficiency in grammar and kindred
sciences showed more plainly than in her cooler moments. Indeed, more
than one censorious person, who no doubt envied their success,
attributed this to the innate vulgarity that showed itself when the
contractor's lady was off her guard.

"People will talk," you know.

"Them's my sentiments exactly, Mis' Crane," spoke up a little, dark,
nervous woman, from the depths of a velvet easy chair, whose stiff
brocades and diamonds flashing on nearly every finger of the coarse,
rough hands, showed unmistakable signs of a sudden and unexpected
promotion from the kitchen to the drawing-room.

"Just my sentiments, exactly," she reiterated, emphatically. "If there
were more ladies of your opinion, the reform, that has been so long
talked about and desired, would not be so slow in coming. We must
revolutionize society as it exists at the present day, before we can
expect to exert the due amount of influence that our wealth entitles us
to. And I tell you," (and the mean, little sallow face spoke in every
lineament of the petty spirit of jealous hate which animated it, and
looked out from the small eyes of reddish hazel,) "I tell you," (this
lady had a habit of repeating over the same sentences two or three times
when greatly wrought upon by her sensibilities,) "money _is_ the lever
that moves the world now-a-days. And as long as _we_ have got it, who's
a better right to put themselves in the front ranks? If I've got a house
in the most aristocratic portion of the city, plenty of well-trained
servants, a stylish turnout, costly jewels, laces and brocades, I wonder
if I ain't as good as my neighbor, especially if my husband can boast of
millions where her's can thousands--dollars where her's can shillins'?"

"Why, Mrs. Brown," drawled a voice which had before been silent, "your
husband made his money in a vulgar grocery; your father was a poor man,
while your fair neighbor inherited _her_ vast wealth. That splendid
mansion was a gift from papa, those well-trained servants have been in
the service of her family since my lady was a mere child, and have been
accustomed to wait upon and obey the slightest wish of their imperious
mistress, until they have grown to regard her as of a higher order of
being from themselves--a sort of delicate porcelain, while they are only
common crockery for kitchen service. All perfectly proper, you know!"

The last speaker was a languid blonde, with a profusion of airy ringlets
fluttering around her thin face, which, judging by appearances, must
have been fanned by the zephyrs of innumerable May-days, equally as
bright and beautiful as the one that on the present occasion had aroused
her to the unwonted exertion of dressing and appearing in the parlor of
her dearest friend, to display a new, tasteful spring suit, of a
delicate blue, suitable to the complexion of the lady it adorned.

A self-complacent smile curled her thin lips, as she quietly noted the
effects of her somewhat lengthy speech. Like all efforts of an
unexpected and startling nature it produced a decided sensation. The
little lady in brocade and diamonds glared at her like a fury--her
stately hostess bridled, tossed her head, and gave one or two short,
sharp, hysterical giggles.

"Why, Cynthia," she exclaimed, "you are in charming spirits! Mr.
Underwitte must have proposed at last."

Miss Cynthia playfully held up her parasol to conceal her blushes.

"As if I were going to tell if he did! Now, really, Mrs. Brown, what
would you say to having me for a neighbor at some not distant day in the
place of those insufferable Graystones? Do you think I could do the
honors of the mansion gracefully, or should I suffer from the comparison
with the fair descendant of the Leveridges? By the way, do you think she
will continue to pride herself upon her lofty descent in the future, as
she has done in the past? She must have enough of the subject by this
time, I think! he! he! he!"

There was a shrill chorus of laughter, which a deep, tragic voice
interrupted with the question--

"What are you all so merry about?" and a figure, in bombazine and rusty
crape, stood before them, which was hailed successively by three voices,
a cracked soprano, Mrs. Crane--a high-keyed treble, Miss Cynthia, and a
little gasp or gurgle from Mrs. Brown, the lady in brocade, as, "Mrs.
Linden!" "My dear creature!" and "That angel Alicia!" and any amount of
kissing and shaking of hands, then a general resuming of seats, and the
question again asked, "What were you all so merry about, that you did
not hear me ring?"

"One of Cynthia's witty speeches," replied the lady of the house, and
after they had had another laugh, and Miss Cynthia had simpered and
shook her curls affectedly, the new-comer proceeded to give the latest
version of the Graystone's downfall and subsequent misfortunes.

"All gone by the board, a regular crash, and nothing left to tell the
tale."

"A clear, out and out failure."

"And all come from signing for that rascally Sanderson."

"I knew he was a slippery rogue."

"Good enough for Graystone."

"Served him right for being such a fool."

These, and similar uncomplimentary epithets, indiscriminately applied by
the assembled ladies, proved what a choice morsel this was considered
that had so unexpectedly fallen to their share.

"What will become of the family, I wonder?" queried Mrs. Crane. "It was
bad enough to lose the money, but now that Graystone's gone, I do not
see what them two helpless women are going to do?"

"Live on their connections, most likely," snapped little Mrs. Brown, "of
course they won't _work_."

"No, I do not believe that," was the reply. "They are too independent.
At present, I believe, they have taken rooms in an obscure part of the
city. I guess they do not know what to do themselves."

"It must have been hard to part with everything that was dear to them by
association, for I hear that they gave up everything, even Clemence's
piano, to pay debts."

There was a pitying tone in the speaker's voice. Alicia Linden, for all
her tragic accents, her deep-set eyes, with their beetling brows, and
her generally almost repulsive exterior, had more real heart than any of
the women present. Perhaps she remembered that time in the vanished
past, when she had stood by the coffin that contained the loved of her
youth, he who had made her girlhood one dream of happiness, but over
whose calm face the grass had greened and faded for many a weary year;
perhaps this remembrance touched a chord of her better nature. Life,
with its cares, and sorrows, and disappointments, had hardened her, till
she had almost lost faith in humanity. Moreover, she was a woman,
homely, and old and common, and with feminine malice and spite she could
not readily forgive another of her own sex for being beautiful, refined
and attractive. She said emphatically, that "it was well that, in this
world, pride could sometimes be humbled;" but for all that, the memory
of that day so long ago, passed alone in her desolation and sorrowful
widowhood, lent a pitying sadness to her voice that placed her
infinitely above these other soulless ones of her sex, with their cold
eyes and unsympathetic tones.

Vixenish Mrs. Brown detected the weakness at once, and pounced upon it
with avidity. She was blessed with a good memory, and one or two well
remembered slights from the unconscious objects of her animadversions,
rankled bitterly, and she hungered for revenge. She exulted now without
stint, and took no pains to conceal it. The lady had a blooming
daughter, Melinda. If the mother's early life had been one of privation
and toil, the young lady in question had had, thus far, a totally
different experience. Mrs. Brown's educational advantages had been
limited to a knowledge of reading, writing and ciphering, with a
something of grammar. Miss Brown's childhood had passed under the
tutilage of accomplished masters. She could dance, execute a few showy
pieces upon the piano without a blunder, utter glibly French and Italian
phrases, and had, with the help of her teacher, finished, creditably, a
landscape, a gorgeous sunset, of amber and crimson, and purple-tinted
clouds, which hung in the most conspicuous position in her mother's
drawing-room. Melinda read novels, frequented theatres, and talked
slang, like the "girl of the period," and was the idol of her weak
mother, whom she ruled like a queen. Unfortunately, "my lady Graystone,"
as she was called in the clique over which Mrs. Crane presided, had an
innate love for the pure and beautiful, and a thorough contempt for
vulgarity in every form. The gorgeous Melinda, therefore, was not a
person calculated to inspire a lady of her high-toned mind with any deep
feeling of regard or esteem. The elder woman, who, from her long
probation at service, before she was fortunate enough to secure William
Brown, the grocer's apprentice, had caught that cringing obsequiousness
that we so often see in those accustomed to serve, and could have borne
patiently, any slights or rebuffs that opposed her entrance into the
charmed circle which she had determined to invade at all hazards. Meek
and fawning, where she desired to gain favor, as she was insolent and
overbearing to her inferiors, she was willing to commence at the lowest
round of the social ladder, and creep up slowly to a position that
suited her ambition, in the same manner in which she had won her way to
wealth out of the depth of poverty. But, when the blooming daughter of
the retired grocer returned from boarding school, all things were
changed. "Melinda was a lady," "entitled to a proud position in society,
by virtue of her lady-like acquirements," and she demanded an instant
recognition of her claims by said society. The exclusive circle of which
the beautiful wife of Grosvenor Graystone had long been an acknowledged
leader, politely, but firmly repulsed the overtures of the ladies of the
Brown family, in such a way that they were not again repeated, and the
result, as we have seen, was their cordial dislike, and even more, a
vindictive hatred.

"Hard to part with everything," hissed Mrs. Brown, "and you pity them, I
suppose, Alicia! You, who have been snubbed by them so repeatedly, that
you have come to expect nothing better at their hands! You, a daughter
of the people, so to speak;" (Mrs. Brown, since her signal defeat by the
Graystone clique, had been at no little pains to air her democratic
principles, much in the way we have seen some of our politicians do in
the present day.) However, she was not so good a sensational speaker as
Mrs. Crane, and like every one who attempts to imitate anything out of
their "line," or perform impossibilities, and probably owing, in part,
to her defective education, she became easily confused and bewildered in
an argument. She should have known, poor lady, that flights of
imagination ought not to be attempted by a practical little body like
herself, as the aforementioned retired grocer had more than once
informed her during some of their little conjugal scenes in which Mrs.
Brown's bony fingers and long nails generally played an active part. But
if the lady aimed at dramatic effect, she succeeded only too well, for
the little angular form, bristling with indignation, from the depths of
the great crimson velvet easy chair, the lurid eyes emitting greenish
lights, and the gaunt arm waved in the air, created a momentary
diversion. Mrs. Crane compressed her thin lips closely; Miss Cynthia
raised a filmy lace handkerchief and coughed slightly, and Alicia Linden
burst into a loud, masculine laugh. Mrs. Brown instantly subsided and
the conversation was skilfully turned into another channel. The
strong-minded widow was the only woman the diminutive lady really
feared.

       *       *       *       *       *

Presently there was a little flutter, a rustling of silken robes, more
kissing and hand-shaking, and "good bye, loves," and the little party
dispersed.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Widowed and fatherless; God pity them," came in a low voice from a
sad-faced woman, clad in the sable robes of mourning. It was that
"distant branch of the family," none other than Mrs. Crane's own widowed
sister, for whom the patriotic contractor had so generously provided
with a home, and one dollar fifty per week. Tears were falling upon the
work before her, but she brushed them away quietly as a shrill voice
beside her cried,

"Blubbering again, Jane Phelps, and Lucinda's new pearl-colored silk,
that I paid five dollars a yard for, in your lap. You miserable,
ill-tempered, sulky thing; if you have soiled it, I'll make you starve
it out, and take it out of your wages, beside!"

"You could not make me suffer more, whatever you might do, for I am the
most wretched, pitiable creature in existence," sobbed the woman.

"Good enough for you," was the response; "'as you make your bed, so you
must lie.' I always knew, for all your pretty, pink and white face, and
meek ways, you'd come to grief. You could always fool everybody but me,
though mother's pet, must have the best of everything to show off her
good looks, and no matter what fell to my share. I was so homely and
unattractive it did not make any difference what I wore. But the tables
are turned now, eh, Jane! The old folks didn't know, when they thought
they'd made you for this world and the next, by putting you ahead of me,
and sounding your praises in the ear of that white-faced artist, that
he'd die and leave their darling with nothing but a lot of unsalable,
miserable pictures and a child to support! They didn't live to see it,
to be sure, but _I_ did, and, Jane, (coming closer and lowering her
voice to a tone of deep, intense passion,) I glory in my revenge. I'm
the rich Mrs. Crane, to-day, and you are old and poor, and faded, and I
don't mind telling you, now that this is an hour that I've longed to
see. You have always been preferred before me, and as I've had to take
up with the refuse, it was no more than natural, I suppose, (with a
sneering laugh,) that I should wait, and long, and hunger, for the love
that you took only as your right. So I waited, and to-day I triumph in
the thought that Deane Phelps' petted wife is a dependent upon _my_
bounty, a menial in the house where _I_ reign supreme, and which knows
no law but _my_ will. I have forgotten how to love, but each day (and I
have conned the lesson well) I learn better how to _hate_."

There was a rustling of stiff silk, a door slammed angrily, and the
slender figure left alone with her trouble, bowed itself like a reed
before the storm, and that wail of heart-broken humanity that has
resounded through long ages, and is yet only a faint echo of that night
so long ago, rose to the pallid lips, "my punishment is greater than I
can bear," nevertheless, "not as I will, but as Thou wilt."



CHAPTER II.


Alicia Linden walked slowly homeward, musing thoughtfully: "This is a
strange world," she soliloquized. "Let philosophers air their utopian
theories about its containing the elements of universal happiness. I
know that human nature, as it is now constituted, is too selfish and
mean to arrive at a state of absolute perfection. Truly, 'men are a
little breed.' 'But, in the future, when that which is whispered in
secret shall be proclaimed upon the housetops,' all our griefs and
wrongs shall be recompensed. Oh, weary women, syllabling brokenly His
precious promises, patient, untiring watcher, whose tired feet have
grown weary of the 'burden and heat of the day,' wait 'God's time!'
Listen to the words that have come down through the dim and forgotten
centuries--a message of 'peace and glad tidings.' 'In my Father's house
there are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.' Teach us the
lesson of patience, oh Father above! 'Tis a wearisome struggle. This is
a sin-fallen world, and want and misery abound upon every hand. Is it
true, as another has declared--'Every sin is an edict of Divinity; every
pain is a precept of destiny; wisdom is as full in what man calls good
and evil, as God is full in infinitude?'"

Well, God sees, and over all is the loving care of "our Father who art
in Heaven."

And sometimes, when human sympathy is denied us--when the eyes, that
should only beam with pity and affection, turn coldly away, Nature,
bountiful mother, stretches out her arms lovingly, and wooes us to her
with an irresistible, but nameless charm. She cradles the tired head
upon her bosom, presses cool kisses upon weary, drooping eyelids, and
broods over the slumberer with loving vigils. Under her tender
ministrations our dreams are blessed visions of the "green pastures and
the still waters," and the "shining ones" waiting "beyond the river."

The smiling Spring day faded slowly. Evening came on apace. Under the
moonlit sky a fair-browed girl kept loving vigil. It was sweet Clemence
Graystone. There was a troubled look in the calm eyes. Life's battle had
but just began. They were all alone now. Death had entered their little
circle and robbed them of their dear one. The loving husband and kind
father, who had toiled for them, working day after day, and often far
into the night, to surround his cherished darlings with the elegancies
to which they had been accustomed, had been suddenly taken away, and
"their house was left unto them desolate." They had not even time to
mourn, for, after they had buried their dead out of their sight, the man
of business came and told them in brief, unsympathetic tones that they
must leave the home that had so long sheltered them, for the wealth that
had purchased and made it beautiful, was their's no longer. They were
penniless. It was a cruel blow. Mrs. Graystone sank helplessly under
it, and the delicately reared daughter had all the burden thrown upon
her young shoulders. And nobly did she bear it. Clemence Graystone, with
her bright, radiant face, had seemed to her fond father like a sunbeam
gilding that stately home, and warming into living beauty what else
would have been only cold magnificence. To her mother, deprived of every
other earthly comfort, she became a ministering angel. She forgot her
own trials: she did not mourn that she had lost the privileges of
society to which their former wealth entitled them: and her beautiful
lips curled in contempt, as one by one, those who had once professed the
warmest friendship, passed her with a cool nod or haughty stare.
Clemence had learned now how to value these summer friends, who
scattered at the first breath of adversity, and she tried bravely to
keep back the tears that _would_ come at the sight of her loved home in
the possession of strangers. She had something else to do now, must be
something else beside a "dreamer of vain dreams," and must work to
procure food for them both.

Yes, it had come to that. In America, where fortunes are made or lost in
a day, the millionaire may have his wealth suddenly swept from him, and
one of humble position as suddenly attain to affluence. An unlooked for
turn in the tide of affairs, a seeming caprice of the fickle goddess
Fortune, who saw fit to frown where she had always smiled, and Grosvenor
Graystone was a ruined man. The shock was too much for him, and he died
of grief and despair. It was nothing new, there are hundreds of such
cases every day. People commented, some pityingly, and others
exultingly, as we have seen. "Poor things!" was echoed dolefully, and
then each went his or her way, and the gentle lady and fair-browed girl
were left to their fate. It was this--to work if they could get it, if
not, beg or starve. Nobody was interested in their fate. Henceforth they
must be all in all to each other. Their slender stock of money soon
dwindled away. Clemence turned to the one alternative, work. She must
get employment, but where, or how? She had no one to turn to for advice.
Pride forbade her asking help of those who had known them in the days of
their prosperity, and who should have come forward at once with offers
of assistance. There was no one in the great, wide city to give her even
a word of encouragement. She must rely solely upon her own judgment.
What _could_ she do? She might go out as a governess. She ran over in
her mind her list of accomplishments. She had a good knowledge of music,
could draw and paint creditably, was able to converse fluently in
French, Spanish and Italian, besides possessing a thorough English
education. The girl thought, naturally enough, for one of her
inexperience, that she might earn enough for their support by teaching.
At least, she resolved to make the effort, for something must be done
immediately. Her beloved mother was in need of comforts that she could
not supply from their scanty purse. Clemence could not bear to see her
suffer thus, and, after pondering long and deeply upon the subject, she
resolved upon, what was for her, a very bold venture.

Dressing herself modestly and tastefully, she started out in the warm
sunshine of a bright spring day, with the design of applying for the
position of governess at some of the elegant private residences which
graced the fine avenues of the great city where so many like herself
toiled and suffered. She walked slowly along, with a throbbing heart,
and tears that she could not repress filling her eyes; but she
remembered her mother waiting at home, and the thought nerved her.
Hastily opening the gate nearest at hand, she ran up the steps and rang
the bell without giving herself time for thought. A stolid looking
servant came to the door, who eyed her suspiciously, and did not seem
disposed to admit her. However, on her decided request to see the lady
of the house, she was shown a seat in the hall, and left to her
reflections. A moment after, there was the rustle of silken robes, the
sparkle of brilliant jewels, and a cold voice said ominously--

"You wished to speak with me, I believe."

Clemence modestly stated her errand.

"A governess? No, I do not wish to employ any such person," replied the
lady, standing and looking as if no more was to be said; and Clemence
could only give a little deprecating bow, and turn away.

She determined, though, not to give up with one effort, for she had
expected rebuffs, and mustering her courage for another trial, and
hoping better success, she rang at the next bell.

This time she was admitted at once, and announced "a lady to see you,
mum," to an elderly lady in black satin and gold spectacles, who was
surrounded by several blooming daughters and a young gentleman
stretched lazily upon the sofa. Clemence again made known her errand.

"N-no," said the lady, hesitatingly, "I guess we don't want a
governess."

"Yes we do, ma, for Julia," spoke up one of the young ladies, "the
Burleighs have got one, and I'm bound they shan't go ahead of us. If
they can afford one, we can. Besides, it sounds more aristocratic."

"But your father will never allow it," replied mamma, anxiously, "he
said only this morning that we must retrench."

"Retrench," responded the amiable daughter, scornfully, "don't preach
economy to me. You know you can wheedle him out of anything, if you want
to. Its only your stinginess. Besides, I want some assistance in my
music. You play, of course?" (turning abruptly to Clemence, who had been
an astonished listener to this dialogue,) "will you give me a specimen
of your style?"

Clemence obeyed this request that, savored more of a command, at once,
and sat down tremblingly to the piano. Music with her was almost a
passion. Indeed, in the old happy days, she had been often told that her
voice and execution would win her both fame and wealth if she were to
make her appearance before the public. But the fond father had said "God
forbid! I could not lie quietly in my grave with my little home nestling
the property of strangers." Clemence had not touched the keys of a piano
since her own, a highly valued gift from the lost one, had been taken
from her. She felt nearly overcome by the memories that came crowding
upon her, but the cold eyes of strangers were upon her, and pride came
to her aid. She began the prelude to a song that required great artistic
skill and expression. Her listeners sat in silence, while her very soul
floated away on the waves of melody. When she had finished, there was
astonishment depicted on every face.

"Good enough for the stage; might make a fortune with that pretty face,"
came from the sofa where the representative of masculine humanity
reclined.

"Harry, my son!" mildly remonstrated the mother.

"Where were you last employed, Miss--what may I call your name?"

Clemence supplied the missing cognomen, and replied truthfully, that
this was her first attempt to obtain such a position.

"You have references, of course?"

She looked aghast. Inexperienced Clemence! The thought had not, until
this moment, occurred to her. She hesitated. There were many who knew
her well as the only daughter of Grosvenor Graystone, who could not
remember the widow's daughter. There was no one whom she could think of
in her bewilderment to refer to as a friend, none of her former haughty
friends who would not think it an unpardonable liberty.

A stranger, with no references. That settled the question at once. The
mother of young daughters could not be too careful in regard to the
character of the persons she employed around them. A knowledge of their
pedigree was an absolute necessity. The idea of an adventuress stealing
into the household, and perhaps laying snares to entrap the son and
heir, could not be thought of for a moment.

Clemence found herself again upon the side-walk, with cheeks burning
with indignation, and eyes that glittered with excitement. She walked on
rapidly for the space of one or two blocks, and as her feelings became
calmer, resolved to make one final effort. She felt strong in the
conscious power of innocence and rectitude, feeling sure that, being in
the pathway of duty, she would ultimately succeed.

Acting upon this resolution, she soon found herself seated in an
elegantly furnished apartment, where she had been shown by an obsequious
waiter. Having some time to wait, she fell into a reverie from which the
voice of a gentlemen aroused her by inquiring in a dignified manner in
what way he could serve her.

Clemence again went through with her explanations, blushing and
stammering awkwardly enough, as the penetrating eyes fastened themselves
curiously and inquisitively upon her face.

"Ah!" he speculated, when she had finished, "this is really interesting.
It is not often that I am blessed with a fair visitor in my bachelor
apartments. I do not need a governess, having, thank heaven, no such
useless appendage as a troop of noisy children, but I do stand in need
of some beautiful lady, like yourself, for a companion to cheer my
loneliness. I can promise you a permanent position, with 'all the
comforts of a home,' a salary of your own choosing, and 'no questions
asked,' as the newspapers say."

"How dare you, sir?" said Clemence, in lofty scorn, as she moved towards
the door, which was opened for her amid profuse apologies, none of which
she deigned to notice.

"And _this_ is trying to earn an honest living," murmured the girl, as
she found herself for the third time alone upon the pavement. "It sounds
very pretty and praiseworthy to read and talk about, but I have learned
to-day that it means insult and contempt from the coarse and vulgar, and
cold suspicion from those who, from their professions, should stretch
out a helping hand in the spirit of Christian love and charity."

Oh! my poor, lost sisters, who have gone before, and whose feet have
stumbled and faltered in the thorny way! He who pitied the fallen woman
of old, will remember all your prayers and tears and remorseful agony.
And in that "last great day," they who have led your inexperienced
footsteps into the path that leads to the gulf of vice and misery, will
suffer the vengeance of an outraged God.

This life is but a fleeting dream, of happiness to some, misery to
others, but there is a home beyond, and for the faithful, a "crown of
glory which fadeth not away." For we know that there is an inheritance
for those who persevere.

Thoughts like these filled Clemence's mind as she walked towards home
disheartened. She had cause for trouble. She knew that their scanty
means must soon fail entirely, if employment was not obtained, and this
was the result of her first trial. She was tired, too, being
unaccustomed to exercise, and her feet ached from contact with the
rough pavement. An empty car passed her, but she had given her last cent
to a beggar a few hours before. She thought of the hundreds she had
lavished without a thought upon the different objects of charity, and
sighed at the contrast. Now she must deny herself for the privilege of
bestowing the smallest gift. But she remembered too, that story of the
widow's mite, which was accounted more than the rich man's profusion.
She took comfort in the thought that the same loving care was over her,
and whispered softly one of her favorite texts, "I will put my trust in
Him, and He will never leave nor forsake me." The pure, sweet face was
like that of a glorified saint. An old woman hobbling by, bent and gray
with age, crossed herself devoutly, and muttered a blessing on the fair
young head; and a man, old and hardened in crime, caught her words, and
remembering the love-lit eyes that had bent over him in childhood,
breathed out the remorseful prayer, "God pity me, a ruined soul!"

"You are late, darling," said a low voice anxiously, as Clemence ran up
to the room in a fourth-rate lodging house, which was now their only
home.

"Yes, mamma," said the girl, fondly, assuming a cheerfulness which she
did not feel, "the day was such a pleasant one, I walked on farther than
I had at first intended. You must try and get strong enough to enjoy
this beautiful spring weather with me. But you are tired, and must not
be kept longer waiting for tea, and to accomplish that weighty object,
we must first consult our good friend Mrs. Mann, her services being
absolutely indispensable."

"And here she is for once, when she is wanted," said that good lady in
hearty tones. "I am glad you are home again, for your mother was getting
anxious about you, and making herself sick with fretting. Dear! dear!
Miss Clemence, this is a world of changes! It makes my heart ache to see
you now, having to bother your pretty head with ways and means, when you
are fit to live like a princess in a fairy tale."

"Well, perhaps I may some day. Who knows, Mrs. Mann, what may happen?
The prince that is always appearing to disconsolate damsels, just at the
right moment, to rescue them from a cruel fate, may chance along in this
direction, and then we will all be happy together. Willie shall have
that bran new suit that he has been talking about so long, to wear to
Sunday School, and Fanny a wonderful picture book, and the baby lots of
goodies, and we will live together, and you shall be housekeeper, and
allow no one but yourself to make mamma's tea."

"Hear the dear, generous creature," said Mrs. Mann, standing in
breathless admiration. "If she had her way, everybody would be happy as
the day is long. That girl has a work to do, Mrs. Graystone, or the Lord
would never have implanted such a strong, brave, noble spirit in such a
frail, delicate body."

"Oh, Mrs. Mann," said the widow, "what should I do without her? My only
one, my brave, beautiful Clemence! She is my all of earth, the one being
who makes me cling to life and desire it. God has been good to me in my
affliction, and sent me a blessed comforter."

"I never met but one girl who could at all compare with our Clemence,"
said Mrs. Mann. "I will tell you about her, so that you may see that
others, too, have been through the 'deep waters.' Lilias May was a
genuine heroine. Her father was a clergyman of limited means, with a
large family of children to support. Lilias was the oldest, and had been
educated liberally, the more useful branches not being overlooked, while
the accomplishments received their due share of attention. She was
possessed of rare personal beauty, and was the cherished idol of her
parents. When she reached the age of nineteen, her father was suddenly
taken away, leaving a helpless family. Overwhelmed by grief and despair,
Mrs. May was utterly incapable of exertion. It was then that the noble
qualities of Lilias came to be known and appreciated. She took upon
herself the management of the entire household, and investigated the
affairs of her deceased parent. Finding that there was absolutely
nothing left for their maintenance she looked around for some means of
obtaining a livelihood. Mr. May had been the only son of a wealthy but
irascible old gentleman, who never forgave him for marrying the poor
girl whom he loved, in preference to the heiress chosen for him by his
family. He took revenge by leaving his immense wealth to his daughter.
Leonora May, an imperious beauty, was totally unlike her brother, and
inherited the strong will and haughty pride of her father. She could
never overlook the fault of her handsome, talented brother, of whom she
had been extremely proud, burying himself in a country village. After
her own brilliant marriage, all communication ceased between them. Upon
his death, however, she came forward with offensive condescension,
offering to adopt Lilias into her family, and, as she was childless,
make her the heiress of her vast wealth. To many this would have been a
temptation too great to be resisted; and, to say the least, it was a
pleasant picture which was held up alluringly before the young girl. But
she scorned the proposal. She refused to be raised to a position to
which those she loved could not attain, for her aunt had expressly
stipulated that, having once accepted her protection, her family should
be nothing more to her. Having thus declined the tempting offer, Lilias
began her search for work, in which she was successful beyond her hopes.
A former friend of her father's, wishing a teacher for his daughters,
engaged her services at once. He also assisted her brother, a youth of
seventeen, to secure a place in the counting-room of a friend; and took
another, still younger, into his own office. So that Lilias had the
satisfaction of knowing they were all provided for; the church, over
which her father had presided, having, meanwhile, presented the widow of
their esteemed pastor with the house in which they lived, and a generous
sum of money."

"And is that all, Mrs. Mann?" asked Clemence, in disappointed tones, as
the good woman paused in her narration; "have you nothing further to
tell us about this wonderful Lilias May?"

"Oh," she laughed, patting the girl's cheek caressingly, "I see what you
are after, and I will tell you the rest. The best part of the story is
yet to come. Lilias May's beauty of person and character made such an
impression upon the family who employed her, that they prevailed upon
her to remain with them always, for she married the gentleman's oldest
son. It seemed too, that her Aunt Leonora only admired her the more for
her courageous spirit, and when she died soon after, left Lilias all of
her money, to do just as she pleased with."

"But here is the tea steeped until it is nearly spoiled, and I am afraid
Mrs. Graystone is tired of waiting," said Mrs. Mann, hurrying out of the
room, "on hospitable thought intent."

Soon the little, plain, unpretending room took on that air of home
comfort that is seldom seen in statelier dwellings.

After all, happiness is comparative, and the poor man in his cottage,
with good health and a clear conscience, has as good a chance for
arriving at the goal which restless mortals ever strive to attain, as
the rich man who cannot be one moment free from the cares that wealth is
always sure to bring with it.



CHAPTER III.


Clemence Graystone's first attempt at obtaining employment had not been
sufficiently encouraging to cause her to entertain any very sanguine
hopes in regard to a renewal of her exertions. But that stern necessity
"which knows no law," compelled her to make another trial after she had
somewhat recovered from the effects of her first disappointment.

Clemence had already began to learn some of the bitter lessons of
poverty. She no longer viewed life through the rose-colored medium that
she had been wont to do in her former, care-free days. There were
thought lines gathering on the broad, white brow, and the dark eyes,
that had once the joyous look of a happy child, told of one who had
already tasted the bitterness of life, from which a favored few in this
world only are exempt.

How true it is, as another has written, "none of our lives are dated by
years; the wear and tear of heart and brain, to say nothing of the body,
constitute age."

Clemence felt as if years instead of months had passed over her head
since their bereavement. The blow had fallen unexpectedly, and the
result was Clemence was no longer a happy child, but a sorrowing woman.
She tried to be patient, for there was another who, like Rachael of
old, mourned, and would not be comforted. Clemence felt that her own
grief was light compared to the sorrowing one, whose weary feet were
even then nearing the end of life's journey, nearing the brink of that
river, whose solemn music came to her eager ear like a benediction. The
dim eyes had a strained, wistful gaze, as if longing to behold the
radiant glories of that "land of pure delight."

The girl felt, sometimes, as she looked at the drooping, attenuated
figure, each day growing more ethereal, that her burden was greater than
she could bear. An awful fear haunted her, that she would not give a
name, and often, when she had thought of the future till she grew sick
with fear, she had felt that work would be a positive relief to her
troubled mind.

It was during one of these despondent moods, that she determined, in
spite of a former resolution to the contrary, to make another effort to
obtain employment as governess.

Looking carefully over the column of wants in a daily paper, she found
several advertisements, such as she was in search of. She copied the
address of each one of them, and this accomplished, took from its
receptacle the diploma awarded her at the celebrated Institute from
which she had graduated with high honors, and which was sufficient proof
of her education and accomplishments. Notwithstanding her previous
disappointments, she felt hopeful of success.

The first place on her list took her to a stylish residence on a
fashionable avenue. It reminded her of the luxurious home of which she
was once the petted darling, and the contrast with her present humble
position was humiliating in the extreme. She stood for some moments upon
the steps, waiting to gather courage to enter.

It was in a maze of bewilderment that she found herself a few moments
after, seated in a splendid drawing-room, awaiting the appearance of the
mistress of the mansion.

Presently there was the sound of voices, low and musical, and a lady
entered, followed by a gentleman. She was grandly beautiful, and
Clemence thought one of the haughtiest women she had ever met. She rose,
and introduced herself, stating her errand, as Miss Graystone, the
person desiring the position of governess, referring to the
advertisement.

The beautiful eyes fastened themselves inquiringly upon her face.

"There had already been a number of applicants, none of whom had given
satisfaction."

There was a moment's silence, during which Clemence felt that two pairs
of eyes were studying her countenance closely, then a series of
questions:

"What were her accomplishments?"

"Where had she received her education?"

Clemence felt like replying that she had received a good many lessons
since she had been pronounced finished by Madame Latour--lessons in
human nature, that all who have the misfortune to be poor and ambitious,
must learn, sooner or later.

"Could she dance, draw, paint, give instruction in vocal and
instrumental music?"

To all of these, Clemence replied in the affirmative, and, as before, in
obedience to a request in the imperative mode, to favor them with a
specimen of her musical ability, went forward and took a seat at the
piano.

She could not help looking her surprise, when the gentleman rose
politely to turn her music. She had not been accustomed to such little
attentions of late, though, in the past, she would have expected them,
and treated them as a matter of course. She noticed the gentleman was
handsome and distinguished-looking, with kind, grave eyes, and a smile
that illumined his intellectual face like a gleam of sunshine. His age
might have been thirty, possibly thirty-five.

Clemence's performance seemed to give satisfaction, although she did not
play as well as usual. After a few more questions, the lady asked the
gentleman if she had not better engage the services of this young person
at once.

"By all means," he said with emphasis; "I have no doubt that the young
lady will give perfect satisfaction."

Clemence again felt grateful for his kindness. She had learned to
appreciate and value a word of sympathy or encouragement. Poor child!
she received few enough of them now.

"Very well, you can come to-morrow. The children have been for some time
without a teacher, and I wish them to commence upon a course as soon as
possible."

Then, after a few remarks, and the mention of a salary, which seemed
princely to Clemence, she was shown to the door by a liveried servant,
and found herself walking homeward anxious to communicate this joyful
intelligence to her mother.

"I declare, it's a burning shame," said the motherly landlady, on being
told of her success--"a real lady like you; it's dreadful to think of."

"Why, Mrs. Mann," said Clemence, in dismay, "I thought you would be
pleased. Only six hours of work each day, and I can have so much time to
spend with mamma. I consider myself a wonderfully fortunate girl. The
salary, too, is so liberal, that I can afford now to get the comforts
that our dear invalid is pining for."

"Well, I don't want to discourage you, dear," said Mrs. Mann. "You are a
good girl, Clemence Graystone. The Lord's on your side, and He'll take
care of you, if you trust Him, as He has watched over all the ups and
downs of my life, till I'm an old woman. It's the poor, and friendless,
and desolate that He pities and loves, and He will protect you, my
darling, wherever you may be, if you only trust to His guidance."

"I believe that, Mrs. Mann," said Clemence, "and it's the one thought
that keeps me from repining at my hard lot. I believe, too, that 'the
Lord helps those who help themselves,' and I don't mean to sit down in
idleness."

"Heaven grant you prosperity," said the good woman. "Now go and comfort
the mother, for she needs it sadly."

Work proved, as Clemence had anticipated, a real blessing. Some of the
happiest hours she had known, since her deep affliction, were passed in
the school-room with her young charges. She felt now as if she was of
some use in the world, and when, after the lessons were finished, she
went home to the fond mother, who awaited her coming, she realized, with
thankfulness, that, through her exertions, want had been kept from the
door, and the uncomplaining invalid supplied with the comforts, and even
luxuries, to which she had been accustomed.

Sometimes a pleasant face looked in upon them, and "Uncle Will" was
hailed with delight by Alice and Gracie Vaughn. At first, Clemence was
cool and distant, but the cordial kindness of his manner won upon her,
and she soon grew to value the friendship thus strangely formed. The
kind word and beaming smile were very grateful to the weary girl. Ah,
how little do the favored ones of this world know of the influence of
one little act of kindness, or one pleasant word, ever so carelessly
spoken. Many a poor, weak mortal has been kept from wrong-doing by a
word fitly spoken, and others have gone down and been lost forever, from
yielding to the thought that none cared for them, either for their weal
or woe. There is not a day, nor an hour, but that somewhere throughout
the length and breadth of the land, large sums of money are expended for
charitable objects, and yet there are those who, for the want of a
friendly hand to aid them to follow the right way, have crept away, and
rid themselves of a life that had become insupportable. Persons of
sensitive feelings, wounded by the indifference of those, who, from
their professions, they should, expect only sympathy and forbearance,
have suffered and died, and "gave no sign." This is a world of misery,
and the few who know nothing of its trials, should thank God that they
have been kept from an experimental knowledge of what life really is to
thousands of their fellow-creatures, who, like themselves, are
accountable beings, and with the same capacity for enjoyment or
suffering. Indeed, none of us are always happy. We all have our hours of
trial, when even the strongest-hearted will falter, and the dreamless
slumber of the grave seem so sweet to our world-weary spirits. When it
seems so hard to say, "Thy will be done," perhaps Death enters and robs
us of some earthly idol. We see the dear one droop and die. It may be
some dear, innocent babe God has transplanted. We watch its tiny life go
out; see the sweet mouth quiver with the dying struggle, the strained,
eager gaze mutely asking relief that we cannot give. We try to think it
is well, but in place of submission, there are rebellious thoughts. Yes,
we have all striven and suffered, groping, mayhap, in the darkness of
unbelief. God, give us strength to resist and conquer! But,

    "Never so closely does pain fold its wings,
      But the white robe of sympathy's near it,
    And each tear that the dark hand of misery wrings,
      Brings the touch of a blessing to cheer it."

"Courage! weary-hearted one;" God knows what is the best for us in this
life, and has promised a glorious reward for those who are faithful, in
that life which is to come.

Mrs. Vaughn, the lady who had engaged Clemence's services, was a widow
in affluent circumstances. She spent but little time with her children,
leaving them to the care of the nurse and governess. She rarely entered
the school-room, and even when she did honor Clemence with her presence,
paused long enough to give her more than a glance of her proud,
beautiful face. She expressed supreme satisfaction with Clemence's mode
of instruction, and the children worshipped their young teacher.

With all her care and responsibility, had it not been for her anxiety in
her mother's behalf, this long, golden summer would have been one long
to be remembered for its simple pleasures and calm enjoyments. The days
passed quickly.

"Can it be possible," said Clemence to herself one day, as she took her
hat and shawl, and put them on absently, "that I have been in Mrs.
Vaughn's employment three months?" She looked at the crisp bank notes
that lay in her hand, in payment of her first quarter's salary. "I
consider myself a young lady of some importance, or, perhaps, I should
say 'young woman,' now that I am a working member of society." She
laughed aloud at her own thoughts. "Well, I am proud of the privilege,"
she mused, "and can take pleasure in the thought that I am an
'independent unity,' I never felt so strong-minded in my life."

A tawdry, ill-kempt female figure was shuffling slowly by the stately
Vaughn mansion, as Clemence tripped down the steps, and two envious
black eyes noted the happy smile upon her face.

"How d'ye do, Miss Graystone," said a harsh voice. "Ain't too big to
speak to a body, are you, cause you happen to be among 'ristocrats?"

Clemence turned and immediately recognized Mrs. Bailey, an elderly
woman, who lodged beneath the same humble roof to which her own
straitened circumstances had consigned her with her parent.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Bailey," she said politely, "I did not observe you
before."

"He! he!" giggled the old lady spitefully, "my eyes are sharp, if I am
old. May be, now, if I was a fine gentleman, like the one with yonder
lady, I would not be so easily overlooked?"

She stretched out her long arm, and looking in the direction in which
she pointed, Clemence beheld, to her horror and dismay, Mrs. Vaughn, and
beside her the gentleman who had been so kind to her, and had seemed to
take such a friendly interest in her success with her little pupils.
They had not yet been observed, and there was still time for the
mortified girl to make her escape unseen. The first impulse of her mind
was to excuse herself to her eccentric companion, and turn quickly a
convenient corner.

"But," she thought, "I should hurt this good woman's feelings, and lose
my own self-respect by such a course. Clemence Graystone, what are these
people to you, that you should do a cowardly act for fear of them."

She raised her head proudly, and gave, perhaps, a more than usually
distant bend of the head to the gentleman's respectful bow. The lady
gave her only a stare of astonishment, and they had scarcely passed,
when she heard these words distinctly:

"How shocking! _Did_ you see that horrid creature with Miss Graystone?
It must be her mother. I declare, if I had have known she had such low
relations, I never would have engaged her."

"Gracia, hush! I entreat you, Miss Graystone will overhear you."

