Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: For Woman's Love
Author: Southworth, Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte, 1819-1899
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 "For Woman's Love" ***

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



FOR WOMAN'S LOVE

A Novel

by

MRS. E. D. E. N. SOUTHWORTH

Author of "The Hidden Hand," "Only a Girl's Heart," "Unknown,"
"The Lost Lady of Lone," "Nearest and Dearest," etc.

New York and London
Street & Smith, Publishers

1890



CHAPTER I.

A BRILLIANT MATCH.


"I remember Regulas Rothsay--or Rule, as we used to call him--when he
was a little bit of a fellow hardly up to my knee, running about
bare-footed and doing odd jobs round the foundry. Ah! and now he is
elected governor of this State by the biggest majority ever heard of,
and engaged to be married to the finest young lady in the country, with
the full consent of all her proud relations. To be married to-day and to
be inaugurated to-morrow, and he only thirty-two years old this blessed
seventh of June!"

The speaker, a hale man of sixty years, with a bald head, a sharp face,
a ruddy complexion, and a figure as twisted as a yew tree, and about as
tough, was Silas Marwig, one of the foremen of the foundry.

"Well, I don't believe Regulas Rothsay would ever have risen to his
present position if it had not been for his love of Corona Haught. No
more do I believe that Old Rockharrt would ever have allowed his
beautiful granddaughter to be engaged to Rothsay if the young man had
not been elected governor," observed a stout, florid-faced matron of
fifty-five. "How hard he worked for her! And how long she waited for
him! Why, I remember them both so well! They were the very best of
friends from their childhood--the wealthy little lady and the poor
orphan boy."

"That is very true, Mrs. Bounce," said a young man, who was a newcomer
in the neighborhood and one of the bookkeepers of the great firm. "But
how did that orphan get his education?"

"By hook and by crook, as the saying is, Mr. Wall. I think the little
lady taught him to read and write, and she loaned him books. He left
here when he was about thirteen years old. He went to the city, and got
into the printing office of _The National Watch_. And he learned the
trade. And, oh, you know a bright, earnest boy like that was bound to
get on. He worked hard, and he studied hard. After awhile he began to
write short, telling paragraphs for the _Watch_, and these at length
were noticed and copied, and he became assistant editor of the paper. By
the time he was twenty-five years old he had bought the paper out."

"And, of course, he made it a power in politics. I see the rest. He was
elected State representative; then State senator."

"Yes, indeed. You've hit it. And now he is going to marry his first love
to-day, and to take his seat as governor to-morrow," continued the
matron, with a little chuckle.

"Regulas Rothsay will never take his seat as governor," spoke a solemn
voice from the thicket on the right of the road along which the party
were walking to the scene of the grand wedding. All turned to see a
strange form step out from the shelter of the trees--a tall, gaunt,
swarthy woman, stern of feature and harsh of tone; her head covered with
wild, straggling black hair; her body clothed in a long, clinging
garment of dark red serge.

"Old Scythia," muttered the matron, shuddering and shrinking closer to
the side of the bookkeeper, for the strange creature was reported and
believed by the ignorant and superstitious of the neighborhood to be
powerful and malignant.

"Regulas Rothsay will never take his seat as governor of this State!"

As the beldame repeated and emphasized these words, she raised her hand
with a prophetic gesture and advanced upon the group of pedestrians.

"Now, then, you old crow! What are you up to with your croaking?"
demanded Mr. Marwig. "Look here, Mistress Beelzebub! Do you know that
you are a very lucky woman to live in a land where not only may a
barefooted boy rise to the highest honors by talent and perseverance,
but where a malignant old witch may torture and terrify her neighbors
without fear of the ducking stool or the stake?" he demanded.

The beldame looked at him scornfully, and disdained to reply.

"Wait!" said a stout, dark, middle-aged, black-whiskered man, Timothy
Ryland by name, and one of the managers of the "works" by state. "Wait,
I want to question this miserable lunatic. She may have got wind of
something. Tell me, old mother, why will not the governor-elect take his
seat to-morrow?"

"Because Fate forbids it," solemnly replied the crone.

"Will the governor be--murdered?"

"No; Regulas Rothsay has not an enemy in the world!"

"Will he be killed on the railroad, or kidnapped?"

"No!"

"Will he be taken suddenly ill?"

"No!"

"What then in the fiend's name is to prevent his taking his seat
to-morrow?" impatiently demanded the manager.

"An evil so dire, so awful, so mysterious, that its like never happened
on this earth!"

"Arrest her, Mr. Ryland! She ought to be locked up until she could be
sent to the asylum!" exclaimed old Marwig.

"I have no power to do so, my friend," replied the manager.

"Why, where is she?" inquired Mrs. Bounce, trembling. "Who saw her go?"

No one answered, but every one looked around. Not a trace of the witch
could be seen. She had passed like a dark cloud from among them, and was
gone.

It was a glorious day in June. A long, deep, green valley lay low
between two lofty ridges of the Cumberland mountains, running north and
south for ten miles, and near the boundary lines of three States. This
lovely vale was watered by a merry, sparkling little river called the
Whirligig, which furnished the power for the huge machinery of the great
firm of Rockharrt & Sons, proprietors of the Plutus iron mines and the
North End foundries, which supplied the mighty engines on the great
lines of railroad from the East to the West, and whose massive
buildings, forges, furnaces, store-houses and laborers' cottages
occupied all the ground between the foot of the mountain and the banks
of the river, on both sides of the Whirligig, at the upper or north end
of the valley, where a substantial bridge connected the two shores.

This settlement, called, from its position, North End, was quite a
thriving little village. North End was not only blessed with a mission
church, having a schoolroom in its basement, but it was provided with a
post-office, a telegraph, a drug store, kept by a regular physician, who
dispensed his own physic (advice and medicine, one dollar), and a
general store, where everything needed to eat, drink, wear or use
(except drugs), was kept for sale.

On this bright June morning, however, the great works were all stopped.
There was a general holiday, and as this was at the cost of the firm, it
gave general satisfaction. All the people of North End, except the aged,
infirm and infantile, were trooping down the valley, on the rough road
between the foot of the West Ridge and the side of the river, to a fete
to be given them at Rockhold on the occasion of the marriage of old
Aaron Rockharrt's granddaughter, Corona Haught, to Regulas Rothsay, the
governor-elect of the State.

It was a marriage of very rare interest to the workmen and their
families. To the men, because the governor-elect had been one of their
own class. The elders remembered him from the time when he was a
friendless orphan child, glad to run the longest errand or do the
hardest day's work for a dime, but also a very independent little
fellow, who would take nothing in the shape of alms from anybody. To the
women, because he was going to marry his first and only sweetheart, and
on the very day before his inauguration, so that she might take part in
the pageantry that was to be his first great success and triumph.

On one side of the river, at the foot of the East Ridge, stood Rockhold,
the country seat of the Rockharrts, in its own park, which lay between
the mountain and the river. The house itself was a large, heavy, oblong
building of gray stone, two stories high, with cellar and garret. From
the front of the house to the edge of the river extended a fair green
lawn, shaded here and there by great forest trees. Under many of these
trees, tables with refreshments were set, and seats were placed for the
accommodation and refreshment of the out-door guests. In sunny spots,
also, some white tents were raised and decorated with flags.

As a group of working men and women sat on the west bank of the river,
waiting impatiently for the return of the ferryboat, they saw, from
minute to minute, carriages drive up the lawn avenue, discharge the
occupants at the main entrance of the house, and then roll off to the
stable yard in the rear.

These seemed to come in a slow procession.

"Only the nearest relations and most intimate friends of the family are
invited to the ceremony. There have only been five carriages passed
since we have been sitting here, and I don't believe there was one come
before we came, or that there'll be another come after that last one,
which was certainly the groom's," said Old Marwig.

"Oh! was it, indeed? But how do you know?" demanded Mrs. Bounce.

"It is the new carriage from North End Hotel! And he and his groomsmen
had engaged it. That's how I know! Here comes the ferryboat! Now for
it!"

The boat touched the banks, and as many as could find room crowded into
it, and were speedily rowed across the river and landed on the other
side, where they found a few of the lawn party there before them.

"There is Mr. Clarence Rockharrt coming toward us!" said Mrs. Bounce, as
the party walked up from the landing, and a medium-sized, plump, fair
man of middle age, with a round, fresh face, a smiling countenance, blue
eyes and light hair, and in "a wedding garment" of the day, came down to
meet them, and shook hands with all, warmly welcoming them in the name
of his father. Then he led them up to the lawn and gave them chairs
among the unoccupied seats at the various tables.

"If you please, Mr. Clarence, is the groom in good health and sperrits?"
meaningly inquired Mrs. Bounce.

"Mr. Rothsay is in excellent health and spirits, thank you," replied
the gentleman, looking a little surprised at the question: an then
moving off quickly to receive some new arrivals.

The guests for the lawn party were constantly arriving, and the
ferryboat was kept busy plying from the shore to shore.

It is time now to introduce our readers to the house of Rockharrt.

Old Aaron Rockharrt, the head of that house, was at this time
seventy-five years of age and a wonder of health and strength. He was
called the "Iron King," no less from his great hardihood of body and
mind than from his vast wealth in mines and foundries. In size he was
almost a giant, with a large head covered by closely-curling, steel-gray
hair. His character may be summed up in a very few words:

Aaron Rockharrt was an incarnation of monstrous selfishness.

His manners to all, but especially to his dependants, were arrogant,
egotistical and overbearing. He was utterly destitute of sympathy or
compassion. There was no room for either in a soul so full of self. In
his opinion there was no one on earth, neither king nor Kaiser, saint
nor hero, so important to the universe as Aaron Rockharrt, head of
Rockharrt & Sons.

Yet Aaron Rockharrt had two redeeming points. He was strictly truthful
in word and honest in deed.

His wife was near his own age, a quiet, gentle, little old lady, small
and slim, with white hair half hidden by a lace cap. If she ever had any
individuality, it had been quite crushed out by the hard heel of her
husband's iron will. Their eldest son and second partner in the firm was
Fabian Rockharrt, a fine animal of fifty years old, though scarcely
looking forty. He had inherited all his father's great strength of body
and of mind, with more than his father's business talent; but he had
not inherited the truth and honesty of his father.

Yet there is no one wholly evil, and Fabian Rockharrt's one redeeming
quality was a certain good nature or benevolence which is more the
result of temperament than of principle. This quality rendered his
manner so kind and considerate to all his employes that he was the most
popular member of his family.

Clarence, the second son, was much younger than his elder brother, and
so diametrically opposite to him and to their father, both in person and
character, that he scarcely seemed to come of the same race.

He was really thirty-five years old, but looked ten years less, and was
a fair blonde, medium-sized and plump, with a round head covered with
light, curling yellow hair, a round, rosy face as bare as a baby's and
almost as innocent. He had not the satanic intellect of his father or
his brother, but he had a fine moral and spiritual nature that neither
could understand or appreciate.

There were yet two other exceptions to the family character of
worldliness and selfishness. There were Corona and Sylvanus Haught, a
sister and brother, orphan grand-children of Aaron Rockharrt, left him
by his deceased only daughter. Sylvanus, a fine, manly young fellow,
resembled his Uncle Clarence in person and in character, having the same
truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, but with a mocking spirit, which
turned evil into ridicule rather than into a subject of serious rebuke.
He was three years younger than his sister. Corona was a beautiful
brunette, tall, like all the Rockharrts, with a superbly developed form,
a fine head, adorned with a full suit of fine curly black hair, delicate
classic features, straight, low forehead, aquiline nose, a "Cupid's bow"
mouth, and finely curved chin. This was her wedding-day and she wore
her bridal dress of pure white satin, with veil of thread lace and
wreath of orange buds. Hers was the very triumph of a love match, for
she was about to wed one whom she had loved from earliest childhood, and
for whom she had waited long years.

Here was Corona Haught's great victory. She had seen his opponents, her
own family, bow down and worship her idol. Yet, at the culmination of
her triumph, on this her bridal day, why did she sit so pale and wan?

From her deep, sad reverie she was aroused by the entrance of her six
gay bridesmaids.

"Corona, love, good morning! Many happy returns, and so on!" said Flora
Fields, the first bridesmaid, coming up to the pale bride and kissing
her.

All the others followed the example, and then Miss Fields said:

"Cora, dear, 'the scene is set'--otherwise, the company are all
assembled in the drawing-room. Grandpapa and grandmamma are in their
seats of honor. The bishop, in his canonicals, is waiting; the groom and
his groomsmen are expectant. Are you ready?"

"I know getting married must be a serious, a solemn, even an awful thing
when it comes to the point. And most brides do look pale! But you--you
look ghastly! Come, take some composing spirits of lavender--do!"

"Yes; you may give me some. You will find the vial on the
dressing-table."

The restorative was administered, and then the "bevy of fair maids" left
the chamber and went down stairs.

There, in the great hall, they met the bridegroom and his six groomsmen;
for it was the custom of that time and place to have a groomsman for
each bridesmaid. The bridegroom and governor-elect was not a handsome
man--that was conceded even by his best friends--but he was tall and
muscular, with a look of strength, manliness and nobility that was
impressive. A son of the people truly, but with the brain of the ruler.
The whole rugged form and face assumed a gentleness and courtesy that
almost conferred grace and beauty upon him, as he advanced to greet his
bride.

Why did she shrink from him?

No one knew. It was only for a moment; and happily, he, in the
simplicity of a single, honest heart, had not seen the momentary
shudder.

He drew her hand within his arm, looked down on her with a beam of
ineffable tenderness and adoration, and then waited, as he had been
instructed to do, until the groomsmen and bridesmaids had formed the
procession that was to usher them into the drawing-room and before the
officiating bishop. They entered the crowded apartment. The bishop, in
his white robes, stood on the rug, supported by the Rev. Mr. Wells,
temporary minister of the mission church at North End, and the ceremony
began. All went on well until he came to that part where the officiating
minister must read--though a mere form this solemn adjuration to the
contracting lovers:

"'I require and charge ye both, as ye shall answer at the dreadful day
of judgment, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if
either of you know just cause why ye may not be united in matrimony, ye
do now declare it.'"

There was a pause, to give opportunity for reply, if any reply was to be
made--a mere form, as the adjuration itself was. Yet the bride shuddered
throughout her frame. Many noticed it, but not the bridegroom.

The ceremony went on.

"'Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?'"

Old Aaron Rockharrt, who stood on the right of the bridal party, stepped
forth, took his granddaughter's hand, and placed it in that of the
groom, saying, with visible pride:

"I do."

The rites went on to their conclusion, and the whole party were invited
into the dining-room, where the marriage feast was spread, where the
revelry lasted two full hours, and might have lingered longer had not
the bride withdrawn from the table, and, attended by her bridesmaids,
retired to her chamber to change her bridal robes for a plain traveling
suit of silver gray silk, with hat and gloves to match.

There the gentle, timid, old grandmother came to bid her pet child a
private good-by.

"Are you happy, my love--are you happy?" she inquired. "Why don't you
answer?"

"My heart is full--too full, grandma," evasively answered Corona
Rothsay.

"Ah, yes; that is natural--very natural. 'Even so it was with me when I
was young,'" sighed the old lady, who detected no evasion in the words
of her darling.

The bride went down stairs, where the bridegroom awaited her. There, in
the hall, were collected the members of her family, friends, neighbors
and wedding guests.

Some time was spent in bidding good-by to all these.

"But it is not good-by, really; for the majority of us will follow by a
later train, and be on hand for the inauguration to-morrow," said old
Aaron Rockharrt, who seemed to have recovered his youth on this proud
day.

"And, grandpa, be sure to bring grandma. Don't say that she is too old,
or too feeble, or too anything, to travel, because she is not; and she
has set her heart on seeing the pageantry to-morrow. Promise me before I
leave you," pleaded the bride.

"Very well; I will bring her," said Mr. Rockharrt, who would have
promised anything to his granddaughter on this auspicious occasion.

"You will find your traps all right, Cora. They went off by the early
train this morning," said Mr. Clarence.

"And I trust, Rothsay, that you will find my town house comfortably
prepared for your reception," said Mr. Rockharrt.

The bridegroom handed his bride into the carriage that was to convey
them to the railway station. The carriage crossed the ferry, and in a
few minutes reached the other side, and rolled toward the railway
station.

The road was at this hour very solitary, and the bridegroom and his
bride found themselves for the first time that day tete-a-tete. He
turned to her, and drew her head to his heart and whispered:

"Cora, speak to me! Call me your husband!"

"I--cannot. My heart is too full," the girl muttered evasively.

But his grand, simple, truthful spirit perceived no prevarication in her
words. If her heart was full, it was with responsive love of him, he
thought. He bent his face lower over her beautiful head, that lay upon
his bosom, and kissed her.

Soon they reached North End, where all the aged, infirm and infantile
who could not come to the wedding were seated at their cottage doors, to
see the carriage with the bridegroom and bride go by.

Smiling and bowing in response, the pair passed through the village and
went on their way toward the station which they reached at half-past one
o'clock.

They had to wait about ten minutes for the train to come up. They
remained in the carriage; for here, too, a small crowd of country people
had collected to see the bride and the bridegroom, who was also the
governor-elect.

The train from the East ran into the station. The bridal pair left the
carriage and went on the cars, and the governor-elect and his bride set
out for the State capital. It was a long afternoon ride, and the sun was
low when the train drew in sight of the State capital, and slowed into
the station.

An immense crowd had gathered to welcome the governor-elect, and as he
stepped out upon the platform, and stood with his bride on his arm, the
cheers were deafening. When these had in some measure subsided, the hero
of the hour returned thanks in a simple little speech. Then the
committee of reception came up and shook hands with the governor-to-be,
who next presented them in turn to his wife.

At last the pair were allowed to enter the carriage that was in waiting
to convey them to the town house of Aaron Rockharrt. Other carriages
containing members of the committee attended them. They passed through
the main street of the city.

The procession of carriages passed until it reached the Rockharrt
residence, opposite the government mansion, where the committee took
leave of the governor-elect and his bride, who entered their temporary
home alone, to be received and attended by obsequious servants.

There we also will leave them.

Visitors to the inauguration were arriving by every train.

Among the arrivals from the East came Aaron Rockharrt, with his wife,
his two sons, Fabian and Clarence, and his grandson, Sylvan, the
younger brother of Cora.

The main door of the mansion was open, and several gentlemen, wearing
official badges, stood without or just within it.

"By Jove! we are just in time, and it has been a close shave! That is
the committee come to take him to the State house!" exclaimed old Aaron
Rockharrt as he stepped out of the carriage, and helped his feeble
little wife to alight. He led her up the steps, followed by the other
three men of his party.

"Good morning, Judge Abbot. We are just in time, I find. We came up by
the night train, and a close shave it has been. Well, a miss is as good
as a mile, and we are safe to see the whole of the pageant," said the
old man, speaking to a tall, thin, gray-haired gentleman, who wore a
rosette on the lapel of his coat.

"Yes, sir; but here is a very strange difficulty--very strange, indeed,"
replied the official, with a deeply troubled and perplexed air, which
was shared by all the gentlemen who stood with him.

"What's the trouble, gentlemen? Is the chief justice ill, that his honor
cannot administer the oath, or what?"

"It is much worse than that--if anything could be worse," gravely
replied one of the committee.

"What is it then? A contested election at this late hour?"

"The governor-elect cannot be found. No one has seen him since eleven
o'clock last night. He is missing."



CHAPTER II.

A LOST GOVERNOR AND BRIDEGROOM.


"Missing!" echoed old Aaron Rockharrt, drawing up his huge frame to its
fullest height, and staring with strong black eyes in a defiant and
aggressive manner. "Missing! did you say, sir?" he repeated sternly.

"Yes, Mr. Rockharrt; ever since last night," replied Judge Abbot,
chairman of the committee, in much distress and anxiety.

"Impossible! Never heard of such a thing in the whole course of my life!
A bridegroom lost on the evening of his marriage! A governor lost on the
morning of his inauguration! I tell you, sir, it is impossible--utterly
and entirely impossible! How do you know, sir, that he has not been seen
by some one or other since last night? How do you know that he cannot be
found, somewhere, this morning?"

"All his household have failed to find him. Our messengers have been
sent in every direction without discovering the slightest clew to
his--fate," gloomily replied the judge.

Mr. Rockharrt turned to the porter, who was still in attendance at the
door, and demanded:

"Where is your mistress?"

The man, a negro and an old family servant of the Rockharrts, replied:

"The young madam is in the back drawing room, sir; and if you please,
sir, I think she would be all the better for seeing the old madam."

"Who is with her now?" shortly demanded Mr. Rockharrt, ignoring his
servant's suggestion, although Mrs. Rockharrt looked nervously anxious
to follow it "There is no one with her, sir."

"Alone! Alone! My granddaughter left alone on the morning after her
marriage? What do you mean by that? Where is your master?

"Show me in to your mistress at once. I will get at the bottom of this
mystery, or this villainy, as it is more likely to prove, before I am
through with the matter. And if my granddaughter's husband is not to be
found before the day is out, I will have all concerned in the plot
arrested for conspiracy!" exclaimed Mr. Rockharrt, with that utter
recklessness of assertion to which he was addicted in moments of
excitement.

The dismayed negro lowered his eyes and led the way. Aaron Rockharrt
strode on, followed by his timid and terrified old wife, his stalwart
sons, his mocking grandson, and the members of the committee. But the
old man, not liking such an escort, turned upon them, and said, with
sarcastic politeness and dignity:

"Gentlemen, permit me. It is expedient, under existing circumstances,
that I should first see my granddaughter alone."

The members of the committee bowed with offended dignity and withdrew to
the front of the hall.

Meanwhile Aaron Rockharrt sent back the members of his own family, and
strode solemnly into the drawing room, which was half darkened by the
closed window shutters.

"Now leave the room, sir; shut the door after you and stand on the
outside to keep off all intruders," commanded Mr. Rockharrt to the
servant who had admitted him.

When the door was closed upon him, Aaron Rockharrt discerned his
granddaughter, who sat in an easy chair in a dark corner of the back
drawing room, which was divided from the front by blue satin and white
lace portieres. Her deadly pallid face gleamed out from the shadows in
startling contrast to her jet black hair and the black dress which,
against all precedent, she wore on this the morning after her marriage.

The old man of iron went up and stood before her, looking at her in
silence for a few moments.

"Corona Rothsay," he began, sternly, "what is the meaning of this
unparalleled situation?"

"I--I--do not know."

"You do not know where your husband is on the morning after his marriage
and on the day of his expected inauguration?"

"No; I do not know."

"You seem to take this desertion or this death very quietly."

"What would be gained by taking it any other way?" she murmured, though
indeed she was not taking the situation quietly, but controlling
herself.

"How dare you say so to me?" severely demanded the old man, scarcely
able to control his wrath, though at a loss to know against whom to
direct it.

"You ask me a direct question. I give you a truthful answer."

"Answer me, truly!" rudely exclaimed Aaron Rockharrt, giving way, in his
blind egotism, to utter recklessness of assertion, to gross injustice
and exaggeration. "What have you done to him, Corona? Tell me that!"

She started violently and looked up quickly; her face was whiter, her
eyes wilder than before.

"What--have--you--done to him?" he sternly repeated, looking her full in
the deathly face.

"I? Nothing!" she answered, but her voice faltered and her frame shook.

"I believe that you have! You look as if you had! I have seen the devil
in you since we brought you home from Europe against your will;
especially within the last few days!"

Having hurled upon her this avalanche of abuse, he turned and strode
wrathfully up and down the room until he had got off some of his
excitement. Then, he came and stood before his granddaughter.

"How long has your husband been missing?" he abruptly inquired.

"Since last night," in a very low tone.

"When did you see him last? Tell me that!"

"I have already told you--last evening."

"Tell me all that has occurred from the time you both left Rockhold to
the time you entered this house which I placed at your disposal and to
which I sent you, to save you from the noise and bustle and excitement
of a crowded hotel, and to give you rest and quiet and seclusion. Yes!
and this the result! But go on and tell me. From the time you left
Rockhold to this time, mind you!"

"Very well, sir, I will tell you. Our journey, a series of ovations. Our
reception in this city was a triumph. We were met at the depot by a
great crowd, and by the committee with carriages, and we were escorted
to this house by a military and civil procession with a band of music.
They left us at the gate.

"We entered, and were received by the servants. As soon as I had changed
my dress we went down to dinner. After dinner we went into the drawing
room. A gentleman was announced on official business connected with the
ceremonies of to-day. He was shown into the library, and my husband went
to him. Many callers came. They talked with Mr. Rothsay in the library.
I remained in this room. At last the crowd began to thin off, and soon
all were gone. Mr. Rothsay came into this room--and sat down by my
side. We talked together for an hour or more. Then a card was brought
in. Mr. Rothsay took it, looked at it, and said:

"'I will see the gentleman. Show him into the front room.'

"Mr. Rothsay arose and went into the front room to receive his visitor.
It was late, and I was very tired, so I went up stairs to my chamber and
retired to bed. I have never seen my husband since."

And Corona dropped her face upon her hands and sobbed as if her heart
would break. She had utterly broken down for the first time.

"Good heavens! I don't understand it all! Had you had a lover's quarrel
now in that hour when you talked together in this parlor?" inquired the
old gentleman, his insane anger being now merged in wonder. "Had you
reproached him for spending so much time with his political friends
while you were waiting here alone?"

"Oh, no, no," replied Corona, between her convulsive sobs.

"Good heavens!" again exclaimed the old man. "When did you first miss
him?"

"When I came down in the morning. I thought then that he had been kept
up all night by his friends, and that I should meet him at breakfast. He
did not appear at breakfast. The servants searched for him all over the
house, but could not find him. I waited breakfast until I was faint with
fasting and suspense. Then I took a cup of coffee. On inquiry it was
found that Jasper had been the last to see him, and that he had not seen
him since he showed the visitor in. He did not show the visitor out. He
waited some time to do so, and fell asleep. When he awoke the visitor
had gone, and the drawing rooms were empty. The man supposed that Mr.
Rothsay had seen his friend to the door, and had then retired to bed.
And so he shut up the house and went to his room. No one discovered that
Mr. Rothsay was missing until this morning. When the inaugural committee
came two hours ago, the servants told them all that I have just told
you."

"Who was the last visitor? He might throw some light upon this dark,
evil subject. Who was he?" abruptly demanded Aaron Rockharrt.

"I do not know. No one seems to know. Jasper says he never saw him
before, nor ever heard his name."

"Couldn't he see it on his card?"

"Jasper cannot read, you must remember."

"Where is that card? Let me see it!"

"It cannot be found."

"Conspiracy! Treason! Murder!" interrupted Aaron Rockharrt. "The
governor-elect has been decoyed away from the house by that last caller,
and has been murdered! And the people in the house may not be as
innocent or ignorant as they pretend to be. I will go out and take
counsel with the committee," he said, and he turned and strode out of
the drawing room.

When he reached the hall, however, he found that the officials had gone
to pursue their search for the missing man elsewhere. The men of his own
party were nowhere to be seen. The porter, Jasper, was the only occupant
of the hall, and Aaron Rockharrt opened the hall door and walked out.
The military and civil escort were still on parade before the house,
waiting for the governor-elect.

Mr. Rockharrt's carriage was standing before the door. He entered it and
ordered the coachman to drive to police headquarters.

The hour for the inauguration of the new governor was approaching. The
procession to the State house should have been in motion by this time.
The people on the sidewalks, at the doors and windows, on the balconies,
and on the roofs, all along the line of march, were beginning to be
weary of waiting.

The officials who had the ceremonies of the occasion in hand waited
until three o'clock in the afternoon, and then, as the governor-elect
was nowhere to be found, as the necessity was imminent, the inaugural
procession was ordered to begin its march.

"Where is he? Where is Rothsay?" demanded the spectators one of the
other.

No one knew. No one had seen him. No one could, therefore, answer.

When the procession reached the State house, the lieutenant-governor,
Kennelm Kennedy, was sworn in, and the military companies and the civic
societies and the spectators all dispersed.

But where was the governor? That was the question of the hour. Why had
he not been inaugurated? was asked by everybody of everybody else. The
secret of his total and unexplained disappearance had not, indeed, been
closely kept. His intimate friends, his household servants and the
public officials knew it, but the general public did not.

The next morning the news came out, and the papers had sensational
head-lines and long accounts of the sudden and mysterious disappearance
of the governor-elect on the eve of his inauguration and of a bridegroom
on the evening of his wedding day.

Also there were rewards offered for any intelligence of Regulas Rothsay,
living or dead, and for the identification of the unknown visitor who
was supposed to have been the last to have seen him on the night of his
disappearance.

Days passed, and nothing came in answer to the advertisements. The
public at length reached in theory this conclusion: that the
governor-elect had been decoyed from the house by his latest visitor,
and had been secretly murdered in some remote quarter.

The Rockharrts did not return to Rockhold, but remained in town through
all the heat of that hot summer, because Aaron Rockharrt thought he
could best pursue his investigations on the scene of the mystery. But he
sent his sons to North End to look after the works.

Corona would see no one save the members of her own family. She kept her
room, and grieved without ceasing. On the ninth day after the
disappearance of her lover-husband she made an effort and came down into
the drawing room, to please the gentle old grandmother.

She sat there with the old lady, reading to her, until Mrs. Rockharrt
was called out by her tyrant to get something, it might be a book or a
paper, a cigar or a pipe, that he himself or a servant might have got
just as well, except that Aaron Rockharrt liked to have the ladies of
his family wait upon him.

What happened during the hour of the old lady's absence from the drawing
room no one knew, but when she returned she found her granddaughter in a
swoon on the carpet. In great alarm she called the servants to her
assistance. The unconscious girl was laid upon a sofa, and all means
were taken to restore her to her senses. Corona recovered her faculties
only to fall into the most violent paroxysms of anguish and despair.

From her ravings and self-reproaches Mrs. Rockharrt gathered that the
unfortunate girl had heard, or in some way learned, some fatal news.

She sent all the servants out of the room, locked the door, administered
a sedative to her child, and then, when the latter was somewhat calmer,
questioned her as to the cause of her distress.

"I have nothing to tell--nothing, nothing to tell! But take me away from
this place! Take me home to Rockhold, where I may be alone!"

"I will do all I can to comfort you, my dear," said Mrs. Rockharrt. "I
will speak to Mr. Rockharrt when he comes in."

No one but the snubbed, brow-beaten and humiliated wife knew all that
she engaged to suffer when she promised to speak to her lord and master.

Corona, soothed by the sedative that had been given her, and consoled by
the love and sympathy that had been lavished upon her, grew more
composed, and finally fell into a deep sleep from which she awoke
refreshed. But a rumor went through the house that the young lady had
got news which she did not choose to communicate.

Later in the day Mrs. Rockharrt deferentially proposed to the domestic
despot that they should return to Rockhold, as the weather was so
oppressive and the town house was so obnoxious to dear Corona, which was
quite natural under the trying circumstances.

Aaron Rockharrt glared at her until she cowered, and then he told her
that he should direct the movements of his family as he thought proper,
and that any suggestions from her or from his granddaughter were both
unnecessary and impertinent.

So they both had to bend under the iron will of Aaron Rockharrt.

At length, however, something happened to relieve them.

Mr. Rockharrt had not been neglecting his own business, while looking
after the missing governor-elect, nor had he been leaving it to his sons
and partners, whom he refused to trust. He had been corresponding with
his chief manager, Ryland. This correspondence had not been entirely
satisfactory, so at length he wrote to Ryland to come to the city for a
business talk. It was about the middle of August that the manager
arrived and was closeted with his chief. After two hours' discussion of
business matters, which ended satisfactorily, the manager, rising to
leave the study, observed:

"This is a bad job about the governor, sir!"

"I do not wish to talk of this matter," said Mr. Rockharrt.

"Very well, sir, I am dumb," replied the manager, taking up his hat to
leave the house.

"Do you go back to North End by the night train?" inquired Mr.
Rockharrt.

"Yes, sir! I must be at my post to-morrow morning, in order to carry out
your instructions."

"Quite right," said the head of the great firm. Then with strange
inconsistency, since he had declared that he wished to talk no more on
the subject of the lost governor, he suddenly inquired:

"What do the people of North End say about the disappearance of Governor
Rothsay?"

"Some say he was beguiled away by that man who called on him late at
night, and that he was murdered and his body made away with. But I beg
your pardon, sir, for repeating such dreadful things."

"Go on! What else do they say?"

"Well, sir, one says one thing, and one another; but they all agree that
Old Scythia could tell something if she chose."

"Old Scythia? And what has she to do with the loss of the governor?"

"Nothing that I know of, sir. But the people at North End say that she
has."

"Why do they say it?"

"Because, sir, on the day of the wedding, and the eve of the
inauguration, she did foretell, in the hearing of a score, that Mr.
Rothsay would never take his seat as governor."

"What! Absurd! Preposterous!"

"Of course it was, sir! Yet she did say that, sir, in the hearing of
twenty or more of us, and it was a strange coincidence, to say the
least, that her words came true. She said it in the presence of many
witnesses on the day before the intended inauguration, and when there
seemed no possibility of her words coming true. And strange to say, they
have come true."

Old Aaron Rockharrt mused for a few minutes and then replied:

"There is no such thing as divination, or soothsaying, or prophesy, or
fortune telling in this world. It is all coarse imposture, that can
deceive only the weakest mortals. You know that, of course, Ryland. It
follows, then, that this old woman could have had no knowledge of what
was going to happen unless she was in league with conspirators who had
planned to kidnap or murder the governor-elect."

"But, sir, if Old Scythia had been in league with any conspirators,
would she have betrayed them--beforehand?"

"No; unless she was too crazy to keep their secret. But--she may have
got wind of their plots in some way without their knowledge."

"Yes, sir," said Manager Ryland, who agreed to every opinion advanced by
his chief.

"Well, then, I shall go down to Rockhold to-morrow, and investigate this
matter for myself. In my capacity of justice of the peace I shall issue
a warrant to have that woman brought before me on a charge of vagrancy,
and then I shall examine her on this point. But, Ryland, you are to be
careful not to drop even a hint of my intention."

"Of course I will not, sir," replied the manager, and then, as there
seemed no more to do or say, he took his leave.

Old Aaron Rockharrt strode into the drawing room where his wife and
granddaughter sat, and astonished them by saying:

"Pack up your things this afternoon. We leave for Rockland by the first
train to-morrow morning."

He deigned no explanation, but turned and stalked off.

The three reached North End at noon. As their arrival was to be a
surprise, no carriage had been ordered to meet them. But the large,
comfortable hack from the North End Hotel was engaged, and in it they
rode on to Rockhold, where they pulled up two hours later, to the
astonishment and consternation of the household, who, be it whispered,
had almost as lief been confronted with his satanic majesty as to be
surprised by their despotic master.

Leaving his womenkind to get domestic affairs into order, the Iron King
went to the little den at the end of the hall, which he called his
study, and there made out a warrant for the arrest of Hyacinth Woods on
the charge of vagrancy. This he directed to William Hook, county
constable, and sent it off to the county seat by one of his servants. He
waited all the rest of the day for the return of the warrant with the
prisoner, but in vain.

The next day, in the afternoon, Constable Hook made his appearance
before the magistrate without the prisoner, and reported:

"She cannot be found. I went first to her hut on the mountain, but it
was in ruins. It had fallen in. I searched for the woman everywhere, and
only found out that she had not been seen by anybody since the day of
the grand wedding here," replied the officer.

"The old crone is lost on the same day that the young governor was
missing, eh? Very significant. I want you to take a paper for me to the
_Peakeville Gazette_. I will advertise a thousand dollars reward for the
discovery of that woman. She knows the fate of Rothsay."



CHAPTER III.

A MOUNTAIN IDYL--THE GIRL AND THE BOY.


On a fine day near the end of October, several years before the opening
of this story, the express train from the southwest was speeding on
toward North End. In one of the middle cars, which was not crowded, nor,
indeed, quite full, sat a girl and a boy--both dressed in deep mourning,
and both in charge of a tall, stout gentleman, also in deep mourning.
These children were Corona, aged seven, and Sylvanus, aged four, orphans
and co-heirs of John Haught, a millionaire merchant of San Francisco,
and of his wife, Felicia, only daughter of Aaron and Deborah Rockharrt,
of Rockhold. They had lost their parents during the prevalence of an
epidemic fever, and had been left to the guardianship of Aaron
Rockharrt. They were now coming, in charge of their Uncle Fabian--who
had been sent to fetch them--to their grandparents' house, which was to
be their home during their minority.

In front of these children sat a man of middle age and a boy of about
twelve years. They seemed to belong to the honorable order of working
men. Their clothing was old, worn and travel-stained. They had been
picked up only at the last past station, and looked as if they had
tramped a long way--weary and dejected. Each wore on his battered hat a
little wisp of a dusty black crape band. This was a circumstance which
much interested the little girl, Corona, who had a longer memory than
her baby brother, and had not yet done grieving after her father and her
mother, and she wanted to speak to the poor boy, and to tell him how
very sorry she was for him, but was much too timid for such a venture.
Neither the boy nor the man looked behind them, and so the children
never saw their faces during the ride to North End. Both parties got out
at the station. The Rockhold carriage was waiting for Fabian and his
charges. Nothing was waiting for the tramp and his son. Mr. Fabian
looked at them, and took in the whole situation. He put his nephew and
niece into the carriage, told the coachman to wait for him, and then
went up to the tramps.

"Looking for work?" he said, addressing the elder.

"Yes, sir," replied the latter, touching his old hat. "I have come a
long way to look for it, and I am bound now for Rockharrt & Sons'
Locomotive Works. Could you be so kind as to direct me where to find
them?"

"About three miles down this side of the river. You cannot miss them if
you follow this road. Stay--I am one of the firm. We have rather more
men than we want just now, but I will give you a line to our manager,
and he will find a place for you, and the boy, also," said plausible,
good-natured, lying, dishonest Fabian Rockharrt, as he drew a card from
his pocket and just wrote above his name:

"Take the bearer and his boy on."

Then on the opposite side of the card he wrote the superscription:
"Timothy Ryland, Manager North End Foundries."

He gave this to the tramp, who touched his hat again, and led off his
boy for their long walk to the works.

Fabian Rockharrt, with his nephew and niece, reached Rockland two hours
later.

Aaron Rockharrt and his younger son, Clarence, were absent, at the
works; but little Mrs. Rockharrt was at home.

Little Cora became the constant companion of the grandmother, who found
her well advanced in learning for a child of seven years. She could
read, write a little, and do easy sums in the first four simple rules of
arithmetic.

A school room was fitted up on the first floor back of the Rockhold
mansion. A nursery governess was found by advertisement.

She was a young and beautiful girl of the wax doll order of beauty, and
of not more than sixteen years of age. In person she was tall, slim and
fair, with red cheeks, blue eyes and yellow hair. Her very name, as well
as her presence, was full of the aromas of Araby the Blest. It was Rose
Flowers.

Rose smiled and bloomed and beamed on all, but most of all on Mr.
Fabian, who was at that time a very handsome and fascinating man of no
more than thirty, and to do her justice, she brought her young pupils
well on in elementary education.

No more was seen or heard of the tramp and his boy, who had come to seek
work at the foundries. They seemed to have been forgotten even by the
little girl whose sympathies had been touched by their appearance on the
train with their own party.

But early in February a catastrophe occurred which brought them back
most painfully to, her memory. There was an explosion in the foundry,
by which the man was instantly killed.

"Uncle Clarence," asked Cora of that person, "where is the boy belonging
to the poor man that was killed? You know they came in the cars with us
to North End Station. Oh! and they were so poor! Oh, and the boy had a
bit of old crape on his old hat! Oh, and I know he had no mother! But I
don't know whether the man was his father or his uncle. But, oh, Uncle
Clarence, dear, where is the boy?"

"I don't know anything about the boy, little one, but I will inquire and
tell you. I think the little chap has two more friends left, dear. You
are one. I am the other."

"Oh, Uncle Clarence, you are a dear ducky-ducky-darling! And when I am a
grown-up woman, I will marry you."

"Oh! well, all right, if you remain in the same mind, and--"

"I will never, never change my mind. I love you better than I do anybody
in the world, except Sylvan and grandma, and Miss Flowers and Tip!"

Clarence kept his word with the child about making inquiries as to the
fate of the boy in whom she was interested.

The boy was motherless, and, by the death of his father, had been left
utterly destitute. He had found a home with Scythia Woods, an eccentric
woman, who lived in a hut on the mountain side, half way between North
End and Rockhold, and he supported himself in a poor way by running
errands and doing little jobs about the works.

Little Cora Haught listened to this account of the poor, friendless,
self-reliant lad with the deepest sympathy.

"Uncle Clarence," she pleaded, "you are so rich. Why don't you give
that poor boy clothes, and shoes, and hats, and all he ought to have?"

"My good little girl, nothing would give me more delight, but that
fellow would see Rockharrt & Sons swallowed up by an earthquake before
he would take a cent from them that he had not earned."

"Oh, I like that--that is grand! But why don't you take him on and give
him good pay?"

"But, my dear, he is a boy, and cannot do regular heavy work. He is
quite uneducated, and cannot do any other except what he does."

Two months later, one lovely spring day, she saw him again for the first
time since their meeting on the train six months previous. He came to
Rockhold one Saturday afternoon to bring a letter from the manager to
the head of the firm. He came to the back door which opened from the
porch. He sent in his letter by the servant who came at his knock, and
he said he was to wait for an answer. Cora, in the back parlor, saw him,
recognized him, and ran out to speak to him.

Perhaps the tiny lady had some faint idea of the duties and
responsibilities of wealth and station. So she spoke to the boy.

"Are you Regulas Rothsay?" she inquired, in a soft tone.

"Yes, miss," replied the boy.

There was an awkward pause, and then the little girl said slowly:

"You won't let anybody give you anything, although you have no father
nor mother. Now, why won't you?"

"Because, I can work for all I want, all--but--" the boy began, and then
stopped.

"You have all but what?"

"A little schooling."

"Here's the answer, Rule! You are to run right away as fast as you can
and take it to Mr. Ryland," said a servant, coming out upon the porch
and handing a letter to the boy.

It was a week after this interview with the lad before Cora saw him
again.

He was on the lawn in front of the house. She was at the window of the
front drawing room. As soon as she espied him she ran out to speak to
him, and eagerly begged that she might teach him to read.

The boy, surprised at the suddenness and the character of such an offer,
blushed, thanked the little lady, and declined, then hesitated,
reflected, and then, half reluctantly, half gratefully, consented.

Cora was delighted, and frankly expressed her joy.

"Oh, Regulas, I am so glad! Now every afternoon when I have done my
lessons--I am in Comly's first speller, Peter Parley's first book of
history, and first book of geography, and I am as far as short division
in arithmetic, and round hand in the copy book--so as soon as I get
through with my lessons, and you get through with your work, you come to
this back porch, where I play, and I will bring my old primer and white
slate, and I will teach you. If you get here before I do, you wait for
me. I will never be long away. If I get here before you, I will wait for
you," she concluded.

The Iron King, Mr. Fabian, or Mr. Clarence, passing out of the back door
for an afternoon stroll in the grounds, would see the little lady seated
in one of the large Quaker chairs, her feet dangling over its edge, busy
with her doll's dresses, and furtively watching her pupil, who, seated
before her on one of the long piazza benches, would be poring over his
primer or his slate.

As time went on every one began to wonder at the earnestness and
constancy of this childish friendship.

So the lessons went on through all the spring and summer and early
autumn of that year.

Before the leaves had fallen Regulas had learned all she could teach
him.

Then their parting came about naturally, inevitably. When the weather
grew cold, the lessons could no longer be given out on the exposed
piazza, and the little teacher could not be permitted to bring her rough
and ragged pupil into the house.

Cora begged of her kind Uncle Clarence some of his old school books,
which she knew to be among the rubbish of the garret, which was her own
rainy-day play room in summer, and offered the books to the boy as a
loan from herself, because she dared not offer the lad a gift.

Later, she loaned him a "Boy's Life of Benjamin Franklin." It was that
book, perhaps, that decided the boy's destiny. He read it with avidity,
with enthusiasm. The impression made upon his mind was so deep and
intense that his heart became fired with a fine ambition. He longed to
tread in the steps of Benjamin Franklin--to become a printer, to rise to
position and power, to do great and good things for his country and for
humanity. He brooded over all this.

To begin, he resolved to become a printer.

So, when the spring opened, he came to Rockhold and bade good-by to his
little friend, and went, at the age of fourteen, to the city to seek his
fortune, walking all the way, and taking with him testimonials as to his
character for truth, honesty, and industry.

There were at that time three printing offices in that city. Rule
applied to the first and to the second without success, but when he
applied to the third--the office of the _Watch_--and showed his
credentials, the proprietor took him on.

He and his little friend corresponded regularly from month to month.

No one objected to this letter writing, any more than to the lesson
giving. It was but the charity of the little lady given for the
encouragement of the poor, struggling orphan boy.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was nearly four years after the departure of Rule from the works at
North End to seek his fortune in a printing office of the neighboring
city. He had never yet returned to see his friends, though his
correspondence with Cora had been kept up.

In the four years that Rose Flowers had lived at Rockhold she had won
the hearts of all the household, from the master down to the meanest
drudge. She was, indeed, the fragrance of the house. All admired her
much and loved her more, and yet--

And yet in every mind there was a latent distrust of her, which seemed
unjust, and for which all who felt it reproached themselves--in every
mind but one.

The Iron King felt no distrust of the submissive, beautiful creature,
whom he continually held up to other members of his family as the very
model of perfect womanhood.

He did not see, he said, why she should now, when it was finally decided
that Cora should be sent to the young ladies' institute, at the city,
why Rose should leave the house. She might remain as companion for Mrs.
Rockharrt. But when this was proposed to Miss Flowers, the young
governess explained, with much regret, that, not anticipating this
generous offer, she had already secured another situation.

With tears in her beautiful eyes, Rose Flowers took the old man's hand
and pressed it to her heart and then to her lips as she bent her head
and cooed:

"I will remember all you have told me--all the wise and good counsel
you have ever given me, all the precious acts of kindness you have ever
shown me. And when I cease to remember them, sir, may heaven forget me!"

"There, there, my child. You are a baby--a mere baby!" said the Iron
King, as he patted her on the head and left her.

This interview occurred a few days before Christmas.

It was now Christmas morning, nearly four years after the departure of
Rule Rothsay. It was a fine clear, cold day. Bright with color was the
village of North End, where all the houses were decorated with holly,
and the people, in their Sunday clothes, were out in the streets on
their way to the church, which had been beautifully decorated for the
occasion.

The Rockharrt family--with the exception of old Aaron Rockharrt, who did
not choose to turn out that day, and Miss Rose Flowers, who stayed home
to keep him company and to wait on him--came early in their capacious
and comfortable family carriage. They had a large, square, handsomely
upholstered pew in the right-hand upper corner of the church.

When they were all quietly settled in their seats and the voluntary was
going on, the elders of the party bowed their heads to offer up their
preliminary prayers. But Cora, girl-like, looked about her, letting her
glances wander over the well-filled pews, and then up toward the
galleries. A moment later she suddenly gave a little start and
half-suppressed exclamation of delight.

Mrs. Rockharrt, who had finished her prayer, looked around in surprise
at the girl, who had committed this unusual indecorum.

"Oh, grandma, it is Rule! Rule, up there in the boys' gallery--look!"
Cora whispered, in eager delight.

The old lady raised her eyes and recognized Regulas Rothsay--but so
well grown, so well dressed, and well looking as to be hardly
recognizable, except from his strong, characteristic head and face. He
wore a neatly fitting suit of dark-blue cloth; neat woolen gloves
covered his large hands; his hair was trimmed and as nicely dressed as
such rough, tawny locks could be.

At length the beautiful service was finished, and the congregation filed
out of the church into the yard, where all immediately began shaking
hands with each other.

Presently Cora saw the youth come out of the church, look earnestly
about him until he descried her party, and then walk directly toward
her.

"Oh, Rule, I am so glad to see you! When did you get here? Why didn't
you come straight to Rockhold? Why didn't you write and tell me you were
coming?" Cora eagerly demanded, as she met him, and hurrying question
upon question before giving him time to answer the first one.

The youth raised his cap and bowed to the elder members of the party
before answering the girl. Then he said:

"I did not know that I could come until an hour before I started. I came
by the midnight express, and reached here just in time for church. I
have not seen, or I should say, I have not spoken to, any one here yet
except yourself.

"Last evening, being Friday evening, we were at work very late on our
Saturday's supplement, and a Christmas story in it. Very often we have
to work on Christmas night, if the next day is a week day; and every
Sunday night--that is, from twelve midnight, when the Sabbath ends--we
have to work to get out Monday morning's paper."

"Oh, yes; of course," said Fabian.

"Well, I never have had a whole holiday since I have been in the _Watch_
office; but last night, about half-past ten, after the paper had gone to
press, the foreman came to me, paid my wages up to the first of January,
and told me that I need not return to the office at midnight after
Sunday, but might have leave of absence until Monday morning, so as to
have time to go and spend Christmas with my friends if I wished to do
so."

Just then Clarence Rockharrt joined them and said, anxiously:

"Mother, dear, I think you had better get into the carriage. It is very
bleak out here, and you might take cold."

Mrs. Rockharrt at once took the arm of her youngest and best-beloved son
and let him lead her away to the spot where the comfortable family coach
awaited them.

Mr. Fabian started to follow with Cora.

"Come with us to the carriage door, Rule," said the girl, looking back
and stretching her hand out toward the youth.

"Yes! Come!" added pleasant Mr. Fabian.

Regulas touched his hat and followed. Fabian put his niece in the seat
beside her grandmother, and then turned to the youth and inquired:

"What are you going to do with yourself to-day?"

"I shall go down to my old home, sir, Mother Scythia's hut."

"Oh! Ah! Yes; I remember. You are going to stop there?"

"Yes, sir; but I shall try to see all old friends to-day or to-morrow,
and I should like to go to Rockhold to thank all the friends there who
have been kind to me, and to tell Mrs. Rockharrt and Miss Cora, who were
kindest of all, how I have got on in the city."

"Certainly! Certainly, Rule! Come whenever you like! And see here! It
is a long, rough road from here to old Scythia's Roost, which is right
on our way to Rockhold. Sorry we cannot offer you a seat in the carriage
but you see there are but four seats and there are already five people
to fill them."

"Oh, sir, I should not expect such a thing," said the youth.

"But I was about to say if you will mount to a seat beside the coachman,
you will be heartily welcome to what used to be my own 'most favoryte'
perch in my younger days. And we can set you down at the foot of the
path leading up to old Scythia's hut," concluded Mr. Fabian.

"Oh, do, Rule! Please do!" pleaded Cora.

Regulas, with his sturdy independence of spirit, would most likely have
declined this favor had not the girl's beseeching face and voice
persuaded him to accept it.

"I thank you very much, sir," he said, and promptly climbed to the seat.

Three miles down the road the carriage was pulled up at the foot of the
highest point of the mountain range, and Rule came down from his perch
beside the coachman, stepped up to the carriage window, took off his
hat, thanked the occupants for his ride, and then drew a neat, white
inch-square parcel from his vest pocket, and holding it modestly, said:

"I hope you will accept this, Miss Cora."

The girl took it with a smile, but before she could open her lips to
express her thanks, the youth had bowed, turned from the carriage, and
was speeding his way up the rough mountain path, springing from crag to
crag up to the ledge on which old Scythia's hut stood.

Cora opened the parcel and found an inch-square little casket of red
morocco. She opened this with a spring, and found a small gold heart
reposing in a bed of white satin.

"How pretty it is!" she said softly to herself, as she took the trinket
from its case. "Look, grandma, what Rule has brought me for a Christmas
gift! A little gold heart! A pure gold heart! His is a pure gold heart,
is it not?" she added, earnestly, as she placed the trinket in the
lady's hand.

Mrs. Rockharrt looked at it with interest, and then passed it on to her
eldest son.

The ride was continued, and presently the carriage was driven off the
boat and up the avenue leading to the house. As the vehicle drew up
before the front doors, a pretty picture might have been seen through
the drawing-room windows.

A bright fireside, an old man reclining in his luxurious arm-chair; a
beautiful girl seated on a hassock at his feet, reading to him, and at
intervals lifting her lovely blue eyes in childish adoration to his
face. They might have been grandfather and granddaughter, but they were,
in fact, old Aaron Rockharrt and Miss Rose Flowers--Merlin and Vivien
again, except that the Iron King was rather a rugged and unmanageable
Merlin.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, Regulas Rothsay had climbed the rugged mountain path that led
to Scythia's hut. On the back of the broad shelf of rock on which the
hut stood was a hollow in the side of the precipice. Scythia had cleared
out this hollow of all its natural litter. Before this apartment she had
built another room, with no better material than fragments of rock found
on the spot, and filled in with earth, moss and twigs. She had roofed
this over with branches of evergreens piled thick and high, to keep off
rain and sun. A heavy buffalo robe, fastened with large wooden pins at
its top to the roof of the hut, served for a door. There was no window.
In the inner or cavernous apartment she had built a rude fire-place and
chimney going up through a hole in the rock. A pallet of rough furs and
coarse blankets lay in one corner of this room, and a few rude cooking
utensils occupied another. In the outer room there was a rough oak table
and two chairs.

Up before the edge of this natural shelf on which the hut stood appeared
the tops of a thicket of pine trees that grew on the mountain side fifty
feet below. Up behind this shelf arose other pines, height above height,
until their highest tops seemed to pierce the clouds.

When Rule reached this shelf, he found the tops of the pine trees, the
ground, and the hut all covered with snow.

"Good morning, mother! A merry Christmas to you!" said Rule, gayly.

"I hope you have made yourself as comfortable as possible in this
place," said the youth, anxiously.

"Yes, Rule! always as happy and as much at ease as my past will permit."

"Oh! what is--what was this terrible past?" inquired the youth--not for
the first time.

"It was, it is, and it ever will be! This past will be present and
future so long as I live on this earth. And some day, when time and
strife and woe have made you strong and hard and stern, I will lift the
veil and show you its horrible face! But not now, my boy! not now! Come
in."

As the weird woman said this she led the way into the hut, where the
rude table stood covered with a coarse white cloth and adorned with two
white plates and two pairs of steel knives and forks. Here the Christmas
dinner was eaten, and afterward the two began a close conversation.

"Mother," said the youth, "I shall have to leave here to-morrow night. I
should go away so much more contented if I could see you living down in
the village among people. Here you are dwelling alone, far from human
help if you should require it. The winter coming on!"

"Rule! I hate the village! I hate the haunts of human beings! I love the
wilderness and the wild creatures that are around me!"

"But, mother, if you should be taken ill up here alone!"

"I should get well or die; and it would not in the least matter which."

"But you might linger, you might suffer."

"I am used to suffering, and however long I might linger, the end would
come at last. Recovery or death, it would not matter which."

"Oh, Mother Scythia!" said the youth, in a voice full of distress.

"Rule! I am as happy here as my past will permit me to be. I abhor the
haunts of the human! I love the solitude of the wilderness. The time may
come when you too, lad, shall hate the haunts of the human and long for
the lair of the lion! You will rise, Rule! As sure as flame leaps to the
air, you will rise! The fire within you will kindle into flame! You will
rise! But--beware the love of woman and the pride of place! See!
Listen!"

The face of the weird woman changed--became ashen gray, her form became
rigid, her eyes were fixed, her gaze was afar off in distant space.

"What is it, mother?" anxiously demanded the youth.

"I see your future and the emblem of your future--a splendid meteor,
soaring up from the earth to the sky, filling space with light and
glory! Dazzling a million of eyes, then dropping down, down, down into
darkness and nothingness! That is you!"

"Mother Scythia!" exclaimed the youth, in troubled tones.

The weird woman never turned her head, nor withdrew her fearful, far-off
stare into futurity.

"That is you. You are but a poor apprentice. But from this year you will
soar, and soar, and soar to the zenith of place and power among your
fellows! You will be the blazing meteor of the day! You will dazzle all
eyes by the splendor of your success, and then, 'in an instant, in the
twinkling of an eye,' you will drop into night, and nothingness, and be
heard of no more!"

"Mother! Mother Scythia! Wake up! You are dreaming!" said Rule, laying
his hand on the woman's shoulder and gently shaking her.

"Oh, what is this? Rule! What is it?"

"You have been dreaming, Mother Scythia."

"Have I?" said the woman, putting her hands to her forehead and stroking
away the raven locks that over-shadowed it.

And gradually she recovered from her trance and returned to her normal
condition. When Rule was quite sure that she was all right again, he
said:

"Mother Scythia, I am going to Rockhold to see the friends there who
have been kind to me. But I will come back to spend the night with you."

"Well, lad, go. Why should I try to hinder you? You must work out your
destiny and bear your doom," she said, wearily, with her forehead bowed
upon her hands, as if she felt the heavy prophetic cloud still
over-shadowing and oppressing her.

"Mother Scythia, why do you speak so solemnly of me, and I only in my
nineteenth year?" gravely inquired the youth, who, though he had been
accustomed to the weird woman's strange moods and stranger words and
deemed them little less than the betrayals of insanity, yet now felt
unaccountably troubled by them.

"Yes; you are young, but the years fly fast; and I--I see the future in
the present. But go, my boy! enjoy the good of the present--your best
days, lad!--and come back this evening and you shall find your pallet of
sweet boughs and soft blankets ready for you," she said.

Rule stooped and kissed her corrugated forehead and then left the hut.

The sun was setting behind the mountain, which threw a dark shadow over
Scythia's Ledge and Rule's path, as he ran springing from rock to rock
down the precipice to the river's side. It was dark when he reached the
spot. But the lights from the windows of Rockhold on the opposite shore
gleamed out upon the snow with splendid effect.

Every window in the front of the building was shining with light that
streamed out upon the snow; for the shutters had been left unclosed on
purpose, this Christmas night.

Rule crossed the ferry and went, as he had been used to go, to the back
door, opening on the back porch, where, four years before, Cora used to
keep school for her one pupil. He rapped at the door, and Sylvan sprang
up and opened it. He was warmly welcomed, and spent a pleasant evening.
The rest of his vacation was spent in a way equally pleasant, and at
seven a.m., Monday, Rule was at work, type-setting in the _Watch_
office.

On the third of January following that Christmas there were three
departures from Rockhold. Miss Rose Flowers went East to enter upon her
new engagement. Corona Haught, in charge of her grandmother and her
Uncle Clarence, went West to enter the Young Ladies' Institute, in the
capital, and Master Sylvanus Haught went North, in the care of his Uncle
Fabian, to enter a boy's school.



CHAPTER IV.

A RETROSPECT.


It was near the close of a cold, bright day early in January, that Mrs.
Rockharrt and Corona Haught, escorted by Mr. Clarence, stepped from the
train at the depot of the capital city of their State--which must, for
obvious reason, be nameless--and were driven to the Young Ladies'
Institute, where the girl was left, and as the adieus were being said it
was explained to Cora that discretion and social conventionality
dictated that her correspondence with young Rothsay should cease.
Clarence stated that he would write to the youth and explain that the
rules of the school, also, forbade such a correspondence.

"I will also tell him that he can continue to send the _Watch_ to you,
with his own paragraphs marked as before," said Corona's uncle. "There
can be no law against that. I will correspond with Rule occasionally,
and keep you posted up as to how he is getting on. There can be no
school law against your uncle writing to you."

Cora Haught graduated when she was eighteen. In all these years she had
not seen Rule Rothsay. She only heard from him through his letters to
her Uncle Clarence, reported second hand to herself. She knew that in
these five years Rule had risen, step by step, in the office where he
had begun his apprenticeship; that he had risen to be foreman, then
sub-editor, and now he was part proprietor and one of the most powerful
political writers on the paper.

The workingmen's party wished to put him up as a candidate for the State
legislature. What a power he would have been for their cause in that
place! but when the subject was proposed to him, he admonished the
spokesman that he was, as yet, a little less than of legal age for an
office that required its holder to be at least twenty-five years old.

After Cora's graduation the Rockharrt family spent a week in their town
house, preparatory to a summer tour through the Northern States and
Canada.

One morning, while the whole family were sitting around the breakfast
table, old Aaron Rockharrt suddenly spoke:

"Fabian! Now that my granddaughter has left school, she will want a
companion near her own age. Miss Rose Flowers would suit very well. Have
you any idea where she is?"

"Miss Rose Flowers, my dear sir, is now Mrs. Slydell Stillwater, the--"

"Married!" interrupted all voices except that of the Iron King, who bent
his heavy gray brows as he gazed upon his son.

"Stuff and nonsense! How did you know anything about her marriage?"
demanded old Aaron Rockharrt.

"In the simplest and most natural way, sir. I saw it in the newspapers,
about three years ago. And, in point of fact, I forgot it and should
never have thought of it again but for your inquiries about the young
woman this morning. Her husband is Captain Slydell Stillwater, captain
and half owner of the East Indiaman Queen of Sheba," replied Mr. Fabian.

"Poor child! To be parted from her husband more than half her time. Is
Captain Stillwater now at sea?"

"I think he must be, sir, as there has hardly been time for his return
since he sailed soon after his marriage."

"Do you know where Mrs. Stillwater lives?"

"I do not, sir; but I might find out by inquiring of some mutual
acquaintance."

"Do so. And, Mrs. Rockharrt," the King added, turning to his little old
wife, "you will write a note to Mrs. Stillwater, inviting her to join
our party for a summer tour, and as our guest, remember. Fabian, you
will see that the note reaches the lady in time."

"I will do my best, sir," said Mr. Fabian.

"Very well," said the wife.

The note of invitation to Mrs. Stillwater was written. Mr. Fabian used
such dispatch in his search for the lady that his efforts were soon
rewarded with success. A letter came from Mrs. Stillwater, postmarked
Baltimore, in which she cordially thanked Mrs. Rockharrt for her
invitation, gratefully accepted it, and offered to join the Rockharrt
party at any point most convenient to the latter. This answer was
communicated to the family autocrat, who thereupon issued his commands:

"Write and say to Mrs. Stillwater that we will stop at Baltimore on our
way, and call for her at her hotel on Friday; but say that if she should
not be ready, we will wait her convenience."

This letter was also written and sent off.

Three days later the whole family left the capital for Baltimore, which
they reached at night. They went directly to the hotel where Mrs.
Stillwater was staying, and engaged rooms for their whole party.

They scarcely took time enough to wash the travel dust from their faces
and brush it from their hair, and change their traveling suits for
fresher dresses, before they hurried down stairs to their private
parlor, whence Mrs. Rockharrt sent her own and her granddaughter's cards
to Mrs. Stillwater's room.

A few minutes after, the young siren appeared.

"Heavens! how beautiful she is! More beautiful than before! Look, Cora!
Was there ever such a perfect creature?" said Mr. Clarence, under his
breath.

Cora looked at her former governess with a start of involuntary wonder
and admiration. Rose Stillwater was more beautiful than ever. Her
exquisite oval face was a little more rounded. Her fair complexion had a
richer bloom on the cheeks and lips. Her hair was darker in the shade
and brighter in the light; her blue eyes were softer and sweeter; her
graceful form fuller. She was dressed in some floating material that
enveloped her figure like a cloud.

She came, blooming, beaming, smiling, into the room, where all arose to
meet her. She went first to Mr. Rockharrt, and bent and almost knelt
before him, and raised his hand to her lips as if he had been her
sovereign; and then, before he could respond--for she saw that he was
slightly embarrassed as well as greatly pleased by this adoration--she
turned and sank into the arms of old Mrs. Rockharrt, and cooed forth:

"How sweet of you to remember your poor, lonely child and call her to
your side!"

"Why didn't you tell me you were going to be married, my dear?" was the
practical question of the old lady.

"It was shyness on my part. I dared not obtrude my poor affairs on your
attention until you should notice me in some way," she meekly replied,
and then she gracefully slipped out of Mrs. Rockharrt's embrace and went
and folded Cora to her bosom, murmuring:

"My own darling, how happy I am to meet you again! How lovely you are,
my sweet angel!"

"Oh, why did you not write to me that you were going to be married? I
should have so liked to have been your bridesmaid!" complained Cora.

"Sweetest sweet, if I had dreamed such honor and happiness were possible
for me, I should have written and claimed them with pride and delight.
But I dared not, my darling! I dared not. I was but a poor governess,
without any claims to your remembrance, and should not now be with you
had not the dear lady, your grandmamma, kindly recalled her poor
dependant to mind and brought me into her circle."

"Oh, Rose, do not speak so! I should hate to hear even the poorest maid
in our house speak so. You were never grandma's dependant, or anybody's
dependant. You were one of the noble army whom I honor more than I do
all the monarchs on earth," said Cora earnestly.

With remembrances and delightful chat the evening was wearing away, and
it was time for the party to retire to rest.

Two days after this the Rockharrts, with Cora Haught and Mrs.
Stillwater, left Baltimore for the North, _en route_ for Canada and New
Brunswick.

The party went first directly to Boston, where they stayed for a few
days, to attend the commencement of the collegiate school at which
Master Sylvanus Haught was preparing himself to become a candidate for
admission to the military academy at West Point; but where, as yet, he
had not distinguished himself by application to his studies.

On promising to do better, Sylvan was permitted to accompany his friends
on their summer tour.

The party spent the season in traveling, and it was not until the 15th
of September that they set out on their return South. They reached
Baltimore late in September, yet found the weather in that latitude
still oppressively warm, and roomed at a hotel.

Here it had been tacitly understood from the first that Mrs. Stillwater
was to remain, while the rest of the party should proceed on their
journey West.

But the family despot had become so habituated to the incense hourly
offered up to his egotism by Circe, that he felt her society to be
essential to his contentment. So he issued his commands to his wife to
invite Mrs. Stillwater to accompany the family party to Rockhold for a
long visit.

The old lady very willingly obeyed these orders, for she also desired
the visit from the fascinator, whose presence kept the tyrant in a good
humor and on his good behavior. So she pressed Rose Stillwater to
accompany them to their mountain home.

Rose Stillwater raised her beautiful soft blue eyes, brimming with tears
that ever came at will, gazed sorrowfully, penitently, deprecatingly,
into the lady's face and cooed:

"I feel as if it were a sin to refuse you! You who have been a mother to
me. And, oh! how dearly I should love to stay with you and wait on you
forever and forever! I could not conceive a happier life! But duty
constrains me to deny myself this delight, and to wrench myself away
from all I love."

"Duty? What duty, my dear girl? I do not understand that. You have no
children to take care of, no house to look after, no husband to please,
for Captain Stillwater is at sea. What duty, then, can you have which is
so pressing as to keep you away from your friends?"

"The Queen of Sheba was spoken and passed by the Liverpool and New York
ocean steamer Arctic on Saturday, within three days' sail of land. And
he may arrive here any hour. I must wait to receive him."

"Indeed! I did not know that. My dear, I congratulate you on your coming
happiness. I can urge you no more, of course. It is a sacred duty as
well as a sweet delight for you to remain here and meet your husband.
So, of course, we must resign ourselves to our loss; but I hope, my
dear, that you and your husband will come together at an early date and
make us a long visit."

"I hope so, too, dearest lady!"

When, a little later in the evening, the Iron King heard the result of
this interview, he was--as his wife had feared--dreadfully disappointed,
and consequently in one of his morose and diabolical tempers, and
sullenly set his despotic will against the reasonable wishes of
everybody else. He announced that they should all set forward the next
day. It was high time they should all be at home looking after house and
business. So it was settled.

As the party needed rest, they retired very early.

That night Cora Haught had a rather strange adventure, to relate which
intelligibly I must describe the situation of their rooms.

The suite occupied by the Rockharrt party was on the third floor of the
house, and consisted of five rooms in a row, on the left hand side of
the corridor, from the head of the stairs. The front room, overlooking
an avenue, was tenanted by Mr. and Mrs. Rockharrt, the next one was
occupied by Cora Haught, the third room was the private parlor of the
suite, the fourth room was that of Mrs. Stillwater, and the fifth, and
largest, was a double-bedded room, tenanted jointly by Mr. Fabian and
Mr. Clarence. All these rooms had doors communicating with each other,
and also with the corridor, all or any of which could be left open or
made fast at discretion.

Cora's room, between her grandparents' bed-chamber and their private
parlor, was the smallest, the closest and the warmest of the suite. That
September night was sultry and stifling. Scarcely a breath of air came
from without.

The girl could not sleep for the heat. Anathematizing her room as a
"black hole" of Calcutta, she lay tossing from side to side, and
listening for the hourly strokes of a neighboring clock, and praying for
the night to be over. She heard that clock strike eleven, twelve, one.

At length Cora thought that she would go into the private parlor next
her own room to get a breath of fresh air. She felt sure that there she
should be perfectly safe from intrusion, as she knew that the door
leading from the parlor into the corridor was secured from within by a
strong bolt, and the other two doors led, the one into her own little
room, and the other, on the opposite side, into Mrs. Stillwater's. So
that she would be as secluded as in her own chamber.

She slipped on a thin, dark blue silk dressing gown, thrust her feet in
slippers, opened the door and passed into the parlor.

The room was very dark, still and cool. The two side windows overlooking
the alley were open, and a rising breeze from the harbor blew in. Cora
went and sat down in an easy chair in the angle of the corner between an
open side window and her own room door.

The room was pitch dark. The darkness, the coolness, and the stillness
were all so soothing and refreshing to the girl's heated and excited
nerves that she sank back in her high, cushioned chair and dozed off
into sleep--into such a deep and dreamless sleep that she knew nothing
until she was awakened, or rather only half awakened, by the sound of a
key turning in a lock and a door creaking upon its hinges. The sound
seemed to come from the direction of Mrs. Stillwater's room; but Cora
was still half asleep, and almost unconscious of her whereabouts. As in
a dream, she heard some one tiptoe slowly across and jar a chair in the
deep darkness. She heard the bolt of the door leading into the corridor
grate as it was slipped back. This awakened her thoroughly. She was
about to call out:

"Who is there?"

Then a voice that she recognized even in its low, whispering tones spoke
and arrested the words on her lips. It said:

"Fabe! Fabe! is that you?"

"Yes. Is all quiet?"

"Yes; and has been so for hours. Come in. Pass around, feeling by the
wall until you reach the sofa. If you attempt to cross the room, you may
strike a chair or table and make a noise, as I did."

The unseen man cautiously crept around by the wall, feeling his way, but
occasionally striking and jarring a picture frame or looking glass as he
passed, and muttering good-humored little growls of deprecation, and
finally making the sofa creak as he struck and sat heavily down upon it.

Cora was wide awake now, and quite cognizant of the identity of the
invisible persons in the room as that of Mr. Fabian Rockharrt and Mrs.
Rose Stillwater.

It did not once occur to the girl that she was doing any wrong in
remaining there, in the parlor common to the whole party. Surprise and
wonder held her spellbound in her obscure seat.

The sofa on which they sat was between the two windows. She reclined in
the easy chair in the corner between the right-hand window and the door
of her room. She was so near them that she might have touched the sofa
by stretching out her hand.

Without dreaming of harm, she overheard their conversation.

Mr. Fabian was the first to speak.

"I say, Rose," he began, "I have a deuce of a hard time to get a
tete-a-tete with you. This is the first we have had for two months."

"And we could not have had this but for the accidental arrangement of
these convenient rooms," she whispered.

"Exactly. We must arrange for future plans to-night. I understand that
the old folks have been trying to persuade you to return home with us?"

"Yes; but, of course, I shall not go."

"Of course not; but how did you get out of it?"

"Oh, by raising the old gentleman."

"Do you mean the--the--the--de--"

"Certainly not. I mean my husband, the gallant Captain Stillwater, of
the East Indiaman Queen of Sheba, who has been spoken within three days'
sail of port, and is expected here every hour. So that, you see, I must
remain here to welcome my husband. It is my sacred duty," said the woman
demurely.

"Ha-ha-ha!" laughed Mr. Fabian, in a low, half-suppressed chuckle.

"Hush! Oh, be careful! You will be heard!" murmured Rose Stillwater, in
a frightened whisper.

"What! at this hour? Why, everybody in this suite is in his or her
deepest sleep. I say, Rosebud."

"What?"

"His Majesty the King of the Cumberland Mines has been in a demoniac
humor ever since he learned that you were not coming home with us."

"I know it, and I am very sorry for it, especially on his family's
account, but I could not help it."

"Certainly not. It would have been inconvenient and embarrassing. Look
here, Rosalie."

"Well?"

"If the aged monarch was not such a perfect dragon of truth, honesty and
fidelity, and all the cast-iron virtues, I should think that he was over
head and ears in love with you."

"Nonsense, Fabian! Mr. Rockharrt is old enough to be my grandfather, and
his hair is quite gray."

"If he were old enough to be your great-grandfather, and his hair was
quite white, it need make no difference in that respect, my dear. The
fires of Mt. Hecla burn beneath eternal snows."

"What rubbish you are talking, Fabian! But--to change the subject--when
will my house be ready? I warn you that I will not go back to that brick
block on Main Street in your State capital."

"You should not, Rosebella. Your home is finished and furnished; and a
lovelier bower of roses cannot be found out of paradise! It is simply
perfection, or it will be when you take possession of it."

"Yes; tell me all about it," whispered the lady, eagerly.

"It is a small, elegant villa, situated in the midst of beautiful
grounds in a small, sequestered dell, inclosed with wooded hills rising
backward into forest-crowned mountains, and watered by many little
springs rising among the rocks and running down to empty into a
miniature lake that lies shining before the house. It seems to be in the
heart of the Cumberlands, in the depth of solitude, yet it is not
fifteen minutes' walk by a forest footpath to the railway station at
North End."

"What shall we name this little Eden?"

"Rose Bower, and the locality Rose Valley."

"And when may I take possession?"

"Whenever you please. All is prepared and waiting the arrival of Mrs.
Stillwater, who has taken the house and engaged the servants through her
agent, and who is expected to reside there during the absence of her
husband, Captain Stillwater, on long voyages."

"How long are these false appearances to be kept up, and when are our
true relations to be announced?"

"Before very long, my sweet!"

"I hate this concealment! I know that I am a favorite with your father
and mother, so I cannot see why you have not told them and will not tell
them."

"Now, Rosamunda, don't be a little idiot! Be a little angel, as you
always have been! Am I not doing everything I can for your comfort and
happiness, only asking you in turn to be faithful and patient until I
can make you my wife before the whole world? My father does not like the
idea of my marrying--anybody! If he knew we were engaged to each other,
he would never forgive me, and that means he would cut me off from all
share in the patrimony. And we could not afford to lose that! Let me
tell you a secret, Rose. Though our firm does business under the name
'Rockharrt & Sons,' yet 'Sons' have a merely nominal interest in the
works while Rockharrt lives. So you see, I have very little of my own,
and if the autocrat should learn, even by our own confession, that we
had been--been--been--concealing our engagement from him, he would never
forgive either of us."

At this moment a step was heard passing along the corridor outside.

It caused the two unseen inmates of the parlor to shrink into silence,
and even when it had passed out of hearing it caused them, in renewing
their conversation, to speak only in the lowest tones, so that Cora
could no longer catch a word of their speech.

She would before this have risen and retired to her own room; but she
was afraid of making a noise, and consequently causing a scene.

Were those two, her Uncle Fabian and Mrs. Stillwater, only secretly
engaged? Secretly engaged? But whoever heard of a betrothed lover
providing a home for his betrothed bride to live in before marriage! And
then, again, was her Uncle Fabian really so dependent on his father as
he had represented to Rose? Cora had always understood that he had a
quarter share in the great business, and that Clarence had an eighth.
And, worse than all, had they been so deceived as to the condition of
Rose that, if she was Mrs. Stillwater at all, she was the widow and not
the wife of Captain Stillwater, since she was engaged to be married, if
not already married, to Mr. Fabian Rockharrt?

Altogether the affair seemed a blinding and confusing tissue of
falsehood and deception that amazed and repulsed the mind of the girl.

Bewildered by the mystery, lulled by the hum of voices whose words she
could not distinguish, fanned by the breeze from the harbor, and calmed
by the darkness, the wearied girl sank back into her resting chair,
closed her eyes, and lost the sequence of her thoughts in dreams--from
which she presently sank into dreamless sleep, which lasted until she
was awakened by the noise of the hotel servants moving about on their
morning duties, opening windows, rapping at doors to call up travelers
for early trains, dragging along trunks, and so on.

At breakfast Cora watched Mr. Fabian and Rose, because she could not
help doing so, and she certainly discovered signs of a secret
understanding between them--signs so slight that they would have been
unnoticed by any one who had not the key to the mystery. But how
sickening and depressing was all this! Rose Flowers, or Stillwater, or
Rockharrt--whichever name she could legally claim--was a fraud. Mr.
Fabian Rockharrt was another fraud. Those two were secretly engaged or
secretly married.

After breakfast the party were ready for their journey Then came the
leave-taking.

Every one, except Cora Haught, shook hands warmly with Rose Stillwater.
Mrs. Rockharrt embraced and kissed her fondly, and renewed and pressed
her invitation to the beauty to come and make a long visit.

Rose put her arms around the old lady's neck and clung to her, and, with
tearful eyes and trembling tones and loving words, assured her that she
would fly to Rockhold on the first possible opportunity, and, after many
caresses, she reluctantly turned away and went toward Cora.

The girl had lowered her blue veil, and tied it mask-like over her face,
in a way that women often do, but which Cora never did, except on this
occasion, when she wished to evade the sure to be offered kiss of Rose
Stillwater.

But Rose embraced her strongly and kissed her through the veil,
endearments which the young girl could not repel without attracting
attention, but which she only endured and did not return.

The party reached Rockhold on the evening of the second day's travel.

Old Aaron Rockharrt found himself so weary of traveling that he
announced his intention of remaining in Rockhold for the entire winter,
nor leaving it even to go to his town house for a few weeks during the
session of the legislature.

Cora was disappointed. She longed to go to Washington for the season--to
go into company, to go to balls and parties, concerts and operas, to
see new people and make new friends, perhaps to attract new admirers;
and as she was now nineteen years of age, she need not be too severely
criticised for so natural an aspiration.

Mr. Fabian was the most zealous and active member of the firm. He would
go to North End and stay two days at a time to be near his scene of
duty.

Time passed, but Rose Stillwater did not make her promised visit.

Old Aaron often referred to it, and worried his wife to write to her and
remind her of her promise. The old lady always complied with her
husband's requirements, and wrote pressing letters; but the beauty
always wrote back excusing herself on the ground of "the captain's" many
engagements, which confined him to the ship and her to his side.

So time passed, and nearly another year went by. The Rockharrts were
still at Rockhold.

A political crisis was at hand--the election for the State legislature.

The candidate for representative of the liberal party in that election
district was Regulas Rothsay.

The election day came at length, as anxious a day for Cora Haught as for
any one.

It was a grand success, a glorious triumph for the printer boy and for
the workingmen's cause as well. Rule Rothsay was elected representative
for his district in the State legislature by an overwhelming majority.

Cora was destined to a joyful surprise the next morning, when the
domestic autocrat suddenly announced:

"I shall take the family to my town house on the first of next week. My
last bill, which was defeated last year, may be passed this session."

Cora now, on the Irishman's principle of pulling the pig backward if
you want him to go forward, ventured on the assurance of counseling her
grandfather by saying:

"I would not approach Mr. Rothsay on the subject of this bill, if I were
you, sir."

"But you are not I, miss!" exclaimed the old man, opening his eyes wide
to stare her down. "And the new man is the very one to whom I shall
first speak. He is the most proper person to present the bill. He
represents my own district. His election is largely due to the men in my
own employ. I am surprised that you should presume to advise upon
matters of which you can know nothing whatever."

Cora bowed to the rebuke, but did not mind it in the least, since now
she felt sure of meeting Rule Rothsay in town.

On the following Monday the Rockharrts went to town.

Mr. Rockharrt met and compared notes with some of the lobbyists.

One veteran lobbyist gave him what he called the key to the riddle of
success.

"You appealed to reason and conscience!" said he. "My dear sir, you
should have appealed to their stomachs and pockets. You should have
given them epicurean feasts, and put money in your 'purse' to be
transferred to theirs!"

"Bribery and corruption! I would lose my bill forever! And I would see
the legislature--_exterminated_, before I would pay one cent to get a
vote," said the Iron King. And he used a much stronger as well as much
shorter word than the one underscored; but let it pass.

As soon as the morning papers announced--among other arrivals--that of
the new assemblyman, the Hon. Regulas Rothsay, Aaron Rockharrt sought
out the young legislator, and explained that he wished to get a charter
for a railroad that he wished to build. The company--all responsible
men--had been incorporated some time, but he had never succeeded in
getting a charter from the legislature.

Rule saw that the enterprise would be a benefit to the community at
large, and especially to the workingmen, the farmers, shop keepers and
mechanics; so when he had heard all the old Iron King had to say on the
subject, he promptly gave a promise which neither favor, affection nor
self-interest could ever have won from him, but which reason, conscience
and the public good constrained him to give--namely, to present the
petition for the charter to the assembly, and to support it with all his
might.

After this Regulas Rothsay came often and more often, until at length he
passed every evening with the Rockharrts when they were at home. Old
Aaron Rockharrt esteemed him as he esteemed very, very few of his fellow
creatures. Mrs. Rockharrt really loved him. Mr. Fabian and Mr. Clarence
liked him. Cora admired and honored him. He was made so welcome in the
family circle that he felt himself quite at home among them.

On the second of January the first business taken up was that of the
bill to charter the projected railroad. It was presented by Mr. Rothsay,
and referred to the proper committee.

The charter bill was reported with certain amendments, sent back again
and reported again, with modified amendments, laid on the table, taken
up and generally tormented for ten days, and then passed by a small
majority.

