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´╗┐Title: Zula
Author: Lindley, H. Esselstyn
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 "Zula" ***

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Collection of The Ohio State University Libraries, and the


Zula

BY H. ESSELSTYN LINDLEY

  BROADWAY PUBLISHING COMPANY
  835 BROADWAY  :  :  NEW YORK


  Copyright, 1905
  by
  H. ESSELSTYN LINDLEY

  All Rights Reserved



TO THE HON. S. W. BURROUGHS AND GEO. W. MOORE OF DETROIT, MICH. AND TO
MY ESTEEMED FRIEND MR. W. A. ESSELSTYN OF NEW YORK IS THIS VOLUME MOST
RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED BY THE AUTHOR



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER                                                         PAGE
       I. The Arrest.                                                1
      II. June's Pity.                                              10
     III. The Chastisement.                                         19
      IV. The Escape.                                               29
       V. Zula's Friend.                                            35
      VI. Silvery Waves.                                            39
     VII. The Disaster.                                             48
    VIII. Cruel Crisp.                                              53
      IX. Free Again.                                               65
       X. Scott's Valet.                                            70
      XI. Scott's Wife.                                             78
     XII. A Cloud.                                                  86
    XIII. A Bold Plot.                                              94
     XIV. Bright Hopes.                                            103
      XV. Rejected.                                                115
     XVI. A Shadowed Home.                                         122
    XVII. The Removal.                                             128
   XVIII. The Interview.                                           132
     XIX. A Fatal Step.                                            138
      XX. Mr. Le Moyne of Paris.                                   144
     XXI. Paul and Scott.                                          147
    XXII. Looking for a Place.                                     152
   XXIII. June's Reason--Letter From Paul.                         162
    XXIV. A Scene on the Water.                                    176
     XXV. The Elopement.                                           184
    XXVI. The Old House at Roxbury.                                194
   XXVII. Insane Bessie.                                           199
  XXVIII. Bessie's Visit.                                          208
    XXIX. The Fortune Teller.                                      216
     XXX. Bessie's Sad Story.                                      227
    XXXI. Repenting at Leisure.                                    235
   XXXII. A Bitter Atonement.                                      248
  XXXIII. Still at Work.                                           262
   XXXIV. A Game of Hearts.                                        268
    XXXV. A Sad Event.                                             278
   XXXVI. Solving the Problem.                                     292
  XXXVII. General Explanation.                                     312



CHAPTER I.

THE ARREST.


"Oh, you little wretch! What are you about? You dreadfully sinful
little creature. Police, police!"

The speaker, a richly dressed woman, was just entering the spacious
dining-room, as she caught sight of a dusky little form in the act of
taking a set of silver spoons from the heavy gold-lined holder. The
child raised a pair of coal-black eyes to the lady's face as she
turned to pass out of the dining-room door, which had been left open
to let in the cool June breeze; but as she was about to cross the
threshold she was seized by the strong hands of a policeman, who had
answered Mrs. Wilmer's call, and the silver was scattered in a dozen
different directions.

"Did you ever see such a bold little creature in all your life? Who
would have thought she would dare come in here, right in broad
daylight, and steal my spoons off the table? Why, it's awful!"

"It's lucky you caught her at it," said the officer, "for she is as
quick as a deer, and saucy enough, no doubt, but never mind, we'll put
the little jade where she won't steal anything again for a day or two,
at least." He took her roughly by the shoulder in the attempt to lead
her away.

"Oh, don't be too hard on her, mother," said a young man who had
followed her into the room, "perhaps she did not know just how wicked
it was."

His fine eyes looked pityingly on the child, who could not have been
more than ten years of age.

"Oh, nonsense, sir, that is too old a story. She is old enough to have
some sense, the young gypsy. I have seen too many of these young
burglars to be fooled by 'em. It won't do to encourage 'em."

"I'll give you a 'V' if you will let her go."

"Why, Scott," said Mrs. Wilmer, "are you crazy? Indeed you must do
nothing of the kind."

"By no means," said the policeman. "She mustn't be let go to do the
same thing without a lesson to teach her what it means."

The child turned her large black eyes full upon the face of the young
man. Every feature of his face was indelibly stamped upon her memory
in that one searching glance.

"Come, don't be looking back so eagerly," said the officer, "you won't
find anything more that you can get your little brown hands on; you
can't steal the gentleman's diamond pin if you do look so sharp at
it."

The black eyes flashed indignantly and the long purple-black braid
which hung down her back shook as she raised her eyes to the
officer's face, giving her head a proud toss, and with the sauciest
pucker of the small red mouth and a scornful ring in her voice, she
said:

"I didn't know he had a diamond pin. I was only looking at his face;
it looks so kind, I'm sure I couldn't steal that, but yours don't look
kind. I guess you like to punish little girls; you look like a great
cross bear."

"Take care, I'll let you know what I am. I don't have any notion of
being kind to such little imps as you are. There's a way to take care
of little burglars."

"I ain't a burglar. I'm just as good as you are, if I am poor. I'd
rather steal than be so ugly to little girls."

They had now reached the sidewalk, where they were met by June Wilmer,
a young girl of just ten years of age, who was about to enter the
gate. She was rightly named, for she looked like a fresh June rose,
with the pink flush on her cheeks, and her blue eyes full of innocent
mirth, but the expression changed to one of pity as she looked at the
little girl who was being led away like a dumb animal.

"Why, what is the matter?" she asked, "what have you done to be taken
away by a policeman, you poor little girl?"

"She was trying to steal your mother's spoons."

"Oh, dear, that _was_ wicked, but perhaps she did not know it was, or
maybe she was hungry and wanted to sell them for something to eat."

"Oh, miss, I wouldn't get up any excuse for her," said the officer,
"she can do well enough at that herself. She stole the spoons, and she
must be punished. I'll warrant she was not a bit hungry, was you
now?" he asked, turning to the child.

"No, I wasn't hungry."

"There, you hear that, miss."

"Perhaps," said June, "if you let her go this time she will not do so
again; please do," and, turning to the little girl she asked:

"Won't you promise not to steal again if he will?"

"I can't promise that, 'cause maybe I'll have to, but, oh, lady, I
don't want to be locked up," and as she spoke the great black eyes
were turned pleadingly toward June's face. The defiant look faded
away, and a mournful expression settled around the full red lips.

"Oh, come along," said the officer, "you have your game pretty well
learned, but you can't fool me with your nonsense."

"You can lock me up if you want to," she said, as the dusky little
form was drawn to its full height. "I ain't afraid of the dark,
nohow."

"June, dear, come here; do not be seen talking to that little thief,"
said Mrs. Wilmer, as she stood on the broad veranda.

"Oh, mama," said June, as she entered the house, "don't you feel sorry
for that poor little girl?"

"Sorry? Why, no; in another moment she would have carried away every
spoon on the table, and I am astonished, June, that you should turn
champion for the little sinner."

"She certainly is steeped in crime," said Scott, "but for all that I
pity her."

"And to think," added June, "that the policeman will take her to the
station and lock her up; won't it be terrible? I wonder what kind of a
place it is anyway."

"Oh, she will no doubt be shut up until to-morrow, and if no one
appears to bail her out she will be sent to the reform school," said
Scott.

"Well, it is no more than she deserves," said Mrs. Wilmer.

"But just to think," said June, "of being locked up all night, and
perhaps her mama will be waiting for her, and the poor little girl all
alone in the dark--but she told the policeman she was not afraid."

"There is not the least doubt of that," said Mrs. Wilmer. "It is quite
likely she is accustomed to being locked up."

"I have very pleasant news for you, June," Mrs. Wilmer said; "I have
just received a dispatch by telegraph saying that Irene Mapleton will
be here in a few days. Isn't that nice?"

"I don't see anything nice about it," answered June, honestly; "she
cannot amuse me any, for she is older yet than brother Scott."

"But she sings and plays beautifully, and you cannot help loving her.
I always enjoy her society; she writes such lovely poetry, too."

"Well, I can't see anything very nice about writing poetry. I am sure
that will not amuse me at all."

"Perhaps not, but we must love Irene for Scott's sake, for you know
she will be his wife some time."

June looked thoughtful a few moments, and then asked, suddenly:

"Mama, why don't Irene's mother come with her sometimes? You know she
has been here often to stay, and she always comes alone."

"Did you not know that her mother was dead? Poor Irene is an orphan."

"I don't think she is very poor. She dresses splendidly, and she has
the most beautiful diamonds and all kinds of jewelry, and the
loveliest bonnets; oh, my, I never saw prettier ones, and the dresses,
I never saw the end of them."

"Why, June, what a little extravagant minded child you are; of course
I do not mean that Irene is poor in purse. She has all that is
necessary to gratify every wish, as regards wealth, but she has no
mother, and I think she said her father never took her into society,
and of course she lacks sympathy, just as any young girl does who is
without parents."

"Do people always have to love their brothers' wives, mama?"

"Why, no, but they should love them if they can, and I see no reason
why you or anyone else should not love Irene."

"Well, I'll try to love her if she is going to marry Scott," said
June, so submissively that it caused Mrs. Wilmer to smile.

"You need not look so solemn over it; I do not think you will have to
try very hard."

Scott, who had taken a seat by the window, and had been a silent
listener to the conversation, now addressed his mother, while a slight
cloud passed over his brow.

"I am sorry," he said, "that she is coming just now, for I am afraid
I shall find very little time to devote to ladies' society, and of
course she will expect it; and another reason is that she seems such a
stranger to me, that I shall be obliged to stand on the most rigid
formality and be her escort whether I wish it or not, but perhaps she
will think me too much a boy to waste her time with."

Irene Mapleton was two years older than Scott Wilmer, and through his
mother's influence he had paid her marked attention while she was on a
visit to a friend in the beautiful city of Detroit, her home being in
San Francisco. Her father, who had invested largely in mining stocks
and become wealthy, spared no pains to give Irene means to gratify
every wish. June had spoken truly when she said that Irene's dresses
were lovely. There never was a bow or a flower misplaced, or colors
that did not blend with perfect harmony. With the ample means she
possessed, it became a noticeable fact that no lady dressed with
greater taste than Miss Mapleton. She had paid the Wilmers a visit the
summer previous to the opening of this story, and it was then that
Mrs. Wilmer had used every means to make a favorable impression on the
mind of Irene, and to influence Scott to do the same. Scott, however,
was not the person to practice any deception, and when his mother
spoke to him in regard to being more attentive, he only smiled and
said:

"Why, mother, I shall not pretend any affection I do not feel, and I
really cannot help whether Miss Mapleton likes me or not. I will
devote all my spare time to making her visit pleasant, and that is the
best I can do."

Mrs. Wilmer replied that Scott was a strange boy, at any rate, but,
she added:

"I suppose there is no use to urge you in the matter."

"How soon will she be here, did you say?" asked June.

"In a few days, the dispatch says, and," said Mrs. Wilmer, turning to
Scott, "I suppose her father is quite anxious to have your marriage
take place as soon as convenient."

"I can see no hurry for such an event," Scott replied.

"Why, her father is so interested in his business that he has no time
to devote to her, she says, and she feels her loneliness greatly. I
hope we shall be able to keep her with us a few weeks at least. Her
father says, too, that he is afraid some other will carry off the
prize."

"She certainly should possess enough firmness not to be so easily
captured, and I should not consider it much of a prize that could be
drawn without an effort to secure it. I am decided on waiting another
year, at least."

Mrs. Wilmer said nothing more. She knew that firmness was one of the
strongest features of her son's nature, and she knew, also, that he,
as a rule, was right. He seldom settled on a matter without having
first looked it thoroughly over, and when a decision was made, no
force of argument could change his views. The closing of the curved
lips showed plainly that Scott Wilmer never surrendered to any
trifling argument. Although in nowise conceited, he yielded not to
another's opinion without first being convinced by a process of
reasoning satisfactory to himself. His face was a fine one, and
although not strikingly handsome, was wonderfully attractive and
beaming with intelligence. His auburn hair curled loosely around his
broad white brow, and his hazel eyes were clear and searching. June
often said to him:

"Please, brother Scott, don't look at me so hard; I would rather not
do as I want to than to have you look at me like that."

His love for his young sister was very strong, and he was indulgent as
far as consistency would allow, but when he found, as he often did,
that she was inclined to be self-willed, he would look at her in that
searching way, which really meant more, and had a more lasting
impression on her than harsh words could have done. June dearly loved
her brother, and she would sooner have disobeyed either parent than
her brother Scott, and when she went to Mr. Wilmer with a request
which he considered unreasonable, he would caress her and answer
carelessly:

"Oh, go and ask Scott."

Mr. Wilmer's health had become impaired by too close attention to
business, and at the present time he had retired on a comfortable
income, and the affairs of the family had inadvertently fallen upon
Scott, who, though young in years, was an adept in the transaction of
business. He possessed his father's strong ambition, and, at the
present time, was studying law, and hoped to be admitted to the bar in
another year. He was in no hurry to trouble his mind with love
affairs, and he really wished that Irene's visit could be postponed;
although he was too much of a gentleman to say so, even to his
mother.



CHAPTER II.

JUNE'S PITY.


In the afternoon June sought her brother, and seating herself on his
knee urged him to go with her and help her find the little girl, and
get her out of the station.

"Oh, you little, soft-hearted kitten," said Scott, "we cannot look
after all the beggars, and we could not get her out until morning if
we were to try, and, besides, mother says she needs a lesson, and,
last of all, I cannot spend the time."

"But only think if I were shut up and had to stay in the dark all
night, why, I should die from fright."

"But you say she said she was not afraid, so it cannot hurt her."

"Yes; she said she was not afraid, but I guess she said so because she
knew she must go, and when the policeman told her so, I think she said
it to show him how brave she could be. You should have seen how
sweetly she looked at me when I spoke kindly to her, and when the
policeman spoke crossly to her, mercy! How black her eyes did look,
and her pretty lip curled up just this way."

Here June put up her red lips in the sauciest way imaginable.

"What! like that," said Scott, "she must have been a terribly impudent
piece of humanity; that is a wonderfully saucy looking mouth. I guess
she does not deserve any pity."

"Oh, well, that was when the policeman spoke cross to her. When I
spoke to her she looked like this," said June, drawing her mouth down
in the most pitiful manner.

"Oh, that alters the case; but now you see it will not do any good to
talk about it, and if you will just run away and let me have the
library to myself a couple of hours, I will promise to take you out
riding in the morning, and I will step into court and bail her out,
providing she promises to be good in the future."

It was enough. Scott had promised and she knew he would go.

"Thank you, Scott," she said, "but I wish it were now, so that the
poor little girl would not have to stay alone to-night."

"We cannot help it, June; there is no way that we can do anything for
her to-day, so let that satisfy you."

"Very well," said June, as she left the room, "I will wait."

Mrs. Wilmer doubtless would have objected to any intercession whatever
on the part of her son in regard to the little culprit, but June knew
that her father would not, and she was sure that Scott would do just
what was right, so she said nothing to her mother on the subject.
Young though she was, she knew her mother's peculiarities, and she
had learned that in order to avoid all opposition or argument, the
safest way was to appeal to Scott or her father. She had not the
slightest idea of showing any disrespect to her mother's wishes or
judgment, but it seemed so natural for her mother to object to
everything that June proposed, because she said that June was so apt
to overlook everything like caste, and so much depended on that. June
never had half the pride, she declared, that should belong to the
Wilmers, neither had June's father, and she was just like him, Mrs.
Wilmer thought, so when June appealed to her father, it seemed the
most natural thing in the world for him to say:

"Oh, don't bother me, little one; go ask Scott."

In this way she had grown into the habit of going to Scott with all
her troubles and wishes.

"I mean to retire real early to-night," she said to Scott.

"Why?" he asked.

"So that I can be up and take breakfast with you; then you will be
sure to go early to find the little girl."

June was as good as her word, for when Scott entered the breakfast
room she was there with her toilet complete, and the thought entered
Scott's mind that if June was a little fly-away there was business
about her, that when she set out to do a thing she could make some
sacrifice to do it.

"Is it not a lovely morning?" said June, as Scott lifted her into the
carriage. "Please hurry and get the poor little girl out of the
dark."

"She is no doubt at the police court ere this," said Scott.

"Why, I don't see why she should be taken to two horrid places to be
locked up."

"She will not be locked up there, she will have her trial, and if she
has no friends to pay her fine she will be sent to the reform
school."

"Oh, how dreadful! But you don't seem to feel very sorry, Scott. Just
think of it if it were me?"

"But you see, it is not my sister," said Scott.

"But she may be somebody's sister."

"Very true, and if she is that somebody is the one to feel badly over
it, is he not?"

"Yes, but then perhaps her brother doesn't know it, and some one who
does should help her, don't you think so?"

"Yes, we should help each other as much as we can in this world, but
it is more than likely that the little girl you have taken such an
interest in will do the same wicked act again."

"Well, she will be happy once, anyway."

"That depends on whether she promises not to repeat the offense."

They reached the station. Scott entered, and there among the low and
degraded of the city sat the young culprit. Her black hair dropping
down over her forehead made the dusky face, which was slightly pale,
look almost wild, as the great black eyes wandered over the
countenances around her. There was no fear, but as she turned her eyes
toward the judge it seemed to Scott that a look of injured pride, so
deep that scorn, hatred and intense mortification, all were blended
in that one glance. She cast her eyes full upon Scott's face. As he
approached her a short, sharp cry escaped her lips. He touched her
lightly on the shoulder and said:

"Little girl, do you not wish to go home?"

"I can't," she said, looking almost fiercely at the judge. "I can't go
home. I have got to go to--to--I don't know where."

Scott stepped up to the judge, and after a few moments' conversation
left the room, ordering her to follow him. He placed her in the close
carriage, and, shutting the door, said:

"Now, June, you must finish the business yourself."

June moved a slight distance as the rim of the child's old dusty straw
hat came in contact with the bright little daisies of her own, and
though her heart was filled with pity she could not prevent the
feeling of disgust as she looked at the child's dirty and somewhat
torn garments, but when she looked into the great black eyes and they
softened under her words of kindness, she could scarcely keep back the
tears, for June's heart was wonderfully tender, and she could not look
unmoved on suffering humanity.

The girl settled back on the soft cushions of the carriage, and
looking out of the window the great tears rolled slowly down her
cheeks.

"What is your name?" June asked.

"Zula," she answered in a choked voice.

"What makes you cry? Are you not glad to get out of that horrid
place?"

"Oh, yes, but it makes me cry to think."

"Well, then, don't think," June said, with a merry little laugh, "and
be happy because you are free again. And now tell me what made you
wicked?"

Zula brushed the tears away with her little brown hand, and a look
full of wonder passed over her face as she asked:

"Was I wicked? What do you mean?"

"Why, do you not know how wicked you were to steal, or to try to?"

"Why, no! Meg always tells me to steal anything I can get, and she
will beat me now if I go home without anything, and after I have been
gone all night, too."

"Why, how terrible. Let me give you some money," June said, taking
from her little pearl purse a piece of silver, "you can give her
that."

"I thank you," she said. "I will tell her that I stole it, and I could
not get a chance till this morning."

"Oh, no, do not tell her that, be sure you do not; why it's just as
wicked to tell a falsehood as it is to steal, and both are, oh,
awfully wicked! Does not your mama ever tell you how wrong it is to do
so?"

"Why, no; she tells me to take all I can get."

"Where shall we take you?" June asked, as the carriage turned into
Woodward Avenue.

"To the end of this street, if you will, and then I'll run home."

"Were you afraid last night?" asked June, looking into Zula's black
eyes.

"Afraid?" she repeated, scornfully; "no, I wasn't. I can be as ugly as
any one if I try, no matter where I go."

"Do you wish to be naughty?" June asked with a little shiver.

"I would rather be good, if folks would be good to me. I could be
good, for any one like you, lady, but when they are so awful mean to
me sometimes I think I could kill them. How can I be good when
everybody is so cross to me? Mam scolds and beats me, and Crisp and
everybody else is cross to me but you, and your brother. Oh, I could
die for him; he was so kind to get me out of that place, and I'd--oh,
I'd die for him!"

"He would not let you do that, and if you lived with me I would not
scold you, neither would Scott, and papa--why, he's too sick."

"But your ma would," Zula said, quickly.

"Well, mama lets me do about as I please, or as brother Scott says."

Scott had remained a silent listener, though he had watched the
changing countenance of the child before him, and as he turned his
gaze at one time from the carriage window he saw the black eyes
fastened upon him in such a searching way that he almost started.
There certainly was a significance in the look, and though Scott
Wilmer was counted one of the most discerning, he could not determine
the exact nature of the gaze. Several times she turned with that same
gaze and at last he asked:

"Well, little girl, what do you think of me, do I look very cross?"

"Oh, no, sir, you are so kind that I would give my life for you," she
answered, with a burning light in the great black eyes.

Scott smiled and said:

"That is a great gift, and the last in the world that anyone would
part with. Why do you think you would give your life?"

"'Cause it's true, and I hain't got anything else to give. Mam don't
let me keep anything I steal, but I did get one thing that I've had
this good while, and she don't know I've got it, 'cause I kept it hid.
I'll give it to you," she said, drawing a beautiful little pearl
handled revolver from her pocket. "Crisp showed me how to shoot with
his, and when I get out alone I use this."

June drew back and grew pale with fright.

"Oh, mercy," she said, "are you not afraid?"

"Why, no; it can't shoot unless I shoot it. Why, I can pop a
squirrel's head off the first time I try."

"What, such a little thing as you? Why, I never saw a little girl that
could shoot."

"Oh, I have," said Zula, with a toss of her head, at the same time
placing her finger on the hammer of the pistol.

"Please put it away," June said. "It frightens me to see you handle
it."

Zula dropped the pistol carelessly while Scott looked at her in
amazement.

"I want you to promise me," said June, "that you will never steal
again, or tell a wrong story."

"How can I promise that when mam beats me if I don't steal."

"Well, it's wicked, and God don't like little girls who do such
things; and if you don't stop it you will be punished terribly some
time."

"Oh, I don't care. I can't get a worse beating than I get almost every
day, no matter where I go."

They had now reached the city limit.

"Which way?" called out the driver.

"I will get out here, if you please," said Zula, in answer to the
question.

"Where do you live?" Scott asked.

"Please, I don't want you to know," she answered, looking at him and
scanning closely every feature. "I can't tell you how much I thank
you. I shall never see you again, but if I should, and you wanted me
to die for you, I would. Zula will never forget you--will always
remember you both."

She caught a hand of each, and kissing them fervently, dropped from
the carriage steps with the agility of a young fawn. She stopped for a
moment as she touched the ground with her bare, brown feet, moved her
hand in a graceful way above her head, and with repeated good byes to
each, tripped lightly over the soft grass away from the city.



CHAPTER III.

THE CHASTISEMENT.


A band of gypsies seated on the grass about a mile from the city
limits, were lazily washing their breakfast dishes. Two or three young
girls were laughing and chatting merrily as they sat in the shade
together. Farther away was an old woman, wrinkled, and with a sour
look on her face, working at a beaded cushion. Her black uncombed hair
hung down her back and around a face ugly in the extreme. A large,
broad nose, and a wide, ill-shaped mouth, the latter of which often
resembled that of a snarling hyena, gave her a look from which anyone
would well turn in disgust. Her dirt-begrimed fingers were covered
with rings of every conceivable design. She looked up as she heard
footsteps in the grass, and saw Zula standing before her.

"So you are here at last, you young gypsy?"

"Yes."

"And there is a good flogging here for you, too. Did you find anything
on your travels?"

"Yes, I got some money."

"Ah, ha! You did, did you? Well, but you was gone all night; how so?"

"I couldn't get back; I was shut up."

"Shut up. Where?"

"Where I couldn't get out, and only for a kind little lady I would
stayed there."

"Ah, ha! you fool, why didn't you look out for that?"

"I couldn't."

"Well, I can look out for you, so make yourself ready."

The girl stood patiently awaiting the old woman's decision, and as she
arose from the ground Zula drew from her pocket a silver dollar and
gave it to her without uttering a word.

"Here, Crisp, come and give the lazy thing a dozen good, stout
lashes."

A young man about eighteen, and closely resembling the old woman,
approached Zula with a horsewhip, knotted at the end. As he neared the
place where Zula stood she raised her eyes and looked searchingly at
Crisp, and not even when the lash descended with full force on her
quivering shoulders did she withdraw her gaze or exhibit the least
sign of fear. One by one the blows fell, bringing no sound from the
girl's lips until the last blow descended, when the look of bitter
hatred that gleamed in her eyes was terrible to see, and in a voice
trembling with rage she said:

"Crisp, I hate you, and if I can ever do anything to make you cry
_I'll do it_, just remember it!"

Another blow descended upon the young girl's shoulders with such force
that a groan escaped her.

"Oh, I thought I'd bring tears; your gypsy pride is coming down a
little, ain't it?"

"No," she answered, firmly, "you can't make me cry, and I'll let you
know it."

"Well, if I can't make you cry I can make you smart."

"I hate you, and I always will!"

The whip was laid down and Crisp moved away. His snake-like eyes, so
deeply shaded by shaggy black brows, were turned toward the ground, as
though he feared the searching gaze of his suffering and wronged
sister, on whom he had ever looked with a jealous eye.

"Take yourself off to your tent and stay there till to-morrow night,
and not a mouthful will you get till you know how to behave yourself,"
said old Meg, as she gave her a rude push.

Zula obeyed, and, lying down on her straw bed, wept long and
bitterly.

"Oh, how I hate him!" she said; "if he is my brother, I hate him, and
I hate her, too; I could kill them both. Oh, how those lashes hurt! I
know I could kill Crisp. I don't believe that is wicked. Oh, I wish I
was dead. I don't believe that sweet little girl ever gets whipped.
How happy she is, as happy as the little birds that fly around out
here in the trees. She is out riding in a nice carriage this beautiful
morning, and I must stay in this dirty old tent two whole days!"

She had reached this part of her soliloquy when old Meg entered the
tent.

"Here, Zula, is work for you," she said in a cross voice; "now see
that you keep to it till your time is up."

Zula took the basket, and, wiping away her tears, began her work.

"You'll learn to hurry around next time, won't you?"

Zula made no reply.

"Oh, you need not pout so; you will find out who is master here. Come,
you sulky thing, go to work as though you meant to do something. Why
don't you talk?"

"I ain't got nothin' to say," said Zula.

"Well, I'll give you something to say, and you'll be glad enough to
say it, too, when you get a chance. Do you understand?"

"Yes," she said, looking down again, with eyes fast filling with
tears.

"Oh, don't try to make believe you feel bad; you can't make me pity
you if you do cry; you don't feel half as bad as you pretend."

"I don't want you to pity me. I don't cry 'cause I'm sorry; I'm mad,
and I hate Crisp and I hate----"

"Me, too; why don't you say it?"

"No, I don't hate you, 'cause----"

"'Cause what?"

"'Cause you are my mother."

"Well, well, that might do to tell; but don't I know you hate me?
Can't I see it in them devilish black eyes? Can't I tell by the way
that head shakes? Oh, yes, I know you hate me, but I can take it out
of you if I have to bury the lash in your back, and if I can't I know
who can."

"Who, Crisp?"

"Yes."

Zula rose from the ground, and, with a face pale with rage and eyes
full of fiery indignation, advanced a step toward her mother. Her
little brown hands were closed tightly together, and in a voice hoarse
with anger she said:

"If Crisp ever whips me again I'll kill him!"

The old gypsy was startled. She had never seen Zula so enraged before.
Her lips were colorless and came firmly together over the strong white
teeth.

"Zula," the old woman said, "what do you mean?"

"I mean what I say," Zula said, sinking back, trembling, on the pile
of straw she called her bed.

Old Meg left the tent, soon to return with Crisp. He carried a handful
of rope, which he began to unwind, and, advancing toward Zula, he
caught her hands and held them tightly while the old woman tied them.
A grin of satisfaction passed over the ugly face of Crisp as he
fastened Zula's hands behind her, tying them to a small post in the
ground. Her feet were tied in the same manner and her basket of bead
work taken from her. She knew that resistance was useless, since Crisp
had grasped her hands, for he was possessed of herculean strength.

"You have lost your tongue, I guess," he said, stepping close to her.

She made no reply.

"I can make you talk." He struck her cheek with a force that made the
air ring. The crimson blood mounted to the girl's face, then left it,
giving place to a marble-like paleness. Had she been free to act the
little revolver might have been called into action, but luckily she
was powerless.

All through that weary day Zula sat in that one position. She had
eaten nothing and was growing faint with hunger. Once her heart gave a
great bound as Crisp entered with a bowl of hot soup, and, holding it
close to her face, said:

"Don't you wish you had it?"

She burst into tears, and the next moment said:

"Oh, Crisp, I am so hungry; won't you give me some?"

His only reply was a grin, and, taking a place on the ground just near
enough that she might inhale the odor from the bowl, he ate its entire
contents.

"I don't believe I could think of anything as mean as Crisp does if I
hated anybody," thought Zula. The day and night passed away and
brought her no reprieve, and the next afternoon found her still
unreleased. Old Meg and Crisp had looked in just long enough to remind
her of their existence, then left her to her solitary confinement. A
sound of strange voices without attracted her attention. It was a
party of young ladies and gentlemen from the city who had come to have
their fortunes told. Old Meg was seated so near the tent that Zula
heard every word. Two voices sounded strangely familiar, but she could
not tell where she had heard them until the clear voice of June
floated out upon the air, saying:

"Please give us a good fortune, for none of us want bad ones."

Zula's heart leaped for joy as she heard the voices of her friends,
but sank in despair when she remembered she could not speak to them,
and even if she could she would not let them know she was there, for
in that case they would know she was a gypsy.

The young girl's fortune was told, and June, addressing Scott, said:
"Come, have your fortune told; don't you see what a lovely one I am to
have? I shall always be happy thinking about it. Have your fortune
told and you will know whether you will ever be married and whether
you will live happy or not."

"Oh, we know who he is going to marry," chimed in a miss of sixteen,
"but we don't know whether he will be happy or not."

"I rather think my life will be just the same, whether I have my
fortune told or not. If it is to be a happy one it is well, and if not
I shall know it soon enough," said Scott.

"Let me tell it for you," said the old dame, looking eagerly up.

"I did not come to have my fortune told; I only came as an attendant
to these foolish young ladies," Scott said, with a smile.

"Oh, yes," said Nellie Blake, a pretty little blonde, shaking back her
shining curls, "he calls us silly, when he is just dying to know his
fortune, only he is afraid it will be a cloudy one. I dare him to have
it told."

Scott, smiling, said it would not do to have the young ladies think
him a coward, so turning around gave the old gypsy his hand.

Zula, though tired and weak, meantime, watched through the crevice of
the tent the faces of her kind deliverers. How bright and happy June
looked, and how wonderfully the pretty lavender suit she wore became
her pink and white complexion, and Zula, contrasting her own dusky
face with that of June, thought surely the angels in Heaven could not
be sweeter or more holy than she.

Poor Zula! There she had been for nearly two days, lame and tired, and
so weak, waiting like a prisoner until her sentence should expire,
waiting for time to move and bring her a respite. She saw the carriage
move away, drawn by two dapple-gray ponies; she heard its occupants
laughing merrily. She sat wondering if her time had not nearly
expired, for the sun was going down and the whippoorwill beginning his
mournful song, and she wondered as she thought of the weird gypsy
tales she had been told, if "poor will" had been whipped for nothing.
She peeped out to gaze at the group around as Meg entered.

"If you are cured of your ugliness, now, you may come out and get some
soup; there's some onions and other stuff, too, that Crisp has brought
in; no thanks to you though."

As Meg said this she untied the cords, and Zula arose. She trembled in
every limb, for the fast of two days had made her very weak, and her
sunken eyes looked larger and blacker than ever. She followed Meg out
of the tent and partaking of the soup she wandered away from the rest
and sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree. Zula had but one thought,
and that was revenge. She was puzzling her poor little tired brain as
to how she should manage to injure Crisp. She looked up, and the
object of her thoughts stood before her, and, casting a look of
fiendish exultation toward her, he said: "I guess you don't hate me
any more."

Zula made no reply.

"Do you hate me, yet?" he asked again.

"Yes, I do hate you, Crisp, and I can't help it."

"I guess you want another dose of the lash, don't you? If you do you
can have it."

Zula arose from the rough seat and took a step farther away from
Crisp. Child though she was she looked up at the stars and made a firm
resolution that she would in some way escape the surveillance of her
cruel persecutor. He had never treated her as though she were his
sister, and as each day his abuse of her grew more and more severe,
her hatred increased.

"What would you give if I was to let you go without any more such
threshings?" he asked.

"I wouldn't give anything; for I don't believe you'll ever whip me
that way again; I've been whipped enough."

"You'll find that out some other time."

Zula made no reply, but when night came, and all were asleep, she lay
planning a way to escape from the life she led.

"I believe I'll comb my hair out sleek this morning," she said to
herself as she stood brushing back the heavy tangled mass. "I look
awful dirty, but then we always look dirty."

A heavy stroke on the shoulder startled her, as the voice of old Meg
sounded close in her ear, saying:

"Here's a whole basket full of work; now mind and don't come back
till you sell every one of 'em, do ye hear?"

"Yes."

"Don't bring one back; if you do Crisp'll settle ye."

The last sentence decided the matter.

"No," Zula answered, "I won't bring any back."



CHAPTER IV.

THE ESCAPE.


She took the basket and started for the city. She was very lucky for
she sold more than she expected. The afternoon had nearly passed
before her stock was gone. She wandered down High street, giving her
basket to a little Irish beggar girl. She had not the slightest idea
of where she should go, but she had made up her mind never to go back
to Crisp and his mother, and if she were compelled to lie in the
street she would never go back to live the life she had led.

"Out of the road, you little beggar," called out a finely dressed boy,
who was riding a bicycle, at the same time striking the wheels against
Zula's limbs and tearing an ugly rent in the flesh.

She turned quickly and catching the wheel held it as she looked
straight into the boy's face.

"What are you doing? You saucy thing," he said, returning her
searching glance.

"I am trying to see how you look," she answered, "and I won't never
forget you."

"I don't ask you to; get out of my way or I'll knock you down."

"You ain't a bit nice, if you do live in the city," Zula said, and
letting go the wheel she stepped aside and stooping examined the
smarting limb, from which the blood was flowing over her foot.

"Did he hurt you much, little girl?" asked a voice beside her.

Zula looked up, and beheld a lady who was about to enter the gate near
where she stood. Her face was round and fair and her black silk dress
and mantle lent a striking charm to the fair face and silvery hair.

"Did he hurt you?" she asked again. "Oh, dear, yes; see the blood."

Zula's heart was deeply touched. Kind words were so seldom spoken to
her, that the lady's words caused the tears to start.

"Don't cry; it's too bad, I know, but run home and get your mama to do
it up for you."

"I hain't got any mama nor any home," Zula said. "I hain't got anybody
to do it up for me."

"Oh, that is too bad; well, come into my house and I will have Mary
fix it up for you."

She led Zula to the kitchen, where Mary, the servant girl, was busy
finishing up the supper work.

"Well, now, Mrs. Platts, who have you got there?" Mary asked, in
surprise.

"Why, it's a little girl whom some rude boy ran against with his
wheel, and you see how badly he has hurt her."

The tears were still lingering on Zula's cheeks.

"Poor dear," Mary said; "why it's terribly scratched. Where do you
live, little girl?"

"I don't live anywhere," Zula answered, the tears again coming to her
eyes.

"Well, then, where do you stay?"

"I don't stay anywhere. I hain't got anywhere to stay. Can't I stay
here to-night? I'll sleep in the woodshed, and you can lock the door
so I can't steal anything."

"Why, do you steal?" Mrs. Platts asked, in her kindly way.

"Sometimes I do."

"Why, that is dreadfully wicked; don't you know it is?"

"No."

"It is, though."

"Well, I won't steal from you if you will let me stay in your shed all
night."

"I don't see how we can have you around if you steal," said Mary.

"But I won't steal if you will let me stay; sure I won't."

"Why, who have we here, I wonder?"

Zula looked up and saw a portly, good-natured gentleman standing in
the doorway, that led to the dining-room. She thought she had never
seen a look as pleasant as that which beamed from the blue eyes, under
the gold-bowed spectacles.

"It is a little girl who was hurt by a rude boy, and she says she has
no home, and wants to stay all night, and will sleep in the woodshed.
She says she steals sometimes, but we can lock her up if we want to."

Mrs. Platts looked in pity, as she uttered the last sentence.

"A very honest thief, I should judge," said Mr. Platts, laughing at
Zula's remark. "I never before saw one honest enough to put people on
their guard."

"Shall we allow her to stay in the woodhouse?" Mrs. Platts asked of
her husband.

"It seems to me that you might find a better place than that for her
to sleep; she would be afraid to sleep there."

"No, I ain't afraid," said Zula, brushing back her long black hair. "I
ain't afraid of nothin'."

"But you will be when the gas is lit, and we are in the house, and you
out there in the dark."

"No, I won't."

"Why do you wish to stay out there?" Mrs. Platts asked.

"'Cause I ain't fit to stay in the house; I'm too--too bad looking."

"What shall we do with her? I hate to turn her out again, but I
suppose we will be compelled to."

"Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these ye did it unto me,"
said Mr. Platts, in a low voice. "Let her stay until morning at all
events."

"Why, to be sure she can sleep in the little bedroom off the kitchen,
and I can go upstairs for to-night," said Mary. "I think she will be
all right if she has a bath, and she can wear some of my clothes, if
they are too large."

Mary's heart was touched at the sight of Zula's tears, but the keenest
pity filled her heart when she saw the purple marks made by the lash
across the tapering shoulders.

"Why, child," she said, "what is this?"

"How came these long black marks on you shoulders?"

"Won't you never tell if I'll tell you?"

"No."

"Sure? 'Cause if they'd find me they'd kill me."

"Oh, dear, who would kill you?"

"Why, Crisp."

"And who is Crisp?"

"Why, he's my brother," Zula said, lowering her voice to a soft
whisper, "and if he finds me he'll kill me."

"Crisp," Mary repeated. "What a funny name. But I thought you said you
had no home."

"Well, I hain't got any, my mam she lets Crisp whip me and they kept
me two days and all night without anything to eat and they tied me
down to the ground, and I couldn't hardly get up and then I was so
lame, and when I got here that nasty boy run against me and hurt me,
and it just seems as though I was made to hurt."

"Poor little girl; it's too bad. What is your name?"

"I hain't got any name but Zula."

"Zula? Well, I am sure that is a pretty name; but goodness! What a
lovely head of hair for such a little mite as you. I wish I had it."

"I wish I didn't have it, for Crisp pulls it so hard that it seems to
me I can't stand it."

"The wretch," said Mary, energetically.

"I'll never go and live with Crisp again if I can find any other
place; would you, lady?"

"No," Mary answered, thinking how odd and gypsy-like the expression
sounded.

In the morning, Mary, after much persuasion, obtained Zula's consent
to let Mrs. Platts know her story.

"She must have a home somewhere," she said, "but for the present let
her remain with us."

So it was decided that Zula should stay. A seamstress was hired and a
neat outfit of clothing made for Zula, who when she was dressed and
her luxuriant hair braided and tied with bright ribbons, the change
was so great that Mrs. Platts remarked that she really thought she was
pretty, but when she first came she thought she was as black as a
gypsy.

"Have you never been to school?"

"No--no, sir; we don't go to school."

"Did you not know it was wrong to steal?"

"No, sir; nobody ever told me it was wrong--nobody but one lady, and
she was--oh, so sweet."

"What was her name?"

"Her name; why it was June. I'll never forget her face; I can see it
now, and his, too."

"His; whose?"

"I don't know his name, but he was so kind to me."



CHAPTER V.

ZULA'S FRIEND.


Neither Mr. Platts nor his wife had the remotest idea of giving Zula a
permanent home, but there seemed nothing else to do but to let her
remain, and as the days wore on, she seemed to be almost necessary to
their household. She was ready to help in numerous ways and never
expressed the least dissatisfaction when called upon to perform any
duty, and to Mary's comfort she seemed quite indispensable. Mr. Platts
had remarked to his wife that it seemed a pity that Zula was growing
up without at least a common education, and so after talking the
matter over they decided to send her to school. She possessed a very
strange nature; a strong will and a somewhat passionate temper, that
had been tortured beyond the limits of saintly endurance; and though
she was deeply affectionate, she was as strong to hate. The treatment
which she had received had served to augment the fire of an already
hasty temperament, and, never having received a kind word, it is not
surprising that she hardly knew what love meant until she became an
inmate of Mr. Platts' home. As she looked each day on the still
handsome faces of her kind friends, she thought that, were it asked
of her, she could give her life for their happiness. She was delighted
when the plan of sending her to school was made known to her for, to
use her own expression, "she could be like other girls," and she
really longed to know what school life was. She could forget neither a
favor nor an injury, and it was not surprising that the children with
whom she came in contact should often say that she was "a spunky
little thing."

"Don't you think," said one of her schoolmates to another, "that Zula
is a mean little thing?"

"Oh, I don't know," answered the other. "What makes you think so?"

"Because she said the other day that she would slap my face."

"What made her say that?"

"Why, just because I called her a little gypsy. I don't care, now she
does look just like one, doesn't she?"

"Why, she has got black hair and black eyes, but lots of people have
black hair and eyes who are not gypsies. I don't believe gypsies ever
have such beautiful shaped hands and fingers as she has."

"But she has a black face, too."

"Oh, no, her face isn't black; it's dark and so is your sister
Cora's."

"Oh, look, there comes a band of gypsies; now just look how dirty some
of them look, and what loads of beads they have in their baskets. I
wish we had some, don't you?"

At that moment Zula had reached the spot where the girls were
standing.

"Dasn't you go and ask them gypsies for some beads?" said the first
speaker to Zula.

"No, I don't like beads," said Zula, hurrying on, and springing
lightly into the doorway. Her face was pale and her heart beat quick
and hard. She hurried up the stairway, which was well crowded with
pupils, and gave a sigh of relief as she reached the top.

"What is the matter?" a teacher asked, who stood near. "Are you ill?"

"I had a pain in my side when I ran up stairs," replied Zula.

She had seen Crisp and she knew that should he discover that she was
there hope was lost.

"Oh, before I would be such a little coward, oh, ho! Afraid of a band
of gypsies!" said a rude boy.

"I ain't afraid," said Zula, with flashing eyes.

"Oh, but they do say, though, that they will steal little boys and
girls and take them away off," said another.

"They won't take her though," broke in a third party, "she looks so
much like one; they'd rather have little white ones."

"Hush," said the teacher, as Zula stepped forward and raised her hand
as if to strike the offender, "stop this quarreling at once."

Zula dropped her hand and turned quickly away. Her first impulse had
been to strike the boy who had insulted her so, but her better nature
prevailed and instead of angry words tears were called forth. The
teacher after sternly rebuking the boy turned to Zula, saying:

"I am glad you did not give way to your passion. It was very good and
brave of you."

She looked out of the schoolroom window and saw the gypsy band turn
down the road, which she knew they would take in their route from the
city, for it was now about the latter part of September. She knew they
had delayed starting out in the hope of finding her, but she concluded
that they had given up the search. How her heart leaped as she saw
Crisp moving away. He was her brother, but she could not remember one
kind word he had ever spoken to her. She could not remember one kind
act from her mother--not even one look. She wondered why it was that
they seemed to hate her very presence and she sincerely hoped that she
had looked on them for the last time. She was but a child, but she had
experienced a woman's heartaches. Only eleven summers had passed over
her head, and yet she had seen no childhood. She was brave and
ambitious, which traits were more essential than self-esteem, so that
if she did sometimes get discouraged, and think she was the dullest
person in the whole school, others looked on and admired the work she
finally wrought. It was perhaps quite as well that she was ignorant of
her own ability, for she had never possessed the opportunity to gain
the first rudiments of a school education, and it was remarkable how
rapidly she advanced. Had she known her capacity for devouring
knowledge she might have been less eager to make up for lost time. The
idea that there were any idle moments to be spent in the schoolroom
never presented itself to her mind. Thus her time was well improved.



CHAPTER VI.

SILVERY WAVES.


Three years had passed since Zula entered the home of her kind
benefactor. She had improved vastly in every way. In an atmosphere of
love and sympathy, the passionate nature was growing more and more
subdued, though the old spark was still lying deep down in her heart,
and if not so often fanned to a flame was still there.

Mrs. Platts had decided to visit a sister, the wife of a merchant,
who lived in the western town of Clear Lake, situated on a lake of
the same name, whose waters are as clear as crystal, while its
shores are lined with shells and pebbles of rare shapes and colors.
Pleasure boats ply between the mainland and the island lying four
miles out in the lake, whereon stands a commodious hotel, and where
pleasure-seekers find a cool and pleasant resort during the heated
months. Mrs. Platts' sister, Mrs. Horton, like her sister, possessed
a sweet disposition and lady-like manners. She was a fine looking
woman, some years younger than Mrs. Platts. There had always existed a
marked attachment between the two. She was the mother of two
children; a boy of sixteen and a girl of thirteen years of age. Guy
was a very intelligent boy, stout and rosy, and very studious. He
was usually in advance of his class and was called the best writer
in school. In fact, so apt was he in his literary efforts that it had
become a fixed idea with the people of the town that Guy Horton would,
some day, make a mark in the world. Guy's father was wealthy, and
consequently Guy was not to receive one rebuke from strangers for
fear of hurting his feelings. This Zula noticed, after a time, and
she wondered why people were so much more careful of hurting the
feelings of the rich than of the poor. Guy's sister Carrie was a
sweet-tempered girl, ever ready to oblige and seldom ill-tempered.

