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´╗┐Title: His Heart's Queen
Author: Sheldon, Mrs. Georgie, 1843-1926
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "His Heart's Queen" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



HIS HEART'S QUEEN


_By_ MRS. GEORGIE SHELDON


Author of

"Dorothy's Jewels," "Earl Wayne's Nobility," "The False and the True,"
"Helen's Victory," "Tina," "Trixy," etc.



A. L. BURT COMPANY, PUBLISHERS
52 Duane Street    New York

Copyright 1890, 1903
By Street & Smith

A. L. BURT COMPANY
Publishers    New York



Popular Books
By MRS. GEORGIE SHELDON

In Handsome Cloth Binding
Price per Volume, 60 Cents

Audrey's Recompense                   Magic Cameo, The
Brownie's Triumph                     Marguerite's Heritage
Churchyard Betrothal, The             Masked Bridal, The
Dorothy Arnold's Escape               Max, A Cradle Mystery
Dorothy's Jewels                      Mona
Earl Wayne's Nobility                 Mysterious Wedding Ring, A
Edrie's Legacy                        Nora
Faithful Shirley                      Queen Bess
False and The True, The               Ruby's Reward
For Love and Honor,                   Shadowed Happiness, A,
  Sequel to Geoffrey's Victory          Sequel to Wild Oats
Forsaken Bride, The                   Sibyl's Influence
Geoffrey's Victory                    Stella Roosevelt
Girl in a Thousand, A                 Thorn Among Roses, A,
Golden Key, The                         Sequel to a Girl in a Thousand
Heatherford Fortune, The,             Threads Gathered Up,
  Sequel to The Magic Cameo             Sequel to Virgie's Inheritance
He Loves Me For Myself,               Thrice Wedded
  Sequel to the Lily of Mordaunt      Tina
Helen's Victory                       Trixy
Her Faith Rewarded,                   True Aristocrat, A
  Sequel to Faithful Shirley          True Love Endures,
Her Heart's Victory,                    Sequel to Dorothy Arnold's Escape
  Sequel to Max                       True Love's Reward,
Heritage of Love, A,                    Sequel to Mona
  Sequel to The Golden Key            True to Herself,
His Heart's Queen                       Sequel to Witch Hazel
Hoiden's Conquest, A                  Two Keys
How Will It End,                      Virgie's Inheritance
  Sequel to Marguerite's Heritage     Wedded By Fate
Lily of Mordaunt, The                 Welfleet Mystery, The
Little Marplot, The                   Wild Oats
Little Miss Whirlwind                 Winifred's Sacrifice
Lost, A Pearle                        Witch Hazel
Love's Conquest,                      With Heart so True,
  Sequel to Helen's Victory             Sequel to His Heart's Queen
Love Victorious, A

For Sale by all Booksellers or will be sent postpaid on receipt of price


    Transcriber's Note: Variant spellings, particularly bowlder
    (boulder), clew (clue) and vail (veil), have been retained.
    Also, the Table of Contents was missing so it has been created.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER I.       A FRIGHTFUL ACCIDENT.
CHAPTER II.      V. D. H. IS CLAIMED BY HER FRIENDS.
CHAPTER III.     WILLFUL VIOLET HAS HER OWN WAY.
CHAPTER IV.      A PARTING SOUVENIR.
CHAPTER V.       VIOLET ASSERTS HERSELF.
CHAPTER VI.      A CONFESSION AND ITS REPLY.
CHAPTER VII.     "HE IS MY AFFIANCED HUSBAND."
CHAPTER VIII.    "I'LL BREAK HER WILL!"
CHAPTER IX.      VIOLET BECOMES A PRISONER.
CHAPTER X.       "YOU WILL BE TRUE THOUGH THE OCEAN DIVIDES US."
CHAPTER XI.      "DEATH HAS RELEASED YOU FROM YOUR PROMISE."
CHAPTER XII.     "YOU HAVE GIVEN YOUR PROMISE AND YOU MUST STAND BY IT."
CHAPTER XIII.    THE DAY IS SET FOR VIOLET'S MARRIAGE.
CHAPTER XIV.     "THERE WILL BE NO WEDDING TO-DAY"
CHAPTER XV.      "SHE IS MY WIFE."
CHAPTER XVI.     "I MUST FIND HER--I MUST FOLLOW HER."
CHAPTER XVII.    LORD CAMERON AND WALLACE BECOME FIRM FRIENDS.
CHAPTER XVIII.   THE FACE AT THE WINDOW.
CHAPTER XIX.     A RETROSPECTIVE GLANCE.
CHAPTER XX.      VIOLET RETURNS TO AMERICA.
CHAPTER XXI.     VIOLET MAKES AN ENGAGEMENT.
CHAPTER XXII.    VIOLET AND HER UNRULY PUPIL.
CHAPTER XXIII.   VIOLET GAINS A SIGNAL VICTORY.
CHAPTER XXIV.    VIOLET MEETS WITH AN ACCIDENT.



HIS HEART'S QUEEN



CHAPTER I.

A FRIGHTFUL ACCIDENT.


Just at sunset, one bright spring day, the car that plies up and down
the inclined plane leading from the foot of Main street up the hills to
the Zoological Gardens, of Cincinnati, started to make the ascent with
its load of precious human freight.

The car was full of passengers, though not crowded, while among the
occupants there were several young people, whose bright faces and
animated manner bespoke how light of heart and free from care they
were--what a gladsome, delightful place the world seemed to them.

One young lady, who was seated about midway upon one side of the car,
attracted especial attention.

She was, perhaps, seventeen years of age, slight and graceful in form,
with a lovely, piquant face, merry blue eyes, and a wealth of curling
golden hair, that clustered about her white forehead in bewitching
little rings.

She was richly dressed in a charming costume of tan-brown, trimmed with
a darker shade of the same color. Upon her head she wore a jaunty hat of
fine brown straw, with a wreath of pink apple-blossoms partially
encircling it, and fastened on one side with a pretty bow of glossy
satin ribbon, also of brown. A dainty pair of bronze boots incased her
small feet, and her hands were faultlessly gloved in long suede
gauntlets. A small, brown velvet bag, with silver clasps, hung at her
side, and in her lap lay an elegant music-roll of Russian leather.

Everything about her indicated that she was the petted child of fortune
and luxury. Her beautiful eyes were like limpid pools of water
reflecting the azure sky; her lips were wreathed with smiles; there was
not a shadow of care upon her delicate, clear-cut face.

Directly opposite her sat a young man whose appearance indicated that
his circumstances were just the reverse, although no one could ever look
into his noble face without feeling impelled to take a second glance at
him.

He was tall and stalwart of form, broad-shouldered, full-chested,
straight of limb, with a massive head set with a proud poise above a
well-shaped neck. He looked the personification of manly beauty,
strength, and health.

His face was one that, once seen, could never be forgotten. It was grave
and sweet, yet having a certain resolute expression about the mouth
which might have marred its expression somewhat had it not been for the
mirthful gleam which now and then leaped into his clear, dark-brown
eyes, and which betrayed that, beneath the gravity and dignity which a
life of care and the burden of poverty had chiseled upon his features
and imparted to his bearing, there lurked a spirit of quiet drollery and
healthy humor.

His features were strong and regular; the brow full and shapely, the
nose aquiline, the mouth firm, the chin somewhat massive. It was a
powerful face--a good face; one to be trusted and relied on.

The young man was, perhaps, twenty-three or twenty-four years of age,
though at first his dignified bearing might lead one to imagine him to
be even older than that.

He was clad in a very common suit, which betrayed his poverty, while at
his feet, in a basket, lay a plane and saw, which indicated that he
belonged to the carpenters' guild.

The pretty girl opposite stole more than one curious and admiring look
at this poor young Apollo, only to encounter a similar, though wholly
respectful glance from his genial and expressive eyes, whereupon the
lovely color would come and go on her fair, round cheek, and her eyes
droop shyly beneath their white lids.

When the car left its station at the base of the plane and began to make
its ascent, not one among all its passengers had a thought of the
terrible experience awaiting them--of the tragedy following so closely
in their wake.

It had nearly reached the top; another minute, and it would have rolled
safely into the upper station and have been made fast at the terminus.

But, suddenly, something underneath seemed to let go; there was an
instant's pause, which sent a thrill of terror through every heart; then
there began a slow retrograde movement, which rapidly increased, until,
with a feeling of terror that is utterly indescribable the ill-fated
people in that doomed car realized that they were being hurried swiftly
toward a sure and frightful destruction.

Cries and shrieks and groans filled the place. There was a frantic rush
for the door, the doomed victims seeking to force their way out of the
car to leap recklessly from the flying vehicle, and trust thus to the
faint hope of saving their lives.

But both doors were securely fastened--they were all locked within their
prison; there was no hope of escape from it and the terrible crash
awaiting them.

When the beautiful girl whom we have described realized the hopeless
situation, she gave one cry of horror, then seemed to grow suddenly and
strangely calm, though a pallor like that of death settled over her
face, and a look of wild despair leaped into her eyes.

Involuntarily she glanced at the young man opposite her, and she found
his gaze riveted upon her with a look of intense yearning, which
betrayed that he had no thought for himself; that all his fear was for
her; that the idea of seeing her, in all her bright young beauty, dashed
in pieces, crushed and mangled, had overpowered all sense of his own
personal doom.

She seemed to read his thoughts, and, like one in a dream or nightmare,
she almost unconsciously stretched forth her hands to him with a gesture
which seemed to appeal to him to save her.

Instantly he arose to his feet, calm, strong, resolute.

His face was as pale as hers, but there was a gleam in his eyes which
told her that he would not spare himself in the effort to save her.

"Will you trust me?" he murmured hoarsely in her ear, as he caught her
trembling hands in his.

Her fingers closed over his with a frantic clutch; her eyes sought his
in desperate appeal.

"Yes! yes!" Her white lips framed the words, but no sound issued from
them.

The car had now attained a frightful velocity; a moment or two more and
all would be over, and there was not an instant to lose.

The young man reached up and grasped with his strong, sinewy hands the
straps which hung from the supports above his head.

"Quick now!" he said to his almost paralyzed companion; "stand up, put
your arms about my neck, and cling to me for your life."

She looked helplessly up into his face; it seemed as if she had not the
power to move--to obey him.

With a despairing glance from the window and a groan of anguish, he
released his hold upon the straps, seized her hands again, and locked
them behind his neck.

"Cling! Cling!" he cried, in a voice of agony.

The tone aroused her; strength came to her, and she clasped him
close--close as a person drowning might have done.

He straightened himself thus, lifting her several inches from the floor
of the car, seized again the straps above, and swung himself also clear,
hoping thus to evade somewhat the terrible force of the shock which he
knew was so near.

He was not a second too soon; the crash came, and with it one frightful
volume of agonizing shrieks and groans; then all was still.

The car had been dashed into thousands of pieces, burying beneath the
_debris_ twenty human beings.

A group of horrified spectators had gathered in the street at the base
of the plane when it was rumored that the car had lost its grip upon the
cable, and had watched, with quaking hearts and bated breath, the awful
descent.

When all was over, kind and reverent hands began the sad work of
exhuming the unfortunate victims of the accident.

It was thought at first that all were dead--that not one had escaped;
that every soul had been hurled, with scarcely a moment's warning, into
eternity.

The brave young carpenter was found lying beneath two mangled bodies,
with the beautiful girl whom he had tried to save clasped close in one
of his arms; the other lay crushed beneath him.

"Brother and sister," some one had said, as, bending over them, he had
tried to disengage the lovely girl from his embrace.

He had only been stunned, however, by the shock, when the car struck,
and he now opened his great brown eyes, drawing in a deep, deep breath,
as if thus taking hold anew of the life that had so nearly been dashed
out of him.

This was followed by a groan of pain, and he became conscious that he
had not escaped altogether unscathed.

"Is she safe?" he gasped, his first thought, in spite of his own
sufferings, being for the girl for whom he had braved so much, while he
tried to look into the white, still face hidden upon his breast.

They tried to lift her from him, but her little hands were so tightly
locked at the back of his neck that it was no easy task to unclasp them.

"She is dead," a voice said, when at last she was removed, and some one
tried to ascertain if her heart was still beating; "the shock has killed
her."

"No, no!" sobbed the now completely unnerved young carpenter; "do not
tell me that she is--dead."

"Who are you, my poor fellow? Where do you live? Shall we take you to
the hospital, or do you want to go home?" they asked him.

"Oh, no, not to the hospital--home to my mother," the young man
returned, with difficulty, for his sufferings seemed to increase as he
came to himself more fully.

"No. ---- Hughes street," the poor fellow gasped, and then fainted dead
away.

They had not thought to inquire if the young girl was his sister, but
they took it for granted that she was, so they laid them side by side
and bore them away to Hughes street.

They found, upon inquiry, that the house referred to was occupied by a
Mrs. Richardson.

The woman was away when the sad cortege arrived at her home, but a
latch-key was found in the pocket of the young man, by which an entrance
was effected, and they deposited him upon a bed in a small room leading
from the sitting-room, while the young girl was laid upon a lounge in
the neat and cozy parlor. Then they hastened away to procure a physician
to examine the injuries of the two sufferers.

Mrs. Richardson returned, just about the time that the surgeon arrived,
to find that her only son had been one of the victims of the horrible
tragedy, a rumor of which had reached her while she was out, and that a
strange but lovely girl had also been brought, through mistake, to her
home.

The surgeon turned his attention at once to this beautiful stranger,
who, to all appearance, seemed beyond all human aid; but during his
examination his face suddenly lighted.

"She is not dead," he said; "the shock has only caused suspension of
animation. Her heart beats, her pulse is faint, but regular, and I
cannot find a bruise or a scratch anywhere about her."

He gave her into the hands of some women, who had come in to offer their
services, with directions how to apply the restoratives he prescribed,
and then turned his attention to the son of the house, who by this time
had recovered consciousness and was suffering intense pain from his
injuries.

His mother was bending over him in an agony of anxiety and suspense,
while she strove, in various ways, to relieve his sufferings.

"Wallace--Wallace!" she cried; "how did it happen that you were going up
in that car at this time of the day?"

"I cannot tell you now--some other time," he returned.

Then turning to the surgeon, who entered at that moment, while he strove
to stifle his groans in his anxiety to learn how it fared with the girl
whom he had so bravely tried to save, he asked, eagerly.

"How is she?"

"She is not injured; there is not a bone broken that I can discover, and
she will do well enough unless the shock to her nerves should throw her
into a fever or bring on prostration," the doctor replied.

"Thank Heaven!" murmured the carpenter, and then fainted away again.

A thorough examination of his condition revealed the fact that two ribs
had been fractured and his left arm broken in two places, while it was
feared that there might be other internal injuries.

All that could be done for him was done at once, and, though weak and
exhausted, he was otherwise comparatively comfortable when the surgeon
got through with him.

He then turned his attention once more to the fair girl in the other
room.

"You will have your hands more than full, Mrs. Richardson, with your son
and daughter ill at once," he remarked. "You must have an experienced
nurse to assist you."

"The poor girl is not my daughter; I do not even know who she is," the
woman replied, as she bent over the beautiful stranger with a tender,
motherly face.

"Not your child! Who can she be, then?" her companion inquired, in
surprise.

They searched in her pretty velvet bag, hoping to find her card or some
address; but nothing was found save some car tickets and a generous sum
of money.

The inscription upon her music-roll revealed scarcely more--only the
initials "V. D. H." being engraven upon its silver clasp.

She had recovered consciousness, but still lay so weak and faint that
the surgeon did not think it best to question her just then, and, after
taking one more look at his other patient, he went away to other duties,
but promised to look in upon them again in a couple of hours.

When he did return he found Wallace comfortable and sleeping; but the
young girl was in a high fever and raving with delirium.

"Shall I have her taken to the hospital?" Doctor Norton asked of Mrs.
Richardson. "The care of both patients will be far too much for you, and
her friends will probably find her there before long."

"I cannot bear to let her go," Mrs. Richardson replied, with staring
tears. "She is so young, and has been so delicately reared. I know that
she would have the best of care; still I recoil from the thought of
having her moved. Leave her here for a day or two, and, if my son is
comfortable, perhaps I can take care of her without neglecting him."

Thus it was arranged, and the physician went away thinking that women
like Mrs. Richardson were rare.

Two days later the following advertisement appeared in the Cincinnati
papers:

    Wanted, information regarding Miss Violet Draper Huntington,
    who left her home, No. ---- Auburn avenue, on Tuesday
    afternoon, to take a music lesson in the city. Fears have
    been entertained that she might have been one of the victims of
    the Main street accident, but though her friends have thoroughly
    searched the morgue and hospitals, no tidings of her have as
    yet been obtained.

Doctor Morton read the above while on his way to visit his two patients
in Hughes street, and instantly his mind reverted to the initials
engraved upon the unknown girl's music-roll.

"V. D. H.," he said, musingly, as his eyes rested upon the name Violet
Draper Huntington in the advertisement. "That is my pretty patient, poor
child! and now we will have your friends looking after you and relieving
that poor overworked woman before another twelve hours pass."

He showed the advertisement to Mrs. Richardson upon his arrival at the
house, and she agreed with him that her lovely charge must be the Miss
Huntington referred to in the paper.

The girl continued to be in a very critical state. She was burning with
fever, was unconscious of her surroundings, was constantly calling upon
"Belle" and "Wilhelm" to "help her--to save her."

"She is not so well," the physician said, gravely, as he felt the
bounding pulse, "her fever is increasing. I shall go at once to Auburn
avenue and inform her relatives of her condition."



CHAPTER II.

V. D. H. IS CLAIMED BY HER FRIENDS.


Doctor Norton easily found the residence of Violet Huntington's friends
on Auburn avenue, and as he mounted the massive granite steps and rang
the bell of the handsome house he read the name of Mencke on the silver
door-plate.

"Aha! Germans," mused the physician, "wealthy people, too, I judge."

A trim servant in white cap and apron answered his summons, and, upon
inquiring for Mrs. Mencke, he was invited to enter.

He was ushered into a handsome drawing-room, where, upon every hand,
evidence of wealth met his eye, and after giving his card to the girl,
he sat down to await the appearance of the lady of the house.

She did not tax his patience long; the "M. D." upon his card had
evidently impressed Mrs. Mencke with the belief that the physician had
come to bring her some tidings of the beautiful girl who had so
strangely disappeared from her home a few days previous. She came into
the room presently, followed by a man whom Doctor Norton surmised to be
her husband.

Mrs. Mencke was a large, rather fine-looking woman of perhaps thirty
years. Her bearing was proud and self-possessed, and, while there was a
somewhat anxious expression on her face, she nevertheless impressed the
kind-hearted doctor as a person of selfish nature, and lacking in
womanly sympathy.

Her husband was a portly man, dark-complexioned, and German in
appearance. There was a cunning, rather sinister expression on his face;
he had small, black eyes, and a full, shaggy beard, while a pompous
swagger in his bearing betrayed an arrogant disposition and excessive
pride of purse.

"Doctor Norton," Mrs. Mencke began, without waiting for him to state the
errand that had brought him there, "have you come to bring me news of my
sister? Was she in that fatal car--is she injured--dead?"

"If my surmises are correct, and Miss Violet Huntington is your sister,
I can give you tidings of her," Doctor Norton returned.

"Yes, yes; that is her name," Mrs. Mencke interposed.

"Then I am happy to tell you that a young lady of perhaps seventeen or
eighteen years was rescued."

"Rescued!" cried Mrs. Mencke, eagerly. "William," turning to her
husband, "do you hear? How was she rescued?"

"Perhaps I should not have spoken with quite so much confidence,"
corrected the doctor. "But the young lady to whom I refer had with her a
music-roll upon the clasp of which the letters 'V. D. H.' were
engraved."

"That must have been Violet," said Mrs. Mencke. "She went to the city
that afternoon to take her music lesson at four o'clock."

"Then she was saved by a young man--a Mr. Wallace Richardson--in the
recent accident on the inclined plane. Mr. Richardson was severely
injured, but he has been able to give an account of how he prevented the
young lady from being dashed to pieces like many of the other victims,"
Doctor Norton returned.

He then proceeded to relate what Wallace had told him had occurred
during those few horrible moments when that ill-fated car was plunging
at such a fearful rate toward its doom.

Mrs. Mencke appeared to be greatly affected by the thrilling account;
but her phlegmatic husband listened to the recital with a stolidity
which betrayed either a strange indifference or a wonderful control over
his nerves and sympathies.

"Oh! it is the most wonderful thing in the world that she was not killed
outright," Mrs. Mencke remarked, with a shiver of horror, "and we have
been very anxious. You say that she is seriously ill?" she questioned,
in conclusion.

"Yes; the shock to her system has been a serious one, madame," the
physician replied, "and, although there is not a scratch nor a bruise
upon her, she is very ill and delirious at the home of this brave young
carpenter to whom she owes so much."

"Young!" repeated Mrs. Mencke, remarking the adjective for the first
time, and looking somewhat annoyed. "How old is he?"

"About twenty-three or twenty-four, I should judge," was the reply.

A frown settled upon the woman's brow; but after a moment she asked:

"Do you consider her dangerously ill, Doctor Norton?"

"Yes, madame, she is. Your sister is delicately organized, and her
system has had a terrible shock; the horror and fright alone, of those
few dreadful moments, were sufficient to unhinge the strongest nerves,"
the physician gravely replied.

As he said this he happened to glance at Mr. Mencke, and was astonished,
amazed, to observe a look of unmistakable satisfaction, if not of
absolute triumph, flash from his eyes.

What could it mean?

Was it possible that the man, for any secret reason, could desire the
death of this young and beautiful girl?

He had not once spoken as yet, having simply nodded to the doctor, with
a half-suppressed grunt, in answer to his courteous salutation.

"William, do you hear?" his wife now said, turning to him. "Violet is
dangerously ill down on Hughes street. I must go to her at once."

"Certainly, of course," responded her better half, with a shrug of his
corpulent shoulders.

"She is my sister, though much younger than myself, and I have had the
care of her ever since the death of our parents," Mrs. Mencke explained.
"What can I do? Will it be possible to bring her home?"

"I fear not at present," Doctor Norton returned, "but it would be well
to provide a competent nurse for her where she is, as Mrs. Richardson
has her hands more than full with the care of both patients and her
domestic duties also."

"Certainly, Violet shall have every attention," the woman responded,
somewhat haughtily, while the frown deepened upon her brow at the
mention of the people upon whose care her sister had been so strangely
thrown.

Doctor Norton was inwardly indignant that neither of his listeners
should express the slightest gratitude or appreciation for what brave
Wallace Richardson had done to save the young girl's life. Evidently
they were not pleased that she should owe so great a debt to so plebeian
a source.

Mrs. Mencke now arose and excused herself, saying that she would make
ready to accompany the physician to Hughes street to attend to her
sister's needs.

"That was a horrible affair," Doctor Norton observed to Mr. Mencke, as
she left the room, determined to draw out his reticent companion if that
were possible.

"It was beastly," grunted the man, with another shrug; "and the
corporation will have a pretty sum to pay for damages. Will--do you
think the girl--Violet--will die?" and the man leaned eagerly forward, a
greedy sparkle in his small, black eyes.

A flush of anger and disgust mounted to the good doctor's brow at this
question, and like a flash the man's character was revealed to him.

He saw that he was a shrewd, grasping, money-making man, who measured
everything and everybody by dollars and cents; that already, instead of
feeling gratitude, he was computing the chances of making something out
of the "corporation" in the event of the death of his wife's sister, if,
indeed, the girl herself did not possess a fortune which would also fall
into his hands should she die.

"I shall do my best to save her, sir; that is, if I am allowed to retain
the case--and I see no reason why, with proper care, she should not
recover," he forced himself to reply, as courteously as possible.

"Humph!" grunted Mr. Mencke, and then he fell to musing again, doubtless
computing the chances upon some other money-making scheme.

Presently Mrs. Mencke returned, dressed to go out and bearing a
well-filled satchell in her hands. She had hastily gathered a few
articles of comfort for her sister's use.

Doctor Norton and his companion proceeded directly to Hughes street,
where Mrs. Richardson welcomed Mrs. Mencke with motherly kindness and
interest, and then conducted her at once to the bedside of the
unconscious Violet, who was still calling piteously upon Belle and
Wilhelm to save her.

"Belle is here, Violet," said her sister, bending over the sufferer;
"you are safe, and nothing can hurt you now."

At the sound of her familiar voice the sick girl glanced up at her, and
a flash of recognition and consciousness returned for a moment.

"Oh, Belle!" she cried, with a sigh of relief, as she seemed to realize
for the first time that she was safe. "It was so horrible--horrible! But
he was so brave--a hero, and so handsome----"

"Hush, dear; you must not talk about it," interrupted the proud woman,
her brow contracting instantly at this mention of the young carpenter,
while she glanced about the humble though pretty room with an air of
disdain that brought the sensitive color into Mrs. Richardson's cheeks,
and made the physician glare angrily at her for her rudeness.

"Will you remove your hat and wrap, Mrs. Mencke? You will probably like
to remain with your sister for a while," her hostess remarked, with a
lady-like courtesy which betrayed that, whatever her present
circumstances might be, she had at some time moved in cultured society.

"Yes, I shall remain until a suitable nurse can be obtained," the woman
said, coldly, as she gave her hat and mantle into her hands.

Then she turned to Doctor Norton and remarked:

"Doubtless you know of some one who would be competent to take charge of
Miss Huntington?"

"Yes, I know of just the person--she is a trained hospital nurse; but
her compensation is fifteen dollars a week besides her living," Doctor
Norton responded.

"I do not care what her compensation is," replied Mrs. Mencke, with a
slightly curling lip; "I wish Violet to have the best of care. Are you
sure it will not do to have her taken home?" she concluded, with an
anxious glance toward the room, where she had caught a glimpse of the
other patient as she entered.

"Very sure, madame," returned the physician, decidedly. "I would not be
answerable for the consequences if she were removed. With an efficient
nurse, the young lady can be made very comfortable here. Mrs. Richardson
has kindly resigned this room--the best she had--for her use. It is cool
and airy, and you do not need to have any anxiety about her on the score
of her accommodations. If you insist upon removing her, however, it must
be upon your own responsibility."

Mrs. Mencke thought a moment, then she said:

"Very well; it shall be as you advise, and I will come every day to
spend as much time as possible with her. Mrs. Richardson shall be well
paid, too, for her room and all inconvenience."

Mrs. Richardson's delicate face flushed again at this coarse reference
to their obligation to her. There had not been one word of thanks or
appreciation for what she had already done; it seemed as if the haughty
woman considered that her money would cancel everything.

"The dear child is welcome to the room and any other comfort that I can
give her," she said, quietly; then added: "It is time now for her fever
drops."

She leaned over the sufferer, who had again relapsed into her delirious
state, and gently put the spoon to her lips.

Violet unclosed her eyes and looked up into the kind, motherly face,
hesitated a moment, then swallowed the drops, while she murmured, as her
glance lingered on her countenance:

"You are good--I love you," then, with a sigh, she turned her head upon
the pillow and dropped into a sleep, while her companions stole from the
room to complete their arrangements for her future comfort.

"Your son--how is he?" Mrs. Mencke inquired, as they entered the
sitting-room, and she felt that it devolved upon her to make the
inquiry.

"Better, thank you. He has not so much pain, and Doctor Norton thinks
his bones are going to knit nicely. He suffers more from his bruises and
cuts than from the broken bones. I am very thankful that he has escaped
with his life," Mrs. Richardson answered, tremulously, and with
startling tears.

"Was he badly hurt?" inquired the lady, languidly.

"Well, he has a couple of protuberances upon his head, three serious
bruises on one leg, and a deep cut on the other from broken
window-glass. Our young hero--and he is a hero, Mrs. Mencke--is pretty
well battered up; but, please God, we are going to save him, and he'll
come out as good as new in time." Doctor Norton returned, with an energy
that made Mrs. Richardson smile, though with tremulous lips.

"It was a frightful accident," murmured Mrs. Mencke, with a slight
shiver.

"You may well say that, madame; and it was a happy inspiration on the
part of Mr. Richardson to try to save Miss Huntington in the way that he
did. By suspending himself from the straps and make her cling to him he
broke the force of the crash for both of them; and, if she lives, there
is not the slightest doubt in the world that she will owe her life to
his thoughtfulness," said the worthy doctor.

"I am sure it was very good of him, and--we are very grateful to him,"
was the tardy admission of Violet's proud sister; but it lacked the ring
of sincerity, and her patronizing manner plainly indicated that her
pride rebelled against all feeling of obligation to an humble carpenter.

"You certainly have reason to be," Doctor Norton retorted; then, bowing
coldly to her, he went into the small bedroom leading from the
sitting-room, to see how his hero fared.

"How is she now, doctor?" Wallace eagerly asked, the moment he crossed
the threshold.

It was always his first thought and inquiry whenever the physician made
his appearance, and he would never allow him to pay the slightest
attention to himself until he had first made an examination of Violet's
condition.

"Pretty sick, my boy; but I hope she is going to pull through," he
cheerfully replied.

"Thank heaven!" murmured the young man, fervently.

Doctor Norton observed him keenly for a moment, with a kindly yet
somewhat anxious gleam in his eyes; then he said:

"Look here, my fine fellow, let me give you a little timely warning;
don't you go to falling in love with this pretty Violet--you'll only
make mischief for both yourself and her if you do, for her friends are
rich, and proud as Lucifer--as hard-hearted, too, if I am not
mistaken--and nothing but a fortune will ever tempt them to yield her to
the best lover in the world."

The young man flushed a vivid crimson at this blunt speech, and the
physician, noticing it, continued:

"No doubt you think I'm meddling with what is none of my business, but
I've seen enough to-day to convince me that such a romantic result of
this accident would be the worst thing that could possibly happen to
you. But how do you find yourself to-day?" he concluded, abruptly
changing the subject.

"I have some pain in this right leg, but not enough to fret over,"
Wallace replied, turning his now pale face away from the doctor's keen
eyes.

There had suddenly come a sharper pain in his heart than any physical
suffering that he had as yet endured, as, all at once, he became
conscious that he had already been guilty of doing exactly what the good
surgeon had warned him against.

Already he had begun to love Violet Huntington with all the strength and
passion of his manly, honest heart. He had been instantly attracted by
her lovely face and lady-like appearance, when he entered the car that
bright spring afternoon. When his glance met hers a magnetic current had
seemed to be established between them. When she had realized the horror
of their situation, after the grip upon the cable had been lost, and
thrown out her hands so appealingly to him, his heart had been suddenly
thrilled with the desire to save her, even at the expense of his own
life; in that one brief instant he had given himself to her, for life or
death. When he had clasped her hands about his neck and lifted her upon
his breast--when he had felt her head droop upon his shoulder, and the
beating of her frightened heart against his own, a feeling almost of
ecstasy had taken possession of him, and the strange thought had come to
him that he was perhaps going into eternity with the woman who should
have been his wife--with the one kindred soul designed for him by his
Maker.

But now the doctor's words had given him a rude shock, and he resolved,
rather than allow a suspicion of his affection to make trouble for the
sweet girl who had become the one coveted object of his life, to bury it
so deep in his heart that no other should ever mistrust it.



CHAPTER III.

WILLFUL VIOLET HAS HER OWN WAY.


That same evening a thoroughly competent nurse was installed by Violet's
bedside, and Mrs. Mencke, having given certain directions regarding the
care of her sister, returned to her home on Auburn avenue.

She came every day afterward, however, to ascertain how Violet was
progressing, and though for a week her fever ran very high, and the
doctor considered her alarmingly ill, yet at the end of that time she
began slowly but surely to mend.

Consciousness returned, and with it the memory of all that had occurred
on that never-to-be-forgotten day, while she talked continually of the
brave young man who had saved her life.

When she was first told that she was in the same house with him, the
rich color suffused her face, and an eager look of interest leaped into
her eyes.

"In his home--am I? How strange!" she murmured; "how did it happen that
I was brought here?"

"Those who found you thought that you were brother and sister," the
nurse told her, thinking it no harm that she should know all the
details, if she did not get excited. "They found you together, one of
his arms clasping you close to him, and both your hands locked about his
neck."

A burning blush shot up to the girl's golden hair at this information.

"He told me to--to cling to him," she said, in a low tone.

"Of course; and it showed his good sense, too, for it was the only thing
that saved your life, dear child," replied the nurse; "and it seemed as
if he had not one thought for himself, then nor since, for his first
question, when the doctor goes to him, is about you."

"How good--how noble of him! and he is so badly hurt, too," Violet said,
tremulously.

"Oh, but he is coming out of it finely," the nurse said, reassuringly.
"There isn't a scratch on his face, and his broken bones are mending
nicely. He is already up and about, though he looks rather peaked, as if
he were still a good deal shaken up over the dreadful tragedy--for I
suppose you know that you and he are the only ones who came out of it
alive."

"Oh! was every one else killed?" said Violet, with a shiver of horror.
"How dreadful!"

She lay there, very quiet and thoughtful, for some time after that, but
by and by she asked:

"Nurse, when may I get up?"

"In a few days, dear, if you continue to improve as you have done during
the last week," the woman replied.

"Then may I see him--Mr. Richardson? I must see him and thank him for
what he has done. Just think--he saved me from getting even a scratch or
a bruise."

"Um!" returned the nurse, pursing up her lips; "your sister, Mrs.
Mencke, has given orders that you are not to receive any visitors while
you are here?"

"Well, of course, and I do not care to see company much until I go home;
but you must let me see Mr. Richardson," Violet said, with some show of
spirit.

"Well, maybe Mrs. Mencke wouldn't object; you can ask her when she
comes," said the nurse, doubtfully.

"I shall do no such thing, and I am going to see Mr. Richardson!"
retorted Violet, wilfully, and flushing hotly. "The idea of her
objecting, when he saved my life, and when dear Mrs. Richardson has been
so kind! They would think me very ungrateful not to tell them how very,
very thankful I am."

"But Mrs. Mencke said----" began the nurse, objectingly, for Violet's
sister had given very strict orders upon this very point.

"I don't care what Belle said--Belle is too fresh sometimes!" Violet
cried, spiritedly, and relapsing a trifle into slang, in her irritation
over her sister's interference.

The nurse changed the subject, and nothing more was said about the
matter.

Three days later Violet was allowed to get up for the first time, and
after that she sat up every day.

One morning she seemed to feel much stronger than usual, and the nurse
allowed her to be regularly dressed in a pretty pale-blue cashmere
wrapper, which Mrs. Mencke had sent the previous day; then she drew her
chair beside one of the windows, where she could look out upon the
street.

She seemed very bright, and told the woman that she began to feel quite
like herself again. She certainly looked very pretty, though somewhat
pale and thin, showing that she had lost a little flesh during her
illness.

"Now, nurse," Violet said, when the woman had tidied up the room, and
there seemed to be nothing more to be done just then, "don't you want to
go out and get the air for a little while? You have not been out once
since you came, and I am so well and comfortable to-day, you might go
just as well as not."

"Thank you, miss; it would be a pleasant change," the woman returned,
with a longing look out of the window.

"Then go, by all means, Mrs. Dean," Violet said, eagerly, "and stay an
hour if you like. I know Mrs. Richardson would wait upon me if I should
need anything, which I am sure I shall not," she concluded, with a
furtive glance toward the sitting-room, where, during the last
half-hour, she had heard, now and then, the rattle of a newspaper, and
surmised that her young hero was engaged in perusing the morning news
there.

The temptation proved too strong to be resisted, and Mrs. Dean, taking
Violet at her word, yielded, and soon after went forth into the glorious
sunshine, to enjoy the privilege so kindly given.

Violet sat and watched her until she was well down the street, a queer
little smile on her pretty lips; but her attention was presently
attracted by the entrance of Mrs. Richardson, who came to see if she
wanted anything, and to bring her a little silver bell, to ring in case
she should need her.

"How well you are looking to-day, dear," she said, as she noticed her
bright eyes and the faint flush which was just beginning to tinge her
cheek, "I am really surprised at your rapid improvement during the last
few days."

"I feel almost well. I believe I could do an hour's practice if there
was only a piano here," Violet answered, as she glanced wistfully at her
music-roll, which lay on the table near her.

"I am sorry that we have none," Mrs. Richardson replied, "but perhaps it
is just as well, after all, for the effort might be too much for your
strength. Can I do anything for you?"

"Thank you, no," Violet answered, with an appreciative smile.

"Then I am going down into the laundry for a while, but I will leave
this bell with you; if you need me, ring, and I will come instantly."

"You are very good," the young girl said, then, with a rising flush and
downcast eyes, she asked: "How is Mr. Richardson this morning?"

"Doing finely, dear, thank you, only he gets a trifle impatient, now and
then, because his arm is useless, and he cannot go back to work."

"It must be very tedious for him, and I am very sorry," Violet said,
with a regretful sigh. Then with a timid, appealing glance: "May I not
see him, Mrs. Richardson, and tell him how I appreciate his heroism and
the service he rendered me?"

Mrs. Richardson colored at this request, for she had overheard Mrs.
Mencke telling the nurse to be sure and not allow any one to see Violet,
save those who had the care of her, and she well understood what that
injunction meant; consequently her pride and sense of what was right
would not allow her to take advantage of the nurse's absence to bring
about a meeting between the young people. So she replied, with quiet
gravity:

"I would not like to assume the responsibility of granting your request
to-day, dear; we must not tax your strength too much at first; some
other time, perhaps."

She put the bell where Violet could reach it, telling her to be sure to
ring if she needed anything, then she went out, leaving the door
slightly ajar.

As she disappeared Violet nodded her sunny head mischievously, and shot
a wicked little smile after her.

"You are the dearest darling in the world," she murmured, "and I know
you are resolved not to be guilty of doing anything to offend my proud
sister. You will not 'assume the responsibility,' but I will. Mrs. Belle
just isn't going to have her way, all the same, and I am going to have
mine if I can manage it. I wonder if I could walk into the other room."

She glanced toward the door and seemed to be measuring the distance with
her eye.

"I am going to try it anyway," said this willful little lady, as she
deliberately slipped out of her chair and stood upon her feet.

She found herself still very weak, and for a moment it seemed as if her
trembling limbs would not support her, but the determination to outwit
her haughty sister had taken possession of her, and she was bound to
accomplish her purpose.

She managed to get to a common cane-seat chair, and pushing this before
her as a support, sitting down once or twice to rest, she at length
reached the door leading into the other room.

Wallace Richardson was sitting by a window, his back toward the parlor
where Violet had been ill. He had been reading the morning paper, but it
had dropped upon his knees and he had fallen into a fit of musing, his
thoughts turning, as they did involuntarily, to that fearful ride down
the inclined plane, while he always saw in imagination that wild look of
appeal upon the lovely face of Violet Huntington, as she instinctively
turned to him for help.

Suddenly he was startled by a slight movement near him, and, glancing
up, he beheld the object of his thoughts standing in the door-way just
behind him.

"Miss Huntington!" he cried, starting to his feet in amazement and
consternation, "I am afraid you are very imprudent. Do you want
something? Can I do anything for you?"

"Yes, if you will please help me to that chair I will be much obliged; I
am not quite so strong as I thought I was, and find myself a little
tired," Violet replied, looking very pale after her unusual exertion.

"I should think so, indeed! Here, take this chair," said Wallace as he
gently helped her, with his well hand, to the chair that he had just
vacated.

"Thank you," Violet said, as she sank panting into it; then, glancing up
at him with a roguish smile, she continued: "Don't look so shocked, Mr.
Richardson; I suppose I am a trifle pale, but I am not going to faint,
as I see you fear. I was lonely in there by myself and imagined that you
were also, so I took a sudden notion that I would pay you a little
visit. I--I thought it was about time that we made each other's
acquaintance and compared notes upon our injuries."

Wallace thought that he had never seen any one so pretty as she was at
that moment. Her golden hair had been carelessly knotted at the back of
her head, while a few short locks lay in charming confusion upon her
white forehead. Her delicate blue wrapper, with its filmy lace ruffles
at the neck and waists, was exceedingly becoming, while the laughing,
roguish light in her lovely azure eyes thrilled him with a strange
sensation. Then, too, the thought that she had made all this exertion
just for the purpose of seeing him made his heart leap with delight.

"I had no idea that you were able to make such an effort," he managed to
say in reply, though he could never remember afterward what answer he
did make.

Her strength and color were coming back now that she was seated, and she
laughed out mischievously.

"It was an experiment," she said, "perhaps a hazardous one, and I must
make my visit and get back before nurse returns, or I fear I shall get a
vigorous scolding; but I just had to come to see you--I couldn't wait
any longer. When I think of how much I owe you, it seems perfectly
heartless that I have not told you how thankful I am for the life that
you have saved; but for you I might have shared the fate of the others,"
and tears were in the beautiful eyes uplifted to his face.

"Do not think of it, Miss Huntington," Wallace said, growing pale as his
own thoughts went back to those moments of horror.

"Why not?" she cried, impulsively. "Why should I not think of it and
speak of it, too, when I see this poor arm"--and she touched it almost
reverently with her dainty fingers--"when I realize how thoughtless of
self you were in trying to save me? Ah! and that poor hand, too," she
added, as she caught sight of his right hand, which had been badly cut
by broken glass, and on which she saw a broad strip of court-plaster,
"how much you have suffered!"

And carried away by her feelings, forgetful of all but the gratitude
that filled her warm, young heart, she suddenly bent forward and
impulsively touched her lips to the wounded hand that hung by his side.

Wallace caught his breath. That touch was like electricity to him, and
the rich color surged up to his brow.

"Miss Huntington, don't!" he cried; "you overestimate what I did."

"No, indeed I do not," Violet returned, earnestly, and then, overcome by
the sudden realization of what she had done--that he was almost a
stranger and she had been guilty of a rash and perhaps unmaidenly act--a
burning blush leaped to the roots of her hair, and for the moment she
was speechless from shame and embarrassment.

"Pardon me," she said, after an awkward silence. "I forgot myself--I
forgot everything but that I owe you my life."