If Clemence's face crimsoned at the words, the one beside her became
absolutely livid with rage. Mrs. Bailey had once been a beauty, and the
black eyes that now glowed with baleful fire, had, in years gone by,
glanced languishingly upon scores of admiring swains. But there was now
nothing left of fortune, fair looks, or friends, but a bitter memory
that rankled in the woman's heart. Realizing that her own youth had
flown, she hated all that was young, and lovely, and pure, as a reproach
to her mis-spent life. She was a keen observer of people, too, in her
strange way, and had read upon the ingenuous face before her, the
momentary temptation to shun her unwelcome society.

The delicacy of Clemence's manner, instead of arousing her gratitude,
had the effect which it sometimes has upon people who realize their own
inferiority, and she resolved to wound her where she guessed a young
girl's feelings were peculiarly sensitive.

Ignoring the remarks which she had heard Mrs. Vaughn making upon her own
appearance, she turned and gazed over her shoulder, as the pair ascended
the steps and entered the door, through which Clemence had but just
passed.

"Why, they're goin' into the same house you came out of, Miss Graystone!
Who be they, now?"

Clemence informed her that the lady was Mrs. Vaughn, to whose children
she gave instruction, and the gentleman was Mr. Wilfred Vaughn, the
step-brother of her late husband.

"No, is it?" said Mrs. Bailey; "ain't he a handsome man?" studying the
girl's face closely.

Clemence agreed with her in thinking Mr. Vaughn a handsome and
distinguished looking gentleman.

"Is he married?" was the next question.

Clemence replied in the negative.

"Be you much acquainted with him?" queried her tormentor.

"But very little," was the laconic reply.

"Well, let me give you a little advice, young lady," said Mrs. Bailey,
after a disagreeable silence of some minutes. "I have seen more of the
world than you have, and think it is my duty to warn you of your danger.
Don't have too much to say to this fine gentleman. Nothing is so
becoming to a young woman as modesty." (It was truly wonderful how Mrs.
Bailey had come to learn in her old age, that of which she had seemed
deplorably ignorant in her youth, and valued modesty the more as she had
less occasion to call it into requisition.) "Men of his wealth and
social position never want any good of poor girls like you; that is why
I wish to warn you, for I think you are a good, deserving sort of a
person, that means well, and if you profit by my instructions, you will
avoid a lifetime of misery. Don't let any foolish idea of securing a
rich husband, enter your head. Submit patiently to the poverty that must
always be your portion. Be industrious, sober and discreet, and I dare
say, you may find some honest young man, bye-and-bye, who will want such
a wife to help him turn an honest penny, and lay up something for a
rainy day. Not that I think there is the least danger, unless you are
forward enough to put yourself in this gentleman's way, because men
think so much of beauty, that plain girls like you are most always apt
to be overlooked, but my conscience would reprove me if I did not warn
you. Remember my advice! Listen to no flatteries; permit no nonsense to
be poured into your ears, and shun, as you would contagion, the
deceitful wiles of man."

She waved her hand majestically to Clemence, and disappeared up the dark
staircase, for they had, by this time, reached home.

Hardly knowing whether to laugh or cry, the young girl went in search of
her mother and kind Mrs. Mann, to confide her troubles, feeling sure of
their cordial sympathy.

It is just possible that there was the least perceptible haughtiness in
the calm "good morning," with which Clemence next met Mr. Vaughn. In
spite of the remembrance of his many cordial kindnesses, the malicious
insinuations of Mrs. Bailey had produced an impression on her mind,
which she could not disregard.

"It is too true, she thought, bitterly. Alas! for the unprotected and
helpless of my sex, men of wealth and position rarely offer an honorable
suit to women of a lower standing in society. I will have as little as
possible to say to this fine gentleman."

       *       *       *       *       *

But that was more easily said than done. It seemed almost impossible to
avoid him. And it happened on one occasion that the languid lady of the
mansion, (who should have been the one most interested in the progress
of Clemence's little pupils, but who really seemed, at times, to have
even forgotten their existence,) entered the school-room somewhat
unexpectedly, and saw what aroused a new train of thought in her mind,
and made her resolve quietly to keep a close watch upon Miss Graystone's
movements in future, if not dispense with her services altogether. The
lessons were ended, the books put away for the day, and the two girls
were looking with bright, eager eyes into the kind face of Mr. Wilfred
Vaughn, who was relating a marvellous story of such absorbing interest,
that the elder of the children, a dark-eyed girl, who inherited somewhat
of her mother's beauty and wilfulness, had insisted that her pet teacher
should stay and hear. There was a moment of embarrassed silence, as Mrs.
Vaughn appeared in the doorway, but the gentleman rose to offer her a
chair, without appearing to notice the astonishment depicted in her
countenance, or the half repressed sneer in the careless--

       *       *       *       *       *

"What! _you_ here, Will? Rather a new occupation, is it not? You were
not so fond of visiting the school-room when poor Miss Smith was its
presiding genius. I am glad to find that Miss Graystone meets with your
approval."

"The children certainly are doing well," he responded, "Alice
especially; but, I am afraid Miss Graystone is applying herself too
closely to the work of improvement. You must see to it, Gracia, for you
could illy afford to lose so valuable a prize."

Clemence's face crimsoned at this personality, and an angry gleam shot
from his sister-in-law's eyes, that amused the gentleman not a little.
He understood her thoroughly, or thought he did, and knew the look boded
no good for Clemence. But he was hardly prepared for the shock, when a
day or two after, little Alice came to him with her face bathed in
tears, and throwing herself into his arms, exclaimed, amid her sobs--

"Oh, uncle, Miss Graystone has gone away, and is not coming back any
more, for mamma says so! She called her an artful piece, and said she
was trying to captivate you with her pretty face. What is captivate,
uncle? Is it anything so very dreadful? I know it ain't to be cross and
push me away, as mamma does, for Miss Graystone never did that, but only
loved me, and told me nice stories. I don't believe she tries to
captivate half so much as mamma does herself."

There were more tears and lamentations, and from amidst the disjointed
medley, Wilfred Vaughn learned that a great wrong had been done a
beautiful and innocent girl, and he had been the unconscious cause. He
sat buried in thought long after the twilight shadows had gathered and
deepened around him. The artless questions of Alice had startled him
into a knowledge of his own true position, and he knew now that he loved
this sweet-faced young girl who was yet almost a stranger to him. He
knew but little of her former life or antecedents, yet he would have
staked worlds on her truth and honor. He had not before dreamed of the
possibility, but now the conviction fastened upon him that this was his
fate. He knew in that hour of self-communion that the love of Clemence
Graystone was necessary to his happiness, and he made one firm resolve
to win her for his own.

"Alice tells me that you have dismissed Miss Graystone?" he said
inquiringly to his sister-in-law, a few days after. "I was surprised to
hear it. I thought you well pleased with her."

"You will be still more surprised," replied the lady, "when I tell you
the cause of her dismissal. I have been imposed upon by the girl too
long already, but nobody would have dreamed, from her meek ways, that
she was anything but perfection. I did not intend to trouble you with
the affair, which is the reason of my not asking your advice before
acting so much against my own inclination. I would not have believed
anything of Miss Graystone from a third party, for I know she is an
orphan and friendless, and I do try and be charitable towards all poor
and worthy persons. And then too, Will, you know how I have been
bothered about a teacher, and she suited the place so well, I think it
was positively ungrateful in her to act as she did."

This last remark was uttered with a pretty affectation of impatience,
and a pout of the rich, red lips, and Wilfred Vaughn, listening, forgot
for the moment his interest in the young teacher, so lost was he in
admiration of the beautiful face before him.

"But, what did you =find= out?" he said, again returning to the subject.

"Read this, and you will see that she has condemned herself," she
answered, handing him a letter, "and thank me for preserving you from
the snare that was laid from your unwary footsteps."

It was written in a delicate lady's hand, and ran as follows:

     "DEAR KARL:--I have only a moment in which to reply to your letter
     of the 3d, but will write you more at length at some further date.
     I am teaching in the family of a wealthy lady, until fate throws
     something more agreeable in my way. This is all that keeps me from
     despair.

     "My _own_! what would I not give to see you? Oh, this fearful curse
     of poverty! I must find some means of escape from my difficulties,
     or go _mad_. I cannot live without you. I have planned a thousand
     impossible schemes, which I have been obliged to abandon as
     unavailing.

     "Meanwhile, I am not idle. There is a rich bachelor, who resides in
     the house where I am employed. I have made some progress towards an
     acquaintance, and am beginning to entertain the hope that I have
     made an impression. Money is all that stands in the way of our
     happiness. I would dare anything to possess it. If I could once
     establish a claim to a portion of his vast wealth, do you not see
     that there are other lands where we might enjoy it together, and
     our life be one long dream of happiness?

     "Write to me, for I am unhappy.

                                                "Your loving CLEMENCE."

"Where did you get this?" he asked, briefly, after having completed its
perusal.

"I found it where it had been carelessly dropped on the floor of the
school-room," was the response.

"Was she aware of the occasion of her abrupt dismissal?" was the next
question.

"No," sighed the lady. "I could not bring myself to hurt her feelings,
deeply as I felt I had been wronged, so I left word for her that I
intended to make some change in the girls' studies, and thought of
placing them under the care of masters. It is extremely fortunate that I
discovered her real character in time, is it not, Will?"

"Yes, extremely fortunate," he echoed absently, with a look of pain in
his face that did not escape the eager eyes that scanned it searchingly.

"That was a clever little plot of mine," she soliloquized, an hour
later. "I did not dream the foolish fellow was so interested. How came I
to be so careless? That is the last governess who will ever enter these
doors. I will send the children away, for I hate to be bothered with
them, and it would be a great relief to have them out of my sight. I
will make speedy arrangements to that effect. Of course nothing further
will be heard of this girl. Men are proverbially inconstant, and Wilfred
will soon forget all about this Miss Graystone. It was but a passing
fancy, and I have taken the wisest course to get rid of her. I dare say
she will get along well enough, and marry somebody in her own sphere in
life. She _was_ pretty and dignified with that reserved manner, and the
clear eyes under the broad, full brow. But she had horridly low
relations, and as I know, from sad experience, self-preservation is the
first instinct of humanity. Gracia Vaughn, you must not forget the old
days of poverty, and toil, and vexation over the piano in Madame Fay's
back parlor, where you were an under-paid music teacher! Be careful
that an unwary step does not precipitate you again into the depths from
which Cecil Vaughn rescued you! That would be misery, indeed, after
these long years of luxurious idleness. It shall never be."



CHAPTER IV.


It was the twilight of a dismal November day. The wind shrieked and
moaned drearily, and what had been a cold, penetrating rain, had, as the
darkness set in, frozen as it fell, and added to the general
cheerlessness. The streets were nearly deserted, and the few
pedestrians, whom business compelled to be abroad, hurried on swiftly to
their respective places of destination.

At the window of a dingy looking brick building, which bore on its
time-worn exterior its true character of that resort for friendless
poverty, "a cheap lodging house," sat Clemence Graystone, gazing
abstractedly into the gathering gloom of the night. The fair, patient
face was clouded with care, and somewhat of the darkness of the world
without, seemed to have settled upon her spirits.

    "I hear the howl of the wind that brings
     The long, drear storm on its heavy wings,"

she said, at length, rising and gliding to the side of the couch upon
which a slight figure reclined, asked fondly,

"Mamma, what shall I read to you this evening? I feel strangely
depressed."

The gentle lady drew the sweet face down to her pillow, and smoothed the
bright hair with loving tenderness.

"My precious daughter," she whispered, "I know all the care and anxiety
that weighs down your young life. I can read it in your clear, truthful
eyes, that never yet showed the shadow of falsehood. God only knows, for
there is none other to hear or comfort me, my days and nights of anxious
solicitude for your welfare. What will become of you, when I am gone, my
darling? 'My soul faints within me.' I am truly 'of little faith.' Read
to me, dear, from the book beside me, and it will surely comfort me in
my desolation."

It was the sacred volume, that has so often solaced the grief and
despair of the weary and heavy-laden, and the tremulous voice repeated
the inspired words, with that pathos that can only come from those who
have suffered. A heavenly calm settled over the pale face of the
invalid.

"My child, be not weary of well-doing," she murmured, softly indeed.
"'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.' I was
thinking, as I lay here alone to-day, beset by doubts and fears, of a
passage in Baxter's 'Saints' Everlasting Rest.' The eloquent pastor of
Kidderminster, living in the midst of bodily pain and persecution, had
the true faith which is hardly attained in the midst of worldly
prosperity. It strengthens me to listen to his pious instructions. Can
you give me the words, dear?"

Clemence sought the book, and read this passage which her mother had
indicated:

"Why dost thou look so sadly on those withered limbs, or on that pining
body? Do not so far mistake thyself as to think its joys and thine are
all one; or that its prosperity and thine are all one; or that they must
needs stand or fall together. When it is rotting and consuming in the
grave, then shalt thou be a companion of the perfected spirits of the
just; and when those bones are scattered about the churchyard, then
shalt thou be praising God in rest. And, in the mean time, hast not thou
food of consolation which the flesh knoweth not of, and a joy which this
stranger meddleth not with? And do not think that, when thou art turned
out of this body, thou shalt have no habitation. Art thou afraid thou
shalt wander destitute of a resting place? Is it better resting in flesh
than in God? Dost thou think that those souls which are now with Christ,
do so much pity their rotten or dusty corpse, or lament that their
ancient habitation is ruined, and their once comely bodies turned into
earth? Oh, what a thing is strangeness and dis-acquaintance. It maketh
us afraid of our dearest friends, and to draw back from the place of our
only happiness!"

"Oh, there is comfort in words like that," said the widow, clasping her
thin hands. "When I think of the great souls who have lived and
suffered, it seems selfish and wicked to murmur at my afflictions. I
will try to be patient unto the end. Go to your rest, my love, and may
God's holy angels guard your slumbers!"

They were all in all to each other, this gentle invalid and her only
child. There is nothing that draws refined natures nearer to each other
in this world, than mutual suffering. And day after day the girl
struggled on with her burden, while the elder woman could only pray that
she might have strength given her from on high. There are other cases
like this on earth. The mother and daughter are but the type of a class
of earnest-hearted ones of whom few dream the worth. As another has
written, "there are many of these virtues in low places; some day they
will be on high. This life has a morrow."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a long, cold winter approaching. Clemence's mind was occupied
with the one question that is the burden of the poor in our
cities--"What shall we do in order to live through the inclement season,
which is so nearly at hand?" She could get no work of the kind for which
she was most fitted. She had in the old days, a feminine love for
needlework, and she thought, "Why not turn this to account? I might
manage to eke out a subsistence in that way."

       *       *       *       *       *

She had gained one true friend in her adversity. Alicia Linden had
sought her out and managed to befriend her in various ways. She resolved
to consult her immediately.

"A good idea," said that energetic lady. "I will try and help you to
obtain employment."

This she did, keeping the name of the young girl from the circle of
ladies, whose patronage she solicited. It requires influence, even in
the humblest calling, to obtain plenty of work at good prices. Clemence
did not dream how much she was indebted to the kindness of the
masculine widow for the generous sums that came for her finely wrought
articles.

"You owe me no thanks, dear," Mrs. Linden would say, and, thinking
remorsefully of that little feminine gossip at the Crane mansion, would
redouble her efforts in the young girl's behalf. Mrs. Linden had a fear
which amounted to presentiment, that the aforementioned clique, of which
Mrs. Crane was the acknowledged leader, would learn, by some means, of
her new interest in Clemence Graystone. So great was her dread of such a
discovery, that she carefully avoided the society of those ladies, and
did not once venture into the neighborhood of her friends. How her
cherished secret became known to them she never knew, but, that it _had_
become known she soon learned, to her chagrin and utter discomfiture.

Clemence was seated, one clear, cold December day, in their little
parlor, busily at work upon a fancy article that one of her customers
had ordered for the approaching holiday season. She felt unusually
light-hearted. Mrs. Graystone had rallied from her illness sufficiently
to walk about the house, and was now visiting Mrs. Mann in her
apartments, that worthy lady having beguiled her into an afternoon's
visit, to give Clemence a better chance to finish her work.

Suddenly the cheerful little room was invaded by two ladies in sables
and velvet--none other than our old friends, Mesdames Brown and Crane.

Clemence recognized them at once. A pink flush settled upon her pale
face, but she rose with gentle dignity upon their entrance.

Eager for her triumph, however, Mrs. Crane did not give her time to
utter a word. "Well, I have found you at last," she exclaimed, panting
and out of breath. "I declare, young woman, if I'd have known what a
search I should have, I would not have ventured into this out of the way
place. Your's a seamstress, ain't you?"

"I am in the habit of taking in work of this description," said
Clemence, holding, for her inspection, the article she had been engaged
in completing at the moment she was interrupted.

"Yes, pretty well done. Just look at it closer, Mrs. Brown."

That lady now came forward and examined the work in a would-be critical
manner.

"Seems to me the stitches don't look as if they'd hold," she said,
ill-naturedly. "I discharged my last seamstress because she did not make
her work serviceable. I give good prices; I ain't one of them kind of
ladies what wants something for nothing. I never believe in oppressin'
the poor. I have plenty of means, (that was true, for the retired grocer
was as liberal as a prince.) If a person suits me, and keeps their
place, they will have my patronage; if not, I pay them off and show them
the door. My Melindy wants a new silk for a Christmas party, and as I am
very particularly interested in her doing herself credit on the
occasion, I want it made under my own supervision. You see, Mrs. Crane,
it is to be a very exclusive affair, for I heard that the Vaughns have
accepted invitations, and you know they belong to the very _creme de la
creme_. Wilfred Vaughn is a catch for any young lady. It won't be my
fault if Melindy isn't the belle of the evening, for I'm determined that
no expense shall be spared."

The lady's dear friend vouchsafed her only a spiteful glance in return
for this proof of confidence. She was thinking of her own beauteous
Lucinda, and mentally declared that _her_ daughter should outshine
Melinda Brown on that momentous occasion, if the worthy contractor had
to go into bankruptcy the next day.

"Now Miss," concluded Mrs. Brown, turning again to Clemence, "I want to
engage you to come to-morrow morning to work for me, and if you suit, I
may keep you for some time longer."

There was a look of quiet amusement upon Clemence's face, as she replied
politely:

"I should be happy to serve you, Madam, but my time is engaged until
after the holidays, and I never go out on account of an invalid parent,
whom I cannot leave."

"Oh!" jerked Mrs. Brown, bridling with offended dignity.

"Well, upon my word!" hissed Mrs. Crane, "such airs!"

"I am very glad, I am sure," pursued the former, "to find you so well
employed. You were recommended to me as a very worthy person in
destitute circumstances, and I supposed that to one in your _lowly
position_, work would be a charity. Had you possessed sufficient
humility, and a proper appreciation of my efforts, I might have taken
you under my patronage. No matter what you might have been once, Miss,
you are in the depths of poverty now, and it would be a good idea not
to be too independent, for you may want a friend. Don't come to _me_, if
you do, for I have done with you. My conscience is clear. This lady will
bear witness to my benevolent intentions, and I acquit myself of all
blame. I have discharged a disagreeable duty."

"Oh, the base ingratitude of this world!" wailed Mrs. Crane. "My dear
friend, is it not shocking?"

"It defies description," she ejaculated. "Let us depart. Good bye, young
woman, and remember, 'Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty
spirit before a fall.'"

"Just one minute too late!" cried Alicia Linden, sinking into a chair;
"I saw the precious pair just turn the corner. Don't cry, rosebud. I'll
pay them off yet. I can manage Mrs. Brown and the whole Crane clique.
They will be sorry for this insult."

"Indeed, I know I am foolish, dear Mrs. Linden," said Clemence, upon
whose face smiles struggled with tears like an April day. "If this _is_
poverty, it is at least honest poverty, of which I am not ashamed. I
will not allow them to disturb me. But, pray, not a word of this to
mamma."

The short winter days passed, and March came with its cold, blustering
winds, and severe changes of weather. Mrs. Graystone failed visibly. She
could no longer conceal from the fond eyes that watched her, that her
days were numbered.

Clemence's time was so completely taken up in nursing the invalid, that
she was obliged to abandon all other employment, and her income ceased
entirely. She knew not what to do. She was in debt to Mrs. Mann, without
the means of payment, and she knew that the kind woman could illy
sustain the burden. Mrs. Linden was her only friend, and she was a widow
of limited means.

Pondering deeply upon the subject, a thought struck her, which she
resolved to act upon immediately. First, having installed Mrs. Mann as
nurse in her place, she hastily donned hat and shawl, and hurried out
into the street. It was a cold, raw, disagreeable day. Little pools of
water, that had formed in the hollows of the sidewalks, were fast
freezing into ice, and the keen, cruel wind seemed to penetrate to the
very marrow of one's bones.

People, well wrapped in rich furs, strong-minded ladies bent on a
mission, portly gentlemen on their way to their counting rooms, and
troops of bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked school-girls, passed her on her way.
Two little pinched, hollow-eyed children came out of a red brick
building, which bore in large letters over the spacious doorway, "The
Orphan's Home," and walked beside her. A little eager voice fell on her
ear:

"I tell you, Marthy, they don't give you _nothin'_ to eat to the 'Home.'
And I'm _so_ hungry! Wouldn't it be nice if we could have all we wanted
to eat, just once? I dream every night that mamma comes to me, and
kisses and pets me as she used to. Perhaps if we are good and patient,
we may go to her some day."

"Poor little creatures," sighed Clemence. "What can I do to alleviate
their sorrows?"

She looked again at the wan, childish faces, then drew out her slender
portmonnaie. "The Lord will provide," she thought, as the time-worn
"Charity begins at home," rose to her lips, at sight of her scant supply
of means. "Come here, dears," she said, beckoning to them.

The little ones crept up to her with shy, downcast eyes. She went with
them into a confectioners, and filled their hands with crisp cakes and
steaming rolls, and watched them with a moisture in her eyes, as they
eagerly grasped at what was to them a royal feast.

"Never mind thanking me, children," she said, as they poured out a dozen
incoherent exclamations, to prove their gratitude. "Always remember
hereafter, when you feel unhappy, that 'God watches over you, and will
surely send some one to help you if you only try to do right.'"

She tried to encourage herself with this thought, as she resumed her
walk. It strengthened her to renewed effort. She paused before a store,
where the wealth of the earth seemed to be collected in the "gold and
silver and precious stones," that dazzled her eyes to look upon.

An elderly gentleman lounged behind the counter. She went directly up to
him, and asked, in a straightforward manner.

"How much will you give me for this ring?"

It was a solitaire diamond, and had been her mother's birthday gift. The
man looked at her keenly, and saw that she was not used to bargaining.
He read at a glance, the story of the delicate, mourning clad girl
before him.

"Fifty dollars." he answered, coolly.

"But it cost three times that sum," said Clemence, "and although I need
the money, I cannot sacrifice so valuable an article in that manner.
Besides its intrinsic value, it is very dear to me by association."

"Can't help that," said the man, coarsely, "its intrinsic value is all
that concerns me. If you don't wish to sell it, of course you can keep
it. Seeing, however, that its a pretty young lady, I'll make it
seventy-five."

"Could you not make it a hundred?" she asked, hesitatingly.

"Not a cent more than seventy-five," he said emphatically. He read the
despair in her face, and knew that whatever her emergency, it was so
great that she must come to his terms. "You see, young woman," he
condescended to explain, "you are not accustomed to this mode of
business, and you do not realize that when people want ready money they
must give a fair equivalent in order to get it. Times are hard, and a
dollar is a dollar now. Six weeks later I might give you the sum you
demand, but, to-day, it is quite impossible."

"Very well, give me the money," said Clemence, desperately; "I cannot
wait a day longer."

"Cruel, cruel!" she said, as she walked homeward. "It will not meet our
demands. Where is all this to end?" The keen March wind was kind to her
in one respect, it removed from her face all traces of emotion that
would have disturbed the invalid.

Rap, rap, rap, at the little third story room. "Come in," called
Clemence, listlessly. Mrs. Mann's cheery face looked in at the door.

"Something for Mrs. Graystone," she said, holding out a small package.
"It was left here a moment ago, by a tall gentleman so completely
muffled in furs that I could only get a glimpse of a pair of handsome
eyes. If you will not think me too curious, I should like to know what
it contains."

"Open it dear," said the mother languidly.

All uttered an exclamation, as a roll of bank bills fell to the floor.
There was a brief note, which ran as follows:

     "MADAM--Please accept this in payment of a debt, due your late
     husband by the writer."

That was all, and there was no signature.

"How strange," said the widow; "I knew but little of Mr. Graystone's
business affairs. It is providential."

"Just five hundred dollars," said Mrs. Mann; "Why, Clemence, it's a
fortune! Why don't you tell us how pleased you are? You do not say
anything."

It was true this sudden and unexpected relief, from an unknown source,
had bewildered the girl. She could hardly bring herself to realize that
her pecuniary troubles were at an end, for the time being, at least.

"I am very much pleased, Mrs. Mann," she said, brightening, "but give me
time to get accustomed to my sudden accession of wealth, pray!"

"I would give anything to get that sad look out of your face," said the
good woman, coming closer to the girl, and folding her in a motherly
embrace. "Go out for a walk, you have been in the house all day, and you
look pale and weary."

The long day drew to a close, and night came on dark and chill. The wind
wailed around the house mournfully, and as it drew towards midnight,
continued to rise still higher. The clock struck twelve.

There was an uneasy movement of the invalid tossing restlessly. Once she
made an effort to raise herself, and the thin hands wandered caressingly
over the bright hair of the young girl who slumbered peacefully beside
her.

"Poor darling," she said, "you are heavily burdened, but it will not be
for long. I feel the hour approaching."

A cold moisture settled upon her forehead, her breath came in labored
gasps.

"Mother," wailed Clemence, now fully aroused, kneeling beside her, and
chafing the cold hands. "Mother, speak to me?"

There was no response. The girl was alone with her dead.

"I declare, I am nearly distracted myself," said Mrs. Mann to Alicia
Linden some weeks after. "It would melt the heart of a stone to hear
that poor dear crying out in her delirium, 'what shall I do to obtain
this or that for the poor suffering mother?' That's always the burden of
her thoughts. It's perfectly dreadful. Mrs. Linden, do you think she
_can_ live?"

"I hope she may, with careful nursing," was the reply. "We will do all
we can, and leave the event with Providence."

It hardly seemed a kindness to Clemence, when they told her, after she
became conscious, of how near she had been to death, and that only the
kindest care had won her back to life.

"It would have been better to let me die," she said, thinking how little
now she had to live for.

"If God, in his wisdom, saw fit to restore you, Clemence, it was for
some wise purpose of his own," said her friend.

"I know it," she replied patiently; "but I have suffered so much that I
am weary of life. Remember, I am all alone in the world."

"No, not alone, dear," said the lady, "for now that you have no one
else, I intend to claim you. I love you already as a daughter, and I am
going to care for your future."

Clemence was too weak to do anything but yield, and when she was able to
ride out, Mrs. Linden took her to her own home. But although she
recovered sufficiently to walk about the house and garden, and to take
long rides into the country, yet her faithful nurse began to fear that
she would never be really well again.

"She needs a change," said the physician. "A journey would do her good."

So they packed up, and went off to the seaside. The bracing air did for
Clemence what the doctor's medicine had failed to accomplish. In spite
of the languid interest she took in everything, hope grew stronger each
day in the care of her watchful friend. And at last the roses came back
to her cheeks, and when they went back to the city, in the cool
September days, she was strong and well once more.

"Do you know, Clemence, it is six months since you have been under my
charge?" asked Mrs. Linden, as they sat sewing by the bright fire, that
the chilly fall day rendered agreeable.

"Is it possible?" was the startled reply. "How long I have been a burden
on your kindness! Alas! what changes have occurred within a short time."

"I know what you are thinking of now, child, and I did not wish to make
you melancholy by reminding you of the past."

"Oh, Madam," said the girl, "it is never absent from my thoughts. You
surely would not have me forget the great loss I have sustained?"

"No, Clemence," replied the elder, "that would be wrong, but I do not
want you to brood over it. Remember who sent this affliction. 'The Lord
gave and the Lord hath taken away.'"

"But she was all that I had to love," said Clemence; "what is life to me
now?"

"Don't talk like that, dear," said Mrs. Linden, gently, "the
unrestrained indulgence of grief is always wrong. Have you never thought
how selfish it was to wish your mother back again, as I have so often
heard you? God's ways are inscrutable. But though his children cannot
always see what is best for themselves, He never errs. Your mother was a
good woman, a faithful wife, and loving parent, but a life of
uninterrupted prosperity had left her a stranger to the peace that
cometh only from obedience to the will of Him who created us. It was in
the midst of adversity that she found the source of consolation. She
learned then how precious is the love the Father feels for the suffering
ones of earth. She was willing to go. Her only fears were for you. Can
you not have faith that the prayers she breathed for your welfare with
her dying lips, will be answered? You are young yet, and there is work
for you to do in the world. Interest yourself in some worthy object, and
you will be astonished at the change in your own feelings."

Clemence looked up with a new light dawning upon her face. These
thoughts were new to her.

"I am afraid I have been selfish," she said, coming and kneeling beside
her friend, and locking her slender fingers agitatedly. "It is very hard
always to do right. Believe, though, that I erred only in judgment, not
through intention. Help me to do better."

"Dear child," said the motherly woman, touched by the generous
confession, "we are none of us perfect. We can only _try_. I have said
this solely for your own good. You realize that, I am sure. My only wish
is to make you happy."

Clemence took up with her friend's advice. She found enough to occupy
her, for there is plenty to do in the world. It needs only the willing
heart. She became the instrument of much good, and many sick and
sorrowful learned to love the low-voiced girl who came among them in her
sable robes.

The winter passed quietly and uneventfully. Clemence went very little
into society. She had no desire for it. She was content to be forgotten,
and let those who were eager for the strife, crowd and jostle each
other for the empty honors, for which she did not care to put in a
claim. Not but that she had once been ambitious of distinction, and had
been told by loving friends that she possessed talents that it was wrong
to bury. There was no one to care now for her success or failure. It
mattered little how the years were passed. They would find her a lonely,
sorrowing woman, without home or friends. No one, be they never so
hopeful, could anticipate happiness in such a future. Clemence did not,
but she knew she should, in time, learn to be contented with her lot.
Others had been before her. Then, too, something whispered that it would
not be for long.

Mrs. Linden watched her anxiously, noting the troubled look on the
girl's face, and questioned her as to its cause.

"Don't yield to despondency," she would say. "You must go more into
society. Solitude is not good for you."

Obedient to her wish, Clemence afterwards accompanied her whenever she
went from home.

Thus passed the time until her twentieth birthday. She reviewed, sadly,
on that occasion, her past life, and formed her plans for the future.
The result of her cogitations was, that not long after, she left the
roof that had sheltered her since her bereavement, but to which she had
no real claim, and commenced upon a new life.

This was very much against her friend's wishes.

"What wild idea has taken possession of your visionary mind now?" she
queried. "Just when I thought you were quite contented to stay with me,
you start off to teach a score or more of ignorant little savages in
some obscure part of some obscure region, not yet blessed with the
telegraph or railroad."

"Not quite so bad as that, I hope," said Clemence, laughing. "Don't,
please, raise any objections to my plan, kind friend; for I want to feel
that it has your sanction. Perhaps, if I get tired of teaching, I will
come back to you again."

"Very well," was the rejoinder, "in that case you may go, but I shall
expect to see you again very soon. You will die of home-sickness."



CHAPTER V.


A lovely June day was drawing to a close, as a stage coach drew up at
the one hotel in the little village of Waveland.

"Here at last, mum," said the driver, stepping forward to assist a lady
to alight. "It's been a tedious ride for a delicate looking lady like
you."

She _was_ delicate looking, and _very_ pretty, with an air of refinement
that betokened good birth and careful culture.

"Yes," she said, "it has been a weary day's journey, and I shall be glad
to rest."

She went into the little homespun sitting-room, and laid aside her
bonnet and shawl, then went to the window, and looked out in an absent
way. The high, pure brow, and calm, thoughtful eyes, remind us of one we
have met before, and the slender, nervous hands, locked after her old
fashion when troubled, prove that it is none other than our young
friend, Clemence Graystone.

"Jerushy! ain't she style?"

Her reverie came abruptly to an end, and with a momentary feeling of
annoyance, she retreated from the window, as this exclamation startled
her into the knowledge that half of the inhabitants of the little
village were already out and gazing at her.

"What can I do for you, Miss?" asked the obsequious landlord, a moment
after. It was evident that guests beneath his hospitable roof were "like
angel's visits, few and far between."

"Supper and a room."

"Yes, certainly, certainly, in no time. Here, Cary Elizy, Elizabeth
Angeline, Victory Valery, where on earth air they? Neither of them three
girls is never on hand when they're wanted."

There was a shuffle, a scampering, and much suppressed giggling, then a
frowsy head peered in at the doorway.

"This lady wants something to eat, and a good cup of tea, directly."

"Yes," drawled a voice, "she shall have it if it takes a limb. Here,
girls, spin around, I tell you, and git the young woman suthin to eat."

Meanwhile, Clemence surveyed the little room to which she had been
conducted, guiltless of carpeting, and with only one chair and a
washstand, beside a huge, old fashioned bedstead, and plump feather bed
covered with patchwork. But everything was clean and inviting, and only
too thankful for the opportunity, Clemence smoothed her hair, and bathed
her aching temples, preparatory to partaking of that "good cup of tea,"
which her host had ordered, and which she hoped would drive away her
headache.

But, alas! for human anticipations. The good, wholesome country fare
which she had expected, proved to be only the refuse of what was
considered unsaleable in market. In place of the steaming biscuit,
golden butter, and delicious cream she had promised herself, there were
huge slices of clammy bread, a plate of old-fashioned short-cake, yellow
with saleratus; butter, that to say the least of it, was not inodorous,
and a compound of skim milk and lukewarm water, dignified by the name of
tea. Leaving it almost untasted, Clemence sought her couch, and was soon
buried in profound slumber.

She awoke late the next morning, and after a hasty toilet, went down to
breakfast, to find herself the center of observation. The table was
tolerably well-filled, with one or two blooming damsels, and for the
rest, sun-browned country boys.

"Good morning," said the gentleman of the house, heartily. "Kalkilate
you was pretty well played out, yesterday. Don't look as if you'd stand
much hard work. You're a school teacher, I take it? Yes, I thought so. I
can generally guess at a body's business the first time trying. I ain't
one of the educated sort myself, but I've picked up a few ideas knocking
around the world. I've got some girls now, I'd like to have learn
something, but then they don't seem to take to it. I spose that kind o'
hankerin' after books comes natural to some folks, and to others it
don't. Me nor none of my family never seemed to set much store by that
sort of thing. It's a good thing to be gifted, though. There's neighbor
Green's boy, Bill, he can 'late anything after he's heerd it once, and
when there's any doins' of any kind comin' off, they send him so he can
tell the rest, after he gets home, all what happened. But, as I said
before, it's more'n any of the rest of us can do.

"And, to tell the truth, we don't need to be as wise as Solomon, here in
these parts, to be as good as the best. When a man gets what you may
call a little forehanded, he's bound to have his say about matters and
things, whether he understands them or not. I rather guess, too, Miss,"
he added, good-naturedly, "if you stay long enough round here, you'll
git to teachin' one scholar. There ain't many old maids around here, but
there's any quantity of nice, industrious young men what want wives, and
ain't a goin' far for to find them, eh, girls?"

There was a good deal of tittering at this last remark, and the
aforementioned youths blushed to the tips of their ears.

"What singular people I have got among," thought Clemence, who could not
refrain from laughing at their oddity. "What a strange fate has thrown
me among them?"

She was destined to learn a good deal more of their singularities,
during her prolonged sojourn at the little village. A country school
teacher, having to "board round," has a good chance to study human
nature.

Before she had been long at her new occupation, she found that she was
expected to be, literally, "as wise as a serpent, and as harmless as a
dove." There was no subject--religion or politics not excepted--which
she was not expected thoroughly to understand and expound; she was
evidently considered, from her position, as a sort of animated
encyclopedia, to be consulted at will. And all this, to be able to
instruct a half-civilized brood of children, of both sexes, in the
rudiments of reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic and geography, with
enough of grammar to enable them to stammer and stumble through a simple
sentence, and arrive safely at the end without any material injury to
the teacher's nerves.

However, it was, at least, an honorable independence, poorly remunerated
though it was, and she went to work with a will.

Her first boarding place was at the house of an aged couple, by the name
of Wynn, who lived a short distance from the school house. Their
appearance struck her as extremely peculiar. Mrs. Wynn's tall, stooping
figure, spoke plainly of a hard, laborious life. Her sharp features and
keen, piercing eyes, made more prominent by the unusual lowness of the
forehead, told more surely than language, of their owner's propensity to
investigate the affairs of her neighbor, and proved her claim to the
complimentary title, they had bestowed upon her, viz:--"That prying old
mother, Wynn." But what was still more strange, was the silver hair of
both these old people, and which their age did not seem to warrant. The
lady, however, with a little lingering of feminine vanity in her heart,
had made an awkward attempt at hair dye of home manufacture, and from a
too plentiful use of sulphur and copperas, had succeeded in producing a
band of vivid yellow upon each side of her temple, while the hair at the
back and upon the crown of her head, was white as snow. Clemence learned
afterwards that these worthy people had seen a great deal of trouble,
and that their prematurely aged appearance was from that source alone.

She was not aware that they had more than one daughter, who was her
pupil, but as she went into the "spare room" assigned her, and
carelessly took up a "carte de visite" that lay upon the table, she saw
underneath the picture of a buxom damsel, in a feeble, trembling hand,
"My own sweet Rose."

She had before this noticed another queer trait of the people among whom
her lot was so strangely cast, and that was their singular penchant for
fancy and high-sounding names. Among her scholars there were, for the
girls, respectively--Alcestine Alameda, Boadicea Beatrice, Claudia
Clarinda, Eugenia Eurydice, Venetia Ignatia, and so on, indefinitely;
and among a group of ragged, bare-footed boys, a number of time-honored
Bible names, and such distinguished modern ones as George Washington,
Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Edward Everett, and even down to one little
shock-headed, lisping, Abraham Lincoln.

"My own sweet Rose," proved, unhappily for Clemence, to possess more of
the characteristics of a stinging nettle, than of the flower whose name
she bore, and she was glad when her week was out, and she could leave
her charming society, for that which she fondly hoped might be more
congenial.

Clemence had begun to try her strength, and she prayed fervently that
she might not "faint by the way." What other alternative had she than
this? It was too sadly true, as she had told her friend, she was all
alone in the world. What mattered it where the rest of her life was
spent? She tried bravely to do her duty "in that station in life to
which it had pleased God to call her." That was enough for the present.
The future stretched out, dreary and hopeless, before her.

Strangely enough, she never thought that she was young and pretty and
well born, and might form new ties, if she would. She never reasoned
upon the subject, for the bare possibility did not once enter her mind.
This was the more strange, that she had never been in love, and there
were no memories to rise up and haunt her like ghosts of forgotten joys,
no dear face that had beamed upon her with the one profound affection
that comes to every one at some period of their lives. There were only
two graves under the willows that contained all that had ever been dear
to her in life. She never dreamed of any other love than theirs, who had
watched over her childhood, and left her, with prayers to heaven for her
safety upon their pallid lips. Her one hope was to live so that she
might meet them again, and that it might be said of her, "She hath done
what she could."

Clemence Graystone was possessed of little worldly ambition, and she had
no incentive to exertion, beyond what was necessary to maintain an
honorable independence. She was content, with fine talents that might
have won her a name, to be left behind upon the road to fame by those
who were better adapted to the contest. What was it to her? A
short-lived popularity, the adulation of the vulgar, the cool, critical
glances of those who might sympathize and appreciate, but ever seemed
more ready to condemn. She had no wish to be petted by the crowd, or
court the gaze of idle curiosity. Better solitude and her own thoughts.

She had enough of the latter, you may well believe. Obscure and
poverty-stricken, the world passed on, and forgot even her existence,
after a way it has. She did not "keep up with the times," and she was
left by the receding tide, a lonely waif upon unknown shores. What lay
before her, God alone knew. Clemence felt grieved, too, to find that she
was not liked by the village people. Old Mrs. Wynn took care to inform
her of that, with a due amount of exaggeration. Her crime consisted in
minding her own business, and letting others do the same--and they
called her gentle reticence, "airs," said she felt above common folks,
and prophesied that any amount of evil would befall her. She did not
know that it is a trait of human nature to condemn that, which, through
ignorance, people cannot appreciate the value. Therefore she mourned in
secret, and blamed herself for being unsocial, and tried hard to be
patient and forgiving.