Mr. Horton always made the visits of his guests pleasant, although
very much occupied with his business.

Mrs. Platts had prepared for Zula a liberal wardrobe, and when she
stood before the mirror in her pretty dress of garnet with its satin
folds, she wondered if the image she saw there was really Zula, the
gypsy, or had she been transformed into a young princess, with
sparkling eyes and raven hair. Although she had no idea that any one
would think she was pretty, yet she was glad that the tan was wearing
off, and that her hands had grown more plump and even more beautiful
in shape than before. She wondered what Crisp would think of her now.
She did not feel quite as much like shooting him as she had
heretofore, but she would just like to see him unhappy, for she still
carried the marks of his cruelty, and would carry them to her grave.
She had said to Mrs. Platts:

"I do so want to take my little pistol, and shoot the heads off the
little birds and squirrels, for I may forget how to shoot if I
don't."

Mrs. Platts shuddered at the thought of so young a girl talking so
freely of using firearms, but since Zula seemed to desire it so much
she consented, first having gained a promise that she would be very
careful, at which Zula gave a half-derisive smile. Truly there were
many evils to root out of the girl's nature, and Mrs. Platts had grown
to the belief that it was her mission to do it, but she prayed for
strength, believing that education and culture alone would do the work
of reform, and though it would take patience on her part, she felt
that there was too much good, too much that was really noble in the
child to be lost. One afternoon about a week after her arrival at the
home of Mr. Horton, Zula sat by the lakeside, whose waters were all
aglow, sparkling like a thousand diamonds, as the soft winds made tiny
waves, which rose and fell with a sweet musical sound. She had
wandered down to the bank, alone, for she loved to go there and watch
the little pleasure boats, and to gather the shells that lay along the
shore. She sat with her broad-brimmed hat shading her face, and her
lap half filled with pebbles. She was looking out over the waters,
while her fingers, which held a pencil, rested on a little book which
lay upon her knee.

"Bless me, there's a pretty little gypsy; only look what a head of
hair!"

Zula saw two fashionably dressed young ladies standing a short
distance behind her.

"How do you know I'm a gypsy?" she asked, angrily.

"Goodness, did you hear me? Well, excuse me, then, please."

"Yes, and I want you to tell me how you know I'm a gypsy."

"Why, I only judged by those long beautiful braids, but I would know
it now by the angry look in your black eyes; so now you may as well
tell the truth about it."

"It's none of your business."

A hearty laugh broke upon the air and floated away over the water. The
young lady had spoken in jest, but her words went like a sharp pointed
arrow straight down into Zula's heart.

"You are saucy enough whatever you are."

"I don't care if I am," said Zula. "If you don't like me all you have
to do is to let me alone."

The young ladies walked on, laughing as they went.

Zula sat for some moments motionless and with eyes looking down into
the clear water before her, thinking deeply. The little pebbles, round
and white, which lay under the water, seemed to form themselves into
tiny shapes. They rose and fell with the soft waves, washing up on the
shore, and at last forming a castle--Zula's castle, the first she had
ever built. Tiny fish darted out and through its arches, sprinkling
drops about with the dip of their silvery fins. The sunbeams gave a
rich golden glow to the little castle so full of bright visions, for
Zula saw within its walls sights so beautiful that they fairly made
her heart leap for joy. She wondered if some day she would not wander
through the halls of such a castle as she saw there. The tears began
to drop one by one from the heavy black lashes.

"Oh, I wish I could; how I wish I could. I wonder if some day--but,
oh, dear, I can't--who ever heard of a gypsy----"

Her pencil went down making marks on the little book on her knee.

"Julia Ellis makes the loveliest pictures, without a bad line in them,
and I wish, oh, how I wish----"

"Why, Cousin Zula, here you are, I have been looking all around for
you, and here you are--drawing, too. What, you haven't been crying?
Are you homesick?"

"Oh, no. What made you think I had been crying?"

"I fancied I saw tears; that was all."

"Well, I did cry a little. There were two of the sauciest young ladies
here--no, I don't believe they _were_ ladies."

"Were they rude to you?"

"I should think they were."

"What did they say?"

"They thought I looked like a gypsy, and I told her it was none of her
business if I was."

"Why, Zula, did you tell her that?"

"Yes, I did."

"Well, it was not lady-like. Now if you are to be my cousin, you must
let me talk to you like a cousin. It seems to me that was saucy."

"Now you are scolding me, too. It seems to me that people like to
scold me."

"Oh, no, Zula, I am not scolding you, and you must not blame the lady
for her thoughts, for, really, you do look like a gypsy."

Zula drew herself up proudly.

"Well," she said. "I can't help it, and I don't care to be told of
it."

"It's no disgrace. I have seen many a pretty gypsy girl. There was one
who belonged to a tribe that camped just a little way out of the
village, last summer, and she certainly was a beauty, only she was so
dark."

"Well, I don't want people to think I am one."

"What are you doing, drawing?" Guy asked, as he discovered her pencil
and book.

She covered the paper with her hand.

"Let me see it," he said entreatingly.

"Will you promise that you will not laugh, and that you will never
speak of it?"

"I promise."

He took the book and looking at it closely, a smile passed over his
face.

"Now you are laughing at me and you said you would not."

"Was I laughing? I really did not mean to."

"Perhaps you didn't, but you felt laugh, just as I do when I feel
angry. But tell me what do you think of it."

"No, I would rather not."

"You must."

She said this with such vehemence that he started.

"Well, in that case I will."

"Tell me, then, would you try again?"

"No, I do not believe I would, for I can see nothing to build on."

Zula's castle fell. She looked down into the clear water, and the
shining pebbles lay loose and dull upon the bottom of the lake. She
turned quickly toward Guy, and catching the book from his hand, while
tears of mortification and injured pride stood in her eyes, she said:

"I will never tell any one anything again, never."

"I would not cry, Zula."

"Did you never cry for disappointment?"

"No."

"Then it was because you never had one. I do not believe any one ever
told you that your work was worthless."

"I suppose they had no reason to."

Zula's beautiful red lips curled scornfully. She could not but notice
the self-esteem with which he uttered the words. But Guy could not see
it. He thought they were true and he had received so much flattery
that he doubted not a moment that Zula would consider his decision
correct, which in fact she did accept.

Zula crushed the book tightly in her hand concealing it in her pocket,
just as she looked up to see Carrie, who was coming in search of the
missing pair. "Mama says come right home to tea; it is all ready."

Carrie threw her arm around Zula's waist, and as she did so her hand
came in contact with the heavy braids of shining hair, which hung over
Zula's shoulders.

"What lovely hair you have," Carrie said. "I never saw but one like
it, and it was on the head of a handsome gypsy girl, who was here last
summer."

Zula's eyes flashed and she closed her mouth tightly, with an inward
determination to have at least half her luxuriant hair cut off. Would
she never cease to be reminded that she was a gypsy?

"Why, how angry you look," said Carrie. "Don't you like to have any
one praise your hair?"

"No," Zula answered, forcing a smile.

"Oh, you are a funny girl," Carrie said, twining her arms around
Zula's waist in such a loving way that Zula began to cry.

"Please do not cry; I did not mean to hurt your feelings; I think your
hair is so lovely that I could not help telling you so. Mama always
says flattery is very silly, but really I did not mean it for that; I
do think your hair is just splendid, but I will not let you know it
any more."

"Thank you," said Zula, clasping Carrie's little, soft white hand. "It
is not you who is foolish, it is myself and I will try and behave a
little better. I wish I were like you, Carrie, but I can't be no
matter how hard I try."

"Oh, don't wish to be like me. Sue Haines says I haven't enough spunk
ever to amount to anything in the world; but mama says it does not
take spunk to amount to a good woman, and that, she says, is worth
everything."

"I think so, too," said Zula, drying her eyes.

"We are all going to the island to-morrow," said Guy. "There is to be
an excursion, and I suppose we shall have any amount of fun."

"Oh, won't that be grand!" said Zula. "I do so love to be on the
water."

"Oh, I am always more than half afraid; but of course there is not the
least bit of danger."

"Not the least," said Guy. "Please, Carrie, do not scare Zula so that
she will not wish to go."

"Oh, I am never afraid of the water; I love it."

"I don't believe you are afraid of anything. Why I would not dare to
shoot off a pistol the way you do. I am almost afraid to look at
one."

Zula remarked, just as they were entering the house, that she wished
there was nothing more for her to fear than pistols.



CHAPTER VII.

THE DISASTER.


The next morning's sun rose clear and bright, and by nine o'clock the
town was swarming with pleasure-seekers. The little steamer lay at the
landing awaiting its burden of human freight. The boat was already
fast filling up with old and young, grave and gay.

A little party, which consisted of Mrs. Horton, Mr. and Mrs. Platts,
Guy, Zula and Carrie, entered the boat.

The boat had been under way a short time, when Carrie exclaimed, with
a look of alarm: "Oh, Zula, what is the matter?"

Zula looked up and saw that each face around had become serious.

Guy answered the question, though apparently unconcerned.

"The water is coming into the boat."

One after another arose to their feet.

"What is it?" ran from mouth to mouth.

"The boat has sprung a leak."

A wild, despairing cry went up from the frightened crowd, and then the
color fled from each face until one looking over the pitiful scene of
white and agonized faces turned toward Heaven, would almost have
thought the sea had given up its dead.

The water which was fast running into the boat defied the laborious
task of bailing, and one brave man after another, overcome with heat
and labor, surrendered and was brought on deck fainting. At last when
all efforts were found to be unavailing, the captain, with haggard
face and ashen lips, gave the command to repair to the upper deck. It
was the last hope. The scene of that moment cannot be portrayed.
Parents who had left children on the mainland, and children who had
gone abroad without their parents, called in vain for loved ones, and
wringing their hands, mingled their tears, and praying, cursing, and
weeping, words of regret and heart-rending shrieks, all mingled in one
mighty cry, went up to Heaven through the still air, while death
seemed to stand and mock them in their agony, hopeless, out upon the
water in a frail boat, which in a few moments more would go down,
down, consigning them to a watery grave.

Mrs. Horton, in mute despair, clasped the hands of her sister and
daughter. Guy had stepped a little aside, and with a very solemn look,
was studying what course to pursue, as the agony and excitement of all
seemed to settle to a dumb despair and a resignation of the fate that
awaited them, and one by one they sank to the floor, giving themselves
up to the mercy of the waters.

The flag of distress had been raised, but the steamer, yet three miles
away from the mainland, where the rowboats lay, was steadily, but
slowly and surely going down. Would they reach the sinking vessel in
time to save any of the victims? Ah, how anxiously they watch while
there seems but a step between them and eternity.

Every eye was directed toward the mainland, from which were coming a
large number of rowboats. Nearer they come, one after another,
bringing a faint ray of hope to the leaden hearts. The steamer is
sinking, sinking, oh, will they reach her in time to rescue the
precious load of humanity? Something seems to buoy her up, as though
stayed by the hand of Providence. The little boats fairly fly over the
water and at last they reach the sinking steamer, and are filled and
rowed safely to the island. Back and forth they go until there is one
more load left. The last boat is nearly filled and all have descended
with the exception of Guy and Zula. How fast they crowd to their
places; these frightened people, seemingly so selfish because life is
at stake. Guy and Zula hold back. They are both cooler than the rest,
and perhaps less fearful.

"Alas," the pilot says, "the boat will not hold one more."

"Oh, just one," Guy says, motioning Zula to go.

"No, not one; it is already a risky load. One more may sink all; you
must wait."

Away goes the heavily laden boat, and faster and yet faster,
down--down goes the sinking vessel. The deck but just clears the
water, and there stand Guy and Zula waiting, with but a moment between
them and death. How calmly they wait. Guy clasps her hand, his face
has grown pale.

"Zula," he says, "I can swim, but you shall not go down alone. The
lifeboat cannot possibly return in time to take us away."

Zula draws her hand away, and, stooping, unfastens and draws her shoes
from her feet, then turning to Guy she says in a cool and fearless
manner:

"I have no idea of going down."

"I am not an expert swimmer and perhaps I can do no more than save
myself; but I will try to save you."

"See, we must be quick," he said, again offering his hand.

She drew back hurriedly, saying:

"Save yourself, Cousin Guy."

At that moment the boat careened, a splashing of the pipes in the
water and down, down, down she went out of sight.

A heart-rending cry arose from the boat nearing the island. Mrs.
Horton and Mrs. Platts anxiously watching the two standing on the
vessel's deck saw them strike the water and then all hope was lost.
They buried their faces in their hands to shut out the very thought of
the terrible sight.

But see! what is that? Each eye is strained to catch the sight.

Their hearts almost stand still as they watch two heads above the
water, and as they near the island they are soon followed by Zula, who
smiles as she steps on the shore. Guy soon follows, and brushes the
water from his hair. The two are soon surrounded by friends and
strangers with numerous words of praise for Zula's bravery. She was
glad to get to the hotel, where the ladies were only too eager to
provide her with dry clothing. There was nothing else talked of for
the remainder of the day, but the disaster and the wonderful heroism
of the little black-eyed girl, and when the pleasure-seekers were
rowed back to the town by moonlight, all acknowledged that it had been
a day which would not soon be forgotten.

The summer passed away, and Zula had been happy, but there was a tiny
cloud in the background of her life, a fear that Crisp would, some day
steal in upon her happiness and blight her life by taking her back to
the old one of shadow and suffering. She had become warmly attached to
Carrie and Guy, and often would she look at him and wish so earnestly
that Crisp were like him. How happy she would be, and how she would
love Crisp if he were like Guy. But Crisp was cruel, heartless and
ignorant, never giving her a kind word, but instead cruel taunts and
blows. When her mind wandered over those things she could not choke
down the feeling of bitterness that struggled in her bosom, and she
would whisper to herself that some day she would have her revenge. How
little she knew in what way her revenge would be given.



CHAPTER VIII.

CRUEL CRISP.


It was near the middle of September that Mr. Platts and his family
returned home. Mary was there to receive them, and very glad to see
them.

It happened one day that Mary, having an unusual amount of work on
hand, had requested Zula to go on an errand for her, to which she,
ever ready to oblige, at once consented. It was nearing twilight and
as Zula started to return home she was met by Crisp, who at once
recognized her in spite of her changed countenance and neat attire.

"Oh, so I have found you. I have looked all over for you," he said.
"Maam wants to see you awful bad; she is so sick and she knows she is
going to die; she says she must see you."

"Is she really ill?"

"Yes," Crisp answered, trying to look sad.

"I am sorry," Zula said.

"Come and see her, then."

"Oh, I can't."

"Yes, you can; you would if you knew how Maam cried after you."

"Then what made her let you whip me so?"

"She's awful sorry, and she says if you will just come home and let
her see you once she could die better."

"Crisp, is it true that Maam is going to die?"

"As true as the stars shine, and she's got something to tell you. I
guess she's got lots o' money to give you, but anyway she wants to
tell you something."

"Well, you stay here then, Crisp, until I go home and tell my mother,
and I will go if you will promise to come back with me, or let me
come."

"Why, yes, I will let you come, but you won't have time to wait. You
must come right away, or Maam might be dead when you got there."

Poor Zula did not know what to do. She feared Crisp, and she could not
bear the thought of going without Mrs. Platts' consent, and then when
she thought of poor Meg dying and longing to see her, her tender heart
yielded, and she thought she must go to her. She would explain all to
Mrs. Platts when she returned, and she knew she would forgive her.

"Crisp," she said again, "are you speaking the truth?"

"Oh, dear, yes; do come, or we won't see her again at all," Crisp
replied, in a troubled voice.

She looked again at Crisp's ugly face, and then she thought of all the
cruel blows he had given her. She knew that the road to the camp with
him would be a dangerous one, but she thought of poor old Meg dying,
and longing to see her, and if she had been cruel to her, she was her
mother, and she would go if Crisp would promise to bring her back that
night.

He gave a solemn promise to do so, and Zula walking along hurriedly,
by his side, wondered whether he had really told the truth, or was it
all a fabrication of his own. Crisp questioned Zula as to where she
had lived, and whether she had to work since she left them, and why
she did not bring back the money she got for the beadwork, to which
Zula replied that she could give them that amount now.

They reached the camp. All was still, for the gypsies were sleeping
soundly.

"Come still," said Crisp, gliding into one of the tents. "'Cause you
might wake her."

Zula followed softly, but no sooner had she entered the tent than she
was seized by Crisp, and her hands bound tightly behind her. Old Meg
arose from her straw bed, and, opening wide her eyes, looked in wonder
at Zula, and as a grin of satisfaction passed over her face, she
asked:

"Where did you find her?"

"On the street in Detroit, and I guess we will keep her this time."

"It's a wonder she did not get away."

"Oh, I told her you was sick and going to die, so she came along."

"You're a good boy, Crisp, and you'll get the money and she'll get the
lashes; yes, yes, she'll get the lashes, the sinful jade, and you can
give 'em to her, and lay 'em on good; tie her tight till to-morrow and
then settle with her."

Crisp did as his mother directed, and Zula knowing his strength made
no resistance. Then he went to his straw bed and slept soundly, until
morning. The sun was well up when he went to Zula, and untying her
hands led her out to a tree, where he bound her, saying:

"Now, you will find who is lady, or who is gypsy."

He wound the lash that he had brought, around his brawny hand, and one
by one the blows fell fast upon the quivering flesh. No word escaped
her lips; but a slight groan followed every stroke of the whip. The
little soft hands were locked tightly together and the face grew paler
and paler, as the strokes left their marks deep and red.

"I'll take the pride out of you, my young queen; you dare not run away
again," said Crisp, growing more and more angry, and giving vent to
his demoniac ire in heavier strokes. As the lash sunk into the flesh a
deeper paleness crept over Zula's face, a heavy groan escaped her, and
"Oh, Crisp," was spoken in a tone full of agony.

Old Meg, who stood watching the proceedings, now advanced, and said:

"Stop, Crisp, not so hard; don't you see you are killing her?"

Zula's head sank upon her breast and an ashen paleness overspread her
face.

"Yes, stop," said a voice close behind him, and at that moment a form
appeared among the trees.

"Who are you?" Crisp asked, angrily.

"It matters not who I am, but I command you to cease your cruelty, and
untie that poor girl. Shame on a man who would commit such a cowardly
deed. If you have a spark of manhood about you let her go."

"What business have you to interfere, I should like to know? She
stays there till she knows how to behave herself."

The stranger deliberately placed his hand behind him, and drawing a
pistol from his pocket pointed it at Crisp, who instantly dropped his
hand by his side, while his ugly face became purple with anger and
fright, as he advanced a step toward Zula.

"I will give you just three minutes to release that girl, and if you
do not do as I bid you your worthless head shall pay the forfeit. You
have already intended murder, and had you been allowed to proceed,
would have ended her life."

Crisp began the work of untying the ropes which bound Zula, whose head
lay upon her breast as motionless as though death had done its work.

When the cords were loosened, the young man bade Crisp carry her to
her bed, which he did, while the stranger followed him. Old Meg
brought a basin of water and bathed her face.

"Is she your daughter?" the stranger asked, addressing old Meg.

"Yes," she replied.

"How, then, can you treat her so cruelly?"

"She runs away, and we have to whip her hard," she said, glancing at
Crisp, who stood like a cowering criminal, gazing on the ruin he had
wrought.

"You whipped her too hard, Crisp," said Meg, who still seemed to have
a spot of pity left in her heart.

Crisp could find nothing to say in self-defense, so remained silent,
but the stranger noticed the look of intense hatred on his ugly face,
as he gazed at the seemingly lifeless form before him. Zula breathed
heavily, then slowly opened her eyes. They rested for a moment on the
face of the young man, then with a sudden start and a flood of tears
she turned and covered her face with her hands.

"Poor girl!" said the young man. "I am so sorry for you."

She tried to arise, but was too much exhausted. The pain inflicted by
the terrible blows had nearly taken her life, and she sank back,
again, white and trembling.

"Oh, I am so ill," she moaned.

"Go for some water, Crisp, and I will make her some herb tea," said
old Meg, and she followed Crisp from the tent.

The stranger took from his pocket a card, and handing it to Zula told
her in case anything of the kind ever occurred again, to make him
acquainted with the fact and he would come to her rescue.

"Can you read the address?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," she answered. "I can read, and I thank you so much; perhaps
some day, I can do something to repay you."

She took a steady look at the card, then returned it to him, saying:

"Take it, I shall remember."

"I am afraid you will forget."

"No, I shall not forget, and it will be safer here," she said,
pointing to her forehead. "You know they can't find it here."

He made no reply, for Meg was just coming in with a cup of tea, which
she gave to Zula, who as she drank it, said:

"It is so bitter."

"It will strengthen you," said the old gypsy.

"Will it cure the cuts on my shoulder?" asked Zula.

"That is all nonsense."

"Oh, I know it is cut; and here is one on my arm; I know by the way
they smart."

She raised the sleeve of her dress, and revealed a gash from which the
blood had started.

"Then you must learn to be good. You don't know," she said, turning to
the stranger, "what a bad little thief she is."

"No matter what wrong she has done it does not justify the punishment
you have given her."

Zula's eyes were turned full upon the face of the young man as though
beseeching him not to believe her guilty.

"Will you have your fortune told?" asked Meg.

"For what? I came out to the woods to get fresh air and to practice a
little shooting. I came very near using that young rascal there for a
target. It is quite necessary to keep in practice, I see--but what do
you know of my fortune?"

"I can tell you what you wish to know most."

He laughed.

"See if I cannot."

"Well," he said, prompted by curiosity, "if you can tell me all that,
proceed."

She took his hand, as soft and white as a woman's, and gazing at the
palm, she said:

"You are wealthy."

"Indeed."

"Your parents are both living."

"Yes."

"Your hands are never soiled with work."

"I thought you were to tell me something which I did not know."

"You will marry a beautiful woman."

"Ah! well, that will be no satisfaction if she is not good."

"She will be good and beautiful."

"That is well."

"But there are tears for you, and the stain of blood on your hands."

The young man drew back, then laughed at his own folly.

"No," he said, "there will never be the stain of blood on my hands.
Tears are for us all, but crime is not for me."

"We can't change the fates."

"We weave our own destiny, perhaps."

"Others weave for us and we must take what comes."

"I must go," he said. "Is there any more fortune for me?"

"Yes, there is a great deal to tell."

"I will come some other day and get the rest of it, I must go," he
said, placing a piece of money in her hand. "I suppose you get a great
many silver pieces in this way."

"Oh, yes," she answered, placing the money in a well-filled beaded
bag. "Yes, almost every afternoon the young ladies and gentlemen from
the city come here."

"Well, I cannot see that I have learned anything," said the young man,
thinking that she had given him all that her wicked heart would allow,
and that the criminal part was given through spite from his having
interfered in the whipping of Zula. He went to the door of the tent
and bade Zula good-bye, then wandered away through the woods.

"Oh, dear," said Zula to herself, with eyes filling with tears; "why
cannot I stay with some one who is kind to me? I wish I could get back
home to dear Mr. and Mrs. Platts, and I will, too, some day. How kind
they were to me. If I ever get a chance to hurt Crisp I'll do it. I
believe I'll kill him."

The thought had scarcely passed through Zula's brain ere she shuddered
at its coming.

"How terrible that would be," she added. "Oh, I wish I could get away
from him; I know if I do not I shall do something terribly wicked. If
I could only get home again I could be good. I do not feel so wicked
when I am with dear Mrs. Platts. I wonder why."

It was not strange that Zula should feel a spirit of revenge while in
the presence of Crisp and his mother.

The gypsy camp was arranged for a dance. Zula lay on her bed and ever
and anon caught a glimpse of some gaily dressed gypsy, as they flitted
by the tent door. A young girl entered the tent, and going to Zula,
said:

"Meg sent me in to tell you to get up and come out; they want you to
play the guitar."

"I don't want to play," said Zula, in a half angry tone. "I am too
lame to play or dance, and they would not let me dance if I could,
just because they know I would enjoy it more."

"Well, I suppose you will have to come anyway, 'cause Meg said so, and
so did Crisp."

"Crispin," and Zula's eyes flashed a light like that of an angry
tiger. "Crisp, I hate him bad enough to kill him."

"I'm sorry for you, Zu," said Fan, as she noticed the great red marks
on Zula's flesh. "I am so sorry, and if I was you I'd----"

"What would you do?"

"I'd run away, and join some other band," said Fan, coming close and
whispering the words in Zula's ear.

"No, I don't want to join any band. I don't want to be a gypsy at all.
Oh, I was so much happier when I was at home and had a nice clean bed,
and everybody was so kind to me."

"Well, that was nice, but you see, you had to work."

"If I did, that was nothing."

"Oh, no, but then we can lay in the shade all we like and have a nice
time, and so we get something to eat and do what we please, what is
the difference?"

Zula felt that there was a great difference, and, gypsy though she
was, she felt that there was more happiness in having employment and
kind friends than all the pleasures of a life of idleness.

"Come, Zu, hurry up, or you will get another flogging."

"If I do it will not kill me, or, if it does I do not care. I wish it
would; I'd rather be dead than live this way."

"It is too bad, I know, but I don't see why they whip you that way. I
never get such poundings."

"Because you are good and mind what you are told," said a harsh,
croaking voice at the door.

Zula looked up, but there was neither love nor fear in the gaze that
fell on her mother's face. She had grown reckless as to fear, and so
accustomed to the pain inflicted by the strokes of the lash, that had
she been commanded to receive fifty, she would have betrayed no
emotion.

"Come, you lazy thing, you may as well make yourself useful; you are
good for nothing anyway, so you may help to make music for the
dance."

"I hate music--that kind, anyway. It's like the croaking of a frog. I
would rather dance if I wasn't so lame and my arms so sore."

"Come along, then; playing a while will cure you, I guess. You have
got most too smart since you ran away and stole your livin' from the
white ladies."

"I didn't steal it; they gave it to me, and didn't whip me either."

"Then they didn't give you what you deserved; but let me tell you,
you'll not get a chance to get away again very soon," said the old
gypsy, with a grin that made her fairly hideous.

Zula made no reply, but as she arose to her feet, scarcely able to
stand at all, she was making a strong resolution in regard to a secret
that a second party did not possess. Some day she would execute the
plan which she had laid out, but she must work with the utmost
caution. She was only a gypsy, which fact she fully realized, but
there was something away in the distant future that her heart cried
out for, and she would reach out until she could grasp it, if she died
in the attempt. She was a gypsy, and she knew she could never be a
fine lady, but she might find a way out of this terrible darkness and
find at least a break in the clouds, if not the broad open sunshine in
which she thought many a one lived.

She had made a resolution to escape from Crisp, but how was it to be
done? She had more than half made up her mind that could she get back
to Mrs. Platts, she would tell her all about her mother, and all the
trouble she had gone through, but in that case they would know she was
a gypsy, and the thought caused a blush of shame to pass over her
face.

When the dance was over she put away the guitar with painfully tired
arms and an aching heart. When she saw Crisp, as he moved about, cast
exultant glances at her, and saw her mother watching her every
movement, then was her resolution formed, not to be changed, for let
come what would, hardships, torture, or even death, nothing should
change her purpose. She would escape, and as she sat quietly working
with her beads, making many pretty articles for sale, her brain was
working more briskly than her fingers, trying to devise a means of
escape.



CHAPTER IX.

FREE AGAIN.


Zula had been a prisoner three weeks, all that time being closely
watched by Crisp, and had it not been for the stolen visits she
received from the young gypsy girl, Fan, she would have been desolate
indeed. She entered the hut one day where Zula was imprisoned, and
going close to her she whispered:

"Zula, they are going to drug you to-night, but now don't you be
scared, for I'll manage to fix it myself. They don't think I would
play any trick, but I will, and you be sure not to say a word against
taking it."

"What is that for? What are they going to do?"

"They say you must be untied, or you will get lame, and not be able to
travel, for we'll move on in a week or two, and don't you attempt to
go out of the tent, for they are going to keep an eye on you to see if
the herb works right."

Zula sat a moment in deep thought ere she replied; then, looking
closely in Fan's eyes, and speaking in a voice so low that Fan could
just distinguish her words, she asked:

"Fan, will you trust me to ask you something and promise me not to
tell a living soul?"

"Yes; I'll promise."

"You won't betray me?"

"No."

"True?"

"As sure as can be."

"You must help me, Fan. I must get away."

"Oh, I'll be lonely without you, Zu."

"But they'll kill me yet, Fan, and if I can I must get away, and if
you will only help me, I will do something for you if I can. Will you
help me, Fan?"

"Yes, Zu, I will."

"Well, then, to-morrow night, when they are all asleep, come as still
as you can and untie the ropes, and I will escape."

Fan gave the required promise and then left Zula, saying that if she
stayed too long they might suspect something. Crisp and his mother
were seated on the ground, apart from the rest. Fan strolled near
several times, but could hear nothing of their conversation. That
night, as Zula lay patiently waiting, Fan entered the tent, saying in
a loud voice:

"Here, Zula, Crisp told me to bring you this tea; he says it will
strengthen you."

Zula took the tea, and, lying back on her bed of straw, was soon, to
all appearance, fast asleep, but though her eyes were closed and her
body motionless, her brain was still at work.

She had not lain there more than an hour ere she heard a pressure of
the grass, and a smothered whisper near by. She began to fear that
the two were to commit some terrible deed, and her heart beat wildly,
but she controlled every outward emotion, knowing that her only hope
lay in apparent ignorance of their presence. Old Meg, holding a torch
closer to her face, whispered:

"Yes, she is sound asleep; now for the search. I'm sure she has it."

"Oh, yes, I'm pretty sure I saw her take it," said Crisp.

Old Meg then proceeded to examine Zula's clothing, but after a
thorough search turned away in disgust.

Zula heard words which made her heart stand still, and her face grew
pale; heard that which changed her resolutions and the current of her
life. Three years ago it would have been impossible for her to lie
there quietly and control the intermingling of anger and grief that
swelled her heart; but she had learned from the teachings which she
had received, as well as from experience, that no good comes of hasty
passions, and calling into action all her powers of endurance, she lay
as calm as a sleeping infant until Crisp and Meg left the tent.

All night she lay trying to devise means whereby she could make her
escape, sleeping only at intervals. In the morning Meg entered to find
what the effect of the drug had been. Zula, tired out from anxiety,
had sunk into a heavy slumber. Old Meg, stooping down, looked steadily
into her face, then left the tent. When the sun was going down that
night she directed Crisp to see that Zula was securely tied, which
work he was only too eager to do. It was night. The gypsies were all
sleeping soundly. A cloud had blinded the setting sun, which,
continuing to spread until night came on, grew to an inky darkness.
Now and then a tiny red line shot out from the blackened clouds, which
were growing more and more dense, and a faint rumbling of the far away
thunder could be heard. Midnight came, and Zula, with feverish
anxiety, awaited the time for Fan to come and release her.

"Oh," thought Zula, "what if Fan had fallen asleep, and forgotten all
about her, or worse yet, what if she were playing a part and should
tell Crisp her secret. He would have no mercy on her." She grew
nervous at the very thought. "Oh, what a risk she was running to
undertake to gain her freedom. Oh, if Fan would only come."

"Zula," she heard whispered in the darkness.

"Oh, Fan, I am so glad you are here."

"Hush! We must be quick, for the storm is coming on and it may wake
some one."

"God help me," said Zula.

Fan proceeded quickly but quietly to untie the ropes which bound
Zula's hands, and it was no easy task, being in utter darkness, but
the work was soon accomplished with the help of Fan's teeth, and,
taking Zula's hand, they stealthily crept out into the black night.

"Good bye," whispered Fan. "Now go; they might find out if I don't go
back. They all slept when I crawled from the tent. Now go, and may the
good fairies go with you to protect you."

"Fan, go with me."

"Oh, what would I do? I have no home nor any place. No, no, go."

[Illustration: "Good bye--Now go!"]

Zula pressed Fan's hand and then she was left standing alone in the
inky darkness, with all the great wide world around her. The woods,
the grass, the wild flowers, even the broad, black sky above, none of
which she could discern, seemed to speak to her of freedom, and
whisper of a hope which she had thought forever lost. Standing there
in the darkness under the sky, angry with a fast approaching storm,
with the great raindrops falling about her and danger on every hand,
she saw her castle again rising up in the darkness--saw again the
glistening panes, the marble walls and sparkling fountain--saw the
castle which would rise despite the darkness around her. She groped
her way for some distance and suddenly came in contact with a huge oak
tree which gave her head a fierce blow. She sank to the earth with a
groan.

"Oh, dear," she said, "what shall I do? Oh, my head, and I shall get
soaking wet. I wonder what I shall do? I can't stay here; it is too
close by. I must get away, for even now they may have missed me. I
don't know where it will be, but I must find my way to somewhere. If I
go to Mrs. Platts I must tell her all, and then she will know I am a
gypsy, and I would rather die than have her know that."



CHAPTER X.

SCOTT'S VALET.


Scott Wilmer sat in his office surrounded by books and papers, which
were lying about on tables and desk in great disorder. His brow was
clouded, and, leaning his head on his hand, he looked from one pile of
papers to another, and taking up his pen he wrote:

  "WANTED--Boy. A good steady boy to work in law office. Must be
  active and willing to work; neat in appearance and of good
  behavior. SCOTT WILMER, 173 ---- Street, Detroit."

The advertisement was inserted in the evening papers and the next
morning a score or more of boys appeared. There was one among them who
impressed Scott more than all the rest, and whom Scott requested to
step into his office. He was a fine looking boy of perhaps fourteen or
fifteen years of age, scrupulously neat in appearance and possessing a
manner which quite captivated Scott.

"My name is Paul Leroy," he said, as he gracefully accepted the chair
Scott offered. "I thought perhaps I might fill the place of errand
boy, if you will only let me try, and if you did not like me----"

"That is always understood," said Scott. "The duties which I wish you
to perform are not at all arduous, and I think you can fill the place
without trouble.

"Would you like a chance to study?"

"Indeed I would, sir."

"Very well. I will give you eight dollars per week and allow you the
privilege of attending evening school, and studying at home when you
can. Are you satisfied with that?"

"Perfectly, sir."

"Have you any recommendations?"

"No, sir; I have none, and I can only promise you that I will be
honest and do my work as near right as I can."

"Where in this city have you worked?"

"I have not been here long. My mother does not live here, and my
father is dead."

"You may stay; I think we shall manage very well; and if I find you
capable we will make a permanent bargain. Come! I will show you to
your room."

Scott led the way across the hall, and opening the door of a room next
to his own private one, he said:

"This will be your room. You see there is a door that opens into my
room, so that in case I should need you at any time you can step in
without going through the hall."

"It is a very pretty little place," Paul said, looking around.

"You may wait in the library until the dinner hour. After dinner you
may begin your work."

June thought Paul looked rather pale, and wondered if he were not
homesick. She really pitied him, she said to Scott, when she found her
brother alone. Mrs. Wilmer gave him a half friendly welcome as he took
his seat by Scott's side at the table, but she did think Scott had a
little more regard for caste than to allow his valet to eat at the
table with the family. She thought it would be almost as reasonable to
think of allowing one of her servant girls to sit with them. She did
not dare to say a word of disapproval, for Scott said the boy was
lonely, and he had taken such a fancy to him, too, and he would, no
doubt, argue her out of all reason and do as he thought right.

The room which he occupied was a tastily furnished apartment, with a
broad, low window facing the east. A tall maple tree stretching its
branches out toward the window made a lovely shade, and by the window
June hung her pretty mocking bird, Ned. For she said that Paul had no
other company, and Ned would cheer him so much when he became
homesick.

Paul began his work the next day with so much interest and activity
that Scott concluded that if he continued as he had begun he had
secured a prize. As time wore on Paul conducted himself with so much
modesty and natural refinement that Mrs. Wilmer, with all her ideas of
caste, could but admire him, and though she had cautioned June to
ignore his society altogether, she now consented to allow her to sit
in the library with him, always cautioning her not to forget that he
was her brother's hired help, and in no way her equal. June always
promised, but some way June always forgot. She did not mean to break
her word, but there was a charm in the very atmosphere which
surrounded Paul. Every moment that his services were not required for
work was spent in useful and careful study. He took advantage of the
evening school, and these hours were well improved.

The Wilmer library was a large, airy and beautifully furnished room,
well filled with finely bound and instructive volumes. Scott was an
extensive reader, and a great portion of his time was spent among his
books. He had been studying law, and two years before the present time
was admitted to the bar. His keen intellect and the remarkably sound
judgment which he possessed for one of his years gave great promise of
a brilliant future. His dignified bearing, without ostentation, his
eloquence, to which none could listen without feeling the weight of
its influence, his honor and strict morality, together with a generous
nature, commanded admiration and respect from all. His face, though
not strikingly handsome, was very attractive. His hair, a dark auburn,
curled loosely around a broad, white brow. His hazel eyes and
classical features were of the type that always caused one to take a
second look, and the general comment was, "What a fine looking man."
Paul thought so, too, and he was much surprised when he discovered the
generosity of his nature, and when told that he could have free access
to the library it seemed too much of a treat to be true. He had so
often longed for books of the kind which he found there, and he tried
to thank Scott, but that gentleman waved his hand in a way that thanks
was entirely out of the question.

Paul and June were becoming firmer friends as the days wore on. They
sat one day, several weeks after his arrival, in the library. June had
entered and found Paul reading, and seeing the book he held in his
hand, she said, as she took a seat near him:

"Oh, Paul, I should think you would just suit mama."

"Why," he asked.

"Because you are always reading poetry. I see you are reading 'Lady of
the Lake.' Do you like it?"

"Like it? Indeed, I do; it is beautiful."

"Well, I like poetry, but mama almost goes wild over it. She thinks
anyone who can write poetry is wonderful. Mama is real funny; you'll
never tell anyone if I tell you in what way, will you?"

"No."

"Well, you know mama often takes books to her room; she hardly ever
comes here to read; she likes to be by herself, and I will tell you
why. She would like to be a poet herself, and if you liked to write it
as well as you like to read it, she would think you were just
splendid."

"I cannot write poetry; I wish I could."

"Why don't you try?"

"How can I when I do not know anything about it?"

"Oh, just make up something that rhymes."

"I would not want to make poetry just for the sake of a rhyme; I would
want some beauty in it--some--well, some soul. But is that what you
were going to tell me?"

"Oh, no, I was going to tell you about Scott's wife."

"I did not know he had a wife."

"Oh, he hasn't any now, but Irene Mapleton is to be his wife some day.
I do not know just when, but you should see the poetry she writes.
Why, she has just stacks of it. Mama thinks it is just beautiful, but
Scott says he cannot see any beauty in it. I believe you could write
as well as that yourself. Mama used to write poetry, and she wrote a
whole lot of it, and tried to sell it for an awful price. The editor
told her that he could not take it. She kept offering it for less and
less, and finally, she offered it for nothing. He would not take it at
all, and then told her it was worthless and would never do to print.
Since then I do not believe she has ever tried to get her poems
printed."

"I should not think she would," said Paul.

"Well," said June, looking up and tossing her head, "I do not believe
I should like to be a writer. I want to be free and not sit caged up
like a bird. Why, mama knows a lady in New York who makes her living
that way, and I have often seen her sitting by her window away up in
the third story of her house, and there she sits, day after day, all
alone. Mercy! I can't see how she does stand it. It must be an awful
life to live.

"I suppose one reason that mama is so determined to have Scott marry
Irene is because she can write poetry. Mama is so delighted when she
sees one of Irene's poems that she shows it to everybody she knows.
She is so afraid that Scott will not get Irene for a wife that she
wants him to be married right away, but Scott says he has not the time
to be married."

"How old are you, June?" Paul asked, looking up into her face.

"Thirteen last month."

"How long have you attended school?"

"Oh, ever since I can remember. I shall graduate when I am seventeen.
Mama has promised me the loveliest graduating dress that she can find
in the city of New York."

"What is all this argument about?" asked Scott, who at that moment
entered the room.

"We were only talking about going to school and being wise, that is
all," said June.

"A very good subject for two little people," said Scott, smiling.

Scott sat down by June's side, as he said:

"I have come to tell you something, my little sister, which I hope you
will be pleased to hear."

Paul arose, and putting his book in its place started to leave the
room.

"Where are you going?" Scott asked.

"I thought perhaps you wished to talk to your sister," Paul answered,
modestly.

"Your presence will not hinder me. I prefer to have you stay."

Paul went to the window and stood with his face turned away from
Scott's gaze. He did not know why, but for some reason he feared that
he should hear something unpleasant.

"June, I am going to be married," Scott said, turning the bright face
up to catch the effect of his words.

"Oh, Scott!"

The head dropped upon his shoulder, and the tears started to her
eyes.

"Why, what is the matter, little one, is there anything so terrible
about that? I thought you might be pleased to hear it."

"I am pleased, only----"

"Only what?"

"I am afraid you will not care for me--or Paul either, after you are
married."

Paul turned with a smile, though his face was very pale. He did not
say to Scott that he dreaded far worse than did June, the presence of
his wife, for it seemed to him that Scott would not care for him as he
had, and though he could not tell just why, it seemed to him that he
would not be as happy as he had been.

"Well, Paul," said June, wiping the tears away, "if Scott cares less
for us when he gets Irene, you and I will be brother and sister."

"If you will," said Paul.

"And I hope you will agree as well as you and I have, June," Scott
said.

"I hope you and Irene will agree as well as we shall--but," she added,
springing upon Scott's knee, and throwing her plump little arms around
his neck, "I intend to sit here while I can, for I do not suppose I
shall be allowed to do so in future."

Scott's mouth closed firmly; then he said:

"June, no one shall ever come between me and my sister; remember
that--not even a wife. I do not think Irene would wish to, and if she
did she could not; so do not foster any such ideas. I could never love
my little sister less."



CHAPTER XI.

SCOTT'S WIFE.


The wedding was over. Scott had been to San Francisco and returned,
bringing his bride, radiant in diamonds and rich apparel. She was a
handsome dark-haired woman, with finely-cut features and an
exquisitely molded form. Her tapering fingers fairly blazed with
costly diamonds. The evening reception given at the Wilmer mansion was
a brilliant affair, and everyone present admired Scott Wilmer's wife,
as she appeared in her rich pearl-colored satin dress and costly
jewels. Mrs. Wilmer had welcomed them home the day before, highly
pleased with the choice her son had made. June kissed her new sister
in a loving way, and Mr. Wilmer gave her a quiet and kindly welcome.
Scott inquired for Paul, and on investigation found him in the library
with his head bowed on the broad window sill, the tears dropping from
his eyes.

"Why, Paul, my boy," said Scott, as he placed his hand on his head,
"are you crying? What is that for?"

"For nothing," Paul answered. "I am foolish, I know, but it seems to
me as though I were all alone again. I have been so happy, and you
have been so kind to me."

"I can still be kind, can't I?" Scott asked, with a smile.

"Oh, sir," said Paul, "I did not mean that you would not; but----"

"But what? Do you think Irene is a tyrant?"

"Oh, no, sir! Please do not think I dislike your--your--wife. I do not
know."

"Very well; dry your eyes and come to the parlor and let me introduce
you."

"Please, Mr. Wilmer, I would rather not."

"You must; you will be obliged to meet her sooner or later, so come
now."

Paul arose, and wiping the tears away, followed Scott to the
parlor, where he was presented to the bride. She received him with an
air of hauteur, though not unkindly. Paul knew that she meant to make
him feel his inferior position, but was by no means embarrassed.
He bowed with such an easy grace that Irene wondered where the boy
who acted in a menial capacity had received his instructions, he
was so self-possessed in the presence of strangers. Though she felt
the least bit annoyed that he did not feel intimidated in her
presence, she could but admire his classical features and lovely eyes.
She remarked to Scott some time later that there was something
about the boy that she could not "quite understand." Often she
would look up to find his searching gaze fastened upon her, as
though he would read her very thoughts, and, boy though he was, he
was capable of making her very uncomfortable.

"I cannot think," Irene said one day to Scott, "what the boy can be
thinking of sometimes, when he looks at me with those great dreamy
eyes; and once, when I asked him what he was thinking of, he answered
coolly, that he did not care to tell. Just to think of his answering
me that way! I had a half mind to box his ears."

"I hardly think that would be advisable," Scott answered, closing his
lips in a manner that told plainly that he meant what he said.

Irene soon began to learn Scott's nature, and she saw that whatever
opposition she made to his will must be done in secret; and though he
was ever kind and gentle, she knew that he would adhere strictly to
the right, whoever the opposing party might be. There had been a
slight misunderstanding between Irene and Paul in the library--at
least, that was what she called it. She entered one day and found Paul
poring over a book of poems.

"Why, Paul," she said, "you seem to spend a great deal of time here;
you have permission, I suppose?"

The boy's crimson lip curled scornfully.

"Certainly, I have; if I had not I should not be here."

"Does your master pay you for studying?"

"My work is always done before I come here; for that I am paid, and my
employer, not my master, has very kindly allowed me the privilege of
using the library. As for a master, I am neither a dog nor a slave."

"You are very insolent, at least."

[Illustration: "Does your master pay you for studying?"]

The boy's face grew crimson as he said:

"If I am not wanted here I can stay away."

"It would be much pleasanter for me if you would do so. I, myself, am
a great reader of poetry, and this seems to be the most appropriate
place to read, and I prefer to be alone."

"I am very sorry that I have been in your way, and I will try in
future not to trouble you," Paul said, as, with a low bow, he left the
room.

Irene fairly trembled with rage as she saw Paul bowing with as much
politeness and composure as though he really were her equal.

"To think," she said, "that he dare to look me straight in the eye as
though he were reading my very thoughts; just as though he were as
good as I am! I will make him learn his place, if Scott cannot; or
rather, will not."

