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Title: Marion Berkley - A Story for Girls
Author: Comins, Elizabeth B.
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 "Marion Berkley - A Story for Girls" ***

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                       MARION BERKLEY

                      A STORY FOR GIRLS

                    BY ELIZABETH B. COMINS


    PHILADELPHIA
    HENRY T. COATES & CO

    Copyright, 1870, by A. K. Loring.



             TO
       MY TWIN SISTERS
          THIS BOOK
    IS MOST AFFECTIONATELY
         _DEDICATED_.



[Illustration: THE TWO BOUQUETS.]



MARION BERKLEY.



CHAPTER I.

EN ROUTE FOR SCHOOL.


"Come on, Mab! the carriage is round; only fifteen minutes to get to the
depot."

"Yes, I am coming. O mamma! do fasten this carpet-bag for me. Dear me!
there goes the button off my gloves. Was there ever any one in such a
flutter?"

"Never mind, dear; it is too late to sew it on now. Here is your bag;
come, we must not stop another moment; there is Fred calling again."

"I say, Mab," shouted the first speaker from the bottom of the stairs,
"if you're coming, why don't you come? I shan't leave until you bid me
good-by, and I know I shall lose the ball-match. You do keep a fellow
waiting so eternally long!"

His sister was downstairs, and had her arms around his neck before he
had finished speaking, and said to him, in a tone of mock gravity, "Now,
Frederic, don't get excited; always follow my good example, and keep
cool. There now!" she exclaimed, as she gave him a hearty kiss; "be
off. I forgot all about your ball-match, and all the amends I can make
is to hope the Isthmians will beat the Olympics all to pieces."

"Come, come," called Mrs. Berkley from the inside of the carriage, "we
have not a moment to lose."

"Good-by, Hannah. One more kiss for Mab, Charlie. Good-by, all;" then to
the coachman, as she whisked into the carriage, "Drive on, John, just as
fast as you can."

The carriage-door was shut with a snap; off went the horses, and Mrs.
Berkley and her daughter were soon at the Western depot, where the
latter was to take the cars for B----, a little New England town, where
she attended boarding-school. They were very late at the depot, and Mrs.
Berkley had only time for a fond kiss and a "Write often, darling," when
the bell rung, and she was forced to leave the car, feeling a little
uneasy that her daughter was obliged to take her journey alone. Just as
the cars were starting, Marion put her head out of a window, and called
to her mother, "O mamma! Flo is here; isn't that jolly? No fear now
of--" The last part of the sentence was unintelligible, and all Mrs.
Berkley got was a bright smile, and a wave of the hand, as the train
moved out of the depot.

"Now, Flo, I call this providential," exclaimed Marion; "for, I can tell
you, I did not relish the prospect of my solitary ride. Just hand me
your bag, and I'll put it in the rack with my budgets. This seat is
empty; suppose we turn it over, and then we shall be perfectly
comfortable. Now I say this is decidedly scrumptious;" and she settled
herself back, with a sigh of satisfaction.

"Why, Mab, what made you so late? I had been here fifteen minutes before
you came, all on the _qui vive_, hoping to see some one I knew; but I
never dreamed you would be here. I thought you were going up yesterday
with the Thayers."

"I did intend to; but Fred had a sort of spread last night for the
Isthmians, so I stayed over. I expect Miss Stiefbach will give me one of
her annihilators, but I guess I can stand it. I've been withered so many
times, that the glances of those 'eagle eyes' have rather lost their
effect."

"Well, I only wish I had a little more of your spirit of resistance.
What a lovely hat you have! Just suits your style. Where did you get
it?"

"Why, it's only my old sun-down dyed and pressed over, and bound with
the velvet off my old brown rep. I trimmed it myself, and feel mighty
proud of it."

"Trimmed it yourself!--really? Well, I never saw such a girl; you can do
anything! I couldn't have done it to save my life. I only wish to
gracious I could; it would be very convenient sometimes."

And so the two girls rattled on for some time, in true school-girl
fashion; but at last they each took a book, and settled back into their
respective corners. Before very long, however, Marion tossed her book on
to the opposite seat; for they were coming to Lake Cochituate, and
nothing could be lovelier than the view which was stretching itself
before them. I do not think that half the people of Massachusetts
realize how beautiful this piece of water is; but I believe, if they had
seen it then, they surely must have appreciated its charms.

It was about the middle of September, and the leaves were just beginning
to turn; indeed, some of them were already quite brilliant. The day was
soft and hazy,--just such a one as we often have in early autumn, and
the slight mist of the atmosphere served to soften and harmonize the
various colors of the landscape. The lake itself was as clear and smooth
as polished glass, and every tree on the borders was distinctly
reflected on its clear bosom; while the delicate blue sky, with the few
feathery clouds floating across it seemed to be far beneath the surface
of the water.

Marion was at heart a true artist, and had all a true artist's intense
love of nature; she now sat at the window, completely absorbed in the
scene before her, her eye and mind taking in all the beauties of form,
color, and reflection; and as the cars bore her too swiftly by she
uttered a sigh of real regret.

Perhaps there will be no better time than the present for giving my
young readers a description of my heroine. My tale will contain no
thrilling incidents, no hairbreadth escapes, or any of those startling
events with which ideas of heroism are generally associated. It will be
a simple story of a school-girl's life; its fun and frolic; its
temptations, trials, and victories.

Marion Berkley was a remarkably beautiful girl; but she owed her beauty
chiefly to the singular contrast of her hair and eyes. The former was a
beautiful golden color, while her eyes, eyebrows, and lashes were very
dark. Her nose and mouth, though well formed, could not be considered in
any way remarkable. When in conversation her face became animated, the
expression changed with each inward emotion, and her eyes sparkled
brilliantly; but when in repose they assumed a softer, dreamier look,
which seemed to hint of a deeper nature beneath this gay and often
frivolous exterior.

Mr. Berkley was very fond of his daughter. He had a large circle of
acquaintances, many of whom were in the habit of dining, or passing the
evening, at his house, and it pleased him very much to have them notice
her. Marion was by no means a vain girl; yet these attentions from those
so much older than herself were rather inclined to turn her head.
Fortunately, her mother was a very lovely and sensible woman, whose good
example and sound advice served to counteract those influences which
might otherwise have proved very injurious.

And now that I have introduced my friends to Marion, it is no more than
fair that I should present them to her companion. Florence Stevenson was
a bright, pretty brunette, of sixteen. She and Marion had been friends
ever since they made "mud pies" together in the Berkleys' back yard.
They shared the same room at school, got into the same scrapes, kept
each other's secrets, and were, in short, almost inseparable. Florence
had lost her mother when she was very young, and her father's house was
ruled over by a well-meaning, but disagreeable maiden-aunt, who, by her
constant and oftentimes unnecessary fault-finding, made Florence so
unhappy, that she had hailed with delight her father's proposition of
going away to school. For three years Florence and Marion had been
almost daily together, being only separated during vacations, when, as
Florence lived five miles from Boston, it was impossible that they
should see as much of each other as they would have liked.

About four in the afternoon, the girls reached their destination; rather
tired out by their long ride, but, nevertheless, in excellent spirits.
Miss Stiefbach, after a few remarks as to the propriety of being a day
before, rather than an hour behind time, dismissed them to their rooms
to prepare for supper, where for the present we will leave them.



CHAPTER II.

SCHOOL.


Miss Stiefbach and her sister Christine, were two excellent German
ladies who, owing to a sudden reverse of fortune, were obliged to leave
their mother-country, hoping to find means of supporting themselves in
America. They were most kindly received by the gentlemen to whom they
brought letters of introduction, and with their assistance they had been
able to open a school for young ladies; and now, at the end of seven
years, they found themselves free from debt, and at the head of one of
the best boarding-schools in the United States.

Miss Stiefbach, the head and director of the establishment, was a stern,
cold, forbidding woman; acting on what she considered to be the most
strictly conscientious principles, but never unbending in the slightest
degree her frigid, repelling manner. To look at her was enough to have
told you her character at once. She was above the medium height,
excessively thin and angular in her figure, and was always dressed in
some stiff material, which, as Marion Berkley expressed it, "looked as
if it had been starched and frozen, and had never been thawed out."

Miss Christine was fifteen years her junior, and her exact opposite in
appearance as well as in disposition: she was short and stout, and
rosy-cheeked, not at all pretty; but having such a kind smile, such a
thoroughly good-natured face, that the girls all thought she was really
beautiful, and would feel more repentance at one of her grieved looks,
than they would for forty of Miss Stiefbach's frigid reprimands. And
well they might love her, for she certainly was a kind friend to them.
Many a school-girl trick or frolic had she concealed, which, if it had
come under the searching eyes of her sister, would have secured the
perpetrators as stern a rebuke, and perhaps as severe a punishment, as
if they had committed some great wrong.

Miss Stiefbach's school was by no means what is generally called a
"fashionable school." The parents of the young girls who went there
wished that their daughters should receive not only a sound education,
but that they should be taught many useful things not always included in
the list of a young lady's accomplishments.

There were thirty scholars, ranging from the ages of seventeen to ten;
two in each room. They were obliged to make their own beds, and take all
the care of their rooms, except the sweeping. Every Saturday morning
they all assembled in the school-room to darn their stockings, and do
whatever other mending might be necessary. Formerly Miss Stiefbach
herself had superintended their work, but for the last year she had put
it under the charge of Miss Christine; an arrangement which was
extremely pleasing to the girls, making for them a pleasant pastime of
what had always been an irksome duty. After their mending was done, and
their Bible lesson for the following Sabbath learned, the rest of the
day was at their own disposal. Those who had friends in the neighborhood
generally went to visit them; while the others took long walks, or
occupied themselves in doing whatever best pleased them. There were of
course some restrictions; but these were so slight, and so reasonable,
that no one ever thought of complaining, and the day was almost always
one of real enjoyment. Miss Stiefbach herself was an Episcopalian, and
always required that every one, unless prevented by illness, should
attend that church in the morning; but, in the afternoon, any girl who
wished might go to any other church, first signifying her intention to
one or the other of the sisters.

Some of Miss Stiefbach's ancestors had suffered from religious
persecutions in Germany, and, although she felt it her duty to have her
scholars attend what she considered to be the "true church," she could
not have it on her conscience to be the means of preventing any one from
worshipping God in whatever manner their hearts dictated.



CHAPTER III.

MONSIEUR BÉRANGER.


It was the half-hour intermission at school; and Marion and Florence had
taken Julia Thayer up into their room to give her a taste of some of the
goodies they had brought from home with them. Their room was one of the
largest in the house, having two deep windows; one in front, the other
on the side. The side window faced the west, and in it the girls had
placed a very pretty flower-stand filled with plants; an ivy was trained
against the side, and a lovely mirandia hung from the top. The front
window had a long seat fitted into it, and as it overlooked the street
it was here that the girls almost always sat at their work or studies.

"Now, Julie," began Marion, "which will you have, sponge or currant?"

"Why, you are getting awfully stingy!" exclaimed Flo; "give her some of
both."

"No, she can't have both; it is altogether too extravagant. This is my
treat, and you need not make any comments."

"Well, if I can't have but one, I think I'll try sponge."

"Sensible girl! you knew it would not keep long. There, you shall have
an Havana orange to pay you for your consideration."

"Please, ma'am," said Flo, in a voice of mock humility, "may I give her
some of my French candies?"

"Yes, if you'll be a very good girl, and never interfere again when I am
'head-cook and bottle-washer.'"

The girls sat round the room chatting and eating; Flora and Julia were
on the bed, when Marion, who was at the front window, jumped up on the
seat, and called out: "O Flo! Julie! do come here! Just look at this man
coming down the street. Such a swell!"

The two girls rushed precipitately to the window, and they all stood
looking out with intense interest.

"I do declare, he is coming in here! Who in the world can he be? How he
struts!" said Marion. "What a startling mustache! I do wonder who in the
world he is."

"Allow me to see, young ladies; perhaps I can inform you," said a calm
voice directly in their ears; and, turning, they beheld Miss Stiefbach.
She had entered the room just as they began their comments, and now
stood directly behind them. Florence and Julia fell back in dismay, and
for a second a look of amazement passed over Marion's face; but it was
only a second, for she instantly replied to Miss Stiefbach, in the same
eager tone she had used when speaking to her companions: "Jump right up
here; you can see him better, for he is underneath on the steps."

Miss Stiefbach looked at her aghast, and for once she was overpowered.
She, the calm, the dignified, the stately Miss Stiefbach--jump! It was
too much. If a glance could have transfixed her, Marion would have been
immovable for life. Miss Stiefbach's usually pale face was flushed to a
burning red, and her voice was choked with suppressed excitement, as she
said, "Young ladies, you will go at once to the school-room. Miss
Berkley, report to me in my study, immediately after the close of
school;" and she sailed out of the room.

When she was gone, the girls stood and looked at each other, not exactly
knowing whether to laugh or cry; but Marion decided for herself, by
sitting down on the floor, and bursting into a fit of uncontrollable
laughter. Florence held up her finger warningly, "Hush-sh-sh! Mab,
she'll hop out from under the bed, like as not; do come downstairs."

"O girls! girls! that look!" shouted Marion. "Oh, I shall die! She was
furious. Won't I catch it?"

"O Mab, how did you dare? It was awfully impudent."

"I know it, and I'm sure I don't know what made me say it. I never
stopped to think; it just popped out, and I would not have lost that
scene for anything;" and Marion went off again into one of her
laughing-fits.

"O Mab, do stop!" said Julia, rather impatiently; "you'll get us into a
pretty scrape."

"Well, I won't laugh another bit, if I can help it; come on!" and,
jumping up, Marion ran downstairs, the others following her, into the
school-room; when, what was their astonishment to see before them "the
swell," who had been the cause of all their trouble, standing talking to
Miss Stiefbach. They went quietly to their seats, wondering what would
happen next. Marion whispered to Flo, "The new French teacher; a man, as
I live, and not very old either. Won't we have fun?"

"Young ladies of the first class in French go into the anteroom, where
M. Béranger will examine you. Miss Christine, accompany them, and
preserve order." As Miss Stiefbach said this in her usual calm tones,
Marion's recollections were almost too much for her; but she had a
little laugh all to herself, behind the cover of her desk, as she took
out her books.

The former French teacher had been a little, quiet woman, who had
allowed herself to be ruled over by her pupils; but she had gone back to
France, and Miss Stiefbach had secured the services of M. Béranger, who
was recommended to her, both for his complete knowledge of his own
language, and for his high moral character. The latter was indeed to be
considered, for many foreigners, calling themselves professors, often
prove to be mere worthless adventurers, knowing very little themselves
of what they attempt to teach others, and being in other respects unfit
for respectable society.

The young ladies were in quite a little flutter of expectation, as they
took their seats, for Mr. Stein, their old music-teacher, was the only
gentleman teacher of the establishment, and he was decidedly different
from this rather elegant-looking Frenchman. M. Béranger came in, bowed
in a dignified manner, took his chair, and at once began questioning the
girls as to what they had studied, how far they were advanced, etc.
Marion, who was ready for anything, and thought she might as well have a
little more fun for the scolding that she knew was in store for her,
tried hard to get up a little excitement; pretending not to understand
when M. Béranger spoke to her; replying to all his questions in English,
notwithstanding his repeated ejaculations of "Mademoiselle, je ne vous
comprends pas du tout; parlez Français." But Marion would not "parlez
Français," disregarding the beseeching looks of Miss Christine, and
either made no reply, or obstinately spoke in English. For some time M.
Béranger took no notice of her conduct, but went on questioning the rest
of the class; assuring the timid by his polite, considerate patience,
and quietly correcting the mistakes of the more confident. At last,
however, as Marion asked him some trifling question, he looked her
directly in the face, and simply replied, "M'lle Berkley, si vous parlez
l'Anglais, il faut que je vous mette dans la classe des petites filles."

Marion looked at him a moment, in doubt whether he could be in earnest;
but there was no mistaking that calm, determined look. Two things were
before her: to rebel, and go down to the lower class in disgrace, or to
yield gracefully to what she knew to be right. She chose the latter, and
replied, "Monsieur, je pense que je resterai ici." As she said this,
there was a slight flush of shame on her cheeks, and she bent her head
with a little gesture, which seemed to beg pardon for her rudeness. At
any rate, M. Béranger so understood it, and he ever afterwards
entertained a secret respect and admiration for M'lle Berkley.

That night, in her own room, Marion thus explained her singular conduct:
"You see, Flo, I wanted to find out, in the first place, what sort of
stuff he was made of; whether he was to rule us, or we him, as we did
poor little mademoiselle; and I found out pretty quickly. He came here
to teach, not to be made game of. In two weeks, I expect to have the
true Parisian accent, and to have entirely forgotten all the English I
ever knew. Bonne nuit, ma chère;" and Marion turned over, and was asleep
in five minutes.



CHAPTER IV.

MARION'S SENTENCE.


Immediately after the close of school Marion betook herself to the
private study of Miss Stiefbach. This was a small room back of the
drawing-room, fitted up very cosily and comfortably, and which no one
but the sisters ever entered, except on state occasions, or under
circumstances like the present. It must be confessed that Marion did not
feel very comfortable as the door closed behind her, and Miss Stiefbach,
who was sitting at her desk, turned round, motioning her to be seated.
Marion knew she had done very wrong, and was really sorry for it, for,
although none of the scholars could be said to have much affection for
Miss Stiefbach, they all held her in the most profound respect, and no
such direct attack upon her dignity had ever been made within the memory
of any of the present pupils.

Miss Stiefbach cleared her throat, and commenced speaking in her most
impressive and awful voice. "Miss Berkley" (the fact that she addressed
Marion in this very distant manner proved at once that she was very
angry), "your conduct to me this day has been such as I have never seen
in any young lady since I became the head of this establishment, and I
consider it deserves a severe punishment. The remarks which I overheard
this morning, as I entered your room, were enough in themselves to have
merited a stern rebuke, even if they had not been followed by a direct
insult to myself. I am surprised indeed, that any young ladies brought
up in refined society should have made use of such expressions as
'_swell_' and--and--other words of a like nature." It was evidently so
hard for Miss Stiefbach to pronounce the word, even in a tone of intense
disapproval, that Marion, despite her uneasiness, could not help being
amused; but no trace of her feelings could be seen in her face; she sat
before her teacher perfectly quiet,--so quiet, that Miss Stiefbach could
not tell whether she was deeply repentant or supremely indifferent.

"I have decided," resumed Miss Stiefbach, "that as M. Béranger was
indirectly connected with the affair, you shall apologize to me before
the whole school, and in his presence, on the next French day, which
will be Friday. I should not have subjected you to this mortification,
if you had shown any willingness to apologize to me here; but as you
seem entirely insensible of the impropriety of your conduct, I consider
that the punishment is perfectly just."

Marion rose; for one second her eyes had flashed ominously when her
sentence was delivered, but it was the only sign she gave of being
surprised or otherwise moved. Perceiving that Miss Stiefbach had nothing
more to say, she left the room as quietly as she had entered it. Several
of the girls were standing at the study door waiting for her to come
out, for the whole story had by this time become pretty freely
circulated, and every one was impatient to know the result of the
interview. Marion passed them without a glance, and without speaking,
but with the most perfect _sang froid_, and went directly upstairs to
her room. But once there her forced composure gave way, and, throwing
herself on the bed, she burst into a passion of tears.

Florence, who had been anxiously waiting for Marion to come up, knelt
down beside her, smoothing her hair, calling her by all their fond, pet
names, and doing everything she could to soothe and quiet her, but never
once asking the questions that were uppermost in her own mind, for she
knew that, as soon as this first hysterical fit of weeping was over, her
friend would tell her all. She waited some time, until she became almost
frightened, for Marion's sobs shook her from head to foot, and she
seemed unable to control herself.

Suddenly Marion sprang up, and exclaimed in the most excited, passionate
tones, "Florence! Florence! what do you think she is going to make me
do? Think of the most humiliating thing you can!"

"Indeed, my darling, I cannot guess," replied Flo, while she had hard
work to restrain her own tears.

"I have got to apologize to her before the whole school, and before M.
Béranger next Friday. Oh! I think it is abominable. She wouldn't have
made any other girl do it, but she knows how proud I am, and she thinks
now she'll humble me. Oh, it is too hard, too hard to bear!" and Marion
threw herself back on the pillow, and sobbed aloud.

Poor Florence was completely overpowered. Distressed as she was for her
friend, and furiously indignant with Miss Stiefbach, she hardly dared to
comfort and sympathize with her, except by caresses, for fear of
increasing her excitement, and she could only throw her arms round
Marion's neck, kissing her repeatedly, and exclaiming again and again,
"I wish I could help you!--I wish I could help you!"

But after a while the violence of Marion's grief and anger subsided, but
left its traces in a severe headache; her temples throbbed fearfully,
and her face and hands were burning hot.

Florence wet a cloth in cold water, and laid it on her head, and,
knowing that Marion would prefer to be alone, she kissed her quietly,
and as her eyes were closed was about to leave the room without
speaking, when Marion called her back, exclaiming, "Don't tell the
girls anything about it; they'll find it out soon enough."

"No, dear, I won't mention it, if I can help it. You lie still and try
to get to sleep. Don't come downstairs to supper. I will excuse you to
Miss Christine, and bring you up a cup of tea."

"No! no! no!" excitedly repeated Marion; "do no such thing. I wouldn't
stay up from supper, if it killed me to go down; it would only prove to
old Stiffback how deep she has cut, and I mean she shall find it will
take more than _she_ can do to humble me. Be sure and let me know when
the bell rings. I don't think there is much danger of my going to sleep;
but for fear I should, you come up before tea,--won't you?"