At this juncture, when she most needed a counsellor, she made an
acquaintance, and formed a lasting friendship. She had often admired,
upon the outskirts of the village, a pretty cottage, embowered in trees,
and curiosity had led her to question others about its occupant. She
could only learn that a lady by the name of Hardyng lived there, quite
alone. That was all she could find out in regard to it.

One morning, however, very much to her surprise, as she had never met
the lady, she found on her desk an informal invitation to visit her at
the cottage. Tired of her own thoughts, and wishing for something to
take up her attention, she at once resolved to accept it--and, in
pursuance of this determination, after school was dismissed, responded
to the message in person. The door was opened immediately on her low
rap.

"How kind of you to come," said one of the sweetest voices she had ever
heard. "I have hoped and feared alternately, as to the result of my
unceremonious request. Pray make yourself perfectly at home. I have
wanted to get acquainted with you ever since I first saw you, but I go
out so little, I was almost in despair, until I hit upon this method. I
believe I have not yet introduced myself. I am Ulrica Hardyng, a lonely
and sorrowing woman, with no one in the whole wide world to love or care
for me, and I want to be your friend."

She knelt down before the young girl, whom she had already seated, and
gazed with dark, unfathomable eyes into the sweet face before her.

"Loyal and true," she said, stroking the white hand softly. "I want you
to love me, Miss Graystone. I knew at the first glimpse of your face,
that you had suffered, poor child, and I felt for you from that moment;
for who can sympathize with the afflicted so well as one who has drained
to the dregs the bitter cup?"

"Oh, Madame!" said Clemence, impetuously, fascinated, as every one else
had always been by the woman before her, "I shall be forever grateful
for the smallest portion of your regard. You cannot imagine how
completely isolated I have been, during my brief sojourn here."

"I believe that," was the reply; "a girl of your intellect and
refinement can have little in common with, these obtuse village people.
They cannot understand your feelings, and you cannot possibly sympathize
with theirs. Your former life must have been very different from this.
Tell me about it?"

It was a strange interview, but then, Ulrica Hardyng was a strange
woman, and never did anything like anybody else.

"You will come again?" she said, that evening as they parted. "Fate has
been kinder to me than I deserve, and sent me a sweet consoler. You and
I have nothing to do with the idle forms of society. We meet each other,
and that is quite enough."

"I will come again, kind friend," Clemence answered gratefully, "at an
early day; for now that I have once enjoyed the pleasure of your
society, it would be hard to deny myself the privilege in future."

After that they met nearly every day.

Mrs. Wynn had her say about it, too.

"So you've made the acquaintance of that stuck-up widow, have you? I've
a piece of advice for you. You're an unprotected girl, and might easily
get talked about. There's something queer about this Mis' Hardyng. She
don't mingle with the rest of us, and I wouldn't be too thick with her,
if I was in your place. Leastways, I won't let my Rose make any advances
towards an acquaintance. Mind, I don't say anything _against_ her, but I
do as I'd be done by, and give you a friendly warning, such as I'd have
anybody do by a child of mine, if they was around the world. For my
part, I always consider it a safe plan to wait and see what other people
think about them, before I make up to anybody myself. 'Taint expected
that a woman that's got a character to lose should commit herself in the
eyes of the world. Remember, too, that on account of your being in a
public capacity, so to speak, you'd ought to be more particular about
your morals. It's expected that you will do your best to set a good
example to the rest of the young folks round here; not, of course, that
_I_ would say anything, whatever you might do, but then, everybody ain't
so careful of the 'unruly member,' as the minister calls it. You know
people will talk. For instance, Miss Pryor dropped in here a few minutes
yesterday, and while we was taking a sociable cup of tea together, she
told me that Mis' Parsons told Caleb Sharp, and he told her, that you
looked a little too sanctimonious to have it natural, and she meant to
keep her eyes on you, for all you seemed so wrapped up in your own
affairs. They think you feel pretty big, I guess, for Miss Pryor said
she wasn't agoing to wait to be put down by you, but took particular
pains to flounce past you, with her head turned the other way, and never
pretending to know you was there. Mind, though, you don't say anything
to anybody about it. I am one of that kind that don't believe in making
mischief, and if there's anything I do _dispise_, its tattling about my
neighbors. It's a thing I never do, to talk against folks behind their
back. There's plenty that do, though, in this very town. Now, there's
that Mis' Swan, where you're going to board next week, she's been pretty
well talked about, first and last, and they _do_ say not without cause,
for you know the sayin' about there always bein' some fire where there's
any smoke. She makes believe all innocence, but I could tell some things
that I've seen with these two eyes, if I choose.

"The last teacher we had before you came, was a single young gentleman
by the name of Sweet. He was a nice, fine-looking man, with a real
innocent face, and pleasant ways, and I took quite a motherly interest
in him. He used to be at the Swans' very often, and I had a few
suspicions of my own. I used to send Rose in, kind of sudden like,
whenever I see him go by to their house. Mis' Swan felt guilty, for she
knew what I meant; but, will you believe, the malicious creature
actually insinuated that I had designs on him, and positively had the
impudence to send me a saucy message, one day, by Rose, right before her
husband and that young Sweet. I was so mad that I published the whole
affair over the place within twenty-four hours. I put on my bonnet, and
went in one direction, and sent Rose in another, and Mis' Swan found
herself in a pretty mess, with her name on everybody's lips. But, will
you believe in the ingratitude of human nature, the woman's own husband
called me a meddlesome old busy-body, after I had solemnly warned him of
his wife's unfaithfulness, and I was made the laughing stock of the town
where I was born, and have lived a long and useful life. Nobody can tell
me anything to convince me that my suspicions wasn't correct, and it
went to my heart to have them say that I did it all out of spite,
because I wanted to secure the school-master for my daughter. But I've
lived it down, though, and have shown some people about here, that I
consider them as far beneath me, as the heavens are _above_ the earth."

Clemence found the Swan's a little homespun couple, but, on the whole,
much more endurable than Mrs. Wynn and Rose.

"I suppose you have heard all about Kate's outrageous proceedings from
our elderly friend?" laughed Mr. Swan, at the tea-table. "Poor Mrs.
Wynn. She laid me under infinite obligations, by her efforts on my
behalf, so much so, that sometimes the load of gratitude fairly
oppresses me. In case matters had turned out as she feared, though, I
might eventually have consoled myself with the fair Miss Rose's
agreeable society."

"There, there, Harry!" said his wife, "don't say anything to prejudice
Miss Graystone against them. I have forgiven her long ago, and I only
hope that Rose may succeed in obtaining half as good a husband as
somebody I know of."

"Well," he said, bestowing a fond glance upon the bright face beside
him, "we won't say anything against them. By the way, Kitty, I received
a letter to-day from Sweet, and he announces the advent of another
juvenile Sweet-ness, to be named in honor of your ladyship. You see,
Miss Graystone, he is a relative, having married a cousin of my wife's.
There was some trouble about the match, for Uncle Eben objected to the
young man, on account of his being a schoolteacher, He used to come to
Kate for advice, and being rather a favorite with uncle, she finally
succeeded in reconciling him to the marriage. The young couple naturally
think her 'but little lower than the angels,' since her efforts in their
behalf, and I never saw Sweet so indignant at anybody in my life as he
was at the Wynns, for starting that infamous story. But I told him not
to mind, it would blow over, and it did. Mrs. Wynn is pretty well known
here, and like the rest of us, I suppose, has her good traits and her
bad ones."

"How do you like our little village?" asked Mrs. Swan, to turn the
conversation, a few moments after.

"I have been here so short a time that I can hardly judge, as yet,"
replied Clemence. "I think I shall like it better than I at first
expected."

"Indeed, I hope you will," said her hostess. "We would like very much to
have you settle among us. You must have observed, by this time, that
there are few people of liberal education in the place."

"Yet, they are a shrewd, sensible people," said Mr. Swan, "who might,
under more favorable auspices, make a figure in the world. There are
many kind-hearted, Christian men and women in Waveland, Miss Graystone,
notwithstanding their rough and almost repulsive exterior."

"I dare say there are many such," she replied earnestly, thinking of the
cold, heartless worldlings she had left behind her in the great, busy
city. "I do not judge altogether by outward appearances."

"Nor I," was the cordial answer; "the coat don't make the man, in this
community, but if any one is sick, or in trouble, they will always find
these rough-handed villagers ready to sympathize and aid."

Mr. Swan never made a truer remark than this last. The primitive
inhabitants of Waveland, although they gossipped about each other, and
speculated a little beyond the bounds of politeness and decorum, in
regard to the affairs of the few strangers, who now and then appeared
among them, were, on the whole, a kind-hearted, sober, industrious
community. The little village possessed two stores, a hotel, blacksmith
shop, a school house in which religious services were also held, and a
post office, presided over, in an official capacity, by the village
doctor.

There was also a weekly paper published there, by an ambitious youth,
called the "Clarion," which contained snappish editorials about its
neighbors, aspiring criticisms upon the publications of different
authors, always ending in an unmistakable "puff," if they were at all
popular, or a feeble attempt at discriminating censure, if the unlucky
scribe was unknown to fame, and had (poor wretch,) his way yet to make
in the literary world.

Clemence got quite attached to the Swans' during her brief stay with
them. She regretted to leave them for the uncongenial society of
strangers.

Her next boarding place was at Dr. Little's. He was rightly named, Mrs.
Wynn had taken pains to inform her, and they were a well-matched pair.

"The way that man charged, when my Rose had the fever and chills, was
amazin'. I know one thing, there would be a good opening in Waveland for
any single young man who wanted to set up opposition to the old Doctor.
For _my_ part, I'd call on him every time my family needed his services,
which would probably be pretty often, for Rose is kind of delicate like.
He'd be sure to have one patron, for it would do me good to spite the
Little's."

Clemence thought, when she first saw this couple, about whom she had
heard so much, that though the little weazen-faced Doctor might chance
to be rightly named, yet the same remark could not, by any means, apply
to the mountain of flesh he called his wife.

"Oh, but you don't know her," said Maria, their one servant, after tea.
"I always thought, before I came here, that fat people, especially them
that had plenty of means, sort of took life easy. But I've changed my
mind, since I knew Mis' Little. I've been in her service risin' of five
years, and you might as well think of catching a weasel asleep. It's
'Mariar,' the last thing at night, and 'Mariar,' the first thing in the
morning. I don't know when she rests, for she never lays down while I am
awake, for fear I shant do just so much. If them there philysophers,
that want to find out the secret of perpetual motion, and can't, would
come across Mis' Little, they'd own beat. She's just kept a spinning for
the last five years. And Sundays she's more regular to church than the
minister himself, besides all the weekly meetings, and always gets up
and tells what the Lord's done for her soul. Then the Doctor he follows,
and talks about the gold-paved streets, and all that, and is sure to
bring in a Latin quotation. After that, he sits down, and goes to
twirlin' that big jack-knife of his, and I can't help thinkin', though I
know it's wicked, that if he was to get to heaven as he expects, the
very first thing he'd do, would be to whip out that knife, and go to
scrapin' away to get a little gold dust to put in his pocket; he! he!
he! Don't look so horrified, Miss Graystone. I suppose, now you think
I'm dreadful ungrateful. One thing I know, they'll palaver you till
you'll think they was two pink and white angels that had slid down a
rainbow, especially to make themselves agreeable to you; but Maria
Mott's no fool, and she knows what she's a talkin' about every time."

Dr. Little had one other servant, a simple minded, ignorant boy by the
name of Harvey. He worked for his board, perfectly convinced that the
pious teachings of the worthy couple were sufficient remuneration for
such light services as were required of him. Harvey was an humble member
of the same church in which his employer was a shining light, therefore
it was his privilege to listen, with a thankful spirit, to many precious
pearls of wisdom that dropped from their revered lips. In fact, Harvey
was enveloped continually in the very odor of sanctity, whereby he was
greatly profited. Thus the promptings of his sinful nature were
effectually stifled, and he grew each day, outwardly as well as
spiritually, more ethereal, less "of the earth earthly."

Maria Mott was wicked enough to say that it was because he did not get
enough to eat, and to openly lament the change in the once bright-eyed,
round-faced boy.

The worthy old Doctor, however, congratulated himself, and said he was
fitting the boy for heaven.

Mrs. Little used to remain at the tea table to administer instruction,
not, let us hope, as Maria averred, to watch Harvey so he wouldn't eat
so much.

"Harvey," she asked, on one occasion, "are you not thankful that the
Lord has given you so good a home?"

"Yes, Mis' Little, keeps me pretty busy though to earn it," came
hollowly from the depths of a teacup.

"Mamma," called young Charlie Little, over the banister, "I want Harvey
to do an errand for me. Will you please give him my order. Here is a
bright new silver piece for him, too."

"Such extravagance, Charlie!" said his mother, but, coloring as Clemence
passed her, "I want you to be generous to the poor, my son, I have
always striven to inculcate the lesson of charity conscientiously."

Mrs. Little _was_ good-hearted and liberal. Clemence felt sorry for
having misjudged her, as she saw a bright silver piece glitter in her
hand the next Sabbath, as she sat beside her during the weekly
collection of contribution for the missionary fund. Maria was wrong, and
she was sorry she laughed when she spoke flippantly of Mrs. Little's
magnificent gift of a penny a Sabbath amounting to fifty-two cents
annually. She ought to be more careful to give people the benefit of the
doubt.

But she thought differently, when she got home and found Harvey
patiently blacking Master Charlie's boots.

"Why, Harvey, you were not at church?" she asked, in surprise.

"No, Miss Graystone, they kept me too busy here," was the reply, in a
disheartened tone, "and now Master Charlie's been off fishin', and got
all covered with dust, I've got to black these boots over again. I
should think he'd be ashamed ordering me round like a dog, and then
walking off without even saying, thank you. If he would give me a
quarter, now and then, I would not mind, for I never have a penny of my
own for anything, not even to give of a Sunday. But I don't suppose a
poor boy like me, has any right to have a soul," he added bitterly. "I
don't much care, sometimes, whether I ever go to church again or not."

"Oh, don't say that, Harvey," said Clemence, in distressed tones. A new
light broke in upon his mind. She took from her own scanty supply of
pocket money, a twenty-five cent note, crisp and new, and handed it to
him. "I have no bright silver piece for you, Harvey," she said, "but
here is something nearly as good if you will accept it."

"Oh, thank you, a thousand times," was the grateful response, "I will
get it changed into pennies for my missionary offering. I was just
wishing for some money of my own, to take this afternoon to my Sunday
school teacher."

"Well, I am very glad that I had it to give you," said Clemence. "Don't
despair, Harvey, if your lot is hard. God sees, and he will surely
reward you."

"Oh, I will try to be patient," said the boy, lifting his honest face,
with the great, tear-filled eyes. "If everybody was only like you, I
would be willing to do anything. But it's only Harvey here, and Harvey
there, and never a pleasant word, only before folks. It's hard to bear.
It did not use to be so before mother died. To be sure, we were very
poor, and I had to work hard, but mother loved me."

"Poor boy!" sighed Clemence, turning away, "every heart knoweth its own
sorrow."



CHAPTER VI.


For a delicate girl, like Clemence Graystone, this country school
teaching proved very laborious work. But she bent to it bravely. It was
easy to see that these rude little savages whom she taught, fairly
worshipped her. Children have an innate love of the pure and good.
Perhaps because they are themselves innocent, until the great, wicked
world contaminates them. At any rate, the bright young creature who came
among them every morning, seemed to them a being from another sphere,
the embodiment of their childish ideas of purity and beauty, and they
had for her somewhat of that awe that the devotees of the East feel for
the gods they worship.

She sat before them, with the slant sunlight of a July day falling on
her fair, sweet face.

"The week is drawing to a close, and you have all worked faithfully,"
she said, and taking a snowy manuscript from the desk, "now you shall
have your reward. Instead of translating a little French story, as I at
first intended, I have written an original one, especially for you."

A noisy cheer greeted this announcement.

"Is it true?" asked several voices.

"Yes, it is true," she responded, "and if you will be quiet, I will read
it to you." And she began as follows:


"THE STORY OF ANGEL WAY."

"Her name was Angelica, but her little school friends called her
'Angie,' and those who loved her, 'Angel.' This last pet term of a fond
mother, seemed not ill applied, when one looked at the serene face, and
the drooping violet eyes, with the prophetic shadow of her fate in their
earnest, haunting depths. Indeed, the meaning of Angelica, in the flower
world, is 'Inspiration,' and I think Angel's must have come from God.
When you looked at her, she seemed like one set apart for some special
work, like those 'chosen ones' we love to read of. Truly, as has been so
gracefully said, 'to bear, and love and live,' is a woman's patient lot.
Yes, to suffer pain, to bear uncomplainingly through weary years, a load
of grief and shame for others, though she herself may have sinned not,
till at last it grows too great for her feeble strength, and Death
comes, not as the 'King of Terrors,' but a welcome messenger, for whose
coming the weary woman has waited and longed, ever since hope died out,
and she knew life held for her nothing but wretchedness and woe.

"This little girl, I am going to tell you about, lived in the very heart
of a great city, up dismal flights of stairs, at the very top of a huge
brick building, where a great many poor people congregated together and
called it home.

"There were four of them, Mr. and Mrs. Way, and Angel, and the baby whom
they called Mary. There had been another member of the little family,
but God had taken her, and Grandma Way's placid face was no longer seen
bending over the old family Bible, in the chimney corner. It was very
evident to everybody but the one who should have been the first to
observe a change, that the hard-working wife and mother would soon
follow her. Toil, and care and sorrow, were surely wearing out her life,
but there were none to pity her but little Angel, and she was only a
child.

"She was shy and bashful, too, and afraid almost of her own shadow, but
every night she knelt down and prayed to God to show her how she could
be useful to those she loved. And the time was surely coming when all
her little strength would be tried to the uttermost.

"One night little Angel was aroused from her sleep by shrieks, and
groans and curses, and the sound of a heavy blow, and she sprang from
her little bed, to find her mother stretched senseless upon the floor,
with the blood trickling from a wound in her head, and a group of
uncouth, neighboring women gathered about her.

"'Lord save us!' they ejaculated, 'there's the child, we'd clean forgot
her.'

"'Mamma, mamma!' wailed the little creature, 'is she dead?'

"'There, there, dearie, don't take on so,' said good-natured Mrs.
Maloney. 'It's not dead she is at all. You see, the father came home,
after bein' on a bit of a spree, with a touch of delirium, and raised a
good deal of a fuss, and they took him away where he'll have to behave
himself till the whisky gets out of his head.'

"'There, she's comin' to now, raise her up, Mis' Macarty, till I give
her a little of this to drink. How do you feel now, poor thing?'

"'Why, what is it all about? How came I here?' said Mrs. Way, wildly;
then, as her memory returned to her, she clasped Angel's little figure
closely, and wept convulsively.

"'Don't take on so!' and, 'Let her alone, I tell you, it will do her
good!' and, 'Do you want the woman to git the hysterics?' came
indiscriminately from the females bending over her. Then Mrs. Maloney
bustled away to make her a reviving cup of tea, and little widow
Macarty, with her soft voice and pleasant way, soothed the heart-broken
woman.

"'Never you mind, ma'am, everybody has trouble of some kind. Remember
the children that's left, and keep your strength to work for them.'

"'You are good and kind,' moaned the sufferer, 'but I've nothing to
reward your services.'

"'Can't I do a neighbor a kindness without their talking about pay?
Suppose I should fall sick myself, maybe I'd have to pay before hand to
get a little help. Your lookin' better a ready. Don't make the tea too
strong, Mrs. Maloney, to excite her, and I think a bit of dry toast
would be just the thing to sort of tempt her appetite.'

"Mrs. Way sat up, and a Doctor, who had been sent for, dressed her
wounds, and pronounced her case not dangerous. 'You need not anticipate
any great harm from the blow, madam,' he said, 'but your general health
needs recuperating. Your mind acts on your body, and you must be kept
free from excitement of any kind.'

"'Free from excitement,' she thought bitterly, after all was hushed in
silence, and she lay weak and faint, watching the slumbers of the
innocent children beside her. 'My God, pity me!' 'What have I done to
deserve this cruel fate?' She thought of the long, miserable hours she
had passed alone with her helpless darlings, listening for the unsteady
footsteps of him who had vowed to protect her, and guard her from life's
ills. And this was the end. She wished she could die, but for the
children, what would become of them? 'Free from excitement,' indeed. An
unprotected woman, with two small children, and only one pair of hands
to work with, and these disabled, and food and fire to get, and a roof
to shelter them, to say nothing of warm comfortable clothing.'

"'She got up too quick, and worried too much,' said the Doctor, when he
was called again a few weeks later. 'I can do nothing for her. Where's
that wretch of a husband?'

"'In the workhouse,' sobbed Mrs. Maloney. 'What will become of the
children when she's dead?'

"'Have to send them to the Orphan Asylum, I suppose. Dear me! I never
could see what poor people wanted with so many children, anyway,' and
the elegant Dr. Dash sauntered down the four flights of stairs, humming
a fashionable opera, and speculating how much that beautiful Miss
Osborne really possessed in her own right.

"'Indeed, they won't go to the Orphan Asylum,' said little Mrs. Macarty,
'if I have to work and sustain them myself. The sweet, pretty darlings!
How would I feel if that was my own Katy, now?'

"Nobody being able to say just how she would feel in that emergency, she
bustled round, sniffing at imaginary Orphan Asylums, and nodding her
head sagaciously, saying, 'We will show them a thing or two about Orphan
Asylums, won't we now?'

"But little Angel had a plan of her own. Away down in her child's heart
there was a sacred memory of a mother's anxious, tear-stained face, and
grandma trying to comfort her with the message that had been the solace
of her own grief-stricken old age:

"'Never despair, daughter! Remember, 'whom the Lord loveth He
chasteneth.' I had a heavenly dream about William, last night, and I
feel sure that he'll find the right way at last. We'll pray for him
together, and surely God will hear us.'

"'I believe that, Mother Way,' said the wife, eagerly. 'I could not die
and leave him to perish. He loves his children devotedly, and I believe
this child (drawing Angel nearer to her) has been sent by God for his
salvation.'

"'May the Lord bless and strengthen her for the work,' said grandma in a
tremulous voice, laying her thin hand upon the child's head, and Angel
felt from that moment set apart, consecrated, as it were, by the last
words of that dying saint, for that night, Grandma Way went to heaven.
She remembered it now, and knew the time had come for her to act her
part. Mrs. Macarty became her sole confidential adviser.

"'I am twelve years old,' said Angel, 'and baby Matie is nearly two; I
can take care of her, if you will show me a little now and then, and I
am going to try and get along here till my father comes back again.'

"'Just hear the little woman, now,' said her listener, in open-mouthed
admiration. 'Sure it would be a tiptop way to manage, and I'll do my
best to help you through with it.'

"And this committee of two on ways and means proved so efficient, that
when William Way returned, sober and downcast, Angel just lifted up
little Mary, as bright and happy as if nothing had ever occurred to
sadden them, and that this very room had not recently been the scene of
a dreadful tragedy, of which the helpless babes were the only witnesses.

"'Ain't it wonderful?' said Mrs. Maloney, that same day; 'Way's got off
with just sixty days, and come back again, and that child putting on the
airs of a woman, a tryin' to keep house for him.'

"'And I'm sure that's right enough,' said Mrs. Macarty. 'They could not
make it out that he killed the woman directly, and who cares for poor
folks? She's dead and gone, and that's the end of her. Little them that
makes the laws care! If it was one of them there rich men on the avenue,
or a flaunting theater actress, or somebody had got jealous of somebody
else, and committed murder, there'd be a fine sensation. An' there'd be
pictures in all the shop windows, of how he or she looked in all sorts
of situations, how they looked when they was a dyin', and how they
looked after they was dead; and what the murderer eat for his supper the
night it all got found out, or whether he did not eat anything at all;
and how many fine ladies had been to console him, and how many equally
fine ministers had been to pray with him. The newsboys would be
shriekin' 'murder!' at every crossin', and every corner you turned, it
would be 'hev a paper, mum, with the latest proceedings about the
trial?' And to crown all, you'd come home, half distracted, to find the
children playing with little gallowses, and askin' when pa was goin' to
murder somebody, till you felt chilled to the very marrow of your
bones.'

'But poor folks, that live in attics, ain't considered human. I tell you
what, though, if Mis' Way had a seen her children starving, and stole a
loaf of bread to save their lives, there would have been a stir about
it, and a pile of policemen from here to the corner, to 'enforce the
law,' and they'd have talked in all the churches, about the depravity of
the poor in these cities, and then sent another thousand or two to the
heathens. The Lord only knows what the world's a comin' to.'

'And the Lord only cares, I don't,' said Mrs. Maloney, flouncing off.
The honest truth was, she was a little jealous of her more intelligent
neighbor, (for human nature is much the same from the garret to the
drawing-room.) Mrs. Macarty needn't think _she_ was talked down, if she
did, now and then, get in a word that she had picked up out to service,
that the rest of the folks in the block could not understand. One of the
Maloney's, direct from Galway, wasn't to be put down by any low Irish.
She'd go in and see the babies herself, and patronize them too. So, for
spite, she took a dish of steaming potatoes, and left little Mike
roaring, and went in to have a gossip.

"'Oh, thank you, Mrs. Maloney,' said Angel, who was fluttering around,
setting the table, 'this will be so nice for papa--there he comes now.'

"A footstep sounded without, and the man came in, looking haggard and
wan. 'The dirty villain,' muttered Mrs. Maloney, shuffling past him; but
Angel came forward, and smoothed the hot temples, and talked in her
pretty, bird-like voice. Two great tears rolled out from the hollow
eyes, and a prayer that God must have heard, welled up from the depths
of a penitent heart.

"Three peaceful, happy years rolled away. Angel was a tall girl of
fifteen, and Mary five. They lived in a little cottage in the outskirts
of the town, and the neighbors envied them their contented lot, and even
strangers paused to admire their pretty home, and these fair, beautiful
children. But sin once more entered their little Paradise. William Way
again relapsed into dissipation, and 'the state of that man was worse
than before.' The fire died out upon the hearth stone, and want, with
gaunt, wolfish face, met them wherever they turned. And he, who should
have protected, gave them only blows and curses. Everything went for
drink. Angel tried courageously to find employment, but her slender
wages were rudely taken from her, and half the time they went cold and
hungry. Little Mary had always been extremely delicate, and she sunk
under it and died, and was buried beside her mother. Angel despaired
then, and went on for the future in a kind of maze of bewilderment,
doing that which her hand found to do mechanically. Only God, who had
bereft her, pitied her still, and helped her to resist temptation when
it came to her.

"As her mother had done before her, Angel dragged out the weary years,
almost hopeless; and the one object of her toil and solicitude, was only
a pitiful wreck of the former stalwart William Way. Only a miserable,
wretched creature, that grovelled in the mire of its own degradation,
and from whose bosom the last spark of manhood seemed to have forever
fled. To look upon him, you would ask, 'Can this being have a soul?'

"And fifteen more years dragged their weary round, and Angel was thirty,
and a haggard, care-worn woman. It was a sin and a shame, people said,
to wreck that girl's life, when she had many a chance where she might
have married, and enjoyed the comfort of having a home of her own. And
there were even those mean enough to deride her for her sacrifice, and
tell her she had no ambition, and call her a fool for her pains; but she
did not mind them.

"She felt glad that she had not, when, one day, the Doctor pronounced,
over a broken limb that he was bandaging, that William Way was not long
for this world.

"'It's wonderful how he has held on so long, at the dreadful rate he has
gone on, but the last few years have told on him. He can't survive this
last shock.'

"There was but little time for preparation for a future world; but Angel
had faith, and, even at the eleventh hour, it met with its reward. When
she closed the dying eyes, she felt that she could trust the penitent
soul to the mercy of Him who created it, and 'who can make the vilest
clean.'

"For herself, she knew that 'when time shall be no more,' she should
find eternal peace."

There was a quick, gasping sob, and Clemence looked up, as she finished,
to see a little figure in faded blue calico, flying frantically down the
road.

"Which of the scholars left?" she asked.

"Only Ruth Lynn," said Maurice Wayne. "_Her_ father used to drink, and
fell in the mill pond about a year ago, and got drowned. Her mother's
sick, too, and Dr. Little says she can't live, and has give up goin' to
see her any longer, 'cause she can't pay. He's stingy mean to do it, for
he goes twice a day to see that spiteful old Mrs. March, and I'm sure
_she_ can't live, for ma said yesterday that all her money couldn't save
her. When I grow up, I'm going to be a doctor, and I'll look after every
poor person twice as good as I will a rich one. That's what I'll do."

"I did not know before that Ruth's mother was so very ill," said
Clemence. "I must go and see her."

She forgot it again, though, until about a week after, when the roll was
called, and she marked again "absent" after Ruth's name, as she had
already done several times before.

"She can't come any more," said Maurice, "her mother's worse, and they
say she won't live much longer."

Clemence felt conscience-stricken at having forgotten her, and set out
for the little one-roomed cabin directly after school was dismissed.

She found the direst poverty and wretchedness. A dark-haired,
strong-featured woman lay on a couch under a window, where there was
scarcely a whole pane of glass, and which was stuffed full of rags to
keep out the draught. A stove, at which a frowsy neighbor was cooking
some fat slices of pork, for the sick woman, filled the apartment with
stifling heat and greasy odors.

"There's the schoolma'am," she heard in a loud whisper, as she paused
for a moment upon the threshold. The invalid tried to raise herself, and
gave a look of dismay at the squalid scene. Poor Mrs. Lynn had been a
noted housekeeper, in her days of prosperity, and even at her greatest
need, nobody could ever call her neglectful, either of her house or
little Ruth, who, though always poorly clad, looked clean and wholesome.
Clemence read the whole at a glance.

"Do not apologise," she interrupted, as the strange neighbor poured out
a profusion of deprecatory exclamations, "I heard that Mrs. Lynn was
ill, and came over to see if I could not assist in some way. Don't allow
me to disturb you, madam. How does she feel now?"

"Well, pretty poorly; ain't it so, Mrs. Lynn? Don't you feel as though
your time was short here below? School-ma'am's been askin."

"Yes, I'm most gone," was the feeble response, "and I should rejoice to
be freed from my troubles, only for the child. I don't have faith to see
just how it's a goin to work for the best, for there will be none to
comfort little Ruth after I'm gone."

"Well, you must just trust in the Lord. That's what the minister told
you, and he knows, for he's had a good chance to try it, preachin' all
the time without half enough pay, and a donation now and then. Any way,
it will be all the same a hundred years hence. There's the vittals I've
been gettin ready, and now this young woman's come to sit by you, I'll
run home and look after Tommy. Expect he's in the cistern by this time.
If you want me, you can send Ruth, you know. Good night."

"Good night, and thank you, Mrs. Deane," said the widow, and then turned
again to Clemence, "They told me you was pretty, Miss," she said, gazing
with pleasure at the pure, sweet face. "My Ruth just loved you from the
first. You don't know how grateful I have felt towards you for being
kind to the little fatherless creature."

"Oh, don't thank me, indeed," said Clemence, "you would not, if you only
knew how I have been reproaching myself for not coming before. Tell me
something I can do for you."

"There is not much more for me in this world," was the reply; "but I
feel burdened with care about the child. I suppose you can't understand
a mother's feelings, young lady, and it is weak in me to give up so, but
I can't die and leave my little helpless girl alone in the world. Oh, if
I could only take her with me?"

"I see how you are situated," said Clemence, "you need a friend to help
you. Have you no relatives to look to?"

"No one in the whole, wide world. Little Ruth and me are alone. You must
have heard how her father died. My poor, misguided husband! He might
have surrounded us with plenty, but evil companions dragged him on to a
dreadful end. He was an only son. His parents died, and left him with a
few hundred dollars. I had always hired out before I was married, for I
had no one to look to, as I was an orphan. I had, however, saved quite a
little sum out of my wages, and this, with what James had, gave us quite
a fair start in life. But he took to drink, and that was the last of our
happiness. I have buried five children, and this girl is the only one
left. Would that God had taken her, too."

"How you must have suffered," said her young listener, down whose face
sympathetic tears had been streaming, during the woman's pathetic
recital. "It cannot be that you will be left to despair in your dying
hour. Try and hope for the best, and be resigned to what may be in store
for you, remembering it is His will."

"I do try," said the woman, meekly; "and you, will you pray for me?"

"Gladly, if you wish," said Clemence, sinking down beside the couch.

"There, I feel stronger now," said the invalid. "You must surely have
been sent by God to comfort me."

Clemence's face was radiant with a light that told whence came her pure
joy. She glided around softly, preparing a tempting supper out of the
delicacies she had brought to the sick woman. Then she drew a chair
again beside her, preparatory to a night of watching.

The woman fell into an uneasy slumber, and the hours waned, as the girl
kept faithful "watch and ward." With the early morning light came a
change.

"Ruth, run for the neighbors," said Clemence, in frightened tones. "Your
mother is worse," and the half-dressed child fled out of the house,
crying bitterly.

"Ruth, Ruth!" called the sufferer, "my poor darling."

Clemence came to her side, "I sent her after Mrs Deane," she said,
soothingly, "she will be back in a few moments."

"It will be too late. I am going--oh, Father, forgive me? I cannot die
in peace--my little Ruth, my little, helpless, confiding daughter, child
of my love, I cannot leave her."

The great, hollow eyes fastened themselves imploringly on her face. The
young watcher felt as if the minutes were hours. She listened for the
footsteps that came not. The woman's breath came quick in little gasps.
She tried to speak, turned on her pillow and uttered a feeble word of
anguish. Her eyes again sought the face of the young watcher, and she
strove again to syllable incoherent questions. Clemence came nearer and
bent over her, asking in earnest, agitated tones,

"Will you trust your child with me? She shall be my own, own sister, and
I will work for her, and love her, and watch over her, while life
lasts?"

A faint pressure of the cold hand, and a look of heavenly peace in the
dying eyes, was her only reply.

"She is gone!" said Clemence, as Mrs. Deane appeared in the doorway,
"Come to me Ruth, you have lost your mother, but you have found a
sister," and she clasped the sobbing little one to her arms.

"Well, if that don't beat all," said Mrs. Wynn. "Whoever heard of such
goin's on? What is the girl goin' to do with that beggar-child, I'd like
to know? A lone female, too, with no one to protect her, and nothing but
one pair of hands. She's spoilt her market by that move. There ain't a
young feller in Waveland got courage enough to make up to her now, for
all that pretty face; nobody wants to take a young'un that don't belong
to 'em, on their hands to support. She's clean crazy to do it.

"Rose, you'll have to finish the dishes and clean up, if it _is_
Saturday, for I'm a goin' round to Miss Pryor's. I can't keep that to
myself over Sunday, not if a whole passel of ministers was to come here
to dinner, and I love my reputation for neatness, entirely."

It was a fearful responsibility, but now that she had taken it, or
rather had it forced upon her by fate, Clemence felt thankful that she
was thought worthy of the charge. She began to love the little, helpless
creature, who looked to her now for every good. She took pleasure in
combing the soft, brown hair, that had, hitherto, been twisted into an
awkward knot, into pretty, graceful curls, and it would be hard to
believe that the little, slender, sable-clad child, with the serious,
brown eyes, that always followed Clemence with looks of love in their
yearning, amber depths, could possibly be the same wild, sly, little
Ruth Lynn, whom we first knew.

Notwithstanding Mrs. Wynn's adverse prediction, Clemence's "strange
freak," as they called it in the little village, was not condemned by
every one. There were a few liberal-minded ones, who saw at once how the
case stood, and resolved to uphold the girl in her course, though they
feared for the future, in which there was the possibility of failure.
And, much to Clemence's astonishment, the gallant Philemon W. Strain,
editor, came out with a glowing account of the whole affair in the next
issue of the Clarion, in a three column article, headed "Ruth, the
Village Child," complimenting the young schoolmistress in such
high-flown terms, that a rival editor, who read it, thought that she
must be of a literary turn, and wrote to her to solicit contributions to
his paper, and another authority in a neighboring village, wanted to
write her life, and was only pacified by being allowed to dedicate a
poem to our young heroine, which, happily for her nerves, was never
published, for being sent by the ambitious strippling to a popular
magazine, was only heard of again under the head of "respectfully
declined," accompanied by some severe and cutting remarks, to the effect
that the writer had better look to his grammar and orthography, which
uncalled for sarcasm, cruelly, but effectually extinguished what might,
perhaps, have been a light, that, in the future, might had illumined the
world with its effulgent rays.



CHAPTER VII.


Sabbath in the country. Who, that has ever enjoyed its serene beauty,
can ever again long for the unhallowed day, that, in the city, is
seemingly more for the recreation of the masses of working people, than
for the worship of God. Clemence, leading by the hand little Ruth,
thought she had never seen anything so beautiful and peaceful as the
scene. Nature seemed in an attitude of devotion, and quaintly dressed
little children, with their testaments and Sabbath school books, and
silver-haired patriarchs and patient women, with sturdy young men, and
fair, blooming girls, were all hastening, in little groups, to the place
of prayer and praise.

Clemence paused, for there was yet time before the service, and drew
Ruth with her, through the gate that led into the cemetery. The child
shivered and shrank back, and Clemence let her have her way. She went on
alone, to a distant part of the graveyard, where there was a mound of
fresh earth, that covered all there was now of Ruth's loving mother.

"Poor, heart-broken woman," she thought, sorrowfully, "she has found
rest now."

She bent down and made, with a pocket-knife, an incision in the fresh
earth, and placed therein the long stems of a delicate boquet, which
she had brought for the purpose. When she arose, bright, crystal drops
sparkled upon the velvet petals, and her eyes were still shining with
tears.

"God help me to be faithful to that mother's sacred trust," she
murmured, as she walked away.

Ruth's slight figure had lingered behind a marble slab, at a little
distance, and when she was gone, the child rushed impetuously forward,
and, with one bitter, wailing cry, threw herself upon her mother's
grave.

Clemence wandered aimlessly down the shady walks, crushing the long,
rank weeds, and the occasional wild flowers beneath her feet, and at
last sank down at the foot of a willow, whose long, drooping branches
trailed nearly to the mossy sward beneath. She buried her head in her
hands, and her thoughts went back over the past. The retrospection was
inexpressibly wonderful.

"This is wrong," she thought, trying to shake off the sadness that
oppressed her; "it will not help me to bear my burden farther. There is
now, by a strange fate, another, still more weak and helpless than I,
who is dependant upon my efforts, and I must not yield to sorrow." But
the tears came again, as the thought that even this child, who, but for
her, would be utterly forlorn and friendless, had to-day the privilege
that was denied her, kneeling at the grave of one she loved. How
peaceful looked this silent home of the dead! "They rest from their
labors," she mused, "and pleased God, in His own good time, I, too,
shall be at peace."

It was strange, in one so young; but, Clemence Graystone never spoke or
acted as though she had a long lifetime of usefulness or enjoyment
before her. A feeling, that amounted almost to presentiment, told her
that she had not long to wait for the morning that dawneth only upon
eternity; and she thought she was content to work and wait until the
summons came. It might have been, in part, owing to the morbid state
into which she had fallen, after the death of her parents, and these
subsequent severe and long-continued trials of her strength, which was
by no means great, but it was only in part. If there are some of the
great heroes upon life's battle-field, who have had the future faintly
foreshadowed to them, just as truly this shrinking, sensitive girl knew
that, whatever might come to her now, whether of pleasure or pain, she
should be upheld and borne through it, and that a crown, "more to be
chosen" than the laurel wreath of a changeful and fickle world, would be
her sweet reward; even that "crown of glory, which fadeth not away." She
knelt down where she had been sitting, and asked God to give her
patience and humility for what might come, then walked on comforted, to
find Ruth. The child was waiting for her, and as she came along, slid
her little hand confidingly into hers. Clemence saw that she had been
crying, for the great brown eyes were humid, and tears still glittered
on the silken lashes. She stooped and kissed her, but forbore to speak,
and together they went into the meeting house. The congregation were
already assembled, and were singing the beautiful hymn which will never
grow old or forgotten, commencing, "My faith looks up to thee!"
Clemence seated herself, and bowed her head, and the sweet words went
down into the sacred recesses of her spirit. An admirable author has
remarked, "there are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body,
the soul is on its knees." And, although Clemence's lips syllabled no
words, her thoughts were those of the most exalted devotion. She seemed
wrapped about in a spell of dreamy silence, and the words of the sermon
came faintly to an ear that was all unheeding. When it was over, and
they rose to sing the last hymn, she sat abstractedly, "among them, but
not of them." It needed the pressure of Ruth's light hand to rouse her,
and she stood up for the benediction. After it was pronounced, she
became conscious, for the first time, that they had been the centre of
observation. A little group immediately collected around them, and there
was no end to the staring of those who stood aloof. Clemence recollected
then, that this was her first appearance with Ruth in her new
relationship. She felt a slight embarrassment, as so many eyes regarded
her curiously and rudely, but answered pleasantly the many inquiries
that were successively made of her.