Rule had conscientiously done his best, and this was the result: Old
Aaron Rockharrt thanked him stiffly.

"You have worked it through, sir! No one but yourself could have done
it! And it is a wonder that even you could do so with such a set of
pig-headed rascals as our assemblymen. And now, will it pass the
senate?"

"I believe it will, Mr. Rockharrt. I have been speaking to many of the
senators, and find them well disposed toward it," said Rule.

To be brief, the bill was soon taken up by the senate; and after much
the same treatment it had received in the assembly, it came safely
through the ordeal, and was passed--again by a small majority.

Old Aaron Rockharrt was triumphant, in his sullen, dogged and
undemonstrative way.

But having gained his ends, for which alone he had come to the city, he
ordered his family to pack up and be ready to leave town for Rockhold
the next day but one.

But the worst was to come.

When all the household were assembled at luncheon, he shot his last
bolt.

"Now look you here, all of you! We are going to Rockhold to-morrow. I do
not wish to have any company there. I am tired of company! I hate
company! I am going to the country to get rid of company. So see that
you do not, any of you, invite any one to visit us."

The next morning the Rockharrt family left town for North End, where
they arrived early in the afternoon.

A monotonous season followed, at least for the two ladies, who led a
very secluded life at the dreary old stone house on the mountain side.

Winter, spring, summer and autumn crept slowly away in, the lonely
dwelling. In the last days of November he announced to his family, with
the usual suddenness of his peremptory will, that he should go to
Washington City for the winter, taking with him his wife and
granddaughter, and leaving his two sons in charge of the works, and that
they would be joined in Washington at Christmas by his grandson, for
whom he was about to apply for admission into the military academy at
West Point.

Regulas called frequently, and his attentions to Cora were marked.

The Rockharrt party went to Washington on the first of December, and
took possession of the suite of rooms previously engaged for them at one
of the large West End hotels.

One morning, when Rule was out of the way, being on a canvassing round
with Mr. Rockharrt among such members of Congress as had remained in the
city, Sylvan suddenly asked his sister:

"Cora, what's to make the pot boil?"

"What do you mean?" inquired the young lady, looking up from "Bleak
House," which she was reading.

"Who's to get the grub?"

"I--don't understand you."

"Oh, yes, you do. What are you and Rothsay to live on after you are
married? He is poor as a church mouse, and you are not much richer. You
are reported to be an heiress and all that, but you know very well that
you cannot touch a cent of your money until you are twenty-five years
old, and not even then if you have married in the interim without our
great Mogul's consent. Such are the wise provisions of our father's
will. Now then, when you and Rule are married, what is to make the pot
boil?"

"There is no question of marriage between Mr. Rothsay and myself,"
replied Cora, with a fine assumption of dignity, which was, however,
quite, lost on Sylvan, who favored her with a broad stare and then
exclaimed:

"No question of marriage between you? My stars and garters! then there
ought to be, for you are both carrying on at a--at a--at a most
tremendous rate!"

Cora took up her book and walked out of the room in stately displeasure.

No; there had been no question of marriage between them; no spoken
question, at least, up to this day.

This was true to-day, but it was not true on the following day, when
Cora and Rule, being alone in the parlor, fell into thoughtful silence,
neither knowing exactly why.

This was broken at last by Rule.

"Cora, will you look at me, dear?"

She raised her eyes and meet his fixed full and tenderly on hers.

"Cora, I think that you and I have understood each other a long time,
too long a time for the reserve we have practiced. My dear, will you now
share the poverty of a poor man who loves you with all his heart, or
will you wait for that man until he shall have made a home and position
more worthy of you? Speak, my love, or if you prefer, take some time to
think of this. My fate is in your hands."

These were calm words, uttered with much, very much, self-restraint; yet
eyes and voice could not be so perfectly controlled as language was, and
these spoke eloquently of the man's adoration of the woman.

She put her hand in his large, rough palm--the palm inherited from many
generations of hard workers--where it lay like a white kernel in a brown
shell, and she answered quietly, with controlled emotion:

"Rule, I would rather come to you now forever, and share your life,
however hard, and help your work, however difficult, than part from you
again; or, if this happiness is not for us now, I would wait for
years--I would wait for you forever."

"God bless you! God bless you, my dear! my dear! But is not this in your
own choice, Cora?"

"No; it is in my grandfather's."

"You are of age, dear."

"Yes. But not because I am of age would I disobey his will. He has
always done his duty by me faithfully. I must do mine by him. He is old
now. I must not oppose him. He may consent to our union at once, for you
are a very great favorite with him. But his will must be consulted."

"Of course, dear. I meant to speak to Mr. Rockharrt after speaking to
you."

"And to abide by his wishes, Rule?"

"If I must. But I would rather abide by yours only, since you are of
age," said the young man.

And what more was spoken need not be repeated here. The next day Rule
Rothsay called early, and asked to see Mr. Rockharrt.

"Ah! Ah! You come to tell me that you have seen Hunter, I suppose? How
does he stand affected toward my bill?" exclaimed the Iron King,
pointing to one chair for his guest and dropping into another himself.

"The truth is, Mr. Rockharrt, I came to see you on quite another
matter--"

The young man paused. The old man looked attentive and curious.

"It is a matter of the deepest interest to me--"

Again Rule paused, for Mr. Rockharrt was looking at him with bent brows,
staring eyes, and bristling iron gray hair and beard, or hair and beard
that seemed to bristle.

"Your granddaughter--" began Rule. "Your granddaughter has made me very
happy by consenting to become my wife, with your approbation," calmly
replied Rule.

"Oh!" exclaimed the old man, in a peculiar tone, between surprise and
derision. "And so you have come to ask my consent to your marriage with
my granddaughter?"

"If you please, Mr. Rockharrt."

"And so that is the reason why you worked so hard to get my railroad
bill through the legislature. Well, I always believed that every man had
his price; but I thought you were the exception to the general rule. I
thought you were not for sale. But it seems that I was mistaken, and
that you were for sale, and set a pretty high price upon yourself,
too--the hand of my granddaughter!"

The young man was not ill-tempered or irritable. Perfectly conscious of
his own sound integrity, he was unmoved by this taunt; and he answered
with quiet dignity:

"If you will reflect for a moment, Mr. Rockharrt, you will know that
your charge is untrue and impossible, and you will recall it. I took up
your railroad bill because I saw that its provisions would be beneficial
to the small towns, tradesmen and farmers all along the proposed
line--interests that many railroads neglect, to the ruin of parties most
concerned. And I took up this cause before I had ever met your
granddaughter since her childhood or as a woman."

"That is true. Well, well, the selfish and mercenary character of the
men, and women, too, that I meet in this world has made me, perhaps, too
suspicious of all men's motives," said the champion egotist of the
world, speaking with the air of the great king condescending to an
apology--if his answer could be called an apology.

Rule accepted it as such. He knew it was as near to a concession as the
despot could come. He bowed in silence.

"And so you want my granddaughter, do you?" demanded the old man.

"Yes, sir; as the greatest good that you, or the world, or heaven, could
bestow on me," earnestly replied the suitor.

"Rubbish! Don't talk like an idiot! How do you propose to support her?"

"By the labor of my brain and hands," gravely and confidently replied
Rule.

"Worse rubbish than the other! How much a year does the labor of your
brain and hands bring you in?--not enough to keep yourself in comfort!
And you would bring my granddaughter down to divide that insufficient
income with you"

"My income would provide us both with modest comforts," replied Rule.

"I think your ideas and our ideas of comfort may differ importantly. Now
see here, Mr. Rothsay, I do believe you to be a true, honest,
straightforward man; I believe you are attracted to Cora by a sincere
preference for herself, irrespective of her prospects; and you are a
rising man. Wait a year or two, or three. Take a few steps higher on the
ladder of rank and fame, and then come and ask me for my granddaughter's
hand, and if you are both of the same mind, I will give it to you.
There!"

"Mr. Rockharrt--" began Rule.

"There, there, there! I will not even hear of an engagement until that
time shall arrive. How do I know how you will pass through the ordeal of
a political career, or into what bad company, evil habits, riotous
living, dissipation, drunkenness, bribery and corruption,
embezzlements, ruin and disgrace you may not be tempted?"

"Heaven forbid!" exclaimed Rule.

"Amen! I believe you will stand the test, but I have seen too many
brilliant and aspiring young politicians go up like a rocket and come
down a burnt stick, to be very sure of any man in the same
circumstances."

"But, Mr. Rockharrt, such men were most probably brought up in wealth
and luxury. They were not trained, perhaps, as I have been, in the hard
but wholesome school of labor and self-denial."

"There may be something in that; but if you advance it as an argument
for me to change my mind in this matter of a prudent delay, it is thrown
away upon me. You should know me well enough to know that I never change
my mind."

Rule did know it. But he answered earnestly:

"I accept your conditions, Mr. Rockharrt. I will wait and work as long
for Cora as Jacob did for Rachel, if necessary. Cora has been the
inspiration of all that I have wrought, endured and achieved--and she
was all that to me long before I dreamed of aspiring to her hand in
marriage, and she will be as long as we both shall live in this world or
the world to come."

Rule bowed and left. He at once recounted to Cora the interview and the
condition imposed on him.

When the short season ended, and the city was tilted upside down and
emptied like a bucket of half its contents, the Rockharrts went with the
rest.

Old Aaron was in his very worst fit of sullen ferocity. He had not been
able to get a charter for clearing out the channel of the Cumberland
River (another pet project of his), or even to form a company strong
enough to undertake the enterprise.

After a while, out of restlessness, he started with his wife,
granddaughter and grandson for a tour to the Northern Pacific Coast. He
spent some time in traveling through that region of country, and
returned East.

He stopped at West Point to leave Sylvan Haught, who had successfully
passed his examination and received his appointment at the military
academy.

Then he took his womenkind home to Rockhold.

A few days later young Rothsay was elected senator.

Some weeks later Rothsay again pressed his suit on the attention of Mr.
Rockharrt.

But the old man was adamant.

"No, sir, no! You must have a firmer foundation to build upon than the
fickle favor of the public. Wait a year or two longer. Let us see
whether your success is to be permanent."

"But," urged Rule, "my chosen bride is twenty-three years of age, and I
am twenty-seven. Time is flying."

"What has that got to do with the question? If you were to marry this
morning, would that stop the flight of time? Would not time fly just as
fast as ever? Suppose you should not marry for two years? My
granddaughter would then be twenty-five and you thirty, and many wise
philosophers think that such are the relative ages at which man and
woman should marry. Then the Iron King cast a thunderbolt. He said:

"I am going to take my girl on a trip to Europe this summer. When we
return, it will be time enough to talk about marriage."

Rule bowed a reluctant admission to this mandate. He knew well that
argument would be thrown away upon the Iron King, and he knew that, even
if he himself were tempted to try to persuade Cora to marry him at
present, she would not do so in opposition to her grandfather's will.

Mr. Rockharrt had not as yet said one word to his family concerning his
intended trip to Europe, although he had been thinking of it, and laying
his plans, and making his arrangements, preparatory to the voyage, all
the winter.

So it was with amazement that Cora first heard of the matter from Rule
Rothsay, who came to her to report the result of his last attempt to
gain the consent of the old gentleman to his marriage with the
granddaughter.

A few days later the family despot announced to his subjects that he
should start for Europe in two weeks, taking his wife and granddaughter
with him, and leaving his two sons in charge of the works.

Active preparations went on for the voyage. Mr. Rockharrt went every day
to the works to lay out plans for the summer to be completed during his
absence.

Mrs. Rockharrt and Cora had few arrangements to make, for the autocrat
had warned them that they were to take only sufficient for the voyage,
as they could buy whatever they needed on the other side.

A few days before they left Rockhold, Rule Rothsay came uninvited to
visit his beloved Cora.

Mr. Rockharrt happened to be the first to see him, and received him
well.

When they were seated, Rule said:

"You refused to allow me to marry your granddaughter at present, and--"

"Now begin all that over again, Rothsay. I said that in two years you
can marry her and take her fortune, if you both choose, whether I like
it or not. That is all."

"Do you, however, sanction our engagement, Mr. Rockharrt? Shall your
granddaughter and myself be betrothed, openly betrothed, so that all may
know our mutual relations, before the ocean divides us? That is what I
would know now. That is what I have come down here to ask."

The old man ruminated for a few moments, and then answered:

"Well, yes; you may be, with the understanding that you will wait to
marry for two years longer. These two years will be a probation to both.
If you fulfill the promise of your youth, and rise to the position that
you can, if you will, attain, and if you remain faithful to her, and if
she remains true to you, you may then marry. With all my heart I shall
wish you well. But if either of you fail in truth and fidelity, the
defaulting one, whether it be you or she, shall never look me in the
face again," concluded the Iron King.

Rule's eyes lighted up with the fire of love and faith. He seized the
hand of the old man and shook it warmly, saying:

"You have made me very happy by your words, Mr. Rockharrt, and I assure
you, by all my hopes on earth or in heaven, that whatever may change in
time or eternity, my heart will never vary a hair's breadth from its
fidelity to its queen."

"I believe you, or rather I believe you think so."

A kind impulse, a rare one, moved the old man. Perhaps he reflected that
these two young people might, have defied him and married without his
consent had they pleased to do so; but they had submitted themselves to
his will, and as his favorite motto told him that "Government is
maintained by reward and punishment," he may have reasoned that this was
an occasion for reward. So he said to the young man, who had risen, and
was standing before him:

"Rothsay, we shall leave here for New York on Tuesday, to sail by the
Saturday's steamer for Liverpool. If your engagements admit of it, and
if you would like to spend the intervening time near Cora, we should be
pleased to have you stay here."

Rule spent three happy days at Rockhold, and in the evening of the third
day, the evening before they were to leave for Europe, he asked Mr.
Rockharrt if he might have the privilege of attending the travelers to
the seaport, and seeing them off by the steamer.

The Iron King found no objection to this plan. Mrs. Rockharrt was
pleased, and Cora was delighted with it.

Accordingly, on the next morning, they left Rockhold for New York, where
they arrived on the evening of the next day.

And on Saturday morning they went on board the steamer Persia, bound for
Liverpool.

They bade good-by to Regulas Rothsay, on the deck, at the last moment.

The signal gun was fired, and our party sailed away to a new life, in
which the faith of a woman was to be tempted and lost, and the career of
a man was to be wrecked.

It was in the third year of their absence that they returned from the
Continent to England. They reached London in February, in time to see
the grand pageant of the queen opening parliament. After which they
attended the first royal drawing room of the season, on which occasion
Mrs. Rockharrt and Miss Haught were presented to her Majesty by the wife
of the American minister.

Cora Haught was a new beauty and a new social sensation. She was,
indeed, more beautiful than she had been when she left America. A richly
colored Southern brunette was unique among British blondes. It was for
this, perhaps, she was so much admired.

Moreover, she was reported to be the only descendant of her grandfather
and the sole heiress of his fabulous wealth.

There was at this time another _debutant_ in society, a young man, the
Duke of Cumbervale, who had lately reached his majority and come into
his estates, or what was left of them--an ancient castle and a few
barren acres in Northumberland, an old hall and a few acres in Sussex,
and a town house in London; but his title was an historical one. His
person was handsome, his manners attractive, and his mind highly
cultivated.

Cora met him first at the queen's drawing room, and afterward at every
ball and party to which she went.

It was, perhaps, natural--very natural--that the handsome blonde man
should be attracted by the beautiful brunette woman, without thought of
the supposed fortune that might have redeemed his mortgaged estates and
supported his distinguished title. But why should the betrothed of
Regulas Rothsay have been fascinated by this elegant English aristocrat?

Surely no two men were ever more diametrically opposite than the
American printer and the English duke.

Regulas Rothsay was tall, muscular, and robust, with large feet and
hands, inherited from many generations of hard-working forefathers. His
movements were clumsy; his manners were awkward, except when he was
inspired by some grand thought or tender sympathy, when his whole person
and appearance became transfigured. His sole enduring charms were his
beautiful eyes and melodious voice.

The Duke of Cumbervale was slight and elegant in form, with small,
perfectly shaped hands and feet--derived from a long line of idle and
useless ancestors--finely cut Grecian profile, pure, clear, white skin,
fine, silken, pale yellow hair and mustache, calm blue eyes, graceful
movements, and refined manners.

Regulas Rothsay was a man of the people, who did not know any ancestry
behind his laboring father, who could not have told the names of his
grandparents.

The Duke of Cumbervale was descended from eight generations of
noblemen.

Cora Haught saw and felt this contrast between the two men, so opposite
in birth, rank, person, manner, character, and cultivation.

Not all at once could she become an apostate to her faith, pledged to
Rule. But, in truth, she had always loved him more as a sister loves a
dear brother than as a maiden loves her betrothed husband. She had not
seen him for three years. And she had seen so much since they had
parted! In truth, his image had grown dim in her imagination.

She wrote to him briefly from London that her engagements were so
numerous as to preclude the possibility of her writing much, but that at
the end of the London season they expected to return home. This was
before she had--

    "Foregathered with the de'il,"

in the shape of the handsome, eloquent, and fascinating Duke of
Cumbervale.

Afterward a strange madness had seized her; a sudden revulsion of
feeling, amounting almost to repugnance, against the rugged man of the
people who had hewn out his own fortune, and who looked, she thought,
more like a backwoodsman than a gentleman. Yes; it was madness--such
madness as is sometimes the wreck of families.

The duke grew daily more impressive in his attentions, and Cora more
delighted to receive them. So the season went on. People began to
connect the names of the Duke of Cumbervale and the beautiful American
heiress.

Just about this time old Aaron Rockharrt walked into the breakfast room
of their apartments at Langham's with an American newspaper, which had
just come by the morning's mail, in his hands.

"Here is news!" he said. "Rothsay has been nominated as governor of
----! But perhaps this is no news to you, Cora. You may have received a
letter?" he added, turning to his granddaughter.

"I had a letter from Mr. Rothsay yesterday, but he said nothing on the
subject," replied the girl somewhat coldly.

"Well, if he should be elected--and I really believe he will be, for he
is the most popular man in the State--I shall throw no obstacles in the
way of your immediate marriage with him. You have been engaged long
enough--long enough! We shall set out for home on the first of next
month, and so be in full time for the election."

Cora did not reply. She grew pale and cold.

The Iron King looked at his granddaughter, bending his gray brows over
keenly penetrating eyes.

"See here, mistress!" he said. "You don't seem to rejoice in this news.
What is the matter with you? Have any of these English foplings and
lordlings, with more peers in their pedigrees than pennies in their
pockets, turned your head? If so, it is time for me to take you home."

Cora did not reply. Only the night before, at the ball given by the
Marchioness of Netherby, the Duke of Cumbervale had proposed to her, and
had been referred to her grandfather. He was coming that very morning to
ask the hand of the supposed heiress of the Iron King. Cora was that
very day intending to write to Rule and tell him the whole truth, and
ask him to release her from her engagement; and she knew full well that
he would have no alternative but to grant her request.

"Why do you not answer me, Corona? What is the matter with you?" again
demanded old Aaron Rockharrt.

But at that moment a waiter entered, and laid a card on the table before
the old gentleman. He took it up and read:

    THE DUKE OF CUMBERVALE.

"What in the deuce does the young fellow want of me? Show him into the
parlor, William, and say that I will be with him in a few minutes."

The waiter left the room to do his errand, and was soon followed by Mr.
Rockharrt, who found the young duke pacing rather restlessly up and down
the room.

"Good morning, sir," said old Aaron, with stiff politeness.

The visitor turned and saluted his host.

"Will you not be seated?" said Mr. Rockharrt, waving his hand toward
sofa and chairs.

The visitor bowed and sat down. The host took another chair and waited.
There was silence for a short time. The old man seemed expectant, the
young man embarrassed. At length, when the latter opened his mouth and
spoke, no pearls and diamonds of wisdom and goodness dropped from his
lips; he said:

"It is a fine day."

"Yes, yes," admitted the Iron King, taking his hands from his knees, and
drawing himself up with the sigh of a man badly bored--"for London. We
wouldn't call this a fine day in America. But I have heard it said that
it is always a fine day in England when it don't pour."

"Yes," admitted the visitor; and then he driveled into the most inane
talk about climates, for you see this was the first time the poor young
fellow had ever ventured to

    "Beard the lion in his den,"

so to speak, by asking: a stern old gentleman for a daughter's hand,
and this Iron King was a very formidable-looking beast indeed.

At length, Mr. Rockharrt, feeling sure that his visitor had come upon
business--though he did not know of what sort--said:

"I think, sir, that you are here upon some affairs. If it is about
railway shares--"

The old man was stopped short by the surprised and insolent stare of the
young duke.

"I know nothing of railway shares, sir," he answered.

"Oh, you don't! Well, I did not think you did. In what other way can I
oblige you?"

Indignation generally deprives a man of self-possession, but on this
occasion it restored that of the embarrassed lover. Feeling that he--the
descendant of a dozen dukes, whose ancestors had "come over with William
the Conqueror," had served in Palestine under King Richard, had
compelled King John to sign the Magna Charta, had gained glory in every
generation--was about to do this rude, purse-proud old tradesman the
greatest honor in asking of him his granddaughter in marriage, he said,
somewhat coldly:

"Miss Haught has made me happy in the hope of her acceptance of my hand,
pending your approval, and has referred me to you."

The Iron King stared at the speaker for a moment, and then said, quite
calmly:

"Please to repeat that all over again, slowly and distinctly."

The duke flushed to the edges of his hair, but he repeated his proposal
in plain words.

"You have asked Cora Haught to marry you?" demanded the Iron King.

"Yes, sir."

"What did she say?"

"She did me the honor to give me some hope, and she referred me to you,
as I have already explained."

"I don't believe it!" blurted the old man.

"Sir!" said the duke, in a low voice.

"I don't believe it! What! My granddaughter--mine--break her faith and
wish to marry some one else?"

"Mr. Rockharrt," began the duke, in a smooth tone--though his blood was
hot with anger--"I am sorry you should so forget the--"

"I forget nothing. I remember that you charge my
granddaughter--mine--with unfaithfulness! It is an insult, sir!"

"Really, Mr. Rockharrt, I do not understand you."

"I don't suppose you do! I never gave your order much credit for
intelligence."

Is this old ruffian mad or drunk? was the secret question of the duke,
whose tone and manner, always calm and polite, grew even calmer and more
polite as the Iron King grew more sarcastic and insulting.

"I would suggest that you speak to Miss Haught on this subject, that she
may confirm my statement," he said.

"I shall do nothing of the kind! I shall not entertain for an instant
the thought of the possibility of my granddaughter breaking her plighted
faith."

"I never knew that she was engaged. May I ask the name of the happy
man?"

"Regulas Rothsay; he is not a duke; he is a printer; also a senator, and
nominated for governor of his native State; sure to be elected, and then
he is to marry my granddaughter, who has been engaged to him many
years."

"But Miss Haught certainly authorized me to ask her hand of you."

When did this extraordinary acceptance take place?"

"Yesterday evening, at Lady Netherby's ball."

"After supper?"

"After supper."

"That accounts for it! You took too much wine, and misunderstood my
granddaughter's reply She must have referred you to me for an
explanation of her engagement, and consequent inability to entertain any
other man's proposal. That was it!"

"May I refer you to Miss Haught for confirmation of my words?"

"I say, as I said before, no."

"May I see the young lady herself?"

"No; but I will tell you something that may console you under your
disappointment. I have seen in several of your papers, in the society
columns, my granddaughter referred to as my sole heiress. I do not know
who is responsible for these reports, but you may have believed them,
though there is not a word of truth in them. My granddaughter is not my
sole heiress; not my heiress in the slightest degree. I have two
stalwart sons, partners in my business, both now in charge of the works
at North End, Cumberland mountains, and managing them extremely well,
else I could not be taking a long holiday here. These sons are heirs to
all my property. Nor is my granddaughter the heiress of her late father.
She has a brother, now a cadet at our military academy at West Point. He
inherits the bulk of his father's estate. My granddaughter's fortune is,
therefore, very moderate--quite beneath the consideration of an English
nobleman," concluded the old man, very grimly.

The young duke heard him out, and then answered;

"I trust, sir, that you will credit me with better motives in seeking
the hand of the young lady. It was her charm of person and of mind that
attracted me to her."

"Of course, of course; but, my dear duke, there is a plenty of sole
heiresses among the wealthy trades-people of London who would be proud
to buy a title with a fortune. Let me advise you to strike a bargain
with one of them. Now, as I have pressing business on hand, you will
excuse me."

The young duke arose, with a bow, and left the room, muttering to
himself: "What an unmitigated beast that old man is! I do like the girl;
she is a beautiful creature, but--I am well out of it after all."

Old Aaron Rockharrt made no false pretense of business to get rid of his
unwelcome visitor; he never made false pretense of any sort for any
purpose. He had pressing business on hand, though it was business which
had suddenly arisen during his interview with the duke, and had in fact
come out of it. No sooner had the young man left the house than the Iron
King went to the agency of the Cunard line, and secured staterooms for
himself and party in the Asia, that was to sail on the following
Saturday from Liverpool for New York.

When he re-entered his parlor at the Langham, he found his wife and Cora
seated there, the girl reading the _Court Journal_ to her grandmother.

"Put that tomfoolery down, Cora, and listen to me, both of you! This is
Wednesday. We leave London for Liverpool on Friday morning, and sail
from Liverpool for New York on Saturday. So you sent that man to me,
mistress?"

"Yes, sir," without looking up.

"For my consent to a marriage with him!"

"Yes, sir!"

"Then the fellow did not mistake your meaning! Cora Haught! I could not
have believed that any girl who had any of my blood in her veins could
be guilty of such black treachery as to break faith with her betrothed
husband, and wish to marry another, just for the snobbish ambition to be
a duchess and be called 'her grace'!" said the Iron King, with all the
sardonic scorn and hatred of any form of falsehood that was the one
redeeming trait in his hard and cruel nature.

"Grandpa, it was not so! Indeed, it was not! Oh, consider! I had known
Rule Rothsay from my childhood, and loved him with the affection a
sister gives a brother; I knew of no other love, and so I mistook it for
the love surpassing all others that a betrothed maiden should give her
betrothed. But when I met Cumbervale and he wooed me, I loved truly for
the first time! loved, as he loves me!" she concluded, with trembling
lips and downcast eyes and flushed cheeks.

"Stuff and nonsense! Don't talk to me about love or any such sentimental
trash! I am talking of good faith between man and woman--words of which
you don't seem to know the meaning!"

"Oh, grandpa! yes, I do! But would it be good faith in me to marry Rule
Rothsay, when I love Cumbervale?"

"It would be good faith to keep your word, irrespective of your
feelings, and bad faith to break it in consideration of your feelings!
But you are too false to know this!"

"Oh, sir! pray do not set your face against my marriage with Cumbervale,
or insist on my marrying Rule! It would not be for Rule's good," pleaded
Cora.

"No; Heaven knows it would not be for his good! It had been better for
Rothsay that he had been blown up in the explosion that killed his
father, than that he had ever set eyes on your false face! But you have
given him your word, and you must keep it, or never look me in the face
again! You shall be married as soon as we reach Rockhold."

Cora raised her tearful face from her hands, and looked astonished and
wretched.

"Oh, you may gaze, but it is true. The fortune hunter has discovered
that he is on a false scent. There is no fortune on the trail. I told
him everything about you. I told him that you were not my heiress at
all, because I had two sons who would inherit all my property; that you
were not even your father's heiress, because you had a brother who would
inherit the larger portion of his; that, in point of fact, you were only
moderately provided for. He was startled, I assure you. I also told him
that for years you had been engaged to a young printer in your native
country, who would probably be the next governor of his native State. He
bowed himself out. I engaged our passage to New York by the Saturday's
steamer. You will never see the little dandy again. He was after a
fortune, and finding that you have none, he has forsaken you--and served
you right, for a base, treacherous, and contemptible woman, unworthy
even of his regard; for you are much lower in every way than he is, for
while he was seeking a fortune and you were seeking a title, you were
concealing from him the fact of your engagement to Rule Rothsay. You
were doubly false to Rule and to Cumbervale. Oh, Cora Haught! Cora
Haught! Are you not ashamed of yourself! Ashamed to look any honest man
or woman in the face! Ah! you do well to hide yours!" he concluded, for
Cora had lost all self-control, dropped her head upon her hands, and
burst into hysterical sobs and tears.

Did you ever see a small bantam hen ruffle up all her feathers in angry
defense of her chick? So did poor little, timid Mrs. Rockharrt in
protection of her pet. She ventured to expostulate with her tyrant for,
perhaps, the first time in their married life.

"Oh, Aaron, do not scold the child so severely. She is but human. She
has only been dazzled and fascinated by the young duke's rank, and
beauty, and elegance. She could not help it, being thrown in his company
so much. And you know they say that half the girls in London society are
in love with the handsome duke. We will take her home, and she will come
all right, and be our own, dear, faithful Cora again, and--"

Old Aaron Rockharrt, who had gazed at his wife in speechless
astonishment at her audacity in reasoning with him, now burst forth
with:

"Hold your jaw, madam," and strode out of the room.

A minute later a waiter came in and laid a note on the table before Cora
and immediately withdrew.

Cora took the missive, recognized the handwriting and seal, tore it open
and eagerly ran her eyes along the lines. This was the note:

    CUMBERVALE LODGE, LONDON,
    May, 1, 18--

    MISS HAUGHT: For my indiscretion of last evening I owe
    you an humble apology, which I beg you to accept with this
    explanation, that, had I known, or even suspected, that your hand
    was already promised in another quarter, I should never have
    presumed to propose for it. I beg now to withdraw such a false
    step.

    Accept my best wishes for your happiness in a union with the more
    fortunate man of your choice, and believe me to be now and ever,

    Your obedient servant,

    CUMBERVALE.

Scarcely had Cora's eyes fallen from the paper when Lady Pendragon's
carriage drove up to the door.

Glad of the interruption that enabled her to escape from the parlor, and
give way to the passion and grief and despair that were swelling her
heart to breaking, Cora hastened to her bed chamber and threw herself
down upon the couch in a paroxysm of sobs and tears.

Mrs. Rockharrt waited in the parlor to receive the visitor, but no
visitor came up. Only two cards were left for the two ladies, and then
the Countess of Pendragon rolled away in her carriage.

On Friday morning the Rockharrts left London. And on Saturday morning
they sailed from Liverpool. After a prosperous voyage of ten days they
landed at New York.

"My soul! there is Rothsay on the pier, waving his hand to us!"
exclaimed the Iron King, as he led his little wife down the gang plank,
while Cora came on behind them.

Yes; there was Rule, his tall figure towering above the crowd on the
pier, his rugged face beaming with delight, his hand waving welcome to
the returning voyagers. He received his friends as they stepped upon the
pier. He shook hands warmly with Mrs. Rockharrt, heartily with the Iron
King, and then, behind them, with Cora, and before Cora knew what was
coming she was folded in the arms and to the faithful breast of her
life-long lover--only for a moment; and then he drew her arm within his
own and led her on after the elder couple, whispering:

"Dear, this is the happiest day I have ever seen as yet, but a happier
one is coming--soon, I hope. Dear, how soon shall it be?"

"You must ask my grandparents, Rule. Their judgment and their
convenience must be consulted," she answered in a low, steady tone.

She had no thought now of breaking her engagement with Rule, though her
heart seemed breaking. She still loved that rugged man with the sisterly
affection she had always felt for him, and which, in her ignorance of
life and self, she had mistaken for a warmer sentiment, and resolved, in
wedding him, to do her whole duty by him for so long as she should live,
and she hoped and believed that that would not be very long.

Rothsay led the way to a carriage. When all were seated in this, the old
man leant toward the young one, and said:

"Well, I haven't had a chance to ask you yet. The election is over. How
did it go? Who is their man?"

"They chose me," answered Rothsay, simply.

Cora Haught's bosom was wrung by hopeless passion and piercing remorse.

Yet she tried to do her whole duty.

"If it craze or kill me I will wed Rule, and he shall never know what it
costs me to keep my word," she said to herself, as she lay sleepless and
restless in her bed on the night before her wedding morn. "Yes; I will
do my duty and keep my secret even unto death."

"'Even unto death!' but unto whose death?" whispered a voice close to
her ear--a voice clear, distinct, penetrating.

Cora started and opened her eyes. No one was near her. She sat up in
bed, and looked around the apartment. The night taper, standing on the
hearth, burned low. The dimly lighted room was vacant of any human being
except herself.

"I have been dreaming," she said, and she laid down and tried to compose
herself to sleep again. In vain! Memories of the near past, dread of the
nearer future, contended in her soul, filling her with discord. When
Cora arose on her wedding morning, she said to herself:

"Yes, this day I am going to marry Rule, dear, loving, faithful,
hard-working, self-denying Rule! A monarch among men, if greatness of
soul could make a monarch. In that sense no woman, peeress or princess,
ever made a prouder match. May Heaven make me worthier of him! May
Heaven help me to be a true, good wife to him!"

She said these words to herself, but oh! oh! how she shuddered as she
breathed them, and how she reproached herself for such shuddering! The
girl's whole nature was at war with itself. Yet through all the terrible
interior strife she kept her firm determination to be faithful to Rule;
to go through the ordeal before her, even though it should cost her life
or reason.

The external circumstances of this wedding were given in the first
chapter, and need not be repeated here.

My readers may remember the marble-like stillness of the bride as she
sat in her bridal robes, looking out from the front window of her
chamber on the bright and festive scene below, where all the work people
from the mines and foundries were assembled; they will remember how she
shivered when she was summoned with her bridesmaids to meet her
bridegroom and his attendants in the hall below; how when she met him at
the foot of the stairs she shrank from his greeting--emotion in which he
in his simple, loyal soul saw no repugnance, but only maiden reserve to
be reverenced, as he drew her arm within his own to lead her before the
bishop; how she faltered during the whole of the marriage ceremony; how
like a woman in a trance she passed through the scenes of the wedding
breakfast and those that immediately followed it; how in her own room,
where she went to change her wedding dress for a traveling suit, and
whither her gentle old grandmother had followed her for a private
parting, she had answered the old lady's anxious question as to whether
she was "happy," first by silence and then by muttering that her heart
was too full for speech; how when the bridegroom and the bride had
taken leave of all their friends at Rockhold, and were seated
_tete-a-tete_ in their traveling carriage, bowling along the river road,
at the base of the East Ridge toward the North End railway station, when
he passed his arm around her and drew her to his heart and murmured of
his love and his joy in her ear, and pleaded for some response from her,
she had only said that her heart was too full for speech, and he in his
confiding spirit had perceived no evasion in her reply, but thought, if
her heart was full, it was with responsive love for him.

My readers will recollect the railway journey to the State capital; the
procession through the decorated streets between the crowded sidewalks
from the railway station to the town house of Mr. Rockharrt, which had
been placed at the disposal of the governor-elect for the interval
between his arrival in the State capital and his inauguration.

The committee of reception escorted them to the gates of the Rockharrt
mansion and left them at the door. There we also left them, in the
second chapter of this story--and there we return to them in this place.



CHAPTER V.

THE GREAT RENUNCIATION.


When the governor-elect and his bride entered the Rockharrt town house,
they were received by a group of obsequious servants, headed by Jason,
the butler, and Jane, the housekeeper, and among whom stood Martha,
lady's maid to the new Mrs. Rothsay.

"Will you come into the drawing room and rest, dear, before going
upstairs?" inquired Mr. Rothsay of his bride, as they stood together in
the front hall.

"No, thank you. I will go to my room. Come, Martha!" said the bride, and
she went up stairs, followed by her maid.

Rule stood where she had so hastily left him, in the hall, looking so
much at a loss that presently Jason volunteered to say:

"Shall I show you to your apartment, sir?"

"Yes," answered Mr. Rothsay. And he followed the servant up stairs to a
large and handsomely furnished bed chamber, having a dressing room
attached.

Jason lighted the wax candles on the dressing table and on the mantel
piece, and then inquired:

"Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?"

"No," replied Mr. Rothsay.

And the servant retired.

Rothsay was alone in the room. He had never set up a valet; he had
always waited on himself. Now, however, he was again at a loss. He was
covered with railway dust and smoke, yet he saw no conveniences for
ablution.

While he stood there, a shout arose in the street outside. A single
voice raised the cheer:

"Hoo--rah--ah--ah for Rothsay!"

He went to the front window of the room. The sashes were hoisted, for
the night was warm; but the shutters were closed. He turned the slats a
little and looked down on the square below. It was filled with
pedestrians, and every window of every house in sight was illuminated.
When the shouts had died away, he heard voices in the room. He was
himself accidentally concealed by the window curtains. He looked around
and saw his bride emerge from the dressing room, attired in an elegant
dinner costume of rich maize-colored satin and black lace, with
crocuses in her superb black hair. She passed through the room without
having seen him, and went down stairs followed by her maid.

He saw the door of the dressing room standing open and went into it. It
was no mere closet, but a large, well lighted and convenient apartment,
furnished with every possible appurtenance for the toilet. Here he found
his trunk, his valise, his dressing case, all unpacked--his brushes and
combs laid out in order, his dinner suit hung over a rack--every
requirement of his toilet in complete readiness as if prepared by an
experienced valet. All this he had been accustomed to do, and expected
to do, for himself. Who had served him? Had Corona and her maid?
Impossible!

He quickly made a refreshing evening toilet and went down stairs, for he
was eager to rejoin his bride. He found her in the drawing room; but
scarcely had he seated himself at her side when the door was opened and
dinner announced by Jason.

They both arose; he gave her his arm, and they followed the solemn
butler to the dining room, which was on the opposite side of the front
hall and in the rear of the library.

An elegant tete-a-tete dinner but for the presence of the old butler and
one young footman who waited on them.

They did not linger long at table, but soon left it and returned
together to the drawing room.

They had scarcely seated themselves when the door bell rang, and in a
few moments afterward a card was brought in and handed to Mr. Rothsay,
who took it and read:

A.B. Crawford.

"Show the judge into the library and say that I will be with him in a
few moments," he said to the servant.

"He is one of the judges of the supreme court of the State, dear, and I
must go to him. I hope he will not keep me long," said Mr. Rothsay, as
he raised the hand of his bride to his lips and then left the room.

With a sigh of intense relief Cora leaned back in her chair and closed
her eyes.

People have been known to die suddenly in their chairs. Why could not
she die as she sat there, with her whole head heavy and her whole heart
faint, she thought.

She listened--fearfully--for the return of her husband, but he did not
come as soon as he had hoped to do; for while she listened the door bell
rang again, and another visitor made his appearance, and after a short
delay was shown into the library.

Then came another, and still another, and afterward others, until the
library must have been half full of callers on the governor-elect.

And presently a large band of musicians halted before the house and
began a serenade. They played and sang "Hail to the Chief," "Yankee
Doodle," "Hail Columbia," and other popular or national airs.

Mr. Rothsay and his friends went out to see them and thank them, and
then their shouts rent the air as they retired from the scene.

The gentlemen re-entered the house and retired to the library, where
they resumed their discussion of official business, until another
multitude had gathered before the house and shouts of--

"Hoo-rah-ah ah for Rothsay!" rose to the empyrean.

Neither the governor-elect nor his companions responded in any way to
this compliment until loud, disorderly cries for--

"Rothsay!"

"Rothsay!"

"Rothsay!"

constrained them to appear.

The governor-elect was again greeted with thundering cheers. When
silence was restored he made a short, pithy address, which was received
with rounds of applause at the close of every paragraph.

When the speech was finished, he bowed and withdrew, and the crowd, with
a final cheer, dispersed.

Mr. Rothsay retired once more to the library, accompanied by his
friends, to renew their discussion.

Cora, in her restlessness of spirit, arose from her seat and walked
several times up and down the floor.

Presently, weary of walking, and attracted by the coolness and darkness
of the back drawing room, in which the chandeliers had not been lighted,
she passed between the draped blue satin portieres that divided it from
the front room and entered the apartment.

The French windows stood open upon a richly stored flower garden, from
which the refreshing fragrance of dewy roses, lilies, violets, cape
jasmines, and other aromatic plants was wafted by the westerly breeze.

Cora seated herself upon the sofa between the two low French windows,
and waited.

Presently she heard the visitors taking leave.

"The committee will wait on you between ten and eleven to-morrow
morning," she heard one gentleman say, as they passed out.

Then several "good nights" were uttered, and the guests all departed,
and the door was closed.

Cora heard her husband's quick, eager step as he hurried into the front
drawing room, seeking his wife.

She felt her heart sinking, the high nervous tension of her whole frame
relaxing. She heard the hall clock strike ten. When the last stroke died
away, she heard her husband's voice calling, softly:

"Cora, love, wife, where are you?"

She could bear no more. The overtasked heart gave way.

When, the next instant, the eager bridegroom pushed aside the satin
portieres and entered the apartment, with a flood of light from the room
in front, he found his bride had thrown herself down on the Persian rug
before the sofa in the wildest anguish and despair and in a paroxysm of
passionate sobs and tears.

What a sight to meet a newly-made, adoring husband's eyes on his
marriage evening and on the eve of the day of his highest triumph, in
love as in ambition!

For one petrified moment he gazed on her, too much amazed to utter a
word.

Then suddenly he stooped, raised her as lightly as if she had been a
baby, and laid her on the sofa.

"Cora--love--wife! Oh! what is this?" he cried, bending over her.

She did not answer; she could not, for choking sobs and drowning tears.

He knelt beside her, and took her hand, and bent his face to hers, and
murmured:

"Oh, my love! my wife! what troubles you?"

She wrenched her hand from his, turned her face from him, buried her
head in the cushions of the sofa, and gave way to a fresh storm of
anguish.

When she repulsed him in this spasmodic manner, he recoiled as a man
might do who had received a sudden blow; but he did not rise from his
position, but watched beside her sofa, in great distress of mind,
patiently waiting for her to speak and explain.

Gradually her tempest of emotion seemed to be raging itself into the
rest of exhaustion. Her sobs and tears grew fainter and fewer; and
presently after that she drew out her handkerchief, and raised herself
to a sitting position, and began to wipe her wet and tear-stained face
and eyes. Though her tears and sobs had ceased, still her bosom heaved
convulsively.

He arose and seated himself beside her, put his arm around her, and drew
her beautiful black, curled head upon his faithful breast, and bending
his face to hers, entreated her to tell him the cause of her grief.

"What is it, dear one? Have you had bad news? A telegram from Rockhold?
Either of the old people had a stroke? Tell me, dear?"

"Nothing--has--happened," she answered, giving each word with a gasp.

"Then what troubles you, dear? Tell me, wife! tell me! I am your
husband!" he whispered, smoothing her black hair, and gazing with
infinite tenderness on her troubled face.

"Oh, Rule! Rule! Rule!" she moaned, closing her eyes, that could not
bear his gaze.

"Tell me, dear," he murmured, gently, continuing to stroke her hair.

"I am--nervous--Rule," she breathed. "I shall get over it--presently.
Give me--a little time," she gasped.

"Nervous?" He gazed down on her woe-writhen face, with its closed eyes
that would not meet his own. Yes, doubtless she was nervous--very
nervous--but she was more than that. Mere nervousness never blanched a
woman's face, wrung her features or convulsed her form like this.

"Cora, look at me, dear. There is something I have to say to you."

She forced herself to lift her eyelids and meet the honest, truthful
eyes that looked down into hers.

"Cora," he said, with a certain grave yet sweet tone of authority,
"there is some great burden on your mind, dear--a burden too heavy for
you to bear alone."

"Oh, it is! it is! it is!" she wailed, as if the words had broken from
her without her knowledge.

"Then let me share it," he pleaded.

"Oh, Rule! Rule! Rule!" she wailed, dropping her head upon his breast.

"Is your trouble so bitter, dear? What is it, Cora? It can be nothing
that I may not share and relieve. Tell me, dear."

"Oh, Rule, bear with me! I did not wish to distress you with my folly,
my madness. Do not mind it, Rule. It will pass away. Indeed, it will. I
will do my duty by you. I will be a true wife to you, after all. Only do
not disturb your own righteous spirit about me, do not notice my moods;
and give me time. I shall come all right. I shall be to you--all that
you wish me to be. But, for the Lord's love, Rule, give me time!" she
pleaded, with voice and eyes so full of woe that the man's heart sank in
his bosom.

He grew pale and withdrew his arm from her neck. She lifted her head
from his breast then and leaned back in the corner of the sofa. She
trembled with fear now, lest she had betrayed her secret, which she had
resolved to keep for his own sake. She looked and waited for his words.
He was very still, pale and grave. Presently he spoke very gently to the
grieving woman.

"Dear, you have said too much and too little. Tell me all now, Cora. It
is best that you should, dear."

"Rule! oh, Rule! must I? must I?" she pleaded, wringing her hands.

"Yes, Cora; it is best, dear."

"Oh, I would have borne anything to have spared you this. But--I
betrayed myself. Oh, Rule, please try to forget what you have seen and
heard. Bear with me for a little while. Give me some little time to get
over this, and you shall see how truly I will do my duty--how earnestly
I will try to make you happy," she prayed.

"I know, dear--I know you will be a good, dear wife, and a dearly loved
and fondly cherished wife. But begin, dear, by giving me your
confidence. There can be no real union without confidence between
husband and wife, my Cora. Surely, you may trust me, dear," he said,
with serious tenderness.

"Yes; I can trust you. I will trust you with all, through all, Rule. You
are wise and good. You will forgive me and help me to do right." She
spoke so wildly and so excitedly that he laid his hand tenderly,
soothingly, on her head, and begged her to be calm and to confide in him
without hesitation.

Then she told him all.

What a story for a newly-married husband to hear from his wife on the
evening of their wedding day!

He listened in silence, and without moving a muscle of his face or form.
When he had heard all he arose from the sofa, stood up, then reeled to
an arm chair near at hand and dropped heavily into it, his huge,
stalwart frame as weak from sudden faintness as that of an infant.

"Oh, Rule! Rule! your anger is just! It is just!" cried Cora, wringing
her hands in despair.

He looked at her in great trouble, but his beautiful eyes expressed only
the most painful compassion. He could not answer her. He could not trust
himself to speak yet. His breast was heaving, working tumultuously. His
tawny-bearded chin was quivering. He shut his lips firmly together, and
tried to still the convulsion of his frame.

"Oh, Rule, be angry with me, blame me, reproach me, for I am to
blame--bitterly, bitterly to blame. But do not hate me, for I love you,
Rule, with a sister's love. And forgive me, Rule--not just now, for
that would be impossible, perhaps. But, oh! do forgive me after a while,
Rule, for I do repent--oh, I do repent that treason of the heart--that
treason against one so worthy of the truest love and honor which woman
gives to man. You will forgive me--after a while--after a--probation?"

She paused and looked wistfully at his grave, pained, patient face.

He could not yet answer her.

"Oh, if you will give me time, Rule, I will--I will banish every
thought, every memory of my--my--my season in London, and will devote
myself to you with all my heart and soul. No man ever had, or ever could
have, a more devoted wife than I will be to you, if you will only trust
me and be happy, Rule. Oh!" she suddenly burst forth, seeing that he did
not reply to her, "you are bitterly angry with me. You hate me. You
cannot forgive me. You blame me without mercy. And you are right. You
are right."

Now he forced himself to speak, though in a low and broken voice.

"Angry? With you, Cora? No, dear, no."

"You blame me, though. You must blame me," she sobbed.

"Blame you? No, dear. You have not been to blame," he faltered, faintly,
for he was an almost mortally wounded man.

"Ah! what do you mean? Why do you speak to me so kindly, so gently? I
could bear your anger, your reproaches, Rule, better than this
tenderness, that breaks my heart with shame and remorse!" cried Cora,
bursting into a passion of sobs and tears.

He did not come near her to take her in his arms and comfort her as
before. A gulf had opened between them which he felt that he could not
pass, but he spoke to her very gently and compassionately.

"Do not grieve so bitterly, dear," he said. "Do not accuse yourself so
unjustly. You have done no wrong to me, or to any human being. You have
done nothing but good to me, and to every human being in your reach. To
me you have been more than tongue can tell--my first friend, my muse, my
angel, my inspiration to all that is best, greatest, highest in human
life--the goal of all my earthly, all my heavenly aspirations. That I
should love you with a pure, single, ardent passion of enthusiasm was
natural, was inevitable. But that you, dear, should mistake your
feelings toward me, mistake sisterly affection, womanly sympathy,
intellectual appreciation, for that living fire of eternal love which
only should unite man and woman, was natural, too, though most
unfortunate. I am not fair to look upon, Cora. I have no form, no
comeliness, that any one should--"

He was suddenly interrupted by the girl, who sprang from her seat and
sank at his feet, clasped his knees, and dropped her head upon his hands
in a tempest of sobs and tears, crying:

"Oh, Rule! I never did deserve your love! I never was worthy of you! And
I long have known it. But I do love you! I do love you! Oh, give me time
and opportunity to prove it!" she pleaded, with many tears, saying the
same words over and over again, or words with the same meaning.

He laid both his large hands softly on her bowed head and held them
there with a soothing, quieting, mesmeric touch, until she had sobbed,
and cried, and talked herself into silence, and then he said:

"No, Cora! No, dear! You are good and true to the depths of your soul;
but you deceive yourself. You do not love me. It is not your fault. You
cannot do so! You pity, you esteem, you appreciate; and you mistake
these sentiments as you mistook sisterly affection for such love as only
should sanctify the union of man and woman."

"But I will, Rule. I will love you even so! Give me time! A little time!
I am your own," she pleaded.

"No, dear, no. I am sure that you would do your best, at any cost to
yourself. You would consecrate your life to one whom yet you do not
love, because you cannot love. But the sacrifice is too great, dear--a
sacrifice which no woman should ever make for any cause, which no man
should ever accept under any circumstances. You must not immolate
yourself on my unworthy shrine, Cora."

"Oh, Rule! What do you mean? You frighten me! What do you intend to do?"
exclaimed Cora, with a new fear in her heart.

"I will tell you later, dear, when we are both quieter. And, Cora,
promise me one thing--for your own sake, dear."

"I will promise you anything you wish, Rule. And be glad to do so. Glad
to do anything that will please you," she earnestly assured him.

"Then promise that whatever may happen, you will never tell any human
being what you have told me to-night."

"I promise this on my honor, Rule."

"Promise that you will never repeat one word of this interview between
us to any living being."

"I promise this, also, on my honor, Rule."

"That is all I ask, and it is exacted for your own sake, dear. The fair
name of a woman is so white and pure that the smallest speck can be seen
upon it. And now, dear, it is nearly eleven o'clock. Will you ring for
your maid and go to your room? I have letters to write--in the
library--which, I think, will occupy me the whole night," he said, as he
took her hand and gently raised her to her feet.

At that moment a servant entered, bringing a card.

Mr. Rothsay took it toward the portiere and read it by the light of the
chandelier in the front room.

"Show the gentleman to the library, and say that I will be with him in a
few minutes," said Rothsay.

"If you please, sir, the lights are out and the library locked. I did
not know that it would be wanted again to-night. But I will light up,
sir."

"Wax candles? It would take too long. Show the gentleman into this front
room," said the governor-elect.

The servant went to do his bidding.

Then Rothsay turned to Cora, saying:

"I must see this man, dear, late as it is! I will bid you good night
now. God bless you, dear."

And without even a farewell kiss, Rothsay passed out.

And Cora did not know that he had gone for good.

She rang for her maid and retired to her room, there to pass a
sleepless, anxious, remorseful night.

What would be the result of her confession to her husband? She dared not
to conjecture.

He had been gentle, tender, most considerate, and most charitable to her
weakness, never speaking of his own wrongs, never reproaching her for
inconstancy.

He had said, in effect, that he would come to an understanding with her
later, when they both should be stronger.

When would that be? To-morrow?

Scarcely, for the ceremonies of the coming day must occupy every moment
of his time.

And what, eventually, would he do?

His words, divinely compassionate as they had been, had shadowed forth a
separation between them. Had he not told her that to be the wife of a
husband she could not love would be a sacrifice that no woman should
ever make and no man should ever accept? That she should not so offer up
her life for him?

What could this mean but a contemplated separation?

So Cora lay sleepless and tortured by these harrassing questions.

When Rule Rothsay entered the front drawing room he found there a young
merchant marine captain whom he had known for many years, though not
intimately.

"Ah, how do you do, Ross?" he said.

"How do you do, Governor? I must ask pardon for calling so late, but--"

"Not at all. How can I be of use to you?"

"Why, in no way whatever. Don't suppose that every one who calls to see
you has an office to seek or an ax to grind. Though, I suppose, most of
them have," said the visitor, as he seated himself.

Rothsay dropped into a chair, and forced himself to talk to the young
sailor.

"Just in from a voyage, Ross?"

"No; just going out, Governor."

Rothsay smiled at this premature bestowal of the high official title,
but did not set the matter right. It was of too little importance.

"I was going to explain, Governor, that I was just passing through the
city on my way to Norfolk, from which my ship is to sail to-morrow. So I
had to take the midnight train. But I could not go without trying for a
chance to see and shake hands with you and congratulate you."

"You are very kind, Ross. I thank you," said Rothsay, somewhat wearily.

"You're not looking well, Governor. I suppose all this 'fuss and
feathers' is about as harassing as a stormy sea voyage. Well, I will not
keep you up long. I should have been here earlier, only I went first to
the hotel to inquire for you, and there I learned that you were here in
old Rockharrt's house, and had married his granddaughter. Congratulate
you again, Governor. Not many men have had such a double triumph as you.
She is a splendidly beautiful woman. I saw her once in Washington City,
at the President's reception. She was the greatest belle in the place.
That reminds me that I must not keep you away from her ladyship. This is
only hail and farewell. Good night. I declare, Rothsay, you look quite
worn out. Don't see any other visitor to-night, in case there should be
another fool besides myself come to worry you at this hour. Now
good-by," said the visitor, rising and offering his hand.

"Good-by, Ross. I wish you a pleasant and prosperous voyage," said
Rothsay, rising to shake hands with his visitor.

He followed the young sailor to the hall, and seeing nothing of the
porter, he let the visitor out and locked the door after him.

Then he returned to the drawing room. Holding his head between his hands
he walked slowly up and down the floor--up and down the floor--up and
down--many times.

"This is weakness," he muttered, "to be thinking of myself when I should
think only of her and the long life before her, which might be so joyous
but for me--but for me! Dear one who, in her tender childhood, pitied
the orphan boy, and with patient, painstaking earnestness taught him to
read and write, and gave him the first impulse and inspiration to a
higher life. And now she would give her life to me. And for all the good
she has done me all her days, for all the blessings she has brought me,
shall I blight her happiness? Shall I make her this black return? No,
no. Better that I should pass forever out of her life--pass forever out
of sight--forever out of this world--than live to make her suffer. Make
her suffer? I? Oh, no! Let fame, life, honors, all go down, so that she
is saved--so that she is made happy."

He paused in his walk and listened. All the house was profoundly
still--all the household evidently asleep--except her! He felt sure that
she was sleepless. Oh, that he could go and comfort her! even as a
mother comforts her child; but he could not.

"I suppose many would say," he murmured to himself, "that I owe my first
earthly duty to the people who have called me to this high office; that
private sorrows and private conscience should yield to the public, and
they would be right. Yet with me it is as if death had stepped in and
relieved me of official duty to be taken up by my successor just the
same--"

He stopped and put his hand to his head, murmuring:

"Is this special pleading? I wonder if I am quite sane?"

Then dropping into a chair he covered his face with his hands and wept
aloud.

Does any one charge him with weakness? Think of the tragedy of a whole
life compressed in that one crucial hour!

After a little while he grew more composed. The tears had relieved the
overladen heart. He arose and recommenced his walk, reflecting with more
calmness on the cruel situation.

"I shall right her wrongs in the only possible way in which it can be
done, and I shall do no harm to the State. Kennedy will be a better
governor than I could have been. He is an older, wiser, more experienced
statesman. I am conscious that I have been over-rated by the people who
love me. I was elected for my popularity, not for my merit. And now--I
am not even the man that I was--my life seems torn out of my bosom. Oh,
Cora, Cora! life of my life! But you shall be happy, dear one! free and
happy after a little while. Ah! I know your gentle heart. You will weep
for the fate of him whom you loved--as a brother. Oh! Heaven! but your
tears will come from a passing cloud that will leave your future life
all clear and bright--not darkened forever by the slavery of a union
with one whom you do not--only because you cannot--love."

He walked slowly up and down the floor a few more turns, then glanced at
the clock on the mantel piece, and said:

"Time passes. I must write my letters."

There was an elegant little writing desk standing in the corner of the
room and filled with stationery, mostly for the convenience of the
ladies of the family when the Rockharrts occupied their town house.

He went to this, sat down and opened it, laid paper out, and then with
his elbow on the desk and his head leaning on the palm of his hand, he
fell into deep thought.

At length he began to write rapidly. He soon finished and sealed this
letter. Then he wrote a second and a longer one, sealed that also.
One--the first written--he put in the secret drawer of the desk; the
other he dropped into his pocket.

Then he took "a long, last, lingering look" around the room. This was
the room in which he had first met Cora after long years of separation;
where he had passed so many happy evenings with her, when his official
duties as an assemblyman permitted him to do so; this was the room in
which they had plighted their troth to each other, and to which, only
six hours before, they had returned--to all appearance--a most happy
bride and groom. Ah, Heaven!

His wandering gaze fell on the open writing desk, which in his misery he
had forgotten to close. He went to it and shut down the lid.

Then he passed out of the room, took his hat from the rack in the hall,
opened the front door, passed out, closed it behind him, and left the
house forever.

Outside was pandemonium. The illuminations in the windows had died down,
but the streets were full of revelers, too much exhilarated as yet to
retire, even if they had any place to retire to; for on that summer
night many visitors to the inauguration chose to stay out in the open
air until morning rather than to leave the city and lose the show.

Once again the hum and buzz of many voices was broken by a shrill cry
of:

"Hooray for Rothsay!" which was taken up by the chorus and echoed and
re-echoed from one end to the other of the city, and from earth to sky.

Poor Rothsay himself passed out upon the sidewalk, unrecognized in the
obscurity.

An empty hack was standing at the corner of the square, a few hundred
feet from the house.

To this he went, and spoke to the man on the box:

"Is this hack engaged?"

"Yes, sah, it is--took by four gents as can't get no lodgings at none of
the hotels, nor yet boarding houses--no, sah. Dere dey is ober yonder in
dat dere s'loon cross de street--yes, sah. But it don't keep open, dat
s'loon don't, longer'n twelve o'clock--no, sah. It's mos' dat now, so
dey'll soon call for dis hack--yes, sah!"

Rothsay left the talkative hackman and passed on.

A hand touched him on the arm.

He turned and saw old Scythia, clothed in a long, black cloak of some
thin stuff, with its hood drawn over her head.

Rothsay stared.

"Come, Rule! You have tested woman's love to-day, and found it fail you;
even as I tested man's faith in the long ago, and found it wrong me!
Come, Rule! You and I have had enough of falsehood and treachery! Let us
shake the dust of civilization off our shoes! Come, Rule!"



CHAPTER VI.

THE WIDOWED BRIDE.


The amazement and confusion that followed the discovery of the
mysterious disappearance of Governor-elect Regulas Rothsay, on the
morning of the day of his intended inauguration, has been already
described in an earlier chapter of this story.

The most searching inquiries were made in all directions without any
satisfactory result.

Then advertisements were put in all the principal newspapers in all the
chief towns and cities throughout the country, offering large rewards
for any information that should lead to the discovery of the missing man
or of his fate.

These in time drew forth letters from all points of the compass from
people anxious to take a chance in this lottery of a reward, and who
fabricated reports of the lost governor having been seen in this, that,
or the other place, or of his body having been found here, there or
elsewhere.

Prompt investigation proved the falsehood of these fraudulent letters in
every instance.

No one really knew the fate of the missing man. No one but Cora Rothsay
had even the clew to the cause of his disappearance; and she--from her
sensitive pride, no less than from her sacred promise not to reveal the
subject of her communicaton to her husband on that fatal evening of his
flight or of his death--kept her lips sealed on that subject.

Days, weeks and months passed away without bringing any authentic news
of the lost ruler.

At length hope was given up. The advertisements were withdrawn from the
papers.

Still occasionally, at long intervals of time, vague rumors reached his
friends--a sailor had seen him in the streets of Rio de Janeiro; a fur
trader had found him in Washington Territory; a miner had met him in
California--but nothing came of all these reports.

One morning, late in December, there came some news, not of the actual
fate of the governor, but of the long-lost man who had seen the last of
him alive.

Despite the bitter pleading of the poor, bereaved bride, who dreaded the
crowded city and desired to remain in seclusion in the country, old
Aaron had removed his whole family to their town house for the winter.

They had been settled there only a few days, and were gathered around
the breakfast table, when a card was brought in to Mr. Rockharrt.

"'Captain Ross!' Who, in the fiend's name, is Captain Ross? And what
does he want at this early hour of the morning?" demanded the Iron King,
after he had read the name on the card. Then, as he scrutinized it, he
saw faintly penciled lines below the name and read:

"The late visitor who called on Governor-elect Rothsay on the evening of
his disappearance."

"Show the man in the library, Jason," exclaimed old Aaron Rockharrt,
rising, leaving his untasted breakfast, and striding out of the room.

In the library he found a young skipper, tall, robust, black bearded and
sun burned.

"Captain Ross?" said the old man, interrogatively.

"The same, at your service, sir--Mr. Rockharrt, I presume?" said the
visitor with a bow.

"That's my name. Sit down," said the Iron King, pointing to one chair
for his visitor and taking another for himself.

"So you were the last visitor to Mr. Rothsay, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, can you give any information regarding the disappearance of my
grandson-in-law?"

"No, sir; but learning that I had been advertised for, I have come
forward."

"At rather a late date, upon my soul and honor! Where have you been all
this time?"

"At sea. When I called upon Mr. Rothsay, it was to congratulate him on
his position and to bid him good-by. I was on the eve of sailing for
India, and, in fact, left the city by the night's express and sailed the
next morning. I think we must have been out of sight of land before the
news of the governor's disappearance was spread abroad."

"What explanation can you give of his sudden disappearance?"

"None whatever, sir."

"Then, in the demon's name, why have you come forward at all at this
time?"

"Because I was advertised for."

"That was months ago."

"But months ago I was at sea and knew nothing of the matter. I have but
just returned from a long voyage, and hearing among other matters that
Governor Rothsay had been missing since the day of his inauguration,
that Governor Kennedy reigned in his stead, and that the latest visitor
of the missing man had long been wanting, I have come."

"Do you appreciate the gravity of your own position, sir, under the
circumstances?" sternly demanded the Iron King.

"I--don't--understand you," said the skipper, in evident perplexity.

"You don't? That is strange. You are the last man--the last person--who
saw Governor-elect Rothsay alive, at eleven o'clock on the night of his
disappearance. After that hour he was missing, and you had run away."

The young sailor smiled.

"Steamed away, and sailed away, you should say, sir. I see the suspicion
to which your words point, and will answer them at once: On that night
in question I was a guest of the Crockett House. I was absent from that
house only half an hour--from a quarter to eleven to a quarter after
eleven--during which time I walked to this house, saw the
governor-elect, and walked back to the hotel, only to pay my bill, take
a hack and drive to the railway station. Do you think that in half an
hour I could have done all that and murdered the governor, and made away
with his body besides, Mr. Rockharrt?"

"You would have to prove the truth of your words, sir," replied the Iron
King.

"That is easily done by the people at the hotel. I did not tell them
where I was going. I never even thought of telling them. But they know
I was only gone half an hour; for before going out, or just as I was
going out, I ordered the carriage to be ready to take me to the depot at
a quarter past eleven."

"They may have forgotten all about you."

"Not at all. I am an old customer, though a young man. They know me very
well."

"Then it is very strange that when every anxious inquiry was made for
this latest visitor of the governor-elect, these hotel people did not
come forward and name you."

"But I repeat, sir, that they did not know that I was that latest
visitor. I did not think of telling any one that I was going to see
Rothsay before I went, or of telling them that I had been to see him
after I went. They had no more reason to identify me with that late
caller than any other guest at the hotel, or, in fact, any other man in
the world. Come, Mr. Rockharrt, you have complimented me with one of the
blackest suspicions that could wrong an honest man, but I will not
quarrel with you. I know very well that the last person seen with a
missing man is often suspected of his taking off. As for me, I invite
the most searching investigation."

"Why did you come here, after so long an interval?" demanded the Iron
King, in no way mollified by the moderation of his visitor.

"As I explained to you, I come now because I have just heard that I had
been advertised for; and after this long interval because I have been
for months at sea. I had, however, another motive for coming--to tell
you of the strange manner of Regulas Rothsay during my interview with
him--a manner that does not seem to have been observed by any one else,
for all speak and write of his health and extraordinarily good spirits
on the evening of his arrival in the city only a few hours before I saw
him, when he seemed very far from being in good health or good spirits.
In fact, a more utterly broken man I never saw in my life."

"Ah! ah! What is this you tell me? Give me particulars! Give me
particulars!" said the Iron King, rising and standing over his visitor.

"Indeed, I do not think I can give you particulars. The effect he seemed
to produce was that of a general prostration of body and mind. On coming
into the room where I waited for him, he looked pale and haggard; he
tottered rather than walked; he dropped into his chair rather than sat
down in it; his hands fell upon the arms rather than grasped them; he
was gloomy, absent-minded, and when he spoke at all, seemed to speak
with great effort."

"Ah! ah! ah!" exclaimed the Iron King.

"I thought the fatigue and excitement of the day had been too much for
him. I made my visit very short, and soon bade him good-night. He wished
me a prosperous voyage, but did not invite me to visit him on my
return--a kindness that he had never before omitted."

"Ah, ah ah!" again exclaimed old Aaron Rockharrt.

"Then I thought his manner and appearance only the effect of excessive
fatigue and excitement. Now, seen in the light of future events, I
attach a more serious meaning to them."

"What! what! what!" demanded the Iron King.

"I think that some fatal news, from some quarter or other, had reached
him; or that some heavy sorrow had fallen upon him; or, worse than all,
sudden insanity had overtaken him! That, under the lash of one or
another, or all of these, he fled the house and the city, and--made away
with himself."

"Now, Heaven forbid!" exclaimed old Aaron Rockharrt, dropping into his
chair.

"One favor I have to ask you, Mr. Rockharrt, and that is, that the most
searching investigation be made of my movements on that fatal evening of
the governor's disappearance."

"It shall be done," said the Iron King.

"I shall remain at the David Crockett until all the friends of the late
governor are satisfied so far as I am concerned. And now, having said
all I have to say, I will bid you good morning," concluded the visitor
as he arose, took up his hat, bowed, and left the room.

Old Aaron Rockharrt returned to the breakfast table, where his
subservient family waited.

The coffee, that had been sent to the kitchen to be kept hot, was
brought up again, with hot rolls and hot broiled partridges.

The old man resumed his breakfast in silence. He did not think proper to
speak of his visitor, nor did any member of the family party venture to
question him.

And this was well, so far as Cora was concerned.

Any allusion to the agonizing subject of her husband's mysterious
disappearance was more than she could well bear; and to have hinted in
her presence that some hidden sorrow had driven him to self-destruction
might almost have wrecked her reason.

Cora now never mentioned his name; yet, as after events proved, he was
never for a moment absent from her mind.

The old grandmother, who could not speak to Cora on the subject, and who
dared not speak to her lord and master on any subject that he did not
first broach, and yet who felt that she must talk to some one of that
which oppressed her bosom so heavily, at length confided to her youngest
son.

"I do think Cora's heart is breaking in this suspense, Clarence! If Rule
had died there would have been an end of it, and she would have known
the worst and submitted to the inevitable! But this awful suspense,
anxiety, uncertainty as to his fate, is just killing her! I wish we
could do something to save her, Clarence!"

"I wish so, too, mother! I see how she is failing and sinking, and I own
that this surprises me! I really thought that Cora was fascinated by
that fellow in London." (This was the irreverent manner in which Mr.
Clarence spoke of his grace the Duke of Cumbervale.) "And I thought that
she only married Rothsay from a sense of duty, keeping her word, and all
that sort of thing! I can't understand her grieving herself to death for
him now!"

"Oh, Clarence! she was fascinated by the rank and splendor and personal
attractions of the young duke! Her fancy, vanity, ambition and
imagination were fired; but her heart was never touched! She had not
seen Rothsay for so long a time that his image had somewhat faded in her
memory when this splendid young fellow crossed her path and dazzled her
for a time! It was a brief madness--nothing more! But you can see for
yourself how really she loved Rothsay when you see that anxiety for his
fate is breaking her heart."

"I see, mother dear; but I don't understand! And I don't know what on
earth we can do for her! If my father does not think proper to suggest
something, we must not, for if we should do so it would make matters
much worse."

"Yes," sighed the old lady; and the subject was dropped.

Clarence had said that he did not understand Cora's state of mind. No;
nor did old Mrs. Rockharrt. How could they, when Cora had not understood
herself, until suffering brought self-knowledge?

From her childhood up she had loved Rule Rothsay as a sister loves a
favorite brother. In her girlhood, knowing no stronger love, on the
strength of this she accepted the offered hand of Rothsay, and was
engaged to be married to him. She meant to have been faithful to him;
but it was a long engagement, during which she traveled with her
grandparents for three years, while the memory of her calmly loved
betrothed husband grew rather dim. Then came her meeting with the
handsome and accomplished young Duke of Cumbervale, and the infatuation,
the hallucination that enslaved her imagination for a period. Then began
the mental conflict between inclination and duty, ending in her
resolution to forget her English lover and to be true to Rule.

Up to the very wedding day she had suppressed and controlled her
feelings with heroic firmness, but on the evening of that day, while
waiting for her husband, the long, severe tension of her nerves utterly
gave way, and when found in a paroxysm of tears and questioned by him,
in her wretchedness and misery she had confessed the infidelity of her
heart and pleaded for time to conquer it.

She had expected bitter reproaches, but there were none. She had dreaded
fierce anger, but there was none. She had anticipated obduracy, but
there was none. There was nothing but intense suffering, divine
compassion, and infinite renunciation. He pitied her. He soothed her. He
defended her from the reproaches of her own conscience. He protected her
by an imposed provision that for her own sake she should not tell others
what she had told him. And then--

He laid down all the honors that his life-long toil and self-denial had
won for her sake, and he went out from his triumphs, went out from her
life--out, out into the outer darkness of oblivion, to be seen no more
of men, to be heard of no more by men. All for her sake. And before the
majesty of such infinite love, such infinite renunciation, her whole
soul bowed down in adoration. Yes, at last, in the hour of losing him
she loved him as he longed to be loved by her. She had but one desire on
earth--to be at his side. But one prayer, and that was her "vital
breath"--for his return.

She felt herself to be unworthy of the measureless love that he had
given her--that he still gave her, if he still lived, for his love had
known no shadow of turning, nor ever would suffer change.

But, oh! where in space was he? How could she reach him? How could she
make him hear the cry of her heart?

One message, like a voice from the grave, had, indeed, come to her from
him since his disappearance, but it had been sent before he left the
house; it was in the letter he had written and placed in the secret
drawer of her writing desk before he went forth that fatal night, a
"wanderer through the world's wilderness."

She had found it on that day, about three weeks after his loss, when she
had come into the parlor for the first time since her illness, and when,
left alone for a few minutes by her grandmother, she had gone to her
writing desk, and in the idleness of misery had begun carelessly,
aimlessly, to turn over her papers. In the same mood she pressed the
spring of the secret drawer, and it sprang open and projected the letter
before her. She recognized his handwriting, seized the paper and opened
it. It contained only a few words of farewell, with a prayer for her
happiness and a parting blessing.

There was no allusion made to the cause of their separation. Probably
Rule had thought of the letter falling into other hands than hers; so he
had refrained from referring to her secret, lest she should suffer
reproach from her family.

Cora read this letter with deep emotion over and over again, until she
found herself staring at the lines without gathering their meaning, and
then she felt herself growing giddy and faint, for she was still very
weak from recent illness, and she hastily dropped the letter into the
desk and shut down the lid, only just before a film came over her eyes,
a muffled sound in her ears, and oblivion over her senses. This is the
swoon in which she was found by Mrs. Rockharrt, and for which she could
give no satisfactory reason.

When Cora recovered from that swoon her first care, on the first
opportunity, was to go to her writing desk to look for her precious
letter--Rothsay's last letter to her. No one had opened her desk or
disturbed its contents.

She found her letter; pressed it to her heart and lips many times; then
made a little silken bag, into which she put it; then tied it around her
neck with a narrow ribbon.

And from that day it rested on her heart. It was her priceless treasure
to be cherished above all others, "the first to be saved in fire or
flood." It was the only relic of her lost love with his last good-by,
and prayers and blessings. It was her magic talisman, still connecting
her in some occult way with the vanished one. It was her anchor of hope,
still promising in some mysterious manner the final return of her lost
husband.

While Cora mourned and dreamed away these first days of the family's
return to their town house, old Aaron Rockharrt was sifting the evidence
of the story told by Captain Ross; he proved the truth of the skipper's
account; and he failed to connect the young man's late visit on that
fatal night with the almost simultaneous disappearance of Rothsay.

The season passed on. Mr. and Mrs. Rockharrt gave dinner parties and
supper parties; and received and accepted invitations to similar
entertainments in return; but no persuasions nor arguments could prevail
on Cora to go into any society. Not even the iron will of the Iron King
could conquer in this matter. His granddaughter was his own personal
property, and one of the attractions of his house; it was in her place
to wear her best clothes and costliest jewels, and to show herself to
his guests; and her persistent refusal to do this put him in a gloomy,
teeth-grinding, impotent rage.

"Cora is of age! She has a very sufficient provision. And now if she
does not return to her duty and render herself amenable to my authority
and obedient to my commands, I shall order her to find another home; for
I mean to be master of my own house and of everybody in it!" he said,
savagely, to his timid wife, one evening when she was doing valet's duty
by dressing his hair for a dinner party.

"Oh, Aaron! Aaron! have pity on the poor, heartbroken girl!" pleaded the
old lady, falling into a fit of trembling that interfered with her task.

"Hold your tongue and heed my words, for I shall do as I say. And mind
what you are about now! You have scratched my ear with the bristles of
the brush."

"I beg your pardon, Aaron, but my hand shakes so."

"If that young woman don't submit herself to my will, and obey my
orders, I will pack her out of this house. And then, perhaps, your
nerves will be quieter! I'll do it, for I am not particularly fond of
having grass widows about me," he growled.

She made no reply. She could not trust herself to speak. It required all
her self-control to steady her hands so as to complete her master's
toilet.

Then she had to dress herself in haste and agitation to be ready in
time to accompany her husband to the dinner party at the executive
mansion, which was now occupied by Lieutenant-Governor Kenelm
Kennedy--and from which the Iron King would not allow his wife to absent
herself.

Old Aaron Rockharrt was the lion of the evening, as he was the lion of
every party in the State capital, probably because he owned the lion's
share of the State's wealth, and had more money, perhaps, than the
State's treasury. He enjoyed this beast worship, and came to his town
house every season and went into general society to receive it.

Mrs. Rockharrt was very anxious to have a talk with her granddaughter,
to warn her of impending danger and to implore her to obey the wishes of
her grandfather, but the poor old lady had no opportunity.

Cora sat up for her grandparents, in case they should need any of her
services on their return.

They came in very late, and then the exactions of the domestic tyrant
kept his wife in attendance on him until they were all in bed.



CHAPTER VII.

NEWS OF THE MISSING MAN.


The next morning, while Aaron Rockharrt slept the sleep of the
dead-in-selfishness, his wife arose and crept into the bedroom of her
granddaughter.

Cora was awake, but not yet up.

"Oh, grandma, you will get your death of cold! walking about the house
in your night gown. What is it? What do you want? Can I do anything for
you?" cried the girl, springing out of bed to turn on the heat of the
register, and then wrapping a large shawl around the old lady, and
putting her into the cushioned easy chair.

"Now what is it, dear grandma? What can I do for you?" she inquired, as
she drew on her own wadded dressing gown and sat on the side of the bed
near the old lady.

"You can do something to set my mind at ease, my dear; but it will be
painful for you, and I do not know whether you will do it," said the old
lady with timid hesitation.

"I can do this, dear? Then, of course, I will do it," replied the girl.

"It is almost too much to ask of you, my child."

"There is nothing, nothing that I would not do to give you peace--you,
poor dear, who have so little peace," said Cora, tenderly, smoothing the
silver hair away from the wrinkled brow of the old lady, who began to
drop a few weak tears of self-pity, excited by Cora's sympathy.

"Well, my child," she said, "your grandfather is going to have a little
talk with you soon--on the subject of your self-seclusion. Oh! my poor
child, do not resist him, do not provoke, do not disobey him. Oh! for my
sake, Cora, for my sake, do not!"

"Dearest dear, I will leave undone anything in the world you wish me not
to do. I will no longer rebel against my grandfather's authority, even
when he exercises it in such a despotic manner," said Cora, raising the
clasped hands of the old lady and pressing them to her lips.

Mrs. Rockharrt gathered the girl in her arms and kissed her, with a few
more weak tears, but with no more words.

She did not tell Cora of the cruel threat made by the tyrant to turn
her out of doors if she failed to obey him, and she hoped that the girl
might never hear of it, lest in her wounded pride she might forestall
the threat and leave the house of her own accord.

"Now be at ease, dear," said Cora, soothingly. "No more trouble--"

A bell rang sharply and cut off the girl's speech.

"Oh, there he is awake! I must go to him," exclaimed the timid old
creature.

Cora made her toilet, and then went down to the breakfast parlor, where
she found the two old people about to sit down to the table. She bade
her grandfather good morning and then took her place.

During breakfast Aaron Rockharrt said:

"Mrs. Rothsay, you will come to me in the library as soon as we leave
the table. I have something to say to you that must be said at once and
for the last time."

"Very well, sir," replied the girl.

Half an hour later she was closeted with her grandfather.

"Madam, I do not intend to waste much time over you this morning. I
merely mean to put a test question, whose answer shall decide my future
course in regard to you."

"Very well."

"I must preface my question by reminding you that you have constantly
disregarded my wishes and disobeyed my orders by refusing to see my
guests or to go out in company with me."

"Yes."

"When honored with an invitation to the state dinner at the executive
mansion you declined to go, even though I expressed my will that you
should accompany me."

"Yes."

"But for the future I intend to be master of my own house and of every
living soul within it. Now, then, for my test question. You have
received cards to the ball to be given at the house of the chief justice
to-morrow evening. I wish you to attend it, and my wish should be a
command."

"Of course."

"What is your answer? Think before you speak, for on your answer must
depend your future position in my house."

Cora was silent for a few moments.

"Sir," she began at length, "you are a just man, at least, and you will
not refuse to hear and consider my reasons for seclusion."

"I will consider nothing! I know them as well as you do. Morbid
sensitiveness about your peculiar position; morbid dread of facing the
world; morbid love of indulging in melancholy. And I will have none of
it! None of it! I will be obeyed, and you shall go out into society, or
else--"

"'Or else' what will be the alternative, sir?"

"You leave my house! I will have no rebel in my family!"

Had Cora followed the impulse of her proud and outraged spirit, she
would have walked out of the library, gone to her room, put on her
bonnet and cloak, and left the house, leaving all her goods to be sent
after her; but the girl thought of her poor, gentle, suffering
grandmother, and bore the insult.

"Sir," she said, with patient dignity, "do you think that it would have
been decorous, under the peculiar circumstances, for me to appear in
public, and especially at a state dinner at the executive mansion?"

"Madam, I instructed you to accept that invitation and to attend that
dinner! Do you dare to hint that I would counsel you to any indecorous
act?"

"No, sir; certainly not, if you had stopped to think of it; but
weightier matters occupied your mind, no doubt."

"Let that go. But in the question of this ball? Do you mean to obey me?"

"Grandfather, please consider! How can I mix with gay scenes while the
fate of my husband is still an awful mystery?"

"You must conquer your feelings, and go, or--take the consequences!"

"Even if I could forget the tragedy of my wedding day, and mix with the
gay world again, what would people say?"

"What would people say, indeed? What would they dare to say of my
granddaughter?"

"But, sir, it would be contrary to all the laws of etiquette and
conventionality."

"My granddaughter, madam, should give the law to fashion and society,
not receive it from them!" said the Iron King, throwing himself back in
his arm chair as if it had been his throne.

Cora smiled faintly at this egotism, but made no reply in words.

"To come to the point!" he suddenly exclaimed--"Will you obey me and
attend this ball, or will you take the other alternative?"

Cora's heart swelled; her eyes flashed; she longed to defy the despot,
but she thought of her meek, patient, long-suffering grandmother, and
answered coldly:

"I will go to the ball, sir, since you wish it."

"Very well. That will do. Now leave the room. I wish to read the morning
papers."

Cora went out to find her grandmother and to relieve the lady's
anxiety; old Aaron Rockharrt threw himself back in his arm chair with
grim satisfaction at having conquered Cora and set his iron heel upon
her neck. Yes; he had conquered Cora through her love for her poor,
timid, abused grandmother. But now Fate was to conquer him.

But Fate had decided that Cora should not attend that ball, or any other
place of amusement, for a long time. And he was just on the brink of
discovering the impertinent interference of Fate in human affairs, and
especially those of the Iron King.

He took up a Washington paper--a government organ--and read, opening his
eyes to their widest extent as he read the following head-lines:

    A MYSTERY CLEARED UP.

    _THE FATE OF GOVERNOR REGULAS ROTHSAY_.