Then tossing back her head and shooting a half appealing, half defiant
look at him, to cover her confusion, she said, with a bewitching little
pout:

"But now that I have come to call upon you, Mr. Richardson, aren't you
going to entertain me?"

The change from embarrassment to this pretty piquancy was so
instantaneous and so charming that Wallace's face grew luminous with
admiration and delight. A smile wreathed his lips, and there came a look
into his eyes that made her flush consciously again.

"Certainly; I shall only be too happy. What can I do to amuse you? Shall
I read to you?"

Violet shrugged her shoulders.

"No, talk to me," she said, with pretty imperiousness. "I have been shut
up so long that I am pining for entertaining society."

Wallace flushed at this. He was not used to talking to fine young
ladies; he had been very little in society, and had met but very few
people in fashionable life. His days were occupied by work, for he had
to support himself and his mother, while his evenings were devoted to
study.

But he really desired to amuse his lovely visitor, and so, going to a
book-case, he took down a large, square book and brought it to her.

"Have you ever seen any agricultural drawings, Miss Huntington?" he
inquired.

"No," Violet said.

"Do you think it would interest you to examine some?"

"Oh, yes," she answered, eagerly.

She would have been interested in anything which he chose to talk about.

"I am glad of that," he returned, "for architecture is to be the
business of my life, and I can talk more fluently upon that subject that
upon any other."

Then he opened the book and began to show her his drawings.

"Since a little boy I have desired to be an architect," he told her,
"and while my father lived I had every advantage which I chose to
improve; but after his death misfortune obliged me to give up school and
to go to work. I chose the carpenter's trade--my father was a contractor
and builder--for I reasoned that a practical knowledge of the
construction of buildings would help me in the profession which I hope,
even yet, to perfect myself in. All my evenings during the past four
years have been spent in the drawing-school, and where, during the last
two years I have, a portion of each night, served as a teacher."

He pointed out to Violet several of his own designs, all of which, she
could readily see, were very fine, and some exceedingly beautiful.

While discussing some point, Violet casually compared it with something
that she had seen in ancient structures abroad, and this led them to
enlarge upon the architecture of the old country, until they grew very
free and friendly in their conversation.

Neither was aware how rapidly time was passing, until the clock struck
the hour of eleven; then, with a sudden start, the young girl exclaimed
that she must get back to her own room at once, or run the risk of being
scolded should the nurse find her there.

"I can get back to my chair much more quickly, Mr. Richardson, if you
will help me," she said, with an arch look, as she arose from her seat
by the window; and Wallace, with another thrill of delight, gave her his
well arm and assisted her to cross the room, a feat which she
accomplished much more easily than before.

When he had seated her comfortably, she gave him a roughish glance, and
remarked, playfully:

"I suppose it is polite for people to return calls, isn't it, Mr.
Richardson?"

He laughed out heartily, and thought her the most bewitching little
piece of humanity he had ever seen.

"I suppose it is," he answered; then growing grave, he added, "but I
understand that your sister does not think it advisable for you to have
visitors."

"Nonsense!" began Violet, impatiently, then espying the nurse just
mounting the steps, she continued, "but there is Mrs. Dean. I will
discuss the calling question with you some other time. Good-by."

Wallace took the hint implied in this farewell, returned to the
sitting-room, where he was apparently deeply absorbed in the contents of
his paper when the refreshed and smiling nurse entered.



CHAPTER IV.

A PARTING SOUVENIR.


A week went by, and both patients continued to improve, but the weather
being unfavorable--a cold wind prevailing--the physician would not
consent to have Violet removed to Auburn avenue until it was milder.

Every pleasant morning, however, Violet insisted upon having the nurse
go out for an airing, telling her to remain as long as she liked, and
just as often the young girl succeeded in securing an interview with
Wallace.

She saw that both he and Mrs. Richardson were averse to his returning
her call, and she did not urge it; but in her pretty, imperious way she
insisted that he must help her out into the sitting-room or she should
get "awfully homesick" staying in the parlor all the time.

They could not well refuse her request, and every morning as soon as the
nurse disappeared she went out to them.

Sometimes Mrs. Richardson would remain and join in their conversation,
but this could not always be, for her household duties must be attended
to, and so they were often left by themselves.

Occasionally Wallace read to her from the daily paper, or from some
interesting book; but more frequently they spent the time conversing,
growing every day more friendly, and falling more and more under the
spell of each other's society.

Wallace realized his danger--knew that every hour spent in the fair
girl's presence was serving to make him more wholly her slave.

That first meeting, when she had come upon him so unexpectedly, had
assured him that he could not see her often without riveting the chains
of his love more hopelessly about him. Her exquisite beauty, her
artless, impulsive manner, the glance of her beautiful eyes, all moved
him as he had never been moved before, and warned him that danger to
both lay in indulging himself in the delight of her society.

Danger! Yes, for he well knew that he--a poor carpenter who had to toil
with his hands for his daily bread--ought never to speak words of love
to the delicate girl who had been reared amid the luxuries of wealth;
knew that her haughty relatives would scorn such an alliance with one in
his humble circumstances.

But he seemed powerless to prevent it--powerless to save either himself
or her; for Violet, all unconscious of the precipice toward which they
were drifting, thinking only of the enjoyment of the moment, persisted
in seeing him, day after day, and thus, before she was aware of the
fact, becoming entangled in coils from which she was never to escape.

Mrs. Mencke came every afternoon, but never remained long, for she was a
woman of many social obligations, and thought if she simply came to
inquire regarding Violet's welfare, she was doing her whole duty by her.

She always found her alone with the nurse, or with Mrs. Richardson, if
the former was busy, and fondly imagined that everything was all right;
never suspecting the mischief--as she would be likely to regard it--that
was being brewed by that artful little god of love--Cupid.

Doctor Norton finally gave his consent to having Violet removed, and on
the same day, when Mrs. Mencke paid her usual visit, she was told that
to-morrow she would be taken home.

The young girl received this unwelcome news in silence, but a great
darkness seemed suddenly to have fallen around her.

After her sister's departure she turned to Mrs. Richardson, and the
woman saw that her eyes were full of tears.

"Dear Mrs. Richardson," she said, "I am so sorry to leave you! I have
been so happy here--it is such a quiet, peaceful place, and you have
been so kind to me, I really feel homesick at the thought of going
home--and that sounds like a paradox, doesn't it?"

Mrs. Richardson smiled fondly into the fair face lifted to hers, though
an expression of pain flitted over her brow at the same time.

"I shall be just as sorry to give you up as you can be to go," she
replied. "You have been a very patient invalid, and it has been simply a
pleasure to have you here. Still, your home is so delightful, and you
have so many kind friends, you will soon forget your quiet sojourn on
Hughes street."

"No, indeed--never!" Violet returned, flushing. Then she added,
impulsively, while a great longing seemed to sweep over her: "I know
that my home is beautiful with everything that money can buy, but--there
is no soul in it."

"My dear child! I am sure you do not mean that," said Mrs. Richardson,
reprovingly. "That is a very sad thing to say about one's own home."

"Yes, I do mean it," Violet answered, with quivering lips. "Belle is
good enough in certain ways, and I suppose she is fond of me, after a
fashion; but she is a society woman, and always full of engagements,
while Wilhelm cares for nothing but his horses and his business. I wish
I had a mother," and a pathetic little sob concluded the sentence.

During the weeks of her illness, the young girl had found a long-felt
void filled by the care and tenderness of this motherly woman.

Mrs. Richardson laid her hand caressingly upon the golden head, and her
heart yearned over the fair invalid. She also had longed for a loving
daughter, to brighten and soothe her declining years, even as Violet
longed for a mother.

Violet reached up and clasped the tender hand, and brought it round to
her lips. She was naturally an affectionate little thing, and much given
to acting upon the impulse of the moment.

"I shall always love you, dear Mrs. Richardson, and you will let me come
to see you, will you not?" she asked, appealingly.

"Certainly, dear. I shall be very glad to see you at any time," she
answered, heartily, and deeply touched by the young girl's evident
affection for her; but she changed the subject, and began to chat
entertainingly upon other topics, for she saw that she was really
depressed by the thought of going back to her "soulless" home.

The next morning an elegant carriage, drawn by a pair of coal-black
horses in silver-mounted harness, drove to the humble home of the
Richardsons in Hughes street, and the colored driver presented a note
from Mrs. Mencke, saying that Violet was to return home at once; that
she had an important engagement and could not come for her herself, but
wished that the nurse should attend her instead.

Violet was very pale and quiet as they dressed her for the drive, while
her heavy eyes often turned to the door leading into the sitting-room
with a wistful, regretful glance.

"I shall miss you so much, Mrs. Richardson. You will come to see me,
will you not?" she said, as she put up her lips for her good-by kiss.

"Yes, I will come within a few days. I shall want to know how you are
getting on. There, you are all ready now, I believe," she concluded, as
she folded a light shawl about her shoulders, for though the day was
warm, they wished to guard against all danger of her taking cold.

But Violet stood irresolute a moment, then she said:

"I want--may I go to say good-by to all--to Mr. Richardson?" and a
burning flush mounted to her brow as she made the request.

Mrs. Richardson looked grave as she remarked the blush, but she gave the
desired permission; and while she went to assist the nurse to put
Violet's things in the carriage, the young girl moved slowly toward the
sitting-room, where she found Wallace, looking pale and depressed, his
fine lips drawn into a firm, white line.

"I have come to say good-by," Violet remarked, as she approached him
with downcast eyes. "I--I hope you will soon be quite well again; but,
oh! Mr. Richardson, if I could only do something to show you how----"

"Please, Miss Huntington, never refer to the accident in that way
again," Wallace returned, speaking almost coldly, because of the
restraint he was imposing upon himself.

He had not realized until that morning how very desolate he should feel
when Violet was gone, for she might as well be going out of the world
altogether, as far as he was concerned, he thought, as back to Auburn
avenue.

How could he let her go--resign her to another sphere, as it were, for
some favorite of fortune to win? He was suffering torture, and it seemed
almost impossible for him to bid her a formal good-by.

Violet lifted a pained, startled look to his face at his cold, reserved
tone.

"Forgive me. I did not mean to offend you," she said; "but you must
understand something of how I feel. I know that you have saved my life.
I shall never forget it as long as I live, and you must let me unburden
my heart in some way. At least, I may give you a little keepsake, if
nothing more," she pleaded, earnestly.

He smiled into her upturned face. She was so fair, so eager, he had not
the heart to repulse her.

"Yes, I should be very glad of some souvenir--you are very good to think
of it," he said, with a thrill in his tones which brought the color back
to her pale cheeks.

"Thank you for conceding even that much," she returned, brightening;
"and now I wonder what it shall be."

"The simplest thing you can think of," Wallace said, hastily; "something
that you have worn would be most precious----"

He cut himself short, for he felt that he was betraying too much of what
was in his heart.

Violet flashed a sly look at him, and her pulses leaped at his words,
and the glance that accompanied them.

"Something that I have worn," she murmured, musingly.

She glanced at her hands, where, upon her white fingers, gleamed several
valuable rings, but she instinctively felt that none of these would be a
suitable offering.

He certainly would not care for a bracelet--he would not accept her
watch.

Then suddenly one dainty hand went up to her throat, where her collar
was fastened with a beautiful brooch to which there was attached a
pendant as unique as it was lovely.

"Will you have this?" she asked, touching it. "Mamma gave it to me one
birthday--you shall have the pendant to wear on your chain, and I will
keep the brooch always."

She unfastened the ornament and held it out to him.

The pendant was a small golden medallion with richly enameled pansy, a
tiny diamond in its centre, on one side, while upon the other was
engraved the name "Violet."

Wallace flushed with pleasure; he could have thought of nothing that
would afford him so much gratification. Still he hesitated to take it.

"I do not like to rob you of your mother's gift," he said, gently.

"Please take it; I want you to have it--that is, if you would like it,"
Violet said, eagerly, and looking so lovely in her earnestness that he
longed to take her in his arms and claim her for his own, then and
there.

"You are sure you will not regret it?" he asked.

"No--no, indeed; and you can easily detach it, for it is only fastened
by this slender ring."

"I think you will have to do that for me," he returned, smiling, and
glancing down at his bandaged arm, "for I have only one hand at my
disposal."

"True; how thoughtless I am," Violet answered, flushing, and, taking a
pair of scissors that lay upon the table, she easily pried the ring
apart, detached the pendant and laid it in his hand.

"Thank you," Wallace said, but he was very pale as his fingers closed
over the precious gift, and he felt that fate was very cruel to force
him to keep silent when his heart was so full of a deathless love. "It
is a beautiful little souvenir, and I shall prize it more than I can
tell you, Miss Huntington."

Violet tapped her foot impatiently upon the floor and frowned.

"Miss Huntington," she repeated, sarcastically; "how formal! Call me
Violet--I do not like to be held at arm's length by my friends. But Mrs.
Dean is calling me, and I suppose I must go. I have been very happy here
in your home in spite of my illness; I have learned to love your mother
dearly, and she has promised to come to see me; will you come with her?"

How sweet and gracious she was! how she tempted him with her beauty and
her artless, impulsive ways, and it required all his moral strength to
resist her and preserve the secret of his love.

"I am afraid I cannot," he replied.

"Why not?" Violet questioned, in a surprised, hurt tone.

"You forget that I am but a laborer--I have little time for social
pleasures."

"But you cannot work now--it will be several weeks yet before your arm
will be strong enough to allow you to go back to your duties," Violet
returned, searching his face intently.

Wallace flushed hotly; he knew that was a lame excuse to give her; he
knew, too, that he must not put himself in the way of temptation; and,
believing a straightforward course the wisest, he frankly said:

"Miss--Violet," faltering a little over the name, but not wishing to
wound her again by the more formal mode of address, "I do not need to
tell you, I am sure, how much pleasure it would give me to meet you now
and then, but you well know that poor young men, like myself, are not
often welcome in the home of the rich; indeed, I should feel myself out
of place among the fashionable people with whom you mingle."

"You need not!" Violet exclaimed, earnestly. "I should feel proud to
introduce you to any, or all, of my friends, and I promise that you
shall receive a most cordial welcome in my home if you ever honor me by
entering it. Now, good-by, Wal--Mr. Richardson, for I must go."

She held out her hand to him, and he took it in a strong, fond
clasp--the first time he had ever held it thus, and the last, he told
himself--with almost a feeling of despair, for he believed that
henceforth they would go their separate ways and have nothing in common.

He accompanied her out and helped her into the carriage, but with a keen
pain in his heart, as he saw two diamond-like drops fall upon the velvet
cushions as she took her seat, and knew that they were tears of regret
over this parting.

The nurse followed her charge, the coachman sprang upon his box, and
with one wave of a white hand, one lingering look from a pair of azure
eyes, Violet was gone, and that humble home in Hughes street seemed, to
one person at least, like a house in which there had been a death, and
from which peace and contentment had forever flown.

There was no one but the servants to welcome Violet home, for Mrs.
Mencke had not returned, and the poor girl felt forlorn and desolate
enough.

After bidding the nurse good-by, for the woman had only been
commissioned to see her safely home, she went wearily up to her own
room, where, after removing her wraps and dismissing her maid, she threw
herself upon her bed in a passion of tears, and longing for the
caressing touch of Mrs. Richardson's tender hand and the sound of her
affectionate, motherly voice.

When Mrs. Mencke finally returned and went to her she found her
sleeping, but looking feverish, the tears still upon her cheeks, and
with a mournful droop to her sweet lips that was really pathetic.

She awoke with a start and found herself gazing up into the handsome
face of her sister.

"Well, Violet, I suppose you are glad to be at home again," Mrs. Mencke
remarked, cheerfully, but regarding her searchingly.

Violet gave utterance to a deep sigh, but hesitated before replying.

"It is very comfortable here," she at last said, glancing around the
luxurious apartment.

"I should think so, indeed, after the close quarters you have inhabited
of late," said Mrs. Mencke, with a contemptuous laugh. "Why, the
servants' rooms here are better than any portion of that house."

"Ye-s, but it was very quiet and peaceful and home-like there, and
everything was very neat and clean," said Violet, with another sigh.

"Well, everything is neat and clean here also, isn't it?" demanded her
sister, sharply, for cleanliness was one of her especial hobbies.

"Of course; but where have you been, Belle?" Violet asked, anxious to
change the subject, and glancing over her sister's richly clad figure.

"Oh, to a grand luncheon given by the Lincoln Club," Mrs. Mencke
replied, all animation; "and if you had only been well I certainly
should have taken you; I don't know when I have attended so brilliant an
affair. But, never mind, you will come out next season, and then we will
have plenty of amusement."

Violet did not appear to share her sister's eager anticipation of this
event and Mrs. Mencke was secretly much irritated by her languid
indifference.

"I sincerely hope that beggarly carpenter hasn't had an opportunity to
put any nonsense in her head," she mused. "What a piece of luck!--that
she happened to be in that car that day. Of course, the fact that he
saved her life has cast a glamour of romance around him--Violet is very
impressionable--and it may take time to disenchant her. I hope that
nurse was vigilant and did not allow her to see much of him; however,
one thing is sure, she won't get a chance to see him henceforth."

Mrs. Mencke was very confident of her ability to put an end to the
acquaintance, but she had yet to learn that there were certain events in
life which she was powerless to control.



CHAPTER V.

VIOLET ASSERTS HERSELF.


Mrs. Richardson never paid Violet her promised visit, for Mrs. Mencke
realized almost immediately that something was very wrong about her
young sister, who appeared strangely listless and unhappy, and she often
found her in tears.

"This will never do," the worldly woman said, with an energy and
decision that governed all her movements. "I'm not going to have Violet
moping about like a silly, love-sick damsel."

And after a hasty consultation with the family physician, with scarcely
a day's warning, she whisked her off to Saratoga, where she engaged
rooms at the Grand Union for two months, and when Mrs. Richardson called
to see her recent patient, she found the elegant mansion on Auburn
avenue closed and could not ascertain whither the Menckes had gone.

The change proved to be very beneficial. Saratoga was, of course, very
gay; there was a constant round of pleasure into which Violet was at
once drawn, for Mrs. Mencke was a great lover of society, and she soon
became interested as any young girl naturally would under the same
circumstances. There was no more moping--there were no more tears;
Violet gave herself up, with true girlish abandon, to the allurements
that presented themselves on every side, became a great favorite among
the guests of the large hotel, grew round, rosy, happy, and more
beautiful than ever, much to the satisfaction of her sister, who
congratulated herself that the "beggarly young carpenter" was entirely
forgotten.

Two months were spent at this fashionable resort, then six weeks more
were occupied in visiting other places of interest, and when they
returned to Cincinnati, about the middle of September, Violet seemed
entirely herself once more; she was full of life and spirits, the old
light of mischief and happiness danced in her beautiful eyes, while she
was planning for and looking forward to the coming season with all the
zeal and enthusiasm of a young debutante.

The day following their arrival at home Violet came in from a round of
calls that she had been making, and, feeling too weary to go up to her
room just then, she threw herself into a comfortable chair in the
library, and took up a paper that lay on the table.

Almost the first words that caught her eye, and sent a thrill of horror
through her, were these:

    "DIED--On the 12th instant, at her home, No. ---- Hughes
    street, Mary Ida Richardson, aged 48 years and 9 months.
    Funeral from her late residence, the 14th, at 2 o'clock P. M."

A cry of pain broke from Violet as she read this.

Her dear, kind friend dead! Gone away out of the world into eternity,
and she would never see her again!

It did not seem possible; she could not believe it. Poor Wallace, too!
how desolate he would be! And, bowing her face upon her hands, the young
girl sobbed as if her heart was broken.

All at once, however, she started to her feet.

The fact that this was the 14th had suddenly forced itself upon her. The
paper was two days old.

Glancing at the clock she saw that it was half-past twelve; but she
might be in time for the last sad services for the dead if she should
hasten.

Mrs. Mencke was out, as usual, and Violet was glad of it, for she knew
that she would oppose and might even flatly forbid her going.

Hastening to her room, she exchanged her elaborate visiting costume for
a simple black cashmere, tore a bright feather from a black hat, drew on
a pair of black gloves, and thirty minutes later was in the street
again.

She hailed the first car that came in sight, and even though she was
obliged to take a second car, she reached Hughes street about twenty
minutes of two.

As she entered the home of the Richardsons she was met by a kind-looking
woman, a neighbor, whom she had seen once or twice during her illness,
and with a quivering lip she begged that she might go into the parlor
herself and take a look at her friend before the people began to gather.

Permission was readily given to her, the woman herself leading the way,
and considerately shutting the door so that she might be by herself, as
she took her last look at the dear friend who had been so kind to her.

Mrs. Richardson must have died suddenly, she thought, for she was not
changed in the least, and lay as if calmly asleep. There was nothing
ghastly or unpleasant about her. A look of peace and rest was on the
sweet face. Her hair had been dressed just as she was in the habit of
wearing it, and a mass of soft lace had been filled into the front of
her dress, while some one had placed a few sprays of mignonette and
lilies of the valley in her still hands.

"Oh, dear Mrs. Richardson, you cannot be dead!" Violet breathed, as she
bent over her with streaming eyes. "It is too, too sad; you were so
kind, and I had learned to love you so dearly. What will Wallace do? How
can he bear it?"

She smoothed her soft hair with her trembling fingers, never thinking of
shrinking from the still, cold form, for it was so life-like. She drew
the lace a little closer about the neck, and arranged the flowers less
stiffly in her hands, murmuring fond words and tender regrets while thus
engaged.

But, after a few moments, overcome with her grief, she seated herself
upon a low ottoman behind the casket, and leaned her head against it,
weeping silently.

She was so absorbed by her sorrow that she did not hear the door as it
was softly opened and closed again, and was not conscious that any one
else was in the room, until she heard a deep, heart-broken sob, and a
familiar voice break forth in the agonized cry:

"Mother! oh, mother!"

Then she realized that Wallace was there, and her heart went forth to
him in loving sympathy, for she knew that he had lost the only near
friend that he had in the world.

She did not move for a few moments, however, for she felt that his grief
was too deep and sacred to be disturbed; but after a little he grew more
calm, and then she said, in a low, tremulous tone:

"Wallace, I am so grieved."

He started, and turned his pale face toward her.

"Violet!" he exclaimed, astonished.

"Yes," she said. "I only came home yesterday, and by the merest chance
read the news of this to-day. Oh, Wallace, she was a dear, dear woman!"

"She was, indeed," he replied, clasping the hand she extended to him,
and feeling inexpressibly comforted by this fair girl's tribute to his
loved one.

He noticed, and was touched also by the fact, that Violet was all in
black, and he knew that she had robed herself thus out of grief for his
dead.

"I loved her," the young girl said, with touching simplicity. Then she
added: "I know I cannot say anything to comfort you, but, believe me, my
heart is full of sorrow for her loss, and of sympathy for you."

How lovely she was, standing there beside him, her fair face and sunny
hair in such striking contrast with her black dress, and with her azure
eyes raised in such heartfelt sympathy to his.

Her hand still lay in his, for both had unconsciously retained their
clasp after their first greeting, and he knew by her clinging fingers
how sincere her sorrow and sympathy were.

"My darling, I know it; and your presence is inexpressibly comforting to
me."

"My darling!"--he had said it without thinking.

During all the long weeks that they had been separated he had called her
thus to himself, and now the word had slipped from him unawares, and he
would have given worlds to have been able to recall them.

Violet's white lids fluttered and then drooped consciously, while a
vivid flush arose to her brow.

This brought Wallace to his senses. He also colored hotly, and a feeling
of dismay took possession of him. There was a dead silence for a moment;
then he added, humbly:

"Forgive me; I did not know what I was saying."

He would have released her hand, but her small fingers closed more
firmly over his; she shot one dazzling gleam of light up at him from her
lovely eyes and whispered, shyly:

"I am glad!"

And he knew that she was all his own--that she loved him even as he
loved her.

A great wave of thankfulness, of sacred joy, swept over his soul, only
to be followed by a feeling of despair, darker and deeper than any he
had yet experienced, for he knew that he should not, must not accept the
priceless boon of her love which she had so freely and so artlessly
yielded to him.

But there was no time for explanations, for at that moment the door was
opened again, and the woman, Mrs. Keen, whom Violet had met when she
first came, entered, to make some inquiry of Wallace, and to tell him
that the clergyman had arrived.

Presently others, neighbors and acquaintances, began to gather, and then
it was time for the service.

Violet never forgot that simple ceremony, for the clergyman, who knew
Mrs. Richardson intimately, seemed to glorify the death of the beautiful
woman.

"She had simply stepped," he said, "from darkness into light--from toil
and care into rest and peace. The vail betwixt her and the Master, whom
she had loved, was lifted; her hitherto fettered soul was free, and in
the light of an eternal day no earthly sorrow, doubt, or trial could
reach her."

Death, after that, never seemed the cruel enemy that it had previously
seemed to Violet.

After it was all over, and Wallace had passed out to his carriage, Mrs.
Keen came to the young girl and asked her if she would like to follow
her friend to the cemetery.

"If I may," Violet replied. "She was not a relative, but I loved her
very much."

"Then come with me," the woman said, and, as she led the way out, she
explained that there were no relatives save Mr. Richardson, and it
seemed too bad that there should be no one but himself to follow his
mother to the grave, and that was why she had asked Violet to go with
her.

The next moment Violet found herself in the carriage with, and seated
opposite to, Wallace.

A feeling of dismay took possession of her, for she knew that the world
would criticise her severely for taking such a step.

She had not dreamed that she would have to ride in the same carriage
with Wallace, and she wondered if he would understand how it had
happened.

The matter could not be helped now, however, and for herself she did not
care; her motives had been good and pure; why then need she care for the
criticisms of people?

The ride to Spring Grove Cemetery was a long and sad one, for scarcely a
word was spoken either going or returning. Wallace seemed absorbed in
his own sorrowful reflections, Mrs. Keen preserved a prim and gloomy
silence, and Violet was thus left to her own thoughts.

She could not keep from thinking of those few sad yet sweet moments when
she had stood alone with Wallace by the casket of his mother, and heard
him speak those words which had changed, in one instant, her whole life.

"My darling, your presence is inexpressibly comforting to me!"

She knew that he had not meant to speak thus, that only a sense of his
own desolation and her unexpected sympathy, had made him forget himself,
break down all barriers, and betray the secret of his love.

It had been an unexpected revelation to her, however; she had not
suspected the nature of his feelings toward her, nor of hers toward him,
until then; but now she knew that she loved him--that all the world,
with every other blessing and luxury at her command, would be worthless
to her without him to share it.

When they reached Hughes street again Violet held out her hand to
Wallace, saying it was so late she must go directly home.

Then he suddenly came to himself and realized how very tedious the long,
silent ride must have been for her.

"Let me send you home in the carriage," he said, eagerly.

"Thank you, no; I will take a car," Violet replied, so decidedly that he
did not press the matter further.

It was very late when she reached home, and she found her sister quite
anxious over her prolonged absence.

"Where have you been, Violet?" she demanded, somewhat impatiently; "it
is not the proper thing at all for you to be out so late alone. Mercy!
and you are all in black, too; I should think you had been at a
funeral."

"I have; I have been to Mrs. Richardson's funeral," Violet replied, hot
tears rushing to her eyes.

Mrs. Mencke looked startled.

"Mrs. Richardson!" she repeated. "When did she die?"

"Day before yesterday; and it was all by chance that I saw the notice of
her death in a paper. She died very suddenly of heart disease."

"I wish I had known it, I would have gone with you," said Mrs. Mencke,
looking disturbed.

"Would you?" Violet exclaimed, surprised.

"Yes; it was not proper for you to go alone."

The young girl's face fell; she had hoped her sister wanted to show this
tribute of respect to one who had been so kind to her.

"Where was she buried?" Mrs. Mencke inquired.

"At Spring Grove Cemetery."

"Did you go out there?"

"Yes," and Violet flushed slightly.

"With whom did you ride?" demanded her sister, suspiciously.

"With--Mr. Richardson and a Mrs. Keen."

"Violet Draper Huntington!" ejaculated Mrs. Mencke, with indignant
astonishment, "you did not do such an unheard of thing?"

Violet bridled at this. She was naturally sweet and gentle, but could
show spirit enough if occasion required.

"Yes, I did," she returned, flushing, but tossing her small head
defiantly. "There were no friends excepting Mr. Richardson. Mrs. Keen
invited me to go with her, and, as I wanted to show the dear woman this
mark of respect, I went."

"Don't you know that it was a very questionable act to follow Mrs.
Richardson to her grave in the company of her son?" demanded Mrs. Mencke
sternly. "What do you suppose the people of our set would say to such a
proceeding?"

"I presume the people of 'our set' might consider it a questionable
act," Violet returned, with sarcastic emphasis. "Polite society is not
supposed to have much heart, anyway. But, to tell the truth, I thought I
was to ride in a separate carriage with Mrs. Keen, until I went out and
found Mr. Richardson in it. I was not going to wound him then by
refusing to go; and 'our set,' if it find it out, can say what it
pleases."

"I most earnestly hope that none of our acquaintances will learn of your
escapade; they would be sure to couple your name very unpleasantly with
that of that low-born carpenter, especially if they should find out that
you put on mourning," returned Mrs. Mencke, with an expression of
intense disgust.

"'Low-born carpenter,' indeed!" retorted Violet indignantly, and
flushing hotly. "Aren't you ashamed of yourself, Belle Mencke, after
what he has done for me? Wallace Richardson is a gentleman in every
sense of the word, and I am proud to call him my friend."

"Perhaps you would be proud to accord him a more familiar title, even.
Our friends would be likely to suspect that he was thus favored if they
should discover what you have done to-day," sneered the haughty woman.

Violet blushed vividly at this thrust, and for a moment looked so
conscious that her sister became suspicious and secretly alarmed.

"I don't care, Belle," Violet said, hotly, after a moment of awkward
silence, "it would have been very ungrateful in me to stay away and I
would do the same thing over again to show my regard for dear Mrs.
Richardson. Now, if you please, you may let me alone upon the subject."

"Look here, Miss Violet, you are trying me beyond all bounds," Mrs.
Mencke returned, losing control of her temper; "and now there is just
one thing that I want to say to you, and that is that you are to drop
this fellow at once and for all time. I won't have any nonsense or
sentiment just because he happened to do what any other man with a germ
of humanity would have done to save you from a violent death. It is all
very well to feel properly grateful to him, and I intend to pay him
handsomely for it, only I don't want to hear anything more about him
from you."

Violet had grown very pale during the latter portion of this speech, and
her sister, who was observing her closely, could see that she was
trembling with suppressed emotions.

"Belle Mencke," she said, in a husky tone, "do you mean to say that you
intend to offer Mr. Richardson money in return for my life?"

"Of course. What else can I do? We must make him some acknowledgment,
and people in his station think more of money that of anything else,"
was the coarse response.

"That is false!" cried Violet, with blazing eyes. "Reverse your
statement, and say that people in your position think more of money than
of anything else, and you would come nearer the truth. Don't you dare to
insult that noble fellow by offering him money; if you do, I will never
forgive you while I live. Make him all the verbal acknowledgments you
please, as will be just and right, but don't forget that he is a
gentleman."

Mrs. Mencke saw that she had gone too far, and made an effort to control
herself. She knew, from experience, that when Violet was once thoroughly
aroused it was not an easy matter to tame her.

"There, Violet, you have said enough," she remarked, with forced
calmness. "You are only making yourself ridiculous, and I think we had
best drop the subject; only one thing I must insist upon, that you will
cut this young man's acquaintance at once."

She arose as she spoke to meet her husband, who entered at that moment,
and Violet flew to her own room to remove her black attire, and to ease
her aching heart by shedding a few scalding tears, which would not be
kept back.

It was very hard to hear Wallace spoken of so contemptuously when she
had learned to love him with all the strength of her soul, and knew him
to be, by nature and in character, far superior to the man whom her
sister called husband.

She did not regret what she had done that day, and she had no idea of
dropping Wallace Richardson's acquaintance. No, indeed! Life would be
worth but very little to her now if he were taken out of it; and, though
she knew she would have many a vigorous battle to fight with her proud
sister if she defied her authority, she had no thought of yielding one
inch of ground, and was prepared to acknowledge Wallace as her betrothed
lover when the proper time to do so should come.



CHAPTER VI.

A CONFESSION AND ITS REPLY.


Wallace, in his lonely home, was of course very sad and almost stunned
by the blow that had fallen upon him so suddenly.

For many years his mother had been the one object upon which he had
lavished the deep, strong affection of his manly nature. He had lost his
father when but a youth, but Mrs. Richardson had struggled bravely to
keep him at school, and give him as good an education as possible, for
he was a lad possessing more than ordinary capabilities and attainments.
By the time, however, that he graduated from the high school in the city
of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were living at that time, their
slender means gave out, and Wallace found that he must relinquish, at
least, for the present, his aspiration to perfect himself as an
architect, and do something for his own and his mother's support.

He was but seventeen years of age at this time, but he was a strong,
manly fellow, and he resolved to take up the carpenter's trade, much
about which he already knew, for during his vacations he had often
worked, from choice, under the direction of his father.

As he had told Violet, he felt that a practical and thorough knowledge
of the construction of buildings would be of inestimable benefit in the
future, for he had not by any means given up his intention of ultimately
becoming an architect.

He applied to the builder and contractor who had grown up under and
succeeded to the business of his father, and the man readily agreed to
engage him, provided he would be willing to go to Cincinnati, where he
had managed to obtain a very large contract, and, for a lad of Wallace's
age, he offered him unusual inducements.

At first Wallace demurred, for he could not bear the thought of leaving
his mother, and at that time they could not both afford to make the
change.

But he finally concluded to make the trial, and at the end of six months
he had made himself so valuable to his employer that the man had
increased his wages, and promised him still further promotion if he
continued to progress as he had done.

This change in his circumstances enabled Wallace to send for his mother
and to provide a comfortable little home for her.

He was very ambitious; every spare moment was spent in study, while he
also attended an evening school for drawing, where he could receive
instruction in his beloved architecture.

Thus, step by step, he went steadily on, perfecting himself in both his
trade and his profession until, at the opening of our story, six years
after leaving his native city, Boston, we find him and his mother still
residents of Cincinnati, and the young man in a fair way to realize the
one grand object of his life.

Already he had executed a number of plans for buildings, which had been
approved, accepted, and fairly well paid for, while he had applied for,
and hoped to obtain, a lucrative position in the office of an eminent
architect, at the beginning of the new year.

His accident had interrupted his business for several weeks, but he knew
that he should lose nothing pecuniarily, for the company that controlled
the incline-plane railway had agreed to meet all the expenses of his
illness, and pay him a goodly sum besides; so his enforced idleness had
not tried his patience as severely as it would have otherwise done.

Indeed, he had not been idle, for he had devoted a good deal of time,
after he was able to be about, to the study of his beloved art. His
right hand, being only slightly injured he could use quite freely, and
he executed several designs which he was sure would be useful to him in
the future.

His mother's sudden death, however, was a blow which almost crushed him.
He had never thought that she could die at least for long years for she
had apparently been in the enjoyment of perfect health.

They were sitting together one evening, and had been unusually social
and merry, when Mrs. Richardson suddenly broke off in the middle of a
sentence, leaned back in her chair as if faint, and before Wallace could
reach her side, her spirit was gone.

Wallace would not believe that she was dead until the hastily summoned
physician declared that life was entirely extinct and then the heavily
afflicted son felt as if his burden were greater than he could bear.

He did not look upon that loved face again until the hour of the
funeral, when he went alone into their pretty parlor to take his last
farewell, and found Violet there before him.

Her presence there had been "inexpressibly comforting" to him as he had
said, and in the sudden reaction and surprise of the moment he had
betrayed the secret of his love for her.

He was shocked and filled with dismay when, after his return from the
grave of his mother, he had an opportunity to quietly think over what he
had done.

He felt that he had been very unwise--that he had no right to aspire to
the hand of the beautiful heiress, for he could offer her nothing but
his true heart, and this, he well knew, would be scorned by Violet's
aristocratic relatives.

Yet, in spite of his remorse, his heart leaped with exultation over the
knowledge that the lovely girl returned his affection. She had not
spoken her love, but he had seen it in her shy, sweet glance of surprise
and joy at his confession; he had felt it in the clinging clasp of her
trembling fingers, that would not let him release her hand; he had heard
it in every tone of her dear voice when she had told him, simply, but
heartily, that she "was glad."

Was she glad to know that she was his "darling," or only glad because
her presence was a comfort to him in his hour of trial?

Both, he felt very sure, and he kept repeating those three words over
and over until they became sweetest music in his soul.

But he told himself that he must not accept the priceless gift of her
love.

"What shall I do?" he cried, in deep distress. "I have compromised
myself; I have gone too far to retract, and she would deem unmanly if I
should keep silent and let the matter drop here."

He sat for hours trying to decide what course to pursue, and finally he
exclaimed, with an air of resolution:

"There is no other way but to make a frank explanation--confess my
sorrow for my presumption and ask her forgiveness; then I must take up
the burden of my lonely life and bear it as well as I can."

The next morning, after he had partaken of his solitary breakfast, which
a kind and sympathizing neighbor sent in to him, he sat down to his task
of writing his confession to Violet.

That evening the fair young girl received the following epistle:

    "My Dear Miss Huntington:--I am filled with conflicting
    emotions, which it would be vain for me to try to explain, in
    addressing you thus; but my mother taught me this motto in my
    youth--and I have endeavored to make it the rule of my life ever
    since--'If you do wrong confess it and make what reparation you
    can.' I realize that I was guilty of great presumption and wrong
    in addressing you so unguardedly as I did yesterday, when we stood
    alone by my mother's casket. Pray forgive me, for, while I am
    bound to confess that the words were forced from me by a true,
    strong love, which will always live in my heart--a love such as a
    man experiences but once in his life for a woman whom he would win
    for his wife, if he could do so honorably--I know that, situated
    as I am, with a life of labor before me and only my own efforts to
    help me build up a possible fortune, I should not have betrayed
    myself as I did. I was unnerved by my great sorrow, and your
    gentle sympathy, coming as it did like balm to my wounded heart,
    unsealed my lips before I was aware of it. Again I beg your
    forgiveness, and with it forgetfulness of aught that could serve
    to lower me in your esteem.

    "Sincerely yours,

    "Wallace Richardson."

Violet was greatly excited by the contents of this letter, and burst
into a flood of tears the moment she had perused it.

She understood just how matters stood.

She comprehended how Wallace had grown to love her, even as she had,
though at the time unconsciously, learned to love him while she was an
invalid in his home; how, with his proud, manly sense of honor, he had
determined never to reveal his secret, from a fear that he would be
regarded as a fortune-hunter, and that her aristocratic relatives would
scorn an alliance with him on account of his poverty.

But Violet felt that he was her peer, if not her superior, in every
respect save that of wealth; that a grand future lay before him--grand
because he would climb to the top-most round in the ladder of his
profession, if energy, perseverance, and unswerving rectitude could
attain it.

He might be poor in purse now, but what of that? Money was of little
value compared with a nature so rich and noble as his; and, more than
that--she loved him!

"Yes, I do!" she exclaimed, as she pressed to her lips the precious
letter that told of his love for her. "I am not ashamed of it either,
and--I am going to tell him of it."

A crimson flush mounted to her brow as she gave expression to this
resolution, and, for a moment, a sense of maidenly reserve and timidity
oppressed her. The next she tossed back her pretty head with a resolute
air.

"Why should I not tell him?" she said. "Why should I conceal the fact
when the knowledge will make two true, loving hearts happy? I have money
enough for us both, for the present, and by and by I know he will have
an abundance. I suppose Belle and Wilhelm will object and scold, but I
don't care; it is the right thing to do, and I am going to do it," and
she proceeded to put her resolution at once into action.

She drew her writing tablet before her, and, with the tears still
glittering on her lashes and a crimson flush on her cheek, she penned
the following reply to her lover's letter:

    "Dear Wallace:--Your letter has just come to me. I have
    nothing to 'forgive'--I do not wish to 'forget.' Perhaps I am
    guilty of what the world would call an unmaidenly act in writing
    thus, when your communication does not really call for a reply,
    but I know my happiness, and, I believe, yours also, depends upon
    perfect truthfulness and candor. Your unguarded words by your
    mother's casket told me that you love me; your letter to-day
    reaffirms it, and my own heart goes forth in happy response to all
    that you have told me.

    "You have made use of the expression, 'presumption and wrong.'
    Pardon me if I claim that you would have been guilty of a greater
    wrong by keeping silent. Heaven has ordained that somewhere on
    this earth each heart has its mate, and there would be much less
    of secret sorrow, much less of domestic misery, if people would be
    honest with each other and true to themselves. How many lives are
    ruined by the worship of mammon--by the bondage of position!
    Perhaps I might be accused of 'presumption'--of offending against
    all laws of so-called etiquette, in making this open confession.
    However it may seem, I am going to be true to myself, and my
    convictions of what is right, and so I have opened my heart to
    you. Still, if in writing thus, I have done aught that can lower
    me in your esteem, I pray you to forgive and forget.

    "Violet Huntington."

Violet would not allow herself to read over what she had written.

She had penned the note out of the honesty and fullness of her fond
little heart; and, though she stood for a moment or two irresolute,
debating whether to tear it into pieces and thus cast her happiness
forever from her with the fragments, or to send it and trust to
Wallace's good sense to interpret it aright, her good angel touched the
balance in her favor, and she resolutely sealed and addressed the
missive.

Then she stole softly down stairs and out to the street corner, where
she posted it with her own hands, after which she sped back to her
chamber and relieved her sensitive heart in another burst of tears.

She would not have been human if she had not regretted her act, now that
it was past recall. She grew nervous and self-abusive, declared that she
had been unmaidenly, and made herself as wretched as possible.