In the hall Paul met June, who came bounding along, dressed in the
most becoming blue muslin, trimmed with lace, and her golden hair tied
with a blue ribbon and falling to her waist in a most bewitching
fashion.

"Come, Paul! Scott says you can drive me out in the phaeton, if you
will," she said, approaching him.

Irene entered the doorway just in time to see Paul playfully pinch
June's pink cheek and to hear him say:

"How sweet you look, June!"

"Why, June," said Irene, "do you ride with your brother's hired
help?"

"I ride with Paul."

"Does mama allow it?"

"Why, yes; Scott says I can do so."

"And I suppose Scott's will is law," she said, trying to look pleasant
and to smile.

"Oh, yes," June said, returning the smile, which she did not
understand as well as did Paul. "Yes, I always ask Scott."

Irene said no more, and she allowed June to give her a good-bye kiss,
just as Scott always did if June were going out only for an hour; but
she lost no time in seeking an interview with her mother-in-law, whose
nature was the most congenial of anyone around her. They were seated
in Mrs. Wilmer's room. Rene, as Mrs. Wilmer always called Scott's
wife, entered with a smile on her face, and of course just happened to
speak of Paul and June riding together, not forgetting to mention the
little piece of really playful familiarity, but which was highly
colored.

"Of course, mama, I would not care, but I do so love darling little
June that I really cannot bear to see her do anything improper, and I
am sorry to say that she and Scott are both too regardless of caste.
Don't you think so, mama?"

"You are perfectly right, my dear Rene, and I am glad that your ideas
coincide with my own. I have two of the dearest children in all the
world, but to tell the truth, they are both like their father in
regard to pride. The Wilmers never had enough for the high position
they occupied in society."

"Perhaps, between us both we may ingraft a little more pride in their
natures, for I see they are sadly lacking."

"It is possible that with your help I may accomplish what I have
failed to do alone, but I sometimes get really discouraged, for it
seems so natural for them to have too little pride. Why, it is just as
natural for June to stop and smile on some poor little beggar as if
they were dressed in satin, and she has mortified me more than once by
bowing to some shabbily-dressed school girl."

"Of course it will not do. People in our position cannot bend to such
servility. One thing I have noticed which I think should be checked,
though I hope you will not openly rebuke June, for in that case she
might think me a mischief maker, which I would not be for the world;
but I have so often noticed Paul's familiarity, and it has fairly made
my blood boil. June says they are like brother and sister, but you
know it is very convenient for young people to feel a sort of
relationship for each other, and if you will watch closely you will
see for yourself that she has a dangerous love for him."

"It may be true, but I have never thought of June being so silly as to
care for the society of Paul, especially as I have so often cautioned
her not to bring herself down to his level, and really had felt quite
easy on the matter, seeing him appear so distant and seeming to know
his place so well; and really, they are nothing but children."

"Well, of course you must keep this a secret, but June did speak quite
impudently to me the other day when I reproved her. She said she would
be apt to keep Paul's company as long as he remained here. You should
have seen how angrily the boy looked at me, and how proud and defiant
his look when June defended him. I could have annihilated him, and if
June is so determined to keep his company I think the wisest plan is
to send him away."

"Scott would never consent to that. He says he is a perfect jewel and
he would not part with him under any consideration, and now, dear
Rene, I warn you to deal very cautiously with Scott, for he never
commits one act without first studying every particular, and weighing
well the result, and I believe if ever I were to wrong Paul, or anyone
else, and he knew me to be in the wrong, he would never forgive me
until he had seen justice done."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Irene spoke so insultingly to Paul it sank like an arrow into his
heart.

"I would not care so much if she were not Mr. Wilmer's wife; but, oh,
I do hope she will not make him dislike me; I would rather die," he
said to June.

"Oh, do not say that! I am sure you could live even if Scott were to
forsake you."

"Could I? I do not believe it."

"Well, I do not believe she could make Scott dislike you, and if she
does, why, I will be your sister always--as long as you live."

Paul looked a thousand thanks as he turned to June, saying:

"I shall always remember that, my little sister, and if your brother
should turn against me, I shall at least have one friend."

"You may be sure of that; so please do not look sorry any more. I am
sure mama will treat you well, too."

"Yes, she will, if----"

He was about to say if she is not influenced, but not wishing to hold
up before June her mother's weak traits, he said:

"If she can."

He knew Mrs. Wilmer's failing as well as though he had been a man of
years.



CHAPTER XII.

A CLOUD.


Two years had gone by since Scott's marriage, when one evening he
entered his wife's room and found her standing before the mirror
putting the finishing touches to her rich and becoming toilet. Scott's
brain was weary, for he had been studying all day over a very
perplexing case which he had set out to win, and with very little
foundation to work on. He threw himself on the soft velvet cushions of
the crimson sofa, placing his hand over his brow, as if to still the
throbbing of his temples. Irene, dressed in a pale pink satin, with
sweeping train and airy lace overdress looped up with moss rosebuds,
with diamond set necklace and bracelets, and the tip of her satin
slipper just in view, presented a very pretty picture to Scott, but he
was somewhat surprised that she did not speak, or even smile.

"Are you going out?" he asked.

"Oh, Scott! I almost forgot that you were here."

"So I observe."

"Yes, I meant to have spoken of it before. Of course you know that
this is the night of the Vandyke ball."

"I had not thought of it."

"Why do you not go?"

"I did not know that anyone wished me to," he answered.

"Oh, dear! Of course you know that I wish you to go, but you are such
a recluse of late that you almost seem out of place in society."

"Perhaps I am out of place. It would almost seem that I am out of
place in my wife's society."

"How you talk! You have a right to go if you wish. I suppose you were
included in the invitation."

"I suppose I have a right, but I have no desire."

"Then I am not to blame."

"Who attends you?"

"Colonel Brunswick."

"That villain? You shall not go with him," he said, starting up.

"Shall not?" she repeated, turning quickly.

"Excuse me, Irene, but it is my wish that you ignore that man's
society at once."

"He is one of the most stylish men of my acquaintance."

"He has no principle."

"Oh, Scott!" she said, with a toss of her head. "Really, you do put a
wonderful amount of stress on virtue, and think as little of style as
though you were raised among a band of gypsies."

Scott's lips closed firmly. Such words from his wife astonished him.
He arose, and trying to hide the wound which her words had caused, he
said, as he came nearer:

"Irene, it is my wish that you either remain at home or allow me to be
your escort."

"How you talk! That would be unreasonable, since I have promised the
colonel."

"And you gave your consent without first consulting your husband?"

"Why, yes; I knew you would not think it proper; and you are so taken
up with drudgery that you do not seem to care for society, and the
colonel really wishes me to go."

"Are his wishes to be consulted before mine?"

"Why, no; but really, Scott, you are making a great ado about nothing.
If you went into society more you would see how very fashionable it is
for married ladies to allow gentlemen, not their husbands, to escort
them to parties."

Scott Wilmer folded his arms across his breast, and with his searching
hazel eyes fixed upon his wife's face, he said:

"Irene, if you leave this house to-night with Colonel Brunswick as
your escort you do so entirely against my will. I forbid the action."

She fastened her rich carriage cloak with nervous fingers, but she did
not say that she would remain. She was too vain to think of giving up
the pleasure of being the chosen one of the handsomest and most
stylishly dressed gentleman who would be at the party. She was not
possessed of enough depth of character to see how vastly superior was
the man before her to the handsome, unscrupulous villain who was to
bear her company. She did not realize the full value of the pearl she
was casting away, and in her weakness she answered:

"I go, leaving you _bon gre, mal gre_."

"He is a bold, unscrupulous villain," said Scott, with a scornful ring
in his voice.

"I guess no one thinks so but yourself," Irene answered, angrily, "and
you would not if your tastes were----"

"What?"

"_Comme il faut._"

"Thank you!" said Scott, stung to the heart. "I am glad it is so,
then. Are you going?"

"I see no way to avoid it now, for the colonel would be much
displeased as well as disappointed."

"Very well," he said, closing his mouth in a way that Irene knew just
how to interpret.

A knock was heard at the door, and Paul, with a low bow, announced a
gentleman waiting in the parlor for Mrs. Wilmer.

"_Au revoir, mon cher!_" said Irene, waving her gloved hand to Scott,
who stood gazing after her as she left the room.

"Good bye, Irene!" he said, in a firm, low voice. Then he heard the
hall door close, and he knew his wife had gone--left his home
regardless of his wishes, or the opinion of others, for a few hours of
giddy pleasure.

In the last year she had grown careless of his wishes and more selfish
in regard to her own. It seemed that she was growing more fond of the
gay world, more desirous of flattery, and more regardless of home
happiness.

Scott tried to cover her faults with the generosity of his love, but
they were daily becoming more and more apparent. He began to think
that the faults had always been there, and that for a time she had
been enabled to hide them, and that now, in her weakness, she was
unable to do so. The truth was she was simply showing out her nature,
which she had deemed it prudent heretofore to conceal.

But she was a Wilmer now, and there was not so much necessity to exert
herself to conceal them. She knew, as did others, that she dressed
with exquisite taste, and that no lady passed her on the street
without a flattering comment. But aside from the outside adornments
and fair face none ever thought of praising her. She was two years
older than Scott, but she took great care that it should not be spoken
of. Scott's family were highly esteemed, and he was called a talented
man, and was wealthy. That was Irene's reason for wishing to become a
Wilmer. But though Irene grew more and more careless, and less fond of
her own home, Scott tried to hide her faults from others, resolving to
do his best to persuade her to give up some of her vain, trifling
pleasures, and he would do all in his power to make her happy.

As Irene left the house Scott followed Paul to the library. Seating
himself beside Paul, he said:

"Paul, I wish to give you some instruction in regard to a little
business which I wish you to do for me. In the meantime I wish to ask
you why you pass so little of your time in the library of late. Are
you tired of your studies?"

"I have not left off my studies, Mr. Wilmer."

"You do not come to the library as much as usual; why is it?"

Paul cast his eyes to the floor. At length he said in a tremulous
voice:

"I study in my room."

"That is a new freak, is it not? Do you prefer it?"

"No, sir."

"Then why have you abandoned the habit of coming to the library?"

"I would rather not tell you."

Scott looked searchingly at the boy for a moment and said:

"Paul, I think there is some reason why you have ceased to come to the
library. It may be a good reason or a flimsy one; but there is a
reason, and I wish to know it."

"Mr. Wilmer, there is a reason, and a very good one; will not that
satisfy you?"

"No; I must know what it is."

"You have a right to know, but I would rather you did not."

"Paul," he said, "you have been in my home for some time, and since
you came you have never disobeyed me in any way, or deceived me by one
act; will you begin it now?"

Paul was silent, and Scott continued:

"It may be a trivial matter, but I wish to know it."

Paul paused a moment, and then as the tears dropped from his heavy
lashes, he said:

"Mr. Wilmer, I do not care for myself, but I know it will grieve you.
It was Mrs. Wilmer who ordered me to stay away."

"What! my mother?"

"No, sir; your wife."

"What reason did she give?"

"She said she wished to occupy it herself a greater part of the
time."

"Is she really so selfish?" Scott asked.

"I think she had a good reason, or she would not have told me so."

"There is another subject that I wish to speak of, and that is the use
of your money. You never seem to indulge in any extravagant pleasure,
as many a boy does, and I would like to ask you what you are doing
with it?"

Paul blushed as he answered:

"I have saved all but that which was necessary for me to spend."

"That is a good plan. I have no doubt you will use it judiciously."

"I hope to place it where it will bring me more value some day."

"One thing more I wish to say to you. Then you may be left to your
studies. I wish you to do an errand for me to-morrow evening which I
cannot well do for myself, as I shall be busy at the time. I am to
meet a friend at the depot who is to take the midnight train, and as
it will be impossible for me to be there at that hour, and there is
no other whom I feel like trusting, I would like you to do the errand
for me. You will not be afraid to be out alone, will you?"

Paul laughed at the idea of a boy of his age being afraid in a little
city like Detroit.

Scott left Paul and went to his own room. His brain was too busy for
sleep, and he sat down and fell into a deep study. It seemed that
there was a world of things on hand to-night. First, there was that
intricate suit that he was about to undertake. He was gaining great
popularity as a lawyer, and some very important suits had been given
into his hands to work up, and now he was about to undertake one which
involved a great deal of careful study. Then there was a young man who
had held a consultation with him in regard to June. He was desperately
in love with her and wished Scott to intercede for him. Then there was
Colonel Brunswick, to whom his mind reverted, who was, no doubt,
playing the agreeable to his wife, while others were pitying him
because she had neglected him for the colonel. He sat studying upon
one subject and another, until, weary in body and mind, he sought his
couch.



CHAPTER XIII.

A BOLD PLOT.


"June, can you tell me where Irene has gone?" said Scott the next
evening, as he entered the family sitting-room.

"No," June replied, "she told me she was obliged to go and see a
friend, and would not be home until quite late."

"Was she dressed as though going to a party?"

"Oh, no; she wore a very dark suit and the plainest hat she has."

"It is strange," Scott said, as he seated himself in an easy-chair.
"Do you think she went unattended?"

"I am quite sure she did," June said, noticing the troubled look on
Scott's face, and then seating herself close beside him, and leaning
on the cushioned arm of his chair, she said:

"Scott, how weary and troubled you look! Please tell me what makes
you."

"Do I look troubled? Well, I have a very perplexing case on hand, and
I am bound to see justice done to the party who is deserving,
whichever one it is."

"Oh, but you must remember you are a lawyer, and you must win whatever
side you take."

"If I find I am wrong, I would rather fail than win."

"Then is that all that troubles you?"

"Oh, no," Scott answered with a smile. "There was a very important
case came before me to-day--or, let me see--I guess it was yesterday.
A very much love-smitten youth by the name of Jones interviewed me for
the purpose of speaking to me of my sister June."

"Oh, dear! Henry Jones! I sent him a note only a week ago, refusing
his attentions."

"He is quite persistent."

"I think he is; but is that all that troubles you? Tell me, truly,
Scott, are you not troubled about Rene?"

"Never mind, June; we will not talk about her. I think she will return
soon."

"Certainly; she has not gone to stay."

Scott looked about the richly furnished room and wondered why his wife
could not find enough of happiness in her own beautiful home, without
seeking it abroad, as she seemed of late to do.

"June, go find Paul, please, and tell him to bring 'Bitter Sweet' and
read to me."

"That will be delightful. I love to hear him read better than any
person I ever listened to," June said, as she went in search of Paul.

"I never have any trouble finding him," she said, as she returned;
"for if he is not in the library he is in his own room, and I found
him working away with his pen as though his living depended upon it."

"I am afraid it would be a poor living that I would gain from that,"
said Paul, as he took a seat by the table.

The time passed much quicker to Scott than he had imagined, for the
clear, rich tones and the perfect elocution of the boy's reading
served in a measure to carry his mind away to the scenes portrayed in
the poem, and ere he was aware the time came for Paul to prepare to
attend to the transaction of the business which Scott had spoken of
the evening previous. Scott having some letters and manuscripts of
importance to examine, went to his room to attend to the work, saying
that he wished to retire as early as possible, as he was very much in
need of rest, and cautioning Paul to go out well protected against the
weather, for it was growing very cold.

The clouds were hanging darkly overhead, and by the time that Paul had
finished his errand an intense darkness covered the city. The clouds
had begun to throw out a snowflake here and there, and the driving
wind from the river kept up a furious howl. Paul was passing an old
shed that stood in a woodyard, when he thought he saw a dark figure
glide along and crouch under its roof. His curiosity was aroused, as
no one, he thought, would be in such a place at such an hour of the
night unless bent on mischief. Paul walked on as though he had not
noticed the figure, and stole slyly around to the back of the old
building, coming so close to the figure that only the boards separated
the two. It was so dark that Paul had no fear of detection, so he
stood there awaiting further developments. A half hour passed when
the man, muttering, as though speaking to himself, said:

"She's a devilish long time getting here."

At that moment another person entered the old building. Paul could not
see the face, but the sound of the voice caused his heart to beat
wildly. It was a woman's voice, and one strangely familiar. He pressed
his hand above his heart to still its wild throbbing, and in
breathless silence listened to the words which followed, placing his
ear close to a crevice in the partition.

"You were a devilish long while getting here," said the man. "Why
don't you keep a fellow standing here all night? Who do you think
wants to freeze?"

"Well, you need not be so cross, Mr. Crisp. You are rightly named, any
way. I came as soon as I could; of course I had to be cautious; you
must know that."

"Where is your husband?"

"At home, asleep, I suppose."

"Devilish fool! He had better be looking after his wife."

"Oh, I do not think he suspects."

"Good thing for you."

"And a good thing for you, too."

"Well, hand over the money!"

"I have none to-night. I was obliged to use all I had for other
purposes, and my allowance is gone."

"Gone! Don't your father keep you in change?"

"Yes, but----"

"But what?"

"I let the colonel have my last installment. The poor fellow got into
trouble, and I had to help him out."

"A pretty piece of business! I guess you had better look out for your
own people first, if you know what is good for you. Remember, if you
don't come to time you know what will happen. You understand, don't
you?"

"Of course; but I see no way but for you to wait until I get my next
installment. You know I can't get the money until then."

"The deuce! Do you think I am going to wait that long? Go to your
husband! You married him to get the use of his money; you know you
did."

"Yes; but I cannot go to him for that amount."

"You must! What do you think I'm going to do your thieving work for if
I don't get pay for it? Send Brunswick to the devil. I've got into a
scrape, too, that nothing but money will get me out of, and you must
get it, or by Heaven, I'll tell your husband all--even about the
will."

"Crisp, don't you dare to tell him that."

"What don't I dare do?"

"Anything, I guess; but I don't see how I can do anything for you
now."

"I won't wait, and that is all there is about it. I must have the
money to-morrow. If you can't do it one way, you must another."

"What can I do?"

"I'll contrive a plan for you."

"What?"

"Go to your husband's purse and get the money for me."

"I can't do it, for if he should find me out it would ruin all my
plans. You know I have twice taken money for you, and if he should
miss it again, he would investigate until every one in the house was
brought before him. He is more cunning than you can imagine."

"Then drug him, and I'll do the work if you will find a way for me to
get in."

"He is a good man; you must not harm him."

"Well, you trust to me! Oh, you need not go to putting on any of your
airs. What would you be if you hadn't money? And how would you have
gotten the money if it hadn't been for old----"

"Hush! Don't you breathe it."

"Well, then, don't forget what you owe old Meg. You know what you
promised. I've got the will right here, and when you get the money you
can have it."

"Hark! Some one will hear you! You promised my father something long
ago, and you never have done it yet."

"Well, now, see here, Rene, if you will find a way for me to put my
hands on two hundred to-morrow night--no, that would not do. I must
have it to-morrow, and to-night is the last chance. If you will
arrange for me to find it I will fix the business up for you right
away."

"I'll do my best. You will find the amount in my husband's drawer
in the right hand corner of a little private secretary in his
sleeping-room. He always keeps his spare change there. Come at two
to-night, and I will see that everything is ready for you; but Crisp,
I wanted to ask you if you have the girl now."

"No; she ran away one night in a thunderstorm, and we hain't found her
yet."

"That is fine! Suppose something should happen that some one should
find her!"

"Oh, how the deuce is anyone going to find it out? There ain't the
least thing to go by. Why, she may be dead before this time."

"Yes, she may be, but it is not very likely that she is."

Paul grew almost faint. He knew that the woman's voice was that of
Scott's wife. He was sure of it. And the man had called her Rene. But
why was she there at that late hour conversing in such a place with
such a man? Oh, how Paul's heart ached for good, generous, noble, much
wronged Scott Wilmer! He hoped Scott would never know of his wife's
treachery. He had learned now from her own lips that she had not
married Scott for love, but for wealth and a position in society. How
could Irene help seeing what a prize she had won in such a man!

"Now, don't you forget what you are about," said Crisp, for he it was
who had been holding the conversation with Scott's wife.

"No," she answered, folding her dark wrap close about her. "I am
nearly frozen, and I must get home."

She left the place, and ere long was followed by Crisp, who, when he
reached the walk, went in an opposite direction. Paul waited until the
two had gone far enough that they could not hear his footsteps. He
followed Irene, however, keeping well in the rear. He wished to be
certain that he had not been deceived, so he kept up his watch until
he saw her enter the great hall door.

After remaining long enough outside so not to arouse her suspicions he
entered the house, going directly to his room.

He would bear any pain rather than see Scott's suffering, should the
truth be revealed, so whatever he planned must be done without help
and without his employer's knowledge. He knew the exact hour when the
villain would make his appearance and he waited patiently for the time
to come. The door of his room, which opened into Scott's, he left
lightly ajar, that he might watch every movement, for he knew that
Crisp would enter from the hall. Irene had gone to her own room. The
inmates of the house were all asleep except Paul and Irene, both
waiting and watching with feverish anxiety. With cautious step Irene
glided down the softly carpeted stairs, and turned the lock in the
great heavy door; then returned to her room to wait for the villain
who was to take her husband's money, and perhaps his life. A stealthy
footstep soon fell upon the hall floor, and a man stealing along with
catlike motions pushed the door carefully open and entered Scott's
room. He stopped for a moment under the dim gaslight which fell upon
his hideous features, and, looking about the room, gave one long
stride and reached the money drawer. Paul's heart throbbed wildly. He
knew there was no time to be lost. Should he take the villain's life?
He knew he deserved it, but could he do the deed? Yes, rather than
that Scott should suffer, he could. There was a slight movement of the
bedclothes, and, with the look of a demon resting on his face, Crisp
drew a long knife from his pocket and raised his hand to strike. Quick
as the lightning's flash Paul raised his pistol, and with steady aim
fired. The ball struck the villain's arm and he fled like a wounded
deer, screaming with pain. Paul stooped and picked up the knife and a
paper which the wounded man had dropped, and placed them in his
pocket. Scott raised his head just as Crisp was leaving the door. Mrs.
Wilmer entered the room, pale and trembling, and, sinking into a
chair, asked:

"Oh, Scott, are you killed?"

"No one is harmed but a burglar," Paul answered, calmly, "and he is
only wounded. I just caught sight of him in the act of drawing a knife
over Mr. Wilmer's head. I expect he was looking for money, as his
first attempt was in that direction, but when he saw Mr. Wilmer move
he thought best to quiet him, so I judge by his actions. I did not
intend to kill him, but I guess he has learned a lesson which he will
not soon forget."

The next day the sole topic of conversation throughout the house was
the heroic action of Paul, who had saved its inmates from a terrible
sorrow, and not one could find words to express their deep gratitude
unless it might have been Irene. She tried hard to join the rest in
praising Paul, but he knew that in her heart she was laying up curses
against him, though he did not know just how deeply she had planned to
ruin him.

[Illustration: "O, Scott! Are you killed?"]



CHAPTER XIV.

BRIGHT HOPES.


It was June's seventeenth birthday. She stood on the broad veranda
gazing up at the sky. The day was not as bright as June wished it to
be, for the sun would peep out now and then to stay but a moment, then
hide behind a cloud, which seemed to waft a breeze softly down on
June's bright, happy face.

"I hope it will be a pleasant evening," she said, half aloud, "for it
is so much nicer to have a party when the weather is fine, and I shall
almost be out of patience if it rains."

Scott and Paul were just coming up the shady walk.

"Will you not take the time to visit me a little while this morning?"
she asked. "You know I shall never be seventeen years old again, and I
would like to speak to you of the party I shall give to-night."

"Here is your first guest, then," said Paul, as he accepted the seat
June offered him. "I present him to you with my sincere wish that
every birthday may be as bright as this your seventeenth."

"Thank you, Paul! Many thanks for so lovely a present," June said, as
she lifted the bright cage containing a parrot, which Paul offered
her.

"What is your name, sir?" she asked.

"Bob!" croaked the bird. "Pretty Bob."

"I shall cherish him in remembrance of you, Paul," said June, "and how
nice he will be to amuse poor Papa. He is obliged to keep his room so
much of late."

"Is he no better to-day?" Scott asked, with an anxious look.

"Yes, much better, and is out riding with mama."

"Sit down here, little one," Scott said, drawing a chair near his own.
"I have brought you a little present to start the day with. I wish you
to look at it."

June seated herself by Scott and took from his hand a beautifully
bound book of poems.

"It is by some new author--at least new to me; but it is a beautiful
poem. I took the liberty to read it before presenting it to you."

"'A Gift from the Sea,'" said June, looking at the title. "I
wonder----"

"What?"

"I was thinking that perhaps it might be Rene who wrote this."

"I hardly think so," said Scott, "although she does considerable
writing, I do not think she ever wrote that."

"Why?"

"One reason is that I do not think she would ever have the patience.
This work is prepared with a great deal of care. I thought perhaps you
might be interested, as well as to gain some valuable information
from it, for there are some rare gems of thought contained in its
pages."

"I know I shall enjoy it," said June.

"You will find, by careful perusal, that it is like a fine edifice,
each stone of which is laid by a master workman. The inborn talent is
the cornerstone, and each rock is carefully hewn and placed in its
proper niche, making the foundation solid as well as beautiful."

"Do you think, then," Paul asked, "that the poet who wrote that worked
hard to construct it?"

"Poets are born, not made; but careful study and patience serve to
smooth the rough edges, as the edges are natural to the unhewn marble.
The finest quality wears not its glassy surface until the sculptor's
hand has chiselled and polished it to his will, and while the edifice
may be beautiful to look upon for a time, without the solid foundation
it may be broken by the first touch of the critic's hand. The poet who
wrote that little book never did so without work, although he may have
felt the inspiration of poetic zeal while he worked."

"It is strange," said June, "that we have such different qualifications.
I can see great beauty in some poems, but I never could put the
beauty there."

"I can see much beauty in that poem. I can feel its loveliness, but I
could never put the poem together as that poet did, any more than I
could trim a lady's bonnet," said Scott.

"Then you believe that every person is born with a taste for a certain
occupation?" said June.

"Yes," said Scott, "everyone must have a talent, either small or
great, and each one must work to cultivate it, if he would have it
increase, or he may let it die for want of proper training."

"I guess my talent must have died, then," said June, "for I shall
never make a mark in the world at anything."

"Every true, good, pure-minded woman makes a mark, my dear sister, and
it is not always the great in name who are really the most worthy of
note, although I honor the labor of a grand achievement. The private
soldier who is foremost in battle is far more a hero than the most
noted general, though he wears not the sword and plume."

"I am afraid it would be the hardest work of all for me to be a hero
in goodness," said Paul.

"Why?" asked June.

"Because it is so natural to be wicked and selfish."

"I think all your selfishness lies in your desire for knowledge," said
June.

"That is no doubt uncontrollable," said Scott, looking at Paul and
wondering how June or any one else could resist the charm of his great
dreamy eyes. But he supposed that June had hardly thought of love, and
Paul was only a boy. He thought of it being her birthday, but could
hardly realize that she was seventeen. He knew that she had plenty of
admirers, but he hoped that she had not thought of marrying one of
them.

She spoke to Scott of the number of invitations sent out, and among
them was the name of Colonel Brunswick.

"Did you invite Brunswick?" he asked.

"Rene sent him the invitation," said June.

Scott's hazel eyes grew darker with the fire that shone in them. Paul,
with his keenly perceptive powers, knew that there was a fierce
struggle going on in his breast, and never did he pity the most
miserable slave more than he pitied him at that moment. He was aware
of Scott's wonderful self-control, and he sent up a silent prayer that
he might become like him, and that the noble man might yet see happier
hours. Of Irene's true character Paul already knew more than did
Scott, and he feared that instead of his life clouds dispersing, they
would continue to grow blacker; but he had a hope, slight though it
was, that the scene which had been enacted on that dismal night would
not be repeated.

"It looks cloudy," said June. "I want my birthday of all the year to
be a pleasant one."

"I hope they will all be cloudless," said Scott, "but, June, I can
hardly realize that you are seventeen. Many a young lady is married at
that age."

"Many are very silly, then. I have not the least idea of giving up the
best of my life by getting married."

"You are looking as sweet as a rose, June," Irene said as she entered
June's room, faultlessly dressed, on the evening of that day. "I know
mama will be delighted with your dress; it fits to perfection. I hope
you will make the most of your opportunities. Mr. Linton will be
captivated, I know."

"Mr. Linton!" June repeated, as her lip curled scornfully.

"Oh, I know what that means. It is a very good sign," Rene said
laughing.

"It is a sign that I care very little for Mr. Linton's opinion. His
dress will no doubt be faultless."

"And he be perfectly irresistible."

"Not so much so as Mr. Horton," June said, looking archly at Rene.

"Who is this Mr. Horton that you have invited?"

"Guy Horton and sister have both been invited. They live out West, and
are visiting the Egglestons, where I met them some time ago. They are
relatives of Mrs. Platts' of this city."

"Country people, are they? Why, what will Mr. Linton think?"

"What do I care what he thinks? He is not superintending this affair.
Perhaps I had better try the power of this new dress on Colonel
Brunswick."

A jealous pang shot through Irene's heart, but she dare not reveal it,
but June looked up just in time to catch the strange look that passed
over her sister's face, for she had been suspicious of Rene's
admiration for the colonel, and June never forgot the look which Irene
gave her. Her eyes grew strangely large and dark, and her face flushed
and paled alternately, but June was wise enough not to betray her
suspicion, though she decided from that moment to find, if possible,
what Irene really did think of him. Max Brunswick was a very handsome
man, but she wondered that Rene could not see at once that he never
would, or ever could, reach the standard of true greatness that Scott
occupied. She would not accuse her sister, even in thought, if she
were guiltless, so she determined to satisfy herself if she could.

Irene calmed her enraged feelings enough to speak, and turning her
face that the light might not fall full upon it, she said:

"Oh, as to Max Brunswick, I would not waste my time on him, when there
are golden fish floating so near, and all you have to do is to bait
with a smile."

"But Brunswick is very handsome," June said, as she arose and walked
carelessly past Rene toward the mirror, and glancing at her face to
note the effect of her words, "and since so many of the girls are half
crazy about him, I should follow the fashion, although none of them
know the first word of his pedigree. And really it is not only the
young, but the married ladies as well."

"Of course the married ones have no idea of falling in love with him,
but he is such a society man, and of course it is nothing more than
belongs to fashionable society to accept the attention of such men. It
is very pleasant to entertain them."

"If I ever marry I shall never accept or even wish to accept
attentions from any but the man I marry."

"Suppose that you marry a man entirely unsuited to your tastes, what
then? Suppose that he is so taken up with his books or his business
that he has no time or desire for pleasure of any kind, what would you
do?"

The question went like an arrow to June's heart, for she knew that
Rene's mind dwelt on her own choice, though she uttered the words not
thinking how they would sound to June.

"Rene," June said in a sober tone, "I have made up my mind to one
thing, and that is that I shall never be married without first
studying the character of the man I intend to marry."

"Oh, dear," said Rene with a laugh, "you will have a great job on your
hands if you set out to find what sort of a husband you are getting."

"I will undertake the job."

"I think, then, you will be an old maid."

"That would be preferable to living an inharmonious life."

"I think you will find Mr. Linton quite to your taste."

"I think the colonel might suit me better," said June, looking again
at Irene.

"Silly, like a great many other girls," said Rene with a forced laugh,
thinking at the time that she would spoil her little game. "But," said
she, turning around before the mirror, "you have not told me how you
like my costume."

"You look very pretty, Rene, and that cream silk is wonderfully
becoming. I am sure Scott will be pleased with your choice. You dress
with exquisite taste."

"Thank you for the compliment, but as regards Scott, I do not think he
ever knows what I wear. Why, the night that I attended the party with
the colonel, you remember I wore pale pink satin, and he just went
into ecstacies over it, and said I was the most beautiful and the
most tastily dressed woman there. But Scott never even told me I
looked pretty."

"He may have thought so, though; you know Scott is not at all given to
flattery, and he thinks much more than he says."

"I would rather he would do more talking and less thinking, then.
There is some satisfaction in knowing whether you please one or not."

"I should be quite satisfied to know that I did not displease."

"You are more easily satisfied than I am; but, June, I cannot get over
the idea of your inviting those country people. I hope they will not
look real shabby."

"Oh, I guess they will at least have clean faces," said June,
significantly.

"The guests are already beginning to arrive," said Paul, as he stepped
to the door.

"Is it not too bad? I asked Paul to take part in some of the dances,
and he very politely but decidedly refused. He said that he might look
in occasionally, but the greater part of the evening he should devote
to papa's amusement."

"That is quite proper, and it is well for you that he refused. It
would have looked extremely out of place for your brother's valet to
appear with your guests."

"I suppose it would have been the means of our losing caste," said
June, a little sarcastically.

At that moment Scott appeared.

He stopped a moment, feasting his eyes on June's bright face and
beautiful dress, then an admiring glance rested on his wife, but he
said nothing, only politely offering himself as their escort.

It seemed a wonder to Irene that Scott could not see how sweetly June
was dressed. Her dress of pale blue satin, cut just low enough to
reveal the lovely white neck, the delicate sprays of forget-me-not and
sapphire jewels were wondrously becoming to her fair complexion and
sunny hair, and Irene, although possessed of an envious nature, could
not help acknowledging that June looked lovely indeed.

"June," said Irene, as later in the evening they were standing
together, "who is that sweet looking girl you introduced me to--the
one in that rich garnet silk? I did not quite understand her name."

"Why, that is Miss Horton, the country girl," said June, biting her
under lip.

"Why, what little dimpled hands she has."

"Yes; they are very pretty. That fine, intelligent young man talking
to Scott is her brother Guy."

"Is it possible? There _is_ something fine looking about him."

"Oh, yes; they say he is quite an orator, as well as a literary
person, and is talking of starting a publishing house somewhere. Mr.
Eggleston tells me he is very ambitious."

"You must introduce me when he and Scott have finished that very
earnest conversation. You know I am partial to literary people, and
don't forget to mention that I write."

"You have forgotten that he is from the country."

"Oh, of course I did not mean anything by that remark."

June was left alone, and ere long she noticed Irene seated near the
young lady in the garnet silk, with Max Brunswick leaning over her and
speaking in a low voice. Guy's eyes rested on the couple, and as was
natural to any one present, could not fail to notice their fine
appearance.

"Who is the gentleman leaning over that beautiful woman in the cream
colored silk?" Guy asked.

"His name is Brunswick."

"Colonel Max Brunswick?" Guy asked, suddenly.

"Yes," said Scott, "do you know him?"

"He must be the gentleman who wrote me in regard to taking an interest
in my business. I gave him no encouragement, as I do not think it
policy to hurry matters of that kind. He may be all right, though. He
seems to have his mind just at present concentrated on that beautiful
young lady before him."

Scott tried to say that the young lady was his wife, and looking at
her as Guy did, he thought that the attentions which she was receiving
were not at all unpleasant to her. He tried to speak ere Guy had a
chance to wound him further and tell him that she was his wife, and
Brunswick only her friend, but even with all his ready tact and easy
flow of language he was unable to speak the words.

"He is extremely devoted, is he not?" continued Guy. "I suppose all
the angels in heaven cannot compare with her. Well, she is a lovely
woman. I must request you to introduce me, if that gentleman will
allow me the privilege."

Scott could not bear to have Guy speak again in this manner, and he
said in a hurried manner:

"That lady is my wife."

Guy looked the surprise he felt. He had not thought of her being a
wife at all, much less the wife of Scott Wilmer, and he would have
recalled the words if he could--words which he knew must have wounded
Scott, for he was well aware that there was nothing in his nature that
savored of frivolity. He could offer no apology, but was quite careful
not to speak of Colonel Brunswick again.



CHAPTER XV.

REJECTED.


"Miss Wilmer, if you knew how deeply, how truly, I love you, you could
not receive my attentions as coldly as you do. I did not dream that
you would be so indifferent."

Mr. Linton raised June's little hand to his lips. He had asked her to
walk with him on the lawn, which she, for the sake of courtesy, did
not refuse. The clouds of the morning had cleared away and the stars
were shining brightly. The light from the street lamps and from the
spacious windows of the Wilmer mansion was softened by the shade of
evergreen and clusters of shrubbery. The wide lawn, whose soft green
carpet sparkled here and there with drops of dew, seemed a fit place
to pour forth dreams of youthful love to willing ears, for at least a
dozen couples might have been seen promenading the flagstone walks
with which the green sod was separated in fair designs. June had
thrown a soft blue mantle around her shoulders, for, as she said,
Scott had always cautioned her against the damp night air. Scott was
as full of notions as any old woman, Rene said, about night air,
walking in the dew or sitting in the draught. She saw Rene sparkling
in her beauty and promenading the lawn, leaning on the arm of the
Colonel, and once as she followed quite near she observed that he was
leaning very closely, speaking in low, tender tones, and as Rene
lifted her glowing face to his she saw him kiss her lips. A cold fear
shot through June's heart. Could it be possible that Rene could be so
careless of her own reputation and Scott's happiness? She hoped that
Mr. Linton had not noticed the action, and she did not think he had,
as he was at that moment speaking to her of his love.

"Where is Scott?" June asked.

"Oh, June, are you here? I thought it was Nellie Blake. I knew you
were out on the lawn, but I thought I saw you at the other side," said
Irene in a half frightened voice.

"You were mistaken. Is Scott here?" June asked again.

"I should think not. I saw him and Mr. Horton sitting together,
apparently discussing something of great importance, when I left the
house; but you know, June, he never finds time to act as other men
do," Irene said, trying to find some way to throw the blame on another
than herself.

June made no reply, but as she requested Mr. Linton to turn in another
direction she heard Max saying in a tender way:

"Poor darling! It is so hard to live with an uncongenial nature, isn't
it? I am so sorry for you."

June did not hear Irene's reply, but she wondered how she could bear
such flattery, or how she could hear her noble husband spoken of in
such a slanderous way, and she thought she must speak to some one on
the subject, but to whom she did not know.

"Miss Wilmer," Mr. Linton said again, "if you knew how much I loved
you you would at least condescend to reply when I tell you so."

"Please pardon my carelessness, Mr. Linton."

"Ah, yes, but truly, my dear, I have waited for some time to speak to
you, and this seems just the time for such bliss as will be mine when
you tell me that you will be my wife. You are, of all the young ladies
I have met, just the one to go with me to England. I shall feel proud
to tell my people that I have given you the preference."

"Indeed, Mr. Linton," she said, "I have never thought of marriage. I
am too young to think of that."

"Beg pardon, my dear, but my wife must be young."

"I have a great deal to learn before I shall have experience enough to
marry any man, and I shall probably not marry until you are settled in
life."

"How matter of fact you talk, Miss June. You cannot love as I do, or
you would discard all such unromantic thoughts. You would not think of
putting time or distance between us."

"I do not wish to hear of love from any man, for it is farther from my
thoughts than any other subject at present."

"But you surely intend to marry some time."

"Certainly; every young lady thinks of marriage at some time, but at
present I do not. I shall find enough of care if I marry at
twenty-five."

"Then pardon me, but I shall wait until you think of it."

"It is quite useless, I assure you."

"Do you really mean it?"

"I do."

"Is it because you do not admire me?"

"I did not say that, but I am decided on one point, and that is that
before I marry at all I shall study well the character of the man I
marry."

"Where is the use? If you love a man, you will not see his faults, and
love will cover all defects."

"I do not agree with you. I think I would see my husband's faults
sooner than I would those of a stranger, from the very fact that I
should so greatly fear others seeing them, that my love would magnify
them; so I shall learn, as near as possible, what his faults are, and
if my love will warrant it, I shall make up my mind to bear what I
cannot correct."

"But cannot you marry the man and try to correct his faults after
marriage?"

"I might, providing they were not too numerous. I am not faultless
myself, and have little faith in my own ability, so I would not dare
to undertake too great a task, and besides, my subject might prove
obstinate, and I would then repent at leisure. I think there are too
many matches made merely from a fancy, and that is one cause of so
many unhappy marriages and so many divorces. When I marry, it will be
to give my love and attention to one man, and I shall expect all his
love in return."

"Are you not a little selfish?"

"In that respect, yes; though I should never exact of a man that which
he did not freely bestow. I wish the man I marry to fully understand
himself, and know whether he is willing to give me all his love or
only a portion of it."

"Ah, well, it is according to the ways of society, my dear Miss
Wilmer. Now, by way of illustration, there is your brother's wife.
Why, really she receives more attention from Mr. Brunswick than she
does from your brother--that is, in society, but of course it is only
innocent flirtation. She is very much admired by all society men. I am
more than half in love with her myself."

"So you see that the woman who marries you will receive less than a
moiety," June said quickly.

Mr. Linton had forgotten to whom he was speaking, and his true ideas
shot forth before he was aware of it.

"Oh--that is--I admire her very much, and really one cannot blame him
for paying her some attention, for she is a beauty."

"But she is my brother's wife, Mr. Linton, and men have no right to be
too attentive to married women."

She did not say that Rene should have remembered the great responsibility
that was resting on her, although she blamed her fully as much as she
did her admirers; but she was Scott's wife, and for his sake she would
screen her as much as she could.

"Many men live for the society that surrounds them," said Mr. Linton.

"As for society," said June, speaking with emphasis, "it will not
support me or make my happiness, and though I am fond of it, and love
to have my friends near me, I think the rules of propriety should be
adhered to in all cases."

"You are quite right, and if my wife were to receive marked attention
from other gentlemen I should command her not to allow it--but please
give me your answer. Remember, it is for life, and what you are
rejecting."

"I have considered, and still say I have not the least thought of
marriage."

"But I can wait."

"It is useless. You see, our tastes are not congenial."

"I cannot see why."

"I will tell you. First, you were born and reared in England. Your
parents, as you have told me, are bitterly opposed to your marrying an
American girl, thinking they are all beneath you. I love America and
her laws and the very word liberty."

"Your country has too much liberty. You see, you have such a mixture
here, and they all have the same rights, rich and poor."

"Yes, and if I had the right to vote I should vote for the man of real
worth, whether a prince or a pauper."

"You would not vote, would you?"

"Certainly."

"I am shocked, don't you know? I would never allow my wife to do such
a bold act."

"I suppose not; so we should quarrel. You see, we are quarreling
now."

"Oh, June, darling, we could never quarrel. I admire your face and
form just as much as ever, and I know you do not mean half you say."

"I certainly do mean all I say. You admire my form and face, but not
my principles. They are not at all suited to your ideas of propriety,
and you see we are not in harmony, and after the romance of marriage
had worn off and we became settled in life, there would be jarring and
discord, and finally contention. We would be like the keys of an
instrument broken and out of tune. Every note struck would fail to
harmonize, and the result would be extreme dissatisfaction and general
displeasure, and a desire to seek other society, which sooner or later
leads to the ruin of one or both."

"But see how many of our nobility are marrying American heiresses."

"And who is getting the best of the bargain? How many of them are
truly happy?"

"What a broad view you take of the matter, Miss June."

"If everyone would take a broader view of the subject, and study the
character of each, instead of being carried away by a foolish
infatuation, there would be far more happiness."

"You are cruel to refuse me."

"I should be far more so were I to accept you."

"I shall never, never give you up."



CHAPTER XVI.

A SHADOWED HOME.


They had wandered toward the house, and June, looking up, beheld Paul
standing before her. His face was very pale, and it was evident that
he was laboring under some great excitement. His presence angered Mr.
Linton, who at best was not in a happy mood, but who said in a voice
of extreme hauteur:

"Well, sir, please tell us why you are standing here."

"I came to speak to Miss June," Paul answered in a trembling voice.

"Speak, and be gone, then."

June wondered that Mr. Linton dare speak in tones of such austerity to
a member of her family, but she was the hostess and Mr. Linton her
guest, so she offered no rebuke.

"Why don't you speak? Are you trying to frame an excuse?"

Paul's eyes flashed forth a strange, fiery light, but instantly melted
to one of dreamy sadness, and in a voice full of emotion he said:

"Pardon me, Miss June, but you will be obliged to come to your
father's room. He has been taken with a bad hemorrhage, and a heart
spasm. Your mother and brother are with him, and the physician has
been sent for, but he seems to be growing worse. I looked for your
sister, but could not find her."

"She is promenading with Mr. Brunswick. Mr. Linton, you will please
find her, and send her to us, will you not?" June asked, and then a
low moan escaped the lips which had grown so deadly white.

"Go. I will send her," Mr. Linton replied.

He found Rene seated on a rustic bench beside Max, with her hand
clasped in his. She received the message which he delivered seemingly
much agitated, but she did not arise, and Mr. Linton walked away,
leaving them as he found them.

"Oh, dear," said Irene with a shiver, nestling closer to Max, "isn't
it too bad? I hope he will not die; I look so much older in black. It
isn't a bit becoming, and to think that it should happen right in the
midst of our party. I declare it is enough to make any one out of
patience. I cannot go to the house, for I should get frightened to
death to see any person die."

"I cannot let you go, then. Perhaps you had better wait until it is
over."

"I am afraid Scott will give me a terrible scolding. You do not know
him; he is so cruel."

"Cruel to you, my darling? The man who could be so is a brute," and
Max bent his handsome head until his lips touched the silken hair of
the fair, weak woman whom he was leading on from the high pedestal on
which she might have stood, down, down to the lowest depths of woman's
degradation.

"Be careful," she said, smiling and lifting her jewelled hand, "he
might be looking for me; you know he is terribly jealous."

"How very hard it is to think of spending your life with one so wholly
unsuited to you."

"Oh, dear, yes; and now I see it when it is too late to rectify the
mistake."

"It is not yet too late."

"Why, what do you mean?" she asked, feigning innocence.

"Divorces are common. Do you understand me now?"

She looked into his eyes and smiled her answer.