    Killed by the Comanches on November 1st.

    A dispatch from Fort Security to the Indian Bureau, received this
    morning, announces another inroad of the Comanches upon the new
    settlement of Terrepeur, in which the inhabitants were massacred
    and their dwellings burned. Among the victims who perished in the
    flames in their own huts was Regulas Rothsay, late Governor-elect
    of ----, and at the time of his death a volunteer missionary to
    this treacherous and bloodthirsty tribe.

Another man, under the circumstances, might have been unnerved by such
sudden and awful news, and let fall the paper, but not the Iron King.
He grasped it only with a firmer hand, and read it again with keener
eyes.

"What under the heavens took that man out there? Had he gone suddenly
mad? That seems to be the only possible explanation of his conduct. To
abandon his bride on the day of his marriage--to abandon his high
official position as governor of this State on the day of his
inauguration, and without giving any living creature a hint of his
intention, to fly off at a tangent and go to the Indian country and
become a missionary to those red devils, and be massacred for his
pains--it was the work of a raving maniac. But what drove him mad?
Surely it was not his high elevation that turned his head, for if it had
been, his madness would never have taken this particular direction of
flying from his honors. No! it is as I have always suspected. He heard,
in some way, of the girl's English lover, and he, with his besotted
devotion to her, was just the man to be morbidly, madly jealous, and to
do some such idiotic thing as he has done, and get himself murdered and
burned to ashes for his pains! Yes; and it serves him right!--it serves
him--right!"

He sat glowering at the paragraph, and growling over his news for some
time longer, but at length he took it up and walked over to the back
parlor, where he felt sure he should find his two women.

Mrs. Rockharrt and Cora, who sat at a table before the gloomy coal fire,
and were engaged in some fancy needlework, looked up uneasily as he
entered; not that they expected bad news, but that they feared bad
temper.

"Cora," he began, "I shall not insist on your going to the ball
to-morrow."

She looked up in surprise, and a grateful exclamation was on her lips,
but he forestalled it by saying:

"I suppose the news is all over the city by this time. I am going out
to hear what the people are saying about it, and to see if the
government house and the public offices are to be hung in mourning.
There--there it is told in the first column of this paper."

And with cruel abruptness he laid the newspaper on the table between the
two women, and pointed out the fatal paragraph.

Then he stalked out of the room, and called his man-servant to help him
on with his heavy overcoat.

That house, on the previous night, had been one blaze of light in honor
of the State dinner. Now, as well as he could see dimly through the
falling snow, it was all closed up, and men on ladders were festooning
every row of windows with black goods.

"Yes, of course. It is as I expected. The news has gone all over the
town already," said old Aaron Rockharrt, as he strode through the
snowstorm to the business center of the city.

Every acquaintance whom he met stopped him with the same question in
slightly different words.

"Have you heard?" and so forth.

Every intimate friend he encountered asked:

"How does Mrs. Rothsay bear it?" or--

"What on earth ever took the governor out there?"

To all questions the Iron King gave curt answers that discouraged
discussion of the subject. He walked on, noticing that the stores and
offices of the city were being festooned with mourning, and that
notwithstanding the severity of the storm the street corners were
occupied by groups talking excitedly of the fatal news.

He went into the editorial rooms of all the city newspapers and wished
and attempted to dictate to the proprietors the manner in which they
should write of the tragic event which was then in the minds and on the
tongues of all persons.

As he spent an hour on the average at each office, it was late in the
winter afternoon when he got home. It was not yet dark, however, and he
was surprised to see a man servant engaged in closing the shutters.

He entered and demanded severely why the servant shut the windows before
night.

The old man looked nervous and distressed, and answered vaguely:

"It is the missus, sah."

The idea that his wife should take the liberty of ordering the house to
be closed for the night at this unusual hour of the afternoon, without
his authority, enraged him:

"Help me off with my ulster," he said.

When the servant had performed this office the master said:

"Serve dinner at once."

And then he strode into the back parlor, which was the usual sitting
room of his wife and granddaughter. The room was empty and darkened.
More than ever infuriated by fatigue, hunger, and the supposed disregard
of his authority, he came out and walked up stairs to look for his wife
in her own room. He pushed open the door and entered. That room was also
dark, only for the faint red light that came from the coal fire in the
grate. By this he dimly perceived a female form sitting near the bed,
and whom he supposed to be his wife.

"Why, in the fiend's name, is the whole house as dark as pitch?" he
roughly demanded, as he went to a front window and threw open the
shutters, letting in the white light of the snow storm.

"Grandfather!"

It was the voice of Cora that spoke, and there was a something in its
tone that struck and almost awed even the Iron King.

He turned abruptly.

Cora had risen from her chair and was now standing by the bed. But on
the bed lay a little, still, fair form, with hands folded over its
breast, with the eyes shut down forever, and all over the fair, wan,
placid face was "the peace of God which passeth all understanding."

"What is this?" demanded Old Aaron Rockharrt, as he came up to the bed.

"Look at her. She rests at last. I have been with her twenty years, and
this is the first time I have ever seen her rest in peace."

Old Aaron Rockharrt stood like a stone beside the bed, gazing down on
the dead.

"She is safe now, never more to be startled, or frightened, or tortured
by any one. 'Safe, where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary
are at rest,'" continued Cora.

Still Old Aaron stood like a stone beside the bed and gazed down on the
dead.

Suddenly, without moving or withdrawing his gaze from where it rested,
he asked in a low, gruff tone:

"How did this happen?"

"She fainted in her chair, and died in that faint."

"When? where? from what?"

"Within an hour after you had left us together in the back parlor, with
the paper containing the news of my husband's death," answered Cora,
speaking in a tone of most unnatural calmness.

"Had that excitement anything to do with her swoon?"

"I do not know."

"Give me the particulars."

"We--or, rather, she--first took up the paper, and without knowing what
the news was that you told us to look at, gave it to me, and asked me to
read it. I, as soon as I saw what it was--I lost all control over
myself. I do not know how I behaved. But she took the paper, to see what
it was that had so disturbed me, and then, she, too, became very much
agitated; but she tried to console me, tried for a long while to comfort
me, standing over my chair, and caressing and talking. At last she left
me, and sat down and leaned back in her own chair. I was trying to be
quiet, and at last succeeded, and then I arose and went to her, meaning
to tell her that I would be calm and not distress her any more. When I
looked at her, I found that she had fainted. I rang and sent off for a
doctor instantly, and while waiting for him did all that was possible to
revive her, but without effect. When the doctor came and examined her
condition he pronounced her quite dead."

"This must have occurred four or five hours ago. Why was I not sent
for?"

"You were sent for immediately. Messengers were dispatched in every
direction. But you could nowhere be found. They did not, indeed, know
where to look for you."

"Now close the window again, and then go and leave me alone; and do not
let any one disturb me on any account," said the old man, who had not
once moved from the bedside, or even lifted his gaze from the face of
the dead.

"I have telegraphed to North End for Uncle Fabian and Clarence, also to
West Point for Sylvanus. Sylvan cannot reach here before to-morrow, but
my uncles will be here this evening. Shall I send you word when they
arrive?"

"No. Let no one come to me to-night."

"Shall I send you up anything, grandfather?"

"No, no. If I require anything I will ring for it. Go now, Cora, and
leave me to myself."

The girl went away, closing the door behind her. As she descended the
stairs she heard the key turned, and knew that her grandfather had so
shut out all intruders.

He who had come home hungry and furious as a famished wolf never
appeared at the dinner that he had so peremptorily ordered to be served
at once, but shut himself up fasting with his dead. If his eyes were now
opened to see how much he had made her suffer through his selfishness,
cruelty, and despotism all her married life--if his late remorse
awoke--if he grieved for her--no one ever knew it. He never gave
expression to it.



CHAPTER VIII.

"THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSETH ALL UNDERSTANDING."


In the late dawn of that dark winter day Mr. Clarence came down into the
parlor, and found Cora still there, with one gas jet burning low.

"Up so early, my dear child?" he said, as he took her hand and gave her
the good morning kiss.

"I have not been in bed," she replied.

"Not in bed all night! That was wrong. How cold your hands are? Go to
bed now, dear."

"I cannot. I do not wish to."

"My poor, doubly bereaved child, how much I feel for you!" he said, in a
tender tone, and still holding her hand.

"Do not mind me, Uncle Clarence. I do not feel for myself. I am numb. I
feel nothing--nothing," she replied.

Mr. Clarence, still holding her hand, led her to a large easy chair, and
put her in it.

Then he went and rang the bell.

"Tell the cook to make a strong cup of coffee as quickly as she can, and
bring it up here to Mrs. Rothsay," he said to the man who answered the
call.

The latter touched his forehead and left the room.

Mr. Clarence had tact enough not to worry his niece with any more words.
He went and opened one of the front windows to look out upon the wintry
morning. The ground was covered very deeply with the snow, which was now
falling so thickly as to obscure every object.

When the servant entered with the coffee, Mr. Clarence himself took it
from the man's hand, and carried it to his niece and persuaded her to
drink it.

The servant meanwhile, mindful of the proprieties, when he saw the front
window open, went and closed it, and then passed down the room and
opened both the back windows, which gave sufficient light to the whole
area of the apartment.

Finally he turned off the gas, and taking up the empty coffee service,
left the room.

Presently after Mr. Fabian came in, and greeted his niece and his
brother in a grave, muffled voice.

A little later breakfast was served.

"Some one should go up to see if grandpa will have anything sent to him.
Will you, Uncle Fabian?" inquired Cora, as they seated themselves at the
table.

Mr. Fabian left his chair for the purpose, but before he had crossed the
room they heard the heavy footsteps of the Iron King coming down the
stairs.

He entered the dining room, and all arose to receive him. He came up
and shook hands with each of his sons in turn and in silence. Then he
took his place at the table. The three younger members of the family
looked at him furtively, whenever they could do so without attracting
his attention, and, perhaps, awakening his wrath.

Some change had come over him, but not of a softening nature. His hard,
stern, set face was, if possible, more stony than ever.

Neither Mr. Clarence nor Cora dared to speak to him; but Mr. Fabian,
feeling the silence awkward and oppressive, at length ventured to say:

"My dear father, in this our severe bereavement--"

But he got no further in his speech. Old Aaron Rockharrt raised his hand
and stopped him right there, and then said:

"Not one word from any one of you to me or in my presence on this event,
either now or ever. It happened in the course of nature. Drop the
subject. Fabian, how are matters going on at the works?"

"I do not know, sir," replied Mr. Fabian, speaking for the first and
last and only time, abruptly and indiscreetly to his despotic father.

But the Iron King took no notice of the words, nor did he repeat the
question. He drank one cup of coffee, ate half a roll, and then arose
and left the table, without a word. He did not return to his dead wife's
chamber, which he probably knew would now have to be given up to
dressers of the dead and to the undertakers.

He went and locked himself in the library, and was seen no more that
day.

Cora, with her woman's intuition, understood the accession of hardness
that was worn as a mask to conceal grief and remorse.

"Be patient with him, Uncle Fabian. He is your father, after all. And
he suffers! Oh, he suffers! Yes; much more than any of us do," she said.

"Do you think so, Cora?" inquired Mr. Fabian, looking at her in
surprise.

"I know he does," she answered.

"Well, he has good reason to!" concluded Mr. Fabian. Then, after a
pause, he added: "But I am sorry I spoke roughly to my father! I will
make it up to him, or try to do so, by extra deference."

Then they all arose from the table.

Mr. Fabian and Mr. Clarence to attend to the business of the mournful
occasion, which Old Aaron Rockharrt, in his proud, reserved, absorbed
sorrow, seemed to have ignored or forgotten.

Cora stepped away to her grandmother's room, to have a quiet hour beside
the beloved dead before the undertaker should come in and take
possession.

"It is only her body that is dead, I know. But the hands had caressed me
and the lips kissed me; and, right or wrong, I love that body as well as
the heavenly soul that lived within it! The flesh cleaves to the flesh.
And so long as we are in the flesh we will, we must, haunt the shrines
that contain the bodies of those we love," she thought, as reverently
she entered the chamber of death, closed the door, and went up to the
bed whereon lay the tenantless temple in which so lately lived the most
loving, the most patient spirit she had ever known!

But what is this! Into what strange sphere of ineffable peace has Cora
entered? She could not understand the change that came over her. She had
a gentle impulse to close her eyes to all visible matters and yield
herself up to the sweetness of this sphere. Her dear one was living, was
young again, was happy, was sleeping, watched by angels, who would
presently awaken her to the eternal life.

Cora knelt down by the bed and lifted up her heart to the Lord of life
in silent, wordless, thoughtless, profoundly quiet aspiration. She did
not wish to move or speak, or form a sentence even in her mind. She
found her state a strange one, but she did not even wonder at it, so
deep was the calm that enveloped her spirit.

Not long had she knelt there in this rapt serenity, when she was
conscious that some one was rapping softly at the door. This did not
disturb her. She arose from her knees, still in deep peace, went to the
door, and said:

"Presently. I will open presently. Wait a moment."

Then she went back to the bed, turned down the sheet, and gazed upon the
beloved face. How placid it was, and how beautiful. Death had smoothed
every trace of age and care from that little fair old face. She lay as
if sleeping, and almost smiling in her sleep--

    "As though by fitness she had won
    The secret of some happy dream."

Cora stooped and kissed the placid brow, then covered the face, and went
to open the door.

The gray-haired old Jason was waiting outside.

"If you please, ma'am, it is the--"

"I know, I know," said Cora, quietly. "Show them in."

And she passed out and went to her own room.

Her front windows were closed; but through the slats of the shutters she
saw that it was still snowing fast.

"What a winding sheet this will make for her grave," she thought, as she
looked out upon the wintry scene.

There was no wind, the fine white snow fell softly and steadily, giving
only the dimmest view of the government house on the opposite side of
the square draped in mourning.

The funeral of Mrs. Rockharrt took place on the third day after her
death. The snow had ceased, and the winter sun was shining brightly from
a clear blue sky on a white world, whose trees wore pendent diamonds
instead of green leaves, and as every house in the city was hung in
black for the dead governor, the effect of all this glare and glitter
and gloom was very weird and strange, as the funeral cortege passed from
the Rockharrt home to the Church of the Lord's Peace.

After the rites were over, the family returned to their city home, but
only for the night; for preparation had been already completed for their
removal to Rockhold, there to pass the year of mourning.

Old Aaron Rockharrt never changed from his look of stony immobility. If
he mourned for his patient wife of more than half a century, no outward
sign betrayed his feelings. If his spirit suffered with suppressed
grief, his strong frame bore up under it without the slightest
weakening.

On the afternoon of his return from his wife's funeral he shut himself
up in his library and remained there all the evening, refusing to come
to dinner, calling for a bottle of wine and a sandwich and desiring
afterward to be left alone.

Later in the evening he sent for Mr. Fabian to come to him, and there
opened to his eldest son and partner, in whose business talents he had
great confidence, a scheme of speculation so venturous, so gigantic that
the younger man was shocked and staggered, and began to lose faith in
the sound intellect of the Iron King.

"This will make us twice told the wealthiest men in the United States,
if not in the whole world," concluded Old Aaron Rockharrt.

"If it should succeed," said Mr. Fabian, dubiously.

"It shall succeed; I say it. We shall go down to Rockhold to-morrow
morning and the next day to the works, and there I shall give my whole
mind to this matter and make it succeed, do you hear? Make it succeed!
And place my name at the head of the list of wealthy men of this age."

Mr. Fabian did not dare to raise any objection.

"I am pleased, sir," he said, "that you find in this new enterprise an
object of so much interest to engage your mind. Employ me in any way you
think fit. I am quite at your service, as it is my bounden duty to be."

"Very well; that is as it should be. Now I am going to bed. Good night,"
said the Iron King, abruptly dismissing his son, then rising and ringing
for his valet, whose office, since the patient old lady's death, was now
no longer a sinecure.

It seems passing strange that a man of seventy-six years, who had just
lost his life-long and beloved companion--for in his own selfish way he
loved her after a sort, and perhaps more than he loved any human being
in the world--and who must expect before many years to follow her,
should be so full of this world's avarice and ambition; so eager to make
more, and more, and more money, and to stand at the head of the list of
all the wealthiest men in the land. Strange, yet the name of such a one
is legion. But in the case of Old Aaron Rockharrt there might have been
this additional motive--the necessity to seek refuge from the pains of
grief and remorse in the anxieties and activities of speculation. So he
was very eager to get back as soon as possible to business and to enter
at once upon the enterprise he had planned.

Cora was also anxious to leave the city, which she knew was in a fresh
ferment of gossip and conjecture on the subject of her lost husband, the
deceased governor-elect. The news from the Indian Territory had renewed
all the public interest in the mystery of his disappearance.

For some months before this news arrived, the community had settled down
to the conviction that the missing governor had been murdered and his
body made away with, although, as there was no proof to establish the
fact of their theory, there was no thought of inaugurating the
lieutenant-governor as chief magistrate of the State.

Yet, now, when the startling news came that the missing statesman had
been killed by the Comanches in the wilds of the Indian Reservation, far
from any agency, and that he had been living and preaching there as a
volunteer missionary for many months before the massacre, the mystery of
his sudden and unexplained disappearance from the State capital on the
day of his inauguration was not cleared up and made intelligible, but
darkened and rendered more inscrutable.

It was easy enough to understand why a missing man might have been lured
away from his dwelling by some false letter or plausible message, and
murdered in some secret place where his body lay buried in earth or
water, for such crimes were not unfrequent.

But that a bridegroom should secretly depart on the evening of his
wedding day, that a governor should take flight on the evening before
his inauguration, was a course of action only to be explained on the
ground of insanity; and yet Regulas Rothsay was always considered one of
the most level-headed and mentally well balanced among the rising young
statesmen of the country.

Conjecture had once been wild as to the cause of his disappearance--had
he been murdered, or kidnapped, or both? Those were the questions then.

Conjecture was now rampant as to the cause of his sudden flight and self
expatriation to the Indian Territory. Had he suddenly gone mad? Or
committed a capital crime which was on the eve of discovery? These were
the questions now.

Every newspaper was full of the problem, which none but one could solve,
and she was bound to secrecy.

But it gave her inexpressible pain to know that his motives and his
character were being discussed and censured for that course of conduct
for which only herself was to be blamed, and which only she could
explain. A word from her would show him in a very different light before
his critics. But she must not speak that word to save his reputation.

So Cora was anxious to leave the city.

The next morning the whole family set out on their return journey to
Rockhold, where they arrived early in the afternoon. They found
everything in good order, for Cora had taken the precaution to write to
the housekeeper, and warn her of the return of the family.

The grief of the servants for the loss of their kind and gentle old
mistress broke out afresh at the sight of the young lady. And it was
long before the latter could soothe and quiet them.

Fortunately Mr. Rockharrt had gone at once to his room, and so he
escaped annoyance from their loud lamentations, and they escaped stern
rebuke for their want of self-control.

The two young Rockharrts had left the family party at North End, to
inspect the condition of the works, and were to remain there overnight.
Old Aaron Rockharrt, Sylvanus Haught, and Cora Rothsay were, therefore,
the only ones who sat down at the once full dinner table.

The meal passed in almost utter silence, for neither Sylvan nor Cora
ventured to address one word to the hard old man who, whenever they had
spoken to him since his loss of his wife, had replied in short, harsh
words, or not replied at all. The brother and sister, therefore, only
spoke in suppressed tones, at intervals, to each other.

After dinner the old man bade them an abrupt good night, and left the
room to retire to his own chamber. Cora felt sorry for him, despite all
his harshness. She stepped after him and asked:

"Grandfather, can I be of any service to you at all? Help you at your--"

He stopped her by turning and bending his gray brows over the fierce
black eyes which fixed her motionless. He stared at her for an instant
and then said:

"No. Certainly not," and turned and went up stairs.

Cora walked slowly back into the drawing room, at the open door of which
stood Sylvan, who had heard all that passed.

"You had better let the old man alone, Cora. Or you'll have your head
bitten off. I don't want to break the fifth commandment by saying
anything irreverent of our grandfather, but indeed, indeed, indeed it is
as much as one's life, or at least as one's temper, is worth to speak to
him," said the young man.

"I never reverenced my grandfather as much as I do now, Sylvan," gravely
replied the young lady.

"That is all right! Reverence him as much as you please; but don't go
too near the old lion in his present mood. Come and sit down on the sofa
by me, sister, and let us have a pleasant talk--"

"Pleasant talk! Oh, Sylvan!"

"Well, then, Cora, dear sister, a cozy, confidential talk. Do you know
we have not had one for years and years and years?"

They sat down side by side holding each other's hands in silence for a
little while, when Cora said:

"Do you think you will graduate next year, Sylvan?"

"Yes, Cora, certainly."

"And then you will come home for a long visit."

"For a short one, on leave."

"And afterward, Sylvan?"

"Well, afterward I shall be ordered out to 'The Devil's Icy Peak.'"

"What!"

"That was Aunt Cassy's name for all remote parts, you know. 'Devil's Icy
Peak,' which in my destination means some remote frontier fort, among
hostile Indians, border ruffians, grizzly bears, buffaloes,
rattlesnakes, mosquitoes, malaria, and other wild beasts. There is where
they send all the new-fledged military officers from West Point, and
there they may spend the best part of their lives," said Sylvan.

"Unless they have influence with the higher authorities. If they have
such influence, they may be sent to choice posts near the great cities,
in reach of all the best society, best libraries, and all the luxuries
and advantages of the highest civilization."

"Yes, I know; but--" said the young cadet, hesitatingly.

"You, or rather our grandfather, has influence enough to have you
ordered to Washington, New York, Portsmouth--any place."

"Yes, I know; but--"

"But what, Sylvan?"

"Cora, our grandfather's influence is that of wealth--great wealth--and
it is a mighty power in this world at this age; but, you see, Aaron
Rockharrt would not use it in such a way. He would not consider it
honest to do so. Nor would I have it either. No; since the government
has given me a free military education, I think it my duty to go exactly
wherever they may order me, without attempting to evade orders through
the influence of friends or money."

"You are entirely right, dear brother. And I tell you this: Though I
must and will remain with my grandfather so long as he shall need me--so
long as he shall live--yet, when he departs, if you should be stationed
at one of those border posts, I will go out and join you, Sylvan," said
Cora Rothsay, taking both his hands and pressing them warmly.

"No, dear sister; you shall not make such a sacrifice for me," he
answered.

"But after my aged grandfather, whose days on earth cannot be long, whom
have I in this world to live for but you, Sylvan?"

"Other interests in life, I hope, will arise, sister, to give you
happiness," he replied.

Cora shook her head, and as the waiter now entered the parlor with the
bedroom candles, she lighted one, bade her brother good night, and
retired.

The next morning, as but one day of his leave of absence remained, the
young cadet bade good-by to his friends, and left Rockhold for West
Point, where he arrived the next morning just in time to report for
duty, and save his honor.

Old Aaron Rockharrt went up to North End, where his sons awaited him;
there to inspect the works, and commence proceedings toward that vast
enterprise which the Iron King had planned out while in the city.

And from this day forth. "Rockharrt & Sons" devoted all their energies
to this mammoth speculation, while, as the months passed, it grew into
huge and huger proportions, and great and greater success.

Old Aaron Rockharrt's spirits rose with the splendor of his fortune.

He was nearly seventy-seven years of age, yet he said to himself, in
effect: "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years."

Cora, meanwhile, living a secluded and almost solitary life at Rockhold,
occupied herself with a labor of love, in writing the life of her late
husband, with extracts from his letters, speeches, and newspaper
articles. In doing this her soul seemed once more joined to his.

In this manner the year of mourning passed, and the month of January was
at hand.



CHAPTER IX.

TURMOIL OF THE WORLD.


The Rockharrts were again in the State capital. It was but thirteen
months since the death of his wife and since the news of the murder of
his grandson-in law had been received--calamities which had doubly
bereaved the family, and thrown them in the deepest mourning--yet the
Iron King, elated by his marvelous financial success, had thrown open
his house to society, and insisted that his granddaughter should do its
honors.

Cora, who, since the death of the grandmother, had deeply pitied the
grandfather, yielded to his wishes in this respect, though much against
her secret inclination. She did not leave off her widow's mourning, but
she modified it when she presided at the head of the Rockharrt table on
those frequent occasions of the sumptuous and unrivaled dinners given by
the Iron King to those whose fortunes he was making, with his own, by
his mammoth enterprise.

The old man was certainly the lion of the season. He had steadily gone
on from step to step on the ladder of fame (for enormous wealth), until
now he was quoted as not only the richest man of his State, but as one
of the ten richest men in the world.

It was at this time that Mr. Fabian bethought himself of taking a wife.
It was indeed quite time that he should marry, if he ever intended to do
so. He was nearly fifty-two years of age, though looking no more than
forty; his erect and active figure, his fresh and smooth complexion, his
curling brown hair and beard, his smiling countenance and cheerful
demeanor, rendered him quite an attractive man to young ladies, who
credited him with fully twenty years less than his due.

There was, at this time, among the lovely "rosebuds" opening in the
fashionable drawing rooms of the city, a sweet "wood violet," otherwise
Violet Wood; a perfect blonde, with perfect features and a petite
figure. Her beauty was peculiar; she was very small, very dainty; her
hair the palest yellow, her face so white that almost the only color on
her features were her deep blue eyes and crimson lips.

She was an orphan heiress, without any near relation in the world.
Though but eighteen years of age, and just from school, she had already
entered on the possession of her fortune by the terms of her father's
will. She lived with her former guardians, the Chief Justice Pendletime
and his wife.

They had given a grand ball to introduce their ward into society. The
Rockharrts had been invited, of course. And they had all been present.
The Wood Violet, as admirers transposed her name, was equally, of
course, the belle of the evening.

The tall, towering sunflower, Mr. Fabian, fell instantly and
irrecoverably in love with this tiny white wood violet. Many others fell
in love with her, but none to the depth of Mr. Fabian. He resolved to
"take time by the forelock," "not to let the grass grow under his feet"
in this love chase.

The very next morning he said to his father:

"You have lately expressed a wish to see me married, sir. I have been,
in obedience to your commands, looking out for a wife. I think I have
found a woman to suit me, and, what is more to the purpose, to suit you,
sir. However, if I should be mistaken in your taste, I shall, of course,
give up the thought of proposing to her," added artful Mr. Fabian, who
felt perfectly sure that his father would approve his choice.

"Who is she?" demanded the Iron King.

"Miss Violet Wood, the ward of Chief Justice Pendletime."

"You could not have made a wiser choice. You have my full approval. And
the sooner you are married, the better I shall like it."

Mr. Fabian bowed in silence.

"And you remember that we were planning to send a confidential agent to
Europe to establish syndicates for our shares in the principal cities.
Now you can utilize your wedding tour by taking your bride to Europe and
looking after this business in person."

"Yes, of course," assented Mr. Fabian.

"Other details may be thought of afterward. You had better begin to call
on the lady. It is well to be the first in the market."

"Of course, sir."

This ended the conference.

Mr. Fabian groomed himself into as charming a toilet as a gentleman's
morning suit would admit. He then set forth in his carriage and made the
round of the three conservatories of which the town could boast before
he could find a cluster of white wood violets to pin on the lapel of his
coat. He also got a splendid and fragrant bouquet, and armed with these
fascinators he drove to the house of the chief justice and sent in his
card.

The ladies were at home. He was shown into the drawing room, where, oh!
beneficence of fortune, he found his inamorata alone.

In a pale blue cashmere home dress trimmed with swan's down and lace,
she looked fairer, sweeter, daintier, more suggestive of a wood violet
than ever.

She left her seat at the piano and came to meet him, saying simply:

"Good morning, Mr. Rockharrt. Mrs. Pendletime will be down presently.
She is not in good health, and so she slept late this morning after the
ball. Oh! what lovely, lovely flowers! For me? Oh! thank you so much,
Mr. Rockharrt," she added, as Mr. Fabian, with a deep bow and a sweet
smile, presented his offering.

Mr. Fabian made good use of his time, and had advanced considerably in
the good graces of his fair little love before the lady of the house
entered.

Mrs. Chief Justice Pendletime greeted Mr. Fabian most graciously,
inquiring after the health of his father.

A little small talk, a few compliments, and the delightful chat was
broken into by the arrival of other callers, fine youths, admirers of
Violet Wood and secret aspirants to her favor. Even most amiable Mr.
Fabian felt a strong desire to kick them all out of the drawing room,
through the front door and into the street.

He made himself doubly agreeable to the beauty and her chaperon, and
finally offered them a box at the opera for the next evening, and when
it was accepted he at last took leave.

"I have got the inside track and mean to keep it!" he said to himself,
as he drove homeward. And he did keep it. He was really a very
fascinating man when he chose to be so, and he generally did choose to
be so. And he could "make love like an angel." Now, whether he really
won the affections of Violet Wood by his charms of person and address,
or whether he only dazzled the girl's imagination by the splendor of his
wealth and position, or whether her guardians advocated his cause with
the beauty, or whether there was something of all these influences at
work upon her will, I do not quite know. But certain it is that when Mr.
Fabian, after two weeks' courtship, offered his heart, hand, and fortune
to the little beauty, she accepted them, and not only accepted, but
seemed very happy in doing so.

The betrothed lover pleaded for an early wedding day. Violet Wood
answered that she would consult her chaperon and abide by her decision.
Mr. Fabian then took the precaution to see Mrs. Pendletime, and pray
that the marriage might take place early in February. The lady answered
that she would consult her young protegee and be governed by her wishes.

Mr. Fabian bowed, thanked her warmly, shook hands with her cordially and
left the house. He went straight home, took from his safe a casket of
diamonds he had bought for his bride, and saying to himself:

"I can get Violet another and twice as costly a set; and what I need now
is to save time." He called Jason and dispatched him with this casket
and his card done up in a neat parcel, and directed to Mrs. Chief
Justice Pendletime. So prompt had been his action that the chaperon
received this silent bribe before she had spoken to her protegee on the
subject of fixing a day for her marriage.

Now the fire of these diamonds threw such a radiant light on the matter
that Mrs. Pendletime saw at once, and quite clearly, that February,
early in February, was the very best time for the wedding.

She sent for her protegee, and had a talk with her. Now Violet Wood was
by nature a simple-hearted, good-humored girl, who loved to be well
dressed, well housed, well served, and, above all, to be much petted,
especially by such a charming master of the art as was Mr. Fabian. She
also loved to oblige her friends.

So she yielded to the arguments of Mrs. Pendletime and consented to be
married in February--only not during the first week in February, but
about the middle of the month--the fourteenth, say. Saint Valentine's
day, the birds' bridal day, would be a very appropriate time for a wood
violet to wed.

When Mr. Fabian came to pay his usual visit the next morning, Mrs.
Pendletime received him, thanked him profusely for his munificent gift,
telling him at the same time that she should certainly never have
accepted such a costly present from any one who was not connected or
about to be connected with her family. Mr. Fabian bowed deprecatingly
and asked if he might be permitted to see Miss Wood. Surely he might,
she had only intercepted him to thank him for his gift. Then she told
him that he would find Violet alone in the drawing room. He went in, and
found the little creature perched upon the music stool, before the open
piano, trying a new piece of music. She lighted down like a little bird
from a twig and came to meet him. He greeted his betrothed with more
warmth of love than a younger man might have ventured upon--but, then,
Mr. Fabian was no freshman in the college of love. And Violet, though
she did not like to be squeezed so tight and kissed so much, thought it
was all right, since he was her first lover and her betrothed husband.
She was not sufficiently in love with him to be afraid of him. This was
as if one of her school girl friends had hugged and kissed her so much.
When they were seated side by side on the sofa, Mr. Fabian told her that
immediately after their wedding breakfast they should take the train for
New York and thence sail for Liverpool. They should reach London near
the beginning of the fashionable season, which is not winter, as with
us, but spring.

Violet listened in the rapture of anticipation.

"And at the end of the London season we will make a leisurely tour
through England--see the monuments of its great old history; palaces and
castles of kings and chieftains who have been dust for ages. Then the
homes and haunts of the great poets and painters."

The door opened, and the servant announced a visitor. Mr. Fabian, secure
now of his prize, arose and said good morning, leaving Violet to
entertain one of her young adorers. Mr. Fabian went home and sought his
father in the library, where the old man now passed much of his time.

"Well, my dear sir, it is all settled. With your approbation, we--Miss
Violet Wood and myself--will be married on the fourteenth proximo, and
leave for Europe immediately afterward," said Mr. Fabian, seating
himself.

"That is right. I am glad that you will sail in February. You will
thereby escape the winds of March and the tempests of the spring
equinox," said the Iron King, sententiously.

"I am very glad you approve," said Mr. Fabian.

Old Aaron Rockharrt nodded in silence.

Fabian looked at him; saw that the old man looked grave, depressed, yet
stern and strong as adamant. He felt very sorry for his father. His own
present happiness rendered good-natured Mr. Fabian very compassionate
toward the lonely old widower. He had something, inspired by this
compassion, to suggest to the old man, yet he feared to do so
straightforwardly.

"Father," he said at length, for he didn't mind lying the least in the
world--"Father, I heard a strange report about you this morning."

"Indeed! What was it? That I had failed in business, or quadrupled my
fortune?" inquired the egotist, who was always interested when the
question concerned himself.

"Neither, sir. I heard you were going to be married."

"Fabian!" sternly exclaimed the Iron King, darkly gathering his brows.

"Yes, sir," said the benevolent Mr. Fabian, who, now that the ice was
broken, could go on lying glibly with the best intentions and without
the slightest scruple; "yes, sir; you know such rumors must necessarily
get afloat about such a fine-looking, marriageable man as yourself."

"Ah! and since the community have made so free, pray what lady's name
have they honored me by associating with mine?" inquired the Iron King
somewhat sarcastically, yet not ill-pleased to learn that he was still
to be considered a great prize in the matrimonial market.

"Why, of course there could be but one lady in the question; and
equally, of course, you will be able to place her," said Mr. Fabian,
smiling.

"Upon my soul, I am not."

"Well, then, the lady to whom you are reported to be engaged is the
beautiful Mrs. Bloomingfield."

"Who?"

"The beautiful and accomplished Mrs. Bloomingfield, with whom you sat
and talked during the whole evening of the governor's State dinner
party."

"Oh, the widow of General Bloomingfield, who died three years ago. Yes,
I remember her--a very fine creature, most certainly--but I never
dreamed of her in the light of a wife. In fact, I never dreamed of
marrying again," said the Iron King, speaking with unusual gentleness.

Mr. Fabian laughed in his sleeve. He thought of the soft place in the
hard head of the Iron King, a weak part in the strong character of old
Aaron Rockharrt--personal vanity.

"With all possible respect and submission, my dear father, I would
suggest that if you never thought of marrying again, you should do so
now."

"Fabian, I am seventy-seven years old."

"In years, yes; but that is nothing to you. You are not half that age in
health, strength, vigor, and activity of mind and body. What man of
forty do you know who has anything approaching your energy?"

"None that I know of, indeed, Fabian," said the Iron King, softening
into complacency.

"No, none," assented Mr. Fabian. "Men die of old age at almost any time
in their lives--at forty, fifty, sixty, seventy--but you in your
strength of manhood are likely to reach your hundredth year and to be a
hale old man then. Now, and for many years to come, you will not be old
at all."

"Yes; I think I have twenty-five or thirty years longer to live."

"And will you live those years in loneliness? Cora will be sure to
marry. A young woman like Cora will not wear the willow long, believe
me. And when Cora leaves you, what then will you do? You have no other
daughter or granddaughter. As for my promised wife, you yourself made it
a condition of our marriage that we should have an establishment of our
own."

"For the dignity of the house of Rockharrt. Yes, Fabian."

"And when Cora shall have left you, you will be alone--you who require
the gentle ministrations of woman more than any man I ever knew."

"Fabian!" exclaimed old Aaron Rockharrt, suddenly and suspiciously,
bringing his strong black eyes to bear pointedly upon the face of his
son. "What is your motive in wishing me to marry?"

"Heaven bear me witness, sir, that my motive, my only motive, is your
own comfort and happiness," said Fabian, and this time he spoke the
truth.

"I believe you, Fabian. But this lady with whom the world associates my
name is too young for me. She cannot be more than twenty-five," said Old
Aaron Rockharrt reflectively.

"Well, sir! What did the sages and prophets recommend to David? A young
woman to comfort the king. I am not very well posted in Bible history,
but I think that is the story," said Mr. Fabian.



CHAPTER X.

ANOTHER FINE WEDDING.


The marriage of Mr. Fabian Rockharrt and Miss Violet Wood was to be the
great event of the winter.

When the approaching wedding was announced in the newspapers of the day,
it caused a sensation, I assure you. Mr. Fabian Rockharrt, the eldest
son of the renowned millionaire, the confirmed bachelor, for whom "caps"
had been "set" for the last twenty-five years; who had flirted with
maidens who were now wives of elderly men and mothers of grown-up
daughters, and in some cases even grandmothers of growing boys and
girls--Mr. Fabian Rockharrt to be won at last by a little wood violet!
Preposterous!

The fourteenth of February, Saint Valentine's Day, the Birds' Wedding
Day, dawned in that Southern climate like a May day. The snow had
vanished weeks before; the ground was warm and moist; the grass was
springing; the trees were budding; the wood violets were opening their
sweet eyes in sheltered nooks of the forest.

I do not know in what mood Violet Wood arose on that momentous morning
of her life--probably in a very pleasant one. Her chaperon confided to
an intimate friend that the child was not in love; that she had never
been in love in her life, and did not even know what being in love
meant; but that she was rather fond of the fine fellow who adored her,
flattered her, petted her, promised her everything she wanted, and whose
enormous wealth constituted him a sort of magician who could command the
riches, the splendors, the luxuries, and all the delights of life! She
was full of rapturous anticipations of extravagant enjoyments.

Mr. Fabian Rockharrt, utterly unprincipled as he was, yet had the grace
to recognize the purity of the young being whom he was about to make his
wife. He was very kind hearted and good humored with every one; he
really loved this girl, as he had never loved any one in all his life;
and it was his pleasure to indulge her in every wish and whim--even to
suggest and create in her mind more wishes and more whims, such as she
never could have imagined, so that he might have the joy of gratifying
them.

Before starting to church that morning his father called him into the
library for a private interview, and lectured him as if he had been a
lad of twenty-one, who was about to contract marriage--lectured him on
the duties of a husband, of the master of a household and the head of a
family.

The arrival of Mr. Clarence from North End, and of Mr. Sylvan from West
Point by the same train, to be present at the wedding, interrupted the
bridegroom's reflections.

"It is now nine o'clock, boys. You have just time to get your breakfast
comfortably and dress yourselves properly before we leave for the
church. So look sharp," was the greeting of Mr. Fabian, as he shook
hands with his brother and his nephew.

At ten o'clock the carriage containing Mr. Rockharrt, Mrs. Rothsay and
Cadet Haught left the house for the church, which they entered by the
central front door, from which they were marshaled up the center aisle
to their seats in the right hand front pew.

At a quarter past ten the bridegroom, with his best man, Clarence
Rockharrt, followed in another very handsome carriage.

They drove around to the side of the church, and passed in through the
rector's door to the vestry on the left of the chancel, where they
awaited the arrival of the bride's party, and through the open door of
which they looked in upon the splendidly decorated and crowded church.
An affluence of rare exotic flowers everywhere. The green-houses of the
State capital and of three neighboring cities had been laid under
contribution by Mr. Fabian, and had yielded up their sweetest treasures
for this occasion. Floral arches spanned the center aisle from side to
side, all the way up from the door to the chancel; festoons of flowers
were looped from the galleries on three sides of the church; wreaths of
flowers were wound around the pillars from floor to ceiling; the railing
around the chancel was covered with flowers; the pulpit and reading desk
were hidden under flowers. The pews were filled with the beauty,
fashion, and aristocracy of the capital, and a splendid crowd they
formed. Every lady held a rich bouquet; every gentleman wore a rare
boutonniere.

Mr. Fabian looked at his watch from moment to moment. We have scarcely
ever seen a more impatient bridegroom than Mr. Fabian Rockharrt. But,
then, childish disorders go hard with elderly folks. Just as the clock
struck eleven, with dramatic punctuality, the gentlemanly
white-satin-badged ushers threw open the double doors, and the bride's
procession entered. She wore a trained dress of rich white satin, with
an overskirt, berthe and veil, all of duchess lace, looped, fastened and
festooned here and there and everywhere with orange buds; and a
magnificent set of diamonds, consisting of a coronet, necklace,
ear-drops, brooch, and bracelets--too much for the little
creature--lighting her up like fireworks as she passed under the blaze
of the sunlit windows. She carried in her white-gloved hand a bouquet of
white wood violets, with her monogram in purple violets in the center.
She was leaning on the arm of her guardian, the chief justice, followed
by eight bridesmaids.

The bishop, with two other clergymen, in their white vestments, entered
and took their places at the altar. The choir struck up Mendelssohn's
wedding march. The bride's procession came slowly up under all the
floral arches of the center aisle to the floral hedge around the
chancel.

The bridegroom came gayly out of the vestry room to meet her, smiling,
radiant, tripping as if he had been a slim young lover of twenty,
instead of a tall and heavy giant of fifty odd. He took her hand, lifted
it to his lips, and led her to the altar, where both knelt. The
bridesmaids grouped behind them. The best man stood on the groom's
right. Old Aaron Rockharrt, Mrs. Rothsay and Cadet Haught came out of
their pew and formed a group behind the bridegroom.

Mrs. Chief Justice Pendletime, and a few intimate friends, came out of
her pew and grouped behind the bride and her maids.

The rest of the congregation remained in their pews, but stood up, and
those in the rear raised on tiptoes and craned their necks to witness
the proceedings. As soon as the bridegroom and the bride had knelt under
the floral arch, from the high center of which hung a wedding bell of
white wood violets, the bishop and his assistants stepped down from the
high altar steps, and opened their books.

The rites commenced, and went on without any unusual disturbance of
their course until they came to the question:

"Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?"

Her guardian, the chief justice, a portly, ponderous person, was moving
solemnly forward to perform this duty, when--

Old Aaron Rockharrt--not from officiousness, but out of pure simple
egotism--took the bride's hand and placed it in that of the groom,
saying:

"I do."

You may judge the effect of this. The bride was mildly amazed; the
bridegroom was deeply annoyed; the chief justice, the rightful owner of
the thunder, was highly offended, and withdrew back in solemn dignity.
Meanwhile the ceremony went on to its end. The benediction was
pronounced, and congratulations were in order.

The marriage feast was a great success, like most other affairs of the
kind. The chief justice had not got over the affront given him at the
church, but he could not show resentment in his own house, and on the
occasion of his young ward's wedding breakfast. As for Old Aaron
Rockharrt, he had not the faintest idea that he had committed any breach
of propriety. The deuce, you say! Was it not his own eldest son's
wedding? Had he not a right to give away the bride? He never even asked
himself the question. He took it for granted as a matter of course.
Besides, was not he the greatest man present? And should not he do just
as he thought fit? So in utter ignorance of any offense given to any
one, the Iron King unbent his stiffness for once, and was very genial to
every one, especially to the chief justice, who, secretly offended as he
was, could not but respond to this friendliness.

Among the wedding guests around the board was the beautiful widow, Mrs.
Bloomingfield. Mrs. Pendletime had requested Mr. Rockharrt to take her
to the table, and he had offered her his arm, placing her at the board,
and seated himself beside her. The Iron King looked at the lady with
more interest than he would have felt had not Mr. Fabian invented a
rumor to the effect that he, Aaron Rockharrt, was addressing her.

He looked at the lady on his left critically. Yes; she was very
beautiful--very beautiful indeed! And, of course, she would accept him
at once if he should offer her his hand! Very beautiful! A tall, finely
rounded, radiant blonde, with a suit of warm auburn hair, which she wore
in a mass of puffs and coils high on her head; a brilliant, blooming
complexion, damask rose cheeks, redder lips, blue eyes, and a pure,
fine Roman profile--that means, among the rest, a hooked nose--a very
elegant and aristocratic nose indeed, but still a hooked nose. She
carried her head high, and her well turned chin a little forward, her
lip a little curled. All that meant a high spirit, intolerance of
authority, and danger, much danger, to a would-be despot. Oh! very
handsome, and very willing to marry the old millionaire. But--no! the
Iron King thought not! She would give him too much trouble in the
process of subjugation. He would none of her.

Cadet Haught, watching this pair from the opposite side of the table,
whispered to his sister, who sat on his right:

"As I live by bread, Cora, there is the aged monarch flirting with the
handsome widow! A thing unparalleled in human history. Or is it dreaming
I am?"

Cora lifted her languid dark eyes, looked across the table and answered:

"She is trying to flirt with him, I rather fancy."

"Wasted ammunition, eh, Cora?"

"I do not know," replied the young lady.

And then the increasing talk and laughter all around the table rendered
any tete-a-tete difficult or impossible. And now began the toast
drinking and the speech making. It need not be told how Mr. Rockharrt
toasted the bride, how the chief justice responded in behalf of his late
ward, how Mr. Fabian toasted the bridesmaids, how Mr. Clarence responded
on the part of the young ladies, how with this and that and the other
observance of forms, the breakfast came to an end and the bishop gave
thanks.

The bride retired to change her dress for a traveling suit of navy blue
poplin, with hat and feather to match, and a cashmere wrap. Then came
the leave-taking, and the jubilant bridegroom handed his bride into the
elegant carriage, while his best man, Clarence, gave the last order.

"To the railway station."

This was the final farewell, for Mr. Fabian had asked as a particular
favor that no one of the wedding party should attend them to the depot.
Their luggage had been sent on hours before, in charge of the maid and
the valet. Half an hour's drive brought them to the station in time to
catch the 3:30 train East.

"At last, at last I have you away from all those people and all to
myself!" exulted Fabian, as he seated his wife in the corner of the car,
and turned the opposite seat that they might have no near fellow
passenger. For as yet palace cars were not.

The maid and valet were seated on the opposite side of the car.

The train started.

The speed was swift, yet seemed slow. It was the way train they were on,
and it stopped at every little station. They could not have got an
express before midnight, and that would have been perilous to their
chance of catching the steamer on which their passage to Europe was
engaged.

The journey was made without events until about sunset, when the train
reached the little mountain station of Edenheights, where it stopped
twenty minutes for refreshments.

"What a lovely scene!" said the bride, looking down from the window on
her left, into the depths of a small valley lighted up by the last rays
of the setting sun streaming through the opening between two wooded
hills.

"Yes, dear, lovely, if I can think anything lovely besides yourself," he
replied.

"Look, what a sweet cottage that is almost hidden among the trees. An
elegant cottage of white freestone built after the Grecian order. How
strange, Fabian, to find such a bijou here in this wild, remote
section."

"Probably the residence of some well-to-do official connected with our
works," said Mr. Fabian, carelessly; then--"Will you come out to the
refreshment rooms and have some tea? See, they are on the opposite side
of the train."

Violet turned and looked on a very different scene. No wooded and
secluded valley with its one lovely cottage, but a row of open saloons
and restaurants, crowded and noisy.

"No; I think I will not go in there. It is not pretty. You may send me a
cup of tea. I will sit here and enjoy this beautiful valley scene. And
oh, Fabian! Look there, coming up the hillside, what a beautiful woman!"

Mr. Fabian looked out and saw and recognized Rose Stillwater and saw
that she had recognized him. She was coming directly toward the train.

"Sit here, my love; I will go and bring you some refreshments. Don't
attempt to get out, dearest; to do so might be dangerous. I will not be
long," he said, hastily, and rising, he hurried after the other
passengers out of the car.

But instead of going into the railway restaurant he went back to the
rear of the train, placed himself where he stood out of sight of his
wife and of all his fellow passengers, yet in full view of the
approaching woman.

"What devil brings that serpent here?" he muttered to himself. "I must
intercept her. She must not go on board the train. She must not approach
my little wood violet. Good heavens, no!"

But the woman turned aside voluntarily from her course to the stationary
train and walked directly toward himself.

"Well, Rose," he said, in as pleasant a voice as his perturbation of
mind would permit him to use.

"Well, Fabian," she answered.

She was as white and hard as marble; her lips when she ceased to speak
were closed tightly, her blue eyes blazed from her hard, white face.

"What brings you here?" he inquired.

"What brings me here, indeed! To see you. Only this morning I heard of
your intended business. Only this morning, after the morning train had
left. If there had been another train within an hour or two, I should
have taken it and gone to the city and should have been in time to stop
the wicked wedding."

"What a blessing that there was not! You could not have stopped the
marriage. You would only have exposed yourself and made a row."

"Then I should have done that."

"I don't think so. It would not have been like you. You are too cool,
too politic to ruin yourself. Come, Rose," looking at his watch, "there
are but just sixteen minutes before the train starts. I have just
fifteen to give you, because it will take me one minute to reach my
seat. Therefore, whatever you have to say, my dear, had better be said
at once."

"I have not come here to reproach you, Fabian Rockharrt," she said,
fixing him with her eyes.

"That is kind of you at all events."

"No; we reproach a man for carelessness, for thoughtlessness, for
forgetfulness; but for baseness, villainy, treachery like yours it is
not reproach, it is--"

"Magnanimity or murder! I suppose so. Let it be magnanimity, Rose. I
have never done you anything but good since I first met your face, now
twenty years ago. You were but sixteen then. You are thirty-six now,
and, by Jove! handsomer than ever."

"Thank you; I quite well know that I am. My looking glass, that never
flatters, tells me so."

"Then why, in the name of common sense, can you not be happy? Look you,
Rose, you have no cause to complain of me. When even in your childhood,
you--"

"How dare you throw that up to me!" she exclaimed.

He went on as if he had not heard her.

"Were utterly lost and ruined through the villainy of your first
lover--what did I do? I took you up, got a place for you in my father's
house as the governess of my niece."

"Well, I worked for my living there, did I not? I gave a fair day's work
for a fair day's wages, as your stony old father would say."

"Certainly, you did. But you would not have had an opportunity of doing
so in any honest way if it had not been for me."

"How dare you hit me in the teeth with that!"

"Only in self-defense, my Rose."

"It was with an ulterior, a selfish, a wicked end in view. You know it."

"I know, and Heaven knows that I served you from pure benevolence and
from no other motive. Gracious goodness! why, I was over head and ears
in love with another woman at that time. But you, Rose, you made a dead
set at me. You did not care for me the least in life, but you cared for
wealth and position, and you were bound to have them if you could."

"Coward!" she hissed, "to talk to me in this way."

"I am not finding fault with you the least in the world. You acted
naturally on the principles of self-interest and self-preservation. You
wanted me to marry you, but I could not do that under the circumstances.
By Jove! though, I did more for you than I ever did for any other living
woman and with less reward--with no reward at all, in fact. When your
time was up at Rockhold I settled an income on you, and afterward, in
addition to that, I gave you that beautiful cottage, elegantly furnished
from basement to roof. And what did I ever get in return for all that?
Flatteries and fair words--nothing more. You were as cold as a stone,
Rose."

"I would not give my love upon any promise of marriage, but only for
marriage itself."

"And that you know I could not offer you, and you also knew why I could
not."

"Poltroon! to reproach me with the great calamity of my childhood."

"I repeat that I do not reproach you at all. I am only stating the
facts, for which I do not blame you in the least, though they prevented
the possibility of my ever thinking of marriage with you. I gave you a
house furnished, land, and an income to insure you the comforts,
luxuries, and elegances of life. I did not bargain with you beforehand.
I thought surely you would, as you led me to believe that you would,
give me love in return for all these. But no. As soon as you were secure
in your possessions you turned upon me and said that I should not even
visit you at your house without marriage. Now, what have you to complain
of?"

"This! that you have broken faith with me!"

"In what way, pray you?"

"You swore that, if you did not marry me, no more would you ever marry
any woman."

"If you would love me. Not if you would not. Besides, I had not seen my
sweet wood violet then," he added, aggravatingly.

She turned upon him, her eyes flashing blue fire.

"I will be revenged!" she said.

"Be anything you like, my dear, only do not be melodramatic. It's bad
form. Come, now, Rose, you have your house and your income. You are
still young, and much handsomer than ever. Be happy, my dear. And now I
really must leave you and run to the train."

"Go. I will not detain you. I came here only to tell you that I will be
revenged. I have told you that and have no more to say."

She turned and went down the hill toward the cottage in the dell.

Mr. Fabian hurried to the train and sprang on board just as it began to
move.

"Fabian! Oh, Fabian!" cried the alarmed bride, "you were almost knocked
under the wheels!"

"All right, my dear little love. I am safe now," he laughed.

"Where is my tea?"

"Oh, my dear child," exclaimed the conscience-stricken man. "I am so
very sorry! But the tea was detestable--perfectly detestable! I could
not bring you such stuff. I am so very sorry, Violet, my precious."

"Well, never mind. Bring me a glass of ice water from the cooler."

He obeyed her, and when she had drank, took back the tumbler.

A porter came along and lighted the lamps in the cars, for it was now
fast growing dark.

The train sped on.

Our travelers reached Baltimore late at night, changed cars at midnight
for New York, and reached that city the next morning in time to secure
the passage they had engaged.

At noon they sailed in the Arctic for Liverpool.



CHAPTER XI.

THE WILES OF THE SIREN.


When the bridal pair had started on their journey the wedding guests
dispersed.

Old Aaron Rockharrt and his family returned to their town house.

The next morning Mr. Clarence went back to North End to look after the
works. Cadet Haught left for West Point.

Mr. Rockharrt and Mrs. Rothsay were alone in their city home.

Old Aaron Rockharrt continued to give dinners and suppers to noted
politicians until the end of the session and the adjournment of the
legislature.

The family returned to Rockhold in May. Here they lived a very
monotonous life, whose dullness and gloom pressed very heavily upon the
young widow.

Mr. Rockharrt and Mr. Clarence rode out every day to the works and
returned late in the afternoon.

Cora occupied herself in completing the biography of her late husband,
which had been interrupted by the season in the city.

Mr. Clarence often spent twenty-four hours at North End looking after
the interests of the firm, and eating and sleeping at the hotel.

Mr. Rockharrt came home every evening to dinner, but after dinner
invariably shut himself up in his office and remained there until
bedtime.

Cora's evenings were as solitary as her mornings. But a change was at
hand.

One evening, on his return home, Mr. Rockharrt brought his own mail from
the post office at North End.

After dinner, instead of retiring to his office as usual, he came into
the drawing room and found Cora.

Dropping himself down in a large arm chair beside the round table, and
drawing the moderator lamp nearer to him, he drew a letter from his
breast pocket and said:

"My dear, I have a very interesting communication here from Mrs.
Stillwater--Miss Rose Flowers that was, you know."

"I know," said Cora, coldly, and wondering what was coming next.

"Poor child! She is a widow, thrown destitute upon the cold charities of
the world again," he continued.

Cora said nothing. She was marveling to hear this harsh, cruel,
relentless man speaking with so much pity, tenderness, and consideration
for this adventuress.

"But I will read the letter to you," he said, "and then I will tell you
what I mean to do."

"Very well, sir," she replied, with much misgiving.

He opened the letter and began to read as follows:

    WIRT HOUSE, BALTIMORE, MD.,
    May 15, 18--

    MY MOST HONORED BENEFACTOR: I should not presume to
    recall myself to your recollection had you not, in the large
    bounty of your heart, once taken pity on the forlorn creature that
    I am, and made me promise that if ever I should find myself
    homeless, friendless, destitute, and desolate, I should write and
    inform you.

    My most revered friend, such is my sad, hopeless, pitiable
    condition now.

    My poor husband died of yellow fever in the West Indies about a
    year ago, and his income and my support died with him.

    For the last twelve months I have lived on the sale of my few
    jewels, plate, and other personal property, which has gradually
    melted away in the furnace of my misfortunes, while I have been
    trying with all my might to obtain employment at my sometime trade
    as teacher. But, oh, sir! the requirements of modern education
    are far above my poor capabilities.

    Now, at length, when my resources are well nigh exhausted--now,
    when I can pay my board here only for a few weeks longer, and at
    the end of that time must go forth--Heaven only knows where!--I
    venture, in accordance with your own gracious permission, to make
    this appeal to you! Not for pecuniary aid, which you will pardon
    me if I say I could not receive from any one, but for such advice
    and assistance as your wisdom and benevolence could afford me, in
    finding me some honest way of earning my bread. Feeling assured
    that your great goodness will not cast this poor note aside
    unnoticed, I shall wait and hope to hear from you, and, in the
    meanwhile, remain,

    Your humble and obedient servant,
    ROSE STILLWATER.

"That is what I call a very pathetic appeal, Cora. She is a widow, poor
child! Not such a widow as you are, Cora Rothsay, with wealth, friends,
and position! She is a widow, indeed! Homeless, friendless,
penniless--about to be cast forth into the streets! My dear, I got this
letter this morning. I answered it within an hour after its reception! I
invited her to come here as our guest, immediately, and to remain as
long as she should feel inclined to stay--certainly until we could
settle upon some plan of life for her future. I sent a check to pay her
traveling expenses to North End, where I shall send the carriage to meet
her. You will, therefore, Cora, have a comfortable room prepared for
Mrs. Stillwater. I think she may be with us as early as to-morrow
evening," said the Iron King.

And he arose and strode out of the parlor, leaving his granddaughter
confounded.

Rose Stillwater the widow of a year's standing! Rose Stillwater coming
to Rockhold as the guest of her aged and widowed grandfather! What a
condition of things! What would be the outcome of this event? Cora
shrank from conjecturing.

She felt that there had been two factors in bringing about the
situation: first, the death of her grandmother; second, the marriage of
her Uncle Fabian. The field was thus left open for the operations of
this scheming adventuress and siren.

Cora had been so dismayed at the communication of her grandfather that
she had scarcely answered him with a word. But he had been too deeply
absorbed in his own thoughts and plans to notice her silence and
reserve.

He had expressed his wishes, given his orders, and gone out. That was
all.

What could Cora do?

Nothing at all. Too well she knew the unbending nature of the Iron King
to delude herself for a moment with the idea that any opposition,
argument, or expostulation from her would have so much as a feather's
weight with the despotic old man.

If he had asked Mrs. Stillwater to Rockhold under present circumstances,
Mrs. Stillwater would come, and he would have her there just as long as
he pleased.

Cora was at her wits' end. She resolved to write at once to her Uncle
Fabian. Surely he must know the true character of this woman, and he
must have broken off his very questionable acquaintance with her before
marrying Violet Wood. Surely he would not allow his father to be so
dangerously deceived in the person he had invited to his house--to the
society of his granddaughter. He would unmask her, even though in doing
so he should expose himself.

She would also write to Sylvan, who from the very first had disliked and
distrusted "the rose that all admire." And she thanked Heaven that Cadet
Haught would graduate at the next exhibition at West Point and come
home on leave for the midsummer holidays.

While waiting answers from the two absent men she would consult her
Uncle Clarence. Truth to tell, she had but little hope of help in this
affair from her younger uncle. Mr. Clarence was so far from thinking
evil of any one. He was so loath to give pain or have any disturbance in
the domestic circle. He would be sure to feel compassion for Rose
Stillwater. He would be sure to recall her pretty, helpful, pleasant
ways, and the comfort both his father and his mother used to take in her
playful manners and affectionate ministration. Mr. Clarence was much too
benevolent to wish to interfere with any arrangement that was likely to
make the house pleasant and cheerful to his aged father, and give a
comfortable home and support to a desolate young widow. And that the
Iron King should ever be seriously taken in by the beautiful and
bewitching creature he would never believe. Yet Cora knew from all past
experience that Rose Stillwater was more esteemed by old Aaron Rockharrt
and had more influence over him than any living creature. Strange that a
man so hard headed as the Iron King, and so clear brained on all
occasions when not blinded by his egotism, should allow himself to be so
deceived in any one as he was in Rose Stillwater.

But, then, she knew how to flatter this egotism. She was beautiful and
attractive in person, meek and submissive in manner, complimentary and
caressing in words and tones.

Cora asked herself whether it would be right, proper, or expedient for
her to give information of that secret interview between Mr. Fabian and
Mrs. Stillwater, to which she herself had been an accidental and most
unwilling witness, on that warm night in September, in the hotel parlor
at Baltimore.

She could not refer to it in her intended letter to her Uncle Fabian. To
do so would be useless and humiliating, if not very offensive. Her Uncle
Fabian knew much more about that interview than she could tell him, and
would be very much mortified and very indignant to learn that she knew
anything of it. He might accuse her of being a spy and an eavesdropper,
or he might deny and discredit her story altogether.

No. No good could come of referring to that interview in her letter to
her Uncle Fabian. She would merely mention to him the fact that Mrs.
Stillwater had written to Mr. Rockharrt an appealing letter declaring
herself to be widowed and destitute, and asking for advice and
assistance in procuring employment; and that he had replied by inviting
her to Rockhold for an indefinite period, and sent her a check to pay
her traveling expenses. She would tell Mr. Fabian this as a mere item of
news, expressing no opinion and taking no responsibility, but leaving
her uncle to act as he might think proper.

She could not tell her brother Sylvan of that secret interview, for she
was sure that he would act with haste and indiscretion. Nor could she
tell her Uncle Clarence, who would only find himself distressed and
incapable under the emergency. Least of all could she tell her
grandfather, and make an everlasting breach between himself and his son
Fabian.

No. She could tell no one of that secret interview to which she had been
a chance witness--a shocked witness--but which she only half understood,
and which, perhaps, did not mean all that she had feared and suspected.
On that subject she must hold her peace, and only let the absent members
of the family know of Mrs. Stillwater's intended visit as an item of
domestic news, and leave any or all of them to act upon their own
responsibility unbiased by any word from her.

Cora's position was a very delicate and embarrassing one. She did not
believe that this former nursery governess of hers was or ever had been
a proper companion for her. She herself--Cora Rothsay--was now a widow
with an independent income, and was at liberty to choose her own
companions and make her home wherever she might choose.

But how could she leave her aged and widowed grandfather, who had no
other daughter or granddaughter, or any other woman relative to keep
house for him? And yet how could she associate daily with a woman whose
presence she felt to be a degradation?

As we have seen, she knew and felt that it would be vain to oppose her
grandfather's wish to have Mrs. Stillwater in the house, especially as
he had already invited her and sent her the money to come--unless she
should tell him of that secret interview she had witnessed between Mr.
Fabian and Mrs. Stillwater. That, indeed, might banish Rose from
Rockhold, but it would also bring down a domestic cataclysm that must
break up the household and separate its members.

No, she could say nothing, do nothing that would not make matters worse.
She must let events take their course, bide her time and hope for the
best, she said to herself, as she arose and rang the bell.

John, the footman, answered the call.

"It is Martha whom I want. Send her here," said the lady.

The man went out and the upper housemaid came in.

"You wanted me, ma'am?"

"Yes. Do you remember the room occupied by my nursery governess years
ago?"

"Yes, ma'am; the front room on the left side of the hall on the third
story."

"Yes; that is the room. Have it prepared for the same person. She will
be here to-morrow evening."

"Good--Lord!" involuntarily exclaimed old Martha; "why, we haven't heard
of her for a dozen years. What a sweet creeter she was, though, Miss
Cora. I thought as she'd a married a fortin' long ago."

"She has been married and widowed. At least she says so."

"A widow, poor thing! And is she comin' to be a companion or anything?"

"She is coming as a guest."

"Oh! very well, Miss Cora; I will have the room ready in time."

When the old woman had left the room Cora sat down to her writing desk
and wrote two letters--one to Mr. Fabian Rockharrt, Hotel Trois Freres,
Paris; the other to Cadet Sylvanus Haught, West Point, N.Y.

When she had finished and sealed these she put them in the mail bag that
was left in the hall to be taken at daybreak by the groom to North End
post office. Then she retired to rest.

The next morning she breakfasted tete-a-tete with her grandfather, Mr.
Clarence having remained over night at North End. While they were still
at the table the man John entered with a telegram, which he laid on the
table before his master.

"Who brought this?" inquired the Iron King, as he opened it.

"Joseph brought it when he came back from the post office. It had just
come, and Mr. Clarence gave it to Joseph to fetch to you, sir. Yes,
sir!" replied John.

"It is from Mrs. Stillwater. That lady is a perfect model of promptitude
and punctuality. She says--but I had better read it to you. John, you
need not wait," said Mr. Rockharrt.

The negro, who had lingered from curiosity to hear what was in the
telegram, immediately retired.

Old Aaron Rockharrt took up the long slip, adjusted his spectacles and
read:

    WIRT HOUSE, BALTIMORE, MD., May 16th, 18--

    A thousand heartfelt thanks for your princely munificence and
    hospitality. I avail myself of both gladly and at once. I shall
    leave Baltimore by the 8:30 a.m., and arrive at the North End
    Station at 6:30 p.m.

"That is her message. Now I wish you to have everything in readiness for
her. I shall go in person to the depot and bring her home with me when I
return in the evening. Of course it will be two hours later than usual
when I get back here. You will, therefore, have the dinner put back
until nine o'clock on this occasion."

Cora bowed. She could scarcely trust her voice to answer in words.

Mr. Rockharrt, absorbed in his own thoughts and plans, never noticed her
coldness and silence. He soon finished breakfast, left the table, and a
few minutes later entered his carriage to drive to North End.

"'Pears to me old marse is jes' wonderful, Miss Cora. To go to his
business every day like clock work, and he 'bout seventy-seven years
old. And jes' as straight and strong as a pine tree! Yes, and as hard as
a pine knot! He's wonderful, that he is!" said old Jason, the gray
haired negro butler, when he came in from seeing his master off and
began to clear away the breakfast service.

"Yes; your master is a fine, strong man, Jason--physically," replied
Cora, who was beginning to doubt the mental soundness of her
grandfather!

"Physicking! No, indeed! 'Tain't that as makes the old g'eman so
strong. He nebber would take no physic in all his life. It's
consternation, that's w'at it is--his good, healthy consternation!"

"Very likely!" replied Cora, who was too much disturbed to set the old
man right.

She left the breakfast parlor, and went up stairs to superintend in
person the preparation for the comfort of the expected guest.



CHAPTER XII.

THE SIREN AND THE DESPOT.


That May night was clear and cool. The sky was brilliant with stars,
sparkling and flashing from the pure, dark blue empyrean.

In the house it was chilly, so Cora had caused fires to be built in all
the grates.

The drawing room at Rockhold presented a very attractive appearance,
with its three chandeliers of lighted wax candles, its cheerful fire of
sea coal, its warm crimson and gold coloring of carpets and curtains,
and its luxurious easy chairs, sofas and ottomans, its choice pictures,
books, bronzes and so forth. In the small dining room the table was set
for dinner, in the best spare room all was prepared for its expected
occupant.

Cora, in her widow's cap and dress, sat in an arm chair before the
drawing room fire, awaiting the arrival. Half past eight had been the
hour named by her grandfather for their coming. But a few minutes after
the clock had struck, the sound of carriage wheels was heard on the
avenue approaching the house.

Old Jason opened the hall door just as the vehicle drew up and stopped.

Mr. Rockharrt alighted and then gave his hand to his companion, who
tripped lightly to the pavement, and let him lead her up stairs and into
the house. Cora stood at the door of the drawing room. Mr. Rockharrt led
his visitor up to his granddaughter, and said:

"Mrs. Stillwater is very much fatigued, Cora. Take her at once to her
room and make her comfortable; and have dinner on the table by the time
she is ready to come down."

He uttered these words in a peremptory manner, without waiting for the
usual greeting that should have passed between the hostess and the
visitor.

Cora touched a bell.

"Oh! let me embrace my sweet Cora first of all! Ah! my sweet child! You
and I both widowed since the last time we met!" cooed Rose, in her most
dulcet tones, as she drew Cora to her bosom and kissed her before the
latter could draw back.

"How do you do?" was the formal greeting that fell from the lady's lips.

"As you see, dearest--'Not happy, but resigned,'" plaintively replied
the widow.

"You quote from a king's minion, I think," said Cora, coldly.

Rose took no notice of the criticism, but tenderly inquired.

"And you, dearest one? How is it with you?"

"I am very well, thank you," replied the lady.

"After such a terrible trial! But you always possessed a heroic spirit."

"We will not speak of that, Mrs. Stillwater, if you please," was the
grave reply.

Mr. Rockharrt looked around, as well as he could while old Jason was
drawing off his spring overcoat, and said:

"Take Mrs. Stillwater to her room, Cora. Don't keep her standing here."

"I have rung for a servant, who will attend to Mrs. Stillwater's needs,"
replied the lady, quietly.

The Iron King turned and stared at his granddaughter angrily, but said
nothing.

The housemaid came up at this moment.

"Martha, show Mrs. Stillwater to the chamber prepared for her, and wait
her orders there."

The negro woman wiped her clean hand on her clean apron--as a mere
useless form--and then held it out to the visitor, saying, with the
scorn of conventionality and the freedom of an old family servant:

"How do Miss Rose! 'Deed I's mighty proud to see you ag'in--'deed I is!
How much you has growed! I mean, how han'some you has growed! You allers
was han'some, but now you's han'somer'n ever! 'Deed, honey, you's
mons'ous han'some!"

This hearty welcome and warm admiration, though only from the negro
servant, helped to relieve the embarrassment of the visitor, who felt
the chill of Cora's cold reception.

"Thank you, Aunt Martha," she said, and followed the woman up stairs.

"Why did you not attend Mrs. Stillwater to her room?" sternly demanded
the Iron King, fixing his eyes severely on his granddaughter, as soon as
the visitor was out of hearing.

"It is not usual to do anything of the sort, sir, except in the case of
the guest being a very distinguished person or a very dear friend. My
ex-governess is neither. She shall, however, be treated with all due
respect by me so long as she remains under your roof," quietly replied
Cora.

"You had best see to it that she is," retorted the Iron King, as he
stalked up stairs to his own room, followed by his valet.

Cora returned to the drawing room, and seated herself in her arm chair,
and put her feet upon her foot-stool, and leaned back, to appearance
quite composed, but in reality very much perturbed. Had she acted well
in her manner to her grandfather's guest? She did not know. She could
not, therefore, feel at ease. She certainly did not treat Mrs.
Stillwater with rudeness or hauteur; she was quite incapable of doing
so; yet, on the other hand, neither had she treated her ex-governess
with kindness or courtesy. She had been calm and cold in her reception
of the visitor; that was all. But was she right? After all, she knew no
positive evil of the woman. She had only strong circumstantial evidence
of her unworthiness. She recalled an old saying of her father's:

"Better trust a hundred rogues than distrust one honest man."

Yet all Cora's instincts warned her not to trust Rose Stillwater.

After all, she could do nothing--at least at present. She would wait the
developments of time, and then, perhaps, be able to see her duty more
clearly. Meanwhile, for family peace and good feeling, she would be
civil to Rose Stillwater. Half an hour passed, and her meditations were
interrupted by the entrance of the guest. Mrs. Stillwater seemed
determined not to understand coldness or to take offense. She came in,
drew her chair to the fire, and spread out her pretty hands over its
glow, cooing her delight to be with dear friends again.

"Oh, darling Cora," she purred, "you do not know--you cannot even
fancy--the ineffable sense of repose I feel in being here, after all the
turbulence of the past year. You read my letter to your dearest
grandfather?"

"Yes," answered Mrs. Rothsay.

"From that you must have seen to what straits I was reduced. Think!
After having sold everything I possessed in the world--even all my
clothing, except two changes for necessary cleanliness--to pay my board;
after trying in every direction to get honest work to do; I was in daily
fear of being told to leave the hotel because I could not pay my board."

"That was very sad! but was it not very expensive--for you--living at
the Wirt House? Would it not have been better, under your circumstances,
to have taken cheaper board?"

"Perhaps so, dear; but Captain Stillwater had always made his home at
the Wirt House when his ship was in port, and had always left me there
when his ship sailed, so that I felt at home in the house, you see."

"Yes, I see," said Mrs. Rothsay.

"Oh, my fondly cherished darling--you, loved, sheltered, caressed--you,
rich, admired, and flattered--cannot understand or appreciate the trials
and sufferings of a poor woman in my position and circumstances. Think,
darling, of my condition in that city, where I was homeless, friendless,
penniless, in daily fear of being sent from the house for inability to
pay my board!"

"I am sorry to hear all this," said Cora. And then she was prompted to
add: "But where was Mr. Fabian Rockharrt? He was your earliest friend.
He first introduced you to my grandfather. He never lost sight of you
after you left us, but corresponded with you frequently, and gave us
news of you from time to time. Surely, Mrs. Stillwater, had he known
your straits, he would have found some way of setting you up in some
business. He never would have allowed you to suffer privation and
anxiety for a whole year."

While Cora spoke she fixed her eyes on the face of her listener. But
Rose Stillwater was always perfect mistress of herself. Without the
slightest change in countenance or voice, she answered sweetly:

"Why, dear love, of course I did write to Mr. Fabian first of all, and
told him of the death of my dear husband, and asked him if he could help
me to get another situation as primary teacher in a school or as a
nursery governess."

"And he did not respond?"

"Oh, yes; indeed he did. He replied very promptly, writing that he had a
situation in view for me which would be better suited to my needs than
any I had ever filled, and that he should come to Baltimore to explain
and consult with me."

"Well?"

"The next day, dear, he came, and--I hate to betray his confidence and
tell you."

"Then do not, I beg you."

"But--I hate more to keep a secret from you. In short, he asked me to
marry him."

"What!" exclaimed Cora, in surprise and incredulity.

"Yes, my love; that was what he had to explain. The position of his wife
was the situation he had to offer me, and which he thought would suit me
better than any other I had ever filled."

"When was this proposal made?"

"About five months ago, and about seven months after the death of my
dear husband. He said that he would be willing to wait until the year of
mourning should be over."

"Oh, that was considerate of him."

"But I was still heart-broken for the loss of my dear husband. I could
not think of another marriage at any time, however distant. I told him
so. I told him how much I esteemed and respected him and even loved him
as a dear friend, but that I could not be faithless to the memory of my
adored husband. I was very sorry; for he was very angry. He called me
cold, silly and even ungrateful, so to reject his hand. I began to think
that it was selfish and thankless in me to disappoint so good a friend,
but I could not help it, loving the memory of my sainted husband as I
did. I was grieved to hurt Mr. Fabian, though."

"I do not think he was seriously injured. At least I am sure that his
wounds healed rapidly; for in a very few weeks afterward he proposed to
Miss Violet Wood, and was accepted by her. They were married on the
fourteenth day of February, and sailed for Europe the next day," said
Mrs. Rothsay.

"Yes; I know. Disappointed men do such desperate deeds; commit suicide
or marry for revenge. Poor, dear girl!" murmured Rose Stillwater, with a
deep sigh.

"Why poor, dear girl?" inquired Cora.

"Oh, you know, she caught his heart in the rebound, and she will not
keep it. But let us talk of something else, dear. Oh, I am so happy
here. So free from fear and trouble and anxiety. Oh, what ineffable
peace, rest, safety I enjoy here. No one will pain me by presenting a
bill that I cannot pay, or frighten me by telling me that my room will
be wanted for some one else. Oh, how I thank you, Cora. And how I thank
your honored grandfather for this city of refuge, even for a few days."

"You owe no thanks to me," replied Cora.

"A thousand thanks, my darling!" said Rose, and hearing the heavy
footsteps of the Iron King in the hail, she added--as if she heard them
not: "And as for Mr. Rockharrt, that noble, large brained, great hearted
man, I have no words to express the gratitude, the reverence, the
adoration with which his magnanimous character and munificent
benevolence inspires me. He is of all men the most--"

But here she seemed first to have caught sight of the Iron King, who was
standing in the door, and who had heard every word of adulation that she
had spoken.

"Cora, is not dinner ready?" he inquired, coming forward.

"Yes, sir; only waiting for you," answered the lady, touching a bell.

The gray haired butler came to the call.

"Put dinner on the table," ordered Mr. Rockharrt.

The old butler bowed and disappeared; and after awhile reappeared and
announced:

"Dinner served, sir."

Mr. Rockharrt gave his arm to Mrs. Stillwater, to take her to the table.

"Will not my Uncle Clarence be home this evening?" inquired Cora, as the
three took their seats.

"No; he will not be home before Saturday night. Since Fabian went away
there has been twice as much supervision over the foremen and
bookkeepers needed there, and Clarence is very busy over the accounts,
working night and day," replied the Iron King, as he took a plate of
soup from the hands of the butler and passed it to Mrs. Stillwater, who
received it with the beaming smile that she always bestowed on the Iron
King.

She was the life of the little party. If she was a broken hearted widow,
she did not show it there. She smiled, gleamed, glowed, sparkled in
countenance and words. The moody Iron King was cheered and exhilarated,
and said, as he filled her glass for the first time with Tokay, "Though
you do not need wine to stimulate you, my child. You are full of joyous
life and spirits."

"Oh, sir, pardon me. Perhaps I ought to control myself; but I am so
happy to be here through your great goodness; so free from care and
fear; so full of peace and joy; so safe, so sheltered! I feel like a
storm beaten bird who has found a nest, or a lost child who has found a
home, and I forget all my losses and all my sorrows and give myself up
to delight. Pardon me, sir; I know I ought to be calmer."

"Not at all, not at all, my child! I am glad to see you so gay. I
approve of you. You have suffered more than either of us, for you have
not only lost your life's companion, but home, fortune, and all your
living. My granddaughter here, as you may see, is a monument of morbid,
selfish sorrow, which she will not try to throw off even for my sake.
But you will brighten us all."

"I wish I might; oh, how I wish I might! It seems to me it is easy to be
happy if one has only a safe home and a good friend," said Rose.

"And those you shall always have in me and in my house, my child," said
the Iron King.

Cora listened in pure amazement. Her grandfather sympathetic! Her
grandfather giving praise and quoting poetry! What was the matter with
him? Not softening of the heart; he had never possessed such a
commodity. Was it softening of the brain, then? As soon as they had
finished dinner and returned to the drawing room, the Iron King said to
his guest:

"Now, my child, I shall send you off to bed. You have had a very long
and fatiguing journey and must have a good, long night's sleep."

And with his own hands he lighted a wax taper and gave it to her. Rose
received it with a grateful smile, bade a sweet toned good night to Mr.
Rockharrt and Mrs. Rothsay, and went tripping out of the room.

"I shall say good night, too, Cora; I am tired. But let me say this
before I go: Do you try to take pattern by that admirable child. See how
she tries to make the best of everything and to be pleasant under all
her sorrows. You have not had half her troubles, and yet you will not
try to get over your own. Imitate that poor child, Cora."

"'Child,' my dear grandfather! Do you forget that Mrs. Stillwater is a
widow thirty-six years old?" inquired Cora.

"'Thirty-six.' I had not thought of it, and yet of course I knew it.
Well, so much the better. Yet child she is compared to me, and child she
is in her perfect trust, her innocent faith, her meekness, candor and
simplicity, and the delightful abandon with which she gives herself to
the enjoyment of the passing hour. This will be a brighter house for the
presence of Rose Stillwater in it," said the Iron King, as he took up
his taper and rang for his valet and left the room.

Cora sat a long time in meditation before she arose and followed his
example. When she entered her chamber, she was surprised and annoyed to
find Rose Stillwater there, seated in the arm chair before the fire. Old
Martha was turning down the bed for the night.

"Cora, love, it is not yet eleven o'clock, though the dear master did
send us off to bed. But I wanted to speak to you, darling Cora, just a
few words, dear, before we part for the night; so when I met my old
friend, Aunt Martha, in the hall, I asked her to show me which was your
room, so I could come to you when you should come up; but Aunt Martha
told me she was on the way to your room to prepare your bed for the
night, and she would bring me here to sit down and wait for you. So here
I am, dear Cora."

"You wished to speak to me, you say?" inquired Mrs. Rothsay, drawing
another chair and seating herself before the fire.

"Yes, darling; only to say this, love, that I have not come here to
sponge upon your kindness. I will be no drone. I wish to be useful to
you, Cora. Now you are far away from all milliners and dress makers and
seamstresses, and I am very skillful with my needle and can do
everything you might wish to have done in that line--I mean in the way
of trimming and altering bonnets or dresses. I do not think I could cut
and fit."

"Mrs. Stillwater," interrupted Cora, "you are our guest, and you must
not think of such a plan as you suggest."

"Oh, my dear Cora, do not speak to me as if I were only company. I, your
old governess! Do not make a stranger of me. Let me be as one of the
family. Let me be useful to you and to your dear grandfather. Then I
shall feel at home; then I shall be happy," pleaded Rose.

"But, Mrs. Stillwater, we have not been accustomed to set our guests to
work. The idea is preposterous," said the inexorable Cora.

"Oh, my dear, do not treat me as a guest. Treat me as you did when I was
your governess. Make me useful; will you not, dear Cora?"

"You are very kind, but I would rather not trouble you."

"Ah, I see; you are tired and sleepy. I will not keep you up, but I must
make myself useful to you in some way. Well, good night, dear," said the
widow, as she stooped and kissed her hostess. Then she left the room.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE SPELL WORKS.


Rose Stillwater was very near overdoing her part. She rose early the
next morning and came down in the drawing room before any of the family
had put in an appearance. She had scarcely seated herself before the
bright little sea coal fire that the chilly spring morning rendered very
acceptable, if not really necessary, when she heard the heavy, measured
footsteps of the master of the house coming down the stairs. Then she
rose impulsively as if in a flutter of delight to go and meet him; but
checked herself and sat down and waited for him to come in.

"How heavily the old ogre walks! His step would shake the house, if it
could be shaken. He comes like the statue of the commander in the
opera."

She listened, but his footsteps died away on the soft, deep carpet of
the library into which he passed.