Flo promised, and giving her another kiss, and advising her again to lie
still and go to sleep,--a thing which she knew it was impossible for
Marion to do,--she left the room.

Left to herself Marion became a prey to her own varying emotions. Pride,
anger, and mortification were rankling in her breast. When she thought
of the coming disgrace which she was to endure, she sobbed and wept as
if her heart would break; and then the image of Miss Stiefbach, with her
calm, cool face, and deliberate manner, seeming so much as if she
enjoyed giving such pain, rose before her mind, and she clenched her
hands, and shut her teeth together, looking as she felt, willing to do
almost anything to revenge herself.

In her inmost heart she had been truly sorry for having spoken so
impertinently to her teacher, and she had gone to the study fully
prepared to acknowledge that she had done wrong, and to ask pardon for
her fault. But Miss Stiefbach, by presupposing that she felt no regret
for her conduct, or any desire to apologize, had frozen all such
feelings, and roused all the rebellious part of the girl's nature.

For some time Marion tossed restlessly from side to side; but at last,
finding it impossible to quiet herself, much less to sleep, she got up,
bathed her face, and prepared to arrange her disordered hair.

To her excited imagination, it seemed almost as if she could hear the
girls downstairs discussing the whole matter. Every laugh she heard she
believed to be at her expense, and she dreaded meeting her companions,
knowing full well that her looks and actions would be the subject of
general comment.

Throughout the school Marion was not a general favorite; almost all the
girls admired her, but there were few who felt that they really knew
her.

She was acknowledged by almost all her companions to be the brightest
and prettiest girl in the school, and was apparently on good terms with
all of them; but that was all. Many who would have liked to know her
better, and who would have been glad to make advances of intimate
friendship, felt themselves held back from doing so, by a certain
haughty, reserved manner, which she at times assumed, and by her own
evident disinclination for anything more than an amicable school-girl
acquaintance.

Marion was quick to perceive the petty weaknesses and follies of these
around her, and her keen sense of the ludicrous, combined with a habit
of saying sharp, sarcastic things, often led her to draw out these
foibles, and show them up in their most absurd light.

No one knew her faults better than Marion herself, and she was
constantly struggling to overcome them; but her pride and strong will
led her to conceal her real feelings, and often when she was at heart
angry with herself, and ashamed of her wilful, perhaps unkind, behavior,
she would assume an aspect of supreme indifference, effectually
deceiving every one as to what was really passing in her mind.

She kept her struggles to herself. No one but her friend Florence and
Miss Christine knew how sincerely she longed to conquer her faults, and
how severe these struggles were.

The knowledge of them had come to Miss Christine by accident. One day
Marion had said something unusually sharp and cutting to one of her
companions, but had appeared perfectly unconscious of having done
anything unkind, and had gone to her own room humming a tune, with the
most perfect nonchalance.

Miss Christine shortly after followed her, wishing to talk with her, and
show her the folly and wickedness of persisting in such conduct. She had
found her door closed, and, knocking softly and receiving no answer, she
gently opened it, when what was her astonishment to find Marion
stretched upon the floor, weeping violently. She went to her, and,
kneeling down beside her, called her by name. Marion, thus surprised,
could not conceal her grief, or summon her cold, indifferent manner,
and, leaning her head on Miss Christine's shoulder, she sobbed out her
sorrow, shame, and repentance.

Never since had Miss Christine in any way alluded to the event, or by
any means tried to force herself into Marion's confidence; but this
glimpse into her heart had showed her what she might otherwise never
have known, that Marion saw and regretted her own faults and failings,
and was resolved to conquer them. From that time a secret bond of
sympathy was established between pupil and scholar, and though no word
was spoken, a mild, reproachful glance from Miss Christine, or her hand
laid gently on Marion's shoulder, had often checked a rising
exclamation, or cutting sarcasm, which, no matter how sharply it might
have struck its victim, would have rebounded with greater and deeper
pain to the very heart of Marion.

At home Marion had little or nothing to call forth the disagreeable
qualities of her disposition. Surrounded by love and admiration on every
side, the darling of her mother, and the pride and glory of her father,
to whom she appeared almost faultless, it was no wonder that she found
it hard to get on smoothly when thrown among a number of girls her own
age, many of whom, jealous of her superior beauty and intelligence,
would have been glad of any opportunity of getting her into trouble.

Then it was that the worst side of her nature showed itself; and she was
shocked when she discovered how many faults she had which she had never
thought of before.

Her sharp, sarcastic speeches gave her father infinite amusement when
she was at home; but there her remarks rarely wounded any one; but at
school she made her words tell, and she knew that her tongue was her
greatest enemy.

But towards the younger girls Marion was always kind and good-natured.
No one ever told such delightful stories, or made such pretty
paper-dolls, or drew them such lovely pictures as Marion Berkley, and it
was always a mystery to them why the "big girls" did not all love her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Downstairs poor Florence had been having a hard time. When she first
made her appearance in the library there had been a general rush towards
her, and she was greeted with a perfect volley of questions, which it
needed her utmost ingenuity to parry.

She knew Julia Thayer had a right to know all, for she had been
personally concerned in the matter, besides being, next to Flo, Marion's
dearest friend; but she saw that she could not tell her without further
exciting the curiosity of the other girls, and she was forced to take
her book, and appear to be deeply interested in her studies. But,
although her lips monotonously whispered page after page of history, she
knew no more about her lesson than if she had been reading Hindoostanee.

What was her astonishment when she heard close beside her Marion's
voice, asking, in a perfectly natural tone, "Did Miss Christine say six
pages of English History, or seven?"

Florence gave a quick glance at Marion's face, and saw that, although
she was a little pale, she showed no signs of the storm that had so
lately disturbed her. Neither did she throughout the evening appear
other than bright and cheerful, effectually silencing by her own
apparent ease any surmises or questions in which her companions might
have indulged, and they all supposed that she had received a severe
reprimand, and that there the matter would end.

But all agreed with Sarah Brown, who exclaimed, "How Miss Stiefbach had
ever swallowed that pill so easily was a perfect mystery!"



CHAPTER V.

THE APOLOGY.


"Well, Flo, I've hit it!" exclaimed Marion to Florence, as they were
sitting together in their room Thursday afternoon.

"What do you mean?--hit what?"

"Why, I mean I've hit upon a plan; no, not exactly a plan;--I have
decided what my apology shall be."

"Oh!" said Florence, "do you know just what you are going to say?"

"No, not precisely; that is, I have not yet settled upon any exact form
of words, but I have got my ideas together, and I really think it will
be something quite out of the common line."

Florence looked up inquisitively, for Marion's face or voice by no means
expressed the repugnance which she had heretofore shown whenever she had
spoken of the coming apology. In fact she looked rather triumphant, and
a little, amused smile played about the corners of her mouth, as she
bent over her work.

"Now, Mab," exclaimed Florence, "I know you are up to something! Do tell
me what it is that evidently amuses you so much?"

"Oh, nothing particular," replied Marion; but in a tone which said
plainly enough that there was something very particular indeed.

"Now, Mab, you needn't tell me!"

"That is exactly what I don't mean to do," provokingly replied Marion.

"Oh, don't be disagreeable! You know I am positively dying with
curiosity; so out with it!" and Florence tossed her own work on to the
bed, and, catching hold of Marion's canvas, threw it behind her, as she
established herself on her friend's lap.

"Well, I'm sorry, my dear; but if your life depends on my telling you
anything particular to-day, I am afraid you will come to an early
grave."

Florence laid her hands on Marion's shoulders, and looked steadily into
her eyes. Marion met the look with a confident, amused smile, and
exclaimed, "Well, Flo, you look as sober as a judge. I really believe
you think I meditate murder; but I assure you Miss Stiefbach's life is
in no danger from my hands."

"I'll tell you just what I do think, Marion. I believe you are going to
refuse to apologize, and if you do, you will be worse off than you've
been yet;" and Florence really looked as serious as if she were trying a
case in court.

"No, Flo, you needn't trouble yourself on that score. I mean to
apologize before the whole school, and M. Béranger to boot,--just as old
Stiffy ordered."

"Well, I am glad of it! Not glad that it _must_ be done, you know; but I
was afraid you would try to get rid of it in some way; and I know that
would make matters worse."

"No, I don't mean to get rid of it; I shall do it in the most approved
style. Come, get up, miss; you're awfully heavy!"

Florence jumped up, considerably relieved, but still a little suspicious
of her friend's intentions. At that moment Julia Thayer came into the
room.

"O girls! you here?" she exclaimed. "I've been hunting for you
everywhere."

"Well, I don't think you hunted much; we've been here ever since lessons
were done," replied Marion.

"Take a seat, Miss Thayer, and make yourself at home," said Florence.

"Thank you, I was only waiting to be asked. Now, Marion, do tell me;
have you decided what you are going to say to-morrow?"

"It is no use asking her; you can't get anything out of her. I've just
tried my best."

"What! don't you mean to tell us, beforehand?"

"No."

"Not a word? not a syllable? Well, I do declare! I tell you what it is,
Flo, she means to astonish us all by some wonderful production."

"I suppose most of the girls _will_ be astonished, for I don't believe
they know there is to be any apology at all."

"No, I don't think they suspect it," said Julia. "So much for knowing
how to hold one's tongue."

"Well, Julia, I guess this is the first time you could be accused of
that," laughingly replied Flo.

"That is a libel! Who held their tongue about Aunt Bettie's doughnuts, I
should like to know?"

"Another rare instance," mischievously put in Marion; "put it down,
Julia, you'll never have another chance."

"But, girls, what do you mean?" cried Julia, in a deprecating tone. "Do
you think I run and tell everything I know?"

"No, dear, not a bit of it," replied Flo; "you are not quite so reserved
as Marion, but I never heard any one accuse you of telling what you
ought to keep to yourself, or, as the boys say, of 'peaching.'"

"There, Julia, don't look so forlorn, for mercy's sake!" exclaimed
Marion. "You are so delightfully easy to tease; but I confess it was a
very poor reward for your silence of the past two days, which (she
added with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes) I know must have almost
killed you."

Julia and Florence both laughed outright at this rather equivocal
consolation, and at that moment the supper-bell rang.

Friday morning every girl was in her seat precisely as the clock struck
nine; for it was French day, and consequently only the second appearance
of M. Béranger, and the novelty of having him there at all had by no
means worn off.

He entered the room, shortly after, and, having politely wished Miss
Stiefbach and her sister good-morning, was about to pass into the
anteroom, when Miss Stiefbach detained him.

"Excuse me, M. Béranger, but I must trouble you to remain here a few
moments."

M. Béranger bowed with his usual grace, and Miss Stiefbach continued:--

"I regret to say (she did not look as if she regretted it at all) that a
circumstance of a most painful nature has lately taken place in this
school. One of my young ladies has done that which makes me deem it
necessary to exact a public apology from her. As you were indirectly
concerned in the matter, I think it proper that the apology should be
made before you. Miss--"

"But, madame," hastily interrupted the astonished Frenchman, "I cannot
imagine; there must be a meestake--I am a perfect stranger; if you will
have the goodness to excuse me, I shall be one tousand times obliged;"
and the poor man looked as if he himself was the culprit.

"It is impossible, monsieur," decidedly replied Miss Stiefbach; "one
particular clause of her punishment was, that it should be made in your
presence. Miss Berkley, you will please come forward."

During the above conversation a most profound silence had reigned
throughout the room; the girls, with the exception of the initiated
three, had looked from one to another, and then at the group on the
platform, with faces expressive of the most intense astonishment,
proving how wholly unsuspicious they had been; but as Marion's name was
pronounced a light broke in upon every one, and all eyes were turned
upon her as she left her seat.

Miss Stiefbach stood with her hands folded over each other in her usual
stately attitude. M. Béranger looked infinitely annoyed and distressed,
and twirled his watch-chain in a very nervous manner. Miss Christine had
retired to the extreme end of the platform, and was trying to appear
interested in a book; but her face had a sad, pained look, which showed
how fully her sympathies were with her pupil.

Florence Stevenson buried her face in her hands; she could not bear to
witness her friend's disgrace. Marion advanced quietly up between the
rows of desks, and as she stepped upon the platform turned so as to face
the school.

She never looked lovelier in her life; a bright color burned in her
cheeks, and her eyes, always wonderfully beautiful, glowed with a
strange light; but the expression of her face would have baffled the
most scrutinizing observer. Calm, quiet, perfectly self-possessed, but
without a particle of self-assurance, she stood, the centre of general
observation.

Presently she spoke in a full, clear voice: "Miss Stiefbach, as M.
Béranger evidently does not know how he is concerned in this matter,
perhaps I had better explain the circumstances to him."

Miss Stiefbach bowed her consent, and Marion, turning towards the
bewildered Frenchman, thus addressed him:--

"M. Béranger, last Wednesday morning, as I, with two of my companions,
was in my room, which is in the front of the house, my attention was
attracted towards a gentleman who was coming down the street, and I
immediately called my two friends to the window that they might get a
good view of him. Our interest was of course doubly increased when we
saw the gentleman enter this garden. His whole appearance was so
decidedly elegant (here M. Béranger, who began to see that he was the
subject of her remarks, colored up to the roots of his hair) that we
could not help giving our opinions of him, and _I_ applied to him the
word 'swell,' which in itself I acknowledge to be very inelegant; but my
only excuse for using it is, that in this case it was so very
expressive."

M. Béranger, despite his embarassment, could hardly conceal a smile,
while a suppressed murmur of amusement ran round the room. Miss
Stiefbach looked hard at Marion, but her face was composed, and her
manner quietly polite; she was apparently perfectly unconscious of
having said anything to cause this diversion.

"While we were talking of him, Miss Stiefbach entered the room, and must
have, unintentionally of course, overheard our comments, for the first
intimation we had of her presence was this remark, which she made
standing directly behind us: 'Young ladies, allow me to see; perhaps I
can inform you.' And now occurred the remark which it was so exceedingly
improper in me to make, and which justly gave so much offence to Miss
Stiefbach." (Here Marion turned towards her teacher, who, as if to
encourage her to proceed, bowed quite graciously.) "I was standing on
the seat in the window, and consequently had the best view of the
gentleman. In the excitement of the moment, regardless of the difference
in our ages, and only remembering that we were impelled by one common
object, I asked her to _jump_ on to the seat beside me. Miss Stiefbach,
for that rudeness I most sincerely ask your pardon. It was wrong, very
wrong of me; I should have stepped aside, thus giving you an excellent
opportunity of gratifying your desire to look at what is rarely seen
here,--a handsome man."

The perfect absurdity of Miss Stiefbach's jumping up in a window with a
party of wild school-girls, for the sake of looking at a handsome man,
or indeed for her to look at a man at any time with any degree of
interest, could only be appreciated by those who were daily witnesses of
her prim, stately ways. It certainly was too much for the gravity of the
inhabitants of that school-room.

[Illustration: MARION APOLOGIZES.]

M. Béranger bit his lip fiercely under his mustache; Miss Christine
became suddenly very much interested in something out in the back yard;
and the school-girls were obliged to resort to open books and
desk-covers to conceal their amusement.

Marion alone remained cool and collected, looking at Miss Stiefbach as
if to ask if she had said enough.

Miss Stiefbach's face was scarlet, and she shut her teeth tightly
together, striving for her usual composure. The sudden turn of Marion's
apology, which placed her in such a ridiculous light, had completely
disconcerted her, and she knew not what to do or say.

If Marion's eyes had twinkled with mischief; if there had been the
slightest tinge of sarcasm in her tone, or of triumph in her manner,
Miss Stiefbach would have thought she intended a fresh insult; but
throughout the whole her bearing had been unusually quiet, ladylike, and
polite. There was no tangible point for her teacher to fasten on, and,
commanding herself sufficiently to speak, Miss Stiefbach merely said,
"It is enough; you may go to your seat."

Even then, if Marion's self-possession had given way, she would have
been called back and severely reprimanded. But it did not; she passed
all her school-mates, whose faces were turned towards her brimming with
laughter and a keen appreciation of the affair, with a sort of
preoccupied air, and, taking her books from her desk, followed M.
Béranger into the anteroom.

At recess the girls with one impulse flocked round her, exclaiming, "Oh!
it was too good; just the richest scene I ever saw."

"What do you mean?" coolly replied Marion.

"Why!" exclaimed Sarah Brown, an unencouraged admirer of Marion's, "the
way you turned the tables on Miss Stiefbach."

"Indeed, Sarah, you are very much mistaken; I simply apologized to her
for a great piece of rudeness."

And Marion turned away and ran upstairs to her own room, where Florence
and Julia were already giving vent to their long pent-up feelings in
only half-suppressed bursts of laughter.

As Marion made her appearance it was the signal for another shout; but
she only replied by a quiet smile, which caused Julia to ejaculate in
her most earnest manner, "I declare, Marion, you don't look a bit
elated! If I had done such a bright thing as you have, I should be
beaming with satisfaction."

"Well, Julia, I don't think I _have_ done anything so very smart. To be
sure I have had my revenge, and the only satisfaction I've got out of it
is to feel thoroughly and heartily ashamed of myself."

"Marion Berkley, you certainly _are_ the queerest girl I ever did see,"
exclaimed Julia.

But Florence, who knew her friend best, said nothing, for she
understood her feelings, and admired her the more for them.

Marion had been determined to make her apology such as would reflect
more absurdity on her teacher than on herself, and in that way to have
her revenge for what she rightly considered her very unjust punishment.
She had succeeded; but now that her momentary triumph was over, she
sincerely wished that it had never occurred.

The next day she went to Miss Christine, and told her just how she felt
about it, and that, if she advised her to do so, she would go to Miss
Stiefbach and ask her forgiveness. But Miss Christine told her, that,
although she heartily disapproved of her conduct, she thought nothing
more had better be said about it, for Miss Stiefbach had only been half
inclined to believe that Marion could _intend_ a fresh impertinence.

And so there the matter ended; but Marion could never fully satisfy her
own conscience on the subject.

She wrote a long letter to her mother, telling her the whole thing from
beginning to end; and received one in reply, gently, but firmly,
rebuking her for her conduct.

But the next day came four pages from her father, full of his amusement
and enjoyment of the whole matter, and highly complimenting her on what
he called "her brilliant coup d'état."

No wonder Marion's better nature was sometimes crushed, when the inward
fires which she longed to extinguish were kindled by a father's hand.



CHAPTER VI.

THE NEW SCHOLAR


"O girls, the new scholar has come!" shouted little Fannie Thayer, as
she bounced into the library one afternoon, where some of the older
girls were studying.

"Do hush, Fannie!" exclaimed her sister Julia; "you do make such an
awful noise! Of course you've left the door open, and it's cold enough
to freeze one. Run away, child."

"But, Julia," remonstrated Fannie, as her sister went on reading without
taking any notice of her communication, "you didn't hear what I
said,--the new scholar has come."

"What new scholar?" inquired Florence Stevenson, looking up from her
book. "This is the first I have heard of any."

"Why, don't you know?" answered little Fannie, glad to have a listener.
"Her name is--is--Well, I can't remember what it is,--something odd; but
she comes from ever so far off, and she's real pretty, kind of
sad-looking, you know."

"What in the world is the child talking about?" broke in Marion. "Who
ever heard of Miss Stiefbach's taking a scholar after the term had
begun?"

"I remember hearing something about it, now," said Julia. "The girl was
to have come at the beginning of the quarter; but she has been sick, or
something or other happened to prevent. I believe she comes from St.
Louis."

"I wonder who she'll room with; she can't come in with us, that's
certain," said Marion, with a very decided air.

"Why, of course she won't," replied Florence; "we never have but two
girls in a room. Oh! I know, she will go in with little Rose May; see if
she doesn't!"

"Well, I tell you, I am sorry she's come!" ejaculated Marion. "I hate
new scholars; they always put on airs, and consider themselves sort of
privileged characters. I for one shall not take much notice of her."

"Why, Marion," exclaimed Grace Minton, "I should think you would be
ashamed to talk so! She may be a very nice girl indeed. You don't know
anything about her."

"I don't care if she is a nice girl. She ought to have come before. It
will just upset all our plans; the classes are all arranged, and
everything is going on nicely. There are just enough of us, and I say it
is a perfect bother!"

"I really don't see why you need trouble yourself so much," broke in
Georgie Graham, who was always jealous of Marion, and never lost an
opportunity of differing with her, though in a quiet way that was
terribly aggravating. "I don't believe you will be called upon to make
any arrangements, and I don't see how one, more or less, can make much
difference any way."

The entrance of Miss Christine prevented Marion's reply, and she
immediately took up her book and became apparently absorbed in her
studies.

"O Miss Christine," they all exclaimed at once, "do tell us about the
new scholar." "Is she pretty?" "Will she be kind to us little girls?"
"How old is she?" and many other questions of a like nature, all asked
in nearly the same breath.

"If you will be quiet, and not all speak at once, I will try and tell
you all you want to know. The name of the new scholar is Rachel Drayton.
She is about sixteen, and I think she is very pretty, although I do not
know as you will agree with me. She seems to have a very lovely
disposition, and I should think that after a while she might be very
lively, and a pleasant companion for you all; but at present she is very
delicate, as she has just recovered from a very severe illness brought
on by her great grief at the death of her father. They were all the
world to each other, and she was perfectly devoted to him. She cannot
yet reconcile herself to her loss. He has been dead about eight weeks.
Her mother died when she was a baby, and the nearest relation she has is
her father's brother, who is now in Europe. Poor child! she is all alone
in the world; my heart aches for her."