"Just look at the child!" said Mrs. Wynn, "who would have thought that
forlorn little thing could appear so nice and scrumptious. Let me see.
Is that silk tissue that dress is made of? Extravagant!"

"Why, so it is!" echoed a chorus of voices.

"Miss Graystone, I did not expect that a person occupying your elevated
position in this community, would set such a ruinous example. A teacher
of youth should look to the cultivation of the mind, not to the outward
adorning of the person." Mrs. Dr. Little sailed away from the little
group in as dignified a manner as a lady of nearly two hundred
avoirdupois could be expected to do, as she threw in this remark.

There was a momentary silence, broken by the irrepressible Mrs. Wynn.
"What is that, a locket?" she asked, with a little scream of surprise.
"Is it real gold? Let me see it, child!" She grasped it from the neck of
the frightened little one. "Oh, its yours," she said in a disappointed
tone. She had evidently expected some other face than the one that
looked smilingly up; the very counterpart of the girl who stood before
her, regarding her with a bewildered look. "Sinful!" she ejaculated, "as
well as extravagant, to put such ideas into that young one's head.
She'll have a watch next, and a new silk dress. I fear for the morals of
this village. Miss Graystone, I expected better things of you. I feel it
my duty to warn you solemnly, that if you go on in this way, you may
lose your position and the confidence of the _respectable_ portion of
this community."

There was such a strong emphasis on the word "respectable," that
Clemence's face flushed with indignant astonishment.

"At least, madam," she said, in a tone of dignified reproof, "I have
sufficient sense of propriety to remember that this is no place in which
to discuss such subjects. I have not forgotten to respect the Sabbath.
Come dear," more gently to Ruth.

"Whew!" said Mrs. Wynn, looking after her in blank amazement; "If I
ain't teetotally constonished, and clean put out, like a tallow dip
under an extinguisher, by my fine young schoolmistress. You heard that,
I suppose, Betsey Pryor?"

"Oh! of course I heard it," said that piece of antiquity, with a
spiteful laugh, "and I hope now you are beginning to see through your
model young lady. Didn't I tell you there was something behind that
innocent face? 'Still water runs deep.' I knew she was a cute one. I
ain't lived to for--to my age, if I ain't the oldest person in the
world, and not know something of human nature. I pity your want of
penetration, Mrs. Wynn. Massy! just look through that window!"

There was a general rush to that side of the room indicated by Miss
Pryor, and they were rewarded for the effort with a fresh theme for
gossip.

"Good gracious, Rose, look!" almost shrieked Mrs. Wynn, "there they go
with Mr. Strain. Ain't that style now? Come away, Rose, with me, this
minute. My conscience won't allow me to pass over this chance. There is
yet time to warn Clemence Graystone, and turn her from the path of
destruction. I am a virtuous matron, and I must use what influence I
possess to save others from evil communications. I will even forgive
that girl for the indignity offered to me this day, in public, if it is
necessary to save her from misery. Her heart must be melted by Christian
love and forbearance. Hasten, Rose, and we will overtake them."

Wholly intent upon her pious mission, Mrs. Wynn did not feel any
disagreeable effects from the vertical rays of the blazing noonday sun,
but ran down the road after the little group, who moved on, leisurely
and unconscious, a few rods before them.

"Wait, Miss Graystone," she gasped, "I want to speak to you. Why, Mr.
Strain, excuse my interrupting you, but I want to speak a word to this
dear child. Rose, walk on with Mr. Strain, I don't wish my remarks to be
overheard."

The gentleman paused a moment in a state of uncertainty, eyed the
blooming Miss Rose Wynn, whose five feet five of feminine humanity, clad
in bright red delaine, quite overshadowed the delicate figure beside
him. But he obeyed the elder woman's command meekly, nevertheless, and
went forward, asking in a pompous tone:

"Is your paternal benefactor indisposed, Miss Wynn? I did not have the
pleasure of beholding that respected personage at our morning service."

"Who?" queried his fair companion. "Oh, if you mean pa, he's laid up on
account of takin' cold in the hay field. 'Taint goin' to amount to much
though. Let's hurry up, ma's motioning me to go faster."

They walked on, and Mrs. Wynn, eying their retreating figures with
supreme satisfaction, turned and smiled blandly upon Clemence.

"Now, I've got a little breath," she articulated, still with
considerable difficulty, "I want to ask you what on earth made you fly
out with your best friend. I didn't mean anything, only for your own
good."

"I believe you, Mrs. Wynn," said her young listener, generously. "I will
admit having experienced a momentary feeling of displeasure at your
words, but I have conquered it, and should have forgotten it, I am
sure, without this explanation. I am afraid it is I who ought to
apologise for having forgotten the respect due to age."

"There, now, don't," said Mrs. Wynn, now really in earnest. "It _was_
mean in me, to say that before them all, and I'm sorry for it, for it
shows the right spirit in you to try and defend the little creature. You
have shamed us all out by the way you have acted, and if ever you want
any help with the child, come to Mother Wynn, and see if she won't be as
good as her word, and show you the way out of your difficulties."

"Thank you, my good, kind friend," said Clemence, grasping the hand held
out to her, impulsively. "I am afraid that I am not equal to the
responsibility that I have taken upon myself in the care of this child,
but I shall do my very best."

"And angels can't do nothin' more," said Mrs. Wynn. "You're made of the
right stuff, child, and I'm glad we had this little fallin' out, we had
such a good makin' up time. I like you all the better. I wish Betsy
Pryor hadn't been there to see it, though--never mind, I'll make her pay
dearly for the satisfaction she enjoyed over it. I'll be your fast
friend from this time forward, and I ain't one of the kind to say a
thing that I don't mean."

"What a good-hearted, motherly woman," thought Clemence, after they
parted. "I am sure she meant well all the time." And perhaps it was but
natural that Mrs. Wynn should put Rose forward, and make her happiness a
thing to be considered above everything and everybody else. Other
mothers have done the same, and thought their Clementinas and Matildas
the dearest girls in the world, and hated everybody cordially, who did
not see them with their own partial eyes, and value them accordingly.
People are not so very different from the highest to the lowest, and
nearly all view the world from one stand-point, and plan and speculate
as to how they can best make it subservient to their own interest. Mrs.
Wynn, if no better, was at least as good as the majority of her sex.

That evening Clemence went down to the boarding place which was next in
order, and which was the residence of a family by the name of Brier. The
night was glorious. The moon rode proudly through the heavens, and the
stars glittered brightly upon the deep azure of the evening sky. The
trees cast dusky shadows across her pathway, as she walked onward, and
far away to the right of her, stretched a dark forest, shrouded in
impenetrable gloom and silence. All was calm repose. Sweet odors floated
to her, borne on the evening breeze, while afar off came the musical
plash of falling waters, and the murmuring leaves bent to whisper a
benediction. Charmed by the calm beauty of the hour, she did not observe
that any one was near her, until a carefully modulated voice fell on her
ear:

"We meet again, my fair young friend, by a most fortunate train of
circumstances. What, may I ask, was the subject of your contemplations,
when I disturbed you? Judging by the sweet tranquillity of your
countenance, your thoughts were of the most pleasing description."

Clemence recognized the well-known tones at once, even before she turned
to glance at the new comer.

"Why, good evening, Mr. Strain," she said, trying to conceal that she
had been at all startled by his vicinity, and feeling somewhat
re-assured, upon recognizing the village editor. "I was not aware of
your close proximity. I was admiring this lovely evening. Is it not
really beautiful?"

"Beautiful!" exclaimed the gentleman, rapturously, "it is more than
that, it is gorgeous beyond description!" continuing in a newspaper
advertisement way, with some more remarks of a similar nature. "May I
ask, Miss Graystone, if you were walking for the purpose of calm
enjoyment and meditation, or whether you had any decided object in thus
going out unattended?"

"I had an object," replied Clemence, "I am going to Mrs. Brier's. I
thought I would go this evening, because it was so pleasant, and in
order to be ready for my duties in the morning."

"Ah, yes! the Brier's are good, worthy souls, I believe, although I
cannot say that they are particularly known to me. You must have
observed, by this time, that I pride myself somewhat on my penetration
and keen insight into the character of those with whom the extensive
business of my office throws me often in contact. Yes, you must have
discovered, by this time, that I am a superior judge of human nature, by
the perusal of the spicy editorials which have made the Waveland Clarion
widely known and feared, as well as respected. As one of the admirers of
my peculiar genius remarked, to the confusion of another of the
editorial fraternity, it takes Philemon W. Strain to hit off the follies
and weaknesses of mankind with his humorous pen. But if it is often his
duty to condemn, it is sometimes, also, his privilege to admire, as you
cannot have failed to notice within the past few weeks."

Clemence acknowledged the implied compliment, and hastened to change the
subject. She was glad to behold, in the distance, the lights gleaming
from the Brier cottage, and hurried forward, the sooner to be rid of her
not altogether welcome company. Mrs. Brier chanced to be standing in the
front door, as they came up.

"Good evening, Miss Graystone," she said. "Why, Mr. Strain," in a tone
of affected surprise, "who would have thought of seeing _you_. Come
right in, both of you."

"Thank you," said the gentleman, confusedly. "I believe I will walk on,
as I have an engagement for this evening." Raising his hat to the
ladies, he strode away with a majestic tread. Clemence breathed a sigh
of relief, as she followed the spare figure of her hostess into the
house.

"You must be tired," said that lady, "sit in the rocking chair and rest
yourself. Johnny," to a pale, sharp featured child, "come and bid the
schoolmistress good evening."

The child came shyly up to the young teacher, and, as she held out her
hand, seemed re-assured by her kindly smile.

"I suppose you know it ain't none of ourn," said Mrs. Brier, "its only a
boy we took to bring up. Nobody knows who his parents be. Brier got him
at the foundling hospital when he went to sell his wheat to the city. He
wasn't but two years old then, but he's ten now, and a great, big, lazy,
idle, good-for-nothing boy, that'll never begin to pay for his keepin'.
I never wanted the young 'un around, but Brier said he'd come handy
by-and-by, and save a man's wages; so as we never had any of our own, we
thought we'd keep him. Children are an awful sight of trouble. This one
has been such a trial. He has got such a terrible temper, and I have
hard work to keep him in his place, but I do it, I can tell you," she
added, glaring spitefully at the little cowering creature.

"Why, he don't look like a very naughty boy," said Clemence. "I think
Johnny is one of the best behaved boys in school. He is so quiet that I
hardly know he is there, except when he is reading his lessons, and
those he always has well learned. He very seldom fails with a
recitation."

"Well, I'm glad to hear anybody speak well of you," said Mrs. Brier to
him again. "I hope she'll be able to make something of you. Guess you'll
show the cloven foot, though, before long."

The child, who had been regarding Clemence with a beaming, grateful
glance, turned, as the woman concluded these remarks, with a sigh so
deep and mournful that Clemence's heart throbbed with sympathetic pain.

"We are none of us perfect," she said, gently, "we can only try to do
right, and ask God to bless our endeavors. It requires a good deal of
patience with little ones, and a firm and gentle hand to guide them."

"I ain't sure about the gentle, but I'm firm and determined enough. I
mean to be feared, if I ain't loved. I don't care anything about such
nonsense as winning a child's affections. He's none of mine, and I'm
glad of it. He won't expect to be pampered and spoiled like the other
children around here. And let me tell you, you had better profit by my
example, in respect to that girl of Lynn's. It was a mighty foolish
thing, burdening yourself down with the care of that child. You're poor,
I take it, or you wouldn't be teachin' school here, and you say you're
an orphan. What would become of you if you was to fall sick?"

"I should still trust in God," said Clemence, "and I believe He would
open a way for me. I have only done what I thought to be my duty in the
matter, and I have faith that I shall be fully sustained."

"Oh, you know best of course, but people will have their say, and there
has been a good deal of talk lately, and rather to your disadvantage.
'Taint been looked upon in a favorable light here, taking a poor
nobody's child, and dressing her up to make her feel her importance over
her betters. I'm afraid you'll yet be sorry that you ever undertook to
provide for her."

"God forbid," said Clemence earnestly. "I should despise myself for even
once harboring such an unworthy thought. Whatever the future may have in
store for me, whether for weal or woe, this child shares it, for there
is no one else to give a thought or prayer for my happiness. This event,
which my friends have looked upon as a calamity, has already proved a
blessing, and has opened for me a new source of innocent pleasure."

"Well, now you _are_ visionary," said her companion. "Mrs. Wynn said so,
and she gets things generally pretty near right. Guess you'll learn to
be a little more practical before you get through with this life. The
world ain't made for folks to dream away their time in, for there's work
to be done, and you know that them that don't work shan't eat. Food and
shelter and good, warm clothing, to say nothin' of fine lady fixins,
don't come for a song, I can tell you."

"I know it," said Clemence, drearily, her thoughts going back to the
great city, where she had lived and struggled for one who was no more.
"If I am given to dreams," she mused, "they are not of a sanguine
nature. There are weary months of toil and discouragements, and many
failures before me, for the 'end is not yet.' As another has remarked,
'a wide, rich heaven hangs above you, but it hangs very high. A wide,
rough world is around you, and it lies very low.'"

A tear trickled down the girl's cheek, and fell upon her black dress. A
little figure stole up, and knelt beside her, and a timid voice said,
"Don't cry, please, Johnny's sorry for you." Clemence raised the little
form.

"Poor child," she said, "you are early accustomed to sorrow." She parted
the hair from off his forehead, with a mother touch, and noted the
intelligence and sympathy in the great, thoughtful eyes. "You are a good
boy, dear, let me see if I have not got something to please you." She
put her hand in her pocket, and drew out a tiny Bible, and wrote
therein, before handing it to him, these words in pencil--"John Brier, a
gift from his Teacher."

"There, Johnny," she said, "keep that always, and promise me to read it
every day, and try to follow its instructions, for, if you act in
accordance with its precepts, you will have that peace and happiness
that comes from a consciousness of having performed our duty."

She leaned forward and rested her head upon her hand after a way she had
when troubled. Mrs. Brier's uncalled for remarks had disturbed her. Why
should people say unkind things of her, when she was trying so hard to
do right. Surely, there could be no wrong in the act of comforting a
dying woman with the promise that her only child should be cared for and
protected. She had not been eager to take upon herself this burden, but
there was no one else, and it seemed almost as if God had intended her
for the emergency. There was but one thing left, to struggle on as
hopefully as possible, and live down these adverse circumstances.

"Your room's ready, Miss." said her hostess coming back, suddenly, and
only too glad of the opportunity, Clemence bid her good night, and
retired immediately.

"Johnny!" called the sharp voice of Mrs. Brier, at the early morning
light, "up with you, I tell you. Do you hear? For every minute you keep
me, you'll get an extra crack!" and, true to her word, there was
presently a grieved cry from the child, upon whose slender shoulders at
least a dozen blows were showered in rapid succession.

An hour after, when Clemence went down to breakfast, Johnny came in from
the woodshed, with traces of tears on his face.

"What's the matter with the young'un?" asked Mr. Brier, as they took
their places at the table. He seemed to have a little more self-control
than his amiable spouse, and to be annoyed at such exhibitions before a
stranger.

"The same old thing over again," was the reply, "he wouldn't get up in
time to start the fire, and I took him in hand, and I'll do it again, if
he don't get out of the sulks."

"Why, I guess he means to behave," said Mr. Brier, deprecatingly, "it's
natural for boys to be lazy, you know."

"Well, I'll take the laziness out of him. What do you suppose he was
made for, if it was not to work? As if he was goin' to be took care of,
and have me delve away all of my life, washin' and makin' over clothes
for him, and he not work and pay for it. There's the cow to milk, and
take to pasture, the garden to weed, and wood to prepare, besides the
other errands, and how's it all to be done, if you make a fine gentleman
of him. It's askin' enough to send him to school, without keepin' him in
idleness. He was brought here to work, and I intend to see that he does
it."

"Why don't you eat your breakfast, Johnny?" asked her husband.

"Because, I can't," replied the child, tears filling his eyes. "I'm not
hungry."

"But I should think any little boy ought to be, that's been out in this
delightful morning air. Eat your breakfast before you go to school."

"Yes," chimed in Mrs. Brier, "don't leave anything on your plate, or I
shall keep it for your dinner. I never allow anything to be wasted in
this house. Here, take these nice, warmed potatoes, and don't let me see
you putting on any more airs."

"I can't," persisted Johnny, "they are sour."

"Don't tell me that," was the next remark, in warning accents. "I'm as
good a judge as you are, I reckon. I say they ain't sour. Be they, Miss
Graystone?"

If she had expected an affirmative reply to this question, she was
doomed to disappointment. Disgusted with such paltry meanness, Clemence,
who had pushed her plate away, unable to partake of the stale food,
replied quietly, "I should say they were decidedly sour."

There was a moment's disagreeable silence, during which Mr. and Mrs.
Brier exchanged meaning glances across the table. Then he hastened to
say, "Of course, then, they must be, though I never detected it. Wife,
how came you to put them on the table? I should think twenty bushels
ought to last a family of three persons quite a while, especially with
all the new ones we have had."

"Of course," she answered snappishly, "I didn't know it, or I wouldn't
have used them. Thank goodness! though, I ain't so dainty as some I
could mention. If there's anything I despise, it's a person that's so
poor they can't but just exist, putting on style over folks that can buy
and sell them."

"Just hear that, now," said Mr. Brier, in a conciliatory tone, "you've
got a sharp tongue in your head, Marthy; you don't let anybody put you
in your place, and keep you there easy, without they get a piece of your
mind. For my part, I like to see a woman independent."

"It don't matter much to me, Brier, what you do like and what you
don't," said his lady, with a toss of her head, "I'm boss of my own
house, and no man shall dictate to me, not if I know it. You needn't
sneak, like any miserable cur, nor put on that smirk to cover up your
own acts, though I ain't afraid but what I can come out ahead, and fight
my own battles, if you do show the white feather. Where would you be
to-day, I'd like to know, if I'd let you gone on with that overgrown
tribe of your'n? You know you'd never been worth a cent durin' the whole
of your natural life!"

"You're right there, Marthy," he answered again, meekly enough.

"Do you know, Miss Graystone, that I'd never had this two thousand
dollars, that I've managed to scrape together, if that smart, managing
woman of mine hadn't scrimped and saved beyond everything you ever saw.
'Taint every man that's got a treasure like mine, I can tell you."

And truly they had not, for it does not often fall to the lot of mortal
man to find in one little, insignificant figure, dwarfish alike in soul
and body, such a compound of selfishness, duplicity, meanness, and
vulgarity, as was centered in the object of that gentleman's affection.

Of the many conjugal scenes to which Clemence was an unwilling witness,
varying from light skirmishes over the breakfast-table, to hysterics
and a doctor, with the neighbors called in, in the evening, it would be
impossible to speak at length. It has been affirmed, that, in time, one
will get accustomed to anything, and Clemence had attained to such a
proficiency in maintaining a non-committal air, that these little
diversions would not have disturbed her equanimity, as she solaced
herself with the reflection that, "after a storm comes a calm," but for
the fact that this belligerent couple had an unhappy faculty of making
up their differences at the expense of a third party, and it became her
unhappy fate, as the last new comer, to stand in the place Johnny had
formerly been devoted to, as the unfortunate third. Happily, however,
for her nerves, her stay was short with these inhospitable entertainers.

"Where are you going when you leave here, Miss Graystone," asked Mrs.
Brier, on the last morning of her stay.

"To Mrs. Hardyng's," said Clemence, with a sigh of relief.

"Possible!" was the exclamation, "seems to me your one of the favored
ones. No other teacher ever went there before. She don't patronize the
school, and keeps herself to herself pretty much. I hear she's took
quite a notion to you. Is it true?"

"I believe we are very good friends," said Clemence.

"Do you know anything about her," was the next query. "Strikes me, I'd
want to find out who I'd struck up an intimacy with, if I was in your
place, and if you have learned anything about that singular woman, your
smarter than the whole town of Waveland put together. It looks
suspicious to me to see anybody so close mouthed about their affairs;
looks as if they wouldn't stand investigation, and they're afraid to let
'em see daylight. I like things all fair and above-board, myself.

"Brier, come to breakfast. It's getting stone-cold. Never mind that
young'un, he's gone to take the cow to pasture, and I can give him a
piece when he comes back."

Obedient to the summons, the gentleman in question laid down a damp copy
of the Weekly Clarion, and seated himself at the table. After glibly
repeating a few words, of which Clemence could only distinguish "food
spread before us," and "duly thankful," he asked, pausing and balancing
a saucer of coffee with great dexterity on the palm of his right hand,

"Did you read that criticism on the lady lecturer? I tell you, that same
Philemon W. Strain has a peculiar genius for that sort of an article."

"What did you say, Brier?" asked his better half, glancing at Clemence,
as if she was the offending party, "you don't mean that a woman's got
brass enough to mount a rostrum and harangue an audience?"

"You've just said the very thing now, Marthy. I knew you would be down
on that sort of business. Nothing masculine about you, thank goodness!
I've often felt thankful that I was spared the infliction of a
strong-minded woman. That's one thing I _couldn't_ stand."

"Well, I guess we are agreed on that subject," said the lady, bridling
at the compliment, and allowing her thin lips to relax into the
faintest possible shadow of a smile, "for if there's one thing I
absolutely abhor, it's these so-called intellectual women. To my mind, a
woman that pushes her way along to a profession, or aspires to address
the public, either through the medium of the pen, or on the rostrum,
ought to be banished from good society, and frowned upon by all
respectable married women. It's disgraceful, outrageous, scandalous!"
and, as she uttered, vehemently, these ejaculations, the greenish gray
eyes flashed upon Clemence a look so malicious and spiteful, as to have
a totally opposite effect from what it was intended, for she returned it
with one of quiet amusement, and burst out laughing. She saw at once
that the conversation had been introduced solely for her own benefit,
and wondered how they should surmise that she could possibly be
interested in it. This was the oddest couple she had met in all her
peregrinations. Mr. Brier was naturally greatly superior to his wife, as
Mrs. Wynn had said, but was biased in his opinions by that lady, who
ruled him with no gentle sway. With another woman, whose society would
have had a tendency to elevate him, there is no telling what this man
might have become. But having been entrapped into an early marriage,
with a woman of inferior intellect and but little ambition, he had sunk
down several grades lower than nature intended him.

He felt this, too, even after all these years had drifted aimlessly
away, and the knowledge did not make him better. He grew morose and
cynical, hating everybody who did not move in his own narrow circle. As
one might suppose, he had not many friends, and his life was not a happy
one.

"How much misery there is in the world," thought Clemence, as she walked
towards the school-house. It seems as if almost every one had some
secret sorrow of their own--and what a singular and deplorable effect
grief has upon some people, rendering them selfish, and closing the
heart to pity, instead of remembering their own sorrows, only to
commiserate and alleviate those of others.



CHAPTER VIII.


That evening, as Clemence sat alone with her friend, she asked her the
question which had perplexed herself, and which she had never been able
to solve: "Ulrica, why are so many people unhappy?"

"Child, I cannot tell you," replied the elder woman, mournfully; "for
myself, I know that I have for many years considered life a burden to
me, instead of the glorious boon our Creator designed it. You have never
asked me anything of my former life, but, to-night, the feeling is
strong upon me to speak of the past, for I feel strangely in need of
sympathy."

She bowed her head upon her hands, and great tears coursed down her pale
cheeks, while Clemence sat in wondering silence; then, recovering
herself, she began in a low tone:

"I was the only child of wealthy and indulgent parents. From my infancy
every want was eagerly anticipated by loving friends, who made my will
and pleasure paramount to everything, and who were ever subjected to my
imperious rule. At eighteen, I was a spoiled child, without the least
knowledge of the world, or of the duties and responsibilities of life.
Then my parents died, and left me to the guardianship of a vain and
worldly-minded aunt, who became fond of me, in her way, because of my
beauty and great wealth.

"I mingled a good deal in society, and of course, being an heiress had
many opportunities for marriage. However I was very fond of admiration,
and soon succeeded in establishing a reputation for being a thorough
coquette. At heart, I felt a supreme contempt for those who sought me on
account of those 'golden attractions,' without caring to look beyond.
Had I been differently brought up, I believe I would not have been what
I am to day, a lonely and heart-broken woman, for, though passionate and
somewhat overbearing, I had many good impulses, which, if rightly
trained, might have made me wiser and better. But I was left solely to
the guidance of my own will, and every idle caprice and foolish whim
were always indulged to the utmost. Among all the gentlemen whom I met
at this season, there were only two in whom I felt the least interest.
For one of them, Wainwright Angier, I had a profound regard. I knew that
he was my true friend. It was my nature to despise those whom I could
bend to my will. He had too much manly independence for this, and
conscientiously abstained from flattery. When I did wrong, he
remonstrated earnestly, and when I told him that his advice was not
solicited, looked grieved and reproachful. He was far from my ideal of
perfection, however. It is commonly supposed that people are attracted
towards their opposites, but though Wainwright Angier's character and
personal appearance differed widely from mine, yet I never dreamed, in
those days, of loving him. He was pale and intellectual looking, with
clear, penetrating eyes, and a firm, determined mouth. But his voice
was, I think, his greatest attraction for me, for I am one of the few
who take as much pleasure in an agreeable voice, as in gazing at a
beautiful face.

"The other, Geoffrey Westbourne--how shall I describe him? Tall and
commanding in figure, with glossy purple-black hair, and the midnight
eyes that matched it, he was eminently handsome, and, as everybody
agreed, a splendid conversationalist. Notwithstanding his acknowledged
superiority to all others, and the fact that he was petted and caressed
by every one, I felt an instinctive repugnance to him, that for a long
time I tried in vain to overcome. Perhaps it was because I had heard him
so highly spoken of, that I was ready to find fault. However that maybe,
I felt a secret antipathy to this man. Would I had been allowed to
follow the warning conveyed in these first impressions, what a world of
misery I had then escaped!

"'Well, how did you like him?' queried my aunt, after our first meeting.
'Isn't he splendid?'

"'Not to my taste,' was my reply. 'To tell the truth, I was not very
agreeably impressed by your Mr. Westbourne.'

"'Shocking!' exclaimed the astonished lady, with upraised hands. 'That
girl will surely be an old maid. She has no taste. Not like him, when he
is already deep in love with you? Ulrica, this is arrant coquetry.'

"She had reason to think so afterwards, for the subject of our
conversation soon became a constant visitor at the house. He _was_
handsome, talented and agreeable, besides, all my lady friends were
dying with envy. I felt flattered by his preference, and in time forgot
my early dislike, or remembered it only to wonder and laugh at my
foolish, school-girl fancies. Yet, at times, when I was alone, and had
time for thought, a strange, undefined feeling would steal over me,
amounting to a dread of impending evil, which I could not easily shake
off. Another thing troubled me. Aunt Emily annoyed me, by ceaseless
inquiries as to the result of my acquaintance with Mr. Westbourne. I saw
that to secure him for me was the one object of her ambition. I
remonstrated at this feeling, pained at her want of delicacy.

"One day, when she had been questioning me as usual, I replied,
indignantly; 'Why, any one would think you were tired of me, and wanted
me out of your way, you seem so anxious about my having an establishment
of my own. I am very well contented as I am, and neither expect nor
desire a change.'

"'Now, do listen to reason, child,' she rejoined. 'You must know that it
is my great anxiety for your welfare that induces me to take upon myself
all this care and trouble. Tell me how old you are, Ulrica?'

"'Twenty-one,' I said sullenly.

"'And you have been out three seasons, and people are beginning to talk.
They say it is because you don't wear well, and the men only flirt with
you and leave you.'

"'As if I cared what they say!' I burst forth in my exasperation. 'Thank
heaven, I am independent of everybody's opinion.'

"'Yes, in a measure,' pursued Aunt Emily's calm voice, 'but not wholly.
Society has claims upon you which you cannot disregard. I wish you were
more willing to consult my wishes, and would pay some little attention
to my advice,' she added, plaintively.

"'What do you want of me?' I demanded imperiously; 'tell me, in heaven's
name, and have done with it.'

"'Now you are sensible. I want you to find out just how you are situated
in regard to the gentleman we have been remarking upon, and, to be
plain, I've set my heart on your marrying him.'

"'Mr. Angier,' announced a servant in the doorway. We had been so busily
engaged in our discussion that we had not heard the bell. My aunt rose
and retreated. 'It's only Angier, excuse me to him,' and she glided
though a side door.

"I rose to welcome the visitor, with a clouded brow, and eyes that
sparkled ominously. I was thoroughly out of humor. It was an unlucky
morning. Before he left, Wainwright Angier made me an offer of his heart
and hand. I refused him at once, coldly and decidedly.

"'Is it because you prefer another?' he asked, agitatedly.

"'No, that is not the reason,' I replied, proudly. 'I value you highly
as a friend, but nothing more. I am very sorry this has occurred, but
_you_ at least will exculpate me from the charge of coquetry. I never
dreamed of this.'

"'I know,' he answered, sadly enough. 'It is as I feared. And now let me
ask you, as one whose happiness has long been dearer to me than my own,
do you ever expect to be happy with such a man as Geoffrey Westbourne?
Do not ascribe my motive to jealousy, for, believe me, I am incapable of
a base action. It is only out of the deepest solicitude for your welfare
that I ask this question, for I fear for your future happiness, and that
you may be fatally mistaken in this man.'

"'You are impertinent, sir,' I said, rising. 'Geoffrey Westbourne is
nothing to me, and you need not fear that my affections will be
misplaced. I must respect the man I love, and look up to him as my
superior.' My pride was hurt, now, and I was thoroughly angry.

"'Pardon me,' he said, also rising, then added brokenly--'Remember that
my heart is always open to you. I am sadly afraid that you do not
understand your own feelings. Farewell, we may never meet again, but my
last prayer will be for your happiness.'

"As he went into the hall, the figure of a man stopped him, and Geoffrey
Westbourne called out cheerily;

"'Well met, Angier! What! how pale you look; you are ill. Let me go with
you to your lodgings. I will excuse myself to the ladies.'

"'Thank you, I am quite well,' said Angier, in a low voice. 'I will not
detain you. Good bye.'

"I never saw a face so radiant as was that of Geoffrey Westbourne, as he
entered the room where I stood, hardly knowing whether to withdraw and
ignore these embarrassing circumstances, or meet him in as collected a
manner as possible.

"I had no choice. As was always the case, in this man's presence, I
seemed to have no will of my own. I feared him, and when he repeated the
same question, in almost the very words his friend had uttered, I gave
a far different reply. But, if not dictated by inclination, I knew that
it was expected of me by every one. It almost seemed as if circumstances
had forced me to choose this alternative, and I accepted my fate in
complete indifference.

"In three months we were married, and went abroad. We travelled over
Europe at our leisure, visiting its gay capitals and fashionable
resorts, its different objects of interest famed in history and romance,
and, after an extended tour, returned again to our native land, taking
up a stylish residence in a fashionable quarter of the city, that had
been my former home. My means seemed inexhaustible, but, somewhat to my
astonishment, I found, after marriage, that Geoffrey Westbourne's sole
dependence was upon expectations, which were extremely liable to remain
forever unfulfilled. I knew now that he had married me for my fortune,
for he had told me so with his own lips. He had a double motive in this,
for aside from a feeling of relief in throwing aside the mask of
devotion, was a petty spite on account of my former indifference to him.
I do not think he ever loved me, nor was he capable, in my opinion, of a
pure, unselfish affection for any human being. All he cared for was the
gratification of self. I mourned bitterly, in secret, over this ruin of
my hopes. I had no one to sympathize with me now. Aunt Emily was no
more, and she had been my one true friend, for her affection, if
misguided, was at least sincere.

"I thought often in those days, of the love of my girlhood, for I knew
now that it had been sinful in me to turn from the path that had opened
before me into perfect trust and peace, and walk blindly over withered
hopes to a loveless future. Time had shown me that I esteemed Wainwright
Angier more highly in those days than the man who was now my husband.
But I never spoke of him, and I dared not ask his fate, for I knew my
husband hated his memory. But one sad day, when, with Geoffrey, I walked
down the long winding avenues of the cemetery, and read among these
stranger's graves the name I sought, I think reason must have for a time
deserted me. I had only one memory, and the words 'my last prayer will
be for your happiness,' rang again and again in my ear. I knelt down at
the grave and poured out my grief in all the eloquence of despair,
regardless of him who looked coldly on. I was wild with mournful agony.
After that day I never knew one hour of happiness. My husband turned
from me to strangers. He had never cared for me, and now I was hated and
shunned. His one desire became to relieve himself of my unwholesome
presence.

"In the first year of our marriage, I had, on learning of his
impoverished condition, placed my entire property at his disposal. It
had been a free gift, for I wanted him to see that I trusted him
implicitly. I was now completely at his mercy. I had always been lavish
of my means, for whatever faults I may have preserved, avarice and
parsimony were not of their number. I learned now that I had committed a
very foolish act. I had nothing with which to help myself, and was
completely under his control.

"Suddenly, at a great commercial crisis, everything was swept from us.
'We are now,' said my husband, 'for the first time on an equal footing.
The fortune, which you brought me, has been lost from no carelessness
upon my part. We are engulfed in one common ruin with others who have
before stood steadfast through similar trials. We shall both suffer in
common, for I have lost that for which I sacrificed myself, and have now
nothing to console me. I presume you have learned that fact before this,
Mrs. Westbourne, and know that I married you for the glittering prize
which has just slipped from my grasp.'

"'Oh! Geoffrey,' I exclaimed, 'do not be so cruel.'

"'You call it cruelty,' he replied, 'but I say it is a terrible fact. I
never cared for but but one woman on earth, and I broke her heart when I
told her that I had forever placed a barrier between us by my own _act_.
She died soon after our marriage.'

"'Why have I not known of this before?' I asked. 'Why tell me after so
long a time, when there can be no reparation for the crime? It was a
double wrong you committed when you broke one woman's heart and made
another's whole life desolate. I never dreamed you cared for another.'

"'There I had the advantage of you, my dear,' he said coolly. 'I knew
you were a little too fond of young Angier for my interest. If I had
cared enough about you I should have been furiously jealous, but merely
having an eye to the pecuniary advantage, I let the little dream go on
until I was pleased to put an end to it. Could I have forseen this hour
I would have acted far differently.'

"A week after he came in with a face pale with excitement. 'Such
glorious news,' he exclaimed. 'By the luckiest train of accidents I have
come into possession of a clear hundred thousand, and I don't think I
shall very deeply deplore the demise of the venerable individual who
departed this life just at the right moment.'

"I was nearly happy at this announcement. I thought now I could rely on
his magnanimity. I reflected that I had bestowed everything upon him in
my prosperity, and I hoped that now he would, at least, be more
considerate of my feelings.

"But I was unhappily disappointed. 'The tables are turned now, my dear,'
he said, triumphantly. 'Instead of _my_ house and furniture, _my_
servants, and _my_ money, it is quite another story, and henceforth I
shall have a word to say as to the manner in which _my_ means shall be
invested.'

"He was true to his word. I was left absolutely penniless. If my
wardrobe needed replenishing I had to tell him the exact amount it would
take for each article. I had, too, nothing to bestow upon charitable
objects, for he had always condemned my efforts to relieve others as
indiscriminate charity, that did more harm than good. He bought
everything that was consumed in the house, and hired and paid the
servants himself. This was something new for him to do. My domestics had
been well trained, and wholly under my control, having been long in my
aunt's family, and accustomed to my ways. My husband had often heard me
say that it would be impossible to keep house without these faithful
attendants, for I was totally inexperienced in such matters.

"Now, however, he dismissed them all, and surrounded me with strangers.
My remonstrances were unheeded. 'This is _my_ house, Mrs. Westbourne,'
he would say. 'Henceforth everything shall go as I wish, and if not
agreeable to you, I can gladly dispense with your company altogether.'

"I soon found that this was the one object dear to him. My presence
grew, every day, seemingly more intolerable. This new trouble nearly
overwhelmed me. I learned now that the means that were denied me, was
daily lavished upon others among whom my name was a by-word. One day the
postman brought me a letter, in an unknown hand. It ran thus:

     MADAM:--Why do you look so frightfully ill? Every one is remarking
     upon your altered appearance. You have everything to make you
     happy. Your husband is handsome, and generous as a prince. To prove
     it: yesterday he gave me five hundred dollars, and to-day I clasped
     upon my arm a splendid bracelet, flashing with beautiful gems, also
     his gift. The wheel of fortune turns, and those who were poor and
     obscure but yesterday, are rich to-day. _Your_ day of power is
     over. Do not be the last to see it. Show some spirit. Be up and
     doing. Your society has lost its charm for your husband, and he
     finds his only happiness in the love of another who can appreciate
     him better than you have ever done. Very well! seek your own
     affinity, and find a new Eden. Don't fret and cry till your eyes
     are red and swollen, and your whole appearance hideous. It will
     only recoil on your own head. Nobody will pity you, and the world
     will pass on and forget you. Live while you live, and leave
     to-morrow to take care of to-morrow. Remember, "It is a folly to no
     other second, to wish to correct the world.--CAROLINE."

"This was followed by others of the same nature. It finally became an
understood thing that Geoffrey should pass nearly all of the time he
could snatch from business, with women of this class. If I questioned
him, he would laugh rudely, and ask me how I was going to help myself.

"There was, indeed, but one way, either to bear all this quietly,
without murmur or reproach, or else obtain a legal separation. I knew
that this was his sole object, and would have complied with it, for my
soul sickened of this life; but, I had a child, a delicate girl, and he
forbade me to take her away. I could not part with my baby daughter;
better even this wretched existence, and so I continued to watch and
wait, and pray God not to forget me in my dire extremity. As time
passed, and my husband saw that he could not move me, he grew impatient,
and took still harsher measures.

"I have every reason to believe that Geoffrey Westbourne, about this
time, made attempts upon my life. He was, however, very careful of his
reputation, and had to be exceedingly circumspect in his movements. But
I foiled him on every occasion. Then I fell sick, and lay for weeks
unconscious. I had the cruelest treatment during my entire illness, and
it was only God's mercy that at length restored me again to something
like health, in opposition to every effort of my enemy's. It left me
almost a confirmed invalid. Before strangers, I had every care and
attention, and when I was ready to sit up, many friends called to
inquire about my health. As soon as I became convalescent, I had
resolved to appeal to my friends for aid and sympathy, but I now saw
that it would be impossible. Had I opened my lips upon the subject, my
nearest friends would have at once been convinced that my sickness had
alienated my reason. My husband was apparently filled with the deepest
anxiety and solicitude for my recovery, and appearences I felt to be
against me. I hoped, though, that there would be a cessation from all
persecution, at least for a time. But this was not to be.

"'You are evidently a great deal better, Mrs. Westbourne!' my husband
said to me, one evening, when we were alone together.

"'Yes, thank God!' I exclaimed fervently, 'I am now nearly restored to
health again.'

"'You do well to thank God, and not me,' he said with a withering sneer,
'you owe me no gratitude for the same.'

"'How you must hate me!' I said, trembling at his tones.

"'Hate you!' he replied, with his face to the very lips livid with
passion, 'if I could strike you out of existence this moment, as you sit
there, I would be almost willing to serve a score of years for the
privilege, and even submit to bear the felon's brand upon my person,
through the remainder of my life. You are a clog and an impediment in
the way of my happiness, the one encumbrance to be got rid of at any
sacrifice. It shall be done! I swear it shall be done, if the heavens
fall and the earth rocks to its foundations!'

"'What shall I do?' Oh, what shall I do?' I cried helplessly.

"'Do!' he hissed, 'listen to me. A short time ago I was so weary of you,
that, with hardly a reason I sought to rid myself of your presence. I
then proposed a separation upon any terms that pleased you, not thinking
it likely that I should ever marry again. I would have been generous
then, had you yielded to my wishes. Since then the aspect of affairs
have changed. I have met the woman whom I have willed shall rule over
this house in your place. She is gloriously beautiful, proud as a queen
and as rich. I desire to appear to the best advantage before her, and I
shall not scruple at the means. I want all the world to think that I am
an injured husband.'