"Ah! he does not know that I am down!" she said to herself,
complacently, as she settled back in her chair. Cora came in and greeted
Rose with ceremonious politeness, having resolved, at length, to treat
Mrs. Stillwater as an honored guest, not as a cherished friend or member
of the household.

"Good morning, Mrs. Stillwater. I hope you have had a good night's rest
and feel refreshed after your journey," she said.

Rose responded effusively:

"Ah, good morning, dear love! Yes; thank you, darling, a lovely night's
rest, undisturbed by the thoughts of debts and duns and a doubtful
future. I slept so deeply and sweetly through the night that I woke
quite early this morning. The birds were in full song. You must have
millions of birds here! And the subtile, penetrating fragrance of the
hyacinths came into the window as soon as I opened it. How I love the
early spring flowers that come to us almost through the winter snows and
before we have done with fires."

Cora did not reply to this rhapsody. Then Rose inquired:

"Does your grandfather go regularly to look after the works as he used
to do?"

"Mr. Rockharrt drives to North End every day," replied Cora.

"It is amazing, at his age," said Rose.

"Some acute observer has said that 'age is a movable feast.' Age, no
more than death, is a respecter of persons or of periods. Men grow old,
as they die, at any age. Some grow old at fifty, others not before they
are a hundred. I think Mr. Rockharrt belongs to the latter class."

"I am sure he does."

Cora did not confirm this statement.

Rose made another venture in conversation:

"So both the gentlemen go every day to the works?"

"Mr. Rockharrt goes every day. Mr. Clarence usually remains there from
Monday morning until Saturday evening."

"At the works?"

"Yes; or at the hotel, where he has a suite of rooms which he occupies
occasionally."

"Dear me! So you have been alone here all day long, every day but
Sunday! And now I have come to keep you company, darling! You shall not
feel lonely any longer. And--what was that Mary Queen of Scots said to
her lady hostess on the night she passed at the castle in her sad
progress from one prison to another:

"'We two widows, having no husbands to trouble us, may agree very
well,' or words to that effect. So, darling, you and I, having no
husbands to trouble us, may also agree very well. Shall we not?"

"I cannot speak so lightly on so grave a subject, Mrs. Stillwater," said
Cora.

Old Mr. Rockharrt came in.

"Good morning, Cora! Good morning, Mrs. Stillwater! I hope you feel
quite rested from your journey."

"Oh, quite, thank you! And when I woke up this morning, I was so
surprised and delighted to find myself safe at home! Ah! I beg pardon!
But I spent so many years in this dear old house, the happiest years of
my life, that I always think of it as home, the only home I ever had in
all my life," said Rose, pathetically, while tears glistened in her soft
blue eyes.

"You poor child! Well, there is no reason why you should ever leave this
haven again. My granddaughter needs just such a bright companion as you
are sure to be. And who so fitting a one as her first young governess?"

"Oh, sir, you are so good to me! May heaven reward you! But Mrs.
Rothsay?" she said, with an appealing glance toward Cora.

"I do not need a companion; if I did, I should advertise for one. The
position of companion is also a half menial one, which I should never
associate with the name of Mrs. Stillwater, who is our guest," replied
Cora, with cold politeness.

"You see, my dear ex-pupil will not let me serve her in any capacity,"
said Rose, with a piteous glance toward the Iron King.

"You have both misunderstood me," he answered, with a severe glance
toward his granddaughter, "I never thought of you as a companion to
Mrs. Rothsay, in the professional sense of that word, but in the sense
in which daughters of the same house are companions to each other."

"I should not shrink from any service to my dear Cora," said Rose
Stillwater, and she was about to add--"nor to you, sir," but she thought
it best not to say it, and refrained.

When breakfast was over, and the Rockhold carriage was at the door to
convey the Iron King to North End, the old autocrat arose from the table
and strode into the hall, calling for his valet to come and help him on
with his light overcoat.

"Let me! let me! Oh, do please let me?" exclaimed Rose, jumping up and
following him. "Do you remember the last time I put on your overcoat? It
was on that morning in Baltimore, years ago, when we parted at the
Monument House; you to go to the depot to take the cars for this place,
I to remain in the city to await the arrival of my husband's ship? Nine
years ago! There, now! Have I not done it as well as your valet could?"
she prattled, as she deftly assisted him.

"Better, my child, much better! You are not rough; your hands are dainty
as well as strong. Thank you, child," said Mr. Rockharrt, settling
himself with a jerk or two into his spring overcoat.

"Oh, do let me perform these little services for you always! It will
make me feel so happy!"

"But it will give you trouble."

"Oh, indeed, no! not the least! It will give me only pleasure."

"You are a very good child, but I will not tax you. Good morning! I must
be off," said Mr. Rockharrt, shaking hands with Rose, and then hurrying
out to get into his carriage.

Rose stood in the door looking after him, until the brougham rolled
away out of sight.

At luncheon Rose Stillwater seemed so determined to be pleasant that it
was next to impossible for Cora Rothsay to keep up the formal demeanor
she had laid out for herself.

"It is very lonely for you here, my dear. How soon does your grandfather
usually return? I know he must have been later than usual last night,
because he had to go to the depot to meet me," Rose said.

"Mr. Rockharrt usually returns at six o'clock. We have dinner at
half-past," replied Cora.

"And this is two! Four hours and a half yet!"

"The afternoon is very fine. Will you take a walk with me in the
garden?" inquired Cora, as they left the dining room, feeling some
compunction for the persistent coldness with which she had treated her
most gentle and obliging guest.

"Oh, thank you very much, dear. With the greatest pleasure! It will be
just like old times, when we used to walk in the garden together, you a
little child holding on to my hand. And now--But we won't talk of that,"
said Rose.

And she fled up stairs to get her hat and shawl.

And the two women sauntered for half an hour among the early roses and
spring flowers in the beautiful Rockhold garden.

Then they came in and went to the library together and looked over the
new magazines. Presently Cora said:

"We all use the library in common to write our letters in. If you have
letters to write, you will find every convenience in either of those
side tables at the windows."

"Yes. Just as it used to be in the old times when I was so happy here!
When the dear old lady was here! Ah, me! But I will not think of that.
She is in heaven, as sure as there is a heaven for angels such as she,
and we must not grieve for the sainted ones. But I have no letters to
write, dear. I have no correspondents in all the world. Indeed, dear
Cora, I have no friend in the world outside of this house," said Rose,
with a little sigh that touched Cora's heart, compelling her to
sympathize with this lonely creature, even against her better judgment.

"Is not Mr. Fabian friendly toward you?" inquired Cora, from mixed
motives--of half pity, half irony.

"Fabian?" sweetly replied Rose. "No, dear. I lost the friendship of Mr.
Fabian Rockharrt when I declined his offer of marriage. You refuse a
man, and so wound his vanity; and though you may never have given him
the least encouragement to propose to you, and though he has not the
shadow of a reason to believe that you will accept yet will he take
great offense, and perhaps become your mortal enemy," sighed Rose.

"But I think Uncle Fabian is too good natured for that sort of malice."

"I don't know, dear. I have never seen him since he left me in anger on
the day I begged off from marrying him. Really, darling, it was more
like begging off than refusing."

But little more was said on the subject, and presently afterward the two
went up stairs to dress for dinner.

Punctually at six o'clock Mr. Rockharrt returned. And the evening passed
as on the preceding day, with this addition to its attractions: Mrs.
Stillwater went to the piano and played and sang many of Mr. Rockharrt's
favorite songs--the old fashioned songs of his youth--Tom Moore's Irish
melodies, Robert Burns' Scotch ballads, and a miscellaneous assortment
of English ditties--all of which were before Rose's time, but which she
had learned from old Mrs. Rockharrt's ancient music books during her
first residence at Rockhold, that she might please the Iron King by
singing them.

Surely the siren left nothing untried to please her patron and
benefactor.

When he complained of fatigue and bade the two women good night, she
started and lighted his wax candle and gave it to him. The next day she
was on hand to help him on with his great coat, and to hand him his
gloves and hat, and he thanked her with a smile.

So went on life at Rockhold all the week.

On Saturday evening Mr. Clarence came home with his father and greeted
Rose Stillwater with the kindly courtesy that was habitual with him.

There were four at the dinner table. And Rose, having so excellent a
coadjutor in the younger Rockharrt, was even gayer and more chatty than
ever, making the meal a lively and cheerful one even for moody Aaron
Rockharrt and sorrowful Cora Rothsay.

After dinner, when the party had gone into the drawing room, Mrs.
Stillwater said:

"Here are just four of us. Just enough for a game at whist. Shall we
have a rubber, Mr. Rockharrt?"

"Yes, my child! Certainly, with all my heart! I thank you for the
suggestion! I have not had a game of whist since we left the city. Ah,
my child, we have had very stupid evenings here at home until you came
and brought some life into the house. Clarence, draw out the card table.
Cora, go and find the cards."

"Let me! Let me! Please let me!" exclaimed Rose, starting up with
childish eagerness. "Where are the cards, Cora, dear?"

"They are in the drawer of the card table. You need not stir to find
them, thank you, Mrs. Stillwater."

"No; here they are all ready," said Mr. Clarence, who had drawn the
table up before the fire and taken the pack of cards from the drawer.

The party of four sat down for the game.

"We must cut for partners," said Mr. Rockharrt, shuffling the cards and
then handing them to Mrs. Stillwater for the first cut.

"The highest and the two lowest to be partners?" inquired Rose, as she
lifted half the pack.

"Of course, that is the rule."

Each person cut in turn, and fortune favored Mrs. Stillwater to Mr.
Clarence, and Cora to Mr. Rockharrt. Then they cut for deal, and fortune
favored Mr. Rockharrt.

The cards were dealt around.

Rose Stillwater had an excellent hand, and she knew by the pleased looks
of her partner, Mr. Clarence, that he also had a good one; and by the
annoyed expression of Mr. Rockharrt's face that he had a bad one. Cora's
countenance was as the sphnix's; she was too sadly preoccupied to care
for this game.

However, Rose determined that she would play into the hand of her
antagonist and not into that of her partner.

Pursuing this policy, she watched Mr. Rockharrt's play, always returned
his lead, and when her attention was called to the error, she would
flush, exhibit a lovely childlike embarrassment, declare that she was no
whist player at all, and beg to be forgiven; and the very next moment
she would trump her partner's trick, or purposely commit some other
blunder that would be sure to give the trick to Mr. Rockharrt.

Mr. Clarence was the soul of good humor, but it was provoking to have
his own "splendid" hand so ruined by the bad play of his partner that
their antagonists, with such very poor hands, actually won the odd
trick.

In the next deal Rose got a "miserable" hand; so did her partner, as she
discovered by his looks, while Mr. Rockharrt must have had a magnificent
hand, to judge from his triumphant expression of countenance.

Rose could, therefore, now afford to redeem her place in the esteem of
her partner by playing her very best, without the slightest danger of
taking a single trick.

To be brief, through Rose's management Mr. Rockharrt and Cora won the
rubber, and the Iron King rose from the card table exultant, for what
old whist player is not pleased with winning the rubber?

"My child," he said to Rose Stillwater, "this is altogether the
pleasantest evening that we have passed since we left the city, and all
through you bringing life and activity among us! I do not think we can
ever afford to let you go."

"Oh, sir! you are too good. Would to heaven that I might find some place
in your household akin to that which I once filled during the happiest
years of my life, when I lived here as your dear granddaughter's
governess," said Rose Stillwater, with a sigh and a smile.

"You shall never leave us again with my consent. Ah, we have had a very
pleasant evening. What do you think, Clarence?"

"Very pleasant for the winners, sir," replied the young man, with a good
humored laugh, as he lighted his bed room candle and bade them all good
night.

Soon after the little party separated and retired for the night.

As time passed, Rose Stillwater continued to make herself more and more
useful to her host and benefactor. She enlivened his table and his
evenings at home by her cheerful conversation, her music and her games.
She waited on him hand and foot, helped him on and off with his wraps
when he went out or came in; warmed his slippers, filled his pipe, dried
his newspapers, served him in innumerable little ways with a childlike
eagerness and delight that was as the incense of frankincense and myrrh
to the nostrils of the egotist.

And he praised her and held her up as a model to his granddaughter.

Rose Stillwater was a proper young woman, a model young woman, all
indeed that a woman should be. He had never seen one to approach her
status in all his long life. She was certainly the most excellent of her
sex. He did not know what in this gloomy house they could ever do
without her.

Such was the burden of his talk to Cora.

Mrs. Rothsay gave but cold assent to all this. She had too much
reverence for the fifth commandment to tell her grandfather what she
thought of the situation--that Rose Stillwater was making a notable fool
of him, either for the sake of keeping a comfortable home, or gaining a
place in his will, or of something greater still which would include all
the rest.

She tried to treat the woman with cold civility. But how could she
persevere in such a course of conduct toward a beautiful blue eyed angel
who was always eager to please, anxious to serve?

Cora felt that this woman was a fraud, yet when she met her lovely,
candid, heaven blue eyes she could not believe in her own intuitions.
Cora, like some few unenvious women, was often affected by other women's
beauty. The childlike loveliness of her quondam teacher really touched
her heart. So she could not at all times maintain the dignified reserve
that she wished toward Rose Stillwater.

Meantime the day approached when it was decided that they should all go
to West Point to the commencement, at which Cadet Sylvan Haught was
expected to graduate.

Mr. Rockharrt had invited Mrs. Stillwater to be of their party, and
insisted upon her accompanying them.

Rose demurred. She even ventured to hint that Mrs. Rothsay might not
like her to go with them; whereupon the Iron King gathered his brow so
darkly and fearfully, and said so sternly:

"She had better not dislike it," that Rose hastened to say that it was
only her own secret misgiving, and that no part of Mrs. Rothsay's
demeanor had led her to such a supposition.

And she resolved never again to drop a hint of her hostess' too evident
suspicion of herself to the family autocrat, for it was the last mistake
that Mrs. Stillwater could possibly wish to make--to kindle anger
between grandfather and granddaughter. Her policy was to forbear, to be
patient, to conciliate, and to bide her time.

"Cora," said the Iron King, abruptly, to his granddaughter, at the
breakfast table, on the morning after this conversation, and in the
presence of their guest, "do you object to Mrs. Stillwater joining our
traveling party to West Point?"

"Certainly not, sir. What right have I to object to any one whom you
might please to invite?"

"No right whatever. And I am glad that you understand that," replied Mr.
Rockharrt.

Rose was trembling for fear that her benefactor would betray her as the
suggester of the question, but he did not.

Cora had received no letter from her Uncle Fabian in answer to hers
announcing the fact of Mrs. Stillwater's presence at Rockhold.

Mr. Fabian wrote no letters, except business ones to the firm, and
these were opened at the office of the works, and never brought to
Rockhold.

If Cora should ever inquire of her grandfather whether he had heard from
Mr. and Mrs. Fabian Rockharrt, his answer would be brief--

"Yes; they are both well. They are at Paris. They are at Berne. They are
at Aix," or wherever the tourists might then chance to be.

Sylvan was a better correspondent. He answered her letters promptly. His
comments on the visit of Rose Stillwater were characteristic of the boy.

"So you have got the Rose 'that all admire' transplanted to the
conservatories of Rockhold. Wish you joy of her. She is a rose without a
single thorn, and with a deadly sweet aroma. Mind what I told you long
ago. It contains the wisdom of ages. 'Stillwater runs deep.' Mind it
does not draw in and submerge the peace and honor of Rockhold. I shall
see you at the exhibition, when we can talk more freely over this
complication. If Mrs. Stillwater is to remain as a permanent guest at
Rockhold, I shall ask my sister to join me wherever I may be ordered,
after my leave of absence has expired. You see I fully calculate on
receiving my commission."

Cora looked forward anxiously to this meeting with her brother. Only the
thought of seeing him a little sooner than she should otherwise have
done could reconcile her to the proposed trip to West Point, where she
must be surrounded by all the gayeties of the Military Academy at its
annual exercises.

Cora had yielded to her grandfather's despotic will in going a little
into society while they occupied their town house in the State capital.
But she took no pleasure--not the least pleasure--in this.

To her wounded heart and broken spirit the world's wealth was dross and
its honors--vapor!

The only life worth living she had lost, or had recklessly thrown away.
Her soul turned, sickened, from all on earth, to seek her lost love
through the unknown, invisible spheres.

She still wore around her neck the thin gold chain, and suspended from
it, resting on her bosom, the precious little black silk bag that
contained the last tender, loving, forgiving, encouraging letter that he
had written to her on the night of his great renunciation for her sake,
when he had left all his hard won honors and dignities, and gone forth
in loneliness and poverty to the wilderness and to martyrdom.

Oh, she felt she was never worthy of such a love as that; the love that
had toiled for her through long years; the love that had died for her at
last; the love that she had never recognized, never appreciated; the
love of a great hearted man, whom she had never truly seen until he was
lost to her forever.

So long as he had lived on earth Cora had cherished a hope to meet him,
"sometime, somehow, somewhere."

But now he had left this planet. Oh! where in the Lord's universe was
he? In what immeasurably distant sphere? Oh! that her spirit could reach
him where he lived! Oh, that she could cause him to hear her cry--her
deep cry of repentance and anguish!

But no; he never heard her; he never came near her in spirit, even in
her dreams, as the departed are sometimes said to come and comfort the
loved ones left on earth.

During these moods of dark despair Cora was so gloomy and reserved that
she seemed to treat her unwelcome guest worse than ever, when, in truth,
she was not even seeing or thinking of the intruder.

The Iron King, however, noticed his granddaughter's coldness and
reserve, and he deeply resented it.

One very rainy, dismal Sunday they were all at home and in the drawing
room. Cora had sat for hours in silence, or replying to Mrs.
Stillwater's frequent attempts to draw her into conversation in brief
monosyllables, until at last the visitor arose and left the room, not
hurt or offended, as Mr. Rockharrt supposed, but simply tired of staying
so long in one place.

But the Iron King turned on his granddaughter and demanded:

"Corona Rothsay! why do you treat our visitor with such unladylike
rudeness?"

Cora, brought roughly out of her sad reverie, gazed at the old man
vaguely. She scarcely heard his question, and certainly did not
understand it.

"Father," ventured Mr. Clarence, "I do not believe Cora could treat any
one with rudeness, and surely she could never be unladylike. But you see
she is absent-minded."

"Hold your tongue, sir! How dare you interfere?" sternly exclaimed the
despot. "But I see how it is," he added, with the savage satisfaction of
a man who has power to crush and means to do it--"I see how it is! That
oppressed woman will never be treated by either of you with proper
respect until I give her my name and make her my wife and the mistress
of my house."



CHAPTER XIV.

IN THE WEB.


"Yes, sir and madam, you may stare; but I mean to place my guest in a
position from which she can command due honor. I mean to give her my
name and make her the mistress of my house," said old Aaron Rockharrt;
and he leaned back in his chair and drew himself up.

Had a thunderbolt fallen among them, it could hardly have caused greater
consternation.

The shock was more effective because both his hearers knew full well
that old Aaron Rockharrt never used vain threats, and that he would do
exactly what he said he would do. Having said that he meant to marry the
unwelcome guest, he would marry her.

But what unutterable amazement fell upon the two people! Both had felt a
vague dread of evil from the presence of this siren in the house; but
their darkest, wildest fears had never shadowed forth this unspeakable
folly. The Iron King, a man of seventy-seven, strong, firm, upright,
honored, to fall into the idiocy of marrying a beautiful adventuress
merely because she waited on him, ran his errands, warmed his slippers,
put on his dressing gown or his overcoat, as he would come in or go out,
and generally made him comfortable; but above all perhaps, because she
flattered his egotism without measure. And yet the Iron King was
considered sane, and was sane on all other subjects.

So thought Clarence and Cora as they gasped, glanced at the old man,
gazed at each other, and then dropped their eyes in a sort of shame.

Neither spoke or could speak.

The dreadful silence was broken at last by Rose Stillwater, who burst
into the room like a sunbeam into a cloud, and said with her childish
eagerness:

"I have got such a lovely piece of music. I ran out just now to look for
it. I was not sure I could find it; but here it is. It may be called
sacred music and suitable to the day, I hope. Here is the title.

    "'Glad life lives on forever.'

"Shall I play and sing for you, Mr. Rockharrt? Would you like me to do
so, dear Cora? And you, Mr. Clarence?"

"Certainly, my dear," promptly responded the Iron King.

"As you please," coldly replied Cora.

"I--yes--thank you; I think it would be very nice," foolishly observed
Mr. Clarence, who was just now reduced to a state of imbecility by the
stunning announcement of his father's intended marriage.

But all three had spoken at the same time, so that Rose Stillwater heard
but one voice clearly, and that was the Iron King's.

Mr. Clarence, however, went and opened the piano for her. Then old Mr.
Rockharrt arose, went to the instrument slowly and deliberately, put his
youngest son aside, wheeled up the music stool, seated her and then--

    "The monarch o'er the siren hung
    And beat the measure as she sung,
    And pressing closer and more near,
    He whispered praises in her ear."

"It is 'The Lion in Love,' of Æsop's fable. He will let her draw his
teeth yet," said Mr. Clarence, in a low tone, quite drowned in the
joyous swell of the music.

"No, it is not. A man of his age does not fall in love, I feel sure. And
she will never gain one advantage over him. He likes her society and her
servitude and her flatteries. He will take them all, and more than all,
if he can; but he will give nothing, nothing in return," murmured Cora.

"But why does he give her this attention to-day? It is unusual."

"To show us that he will do her honor; place her above us, as he said;
but that will not outlast their wedding day, if indeed they marry."

"They will marry unless something should happen to prevent them. I do
wish Fabian was at home."

"So do I, with all my heart."

The glad bursts of music which had drowned their voices, slowly sank
into soft and dreamy tones.

Then Clarence and Corona ceased their whispered conversation.

Soon the dinner bell rang and the family party went into the dining
room.

On Monday morning active preparations were commenced for their journey
to New York. Not one more word was spoken about the marriage of June and
January, nor could either Clarence or Corona judge by the manner of the
ill sorted pair whether the subject had been mentioned between them.

On Wednesday of that week Mr. Rockharrt, accompanied by Mrs. Stillwater
and Mrs. Rothsay, left Rockhold for New York, leaving Mr. Clarence in
charge of the works at North End.

They went straight through without, as before, stopping overnight at
Baltimore. Consequently they reached New York on Thursday noon.

Mr. Rockharrt telegraphed to the Cozzens Hotel at West Point to secure a
suite of rooms, and then he took his own party to the Blank House.

When they were comfortably installed in their apartments and had had
dinner, he said to his companions:

"I have business which may detain me in the city for several days. We
need not, however, put in an appearance at the Military Academy before
Monday morning. Meanwhile you two may amuse yourselves as you please,
but must not look to me to escort you anywhere. Here are fine stores,
art galleries, parks, matinees and what not, where women may be trusted
alone;" and having laid down the law, his majesty marched off to bed,
leaving the two young widows to themselves, in the private parlor of
their suite.

They also retired to the double-bedded chamber, which, to Cora's
annoyance, had been engaged for their joint occupancy. She detested to
be brought into such close intimacy with Rose Stillwater, and longed for
the hour of her brother's release from the academy, and his appointment
to some post of duty, however distant, where she might join him, and so
escape the humiliation of her present position. However, she tried to
bear the mortification as best she might, thankful that she and her
unwelcome chum, while occupying the same chamber, were not obliged to
sleep in the same bed.

Truly, Rose Stillwater felt how unpleasant her companionship was to her
former pupil, but she showed no consciousness of this. She comported
herself with great discretion--not forcing conversation on her unwilling
room mate, lest she should give offense; and it was the policy of this
woman to "avoid offenses," nor yet did she keep total silence, lest she
should seem to be sulky; for it was also her policy always to seem
amiable and happy. So, though Cora never voluntarily addressed one word
to her, yet Rose occasionally spoke sweetly some commonplace about the
weather, their room, the bill of fare at dinner, and so on; to all of
which observations she received brief replies.

Both were relieved when they were in their separate beds and the gas was
turned off--Rose that she need act a difficult part no more that night,
but could lie down, and, under the cover of the darkness, gather her
features in a cloud of wrath, and silently curse Corona Rothsay; Cora,
that she was freed from the sight of the deceitful face and the sound of
the lying tongue.

Fatigued by their long journey, both soon fell asleep, and slept well,
until the horrible sound of the gong awakened them--the gong in those
days used to summon guests to the public breakfast table.

Cora sprang out of bed with one fear--that her grandfather was up and
waiting for his breakfast, though that gong had really nothing to do
with any of their meals, which were always to be served in their private
parlor.

Cora and her room mate quickly dressed and went to the parlor, where
they were relieved to find no Mr. Rockharrt and no table set.

Presently, however, the Iron King strode into the room, a morning paper
in his hand.

"Breakfast not ready yet?" he sharply demanded, looking at Corona.

Then she suddenly remembered that whenever they had traveled before this
time, her grandmother had ordered the meals, as she had done everything
else that she could do to save her tyrant trouble.

"I--suppose so, sir. Shall I ring for it?" she inquired.

"Let me! Let me! Oh, please let me wait on you!" exclaimed Rose, as she
sprang up, ran across the room, and rang a peal on the bell.

The waiter came.

"Will you also order the breakfast, Mrs. Stillwater, if such is your
pleasure?" inquired Cora, who could not help this little bit of ill
humor.

"Certainly I will, my dear, if you like!" said the imperturbable Rose,
who was resolved never to understand sarcasm, and never to take
offense--"Waiter, bring me a bill of fare."

The waiter went out to do his errand.

Old Aaron Rockharrt glared sternly at his granddaughter; but his fire
did not strike his intended victim, for Cora had her back turned and was
looking out of the window.

The waiter came in with the breakfast bill of fare.

"Will you listen, Mr. Rockharrt, and you, dear Cora, and tell me what to
mark, as I read out the items," said Rose, sweetly, as she took the card
from the hands of the man.

"Thank you, I want nothing especially," answered Cora.

"Read on, my dear. I will tell you what to mark, and you must be sure
also to mark any dish that you yourself may fancy," said Mr. Rockharrt,
speaking very kindly to Rose, but glaring ferociously toward Cora.

Rose read slowly, pausing at each item. Mr. Rockharrt named his favorite
dishes, Rose marked them, and the order was given to the waiter, who
took it away.

Breakfast was soon served, and a most disagreeable meal it must have
been but for Rose Stillwater's invincible good humor. She chatted gayly
through the whole meal, perfectly resolved to ignore the cloud that was
between the grandfather and the granddaughter.

As soon as they arose from the table old Aaron Rockharrt ordered a
carriage to take him down to Wall Street, on some business connected
with his last great speculation, which was all that his granddaughter
knew.

Before leaving the hotel, he launched this bitter insult at Cora,
through their guest:

"My dear," he said to Mrs. Stillwater, as he drew on his gloves, "I must
leave my granddaughter under your charge. I beg that you will look after
her. She really seeds the supervision of a governess quite as much now
as she did years ago when you had the training of her."

Corona's wrath flamed up. A scathing sarcasm was on her lips. She
turned.

But no. She could not resent the insult of so aged a man; even if he had
not been her grandfather.

Rose Stillwater said never a word. It was not--it would not have been
prudent to speak. To treat the matter as a jest would have offended the
Iron King; to have taken it seriously would most justly and unpardonably
have offended Corona Rothsay. Truly, Rose found that "Jordan am a hard
road to trabbel!" And here at least was an apt application of the old
proverb:

"Speech is silver, silence is golden." So Rose said never a word, but
looked from one to the other, smiling divinely on each in turn.

Old Aaron Rockharrt having discharged his shot, went down stairs,
entered his carriage and drove to Wall Street.

Corona went to her room, or to the room she jointly occupied with Mrs.
Stillwater, wishing from the depths of her heart that she could get
entirely away from the sight and hearing of the woman who grew more
repugnant to her feelings every day. At one time Cora thought that she
would call a carriage, drive to the Hudson River railway station, and
take the train for West Point, there to remain during the exercises of
the academy. She was very strongly tempted to do this; but she resisted
the impulse. She would not bring matters to a crisis by making a scene.
So the idea of escaping to West Point was abandoned. Next she thought of
taking a carriage and driving out to Harlem alone; but then she
remembered that the woman Stillwater was, after all, her guest, so long
as she herself was mistress, if only in name, of her grandfather's
house; she could not leave her alone for the whole day; and so the idea
of evading the creature's company by driving out alone was also given
up.

Truly, Cora was bound to the rack with cords of conventionality as fine
as cobwebs, yet as strong as ropes.

She did nothing but sit still in her chamber and brood; dreading the
entrance of her abhorrent room-mate every moment.

But Rose Stillwater--who read Cora Rothsay's thoughts as easily as she
could read a familiar book--acted with her usual discretion. As long as
Cora chose to remain in their joint chamber, Rose forbore to exercise
her own right of entering it.

Not until the afternoon did Corona come out into the parlor. Then she
found Rose seated at the window, watching the busy scene on the Broadway
pavement below, the hurried promenaders jostling as they passed each
other on going up and coming down; the street peddlers, the walking
advertisements, and all other sights never noticed by a citizen of the
town, but looked at with curiosity by a stranger from the country.

Rose turned as Corona entered, and ignoring all reserve, said sweetly:

"I hope you have been resting, dear, and that you feel refreshed. Shall
I ring and order luncheon? I wish to do all I can, dear, to prove my
appreciation of all the kindness shown me; yet not to be officious."

Now, how could Cora repulse the advances of so very good humored a
woman? She believed her to be false and designing. She longed with all
her heart and soul to be rid of the woman and her insidious influence.
Yet she could not hear that sweet voice, those meek words, or meet those
soft blue eyes, and maintain her manner of freezing politeness.

"If you please," she answered, gently, and then said to herself:
"Heavens! what a hypocrite this unwillingness to hurt the woman's
feelings does make me!"

Rose rang the bell and ordered the luncheon.

They sat down in apparent amity to partake of it.

The afternoon waned and evening came, but brought no Iron King back to
the hotel.

"Have you any idea at what hour Mr. Rockharrt will return, dear?"
inquired Mrs. Stillwater, in her most dulcet tones.

"Not the slightest."

"I think he said something about going down to Wall Street to see after
the forming of a syndicate in connection with his grand speculation.
What is a syndicate, dear?"

"I don't know--it may be an agency or a company--"

"Or it may be something connected with the building of the new
synagogue, which it is said is to be constructed of iron."

Cora was surprised into the first laugh she had had in two years. But
the mirth was very short-lived. It came and passed in an instant, and
then a pang of remorse seized her heart that she could have laughed at
all. She was thinking of her lost Rule, and of her own guilty share in
his tragic fate. If she had not let her fancy and imagination become so
dazzled by the rank and splendor of the British suitor as to blind her
heart and mind for a season, as to make her think and believe that she
really loved this new man, and that she had never loved, and could never
love, Ruth Rothsay, though she must keep her engagement with him and
marry him--had she not broken down and given way to her emotions on that
fatal evening of their wedding day--then Rule would never have made his
great renunciation for her sake--would never have wandered away into the
wilderness to meet his death from murderous hands. How could she ever
laugh again? she asked herself.

"What is the matter with you, dear?" inquired Rose, surprised at the
sudden change in Cora.

But before she could be answered the door opened and old Aaron Rockharrt
came in, looking weary and careworn.

"How have you amused yourselves to-day?" he inquired of the two young
women.

Cora was slow to speak, but Rose answered discreetly:

"I do not think we either of us did much but loll around and rest from
our journey."

"Not been out?"

"No; I did not care to do so; nor did Cora, I believe."

Dinner was served. Afterward the evening passed stupidly.

Aaron Rockharrt sat in the large arm chair and slept. Cora, looking at
him, thought he was aging fast.

As soon as he waked up he bade his companions good night and went to his
apartment. The two others soon followed his example.

As this day passed, so passed the succeeding days of their sojourn in
the city.

Mr. Rockharrt went out every morning on business connected with that
great scheme which was going to quadruple his already enormous wealth.
He came home every evening quite worn out, and after dinner sat and
dozed in his chair until bedtime.

Cora watched him anxiously and wondered at him. He was aging fast. She
could see that in his whole appearance. But what a strange infatuation
for a man of seventy-seven, possessed already of almost fabulous wealth,
to be as hotly in pursuit of money as if he were some poor youth with
his fortune still to make! And what, after all, could he do with so much
more money? Why could he not retire on his vast riches, and rest from
his labors, leaving his two stalwart sons to carry on his business, and
so live longer? Cora mournfully asked herself.

On Sunday a strange thing happened. Old Aaron Rockharrt announced at the
breakfast table his intention of going to a certain church to hear a
celebrated preacher, whose piety, eloquence and enthusiasm was the
subject of general discussion; and he invited the two ladies to go with
him. Both consented--Cora because she never willingly absented herself
from public worship on the Sabbath; Rose because it was her cue to be
amiable and to agree to everything that was proposed.

"We need not take a carriage. The church is only two blocks off," said
Mr. Rockharrt, as he arose from the table.

The party was soon ready, and while the bell was still ringing, they set
out to walk. As they reached the sacred edifice the bell ceased ringing
and the organ pealed forth in a grand voluntary.

"You see we are but just in time," said Mr. Rockharrt, as he led his
party into the building.

The polite sexton conducted the strangers up the center aisle and put
them into a good pew. The church was not full, but was filling rapidly.
Our party bowed their heads for the preliminary private prayer, and so
did not see the great preacher as he entered and stood at the reading
desk. He was an English dean of great celebrity as a pulpit orator, now
on a visit to the United States, and preaching in turn in every pulpit
of his denomination as he passed. He was a man of about sixty-five,
tall, thin, with a bald head, a narrow face, an aquiline nose, blue eyes
and a gray beard. He began to read the opening texts of the service.

"'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is
not in us.'"

At the sound of his voice Rose Stillwater started violently, looked up
and grew ghastly white. She dropped her face in her hands on the
cushioned edge of the pew before her, and so sat trembling through the
reading of the texts and the exhortations. Afterward followed the
ritualistic general confession and prayer, during which all knelt.

When at the close all arose Mrs. Stillwater was gone from her seat. Mr.
Rockharrt looked around him and then stared at Cora, who very slightly
shook her head, as if to say:

"No; I know no more about it than you."

How swiftly and silently Rose Stillwater had left the pew and slipped
out of the church while all the congregation were bowed in prayer!

Old Aaron Rockharrt looked puzzled and troubled, but the minister was
pronouncing the general absolution that followed the general confession,
and such a severe martinet and disciplinarian as old Aaron Rockharrt
would on no account fail in attention to the speaker.

Nor did he change countenance again during the long morning service.

At its close he drew Cora's arm within his own and led her out of the
church.

As they walked down Broadway he inquired:

"Why did Mrs. Stillwater leave the church?"

"I do not know," answered his granddaughter.

"Was she ill?"

"I really do not know."

"When did she go?"

"I do not know that either, except that she must have slipped out while
we were at prayers."

"You seem to be a perfect know-nothing, Cora."

"On this subject I certainly am. I did not perceive Mrs. Stillwater's
absence until we rose from our knees."

"Well, we shall find her at the hotel, I suppose, and then we shall know
all about it."

By this time they had reached the Blank House.

They entered and went up into their parlor.

Rose was not there.

"Bless my soul, I hope the poor child is not ill. Go, Cora, and see if
she is in her room, and find out what is the matter with her," said old
Aaron Rockharrt, as he dropped wearily into the big arm chair.

Cora had just come from church, from hearing an eloquent sermon on
Christian charity, so she was in one of her very best moods.

She went at once into the bedroom occupied jointly by herself and her
traveling companion. She found Rose in a wrapper, with her hair down,
lying on the outside of her bed.

"Are you not well?" she inquired in a gentle tone.

"No, dear; I have a very severe neuralgic headache. It takes all my
strength of mind and nerve to keep me from screaming under the pain,"
answered Rose, in a faint and faltering voice.

"I am very sorry."

"It struck me--in the church--with the suddenness of a bullet--shot
through my brain."

"Indeed, I am very, very sorry. You should have told me. I would have
come out with you."

"No, dear. I did not--wish to disturb--anybody. I slipped out
noiselessly--while all were kneeling. No one heard me--no one saw me
except the sexton--who opened--the swing doors--silently to let me
pass."

"You should not have attempted to walk home alone in such a condition.
It was not safe. But I am talking to you, when I should be aiding you,"
said Cora; and she went to her dressing case and took from it a certain
family specific for neuralgic headaches which had been in great favor
with her grandmother. This she poured into a glass, added a little
water, and brought to the sufferer.

"Put it on the stand by the bed, dear. I will take it presently. Thank
you very much, dear Cora. Now will you please close all the shutters and
make the room as dark as a vault--and shut me up in it--I shall go to
sleep--and wake up relieved. The pain goes as suddenly as it comes,
dear," said Rose, still in a faint, faltering and hesitating voice.

Cora did all her bidding, put the tassel of the bell cord in her reach,
and softly left the room.

The chamber was not as dark as a vault, however. Enough of light came
through the slats of the shutters and the white lace curtains to enable
Rose to rise, take the medicine from the stand, cross the floor and pour
it in the wash basin, under a spigot. Then she turned on the water to
wash it down the drain. Then she turned off the water and went back to
bed--not to sleep--for she had too much need to think.

Had the minister in that pulpit recognized her, as she had certainly
recognized him? She hoped not. She believed not. As soon as she had
heard the voice--the voice that had been silent for her so many
years--she had impulsively looked up. And she had seen him! A specter
from the past--a specter from the grave! But his eyes were fixed upon
the book from which he was reading, and she quickly dropped her head
before he could raise them. No; he had not seen her. But oh! if she had
heard his name before she had gone to hear him preach, nothing on earth
would ever have induced her to go into the church. But she had not heard
his name at all. She had heard of him only as the Dean of Olivet. He was
not a dean in those far-off days when she saw him last; only a poor
curate of whose stinted household she had grown sick and tired. But he
was now Dean of Olivet! He had come to make a tour of the United States.
Should she have the mischance to meet him again? Would he go up to West
Point for the exercises at the military academy? But of course he
would! It was so convenient to do so. West Point was so near and easy to
see. The trip up the Hudson was so delightful at this season of the
year. And the dean was bound to see everything worth seeing. And what
was better worth seeing by a foreigner than the exercises at our
celebrated military academy? What should she do to avoid meeting, face
to face, this terrible phantom from the grave of her dead past?

She could make no excuse for remaining in New York while her party went
up to West Point--make no excuse, that is, which would not also make
trouble. And it was her policy never to do that. She thought and thought
until she had nearly given herself the headache which before she had
only feigned. At length she decided on this course: To go to West Point
with her party, and as soon as they should arrive to get up a return of
her neuralgic headache, as her excuse for keeping her room at the hotel
and absenting herself from the exercises at the academy.

As soon as she had formed this resolution she got up, opened one of the
windows, washed and dressed herself and went out into the parlor.

She entered softly.

Old Aaron Rockharrt was sound asleep in his big arm chair.

Cora was seated at the table engaged in reading. She arose to receive
the invalid.

"Are you better? Are you sure you are able to be up?" she kindly
inquired.

"Oh, yes, dear! Very much better! Well, indeed! When it goes, it goes,
you know! But had we better not talk and disturb Mr. Rockharrt?"
inquired Rose.

"We cannot disturb him. He sleeps very soundly--too soundly, I think,
and too much."

"Do you know by what train we go to West Point to-morrow?"

"By the 7:30 a.m. So that we may arrive in good time for the
commencement. We must retire very early to-night, for we must be up
betimes in the morning. But sit down; you really look very languid,"
said Cora, and taking the hand of her companion, she led her to the sofa
and made her recline upon it. Then Cora resumed her own seat.

"Thank you, darling," cooed Rose.

There was silence in the room for a few moments. Mr. Rockharrt slept on.
Cora took up her book. Rose was the first to speak.

"I wonder if the new lion, the Dean of Olivet, will go to West Point
to-morrow," she said in a tone of seeming indifference.

"Oh, yes! It is in all the papers. He is to be the guest of the
chaplain," replied Cora.

"I wonder what train he will go by."

"Oh, I don't know that. He may go by the night boat."

"The Dean of Olivet would never travel on Sunday night."

"But he might hold service and preach on the boat."

"Oh, yes; so he might."

"What on earth are you talking about? When will dinner be ready?"
demanded old Aaron Rockharrt, waking up from his nap. Straightening
himself up and looking around, he saw Rose Stillwater.

"Oh, my dear, are you better of your headache?"

"Yes, thank you, Mr. Rockharrt."

"You look pale, as if you had gone through a sharp siege, if a short
one. You should have told me in the pew, and allowed me to take you
here, not ventured out alone, when you were in such pain."

"But I did not wish to attract the least attention, so I slipped out
unperceived while everybody's heads were bent in prayer."

"All very well, my dear; but pray don't venture on such a step again. I
am always at your service to attend you. Now, Cora, ring for dinner to
be served. It was ordered for five o'clock, I think, and it is five
minutes past," said Mr. Rockharrt, consulting his watch.

Cora arose, but before she could reach the bell, the door was opened,
and the waiter appeared to lay the cloth.

After dinner the Iron King went into a little room attached to the
suite, which he used as a smoking den.

The two young women settled themselves to read.

They all retired at nine o'clock that night so as to rise very early
next day.



CHAPTER XV.

AT THE ACADEMY.


It was a splendid May morning. Our travelers were out of bed at
half-past four o'clock. The sun was just rising when they sat down to
their early breakfast.

Mr. Rockharrt seemed stronger and brighter than he had been since his
arrival in New York.

The Sabbath day's complete rest had certainly refreshed him.

Immediately after breakfast they left the hotel, entered the carriage
which had been engaged for them and drove to the Hudson River depot.

"There's the dean!" exclaimed Mr. Rockharrt, as they entered the waiting
room. "He must be going on the same train with us."

Rose Stillwater did not start or change color this time. She had
prepared herself for contingencies by taking a dose of morphine just
before she left the hotel. But she drew her veil closely over her face,
murmuring that the brightness of the sun hurt her eyes.

Cora looked up and saw the tall, thin form of the church dignitary
standing with a group of gentlemen near the gate leading to the train.

The waiting room was crowded; a multitude was moving toward West Point.

"It is well I engaged our rooms a week ago, or we might not have found
accommodations," said Mr. Rockharrt, as he pressed with his party behind
the crowd.

Among the group of gentlemen surrounding the dean, was a Wall Street
broker with whom old Aaron Rockharrt had been doing business for the
last few days.

This man was standing beside the dean, and both stood immediately in
front of Mr. Rockharrt and his party.

Presently the broker turned and saw the Iron King.

"Oh, Mr. Rockharrt. Happy to meet you here. Going to the Point, as
everybody else is? Fine day."

"Yes; a fine day," responded the Iron King.

At this moment the dean happened to turn his head.

"You know the Dean of Olivet, of course, Mr. Rockharrt?"

"No; I have not that pleasure."

"Let me present you. Dean of Olivet, Mr. Rockharrt."

Both gentlemen bowed.

The Iron King held out his hand.

"Happy to welcome you to America, Dean. Went to hear you preach
yesterday morning. One of the finest sermons I ever heard in my life, I
do assure you."

The dean bowed very gravely.

"Let me present you to my granddaughter, Mrs. Rothsay," said the old
man.

The dean bowed gravely to the young lady, who bent her head.

"And to our friend, Mrs. Stillwater," continued the old gentleman,
waving his hand again. "Why, where is she? Why, Cora, where is Mrs.
Stillwater?" demanded the Iron King in amazement.

"I do not know. I have just missed her," said the young lady.

"Well, upon my soul! For the power of vanishing she excels all living
creatures. Pray, Cora, does she carry a fairy cap in her pocket, and put
it on when she wishes to make herself invisible?"

"I think, sir, that she has been pressed away from us in the crowd. We
shall find her when we get through the gate into more space."

"Well, I hope so."

"She is quite able to take care of herself, sir. Pray do not be alarmed.
She will be sure to find us."

"Well, I hope so. Yes; of course she will."

At this moment the gates were opened.

"Take my arm. Don't let me lose you in the crowd. I suppose Mrs.
Stillwater cannot fail to join us. Oh! of course not! She knows the
train, and there is but one."

He drew Cora's hand close under his arm, and holding it tightly,
followed the multitude through the gate, looking all around in search of
Rose Stillwater.

But she was nowhere to be seen.

"She may have gotten ahead of us, and be on the train. Come on!" said
Mr. Rockharrt, as he hurried his granddaughter along and pushed her upon
the platform.

The cars were rapidly filling.

Mr. Rockharrt seized upon four seats, in order to secure three. He put
Cora in one and told her to put her traveling bag on the other, to hold
it for Mrs. Stillwater. Then he took possession of the seat in front of
her.

"As soon as this crowd settles itself down and leaves something like a
free passageway, I will go through the train and find Mrs. Stillwater.
She is bound to be on board. She is no baby to lose herself," said Mr.
Rockharrt, and though his words were confident, his tone seemed anxious.

The people all got seated at last and the long train moved.

Mr. Rockharrt left his seat, and stooping over his granddaughter, he
whispered:

"I am going now to look for Mrs. Stillwater and fetch her here."

He passed slowly down the car, looking from side to side, and then out
through the back door to the rear cars, and so out of Cora's sight.

He was gone about fifteen minutes. At the end of that time he
reappeared, and came up the car and stopped to speak to Cora: "She is
not in any of the rear cars. I am going forward to look for her. This
comes of traveling in a crowd."

He went on as before, looking carefully from side to side, passed out of
the front door and again out of Cora's sight. This time he was gone
twenty minutes. When he come back his face wore an expression of the
greatest anxiety.

"She is not on the train. She has been left behind! Foolish woman, to
let herself be separated from us in this stupid way!" testily exclaimed
the Iron King, as he dropped himself heavily into his seat.

"What can be done?" exclaimed Cora, now seriously uneasy about her
unwelcome companion, because she feared that Rose might have been seized
with one of her sharp and sudden headaches and had stepped away from
them as she had done in the church.

"I hope she has had the presence of mind, on finding herself left, to
return to the hotel and wait for the next train. This is the express,
and does not stop until we reach Garrison's. But when we get there I
will telegraph to her and tell her what train to take. It is all an
infernal nuisance--this being jostled about by a crowd."

Cora was consulting a time table. She looked up from it and said:

"It will all come right, sir. There is another train at half-past eight.
If she should take that, she will reach West Point in full time for the
opening of the exercises. We started unnecessarily early."

"I always take time by the forelock, Cora. That habit is one of the
factors of my success in life."

The express train flew on, and in due time reached Garrison's, opposite
West Point. The ferry boat was waiting for the train. As soon as it
stopped, Mr. Rockharrt handed his granddaughter out. The other
passengers followed, and made a rush for the boat.

"Let it go, Cora. We must take time to telegraph to Mrs. Stillwater, and
we can wait for the next trip," said Mr. Rockharrt, still keeping a firm
grip on his granddaughter's arm, lest through woman's inherent stupidity
she should also lose herself, as he marched her off to the telegraph
window of the station.

The telegram, a very long-winded one, was sent. Then they sat down to
wait for the coming boat, which crossed the going one about midstream,
and approached rapidly.

In a few minutes they were on board and steaming across the river.

They reached the opposite bank, and Mr. Rockharrt led his granddaughter
out, and placed her in the carriage he had engaged by telegraph to meet
them, for carriages would be in very great demand, he knew.

They drove up to the hotel in which he had taken rooms. Here they went
into their parlor to rest and to wait for an answer to the telegram.

"It is no use going over to the academy now. We could not get sight of
Sylvan. The rules and regulations of the military school are as strict
and immutable as the laws of the Medes and Persians," said old Aaron
Rockharrt, as he dropped heavily into a great armchair, leaned back and
presently fell asleep.

Cora never liked to see him fall into these sudden deep slumbers. She
feared that they were signs of physical decay.

She sat at a front window, which, from the elevated point upon which the
hotel stood, looked down upon the brilliant scene below, where crowds of
handsomely dressed ladies were walking about the beautiful grounds. She
sat watching them some time, and until she saw the tide of strollers
turning from all points, and setting in one direction--toward the
academy.

Then she glanced at her grandfather. Oh! how old and worn he looked when
he lost control of himself in sleep. She touched him lightly. He opened
his eyes.

"What is it? Has the telegram come from Mrs. Stillwater?" he inquired.

"No, sir; but the visitors are pouring into the academy, and I am
afraid, if we do not go over at once, we shall not be able to find a
seat," said Cora.

"Oh, yes, we shall. Strange we do not get an answer from Mrs.
Stillwater," said the old man anxiously, as he slowly arose and began to
draw on his gloves and looked for his hat.

Cora went and found it and gave it to him.

Then she put on her bonnet.

Then they went down together, crossed the grounds, and entered the
great hall, which was densely crowded. Good seats had been reserved for
them, and they found themselves seated next the Dean of Olivet on Cora's
right and the Wall street broker on Mr. Rockharrt's left.

I do not mean to trouble my readers with any description of this by-gone
exhibition. They can read a full account of such every season in every
morning paper. Merely to say that it was late in the afternoon when the
exercises were over for the day.

Mr. Rockharrt and Cora Rothsay returned to the hotel to a very late
dinner.

The first question that the Iron King asked was whether any telegram had
come for him. He was told that there was none.

"It is very strange. She could not have received mine," he said, and he
went directly to the telegraph office of the hotel and dispatched a long
message to the clerk of the Blank House, telling him of how Mrs.
Stillwater had been separated from her party by the pressure of the
crowd, and how she had thereby missed their train, and inquiring whether
she had returned to the hotel, whether she had got his message, and if
she were well. Any news of her, or from her, was anxiously expected by
her friends.

Having sent off this dispatch, Mr. Rockharrt went in to dinner. The
dinner was long. The courses were many. Mr. Rockharrt and his
granddaughter were still at table when the following telegram was placed
in his hands:

    BLANK HOUSE, New York, May, 18--

    Mrs. Stillwater is not here, and has not been seen by any of our
    people since she left the house with your party for the Hudson
    River Railway depot. We have made inquiries, but have no news.

    M. MARTIN.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE SEARCH.


"This is intolerable," muttered old Aaron Rockharrt, in a tone as who
should say: "How dare Fate set herself to baffle ME?"

He then took tablets and pencil from his pocket and wrote the following
telegram:

    COZZENS HOTEL, WEST POINT,
    May ----, 18--

    To M. MARTIN, ESQ., Blank House, New York City:

    Just received your dispatch. There has been foul play. Report the
    case at police headquarters. Set private detective on the track of
    the missing lady. Last seen at the gate of the Hudson River
    Railway depot, waiting for 7:30 a.m. train for West Point
    yesterday morning, but not seen on train. Give me prompt notice of
    any news.

    AARON ROCKHARRT.

He beckoned a waiter and sent the message to be dispatched from the
office of the hotel.

Then he set himself to finish his dinner.

After dinner he went out on the piazza.

Cora followed him. There was quite a number of people out there, seeing
whom, he walked out upon the open grounds.

"May I come with you, grandfather?" inquired Cora.

"If you like," was the short answer.

As they walked on he said:

"I think it possible that Mrs. Stillwater, after missing our train, left
for North End."

"Yes, it is possible," assented Cora.

No more was said. They walked on for half an hour and then returned to
the hotel and bade each other good night.

The next morning they met in the parlor.

Old Aaron Rockharrt was reading a New York morning paper. Cora went up
and bade him good morning.

He merely nodded and went on reading. Presently he burst out with:

"By ----! This must be Mrs. Stillwater!"

"Who? What?" eagerly inquired Cora, going to his side.

"Here! Read!" exclaimed the Iron King, handing her the sheet and
pointing out the paragraph.

Cora took the paper with trembling hands and read as follows:

    "A MYSTERY.--Yesterday morning at six o'clock an unknown
    young woman of about twenty-five or thirty years of age, of medium
    height, plump form, fair complexion and yellow hair, clothed in a
    rich suit of widow's mourning, was found in a state of coma in the
    ladies' dressing room of the Hudson River Railway station. She was
    taken to St. L----'s Hospital. There was nothing on her person to
    reveal her name or address."

"That must have been Mrs. Stillwater," said old Aaron Rockharrt.

"I think there is no question of it," replied Cora.

"No doubt the poor child was suddenly seized with one of her terrible
neuralgic headaches, caused by the pressure of that infernal crowd at
the gate, and she stole away, as before, lest she should disturb us and
prevent our journey; the most self-sacrificing creature I ever met. No
doubt she meant to telegraph to us, but was prevented by the sudden
reaction from agony to stupor. Ah! I hope it is not a fatal stupor."

"I hope not, sir."

"Cora!"

"Yes, sir."

"We must leave for New York by the next train. If Sylvanus is not free
to go with us, he can follow us. Come, let us go down and get some
breakfast."

Cora arose and went with her grandfather down to the breakfast room.

When they had taken their places at one of the tables and given their
orders to one of the waiters, old Aaron Rockharrt drew a time table from
his pocket and consulted it.

"There is a down train stops at Garrison's at 10:50. We will take that."

As soon as they had breakfasted, and as they were leaving the table,
another telegram was handed to Mr. Rockharrt. He opened it and read as
follows:

    BLANK HOUSE, New York, May ----, 18--

    The missing lady is in St. L----'s Hospital.

    M. MARTIN.

"It is true, then! true as we surmised. Mrs. Stillwater was the unknown
lady found unconscious in the dressing room of the Hudson River Railroad
and taken to St. L----'s. Cora!"

"Yes, sir."

"Go and pack our effects immedately. I will go down and settle the bill
and leave a letter of explanation for Sylvanus. Get your bonnet on and
be ready. The carriage will be at the door in twenty minutes."

Cora hurried off to her room and to her grandfather's room, which
adjoined hers, to prepare for the sudden journey. She quickly packed and
labeled their traveling bags, and rang for a porter to take them down
stairs.

Then she put on her bonnet and duster and went down and joined her
grandfather in the parlor.

"Come," he said, "the carriage is at the door and our traps on the box.
I have written to Sylvanus, telling him to join us at the Blank House,
where we will wait for him."

He turned abruptly and went out, followed by Cora.

They entered the waiting carriage and were rapidly driven down to the
ferry.

The boat was at the wharf. They alighted from the carriage and went on
board.

Old Aaron Rockharrt's hot haste did not avail them much. The boat
remained at the wharf for ten minutes, during which the Iron King
secretly fumed and fretted.

"Does this boat connect with the 10:50 train for New York?" he inquired.

"Yes, sir," was the answer.

"Then you will miss it."

"Oh, no, sir."

The five remaining minutes seemed hours, but they passed at length and
the boat left the shore, and old Aaron Rockharrt walked up and down the
deck impatiently.

As they neared the other side the whistle of a down train was heard
approaching.

"There! I said you would miss it!" exclaimed the Iron King.

"That train does not stop here, sir," was the good humored answer.

The boat touched the wharf at Garrison's, and the passengers got off.

Old Aaron Rockharrt led his granddaughter up to the platform to wait for
the train; but no train was in sight or hearing.

Mr. Rockharrt looked at his watch.

"After all, we have seven minutes to wait," he growled, as if time and
tide were much in fault at not being at his beck and call.

"Had we not better go into the waiting room?" suggested Cora.

"No, we will stand here," replied the Iron King, who on general
principles never acted upon a suggestion.

So there they stood--the old man growling at intervals as he looked up
the road; Cora gazing out upon the fine scenery of river and mountain.

Presently the whirr of the coming train was heard. In a minute more it
rushed into the station and stopped. There were no other down passengers
except Mr. Rockharrt and Mrs. Rothsay.

He handed her up, and took her to a seat. The car was not half full. The
tide of travel was northward, not southward at this season.

They were scarcely seated when the train started again. They reached New
York just before noon.

"Carriage, sir? Carriage, ma'am? Carriage? Carriage? Carriage?" screamed
a score of hackmen's voices, as the passengers came out on the sidewalk.

Mr. Rockharrt beckoned the best-looking turnout and handed his
granddaughter into it.

"Drive to St. L----'s Hospital," he said.

The hackman touched his hat and drove off. In less than fifteen minutes
he drew up before the front of St. L----'s.

The hackman jumped down, went up and rang the bell. Then he came back to
the carriage and opened the door.

Mr. Rockharrt got out, followed by his granddaughter.

"Wait here!" he said to the hackman, as he went to the door, which was
promptly opened by an attendant.

"I wish to see the physician in charge here, or the head of the
hospital, or whatever may be his official title," said the Iron King.

"You mean the Rev. Dr. ----"

"Yes, yes; take him my card."

"Walk in the parlor, sir."

The attendant conducted the party into a spacious, plainly furnished
reception or waiting room, saw them seated, and then took away Mr.
Rockharrt's card.

A few minutes passed, and a tall, white haired, venerable form, clothed
in a long black coat and a round skull cap, entered the room, looking
from side to side for his visitor.

Mr. Rockharrt got up and went to meet him.

"Mr. Rockharrt, of North End?" courteously inquired the venerable man.

"The same. Dr. ----, I presume."

"Yes, sir. Pray be seated. And this lady?" inquired the venerable
doctor, courteously turning toward Cora.

"Oh--my granddaughter, Mrs. Rothsay."

The aged man shook hands kindly with Cora, and then turned to Mr.
Rockharrt, as if silently questioning his will.

"I came to inquire about the lady who was found in an unconscious state
at the Hudson River Railway depot. How is she?" The old man's anxiety
betrayed itself even through his deliberate words.

"She is better. You know the lady?"

"More than know her--have been intimate with her for many years. She is
our guest and traveling companion. She got separated from us in the
crowd which was pressing through the railway gate to take the train
yesterday morning. I surely thought when I missed her that she had found
her way to some car. But it appears that she was seized with vertigo, or
something, and so missed the train."

"Yes; a lady, one of our regular visitors, found her there, by
Providence, in a state of deep stupor, and being unable to discover her
friends, or name, or address, put her in a carriage and brought her
directly here."

"She is better, you say? I wish to see her and take her back to our
apartments," said Mr. Rockharrt.

"I will send for one of the nurses to take you to her room. You will
excuse me. I am momentarily expecting the Dean of Olivet, who is on a
visit to our city, and comes to-day to go through the hospital," said
the doctor, and he rang a bell.

"The dean here? Why, I thought we left him at West Point," said Mr.
Rockharrt.

"He came down by a late train last night, I understand. He makes but a
flying tour through the country, and cannot stay at any one place," the
venerable doctor explained. And then he touched the bell again.

The same man who had let our party in came to the door to answer the
call.

"Say to Sister Susannah that I would like to see her here," said the
doctor.

The man went out and was presently succeeded by a sweet faced, middle
aged woman in a black dress and a neat white cap.

"Here are the friends of the young lady who was brought in yesterday
morning. Will you please to take them to the bedside of your patient?"

The Protestant sister nodded pleasantly and led off the visitors.

As they went up the main staircase they heard the front door bell ring,
the door opened, and the Dean of Olivet, with some gentlemen in his
company, entered the hall.

Our party, after one glance, passed up the stairs, through an upper hall
and a corridor, and paused before a door which Sister Susannah opened.

They entered a small, clean, neat room, where, clothed in a white
wrapper, reclining in a white easy chair, beside a white curtained
window, and near a white bed, sat Rose Stillwater. She was looking, not
only pale, but sallow--as she had never looked before.

Rose Stillwater held out one hand to Mr. Rockharrt and one to Cora
Rothsay, in silence and with a faint smile.

The sister, seeing this recognition, set two cane bottomed chairs for
the visitors and then went out, leaving them alone with the patient.

"Good Lord, my dear, how did all this come about?" inquired old Aaron
Rockharrt, as he sank heavily upon one of the chairs, making it creak
under him.

"It was while we stood in the crowd. I was pressed almost out of breath.
Then the terrible pang shot through my head, and I ceased to struggle
and let everybody pass before me. I dropped down on one of the benches.
I had taken a morphia pellet before I left the hotel. I had the medicine
in my pocket. I took another then--"

"Very wrong, my dear. Very wrong, my dear, to meddle with that drug,
without the advice of a physician."

"Yes; I know it now, but I did not know it then. The second pellet
stopped my headache, and I went to the ladies' dressing room to recover
myself a little, so as to be able to write a telegram saying that I
would follow you by the next train, but there a stupor came over me, and
I knew no more until I awoke late last night and found myself here."

"How perilous, my child! In that stupor you might have been robbed or
kidnapped by persons who might have pretended to be your relations and
carried you off and murdered you for your clothing," said old Aaron
Rockharrt, unconscious in his native rudeness that he was frightening
and torturing a very nervous invalid.

"But," urged Rose--who had grown paler at the picture conjured
up--"providentially I was found by the kind lady who sent or rather
brought me here, and even caused me to be put in this room instead of in
a ward. Sister Susannah explained this to me as soon as I was able to
make inquiries."

"Now, my dear, do you feel able to go back with us to the Blank House,
where we are now again staying and waiting for Sylvanus to join us?"

"Oh, yes; I shall be glad to go, though all here are most tender and
affectionate to me. But I would like to see and thank the doctor for all
his goodness. How like the ideal of the beloved apostle he seems to
me--so mild, so tender, so reverend."

"I think you cannot wait for that to-day, my dear. The reverend doctor
is engaged with the Dean of Olivet, who is going through the hospital."

Rose Stillwater's face blanched.

"Will they--will they--will they--come into this room?"

"Of course not! And if they should, you are up and in your chair. And if
you were not, they are a party of ministers of the gospel and medical
doctors, and you would not mind if they should see you in bed. You are a
nervous child to be so easily alarmed. It is the effect of the reaction
from your stupor," said Mr. Rockharrt.

"I will go with you, however, if I may," said Rose Stillwater, touching
the hand bell, that soon brought an attendant into the room.

"Will you ask Sister Susannah, please, to come to me?" said Mrs.
Stillwater.

The attendant went out and was soon succeeded by the sister.

"My friends wish to take me away, and I feel quite able to go with
them--in a carriage. Will you please find the doctor and ask him?"
inquired Mrs. Stillwater.

The sister smiled assent and went out.

Soon the venerable man entered the room.

"I hope I find you better, my child," he said, coming to the easy chair
in which sat and reclined the patient.

"Very much better, thank you, sir; so much that I feel quite able to go
out with my friends, if I may."

"Certainly, my child, if you like."

"I hope I have not detained you from your friends," said Rose.

"No. I left the dean in conversation with an English patient from his
old parish. It was an accidental meeting, but a most interesting one."

"Does--the dean--contemplate a long stay in the city?" Rose forced
herself to ask.

"Oh, no; he leaves to-night by one of the Sound steamers for Boston and
Newport. His English temperament feels the heat of the city even more
than we do."

Rose felt it in her heart to wish that the climate might "burn as an
oven," if it should drive the British dean away.

"But I must not leave my visitors longer. So if you will excuse me,
sir," he said, turning to Mr. Rockharrt, "I will take leave of my
patient and her friends here."

He shook hands all around, receiving the warm thanks of the whole party.

When the venerable doctor left the room, Mr. Rockharrt withdrew to the
corridor to give the nurse an opportunity to dress the convalescent for
her journey.

He walked up and down the corridor for a few minutes, at the end of
which Rose Stillwater came out dressed for her drive, and leaning on the
arm of Cora Rothsay.

Mr. Rockharrt hastened to meet her, and took her off Cora's hands, and
drew her arm within his own.

So they went down stairs and entered the carriage that was waiting for
them.

A drive of fifteen minutes brought them to the Blank House.

"Grandfather," said Cora, as they alighted and went into the house, Rose
leaning on Mr. Rockharrt's arm--"Grandfather, I think, now that the rush
of travelers have passed northward, you may be able to get me another
room. In Mrs. Stillwater's nervous condition it cannot be agreeable to
her to have the disturbance of a room-mate."

"What do you say, my child?" inquired Mr. Rockharrt of his guest.

"Sweet Cora never could disturb me under any circumstances, but it
cannot be good for her to room with such a nervous creature as I am just
at present," replied Rose.

"Umph! It appears to me that you two women wish to have separate rooms
each only for the welfare of the other. Well, you shall have them. Take
Mrs. Stillwater up stairs, Cora, while I step into the office," said Mr.
Rockharrt.

Cora drew the convalescent's arm within her own, and helped her to climb
the easy flight of stairs, and took her into the parlor, where they were
presently joined by the Iron King.

"I have also engaged a private sitting room, so that we need not go down
to the public table, and dinner will be laid for us there in a few
minutes. You need not lay off your wraps until you go there; and if
there is any special dish that you would particularly like, my dear, I
hope you will order it at once. Come." And he offered his arm to Mrs.
Stillwater, to whom, indeed, he had addressed all his remarks.

He led her from the public parlor, followed by his granddaughter. The
little sitting room which Mr. Rockharrt had been able to engage was just
across the hall.

On entering they found the table laid for a party of three.

Neither Mr. Rockharrt nor Cora had broken fast since their early
breakfast at West Point. The old gentleman was very hungry.

Dinner was soon served, and two of the party did full justice to the
good things set before them; but Rose Stillwater could touch nothing.
She had not recovered her appetite since her overdose of morphia. In
vain her host recommended this or that dish, for the more appetizing the
flavor, the more she detested them.

At last when dinner was over, Mr. Rockharrt recommended her to retire to
rest. She readily took his advice and bade him good night.

Cora volunteered to see their guest to her chamber.

"You will look at both rooms, Mrs. Stillwater, and take your choice
between them," she said, as she led the guest into the new chamber
engaged for one of the ladies.

"Oh, my dear Cora, I do not care where I drop myself down, so that I get
rest and sleep. Oh, Cora! I have been so frightened! Suppose I had died
in that opium sleep!" exclaimed Mrs. Stillwater, speaking frankly for at
least once in her life.

"You should not have tampered with such a dangerous drug," said Mrs.
Rothsay.

"Oh, I took it to stop the maddening pain that seemed to be killing me,"
exclaimed Rose Stillwater, as she let herself drop into an easy chair;
not speaking frankly this time, for she had taken the morphia to quiet
her nerves, and enable her to decide upon some course by which she might
avoid meeting with the Dean of Olivet again, and some excuse for
withdrawing herself so suddenly from her traveling party.

"So you will remain here?" inquired Cora.

"Oh, yes. I would remain anywhere sooner than move another step."

"Then I will help to get you to bed. Where is your bag?"

"Bag? Bag? I--I don't know! I have not seen it since I fell into that
stupor! It must be at the depot or at the hospital."

"Then I will get you a night dress," said Cora.

And then she ran off to her own room, and soon returned with a white
cambric gown, richly trimmed with lace.

When she had prepared her guest for bed, and put her into it, she
lowered the gas and left her to repose. Then she went to her own room,
satisfied to be alone with her memories once more. Soon after she heard
the slow and heavy steps of her grandfather as he passed into his room.



CHAPTER XVII.

"A MAD MARRIAGE, MY MASTERS."


When the party met at a late breakfast the next morning, Mrs. Stillwater
seemed to have quite recovered her health, and what was still better, in
her opinion, her complexion. She was once again a delicately blooming
rose. They were still at breakfast when Sylvanus Haught burst in upon
them, bowed to his grandfather, bowed to Rose Stillwater, and seized
Cora Rothsay around the neck and covered her with kisses, all in a
minute and before he spoke a word. Old Aaron Rockharrt glared at him.
Rose Stillwater smiled on him. But Cora Rothsay put her arms around his
neck and kissed him with tears of pleased affection.

"Well, sir! You have got through," said the Iron King with dignified
gravity.

"Yes, sir, got through, 'by the skin of my teeth,' as I might say! And
got leave of absence, waiting my commission. Hurrah, Cora! Hurrah, the
Rose that all admire! I shall be your cavalier for the next three months
at least, and until they send me out to Fort Devil's Icy Peak, to be
killed and scalped by the redskins!" exclaimed the new fledged soldier,
throwing up his cap.

"Will you have the goodness to remember where you are, sir, and endeavor
to conduct yourself with some manner approximating toward propriety?"
demanded Mr. Rockharrt, with solemn dignity.

"I beg your pardon, grandfather! I beg your pardon, ladies," said
Sylvanus, assuming so sudden and profound a gravity as to inspire a
suspicion of irony in the minds of the two women.

But old Aaron Rockharrt understood only an humble and suitable apology.

"Have you breakfasted?" he inquired in a modified tone.

"No, sir; and I am as hungry as a wolf--I mean I took the first train
down this morning without waiting for breakfast."

The Iron King, whose glare had cut short the first half of the young
man's reply, now rang, and when the waiter appeared, gave the necessary
orders.

And soon Sylvanus was seated at the table, sharing the morning meal of
his family.

"Now that my brother has joined us shall we leave for North End to-day,
grandfather?" inquired Cora, as they all arose from breakfast.

"No; nor need you make any suggestions of the sort. When I am ready to
go home, I will tell you. I have business to transact before I leave New
York," gruffly replied the family bear.

Rose Stillwater took up one of the morning papers and ran her eyes down
column after column, over page after page. Presently she came to the
item she was so anxiously looking for:

"The Very Reverend the Dean of Olivet left the city last evening by the
steamer Nighthawk for Boston."

With a sigh of relief she laid the paper down.

Mr. Rockharrt came and sat down beside her on the sofa, and began to
speak to her in a low voice.

Sylvan, sitting by Cora at the other end of the apartment, began to tell
all about the exercises at West Point which she had missed. His voice,
though not loud, was clear and lively, and quite drowned the sound of
Mr. Rockharrt and Mrs. Stillwater's words, which Cora could see were
earnest and important. At last Rose got up in some agitation and hurried
out of the room. Then old Aaron Rockharrt came up to the young people
and stood before them. There was something so ominous in his attitude
and expression that his two grandchildren looked dismayed even before he
spoke.

"Sir and madam," he said, addressing the young creatures as if they were
dignitaries of the church or state, "I have to inform you that I am
about to marry Mrs. Stillwater. The ceremony will be performed at the
church to-morrow noon. I shall expect you both to attend us there as
witnesses."

Saying which the Iron King arose and strode out of the room.

The sister and brother lifted their eyes, and might have stared each
other out of countenance in their silent, unutterable consternation.

Sylvan was the first to find his voice.

"Cora! It is an outrage! It is worse! It is an infamy!" he exclaimed, as
the blood rushed to his face and crimsoned it.

Cora said never a word, but burst into tears and sobbed aloud.

"Cora! don't cry! You have me now! Oh! the old man is certainly mad, and
ought to be looked after. Cora, darling, don't take it so to heart! At
his age, too; seventy-seven! He'll make himself the laughing stock of
the world! Oh, Cora, don't grieve so! It does not matter after all! Such
a disgrace to the family! Oh, come now, you know, Cora! this is not the
way to welcome a fellow home! For any old man to make such a--Oh, I say,
Cora! come out of that now! If you don't, I swear I will take my hat and
go out to get a drink!"

"Oh, don't! don't!" gasped his sister; "don't you lend a hand to
breaking my heart."

"Well, I won't, darling, if you'll only come out of that! It is not
worth so much grief."

"I will--stop--as soon as--I can!" sobbed the young woman, "but when I
think--of his reverent gray hairs--brought to such dishonor--by a mere
adventuress--and we--so powerless--to prevent it, I feel as if--I should
die."

"Oh, nonsense; you look at it too gravely. Besides, old men have married
beautiful young women before now!" said Sylvan, troubled by his sister's
grief, and tacking around in his opinions as deftly as ever did any
other politician.

"Yes, and got themselves laughed at and ridiculed for their folly!"
sighed Cora, who had ceased to sob.

"Behind their backs, and that did not hurt them one bit."

"Oh, if Uncle Fabian were only here!"

"Why, what could he do to prevent the marriage?"

"I do not know. But I know this, that if any man could prevent this
degradation, he would be Uncle Fabian! It would be no use, I fear, to
telegraph to Clarence!"

"Clarence!" said Sylvanus with a laugh, "Why he has no more influence
with the Iron King than I have. His father calls him an idiot--and he
certainly is weakly amiable. He would back his father in anything the
old man had set his heart upon. But, Cora, listen here, my dear! You and
I are free at present. We need not countenance this marriage by our
presence. I, your brother, can take you to another hotel, or take you
off to Saratoga, where we can stay until I get my orders, and then you
can go out with me wherever I go. There! the Devil's Icy Peak itself
will be a holier home than Rockhold, for you."

Cora had become quite calm by this time, and she answered quietly:

"No; you misapprehend me, Sylvan. It was not from indignation or
resentment that I cried, and not at all for myself. I grieved for him,
the spellbound old man! No, Sylvanus; since we feel assured that no
power of ours, no power on earth, can turn him from his purpose, we must
do our duty by him. We must refrain from giving him pain or making him
angry; for his own poor old sake, we must do this! Sylvan, I must attend
his bride to the altar; and you must attend him--as he desired us to
do."

"'Desired!' by Jove, I think he commanded! I do not remember ever to
have heard his Majesty the King of the Cumberland Mines request anybody
to do anything in the whole course of his life. He always ordered him to
do it! Well, Cora, dear, I will be 'best' man to the bridegroom, since
you say so! I have always obeyed you, Cora. Ah! you have trained me for
the model of an obedient husband for some girl, Cora! Now, I am going
down stairs to smoke a cigar. You don't object to that, I hope, Mrs.
Rothsay?" lightly inquired the youth as he sauntered out of the room.

He had just closed the door when Mrs. Stillwater entered.

She came in very softly, crossed the room, sat down on the sofa beside
Cora, and slipped her arm around the lady's waist, purring and cooing:

"I have been waiting to find you alone, dearest. I just heard your
brother go down stairs. Mr. Rockharrt has told you, dear?"

"Yes; he has told me. Take your arms away from me, if you please, Mrs.
Stillwater, and pray do not touch me again," quietly replied the young
lady, gently withdrawing herself from the siren's close embrace.

"You are displeased with me. Can you not forgive me, then?" pleaded
Rose, withdrawing her arms, but fixing her soft blue eyes pleadingly
upon the lady's face.

"You have given me no personal offense, Mrs. Stillwater."

"Cora, dear--" began Rose.

"Mrs. Rothsay, if you please," said Cora, in a quiet tone.

"Mrs. Rothsay, then," amended Rose, in a calm voice, as if determined
not to take offense--"Mrs. Rothsay, allow me to explain how all this
came to pass. I have always, from the time I first lived in his house,
felt a profound respect and affection for your grandfather--"

"Mr. Rockharrt, if you please," said Cora.

"For Mr. Rockharrt, then, as well as for his sainted wife, the late Mrs.
Rockharrt. I--"

"Madam!" interrupted Cora. "Is there nothing too holy to be profaned by
your lips? You should at least have the good taste to leave that lady's
sacred memory alone."

"Certainly, if you wish; but she was a good friend to me, and I served
her with a daughter's love and devotion. In my last visit to Rockhold I
also served Mr. Rockharrt more zealously than ever, because, indeed, he
needed such affectionate service more than before. He has grown so much
accustomed to my services that they now seem vitally necessary to him.
But, of course, I cannot take care of him day and night, in parlor and
chamber, unless I become his wife--'the Abisheg of his age.' And so,
Cora, dear--I beg pardon--Mrs. Rothsay, I have yielded to his pleadings
and consented to marry him."

"Mr. Rockharrt has already told me so," coldly replied Cora.

"And, dear, I wish to add this--that the marriage need make no
difference in our domestic relations at Rockhold."

"I do not understand you."

"I mean in the family circle."

"Oh! thank you!" said Cora, with the nearest approach to a sneer that
ever she made. "I have heard all you have to say, Mrs. Stillwater, and
now I have to reply--First, that I give you no credit for any respect or
affection that you may profess for Mr. Rockharrt, or for disinterested
motives in marrying the aged millionaire."

"Oh, Cora--Mrs. Rothsay!"

"I will say no more on that point. Mr. Rockharrt is old and worn with
many business cares. I would not willingly pain or anger him. Therefore,
because he wills it, for his sake, not for yours, I will attend you to
the altar. Also, if he should desire me to do so, I shall remain at
Rockhold until the return of Mr. Fabian Rockharrt."

At the sound of this name Rose Stillwater winced and shivered.

"Then, knowing that his favorite son will be near him, I shall leave him
with the freer heart and go away with my brother, withersoever he may be
sent. Mr. Fabian is expected to return within a few weeks, and will
probably be here long before my brother receives his orders. Now, Mrs.
Stillwater, I think all has been said between us, and you will please
excuse my leaving you," said Cora, as she arose and withdrew from the
room.

Then Rose Stillwater lost her self-command. Her blue eyes blazed, she
set her teeth, she doubled her fist, and shaking it after the vanished
form of the lady, she hissed:

"Very well, proud madam! I'll pay you for all this! You shall never
touch one cent of old Aaron Rockharrt's millions!"

Having launched this threat, she got up and went to her room. Ten
minutes later she drove out in a carriage alone. She did not return to
luncheon. Neither did Mr. Rockharrt, who had gone down to Wall Street.
Sylvan and Cora lunched alone, and spent the afternoon together in the
parlor, for they had much to say to each other after their long
separation, and much also to say of the impending marriage. During that
afternoon many packages and bandboxes came by vans, directed to Mrs.
Rose Stillwater. These were sent to her apartment. At dusk Mrs.
Stillwater returned and went directly to her room. She probably did not
care to face the brother and sister together, unsupported by their
grandfather. A few minutes later Mr. Rockharrt came in, looking moody
and defiant, as if quite conscious of the absurdity of his position, or
ready to crush any one who betrayed the slightest, sense of humor. Then
dinner was served, and Rose Stillwater came out of her room and entered
the parlor--a vision of loveliness--her widow's weeds all gone, her
dress a violet brocaded satin, with fine lace berthe and sleeve
trimmings, white throat and white arms encircled with pearl necklace and
bracelets; golden red hair dressed high and adorned with a pearl comb.
She came in smiling and took her place at the table.

Old Aaron Rockharrt looked up at her in surprise and not altogether with
pleasure. Rose Stillwater, seeing his expression of countenance, got a
new insight into the mind of the old man whom she had thought she knew
so well. During dinner, to cover the embarrassment which covered each
member of the small party, Sylvan began to talk of the cadets' ball at
West Point on the preceding evening; the distinguished men who were
present, the pretty girls with whom he had danced, the best waltzers,
and so forth, and then the mischievous scamp added:

"But there wasn't a brunette present as handsome as my sister Cora, nor
a blonde as beautiful as my own grandmamma-elect."

When they all left the table, Mrs. Stillwater went to her room, and Mr.
Rockharrt took occasion to say:

"I wish you both to understand the programme for to-morrow. There is to
be no fuss, no wedding breakfast, no nonsense whatever."

Sylvan thought to himself that the marriage alone was nonsense enough to
stand by itself, like a velvet dress, which is spoiled by additions; but
he said nothing. Mr. Rockharrt, standing on the rug with his back to the
mantlepiece and his hands clasped behind him, continued:

"Sylvan, you will wear a morning suit; Cora, you will wear a visiting
costume, just what you would wear to an ordinary church service. Rose
will be married in her traveling dress. Immediately after the ceremony
we, myself and wife, shall enter a carriage and drive to the railway
depot and take the train for Niagara. You two can return here or go to
Rockhold or wherever you will. We shall make a short tour of the Falls,
lakes, St. Lawrence River, and so on, and probably return to Rockhold by
the first of July. I cannot remain long from the works while Fabian is
away. Now, am I clearly understood?"

"Very clearly, sir," replied Sylvan, speaking for himself and sister.

"Then, good night; I am going to bed," said the Iron King, and without
waiting for a response, he strode out of the room.

"Who ever heard of a man dictating to a woman what she shall wear?"
exclaimed Cora.

Sylvan laughed.

"Why, the King of the Cumberland mines would dictate when you should
rise from your seat and walk across the room; when you should sit down
again; when you should look out of the window, and every movement of
your life, if it were not too much trouble. Good night, Cora."

The brother and sister shook hands and parted for the night, each going
to his or her respective apartment. Early the next morning the little
party met at breakfast. The Iron King looked sullen and defiant, as if
he were challenging the whole world to find any objection to his
remarkable marriage at their peril. Mrs. Stillwater, in a pretty morning
robe of pale blue sarcenet, made very plainly, looked shy, humble, and
deprecating, as if begging from all present a charitable construction of
her motives and actions. Cora Rothsay looked calm and cold in her usual
widow's dress and cap.

Sylvan seemed the only cheerful member of the party, and tried to make
conversation out of such trifles as the bill of fare furnished. All were
relieved when the party separated and went to their rooms to dress for
church. At eleven o'clock they reassembled in the parlor. Mr. Rockharrt
wore a new morning suit. He might have been going down to Wall Street
instead of to his own wedding. Rose Stillwater wore a navy blue,
lusterless silk traveling dress, with hat, veil and gloves to match, all
very plain, but extremely becoming to her fresh complexion and ruddy
hair. Cora wore her widow's dress of lusterless black silk with mantle,
bonnet, veil and gloves to match. Sylvan, like his grandfather, wore a
plain morning suit.

"Well, are you all ready?" demanded old Aaron, looking critically upon
the party.

"All ready, sir," chirped Sylvan for the others.

"Come, then."

And the aged bridegroom drew the arm of his bride-elect within his own
and led the way down stairs and out to the handsome carriage that stood
waiting.

He handed her in, put her on the back seat and placed himself beside
her.

Sylvan helped his sister into the carriage and followed her. They seated
themselves on the front seat opposite the bridal pair.

And the carriage drove off.

"Oh!" suddenly exclaimed old Aaron Rockharrt, rummaging in the breast
pocket of his coat and drawing thence a white envelope and handing it to
Sylvan; "here, take this and give it to the minister as soon as we come
before him."