Miss Christine's usually cheery voice was very low and sad, and the tear
that glistened in her eye proved that her expressions of sympathy were
perfectly sincere; if, indeed, any one could have doubted that kind,
loving face. As she ceased speaking, there was a perfect silence
throughout the room, and those who had felt somewhat inclined to side
with Marion felt very much conscience-stricken.

Marion, however, continued studying, not showing the slightest signs of
having had her sympathies aroused.

Miss Christine continued: "I hope, girls, you will be particularly kind
to Miss Drayton. She must naturally feel lonely, and perhaps diffident,
among so many strangers, and I want you all to do everything in your
power to make it pleasant for her. You in particular, Marion, having
been here longer than any of the others, will be able to make her feel
quite at home."

"Indeed, Miss Christine, you must excuse me. You know taking up new
friends at a moment's notice, and becoming desperately intimate with
them, is not my forte."

"Marion," replied Miss Christine, in a quiet, but reproving tone, "I do
not ask you to become desperately intimate with her, as you call it, or
anything of the kind. I merely wish you to show her that courtesy which
is certainly due from one school-girl to another."

Marion made no reply, and Miss Christine sat down and commenced talking
to the girls in her usual pleasant manner. It was her evident interest
in everything which concerned them, that made her so beloved by her
pupils.

They all knew that they could find in her a patient listener, and a
willing helper, whenever they chose to seek her advice; whether it was
about an important, or a very trifling matter.

There was some little bustle and confusion as the girls laid aside their
books, and clustered round Miss Christine with their fancy-work, or
leaned back in their chairs, glad to have nothing in particular to do.

"Miss Christine!" exclaimed little Rose May, "I do wish you would show
me how to 'bind off.' I keep putting my thread over and over, and,
instead of taking off stitches, it makes more every time. I think these
sleeves are a perfect nuisance. I wish I hadn't begun 'em!"

"Why, you poor child," laughingly replied her teacher, "what are you
doing? You might knit forever and your sleeves would not be 'bound off,'
if you do nothing but put your worsted over. Who told you to do that?"

"Julia Thayer did; she said knit two and then put over, and knit two and
then put over, all the time, and it would come all right."

"Now, Rose, I didn't!" exclaimed Julia. "I said put your stitch over,
you silly child! I should think you might have known that putting your
worsted over would widen it."

"I know you _didn't_ say put your stitch over," retorted Rose; "you just
said put over, and how was I going to know by that? I think you're real
mean; you never take any pains with us little ones; I don't--"

"Hush, hush, Rose! You must not speak so," said Miss Christine, laying
her hands on the child's lips; then, turning to Julia, she said, "If you
had taken more pains with Rose, and tried to explain to her how she
ought to have done her work, it would have been much better for both of
you."

"Well, Miss Christine, she came just as I was thinking up for my
composition, and I didn't want to be bothered by any one. As it was, she
put all my ideas out of my head."

Miss Christine's only reply was a shake of the head and an incredulous
smile, which made Julia wish she had shown a little more patience with
the child.

"There, Rose," said Miss Christine, as the little girl put the finishing
touch to her sleeves, "next time you will not have to ask any one to
show you how to 'bind off.' Your sleeves are very pretty, and I know
your mother will be glad her daughter took so much pains to please her."

Rose glanced up at her teacher with a bright smile, and went skipping
off, ready for fun and frolic, now that those troublesome sleeves were
finished. But she had hardly reached the hall when she came running
back, saying, in a most mysterious sort of stage-whisper, "She's coming!
she's coming downstairs with Miss Stiefbach! Rebecca what's-her-name;
you know!"

The girls looked up as Miss Stiefbach entered the room, and, although
they were too well-bred to actually stare at her companion, it must be
confessed that their faces betrayed considerable interest.

Rachel Drayton, the "new scholar," was between sixteen and seventeen;
tall and very slight; her eyes were very dark; her face intensely pale,
but one saw at once it was the pallor of recent illness, or acute mental
suffering, not of continued ill-health.

She was dressed in the deepest mourning, in a style somewhat older than
that generally worn by girls of her age. Her jet-black hair, which grew
very low on her forehead, was brushed loosely back, and gathered into a
rough knot behind, as if the owner was too indifferent to her personal
appearance to try to arrange it carefully.

As she stood now, fully conscious of the glances that were
surreptitiously cast upon her, she appeared frightened and bewildered.
Her eyes were cast down, but if any one had looked under their long
lashes, they would have seen them dimmed with tears.

Accustomed all her life to the society of older persons, no one who has
not experienced the same feeling can imagine how great an ordeal it was
for her to enter that room full of girls of her own age. To notice the
sudden hush that fell upon all as she came in; to feel that each one was
mentally making comments upon her, was almost more than she could bear.
If they had been persons many years older than herself, she would have
gone in perfectly at her ease; chatted first with this one, then with
that, and would have made herself at home immediately.

Unfortunately the only young persons in whose society she had been
thrown were some young ladies she had met while travelling through the
West with her father. They had been coarse, foolish creatures, making
flippant remarks upon all whom they saw, in a rude, unladylike manner,
and from whom she had shrunk with an irresistible feeling of repugnance.
No wonder her heart had sunk within her when she thought that perhaps
her future companions might be of the same stamp.

Miss Christine noticed her embarrassment at once, and kindly went
forward to meet her, saying as she did so, "Well, my dear, I am glad to
see you down here; I am not going to introduce you to your companions
now, you will get acquainted with them all in time; first I want you to
come into the school-room with me and see how you like it."

And she took her hand and led her through the open door into the
school-room beyond; talking pleasantly all the time, calling her
attention to the view from the windows, the arrangement of the desks,
and various other things, until at last she saw her face light up with
something like interest, and the timid, frightened look almost entirely
disappear; then she took her back into the library.

As they went in, Florence Stevenson, who stood near the fireplace, made
room for them, remarking as she did so, "It is very chilly; you must be
cold; come here and warm yourself. How do you like our school-room?"

"Very much; that is, I think I shall. It seems very pleasant."

"Yes, it is pleasant. It's so much nicer for being papered with that
pretty paper than if it had had dark, horrid walls like some I've seen.
What sort of a school did you use to go to?"

"I never went to school before; I always studied at home;" and poor
Rachel's voice trembled as she thought of the one who had always
directed her studies; but Florence went bravely on, determined to do her
part towards making the new scholar feel at home.

"Well, I'm afraid you will find it hard to get used to us, if you have
never been thrown with girls before. I don't believe but what you
thought we were almost savages; now honestly, didn't you feel afraid to
meet us?"

"It was hard," replied Rachel; but as she glanced up at the bright,
animated face before her, she thought that if all her future companions
were like this one she should have no great fears for the future.

Most of the scholars had left the room; the few who remained were
chatting together apparently unconscious of the stranger's presence, and
as Rachel stood before the fire, with her back to the rest of the room,
and Florence beside her talking animatedly, she was surprised to find
herself becoming interested and at ease, and before Miss Christine left
them the two girls were comparing notes on their studies, and gave
promise of soon becoming very good friends.

When Marion left the library, she went directly to her room, locked the
door, and threw herself on the seat in the window in a tumult of
emotion. Paramount over all other feelings stood shame. She could not
excuse herself for her strange behavior, and she felt unhappy; almost
miserable. "Why did I speak so?" she asked herself. "Why should I feel
such an unaccountable prejudice against a person I never even heard of
before? I thought I had conquered all these old, hateful feelings, and
here they are all coming back again. I don't know what is the matter
with me. It is not jealousy; for how can I be jealous of a person I
never saw or heard of before in my life? I don't know what it is, and I
don't much care; there aren't four girls in the school that like me, and
only one _I_ really love, and that's dear old Flo. She's as good as
gold, and if any one should ever come between us I pity her! I'll bet
anything though, that she is downstairs making friends with that girl
this minute."

This thought was not calculated to calm Marion's ruffled feelings, and
she sat brooding by the window in anything but an enviable mood.

She was still in this state of mind when the tea-bell rang, and hastily
smoothing her hair she went downstairs.

It chanced that just as she entered the dining-room Rachel Drayton and
Florence came in by the opposite door. Florence was evidently giving
Rachel an account of some of their school frolics, though in an
undertone, so that Marion could not catch the words, and her companion
was listening, her face beaming with interest. No circumstance could
have occurred which would have been more unfavorable for changing
Marion's wayward mood.

Coming downstairs she had been picturing to herself the unhappiness and
loneliness of the poor orphan, and she had almost made up her mind to go
forward, introduce herself, and try by being kind and agreeable to make
amends for her former injustice; for although she knew Miss Drayton must
be entirely unconscious of it, she could not in her own heart feel at
rest until she had made some atonement.

No one could have presented themselves to a perfect stranger,--a thing
which it is not easy for most persons to do,--with more grace and
loveliness than Marion, if she had been so inclined, for there was at
times a certain fascination about her voice and manner that few could
resist.

She had expected to see a pale, sickly, utterly miserable-looking girl,
towards whom she felt it would be impossible to steel her heart; and she
saw one, who, although she was certainly pale enough, seemed to be
anything but miserable, and above all was evidently fast becoming on
intimate terms with her own dear friend Florence.

That was enough; resolutely crushing down all kindly feelings that were
struggling for utterance, she took her seat at the table as if
unconscious of the stranger's existence. Miss Stiefbach sat at the head
of one very long table, and Miss Christine at another, having most of
the little girls at her end; while Marion sat directly opposite with
Florence on her right. Without changing this long-established order of
things, Miss Christine could not make room for Rachel by the side of
Florence as she would have liked, and the only place for her seemed to
be on Marion's left, as there were not so many girls on that side of the
table. Hoping that such close proximity would force Marion to unbend the
reserved manner which she saw she was fast assuming, Miss Christine,
before taking her own seat, went to that end of the table and introduced
Marion to Rachel, laughingly remarking that as they were the oldest
young ladies there, they would have to sustain the dignity of the table.

This jesting command was certainly carried out to the very letter of the
law by Marion.

She was intensely polite throughout the meal, but perfectly frigid in
the dignity of her manner, which so acted upon poor Rachel, that the
bright smiles which Florence had called forth were effectually
dispelled, and throughout the rest of the evening she was the same sad,
frightened girl who had first made her appearance in the library.

When Marion knelt that night to pray, her lips refused to utter her
accustomed prayers. It seemed hypocrisy for her, who had so resolutely
made another unhappy, to ask God's blessings on her head, and she
remained kneeling long after Florence had got into bed, communing with
herself, her only inward cry being, "God forgive me!"

But how could she expect God would forgive her, when day after day she
knowingly committed the same faults?

Sick at heart, she rose from her knees, turned out the gas, and went to
bed, but not to sleep; far into the night she lay awake viewing her past
conduct.

She did not try to excuse herself, or to look at her faults in any other
than their true light; but, repentant and sorrowful though she might be,
she could not as yet sufficiently conquer her pride to ask pardon of
those she had openly wounded, or to contradict an expressed opinion even
after she regretted ever having formed it.

Poor child! she thought she had struggled long and fiercely with
herself; she had yet to learn that the battle was but just begun.



CHAPTER VII.

AUNT BETTIE.


"Oh, dear!" yawned Grace Minton, "how I do hate stormy Saturdays!"

"So do I!" exclaimed Georgie Graham; "they are a perfect nuisance, and
we were going up to Aunt Bettie's this afternoon."

"Who's we?"

"Oh, 'her royal highness' for one, and your humble servant for another;
Sarah Brown, Flo Stevenson, and Rachel Drayton, _of_ course. By the way,
how terribly intimate those two have grown! I don't believe 'her
highness' relishes their being so dreadfully thick."

"What in the world makes you call Marion 'her highness'?" said Grace.

"Oh, because she _is_ so high and mighty; she walks round here sometimes
as if she were queen and we her subjects."

"No such thing, Georgie Graham!" exclaimed Sarah Brown, who came in just
as the last remark was made, and knew very well to whom it alluded; "she
doesn't trouble herself about us at all."

"That's just it; she thinks herself superior to us poor _plebeians_."

"Stuff and nonsense! You know you're jealous of her, and always have
been."

"Oh, no!" replied Georgie, who, no matter how much she might be
provoked, always spoke _to_ any one in a soft purring voice. "Oh, no!
I'm not jealous of her; there is no reason why I should be. But really,
Sarah, I don't see why you need take up the cudgel for her so fiercely;
she always snubs you every chance she gets."

Sarah tossed her head, blushing scarlet; for the remark certainly had a
good deal of truth in it, and was none the less cutting for being made
in a particularly mild tone.

"Well, at any rate," said Grace Minton, for the sake of changing the
subject, "I think Rachel Drayton is lovely."

"Lovely!" exclaimed Georgie, "she's a perfect stick! I don't see what
there is lovely about her, and for my part I wish she had never come
here."

"Seems to me the tune has changed," broke in Sarah. "I thought you were
one of the ones who were so down on Marion Berkley for saying the same
thing."

"Oh, that was before I had seen her," replied Georgie, not at all
disconcerted.

"In other words, you said it just so as to have an opportunity to differ
with Marion," retorted Sarah. "I really believe you hate her!"

"Sarah, how can you get so excited? it is so very unbecoming, you know,"
purred Georgie. Sarah flounced out of the room too indignant for speech,
and just as she was going through the hall met Marion, who was in an
unusually pleasant mood.

"See, Sarah, it is clearing off; we shall have a chance for our walk, I
guess, after all."

"Do you think so? It will be awful sloppy though, won't it?"

"No, I don't believe it will; besides who cares for that? We are not
made of sugar or salt."

"How many are going?" asked Sarah.

"I don't know exactly; let me see." And Marion counted off on her
fingers. "You for one, and I for another; that's two. Miss Drayton and
Florence are four. Grace Minton, if she wants to go, five; and Georgie
Graham six."

At the mention of the last name, Sarah gave her head a toss, which was
so very expressive that Marion could not help laughing, and exclaimed,
"Oh, yes! you know 'her royal highness' must allow some of the
_plebeians_ among her subjects to follow in her train."

Sarah laughed softly. "Did you hear?" she whispered.

Marion nodded, and just at that moment Georgie came out of the room
where she had been sitting. "What was that you said, Marion, about 'her
highness'?" she asked. "Did you think that the title applied to
yourself?"

"I shouldn't have thought of such a thing, Georgie, if I hadn't
overheard your remarks, and of course I could not but feel gratified at
the honorable distinction."

"How do you know it was meant for an honorable distinction?"

"How can I doubt it, Georgie, when it was bestowed upon me by such an
amiable young lady as yourself? Now if it had been Sarah, I might have
thought _she_ said it out of spite; but of course when Georgie Graham
said it, I knew it was intended as a tribute to my superiority;" and
Marion made a provokingly graceful courtesy.

"There is nothing like having a good opinion of one's self," replied
Georgie.

"But you see you are mistaken there, Georgie; it was you who seemed to
have such a high opinion of me. You know I didn't claim the
greatness,--it was 'thrust upon me;'" and Marion, satisfied with that
shaft, turned on her heel, and opening the front door went out on to
the piazza, followed by Sarah, who had been a silent but appreciative
witness of the scene.

Georgie Graham shut her teeth, muttering in anything but her usual soft
tones, and with an expression in her eyes which was anything but
pleasant to see, "Oh, how I hate you! But I'll be even with you yet!"

The shower which had so disconcerted the whole school was evidently
clearing off, and there was every prospect that the proposed plan of
walking to Aunt Bettie's directly after dinner might be carried into
execution.

Aunt Bettie, as all the school-girls called her, was a farmer's wife,
who supplied the school with eggs, butter, and cheese, and during the
summer with fresh vegetables and berries.

She lived about two or three miles from the school, on the same road,
and the girls often went to see her. She was fond of them all, although
she had her favorites, among whom was Marion; and she always kept a good
supply of doughnuts, for which she was quite famous, on hand for them
whenever they might come.

The sun kept his promise, and before dinner-time the girls were all out
on the piazza, getting up an appetite they said, although that was not
often wanting with any of them.

The party for Aunt Bettie's numbered eight,--Rose May and Fannie Thayer
having begged Marion to ask permission for them to go,--and they all set
out for their walk in high spirits. Although Marion treated Rachel with
a certain degree of politeness, she never spoke to her unless it was
absolutely necessary, and then always addressed her as Miss Drayton,
although every other girl in school had, by this time, become accustomed
to familiarly call her Rachel. Florence had done everything in her power
to draw Marion into their conversation at table, but seeing that she was
determined not to change her manner, she thought it best to take no
more notice of it, as by doing so it only made it the more apparent to
Rachel that Marion had no intention of becoming better acquainted with
her.

Rachel had been there but a short time, and already Marion began to feel
that Florence was turning from her for a new friend. This was not really
the case, and Florence, who knew Marion's feelings, was secretly very
much troubled.

She loved Marion as deeply and truly as ever; but she could not turn
away from that motherless girl, between whom and herself an instinctive
sympathy seem to have been established, arising from the loss which they
had each felt, and which naturally drew them closer to each other.
Florence had never known her mother, but the loss was none the less
great to her; she felt that there was a place in the heart that none but
a mother's love could ever have filled, and no matter how bright and
happy she might feel, there was at times a sense of utter loneliness
about her which she found hard to dispel.

Rachel seemed to turn to her as her only friend among that crowd of
strangers, and she could not refuse to give her her friendship in
return, even at the risk of seeing Marion for a time estranged from her;
for she trusted to Marion's better nature, hoping that in the future she
would not be misjudged, and that all might be made pleasant and happy
again.

And so to-day for the first time since they had been to school together,
Florence and Marion were taking their Saturday afternoon walk with
separate companions. Marion had Rose May by the hand, while she told
Sarah Brown to take care of little Fannie. Florence and Rachel were
directly in front of her, and she knew that they would have been happy
to have had her join in their conversation. In fact, they spoke so that
she could hear every word they said; but she occupied herself by
telling Rose a story of such remarkable length and interest as to
perfectly enchant the child, who exclaimed as they reached the
farm-house, "O Marion, you do tell the best stories; I really think you
_ought_ to write a book!" Marion laughed, but had no chance to answer,
for at that moment the door opened and Aunt Bettie appeared upon the
threshold.

"Wall, gals, I be glad to see ye; this is a sight good for old eyes!"

"Did you expect us, auntie?" asked Marion.

"Spect yer, child! why, I been a-lookin' for yer these three Saturdays
past! What you been a-doin' that's kept yer so long?"

"Well, nothing in particular; but you see the term has only just begun,
and we've hardly got settled."

"Oh, yes, honey, I know; I haint laid it up agin yer. But who's this new
one?--yer haint introduced me."

As Marion showed no inclination to perform the ceremony Florence
presented Rachel, remarking that she was a new scholar from the West.
But Aunt Bettie's keen eyes took in at a glance the deep mourning
apparel, and her kind heart at once divined its cause; and she exclaimed
with great heartiness as she took Rachel's hands in her own rough palms,
"Wall, child, you couldn't 'a come to a better place than Miss
Stiffback's, and you couldn't 'a got in with a better lot o' girls; take
em as they come, they're about as good a set as I knows on!"

"O Aunt Bettie!" exclaimed Florence; "flattering, as I live! I wouldn't
have believed it of you."

"Not a bit of it, child; just plain speakin', a thing that never hurt
anybody yet, according to my notion. But come in, gals; come in, you
must be tired after your long walk, and the tin box is most a-bustin'
its sides, I crammed it so full."

The girls laughed, for they all knew what the tin box contained, and
were only too ready to be called upon to empty it.

They all seated themselves in the large, old-fashioned kitchen, with its
low ceiling and tremendous open fireplace, surmounted by a narrow shelf,
on which was displayed a huge Bible, and a china shepherdess in a green
skirt and pink bodice, smiling tenderly over two glass lamps and a
Britannia teapot, at a china shepherd in a yellow jacket and sky-blue
smalls; being, I suppose, exact representations of the sheep-tenders of
that part of the country.

Aunt Bettie bustled in and out of the huge pantry, bringing out a large
tin box filled to the top with delicious brown, spicy doughnuts, and a
large earthen pitcher of new milk.

"There, gals," as she put a tray of tumblers on the table, "jest help
yerselves, and the more yer eat, why the better I shall be suited."

"Suppose we should go through the box and not leave any for Jabe; what
should you say to that?" asked Marion.

"Never you mind Jabe; trust him for getting his fill. Eat all yer want,
and then stuff the rest in yer pockets."

"Oh, that wouldn't do at all!" exclaimed Marion; "you don't know what a
fuss we had about those Julia Thayer carried home last year! Miss
Stiefbach didn't like it at all; she said it was bad enough bringing
boxes from home, but going round the neighborhood picking up cake was
disgraceful. She never knew exactly who took them to school, for Julia
kept mum; but I don't think it would do to try it again."

"Wall, I think that was too bad of Miss Stiffback; she knows nothin'
pleases me so much as to have you come here and eat my doughnuts, and if
you choose to carry some on 'em to school, what harm did it do? She
ought to remember that she was a gal once herself."

"Oh, mercy! auntie, I don't believe she ever was," ejaculated
Marion. "She was born Miss Stiefbach, and I wouldn't be at all
surprised if she wore the same stiff dresses, and had the same
I'm-a-little-better-than-any-body-else look when she was a baby."

"Wall, child, she's a good woman after all. You know there aint any of
us perfect; we all hev our faults; if it aint one thing it's another;
it's pretty much the same the world over."