"'Perhaps you have forgotten your old friend Halleck. He called often
during your illness, to inquire after you, and manifested much interest
in your case. I learned that he was quite attentive to you during my
absence last summer. You see you have been thoughtless enough to give me
just the advantage I wanted, Mrs. Westbourne, and I can bring a dozen
witnesses to prove your infidelity, when I want them.

"'You may have guessed from what I have said thus far, that I propose to
apply for a bill of divorce at no distant day.'

"I was perfectly stupefied at this announcement. 'You surely will not
commit this great wrong, Geoffrey,' I exclaimed. 'You do not wish, nor
need me to tell you that I am innocent of the charge.'

"'No,' he said slowly, in a more softened tone, though the hard lines
around the firm mouth never relaxed, and the cold eyes regarded me with
a fixed, relentless gaze. 'No, I do not. Here, with none to overhear
us, I will tell you truly that I do not believe you guilty of this crime
which I am about to charge against you, and to prove before the world.
You were a spoiled, capricious beauty when I met with you, and I, merely
a fortune hunter. Our marriage was a fatal mistake. But you have
discharged your duties faithfully, and I know it will be a satisfaction
in the future to have this to reflect upon.

"'Do not think, though, that you can swerve me from my purpose. We are
best apart. Your life will pass quietly and happily in some grateful
retreat, all the happier for this storm that now threatens your peace.
You will have nothing to regret. The world will make the most of the
nine day's wonder, and then it will be forgotten. As for me my lot is
chosen. Wealth and power are essential to my happiness. I must be looked
up to as a person of position and influence, and I prefer to be feared
rather than loved. The wealth I shall gain with the hand of this woman,
whom fate has destined to be your successor, will place me upon the very
pinnacle of prosperity. It is a temptation too strong to be resisted.'

"'Of course you, as the victim, will cry out against the cruelty of the
act, but it will be of no avail. I grant that I am doing you an
injustice, and you will assail me with tears and entreaties, but, when
my stoical indifference renders them useless, you will threaten me with
future retribution, and cry out that God will never permit such
injustice; but I shall not pause, nor relent. I am no better, nor yet
worse, than others. Here, in a Christian community, deeds similar to
mine are perpetrated every day, and strong-handed _might_, reeking with
crime, flaunts its purple and fine linen in the high places of the
earth, while persecuted and down-trodden innocence creeps away to hide
its sorrows in the grave. It is the way of the world, and I choose to
follow no other leader.'

"'But the child, Geoffrey,' I gasped, 'my precious child; only let me
take her with me, give me her company in my exile, and I will do all you
would have me.'

"'No,' he insisted, sternly. 'She is my daughter, and I prefer to have
her brought up under my own immediate supervision. I wish to make a lady
of Miss Westbourne, and I do not consider you a proper person to be
entrusted with the charge.'

"'And you would rob a mother of her only child? God has forgotten me, or
he would surely punish such iniquity!'

"I could say no more; my strength failed me; the room grew dark, and I
fell forward at the feet of my enemy.

"It was weeks before I was again able to leave my room. During this time
I pondered deeply upon the course which it was best to pursue. I was
without money or friends, and, therefore, utterly unable to help myself.
I had always been a proud, independent girl, generally more envied and
admired than loved. I had not cared to make many friends, and now I had
none to turn to in this emergency. I felt completely crushed and
heart-broken. Meanwhile, my husband took care to inform me that his
feelings remained unchanged, and that he was still firm in his
resolution to rid himself of me. I now learned that he had employed
legal advice in the matter. As he had said, he would not scruple at the
means to accomplish his object.

"I thought of all this till my brain grew dizzy, and my heart ached with
its weight of woe. At last I determined to leave the place where I had
endured so much misery. I made a few preparations; knelt and asked God
to forgive me if I was doing wrong, and turned upon the threshold of my
chamber to give it a last look upon earth.

"Everything looked quiet and peaceful, as if this was the abode of
contentment. I could not repress a sigh, and my eyes were blinded with
tears, as I turned to go into the nursery.

"'Jane, go to your supper,' I said, authoritatively, to the servant, who
sat rocking the child's cradle. The girl looked up sullenly, and I think
she suspected at once my design. My heart sank within me as I moved
forward to the side of the unconscious little one.

"'Shure,' said the girl, eyeing me narrowly, 'you'll be after finding it
warm here with that great shawl around you. It looks better for
travelin' than a lady's parlor, and would be more becoming to the likes
of me, than your own illegant shoulders.'

"It was true. I was detected. Was there no hope?

"I grew desperate, for I knew this would all be repeated to her master
in the morning. This girl was nothing but a well-paid spy upon his
wife's actions.

"I became indignant as hope fled. 'Did you hear me?' I commanded. 'Go
down stairs to your supper, immediately. I wish to be left alone with my
daughter.'

"Instantly the expression of her face changed to one of cringing
submission, and she rose and dropped a little deprecatory curtesy.

"'Indeed, ma'am, I've had me tay. Ann brought it up, for I takes me
meals here now, accordin' to the masters' orders. Please, ma'am, shall I
take away the shawl, and fetch you the one you always wear?'

"'No, stay where you are,' I said, sinking into a chair, and dropping my
head into my hands to hide my disappointment from the keen eyes that
watched me.

"Presently there was a kind of gasping, strangling sound from the
cradle. The girl sprang forward with a sudden cry of fear.

"I was beside her in an instant. The child was in convulsions.

"Then followed a scene of wild confusion. Every thing was immediately
done for the little sufferer that could be thought of, in the moment of
terror, and the best medical advice called in.

"But our efforts were unavailing. When the gray morning light stole in
at the window, little Lina lay like a waxen lily, and her spirit had
returned to Him who gave it. While I, her unhappy mother, could not
grieve now that this was so, but rather felt thankful that she was
sheltered in the loving arms of the Good Shepherd. For her there was no
more sorrow, nor crying, neither was there any more pain.

"When the funeral rites were over, and I could think calmly, continued
the lady, I realized how this child's loss would affect my future. I had
now no object to strive for. Had my little Lina lived, God only knows
how all this would have ended. I could never have given her up to the
father who did not love her. I would have struggled desperately for my
child while life lasted. For myself, I cared not. I had thought that
night, when my innocent darling was so suddenly taken from me, of
fleeing away with her to some place of safety, until this storm had
passed, but now that she was no more, I had no fears.

"I knew, though, that a change must come soon. My husband was resolute
and never abandoned a purpose once formed. I was fully aware that I need
not expect any mercy at his hands, neither that our mutual loss would
soften his heart. It had, indeed, quite a contrary effect.

"'There is now no obstacle to a separation,' he said, once, speaking of
our differences. 'We have now no longer any interest in common. If you
will go your way, quietly and peaceably, I will provide for your wants,
by settling a life-long annuity upon you. Of course this sum would not
be large, for you will not require a great deal to sustain you in
comparative comfort. Now, that you have no means of your own, of course
you must expect to live in a different manner from that to which you
have been accustomed. And a divorced woman will not be expected to make
a very lavish display either. I trust that your own good sense will
teach you the necessity of living in as retired a manner as possible.
Furthermore, I shall expressly stipulate that you remove to a
considerable distance from your former home. I do not wish any fresh
scandal to give the gossips a continual feast. If you submit to my
conditions we can effect this quietly. If not, then it is war between
us.'

"'And a court of justice to decide for the right,' I added.

"'Justice!' he sneered. 'You are old enough to realize that it is but an
empty name. What could a defenceless woman, without means to help
herself, do against a man of my wealth and standing. You can effect
nothing by braving me. Look at this proposition, as coolly as possible,
and reflect well before you decide upon anything permanently. It can not
be that you have more affection for me than I for you, for I am sensible
that my course has not been such as would be naturally expected to win a
woman's regard. However, I do not value your opinion in the least, so
that fact does not annoy as much as you might think. It is true, I might
be more polite in stating the case, but you will agree with me that I
put the facts plainly enough for your understanding.'

"'I would further advise you to proceed as I have proposed, simply from
a wish to spare your feelings. I believe you to be an honest woman, and
I should dislike to be obliged to attack your character in public. If
you were to go away, of your own accord, to some quiet place, I think
you would find the change agreeable. You would, of course, resume your
maiden name, and nobody, unless you chose to inform them, could, by any
possibility, become aware of your former history. I would then place in
the hands of my lawyer, and subject to your disposal, a sum which I
would set aside for your own use, giving you a yearly income of five
hundred dollars. You could live plainly, but comfortably on this sum.'

"'Hush!' I commanded. 'Geoffrey Westbourne, how dare you add insult to
injury? You have spent, to your own knowledge, a large fortune of mine.
I blush to think that I have ever called you husband, when you offer
this last indignity to the daughter of Wilbour Hardyng. You have already
said more than enough upon this subject. We will dismiss it if you
please.'

"'Very well,' he replied, 'I will leave you to think over it at your
leisure. Good-bye for the present. I leave, to-day, for a neighboring
city, where I shall remain a week, at least.'

"The good-bye, thus carelessly spoken, was destined to be a final one.
When Geoffrey Westbourne again returned to his home, I was not there to
receive him. I never looked upon his face but once again. I took with me
all of my clothing, and the Hardyng plate and jewels, which were my own
exclusive property. I had also a small sum of money to bear my expenses.

"My husband never sought to learn my whereabouts, content that I should
have given him the advantage he desired. After a sufficient length of
time had elapsed, he obtained a divorce on the ground of desertion, and
married the woman he had determined should be his. They seemed happy to
all outward appearances, and lived in absolute splendor, such as their
united wealth enabled them.

"I had removed to a distant city, where none recognized in the sable
clad widow, the former brilliant belle and heiress. I once visited my
old home and saw them together; and he, the false one, smiled fondly
upon the usurper of my rights. Then I crept away, weary of life, to this
secluded spot, to pass the remainder of my days, where there was nothing
to remind me of what I once had been.'

"My darling, have I saddened you with my melancholy story?" she asked,
looking down fondly into the tear wet eyes of the young girl who had
come and knelt beside her. Clemence could not trust her voice to speak,
and the proud woman clasped her closer, as they mingled their tears
together. "How meet," said the girl at last, softly rising, "should we,
who have suffered, be united by a bond of affection and sympathy!"



CHAPTER IX.


When the hour of separation came, Clemence regretted that she must again
leave her friend's hospitable roof for that of strangers. She thought,
ruefully, of Mrs. Brier, and hoped that these new people might not be of
their order.

Her wish was destined to be fulfilled. The plain, simple little woman,
who came forward to welcome her, when she stopped at farmer Owen's,
certainly did not look very formidable or repulsive.

"Come in," she said, apparently not a little disconcerted, as Clemence's
figure appeared in the doorway. "You'll find everything at sixes and
sevens. I tried to get cleaned up a little before you got here, but the
baby was so cross, I had to sit down and hold him most of the afternoon.
He's just gone to sleep, and left me with all this work, and supper to
get for half a dozen hands, beside."

"Now, that is really unfortunate," said Clemence, kindly. "Can't I help
you in some way?"

"_You_," said Mrs. Owen, stepping backwards, and surveying the dainty
figure in the utmost consternation, "I guess not, why, what in earth
could you do in the housework line?"

"Oh, a good deal, I dare say, if I were to try," said Clemence laughing.
"You know, 'where there's a will there's a way,' and if you will tell me
how, I am sure I will gladly assist you."

"No," was the reply. "You just sit still and I'll fly round and kinder
hoe out some of this dirt. You don't look as if you had been accustomed
to this sort of thing. Why, of the two, now I suppose, if the truth
should be known, you are more tired with your work than I am with mine,
cross baby and all; just think of it, when I was a girl, a day's work
like this was nothing at all to do, and I was always ready to go to a
dance, or something of that sort, to pass away time. There's a great
difference in folks about that."

"I believe you," said Clemence, watching her with interest, as she moved
around, bringing literally 'order out of chaos.' "It seems to me, that
no amount of practice could fit me for such work as this. I suppose, of
course, I could learn in time, by giving strict attention to it, to be a
fair housekeeper; but my experience in boarding round has proved that I
do not belong to the class of persons whom they denominate here as
'handy.' I have seen women enter a neighbor's house in time of trouble,
and move about as if accustomed to everything, and always know the very
place to go and find an article when wanted, without asking tiresome
questions, or put an article in its appropriate receptacle when not
needed, without being told. But, for myself, though always willing, I am
generally apt, like to-day, to sit still and wish I could be of use to
somebody, instead of being always in the way."

"That's because you were born to be waited on, and not to serve," said
the little woman, good-naturedly.

"Then I am sadly out of place," replied Clemence, with a sigh. "I am
inclined to think, however, that you are more liberal in your views than
the rest of our sex. Most of them would tell me that the reason of my
lack of capacity, was because I did not cultivate my faculties properly,
or, in plain terms, that I was lazy."

"I don't see that either," responded the other. "A man works just so
many hours a day, and comes home feeling that his duty is done, and lies
down, if he feels inclined, or swears at the children for being noisy
and troublesome, and walks off to amuse himself, leaving his tired wife
at home, to go on with her work till midnight, if she can't get it done
before. Nobody thinks of calling _him_ anything but a poor hard working
body, slaving himself to death, for the good of his family. But a
woman--just mark the difference. I suppose, though, I need not follow
out that side of the picture?" she added shrewdly.

"Surely, no," said Clemence, "I know too well by sad experience. Why,
Mrs. Owen, I never feel the privilege of sitting down after the labors
of the day have wearied mind and body, without offering my services,
ignorant as I am of housekeeping, and awkward as I know I must be. What
would be said of me, if I did not assist in getting tea, or washing the
dishes, and even helping through with the Saturday's work, to say
nothing of the Sunday dinner, with its numberless guests to be waited
upon and entertained, upon the one day appointed for rest."

"Poor little thing! It's a hard life for such a delicate body as you.
I've heard you was rich once; was it true?" she asked inquisitively.

"Yes, madam," said Clemence, "this is a new experience for me."

"Well, it's hard," she said again. "I can't help but pity people that's
always been used to having everything they wanted, and suddenly find
themselves poor, and without anything to help themselves with. I know
some folks are glad when the proud are brought down to their own level,
and say that a little humiliation will do them good, but I ain't so.

"Amos and me started poor enough, I can tell you. All we had in the
world was a little outfit of beddin' and dishes that father gave me, and
Amos made the furniture himself. But we was both strong and active, and
what was better _willing_, and we soon got a start and have kept goin'
ahead ever since. There ain't anybody around here that's better off now.
There's only one drawback, I think my man's _too_ savin. He's had to
deny himself so long, that now, although we are in pretty easy
circumstances, he thinks he can't afford a good many things that other
people, poorer than we are, call the very necessaries of life. For
instance, I dress poorer than any woman in the place; Amos even limits
the number of calico dresses that I have; I get three a year, and one I
have to put away to sort o' slick up in. I hain't got a delaine one to
my name.

"Sometimes I get my temper up, and tell him I will have something to
wear as well as other folks, but he says he goes without as well as I,
and there ain't no use of our laying out everything for finery.

"Don't you think its about time for me to strike for something that
people, that call themselves decent, have to wear?"

"Why," said Clemence, truthfully, seeing she was expected to make some
reply, "don't that seem a little like injustice? It can't be right to
deny yourself everything, and indulge in no relaxation after such
laborious employment. You owe something to yourself as well as others.
Of course it is wise in you to look forward to the future, and it is
perfectly natural and commendable to wish to lay up something for your
children, that their life may be easier than your own; but, have you
never thought that, after all, you may not be working for their best
interests. Supposing you should sink underneath the burden you have
assumed, and death should find you all unprepared, would you not regret
that you had spent your days thus? It does not seem as if any mother was
called upon for such sacrifices. No woman, or at least, no American
woman, can endure such severe, unremitting toil."

Her hearer looked startled.

"I had never taken this view of the case," she said, "but you are right.
My strength cannot always hold out, and if I should be taken away, what
would become of my little children?"

Here the baby awoke with a scream, and the mother had enough to keep
tongue and hands busy in the effort to pacify him, and finish her
labors. As it was, tea was delayed.

The group of tired, sun-burned men, who came up from the field, lingered
around the kitchen door, furtively watching the pretty young
schoolmistress, but not venturing to speak above a whisper, until supper
was announced, when they came in awkwardly, and took their seats.

Clemence was duly presented to them and her host, a quiet, good-natured
looking man, and during the conversation which followed, they made some
progress towards a further acquaintance. She was pleased, too, to
observe that she had made quite a favorable impression, having formed a
plan in her mind which she now thought might be easy of accomplishment.

Clemence Graystone was both young and enthusiastic, and she thought here
was an opportunity of benefiting one of her own sex in a quiet,
unassuming way. She took care to observe closely, much that she would
have otherwise passed unnoticed.

"Thank heaven!" said Farmer Owen, as he came in and seated himself
wearily, on Saturday evening, "that to-morrow is a day of rest. Miss,"
(turning abruptly to Clemence,) "you ought to be absolutely happy with
only a handful of young ones around you for six hours a day, and the
rest of the time to do nothing. I am beginning to think it pays to get
learning."

The girl regarded him with a mingled expression of surprise and
amusement struggling in her face, as she replied:

"Perhaps my life does seem an easy one to others. At least, I do not
complain."

"No," said the farmer, "but you've foolishly added to your burdens,
taking that young one of Lynn's. Whatever induced you to do it?"

"Nothing," she replied, quietly, "but the thought that it was my duty.
There was none other to assume the responsibility, so it rested upon
me."

"That's sheer nonsense," he said contemptuously. "What do you suppose
would become of you now, if you should fall sick, or the child either?
In that case, it would not be much of a kindness you have done her,
filling her head with grand ideas, as I hear, about being a lady, and
all that. She'd go to the poor house all the same, and you would have
nothing to help yourself with, unless," he added, curiously, "you are
independent of your position."

"Nothing of the kind," said Clemence. "I depend solely upon my own
efforts for support, as I have repeatedly declared in answer to similar
enquiries."

"Then you've done an unheard of thing, that's all that I can say, and if
you expect to be thought better for it, you are mistaken, for people
will only call you a fool for your pains, and I doubt if the girl
herself will ever repay one half your efforts, or feel any gratitude for
them."

"As to that," she said abstractedly, looking off into the gathering
twilight, "I have not expected payment and shall not be disappointed in
that case. However, I do not regret the step. On the contrary, I am
thankful for the privilege."

"Where's the young 'un now?" he asked. "To Swan's yet?"

Clemence nodded in the affirmative.

"How much do you pay a week for her board?"

"Two dollars," she said coolly.

"And you earn how much?"

"Five dollars per week and board."

"And have had to clothe her besides buying what books and other articles
a child needs? Well, you are green. They say, too, you dress pretty well
yourself. Can't see how you manage it on them wages," he added, eyeing
her with a shrewd, penetrating glance.

Clemence blushed under the close scrutiny.

"Do you call calico expensive?" she asked, calling his attention to her
own daintily fitting one.

"No," he answered, shifting uneasily in his seat, "of course it's the
cheapest and best thing a woman can wear, in my opinion."

"Of course," echoed Mrs. Owen, at his elbow, "but what does a man know
about such things? But I'll tell you one thing, Amos, if calico _is_ the
cheapest and best thing a woman can wear, I am going to have enough of
it after this."

"Well, have enough," he said impatiently, "though you will never look
pretty nor lady-like in anything. So don't flatter yourself, nor aspire
to imitate others who can. I suppose now, Miss Graystone," turning to
Clemence, "you think I don't want my wife to dress as well as others on
account of the expense; but, although I commenced poor, and have been
obliged to save pretty close, yet I never saw the time when I have not
done for my family to the extent my means afforded. Times are getting a
little easier with me now, though I ain't rich, far from it. Besides
there's another point to be considered. Now if _you_ get an article of
dress, you have some taste in making and wearing it," and he looked
admiringly at the trim figure before him; "but Susan here, completely
spoils everything she undertakes."

"There, Amos Owen," put in the aforementioned Susan, "don't try to lay
your stinginess on my shoulders, for, goodness knows, they have burden
enough already. And that ain't so, either, you know as well as I do that
you're only saying it to be contrary."

"Well, have it so," he said, crossly, and Clemence, to turn the subject,
asked if they were going to attend morning service on the coming
Sabbath.

"Not I," said Mr. Owen, "it's asking altogether too much of a hard
working man like me to get up and start off as regular as the Sunday
comes, without any rest whatever. I don't feel called upon to do it, for
one. Wife, here, can answer for herself."

"Why don't you say at once that she has not a decent dress to go in, and
you prefer to have her stay home and look after the children, while you
sleep away your time. I've no patience with you, Amos."

"So you are boarding at Owen's?" said Mrs. Swan, when Clemence stopped
for little Ruth, on her way to meeting.

"Yes," said Clemence, "they are an odd couple."

"They are all of that, and more," she replied with a smile. "I should
not think you would fancy staying there much, she has the name of being
a miserable housekeeper, and a shiftless sort of body at the best."

"Why," said the young teacher, generously, "I have not found her so. I
think she is one of the most industrious women in the place."

"Then," said Mrs. Swan, looking with an air of pride around her own neat
little dwelling, "how is it she always has such a dirty looking house,
that you can't bear to eat a mouthful in it, and those ill-kempt, noisy
children, to say nothing of her own slovenly appearance?"

"Because," returned Clemence, in her defence, "she has more work put
upon her than two women ought to do, and with so much expected of her,
it is not to be wondered at that she sometimes fails to achieve
everything."

"But what a figure the woman does make of herself," said Mrs. Swan,
smoothing her own satin hair. "She spoils everything in the making up. I
never saw her in a well made garment, nor her children, either."

"I grant," conceded Clemence, "that she has no taste, but she has little
time for its indulgence, so, perhaps, she is as well off without it. The
poor woman is a perfect drudge. She never has a pitying word, or a
sympathetic look, even from her husband. He seems to think that she is
only filling her appropriate sphere. Yet, I do not think he means to be
cruel. He, works hard himself, and expects every one around him to do
the same."

"I'll tell you what I think about it," said Mrs. Swan, energetically,
"she never was the wife for him. With a woman who had the least
ambition, their home would present a far different aspect. As it is, you
know, Miss Graystone, it _does_ look enough to disgust a neat man like
him. No one can say, either, but what he furnishes liberally everything
necessary for the household, and she is as close and saving as he is,
for all she denies it."

"That is all very true," responded Clemence, "but for all that, I can't
help but pity her. It seems as if their home might be rendered
pleasanter. There is enough material there to bring out, and it only
wants somebody to give them a friendly hint."

"And you think you are just the one to do it, and that it is your
obvious duty, and all that?" said Mrs. Swan. "Now, just take my advice,
and don't burn your fingers meddling with other people's affairs, nor do
any such foolish thing for conscience sake."

"But if I think I ought, 'to do unto others,' you know," said Clemence,
doubtingly.

"But you had _not_ ought. Just leave matters as they are, and they will
come right of themselves, and if they don't, why, it's no fault of
yours."

"That strikes me as a selfish policy," she said. "I can't reconcile it
with my ideas of what is right."

"It's a safe one, for all that," was the reply. "Take heed to my words,
and let the Owen's affairs alone. You don't expect to revolutionize the
family by one effort."

"Still, I can't help but feel sorry for this overworked woman," said
Clemence, "and what is more, I think as one of my own sex, I may be able
to do her some kindness without injury to any one. She has neither grace
nor refinement, such as most women have in common with each other,
whatever may be their position in life. I don't think that she is
naturally lazy, as you say. At the foundation, her house is always
clean. It needs somebody to keep it in order, and have a place for
everything and everything in its place,' for the lack of which it
presents this disordered appearance. I believe I can be of some use to
her, and shall try faithfully to do my whole duty in that respect."

"You dear child," said Mrs. Swan, kindly, "you shame me by your
disinterestedness. Remember, though, if you get into any difficulty, I
have warned you solemnly, as I thought _my_ duty."

"I will remember," said Clemence, laughing, "and in that event I shall
expect, and doubtless receive your warmest sympathy."

After that, she went to work with a will, and was so far successful in
her praiseworthy labors, that the home of the Owen's began to wear a
look hitherto a stranger to it. With her own hands, Clemence assisted in
establishing a new order of things, and when praised by the smiling Mr.
Owen, would triumphantly bring forward some work of his wife's, which
had been executed under her own supervision, as a proof that she had
been kept down, and was not so totally deficient in taste as had been
affirmed.

These little subterfuges, however, did not always have the desired
effect, and more than once Clemence was annoyed by an unmistakable
glance of admiration and a remark to the effect that after she left,
things would resume their former dilapidated appearance.

"What coarse manners this person has," she would think on these
occasions, "and how much his poor wife must suffer in his boorish
society."

She was pleased, though, and somewhat astonished, to see how readily
Farmer Owen's purse opened at her demands.

"Amos never was so liberal to me before," said his wife, and the whole
village echoed it.

"Mrs. Owen ought to pay you for staying there with her life-long
gratitude," said Mrs. Swan. "Let me congratulate you on your
unparalleled success in that quarter."

"Oh," said Clemence, ingenuously, "as to that, I claim no merit for
myself. I told you it was more from a lack of knowledge upon the subject
than from intentional wrong, that this poor woman was made to suffer. It
only needed some one to point out the error."

"You are a good girl, any way," said Mrs. Swan, by way of conclusion.
"Who but you would ever have thought of it, I should like to know?"

It very soon became the fashion to patronize and "bring out" little Mrs.
Owen in Waveland. People awoke to a knowledge of their duty, and
regularly now, every Sabbath, she came to meeting under the care of two
or more of the prim-looking matrons.

Clemence was pleased that they had, as she thought, at last begun to
appreciate her many excellent qualities, but she could not understand
exactly _why_ these kind people should be at such pains to flaunt their
good deeds. After much bewilderment, she came to the conclusion that
they must have thought her presuming, and considered that she ought to
be put in her place, instead of aspiring to teach them their duty.

"As if," she thought sadly, "I could be guilty of harboring such a
thought. I am afraid I shall never make many friends in Waveland."

She was glad when Monday morning came again, and she could resume her
school duties. At least, here was a legitimate object of interest to
occupy her mind. When the lessons were over for the day, she went back
with little Sammy Owen pattering along beside her. She seated herself,
and went to work industriously, on some sewing of Mrs. Owen's, and
applied herself so closely, that she completed the garment just as she
was called to supper.

"Well, I have finished your dress," she said, as she came to the table.

"And you are nearly tired to death," said Mr. Owen. "Susan, you ought
not to have allowed Miss Graystone to overwork herself."

Clemence protested it was nothing, and that a cup of their good tea
would rest her, and the worthy couple immediately set about loading her
plate with food enough to have satisfied the appetite of a plough-boy.
And as soon as she could slip away, she left the table.

Her hostess soon followed her, to try on the new dress. It was a pretty,
soft-tinted muslin, and made the round, plump figure look more nearly
approaching to attractiveness than it had ever done before.

"Well, I declare," said the farmer, surveying her with satisfaction,
"that does look nice and tidy. Now, if we could always have you, Miss
Graystone, to select my wife's dresses, and cut and fit them, and
afterwards tell her how to put them on, she would look, positively,
respectable."

"Here is a collar that I brought for you," said Clemence, pretending not
to have heard this doubtful compliment, and the delighted little woman
forthwith burst forth into a profusion of exaggerated acknowledgements
of her kindness and generosity.

"There, Amos Owen," she exclaimed, blushing with pleasure, "what do you
think of your wife, now? You can see by this time that she ain't the one
to be kept down forever, and drudge her life away. She was born for
better things." And stepping backwards, with a self-complacent smile and
toss of her head, the little creature, unfortunately unused to fineries
of any kind, planted her foot, which was by no means a small one, upon
the delicate fabric and made an awkward rent.

Clemence was ready to cry with vexation. Plainly, here was, at least,
another half hour's work for her tired fingers.

Mr. Owen gave a long, low whistle, and then a shout of derisive
laughter, as he turned and went out of the house. Clemence feared that
her cause was being irreparably ruined, instead of helped along, as she
so ardently desired, by this untoward event.

"Deary me!" said Mrs. Owen, "what _shall_ I do? I wish I'd never tried
to dress up at all. Just think how much that cost, and it's only a
stringy thing after all, and a great big rent in it before its ever worn
at all. I wish now, I'd got that calico that I wanted to. I should, if
_you_ hadn't persuaded me not to."

If a few tears fell among the pale, pink rosebuds, with which the
condemned article was dotted as plentifully as May blossoms, it is
hardly to be wondered at. Tired, overworked, and a good deal
discouraged, the pale young teacher might be pardoned for any signs of
weakness, though she needed to gather up all her sinking courage for the
future, that lay before her lost in shadow.



CHAPTER X.


Somewhat apart from, and forming the western boundary of Waveland, was a
lovely inland lake, by the margin of which Clemence had been accustomed
to spend many sad hours, since she had become a resident of the little
village. A narrow foot-path, that led through the sombre woods, brought
her to a sheltered spot upon the sloping shore, where she often came
alone to pass an idle hour. She had come to regard this place as her own
peculiar property, for no one had ever come here to interrupt her, or
claim any portion of its solitude.

It was a safe retreat from prying eyes, and it became to the girl, at
length, the one sacred spot where she could pour out her griefs to that
One, who looks upon His stricken children only to pity and forgive.

She sat, now, idly watching the sun sink in the western sky, behind the
far-off hills. She thought, as she noted the sunset, that she had never
seen anything more beautiful--

    Amber, and purple, and crimson, and blue,
    Glittering shades of every hue.
    Fleecy cloudlets of silver-gray,
    And shroud-like white, for the dying day.

She remembered, as her eye dwelt in admiration of the scene, of the
beautiful passages in Revelation, and of the gates of pearl and jasper,
"which shall not be shut at all by day, for there shall be no night
there." It almost seemed as if she could drift through these cloud
portals into the peace and rest beyond. Her heart yearned for the loving
clasp of the sweet pilgrim, who had gone before, and who had entered
into "the joy of her Lord." The thought comforted her. She rose up
absently to find two curious eyes fastened upon her, while Mr. Owen's
voice said at her elbow:

"You find this scene more congenial, it appears, than our well ordered
household, and dreaming away the hours, a much more agreeable task than
trying to make a lady of my homespun wife?"

"Why," said Clemence, nervously, not replying to this singular speech,
"how you startled me. Who would have thought of your being here? How did
you find me? Have you any message from your wife?"

"None, whatever," he said, regarding her strangely, and replying to her
last remark. "Do not go, just yet. Miss Graystone; I am tired, and would
like to rest."

"In that case," returned Clemence, "I will leave you to yourself, and
walk on, and you can come at your leisure."

"But I want to talk to you," he rejoined, detaining her, "I came here
particularly for that purpose."

His look said more than his words, and set the girl's heart beating with
sudden fear, as she thought of the strip of silent forest that lay
between them and the town.

"I am in haste," she said, starting hurriedly forward, "and will listen
to you when we get back to the house."

"And that is the very last thing I intend you shall do," he rejoined,
springing from the grass, where he had thrown himself, and coming close
to her, "I tell you, I want to talk to you."

"Well, if you have anything to say to me," she continued, hastening on,
"you can proceed as we go along, for I cannot linger. I was not aware of
its being so late, until you aroused me."

"There, I did not think of that," he added; "Susan will miss me, and,
beside, some one might have been watching me follow you."

"_Did_ you follow me?" questioned Clemence, thrown, for the moment,
completely off her guard.

"Of course," he replied, studying her face intently; "how else did you
suppose I could find you in that hiding-place?"

"I was not aware that a hard-working farmer was given to such school-boy
tricks," she said again, in tones of marked displeasure. "If you wished
to recall me, one of the children would have done the errand equally as
well."

He laughed sarcastically. "All very proper and correct, Miss Graystone.
Perhaps I did run the risk of discovery, in my anxiety to find you, but
one cannot be always upon their guard and remember everything. You are a
'cute one, now, with that artless face. I studied for weeks before I
really made up my mind whether it was real or only put on for the
occasion."

"Did you ever observe me before?" asked Clemence as cooly as possible,
resolved to cultivate obtuseness, and not apply his words personally, "I
suppose, now, in a quiet place like this, any stranger is subjected to
the comments and surmises of nearly all the inhabitants. By the way, how
many do you suppose the place numbers?"

"Really, I don't know," he answered dryly, "never having the curiosity
to inquire. Perhaps the Editor could tell you. Suppose you ask him, when
you meet again, as you seem to be tolerably well acquainted."

"Oh, I don't care so much as that about it," said Clemence,
indifferently, "and I am not sufficiently well acquainted with the
gentleman in question, to catechise him in any way."

"Then you were not writing those verses to him, that I saw you put away
when I spoke to you?"

The red blood flashed indignantly into Clemence's cheeks, at this
impertinence, but she had a motive in checking any manifestations of her
fear and anger, so she answered lightly:

"Of course not, it was merely for my own amusement."

"Ah, what an agreeable thing," he said, after a moment, "to have such
resources of pleasure. How you must despise an ignorant fellow like me."

"There, you wrong me," she said generously, "I am incapable of such
littleness. Here, in America, where so many of our most distinguished
men have come from contact with the field or workshop, it would be folly
in me to despise any one on account of their calling."

"But I have thought it mean, and my whole life has grown distasteful
since I met you," he said, turning suddenly and confronting her.

They were in a tangled pathway, overgrown with clinging vines, that
interlaced themselves above and upon every side. It was impossible to
proceed with this man directly in her way, so she could only stand
immovably, trying to repress all feeling of apprehension.

He went on rapidly--"I have wanted to go away somewhere, out of this,
and grow into something above this peasant's life; and all this only
since I have known you."

"Well," said Clemence, giving him a glance of cold contempt, "What has
this to do with me? Such aspirations would be more appropriate for your
wife's ear, than mine, and, do you know, your present appearance is
rather more ludicrous than sensational? I could respect you at your own
fireside, or attending to your homely labors, for you were then
occupying your proper sphere; but, at present, you impress me in a
totally different manner.

"Go back to your wife, who, if, as you declare, is not a lady, is, at
least, your equal, for you will never be a gentleman; and you can both,
if you try to do right, become happy and contented in that calling which
your parents have followed faithfully and well before you.

"When people, who have never in the course of a long life been
remarkable for ambition, suddenly come to have aspirations, you may be
quite sure that the 'arch enemy of mankind,' who is said to be
indefatigable in providing work 'for idle hands to do,' is plotting
their certain destruction."

She broke off abruptly, absolutely appalled by the gleam of murderous
hate that leaped into the man's fierce dark eye, as the meaning of her
words dawned upon his dulled perception. He opened his lips, which had
grown white with rage, but no sound came from them.

The next moment a childish voice, near them, called, "Papa! where are
you?" and Clemence drew a sigh of relief, as little Sammy Owen bounded
through the bushes to her side.

Five minutes later, she was walking alone, disconsolately, thinking of
this new trouble that threatened her peace, for she felt instinctively
that, in the last hour, she had made an enemy, to be shunned and dreaded
during the rest of her stay in Waveland.

"Well, thank God!" she said fervently, "that I am at least _safe_. I am
innocent of any wrong intent, and I know that I shall be upheld, now, as
in every other trouble that has come to me, and in the end, find
justification."

There was no one visible when she reached the house, but Mrs. Owen, who
sat with her dumpling of a baby, on the door-steps.

"La!" she ejaculated, as Clemence came in sight, walking wearily enough,
"what's the matter--be you sick?"

"No," said Clemence, sinking down beside her, "only tired."

"Well, you look as though you had seen a ghost, at the very least. There
ain't much to you, any way, you give out the easiest of anybody I ever
see. A good night's rest will help you, and you will be all right in
the morning."

"I have got to walk another mile before I obtain it, though," said
Clemence, rising. "I am going to spend to-morrow and Sunday with Mrs.
Hardyng."

"No, be you?" reiterated Mrs. Owen. "Sakes alive you'll never stand it
to walk way down there, and feeling tired out before you start. It will
be dark too, before you get there. I wish Amos was here, and I'd send
him along, too, but he went off somewhere, I don't know in what
direction, and ain't even been in to his supper. That makes me think,
you ain't had your's, neither. Better stay and let me get you a cup of
tea?"

Clemence thanked her languidly, said her friends would probably have
some waiting for her when she arrived, and bidding her good evening,
passed out of the gate, and the slight form was soon lost to view in the
deepening shadows of the night.

The young teacher's forebodings were soon to be realized. She was right.
She _had_ made an enemy of Mr. Owen, and he determined to make her feel
it henceforward, by every means in his power. In his petty way, he was
as particular about keeping up an outside appearance of respectability,
as any aristocratic member of a rich city church might be to cover up
their own glaring deficiencies. It would have ruined him as completely
in his little circle, to have been found out in his underhand tricks, as
though he had been of the consequence in other people's estimation that
he was in his own. He had never, in all his life, been accustomed to
mingle with but one class of women, and that the ignorant, ill-bred
gossip-mongers of his own village. Consequently, he was in momentary
fear of having his recent escapade brought to light, and becoming the
laughing stock of the place, for having fallen in love with, and been
snubbed by the pretty young school mistress.

He was possessed of a sufficient share of low cunning to enable him,
finally, to hit upon a plan by which he hoped this catastrophe might be
averted. There upon he proceeded to unfold to the astonished partner of
his joys and sorrows, that he was glad Miss Graystone had left the
house, for he considered her a dangerous person to enter any family
circle; that she had sought, with great assiduity, while she had been an
inmate of his house, to bring misery and disgrace beneath that peaceful
roof, by beguiling away the affections of the fond husband and father,
and that, like a second Joseph, he had come through the trial manfully.
This was enough, and more than enough, for a woman like the one who
listened in open-mouthed wonder to every word.

Before a week rolled away, every one knew the story of Farmer Owen's
struggles and triumph. Not that any one, even to his own injured wife,
for a moment, believed the assertion. Not she. Even with her obtuse
intellect, she was a woman, and consequently her wits were too sharp to
allow her to be imposed upon by that palpable fiction. She knew, as well
as she wanted to, that her dear Amos had been indignantly put in his
place by Clemence, if he had made the slightest impudent advance.

She knew, too, by intuition, that even had Clemence been of the class
her husband, governed by his malevolent feelings, wished to have her
appear, she would look higher than these boorish, homespun farmers. In
short, she fully realized that the girl despised her husband so utterly
that she barely treated him with politeness.

But all this did not affect her in regard to the feeling she had for
Clemence now, and only a woman can understand how the knowledge of the
girl's innocence only made her hate her the more. She knew that her
husband was considered too much an object of contempt to be feared at
all in regard to what he could either say or do.

One would have thought, too, that any one with the least generosity of
sentiment, might have remembered her praiseworthy efforts in her own
behalf, and the long hours the young teacher had spent in the vain
attempt to make her more presentable in the eyes of her friends, and
argued that this did not seem compatible with such a grave accusation as
was laid upon her.

But all this was forgotten, or, if for a moment thought of, was put away
with a malicious feeling of triumph, that the little, plain,
down-trodden Mrs. Owen had now got into notice as an injured wife, and
by virtue of that notoriety, could, in the future, firmly maintain her
position, and refuse to be again consigned to oblivion or the kitchen.

From this time forward, there ruled, alternately, in the little village,
two rival factions, viz:--those who supported the young school mistress,
and those who denounced her. The former were few in number, but of the
more enlightened portion of the community; the latter swarmed and buzzed
over this precious bit of gossip, like flies around molasses.

Mrs. Wynn early declared herself in favor of injured innocence,
particularly as the dashing bewhiskered Mr. Philemon W. Strain had just
deserted Rose, after a desperate flirtation, that had engaged the
tongues and eyes of those self-same gossips, and might, possibly, at
some future day, furnish a fresh supply for their delectation.
Therefore, as a parent who had the interests of a blooming maiden to
look after and defend, the good lady took pains to array herself at once
upon the side where it was very apparent that her interests lay. While
Mrs. Dr. Little, Mrs. Brier, and other respected matrons of the place,
came out strong on the side of virtue and appearances.

The better to further this project, a Ladies' Charitable Society was
started in Waveland, of which the Dr's. lady was chosen President, a
certain Mrs. Caroline Newcomer, Vice President, and Miss Betsey Pryor,
Secretary and Treasurer. That it soon attained to an astonishing
popularity was known from the fact that the newly appointed Secretary
and Treasurer appeared now, for the first time in years, in a stylish
new bonnet, which her detractors did not hesitate to declare (though
doubtless actuated by the basest motives of envy and jealousy) had been
paid for out of the funds of the said Society; and which,
notwithstanding such malicious assertions, waxed stronger as it grew.
There was one noticeable feature of affairs at this juncture, that the
uninitiated were at a loss to account for, and that was the studied
neutrality maintained by the oracle of the village, who had been wont to
utter his momentous decisions, upon the current topics of the day,
through the medium of that "valuable" and popular paper the "Clarion."