She dared not think what would be the result of her letter. Would
Wallace despise her for unsexing herself and almost proposing to him?
Would he, with his exaggerated ideas of honor still claim that it would
be unmanly to accept the love which she had so freely offered him?

Thoughts such as these occupied her waking hours up to the following
afternoon, when she expected a letter from Wallace, and was deeply
disappointed when none came.

Mr. and Mrs. Mencke had gone out to make some social calls, and Violet
was striving to divert her mind from the all-important theme, by going
over her music lesson for to-morrow. It was useless, however; there was
no music in her--everything was out of harmony, and her fingers refused
to do their work.

She then tried to read, but her mind was in such a chaotic state that
words had no meaning for her, and she finally grew so nervous that she
could do nothing but pace up and down the room.

The hours slowly dragged on, evening came, and she was upon the point of
going up stairs to bed, when a sudden ring at the door-bell made her
start with a feeling of mingled shame and joy.

She listened breathlessly, while a servant went to answer the summons,
and then heard her usher some one in the drawing-room.

A moment later the girl appeared in the library doorway, bearing a card
on a silver salver.

"A caller for you, Miss Violet," she said, as she passed her the bit of
pasteboard.

Violet grew dizzy, then the rich color surged over cheek and brow, as
she read the name of Wallace Richardson, written upon the spotless
surface in a beautiful, flowing hand.



CHAPTER VII.

"HE IS MY AFFIANCED HUSBAND."


Violet stood as if dazed for a moment, after reading her lover's name,
and realized that he had come in person to reply to her letter, her
cheeks fairly blazing with mingled joy and agitation, her heart
fluttering like a frightened bird in its cage.

Then she grew pale with a sudden fear and dread.

What would be the outcome of this interview?

Would it bring her happiness or sorrow?

With trembling limbs, and a face that was as white as the delicate lace
about her throat, she went slowly toward the drawing-room to learn her
fate.

Wallace, no less nervous and perturbed than herself, was pacing the
elegant apartment, but stopped and turned eagerly toward Violet as she
entered, his face luminous in spite of the stern self-control which he
had resolved to exercise.

All the light died out of it however as he saw how pale she was.

"Violet!--Miss Huntington! are you ill?" he cried, regarding her
anxiously.

Again the rich color surged up to her brow at the sound of his dear
voice, for the tremulous tenderness in it told her that his heart was
all her own, and her elastic spirits rebounded at once.

She shot a shy, sweet glance up into his earnest face, a witching little
smile began to quiver about her lovely lips, then she said,
half-saucily, but with charming confusion:

"No--I am not ill; I--was only afraid that I had done something
dreadful. Have I?"

All the worldly wisdom, with which the young man had tried to arm
himself, in order to shield the girl whom he so fondly loved from rashly
doing what she might regret later, gave way at that, and before he was
aware of what he was doing he had gathered her close in his arms.

"My darling! no," he said; "you have done only what was true and noble,
and I honor you with my whole soul. If all women were one-half as
ingenuous there would be, as you have said, less misery in the world.
But so many are simply worldly-wise--thinking more of wealth and
position than they do of true affection, that their hearts starve, their
lives are warped and ruined. Violet, my heart's dearest, how shall I
tell you of my heart's great love? I cannot tell it--I shall have to let
a life-time of devotion attest it, but you have glorified my whole
future by assuring me of your affection."

"Oh, I was afraid you would think me very bold--that you would regard me
with contempt," Violet sighed, tremulously. "After my letter had gone,
and I tried to think over what I had written more calmly, and to wonder
how you would regard it, I was almost sorry that I had sent it."

"'Almost,' but not really sorry?" questioned Wallace, with a fond smile.

"No, for I had to tell you the truth, if I told you anything, and no one
can be sorry for being strictly candid," she returned, "and," with a
resolute uplifting of her pretty head, while she looked him straight in
the eyes, "why should I not tell you just what was in my heart? Why does
the world think that a woman must never speak, no matter if she ruins
two lives by her silence? You told me that you loved me, although you
did not ask me if I returned your affection; but I knew that my life
would be ruined if I did not make you understand it. I do love you,
Wallace, and I will not be ashamed because I have told you of it."

The young man was deeply moved by this frank, artless confession. He
knew there was not a grain of indelicacy or boldness in it; it was
simply a truthful expression of a pure and noble nature, the spontaneous
outburst of a holy affection responding to the sacred love of his own
heart, and the avowal aroused a profound reverence for an ingenuousness
that was as rare as it was perfect.

He bent down and touched his lips to her silken hair.

"There is no occasion," he said, earnestly, "and you have changed all my
life, my dear one, by adopting such a straightforward course. Still," he
added, with a slight smile, "I did not come here intending to tell you
just this, or with the hope that our interview would result in such open
confessions."

"Did you not?" Violet asked, quickly, and darting a startling look at
him.

"No, love; nay, rest content just where you are," he said, as she would
have withdrawn herself from his encircling arms, "for you may be very
sure I shall never give you up after this; but your letter must be
answered in some way; I knew that we must come to some final
understanding, and though truth would not allow me to disavow my love
for you, yet I wished you to realize fully that I would not presume to
take advantage of anything which you might have written upon the impulse
of the moment. I would not claim any promise of you which you might
regret when you should come to think of it more calmly; while, too, I
wished to assure myself that your friends would sanction your decision,
and absolve me from any desire to take a dishonorable advantage of you.
I would win you fairly, my Violet, or not at all."

Violet flushed at this.

"Did you expect to obtain the sanction of my sister or her husband
to--to our engagement?" she asked.

"I did not come expecting to gain anything that I wanted," Wallace
returned, smiling, "for I had resolved not to take you at your word
until I had assured myself that you fully understood all that it would
involve; then, of course, I knew that the proper thing for me to do
would be to ask their consent to our betrothal."

"And you intend to do this now?" Violet questioned.

"Certainly. You are not of age, are you, dear?"

"No; but, Wallace, they will never sanction it," Violet said, with
burning cheeks, but thinking it best to prepare him for the worst at the
outset.

"Because of my present poverty and humble position?" he question,
gravely.

"Yes, and money is their idol," the young girl frankly answered.

"Then, Violet, I do not think it will be right for me to bind you by any
promise to become my wife, until I have earned a position and a
competence that will meet their approval and warrant me in asking for
your hand."

Violet put him a little from her, and stood erect and proud before him.

"You do not need to bind me by any promise," she said, in a low,
thrilling tone, "for when I gave you my love, I gave you myself as well.
I am yours while I live. In confessing my love for you, I have virtually
bound myself to you, and even if I am never your wife in name, I shall
be in soul until I die. You can ask the sanction of my sister and her
husband, as a matter of form. I know they will not give it; but they
have no moral right to come between us--they never shall! They are very
proud and ambitious; they hope"--and Violet colored crimson at the
confession--"to marry me to some rich man; but my heart and my hand are
mine to bestow upon whom I will; and, Wallace, they are yours, now and
forever."

Wallace regarded her with astonishment, while he wondered if there was
ever so strange a betrothal before.

He had asked no promise, but he felt that she could not have been more
surely bound to him if their marriage vows had already been
pronounced--at least, as far as her fidelity to him was concerned.

"I am young, I know," Violet went on, after a moment--"I am not yet
quite eighteen--and Wilhelm is my guardian. He can control my fortune
until I am twenty-one; but that need make no difference with our
relations. You will be true to me, I know, and I do not need to assure
you of my own faithfulness, I am sure. Meantime you will be working up
in your profession, and when I do reach my majority and come into
possession of my money, I can do as I like, without asking the consent
of any one."

"My faithful, true-hearted little woman, I had no idea there was such
reserve force beneath your gay, laughing exterior," Wallace returned,
tenderly. "What a royal gift you have bestowed upon me, my darling! I
accept it reverently, gratefully, and pledge you my faith in return,
while I do not need to assure you that I will not spare myself in
striving to win a name and a position worthy to offer my heart's queen.
You have changed the whole world for me," he continued, with emotion. "I
am no longer alone, and you have armed me with a zeal and courage, to
battle with the future, such as I should never have known under other
circumstances. My darling, I take your promise with your love, and when
the right time comes I shall claim my wife."

He drew her to his breast again, and lifting her sweet face to his, he
touched her lips with a fond and reverent betrothal kiss.

"Humph! Pray, Miss Violet, allow me to inquire how long you have been
posing for this interesting tableau?"

This question, in the gruff, sarcastic tones of Wilhelm Mencke, burst
upon the lovers like an unexpected thunderclap, and, starting to her
feet, Violet turned to find her sister's husband standing not six feet
from her.

Mrs. Mencke seemed rooted just inside the doorway, apparently too
paralyzed by the scene which she had just witnessed to utter a word,
while there was an indescribable expression of anger and disgust upon
her handsome face.

For a moment Violet was so astonished and confused she could not utter a
word; then, with that slight uplifting of her fair head which those who
knew her best understood to indicate a gathering of all the force of her
will, she quietly remarked, though a burning flush mounted to her brow:

"Ah, Wilhelm! I thought you and Belle had gone out for the evening."

"No doubt; and you had planned to enjoy yourself in your own way, it
seems," sneered the angry master of the house, as he glared savagely at
Wallace, who now arose and advanced to Violet's side.

"Stop, if you please, Wilhelm," the young girl said, as he seemed about
to go on, and her clear tones rang out warningly. "When you went out I
had no thought of receiving visitors; but of that I will speak with you
later. Allow me to introduce my friend, Mr. Richardson. Mr. Richardson,
my brother-in-law, Mr. Mencke; my sister you have already met."

Wallace bowed courteously, while he marveled at Violet's remarkable
self-possession; but neither Mr. Mencke nor his wife acknowledged the
introduction otherwise than by bestowing a malignant look upon him, and
this slight aroused all Violet's spirit to arms.

"Friend!" repeated Mr. Mencke; "one would naturally judge from the
touching scene just enacted that the young man sustained a much nearer
relation to you."

"He does!" flashed out Violet, as she boldly faced both the intruders,
and reckless of the consequences of the avowal; "he is my affianced
husband!"

"Violet!" almost screamed her sister, as she sprang forward and seized
the young girl by the arm. "Are you crazy?"

"Pardon me, madame," said Wallace, courteously, as he advanced toward
the group, "and pray give me your attention for a moment while I explain
what may seem an unpardonable intrusion, and for which I am wholly to
blame."

"No," interrupted Violet, releasing herself from her sister's grasp; "I
alone am responsible for what has occurred this evening. Mr. Richardson,
in an unguarded moment, revealed to me the fact that he entertained an
affection for me such as I have long known, exists in my own heart for
him. I responded to it----"

"Shameless girl!" ejaculated Mrs. Mencke, in an angry tone.

"No, Belle, I am not a shameless girl. I simply gave truthful expression
to an attachment in return for a confession that gave me great
happiness, and notwithstanding that Mr. Richardson told me he would not
bind me by any promise until, as he expressed it, he should be in a
suitable position to warrant him in asking my hand of you, I told him
outright that my acknowledgment of affection was as binding with me as
any promise----"

"Mr. and Mrs. Mencke," Wallace now interposed, "I cannot allow your
sister to assume the responsibility of all this, for it is really my
place to shield her. I love her with all the strength of my nature, and
I now formally ask you, as her guardians, to sanction the compact we
have made this evening."

"Never!" emphatically retorted Mrs. Mencke, in her haughtiest tone.

"It is not worth while to discuss such an impossible proposition, and
you will best suit us, young man, by making yourself scarce without more
ado," supplemented Mr. Mencke, with a menacing air.

"Belle! Wilhelm!--do you call yourself a lady, a gentleman, and dare to
insult a friend of mine in your own house?" cried Violet, quivering with
indignation, her eyes glittering like coals of fire.

Mrs. Mencke began to realize that they were arousing a spirit which
might be difficult to manage; consequently she deemed it advisable to
adopt a different course.

"We have no wish to insult any one, Violet," she began, with dignity,
but in a more conciliatory tone; "but of course we are very much
astonished by such a declaration as you have just made, and you a mere
child yet----"

"I believe you were married at eighteen, Belle; I shall be eighteen in
two months," Violet quietly interrupted, but with a roguish gleam in her
blue eyes.

Mrs. Mencke colored.

She had by no means forgotten the circumstances connected with her own
marriage, which had been an elopement, because of a stern parent's
objections to the man of her choice; though this fact was not known in
the circle where she now moved.

"Well, you will not marry at eighteen," she answered, tartly.

"Perhaps not; indeed, I have no desire to, but when I do, Mr. Richardson
will be the man whom I shall marry, and I want the matter understood
once for all," Violet returned, with a gravity which betrayed her
unalterable determination.

"You had best put the child to bed, Belle, and I will show this young
carpenter the way out," Mr. Mencke remarked, contemptuously, as if he
really regarded Violet's assertion as simply the iteration of a willful
child.

Violet shot him a look that made him wince; then turning, she laid her
hand upon Wallace's arm.

"It is a shame!" she said, with quivering lips. "I blush that relatives
of mine can stoop to offer any one such indignity. Forgive me that I am
powerless to help it."

"I have nothing to forgive, and I have everything to honor you for,
Violet; but it is best that I should go now, and we will settle this
matter later," the young man replied, in a fond yet regretful tone.

It had been very hard to stand there and preserve his self-control; but
for her sake he had borne all in silence.

"You will never give me up?" the young girl pleaded, her small fingers
closing over his arm appealingly.

He took her hand in a strong yet gentle clasp.

"No, never, until you yourself ask it," he said, firmly.

"That I shall never do. Do you hear, Belle, Wilhelm?" she cried, turning
defiantly to them. "I have given Wallace my promise that I will be his
wife, and he has said that he will never give me up. Just so sure as I
live, I shall fulfill that promise."

Mrs. Mencke lost control of herself entirely at this.

"Violet Huntington!" she cried, white to her lips with rage, "you will
at once retract that rash vow or this house is no longer your home."

"Mrs. Mencke, let me entreat that the subject be dropped for the
present," Wallace here interposed. "Believe me, I shrink from being the
cause of any disturbance in your household, and since this union, which
appears to cause you such uneasiness, cannot be consummated for some
time yet, I beg that you will not distress your sister nor yourself by
further threats."

"I will drop the subject when you both agree to cancel this foolish
engagement. Give me your word of honor that you will never claim the
fulfillment of Violet's rash promise to you, and I will drop the matter
and be glad to do so."

"I cannot promise you that," Wallace firmly replied, though he had grown
very pale as he realized how determined they were to separate them. "I
love your sister, and if she is of the same mind in the future, when I
can feel justified in claiming her, I shall certainly make her my wife."

"And you know me well enough, Belle, to be sure that I shall not
change--that I shall not retract one word that I have said to-night,"
Violet added, with no less firmness than her lover had manifested.

"I know that you are a rash and obstinate girl, but you will find that I
can be just as relentless as yourself, and you will make me the promise
I demand or this house can no longer be your home," Mrs. Mencke sternly
retorted.

"I shall never make it," Violet reiterated, with white lips, while she
looked up into her lover's face with such an expression of affection and
trust that he longed to take her to his heart and bear her away at once
from such unnatural guardianship.



CHAPTER VIII.

"I'LL BREAK HER WILL!"


Mr. Mencke here interposed. When his wife's temper was aroused she was
liable to be rash and unreasonable. He thought if they could but get rid
of Wallace they could perhaps coax Violet into a more pliable frame of
mind.

He turned to the young man, and said, sternly:

"We have had enough of this for to-night, but I will confer with you
later about this matter."

Wallace bowed a courteous, but dignified, assent to this broad hint to
take his departure.

He bade Violet good-night in a low tone, tenderly pressing her hand
before releasing it, then, after a polite bow to Mrs. Mencke, which she
did not deign to notice, he walked with a firm, manly bearing from the
house, bidding its master a gentlemanly good-evening at the door.

In spite of her rage against Violet and her poverty-stricken lover, Mrs.
Mencke could not help admiring the latter's self-possessed exit, while
she secretly confessed that "the fellow was uncommonly good-looking."

When the door had closed after him, she turned again to her sister.

"Violet, I am scandalized----" she began, when that young lady
interrupted her.

"There is no need, I assure you, Belle," she said, coldly. "I confess I
would have preferred that you did not see us just as you did, but I have
been guilty of nothing which should cause you to feel scandalized. We
may as well understand each other first as last, and you may as well
make up your mind to the inevitable, for, if I live, I shall marry
Wallace Richardson. If I cannot do so legally until I am of age, I shall
wait until then, and you know, Belle, when I take a stand like this, I
mean it."

With this parting shaft Violet, with uplifted head and flashing eyes,
walked deliberately from her sister's presence and up to her own room.

"The little vixen will do it, Belle, as sure as you live," remarked
Wilhelm Mencke, who had returned to the drawing-room in season to catch
the latter portion of Violet's remarks.

"She shall not!" cried his wife, angrily. "Marry that low-born carpenter
who has to labor with his hands for daily bread! Never!"

"I do not see how you are going to help it; you know she has the grit of
a dozen common women in that small body, and a will of iron," replied
Mr. Mencke.

"Then I'll break her will! I came of a resolute stock, too, and it will
be Roman against Roman, with the advantage on my side. She shall never
compromise herself, nor us, by any such misalliance."

Mr. Mencke looked a trifle sheepish at this spirited speech. He could
not forget, if his wife did, that some fourteen years previous he had
been as badly off, if not worse, than this young carpenter. He had been
a laborer in the employ of Miss Belle Huntington's father, and she had
not felt that she was compromising herself or her parents by marrying
him, and the wealthy pork-packer's daughter had run away with the man
whom she loved.

"What will you do to prevent it?" he asked, after a few moments of
awkward silence. "The girl can marry him any day if she takes a notion;
the will says we are to be the guardians of the property 'until she is
twenty-one or marries.' It would make it rather awkward for me if she
should, for her husband would have the right to demand her fortune,
and--Belle, the duse would be to pay if I should lose my hold on that
money."

"What is the matter, Will?" demanded Mrs. Mencke looking startled.

"Hum--nothing much, only--it is so mixed up with my own affairs it would
cripple me to have to fork it over on short notice," Mr. Mencke replied,
looking exceedingly glum.

"You may rest satisfied upon one point; you will never have to surrender
it to that fellow," his wife returned, decisively. "I will send Violet
to a convent first, and she would be kept straight enough there."

"That is well thought of Belle," said her husband, eagerly, his usually
stolid face lighting up greedily. "It would never do, though, to send
her to one here; suppose we get her off to Montreal, where there will be
no one to interfere; we can keep her there as long as we like, and
meantime I will make Cincinnati too hot to hold that youngster."

"We will do it, Will, and she shall stay there until she promises to
give up this silly love affair."

"You are a very conscientious and affectionate sister, Belle," said her
husband, with a sarcastic laugh. "What do you suppose Eben Huntington
would say to----"

"Hush!" returned Mrs. Mencke, with an authoritative gesture, "that is a
secret that must never be breathed aloud; but all things are fair in
love and war, and to Montreal and into a convent Violet shall go without
delay."

But if Mrs. Mencke could have caught a glimpse of the white, resolute
face of her young sister, as she stood at that moment just outside the
drawing-room door, she might not have felt quite so confident of her
power to carry out her project.

Violet, after leaving Mrs. Mencke, intended to go at once to her room,
but upon reaching the top of the stairs, she remembered that she had
left upon the piano, in the library, Wallace's letter, in a book that
she had been reading.

Not wishing other eyes than her own to peruse it, she stole quietly down
again to get it, and happened to pass the drawing-room door just as her
sister made her threat to send her to a convent.

She had always had a horror of convent life, and though Mrs. Mencke had
been educated at one, Violet would never consent to go to one, and had
attended the public schools of the city, until she graduated from the
high school, after which she spent a year at a noted institution in
Columbus, "to finish off."

She was greatly agitated as she listened to the conversation of her two
guardians, and she wondered how they could scheme so against her. It was
cruel, heartless. There had never been open warfare between them before,
though Violet had not always been so happy as young girls usually are.
There was much about her home-life that was not congenial, but she was
naturally gentle and affectionate, and, where principle was not at
stake, she would yield a point rather than create dissension.
Occasionally, however, there would arise a question of conscience, and
then she had shown the "grit" and "will of iron" of which Mr. Mencke had
spoken.

Mrs. Mencke arose as she made her last remark, and Violet, fearing to be
found eavesdropping, sped noiselessly on into the library, where she
secured her book and letter; then fleeing by a door opposite the one she
had entered, and up a back stair-way, she reached her own room without
exciting the suspicion of any one that she had overheard the plot
concerning her.

Locking herself in, she sat down at once and wrote all that she had
overheard to Wallace, telling him that she should certainly grieve
herself to death if she was immured in a convent, and asking him what
she should do in this emergency.

She informed him that she should take a German lesson at three the next
afternoon, and begged him to meet her in the pupils' reception-parlor of
the institute at four o'clock.

She was so wrought up that she could not sleep, and tossed restlessly
most of the night, while she wondered why Belle and Wilhelm were so
cruel to her, and what the secret was to which Belle had referred; she
had not, until then, been aware that there was anything mysterious
connected with their family history.

She arose very early the next morning, and stole forth to post her
letter, long before any of the household were astir, after which she
crept back to bed and fell into a heavy, dreamless slumber, which lasted
until late in the forenoon.

Wallace received Violet's letter by the morning post, and was greatly
exercised over it.

At four o'clock precisely he entered the pupils' reception-room at the
institute where Violet took German lessons, and was thankful to find no
one there before him.

Presently Violet entered, looking pale and unhappy. She sprang toward
her lover, and laid two small hot hands in his, while she lifted a pair
of sad, appealing eyes to him.

"What shall I do, Wallace?" she cried, with quivering lips. "I will not
go to Montreal, and yet I know they are determined to make me."

"Your sister or her husband has no right to insist upon your going into
a convent, if you do not wish to do so," Wallace returned, gravely.

"But they are my guardians; I have no other home, no other friends; they
have the care of my money and I have to go to them for everything I
want. I do not expect they will tell me that they are going to take me
to a convent unless I will submit to them--they are too wise for that;
they will plan to go on a journey, say they are going to shut up the
house, and I must of course go with them; then when they get to Montreal
they will force me into a convent," Violet said, excitedly.

"I cannot believe that they would do anything so underhanded and
dishonorable," said Wallace, greatly shocked.

"They will," Violet persisted, excitedly. "Belle said 'anything was fair
in love and war,' and when she gets aroused, as she was last night, she
stops at nothing. Then, too, she hinted at some secret, and I am greatly
troubled over it."

"Violet," began Wallace, solemnly, as he bent to look into her face,
while he held her hands in almost a painful clasp, "are you sure that
you love me--that you will never regret the promise that you made me
last night? You are very young, you have seen but little of the world,
and a larger experience might cause you to change by and by."

Violet's delicate fingers closed over his spasmodically.

"Wallace! you are not sorry! Oh, do not tell me that you regret, and
that I am to lose you," she pleaded, almost hysterically.

"My darling," he answered, with gentle fondness, "you are all the world
to me, and if I should lose you, I should lose all that makes life
desirable; but I wish you to count the cost of your choice and not make
enemies of your only friends, to regret it later."

"No, Wallace--no! I shall not regret it. I love you with my whole heart,
and--I shall die if we are separated," Violet concluded, with a pathetic
little sob that went straight to her lover's heart.

His face grew luminous with a great joy; he knew then that she belonged
to him for all time.

"Then listen, love," he said; and bending, he placed his lips close to
her ear, and whispered for a minute or two.

Violet listened, while a strange, wondering expression grew on her fair
face, and a burning blush mounted to her brow and lost itself among the
rings of soft, golden hair that lay clustering there.

She was very grave, almost awe-stricken, when he concluded, and then she
stood for a moment silently thinking.

"Yes," she said, softly, at last, and dropped her face upon the hands
that were still clasping hers.

They stood thus for another moment, then Wallace led her to a seat, and
sitting down beside her, they conversed in repressed tones for some time
longer.

Violet reached home just as her sister returned from making calls.

"Where have you been, Violet?" Mrs. Mencke asked, suspiciously.

"To take my German lessons," the girl responded, with a sigh.

Her heart was heavy and sore, and she longed for love and sympathy
instead of sour looks and words.

"Your term is nearly ended, isn't it?" Mrs. Mencke continued, as they
entered the house together.

"I have one lesson more," said Violet.

"Come in here; I want to talk with you," her sister rejoined, as she led
the way into the drawing-room.

Violet followed, with flushing cheeks and eyes that began to glitter
ominously. Her spirit was leaping forth to meet the trial in store for
her.

"I have been thinking," Mrs. Mencke began, throwing herself into a chair
and trying to speak in an offhand way, "that another little trip would
do us all good. Will has business that calls him to Canada, and he
thinks he would like company on the journey; so we have decided to
combine business and pleasure, and take in all the sights on the way. He
is to start a week from Wednesday, and we can easily be ready to
accompany him by that time. What do you say, Vio?"

Violet thought a moment, then meeting her sister's eye with a steady
glance, she briefly replied:

"I do not wish to go."

Mrs. Mencke flushed. She did not like that quiet tone.

"I am sorry," she returned, "for we have decided to shut up the house
during our absence, and I could not think of leaving you behind."

"Nevertheless, Belle, I shall not go with you to Montreal," Violet
answered, steadily.

"Who said anything about Montreal?" quickly demanded Mrs. Mencke, and
regarding her sharply.

"I may as well be straightforward with you, Belle," Violet continued,
"and tell that I know just what you have planned to do, and I am not
going to Montreal to be placed in a convent!"

"Violet!" ejaculated the startled woman, with a crimson face.

"You need not attempt to deny anything," the young girl continued,
calmly, "for I overheard you and Will planning it last night. I came
down to get something that I had left in the library, and as I was
passing through the hall I heard you say you would send me to a convent.
Of course, having learned that much, I was bound to hear all I could of
the plan."

Mrs. Mencke looked blank over this information for a moment; then her
temper getting the better of her, she burst forth into a torrent of
reproaches and abuse.

Violet sat with quietly folded hands and did not attempt to interrupt
her; but finally the woman grew ashamed of the sound of her angry voice
and words and ceased.

"Are you through, Belle?" Violet then inquired, in a cold, strangely
calm tone.

"Well, you have driven me nearly to distraction by the way you have
carried on of late," Mrs. Mencke said, apologetically.

"I think I have had something to bear as well from you," the young girl
returned; "but I am no longer a child to be taken hither and thither
against my will. If you and Will wish to take a trip to Canada you can
do so by yourselves. I shall not accompany you."

"What will you do--remain in Cincinnati and meet that vulgar carpenter
on the sly, I suppose," retorted her sister, angrily.

"I can go to Mrs. Bailey's. Nellie has long been wishing me to spend a
few weeks with her."

"And she will aid and abet you in your love-making, perhaps you
imagine," sneered Mrs. Mencke. "No, miss; you will go with us, whether
you want to or not, and you will also go into a convent, where you will
remain until you give me your solemn promise to relinquish all thoughts
of ever marrying that low-born Yankee."

Violet arose at this point and stood pale and erect before her sister.

"Belle, I shall not go to Montreal. I will not be forced to go anywhere
against my inclination," she said, with a resoluteness that betrayed an
unalterable purpose. "I know that you and Will were appointed my
guardians, and that I shall not reach my majority for three years yet;
but I know, too, that there is some redress for such abuse of authority
as you are attempting to exercise, and if you persist in this
course--much as I shall dislike the notoriety of such a proceeding--I
shall appeal to the courts to set you aside and appoint some one in your
place. You said last night that it would be 'Roman against Roman' in
this matter. You said truly; and hereafter, Belle, you will have to meet
me in an entirely different spirit before you and I can ever be upon the
old footing again. I hope, at least, that you now understand, once for
all, that I shall not accompany you and Wilhelm upon any trip."

She turned and walked with quiet dignity from the room as she ceased
speaking, leaving Mrs. Mencke looking both startled and confounded by
the resolute and unexpected stand that she had taken regarding her
guardianship.

"Where on earth can she have found out about that point of law?" she
muttered, angrily. "Some more of that carpenter's doings, I suppose."

She sat for some time absorbed in thought; but finally her face cleared,
and rising she rang the bell.

The housemaid answered it almost immediately.

"Tell James to put the horses back into the carriage as quickly as
possible, as I have forgotten something and must go immediately to the
city again," she commanded, as she rearranged her wrap.

In less than ten minutes she was on her way, not back to the city, but
to call upon an intimate friend in Eden Park.



CHAPTER IX.

VIOLET BECOMES A PRISONER.


Mrs. Alexander Hartley Hawley, as she was always particular to write her
name, was much the same type of a woman as Mrs. Mencke, but with the
advantage of not possessing such an exceedingly high temper.

She was more suave and insinuating in her manner, and where she had a
difficult object to attain she always strove to win by strategy rather
than to antagonize her opponents by attempting to drive.

She also was intensely proud and tenacious of caste--a leader in society
and a great stickler regarding outward appearance.

In the old days, when Mrs. Mencke had so offended against upper-tendom
by eloping with the poor clerk in her father's employ, Mrs. Hawley had
dropped her from her extensive list of acquaintances; but after Mr.
Huntington's death, when the young couple came into possession of a
handsome inheritance, the former friendship was renewed and their
intimacy, if anything, had been closer than during their youthful days.

To this friend and ally, who resided among the glories of Eden Park,
Mrs. Mencke now repaired to ask her advice regarding what course to
pursue with Violet in her present unmanageable mood.

She frankly confided everything to her, and concluded her revelation by
remarking, with an anxious brow:

"I am at my wits' end, Althea, and have come to ask your help in this
emergency."

"Certainly, Belle, I will do all in my power to help you," Mrs. Hawley
replied, eagerly, for she dearly loved to exercise her diplomatic
talents, "but I fear that will not be much, for we have decided, quite
suddenly, to sail for Europe the tenth of next month."

"Yes, I learned of your plans to-day through Mrs. Rider, and when Violet
got upon her stilts, on my return from my calls, it suddenly occurred to
me that perhaps if the matter was rightly managed and you would not mind
the care for a while, she would accept an invitation from you to travel
in Europe for a time. I would appear to oppose it at first, but
gradually yield to your persuasions, and, later, I would myself join you
abroad and relieve you of your charge. Once get her across the Atlantic,
and it will be an easy matter to keep her there until she comes to our
terms."

Mrs. Hawley readily lent herself to this scheme.

"It would be a great pity," she said, with a little intentional venom
pointing her words, "to have Violet sacrifice herself and compromise her
position by rashly marrying this low carpenter; and," she added,
eagerly, "I should be delighted to have her with me--she is excellent
company, while, as you know, I am quite fond of her, and it will be the
easiest thing in the world to persuade her to go with us."

"Do you think so?" Mrs. Mencke asked, somewhat doubtfully, for she began
to stand a little in awe of her young sister's rapidly developing
decision of character.

"Yes; Violet and Nellie Bailey are quite intimate, are they not?" Mrs.
Hawley asked.

"Yes; they were firm friends all through their high-school course, and
have visited each other a good deal since," returned Mrs. Mencke.

"Well, then, Mrs. Bailey came to me yesterday, asking if I would act as
chaperon to Nellie, who has long wanted to spend a year in Milan to
study music, and, as I readily granted her request, Miss Nellie will be
my companion during at least a portion of my tour."

"I do not believe Violet knows anything about it," Mrs. Mencke replied.

"Very likely not; for her mother told me she had said nothing to
Nellie--that she did not wish to arouse hopes to disappoint them, until
she could arrange for a proper escort for her," Mrs. Hawley explained.
"But," she added, "she probably knows it by this time. However, I am
going to call there this evening, to arrange our plans a little, and
will come around to your house later. I will try to bring Nellie with
me. She will be full of the trip, and doubtless express a wish that
Violet could go with her; and I will second her wishes by at once
inviting her to make one of our party. In this way we can bring it about
without appearing to have thought of such a thing before."

Mrs. Mencke was greatly pleased with this plan, and after discussing it
a while longer, she took leave of her friend, and returned home with a
lightened heart.

She met Violet at dinner-time, as if nothing unpleasant had occurred,
and did not once refer to the Canada expedition, or any other
disagreeable subject.

About seven o'clock Mrs. Hawley made her appearance, and, greatly to
Mrs. Mencke's delight, she was accompanied by Nellie Bailey.

"Oh, Vio!" exclaimed that elated young lady, after the first greetings
were exchanged, "I have the most delightful piece of news to tell you."

Violet looked interested immediately.

"What is it?" she asked.

"I am going to Europe next month," Nellie replied, with a face all
aglow.

"Going to Europe!" Violet repeated, with a look of dismay; for her heart
sank at the thought that she was about to lose her only friend.

"Yes; mamma has finally consented to let me have a year of music at
Milan, and Mrs. Hawley, who is also going broad, has consented to take
me under her friendly wing.

"Going for a year!" sighed Violet. "What shall I do without you?"

"Oh, it will soon slip by," said the happy girl, to whom the coming
twelve months would seem all too short. "Of course I shall miss you
dreadfully. I only wish you were going too. Wouldn't it be just
delightful?"

"Yes, indeed. And why not?" here interposed Mrs. Hawley, who appeared to
have been suddenly arrested, by this remark, in the midst of an account
of a brilliant reception, which she was giving to Mrs. Mencke. "You know
I am fond of your company, and should like nothing better than to have
two bright girls with me. Belle, let me take Violet, too. She ought to
have a nice trip abroad, now that she is out of school."

Mrs. Mencke looked thoughtful, and not especially pleased by the
proposition.

"You are very kind, Althea, to propose it, but Mr. Mencke and I had
planned a trip to Canada for this month and next, and we intended to
take Violet with us."

Violet turned a cold, steadfast look upon her sister.

"I told you that I should not go to Canada, Belle," she said, quietly,
but decidedly.

"Then come with us, by all means. I am sure it cannot make much
difference whether you go to Europe or Canada, and Nellie would be very
happy to have you for a chum," interposed Mrs. Hawley.

"Indeed I should. Oh, Violet, it would be simply charming. Wouldn't you
like it?" Nellie cried, enthusiastically.

"Ye-s," the unsuspicious girl replied, though somewhat doubtfully, as
she thought of the thousands of miles that would separate her from
Wallace, if she accepted this invitation. "How long do you intend to be
absent?" she concluded, turning to Mrs. Hawley.

"Oh, I shall be gone a year, perhaps two, and should enjoy having you
with me all the time; but Mr. Hawley and my sister, Mrs. Dwight, will
return in about three months, so if you should get homesick you could
come back with them."

Mrs. Hawley was very wise; she knew that Violet would be much more
likely to go if she felt she could return at any time.

The young girl wondered what Wallace would say to this plan. She really
felt attracted by it; at least, it would afford her a release for a time
from her sister's irritating authority.

"Why not let her come then, Belle, if she does not wish to go with you
to Canada?" urged Mrs. Hawley, insinuatingly, as she turned to her
friend, with a sparkle of mischief in her eyes, as she saw that Violet
was really inclined to go.

"Well, I do not know," said Mrs. Mencke, contemplatively. "I suppose I
should have to consult my husband--then there is the trouble of getting
her ready."

"Oh, she will not need anything for the voyage except some traveling
rugs and wraps and a steamer chair. We can replenish her wardrobe in
Paris for half what it would cost here, so you need not trouble yourself
at all on that score. Will you come, Violet?" and Mrs. Hawley turned
with a winning look to the fair girl.

"Say yes--do, Vio," pleaded Nellie; and then turning to Mrs. Mencke, she
added: "You will let her, won't you?"

"I have half a mind to," mused the crafty woman.

"There, Vio," cried Nellie, triumphantly; "there is nothing to hinder
now."

"It is very sudden--I will think of it and let you know," Violet began,
reflectively.

"There will not be very much time to think of it," Mrs. Hawley remarked,
pleasantly. "You had better decide the matter at once, and thus avoid
all uncertainty."

"I will let you know by the day after to-morrow," Violet returned, but
she lost color as she said it.

She wanted to go, to get away from her brother and sister, but she
shrank from leaving Wallace.

"She is planning to consult that fellow," Mrs. Mencke said to herself,
and reading Violet like a book; "but I will take care that she doesn't
get an opportunity to do so."

Mrs. Hawley said no more, but arose to take her leave, feeling that she
had done all that was wise, for that day, in the furtherance of her
friend's schemes.

But Nellie lingered a little, and tried to coax her friend into
yielding; she was very anxious to have her companionship upon the
proposed trip.

Violet was firm, however, and said again that she would like very much
to go, but could not decide at such short notice.

Mrs. Mencke did not renew the subject after their caller's departure,
and wisely maintained a somewhat indifferent manner, as if she did not
care very much whether Violet went or not.

Mr. Mencke came in a little later from his club, and she broached the
plan to him before Violet. Of course it had all been talked over before
between husband and wife.

He, also appeared to graciously favor the proposition.

"Why, yes," he said, "if Violet wants to go to Europe, let her; you say
she does not like the idea of going to Canada with us, and as we are
going to shut up the house, she must go somewhere."

"But she is not quite sure that she even wants to go with Althea," Mrs.
Mencke remarked, while she watched her sister closely.

"Humph," responded Mr. Mencke, bluntly; "it must be either one thing or
the other. Which shall it be, Violet--Europe or Canada? We can't leave
you here while we are away."

"It is a somewhat important question to decide at such short notice,"
Violet returned, coldly, and determined that she would not commit
herself until she could consult Wallace.

She was a little surprised that he should still talk of Canada, for she
had imagined that the trip had been planned wholly on her account.

She could not know that this was a pretense, intended to blind her still
further.

The next morning Mrs. Mencke went up to Violet's room about nine o'clock
and found her apparently engaged in reading a magazine.

"I am going out shopping," she remarked. "I have a great deal to do;
don't you want to come and help me?"

Violet looked up in surprise.

"Why, Belle, you know that I never suit your taste in shopping, and you
always veto what I suggest," she said.

"But you will need a great many things yourself for your trip abroad,
and you can at least purchase handkerchiefs, stockings, underwear, and
so forth," her sister returned.

"But I have not yet decided to go," Violet replied, annoyed that her
acquiescence should be thus taken for granted, "and in case I do not I
have plenty of everything for my needs at present."

"Well, then, Vio, come to keep me company," Mrs. Mencke urged, trying to
conceal her real purpose, to keep her sister under her surveillance,
beneath an affectionate exterior.

"Thank you, Belle, but really I do not want to go, and you will be so
absorbed in your shopping that you will not miss me," Violet responded.

"Very well, then; just as you choose," Mrs. Mencke returned, irritably,
and suddenly swept from the room, locking the door after her.

As the bolt shot into its socket, Violet sprang to her feet.

"Belle, what do you mean?" she cried, a flood of angry crimson surging
to her brow.

"I mean that if you will not go with me, you shall stay where you are
until I return," Mrs. Mencke sharply answered, and then she swept down
the stairs with a smile of triumph on her face, for she congratulated
herself that she had done a very clever thing.

Violet stood, for a moment or two, speechless and white with anger over
the indignity offered her.

"She has dared to lock me up like a naughty, five-year-old child!" she
cried, passionately. "I will not submit to such treatment; and besides,
I have promised to meet Wallace again at two o'clock. What am I to do?
Belle evidently suspected that I meant to see him, and has taken this
way to prevent it."

She sat down again and tried to think, though she was trembling with
excitement and anger.

There was no other outlet to her suite of rooms, and it certainly
appeared as if she must remain where she was until her sister's return.

Meantime Mrs. Mencke, upon going below, had called the housemaid and
confided to her that, for good reasons, she had locked Violet in her
room and she charged the maid not to let her out under any
circumstances.

She ordered her to carry a nice luncheon to Violet at twelve, but to be
sure to lock the door both going in and coming out, and on pain of
instant dismissal to pay no heed to Violet's entreaties to be set at
liberty.

Then, feeling that she had safely snared her bird, at least for a few
hours, she went about her shopping with an easy mind.

Violet, after thinking her condition over for a while, resolved not to
make any disturbance to attract the attention of the servants.

She reasoned that Sarah, the second girl, would bring her some luncheon
at noon, and she determined to seize that opportunity to effect her
release; just how that was to be accomplished she did not know, but get
out and go to the city she must before two o'clock.

She dressed herself for the street, all save her hat and wrap, and then
began to plan ways and means.

Suddenly her face lighted, and going into her dressing-room, she
surveyed the large mirror which was suspended above the marble bowl.

Taking a penknife from her pocket, she deliberately severed the heavy
cord by which it was held in place, and then exerting all her strength,
she let it carefully down until the bottom of the frame rested upon the
marble, while the top leaned against the wall.

Having accomplished this and assured herself that the glass was
perfectly safe, she went quietly back to her reading and managed to
amuse herself until the clock struck twelve.

Shortly afterward she heard a step on the stairs, accompanied by the
rattle of dishes, and knew that Sarah was bringing her up some luncheon.

Darting into her dressing-room, Violet seized the mirror, drew it to the
very edge of the marble and assuming a strained position, she had the
appearance of having caught the glass just as it was falling and in time
to save it from being dashed in pieces.

Sarah unlocked the chamber-door, and finding no one there, called out:

"Miss Violet, where are you?"

"Oh, Sarah, is that you? Come here quickly, for I am in trouble," the
young girl cried, appealingly.

Sarah put down her tray, but took the precaution to change the key from
the outside of the door to the inside and lock it before going to the
other room.

Then she went to see what was the matter.

"Why, Miss Violet," she cried, with dismay, as she took in the
situation, "how did that happen?"

"The cord has parted," panted Violet, as she glanced at the ragged ends
where she had sawed it asunder with her dull knife. "You will have to
help me," she added, "and I think we can manage to lift it to the floor
without breaking it. I do not dare to leave it standing here; it might
slip on the marble."

"No," said the girl, never suspecting any ruse to outwit her, "we must
take it down."

She seized one side of it in her strong arms, and, with Violet's help,
managed to get it safely down upon the floor.

"Hold it a moment, please, until I get my breath," Violet said, as if
wearied out by the exertion.