When June reached her father's room she found Scott standing at the
head of the bed, gazing sadly into his father's face. Her mother knelt
beside, weeping bitterly, her silver-gray dress sweeping the carpet.
June cast one loving glance at the white face with its bright crimson
spot on either cheek lying back upon the snowy pillow. The closed eyes
and the short, quick breath of the sufferer filled her soul with an
agony almost unbearable, and Scott, seeing her grief, drew her in a
close embrace, and laying her bright young head upon his shoulder, she
wept the bitterest tears she had ever known. A silence reigned
throughout the spacious parlors below, and one by one the guests, who
had met there in all their joyousness, quietly departed without
formality--left the hearts they had found buoyed up with joyful
anticipations, now bowed down in deepest grief. Who can portray the
sorrow of the heart breaking by the departure of a loved one from
life? Paul, unable to control his grief, turned his face away from
that of the sufferer, and as he did so his attention was attracted
toward Bob, who had perched himself upon the foot of the bed, and in a
low, mournful sound called out:

"Good night, good night."

Mr. Wilmer's eyes slowly unclosed, and while a faint smile rested on
his lips he said in a weak voice: "Good night, Bob."

The bird, seemingly satisfied, drew his head down and closed his
eyes.

"Eva, darling, come a little nearer," the sick man said, reaching out
his thin white hand. "I shall leave you soon."

A heart-rending sob broke from the lips of the grief-stricken wife.

"Do not weep for me, dear wife. Remember, this life is not all. I am
going to a brighter world. I am so weary of this pain, and I would be
at rest. The hardest of all is to leave my loved ones. Will you try to
meet me? You have been a good wife, and I leave you my blessing. Meet
me in that world, where we shall never part again."

Mrs. Wilmer could not speak, and only heart-rending sobs broke the
stillness of that death chamber.

"God bless you, my children," he said, turning his eyes toward them.
"You have been very dear to me. June, love and trust your brother, as
ever you have, and Scott, take good care of your mother and sister. I
can die easy leaving all in your care. June, my little darling June,
what a blessing you have been to me. Comfort your mother when I am
gone, and meet me in heaven. Paul; where is Paul?"

Paul glided silently toward the bed, and kneeling by its side bowed
his head in silent agony.

"Paul, dear Paul, I shall soon be at rest, and I hope to meet you in
the beautiful world where I go. You have been a good, faithful friend,
and have cheered many an hour that would have been dark without your
presence. Be faithful to your mission; you have a great one yet to
perform." The words sank deeply into Paul's heart, and they acted as
an incentive to urge him to his duty.

"Rene, dear child," whispered the sick man, "where are you?"

"She will be here soon," said Scott, vainly trying to hide his
emotion, at the same time wondering how she could be so cruel as to
stay away when she knew that death was entering their home.

"Rene," he whispered again, "I am going. Tell her I leave my blessing,
as I leave with you all, my loved ones."

The physician had entered, and looking at the patient, shook his head
and turned away.

"Can you do nothing?" Scott asked in a husky voice, showing the agony
he was trying so hard to conceal.

The dreaded sentence fell from the doctor's lips.

"He has passed mortal aid," he said, then left them to their sorrow.
Two hours passed by. Sadly and silently that group sat beside the bed
and watched the spark of life die away. The crimson spots faded slowly
from the pale face, giving place to a marble whiteness, and peacefully
the sufferer slept the sleep that knows no waking.

Irene entered stealthily, her satin slippers and creamy robes soiled
and wet with dew. She tried to appear as though she had no knowledge
of the affair, and nearing Scott, she looked on the face of the dead.

"Oh, papa; poor dear papa," she screamed. "Is he dead? Can't you speak
to me?"

"Hush," said Scott, in a low, commanding voice. "He left you his
blessing. You were sent for, but did not see fit to come. Do not add
insult to injury."

"Oh, is he dead?" she asked again.

"Father, dear father," said Scott, bending down. "Can it be--oh,
mother--June, he is dead."

And Scott, with voiceless lips and tearless eyes, bowed his head in
deepest agony.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE REMOVAL.


Scott had decided to remove to New York. There were several reasons
why he wished to change his place of residence. One was that he
thought a change would be beneficial to his mother, who grieved so
over the loss of his father, whom she had deeply loved. Another reason
he had, he thought that Irene might be happier if she were removed
from the object of her foolish infatuation. He had learned from his
own keen observation that she was not what a true wife should be, and
he resolved that no lack of duty on his part should make her more
unhappy. She was his wife, bound to him by God's law, and if he had
made a great mistake, either by his own lack of penetration or her
artfulness, it must be borne by both until the end came. There was no
other alternative. He would persuade her, if possible, and if that
were not sufficient he would command her to be more careful in future.
Already the voice of slander was wafted on the winds, and Scott felt
that he could bear anything better than disgrace; and should that ever
come to his home, his worst heartache would be for his mother and
sister. June was as true as steel, and his mother, even though she
had been led into a foolish vanity, had the highest regard for
virtue.

Scott had noticed that Rene did not act as prudent as she should, and
he had carefully watched her movements, hoping that his fears were
groundless. He had at one time watched his opportunity, and disguising
himself, saw Max and Irene leave the opera together, and following
closely, caught a portion of their conversation. They had turned on a
dimly lighted street, and no doubt, thought they were quite
unobserved. Scott's first impulse was to rush up and confront the
guilty pair, as any other less calculating than he would have done,
but after a moment's reflection decided to follow quietly.

"No," Irene was saying in answer to some question Max had asked. "No,
I shall always love you, but I must be miserable as long as I live. I
love you better than any one in all the world, but we can only be
friends."

"But, my darling, my beautiful angel," he said. "I cannot live without
you, and your husband does not care for you as I do; and if you will
only tell him what a mistake you have made, he will be satisfied."

"Oh, I wish he knew, but I cannot tell him."

"There are other ways without having an unpleasant interview."

Scott did not hear Irene's reply, but he had heard enough to blight
the very life of a heart less brave than his, and possessing a love as
strong as his own, and when they turned the next corner he hurried to
his own room to decide what was best for him to do in the matter. He
had taken a shorter route home, and when Irene entered he was sitting
quietly by his own fireside.

He had looked the matter over, and after careful study decided to
leave the home of his youth and look for happiness elsewhere. His
father had now been dead six months, and by promising his mother that
his remains should be removed, she consented to make the change. June
shed many a tear at the thought of leaving her old home, but she never
opposed the arrangement, thinking that Scott might be happier
elsewhere. She had observed that he was far from happy, although he
had never spoken one word to her in a disparaging way of his wife, but
she knew he was aware of Rene's vanity. She had often thought she
would tell him what she knew, but a fear of making him more unhappy
restrained her; and thus the days passed by, and the dark gulf between
the husband and the one who should have been his greatest comfort was
each day growing broader and deeper, and its waters more bitter, until
they seemed at times to throw high their huge waves and carry him down
to despair. But his brave manhood would assert its power, and, rising
above the waves of grief and shame that surged about him, Scott Wilmer
stood firmly upon the rock of his lofty aspirations, and by the
strength of his mighty will emerged with a new purity of heart and
purpose. He firmly resolved that when they were settled in their new
home he would seek an interview with his wife, and perhaps when she
was away from her present surroundings, and he had reasoned with her,
she might forget her foolish infatuation.

They grew more and more like strangers. Perhaps, he thought, it might
be in a measure some fault of his own, and if there could be a way to
rebuild their lost happiness, he would do all in his power to make
amends for the past. His love, and he feared his respect also, was
growing less, but he would be true to her as long as she lived. He
would screen her as long as she gave him the right. When he imparted
to her his intention to seek another home she made no reply. She
really did not know whether she was glad or sorry. In one way she was
delighted--she would find a place where there would be a greater
amount of gaiety, but she would be so sorry to leave Max. So studying
between the two conditions, she received the news indifferently.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE INTERVIEW.


It was the first of December that the old home passed into the hands
of strangers, and the Wilmer family took up their abode in a
fashionable part of the city of New York. The air of refinement which
they carried with them, and the fact of their being wealthy, soon drew
around them a large circle of friends, and among them Irene shone a
bright star in the world of fashion. Guy Horton was there, established
in an extensive publishing business, and he and Scott were soon fast
friends. The longer Scott knew Guy the better opinion he formed of his
character. Aside from a slight show of egotism, he thought Guy almost
faultless. Irene had remarked to June that she would be glad when the
year was up, that she could leave off that horrid black. "For," said
she, "you look lovely in black, but I am a fright. I am glad that
Scott never notices how I look, any way."

It was very true that the horrid black, as Irene termed it, was for
some reason much more becoming to June than to herself. The sombre
robes gave a still more lovely glow to June's pearly complexion and
sunny hair, but Irene looked much older in black.

It was now the first of February. Scott had asked his wife to meet him
in his study. They had grown to be such strangers that formality
seemed hardly out of place between them. She came with a reluctant
step, like a guilty child who is looking for a chastisement, and with
a cool bow took the chair which he very politely offered her, sitting
where the light fell dimly on her face.

"I have requested your presence here that we might speak on a very
painful subject."

She settled back in the soft cushions, but did not speak.

"I beg you will listen, and answer me truthfully."

The crimson blood mounted to her face, but she dare not raise her eyes
and look in Scott's face.

"I have not requested this interview to upbraid you," he continued,
"but merely to learn your intentions. It may save you a great deal of
surmising for me to state to you that I am acquainted with the fact
that you care more for another than you do for me, and God knows that
I am sorry that you have learned it too late."

She started to her feet, but he gently reseated her.

"Be quiet," he said in a firm voice. "I have no desire to intimidate
you, or to make you feel unhappy. I only wish to ask you if the life
we are living is to continue?"

His hazel eyes seemed to pierce her very soul. She did not speak, and
he continued:

"It has become a burden to me, and rather than that it should continue
I would prefer death."

She stole a glance at his face. The keen, penetrating look in his
eyes had given place to one of extreme sadness, and almost any heart
would have been moved to remorse, but between her face and his own
there came another whose beauty blotted out every other object, and
made her forget for the time that she was a wife, and forget, too, the
vast importance of the answer she should make.

"I am willing, Irene, to forgive, and as far as in my power lies, to
forget, and take you back to my heart, if you can say that you come
with a determination to live for your own and my happiness, but never
must that bold villain who holds such an influence over you cross my
threshold. Will you consent?"

Again the handsome face arose before her, sealing her lips to that
which should in justice, have been said.

"Irene, I warn you now. Remember what you are doing. I am sorry for
you, but the die is cast, and there is but one thing in all the world
to do, and thereby protect your honor; do you know what it is?"

"I suppose it is to spend my days with a man who has not one thought
in common with my own; to live with a man I never can love, and who
does not love me."

Scott arose with compressed lips and pale face. His arms were folded
across his manly breast, a favorite attitude with him when laboring
under any excitement.

"No, it is not. The house is at your disposal, just as ever. If you
have found you have made so great a mistake, keep the society of your
lady friends, and I will not trouble you, but for the sake of
yourself, for the sake of my mother and sister, if not for me, do
nothing to disgrace us."

"You have no heart, Scott Wilmer," she said, bursting into a flood of
angry tears, "and the best thing we can do is to live apart."

"One moment, Irene," Scott said as she started to leave the room, but
she heeded not his words, and closing the door with a crash, she went
to her room and penned the following lines:

  "DEAREST: The end has come at last. Come to me at once and we will
  make arrangements for our departure. Your own,

  R."

Two days later she was busy packing her clothing. Very cautiously she
worked, being careful not to come in contact with her husband.

June was all taken up with her harp lessons, learning, she knew, just
because that important Guy Horton liked the music of it.

At the end of the third day, as Paul was passing her room, Irene
called him in. Paul wondered that she should do him such an honor, and
still more surprised was he when she asked him to do her a favor, to
which Paul answered that he would if he could.

"I know you can," she said, putting on one of her most bewitching
smiles.

Paul did not readily accept flattery, and he supposed that Irene was
about to ask a favor that she could not obtain in any other way, but
he waited as patiently and accepted the terms as politely as though
she were a queen.

"Paul," she said, "I am going away for a time, and I wish to ask you
to attend to a little matter of business for me. I am expecting a
letter from papa which will contain a check. Please cash it and send
it by express. Here is the order. I will let you know later where to
send it."

"I would rather you would leave the business with your husband. I
think he is the proper one."

"No," she said abruptly, "I wish you to do the favor for me. Can't I
trust you to do a small favor?"

"Certainly you can," said Paul, a new idea entering his head.

"And will you?"

"Yes."

"Oh, I shall never be able to thank you enough. There, let me pay you
for your trouble; take this money."

"No, I shall not accept a penny. I am not in need of money."

"You will attend to the business for me, though?"

"Yes."

"And be sure and not mention it to my husband. You receive all the
mail that comes to the house, and when you find one marked San
Bernardino you will know it is from my father."

"San Bernardino," Paul repeated.

"Yes; don't forget. If it comes soon, bring it to the Grand Central
and see if I am there; if I am not, do as I have directed you. Will
you promise me this, and keep it a secret?"

"I will promise to do the business according to your orders."

"Thank you, Paul. If I can ever serve you in any way I will do so."

Paul bowed and left the room. His brain was very busy with several
plans which he was working up, and he must have time to calculate, for
though they might not one of them be of any importance, they were
weighty enough for his young brain to master, and he must be by
himself. He had some work to do for his employer, an errand or two for
Irene, a piece of work of his own that must be done, and then he would
take time to think.

Two days later Paul received the letter of which Irene had spoken, and
accordingly made haste to fulfill his promise. He reached the hotel,
and stepping in, sought Irene and delivered the letter. She did not
seem at all anxious that Paul should stay, but said hurriedly: "Thank
you, Paul; I may write you some day and perhaps ask another favor of
you."

Then she closed the massive door and Paul was left standing alone. He
entered the street thinking that it was all very strange, and there
must be something about Irene's intentions that were highly improper.
He had in his possession another letter which Irene had given him to
deliver to Scott, and to-day he must do that errand. He wondered if
the letter contained anything unpleasant.



CHAPTER XIX.

A FATAL STEP.


"Mr. Wilmer, here is a letter for you," said Paul, entering his
employer's room.

"Where did you get this?" Scott asked, looking at the envelope.

"It was given me by your wife to deliver to you."

Scott was just preparing to go to the office, and was standing by the
mantel gazing down as though in a deep study. He had broken the seal
and read the letter. Then, while a deathly pallor overspread his fine
features, he sank into a chair and laid his head on the boy's
shoulders.

"Oh, Paul," he groaned, "has it come to this? Poor, foolish girl. Oh,
what a terrible mistake we both made in our marriage.

"Poor, foolish, weak woman. Poor girl, her punishment will come sooner
or later, and God knows I pity her."

Paul passed his hand over Scott's brow with a tender, loving caress,
then his finger-tips rested lightly on the rings of hair which
clustered around his brow, and softly the great tears fell and dropped
on Scott's hand.

"What, crying, my boy? Tears are only for women; not for a brave boy
like you."

"I know it," Paul said, wiping his eyes, "but you are so cruelly
wronged. I know you must be, or you would not look so white. Oh, I
hope the woman who has ruined your happiness will never see a happy
day."

"Hush, Paul," said Scott quickly. "Sin brings its own reward, and
remember that she _was_ my wife. God help her, and bring her the
happiness she is seeking. Please bring mother and June."

Paul left the room and soon returned, accompanied by Mrs. Wilmer and
June.

"What is it, my son?" Mrs. Wilmer asked, noticing the white, sad look
on Scott's face.

"Mother, please be seated and read this aloud, if you can, that June
and Paul may know its contents."

Mrs. Wilmer read the letter, which ran as follows:

  "SCOTT: I am going away. I have learned, after a long time, that
  we both made a great mistake, and the best way to undo the wrong
  is to try to do justice to ourselves by finding companions more
  suitable to our natures. You will see for yourself that it was the
  one great mistake of our lives--at least of mine. I have found my
  affinity, and hope that some day you will be happier with yours
  than you ever were with Irene Mapleton. I suppose you will heap
  all sorts of abuse upon me for bringing disgrace upon the Wilmer
  name, as you no doubt will call it, but I could not live as we
  were, and that last cruel reprimand decided me. I am going to a
  heart that is filled with a deep and lasting love. I suppose you
  will hardly have time to search for me, and I assure you it will
  be quite useless to do so, as nothing can induce me to return.

  "IRENE MAPLETON."

Mrs. Wilmer handed the letter to Scott, as in a trembling voice she
said:

"Oh, Scott, my poor boy."

"Poor Scott," said June, and "Poor Scott" seemed to ring involuntarily
from Paul's lips.

"Poor Scott!" screamed Bob, who had perched himself on the mantel.

Scott smiled.

"Yes, 'poor Scott' will be the cry everywhere, and what a hero Colonel
Brunswick will be," said June. "Oh, I could almost hate her for her
cruelty."

"Don't, June," said Scott.

"It is time I was at the office," continued he.

"How can you think of attending to business, when your mind is so
troubled?" Mrs. Wilmer asked.

"Our lives must go on, and our duty be performed, whether we carry a
load or go empty handed," Scott replied.

"What a brave man you are, and how any woman can throw away such
happiness I cannot tell," said Mrs. Wilmer, wiping away her tears.

June looked out at the dreary sky. How her heart ached as she watched
the floating clouds. She went to the family parlor and rang a few
chords on the harp, but it sounded mournful and out of tune. She
walked to the window, then back to the harp. "I don't wonder you are
out of tune," she said. "Everything around seems to be, and all
through one weak and discordant string."

Guy stepped in to inquire for Scott. He had grown almost like one of
the family, and was allowed the privilege of coming when he chose,
regardless of form.

Quickly noticing June's tear stained eyes, he asked if she were in
trouble.

June sighed. How could she tell him of Scott's disgrace. She knew,
however, that she must, for if she did not, the unpleasant task fell
on Scott. She hardly knew how to begin, and after several unsuccessful
efforts she burst into tears.

"What is it, June, dear?" Guy asked in surprise, and then before he
realized it himself his arm was around her waist, and her head was
brought down on his shoulder. "What are all these tears for?"

As soon as June could command her voice she told him all. Guy fully
sympathized with her, telling her there was no use crying over what
could not be helped.

"But, June, you should not make yourself unhappy. Few men have more
courage than Scott, and few are as capable of mastering difficulties,
and doubtless he will in time conquer his grief by his wonderful
determination."

"Yes, he will conquer just because he must. I never knew a grander
nature than that of my brother."

Guy turned to leave the room, then as if taken by a sudden impulse, he
took a step nearer to June, saying:

"Miss June, will you allow me to call some evening soon and have a
talk with you?"

"Certainly. Come and talk as long as you please," June answered.

"Then dry your eyes and see if you cannot be as brave in this trouble
as your brother."

A half sad smile passed over June's lips as she said:

"Oh, I shall never be brave like Scott; few people are."

"I wish I were like Scott."

June's lily white face fairly blazed with crimson, and Guy, seeing her
confusion, begged her pardon.

If Mr. Linton were just like him, she thought she could have received
his attentions with a great deal more pleasure. Mr. Linton had written
to her that he should see her in New York, but she hoped he would
remain at home; she had no desire to see him now, especially since the
unpleasant affair of the elopement.

"Guy," she said, glad of the opportunity to broach a new subject, "I
have been thinking of asking your sister Carrie to come and spend the
remainder of the winter with me. I know she is lonely without you, and
I am lonely, too."

"Not without me, certainly," Guy said in a mocking way.

"Oh, no, certainly not; but I shall miss Rene, even though she was not
a bit suited to my taste," and here again June's eyes filled with
tears.

"There, you are losing your courage again. If you wish me to use my
influence to have Carrie come, you must be sensible and stop that
crying."

Guy took his leave, wondering if in all the world there was such a
dear, sensible girl as June Wilmer. He had no remembrance of ever
having seen more than one, and she was the pretty little gypsy-like
girl his Aunt Platts had adopted, and though she was quite as
sensible, she was not one bit like June, and with all her aptitude,
she lacked the polish that gave that brilliancy to June's character.
He wondered what had become of her.



CHAPTER XX.

MR. LE MOYNE OF PARIS.


Guy found Scott in his office, and he fancied that he looked a little
careworn, but he dared not question him in regard to his trouble, lest
Scott should think him presumptuous. He really pitied him, but Scott
gave him no opportunity to make a suggestion. In fact, he seemed bent
on leading him to other subjects.

A stranger entered the office and requested a private interview with
Lawyer Wilmer, and Guy, after making known his errand, took his leave.
Paul was busy in an adjoining room, attending to some correspondence.

"Are we alone?" the stranger asked.

"Yes, with the exception of my valet, who is in the adjoining room,
busy with writing."

"Is he reliable?"

"As much so as myself."

The stranger, who gave his name as Antonio Le Moyne, was a man
somewhat below the medium height. His features were even and
delicately molded, and his large, round black eyes beamed with a look
of deep intelligence. His beard was black and flowing, and his
complexion clear and dark. His air was that of a person extremely well
bred. "I will see you again," he said, after a long and earnest
conversation with Scott.

"The groundwork is very slight," said Scott, "but I will do my best,
and perhaps with what evidence you may be able to furnish, we may find
something to start on; but of course the utmost caution will be
necessary on the part of both of us."

The stranger bowed and left the room.

"I believe I have seen that face before," said Scott to himself. "If
not, I have seen one very much like it."

"Who is he?" Paul asked, stepping into the room.

"A gentleman lately from Paris--a Mr. Le Moyne."

"He is a good English scholar, I judge, from what I heard of his
conversation."

"As good as you or I."

"The correspondence is all finished," said Paul, "and if you have no
further use for me I will go home."

Scott replied that he no longer needed him, and Paul took his leave.

He did not hear all the conversation which passed between Scott and
the stranger, but he had heard some remarks which set him to thinking
deeply. He reached home, and sitting down before the grate, fell into
a deep reverie.

"It is strange, very strange," he said. "Good heavens! But pshaw, what
a simpleton I am! How I dread the time when it comes. But I must be
brave, like--Scott. How very brave he is--a very god in heroism. The
woman who cast him off for that hollow headed villain is a fit
subject for the lunatic asylum, and her companion a knave of the
deepest dye."

Paul sat for some time in deep thought; then he went to seek June. She
was in the parlor entertaining a lady who had called.



CHAPTER XXI.

PAUL AND SCOTT.


The week passed away, and it had been decided that Carrie Horton
should spend the remainder of the winter with June.

A light tap was heard at Paul's door, and Scott entered the room. He
seated himself at Paul's side, and leaning back in his chair, his eyes
rested for a moment on Paul's face. Then he said:

"Paul, what a handsome boy you are getting to be."

Paul blushed like a schoolgirl.

"Am I?"

"Yes; but you need not blush like a woman. Had you been one I never
would have told you so."

It was the first time Paul had ever heard him flatter anyone, and he
hardly knew how to accept it.

"What was it you wished to speak with me about? Is there anything I
can do for you?" Scott asked.

"No, sir; thank you. But I have decided to make new arrangements, and
I wanted to tell you that you will be compelled to look for another
valet."

"Why, Paul, what do you mean?" Scott asked in surprise.

"I am obliged to leave you."

"For what?"

"That I cannot tell you just at present."

"Can you not trust me, Paul?" Scott asked sadly. "Have I not
always----"

"Oh, please, do not ask that," Paul said. "You have been more than a
brother to me, more than a father, and--yes, more than anyone in all
the world."

"Then why do you leave me?"

"I must."

"You must? It is strange. Are you tired of me, Paul?"

"Oh, no, no," said Paul, becoming strangely excited.

"Then tell me why you leave me. If there is anything I can do, or
anything which I have not done, let me know, and I will try to make
amends."

"There is nothing that I could desire that has not been done for me.
Indeed, I do not think any other man in all the world would have been
as generous as you have been, but I cannot stay longer."

Scott arose and walked slowly up and down the room. His face had grown
very grave, and his lips were pressed firmly together. At length he
stopped before Paul, and grasping both his hands tightly in his own,
and looking straight down in the boy's face, he said:

"Paul, my boy, I cannot give you up; it is useless to try. You are a
part of my home. Mother and June look to you in all their troubles,
and now when all is darkest with me, will you leave me in still
greater darkness? Paul, I have never made a confidant of any one, but
to you I have confided more than to any other."

Paul remained silent.

"I will not ask you again why you leave me, but let me tell you that I
shall be at a loss to know how to act without you, for I am just now
in the beginning of a very puzzling piece of business, and I must have
help in the matter."

"Is it anything I can do?" Paul asked.

"I do not know; you might be compelled to leave the city."

"Is it in regard to searching for your wife?"

"No, Paul," Scott answered firmly. "I shall never look for Irene. When
she comes to my home she will come of her own free will."

"And you will take her back?"

"I shall never close my door against her."

"May I ask you a question, Mr. Wilmer?"

"As many as you choose."

"And you need not answer me unless you wish. Could you take her back
and love her as well as ever?"

Scott waited some time before answering, as was his custom when asked
a very important question.

"Paul," he said, "I could never take her as my wife again. As far as
that is concerned, I had better buried her; but should she ever return
to my home, she shall never want if I have the power to aid her."

"Oh, Mr. Wilmer, I am so glad to know that she will not suffer, for
how terrible it would be to come to poverty after having lived in
luxury, as she has. I knew you were noble, but did not know any one
could be so generous."

"No, Paul, I am not noble; you do not know, and heaven grant that you
never may know, how hard were the battles which I have fought to
bring myself to that decision, but I have found that my marriage to
Irene was a terrible mistake--a very grave error. Had she remained as
my wife I should have endeavored to do all in my power to make her
happy, but her own hand has severed the tie, and with God's help I
shall turn my back on the grim shadows that she has thrown across my
pathway, and try to do life's duty just the same as though all had
been sunshine. I do not wish to censure her. I am only fearful that
her sin will bring her more unhappiness than she can bear, for
invariably the wages of sin is death. Paul, I am sure you will keep
secret all that which I have entrusted to you; and now there is a
matter of which I wish to speak, and I may want your help, if you will
consent to aid me. The work requires cool, calculating and close
figuring. The happiness of a life is at stake, and we must lay aside
our own cares to work out the problem."

Scott then related the interview between Mr. Le Moyne and himself.

Paul started to his feet, and grasping Scott's hand in great
agitation, he said:

"Scott Wilmer, you must let me help you."

"How can you, Paul?"

"I can, I will, if only you will trust me. Do not question me, but let
me do as I will. Let me come or go, and give me time and I will help
you."

"Why, how excited you are! Do you really think you can help me?"

"I am sure I can."

"Very well, Paul, do as you think best, only do not let me lose track
of you."

"I will come to you again--trust me."

"I will, Paul, I will, and do not fail to draw on me for any amount
you may need."

After a long conversation and a great deal of speculating Scott and
Paul came to a decision.



CHAPTER XXII.

LOOKING FOR A PLACE.


"Oh, dear, oh, dear, I am so tired, and here I've traveled all day,
and my feet are so sore that I can hardly step at all."

"What is the matter, and what is your name?"

"Well, the matter is that I am just tired to death, and my name is
Mrs. Morris."

The lady who asked the question smiled and drew nearer to the woman,
who had taken a seat on the steps of her neat residence. It certainly
was no very uncommon thing to find a tired old lady in the streets of
New York, but there was something in the appearance of the old lady
which attracted the attention of the young and beautiful woman in the
doorway.

"Oh, dear; oh, dear," she sighed again, and then the tears began to
drop slowly upon the bundle she held in her lap.

She was dressed in a plain brown wool dress, and a black shawl and
bonnet. She had a sweet, pleasant face, and it was that which caused
the young lady to pause and take the second look, and to ask the cause
of her trouble.

"If I only had a cup o' tea," the old lady said, "I could go on
better, but my money is well nigh gone, and I can't afford it."

"Oh," said the young lady to herself, whom we shall call Miss
Elsworth. "Oh, I wish I could turn them away when they come, but I
can't. I might just as well try to stop my own hunger as to try to
turn one away that is hungry, and I'll just slip in and get her a cup
of tea to help her on her way. It will rest her, I am sure."

Miss Elsworth touched the woman lightly on the shoulder, saying: "Come
into the kitchen and I will give you a lunch; I know a cup of tea will
do you good."

The old lady arose, and wiping the tears away, said:

"God bless you, miss; I am sure you will get your reward some day for
doing so great a favor."

"It is no favor," Miss Elsworth said, as she led the way to the
kitchen. "Only I shall be obliged to ask you to be as quick as
possible, for I am about to go out to look for a housekeeper, and I
wish to find her before she is otherwise engaged. It is so hard to
find a trusty one."

"Is it?"

"Yes; one has to be cautious."

Miss Elsworth hurried about and soon had a steaming cup of fragrant
tea and a tempting lunch prepared for the old lady.

"Sit down, now, and perhaps you will be better able to walk after you
have eaten your lunch," said Miss Elsworth.

Mrs. Morris took her seat by the table, and as she sipped her tea and
broke a fresh bun she said:

"What a terrible place New York is. I hadn't no idee it was so big."

"Have you just arrived here?" Miss Elsworth asked.

"Yes; I jest come from the country. I've got to get a place to work."

"What can you do."

"I was cooking in a hotel in the village before I came here."

"Why did you come to such a place as New York?"

"Well, I'll tell you. I was working in Ghent in a hotel, and the other
night I had an awful dream. I dreamed about a span o' black horses. It
worried me considerable, but I thought p'r'aps 'twas foolish to think
about it, but the next night I dreamed about a lot o' mud fallin' down
on my head, and then I knew somethin' had happened to my poor boy. You
see, I've got a boy here in New York somewhere, and you never can
begin to guess how I do love that boy. He is the purtiest boy in the
whole world."

Miss Elsworth looked at the old lady, thinking that her son might be
pretty, as she said, for she herself must have been a very handsome
woman in her youthful days. Her features were finely chiseled, and the
dark hair streaked with gray was as smooth and as soft as a piece of
satin. But there were lines of care around the delicate mouth and
across the broad forehead, and though she might have been pure at
heart, there was a lack of education and a manner that caused Miss
Elsworth to pity rather than ridicule her.

"Is your son very young?" Miss Elsworth asked.

"Oh, no; he's nigh on to thirty, but you see he's sorter wild, and
I'm jest afraid in a big place like this he'll git into something
awful. They say they's so much mischief goin' on here."

"How did you expect to find him? Have you his address?"

"Oh, dear, no; all I've got to go by is his picture."

Miss Elsworth smiled.

"That is rather a slim guide. How did you expect to find his place of
residence by that?"

"Why, I jest thought I might show it to folks now and then, and
perhaps they'd know him."

Miss Elsworth smiled again. The idea of coming to New York to hunt up
a prodigal son, with simply a photograph to aid her, seemed extremely
ludicrous.

"And to think that I am here, all alone, without hardly any money.
Why, I don't believe I'd 'a' dared to come to New York if I'd 'a' had
forty dreams, if I'd knowed what a terrible big place it was."

"What did you intend to do while you are here?"

"Why, I thought as like as not I could get a chance to work. You see,
I'm a awful good cook. Perhaps you know of some one that wants one?"

"Can you do other work besides, such as dusting and cleaning?"

"Oh, yes; I can do any kind of work."

"I had just started to look for a housekeeper, and as you are looking
for a place, you might try it here for a while. Your duties will not
be arduous, as I am alone, though you will be required to take charge
of all the work, as I am not wealthy, and am not able to keep other
help."

"Oh, oh, I am so glad. I am sure I can suit you. I'll show you my
boy's picture, and if you should ever meet him you can tell me."

She drew from her pocket a photograph carefully wrapped in a piece of
newspaper, and, unfolding it, she handed it to Miss Elsworth. She
started as she gazed at the features.

"How very handsome he is," she said. "He should be very good."

"Oh, my, that's the trouble. I'm afraid he gets into bad company, for
along at first he uster send me some money now and then, but for a
year or two he don't ever write to me."

"Are you sure he is in New York?"

"Oh, la me, no. I tracked him from one place to another, and the last
time I heard from him they told me he was in New York, but didn't know
whether he was going to stay there or not."

"I am afraid you will be obliged to give up the search, but if I can
aid you I will do so."

"Oh, thank you. I am so glad that I have got a place to stay, anyway,
for a while, and p'r'aps when I find Charley he'll provide for me."

"I hope he will at least treat you as a son should treat a mother; but
tell me how old you are, and if you are able to work."

"Well, you see, I ain't so old as I look, but Charley has worried me a
lot, and that makes me look old, but I ain't quite fifty, and I am
sure I'm as strong and able to work as I was when I was twenty; but I
was thinkin' just now that p'r'aps Charley has got married, and his
wife is proud and won't let him take care o' me. Charley didn't like
to work very well, anyhow, but he might take care of us two, for he
was a good enough carpenter and jiner. But I know if he's got wild
it's all owin' to the tricks of this awful big city."

"The city is a bad place for a person out of employment."

"Well, I'm dreadful glad I've found a place," said Mrs. Morris,
arising from the table.

"And if everything proves satisfactory, I shall be glad that I have
found a housekeeper," said Miss Elsworth.

A less courageous person might have been shocked at the idea of taking
a stranger into her house, as Miss Elsworth took Mrs. Morris, but she
knew enough of city life to know that there was no great safety in
dealing with strangers. But Mrs. Morris had an honest look and a
simple, honest way, and Miss Elsworth was very much in need of a
housekeeper, and so she decided to accept Mrs. Morris on trial.

The people across the way wondered why it was so very quiet about the
place opposite. They saw a beautiful young lady come and go, but they
knew neither her name nor occupation. Indeed, she did not seem to have
any, for she was seldom seen on the street, and when she was seen she
was closely veiled, as one afraid of being recognized, and was always
neatly, though plainly dressed. There was any amount of mail left at
her door, which fact gave rise to much speculation by gossiping and
curious neighbors. They thought it very strange that a handsome young
woman, seemingly without occupation, should live there with only a
housekeeper. But they were none the wiser, when several months had
elapsed and still she remained, coming and going in the same strange
manner.

Mrs. Morris had proved herself a very trusty and efficient housekeeper,
and though she was possessed of rather a peculiar disposition, she was
never ill tempered.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Oh, if Charley would only come back! I've often thought since I've
been here what a nice thing it would be if only you could see him. You
couldn't help loving him, he is so handsome; and I've often thought of
what a beautiful couple you would be. La me, wouldn't you shine,
though, goin' out together? But, la me, maybe he's married afore this,
or he may be dead. Oh, if I jest knew. What do you think? Do you
suppose he's dead?"

"Really, I have no way of knowing anything at all about it. He may be
dead, or he may come back to you and make you happy the rest of your
days."

"You hain't forgot what you promised, have you," she said one day,
"that you would try to help me to find him?"

"No, I have not forgotten."

"P'r'aps you better keep his picture, or you might forget how he
looks."

"No, I shall not forget; I never forget a face which once I have
seen."

"And do you think you would know him if you should see him?"

"If he looks like his picture I shall certainly know him."

"Well, he does, for all the world."

"I have been thinking, Mrs. Morris, that when Spring comes you and I
will change our place of abode, and perhaps go into the country, at
least for a while."

"But maybe I wouldn't find my boy there."

"You would be just as likely to find him there as anywhere."

"Oh, I s'pose I would," said Mrs. Morris, dropping her work and
looking steadily down at the carpet. "Here is your letters," she said,
as a violent ring of the bell brought her to the door. "My, what a lot
of 'em."

Miss Elsworth tore open the seals, one by one, perusing their
contents. There was evidently something very pleasing in the last one
opened, for Miss Elsworth, after reading it carefully twice through,
folded and replaced it in its cover, smiling, and with sparkling
eyes.

"I am very glad," she said.

"Of what?" Mrs. Morris asked.

"My last work is meeting with a very rapid sale, so my publisher tells
me, and I shall no doubt make a snug little sum."

"So you're gettin' rich, are you? Well, I hope you will. P'r'aps you
might look around a little for my boy. You're sure you'd know him?"

"Quite sure."

"Oh, I wish you could find him, and I can't help thinkin' how nice it
would be if you two was to get married."

"I shall probably never get married," said Miss Elsworth, while a
strange light came into her eyes. "But I shall be glad to help you to
be happier, if I can."

"You are an angel, anyway."

"A very wicked angel," said Miss Elsworth, as she turned to her desk.

Blanche Elsworth finished her writing, and turning to Mrs. Morris she
said:

"Mrs. Morris, I shall expect you to keep very quiet in regard to my
business. I am really obliged to entrust to your knowledge some things
which I must ask you to keep entirely to yourself."

"La me, I don't know anybody to tell anything to, and I'd never tell
if I did. I'm sure I wouldn't do anything mean, when you've took such
an interest in my son. Whereabouts in the country do you think you'll
go?"

"I am not certain of going at all yet."

"Well, when you do get ready, it'll be all right; but I do hope
you'll find my poor Charley somewhere. You an' him would make the
beautifulest lookin' couple on top o' ground."

"Please do not say anything more about that, and when we find him, we
will see what he has to say about it himself."

"It's awful to write books for a livin'. It jest seems to me I'd
die."

"Why?" asked Blanche.

"La me, I couldn't live and not have a chance to talk to anybody."

"I believe it," said Blanche.

"Why, it jest seems to me it must be awful to sit all day and think.
Why, I'd ruther wash every day in the week."

"Every one has his taste," said Blanche, "and play becomes work when
monotony steps in; but gaining a living by the pen is by no means
play. It has its toil, and also its charms. There are hours when it is
only a beautiful pastime, and there are hours of the most incessant
toil. It is neither all pleasure nor all pain."

"Well, for my part I wouldn't never want to be a writer. I never see
one afore, and I always thought it was something awful nice, but, la
me, I never would want to tear my brains to pieces in that way."

Blanche arose and looked out of the window. The evening was coming on,
and the street lamps were just beginning to light up the city. Shop
girls, with white, tired faces, men and women of toil, even children,
worn and weary, were hurrying along through the cold. Everything
looked like toil to Blanche Elsworth at that moment. What a long, long
weary round of toil she had just completed. Her first novel had been
set afloat upon the world to fall into the hands of the lover of
fiction or to be scanned by the scathing eye of the critic. She
remembered how, when she started, that looking before her it seemed
like a long lane that had no turn. How would she ever reach the end?
she had thought. Could she? Others had, but had they the difficulties
to overcome that she had? She did not believe they had, but she would
try it at least. She had published several small books of poems, but
the work on which she was about to start out was so much broader, so
much more toilsome.



CHAPTER XXIII.

JUNE'S REASON--LETTER FROM PAUL.


Carrie Horton was seated in the Wilmer library. She had wandered to
the bright and glowing little world of books, and choice and rare
paintings. June was entertaining Guy in the parlor and Carrie knew
that he would say that "three was a crowd," so she had left them
alone, saying significantly that if they did not care she would go to
the library. She had taken a volume of travels and was soon deeply
absorbed in its contents.

"Ah, good evening, Miss Horton," Scott said, entering the room. "I
think I will follow your example."

"Mr. Wilmer," Carrie said at length, looking up from her book, "will
you allow me to interrupt you?"

"Certainly."

"I have just been reading of a tribe of gypsies, and I have never yet
found any information as to where they originated. I have heard of
them often and seen them, too, but I never knew to what nation they
belong, though I have often wondered. Can you tell me anything about
them?"

"They are claimed by history as being a mysterious, vagabond race,
scattered over the whole of Europe, Asia, Africa and even America.
Where they originated is still a matter of speculation, as the
question has been studied by competent investigators, and is still but
partially solved. No fact seems really established except that India,
the cradle of many nations, was the source from which they sprang.
Their language is a corruption of many others with a loss of some of
their own original language. They are a lawless race and are quick at
framing a falsehood, and cunning at thieving."

"They are, naturally, a filthy class of people, too," said Carrie. "I
have seen some young gypsy girls who would have been really beautiful
had it not been for their slovenly attire and tangled hair."

"Yes, I hardly think there are any of them who would care to cultivate
a refined nature, even if they had the opportunity."

"Have you any faith in their fortune telling?"

Scott laughed as he answered: "Oh, no; though I had my fortune told by
an old gypsy once, but have hardly thought of it since."

"Has any of it come true?"

"Well, really, I have not noticed. Let me see--why yes, I do not know
but there has a part of it come to pass."

"Then she must have known."

"No, I think she guessed at it."

"How could she?"

"Easy enough."

"What did she tell you?"

"That my parents were both living and that I had never soiled my hands
with work."

"Was it true?"

"Yes."

"Was that all?"

"No, she said that I would marry a beautiful woman."

"And so you did," said Carrie, thoughtlessly. "And is that all?"

"She said there were tears for me, and that I would commit a crime."

"Mercy!" said Carrie, starting.

"Do not get excited, Miss Horton, I assure you I have not the least
intention of making good her prophecy," Scott said, smiling.

"No, I do not think you have, but--"

"But what?"

"If you should happen to."

"I do not think it will ever happen."

"How long ago was it that you had your fortune told?"

"Oh, several years ago. I merely had it told to please my curiosity. I
have hardly thought of it since."

"It seems strange that any of it should come true if she did not know
what it was."

"You are not superstitious, are you?"

"Oh, no, I do not believe in it myself, only it seems funny that there
are so many things they tell that come to pass."

"I think nothing comes to pass that would be any different in case
they did not predict it."

"I have often thought of a gypsy who told my fortune once. She gave
me nothing but riches and a life of pleasure. Soon after she told
Guy's fortune, and really he was to be just as happy all his life as
I."

"I am sure that is pleasant to think of."

"Yes, but it would be very strange if we were both happy all our life.
No one ever is happy always."

"Very few," said Scott, and then his mind dwelt on the scenes which
had passed, and he thought of the gypsy woman's words: "You will marry
a beautiful woman, and there will be tears and the stain of blood on
your hands." His lip curled in scorn at the thought of crime. He
turned again to his book, and, though he had not the least idea of
allowing himself to think of the old gypsy's words, there came now and
then to his mind the words that he had scarce thought of since he had
heard them from her lips. He would now and then cast his eyes toward
Carrie, thinking what a sweet, amiable, home-loving girl she was. How
happy she would yet make some one.

Guy had called on June for a special purpose. He had made up his mind
that there was one question that he wanted to ask June. Thus, when
Carrie so generously offered to leave them alone, Guy very readily
accepted the favor. June had been playing a soft air on her harp, and
when Guy entered she arose to welcome him. June was practical, and she
treated Guy as a friend, though she was keen enough to see that his
intentions meant something more than friendship.

"I have come, as I told you I would," said Guy, seating himself beside
June, "to speak on a very important subject. Have you any idea what it
is?"

"I suppose I have," said June, as the color rose to her face.

"Then you are prepared for it?"

"I suppose I shall be."

"What is it?" Guy asked, smiling.

"That is not my part of the business."

"What is your part?"

"To answer questions."

"You are the most practical and honest person I ever saw," said Guy,
laughing. "Why do you not look surprised and be entirely ignorant of
what I intend to ask you?"

"Because I am not entirely ignorant."

"Then I suppose your answer is ready."

"It is."

"What is it; yes or no?"

"That depends on the question."

"Suppose that I were to tell you that somebody wanted a wife?"

"That would not be strange. There are a great many men who want
wives."

"Suppose I were to tell you that some one wanted you for a wife?"

"I have been told that before."

June's sweet, honest eyes were looking straight at Guy as he spoke.
Her fingers were neither toying with diamond rings nor an ivory fan,
but her shapely white arms were folded across her waist in a very
matter-of-fact way. She was quite sure as to what Guy had to say, and
she had made up her mind to answer frankly any question that he might
ask. She had not the least idea of growing faint or falling in tears
on his bosom, as she had heard of women doing. That plan did not suit
her at all.

"You have been told that before?" Guy repeated.

"Yes."

"And suppose I were to tell you that I was the man who wanted you,
would you say yes?"

"No."

"June, June," he said, looking very serious, "June, darling, you do
not mean that."

"There, Guy, do not grow sentimental; of course I mean it."

"And would you really say no?"

"I said I would not say yes."

"Well, what does that mean but no?"

"It means that I would not readily give my consent."

"Why not?"

"I would not wish to."

Guy looked perplexed.

"June," he said, speaking suddenly, "I never thought you were a
coquette."

"Your opinion is a correct one regarding that."

"Then what do you think of me?"

"I think," said June, surveying his countenance, "I think you are very
nice."

Guy laughed in spite of his disappointment.

"Then why will you not marry me?" he asked.

"I did not say that I would not."

"But you did not say that you would. Don't you think you could love
me, June?"

"I rather think I could," she answered, coolly.

"Oh, June, please have a little more reason; if you can love me, why
will you not say you will marry me?"

"Guy," she said, in a voice grown low almost to sadness, "I shall
never marry any man until I have first studied his character."

"Are you so afraid, then that you might find me a villain?"

"Not at all. I know you to be very far from a villain, but I do not
know whether your tastes accord with my own. You would not be willing
to have me allude to your faults, and you might have those which would
be very annoying to me and I might have those which would be extremely
vexatious to you."

"I cannot see that you have a fault, my dear June, and if you loved me
truly you would not see my faults."

"I do not say that I do see many faults, and that is what I am
studying your character for--to find them."

"Why do you wish to find them?"

"To either help you to correct or see if I can have patience to bear
with them without complaining."

"How practical you are, June. Indeed, one would think that if there
ever had been any romance in your nature that it had all died away
and left but the ashes of a ruined hope. You speak more like a
disappointed maiden lady of thirty-five than a young girl only fit
for Cupid's wiles."

"I speak from observation, and I tell you truly, Guy, that if there
were more practical and less romantic people in the world there would
be more happiness."

"But people marry for love; do they not?"

"Perhaps they do."