The young man received the packet and looked inquiringly at the elder.
It was really the marriage fee for the officiating clergyman, and a very
ostentatious one also; but the Iron King did not condescend to explain
anything. He had given it to his grandson with his orders, which he
expected to be implicitly obeyed without question. They reached the
church, the same church in which they had heard the dean preach on the
previous Sunday. They alighted from the carriage and entered the
building, old Aaron Rockharrt leading the way with his bride-elect on
his arm, Sylvan and Cora following. The church was vacant of all except
the minister, who stood in his surplice behind the chancel railing, and
the sexton who had opened the door for the party, and was now walking
before them up the aisle.

The church was empty, because this, though the wedding of a millionaire,
was one of which it might be said that there was "No feast, no cake, no
cards, no nothing."

The party reached the altar railing, bowed silently to the minister, who
nodded gravely in return, and then formed before the altar--the
venerable bridegroom and beautiful bride in the center, Sylvan on the
right of the groom, Cora on the left of the bride. The young man
performed the mission with which he had been intrusted, and then the
ceremony was commenced. It went on smoothly enough until the minister in
its proper place asked the question:

"Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?"

There was an awful pause.

No one had thought of the necessity of having a "church father" to give
away the bride.

The officiating clergyman saw the dilemma at a glance, and quietly
beckoned the gray-haired sexton to come up and act as a substitute. But
Sylvan Haught, with a twinkle of fun in his eyes, turned his head and
whispered to the new comer:

"'After me is manners of you.'"

Then he took the bride's hand and said mightily:--

"I do."

The marriage ceremony went on to its end and was over. Congratulations
were offered. The register was signed and witnessed.

And old Aaron Rockharrt led his newly married wife out of the church and
put her into the carriage. Then turning around to his grandchildren he
said:

"You can walk back to the hotel. See that the porters send off our
luggage by express to the Cataract House, Niagara Falls. They have their
orders from me, but do you see that these orders are promptly obeyed.
Now, good-by."

He shook hands with Sylvan and Cora, and entered the carriage, which
immediately rolled off in the direction of the railway station.

The brother and sister walked back to the hotel together.

"It will be a curious study, Cora, to see who will rule in this new
firm. I believe it is universally conceded that when an old man marries
a pretty young wife, he becomes her slave. But our honored grandfather
has been absolute monarch so long that I doubt if he can be reduced to
servitude."

"I have no doubts on the subject," replied his sister.

"I have been watching them. He is not subjugated by Rose. He is not
foolishly in love with her, at his age. He likes her as he likes other
agreeable accessories for his own sake. I have neither respect nor
affection for Rose, yet I feel some compassion for her now. Whatever the
drudgery of her life as governess may have been since she left us, long
ago, it has been nothing, nothing to the penal servitude of the life
upon which she has now entered. The hardest-worked governess,
seamstress, or servant has some hours in the twenty-four, and some nook
in the house that she can call her own where she can rest and be quiet.
But Rose Rockharrt will have no such relief! Do I not remember my dear
grandmother's life? And my grandfather really did love her, if he ever
loved any one on earth. This misguided young woman fondly hopes to be
the ideal old man's darling. She deceives herself. She will be his
slave, by day and night seldom out of his sight, never out of his
service and surveillance. Possibly--for she is not a woman of
principle--she may end by running away from her master, and that before
long."

Cora's last words brought them to the "Ladies' Entrance" of their hotel.

"Go up stairs, Cora, and I will step into the office and see if there
are any letters," said Sylvan.

Mrs. Rothsay went up into their private sitting room, dropped into a
chair, took off her bonnet and began to fan herself, for her midday walk
had been a very warm one.

Presently Sylvan came up with a letter in his hand.

"For you, Cora, from Uncle Fabian! There is a foreign mail just in."

"Give it to me."

Sylvan handed her the letter, Cora opened it, glanced over it, and
exclaimed:

"Uncle Fabian says that he will be home the last of this month."



CHAPTER XVIII.

A CRISIS AT ROCKHOLD.


Brother and sister went to Newport and spent a month. The Dean of Olivet
was in the town, but they never met him because they never went into
society. Toward the last of June, Corona proposed that they should go at
once to Rockhold.

The next morning brother and sister took the early train for New York.
On the morning of the second day they took the express train for
Baltimore, where they stopped for another night. And on the morning of
the third day they took the early train for North End, where they
arrived at sunset. They went to the hotel to get dinner and to engage
the one hack of the establishment to take them to Rockhold.

Almost the first man they met on the hotel porch was Mr. Clarence, who
rushed to meet them.

"Hurrah, Sylvan! Hurrah, old boy! Back again! Why didn't you write or
telegraph? How do you do, Cora! Ah! when will you get your roses back,
my dear? And how is his Majesty? Why is he not with you? Where did you
leave him?" demanded Mr. Clarence in a gale of high spirits at greeting
his nephew and niece again.

"He is among the Thousand Islands somewhere with his bride," answered
Cora.

"His--what?" inquired Mr. Clarence, with a puzzled air.

"His wife," said Cora.

"His wife? What on earth are you talking about, Cora? You could not have
understood my question. I asked you where my father was!" said the
bewildered Mr. Clarence.

"And I told you that he is on his wedding trip with his bride, among the
Thousand Islands," replied Cora.

Mr. Clarence turned in a helpless manner.

"Sylvan," he said, "tell me what she means, will you?"

"Why, just what she says. Our grandfather and grandmother are on the
St. Lawrence, but will be home on the first of July," Sylvan explained.

But Mr. Clarence looked from the brother to the sister and back again in
the utmost perplexity.

"What sort of a stupid joke are you two trying to get off?" he inquired.

They had by this time reached the public parlor of the hotel and found
seats.

"Is it possible, Uncle Clarence, that you do not know Mr. Rockharrt was
married on the thirty-first of last month, in New York, to Mrs.
Stillwater?" inquired Cora.

"What! My father!"

"Why should you be amazed or incredulous, Uncle Clarence? The
incomprehensible feature, to my mind, is that you should not have heard
of the affair directly from grandfather himself. Has he really not
written and told you of his marriage?"

"He has never told me a word of his marriage, though he has written a
dozen or more letters to me within the last few weeks."

"That is very extraordinary. And did you not hear any rumor of it? Did
no one chance to see the notice of it in the papers?"

"No one that I know of. No; I heard no hint of my father's marriage from
any quarter, nor had I, nor any one else at Rockhold or at North End,
the slightest suspicion of such a thing."

"That is very strange. It must have been in the papers," said Sylvan.

"If it was I did not see it, but, then, I never think of looking at the
marriage list."

"I am inclined to think that it never got into the papers. The marriage
was private, though not secret. And you, Sylvan, should have seen that
the marriage was inserted in all the daily papers. It was your special
duty as groomsman. But you must have forgotten it, and I never
remembered to remind you of it," said Cora.

"Not I. I never forgot it, because I never once thought of it. Didn't
know it was my duty to attend to it. Besides, I had so many duties. Such
awful duties! Think of my having to be my own grandmother's church papa
and give her away at the altar! That duty reduced me to a state of
imbecility from which I have not yet recovered."

"But," said Mr. Clarence, with a look of pain on his fine, genial
countenance, "it is so strange that my father never mentioned his
marriage in any of his letters to me."

"Perhaps he did not like to mix up sentiment with business," kindly
suggested Sylvan.

"I don't think it was a question of sentiment," sighed Mr. Clarence.

"What? Not his marriage?"

"No," sighed Mr. Clarence.

"Well, don't worry about the matter. Let us order dinner and engage the
carriage to take us all to Rockhold. How astonished the darkies will be
to see us, and how much more astonished to hear the news we have to
tell! I wonder if they will take kindly to the rule of the new
mistress?" said Sylvan.

"Why did not one of you have the kindness, and thoughtfulness, to write
and tell me of my father's marriage?" sorrowfully inquired Mr. Clarence,
utterly ignoring the just spoken words of his nephew.

"Dear Uncle Clarence, I should certainly have written and told you all
about it at once, if I had not taken for granted that grandfather had
informed you of his intention, as was certainly his place to do. And
even if I had written to you on any other occasion, I should assuredly
have alluded to the marriage. But, you see, I never wrote to any one
while away," Cora explained.

"Now, Uncle Clarence, just take Cora's explanation and apology for both
of us, will you, for it fits me as well as it does her? And now you two
may keep the ball rolling, while I go out and order dinner and engage
the hack," said Sylvan, starting for the office.

When he was gone Clarence asked Cora to give him all the details of the
extraordinary marriage, and she complied with his request.

"It will make a country talk," said the young man, with a sigh, which
Cora echoed.

"And you say they will be home on the first of July?" he inquired.

"Yes," said Cora.

"I wish I had known in time. I would have had old Rockhold Hall prepared
as it should be for the reception of my father's bride, though I do so
strongly disapprove the marriage. Do you know, Cora, that old house has
never had its furniture renewed within my memory? Some of the rooms are
positively mouldy and musty. And whoever heard of a wealthy man like my
father bringing his wife home to a neglected old country house like
Rockhold, without first having it renovated and refurnished?"

"I do not believe he ever once thought of the propriety or necessity of
repairing and refitting. His mind is quite absorbed in his new and vast
speculations. He spent every day down in Wall Street while we stayed in
New York city."

"Well, Corona, this is the twenty-eighth of June, and we have four days
before us; for I do not suppose the newly married pair will arrive
before the evening of the first of July; so we must do the best we can,
my dear, to make the house pleasant in this short time."

"And Uncle Fabian and his wife will be at Rockhold about the same
time," added Cora.

"I knew Fabian would be at North End on the first of July, but I did not
know that he would go on to Rockhold. I thought he would go on to their
new house. So we shall have two brides to welcome, instead of one."

"Yes. And now, Uncle Clarence, will you please ring for a chambermaid? I
must go to a bed room and get some of this railroad dust out of my
eyes," said Cora.

At nine o'clock in the very warm evening, the three were sitting near
the open windows, when they started at the sound of a hearty, genial
voice in the adjoining room, inquiring for accommodations for the night.

"It is Fabian!" cried Mr. Clarence, springing up in joy and rushing out
of the room to welcome his only and much beloved brother.

The glad voices of the two brothers in greeting reached their ears, and
a moment after the door was thrown open again, and Mr. Clarence entered,
conducting Mr. and Mrs. Fabian Rockharrt.

As soon as they found themselves alone, the two brothers took convenient
seats to have a talk.

"How goes on the works, Clarence?" inquired Mr. Fabian.

"Very prosperously. You will go through them to-morrow and see for
yourself."

"And how goes on the great scheme?"

"Even better than the works. Last reports shares selling at one hundred
and thirty."

"Same over yonder. When I left Amsterdam shares selling like hot cakes
at a hundred and thirty-one seventenths. How is the governor?" inquired
Mr. Fabian.

"As flourishing as a successful financier and septuagenarian bridegroom
can be."

"Why!--what do you mean?"

"Haven't you heard the news?"

"What is it? You--you don't mean--"

"Has our father written nothing to you of a very important and utterly
unexpected act of his life?"

"No."

"I advised him to marry--"

"You! You! Fabian! You advised our father to do such an absurd thing at
his age?"

"I confess I don't see the absurdity of it," quietly replied the elder
brother.

"Oh, why did you counsel him to such an act?" inquired Mr. Clarence,
more in sorrow than in anger.

"Out of pure good nature. I was getting married myself and wanted
everybody to be as happy as I was myself, particularly my old father.
Now I wonder he did not write to me of his happiness; but perhaps he has
done so and the letter passed me on the sea. When did this marriage take
place?"

"On the last day of May."

"Whe-ew! Then there was ample time in which to have written the news to
me. And I have had at least half a dozen business letters since the date
of his marriage, in any of which he might have mentioned the occurrence
had he so chosen. The lady is no longer young. She must be forty-eight,
and she is handsome, cultured, dignified and of very high rank. A
queenly woman!"

"Do you know whom you are talking about, Fabian?"

"Mrs. Bloomingfield, the lady I recommended, whom father married."

"Oh, indeed; I thought you didn't know what you were talking about or
whom you were talking of," said Mr. Clarence.

"What do you mean by that?"

"Our father never accepted your recommendation; never proposed to the
handsome, high spirited Mrs. Bloomingfield."

"What!" exclaimed Mr. Fabian. "Whom, then?" "Whom? Whom should he have
selected but

    "'The Rose that all ad-mi-r-r-?'

"Clarence, what, in the fiend's name, do you mean? Whom has my father
married?" demanded Mr. Fabian, starting up and staring at his younger
brother.

"Mrs. Rose Flowers Stillwater," replied Mr. Clarence, staring back.

Mr. Fabian dropped back in his chair, while every vestige of color left
his face.

"Why, Fabian! Fabian! Why should you care so much as all this? Speak,
Fabian; what is the matter?" inquired the younger brother, rising and
bending over the elder.

"What is the matter?" cried Mr. Fabian, excitedly. "Ruin is the matter!
Ruin, disgrace, dishonor, degradation, an abyss of infamy; that is the
matter."

"Oh, come now! see here! that is all wild talk. The young woman was only
a nursery governess, to be sure, in our house, and then widow of some
skipper or other; but she was respectable, though of humble position."

"Clarence, hush! You know nothing about it!" exclaimed Mr. Fabian,
wiping his forehead with his handkerchief, and then getting up and
walking the floor with rapid strides.

"I don't understand all this, Fabian. We were all of us a good deal cut
up by the event, but nothing like this!" said Mr. Clarence, uneasily.

"No; you don't understand. But listen to me: I was on my way to Rockhold
to join in the family reunion, and to show the old homestead to my wife;
but I cannot take her there now. I cannot introduce her to the new Mrs.
Rockharrt--the new Mrs. Rockharrt!" he repeated, in a tone and with a
gesture of disgust and abhorrence. "I shall turn back, and take my wife
to our new home; and when I go to Rockhold, I shall go alone."

"Fabian, you make me dreadfully uneasy. What do you know of Rose
Stillwater that is to her discredit?" demanded Clarence Rockharrt.

His elder brother paused in his excited walk, dropped his head upon his
chest and reflected for a few moments. Then he seemed to recover some
degree of self-control and self-recollection. He returned to his chair,
sat down, and said:

"Of my own personal knowledge I know nothing against the woman but just
this--that she is but half educated, deceitful, and unreliable. And that
knowledge I gained by experience after she had first left Rockhold, to
which I had first introduced her for a governess to our niece. I had
nothing to do with her return to the old hall, and would have never
countenanced such a proceeding if I had been in the country."

"That is all very deplorable, but yet it hardly warrants your very
strong language, Fabian. I am sorry that you have discovered her to be
'ignorant, deceitful, and unreliable,' but let us hope that now, when
she is placed above temptation, she will reform. Don't take exaggerated
views of affairs, Fabian."

The elder man was growing calmer and more thoughtful. Presently he said:

"You are right, Clarence. My indignation, on learning that that woman
had succeeded in trapping our Iron King, led me into extravagant
language on the subject. Forget it, Clarence. And whatever you do, my
brother, drop no hint to any one of what I have said to you to-night,
lest our father should hear of it; for if he should--"

Mr. Fabian paused.

"I shall never drop a hint that might possibly give our father one
moment of uneasiness. Be sure of that, Fabian."

"That is good, my brother! And we will agree to ignore all faults in our
young stepmother, and for our father's sake treat her with all proper
respect."

"Of course. I could not do otherwise. And, Fabian, I hope you will
reconsider the matter, and bring Violet to Rockhold to join our family
reunion."

"No, Clarence," said the elder brother; "there is just where I must draw
the line. I cannot introduce my wife to the new Mrs. Rockharrt."

"But it seems to me that you are very fastidious, Fabian. Do you expect
always to be able to keep Violet from meeting with 'ignorant, insincere
and unreliable' people, in a world like this?" inquired Mr. Clarence,
significantly.

"No, not entirely, perhaps; yet, so far as in me lies, I will try to
keep my simple wood violet 'unspotted from the world,'" replied Mr.
Fabian, who, untruthful and dishonest as he was in heart and life, yet
reverenced while he wondered at the purity and simplicity of his young
wife's nature.

"I am afraid the pater will feel the absence of Violet as a slight to
his bride," said Mr. Clarence.

"No; I shall take care that he does not. Violet is in very delicate
health, and that must be her excuse for staying at home."

The brothers talked on for a little while longer; and then, when they
had exhausted the subject for the time being, Mr. Clarence said he would
go and look up Sylvan, and he went out for the purpose. Fabian
Rockharrt, left alone, resumed his disturbed walk up and down the room,
muttering to himself:

"The traitress! the unprincipled traitress! How dared she do such a
deed? Didn't she know that I could expose her, and have her cast forth
in ignominy from my father's house? Or did she venture all in the hope
that consideration of my father's age and position in the world would
shut my mouth and stay my hand? She is mistaken, the jade! Unless she
falls into my plans, and works for my interest, she shall be exposed and
degraded from her present position."

Mr. Fabian was interrupted by the re-entrance of Mrs. Rothsay. He turned
to meet her and inquired:

"Where did you leave Violet, my dear?"

"She is in her own room, which is next to mine. I went in with her and
saw her to bed, and waited until she went to sleep," replied Cora.

"Poor little one! She is very fragile, and has been very much fatigued.
I do not think, my dear, that I can take her on to Rockhold to-morrow. I
think I must let her rest here for a day or two."

"It would be best, not only on account of Violet's delicacy and
weariness, but also on account of the condition of the house at
Rockhold, which has not been opened or aired for months."

"That is true; though I had not thought of it before," said Mr. Fabian,
who was well pleased that Cora so readily fell in with his plans.

"What do you think of the pater's marriage, Cora?' he next inquired.

"I would rather not give an opinion, Uncle Fabian," she answered.

"Then I am equally well answered, for that is giving a very strong
opinion!" he exclaimed.

"The deed is done and cannot be undone!"

"Can it not? Perhaps it can!"

"What do you mean, Uncle Fabian?"

"Nothing that you need trouble yourself about, my dear. But tell me
this--what do you mean to do, Cora? Do you mean to stay on at Rockhold?"

"I suppose I must do so."

"Not at all, if you do not like! You are an independent widow and may go
where you please."

"I know that and wish to go; but I do not wish to make a scene or cause
a scandal by leaving my grandfather's protection so suddenly after his
marriage, which is open enough to criticism, as it is. So I must stay on
at Rockhold so long as Sylvan's leave shall last, and until he shall
receive his commission and orders. Then I will go with him wherever his
duty may call him."

"Good girl! You have decided well and wisely. Though the post of duty to
which the callow lieutenantling will be ordered must, of course, be Fort
Jumping Off Point, at the extreme end of the habitable globe. Well, my
dear, I must bid you good night, for, see, it is on the stroke of eleven
o'clock, and I am rather tired from my journey, for, you must know, we
rushed it through from New York to North End without lying over," said
Mr. Fabian, as he shook hands with his niece.

He retired, and his example was soon followed by all his party.



CHAPTER XIX.

A FAMILY REUNION.


The next morning, after an early breakfast, the travelers assembled in
the hall of the hotel to take leave of each other. Clarence, Sylvan, and
Cora entered the capacious carriage of the establishment to drive to
Rockhold, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Fabian Rockharrt on the porch of the
hotel, at which they had decided to rest for a few days.

"We shall go to Rockhold to welcome the king and queen when they return,
Cora," said Mr. Fabian, waving his hand to the departed trio, though he
had not the least intention of keeping his word. He then led his pretty
Violet into the house. The lumbering carriage rolled along the village
street, passed the huge buildings of the locomotive works, and out into
the road that lay between the fool of the range of mountains and the
banks of the river.

The ferryboat was at the wharf, and the broad shouldered negro dwarf was
standing on it, pole in hand.

His look of surprise and delight on seeing Sylvan and Cora was good to
behold.

"Why, Lors bress my po' ole soul, young marse an' miss, is yer come sure
'nough? 'Deed I's moughty proud to see yer. How's de ole marse? When he
coming back agin?" he queried, as the carriage rolled slowly across the
gangplank from the wharf to the deck of the ferryboat.

"Your ole marse is quite well, Uncle Moses, and will be home on the
first of the month with his new wife," said Sylvan, who could not miss
the fun of telling this rare bit of news to the aged ferryman.

The old negro dropped his pole into the water, opened his mouth and eyes
to their widest extent and gasped and stared.

"Wid--w'ich?" he said, at last.

"With his new wife and your new mistress," answered Sylvan.

The old negro dropped his chin on his chest, raised his knobby black
fingers to his head and scratched his gray hair with a look of quaint
perplexity, as he muttered,

"Now I wunner ef I tuk too heavy a pull on to dat dar rum jug, fo' I lef
de house dis mornin'--I wunner if I did."

His mate stopped and pulled the pole up out of the water and began
himself to push off the boat until it was afloat.

They soon reached the opposite shore, drove off the boat and up the
avenue between the flowering locust trees that formed a long, green,
fragrant arch above their heads, and so on to the gray old house. In a
very few moments the door was opened and all the household servants
appeared to welcome the returning party. Most of them looked more
frightened than pleased; but when anxious glances toward the group
leaving the carriage assured them that the family "Boodlejock" was not
present, they seemed relieved and delighted to see the others.

With the easy, respectful familiarity of long and faithful service, the
negro men and women crowded around the entering party with loving
greetings.

The news of the Iron King's marriage was told by Sylvan. Had a bombshell
fallen and exploded among the servants, they could not have been more
shocked. There was a simultaneous exclamation of surprise and dismay,
and then total silence.

At the end of the third day all was ready for the reception of Mr. and
Mrs. Rockharrt.

The next day was the first of July. As soon as Mr. Clarence reached his
private office at the works he found a telegram waiting him. He opened
it, and read the following:

    CAPON SPRINGS, July 1, 18--

    Shall reach North End by the 6 p.m. train. Send the carriage to
    meet that train. Shall go directly to Rockhold. Order dinner there
    for 8 p.m.

    AARON ROCKHARRT.

Mr. Clarence put a boy on horseback and sent him on to Cora, with this
message inclosed in a note from himself. And then he gave his attention
to the duties of his office. He was still busy at his desk when Mr.
Fabian strolled in.

"Well, old man, good morning. I return to duty to-day, because it is the
first of the month, you know."

"And also the first of the financial year. There has been so much to do
within the last few days, I am glad you have returned to your post. I
would like the pater to find all right when he comes to inspect. By the
way, I have just got a telegram from him. I have just sent it off to
Cora, so that she may know when to send the carriage, and for what hour
to order dinner. You know it would never do to have anything 'gang
aglee' in which the pater is interested."

"No. Well, you and I must go to meet him. We must not fail in any
attention to the old gentleman."

"Of course not. Oh! what will the people say when they hear the news? I
do not think that the slightest rumor of the mad marriage has got out I
know that I have not breathed it."

"Nor I. But of course it will be generally known within twenty-four
hours; and then I hope the pater will do the handsome thing and give his
workmen a general holiday and jollification."

"I doubt it, since he has not even refurnished the shabby old drawing
room at Rockhold in honor of the occasion," said Mr. Clarence.

Then the brothers separated for the day.

Whenever the family traveling carriage happened to be sent from Rockhold
to the North End railway depot, it always stopped at the North End
Hotel to rest and water the horses. So when the afternoon waned, as
Messrs. Fabian and Clarence Rockharrt had to remain busy in their
respective offices up to the last possible minute, Sylvan was stationed
on the front porch of the hotel, with the day's newspapers and a case of
cigars to solace him while watching for the carriage.

It came at a quarter to five o'clock, and while the horses were resting
and feeding, Sylvan sent a messenger to summon his two uncles. By the
time the two horses were ready to start again, the two men came up and
entered the carriage. Sylvan followed them in.

"See here, my boy," said Mr. Fabian, "you can't go, you know. There will
be no room for you coming back. Clarence and myself fill two seats, and
your grandfather and--"

"Grandmother fill up the other," added Sylvan. "But never mind; in
coming back I can ride on the box with the coachman; but go I will to
meet my venerable grandparents! Bless my wig! didn't I give away my
grandmother at the altar, and shall I not pay them the attention of
going to meet them on their return from their wedding tour?"

The horses started at a good pace, passed through the village street,
entered the main road running miles between the great works, and rolled
on into the silent forest road that led to the railway depot in the
valley.

Here the carriage drew up before the solitary station house.

Soon the train ran in and stopped. Old Aaron Rockharrt got out and
handed down his wife, before turning to face his sons. A man and maid
servant, loaded down with handbags, umbrellas, waterproofs, and shawls,
got out of another car.

"Fabian, put Mrs. Rockharrt into the carriage. I shall step into the
waiting room to speak to the ticket agent," said old Aaron Rockharrt, as
he strode off to the building.

Fabian Rockharrt gave his arm to the lady, who during all this time had
remained closely veiled. He led her off, leaving Clarence and Sylvan on
the platform to wait for the return of Mr. Rockharrt. As soon as Fabian
and his companion were out of hearing of the rest of their party, he
turned to her, and bending his head close to her ear, said:

"Well, Ann White, what have you to say for yourself, eh, Ann White?"

He felt her tremble as she answered defiantly:

"Mrs. Rockharrt, if you please."

"No; by my life I will never give to such as you my honored mother's
name!"

"And yet I have it with all the rights and privileges it bestows, and I
defy you, Fabian Rockharrt!"

"You know very little of the laws relating to marriage if you think that
you have legal right to the name and position you have seized, or that I
have not power to thrust you out of my father's house and into a cell."

"You are insolent! I shall report your words to Mr. Rockharrt, and then
we shall see who will be thrust out of his house!"

"I think that you had better not. Listen, and I will tell you something
that you do not know, perhaps."

She turned quickly, inquiringly, toward him. He stooped and whispered a
few words. He felt her thrill from head to foot, felt her rock and sway
for a moment, and then--he had just time to catch her before she fell a
dead weight in his arms.



CHAPTER XX.

THE WHISPERED WORDS.


"Well! what's all this?" abruptly demanded old Aaron Rockharrt, as he
came up, followed by Clarence and Sylvan, just as Fabian was lifting the
unconscious woman into the carriage.

"Mrs. Rockharrt has been over-fatigued, I think, sir, for she has
fainted. But don't be alarmed; she is recovering," said Mr. Fabian, as
he settled the lady in an easy position in a corner of the carriage, and
found a smelling salts bottle and put it to her nose.

"'Alarmed?' Why should I be?"

"No reason why, sir," answered Mr. Fabian, who then stooped to the woman
and whispered: "Nor need you be so. You are safe for the present."

"Will you get out of my way and let me come to my place?" demanded the
Iron King.

"Pardon me, sir," said Fabian, stepping backward from the carriage.

"Fainting?" said the old man, in a tone of annoyance, as he took his
seat beside his new wife--"fainting? The first Mrs. Rockharrt never
fainted in her life; nor ever gave any sort of trouble. What's the
matter with you, Rose? Don't be a consummate fool and turn nervous. I
won't stand any nonsense," he said roughly, as he peered into the pale
face of his new slave.

"Oh, it is nothing," she faltered--"nothing. I was overcome by heat. It
is a very hot day."

"Why, it is a very cool afternoon. What do you mean?" he demanded.

"It has been a very hot day, and the heat and fatigue--"

"Rubbish!" he interrupted. "If I were to give any attention to your
faints, you would be fainting every day just to have a fuss made over
you. Now this fainting business has got to be stopped. Do you hear? If
you are out of order, I will send for my family physician and have you
examined. If you are really ill, you shall be put under medical
treatment; if you are not, I will have no fine lady airs and
affectations. The first Mrs. Rockharrt was perfectly free from them."

"I would not have given way to the weakness if I could have helped
it--indeed I would not!" said the poor woman, very sincerely.

"We'll see to that!" retorted the Iron King.

Ah, poor Rose! She was not the old man's darling and sovereign, as she
had hoped and planned to be. She was the tyrant's slave and victim.

A man of Aaron Rockharrt's temperament seldom, at the age of
seventy-seven, becomes a lover; and never, at any age, a woman's slave.

Mr. Fabian now got into the carriage, and sat down on the front cushion
opposite his father and step-mother. Mr. Clarence was following him in,
when Mr. Rockharrt roughly interfered.

"What are you about here, Clarence? What are you going to do?"

"Take my seat in the carriage, of course, sir," answered the young man,
with a surprised look.

"You are going to do nothing of the sort! I don't choose to have the
horses overtasked in this manner. I myself, with Fabian and my coachman,
to say nothing of Mrs. Rockharrt, are weight enough for one pair of
horses, and you can't come in here. Where's Sylvan?"

"On the box seat beside the driver."

"Really?" demanded the Iron King, in a sarcastic tone, "How many more of
you desire to be drawn by one pair of horses? Tell Sylvan to come down
off that."

"But, sir, there is not a single conveyance of any description at the
station," urged Clarence.

"Indeed! And pray what do you call your own two pairs of sturdy legs?
Are they not strong enough to convey you from here to North End, where
you can get the hotel hack? And, by the way, why did you not engage the
hack to come here and take you back?"

"Because it was out, sir."

"Then you two should not have come here to over-load the horses. But as
you have come, you must walk back. Has Sylvan got off his perch? Ah,
yes; I see. Well, tell the coachman to drive first to the North End
Hotel. And do you two long-legged calves walk after it. If the hack
should be still out when we get there, you can stay at the hotel until
it comes in."

"All right, sir," said Clarence, good humoredly; and he closed the door,
and gave the order to the coachman, who immediately started his horses
on the way to North End.

On the way home Mr. Clarence inquired of his nephew when he expected to
receive his commission and where he expected to be ordered.

"How can I tell you? I must wait for a vacancy, I suppose, and then be
sent to the Devil's Icy Peak or Fort Jumping Off Place, or some such
other pleasant post of duty on the confines of terra incognita. But the
farther off, the stranger and the savager it is, the better I shall like
it for my own sake, but it will be rough on Cora," said the youth.

"But you do not dream of taking Cora out there?" exclaimed Clarence, in
pained surprise.

"Oh, but I do! She insists on going where I go. She is bent on being a
voluntary, unsalaried missionary and school-mistress to the Indians
just because Rule died a martyred minister and teacher among them."

"She is mad!" exclaimed Mr. Clarence; "mad."

"She has had enough to make her mad, but she is sane enough on this
subject, I can tell you, Uncle Clarence. She is the most level-headed
young woman that I know, and the plan of life that she has laid out for
herself is the best course she could possibly pursue under the present
circumstances. She is very miserable here. This plan will give her the
most complete change of scene and the most interesting occupation. It
will cure her of her melancholy and absorption in her troubled past, and
when she shall be cured she may return to her friends here, or she may
meet with some fine fellow out there who may make her forget the dead
and leave off her weeds. That is what I hope for, Uncle Clarence."

And for the rest of their walk they trudged on in silence or with but
few words passed between them. It was sunset when they reached North
End.

That evening when Sylvan and Cora found themselves together for a moment
at Rockhold House, the youth said:

"Corona Rothsay, the sooner I get my orders and you and I depart for
Scalping Creek or Perdition Peak, or wherever I am to be shoveled off
to, the better, my dear," said the young soldier.

"What do you think of it all now, Sylvan?" she inquired.

"I think, Cora, that while we do stay here it would be Christian charity
to be very good to 'the Rose that all admire.' Nobody will admire her
any more, I think."

"Why?" inquired Cora, in surprise.

"Oh, you didn't see her face. She had her mask veil, do you call
it?--down, so you couldn't see. But, oh, my conscience! how she is
changed in these last six weeks! She is not a blooming rose any more.
She is a snubbed, trampled on, crushed, and wilted rose. Her face looks
pale; her hair dull; her eyes weak; her beauty nowhere; her cheerfulness
nowhere else."

Early the next morning, after a hasty breakfast, Mr. Rockharrt entered
his carriage to drive to the works. Young Mrs. Rockharrt, under the plea
of fatigue from her long journey, retired to her own room.

Cora said to her brother:

"Sylvan, I wish you would order the little carriage and take me to the
Banks to see Violet. I should have paid her this attention sooner but
for the pressure of work that has been upon me. I must defer it no
longer, but go this morning."

"All right, Cora!" answered the young man, and he left the room to do
his errand.

Cora went up stairs to get ready for her drive.

In about fifteen minutes the two were seated in the little open landau,
that had been the gift of the late Mrs. Rockharrt to her beloved
granddaughter, and that the latter always used when driving out in the
country around Rockhold during the summer.

They did not have to cross the ferry, as the new house of Fabian
Rockharrt was on the same side of the river as was Rockhold.

The road on this west side was, however, much rougher, though the
scenery was much finer.

They drove on through the woods, which here clothed the foot of the
mountain and grew quite down to the water's edge, meeting over their
heads and casting the road into deep shadow.

They drove on for about three miles, when they came to a point where
another road wound up the mountain side, through heavy woods, and
brought them to a beautiful plateau, on which stood the handsome house
of Fabian Rockharrt, in the midst of its groves, flower gardens,
arbors, orchards and conservatories.

It was a double, two-storied house, of brown stone, with a fine green
background of wooded mountain, and a front view of the river below and
the mountains beyond. There were bay windows at each end and piazzas
along the whole front.

As the carriage drew up before the door, Violet was discovered walking
up and down the front porch. She looked very fragile, but very pretty
with her slight, graceful figure in a morning dress of white muslin,
with blue ribbons at her throat and in her pale gold hair.

She came down to meet her visitors.

"Oh, I am so glad you have come, Cora and Sylvan!" she said, throwing
her arms around the young lady and kissing her heartily, and then giving
her hand and offering her cheek for a greeting from the young man.

"I fear you must be lonely here, Violet," said Cora.

"Awfully lonesome after Fabian has gone away in the morning, Cora. It
would be such a charity in you to come and stay with me for a little
while! Come in now and we will talk about it," said the little lady, as
she led the way back to the house.

"Sylvan," she continued, as they paused for a moment on the porch, "send
your coachman around to the stable to put up your carriage. You and Cora
will spend the day with me at the very least."

"Just as Cora pleases; ask her," said the young man with a glance toward
his sister.

"Yes," she answered.

"You are a love!" exclaimed Violet as she led the way into the hall and
thence into a pleasant morning room.

Cora laid off her bonnet and sank into an easy chair by the front
window.

"Now, as soon as you are well rested, I wish to show you both over the
house and grounds. Such a charming house, Cora! Such beautiful grounds,
Sylvan!" exclaimed the proud little mistress.

Cora smiled approval, but did not explain that she herself had gone all
through the establishment several times, in the course of its fitting
up, to see that all things were arranged properly before the arrival of
the married pair.

And when, a little later, the trio went through the rooms, she expressed
as much pleasure in their appearance as if she had never seen them
before.

The brother and sister spent a very pleasant day at Violet Banks, and
when in the cool of the evening they would have taken leave, the young
wife pleaded with them to stay all night.

In the midst of this discussion Mr. Fabian Rockharrt came home from
North End.

As he entered the parlor he heard his Wood Violet at her petition. He
greeted them all, kissed his wife, kissed Cora, and shook hands with
Sylvan.

"Now let me settle this matter," he said, good humoredly, as he threw
himself into a large arm chair.

"First tell me, Cora, what is the obstacle to your spending the night
with us?"

"Only that I did not announce even this visit to the family at
Rockhold."

"Do you owe any special obligation to do so?"

"It is not a question of obligation, but of courtesy. I should certainly
be remiss in politeness to leave the house for a two days' visit without
giving notice of my intention," she answered.

"Oh! I see. Well, I can fix all that. You will both remain to dinner.
After dinner it will not be too late for Sylvan to take my sure-footed
cob and ride back to Rockhold and explain to the family that Cora is to
remain here overnight, and that I will myself take her home to-morrow
evening if she should wish to go."

"What do you say, Cora," inquired the young man.

"I accept Uncle Fabian's offer and will remain here for the present,"
said the young lady.

"Like the sensible woman that you are!" exclaimed Mr. Fabian.

Half an hour later the four sat down to dinner in one of the prettiest
little dining rooms that ever was seen.

Soon after the pleasant meal was over, Sylvan took leave of his friends,
mounted the white cob that stood saddled at the door, and rode down the
wooded hill to the river road leading to Rockhold.

The three left behind spent the remainder of the evening on the front
porch, watching the deep river, the hoary mountains, the starry sky, and
listening to the hum of insects, the whirl of waters and the singing of
the summer breeze through the pines that clothed the precipice, and
talking very little.

They retired to rest at a late hour.

Yet on the next morning they met at an early breakfast, for Mr. Fabian
had to go to the works to make up for much lost time while affairs were
left under the sole management of Mr. Clarence.

Cora remained with Violet, who took her into a more interior confidence,
and exhibited with equal pride and delight sundry dainty little garments
of fine cambric and linen richly trimmed with lace or embroidery, all
the work of her own delicate fingers.

"They tell me, Cora, that I could buy all these things as cheap and as
good as I can make them. But I do take such pleasure in making them with
my own hands."

Cora kissed her tenderly for all reply.

Then the little lady began to ask questions about her new
step-mother-in-law.

"You know, Cora, that I could not ask you yesterday while Sylvan was
with us. He is in your full confidence, no doubt, and I have perfect
faith in him; but for all that we cannot speak freely on all subjects
before a third person, however near and dear. At least I could not ask
searching questions about Mr. Rockharrt's marriage, before Sylvan. Such
a strange marriage, with such a disparity in years between a man of Mr.
Rockharrt's venerable age and Mrs. Stillwater's blooming youth! I saw
her once by chance. She looked a perfect Hebe of radiant health and
beauty."

Cora Rothsay smiled. She might have told this little lady that there was
not much more difference between the ages of Rose Stillwater at
thirty-seven and Aaron Rockharrt at seventy-seven than there was between
Violet Wood at seventeen and Fabian Rockharrt at fifty-two. But as the
young wife did not see this fact, Cora refrained from showing it to her.

Then Violet wanted to know what Cora herself thought of the marriage.

Cora said she thought it concerned only the parties in question, and
only time could tell how it would turn out.

In such confidential talk passed the long summer day.

In the cool of the evening Mr. Fabian came home to dinner.

He joined his wife in trying to persuade Cora to remain with them yet
another day; but Cora explained that there were many reasons for her
return to Rockhold.

Finding her obdurate, Mr. Fabian ordered Mrs. Rothsay's landau to be at
the door at a certain hour.

And as soon as dinner was over and Cora had put on her bonnet and taken
leave of Violet, with a promise to return within a few days, Mr. Fabian
placed her in the Carriage, took his seat beside her, and drove down
the wooded hill to the river road below.

"It is not altogether for pleasure that I pressed you to stay till
to-night, Cora, although your presence gave great pleasure to my wife
and self. I wished to have a private talk with you. Cora, you ought not
to stay at Rockhold. You should come to us," said Mr. Fabian, as they
bowled along the wooded road between the foot of the hills and the banks
of the river.

"Why?" inquired the lady.

He did not answer at once, but drove slowly on as if to gain time for
thought. At length, however, he said:

"I think that a home with Violet and myself at the Banks would be much
more congenial to you than one with your grandfather and his new wife at
Rockhold."

"But, my dear Uncle Fabian, under present circumstances my grandfather
is my natural protector and Rockhold my proper home until my brother has
one to offer me."

"Cora, you are not frank with me. I know how you feel about staying at
Rockhold, and also why you feel as you do; though I do not see by what
agency or intuition you could have gained the knowledge you seem to
possess."

"Uncle Fabian, I have no positive knowledge of any cause why I should
shrink from continuing in my natural home. I have only suspicions, which
perhaps you could clear up or confirm, if you would be frank with me."

He drove on slowly in silence without answering her. She continued:

"I wrote to you while you were in Europe, informing you that Mrs.
Stillwater had been invited by my grandfather to come to Rockhold to
remain as long as should be convenient to herself. You never replied to
my letter."

"I never got such a letter, Cora. It must have been lost with others
that miscarried among the Continental mails, when they were following me
from one office to another. But even if I had received such a letter, it
could have made no difference. I could not have prevented Mrs.
Stillwater's visit, nor the event that resulted from the visit. I could
not have written or returned in time."

"Should you have prevented the visit or the marriage that followed if
you could have done so?"

"Most certainly I should."

"Why?"

"For the same reason that you, or Clarence, or Sylvan would have done
so. For the reason of its total unfitness. But, Cora, my dear, I repeat
that you have not been frank with me. You are hiding something from me."

"And I repeat, Uncle Fabian, that I have no positive knowledge of any--"

"Yes; so you said before," he exclaimed, interrupting her. "You have no
positive knowledge, but you have very strong suspicions founded upon
very solid grounds! Now, what are these grounds, my dear? I am your
uncle. You should give me your confidence."

If Mr. Fabian had not put the matter in this way, and if they had not
been driving along the dark and over-shadowed road where the meeting
branches of the trees above almost hid the light of the stars, so that
only one or two occasionally gleamed through the foliage, Cora would
never have been able to reply to her uncle as she did.

"Uncle Fabian, do you remember a certain warm night in September some
five years ago, when we stopped at the Wirt House in Baltimore?"

"On our way home from Canada--yes, I do."

"My room was close that night and I could not sleep. A little after
midnight I got up and put oil my dressing-gown and went into the
adjoining room, which was our private parlor, and I sat down in a cool
corner in the shadow of the curtain and in the draught of the window. I
fell asleep, but was soon awakened by the sound of a door opening and
some one whispering. I was about to call out when I recognized your
voice. The room was pitch dark. I could not see you; but then I was
about to speak, when I recognized another voice--Mrs. Stillwater's. You
had let yourself in by your own key, through the door leading from the
hall. She had come in through the door leading from her room, which was
on the opposite side of the parlor from mine."

Cora paused to wait for the effect of her words.

Mr. Fabian drove on slowly in silence.

"I sat there quite still, too much surprised to speak or move."

"And so you overheard that interview," said Mr. Fabian, with a dash of
anger in his usually pleasant voice.

"I could not escape. I was amazed, spellbound, too confused to know what
to do."

"Well?"

"I gathered from your words that you and she were either secretly
married or secretly engaged to be married."

"That was your opinion."

"What other opinion could I form? You were providing her with a house
and an income. She was speaking of herself as a daughter-in-law sure to
be acceptable to your father and mother. Of course, I judged from that
that you were either wedded or betrothed, which was an incomprehensible
thing to me, who had been led to believe that the lady was the wife of
Captain Stillwater, remaining in Baltimore to meet her husband, whose
ship was then daily expected to arrive."

"You were wrong, Cora," said Mr. Fabian, now speaking in his natural
tone without a shade of anger--quite wrong, my dear; there was nothing
of the sort. I was never engaged to Mrs. Stillwater."

"Then she subsequently refused you. I am telling you what I thought
then, not what I think now. I have heard from her own lips that after
her husband's death you proposed to her and she refused you."

Mr. Fabian shook with silent laughter. When he recovered he asked:

"And you believed her?"

"I do not know. I was in a maze. There were so many contradictory and
inconsistent circumstances surrounding the woman that seemed to live and
move in a web of deception woven by herself," said Cora, wearily, as if
tired of the subject.

"And, after all, she is a very shallow creature, incapable of any deep
scheming; there is no great harm. She knows that she is beautiful--still
beautiful--and her only art is subtle flattery. She flattered your
grandfather 'to the bent of his humor,' with no deeper design than to
marry him and gain a luxurious home and an ample dower, as well as an
adoring husband. You see she has succeeded in marrying him, poor little
devil! but she has gained nothing but a prison and a jailer and penal
servitude. I repeat, there is no great harm in her; and yet, Cora, my
dear, I do not permit my wife to visit her, and I do not wish you to
remain in the same house with her."

"Why, Uncle Fabian! you were the very first to introduce her to us! It
was you who were charged with the duty of finding a nursery governess
for me, and you selected Rose Flowers from a host of applicants."

"I know I did, my dear. She seemed to me a lovely, amiable, attractive
girl of seventeen, not very well educated, yet quite old enough and
learned enough to be nursery governess to a little lady of seven
summers. And she did her duty and made herself beloved by you all, did
she not?"

"Yes, indeed."

"And so she always has done and always will do. And yet, my dear, you
must not live in the same house with her now, even if you did live years
together when she was your governess."

"Are you not even more prejudiced against Mrs. Rockharrt than I am?"

"Bah! no, my dear; I have no ill will against the woman, though I will
not let my niece live with her or my wife visit her.

"I wish, Uncle Fabian, that you would be more explicit and tell me all
you know of Rose Flowers--or Mrs. Stillwater--before she became Mrs.
Rockharrt."

"Have you told me all you know of her, Cora, my dear?"

"I have said several times that I know nothing, and yet--stop--"

"What?"

"In addition to that strange interview that I overheard, yet did not
understand, there was something else that I saw, but equally did not
understand."

"What was that?"

"Something that happened while we were in New York city in May last."

"Will you tell me what it was?"

"Yes, certainly. We were staying at the Star Hotel. We stayed over
Sunday, and we went to the Episcopal church near our hotel, to hear an
English divine preach."

"Well?"

"He was the celebrated pulpit orator, the Dean of Olivet--"

"Good Heav--" exclaimed Mr. Fabian, involuntarily, but stopping himself
suddenly.

"What is the matter?" demanded Cora, suspiciously.

"I was too near the edge of the precipice. We might have been in the
river in another moment," said Mr. Fabian.

Cora did not believe him, but she refrained from saying so.

"The danger is past. Go on, my dear."

"We were shown into the strangers' pew. The voluntary was playing. We
all bowed our heads for the short private prayer. The voluntary stopped.
Then we heard the voice of the dean and we lifted our heads. I turned to
offer Mrs. Stillwater a prayer book. Then I saw her face. It was
ghastly, and her eyes were fixed in a wild stare upon the face of the
dean, whose eyes were upon the open book from which he was reading.
Quick as lightning she covered her face with her veil and so remained
until we all knelt down for the opening prayer. When we arose from our
knees, Rose was gone."

Cora paused for a few moments.

"Go on, go on," said Mr. Fabian.

"We did not leave the church. Grandfather evidently took for granted
that Rose had left on account of some trifling indisposition, and he is
not easily moved by women's ailments, you know. So we stayed out the
services and the sermon. When we returned to the hotel we found that
Rose had retired to her room suffering from a severe attack of neuralgic
headache, as she said."

"What did you think?"

"I thought she might have been suddenly attacked by maddening pain,
which had given the wild look to her eyes; but the next day I had good
reason to change my opinion as to the cause of her strange demeanor."

"What was that?"

"We all left the hotel at an early hour to take the train for West
Point. Mrs. Stillwater seemed to have quite recovered from her illness.
We had arrived at the depot and received our tickets, and were waiting
at the rear of a great crowd at the railway gate, till it should be
opened to let us pass to our train. I was standing on the right of my
grandfather, and Rose on my right. Suddenly a man looked around. He was
a great Wall Street broker who had dealings with your firm. Seeing
grandfather, he spoke to him heartily, and then begged to introduce the
gentleman who was with him. And then and there he presented the Dean of
Olivet to Mr. Rockharrt, who, after a few words of polite greeting,
presented the dean to me, and turned to find Rose Stillwater."

"Well! Well!"

"She was gone. She had vanished from the crowd at the railway gate as
swiftly, as suddenly, and as incomprehensibly as she had vanished from
the church. After looking about him a little, my grandfather said that
she had got pressed away from us by the crowd, but that she knew her way
and would take care of herself and follow us to the train all right. But
when the gates were opened we did not see her, nor did we find her on
the train, though Mr. Rockharrt walked up and down through the twenty
cars looking for her, and feeling sure that we should find her. The
train had started, so we had to go on without her. My grandfather
concluded that she had accidentally missed it and would follow by the
next one."

"And what did you think, Cora?"

"I thought that, for some antecedent and mysterious reason, she had fled
from before the face of the Dean of Olivet at the railway station, even
as she had done at the church."

"When and where did you find her?"

"Not until our return to New York city. My grandfather was in a fine
state; kept the telegraph wires at work between West Point and New York,
until he got some clew to her, and then, without waiting for the closing
exercises at the military academy, he hurried me back to the city. We
found the missing woman at St. L----'s hospital, where she had been
conveyed after having been found in an unconscious condition in the
ladies' room of the railway depot. She was better, and we brought her
away to the hotel. The Dean of Olivet went to Newport, and Mrs.
Stillwater recovered her spirits. A few days later she married Mr.
Rockharrt at the church where the dean had preached. You know everything
else about the matter. And now, Uncle Fabian, tell me that woman's
story, or at least all that is proper for me to know of it."

"Cora, you read Rose Stillwater aright. She did on both these occasions
fly from before the face of the Dean of Olivet. I will tell you all
about her, for it is now right that you should know; but you must
promise never to reveal it."

"I promise."



CHAPTER XXI.

WHO WAS ROSE FLOWERS?


"Well, my dear Corona, I must ask you to cast your thoughts back to that
year when you first came to Rockhold to live, and engrossed so much of
your grandmother's time and attention that your grandfather grew jealous
and impatient, and commissioned me to 'hire' a nursery governess to
look after you and teach you the rudiments of education. You remember
that time, Cora?" inquired Mr. Fabian, as he held the reins with a
slackened grasp, so that the horse jogged slowly along the wooded road
between the foot of the mountain and the banks of the river, under the
star-lit sky.

"I remember perfectly," answered the girl.

"Well, business took me to New York about that time, and I thought it a
good opportunity to hunt up a governess for you. So I advertised in the
New York papers, giving my address at an uptown office, while my own
business kept me down town.

"The first letter I opened interested me so much that I gave my whole
attention to that first, and so it happened that I had no occasion to
touch the others. It was from one Ann White, who described herself as a
motherless and fatherless girl of sixteen, a stranger in this country,
who was trying to get employment as assistant teacher, governess, or
copyist, and who was well fitted to take sole charge of a little girl
seven years old.

"Perhaps this might not have impressed me, but she went on to write that
she had not a friend in the whole country, that she was utterly
destitute and desolate, and begged me for Heaven's mercy not to throw
her letter aside, but to see her and give her a trial. She inclosed her
photograph, not, as she wrote, from any vanity, but that I might see her
face and take pity on her.

"Cora, there was an air of childish frankness and simplicity about her
letter that was well illustrated by her photograph. It was that of a
sweet-smiling baby face; a sunny, innocent beautiful face. I answered
the letter immediately, asking for her address, that I might call and
see her. The next day I received her answer, thanking me with
enthusiastic earnestness for my prompt attention to her note, and giving
me the number and street of her residence in Harlem. I got on a Second
Avenue car and rode out to Harlem; got off at the terminus, walked up a
cross street and walked some distance to a bijou of a brown cottage,
standing in shaded grounds, with sunny gleams and flower beds, and half
covered by creeping roses, clematis, wisteria, and all that.

"I went in, and was received by the beautiful being that you have known
as Rose Flowers. She was dressed in some misty, cloud-like pale blue
fabric that set off her blonde beauty to perfection. After we were
seated and had talked some time, I telling her what light duties would
be required of her--only the care of one good little girl of seven years
old, and of a very mild old lady who was the only lady in the house, and
of the old gentleman who was the head of the family, strict but just in
all his dealings; and of our country house in the mountains and our town
house in the State capital--and she expressing the greatest and frankest
anxiety to become a member of such a happy, amiable, prosperous family,
and declaring with childish boasting that she was quite competent to
perform all the duties expected of her and would perform them
conscientiously, I suddenly asked her for her references.

"'I--I have not a friend in this world,' she said; and then in a timid
voice, she asked: 'Are references indispensable?'

"'Of course,' I answered

"'Then the Lord help me! Nothing is left but the river. The river won't
require references;' and with that she buried her little golden-haired
head in the cushions of the sofa and burst into a perfect storm of sobs
and tears. Now, Cora, what in the deuce was a man to do? I had never
seen anything like that in all my life before. I had never seen a woman
in such a fit before. All this was strange and horrible to me.

"I am a middling strong old fellow, but that beautiful girl's despair
upset me, and I never could hear any one hint suicide, and she talked of
the river. The river would receive her without references. The river was
kinder than her own fellow creatures! The river would give her a home
and rest and peace! She only wanted to do honest work for her living,
but human beings would not even let her work for them without
references! And I declare to you, Cora, she was not acting, as you might
suspect. She was in deadly earnest. Her sobs shook her whole frame.

"At last I myself behaved like an ass. I went and knelt down beside her
so as to get quite close to her, and I began to comfort her. I told her
not to mind about the references; that she might have me for a reference
all the days of her life; that she should have the situation at
Rockhold, where I would convey her and introduce her on my own
responsibility.

"While I spoke to her I laid my hand on the little golden-haired head
and smoothed it all the time. Out of pity, Cora, I assure you on my
honor, out of pity. After a while her sobs seemed to subside slowly. I
told her that her face was to me a sufficient recommendation in her
favor, and all-sufficient testimonial of character; but that I must have
her confidence in exchange for my own.

"You see, Cora, I was very sorry for the poor, pretty creature, and was
really anxious to befriend her; but also my curiosity was keenly piqued.
I wished to know her private history, and so I assured her that she
should have the position she wanted on the condition of telling me her
antecedents.

"At last she yielded, and told me the story of her short, willful life.
This, then, was her poor, little, pathetic story.

"Her name was Ann White. She was the daughter of Amos White, an English
curate, living in a remote village in Northumberland, and of his first
wife, who had died during the infancy of her youngest child, Ann, a year
after which her father had married again. Ann's step-mother was one of
the most beautiful women in England, and--one of the most discontented,
as the wife of a widowed clergyman who was old enough to be her father,
who had three sons and two daughters by a former marriage, and who was
trying to support his family on a hundred pounds a year. Yet, so long as
her father lived, Ann's childhood was happy. But her father, who had
been a consumptive, also died when Ann was about seven years old. Then
the family was broken up. The three step-sons went to seek their
fortunes in New Zealand. The eldest step-daughter had been married and
had gone to London a few months before her father's death; the younger
step-daughter went to live with that married sister. Ann and her
step-mother were permitted to remain at the parsonage until the
successor of Amos White could be appointed. At last the new curate
came--a handsome and accomplished man--Rev. Raphael Rosslynn. He was a
bachelor, without near relatives. He called on the Widow White and at
once set her heart at ease by begging her not to trouble herself to
leave the parsonage, but to remain there for the present at least, and
take him as a boarder. He was perfectly frank with the lovely widow, and
told her that he was engaged to his own cousin, and that as soon as he
should get a living promised him on the death of the present incumbent,
and which was worth twelve hundred pounds a year, he should marry, but
that he could not allow himself to anticipate happiness that must rise
on a grave. But in the course of the year that which might have been
expected happened, the young widow, who had never cared for her elderly
first husband, fell desperately in love with her lodger, who was not
very slow to respond, for her grace, beauty and allurements attracted,
bewildered, and bedeviled him, so that he forgot or deplored his
plighted vows to his good little cousin. To shorten the story, the
cousin released him. In a few days the curate and the widow were
married. Ann was utterly neglected, ignored, and forgotten. Her lessons,
which, before the advent of the handsome curate, had been the widow's
care, were now suspended. Time went on, and these ardent lovers cooled
off. Not that their youth or health or beauty waned; not at all; but
that their illusions were fading. Yet, as often happens, as love cooled,
jealousy warmed to life--each one conscious of indifference toward the
other, yet resented a corresponding indifference in the other. As years
went on, six children were born to this unhappy pair, whom not the Lord
but the devil had joined together, and with their increasing family came
increasing poverty. It was hard to support a growing household on one
hundred pounds a year.

"In the seventh year of their marriage, in desperation, the Reverend
Raphael advertised his ability and readiness to 'prepare young men for
college.' He obtained but one pupil one Alfred Whyte, the son of a
retired brewer. You perceive that he had the same surname with the young
Ann, but it was spelled differently--with a _y_, instead of an _i_, as
her name was. He seems to have been a fine, hearty, good natured young
fellow, about twenty years of age, with a short, stout form, a round,
red face, and dark eyes and hair. He hated study, but loved children,
animals, and out-door sports. It was in the course of nature that he
should fall in love with the fair fifteen-year-old beauty Ann White.

"She returned his affection because since her father's death he was the
only human being who had ever been kind to her. The first year that he
spent at the parsonage was the happiest year Ann had ever known. Before
it drew to an end, however, their happiness was clouded. The young man
had over and over again assured the girl of his love for her, and at
last he asked her to marry him. She consented. Then he wrote and asked
permission of his father to wed the curate's step-daughter.

"The answer might have been anticipated. The purse-proud retired brewer,
who had dreams of his only son and heir going into Parliament and
marrying some impoverished nobleman's daughter, wrote two furious
letters, one to his son, commanding his immediate return home, and
another to the Rev. Raphael Rosslynn, reproaching him with having
entrapped his pupil into an engagement with his pauper step-daughter.

"We can judge the effect of these letters upon the peace of the
parsonage.

"The Reverend Raphael commanded his pupil into his presence, and after
severely censuring him for his conduct in 'betraying the confidence of
the family who had received him into its bosom,' he requested that
Master Whyte should leave the house with all convenient speed.

"The youth urged that he had meant no harm and had done no harm, that he
was honestly in love with the young lady, and had honestly asked leave
to marry her, and that he certainly would marry her--

    "'Though mammy and daddy and all gang mad.'

"Mr. Rosslynn referred him to his father's letter and ordered him to
depart. And then the reverend gentleman went to his wife's room and
bitterly reproached her that her forward girl had been the cause of his
losing his pupil and eighty pounds a year.

"She told him that the fault was his own; that he should never have
received a young man as a resident pupil in the house where there was a
young girl.

"A fierce quarrel ensued, which was ended at last by the reverend
gentleman going out and banging the door behind him with a force that
shook the house, and in a state of mind that rendered him singularly
unfit to read the prayers for the sick beside the bed of a dying
parishioner to whom he was urgently summoned.

"Mrs. Rosslynn immediately hastened to wreak her vengeance on her
step-daughter. She set her teeth as she seized the unlucky girl, whom
she found at work in the kitchen, pushed her roughly on into the narrow
passage up the steep stairs and into the little back loft that the child
called her own bedroom.

"Here she took a firmer grip upon the girl, and with a dog whip that she
had hastily snatched from the hat rack in passing, she lashed the
hapless creature over back and shoulder.

"Ann never struggled or cried out, but held her tongue in fierce wrath
and stubborn endurance. Could that woman, the victim of all ungovernable
passions, have but known what she did, or foreseen its results!

"At last she ceased, pushed the bruised and wounded child away from her,
sank panting to a chair, and as soon as she recovered her breath, began
to insult and abuse the orphan child of her deceased husband, charging
her with disgracing the house by improper conduct, of which the girl had
never even dreamed; accusing her of causing the loss of their pupil and
the income derived from him, and reproaching her for making discord
between herself (Mrs. Rosslynn) and her husband.

"Ann replied by not one word.

"At length the maddened woman, having talked herself out of breath, got
up, left the room, and locked the door, not on her victim alone, but on
all the evil spirits she had raised from Tartarus and left with the
girl.

"Ann sank upon the bed, weeping, moaning, and grinding her teeth, her
body prostrated by pain, her soul filled with bitter wrath and scorn
toward one whom she should rather have been led to love and honor. In
the fiery torture of her flesh and the humiliation of her spirit she
uttered but these piteous words:

"'Oh, my own mother!--oh, my lost father! do you see your child?'

"For more than an hour she lay there before the fierce smarting and
burning of her scourged flesh began to subside. The short November
afternoon darkened into night. No one came near her. The hour for supper
passed. No one called her to the meal. She heard the family passing to
their rooms. She heard her mother putting the other children to bed--a
duty that she herself had hitherto performed. At last all sounds died
away in the house, and she knew that all the inmates had retired, and
the lights were out. She was meditating to run away; she did not know in
what direction, or to what end, farther than to escape from the home
that was hateful to her.

"Evil spirits were with her, suggesting many desperate thoughts; at
length they infused a deadly, horrible temptation to a deed of
self-destruction so ghastly that its discovery should appal the family,
the parish, and the whole world; that should cover her tormentors with
shame, reproach and infamy.

"She sprang up from her bed and went to search in the drawer of a little
old wooden stand, until she found a half page of note paper and a bit of
lead pencil.

"She took them out and wrote to her persecutors, saying that she was
going to throw herself--not into the sea, nor from a precipice, because
both earth and sea give up their dead--but into the quicksands, which
never give up anything; they, her tormentors, should never even see
again the body they had bruised and torn and degraded; and she prayed
that the Lord would ever deal by them as they had dealt with her.

"It must have been near midnight when she heard a tap at her window, so
light that at first she thought it was made by a large raindrop; but
presently her name was softly called by a voice that she recognized.
Then she understood it all, and her thoughts of the quicksands vanished.

"Her room was a small one in the rear of the house, immediately over the
back kitchen, and her back window opened upon the roof of the wood shed
behind the kitchen. She went and hoisted the window, and there on the
roof of the wood shed stood Alfred Whyte.

"He told her that he had taken leave of the ogre and the ogress hours
before, and they thought he was off to London by the four o'clock mail;
but that he had gone no farther than the railway station, where he had
bought a ticket, and had gone on the platform, as if to wait for his
train; but when it came up, instead of taking his place on it, he had
slipped away in the confusion of its arrival and had hidden himself in
the woods on the other side of the road, where he had waited until it
was dark, when he had come back to watch the parsonage until every one
should have gone to bed, so that he could get speech with Ann.

"And then he asked her if she were 'game for a bolt?"

"She did not understand him; but when he next spoke plainly, and
inquired if she would run away with him and be married, she answered
promptly that she would.

"He told her to get ready quickly, and to dress warmly, for the night
was damp and cold, and to tie up a little bundle of things that she
might need on the journey; but not to take much, because he had plenty
of money, and could buy her all she needed.

"'Much;' Poor little thing, she had not much to take! She put on her
best dress--a well-worn blue serge--a coarse, black cloth walking
jacket, and a little straw hat with a faded blue ribbon. She had no
gloves. She tied up a hair brush, worn nearly to the wood, a tooth brush
not much better, the half of a broken dressing comb, and one clean linen
collar, in a small pocket handkerchief, and she was all ready for her
wedding trip.

"He told her to bolt her door before she came out, because that would
take the ogres some little while to force it open, and would give the
fugitives a better start.

"Ann did everything her boy lover directed, and finally stepped out of
the window on to the roof below, and joined him. He let down the window,
and closed the shutters with a spring that securely fastened them.

"That, he told her, would certainly give them a longer start, for it
would take an hour at least to force the room open and discover her
flight.

"Then they left the parsonage together.

"She had forgotten all about the parting note of malediction which she
had left behind her on the stand, as she stepped along the lane leading
to the highway.

"He asked her to take his arm, and when they reached the public road, he
inquired if she were game for a ten mile walk.

"She told him that she could walk to the end of the world with him,
because she was so happy to be beside the only one on earth who had ever
been kind to her--since her father's death.

"Then he explained the steps that he had taken, and must still take, to
elude pursuit; how that he had gone to the railway station and bought a
first class ticket for the four o'clock express to London, and
afterward, when the train came up, he had mingled with the crowd getting
off and getting on, and so eluded observation, and had slipped away and
hidden himself in the thicket until dark, so as to make every one
concerned believe that he had gone off by the mail train alone to
London.

"Now he told her that they must trudge straight on ten miles north, to
take the train to Glasgow; so that while people were hunting for them in
the south, they would be safe in the north.

"As they walked on he told her that he wanted to get away from England
and see the world--the new world across the ocean. He had seen Europe
summer after summer, traveling with his father and mother on the
Continent. Now he wanted to see America; and asked her if she did not
also.

"She told him that she wanted to see every place that he wanted to see,
and to go everywhere he wanted to go, for that he was the only friend
she had in all the wide world.

"So they walked on for about three hours, and then, about two o'clock in
the morning, they reached the little railway station of Skelton. They
had to wait two hours for the parliamentary train, which came heavily
puffing in about five o'clock on that November morning.

"Young Whyte took second class tickets, and led his closely veiled
companion to her seat on the train. And they moved off.

"They reached Glasgow about ten o'clock the next day, and found that
there was a steamer bound for New York, to sail at noon. No time was to
be lost, so they both went to the agency together, represented
themselves as a newly married pair, and engaged the only stateroom to
be procured--which happened to be in the second cabin. Their tickets
were filled in with the names of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Whyte--which indeed
constituted a legal marriage in Scotland, where a marriageable pair of
lovers have only to declare themselves man and wife, in the presence of
competent witnesses, to be as lawfully married as if the ceremony had
been performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in his own cathedral.

"They took possession of their stateroom on the Caledonian, which sailed
at noon of the same day, and in due time arrived at New York.

"They spent two days at an uptown hotel, and then took the pretty
cottage at Harlem, in which they lived for several months. Ann's
boy-husband often told her that she grew prettier every day, and he
seemed to grow fonder of her every day. He supplied her with a nicer
outfit of clothing and more pocket money than she had ever had in her
poverty-stricken life, and made her much happier every way than she had
ever been before, as long as his money lasted.

"He had left England with nearly one hundred pounds in his pocket--the
amount of his half-yearly allowance.

"On his arrival in New York, he had written to his father and confessed
his marriage with his tutor's step-daughter and begged forgiveness
and--remittances.

"Ann declined to write to her step-mother or the curate, declaring that
she preferred that they should believe that she had been driven by their
cruelty to bury herself in the quicksands, and that they should suffer
all the remorse of conscience and reprobation of society that their
conduct toward her deserved.

"But weeks passed, on and no letter filled with blessings and bank
notes came from the offended and obdurate father, though the boy
constantly assured his girl-wife that the expected epistle would surely
come in time, for he was the 'old man's' only son, whom he would not be
likely to discard.

"Meanwhile their money was running low. The youth was anxious to travel
and see the new world, and to take his bride with him, but he could not
do so without funds. At the end of six weeks after he had written the
first letter to his father he wrote a second, but received no answer;
later still he wrote a third, with no better success.

"They had gone a little into debt, in order to eke out their little
ready money until the longed-for letters of credit should come from
England; but at the end of six months credit and cash were nearly
exhausted.

"One morning in May the boy-husband took leave of the girl-wife, saying,
as he kissed her good-by, that he was going down into the city to see if
he could get some work to do.

"Without the least misgiving, she received his farewell kiss, and saw
him depart--watched him all the way down the street, until he got to
Second Avenue and boarded a down-town car.

"Then she re-entered the little gate, and began to tend the jonquils and
hyacinths that were just coming into bloom in her little flower garden.
She did not expect to see him until night, nor--did she see him even
then. When the little gate opened at eight o'clock and a man came up the
walk leading to the front door at which she stood, he was not her
husband, but the letter carrier, who put a letter in her hand and went
away.

"She ran into the house, and lighted the gas to read her letter. Though
it gave her a shock, it did not shake her faith in her boy.

"The letter told her, in effect, that Alfred Whyte, when he left her
that morning, had started to go to England in the only way by which he
could get there--that is, by working his passage as a deck hand on board
an outward bound ship; that he had decided on this course so as to get a
personal interview with his father, to whom he would go as a penitent
prodigal son; for he was sure of obtaining by this means forgiveness,
and assistance that would enable him to return and bring his little wife
back to England, where they would thenceforth live in comfort and
luxury; that the reason he had not confided to her his intention of
making the voyage was because he dreaded opposition from her that might
have led him to abandon the one plan by which he hoped to better their
condition.

"He concluded by entreating her not to think for one instant that he
intended to desert her, who was dearer to him than his own life, but to
trust in him as he trusted in her. In a postscript he told her where to
find the small balance of money they had left, as he had only taken
enough for his car fare to the city. In a second postscript he promised
to write by every opportunity. In a third and last postscript he begged
her to keep up her heart.

"It seemed a frank letter, yet it was reticent upon one point--the name
of the ship on which he had sailed. This omission might have been
accidental. It certainly did not raise any doubt of the boy's good faith
in the mind of the girl.

"She cried a great deal over the separation from her lad, and she made a
confidant of the elderly Irishwoman who was her sole servant.

"After two weeks, Ann began to watch daily for the letter carrier, in
hope of getting a letter from Alfred; but day after day, week after
week, passed and none came. But there came news of the wreck of the
Porpoise, which had sailed from New York for London on the very day that
Alfred Whyte had left the country--and which had gone down in a storm in
mid-ocean with all on board.

"But as numerous ships had left New York on that day bound for various
British ports, it was impossible to discover whether the boy was on
board, or if he shipped under his own name or an assumed one.

"Ann cried more than ever for a few days, but then seemed to give up her
lad for lost, and to resign herself to the 'inevitable.'

"She wrote to Mr. Alfred Whyte, Senior, but got no reply to her letter;
again and again she wrote with no better success. The little balance of
money left by her boy-husband was all gone. She began to sell off the
trifles of jewelry that he had given her.

"One morning the letter carrier left a letter with a London postmark
containing a bill of exchange for a hundred pounds, and not one word
besides.

"Had it come from her boy-husband, or from his father? She could not
tell.

"Well, to be brief, she never saw nor heard of him again. She lived
comfortably with her motherly old servant, enjoyed life thoroughly and
grew more beautiful every day, and this fool's paradise lasted as long
as her money did. Before her last dollar was gone, she saw the
advertisement in the _Pursuivant_ for a nursery governess, and answered
it, as has been told.

"This, my dear Cora, is the substance of the story told me by Ann White
on the day that I called on her in answer to her letter. What do you
think of it?" inquired Mr. Fabian when he had finished his narrative.

"I think the cruel neglect of her step-parents and the sufferings of her
childhood accountable for all her faults, and I feel very sorry for
her, notwithstanding that she seems to be a very heartless animal,"
replied Corona.

"That is the secret of the wonderful preservation of her youth and
beauty even up to this present time. Nothing wears a woman out as fast
as her own heart."

"You engaged her as you promised to do, but why did you introduce her at
Rockhold as a single girl, and why under an alias?" gravely inquired
Corona.

"I introduced her as a single girl at her own request because of her
extreme youth and her timidity. She naturally shrank from being known as
a discarded wife or a doubtful widow. Besides, I never did say she was a
single girl. I merely presented her as Rose Flowers, and left it to be
inferred from her baby face that she was so."

"But why Rose Flowers when her name was Ann White?"

"What a cross-questioner you are, Corona! but I will answer you. Again
it was by her own desire that I presented her as Rose Flowers, which was
not an alias, as she explained to me, but a part of her true name. She
had been baptized as Rose Anna Flowers, which was the maiden name of her
grandmother, her father's mother."

Cora might have asked another question, not so easily answered, if she
had known the circumstances to which it related, namely: why Mr. Fabian
had fabricated that false story of the young governess which he palmed
upon his parents; but, in fact, Cora, at that time a child seven years
old, had never heard of it. But she made another inquiry.

"What became of Rose Flowers after she left us? Did she really go to
another place? Who was--Captain Stillwater?"

"Mr. Fabian drove slowly and thoughtfully on without answering her
question until she had repeated it. Then he said:

"Cora, my dear, that is a story I cannot tell you. Let it be enough for
me to say, the Stillwater episode in the life of this lady is the ground
upon which I forbid my wife to visit her and object to my niece
associating with her."

"Does Violet know the Stillwater story?"

"No; not so much of it even as you have heard. Now, look here, Cora, you
think it inconsistent perhaps that I should have brought this woman to
Rockhold years ago to become your governess, and now, when she is my
father's wife, object to your intimacy with her. In the first instance
she has been far, very far, 'more sinned against than sinning;' she had
been very imprudent, that was all. She was really the wife, by Scotch
law, of the boy she ran away with and then lost. I saw nothing in her
case that ought to prevent her entrance into a respectable family, and
Heaven knows I pitied her and tried to save her by bringing her to
Rockhold. I saved her only for a few years. After she left us--but
there, I cannot tell you that story! You must not be intimate with her."

"Yet she is my grandfather's wife!"

"An irreparable misfortune. I can't expose her life to him; such a blow
to his pride might be his death, at his age. No! events must take their
course; but I hope he will not take her to any place where she is likely
to be recognized. Nor do I think he will. He is aging fast, and will be
likely to live quietly at Rockhold."

"And I think she also would avoid such risks. She was terribly
frightened when she recognized the Dean of Olivet. Was he really her
stepfather, the once poor curate?"

"Yes. You see while they were lionizing him in the Eastern cities, his
portrait, with a short biographical notice, was published in one of the
illustrated weeklies, where I read of him, and identified him by
comparing notes with what I had heard."

"How came he to rise so high?"

"Oh, he was a learned divine and eloquent orator. He was well connected,
too. It would seem that a very few months after his step-daughter's
flight he was inducted into that rich living for which he had been
waiting so many years. From that position his rise was slow indeed,
covering a period of twenty years, until a few months ago, when he was
made Dean of Olivet."

"To think that a man capable of quarreling with his wife and ill-using
their step-child should fill so sacred a position in the church!"
exclaimed Cora.

"Yes; but you see, my dear, the church is his profession, not his
vocation. He is a brilliant pulpit orator, with influential friends; but
every brilliant pulpit orator is not necessarily a saint. And as for his
quarreling with his wife and ill-using their step-daughter, we have
heard but one side of that story."

When they entered the Rockhold drawing room they found Mrs. Rockharrt
alone. She arose and came forward and received them with a smile.

"Your grandfather, my dear," she explained to Cora, "came home later
than usual from North End, and very much more than usually fatigued.
Immediately after dinner he lay down and I left him asleep."

"Where is Uncle Clarence?" inquired Corona.

"He remains at the works for the night. Will you have this chair, love?"
said Rose, pulling forward a luxurious "sleepy hollow."

"No, thank you. I must go to my room and change my dress. Will you
excuse me for half an hour, Uncle Fabian?" inquired Cora.

"Most willingly, my dear," replied Mr. Fabian, with a very pleased
look. Cora left the room.

"I will go with you," exclaimed Rose, turning pale and starting up to
follow the young lady.

"No. You will not," said Mr. Fabian, in a tone of authority, as he laid
his hand heavily on the woman's shoulder. "Sit down. I have something to
say to you."



CHAPTER XXII.

FABIAN AND ROSE.


"What do you mean?"

"I should rather ask what do you mean, or rather what did you mean, by
daring to marry any honest man, and of all men--Aaron Rockharrt? It was
the most audacious challenging of destruction that the most reckless
desperado could venture upon." Fabian Rockharrt continued, mercilessly:

"Do you not know what, if Mr. Rockharrt were to discover the deception
you put upon him, he might do and think himself justified in doing to
you?"

Rose shuddered in silence.

"The very least that he would do would be to turn you out of his house,
without a dollar, and shut his doors on you forever. Then what would
become of you? Who would take you in?"

"Oh, Fabian!" she screamed at last. "Do not talk to me so. You will
frighten me into hysterics."

"Now don't make a noise. For if you do, you will precipitate the
catastrophe that you fear. Be quiet, I beg you," said Mr. Fabian,
composedly, putting his thumbs in his vest pockets and leaning back.

"Why do you say such cruel things to me, then? Such inconsistent
things, too. If I was good enough to marry you, I was good enough to
marry your father."

"But you were never good enough to marry either of us, my dear. If you
will take a little time to reflect on your antecedents, you will
acknowledge that you were not quite good enough to marry any honest
man," said Mr. Fabian, coolly.

"Yet you asked me to marry you," she said, sobbing softly, with her
handkerchief to her eyes.

"Beg pardon, my dear. I think the asking was rather on the other side.
You were very urgent that we should be married, and that our betrothal
should be formally announced."

"Yes; because you led me to believe that you were going to marry me."

"Excuse me. I never led you to believe so, simply allowed you to believe
so. What could a gentleman do under the circumstances? He couldn't
contradict a lady."

"Oh, what a prevarication, Fabian Rockharrt, when every word, every
deed, every look you bestowed on me went to assure me that you loved me
and wished to marry me!"

"Softly, my dear. Softly. I was sorry for you and generous to you. I
gave you the use of a pretty little house and a sufficient income during
good behavior. But you were ungrateful to me, Rose. You were unkind to
me."

"I was not. I would have married you. I could not have done more than
that."

"But, my dear, your good sense must have told you that I could not marry
you. I have done the best I could by you always. Twice I rescued you
from ruin. Once when you were but little more than a child, and your
boy-lover, or husband, had left you alone, a young stranger in a
strange land--a girl friendless, penniless, beautiful, and so in deadly
peril of perdition, I took you on your own representation, and
introduced you into my own family as the governess of my niece. I became
responsible for you."

"And did I not try my best to please everybody?" sobbed the woman.

"That you did," heartily responded Mr. Fabian. "And everybody loved you.
So that, at the end of five years' service, when my niece was to enter a
finishing school, and you were to go to another situation, you took with
you the best testimonials from my father and mother and from the
minister of our parish. But you did not keep your second situation
long."

"How could I? I was but half taught. The Warrens would have had me teach
their children French and German, and music on the harp and the piano. I
knew no language but my own, and no music except that of the piano,
which the dear, gentle lady, your mother, taught me out of the kindness
of her heart. I was told that I must leave at the end of the term. And
my term was nearly out when Captain Stillwater became a daily visitor to
the house, and I saw him every evening. He was a tall, handsome man,
with a dark complexion and black hair and beard. And I always did admire
that sort of a man. Indeed, that was the reason why I always admired
you."

"Don't attempt to flatter me."

"I am not flattering anybody. I am telling you why I liked Captain
Stillwater. And he was always so good to me! I told him all my troubles.
And he sympathized with me! And when I told him that I should be obliged
to leave my situation at the end of the quarter, he bade me never mind.
And he asked me to be his wife. I did consent to be his wife. I was glad
of the chance to get a husband, and a home. So all was arranged. He
advised me not to tell the Warrens that we were to be married, however.
So at the end of my quarter I went away to a hotel, where Captain
Stillwater came for me and took me away to the church where we were
married."

"You had no knowledge that Alfred Whyte was dead, and that you were free
to wed!"

"He had been lost seven years and was as good as dead to me! Besides,
when a man is missing and has; not been heard of for seven years, his
wife is free to marry again, is she not?"

"No. She has good grounds for a divorce that is all! To risk a second
marriage without these legal formalities, would be dangerous! Might be
disastrous! The first husband might turn up and make trouble!"

"I did not know that! But, after all, as it turned out, it did not
matter!" sighed Rose.

"Not in the least!" assented Mr. Fabian, amiably.

"After all, it was not my fault! I married him in good faith; I did,
indeed!"

"Did you tell him of your previous marriage? That is what you have not
told me yet!"

"N-n-no; I was afraid if I did he might break off with me."

"Ah!"

"And I was in such extremity for the want of a home!"

"Had not my father and mother told you that if ever you should find
yourself out of a situation, you should come to them? Why did you not
take them at their word? They had always been very kind to you, and they
would have given you a warm welcome and a happy home. Now, why need you
have rushed into a reckless marriage for a home?"

"Oh, Fabian!" she exclaimed, impatiently, "don't pretend to talk like
an idiot, for you are not one! Don't talk to me as if I were a wax doll
or a wooden woman, for you know I am not one!"

"I am sure I do not know what you mean!"

"Well, then, I loved the man! There, it is out! I loved him more than I
ever loved any one else in the whole world! And I was afraid of losing
him!"

"And so it was because you loved him so well that you deceived him so
much!"

"Didn't he deceive me much more?"

"There were a pair of you--well matched! So well, it seems a pity that
you were parted!"

"Oh, how very unkind you are to me!"

"Not yet unkind! Only waiting to see how you are going to behave!"

"I have never behaved badly! I was not wicked; I was unhappy! Unhappy
from my birth, almost! I had no evil designs against anybody. I only
wanted to be happy and to see people happy. I honestly believed I was
lawfully married to Captain Stillwater. He took me to the Wirt House and
registered our names as Mr. and Mrs. Stillwater. And we were very happy
until his ship sailed. He gave me plenty of money before he went away;
but I was heartbroken to part with him, and could take no pleasure in
anything until I got a little used to his absence."

"I think you told me that you met him once more before your final
separation. When was that meeting? Eh?"

"Fabian Rockharrt, are you trying to catch me in a falsehood? You know
very well that I never told you anything of the sort I told you that I
never saw him again after he sailed away that autumn day! I waited all
the autumn and heard nothing from him, I wrote to him often, but none
of my letters were answered. At length I longed so much to see him that
I grew wild and reckless and resolved to follow him. I took passage in
the second cabin of the Africa and sailed for Liverpool, where I arrived
about the middle of December. I went to the agency of the Blue Star
Line, to which his ship belonged, and inquired where he was to be found.
They told me he had sailed for Calcutta and had taken his wife with him!
It turned me to stone--to stone, Fabian--almost! I remember I sat down
on a bench and felt numb and cold. And then I asked how long he had been
married--hoping, if it was true, that my own was the first and the
lawful union. They told me, for ten years, but as they had no family,
his wife usually accompanied him on all his voyages. So she had now gone
with him to Calcutta."

"I suspect the people in that office were pretty well acquainted with
the handsome skipper's 'ways and manners,' and that they understood your
case at once."

"I do really believe they did," said Rose; "for they looked at me so
strangely, and one man, who seemed to be a porter or a messenger, or
something of that sort, said something about a sailor having a wife at
every port."

"So after that you came back to New York, and did, at last, what you
should have done at first--you wrote to me."

"There was no one on earth to whom, under the peculiar circumstances, I
could have written but to you. Oh, Fabian! to whom else could I appeal?"

"And did I not respond promptly to your call?"

"Indeed you did, like a true knight, as you were. And I did not deceive
you by any false story, Fabian. I told you all--even thing--how basely I
had been deceived--and you soothed and consoled me, and told me that,
as I had not sinned intentionally, I had not sinned at all; and you
brought me with you to the State capital, and established me comfortably
there."