"Have you had to hold it there long?" Sarah asked, innocently, as she
allowed the heavy frame to rest against her.

"No, not very long; but I am so glad that you came just as you did, for
if it had fallen it would have frightened me terribly," Violet answered,
and she uttered no untruth, for she was glad that Sarah came just as she
did, because she was getting very anxious to go to Wallace and she would
have been frightened if the glass had been broken.

"Sure enough, miss," the girl replied, gravely, "and it's a sign of
death in the house to have a looking-glass broken. And look! the moths
must have been at this cord to make it give way, for it is like a rope
and could not break," and she stooped to examine the frayed ends as she
spoke.

Violet seized this opportunity and slipped quickly from the room,
drawing the door to and locking it after her, thus making Sarah a
prisoner and securing her own liberty.

But her kind little heart and tender conscience smote her for the
strategy which she had employed to accomplish her purpose, and kneeling
upon the floor, she put her lips to the key-hole and said:

"Forgive me, Sarah; but it was all a little plot of mine to get out. The
cord did not break; I cut it."

"Oh, Miss Violet, let me out; please, let me out," the girl cried, in
distress. "Mrs. Mencke said she'd send me off without a reference if I
didn't keep you safe till she came back, and I never dreamed you were
playing me such a trick."

"It is a little hard on you, I confess, Sarah," Violet responded,
regretfully, "and I am very sorry; but I had to do it, for I have an
important engagement down town. Belle had no business to treat me so
like a child, and she shall not discharge you if I can help it. I will
tell her just how I deceived you, and then, if she will not be
reasonable, I will give you a month's wages and help you to another
place."

Sarah continued to plead to be let out, but Violet remained unshaken in
her purpose.

"No, you will have to stay here a little while," she said, "but when I
go down I will send the cook up to release you. When Belle comes home
you can tell her that she will find me at Nellie Bailey's and that I
shall not come home until she apologizes for her shameful treatment."

She could not get over her indignation at being put under lock and key,
with a servant set over her as jailer.

She hastily donned her hat and wrap, drew on her gloves, and quietly
left the room.

Going to the top of the basement stairs, she rang a bell for the cook.

"Bridget, Sarah wants you to go up to my dressing-room to help her with
a mirror that has come down," she said; and then, without waiting for a
reply, Violet sped out of the house, and, hailing the first car that
came along, was soon rolling toward the city to meet her betrothed.



CHAPTER X.

"YOU WILL BE TRUE THOUGH THE OCEAN DIVIDES US."


About four o'clock of that same day Violet entered the private parlor of
her friend, Nellie Bailey, her face glowing, her eyes gleaming with
excitement.

"Oh, you dear child!" cried that young lady, leaping to her feet and
springing forward to meet her visitor, "you have come to tell me that
you are going to Europe with me."

"I have come to stay all night with you if you will let me," Violet
replied, returning the eager caress with which Nellie had greeted her.

"If I will 'let' you! You know I shall be only too glad to have you. But
how happy you look! You surely have good news to tell me."

Violet flushed, and her eyes drooped for a moment.

"Yes, I believe I shall go to Europe with you," she answered, her face
dimpling with smiles, and Nellie immediately went into ecstasies over
the announcement.

"I am perfectly enchanted," she cried; "and will you remain the whole
year?"

"I do not know about that," Violet thoughtfully replied. "I have not set
any time for my return. I shall go for three months at any rate, and I
may conclude to remain longer."

"I wish you could come to Milan to study music with me," Nellie
remarked, wistfully.

"I imagine that Belle would not consent to that," Violet returned. "She
would be afraid that we two girls would get into mischief if left to
ourselves. I suppose I shall travel with Mrs. Hawley, but I will try to
pay you a visit now and then if I remain any length of time."

The girls found much to talk about in anticipation of their journey, and
the time passed quickly and pleasantly until the dinner hour, while
during the meal the family were all so agreeable and entertaining--for
Violet was a great favorite with them--that she forgot, for the time,
the unpleasantness of the morning and her clear, happy laugh rang out
with all her customary abandon.

She had not mentioned her misunderstanding with her sister, for her
pride rebelled against having it known that she was not entirely happy
in her home; and when, shortly after dinner, Mrs. Mencke called and
asked to see Violet alone, she excused the circumstance by remarking
that she supposed it was upon some matter of business.

Mrs. Mencke had been furious, upon her return home to find how she and
Sarah had both been outwitted, and she had come to Mrs. Bailey's
prepared, not to apologize, but to be very severe upon the offender for
her defiance of all authority.

But the sight of her happy face and sparkling eyes disarmed her, and she
passed over the affair much more lightly than Violet had dared to hope
she would.

The young girl frankly acknowledged the strategy she had employed, and
exonerated Sarah from all blame; but she also firmly declared that if
her sister would not promise to let her alone--if she persisted in the
persecution of the last few days, she would reveal to Mr. and Mrs.
Bailey all that had occurred, and implore their protection and
assistance in securing other guardians.

Mrs. Mencke had arrived at that point where she believed that
"discretion would be the better part of valor," for she realized that
her young sister's spirit was too strong for her, and that she would do
what she had threatened; therefore, she resolved not to antagonize her
further if she could avoid it.

"It was a shame, Belle, for you to lock me up like a naughty,
unreasonable child, and I will not endure such treatment," Violet
indignantly affirmed, in concluding the recital of her morning's
experience.

"Well, well, child, I did not know what else to do with you; but let it
pass, please. Perhaps it was a mistake, and we will let by-gones be
by-gones," Mrs. Mencke responded, in a conciliatory tone. "I am glad
that you have decided in favor of the European trip, and I want you to
go away feeling kindly toward me. Will you come home with me now?"

"Not to-night; I have promised Nellie that I would spend it with her;
but you may send for me early tomorrow, for I suppose we shall have to
be rather busy during the next three weeks."

"Very well; but, Vio, you will promise me that you will not try to----"
Mrs. Mencke began, anxiously, for she could not rid herself of the fear
that Violet would try to meet her lover clandestinely.

"Hush, Belle; I will promise you nothing," Violet interrupted,
spiritedly. "I am a woman now--I have my own rights, and there are some
things upon which you shall not trench. If there is to be peace between
us you must let me entirely alone on one subject."

Mrs. Mencke made no reply to this. She told herself that strategy was
the only course left open to her.

She joined the Bailey family for a little while for a social chat, after
which she took her leave, promising to send the carriage for Violet at
ten the next morning.

The ensuing three weeks passed rapidly, and without any further trouble
between the sisters to mar their intercourse.

Mrs. Mencke endeavored, by every means in her power, to keep Violet
under her own eye during this time, but once or twice the young girl
managed to evade her vigilance. Whether she met Wallace or not she had
no means of ascertaining, but she felt that she should be truly thankful
and relieved of a heavy burden when the ocean divided them.

The day of sailing drew nigh and the voyagers, accompanied by several
friends, repaired to New York, where they were to take a steamer
belonging to the White Star Line.

When they all went aboard the vessel, on the morning of the tenth, Mrs.
Mencke was both amazed and dismayed to see Wallace Richardson advance
and greet Violet with all the assurance of an accepted suitor; while the
young girl herself, though her face lighted up joyously as she caught
sight of him, did not seem in the least surprised to find him there.

The fact was, Wallace had told Violet that he had a call to go to New
York on business, and he would arrange to be there at the time that she
sailed.

If looks could have annihilated him, he would at once have vanished
forever from the sight of men; but as he met Mrs. Mencke's angry glance
he courteously lifted his hat and bowed, and then went on with his
conversation with Violet.

Of course it would not do to make a scene in such a conspicuous place,
and the enraged woman was obliged to curb her passion; but she thanked
the fates that Violet was going so far away, and she vowed that it would
be a long while before she returned.

She intended to keep the young couple under her eye until the steamer
started, but, in the confusion which everywhere prevailed, they managed
to slip out of sight before she was aware of it, and after that she
could not find them.

They were not far away, however, and their security lay in this very
fact. They had simply stepped between a couple of stacks of baggage for
a few last words to each other, while they became oblivious of
everything save the thought of their approaching separation.

"My darling, it is hard to let you go--harder than I thought it would
be, now that the time has arrived," Wallace said, as he took both her
hands in his and looked tenderly into her sorrowful face.

"I almost wish I could not go, after all," Violet faltered, as the hot
tears rushed into her eyes. "I will not--I will stay, even now, if you
will tell me I may," she concluded, resolutely.

"No, love; that would be unwise, and I know it is better that you should
go--better for you, better for me," he replied.

"But I shall come back in three months," Violet said, with an air of
decision. "I could not stay away from you longer than that."

"If you feel that you must, I will not oppose it, dear," the young man
returned, tenderly. "Still, if you can be contented to remain a year, I
believe it would be a good plan for you to do so. Meantime I will do my
utmost to attain a position which shall warrant me in claiming this dear
hand when you return."

"I shall write to you by every steamer, Wallace, and you will be sure to
answer as regularly," Violet pleaded.

"Indeed I shall, and I am promising myself a great deal of pleasure from
our correspondence--more, in fact, than I have yet known, for our
clandestine meetings have been very galling to me. I never like to do
anything that is not perfectly open and straightforward," Wallace said,
gravely.

"Neither do I," returned Violet; "but we were driven to it."

"True, and therefore I feel that it was justifiable. They, your
guardians, would have separated us if they could; but this faithful
little heart could not be won from its allegiance; and, my darling, I am
sure you will still be true to me, even though the ocean divides us."

Violet's fingers closed over his with a convulsive, almost a painful
clasp.

"Always; nothing--no one could ever tempt me from my faith to you,
Wallace," she huskily murmured. "Oh!" she cried, with a sudden start, as
a warning whistle blew, "does that mean that you must go?"

"Yes, within five minutes," he replied. "And now, my heart's queen, no
one can see us; therefore give me just one parting kiss, and that must
be our farewell, for I cannot take leave of you before others."

He bent and gathered her quickly in his arms, straining her to his
breast with a close, yearning clasp, and pressed his lips to hers in one
lingering caress.

"My love, my love, you will take the light from my world when you go,"
he murmured, fondly.

Then he released her, and led her forth from their hiding-place toward
where her friends were gathered.

"Why, Violet, we have been alarmed about you, and our friends feared
they would have to go without saying good-by to you," Mrs. Mencke
exclaimed, in a tone that plainly indicated her displeasure at her
sister's behavior.

But there was no time for reproaches. Everybody was bidding everybody
else a last farewell, and presently the cry, "All ashore!" sounded, and
there was a general stampede of all those who were not outward bound.

Wallace remained until the last moment. His was the last hand that
touched Violet's, his the last voice that sounded in her ears with the
words:

"Good-by, queen of my heart, and Heaven bless you!"

Then he leaped across the gang-plank, just as it was being removed.

Violet's heart was full to overflowing at this parting, and she sped
down to her state-room, where, half an hour later, Nellie Bailey found
her sobbing hysterically.

"Why, you silly child!" she cried, assuming a light tone, although her
own eyes were full and her voice tremulous, "this does not look as if
you were very much elated over the prospect of going to Europe. Are all
the tears for that handsome young man who appeared so loath to leave
you? By the way, Violet, was that the Mr. Richardson who saved you at
the time of the inclined plane accident?"

"Yes," Violet murmured, between her sobs.

"I imagined so from something your sister said; she isn't over fond of
him, is she?" Nellie inquired, with a light laugh and a mischievous
glance at the averted face on the pillow in the berth, as she emphasized
the pronoun. "Come," she added, presently, "let us lay out the things we
are likely to need during the voyage, and put our state-room in order,
for there is no knowing how soon we may be attacked by the dread enemy
of all voyagers."

"Oh, I hope we shall not be sick," Violet said, diverted from her grief
by Nellie's practical suggestion, and wiping away her tears. "I love the
water, and I want to make the most of the time we are on the ocean. Let
us make up our minds that we will not be ill."

"I suppose we can control it, in a measure, by the exercise of will
power," Nellie answered, "and I will try what I can do in that respect,
although I very much fear that the sea will prove to be mightier than
I."

The two girls soon had their small room in order, and everything handy
for the voyage, then they went up on the deck to seek their friends, Mr.
and Mrs. Hawley, and the sister of the latter, Mrs. Dwight.

Mrs. Hawley eyed Violet curiously for a moment, noticing her heavy eyes
and the grieved droop about her sweet mouth, then set herself to divert
her mind from the recent farewell, which she plainly saw had been a
severe trial.

She was one of those remarkable women who can adapt themselves to all
kinds of society and circumstances. She could be delightful in a
drawing-room full of cultured people; she could entertain a group of
children by the hour, while the young people pronounced her the most
charming companion imaginable.

It was not long, therefore, before she made Violet entirely forget
herself and her recent sadness, and the young girl soon found herself
laughing heartily over some droll incident of which Mrs. Hawley had
recently been the amused and appreciative observer.

They were standing in a group by themselves, and by degrees became so
gay and merry that two gentlemen, standing a short distance from them,
became infected with their mirth.

"A gay party, isn't it, Ralph?" remarked the elder of the two.

"Jolly; I wish we knew them; and they are about as pretty a pair of
girls as I have ever seen. Do you suppose they are sisters?"

"No, I do not believe it; they have not a feature or characteristic in
common, as far as I can see. That golden-haired one is a perfect little
Hebe; her complexion and features are perfect, her figure faultless,
while she has the daintiest hands and feet that I ever saw," said the
first speaker.

"Really, Cameron, I believe you are hard hit, at last," laughed his
companion. "I never knew you to express yourself so enthusiastically
regarding a woman before."

"I never had occasion," returned Cameron, dryly. "We must manage some
way to make the acquaintance of yonder party--eh, Henderson?"

Fate seemed anxious to give him the opportunity he desired, for, just at
that moment, a gust of wind lifted Violet's jaunty hat from her head and
sent it flying toward the two distinguished-looking strangers, and in
another moment it would have been swept into the sea and lost beyond
recovery.

But the one who had been called Cameron sprang forward, and, with a
quick, agile movement, one sweep of his strong right arm, caught it just
as it was going over the rail.

With a gratified smile on his handsome face, and an air of courtly
politeness, he approached Violet, and bowing, remarked:

"Allow me to restore the bird that took such unceremonious flight."

He glanced at the golden-winged oriole which nestled so jauntily in its
brown velvet nest upon the hat as he spoke.

The fair girl thanked him, flushed slightly beneath his admiring look,
and Mrs. Hawley graciously echoed her appreciation of his dexterity.

"Allow me to compliment you, sir, upon your agility," she said, in her
cordial, outspoken way; "that was a leap worthy of an accomplished
athlete."

"Thanks, madame," young Cameron returned, lifting his hat in
acknowledgment of her praise.

Then he would have withdrawn himself from their presence, though he
longed to stay, but Mr. Hawley, who had been attracted by his fine face
and gentlemanly bearing, remarked:

"Since we are to be fellow-voyagers for a week or more, may I ask to
whom we are indebted? My name is Hawley, of the firm of Hawley & Blake,
Cincinnati, Ohio."

"Thank you," the young man replied, with a genial smile, "and I am known
as Vane Cameron. I am as yet connected with no firm, but my home has for
many years been in New York."

"Cameron--Cameron," repeated Mrs. Hawley, meditatively. "I wonder if he
can be a relative of that Anson Cameron who married the Earl of
Sutherland's daughter about the time of our marriage. It created
considerable talk among the grandees of New York, I remember, for the
lady was very beautiful as well as of noble blood."

Mrs. Hawley's reflection were here cut short by her husband, who
introduced her to the handsome young stranger, and then he proceeded to
perform the same ceremony for the other members of his party.

Mr. Vane Cameron was apparently about thirty years of age, fine-looking,
neither very dark nor very light, with a clear-cut patrician face, a
grandly developed form, a dignified bearing, and irreproachable manners.

He conversed in an easy, self-possessed manner with his new
acquaintances for a few moments, and then craved permission to introduce
his friend.

This request was cordially granted, and Mrs. Hawley ere long
congratulated herself upon having secured a very pleasant addition to
her party, for Mr. Ralph Henderson proved to be no less entertaining,
although a much younger man, than his _compagnon du voyage_.

By a few very adroit questions, and putting this and that together, Mrs.
Hawley learned that Mr. Vane Cameron was the son of Mr. Anson Cameron
and the grandson of the late Earl of Sutherland, consequently the heir
of the distinguished peer; and, more than that, she gleaned the
interesting item that he was now on his way to England to take
possession of his fine inheritance.

It is remarkable how much one woman can find out in a short time. Mrs.
Hawley also learned that Mr. Ralph Henderson belonged to an aristocratic
family who were numbered among the envied "four hundred" of New York.

"If I do not improve my opportunities during the next eight or nine
days, it will be because my usual wit and ability fail me," the lady
said to herself, after making these discoveries. "I have two pretty
girls under my wing, and these young men are not backward in realizing
the fact either. Violet, my pansy-eyed darling, I'll manage to make you
forget that carpenter lover of yours long before your stipulated three
months are at an end, or my name isn't Althea. I'd like nothing better
than to write you among my list of friends as Countess of Sutherland;
and Nellie, my modest little brunette, you would make a delightful
little spouse for that agreeable Mr. Henderson."



CHAPTER XI.

"DEATH HAS RELEASED YOU FROM YOUR PROMISE."


The voyage across the Atlantic proved to be a most delightful one.

Vane Cameron and Ralph Henderson, by tacit consent, joined Mrs. Hawley's
party, and were so entertaining and attentive that they all
congratulated themselves upon having secured so pleasant an addition to
their company.

By the time they reached England Vane Cameron had surrendered his
hitherto impregnable heart entirely to Violet, and when he bade Mrs.
Hawley and her charges good-by, after seeing them comfortably
established in the hotel where they were to remain during their sojourn
in London, he asked the privilege of bringing his mother--who had
preceded him to England by several months--to make their acquaintance.

This was an honor which Mrs. Hawley had hardly anticipated; she well
knew the exclusive proclivities of British blue blood, and was highly
elated by the prospect of being introduced into London society by
Isabel, only child of the late Earl of Sutherland.

It is needless to state she graciously accorded the young man the
privilege he asked, and delightfully looked forward to the promised
visit.

She had not long to wait, for before the week was out Lady Isabel,
accompanied by her son, came to make her call, and she appeared to be no
less attracted by the beauty and winning manner of Violet than young
Cameron had been.

Mrs. Hawley made herself exceedingly agreeable by her courtesy and
cultured self-possession, and before she left it was arranged that her
ladyship would give a reception at an early date for the purpose of
introducing her new acquaintances to London society.

After that there followed a whirl of pleasure and excitement such as
Violet and Nellie had read about, but never expected to enjoy.

Mr. Henderson and the young girl, as he was now commonly recognized,
attended them everywhere, until it began to be remarked in select
circles that the son was likely to follow the example of his mother by
marrying a wealthy American.

Mrs. Hawley's reports to Mrs. Mencke of all this were highly
satisfactory, and the worldly minded sister congratulated herself that
she had sent Violet abroad instead of insisting upon her going to
Canada.

She had neither seen nor heard anything of young Richardson since
Violet's departure, although Mr. Mencke had tried to post himself
regarding his movements. All he could learn, however, was that he had
left Cincinnati a few weeks after Violet sailed, but no one could tell
him whither he had gone.

This was something of a relief, although the Menckes would have been
glad to keep track of him, for a dim suspicion that he might have
followed Violet haunted them.

The young girl expected to hear from her lover soon after reaching
London, but three weeks went by, and not one line had she received. She
was getting very anxious and impatient, but of course she did not dare
to betray anything of the feeling, and so strove to bear her
disappointment with as bold a front as possible.

She, however, faithfully wrote to Wallace every two or three days, and
in each letter mentioned the fact that she had not heard from him, and
begged him not to keep her longer in suspense.

She imagined that she exercised great care in sending her letters so
that Mrs. Hawley would not suspect the correspondence, for she went down
to the hotel letter-box to post every one with her own hands.

But Mrs. Hawley had received orders from Mrs. Mencke to intercept all
such missives, and she, in turn, gave instructions to the hotel clerk
that all epistles addressed to "Wallace Richardson, Cincinnati, Ohio,"
be returned to her.

Thus the lovers never heard one word from each other--though, to the
woman's credit be it said, if there was any credit due her--she
conscientiously burned every letter, unopened, for she was secretly very
fond of Violet and could not bring herself to wrong her still further by
perusing the sacred expressions of her loving little heart, or the fond
words which Wallace intended only for her eye.

But Violet, though anxious, could not find much time to indulge her
grief, for she was kept in such a constant round of excitement. Several
times Nellie awoke in the night to find her weeping, but, upon inquiring
the cause of her tears, Violet would either avoid a direct reply, or
allow her friend to attribute her grief to homesickness.

One day, about six weeks after Mrs. Hawley and her party reached London,
every one appeared very much surprised by the arrival of Mr. and Mrs.
Mencke at the same hotel.

Mr. and Mrs. Hawley alone were in the secret of their coming, but they
did not betray the fact in their greeting, and Violet, though she met
her sister affectionately, was at heart very much annoyed by her
arrival.

Mrs. Mencke and Mrs. Hawley improved the first opportunity to have a
long, confidential talk upon all that had occurred during the period of
their separation, and the former was fairly jubilant over her friend's
account of the Earl of Sutherland's attentions to Violet.

"An English earl!" she exclaimed, with a glowing face. "That is
positively bewildering! And you think that Violet likes him?"

"She cannot help liking him," responded Mrs. Hawley; "for he has a way
that is perfectly irresistible. As I wrote to you, he is a good deal
older than she is, and he possesses a quiet dignity, and a certain
masterful manner that carries everything before it."

"If he will only prove himself masterful enough to conquer Violet's will
and make her marry him, I shall be too proud and thankful to contain
myself," said Mrs. Mencke, earnestly.

"It is very evident that he intends to do so if he can," returned her
friend, "and we must leave no opportunity unimproved to help him in his
wooing. We must keep Violet so busy with engagements that she will have
no time to think about her carpenter lover."

Two more weeks passed, and still Violet did not hear from Wallace, and
the secret suspense and anxiety were beginning to tell visibly upon her.

She lost color and spirit, and but for the fear of exciting suspicion,
she would have refused to mingle in the gay scenes which were becoming
wearisome to her.

There was still a ceaseless round of pleasure, receptions, parties,
opera, and theatre, and everywhere the party was attended by two young
gentlemen who had become so deeply enamored of the beautiful American
girls.

Violet tried her best to resist the force of the stream that seemed to
be hurrying her on whither she would not go, but without avail; for Vane
Cameron was always at her side, and everybody appeared to take it for
granted that he had a right to be there, while it became evident to
Violet that he was only waiting for a favorable opportunity to declare
himself her lover.

What she dreaded came at last.

They all attended the opera one evening, and a brilliant appearance they
made as they sat in one of the proscenium boxes. But Violet did not
enjoy the performance, and could not follow it; her thoughts would go
back to that fateful day when her life was saved by the coolness and
determination of Wallace Richardson. From that moment her soul had
seemed to become linked to his by some mysterious and indissoluble bond.

All through the brilliant performance she sat absorbed, feeling sad,
depressed, and inexpressibly anxious, and looking like some pale,
beautiful spirit in her white dress trimmed with swan's-down, that was
scarcely less colorless than herself.

Lord Cameron thought he had never seen her so lovely, but he realized
that something was not quite right with her, and, though he had received
Mrs. Mencke's permission to speak when he would, he resolved not to
trouble her that night with any expression of his affection.

After their return to the hotel, Mrs. Mencke followed Violet to her
room, pride and triumph written upon every line of her face.

"Have you anything to tell me, Violet?" she asked, a tremulous eagerness
in her tones.

"No; what could you imagine that I should have to tell you?" the young
girl replied, regarding her with surprise.

"What ails you, Violet?" Mrs. Mencke asked, with a sudden heart-throb,
as she noticed her unusual pallor. "Are you sick? Has--anything
happened?"

"No, I am not sick," Violet answered, with a heavy sigh; "and what could
happen that you would not know about?"

"I know what I wish would happen," returned her sister, eagerly, "and
what Lord Cameron wishes, too. He had eyes for no one but you to-night,
and I must say I never saw you look so pretty before. Your dress is just
exquisite, and it cost a heap of money, too; but that counts for nothing
in comparison with the conquest you have made."

Violet could not fail to understand what all this meant. She flushed
hotly, and nervously began to pull off her gloves.

Mrs. Mencke smiled at the blush; it was ominous for good, she thought.

"You comprehend, I perceive," she said, airily; "you know that you have
captured a prize--that the Earl of Sutherland is ready and waiting to
offer you a name and position such as does not fall to the lot of one
girl in ten thousand."

"Nonsense, Belle! I wish you would not talk so to me about Lord
Cameron," Violet petulantly exclaimed.

"It is not nonsense, child, for Vane Cameron has formally proposed for
your hand in marriage--has asked Will's and my consent to win you if he
can."

"Belle!"

Violet turned upon her sister, crimson to the roots of her hair, blank
dismay written upon every feature of her fair face.

"It is true," Mrs. Mencke continued, "and it is wonderful luck for you.
Just think, Violet, what it means to step into such a position! I am
proud of your conquest."

Violet suddenly grew cold and pale as snow.

"Belle, you know it can never be," she began, with white lips, when Mrs.
Mencke interrupted her angrily.

"It can be--it must be--it shall be; for I have given my unqualified
consent to his lordship's proposal," she cried, actually trembling from
excitement.

"Belle, you have not dared to do such a thing! You know that I am
promised to another," the young girl cried with blazing eyes.

A queer look shot over Mrs. Mencke's face at this reply, and she opened
her lips as if to make one sharp, unguarded retort. Then she suddenly
checked herself, and, after a moment, remarked, in a repressed tone:

"You know well enough that that foolish escapade of yours counts for
nothing, and that young Richardson has no right to hold you bound by any
promise you may have impulsively given him from a feeling of gratitude."

"I hold myself bound, nevertheless," Violet returned, with tremulous
lips, "and not from any feeling of gratitude either; but because I love
him with all my heart."

"You shall never marry him," retorted her sister, angrily. "Are you mad
to think of throwing away such a chance as this for a low-born fellow
like that? It is not to be thought of for one moment; and, Violet, you
shall marry Vane Cameron.

"Take care, Belle, you are going a little too far now," Violet cried, a
dangerous flame leaping into her eyes. "I shall not marry Lord Cameron.
I have given my word to Wallace, and I shall abide by it."

"Violet!" cried her sister, sternly, and she was now as white as the
snowy lace about her neck, "there shall be no more of this child's play.
You shall not ruin your life by any such foolishness. What will Vane
Cameron think of me for granting him the permission he craved? It was
equivalent to admitting that he would find no obstacle in his path. What
could you tell him?"

"The truth--that I do not love him; that I do love some one else,"
bravely and steadfastly returned the young girl.

"You shall not! I should die with mortification and disappointment,"
cried Mrs. Mencke, wringing her hands in distress. Then bridling again,
she went on, in an inflexible tone: "I will give you just one week to
reconsider your folly; I will intimate to Lord Cameron that you are a
little shy of the subject--that it will be just as well for him not to
speak for perhaps a couple of weeks; but--hear me, Violet--if you refuse
to come to my terms at the end of that time, I will take you to France
and shut you up in a convent, where you shall stay until you will
solemnly promise me that you will give up your miserable Yankee lover."

She turned and abruptly left the room without giving Violet a chance to
reply.

Violet stood still a moment, looking wretched enough to break one's
heart; then throwing herself upon her bed, she gave way to a passion of
tears and sobbing.

"Oh, Wallace, where are you?" she moaned, "why don't you write to me? I
feel as if I was being led into a trap, and"--with a sudden light
seeming to burst upon her--"I believe they have been intercepting our
letters, for I know that you would be faithful to me. Oh, I am homesick
for you, and now that Belle and Will have come I know they will not let
me go back at the end of three months. What shall I do? Of course I
cannot marry Lord Cameron, and I shall tell him the truth if he asks
me."

She lay for a long time trying to think of some way out of her troubles.
At last, when she had become more calm, she arose, exchanged her
beautiful evening dress for a wrapper, and then wrote a long letter to
Wallace, telling him all about her perplexity and suspicions, begging
him to send her some news of himself and to address his letter to
Nellie.

Not having received any of his letters, she of course did not know that
he had removed from Cincinnati; therefore she directed her letter as
usual, and, of course, he never got it; although she slyly posted it in
the letter-box on one of the public buildings of the city while she was
out sight-seeing the next day.

At the end of a week Mrs. Mencke sought Violet and renewed the subject
of Vane Cameron's proposal.

"I wish you would let me alone about that, Belle," the young girl
responded, wearily. "It is useless for you to try to change my
decision--my word is pledged to Wallace, and only death will ever
release me from it, for if I live to go home I shall redeem it."

"That is your ultimatum, is it?" demanded her sister, with a face as
hard as adamant.

"Yes."

"Then you oblige me to communicate a fact which, for several reasons, I
should have preferred to withhold from you," said Mrs. Mencke, bending a
strange look upon her.

"What do you mean?" Violet inquired, startled by her manner.

"Death has released you from your promise to that fellow. Read that,"
was the stunning reply, as the woman drew a paper from her pocket, and,
laying it before Violet, pointed to a marked paragraph.

"Belle!" came in a low, shuddering voice from the blanched lips of the
beautiful girl before her, as she seemed instinctively to know what was
printed here.

"Read," commanded Mrs. Mencke, relentlessly.

With hands that shook like leaves in the wind, Violet picked up the
paper. It was the Cincinnati _Times-Star_, and she read with a look of
horror on her young face:

    Died, on the 28th instant, Wallace Richardson,
    aged 23 years and 6 months.

The next moment a piercing shriek rang through the room, and Violet lay
stretched senseless at her sister's feet.

"Heavens! I did not think she would take it to heart like this," cried
the now thoroughly frightened woman, as she threw herself upon her knees
beside the motionless girl and began to loosen her clothing and chafe
her hands.

That heart-broken cry had been heard in the adjoining room, and Mrs.
Hawley and Nellie came rushing upon the scene to ascertain the cause of
it.

They assisted in getting Violet to bed, and a physician was immediately
sent for.

"She has had some sudden and violent shock," he said at once, while he
regarded Mrs. Mencke searchingly.

"Yes," she confessed, with as much composure as her guilty conscience
would allow her to assume; "she read an account of the death of a--a
friend, in an American paper."

"Hem!" was the medical man's brief comment, as he again turned his
attention to his patient, whom, it was evident, he considered to be in a
critical state.

It was long before he could restore suspended animation, and even then
Violet did not come back to consciousness; fever followed, and she began
to rave in the wildest delirium.

"It's going to be a neck-and-neck race between life and death," the
doctor frankly told her friends, "and you must be vigilant and patient."

This unforeseen calamity, of course, put an end to all gayety.

It was thought best that Nellie should at once repair to Milan, and Mrs.
Hawley left two days later to see her safely and comfortably settled at
her work, after which she returned to London to assist Mrs. Mencke in
the care of her sister.

It was more than a month before Violet was pronounced out of danger; and
then, as soon as she was able to sit up, the physician advised a change
of climate; a few weeks at Mentone, he thought, would do her good.

The poor girl looked as if a rude breath would quench what little life
she had, and Mrs. Mencke, who still secretly clung to the hope of
affecting an alliance between her and Lord Cameron, was anxious to do
everything to build her up; consequently she immediately posted off with
her invalid to that far-famed resort. She had a private interview first,
however, with his lordship, from whom the real cause of Violet's illness
had been kept a profound secret, and promised to send for him just as
soon as her sister was able to see him.

The mild and genial atmosphere of Mentone produced a favorable change in
the invalid immediately. Her appetite improved, and with it strength and
something of her natural color.

But the child was pitifully sad--heart-broken. Nothing appeared to
interest her, and she seemed to live from day to day only because nature
was stronger than her grief.

She never spoke of Wallace, nor referred to the fact that her illness
had been caused by the dreadful tidings of his death. She was patient,
gentle, and submissive, doing whatever she was told to do, simply
because it was easier than to resist, and, as she slowly but surely
gained, Mrs. Mencke told herself that the way was clear to the
consummation of her ambitious hopes.

A month passed thus, and then Vane Cameron appeared upon the scene,
having been summoned by an encouraging letter from Violet's sister.



CHAPTER XII.

"YOU HAVE GIVEN YOUR PROMISE AND YOU MUST STAND BY IT."


When Mrs. Mencke informed Violet of the arrival of the Earl of
Sutherland, something of her old spirit manifested itself for the first
time since her illness.

"Did you send for him, Belle?" she demanded, an ominous flash leaping
into her heavy eyes.

The woman colored. She did not like to confess that she had done so, but
such was the fact, nevertheless.

"Why, Violet, you forget how anxious Lord Cameron would naturally be
regarding the state of your health," she answered, evasively; "besides,
he has waited a long time for the answer to a certain proposal, and
doubtless he is impatient for that."

"He shall have it," the young girl returned, with sudden animation, a
crimson flush suffusing her cheeks. "Send for him to come directly here,
and I will give it at once."

Mrs. Mencke regarded her doubtfully.

"And it will be----" she began.

"No!" replied Violet, emphatically, as she paused.

"Oh, Violet, I beg of you to be reasonable," pleaded the woman, almost
in tears. "Just think what your life must be! One of the highest
positions in England is offered you by a young man of irreproachable
character; he loves you devotedly, and there is nothing he would not do
for you if you consent to become his wife. Besides a large income which
he will settle upon you, you will have an elegant home in Essex County,
a town house in London, and a villa on the Isle of Wight. There is no
earthly reason now, whatever there may have been two months ago, why you
should not listen to his suit."

Violet shivered with sudden pain as her sister thus referred to the
death of her lover, and the fact that no plighted troth now stood in the
way of her accepting Lord Cameron's proposal of marriage.

"No," she wailed, "I suppose there is no reason, save that I do not love
him--that my heart is dead, and I have no interest in life, no desire to
live."

"You may imagine now that you can never love him, but time heals all
wounds," her sister returned; "and since you can now feel that you will
wrong no one else by marrying him, you might at least devote yourself to
him and secure his happiness by accepting him."

"Do you imagine that he would be willing to marry a loveless woman--one
who had no heart to give him?" Violet questioned, with curling lips.

"He only can answer that question himself," responded Mrs. Mencke, with
a sudden heart-bound, as she thought she saw signs of yielding in her
sister. "Oh, Violet, do not throw away such a chance. What are you going
to do in the future? How do you expect to spend the rest of your life if
you refuse to marry at all?"

A thrill of intense agony ran through the young girl's frame at these
probing questions.

How indeed was she to spend her life? How could she live without
Wallace?

She had not thought of this before, and she was startled and appalled by
the apparent blackness of the future.

"Oh, I don't know--I don't know!" she burst forth, in a voice of
despair.

"As the wife of Lord Cameron you would at least have it in your power to
do a great deal of good, to say nothing of the happiness you would
confer upon him," suggested Mrs. Mencke, craftily.

It impressed Violet, however, and she sat in thoughtful silence for some
time.

One thing had forced itself upon her during this conversation, and that
was that she could not spend her life with her sister and her husband.
Every day she became more and more conscious that there could never be
any real congeniality and sympathy between them, and that it would be
better if they should separate. But what was to become of her if she
separated from them? Could she live alone--take her destiny in her own
hands, and cut herself free from them? It would certainly be very
lonely, very forlorn, to have no one in the world to care for her.

She knew that Vane Cameron was a man in a thousand. He was noble and
amiable; whatever he did, he was actuated by pure motives, and she felt
that any woman who could love him would have cause to be proud in
becoming his wife.

She knew that he loved her devotedly, as her sister had said; but would
he be willing to marry one who did not love him? Would it be right for
her to accept all and be able to give nothing in return?

No, she did not believe he would be satisfied to live out his future in
any such way.

Still she conceived a sudden resolution. She would see him; she would
tell him the truth, and she believed he would sympathize with her and at
once withdraw his suit, while her sister would have to accept his
decision as final, and cease to importune her further upon the subject.

Having arrived at this conclusion, she leaned back in her chair, with a
deep sigh, as if relieved of a heavy burden.

"Well?" said Mrs. Mencke, inquiringly.

She had been watching her closely, and surmised something of what was
being revolved in her mind.

"I will see Lord Cameron," Violet quietly replied.

"And you will promise to marry him?" cried her companion, eagerly.

Violet sighed again. She was so weary of it all.

"No, I will not promise anything now; but I will see him--I will tell
him the whole truth, and then----"

"Well?" was the almost breathless query, as Violet faltered and her lips
grew white.

"Then he shall decide for me," she said, in a low tone.

Mrs. Mencke arose delighted, for she felt that her point was gained. She
would encourage Vane Cameron to take Violet, in spite of everything, and
try to make him feel that once she was his wife he would have little
difficulty in eventually winning her love.

She bent over Violet, in the excess of her joy, to kiss her, but the
young girl drew back from her.

"No, Belle," she said, quietly but sadly, "do not make any pretense of
affection for me; you have not shown yourself a good sister; I believe
you have intercepted my letters, and you have tried to ruin my life, and
I do not want your kisses. I hope I shall not always feel thus," she
added, regretfully, as she saw the guilty flush which mounted to the
woman's forehead, "but, just now, I am afraid I do not love you very
much, and I will not be hypocritical enough to pretend that I do."

Mrs. Mencke had nothing to say to this, for she well knew that she
richly deserved it; but she passed quickly from the room, and at once
sought an interview with Lord Cameron.

An hour later he was sitting beside Violet, with a grave and pitiful
face, but with a look of eager hope in his fine eyes, which told that he
had no thought of leaving her presence a rejected lover.

"Your illness has changed you greatly, Miss Huntington," he remarked,
regarding her thin, white face sorrowfully, "but I hope that you will
soon be yourself again, and--and now may I at once speak of what is
nearest my heart? I believe in a frank course at all times, and of
course you cannot be ignorant of my object in coming to you. I am sure
you must realize, by this time, something of the depth of my love for
you. Indeed my one hope, ever since our pleasant voyage across the
water, has been to win you. Darling, words cannot express one-half that
I feel; I have lived almost thirty years without ever meeting any one
with whom I could be willing to spend my life until now, and all the
long-pent-up passion of my nature goes forth to you. Violet, will you be
my wife? will you come to me and let me shelter you in the arms of my
love--let me try to make your future the brightest one that woman has
ever known? My love! my love! put your little hands in mine and say that
you will give yourself to me."

Violet made such a gesture of pain at these words, while her face was
convulsed with such anguish, that Vane Cameron caught his breath and
regarded her with astonishment.

When Mrs. Mencke had told him that Violet had consented to see him, she
hinted at some childish attachment, but encouraged him to hope for a
favorable issue of the interview.

He realized now, however, that this "childish attachment" had left a far
deeper wound in Violet's heart than he had been allowed to suspect.

"Is my confession distasteful to you, Violet?" he gravely asked, when he
could command himself to speak. "I was led to believe--I hoped that it
would meet with a ready response from you."

"Oh, Lord Cameron! I do not know what to say to you," Violet began, in a
trembling voice. Then resolutely repressing her emotion, she continued:
"I have known, of course, that you regarded me in a very friendly way;
but it almost frightens me to have you express yourself so strongly as
you have just done."

"Frightens you to learn of the depth of my affection," he said, with
some surprise.

"Yes--to know that it has taken such a hold upon your life and that such
a responsibility has fallen upon me. I know that you are good, and true,
and noble, and you have my deepest esteem; but--but oh----"

"Violet, what does this mean? I do not understand your distress at all,"
Lord Cameron said, looking deeply pained.

"Did not my sister tell you that I had a confession to make to you?" the
young girl asked, with burning cheeks.

"No," the young man returned, very gravely; "she told me that you would
receive me--that I might hope for a favorable answer to my suit. She did
hint, however, that there had once been a childish attachment, as she
expressed it; but I hardly gave the matter a thought since she made so
light of it."

"Belle has done wrong, then, to let you hope for so much; and now, Lord
Cameron, may I tell you all there is in my heart? May I make a full
confession to you? and then you shall judge me as you will."

"Certainly, you may tell me anything you wish," he replied, wondering
more and more at her excessive emotion. "Do not be so distressed, dear
child," he added, as she covered her face with her thin hands, and he
saw the tears trickling between her fingers. "I should blame myself more
than I can tell you, for seeking this interview, if by so doing I cause
you so much unhappiness. I will even go away and never renew this
subject--though that would darken all my future life--rather than
agitate you thus."

"Forgive me," Violet said, wiping her tears. "I will try not to break
down like this again, and I will deal with you with perfect frankness; I
know I do not need to ask you to respect my confidence."

"Thank you," he simply answered.

Violet then began by relating the accident of the incline plane and its
frightful consequences; she told how, almost miraculously, she and
Wallace were saved; about her illness in his home, and of their growing
fondness for each other during her convalescence. When she told of
Wallace's confession of his love for her and hers for him, she bowed her
face again upon her hands and went on, in quick, passionate tones, as if
it was too sacred to be talked about and she was anxious to have the
recital over as soon as possible. She spoke of her sister's opposition
to this affection and its consequences, with all the passion and trouble
it had aroused, and Vane Cameron's face grew graver, yet very tender and
pitiful as she proceeded. It was all told at last--Violet had concealed
nothing of her affection for Wallace, nothing of her rebellion against
her sister's wishes regarding her marriage with himself, and having thus
unburdened her soul, she still sat with bowed head before him, waiting
for his judgment of her.

There was a silence of several minutes after she had concluded, while
both seemed to be battling with the emotions which filled their hearts;
then Lord Cameron spoke, and the tender cadence of his voice thrilled
the young girl as it had never done before.