"You do make the best doughnuts, Aunt Bettie, _I_ ever eat," declared
Fannie Thayer, who was leaning with both elbows on the table, a piece of
a doughnut in one hand, and a whole one in the other as a reserve force.

"Wall, child, I ginerally kalkerlate I ken match any one going on
doughnuts; but 't seemed to me these weren't 's good as common. I had
something on my mind that worrited me when I was mixin' 'em, and I
'spose I wasn't quite as keerful as usual."

"If _you_ don't call these good, _I_ do!" ejaculated Miss Fannie. "Why,
I just wish you could have seen some Julia made last summer. She took a
cooking-fit, and tried most everything; mother said she wasted more eggs
and butter than she was worth, and her _doughnuts_!--Ugh! heavy, greasy
things!"

"She must 'a let 'em soak fat!" exclaimed Aunt Bettie, who was always
interested in the cookery question; "that's the great trouble with
doughnuts; some folks think everything's in the mixin', but I say more'n
half depends on the fryin'. You must hev yer fat hot, and stand over 'em
all the time. I allers watch mine pretty close and turn 'em offen with a
fork, and then I hev a cullender ready to put 'em right in so't the fat
ken dreen off. I find it pays t' be pertickeler;" and Aunt Bettie
smoothed her apron, and leaned back in her chair with the air of one who
had said something of benefit to mankind in general.

"But where is Julia?" she asked after a short pause. "Why didn't she
come?"

"Oh, I forgot!" exclaimed Fannie; "she sent her love to you, and told me
to tell you not to let us eat up all your doughnuts this time, because
she'll be up before long and want some. She had a sore throat, and Miss
Stiefbach thought she had better not go out."

"I'm sorry for that," replied Aunt Bettie; "I hope she aint a-goin' to
be sick."

"Oh, no, it aint very bad. Julia thinks it's nothing but cankers; she
often has them."

"Wall, it's always best to be on the safe side, any way," said Aunt
Bettie; "you tell her she needn't be afraid about the doughnuts; I'll
have a fresh batch ready agin the time she comes."

The business of eating and drinking so occupied the girls' attention,
that they did not enter into conversation as readily as usual; and after
the first flush of excitement at meeting her young friends and
dispensing her hospitality was over, Aunt Bettie, too, subsided into a
quiet, subdued manner, which was quite foreign to her usual brisk
talkativeness.

She sat in her high-backed rocking-chair, looking at the girls over her
silver-bowed spectacles, with a sad, musing expression, as if the sight
of them called up some unhappy thought.

This unusual restraint on the part of their hostess communicated itself
in a certain degree to her visitors, though they did not themselves
remark the cause of their silence, and their visit was made shorter than
usual.

It was Marion who first made the move to go; and although Aunt Bettie
pressed them to remain she did not urge it with her accustomed
eagerness.

They had got just beyond the bend of the road which hid the old
farm-house from view, when Marion exclaimed, "You run on, Rose, with the
others; I believe I left my gloves on the table; don't wait for me, I'll
catch up with you;" and before Rose could beg to go back with her, she
had turned round and ran off up the road. She ran quickly, but
noiselessly along, and was back to the farm-house in a few moments, and
was surprised to find Aunt Bettie sitting on the door-step with her head
buried in her hands. Going up to her, she found her weeping as if her
heart would break.

"Aunt Bettie!" she said, in her gentlest tones, "Aunt Bettie! It's only
Marion. What is the matter? I thought you seemed worried about
something, and came back to see if I couldn't help you; can't I?"

"Oh, dear!" sobbed the poor woman. "It may be dreadful wicked of me, but
the sight of you young things, all lookin' so bright and happy, did make
me feel awful bad, for I couldn't help thinking o' my own darter
Jemimy."

"Why, what is the matter with her, auntie? Where is she?"

"The Lord knows, dear, I don't. Not a blessed word hev I heerd from her
it's going on eight weeks. I've writ, and Jabe he's writ, but we haint
had a sign of an answer, and I'm afraid she's dead, or perhaps wus;" and
the poor woman rocked herself back and forth, completely overcome by her
grief.

"But, auntie," said Marion, laying her hand gently on the good woman's
shoulder, "don't you see there are forty things that might have happened
to prevent your hearing from her? You know a girl that lives out can't
always find time to write as often as she would like. Besides, she may
have got a new place, and in that case might not have received your
letters."

"I thought o' that, child, and the last letter Jabe writ he directed to
the care of Miss Benson, the woman that keeps the intelligence office;
but that's two weeks an' more ago, and I haven't heerd a word. You see,
Miss Marion, there aint a better-hearted gal livin' than my Jemimy, but
she got kinder lonesome and discontented-like a livin' way off here, and
took it into her head she'd like the city better. She allus was a
high-sperrited gal, and 'twas dull for her here, that's a fact; but I
wish to the Lord I'd held my own and hadn't let her gone; for there's
awful places in them big cities, and my gal's pretty enough to make any
one look at her. I dunno, child, but I can't help feelin' somethin'
dreadful's happened to her."

"O auntie, you must not get discouraged so easily. I thought you were
one of the kind who always looked on the bright side of things," said
Marion in a cheerful tone.

"Wall, dear, I do ginerally; but this has just keeled me right over, and
I don't seem to know where I be. You see I haint got any one in the city
as I ken call upon to help me. I don't know a soul in the place I could
get to hunt her up. Sometimes I think I'll go down there; but where's
the use? I should be like a hen with her head cut off in such a great,
strange place as Boston."

"Well, auntie, I'll try my best to help you. I tell you what I'll do:
you give me Jemima's address, and I'll write to my mother, and get her
to look her up. She has to go to those offices very often after
servants, and like as not she might stumble right on her. Now cheer up,
auntie, for I feel just as if we should find her;" and Marion passed her
hand over Aunt Bettie's wrinkled forehead and gray hair as tenderly as
if she were her own mother.

Aunt Bettie looked at Marion with the tears still glistening in her
eyes, and a sad smile on her face, as she said:--

"Marion Berkley it aint every gal as would take so much trouble for an
old creetur like me, even if she noticed I was sad and worried. You've
comforted a poor, old woman who was most broken-hearted. May the Lord
bless you for it, an' I know he will."

Marion smiled up at the tender, old face that looked down at her, while
her own flushed with pleasure at the words of commendation.

It was a pity that there were no unobserved witnesses of the scene; for
Marion Berkley, cold and haughty, apparently indifferent alike to the
praise or blame of those around her, was a very different person from
this gentle girl. Her whole soul was shining through her eyes; all her
haughtiness, pride, and coldness had fallen from her, and she stood
almost like one transfigured, her face beaming with the light which
makes the plainest face seem almost divine,--that of pure, disinterested
sympathy for the sufferings and troubles of a fellow-being.

For a moment there was silence between the two, while the tears rolled
down both of their cheeks; but Marion dashed hers away, as she exclaimed
in a cheery voice:--

"Come, auntie, it is getting late, and I must be off; so get me the
address, please."

"To be sure, child! How thoughtless I be! I'll get it for yer right
away;" and Aunt Bettie went into the house with something of her usual
briskness, and returning, brought out a scrap of paper, on which was
written in a stiff, cramped, school-boy hand this direction:--

    "MISS JEMIMA DOBBS,
    _In Kare of Mis Benson_,
    Number 22 Eest Crorfud Street,
    Boston."

Marion could hardly repress a smile of amusement at the remarkable
orthography; but remembering that in Aunt Bettie's eyes it was a perfect
monument to the glory of her son Jabe, she made no comments, and folding
it up, tucked it carefully away in her purse. Then, with a bright,
encouraging smile, she said good-by to Aunt Bettie, and hurried off down
the road.

It was much later than she thought, and as the days were rapidly growing
shorter, it was quite dusk, and the girls were entirely out of sight and
hearing.

But her thoughts kept her company on her long walk, and all the way home
she was turning over in her mind the probabilities and improbabilities
of her mother's being able to find the young, unknown country girl in a
large city like Boston.

Miss Christine had begun to feel quite anxious about her by the time she
arrived, and Florence met her in the hall with a hearty caress, to which
she responded with her old warmth.

"Why, you dear, old thing!" exclaimed Florence; "what has kept you so
long? It must have been forlorn walking home at this hour."

"Oh, I did not mind it; I had something to think of," replied Marion, as
she pulled off her muddy rubbers before going upstairs. "I'll tell you
by and by; I must run up and get ready for supper."

That night, after they got to bed, Marion gave Florence a synopsis of
her conversation with Aunt Bettie, and told her of her plan of writing
to her mother for assistance.

"Well," said Florence, "I think it was real good of you to think of it.
What a queer girl you are! I knew we didn't have quite as jolly a time
as usual up there, but I never noticed there was anything the matter
with Aunt Bettie; and if I had I don't believe it would have occurred
to me to go back and comfort her. O Marion!"--and she threw her arm over
her friend's shoulder,--"how much good there is in you! Why won't you
let it all come out?"

"I don't think there was anything particularly good in that. You see
there was no virtue in my being kind to the poor, old thing, because I
could not help it. If there had been any hateful feelings to overcome,
or any wounded pride to interfere, I probably should not have done it."

"I'm not so sure of that, Marion. You do conquer yourself sometimes."

"Not often, dear," Marion replied, with a little, nervous, forced laugh.
"It is too much trouble. Good-night, I must go to sleep."

But it was long before sleep came to Marion. She laid perfectly still,
so as not to disturb Florence, but the small hours found her still
awake. She had been for some time thoroughly dissatisfied with herself,
and the thought that she had been of some comfort to any one was indeed
pleasant to her; but she would not attribute to herself credit that did
not belong to her.

It was just as she had said to Florence; she could not help being kind
to the poor old woman in her trouble; she had obeyed the promptings of
her naturally warm heart. It had been an impulsive action, not one in
which a disagreeable duty had been plainly pointed out for her to
follow; and she determinedly put aside all feeling of self-satisfaction.
She knew that if Rachel Drayton had made a similar appeal to her
kindness and sympathy, her heart would have been resolutely closed
against her, and she would not have spoken a single encouraging word.

This thought thrust itself upon her again and again. She tried to put it
from her, but it was no use; she could not evade it. She told herself
that she was ridiculously conscientious; that this girl had no claims
upon her; and that she had done all that Miss Christine asked of her;
treated Rachel politely and courteously; but she knew that her
politeness had been cold and formal, and her courtesy less kindly than
she would bestow upon a beggar at the door. But she said to herself,
Florence makes up for all my deficiencies. This bitter thought, in
various forms, had rankled in her breast day and night. She had often
said that nothing could ever make her jealous of Florence; their
affection had been too lasting, too much a part of themselves, for
either to suspect the other of inconstancy; and now she was the first to
doubt.

But the last words of Florence, as they talked that night, came back to
her, and she remembered the fond embrace and the earnestness of her
voice as she besought her to act her real self.

Should she doubt that generous heart, that had shown its love for her in
a thousand ways, because, when it was appealed to by a fatherless,
motherless girl, it had responded with all the warmth of its true,
generous nature?

No, she could not do it; she felt that it was only another reason for
loving her more, and tears of shame and sorrow filled her eyes, as,
bending over in the darkness, she pressed a kiss upon the lips of her
sleeping companion.

Her unjust suspicion of her friend vanquished and conquered forever, her
thoughts gradually wandered back to Aunt Bettie, and with her mind full
of plans and projects in her behalf, she at last fell asleep.



CHAPTER VIII.

AT CHURCH.


Sunday morning came bright and clear, but very cold, and many of the
girls made their appearance in the library, shaking and shivering, as if
they had never before experienced a northern winter.

"Gracious me!" exclaimed Sarah Brown, "I'm almost frozen. My room is as
cold as a barn! My cheeks are as blue as a razor, and my nose looks like
a great cranberry. Do let me get near the fire, Georgie; you're keeping
the heat off of every one."

Georgie made way for her, quietly remarking, as she did so:--

"Well, Sarah, I must say the cold is not very becoming to your style of
beauty; your nose and hair together ought to heat this room."

"You needn't say anything, Miss Graham; you're not so killing handsome
yourself that you can afford to make fun of others!" hotly retorted
Sarah.

It was a notable fact that these two could never come together without a
passage-at-arms. Grace's quietly hateful remarks always excited Sarah to
a most unmitigated degree, and she could not seem to learn by experience
that the only way to silence her was to take no notice of them; and
their disputes were often great sources of amusement to the other girls.

Georgie, tall and rather distingué-looking, although not pretty, with
her quietly assured manner even when she knew herself beaten, and her
hypocritically soft tones, was almost always more than a match for
Sarah, who never could hide her feelings no matter what they were and
who always retorted as sharply and spitefully as she could. She was a
warm-hearted little thing, as honest and true as she was impulsive, and
Georgie's quiet, deliberate hatefulness was more than she could bear.

If there was one subject on which Sarah was more sensitive than another
it was her hair. It was a rich, reddish-yellow; very thick, long and
curling, and any artist would have looked upon it with admiration; but
it was the bane of Sarah's existence. When she was a little girl it had
been really red, but time had softened its shade, and many a Parisian
belle might have envied Sarah its possession. Sarah could see no beauty
in it, for at home she was often greeted by the name of "carrot-top,"
and "little red hen;" and once when she got into a very excited argument
with her brother, and stood shaking her head at him with the long curls
which she then wore, flying about her shoulders, he had run out of the
room, shouting as he got well out of reach:--

"I say, Sal! how much would you charge to stand on Boston common nights,
and light the city? Your head would save all the expense of gas!"

You may be pretty sure it did not take Georgie Graham long to find out
Sarah's weakness, and so the poor child's bane was still kept before her
even at school, where there were no troublesome brothers.

She resolutely brushed out her long curls, and braided them into soft,
heavy braids, winding them round and round at the back of her head until
it looked like a great golden bee-hive; but she could not keep the front
from rippling into soft, delicate waves; or the short hairs from
twisting themselves into numberless little curls, which all the
crimping-pins and hot slate-pencils in the world could not imitate. This
hair which Georgie Graham so affected to despise was in reality a great
object of her admiration, and she would have gladly exchanged it, with
its usual accompaniments of glowing cheeks and scarlet lips, for her own
sallow skin and scanty, drabbish-brown locks. But I have made a
digression; let us return to our group in the library.

"What are you two quarrelling about this lovely Sunday morning?" asked
Florence Stevenson as she and Marion came into the room together.

"Oh, we were not quarrelling," replied Georgie. "Sarah was only
remarking that her cheeks were as blue as razors and her nose like a
cranberry, and I agreed with her,--that was all."

"Yes," exclaimed Sarah, "and I told you you weren't killing handsome,
and I dare say you agreed with me, though you didn't say so. But there
is one thing certain, if the cold makes frights of both of us, it makes
Marion look like a beauty!" and Sarah's eyes sparkled mischievously.

Georgie only shrugged her shoulders and elevated her eyebrows, as she
replied, "Chacun à son gout."

"But it doesn't happen to be your "gout," does it, Georgie?"
good-naturedly replied Marion, who knew very well that Sarah's
admiration of herself was thus publicly exhibited solely for the sake of
annoying Georgie.

"Come, girls, let's declare peace, or at least a 'cessation of
hostilities;' it's a shame to commence the day with quarrels;" and
Florence knelt down on the rug between the two girls, looking up at them
with a smile that it would have been hard for any one to have resisted.

Directly after this Miss Stiefbach entered, and all were quiet as she
read the morning prayers, and they joined in the responses.

By ten o'clock the girls, with the exception of Julia Thayer, whose
throat was still troubling her, and Grace Minton, who was suffering from
a sick headache, were on their way to church. They did not walk in a
regular procession like so many convicts on their way to prison, but
each chose her own companion, and the walk was enlivened with pleasant
conversation. It so chanced that Marion and Georgie Graham were
together, not by choice of either party, but because they both happened
to come downstairs a little late, and the others had already got into
the street as they came out the front door. Florence Stevenson, Miss
Christine, and Rachel Drayton were all walking together, and Georgie,
observing this, thought it would be an excellent opportunity for making
Marion thoroughly uncomfortable.

"It seems to me," she began, "you and Florence are not quite so fond of
each other as you used to be; or is it that she is not so fond of you?"

"I don't think there is any difference on either side," quietly replied
Marion, determined not to lose her temper, or be led into saying cutting
things of which she would have to repent.

"Oh, if you think so, I suppose it is all right; but I don't believe
there's a girl in the school who hasn't noticed how Florence has left
you to run after Rachel Drayton."

Marion resolutely kept silence, and Georgie, thinking that her shots had
not taken effect, continued: "I don't see what there is about that girl,
I'm sure, to make Flo fancy her so much; she certainly isn't pretty, and
she's awfully lackadaisical."

"I think she is very pretty," replied Marion; "and the reason she seems
lackadaisical is because she is not strong."

"I thought you did not like her," said Georgie, "you certainly have not
troubled yourself much to entertain her."

"I do not see as that is any reason why I should not think her pretty,
or why I should not see that she is quiet, because she is not only weak,
but very homesick and sad."

"Why, really, Marion, I had not any idea you had taken enough notice of
her to see all that. What a farce you must have been acting all this
time, to seem so indifferent when you were _really_ so deeply
interested!"

"If that is so, Georgie," replied Marion, as she looked her companion
steadily in the face, "I have been a better actress than you, for you
play your part so badly that the little boys in the amphitheatre might
see into the plot in the first act. I advise you to try another rôle."

Georgie opened her eyes in pretended astonishment; but she knew very
well what Marion meant, and that her intentions of tormenting her
companion were fully understood. But that fact did not prevent her from
saying in a gently insinuating tone: "Now, Marion, don't be provoked,
but _don't_ you think that Florence is rather turning the cold shoulder
on you?"

"No, Miss Graham, I do not," emphatically replied Marion, and for at
least five minutes Georgie said nothing. "I wonder!" she at last
exclaimed, "if Rachel Drayton is rich. I think she must be, for although
there is no style to her clothes, and she is of course very
dowdy-looking, still everything she has is made of the most expensive
material, and you know nice mourning costs awfully. Just look at her
vail now; see how long it is, and of the heaviest crépe; but she looks
like a ghost under it! I don't believe but what she is rich."

"Well, Georgie," replied Marion, with the slightest possible curve of
her lip, "I can satisfy you on that point. She _is quite_ well off; her
father left about two millions, and with the exception of a few legacies
of two or three hundred thousand or so, mere trifles to her, she will
have it all; you see she is pretty well provided for."

"Two millions!" exclaimed Georgie, startled out of her usual composure;
"two millions! why, I hadn't any idea of it."

"No, I thought not," dryly replied Marion.

"But, Marion, are you sure? How did you know it?"

"I heard Miss Stiefbach tell Miss Christine so the day Miss Drayton came
here."

"And you've known it all this time!" ejaculated Georgie, who could not
get over her astonishment.

"Yes," replied Marion, "I've known it all this time, and actually
haven't toadied her yet; aren't you surprised?" and Marion's voice had,
by this time, assumed its most coolly sarcastic tones, and her eyes
flashed scorn and indignation upon her bewildered companion.

"I wonder if Florence Stevenson knew it. I suppose of course she did,"
musingly remarked Georgie.

"No, she did not," sharply retorted Marion; "and she doesn't know it
now, I'm sure."

"Well, I don't know what to make of it!" replied Georgie in an annoyed
tone; "an heiress in school and no one to know it!"

"Don't you think her prettier than when you first saw her?" exclaimed
Marion, in such cutting, sarcastic tones that even Georgie winced; "and
her pale face, I'm sure you think there is something very distingué
about that, set off by her 'heavy, expensive crépe;' and then I know you
must think that there is something decidedly aristocratic about her
'lackadaisical' manner;" and Marion gave a little bitter laugh,
expressing quite as much scorn as her words.

At that moment, they entered the church porch, and Georgie made no
reply, only too glad of an excuse for silence.

Miss Stiefbach's scholars occupied the first six pews from the front;
three on each side of the broad aisle. Miss Stiefbach sat at the head of
one, with five of the youngest girls, and Miss Christine, on the
opposite side, also had some of the smaller girls with her, while the
rest of the scholars occupied the pews in front of their teachers.

As Marion entered the church, and the girls quietly took their places
and knelt in prayer, the solemn stillness of the place struck painfully
upon her. She could not so soon shake off all outward impressions, and
the cutting words which had passed her lips, just as she entered that
holy place, were still ringing in her ears.

She had risen that morning, her mind still filled with the pleasant
thoughts which had lulled her to sleep, and with good resolutions for
the future. She felt glad that it was Sunday, for she thought she was in
the mood to be benefited by the sacred influences of the day.

But where now were her good resolutions? She had yielded to the first
temptation; she had broken the vows made on her knees that morning, and
she was utterly disheartened and discouraged.

She knelt with the rest, her head bowed as if in prayer, but her mind in
a wild confusion of anger, shame, and remorse; but the anger died,
leaving nothing but the saddest, most wretched thoughts of all; the
sense of utter failure; of continued shortcomings, of broken resolutions
and disregarded vows, made sacred by the time and place of their
utterance.

She thought she was wicked because she could not pray, because her
thoughts would not become composed, quiet, and peaceful, like the place
and hour, and she knelt on, her hands clasped tightly together, and her
head pressed down into them, the only cry that could silently shape
itself into words, breaking from her heart in very agony of doubt and
despair: "O God, help me! O God, save me from myself!"

And who shall say that it was not enough? That that cry, coming from the
depths of a heart distressed, remorseful and repentant for errors that
to many would seem but trifles, did not reach the ear of Him who,
bending in mercy and love, sees into the hearts of all; reads the very
secrets of their souls; and to all who sincerely put their faith in Him
surely, sooner or later, sends them His consolation and peace? As the
others rose from their knees Marion was recalled to herself, and rising
with the rest, she opened her prayer-book and joined in the service,
which had just then commenced.