"But you were very ungrateful, my dear. You took everything; gave
nothing."

"I would have given you myself in marriage, but you would not have me.
You did not think me good enough for you."

"But, bless my wig, child! for your age you had been too much married
already--a great deal too much married! You got into the habit of
getting married."

"Oh! how merciless you are to me!" Rose said, beginning to weep.

"No; I am not. I have never been unkind to you--as yet. I don't know
what I may be! My course toward you will depend very much upon yourself.
Have I not always hitherto been your best friend? Ungrateful,
unresponsive though you were at that time, did I not procure for you an
invitation from my mother to accompany her party on that long,
delightful summer trip?"

"I had an impression at the time that I owed the invitation to your
father, who suggested to your mother to write and ask me to accompany
them."

Mr. Fabian looked surprised, and said--for he never hesitated to tell a
fib:

"Oh! that was quite a mistake. It was I myself who suggested the
invitation. I thought it would be agreeable to you. Was it not I myself
who sent you forward in advance to the Wirt House, Baltimore, there to
await the arrival of our party, and join us in our summer travel? And
didn't you have a long, delightful tour with us through the most sublime
scenery in the most salubrious climates on earth? Didn't you return a
perfect Hebe in health and bloom?"

"I acknowledge all that. I acknowledge all my obligations to your
family; but at the same time I declare that I also did my part. I was as
a white slave to your parents. I was lady's maid to your mother, foot
boy to your father. I don't know, indeed, what the old people would have
done without me, for no hired servant could have served them as
faithfully as I did."

"Oh, yes; you were grateful and devoted to all the family except to me,
your best friend--to me, who gave you the use of a lovely home, and a
liberal income, and a faithful friendship; and then trusted in your
sense of justice for my reward."

"I would have given you all I possessed in the world--my own poor self
in marriage--and you led me on to believe that you wished to marry me,
but, finally, you would not have me. You went off and married another
woman."

"Bah! we are talking around in a circle, and getting back to where we
began. Let us come to the point."

"Very well; come to the point," said Rose, sulkily.

"Listen, then: It is not for your reckless elopement with your
step-father's pupil, when you were driven from home by cruelty; it is
not for your false marriage with Stillwater, when you yourself were
deceived; but because with all these antecedents against
you--antecedents which constituted you, however unjustly, a pariah, who
should have lived quietly and obscurely, but who, instead of doing so,
took advantage of kindness shown her, and betrayed the family who
sheltered her by luring into a disgraceful marriage its revered father,
and bringing to deep dishonor the gray head of Aaron Rockharrt, a man of
stern integrity and unblemished reputation--you should be denounced and
punished."

"Oh, Fabian, have mercy! have mercy! You would not now, after years of
friendship, you would not now ruin me?"

"Listen to me! You checkmated me in that matter of the cottage and the
income. Yes, simple as you seem, and sharp as I may appear, you
certainly managed to take all and give nothing. And when you found but
that you could not take my hand and my name, you waylaid me at the
railway station, when I was on my wedding tour, and you swore to be
revenged. I laughed at you. I advised you to be anything rather than
dramatic. I never imagined the possibility of your threatened revenge
taking the form of your marriage. Well, my dear, you have your revenge,
I admit; but in your blindness, you could not see that revenge itself
might be met by retribution! One man kills another for revenge, and does
not, in his blind fury, see the gallows looming in the distance."

"What do you mean? You cannot hang me for marrying your father,"
exclaimed Rose.

"No; don't raise your voice, or you may be heard. No, Rose, I cannot
hang you for treachery; but, my dear, there are worse fates than neat
and tidy hanging, which is over in a few minutes. I could expose your
past life to my father. You know him, and you know that he would show no
ruth, no mercy to deception and treachery such as yours. You know that
he would turn you out of the house without money or character, destitute
and degraded. What then would be your fate at your age--a fading rose
past thirty-seven years old? Sooner or later, and very little later, the
poor-house or the hospital. Better a sweet, tidy little hanging and be
done with it, if possible."

"You are a fiend to talk to me so! a fiend! Fabian Rockharrt," exclaimed
Rose, bursting into hysterical sobs and tears.

"Now, be quiet, my child; you'll raise the house, and then there will be
an explosion."

"I don't care if there will be. You are cruel, savage, barbarous! I
never meant to do any harm by marrying Mr. Rockharrt. I never meant to
be revenged on you or anybody. I only said so because I was so excited
by your desertion of me. I married the old gentleman for a refuge from
the world. I meant to do my duty by him, though he is as cross as a bear
with a bruised head. But do your worst; I don't care. I would just as
lief die as live. I am tired of trying to be good; tired of trying to
please people; tired, oh, very tired of living!"

"Come, come," said soft-hearted Mr. Fabian; "none of that nonsense.
Place yourself in my hands, to be guided by me and to work for my
interests, and none of these evils shall happen to you. You shall live
and die in wealth and luxury, my father's honored wife, the mistress of
Rockhold."

He spoke slowly, tenderly, caressingly, and as she listened to him her
sobs and tears subsided and she grew calmer.

"What is it you want me to do for you? What can I do for you, indeed,
powerless as I am?" she inquired at last.

"You must use all your influence with my father in my interests, and use
it discreetly and perseveringly," he whispered.

"But I have no influence. Never was the young wife of an old man--and I
am young in comparison to him--treated so harshly. I am not his pet; I
am his slave!" she complained.

"But you must obtain influence over him. You can do that. You are with
him night and day when he is not at his business. You are his
shadow--beg pardon, I ought to have said his sunshine."

"I am his slave, I tell you."

"Then be his humble, submissive, obedient slave; betray no
disappointment, discontent, or impatience at your lot. The harsher he
is, the humbler must you be; the more despotic he becomes, the more
subservient you must seem. Make yourself so perfectly complying in all
his moods that he shall believe you to be the very 'perfect rose of
womanhood,' more excellent even than he thought when he married you, and
so as he grows older and weaker in mind as well as body you will gain
not only influence but ascendency over him, and these you must use in my
interest."

"But how? I don't understand."

"Pay attention, then, and you will understand Mr. Rockharrt is aged. In
the course of nature he must soon pass away. Fie has made no will.
Should he die intestate, the whole property, by the laws of this
commonwealth, would fall to pieces; that is to say, it would be divided
into three parts--one-third would go to you--"

Rose started, caught her breath, and stared at the speaker; the greed of
gain dilating her great blue eyes. The third of the Rockharrt's fabulous
wealth to be hers at her husband's death! Amazing! How many millions or
tens of millions would that be? Incredible! And all for her, and she
with, perhaps, half a century of life to live and enjoy it! What a
vista!

"Why do you stare at me so?" demanded Mr. Fabian.

"Because I was so surprised. That is not the law in England. In England
there are usually what are called marriage settlements, which make a
suitable provision for the wife, but leave the bulk of the property to
go to the children--generally to the oldest son."

"And such should be the law here, but it isn't; and so if my father
should die without having made a will, the great estate would break, as
I said, into three parts--one part would be yours, the other two parts
would be divided into three shares, to me, to my brother, and to the
heirs of my sister. The business at North End would probably be carried
on by Aaron Rockharrt's sons."

"But would not that be equitable?" inquired Rose, who had no mind to
have her third interfered with.

"It would not be expedient, nor is such a disposition of his property
the intention of Aaron Rockharrt. I know, from what he has occasionally
hinted, that he means to bequeath the Great North End Works to me and my
brother Clarence, share and share alike; but he puts off making this
will, which indeed must never be made. The North End Works should not be
a monster with two heads, but a colossus with one head with my head. So
that I wish my father to make a will leaving the North End Works to me
exclusively--to me alone as the one head."

"I think if I dared to suggest such a thing to him, he would take off my
head!" said Rose, with grim humor.

"I think he would if you should do so suddenly or clumsily. But you must
insinuate the idea very slowly and subtlely. Clarence is not for the
works; Clarence is too good for this world--at least for the business of
this world. I think him half an imbecile! My father does not hesitate to
call him a perfect idiot. Do you begin to see your way now? Clarence can
be moderately provided for, but should have no share in the North End
Works."

"The North End Works to be left to you solely; Clarence to be moderately
provided for; and what of the two children of the late Mrs. Haught?"

"Oh! my father never intends to leave them more than a modest legacy.
They have each inherited money from their father. No; understand me
once for all, Rose. I must be the sole heir of all my father's wealth,
with the exceptions I have named, and the sole successor to his
business, without any exception whatever. You must live, serve him and
bear with him only to obtain such an ascendency over him as to induce
him to make such a will as I have dictated to you. You can do this. You
can insinuate it so subtlely that he will never suspect the suggestion
came from you. I say you can do this, and you must do it. The woman who
could deceive and entrap old Aaron Rockharrt, the Iron King, into
matrimony, can do anything else in the world that she pleases to do with
him if only she will be as subtle, as patient, and as complacent to him
after marriage as she had been before marriage."

"If Clarence is to be so provided for, Cora and Sylvan to have modest
legacies, and you to have the huge bulk of the estate--where is my third
to come from?"

"Why, my dear, I could never let you have so vast a slice out of the
mammoth fortune! Your third of the estate must follow Clarence's share
of the business--into nothingness. You must play magnanimity, sacrifice
your third, and content yourself with a suitable provision," said
Fabian, equably.

"I will never do that! I would not do it to save your life, Fabian
Rockharrt!"

"Oh, yes, you will, my darling. Not to save my life, but to save
yourself from being denounced to Mr. Rockharrt, and turned out of this
house, destitute and degraded."

"I don't care if I should be! Do you think me quite a baby in your
hands? I have been reflecting since you have been talking to me. I have
been remembering that you told me that the law gives the widow one third
of her late husband's property when he dies intestate, and entitles her
to it, no matter what sort of a will he makes."

"Unless there has been a settlement, my angel," said Mr. Fabian,
composedly.

"Well, there has been no settlement in my case. So whether Aaron
Rockharrt should die intestate, or whether he should make a will, I am
sure of my lawful third. So I defy you, Mr. Fabian Rockharrt. You may
denounce me to your father He may turn me out of doors without a penny,
and 'without a character,' as the servants say, but he cannot divorce
me, because I have been faithful to him ever since our marriage. I could
compel him by law to support me, even though he might not let me share
his home. He would be obliged by law to give me alimony in proportion to
his income, and, oh! what a magnificent revenue that would be for
me--with freedom from his tyranny into the bargain! And at his death,
which could not be long coming at his age, and after such a shock as his
dutiful son proposes to give him, I should come in for my third. And,
oh, where so rich a widow as I should be! With forty or fifty years of
life before me in which to enjoy my fortune! Ah, you see, my clever Mr.
Fabian Rockharrt, though you frightened me out of self-possession at
first, when I come to think over the situation, I find that you can do
me no great harm. If you should put your threats in execution and bring
about a violent separation between myself and my husband, you would do
me a signal favor, for I should gain my personal freedom, with a
handsome alimony during his life, and at his death a third of his vast
estate," she concluded, snapping her fingers in his face.

"I think not."

"Yes; I would."

"No; you would not."

"Indeed! Why would I not, pray?" she inquired, with mocking
incredulity.

"Oh, because of a mere trifle in your code of morals--an insignificant
impediment."

"Tchut!" she exclaimed, contemptuously. "Do you think me quite an
idiot?"

"I think you would be much worse than an idiot if, in case of my
father's discarding you, you should move an inch toward obtaining
alimony or in the case of the coveted 'third.'"

"Pshaw! Why, pray?"

"Because you have not, and never can have, the shadow of a right to
either."

"Bah! why not?"

"Because--Alfred Whyte is living!"

She caught her breath and gazed at the speaker with great dilating blue
eyes.

"What--do--you--mean?" she faltered.

"Alfred Whyte, your husband of twenty years ago, is still living and
likely to live--a very handsome man of forty years old, residing at his
magnificent country seat, Whyte Hall, Dulwich, near London."

"Married again?" she whispered, hoarsely.

"Certainly not; an English gentleman does not commit bigamy."

"How did you--become acquainted--with these facts?"

"I was sufficiently interested in you to seek him out, when I was in
England. I discovered where he lived; also that he was looking out for
the best investment of his idle capital. I called on him personally in
the interests of our great enterprise. He is now a member of the London
syndicate."

"Did you speak--of me?"

"Never mentioned your name. How could I, knowing as I did of the
Stillwater episode in your story?"

"And he lives! Alfred Whyte lives! Oh, misery, misery, misery! Evil fate
has followed me all the days of my life," moaned Rose, wringing her
hands.

"Now, why should you take on so, because Whyte is living? Would you have
had that fine, vigorous man, in the prime of his life, die for your
benefit?"

"But I thought he was dead long ago."

"You were too ready to believe that, and to console yourself. He was
more faithful to your memory."

"How do you know? You said my name was never mentioned between you."

"Not from him, but from a mutual acquaintance, of whom I asked how it
was that Mr. Whyte had never married, I heard that he had grieved for
her out of all reason and had ever remained faithful to the memory of
his first and only love. My own inference was, and is, that the report
of your death was got up by his friends to break off the connection."

"And you never told this 'mutual friend' that I still lived?"

"How could I, my dear, with my knowledge of your Stillwater affair? No,
no; I was not going to disturb the peace of a good man by telling him
that his child-wife of twenty years ago was still living, but lost to
him by a fall far worse than death. No--I let you remain dead to him."

"Oh, misery! misery! misery! I would to Heaven I were dead to everybody!
dead, dead indeed!" she cried, wringing her hands in anguish.

"Come, come, don't be a fool! You see that you are utterly in my power
and must do my will. Do it, and you will come to no harm; but live and
die in a luxurious home."



CHAPTER XXIII.

SYLVAN'S ORDERS.


While the amiable Mr. Fabian was engaged in soothing the woman whom he
was resolved to make his instrument in gaining the whole of his father's
great business bequeathed to him by will, carriage wheels were heard
grating on the gravel of the drive leading up to the front door of the
house, and a few minutes afterward the master's knock was answered by
the hall waiter, and old Aaron Rockharrt strode into the drawing room.

"I did not know that you had gone out again. I left you on the library
sofa asleep," said Rose, deferentially, as she sprang up to meet him.

"I was called out on business that don't concern you. Ah, Fabian! How is
it that I find you here to-night?" inquired the Iron King, as he threw
himself into a chair.

"I brought Cora home from the Banks," replied the eldest son.

"Ah! how is Mrs. Fabian?"

"Still delicate. I can scarcely hope that she will be stronger for some
weeks yet."

"When are you going to bring her to call on my wife?" demanded the Iron
King, bending his gray brows somewhat angrily and looking suspiciously
on his son; for he was not pleased that his daughter-in-law's visit of
ceremony had been so long delayed.

"As soon as she is able to leave the house. Our physician has forbidden
her to take any long walk or ride for some time yet."

"And how long is this seclusion to last?"

"Until after a certain event to take place at the end of three months."

"Ah! and then another month for convalescence! So it will be late in the
autumn before we can hope to see Mrs. Fabian Rockharrt at Rockhold!"

"I fear so, indeed, sir!"

"I do not approve of this petting, coddling, and indulging women. It
makes the weak creatures weaker. If you choose to seclude your wife or
allow her to seclude herself on account of a purely physiological
condition, I will not allow Mrs. Rockharrt to go near her until she goes
to return her call."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Cora reached her chamber that evening, she sat down to reflect on
all that her Uncle Fabian had told her of the past history of her
grandfather's young wife, and to anticipate the possible movements of
her brother. Her own life, since the loss of her husband--now loved so
deeply, though loved too late--she felt was over. The future had nothing
for herself. What, therefore, could she do with the dull years in which
she might long vegetate through life but to give them in useful service
to those who needed help? She would go with her brother to the frontier,
and find some field of labor among the Indians. She would found a school
with her fortune, and devote her life to the education of Indian
children. And she would call the school by her lost husband's name, and
so make of it a monument to his memory.

Revolving these plans in her mind, Cora Rothsay retired to rest. The
next morning she arose at her usual hour, dressed, and went down stairs.

Old Aaron Rockharrt and his young wife were already in the parlor,
waiting for the breakfast bell to ring.

She had but just greeted them when the call came, and all moved toward
the breakfast room.

Just as the three had seated themselves at the table, and while Rose
was pouring out the coffee, the sound of carriage wheels was heard
approaching the house, and a few minutes later Mr. Clarence and Sylvan
entered the breakfast room with joyous bustle.

"What--what--what does this unseemly excitement mean?" sternly demanded
the Iron King, while Cora arose to shake hands with her uncle and
brother; and while Rose, fearful of doing wrong, did nothing at all.

"What is the matter? What has happened? Why have you left the works at
this hour of the morning, Clarence?" he requested of his son.

"I came with Sylvan, sir, for the last time before he leaves us for
distant and dangerous service, and for an unlimited period."

"Ah! you have your orders, then?" said Mr. Rockharrt, in a somewhat
mollified tone.

"Yes, sir," said the young lieutenant. "I received my commission by the
earliest mail this morning, with orders to report for duty to Colonel
Glennin, of the Third Regiment of Infantry, now at Governor's Island,
New York harbor, and under orders to start for Fort Farthermost, on the
Mexican frontier. I must leave to-night in order to report in time."

Cora looked at him with the deepest interest.

Rose thought now she might venture on a little civility without giving
offense to her despotic lord.

"Have you had breakfast, you two?" she inquired.

"No, indeed. We started immediately after receiving the orders," said
Sylvan. "And we are as hungry as two bears."

"Bring chairs to the table, Mark, for the gentlemen," said young Mrs.
Rockharrt, who then rang for two more covers and hot coffee.

"Cora," whispered Sylvan, as soon as he got a chance to speak to his
sister, "you can never get ready to go with me on so short a notice.
Women have so much to do."

"Sylvan," she replied, "I have been ready for a month."



CHAPTER XXIV.

SOMETHING UNEXPECTED.


The day succeeding that on which Sylvanus Haught had received his
commission as second lieutenant in the 3d Regiment of Infantry, then on
Governor's Island, New York harbor, and under orders for Fort
Farthermost, on the southwestern frontier, was a very busy one for Cora
Rothsay; for, however well she had been prepared for a sudden journey,
there were many little final details to be attended to which would
require all the time she had left at her disposal.

A farewell visit must be paid to Violet Rockharrt, and--worse than
all--an explanatory interview must be held with her grandfather in
relation to her departure with Sylvanus Haught, and that interview must
be held before the Iron King should leave Rockhold that morning for his
daily visit to the works.

Cora had often, during the last year, and oftener since her
grandfather's second marriage, taken occasion to allude to her intention
of accompanying her brother to his post of duty, however distant and
dangerous that post might be. She had done this with the fixed purpose
of preparing this autocratic old gentleman's mind for the event.

Now, the day of her intended departure had arrived; she was to leave
Rockhold with her brother that afternoon to take the evening express to
New York. And as she could not go without taking leave of her
grandfather, it was necessary that she should announce her intention to
him before he should start on his daily visit to North End.

Therefore Cora had risen very early that morning and had gone down into
the little office or library of the Iron King, that was situated at the
rear of the middle hall, there to wait for him, as it was his custom to
rise early and go into his study, to look over the papers before
breakfast. These papers were brought by a special messenger from North
End, who started from the depot as soon as the earliest train arrived
with the morning's mail and reached Rockhold by seven o'clock.

She had not sat there many minutes before Mr. Rockharrt entered the
study.

"I am going away with my brother," Cora said, without any preface
whatever, "to Fort Farthermost, on the southwestern Indian frontier."

"I think you must be crazy."

"Dear grandpa, this is no impulsive purpose of mine. I have thought of
it ever since--ever since--the death of my dear husband," said Cora, in
a broken voice.

"Oh! the death of your dear husband!" he exclaimed, rudely interrupting
her. "Much you cared for the death of your dear husband! If you had, you
would never have driven him forth to his death!--for that is what you
did! You cannot deceive me now. As long as the fate of Rule Rothsay was
a mystery, I was myself at somewhat of a loss to account for his
disappearance--though I suspected you even then--but when the news came
that he had been killed by the Comanches near the boundaries of Mexico,
and I had time to reflect on it all, I knew that he had been driven away
by you--you! And all for the sake of a titled English dandy! You need
not deny it, Cora Rothsay!"

"It would be quite useless to deny anything that you choose to assert,
sir," replied the young lady, coldly but respectfully. "Yet I must say
this, that I loved and honored my husband more than I ever did or ever
can love and honor any other human being. His departure broke my spirit,
and his death has nearly broken my heart--certainly it has blasted my
future. My life is worth nothing, nothing to me, except as I make it
useful to those who need my help."

"Rubbish!" exclaimed old Aaron Rockharrt, turning over the leaves of his
paper and looking for the financial column.

"Grandfather, please hear me patiently for a few minutes, for after
to-day I do not know that we may ever meet again," pleaded Cora.

The old man laid his open paper on his knees, set his spectacles up on
his head, and looked at her.

"What the devil do you mean?" he slowly inquired.

"Sir, I am to leave Rockhold with my brother this afternoon, to go with
him, first to Governor's Island, and within a few days start with him
for the distant frontier fort which may be his post of duty for many
years to come. We may not be able to return within your lifetime,
grandfather," said Cora, gravely and tenderly.

"And what in Satan's name, unless you are stark mad, should take you out
to the Indian frontier?" he demanded.

"I might answer, to be with my only brother, I being his only sister."

"Bosh! Men's wives very seldom accompany them to these savage posts,
much less their sisters! What does a young officer want his sister
tagging after him for?"

"It is not that Sylvan especially wants me, nor for his sake alone that
I go."

"Well, then, what in the name of lunacy do you go for?"

"That I may devote my time and fortune to a good cause--to the education
of Indian girls and boys. I mean to build--"

"That, or something like that, was what Rothsay tried to do when you
drove him away, as if he had been a leper, to the desert. Well, go on!
What next? Let us hear the whole of the mad scheme!"

"I mean to build a capacious school house, in which I will receive,
board, lodge, and teach as many Indian children as may be intrusted to
me, until the house shall be full."

"Moonstruck mania! That is what your mad husband driven mad by
you--attempted on a smaller scale, and failed."

"That is why I wish to do this. I wish to follow in his footsteps It is
the best thing I can do to honor his memory."

"But he was murdered for his pains."

Cora shuddered and covered her face with her hands for a space; then she
answered, slowly:

"There may be many failures; but there will never be any success unless
the failures are made stepping stones to final victory."

"Fudge! See here, mistress! No doubt you suffer a good many stings of
conscience for having driven the best man that ever lived--except, hem!
well--to his death! But you need not on that account expatriate yourself
from civilization, to go out to try to teach those red devils who
murdered your husband and burned his hut, and who will probably murder
you and burn your school house! You have been a false woman and a
miserable sinner, Cora Rothsay! And you have deserved to suffer and you
have suffered, there is no doubt about that! But you have repented, and
may be pardoned. You need not immolate yourself at your age. You are a
mere girl. You will get over your morbid grief. You may marry again."

Cora slowly, sadly, silently shook her head.

"Oh, yes; you will."

"No, no; no, dear grandpa. I will bear my dear, lost husband's name to
the end of my life, and it shall be inscribed on my tomb. Ah! would to
Heaven that at the last, I might lay my ashes beside his," she moaned.

"Now don't be a confounded fool, Cora Rothsay! To be sure, all women are
fools! But, then, a girl with a drop of my blood in her veins should not
be such a consummate idiot as you are showing yourself to be. You shall
not go out with Sylvan to that savage frontier. It is no place for a
woman, particularly for an unmarried woman. You would come to a bad end.
I shall speak to Sylvan. I shall forbid him to take you there," said the
old autocrat.

Cora smiled, but answered nothing. She had firmly made up her mind to go
with her brother, whether her grandfather should approve the action or
not; but she thought it unnecessary to dispute the matter with him just
now.

"So, mistress, you will stay here, under my guardianship, until you
accept a husband, like a respectable woman," continued old Aaron
Rockharrt.

Still Cora remained silent, standing by his chair, with her hand resting
on the table, and her eyes cast down.

The egotist seemed not to object to having all the talk to himself.

"Come!" he exclaimed, with sudden animation, sitting bolt upright in his
chair, "When I found you in this room just now, you said you had
something to tell me. And you told it. Naturally, it was not worth
hearing. Now, then, I have something to tell you, which is so well worth
hearing that when you have heard it your missionary madness may be
cured, and your Quixotic expedition given up: in fact, all your plans in
life changed--a splendid prospect opened before you."

Cora looked up, her languor all gone, her interest aroused. Something
was rising in her mind; not a sun of hope ah! no--but nebula, obscure,
unformed, indistinct, yet with possible suns of hope, worlds of
happiness, within it. What did her grandfather mean? Had he heard
something about--Was Rule yet--

Swift as lightning flashed these thoughts through her mind while her
grandfather drew his breath between his utterances.

"Listen! This is what I had to tell you: I had a letter a few days ago
from an old suitor of yours," he said, looking keenly at his
granddaughter.

Cora's eyes fell, her spirits drooped. The nebula of unknown hopes and
joys had faded away, leaving her prospect dark again. She looked
depressed and disappointed. She could feel no shadow of interest in her
old suitors.

"I received this letter several days since, and being at leisure just
then. I answered it. But in the pressure of some important matters I
forgot to tell you of it, though it concerned yourself mostly, I might
say entirely. Shouldn't have remembered it now, I suppose, if it had not
been for your foolish talk about going out for a missionary to the
savages. Ah! another destiny awaits your acceptance."

Cora sighed in silence.

"Now, then. Of course you must know who this correspondent is."

"Without offense to you, grandfather, I neither know nor care,"
languidly replied the lady.

"But it is not without offense to me. You are the most eccentric and
inconsistent woman I ever met in all the course of my life. You are not
constant even to your inconstancy."

Having uttered this paradox, the old man threw himself back in his chair
and gazed at his granddaughter.

"I am not yet clear as to your meaning, sir," she said, coldly but
respectfully.

"What! Have you quite forgotten the titled dandy for whom you were near
breaking your heart three years ago? For whom you were ready to throw
over one of the best and truest men that ever lived! For whom you really
did drive Regulas Rothsay, on the proudest and happiest day of his life,
into exile and death!"

"Oh, don't! don't! grandfather! Don't!" wailed Cora, sinking on an
office stool, and dropping her hands and head on the table.

"Now, none of that, mistress. No hysterics, if you please. I won't
permit any woman about me to indulge in such tantrums. Listen to me,
ma'am. My correspondent was young Cumbervale, the noodle!"

"Then I never wish to see or hear or think of him again!" exclaimed
Cora.

"Indeed! But that is a woman all through. She will do or suffer anything
to get her own way. She will defy all her friends and relations, all
principles of truth and honor; she will move Heaven and earth, go
through fire and water, to get her own way; and when she does get it she
don't want it, and she won't have it."

"Grandfather!" pleaded Cora.

"Silence! Three years ago you would have walked over all our dead
bodies, if necessary, to marry that noble booby. And you would have
married him if it had not been for me! I would not permit you to wed
him then, because you were in honor bound to Regulas Rothsay. I shall
insist on your accepting him now, because poor Rothsay is in his grave,
and this will be the best thing to do for you to help you out of harm's
way from redskins and rattlesnakes and other reptiles. I don't think
much of the fellow; but he seems to be a harmless idiot, and is good
enough for you."

Cora answered never a word, but she felt quite sure that not even the
iron will of the Iron King could ever coerce her into marriage with any
man, least of all with the man whose memory was identified with her
heart's tragedy. The old man continued his monologue.

"The best thing about the fellow is his constancy. He was after your
imaginary fortune once. I am sure of that. And he was so dazzled by the
illumination of that _ignis fatuus_ that he didn't see you, perhaps, and
didn't recognize how much he really cared for you. At all events, in his
letter to me--and, by the way, it is very strange that he should write
to me after the snubbing I gave him in London," said the Iron King,
reflectively.

Cora did not think that was strange. She, at least, felt sure that it
was as impossible for the young duke to take offense at the rudeness of
the old iron man as at the raging of a dog or the tearing of a bull. But
she did not drop a hint of this to the egotist, who never imagined
passive insolence to be at the bottom of the duke's forbearance.

"In his letter to me," resumed old Aaron Rockharrt, "the young fool
tells me that, immediately after his great disappointment in being
rejected by you, he left England--and, indeed, Europe--and traveled
through every accessible portion of Asia and Africa, in the hope of
overcoming his misplaced affection, but in vain, for that he returned
home at the end of two years with his heart unchanged. There he learned
through the newspapers that you had been recently widowed, through the
murder of your husband in an Indian mutiny. That's how he put it. He
farther wrote that, in the face of such a tragedy as that, he felt bound
to forbear the faintest approach toward resuming his acquaintance with
you until some considerable time should have elapsed, although, he was
careful to add, he always believed that you had given him your heart,
and would have given him your hand had you been permitted to do so. He
ended his letter by asking me to give him your address, that he might
write to you. He evidently supposed you to be keeping house for
yourself, as English widows of condition usually do. Well, my girl, what
do you think I did?"

"You told me, sir, that, being at leisure just then, you answered his
letter immediately," coldly replied Cora.

"Yes; and I told him that you were living with me. I gave him the full
address. And I told him that I was pleased with his frankness and
fidelity, qualities which I highly approved; and I added that if he
wished to renew his suit to you, he need not waste time in writing, but
that he might come over and court you in person here at Rockhold, where
he should receive a hearty, old-fashioned welcome."

Cora gazed at the old man aghast.

"Oh, grandfather, you never wrote that!" she exclaimed.

"I never wrote that? What do you mean, mistress? Am I in the habit of
saying what is not true?"

"Oh, no; but I am so grieved that you should have written such a
letter."

"Why, pray?"

"Because I cannot bear that any one should think for a moment that I
could ever marry again."

"Rubbish!"

"Well, it does not matter after all. If the duke should come on this
fool's errand, I shall be far enough out of his reach," thought Cora;
but she said no more.

The breakfast bell rang out with much clamor, and the old man arose
growling.

"And now you have cheated me out of my hour with the newspapers by your
foolish talk. Come, come to breakfast and let us hear no more nonsense
about going on that wild goose chase to the Indian frontier."

At the end of the morning meal he arose from the table, called his young
wife to fetch him his hat, his gloves, his duster, and other belongings,
and he got ready for his daily morning drive to the works.

"I shall remain at North End to bid you good-by, Sylvan. Call at my
office there on your way to the depot," he said, as he left the house to
step into his carriage waiting at the door.

As the sound of the wheels rolled off and died in the distance, Rose
turned to Cora and inquired:

"My dear, does he know that you are going out West with Sylvan?"

"He should know it. I have spoken freely of my plans before you both for
months past," said Cora.

"But, my dear, he never took the slightest notice of anything you said
on that subject. Why, he did not even seem to hear you."

"He heard me perfectly. Nothing passes in my grandfather's presence that
he does not see and hear and understand."

"Well, then, I reckon he thinks you have changed your mind; for he spoke
of meeting Sylvan at North End to bid him good-by, but said not a word
about you."

"He will believe that I am going when he sees me with Sylvan," said
Cora.

And then she touched the bell and ordered her carriage to be brought to
the door.

"We must go and take leave of Mrs. Fabian Rockharrt," she said to Rose.

Twenty minutes later Cora and Sylvan entered the pony carriage. Sylvan
took the reins and started for Violet Banks.

They soon reached the lovely villa, where they found Violet seated in a
Quaker rocking-chair on the front porch, with a basket workstand beside
her, busily and happily engaged in her beloved work--embroidering an
infant's white cashmere cloak. She jumped up, dropped her work, and ran
to meet her visitors as they alighted from the carriage. She kissed Cora
rapturously, and Sylvan kissed her.

"How lovely of you both to come! Wait a minute till I call a boy to take
your chaise around to the stable. And, oh, sit down. You are going to
stay all day with me, too, and late into the night--there is a fine moon
to-night. Or maybe you will stay a week or a month. Why not? Oh, do
stay," she rattled on, a little incoherently on account of her happy
excitement.

"No, dear," said Cora, "we can only stay a very few minutes. The rising
moon will see us far away on our route to New York."

"W-h-y! You astonish me! How sudden this is! Where are you going?" asked
Violet, pausing in her hurry to call a groom.

"Let me explain," said Cora, taking one of the Quaker chairs and seating
herself. "Sylvan has just received his commission as second lieutenant
in the 3d Regiment of Infantry, now on Governor's Island, New York
harbor, but under orders for Fort Farthermost, on the extreme frontier
of the Indian Reserve. He leaves by the afternoon express, and I go with
him."

"Cora!" exclaimed Violet, as she dropped into her chair. "I know you
have talked about this, but I never thought you would do such a wild
deed! Please don't think of going out among bears and Indians!"

"I must, dear, for many reasons. Sylvan and myself are all and all to
each other at present, and we should not be parted. More than that, I
wish to do something in the world. I can not do anything here. I am not
wanted, you see. I must, therefore, go where I may be wanted and may do
some good."

"But what can you do--out there?"

Cora then explained her plan of establishing a missionary home and
school for Indian children.

"What a good, great, but, oh, what a Quixotic plan! Sylvan, why will you
let her do it?" pleaded Violet.

"My dear, I would not presume to oppose Cora. If she thinks she is right
in this matter, then she is right. If her resolution is fixed, then I
will uphold and defend her in that resolution," said the young
lieutenant, loyally. But all the same his secret thought was that some
fine fellow in his own regiment might be able to persuade Cora to devote
her time and fortune to him, instead of to the redskins.

After a little more talk Cora got up and kissed Violet good-by. Sylvan
followed her example with a little more ardor than was absolutely
necessary, perhaps.

At Rockhold luncheon was on the table, and young Mrs. Rockharrt waiting
for them. Mr. Clarence was also at home, having determined to risk his
father's displeasure and to neglect his business on this one day--this
last day, for the sake of the niece and the nephew who were so dear to
his heart.

After luncheon Sylvan went out to oversee the loading of the farm van,
which was drawn by two sturdy mules, with the many heavy trunks and
boxes that contained Cora's wardrobe and books--among the latter a
large number of elementary school books. Mr. Clarence stood by his side
to help him in case of need. Cora went up to her room, where nothing was
now left to be done but to pack her little traveling bag with the
necessaries for her journey, and then put on her traveling suit. She had
a quantity of valuable jewelry, but this she put carefully into her hand
bag, intending to convert it all into money as soon as she should reach
New York, and to consecrate the fund, with the bulk of her fortune, to
her projected home school for the Indian children.

As she sat there, she was by some occult agency led to think of her
grandfather's young wife--to think of her tenderly, charitably,
compassionately. Poor Rose! In infancy, from the day of her father's
death, an unloved, neglected, persecuted child; in childhood, driven to
desperation and elopement by the miseries of her home; in girlhood,
deceived and abandoned by her lover; now, in womanhood, as friendless
and unhappy as if she had not married a wealthy man, and was not living
in a luxurious home. Poor Rose! She had lost her sense of honor, or she
never would have married Mr. Rockharrt, even for a refuge. But, through
all her sins and sorrows, she had not lost her tender heart, her sweet
temper, or her amiable desire to serve and to please. She had now a hard
time with her aged, despotic husband. He had not gratified her ambition
by taking her into the upper circles of society, for he seemed now to
have given up society; he had not pleased her harmless vanity with
presents of fine dress and jewelry; no, nor even regarded her services
with any sort of affectionate recognition.

Cora sat there feeling sorry that she had ever shown herself cold and
haughty to the helpless creature who had always done all that she could
to win her (Cora's) love, and whom she was about to leave to the tender
mercies of a hard and selfish old man, who, though he highly approved of
his young wife's meekness, humility and subserviency, and held her up as
an example to her whole sex, yet did not care for her, did not consult
her wishes in anything, did not consider her happiness.

Cora sat wondering what she could do to give this poor little soul some
little pleasure before leaving her. Suddenly she thought of her jewels.
She resolved to select a set and give it to Rose with some kind parting
word.

She took her hand bag and withdrew from it case after case, examining
each in turn. There was a set of diamonds worth many thousand dollars; a
set of rubies and pearls, worth almost as much; a set of emeralds, very
costly; but none of them as lovely as a set of sapphires, pearls, and
diamonds, artistically arranged together, the sapphires encircled by a
row of pearls, with an outer circle of small diamonds; the whole
suggesting the blue color, the foam, and the sparkle of the sea.

This Cora selected as a parting present to her grandfather's young wife.

She took them in her hand and hurried to Rose's room, knocked at the
door and entered. Rose was seated in a white dimity-covered arm chair,
engaged in reading a novel. She looked surprised, and almost frightened,
at the sight of Cora, who had never before condescended to enter this
private room.

"Have I disturbed you?" inquired Cora.

"Oh, no; no, indeed. Pray come in. Please sit down. Will you have this
arm chair?" eagerly inquired the young woman, rising from her seat.

"No, thank you, Rose; I have scarcely time to sit. I have brought you a
keepsake which I hope you will sometimes wear in memory of your old
pupil," said Cora, opening the casket and displaying the gems.

Rose's face was a study--all that was good and evil in her was aroused
at the sight of the rich and costly jewels--vanity, cupidity, gratitude,
tenderness.

"Oh, how superb they are! I never saw such splendid gems! A parure for a
princess, and you give them to me? What a munificent present! How kind
you are, Cora! What can I do? How shall I ever be able to return your
kindness?" said Rose, as tears of delight and wonder filled her eyes.

"Wear them and enjoy them. They suit your fair complexion very well. And
now let me bid you good-by, here."

"No, no; not yet. I will go down and see you off--see the very last of
you, Cora, until the carriage takes you out of sight. Oh, dear, it may
indeed be the very last that I shall ever see of you, sure enough."

"I hope not. Why do you speak so sadly?"

"Because I am not strong. My father died of consumption; so did my elder
brothers and sisters, the children of his first marriage, and often I
think I shall follow them."

Mrs. Rothsay looked at the speaker. The transparent delicacy of
complexion, the tenderness of the limpid blue eyes, the infantile
softness of face, throat, and hands, certainly did not seem to promise
much strength or long life; but Cora spoke cheerfully:

"Such hereditary weakness may be overcome in these days of science,
Rose. You must banish fear and take care of yourself. Now, I really must
go and put on my bonnet."

"Very well, then, if you must. I will meet you in the hall. Oh, my dear,
I am so very grateful to you for these precious jewels, and more than
all for the friendship and kindness that prompted the gift," said Rose;
and perhaps she really did believe that she prized the giver more than
the gift; for such self-deception would have been in keeping with her
superficial character.

Cora left the room and hurried to her chamber, where she put on her
bonnet and her linen duster. She had scarcely fastened the last button
when her brother knocked at the door, calling out:

"Come, Cora, come, or we shall miss the train."

Cora caught up her traveling bag, cast

    "A long, last, lingering look"

around the dear, familiar room which she had occupied when at Rockhold
from her childhood's days, and then went out and joined her brother.

In the hall below they were met by Rose

"Be good to her, poor thing," whispered Cora to Sylvan.

"All right," replied the young lieutenant.

Rose's eyes were filled with tears. It seemed to the friendless creature
very hard to lose Cora, just as Cora was beginning to be friendly.

"Good-by," said Mrs. Rothsay, taking the woman's hand. But Rose burst
into tears, threw her arms around the young lady's neck, hugged her
close, and kissed her many times.

"Good-by, my pretty step-grandmother-in-law," said Sylvan, gayly, taking
her hand and giving her a kiss. "You are still

    'The rose that all admire,'

but the best of friends must part."

And leaving Rose in tears, he opened the door for his sister to pass out
before him. But she, at least, passed no farther than the front porch,
where she stood looking down the lawn in surprise and anxiety, while
Sylvan hurried off to see what was the meaning of that which had so
suddenly startled them. What was it? What had happened?

A crowd of men, silent, but with faces full of suppressed excitement and
surrounding something that was borne in their midst, was slowly marching
up the avenue.

Cora watched Sylvan as he went to meet them; saw him speak to them,
though she could not hear what he said; saw them stop and put the
something, which they bore along and escorted, down on the gravel; saw a
parley between her brother and the crowd, and finally saw her brother
turn and hurry back toward the house, wearing a pale and troubled
countenance.

"You may take the carriage back to the stables, John," said the
lieutenant to the wondering negro groom, as he passed it in returning to
the porch.

"What is the matter, Sylvan? What has happened? Why have you sent the
carriage away?" Cora anxiously inquired.

"Because, my dear, we must not leave Rockhold at present," he gravely
replied. "There has been an accident, Cora."

"An accident! On the railroad?"

"No, my dear; to our old grandfather."

"To grandfather! Oh, Sylvan! no! no!" she cried, turning white, and
dropping upon a bench, all her latent affection for the aged
patriarch--the unsuspected affection--waking in her heart.

"Yes, dear," said Sylvan, softly.

"Seriously? Dangerously? Fatally? Perhaps he is dead and you are trying
to break it to me! You can't do it! You can't! Oh, Sylvan, is
grandfather dead?" she wildly demanded.

"No, dear! No, no, no! Compose yourself. They are bringing him here,
and he is perfectly conscious. He must not see you so much agitated. It
would annoy him. We do not yet know how seriously he is hurt. He was
thrown from his carriage when near North End. The horses took fright at
the passing of a train. They ran away and went over that steep bank just
at the entrance of the village. The carriage was shattered all to
pieces; the coachman killed outright--poor old Joseph--and the horses so
injured that they had to be shot."

"Poor old Joseph! I am so sorry! so very sorry! But grandfather!
grandfather!"

"He was picked up insensible; carried to the hotel on a mattress laid on
planks, borne by half a dozen workmen, and the doctor was summoned
immediately. He was laid in bed, and all means were tried to restore
consciousness. But as soon as he came to his senses he demanded to be
brought home. The doctor thought it dangerous to do so. But you know the
grandfather's obstinacy. So a stretcher was prepared, a spring mattress
laid on it, and he has been borne all the way from North End to Rockhold
Ferry by relays of six men at a time, relieving each other at short
intervals, and escorted by the doctor and our two uncles. That, Cora, is
all I can tell you."

He then entered the house, followed by Cora.

They found Rose still in the front hall, where they had left her a few
minutes before. She was seated in one of the oak chairs wiping her eyes.
She had not seen the approaching procession with the burden they
carried. And of course she had not heard their silent movements.

She looked up in surprise at the re-entrance of Cora and Sylvan.

"Oh!" she exclaimed "Have you forgotten anything? So glad to see you
back, even for half a minute. For, after all, I couldn't see you drive
away. I just shut the door and flung myself into this chair to have a
good cry. Can't you put off your journey now, just for to-night and
start to-morrow? You will have to do it anyhow. You can't catch the 6:30
express now," she added, coming toward them.

"We shall not attempt it, Rose," said Sylvan, in a kinder tone than he
usually used in speaking to her.

"I am so glad," she said, but her further words were arrested by the
grave looks of the young man.

"What is the matter with you?" she suddenly inquired.

"There has been an accident, Rose. Not fatal, my dear, so don't be
frightened. My grandfather has been thrown from his carriage and
stunned. But he has recovered consciousness, and they are bringing him
home a deal shaken, but not in serious danger."

While Sylvan spoke, Rose gazed at him in perfect silence, with her blue
eyes widening. When he finished, she asked:

"How did it happen?"

Sylvan told her.

Rose dropped into a chair and covered her face with her hands. She was
more shocked than grieved by all that she had heard. If her tyrant had
been brought home dead, I think she would only have sighed

    "With the sigh of a great deliverance!"

"Let us go now, Rose, and prepare his bed. Sylvan will stay hereto
receive him," said Cora.

The two women went up to the old man's room and turned down the
bedclothes, and laid out a change of linen, and many towels in case they
should be needed, and then went to the head of the stairs and waited and
listened.

Presently, through the open hall door, they heard the muffled tread and
subdued tones of the men, who presently entered, bearing the stretcher
on which was laid the huge form of the Iron King, covered, all except
his face, with a white bed-spread. Slowly, carefully, and with some
difficulty they bore him up the broad staircase head first--preceded by
the family physician, Dr. Cummins, and followed by Messrs. Fabian and
Clarence.

Rose and Cora stood each side the open chamber door, and when the men
bore the stretcher in and set it down on the floor, the two women
approached and looked down on the injured man.

His countenance was scarcely affected by his accident. He was no paler
than usual. He was frowning--it might be from pain or it might be from
anger--and he was glaring around. Rose was afraid to speak to him, prone
on the stretcher as he was, lest she should get her head bitten off.
Cora bent over him and said tenderly:

"Dear grandfather, I am very sorry for this. I hope you are not hurt
much."

And she had her head immediately snapped off.

"Don't be a confounded idiot!" he growled, hoarsely. "Go and send old
black Martha here. She is worth a hundred of you two."

Rose hurried off to obey this order, glad enough of an excuse to escape.
And now the room was cleared of all the men except the family physician,
the two sons, and the grandson.

These approached the stretcher and carefully and tenderly undressed the
patient and laid him on his bed.

Then the physician made a more careful examination.

There were no bones broken. The injuries seemed to be all internal; but
of their seriousness or dangerousness the physician could not yet judge.
The nervous shock had certainly been severe, and that in itself was a
grave misfortune to a man of Aaron Rockharrt's age, and might have been
instantaneously fatal to any one of less remarkable strength.

Dr. Cummins told Mr. Fabian that he should remain in attendance on his
patient all night. Then, at the desire of Mr. Rockharrt, he cleared the
sick room of every one except the old negro woman.

When the door was shut upon them all, and the chamber was quiet, he
administered a sedative to his patient and advised him to close his eyes
and try to compose himself.

Then the doctor sat down on the right side of the bed, with old Martha
on his left.

There was utter silence for a few minutes, and then old Aaron Rockharrt
spoke.

"What's the hour, doctor?"

"Seven," replied the physician after consulting his gold repeater. "But
I advise you to keep quiet and try to sleep," he added, returning his
timepiece to his fob.

As if the Iron King ever followed advice! As if he did not, on general
principles, always run counter to it!

"Didn't I see my fool of a grandson among the other lunatics who ran
after me here?" he next inquired.

"Yes."

"Where is he now?"

"With the ladies, I think."

"Send--him--up--to--me!"

The doctor shrugged his shoulders and went to obey the order. The
obstinacy of this self-willed egotist was surely growing into a
monomania, and perhaps it would have been more dangerous to oppose him
than to comply with his whim. In a few moments Dr. Cummins re-entered
the room, followed by Sylvan Haught.

"I hope you are feeling easier," said the lieutenant, as he bent over
his grandfather.

"I have not complained of feeling uneasy yet, have I?" growled the Iron
King.

"You sent for me, sir. Can I do anything for you?"

"For me? No; not likely! But you can do your duty to your country! How
is it that you are not on your way to join your regiment?"

"I had actually bidden good-by and left the house to start on my
journey, when I met men bringing you home."

"What the demon had that to do with it?"

"I could not go on, sir, and leave you under such circumstances."

"Look here, young sir!" said the Iron King, speaking hoarsely, faintly,
yet with strong determination. "Do you call yourself a soldier or a
shirk? Let me tell you that it is the first duty of a soldier to obey
orders, at all times, under all circumstances, and at all costs! If you
had been a married man, and your wife had been dying--if you had been a
father, and your child had been dying, it would have been your duty to
leave them!"

"But, sir, there was no real need that I should go by this night's
express. If I should start to-morrow morning, I shall be in good time to
report for duty. It was only my zeal to be better than prompt which
induced me to start earlier than necessary. To-morrow will be quite time
enough to leave for New York."

"Very well; then go to-morrow by the first train," said the Iron King in
a more subdued manner, for the sedative was beginning to take effect.

At a hint from the doctor the young lieutenant bade his grandfather
good-night and softly stepped out of the room.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE SICK LION.


Early the next morning Dr. Cummins came down stairs and joined the
family at the breakfast table.

In answer to anxious inquiries, he reported that Mr. Rockharrt had slept
well during the night, and had just taken refreshment prepared by old
Martha under the physician's own orders, and had composed himself to
sleep again.

"He would not admit any of us last night. Will he see me this morning?"
inquired Rose Rockharrt.

"Of course, after a little while. It was best that I and the old nurse
should have watched him alone together last night, but the woman now
needs rest, and I must presently take leave, to look after my other
patients. You two ladies must take the watch to-day, with one of these
gentlemen within call. I will give you full directions for my patient's
treatment, and will see him again in the afternoon."

"Does my father's present condition admit of my leaving him to go and
look after the works this morning?" inquired Mr. Fabian, who had spent
the night at Rockhold.

"Yes," replied the doctor, after some little hesitation. "Yes; I think
so. If your presence here should be absolutely needed, you can be
promptly summoned, you know; but one of you should remain on guard."

"Clarence will stay home, then," replied Mr. Fabian.

"Doctor, you heard my grandfather order me to leave Rockhold this
morning to join my regiment. Now, what do you think? May I see him
before I go?" inquired the young lieutenant.

"I will let you know when he wakes," said Dr. Cummins.

"Must you leave us to-day, Sylvan? Could you not be excused under the
circumstances?" inquired Mrs. Rockharrt.

"No; I could not be excused. I must join my regiment, Rose."

"But, Cora! Oh, Cora! You will not leave us now? You are not under
orders, and--and--I wish you would stay," pleaded Rose.

"I shall stay, Rose. It is as much my bounden duty to stay as it is that
of Sylvan to go," answered Cora.

"Oh, that is such a relief to my feelings!" exclaimed the other lady.

Dr. Cummins looked up in surprise, glancing from one woman to the other.

Sylvan undertook to explain.

"My sister was going out with me, sir. I am her nearest relative, as she
is mine, and we do not like to be separated."

"Ah!" said the doctor. "And now, very properly, she decides to stay
here."

"For a while, Dr. Cummins--until the case of my grandfather shall be
decided. Later I shall certainly follow my brother," Cora explained.

Before another word could be uttered the door opened, and Violet
Rockharrt, in a silver gray carriage dress, entered the room. Mr. Fabian
sprang up to meet her.

"My dear child, why have you come out here against all orders?"

Mrs. Fabian Rockharrt saluted all the company at the breakfast, who had
risen to receive her, and then replied to her husband's question.

"I have come to see how our father is. It was twelve o'clock last night
when your messenger arrived at the Banks and told me that you would not
be able to return that night, because an accident had happened to Mr.
Rockharrt. Not a dangerous one, but yet one that would keep you with him
for some hours. I know very well how accidents are smoothed over in
being reported to women; so I was not reassured by that clause, and I
would have set out for Rockhold immediately if it had not been a
starless midnight, making the road dangerous to others as well as
myself. But I was up at daybreak to start this morning, and here I am."

"Sit down, my child; sit down. You look pale and tired. Ah! did not our
good doctor here forbid you taking long walks or rides?"

"I know, Fabian; but sometimes a woman must be a law to herself. It was
my duty to come in person and inquire after our father; so I came, even
against orders," said Violet, composedly.

"Now look at that little creature, doctor. She seems as soft as a dove,
as gentle as a lamb; but she is perfectly lawless. She defies me, abuses
me, and upon occasion thrashes me. Would you believe it of her?"
demanded Mr. Fabian, gazing with pride and delight on his good little
wife.

"Oh, yes; I can quite believe it. She looks a perfect shrew, vixen,
virago! Oh, how I pity you, Mr. Fabian!" said the doctor.

Cora filled out a cup of coffee and brought it to the visitor,
whispering:

"I am glad you came, Violet. I do not believe it will hurt you one bit
in any way."

"Can I see father? I want to see for myself, and to kiss him, and tell
him how sorry I am; and I want to help to nurse him. Say, can I see
him?"

"Not just now, dear. None of us have seen him since he was put to bed
last evening except the doctor and the nurse; but in the course of the
day you may. You will spend the day with us?" Cora inquired.

"I will spend the day and the night, and to-morrow and to-morrow night,
and this week and next week, and just as long as I can be helpful and
useful to father, if you and mamma there will permit me. And, by the
way, I have not kissed mamma yet. Only shaken hands with her." And so
saying, Violet put down her untasted cup of coffee, went around the
table, put her arms round Rose's neck, and kissed her fondly, saying:

"You are very sweet and lovely, mamma, and I know I shall love you. I
wanted to come and see you before this, but the doctor there wouldn't
allow it. But now I have come to stay as long as I may be wanted."

"I should want you forever, sweet wood violet," cooed Rose, returning
her caresses.

Mr. Fabian turned away, half in wrath, half in mirth. He was much too
good humored to be seriously offended as he said to the doctor:

"Ah! these dove-eyed darlings! How mistaken we are in them! You are an
old bachelor, Cummins; but if you should ever take it into your head to
repent of celibacy, don't marry a dove-eyed darling, if you don't want
to be defied all the days of your life."

"I won't," said the doctor; "but now I must go and see how Mr. Rockharrt
is getting on, and take leave to look after my other patients."

And he left the breakfast room, followed by Mr. Fabian.

"You and Sylvan will not leave Rockhold for some time," said Violet,
with a little air of triumph.

"Sylvan must leave this morning. I shall remain until grandfather gets
well," said Cora--"or dies," she added, mentally.

In a few minutes Dr. Cummins returned and said that Mr. Rockharrt would
see Lieutenant Haught first, and afterward the other members of his
family.

Then the physician bade the family good morning, and left the house.

Sylvan went up stairs to their grandfather's room.

There they found Mr. Fabian seated by the bedside.

Old Martha had gone to her garret to lie down and rest. The windows were
all open, and the summer sun and air lighted and cooled the room.

"Come here, Sylvan," said the Iron King, and his voice, though hoarse
and feeble, was peremptory.

"The young lieutenant went up to the bedside and said:

"I hope you are feeling better this morning, sir."

"I hope so, too; but don't let us waste words in compliments. Cummins
tells me that you wished to bid me good-by."

"Yes, sir."

"Well, bid good-by, then."

"Grandfather, have you anything to say to me before I go?" respectfully
inquired the young man.

"If I had, don't you suppose that I could say it? Well, if you wish
advice, I will give it you very briefly: You are an 'officer and a
gentleman'--that is the phrase, I believe?"

"I hope so, sir."

"Then behave as one under all circumstances. Never lie--even to women;
never cheat--even the government. That is all. I cannot bless you if
that is what you want. No man can bless another--not even the Pope of
Rome or the Archbishop of Canterbury. No one under heaven can bless you.
You can only bless yourself by doing your whole duty under all
circumstances. You will have men in authority over you. Obey them. You
will have authority over other men. Make them obey you. There,
good-by!" said old Aaron Rockharrt, holding out his hand to his
grandson.

Sylvan noticed how that hand shook as its aged owner held it up. He took
it, lifted it to his lips, and pressed it to his heart.

"There, there; don't be foolish, Sylvan! Good-by! Good-by! And you,
Fabian! What are you loitering here for, when you should be looking
after the works?" impatiently demanded the Iron King.

"The carriage stands at the door, sir, waiting to take Sylvan to his
train. I shall go with him as far as North End and try to do your work
there in addition to my own."

"Quite right. Where is Clarence?"

"At North End, sir, where he went directly after he saw you safe in bed
under the doctor's care," said Mr. Fabian, lying as fast as a horse
could trot.

"Very well. Send the two women here."

"There happen to be three women below at present, sir. Violet has come
to see you."

In the morning sitting room below stairs Sylvan and Fabian found the
three ladies with Clarence, all in a state of anxiety to hear from the
injured man.

Sylvan was more agitated in leaving his sister than any young soldier
should have been. At the last, the very last instant of parting, when
Mr. Fabian had left the parlor and was on his way to the carriage,
Sylvan turned back and for the third time clasped Cora in his arms.

"Never mind, Sylvan, as soon as I possibly can, without violating my
duty to the only one on earth to whom I owe any duty, I shall go out to
you. I can see now, now in this hour of parting, how very right I was in
deciding to go with you. My journey is not abandoned, it is only
postponed. God bless you, my dear."

After standing at the front door until they had watched the carriage
out of sight, the three went up stairs and softly entered the room of
the injured man, so softly that he did not hear their entrance. They
stood in a silent group, believing him to be asleep, and afraid to sit
down, lest a chair should creak and wake him up.

In a few seconds, however, they heard him clear his throat, knew that he
was awake, and went up to his bedside.

Rose spoke, gently, for all.

"You sent for us, Mr. Rockharrt. We are all here, and we hope that you
are much better," she said.

"Oh, you do! Stand there--all three of you at the foot of the bed, so
that I can see you without turning."

The three women obeyed, placing themselves in line as he had directed,
and perceived that he lay upon the flat of his back, looking straight
before him, because he could not turn on either side without great pain.

He scanned them and then said:

"Ah, Violet, you are there! You have a proper sense of duty, my girl. So
you have come to see how it is with me yourself, eh?"

"Yes, father; and also to stay and help to nurse you, it I may be
permitted to do so."

"Rubbish! My wife can nurse me. It is her place. I don't want a lot of
other women around me! I won't have more than one in the room with me at
a time! Violet, get into your carriage and return to your home."

"Oh, papa, how have I offended you?"

"Not in any way as yet; but you will offend me if you disobey me. You
must go home at once. You are not in a condition to be of any service
here. You would only injure your own health, and distract the attention
of these women from me. Wherever there is a lot of women, there is sure
to be more talk than duty. So you must go. When I get well, and you get
strong again, you may come and stay as long as you like. So, now, bid me
good-by and be off with yourself."

Violet, feeling much chagrined, went around to the side of the bed, took
the hand of her father-in-law, bent over and kissed him good-by.

"Now, Cora, take her out and see her off."

Violet took leave of her young mother-in-law, and followed Cora from the
sick room.

"Now, Rose, close all the shutters; darken the room and sit beside the
head of my bed. Don't speak until you are spoken to; don't move; don't
even read; but sit still, silent, attentive, while I try to rest."

Rose obeyed all his orders, and then sat like a dead woman, back in the
resting chair beside him. She had noted how weak and husky his voice had
been in giving his instructions to his "womankind," with what pain and
effort he had spoken, while his strong will bore him through the
interview, which, short as it was, had left him prostrate and exhausted.

Rose wished to offer him the cordial the doctor had left, but he had
ordered her not to move or speak until she was spoken to, and Rose dared
not disobey. She did not know what might be the result of her passive
obedience to him, nor, to tell the truth, did she very much care. Rose
was weary of life!

Meanwhile, Cora and Violet went down stairs together.

At six o'clock the doctor came, and made anxious inquiries into the
state of the injured man; but Cora could only report that he seemed to
have passed a quiet day, watched by his wife, but unapproached by any
other member of his family, all of whom he had forbidden to come near
him unless called.

"A very wise provision, my dear Mrs. Rothsay. I will go up now and see
him," said Dr. Cummins.

A few minutes later Rose came down and entered the parlor, looking very
faint and white except for two small, deep crimson spots on the cheeks.

"Here, Rose, take this chair," said Violet, vacating the most
comfortable seat in the room, on which she had sat all the afternoon.

The woman dropped into it, too weak and weary to stand upon ceremony.

"How did you leave grandfather?"

"I hardly know; but doing well, I should think, for he has been dozing
all day, only waking up to ask for iced beef tea, or milk punch, and
then, when he had drank one or the other, going to sleep again. I have
been fanning him all the time except when I have been feeding him."

While Rose was sipping some tea which had been promptly brought to her,
the doctor came in and reported Mr. Rockharrt as doing extremely well.

"You will stay to dinner with us, Dr. Cummins," said Rose.

"Thank you, my dear lady, but I cannot. I shall just wait to see Mr.
Fabian Rockharrt and give my report to him in all its details, as I
promised, and then hurry home and go to bed. I have had no sleep for the
last twenty-four--no, bless my soul! not for the last thirty-six hours!"
replied the physician. He had scarcely ceased to speak when Mr. Fabian
entered the room.

"Oh! home so soon!" exclaimed Violet, starting up to meet him.

"Yes; how is the father?"

"There is the doctor; ask him."

"Ah, Dr. Cummins! Good afternoon? How is your patient?"

"Come with me into the library, Mr. Fabian, and I will give you a full
report."

"Where is Clarence?" inquired Fabian.

"Up stairs somewhere. He did not come to luncheon," replied Cora.

"Poor Clarence! He is awfully cut up!" said Mr. Fabian, as he left the
parlor with Dr. Cummins. As they passed through the hall they were
joined by Mr. Clarence, who had just heard of the doctor's arrival.

"I left him very comfortable, carefully watched by old Martha, who has
waked up refreshed after a ten hours' sleep and has taken her place by
his bedside. There is no immediate cause for anxiety, my dear Clarence,"
said the physician, in reply to the questions put to him.

"The worst of it is, doctor, that while it was absolutely necessary for
me to stay here during Fabian's absence, I dare not go into my father's
room. He thinks that I am at North End. And he would become very angry
if he knew that I was here against his will and his commands. Besides
which, I hate deception and concealment," complained Mr. Clarence.

"It is rather a difficult case to manage, my boy, but it is absolutely
necessary that either yourself or your brother should be on hand here
day and night; it is equally necessary that your father should be kept
quiet. So I see nothing better to do than for you to stay here and keep
still until you are wanted," replied the doctor.

And then the three went into the little library or office at the rear of
the hall, and what further was said among them was whispered with closed
doors. At the end of fifteen minutes they came out. The doctor took
leave of all the family and went away.

Mr. Fabian went up to his father's door and rapped softly.

Old Martha came to admit him.

"How is your master? Is he awake? Can I see him?" he inquired.

"Surely, Marse Fabe! Ole marse wide awake, berry easy, and 'quiring
arter you. Come in, sar!"

Mr. Fabian entered the room, which was in some darkness from the closed
window shutters, and went up to his father's bed.

"I hope you are better, sir," he said.

"I don't know," said the injured man, in a faint voice.

"How are the works getting on?"

"Famously, sir! Splendidly! Pray do not feel the least anxiety on that
score."

"Where is Clarence?"

"At North End, sir. Of course, he would not think of leaving the works
while both you and myself are absent."

"I don't know," sighed the weary invalid, for the third time. "But you
had better not, either of you, attempt to deceive me while I am lying
here on my back."

"Not for the world, my dear father! Pray do not be doubtful or anxious.
We are your dutiful sons, sir, and our first--"

"Rubbish!" exclaimed the broken Iron King. "That will do! Go send Rose
to me. Why the deuce did she leave? I--I--I--" His voice dropped into an
inarticulate murmur.

Mr. Fabian bent over him, and saw that he had dozed off to sleep.

"Dat's de way he's been a-goin' on ebber since de doctor lef'. It's de
truck wot de doctor give him," said old Martha.

Fabian stole on tiptoe out of the room. Dinner was waiting for him down
stairs. He would not deliver his father's selfish message to Rose,
because he wished the poor creature to dine in peace. He told Clarence
to give her his arm to the dining room.

While they were all at dinner Violet explained to her husband why Mr.
Rockharrt had directed her to return home. Poor Violet was very loth to
stir up any ill feeling between the father and son; but she need not
have feared. Mr. Fabian understood the autocrat too well to take offense
at the dismissal of his wife.

The next morning when the family physician arrived, and visited the
injured man, he found him suffering from restlessness and a rising
fever.

He reported this condition to Mr. Clarence Rockharrt, left very
particular directions for the treatment of the patient, and then took
leave, with the promise to return in the evening and remain all night.

Later in the afternoon the doctor, having finished all other
professional calls for the day, arrived at Rockhold. He found his
patient delirious. He took up his post by the sick bed for the night,
and then peremptorily sent off the worn-out watcher, Rose, to the rest
she so much needed.

The condition of Aaron Rockharrt was very critical. Irritative fever had
set in with great violence, and this was the beginning of the hard
struggle for life that lasted many days, during which delirium, stupor,
and brief lucid intervals followed each other with the rise and fall of
the fever. A professional nurse was engaged to attend him; but the real
burden of the nursing fell on Rose.



CHAPTER XXVI.

A VOLUNTARY EXPIATION.


Rose never lost patience. She stayed by the bedside always until the
doctor turned her out of the room. She came back the moment she was
called, night or day.

Weeks passed and Mr. Rockharrt grew better and stronger, but Rose grew
worse and weaker. The fine autumn weather that braced up the
convalescent old man chilled and depressed the consumptive young woman.

It was certain that Mr. Rockharrt would entirely regain his health and
strength, and even take out a new lease of life.

"I never saw any one like your grandfather in all my long practice,"
said the doctor to Cora one morning, after he had left his patient; "he
is a wonder to me. Nothing but a catastrophe could ever have laid him on
an invalid bed; and no other man that I know could have recovered from
such injuries as he has sustained. Why in a month from this time he will
be as well as ever. He has a constitution of tremendous strength."

"But the poor wife," said Cora.

"Ah, poor soul!" sighed the doctor.

"And yet a little while ago she seemed such a perfect picture of
health."

"My dear, wherever you see that abnormally clear, fresh,
semi-transparent complexion, be sure it is a bad sign--a sign of
unsoundness within."

"Can nothing be done for Rose?"

"Yes; and I am doing it as much as she will let me. I advise a warmer
climate for the coming winter. Mr. Rockharrt will be able to travel by
the first of November, and he should then take her to Florida. But, you
see, he pooh-poohs the whole suggestion. Well--'A willful man must have
his way,'" said the doctor, as he took up his hat and bade the lady
good-by.

A week after this conversation, on the day on which Aaron Rockharrt
first sat up in his easy chair, Rose had her first hemorrhage from the
lungs. It laid her on the bed from which she was never to rise.

Cora became her constant and tender nurse. Rose was subdued and patient.
A few days after this she said to the lady:

"It seems to me that my own dear father, who has been absent from my
thoughts for so many years, has drawn very near his poor child in these
last few months, and nearer still in the last few days. I do not see
him, nor hear him, nor feel him by any natural sense, but I do perceive
him. I do perceive that he is trying to do me good, and that he is glad
I am coming to him so soon. I am sorry for all the wrong I have done,
and I hope the Lord will forgive me. But how can I expect Him to do it,
when I can scarcely forgive--even now on my dying bed I can scarcely
forgive--my step-mother and her husband for the neglect and cruelty that
wrecked my life? Oh, but I forget. You know nothing of all this."

Cora did know. Fabian had told her; but he had also exacted a promise of
secrecy from her; so she said nothing in reply to this.

Rose continued, speaking in a low, meditative tone:

"Yes; I am sorry, sorry for the evil I have done. It was not worth while
to do it. Life is too short--too short even at its longest. But, oh! I
had such a passionate ambition for recognition by the great world! for
the admiration of society! Every one whom I met in our quiet lives told
me, either by words or looks, that I was beautiful--very beautiful--and
I believed them; and I longed for wealth and rank, for dress and jewels,
to set off this beauty, and for ease and luxury to enjoy life. Oh, what
vanity! Oh, what selfishness! And here I am, with the grave yawning to
swallow me up," she murmured, drearily.

"No, dear; no," said Cora, gently laying her hand on the blue-white
forehead of the fading woman. "No, Rose. No grave opens for any human
being; but only for the body that the freed human being has left behind.
It is not the grave that opens for you, Rose, but your father's arms.
Would you like to see a minister, dear?"

"If Mr. Rockharrt does not object."

"Then you shall see one."

Rose's sick room was on the opposite side of the hall from Mr.
Rockharrt's convalescent apartment.

If the Iron King felt any sorrow at his young wife's mortal illness, he
did not show it. If he felt any compunction for having taxed her
strength to its extremity, he did not express it. He maintained his
usual stolid manner, and merely issued general orders that no trouble or
expense must be spared in her treatment and in her interest. He came
into her room every day, leaning on the arm of his servant, to ask her
how she felt, and to sit a few minutes by her bed.

Violet could no longer come to Rockhold, because a little Violet bud,
only a few days old, kept her a close prisoner at the Banks. But Mr.
Fabian came twice a week. The minister from the mission church at North
End came very frequently, and as he was an earnest, fervent Christian,
his ministrations were most beneficial to Rose.

On the day that Mr. Rockharrt first rode out, the end came, rather
suddenly at the last.

There was no one in the house but Cora and the servants, Mr. Clarence
having gone back to North End. Cora had left Rose in the care of old
Martha, and had come down stairs to write a letter to her brother. She
had scarcely written a page when the door was opened by Martha, who
said, in a frightened tone:

"Come, Miss Cora--come quick! there's a bad change. I'm 'feard to leave
her a minute, even to call you. Please come quick!"

Both went to the bedside of the dying woman, over whose face the dark
shadows of death were creeping. Rose could no longer raise her hand to
beckon or raise her voice to call, but she fixed her eyes imploringly on
Cora, who bent low to catch any words she might wish to say. She was
gasping for breath as in broken tones she whispered:

"Cora--the Lord--has given me--grace--to forgive them. Write to--my
step-mother. Fabian--will tell you--where--"

"Yes; I will, I will, dear Rose," said Cora, gazing down through
blinding tears, as she stooped and pressed her warm lips on the
death-cold lips beneath them.

Rose lifted her failing eyes to Cora's sympathetic face and never moved
them more; there they became fixed.

The sound of approaching wheels was heard.

"It is my grandfather. Go and tell him," whispered Cora to old Martha
without turning her head.

The woman left the room, and in a few moments Mr. Rockharrt entered it,
leaning on the arm of his valet.

When he approached the bed, he saw how it was and asked no questions. He
went to the side opposite to that occupied by Cora, and bent over the
dying woman.

"Rose," he said in a low voice--"Rose, my child."

She was past answering, past hearing. He took her thin, chill hand in
his, but it was without life.

He bent still lower over her, and whispered:

"Rose."

But she never moved or murmured.

Her eyes were fixed in death on those of Cora.

Then suddenly a smile came to the dying face, light dawned in the dying
eyes, as she lifted them and gazed away beyond Cora's form, and
murmuring contented;

"Father, father--" and

    "With a sigh of a great deliverance,"

she fell asleep.

They stood in silence over the dead for a few moments, and then Mr.
Rockharrt drew the white coverlet up over the ashen face, and then
leaning on the arm of his servant went out of the room.

Three days later the mortal remains of Rose Rockharrt were laid in the
cemetery at North End.

It was on the first of November, a week after the funeral, that Mr.
Rockharrt, for the first time in three months, went to the works.

On that day, while Cora sat alone in the parlor, a card was brought to
her--

"The Duke of Cumbervale."

The Duke of Cumbervale entered the parlor.

Cora rose to receive him; the blood rushing to her head and suffusing
her face with blushes, merely from the vivid memory of the painful past
called up by the sudden sight of the man who had been the unconscious
cause of all her unhappiness. Most likely the old lover mistook the
meaning of the lady's agitation in his presence, and ascribed it to a
self-flattering origin.

However that might have been, he advanced with easy grace, and bowing
slightly, said:

"My dear Mrs. Rothsay, I am very happy to see you again! I hope I find
you quite well?"

"Quite well, thank you," she replied, recovering her self-control.

In the ensuing conversation, Cora made known her grandfather's accident
and the death of Rose.

"I am truly grieved to have intruded at so inopportune a time," asserted
the visitor, and arose to take leave.

Then Cora's conscience smote her for her inhospitable rudeness. Here was
a man who had crossed the sea at her grandfather's invitation, who had
reached the country in ignorance of the family trouble; who had come
directly from the seaport to North End, and ridden from North End to
Rockhold--a distance of six or seven miles; and she had scarcely given
him a civil reception. And now should she let him go all the way back to
North End without even offering him some refreshment?

Such a course, under such circumstances, even toward an utter stranger,
would have been unprecedented in her neighborhood, which had always been
noted for its hospitality.

Yet still she was afraid to offer him any polite attention, lest she
should in so doing give him encouragement to urge his suit, that she
dreaded to hear, and was determined to reject.

It was not until the visitor had taken his hat in his left hand, and
held out the right to bid her good morning, that she forced herself to
do her hostess' duty, and say:

"This is a very dull house, duke, but if you can endure its dullness, I
beg you will stay to lunch with me."

A smile suddenly lighted up the visitor's cold blue eyes.

"'Dull,' madam? No house can be dull--even though darkened by a recent
bereavement--which is blessed by your presence. I thank you. I shall
stay with much pleasure."

And now I have done it! thought Cora, with vexation.

At length the clock struck two, the luncheon bell rang, and Cora arose
with a smile of invitation. The duke gave her his arm, they went into
the dining room. The gray-haired butler was in waiting. They took their
places at the table. Old John had just set a plate of lobster salad
before the guest when the sound of carriage wheels was heard approaching
the house. In a few minutes more there came heavy steps along the hall,
the door opened, and old Aaron Rockharrt entered the room. Cora and her
visitor both arose.

"Ah, duke! how do you do? I got your telegram on reaching North End;
went to the hotel to meet you, and found that you had started for
Rockhold. Had your dispatch arrived an hour earlier I should have gone
in my carriage to meet you," said the Iron King with pompous politeness.

Now it seemed in order for the visitor to offer some condolence to this
bereaved husband. But how could he, where the widower himself so
decidedly ignored the subject of his own sorrow? To have said one word
about his recent loss would have been, in the world's opinion and
vocabulary, "bad form."

"You are very kind, Mr. Rockharrt; and I thank you. I came on quite
comfortably in the hotel hack, which waits to take me back," was all
that he said.

"No, sir! that hack does not wait to take you back. I have sent it away.
Moreover, I settled your bill at the hotel, gave up your rooms, saw your
valet, and ordered your luggage to be brought here. It will arrive in an
hour," said the Iron King, as he threw himself into the great leathern
chair that the old butler pushed to the table for his master's
accommodation.

The duke looked at the old man in a state of stupefaction. How on earth
should he deal with this purse-proud egotist, who took the liberty of
paying his hotel bill, giving up his apartments and ordering his
servants? and doing all this without the faintest idea that he was
committing an unpardonable impertinence.

"You are to know, duke, that from the time you entered upon my domain at
North End, you became my guest--mine, sir! John, that Johannisberg. Fill
the duke's glass. My own importation, sir; twelve years in my cellar.
You will scarcely find its equal anywhere. Your health, sir."

The duke bowed and sipped his wine.

His future bearing to this old barbarian required mature reflection.
Only for the duke's infatuation with Cora, it would have not have needed
a minute's thought to make up his mind to flee from Rockhold forthwith.

When luncheon was over Mr. Rockharrt invited the duke into his study to
smoke. Before they had finished their first cigar the Iron King,
withdrawing his "lotus," and sending a curling cloud of vapor into the
air, said:

"You have something on your mind that you wish to get off it, sir. Out
with it! Nothing like frankness and promptness."

"You are right, Mr. Rockharrt. I do wish to speak to you on a point on
which my life's happiness hangs. Your beautiful granddaughter--"

"Yes, yes! Of course I knew it concerned her."

"Then I hope you do not disapprove my suit."

"I don't now, or I never should have invited you to come over to this
country and speak for yourself. The circumstances are different. When I
refused my granddaughter's hand to you in London, it was because I had
already promised it to another man--a fine fellow, worthy to become one
of my family, if ever a man was--and I never break a promise. So I
refused your offer, and brought the young woman home, and married her
to Rothsay, who disappeared in a strange and mysterious manner, as you
may have heard, and was never heard of again until the massacre of
Terrepeur by the Comanche Indians--among whom, it seems, he was a
missionary--when the news came that he had been murdered by the savages
and his body burned in the fire of his own hut. But the horror is two
years old now, and I am at liberty to bestow the hand of my widowed
granddaughter on whomsoever I please. You'll do as well as another man,
and Heaven knows that I shall be glad to have any honest white man take
her off my hands, for she is giving me a deal of trouble."

"Trouble, sir? I thought your lovely granddaughter was the comfort and
staff of your age, and, therefore, almost feared to ask her hand in
marriage. But what is the nature of the trouble, if I may ask?"

"Didn't I tell you? Well, she has got a missionary maggot in her head.
It's feeding on all the little brains she ever had. She wants to go out
as a teacher and preacher to the red heathen, and spend her life and her
fortune among them. She wants to do as Rule did, and, I suppose, die as
Rule died. Oh, of course--

    "Twas so for me young Edwin did,
     And so for him will I!'

"And all that rot. I cannot break her will without breaking her neck. If
you can do anything with her, take her, in the Lord's name. And joy go
with her."

The young suitor felt very uncomfortable. He was not at all used to such
an old ruffian as this. He did not know how to talk with him--what to
reply to his rude consent to the proposal of marriage. At length his
compassion, no less than his love for Cora, inspired him to say:

"Thank you, Mr. Rockharrt. I will take the lady, if she will do me the
honor to trust her happiness to my keeping."

"More fool you! But that is your look-out," grunted the old man.

The next morning when they met at breakfast Mr. Rockharrt invited his
guest to accompany him to North End to inspect the iron mines and
foundries, the locomotive works and all the rest of it.

The duke had no choice but to accept the invitation.

The two gentlemen left directly after breakfast, and Cora rejoiced in
the respite of one whole day from the society of the unwelcome guest.

She saw the house set in order, gave directions for the dinner, and then
retired to her own private sitting room to resume her labor of love, the
life of her lost husband.

Earlier than usual that afternoon the Iron King returned home
accompanied by their guest and by Mr. Clarence, who had come with them
in honor of the duke. The evening was spent in a rubber of whist, in
which Mr. Rockharrt and the duke, who were partners, were the winners
over Cora and Mr. Clarence, their antagonists. The evening was finished
at the usual hour with champagne and sago biscuits.

The next morning, when Mr. Rockharrt and Mr. Clarence were about to
leave the house for the carriage to take them to North End, the Iron
King turned abruptly and said to his granddaughter:

"By the way, Cora, Fabian and Violet are coming to dinner this evening
to meet the duke. It will be a mere family affair upon a family
occasion, eh, duke! A very quiet little dinner among ourselves. No other
guests! Good morning."

And so saying the old man left the house, accompanied by his son.

Cora returned to the drawing room, where she had left the duke. He
arose immediately and placed a chair for her; but she waved her hand in
refusal of it, and standing, said very politely:

"You will find the magazines of the month and the newspapers of the day
on the table of the library on the opposite side of the hall, if you
feel disposed to look over them."

"The papers of to-day! How is it possible you are so fortunate as to get
the papers of to-day at so early an hour, at so remote a point?"
inquired the duke, probably only to hold her in conversation.

"Mr. Clarence Rockharrt's servant takes them from the earliest mail and
starts with them for Rockhold. Mr. Rockharrt usually reads the morning
papers here before his breakfast."

"A wonderful conquest over time and space are our modern locomotives,"
observed the duke.

Cora assented, and then said:

"Pray use the full freedom of the house and grounds; of the servants
also, and the horses and carriages. Mr. Rockharrt places them all at
your disposal. But please excuse me, for I have an engagement which will
occupy me nearly all day."

The duke looked disappointed, but bowed gravely and answered:

"Of course; pray do not let me be a hindrance to your more important
occupations, Mrs. Rothsay."

"Thank you!" she answered, a little vaguely, and with a smile she left
the room,

    "Rejoicing to be free!"

The duke anathematized his fate in finding so much difficulty in the way
of his wooing, his ladylove evading him with a grace, a coolness, and a
courtesy which he was constrained to respect.

He strolled into the library, and then loitered along on the path
leading down to the ferry.

Here he found the boat at the little wharf and old Lebanon on duty.

"Sarvint, marster," said the old negro, touching his rimless old felt
hat. "Going over?"

"Yes, my man," said the duke, stepping on board the boat.

"W'ich dey calls me Uncle Lebnum as mentions ob me in dese parts,
marster," the old ferryman explained, touching his hat.

"Oh, they do? Very well. I will remember," said the passenger, as the
boat was pushed off from the shore.

"How many trips do you make in a day?" inquired the fare.

"Pen's 'pon how many people is a-comin' an' goin'. Some days I don't
make no trip at all. Oder days, w'en dere's a weddin' or a fun'al, I
makes many as fifty."

The passage was soon made, and the duke stepped out on the west bank.

"Is there any path leading to the top of this ridge, Uncle--Lemuel?"
inquired the duke.

"Lebnum, young marster, if you please! Lebnum!--w'ich dere is no paff
an' no way o' gettin' to de top o' dis wes' range, jes' 'cause 'tis too
orful steep; but ef you go 'bout fo' mile up de road, you'd come to a
paff leadin' zigzag, wall o' Troy like, up to Siffier's Roos'."

"Zephyr's--what?"

"Roos', marster. Yes, sar. W'ich so 'tis call 'cause she usen to roos'
up dar, jes' like ole turkey buzzard. W'en you get up dar, you can see
ober free States. Yes, sar, 'cause dat p'ints w'ere de p'ints o' boundy
lines ob free States meets--yes, sah!"

"I think I will take a walk to that point. I suppose I can find the
path?"

"You can't miss it, sah, if you keeps a sharp look-out. About fo' miles
up, sah"

"Very well. Shall you be here when I come back?"

"No, sah. Dis ain't my stoppin' place; t'other side is. But I'll be on
de watch dere, and ef you holler for me, I'll come. I'll come anyways,
'cause I'll be sure to see you."

"Quite so," said the duke, as he sauntered up that very road between the
foot of the mountain and the bank of the river down which the festive
crowd had come on Corona Haught's fatal wedding day.

An hour's leisurely walk brought him to the first cleft in the rock.

From the back of this the path ascended, with many a double, to the
wooded shelf on which old Scythia's hut had once stood--hidden. When he
reached the spot he found nothing but charred logs, blasted trees, and
ashes, as if the spot had been wasted by fire.

A ray of dazzling light darted from the ashes at his feet. In some
surprise he stooped to ascertain the cause, and picked up a ring;
examined it curiously; found it to be set with a diamond of rare beauty
and great value. Then in sudden amazement he turned to the reverse side
of the golden cup that clasped the gem and saw a monogram.