"Poor child! poor wounded, loving heart!" he said. "I wonder how you
have borne your sorrow. I know there is no human sympathy that can heal
your wound--only One, who has all power, can do that. But, Violet, I can
see, even though you shrink from saying it--even though you have tried
to hide as much of the wrong done you by others as you could--I can see
that you are unhappy from other causes than the loss of this dear one.
Your heart is starving for sympathy, love, and comfort. Now, just as
frankly as you have talked to me, I am now going to talk to you. You
have said that the drama of your life is played out--has ended in
tragedy; that you have loved and lost--your heart has exhausted itself,
and you can never love again. This may be so, Violet; we will assume
that it is"--his lip quivered painfully as he said it, and his face was
very pale--"still, in all probability, there are many years of life
before you--years which may be filled with much of good for those about
you, if not of absolute happiness for yourself. Could you make up your
mind to spend them with me? Do not be startled by the proposition,
dear," he said, as he saw the quiver that agitated her; "you shall think
of it as long as you will, and shall not be urged to anything from which
you shrink. I love you--that fact remains unalterable, in spite of all
that you have told me, and though your heart may not have one responsive
vibration to mine, yet I feel that I would gladly devote all my future
to the work of winning you to a more cheerful frame of mind--that I
should be happier in doing that than in living without you. Let me take
care of you. You have said you were tired of traveling--that you long
for home and rest. Come to my home--you shall have all the rest and
seclusion you wish--you shall live as you will; only let me give you the
protection of my love and my name and throw around you all the
comforting influences that I can. Forgive me if I refer to your sad
past; but only for this once. The dear one whom you have honored with
your love is gone; I do not ask you to forget him, or to violate, in any
way, the affection that belongs to him; but, since your life must be
lived out somewhere, I ask you to let it be with me. Do not allow your
sensitiveness to restrain you--do not feel that you will be 'wronging
me' as you have expressed it, 'by giving me only the ashes of your
love;' I shall be content if you will but come. Violet, will you?"

Violet was nearer loving him at that moment than she had ever been.

How grand, how noble he seemed in his utter self-abnegation--thinking
only of her and of the comfort that he might manage to throw around her
broken life!

Oh, she thought, if he was only her brother, how gladly she would go
with him and give him all the affection that a sister might bestow upon
one so worthy.

It was a great temptation as it was, for the barriers that had come
between herself and her sister, and which she knew would become stronger
and almost intolerable, if she disappointed her in her ambitious
schemes, made her feel as if it would be impossible to remain with her,
and the world seemed very desolate.

Still, to consent to become the wife of this good man, to accept all the
benefits which his position would confer upon her, to be continually
surrounded by his care and thoughtful love, seemed the height of
selfishness to her, when she had nothing but her broken life to give in
return, and she shrank from the sacred bond and the responsibility of
its obligations.

"I am afraid--it does not seem right," she faltered, yet she lifted her
eyes to him with a wistfulness that was pathetic in the extreme, and
which moved him deeply.

"Violet, come," he repeated, earnestly, as he held out his strong right
hand to her.

"I dare not," she said, "and yet----"

"You want to--you will!" he cried, eagerly, as, leaning toward her, he
clasped the small hand that lay upon the arm of her chair.

It was icy cold, and glancing anxiously into her face, he saw that she
had fainted away.

The excitement of the interview, the desolation of her wounded heart,
and the longing for home and rest, were too much for her frail strength,
and she had swooned, even while he thought she was consenting to be his
wife.

He sprang to the bell and rang for assistance, then gathering her in his
arms, he gently laid her upon a sofa, just as the door opened and Mrs.
Mencke entered.

"I am afraid that I have overtaxed her strength," Lord Cameron said, in
a tone of self-reproach, as he lifted a rueful face to her.

"Have you won?" she asked, eagerly.

"I think so, but----"

Mrs. Mencke waited for nothing more.

"She will soon recover from this," she interrupted, a triumphant ring in
her tone, as she began to sprinkle Violet's face with water from a
tumbler which she seized from a table. "Leave her with me now, and I
will call you again when she is better."

The young girl was already beginning to revive, and fearing that his
presence might agitate her again, Lord Cameron stole softly from the
room, but looking strangely sad for a man who believed he had prospered
in his wooing.

"You are better, Violet," Mrs. Mencke said, with unwonted tenderness, as
her sister opened her eyes and looked around the room as if in search of
some one.

She brought a glass of wine to her, and putting it to her lips, bade her
drink.

She obeyed, and the stimulating beverage soon began to warm her blood
and restore her strength.

"Has he gone?" she asked, glancing toward the door.

"Lord Cameron? Yes; he thought you had had excitement enough for one
day, and as soon as you began to come to yourself he stole away. Do you
wish me to call him back?" her sister inquired, regarding her curiously.

"No," but there was a perplexed look upon her fair face.

"He tells me that you are going to make him happy, Vio," pursued her
sister, anxious to learn just how matters stood, "that you will marry
him. I am delighted, dear, and I know that he will do all in his power
to make your life a perfect one."

"Did he tell you that? Did I promise?" Violet cried, with a startled
look and putting her hand to her head in a dazed way.

"Violet Huntington! what a strange child you are! Here you have just
given a man to understand that you have accepted him and yet, when you
are congratulated upon the fact, you affect not to know what you have
done!" cried Mrs. Mencke, pretending to be entirely out of patience with
her.

She meant to carry things with a high hand now. She saw that there had
been a momentary yielding upon Violet's part, though there was some
doubt as to just what she had intended to do, and she was determined to
make it count if she could do so by any means, legitimate or otherwise.

"Don't be cross with me, Belle," Violet pleaded, with a quivering lip,
"for I really cannot remember. Lord Cameron was so kind, so generous,
and I began to say something to him--I don't know what--when I felt
queer and knew nothing more until I awoke and found you here."

Mrs. Mencke saw her advantage in all this, and did not fail to make the
most of it.

"Well, you must have given him to understand that you accepted him, for
he told me that he had won you, and now I hope we shall not have any
more nonsense about the matter. Lord Cameron is too good to be trifled
with. You have given your promise, and must stand by it," she concluded,
in an authoritative tone.

"Yes, if I have promised, I suppose--I must," gasped unhappy Violet, and
then fainted away again.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE DAY IS SET FOR VIOLET'S MARRIAGE.


Mrs. Mencke privately informed Lord Cameron that Violet had acknowledged
the engagement, and would see him again when she was a little stronger.

His lordship thanked her with a beaming face, and tried to think that he
was the happiest man on the Continent, but there was, nevertheless, an
aching void in his heart that could not be fully satisfied with the
result of his wooing.

The morning following his betrothal he sent Violet an exquisite bouquet
composed of blue and white bell-flowers, cape jasmine, and box, which
breathed to the young girl, who was versed in the language of flowers,
of gratitude, constancy, and joyfulness of heart.

She turned white and faint again at the sight of them, and a
broken-hearted sob burst from her lips.

"Did I promise? did I promise?" she moaned. "I do not remember; but if
he says I did, it must be so, for I know that he is too noble to deceive
me. I wish I could die! for it seems like sacrilege to become Lord
Cameron's wife when my heart is so filled with the image of another."

Mrs. Mencke came in and found her in tears, and was secretly very much
annoyed, besides being a trifle conscience-smitten over the strategy
which she had employed to bring about this longed-for marriage. But she
exerted herself to amuse her troublesome invalid, while she told herself
that she should consider it a lucky day when she got her off her hands
altogether.

The second morning after matters had been thus settled, Vane Cameron was
told that he might pay his betrothed another visit.

This he was, of course, only too glad to do, and his face lighted with
positive joy when, upon entering her presence, he saw a cluster of
bluebell flowers fastened upon her breast among the folds of her dainty
white _robe-de chambre_.

He went forward and took both her hands in his, pressing his lips first
to one and then the other, in a chivalrous, reverent way that touched
Violet deeply, and smote her, too, with a sense of guilt and shame.

"God is good to me in granting my heart's desire," he said, in a low,
earnest tone. "May His richest blessings be yours in the future, my
Violet."

The fair girl could not utter one word in reply. Her heart was beating
so rapidly and heavily that for a moment she thought she must suffocate,
while that mute cry again went up from its wounded depths:

"Oh! Wallace, Wallace, did I promise?"

Lord Cameron saw that she was deeply agitated, and, seating himself
beside her, he began to talk of subjects to distract her mind from
herself and their new relations to each other.

He possessed great tact and a wonderful fund of anecdote and incident,
and before he left her presence he had actually made her laugh over a
droll account of an experience of the previous day.

After that he enticed her out for a drive about the beautiful bay, and
having once achieved this much, it was comparatively easy to plan
something for her pleasure and amusement every day.

While Violet was with him she could not fail to feel the charm of his
presence, and she would, for the time, forget herself and her trouble;
but the moment she was alone, the old aversion to the thought of
becoming his wife, together with all her love and grief for Wallace,
would revive to make her wretched.

One day, as they were nearing their hotel after a longer drive than
usual, and Violet had seemed to enjoy herself more than she was wont to
do, Lord Cameron ventured to broach a subject that lay very near his
heart.

"Mrs. Mencke informs me that she and her husband are contemplating a
tour of the Alps this summer," he remarked, by way of introduction.

Violet looked up surprised. She had not heard her sister say anything
about such a tour, and there was nothing that she dreaded so much, in
the present weakened state of her mind and body, as being taken about to
various fashionable resorts and to be obliged to meet gay
pleasure-seekers.

She sighed heavily, but made no other reply to Lord Cameron's
information.

"You feel that it would be rather hard for you to make such a trip, do
you not?" her companion inquired, gently. Then, without waiting for a
reply, he went on: "How would you like, instead, to come with me to the
Isle of Wight and spend a quiet, restful summer, interspersed perhaps,
with a little yachting now and then?"

A great shock went through Violet at this, as she realized that he
wanted her to become his wife immediately and go home with him.

A blur came before her eyes, a great lump seemed to rise in her throat
and almost choke her.

Oh, she thought, if she could only flee away to her own room at home in
Cincinnati and stay by herself, out of the sight or sound of everybody,
what a relief it would be!

She shrank more and more from Belle and Will and the idea of going about
from place to place with them; still, a feeling of guilt and wrong
oppressed her every time she thought of marrying this good, noble man,
and giving him only the ashes of a dead love in return for the wealth of
his affection for her.

Yet, of the two plans, the going to the Isle of Wight, to quiet and
rest, seemed the most attractive, while the yachting proposal was very
alluring, for Violet was intensely fond of the sea.

Vane Cameron was conscious of the shock which had so thrilled her, but
whether it had been caused by pleasure or repugnance he could not tell.
He feared the latter, for his sweet bride-elect had, thus far, been very
unresponsive to his love and devotion.

He sat regarding her very gravely and somewhat sadly, while she seemed
to be considering his proposition.

His thought had been more for her health and comfort than of his own
desire or pleasure, but he would not bias her decision one way or the
other.

Finally Violet lifted her eyes to his face, while a faint flush tinged
her pale cheek.

"I will do whatever you like--whatever you think best," she said,
quietly.

His heart leaped as he remarked the flush, but he returned, earnestly,
tenderly:

"Not what I would like, dear, but what you would prefer. I would not
force you a hair's breadth against your inclination, much as I long to
have you go with me. Would you enjoy the tour through the Alps with your
sister?"

"No, no!" Violet cried, in a strained, unnatural voice, as she felt the
net of circumstances closing hopelessly about her. "Oh, I wish I could
go home!" and yet where, on the face of the earth, had she now a home?

This wistful, almost despairing cry actually brought tears to the eyes
of the strong man at her side, while his heart sank heavily within him,
for surely there had been no thought of him or of his great love in that
homesick wail.

But bravely putting aside self, as he always did where she was
concerned, he gently returned:

"You shall go home if you wish--you shall do anything you like, and I
will not urge you to any step against which your heart rebels; still, if
you are willing to go with me, I will gladly take you home to America.
Mr. and Mrs. Mencke, I know, have no thought of returning at present, as
they have told me that they intend to travel for the next year or two,
and hope to see the most of Europe during that time. It seemed to me
that you were not strong enough, just now, to begin such a ceaseless
round of travel, and that is why I proposed the Isle of Wight. Shall we
go there to rest until you are a little more robust, and then, if you
wish, we will return to America?"

How good--how kind he was! And if he had only been her brother, Violet
could have thrown herself upon his breast and wept out her gratitude for
and appreciation of his thoughtfulness.

But to speak the words that would settle her destiny for life--to tell
him that she would become his wife immediately--how could she?

Still she knew it must be one thing or the other--either a hurry and
rush over Europe with uncongenial companions, or a going away to some
peaceful retreat as the Countess of Sutherland.

At last, with a mighty effort to control the nervous trembling that
seized her, but with a sense of despair in her heart, she murmured, in a
scarcely audible voice:

"I will go to the Isle of Wight."

Vane Cameron made no reply to this, though his heart gave a great leap
of gladness. He simply laid one hand gently and tenderly upon hers for a
moment, then touching up his horse, drove rapidly up the avenue leading
to the hotel, where upon the wide piazza, they saw Mr. and Mrs. Mencke
seated among the other guests of the house.

"May I tell your sister that you have decided against the tour through
the Alps?" Vane whispered, as he lifted Violet's light form from the
carriage.

"Yes," she assented, and then fled to her own room, where she sank
nearly fainting upon her bed.

She felt that she was irrevocably bound now; that she had given her
unqualified consent to become Lord Cameron's wife. She would soon be a
countess and occupy a position which half the women in Europe would
envy, and yet she was utterly wretched.

A little later her sister came to her, and in all her life Violet could
not remember that she had ever manifested so much affection for her.

"Vane has told me," she said, in an exultant tone, as she bent down and
softly kissed Violet's forehead. "I am very glad, and I fully agree with
him that it will be best for you to go quietly to the Isle of Wight
until your health is fully established. He says he has a yacht there
also, and intends to give you an occasional taste of the ocean which you
love so much. It will be delightful. And now we must begin to think of
the necessary preparations, for Vane says, if you are agreeable, he
would like the marriage to take place just a month from to-day, when you
will start immediately for England."

For the life of her Violet could not prevent the shiver which shook her
from head to foot at this announcement, and a wild desire for death and
oblivion shot through her heart.

"Well, dear, what shall I tell him?" Belle asked, after waiting some
time for a response and receiving none.

"Suit yourselves--it makes no difference to me," Violet said, wearily,
and though it was a rather doubtful and unsatisfactory concession, Mrs.
Mencke made the most of it; and, feeling perfectly jubilant over this
happy termination to all her ambitious plotting and scheming, she stole
away to impart the gratifying information to her husband, who, of late,
had seemed to be very impatient of the delay to bring matters to a
crisis.

They did not trouble the young girl much after that. Vane said she must
not be annoyed by petty details, so he took everything that was possible
upon himself.

Matters of importance, which he did not feel at liberty to decide alone,
he submitted to Mrs. Mencke, who pretended to consult Violet; but it was
only pretense, for she settled everything to suit herself, and the
preparations for the wedding went steadily and rapidly forward.

The ambitious woman was so delighted that she felt she must have some
outlet for her feelings, which would have been out of taste for her to
exhibit there, so she sent notices to different American papers of the
approaching marriage of her sister, "Miss Violet Draper Huntington to
his lordship the Earl of Sutherland," etc. etc.

Violet kept her room most of the time, for she shrank from mingling with
the guests of the hotel, since she knew there would be a great deal of
gossip over her approaching nuptials, and she did not like to be
conspicuous.

She drove nearly every day with her betrothed, however, and while with
him exerted herself to appear interested and entertained, and grateful
for his unwearied kindness.

He was very considerate of her feelings--he seldom referred to their
approaching marriage, but sought by every means in his power to keep her
mind engaged with amusing and pleasant topics.

The ceremony was to be performed in the English church of the place, and
Mrs. Mencke had sent to Paris for a suitable trousseau for the occasion.
She had spared no expense, for she was determined that the affair should
be as brilliant as circumstances would permit.

The day preceding that set for the wedding Violet was so ill--so nervous
and prostrated by her increasing dread and sense of wrong as the fatal
hour drew near--that she did not rise until noon, while it was nearly
evening before she felt able to grant Vane an interview which he
particularly requested.

He startled back appalled, when, as he entered her parlor, she turned
her wan, colorless face toward him.

"You are ill! I had no idea that you were so sick!" he cried, in a voice
of deep concern and surprise, for Mrs. Mencke had made light of Violet's
indisposition.

"No, not ill, only tired and a little nervous," she replied, trying to
smile, reassuringly.

He sat down beside her and began to tell her about the arrangements he
had made for going "home," and she was touched to see how, in every
detail, he had had only her comfort and pleasure in mind.

"Shall you like it?" he asked, when he had sketched the proposed journey
to her.

"Yes, thank you; you are very kind," she tried to say, heartily, but, in
spite of her effort, the tone sounded cold and formal.

The young man's face fell. He had so hoped to see hers light up with
anticipation.

"Is there anything that you would like changed? Would you prefer to go
another way, or to take in other places on the route?" he asked,
wishing, oh, so earnestly, that she would express some preference, or
even make some objection to his plans; anything would be more endurable
than such apathetic acquiescence.

"No, let it stand, please, just as you have it," she answered, in a
somewhat weary tone.

"Have you everything you wish? Are there no little things that you
need--that have been overlooked--for--to-morrow?" he asked, wistfully,
his voice dropping to a tender cadence at that last word, as he realized
how nearly the one great desire of his heart was within his grasp.

Was it his imagination, or did a shiver of repulsion run over Violet's
frame at this reference to their wedding-day?

She was as white as the fleecy shawl that was thrown about her
shoulders, and there was a pathetic droop about her lovely mouth that
pained him exceedingly.

"No, thank you," she quietly replied; "Belle has attended to
everything."

He arose, feeling disappointed. If she had made but a single request of
him, no matter how simple, it would have made him so happy to execute
it; but his hands were tied--he could not force favors upon her.

"I will not remain longer, dear," he said, gently; "I want you to get
all the rest possible to-night, so as to be strong for our journey
to-morrow."

Violet arose also, and stood pale and motionless before him. She was
very lovely, and he never forgot the picture she made, with the crimson
light of the setting sun flooding her white-robed form, tinging her pale
face with an exquisite color, and giving a deeper, richer tint to her
golden hair.

Oh, if he had but been sure of her love, how supremely happy they might
be, he thought, with all the bright prospects before him.

An irrepressible wave of tenderness and longing swept over him, and,
involuntarily reaching out his arms, he drew her gently within his
embrace.

"My darling," he whispered, "you are all the world to me. I pray that I
may be able to prove to you by and by, how wholly you occupy this heart
of mine."

He lifted her face with one hand and searched it earnestly for a moment,
then, bending forward, he pressed his lips to hers in a lingering
caress.

It was the first time that he had kissed her, or made any outward
demonstration of his great love since their betrothal.

Violet broke away from him, with a low, thrilling cry of anguish, and
sank, pale and quivering in every nerve, into the chair from which she
had just arisen.

That caress had recalled the last passionate kiss of farewell that
Wallace had given her just before the steamer left its pier in New York,
while it had also revealed to her the fact that he would always be more
to her, even though he were dead, than Lord Cameron, with all his love,
his goodness, and generosity, could ever hope to be, living.

He was deeply hurt, however, by this repulse and her cry of despair. He
stood for a moment looking down upon her, mingled pain and remorse for
what he had done plainly written on his face. Then he said, in a
repressed tone:

"Forgive me, Violet; I will try not to wound you thus again."

She threw out her hand to him with an appealing gesture,
conscience-smitten, for his tone plainly told her how deeply she had
hurt him.

"Forgive me," she said, contritely, a little sob pointing her words.

He took the hand and pressed it gently.

"I have nothing to forgive, dear. Now good-night, and try to sleep
well," he returned kindly, and then went softly out from her presence,
but looking grave and troubled.



CHAPTER XIV.

"THERE WILL BE NO WEDDING TO-DAY."


"Oh, if my mother were only alive!" burst passionately from Violet's
lips, as the door closed after her betrothed. "My heart is broken, and
there is no one in the wide, wide world to whom I can tell my trouble. I
have no friends, no home, and am forced to marry a man whom I do not
love, in order to find one. Belle, who ought to care for me, sympathize
with, and comfort me, thinks only of the wealth and position I am to
secure, and"--a bitter smile curling her lips--"is even greatly elated
at the prospect of getting rid of me in such fine style. I cannot--I
cannot bear it; and to-morrow--to-morrow I am to be bound for life!"

She sprang wildly to her feet, a bright spot of fever burning upon each
cheek, and began pacing the floor with nervous tread. For an hour she
kept this up, going mechanically from one end of the luxurious apartment
to the other, apparently unconscious of what she was doing.

In the midst of this almost frantic state of mind Mrs. Mencke came
sweeping in upon her.

"What ails you, Violet?" she demanded, regarding her with anxious eyes.
"You have been moving about incessantly during the last hour. You must
not work yourself into such a nervous state, or you will be wholly
unfitted for the ceremony to-morrow. I want you to look your best, and
you will surely be pale and hollow-eyed, if not positively ill, if you
keep on at this rate. Besides, Lady Isabella arrived a short time ago,
and has asked to be allowed to see you for a little while."

"Oh! I cannot see her to-night, Belle. Let me alone for the few hours
that remain to me," Violet moaned, as she threw herself upon the lounge
and buried her hot face in the cool, silken pillow.

"The few hours that remain to you, indeed! One would think you were
about to be executed, instead of married to an earl. Do not be so
insufferably childish," returned her sister, impatiently. "There will be
no time to-morrow for you to see Lady Cameron, and it is uncourteous,
uncivil to refuse her request."

Violet made no response to this; she was too weak and wretched to assert
herself, and she knew that Belle would carry her point regarding this
interview as she had done in all other things of late.

Mrs. Mencke brought her some quieting drops, which she obediently
swallowed, and after a few moments began to grow more composed.

"I will tell Lady Cameron that you are nervous and tired, and ask her
not to stay long," Belle said, when she saw that Violet was more calm;
"but you must see her for a few minutes, and I hope you will have the
good taste not to offend her in any way," she concluded, significantly.

"Very well; let her come," Violet answered, resignedly, and thinking it
better to have the ordeal over as soon as possible.

She had always liked and admired Lady Cameron; had always enjoyed her
society, and, under other circumstances, would have been glad to see her
now; but everything and every one connected with her approaching
marriage seemed positively hateful to her, in her present state.

Mrs. Mencke did not wait for her to change her mind, but went
immediately to tell her ladyship that Violet would see her, and a few
minutes later, there came a gentle knock upon the door of the young
girl's room.

Before she could arise to admit her visitor, it was softly opened, and a
lovely, sweet-faced lady of about fifty years entered.

She was clad in a simple yet elegant costume of silver-gray silk,
trimmed with rich black lace. A cluster of pearls gleamed fair and white
at her throat, and a dainty little cap of costly lace rested lightly
upon her soft, brown hair, which as yet had not a visible thread of
silver in it.

"Do not rise, dear," she said, as Violet attempted to do so. "Your
sister has told me that you are still far from being well, and that I
must not stay long. Let me sit right here beside you," she continued,
drawing a low rocker close to the lounge, and then, bending down, she
kissed Violet fondly upon the forehead.

Violet returned her greeting with what composure she could, but the
observing lady could easily see that it required a great effort,
although she imagined that embarrassment was the cause.

"I knew that I could not see you to-morrow," she resumed, "and I felt as
if I must have just a few minutes' chat with you on this last evening of
your maiden life. You have no mother, dear, and though I am sure your
sister has tried to do everything that was wise and kind, yet she cannot
quite take the place of a mother at such a time as this, and my heart
yearned to come to you."

Violet was deeply moved by these kind words, and she clasped more
closely the hand that had sought hers in such fond sympathy. Still her
heart ached more keenly, if that were possible, than before, while a
feeling of guilt stole over her--a consciousness of wrong toward this
loving mother in the injury she felt she was about to do her son.

"I was wishing for my mother just as you came," she murmured, a little
sob bursting from her lips.

Lady Isabel leaned forward and wound her arms about the slight form of
the girl.

"Then, dear child, let me take her place, as far as I can," she said, in
a low, winning tone; "and to-morrow you will have the right to call me
by that sacred name, while I shall have a dear daughter. Ah, Violet, I
cannot tell you how much I have always wanted a daughter--one who would
be a companion and a confidante. But I have had only my son until now.
My dear, I know we shall love each other, and I am looking forward, with
more delight than I can express, to the future when you will belong to
us and brighten our home with your fresh young life. I have been drawn
toward you from the first day of our meeting in London, and if Vane had
asked me to select a bride for him, I could not have chosen one more to
my mind. I know that you will make him a very loving and faithful wife."
How Violet cringed beneath those words, which so plainly told her that
Vane had not confided to his mother the doubtful relations that existed
between them! "He is a noble fellow," the fond woman went on; "he was
always a good and dutiful boy, and has been such a comfort to me. Better
than all, Violet, he is a true Christian, and it is delightful to hear
him talk of his plans regarding the welfare of his tenants, and of the
improvements he hopes to make in the condition of the poor upon his
estates. Do you know," she continued, with a sweet seriousness that was
very charming, "that I think it is a great thing--a wonderful thing for
an earl to be such a Christian, and one who wishes so earnestly to carry
his Christianity into his every-day life? There is so much
responsibility in such a position, and such an opportunity for doing
good. You are a Christian also, are you not, Violet? and you will
sympathize with and help Vane carry out all his plans? What is it,
dear?"

This last anxious question was drawn forth by the violent start which
Violet had given, as a new and solemn thought suddenly burst upon her at
these probing questions.

"Am I wearying you--are you feeling ill?" she added, regarding her with
deep concern.

With a great effort Violet controlled the trembling that had seized her,
and strove to reply calmly:

"No, I am not ill, dear Lady Cameron, but your asking me if I am a
Christian made me suddenly remember something that I had not thought of
before."

"What was that, dear?" Lady Isabel questioned. "Unburden yourself just
as you would to your own mother on this last night of your single life."

An expression of pain clouded Violet's brow, but after a moment she
said, gravely:

"Yes, I have called myself a Christian for more than a year, and I
believe my strongest desire is to do what is right always; but life has
so many temptations that I know I have often failed. I will try--to do
right in the future," she went on, but seemingly strangely agitated, her
companion thought. "I will do what I can to--to make Lord Cameron--at
least, I will try not to hinder him in any good work. I would like to
make him happy and you--dear Lady Cameron, I truly wish that I might
make you happy also," Violet concluded, raising her head from her pillow
and looking eagerly, wistfully into the beautiful face beside her.

The lady bent and kissed her again, though she wondered a little at the
undertone of pain and passion that rang through her words.

"With such a spirit I am sure you cannot fail to be a help to Vane, and
I know we shall all be very happy," she said fondly.

Still Violet continued to regard her with that earnest, wistful look,
while the nervous trembling, which she strove so hard to conceal, began
to be apparent in spite of her efforts.

"I hope," she said, timidly, appealingly, "that you will always believe
in me. I am liable to be mistaken in my view of what is right--promise
me, oh, promise me, that, whatever I may do, you will trust me--you will
believe that I want to be true, and that you will never cease to think
kindly of me."

She clung to her companion with passionate longing, her hot little hands
grasping hers with a painful, trembling clasp, while she seemed so
completely unstrung by some inward emotion that Lady Cameron was
alarmed.

"My dear child, this will never do," she said, regarding her anxiously,
"you must not allow yourself to become so excited, and I blame myself
for directing our conversation into such a serious channel. I must run
away at once and leave you to get calm. Of course, my love, I shall
always trust you, while you already have such a firm hold upon my heart
that I do not believe I could cease to love you if I would. There, you
shall not talk any more," as Violet opened her lips as if to speak;
"good-night, pleasant dreams, and a refreshing slumber. This," with a
light laugh, "is the last kiss I shall ever give Violet Huntington; when
next my lips touch yours you will be somebody's dear wife."

With a lingering caress the beautiful woman released her from her arms,
and then stole softly from the room, thinking what a sweet, lovable wife
Vane would have on the morrow.

But if she could have seen Violet as she lay there on her couch after
she had gone, she would have marveled more than she had done over her
previous excitement.

She clasped her hands across her eyes as if to shut out some dreadful
vision, and seemed to cower and shrink as if some one was smiting her
with a stinging lash.

"Oh, what have I done!" she moaned. "A Christian, and on the point of
perjuring myself before God's altar! A Christian, and weakly yielding to
what I know would be a sin of deepest dye! A Christian, and consenting
to take the poison of my wretchedness--of a heart that is filled with a
hopeless love for another--into a good man's life and home! No--a
thousand times no! I have been blind, wicked, reckless. Vane Cameron is
too good a man to have his life hampered and ruined thus, and I honor
him far too much to do him such wrong, now that I see it in its true
light. Oh, if he were but my brother, with his noble principles, his
strong, true heart and boundless sympathy, I could stand by him, help
him to carry out the good that he has planned, and devote my whole life
to him; but as his wife--never!" and she broke into a perfect tempest of
tears and sobs as she arrived at this crisis.

Daylight faded; the last crimson flush died out of the western sky;
darkness settled upon the mountain-tops that overlooked the beautiful
bay, and gradually wrapping itself about them like a mantle, finally
dropped like a pall upon the gay watering-place and the adjacent
village, which all day long had been in a fever of excitement and
expectation over the prospect of the grand wedding that was to occur on
the morrow.

Nothing else had been talked of for a week, and everybody was anxious to
see the beautiful girl whom the distinguished English earl had won, but
who had so resolutely secluded herself that but very few had had even a
glimpse of her face; but on the morrow everybody would have an
opportunity to judge for themselves, whether she was one who would honor
the high position which had been offered her.

About nine o'clock Mrs. Mencke went up to her sister's room to see if
she needed anything before retiring.

She tried the door and found it locked.

"Are you in bed, Violet?" she called, in a low tone, with her lips at
the key-hole.

"No, Belle, but I am busy with a little writing which I wish to do,"
Violet answered, in calm, even tones. "But never mind me--go back to
your dancing; I can take care of myself and would rather not be
disturbed by any one again to-night."

"I will come up again in half an hour," Mrs. Mencke returned, not
satisfied to leave her thus for the night.

"No, do not, Belle, please--I prefer that you should not," pleaded her
sister.

"Will you be sure to take your drops? You will need all the strength
that you can get for to-morrow," persisted Mrs. Mencke.

"Yes, I will take them; I know that I shall need strength," was the
grave reply.

"All right; good-night, then, and a good rest to you," said Mrs. Mencke,
and the rustle of her silken garments on the stairs, a moment later,
told Violet that she had gone back to the gay company below which she
enjoyed so much.

Two hours later, when she came up to bed, she stopped again before
Violet's door, as she was passing to her own room, and bent her head to
listen.

All was quiet within, except for the ticking of the clock which stood on
a bracket near the door, and which, somehow, sounded strangely clear,
and almost seemed to give an ominous click with each motion of its
pendulum.

She did not try to enter; she thought if Violet was sleeping quietly it
would be unwise to disturb her, and so she moved on to her own chamber,
yet with a somewhat anxious and unsatisfied feeling at her heart.

She slept very soundly, and did not awake until nearly eight o'clock the
next morning. Her husband had gone to Nice a couple of days previous,
and was to return on the first train that day, so there had been no
movement in her room to disturb her.

When she realized how late it was, and how much there was to be done,
for the wedding had been set for eleven o'clock, she sprang from her
bed, and hastily throwing on her clothing, went immediately to Violet's
apartments.

The door yielded to her touch, and she entered the parlor, to find no
one there.

She passed on to Violet's chamber, and rapped upon the door.

There was no answer, and entering, she was surprised to see that it was
empty, and somewhat startled, also, to see that the bed was nicely made,
and the room in perfect order.

"What can this mean?" she muttered, and then rang the bell a vigorous
peal.

A servant answered it immediately.

"Have you been called to attend Miss Huntington this morning?" she
demanded.

"No, madame."

"Have you seen her anywhere about the house?" Mrs. Mencke questioned,
greatly perplexed by her sister's strange movements.

"No, madam."

"What! did you not put her room in order this morning?" she asked,
sharply.

Again she was doomed to hear the simple, respectful, "No, madame."

More and more perplexed, and not a little alarmed, Mrs. Mencke hastened
out into the hall, and was proceeding down stairs to seek Lord Cameron,
when she met him just coming up to inquire for his betrothed.

He greeted her with his usual courteous manner; then, observing her
troubled look, became suddenly grave.

"What is it?" he quickly asked. "I hope Violet is not ill."

"No--I do not know--I--I--have you seen her?" faltered and stumbled Mrs.
Mencke, in a tone of distress.

"Seen her?" the young man replied, greatly surprised; for on this
morning, of all others, Violet would, of course, be supposed to be
invisible. "No; certainly not," he added, recovering himself. "Is she
not in her room?"

"No, and it looks as if it had not been occupied during the night," Mrs.
Mencke whispered, with pale lips.

"Do not tell me that," Lord Cameron said, sternly, his face growing
ashen pale at the information.

He turned, and leaping two stairs at a time, was at the top in a moment,
and striding forward toward Violet's room.

Reaching it, he stopped, his innate delicacy forbidding him to enter
without permission, and waited until Mrs. Mencke joined him.

They went in together, and he observed with a terrible heart-sinking the
perfect order in which everything had been left in both rooms.

Mrs. Mencke explained that she had questioned the chambermaid, but that
she knew nothing about Violet's movements.

"She may have gone out for a walk--to get the air," the wretched
groom-elect remarked, but he was white to his lips as he said it.

"Gone out for a walk on her wedding-morning, when there was scarcely
time to prepare for the ceremony! I wish I could even believe it
possible that she would do such an unheard-of thing," said Mrs. Mencke,
in a tone of despair, and feeling nearly paralyzed by this sudden and
inexplicable absence.

Nevertheless they exerted themselves to ascertain if the missing
bride-elect was anywhere about the premises, Lord Cameron, with the
proprietor of the hotel, to whom alone he confided his trouble, going
out in search of her.

Meantime Mrs. Mencke went back to Violet's rooms to ascertain if
anything was missing, but everything appeared to be in its accustomed
place. Every drawer was daintily arranged, as she was in the habit of
keeping them; all her jewels, laces, and ribbons were in their
respective boxes; even the rings, which she usually wore, lay upon her
pincushion, where she always put them before taking a bath.

Her dresses hung in her wardrobe--all but the traveling dress which she
had worn when she came to Mentone. It was a dark-gray cloth, trimmed
with narrow bands of blue silk. The hat to match, with its bows of blue
velvet, and a single gray wing, together with a thick blue vail, were
also missing, and a pair of thick walking-boots, together with a light
traveling shawl.

Beyond these few things nothing, as far as she could ascertain upon so
hasty an examination, was gone; not even a change of clothing, toilet
articles, or a traveling-bag, things which Violet would be sure to need
if she had contemplated flight.

Mrs. Mencke was somewhat reassured after these investigations, and tried
to think that her sister had gone out for a walk--possibly to the town
to post the letter she had been writing the previous night, rather than
to wait for it to go later with the hotel mail.

Still, she was terribly anxious, and her face was pallid with fear and
anxiety.

She had staked so much--far more than any one save herself knew--to
achieve this brilliant marriage for Violet, and it seemed more than she
could bear to have it fail at the last moment, and after all the heavy
expense of the beautiful trousseau from Worth's.

She wandered restlessly from room to room in an agony of suspense, Lady
Cameron following her and vainly trying to speak words of comfort and
cheer, while they waited for the return of those who had gone to search
for the missing one.

Lord Cameron came back after a time, accompanied by Mr. Mencke, who had
arrived on the first train from Nice, but he brought no tidings of
Violet.

"There will be no wedding to-day, even if she is found," he said, with a
stern, set face, "so let all preparations be stopped at once."

Then without another word, he went out, mounted his horse, and rode away
toward the mountains.

The wretched day passed, and evening shut down again upon the place,
where but one theme was thought of or talked about. Many believed that
the young girl had gone out for a walk in the early morning and had,
perhaps, fallen into some ravine among the mountains, or into the sea
and been drowned.

There were only a few who thought otherwise, and these were Mr. and Mrs.
Mencke, Lord Cameron, and his mother.

Mr. and Mrs. Mencke did not lisp their suspicions that Violet might have
fled from an uncongenial marriage to a suicide's fate; but Lord Cameron,
who remembered his last interview with his betrothed, had a terrible
fear that such might be the case; while Lady Cameron, having told him of
Violet's strange excitement and remarks of the evening previous,
suggested that she might have fled to escape wronging him and being
untrue to herself.

"It may be so," the wretched young man said, "but oh, I fear she is
dead. I shall search for her until I am satisfied of either one thing or
the other."

When Lord Cameron had said there would be no wedding, even if Violet
were found, Mrs. Mencke went away and shut herself in the room where
Violet was to have dressed for her bridal, and where, spread out before
her, were the lovely dress of white silk tulle, with its delicate
garnishings of lilies of the valley and white violets the beautiful
Brussels net vail, with its chaplet of the same flowers, the dainty
white satin boots, gloves, and handkerchief; and there she gave vent to
the rage, disappointment, and grief which she could no longer contain.

It was the most wretched day of her whole life, and she afterward
confessed that there, for the first time, in the presence of these
voiceless accusers of her for her treachery and heartlessness toward the
young girl whom she should have tenderly cherished and shielded from all
unhappiness, her guilty conscience began to upbraid her, and remorse to
sting her with their relentless lashings.



CHAPTER XV.

"SHE IS MY WIFE."


It was later in the season than people were in the habit of remaining at
Mentone; but the unusual attraction of a wedding in high life had
induced many to delay their departure and so a large number had tarried,
much to the gratification and profit of hotel proprietors and other
natives, only to be disappointed by missing the wedding, after all.

Everything possible was done to obtain some clew to the missing girl,
but all to no purpose. Three weeks went by, and every one, save Lord
Cameron, had given up all hope of ever solving the sad mystery. He alone
still patiently kept up his search day by day.

By the beginning of the fourth week, Mr. and Mrs. Mencke both agreed
that the girl must be dead, and announced their intention of leaving in
a few days for Switzerland. Mrs. Mencke was so confirmed in her opinion
that Violet was not living that she assumed mourning for her, and while
she remained in Mentone her deeply bordered handkerchiefs were never out
of her hands, and were frequently brought into ostentatious use.

The day before the one set for their departure was intensely warm and
oppressive, and everybody was almost prostrated by the heat.

Lady Cameron and Mrs. Mencke could only exist by lying, lightly clad, in
hammocks swung upon the north piazza of the hotel, while Mr. Mencke
idled away the hours as best he could, in the smoking and reading-room,
or in imbibing mint juleps.

Lord Cameron, as was his invariable custom, had departed, in spite of
the heat, upon one of his long rides immediately after breakfast. His
quest for the girl whom he had so fondly loved was becoming almost a
mania.

He had grown thin and pale; his appetite failed, until he seemed not to
eat sufficient to keep life in him. He was depressed, and absent-minded,
and so nervous and restless that his mother suffered the keenest anxiety
lest all this strain upon his mind and body should end in insanity!

"Oh, what an interminable day this has seemed!" sighed Lady Cameron to
her companion, as, soft on the saltry stillness of the air, there came
to them the sound of a distant church clock striking the hour of six. "I
hope I may never pass another like it--I could neither read nor work,
while my thoughts and the dread of something--I know not what--have
nearly driven me wild."

Mrs. Mencke shivered, in spite of the heat, at these words. She also had
felt as if she could never live through another twelve hours like the
past, and she believed if she could but once get away from the place
where she had suffered so much of disappointment and wretchedness, this
terrible oppression and weight would in a measure disappear.

Tomorrow they would go, and she longed for tomorrow to come. During the
latter part of the afternoon she had simply lain still and watched the
lengthening shadows, which told that the sun was declining and evening
drawing on apace, and longed for night and slumber to lock her senses in
oblivion.

"I believe the name of Mentone will always give me a chill after this,"
she said, in a husky tone.

"Hark! is not that the sound of a horse's hoofs?" cried Lady Cameron,
starting up to look down the road. "Yes, there comes Vane and--Mrs.
Mencke, he is riding at a break-neck pace! Can he--do you believe he has
any--news?"

The woman was so overcome by the thought that the last word was uttered
in a whisper, while her eager eyes were intently fastened upon the
approaching horseman.

Mrs. Mencke started to a sitting posture, and waited with breathless
interest for Lord Cameron to arrive.

Nearer and nearer he came, and now they could see that his noble steed
was flecked with foam.

Vane checked his headlong speed as he caught sight of the two figures
upon the piazza; but, as he entered the grounds of the hotel, both
ladies could see that his face was frightful in its ghastliness.
Instinctively they knew that he was the bearer of evil tidings.

Arriving at the steps, he threw his bridle to a man who approached to
take his horse, then turned to enter the hotel.

"Vane--you have--news!" his mother said, in an awe-stricken voice, as
she went forward to meet him.

He glanced up at her, and the sympathy and love written on her gentle
face seemed to unman him for a moment.

He staggered, reeled, and then caught at a post, while he put his hand
to his head and groaned aloud with anguish.

"Tell me," gasped Mrs. Mencke, coming toward him, her own face now as
white as his, "have you heard anything of--Violet?"

He nodded, but hid his face from the gaze of the two women, while a
shudder shook him from head to foot; then he said, in a hollow tone:

"Yes--she is found."

"Found!" repeated his startled hearers, in shrill, tense voices. "Where?
Alive?"

He shook his head at that last word.

"Dead!" whispered Mrs. Mencke, hoarsely.

"Dead," said Lord Cameron, in an awful tone and with another groan.

Then with a mighty effort he partially recovered his composure, made
them sit down, and told them as briefly as he could all about his
dreadful day.

He had started out that morning determined to make one last vigorous
effort--to spare neither himself, his horse, nor his purse to gain some
clew; then, if he learned nothing of the fate of his lost love, he would
give up his search and go home to England with his mother.

He followed the coast along the gulf, as he had done a dozen times
before, but intending to extend his search farther than he had yet done.
He rode many miles, until the heat became so intense that he was forced
to turn back without as yet having made any discovery.