Mrs. Berkley had requested, when Marion entered Miss Stiefbach's school,
that no sectarian influences should be brought to bear upon her
daughter's mind. She wished that her child should follow her own
inclinations and the dictates of her own conscience in religious
matters, for she understood her well enough to know that she would not
blindly follow any faith without first feeling sure that she clearly
comprehended and sincerely believed all that its doctrines taught. The
influences which of course continually surrounded, although in a quiet,
unobtrusive way, were not without their effect. She loved the service of
Miss Stiefbach's church, and joined in it heartily. It seemed to her
that it brought her nearer to God if she knelt the first thing when she
entered the church and asked his blessing on her head. Not that silent,
heartfelt prayers could not be uttered anywhere and in any position; but
it seemed to her as if there, on her knees, in the place sacredly
dedicated to his worship. God did not seem so far off--as if she could
more earnestly and fervently supplicate him.

There was much in the service which she could not believe and accept as
it was intended it should be accepted; but she interpreted it as her own
heart dictated. The greater part, however, she believed and repeated
with reverence, and a feeling which could never come to her in her own
church; for there the intense simplicity and almost business-like manner
of conducting the service, struck harshly upon her sensibilities; and
she missed the participation in the prayers and responses which seemed
to draw her out of herself, and raise her thoughts above their common
level, even into the presence of the most High.

But to-day the holy words, the prayers and selections had no power to
calm her troubled spirit; she tried to fix her thoughts upon the sermon,
and not let them wander to dwell upon her own troubles; but it was no
use; her mind was still in bitter confusion when she left the church.

As she went down the path, Georgie, who seemed to have forgotten her
previous discomfiture, if not the subject of their conversation, joined
her and began plying her with fresh questions about Rachel Drayton.
Marion did her best to evade her remarks, but Georgie would not let her
alone, until, thoroughly exasperated and provoked beyond endurance, she
exclaimed shortly:--

"Georgie, I do wish you'd hold your tongue! I'm sick of your questions;
do let me alone!"

"Dear me!" replied Miss Georgie, "you were very communicative this
morning; but it's not very strange that you should be rather annoyed,
considering Rachel has taken your best friend away."

An angry retort rose to Marion's lips, but she controlled herself
sufficiently to keep from uttering it; although the expression of her
face warned Georgie that she had said quite enough, and the two
continued their walk in silence.

Having received permission from Miss Stiefbach, Marion set off
immediately after dinner for the All Saints' church, and as the services
began a half hour before St. Mark's she had her walk all to herself; nor
was she sorry for this, for she did not feel like talking to any one.

She was early; hardly any one was in the church, and without waiting for
the sexton to show her into a pew, she took the very front one, knowing
that it was almost always unoccupied. The hymns were read by the
clergyman of the parish; a good, earnest man, and one who in the homes
of the poor, and by the bedsides of the suffering and dying was often
seen, and most sincerely loved; but he had not the gift of preaching; he
rarely made his sermons go home to the hearts of his hearers, and Marion
felt disappointed when she saw him; she had hoped to hear some one else.

Her surprise and pleasure was great, when Mr. More stepped forward and
announced that Mr. B., who had been pastor of that church fifteen years
before, would preach for them that day.

The minister came forward, and bowing his head, remained for a moment in
silent prayer; when he lifted it again Marion felt as if she had seen
the face of an angel, so holy, peaceful, and patient was its expression.
He was a very old man; his hair hung long and white about his shoulders;
and as the beams of the afternoon's sun fell upon it, it gleamed with a
light which was almost unearthly, spiritualizing and sanctifying that
beautiful old face, until it seemed to many as if he were speaking to
them from the very gates of heaven. His sermon was short but impressive;
the gentle pathos of his voice, and the earnestness of his manner, were
felt by all who heard him. Bending over the pulpit as he closed his
discourse, his voice fell into a soft, musical cadence, which though
very low reached the most remote recesses of the church, and stretching
out his arms as if he would have taken each one by the hand and led them
to the haven where he had found rest and peace, he exclaimed, or rather
entreated:--

"O my friends! look down into your own hearts, and read each one of you
what is written there; pride, wilfulness, sin in many forms. Man's
greatest enemy is self. But who has said, 'He that conquereth himself is
greater than he that taketh a city'?--Jesus! Jesus the Saviour, who came
to wash out all our sins; to give us strength for the struggles and
trials which come to us all; to teach us patience, humility, and
charity.

"Each one in this world, young or old, has his sorrows to bear; his
temptations to resist; his victories to gain; and to each one it seems
sometimes as if everything was darkness and desolation; the blackness of
night surrounds them on every side; darkness! darkness everywhere! no
light, no hope, no guide. Look up, my friends! look up! not to the
darkness; but above it, beyond it, to where Christ stands, ready, ay,
more than ready. He comes to meet you, his eyes beaming with
compassionate love, his hands outstretched. Grasp those hands, hold fast
and firm; they, and they alone, can lead you through storm and darkness,
through sorrow and fear; until kneeling at last in perfect peace and
happiness you shall behold the face of your Father in heaven."

Then followed the Lord's Prayer; but Marion could not take her eyes from
that holy face. It seemed to her as if every word had been uttered for
her alone; as if the speaker had looked down into the secrets of her
heart and had tried to give her comfort and consolation.

And this was partly true. As Mr. B. leaned forward and cast his eyes
over the congregation they fell upon the face of that young girl,
looking up at him with a longing, wistful, tearful glance that startled
him. For many years he had been settled over a fashionable society in
New York, where he often felt that the words he uttered were but as
"seed sown by the wayside" or "on stony ground;" but there was no
mistaking the earnestness of that face, over which was spread an
expression which it pained him to see in one so young; for he knew that
her trials, whatever they were, were but just begun, and thinking of the
years of struggling that would probably come to her, his heart yearned
over her in deepest sympathy. With the thought of her uppermost in his
mind he gave out the closing hymn; two verses only. Marion had heard
them often before, but their depth and meaning never came to her so
fully as now:--

    "Give to the winds thy fears;
      Hope and be undismayed;
    God hears thy sighs, and counts thy tears;
      He shall lift up thy head.

    "Through waves, through clouds and storms,
      He gently clears thy way;
    Wait thou his time, so shall the night
      Soon end in glorious day."

As the last notes of the choir died away, and Marion bowed her head to
receive the benediction, she felt strengthened and encouraged; and a
peace such as she had not known for months fell upon her heart.

As she passed out of church she avoided meeting any one whom she knew,
and hurried out of hearing of the remarks of various members of the
congregation, who were commenting on the sermon in very much the same
manner as if it had been a theatrical performance.

Such expressions as, "Very fine sermon, wasn't it?--hit some of us
pretty hard;" or "What a charming voice and manner! why, he really quite
touched me!" made by different persons in a flippant, off-hand tone,
jarred upon her ears, and she was thankful to leave them all behind.

As she was about to cross the street, preparatory to turning off into
the road which led to school, she stopped to allow a carriage to pass;
as it reached her a gentleman leaned towards her, and looking up she met
the eyes of the minister bent down upon her with an expression of the
deepest interest.

She never saw that face again; but the remembrance of it went with her
through her whole life.



CHAPTER IX.

THE LETTER-BAG.


Monday morning Marion sent a long letter to her mother, in which she
gave a full account of her interview with Aunt Bettie; sent the address,
and gave as accurate a description as she was able of Miss Jemima Dobbs
herself.

She waited anxiously for some days for an answer to her letter, and
could hardly keep the thought of Aunt Bettie out of her head. Friday
afternoon, when the postman came, she was the first to get to the door
and take the bag from him. As she went with it into the library, the
girls all crowded round her in eager expectation, while she stifled her
own impatience and slowly unstrapped the bag, looking provokingly
unconcerned, and quite regardless of the smiling, eager faces that were
bent over her.

"O Marion!" exclaimed Sarah Brown, "don't you see I'm dying to know if
there's a letter for me? Do hurry up."

"She doesn't expect a letter herself, so she doesn't care how long she
keeps us waiting," sullenly remarked Mattie Denton; "she likes to
torment us."

"You're mistaken there, Mattie," replied Marion, with a teasing twinkle
in her eyes, "for I do expect a letter; but I like 'linked sweetness,
long drawn out,' you know. Hands off, girls!" as she slowly opened the
mouth of the bag, and two or three arms were stretched out for the
letters that filled it to the top; "hands off, I'm postman to-day, and I
won't have my rights interfered with. Let me see,--number one; that's
for Julia Thayer. Julia! where are you? Here, Fan, run upstairs and take
it to her. Number two, Grace Minton. Here, Grace, virtue recognized and
patience rewarded; you held your tongue, and see how well I've served
you;" and Marion rattled on a string of nonsense as she took out the
letters and handed them to their various owners.

"Two letters and a pamphlet for Miss Stiefbach; one for Miss Christine;
and whose is this great, fat one, I wonder, with a foreign stamp? Rachel
Drayton, I do declare!" and she was about to add, "I'm glad she's got
it;" but her habit of always treating Rachel with supreme indifference
was too strong upon her, and she only remarked, "Here, who will take
this letter up to Miss Drayton's room?"

Georgie Graham came forward and offered her services. "I am going
upstairs," she said; "I'll take it up to her."

Marion handed it to her without speaking, but elevated her eyebrows in a
very expressive way; but at that moment Rachel herself came into the
room, and Georgie stepped forward and gave her the letter, saying in her
sweetest tones:--

"Ah, Rachel! are you here? Here is a letter for you, and I could not
resist giving myself the pleasure of delivering it."

Rachel took the letter with a delighted smile, and, thanking Georgie,
ran upstairs that she might read it undisturbed; in the surprise and
pleasure of receiving it she did not notice Georgie's unusually affable
manner, or the astonished glances and expressive looks which passed
between the other girls.

Marion mentally remarked, "The two millions are taking effect; Georgie
has begun to toady already."

"Well, Marion, haven't you got a letter for me?" asked little Rose May,
who had stood patiently by Marion's side, saying nothing, but looking
longingly into the bag, the bottom of which was fast becoming visible.

"You poor little thing, how good you have been!" and Marion bent down
and kissed the expectant, little face. "I'll look over these in a jiffy,
and we'll see if there isn't one for you. Susie Brastow, May Fowler,
_Marion Berkley_, and--yes, here is yours, Rose,--Miss Rose May in great
black letters."

"Oh, it's from father! I'm so glad!" and Rose seated herself on the
floor in the bow-window, and was soon oblivious to everything but the
contents of her letter.

"Here, Grace!" exclaimed Marion, as Grace Minton passed on her way into
the drawing-room, "just take this and hang it on the nail; that's a good
girl;" and she held the letter-bag towards her.

"No, I thank you," laughingly replied Grace; "you're very anxious to be
postmaster when it comes to taking out the letters, but the rest of the
duties you want to shirk on to some one else; but I won't submit, I'm
going to do my practising."

"Oh, you unnatural, ungrateful girl!" replied Marion; "you have read
your letter, and are not even thankful to me for giving it to you,
almost the first one; and here I am perfectly wild to read mine.
However," she exclaimed with martyr-like air, "it's only another proof
of the total depravity of the human race."

"No ingratitude, Marion; but you _know_ you always get some one to hang
the bag up for you after _you_ have had the fun of taking out the
letters, and I don't think it is fair."

"Perfectly," replied Marion, as she hung the bag up in the vestibule,
ready for the girls to make their various deposits, "perfectly; equal
distribution of labor you know."

"Equal humbug!" replied Grace, who could not help laughing.

"O Grace!" called out Marion over the banisters, as Grace was about to
turn into the drawing-room, "couldn't you find out what Georgie Graham
is going to practise, for when she is in the school-room, playing
Chopin's Polonaise, and you are in the drawing-room running the
scales,--at least, to one who is not especially fond of 'close
harmony,'--the effect is not so charming as it might be."

Grace, whose musical powers were not very extensive, made up a face, and
slammed the drawing-room door, and Marion rushed precipitately into her
own room.

"Don't sit down on that bed!" cried Florence; "don't you see I've got on
the ruffled tidies?"

"O you old maid!" retorted Marion; "you know there's no place I enjoy
sitting to read my letters so much as on the bed. What possessed you to
put on those tidies to-day?"

"Why, Marion, we have been back more than seven weeks, and have not had
them on yet. Now just see how nice they look."

"They do look lovely, that's a fact;" replied Marion. "There's one thing
your respected aunt knows how to do to perfection, and that is to quill
ruffles. On the whole I'm glad you put them on; it will cure me of my
horrible habit of bouncing down on the bed; consequently save me an
innumerable amount of lectures, besides making our room look very
distingué; three excellent reasons for keeping them on, so I'll content
myself with our old seat."

"Well, Mab, do tell me what your mother writes."

"Why, I actually haven't had time to read it yet; there were crowds of
letters, and I, like a little goose, took the bag. I do hope she has
some good news of Jemima;" and Marion opened the letter and read it
aloud:--

     "BOSTON, Nov. 16th.

     "MY DEAR MARION:--I was delighted to receive your letter, but
     particularly so when I read it and found how much my dear daughter
     was interesting herself for the good of others.

     "I have just been obliged to change our parlor girl, Mary having
     gone home to be with her invalid mother, and was preparing myself
     for going the usual round of the intelligence offices, when your
     letter came. The address which you sent (I presume it was not a
     specimen of Miss Stiefbach's instruction) I took with me, for I had
     never heard of Mrs. Benson's office, and doubted very much if I
     should be able to find it.

     "As events proved, I was right, for after having crossed the city
     in every direction,--in cars, coaches and on foot,--I found that
     the place must be in Crawford Street, East Boston, instead of East
     Crawford Street, Boston; so I went to the East Boston ferry, and as
     good luck would have it, there was a directory in the office, which
     I looked over, and discovered that there was such a street, but
     could find no Mrs. Benson; however, as the directory was an old
     one, I did not trust to it, but crossed the ferry. I found the
     street without any difficulty; but when I came to No. 22, behold,
     it was occupied by a barber! I must say, I was discouraged; but
     upon going in and making inquiries, I found that Mrs. Benson had
     formerly occupied the store, but, as the colored gentleman informed
     me, 'she had removed to Boston, thinking that the crowded
     metropolis would afford her a better opportunity of carrying on her
     business, so as to render it more lucrative.' He was so extremely
     affable and polite, that I almost felt it my duty to sit down and
     have all my hair cut off; but I contented myself with buying a new
     kind of crimping-pin, which he assured me was the same as those
     used by Her Royal Highness the Empress Eugénie. Of course I
     believed him, and the crimping-pins will be ready for you when you
     come home at Christmas. But to return to my story; Mr. Ambrose St.
     Leger (don't be frightened, Marion, that is only the barber) gave
     me minute directions how to find Mrs. Benson's office, and I came
     back to the city, thankful to have some clue, however indirect it
     might be. I found the office without any difficulty, and Mrs.
     Benson, being of course very anxious to work herself into the good
     graces of a Boston lady, was extremely loquacious and obliging,
     notwithstanding I was unable to suit myself there with a servant.
     To make a long story short, she told me that she had received
     several letters for a Jemima Dobbs, but as she had never had any
     such girl in her office, after keeping them some time, she had
     burned them up.

     "I must say I felt extremely disheartened, for I thought that if I
     found the right woman she would certainly be able to tell me
     something about Jemima Dobbs. She produced her books, and upon
     looking over them I found the name of Arabella Dobbs. It seemed
     ridiculous to think that could be the same person I wanted, but I
     had an inward conviction that it was, and I have still; though
     don't get elated yet. Mrs. Benson, who relies more upon her memory
     than her book-keeping, says she is sure she got Arabella Dobbs a
     place in East Boston several weeks ago, and she is going to write
     to the lady, to find out if she is still there, and if she ever had
     the name Jemima. I thanked her for the interest she had taken in
     the case, and gave her my address, as she promised to send me word
     the instant she received an answer to her letter.

     "And now, my dear, that is all I have to tell you. Very
     unsatisfactory I know it is; but I feel quite sure that Arabella
     Dobbs and Jemima Dobbs are one and the same person, for it is very
     seldom that one comes across a Yankee girl in these offices, and
     Dobbs is a name one would not be likely to find there twice.

     "You will be the best judge of what it is best to do about telling
     Mrs. Dobbs what I have written to you; perhaps it will be better to
     wait until you hear something more conclusive; but the suspense
     must be terrible for her to bear, and it may be some consolation
     for her to know there is some one interesting herself for her here.

     "I will write just as soon as I hear from Mrs. Benson; and now, my
     darling, I really have not another moment to spare you.

     "Your father sends his usual stock of love, and ever so many
     messages, which I could not remember if I tried; but they were all
     very affectionate and so complimentary, that perhaps it is just as
     well you should not hear them.

     "Charlie is asleep, and Fred has not yet come in from baseball; so
     you must content yourself with a whole heart-full of love from your
     fond

     "MAMMA."

"Now, Flo, was there ever such a darling mamma as mine? I do think she
is just perfection,--going all over Boston, and East Boston too, and
never saying she was tired, or anything of the sort. I don't think there
are many women that would do that; do you, Flo?"

"No, I don't believe there are many like her; I think she is the
loveliest woman I ever knew. But, Marion, I don't see as you have found
out much about poor Jemima after all."

"No, there is not much real, satisfactory information, that's a fact;
but I _feel_ just as if that girl was the right one, and I know mamma
must feel pretty sure of it too, or she would have waited for the answer
to that letter before she wrote me. I shall go up to auntie's as soon as
I can; but I'm afraid it won't be before Saturday, for you know
to-morrow is English composition day, and next day French abstract, and
I was so careless about mine last time that I really think I ought to
lay myself out this week."

"Indeed you ought, Marion," exclaimed Florence; "it's a shame that a
girl who can write such compositions as you can, when you have a mind
to, should hand in such a flat, silly thing as your last one was. I'm
not complimentary, I know, but it's the truth; you know yourself it was
horrible."

"Yes, I know it was; and that is why I'm particularly anxious to have a
good one this time; don't you see?"

"But don't you think you will be able to get up to Aunt Bettie's before
Saturday?" asked Florence; "it seems hard to keep her in suspense."

"I really don't see how I can find time, and then I'm in hopes that if I
wait, by that time the answer to that woman's letter will have come, and
I shall hear something decisive from mamma."

"Well, I think after all perhaps it will be better for you to wait until
then. But do you know it is after four o'clock, and the girls have all
got through practising? We ought to go down and try our duet."

"Sure enough!" exclaimed Marion, springing up. "I don't know my part at
all; haven't looked at the last two pages, and Mr. Stein comes
to-morrow."

"Oh, you read music so quickly, that you'll play your part better at
sight than I shall after I've practised it a week. I wish I could read
faster."

"Don't wish it, Flo; it is very nice sometimes, but I don't think people
who read easily ever play readily without their notes. Now for you to
know a piece once is to know it always, with or without your notes,
while I have to fairly pound it into my head."

"There is more truth than poetry in that, I know," replied Florence, as
the two went downstairs together, "for I have heard Aunt Sue complain of
the same thing; nevertheless I wish I wasn't so awfully slow."

But we will leave them to their music, and musical discussions, and
hurry on with our story.



CHAPTER X.

MARION'S RIDE.


Marion had no other letter from her mother during the week, and she was
so busy the whole time with her studies, music, etc., that it was not
until Saturday afternoon that she started on her errand.

The weather had been unusually cold, and the previous night there had
been quite a heavy fall of snow, which, notwithstanding it was now only
the middle of November, still remained on the ground, and the thick,
gray sky gave promise that there was yet more to come; indeed before
Marion was fairly ready the flakes began to make their appearance, and
came lazily down, as if they did not all relish being called out so
early.

But Marion did not mind wind or weather, and with her water-proof over
her thick sack, the hood drawn up over her head, and her feet encased in
rubbers, she set out for her long walk in the most excellent spirits.

Florence went to the door with her and urged her to take an umbrella,
but Marion laughed at the idea, saying, "It was only a little flurry and
would be over in a minute;" but before she had reached Aunt Bettie's she
wished she had taken Florence's advice, for the snow came down thicker
and faster, beating against her face, and almost blinding her, so that
it was with great difficulty that she could see her way, and it was at
least an hour before she arrived at the farm-house.

She went round to the back of the house, and without knocking lifted the
latch of the door, and entered a sort of shed or unplastered room,
which in summer was used as a kitchen, but which now served as a
wood-shed.

"Aunt Bettie," cried Marion, "are you there?" and she stamped her feet,
and shook her clothes to get rid of the snow which covered her from head
to foot.

"For the goodness' sakes, who's that?" exclaimed Aunt Bettie as she
jumped up from her seat by the kitchen fire, where she had fallen asleep
over her knitting, and hurried into the outer room.

"Why, it's only me, auntie, to be sure," said Marion.

"Marion Berkley! well, did I ever! but massy me," as she took hold of
Marion's water-proof, "you're as wet as a drownded rat; I'd no idee it
snowed so hard!"

"Oh, it's only wet on the outside; _I'm_ not wet a bit;" and Marion took
off her water-proof and hung it over a chair to dry, pulling off her
rubbers and placing them on the floor beside it; "but why don't you ask
me what I came for, auntie?"