Now, however, it maintained a decorous silence upon local affairs, and
if, by any inadvertence, it was betrayed into its natural play of wit,
so that, for a moment, it might seem to hinge upon the absorbing topic
of public interest, and to favor any one side in particular, it was
immediately observed to lean heavily the other way, to draw off the
attention of its numerous and discriminating readers. The cause for this
unusual state of things had not, as yet, transpired, but was soon to be
made known to those more immediately concerned.

In a small place like Waveland, the inhabitants, as every one knows, are
very liable to go to extremes in almost everything they undertake. Thus,
if a new comer excites their favorable notice, they have nothing to do
but to ride at once, upon the very topmost wave of popular favor.

If, on the contrary, they decide against them, there is no crime within
the knowledge of man, of which they are not severally accused and
considered guilty, without any extenuating circumstances.

So it was not so much to be wondered at, that when Clemence once fell
into disfavor, she had lost the good graces of the majority at once and
forever. Within a short space of time, every house was closed against
her, with the exception of a few staunch friends' hospitable abodes,
and she received a polite but cold request from the school committee to
resign her situation.

"What _can_ it mean?" she asked in despair. "I surely have done nothing
to offend these people?"

"As if the miserable, pusillanimous reprobates did not know it as well
as you!" spluttered Mrs. Wynn, with her apron to her eyes. Clemence's
white face, with its appealing look, had gone straight to her motherly
heart. "The unfeeling creatures, to take away a girl's character, like
that! There had _ought_ to be a place of everlasting punishment for such
wretches, and I know they'll get it, sure as the Lord reigns. But I told
you so! I knew how it would be when you went to pickin' that lazy, idle,
shiftless, good-for-nothing thing of a Mis' Owen out of the dirt, and
settin' her up to be somebody. I knew there wasn't no ambition in her no
how, and she didn't want to be anybody herself. She's only mad now,
because you showed yourself so far above her, and she hates you for your
pains. You never asked my advice, though, and I thought I'd keep my
fingers out of the mess, for once in my life. That gossipping, old
Mother Wynn made up her mind to let 'em have their fling for once, but
they've gone and dragged me into it after all, and I mean to let the
whole lot see that I'm enough for them, single-handed.

"I believe that I'll put on my bonnet and start out. I feel too excited
to accomplish anything this morning, so, if you'll just help Rose
through with the bakin', I guess I'll make one or two short calls, here
and there, to see what's going on."

Only too glad to get rid of her own thoughts, Clemence assented, and was
soon so busily engrossed in her occupation, that she did not hear when
there came a rap at the outer door.

"Mr. Strain," said Rose, coming in suddenly, with a singular expression
of countenance, "and, if you'll believe it, he asked to see you alone."

"What for, I wonder?" said Clemence, nervously, pressing her hand to her
aching forehead, "I cannot imagine what he wants."

"Nor I," said Rose, "of _you_." And when Clemence asked her to follow
immediately, declared, with a toss of the head, "she couldn't see it,
two's a company and three's a crowd, you know. I wasn't called for, and
I never go where I ain't wanted. Hurry up, too, and get rid of him, for
there's all this work to be done before mother comes home."

Thus adjured, Clemence, with an effort to recover herself, entered
quietly the room where the gentleman awaited her. After a little
desultory conversation, he came at once to the object of his visit.

It was as Clemence had feared, and she felt pained to reject the offer
which was now made her in a straightforward, business-like manner.

She thanked him gratefully, speaking of her present isolated and unhappy
position.

"Yes," said Mr. Strain, complacently stroking his moustache, and seeming
in no wise disconcerted by his rejection, "I had heard of your little
difficulty, and it was with that in view that I called to offer you my
protection. I thought if you were once my wife, that these gossipping
tongues could be effectually silenced."

"Indeed, I thank you sincerely for your generosity and magnanimity,"
said Clemence, "and I shall ever remember you with a sense of deep
obligation."

"Oh, you owe me no thanks," said the gentleman, gazing upon her
disturbed face, admiringly, "even if I believed the fabrications of your
enemies, it would not have altered my resolution. I am not, as you may
have observed, exactly one of these people. I have moved amid far
different scenes in my time, and my views of life are of the most
liberal sort imaginable. I consider that I, too, have my weaknesses and
foibles, in common with the rest of mankind, and I do not look for
exalted virtues in any one. I admired you from the first, and resolved
to make an effort to win you. Of my success, you are the best judge, but
that, I am happy to say, does not alter our mutual regard and esteem.

"Furthermore, I can say from personal knowledge, (confidentially, of
course) that not one of these worthy ladies who have denounced you,
would dare to utter or whisper a word against you as my wife, for I am
already too deeply in their confidence not to render the attempt
dangerous, as well as disagreeable.

"My dear girl," he added lightly, "this is no place for an angel like
you, now that you have repulsed the only man who might have befriended
you. In losing me, you lose everything, for you must be aware that it
would be sheer folly in me to detract from my own popularity, by
defending one who denies me even the right to do so. And since I cannot
trust myself to enjoy the dangerous privilege of your friendship, I
shall find consolation in the ambition that has engrossed me in the
past, and rendered me, until the present moment, invulnerable to the
charms of the fairer portion of creation."

Clemence felt a hysterical inclination to laugh and cry too, when she
found herself alone, and was only certain of one fact, that this
morning's work had added to her troubles, not lightened them.

"_Such_ a day as I have had!" said Mrs. Wynn, coming in about tea-time.
"You are the talk of the town. That little nobody of an Owen has managed
to stir up one muss, I can tell you. I s'pose, though, if it hadn't been
her, some of the rest would have made up something on their own hook.
You see, the women have all been jealous of you from the first, and they
meant to put you down if they could, and have only been waiting for a
good chance.

"Why, I heard to day a dozen different accounts of your life before you
came here; how your father was hung or sent to the States Prison, and
your mother was no better than she should be, and a lot more that I
can't remember. Do tell me, for I never heard really how it was anyway.
I want to put them down when they say such things again."

"Never mind, dear Mrs. Wynn," said Clemence, "I do not. These people,
like the rest of their class, must have something to occupy their minds,
and, if their animadversions do fall on my devoted head, it will only
keep them busy, and do me no real harm."

"But I want to know, child," said the elder lady, giving her a glance of
motherly tenderness, "for I am interested both in your past and future,
and I am anxious to learn just what your former life has been." And
Clemence told her the simple truth of the happy years that were now
vanished forever.



CHAPTER XI.


"What shall I do now?" asked Clemence of her friend, Mrs. Hardyng, as
they sat together in the parlor of the latter's residence. "My income
has stopped entirely, and I shall have but a small sum after settling
Ruth's board, which I must do soon, for I cannot leave her any longer
with Mrs. Swan."

"Why!" questioned her friend, "has she, too, gone over to the enemy?"

"Oh, no," replied Clemence; "she is still a staunch adherent. It was not
that I had in my mind, but I have been looking into my affairs lately,
and have decided that, as I can plainly do nothing here, I had better go
back to the city at once."

"And what will you do there?" queried the listener. "Excuse the liberty,
but I would like to ask, from no motive of idle curiosity, you may feel
sure, if you have any friends there?"

"None but good Mrs. Linden, and I have no claim upon her, although she
bade me come to her as to a mother, when I was weary of this
'experiment,' as she called it. I only thought she might help me to
obtain employment, and give me some advice and assistance about Ruth."

"And cannot I do both?" asked Ulrica Hardyng, sorrowfully. "Clemence,
you must surely think more of this former friend than you can of me,
since you will intrust her alone with the privilege I would give so much
to share. You have told me that this Mrs. Linden is a self-absorbed
woman, sufficient unto herself, while I am only a heart-broken creature,
isolated completely from those who were once dear to me. Shall I tell
you how I have watched and waited for this hour, when I could be of some
assistance to you, and thus bind you closer to me? Oh, I have dreamed
too long of this happiness, to have it elude my grasp. You cannot deny
me the boon of having some one again to love."

"But is it my duty, dear friend, to lay my burden upon you? Since I have
voluntarily taken it upon myself, ought I not to bear it cheerfully,
having faith that all things will work together for my good, if I only
trust Him, 'who seeth in secret?'"

"It cannot be wrong," said the elder woman. "Henceforth we will share it
together."

So it was arranged, and Clemence and little Ruth went to live beneath
the cottage roof of Ulrica Hardyng.

Meanwhile, busy tongues were rife over this new fact. Waveland had
expected an exodus from among them, of the young schoolmistress and her
little charge, and hardly, as yet, knew what to make of her remaining
quietly among them, and living down these slanderous reports. But, at
length, after this came to be an established fact, the little village
had another excitement to create a stir among its most exclusive
circles, and this was no less an event than the marriage of the
bachelor editor of the "Clarion," with a lady of no inconsiderable
literary ability, whose home was in a distant city. And, when the
curiosity of every one was roused to the highest pitch of expectancy,
the lady made her entree into the little town with great eclat.

Immediately thereafter, there was a succession of short poems, all
running upon whispering zephyrs, murmuring rivulets, and the like, and
each signed, "Euphrasia Anastasia Strain."

The newly-made bride was welcomed with a cordiality, that was
astonishing, considering the boast that her husband had once uttered in
regard to the former vows of eternal fidelity from these same ladies.
However, time works wonders, and it was evident, from the energetic
manner in which the matrons of Waveland denounced the least apparent
departure from the narrow path of virtue, that a thorough reformation
had lately taken place in their midst.

Mrs. Strain was also speedily elected to a prominent position in the
Ladies' Charitable Society, which had now got to be a regular
institution of the town, by, virtue of having now thrown upon its tender
mercies, one paralytic old woman, two little orphans, a poor young woman
out of a situation, and a reformed drunkard, who had spent a fortune in
his time, and had also the reputation of having been a "ladies' man,"
which considerably heightened their generous interest in him. The
Society had now got upon a firm foundation, and had proved itself no
scheme from the visionary brain of an enthusiast, but of a thorough,
practical character, that won for it the respect and veneration of
everybody who knew of its existence.

There was one thing to be considered, it gave its members plenty to do,
and, meanwhile, Clemence had a short respite. She had ample time, now,
to give to little Ruth, and her love for the child became stronger each
day, as always happens when we deny ourselves for others.

They took long walks together in the woods that surrounded the pretty
village. Clemence had an artist's eye, and she loved to wander amid
these scenes of beauty, that had power to calm her troubled soul as
nothing else could do.

Little Johnny Brier often joined them, and Clemence, whose heart ached
for the little creature, with the white, wan face that spoke of
suffering, used to cheer him, and try to inspire him with hope for the
future.

But he would say, fastening his wistful eyes upon her, with a look that
always gave her pain:

"I like best to have you tell me of heaven. I do not believe I shall
ever be happy in this world; but, I want to try and do right, so that
when I die, I may go to live with God and his holy angels."

"But you must not indulge in such a morbid state of feeling," Clemence
would say gravely. "If your Heavenly Father sees fit to have you labor
for Him upon earth, you should not murmur nor repine, but strive humbly
for submission. You may be sure that there is something for you yet to
accomplish. God witnesses your misery, and knows of your longing to go
to Him; but, you are not yet prepared. The discipline of life is needed
to prove that you can deny yourself for the good of others. You can show
your trust in the loving hand that guides you, by striving to bear your
present trials patiently, and in His own good time He will surely send
relief."

"Do you really think that?" was the oft repeated question, and the
troubled eyes would scan Clemence's face, till her own were filled with
blinding drops. "I try so hard to be good and patient, but I can't hope
for anything better. Something seems to stop me, when I try to pray to
be made useful in this world, and it comes right out of my heart to ask,
instead, only to let me die. Sometimes I have waited outside the
graveyard, and watched a little spot under a shady tree, where no one
ever goes, and I have thought how pleasant it would be to lie down
there, with the daisies and violets to creep over me lovingly, and never
wake again to any more pain. I don't think I would like to be happy, for
you are not, dear Miss Graystone, and I don't think some people are ever
made to be. I believe God means to make them feel how bad and wicked the
world is, so they will want to leave it and go to Him. Don't you think
He means that, when He tells us about there being no more sorrow nor
crying in heaven? Oh, dear Miss Graystone, I know you sometimes feel
just like that, for I have seen it in your eyes, and you look just as I
have often dreamed my own dear mother did. And, don't be angry, but
every night, when I say my prayer, I tell Him about you, and pray that
you may be taken away from these wicked people, you and little Ruth.
Last night I had a dream. I thought I stood upon the bank of a broad
river, and the water moaned and whispered like human voices, and came up
around me, and just as I was beginning to be afraid, a sweet, low voice
came to me, borne across the waters, and mingled with their murmur,
'fear not,' and then I thought that I knew this was the river of death
that you had told me about in the Sabbath School, and I clasped my hands
together, and cried out for my dear, dear teacher, and then the water
rose about me till, as it reached my lips, I awoke."

"Poor, little one," said Clemence, parting the boy's hair from off his
forehead, with a mother touch, and as she gazed down into the innocent
eyes, with their far-off, dreamy look, a foreboding of the future came
to her, that she put away with a shudder.

"Come, children," she said, taking a hand of each, "we will retrace our
steps homeward." She stooped and kissed the child's forehead, as she
parted from him. "Good-bye, Johnny," she said cheerfully, "be a good
boy, and try to remember all that I have told you."

The child gave the required promise, and turned away, but came back a
moment after:

"Miss Graystone," he said, standing before her, and raising his eyes
fearlessly to hers, "don't you think I have always tried to be good?"

"Yes, Johnny," she answered truthfully, "I know that you do. You are a
real little hero, and your patience and fortitude have often set me an
example, while I have grieved over the melancholy circumstances that
have made you so old in sorrow."

"Oh, thank you for that, dear, dearest Miss Graystone." The child was
sobbing convulsively, so that Clemence became frightened for him.

"Why, my poor child, you must not grieve so. I cannot bear to see you so
unhappy," she said, bending down to him, "try and smile for me once,
dear. Look now, at that cloud floating above you. See how it breaks,
revealing the blue sky beyond, and think what I told you of the cloud
with the silver lining. Don't you remember it, Johnny?"

"Remember it? oh yes," he said eagerly. "I have never forgotten a word
you have ever uttered. I believe I shall think of them just before I
die, and tell you about them in heaven. Kiss me again, please, and then
I will go. I feel better now."

Clemence drew the child again into a close embrace, and then, releasing
him, waited at a turn in the winding path, until he was out of sight.

It was about the same hour, nearly a week after, that Clemence was
walking alone, musing upon her own unhappy fate, when, startled by a
rustling of the branches near her, she turned, to behold little Johnny
Brier rushing hastily past, without looking to one side or the other,
and following the path that opened upon the margin of the lake.

A strange fear took possession of Clemence. She called several times,
"Johnny!" authoritatively, but the child sped on, unheeding. The girl
grew faint and dizzy, and though she turned to follow in the direction
in which he had gone, her limbs refused to support her, and she sank
down, nearly in a state of insensibility.

Footsteps again aroused her, and she started up with a feeling of hope
animating her to renewed effort. A moment after, Mrs. Brier appeared
upon the scene furious with rage, and flourishing in her right hand a
large whip.

A look of guilty fear overspread her face, as she beheld Clemence's
agitation.

"Have you seen Johnny?" she asked, breathlessly, Clemence pointed,
without a word, toward the water. An awful look of terror leaped into
the woman's eyes, and she turned and rushed frantically away.

When the girl could gain strength, she went after her, and there, at the
water's edge, a crowd of people were collected, uttering ejaculations of
horror over the lifeless remains of the child she had a few moments
before beheld in all the agony of the wildest despair.

A woman turned from the crowd as Clemence approached. "He ran away," she
said, "and I suppose came down here to play, and fell into the lake.
It's no fault of mine. I've warned him often enough to keep away, and
now he has only received the reward of all disobedient children."

Clemence strove to speak, and brand this woman as a murderess, in the
sight of God, but the words died on her lips, and she fell down, where
she stood, as lifeless as the still figure before them.

There had now happened to Clemence Graystone, that which, it seemed, in
her forlorn situation, was the worst that fate could inflict upon her;
her health failed entirely. She grew; sick, even "unto death." The long
days of the late summer and the early autumn passed, and she lay, in
her pale beauty, upon a couch of pain. The world, this busy, struggling,
toilsome world, seemed slipping from her grasp, and heaven was very near
to her. Her tired feet had borne her to the very brink of the dark
river, whose waters chanted their solemn requiem, as the child had told
her in his dream. She longed to follow him, and sometimes, in her
delirium, would cry out his name suddenly, with every endearing accent.
It seemed almost as if the words of the boy had been prophetic, and his
strange dream was thus to be fulfilled.

He lay now in the very spot that his childish eyes had sought longingly,
and one who remembered him came daily to place the beautiful flowers he
had loved in life above his grave. Poor little Ruth! her days passed
sadly enough. Her only friend might soon be taken from her. Her all was
centred in the slight, attenuated form, that lay tossing restlessly upon
what might be her death-bed. The little patient watcher grew each day
paler as hope died out, and, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the
elder woman, she only left Clemence's bedside for her daily walk to the
graveyard.

Ulrica Hardyng cared for the two who had been so strangely committed to
her care, as though they had been the sisters God had denied her. She
hung over the sufferer, administering her medicine, and allowing none
but the doctor and the hired nurse to approach her.

"There shall be none of these rude creatures about you, my darling," she
would say determinedly; "they have done you harm enough already."

She despised these people, as was natural, from her very nature, which
was generous, but given to strong likes and dislikes, and their
treatment of the orphan girl had brought upon them her lasting contempt.
She had also before had a specimen of their tender mercies, and was
fully aware of the adverse judgment that had been passed upon her own
actions upon her advent among them. She thought, therefore, that little
good could be got from associating with any of them, though, like a real
lady, she took care to be always civil and polite to every one.

When the news of Clemence's dangerous illness was spread throughout the
town, there were many to grieve for the sweet-faced stranger, who had so
lately come among them, and there were some to wonder what would become
of her if she should linger along without finally recovering her health.

"Poor child," said Mrs. Wynn, brushing away the tears, "I have just been
to see her, and she don't look to me as if she'd last the week out. I
believe she is far more dangerous than the doctor thinks."

"And if she dies, what will they do with that girl of Lynn's?" queried
Mrs. Brier. "She'll have to come on the town. I knew it was a perfect
piece of folly for that schoolmistress to take her to support, with only
her small salary. It's just as I predicted. Her strength _has_ failed,
and she can't do nothing more. 'Be just before you are generous,' is
_my_ motto."

Mrs. Brier never said a truer word than that in her whole life, for she
had never been guilty of many generous or self-denying deeds, and no
one could accuse her of erring in that respect.

The different benevolent Societies also met, and discussed the
probability of little Ruth Lynn's being thrown upon their generosity.
They finally decided that, in case of any such calamitous ending to the
madness of Clemence Graystone, the child should be turned over to the
proper authorities of the village, and they would wash their hands of
the whole affair.

Their fears proved entirely groundless. By some inexplicable means, the
two waifs, thrown thus strangely upon the protection of Widow Hardyng,
managed to exist without either the aid or sympathy of the rest of the
town. And Clemence, as the days grew cooler, rallied, and became rapidly
convalescent.

With returning strength, came again the old anxiety for the future. She
knew that her generous hostess, though willing to share her all with
them, ought not to be thus burdened. Her means were limited, and the
strictest economy was necessary to make their narrow income meet their
present wants. Clemence realized that her illness had brought additional
expense, which she knew not how to meet. The doctor's bill alone, which
she had not the means to meet, was appalling; besides, there were others
clamoring for a settlement of their dues. Mrs. Hardyng had repeatedly
cautioned her not to retard her recovery by brooding over her unhappy
position, and had taken these obligations upon herself.

In her feeble state of health, it was impossible for Clemence to
undertake any employment. She was almost in despair. After all her
superhuman efforts, she seemed placed in a worse predicament than when
she first commenced to labor for her bread, and there was now another
dependant upon her efforts. Long before she was really able, Clemence
had begun to employ herself upon different articles of fancy work, such
as she thought she could dispose of in Waveland.

She managed, by this means, to obtain, from time to time, small sums of
money, which, if they did not materially aid her, at least made her feel
a little more independent. Among other things, which her friend
suggested that she might be able to dispose of to advantage, was a
prettily shaped basket of some frosty white material, whose glittering,
transparent beauty was relieved by bright-tinted flowers, with long,
creeping vines, and leaves of a vivid green. It took some time for its
completion, and when it was finished, Clemence hoped that its extreme
beauty would captivate the eyes of somebody who had means to pay
somewhat of its real value.

"Beautiful!" exclaimed the shop-keeper who purchased all Clemence's
articles. "I'm afraid, Miss, you won't find ready sale for it here,
though. There ain't many that can appreciate a thing like that in this
village. I would not venture to run the risk myself, but if it was
anything in the way of finery now, it would be different. If you will
embroider some of those gay scarfs and slippers, and some more of the
children's fixins, I'll buy them, for they take mightily."

"Then you don't think I can dispose of this at any rate?" asked
Clemence, despondingly. "I need the money very much."

"I know you do," said the man compassionately, gazing into the girl's
pale face. "You ought not to be working at anything after such a
dangerous illness. Perhaps you had better leave it here for a few days,
and I will see if I cannot get any orders for you."

"Very well," said Clemence, "I should be greatly obliged if you would,"
and she turned away more hopefully.

Upon her next inquiry, she found that a Mrs. Burton had desired her to
call, with specimens of her work, at her house, which, by the way, was
_the_ mansion of the place. Clemence had heard much of this lady, but
was not personally acquainted with her.

"It's all right," said the brisk, little storekeeper. "I think she is
the very one for you to go to, for she has plenty of money at her
command. She took quite a fancy to the basket of flowers, and inquired
all about you, asking if you would not call and see her directly."

Clemence gladly followed the advice thus given her, and after a walk of
about half a mile, found herself at Mrs. Burton's residence. The lady
herself came to the door. Clemence introduced herself.

"Oh, yes, you are the one Mr. Weston was speaking about, and I told him
I thought I might be able to help you in some manner."

Clemence thanked her, wondering inwardly, at the same moment, if it
_was_ as disgraceful to be poor as many people seemed to think it. This
was not the first time this thought had arisen in her mind. She had
suffered before having any experience in the matter, that, in a country
like this, where nearly all of the wealthy and influential members of
society have arisen from obscurity, that honest labor was really no
disgrace, and that if a person offered a fair equivalent for money,
either by the labor of the hands or brain, that it was a very laudable
thing to do.

But, upon having to make the trial, she had been not a little astonished
at the result. She found that if she offered her articles even below
their real value, that it was considered an act of magnanimity for the
purchaser to hand out the miserable pittance that was her due. She had
many times been told, insolently, "I do this to help you, because Mr. or
Miss, 'This, That or the Other' told me you were poor and obliged to
support yourself by this means," and this, when the one who uttered it
knew that they had got twice the worth of their money, and were
congratulating themselves over thus taking advantage of another's
necessities; nor was her own, as she well knew, by observation, an
exceptional case. Everywhere vulgarity and ignorance can flaunt itself
before the admiring eyes of the multitude, while gold hides with its
glitter every defect.

Yet, what could she do to protect herself? If she resented these
indignities with honest pride, what would become of her, and that other
who looked to her for support? Whatever it is possible for _manly_ pride
and independence to achieve, there is nothing for a woman but
submission.

Clemence Graystone had long ere this put away all hopes of earthly
happiness, and lived only by the light of an approving conscience. She
took her troubles to her Heavenly Father, and in His smile forgot that
the world frowned. She had the consciousness within her of having done
her whole duty, and she lived not for this world alone. She felt that
she was only one of the many, and she cared not for distinction among
those she despised. The fickle multitude elevate to-day and dethrone
to-morrow, leaving their once petted favorite to whatever fate may await
them.

Thoughts like these floated through Clemence's mind, as she followed
Mrs. Burton into the parlor, and took a seat.

"You have seen a good deal of trouble, I believe," said the lady,
scanning the girl's face closely. "Yes, madame," said Clemence, briefly.

"This is a world of trouble," she went on, applying her handkerchief to
her eyes. "I, too, have my full share. I am deeply afflicted. Miss
Graystone, I am an unloved wife."

She began to sob hysterically at this announcement, and to weave
backwards and forwards in her chair, while her listener shifted a little
uneasily upon her seat, wondering what could possibly be coming now.

"Yes," she said mournfully, "the man who vowed at the altar to love and
cherish the treasure committed to his keeping, has proved recreant to
the trust reposed in him. Look on this ethereal form, and upon this brow
shadowed with grief, and at these eyes that have grown dim with weeping
for one who is all unworthy of my devotion. Alas! that I should come to
this, who was once surrounded by everything that could make life a
blessing. This hand, that others prized, and sued for in vain, is
unvalued now. On my wedding day, one of my rejected suitors came to my
new-made husband, and exclaimed, in accents of deep despair,--'Charles
Burton, you have won her from those who would have devoted their whole
lives to her service, and counted it as nothing, that they might bask in
the sunlight of her presence; and I warn you, guard well the priceless
jewel. You have forever placed a bar to my happiness in this world, but
if you never cause one feeling of regret for this day to rise in that
gentle bosom, all is well. I can deny myself for one I love better than
life itself.'

"_This_ was the man whose suit I scorned, to listen to that of the
perfidious being whose name I bear. I am a miserable victim. Life is
unsupportable to me. Next spring, if my husband does not return, like
the prodigal, remorseful and repentant, I shall become a missionary, and
give my life for the cause I love."

Here came a renewal of tears and heart-rending sighs. Clemence watched
the woman in undisguised amazement, as she arose and paced the room,
wringing her hands in the most woe-begone manner imaginable. Her wild
appearance immediately suggested the idea that she might be suffering
from temporary aberration of mind.

Clemence rose with a quick thrill of fear. "Since you are indisposed for
company," she said, "perhaps you would not care to be troubled with my
little affairs at present. I can call again some time next week, if you
desire it."

"Yes, yes," said Mrs. Burton, "come again, when I am feeling better.
This pressure on my brain will be relieved. Hush! do not say more, the
servant will hear you. I am watched, and have no liberty to speak of my
troubles without watching my opportunity. Good-bye, now, you can leave
the basket until you come again, when I will remunerate you
sufficiently."

"The woman must be insane; do you not think so, Ulrica?" asked Clemence
of her friend, after she had concluded a narrative of her interview.

"Perhaps," said Mrs. Hardyng, doubtingly. "It looks like it, her talking
about being watched, but I am of the opinion that a jealous, passionate
temper has more to do with these paroxysms than anything else. She has
always had the name of ruling her husband, and her scowling, swarthy
visage, and evil-looking eyes, seem to substantiate her claim to
possessing strong, vixenish proclivities. I fancy they are quite well
matched, however, and that clouds in their domestic horizon are of every
day occurrence. Neither should I at all relish the idea of being taken
into the lady's confidence, for after they have got over their quarrel,
they will be apt to lay the blame upon a convenient third, and I should
not covet the distinction."

"Well, I have only once more to go," said Clemence, "and shall take care
to be guarded in my remarks."

Which resolution was followed to the letter, when she found herself
again in Mrs. Burton's parlor. The lady was cool and dignified when they
met, but soon relapsed into a tearful state. Clemence was again forced
to listen patiently to a long recital of Mr. Burton's shortcomings and
disagreeable qualities, both of a positive and negative order, and felt
sure before it came to an end, that she was much better acquainted with
the dark side of that gentleman's character than she cared to be.

Her position was a delicate one. Somehow, she could not help thinking,
as she looked at the face before her, that, arrayed in its pleasantest
smiles, it could, by the barest possibility, be only passable, and now
looked really hideous in its disgusting and futile rage. Really, if
there could be any excuse for such domestic infidelities as had been
pictured so graphically, Mr. Burton certainly ought to have the benefit
of them, for he seemed to be almost as much "sinned against as sinning."

As soon as she could get away without positive rudeness, she did so.
Mrs. Burton had declined to become a purchaser of her articles,
retreating from her former protestations of benevolence, under the plea
that her wretch of a husband curtailed her supply of means, in order to
gratify his own avaricious disposition.

"Just as I expected," said Mrs. Hardyng. "The true state of the case is
this: that woman is a jealous, narrow-minded, illiberal creature, with a
tongue 'hung in the middle.' She wanted to get you there simply to
satisfy her own idle curiosity, and insult you with her insolent
patronage. You have made another enemy, and that is all there is of it."

"I hope it will prove all there is of it," said Clemence, uneasily. "I
am sure I owe her no ill will, and I can't imagine why any body should
wish to injure me, for I try not to offend them, but simply wish to
mind my own business, and allow others to do the same."

Mrs. Hardyng laughed musically. "Why, child, that is the supreme cause
of all your unpopularity. You mind your own business too much for these
good people. You are not as old as I am, and you seem to have got a
one-sided view of matters and things generally. I dare say, at this
moment your unsophisticated mind harbors some such creed as this, that
if you pursue your own poor and worthy way in meekness and humility,
without obtruding yourself upon other people's notice--in short, only
ask to be left in peace to follow the bent of your own harmless
inclination, that you do not ask what it is impossible to accomplish.
But you are mistaken. There is no one so poor and humble but what these
little great people will find time to criticise and find fault with
whatever they may undertake. So, no matter how modest and unobtrusive
you are, by comporting yourself in a dignified and lady-like manner, you
offer an affront to these people, who, though themselves deficient in
every attribute of politeness and good breeding, yet are sufficiently
instructed by their dulled instincts, to realize your infinite
superiority, and hate you accordingly."

"Why, Ulrica," said Clemence, startled by her friend's vehemence, "you
quite overwhelm me. I wish, though," she added; with a sigh, "that I
could doubt the truthfulness of the picture."



CHAPTER XII.


"What are you doing there, Clemence?" asked her friend; "not destroying
that pretty article, I hope."

"Yes and no," was the reply. "Upon examination, I find that it has
become quite soiled, and thought I would make another frame to put these
same flowers into."

"Now, that is really too bad, making you so much extra trouble when you
are feeling so ill. I noticed, though, that it had lost its freshness
and purity--looking, in fact, as if some careless servant had swept on
it."

"I presume that is the case," said Clemence; "any way, it is completely
ruined now."

"What can this mean?" she exclaimed, a moment after, holding up a lady's
gold pin. "Is it not somewhat remarkable to find an article of this
description here?"

"No," said Ulrica Hardyng, coming forward, with an expression of
contempt upon her fine features. "I can't say as I consider it so. I can
understand precisely the motive that induced that woman to plot this
piece of mischief. She meant to ruin you, Clemence, in the estimation of
the whole community; in short, to brand you as dishonest. If you had
effected a sale of the article, without examining it closely, you would
never have detected the proximity of this valuable ornament, and when it
was called for, which would surely have occurred, you could not, as a
matter of course, have produced it. Do you not see the whole trap at a
glance?"

"What have I not escaped?" ejaculated Clemence, pale with agitation.
"What motive could possibly have led a comparative stranger to act
thus?"

"There are numberless reasons," replied her friend. "The woman had
placed herself, to a certain extent, in your power, by her uncalled for
revelations of their domestic affairs, and she wished to have something
to hold as a rod over you."

"Don't you think it might have been an accident?" willing, as usual, to
believe every one but herself in the right.

"No," said Mrs. Hardyng, indignantly, "it was a premeditated act, as
deliberate as it was infernal. My innocent darling, God has protected
you, and vanquished your enemy."

"What base, designing people there are in the world," sighed the girl,
sinking down by the couch upon which her friend reclined, upon her
return from a walk the next evening. "You were right, Ulrica. I read in
that woman's guilty face, to-night, the confirmation of my doubts."

"She did not admit it?" said the other, starting up eagerly.

"Not in words, but her looks proclaimed her part in the transaction more
eloquently than any form of speech. She knew that I read her craven soul
as I stood before her."

"This is too much?" said Mrs. Hardyng, rising and pacing the floor in
violent agitation. "I will see to this matter myself, for it is too
great an insult to be borne patiently without the charge of cowardice."

A few days after, as Clemence was walking, with downcast eyes, in the
direction of her friend's residence, she met in the narrow pathway two
gentlemen, one of whom raised his hat respectfully, and paused to speak
with her.

It was Mr. Gilman, one of the school committee. Clemence respected and
venerated him, and had on many an occasion felt grateful that his
influence was generously exerted in her behalf.

The gentleman paused now to say that he had nothing to do with her
dismissal from school, having used every argument in her favor, in vain.
He concluded by professing himself more than satisfied with her
services, and convinced of her ability as a teacher; desired her to
refer to him for a recommendation to any situation that she might have
in view.

Clemence thanked him gratefully, and walked on with a lightened heart.
She remembered, afterwards, that this gentleman's companion had been
introduced by the name of Burton.

This latter personage had a little burly figure, with head carried very
erect upon a short, thick neck, that looked still shorter from the long,
flowing beard, thickly sprinkled with gray.

He did not look like a "wretch," nor yet, as if he had sufficient energy
or capacity for any deep scheme of villainy. Still she felt sure this
was the individual whose shortcomings and misdeeds generally, she had
heard descanted upon.

Clemence laughed, as she wondered how it was possible for any one to be
so carried away by their feelings, as to be jealous of a submissive
looking little man like this. Yet, having fallen in love with him once
herself, and forgetting that youth had flown, and that the husband of
her youth was only a plodding, middle-aged family man, it was not so
very remarkable that a naturally jealous woman, like Mrs. Charles
Burton, should imagine that her especial property was coveted by all
those of her own sex who were not similarly blessed.

"Poor woman!" thought Clemence, "she is a victim to her own unhappy
temper."

She forgot the circumstance altogether, and it was only recalled to mind
when the village postmaster handed her a letter, which read thus:

     MISS CLEMENCE GRAYSTONE:

     Miss--On Thursday, the 23d instant, you were seen by certain
     parties, on a secluded avenue of this village, in earnest
     conversation with two gentlemen,--one of whom was Mr. Charles
     Burton. Report gives him the character of a perfidious and
     unfaithful husband. How then does it look for a young lady, whose
     name is now the subject of idle gossip, to indiscreetly hazard her
     reputation still more by such intercourse. There could be but one
     object in this, which was, doubtless, _revenge_. But, let me ask,
     what will it profit you, to add still greater pangs to that already
     suffered by one who mourns the loss of her husband's affections?
     Know that, through all, she will cling to him, for she loves him
     still, and is a devoted wife and mother. Nothing of coldness or
     neglect on _his_ part can change _her_ feelings, or turn her from
     the path of duty. As a friend and a Christian, the writer of this
     would calmly advise you to abandon all efforts either to see or
     communicate in any manner with the gentleman, upon any subject
     whatever; not even in the presence of a third party, as there is
     said to be an official who watches over the interests of a wronged
     and heart-broken wife.                                  WATCHER.

"Really, this is assuming a tragical character," said Mrs. Hardyng, to
whom Clemence went at once for advice. "'The plot thickens,' as the
story-books say. Why, child, take courage; you will be a heroine yet,
and I shall be thrown completely in the shade--left disconsolate and
forlorn."

"Don't jest," said Clemence, shuddering. "You can't think, Ulrica, how
all this pains me. I never dreamed of such a result of my efforts, but
rather supposed, if we tried to do 'what their hand found to do,'
patiently, they would be borne out in their undertakings. I am innocent
of premeditated wrong to any one."

"There, don't cry!" said Mrs. Hardyng. "This is only a passing cloud,
and your future will be all the brighter for the shadow which now
threatens to envelop you in its gloomy folds."

"I wish I could think so," said Clemence. She took her hat mechanically
as she said this, and went out, hardly knowing whither to bend her
steps, but feeling stifled, and wanting to be alone.

By-and-by she found herself seated by a new-made grave. A memory of the
pale, patient little face, that used to haunt her footsteps, came to
her, and she thought sadly of the child's unhappy fate.

The daylight faded slowly out of the western heavens; the shades of
evening gathered round. Suddenly, as the girl sat absorbed, a tiny hand
stole into hers, and two sorrowful, tear-filled eyes sought her own. It
was little Ruth, who had missed her, and whose loving heart would not
allow her to rest while one she loved suffered.

They walked homeward together, under the starlit canopy, and Clemence
thought that, whatever might come to her, there was one whose pure
affection was wholly her own.

"Here, child, is another letter for you!" said Mrs. Hardyng, coming in
from the village the following day. "You are getting to be a personage
of some importance, I perceive."

"Why, who can it be from?" queried Clemence. "I have no correspondents."

"Perhaps another anonymous communication," said her friend. "Open it and
see, for I am dying of curiosity."

"It is from dear Mrs. Linden," said Clemence. "Here is what she writes:"

     "MY ABSENT DARLING: Why have you not written or come to me? By your
     long silence I have been led to infer that you may not have
     anything pleasant to communicate, and, therefore, fear to disturb
     me with the narration of your misfortunes. I have looked for your
     return for shelter from the home from which you went forth, like
     some weary bird with drooping wing and plaintive song. That home is
     always open to you, with its fond welcome. Can you have found new
     friends who have grown dearer than her who bade you good-bye with a
     prayer in her heart for your future? If you are happy, which God
     grant, then I am content. But I have a strong presentiment of evil;
     and I fear, I know not what, when my thoughts turn to you. There
     was a promise about coming back when tired of your experiment. I
     mean to hold my wayward one by that promise. Do you recollect
     being accused of too much independence? If I remember correctly,
     Mrs. Bailey thought that one of your greatest faults, that needed
     speedy correction. I don't want you to exercise it towards your old
     friend. Some of these days, if I do not hear from or see her, I
     shall come and claim my daughter.

     "It can't be possible that you have found anybody in that
     out-of-the-way locality to feel particularly interested in--eh,
     Clemence? I have sometimes thought that some other more famed
     mortal engrossed the affection that belongs, by prior claim, to me.
     Don't encourage any of those rustics, for I have somebody here so
     infinitely superior to any one whom I ever met before that I have
     decided that there is only one girl in the world worthy of him.
     Now, if I have aroused your curiosity sufficiently to have you call
     for 'more,' I will change the subject, and give you a little of the
     gossip that I know will interest you.

     "The last sensation is nothing else than the elopement of Melinda
     Brown with a curly-haired hotel waiter. Imagine the scene when the
     fact became known to the disconsolate Brown _mere_. The girl has
     found her level at last, my dear. It was all time and trouble
     thrown away trying to make anything of her. Melinda could not be a
     lady, because, as I always contended, it wasn't in her. She is now
     in her proper sphere. I hear that her husband has set up in the
     same business in which his worthy papa-in-law began life. Melinda
     lives in apartments over the grocery, and enjoys life hugely, as
     she never did in the elegant mansion she has left forever.

     "I've still another wedding to chronicle. You surely have not
     forgotten our fair Cynthia, the former confidante of Mrs. P.
     Crandall Crane, but now, alas! her friend no longer, but that
     lady's deadliest foe. But to 'begin at the beginning:'

     "Some months ago Mrs. Crane made the acquaintance of some new
     people, whom she hastened to describe and present to her dearest
     friend. One of them was a young gentleman, of fair, effeminate
     beauty and manners, and extreme youth. In fact, he had but just
     been emancipated from the strictest discipline of stern tutors.
     This fortunate youth was the sole heir of a wealthy and indulgent
     step-father, who had followed the remains of a second 'dear
     departed' to the grave, and was said to be inconsolable, living but
     to secure the happiness of this only son of his cherished and lost
     Amelia. The gentleman, whose name was Townsend, purchased an
     elegant villa at a convenient distance from the city, and installed
     therein a faraway cousin as housekeeper. This worthy person was
     immediately surrounded by the Crane clique, who made her long and
     oft-repeated visits, until, no doubt, she wondered greatly at the
     cause of her popularity. Of course, being only a poor dependent on
     the bounty of her relative, she was naturally pleased and flattered
     at being the object of so much friendly regard, and she took every
     pains to make herself agreeable to her new-found friends. Another
     fact proved the gratitude of her disposition, and that was the
     praises which were continually lavished upon the gentleman over
     whose mansion she presided. In this poor woman's estimation, Mr.
     Townsend was a model man. It had been her valued privilege to visit
     him occasionally during the lifetime of the second Mrs. T., and
     nothing from her description could have been more beautiful than
     his devotion to the lady during her long and lingering illness.
     Besides, he had taken her son to his home and heart, and had given
     every one to understand that this young Addison Brayton was to be
     the future possessor of that vast wealth. To come to the point at
     once, Mrs. P. Crandall Crane 'sighted them,' and mentally
     appropriated the young gentleman for her own Lucinda. To that end,
     she schemed and labored, and, just as the darling prospect seemed
     about to be brought to a final consummation, fate, in the person of
     her friend Cynthia, interfered to put a stop to the proceedings by
     marrying the young gentleman herself! Words are inadequate to
     describe the scene that followed upon this denouement. Mrs. Crane
     was in absolute despair for a time, until a new idea entered her
     fertile brain. Mr. Townsend, in the first paroxysm of rage, had
     disowned the recreant youth, and turned him from his doors without
     a farthing of the wealth that was to have been his princely
     inheritance. That much abused gentleman had no nearer relations
     than the far-removed cousin before referred to, and consequently
     here was a magnificent fortune, with only the encumbrance of a
     fine-looking, well-preserved gentleman, actually going a begging.
     The thing was not to be thought of for a moment.