"Then is it not right that they should overlook the faults of each
other?"

"That is just the point. They fancy themselves deeply in love--so much
so that they do not stop to consider whether the object of their
choice has faults or not. After marriage comes reflection, and after
the romance has worn off they have not the patience to bear with the
faults that, until then, have been kept from the surface. It is not
long since I spoke upon this very subject to a gentleman who asked me
a similar question. Yesterday I received a letter from him saying that
he should soon repeat the request, although I gave him a decided
answer in the negative."

"Did you care for him?"

"I certainly did not, and I told him so."

"He is very impertinent," said Guy, rather impatiently.

"No, he is very blind, and I have no doubt that the least turn of
fortune would bring my faults to light."

"If you know of any great faults I have I would willingly correct them
if you would show me what they are."

"I fancy that you have a habit to which I am greatly opposed, though I
have never seen you indulge in it."

"What is it?"

"The use of tobacco."

"Oh, I occasionally smoke a cigar."

"Why have you never done so in my presence?"

"I thought perhaps it might be offensive."

June's eyes were turned full upon Guy as she said:

"Tell me truly, Guy, do you think if I had been your wife that you
would have been particular to keep the fact from my knowledge?"

"Perhaps not, but I am sure I should not indulge in the habit in your
presence if it were distasteful to you."

"There should be no deception between man and wife. I shall not commit
one act that my husband may not know of, and I shall expect a full
knowledge of his behavior, whether at home or abroad. If such is not
the case I would be unhappy. I would rather you would never deceive me
in a small act. Of all faults I abhor deceit."

"Do you know of another fault that I have?" Guy asked thoughtfully.

"Perhaps one is enough to speak of at once."

"I would rather hear of all now."

"Then you may be angry."

"Not with you, June."

June remained silent a moment, as though she were calculating the
propriety of showing Guy the fault which rested in her mind.

"I am waiting very patiently," he said.

"Will you promise not to become angry with me?"

"I promise."

"Well, then, you are inclined to be egotistical."

"What?"

"It is true."

"I cannot see when or how."

"I cannot see my faults, but I have them," said June earnestly. "I
will cite you an instance. When your sister was speaking of a certain
play we witnessed a few evenings since, and you did not agree with
her upon the point she mentioned, you closed the argument in a manner
which said plainly that your opinion was right, and further discussion
useless."

Guy, looking steadily down at the carpet, asked:

"Was not my opinion correct?"

"It was, as far as my judgment went, but I might also have been wrong.
But even if it were right or wrong, the manner in which you expressed
it really hurt your sister's feelings, though she said nothing."

"Is it not a little cruel, June, to pick out such disagreeable faults
and hold them up before a man to mortify him?"

"Do you think that a disagreeable one?"

"Yes; of all faults that is one of the worst."

"Will you do me a favor, for the sake of friendship?"

"Any favor you may ask; what is it?"

"Correct that fault."

"I will try," said Guy, submissively.

"And what will you do with the other?" June asked, smiling.

"Kill it outright, since it is a useless habit; but really are those
faults all I have?"

"They are all I have noticed."

"It seems to me you might be able to bear with two faults, since I
have promised to correct them. I think if you had fifty I could
overlook them all."

"No, I shall wait and study your character, your likes and dislikes,
and if, after a certain time, I find myself capable of bearing,
patiently, those which I cannot correct, I will give you my answer,
provided you have not found a woman really faultless; meantime I ask
as a favor that you speak freely of my faults whether great or
small."

"Shall I begin now?"

"As soon as you please."

Guy looked at June's bright, loving face, and wondered if there was
one fault to correct. In all their acquaintance he had never seen her
ill-humored. He had never heard her speak disparagingly of anyone,
farther than strict honesty compelled. He really did not know how
there could be a fault; but since she wished it he would try and find
some to hold up for her special benefit. She had often told him that
she never would make a mark in the world; she would never be other
than June, and she would only be known in the circle in which she
moved. Guy laughed outright at the idea of such nonsense, as he called
it. He wanted a wife; a companion. He had known actresses who had made
a great name, but he would not give a penny for the best one in the
land. His business gave him an opportunity to know something of the
private life of poets and novel writers, and he never yet saw one,
however amiable they might be, that was calculated to brighten their
own home.

"I expect you will marry a literary woman some day," June said,
mockingly. "She will probably have a mole on her chin."

"Well, there is no mole here," he said, looking closely at June, and
starting to kiss the pretty lips.

"Not yet," she said, drawing away, "wait until you know all about my
faults and, perhaps, you will change your mind."

"I know my own mind now, as well as I shall ever know it," Guy said,
in a sober tone. "But I am willing to wait your decision, and I shall
wait, June, a lifetime if necessary."

"It will not take a lifetime to find the defects in my nature," she
said pleasantly.

"Do you bid me remain away?" he asked, as he neared the door.

"Certainly not. In that case I shall not be able to study your
character."

"Good night," he said, pressing her hands, then he left the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Spring had come again. Scott sat in his office with a huge pile of
letters before him. He had been enabled to secure the services of a
boy who had come well recommended, and who proved to be good and
trusty, "but he never could fill the place of Paul," Scott said. If
Paul were only here he would not be obliged to attend to so much
corresponding. He really wondered how he could live without that boy.
He had been gone since February and it was now the month of May. How
long the time seemed and to-day was the first that Scott had heard
from him. He had the letter before him. It ran thus:

  "MY DEAR EMPLOYER: Please pardon my long silence. The only excuse
  that I have is that I have been at work, the nature of which you
  will guess. Enclosed find a valuable paper. I send a messenger to
  carry it to you that I may know of its safe arrival. You will hear
  from me again ere long. Until then, trust and believe me your
  faithful servant,

  PAUL."

Scott had read the letter, and as he placed it in the desk before him,
the door opened, and Mr. Le Moyne entered the room. Scott gave him a
cordial welcome, and Mr. Le Moyne said in a low tone:

"I have had a long and fruitless search. I have been from one end of
the city to the other, and I can find nothing satisfactory."

"I have just now received a letter," said Scott, "which may be of some
use."

He then handed the letter to Mr. Le Moyne, who examined the paper
while a pallor spread over his face, as he said:

"Good Heavens, it is the very same."

"Are you sure?" Scott asked, starting to his feet.

"As sure as that I live. Here is positive proof," he said, taking a
letter from his pocket and pointing at the bottom.

"Yes, it certainly is," said Scott. "Well, that is worth a great
deal."

"Yes, providing we can find the balance, and that may be the hardest
part."

"At all events we will not give it up yet," said Scott.

"Give it up! I shall not give it up as long as I live."

"There is but one thing to do. I cannot just at present tell you how
it came in my possession any more than I have already told you, but,
leave the matter to me for a while, and I will make you acquainted
with the first important facts I may obtain and please leave this with
me," Scott said, taking the paper.

Mr. Le Moyne soon took his leave.

"It is all very strange," thought Scott. "I do wonder where the boy
came across it. He is a shrewd lad, at all events. How I do miss him.
I wonder where he is. He will probably let me know, when he has
accomplished his purpose." Here his thoughts fell upon his wife. He
wondered where she was, and why she had acted so foolishly. His heart
ached when he thought of her, but he had no desire to look upon her
false face again. His love was dead.

As he closed the door of his office he was met by Guy, who had just
stepped over to consult him on a matter of business. As the two stood
for a moment on the broad steps, an elderly woman stopped before Scott
and inquired if his name was Lawyer Wilmer. He replied in the
affirmative, and, giving him a letter, she hurried away. Scott placed
the letter in his pocket, thinking there was time to read it when he
reached home. Guy had asked Scott to go with him to his place of
business and together the two started on.



CHAPTER XXIV.

A SCENE ON THE WATER.


"How lovely," exclaimed June as she stood one moonlight evening on the
bank of Clear Lake. "Look! Scott, is it not beautiful?"

"Its quiet grandeur can hardly be expressed in words," said Scott.

"Look at that lovely island!"

"It is beautiful," said Scott, looking out over the water.

He had taken a seat on the beach, and thought the scene was the
loveliest he had ever beheld. The trees overhanging the water cast
broad shadows on the silvery surface under the bright light of the
moon.

"Listen," said Carrie, who had just stepped up beside him. "Mr.
Wilmer, is not that beautiful?"

Every voice was hushed to catch the sound of music which came floating
over the water.

"It is a band just nearing the island," Guy said as he stepped down to
the boat which lay at the water's edge.

June entered the boat, and calling to Carrie to come, she sat down
and dipped the clear water, throwing the bright drops high in the
air.

"How lovely it is, Guy; who could fancy a scene more beautiful than
this?"

Guy dropped the oar that he held, and taking June's little hand within
his own, said in a low voice:

"June, my darling."

"Hush, Guy, Scott and Carrie will hear you."

"Well, what if they do? It is no disgrace to call you that name, is
it?"

"No, but it is foolish."

"Haven't you studied my character yet enough to know your own heart?"
Guy asked as he pushed the boat from the shore, leaving Scott and
Carrie still on the bank.

"I do not know. I have studied your ways, but really I have failed to
find many faults. I do not see you using tobacco, and----"

"Oh, June, I do not care a penny for the weed, and now when I come to
think of it, I do not wonder that you dislike it, for it is a filthy
habit, but about my other faults, June?"

"You must have overcome them or----" she stopped speaking and looked
down into the water.

"Do not be afraid to say it, June, darling, either I have improved or
you are learning to love me in spite of my faults. Is not that it?"

"I guess so," said June, without raising her eyes.

"June, my little darling," Guy said, leaning nearer, and speaking in a
low tone, "will you not say, now, that you will take me as I am?"

June's delicate hands were folded, and her eyes were looking far out
over the water. It seemed to her that a little fairy world had opened
before her, and a king, with a heart full of love had bade her enter.
The lovely moonlight, the soft dip of the oar, and the strains of
music which came floating over the water, falling in such melody on
her ear, gave a bright halo to the little fairy world she was just
entering. She could not have told why she was happy--so very happy.

"I am waiting, very impatiently," Guy said, "just as I waited once
before, and have waited ever since."

"Guy," she said, "it is a very grave question that you have asked. It
is a question of a lifetime."

"But you can love me, June, can you not?"

"Yes, without trying," she said, honestly.

"God bless you, my darling; you will promise me then."

"No, I will leave my answer with Scott. If he consents I will be your
wife. His experience has been a sad one, and he will never allow me to
make an unhappy marriage, if he can avoid it."

"But, June, his wife was untrue to him. Do you think I could be untrue
to you?"

"I do not know. Men tire of their wives, as well as women of their
husbands."

"I am sorry you have so little faith in me."

"Do not think that, Guy, but Scott had faith in the woman he married,
though I do not think he would have married for some years, had it not
been for mama. But he married her without knowing much about her, and
was deceived. His whole life was wrecked by one woman's vanity." Guy
had rowed the boat out upon the lake leaving Scott and Carrie far
behind upon the shore. The oars were held idly in his hands, and the
boat was dancing lightly up and down upon the waves.

"See, Guy," June said, "you and I are drifting on at the mercy of the
waves. The oars are at your command, to turn the boat as you will, or
to allow it to drift on to whatever lies ahead of us. I am entirely at
your mercy, for we are alone in the boat. You have the power to carry
me to destruction, or to turn and take me safely back. If I were your
wife I should be bound to you for life. Nothing but death could sever
the tie, and should your hand and heart fail to perform their duty, I
should be left to drift on to destruction or to be cast upon the
island of despair. It was the hand of my brother's wife that wrecked
his happiness. She held the oars that carried him down the stream, and
had it not been for his great strength of body and mind he would have
gone down to ruin. But I am not brave like Scott; few people are.
Scott is a hero."

"Yes," responded Guy.

"I wish those truants would hurry back and take us to the island,"
said Carrie. "I am getting tired of waiting."

"I will row you over there," said a soft, sweet voice, "I am going
there myself."

Carrie had noticed a boat nearing the shore, and looking down she saw
a woman seated in the center.

"Will you come?" she asked in a very low voice.

"Will you go, Mr. Wilmer?" Carrie asked. "I suppose those truants will
be only too glad to be rid of us."

They entered the boat and were soon speeding over the water at a
rapid rate. "How beautifully you row!" said Carrie. The young lady
made no reply. Carrie looked at her, thinking her very distant or very
timid, she could hardly tell which. She thought from what she could
see of the face that was almost hidden by a broad hat she must be very
pretty. Her hair was decidedly red and hung in graceful curls about
her neck, and over her forehead lay little shining rings of which
Carrie only caught a glimpse as she turned her face toward the light.
She wore a gray dress, and her hands were encased in gray gloves.

Scott tried repeatedly to get a full view of the face under the hat,
but the red curls and the round fair cheeks were all he could tell of
the lady's looks, though he noticed the extremely pretty shape of the
foot encased in its kid boot.

"Do you live here?" Carrie asked by way of introduction.

"No," was answered in a low tone.

"You row beautifully, at any rate," said Carrie.

She made no reply.

They were nearing the island.

"Oh, it was about here that we all came so near being drowned," said
Carrie.

"How?" Scott asked.

"By the sinking of a steamer. Oh, I shall never forget that time. How
frightened we all were."

"Were any lives lost?" Scott asked.

"No; but there were some very narrow escapes. But the most wonderful
of all was that of Guy and a young girl my aunt had adopted. Every one
had left the boat but those two, and, of course, we had not the least
idea that they could be saved, for the steamer went down before our
boat reached the shore, but would you believe it, that young girl swam
to shore and reached the island before Guy did."

"She was a brave girl."

"Indeed she was, but oh how odd she was,--that is she had a strange
disposition. She used to look so angry sometimes that I almost felt
afraid of her, and she could shoot like an old hunter."

"That was quite remarkable."

"Indeed it was. We often wondered where she learned it all, but we
never dared question her for fear she would not like it. She grew
terribly angry once when some one told her she looked like a gypsy,
and really she did. She had the loveliest long, black hair that I ever
saw, and beautiful black eyes, and how they would flash sometimes. But
even if she was spunky, I did love her, and I would give almost
anything to see her again. She left my aunt about as mysteriously as
she came to her. They looked the city over and advertised in every
paper, but they could not find her, and they thought the world of her
too. Every one praised her bravery and I used to tell Guy it would not
terminate like a novel unless he married her."

Scott stepped from the boat, and offering his hand to Carrie assisted
her to the steps that led up the bank, then turning, extended the same
civility to the lady in the boat, but she bowed, and without a word
floated out on the water, before Scott had scarce time to tender his
thanks.

"Well, that is strange," he said; "she is so very obliging, and yet
she will hardly condescend to notice one."

"You deserve a good scolding," said Carrie, as she looked down and saw
Guy and June, who had just arrived, and were waiting for a landing
place. "How did you think we would reach the island?"

"We saw you enter the boat," said Guy, "and we knew you did not care
to come with us."

"And that you did not care to have us?" said Scott.

"We were very well satisfied," Guy replied. "I want you to come with
me a moment," Guy said to Scott, "and the ladies may remain in the
parlor until we return."

Guy had made up his mind that he would not sleep until he had learned
Scott's answer in regard to the question he had asked June. They went
to the shore where they found a rustic bench.

"Scott?"

"Well."

Guy's hand went nervously to his face and toyed with his silken
mustache.

"Scott Wilmer."

"What is it?" and the lips closed firmly. "Why don't you be a man,
Guy, and speak out? Take her if you want her."

Guy did not know why it was, but he had not half the courage to speak
to Scott upon the subject that he had to speak to June.

"What do you mean, Scott?"

"Why, do you think I am blind? I have seen for some time that you
think more of June than of all the rest of the year."

"Do you really mean that I can have your sister?"

"Certainly I do. The thought came to my mind a great while ago, and it
gave me a great deal of pleasure, but I did not know it then. I do not
know of a man on earth that I would rather give my sister to than to
you, Guy Horton."

"God bless you, Scott Wilmer; you have made me happier than I ever
dared hope to be."

"Be good to her, Guy, as long as you both live, and Heaven grant that
your lives may be happier than many others have been. Have you spoken
with June?"

"I have."

"And did she give her consent?"

"She left her answer with you."

"Go bring her to me, Guy."

When Guy returned accompanied by June, Scott drew her to his side,
and, taking her in a close embrace, he said: "June, my little one, it
is all right; but why did you leave your answer with me?"

"Because I thought you knew Guy's nature better than I did, and you
would know best."

"If you love him, June, I am glad, for he is my choice of all the men
I know. His faults are very few. Be kind to him, June, as I know you
will, and, Guy, remember your great responsibility.

"Take her then, Guy, and treat her tenderly. I know you will, but if
you should ever deceive her, Heaven help you, for if her life is ever
wrecked as mine has been I should show you no mercy."

He pressed Guy's hand, kissed June tenderly, then turned and walked
away.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE ELOPEMENT.


Max Brunswick had met Irene in New York, and they had decided to go
west and join Rene's father.

She had told Max that she would introduce him to her father as Mr.
Wilmer. Since he had never seen him he would not know the difference.

"Of course," she said, "I would not do anything wrong, but you know I
am obliged to use a little strategy for your sake, darling."

"Yes, dearest," he said, "you are wise in doing so."

"For you know," she said, "I shall be obliged to ask papa for a full
allowance."

They were seated in their room at a fashionable hotel, Irene dressed
in her most becoming attire, and looking her loveliest.

"My darling," he said, taking her in his arms, "how beautiful you
look, and how happy we shall be together. I could never have lived
without you, my love, my life."

She raised her beautiful eyes to his face, then dropping her head on
his shoulder, said:

"Oh, Max, if anything should happen to separate us."

"Nothing will, nothing can come between such love as ours. Do not be
frightened, dearest, nothing shall ever separate us but death. That
man you called your husband never was your husband. He never knew how
to appreciate the love of such a woman as you. Promise me, darling,
that you will not think of him, but let us live in the light of our
own love, and forget that he has ever caused you one heartache."

"Dear Max," she said, speaking softly, "how few men there are like
you. If he had been like you I might have been happy."

"Never mind, darling, you will be happy in future, for I shall do all
in my power to make a paradise for you in the land where we are going.
We'll have no books that are not tales of love, and in our own fairy
little palace, amidst the perfumed lights we'll guess what star shall
be our home when love becomes immortal."

"Oh, Max, he never spoke such lovely words as those to me."

"He did not care for you as I do, my own darling. He tired of you, and
I never shall. His nature was too shallow to appreciate your true
worth. But there, do not think of him; trust me, and we shall be
happy."

"My papa owns a beautiful home in San Francisco, and a lovely cottage
at San Bernardino. Of course, we will be allowed to take our choice."

"The cottage will be more suited to our taste, for you and I, darling,
will live only for each other, and the cottage will be more secluded,"
said he.

"It shall be as you wish," she said.

When they reached San Bernardino, Irene sent word to her father, who
was visiting a friend a few miles distant, so the landlord said. Max
thought the greeting between father and daughter was rather a strange
one, as he did not seem greatly delighted to see her, but Rene told
Max "it was only papa's way."

"Why," said Mapleton, "didn't you let a fellow know you was coming,
and not drop down like this?"

"I thought we would come and surprise you," she answered, smiling,
"and, beside, Max thought it best not to put off coming."

"Max? I thought his name was Scott."

"Oh, well it is," Rene answered quickly, framing a falsehood, "but you
see his name is Scott Maxwell, and I like the name Max best, so I call
him that."

"You act more like a couple of young pigeons than you do like old
married folks," Mr. Mapleton said, as he saw Max caress Irene.

"I love my wife as well as I did the day I married her," Max said,
giving her another caress.

"Well, let's go down and have a game of billiards," said Mapleton.

"Thank you," said Max, "but I will leave that to my wife to say
whether I go or not."

"Go, Max," she said, "but do not stay long."

"Oh, thunder," said Mapleton, "you do not keep yourself tied to your
wife's apron string, do you?"

"I try to please my darling in every way," said Max, stooping down and
kissing her.

Mapleton uttered an oath as he started out of the door, and Rene
whispered to Max as he kissed her the second time that "he must not
mind papa, as he had grown a little rough by coming in contact with
mining people."

Rene spent the entire evening alone, as Max did not return until a
late hour, and though she felt very lonely, it was all made right when
Max told her that he stayed away through politeness to her father, and
that he really did not enjoy himself one bit staying away from her.
"But," he added, "you know we must humor him a little."

"Papa," Irene said, the next day, "Max and I have decided to take the
Venetian cottage, and stay there a year at least. You are gone so much
that it is quite useless to try to make a home for you."

"That's all right. I can find homes enough. A man with plenty of money
don't have to look for a home."

So it was settled that Rene should do as she pleased, Max giving as
his reason for leaving New York that Rene was growing delicate, and
she needed a change of air, to which Mapleton replied he couldn't see
but that she looked as rosy as ever; but he supposed that Max, like
every other love-sick husband, imagined a great deal, but he didn't
care where she lived. She was to have a pretty good allowance, and she
could do as she pleased with it.

The cottage was splendidly furnished, and there with her servants,
Rene began the life she called perfectly happy. Max loved his ease,
and for a time he was ready to accede to her every wish, and told
Irene that he had no desire to leave her even for an hour. She was
quite content to live with no society but his. But as the weeks wore
on Max began to think that it was quite out of place for a man to tie
himself down so closely, and he intimated that his health was becoming
impaired by such close confinement, and his visits to the billiard
hall, and places of like amusement became more and more frequent.

"Max, dear," Irene said, one evening, as he was preparing to go out,
"I wish you would stay home to-night."

"I can't, dear. I have promised some friends that I would meet them
for a prize game of billiards, and I can't stay. Some other night I
will."

"It seems to me that you go out a great deal lately. It may be as well
for you to remember how we stand financially."

"Oh, it will be all right, dearest," he said, kissing her. "Don't be
lonely to-night, pet, and I will promise to stay with you in future."

Rene was satisfied, for she believed Max would do as he promised, and
she was really quite happy again, when the next evening he drew on his
slippers, and ordered two glasses and a bottle of choice wine, and
sitting back in his easy-chair, lit his cigar with an air of perfect
content.

"Rene, darling," he said after a few moments' silence, "don't you
think it is growing a little monotonous, living as we do?"

"Perhaps it is."

"Don't you think we had better move to San Francisco in the Spring?"

"Perhaps we had. I am getting really anxious to mingle once more in
society. You know I have a great many acquaintances there," said
Irene.

"That is what I was thinking, and I thought, perhaps, you would begin
to feel the need of society, since you were once such a society
woman."

"Oh, I have been very happy since I left New York, and do not care
very much about going away, but, of course, one needs a change."

"Certainly, my love, and you are too beautiful to be caged up like a
bird."

Irene smiled and drew her chair close to his side.

"I don't want my wife's beauty entirely hidden from the world. I want
others to know what a lovely wife I possess. You see, Scott was
selfish, and he wanted to keep you right under his eye, but I want you
to be happy. By the way, do you ever think of that fellow any more?"

"Oh, dear, no, not any more than I can help. To be sure, I sometimes
wonder what he is about, and if he is married again, as I am, but I
don't suppose he is, for he always had such a very old-fashioned idea
of right and wrong."

"He never knew what love was, not such love as mine; he never can
know, he is not capable. But tell me truly, darling, do you never wish
yourself back with him?"

Irene tried to think whether she really did, or ever had wished
herself back in Scott Wilmer's home. She tried to find if there was
any reasons why she should say she wished herself back, but she looked
up at the man beside her, and the charm of the serpent completely
surrounded her. How very handsome he looked, sitting there in his
amber-colored dressing gown, holding a highly scented cigar between
the tips of his white fingers. Really he was the handsomest man she
had ever seen.

"No," she said at length, "I shall never wish myself back with
him--never--unless, of course, that you should leave me."

"What foolish talk. As though I could leave you. But are you sure you
have told the truth?"

"Why, yes. I never did love him as I love you."

Irene may have spoken the truth, but there were times when the manly
form of Scott Wilmer would cross her vision, and his fine hazel eyes
look down into her very soul, reading all the deception there, and the
very honesty of his gaze would cause a shiver to pass over her; but
she would drive away the shadow by calling before her the handsomest
face she had ever seen--that of her betrayer, and she would not have
retraced her steps if she could.

"Rene, darling," Max said, with his gaze fixed on the rich carpet,
"you should talk to that papa of yours. I saw him play a game of cards
last night that ran very much out of his luck. He lost five hundred
dollars."

"He did? He had better take care, or I will talk to him," said Irene
angrily.

"I guess he will do about as he pleases."

"No, he won't; if he knows what is good for him."

"Have you any power over him?"

"Yes; more than he would like to own."

"How?"

Irene did not reply.

"How can you keep him from gambling?"

"I shall merely tell him to be careful."

Max wondered that Rene had such a faculty of controlling her father's
actions.

"I hope you will bring him to time, for he really squanders a great
deal, and you may need it."

"Yes; we need all that is ours by right; though, of course, when you
come in possession of your estates we shall be amply provided for."

Max frowned slightly as he said: "Oh, of course, but that may be some
years yet. We can't tell just when these big fortunes do come in."

"Certainly, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. But you were
speaking about making a change. Are you afraid to do so?"

"Afraid of what?"

"That Scott will be looking for me?"

"Oh, no," said Max, thinking that Scott had too much sense to search
for a truant wife, for he would not do so himself.

"Don't you think he will?" she asked.

"No, no, darling, he will not follow you when he knows into whose
hands you have fallen, for he must know whom you love best."

"He knows very well, and sometimes I tremble for what he might do."

"Do not be alarmed," said Max with a yawn, "he will not trouble you."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was one evening in the month of March that Max entered the room
where Irene sat, and asked her to give him ten dollars, as he had a
bill, he said, that must be paid.

"It seems to me," said Irene, "that you are using a great deal of
money lately."

"No more than I am obliged to; a man can't live on air."

"I have none now," she answered a little petulantly.

"What have you done with your last installment?"

"You have used a good share of it; I don't know what for."

"It is mighty little I have had lately."

"Where are you going?" she asked, as she saw him preparing to leave
the house.

"To the devil, for aught you care."

"What ails you? I should like to know."

"You will find that out some other time," he said, as he walked away
in an angry mood, leaving Irene alone.

"Oh, dear, I wonder what has come across him. I never knew him to be
so angry before. I wonder if I must humor him to all the money he
wants. I almost wish--oh, no, I don't either; I wouldn't go back to
Scott if I could. Max will get over this little spell and be as loving
as ever."

She looked out of the window as though she expected to see him return,
but instead she saw only a shadow pass the window. She looked again,
but there was no one in sight.

"Mary," she called to the servant, who was in the next room.

"Well."

"Come here."

Mary stood in the doorway in an instant.

"Did you see any one about the garden?"

"No, ma'am; no one but your husband."

"When did you see him?" she asked in a very low voice.

"A little while ago."

"I thought he had gone."

"He has gone now."

"I thought I saw some one just now, Mary. You go out and look all
about the garden, and see if you can see any one."

Mary obeyed, and returning said that she could see no one, and she
guessed that her mistress was nervous.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE OLD HOUSE AT ROXBURY.


"Well, upon my word I do think it's perfectly awful. Jest look there!
How that lookin' glass come broke is more than I know," and Mrs.
Morris took off her spectacles and wiped away a few tears. "I'd a jest
rather give five dollars than to have it done."

"Oh, no, that would be foolish," said Miss Elsworth, "for five dollars
would buy a much nicer one."

"But la me, it's a bad sign, an awful bad sign."

Miss Elsworth smiled.

"Why, yes," she said, "so it is. It is a sure sign that I shall have
to get another."

"Miss Elsworth, I hate to leave town, for I'm afraid I'll never find
my boy."

"Perhaps we will find him where we are going."

"If we could I'd jump for joy. It is more than five years since I seen
him, and oh, he was the prettiest boy I ever did see."

Miss Elsworth looked at the sweet face that grew so sad every time she
spoke of her son, and in her heart she pitied her. She had known
sorrow herself, but she was too brave to sit down and brood over
useless troubles. She tried to bury the unpleasant past, and live for
the work that was before her. She worked so vigorously that she hardly
stopped to think that she had ever seen a sorrowful day, and not an
idle moment did she spend. Her books and her pen were her most
intimate friends, though she had a pleasant smile for all with whom
she came in contact. She was very benevolent, and in her kindness of
heart she had resolved to help Mrs. Morris out of her trouble if she
could. She had decided to leave the city for a time, taking Mrs.
Morris with her to attend to her household affairs as usual.

"Is it real pleasant where you are going?" Mrs. Morris asked.

"Yes, pleasant, but very lonely, and I am afraid you will find it too
quiet, but we shall probably not stay there very long."

"What makes you go to such an out-of-the-way place?"

"I have several reasons; one is that I wish to be entirely alone for a
few months, as I have a great amount of work to do, and can work much
better where it is quiet."

"I'll have to be pretty much alone, won't I?" Mrs. Morris asked.

"Yes, but you will certainly have no intruders."

"Oh, well, I ain't no coward, anyway. How long will you stay there?"

"I really cannot tell, perhaps all winter."

"And we must be all ready to start the day after to-morrow, must we?"

"Yes," said Blanche, as she left the room.

"I don't jest like the idea of goin'," said Mrs. Morris to herself, as
the door closed after Miss Elsworth, "for breakin' that air glass
ain't no sign o' good luck, and I know it. It jest seems to me as
though something was goin' to happen, and I believe I'll have the
blues till another glass comes into the house."

The house which Blanche Elsworth had chosen was one which very few
having fine taste would select. It was a large old-fashioned Gothic
building that looked as though it could not stand a hard rain, or a
strong wind. It stood near a rocky slope, and beside its pebbly walks
were the remains of quaint looking flower beds. It had once been the
home of a wealthy farmer, who, as prosperity continued, built a new
and more commodious residence a mile away on the hill. His home there
was lovely, and nothing that wealth could purchase was lacking. The
old house had not been used for a number of years. Some of the blinds
were swinging loosely while others were firmly closed, and the
fastenings rusted in their sockets. The well curb was covered with
bright green moss, and along the half leaning porch clung masses of
rose bushes, which looked as though they had never known the pruner's
knife, each branch running hither and thither at will. The house stood
at the foot of a high, sloping hill, and but a few yards away in the
ravine ran a clear little brook that danced down over the rocks,
making music as it went.

"Well, it does beat all, Miss Elsworth, what funny taste you've got,"
said Mrs. Morris, the day after their arrival at Roxbury, "to get such
an old spooky lookin' place as this. Why, it looks as though it was
built on purpose for rats and ghosts, and I'll bet a cent we'll find
both here afore we leave. Mercy, jest look at that air blind; it jest
hangs by one hinge."

"That will be easily remedied. I brought hinges and locks along, for
repairing."

"Yes, but who'll do the job?"

"I will."

"You?"

"Certainly."

"Well, that beats me to think of you doing carpenter work."

"That is but a few minutes' work."

"Yes; but just think, it's a man's work."

"Never mind, it is a small job."

"And jest look, there's three or four lights o' glass out in the
parlor, and two or three out in the settin' room."

"It is no great job to replace them."

"But jest think, they ain't a man around the house to do it."

"We do not want a man around; I shall do the work myself."

"There's a piece o' board broke out o' the kitchen floor too."

"A few moments' work will repair that."

"But you hain't got hammer and nails, and you couldn't do it if you
had."

"Couldn't I? Do you think I have not sense enough to drive a nail?"

"But you'll pound your fingers."

"Why, no; I shall strike the nail."

"But you haven't any board to fit the place."

"A little sawing will make one fit."

"But you hain't any saw nor hammer nor nails."

"Yes, I have; I brought enough of such articles to answer every
purpose."

"You don't say! Why, how did you know you could use 'em when you got
here?"

"I knew I could try."

"But the house needs an awful lot o' repairin', and it needs paintin'
from top to bottom."

"We shall not stay here long, and a few repairs will answer."



CHAPTER XXVII.

INSANE BESSIE.


Blanche Elsworth was seated in her sanctum, as she called her room. It
was neatly papered, and carpeted, and withal presented a very homelike
appearance.

Her pen was flying rapidly over the white paper, and her thoughts were
far away from the surrounding scenes, when she was called back to real
life by a wild silvery laugh, and a shrill scream in which she
recognized the voice of Mrs. Morris.

"Well, upon my soul," said she, as she opened the door without as much
as a rap, and appearing with a white, scared face; "you jest oughter
come downstairs."

"What is the matter?" Miss Elsworth asked, in alarm.

"Oh, I've seen a ghost, as sure as the world, and if you don't believe
it you can come down and see for yourself."

Miss Elsworth arose and followed Mrs. Morris downstairs.

"You'll have to go ahead, for I jest can't get up the pluck to go
myself," said Mrs. Morris as they reached the foot of the stairs.

Miss Elsworth opened the outer door, as she stepped into the hall.
Then she went to the sitting-room, and into the kitchen, and finally
the entire house was searched. Mrs. Morris following close to her at
every step.

"Oh, I know I seen one," said Mrs. Morris.

"It must have been your imagination, for there certainly is nothing to
be seen."

"Well, I know there was one."

"How did it look, was it large or small, a man, woman or child?"

"Oh, I don't know; I was so scared that I didn't stop to see. I jest
see the flutter of something white, and the strangest laugh that ever
you heard."

"Yes, I heard the laugh myself, but it must have been some one
belonging to the farm."

"Well, I jest don't know what to do; it don't seem to me that I can
stay down here to cook the dinner. I shall jest shake from head to
foot. Why, I never was so scared in all my life."

Miss Elsworth smiled at Mrs. Morris's foolishness, and after a
moment's reflection, she said:

"If you are so badly frightened I will remain downstairs until after
dinner, and keep watch around while you are at work."

"Oh, dear, I'll be a thousand times obliged to you if you will."

Miss Elsworth passed the morning in looking about the house, and
wandering through the old garden, where the flowers and weeds grew so
closely together.

One day after another passed, and nothing had been seen or heard to
cause further alarm. She partially convinced Mrs. Morris that her
ghost was either the outgrowth of a vivid imagination, or that it was
some person trying to frighten her.

The Misses Graves had become frequent visitors at Miss Elsworth's.
They were friendly, sociable girls, of the age of thirty-three and
thirty-five respectively. Eliza, the elder of the two, was a very
quiet, industrious girl, very reserved and lady-like in manner.

Eunice, although in every respect a lady, was a little more talkative,
and apparently of a happier disposition.

Their brother, Rosswell, or Ross, as he was commonly called, was a
fine specimen of robust manhood. His form and features were fine, and
his manner prepossessing. He commanded the utmost respect, especially
among the pupils of the village school, where he had taught five
successive winters. Not that he was really compelled to labor
unceasingly, but it was his choice to devote his leisure time to some
useful occupation, so his summers were spent on the farm, and his
winters in school. Mrs. Graves was a fair, little woman, with a
pleasant smile, though the lines across her forehead told plainly that
all had not been sunshine. She soon grew to be a favorite with Miss
Elsworth, and Mrs. Morris declared "there never was such a dear little
woman ever lived. She was always sending 'em down butter and eggs, and
never would take a cent for any of 'em, and often she would bring her
sewin' and sit with her, and she knew it was only 'cause she was sorry
for her."

One day Miss Elsworth had seated herself in the kitchen doorway to
have a little talk with Mrs. Morris while she was doing up the supper
work.

"Ha, ha, ha, ha," burst upon the air, and the rocky hills sent back
rolling waves of wild, musical laughter.

Miss Elsworth listened, looking around to see from whence came the
sound. "Oh, I see you," called out a sweet, clear voice. "You cannot
see me though, for I'm too far away."

Blanche Elsworth looked up at the ledge of rocks on the opposite side
of the ravine, and there, swinging almost in mid air, up and down on a
slender bough, was a fair young girl. She was dressed in a loose white
wrapper, and without shoes or stockings. A mass of raven hair floated
about her shoulders, and fell in a half tangled fashion to her waist.
Miss Elsworth arose and regardless of the entreaties of Mrs. Morris,
started toward the spot where the young girl sat.

"Oh, you need not come," she called out, "you cannot reach me."

"I will not harm you. Will you not come down and talk to me?"

"Oh, no, you want to catch me and shut me up."

"Indeed, I will not; I only want to talk to you."

"Will you promise not to touch me?"

"Yes, I will promise."

"Well, stand away then, and I will jump."

"Oh, please do not jump; you will hurt yourself. Climb down the
rocks."

"Will I hurt myself? I guess not. I do not think I'll take the trouble
to climb down, I can jump."

"Go back," said Blanche, but before she had uttered the words, the
light form swayed back upon the air, and grasping the end of the
bough came floating down at her feet.

Blanche Elsworth's heart almost stood still, for she expected to see
the girl arise from the ground bruised and bleeding, but instead she
stood before her quite unharmed, and stepping back she said:

"Now, remember what you promised; for if you try to catch me I'll go
right back to the tree tops. I am away from everything up there, and
if you should touch me----"

"Oh, I will not catch you," Blanche said, as the girl shrank away from
her, "but will you not come to the house with me?"

"Oh, no, you will lock me up. No, I'll never go to the house with you.
I would not dare."

"But you see I promised you I would not harm you if you would come
down, and I did not, did I?"

"So you did as you promised," she said, coming nearer to Blanche, and
looking straight in her face.

Blanche noticed the strange expression in the lovely eyes, and she
knew that the burning light which she saw there was that of insanity,
though the face was one of childish beauty and innocence.

"Will you not come in?" Blanche asked again.

"If you will promise sure that you will not lock me up."

"I will promise."

"Well, then, I will come, and if you do try to lock me up I'll take
this," she said, putting her hand in her pocket, and drawing forth a
tiny pistol, which she pointed straight at Blanche's head. "I'll take
this and shoot anybody who tries to lock me up."

Blanche's face grew slightly pale, for it certainly was not a very
desirable position which she held at that moment, but her presence of
mind did not forsake her, and in a coaxing way she said:

"What a pretty little pistol; will you let me see it?"

"Will you promise to give it back to me?"

"Yes, I will."

"Let me shoot the head off that little bird first."

"Please do not, some one might hear you."

"Oh-h-h, yes, and then they would come after me. What is your name,"
she asked, looking quickly around, "isn't it----"

"What?" asked Blanche.

"Oh, I don't dare to say; some other time maybe I will ask you about
it."

"My name is Blanche Elsworth. You may call me Blanche."

"Oh."

"Come with me. I want to show you something real pretty."

"What is it?"

"Views. Just look," she said, giving the young girl a stereoscope, and
a basket full of views. "Cover your eyes with this, and you will see
the most beautiful places."

"You can't make me believe that; you want to cover my eyes so that you
can tie me up."

"No, truly, I will not harm you."

"Let me look into your eyes and see. I can tell by your eyes whether
you speak the truth or not."

Miss Elsworth allowed the girl to step close to her, and standing
there her wild eyes were fastened on her with a deep and searching
gaze.

"No," she said as she turned away, while her head dropped, "no, I know
you won't tell a lie. I can see it in your eyes."

"And now you will look at the pretty pictures; there it is, all ready.
Now, look, there is a beautiful picture."

The girl did as requested, and at least three minutes elapsed before
she lowered the stereoscope. During that time Blanche had turned the
pistol around, and taken each cartridge from its pocket; and quickly
springing it back to place, she laid it upon the table, saying:

"There, you see I have not harmed your pistol at all, and when you
have looked at the pictures you may have it."

"Give it to me," said the girl, as she grasped it and placed it in her
pocket. "I would not lose it for the world. You see I must use it as
sure as can be. I'd tell you, but I am afraid you would tell."

"No, I would not."

"But you would laugh at me, and call me silly just as they all did."

"No, I would not."

"Well, then, some time I will tell you all about it, but not now."

"Bessie, Bessie," called a voice outside.

"Oh, there's Ross. Now, if I just knew where to hide. Can't you hide
me some place?"

"No. I would not dare; but who is Ross?"

"Why, Ross is my brother; don't you know him? At least they say he
is."

Before Miss Elsworth had time to reply, a shadow darkened the doorway,
and looking up she saw Ross Graves standing there, looking straight
into the girl's face.

"Bessie."

A shrill scream burst from the girl's lips, and the wild light in her
eyes grew deeper.

"I won't go, I won't go, and you can't take me. I have promised to
stay here and live with this beautiful lady."

"Pardon me, Miss Elsworth, if I have troubled you, but you see we dare
not let Bessie go where she will, for we do not know what will happen
her. She is very reckless sometimes, and, beside, we have had a double
fright this morning, for when we discovered that she had gone we
looked around for a little revolver, that she delights in handling,
and could not find it."

"Oh, you need not look at me, Ross, you can't have it. Go away."

"No, Bessie, I will ask him to let you keep it."

"Miss Elsworth," said Ross, "I am sorry if Bessie has frightened you
very badly."

"Oh, she has not frightened me in the least."

"I am very sorry she has troubled you, but it is almost impossible to
keep her at home, unless we keep her in close confinement, and that
seems very hard, as she is fond of roving."

"You need not keep her in confinement on my account, for I assure you
I am not afraid of her."

"There, now, Ross, you see she is not afraid of me, and I am sure I
would not hurt her ma out there, would I?" she said, bursting into a
loud laugh, then quickly checking herself as Ross frowned and spoke
her name.

"Come, Bessie, let us go home."

"I won't go one step until I have looked at all these pretty pictures,
so, Ross, you can wait."

Ross accepted the chair Miss Elsworth offered him, and a full hour
passed before Bessie consented to go home.

"Let me tell you something before I go," she said, going to Blanche's
side, and placing her arm about her neck. "You are not afraid of me,
and when I come to see you again," here she bent close and whispered,
"I'll tell you if you'll never tell. I only tell it to people who are
not crazy."

Blanche promised that Bessie should come again some day after tea, and
to make Ross sure that Bessie had done no harm, she very slyly slipped
the cartridges into his hand. He looked his surprise as well as his
thanks, and, taking Bessie's hand, he led her home.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

BESSIE'S VISIT.


A chilly, drizzling October rain. How the wind whistled about the old
house, leaping around the corners, and driving against the shutters,
which creaked as they flew back and forth. The night was coming
on, and the darkness was intense. The hickory wood fire in the
sitting-room stove sent out its inviting warmth, and Miss Elsworth
sat down beside it with a feeling of extreme satisfaction.

Suddenly a wild, shrill laugh rang out through the storm, and as
Blanche was about to raise the window, a white face, and a heavy mass
of hair, dripping with rain, arose before her. It was enough to make a
strong heart quail, and for a moment Blanche stood speechless, for the
mournful wail of the wind and the dashing of the gusts of rain gave a
still more frightful sound to the weird laugh, and the tapping of the
white fingers on the panes.

"Oh, Miss Robin, let me in; it's so cold out here," said a voice
outside.

The second glance told Miss Elsworth who the strange visitor was.

"Come to the door," she said, "and I will let you in."

"La me, you ain't a-goin' to take that crazy girl in, are you?" Mrs.
Morris asked in a frightened tone.

"Certainly," Miss Elsworth said, opening the door. "The way is very
long to her home, on such a night as this especially."

"Oh, I won't hurt you," Bessie said, as she stepped into the room, her
garments dripping with rain. "You are a coward. I couldn't hurt you,
for I am only a dove, a dear little dove. Oh, you do not know how
sweet he used to say it to me. I can hear him now. Hark! Don't you
hear his voice? I do, out there in the storm."

"You must come and let me give you some dry clothing," said Miss
Elsworth.

"Oh, I must tell you all about it first."

"No, let me change your clothing, and then you may tell me."

"Sure."

"Yes."

"Because it is so nice to talk to you, for you do not scold me like
the rest. They say they have to, but you don't have to."

"No, I will not scold you if you will let me make you comfortable, and
when you are dressed you may tell me all about it."

"May I? I knew you would let me tell you. They won't let me for fear I
will go mad. You are not mad, are you?"

Blanche hastened to make Bessie comfortable, then persuaded her to sit
beside the fire to warm her shivering limbs, thinking more than
likely some member of the family would soon be in search of the
truant. She really hoped they would be, for the thought of staying
through that stormy night with a maniac was not a very pleasant one.
But she was determined to make the best of the situation, unpleasant
though it was.

"You promised you would not tell any one, and you must not let that
old woman know."

"I will promise, too," said Mrs. Morris, with a shiver.

"Sure?"

"Yes, as sure as there is a heaven."

"Oh, oh," screamed Bessie, "those were the very words he said, and I
would not believe you now, anyway. If you say _she shall not tell_, I
will let her listen if she wants to," she said, turning to Blanche.

"Very well, go on then, I will make her keep the secret."

"Well; let me see if Ross is listening."

"No, no; he is sound asleep, and the wind is blowing, oh so hard. How
it shrieks as it goes down the old well-curb. Did you ever hear it?"

"Yes, I can hear it. Don't it sound nice?"

"Sounds nice? You are mad. They have to kill mad people or lock them
up. And you say it sounds nice. Why, it sounds just like the wail my
poor baby gave the night it died. That wail comes right from the
grave. You never saw my baby's grave, did you?"

"Your baby," Blanche repeated, her curiosity aroused.

"Why, yes, my own little baby. You think I am telling you a crazy
story, but you must come some day, when the sun shines, and see where
she sleeps. Oh, she was beautiful--a little angel, and she was all my
own till God took her, and now she is out there under the ground. But
I don't believe the storm can get down where she is, do you, Miss
Robin?"

"Oh, no," Blanche answered, wondering why Bessie had given her such a
name. "No, your baby is safe, I am sure; but you did not tell me your
baby's name."

"No, no. I can't tell you her name, but I will tell you all about him.
You see I went away to boarding school, and it was while I was there I
met him. I can't begin to tell you how handsome he was."