Suddenly, however, as he was nearing Mentone, he saw a group of
fishermen gathered around something which they had evidently just drawn
from the water at the foot of a cliff, along the edge of which the
highway ran.

Approaching nearer, he saw what appeared to be a long black object, and
knew that it was contemplated with horror by the spectators, for the
men's faces were gray and awe-stricken.

A nameless fear seized upon his own heart, and leaping from his horse,
he fastened him to a tree, and springing down the cliff with all the
speed he could force into his faltering feet, he saw, while a groan of
despair burst from him, that the object lying upon the beach was the
body of a woman.

Such a horror he had never looked upon before--he hoped never to look
upon again.

The woman was clad, not in black, as he had at first thought, but in a
dark gray suit trimmed with bands of blue silk. Upon the head was a grey
hat, also trimmed with blue, and having a gray wing among the folds of
velvet, and wound about this was a thick blue vail.

"Violet?" moaned Mrs. Mencke, with a shiver, as Lord Cameron reached
this portion of his tale.

"Yes, Violet, without any doubt," he answered, in a hollow voice, "for
the clothing all corresponded exactly with your description of what she
wore away; but otherwise she was past all recognition, excepting the
hair, which was golden like hers, though sadly matted and disheveled by
the action of the sea. What her object was in leaving the hotel we can
probably never know; perhaps it was simply a walk--I hope that was her
object," the young man said, something like a sob bursting from him;
"but she must have wandered too near the edge of the cliff, missed her
foothold, and fallen into the sea. The coast is very bold near
there--overhanging the water in many places, while the road runs very
near the edge of the cliff. It was a terrible fate for the poor child,
and the experiences of this day will haunt me as long as I live."

It was a horrible story, gently as he tried to break it to them, and the
hearts of his listeners stood still with awe and misery. And yet,
dreadful as it was, they all felt that the certainty of knowing that
Violet was no more, did not equal the agonizing suspense which had
tortured them during the last four weeks.

There was not much sleep for any of them that night, and Lord Cameron
looked as if he had just risen from a long illness when he appeared the
next morning.

He was calmer, however, than on the previous evening, and went about his
sad duties with a sorrowful dignity which deeply impressed and touched
every one.

Of course all thoughts of any of the party leaving Mentone for the next
few days were given up, for their loved dead must be cared for before
they could turn their faces northward.

The authorities would not allow the body to be removed from the place;
but ordered that the young girl should be buried there without delay.

After this was attended to, the few mourning friends, together with many
sympathizing residents of Mentone, gathered in the church, where the
grand wedding was to have taken place, and a simple memorial service was
observed, after which they all repaired to the spot where the
unfortunate girl had been laid to rest.

Lord Cameron had chosen the spot, which was a little remote from other
graves in the place of burial and beneath a beautiful, wide-spreading
beech. The low mound had been covered with myrtle and a profusion of
choice flowers, the greensward was like velvet about it, and not far
away could be seen the deep blue sea which Violet had loved so much.

Mrs. Mencke appeared to be greatly overcome as she visited this lonely
grave, and many glances of sympathy were bent upon her by those gathered
about; but they could not know of the guilty secret which lay so heavily
upon her conscience and caused remorse to outweigh whatever of natural
grief she might otherwise have experienced. She alone knew that she was
wholly responsible for all the sorrow and trouble which had thus
overtaken the fair girl in the very morning of her life.

The next day they all spent in resting, for they had arranged to leave
Mentone the following morning.

Lady Cameron and Mrs. Mencke remained in their rooms until evening, only
coming down to join the gentlemen after tea for a little while.

They were gathered in a small private parlor, where each seemed to
strive to assume a cheerfulness which no one felt.

Suddenly there came a sharp, imperative knock upon the door.

Lord Cameron arose to open it, and found himself face to face with a
young man several years his junior, and who would have been regarded as
strikingly handsome but for the worn and haggard look upon his face, and
the wild, almost insane expression in his restless eyes.

Vane bowed to him courteously, then inquired:

"Can I do anything for you, sir? Whom do you wish to see?"

"Lord Cameron, Earl of Sutherland," was the brief but stern reply.

"I am he," the young man began, when his visitor unceremoniously pushed
his way into the room, closing the door behind him.

At this act Wilhelm Mencke and his wife started to their feet, one with
a cry of surprise and dismay, the other with an oath of anger, while
both had grown deathly pale.

"Pardon me, sir, but are you not somewhat brusque and uncourteous in
your demeanor?" Vane demanded, with some hauteur. "Who are you, and what
do you want?"

"I want to meet the woman whom report says you are to marry or have
married. I want to meet her here and now, in your presence," was the
quick, passionate, quivering response.

Lord Cameron shuddered and grew white to his lips at this imperative
demand, and wondered if the man was mad.

"That is impossible," he said, in a husky voice. Then he added, in a
conciliatory tone, for something seemed to tell him that the man was in
great mental suffering, though he had not a suspicion of its cause: "But
pray explain why you make such a request. Who are you sir?"

"My name is Wallace Hamilton Richardson," tersely returned the stranger.

Vane Cameron recoiled as if the man had struck him a blow instead of
simply stating his name.

He was so much overcome by the announcement that those observing him
feared he was upon the point of fainting, strong man though he was.

"Wallace Richardson--from America?" he whispered, hoarsely.

"Yes."

"I--I thought you were dead! She believed you were dead!" the young lord
returned, with ashen lips.

"Dead!" repeated Wallace, wonderingly, his hitherto inflexible face
softening a trifle. "Oh, say it again--does Violet really believe that I
am dead?" and the eager, quivering tones rang sharply through the room.

"Yes, she believes so; it was so announced in one of the American
papers," Lord Cameron replied, with something more of composure, but
never losing that first look of horror.

Like a flash Wallace wheeled about and faced Wilhelm Mencke and his
trembling wife.

"Then that was some more of your miserable work!" he cried, in a
terrible voice, "a diabolical plot to separate us. From the first you
have left nothing undone to part us, and so, when all else failed, you
reported me dead, knowing well that she would never marry another while
she believed me to be living. Oh! I see it all now, and my love, my
love, I have wronged you!" he concluded, in a tone of anguish.

When he had turned with such fiery denunciation upon them, Mrs. Mencke
shrank from him with such an expression of awe, fear, and guilt upon her
face, that she was instantly self-condemned; every one in the room was
as sure that she had caused that lying paragraph, announcing Wallace's
death, to be inserted in the paper to mislead Violet, as if she had
openly confessed it.

"Did you do it--did you drive that poor child thus to promise to become
my wife?" demanded Lord Cameron, in a voice that was like the ominous
calm before a tempest.

The woman was speechless; but her guilty eyes drooped beneath his stern
look, for she knew that her miserable secret was revealed.

"You do not know what you have done," Wallace cried, growing wild again,
"but you will pay dearly for your treachery--ha! ha! you little dream
how dearly it will cost you, when the consequences of your wretched plot
shall be noised abroad from the aristocratic summit upon which you have
hitherto so proudly stood, and from which you will soon be ruthlessly
hurled."

Wilhelm Mencke, having by this time begun to recover somewhat from the
shock of Wallace's unexpected appearance, commenced to bluster:

"Look here, you young upstart," he cried, growing very red in the face,
and assuming a threatening attitude, "all these charges and accusations
may or may not be true--we won't discuss that point just now; but
whether it is or not, it can be no possible concern of yours. I should
like to know what you mean by bursting in upon respectable people in
this rude way. What was Violet to you?--what right or business have you
to interfere with whatever she might have chosen to do?"

"The most sacred right in the world, sir, for--she is my wife!"



CHAPTER XVI.

"I MUST FIND HER--I MUST FOLLOW HER."


This thrilling and unexpected announcement was electrical in its
results.

Mrs. Mencke gave vent to a shriek of horror, and sank, weak and
trembling, upon a chair, while her husband gazed at the young man with a
look of blank astonishment and dismay; indeed, for the moment, he seemed
almost paralyzed by the astounding declaration, for if Violet was indeed
Wallace's wife, he and his wife had been criminally guilty in trying to
drive her into a marriage with Lord Cameron, and in view of what the
consequence might have been had they succeeded and Violet had lived, he
had every reason to feel appalled.

Lady Cameron, also realizing all this, bowed her blanched face upon her
hands and sat quivering as if with ague. What a terrible fate had been
spared her son; but at what a fearful cost!

Lord Cameron alone betrayed no surprise, made no comment, though he
still remained as colorless as when Wallace had first revealed his
identity; while he stood regarding the young man with a sad, pitying
look, for he saw that Wallace did not suspect what they yet had to tell
him--had not even noticed that they spoke of her in the past tense or
that Mrs. Mencke was clad in deep mourning.

There was an oppressive silence in the room for the space of three or
four minutes then Wilhelm Mencke started forward, his phlegmatic nature
for once all aflame.

"It is an infernal lie!" he cried, shaking his massive fist before
Wallace's face; "all an infernal lie, I tell you, made up for the
occasion, with the design, perhaps, of claiming her money. But you'll
find, my would-be smart young man, that you have tackled the wrong
parties this time."

Wallace made no verbal reply to this coarse outbreak, but, quietly
slipping one hand within a breast-pocket, he drew forth a folded paper,
which he opened and held before the man.

"Read," he said, briefly.

With rapidly fading color, with eyes that grew round and wide, with
mingled conviction and dismay, Wilhelm Mencke read the marriage
certificate, which proved that Wallace Hamilton Richardson and Violet
Draper Huntington had been legally united, by a well-known clergyman of
Cincinnati, about three weeks previous to the sailing of the young girl
for Europe.

The man knew it was the truth, and this conviction was plainly stamped
upon his face as he read; but he was so enraged by the fact, and also by
the secret fear that Wallace might make him some trouble pecuniarily,
that he lost control of his temper and reason.

A coarse, angry oath escaped him, and then he cried out, as he grew
crimson with passion:

"It is a ---- forgery, cleverly executed for the purpose of gaining his
own ends."

Lord Cameron colored and drew himself up with dignity, while he
remarked, with marked displeasure:

"Mr. Mencke, allow me to request you to refrain from profanity in the
presence of my mother."

"Beg pardon, your lordship," said Mencke, looking somewhat abashed, "but
I am so upset by this blamed trick that I forgot myself entirely."

"It is no trick, sir--it is the truth," quietly returned Vane Cameron.

"What do you mean, Lord Cameron? How can you know anything about it?"
cried Mrs. Mencke, forgetting, for the moment, her weakness and
agitation in her surprise at his positive declaration.

"Violet told me--she confided the fact of her marriage to me," he calmly
returned.

"She told you," Wallace cried, his face lighting, his voice dropping to
a tender cadence, as he began to realize how true Violet had been to
him, in spite of her apparent faithlessness.

"Yes, when I asked her to become my wife," replied his lordship; then he
added: "But sit down, Mr. Richardson, and let us freely discuss this
matter, so that you can clearly understand it."

Vane rolled forward a comfortable chair for his visitor, a sad deference
in his manner, which betrayed how strongly his sympathies were enlisted
for the young man, who still had no suspicion of the sad news in store
for him. He then seated himself near him and proceeded to relate all
that had occurred in connection with his proposed marriage with Violet.

He would not tell him at once that the ceremony had never taken place,
for Wallace was still greatly excited, and he felt that his news must be
all broken to him gradually, or he would be completely unnerved.

"Evidently you have not learned that Miss Huntington was very ill for
several weeks in London," he began.

"No," Wallace said, with a start.

"Yes, she was very sick with brain fever. The attack was caused by
reading the notice of your death, and for a month her life was nearly
despaired of. When she began to recover, her physician recommended that
she be brought to Mentone for a change, and Mrs. Mencke acted
immediately upon his advice. Just previous to her illness I had confided
my feelings to Mrs. Mencke, and solicited her permission to address her
sister. It was freely given, but, of course, I could not avail myself of
it while Miss Huntington was so ill, and it was arranged--without her
knowledge, I have since learned--that I was to follow her hither when
she should have gained somewhat in strength. She had been here about a
month when I received word that I might come. A few days later I was
granted an interview, during which I confessed my affection and asked
her to become my wife.

"She told me frankly at once that she did not love me well enough to
marry me, and then, with sudden impulse, asked if she might make a
confession--might open her whole heart to me. Of course this request was
readily granted, and then she told me of her love for you, Mr.
Richardson; how it had originated, and how, when"--bending a grave look
upon Mrs. Mencke as he said this--"sorely pressed and alarmed by the
fear of being sent away from home and deprived of her liberty, she had
begged you to advise her what to do, and you told her that the only
safe-guard that you could throw around her would be to make her your
wife----"

"Yes," Wallace here interrupted, "Violet had been threatened with being
sent to a convent unless she would promise to cast me off. Such a fate
seemed to possess excessive terrors for her, and, being fully convinced
that nothing could change our affection for each other, I suggested that
we should be privately married, and then, if she was deprived of her
liberty, it would be in my power to aid her by claiming her as my wife."

"Yes, that was what she told me in substance," said Lord Cameron. "She
stated that you were married, but that you did not propose to claim her,
because of the opposition of her friends, until a year or two should
elapse and you were in a better position to make a home for her; that
you advised her to travel and see all of the world that was possible,
while you pursued your profession. Then came your separation, and she
made no secret of the unhappiness that this caused her, or of her
absorbing affection for you, and she spoke of the intense anxiety that
she experienced because she received no letters from you after leaving
home."

Surely Lord Cameron, with his usual noble self-abnegation, was doing all
in his power to soothe Wallace's wounded heart and prepare him for the
trial before him.

"But I wrote twice every week for more than two months," Wallace here
interposed, "without receiving a single letter from her. This fact also
we doubtless owe to the sisterly interposition that has been so vigilant
and active regarding her welfare," he concluded, bitterly.

"Her grief and despair over your supposed death," continued the young
earl, "was too deep for expression, and she said that life seemed hardly
worth the living. She told me that she dared not become my wife, feeling
thus; that her heart was dead, her dream of life was over, and she would
not wrong me by giving me the ashes of her love in return for the
devotion I offered her."

Lord Cameron paused a moment here, as if the memory of that
never-to-be-forgotten interview was too much for him; but presently he
controlled himself, and went on:

"I take upon myself all the blame for what followed," he said, "for I
still urged her to give herself to me. I knew she was not happy
here--that she was still weak from her illness and weary of travel, and
longed for rest and quiet. I told her I would be content if she would
but allow me to throw around her the protection of my name and love, and
let me take her, just as she was, into my heart and home. Her answer
was, 'I dare not, and yet----' That simple qualification made my heart
bound, for I accepted it as a sign of yielding.

"'And yet you want to--you will?' I said, assuming that that was what
she meant, and as I clasped her hand to seal the compact, I saw that she
had fainted. Later her sister came to me and said that it was all
right--that Violet had said she would marry me. Of course I was elated,
for I believed that I should win her in time--that eventually she must
yield to my love and devotion, when her wounded heart should have a
chance to heal, and I was satisfied to take her thus, even though she
had frankly said she could never love me as a wife should love her
husband. Still, as time passed, I began to fear that she regretted her
promise, and during an interview with her, on the evening previous to
the day set for our marriage, I was deeply pained and troubled by her
manner and a certain wretchedness which she could not conceal. But I
reasoned that when the wedding was once over, and we were quietly
settled in our home, she would gradually grow content."

Wallace had listened thus far with absorbing interest. At times when
Lord Cameron spoke of Violet's faithfulness to and love for him, of her
despairing grief over his supposed death, and her reluctance to become
the wife of another, his face would light up for an instant or grow
tender with love, as his emotions moved him; but gradually, as the
narrator drew near the end of his tale, he grew nervous and restless,
the tense lines of pain settled again about his mouth, his eyes grew
dark and moody in expression, while the spasmodic twitching of his
nerves could be plainly seen by every one in the room.

"'When once the wedding was over,'" he interposed hoarsely, at this
point of the story; "that was--a month ago--to-day----"

"Yes, that was the date set for the ceremony," Vane Cameron responded,
with a sinking heart, as he bent a pitying look upon the young and
terribly stricken husband.

Bitter as his own grief and disappointment had been when he lost Violet,
they now seemed to dwindle into nothing in comparison with Wallace's
greater suffering and the terrible tidings which he yet had to reveal to
him. His heart sank with a sickening dread; no duty had ever seemed so
hard before.

"I--I read a notice of it in a Cincinnati paper, and I started for
England at once----" Wallace began excitedly.

"You started at once!" said Lord Cameron, surprised. "It was announced a
month previous."

"I know--I know; but I did not get the paper for some time after," was
the agitated reply. "At the time Violet left for Europe I was called to
New York to consult with an architect about going into partnership with
him and accepting an important contract. The partnership was
consummated, the contract accepted, and I have been in New York ever
since. This was why I did not get the news earlier--it was a mere chance
that I got it at all. The paper stated that you were to start
immediately for your residence on the Isle of Wight, consequently I went
directly there, thus losing much more time. But--oh, I cannot stop for
all these details now," the young man cried, with a ghastly face, the
perspiration standing in great beads upon his brow, while he was
terribly excited. "Of course Violet is not your wife, even though ten
thousand ceremonies were performed over you. She is mine--mine! Oh,
Heaven! am I going mad? Where is she? Tell me--tell me! Why are you
still here? Why did you not go to the Isle of Wight? Why do you not
speak? Why do you keep me in such suspense?"

It was dreadful to look upon him, and no pen could portray the anguish
that was written upon his countenance, that vibrated in his hoarse,
quivering tones.

"We--did not go because--that marriage ceremony never took place," said
Lord Cameron, gravely, but inwardly quaking over what he must tell him
next.

Wallace sprang to his feet, a thrilling cry of joy bursting from him.

"Never took place!" he repeated, panting for breath. "Thank Heaven!
Violet, my love! you are still my own! Oh, say it again--say those
blessed words again!"

"Be calm, I beseech you, Mr. Richardson," said Lord Cameron, pitifully,
while convulsive sobs broke from Lady Isabel; "do not allow yourself to
become so unnerved and you shall learn all. I told you, if you remember,
that Violet--nay, do not frown when I speak of her thus," the noble
young man gently interposed, as Wallace's brow grew dark, to hear that
loved named drop so familiarly from his lips, "for had I known the
truth, I would have scorned to wrong either of you by even a confession
of my love. But I told you that she appeared strangely during my last
interview with her. I offered her a caress--I tell you this," he
interposed, a crimson flush mounting to his brow, "that you may have all
the comfort possible in knowing how wholly her heart belonged to
you--and she shrank from me in pain, if not with absolute loathing.
Later on, during the same evening, my mother saw her for a few minutes,
and she made some remarks which seemed very strange at the time, but
which were readily comprehended later; for the next morning when her
sister went to her room, to help her prepare for her bridal, she was not
there. She had gone--left the house and the place, and no one knew
whither."

A cry of mingled thankfulness and anxiety broke from Wallace at this,
and his sorely tried nerves, so long strung to their utmost tension,
gave way, and sob after sob burst from his overcharged heart as he sank
weakly back in his chair.

It was a pitiful sight to see that brave, strong young man weep thus
over the discovery of the faithfulness of his loved one.

It was almost more than Lord Cameron could bear and retain his
composure, while Lady Cameron wept unrestrainedly.

Wilhelm Mencke and his wife sat stolidly by viewing this affecting
sight, one racked with feelings of mingled anger, guilt, and remorse,
the other uneasily considering the chances of trouble for himself
regarding the disposition of Violet's fortune.

But Wallace soon mastered his emotion; he was not one to remain long
inactive when there was anything to be done.

"My faithful, true-hearted little wife!" he murmured, as he dashed aside
his tears, new hope and courage already glowing on his face, "her love
and instinct were stronger than the force of circumstances. But,"
starting again to his feet, "I must find her; I must follow her to the
ends of the earth, if need be, and when I do find her, as I surely
shall,"--with a stern glance at Mr. and Mrs. Mencke--"nothing save death
shall ever separate us again."

A chill ran over every listener at these confident words, and an ominous
silence fell over the shrinking group.

"Have you any idea whither she went? Has any one tried to follow her?"
Wallace asked, turning to Lord Cameron, and wondering why he should look
so ghastly; why Lady Cameron's sobs should have burst forth again with
renewed violence.

"Every possible effort was made to find her; day after day we have
searched for her," began his lordship, falteringly.

"And you have learned nothing--gained no clew?" impatiently demanded the
anxious young husband.

"Nothing--until the day before yesterday."

"Ah! then you have news at last!" cried Wallace, eagerly. "Tell
me!--tell me!--what have you learned?"

"Heaven help me! how can I tell you?" exclaimed Lord Cameron, in an
agonized tone. Then with a great effort for self-control, he solemnly
added: "Mr. Richardson, be brave--Violet is dead!--drowned! we found her
two days ago. She doubtless missed her footing during her flight in the
night, and fell into the sea."

But these last words fell upon unheeding ears, for when Lord Cameron
said that she was "dead"--"drowned"--Wallace had cast one horrified,
despairing look around upon those white, hopeless faces, and then,
without a word or cry, as if smitten by some mighty unseen power, he
fell forward on his face and lay like a log upon the floor, at Vane
Cameron's feet.



CHAPTER XVII.

LORD CAMERON AND WALLACE BECOME FIRM FRIENDS.


"Help me!" Vane Cameron commanded of Mr. Mencke, as he stooped to assist
the fallen man, his noble face full of pity and compassion for him.

They lifted Wallace and laid him upon a lounge, where Vane, after
loosening his necktie and collar, strove to revive him by sprinkling his
face plentifully with cold water and chafing his hands vigorously.

But Wallace showed no signs of recovering; he lay motionless,
breathless--like a man dead, and at last, becoming alarmed, Lord Cameron
sent a servant for the nearest physician.

Upon his arrival, and after an examination of Wallace's condition, he
pronounced it to be an attack of coma produced by hemorrhage in the
brain, caused by excessive excitement and long continued anxiety of
mind.

"It is a serious attack," he said, gravely, "but the poor fellow is
young and has a splendid physique; if he can hold out long enough--until
the clot is absorbed--he may recover. Is he a relative of milord?"

"No, I never saw him until this evening," Vane answered, "but I want
everything possible done to save his life, and I will be responsible."

The energetic little French doctor needed no better incentive than this,
for the wealth and generosity of the young English earl had been common
talk in the town ever since his arrival, and he threw himself into the
work of effecting Wallace's recovery with all his heart. Every luxury
that Vane could think of or the doctor suggest, was supplied for his
benefit and comfort.

Mr. and Mrs. Mencke took a hasty leave the day following the disclosures
related in the foregoing chapter.

Their treachery and unnatural harshness toward Violet had been unmasked,
and Lady Cameron and her son did not take any pains to conceal their
condemnation of such atrocious conduct; consequently Violet's sister and
her husband were anxious to escape from Mentone as quickly as possible.

"You must go home also, mother," Vane said to Lady Isabel, after their
departure, "it will not do for you to remain longer in this enervating
climate."

"And what of you, my son?" the fond mother questioned, anxiously.

"I shall stay with him until he recovers, or at least until he is able
to be moved farther north," the young man quietly responded.

"Vane----"

"Do not oppose me, mother, please," he interrupted, "he is a stranger in
a strange country, with not a friend to minister to his need or comfort;
and, if I am not mistaken, he has only a scant supply of money."

"But the nurse and physician can look after him, and the bills can all
be sent to you, if you wish," urged Lady Cameron.

"The nurse and physician will both do their duty more faithfully if I am
here to watch them," Vane answered, inflexibly. "For her sake," he
added, in a low tone, and with white lips, "I shall do my utmost to
bring him back to health, while if, in spite of all, he dies, I shall
lay him by her side, and then take up the broken thread of my own life
as best I can."

Lady Cameron stole to his side and wound her arms about his neck.

"Vane," she murmured, while tears streamed over her cheeks, "my noble
boy! it is like you to do this and like the Master who said, 'I was a
stranger and ye took me in.' But it breaks my heart to hear you speak in
that hopeless tone. I know--I feel sure that the 'broken thread of your
life,' as you express it, will be joined again. I cannot contemplate
with resignation that you, with your noble character and grand
possibilities for doing good, should carry this unhealed wound to your
grave. But I shall not go home to leave you here," she added,
resolutely; "if you stay to care for this poor, suffering stranger, I
shall stay to look after you."

"Mother, I cannot permit it," Vane began, but she interrupted him.

"I am inexorable," she said, firmly. "You know that the warm weather is
not depressing to me, as to most people, and anxiety would prey upon me
more than the climate, so it will be useless to urge me further."

Thus it was settled, and those two royal-hearted people remained for
another month in that deserted hotel, and devoted themselves to the care
of Wallace Richardson during his critical illness.

He was very, very ill, but as the physician had said, possessed a
splendid constitution, and, after a fierce battle with disease, he began
slowly to recover--at least his physical health.

But his mind seemed sadly clouded, a condition caused by the pressure of
a clot of blood upon his brain, the doctor said, and time alone would
show whether he would ever entirely regain the use of his mental
faculties; absorption was the only process by which it could be
achieved, and this might be slow or rapid, as his general health
improved.

At the end of four weeks it was thought that he might safely be moved;
indeed, the physician advised it, thinking he would gain strength faster
in a more invigorating atmosphere, and Vane determined to convey him
directly to the Isle of Wight, whither he had intended taking Violet.

It seemed almost like the mockery of fate that, instead of taking the
woman whom he had loved and hoped to make his wife to this beautiful
summer home, he should remove hither the man whom she had loved and
secretly married, to nurse him back to health.

The change proved to be very beneficial, and Wallace began to gain
strength, both physically and mentally, almost immediately.

Possibly the change in medical treatment had also something to do with
this improvement, for Lord Cameron placed him under the care of one of
the most skillful physicians of London, who happened to be summering on
the island.

He did not appear to regard the case so seriously as the French doctor
had done.

"He will be all right again in a couple of months," Doctor Harkness
said. "Give him plain, nourishing diet, plenty of moderate out-door
exercise, and keep his mind free from all exciting subjects."

Time proved the truth of this prophecy; there was a steady improvement
in Wallace from the moment of his arrival upon the island, and twelve
weeks from the day of his attack he was pronounced a well man again.

During his convalescence, as he came, little by little, to realize his
position, together with the kindness and care which had been thrown
around him during his illness, he tried to manifest his appreciation of
it.

The first time he referred to the subject was one delightful afternoon,
when the two young men were sitting together upon the broad piazza of
Lord Cameron's elegant villa, which overlooked the sea.

Vane had been reading to his companion an amusing story, which both had
seemed to enjoy thoroughly. When he finished it and closed his book
Wallace looked up and remarked, gratefully:

"What a good friend you have been to me, Cameron! I hope you do not
think me unappreciative, but I have only just begun to have sense enough
to find it out."

"I trust we are good friends," Vane answered, cordially but evading a
direct reply to his gratitude, "and that we shall continue to be such
throughout our lives."

He had grown to admire the young architect exceedingly during the long
weeks that he had so patiently borne his weakness and enforced idleness;
while, as his mind gradually became stronger and clearer, he saw that he
was no ordinary person, that he possessed great ability--a strong
character, and unswerving principles of rectitude.

"Thank you," Wallace answered, gratefully; "I hope so, too. But how am I
ever to repay you for your unexampled kindness? It is a problem beyond
my ability to solve."

"By pledging the friendship I desire, and saying no more about the
obligation--if any there is," Vane replied, with a genial smile, and
holding out his hand to his companion.

Wallace instantly laid his within it, and the two men thus sealed the
compact with a violent but heart-felt clasp.

Later Wallace spoke of Violet for the first time since his illness, and
begged for more information regarding her sojourn at Mentone and the
circumstances of her flight, though he touched as lightly as possible
upon the revolting story of the discovery of the body upon the beach and
its burial; but he would not even hint his suspicion of suicide.

The subject was a depressing one to both, and to change it Vane said,
after a long pause:

"If you feel like it, would you mind coming with me into the library to
look over some plans that came from London to-day? I am about to erect a
school building for the children of my tenants, and also a home for aged
people and orphans. Perhaps, being an architect, you can make some
suggestions that will be useful to me."

This was merely a ruse to divert Wallace's mind from the sad and
exciting train of thought into which he had fallen; but the young man
arose with alacrity at the mention of plans. He dearly loved his
profession, and was already beginning to be anxious to get into active
service again.

He followed his friend to the library, where they found the plans spread
out upon a table, and both soon became deeply interested in discussing
them.

Wallace was quick to discover that they were defective, and far from
being practical, in many respects. They were imposing, and looked well
on paper, but he knew that when completed the buildings would be very
disappointing in various ways.

He modestly pointed out the defects, but in a way that betrayed he knew
his business thoroughly, and Lord Cameron, who would never have
discovered them until the buildings were completed, became disgusted
with the plans, and said at once that he should discard them entirely.

"Nay, do not be too hasty in your condemnation. I am afraid I have been
too critical," Wallace said, regretfully. "With some changes, you might
still use them; but, if you will allow me, I will make you some
drawings, giving you my ideas regarding these buildings; then, perhaps,
you can combine the two sets, and get something more to your mind."

"Do," said Lord Cameron, eagerly; "and if they prove to be what I want,
you shall have the price Mac Cumber is going to charge me for these--it
is no mean one, either."

"The price!" exclaimed Wallace, flushing. "No, indeed! Do not mention
such a thing after all your bounty to me during these many weeks."

"Ah, but that was on the score of friendship, you know," lightly
returned Vane. "That is all settled for. Remember your pledge. This will
be business."

Wallace made no reply, but the settling of the firm lines about his
mouth plainly indicated that he meant to have his own way in this
matter.

He went immediately to work, all his old enthusiasm awakening the moment
he took his pencil in his fingers.

He was not yet strong enough mentally to apply himself very closely,
neither would Lord Cameron allow him to be imprudent; but by working a
few hours every day he made good progress, and at the end of a couple of
weeks laid before Lord Cameron two sets of plans which, for convenience,
beauty of design, and elegance of workmanship, far exceeded anything
that he had even seen.

"You are a genius, Richardson!" he exclaimed, after he had thoroughly
examined them, and Wallace had explained everything. "You have utilized
every square foot of space, and that, too, without infringing in any way
upon the beauty and proportions. I shall use these plans, and Mac Cumber
would do well to come and take lesson of you."

Wallace was of course very much pleased with this high praise, while he
was no less gratified when, the following week, Lord Cameron proposed
that they should take a trip to his estate, so that he might judge if
the proposed site for the new buildings were just what it should be, or
whether it could be improved upon by choosing some other.

The next seven days were spent in Essex County, at the country seat of
the young Earl of Sutherland, and where Wallace was entertained as an
honored guest, while every day the bond of friendship between the two
men became more firmly cemented.

The site proved all that could be desired, and Wallace assured his
friend that the buildings would make a very fine appearance upon it when
completed.

After that Vane said that he must see some of the "lions of London," and
he took him up to his town house, where they spent two weeks very
enjoyably.

It was now about the first of October, and Wallace, claiming that he was
now as well as ever, said that he must return to his business in New
York.

Dr. Harkness was consulted, and expressed the opinion that he was able
to go, and, accordingly, the day of his departure was set for the fifth.

"I am very loath to let you go," Vane said, regretfully, as, on the
evening before his departure, they sat together in his "bachelor nest,"
as his smoking-room was called.

"I shall regret the separation as much as you possibly can," Wallace
replied, gravely, "but I must go back to my work. I have but one object
in life now--my profession. I shall devote all my energies to it, and
try to forget my great loss in making a name for myself."

"There can be no doubt that you will do that, with your talent," Lord
Cameron replied; then drawing an envelope from his pocket, he quietly
passed it to him. "Do not open it until you reach New York," he said,
with some embarrassment.

"Forgive me if I do," Wallace said, cutting the end and drawing forth
the paper within it, for he was confident that he knew the nature of its
contents.

He found a check on the Bank of England for a hundred pounds.

"Cameron! I cannot take it," he said, flushing hotly.

"I beg you will," said Vane, earnestly.

"I should never respect myself again if I did," Wallace returned, with
emotion. "You are more than welcome to the plans, if this check was
intended as a remuneration for them, while I shall never cease to feel
that I owe you a debt which I can never repay for all your kindness to
my loved one, not to mention the vetoed subject of my obligations to
you."

"But--have you funds sufficient for your needs?" Vane asked, flushing.

"Yes, for all present needs," his companion answered. "I was paid five
thousand dollars for the injuries which I received in that accident I
told you of, and I took a letter of credit for a thousand when I came
abroad, so I have abundant means for my expenses to America."



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE FACE AT THE WINDOW.


Lord Cameron admired Wallace's independence, yet while he saw he would
hurt him deeply by insisting upon his acceptance of the check, he could
not feel satisfied to accept as a gift the valuable plans which he had
executed for him.

He therefore said no more about the money, but, before he slept, he
wrote several letters to prominent parties in New York, whom he knew, in
which he spoke with highest praise of Wallace's talents as an architect,
and solicited their influence and patronage for him in the future.

"Perhaps these may prove to be of more advantage to you than the
contents of that other envelope which you rejected," he remarked, with a
smile, as he slipped a half dozen letters of introduction into his hands
just before they retired.

"You are very thoughtful, Cameron," Wallace said, appreciatively; "and I
will thankfully make use of these."

The fifth of October, the date of Wallace's departure, dawned a bright,
lovely morning.

Lord Cameron had engaged to accompany him to Liverpool, determined to
delay their parting to the last moment, and dreading, more than he could
express, the return to his estate in Essex County, when he would begin
to realize something of the loneliness of his own situation. Wallace's
illness, and the care which he had been forced to give him, he now
realized had been a great blessing to him, for it had prevented, in a
measure, his brooding over his own troubles.

Vane had made thoughtful provision for his friend's voyage, supplying
him with everything he could think of to make his passage comfortable
and pleasant, and the two men, after taking an affectionate leave of
Lady Isabel, who also had become very fond of Wallace, drove away to
catch the express for Liverpool.

As they were passing through one of the busy thoroughfares of the city,
their progress was hindered for a few moments by a blockade of vehicles.

While waiting for an opportunity to advance, another carriage, going in
the opposite direction, slowly passed them--for the stream of teams was
not blocked on the other side of the street--and when it was directly
opposite them the face of a woman looked forth from the window for an
instant, then the coach passed on, and she was lost to view.

An agonized cry had burst from Wallace at that moment, and that, with
his fixed stare at the passing carriage, caused Lord Cameron also to
glance that way; but he only caught a fleeting glimpse of the outline of
a delicate face framed in golden hair, then it vanished beyond his
sight.

"Violet!" gasped Wallace, with ashen lips, and trembling violently from
head to foot. "Did you see her? Oh, let me out, quick! quick! I must
find her!"

He was terribly agitated and unnerved, almost frantic, in fact, and Lord
Cameron greatly feared another attack such as had previously prostrated
him.

He reached out his hand, and pushed him firmly yet kindly back upon his
seat.

"Be quiet, Richardson!" he said, with gentle authoritativeness. "It
could not have been Violet. It was but a delusion, a fancied
resemblance, or a trick of the imagination. Violet is dead. Did I not
see her with my own eyes? Did I not care for her, and lay her to rest
beneath the shade of that grand old beech?--while you yourself have seen
her grave."

"Oh, but it--the face--was so like--so like!" murmured Wallace, still
fearfully overcome.

"My friend," Vane continued, while he tried to control his own startled
nerves, "you must not allow yourself to be so unnerved by a fancied, or
even a real resemblance to the loved one whom you have lost. It is not
unlikely you may meet it again some time, but you must bear it bravely.
This great sorrow has been sent upon you, and you must meet it with
courage and resignation, as one who believes in God should meet the
trials which He sends upon you. There is work in the world for you to
do, or your life would not have been spared; take it up, carry it on to
its fulfillment, and do not ruin your health, your brain, your great
talent, by allowing the ghost of your lost happiness to haunt and weaken
you thus."

The young man spoke gravely and very earnestly, but his own face was
almost as pallid as Wallace's and it was easy to see that he had been
deeply moved by what had occurred. It might even be that he was striving
to fortify his own sore heart and wounded spirit with the admonitions
that he was giving his friend.

Wallace wiped the perspiration from his face, and strove manfully to
recover his self-possession; but it was no easy thing to do, and it was
long before he regained his natural color, or ceased to tremble visibly.

"I know what you say must be true," he returned, when he could speak,
"and my common sense tells me that I was deceived--that the face could
not have been Violet's; and yet--if--I could follow and find the woman
who looks so much like her--who seemed to be her exact counterpart, I
believed it would comfort me--would help to ease this ceaseless aching,
this never-ending longing of my heart."

"It would not," said Lord Cameron, positively; "it would but unsettle
you the more; and now that I come to think of it the more, that
face--though I caught but the merest glimpse of its outline--was thinner
and older than Violet's."

He immediately changed the subject, and strove to divert the mind of his
friend from the painful incident, but while he endeavored to talk and
appear like himself, he was secretly greatly shaken by what had
occurred.

Most of the journey to Liverpool was spent in discussing Lord Cameron's
plans regarding the school for the children of his tenants and the home
for aged people and orphans, and the young earl exacted a promise from
Wallace that, when the buildings were completed and ready for occupancy,
he would come again to England to be present at their dedication, and
pronounce his verdict upon them.

"You will not need to be absent from your business more than three weeks
or a month," he said, "and I am sure you will have earned the right to
that much of a vacation by that time. However, I shall see you again
before then, since I do not intend to entirely desert the land of my
birth, even though my home must be in England, and every year I shall
make a short trip to America. I am not going to lose sight of my friend
either; remember, Richardson, we are pledged to each other for life."

The hand which he extended with this remark was warmly grasped, and both
young men felt that their souls were "knit unto each other," in a bond
as strong and tender as that which had united David and Jonathan of old.

The steamer was to sail at sundown, and the little time that intervened,
after their arrival in Liverpool, the two friends spent in looking over
the mammoth vessel.

When at last the signal for departure sounded, they parted with a
lingering hand-clasp and a simple "God bless you;" but Lord Cameron, as
he journeyed back alone to his princely home, felt as if half the light
had suddenly gone out of his life.

Wallace had a quick and comfortable passage, and, having cabled the time
of his departure, and the name of the steamer, found his partner
awaiting him at the pier upon his arrival in New York.

He greeted him with great warmth, which had in it an undertone of
genuine sympathy for his troubles, and then informed him that he had
just secured a contract for a sixty-thousand-dollar building; remarking,
too, that he hoped Wallace felt in the spirit for work, as they would
have their hands full during the coming year.

"Work will be the mainspring of my life after this," Wallace briefly
returned, but he appeared gratified with the encouraging report of
business which his partner had given him.

He threw himself heart and soul into his profession from that day. He
worked at his office from morning until evening, when not out upon
duties of inspection, and for hours in his own room at night; worked to
keep his mind from dwelling upon his great sorrow, and until he was so
weary in body that sleep came to him, unbidden, as soon as his head
touched his pillow.

He took the earliest opportunity possible to present his letters of
introduction to the parties whom Lord Cameron had addressed in his
behalf.

These recommendations proved to be worth a great deal to him, for to be
the valued friend of an English earl and a man of genius as well, were
facts calculated to give him prestige with even the most conservative,
and business flowed in upon the firm of Harlow & Richardson in such a
continuous stream that they bade fair to have more work than they could
handle.

At the close of the first year, after Wallace's return, they found they
had cleared twenty thousand dollars, while they had contracts ahead for
another twelve months, besides applications that were constantly coming
in.

Wallace had never been in better health than during this time. He loved
his work and forgot himself in it, and was fast winning a name and fame
that promised to place him, not far in the future, at the head of his
profession; while already rumors of his success had somehow been set
afloat in his old home in Cincinnati, and people there were beginning to
talk of that "promising young Richardson" whom they had once known only
as an humble carpenter.

He had acquired also during this year both strength of character and
dignity of bearing, and was a grand looking young man.

He went, now and then, into society, for Mr. Harlow, who was some years
his senior, had a delightful home and a lovely wife, and they insisted
upon his visiting them occasionally. In this way he met many agreeable
people, who, in their turn, solicited his presence in their homes.

But society had comparatively few attractions for him, even though
several ambitious mothers smiled encouragingly upon the rising young
architect, and many fair, bright-eyed damsels shot alluring glances at
him.

But he had no heart to offer any one, and met all these advances with
quiet but dignified courtesy.

He heard regularly from Lord Cameron, who was throwing all his energies
toward pushing his benevolent schemes to completion, and the buildings
which Wallace had planned would, he wrote, be finished and ready for
occupancy by another spring.

He had intended to visit America before this, his last letter said, but
the press of business and the delicate state of his mother's health had
thus far prevented; he hoped, however, before many weeks should pass to
tread again the familiar streets of New York.

He also stated that he had met Mr. and Mrs. Mencke once during the past
year. It was during the London season, and he and his mother had run
across them at a brilliant reception--a circumstance that surprised him
somewhat, as he did not suppose they would go into society so soon after
the death of their sister.

The meeting had occurred in this way.

After making an extended tour of the Alps, Mr. and Mrs. Mencke had
returned to London, to meet Mrs. Hawley, who was to spend a few weeks
there and then go on to Milan, to remain for the winter with Nellie
Bailey, who had concluded to devote another year to her beloved music
before returning to America.

Mrs. Hawley was a woman who dearly loved society, and always had a long
list of engagements--one who had it in her power to be so charming could
not fail to be a welcome guest wherever she went--consequently, it was
perfectly natural that she should wish her friend to participate in her
enjoyment.

Mrs. Mencke at first faintly demurred upon the ground of being in
mourning, but Mrs. Hawley, who did not believe in mourning anyway,
easily overruled her scruples.

"What is the harm?" she questioned. "You cannot do Violet any good by
secluding yourself, and no one here knows you well enough to gossip
about you. It would be different, perhaps, if you were at home, where
people have known you all your life."

So Mrs. Mencke, who liked gay life as well as any one, smothered her
conscience, and, never doing things by halves, went everywhere.