     "'Many a heart is caught in the rebound.' 'It would be a pretty
     piece of revenge!' soliloquized Mrs. Crane, complacently, 'if
     Lucinda should yet reign mistress of that mansion, for all Mr.
     Addison Brayton. How it _would_ spite Cynthia!' With renewed
     energy, but this time more cautiously, the sagacious lady laid her
     trap for the unwary footsteps of the unconscious Townsend. He was a
     frequent visitor at the house, feeling always sure of a warm
     welcome from the urbane hostess. The plan worked admirably, and at
     last the gentleman called to solicit a private interview with the
     contractor.

     "'Mr. Crane is not at home,' said his smiling lady, 'but you can
     leave the message with me.'

     "'Ah, yes!' said Mr. Townsend, with evident embarrassment; 'no
     doubt you will do equally as well. I called, my dear madam,
     to--ah--solicit a great boon at your hands. You are aware how
     bitterly I have been betrayed by those whom I trusted.'

     "'Yes,' put in Mrs. Crane, sympathetically.

     "'And you have, I know, felt for my lonely and desolate situation.'

     "'I have, indeed,' said the lady.

     "'Since I have been intimately acquainted with your charming
     family, I have learned to value, and, in short, feel a deep
     attachment, for one whom, I believe, fate intended to fill the
     place of my lost loves!'

     "'My own Lucinda!' interrupted the other, raising her handkerchief
     to conceal her satisfaction. 'Dear girl, it will be hard to part
     with her. You cannot realize a mother's feelings, Mr. Townsend!'

     "'But,' cried the gentleman, in tones of surprise and alarm, 'I do
     not call upon you for so great a sacrifice. It was not Miss Lucinda
     that I meant, but another, to whom I have reason to think I am not
     altogether disagreeable. Surely you cannot be ignorant of my
     profound affection for your self-sacrificing sister, the widow of
     my late respected friend, Deane Phelps!'

     "'Oh!' tittered Mrs. Crane, starting with great violence from her
     seat; 'you mean Jane. Well, I'm glad she's got somebody to think
     something of her at last. I congratulate you upon the prize you've
     won. I shall make all haste to impart the agreeable intelligence.'

     "'You artful specimen of an underhand nobody!' said Mrs. P.
     Crandall, bursting into the room where the little widow stood,
     looking really pretty with her soft flush of happy expectation in
     her face. 'You'll rue this day, if I live!'

     "'Oh, sister, don't!' said the low, grieved voice of the other. 'I
     do so want your love and sympathy.'

     "'Love and sympathy be d-d-darned!' sputtered Mrs. Crane, working
     her long fingers convulsively. 'Walk out of this room in a hurry,
     before I scratch your eyes out, you soft little caterpillar!'

     "'Ruined! ruined! ruined!' she cried, sinking down and bursting
     into a passionate flood of tears. 'Everything goes crossways. This
     is a doomed family. Crane can't keep up appearances a week longer,
     and Lucinda will be washing dishes in Jane Phelps' kitchen yet.'
     Which prophecy will, in all probability, yet become literally true.

     "I had these facts from Mrs. Jane Phelps Townsend, who told me that
     her brother-in-law had lost all of his ill-gotten gains, and,
     unless her husband assisted them, they would sink into the lowest
     depths of poverty.

     "I'm just hateful enough to feel glad of it, too, Clemence. I never
     knew, until lately, that I could be wicked enough to rejoice over
     other people's calamities. But I can't help it. Last week I took a
     roll of fine sewing to Mrs. Addison Brayton. 'What are you crying
     about now, Cynthia?' I asked of the disconsolate figure that sat
     crouched over a sewing machine.

     "'Oh, Mrs. Linden, I'm so unhappy,' she whined. 'There is a cold
     winter coming on, and I don't know but we shall actually starve to
     death before spring.'

     "I remembered the insolent remarks of this lady, and the rest of
     her set, when a certain little bright-haired pet of mine was
     similarly situated, and tormented, like Martha, about 'many
     things.'

     "It needed all my Christian charity and forbearance to keep from
     actually twitting her on the spot. I can't help but pity the
     forlorn creature, though. She's married that little spendthrift,
     who was brought up in idleness to rely on his expectations. They
     don't either of them know anything about work, now they are thrown
     upon their own resources. That is not the worst of it. The boy has
     dissipated habits, that I fear will cause Cynthia yet to bitterly
     regret the step she has taken against the advice of their best
     friends. However, they must make the best of what cannot be
     recalled. Then, too, she is married; and, if it be true that
     happiness consists in securing the objects that allure us, then
     should Cynthia be happy that she has at length attained the object
     of her life-long ambition, and can at last write _Mrs._ to her
     name. She is no longer an old maid, which is something gained, in
     her estimation.

     "The youthful husband seems the most to be pitied of the two. On my
     way home I met him, shabby and forlorn enough, and _what_ do you
     suppose he was doing? Positively in the capacity of errand boy,
     carrying parcels to deliver. He is an under-paid drudge in a retail
     grocery, on starvation wages. He turned purple with mortification,
     and pretended not to see me. 'Oh, my countrymen, what a fall was
     there!'

     "But I am afraid I have shocked your forgiving spirit by my
     hardness of heart until you are ready to deplore the depravity of
     human nature. My tender one! I am not like you. It comes hard for
     Alicia Linden to overlook injustice or forgive her enemies.

     "She has always a place in her heart, though, for absent dear ones,
     and she often thinks regretfully of one sweet face that used to
     smile at her hearthstone.

     "Can you not come to me, Clemence?

     "Last Sabbath I went to place my offering of flowers at the graves
     of our buried dead. The golden glory of the autumn day poured its
     heavenly radiance into the far depths of my soul. How lovely looked
     the silent resting-place of our dear ones. I thought sadly of you,
     and wished you were near me, to mingle your tears with mine.

     "As it is, I can only pray that God will guard you with loving
     care.             Your affectionate                       ALICIA."



CHAPTER XIII.


It was Thursday afternoon. The "Ladies' Charitable Society of Waveland"
had assembled at the house of its President. The usual business of the
meeting had been dispatched, and the ladies were engaged in the more
congenial employment of retailing the village gossip.

"Have you observed," queried Mrs. Dr. Little, "how wretchedly ill that
young Graystone woman is looking? The doctor was saying, only this
morning, that he thought she was in a decline."

"I suppose its botheration, for one thing," said Mrs. Brier. "She had
ought to have been more circumspect, and then she would have kept her
position. I don't see how she can live without work, any more than
anybody else. We can't be expected, though, to want a person with her
morals contaminating our innocent children. That girl has travelled the
downward road with awful rapidity since she came here. Just to think,
she has been the talk of the town!"

"I have been greatly afraid," said Mrs. Little, "that the Society would
be called upon to help her, if she gets worse again; She seems to be
living, at present, on that widow Hardyng. How are those two to get
through the winter, I should like to know? As for the child, it will
have to be bound out to somebody who will make it work, and then there
will be an end of all these mincing lady airs. One thing I know, it's
out of our power to help them. She must have some relations somewhere, I
should think. I wonder what her antecedents really are, any way. I could
never quite make the girl out yet."

"Then I am a little shrewder than the rest of you, that's all," spoke up
the voice of Mrs. Caroline Newcomer. "I found her out some time ago.
Listen, ladies, all of you who have any curiosity upon the subject. I
learned her whole history through one of my servants, who had lived in
the same city from whence this mysterious personage came. By a curious
coincidence, these Graystones, mother and daughter, came and took
lodgings beneath the same lowly roof to which the poverty of this Mrs.
Baily had driven her for shelter.

"Of their former life, my informant knew little, but when she first
became acquainted with them, they were miserably poor, and in debt to
their landlady. At length Miss Clemence Graystone succeeded, by the
rarest good fortune, in obtaining a position as governess in a wealthy
family. She was, however, afterwards dismissed, (as Mrs. Baily
afterwards learned, through one of the employees,) in disgrace, for
having designs upon a young gentleman of fortune--the uncle, I believe,
of her pupils.

"How they managed to live on through the winter was a wonder to the
whole household, or pay the expenses of the widow Graystone's sickness
and death, which occurred in the spring. The landlady seemed to think
everything of them, and refused to satisfy anybody's curiosity in regard
to the matter. The girl Clemence went away with a strange woman, as soon
as she recovered from an illness that followed her mother's death; and
that was the last known of her until she turns up here, to make capital
out of her pale face and mourning garments, which, I dare say, she
thinks look interesting.

"So that is the whole story about this young woman, who is probably at
this moment laughing quietly in her sleeve, at the clever way she has
imposed upon the inhabitants of this benighted village. I took pains,
since her dismissal by the School Committee, to write and find out these
particulars; and while I was about it, I thought I would also make an
effort to discover something of the former life of the woman who calls
herself Ulrica Hardyng. I always had my suspicions of her, which you
will see have been duly verified;"--and she proceeded to relate, with
great animation, to the gaping crowd around her, a garbled account of
the misfortunes of the divorced wife.

"And now, madam," said a calm, low voice behind her, as she finished
speaking, "since you are so good at relating other people's histories,
suppose you give these worthy persons, a similar account of your own
proceedings and peregrinations?"

It was none other than Ulrica Hardyng, who stood before her in _propria
personae_. She had, in pursuance of a resolution made some weeks before,
determined to be present, although uninvited, at this meeting, and
justify her friend before her numerous assailants.

"_You_ here?" articulated the woman, guiltily, as she gazed fearfully at
the stern, set face before her.

"Yes, I am here," was the reply, in a voice that trembled with outraged
feeling, despite the powerful effort for self-control; "to prove that I
know you at last, as the woman who won my husband from me.

"Good people," she said, turning to the astonished and abashed
spectators, "this woman has told you the truth, mainly, concerning me,
at least; but with one reservation. She is the daughter of this Mrs.
Bailey, whom she represented as a servant, and the cast-off mistress of
the Geoffrey Westbourne who was once my husband."

A denial trembled upon the lips of the woman, who shrank away in abject
terror, but her voice failed her. The impassible face that looked down
upon her seemed the very personification of unrelenting justice.

"Woman," she said coldly, "your sin has found you out."

The groveling figure suddenly erected itself with a defiant gesture.
"Well, and what of that?" rising, and looking boldly around. "It must
have happened some time or other, and I'm sick of this whining
hypocrisy. I had rather go back to the old life again, where there is no
restraint. But I am as good as the rest, I tell you, Ulrica Hardyng.
These women, who profess Christianity, have deliberately robbed a poor,
innocent, unoffending girl of her reputation, because they were jealous
of her youth and fair looks, and mental superiority. Besides that, a
dozen or more of these pious ladies were in love with the man who wanted
to marry her, in the face of them all, and who was cooly rejected. I
would have defended the poor thing myself, but _you_ had to take up on
her side, and then, because the friend of one I hate can only be my
enemy, I sought to drag her down to my own level."

"And you put the finishing stroke to your malicious efforts," said that
lady, "to-day by a tissue of falsehoods against her. At present I shall
not attempt to refute these assertions, knowing that right will
ultimately triumph. I understand _your_ tactics thoroughly, Caroline
Bailey, and I am not even surprised that you are ashamed to own your
wretched parent, who has put you in possession of these few facts mixed
with so much falsehood."

"How did you learn my real name?" asked the woman in amazement.

"Through an old friend whom I persuaded to trace out your whole career,"
was the reply. "I could have forgiven _my_ wrongs at your hands, but
when you saw fit to attack that inoffensive girl, I determined to unmask
you."

"And much good may it do you," was the cool rejoinder. "I am tired of
this monotonous existence, and had already decided soon to leave this
humdrum village. As for proving your assertions, you need not be at the
trouble. I do not deny a word you have uttered. It's all true, and
more."

"I had a few twinges of conscience," she added sneeringly, "and thought
I'd change my mode of life; but it was never in me to behave like a
saint. People follow the bent of their inclinations most generally. I've
heard many good, but mistaken persons pity women who had gone wrong, and
try faithfully to reclaim them, but it's all lost labor. Most of them
take the downward road because it's the easiest, and comes natural, and
after a time it's impossible to reform them, with a precious few
exceptions. I've found out, though, since my short and sweet experience
in this community, that I ain't the worst creature in the world. Say
what you will, I am just as good at this moment as the rest of the women
here. This girl that they have persecuted is about the only decent body
among them. That's why they hate her, for being a continual reproof to
them."

"Oh, you need not nod, and wink, and draw away from me as though I was
contagion," she said vindictively, "I know you all. I happen to be in
the confidence of a certain gentleman that some of you know too
intimately for your own good. You, for instance, Mrs. Brier, (glancing
meaningly at the little woman,) and you, Mrs. Charles Burton, and you,
and you, (pointing in rapid succession to several demure looking ladies
who had eyed her with glances of apprehension.) It's about time for Mrs.
Euphrasia Anastasia Strain to begin to keep an eye on her husband's
movements, if she happens to be the least bit of a jealous nature."

These concluding remarks produced a decided sensation. Every lady rose
simultaneously to their feet. Mrs. Brier fainted, and dropped limp and
lifeless and unobserved. The Editor's lady went into hysterics, the
demure-looking females "lifted up their voices and wept," and everybody
but Betsey Pryor seemed struck with general consternation. "Thank
goodness!" exclaimed the last mentioned lady, pursing up her thin lips,
"_I_ never had anything to do with the men. Nobody can accuse me of
that, anyway."

Which was but too true.

The spinster having uttered this emphatic remark, folded her garments
over her immaculate bosom and went forth to seek consolation in a cup of
Mrs. Wynn's good tea.

Profiting by her example, the others immediately bent their steps to
their respective homes, and that was the last meeting of the Society
ever held in that village. It then and there, at the height of its
apparent prosperity, came to an untimely end, to the lasting grief and
shame of a few worthy souls, and the amusement of many more, who were
wicked enough to rejoice over its ignominious downfall.

Soon after Mrs. Caroline Newcomer left Waveland to return no more, and
not a little to the astonishment of every one, Mr. Charles Burton sold
his residence to a wealthy gentleman and removed with his family to a
distant city.

That was the only change that occurred except the departure of Mrs.
Euphrasia Anastasia Strain, who went home about this time to visit her
ma; and that of Rose Wynn, who left off going to church and Sabbath
School, to become wholly invisible a few weeks after.

"So this was the 'Caroline' who favored you with all those anonymous
communications," said Clemence to her friend when they were discussing
the affair together.

"Yes, the very same," sighed Mrs. Hardyng. "She doubtless followed me at
the instigation of Geoffrey Westbourne to spy upon my actions and report
to him. I do not know what his object could have been, unless he feared
that I might seek to communicate with his present wife, who I feel
convinced is not a party to his base transactions, and who believes him
an injured saint. Perhaps, too, he hoped to gain something against me
from these gossips, or knowing that I was unaccustomed to poverty and
isolation, believed that I might break through these self-imposed
barriers and resort to crime. But he should know me better. It is no
relief from misery to plunge into infamy, but only hurls the wretched
victim into darker woes. I know that I have been far from perfect, but
the soul of Ulrica Hardyng is free from the stain of crime. He whom she
served faithfully and conscientiously ought to be the first to award the
meed of praise, but in its place there is only the bitter brand of a
life-long disgrace."

"I don't believe that even the best of men truly appreciate the value of
a pure-minded woman," said Clemence, thoughtfully. "They are too gross
and material, and I have met with very few whose society seemed to have
a tendency to elevate. In the company of the majority of men I feel a
constraint and like uttering the most commonplace remarks. Yet their
idle curiosity leads them to seek to penetrate the very 'holy of
holies' (if I may be allowed the expression) of the soul, and which they
can neither understand nor appreciate."

"Oh, child!" said the elder woman, coming to her side; "my pure-browed
darling, I pray God that you may never suffer misery like mine. I had
rather the child's dream would be realized; that you might be permitted
to follow him, though my lonely heart aches at the thought of losing
you, than that you should be dragged down to a life for which you are
not fitted. Never marry, Clemence, for you are more likely to be
wretched than happy. I have so little faith in any man that I should
fear for your future if you were to bestow your affections upon any one.
I mean to guard you well hereafter; and I am sure that there cannot be
the least possibility of your ever having met one to appreciate or
awaken a feeling of interest in your mind."

The girl did not reply to this half-uttered query, but a faint rose-tint
swept into the pale cheeks, and up to the blue-veined temples.

"But to be an old maid, Ulrica," she said a moment after, in a troubled
tone; "it is a dreary future for any woman to contemplate. It used to be
the one object of my ambition to devote my life to some good cause,
thinking that thus I might rise above worldly cares, and grow nearer
Heaven. But of late my whole being shrinks from such a course."

"It seems to me that a single woman cannot be as useful as one 'whom the
dignity of wifehood invests as with a garment.' You know there is a
stigma attached to old maids that must detract from their usefulness."

"Yes, I know," said Mrs. Hardyng; "and of late I am beginning to think
that it is, perhaps, in some cases but too well merited. Do you know,
dear, that all the spinsters of my acquaintance have got married on
their very first offer? I can't help feeling a little mortified that
some of my models that I have held up triumphantly as examples to prove
the usefulness and necessity of their existence, should have failed me
in the end."

"There is Miss Aylmar, who amassed a fortune by teaching a Ladies'
Seminary. She was a pattern old maid in my estimation. However, much to
my chagrin, when I thought she was nearly ready to receive, after a long
and useful life, the rewards for her good deeds in another world, she
suddenly assumed the airs of a sixteen-year old boarding-school miss,
and, after trying in vain to captivate, by the weight of her golden
attractions, a young and handsome, but penniless professor, succeeded at
length in fastening a respectable widower. She trots him out regularly
every Sunday with that ineffable smirk of satisfaction that only an old
maid can assume. Then there was Miss Anthon, a demure little body, who
wore her gray hair brushed back from her placid face, without resort to
hair dyes, cosmetics, or other rejuvenating articles of the toilet. She
kept her eyes open, though, and in her unobtrusive way, after lying in
wait for her victim all these long and weary years, she suddenly pounced
upon a fortune to reward her patient and persevering efforts. You see,
this woman had no capital of beauty, intellect or money, and so she
assumed the only _role_ that a quaint little creature like her could
carry through successfully. At the risk of her own life, she
courageously sat through a case of malignant typhoid, in the hope of
making an impression upon the heart of a good-looking youth, by
restoring to him his invalid mother. Unfortunately for her purpose, the
old lady died, and, after finding that her disinterested efforts to
captivate the son were in vain, she turned her attention to the task of
consoling the disconsolate widower, and is now mamma-in-law to the man
she wanted to marry."

"You are not presenting a very attractive side of the picture," said the
other, laughing.

"No, but a true one, nevertheless. I wish women would be true to
themselves."

"There is another failing of our sex," said Clemence, "that has often
come under my notice; and it is this: Let a gentleman enter society and
have it whispered around that he is what is called a 'ladies' man,' with
the added interest of one or two sensational anecdotes of a young lady
who went insane out of a hopeless attachment for the gentlemanly
scoundrel; or that this or that infuriated husband who has challenged
him to mortal combat; and, though the stain of murder be upon that man's
soul, women who call themselves virtuous will welcome him with approving
smiles.

"Why, I have been completely disgusted, and that more than once, to hear
women of the most exemplary character praise and hang upon the words of
these smooth-tongued villains. I have now in my mind one in particular,
whom the world looks upon as a devoted wife and mother, and who I think
has never yet contemplated sin. Yet I know better than herself, that she
is hovering on the brink of a precipice, that may, at some future day,
engulf all she loves, with herself, in one common ruin.

"Society, as it is now constituted, is dangerous, and calculated to
contaminate any pure-minded woman who enters it, unless she be blessed
with sufficient decision of character to choose a strict line of conduct
and abide by it, at the risk of being called dull, prudish, and
uninteresting.

"Those of the old school, with their rigid notions of etiquette, their
stately courtesy, and grave, dignified manners, were far preferable to
the style assumed by Young America at the present day. Although not
deficient in a love for my country, I hardly wonder that the people of
the European cities which Americans visit complain that these 'plebeian
Yankees,' with their 'loud' style, their fussy dressing to the extreme
of fashion, their slang, and their still more intolerable 'double
_entendre_,' exert an unfavorable influence upon society, and
'_desecrate_' the places where they tread."

"I believe you are right," said Mrs. Hardyng; "and it has struck me
oddly enough that we, who are so extremely opposite in every respect,
should find so many subjects upon which to agree. I have often grieved
over these foibles of our sex, not having failed to observe, with
regret, that there are fewer exceptions than there should be.

"Now, I should think, from the very nature of things, that a woman would
always instinctively defend her own sex, and hurl contempt and scorn at
those who basely sought to take advantage of her weakness. There seems
to me to be _one_, all-powerful reason why they should do this, and it
has puzzled me exceedingly to know _why_, with the self-love that all
women possess in common with each other, and their natural tendency to
jealousy, they should feel at all elated at a tale of flattery that they
_know_ has been rehearsed before, as often as there has been found one
to listen.

"Now, it is no recommendation to _my_ favor to realize that I am only
one of a dozen, and that Frizzolinda in the parlor, or Jemima in the
kitchen, would each prove equally as acceptable in their turn; that the
arm that embraces _me_, has stolen with just as delicious uncertainty
around the cook's buxom waist, and that the eyes that seek mine with
such glances of affection have sought with an equal fondness in their
melting depths those of every lady of my acquaintance. I'll confess, if
it _is_ a weakness, for a woman who gives everything to the man she
loves, that I am exacting enough to demand a more exclusive attachment
than this. 'Verily, these things ought not to be.' Women should look to
it; for I think there are some few social reforms, that are of more
vital importance to the sex than even the right of 'suffrage' and the
dictatorship amid the councils of the nation. Few women care for this
last honor. The majority in America marry early in life, and their
highest ambition is to achieve distinction in the social circle."

"That brings me to think," said Clemence, "of the flirtations between
married couples, that we see going on continually around us. I always
had an idea that I should not enjoy quite such a risky love affair as
they promise. Not but that, like every one else, I suppose, I think it's
very agreeable to be admired; but then it's not tranquilizing to the
nerves to remember that a jealous wife may be cultivating her finger
nails with a view to exercising them upon one's countenance. I prefer
the 'human face divine' in its natural state, being of the opinion with
another that 'beauty unadorned is adorned most.' Do you know, Ulrica,
that I lost my taste for guitar music listening to a little
pink-cheeked, simpering married woman, eternally strumming to a Benedict
of her acquaintance, in lovelorn tones--'I'll be true to
thee,'--accompanied by the most languishing glances? I was the more
disgusted, too, when I recollected that this woman was the lady
Superintendent of an up-town Sabbath School, and considered a pattern by
every one. Besides, she called herself a Christian, and a tender, loving
mother, while she absolutely stinted her children's food, in the absence
of her husband, who toiled early and late in the counting-room, to buy
finery to air before her married beau, and make the jealous, passionate
wife whom he left waiting at home (and whom, she knew, hated her as
only a wronged woman _can_ hate,) still more miserable.

"Oh," she added, shuddering at the contemplation of this grievous sin,
from which her pure soul recoiled, "the Father knew the weakness of our
common nature when He taught us the daily prayer to avert temptation."



CHAPTER XIV.


"I declare!" said Mrs. Wynn, looking up from the gilt frames in Mrs.
Swan's parlor, "the changes that have been going on in Waveland do beat
everything. Only think of it! Why, the town hasn't been so lively for
years before. There used to be only an occasional wedding or
christening, or funeral; and now, strange faces that no one knows
anything about, meet you at every turn."

"Oh, I don't know about that!" said Mrs. Swan. "There has only been one
or two arrivals here; that new family who brought out the Burtons, and
the new minister and his wife. By-the-bye, they say he married her just
before he came here, and that she was a widow."

"Yes, I know that," replied the old lady. "I heard the report, and,
thinkin' it was only natural that we should be a leetle curious about a
woman who was a goin' to give tone to our society, I made bold to ask
her about it. She put her handkercher to her eyes, and cried the least
bit, when she spoke of her former pardner. 'Dear soul,' she said, 'he's
in Heaven, but the Lord's got work for me to do in this world yet,
Sister Wynn.' She's a leetle too dressy, and I'm most afraid will set
the young folks here an example of extravagance; but I believe she
means well, and expects to do her whole duty."

"Well, I shall wait for her works to prove her disposition," said Mrs.
Swan. "I believe that 'actions speak louder than words.' I'll admit that
Arguseye _talks_ well--she's a gift that way; but I ain't drawn to her
as I was to the dear motherly saint that has left us."

"No, you can't expect another like her. I don't know what the old Elder
will do, now; but it won't be long before he'll follow her, in my
opinion," was the rejoinder.

"She's gone to that happy land where the wicked can never enter," spoke
up Betsey Pryor, who had been industriously stitching away during this
dialogue.

"It's a good thing to realize that, Betsey," said Mrs. Wynn, slyly. "I'm
glad you've found out the danger of evil communications."

"Don't say another word," said the spinster, showing signs of dissolving
in tears. "I've learnt a lesson this past summer I shall never forget."

"I don't wonder that you feel so," rejoined Mrs. Wynn, smiling grimly.
"I never look at you now, and remember the Secretary of the 'Ladies'
Charitable Society,' without feeling thankful that you have riz like
that--what do you call it?--from its ashes, and are once more an orderly
and respectable member of society."

"Have you observed," asked the good-natured hostess, striving, out of
pity for the disconcerted Betsey, to turn the conversation into another
channel, "anything of these new people at the Burton place?"

"A leetle, but not much," said Mrs. Wynn. "I was so upset by their
sellin' out so sudden like, when I thought they was as much fixtures
here as the place itself, that I ain't had much time to think about
these new folks."

"As for me," continued Mrs. Swan, "I like them already. Being such a
near neighbor, I have a chance to see a good deal of them. Their names
are Garnet, and that pretty younger lady is the wife of their only son."

"It took some money, I should imagine," pursued Mrs. Wynn. "Of course
these folks must be rich."

"Yes, they paid twelve thousand, cash down, for their present home, and
the old lady told me they had other property besides."

"Do tell!" and "Gracious sakes!" ejaculated both her listeners at once.
"I must call right away." "It ain't neighborly to neglect strangers."

"I've another item for you," added the communicative Mrs. Swan. "They've
bought that cottage down near the Widow Hardyng's, for the young couple
to commence housekeeping for themselves."

"Why, what's that for?" was the next question; "don't they agree?"

"Oh, yes, perfectly; but the young people want a little home of their
own, 'a play house,' the elder Mrs. Garnet calls it. For my part, I
think it only natural. Mr. Swan and I did not want to stay with either
of the old folks after we were married, but came off and set up for
ourselves."

"That's the house that Mrs. Newcomer lived in, ain't it?" asked Betsey
Pryor.

"The very identical one," replied Mrs. Wynn. "I am glad that woman has
left, for it was a living disgrace to any respectable community,
harboring such a character."

"But nobody ever dreamed anything of her true history. If they, had they
wouldn't have associated with her," said Mrs. Swan. "She was a dreadful
creature, and I can't make out yet why she should take all that pains to
come here and persecute two unoffending women like Mrs. Hardyng and her
young friend."

"But don't you see," reiterated Mrs. Wynn, "it was at the instigation of
Mr. Westbourne, Mrs. Hardyng's former husband, and probably she wanted
to gratify her own malice. I can understand her motive, for no doubt she
cordially hated this woman, whom she felt she had wronged."

"But Miss Graystone?" queried Mrs. Swan. "I should think her sweet,
patient face would have touched the heart of a stone."

"It seems she did have some compunctions," said the old lady; "don't you
remember there at the last meeting of the Society, she said she would
have taken the girl's part, only she thought she could hurt the widow
still more by wounding this young girl? Betsey can tell you better about
that, though," she added, wickedly; "ask the former Secretary to give
you the particulars. I had not the honor of being present on that
occasion myself."

"Don't ask me to rehearse it," said Miss Pryor, in subdued tones, "I
can't bear it. My nerves have never yet recovered from the shock."

"We will excuse you, then, Betsey," said the other, magnanimously, "and
proceed to the more congenial occupation of disposing of some of these
nice biscuits and delicious tea that I see Mrs. Swan has prepared for
us."

The pensive beauty of the mild Indian Summer flooded hill and valley
now. Where the sombre shades of green had erst clothed the forest,
brilliant pennons of flame-colored, and crimson-dyed, and paler tints,
shading into amber, and gray, and russet brown, lit up the woods with
their bright-hued splendor.

Clemence, with her little charge, loved to wander through these places,
that nature had clothed in rarest beauty for her worshippers. This was
her favorite season of the year. Sometimes a foreboding oppressed this
young dreamer that it might be her last hours of earthly enjoyment. She
used often to look with pity into the child's face, where a sweet
seriousness lingered, and it gave her sympathetic heart pain to think
that the child should be old beyond her years. Indeed, there was the
same wistfulness about the younger face that we have noticed about our
heroine, and there was a gravity of expression about the tender mouth
that told of a capacity for suffering unusual in one so young. It was
apparent that, like the tried friend who toiled daily to sustain her,
sorrow had early marked the orphan girl for its own. If misfortune or
death were to overtake this fragile creature who stood between her and
the storms of life, what would become of Ruth?

There were trials, and temptations, and dangers lurking in the path of
the innocent child. Would she surmount them all bravely, and achieve
victory in the battle of life?

This thought haunted, continually, the mind of the young teacher, and
gave her hourly pain. There was but little to attach her to life, and
only for this child's love she would have longed for the hour when God
should call her home. As it was, the girl had not sufficient faith to
leave all in His hands. With her sad experience of life, she dreaded all
that might come to her darling. And hope had nearly died out in her
heart.

Seated by the little grave, which was the shrine at which she poured out
her daily petitions, Clemence thought despondingly of the past, and how
little there seemed for her in the future, to which every one around her
looked forward with such eager anticipation.

The dreary waste stretched out unsmiling, and inexpressibly desolate.
The path of duty seemed straight and thorny.

While she sat, sorrowful, the child, who had been watching her with
tender eyes, came and knelt before her. "Let me come and sit with you,"
she pleaded, laying her soft, rounded cheek upon the two hands folded
idly in Clemence's lap. "I cannot play while I know you are grieving on
my account."

"Why," asked Clemence, arousing with a start from her reverie, "what put
that odd fancy into your head, little one?"

"Oh, I have known it for a long time," said Ruth, earnestly. "Although I
never have told you before, I realize more and more every day how much
you deny yourself for my sake. I owe you more than I can ever hope to
repay."

"There, there, child," said Clemence, astonished at her vehemence. "What
on earth has put all this into your head? Who told you about
self-denial? Have any of these rough villagers been seeking to wound you
by speaking of your state of dependence?"

"No, oh no," protested the little one, wisely, "nobody told me except
Johnny. We used to talk of it long ago, of how kind and good you were to
two poor little children like us. Johnny used to think you must be an
angel, like those we read about at Sabbath School, for nobody ever
treated him kindly until you came. He said good people were always
afflicted and persecuted."

"Poor little tired heart," said Clemence, commiseratingly, "it is now at
rest. But, Ruth, you must not allow these recollections to sadden you.
The little bound boy had not much to brighten his dreary life, and he
knew not what it was to possess the buoyant hopefulness of childhood.
Sorrow had made him wise beyond his years. Its weight crushed him down
like a bruised lily. The Good Shepherd listened to his pitiful
supplications, and he is now safe in the fold above. I don't want _your_
life to be one of gloom, my little adopted sister. I have tried to make
you feel happy, but I fear I am but dull company for a little girl."

"You are the best, the _very_ best," persisted the little devotee, with
worshipping eyes. "I would like to be always near you, and it is only
the thought that I am a burden that clouds my face with one shade of
care."

"How often have I told you, Ruth," returned Clemence, gravely, "not to
disturb your mind with such fancies? It displeases me to have you talk
upon these subjects, that a little girl ought not to think of at all. I
have never told you of your obligations, and I do not wish it to form a
topic of conversation between us. I want your love and obedience, and
that is all that a little girl like you can give. You have not added
greatly to my trials, and as yet I have experienced few inconveniences
from having another to provide for. God has raised up a kind friend for
us in Mrs. Hardyng, and we will not question His wisdom who has made us
what we are, but strive always to remember in whose hands our future is
placed."

A look of pain flitted over the child's open countenance, and a tear
trembled upon the silken lashes.

"Have I offended you?" she whispered, creeping closer. "I only wanted to
tell you what was in my heart. I don't want to hide anything from you."

"You have done quite right," said Clemence, embracing her; "run and
play, now, dear; a race will do you good and dry these tear-drops."

She kissed the little one and pushed her gently away; then leaned her
head upon her hand in the old attitude of weariness, and watched her
until the slight form of the child was lost to view among the trees.

Little Ruth's remarks had disturbed her. There was too much foundation
in their present circumstances for anxiety. Still there was one drop of
comfort in the midst of her trials. The young teacher knew that time had
dissipated the cloud of suspicion and distrust that had hung over her
for so long, and which had been created by the basest envy. The School
Committee had lately tendered her again her old position, which she had
declined with thanks. She was too weak to labor now, either with hands
or brain. What did this strange lassitude, this very weariness of
spirit, betoken?

The sad-browed dreamer knew but too well the end of all this; though,
whatever it might be, it was surely for the best, or it would not be
suffered.

While her thoughts were engaged upon the subject, she resolved to write
without delay to Alicia Linden, and speak to her about Ruth. Mrs.
Hardyng should not have everything put upon her. She had trouble enough
of her own.

Clemence, who felt as if she did not want to presume upon the generosity
of her friend, knew that the masculine Alicia would be prepared for any
emergency, having both the will and the ability to help her. It was only
her extreme conscientiousness that had led her, thus far, to struggle on
with her self-imposed burden. The girl had argued that it was not right
to call upon others to relieve from that which she had assumed of her
own free will.

Now, she beheld matters in a clearer light. There was a higher Will that
took out of her hands the ordering of her own actions. She had tried to
act wisely, and from the best and purest motives. Her strength having
now failed utterly, it was her duty to strive and repress all these
rebellious murmurings and go forward in the narrow path so many had
trodden before her.

This was unusually difficult for one of Clemence Graystone's proud,
independent spirit, but if pride conflicted with duty it must be
conquered. There was but one way, to "be careful for nothing."

However, it was the fault of her nature to go to the other extreme, and
despond when she could not see the path beyond marked out distinctly,
and illumined by the star of Hope.

Now, life had nothing in it but the affection of this clinging,
dependent child, to draw her from the contemplation of that future for
which her soul had longed these weary months of sorrowful waiting, and
where she hoped to gain the sweet reward for all her striving.

She had sought to live for the hour that was approaching, remembering,
all these years, that "Heaven is won or lost on earth; the possession is
_there_, but the preparation _here_."

The girl knew she had failed often, but she felt willing to trust
herself to the mercy of Him who loves those He chasteneth. She repeated
softly these words from a gifted woman's pen:--

                   "Though we fail, indeed,
    You--I--a score of such weak workers--He
    Fails never. If he cannot work by us,
    He will work over us."

A sudden footstep roused the young dreamer, and her startled gaze rested
upon a form before her. A faint dash of crimson kindled the pallid
coldness of the pure face. She rose and moved forward with outstretched
hands, while the voice of Wilfred Vaughn asked, in sorrowful accents,
"Can this be the Clemence Graystone I have known, or only her wraith?"
He pressed the slender fingers tenderly in his own, and while every
lineament of that noble face spoke of his grief at finding her thus, he
said to the wondering girl, who looked upon his sorrow, "What a grievous
sin has been committed here! My sweet-faced darling, they have
sacrificed you to their cruelty. You have been the innocent victim of a
dreadful wrong."



CHAPTER XV.


"Do you recognize this handwriting?" asked Mr. Vaughn, after a few
moments desultory conversation, handing her a letter.

Clemence uttered an ejaculation of surprise, "Why, it looks like mine,
though I never saw it before. What a singular resemblance."

"What is more singular still, it has your signature," said the
gentleman; "read it."

The young girl obeyed, mechanically, and her companion watched her in
interested silence, while the blushes came and went on her pure face.

Her look deepened into one of anxiety and consternation as she read.
"What can it mean?" she asked, in distressed tones. "Who has sought thus
to injure me?"

"A jealous, wicked woman," he returned, sadly. "It was a cruel deed, and
brought its own bitter reward of remorse and shame. But I will give you
the whole story."

"You doubtless wondered at your abrupt dismissal from Mrs. Vaughn's
employment upon so slight a pretext as Gracia gave you. I never dreamed
of the possibility until you were gone, and, when I questioned her as to
the cause of the non-appearance of the face I had learned to watch for,
she gave me this, telling me to thank her for having saved me from a
dreadful fate.

"The letter seemed to explain itself. It opened my eyes to the state of
my own heart.

"This shock, for a time, nearly overwhelmed me. I never believed,
though, even in the darkest hour, that you could do anything really
wrong. I knew that you were tried by poverty, and only pitied your
sufferings, resolving to render whatever aid might lay in my power.

"In pursuance of this resolution, I therefore traced out your residence,
secretly, and in my efforts learned something of your former history. I
found that I had known Grosvenor Graystone in his days of prosperity,
and took new courage in finding that you were the daughter of that
upright man.

"Not wishing to make myself known at that time, I still hovered around
you, thinking that, if you needed a protector, I would become visible at
the right moment."

"And," interrupted Clemence, "you were the unknown friend who sent us,
at our time of greatest need, the means that defrayed the expenses of my
mother's last illness, and interment. How much I thank you, you can
never know."

"I did not intend to speak of that," continued Mr. Vaughn. "I did
nothing of what I had planned, on account of being called suddenly away
to the death-bed of a distant relative.

"As soon as I could do so with decency, I returned, and my first visit
was to your lodgings, where I had determined to present myself in person
and make the acquaintance of Mrs. Graystone.

"What was my grief to learn that that estimable lady was no more, and
that, after a long and dangerous illness, her I sought more
particularly, as the one whose happiness was most dear to me on earth,
had gone away with a lady whose name I could not learn.

"As I was turning away in despair, a voice called to me. I turned and
beheld a woman beckoning to me from an upper window. This person I
recognized immediately as having once seen, in your company, and
joyfully retraced my steps, in the hope of hearing something that would
give me a clue to your whereabouts.

"'I'm Mrs. Bailey,' said the woman, coming down and standing in the
doorway, 'and I kalkilate you're after some news of that young girl that
used to go out governessing.'

"I replied eagerly in the affirmative.

"'Well, there ain't much to tell,' she said, slowly. 'The mother took
sick and died, and the girl herself just managed to live through a
dreadful long illness. She was hardly able to sit up when she went away.
I hear she's gone travellin' for her health. If that's so, _somebody_
must have furnished the means, and it wasn't that widow, who was the
only friend they had in the whole wide city. More like it was a certain
handsome young gentleman I could tell you about.

"'I'll tell you what it is, Mr. Vaughn,' said the woman, eyeing me
closely, 'you are wasting valuable time that might be better employed
than in following up an adventuress. Take the advice of a disinterested
friend, and let this Miss Graystone alone.'

"Of course, I then and there indignantly resented this officiousness;
but she reiterated her caution in my unwilling ears, and, finally, when
I was about to leave her, took from her pocket a small slip of paper.

"'Read that, Mr. Vaughn,' she said.

"I did so. It was a marriage notice of a Mr. Legrange to a Miss C.
Elizabeth Graystone."

"A distant relative," said Clemence. "We were not intimately acquainted,
and this is the first intimation that I have gained of Cousin Lottie's
marriage."