Miss Elsworth fancied she saw tears on Bessie's long dark lashes, and
the deep, fiery look in the eyes had given place to one of extreme
sadness.

"Oh, you would not blame me if you knew--he was handsome--he said he
loved me. He called me his little dove, and, oh, how happy I was to
think that such a grand man should love me, a little schoolgirl. Hark,
listen to the wind, how it moans, moans, moans, in such a sad, sad
way, over my baby's grave. Don't you hear it?" she asked, coming
closer to Blanche, and grasping her hand. "Don't you hear it call my
name? No, you do not hear my baby, for she is down deep under the
ground, with the little dark rings of hair lying all about her little
white face. You can't see her, but I can, and I shall see her till I
go there too."

Miss Elsworth stroked the damp hair that clung around Bessie's
forehead.

"Poor girl," she said.

"You pity me, don't you?" Bessie said, looking up in Blanche's face,
as though she could read her answer there. "I know you will not lock
me up."

"Yes, Bessie, I do pity you, and I wish you would tell me what made
you----"

"There, don't you say it, too, I'm not crazy. I am just tired of
waiting. He told me he would come back, but he never came, and when I
found that I was left alone, then I began to grow so tired, so tired
of waiting. But I will not tell you his name, because--when Ross sees
him he will kill him."

"But I will not kill him."

"Yes, you will, and then they will all be glad, but the wind must not
know it, for it might fly away and tell him, and then I cannot have my
revenge. Now, if you tell I will take your head right off, too."

"The wind shall not know it," said Blanche, stroking Bessie's hair,
and speaking in a kindly way.

"Hark," said Bessie, as the old wild light came back to her eyes.
"They are trying to get in; they want to hear what I am telling you,
but they shall not; now listen. When I find him I am going to shoot
his head right off. You see all the ghosts from the graveyard away out
there on the hill came down one night when it rained just like this,
only the thunder rolled away over the hills, and made me laugh, ha,
ha, ha! Oh, how I laughed to hear the big thunder crash right down on
my head, and then all the ghosts stood around, clapping their bony
hands, and laughed too."

"La me, I don't believe I can stand this another minute," said Mrs.
Morris.

"Oh, I just wish you had seen what a wild, wild time we had out there
in the storm," said Bessie, with another burst of laughter. "How the
rain came down, and beat upon our heads, and the thunder crashed among
the hills, and the lightning danced, keeping time to the music we made
with our laughter, and the skull of every ghost was nodding and
grinning in the darkness, and then it was they gathered about me, and
made me swear, by all the spirits of the dead who were lying in their
graves--swear by the spirit of my little dead baby that I would take
the stain from my name; that I would take away the heartaches that I
had made, and make my mother smile again. Oh, I was glad that they
told me I must swear, but you can't guess how."

"No," said Blanche, growing more and more interested.

"Why, you see they carried me in their long, bony arms, away up
through the storm, up to the graveyard, and they put me on a grave,
and gathered all about me, and they made me swear that I would shoot
him until he was dead, and if you take my pistol away the ghosts will
stay right by you till you give it up. I will kill him. Let me show
you how."

"Never mind to-night," said Blanche, growing a little uneasy.

"But I will shoot."

"Dear, dear, I never was no coward, but I can't stand all this, and
I'd rather be out in the biggest kind of a storm than to be pestered
in this way, and if you ain't afraid I'll go somewhere, you know,"
said Mrs. Morris.

"Oh, let her go and find the ghosts," said Bessie. "I'm not afraid of
you, Miss Robin, for I know you are not crazy, even if they do say
you are; but, you see, robins never hurt any one; just let her go. She
is a coward anyway."

Mrs. Morris wrapped herself in a thick shawl and hood, and, starting
by the way of a path that led through the meadow, she hurried along as
fast as the darkness would allow, until she reached the house of Mr.
Graves, when she informed them of Bessie's visit.

"Why," said Eliza, "I was in her room not two hours ago, and left her
fast asleep. She must have gone out of the window, and down the porch,
but I do not see how she could do it on such a night as this."

"Crazy lunatics will think of plenty of cunning things," said Mrs.
Morris; "you jest ought to hear the stuff she's been a-tellin'. Of
course we don't believe a word of it; 'cause it's likely she don't
know what she's a-talkin' about."

"No," Mrs. Graves said, in a trembling voice, and wiping the tears
from her eyes; "no, she does not know what she is saying."

"It makes it dreadful bad for you folks 'cause I s'pose it keeps you
a-worryin'."

There was no reply to the last remark made by Mrs. Morris, and seeing
that Ross was about to start after Bessie, she availed herself of his
company back home. Ross was the one of all the household who could
manage Bessie with the least trouble. If she became wilful Ross was
the one who could control her in a quiet way. If she became sullen or
sad Ross alone could cheer her, and thus when there was anything wrong
with Bessie Ross knew his duty, and never waited to be called upon to
perform it, so he hurried out in the chilling storm.

"Now, Miss Robin," said Bessie, as the door closed after Mrs. Morris,
"I am glad she is gone, for there is one thing I don't want her to
know. Ross would kill me if I should tell of it, but you see he tries
to make folks think he is my brother. But he is not my brother, and
you need not let him make you think he is."

"Who is he then?" Blanche asked, her brain fairly throbbing with the
thoughts of the whole affair.

"Oh, I will never tell even you. You cannot make me tell that, but
some day when God calls all the wicked people to account, then maybe
He will tell you all about it. But, hush, don't let Ross know I told
you about my baby. If you do he will kill me; he will tell you he is
my brother, too, but don't you believe him."

In vain Blanche tried to induce Bessie to tell her more of Ross. She
firmly refused, and after several moments of stolid silence, she
buried her face in her hands, and, laying her head in Miss Elsworth's
lap, she fell into a passionate fit of weeping, calling in the most
pitiful tones for her two beautiful darlings, who were out in the
storm, and not until Ross entered to take her away, did she cease her
wild weeping, but at the first sound of his voice she arose, and
quickly drying her eyes, she said in a hurried manner:

"Yes, Ross, I'll go. I won't run away again. Don't lock me up, I did
not tell all about it."



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE FORTUNE TELLER.


Mr. Le Moyne was holding an interview with Scott. He had gradually
acquired the belief that what Scott Wilmer could not accomplish, could
not be done by anyone, and since the desired end had not been brought
about he had nearly given up in despair.

"I am about discouraged," he said, "for I can see no possible way out,
can you, Mr. Wilmer?"

"Have a little more patience, and as a last resort we will advertise.
I have reason for wishing to keep the affair quiet for the present;
for I have some very peculiar suspicions, and I may be incorrect, but
I think we shall find out presently how the matter stands. I have just
had an interview with my former valet, who thinks he can help me
out."

"What, that boy?"

"Yes."

"I cannot see what a boy can do."

"That boy is a great calculator, and he is as faithful as Noah's
dove."

"He shall be repaid if he accomplishes anything at all."

"He needs it. The boy is ambitious and works very hard."

"Well," said Le Moyne, "I have decided to search as long as there is
the least shadow of a hope. There is a mystery about it that must be
cleared up."

"I have an idea that Paul has some good ground on which to base his
hopes of success, for the boy is never over-sanguine, and he must have
at least some foundation."

"I really hope he has," said Le Moyne.

It was a whole year since Paul had left Scott, and he had seen him but
twice during that time. He did not know where he was at present, but
he believed he would return if he lived.

June entered his room. She was still June Wilmer. Guy had urged her to
take the name of Horton, but she told him in a decided way that she
was not quite ready, and he was obliged to content himself with a
promise. The fact was that June was testing his loyalty, but he would
wait a lifetime for her, he said, rather than to marry another.

Guy was conversing with June on this very afternoon that Mr. Le Moyne
had been consulting Scott. A servant had called June to come to the
kitchen and have her fortune told by an old gypsy woman who was
selling bead work. June went down asking Guy and Scott to follow her.
Sitting down, they looked at the old dame who was handling her bead
work, but did not raise her head, when they entered.

"I think I have seen you before," Scott said.

She shook her head.

"You are going to tell my fortune," he said; "tell me, then, if I
shall ever be wealthy."

"You are more wealthy now than you need to be. Oh, you need not
question me, I can tell you all."

"Very well, go on."

"Your mother is living, but your father is dead."

"Very true."

"You have been married."

June started.

"You married a beautiful woman, but she is gone."

"Dead?" Scott asked.

"No, she loves another."

"Is she happy?"

"As happy as she knows how to be. She is far from here. You are not
happy, and you are trying to work out a great mystery."

"Will I accomplish it?"

"If you let me help you."

"I think I shall get through without help."

"You are afraid of the old gypsy, but let me tell you there is the
stain of blood on your hands within another year."

Scott frowned, and June looked serious. It was the same words that the
old gypsy had told some years before.

"There are tears for you, too. Do you believe me?"

"Hardly."

"I can tell you something that will make you believe. Away back in the
past I can see you lying asleep, and a huge knife drawn over your
head. If you will let me I can save you from another scene like that,
which would be your death blow."

"How?"

"I can't tell you now."

"Then you cannot help me."

"I can if you will tell me a secret."

"I prefer to keep my own secrets," said Scott; "here is your money."

"Then you will not let me help you?"

"Not at present."

"Some day you will grind your teeth in rage because you did not accept
what I offered."

"Very well," said Scott, as he arose to leave the room, "when I want
help I will let you know."

"Then I may be far away."

Scott made no reply, but left the room, followed by Guy and June.

"I cannot see how she can tell," said June.

"Why, June," said Scott, smiling, "are you foolish enough to think she
knows?"

"Why, Scott, she did tell the truth."

"It is all guess work."

"It is very good guess work, then," she said, thoughtfully.

The old gypsy went her way. It was at least three miles away that she
entered a building which stood in a row of worn tenement houses. Up
two flights of stairs she went, and through a hall that received but a
small amount of light from the outer world. She entered a dingy and
scantily furnished room.

"There, Crisp, I have found him at last," she said, to a slovenly
dressed man who lay at full length on a shabby, worn out couch.

"You have, do you say? Where?"

"Oh, about three miles away. I found out all I wanted to for the
present. I told his fortune and made him believe that I knew all about
it. I told him about his wife being gone and his father being dead."

"Did you find out anything about the paper?"

"No."

"Well, I can tell Miss Rene that if she don't furnish the sum she
promised to that night, I'll settle her trouble in no time. I know
well enough she's got the paper, for I had it in my hand ready to give
to her when I got the money, and I believe she was the one who done
the shooting or hired some villain to do it for her, 'cause how the
devil would anybody else know that I was there?"

"Oh, I've thought for a long time that it was her, and if I ever lay
hands on her she will fare hard," said Meg, clinching her fist.

"So she will," said Crisp, with an oath.

"She thinks now she's got the paper that it's all right with her. The
old man works it pretty cunning, too."

"I s'pose that lawyer--that man of Rene's, would give us a pretty good
sum to tell him where Rene is, and I'll hunt her up and tell him if it
takes forty years to find her, if she don't come to time," said
Crisp.

"Why don't you start out and look her up? We can't make nothing laying
around here."

"Can't we?" said Meg. "Just you wait. I hain't got through with that
rich lawyer, yet. Jest remember we can't be all over at once."

"No, but somebody's got to keep a deuced sharp lookout to find just
where this business will end. You see why, don't you?" said Crisp.

"Yes, I see why; about the only hold we had is gone unless we come
right out and tell all we know, and that would be putting us in a nice
pickle, wouldn't it?" said Meg.

"Well, I'm bound to get even with that fiend if it takes my own
neck."

"There's no use losing your neck if you work the business right," said
Meg.

"She feels mighty fine since Zu is out of the way," said Crisp, "and
she don't care whether she died in the asylum or not, so she's gone.
It's a devilish good piece o' luck, anyway."

"Yes, we'll never be troubled with her any more, and that's mighty
lucky."

"It seems kinder queer, though, that a couple of little threshings
like that should make her crazy," said Crisp.

"Well, she never had any too good sense anyhow, but it's a lucky thing
for all hands that she's dead. I wonder how it was that she dared go
out in such a thunderstorm, when it was so awful dark, but you know if
she turned crazy first, then it wasn't any wonder, but there's no
tellin' jest when she did get crazy. At any rate she's dead and I'm
glad of it."

"And now the next thing is to bring that other jade to time, but,
where to find her now is the question. She told me she was going away
with that Brunswick, but she didn't tell me when she was going, she
said she would let me know, but she's a liar, a liar, but we've got to
hunt her up, and make her hand over a good bunch o' money."

"Never mind, she don't make nothin' hangin' off this way," said Meg,
lighting her pipe.

She took from her pocket a small amount of change, and, giving it to
Crisp, told him to go out and buy some bread and cheese for their
supper.

When Scott Wilmer went to his room, he closed the door and turned the
key in the lock that no one might enter. Seating himself he took from
his pocket several letters.

"Let me see," he said; "it strikes me as being very peculiar, but I
more than half believe I am right. I know very well that I have seen
her before, and I do not believe that she comes here for nothing, but
what can it be? Perhaps a sharp watch will give the desired
information. Yes, this letter and the facts that have come before me
arouse my suspicion. I'll give her a good price if she will tell my
fortune again. Her very actions, when I went in the room, were
singular, and the more I think of it, the more I think I am right. At
all events I will study up the matter and see what I can make of it.
It is quite likely that she is here for no good at least."

He found June, and said to her: "June, if that gypsy woman comes here
again do not let her go until she tells my fortune."

"Why, Scott, what is the matter?"

"Nothing, only that I wish to see her. You will not forget, will
you?"

"No," June replied, wondering at the time why Scott had suddenly grown
so foolish.

Scott was preparing to leave the house one day when June entered his
room and startled him with the intelligence that there was a fortune
teller below.

"Is it the one who told my fortune before?" he asked, in a voice that
caused June to wonder.

"Yes," she answered.

"Send her here, please."

June left him, wondering what could have come over Scott to cause him
to be so deeply interested in fortune-telling. She conducted old Meg
to Scott's room, then left them alone.

"You have come to tell me more of my fortune, have you?" Scott asked,
placing a chair for her.

"More," she repeated. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that you told me a part of it, and now you will tell me the
rest."

"I? When?"

"Not many days ago."

Old Meg looked around the room in a sly way. Every article in the room
passed under her gaze, and she evidently saw that it was useless to
try to carry out the deception, which she had undertaken, for she
said:

"Oh, I do remember I was here before."

Scott had closely scrutinized every feature, not losing the slightest
expression of the face, nor the light that now and then shot from her
eyes when she looked quickly into his own.

"Do you know what you told me before?" Scott asked.

"Yes," she said. "I know it all, and I told you you wanted to work out
a mystery."

"What is the mystery?"

"Ah!" she said, with a cunning twinkle in her snake-like eyes, "that
is my secret."

"If it is, I wish to know it. I will pay you according to the fortune
you reveal, so proceed."

"In the first place you would like to know where your wife is, and I
can find her in a hurry, and the man she lives with will some day make
her weep. You don't know even why she married you, but I can tell you
all about that and the mystery you are working on, too."

Scott had laughed at the idea of fortune-telling, but he was quite
sure that this old gypsy possessed the knowledge of some facts he
wished to know.

"Did you tell me anything more when you were here?" Scott asked.

"I did tell you something you did not like to hear: that there was the
stain of blood on your hands."

"Anything more?"

"Yes, I see you lying asleep, with a long knife above your head in the
hand of a man. If you will let me I will help you."

Scott did not for a moment entertain the idea that Meg was wise from
any supernatural power. He believed she knew something of his private
affairs, and that she had a secret to sell. He had no idea what the
secret was, or how she had gained possession of it, but what she had
told him, together with some other facts that he possessed, strongly
convinced him that she was interested in his affairs in some way. But
while Meg thought that Scott's sole object was to find his wife, his
ideas lay entirely in another direction.

"I can tell you something that you would like to know, a great secret,
but you will have to pay me well."

"Do you know where my wife is?"

"No, but I can find her."

"Is this the secret you wish me to pay a big price for?"

"Oh, no, it is something that would make you wish you had never been
born, if you knew it."

"Well, here is your money," said Scott, dropping three silver dollars
in her hand. "Leave me your address, and when I want your assistance I
will call on you."

"Yes," said Scott, as he was left again to himself, "I am sure she is
the same, and she pretends to know all about Irene, and she thinks, no
doubt, I will pay her a fabulous price for imparting the knowledge to
me, but she is mistaken. It would do me no good to know. Poor, foolish
girl," he said, as he stood with folded arms, gazing out upon the
street. "How easily she was flattered. God knows I pity her for her
vanity. I wish she might have looked ahead, and seen the misery in
store for her. She will soon be left alone again, for that villain
will go in search of another weak-minded victim."

At that moment a carriage, drawn by a pair of unruly horses, dashed
down the street. An infirm old woman, who was at that moment crossing,
screamed in affright. A score of hands went up to stay the fractious
animals, and in a measure checked their speed, but there was but one
who had the courage to do more, and the old woman would have been
trampled to death had it not been for the aid of a woman who,
springing quickly forward, caught the bridle and held it firmly until
stronger hands came to her rescue. Scott, seeing the danger, lost no
time in going to offer assistance.

"Are you hurt?" the lady asked of the old woman, who stood trembling
in every limb.

"No, but I'm so scared I can't hardly stand," she said.

"Are you unharmed?" Scott asked, addressing the young lady, who he
noticed was plainly dressed, but had a very handsome face, surrounded
by clustering curls of auburn hair.

"I am not hurt in the least," she said, pulling her veil further over
her face, and, turning around, she walked briskly away, though not
until Scott had time to notice the graceful carriage of the full and
well-developed form.

"Do you know that lady?" asked a gentleman bystander.

"I do not," Scott replied, as he gave the reins into the hands of the
driver of the spirited animals.

"That is Miss Elsworth, the authoress."

"Is it possible?"

"Yes, you have, no doubt, read some of her works."

"I do not know, but she possesses a great deal of courage."



CHAPTER XXX.

BESSIE'S SAD STORY.


Miss Elsworth flitted here and there like a shadow, and no one ever
knew where to find her. When called upon she was sure to have just
gone to the country, or was not to be disturbed. It was a year since
her removal to the old house at Roxbury, and her time was divided
between living quietly there and attending to business which required
her presence in the city. Mrs. Morris had declared that she never
could stay one night alone, but she was finally persuaded, when told
that Bessie would be kept in close confinement, and if she chose she
could sleep at the house of Mrs. Graves. "It was quite necessary,"
Miss Elsworth told Mrs. Morris, "she should be called to the city
occasionally, and she could not tell just how long she would remain,
but never," she said, "longer than was really necessary."

"Well," Mrs. Morris said, "I ain't no coward, but I don't relish the
idea of stayin' alone in such a ghostly hollow as this ere."

Miss Elsworth had returned to Roxbury, and there was general rejoicing
at the farm house. The entire family of Mr. Graves had grown to love
and respect her, and when she went away it was as though a member of
the family had left them. She was so bright, so brave, and, above all,
so kind to Bessie. Mrs. Morris could not find words to express her
delight, and Miss Elsworth was greatly relieved when she ceased
speaking of the wonderful loneliness she had experienced while Miss
Elsworth was away.

Bessie had heard of her return, and she tried every conceivable plan
to gain an interview with her, and not until Miss Elsworth interceded
did she accomplish her purpose.

"I'm not afraid of Miss Robin," she said, throwing her arms around
Blanche's neck. "She will not hurt me, and I don't believe she is
crazy, if they do say she is; and I want her to come to my room and
tell me about that place. Won't you come, Miss Robin?"

"Yes," Miss Elsworth said, as she followed her up the broad, easy
stairway, covered with its soft, bright carpet. Opening a door near
the top of the stairs, Bessie motioned Blanche to enter. It was a
pleasant room, well furnished, but the most disorderly place that
Blanche had ever seen. Bessie grasped her arm, and hurrying her to a
seat near the bed she sat down close beside her.

"Now, Miss Robin," she said, as she leaned over in Blanche's lap, and
clasped her little white hands together, "now you need not look around
at things, because you know just how it is when one is packing up; you
know they always get things in a mess. You see, I'm going back to
boarding school, and I can't keep things in order. Don't you believe
it?" she asked, with an angry look.

"Certainly," said Blanche, looking at Bessie, and thinking what a
lovely face it must have been before that strange light came to those
eyes--eyes of a wonderful blue, fringed with such heavy black lashes.

The long silken hair was floating about Bessie's shoulders, and,
lifting one thick lock, Blanche said:

"Your hair is wonderfully beautiful, Bessie."

"There, now, Miss Robin, don't you tell me that. I don't believe a
word of it. He used to just go wild over my hair, and for a long time
I believed it, but now I know he is a----"

"What?"

"A liar. There, you made me say it, and I didn't mean to. I know it
was wicked, but you made me say it. But, now, don't you tell Ross, for
if you do, Miss Robin--off goes your head."

Blanche smiled at Bessie's droll remark.

"Oh, you need not laugh. I can take your head off in a minute,
because, you see, you are only just a wee little robin, and one little
shot would kill you dead."

"But you would not kill a robin, would you?"

"Not if the robin kept still."

"Very well, I will keep still."

"And you'll not tell Ross?"

"No."

"Then some day I'll show you his face. Ross will tell you all sorts of
stories, and so will the old folks--that is what he called them--but
you need not believe one word they say, you must not believe any one
but me. They try to make you think you are crazy, don't they? I never
heard of such nonsense. Why, you are no more crazy than I am, and it
just makes me mad--mad."

Bessie's eyes fairly blazed with excitement, and her hands worked
nervously together.

"Bessie," said Blanche, "you wished me to come up here and tell you
all about what I had seen, and now you are doing all the talking, and
you will not give me a chance."

"Oh, yes; where did you go?"

"To New York."

"New York!" screamed Bessie, "that is just where he told me we would
live."

"Who told you?"

"Oh, you would like to know his name, wouldn't you? But that is my
secret; some day I will show you his face. He will come some day, but
I can't tell you his name, because Ross will not let me mention it.
Ross is a great bald eagle, and I couldn't kill him as I could kill a
robin."

"I am sure you would not kill your brother."

"Hush, he ain't my brother."

"Yes he is, Bessie."

"No, he is not. He thinks you are an angel, but you are only a robin,
a poor, weak little robin, but you want to look out; I believed every
word he said to me until I found out he lied, then everybody went mad;
but I ain't afraid of you, Miss Robin, if you are mad; but you see,
I'll have to hold you fast, Miss Robin--for, you know, you tried to
kill me."

She sprang like a tiger toward Blanche, and fastened her small fingers
around her throat. Her eyes had almost grown black in their fierce
light, and a wild laugh rang out through the room, which was terrible
to hear.

"You went to New York," she screamed, "you went to meet him. He loves
you, and he has forgotten all about the little dove; he loves the
robin, and the dove will kill the robin."

Blanche knew that to cope with a maniac, although she was a slender
girl, required all her strength and presence of mind, and with one
mighty effort she hurled Bessie from her, and placed her on the bed,
holding both her hands firmly in her own. The wild laugh and the
commotion attracted the attention of those below, and in a moment Ross
stood in the doorway.

"Bessie."

"Oh, Ross," she said, as Blanche released her, "don't lock me up, I'll
be good. I won't kill the robin."

"Come, Bessie," and Ross took her gently by the hand and led her
away.

Eliza Graves called to see Blanche Elsworth the following day, and
then it was she told her the story of Bessie's misfortune.

"I would not want you to think hard of poor Bessie, but I feel that
you must know the truth, and I am sure you will have charity for her.
It must be that she has told you something of her history."

"She has told me enough to arouse my suspicion and excite an interest,
but I cannot determine the cause of her insanity, through anything
that she has said."

"The facts are these," said Eliza. "It was about four years ago that
we sent Bessie away to school. Bessie was our baby, you know, and was
at that time but sixteen years of age. We almost worshipped the
child, she was so beautiful, and possessed such a keen intellect,
and though we always let her have her way, she was never spoiled. She
had a sweet voice, and we were anxious that she should have it
cultivated, so we sent her where we thought she would receive the
best instruction. She progressed rapidly in her studies, and, oh how
proud we were of her when she came home on her vacation, and we
listened to her sweet voice, and watched the little fingers dance over
the keys of the piano. We thought there never was in all the world
another like her, and Bessie never had a wish that was not granted.
Everybody loved her; even the horses ran to meet her, and would
eat from her hand, and they knew her voice when she called their
names."

Eliza wiped away the tears that shone on her lashes, as she
continued:

"Bessie went back to school, and when she came again at the end of the
term she told us she was going to be married. We laughed at her, and
called her a silly little thing, but she stoutly affirmed that it was
true, and that the man she loved would be here in a few weeks. She
talked of nothing but his coming, and she would fairly go into
ecstacies over his beauty, and his fine ways. He was to be here in one
month, she said, to ask her father if he could not have her, and she
knew he would come, for he had promised her. A month went by and he
did not come, and Bessie watched, saying that something must have
happened, for she knew he would come yet."

Miss Elsworth sighed.

"Yes, you may well sigh for the story that is to come. Another month
went by, and then Bessie began to grow uneasy. Oh, how it made our
hearts ache to see her watching at the gate, looking away down the
road, and then turn with such a sad look in her blue eyes, and a face
growing thinner and paler each day, and at last the truth burst upon
us. Bessie had brought disgrace upon us. If we had loved her less we
could have borne it better, but she was our idol, the pet of the
house, and how could we bear it. It was the saddest house I ever saw
when we came to know the truth. Mother was so broken down with grief
that for days and nights she neither slept nor ate, and then it was
that Bessie, overcome with remorse, gave herself up to the bitterest
grief, and one day I found her up on the hill out there weeping so
wildly that it frightened me. I tried to pacify her, but she only
called the louder for mother to come and forgive her, and help her to
find her darling who she knew would come some time. It was with a
great deal of persuasion that I succeeded in getting her home, and
then we found that a still greater grief had darkened our lives--_our
Bessie was mad_. Oh, I cannot tell you how we all mourned, or how my
brother grew white with rage and despair, and vowed that if ever he
could find the fiend who had ruined our Bessie that he would slay him
on the spot. Ross has tried to persuade Bessie to tell him the name of
the man who wronged her, but she will not."

"And have you never seen him?"

"No, Bessie has a photograph which she says is her husband. She has
let us all look at it; but she will never let it go out of her
possession. It is a very handsome face, and since it seems to be such
a comfort to her we allow her to keep it. Bessie said that he tried to
get her to return it to him, but she would not do so. The reason of
his wishing to get possession of it is now perfectly plain. Bessie's
baby lived but a few months, but it was beautiful, and oh how Bessie
loved it, and after it died she seemed to grow worse, and at times
became violent. We laid her baby under the roses on the hillside. We
thought it might be the means of bringing her back to reason, but
though we have tried every means, she is incurably insane."

"Poor girl!" said Miss Elsworth, "the man who wronged her should never
be allowed to go unpunished."

"He never would go unpunished if we knew where to find him; but there
is a punishment awaits him for that act; and it is the one which will
be accorded him by a wiser one than man. I hope Ross will never meet
him, for I am sure he will show him no mercy, though I myself feel
that there is no punishment too severe for him."



CHAPTER XXXI.

REPENTING AT LEISURE.


It _was_ just three years since Irene had left her husband's home. She
lay upon her couch in her home at San Francisco. She had grown much
older in appearance than she would have done had she led a different
life, for late hours and careless exposure had brought on a hacking
cough that not even the healthful climate of California could stay.
She was so often left to pass her evenings alone when she did not feel
able to go out, and while Max was enjoying himself at a game of
billiards or cards. She grew very much dissatisfied, and often would
express herself in tones of deepest disgust, when Max entered the
house, and seldom in a very pleasant mood. At such times he would
incivilly reply, quite unlike former days.

She had coughed so incessantly all through the evening that she was
quite exhausted, and two bright spots were burning on her cheeks. The
clock struck two, and still she waited.

"I wonder how he can enjoy staying away so late," she said; "he is
getting awfully selfish. He does not seem to care whether I live or
die. They say all men are that way; but I don't know, I don't believe
Scott would ever have been like that. I wonder what made me think of
him, I haven't thought of him in so long. I suppose he has another
wife before this. I wonder if he has. I wish I knew. Oh, dear, how my
head aches, and that pain in my side is terrible. I wonder if Scott
would have left me alone."

She checked herself suddenly. What it was that had brought Scott to
her mind she could not tell; but for some cause unknown to herself, he
was continually coming before her, and his hazel eyes seemed to look
in scornful pity on her in her loneliness. She heard Max enter the
hall door, and the next moment he stood before her in a state of
intoxication.

"Well," he said, "you lazy thing, why don't you go to bed?"

"I waited for you," she said.

"What the deuce did you want to wait for me? You know I come when I
get ready," he said, dropping into a chair.

"Yes, I know you do, and I have no idea of wearing my life out
watching for you, night after night."

"Why don't you go out yourself, then?"

"I don't feel like it."

"But you see I do, so there is the difference between you and me."

"I am ill and I can't go out and enjoy myself as you do."

"So am I," he said, with a sneering laugh.

"At any rate you seem to enjoy yourself, or you would not stay so
long."

"Well, if I do, it's my own business."

"It is my business," she said, angrily.

"I'd like to see you help yourself," he said, turning fiercely toward
her.

She burst into tears.

"You might stay with me when I'm ill," she said. "I don't like to stay
alone; I get so nervous that I sometimes think I'm going to die."

Max laughed boisterously, as he said:

"Oh, I guess there's no danger of that. If you think there is you had
better go back to that other man of yours. I'd rather have a live wife
on my hands any day than a dead one, as I have no particular fancy for
funerals; they create too much of a sensation."

"Mercy, how you talk. I am sure I don't want to die, but I don't
believe Scott would let me into the house if I were to go back to
him."

"Oh, yes, he would; he is one of those Christian fellows, you know. He
would let you go back and run the Wilmer mansion, just as you used to,
and then if you took a notion to run off with a handsomer man, he'd
let you go and not even apply for a divorce. Say, do you know you are
his wife just as much as you ever was?"

Irene started. She wondered what it was that had taken possession of
Max to induce him to talk so harshly to her. It was true she knew he
was under the influence of liquor, but he should have enough sense
left to treat her as though she were human, even if he had made a
brute of himself.

"Do you know," he repeated, "that you are Scott Wilmer's wife?"

"No, I don't know it," she said, wiping the tears away. "I am your
wife."

"Where is your certificate?" he asked mockingly.

"You should know; you know what you promised."

"Oh, well, promises don't stand in law worth a cent."

"I am sure that if Scott had promised anything it would have stood any
law."

"Oh, yes, but you see Scott is one of your Christian fellows; he
wouldn't lie to save his soul."

"No, he would never break a promise. But what is the use of talking
about him?" she asked, impatiently. "It is quite likely he is married
before this time."

"Oh, come, now, Rene, you know better than that; you know he never
believed in divorces, and I'll bet my head he is not married."

"Well, I couldn't go back there if I wanted to."

"Try it."

"You must want to get rid of me. What is the matter with you, Max?"

"Oh, nothing, only to tell you the truth, I know a little fairy who is
crazy for me to make love to her, and she is one of the neatest little
dancers in all the world."

"Max," cried Irene, angrily, "you are a perfect devil, and I wish I
had never seen you. I wish I had never left Scott."

A fresh burst of tears and a violent fit of coughing followed this
outburst of anger, and Irene sank back exhausted on her pillow.

"I wish you never had left him," Max said, wiping his bloodshot eyes,
as he arose and started to leave the room. "I am going to bed; you
can spend the rest of the night there if you want to."

"Oh, dear," sobbed Irene, as she was left again to herself. "Oh, how I
wish I had never left home. I think Max is too cross to live. He
really abuses me, and after making so many promises, too. I wonder why
I am not as much of an angel now as I used to be. Oh dear, oh dear.
Perhaps Max will be better natured when he gets over his fit of
drunkenness. If I were not so ill I would get even with him yet."

Again the face of Scott Wilmer came before her, and the searching eyes
seemed to look into hers with a gaze that burned down into her very
soul.

"What a fool I am," she said, as though angry at herself. "I can't get
back what I have thrown away, so I must think no more of Scott. I
don't intend to do much coaxing with Max either. If he is making love
to some little fairy, as he calls her, I will follow him and find out
who she is, and it will be a dear job for both of them. Curse him,
what has he done; brought me out here, perhaps to die alone? Oh, I'll
curse them both if I find him playing false to me."

She half arose from the couch, then sank back suddenly.

"Oh, oh, that pain in my side is awful. I wish Max would go for the
doctor; but I wouldn't dare to ask him, for he would only laugh at me,
and he wouldn't go."

Irene drew a shawl about her shoulders and tried to sleep, but no
sleep came to her until the morning dawned, then she sank into a light
slumber.

"Why, how pale you look, Miss Wilmer," said Mary, touching her arm,
"are you ill?"

"I coughed so hard all night that I am nearly dead."

"I should think you was quite dead by the color of you. You had better
get up and have a cup of coffee, or shall I bring it to you?"

"No. I would rather get up. Where is Max?"

"Asleep. He don't want to get up yet; guess he's cross by the way he
ordered me to leave."

"Let him sleep," said Irene, as she arose with a languid air. She
walked to the mirror, and looking in, she started at the sight of her
own face, which was as pale as marble, and her eyes sunken and
surrounded by great dark circles. Her hair twisted in an unbecoming
knot at the back of her head seemed to add ten years to her life.

"Bring my false hair, Mary," she said, "and see if you cannot make me
look a little more respectable. I am a fright."

"Oh, I shall have to lie down again. I am growing faint," said Irene,
as Mary started to arrange her hair.

"Mercy," said Mary, as she helped her to the couch, "you look like a
dead woman; you had better let me bring your coffee and toast in for
you."

Irene made no objection, and after Mary had bathed her face with
camphor she brought her a tempting light breakfast, of which Irene
forced herself to eat that she might have strength to arise, but for a
number of days she was confined to her bed. Her cough, which was
growing worse each day, had worn her to a mere shadow of her former
self, and strive as she would to appear cheerful, she could not hide
the truth which was each day growing more and more apparent.

"I wish you would stay with me to-night, Max," she said, one evening,
as she lay upon the couch, "I want to tell you something."

"I couldn't think of it, my dear. I've got an engagement; but if it is
anything of importance you may as well tell me all about it before I
go."

"You are very independent lately, but it may bring you down a little
to have me tell you that father has been here, and says we've got to
move. He has lost this house through his gambling, and we must go back
to San Bernardino."

"The devil!" said Max, with a frown.

"Yes, and there's no telling what the next turn will be. He is losing
money all the time. I should think it was about time you came in
possession of your wealth."

Max, looking down at the floor, said:

"Don't trouble yourself about my fortune, just look out for your
own."

"There won't be any of my own to trouble myself about, if you and my
father have the handling of it."

"We'll talk about that some other time," said Max, as he left the
house, without even a good bye to the woman he called his wife.

"Where are you going?" Irene called out, as he passed through the
doorway.

"That is my business," he replied, angrily.

"It will be mine, too," she said, as she arose, trembling with rage.

It was her intention to follow Max, but when she tried to put on her
wrap she found herself unable to do so, sinking back upon the couch.

"I will not bear it, so help me, heaven. He shall not treat me so,
leaving me ill and alone. I will follow him," she said, trying again
to arise, but was prostrated by a deathly faintness which followed her
effort.

"Mary," she called.

Mary came hurrying in.

"What is it?" she asked in alarm.

"I want you to bring me a cup of strong tea--no, a good brandy sling
will be better, I am really chilly."

Mary brought the brandy.

"I wanted to go out, but when I tried to get ready I found I could not
stand, and if I fail after this brandy has warmed me up I want you to
do the errand for me."

"What is it?"

"I want you to hurry down town and see if you can see where Max has
gone."

"Why," said Mary, "I can't leave you alone."

"Go on, I say. I can take care of myself," Irene said angrily, at the
same time making another effort to arise, but this time sinking back
in a dead faint.

"Oh! oh! Such a time as I do have with her, she so fretful," said
Mary. "I do wonder what has come between those two anyway; they
quarrel all the time lately, and she so sick, too. Oh, dear, I wonder
if she's going to die?"

"No," said Irene, as she slowly opened her eyes. "I won't die. No,
that would please him too well. He would be glad to come and find me
dead, but I won't die, I won't die."

"Why, how you talk; of course your husband don't want you to die.
Please lie down. You will get crazy if you talk in that way."

"Has Max come yet?" she asked, when in the morning she awoke and found
Mary sitting near her.

"No; but I think he will be here by breakfast time," said Mary.

A cold fear shot through Irene's heart.

The day passed, and still another, and Max did not come. Irene was
growing extremely nervous. With constant watching and wishing she at
last gave up in despair. She sent a message to her father, but at the
end of a week she had received no word from him, and, lying there
alone and unable to lift her head from her pillow, seemingly deserted
by her father and the man who "could not live without her," Irene
Wilmer gave herself up to the bitterest reflections. She wept until
the fountain of tears was entirely exhausted. She cursed the day that
Max Brunswick ever crossed her path, to take her away from her home
and a husband who would never have spoken a harsh word to her. She
could look back now and see all that she had lost. She could see, now
that disease had laid hold of her and held her down with hands which
could not be defied, that she had lost the whole world. She tried to
picture something brighter than the dark cloud she saw. She tried to
fancy herself back in Scott's home, and that she was living there an
honored wife. Amid her vain fancies she fell asleep. She saw herself
on a broad sea of deep and muddy waters, tossed up and down on the
angry waves, and Scott standing with folded arms upon a high and
massive rock above. How like a god he seemed to her, as he stood there
with his fine manly form outlined against the blue sky above, his
auburn locks lifted from his noble brow by the breeze, and his
searching eyes gazing down upon her. She reached out her hands, and
called upon him to save her, but he closed his lips firmly, and still
retaining his rigid position, he gazed at her as she floated away and
went sinking down, down, down.

"Oh, Scott," she moaned, as she sank below the surface, "save me, save
me."

"Why, who in the world are you calling for?" asked Mary. "Who is
Scott? Why you must have been awfully choked, for you gasped two or
three times as though you could hardly breathe."

"I had a terrible dream, and I have such pain in my chest too."

"I believe I'll go for the doctor," said Mary.

"Yes, for I don't see that I shall ever get better unless I have some
medicine. Bring my purse."

Mary did as directed, and when Irene had opened it she uttered a cry:

"Oh, the wretch, to think that he could do that."

"What is it?" Mary asked.

"He has taken nearly all my money, and there is but fifty dollars
left. Oh, what in heaven's name will become of me?"

"Let me bring the doctor at any rate," said Mary.

"Yes, go; I must have something to help me up. I shall go wild to lie
here another day."

Mary called the physician.

"Do you think I am going to die?" Irene asked abruptly.

The doctor looked at her a moment in silence.

"I want to know just what you think. If you think I won't get well, I
want to know it, and I want you to tell me what is the matter."

"You have consumption."

"Oh, don't tell me that," she said in a trembling voice.

"You ordered me to tell you the truth."

"Yes, I know. How soon do you think I will die?"

"That, madam, is only a question of time. Your disease has passed the
aid of human skill, and you may as well know the worst, if you have
any business to attend to. Consumption is very flattering, and it is
quite impossible to determine when the disease will meet with a
change. You may live a year and you may not."

"Tell me truly; do you think I will not live long?"

"I cannot really tell," the doctor said evasively. "I think your time
is short."

"Will I never get up again?"

"Yes, I may strengthen you and alleviate your pain."

"So I must die," Irene said, as the physician, after having prepared
her medicine, left her. "Oh, dear, it's awful to die; I wish I could
live, but if I must die I wish I were back with Scott. I am sure he
never would have left me alone, as I am now. He would have tried to
make it pleasant for me. I wonder if he would let me go back there.
Oh, it makes me shudder to think of dying out here alone; it doesn't
seem as though I could. I believe I could die easier if I could get
back to Scott. But, oh, I am afraid he never would speak to me again.
How I wish I had never left him; and now Max has gone too; left me as
I left Scott."

She tried to think that Max would yet return, but she thought over all
the cruel things he had said on that evening that he left her, and she
could see no reason why he should stay so long if he ever intended to
come back, and then the fact of his having taken the money was
conclusive evidence of his remaining away. She wondered why it was
that her mind turned so often toward Scott. She had very often thought
of him and his kind acts since her sickness. She knew that she had no
right to think of him, but the more she thought, the more she longed
to see him, and to be in the home which she had deserted, and ere
another week had gone by she had resolved to go to him, and perhaps in
his generosity he would take her back to die at home.

"I think I am getting better, Mary," Irene said a few weeks after her
interview with the doctor, "I mean to break up housekeeping and go
East."

"Why, you ain't able to travel," said Mary.

"Yes, I am, I've got friends there who will not see me suffer. My
father has never been to see me since Max went away, although I have
sent him word at least a dozen times. I shall get enough for my
household goods to take me to New York. I can hardly tell what to do,
and I am too sick to live here alone."

"But if you should take cold traveling it might be your death."

"Oh, I shall die anyway, and I would rather die there than here,"
Irene said.

"Perhaps you will get well if you don't expose yourself."

"No, I won't, I shall die, and it is better to die with some one who
will treat me well," she said mournfully.

"Yes, if you have friends it is better to be with them," said Mary.

After another week of anxiety Irene was ready to return to New York.
She had heard nothing from Max or her father. She saw but one way open
to her, and that was to go to Scott and ask his forgiveness. She did
not know that he would grant it, but she would tell him how ill she
was, and perhaps he would not turn her away.



CHAPTER XXXII.

A BITTER ATONEMENT.


Night had fallen over the great city. The snow was falling fast, and
the wind blowing with a fury that drove pedestrians on at a rapid
pace. Among the many who thronged the streets was a woman ascending
with slow and uneven steps the broad marble steps that led to the home
of Scott Wilmer. She was closely veiled and dressed in black, and as
she reached out to ring the door bell her hand shook with the cold.
The great hall door opened in answer to the clear ring of the bell,
and the woman was invited to enter. How bright and warm it seemed as
she stepped on the soft carpet, after her wearisome walk through the
snow.

"What can I do for you?" asked the boy who stood in waiting.

He had been taught to address all strangers in a polite manner, even
though they were plainly dressed.

"Is Mr. Wilmer at home?" the woman asked in a faint voice.

"He is; do you wish to see him?"

"Yes, please tell him that a lady would like to see him alone."

"Some one in trouble, I suppose," thought Scott, as the boy went to
him with the message. "Bring the woman in," he said.

"You may see him," the boy said, "come this way, madam." Then the door
closed after her, and she stood trembling in Scott's presence. He
placed an easy-chair, and she sank wearily on its cushions.

"Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Yes, there is a great deal if you will," she said as she raised her
veil.

She was trembling in every limb, and her lips had grown so stiff and
white that she could scarcely speak, but she gasped at last after a
mighty effort:

"Scott, don't you know me?"

"Great God, Irene, is it you?"

"Yes, may I come home again?"

"Home! Irene, do you call this home? Your home should be with the
husband of your choice--the man you love."

"Oh, Scott, don't be cruel. I have come back to ask your forgiveness."

"My forgiveness?" Scott repeated bitterly.

"Yes, I have found how noble, and how much better than other men you
are."

"I am very sorry," he said, with a hard, cold expression, "that you
have found the goodness of my character when it is too late to answer
your purpose."

[Illustration: "Scott! Don't you know me?"]

"Oh, Scott, my husband, do not turn me away; can you not forgive me?"

"Yes, Irene, I will try to forgive you."

"And you will?" she said, starting to arise.

"I will forgive you all the wrong you have ever done me."

"And you will take me home again?"

"Yes."

"Oh, Scott, I wish I had known how good you were."

"I am very sorry for you."

"And, Scott, will you love me again?"

"Never."

"Can't you take me back? Don't you see how I have suffered?"

"Sin brings its own punishment, and your sin has brought you yours. I
cannot undo the past, neither can you. I said I would forgive you, and
I will."

"What is your forgiveness without your love? Don't you see that I
never would have come back to you if I had not been forced to do so."

"I suppose you would not; but let me ask you what you have done with
the man you loved--your affinity?"

"He has gone, left me alone."

"Then his love was not as deep and lasting as you fancied it would
be."

A burning blush came over the pale face.

"Oh, Scott, it was a great mistake."

"_But you will see for yourself that it was the one great mistake of
our lives_," Scott said, repeating the sentence conveyed to him in
Irene's letter.

"Then you will not give me a home?"

"Yes, as long as I have a home you may share it."

"I cannot understand you."

Scott arose, and, standing before Irene with folded arms and
compressed lips, she saw him again just as she had seen him in her
dream, and so vividly was its terrors recalled, that a cry escaped her
lips.

"Irene Wilmer," he said, "for such you are still, listen to me. The
time was when I loved you--when I laid my whole soul at your feet. It
was not, perhaps, with vain and foolish words of flattery that I won
you, but I gave you the free and undivided love of an honest heart.
You were fond of flattery, and in your vanity you were led to believe
that another loved you better than I, and the man you should have
spurned as you would the vilest of reptiles, was taken to your heart
as though he were a king."

Irene closed her hands convulsively.

"You trampled upon the love I gave you, and, lured on to ruin by the
wiles of a vain and hollow hearted fop, you spurned my love as though
it were a worthless toy, while he, with his soft and senseless words
of pretended love, caused you to cast aside that most sacred and
ennobling of all a woman may possess--your honor."

Irene bowed her head upon the table beside her, as she said in a low
voice:

"Stop."