It was at a reception given by the American Consul that she met Lord
Cameron and his mother, Lady Isabel having been an intimate friend of
the gentleman's family when her home was in New York.

Mrs. Mencke, ignoring entirely the barriers that had arisen between them
at Mentone, appeared delighted to meet her "dear friends," but the
greetings upon their part were decidedly cool, while Lady Cameron looked
the reproaches she could not utter at Mrs. Mencke's gay manner and
attire, and uttered a sigh of regret that the gentle girl, whom she had
begun to love as a daughter, should so soon have been forgotten by her
only relative.

"Are you in London for any length of time, Lady Cameron?" Mrs. Mencke
inquired, secretly hoping that she might get an invitation to visit her
at her town-house.

"Only for a week or two longer, as my son's affairs call him to his
estate in Essex," was the somewhat formal reply.

"Indeed! and have you been in town long?"

"About a month."

"Really? I wonder that we have not met before, then," Mrs. Mencke
remarked, with some surprise.

"It is not strange," said Lady Cameron, with a sigh, "for my son and I
are still too sad to care to go much into company, and we should not
have been here this evening but for a special request of your consul,
who is an old and valued friend."

Mrs. Mencke colored vividly at this reply, and began to make excuses for
her own presence there; but Lady Cameron, with a disapproving glance
over her elegant and showy costume, only bowed with reserved courtesy in
reply, and then, as Lord Cameron accosted an acquaintance who was
approached, she excused herself and turned to greet her friend, leaving
Mrs. Mencke boiling with rage over their distant reception, and bitterly
disappointed at not having secured an invitation even to call upon them.

She felt humiliated as well as angry, and too wrought up to longer enjoy
the gayeties of the evening, she retired at an early hour from the
reception.

The unhappy woman had other causes, aside from the failure of her
matrimonial schemes and the contempt of the Camerons, for anxiety and
unhappiness.

Her husband, during the last few months, while visiting various resorts,
had developed an alarming taste for gambling, and had, to her knowledge,
lost large sums of money; while he seemed perfectly reckless in his
expenditure, and she felt sure, though she did not yet dream the worst,
that their own as well as Violet's fortune was fast melting away.

Deep and frequent potations at the cup, too, were showing their effect
upon him; he was growing more gross and coarse, and his temper suffered
in proportion with the continuous nervous excitement under which he was
laboring.

All this must have an end sooner or later, she knew, but she was not
prepared to have it come so soon as it did.

Four weeks after her meeting with the Camerons the man returned to her,
late one night, from a terrible orgie. His face was bloated and crimson
from drink; his eyes wild and blood-shot, his hair disheveled, and his
clothing soiled and disordered.

Coming rudely into his wife's presence, he cried out with a shocking
oath:

"It's all gone!--hic--every--dollar we had in the world, and, Belle,
we're--hic--beggars!"

"What do you mean, Will?" his wife demanded, with a sinking heart and
white face.

"Are you deaf?" he bawled, with another oath. "We're--hic--beggars, I
tell--hic--you. I've just--hic--rattled away the hic--last dollar."

There was a scene then, as might be expected, for Mrs. Mencke was not a
woman to tamely submit to such wrong and abuse, and the thought that the
whole of her own, as well as Violet's fortune, had been squandered at
the gaming-table and the race-track was more than she could bear. She
could talk as few women can talk, and when she had ceased her
denunciations, Wilhelm Mencke was completely sobered, and sat pale and
sullen and cowed before her.

She did not realize how exceedingly bitter and stinging her
denunciations were until the next morning, when, upon rising, she found
the jewel-box, in which she kept the jewelry which she commonly wore
(her diamonds and more valuable gems being locked in a trunk,
fortunately) together with all that Violet had possessed, was rifled of
its contents and her husband gone, together with his traveling-bag and a
change of clothes.

The desertion of her husband was the most humiliating of all her
troubles; but her proud spirit would not yield to even this blow. She
calmly stated that her husband had been suddenly called home and that
she was to follow him by the next steamer.

Fortunately she had considerable money with her, and she settled every
bill with a grave front, and finally took her departure from the hotel
with as much pomp and state as she had maintained throughout her sojourn
there.

A week from the day of her husband's flight she was crossing the
Atlantic alone, and immediately upon reaching New York proceeded to
Cincinnati in the hope of saving something by the sale of her house and
furniture. The house had already been disposed of, though she learned
that not much had been realized on it, for it had been heavily mortgaged
and the sale was a forced one.

This fact told her that her husband was in America, although no one had
seen him, for the sale had been made through an agent, and she tried to
feel thankful that he had had the grace to leave her the furniture. This
she turned into money, but it did not bring her a third of its real
value, for she was forced to sacrifice it at auction.

Where now was the proud woman's boasted wealth and position? Where now
her vaunted superiority over the "low-born carpenter" because of his
poverty?

Gone! for she had not--aside from some valuable jewels and clothing--a
thousand dollars in the world, while she had the exceeding mortification
of realizing the stern fact that she would be obliged to seek some
employment in order to live honestly.

It was the bitterest drop in her already bitter cup, and too proud to
remain in the city where she had hitherto been a leader in society, she
suddenly disappeared from the place and no one knew whither she had
gone.



CHAPTER XIX.

A RETROSPECTIVE GLANCE.


It was on the fourteenth of May, nearly a year and a half previous to
the sudden downfall and disappearance of Wilhelm Mencke and his wife,
that a curious incident occurred which has an important bearing upon our
story.

At the foot of one of the mountains which skirt the Gulf of Genoa just a
few miles east of the line which separate France and Italy, there stood
at that time the dwelling of a well-to-do Italian peasant.

That the man was above the majority of his class, his neat homestead,
his thrifty fields and vineyards, and the general air of comfort which
pervaded his dwelling plainly betokened.

But he was a stern, harsh man, bestowing little affection upon his
family, yet exacting unquestioning obedience and diligent toil from
every member, to help him maintain the thrift for which he was noted and
to fill his pockets with money.

On a dark and starless night, long after Tasso Simone and most of his
family were wrapped in slumber, the door of his dwelling was softly
opened, whereupon a slight, girlish figure stole forth and sped
noiselessly across the vineyard of olive trees, toward the highway which
skirted the gulf.

Upon reaching the road, the flying fugitive moderated her pace, but
walked on with a firm, elastic step toward Mentone, which was the
nearest town over the French line.

For an hour she walked steadily on, appearing to be perfectly familiar
with the way, even in that intense darkness, until finally she paused
before a low, rude building, or shed, which had been constructed out of
rough boards to protect fishermen from the hot rays of the sun, while
cleaning their fish for market.

She sat down to rest just outside upon a rude bench, which she seemed to
know was there, and opening a parcel which she carried in her hands, she
began to eat of its contents.

Suddenly she paused and listened, for a slight movement behind her,
within the shed, had attracted her attention.

A sigh that was almost a moan had greeted her ears.

She did not move for several moments, but waited for the sound to be
repeated.

Soon she heard it again; a long-drawn, sobbing sigh like some one deeply
grieved or in distress.

The girl arose, and, without a trace of fear in her manner, made her way
within the shed, showing by her quick, decisive movements that she was
as familiar with the ground as with her own home.

Here she struck a match and lighted a piece of candle, which she took
from her pocket, when she saw, with evident amazement, a beautiful girl
lying asleep upon a shawl which had been spread over a pile of seaweed
in one corner of the place.

The light also revealed the fugitive, whom we have followed thus far, to
be a slight, graceful form, straight as an arrow, and having a wiry
energy and resolution in her every movement which betrayed unusual
self-reliance in one so young.

She was very light in complexion, having yellow hair, black eyes, and
bright, rosy cheeks, a somewhat unusual combination in one who was a
native of that Southern clime.

She was dressed in the costume of the country, and with a neatness and
trimness that made her seem almost dainty in the homely dress, while on
her head she wore a large, coarse straw hat, over which a bright
handkerchief had been thrown, and was tied under her pretty, rounded
chin.

She softly approached and leaned over the sleeper, astonishment depicted
upon every feature of her young face; and well she might look surprised,
for the lovely girl who lay upon that wretched bed of sea-weed was
richly and tastefully clad, and bespoke the petted child of luxury and
fortune.

She knelt beside her, and, laying her hand lightly upon her shoulder,
said, in low, musical Italian:

"Wake, signorina."

The touch aroused the fair sleeper, and she started up affrighted; but,
upon seeing the kindly face of a young girl about her own age bending
above her, her expression of terror changed to one equally surprised
with that of her companion.

"Why is the signorina sleeping here in this miserable place?" the
peasant girl asked.

But her companion could not understand or speak Italian, and shook her
head, intimating that she did not know what she had said.

To her surprise the girl then addressed her in broken French, repeating
her question, and then the fair stranger, appearing to think it best to
confide in her, answered, though with some embarrassment:

"I am in great trouble, and I am running away from it. I have walked a
long distance, but became so weak and faint I could go no farther, and
stumbled in here to rest, and must have fallen asleep from weariness."

A look of pity and sympathy swept over the peasant girl's face.

"Mademoiselle is hungry, perhaps?" she remarked.

"Yes; I had no supper. I could not eat and am faint. I have been ill and
am far from strong."

The girl stuck her candle upon a rock and then, going outside the shed,
brought in her own lunch which she had left lying upon the bench. It
consisted of some coarse bread and cheese, some cakes fried in olive
oil, with a few dried figs, and all wrapped in a clean linen cloth.

"Eat, mademoiselle," she said, as she placed it upon her companion's
lap.

The beautiful stranger seized a fig and quickly disposed of it with
evident relish; then she suddenly paused and asked:

"But do you not need this yourself? I must not rob you."

The girl shrugged her shoulders, and shook her head.

"Eat, signorina, eat," she said, mixing her French and Italian; and the
other, without waiting to be urged further, and apparently ravenously
hungry, quickly disposed of everything save the cheese.

"You are very good," she said, gratefully, when the last fig was eaten.
"I thank you very much." Then with sudden curiosity, she inquired: "But
how do you also happen to be abroad alone at this hour of the night?"

Again the peasant girl shrugged her shoulders, and a dark look of
passion swept over her face.

"I, too, am running away," she said. "I do not like my home; I have a
step-father; he is cruel, harsh, and wants to marry me to a man I do not
love."

"How strange," murmured her companion, a look of wonder coming into her
beautiful eyes, while an expression of sympathy crept over her lovely
face.

"My father owes him for a fine pair of mules, just bought," the girl
resumed, a look of scorn gleaming in here eyes, "and Beppo will call the
debt square if I marry him. I will not be exchanged for brutes--I will
not be sold like a slave, and to one I hate and loathe, and I fly from
him," she concluded, indignantly, the rich blood mounting to her
forehead.

"Where are you going?" questioned the other, eagerly.

"To Monaco, to find service in some family, as maid or nurse, until I
can earn money to go to some school to learn to study," was the earnest
reply.

"You are not an Italian?" the fair stranger said, inquiringly.

The girl shook her head, a sneer curling her red lips.

Evidently to be an Italian was not very desirable in her estimation.

"My mother is Swiss, my own father was French," she briefly answered.

"Ah! that is how you happen to be so light and to speak the French
language. Will you tell me your name?"

"You will not betray me? You will not set them on my track, if I tell
you?" said the peasant girl, apparently longing to confide in the
beautiful maiden, but secretly questioning the wisdom of so doing.

"Surely not. Am I not flying from trouble also? Besides, I am going to
another country," was the reassuring reply.

"I am Lisette Vermilet," the girl then said. "I am eighteen years old. I
have worked from sunrise till sunset every day for seven long years, in
the field, in the vineyard, or the dairy, ever since my poor, foolish
mother married her tyrant husband. I do it no more. I take care of
myself and be no man's slave, and I marry whom I will, when the right
one and the right time come. But first," she continued, eagerly, her
face lightning with intense longing, "I study; I learn about the world
and other things, like some lovely French girls I saw at Mentone last
year, who told me all about the flowers, the birds, the earth, and the
sea. Oh! I weep when I think of how much there is to know, and I have
lost it all--all!" and her voice grew tremulous with repressed feeling
as she concluded.

"Poor child! you surely ought to have an education if you want it so
much," said her sympathetic listener, in a kindly tone, while she
regarded the girl's eager face almost affectionately. "But are you not
afraid that your cruel step-father will go after you and bring you
back?"

"Tasso Simone would beat me black and blue if he should catch me," she
said, with a shiver, as if she recalled some experience of the kind.
"Ah! if I had but a disguise he would not know me--I get away better."

A bright idea seemed suddenly to strike her companion, for her face
lighted eagerly.

"Let us exchange clothing," she exclaimed, "then no one will recognize
either of us."

"Ah! but the signorina has such beautiful clothes, while mine are so
poor," sighed Lisette, in a deprecatory tone, but with a wistful glance
over the daintily made traveling suit, at the tasteful hat, and
expensive boots which her companion wore.

"Never mind; yours are neat and whole, and no one would ever think of
looking for me in them, while you will be much more likely to succeed in
eluding your cruel father in mine," the young stranger persisted.

"The signorina is very kind," Lisette said, gratefully, as, with an
impulsive movement, she bent forward and kissed the fair white hand that
lay within her reach, while it seemed to her simple heart that she
should feel like a princess in that lovely dark-grey cloth dress, with
its daintily stitched bands of blue silk.

Alas! she did not dream that it was to become her shroud.

Yes, as has doubtless been surmised, it was Violet whom Lisette Vermilet
had found lying asleep upon the pile of sea-weed in the fisherman's
shed.

After refusing to admit her sister to her room on the night previous to
the day appointed for her wedding, she had continued her occupation of
writing for some time. When she was through she read over what she had
written, and then deliberately tore it into atoms.

"No, I will not tell them anything," she muttered, with a frown; "I will
just go and leave no trace behind me. It may seem unkind to Lord
Cameron, but some time I will explain it all."

She then arose and dressed herself in her traveling suit, tied a
dark-blue vail about her face, and brought a thick shawl from her
closet. She then began to lay out a change of clothing and her toilet
articles, but suddenly stopped in the midst of her work.

"No, I will not burden myself with anything," she murmured,
thoughtfully. "I am not strong, and I need all the strength I have to
get myself away; besides, I can easily buy what I need in any town."

She hastily drew on her gloves, without observing that the rings, which
she usually wore and which she prized very highly, were still lying upon
her cushion where she had left them before taking her bath. She did not
even think to take her watch, which she sadly missed and regretted
afterward; her only thought was to get away as quickly as possible from
all danger of violating her conscience and of wronging a noble and
generous man.

She then put out her light and sat alone in the darkness, waiting for
the house to become quiet so that she could steal forth unobserved.

Two hours passed, all in the house seemed to be at rest, and she
noiselessly crept out of a window upon the piazza, made her way swiftly
around the house to where a flight of stairs led to the ground, and then
sped away in the darkness, with no definite idea whither she was going.

She took the highway leading away from Mentone, because she dreaded lest
some one should meet and accost her in the town. She had a dim idea that
if she could get to San Remo, which was about twelve miles east of
Mentone, she could take a train going north without being discovered,
and accordingly she bent her footsteps in this direction.

Her way led along the cliffs overhanging the sea, before mentioned, and
how she, to whom the way was entirely strange, should have escaped the
fate which every one afterward supposed to have been hers was wondered.
But escape it she did, and after safely passing this perilous point she
descended the hill, and then the road closely followed the beach for
some distance.

Here she came upon the rude hut, or shelter, which has been described,
and being foot-sore and weary with her long walk, she spread her shawl
upon a mass of sea-weed which she found in one corner, and throwing
herself upon it soon fell into a profound slumber, from which she was
awakened by the light touch of Lisette Vermilet.

With this brief explanation of Violet's flight, we will return to the
two girls who were discussing a change of apparel.

Violet was much strengthened by the food which she had eaten and greatly
refreshed by her nap, while she was encouraged by the presence of the
young girl, who was also, strangely enough, flying from a fate similar
to her own.

She overcame the scruples of Lisette, and insisting upon the plan she
had proposed, the two girls, under cover of that rude shed, made the
exchange, Violet declaring that every article be transferred in order to
make the disguise more complete. She only reserved her shawl, as, in
traveling, she knew she would need it.

"Now," she said, when their task was completed, "can you tell me the
best way to get north. I am going to England, and from there to America,
and I want to get away from this region as soon as possible."

"Mademoiselle would do well to come with me to Mentone and take a train
from there," Lisette replied.

"Oh, I could not do that," Violet cried. "I have just come from Mentone,
and would not go back there for anything."

It will be observed that she had refrained from saying much about
herself thus far, for she did not wish even this simple girl to know the
circumstances which had caused her flight.

Lisette thought a minute, then she told her to go on to a village about
a mile distant, where, in a couple of hours, a train would make a brief
stop at a crossing.

This, she said, would bear her back in the same direction she had come,
but she could go on to Nice, where she could take an express direct for
Paris.

Violet, much as she dreaded passing through Mentone again, saw that this
would be the wisest course to pursue, and decided that she would follow
the girl's advice.

"You will not betray that you have met me, if any one should question
you, and you will keep out of sight of people in Mentone as much as
possible," Violet pleaded.

"Surely I will not betray you, signorina, and I will not show myself by
daylight in Mentone," Lisette said, earnestly, "and you will get away
without any trouble, for a peasant girl can go about alone in this
country where an English lady could not. Take courage, signorina;
nothing will harm you, and may the Holy Virgin go with you."

"I feel anxious about your passing through Mentone," Violet said. "If
you should be seen there tomorrow you would surely be stopped, for my
clothing would instantly be recognized by those who will search for me;
they would compel you to tell where and how you met me, and then they
would telegraph ahead and have me stopped."

"Do not fear, signorina," Lisette responded. "I shall pass through
Mentone before light, for I am a rapid walker. I go straight to Monaco,
and seek service in some French family going to Paris."

Violet looked relieved at this.

"Have you money?" she asked.

"I have forty francs, signorina. I have saved for eighteen months every
sou I could get."

Eighteen months saving eight dollars!

Violet regarded the girl with sorrowful astonishment.

"That is very little; let me give you some more," she cried, and eagerly
opening her well-filled purse, counted out some gold-pieces amounting to
fifty francs more.

"No, signorina, not a sou," Lisette returned, firmly, as she waved back
Violet's extended hand. "My heart is heavy now with all you have done
for me--giving me these beautiful clothes in exchange for a poor
peasant's dress. I cannot take your money."

"Please," persisted Violet. "I have plenty, and can easily spare you
this."

But the girl made a proud gesture of dissent.

"The signorina must go; and I must get on also," she said, gravely.
"Keep to the straight road until you come to the track in the village.
You can get no ticket, but the guard will charge you a couple of francs
for your fare. Adieu, signorina."

She was about turning away, when Violet stopped her.

"Lisette," she said, holding out her hand, "good-by. You have been very
kind to me, and I shall always remember you kindly. I hope we shall meet
again some time."

Tears were in Lisette's eyes as she responded in a similar strain, and
then led Violet from the shed.

"That way, go; adieu!" she said, pointing eastward; then raising the
hand she held, she pressed her lips impulsively to it and dropped it.

With a softly breathed farewell in response, Violet turned and walked
quickly away, while Lisette went back into the shed, put out her candle
and threw the end away, after which she turned in the opposite direction
and began to climb the steep hills or cliffs, along which the highway
led toward Mentone.

Violet went on her way in the darkness, her heart beating rapidly with
fear lest she should encounter some rude fisherman or peasant who would
stop and question her.

She was foot-sore and weary long before she came in sight of the
village, for a mile was a long distance to her unaccustomed muscles,
while Lisette's heavy shoes hurt her tender feet sorely.

But, guided by the lights along the railroad track, she found her way to
the crossing the girl had told, her about, and, sinking down upon a pile
of sleepers by the road-bed, she uttered a sigh of relief that she had
reached the end of her long walk.

She did not have a great while to wait, for presently the cars came
thundering along, and soon she was on the train for Nice, whence she
took an express for Paris. Now she felt safe from pursuit, as she was
being whirled northward at the rate of forty miles an hour.



CHAPTER XX.

VIOLET RETURNS TO AMERICA.


Meanwhile the kind-hearted peasant girl, Lisette, feeling as if she had
suddenly been changed into another being by some good fairy--and she
certainly looked like a different person, clad as she was like a
lady--was walking at a swinging pace toward Mentone, and--her doom.

She intended to walk until the day began to dawn, and then beg a ride to
Monaco in one of the market-carts which made daily trips from the
country to that city.

It was still very dark, and the road, which lay up a steep hill, was
very narrow, and ran dangerously near the cliffs which overhung the sea.

The girl had worked very hard the previous day, while she had slept none
that night, for she had been too much excited, over the thought of
leaving her home, to rest, and she now began to experience a feeling of
weariness and languor stealing over her. It was the reaction coming on,
while added to that was a feeling of dread and loneliness over the
uncertainty of the future.

More than this, she found the boots, which Violet had insisted must go
with the rest of her costume, were too tight to be comfortable, and this
greatly impeded her progress.

She climbed to the top of the cliffs and there sat down by the road-side
upon a huge bowlder, where she had rested many a time before, to recover
herself a little before going on.

The stone was an irregular one, with a projection which formed a support
for her back, and leaning against this, she was overcome by weariness
before she knew it and fell into a sound sleep.

It did not seem as if ten minutes had elapsed since she sat down, though
in reality it was more than half an hour when the sound of a galloping
horse aroused her.

She started to her feet, a cry of terror and dismay breaking from her.
It was still so dark that she could see nothing any distance away, but
the sound of that swiftly advancing horse made her heart beat with
fearful throbs.

Was it some pursuer coming in search of her?

Had her flight been discovered at home, and was her tyrannical
step-father coming to force her back into wearisome servitude? or, worse
yet, to sell her to another man equally brutal and unkind?

She started to flee, but, not being able to clearly distinguish the
road, while she was sadly bewildered by having been so suddenly aroused
from her sleep, she turned in the wrong direction and made straight for
the edge of the cliff.

It was very strange--as familiar as she was with every inch of the
ground between her home and Mentone--that she could have become so
confused and lost as to her location, and it was only when she caught
the ominous sound of the washing of the waves against the rocks below
that she became conscious of her danger.

But she was rushing at such headlong speed she could not save herself; a
low shuddering cry of terror burst from her lips as she suddenly lost
her balance; there was a short interval of silence, followed by a heavy
splash in the waters below, then the waves closed over the unfortunate
girl, and the ocean held the secret of her fate, as well as of Violet's
mysterious disappearance.

The cliff was very high at that point, and projected considerably over
the sea, which was very deep just there.

The girl sank at once to the bottom, and her clothing probably becoming
entangled among the rocks, her body was held there for some weeks, and
only disturbed and washed far below to the point where the fishermen had
found it after a storm of considerable violence.

It was, of course, unrecognizable, but every article which she wore
tended to prove that she was Vane Cameron's lost bride-elect. As such he
claimed her, without a doubt as to her identity, and, as we already
know, laid her to rest beneath the shadow of the venerable beech in one
corner of the church-yard at Mentone.

Lisette's parents never once suspected what her fate had been.

Upon discovering that she had fled, her iron-hearted master had started
in search of her, vowing that she should pay dearly for daring to run
away from him, and the future that he had planned for her.

He learned that a peasant girl, answering to her description, had
boarded the westward-bound train at the village, in the early morning,
and had left it again at Nice.

He hastened hither at once, and was told that such a girl had been seen
in the waiting-room of the station; but further than that he could get
no trace of her, and was finally obliged to return to his home, where,
upon the other members of his family, he vented his disappointment and
anger over the loss of such valuable help.

The mother, who was far superior to her husband in every way, grieved
long and bitterly over the loss of her first-born, but it was many
months before she learned the truth regarding her untimely end.

                           *  *  *  *  *  *

Violet's journey to Paris was accomplished with very little weariness
and nothing of incident. Her first business upon reaching the French
metropolis was to go to a lady's furnishing house, where she purchased a
simple but comfortable outfit, after which she proceeded to a
respectable _pension_, which she had heard highly recommended by some
Americans whom she had met in London.

It was fortunate that she had a liberal supply of money in her
possession. She had never been stinted, for it was supposed that she was
the heir to a large fortune, and a certain income was paid to her
quarterly. Since she had been joined by her sister and her husband she
had not had occasion to use much money, as Mr. Mencke had settled all
her bills, and she had several hundred dollars in her possession at the
time of her flight.

This fact, together with the discovery that she could find a very safe
and pleasant home for a time in the _pension_, where she was stopping,
somewhat changed her original plan of returning directly to America, and
she resolved to remain in Paris a while for the purpose of perfecting
herself more fully in French, and also to take a few finishing lessons
in music, for she had determined to make use of these branches in
supporting herself in the future.

She threw her whole heart into her work, and few people would have
recognized in this grave, studious girl, the bright, laughing, care-free
Violet who had been such a favorite among her friends in Cincinnati the
year previous.

She put herself under the best of teachers, and made the most of her
time and opportunities; thus nearly four months slipped by, and then she
resolved to go home to America.

It was the last of September when she left Paris for London, where she
remained several days to make preparations for her voyage, before
proceeding to Glasgow to take the steamer, she having decided to sail
from there, because she could obtain a comfortable passage at cheaper
rates on the Anchor Line, and it was now becoming necessary for her to
husband her funds a little.

It was the fifth of October when she left London for Glasgow, and it was
her face that Wallace had seen looking from that carriage window as he
was detained for a few minutes by a blockade in the street.

Violet, however, was wholly unconscious of her proximity to her
lover--or her husband, as we now know him to be. She was deeply absorbed
in her own thoughts, and was gazing at nothing in particular; therefore,
the carriage that she was in had passed Lord Cameron's without her
having a suspicion that she had attracted the attention of any one.

She was driven on to the Midland Grand station, where she took a train
for Glasgow, and that evening boarded the Circassia for New York, where
she arrived eleven days later--three days after the return of Wallace,
who had sailed on a faster vessel.

One can imagine something of the loneliness and desolation which this
young and delicately reared girl experienced upon finding herself adrift
and an utter stranger in that great city and with but little money in
her purse.

She longed to learn the circumstances of Wallace's supposed death, her
grief over which had been newly aroused on returning to her native land.

She had known before leaving for Europe that he had received an offer of
partnership with some New York architect; but he had not mentioned the
name of the gentleman before she left, and not having received any of
his letters, she did not know whether he had closed with the offer, and
therefore, did not know where to go to make any inquiries relative to
his movements after her departure.

She dare not go to Cincinnati to ascertain--she dare not write to ask
anything about him, for she was determined that her sister should not
know where she was. She had become entirely alienated by her unkindness,
and felt that she would much prefer to toil for her daily bread than to
go back to her and be subject to her arbitrary control again.

"There are hundreds of girls as young as I, even younger, who have to
support themselves, and I believe I am just as capable of earning my own
living," she mused, considering her future. "At any rate, I am
determined to make the trial, and if I find I cannot earn a living there
will be time enough then to appeal to the court to appoint a different
guardian for me, and demand my money from Wilhelm."

The poor child had yet to learn that there was no money to demand.

She found a quiet, respectable boarding-place a few days after her
arrival in New York, and then took time by the forelock, by inserting
the following advertisement in two of the daily papers:

    A LADY, JUST RETURNED FROM EUROPE,
    and fitted to teach music and French, would like
    a few pupils. Address H, at this office.

Two days thereafter Violet received a single letter in answer to her
advertisement, and it read thus:

    "If H. will call at No. ---- Fifth avenue, she
    may learn something to her advantage."

Violet was greatly disappointed to receive only one response; but she
argued that one pupil might open the way for others; so she dressed
herself with great care, took her music-roll under her arm, and made her
way to the address mentioned.

"No. ---- Fifth avenue" proved to be a palatial residence, with the name
Lawrence gleaming in silver letters upon the door, and Violet's heart
sank a little as she mounted the marble steps, for she feared that she
might not be competent to teach in an aristocratic family such as
doubtless inhabited this elegant mansion.

Her ring was answered by a colored servant, in livery to whom she stated
her errand, giving him her card, whereupon she was ushered into a
reception-room upon the right of a magnificent hall.

Everything about her bespoke unlimited wealth, while the most perfect
taste was displayed in the harmonizing tints of everything, the costly
pictures, statuettes, bric-a-brac, and curios.

Ten minutes elapsed. It seemed an age to anxious Violet; then the rich
draperies of the archway leading into the hall were swept aside, and a
tall, finely proportioned man of perhaps fifty years entered her
presence.

He was distinguished-looking, with clear-cut features, an intelligent,
expressive eye, and a grandly shaped head; but there was a worn look on
his brow, a sad and anxious expression on his face that bespoke care and
sorrow.

"Miss Huntington, I presume," he remarked, bowing gravely yet
courteously to her, as he glanced at the card which she had sent him by
the servant.

"Yes, sir," Violet replied, and taking the letter, which she had
received that morning, from her hand-bag, she passed it to him, while
she added: "I have come to inquire if I am to find a pupil here. I
judged that such must be the fact, since the letter was in response to
my advertisement."

Mr. Lawrence did not reply immediately; he seemed to be studying the
beautiful girl before him--the sad though lovely face, which was crowned
with such a mass of gleaming gold; the graceful figure, in its simple
but tasteful costume, while the small hand, so neatly incased in its
perfectly fitting glove, and the little foot, in its natty walking-boot,
did not escape his observation.

It was easy to perceive that he was favorably impressed by his fair
visitor, for when he did speak, he was more kind and courteous than
before.

"I was impressed, Miss Huntington, when I read your advertisement, that
you were a young lady in search of employment," he said; "and as I am
also looking for some young lady to fill a vacancy, it occurred to me
that, although you had advertised for 'pupils,' you might be
persuaded--if we should be mutually pleased with each other--to devote
yourself to one, provided the remuneration were sufficient."

"Ah! you are looking for a governess," Violet remarked, with a quiet
smile, and in no wise displeased by the proposition.

"Not a governess, according to the common acceptation of the term," the
gentleman returned, in a sad tone. "But let me tell you exactly how I am
situated, and what I desire; then you can decide as to the desirability
of the position. I have a daughter," Mr. Lawrence resumed, after a
moment of thought, "who is in her twelfth year. She is blind----"

"Blind!" repeated Violet, in such a tender, sympathetic tone, and with
such a compassionate glance that her companion's face lighted with a
grateful smile.

"Yes," he answered, "she was born totally blind. It is a peculiar case,
and I have been told there is only one other on record like it. It is
called cataract of the lens; but when my child was nine months old a
noted oculist, whom we consulted, thought that an operation might be
performed which would at least give her a portion of her sight. Of
course, I was willing to consent to anything that would mitigate, even
to the smallest extent, her heavy affliction. The cataracts were
punctured through the pupils, and she saw, very faintly at first, but,
as time elapsed and the cataracts began to be absorbed, her sight
strengthened somewhat. Her sight is very limited, however; she can see
to get about the house, and distinguishes objects of any size with the
aid of glasses, but not well enough to read, and whatever she learns is
taught by reading aloud to her. She has a remarkable memory, as most
blind people have, I believe, and she is extremely fond of music, both
vocal and instrumental. Do you sing, Miss Huntington?" Mr. Lawrence
asked, suddenly breaking in upon his account of his little daughter's
condition.

"Yes, sir, I have spent more time upon vocal culture than upon
instrumental music," Violet responded, and this assurance drew forth a
smile of approbation from her host.

"I have had many governesses for her," the gentleman resumed, "and she
has spent two years in an institution for the blind, though for the last
six months I have been obliged myself to teach her all that she has
learned. And now I come to the most trying portion of my story," he
added, a slight flush tinging his face. "I feel it is only right that I
should be perfectly frank with you in the matter, and so feel obliged to
tell you that Bertha possesses a very strong, an almost indomitable
will, and there are times when she becomes sullen and unmanageable. She
will not study, she will not practice, or do anything which she imagines
is required of her; and thus, for a time, the whole household is in a
most uncomfortable state; for while she refuses obedience to others, she
is equally insistent upon requiring instant compliance with all her
demands. When the fit passes she is again gentle, merry and lovable.
Now, my object in sending for you Miss Huntington, was, providing I was
favorably impressed with you, to ask if you would consent to devote all
your time to one pupil instead of several. The position will require a
steady, persistent, even temperament--one of mingled gentleness and
firmness--and I believe I see lines of decision in your face; you have a
strong will, have you not?"

"I have been told that I have," Violet replied, smiling, "but"--growing
very grave again--"whether I possess firmness sufficient to cope with
the will you have described, I cannot say. I have never had any
experience in the government of children; but I should say that tact
would prove more effective in the management of your daughter than an
obstinate insistence regarding obedience."

Mr. Lawrence's face lighted at this remark.

"That is the wisest observation that I have ever heard any governess
make regarding the control of Bertha," he said. "Miss Huntington, will
you make a trial of it for a while?"

Still Violet looked grave. She felt that the responsibility would be a
great one, and she trembled for the result.

Yet her sympathies were enlisted both for this careworn, perplexed
father, and for his afflicted child, while, too, the idea of a
permanent, pleasant home was an attractive feature to her.

"Money would be no object," Mr. Lawrence continued, as she did not
reply, "if the right person could be obtained, and if you could but
achieve a strong influence over the child and sway her by tact, or by
any other method, I would gladly give you any price you choose to name.
Somehow I feel impelled to urge you to come to us--the very fact that
you hesitate to accept the position assures me that you are wise in the
consideration of all projects."



CHAPTER XXI.

VIOLET MAKES AN ENGAGEMENT.


Violet was deeply touched by the sad account to which she had listened.
It seemed very hard that this poor child, who lived amid all this
luxury, and who was surrounded with everything to make life delightful,
should be so deprived of the enjoyment of it, and the young girl's heart
yearned toward the unfortunate little heiress; her eyes grew moist and
tender with pity; her face shone with a sincere sympathy, and the
anxious father, as he watched her, felt an increasing desire to secure
her services for his afflicted daughter.

"I fear that I am too young and inexperienced to assume such a
responsibility," Violet began, at length. "Truth compels me to tell you
frankly that I have never taught, and that only recent reverses have
driven me to the necessity of earning my own living. Do you think that
Miss Bertha's mother would approve----"

She checked herself suddenly, for the expression of pain which swept
over her companion's face warned her that she had touched upon a tender
subject.

"I should have told you, to begin with, Miss Huntington, that Bertha has
no mother--she died at the time of Bertha's birth, and my poor little
girl has had to grow up without a mother's love or care," Mr. Lawrence
replied, with evident emotion. "As far as your youthfulness is
concerned," he resumed, after a moment of thought, "I am inclined to
think that it is in your favor, and that you will succeed better with
Bertha on that account. I am afraid that I have made a mistake
heretofore in employing companions who were too mature to sympathize
with her in her childish tastes and desires, as a younger person would
perhaps have done. If you should decide in favor of the position, you
would of course reside here with us, and your time would be chiefly
occupied with Bertha, for she needs constant care. I would like her to
have regular lessons--by that I mean you would have to read aloud what
she was to learn, and talk it over with her until it became fixed in her
memory. Then--your advertisement stated that you desired pupils in
French; do you speak the language readily?"

"Yes, sir; I have studied years under a native teacher, while, during
most of the past year I was abroad, the last four months I spent in
Paris and devoted exclusively to perfecting myself in music and French."

"I am gratified to learn that," Mr. Lawrence said, "because I wish
Bertha to be able to speak French as readily as she can English, as I
intend to take her abroad at no distant day--to Paris--to see if
something more cannot be done to improve her sight. As for music, you
will have no difficulty in teaching her that, for the child is
passionately fond of it, and is never so happy as when she is at the
piano or organ. You perceive that you would have to be both teacher and
companion--I hope I do not frighten you with all these requirements,
Miss Huntington," the gentleman interposed, smiling, "but I wish you to
fully understand, at the outset, what your duties will be. Do you object
to giving up your plan of having a number of pupils and taking one
instead?"

"Oh, no," Violet answered, thoughtfully; "I think, on the whole, that I
should prefer to do so, if I were sure of my competency for the
position. It appears a great responsibility to have the care and
training of a motherless girl like Miss Bertha."

"Are you fond of children?" Mr. Lawrence inquired.

Violet's face lighted, as she replied:

"Yes, indeed, although I have been very little with them during my life;
while my heart goes forth with a strange yearning toward your little
daughter, and I believe I would really like to devote myself to her--at
least, make the trial--and see if I cannot make the time pass agreeably
and profitably to her."

Mr. Lawrence was very much gratified at this response. He saw that
Violet was wholly sincere in what she said, while her apparent sympathy
for his afflicted child touched him deeply.

"I am very much pleased to hear you say that," he remarked, with a
genial smile, and Violet was greatly surprised that he did not ask for
references regarding either her character or qualifications. "Now, would
you like to see Bertha?" he asked. "I suppose we shall be obliged to
secure her sanction to this arrangement, for, to be perfectly frank with
you, her intuitions are very keen; she is a child of strong likes and
dislikes, and unless she is favorably impressed with a person, it is
almost impossible for that one to influence her."

Violet's heart sank at this, for if her future was to be governed by the
capricious fancies of a willful child, she feared that a very trying
experience lay before her.

Nevertheless she signified her desire to see this young autocrat, who
appeared to exercise such supreme control in that household. Rising, she
followed Mr. Lawrence from the room, up a wide, richly carpeted
stair-way, to a large, sunny apartment which overlooked the busy street.

It was a very pleasant room, and furnished with every luxury and device
to amuse, that the most exacting nature could desire.

In a large, richly upholstered chair, by one of the windows, sat a very
pretty girl of about twelve years. She had a clear, beautiful
complexion, with brown hair, rather massive features for one so young,
but upon which there were plainly written great strength of will and
decision of character; yet there was a sweet expression about her mouth
which bespoke a loving nature, and at once attracted Violet.

Her eyes were blue, but it was evident that they were very defective in
sight, though they were partially concealed by the glasses which she
wore.

She was amusing herself with some gayly dressed dolls that lay upon
another chair in front of her, while a maid sat near by, engaged in
dressing another.

The child looked up eagerly as the door opened, for she had recognized
her father's step; her lips wreathed with fond smiles, which plainly
indicated that she was devotedly attached to him.

"Why, papa!" she exclaimed, in a tone of surprise; "I didn't know that
you were at home. Did you bring me some candy? Who is that with you?"
she added, quickly, as she caught the sound of Violet's light steps.

"I have brought you something far better than candy," her father
responded, with a tender note in his voice; "I have invited a young lady
to come up to see you. Miss Huntington, this is my little daughter,
Bertha."

"Come here, Miss Huntington!" the child said, imperatively, and Violet
went at once to her side, greeting her in her gentle voice.

"You are very good to come to see me," the child said, more courteously
than she had previously spoken, for Violet's sweet tones had attracted
her. "I like your voice. Put your face down and let me see it."

Violet knelt beside her chair, thus bringing her face on a level with
Bertha's.

The young girl strained her gaze to get a view of it, but this not
proving satisfactory, she passed her fingers lightly over Violet's
delicate features, their touch lingering longest upon her sweet lips.

"You are lovely," she said, naively, after the examination. "Are you one
of papa's especial friends?"

Violet smiled, and a dash of exquisite color shot into her cheeks at the
form of the question.

"No, dear; I am simply here to ascertain if I will be a suitable
governess and companion for you," she answered, thinking it best to come
to the point at once.

"Oh!" and Miss Bertha's tone changed instantly. Evidently the subject of
a governess was not an acceptable one to her. "I hate governesses; they
are stiff and proper. Do you get cross and ill-natured when little girls
don't mind you, Miss Huntington?"

Violet laughed out in her musical, merry way at this personal question.

"Because if you do," the child went on, gravely, "I don't want you. All
my governesses have been cross and wouldn't let me do as I want to. What
a nice smile you have!" she rambled on, her fingers lingering
caressingly about Violet's mouth, "and you laugh out so prettily I like
to hear it. You are pretty and--and nice, aren't you?"

"Perhaps it would be just as well, dear, not to discuss those points at
present," Violet returned, with some embarrassment, for Mr. Lawrence's
smiling eyes told her that he fully concurred in his daughter's admiring
remarks; "but I hope I could never be cross or ill-natured toward any
little girl," and the sudden tenderness that leaped into her tone seemed
to add, as plainly as words could have done, "who could not see."

"I reckon you are nice," said Bertha, reflectively. "Do you like dolls?"
she asked, as she laid her hand upon the group in her lap.

"Yes, indeed," and Violet laughed and flushed consciously. "Do you
know," she added, confidentially, "after I became so old that I was
ashamed to be seen playing with them, I used to beg to be allowed to
dress them for fairs and for the children of my friends? Of course under
those circumstances I could not be accused of playing with them, and
yet, between you and me, I had a very nice time with them."

Violet thereupon began making some inquiries regarding the doll family
before her, and quite an entertaining conversation was kept up for
several minutes, greatly to the amusement of Mr. Lawrence and the maid,
who had never before seen a would-be-governess put herself so _en
rapport_ with her prospective pupil. They had always seemed to think
they must be "stiff" and "proper," as Bertha had said.

"Do you play the organ and piano, and can you sing?" Bertha inquired,
eagerly, after the subject of dolls had been exhausted.

"Yes; would you like me to play you something?" Violet asked, as she
began to draw off her gloves.

"Yes, yes!" cried the child, an earnest look of expectation and pleasure
flashing into her face.

Violet went directly to a fine Steinway piano that was in the room, and
without the slightest consciousness or embarrassment, thinking only of
contributing to the young girl's employment, played a couple of
selections with great expression and correctness.

"Now sing," commanded Miss Bertha, upon the conclusion of the second
piece; and Violet sang a lovely little ballad in her clear, pure,
cultivated tones.

There was not a sound in the room until the last note died away; then
Bertha exclaimed, in a voice that thrilled with feeling:

"Oh, that was beautiful!"

Violet glanced at her, and saw that great tears were rolling down her
cheeks, and she told herself that there must be much of good in a nature
that could be so affected by music.