"I thought so," he muttered to himself; "I thought that there was not
another such a peculiar setting to any gem in the world but that; and
now the monogram proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt to be the same.
But how in the name of wonder should the lost talisman be found here--in
the ashes of some charcoal burner's hut?"

With these words he took out and opened his pocket-book and carefully
placed the ring in its safest fold, closed and returned the book to his
pocket, and arose and left the spot. The duke turned to descend the
mountain.

At length, however, he reached the foot, and then, under the shadow of
the ridge that threw the whole narrow valley into premature twilight, he
hurried to the ferry.

The boat was not there. Indeed, he had not expected to find it after
what old Lebanon had told him. It was too obscure in the valley to
permit him to see across the river, so he shouted:

"Boat!"

"All wight, young marster, but needn't split your t'roat nor my brain
pan, nider! I can hear you! I's coming!" came the voice from mid-stream,
for the old ferryman was already half across the river with a chance
passenger.

In a few minutes more the boat grated upon the shore and the passenger
jumped out, tipped his hat to the duke, and hurried up the river road
toward North End.

"Dat pusson were Mr. Thomas Rylan', fust foreman ober all de founderies.
Dere's a many foremen, but he be de fust. Come down long ob de ole mars
dis arternoon arter some 'counts, I reckon, an' now gone back wid a big
bundle ob papers an' doc'ments. Yes, sah. Get in. I's ready to start,"
said the ferryman, as he cleared a seat in the stern of the boat for the
accommodation of the passenger.

"Who used to live in that hut on the mountain before it was burned
down?" inquired the duke as he took his seat.

"Ole Injun 'oman named Siffier."

"Where did she come from?"

"Dunno dat nudder. Nobody dunno."

"Can't you tell me something about such a strange person who lived right
here in your neighborhood?"

"Look yere, marster, leas' said soones' mended where she's 'cerned. I
can't tell you on'y but jes' dis: She 'peared yere 'bout twenty year
ago, or mo'. She built dat dere hut wid her own han's, an' she use to
make baskets an' brackets an' sich, an' fetch 'em roun' to de people to
sell. She made 'em out'n twigs an' ornimented 'em wid red rose berries
an' hollies an' sich, an' mighty purty dey was, an' de young gals liked
'em, dey did. An' she made her libbin outen de money she got for her
wares. She use to tell fortins too; an' folks did say as she tole true,
an' some did say as she had a tell-us-man ring w'ich, when she wore it,
she could see inter de futur; but Lor', young marse, dey was on'y
supercilly young idiwuts as b'leibed dat trash! But she nebber would
take no money for tellin' fortins--nebber!--w'ich was curous. De berry
day as de gubner-leck was missin' ob, she wanished too. When de
cons'able went to 'rest her, he foun' her gone an' de hut burnt up. Now,
yere we is, young marse, at de lan'in', an' you can get right out yere
'dout wettin' your feet," said the old ferryman, as he pushed the boat
up to the dry end of the wharf.

The passenger astonished the old ferryman by putting a quarter of an
eagle in his hand, and then sprang from the boat and ran up the avenue
leading toward the house. There was no light visible from the windows of
the mansion. The dinner party was a strictly private family affair, and
nothing but the solitary lamp at the head of the avenue appeared to
guide the pedestrian's steps through the darkness of the newly fallen
night.

He reached the house, and was admitted by the old servant.

When his toilet was complete, the duke went down to the drawing room to
join the family circle.

The dinner, quiet as it was, was a success. To be sure, the diners were
all in deep mourning and the conversation was rather subdued; but, then,
it was perhaps on that account the more interesting.

The many courses, altogether, occupied more than an hour.

When the cloth was drawn and the dessert placed upon the table, at a
signal from the Iron King the butler went around the table and filled
every glass with champagne, then returned and stood at his master's
back. Mr. Rockharrt arose and made a speech, and proposed a toast that
greatly astonished his company and compromised two of them. With his
glass in his hand, he said:

"My sons, daughters, and friend: You all doubtless understand the object
of this family gathering, and also why this celebration of an
interesting family event must necessarily be confined to the members of
the family. In a word, it is my duty and pleasure to announce to you all
the betrothal in marriage of his grace the Duke of Cumbervale and my
granddaughter, Mrs. Corona Rothsay. I propose the health of the
betrothed pair."

Cora put down her glass and turned livid with dismay and indignation.
All the other diners, the duke among them, arose to the occasion and
honored the toast, and then sat down, all except the duke, who remained
standing, and though somewhat embarrassed by this unexpected proceeding
on the part of the Iron King, yet vaguely supposed it might be a local
custom, and at all events was certainly very much pleased with it. Being
in love and being taken by surprise, he could not be expected to speak
sensibly, or even coherently. He said:

"Ladies and gentlemen: This is the happiest day of my life as yet. I
look forward to a happier one in the near future, when I shall call the
lovely lady at my side by the dearest name that man can utter, and I
shall call you not only my dear friends, but my near relatives. I
propose the health of the greatest benefactor of the human race now
living. The man who, by his mighty life's work, has opened up the
resources of nature, compelled the everlasting mountains to give up
their priceless treasures of coal and iron ore; given employment to
thousands of men and women; made this savage wilderness of rock, and
wood, and water 'bloom and blossom as the rose,' and hum with the stir
of industry like a myriad hives of bees. I propose the health of Mr.
Aaron Rockharrt."

All, except Cora, arose and honored this toast.

Mr. Fabian Rockharrt replied on the part of his father.

Then the health of each member of the party was proposed in turn. When
this was over the two ladies withdrew from the table and went into the
drawing room, leaving the gentlemen to their wine.

"Oh, my dear, dear Cora! I am so glad! I wish you joy with my whole,
whole heart!" exclaimed Violet, effusively, but most sincerely and
earnestly, as she clasped Corona to her heart. The next instant she let
her go and gazed at Cora in surprise and dismay.

"Why, what is the matter, Cora? You are as white and as cold as death.
What is the matter?" demanded Violet as she led and half supported
Corona to an easy chair, in which the latter dropped.

"Tell me, Cora. What is it, dear? What can I do for you? Can I get you
anything? Is all this emotion caused by the announcement of your
betrothal to the duke?" demanded Violet, hurrying question upon
question, and trembling even more than Cora.

"Sit down, Violet. Never mind me. I shall be all right presently. Don't
be frightened, darling," said Cora, as well as she could speak.

"But let me do something for you!"

"You can do nothing."

"But what caused this?"

"My feelings have been outraged!--outraged! That is all!"

"How? How? Surely not by Mr. Rockharrt's announcement of your betrothal
to the duke? It was rather embarrassing to the betrothed pair, I admit;
but surely it was the proper thing to do."

"'The proper thing to do!' Violet, it was false! false! I am not
betrothed to the duke. I never was. I never shall be. I would not marry
an emperor to share a throne. My life is consecrated to good works in
the very field in which my dear husband died. I have said this to my
grandfather and to you all, over and over again. If it had not been for
Mr. Rockharrt's accident that endangered his life, I should have gone
out to the Indian Territory with my brother, and should have been at
work there at this present time. I shall go at the first opportunity."

Cora spoke very excitedly, being almost beside herself with wrath and
shame at the affront which had been put upon her.

"I thought the duke was an old admirer of yours, and had come over on
purpose to marry you," said Violet.

"That is too true. He came against my will. I have never given him the
slightest encouragement. How could I when my life is consecrated to the
memory of my husband and to the work he left unfinished? I fear Mr.
Rockharrt assured the duke of my hand; and when he heard the false
announcement of our betrothal, he took it for granted that it was all
right. He must have done so; though he himself was much taken by
surprise."

"How very strange of Mr. Rockharrt to do such a thing. If I had been
you, Cora, I should have got up and disclaimed it."

"No you would not. You would not have made a scene at the dinner table.
I was in no way responsible for the announcement made by my grandfather,
and in no way bound by it. The silence that seemed to indorse it was
rendered absolutely necessary under the circumstances."

"But what shall you do about it?"

"As soon as I can speak of it without making a scene, I shall tell Mr.
Rockharrt and the Duke of Cumbervale that a most reprehensible liberty
has been taken with my name. I will say that I never have been, and
never will be, engaged to the Duke of Cumbervale, or to any other man.
That is what I shall do about it."

"It would mortify the duke very much."

"I do not care if it does."

"And, indeed, it would put Mr. Rockharrt into a terrible rage."

"I cannot help it. Here come the gentlemen."

At that moment the four gentlemen entered the drawing room. The duke
came directly up to Cora, and bending over her, said in a low voice
inaudible to the rest of the party:

"Corona, you have blessed me beyond the power of words to express! Only
the dedication of a life to your happiness--"

There the ardent lover was suddenly stopped by the cold look of surprise
in Cora's eyes. His face took on a disturbed expression.

"I think there is some serious mistake here, sir, which we may set right
at some more fitting opportunity. Will you have the kindness not to
refer to the comedy enacted at our dinner table to-night?"

"I will obey you, although I do not understand you," said the duke.

"Oblige me, duke! I want to show you a map of the projected Oregon and
Alaska railroad," said the Iron King, coming toward his guest with a
roll of parchment in his hands.

The duke immediately arose and went off with his host to a distant
table, where the map was spread out, and the two gentlemen sat down to
examine it. Mr. Fabian and Mr. Clarence came over to join Cora and
Violet.

"This is a pretty march you have stolen on us, Cora! I had no more idea
of this than the man in the moon! But I congratulate you, my dear! I
congratulate you! Your present from me shall be a set of the most
splendid diamonds that can be got together by the diamond merchants of
Europe. No mere set that can be picked up ready set, eh? Diamonds that
shall grace a duchess, my dear!" said Mr. Fabian ostentatiously.

"Cora, my dear, I was as much surprised as Fabian. But, oh! I was happy
for your sake. The duke is a good fellow, I am sure, and awfully in love
with you. Ah! didn't he offer a just and heartfelt tribute to the
father! I declare, Cora, I never fully appreciated my father, or
realized what a great benefactor he was to the human race, until the
duke made that little speech in proposing his health. How appreciative
the duke is! Really, Cora, dear, you are a very happy woman, and I
congratulate you with all my heart and soul; indeed, I do," said Mr.
Clarence, wringing the young lady's hand, and turning away to hide the
tears that filled his eyes.

"Thank you, Uncle Clarence. Thank you, Uncle Fabian. I am grateful for
your congratulations, on account of your good intentions;
but--congratulations are quite uncalled for on this occasion."

"Why--what on earth do you mean, Cora?" inquired Mr. Fabian, while Mr.
Clarence looked full of uneasiness.

"I mean that I have never been engaged to the Duke of Cumbervale, and
never mean to marry him. Mr. Rockharrt's announcement was unauthorized
and unfounded. It was just an act of his despotic will, to oblige me to
contract a marriage which he favors."

The two men looked on the speaker in mute amazement.

"We will not talk more of this to-night. But the matter must be set
right to-morrow," said Cora.

A little later Mr. and Mrs. Fabian Rockharrt took leave and departed for
their home.



CHAPTER XXVII.

UNREQUITED LOVE.


The Duke of Cumbervale, weary of a sleepless pillow, arose early and
rang his bell, startling his gentlemanly valet from his morning
slumbers; dressed himself with monsieur's assistance, and went down
stairs with the intention of taking a walk before the family should be
up.

But his intention was forestalled by the appearance of Mr. Rockharrt
coming out of his chamber on the opposite side of the hall.

The Iron King looked up in some surprise at the apparition of his guest
at so early an hour; but quickly composed himself as he gave him the
matutinal salutation:

"Ah, good morning, duke. An early riser, like myself, eh? Come down
into the library with me, and let us look over the morning papers."

A cheerful coal fire was burning in the grate, a very acceptable comfort
on this chill November morning.

This was one of the happy days when there is "nothing in the
papers"--that is to say, nothing interesting, absorbing, soul harrowing,
in the form of financial ruin, highway robbery, murder, arson, fire, or
flood. Everything in the world at the present brief hour seemed going on
well, consequently the papers were very dull, flat, stale and
unprofitable, and were soon laid aside by the host and his guest, and
they fell into conversation.

"You took a long walk yesterday, I hear--went across in the ferry boat,
and strolled up to the foot of Scythia's Roost."

"I did. Can you tell me anything about that curious spot?"

"No; nothing but that it was the dwelling of an Indian woman, who
pretended to second sight, and who should have been sent to the State's
prison as a felon, or, at the very least, to the madhouse as a lunatic.
She was burned out, or perhaps burned herself out, and vanished on the
same night that Governor Rothsay disappeared. She was in some way
cognizant of a plot against him that would prevent him from ever
entering upon the duties of his office. I, in my capacity as magistrate,
issued a warrant for her arrest, but it was too late. She was gone. It
is said by some people that she is a Mexican Indian, who had been very
beautiful in her youth, and who had become infatuated with an English
tourist who admired her to such a degree that he married her--according
to the rites of her nation. He was a false hearted caitiff, if he was an
English lord. Having committed the folly of marrying the Indian woman,
he should have been true to her--made the best of the bad bargain.
Instead of which he grew tired of her, and finally abandoned her."

"Did he return to his native country, do you know?"

"He did not. She never gave him time. She went mad after he left her,
followed him to New Orleans and tomahawked him on the steamboat. She was
tried for murder, acquitted on the ground of insanity, and sent to a
lunatic asylum. After a time she was discharged, or she escaped. It is
not known which; most probably she escaped, as she certainly was not
cured. She was as mad as a March hare all the time she lived here; but
as she was harmless--comparatively harmless--it seemed nobody's business
to have her shut up! And as I said, when at last I thought it was time
to have her arrested on a charge of vagrancy, it was too late. She had
fled."

"Why do you suspect that she had some knowledge of a plot to make away
with the governor-elect?"

"I suspect that she was in the plot. Developments have led me to the
conclusion. By these I learned that Rothsay was not murdered, as his
friends feared, nor abducted, as some persons believed, but that he went
away, and lived for many months among the Indians in the wilderness,
without giving a sign of his identity to the people among whom he lived,
or sending a hint of his whereabouts, or even of his existence, to his
anxious friends. But that the massacre of Terrepeur--in which he was
murdered and his hut was burned--occurred when it did, we might never
have learned his fate."

"Yet, still, I cannot see the ground upon which you suspect this Indian
woman of complicity in the man's disappearance," said Cumbervale.

"But I am coming to that. Scythia was a Mexican Indian. It is well known
to travelers that the Mexican Indians possess the secret of a drug
which, when administered to a man, will not kill him, or do him any
physical harm, but will reduce him to a state of abject imbecility, so
that his free will is destroyed, and he may be led by any one who may
wish to lead him. This drug administered to Rothsay, by the woman, must
have so deprived him of his reason as to induce him to follow any one
influencing him."

"What interest could she have had in reducing the man to this state of
dementia?"

"She had been like a mother to the young man, and had sheltered him in
her hut for years, when he had no other home. She was very much attached
to this adopted son of hers; she was longing to go back to her tribe and
die among her own people. It may be that she wished to take him with
her, and so gave him the drug that destroyed his will. Or, she may have
been the tool of others. All this is the merest conjecture. But the
facts remain that she foretold his fate, and that she vanished on the
same day on which he disappeared, and that he remained in exile,
voluntarily, until he was murdered by the Indians. Still--there might
have been another cause for this self-expatriation."

"May I inquire its nature?"

"No, duke; it is only in my secret thought. I have no just right to
speak of it to you. But if the question be not indiscreet, will you tell
me why you take so deep an interest in the unreliable story of this
Indian woman's life?"

"Certainly; because the wild young blade who married and left her, and
paid down his life for that desertion, was my own uncle, my father's
elder brother, Earl Netherby, the heir to the dukedom, by whose death my
father, and subsequently myself, succeeded to the title."

"You astonish me! Are you sure of this?"

"Reasonably sure. I was but five years old when my uncle came to bid us
good-by, before setting out for America. But I remember his having on
his finger a wonderful ring, a large solitaire diamond with certain
flaws in it; but these flaws were very curious; they were faint traces
left by the hand of nature shaping out a human eye. When ordinary
mortals like myself looked at the diamond, they saw the delicate outline
of an eye traced by the flaws in the stone; but it was said that
whenever a clairvoyant looked into it they could see, not the human eye,
but, as through a telescope, they could view the panorama of future
events."

"What nonsense!" said Mr. Rockharrt.

"Nonsense, of course," assented the duke. "I did not speak of the ring
on account of its supposed magic power, but because it was so peculiar a
jewel that it would be impossible to mistake it for any other ring, or
any other ring for itself; and to lead up to the statement that its
discovery enabled me to identify the Mexican Indian woman with the
maniac who murdered my uncle, as you will see very soon. When my uncle
took leave of us, my father, noticing the family talisman--which, by the
way, was picked up by our ancestor, Raoul-de-Netherbie, the great
Crusader, on the battle field of Acre, and was said to have belonged to
an Eastern magician, and has remained an heirloom with the head of our
family ever since--inquired of his brother whether he was going to wear
that outre jewel in open view upon his finger. My uncle answered that he
was; and half laughing, and wholly incredulous, he added:

"'You know, Hugh, that this stone is a talisman against shipwreck,
fires, floods, robbery, murder, illness, and all the perils by land or
by sea, and all the ills that flesh is heir to. While I wear this ring I
expect to be safe from the evils of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
So it shall never leave my living hand while I am away; but it shall
bring me home safe to live to a patriarchal age and then die peacefully
in my bed, with my children and children's children of many generations
weeping and wailing around me.'

"These or words to this effect he was speaking, while I, standing by the
chair in which he sat, toyed with his hand, and gazed curiously upon the
talismanic jewel, and got into my mind an impression of it that never
was lost. My uncle soon after left the house, and we never saw him alive
again."

"He was the victim of this mad woman?"

"I know it. News was slow in those days. We seldom heard from my uncle.
His letters were but the mark of the cities he stopped at. We had one
letter from Boston; a month later one from New York; a fortnight later,
perhaps--for I only remember these matters by hearing them talked over
by my parents--from Philadelphia; later still, and later, Baltimore,
Washington, Nashville, New Orleans, and so on as he journeyed southward.
Then came a long interval, during which we heard nothing from him, while
all his family suffered the deepest anxiety, fearing that he had fallen
a victim to the terrible fever that was then desolating the Crescent
City. Then at length came a letter from his valet--a deep black-bordered
letter--which announced the terrible news of the murder of his master by
a Mexican Indian woman, supposed to be mad. There were no details, but
only the explanation that he, the valet--who had seen the murder, which
was the work of an instant--was detained in New Orleans as a witness for
the prosecution, and should not be able to return home until after the
trial. It was two months after the latter that the valet came back to
England in charge of his late master's effects, which had all been
sealed by the New Orleans authorities, and reached us intact. Only the
family talisman was missing, and could nowhere be found. And as the
family's prosperity, and even continuity, was supposed to depend upon
the possession of that ring, its loss was considered only a less
misfortune than my uncle's death. Later, my uncle's remains were brought
home from New Orleans and deposited in the family vault at Cumbervale
Castle.

"The ring was never again heard of. On the death of my grandfather, the
seventh duke, my father, who was the second son, succeeded to the title.
But fortune seemed to have deserted us. By a series of unlucky land
speculations my father lost nearly all his riches, which calamities
preyed upon his mind so that his health broke down and he sank into
premature old age and died. I came into the title with but little to
support it. So that when I honestly loved a lady believed to be wealthy,
my motives were supposed to be mercenary."

The Iron King might have felt this thrust, but he gave no sign. The duke
continued:

"My after life does not concern the story of the ring. On learning,
since my return from long travel in the East, that your fair
granddaughter was widowed nearly two years before, you know I wrote to
you asking her address, with a view of renewing my old suit. You replied
by telling me that Mrs. Rothsay made her home with you, and inviting me
to visit you. I refer to this only to keep the sequence of events in
order. I came. Yesterday morning I went to Scythia's Roost, climbed from
that shelf to the top of the mountain and viewed the scene from it.
After I came down again to Scythia's Roost I sat down to rest. The sun
was sinking behind the ridge, but through a crevice in the rocks a
ray--'a line of golden light'--pierced and seemed to strike fire and
bring out an answering ray from some living light left in the ashes. I
went to see what it was, and picked up the magic ring, the family
talisman. There it was, the wonderful stone for which no other could
possibly be mistaken, the gem of intolerable light and fire that had to
be shaded before it could be steadily looked at and before the delicate
lines of its flaws delineating the human eye could be discerned. Here is
the ring, Mr. Rockharrt. Examine it for yourself."

Mr. Rockharrt took the ring, examined it curiously, turned it toward the
clouded window, then toward the blazing sea coal fire; in both positions
it burned and sparkled just like any other diamond. Then he shaded it
and looked at it through his eye-glasses; finally he shook his head and
returned it to its owner, saying:

"It is a fine gem, barring a flaw, and I congratulate you on its
recovery, but I see no human eye in it. I see some indistinct lines,
fine as the thread of a spider's web, that is all. There is the
breakfast bell, duke. We will go into the drawing room and find Cora.
She must be down by this time."

Cora was standing at one of the front windows, looking out upon the
driving rain. She turned as the two gentlemen entered the room, and
responded to their greeting.

"Well, now we will go in to breakfast. Did the fresh venison come in
time, Cora?"

"I think so, sir."

"We cook it on the breakfast table, duke, each one for himself. Put a
slice on a china plate over a chafing dish. The only way to eat a
venison cutlet," said old Aaron Rockharrt, as he led the way into the
breakfast room, where his eyes were immediately rejoiced by the sight of
three chafing dishes filled with ignited charcoal ready for use, and a
covered china dish, which he knew must contain the delicate venison
cutlets.

When breakfast was over and they had all left the table, the Iron King,
addressing his guest, said:

"Well, sir, I must be off to North End. I hope you will find some way
of entertaining yourself within doors, for certainly this is not a day
to tempt a man to seek recreation abroad. Nothing but business of
importance could take me out in such weather."

"I regret that any cause should take you out, sir," replied the guest.

As soon as the noise of the wheels had died away, the duke, who had
lingered in the hall to see his host depart, turned and entered the
drawing room, where he found Cora as before, standing at a window
looking out upon the dull November day.

"Will you permit me now to speak on the subject nearest my heart?" he
pleaded, taking the hand which had dropped down by her side.

"I had rather that the subject had never been started, but under the
circumstances, after what was said last night at dinner, I feel that the
sooner we come to a perfect understanding the better it will be," said
Cora, leading the way to a group of chairs and by a gesture inviting him
to be seated. Then, to prevent him further committing himself and
incurring a humiliating refusal, she herself took the initiative and
said:

"If any other person than Mr. Rockharrt had made the public announcement
that he did yesterday, I should have denounced the act as an
unpardonable outrage; but of him I must say that he must have labored
under some strange hallucination to have made such reckless assertions
without one shadow of foundation. You yourself must have known that
there was not one syllable of truth in his announcement."

"My dearest Mrs. Rothsay, I supposed that Mr. Rockharrt thought, even as
I hoped, that our betrothal was but the question of a few days, or even
of a few hours, and that he took the occasion of the family gathering to
announce the fact. He had already given his consent to my suit for the
blessing of your hand, and if he committed an indiscretion in that
premature announcement, I did not know it. I thought such announcement
might be a local custom, and I blessed him in my heart for observing it.
Cora!" he said, taking her hand and dropping his voice to a pleading
tone, "dear Cora, it was only premature."

"Duke of Cumbervale," she answered, coldly and gravely, withdrawing her
hand, "it is not premature. It was utterly false and groundless; it was
the declaration of an engagement that not only had never taken place,
but could never take place--an engagement forever impossible!"

"Oh, do not say that! I have kept my faith. After your grandfather's
rejection of me in your name I could rest nowhere in England. I went to
the Continent, and thence to the East; but still could rest nowhere,
because I was pursued by your image. When I came back to England, I
learned that you had been widowed from your wedding day and almost as
long as I had been absent. I determined to renew my suit, for I
remembered that it was not you, but your grandfather in your name, who
rejected my proposal. I remembered that you had once given me hope."

"You refer to a time of sad self-deception on my part, which led me even
to unconsciously deceiving you. My imaginary preference for you was a
brief hallucination. Let it be forgotten. The memory to me is
humiliating. You must think of me only as the wife of Regulas Rothsay."

"As the widow, you would say. Surely that widowhood can be no bar to my
suit."

"I do not call myself the widow of Rule Rothsay, but his wife," said
Cora, solemnly.

"But, my dear lady, surely death has--"

"Death has not," said Cora, fervently interrupting him--"death cannot
sever two souls as united as ours. I mean to spend the years I have to
live on earth, temporarily and partially separated from my husband, in
good works of which he would approve; with which he would sympathize and
which would draw his spirit into closer communion with mine; and I hope
at that ascension to the higher life which we miscall death to meet him
face to face, to be able to tell him, 'I have finished my work, I have
kept the faith,' and to be with him forever in one of the many mansions
of the Father's kingdom."

"I see," said the suitor, with a deep sigh, "that my suit would be
utterly useless at present. But I will not give up the hope that is my
life--the hope that you may yet look with favor on my love. I will merit
that you should do so. Cora Rothsay, I will no longer vex you with my
presence in this house. I will take leave of you even now, and only ask
of your courtesy the use of a dog cart to take me to the North End
Hotel."

"You are good, you are very good to me, and I pray with all my heart
that you may meet some woman much more worthy of your grace than am I,
and that you may be very happy. God bless you, Duke of Cumbervale," said
Cora, earnestly.

He lifted her hand to his lips, kissed it, bowed over it and silently
left the room.

Cora stepped after him and shut the door; then she hastened across the
floor, threw herself down on the sofa, buried her face in the cushions
and gave way to the flood of tears that flowed in sympathy with the pain
she had given. Meantime the duke went up to his room and rang for his
valet.

That grave and accomplished gentleman came at once.

"Dubois, go down and order the dogcart to be at the door in half an
hour; then return here to assist me."

The Frenchman bowed profoundly and withdrew.

"I have come a long way for a disappointment," murmured the rejected
lover, as he threw himself languidly upon the outside of the bed and
clasped his hands above his head. "A fanatic she certainly is. A lunatic
also most probably. Yet I cannot get her out of my head. I would go to
Canada--to Quebec--if it was not so abominably cold. Vane is there with
the 110th. But the climate is too severe. I must move southward, not
northward--southward, through California, and thence to the Sandwich
Islands, New Zealand, and Australia. That will be a pleasant winter
voyage. Talbot is at Sydney, and the climate, and the scenery, and the
fruits and vegetables said to be the finest in the world. It will be a
new experience, and if I can't forget her among soldiers and convicts,
miners and bushmen--well, then, I will come back and make a third
attempt. Well, Dubois, what is it?" This question to his valet, who just
then re-entered the room.

"The carriage will be at the door on time, your grace."

"Right. Now attend to my directions. I am going immediately to North
End, and shall leave thereby the six o'clock express, en route for San
Francisco. After I shall have left Rockhold you are to pack up my
effects. I shall send a hack from the hotel to fetch them. Be very sure
to be ready."

The duke went out and entered the dog cart, received his valise from his
valet, gave the order to the groom and was driven off, without having
again seen Cora.

But from behind the screen of her lace-curtained window she watched his
departure.

"I hope he will soon forget me," she murmured, as she turned away and
went down stairs to the library to look over the morning' papers, which
she had not yet seen. But before she touched a paper her eyes were
attracted by a letter stuck in the letter rack, directed to herself in
her brother's well known handwriting.

"To think that my grandfather should have neglected to give me my
letter," she complained, as she seized and opened it.

It was dated Fort Farthermost, and announced the fact of the regiment's
arrival at the new quarters near the boundary line of Texas, "in the
midst of a wilderness infested with hostile Indians, half-breeds, wild
beasts, rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Only two companies are to remain
here; my company--B--for one. Two first lieutenants are married men, but
they have not brought their wives. One of the captains is a widower, and
the other an old bachelor. In point of fact, there are only two ladies
with us--the colonel's wife and the major's. And when they heard from me
that my sister was coming to join me, they were delighted with the idea
of having another lady for company. All the same, Cora, I do not advise
you to come here. Will write more in a few days; must stop now to secure
the mail that goes by this train--wagon and mule train to Arkansaw City,
my dear."

This was the substance of the young lieutenant's letter to his sister.

"But 'all the same,' I shall go," said Corona. And she sat down to
answer her brother's letter.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

A DOMESTIC STORM.


It is a truth almost too trite for reference, that in the experience of
every one of us there are some days in in which everything seems to go
wrong. Such a day was this 13th of November to the Iron King.

When he reached North End that morning, the first thing that met him in
his private office was the news that certain stocks had fallen. The news
came by telegraph, and put him in a terrible temper.

This was about ten o'clock. Two hours later it was discovered that one
of the minor bookkeepers, a new employe who had come well recommended
about a month before, had just absconded with all he could lay his hands
on--only a few thousand dollars--the merest trifle of a loss to
Rockharrt & Sons, but extremely exasperating under the circumstances. So
taking one provocation with another, at noon on that 13th of November
old Aaron Rockharrt was about the maddest man on the face of the earth.

It was his custom to lunch with his sons in the private parlor of Mr.
Clarence's suit of rooms at the North End Hotel, every day at two
o'clock.

To-day, however, he showed no disposition to eat or drink. And although
the two younger men were famishing for food they dared not go to lunch
without him, or even urge him to make an effort to go with them. It was
then three o'clock, an hour later than their usual hour, that Mr.
Rockharrt made a movement in the desired way by rising, stretching his
limbs, and saying:

"We will go over to the hotel and get something to eat."

The three men crossed the street and went directly to Mr. Clarence's
room, where the table for luncheon was set out. But there was nothing on
it but cut bread, casters, and condiments, for these men always
preferred hot luncheon in cold weather, and it was yet to be dished up.

The Iron King was not in a humor to wait. He hurried the servants. And
at length when the dishes, which had been punctually prepared for two
o'clock, were placed on the table at twenty minutes past three,
everything was overdone, dried up, and indigestible.

It was the Iron King's own fault for not coming to the table when the
meal was first prepared to order. But he would not admit that into
consideration. He ordered the waiter to take everything away and throw
it out of doors, declared that he would have a restaurant started on the
opposite side of the street where a man could get a decent meal, and
rose from the table in a rage.

It was while the Iron King was in this amiable and promising state of
mind that a waiter brought in a card and laid it before him. He took it
up and read aloud:

"The Duke of Cumbervale."

"Show him in," said Mr. Rockharrt.

A few minutes later the visitor entered the parlor, bowed to his host,
and then shook hands with the two younger men, whom he had not seen
since the evening before.

"So you braved the storm after all, duke? You found the old house too
dreary for a long, rainy day. Take a seat," said Mr. Rockharrt, waving
his hands majestically around the chairs.

"No; it was not the weather that made Rockhold insupportable to me. But,
sir, I have come a long way for a great disappointment," said the
rejected lover.

"What! what! what! Explain yourself, if you please, sir!" exclaimed the
Iron King, bending his heavy gray brows over flashing eyes.

"Mrs. Rothsay has rejected me."

"What! what! Rejected you! Why, your engagement was declared in the
family conclave only last night."

"Mrs. Rothsay states that the declaration was erroneous, and that no
such engagement ever has been or ever could be made between us."

"How dare she say that? How dare she try to break off with you in this
scandalous manner? But she shall not! She shall keep faith with you or
she is no granddaughter of mine! I will have nothing to do with false
women! How did this breach occur? Tell me all about it!
Fabian--Clarence! Go about your business. I want to have some private
conversation with the duke."

The two younger men, thus summarily dismissed, nodded to the visitor and
left the room, glad enough to go down below to the saloon and get
something to eat and drink.

"Now, then, sir, what's the row with my granddaughter?" demanded the
Iron King, wheeling his chair around to face his visitor.

"There is no 'row,'" said the young man, with the faintest possible hint
of disgust in his tone and manner. "Mrs. Rothsay rejects me, positively,
absolutely. She repudiates the announcement of our betrothal as
unauthorized and erroneous."

"But you know, as we all know, that she was engaged to you! Yes; and she
shall keep her engagement. I'll see to that!"

"Pardon me, Mr. Rockharrt, I am grieved to say that you have made a
mistake. The lady was right. There was no engagement, between Mrs.
Rothsay and myself at the time you made that announcement, nor has
there been one since, nor, I fear, can there ever be."

"Sir!" exclaimed the Iron King, rising in his wrath. "Did you not come
to this country for the express purpose of asking my granddaughter's
hand in marriage? Did I not promise her hand to you in marriage?"

"You did, provi--"

"Then if that did not constitute an engagement, I do not know what
does--that is all. But some people have very loose ideas about honor.
You ask the hand of my granddaughter; I bestow it on you, and announce
the fact to my family."

"Pardon me, Mr. Rockharrt, you promised me the hand of your
granddaughter, provided she should be willing to give it to me."

"'Provided' nothing of the sort, sir. I gave her hand unconditionally,
absolutely, and announced the betrothal to the family."

"But, my dear Mr. Rockharrt, the lady's consent is a most necessary
factor in such a case as this," urged the young man, who began to think
that the despotic egotism of the Iron King had in these later years
grown into a monomania, deceiving him into the delusion that his power
over family and dependants was that of an absolute monarch over his
subjects. This opinion was confirmed by the next words of the autocrat.

"Of course her consent would follow my act. That was taken for granted."

"But, sir, her consent did not follow your act. Quite the contrary; for
my rejection followed it. It is of no use to multiply words. The affair
is at an end. I have bidden good-by to Mrs. Rothsay. I am here to say
good-by to you."

"You cannot mean it!"

"I have left Rockhold finally. I shall leave North End by this six p.m.
train, en route for the South," continued the rejected lover.

"Then, by ----! if she has driven you out of my house, she shall go
herself! I have done the best I could for the woman, and she has repaid
me by ingratitude and rebellion. And she shall leave my house at once!"
exclaimed the despot in a tone of savage resolution.

"Mr. Rockharrt, I must beg that you will not visit my disappointment on
the head of your unoffending granddaughter."

"Duke of Cumbervale, you must not venture to interfere with me in the
discipline of my own family. I don't very much like dukes. I think I
said that once before. I rejected you for my granddaughter two years ago
when she was bound to Rule Rothsay. Now that she is a widow and is free,
I accepted your suit and bestowed her on you, not that I like dukes any
better now than I did then, but I like you better as a man."

The young duke bowed with solemn gravity at this compliment, repressing
the smile that fluttered about his lips. At this moment a waiter entered
the room, and said that "the gentleman's" servant had arrived with his
master's luggage, and requested to know where it was to be put.

"Tell him to get his dinner, and then take the luggage in the same
carriage to the station," said the duke, and the messenger withdrew.

"Have you lunched, duke?" inquired Mr. Rockharrt, mindful, even in his
rage, of his duties as a host.

"I have not thought of doing so," replied the young man.

"Umph! I suppose not!" grunted the Iron King, as he rang the bell.

A waiter appeared.

"Any game in the house?"

"Yes, sir; fine venison."

"Don't want venison--had it for breakfast. Anything else?"

"A very fine wild turkey, sir."

"Bother! Takes three hours to dress, and I want a hot lunch got up in
twenty-five minutes, at longest. Any small game?"

"Uncommon fine partridges, sir."

"Then have a dozen dressed and sent up, with proper accompaniments; and
lose no time about it! Also put a bottle of Johannisberg on ice."

"Yes, sir."

The waiter vanished.

"I must bid you good-by now, Mr. Rockharrt," said the duke, rising.

"No; you must not. Sit down. Sit down. You must lunch with me, and drink
a parting glass of wine. Then you will have plenty of time to secure
your train, and I to drive to Rockhold at my usual hour. Say no more,
duke. Keep your seat."

Cumbervale looked at the iron-gray man before him, thought certainly
this must be their last meeting and parting on earth, and that therefore
he would not cross the patriarch in his humor.

"You are very kind. Thank you. I will break a parting bottle of wine
with you willingly."

In double-quick time the broiled partridges were served, the wine
placed, and all was ready for the two men.

"Go and tell Mr. Fabian and Mr. Clarence that I wish them to come here.
You will find them somewhere in the house," said Mr. Rockharrt.

"Beg pardon, sir; both gentlemen have gone over to the works," replied
the waiter.

This was true. Both "boys" had gorged themselves with cold ham, bread
and cheese, washed down with quarts of brown stout, and were in no
appetite to enjoy partridge and Johannisberg, even if they had been
found in the hotel.

"Glad they have found out that they must be attentive to business. You
and I, duke, will discuss the good things on the table before us. Come."

The two lingered over the luncheon until it was time for the duke to
start for the depot.

"I will send over for my two sons, that you may bid them good-by," said
Mr. Rockharrt, and he turned to the waiter, and told him to go and
dispatch a messenger to that effect.

Messrs. Fabian and Clarence soon put in an appearance, and expressed
their surprise and regret at the sudden departure of their father's
guest, and their hope and trust to see him again in the near future.
Neither of them seemed to know that the betrothal declared at the dinner
table on the night before had no foundation in fact. The duke thanked
them for their good wishes, invited them to visit him if they should
find themselves in England, and then he took a final leave of the
Rockharrts, entered the carriage, and drove off, through a pouring rain,
to the railway station--and out of their lives forever.

"A fine thing Mistress Rothsay has done!" exclaimed the Iron King, when
his guest had gone, and he explained Cora's action.

Corona had spent the day at Rockhold drearily enough. She felt
reasonably sure that her rejection of the duke's hand would deeply
offend her grandfather and precipitate a crisis in her own life. When
she had finished her letter to her brother, in which she told him of the
death of Mr. Rockharrt's wife and added her own resolution soon to set
out to join him in his distant fort, she began to make preparations for
her journey in the event of having to leave Rockhold suddenly. She knew
her grandfather's temper and disposition, and felt that she must hold
herself in readiness to meet any emergencies brought about by their
manifestations. So she set about her preparations.

She had not much to do. The trunks that she had packed and dispatched to
the North End railway station three months before at the hour when her
own journey was arrested by the accident to her grandfather, had
remained in storage there ever since.

The contents of her large valise, which was to have been her own
traveling companion in her long journey to and through the "Great
American Desert," and which was well packed with several changes of
clothes and with small dressing, sewing and writing cases, supplied all
her wants during the three months of her further sojourn at Rockhold.

She had only now to collect these together, cause all the soiled
articles to be laundered, and then repack the valise. This occupied her
all the afternoon of the short November day.

At six o'clock she came down into the parlor to see that the lamps were
trimmed and lighted, and the coal fire stirred up and replenished, so
that her grandfather should find the room warm and comfortable on his
return home. Then she brought out his dressing gown and slippers, hung
the first over his arm chair and put the last on the warm hearthstones.

At length the carriage wheels were heard faintly over the soft, wet
avenue and under the pouring rain.

Old John, waiting in the hall to be ready to open the door in an
instant, did so before the Iron King should leave the carriage, and
hoisting a very large umbrella, he went out to the carriage door and
held it over his master while they walked back to the house and entered
the hall.

"Here! take off my rubber cloak! Take off my overcoat! Now my rubber
boots! What a night!" exclaimed the old man, as he came out of his
shell, or various shells.

Corona had the pitcher of punch on the table now with a cut-glass goblet
beside it.

"I hope you have not taken cold, grandfather," she said, drawing his
easy chair nearer the fire.

"Hold your tongue! Don't dare to speak to me! Leave the room this
instant! John! come in here. Pour me out a glass of that punch, and
while I sip it draw off my boots and put on my slippers," said the Iron
King, throwing himself into his big easy chair and leaning back.

Corona was more pained than surprised. She had expected something like
this from the Iron King. She replied never a word, but passed into the
adjoining dining room and sat down there. Through the open door she
could see the old gentleman reclining at his ease, and sipping his
fragrant hot punch while old John drew off his boots, rubbed his feet,
and put on his warm slippers. Presently the waiter brought in the soup,
put it on the table, and rang the dinner bell. Mr. Rockharrt put down
his empty glass, and arose and came to the table. Cora took her place at
the head of the board, hardly knowing whether she would be allowed to
remain there. But her grandfather took not the slightest notice of her.
She filled his plate with soup, and put it on the waiter held by the
young footman, who carried it to his master. In this manner passed the
whole dinner in every course. Corona carved or served the dishes, filled
the plate for her grandfather, which was taken to him by the footman.
At the end of the heavy meal the Iron King arose from the table and
said:

"I am going to my own room. Mistress Rothsay, I shall have something to
say to you in the morning;" and he went out.



CHAPTER XXIX.

CORONA'S OPPORTUNITY.


Corona Rothsay stood behind her chair at the head of the breakfast
table, waiting for Mr. Rockharrt. He entered presently, and returned no
answer to her respectful salutation, but moodily took his seat, raised
the cover from the hot dish before him, and helped himself to a broiled
partridge. After the gloomy meal was finished the Iron King arose from
the table and pushed back his chair so suddenly and forcibly as to
nearly upset his servant.

"Come into the library! I wish to have a decisive talk with you!" he
said, in a harsh voice, to his granddaughter, as he strode from the
dining room.

Corona, who had finished her own slight breakfast some minutes before,
immediately arose and followed him. On reaching the bookery, old Aaron
Rockharrt sank heavily into his big leathern armchair, and pointed,
sternly, to an opposite one, on which Corona obediently seated herself.

"Look at me, mistress!" he said, placing his hands upon the arms of his
chair, bending forward and gazing on her with fixed, keen eyes, that
burned like fire beneath the pent roof of his shaggy iron-gray brows.

Corona looked up at him.

"Do you know, madam, that in rejecting the hand of the Duke of
Cumbervale you have offered me an unpardonable affront?"

"No, grandfather, I did not know it; and certainly I never meant--never
could possibly have meant--to affront you," said Corona, deprecatingly.
"If I have been so unhappy as to disappoint your wishes, I am very
sorry, my dear grandfather, but--"

He harshly interrupted her.

"Do not you dare to call me grandfather, either now or ever again! I
disclaim forever that relationship, and all relationship with the false,
flirting, coquettish, unprincipled creature that you are! Your late
suitor may forgive your treachery to him, beguiling him by your once
pretended preference to pass by all eligible matches and cross the ocean
for your sake! Yes; he may forgive you, because he is a fool (being a
duke)! But as for me--I will never pardon the outrageous affront you
have put upon me, in rejecting the man of my choice! Never, as long as I
live, so help me--"

"Oh!--oh, grandfather!" cried Corona, arresting his half-sworn oath,
"don't say that! I am sorry to have crossed your will in this matter, or
in any way; but, oh, my dear grandfather--"

"Stop there!" vociferated the Iron King, with a stamp. "I am no
grandfather of yours! How dare you insult me with the name when I have
forbidden you to do so?"

"I beg your pardon, sir. It was a mere slip of the tongue. I spoke
impulsively. I had forgotten your prohibition. I shall not certainly
offend in that way again," said Corona, quietly.

"You had better not!"

"I was about to say, when you interrupted me," resumed Cora, earnestly,
"that I am grieved to have been compelled to disappoint you by
rejecting the Duke of Cumbervale; but, sir, I could not do otherwise. I
could not accept a man whom I could not love. To have done so would have
been a great sin. Surely, sir, you must know it would have been a sin,"
pleaded Corona.

"Stuff and nonsense!" roared the Iron King. "Don't dare to talk such
sentimental rubbish to me! You can't love him, can't you? Tell that to
an idiot, not to me! When we were in London, two or three years ago, you
loved him so well that you were ready to break your engagement with your
betrothed husband, Regulas Rothsay, in order to marry this duke. Yes;
and you would certainly have done so if I had not put a stop to the
affair by having an explanation with the suitor, telling him of your
prior engagement, and also of your want of fortune, and bringing you
back home to your forgotten duties."

"Oh, sir, I deserve all your reproaches for that forgetfulness. I was
very wrong then," said Cora, with a sigh.

"Bosh! You are always wrong!" sneered old Aaron Rockharrt. "And you
always will be wrong! You were wrong when you wished to break your
engagement with Regulas Rothsay to marry the Duke of Cumbervale, and you
are wrong, now that you are free, to reject the man. Why, look at it:
Now that you have been a widow for more than two years, and Cumbervale
has proved his constancy by remaining a bachelor two years for your
sake, and crossing the ocean and coming down here to propose for you
again, and even after I--I myself--have positively promised him your
hand, and have given a family dinner in honor of the occasion, and have
announced the engagement, and after speeches have been made and toasts
have been drank to the happiness and prosperity of your married life,
and all due formalities of betrothal had been observed, then, mistress,
what do you do?" severely demanded old Aaron Rockharrt.

"Only my duty under the circumstances. I was not in the least bound or
compromised by or responsible for anything that was said or done at that
dinner table," replied Corona.

"This is what you do: You dare to set me at defiance! You dare to set
your will against mine! You dare to reject the man whom I chose for your
husband, whom I announced as your betrothed husband! You dare to drive
him away from my house, grieved, disappointed, humiliated, to become a
wanderer over the face of the earth for your sake, even as you drove
Regulas Rothsay from the goal of his ambition into exile, and--"

A sharp cry from Corona suddenly stopped him in full career.

"Do not, oh! do not speak of that! I--I would have given my life to have
prevented Rule's loss, if I could! As for this man--this duke--he is
nothing whatever to me, and never can be!"

"And yet you were ready to fall down and worship him three years ago!"

"It was a brief insanity--a self-delusion. That is past. Cumbervale
never was and never can be anything to me. No man can ever be anything
to me! I could not live Rule's wife, but I will die Rule's widow; and I
do not care how soon--the sooner the better, if it were the Lord's
will!" moaned Corona.

"Drivel!" angrily exclaimed old Aaron Rockharrt. "I am tired of your
idiotic, imbecile hypocrisies! Here are two men driven away by your
unprincipled vacillation--to call your conduct by the lightest name. One
driven to his death; one driven, it may be, to his ruin. It is quite
time you were sent to follow your victims. Look you! I am just about to
start for North End. I shall return home at my usual time this evening.
Do not let me find you here when I arrive, for I never wish to see your
false face again!" said the Iron King, rising from his arm chair and
striding from the room.

Corona started up and ran after him, pleading, imploring--

"Grandfather! Dear grandfather! Oh, I beg pardon! I forgot! Sir! sir!
Oh, do not part from me in this way!"

He turned sharply, stared at her mockingly, and then demanded:

"Come! Shall I call Cumbervale back? Tell him that you have changed your
whirligig mind, and are ready to marry him, if he will only take time by
the forelock and return before you shift around again? I can easily do
that. I can send a telegram that will over-take him and turn him back so
promptly that he may be here in twenty-four hours! Come! Shall I do
that?"

Corona, who had been gazing at the mocking speaker scarcely knowing
whether he spoke in earnest or in irony, now answered despairingly:

"Oh, no, no! not for the world! I have not changed my mind. I could not
do so for any cause."

"Then don't stop me. I'm in haste. I am going to North End. Don't let me
find you here when I come back. Don't let me ever see or hear from you
again, without your consent to marry the man I have chosen for you.
John!"

"Oh, sir, consider--" began Corona, pleadingly.

"John!" vociferated the Iron King, pushing rudely past her.

The old servant came hurrying up, helped his master on with his overcoat
and with his rubber coat, then gave him his hat and gloves, and finally
hoisted a large umbrella to hold over his master's head as he passed
from the house to the carriage in front.

Corona stood watching until the carriage rolled away and old John came
back into the hall and closed the door. Then she returned to the library
and sank sobbing into the big leathern chair. She now realized for the
first time what the parting with her grandfather would be--the parting
with the gray old man who had been the ogre of her childhood, the terror
of her youth, and the autocrat of her maturity, and yet whom, by all the
laws of nature, she tenderly loved, and whom by the commandment of God
she was bound to honor.

She glanced mechanically toward the card rack, and saw there another
letter in the handwriting of her brother--a letter that had come in the
morning's mail and had been stuck up there, and in the excitement of the
hour had been neglected or forgotten.

She seized it eagerly and tore it open, wondering what could have urged
Sylvan to write so soon after his last letter.

It was dated three weeks later than the one she had received only the
day previous, the first one having, no doubt, been delayed somewhere
along the uncertain route.

In this letter Sylvan complained that he had not received a word from
his dear sister since leaving Governor's Island, and mentioned that he
himself had written all along the line of march and three times since
the arrival of his regiment at Fort Farthermost.

But he admitted, also, that the mails beyond the regular United States
mail roads were very uncertain and irregular. Then he came to the object
of this particular epistle.

"It is, my dear Cora, to tell you," he wrote, "that if you should still
be resolved to come out and join me here, an opportunity for your safe
conduct will be offered you this autumn which may never occur again. Our
senior captain--Captain Neville, Company A--has been absent on leave for
several months. So he did not come out here with the regiment. His leave
expires on the 30th of November. He will be obliged to start in the
latter part of October in order to have time enough to accomplish the
tedious journey by wagon from Leavenworth to Fort Farthermost, which is,
as I believe I told you, in the southern part of the Indian Reserve,
bordering on Texas. He is to bring his wife with him.

"But our colonel thinks it is I who want you, and, moreover, I who need
you; for he says that, next to a wife, a sister is the best safeguard a
young officer can have out in these frontier forts, and he gave me the
address of Captain Neville and advised me to write to him and ask him
and his wife to take charge of my sister on the route.

"And then, dear, he went further than that. He took my letter after I
had written it, and inclosed it in one from himself. So now, my dear,
all you have to do is to go to Washington, call on Mrs. Neville, at
Brown's Hotel, Pennsylvania Avenue, and send up your card. She will
expect you. Then you must hold yourself in readiness to start when the
captain and his wife do."

Cora had no time to indulge in reverie. She must be up and doing.

Her luggage had long been stored in the freight house of the North End
railway station, and her traveling bags had been packed the day before.
The servants knew she was going out to join her brother, though they did
not know that her grandfather had discarded her. She had very little to
do for herself on that day, but she resolved to do all that she could
for the comfort of her grandfather before she should leave the house
forever.

So she went and ordered the dinner--just such a dinner as she knew he
would like. Then she called old John to her presence and directed him to
have the parlor prepared for his master just as carefully as if she
herself were on the spot to see it done; to have the fire bright; the
hearth clean; the lamps trimmed and lighted; the shutters closed and the
curtains drawn; the easy chair, with dressing gown and slippers, before
the fire, and, lastly, a jug of hot punch on the hearth.

Old John promised faithfully to perform all these duties. Then Cora went
and wrote two letters.

One to her brother Sylvan, in which she acknowledged the receipt of his
letter, expressed her thanks to the colonel for his kindness, and
assured him that she should gladly avail herself of the escort of the
Nevilles and go out under their protection to Fort Farthermost.

This letter she put in the mail bag in the hall ready for the messenger
to take to the North End post office.

The second letter was a farewell to her grandfather, in which she
expressed her sorrow at leaving him even at his own command; her grief
at having offended him, however unintentionally; her prayers for his
forgiveness, and her hope to meet him again in health, happiness and
prosperity.

This letter Corona stuck on the card rack, where he would be sure to
find it.

Then she ordered her own little pony carriage, and went and put on her
bonnet and her warm fur-lined cloak and called Mark to bring her shawls
and traveling bags down to the hall.

When all this had been done, Corona called all the servants together,
made them each a little present, and then bade them good-by.

Then she stepped into the little carriage and bade the groom to drive on
to Violet Banks.

"I think I shall go no further than that to-night, my friends, and
leave for Washington to-morrow morning," she said, in a broken voice, as
the pony started.

"Then all ob us wot kin get off will come to bid yer annurrer good-by
to-morrow mornin'!" came hoarsely from one of the crowd, and was
repeated by all in a chorus.

The carriage rolled down the avenue to the ferry--not that Corona
intended to cross the river, for Violet Banks, it will be remembered,
was on the same side and a few miles north of Rockhold--but that she
would not leave the place without taking leave of old Moses, the
ferryman. Fortunately the boat lay idle at its wharf, and the old man
sat in the ferry house, hugging the stove and smoking his pipe.

He came out at the sound of wheels. Corona called him to the carriage,
told him that she did not want to cross the river, but that she was
going away for a while and wished to take leave of him.

Now old Moses had seen too many arrivals and departures to and from
Rockhold to feel much emotion at this news; besides he had no idea of
the gravity of this departure. So he only touched his old felt hat and
said:

"Eh, young mist'ess, hopes how yer'll hab a monsous lubly time! Country
is dull for de young folks in de winter. Gwine to de city, s'pose, young
mist'ess?"

"Yes, Uncle Moses, I am going to Washington first," replied Corona.

"Lors! I hear tell how so many folkses do go to Washintub! Wunner wot
dey go for? in de winter, too! Lors! Well, honey, I wish yer a mighty
fine time and a handsome husban' afore yer comes home. Lor' bress yer,
young mist'ess!"

"Thank you, Uncle Moses. Here is a trifle for you," said Cora, putting a
half eagle in his hand.

"Lor' bress yer, young mist'ess, how I do tank yer wid all my heart! I
nebber had so much money at one time in all my life!" exclaimed the
overjoyed old ferryman.



CHAPTER XXX.

FAREWELL TO VIOLET BANKS.


Along the north road, between the thickly wooded east ridge and the
swiftly running river, Corona drove on her last journey through that
valley. Three miles up, the road turned from the river, and, with
several windings and doublings, ascended the mountain side to the
elevated plateau on which were situated the beautiful house and grounds
called Violet Banks.

As the carriage reached the magnificent plateau, Corona stopped the
horse for a moment to take in the glory of the view. In the midst of her
admiration of this scenery, two distinct thoughts were strongly borne in
on the mind of Corona. One was that Violet Rockharrt would never be
willing to leave this enchanting spot to make her home at Rockhold. She
might consent to do so to please others, but she would suffer through
it.

The other thought was that old Aaron Rockharrt would never consent to
live in a place which, however beautiful it might be, was too difficult
of access and egress for a man of his age.

What, then, could be done to cheer the old man's solitude at his home?
The only hope lay in the chance of Mr. Clarence finding a wife who might
be acceptable to his father, and bringing her home to Rockhold.

The carriage drew up before the long, low villa, with its vine-clad
porch, where, though the roses had faded and fallen, the still vivid
green foliage and brilliant rose berries made a gay appearance.

Violet was not sitting on the porch, beside her little wicker workstand
basket, as she always had been found by Cora in the earlier months of
her residence there, but, nevertheless, she saw her visitor's approach
from the front windows of her sitting room, and ran out to meet her.

"Oh, so glad to see you! And such a delightful surprise!" were the words
with which she caught Cora in her arms, as the latter alighted from the
carriage.

"How well you look, dear. A real wood violet now, in your pretty purple
robe," said Corona, with assumed gayety, as she returned the little
creature's embrace, and went with her into the house.

"I am going to send the carriage to the stable. You shall spend the
afternoon and evening with me, whether you will or not, and whether the
handsome lover breaks his heart or not!" exclaimed Violet, as they
entered the parlor.

"Don't trouble yourself, dear. See, the man is driving around to the
stable now, and I have come, not only to spend the afternoon, but the
night with you," said Cora, sitting down and beginning to unfasten her
fur cloak. "Will my uncle be late in returning this evening?"

"Fabian? Oh, no! this is his early day. He will be home very soon now.
But where did you leave his grace? Why did he not escort you here?"
inquired the little lady.

"Have you not heard that he has left Rockhold?" asked Corona, in her
turn.

"Why, no. I have heard nothing about him since the night of the dinner
given in honor of your betrothal. Are you tired, Cora, dear? You look
tired. Shall I show you to your room, where you may bathe your face?"
inquired Violet, noticing for the first time the pale and weary aspect
of her visitor.

"No; but you may bring the baby here to see me."

"My baby? Oh, the little angel has just been put to sleep--its afternoon
sleep. Come into the nursery, and I will show it to you," exclaimed the
proud and happy mother, starting up and leading the way to the upper
floor and to a front room over the library, fitted up beautifully as a
nursery. Corona, on entering, was conscious of a blending of many soft
bright colors, and of a subdued rainbow light, like the changes of the
opal.

Violet led her directly to the cradle, an elegant structure of fine
light wood, satin and lace, in which was enshrined the jewel, the
treasure, the idol of the household--a tiny, round-headed, pink-faced
little atom of humanity, swathed in flannel, cambric and lace, and
covered with fine linen sheets trimmed with lace, little lamb's-wool
blankets embroidered with silk, and a coverlet of satin in alternate
tablets of rose, azure and pearl tablets.

The delighted mother and the admiring visitor stood gazing at the babe,
and talking in low tones for ten or fifteen minutes perhaps, and were
then admonished by the nurse--an experienced woman--that it was not good
for such young babies to be looked over and talked over so long when
they were asleep.

Violet and her visitor softly withdrew from the cradle, and Corona had
leisure to look around the lovely room, the carpet of tender green, like
the first spring grass, and dotted over with buttercups and daisies; the
wall paper of pearl white, with a vine of red and white roses running
over it; the furniture of curled maple, upholstered in fine chintz, in
colors to match the wall paper. But the window curtains were the marvels
of the apartment. There were two high front windows, draped in rainbow
silk--that is, each breadth of the hangings was in perfect rainbow
stripes, and the effect of the light streaming through them was soft,
bright, and very beautiful.

"It is a creation! Whose?" inquired Corona, as she stood before one of
the windows.

"Well, it was my idea, though I am not at all noted for ideas, as
everybody knows," said Violet, with a smile. "But I wanted my baby's
first impressions of life to be serenely delightful through every sense.
I wanted her to see, when she should open her eyes in the morning, a
sphere of soft light and bright, delicate shades of color. So I prepared
this room."

"But where did you find the rainbow draperies?"

"Oh, them! I designed them for my baby, and Fabian sent the pattern to
Paris, and we received the goods in due time. I will tell you another
thing. I have an Æolian harp for her. It is under the front window of
the upper hall, but its aerial music can reach her here when it is in
place. When she is a little stronger I am going to have a music box for
her. Oh, I want my little baby to live in a sphere of 'sweet sights,
sweet sounds, soft touches.'"

A brisk, firm footstep, a cheery, ringing voice in the hall below,
arrested the conversation of the two women.

"It is Fabian! Come!" exclaimed Violet, joyfully, leading the way down
stairs.

Mr. Fabian stood at the foot. He embraced his young wife boisterously,
and then seeing Cora coming down stairs behind Violet, went and shook
hands with his niece, saying:

"Glad to see you! Glad to see you! Has Violet been showing you our
little goddess? I tell you what, Cora: everything has changed since that
usurper came. This place is no longer 'Violet Banks' It is the Holy
Hill. This house is the temple; that nursery is the sanctuary; that
cradle is the altar; and that babe is the idol of the community. Now go
along with Violet. Oh! she is high priestess to the idol. Go along. I'm
going to wash my face and hands, and then I'll join you."

Mr. Fabian went up stairs, and Cora followed Violet into the parlor.

"Here are the English magazines, my dear, come this morning. Will you
look over them, while I go and see to the dinner table? I will not be
gone more than ten minutes," said Violet, lifting a pile of pamphlets
from a side table and placing them on a little stand near the easy chair
into which Corona had thrown herself.

"Certainly, Violet, love. Don't mind me. Go."

Violet kissed her forehead and left the room.

Cora never touched the magazines, but sat with her elbow on the stand
and her forehead resting on her hand.

She sat motionless, buried in painful thought until her Uncle Fabian
entered the room.

Then she looked up.

He came and sat down near her; looked at her inquiringly for a few
moments; and then, as she did not break the silence, he said:

"Well, Cora?"

"Well, Uncle Fabian?"

"What is up, my dear?"

"I would rather defer all explanations until after dinner, if you
please."

"Very well, my dear Cora."

And indeed there was no time for further talk just then, for Violet came
hurrying into the room laughing and exclaiming:

"I am the pink of punctuality, Cora, dear. Here I am back again in just
ten minutes."

The next moment the dinner bell rang, and they all went into the dining
room.

Violet--trained by Mrs. Chief Justice Pendletime, who was a great
domestic manager--excelled in every housekeeping department, especially,
perhaps, in the culinary art; so the little dinner was an exquisite one,
and thoroughly enjoyed by the master and mistress of the house, and
might have been equally appreciated by their visitor if her sad thoughts
had not destroyed her appetite.

After dinner, when they adjourned to the parlor, Violet said:

"Again I must beg you to excuse me, Cora, dear, while I go up and put
baby to sleep. It is a little weakness of mine, but I always like to put
her to sleep myself, though I have the most faithful of all nurses. You
will excuse me?"

"Why, of course, darling!" Corona heartily replied; and the happy little
mother ran off.

"Now then, Cora, what is it? You said you would explain after dinner. Do
so now, my dear; for if it is anything very painful I would rather not
have my Wood Violet grieved by hearing it," said Mr. Fabian, drawing his
chair nearer to that of Corona.

"It is very painful, Uncle Fabian, and I also would like to shield
Violet as much as possible from the grief of knowing it. But--is it
possible that you do not know what has happened at Rockhold?" gravely
inquired Corona.

"I know this much: That the announcement of an engagement between
yourself and the Englishman was premature and unauthorized; that you
have finally rejected the suitor--who has since left Rockhold--and by so
doing you have greatly enraged our Iron King. I know no more than that,
Cora."

"What! Has not my grandfather told you anything to day?"


"Not one word."

"Then I must tell you. He has cast me off forever."

"Cora! Cora!"

"It is true, indeed. This morning he ordered me to quit his house; not
to let him find me still there on his return; never to let him see or
hear from me again unless it was with my consent to recall and marry my
English suitor."

"But, Cora, my dear, why can you not come into his conditions? Why can
you not marry Cumbervale? He is a splendid fellow every way, and he
loves you as hard as a horse can kick. He is awfully in love with you,
my dear. Now, why not marry him and make everybody happy and all
serene?"

"Because, Uncle Fabian, I don't happen to be in love with him," replied
Corona, with just a shade of disdain in her manner.

"Well, my dear, I will not undertake to persuade you to change your
mind. If you have inherited nothing else from the Iron King, you have
his strength of will. What are you going to do, Cora?"

"I am going to carry out my purpose of going to the Indian Reserve as
missionary to the Indian tribes, to devote all my time and all my
fortune to their welfare."

"A mad scheme, my dear Cora. How are you, a young woman, going to manage
to do this? Under the auspices of what church do you act?"

"Under that of the broad church of Christian charity--no other."

"But how are you going to reach the field of your labors? How are you
going to cross those vast tracts, destitute of all inhabitants except
tribes of savages, destitute of all roads except the government
'trails'?"

"You know, if you have not forgotten, that it was my purpose to join my
brother at his post, and to establish my school near his fort and under
its protection."

"Well, yes; I remember hearing something of the sort; but really, Cora,
I thought it was all talk since Sylvan went away."

"But it is more than that. Some time late in this month I shall go out
to Fort Farthermost under the protection of Captain and Mrs. Neville.
They are now in Washington, where I am going immediately to join them.
When you read this letter, which I received after my grandfather had
left me in anger this morning, you will understand all about it," said
Corona, drawing her brother's last letter from her pocket and handing it
to her uncle.

Mr. Fabian took it and read it carefully through; then returned it to
her, saying:

"Well, my dear, it does seem as if there were a fate in all this. But
what a journey is before you! At this season of the year, too! But,
Cora, do not let Violet know that the grandfather has discarded you. It
would grieve her tender heart too much. Just tell her that you are going
out to your brother. Do not even tell her so much as that to-night. It
would keep her from sleep."

"I will not hint the subject this evening, Uncle Fabian. I love Violet
too much to distress her."

"You will have to explain that your engagement with the Englishman is at
an end."

"Or, rather, that it has never had a beginning," said Corona.

"Very well," assented Mr. Fabian. "And now I must go and dispatch a
messenger to North End to fetch Clarence here to spend the night. A
hasty leave-taking at the railway depot would hardly satisfy Clarence,
Cora."

"I know! And I thank you very much, Uncle Fabian," replied Corona.

"Ah, Violet! here you are, just in time to take my place. I am going out
to send for Clarence to spend the evening with us," said Mr. Fabian, as
he passed his young wife, who entered the room as he left it.

Instead of sending a messenger, Fabian put his fastest horse into his
lightest wagon, and set off at his best speed himself. He reached North
End Hotel in twenty minutes, and burst in upon Clarence, finding that
gentleman seated in an arm chair before a coal fire.

"Anything the matter, Fabian?" he inquired, looking up in surprise.

"Yes! The devil's to pay! The monarch has driven his granddaughter from
court!" exclaimed the elder brother, throwing his hat upon the floor,
and dropping into a chair.

"You don't mean to say--"

"Yes, I do! Father has turned Cora out of doors because she refused to
marry the Englishman."

"Good Heaven!"

"Come! There is no time to talk! Cora is at my house. She leaves for
Washington to join Captain and Mrs. Neville, and go out with them to
Fort Farthermost."

"But, look here, Fabian. Why do you let her do that?"

"Don't be a fool! Who is to stop her if she is bound to go? Come, hurry
up; put on your overcoat and get into my trap, and I will take you back
with me, see Cora, and stay all night with us."

Mr. Clarence started up, rang for a waiter to see to his rooms, then put
on his overcoat, and in five minutes more he was seated beside his
brother in the light wagon, behind the fastest horse in Mr. Fabian's
stables, bowling out of the village at a rate of speed that I would not
dare to state. It was not nine o'clock when they reached Violet Banks.

Mr. Fabian drove around to the stables, gave his team up to the groom,
and walked back to the house with Clarence.

"You must not drop a word to Violet about Cora's intended journey. She
thinks that Cora has only come to spend the night with her. If she knew
otherwise she would be too distressed to sleep. Not until after
breakfast to-morrow is she to be told that Cora is going away; and never
is she to know that our niece has been driven away."

"I understand, Fabian. Who is going to Washington with Cora?"

"No one that I know of; but she is quite able to take care of herself,
so far."

"I will not have it so, Fabian. I will go with our niece!" said Mr.
Clarence.

"Are you mad? The monarch would never forgive such misprision of
treason. He would discard you, Clarence!" exclaimed Mr. Fabian, in
consternation.

"I do not think so. Our father is too just for that. And in any case I
shall take the risk."

"The Iron King is just in all his business relations; he would not be
otherwise to save himself from bankruptcy. But has he been just to
Cora?"

"From his point of view. He has not been kind; that is all. I must be
kind to our niece at all costs."

This brought them to the door of the house, which Mr. Fabian opened with
his latch key, and the two men entered the parlor together.

"Why, how soon you have come! I am so glad!" exclaimed Violet, rising to
welcome the new visitor.

"That is because, instead of sending, I went for him," explained Mr.
Fabian.

"So I suspected when I found that you did not return immediately to the
parlor," said Violet.

Mr. Clarence meanwhile went to his niece, took her hand and kissed her
in silence. He could not trust his voice to speak. She understood him,
and returned the pressure of his hand. If it had not been for Violet,
the evening would have passed very gloomily; but she, who knew nothing
of the domestic tempest that had driven Cora from home, nor even of the
impending separation in the morning, and who heartily enjoyed the
presence of her two favorite relatives in the house, kept the party
enlivened by her own good spirits and gay talk.

Once during the evening Clarence and Cora found themselves far enough
off from their friends for a short tete-a-tete, in which there was a
brief but perfect explanation between them.

Then Clarence announced his intention of escorting her to Washington and
seeing her safe under the protection of the Nevilles.

Cora strongly opposed this plan, on the ground that his escort was
unnecessary and might be deeply offensive to Mr. Rockharrt.

But Clarence was firm.

"You may turn your back on me, Cora. You may refuse to speak to me
during the whole journey. But you cannot prevent me from going on the
same train with you, and so becoming your guardian on the journey," said
Clarence.

Cora's answer to this was prevented by the approach of Violet, who said:

"Clarence, it is half past eleven o'clock, and Cora looks tired to
death. Your room is ready whenever you would like to retire."

Acting upon this very broad hint, Mr. Clarence laughed, kissed his niece
good night, shook hands with his sister-in-law, and left the room,
preceded by Mr. Fabian, who offered to show him to his chamber. Violet
conducted Cora to the room prepared for her, and, with a warm embrace,
left her to repose for the last time in that house.



CHAPTER XXXI.

"IT IS THE UNEXPECTED THAT HAPPENS."


After her exciting and fatiguing day, Corona slept long and heavily, and
when she reached the family sitting room she found her two uncles there
in conversation.

"I am sorry I kept you waiting, Uncle Fabian," she said, hurriedly.

"You have not done so, my dear. The bell has not yet rung."

"Then I'm glad. Good morning, Clarence," she said, turning to her
younger uncle.

"Good morning, Cora. How did you sleep?"

"Perfectly, Clarence dear. I hope you will set out for North End
immediately after breakfast. I shall not start for Washington until
to-night. I shall spend the day here, so that after telling Violet of my
intended journey I may have some little time to reconcile her to it."

"How good you are, Cora. I do appreciate this consideration for Violet,"
said Mr. Fabian earnestly.

"It is only her due, uncle. Well, Clarence, since you are determined to
escort me to Washington, whether or not, you may meet me at the depot
for the 6:30 express. I feel that it is every way better that I should
go by the night train; better for Violet, with whom I can thus spend a
few more hours, and better for Clarence, who need not by this
arrangement lose this day's work."

"Quite so," assented Mr. Fabian. "And now," he added, as light footsteps
were heard approaching the room, "here comes Violet. Not a word about
the journey until after breakfast."

They all went into the breakfast room, where a fragrant, appetizing
morning meal was spread.

How different this was from the breakfast at Rockhold on the
preceding-day, darkened by the sullen wrath of the Iron King and eaten
in the most gloomy silence! Here were affectionate attentions and jests
and laughter. Violet was in such gay spirits that her vivacity became
contagious, and Fabian and Clarence often laughed aloud, and Corona was
won to smile at her sallies.

At last Mr. Fabian arose with a sigh, half of satisfied appetite, half
of reluctance to leave the scene, and said:

"Well, I suppose we must be moving. Clarence, will you drive with me to
North End?"

"Certainly. That is all arranged, you know," replied the younger
brother.

"Mr. Fabian walked out into the hall, saying as he left the breakfast
room:

"Corona, a word with you, my dear."

Corona went to him, and he said:

"After you have had an explanation with Violet, persuade her to
accompany you to North End. You had better come in your own pony
carriage, my dear; it is so easy and the horse so safe. And then, after
you have left us, I can drive her home in the same vehicle. And, by the
way, my dear, what shall you do with that little turnout? Shall I send
it to Hyde's livery stable for sale? You can get double what was given
for it. And remit you the price?"

"No, Uncle Fabian; it is not to be sold. And I am glad you reminded me
of it. I have intended all along to give it to our minister's wife. She
has no carriage of any sort, and she really needs one, and she will
enjoy this because she can drive the pony herself. So, after I have
gone, will you please send it to Mrs. Melville, with my love?"

"Certainly, my dear; with the greatest pleasure. Cora, that is well
thought of. Now I must go up to the nursery and bid good-by to baby, or
her mother would never forgive me."

And high and heavy Mr. Fabian tripped up the stairs like a lamplighter.

Corona lingered in the hall, talking with Mr. Clarence, who had now come
there to put on his overcoat. Presently Mr. Fabian came hurrying down
stairs alone. He had left Violet in the sanctuary.

"Come, come, Clarence, hurry up! We are late! What if the monarch should
reach the works before us? I shouldn't like to meet him in his roused
wrath! Should you?

    "Old age ne'er cooled the Douglass blood!"

said Mr. Fabian, hurriedly pulling on his overcoat, seizing hat and
gloves, and with a hasty--

"Good-by, Cora, until to-night," hurried out of the front door.

He need not have been in such haste--the Iron King was not destined to
reach North End in advance of his sons that morning.

Mr. Clarence kissed Corona good-by, and hurried after his elder brother,
and then stopped short at what he saw.

Mr. Fabian was standing before the carriage door with one foot on the
step.

Beside him was a horseman who had just ridden up--the horse in a lather
of foam, the man breathless and dazed--telling some news in broken
sentences; Mr. Fabian listening pallid and aghast.

"Great Heaven! how sudden! how shocking!" he exclaimed at last, turning
back toward the house, and hurrying up the steps.

"What is it? What is the matter? What has happened, Fabian?" anxiously
demanded Clarence.

"The father has had a stroke! No time for particulars now! Take the
fastest horse in the stable and go yourself to North End to fetch the
doctor. You can bring him sooner than any servant. I must go directly on
to Rockhold. Cora must delay her journey again. Be off, Clarence!" said
Mr. Fabian.

And while the elder brother returned to the house, the younger went to
get his horse.

"Cora!" called Mr. Fabian.

Corona came out of the parlor.

"You cannot go away to-day."

"Why?" inquired the young lady.

"Don't talk! Listen! Your grandfather is ill--very ill. Old John has
just come from Rockhold to tell me."

"Oh! I am very sorry."

"No time for words! Go put on your bonnet, and come along with me; the
carriage that was to have taken me to North End must take us both to
Rockhold. Hurry, Cora."

"But Violet?"

"I will go and tell Violet that the grandfather is not feeling very
well, and has sent for you. I can do this while you are getting ready to
go. Then come into the nursery and bid Violet good-by."

Corona hurried up to her room, and quickly put on her bonnet and
fur-lined cloak, and then ran into the nursery, where she found Violet
nursing her baby, looking serious but composed, and evidently
unconscious of old Aaron Rockharrt's danger. Mr. Fabian was standing at
the back of her chair, so that she might not read the truth in his face.

"So you are going home so suddenly, Cora, dear? I am so sorry the father
is not feeling well that I cannot even ask you to stay here a moment
longer. Give my love to the father, and tell him if he does not get
better in a day or two I shall be sure to come and nurse him."

She could not rise without disturbing her precious baby, but she raised
her head and put up her lips, that Cora might kiss her good-by. Then
Cora followed her uncle down stairs, and in five minutes more they were
seated in the carriage, slowly winding their way down the dangerous
mountain pass to the river road that led to Rockhold.

"Uncle Fabian," said Corona, gravely, "I have been trying to think what
is right for me to do. This sorrowful news took me so completely by
surprise, and your directions were so prompt and peremptory, that I had
not a moment for reflection; so that I followed your lead automatically.
But now, Uncle Fabian, I have considered, and I ask you as I have asked
myself--am I right in going back to Rockhold, after my grandfather has
sent me away, and forbidden me ever to return? Tell me, Uncle Fabian."

"My dear, what do you yourself wish to do?" he inquired.

"To return to Rockhold and nurse my grandfather, if he will allow me to
do so."

"Then by all means do so."

"But, Uncle Fabian--against my grandfather's express command?"

"Good Heaven, girl!" Those 'commands' were issued by a well and angry
man. You are returning to minister to an ill and perhaps a dying one."

"Still, Uncle Fabian, would it not seem to be taking advantage of my
grandfather's helpless state to return now, after he had forbidden me to
enter his house? I think it would. And the more I reflect upon the
subject, the surer I feel that I ought not to enter Rockhold unbidden.
And--I will not."

"You will not! What! Can you show resentment to your stricken--it may be
dying--grandfather?"

"Heaven forbid! But I must not disobey his injunction, now that he is
too helpless to prevent me. No, Uncle Fabian, I must not enter the
house. But neither will I be far from it. I will remain within call."

"Where?"

"At the ferryman's cottage. Will you, Uncle Fabian, as soon as you have
an opportunity, say that I am deeply grieved for all that has estranged
us. Will you ask him to forgive me and let me come to him?"

"Yes; I will do so, my dear, if there is an opportunity. But, Cora, I
think you are morbidly scrupulous. I think that you should come to the
house. He may wish to see you if he should have a lucid interval, and
there may not be time to send for you."

"I must risk that rather than disobey him in his extremity."

"As you will," replied Mr. Fabian. And no more was said on the subject.

When they reached the foot of the mountain and the level of the river
road, the horses were put upon their speed, and they soon arrived at
Rockhold.

"I will wait in the carriage until you go in and inquire how he is,"
said Corona, as the vehicle drew up before the front door.

Mr. Fabian got out and hurried up the steps. The door stood open, cold
as the day was, and all things wore the neglected aspect of a dwelling
wherein the master lay stricken unto death. The housekeeper, Martha,
was coming down the stairs and crying.

"How is your master?" breathlessly inquired Mr. Fabian.

"Oh, Marse Fabe, sir, jes' livin', an' dat's all!" sobbed the woman.
"Dunno nuffin. Layin' dere jes' like a dead corpe, 'cept for breavin'
hard," wept the woman.

"Who is with him?"

"Me mos' times an' young Mark. I jes' come down to speak 'long o' you,
Marse Fabe, w'en I see de carriage dribe up."

"Well, go back to your master. I will speak to my niece, and then come
in," said Mr. Fabian, as he hurried out to the carriage. All his
interview with the housekeeper had not occupied two minutes, but Cora
was pale with suspense and anxiety.

"How is he?" she panted.

"Unconscious, my poor girl. Oh, Cora! come in!"

"No, no; I must not. Not until he permits me. I will stop at the
ferryman's cottage. Oh, if he should recover consciousness--oh, Uncle
Fabian, ask him to let me come to him, and send me word."

"Yes, yes; I will do it. I must go to him now. Charles," he said,
turning to the coachman, "drive Mrs. Rothsay down to the ferry house,
and then take the carriage to the stables."

And then, with a grave nod to Corona, Mr. Fabian re-entered the house.
The coachman drove the carriage down to the ferryman's cottage and drew
up. The door was open and the cottage was empty.

"Boat on t'other side, ma'am," said Charles.

"For the doctor, I suppose--and hope," said Corona, looking across the
river, and seeing a gig with two men coming on to the ferryboat.

She watched from the door of the ferryman's cottage while Charles drove
off the empty carriage toward the stables and the two ferrymen poled
their boat across the river. She retreated within the house before the
boat touched the land, for she knew that the doctor, if he should see
her there, would wonder why she was not at her grandfather's bedside,
and perhaps--as he was an old friend--he might ask questions which she
would find it embarrassing to answer. The boat touched the shore; the
gig, containing the doctor and Mr. Clarence, rolled off the boat on
along the drive leading to the house.

Meanwhile Mr. Fabian had re-entered the hall and hurried up to his
father's room. He found the Iron King in bed, lying on his right side
and breathing heavily. His eyes were half closed.

"Father," said the son, in a low voice, taking his hand and bending over
him.

There was no response.

"It ain't no use, Marster Fabe. Yer can't rouse him, do wot yer will.
Better wait till de doctor come, young marse. I done been tried all I
knowed how, but it wa'n't no use," said Martha, who stood on the other
side of the bed watching her insensible master.

"Tell me when this happened. Come away to the upper end of the room and
tell me about it."

"Might's well tell yer right here, marse. 'Twon't sturve him. Lor!
thunder wouldn't sturve him, the way he is in."

"Then tell me, how was it? When was he stricken?"

"We don't know, marse. He was found jes' dis way by John dis
mornin'--not jes zackly dis way, howaseber, case he was a-layin' on his
lef side, w'ich was berry bad; so me an' John turn him ober jes so like
he is a-layin' now. Den we sent right off for you, marse, to ketch yer
at home 'fore yer went to de works."

"Did he seem well when he came home last night?'

"Jes 'bout as ujual, marse. He came in, an' John he waited on him. An he
ax, ole marse did, 'was Mrs. Rossay gone?' W'ich John tole him she were.
Den he ordered dinner to be fotch up. An' John he had a pitcher ob hot
punch ready. An' ole marse drank some. Den he went in to dinner all by
hisself. An' young Mark he waited on de table, w'ich he tell me, w'en I
ax him dis mornin', how de ole marse eat much as ujual, wid a good
relish. Den arter dinner he went to de liberairy and sot dere a long
time. Ole John say it were midnight 'fo' de ole marse walk up stairs an'
call him to wait on him."

"Was John the last one who saw my father before he was found unconscious
this morning?"

"Hi! yes, young marse, to be sure he were. De las' to see de ole marse
in healt' las' night, an' de firs' to fine him dis way dis mornin'."

"How came he to find his master in this condition?"

"It was dis way. Yer know, young marse, as dere is two keys to ole
marser's do', w'ich ole marse keeps one in his room to lock hisse'f in,
an' John keeps one to let hisse'f in wen de ole marse rings for him in
de mornin'."

"Yes; I know."

"Well, dis mornin' de ole marse didn't ring at his ujual hour. An' de
time passed, an' de breakfast were ready an' spilin'. So I tole John how
he better go up an' see if ole marse was well, how maybe he didn' feel
like gettin' up an' might want to take his breakfas' in bed. But Lor! I
nebber participated sich a sarious 'tack as dis. Well, den, John he went
an' rapped soft like. But he didn't get no answer. Den he rap little
louder. But still no answer. Den John he got scared, awful scared. Las'
John he plucks up courage, an' unlocks de do', slow an' saf', an' goes
in on tiptoe to de bedside, an'--an'--an'--dis yer is wot he seen. He
t'ought his ole marse were dead sure, an' he come howlin' an' tumblin'
down to me, an' tole me so, an' I called young Mark to follow me, case
ole John wa'n't no good, an' I run up yere, an'--an'--an' dis yer is wot
I foun'! O'ly he were a layin' on his lef side, an' I see he were
breavin' an' I turn' him ober on his right, an' did all I could for him,
an' sent John arter you."

"I wish the doctor would come," said Mr. Fabian, anxiously, as he took
his father's hand again and tried to feel the pulse.

The door opened very quietly, and Clarence came into the room. Fabian
beckoned him to approach the bed.

"How is he?" inquired the younger man.