"No, hear me through. I tried to keep you from sinning. I did all that
man could do to stop your downward course, but you answered me only
with sneering words, and when I asked you to give up the attentions of
a man who had no right to your affections, you called me cruel and
unfeeling, and the world looked in scorn upon my misery. You had no
pity, and when I knew of your disgrace, I thought I should go mad. Day
by day my love for you died away. Not because I had grown tired of
your presence, but because you had grown tired of mine, and without
respect I could not love. Another supplanted me in your affections,
but still I tried to do my duty. You were bound to me by the laws of
God and man, and never, until you of your own free will severed our
lives, did I for one moment entertain the thought of casting you
off."

"But I have suffered so much, and I come back to you asking your
forgiveness."

"That I have freely granted. My home is yours while you desire it; and
every comfort that you may ask shall be yours. No wish shall be
denied, but my love for you, Irene, is dead."

She threw aside her bonnet, and clasping her hands, and falling upon
her knees before him, she cried out:

"Oh, Scott, is there no way that I can bury the past, and regain the
love that I have lost?"

"None," he answered firmly. "No, do not touch me. It is asking a great
deal, Irene, and I am only human. How can you expect me to forget the
sorrows which you have caused me? You come back to me a woman wrecked
in body and soul, and you ask me to give again the love that you
trampled to the dust."

"Oh, I did not know how much I was throwing away."

"You have learned it, then, when it is too late, and repentance comes
when there is no chance for redress. Your home is here while you wish
to remain. Try and be content if you can, but let us meet as
strangers. When this interview is ended there is but one word to
say."

"What is that?" she asked hurriedly.

"_Farewell!_"

"I shall have to die all alone, without even your voice to go with me
down to the dark grave. Oh, God, it's terrible to die."

"There is but One who can go with you to lighten the darkness of the
grave, Irene; to Him you must look for comfort. I am neither good nor
wise enough to teach you how to go."

"Scott, will you promise me one favor?"

"If you will be seated you may talk further; you are growing tired."

"Yes, I am tired," she said, while her cheeks burned with excitement,
"and if you will grant me one favor I will leave you."

"If it is my power to do so."

"It is that when I die you will sit beside me and watch me go out of
life, and that you will give me just one good bye kiss--only one."

"I will promise to try," he said.

"Good bye," she said, as she arose, trembling in every limb.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"Anywhere, out in the world, to die."

"No, you must not go away. Be seated, and I will see that you have a
room prepared."

The old look was upon his face which she had seen so often--the look
which compelled her to obey, without the uttering of an unkind word,
or even a command, and he left her sitting where the soft glow of the
gas light fell upon her white, wan features.

He sought his mother and June.

"Mother," he said, "Irene has returned."

June sprang to her feet.

"Scott," she said, "did you allow her to come in this house?"

"I did."

"You are crazy!"

"I think I have my reason," he said.

"You surely do not think of allowing her to remain?"

"Yes, as long as she lives."

In all June's life she had never shown as much indignation as then.

"Scott," she said, "if she remains I shall leave the house."

Scott did not speak.

"You told me once, you remember, that not even a wife should separate
you and your sister, and now you will allow a low, degraded woman, who
is not your wife, and has no claim on you, to again disgrace our
home."

"Hush, June, you do not exactly understand the situation. When you
understand the matter you will think as I do."

"I do not see how you can love her again."

"I have only pity for her, June."

"Why does she come to you for pity?"

"As a last resort."

"Scott, I do not see how you can have the patience to allow her to
remain."

"My good little sister, you never had the heart to turn any one away
who was in distress. Irene is ill, and were you to see her you would
pity her as I do."

"Perhaps I would," said June, "but I never want to look on her face
again, she has caused us so much trouble."

"That is true," said Scott, "but it should not debar us from doing our
duty."

June could not see that it was their duty to help a woman who had
brought so much misery to their home, and wrecked the life of her
noble brother, but she knew upon a moment's reflection that Scott was
right, and she concluded that she must be lacking in charity. She
stood for a moment in deep thought, and then stepping to Scott's side,
and laying her hand on his arm, she said:

"Scott, I did not wish to wound you, and I am sorry if I have done so,
and whatever you think best I will try to do, but, ah, I never can
love Irene or call her my sister again."

"I neither ask nor expect it, but it is our duty to care for her while
she lives, and the most painful duty of life is often the most
necessary to perform. I have neither love nor respect for the false
woman who has come to me for shelter, but, God helping me, I will try
to do my duty, whatever it may be, and if it be necessary for me to
battle with the scoffs of the world in order to do my duty, my
strength shall be sufficient to enable me to bear it."

"Oh, mother," said June, "it seems to me that if there is a just God
He will find some way to remove the cause of my noble brother's
sorrow."

"June," said Scott, "there is but one way. Do not even think about
that. Come, Irene is very tired, and it is quite necessary that you
attend to her wants by giving her every attention. Give her the room
she used to have, and let her retire."

June followed Scott to his room, where she found Irene waiting.

"Dear June," she said as she started forward, as though to embrace
her, but a look from Scott checked the movement.

"Irene," said Scott, "please bear in mind that you are a Wilmer only
in name, and June is acting only from a sense of duty."

"Mrs. Wilmer," June said, in a voice as formal as though she were
speaking to a stranger, "my brother has requested me to show you to
your room. Will you come?"

"Oh, June," Irene sobbed, as she arose to her feet, and stood
trembling before her; "you used to be so good to me; can't you forgive
me, either?"

"Irene," she said, "I can be kind to you still, and I can do all that
my noble brother requests me to do for you, but I never can overlook
the terrible wrong you have done him. If he asks me to bring you a cup
of cold water I can do it willingly, but I cannot say that I forgive
you when I do not. I cannot be a hypocrite even for Scott. I do pity
you, and will do all I can for you, but _I cannot say that I forgive
you_."

She led Irene to her room--the same that she had occupied before she
left their home, then she arranged the pillows, and turning down the
snowy spread, bade Irene good-night, and left her to her own
reflections.

"This is my reception. I know I have no right here, but I did think
that June and mama would forgive me if Scott did not," Irene said as
she slowly undressed herself. "June was always so tender hearted. I
thought perhaps Scott might take me back, for some men will forgive
anything for a beautiful face, but," she added, as she glanced in the
tall mirror before her, "my beauty is fading; oh, dear, and I have
lost it all through my own foolishness; and now I know that I might as
well give up all hope of ever being loved by Scott again, for the look
that he gave me meant even more than the words he uttered, though they
were decided enough, Heaven knows, and there is no hope for me
here--only to have a shelter. It is strange that my father acts as he
does; but, oh, dear, I could neither live nor die with him. Well, I
may as well make up my mind that there is nothing left for me but to
lie here and die. Oh, God, how I dread it. I wish I could put it off a
few years, but, oh, I can't. I must meet it. Oh, I could curse the man
who brought me to this. After all, it was my own foolishness."

"Paul, Paul," she heard a voice calling.

"Come, Bob," said June, "Paul is not here; it is time to go to bed,
too. What has started you to calling his name?"

Rene listened as the voice grew fainter; it kept calling: "Paul,
Paul."

"I would like to see Bob," said Irene. "I wonder if he would not
forgive me, either."

Irene had come home to die, and when the fact became known to the
family that she was suffering, nothing was left undone that could add
to her comfort. There was nothing that Scott might think she desired
that was not ordered at once. He sent to her room the choicest of
flowers and the finest fruits that were to be found; he sent books
that he knew she had admired, and he employed a noted physician whom
he urged to use his best endeavors to bring her back to health, but he
never entered her room. June and Mrs. Wilmer often sat by her bed, and
read to her, to cheer her lonely hours, but there never was a word
sent from Scott. It was his custom to inquire after her condition each
day, and that was all that he ever spoke of her. Thus the time wore
on, bringing Irene Wilmer nearer the grave. There were many beautiful
bouquets sent to her room and when she would inquire who remembered
her in that way, the reply invariably was Scott or Miss Elsworth, the
authoress, whom she had met years before at a summer resort. Indeed,
every one else, who knew of her return, took not the slightest notice
of her home coming, and those who were aware of the fact wondered that
Scott would be foolish enough to take her back.

Irene thought that such a noted woman as Miss Elsworth was becoming,
must be very kind to think of a sick person like her, but she was
foolish enough to think that the sole reason was because she was a
Wilmer, though she did not know how she could have known anything
about her, but concluded it was all owing to Scott's riches, that Miss
Elsworth had sought her out. She told June she would like so much to
see Miss Elsworth, and after many entreaties, June pacified her by
saying that she would have Guy find a way, which he did. Miss Elsworth
came and Irene requested that she might see her entirely alone, which
request was granted.

"I knew you must be good," Rene said, "or you would never have taken
the trouble to send me such beautiful flowers. I wanted to tell you
how lonely I am. You know, my husband, that is Scott, never comes in
the room. He has never been here since I was ill."

"Your husband does not visit you?" said Miss Elsworth in surprise.
"How sad."

"Well, I suppose it is all right, for, of course, you have heard
of--my leaving him."

"Yes," Miss Elsworth replied.

"I was sure you would not speak of my foolishness, but I did not know
how good Scott was until it was too late to repent. I know, now, he is
one of the best men in all the world, or he never would have given me
a place to die in. I don't deserve it, and I know I won't want it very
long, but some men would never have allowed me to enter the house. I
am sorry, oh, so sorry, that I did not know how good he was; I might
now have been well and happy."

"Perhaps you will recover," said Miss Elsworth, cheerfully.

"Oh, no, I shall die, and the time is not far off," said Rene,
mournfully. "I hope he will find a woman who will love him, and be
better to him than I have been, for you cannot begin to think how kind
he is. I never knew until I saw how he repaid me for my wickedness."

"Do not be disheartened; you may be happy yet."

"Why," she said, impatiently, "don't I tell you I am going to die? The
doctor says so, and the only thing to do is to get ready for it when
it comes, but oh, how I dread it. It must be awful to die and not know
what you are going to."

"Yes, that is the most terrible part of all."

"I know by some of your books that you must be a good Christian."

"Oh, no, I am not a good Christian, but I try to live up to the
commandments and the golden rule."

"I wish I could be like Scott's father; he wasn't a bit afraid to
die."

"Perhaps he led a Christian life."

"Oh, yes, he did; he was good to everybody, but I have been very
wicked. I don't see how I can help it now."

"You cannot undo what has been done, but you can do better in
future."

"The future? Why, there is no future for me but the grave."

Irene, like every other coward at heart, surrendered only when she saw
danger staring her in the face. Had her health been given her she
would have spared neither pains nor expense to have revenge on Max,
but since disease had chained her down, and there was no escape from
the destroyer, she began, like the condemned criminal, to confess her
guilt as the only means of obtaining mercy.

Two months later Irene lay dying. She had asked to see her husband,
and he had granted the request. She wanted him all alone that she
might ask his forgiveness. He visited her for the first time since her
return, and she had spoken words in confession that made even the
strong heart of Scott almost cease its beating.

"Irene," Scott said, "is it possible that all you have told me is
true? Can it be true?"

"It is, and I am sorry I deceived you," she said, while the thin white
hands reached out toward him. "Oh, Scott, if you will forgive me."

"Irene, you have wronged me most bitterly, and I forgive you, but
remember that man's forgiveness can avail you nothing in the darkness
where you are going. You must look to God. He alone can forgive your
sins and lead you through the dark valleys to the light of eternal
day."

"And you will, with your own hands, plant just one flower on my grave
in remembrance of her you once called your wife."

"I will," said Scott, and then he turned away with a face full of
agony.

Three days later the family was summoned to watch Irene pass the gates
of death, and then the false heart was stilled forever. They robed her
in a costly shroud and placed her in a beautiful casket, and in death
as in life she was lovely to look upon, and Scott, with compressed
lips and tearless eyes, followed her to the grave as chief mourner.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

STILL AT WORK.


It was in the Spring, after the death of Irene, that Scott one day
sought the abode of old Meg. He had some very important business to
transact and she was the one who could, and must help him in the
matter. He found Meg and Crisp within, and entering the dingy room,
Meg greeted him with eager expectation, and her black eyes sparkled as
she offered him an old wooden chair. She looked more repulsive than
ever, for her broad nose looked still broader, and her wide mouth
seemed to grin more fiercely. Scott's searching eyes took in, at a
glance, the filthiness of the place, and the odor of whiskey was
offensive in the extreme.

"Sit down," said Meg. "You want your fortune told again?"

"No. You are in possession of a few facts of which I wish you to
inform me, and I will pay you well if you will answer the questions
which I ask you."

"What are they?"

"Will you answer me all you know in regard to a certain matter if I
pay you well for it?"

Meg looked at Crisp in a way that said plainly: "Shall I, Crisp?"

Crisp, who seemed to understand the look, said:

"You might as well tell it if you get paid for it."

"What will you give me?" said Meg.

"I will pay you according to the amount of information I receive."

"Go on," she said, seating herself and lighting an old, blackened clay
pipe.

"I wish you first to tell me when you think of leaving the city."

"I don't know that part," she said, turning uneasily around.

"You certainly have some idea of the time."

"I s'pose when the weather is warmer."

"Where are you going?"

"I don't know. You know folks like us go everywhere."

"Very well," said Scott, "you will then be unable to get the money
which I shall bring, or send you."

"Maybe we won't go away at all."

"Then I shall, of course, find you here."

"Yes, but there is something that I could tell you now if I thought
you would pay me for it."

"I will, if it is worth anything."

"It is about your wife."

"What of her?"

"I can tell you something that would make you curse her. You don't
know her."

"What do you know of her?"

"I know her well."

"You do?"

"I know her, too," said Crisp.

"You would be surprised to know that I know more of her past life than
you do," said Meg.

"Yes, and you would be surprised to know that she was a devil," said
Crisp, fiercely.

"Take care," said Scott, "you must be more careful in your speech."

"Do you know who Irene Mapleton was before you married her?"

"I know nothing of her past life."

"I know things that you would like to know."

Scott was really in possession of more facts than Meg supposed, but he
had no idea of allowing her to know it. He had an object in gaining
all the information he could from her, but he was very careful to
withhold the knowledge which he possessed. It was quite evident that
Meg had not heard of Irene's death, and Scott resolved to keep the
knowledge from her until he had heard her story.

"Tell me what you know of her," he said.

"I knew her years ago."

"How could you know her?"

"That's the mystery."

"But you claim to be a gypsy."

"So I am, but I knew Irene Mapleton years ago. You can't guess, if you
are the smartest lawyer in all the land, where I found her. Oh, you
thought you was marrying a lady, but you was only getting a--devil."

"Hush!"

"No, I won't hush. I know what I am talking about. She was a devil
and I owe her a grudge yet, and mean some day to pay it back, good and
strong."

"How did she offend you?"

"Some day I may tell you."

"Why not now?"

"I ain't quite ready."

"Will you tell me where you knew her first?"

"I knew her first when she was a baby, and I knew her father, too."

Scott was puzzled. He looked steadily at Meg as she continued:

"Yes, and I knew her mother, too."

"Who was her mother?"

"Oh, a rich, proud man like you would blush to know your mother-in-law."

"Meg," said Scott, "I do not believe you know anything about my
wife."

"Oh, yes, I do, and some day I can convince you. Do you remember of a
letter that an old woman gave you, one day, when you was leaving your
office?"

"Yes, but it was not you."

"Never mind."

"Can you tell what the letter contained?"

"Yes, your fortune."

"That was only a piece of nonsense."

"Don't you see I know."

"Tell me how you know."

"Perhaps I won't; unless you pay me well for it."

"That I have promised to do if you give me the required information."

"Come one week from to-day and I will tell you the whole story. I
can't to-day," she said, looking at Crisp.

Scott returned to his office, where he found a letter from Paul. He
read the contents with seeming satisfaction.

"Bless the boy," he said, "he is true to the last. I wish every heart
in the world was as honest as that of my boy Paul. He is coming back.
How I shall enjoy his presence once more. He must have changed by this
time. But he is Paul still and always will be; nothing can change him.
If he ever comes back, I shall never let him go again," and this he
wrote to Paul, "that he never need think of leaving him again; that
his salary should be raised to any sum which he might name."

When Scott reached his home he found Guy and June in the family
parlor, engaged in a very earnest conversation.

"You are just the one to settle this argument of ours," Guy said.

"What is it?" Scott asked.

"It is in regard to having a home of our own. Please tell us what you
think of it," said Guy.

"If you leave it to me," said Scott, "it will take very little time to
come to a conclusion. Certainly it is your right to act your own
pleasure in the matter, and perhaps every person enjoys himself best
in his own home, but unless you really object, it is my desire that
you and June remain with us for the present, at least, for I do not
see how we can live without her."

Guy would not be selfish enough, he said, to take her away, and so it
was decided that June should still remain at home.

Spring came and brought the wedding, which was an elaborate affair,
because June's friends, both real and pretended, were numerous, and it
was quite natural that Mr. Horton, of the publishing house of Horton &
Co., should be married in grand style. The wedding gifts were costly
and numerous, and among them all the one that June prized most was a
beautifully bound book of poems by "Auralia," and on the fly-leaf was
written, in a bold, beautiful hand, the words, "From Paul." There were
no elaborate wishes for her of a cloudless life in the uncertain
future, but June knew that Paul wished in his heart it might be so.

Scott had called on Meg and found her dangerously ill. He spared
neither time nor money to procure the best of medical aid and the
greatest comforts that she needed to restore her to health. He waited
patiently to see her pass through a severe sickness of many weeks, and
it was with a feeling of relief that he learned of her convalescence.
Not until early summer did he have the satisfaction of hearing her say
that she would soon be able to talk to him. She dared not refuse to
answer his questions, and even if she were compelled to frame a
falsehood, she would not refuse to hold an interview, especially when
there was money at stake.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

A GAME OF HEARTS.


Miss Elsworth had returned to Roxbury. She had an amount of work which
would keep her busy for a number of weeks, and then she expected to
pass the remainder of the summer in traveling, partly for business and
partly for pleasure. She always visited the family of Mr. Graves as
soon as she returned, and she was much pleased to find Bessie
improving in health and appearance. "I think you are getting well,
Bessie," she said as Bessie sprang toward her.

Bessie smiled as she whispered:

"Why, Miss Robin, I'm not sick, but you just come with me," she said,
taking Blanche's hand and trying to draw her toward the door.

"Wait until I am ready to go home, and then you may go with me, and
tell me all you wish."

Bessie waited very impatiently and as soon as Blanche was ready to
leave the house, she clapped her hands joyously.

"Now I will tell you all about it," she said, as they walked away
together, "but you must not be scared, will you?"

"No, I guess not."

"Well, you know Ross?"

"Yes."

"But you haven't seen him yet since you came?"

"No."

"Well, you will see him, for he is coming to see you, I know."

"How do you know?"

"You see I know, because every day when the sun goes down, Ross would
come out and sit on the steps, or the well-curb, or somewhere down by
the old house."

"Why, Bessie, how you talk!"

"Oh, it's as true as can be; as true as the stars."

"How do you know that the stars are true?"

"Why, they are always there, looking down on us, ain't they? They
never fail, unless there is a cloud comes between, and then their
bright eyes are gone. Don't you know that is true?"

"Perhaps it is."

"And what I tell you is true, and when Ross comes you will know it."

"What do you mean, Bessie?"

"I mean that Ross will come some time after the sun has gone to bed,
and he will tell you all about love."

"Hush, Bessie."

"No, I will not hush, for I know he will come. Oh, but he will," she
said, pointing her finger at Blanche. "Now you are ashamed; you think
it is foolish to love, but I can tell you it is beautiful; there is
always a story goes with it, too, that you can't help believing, and
you just let Ross tell it to you and see if I did not tell you true."

"Bessie, why do you think this?"

"Why, I know he will; but don't you believe a word--not if you can
help it. You see I believed so long, and then at last I found he lied;
so don't you believe Ross, will you?"

"I guess not."

"You must be sure. Now I'm going away because he wants you to be all
alone when he tells you that story."

"Bessie, you have a very foolish idea in your head," Miss Elsworth
said, as they entered the old house.

"But don't you call me crazy."

"Bessie, your brother will not talk to me of love; he has never
mentioned it to me."

"Well, you see, he was afraid; he says you are a famous woman."

"No, I am not famous, and if I were, what of it?"

"That's what I say. I ain't a bit afraid of you if you are crazy. Ross
is a coward to be afraid of a robin," Bessie said, as she sat down
beside Blanche and looked into her face with a sweet smile. "I'd let
him tell, just to hear how lovely it sounds, because, you see, you
don't know; you never loved anybody, did you?"

"Oh, yes, I have loved a great many people."

"But you never loved only one so much that you could just die for him,
did you?"

Blanche Elsworth was looking steadily out of the window, and she made
no reply to Bessie's random talk.

"Say, did you, now?" Bessie asked again. "Then you need not answer. I
know, I know!"

"What do you know?"

"I know you love Ross, but you must not believe him."

"Let us talk about something else, Bessie."

"No, I won't. I mean to talk about love--but I'm going now."

"May I go with you?"

"No, you want to see Ross."

"I think you can go alone, Bessie."

"I will," she said. "Now watch me run," and away she sped ere Blanche
had time to think what she was doing.

The sun had gone down, and Blanche was sitting on an old tree that had
fallen by the side of the little stream that ran through the ravine.
She was watching the bright colors which blended so beautifully above
the tall tree tops, and she was thinking that with a world so full of
beauty all around there should be more happiness. Blanche looked up at
the richly glowing sky, then down at the clear little stream at her
feet.

"Well, upon my word."

"What is the matter, Mrs. Morris?"

"Well, if you ain't the funniest woman, settin' out here on a tree
among the birds and the bugs."

"Is there anything you want?" asked Blanche.

"Why, I thought if there wasn't anything to do I'd run up to the other
house."

"You may go," said Blanche, who was in a thinking mood, and glad to be
left alone.

Mrs. Morris walked away, and Blanche had just fallen into a deep
study when she looked up and saw Ross Graves coming toward her.

"May I take a seat here?" he asked, pointing to the old log where she
sat.

"Certainly," she said, pleasantly.

"You have chosen a very quiet spot for visiting yourself, Miss
Elsworth."

"It is a lovely one," she replied. "I enjoy this extreme quiet."

"I suppose," he said, smiling, "that you are never alone."

"No," she said, looking up and returning the smile. "I am usually
surrounded with those who are holding an imaginary conversation with
me."

"And perhaps not always friendly."

"Oh, no, my people are as varied as those in real life, and possess
the warmest love and the most bitter hatred."

"But there is a charming feature about the surrounding objects. You
have them completely under your control."

"Yes, for though they are extremely ill-disposed, they dare not be
rebellious."

"Miss Elsworth, I have often thought that it must be a very happy life
that you lead."

"Why?"

"You always look happy."

"Do you always judge from appearances?"

"No, for I know that there are those who can cover an aching heart
with a smiling face."

"That is true, and I believe there is a skeleton in every closet,
either great or small."

Ross looked at the lovely face, and wondered where there could be a
skeleton for her. She had never appeared to have a heartache, but he
noticed that at times there was a longing look in her beautiful eyes,
as if she were not quite satisfied with life, though she had never
uttered the word that said she was not entirely happy.

"There are those who can keep the skeleton so securely hidden that you
would never know it existed, and I often think of what a vast amount
of self-control it must require to bury the secrets of some
heart-sorrow," said Ross.

"Yes," she answered, "self-control and patient endurance. I have known
those whom I would give the world to be like, just because they
possessed the fortitude to crush down and bury their heartaches."

"I should judge that you possessed that faculty, if you had any to
bury."

"I? No, I wish I did. There is a hungry feeling so often comes up in
my heart that I almost cry out in despair, though my sorrows are
nothing compared to many another."

"There are some sorrows that never can be crushed--that will exist
while life lasts."

"Yes," she answered, looking up at the soft twilight sky, with a face
full of tender emotion, "and God pity those who are helpless."

"There is a skeleton in our home that can never be removed, a disgrace
which can never be blotted out, and I have sworn to have revenge on
the villain who threw the dark shadow over our lives."

"Revenge can avail you nothing, and might bring still greater misery
upon you," said Miss Elsworth.

"That is true, but you cannot realize how hard it is to crush down a
bitter feeling toward one who has injured you."

"Perhaps not, but this I know, that the hardest battles are fought
with our own hearts."

"That is true, and the man who ruleth his own spirit is mightier than
the one who taketh a city. Had the enemy captured us in any other way,
I might have been more easily reconciled, but Bessie was our idol, the
pride of our home, and she was the baby, too, you know."

Blanche looked on the fine face of Ross with a heart full of pity, and
the tears shone on her long, dark lashes, as she said:

"Mr. Graves, I sympathize with you, and I wish I might help to lift
the dark shadow that is hanging over your life, and if there is any
way that I can make Bessie, or any other member of your family
happier, I am more than willing to do so, if you will only tell me how
it may be done."

"Oh, Miss Elsworth, how much happier you could make my home if you
would. Your presence would make bright the shadows which lie around my
door. Your presence would make a paradise where otherwise would be the
loneliest, most barren desert."

"Please, Mr. Graves, do not talk to me in that way. I am not capable
of brightening any life any further than to do my duty to mankind by
helping where I can."

"You may not quite understand me, my dear Miss Elsworth. I do not say
that I dare hope for a return of love from you, but I do say that it
would make my life brighter. I know that you can win a man far better
than I am in every respect, but that does not make me love you less."

"Hush, Mr. Graves, I cannot listen to you."

"I do not blame you, but I have often wished that you were not as
grand a woman as you are--that is, so far above me--there might be
some hope for me."

"I am not above you in any respect, but I cannot listen to such words
from you."

"Why not from me?"

"Because it is not right."

"What can be wrong about my telling you that I love you?"

"I cannot tell you all the secrets of my life, but let this satisfy
you: that it would be wrong for me to tell you that I loved you, and
such a thing can never be."

"I wonder why fate is so bitterly cruel to me," said Ross, in a sad
voice.

"Perhaps, Mr. Graves, if the veil were lifted that hides the life
secrets of some of us there would be heartaches revealed even greater
than our own, though God knows I do pity you, and will acknowledge
that your sorrow is a great one and almost too hard to bear. I can
sympathize with you, for my own life has its waste places, but I try
to look over them and keep my eyes as much as I can on the flowery
hills beyond. There are few lives without clouds, and no cloud but
that will at some time break and show the silver lining."

Ross shook his head and turned sadly away.

"I know," he said, looking toward the western sky, "I do not expect
that you could love me or that you would stoop----"

"Stop," she said, in a firm, low voice. "It is not that I would need
to stoop. I am not above you in any respect."

"But, tell me truly, Miss Elsworth," Ross said, as he turned and
grasped her hand, holding it firmly in his own, "tell me, is it
because I am disgraced?"

"No, for in my eyes you are as free from sin as any man I know."

"I thank you for those words," he said, releasing her hand. "It is a
great comfort to know that you respect me."

"I have the greatest respect for you, and wish in my heart you might
be happy."

"Do not send me away without answering me one question. Do you love
another?"

"Have you a right to know the secrets of my heart?"

"Perhaps not, but if it is so I shall give you up without another
word."

"Then be satisfied that it is so."

"God help me," said Ross, as he turned to leave her.

"Ross," she said, in a low, soft voice, "do not be offended; be a
brother to me, for as such I shall always care for you."

"I will try," he said, with a smile, as he looked into her eyes, ere
he left the spot.

She watched his form as he walked up the slope, and her heart was
filled with pity.

"Poor Ross," she said, "oh, I am so sorry for him! A hopeless love is
a sad thing indeed, but how useless to mourn for a lost hope. There is
much brightness in life for him, if he will accept it. I hope he
will."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, I jest do wonder if he will come," said Mrs. Morris, looking
down the road. "Dear me, I don't hardly know how to act if he does
come. I wonder what he'll say to me first. Perhaps, after all, he
don't mean nothin', but, la me, I don't believe he'd ever looked at me
that way if he hadn't. I don't see how Miss Elsworth can think they
hain't no use for a man about the house; why, la me, I don't look no
way, but what I see where a man would come handy. Oh, as sure as the
world there he comes. Oh, oh, what'll I ever say first? I wonder if
he'll talk the way Reuben did when he come a-courtin' me. If he does
I'll know better what to say."



CHAPTER XXXV.

A SAD EVENT.


Miss Elsworth stepped out of the door one afternoon and saw Bessie
climbing cautiously along the ledge of rocks across the ravine. Her
dark, luxuriant hair was floating like a dusky cloud about her
shoulders, and there was a burning light in her dark blue eyes, and a
crimson spot on either cheek.

"Bessie, Bessie," Miss Elsworth called, "come down."

"Hush," said Bessie, raising a warning finger. "If you make a loud
noise I'll kill you; you know, don't you?"

"Yes, I know," said Blanche, with a fear that something was wrong.
Bessie crept cautiously up the rocks, and seating herself she drew
from her pocket her little pistol, and fired at what Miss Elsworth
supposed to be an imaginary object.

"Ha, ha," laughed Bessie, as a shrill cry rent the air, followed by a
deep groan as of some one in great distress.

Miss Elsworth stood for a moment as one frozen with terror.

"Oh, Bessie, Bessie, what have you done?" she asked, in a voice full
of pity. "Have you killed your brother?"

"No, no," said Bessie, stepping cautiously down, "but I told you I
meant some day to take his head off, and now I have done it. You see
you don't understand all these things, but you can come with me if you
want to see. He is just there behind that tree, that is where he fell.
He did not see me, but I saw him just in time. Ha, ha, ha! Yes, yes,
I'm coming; don't you see me? Don't you know Bessie?"

Miss Elsworth followed Bessie, and looking down by a cluster of
bushes, saw a man, wounded and bleeding. Miss Elsworth stooped, and,
lifting the hat which had fallen over his face, she uttered a cry
almost as full of agony as those uttered by the man who had been
wounded.

"Oh, Bessie, what have you done?" she asked, while her face grew
deathly white. "Bessie, you have killed----"

"Yes, I know I killed him," said Bessie, as she stooped down and
smoothed back the silken hair, and pressed her lips to those of the
suffering man.

"You know I told you I would."

"You have done a very wicked act, Bessie."

"Have I?"

"Yes, see the poor man can scarcely speak, and he wants to talk to
you."

"Well, he is my lover, and he can talk if he wants to; but I won't
believe him. But don't you scold, for I told you I would take his head
off. Didn't he kill me once--me and my baby? Why, yes, he just ground
me down to the dust."

The man's pale lips moved, and regaining consciousness, he said: "I
was just coming back to look at you once more; I wanted to find you
again, and----"

"There, don't lie any more. You know you swore that you loved me once,
but I don't believe a word you say."

"Bessie," said the man, raising his handsome head, "what made you do
this if you loved me?"

Miss Elsworth looked at the man in surprise. It was now quite evident
that he did not exactly understand the condition of Bessie's mind.

"Why, sir," she said, "do you not see that Bessie is insane."

"Good God, is that so?" said the man.

"Yes, and she has been so since she was cruelly deserted by her
lover."

"Who was her lover?"

"Do you not know?" Blanche Elsworth asked, trying to stop the flow of
blood that came from his side.

"Who did she say it was?" he asked, trying to appear unconcerned.

"Please do not talk any more," said Blanche

"Why not?"

"Because you are badly wounded, and I must go and find some one to
help me take you to the house."

"To whose house--not Bessie's?"

"No, to mine."

"Who are you? Allow me to ask."

"Never mind who I am. I shall try to help you; so be quiet."

"You are not going to leave that crazy girl, are you? She will shoot
me again," he said, looking at Bessie.

"Bessie, will you come with me?" said Blanche.

"Indeed, I will not! You can just leave me with my darling. Oh, I knew
he would come some day. What made you wait so long? Why didn't you
come and see--oh, well, never mind about that, you can never, never
see it."

"Bessie, will you come with me?"

"No, Miss Robin, I won't--go on," said Bessie, with a fierce look in
her eyes.

Blanche knew that to urge Bessie would be useless, so she hurried
away, although she feared that Bessie would repeat the action of a few
moments before; but there was nothing to do but to leave her and trust
to the result. Her first act was to find Ross and make him acquainted
with the affair, and ask his assistance in removing him to her house.
Mrs. Morris said that she "wan't no coward, but she guessed she'd go
up to t'other house, if Eliza and Eunice would take her place," which
they willingly consented to do.

The wounded man was carried to the old house and placed in a
comfortable bed and a physician sent for. Ross stood for a moment
looking at the wounded man, and then his own face became colorless and
his lips white and trembling.

"My God!" he said. "It is--it is her betrayer. Bessie, poor Bessie!
You have saved me the deed that I swore to perform."

Bessie had followed closely behind Ross, and going toward him she
said:

"Oh, Ross, ain't you glad I killed him?"

"Yes--oh, I hardly know, Bessie, whether I am glad or not. Poor little
sister, I am so sorry for you."

"Oh, don't pity me, Ross. I told the ghosts I'd kill him, and I'm so
glad he came."

"Hush, Bessie."

"Ha! ha! ha! I don't care, I can kill him again if I choose."

She stepped softly toward the bed, and throwing back the heavy mass of
dusky hair, she raised her white hands above her head, and with her
wild eyes fixed upon the face of the man before her she said:

"It is too bad to lie there that way. But just wait; to-night the
ghosts will come and they will stand all about your bed and you will
hear them laugh, and oh, how they will shriek and groan, and they will
take you in their long, bony arms, just the way they did me, and carry
you away out in the storm, and then they will set you down on your
baby's grave."

"Take her away," said the wounded man.

"Ah, they can't take me away. I mean to stay here just as long as I
want to, and I will tell you such nice long stories about the
ghosts."

The man turned upon his pillow and tried to avoid the sight of
Bessie's face, but she leaned over the bed, and looking straight into
his eyes, she said: "Don't you think I am as beautiful as I was in
those days--the days that you loved me so, and called me your darling
Bessie? You remember, don't you? It was long, long ago; long before my
baby died."

"Oh, Bessie, keep still."

"No, I won't; I'm going to tell you all about it."

"Then I shall leave you."

"Ha! ha!" laughed Bessie, "you see you can't do that. You left me
once, but you can't get up now, and the ghosts are coming by and by to
hold you down and then they will grin and nod their heads while I tell
you all about a woman betrayed."

"Bessie, come with me," said Blanche.

"Miss Robin, keep still. I will not go."

"Take her away," said the wounded man impatiently.

"Let her remain," said Ross, in a hard, cold voice. "The time has come
for your coward heart to bow to the will of a weak woman. I would not
take advantage of you in your helpless state, but Bessie has the
right, if she but had the power to tear your heart from your body."

"Who are you that dares to insult me?" said the man, trying to rise.

"I am her brother. Poor innocent Bessie; you would better have
murdered her than to have flattered and deceived her the way you
did."

"He said he loved me," said Bessie.

"Mr. Graves, are you not afraid you will injure the man?" Miss
Elsworth asked.

"Injure him!" Ross repeated sneeringly. "Could I injure him enough to
repay him for the ruin he has wrought in our home? No, his miserable
soul is not worth a place in the world, and death is not half enough
punishment for him."

"Please, Mr. Graves, do not get so excited."

Ross Graves looked down at the lovely face beside him, and the look of
bitter hatred on his own melted to one of extreme sadness, and as the
physician entered he turned and left the room. A careful examination
was made, but the ball which had entered the man's side, could not be
found, and the physician gave as his opinion that recovery was
doubtful.

Mrs. Morris had summoned sufficient courage to enter the house, and
stepping cautiously toward the bed, she looked steadily into the face
of the wounded man, and then a pitiful cry escaped her lips.

"Oh, my boy! my boy!" she shrieked. "I have found you at last! Oh
dear, oh dear, and you have come here to be shot by that crazy
lunatic!"

"Come, old lady, don't take on so; it's bad enough to be shot without
having such goings on as this about it."

"Oh, my poor boy, after huntin' all over the world for you, and to
find you like this is the awfullest thing that ever was. What made you
stay away so long? I was in hopes you'd come back and take care of me,
but of course they ain't so much need of it now, 'cause the deacon,
he'll do that; but oh dear, oh dear."

"Mrs. Morris, you had better take Bessie and go away for a while,"
said Miss Elsworth.

"Why, you don't s'pose I could go out with that crazy lunatic, do you?
Why, she'd be takin' my head off, too."

"Bessie, come."

It was Ross calling her and she ran out of the door and skipped away
over the meadow toward her home.

"Oh, Charley, my boy, tell me all about it. Where did you stay all the
while, and did not come to your poor mother that was jest layin'
awake o' nights on account of you?"

"Now, say, old woman, what the deuce is the sense of you taking on so?
You can't do any good, and where's the use of you making all that
fuss?"

"La me, I never thought that o' you, Charley."

"You see there is lots of things you never thought of, and this is one
of them."

"But, Charley, s'pose you'd die! Oh dear! oh dear! Where do you s'pose
you'd go to?"

"To the devil, as likely as not."

"Oh, don't talk like that!"

"Max Brunswick," said Miss Elsworth, as she stood by his bedside, "if
you have no fear of a hereafter, I wish you would have respect enough
for your poor mother to speak in milder terms. It is hard enough to
see you in the condition that you are without making a bad matter
worse by making light of the future."

"How do you know my name is Brunswick?"

"It matters not how I know, but I know you have been called by that
name."

"Who are you?" he asked, in a careless way.

"I am just as you see me, a woman ready to help you in time of need,
and it is my intention to do all in my power to add to your comfort."

"Well, you are a devilish pretty one, at any rate."

Blanche Elsworth's face burned with a blush of insulted pride, and she
was about to give an angry retort when her better judgment prevailed,
and crushing down the anger she felt, she said in a quiet way:

"Mr. Brunswick, please do not speak so to me again."

"Why not?"

"I am here to help supply your wants, that you may regain your health,
if it is God's will that you live, but I am not here to listen to any
senseless flattery, and I strictly forbid a repetition of such
words."

"But if I fall in love with you I can't help it, for you are a
devilish handsome woman."

"I would advise you not to throw away your love," she said, coldly,
"and as for me, I should prefer the love of a gentleman."

"Well, since you are so wonderfully particular, let me ask you what
they call you?"

"Miss Elsworth."

"What, the authoress!"

"I suppose so."

"I beg your pardon, I didn't know I was falling in love with one so
far above me."

"You are quite excusable, but please bear in mind that it matters not
what one's name may be, every honest woman is worthy of at least
common respect, which is less than you have shown me."

"Charley, you must be civil to Miss Elsworth, for she's so good, and
she'll do all she can for you."

"Yes, they are all angels; at least I think so."

A week later Blanche Elsworth sat by the bedside of Charley Morris. He
had suffered intense pain, during the night, and the morning found him
weak and fretful. He turned his handsome head on his pillow, and
looking steadily at Miss Elsworth for the space of a moment, he said:

"How did you know that my name was Brunswick?"

"Because I have seen you before, and was told that your name was
Brunswick."

"Well, it's devilish strange how things get out, anyway."

"Was it a secret?"

"No, but I'd like to know where you ever saw me."

"You once lived in San Francisco, and also in San Bernardino, did you
not?"

"Yes, and I should have stayed there."

"You came to see Bessie, did you not?"

"Yes, but I did not have the least idea that she had gone mad. I
thought I'd come and take a look at her once more. She was a little
beauty, and she would be yet if it was not for those wild-looking eyes
of hers. I wonder what made her crazy?"

"Max Brunswick, you feign ignorance of Bessie's trouble, but you know
how you flattered her while at school, how you wrecked her young life
and brought a dark cloud over one of the happiest of homes--a cloud
which never can be lifted, for poor little Bessie's disgrace and her
love for you has made her incurably insane, and, one day your child
and hers will confront you and show you the cause of all her
heartaches."

"I wish the girl had been in the asylum before she saw me and gave me
that dose of lead."

"You no doubt thought her still full of confidence and as easily
flattered as ever."

"Well, yes, I did think perhaps she was as lovable as ever, and to
tell the truth I was a little homesick to see her and I thought
perhaps she would overlook my leaving her as I did, for she did love
me to distraction."

"Where have you left Irene Wilmer?"

Max started as though he would spring from his bed, but Miss Elsworth
gently moved him back.

"What do you know of Irene Wilmer?" he asked.

"I know she is one of your victims, as is also Bessie Graves, and I
ask you where you left her."

"I left her out west, some time ago."

"Do you know where she is now?"

"No, I can't say that I do."

"I can tell you."

"Where is she?"

"Dead," Miss Elsworth answered, in a low voice.

"Dead, Irene dead," he repeated.

"Yes, she is dead."

"Tell me, where did she die?"

"With her husband."

"Scott Wilmer?"

"Yes."

"Did he take her back to his home?"

"Yes, and cared for her during her sickness, as tenderly as though she
had never disgraced him."

"Well, I must say, he has a mighty sight softer head than ever I would
have had. I don't believe any woman could fool me that way."

"Why did you entice her away from her home and a man who loved her?"

"Why, if you ever saw her you must know she was a mighty pretty woman,
and if she fancied me more than she did Wilmer it was no fault of
mine."

Blanche turned from the man in disgust. She left the room, and walked
out to breathe the fresh air. Mrs. Morris, worn out with watching at
the bedside of her son, was sleeping soundly in her room upstairs. Max
lay with his eyes fixed upon the wall, seemingly buried in his own
reflections. A shadow darkened the doorway, and, turning his eyes, Max
beheld Bessie gliding stealthily toward him. Her dusky hair hung like
a midnight cloud around her sloping shoulders, and contrasted
strangely with the marble whiteness of her lovely face. The wild gleam
in her blue eyes had given place to a soft look of tender pity.

"Darling," she said, seating herself near the bed, "I am so sorry."

Max looked a moment at the beautiful face ere he spoke. He hardly knew
whether he felt safe in the presence of a maniac or not, even though
she was a frail woman.

"What for?" he asked, at length.

"I am sorry for you because you see you are going away to the spirit
land. There will be, oh so many ghosts to dance about your grave, and
perhaps I will come, too. I will not keep you waiting so long. I
waited and waited until I grew, oh so very tired. You see I thought
you would come, and I waited so long, I cried every day, and my heart
was broken, yes, broken."

"Hush, Bessie."

"No, I won't hush. I came to tell you all about my beautiful little
baby; she lies out under the rose tree. Some night when the storm
comes on you can go and ask the ghosts to show you where she sleeps. I
am not mad, just tired. Oh, you do not know how tired I get waiting
for him. He said he loved me and would marry me. He said my hair and
eyes were lovely, and you know I believed him."

"So they are, Bessie."

"Don't you say that again. I would never believe it if you did. All
men are devils--devils."

"Then I am as good as the rest," said Max, carelessly.

"You see I had to come," said Bessie, drawing a little closer, "for
they are digging your grave out there close beside the baby's, and
they told me to tell you. The ghosts are all around, laughing because
you are coming. They are going to put you in the grave and cover you
all over with skulls, and bleeding hearts, and then, away down in the
darkness, you will wait, and wait, and watch for some one to come and
take you away, and who do you think will come?"

"You have talked enough," said Max.

"You don't want to know, but I will tell you. It will be Bessie, the
maniac. Do you know Bessie, that you loved once? You can't get away
now, for the maniac has come to take you down to the dark, cold grave,
where all the souls of mad women are calling your name."

Max raised himself, and leaning his head on his elbow, his eyes grew
almost as wild as though he, too, were a maniac.

"Girl," he said, "leave me; you will drive me mad, too."

"Ha, ha, ha," laughed Bessie, as she drew a sharp, glittering knife
from her bosom.

Max drew back in affright.

"Darling," she shrieked, "we are going away together to find the
ghosts, and we will make the air ring with the wild music that we
shall make as we dance and leap over the graves that are waiting for
us."

She raised the knife, and with superhuman strength held him fast, and
buried it in the heart of her betrayer. As a loud curse arose to his
lips, and his head fell backward, she plunged the knife into her own
heart, and with a wailing cry she sank upon the breast of the man she
had so fondly and so unwisely loved.

The noise awoke Mrs. Morris, who came down trembling and white with
fear, and at the same moment Miss Elsworth entered the door.

"Bessie, Bessie," she said, and her clasped hands and amazed look
betrayed the deep emotion she felt. "What is it, my poor girl?"

She sprang forward, and raising Bessie's head, she leaned against the
bed for support, and with a voice full of agony, she said:

"Oh, God help us! Mrs. Morris, they are both dead."

"Oh, Charley, my boy! I can't look at you; ah, my beautiful boy, why
did you come here to be killed in this way?"

Thus ended the lives of the betrayed and the betrayer--the beautiful,
innocent, confiding Bessie, and the false, deceitful, selfish man of
the world. They laid them side by side and at their heads a modest
stone marked "Charles" and "Bessie," and none who had heard of the
sad, sad story of wrong and revenge could look upon their graves with
tearless eyes.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

SOLVING THE PROBLEM.


It was a lovely afternoon in midsummer. Scott Wilmer entered the
cemetery and wended his way slowly toward his father's grave. As he
neared the spot, with noiseless steps, he noticed a female leaning
against the tall white monument that marked his father's resting
place. As she raised her head he saw that there were tears on the
heavy lashes, and a sorrowful look on the lovely face.

"My kind friend," she said, aloud, "what a sad time it was when you
left your loved family!"

Scott neared the place where she stood, and bowing, said:

"Please pardon me, madam, I did not mean to intrude upon your grief. I
came to visit my father's grave."

"I am the one to ask pardon," the lady replied, "and if you will
excuse me I will not intrude further."

"Do not go," said Scott. "If my father was a friend of yours you have
a right to mourn for him."

"I have heard so much of his goodness," she said, "that I could not
help paying the tribute of a few tears to the memory of so noble a
man. I have heard that aside from his extreme affection for his
family, he was a devout Christian."

"Yes, he died the death of the righteous." Scott stooped and plucked a
tiny flower from his wife's grave.