She could easily perceive that she had a strong will and was of a
somewhat arbitrary temperament; but she believed that she had been
antagonized and confirmed in these faults by unwise government.

She went again to her side, saying in a tender tone:

"You are fond of music, aren't you, dear?" and as she spoke she gently
wiped her tears away with her own dainty handkerchief.

The child, moved by some sudden impulse, caught her hand and kissed it
passionately.

"I like you, Miss Huntington, and you shall stay with me!" she cried.

"Bertha," interposed her father, reprovingly, "you should not speak in
such a way, and that is a matter which Miss Huntington will have to
decide for herself."

"Will you stay?" urged Bertha, appealingly, and still clinging to the
hand she had kissed.

"Yes, dear, if you think that you could be happy with me," Violet
answered, and Bertha asserted confidently that she could--that she
should be unhappy without her, while she promised that she would "be
good" and attentive to her lessons; that she would even "try real hard"
to learn the multiplication table, which had hitherto been a sharp thorn
in the flesh, and a bone of contention between herself and her former
governesses.

Mr. Lawrence was very much pleased to observe how readily Violet
appeared to acquire an influence over the willful, headstrong girl, who
had in every previous instance rebelled against the engagement of a
governess, and he felt that he would be very fortunate in securing her
services.

"I am exceedingly gratified that you are willing to undertake the
charge," he said, gratefully.

"I almost wonder at your willingness to trust her to me," Violet
answered, smiling, yet her lips quivered slightly, for it seemed like a
very sacred charge to her.

"On account of youth and inexperience, I suppose," he returned; then
added, reassuringly: "But, as I said before, I believe that will be in
your favor, although I warn you that you will have to exercise firmness
and judgment at all times. But when can you come to us, Miss
Huntington?"

"Whenever you wish," she replied.

"At once?--to-morrow?"

"Yes, sir; I have but to give up my lodgings and have my trunk removed."

"That will be perfectly delightful, papa," Bertha exclaimed, eagerly,
"and you will sing and play to me; you will amuse me every day, will you
not, Miss Huntington?"

"Yes, to a reasonable extent; but, in return, you will try faithfully to
learn all that I wish to teach you?" stipulated Violet.

"Yes, I will try," the child said, earnestly, as she again pressed her
lips to Violet's hand.

"Now, my pet, you will have to excuse us," said Mr. Lawrence, rising. "I
have a few more arrangements to make with Miss Huntington, and we must
not detain her longer."

"I wish you did not need to go at all," Bertha said, wistfully.

"Perhaps you will be wishing to send me away before a great while,"
Violet remarked, with a quiet laugh.

"No, indeed; I am sure I shall never want to give you up," persisted the
child, confidently.

Violet bent to kiss the sweet face upraised to hers, and then followed
Mr. Lawrence from the room, having first promised to "come early
to-morrow."



CHAPTER XXII.

VIOLET AND HER UNRULY PUPIL.


Mr. Lawrence led Violet back to the reception-room below, remarking, as
he courteously rolled a chair forward for her:

"I cannot tell you how pleased I am, Miss Huntington, with the cordial
reception that Bertha has given you. It is seldom that she is so
strongly attracted by a stranger, and if you can but retain your
influence over her I am sure you cannot fail to do her good. I know that
you will not be easily discouraged."

"To be 'forewarned is to be forearmed,' you know, sir," Violet smilingly
responded; then she added more seriously, and with a firmness which told
her companion that she was far from lacking in decision of character:
"As I have already told you, I know but very little about teaching and
less about governing, from personal experience, but, while I mean to do
my duty faithfully and be all that is kind or considerate toward Miss
Bertha, I believe it will be better for both of us, if I insist upon
obedience and a cheerful compliance with my wishes--upon a regular
routine, during certain hours of the day, after which I shall be pleased
to attend to her pleasure and amusement."

Mr. Lawrence's smile told Violet that he approved of the course which
she had suggested, even before he replied:

"I agree with you most heartily, Miss Huntington," he said, "and if you
can, by any means, put your theory into practice, you will succeed in
doing more than any one else has ever done. Bertha is perfectly well and
strong, with the exception of her imperfect sight, and she ought to have
regular duties; but she is so willful and obstinate at times that others
have found it impossible to make her learn her lessons. She is naturally
affectionate and tender-hearted, and good when she is not crossed; then
there comes a severe trial of patience. But she is always repentant and
remorseful after her willfulness until--she is crossed again. Now, what
will you consider adequate remuneration for the giving up of your own
plans and assuming the responsibility which I desire to commit to you?"

Violet regarded her companion with unfeigned surprise.

This was a new way of making terms with a governess, she thought--to
request her to set her own price for her services.

"That is a matter which I supposed you would regulate yourself," she
remarked, flushing slightly, "at least until we can ascertain whether I
am to be successful in my position. I hope that Miss Bertha and I will
get on very agreeably," she concluded, earnestly.

"I feel very sure that you will," Mr. Lawrence replied, confidently. "My
family," he continued, "consists only of my daughter, my housekeeper,
and myself, besides the servants. I fear it may be somewhat dull for you
here, at times, as we live so quietly; but we will endeavor to make it
as pleasant as possible for you. We will enter into no formal contract
at present--I would not ask you to pledge yourself to remain any length
of time, until you have an opportunity to realize what your duties and
responsibilities will be; but if--while you do remain--a hundred dollars
a quarter will be sufficient for your needs, I shall consider myself
fortunate in securing your services for that amount."

"The sum will be ample, thank you," Violet returned, secretly thinking
it a very generous offer, while she began to realize that she was also
very fortunate in securing so pleasant a home and such a remunerative
position, instead of having to trust to promiscuous pupils for her
living.

Still, she knew that it would be no light task to have to be eyes for
the blind, and subject to the willfulness and obstinacy of a capricious
and over-indulged child. That there would be many severe trials in her
position she did not doubt, but there would also be comfort in having
the protection of a home, and, perhaps, the occasional companionship of
a cultured gentleman like Mr. Lawrence.

She arose to take her leave now, and Mr. Lawrence himself accompanied
her to the door instead of calling a servant to show her out.

He bade her a courteous good-day, saying he should hope to see her as
early as convenient on the morrow, and offering to send his carriage for
her if she would give him her address.

Violet thanked him, but declined his kind offer, for she was not quite
sure at what hour she would be ready to leave her lodgings, as she had
two or three errands to do in the morning.

But about eleven o'clock the next day she arrived at her future home,
where she found Mr. Lawrence just going to his office down town.

He greeted her warmly, waiting until her trunk was brought in, and
directed that it should be carried up to the blue room.

Then, as he was about leaving he remarked, with earnest hospitality:

"Pray make yourself perfectly at home, Miss Huntington, call upon the
servants for anything you want, and command me at any time."

Violet thanked him, and then followed her trunk to the blue room, which
she found to be a lovely apartment with an alcove, adjoining Bertha's
sitting-room, and furnished with all the comfort and elegance to which
she had been accustomed to all her life in her own home.

And now a strange, new life opened before her.

Hitherto she had lived a life of ease and pleasure; with plenty of money
at her command, she had been able to gratify every whim or caprice; in
her luxurious home, servants had waited upon her, and she had been
petted and indulged, and, as a general thing, allowed to have her own
way.

Now she was to serve and be subject to an arrogant and overbearing
child.

She knew that her duties would call for unlimited patience and
self-control, and now that she found the die was cast, she was almost
appalled to think that she had dared to assume so much.

To all intents and purposes, she was alone in the world--separated and
alienated from her sister and her husband; cut off, as she believed, by
death, from her beloved young husband, she had no one to whom she could
turn in any trouble or emergency.

But the varied experiences of the last four months had begun to develop
powers within her, which she had never before dreamed that she
possessed. She had grown strong, resolute, and self-reliant in
character; she had learned to plan for herself financially, and to feel
that life had been given to her for some other purpose than simple
enjoyment and pleasure.

The gayety and impulsiveness which had characterized her previous to her
troubles, had given place to a sweet and quiet dignity, a charming
gentleness and grace which were very attractive, and so, with a brave,
firm heart, and an unwavering trust in the strong Hand, on which she had
begun to lean during her illness in Mrs. Richardson's home and under her
influence, she bravely took up the burden of her lonely life, and
resolved to do her very best in the trying position she had assumed.

But she had many sad hours, nevertheless; the bright past would
sometimes arise, like some alluring phantom to remind her of her former
happy, care-free life, and mock her in her present loneliness and
sorrow, and for the time being the deep waters would seem to roll over
her soul and threaten to swamp her beneath their cruel waves.

But she never yielded to such depression long--her bruised heart would
always rise above her sorrow after a time, and turn with trusting
confidence to the Comforter in whom her faith was every day growing
stronger.

Bertha Lawrence, as has been seen from her father's account, had been an
over-indulged child all her life.

From the hour when he had first discovered the dreadful fact that his
motherless little girl was blind--a discovery which had nearly unsettled
his reason--he had felt that the devotion of himself and all that he
possessed could not make up to her for the loss of her sight, and he had
spared nothing that would contribute to her comfort or enjoyment. He had
literally showered luxuries and expensive gifts upon her from the very
first, and once, when a friend had chided him for his lavishness and
extravagance, he had replied that he "should regard a fortune as well
spent if it would give her pleasure."

This, of course, was mistaken kindness, though prompted by tenderest
love, for pleasure and unlimited gratification palled upon her after a
while, and this course of indulgence only developed a selfish spirit and
an unusually strong will, which she had inherited from both parents.

If she was crossed ever so lightly, a spirit of antagonism and obstinacy
was instantly aroused, which it sometimes took days to overcome, and was
often made worse by servile coaxing and bribing on the part of those who
had the care of her, this being considered the easiest way to get along
with her.

Violet had a trial of this nature not very many days after she assumed
her duties as companion, and governess, and how she met it will be
developed.

Miss Bertha always took her breakfast in her private sitting-room,
because, as she retired early, she awoke earlier in the morning than the
other members of the family, and it was thought best that she should not
wait to eat with them.

When Violet learned this, she at once said that she would take her
breakfast with her charge, if it would be agreeable to her.

Bertha thought this was very kind, and a delightful arrangement, and for
a few days everything moved along harmoniously.

But one morning there came a storm to dispel this unusual calm.

Bertha had given orders for something that she particularly wanted for
breakfast, but through some misunderstanding or oversight, it was not
provided, although the table was very nicely laid with broiled chicken,
hot rolls, Lyonnaise potatoes, and an omelet, the latter usually being a
favorite with the young lady.

"Where are my oysters?" Miss Bertha demanded, with a frown, after the
servant had named over the various viands upon the table, and she
discovered that her order had been ignored.

"The man did not bring them, Miss Bertha," the girl answered.

"But I want some broiled oysters," persisted the unreasonable child.

"I am very sorry, I am sure----" began the servant, when Bertha
interrupted her, angrily:

"That doesn't make any difference; I'm going to have the oysters, and I
shall not eat any breakfast until I get them."

A threat of this kind usually resulted in somebody flying around to
procure the desired delicacy, for the child was stubborn enough to keep
her word, and it was believed it would never do to allow one born to
such luxury to fast.

"I am sure this is a very nice breakfast, Bertha," Violet here
interposed. "This broiled chicken is delicious; those hot rolls are just
a lovely brown, and the sight of that golden omelet makes my mouth
water."

But Bertha would not be coaxed--that had been tried too often already
without avail. She threw herself back in her chair, a sullen, determined
look on her face.

"Come, dear; I am really quite hungry," persevered Violet, as she took
her by the hand to lead her to the table.

Bertha snatched it rudely away.

"I do not want any breakfast," she pouted.

"But it is very nice, and you can have the oysters to-morrow morning,"
urged Violet.

"I want them now. Mary, send John for them at once, and then have them
cooked immediately," the child commanded, arbitrarily.

"But, miss, it would take a long time, and you would be half famished
before you got your breakfast," remonstrated Mary.

"I don't care; I will have them!" Bertha insisted, passionately.

"No, dear, not this morning," Violet said, kindly, but firmly, and
thinking it best to take matters into her own hands and settle them once
for all. "Mary, roll Miss Bertha's chair to the table, and we will eat
what we have."

The girl turned to obey, but Bertha struck at her, saying that she was
to be let alone; she would not have any breakfast.

Violet thought a moment; then, with a significant glance at the servant,
she said, quietly:

"Very well, Mary; if Miss Bertha does not care to eat, of course she
need not. I will, however, have my breakfast now, as this nice chicken
will be getting cold. You may pour out a cup of coffee for me, if you
please."

She seated herself at the table and began to help herself to the various
viands, and entirely ignoring the presence of the sulky girl on the
other side of the room.

The servant looked very much amused at this new departure, while Bertha
appeared speechless from astonishment.

She had never been dealt with in this manner before, and did not exactly
know how to meet such treatment.

Violet was assured, and indeed Mr. Lawrence had told her, that Bertha
was a perfectly well child; therefore, she thought it would do her no
harm to fast, and she was not at all troubled by her refusal to eat, at
least not more so than what the unpleasant occurrence caused her to
feel.

She proceeded quietly with her own employment, talking a little now and
then with Mary, but not once addressing Bertha.

When she finished her meal, she asked, as a matter of form merely:

"Bertha, is there anything you would like from the table before Mary
removes the service?"

"No; I want my oysters," was the pouting reply.

"Very well; then, Mary, you may take the things away, and you can tell
the cook that we will have the broiled oysters to-morrow morning,"
Violet said, composedly.

Bertha lifted her head, a look of blank dismay written on every feature.
Her face flushed an angry red, but apparently she did not know just what
to do under the circumstances, and so continued to remain sulkily
silent.

She was too proud and obstinate to succumb and eat anything, although
the cravings of her healthful appetite were making themselves keenly
felt, and so the tempting breakfast was removed.

When the servant finally disappeared, after brushing up and putting the
room in order, Bertha's passion broke all bounds.

She threw herself prone upon the floor, and began to cry and sob
violently.

Violet paid no attention, however, to this outbreak, but taking up a
book, appeared to be reading, although she was so excited and troubled
by this first conflict with her pupil that she was unconscious that her
book was upside down.

The child cried for nearly half an hour, and not one word was spoken
during that time. At last Bertha arose from her prostrate position, and
moved toward the electric button which governed a bell in the kitchen.

"What are you going to do, Bertha?" Violet quietly asked.

"I am going to have my oysters," was the sullen yet determined reply.

"No, dear, you cannot have any oysters this morning; you must wait for
them until to-morrow," Violet said, with a ring of decision in her tone
which plainly indicated that there would be no repeal of the sentence.
"If you are really hungry, Mary may bring you a cup of chocolate and
some toast."

"I hate chocolate and toast, and I want my breakfast. Nobody ever dared
to treat me so before. I will have oysters," she concluded, shrieking
out those last words passionately.

Violet made no reply, and the child stood irresolute for a few moments,
then threw herself into a chair and began to swing her feet back and
forth violently, kicking the frame with every movement.

This uncomfortable state of affairs lasted until the clock struck nine,
when Violet laid aside her book, saying, pleasantly, and as if nothing
unusual had happened:

"Come, Bertha, it is time for our lessons."

She arose and wheeled the small table, upon which their text books were
always kept, toward the bay-window where Bertha liked to sit, and
seating herself, took up a history and began to read aloud, as was her
custom.

"No," cried Bertha, in an irritating tone, "I am not going to have any
lessons this morning. I want my breakfast."

Violet was astonished at such persistent obstinacy in one so young; but
she was determined that she would not yield to it. She felt that if she
conquered in this first conflict she would be reasonably sure to come
off victor in other encounters, while if she allowed herself to be
beaten she might as well give up her position at once, for she would be
able to do the child no earthly good without a curbing influence over
her.

So she went quietly on with her reading, whereupon Miss Bertha clapped
her hands over her ears as if to shut out the sound of her teacher's
voice.

Violet was not going to waste her breath reading to the four walls, so
she shut and laid down her book with a heavy sigh, and wondering how
long this would last, and what she ought to do next.



CHAPTER XXIII.

VIOLET GAINS A SIGNAL VICTORY.


The child was only pretending not to hear.

She caught the sound of her much-tried companion's sigh, and instantly
her lips began to twitch and curve slightly in a smile that had
suspicion of triumph in it.

Violet saw it, and instantly the lines about her own mouth grew firmer
and more resolute.

"She thinks to tire me out and gain her point," she said to herself,
"but I am going to settle who is to rule, once for all, for if I cannot
have her respectful obedience it will be useless for me to remain here."

She arose and passed into her own room, but presently returned bringing
with her a dainty little basket in which there lay some fancy-work and
bright flosses.

Resuming her seat by the window, she busied herself with her embroidery,
apparently oblivious of the fact that there was any one else in the
room.

The hour that followed was tedious in the extreme to both teacher and
pupil, for not one single word was spoken during that time.

When the clock struck ten--the hour generally devoted to music--Violet
arose, and, going to the piano, began to play.

Instantly Bertha's chubby hands went up to her ears again, but her young
teacher, without appearing to notice the movement, kept on, and did a
faithful half-hour's practice for herself.

Then she began to sing a sweet little ballad which she had learned soon
after her mother's death. It was plaintive, and told the story of a
lonely little heart longing for mother-love, and she had not reached the
end of the second verse when she saw the tears streaming over Bertha's
little face, and knew that her wedge had entered the obstinate little
soul.

Still she pretended to ignore her, keeping on with her song until she
had finished it, then she went back to her work in the window.

Presently a timid, somewhat uncertain voice said:

"Miss Huntington."

"Well, dear."

"May--may I have oysters for my lunch?"

"Ah! those oysters! Were ever such tender things so hard to be disposed
of?" But she took courage from the form of the request and the appealing
tone.

"No, dear," she quietly answered.

"Why?" imperatively.

"Because I have said, once, that you cannot have them, and have given
Mary orders to provide them for your breakfast to-morrow morning," was
the calm response; then she added: "Now, let us talk no more about the
unpleasant subject, but attend to our duties. It is time for your
geography lesson."

"I do not want my geography. I must do my history first," was the
rebellious response.

"The history hour is past, and will not come again until to-morrow,"
Violet replied.

She knew that the child was very much interested in her history--she
always listened attentively while she read it to her, and seldom had to
be prompted in repeating it; but the lessons had all been assigned for
certain hours in the day, and she did not intend to break her rules or
be governed by the caprices of this spoiled girl of twelve.

"I don't care; I shall not do my geography until I have done my
history," retorted Bertha, angrily.

"Bertha," said Violet, gravely, "we are going to do the lessons in their
regular order every day, for if we jumble things we shall never have any
system. Now, I hope you are going to do right, because only those who do
their duty are happy. I know you are unhappy now because you have done
wrong this morning, and it makes me sad also. We did not begin the day
just as we should, but let us go on and finish it as well as we can, and
try to do better to-morrow."

"No-o; if I cannot do my history, I shall not do anything else," the
girl answered, defiantly.

"Very well," Violet said, coldly, "then there will be no lessons to-day,
nor reading of any kind."

"Oh! aren't you going to read to me from that nice book that papa
brought to me yesterday?" Bertha demanded, anxiously.

"No, I cannot read to any little girl who will not obey me."

"I never obey anybody but papa," was the pouting rejoinder.

"Your father wishes you to obey me, Bertha, and--if you do not I shall
be obliged to go away. I shall never ask you to do anything save what I
believe to be right, and if you cannot give me your obedience I shall
have to find some other little girl to teach."

A look of dismay passed over Bertha's face for a moment; but having
always won the victory in all previous battles with other governesses,
she imagined that she would win this, eventually.

"I don't care--I am not going to do any lessons today," she said,
shortly, and Violet felt severely tried--indeed, almost discouraged.

But she had made up her mind not to yield her point, and so kept quietly
on with her work.

Bertha brought out her dolls and began to play with them, and for a
couple of hours she managed to get on very well. At the end of that time
she grew tired of being so by herself, and begged Violet to read to her.

"Come here, Bertha, if you please," Violet said, without replying
directly to her question.

Bertha, wondering at the grave tone, went and stood before her teacher.

"Can you see my face, dear?" she asked.

"Yes," the child said, peering up at her curiously.

"Can you see my eyes?"

"Yes, I see them," Bertha replied, bringing her face very close to
Violet's.

"Tell me how they look."

"They look kind of--sorry, and your face is like papa's when he is
grieved and displeased with me."

"I am sorry and grieved; more grieved than I can tell you, to have had
this trouble with my little friend," Violet said, sadly. "You know,
dear, that you are not doing right, and that I should be doing you wrong
and injury to let you have your own way. You would not respect me or
believe me truthful if I should give up to you. I have told you just how
the lessons must go on, and I shall make no change, and if you cannot do
as I wish, you must amuse yourself as best you can."

"And you will not read me any stories at all today?" and there was a
suspicious tremor in the young tones, for the child dearly loved this
recreation, and Violet was a very entertaining reader.

"No; the stories only come after lessons, you know."

Bertha went thoughtfully back to her dolls, and played by herself until
luncheon was brought up, when she sat down at the table and ate
heartily, for by this time she was very hungry.

No mention was made of oysters, and Violet earnestly hoped that that
battle would not have to be fought over again.

After luncheon, blocks and other playthings were called into service,
and the child busied herself with them during the greater part of the
afternoon.

Now and then she would ask some question of Violet, who answered kindly
and pleasantly, but always without looking up from her work or appearing
to be in the least interested in Bertha's employment.

When twilight began to gather, Bertha left her toys and came to sit down
by her teacher--who had now laid aside her work--her young face wearing
a very sober look. After a while she slipped one hand into that of
Violet, who clasped it kindly and drew her still nearer.

"Will you please sing me something, Miss Huntington?" the child asked,
after a while.

"I should be very glad to, Bertha, but I cannot today," was the grave
reply.

Nothing further was said upon that subject, and presently they fell to
talking in a quiet, social way, and this was kept up until dinner was
announced, when Violet and her pupil went down, as was their custom, to
eat with Mr. Lawrence.

"How have the lessons been getting on to-day, little daughter?" Mr.
Lawrence inquired during the meal, and observing that Bertha was more
quiet than usual.

The child grew suddenly crimson, hesitated a moment, and then said:

"I didn't feel much like lessons to-day. Will you take me out for a
drive to-morrow, papa?"

It was evident to all that Miss Bertha wished to change the subject
introduced by her father, and Mr. Lawrence smiled as he glanced
significantly at Violet, thus showing that he understood there had been
trouble in the school-room.

"Perhaps so, dear," he answered. "We will see how the lessons get on
to-morrow," and then he began talking of other things.

After dinner, however, he asked Violet if there had been any
disturbance, and she gave him a truthful account of all that had
occurred, remarking, as she concluded:

"I believed that if I could be firm at the outset and make the dear
child understand that I must have her obedience, it would be better for
all of us. If I had allowed her to conquer me in this, I am convinced
that it would have been but the beginning of trouble, and I could be of
but little service to her."

"You are right, Miss Huntington," Mr. Lawrence said, bestowing a glance
of approbation upon her, and secretly well pleased with this evidence of
her decision of character, "and it would have been far better if Bertha
had had a firm rule like this from early childhood. All her other
governesses have yielded to her, and I fear I have not carried as steady
a hand with her as I should have done. Keep on as you have begun, Miss
Huntington, and you will secure my unbounded gratitude, if you can
conquer this singular obstinacy which has seemed to possess the child
all her life."

Violet was much relieved to find that he regarded her course of action
so sensibly, and she felt strengthened to go on as she had begun.

The next morning the much-contested oysters appeared upon the
breakfast-table, and they were broiled to a delicious flavor.

No remark was made about them until Violet put a bountiful supply upon a
plate and told Mary to pass them to Miss Bertha.

"I do not want any oysters, and I shall not eat any," that young lady
asserted, much to Violet's dismay, for she had flattered herself that
there would be no trouble on that question that morning.

"Then give them to me, if you please, Mary," she quietly said, then
helped Bertha to a nice bit of steak, which she requested the girl to
cut up for her.

"I wonder if we are going to have yesterday's experience repeated," the
young teacher said to herself, but she could see by the expression on
Bertha's face that she was greatly disappointed at being taken at her
word. She had evidently expected to be coaxed to eat her oysters, and
when she was not, she was ashamed to ask for them. "I am sorry for her,"
thought Violet, with a sigh, "but I do believe the lesson will do her
good, and will never need to be repeated."

She began to chat pleasantly upon other subjects, and the meal was
finished in the most friendly manner.

At nine o'clock Violet took up the history, and began to read the
neglected lesson of yesterday, while Bertha paid earnest attention to
every word, after which she gave a very clear account of what she had
heard.

She then went to her practice without a word of objection, and performed
her work faithfully, after which her other lessons were taken up as
usual.

All during the day she was obedient and respectful, and when the lessons
were completed, Violet, with a tenderer feeling for her than she had yet
experienced, read her the most charming story that she could find.

By the middle of the afternoon Mr. Lawrence paid them a visit, and
finding his daughter in a sunnier mood than usual, looked the pleasure
he felt.

He told them that he had come to take them to drive in Central Park, and
a few minutes after they were rolling rapidly out toward that beautiful
spot, behind a pair of handsome bays.

That evening, just before it was time for Bertha to retire, she stole
softly to Violet's side, wound her arms about her neck, and, peering
eagerly into her face, shyly remarked:

"Miss Huntington, your eyes do not look 'sorry' tonight."

"No, indeed, dear; they ought to look very bright and happy, after such
a delightful day as we have had," Violet answered.

"It has been a good day, hasn't it?" Bertha questioned, laying her head
fondly on her teacher's shoulder.

"Yes, and all days will be 'good days,' if we do right," was the gentle
response, as Violet passed her arm around the child and drew her closer
to her.

"I wonder, Miss Huntington, if you will get to love me by and by,"
Bertha said, wistfully, after a little pause.

"I love you now, dear," was the sweet-voiced assurance.

"Truly."

"Yes, truly and dearly," and a soft kiss emphasized the statement.

"But----"

"But what, Bertha?"

"You didn't love me yesterday."

"Oh, yes, I did, my dear child."

"How could you? It did not seem like love when you were so--so stern and
set."

"I certainly should not have shown love for you it I had allowed you to
have your own way."

"Shall you always be so?"

"'So'--how?"

"Why, set--determined."

"I hope I shall always be firm enough to do what is right, dear."

"Is it right to make little girls do what they do not want to?"

"Yes, if what they wish to do is wrong."

"Don't you ever say 'yes,' when you have once said 'no,' Miss
Huntington?"

"I do not mean to, Bertha, for I am afraid that a certain little girl,
whom I know, would not trust or respect me if I should," Violet
answered, gravely.

"I love you," said the child, impulsively, and Violet felt that she had
won no mean victory, and the one influence of which would be felt as
long as she retained her present position.

Those three simple, earnest words told her that, by continuing firm
during their recent contest, she had gained an influence and hold upon
the young girl's heart that she would never lose, and she resolved to
persevere in the course she had laid out for herself.

It was easy to resolve when her pupil was in such a delightful mood, but
it was not so easy to execute, and Violet had to exercise all the
patience and self-control of which she was possessed, for during the
next few weeks there were several repetitions of willfulness and
obstinacy on the part of her pupil, although she never held out so long
again and was more easily conquered each time.

She finally seemed to realize that her governess meant just what she
said--that sooner or later she must yield her the obedience which she
demanded; and after a while it became evident to Violet that she was
really trying to conquer her antagonistic disposition, and was truly
anxious to please her.

There were many struggles and many failures, for over-indulgence had
pampered her disposition and fostered a selfishness which was not easily
mastered; but the strong will was now being bent in the right direction,
and the fruits of firmness and decision were making themselves manifest;
while, as Violet was always patient and gentle, tender in reproof, and
sympathetic whenever Bertha manifested sorrow, the child gradually grew
to love her almost to idolatry.

Six months after the young teacher took up her abode in that elegant
home, one would hardly have recognized the docile, obedient child, and
every one in the house marveled at the change in her.

Study grew delightful to her; she made rapid progress in her music, and
became so gentle and courteous to the servants, so affectionate and
companionable with her father, that she was like a sunbeam in the house.



CHAPTER XXIV.

VIOLET MEETS WITH AN ACCIDENT.


Violet's life became more and more pleasant as time went on. Her pupil
continued to make marked and steady progress in her studies, while in
music she was becoming wonderfully proficient. She also grew more
cheerful and equable in temperament, and Mr. Lawrence was constantly
congratulating himself upon having secured such a treasure for a
governess.

He was not long in discovering, also, that she was a very cultivated
young woman and exceedingly companionable as well, for, while Violet was
conscientious in the discharge of her duties toward her charge, she did
not neglect any opportunity to improve herself.

She took up a course of reading which could not fail to expand her mind
and enlarge her views of life; kept herself informed regarding passing
events, while she devoted the greater portion of her evenings, after
Bertha had retired, to music, both vocal and instrumental.

No one who had known her in the old days in Cincinnati would have
believed it possible that she could have changed in so short a time from
a careless girl into this self-contained yet gracious woman, who charmed
every one with her sweet dignity, her beautiful face, and cultured
conversation, and Mr. Lawrence was not slow to appreciate his good
fortune in having so lovely a woman in his home.

"She would grace the highest position in the land," he told himself, one
night, when, at his request, she had presided over his table at a select
dinner party, bearing herself with so much ease and grace, and
displaying so much tact, that he was charmed and his guests eloquent in
their praises of her.

From that time he began to show her, in a quiet way, numberless little
attentions. If he heard her express a desire, it was unostentatiously
gratified within twenty-four hours. If she mentioned a book or picture,
it appeared as if by magic--the one among the collection upon Bertha's
shelves, the other somewhere upon the walls of her sitting-room, while
every day the choicest of flowers found their way, by some unseen
agency, to the little table which was devoted to Violet's especial use.

Once or twice every week Mr. Lawrence would come home to luncheon,
bringing opera or theater tickets for a matinee, and though Bertha and
the housekeeper were always included in these pleasures, for form's
sake, it was evident that the gentleman was most anxious to contribute
to the enjoyment of the fair governess, for he always managed to
ascertain her preference, and in this way Violet had opportunity to hear
the best histrionic and musical talent.

Every pleasant afternoon he would plan a drive or a visit to some
picture-gallery or museum of art for her and Bertha, who,
notwithstanding her imperfect sight, enjoyed listening to a description
of the beautiful and interesting things about her, while it was
something new and delightful to have her papa such a devoted and
faithful attendant.

One day, for a change, they drove out to one of the reservoirs which
supply New York city with water.

Violet had been unusually happy all the week; her pleasant life, the
kind care and attention so constantly thrown around her, all contributed
to make the world seem a very delightful place once more, even though
its chief joy and light for her had been removed.

She and Bertha had been in an unusually gay mood for them, and Mr.
Lawrence thought he had never seen Miss Huntington look so pretty and
appear so charming.

Her musical laugh, her ready repartee, her bright and animated
countenance, amused and cheered him, making him feel younger by a score
of years than he really was.

They rode about the reservoir, over the broad smooth drives for a while,
and then Bertha begged that they might get out and walk about, for she
wanted to get nearer the water.

Mr. Lawrence, always willing to indulge her, acceded to her request, and
all three alighting, he told the coachman to drive slowly about until he
should signal for him.

Then they spent half an hour or more strolling along the water's edge,
to Bertha's great enjoyment, after which Violet expressed a wish to see
the inside of the gatehouse, for she had never had an opportunity to
visit one.

They proceeded thither, it being quite near, and, Mr. Lawrence having
obtained permission of the keeper, they went in to view the huge vaults,
together with the massive engine, by which the engineer controlled the
waters which swept with such ceaseless roar through the caverns below
and on toward their various channels in the city.

They all became very much interested in watching the ponderous
machinery, and there was a strange fascination in the endless hurry and
rush of the water beneath them.

But all at once, nobody could ever tell afterward how it happened,
Bertha made a misstep, and would have fallen beneath the railing and in
among the machinery had not Violet darted forward, seized her by her
clothing, and drawn her quickly out of harm's way. In doing so, however,
she herself fell, or was thrown, with great force against the railing,
and when Mr. Lawrence led them both farther away, she was very pale and
quivering from head to foot, from mingled pain and fright.

"Are you hurt, Bertha?" she asked, bending over the weeping girl, who
had been terribly startled by the accident.

"I guess not, but--oh! my heart beats so I cannot breathe," she panted,
in reply.

"I am very glad--I--was--afraid----"

Violet could get no further, but reeled dizzily, and would have fallen
if Mr. Lawrence had not sprung to her side, and, throwing his arm about
her slight form, asked, with great anxiety:

"What is it, Miss Huntington--are you hurt?"

"My arm," Violet murmured, with white lips, and, glancing down, he saw
that her left arm was hanging helplessly by her side.

"Ah! you must have hurt it when you fell against the railing," he said,
his face and tone both expressing great concern. Then he added: "Can you
lift it? Can you move it?"

Violet made an effort to do so, but the pain it produced was
intolerable, and the next moment she was lying unconscious in Mr.
Lawrence's arms.

He laid her gently upon the floor, and took advantage of her
insensibility to make an examination of the injured member, when, to his
consternation, he discovered that it was broken just above the elbow.

Bidding Bertha stay close beside her teacher, he then darted out of the
building, and, his carriage fortunately being within hailing distance,
he signaled for the coachman to come there.

Without waiting for Violet to recover consciousness, he, with the
assistance of one of the men who belonged in the gate-house, lifted her
into the carriage, placing her as comfortably as possible upon one of
the seats, and then bade the coachman drive with all possible speed back
to the city.

Mr. Lawrence had saturated his handkerchief with water before starting,
and now devoted himself to the task of reviving the insensible girl, by
bathing her face, and chafing her uninjured hand to restore circulation.

Violet soon began to come to herself, but only to experience intense
suffering, while her bruised and broken arm had begun to swell
frightfully.

"This is very unfortunate--I am very sorry," Mr. Lawrence said, deep
solicitude expressed in both tone and countenance, while Bertha sat
beside him weeping silently from sympathy.

Violet tried to bear her pain with fortitude. She made no outward
demonstration or complaint; but her colorless face, contracted brow, and
the wild look in her eyes betrayed but too plainly that her suffering
was excruciating.

The fleet horses made good time, and in less than an hour they were
home.

Violet was tenderly lifted from the carriage and borne to her own room,
whither the housekeeper and servants were summoned to attend her, while
Mr. Lawrence himself went for a surgeon.

Mrs. Davis was a kind and motherly woman, and seemed to know just what
needed to be done in this emergency. She cut away the sleeve of Violet's
dress and underclothing, thus releasing the wounded arm from its painful
bondage, and then wrapped it in wet cloths to reduce the swelling and
allay the inflammation.

Twenty minutes after a skillful surgeon was on the spot, ether was
administered to his patient, then the broken bone was quickly and nicely
set, the arm bandaged, and Doctor Ashley declared that it would be as
good as new in the course of three or four weeks.

When Violet came to herself again, the agonizing pain which she had
suffered before the administration of ether was gone, and though she was
weak and feverish, she was comparatively comfortable.

But the shock to her system had been severe, and she was obliged to keep
her bed for several days, although she told Mrs. Davis and Bertha that
it was simply a pleasure to be sick when every one was so kind and
attentive to her.

Of course Mr. Lawrence did not see her during this time, and he began to
be conscious of an oppressive feeling of loneliness; the house seemed
empty, desolate, without her.

This sensation followed him everywhere he went; at table he could not
eat as usual, while his glance constantly roved to Violet's empty chair.
In his library, where usually he could find plenty of entertainment, and
even in Bertha's sitting-room, where he spent much time trying to amuse
her, and to make up to her as much as possible for the loss of her
companion, he was conscious of something wanting.

"If I miss her like this for a few days, what shall I do if she ever
goes away to stay?" he asked himself one evening, when he was feeling
more lonely than usual.

A wave of hot color mounted to his brow; then receding as quickly, left
his face blanched with a sudden discovery and an unaccountable feeling
of dread.

"What is all this?" he muttered, half angrily; "am I, after all these
years, going to lose my head over a girl not half my age?"

He sprang to his feet and began to pace the floor with a nervous,
uncertain tread, while during the next few days he appeared as if
oppressed by some heavy burden.

Before a week had passed from the day of Violet's accident, she was up
and anxious to resume her usual duties.

Mr. Lawrence went up stairs, one morning, to Bertha's room to amuse the
child, as he had been doing of late, and found the young teacher sitting
beside her pupil at the piano, trying to direct her practice, and his
fine face at once assumed a look of undisguised disapproval, even though
Violet glanced up and bade him a smiling good-morning.

"My dear Miss Huntington, this will not do at all," he said, gravely;
"you are not to try your strength or take up your regular duties until
your arm is entirely well, and you have fully recovered from the effects
of your injury."

"But, I assure you, I am feeling nicely. If this left hand of mine was
only at liberty, I should be wholly myself again," Violet replied,
bending a regretful look upon the helpless member in its sling.

"That may be; but I am nevertheless going to prohibit all lessons, at
least until you can dispense with this," the gentleman replied, as he
softly touched the spotless handkerchief suspended about her neck.

"What shall we do with ourselves, Bertha, if papa is going to be so
tyrannical?" asked Violet, in a tone of mock despair, but bestowing at
the same time a grateful glance upon her patron for his consideration.

"The days are very long, papa, when I don't attend to my lessons with
Miss Huntington," Bertha said, with a sigh; "but I love her so well that
I do not want her to do anything to make herself ill."

"That is my good girl," Mr. Lawrence replied, heartily; "but I imagine
we can arrange everything satisfactorily. Suppose we begin by seeing
what we can do with the two hours between now and lunch-time," and he
drew a new book from one of his pockets as he spoke; "I think I have
something nice here for you both."

He wheeled an easy-chair into the bay-window, where the sun shone in
most invitingly, and made Violet occupy it; then, with Bertha on a
hassock at his feet, he began to read a recent and extremely interesting
story.

The two hours slipped by on magic wings and then, as Mary appeared with
a tray of tempting viands, Mr. Lawrence invited himself to lunch with
them, and they had a right merry time together as they ate.

A little later he ordered the carriage, and they all went for a drive,
returning just in time to prepare for dinner.

Violet had not dined with the family since her injury, for, having only
one hand at her command, she was sensitive about appearing awkward. But
to-day Mr. Lawrence particularly requested that she would favor them
with her presence again, if she felt able to come down.

She flushed.

"I am so helpless----" she began, when he interrupted her, saying, with
a strange note in his voice, which she had never heard before:

"And for that very reason, I wish to make myself useful to you; besides,
Bertha and I are very lonely without you."

The color grew deeper upon Violet's cheek, for both his look and tone
were very earnest; but she promised to come down to dine with them, and
then ran up to her room to make some slight change in her attire.

During dinner Mr. Lawrence was kindly attentive. He cut her meat for
her, and unostentatiously prepared whatever would be awkward for her to
manage, talking all the while upon some entertaining subject, and made
himself so agreeable and helpful throughout the meal that Violet was
glad that she had consented to resume her place at the table.

After that she came down every day, and grew quite used to having him
care for her, and found it very pleasant, too.

"He is like a dear, kind father, only a great deal more thoughtful and
attentive than most fathers would be," she told herself, when thinking
it over afterward, and how he had interposed in every way to prevent her
from feeling awkward in accepting his attentions.

Mr. Lawrence kept his word--he would allow no more lessons while she was
crippled, but planned some amusement or pleasant trip for every day,
until she was entirely well.

Once she remonstrated against the idle life she was leading.

"Mr. Lawrence," she said, "I do not feel right about this. I ought to be
at work--I am not earning my salt."

"And why should you?" he asked, gravely.

"But I came here to perform certain duties, and I am doing nothing but
playing--just drifting along, and having a pleasant time," she
explained.

"I hope so; but I am very sorry if you feel any weight of obligation,
when that should rest upon me," he returned, in the same tone as before.
"Miss Huntington, do you imagine that it is nothing to me that you saved
my child from some serious accident--perhaps from death? Do you think me
so ungrateful as not to wish to do everything possible for you, when you
have suffered so much in your efforts to save her? I hope we shall hear
no more about your earning your salt--that, and everything else, has
been already earned a good many times over," he concluded, with a
luminous smile.

Violet had not thought of it in this way before, but she was effectually
silenced, and objected no more at anything he chose to do for her.

One rainy morning, they had an unusually merry time over a humorous
story which Mr. Lawrence read to them.

"What a jolly time we are having, papa!" Bertha remarked, with a
long-drawn breath of content, when the story was concluded.

"You are right, pet, and I only hope you will always be as happy," her
father returned, fondly, as he stroked her glossy hair.

"Of course, I am sorry that Miss Huntington's arm had to be broken," the
child continued, naively, "but we have had such a delightful time during
these last three weeks that I wish it could always last, don't you?"

"It would be very pleasant, Bertha," said her father, musingly.

"I think we three make just the nicest chums," the little miss went on;
"wouldn't it be fine if we could stay so and always be together?"

Mr. Lawrence's fine eyes were resting upon the fair face of his child's
governess at that moment, and there was a strangely wistful look in
them, a tender, tremulous expression about his handsome mouth, also.

"It would, indeed, dear," he said, more as if speaking to himself than
in answer to her, but in such an intensely earnest tone that it sent a
sudden thrill through Violet's heart.

Involuntarily she lifted her eyes, met his look, and something in it
made the hot blood come surging up to her brow and lose itself amid the
waves of golden hair that lay in such pretty confusion there.

"Don't you wish so, too, Miss Huntington?" Bertha questioned, turning to
her, and all unconscious that she was treading upon delicate ground.

Violet's eyes drooped, and she turned to the window to hide the vivid
color in her cheeks.

She hesitated a moment before replying to the child's question, then she
said, in a low, quiet voice:

"I have been very happy since I came to stay with you, dear."

The further trials and experiences of Violet and how her future
happiness was secured is told in the sequel to this story entitled "With
Heart So True," and is published in handsome cloth binding uniform with
this volume.


THE END.



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