"As you see! He was found in this condition by his servant this morning.
He has shown no sign of consciousness since," replied the elder.

"The doctor is below. Shall he come up now?"

"Certainly."

Clarence left the room and soon returned with the physician. After a
very brief examination of pulse, temperature, the pupils of the eyes of
the patient, prompt measures were taken to relieve the evident pressure
on the brain. The doctor bled the sufferer, who presently opened his
eyes, and looked slowly around his bed. His two sons bent over him.

He tried to speak.

They bent lower still to listen.

After several futile efforts he uttered one word:

"Cora."

"Yes, father--she is here. Go, Clarence, and fetch her at once. She is
at the ferryman's cottage."

The last sentence was added in a low whisper. Clarence immediately left
the room to do his errand. A few minutes later the door opened softly,
and Clarence re-entered the room with Cora.

Mr. Fabian went to meet her, saying softly:

"He has called for you, my dear! The only word he has spoken since he
recovered consciousness was your name."

"So Uncle Clarence told me," she said, in a broken voice.

"Come to him now," said Fabian, leading her to the bedside.

She sank on her knees and took the hand of the dying man and kissed it,
pleading:

"Grandfather, dear grandfather, I love you. I am grieved at having
offended you. Will you forgive me--now?"

He made several painful efforts to answer her, before he uttered the few
disconnected words:

"Yes--forgive--you--Cora."

She bathed his hand with her tears. All on her part also was forgotten
now--all the harshness and despotism of years was forgotten now, and
nothing was remembered but the gray-haired man, always gray-haired in
her knowledge of him, who had protected her orphanage and given her a
home and an education. She knelt there, holding his hand, and was
presently touched and comforted because the lingers of that hand closed
on hers with a loving pressure that they had never given her in all her
life before. That was the last sign of consciousness he gave for many
hours.

Mr. Fabian took the doctor aside.

"Ought I to send for my wife?" he inquired.

"Yes; I think so," replied the physician.

And the son knew that answer was his father's sentence of death. Not one
of the family could be spared from this death bed to go and fetch
Violet. So Mr. Fabian went down stairs to the library and wrote a hasty
note:

    DEAR VIOLET: You offered to come and help to nurse the
    father, who is sicker than we thought, but with no contagious
    fever. Come now, dear, and bring baby and nurse, for you may have
    to stay several days.

    FABIAN.

He inclosed this letter in an envelope, sealed and directed it, and took
it down to the stable, where he found his own groom Charles in the
coachman's room.

"Put the horses to the carriage again, and return to Violet Banks to
bring your mistress here. Give her this note. It will explain all," said
Mr. Fabian, handing the note to the servant.

He found the same group around the death bed. Clarence and the doctor
standing on the left side, Cora kneeling by the right side, still
holding the hand of the dying man, whose fingers were closed upon hers
and whose face was turned toward hers, but with "no speculation" in it.
Two hours passed away without any change. The sound of wheels without
could be heard through the profound stillness of the death chamber. Mr.
Fabian again left the room to receive his wife.

He met Violet in the hall, just as old John had admitted her. She was
closely followed by the nurse and the child.

"How is father?" she inquired.

"He is very ill, my dear, but resting quietly just at present. Here is
Martha; she will take you to your room and make you and the baby
comfortable. Then, as soon as you can, come to the father's chamber; you
know where to find it," said Mr. Fabian, who feared to shock his
sensitive wife by telling her that he was sinking fast, and thought that
it would be safer to let her come into the room and join the group
around the bed, and gradually learn the sad truth by her own
observation.

"Yes; I can find my way very well," answered Violet, as she handed her
bag, shawl, and umbrella to Martha, and followed the housekeeper up
stairs, with the nurse and baby.

Mr. Fabian returned to the chamber of the dying man, around whose bed
the group remained as he had left it, and where in a very few minutes he
was joined by Violet. She entered the room very softly, so that her
approach was not heard until she reached the bedside. Then she took and
silently pressed the hands that were silently held out by Cora, and
finally she knelt down beside her.

More hours passed; no one left the sick room, for no one knew how soon
the end might come. Old John thoughtfully brought in a waiter of
refreshments and set it down on a side table for any one who might
require it.

Day declined. Through the front windows of the death room the western
sky could be seen, dark, lowering, and stormy. A long range of heavy
clouds lay massed above the horizon, obscuring the light of the sinking
sun, but leaving a narrow line of clear sky just along the top of the
western ridge.

Presently a singularly beautiful effect was produced. The sun, sinking
below the dark cloud into the clear gold line of sky, sent forth a blaze
of light from the mountain heights, across the river, and into the
chamber of death! Was it this sudden illumination that kindled the fire
of life in the dying man into a last expiring flame, or was it indeed
the presence of a spiritual visitant, visible only to the vanishing
spirit? Who can tell?

Suddenly old Aaron Rockharrt opened his eyes--those great, strong black
eyes that had ever been a terror to the evil doer--and the well doer
also--and stared before him, held up his hands and exclaimed:

"Deborah! Deborah!"

And then he dropped his arms by his side, and with a long, deep-drawn
sigh fell asleep. The name of his old wife was the last word upon his
dying lips.

No one but the doctor knew what had happened. He bent over the lifeless
shell, gazed on the face, felt the pulse, felt the heart, and then stood
up and said:

"All is over, my dear friends. His passage has been quite painless. I
never saw an easier death."

And he drew up the sheet over the face of the dead.

Although all day they had hourly expected this end, yet now they could
not quite believe that it had indeed come.

The huge, strong man, the rugged Iron King--dead? He who, if not as
indestructible as he seemed, was at least constituted of that stern
stuff of which centenarians are made, and whom all expected should live
far up into the eighties or nineties--dead? The father who had lived
over them like some mighty governing and protecting power all their
lives, necessary, inevitable, inseparable from their lives--dead?

"Come, my dear," said Mr. Clarence, gently raising Corona and leading
her away. "You have this to console you: he died reconciled to you,
holding your hand in his to the last."

"Ah, dear Uncle Clarence, you have much more to console you, for you
never failed even once in your duty to him, and never gave him one
moment of uneasiness in all your life," replied Corona, as she left him
in front of her old room.

She entered and shut the door and gave way to the natural grief that
overwhelmed her for a time.

When she was sufficiently composed she sat down and wrote to her
brother, informing him of what had occurred, and telling him that she
still held her purpose of going out to him with the Nevilles.



CHAPTER XXXII.

"SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI."


If old Aaron Rockharrt, the Iron King, had never been generally loved,
he was certainly very highly respected by the whole community. The news
of his sudden death fell like a shock upon the public. Preparations for
the obsequies were on the grandest scale.

They occupied two days. On the first day there were funeral services at
Rockhold, performed by the Rev. Luke Melville, pastor of the North End
Mission Church, and attended by all the neighboring families, as well as
by all the operatives of the works. After these were over, the whole
assembly, many in carriages and many more on foot, followed the hearse
that carried the remains to the North End railway depot, where the
coffin was placed in a special car prepared for its reception, and,
attended by the whole family, it was conveyed to the State capital and
deposited in the long drawing room of the Rockharrt mansion, where it
remained until the next day. On the second day funeral services were
held at the town house by the bishop of the diocese, assisted by the
rector of the church of the Lord's Peace, and attended by a host of the
city friends of the family.

After these services the long funeral procession moved from the house to
the cemetery of the Lord's Peace, where the body was laid in the
Rockharrt vault beside that of his old wife.

On the return of the family to the house they assembled in the library
to hear the reading of the will of Aaron Rockharrt, which had been
brought in by his solicitor, Mr. Benjamin Norris.

There were present, seated around the table, Fabian, Violet, and
Clarence Rockharrt, Cora Rothsay, the doctor and the lawyer. Standing
behind these were gathered the servants of the family.

Mr. Norris blew his nose, cleared his throat, put on his spectacles,
opened the will and proceeded to read it.

The testament may be briefly summed up as follows:

First there were handsome legacies left to each of the old servants. One
full half of the testator's vast estate was left to his elder son,
Fabian; one quarter to his younger son, Clarence; and one quarter to be
divided equally between his grandson, Sylvan Haught, and his
granddaughter, Corona Rothsay.

Fabian was appointed sole executor.

The lawyer folded up the document and handed it to Fabian Rockharrt.

"Clarence, old boy, I hardly think this is altogether fair to you," said
Fabian, good naturedly, and ready to deceive him into the delusion that
he had not schemed for this unequal division of the enormous wealth.

"It is all right, Fabian. Altogether right. You are the eldest son, and
now the head of the firm, and you have ten times over the business
brains that I have. I am perfectly satisfied, and even if I were not, I
would not dream of criticising my father's will," replied Clarence, with
perfect good humor and sincerity.

The legacies were promptly paid by Fabian Rockharrt. Mr. Clarence
decided to remain as his brother's junior partner in the firm that was
henceforth to be known as "Aaron Rockharrt's Sons," and to leave all his
share of the money invested in the works.

When Corona was asked when and how she would receive her own, she also
declared that she would leave it for the present where it was invested
in the works, and the firm might pay her legal interest for its use, or
make her a small silent partner in the business. Sylvan had yet to be
consulted in regard to the disposal of his capital.

The month of October was in its third week. It was high time for Corona
to go to Washington and make the acquaintance of the Nevilles, if she
wished to go to travel west under their protection. She had several
times spoken of this purpose in the presence of Violet, so as to
accustom that emotional young woman to the idea of their separation. But
Violet, absorbed in her grief for the dead, paid but little attention to
Corona's casual remarks.

At the end of a few days Fabian Rockharrt began to talk about going back
to Violet Banks, and invited Corona to accompany his wife and himself to
their, pleasant country home.

It was then that Corona spoke decisively. She thanked him for his
invitation and reminded him of her unalterable resolution to go out to
Fort Farthermost to join her brother.

When Fabian Rockharrt tried to combat her determination, she informed
him that she had during the funeral week received a joint letter from
Captain and Mrs. Neville, inviting her to join their party to the
frontier. This letter had been written at the suggestion of the colonel
of Captain Neville's regiment, and had not been mentioned or even
answered until after the funeral. She said that she had accepted this
kind invitation, and had forwarded all her baggage, which had been so
long stored at North End, to Washington to wait her arrival in that
city.

"Very well, then," said Fabian. "If you are set upon this expedition, I
cannot hinder you, and shall not try to do so. But I tell you what I
will do. I will take Violet to Washington with you, and get rooms at
some pleasant house before the rush of winter visitors. We shall not be
able to go into general society, but there is a great plenty of
sightseeing in the national capital with which to divert the mind of my
poor little girl. Her old guardians, the Pendletimes, are there also,
and it will comfort her to see them. With them she will be able to let
you depart without breaking her poor little heart."

"Oh, Uncle Fabian, I am so glad you have thought of this! It will be so
good for Violet. She has had a sad time since her home-coming. She needs
a change," said Corona, eagerly.

"I think she will be very much pleased with the plan. Now, Cora, when do
you wish to go?"

"As soon as possible; but since you are so kind as to accompany me, my
wish must wait on yours, Uncle Fabian."

"Let us go and consult Violet," said Fabian Rockharrt, rising and
leading the way to the nursery, which had been hastily fitted up for the
accommodation of the Rockharrt baby and her nurse, and where he felt
sure of finding the young mother, too.

Violet, when told of the scheme to go immediately to Washington and see
her old friends, was more than "pleased;" she was delighted. To show her
baby to her more than mother, as she often called Mrs. Pendletime, would
fill her soul with pride and joy.

Very early the next morning Mr. Fabian and his party left the city by
the express train en route for the national capital, leaving Mr.
Clarence to go to North End and take charge of the works. They reached
Baltimore at 11 p.m., and remained over night. The next day they went
on to Washington, where they arrived about noon, and went directly to
the hotel where Captain and Mrs. Neville were staying.

Violet, very much fatigued, lay down to rest and to get her baby to
sleep at her bosom. Mr. Fabian, as we must continue from habit to call
him, though his rightful style was now Mr. Rockharrt, went down to the
reading room to send his own and his wife's cards to Chief Justice and
Mrs. Pendletime, and to collect Washington gossip.

Corona changed her traveling dress, went down into the ladies' parlor,
and sent her card to the rooms of the Nevilles. And presently there
entered to her a very handsome middle-aged pair.

The captain was a fine, tall, broad-shouldered, soldierly-looking man,
with a bald head and a gray mustache. He was clothed in a citizen's
morning suit. The captain's wife was also rather tall, slender, dark
complexioned, with a thin face, black eyes, and black hair very slightly
touched with gray, which she wore in ringlets over her ears, and in a
braid behind her neck. Her dress was a plain, dark cashmere, with white
cuffs and collar.

"It is very kind of you to take charge of me," said Corona to Mrs.
Neville, as the three seated themselves on a group of chairs near
together.

"My dear, I am very glad to have your company, as well on the long and
dreary journey over the plains as at that distant frontier fort. You
will find life at the fort with your brother a severe test to your
affection for him," said Mrs. Neville, with her rather doubtful smile.

"You have some experience of life at Fort Farthermost?" remarked Corona
pleasantly.

"No; not at that particular fort. We have never been quite so far as
that yet. It is a new fort--an outpost really on the extreme
southwestern frontier, as I understand. We shall have to cross what used
to be called the Great American Desert to reach it. We go first to
Leavenworth, and, of course, the journey to Leavenworth is easy enough.
But from Leavenworth the long, tedious traveling by army wagons over the
plains and through the wilderness to the southwestern forts will try
your endurance, my dear."

"Come, come!" said the captain, heartily; "it is not all unmitigated
dreadfulness. To be sure we have no railroads through the wilderness, no
fine city hotels to stay at; but, then, there are some few forts along
the line of travel, where we can stop a day or two to rest, and have
good sport. And when we have no fort at the end of a day's journey, it
is not very awful to bivouac under the shelter of some friendly rock or
in the thicket of some forest. The wagons by day make good couches by
night; and as for the bill of fare, a haunch of venison from a deer shot
by some soldier on the road, and cooked on a fire in the open air, has a
very particularly fine flavor. All civilized condiments we carry with
us. As for amusements, though we have no theaters or concerts, yet there
is always sure to be some fellow along who can sing a good song, and
some other fellow who can tell a good story. I rather think you will
enjoy the trip as a novelty, Mrs. Rothsay. I observe that most young
people do."

"I really think I shall enjoy it," assented Corona.

"I hope that you will be able to endure it, my dear," added Mrs.
Neville.

"You see the journey is no novelty to my wife, Mrs. Rothsay. She has
spent all her married life on the frontier. Thirty years ago, my dear
lady, I received my first commission as second lieutenant in the Third
Infantry, and was ordered to Okononak, Oregon. I married my sweetheart
here, and took her with me, and she has been with me ever since; for we
both agreed that anything was better than separation. We have raised
children, and they have married and left us, and we have never been
parted for a week. We have lived on the frontier, and know every fort
from the confines of Canada to those of Mexico. We have lived among
soldiers, savages, pioneers, scouts, border ruffians, wild beasts, and
venomous reptiles all the days of our married life. What do you think of
us?"

"I think it is unjust that some military officers have to vegetate all
their days in those wilds of the West, while others live for all that
life is worth in the Eastern centers of civilization."

"Bless you, my dear, we don't vegetate. If nothing else should rouse our
souls the Indians would, and make it lively for us, too! It is not an
unpleasant life, upon the whole, Mrs. Rothsay; but you see we are
growing old, and my wife is tired of it, that is all."

"How soon shall we leave for the West?" inquired Corona.

"How soon can you be ready, my dear young lady?"

"I am quite ready now."

"Then on Monday, I think. What do you say, Mrs. Neville?" inquired the
captain.

"Monday will do," replied the wife.

"Now here are some people coming in to interrupt us," said the captain
in a vexed tone.

Corona looked up and said:

"They are Chief Justice and Mrs. Pendletime, come to call on their late
ward, Mrs. Fabian Rockharrt. You know them?"

"Not a bit of it. So if you please, my dear, we will retire at once and
leave you to receive them, especially as we are both engaged to dine at
the arsenal this afternoon," said the captain; and he arose, and with
his wife withdrew from the parlor.

Cora went forward to receive the new visitors. They both greeted her
very warmly, and then expressed the deepest sympathy with her in her
sorrow at the loss of her grandfather, and made many inquiries for the
particulars of his illness.

When Corona had answered all their questions, and they had again
expressed their sympathy, she inquired:

"Have you sent for Violet? Does she know you are here? If not, I will go
and call her."

"Oh, yes; the servant took up our card. And here she comes! And the baby
in her arms, by all that is beautiful!" said Mrs. Pendletime, as she
arose to meet her favorite, and took the infant from the fond mother and
covered both with caresses.

"To think of my child coming to a hotel instead of directly to my
house!" said the elder lady, reproachfully.

"But I wished to stay a day or two with Corona before she leaves for the
West. And after I meant to go to you and stay as long as you would let
me," Violet replied.

"Mrs. Rothsay going West!" exclaimed the old lady.

"Yes; she is," said Violet, emphatically and impatiently. And then there
ensued more explanations, and exclamations, and remonstrances.

And finally Mrs. Pendletime inquired:

"And when do you leave on this fearful expedition, my dear?"

"On Monday next I go, with Captain and Mrs. Neville," replied Corona.

"Well, I am truly sorry for it; but, of course, I cannot help it. On
Monday, therefore, after your friend has taken leave of you, you will
remove to my house, Violet?"

"Oh, yes; the thought of going to you is the only comfort I have in
parting from Corona," replied Mrs. Fabian Rockharrt.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

CORONA'S DEPARTURE.


On the Sunday following her arrival in Washington, the last day of her
sojourn in the capital, the day before her departure for the frontier,
Corona Rothsay rose early in the morning, and soon as she was dressed
went down to the ladies' parlor. Neither her uncle nor his young wife
had yet left their rooms. In fact, so early was it that none of the
ladies staying in the house had yet come down to the parlor. The place
was vacant.

Corona went up the long room and sat down by one of the front windows,
to look down on the passing life of the avenue below.

While she sat looking out of the window she heard a movement at the
lower end of the room. Some one entered and sat down to wait. And some
one else went out again. Corona never turned round to see who was there.
She continued to look through the window. She was not interested in the
comers and goers into and out of the hotel.

Presently some one came in again and said:

"Mrs. Rothsay is not in her room, sir."

"Then I will wait here until she can be found," replied the new comer in
a familiar voice.

But then Corona started up and rushed down the length of the room,
crying eagerly:

"Uncle Clarence! Oh, Uncle Clarence! Is this you? Is this indeed you? I
am so glad to see you once more before I go! I had thought never to see
you again! Or, at least, not for many years! And here you are!"

He caught the hands she held out as she reached him, drew her to his
bosom and kissed her as he answered:

"Yes, my dear, it is I, your old bachelor uncle, who was not satisfied
with the leave taking on last Thursday, but longed to see you again
before your departure."

"You dear Uncle Clarence!"

"So yesterday afternoon I telegraphed to Fabian to ask him when you were
to start for the West. He telegraphed back that you expected to leave
Washington on Monday morning. I got this answer about five o'clock in
the afternoon. And, as it was Saturday night and I had a clear day, the
blessed Sabbath, before me, I only waited to close the works at six
o'clock, as usual, and then I hurried away, packed a carpet bag and
caught, by half a minute, the six-thirty express for Baltimore and
Washington, and came straight through! It was a twelve hours' journey,
my dear, without stopping except to change cars, which connected
promptly, and so you see I have lost no time! I have just arrived, and
did not have to wait five minutes even to see you, for you were here to
receive me! And now that I am here, my dear, I shall stay to see you off
with the Nevilles. You go to-morrow, as I understand? There has been no
change in the programme?"

"We go to-morrow, Uncle Clarence," replied Corona, in a grave, sorrowful
tone, for she was sympathizing with him.

"By what train, my child?"

"The eight-thirty express, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad."

"Then I need not part with you here in Washington. Our routes are the
same for some hundred miles. I shall travel with you as far as the North
End Junction, and take leave of you there. That will be seeing the very
last of you, up to the very last minute."

Just at this moment Mr. Fabian entered the parlor, and recognizing his
younger brother and junior partner, approached him with a shout:

"Clarence! by all that's magical! Pray, did you rise from the earth, or
fall from the skies, that I find you here?"

"How do you do, Fabian? I came in the most commonplace way you can
imagine--by the night express train--and have only just now arrived,"
replied Mr. Clarence.

"And how goes on the works?" inquired Fabian Rockharrt.

"Admirably."

"Glad to hear it. And what brought you here, if it is a civil question?"

"It isn't a civil question, but I'll answer it all the same. I came to
see Cora once more, to spend the last Sabbath with her and to accompany
her as far on the journey to-morrow as our way runs together, which will
be as far as the North End Junction."

"And you will not reach North End before Monday night! A whole day lost
at the works, Clarence! Ah! it is well you have me to deal with instead
of the father--Heaven rest his soul!"

"See here, Fabian," said Mr. Clarence, "for a very little more I will go
with Cora all the way to Fort Farthermost, as her natural protector and
helper in her missionary work. What, indeed, have I to keep me here in
the East since the father left us? Nothing whatever. You have your wife
and child; I have no one. Cora is nearer to me than any other being."

"Come! Come down to breakfast. You have been traveling all night
without food, I feel sure; and fasting and vigils never were means of
grace to a Rockharrt. Come!" said Mr. Fabian, with a laugh.

"I must get a room and go to it first. Look at me!" said Clarence.

"You do look like the ash man or blacksmith, certainly. Well, come
along; we'll go to the office and get a room, and then you can get some
of that dust off you. It won't take ten minutes. After that we will go
to breakfast."

The brothers left the parlor together.

The next moment Violet entered it, and bade good morning to Corona, who
in turn told her of the new arrival.

"Clarence! Oh, I am so glad! What an addition he will be to our party,
Cora, especially after you have left us, my dear, when we shall miss you
so sadly," said Violet.

Cora made no reply. She disliked to tell Violet that she, Violet, would
lose the society of Clarence at the same time that she would lose that
of herself, as her uncle was to leave Washington by the same train.

While they were still talking the two brothers re-entered the parlor.

When Fabian demanded whether they were ready to go down to breakfast,
and received a satisfactory answer, he drew the arm of his wife within
his own, and led the way down stairs. Clarence and Corona followed. When
they entered the breakfast saloon, the polite waiter came forward and
ushered them to a table at which Captain and Mrs. Neville were already
seated. Morning greetings were exchanged, and Mr. Clarence was
introduced and welcomed.

After breakfast all the party went to church.

Then Clarence and Corona spent the afternoon together at one end of the
long parlor, which was so long and had so many recesses that half a
dozen separate groups might have isolated themselves there, each without
fear of their conversation being overheard by the others.

All the members of our party sat up late that evening to eke out the
time they might spend together before parting. It was after midnight
when they retired.

The travelers met at an early breakfast the next morning. Their baggage
had been sent on and checked in advance. They had nothing to do but make
the most of the few remaining minutes.

When the meal was over they all hastily left the table and went to their
rooms to put on their traveling wraps.

Fabian and Violet were to accompany the travelers to the railway depot
to see them off, so that there was to be no leave taking at the hotel
except of the baby.

Corona went into the nurse's room, took the mite in her arms, held it to
her bosom, caressed and kissed it tenderly, but dropped no tear on its
sweet, fair face or soft white robe.

The baby received all this love with delight, leaping and dancing in
Corona's arms, then gazing at her with intense eyes, and crowing and
prattling in inarticulate and unintelligible language, of some happy,
incommunicable news, some joyful message it would deliver if it could.

"Come, Cora. We are waiting for you, my dear," sounded the voice of Mr.
Fabian in the hall outside.

Corona kissed the baby for the last time, blessed it for the vague sweet
hope it had infused into her heart, and then laid it in its nurse's arms
and left the room.

"We shall barely catch the train, if we catch it at all. And the captain
is as nearly in a 'stew' as an officer and a gentleman permits himself
to get. We have been looking for you everywhere," said Mr. Fabian.

"I was in the nurse's room, bidding good-by to the baby," replied Cora.

"Oh!"

No more was said. Baby was excuse for any amount of delay, even though
it had caused the missing of their train and the driving of the captain
into a war dance.

They hurried down stairs and entered the carriages that were waiting to
take them to the depot--Fabian, Violet, Clarence and Corona in one;
Captain and Mrs. Neville, and Mrs. Neville's maid, in the other. And so
they drove to the depot, and arrived just in time to take their tickets
and rush to their seats on the train, with no further leave taking than
a kiss all around, and a general, heartfelt "God bless you!"

The train was speeding away, leaving Washington City behind, when our
party first began to realize that they were really "off" and to take in
their surroundings.

Captain and Mrs. Neville sat together about midway in the car. Clarence
and Corona sat immediately behind them. On the opposite side sat Mrs.
Neville's colored maid, Manda, and in the rear corner, on the same side,
the captain's orderly--a new recruit. About half the remaining seats in
the car were occupied by other travelers.

At Harper's Ferry, amid the most beautiful and sublime mountain scenery
of Virginia, the train stopped twenty minutes for dinner, which, in
those ante-bellum days, was well served from the hotel at the depot.
After dinner, the train started off again at express speed, stopping but
at few stations, until near night, when it reached North End Junction,
where Mr. Clarence was to get off.

"Cora, my darling, we must part here," said Mr. Clarence, gathering up
his effects, as the train slackened speed.

"Oh, Uncle Clarence! Dear Uncle Clarence! God bless you! God bless you!"
sobbed Corona.

"Keep up your heart, dear one. You may see me sooner than you dream of.
The missionary mania is sometimes contagious. You have it in its most
pronounced form. And I have been sitting by you for eight hours,"
replied Mr. Clarence, forgetting his prudent resolution to say nothing
to Corona of an incipient plan in his mind.

"What do you mean, dear Uncle Clarence?" she anxiously inquired.

"I hardly know myself, Corona. But ponder my words in your heart, dear
one. They may mean something. Here we are! Good-by! Good-by! God bless
you!" exclaimed Mr. Clarence.

"Good-by! God bless you!" cried Corona, and they parted--Clarence
jumping off the train just as it started again, at the imminent risk of
his life, yet with lucky immunity from harm.

Corona, looking through the side window, saw him standing safely on the
platform waiting a North End train to come up--saw him only for an
instant as her train flashed onward, and "pondered his words in her
heart," and wondered what they meant.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

ON THE FRONTIER.


Traveling in the ante-bellum days, even by steamboats and railway
trains, was not the rapid transit of the present time. It took one day
for our travelers to reach Wheeling. There they embarked on a river
steamer for St. Louis. On Monday morning they took a steamboat for
Leavenworth, where they arrived early in the evening.

This was the first and best part of their long journey. The second part
must of necessity be very different. Here their railway and steamboat
travel ceased, and the remainder of their course to the far southwestern
frontier must be by military wagons through an almost untrodden
wilderness.

I know that since the days of which I write this section of the country
has been wonderfully developed, and the wilderness has been made to
"bloom and blossom as the rose," but in those days it was still laid
down on the maps as "The Great American Desert." And Fort Leavenworth
appeared to us as an extreme outpost of civilization in the West, and a
stopping place and a point of new departure for troops en route for the
southwestern frontier forts.

Captain Neville and his party landed at Leavenworth on the afternoon of
a fine November day. The captain led the way to the colonel's quarters.
A sentinel was walking up and down the front. He saluted the captain,
who passed into the quarters, where an orderly received the party,
showed them into a parlor, gave them seats, and then took the captain's
card to the colonel.

In a few moments Col. ---- entered the parlor, looked around, recognized
Captain Neville, and greeted him with:

"Ah, Neville! delighted to see you! Mrs. Neville, of course! I remember
you well, madam! And this young lady your daughter, I presume?" he
added, turning from the elders to shake hands with Corona.

"No; not our daughter, I wish she were; but our young friend, Mrs.
Rothsay, who is going with us to Farthermost," Captain Neville
explained.

"To join her husband! One of the new set of officers turned out by the
Academy! Happy man!" exclaimed the colonel, warmly shaking Corona's
hand.

"No, sir; Mrs. Rothsay is a widow. She goes out to join her only
brother, Lieutenant Haught!" the captain again explained, in a low and
faintly reproachful tone.

"Oh! ah! I beg pardon, I am sure. The mistake was absurd," said the
colonel, with a penitent air.

"When did you leave Washington?"

"A week ago to-day; but the boats were slow."

"Pleasant journey, I hope?"

"Oh, yes, so far."

At this moment the colonel's wife came into the room. She was a tall,
gray-haired woman with a fair complexion and blue eyes, and dressed in
black silk and a lace cap. She shook hands with Captain and Mrs.
Neville, who were old friends, and who then presented Mrs. Rothsay, whom
the hostess received with much cordiality.

Meanwhile the colonel and the captain strolled out upon the piazza, to
smoke each a cigar. The former inquired more particularly into the
history of the beautiful, pale woman who had come out under the
protection of the captain and his wife.

Captain Neville told him all he knew of Mrs. Rothsay's story--namely,
that she was the granddaughter of the famous Iron King, Aaron Rockharrt,
lately deceased, and that she was the widow of the late Regulas Rothsay,
who so mysteriously disappeared on the evening of his wedding before the
day of his expected inauguration as governor of his native State, and
who was afterward discovered to have been murdered by the Comanche
Indians.

In the evening, when a number of officers dropped into the drawing room
of the colonel's quarters, our party were quite able to receive them.

One unexpected thing happened. Among the callers was a certain Major
----, a childless widower of middle age, short, thick-set, black-bearded
and red-faced, with a bluff presence and a bluff voice, who fell--yes,
tumbled--heels over head in love with Corona at first sight.

This catastrophe was so patent to all beholders as to excite equal
wonder and mirthfulness.

Only Corona of all the company remained ignorant of the conquest she had
made; ignorant, that is, until the visitors had all left the quarters,
when her hostess said to her in a bantering tone:

"You have subdued our major, my dear, utterly subdued him. This is the
first case of love at first sight that ever came under my notice, but it
is an unmistakable one. And, oh, I should say a malignant, if not a
fatal, type of the disorder."

So closed the day of our travelers' arrival at Fort Leavenworth.

It was Saturday afternoon, on the sixth day of the visitors' stay at the
fort, and the ladies were on the parade ground watching the drill, when
the word came that the steamer was coming up the river with troops on
board.

"Our raw recruits at last," said Captain Neville, who was standing with
the ladies.

"And that means, I suppose, that we are to start for Farthermost at
once," said Mrs. Neville.

"Not on the instant," laughed the captain.

"This is Saturday afternoon. To-morrow is Sunday. We shall leave on
Monday morning."

"Rain or shine?"

"Fair or foul, of course," said the captain.

It was really the steamer with the new recruits on board. Half an hour
later they landed and marched into the fort, under the command of the
recruiting sergeant, and they were received with cheers.

That evening Captain Neville announced his intention to set out for
Farthermost on Monday morning. Of course this was expected. And equally,
of course, not one word was said to induce him to defer his departure
for one day. Military duty must take precedence of mere politeness.

The next day being the Sabbath, the ladies attended the morning service
in the chapel of the fort. The irrepressible Major ---- was present, and
after the benediction, attached himself to Captain Neville's party, and
walked home with them to the colonel's quarters, but not next to Cora,
who walked with Mrs. Neville.

As the major paused at the door, Mrs. ---- had no choice but to invite
him to come in and stay to dinner, adding that this was the last day of
the Nevilles' and Mrs. Rothsay's sojourn at the fort.

The major thanked the lady, and followed her into the drawing room,
where he sat talking to the colonel, while the ladies went to their
rooms to lay off their bonnets and cloaks. They came down only when
called by the bell to the early Sunday dinner.

As this was the last day of the guests' stay at Fort Leavenworth, many
of the officers dropped in to say good by; so that the party sat up
rather later than usual, and it was near midnight when they retired to
rest.

Corona did not go to bed at once. She sat from twelve to one writing a
letter to her Uncle Clarence, not knowing how the next was to be mailed
to him.

The next morning was so clear, bright, and beautiful that every one
said that it must be the perfection of Indian summer.

On the road outside the walls five strong army wagons, to which stout
mules were harnessed, stood in a line. These were to serve the men as
carriages by day and couches by night. Besides these, there were two
carriages of better make and more comfortable fittings for the captain
and the ladies of his party.

The farewell breakfast at the colonel's quarters partook of the nature
of an official banquet. It was unnecessarily prolonged.

At length the company left the table.

Mrs. Neville and Mrs. Rothsay went to their rooms to put on hats and
cloaks. As soon as they were ready they came down to bid good by to Mrs.
---- and some other ladies who had come to the colonel's quarters to see
them off.

When these adieus were all said, the colonel gave Mrs. Rothsay his arm
to lead her to the carriage, which stood in line with the army wagons on
the road outside the walls.

Captain and Mrs. Neville had gone on before.

"There, the steamer has landed, and here are some people coming up from
it," said the colonel, pausing at the gate with Corona on his arm, as a
heavy carriage, drawn by a pair of powerful draught horses, came up from
the steamboat landing and drew up at the gate.

A tall man, in a long overcoat and a fur cap, jumped down and approached
Corona.

"Uncle Clarence! Oh, heaven of heavens! Uncle Clarence!" she exclaimed,
pale and faint with excess of surprise and joy.

"Yes, my dear; I am going with you. See, I have my own carriage and
horses, brought all the way by steamer from St. Louis. Our own servants,
brought all the way from North End. Now introduce me to your friend
here, and later I will tell you all about it," said the new comer, with
a smile, as he kissed his niece.

"Oh, Colonel ----, this is my dear Uncle Clarence--Mr. Clarence
Rockharrt, I mean," said Corona, in a rapture of confusion.

"How do you do, sir? I am very glad to see you. Really going over the
plains with this train?" inquired the colonel, as the two gentlemen
shook hands.



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE NEW COMERS.


"Yes, colonel," briskly replied Clarence, "I am really going out to the
frontier! I have not enlisted in the army, nor have I received any
appointment as post trader or Indian agent from the government, nor
missionary or schoolmaster from any Christian association. But, all the
same, I am en route for the wilderness on my own responsibility, by my
own conveyance, at my own expense, and with this outgoing trail--if
there be no objection," added Clarence, with a sudden obscure doubt
arising in his mind that there might exist some military regulation
against the attachment of any outsider to the trail of army wagons going
over the plains from fort to fort.

"'Objections!' What objections could there possibly be, my dear sir? I
fancy there could be nothing worse than a warm welcome for you," replied
the colonel.

At that moment Captain Neville, who had put his wife in their carryall,
came up to see what had delayed his guest.

"My dear Mrs. Rothsay, we are ready to start," he said. Then seeing Mr.
Clarence, whom he had met in Washington and liked very much, he seized
his hand and exclaimed:

"Why, Rockharrt, my dear fellow! You here! This is a surprise, indeed! I
am very glad to see you! How are you? When did you arrive?" and he shook
the hand of the new comer as if he would have shaken it off.

"I am very well, thank you, captain, and have just landed from the boat.
I hope you and your wife are quite well."

"Robust, sir! Robust! So glad to see you! But so sorry you did not
arrive a few days sooner, so that we might have seen more of you. You
have come, I suppose, all this distance to bid a last, supplementary
farewell to your dear favorite niece?"

"I have come to go with her to the frontier, if I may have the privilege
of traveling with your trail of wagons."

"Why, assuredly. We are always glad of good company on the way,"
heartily responded the captain.

"Oh, beg pardon, and thank you very much; but I did not intend to 'beat'
my way. Look there!" exclaimed Clarence, with a brighter smile, as he
pointed to the commodious carriage, drawn by a pair of fine draught
horses, that stood waiting for him, and to the covered wagon, drawn by a
pair of stout mules, that was coming up behind.

"Oh! Ah! Yes, I see! You are traveling with your retinue. But is not
this a very sudden move on your part?" demanded the captain.

"So sudden in its impulse that it might be mistaken for the flight of a
criminal, had it not been so deliberate in its execution. The fact is,
sir, I am very much attached to my widowed niece, and not being able to
dissuade her from her purpose of going out into the Indian country, and
being her natural protector and an unincumbered bachelor, I decided to
follow her. And now I feel very happy to have overtaken her in the nick
of time."

"I see! I see!" said the captain with a laugh.

While this talk was still going on, Corona turned to take a better look
at the great, strong carriage in which her uncle had driven up from the
steamboat landing. There, to her surprise and delight, she saw young
Mark, from Rockhold, seated on the box. He was staring at her, trying to
catch her eye, and when he did so he grinned and bobbed, and bobbed and
grinned, half a dozen times, in as many half seconds.

"Why, Mark! I am so surprised!" said Corona, as she went toward him. "I
am so glad to see you!"

"Yes'm. Thanky'm. So is I. Yes'm, an'dar's mammy an' daddy an' Sister
Phebe 'hind dar in de wagon," jerking his head toward the rear.

Corona looked, and her heart leaped with joy to see the dear, familiar
faces of the colored servants who had been about her from her childhood.
For there on the front seat of the wagon sat old John, from Rockhold,
with the reins in his hands, drawing up the team of mules, while on one
side of him sat his middle-aged wife, Martha, the housekeeper, and on
the other his young daughter, Phebe, once lady's maid to Corona Rothsay.

Corona uttered a little cry of joy as she hastened toward the wagon. The
three colored people saw her at once, and, with the unconventionally of
their old servitude, shouted out in chorus:

"How do, Miss C'rona?"

"Sarvint, Miss C'rona!"

"Didn't 'spect to see we dem come trapesin' arter yer 'way out yere,
did yer now?"

And they also grinned and bobbed, and bobbed and grinned, between every
word, as they tumbled off their seats and ran to meet her.

Mr. Clarence hoisted the two women to their seats, one on each side of
the driver, and then turned to Corona.

"Come, my dear. Let me put you into our carriage," he said, as he drew
her arm within his own and led her on.

"Oh! I have not taken leave of Colonel ---- yet.

"Where is he?" she inquired, looking around.

"Here I am, my dear Mrs. Rothsay. Waiting at the carriage door to put
you in your seat and to wish you a pleasant journey. And certainly, if
this initial day is any index, you will have a pleasant one, for I never
saw finer weather at this season of the year," said the colonel,
cheerily, as he received Corona from her uncle's hand, and, with the
stately courtesy of the olden time, placed her in her seat.

"I thank you, colonel, for all the kindness I have received at your
hands and at those of Mrs. ----. I shall never forget it. Good by," said
Corona, giving him her hand.

He lifted the tips of her fingers to his lips, bowed, and stepped back.

Mr. Clarence entered the carriage and gave the order to the young
coachman. Carriage and covered wagon then fell into the procession,
which began to move on. A farewell gun was fired from the fort.

"Uncle Clarence," said Corona, after the party had been on the road some
hours--"Uncle Clarence, how came you first to think of such a strange
move as to leave the works and come out here? And when did you first
make up your mind to do it?"

"I think, Cora, my dear, that the idea came vaguely into my mind, as a
mere possibility, after my father's death. It occurred to me that there
was no absolute necessity for my remaining longer at the works. You see,
Cora, however much I might have wished for a change in my life, I never
could have vexed my father by even expressing such a wish, while he
lived. After his death I thought of it vaguely."

"Oh! why didn't you tell me?"

"My mind was not made up; therefore I spoke of the matter to no one. I
only hinted something to you, when on bidding you good by at North End
Junction I told you that you might possibly see me before you would
expect to do so."

"Yes; I remember that well. I thought you only said that to comfort me.
And you really meant that you might possibly follow me?"

"Yes, my dear; that is just what I meant. I could not speak more plainly
because I was not sure of my own course. I had to think of Fabian."

"Yes. How, at last, came you to the conclusion of following your poor
niece?"

"Fabian and myself could not agree upon a certain policy in conducting
our business. There was no longer the father's controlling influence,
you see, and Fabian is the head of the firm; and I could not do business
on his principles," said Mr. Clarence, flushing up to his brow.

"No; I suppose you could not," said Cora, meditatively; and then she was
sorry that she had said anything that might imply a reproach to the
good-humored uncle she had left behind.

"Still, I said nothing about a dissolution of partnership until Fabian
complained that I, or my policy, was a dead weight around his neck,
dragging him down from the most magnificent flights to mere sordid
drudgery. Then I proposed that we should dissolve partnership. And he
said he was sorry. And I believe he was; but also glad, inconsistent as
that seems. For he was sorry I could not come into his policy, and stay
in the firm; but since I could not so agree with him, he was relieved
when I proposed to withdraw from it. We disagreed, my dear Cora, but we
did not fall out; we parted good friends and brothers with tears in our
eyes. Poor little Violet cried a good deal. But you know she has such a
tender heart, poor child!--Look at that herd of deer, Cora, standing on
the top of that swell of the land to the right, and actually gazing at
the trail without a motion or a panic. I hope nobody will shoot at
them!" exclaimed Mr. Clarence, suddenly breaking off in his discourse to
point to the denizens of the thicket and the prairie, until upon some
sudden impulse the whole herd turned and bounded away.

So they fared on through that glorious autumn day--over the vast,
rolling, solitary prairie--now rising to a smooth, gradual elevation
that revealed the circle of the whole horizon where it met the sky; now
descending into a wide, shallow hollow, where the rising ground around
inclosed them as in an amphitheater; but everywhere along the trail, the
prairie grass, dried and burnished by the autumn's suns and winds,
burned like gold on the hills and bronze in the hollows, giving a
singularly beautiful effect in light and shade of mingling metallic
hues.

At noon the captain ordered a halt, and all the teams were drawn up in a
line; and all the men got out to feed and water the horses and mules,
and to prepare their own dinner.

They were now beside a clear, deep, narrow stream, a tributary of the
Kansas River, running through a picturesque valley, carpeted with long
grass, and bordered with low, well-wooded hills on either side. The
burnished gold and bronze of the long dried grass on the river's brim,
dotted here and there with a late scarlet prairie flower, the brilliant
crimson and purple of the autumn foliage that clothed the trees, the
bright blue of the sky and the soft white of the few downy clouds
floating overhead, and all reflected and duplicated in the river below,
made a beauty and glory of color that must have delighted the soul of an
artist, and pleased the eye of even the most careless observer.

Mike O'Reilly, the captain's orderly, was busy spreading a table cloth
on the grass, at the foot of a hill on the right, and old John, Mr.
Clarence's man, was emulating Mike by spreading a four-yard square of
white damask at a short distance behind him.

Our friends had nearly finished their lunch, when something--she never
could tell what--caused Corona to look behind her. Then she shrieked!
All looked to see the cause of her sudden fright.

There stood a group of Indians, with blankets around their forms, and
gleaming tomahawks about their shoulders.

"Pawnees--friendly. Don't be afraid. Give them something to eat," said
the captain, in a low tone, addressing the first part of his
conversation to Corona and the last part to Mrs. Neville.

But Corona had never seen an Indian in her life, and could not at once
get over her panic caused by the sight of those bare, keen-edged axes
gleaming in the sun.

Captain Neville spoke to them in their native tongue, and they replied.
The conversation that ensued was quite unintelligible to Clarence and
Corona, but not to Mrs. Neville, who beckoned to two squaws who stood
humbly in the rear of the braves. They were both clothed in short,
rude, blue cotton skirts, with blankets over their shoulders. The elder
squaw carried a pack on her back; the younger one carried a baby snugly
in a hood made of the loop of her blanket at the back of her neck.

They both approached the ladies, chattering as they came; the elder one
threw down her pack on the grass and began to open it, and display a
number of dressed raccoon skins stretched upon sticks, and by gibbering
and gesticulations expressed her wish to sell them.

Neither of the ladies wished to buy; but Mrs. Neville give her loaves of
bread and junks of dried beef from the hampers on the grass, and Corona
gave her money.

She put the money in a little fur pouch she carried at her belt, and she
packed the bread and beef in the bundle with the highly flavored raccoon
skins. She was not fastidious.

While Mrs. Neville and Corona were occupied with the squaw, Captain
Neville and Mr. Clarence had been feasting the braves, and the
attendants had been washing dishes, repacking hampers, and reloading
wagons for a fresh start.

When all was ready the wayfarers took leave of the Indians and
re-entered their conveyances and resumed their route, leaving the
savages still feasting on the fragments that remained.

It was now two o'clock in the afternoon, as the long trail of carryalls
and army wagons passed up from the beautiful valley and out upon the
vast prairie that still rolled on before them in hills and hollows of
gold and bronze, blazing under the bright autumnal sun.

Men and women, mules and horses, had all been rested and refreshed by
their mid-day halt and repast.

The people, however, seemed less inclined to observe and converse than
in the forenoon.

Even Clarence saw more than one flock of birds sail over their heads,
and made no sign; saw a herd of deer stand and gaze, and said not a
word.

At length Clarence took out his cigar and lit it, and as he smoked he
watched the descending sun until it sank below the horizon and sent up
the most singular after-glow that Clarence had ever seen--a shower of
sparks and needle-like flames from the edge of the prairie immediately
under the horizon.

"Looks like de worl' was ketchin on fire ober dere, Marse Clarence,"
said young Mark, speaking for the first time since they had resumed
their march.

"It is only the light reflected by the prairie, my boy," kindly replied
Mr. Clarence. And then he smoked on in silence, while the after-glow
died out, the twilight faded, and one by one the stars came out. Corona
seemed to be slumbering in her seat. Young Mark crooned low, as if to
himself, a weird, old camp meeting hymn. It was so dark that he could
not have seen to guide his horses, had not the captain's carryall been
immediately in front of his own, and the long trail of wagons in front
of the captain's, with lantern carried by the advance guard to show the
way.

"What's the matter?" suddenly called out Mr. Clarence, who was aroused
from his reverie by the halt of the whole procession.

"We 'pears to got sumwhurze," replied Mark, strongly pulling in his
horses, which had nearly run into the back of the captain's stationary
carryall in front.

"We are at Burley's," called out Captain Neville from his seat.

While he spoke Mike O'Reilly brought up a lantern to show their way to
the house.

Clarence alighted and handed down his niece, took her arm, and followed
Captain and Mrs. Neville past the wagons and mules and groups of men
through a door that admitted them into a long, low-ceiled room, lighted
by tallow candles in tin sconces along the log walls, and warmed by a
large cooking stove in the middle of the floor. Rude, unpainted wooden
chairs, benches and tables were the only furniture, if we except the
rough shelves on which coarse crockery and tinware were arranged and
under which iron cooking utensils were piled.

Captain Neville and Mr. Clarence returned to the wagons to see for
themselves that their valuable personal effects were safely bestowed for
the night, and that the horses and mules were well cared for. The
proprietor of this place attended them.

While Mrs. Neville and Corona still walked up and down in the room, a
small dark-haired woman came in and nodded to them, and asked if they
would like to go upstairs and have some water to wash their faces.

Both ladies thankfully accepted this offer, and followed the landlady up
a rude flight of steps that led up from the corner of the room to an
open trap door, through which they entered the garret.

This was nothing better than a loft, whose rough plank floor formed the
ceiling of the room below, and whose sloping roof rose from the floor
front and back, and met overhead.

Here they rested through the night.

Let us hasten on. It was the thirteenth day out. The trail had crossed
nearly the whole of the Indian Territory, and were within one day's
march of Fort Farthermost, on the Texan frontier.

They had passed the previous night at Fort W., and at sunrise they had
crossed the Rio Negro, and before noon they had made nearly a score of
miles toward their destination. They halted beside a little stream that
took its rise in a spring among the rocks on the right hand of the
trail. Here the party meant to rest for two hours before resuming the
march to Fort Farthermost, which they hoped to reach that same night.

As usual at the noon rest, mules and horses were unharnessed and led
down to the stream to be watered and fed. Fires were built and rustic
cranes improvised to hang the pots and kettles gypsy style. Since the
first day out old Martha had been constituted cook and old John butler
to our party.

In a short time Martha had prepared such a hot dinner as was practicable
under the circumstances, and John had laid the cloth.

When all was ready the party of four sat down on the dry grass to
partake of the meal, to every course of which they all did ample
justice.

"This is our last _al fresco_ feast," said Captain Neville, after
dinner, as he filled the glasses of the two ladies and of Clarence
Rockharrt and proposed the toast:

"Our lasting friendship and companionship."

It was honored warmly.

Next Clarence proposed:

"Mrs. Neville," which was also honored and responded to by the captain
in a neat little speech, at the end of which he proposed:

"Mrs. Rothsay."

This was duly met by Clarence with a brief acknowledgment. Mr. Clarence
was no speechmaker. But he proposed the health of--

"Our gallant captain," which was drank with enthusiasm.

The captain responded, and proposed--

"Mr. Clarence Rockharrt," which was cordially honored.

Then Mr. Clarence made his last little speech of personal thanks.

After this the company arose and separated, to wander about the camping
ground, to stretch their cramped limbs before returning to their seats
on their carryalls.

"Come, Clarence, let us follow this little stream up to its head. It
cannot be far away," said Corona.

Mr. Clarence silently drew her arm within his, and they walked on up the
little valley until it narrowed into a gorge, clothed with stunted trees
in brilliant autumn hues, through which the gray rocks jutted. The
tinkling of the spring which supplied the stream could be heard while it
was yet out of sight.

"Did you bring your drinking cup with you, Clarence? I should like a
draught from the spring," said Corona.

"Oh, yes," said her uncle, producing the silver cup. They clambered up
the side of the gorge until they reached the spring--a great jet of
water issuing from the rock. But there both stopped short, spellbound,
in amazement. On a ledge of rock above the spring, and facing them,
stood a majestic man, clothed in coat of buckskin, faced and bordered
with fur, leggings of buckskin and sandals of buffalo hide. On his head
he wore a fur cap that half concealed his tawny hair. The face was fine,
but sunburnt and half covered with a long, tawny beard. Corona looked
up, and recognized--Regulas Rothsay!

With a cry of terror, she struck her hands to her eyes, as if to dispel
an optical illusion, and sank half fainting, to be caught in the arms of
her uncle and laid against the side of the rocks, while he sprinkled her
face with water from the spring.

She recovered her breath, opened her eyes, and looked anxiously,
fearfully, all around her.

There was no one in sight anywhere. The apparition had vanished. Corona
and her uncle were alone.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE MEETING ON THE MOUNT.


"What is this? Am I mad? Have I seen a spirit? Oh, Clarence, what is
it?" cried Corona, in a tumult of emotion in which her life seemed
throbbing away as she clung to her uncle for support.

"Try to compose yourself, dear Cora," he answered, as he gently laid her
down on the mossy rocks, and went and brought her water from the spring
in his pocket cup.

She raised herself and drank it at his request, and then staring wildly
at him, repeated her questions:

"Oh, what was it? Who was here just now? Or was it--or was it--was
it--delusion?"

"For Heaven's sake, Cora, calm yourself. It was Regulas Rothsay who
stood here a moment ago."

"Rule himself, and no delusion! But, oh! I knew it! I knew it all the
time!" she exclaimed, still trembling violently.

"My darling Cora, try--"

"Where did he go? Where?" she cried, staggering to her feet and clinging
to her uncle. "Where? Oh, take me to him!"

"Do you see that log cabin on the plateau above us, Cora, to the right?"
he said, pointing in the direction of which he spoke.

Her eyes followed his index, and she saw a cottage of rough-hewn logs
standing against the rocky steep at the back of the broad ledge above
them.

"What do you mean? Is he up there? Is he up there?" she breathlessly
demanded.

"Yes; he is in that hut. I saw him climb the rocks and enter it, and
close the door. But, for Heaven's sake! compose yourself, my dear. You
are shaking as with an ague, and your hands are cold as ice," said
Clarence.

"In that hut, did you say? So near? So near?"

"Yes, dear Cora; but be calm."

"Take me there! Take me there! Oh, give me your arm, Uncle Clarence, and
help me. My limbs fail now, when I need them more than ever before. Ah!
and my heart fails, too!" she moaned, growing suddenly pale and fainter
as she leaned heavily against her uncle.

"Cora, darling! Cora, rouse yourself, my girl! This weakness is not like
you. Take courage; all will be well," said Mr. Clarence, caressingly,
laying his hand on her head.

She sighed heavily as she asked:

"How will he receive me? Oh, how will he receive me? Will he have me
now? But he must! Oh, he must! For I will never, never, never go down
this mountain side again without him! I will perish on its rocks sooner!
Oh, come, come! Help me to reach that hut, Clarence."

There was no resisting her wild and passionate appeal. Clarence put his
arm around her waist, to sustain her more effectually, as he said:

"Now lean on me, Cora, and step carefully, for the path is almost
hidden, and very rugged."

"Oh, Clarence, did he recognize me? did he, Clarence? did he?" she
eagerly inquired.

"Yes, Cora, he did," gravely answered the young uncle.

"And turned and went away! And turned and went away! Went away and left
me without one word!" she wailed, in doubt and distress.

"Cora, my dear, pray control yourself," said Clarence, uneasily.

"Did he speak to you?" she suddenly inquired.

"Not one word."

"Did you speak to him?"

"No; for he was gone in an instant, before I recovered from my
astonishment at his appearance."

"How did he look?--how did he look when he recognized me? In anger?"

"No, Corona; but in much sorrow, pity, and tenderness," gravely replied
Clarence.

"Then, why did he leave me? Oh, why did he turn away from me?"

"My dear, he had every reason to think that his sudden appearance had
frightened you, and that his presence grieved and distressed you."

"Why, oh, why should he have thought so?" she demanded, with increasing
agitation.

"My dear girl, you were frightened. I might say appalled. You saw him
suddenly, and with a half-smothered scream threw your hands to your eyes
as if to shut out the sight, and then sank to the ground. Now what could
the man think but that you feared and hated the sight of him?"

"Just as he thought before! Just as he thought before!"

"And he turned sorrowfully away and walked up to his cabin on the mount,
entered, and shut the door. I saw him do it."

"Just as he did before! Just as he did before! Oh, Rule! what a
fatality! That appearances should always be false and disastrous between
us!" she moaned.

"Not in this case, Cora. At least not from this hour. Come, we are on
the ledge now!" said Clarence, as he helped his niece, who with one more
high step stood on the top of the plateau, her back to one of the most
glorious prairie scenes in nature, her face to a rocky, pine-dotted
precipice, against which stood a double log cabin, with a door in the
middle and a window on each side.

"There is the hut! Now, shall I take you there, or shall I wait here and
let you go alone?" he inquired, as they stood side by side gazing on the
hut.

She did not answer. Her eyes were riveted on the door of the cabin,
while she leaned heavily on the arm of her uncle.

"I see how it is: you are weakening, losing courage. Let me support you
to the door," said Clarence, putting his arm around her waist.

But she drew herself up suddenly.

"Oh, let me go alone, dear Uncle Clarence. My meeting with Rule should
be face to face only," she replied, still trembling, but resolute.

"Are you sure you can do it?"

"Oh, yes, yes! My limbs shall no longer refuse their office!"

Clarence threw himself down at the foot of a pine tree to sit and await
events.

He took out his watch and looked at the time.

"It is one o'clock," he said to himself. "At two sharp the trail will
move, or ought to do so. Perhaps Neville might give us half an hour's
grace, though. At any rate, I will wait here three-quarters of an hour,
and if in that time I hear nothing from Rothsay or Cora, I shall go down
the mountain to explain the situation to Neville."

So saying, Mr. Clarence took out his pipe, filled and lighted it, and
smoked.

Corona, like a somnambulist or a blind woman, went slowly toward the log
cabin, holding out her hands before her. She soon reached it, leaned for
a moment against the log wall to recover her breath and her courage, and
then knocked.

The door was instantly opened, and Regulas Rothsay stood on the
threshold, still clothed in his hunter's suit of buckskin, but without
the fur cap--the same Rule, unchanged except in habiliments and in the
length of his untrimmed, tawny hair and beard.

In the instant of meeting she raised her eyes to his, and read in them
the undying love of his heart.

With a cry of rapture, of infinite relief and infinite content, she sank
upon his doorstep, clasped his knees, and laid her beautiful head down
prone on his feet. Only for a second.

He instantly raised her in his arms, pressed her to his heart, kissed
her, and kissed her again and again, bore her into the cabin, placed her
in the only chair, and knelt down beside her.

She turned and threw her arms around his neck, and dropped her head upon
his bosom.

And not a word was spoken between them. The emotions of both were too
great for utterance, too great almost for endurance.

They were bathed in a flood of light from the noonday sun pouring its
rays through the open door and windows of the cabin. It was the
apotheosis of love.

Rule was the first to speak.

"You are welcome, oh, welcome, as life to the dead, my love! But I do
not understand my blessedness--I do not," he said, dropping his head on
her shoulders, while she still lay on his bosom, in a dream, a trance of
perfect contentment.

"Oh, Rule, my husband, my lord, my king! I have come to you,
unconsciously led by the Divine Providence! But I have come to you, to
stay forever, if you will have me! I have come, never, never, never to
leave you, unless you send me away!" she said.

"I send you away, dear? I send away my restored life from me? Ah, you
know, you know how impossible that would be! But if I should try to tell
you, dear, all that I feel at this moment, I should fail, and talk
folly, for no human words can utter this, dear! But I am amazed--amazed
to see you here with me, as the dead to the material world might be, on
awaking amid the splendors of Paradise!"

"You wish to know how I came?"

"No! I do not! Amazed as I may be, I am content to know that you are
here, dear--here! But," he said, looking around on the rudeness of his
hut, "oh, what a place to receive you in! I left you in a palace,
surrounded by all the splendors and luxuries of civilization! I receive
you in a log cabin, bare of even the necessaries and comforts of life!"
he added, gravely.

"But you left me a discarded, broken-hearted woman, and you receive me a
restored and happy wife!" she exclaimed.

"But, oh, Cora! can you live with me here, here? Look around you, dear!
Look on the home you would share!--the walls of logs, the chimney of
rocks, the floor of stone, the cups and dishes of earthenware, pewter
and iron, the--"

She interrupted him, passionately:

"But you are here, Rule! You! you! And the log hut is transfigured into
a mansion of light! A mansion like the many in our Heavenly Father's
House! Oh, Rule! you, you are all, all to me! life, joy, riches,
splendor, all to me! Am I all to you, Rule?"

"All of earth and heaven, dear."

"Oh, happy I am! Oh, I thank God, I thank God for this happiness! Rule,
we will never part again!--never for a single day! But be together,
to-day and

    'To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow,
    To the last syllable of recorded time,'

and through the endless ages of eternity! Oh, Rule, how could we ever
have mistaken our hearts? How could we ever have parted?"

"The mistake was mine only, dear. After what you told me on our marriage
day, I lost all hope, all interest and ambition in life. I had toiled
and striven and conquered, for the one dear prize; all my battle of life
was fought for you; all my victories were won for you, and were laid at
your feet. But when I found that all my love and hope had brought only
grief and despair to you--then, dear, all my triumphs turned into Dead
Sea fruit on my lips! Then I left all and came into the wilderness; left
no trace behind me; effaced myself from your life, from the world, as
effectually as I could do it; and so--believing it to be for your good
and happiness--died to the world and died to you!"

"Oh, Rule! Miserable woman that I was! I wrecked your life! I wrecked
your career!"

"No, dear, no; the mistake, I said, was mine! I should have trusted your
heart. I should have given you the time you implored; I should not have
fled in the madness of suddenly wounded affection."

"Oh, Rule? if you could have only looked back on me after you went away,
only known the anguish your disappearance caused me and the inconsolable
sorrow of the time that followed it."

"If I could have supposed it possible even, I would have hastened to
you, from the uttermost parts of the earth!"

"And then they reported you dead, murdered by the Comanches, in the
massacre of La Terrepeur, and sorrow was deepened to despair."

"Yes; I heard of that massacre. The report of my death must have arisen
in this way: I had lived at La Terrepeur for many months, but had left
and come to this place some days before the massacre. Some other
unfortunate was murdered and burned in the deserted hut, whose bones
were found in ashes. I did not return to contradict the report. I wished
to be dead to the world, as I was dead to hope, dead to you, dead to
myself!"

"Oh, Rule! in all that time how I longed, famished, fainted, died, for
your presence! Yes, Rule; died daily."

"My own, dear Cora, how could I have mistaken you? Oh! if I had only
known!"

"Ah, yes! if you had only known my heart, or I had only known your
whereabouts! In either case we should have met before, and not lost four
years out of our lives! But now, Rule," she said, with sudden
animation--"now 'We meet to part no more,' as the hymn says. I will
never, never, never, leave you for a day! I will be your very shadow!"

"My sunshine, rather, dear!"

"And are you content, Rule?"

"Infinitely."

"And happy?"

"Perfectly."

"Thank God! So am I. But why, oh, why when we met by the spring just
now, why, when I was crazed with joy and fear at the sudden sight of
you, why did you turn away and leave me?" she passionately demanded.

He looked at her serenely, incisively, and answered, calmly, quietly:

"Dear, because you shrank from me, threw your hands up before your eyes,
as if to shut out the sight of me. Dear, your own sudden appearance
before me at the spring, to which I had gone for my noonday draught of
water, nearly overwhelmed me; but I readily recovered myself and
understood it, connected it with the trail below, and concluded that you
were on your way to Farthermost to join your brother, whom I had heard
of as one of the officers of the new fort. Then, believing that my
presence distressed you, I went away."

"Oh, Rule!"

After a little while Rothsay inquired:

"Was not that Mr. Clarence Rockharrt whom I saw with you by the spring?"

"Yes; Uncle Clarence. He helped me up to this ledge, and then he stayed
outside while I came in here to look for you."

"Let us go and bring him in now, dear," said Rule.

And the two walked out together.

But no one was to be seen on the plateau; only, on the ground under the
pine tree where Mr. Clarence had rested was a piece of white paper, kept
in place by a small stone laid upon it.

Rule picked up the stone, and handed the paper to Cora.

It proved to be a leaf from Mr. Clarence's pocket tablets, and on it was
written:

    "I am going down the mountain to tell Captain Neville that my
    party will camp here to-night, and join him at the fort to-morrow,
    so that he may go on with his train at once, if he should see fit.
    CLARENCE."

"He saw you receive me; he knew it was all right; then he grew tired of
waiting for me. He thought I had forgotten him, and so I had, and he
left this paper and went down to the trail," Corona explained with a
smile.

"Shall we go down and see your friends, Cora? Tell me what you wish,
dear," said Rothsay.

Corona looked at her watch, and then replied:

"Courtesy would have required me to go down and take leave of Captain
and Mrs. Neville before leaving them, but it is too late now. Their
caravan is on the march by this time. They were to have resumed their
route at two o'clock. It is after three now."

"We can go to Farthermost later, dear. It is but half a day's ride from
here. Shall we go down the mountain and join Clarence? Is it your wish,
Cora?"

"No, not yet. He is very well as he is. He can wait for us. Let us sit
down here together. I have so much to tell, and so much to hear," said
Corona.

"Yes, dear; and I also have 'so much to tell, and so much to hear,'"
assented Rothsay, as they sat down at the foot of the young pine tree,
with their backs to the rising cliffs and their faces to the descending
mountain, the brook at its foot, and the vast, sunlit prairie, in its
autumn coat of dry grass, rolling in smooth hills and hollows of gold
and bronze off to the distant horizon.

"Tell me, dear, of all that has befallen you in these dark years that
have parted us. Tell me of your grandparents. Do they still live?"
inquired Rothsay.

"Ah, no!" replied Corona. And then she entered upon the family history
of the last four years and four months, since Rule had disappeared, and
told him of the sudden death of her dear old grandmother on the very day
on which the false report of Rothsay's murder reached them.

She told him of her Uncle Fabian's marriage to Violet Wood a year later.

Of her widowed grandfather's second marriage to Mrs. Stillwater, whom
Rothsay had known in his childhood as Miss Rose Flowers.

Of the recent death of this second wife, followed very soon after by
that of the aged widower.

And finally she told him of her own resolution to follow her brother
Sylvan to his post of duty at Fort Farthermost, to open a mission home
school for Indian children, and to devote her life and fortune to their
service; and of the good opportunity offered her by the kindness of
Colonel Z. in procuring for her the escort of Captain and Mrs. Neville,
who were on their way to Farthermost with a party of recruits.

"And Clarence? How came he to be of the company?" inquired Rothsay.

"Uncle Clarence could not agree with Uncle Fabian in business policy. So
they dissolved partnership very amicably and with mutual satisfaction.
This was after I had left Rockhold. Clarence gathered up his wealth,
brought three devoted servants with him, and set out to follow me. At
St. Louis he purchased wagons, tents, horses, mules, and every
convenience for crossing the plains. He overtook and surprised us at
Fort Leavenworth on the very day of our intended departure for
Farthermost."

"Clarence came for your sake."

"Yes; and he has enjoyed the journey. On the free prairie he has been
like a boy out of school--so buoyant, so joyous--the life of the whole
company."

"What will he do now?"

"I think he will go on to Farthermost for this season. After this I do
not know what he will do or where he will go."

"He will remain in this quarter, which offers a grand field for a man
like Clarence Rockharrt," said Rothsay.

"I should think it might--in the future," replied Corona.

"In the near future. The tide of emigration is pouring into this section
so fast that very soon the ground will be disputed with the Mexican
government, and true men and brave men will be much wanted here."

"Yes," said Corona, indifferently, for she cared very little at this
moment for public interests. "But tell me of yourself, Rule. I long to
hear you talk of yourself."

Rothsay was no egotist. He never had been addicted to speaking of
himself or of his feelings.

Now, at her urgent request, he told her in brief how he had renounced
all his honors in the country for the sake of the woman for whose sake,
also, he had first striven to win them and had won them.

"Dear," he said, "from the time you first noticed me, when you were a
sweet child of seven summers and I a boy of twelve--yes, winters--for
while all your years had been summers, dear--summers of love, shelter,
comfort, luxury--all my years had been winters of loss, want, orphanage,
and destitution--you were my help, support, inspiration. I longed to be
worthy of your friendship, your interest, your sympathy. And for all
these things I toiled, endured, and struggled."

"I know! Oh, I know!" said Corona, earnestly.

"Yes, dear, you know it all. For who but you were with me in the spirit
through all the struggle, helping, supporting, encouraging, until you
seemed to me my muse, my soul, my inner and purer and higher self. Dear,
I wronged you when I connected your love with this world's pride. I
wronged you bitterly, and I have suffered for it and made you suffer--"

"Oh, no, no, no, Rule! The fault was all my own! I am not so good and
wise as you!" exclaimed Corona.

"Hush, dear! Hush! Hear me out!" said Rothsay, laying his hand gently on
her head.

"Well, go on, but don't blame yourself. Oh, '_chevalier sans peur et
sans reproche_,'" said Corona, fervently.

He resumed very quietly:

"When I had reached a position in this world's honor to which I dared to
invite you, then I laid my victory at your feet and prayed you to share
it. And, Corona, when the bishop had blessed our nuptials, I dreamed
that we were blessed indeed. You know, dear, what a miserable awakening
I had from that dream on the evening of our wedding day."

"It was my fault! It was my fault! Oh, vain, foolish, infatuated woman
that I was!" cried Corona.

"No, dear; you were not to blame. You were true, candid, natural through
it all. Our betrothal, dear, was on your part the betrothal of friends.
You did not know your own heart then. You went abroad with your
grandparents, and, after two years of travel, you were thrown in the
court circles of London, and exposed to all the splendors, temptations
and fascinations of rank, culture and refinement, such as you had never
met at home in your rural neighborhood. You were caught, dazzled,
bewildered. You thought you loved the English duke who sought your
hand--"

"But I never did, Rule. Oh, Heaven knows I never did. It was all
self-delusion," broke in Corona.

"No; you never did. I saw that in the first instant that I met your eyes
in the log cabin up yonder. You never did! It was a self-delusion. Yet
you were under the influence of that self-delusion when I found you on
our wedding evening in such a paroxysm of grief and despair that
I--astonished and amazed at what I saw--shared your delusion and
imagined that you loved this duke when you married me. What could I do,
my own dear Cora, for whom I would have lived or died at bidding--what
could I do but efface myself from your life?"

"Oh! you could have given me time--time to recover from my mental
illness, since I had done no evil willingly. Since I had kept my troth
as well as I could. Since I had vowed to love and serve you all the days
of my life. You should have given me time, Rule, to recover my senses
and keep my vow."

"Yes; I should have done so! But, you see, I did not know. How could I
know? Oh, my dear Cora! It cost me little to lay down all the honors I
had won, for they were worthless to me if not shared by you, for whom
they were won. But it cost my life almost to resign you. Mine was 'not
the flight of a felon' or a coward, but the retirement of one sick, sick
unto death of the world and of all the glory of the world. Some men in
my case might have sought relief in death, but I--I knew I must live
until the Lord of life should himself relieve me of duty. So I left the
city on the night of my wedding day, the night also before my
inauguration day."

"Oh, Rule! and as if it required that supreme act of renunciation to
tear the veil from my eyes and let me see you as you were, and see my
own heart as it was--from that hour I knew how much, how deeply, how
eternally I loved you!" said Corona.

Rothsay raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. Then he resumed:

"I wrote two letters--one to you, explaining my motives for leaving, and
advising you not to repeat to any one the subject or substance of our
last interview, lest it should be misunderstood or misrepresented, and
should do you unmerited injury with an evil-thinking world--"

"Yes, Rule. See! See! I have that letter yet!" exclaimed Corona, hastily
unbuttoning the front of her bodice and pulling up the little black silk
bag which she wore next her heart, suspended from the silken cord around
her neck, and taking from it the old, yellow, broken paper which
contained the last lines he had written to her.

"You kept that all this time, dear?" he inquired, gently taking the
paper and looking at it.

"Yes. Why not? It was the last relic I possessed of you. And it has
never left me. I never showed it to a human being, because you did not
wish me to do so. But you said you had written two letters. To whom was
the other? We never heard of it."

Rothsay looked at her in surprise for a moment and answered:

"The other letter? Why, of course it was my letter of resignation."

"Then it was never found! Never! If it had been, it would have saved
much trouble. No one knew what had become of you, Rule. Not even I,
except that you had left me on account of that last conversation between
us, which you adjured me never to divulge. And oh! what amazement your
disappearance caused! and what conjectures as to your fate! Many thought
that you had been assassinated and your body sunk in the river. Oh,
Rule! Many others thought that you had been abducted by some political
enemy--as if any force could have carried you off, Rule!"

Rothsay laughed for the first time during the interview. Corona
continued:

"Advertisements were placed in all the papers, offering large rewards
for information that should lead to the discovery of your fate or
whereabouts, living or dead. And, oh! how many impostors came forward to
claim the money, with information that led to nothing at all. A sailor
returning from Rio de Janeiro swore that you had shipped as a man before
the mast and gone out with him, and that he had left you in the capital
of Brazil. A fur trader from Alaska reported you killing seals in that
territory. A returned miner swore that he had left you gold digging in
California. A New Bedford sailor made his affidavit that he had seen
you embark on a whaling ship for Baffin's Bay. These were the most
hopeful reports. But there were others. There was never the body of an
unknown man found anywhere that was not reported to be yours. Oh, Rule!
think of the anguish all these rumors cost your friends!"

"Cost you, my poor Corona! I doubt if they cost any other human being a
single pang."

"But all these rumors proved to be false, and your fate remained a
mystery until it was apparently cleared up by the report of your murder
by the Comanches in the massacre of La Terrepeur."

"A report as false as any of the others, as you see, yet with a better
foundation in probability than any of those, as I have explained. But
how my letter of resignation should have been lost I cannot conjecture.
I posted it with my own hand," said Rothsay, reflectively.

"Why, letters are occasionally lost in the mail! But, Rule, how was it
that you never heard of all the amazement and confusion that followed
your flight, for the want of your letter to explain it?"

"Because, dear, from the time I left the State capital to this day I
have never seen a newspaper or spoken to a civilized being."

"Rule!"

"It is true, dear! Look at me. Have I not degenerated into a savage?"

"No, no, no, Regulas Rothsay! you could never do that! Ah! how much
nobler you look to me in that rude forest garb than ever in the fine
dress of the drawing room! But tell me about your journey from the city
into the wilderness, and of your life since."

"I have been trying to do so, Cora, but every time I try to begin my
narrative by reverting to the hour of my flight, I seem spellbound to
that hour and cannot escape from it. But I will try again," he said,
and he began his story.

He told her, in brief, that on leaving the Rockhold house and going out
upon the sidewalk, he found the streets still alight with illuminated
houses and alive with the orgies of revelers who had come to the
inauguration.

In moving through the crowd he was unrecognized, for who could suspect
the black-coated figure passing alone along the street at midnight to be
the governor-elect of the State, in whose honor the assembled multitudes
were getting drunk?

His first intention had been to take a hack, drive to the railway depot,
and board the first train going West. But the hacks were all engaged as
sleeping berths by men who could not get accommodations in any of the
houses of the overcrowded city.

So he set off to walk, and almost immediately came face to face with old
Scythia, the friend of his childhood.

"Old Scythia!" exclaimed Corona, interrupting the narrative.

"Yes, dear; the old seeress of Raven Roost, as they used to call her. Of
course, I never, even as a boy, believed in the supernatural powers of
divination ascribed to her, but I must credit her with wonderful
intuitions. She had divined the very crisis that had come, and in that
hour of my agony and humiliation she exercised a strange power over me,"
said Rothsay; and then he took up the thread of his narrative again.

He told her that on leaving the State capital he had taken neither
railway carriage nor river steamboat, but had tramped, with old Scythia
by his side, all the way from the Cumberland Mountains to the
Southwestern frontier.

The journey had taken them all the summer, for they traveled very
slowly--sometimes walking no more than ten miles a day, sometimes
sleeping on pallets made of leaves under the trees of the forest,
sometimes reaching a pioneer's log hut, where they could get a hot
supper and a night's lodging. Sometimes stopping over Sunday in some
settlement where there was no church, and where Rule, though not an
ordained minister, would on Christian principles hold a service and
preach a sermon.

So they journeyed over the mountains, and through the valleys and
forests, until at length, in the end of October, they arrived at the
poorest, loneliest, and most forlorn of all the pioneer settlements they
had seen.

This was La Terrepeur, on the borders of the Indian Reserve. It was a
settlement of about twenty log huts, in a small valley shut in by
densely wooded hills, and watered by a narrow brook. It was too near the
country of the Comanches for safety, and too far from the nearest fort
for protection. There was neither church nor school house within a
hundred miles.

The travelers were hospitably received by the pioneers, and here, as the
autumn was far advanced, and travel difficult, they determined to halt
for the winter, at least, and in the spring to go farther south in
search of Scythia's tribe, the Nez Percees, who had been moved away from
their former hunting grounds.

They were feasted and lodged by the hutters that night. The next morning
the men turned out in a body, felled trees and cleared a spot on the
slope of a wooded hill, sawed logs and built two huts, one for Rothsay,
and one for old Scythia. They were finished before night. And then the
settlers had a house-warming, which was a breakdown dance to the music
of the one fiddle in the settlement, and a supper of such eatables and
drinkables as the place could afford.

But there was no furniture in these two primitive dwellings. So once
more these wayfarers had each to sleep on a bed of leaves.

On the second day the man who owned the only mule and cart, and was the
only expressman and carrier to the settlement, offered to go to the
nearest post trader's station--a distance of fifty miles--and purchase
anything that the strangers might need, if said strangers had the money
to buy.

Rothsay had money in notes, hardly thought of, and never looked at,
except when, on their long journey, he had to take out his pocket book
to pay for accommodations at some log cabin, or to purchase a change of
under clothing at some post trader's.

Also old Scythia had a pouch of silver and gold coin, saved from the
money that had been regularly sent to her by Rule from the time when he
first began to earn wages to the time when they set out for the
wilderness in company.

Of this money they gave the frontier expressman all that he required to
purchase the plainest furniture for the log cabins--bedding, cooking
utensils, crockery ware, and some groceries.

"Yer can't buy bed or mattresses at the post trader's; but yer can buy
ticking, and we can sew it up for yer, and the men will stuff with
straw. There's plenty of straw," said one of the kindly women, speaking
for all her neighbors.

And the expressman set out with his list.

In three days he was back again with a satisfactory supply. The women
made the straw beds and pillows and hemmed the sheets. The men filled
the ticks and "knocked together" a pine table and a few rude,
three-legged stools. And so Rothsay and old Scythia were settled for the
winter.

Rothsay took upon himself the office of teacher and preacher. Among the
articles brought from the post trader's were a few Bibles, hymn books,
and elementary school books, slates and pencils.

He began his labors by holding a religious service in his own cabin on
the first Sabbath of his sojourn at La Terrepeur, which--perhaps for its
rarity--was attended by the whole of the little community. And on the
next day he opened his little school in his hut, where he taught the
children all day, and where he slept at night. Old Scythia's cabin was
kitchen and dining room.

All that autumn, winter and spring Rule labored among the pioneers of La
Terrepeur. It was not true, as had been reported, that he was a
missionary and schoolmaster to the Indians; for no one of the savages
who occasionally came into the settlement could be induced to approach
the "school."

It was in June that old Scythia became restless and anxious to find her
tribe--the wandering Nez Percees.

Rothsay gave his school a vacation and set out with Scythia to find the
valley where they were reported to be in camp.

"This valley below, Cora, dear," said Rothsay, interrupting the course
of the narrative. "But when we reached it, the Nez Percees had
disappeared. A lonely old hunter, who had built this hut, was the only
human being in the place, and he was slowly dying, and he would have
died alone but for the opportune arrival of old Scythia and myself. He
told us that the Nez Percees had crossed the river about two weeks
before, and were far on their migration west."

"Old Scythia sat down flat on the floor, drew up her knees, folded her
hands upon them, dropped her head, and died as quietly as a tired child
falls to sleep."

"Oh!" exclaimed Corona, "how sad it was."

"Yes; it was sad; age, fatigue and disappointment did their work. I
buried her body under that pine tree where your Uncle Clarence sat down.
The old hunter's struggle with dissolution was longer. He lingered five
days. I waited on him until death relieved him, and then laid his body
to rest beside old Scythia's. I was then preparing to return to La
Terrepeur, when a wandering scout brought me the news of the massacre of
the inhabitants and the destruction of the settlement. Since that time,
dear Corona, I have lived alone on this mountain. That is all. Come,
shall we go down and see your uncle?"

"Yes," said Corona.

And they arose and walked down into the valley.

They soon found the wagon camp of Clarence Rockharrt and his followers.

The horses and mules, which had been unharnessed, watered and fed, were
now tethered to the scattered tree trunks, and were nosing about under
the dried leaves in search of the tender herbage that was still
springing in that genial soil beneath the shelter of the fallen foliage.
The wagons had been drawn up under cover of the thicket and prepared as
sleeping berths.

On the grass was spread a large white damask table cloth, and on that
was arranged a neat tea service for three.

Martha was busy at a gypsy fire boiling coffee and broiling venison
steaks.

"You are just in time, Rule. How do you do?" exclaimed Mr. Clarence,
emerging from among the horses, and coming forward to shake hands with
Rothsay as if they had been in the daily habit of meeting for the last
four years.

The two men clasped hands cordially.

"I always had a secret conviction that you were living, Rule, and
always secretly hoped to meet you again, 'somehow, somewhere;' and now
my prescience is justified in our meeting to-day."

"Clarence," gravely replied Rothsay, "you ask me no questions, yet now I
feel that you are entitled to some explanation of my strange flight and
long sequestration. And I will give it to you to-morrow."

"My dear Rothsay, I have divined much of the mystery, but you may tell
me what you like, when you like. And now supper is ready," said
Clarence, heartily, as the four servants came up, each with a dish to
set on the cloth, quite an unnecessary pageantry where one would have
been enough, but that they all wanted to see the long-lost man. And with
the warmth and freedom of their race they quickly set down their dishes
and gathered around the stranger to give him a warm welcome, expressing
loudly their surprise and delight in seeing him.

"Dough 'deed I doane wonner at nuffin' wot turns up in dis yere new
country!" old Martha declared.

Then followed a gay and happy _al fresco_ supper.

By the time it was over the sun had set, and the autumn evening air,
even in that southern clime, was growing very chilly.

So the three friends arose from the table.

Rothsay and Corona turned to go up the hill. Clarence escorted them,
carrying Corona's bag.

They parted at the door of the log cabin.

"I shall have our tent pitched at the foot of the mountain early
to-morrow morning, and breakfast prepared. You will come down and join
me," said Mr. Clarence, as he bade the reunited pair good night.

The wagon camp did not break up the next day, nor the day after that.

On the third day who should arrive but Lieut. Haught, absent on leave,
and come to look up his relations. His meeting with them was a jubilee.
His sister wept for joy; his brother-in-law and his uncle would have
embraced him if they had expressed their emotions as continental
Europeans do; even the negroes almost hugged and kissed him.

On Lieut. Haught's representations and at his persuasions the little
camp broke up, and with Rothsay and Cora in company, marched off to Fort
Farthermost, where they were cordially received by the commandant and
the officers, and where the reunited pair commenced life anew.

My story opened with the marriage and mysterious separation of the newly
married pair. It should close with their reunion.

The later life of my young hero belongs to history. It would require a
pen more powerful than mine to pursue his career, which was as grand,
heroic and romantic as that of any knight, prince, or paladin in the
days of old.

His pure name and fame became identified with the rise and progress of a
great State in that Southwestern wilderness. Soldier, statesman,
patriot, benefactor, all in one, his memory will be honored as long as
his country shall last. And yet, perhaps, the crowning glory of his
character was his power of self-renunciation--proved in every act of his
public life, but shown first, perhaps, when, to leave the life of one
beloved woman free, he renounced not only the hand of his adored bride,
but

    "The kingdoms of the world and the glory."





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "For Woman's Love" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home