"Being somewhat confused at the time," continued Mr. Vaughn, "I
supposed, of course, that this was the lady I sought, and that farther
search was fruitless. There seemed now no more to be done. Of my
feelings of disappointment and regret, I will speak hereafter.

"Having now nothing to occupy my attention, I mingled more in society,
at my sister-in-law's earnest solicitation, though I cared little for
the strangers whom I met. More than a year passed in this aimless way.

"One evening, however, at a brilliant soiree, I met an elderly lady,
with whom I got quite well acquainted in the course of an agreeable
conversation. She was a woman of keen intellect, and it seemed to me
rather a masculine mind. I was astonished to find such an one amid this
idle crowd of gay worldlings, and I spoke at some length of the pleasure
I had enjoyed. She told me, then, that we were not such entire strangers
as I seemed to suppose, but that we had a mutual friend, a young lady
who was then absent from the city.

"This, of course, piqued my curiosity, and, upon asking an explanation,
she told me all she knew of the one whom I had so long been vainly
seeking.

"In return, I gave her my whole confidence. She invited me to call at
her residence the following day, which I did. It was the home where you
had spent those long months of seclusion, and the lady was, as you must
have guessed, Mrs. Linden.

"I learned from her everything that I wished to know save your present
place of residence, which she refused to divulge.

"'I expect my pet will return to me, when she has wearied of her present
mode of life,' she said, 'and then you can renew your acquaintance under
more favorable auspices.'

"It was in vain I pleaded for farther confidences. She was inexorable. I
had, therefore, only to exercise patience, and, as I had now everything
to hope for, I was happier than I had been for many long months.

"To while away the time, which, in my present mood hung heavy on my
hands, I started, in company with my sister-in-law and a party of
friends, on a pleasure excursion. We took passage in a steamer bound for
Lake Superior, every one anticipating an unusual amount of enjoyment.
Alas! what a terrible ending to it all! Let me hasten over this
dreadful tragedy; although I can never hope to drive the awful scene
from my mind.

"We were in the height of our enjoyment; little groups, with bright,
animated faces scattered here and there, and apart from the rest, either
promenading the decks, or sheltered in some retired corner, happy
lovers, whispering softly of the future that would never come to them,
for already the sable wings of death hovered over our careless band.

"By some unforeseen accident, and owing to no carelessness on the part
of the officers, the boat had taken fire, and when discovered by the
passengers the flames were making such rapid headway that escape seemed
impossible for the greater portion. It was a wild and awful scene.

"In the tumult I had sought out the children, Grace and Alice, and
carried them with me to a position from which I intended to leap with
them into the water after it became impossible for us to remain longer
on the burning steamer. I was just securing the life preservers about
them, when a heart-rending cry reached my ears, and the next moment my
sister-in-law grasped my arm. She was nearly frantic with fear, and in
the agony of the moment thought of nothing but her own preservation. The
sight of her completely unnerved me. I pointed to the children,
beseeching her to calm herself, and I would save them all. We were not
far from land, and, being an expert swimmer, I believe I could have done
so, had not my movements been impeded as they were. As it was, I could
do nothing. Insane with fright, the instinct of the mother seemed to
have died out. There was but one way. The flames were rapidly nearing
us, and, giving instructions to the children--who seemed more like women
than the shrinking creature who cowered before them--I made one more
effort to impress upon Gracia's mind the necessity for implicit
obedience to my instructions.

"I succeeded in gaining her attention and approval of my plan, but with
the awful danger behind us, there were still precious moments wasted
before I could induce Gracia to venture into the water, of which she
seemed to have a horror. I made almost superhuman exertions to reach the
land, and depositing my almost insensible burden, turned again to
attempt the rescue of my darlings. But I was too late. Faint, and nearly
exhausted, I was making but slow progress, when a heavy beam, floating
in the water, struck and rendered me unconscious. A boat that had
hurried to the scene of the disaster picked me up, with others; but I
never saw again the two little beings whom I left, with their childish
hands clasped, waiting for me to return and save them."

"Oh, heavens!" ejaculated Clemence, "not dead!--my two little pupils."

"Yes, dead," said Wilfred Vaughn, hoarsely; "buried beneath the waves,
and their only requiem the moaning of an angry sea." He paused for a
while, with his face buried in his hands, and then resumed:

"This awful visitation seemed to change Gracia. She had been a proud,
ambitious, selfish woman. I never wanted my only brother to marry her,
but he was infatuated with her splendid beauty, and when I saw that his
happiness was at stake I ceased to oppose him. After he died I hovered
near to watch over the children. But I never liked Gracia Vaughn,
because I could not respect her. Now, on what proved to be her
death-bed, I felt for the first time an affection for her, born of pity.
I think if my sister-in-law could have lived she would have been a
better woman. But the fiat had gone forth, and her days were numbered.
Naturally delicate, the intense excitement and exposure so lately
endured, set her into a low fever that at length terminated her life. As
she neared the 'valley of the shadow of death' her vision seemed
clearer. The scales fell from her eyes, and the repentant woman knew
that her life had been a failure.

"'It is better so, Wilfred,' she said to me, just before she died. 'I
have been only 'an encumberer of the ground.' I can be better spared
than others, for my life has benefited nobody. There will be few to miss
me.'

"'Oh, Gracia!' I exclaimed, shocked at the thought.

"'Nay,' she answered me, 'but it is true, and right. I have been selfish
and unlovable, and more than that, sinful. Do you think God will pardon
me!'

"'Can you doubt that He who sent His Only Son to die for us, and to save
not the righteous but _sinners_, will hearken unto our supplications?' I
said, earnestly. 'My dear sister, you have been weak and perhaps wicked,
but surely none of us are perfect.'

"'But you do not know all,' said Gracia, averting her face. 'I have so
longed to tell you, but have lacked courage. There remains but little
for me to do in this world, but I cannot die until I have retrieved, by
the humblest confession and fullest reparation, the great sin of my
life.'

"She covered her face with her hands and wept softly, and then said, in
a voice shaken by emotion, 'You remember the young girl, Clemence
Graystone, who interested you so strangely, and whom I engaged as
governess, with your sanction. It was to destroy her happiness that this
wicked act was consummated. For a reason which her woman's heart will
too surely tell her, I conceived from the first a violent dislike to the
young teacher. She had not been long in my employ before I began
watching her closely, in the hope of detecting some fault that would
render a sufficient and plausible excuse for my discharging her. I knew
that in such straitened circumstances the position she held was a
lucrative one, and so great was my antipathy to one who had never
knowingly injured me, that I could not bear the thought of benefiting
this orphan girl in the smallest degree. At last, coming to the
conclusion that there was not the slightest hope of discovering anything
against her that would bear inspection, and discovering that she was
every day growing more and more in favor with the entire household, I
resolved quietly to resort to artifice to accomplish that which I could
not hope to bring about in any other way. It was very easy to steal into
the school-room after hours, unobserved, and, after some practice,
imitate her handwriting closely enough to have it pass for genuine with
any one not familiar with it. This I did, and then discharged her. When
you asked the reason, I placed in your hands that which was in itself
enough to blast the character of a young, unprotected girl. But I
repented,' she said, excitedly, watching my face, which at this
unlooked-for revelation must have expressed all the horror and
repugnance I felt. 'Wilfred, don't quite despise me. Forgive me, or I
cannot die in peace.'

"I remembered her condition, then, and soothed her as I would an infant.
Against my entreaties, almost commands, she proceeded with the harrowing
story: 'I felt supremely wretched after I committed this wrong deed, and
at length, after some months, I traced the girl out in the hope of doing
something to aid her, and thus quiet my uneasy conscience. But she had
gone from her former place of residence. A woman who gave her name as
Bailey told me all I wished to know, and I felt quite relieved and
happy. She said the girl's mother had died, and that after a long
illness this Clemence Graystone had gone away with a gentleman, giving
me to understand that I need not feel troubled about her being in want,
for the girl was not friendless, but had those to aid her of the same
sort as herself. Of course, if this young governess were really unworthy
of all this anxiety, as the woman had intimated, then I had not done so
much mischief as I feared, and there was not so much to regret. I threw
off the recollection, and the whole circumstance had completely faded
from my memory, when I learned the truth of the matter from a
seamstress who had lodgings in the same building. This woman gave me an
entirely different version of the case, describing in eloquent terms the
girl's filial devotion to her mother in their dire necessity. I learned
now for the first time the real magnitude of the sin I had committed. I
wanted to tell you all then, but dared not. Now, however, with the grave
yawning beneath me, I have no longer anything to hope or fear in this
world. There is one thing yet which I can do to repair my error and show
that my repentance is sincere. My poor lost darlings had a fortune of
fifty thousand dollars left to them jointly by a deceased uncle. They
were to come into possession of this money when Alice had reached the
age of eighteen and Gracia twenty-one. In case of their death it was to
revert to me. I want to convey this sum to Clemence Graystone, because I
willfully and maliciously misrepresented her character to the man who
would have made her his loved and honored wife. It was a cowardly and
cruel act. I shudder to think what the consequences may have been. It
may be that want and grief have plunged her into crime. I could never
learn her fate, but the thought of her sweetness and purity has
comforted me when I have thought distractedly of her. I could never
connect anything but guileless innocence with those calm, clear eyes,
and that lofty brow, whereon intellect sat enthroned.'

"'But, Gracia,' I interrupted, 'are you aware of the import of your own
words?'

"'I am,' she said, 'and I mean to fulfill them. My mind is perfectly
clear upon the subject. There is no necessity for a lawyer. I will write
out my wishes in a few words, and sign my name without witnesses. I
shall give this into your charge, Wilfred. It is a sacred trust. Find
this girl, if you have to search the wide world over, and tell her of
this conversation by my dying bed.'

"I told her all then that I had learned in the last few months, and
promised faithfully to perform the sad office. It almost made her happy.
She died soon after.

"When the funeral obsequies were over I sought my late brother's lawyer,
intending to place the business in his hands before I sought you.
However, he laughed at the whole story as a piece of absurdity; told me
that the pretty governess was doubtless married to some honest fellow in
her own sphere in life, and advised me to destroy the unimportant slip
of paper, pocket the fifty thousand, and say nothing. I left in disgust,
resolving to keep the whole affair, for the future, in my own hands. I
immediately hurried to Mrs. Linden with the marvelous story, and she
gave me your address and a God speed. That is all that I have to tell,
except that I am here to congratulate you upon the change in your
fortune."

"Don't jest," she said, looking at him with tear-filled eyes. "It was
only over these graves, two of which hide those who were dear to me,
that I have gained this great good."

"Then I will stop jesting," he said, gravely, "and utter only the truth.
Clemence, I had another reason for seeking you. You have learned my
secret, and know, now, my deep love for you. Tell me if I may hope for
its return."

For answer, she extended her hand in silence, and across the grave of
the child who had worshipped her, he clasped and raised it reverently to
his lips.

Its pallid whiteness struck him mournfully. He kissed it again and
again. "A brave right hand to wield in one's own defense, and battle
with a cold and selfish world. It is like nothing in the world but a
snowflake, as light and as pure."

"Now, you are laughing at me," she said, the deep carnation blooms in
her cheeks making her beautiful.

He gave her a glance of adoration. "Here," he said, having disengaged
something from his watch-chain, "is a ring that belonged to an only and
beloved sister who died in early youth. I have a fancy it would fit your
finger, and I always intended it for my wife, as the most highly valued
gift I could bestow upon her. How would you fancy it for an engagement
ring?" slipping it upon her finger, where it hung loosely.

"I should prize it more than a Queen's diadem," said Clemence,
eloquently.

"You shall have the diamonds, by-and-by," giving her another glance that
riveted her own, and then he kissed her, as the seal of their
betrothal.



CHAPTER XVI.


"I was just thinking of you, Betsey," said Mrs. Wynn, as the figure of
the spinster appeared in the doorway of her little sitting room. "Set
right down, and I'll have a cup of tea ready in less than five minutes."

"Thank'ee, I believe I will," said Miss Pryor, "though I didn't intend
to stay only long enough to tell you the news. I put this shawl over my
head and run just as I was."

"That's right, I'm glad of it. We'll have a sociable time now, Mr.
Wynn's cleared out. I never could bear a man around my kitchen. But what
news do you mean!"

"Why, ain't you heard?"

"Not a livin' word of anything. What on earth can have happened so
wonderful?"

"Well, that does beat all. Just to think! And you ain't seen a certain
magnificent gentleman, as grand as a prince, that sailed up to Widder
Hardyng's and asked for Miss Clemence Graystone? Every girl in town is
in love with him already."

"Do tell! And here I be tied to the house waitin' on Rose, and never
dreamin' all that's goin' on. You might have come over and told me
before, Betsey. I'd have done the same by you."

"Seein' as how it all happened yesterday, and I only found it out last
evening after prayer meeting', and it ain't ten o'clock in the forenoon
yet, I calkerlate I ain't done anything so very monstrous," said that
individual, in an injured tone.

However, the sight of a steaming cup of tea that filled the air with its
appetizing fragrance, soon mollified her, and after dispatching one cup
at boiling point, she paused to take breath before partaking of a
second.

"You see this is all there is of it: The elegantest man you ever saw
drove up all of a sudden to the tavern and wanted to know where Miss
Graystone was boarding. You'd better believe they asked him a few
questions, but he waved them all off, polite-like, but in a way that
convinced every one that he knew his own particular business better than
anybody else knew it for him; and dashed off in the direction of Widder
Hardyng's. Mrs. Swan's little girl happened to be down there on an
errand for her mother, and she heard all that transpired. His name's
Vaughn, and he's Miss Graystone's beau. He staid and talked a long time
with Mrs. Hardyng while he was waiting for the schoolmistress, who had
gone away; but after a time, when she didn't come back, he was so
impatient he went off trying to find her."

"And you didn't see him at all?" queried Mrs. Wynn.

"Oh, maybe I didn't," said Betsey, with a toss of her head; "trust me
for finding out anything I once set my mind on. I called in, carelessly,
on my way down here this morning, and had an introduction to the
gentleman himself. Not knowin' what else to say to start conversation, I
asked him if he was a relative of Miss Graystone's, though of course I
knew better. I praised her up to the skies, and you had ought to have
seen his face, beaming with smiles. He seemed to take a sort of notion
to me after that. I 'spose, though, Mrs. Hardyng gave me a settin' out
as soon as my back was turned, by the one-sided smirk she gave when the
gentleman shook hands with me cordially when I came away, and thanked me
for being so good to his young friend. I see Ruth playing on the street
corner, and quizzed her. So putting this and that together, it seems
that this girl, that everybody called an upstart and an adventuress, has
been a rich lady once, and never known what it was to soil her hands
with work of any description."

"I knew it," said Mrs. Wynn; "I always said so. It shows my superior
penetration. I'm glad I stood her friend in the dark hour of adversity,
and shall hasten as soon as possible to learn the exact truth of all
these rumors."

"So you are here, Betsey?" exclaimed Mrs. Swan, putting her head in at
the door. "I thought I saw you go by, and followed as soon as I could
get my things on."

"Well, I never!" said Mrs. Wynn; "come in; you are just in time. Set by
and I'll put on another cup and saucer. We was just talking over the
new arrival in the village."

"I believe half the population are similarly employed," laughed the
little lady. "Every one I met stopped and spoke to me about it, and as
luck would have it, as I was turning down a cross street I saw Mrs.
Hardyng ahead of me and joined her at once. She told me the whole story.
This Mr. Vaughn is a rich gentleman, who has come down here to marry the
schoolmistress. It seems, too, that she's lately inherited some property
by the death of somebody, I couldn't make out who--some relative I
suppose--though it don't matter. Any ways, a cool fifty thousand has
fell to her, and I don't know as I could point out a more deservin'
person."

"Wonders will never cease!" exclaimed Mrs. Wynn, staring blankly, into
her empty tea cup. "Clemence Graystone turned out to be a rich heiress,
after bein' perfectly abused the whole live-long summer by everybody in
the town of Waveland but me. It's beyond my comprehension. But I always
knew she was a lady, and stuck to her through 'evil and good report.'"

"Fifty thousand dollars!" gasped Miss Pryor; "do I hear aright? I wonder
what Mrs. Dr. Little, and the Briers, and all them that turned against
her, will say to that? It will be a particularly sweet morsel for the
Owens. I must call round and visit each one of them, to enjoy their
discomfiture."

"What a thing it is to be ignorant and narrow-minded," added Mrs. Wynn.
"I can't see how people get along through life without any knowledge of
human nature. Our poor departed Elder used to say he never could quite
make up his mind what to think of a new-comer until he had my opinion of
them, and, if I _do_ say it, as shouldn't say it, I've used these eyes
thus far to pretty good advantage."

"If she'd have used them less about her neighbors and a little more in
looking after that precious daughter of hers," whispered the spinster,
maliciously, as the old lady rose to put away the dishes, "it would have
been better for all concerned, I guess."

"Why, Betsey, how you _do_ talk!" replied Mrs. Swan. Then in a louder
tone: "I came near forgetting another thing that I wanted to ask you
about. I've sustained a dreadful shock. It's on account of these new
people at the Burton place. I had a long confidential talk with Sister
Arguseye, lately, and I haven't had a peaceful moment since. She called
in to see me to warn me about associating with them. You know she came
from the same place that they did, and knew all about the family."

"What did she say?" chorused both voices.

"Well, I'm grieved to say her report wasn't favorable. It seems the
elder Mrs. Garnet, who appears to be a perfect pattern of propriety, has
a grown-up, illegitimate daughter, whose existence they are trying to
conceal from strangers, whom they think they can successfully impose
upon."

"They have come to the wrong place for that. Vice will be exposed in
this community, and the workers of iniquity receive their reward,"
responded Mrs. Wynn, oracularly, and pursing up her thin lips and
sniffing her sharp nose higher in the air; "we must ferret this out,
Betsey."

"We must, indeed," echoed the spinster, looking as if nothing would
delight her more; "such a state of affairs cannot be tolerated in our
midst."

"The worst part of it is," continued Mrs. Swan, "they say that the
modest-looking daughter-in-law, whom I have felt so interested in, is
equally culpable, and married the son for similar reasons. I feel
dreadfully about the affair, for I was expecting a good deal of
enjoyment in their society."

"They seem very intelligent and agreeable people; but I can't doubt
Sister Arguseye's positive assertion. A minister's wife couldn't lie,"
said the elder lady, in a tone that showed deep conviction of an
unpleasant truth. "There is but one way to find out; to go and state the
facts, and have the truth elicited."

"But who is to do it?" asked Mrs. Swan. "_I_ can't."

"Are you equal to the emergency, Betsey?" asked. Mrs. Wynn.

"I believe I possess the Christian fortitude to do my duty, however
disagreeable it may be," replied that personage, with the air of a
martyr being led to the stake.

"There, it is settled," said the old lady. "We will go together"--which
they did that very day.

Pretty little Mrs. Garnet had finished her work for the day, donned a
fresh calico that fitted her plump form without a wrinkle, and sat
crooning a soft lullaby to that objectionable baby, when they entered.
She welcomed the ladies hospitably, but eyed askance their sombre and
awful countenances.

"It's a pleasant day," she said, by way of starting conversation.

"There's _nothing_ pleasant to me, in this wicked world," said Miss
Pryor, dolorously.

"How is your rheumatism, Mrs. Wynn?" she asked again, after a prolonged
silence, hoping better success from this question regarding that worthy
lady's manifold ailments.

"It's heavenly in comparison with the state of my mind," was the
unlooked-for response.

Then there was another dreadful pause, broken at length by the elder of
the group. "I've a revelation to make, neighbor, that is of such a
nature that I shudder to speak upon the subject, and which closely
concerns more than one person in this immediate vicinity."

Thereupon the good lady proceeded to unfold the story that had emanated
from the minister's wife, in regard to the deplorable state of the
morals of these new-comers in the quiet village.

Instead of being shocked at the recital, and literally extinguished, as
she undoubtedly ought to have been, by the knowledge that her former
little peccadillos had come to light, the bright-eyed hostess burst out
laughing in the very faces of the lugubrious guests.

"It's turned out as I expected," she said, at last, when she had done
laughing. "Now, ladies, so far as these slanderous reports concern
myself, I care very little about them, for I can refute them by
bringing convincing proof to the contrary." Thus saying, she rose, and,
after a short disappearance, returned with a marriage certificate and
the family records. "Here," she said, "is the date of my marriage, some
three years back, and the birth of our only child--just one year ago.
Baby was twelve months old yesterday.

"But now comes the disagreeable part of the story. My husband's mother,
whom I love and respect, for having, in the years since I first knew
her, been all that I could ask in a parent, had one painful episode in
her life. She was to have been married to a wealthy gentleman, whom she
loved devotedly; but, on the day appointed for the wedding, the expected
bridegroom met with an accident, which proved immediately fatal. After
he was buried, the object of his fondest affection found _what_ his loss
at such a moment had become to her. A dreadful truth was revealed to
her, which became immediately known to those most interested in her
welfare. Furious with rage, and forgetting that his child needed now his
tenderest care, the outraged father drove her from his door, with the
command never to enter it. It was then that a former lover, who had
worshipped her from afar in the days of her prosperity, came forward and
offered her his protection and an honorable name, that had never been
sullied by disgrace.

"In her distressed circumstances, she accepted him thankfully. They were
married immediately, and not long after this child of the former lover
was born. It was the one false step of a young, inexperienced girl, and
bitterly repented and atoned for in after life. The story is well known
where these facts occurred, as there was not the least attempt at
concealment."

"Then you admit, Madam, that your relative _did_ commit a grievous wrong
at one portion of her life," said Miss Pryor, with a glance of severe
virtue.

"But she repented, Betsey, and was forgiven, we trust," said Mrs. Wynn,
gently, thinking of one at home who had wrung her aged heart by a
similar misstep.

"That is not all I have to say upon the subject, either," said Mrs.
Garnet, spiritedly. "Since the minister's dashing lady has commenced
this cowardly attack upon one I love, I shall not hesitate to speak the
entire truth. This widow, who was never a wife until she lately married
her present husband, and who, I regret to say, has thereby imposed upon
a very worthy man, has a grown daughter of unsound mind, who is bound
out to a family, where it is well known she has not been treated any too
kindly. The heartless mother, engrossed in the pursuit of some victim of
sufficient credulity to easily fall into her snares, has spent her time,
and what money she could earn, in beautifying and displaying her
bold-looking face and unwieldy figure, totally regardless of this
unhappy being, who has never known a mother's love and care. I can
imagine the reason for her opening hostilities in this manner. Knowing
that we were perfectly familiar with every portion of her former
history, and judging by her own spiteful self that we would improve the
first opportunity to make the facts known, she thought to poison the
minds of the community, so that our story would not be believed.
However, this was all labor spent in vain. Mother and I mutually agreed,
that if the woman chose to reform, we would be the last to injure her in
the estimation of others."

"Can you prove this?" demanded Miss Pryor, gazing stolidly at the
animated speaker.

"I can, by producing the lady's own daughter, of whose very existence, I
doubt not, the pious Elder is at this moment in profound ignorance,"
said Mrs. Garnet.

"That alters the case materially, then," said Mrs. Wynn. "These facts
must be carefully investigated, and if they are true, it's very likely
our new minister will have occasion to resign before long. You don't
bear any hardness, I hope, neighbor. It's been a very tryin' task, but
somebody had to undertake it."

"Of course," was the reply. "Our object is to elicit the truth, and I am
willing to help probe this matter to the bottom."

"Now," said Betsey Pryor, when they were again upon the street, "we will
stir up some excitement, I guess. Let's go to the minister's as straight
as ever we can."



CHAPTER XVII.


Miss Pryor had never uttered a truer remark than the one at the close of
our last chapter. There _was_ an excitement in the little village,
before which the sensation created by the pretty schoolmistress, became
as nothing. The wordy war raged fiercely, and life-long enmities were
created between those who had been intimate friends, endeared to each
other by years of pleasant intercourse.

Meanwhile the offending Garnets were socially ostracized. Only little
Mrs. Swan resolutely defended them. It seemed that this determined lady
was destined to become the champion of all the persecuted of her own sex
in the tiny village.

Of course, this matter found its way before the dignitaries of the
church, over which the worthy Elder presided. Dr. Little, as one of its
most influential members, hastened to give his support to his
professional brother, and bitterly denounced these intruders, who sought
to create disturbance by their idle tales. The minister's wife and the
doctor's lady became like sisters in their friendship, and it followed
that the feminine portion of the Garnet family were under a ban that
excluded them from speech or friendly intercourse with any but the
single exception we have before mentioned.

If that had been all, these innocent objects of aversion might have
stood aloof and cared little, in the conscious power of rectitude. At
first they trusted that some new excitement might arise to absorb public
attention, and they be released from their painful position and
disagreeable notoriety. But, with time, their trouble seemed to increase
instead of diminish, and only added to the difficulties of their
situation.

At length old Mr. Garnet rose in righteous wrath. "Wife," he said,
emphatically, "I never had anything to do with a woman's quarrel before.
I did think that after this Prudence Penrose, that has imposed upon the
parson, found we wasn't going to say nothin' about her half-witted
daughter, that she'd take the hint and let us alone; but I see she needs
a lesson. I am sorry, seein' how things has turned out, that I hadn't
interfered before the affair went so far, but it isn't too late now.
There's the minister, and Dr. Little, and Deacon Jones, and a lot more
of them, goin' to hold a meetin' about sueing my little daughter-in-law
for slander, against the character of a woman that never had any to
lose. So I reckon I will have my say on the subject, too." Which he set
about doing directly.

Shortly after the irate old gentleman was seen in close conversation
with the village constable, and after some plotting, that worthy started
with the swiftest team in all Waveland for Ainsworth, the former
residence of both the Garnet family and the minister's lady.

Mrs. Swan was sitting with little baby Garnet on her lap, at her
friend's house, the next evening, when the door burst open and Mr.
Garnet, senior, appeared in a state of excitement, such as he had never
been seen before by the little brown-eyed woman, who looked up with a
startled glance at his unexpected entrance.

"Richie's come," he shouted, waving his hat triumphantly. "I've sent for
her, and here she is. I gave the Constable a commission, and he's been
and brought Richie, and got all the proofs of her parentage."

"Thank Heaven!" said Mrs. Swan, giving the baby a toss in the air, while
its little soft-hearted mother hid her head on the old man's shoulder,
and shed a few tears of thankfulness and relief.

"What! crying just at the hour of triumph?" said her spirited friend. "I
did not know how cruelly you had suffered from these base suspicions,
until now."

"There, there, child," said Mr. Garnet, gently, smoothing the satin hair
with his horny hand, "get on your things and wrap up the baby. There's a
select few up at Dr. Little's to-night, and, though he ain't a
particular friend of mine, I've a notion to give him a surprise party, a
kind of comin' out occasion, you know, for the minister's new
step-daughter."

The spacious parlors of the doctor's residence were as brilliantly
lighted as the illuminating power of six large kerosene lamps, in full
blaze, would allow, and as Mr. Garnet had declared, a "select few" of
that gentleman's friends were there assembled, to talk over the
feasibility of the minister's calling the detractors of his amiable wife
to a speedy account before the proper authorities of the village.

That injured lady sat enthroned in easy chair, in a quiet corner,
casting martyr-like looks upon her sympathizers. Just as we are
observing that stately personage, she interrupted the Elder, who had
been speaking, with great volubility, "Don't say another word upon this
painful subject, husband. I can't bear it. To think that all my
well-meant efforts should be rewarded with such base ingratitude, wounds
me deeply. Still I would use no harsh measures, but ever incline to the
side of mercy."

"But justice must be done, my dear sister," said the doctor. "In your
generous disinterestedness, you must not forget that you owe something
to your husband and the church, over which he presides. Your dignity
must be sustained, and it would never do to pass over this matter, since
it has become the theme of idle gossip for the whole town. _I_ advise my
brother to call in the aid of the law, without delay."

"Oh, I could never think of that," returned the lady; "something else
will have to be decided upon. I do not wish the Elder to be drawn into a
lawsuit on my account. I can live down these foul aspersions. In time,
these people, whom I have come among, will know me as I am."

It seemed as if the lady's prophetic forebodings were to be literally
verified then and there. As she ceased speaking, there came an imperious
summons at the street door, that turned all eyes immediately toward the
one mode of entrance and exit.

"Ahem!" said the host, moving with majestic tread to answer the knock,
"it seems that we are to have some more visitors." "What! who!" as the
corpulent figure of old Mr. Garnet appeared upon the threshold.

"Good evening, doctor; you did not expect me, I know," said that
gentleman, coming forward, "but I thought I'd drop in unceremoniously
with my friends, here," (turning and revealing the little group behind
him,) "as I had some particular business with two of your guests, that
could not possibly be delayed."

At that moment a piercing shriek was heard from the corner, where the
minister's lady sank in a terror of guilt and shame. She had caught
sight of a slender, ill-clad figure, that stood peering in from the
darkness without, at the light and warmth of the cheerful room. The
great, wild, haggard eyes glanced curiously and searchingly around, till
they reached the woman's hiding place, and rested upon a form strangely
familiar; then, with a slow, shuffling, uncertain gait, Richie Penrose
strayed into the room, regardless of those who watched her, and went
directly up to the rigid figure, that bore on its white, set features
the very impress of despair.

"Mother," the girl said, kneeling before her, and speaking in confused,
stammering accents, "they told me you sent for me to come to you and be
cared for, and have food and warm, pretty clothing, and no hard work or
cross words or blows, such as they gave me in the home I left. You used
to promise me, mother, that when you got somebody with gold enough to
buy all these, that you'd take me away from there. So, when that man
came for me, I hurried and got away before they should be sorry, and
come and take me back again. Is this the pretty home you used to tell me
about? and is that man my father?"

There was no reply to this last question. The minister's wife had
fainted.

All eyes were now turned toward her unfortunate husband. He rose to his
feet, reeling from the effects of the sudden shock, and the dreary
hopelessness of his face touched every heart. "My friends," he said,
huskily, "there is little to be said. This sudden revelation has crushed
me, till my soul grows faint with the bitterness of a terrible woe.
Believe me, I have had no part in this wicked deception, but only
considered that I was in the pathway of stern duty, in defending the
character of my wife from those who I was led to believe were her
enemies. I ask your forgiveness and sympathy;" then, without a word of
adieu, groping like one shut from broad daylight into thick darkness, he
passed out from among them, while those who looked on with moistened
eyes knew that this cruel blow had broken his heart.

Old Mr. Garnet drew the back of his rough hand across his eyes. "I'm
a'most sorry I meddled," he said, regretfully. "It's the first and last
woman's quarrel I ever mix up in. But I couldn't have them grieving my
little Daisy to death. What possessed the woman to stir up this piece of
mischief?"

"What's to become of the girl?" interrogated Dr. Little. "I don't want
her left on my hands. And allow me to say, sir, that I consider this
intrusion in my house an unpardonable liberty."

"Very well," was the reply, "our business is ended, and we will
withdraw. As for this unfortunate child, I will care for her until her
proper guardians manifest a disposition to relieve me of the charge."

Not a little to the surprise of all Waveland, the woman who suddenly
found herself the center of observation, and whose haughty spirit could
not brook humiliation, disappeared immediately after this eventful
episode, leaving no clue to her whereabouts.

The unfortunate Richie was provided with a comfortable home, and upon
the death of her mother's husband, which occurred not long after, she
came into possession of a sum sufficient to provide for her maintenance
during the rest of her life.

Years after, a woman haggard and old, with traces of crime upon her
hardened features, passed through the little village, begging her way to
a neighboring city. A simple-minded girl, sitting in a doorway, whom she
accosted for alms, emptied all her little store of pocket money into the
poor wayfarer's outstretched palm. This girl was none other than Richie,
and the woman who failed to recognize the vacant but placid face, was
her own unhappy mother.



CHAPTER XVIII.


It was the eve of the New Year. The snow had folded its white mantle
over the earth, and in the gardens, where the flowers had hidden their
fragile beauty from the ruthless fingers of the Frost King, it gleamed
whitely from amid the sombre foliage of the hardy evergreens. On lawn
and terrace it lay in uneven drifts, tossed at will by the chilling
winter winds. Pendant from tree and shrub hung glittering icicles, and
on the window panes the frostwork looked like the invisible effort of
some fairy spirits, that a breath from mortals would dissolve.

The bright New Year is ever welcomed as a season of enjoyment for those
who have happy homes, where friends meet around well-laden boards, to
return thanks for past prosperity, and form plans for future happiness.
But to others, friendless, forsaken, and perhaps weary of a life of
ill-requited toil, the retrospection is often inexpressibly mournful.

Alone in her room, at her friend's humble cottage, sat Clemence
Graystone, watching for the noiseless incoming of another year. The
light gleamed redly out from the blazing wood fire, lighting up the
small apartment with its cheerful glow, but failed to call anything like
warmth or color to the marble face that drooped low with its weight of
painful thought.

The morrow was to be her wedding day. She raised her head and glanced
around the room, which was filled with all the paraphernalia of the
wedding toilet.

An undefined dread took possession of her. It seemed as though this
happiness, that appeared so near, was yet to elude her. A mirror stood
where she could behold her own image. A sadness stole over the girl's
spirit as she looked at the semblance of herself there reflected. As she
gazed, she seemed to be communing with some invisible presence, and she
found herself pitying the young face in the mirror, as if it were
another than her own.

While she looked sorrowfully, a second shadow became dimly outlined
behind it. Clemence started in momentary terror. The thought occurred to
her of the old-time superstition connected with this illusion. She
remembered that an old nurse had told her in childhood that it was an
omen of death to behold this spectral shadow. In spite of her freedom
from vulgar superstition, her lips grew colorless, and her heart beat
with alarm. She sank down again into her chair, cowering close to the
cheerful fire.

An hour passed thus. The clock struck twelve. The girl roused herself
again at this--remembered that this was to be the most eventful day of
her existence. "I must retire," she soliloquized; "it will never do to
have pale cheeks or troubled thoughts for my wedding day. Would that I
could make myself beautiful for his dear sake."

A smile of hope and joy wreathed the lips of the soft-eyed dreamer. She
paced the floor absently backward and forward, with far-off gaze; then
knelt at her bedside and breathed to the kind All Father a prayer for
guidance and strength for what might come to her.

Clemence Graystone's future seemed, for the first time since her
father's sudden death, to hold in it somewhat of happiness for her
portion. The dreary waste had changed to a smiling landscape, that
glowed beneath skies of a roseate hue. There was surely nothing now to
fear. With the love of one powerful to protect her from life's ills,
means to lavish upon the wistful-eyed child who had grown each day
deeper into her affections, and a firm, trusting faith in the guidance
of One who ruleth over the world He has created, a faith that had kept
her from despair in the darkest hour, and made her young life beautiful;
with hope beckoning, with smiling eyes, to the crowning glory of
womanhood, this girl, who had suffered so much from fate, ought to have
been content and happy. But the mysterious shadow of her coming doom
brooded darkly over her.

At length, inspired with a sudden feeling, for which she could hardly
account, Clemence rose, and seated herself at her writing-desk. If she
had been given to spiritual sympathies, she would have said that her
hand was controlled by some unseen power. As it was, there was a look of
awe upon the pallid face that bent to the task, and the girl was whiter
than the paper before her, as she wrote thus:

     MY DEAREST FRIEND: Something within me, a strange, mysterious
     influence, the whisperings, perhaps, of some angel spirit sent to
     call me hence, impels me to write these few words of farewell.

     If nothing should happen me, if my life should flow on tranquilly
     into the valley of peace that my fond fancy pictured, then I will
     keep this to laugh over, as the wild vagaries of an over-wrought,
     excited imagination. But, if death should find me at my labor of
     love, you will know how irrevocably my heart has been given to you,
     and realize somewhat of the depths of that affection which my lips
     have never dared to frame. Oh, my darling, had I been permitted to
     live, I would have worshipped you; and if God calls me, I will
     still hover around you, and be the first to welcome one I loved to
     Heaven. All that you have been to the weary-hearted girl, you will
     never know. Life seemed hopeless, but your affection has made it a
     dream of happiness. I have wanted to tell you how deeply your image
     was graven on my heart; how one face that was dear to me haunted my
     sleeping and waking dreams. I would have lived for you, and can die
     breathing a blessing for your future.

     There is one other that I have cared for as a mother would the babe
     she carried in her bosom. My patient, tender-eyed Ruth--watch over
     her when I am gone. Sometimes, when thinking of this hour, I have
     prayed that its bitterness might be averted. Realizing the agony of
     parting, the cruel severing of the clinging tendrils of unselfish
     affection, I have shrunk from the trial. But now I feel that my
     strength is sufficient, even unto the end. Though I walk through
     the "valley of the shadow of death," I do not fear, for I can
     behold the light that breaks beyond, "over the delectable
     mountains."

     My own Love! Strive to meet me there. Others have gone before--the
     fond eyes that watched over my cradle, the mother who nursed me
     during the hours of helpless infancy, and he who sheltered and
     protected my early youth with tenderest care. I shall know and love
     them again. The thought makes me happy.

     I have one last request to make. During my years of loneliness,
     when I have met with so much to dishearten and discourage me in my
     efforts to earn an honest livelihood, I have learned to pity the
     struggling, self-supporting ones of my sex, as only those can pity
     and sympathize who have suffered from a similar cause. I have often
     wished that I had means to provide a home, not for "fallen women,"
     but for those patient toilers who are breasting the cruel,
     overwhelming waves of adversity. There are many such, thrown from
     loving homes upon the charities of a cold and selfish world. It is
     my desire to benefit them, and, with this end in view, I would
     leave the money which has so lately come to me, to be expended in
     the erection of a home to shelter helpless and unprotected women,
     who are incapable of self-support, either wholly or in part.

     This is no school-girl fancy, but a plan long matured, formed from
     experience and observation. It is a sorrowful fact, that has come
     within my own knowledge, that more than one delicately-reared girl,
     having an innate love of virtue and horror of vice, has fallen into
     infamy from this cause. They have resorted to crime from a total
     inability to sustain themselves in even the humblest manner, or
     provide the coarsest food and clothing by their own unaided
     efforts. I would be glad to give what means and influence I may
     possess for so worthy an object, and I trust you to carry out these
     my last wishes.

     I can write no more. God be with and comfort you, my own, own love.

That was all. The pen dropped from the nerveless grasp. Clemence bent
her head wearily on the table, and fell into a trance-like slumber.

The night waned. The dawn of the New Year found the pale sleeper with
her golden head still pillowed on her arm, and the last words that the
slender fingers would ever trace, waiting for the coming of one to break
the spell of silence, that had hushed the pale-browed sleeper into
everlasting rest.



CONCLUSION.


"Dead! dead! dead!" moaned Ulrica Hardyng, bending in agony over the
lifeless form, and looking vainly for some answering gleam of
recognition in the blue eyes, that had ever beamed upon her with glances
of love and sympathy.

And this was the end of all these months of working and waiting, which
was to be crowned with a glorious fruition that had filled all hearts
with joyous anticipation.

But there was no time for idle sorrow. A little white-robed figure, with
great wild eyes, and tangled curls falling over dimpled shoulders, stole
into the room, and flung herself at the feet of the still figure, that
drooped now in the woman's arms; and then a cry rang through the house,
so fraught with anguish, that people hurrying by, in the early morning
light, stood with startled faces, and questioned as to its cause, then
reverently entered the house of woe.

Below, in the little parlor of the cottage, they laid all that was
mortal of Clemence Graystone, and there, he who had hastened to meet the
loved one, passed the long hours of that New Year's day alone with his
dead.

Grief, like joy, should be sacred from stranger eyes, and we will not
linger over the scene, but glide softly from the place that has been
made desolate by the dread presence of the destroyer.

They buried the young teacher by the side of the child she had loved in
life, and whose sad dream was thus fulfilled. The people whom she had
come among, only to be slighted, and more than that, persecuted with
malignant energy, united at her death in awarding the meed of praise
they had denied her in life. It mattered little, though, to one who had
left the cares and trials of earth behind, what remorseful tears were
shed over her mortal remains. It was all over now, and the troubled
heart had found peace, and that pure joy which "floweth like a river."

In the little cemetery at Waveland there is one carefully-tended spot,
that is the shrine at which a little group of sable-clad mourners meet,
to mingle their tears and prayers together. Two of them are elderly
women, who greet each other as "Alicia" and "Ulrica," and the others, a
grave-faced man, leading by the hand a young, delicate-looking girl, are
Ruth, and her guardian, Wilfred Vaughn.

The marble slab before which they kneel, bears this upon its pure
surface: "Clemence Graystone, aged 21 years." And underneath, the simple
but expressive words, "At rest."


THE END.





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