"Wall, child, to tell the truth, I was so s'prised to see yer that I
didn't think anything 'bout what yer come for, and I aint going to ask
nuther, 'till you jist seat yourself in front o' that fire and toast
them feet o' yourn. I never see sich a child! To think o' your startin'
out sich weather's this to come and see me!"

"It didn't snow much when I left school, and I hadn't the least idea it
would be such a storm; it's so early, you know. Florence wanted me to
bring an umbrella, but I wouldn't; I never will carry one if I can help
it."

"Wall, it is a reg'lar out-and-outer," exclaimed Aunt Bettie, as she
stood peering through the window at the storm; "winter's sot in airly
this time, an' no mistake. I tell you what," as she came back to the
fire and seated herself beside Marion, "if you've come for anything
pertickler, I guess you better tell it right away, fur it won't do fur
you to stop long, it gathers so."

"Well, I did come for something particular, auntie, but you must not
expect too much;" and Marion, who saw that Aunt Bettie was unusually
excited, notwithstanding she tried to appear composed, laid her hand on
her arm in a soothing, caressing way. "It is only a little bit of
comfort for you, not any real hope, except that you will perhaps feel
encouraged to know that you have friends in the city looking for your
daughter, and although I do not know anything certain about her, I think
mamma has got hold of some clue. But I'll read you what she says; you
know I promised to write her, and I did, and this is her answer."

Aunt Bettie signed for Marion to go on; she was too much moved to speak,
although her emotion was caused quite as much by gratitude as anxiety,
for she had waited so long, and up to this time in such perfect silence,
that hope had almost died out within her, and she really did not expect
any joyful tidings.

At the conclusion of the letter Marion looked up, almost dreading to
meet Aunt Bettie's glance, feeling sure that it must be one of
disappointment; but, contrary to her expectations, the good woman's face
was positively beaming through her tears, as she exclaimed in an almost
joyful tone:--

"The Lord bless you, Miss Marion, and your mother too, for you're a pair
of Christians if there ever was one! I'm jist sure that that Arabella
Dobbs is my Jemimy; an' I'll tell yer why I think so. Yer see the gal
that set my darter up to goin' to Boston used to visit some o' her
kinfolk down in the village, an' that's how she and Jemimy got
acquainted; she put it into my gal's head that _Jemimy_ was an awful
country kind of a name,--her own was Belindy,--and she always called
her Arabella, an' jist as like as not Jemimy was fool enough to go an'
give _that_ as her name. I declare she orter been ashamed of herself!"
and Mrs. Dobbs' indignation so far got the better of her grief, that if
Miss Jemimy had been there in the flesh it is quite probable she would
have received at least a good scolding.

"Why, auntie, if that is so," replied Marion, "I've no doubt it's the
same girl; but how do you suppose she happened to go to East Boston
instead of Boston?"

"Oh, like's not that Belindy Beers lived in East Boston, and jist said
Boston 'cause she thought 'twas smarter. I never could bear that gal
anyhow, an' if it hadn't been for her my darter'd been here now."

"Well, you know I haven't really found her yet," said Marion, who was
afraid that Aunt Bettie's ire had caused her to lose sight of that fact;
"we only have some _probability_ of finding out where she is."

"I know, dear, I know all that, but I do feel better; it does seem as if
there couldn't be two sich good creeturs as you an' your mother doin'
your best to help me, and no good to come of it. 'T any rate I aint
goin' to despond any more; it's like flyin' in the face o' Providence,
and until I hear wus news I shall jist hope for the best."

"Aunt Bettie, I'm glad enough to hear you say so; I _can't_ help feeling
very hopeful myself, and I'm glad you can feel the same."

"Well, child, I think it's the right way arter all; 'taint my nater
usually to be very despondent, but somehow I got entirely discouraged;
but _I should_ be an ungrateful woman enough if I didn't thank you over
and over again. I can't speak it all, but I feel it jist the same."

"Indeed, auntie, it is not me, but mamma, that you must thank. I have
done nothing but write to her, and she has done all the work."

"Yes, and how would she have known it, if it hadn't been for you? I
thank her, the Lord knows I do, from the bottom of my heart, but it's
all owin' to you, child, nevertheless. If you hadn't had quick eyes to
see into my troubles, and a warm heart to put you up to helpin' me, what
would she a' known about it? No, no, dear, you're the fust one I owe my
thanks to, and whether I ever find Jemimy again or not, I shall always
love you, and bless you for what you've done for me so long's I live."

And Marion knew that Aunt Bettie meant every word she said, and she did
not again try to alter her opinion. It was pleasant indeed to know that
there was any one who could have such a high regard for her; and with a
warmth about her heart which it was pleasant to feel, and a light in her
eyes which it would certainly have done any one good to see, she sat
talking with Mrs. Dobbs, both of them oblivious to the fact that time
was fast slipping away, until, upon looking up, Marion was astonished to
see that it was long after four o'clock.

"Why, auntie!" she exclaimed, "see how dark it is growing; we've been
talking nearly an hour. I must hurry off this minute, or I shall be
frightened to death before I get home."

"Why, sure enough, it's most five o'clock! I'd no idee of it. But massy
sakes!" cried Aunt Bettie as she went to the window, "jest come here and
look out! Why, you can't walk home in this snow nohow; why, it's up to
your ankles! I never see snow gather so quick in my life."

Marion went to the window, and took a survey of the scene. It certainly
did not look very promising. The snow had gathered so rapidly that the
roads were covered several inches deep, and darkness appeared to be fast
approaching. Marion looked decidedly troubled; but there was no help for
it; go she must; for she knew that Miss Stiefbach would be very much
worried about her; so putting on as good a face as possible she said:--

"Well, auntie, I haven't a moment to spare; it is really quite dark, and
it will take me longer to go than it did to come;" and Marion was
hurrying out of the room to get her water-proof when Aunt Bettie caught
hold of her:--

"You jest set down in that cheer, and don't you stir out of it till I
tell yer you may! Do you s'pose I'm goin' to send you home afoot when
it's sich walkin's this? No; not if my name's Sarey Ann Dobbs. You jest
wait, and you shall have one sleigh-ride this year if you don't ever get
another."

"Aunt Bettie, what do you mean?" exclaimed Marion.

"You jest wait, and you'll see what I mean." Auntie went into the outer
room, and opening the door shouted at the very top of her lungs in a
shrill, high key: "Jabe! Jabe Dobbs, be you there?" but Jabe did not
respond to the maternal call. "Jabe! Ja-a-a-be!" Then in an undertone,
"Plague take that boy! he's the laziest creetur I ever did see!"

Presently there came a reply from one of the outside sheds in a slow,
drawling voice; very much as if the owner of it had heard the first
summons, but was not in a great hurry to heed it:--

"H-e-r-e!"

"Wall, come in this minit, and don't keep me standin' here holdin' this
door open any longer!"

In a few moments, but in what seemed to Marion almost an eternity, heavy
steps were heard on the flagstone, and directly after, a youth of about
sixteen made his appearance in the door-way, and slowly knocking the
snow off his boots, asked in the same drawling tone:--

"What do yer want?"

"You come inside, and I'll tell yer," replied his mother.

"Well, yer might o'--" but catching sight of Marion his head went down,
and Jabe stood sheepishly twirling his hat in his hands, shuffling from
one foot to the other, apparently too bashful for speech.

"Don't stan' there twirlin' yer hat, and lookin' like a great idiot, but
jest step round and be spry. Did you get down the big sleigh t'other day
when I told yer to?"

Jabe nodded assent.

"Well, it's a wonder! Now you go out and tackle up Shadrack as quick as
ever you can, and hev him round to the door, less'n no time; no
shillyshallyin!"

"What shall I put him into arter I get him tackled?" asked the hopeful
youth, with a momentary glance at Marion from under his shaggy eyebrows.

"Why, put him into the sleigh, to be sure; what'd you s'pose?"

"Well, you didn't tell me, an' I didn't know but p'r'aps she was goin'
to ride him," replied Jabe, with another glance at Marion, which almost
upset her gravity.

"You didn't think any such a thing, and you know you didn't! You're to
drive Miss Marion back to school, and you jest hurry out; and don't let
the grass grow under yer feet either!"

"Aint much danger," replied Jabe, as he shuffled off; "it's most through
sproutin' fur this year, and 'taint quite ready fur next."

"Now, Miss Marion, did you _ever_ see sech a boy as that?" exclaimed
Aunt Bettie in righteous indignation; "he worries my life out of me!"

"What is the matter with him?" asked Marion, who was intensely amused at
the ridiculous-looking object she had just seen, and his comical,
awkward ways; "there doesn't seem to be anything very bad about him."

"Bad! of course there isn't, but he _is_ so powerful slow! There's no
doin' nothin' with him; he's too lazy to work, and he's too lazy to
study. But there's one thing, he's honest as he ken be, and I rally do
think he does set consid'rable store by me; though he _does_ try my
patience awfully."

"Of course he thinks a great deal of you," replied Marion; "he's just at
a lazy age now. I dare say he'll get over it, and prove a great comfort
to you one of these days."

"Oh, he's a comfort now, in a sort of a way. He's stiddy enough; but
laws! he's too lazy to be anything else."

"He'll wake up yet, auntie, see if he doesn't. There's a twinkle in his
eyes that shows he's nobody's fool."

"Oh, I never supposed he was quite as bad's that; but he haint found his
niche yet; when he does I s'pose he'll fit into it as tight as a
pertater does its skin."

In much shorter time than Marion had expected, judging from what she had
seen of Jabe's activity, the jingle of bells was heard, and directly
after, the musical voice of Mrs. Dobbs' young hopeful called out:--

"I'm ready if you be!"

Aunt Bettie opened the door, her face positively radiant with smiles and
the pleasure she felt at being able to give Marion a ride.

As Marion's eyes beheld the equipage that stood ready for her use, it
must be confessed that her first sensation was anything but agreeable.
In common with most girls of her age, and I might say with girls
considerably older than herself, she had a great admiration for handsome
horses, elegant carriages, and a driver in keeping with the rest of the
establishment.

Certainly no one could say, however, that her driver was not perfectly
in keeping with the establishment of which he evidently felt extremely
proud; for he sat on the front seat, holding the reins in both hands, as
if poor Shadrack was a four-in-hand team, or at least a tandem with a
very refractory leader.

The sleigh itself was of such peculiar structure, that it would have
been almost impossible to have decided at what ancient period it must
have been made. In shape, it most resembled that elegant vehicle
commonly known as a "pung," excepting that it boasted of two seats, and
a back that nearly reached the top of Marion's head. Its color was a
beautiful pea-green, ornamented with various scrolls and devices in
bright yellow, which might have been a combination of the paternal and
maternal crests of Jabe's ancestors, but looked wonderfully like
squash-vines.

Around old Shadrack's neck was hung a string of iron bells about the
size of small cannon-balls, which jingled most melodiously every time he
moved. But Marion's good sense would not allow her to yield to any
feeling of mortification which she might feel at the idea of appearing
at school in such a turn-out. She only thought of Aunt Bettie's kindness
in ordering out her old horse on such an unprecedented occasion; and
thanking her warmly and sincerely for her thoughtfulness, she stepped
into the sleigh and was driven off by Jabe, who flourished the whip over
Shadrack's ears, quite regardless of his mother's warning, "not to let
the critter trot fast, 'cause 'twas heavy haulin'; the snow was so
soggy."

For some time they jogged along, the silence only broken by the
monotonous jingle of the bells. It had stopped snowing, and the sky was
quite bright in the west, making it much lighter than it was earlier in
the afternoon; touching up the trees with a rosy light, and casting a
soft glow on the fields, as they passed along.

Marion forgot everything else in the pleasure of watching the fading
light, and was quite oblivious to the existence of Jabe, until she was
roused from her silent observations by a mild "ger-lang!" which reminded
her that it certainly was her duty to make herself agreeable to her
escort.

She hardly knew what to say to him, but she ventured to remark "that the
horse did not look as if he was worked very hard."

"Worked hard!" exclaimed Jabe. "Lord, he don't know what work is! I just
wish I had as easy a time as Shadrack."

"What in the world did you name him Shadrack for?" exclaimed Marion.

"Me!" replied Jabe, turning round slowly and looking at Marion out of
the corner of his eye, "'twant none o' my doin's, 'twas father's; he
allus liked something different from anybody else, and that time I think
he hit it."

"Yes, I think he did," replied Marion, smiling in spite of herself; then
in a soberer tone she asked, "Do you remember your father, Jabe?"

"No, he died 'fore I was two years old."

"Don't you wish he could have lived?"

"Well now, that depends on circumstances," replied Jabe in a
deliberating tone; "if he was such a fellow for work as the marm, I
can't say as I _should_ be very particular 'bout havin' him round."

"Why, Jabe Dobbs!" exclaimed Marion, striving to conceal her laughter,
"aren't you ashamed of yourself? I dare say it would be better for you,
if your mother made you work a great deal harder than she does."

"O Lord! Miss Marion!" cried Jabe, in the most horrified tone, but with
a twinkle in his eyes which Marion fully appreciated; "if she did I
couldn't live nohow. You see, work and I don't hitch hosses; we weren't
meant to go 'longside the same pole; and if one of us has got to stan'
still, I think it might's well be me, and let _work_ go."

At this Marion laughed outright, but not a muscle of his face did Jabe
move, and if it had not been for that sly twinkle in his eye when he
lifted it to Marion's face one would have thought he was solving some
weighty problem.

He sat round sideways, one leg on the seat, and the reins now hanging
loosely in his hands, as Shadrack jogged lazily on, while he was
evidently highly pleased and flattered by Marion's attention.

"Well, Jabe," continued Marion, "perhaps, if you don't like to work, you
like to study. Do you ever go to school?"

"I went last winter by spells, an' I s'pose I shall go this winter too."

"Do you like it?" asked Marion; "what do you like best,--spelling?"

"Spelling," repeated Jabe, in a ruminating tone,--"spelling, no, I don't
like it much, that is, I don't like it the way they larn you down there.
I think p'r'aps if they'd let a feller follow his own fashion I might
like it; but they put in so many letters that there aint no kind o'
sense in havin', that it jest confuses me, an' so I ginerally spells
accordin' to fancy."

"O Jabe!" replied Marion, "that will never do in the world; but perhaps
you like arithmetic better."

"'Rithmetic!" and Jabe fairly dropped the reins and struck an emphatic
blow on his knee, as he exclaimed again: "'rithmetic! I tell you _there_
you got me. If there is anything I do hate on the face o' this airth,
it's 'rithmetic! Spellin's bad enough, but 'rithmetic's wus. When you
set me to doin' a sum it's jest like the feller that had to go through
the drill for the whole regiment; he got on fust-rate till they told him
to go form a holler-square; but he said _that_ 'wrenched him awfully.'"

"O Jabe! Jabe!" cried Marion, now fairly convulsed with laughter, "I am
afraid you will never make much of a scholar anyway. But, indeed, you
ought to try and do better; just think what a comfort you might be to
your mother, if you would only----But stop the horse, stop the horse a
minute; I've got an idea!"

Jabe drew up the reins with a sudden jerk, and looked at Marion as if
she had scattered every idea he ever possessed.

"You jump out!" she exclaimed; "no, you needn't do that; just help me
over on to the front seat, and then you climb on to the back. I'm going
to drive up to school in style."

Jabe dropped the reins, and did as he was told, with a very bewildered
expression on his great, round face, as he looked at Marion very much as
if he doubted her sanity; but she went on talking very fast as she
tucked in the almost worn-out robe, and took the reins in her hands.

"Don't you see, we're almost to the school, and everybody will be on the
lookout for me; so I want to dash up to the door in very stunning
fashion. Now sit up straight; fold your arms; hold your head
up;--so,--that's it; you're my tiger; that means the groom, boy, you
know, who sits behind when the gentleman drives. Now, when I stop the
horse, you jump out just as quick as ever you can and rush to his head,
as if you thought he wouldn't stand still long enough for me to get
out. Do you understand?"

"Yes," replied Jabe, who sat as straight as a ramrod, his eyes twinkling
under his bushy, fur cap, and his mouth stretched from ear to ear. If he
didn't love work, he certainly did a good joke, and he entered fully
into the spirit of the thing.

"Well, now, keep sober, and don't forget what I told you."

Marion braced her feet against the dasher; threw back her shoulders;
extended her arms at full length, and gave poor old Shadrack such a
tremendous "cut" with the whip that he sprang forward as if forty fiends
were after him; but Marion was used to driving, and only flourished the
old wooden-handled ox-whip, and urged him on the faster.

Everything happened precisely as Marion wished. Of course Miss Stiefbach
had become considerably alarmed at her long absence, and every one had
come into the front of the house, and all were looking out for her,
their faces pressed up against the window-panes as they crowded
together.

Just as Marion came in sight some one opened the front door; this was
what she wanted. Giving the whip an extra flourish, and saying in an
undertone to Jabe, "Be ready," she dashed up to the gate, and suddenly
drew the reins up short. Poor Shadrack, being thus brought to a very
unexpected stand-still, threw his head up in the air, and planted his
fore feet straight out in front of him, in a most warlike attitude.
Almost before they stopped Jabe sprang out and grasped the poor panting
beast by the head, as Marion threw the reins down, and stepping to the
ground exclaimed in a pompous tone, loud enough to be heard by those
standing in the door-way, "Rub him down well, Thomas, and give him an
extra measure of oats;" then, as she turned into the gate, "and Thomas,
have the tandem at the door in the cutter, to-morrow-morning at ten."

Jabe, not to be outdone, touched his hat, sprang on to the seat, and
whisked Shadrack round and up the road, at a pace that would have made
his mother hold up her hands in holy horror.

"Why, Marion Berkley, where _have_ you been?" exclaimed a chorus of
voices, Miss Stiefbach's actually among the number.

"I've been taking an airing on the Western Avenue. How do you like my
turn-out? Neat but not gaudy, isn't it?"

"Well, Marion, I don't know what you will do next," said Miss Christine;
"but where have you really been?"

"Marion, I must ask you to give a strict account of yourself," said Miss
Stiefbach, who, now that she had recovered from her unusual surprise and
alarm, was her own stately self again. Whereupon Marion gave a brief and
satisfactory history of her afternoon's expedition, embellishing it with
sundry remarks and expressions of her own, which rendered it highly
entertaining to her younger hearers; and I might say to all but Miss
Stiefbach, for Miss Christine joined heartily in the general laugh at
Marion's first sleigh-ride of the season.



CHAPTER XI.

LA SOIRÉE MUSICALE.


"Girls! what do you think's up?" exclaimed Sarah Brown, as she bounced
into the library one afternoon. "Miss Stiefbach and Mr. Stein have just
been having a long confab in the 'secret-chamber,' and they came out
just as I passed the door, and I heard Miss 'Stiffy' say, 'Yes, I knew
you would prefer Friday, so I ventured to invite them without seeing you
again; as yet the young ladies know nothing about it!' Now _I_ should
like to knew what in the world _it_ is."

"Well, so should I!" exclaimed Julia Thayer. "What can she mean;
'invited them,' and 'the young ladies know nothing about it.' She must
be going to give a party."

"Yes, that's it, you may be sure," said Marion; "she's going to give a
party, and she and Mr. Stein are going to lead the German. Won't they
look well dancing the 'deux-temps' together?"

"O Marion, how perfectly ridiculous!" laughed Florence. "You know she
can't be going to have a party; but what can it mean?"

"Are you sure you heard right, Sallie?" asked Grace Minton. "Why didn't
you break your shoe-string and stop to tie it up; or do something or
other to keep you there long enough to get something a little more
satisfactory?"

"Why, I couldn't hang round the hall listening to what they said, could
I? But I know there is to be something going on here Friday; see if
there isn't."

"Yes, and Miss Stiefbach isn't going to say anything about it to us
until the last moment, because she thinks our heads will be full of it,"
ejaculated Marion. "I've a great mind to ask her myself."

"If I was in the habit of betting, I would bet you anything that I know
all about it," remarked Georgie Graham, who had kept silent while the
other girls were making their comments.

"Oh, what is it?" asked Marion; "my principles and my purse too will
stand a pound of candy."

"And I another," cried Sarah.

"Not so fast," replied Georgie. "I said _if_ I was in the habit of
betting, but I never bet; it is very unladylike."

"Granted!" cried Marion; "but please reserve your lecture for another
time, and out with your secret."

"I really don't know as I _ought_ to tell," said Georgie, as she counted
the stitches on her canvas in a provokingly cool way. "I knew it by
accident, and that is the reason I haven't spoken of it before."

"Oh, if you got possession of it in the same way you have of several
other secrets here, I don't blame you for not wanting to tell of it,"
retorted Sarah.

"I don't know what you mean to insinuate, Sarah; but I heard of this
entirely by accident two weeks ago to-morrow," replied Georgie in the
same unmoved tone. "I was in the anteroom looking over an exercise which
monsieur wanted me to correct, when I heard Mr. Stein and Miss Stiefbach
talking together in very low tones in the school-room. Of course it did
not occur to me that there could be anything private in what they were
saying, or I should have let them know I was there"--("Of course,"
laconically remarked Marion)--"but when they had got through their
conversation Miss Stiefbach said, 'We will say nothing about it to any
one, as I wish it should remain a secret for the present;'--so I said
nothing."

"Well, don't you _intend_ to say anything?" cried Sarah Brown; "now that
we know there is something going on, don't you intend to tell us what it
is?"

"I really don't think it would be very honorable in me," rejoined
Georgie, thoroughly enjoying her important position.

"Don't trouble her, Sarah; we all know what her conscientious scruples
are. It would be a pity to have them disturbed," remarked Marion in a
cutting, sarcastic tone. "I can tell you what it all means in five
seconds."