"If this one had lived as he did I should be satisfied, but God is the
judge of both, and he doeth all things wisely, letting the rain fall
upon the just and the unjust."

"It seems hard for one young and beautiful as your wife was, to die
and leave those who loved her."

"You have seen her then?"

"Yes, I visited her several times during her illness. She was fond of
reading, I observed, so I gave her a book of poems."

"Yes, my mother told me that she was fascinated with one of
'Auralia's' late works. I did not blame her, for if I ever loved in
fancy, it is the authoress Auralia. Her style of writing is enough to
captivate both the thoughtful and the careless. There is a touching
pathos in them that is seldom excelled, and poor Irene forgot her
sufferings in listening to their sweetness, so my mother told me."

"I am very glad," said the lady, "as I presented her with that one for
friendship's sake."

"Excuse my boldness, but I would like to ask your name."

"Elsworth," she said.

"What, the authoress?"

"The same."

"And are you the lady who visited my wife, because you thought her
friendless?"

"No, not because I thought her friendless, for I knew she was
surrounded by those who would do all in their power to smooth her way
to the grave, but at her request I held an interview with her."

"Then, of course, you never knew of our disgrace."

"I knew all."

"You were very kind to overlook our misfortunes."

"Oh, no, do not call me kind; I acted only from a sense of duty, and
because I pitied her."

"You knew how deeply she had sinned?"

"Yes."

"God knows I tried to save her, and if I did not my duty it was for
lack of judgment, not charity."

Scott knit his brow, and passed his hand in an absent sort of a way
through his auburn locks.

"That voice," he said, "where have I heard it?"

"I cannot tell you."

"I must have seen you; I am sure I have heard that voice. Oh, I
remember, you saved the life of an old woman, who would have been
trampled to death by a span of fractious horses. Do you not remember
it?"

"Yes, but how do you know that I was the one?"

"I was told that it was Miss Elsworth, the authoress."

"I remember; you are the gentleman who came to my rescue. I never
forget a face I have once seen."

"You are fortunate, as a retentive memory is often very useful."

"I have found it so in many cases, for my acquaintance has been so
brief with very many whom I have met that I might have forgotten my
old friends had not their faces been stamped upon my memory."

"Your home is not in the city, I believe."

"My home is anywhere. For a quiet place, in which to do my work I made
a home of an old, almost ruined house at Roxbury, but there has been
such a sad scene enacted there that I am glad to leave the place."

"A death?"

"Yes, two at the same hour."

"Ah."

"Yes," she said, raising her beautiful eyes to Scott's face, "a victim
of too much love. Bessie Graves, a beautiful, innocent, confiding
girl, the pet of the house, made a hopeless maniac, and a suicide, by
the false pretense of Max Brunswick's love."

Scott started, and his compressed lips betrayed the storm within.

"That villain again," he said, "where is he now?"

"Be patient, and I will tell you. I am sorry to bring him again to
your mind, but it is right that you should know the end. He is dead."

"Dead!"

"Yes; died as he lived; murdered by the hand of the girl he had
betrayed. They are lying side by side near the home of her childhood."

Scott looked thoughtfully down at the grave of his wife. There was a
hungry look in his eyes, as he raised them, again to Miss Elsworth's
face.

"Poor girl," he said.

"Mr. Wilmer, I am sorry, very sorry, that your life has been so
clouded," said Miss Elsworth, "but if you can bury the past it will
be so much better for you. You have your mother and a lovely sister,
and wealth to satisfy every desire."

"Yes, and a cloud above me that can never be lifted until the bright
morning shall come, that will shed light on every sorrowing heart. You
do not know, you never can know how some souls are hungering."

"Ah," she said, "I have not even the love of a mother and sister to
cheer me, as I traverse life's path. There is a skeleton in the closet
of every home, and mine will step out and mock me with its hideous
form even though I doubly bar the door."

"A skeleton in your home, Miss Elsworth; have you no friends or
relatives?"

"I am all alone. I never knew a mother's love or a sister's."

"Then why mourn the loss of that which you never possessed?"

"Ah, Mr. Wilmer, it is the skeleton that still lives that is throwing
its shadow across my path. Had I a mother's companionship the shadow
might seem less."

"Yes, but a woman possessing your talents and the name you have won
should be happy."

She smiled sadly.

"I try to be happy and I make myself believe that I am. I do not allow
the skeleton to crowd out every other thought and duty; only at times
it stands before me ere I am aware of its presence, and then my heart
cries out because I know that it will follow me to the end of life."

Scott wondered, but he did not ask what her sorrow could be. He
looked at the lovely face before him; he noticed the beautiful tint of
the rich complexion; the crimson lips and the dreamy black eyes shaded
by their curling lashes, and he was lost in admiration.

"Miss Elsworth," he said, "I wish you could know my mother and
sister."

"I have promised Mr. Horton that I would try to know his wife, but I
have had so much work to attend to of late that I have neither made
nor received calls; indeed I seldom find time for that pleasure at
all."

"Some ladies find time for little else," said Scott, smiling.

"Yes, some live for pleasure; my life is made up of work."

"How much better it would be if the idlers in the world were compelled
to bear a part of the labor."

"It is no doubt right as it is, but yet the world makes one doubt
their best friends, and when one is deceived, and cruelly wronged, it
is so hard to know who is true, so we are apt to overlook the good
qualities of many and class them all as selfish. How the time passes,"
she said, glancing at her watch. "I have already remained too long.
Good bye," giving him her hand. "Please tender my regards to your
mother and sister."

He held her hand a moment. There was a magnetism in the touch that
almost frightened him. He would not allow the power of a woman's
fascination to overcome him.

"Good bye, Miss Elsworth," he said.

She had taken but a step when he again spoke her name. There was a
charm about her that he could not resist, and he asked:

"Will you not allow me the pleasure of calling on you?"

"Yes, when I am more at leisure."

"Will you send me word when I may come?"

"Yes."

"Thank you," he said, and the next moment she was gone.

"She is a grand woman," Scott said, as he watched her until she was
hid from his view. "She is lovely, noble, and how few there are like
her. But I must not even admire her. I wonder if they are all
alike--vain of their beauty."

Scott returned to his office, trying, and quite unable to banish the
image of Blanche Elsworth from his mind. He began opening the mail
which lay on his desk.

"Ah, here is a letter from Paul, God bless him. I hope he will be here
soon," and a smile passed over his face as he read: "I will see you
ere long. The facts that we are both enabled to furnish in regard to
that affair will no doubt be sufficient evidence."

"Yes," Scott said, "I think it will be quite enough. But one element
is doubtful, and I think we shall master that, too. What a brave boy
Paul is; I shall make him an offer when he returns--that is, to take a
share of my business--yes, and my wealth, to study law--in fact, to do
anything to become one of the family. There is one heart that is true
as steel, and he is and has been more than a brother to me."

Mr. Le Moyne entered.

"Well," he said, "is there any news?"

"Everything has worked to my entire satisfaction, and the property is
found."

"But where is the rightful heir?"

"That is all that remains to be discovered and I have a clue. Please
be ready to come to my house when I send you word, as I want you to
hear a statement that will no doubt soon be made."

"Have you heard from the boy Paul?"

"Yes, I have just received a letter containing some very valuable
information. He will be here soon; he does not state just when, but I
can rely on his judgment, knowing that he will be sure to come at the
right time."

"He must be very shrewd to be able to work out some of the secrets
that he has."

"He has the wisdom of a judge, and as for honesty, I would no sooner
doubt him than I would myself. I would trust him with my life."

While Scott and Mr. Le Moyne are holding an important conversation let
us enter for a time the home of old Meg and Crisp. They are seated at
their rude table, eating their meal of soup, crackers and brown bread.
Old Meg looks still more repulsive than before her sickness. Her face
is thin and overspread with a dark, sallow color that is almost
frightful in appearance. She looks up at Crisp with a grin of
satisfaction. Her gray locks are falling from under her cap and
straying in slovenly fashion over her cheeks and forehead.

"I've got the promise of a good sum from that rich lawyer, and as soon
as we get it, we'll clear out and go to Californy, and hunt up John
and when we find him I'll let him know that Meg ain't to be fooled
with in this fashion."

She uttered these words bringing her hand down on the table with a
force that set the old, cracked dishes rattling.

"I wouldn't mind to beat the whole of 'em," said Crisp, "but there'll
be a job on hand to do it."

"Yes, yes, but let me tell you that Meg and her boy Crisp can do it.
There's John--after all the promises he made see how he stuck to his
word. He's got the money and we can't help it till we find him; then
see, my boy, then see."

"I s'pose he lives like a king," said Crisp.

"Well, he will not feel so grand when he sees old Meg walk in his
parlor."

"Ha, ha," laughed Crisp, "I'd like to see the color of his face when
it is done. Then there's Rene; I wonder what she means by keeping in
the shade as she does."

"Why, you don't expect her to come here, do you, now that she's run
away with Brunswick," said Meg.

"Why, no; but if she knew what was good for her she would do a little
better by us than she does. It would be a fine thing for her, wouldn't
it, if we told her husband the whole story," said Crisp.

"That's just what I'm going to do," said Meg, savagely. "I've promised
to go when the lawyer sends for me and tell him all I know about his
wife. I suppose he would give his eyes to find her--the hypocrite
that she is."

"I hain't forgot the bullet in my arm," said Crisp, grinding his teeth
together.

"Nor I, and if I get good pay I mean to tell the whole story."

"Good! Let the lawyer know what a devil she is, anyway," said Crisp.

"I wonder if she told the truth about Zula?"

"I s'pose she did, but if she don't do anything for us it don't make
any difference whether Zula is dead or not."

"No, but I'll let her know how I pay her for her meanness. What would
she have been"--and old Meg rose to her feet, trembling with
rage--"tell me what would she have been if it had not been for Meg's
cunning? Ah, ha! I'll teach her, and I'll show her that old Meg's
revenge ends only at the grave. They promised me gold when I agreed to
do all their devilish work for them, and they have failed, but old
Meg's oath still lives."

"Well, what do you mean to do?" Crisp asked.

"I mean first to get what I can from that lawyer. He has promised to
give me a good sum if I tell him the whole story. He wants to find his
wife, I suppose, but I want to tell him just where she sprung from,
and when he finds her and she goes back, if she ever does, she'll know
that old Meg didn't break her oath. She knows that I swore to get even
with John, if he didn't live up to his promise, and, Crisp, I mean to
do it if I die. He can't be a fine gentleman, with the money that I
got for him, if he don't give me my share. He will find that the old
gypsy can put a curse on him that will last a lifetime."

Old Meg lit her pipe and placing one hand under her chin she formed
about as disgusting a picture as one could imagine.

"Crisp," she said, while her face took on a still more intense look of
hatred, "I could kill that jade, to think that she can be a lady
through my managing and me a beggar. I hate her, and I could grind her
to powder."

"Hate her," said Crisp, "don't I hate her, the sneak that she is?
Hain't I got reason to hate her for setting the trap that she set for
me, that night? Who but a devil like her would have got me in such a
place? She laid the plot to get me to come there, and then got some
one to shoot me like a dog. But I'll have revenge."

"Yes, yes, we'll beat her yet, if we follow her to her grave, you
remember that. I'd like to be a mouse and see how she looks when she
comes back to that rich man of hers, and he tells her what she used to
be before he married her. I'll fix it so that he'll never give her a
home if she does come back."

"Oh, he'll never want her to come back after I have told him my story,
too," said Crisp.

"Well, well, old Meg will make sure. I'll set the trap this time and
if anybody gets shot it'll be her. Zula's got her pay for her deviltry
and Rene shall get hers. I never could see how Zu got away so sleek. I
believe she was a witch, anyway, but she's dead and died crazy, so
Rene says, and I am glad of it. She'll never bother us again."

"No, that she won't," said Crisp, "and if she ain't dead, she'll never
show her head around here again."

A knock was heard at the door.

"Come in," said Crisp, in a loud voice.

Scott Wilmer and Mr. Le Moyne entered.

"This is a friend of mine," said Scott. "I invited him to come in with
me as I was passing."

"Take some chairs," said Meg, still keeping her seat and smoking
vigorously.

"Meg," said Scott, "I have not long to stay, so you will excuse me if
I proceed immediately to business. You promised to tell me what you
knew concerning my wife."

Meg nodded her head, but did not raise her eyes from the floor.

"Do you pretend to know where she is?" asked Scott.

"No, I don't know just now."

"But you promised to tell me something of her past life."

"Yes."

"Are you ready to do so?"

"No," said Meg, decidedly.

"For what reason."

"I can't tell you that now."

"Can you tell me anything about Rene's father?" Scott asked.

"What do you know of her father?"

"I asked you a question."

Meg looked at Scott with fierce and searching eyes, but she quailed
before the far more searching gaze of Scott.

"Who told you of my secrets?" Meg asked.

"That does not matter. I asked you to tell me what you of your own
free will promised."

"Well," said Meg, knocking the ashes from her pipe, "I am in need of
money, but I don't sell my wisdom for nothing."

"Meg," said Scott, in a commanding tone, "I never fail to do as I
promise. I have told you that you would be well paid for whatever
information you may possess, and I wish you to name a time when you
will be ready to impart it to me as you have promised to do. Do you
know anything of a certain portion of a mining country in California,
owned by Rene's father?"

Meg started, and said:

"So you are after more news, are you?"

"Answer my question."

"Maybe you'll pay me as the rest did, as both of them did, but I can
tell you I ain't to be fooled this time. Old Meg ain't wise, but she
will get her money in advance."

"Very well, you need not be uneasy about the money; I want to know
just when you will tell me what you have promised."

Old Meg sat with downcast eyes for a moment, then she said, bringing
her cinched fist upon her knee, as though to make the statement
stronger:

"When you give me five hundred dollars, and tell me where Rene is."

"Your information must be valuable."

"It is worth that to you."

"I will agree to it, providing you tell me what I wish to know. When
will you come?"

"Before the snow flies."

Scott and Le Moyne left the house, and as the door closed after them
Meg arose, and standing before Crisp, with lips fairly purple with
rage, and eyes from which gleamed the fire of hatred, she said:

"Crisp, we may as well get our money and go. There's another one on
our track, and there is no use to try to hide it any longer. They'll
shut the whole of us up."

"They never will; we'll slip away first."

"But we must get the money first."

"Yes," said Crisp, sullenly, "but the devil seems to be to pay all
around."

Meg and Crisp spent the remainder of the day in planning just how they
would take their departure from the city, and so greatly was Meg's
mind disturbed by the appearance of Le Moyne that she slept but
little.

It was near the middle of October that Scott called one day to visit
Miss Elsworth. He had called often, and each visit served to increase
his respect and admiration. Not that he had any intention of falling
in love with her, but there was a charm about her that made him
desirous of her company. She was so beautiful, so simple in her
attire, so easy and graceful in her manners, and above all so
entertaining in her conversation that he forgot half his heartaches
when in her society. June had said to him one day as he sat reading:

"Scott, why do you not marry Miss Elsworth?"

"How do you know that I could?" he asked, in true Yankee style.

"No man ever knows until he has inquired. Why do you not ask her?"

"Why, June," he said, looking up suddenly, "I would be almost afraid
to marry any woman."

"I do not believe she could be a wicked woman if she were to try,"
said June.

"It does not seem so, but we cannot tell; but I have not the least
idea that Miss Elsworth would marry me if I wished her to."

"I do not see how she could help it," said June, ardently.

"Every one does not admire me as you do, June," said Scott, with a
smile.

"It is because they do not know you, then," June replied.

Miss Elsworth was seated in her cozy parlor when a visitor was
announced.

"Ah, Mr. Wilmer," she said, with a smile that went straight to his
heart, "I am glad to see you. I have a little business to transact
that takes a lawyer's head to accomplish, though I am not partial to
that class of men."

"I am sorry," he said, as he took the chair she offered him. He had
not intended to fall in love with her, and he had said to himself that
he would not allow it; but, alas for his intentions. He really had
never known what love was until now. He spoke to her of it, and her
great dreamy eyes looked into his own with a look of pitiful sadness,
as she said:

"I am sorry you have spoken of love to me, Mr. Wilmer. Perhaps if you
consider it for a while you will decide that it is not best."

"My decision was made before I spoke to you, Miss Elsworth."

"I am very selfish," she said. "I want the first and only love, and
that you cannot give me."

"Perhaps not the first; but I can give you the greatest and deepest
love my heart has ever known. I will not censure my dead wife nor
speak of her faults; but this I will say, that she never held the
place in my heart that you do."

"It seems strange to me, Mr. Wilmer, to hear you speak of love. I did
not think you would ever love another woman."

"Perhaps I never should had you not crossed my path."

He came and stood by her chair, but he made no demonstration of the
all-absorbing love of his generous nature. He looked calmly down at
the fair face beside him, and if he thought her the most beautiful
woman on earth she did not know it.

"Blanche."

She looked quickly up into his face.

"Do not be frightened. It is not for your lovely face that I admire
you most, but for the rich depth of thought and the true nobility of
your character. You may be far above me in social rank and you have
won a name that is fast becoming an everyday word. You no doubt have
and will still have offers of marriage from men far up in the social
scale, and I have been disgraced, and I only lay my love at your feet
for you to stoop down and accept or to cast it aside as you see fit. I
dare not hope for a return. Nay, I do not expect it, but I must let
you know that the greatest love that I have ever known, or ever shall
know, is and will be the love I have for you."

Miss Elsworth arose and stood with clasped hands and eyes looking
downward. She turned her face away from Scott's gaze and remained
silent.

"You have no answer for me?" Scott said, while his clear, rich voice
trembled with emotion. "You cannot give what I have given you, and I
do not blame you that it is so."

She turned and looked in to his face with sorrowful eyes, saying:

"I am so sorry you have spoken those words to me."

"Do not let it grieve you; my heart has long since been schooled to
bear the bitterest disappointments, and I shall have the strength to
bear even this. I would not have you entertain one sorrowful thought
for me, for I should be less happy if I thought you grieved for one
hour."

"If it could be----"

She stopped suddenly.

"It cannot. I will say the words that you are trying so hard to
speak--that you cannot love me; but I could not be satisfied until I
heard the words from your own lips. I am not a nobleman or a man who
adores fashionable society; but, oh, my darling, I have a heart!"

She started as though she had seen a ghost.

"Forgive me," he said, "but I have a heart that would appreciate a
world of love if it were given me--a love that would shield you from
the faintest touch of the world's rude blast and shelter you as the
mother bird covers her tender nestlings."

Blanche Elsworth's hands were clasped more firmly together, and the
strong, brave woman was trembling in every limb; but her voice was
firm and had lost none of its musical sound as she spoke, though her
face was full of sadness. "Scott Wilmer," she said, "I wish these
words had never been spoken to me. Not because they sound unpleasant,
for there is a beauty in them that I have never dreamed of. Through
years of obscurity I have watched your noble character; I have been a
witness to your joys and your sorrows. I have known of your bearing
with patience the hardest trials of life, and I have said that not in
all the world is there another man like Scott Wilmer. You were a
stranger to me, and I looked on you and worshipped your character."

"I cannot understand you."

"I am speaking but the truth. I watched you through your years of
patient endurance, doing that which few men on earth would do, and
when I stepped from my obscure position and entered the great world
where you dwelt I still looked on and worshipped, and as the clouds
grew thicker and thicker about you my admiration grew stronger. I will
not deny the truth, Scott Wilmer, I had no right to love the man, but
I had a right to admire and respect the true heroic character, and
this I did."

"My darling," he said, "do you mean what you say? Dare I hope that
you will be mine, and is there no barrier between us?"

"Yes, there is a barrier between us, for, though I love you, there is
no hope for us."

"No hope for love like ours?"

"No, no; and when I have told you why, you will be satisfied to leave
me."

"I can see nothing to separate us--nothing but death."

"Scott, you have been deceived once, and I cannot deceive you again."

"Don't," he said, as a pained look passed over his face.

"I shall never deceive you, even in one thought, for I could not, even
though I were to gain a life of happiness by so doing."

"But it is true that you love me?"

"Yes, 'tis true; but now you must leave me."

"Leave you when your heart is sad?"

"Yes, leave me, even though my heart is breaking."

"Not until you tell me why I must do so," Scott said, with a smile.

"I cannot tell you to-day. When I have schooled my heart to do my
bidding then I will come to you and tell you that which perhaps will
turn your love to hatred."

"It will be a terrible tale that will change my heart, for earth has
never held for me the happiness of this hour. There is one thought
that rises and throws light over all the dark clouds--it is that you
love me!"

"Be satisfied, then, to love me until we meet again, and till then let
us both be happy."

Scott leaned over and pressed his lips to her forehead; then, ere the
door closed after him, he stopped and, gazing steadily at her face, he
said: "Blanche, I shall leave you now, but I shall expect you to send
me word to come again soon; otherwise I shall come without an
invitation."

"Good bye," she said, without even raising her eyes, "I will send for
you soon," and the next moment she was left alone.

"How much less brave I am than I thought I should be if this ever
came. Oh, to think that I have struggled all my life to do right, to
be free from sin and disgrace, have stepped over the roughest paths
and had my feet pierced with the sharpest thorns; and now when the
doors of heaven are opened to me and the glory of its sunlight is
bursting upon me, the cloud that never can be lifted falls before me,
shutting out that light that would make my earthly paradise. I shall
try to be as brave as he will be when he knows the truth. Oh, I wonder
if I can, or will the skeleton still be my constant companion? No, no,
it shall not; I will put it away from me, and, going out in the world,
leave it behind me; and if God wills it so, I will live only for the
work that lies before me, and there is enough of that to keep my hands
and head busy. But, oh, how hard it is to know that one cruel
misfortune in life can wreck every hope and turn every bright dream of
life to a dark and hopeless reality! But I will let him see how
bravely I shall bear the cross that never can be lifted from my
shoulders."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

GENERAL EXPLANATION.


Miss Elsworth had been to Roxbury and informed Mrs. Morris that she
had decided to return to the city.

"I don't see how I can go," said Mrs. Morris.

"Why not?" Miss Elsworth asked.

"Well, you know, my boy is buried here--and--and----"

"That need not hinder your going. You can have the privilege of coming
here as often as you choose."

"There's another reason," said Mrs. Morris, twisting her apron strings
around.

"What is it?"

"I don't jest like to speak of it."

"Is it anything you are ashamed of?"

"No, but then you know everybody hates to talk about bein' in love."

"Oh, that is it. Has the deacon been here again?"

"Oh, la, me, yes; now don't you go to talkin' about him. You can't
appreciate bein' in my place 'cause you never was in love."

"Has he proposed?" Miss Elsworth asked, trying to hide a smile.

"Gracious, yes."

So Miss Elsworth had settled up her affairs at Roxbury, giving the
contents of the old house to Mrs. Morris, and after seeing her happily
married to the deacon, she bade good bye to her friends there, who
parted from her with tearful eyes and repeated requests that she would
visit them as often as possible.

She returned to the city, where she began her work with renewed
energy. She had sent a note to Scott, saying she would be there on the
evening of the last day of October, and now the time had arrived when
she was to meet him as she told him she would, in her true character,
and make a full confession of the deception she had practiced. She
went wrapped in a cloak which covered her entire form, her face being
covered by a thick veil. At her request she was shown to Scott's room,
where he awaited her. A look of surprise passed over his face as he
noticed her strange attire.

"I promised," she said, throwing aside her veil, "to come to you in my
true character."

Scott bowed and stepped forward to assist her in removing her wraps.
He took the cloak from her shoulders, and there stood before him, a
beautiful picture of gypsy loveliness. Her dark, full skirt of rich
purple velvet scarcely reached the top of her purple velvet boots, and
was elaborately embroidered with gold. Her close fitting bodice
revealed to perfection her full, round form, and the large flowing
sleeves, with their gold colored satin linings, revealed at every turn
the beautifully moulded arms. Beads of every conceivable size and
color hung around her neck, and fastened back the raven locks of hair
that fell like a cloud below her waist.

"Miss Elsworth," Scott said, as soon as he had requested her to be
seated. "I am surprised to see you in this dress. What does it all
mean?"

"I knew you would be, and that is why I would not accept the offer you
made me--the generous offer of your love, and when I have told you my
story you will thank heaven that I did not."

Scott was seated a short distance from her, looking steadily into her
face.

"I shall not ask your pardon, for I have done no intentional wrong,
only I ask that you do not censure me too severely for the deception
which I have practiced. I am not Miss Elsworth, the authoress, as you
suppose."

"You are not Miss Elsworth, the authoress?"

"No."

"Why did you deceive me?"

"I will tell you. I come to you not as Miss Elsworth, but as Zula, the
gypsy girl."

"What? You are not a gypsy?"

"Yes, I am. Hard it is for me to think so, but the truth must be told.
I am Zula, the gypsy. Do you remember years ago of a little, wicked
girl, who tried to steal the silver from your mother's table, and how
you kindly set her free?"

"Yes, I remember, though my sister was the one who persuaded me to go
after her."

"But you went; and through your kindness she was released. Do you
remember also a time that a young man was hunting near a gypsy camp a
few miles from Detroit and found the same little girl being beaten by
a fiend; a cruel gypsy?"

"Yes, I remember it well, and knew she was the same one whom I had
rescued from the jail."

"Do you remember of your kindness toward her and how you gave her your
address that she might find you if she needed your assistance?"

"Yes."

"She never forgot your face, nor your kindness. Her name was Zula, and
so is mine."

"Are you really not Miss Elsworth?"

"No, I am only Zula, the gypsy girl."

"A gypsy," Scott said in a low voice. "Can it be? Miss Elsworth,
Blanche, I cannot believe it. I cannot believe you guilty of so much
deception."

"Let me tell you why I deceived you. It was because I had sworn to
return your kindness in some way, and I have tried."

"You are none the less lovely, if you are a gypsy."

Zula, as we must now call her, turned her beautiful eyes full upon
Scott's face as she said:

"You will see no beauty when I tell you that I am of the very lowest
parentage, and old Meg is my mother, and Crisp is my brother."

"Good heavens! Do not tell me that."

"It is true."

Scott rang the bell, and as a servant appeared he said:

"Order the horses and carriage, and take these two notes to the
numbers indicated. Tell the persons to come immediately."

The servant departed, and Scott remained thoughtful for a few moments
with his head bowed upon his hands. At length he looked up, gazing
straight into Zula's eyes, and said:

"Zula--if that is your name--I cannot bear deceit, but I believe that
your motive has been a pure one; but I have loved you more for your
beauty of thought and actions than for your loveliness of face, and
now you tell me that you are not an authoress."

"You are mistaken in that. I said I was not Miss Elsworth, the
authoress, but I am 'Auralia,' and only a gypsy girl, the daughter of
a low fortune-teller and a sister of one of the most degraded of
men."

"I have seen old Meg at her home, but I never saw you there."

"I have not seen her for years; not since I received that cruel
beating from Crisp."

"I have sent for her, and when she comes I will ask you to step into
the next apartment, as she has promised to tell me something of
Irene's history, which she claims to know, and which your presence
might interfere with, but Zula," he said, taking a step nearer to her,
"I cannot help loving you if you are a gypsy girl. You must have been
a brave, good girl to have fought so many hard battles, which I know
you must of necessity have been compelled to do, to reach the standard
you have. You have done a noble work, and however low your birth,
whatever misfortune you may have met, so that you have come out of the
fire purified, and with a name honored by yourself and your God, my
love is still the same. Zula, this shall not come between us. I loved
the woman whom the world praised, but I love the gypsy girl none the
less."

"Scott, you have not heard it all. Do not make your decision until you
have done so."

At that moment a servant announced Mr. Le Moyne.

"I have sent for you for the promised interview," said Scott. "Allow
me the honor of presenting Miss Elsworth, the authoress."

Mr. Le Moyne was a polished gentleman, but he failed to hide from the
penetrating eyes of Scott the look of surprise which passed over his
face, as his eyes fell on the gay dress in which Zula was robed. The
sound of voices at the hall door soon attracted the attention of Zula,
and waving her hand to Scott by way of explanation, she stepped behind
the thick folds of satin which shaded the bay window near which she
sat.

"You may send my mother and Mr. and Mrs. Horton to my room," Scott
said to the boy who had waited on Meg and Crisp at the door.

Mrs. Wilmer looked her surprise when she saw the ill-looking persons
before her, but she made no inquiries.

Old Meg threw off the coarse shawl which she wore, and looking around
the room she said, in a creaking voice:

"It seems to me you got a good many to keep your secret, but I'm sure
I don't care. You promised me gold, and so you let me go with that I
don't care."

"Meg," said Scott, "you have promised to tell me all you know of
Irene, and when you have done so I will give you the price you have
asked, and remember that nothing but the truth will satisfy; for,
bear in mind that I have _some_ facts."

Meg took a deep breath, and clasping her long bony hands together, she
began:

"I was born in France. My father was a gypsy and my mother was an
Irish servant girl. When my father married my mother she had a son,
whose father was a handsome Irishman. I went to live with a wealthy
French gentleman, and I took my boy with me. My man was dead and I had
to work out, so I went to do scrub work. I had a great way of curing
little folks, and as my mistress had a beautiful little baby, she soon
began to think she couldn't get along without me. After a while my
mistress took it into her head to go to America, and all the servants
but me was afraid to go, so I took my boy and came along. The cholera
broke out on board the ship, and my master and mistress were both
buried in the sea. My half-brother was on board the ship, and when the
baby's father and mother went down into the water it gave me a cunning
idea. He was a handsome man, and I told him that there was a way that
he might become rich. The baby's grandpa in America had sent it many
costly presents, and I told my half-brother that if he would consent
we might have gold. He was an idle fellow and he fell in with the plan
at once. I told him that he must dress up and pretend to be the baby's
father. It was a good idea, he said, and he would do it. When we
reached New York the old gentleman had come on from San Francisco, and
had everything in grand style for his daughter and her husband, but
when I got there and told him of his daughter's death, he was almost
killed, and nothing would convince him that it was his daughter's
baby, until we showed him a necklace that he had sent it; then he just
give right up and it was awful the way he took on. He couldn't bear to
have the baby out of his sight. After a while he took sick, then he
sent for a lawyer to make his will. He said he wanted me to stay and
take care of him 'cause I had been with the baby's mother. He had the
lawyer come and make the will. He gave me a little. All the rest he
left to the baby."

Scott arose and handed Meg a glass of water.

"You're a gentleman, anyhow," she said; then continued her story.

"The old man didn't seem to feel jest right about the choice his
daughter had made, for he would look at John and say that he was so
different from the man he thought his daughter had married. My
mistress had a strange idea. She thought her husband was the
handsomest man in all the world. He was a beauty, and when her father
wrote to her to send his picture, she wrote back that he must wait,
for her husband could not get a picture half as handsome as he was. So
that old man waited, but never saw him, but he wasn't real suited with
her choice. After a while the old man died, suddenly, and it was then
I got possession of the will. My half-brother and I made an agreement
that he should furnish me with money and I should take care of the
baby. Soon after we went to New York my brother got acquainted with a
girl with a wonderful handsome face, but she was a devil. She was just
out of the hospital where her illegitimate child was born, and after
a while John married her. They hadn't been married very long till she
run away with a gambler, and left the child with him. It was agreed
that John should take his wife's child and go west, and I should take
the other and go some place away for fear we might get found out. That
child, sir, the child of shame," said old Meg, arising and turning to
Scott, "was Irene Mapleton, your wife."

Mrs. Wilmer groaned aloud, and said:

"Oh, Scott, my noble boy, what a world of disgrace I brought upon
you."

"Mother, do not reproach yourself," said Scott.

"I took the other child," continued Meg, "and a good supply of money,
and going away from the city joined a band of gypsies and have since
led a roving life."

Mr. Le Moyne had grown strangely excited as he listened to old Meg's
story, and stepping toward her asked hurriedly:

"What was the old man's name?"

"Weston."

"And the name of the daughter's husband?"

"Le Moyne."

"Ah, old Meg, I have seen you before."

Meg turned fiercely toward Mr. Le Moyne as she said:

"I don't believe it."

"What was the name of the child you took away with you?"

"She never had a name till we named her. We called her Zula."

[Illustration: "Ah! Old Meg! I have seen you before."]

Scott's face grew pale. He neither moved nor spoke, but his keen eyes
were fastened on Meg's face, with a gaze that seemed to read every act
of her past life.

Mr. Le Moyne, turning toward Scott, said, in a voice trembling with
excitement:

"Let me speak for a moment, and perhaps I can help to prove the story
which Meg has told. Years ago a very beautiful young lady went from
here to France for the purpose of gaining a knowledge of the country.
She was in the company of a number of friends and their stay being of
short duration, they returned leaving her in Paris. She was a writer
of some note and her father being deeply engaged in business at the
time, she was allowed to go without him. While there she met my
brother Gustavo, and the result was a marriage."

Crisp moved uneasily.

"She wrote to her father," continued Mr. Le Moyne, "and, of course, he
was displeased, and sent her a very harsh letter, upbraiding her for
her disrespect; but the next letter she received was full of love and
a plea for forgiveness. In a year's time a child was born, and the joy
of the old gentleman knew no bounds. He was growing old, and if his
daughter could gain her husband's consent to come to America, to live
he would will all his property to the little one. My brother was very
indulgent to his fair wife, and together they started for America.
Cholera broke out on board the ship and my brother and his wife were
both buried in the sea. The servant who had been very faithful to my
brother's wife sailed with them, and now, Meg, I ask you where is the
child you took away with you--my brother's child?"

"I don't know," Meg answered in a husky voice.

"You do know," said Le Moyne, while his dark eyes flashed with keen
excitement.

"No, on my soul I don't know," said Meg, dropping on her knees,
"before heaven, I don't know."

"How is it that you don't know?"

"She is dead," said Crisp.

"Dead! How do you know?" asked Scott.

"Because Irene told me she died in a madhouse."

"What drove her to a madhouse?" asked Le Moyne.

Old Meg, still kneeling before him, was trembling like a leaf shaken
by the wind.

"I don't know," she said. "The last time I saw her she was asleep in
the tent, and she went away in a thunder storm, at night, for when we
got up in the morning she was gone."

"And you know nothing of her at all?"

"No, I have never heard from her since."

"Then I am as much in the dark as ever," said Le Moyne, in a
despairing tone.

"Perhaps," said a voice close by him, "I can throw some light on the
subject."

All eyes were turned as the beautiful gypsy girl stepped from behind
the folds of the curtain. She advanced toward old Meg, and passing her
hand over her own purple black hair, she said:

"Meg, would you know Zula if you were to see her?"

"Yes, yes."

"Then I will tell you where to go. You will tire in this position,"
she said, assisting Meg to rise. "Take this chair while I, too, tell a
story."

Old Meg took the chair, but kept her eyes fixed on Zula's face.

"Perhaps I have more for which to ask forgiveness than any other one
present. Years ago," said Zula, "I lived with a band of gypsies. I may
have been a bad child, but I hardly think I deserved the cruel
punishment which I received at the hands of my mother and brother."

Crisp dropped his head upon his breast.

"So often was I beaten that I grew to hate the man who called himself
my brother, and I swore to have revenge, and at one time I should, no
doubt, have died under the lash had it not been for the interference
of a kind hearted gentleman, who happened to be hunting in the woods.
The night before my escape from my persecutors I heard them talking
when they thought I was asleep. The gentleman had given me his address
on a card, and they, overhearing a portion of our conversation, as
they entered the tent, searched me for it. I could not exactly
understand, at the time, what their intentions were, but I learned
enough to know that they meant to harm him in some way, but
fortunately I had returned the card to the gentleman, telling him that
I could remember."

"Are you going to tell----"

Meg stopped abruptly as Zula motioned her to be silent, and, turning
her lovely eyes toward Scott, she said:

"This part of my confession, Mr. Wilmer, is more for you and your
family than any other. When I left the woods I passed the night in the
storm, and the darkness being so intense I could not find my way out,
and after wandering about until I could go no longer, I waited under a
huge tree until the morning began to dawn, when I hurried to the city
for fear of being pursued. I had a small bag of money, which a friend
had given me, and this I took to purchase a suit of boy's clothing. I
had resolved not to be captured by my brother again. Before donning my
male attire I went to a barber shop and had my hair cut in real boy
style, selling it for the sum of fifteen dollars. It happened that not
long after I reached the city an advertisement appeared wanting an
office boy, and Providence led me to the home of Scott Wilmer, and
there I remained watching that no harm might come to him, for I had
sworn to repay his kindness and that of his sister. It happened that
one cold, dark night, I was obliged to go some distance from home, on
an errand, and on my way back I saw a form crouching in the shadow of
an old building. It excited my suspicion, and I stole behind the
boards in order to determine the man's intention. A woman soon joined
him, and my heart almost stood still when I discovered that the man's
voice was that of my brother, and the woman--it matters not who."

"Oh, you needn't try to hide it," said Meg.

"No, no," said Crisp, knitting his coarse black brows, "you needn't
lie for Rene, for you know it was her."

"In their conversation I found that they intended to rob my kind
employer, and I swore at that moment that I would risk my own life if
they attempted it. I also heard them telling of a stolen will that
Crisp had in his possession, and I knew by his conversation that some
one had been terribly wronged, and that it was a young girl, but I did
not hear her name, if they mentioned it at all. I hurried home and
waited for the would-be murderer. I had sworn, when a child, that I
would shoot Crisp and I did."

"It was you, was it?" Crisp said, springing toward Zula, with clinched
fists.

"It was Zula."

"Why did you not tell me of their intentions," Scott asked, "and save
yourself the trouble?"

Zula's eyes were cast down, and the color came to her face, as she
said:

"Because I could not bear to tell you of your wife's wickedness, and I
knew Paul could save you."

"But where is Paul? I do not exactly understand," said Mrs. Wilmer.

"He stands before you."

"And Miss Elsworth, who is she?"

"She is but a gnome. Auralia and Zula the gypsy girl are one."

Mr. Le Moyne stepped to Zula's side.

"Then if you are Zula, you must be my brother's long lost child," he
said, joyfully.

"She lies, she lies," screamed old Meg. "She don't look like Zula."

Zula pushed the rich velvet sleeve back and, pointing to a long scar,
said:

"You see I still carry the mark of the lash."

"It's a lie, it's a lie," shouted Crisp, "and if you don't get more
marks it will be because Crisp don't live."

Zula drew from her pocket the same little pistol which she had carried
in her childhood days, and pointing it upward, she said in a clear,
firm voice:

"Do not threaten me, Crisp; you see I carry something besides marks."

"Keep still, Crisp, keep still," old Meg said, in a frightened
whisper.

Scott Wilmer arose to his feet. His attitude commanded the most
profound silence. Old Meg sank cowering in her chair, while Crisp
dared not so much as raise his eyes.

"Meg," Scott said, "if you were a man instead of an aged woman, I
should deal with you as you deserve and the law would show you no
mercy. I shall make of you one request; and if you fail to comply I
shall use harsher means. I have promised you five hundred dollars for
the information that you have given me, but to me it is well worth the
sum. Here it is; take it and leave the city, and remember, Crisp, you
must bear her company."

"You devil," said old Meg, in an undertone, and looking angrily at
Zula, "maybe I'll get even with you yet. You are only a woman, if you
can shoot."

"Meg," said Scott, "it is quite useless for you to threaten. Hereafter
Zula will be under my protection. Just bear it in mind."

"And," said Zula, "if he finds it a great task he can just call on
'Paul,' and, mark me, Crisp, should he ever have occasion to use this
weapon again he will not aim at your elbow."

"Crisp, the devil is in the girl," said Meg.

"Perhaps it is the gypsy blood coursing through her veins," said Le
Moyne, ironically, "but, Zula, darling, I can hardly believe that I
have found you, and now that I have been made so happy at last, you
must give me a portion of the love that you have promised Lawyer
Wilmer, for you and I are the only survivors of the Le Moyne family."

"I shall love you, dear uncle, for the sake of my father, if not for
your own devotion and kindness to me."

"God bless you, my dear girl," said he, as he printed a kiss upon her
forehead.

"God bless you, Miss Elsworth," said June, following his example, and
adding: "I suppose I may kiss Paul."

"My dear Miss Elsworth," said Guy, coming forward. "Is it possible
that you are Zula--my little heroine of Clear Lake? I did not know
that Zula possessed any talent as a writer. I thought that----"

"That you tore down the castle which she built," she said, smiling.
"You did tear the castles down for a time, but they would rise even
though the builder met with boulders almost too heavy to carry. And
Miss Elsworth, I know, found more favor in your eyes than Zula ever
could."

"Will you ever forgive me?" Guy asked.

"I have nothing to forgive," she answered, with a bright smile. "I
never felt at all angry toward you, for I knew, when I grew old enough
to understand, that your being a very bright boy had, in a measure,
spoiled you, and made you just a bit conceited. But I have failed, of
late, to find that trait in your character."

"No," he said, "because June found it, and compelled me to give it
up."

"Yes," said June, "and it seemed to be quite an easy matter for him to
surrender."

"But, Guy," said Zula, "do not forget that although you, in your
boyhood days, tore down Zula's castle, you greatly aided Miss Elsworth
in laying the foundation for a more solid structure, and though Zula
might sometimes cry out in vexation against you as she did that day,
Miss Elsworth will ever feel grateful to the publisher, Guy Horton,
for past favors."

"Scott," said Mrs. Wilmer, going to him and laying her hand on his
arm, "do you mean to tell me that Miss Elsworth and Paul are the
same?"

"Yes, mother," Scott replied, "and the same little gypsy who tried to
steal your spoons, because she had been taught to steal and knew she
would be punished if she did not."

"Zula, my dear child, can you ever forgive me?"

Zula placed her arm around Mrs. Wilmer's neck and imprinting a kiss on
her cheek she said:

"Please do not speak of it, Mrs. Wilmer. Your heart was really better
than you knew. You were always kind to Paul, and Zula will never
forget it. Do not sorrow for the past, but let us live for the love
that is before us."

"Meg," said Le Moyne, "I can hardly forgive you for your cruelty
toward my brother's child, and only that I know that it is Zula's
wish, do I spare you the full extent of justice that belongs to you.
Leave the city and never dare to return. I will attend to your brother
John and his mining stock later on."

"I'll go," said Crisp, shivering.

"But you promised to take me to Rene," said Meg, turning to Scott.

"To-morrow you may go and speak to her," he said. "She lies out there
in the cemetery."

"Dead?" shrieked Meg. "Dead?"

"Yes, dead," said Scott, "and she told me ere she died, how she had
sinned against me, and of your son's attempt to take my life."

"Dead!" Meg repeated. "Oh, I wanted to see her just once more, for the
gypsy's curse is here yet."

"Stay your curses, Meg; they cannot harm her now," said Zula.

"No, they can't harm her, but I'll have revenge on John--yes, and on
you."

"Take your son and leave the house, Meg," Scott said. "The coachman
will drive you to your home."

"Yes. I'll go, but I'll leave my curses behind me," said Meg, as she
followed Crisp out of the door.

"Mother," Scott said, as he stepped to Zula's side, "I want to ask
you a question. I asked Miss Elsworth one day if she would be my wife.
She would not consent until she had told me the story of her life. I
loved 'Auralia' before I ever saw her, and I loved Miss Elsworth. I
pitied the child Zula, and Paul I could not live without. Since they
are all one, are you willing that I should repeat the request, and if
she consents can you love her with a mother's love?"

"Oh, Scott," said Mrs. Wilmer, with tearful eyes, "I am not worthy the
love of such a daughter."

Scott raised Zula's hand, and clasping it firmly, said:

"Zula, I said once that I could not live without Paul, and when he
came back I should take him into partnership. What do you think of the
offer?"

"I think that if you and your partner can agree as well as you and
your valet that as a firm you will prosper."

"Heaven bless you, my children," said Mrs. Wilmer, fervently. "Be
happy in the love of each other."

"Zula, my dear sister, and also my brave Paul," said June, smiling, "I
am so glad that Scott is happy. I know that I do not need to say,
treat him kindly, for you cannot fail to know the true character of
each other."

"Zula, do you give your full consent?" Scott asked.

"I will refer you to my uncle," said Zula, looking at Le Moyne, "as he
is my only relative."

"I suppose I must consent," said Le Moyne, "for it was through Lawyer
Wilmer's management that I found you."

A week later Zula stood in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Platts. They
could scarcely believe the story which Zula told them, and only on
condition that she remained as their daughter, would they forgive her
for remaining away so long, and Zula promised, for a time, to remain.
A portion of her property, which Irene's pretended father had claimed,
was given her uncle. Mapleton, in company with Meg and Crisp, left the
States, and never returned.

Le Moyne, becoming tired of bachelor life, married Eunice Graves, and
Ross, it is said, has formed the acquaintance of Carrie Horton, and
thinks she comes very near being an angel.

       *       *       *       *       *

An evening in winter. It is cold and stormy without, but bright and
warm is the home that I shall ask you to enter with me, and look for a
moment on the scene.

A man and woman are sitting by the glowing grate, watching the sport
of a beautiful boy of three years of age. He has his mother's dreamy
eyes, and his father's curling locks.

"Paul, my darling, come here," Scott Wilmer says.

The boy climbs upon his father's knee and, laying his bright head on
Scott's breast, says:

"Papa, I wish I was a man like you," and as the dark lashes droop over
the beautiful eyes, Zula whispers:

"God keep you, my darling boy, and when you are a man may you be like
him."

Scott smiles, and, clasping his wife's hand, says:

"Zula, darling, one hour of the present happiness is enough to repay
me for all the sorrows of the past."

The scene is ended, the curtain falls, and you and I, dear reader,
turn again to the busy world, each to toil, to suffer or be happy, as
fate wills, until that curtain falls which shuts out the light of
mortality.

THE END.



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