"What is it?--tell us, do!" cried all, with the exception of Georgie.

"Miss Stiefbach intends to have some sort of a musical spread next
Friday, and we girls have got to play."

"How did you know it?" exclaimed Georgie, thoroughly off her guard.

"I didn't take your method of finding it out, you may be sure," replied
Marion. "I never heard a word about it before this afternoon; but if you
put two and two together they generally make four, that's all."

"What do you mean by putting 'two and two together'?" impatiently asked
Julia Thayer.

"Why, just this!" replied Marion. "Does Mr. Stein have an earthly thing
to do with this school except to give us music-lessons? and is there
anything that Miss Stiefbach could be getting up with him, that
concerned the 'young ladies' that didn't have something to do with our
music? and would she be inviting people here when it was convenient to
_him_ if it wasn't that they are going to give a musicale, and he is
going to make us play? So there you've got the whole matter; I don't
think it required much brilliancy to see that."

"Well, I _never_ should have thought of it!" exclaimed Sarah.

"Nor I either," said Florence. "But don't you think it is awfully mean
not to have let us known anything about it beforehand, so that we might
have had time to practise?"

"I presume Mr. Stein has been secretly drilling us for it this long
time, though we poor, unconscious victims didn't suspect it," replied
Marion. "But there's Georgie, she has the advantage of us; she has
probably decided what she is going to play, and has learned it
perfectly." But there was no reply from Georgie as she had discreetly
left the room.

"Oh, isn't she sly?" exclaimed Grace Minton.

"Sly! sly isn't the word for it," put in Sarah Brown in her most
energetic tones; "she ought to have been named Foxy Graham!"

"Well, there's one thing certain," said Grace Minton, "I shan't have to
play; I thank my stars for that!"

"I wonder who will play," said Florence. "Georgie Graham of course;
Julia; and you Mab; and I rather guess I shall have to. Well, I don't
much care, I don't believe there will be many here, and I think it's
time I learned to play before strangers."

"I don't know how I shall ever get on in the world," cried Marion in a
despairing tone; "that is about the only thing I never could do."

"And I think it is so strange," remarked Julia Thayer; "for you see so
much company at home, and always seem so self-possessed wherever you
are, that it does seem queer that you are afraid to play before people."

"I know it. I dare say every one thinks it is all affectation," replied
Marion, "for I know you all think I've got assurance enough to do most
anything; but it is the honest truth, that I'm frightened half to death
whenever I sit down to play to any one; and if I get along well at this
affair of Miss Stiefbach's, it will be nothing but my _will_ that
carries me through."

"So you mean to play, do you?" asked Georgie Graham, who at this
juncture suddenly made her appearance in the room.

"Yes, I mean to play if I'm asked, and I suppose I shall be, because I
think I ought. I am determined to overcome this ridiculous nervousness,
even if it is at the expense of fifty mortifying failures before I do
it; so, girls, look out and prepare yourselves for a public disgrace;
for of _course_ there is not one of you who would not take it quite to
heart if I should break down."

"Well," replied Sarah Brown in the most energetic tone (Sarah almost
always spoke in italics), "I know I for one should feel dreadfully;
though of _course_ I can't answer for some of the rest of us;" and she
cast a meaning glance at Georgie.

"I'm sure, Marion, I _hope_ you won't fail," said Georgie as she picked
up her work, her ostensible reason for coming back, and left the room.

"I know one thing," exclaimed Sarah; "if that girl kept a list of all
the lies she tells in a week, white and black; she'd use up all the
letter-paper there is in the town."

"O Sallie!" laughed Florence, "you're too severe. I'm afraid you don't
entertain a Christian spirit towards Georgie."

"I don't, and I don't pretend to!" answered Sarah. "I never did like
her, and I never shall; she's always saying something to aggravate me."

"But she didn't say anything to you then," said Julia Thayer, with a
mischievous twinkle in her eyes; "she was only _hoping_ that Marion
would not break down."

"Yes, and a lot she hoped it!" excitedly replied Sarah; "there's
nothing would suit her better than to have Mab make a regular failure of
it; and I just wanted to let her know I thought so."

"Now, Sarah," said Marion, in a half-laughing, half-serious tone, "don't
you trouble yourself to fight my battles. I think I am quite equal to it
myself; besides, you'll have your hands full to look after your own
squabbles."

"There's ingratitude for you!" said Grace Minton. "If I were you,
Sallie, I never would trouble myself about her again; she doesn't
deserve such a champion."

"Oh, I don't mind what she says," replied Sarah, good-naturedly; "she
can't make me hold my tongue, and I shall say just what I've a mind to,
to that Georgie Graham, so long as she keeps on tormenting me."

That evening the whole school was informed that on the following Friday
Miss Stiefbach was to give a soirée musicale, at which ten of the
scholars were to perform.

These were Marion Berkley, Florence Stevenson, Alice Howard, Mattie
Denton, Julia Thayer, Georgie Graham, Susie Snelling, Kate Brastow, and,
to the surprise of every one, little Rose May and Fannie Thayer.

Of course nothing was talked of that week out of study hours, but the
soirée, and great indignation was expressed by most of the performers
that they had not been allowed more time to prepare themselves. But Mr.
Stein knew what he was about; he wished the musicale to be as much as
was possible an impromptu affair, as it was not his idea to make an
exhibition of the skill of his pupils, but to accustom them to play with
ease and self-possession before strangers. He gave his pupils a list of
their names in the order in which they were to play, selected from the
music belonging to each girl several pieces, from which she was to
choose one, exercising her own taste and judgment; decided himself upon
the duets he wished performed, and then informed them that his part in
the matter was ended; from that moment he was to be nothing but a
spectator.

"But, Mr. Stein," exclaimed one, "just _please_ tell me, can I play this
well enough?" and then from a second, "O Mr. Stein, _would_ you play
this?" and "Oh, I never can play _any_ of these before any one!" from a
third, and many other exclamations and lamentations were poured upon
him; but he only held up his hands in a deprecating way. "Now, young
ladies, do not, do not, I beg of you, ask me another question! I
consider that you know any one of the pieces which I have laid aside for
you to choose from sufficiently well to play anywhere; it only remains
for you to decide which one you will play. Now, good-by until Friday;
you will not see me until then, when I shall not come as your teacher,
but as an invited guest, to have my ears delighted with the sweet sounds
which I shall expect to hear from that instrument;" and with a profound
bow the old German made his exit.

But, notwithstanding his apparent unconcern as to the result of this new
whim of his, Mr. Stein was really quite excited about it; several of his
pupils at Miss Stiefbach's he considered were quite remarkable for their
age, and he looked forward to the coming musicale with a feeling of
pride not unmixed with fear, lest some of his favorites should fail to
do themselves credit.

Marion had noticed that for two weeks before the secret was generally
known Georgie Graham had practised Chopin's Polonaise in A, every day,
but since the whole school had been informed of the musicale she had
only heard her play it twice. This induced her to think that Georgie,
taking advantage of the knowledge which she had surreptitiously gained,
had chosen that piece for Friday night, and having nearly perfected
herself in it, was avoiding practising it, so that none of the girls
might suspect what she intended to play.

Marion would not have been likely to have thought of this, if she had
not taken the Polonaise about the same time that Georgie had, and had
often remarked that she thought Georgie played it better than anything
else, and very much better than she did herself. Remembering this, and
knowing that Georgie would be particularly anxious to excel her in the
eyes of the whole school, and before invited guests, she felt perfectly
confident that Chopin's Polonaise was the piece she had chosen.

Now Georgie had certainly done everything she could to make Marion
thoroughly uncomfortable ever since they had been back at school, and
Marion had been actually longing for an opportunity to revenge herself.
Here was the opportunity. The soirée was to open with a duet by Mattie
Denton and Julia Thayer; then a solo by Florence, followed by a song
from Alice Howard; then a piano solo from Marion, and after her Georgie
Graham. This precedence over Georgie gave Marion the opportunity which
she could not resist. She would play the Polonaise herself, thus forcing
Georgie to choose another piece almost without a moment's notice.

Do not despise her, my friends; she was very much like other girls, and
had a natural desire to punish Georgie for all the mean, petty
annoyances to which she had been subjected at her hands. A very wrong
desire, I grant you, and one for which she blamed herself very much; but
she had it, and consequently as a faithful chronicler I must write it.

But do not for a moment suppose that she intended publicly to disgrace
her school-mate; nothing of the kind; she knew that Georgie was
perfectly capable, and perfectly willing to play any of her music before
no matter how many strangers. She only wanted to provoke her, and spoil
her nicely arranged plan of playing a very difficult and very brilliant
piece of music, better than any of the other girls would be able to
play, as they had not had the advantages of practising expressly for the
occasion which she had taken. She was not at all jealous of Georgie, for
although they were generally considered the rival pianists of the
establishment, the rivalry was entirely on Georgie's side.

Many might say that they played equally well, but the few who truly
loved music for its own sake missed something in Georgie's playing which
they found in Marion's.

The secret was this: Georgie played from a love of the admiration and
praise she received, and from an ambitious resolution she had made when
a little child, that no one she knew should play better than she did
herself. Consequently every one was struck with the accuracy and
rapidity of her execution, and the brilliancy of her touch in all
difficult music; but in more quiet pieces,--pieces that required that
the soul of the performer should thrill through every chord, and vibrate
with every touch of the piano, that the full depth and beauty of their
perfect harmony might be conveyed to the listener's ear,--then it was
that Georgie's playing seemed cold and mechanical, while that of Marion
seemed an interpretation of the purest ideas of the composer.

Friday afternoon came at last. Throughout the house the two pianos had
been going at almost every hour in the day; early and late, before
breakfast and after supper, might be heard duets, solos, and songs,
until those scholars who were not to perform at the musical soirée
declared themselves thoroughly disgusted with the whole affair, and
hoped Miss Stiefbach would never have another.

This afternoon, however, no one was allowed to go near the piano, and
every girl was obliged to learn her lessons for Monday, and take her
usual amount of exercise, notwithstanding that they had all begged and
entreated to be permitted to give their last moments to music. Miss
Stiefbach was obdurate and held her ground, for she knew the girls were
all very much excited, and that nothing but a strict attention to other
things would sufficiently calm them to enable them to play at all, that
night.

But just before tea excitement reigned supreme. To be sure it was
divided and subdivided by being confined to the various rooms where the
scholars were dressing themselves for the evening; still, if an entire
stranger had walked through the lower part of the house where everything
was quiet, and no one was to be seen except Miss Christine, who was
arranging some beautiful flowers that had mysteriously made their
appearance that afternoon, he would have felt perfectly sure that some
event of an unusual and highly interesting nature was about to take
place. As a rule all the scholars dressed very plainly, for Miss
Stiefbach's motto regarding dress which she endeavored to instill into
the youthful minds about her was, "Neatness, not display."

But notwithstanding the fact that ordinarily all finery was eschewed,
almost every girl had stowed away in her trunk at least one dress a
little more elaborate than the rest of her wardrobe; a set of pretty
jewelry, or handsome ribbons, "in case anything should happen;" and now
something was actually going to happen; the dull routine of school-life
was to be broken in upon, and consequently the little vanities of this
world would have a chance to air themselves.

"To friz, or not to friz! that is the question!" exclaimed Marion, as
she turned from her looking-glass and appealed to Florence, who was
buttoning her best-fitting cloth boots.

"Why, friz of course; you know it's the most becoming."

"Oh, I know that well enough; but you see I was too sleepy to put it up
last night, and now I shall have to do it with hot slate-pencil, and
it's the ruination of the hair."

"I guess it won't hurt it for just this once, and this is certainly a
great occasion," answered Florence; "what are you going to wear on
it,--cherry?"

"Oh, no! that lovely gold band you gave me; it just suits my dress, and
lights up beautifully. I like to wear only one color when I can."

"That is all very well for you to say (these boots are _rayther_ snug),
because you're a blonde, and look well in plain colors; but I'm such a
darkey that nothing but red and yellow suits me," said Florence.

"So much the better. I don't think there is anything handsomer than a
rich orange or a bright scarlet, and sometimes a little of both is just
the thing. There! how does that look?" continued Marion, as she put the
last hair-pin in her back braids, gave an extra touch to the gleaming
waves of her front hair, and straightened the narrow gold satin band
which ran through them.

"Perfectly lovely!" enthusiastically cried Florence; "you've got it just
high enough without being a bit too high, and those crimps are heavenly!
Now put on your dress; I want to see the whole effect before I get
myself up."

"I don't think it is quite long enough, do you?" asked Marion, in a
doubtful tone, as she shook out the folds of a rich Irish poplin, and
threw it over her head; "it is so awfully hard to get a dress just
the right length, when you are not old enough for a train, and too old
to have it up to your knees! But there! how's that?" and she turned for
her friend's final verdict.

"Lovely! just lovely! That is the prettiest shade of green I _ever_ saw;
and _such_ a poplin! Where did you get it?"

"Uncle George brought it to me from Ireland; wasn't it good of him? But
come, Florence, you really must hurry; I expect the tea-bell will ring
any minute; it's a blessed thing Miss Stiefbach put tea off half an
hour, or we should never have been dressed beforehand. O Flo! what a
stunning dress! I never saw it before."

"_Do_ you like it? I didn't show it to you, for I was afraid you would
think it was terribly niggery; but I saw it in Chandler's window, and
just walked in and bought it without saying boo to auntie, and it really
is quite becoming to me, I'm so black."

"Becoming! I should think it was; I never saw you look so well in
anything in your life. If the thing had been made for you it couldn't
have suited your style better, and that Roman-gold jewelry is just right
for it; in fact, as mademoiselle used to say, you are decidedly 'comme
il faut.'"

The two girls certainly made a charming picture as they stood together,
each interested and eager that the other should look her best.

Marion's beautiful hair fell slightly over her forehead in soft, curling
waves, seeming even lighter and brighter than ever, and making the
contrast with her dark eyes and eyebrows all the more marked. Her fair
skin and glowing cheeks were set off to advantage by the rich green
dress she wore, which, though simply trimmed and in keeping with her
years, was very handsome.

It would have been hard to choose between the two, for each in her own
style was certainly very lovely.

Florence's hair was drawn off from her low, broad forehead, as she
always wore it, and she had nothing on it but a tiny gilt band, like a
golden thread encircling her head; which, though she did not know it,
was a perfect Clytie in contour. Her dress was a French poplin, the
ground a rich blue, while all over it, at regular intervals, were
embroidered singularly odd-shaped figures in the brightest-colored
silks, giving it a peculiar, piquante appearance, and perfectly suiting
the wearer's brunette beauty.

Perhaps I have given too much time and space to dress; but parents and
guardians may skip the above passage, as it is written expressly for
young girls, who, I know from personal experience, are very naturally
interested in such matters.

The hour at last arrived. The grand-piano stood between the
folding-doors which separated the two large parlors; in the back room
was Miss Christine, surrounded by all the school, and in the front sat
Miss Stiefbach and the invited guests, about twenty in number, all of
them refined, cultivated persons, many of them quite severe musical
critics.

Mr. Stein fluttered from one room to the other, trying hard to appear
unconcerned; but I doubt if any of his pupils were in a greater state of
excitement than he. It had been an undecided question whether or no he
should stand by the piano and turn over the music; but the majority
concluded that he would only make them more nervous, so he retired to
the back of the front parlor, in a position where he could command a
view of every note in the key-board.

M. Béranger made his appearance at an early hour, and declared his
intention of sitting with Miss Christine, to help her preserve order.
She remonstrated with him, telling him he could hear the music to much
better advantage in the other room; but nevertheless, when the company
was all seated, and silence reigned supreme preparatory to the opening
duet, M. Béranger quietly ensconced himself in the back parlor.

The fatal moment had at last arrived; the musicale was about to
commence.

Marion sat through the first duet, trying hard not to think of herself,
and to listen to the music; but she heard nothing but a confusion of
sounds, the beating of her own heart sounding loudest of all. Florence's
piece she did enjoy, and joined heartily in the applause which followed
its 'finale,' and gave her friend's hand a congratulatory squeeze, as
she came back to the seat beside her. But in a very few moments Alice
Howard's song was ended, and as the murmurs of approbation died away,
Marion took her seat at the piano.

To all outward appearance she was calm and self-possessed, and with a
strong effort she summoned her almost indomitable will to her aid and
struck the first chords clearly and decisively. Through the first two
pages everything went well; but just as she was about to turn over her
music, she missed one or two notes with her left hand. No one who was
not perfectly familiar with every bar of the music would have noticed
the omission; but to Marion it seemed as if she had made a terrible
discord. Her forced composure left her, and all her nervousness came
back again; she turned over hastily; the music slipped from her fingers
and fell to the keys; she grasped it blindly with both hands, but the
loose sheets fluttered to the floor, and confused, embarrassed, and
mortified almost beyond endurance; she stooped to pick them up, amid a
silence which was unbroken, save by Miss Stiefbach, who said in cold,
hard tones:--

"Miss Berkley, do not attempt to repeat your piece; such carelessness is
unpardonable."

The hot blood rushed to Marion's face; then as suddenly receded, leaving
it deathly white. She rose from the piano, and with a firm step and
untrembling lips walked quietly to her seat. But although externally she
was so calm as to appear almost indifferent, her mind was in a state of
the wildest excitement. The air immediately about her seemed filled with
a confusion of sounds, rushing, whirring, whirling about her; while the
dead silence of the room seemed to take palpable shape and weight,
crushing upon her, until she felt as if she must rush from the room to
break through the unbearable stillness, or scream aloud to silence the
imaginary sounds that were ringing in her ears.

But she did neither; she sat quietly in her seat, the object of stealthy
but almost general scrutiny. Some of the girls looked at her with
pitying, sympathizing eyes; those who did not like her exchanged glances
of satisfaction; but all refrained from speaking to her, or otherwise
showing their sympathy,--all but Florence; she slipped her hand into her
friend's, and there it remained for the rest of the evening.

When Marion first struck the piano, and Georgie Graham saw what she was
about to play, her rage and indignation knew no bounds; but when the
music fell, and Marion stood mortified, and, as she thought, disgraced
in the eyes of every one, her spirits rose to a most unparalleled
height, and elated and radiant with satisfaction she took her seat at
the piano, and played the Polonaise almost faultlessly; better than she
had ever played it before.

With the exception of Marion, all the pupils acquitted themselves with a
great deal of credit; but for a while her failure seemed to cast a
slight shadow over the evening's enjoyment; for her beauty, and the
heroic manner with which she had borne her disgrace, aggravated as it
was by Miss Stiefbach's very unnecessary rebuke, had won for her the
admiration of all the guests, most of whom were entire strangers to her.

After the close of the musicale, as pupils and guests were mingling
together, and the room was noisy with animated conversation, Miss
Christine went up to Marion, who was standing in a retired corner of the
room talking to M. Béranger, and taking her hand said:--

"Marion, now that we are apparently unobserved I must tell you how sorry
I was that Miss Stiefbach should have spoken so severely to you. I am
sure she was not aware how unkind it seemed; she did not intend to hurt
your feelings, and probably thought from your apparent calmness that you
were really not at all nervous, and that dropping your music was nothing
but carelessness and want of interest."

Marion made no reply, her lips seemed glued together, and Miss Christine
continued:--

"I was surprised that Georgie should have played the Polonaise. I rarely
speak of the faults of one girl to another, and perhaps I ought not now,
but I must say, I did not think I had a scholar who would be so unkind
as to choose a piece she knew one of her companions had chosen."

The rebuke intended for Georgie struck directly home to Marion. She had
been struggling with herself ever since Miss Christine had stood there,
knowing that she ought, before the evening was over, to tell her teacher
the unworthy part she had acted; now every sense of honor and justice
compelled her to do so. But directly beside her stood M. Béranger, and
her pride rebelled at being again disgraced in his eyes, for his
kindness and forbearance, ever since their first lesson, had won for
him her sincere esteem and regard. The struggle was severe, but
momentary, for raising her eyes to Miss Christine, she said:--

"It was a very contemptible thing, Miss Christine; nothing but an
intense desire for revenge could have induced me to select a piece I
knew Georgie had previously chosen."

"You, Marion!" exclaimed Miss Christine; nothing else, just that
exclamation; but the tone of her voice cut Marion more deeply than any
harsh rebuke could have done.

"Yes, Miss Christine, I chose it, knowing that Georgie had practised it
on purpose to play it to-night. I thought as I was to play first I
should be able to disconcert her. I am heartily ashamed of myself; my
disgrace was nothing but what I deserved."

For a moment there was silence. Miss Christine was shocked to find
Marion could have done such a thing. Sarcastic, haughty, disagreeable to
her companions in many ways, she had known her to be, but mean never;
she could not understand it.

If she had known the disgraceful part Georgie had really taken in the
affair; if she had heard of the eaves-dropping of which she had been
guilty in the school-room, to punish which had been quite as great an
inducement for Marion's conduct as a desire for revenge, she would have
felt very differently; but of that Marion said nothing. But Miss
Christine was too kind-hearted, and understood her pupil too well to
speak sternly to her; besides, she knew it must have cost Marion a
severe struggle to exonerate Georgie at the expense of herself, and
doubly so in the presence of M. Béranger. In fact, when the first shock
of surprise had passed off, she felt that the nobleness of Marion's
expiation had atoned for her fault, and she could not help thinking that
there were many girls in the school who would have held their tongues,
and been only too glad to thrust the blame on to one who was so
intensely disagreeable to them.

These thoughts flashed through Miss Christine's mind in a moment, and
holding out her hand, she said in her kindest tones;--

"My dear Marion, I am sure this is the last time you will ever do
anything so unworthy of yourself."

Marion's only reply was a warm pressure of that dear hand, as she turned
and left the room.

"Do you not judge Mlle. Berkley too hasteelie?" whispered M. Béranger.
"There is something behind all this, which you do not yet perceive. I
feel verie sure that Mees Georgie do know more tan she do tell."



CHAPTER XII.

SARAH BROWN SPEAKS HER MIND.


"Now where do you suppose they came from, Marion? I don't know of any
one round here who has a conservatory; they must have come from
Springfield. Who could have sent them?" asked Sarah Brown.

"I'm sure I don't know; aren't they lovely?" replied Marion; "but here
comes Miss Christine,--let's ask her. Miss Christine," she said, turning
round quickly as her teacher entered the room, "who sent you these
lovely flowers yesterday?"

Miss Christine started at the abrupt, point-blank question, and looked a
trifle confused:--

"Why, really, Marion, I--that is,--M. Béranger sent them here; but, as
the box had no address, I presume they were for the benefit of the whole
school. I certainly did not intend to monopolize them."

"No, of course you didn't, you dear old Christian!" exclaimed Marion
with the affectionate familiarity she often used towards her teacher;
"of course you didn't; and as they were meant for all of us, you won't
mind it a bit if I appropriate this little sprig of geranium, and do
just as I've a mind to with it, now will you?"

"No, I don't think I could refuse that, although it does seem a pity to
take it out of water. Why, Marion, what are you going to do with
it?--put it in my hair! No, no, it's too pretty, and it will wither in
such a little while; do take it out!"

"No, I shan't do any such a thing. You gave it to me to do just what I
chose with it, and I _choose_ to have it in your hair; so you must not
take it out."

"No, Miss Christine, don't!" exclaimed Sarah Brown. "You ought to keep
it in, even if it's only to please Marion, for most girls would have
stuck it in their own heads; but she never _says_ anything or _does_
anything like most girls."

"Hold your tongue, Sarah!" peremptorily replied Marion; "you don't know
what you're talking about."

"Yes, I do," replied Sarah, emphasizing every word with a shake of the
head. "I know perfectly well what I am talking about, and you know I
know it, and _I_ know I shan't know it much longer without letting
somebody else know it; so there!"

"Well, Sarah," said Miss Christine, who could not resist joining Marion
in a hearty laugh at Sarah's excited and rather incoherent sentence, "if
you and Marion know what you are talking about, that is certainly more
than I can say, and as it is never polite to allude to a secret in the
presence of a third party. I think I ought to be that somebody else,
whom you are 'to let know it;'" and Miss Christine shook her head in
laughing imitation of Sarah.

"Well, I'll tell you one thing, Miss Christine; it's about Marion's--"

"Sarah Brown, hold your tongue!" cried Marion, at the same time clapping
her hand over Sarah's mouth.

"Marion Berkley, I shan't!" cried Sarah, struggling to free herself, and
gasping out at intervals broken sentences perfectly unintelligible to
Miss Christine; then, as Marion loosed her hold, she shouted: "It's
about Marion's break-down! there!"

"Sarah Brown, you'll be sorry for this!" cried Marion, her eyes flashing
with indignation.

"Sarah! Marion!" exclaimed Miss Christine, looking from one to the
other in utter amazement. "I don't understand you at all; what is this
all about?"

"She doesn't know what she is talking about, and I think she had better
mind her own business!" exclaimed Marion.

"I do know what I'm talking about, and it's just as much my business as
it is any one else's; if it isn't, I'll make it so."

"Girls! girls! you cannot think how you grieve and astonish me. Do you
know how you are talking? Your language is unladylike in the extreme.
But"--turning to Sarah--"even that is not so unpardonable as the
thoughtlessness which could lead you to speak of Marion's failure last
night, when you know it must be extremely unpleasant for her to have it
alluded to in any way."

"Miss Christine, it's too bad for you to speak so to me," cried Sarah,
the tears now streaming down her cheeks, and her voice pitched to its
most excited tones. "You know I just worship Marion, only she won't let
me show it, and I never did an unkind thing to her in my life; but I
told her I should tell about the Polonaise, and so I will; no one shall
stop me!"

"Sarah, you forget to whom you are speaking," quietly replied Miss
Christine, adding as she glanced at Marion, and noticed that she stood
with her lips tightly compressed, "If you have the affection for Marion
which you profess, you will cease to speak of a subject which evidently
annoys her."

"Well, it has no business to annoy her, and I mean to tell every girl in
the school," retorted Sarah, now fairly beside herself; and raising her
voice until she fairly shouted, she called to the girls who were passing
the door, on the way to the library, "Come in here, girls! come in here,
every one of you! Yes, Georgie Graham, you too, I want you all. Now
listen to what I've got to say. You all thought Marion Berkley ought to
have been ashamed of herself to play the Polonaise when she knew Georgie
was going to play it; and you were all glad she broke down, because
almost all of you hate her, and are jealous of her because she's the
handsomest, and the smartest, and the very best girl in the school every
way; and because she doesn't say one thing to your back and another to
your face, the way most of you do; but I'll tell you why she played it.
She played it because that creature there--" pointing her finger at
Georgie, who happened to be the central figure in the group of
astonished listeners--"because that girl was in the anteroom
_listening_, _eaves-dropping_, as she always is, and knew all about the
musicale two weeks before any of us, and practised, and practised, by
stealth, just for no other reason than to show off before company, and
put Marion in the shade; and Marion played it just to punish Georgie for
that and fifty other mean things she's done. I suppose you think it was
hateful in Marion; but _I_ don't; I only just wish that for once she'd
had a little of Georgie's _brass_,--for _she's_ got enough for every
girl in the school,--and then she wouldn't have broken down. But I
haven't done yet," exclaimed the excited girl, after stopping to take
breath, "I haven't done yet; when Miss Christine told Marion how sorry
she was that Georgie should have played the piece she had chosen, Marion
told her the whole truth up and down. No, not the whole truth. She never
told about Georgie's listening to Miss Stiefbach; no, not a word! She
just told her she deserved to break down herself for having treated
Georgie so unkindly; and there aren't a dozen girls in the school but
what would have told on another to save herself. Now, who do you think
was the mean one, I should like to know?" and Sarah glanced round the
room with an air of triumph; then as suddenly changing her expression
to one of contempt, she exclaimed, "You needn't say anything. I know you
think just as Marion does, that I've been meddling in business that does
not concern me; but I don't care _that_ for one of you;" and, snapping
her fingers in the air, Sarah sat down in the nearest chair, completely
exhausted by her harangue.

"Young ladies! young ladies! what is the meaning of this noise?"
exclaimed Miss Stiefbach, in utter amazement, as she entered the room by
another door from that around which almost all the scholars were
crowded. "Why are you not at work in the library? Miss Christine,
explain the cause of this excitement."

Miss Christine, who had heretofore been completely overpowered by the
suddenness and volubility of Sarah's outbreak, saw at a glance that
something must be done at once to prevent her from going through the
whole again to Miss Stiefbach; for she dreaded the effect it might have
upon her sister, knowing that she would look upon the matter from her
cold, calculating point of view, and probably punish Sarah severely for
her disrespectful conduct, utterly ignoring the generous impulses which
had led to it. As for Georgie, when she hastily glanced at her, and saw
her usually haughty head hanging in shame and confusion, she felt that
for the present at least her punishment was sufficiently severe. So
stepping forward and laying her hand on Sarah's shoulder, at the same
time placing herself almost directly in front of her, she turned to Miss
Stiefbach and said:--

"Sarah has been rather disrespectful to me; but I do not think she was
intentionally rude. I shall have to send her to her own room to do her
mending by herself. The rest of the young ladies must go at once to the
library, and I will be with them, directly."

Miss Stiefbach made no reply, although it did not escape her keen eye
that more had been going on than she was made aware of; but she knew by
previous experience that there were times when Miss Christine's judgment
was wiser than her own. She turned towards the door, and with a
commanding gesture waved the girls out. Marion hesitated, and would have
held back, but Miss Stiefbach coldly remarked:--

"Marion, unless you, too, are in disgrace, you will please leave the
room;" and motioning her to lead the way sailed out of the parlor.

The instant they were gone Sarah threw her arms around her teacher's
neck and sobbed aloud.

"I could not help it, Sarah; indeed I could not," said Miss Christine
with a troubled voice as she stroked her pupil's hair; "it certainly was
very wrong of you to behave so, and if I had not sent you to your room I
should have had to tell Miss Stiefbach all about it, and I am afraid she
would have punished you more severely than I have."

"It isn't that, Miss Christine, it isn't that," sobbed Sarah. "I'd a
great deal rather go to my room; and you knew it when you sent me there.
It's about Marion; she said she'd never speak to me again if I told; she
didn't know I knew about it until this morning."

"Well, how did you know it, dear; did any one tell you?"

"No, and I wasn't listening either," exclaimed Sarah, raising her
flushed face; "but several of us knew how Georgie found out about the
musicale, and I noticed, just as Marion did, how much she had practised
the Polonaise, and last night I heard her tell one of the girls she was
glad Marion broke down, it just _did her good_; and I determined then
I'd pay her for it. I was standing very near you, though you did not
know it, when Marion told you all about it last night, and I thought it
was outrageous that she should bear all the blame; and before M.
Béranger too! It was a shame! But oh, dear, Miss Christine, it hasn't
done a bit of good! She'll just hate me now, I know she will, for she
almost made me promise not to tell."

"I cannot say I quite approve of your method of doing Marion justice,
but I hardly think she will be very severe to such a disinterested
little champion," said Miss Christine, who could not help smiling at the
utter wretchedness of Sarah's tone; "however, here she comes to speak
for herself."

"O Miss Christine, do come in there! I made an excuse to get me some
darning-cotton; but Miss Stiefbach's reading the most stupid book of
sermons; do come in and take her place! What!" as she caught sight of
Sarah, "is she here yet?"

"Yes, Marion, she is here, and is making herself perfectly miserable,
because she believes she has made you an enemy for life. Don't you think
you can convince her of the contrary?"

"O Marion!" sobbed Sarah, "please don't be mad with me, for I really
could not help it. I thought I was doing it all for your good, and when
I got started I _could_ not stop till I had it all out."

"You little bit of a goose! did you really think I was going to be angry
with you after making such a thrilling stump-speech in my favor?" and
throwing herself on her knees beside Sarah's chair, Marion looked up at
her with a smiling face, but with eyes not undimmed by tears.

"And you really think I did it from kindness?"

"Yes, I certainly do!"

"And you won't snub me any more?" cried Sarah, giving Marion a
passionate kiss.

"Oh, I can't promise you that," laughed Marion; "a little, healthy
snub, now and then, does you good, and I shouldn't be doing my duty if I
didn't give it to you, but"--and her voice assumed the tender,
affectionate tone so rarely heard by her school-mates, and which touched
Sarah even more than her words--"I shall never be really unkind to you
again, and I promise to love you as much as you wish."

"You really mean it, Marion? You really mean that you will love me?"

"Yes, I really mean it. Miss Christine shall be my witness that I have
this day gained a friend."

"Yes, my dear," answered Miss Christine, who had been a silent but
interested observer of this little scene: "and a truer one I do not
think you could have."



CHAPTER XIII.

THE WANDERER RETURNS.


For several days the musicale, and the events connected with it, formed
the subjects of general conversation. At first Sarah's remarkable
address to her school-mates appeared likely to have a contrary effect
from that which she desired, being calculated to make Marion more
disliked than ever by those to whom she had been held up by her zealous
little champion as superior to themselves in every way.

But Sarah, despite her quick temper, was a great favorite in the school,
for her warm heart and generous nature made her as ready to do any one a
kindness as she was to fly into a passion. She always spoke the truth,
and if she unintentionally wounded or even annoyed one of her companions
she was ever ready to make reparation. Perhaps many of them felt the
truth of her remarks, and thought that in this case silence was their
only safeguard.

Miss Christine had spoken privately to the older scholars, entreating
them not to harbor any ill-will towards either of the three immediately
concerned, and so the matter was passed quietly over, and that which in
many instances could have had nothing but evil results seemed likely in
this one to be productive of good; for Marion, fearing that she had been
the means of depriving Sarah of some of her warmest friends, almost
unconsciously assumed a different bearing towards all her companions,
and for her new friend's sake exhibited an interest in persons and
things about her which she had heretofore treated with supreme
indifference. And so the days wore on, and Thanksgiving was rapidly
approaching. None of the girls who lived at a distance were going home
this year, and the house was filled with lamentations, and half-stifled
fears lest certain boxes should fail to make their appearance.

Marion had as yet received no definite news from her mother regarding
Jemima Dobbs, and her heart was filled with disappointment when she
thought of the lonely Thanksgiving they were likely to have at the
farm-house in place of the bright and happy one she had pictured to
herself.

She was sitting in her window one morning thinking of Aunt Bettie, when
her door suddenly opened, a voice cried, "Look out for your head!" and a
thick letter was shot into her lap. She caught it eagerly, not stopping
to think whose was the unerring hand that had so accurately hit its
mark, and tearing off the envelope in true school-girl fashion, she
glanced rapidly along the pages, when her eyes were caught with the
words: "Jemima will be at the B---- station Wednesday, when the seven
o'clock train arrives; be sure and have some one there to meet her."
With a cry of delight Marion ran to the door to call Florence, and was
met by that young woman at the head of the stairs. She received the
happy tidings as enthusiastically as Marion could possibly wish, and
going back to their room, and seating themselves in their usual window,
Marion read the letter aloud:--

     "BOSTON, Nov. 24th.

     "MY DEAR DAUGHTER:--Papa has just gone down town; Fred is at
     school; and Charley radiantly happy in the possession of a new
     mechanical toy, which I expect will be demolished in a few moments,
     as that young gentleman is developing a surprising fancy for
     inquiring into the 'why and wherefore' of everything he takes hold
     of. As everything seems to promise a quiet time for me, I think I
     will devote myself to you, as I have quite a long story to tell
     you.

     "I know you have been very much disappointed that my recent
     letters have contained no news of your protégé; but I am in hopes
     that this one will put all your anxiety to rest, and quite equal
     your most ardent expectations.

     "After waiting some time, Mrs. Benson received a letter from the
     lady in Charlestown, with whom the girl calling herself Arabella
     Dobbs has gone to live, in which she wrote that Arabella had stayed
     with her three weeks, but had left, thinking she could find work in
     some wholesale clothing establishment, that would prove more
     profitable than living out.

     "The lady also voluntarily wrote, that she had every reason to
     think the girl was living under an assumed name, as she had
     repeatedly answered questions directed to the cook, whose name was
     Jemima, and seemed very much confused, when after doing so several
     times, remarks were made, and excused herself by saying that her
     mother used to call her Jemima 'just for fun.'

     "Of course we were not much longer in doubt as to the identity of
     Miss Arabella, but we were, if possible, wider from the mark than
     ever, for we had not the most remote idea to what clothing
     establishment she had gone, and there being several in the city, it
     did not seem very probable that without much difficulty we should
     be able to find the right one. While I stood talking with Mrs.
     Benson, as she was looking over the directory, a girl came up to
     the desk. I moved aside that she might more easily speak to Mrs.
     Benson, and she asked in a weak, tired voice, 'Any letters for me,
     ma'am?'--'What name?' demanded Mrs. Benson, running her finger down
     the column of the book, and not raising her eyes. 'Arabella Dobbs,'
     replied the servant-girl.

     "Up jumped Mrs. Benson, slamming the covers of the directory
     together with a report like a pistol, while I turned, equally
     unable to conceal my astonishment, and looked at the girl as if she
     had been a ghost. As you may imagine, such a proceeding could not
     be very agreeable to the poor thing, and she looked from one to the
     other with a bewildered, half-frightened expression.

     "I must say at my first glance I was not favorably impressed with
     her. I had looked for a round-faced, good-natured-looking country
     girl; perhaps a trifle 'airy' after her short experience of city
     life; but I saw a thin, angular face and figure, the hair drawn
     tightly off her forehead up to the very top of her head, and done
     in an immense waterfall; a little, round hat tipped forward, the
     brim just reaching her forehead, across which lay a row of
     corkscrew curls; her dress, which had originally been a good,
     serviceable delaine, but was now so soiled as to almost defy
     description, was looped up and puckered into a great bunch behind,
     in imitation of the panniers worn by the fashionable young ladies
     of the day. All this I took in at a glance, and confess to being
     rather disgusted with the young woman; but when I looked carefully
     at her face all such uncharitable feelings vanished, for it bore
     the marks of recent illness and real distress.

     "Do not think, my dear Mab, that I kept the poor creature standing
     as long as it has taken me to write all this; my thoughts flew much
     faster than my pen ever can. I went up to her, and putting out my
     hand said, before Mrs. Benson could recover from her surprise,
     "Jemima, I believe there are no letters for you now, but I can tell
     you about your dear mother, who is very, very lonely without her
     daughter."

     "It is useless to give you an account of our conversation, for I
     cannot remember it myself; the poor girl was so overcome by my
     unexpected kindness, and her own joy at finding a hand held out to
     her when she most needed help, that she opened her heart to me at
     once. The person who influenced her to come to Boston proved to be
     anything but a friend, and Jemima has paid heavily for following
     her advice; it was through her, as Mrs. Dobbs supposed, that she
     was induced to give her name as Arabella, and that act was the
     key-note to all her misfortune. She succeeded in getting work at a
     clothing establishment, at what seemed to her country ears most
     liberal terms; but work as hard as she could, she could earn but
     little more than enough to pay her board. Crowded into a room with
     more than twenty other girls, bending over her work in the stifled
     atmosphere from morning until night, soon told upon her health,
     accustomed as she had always been to pure country air and bodily
     exercise, and she had hardly been at the place three weeks when she
     was taken ill with a violent fever. The woman with whom she
     boarded, although a cold, grasping creature, was prevented from
     sending her away by the entreaties of the other boarders, who, as
     the fever was not of a malignant nature, insisted upon having her
     kept in the house. Some of the girls were very kind to her; but
     they could give her but little attention, as their time was mostly
     passed in the workroom. After the first severity of the fever
     passed, and the tiresome days of convalescence were reached, the
     poor thing yearned for home and dear, familiar faces; she had sent
     her friends to Mrs. Benson's several times to inquire for letters,
     but with most incredible short-sightedness had always told them to
     give the name Arabella Dobbs, entirely forgetting that her mother
     did not know she had thrown aside the countrified Jemima.

     "The day I saw her was the first day she had walked out, and she
     had literally dragged herself along the street, and up the two long
     flights leading to the office. She had given all her dresses, with
     the exception of the one she had on, to her landlady, and the woman
     had threatened to turn her out if she did not pay her five dollars
     that night. I fortunately had the carriage with me, and drove with
     Jemima to her boarding-place. The woman was all smiles and
     blandishments when she saw me, and quite overpowered Jemima with
     her tender inquiries as to how she felt after her walk; but I cut
     her short by telling her I had come to take Jemima home with me,
     and paid the five dollars she owed her. I think the woman would
     have asked more if she had not seen I was pretty determined; and so
     promising to send for Jemima's trunk, which was now almost entirely
     empty, I brought the exhausted girl here, that she might rest a few
     days and gain strength for her journey. She evidently is longing
     for home, and I do not believe she will feel like herself until she
     gets there. I am having her a good, warm dress made, and shall give
     her my plain gray silk bonnet, that her mother's good sense need
     not be shocked at sight of her hat, which is about the size of a
     small saucer. I think she is very much humbled; she shows it in
     many ways; most of all in her dress, and I am happy to say the
     corkscrew ringlets no longer adorn her brow. Jemima will be at the
     B---- station when the seven o'clock train arrives; be sure and
     have some one there to meet her.

     "And now, my dear, I have only time to say that we are all well,
     and hoping to hear from you soon. I know this letter will be more
     interesting to you than if it contained pages of spicy news. I seem
     to see you and Florence enjoying its contents. Give my love to her,
     and accept more than ever a letter carried before for yourself,
     from your fond

     "MAMMA."

"She'll be here to-morrow, as true as you live!" exclaimed Marion. "Oh,
I am so glad! for now Aunt Bettie will have a Thanksgiving after all,
and I was afraid it would be anything but that."

"Of course you'll go up there with her."

"No, I shan't. I shall go this afternoon, if Miss Christine will let me,
and of course she will, and tell auntie that Jemima is found, and will
probably be with her by Saturday; then you see Jemima will surprise her
by getting there to-morrow, for I must have a surprise about it
somewhere. I shall tell auntie how sick Jemima has been, and that she
must not be the least bit harsh with her."

"But I should think you would want to go too, so as to see the fun,"
said Florence.

"Fun! I don't think there'll be much fun in it. I believe it will be
rather a _teary_ time at first, and I prefer to be out of the way."

"In other words, you think it would be a little easier for them to be by
themselves; so you give up seeing the 'grand tableau' at the close of
the play, which never would have happened but for you."

"Don't be a goose, Flo!" laughed Marion, who, although radiant with
delight, and a secret sort of satisfaction, tried to remain cool, for
fear she should appear too much pleased with the part she had played in
the affair.

"Who are you going to send to the station?" asked Florence.

"I'm going myself."

"Do you suppose Miss Stiffy's going to let you march off by yourself two
days in succession?"

"Not a bit of it," replied Marion. "I'm going to get up a party to go to
the farm this afternoon, and I'll manage it so that I can hang back, and
tell the good news after you have all gone out."

"And then rush off and not give her a chance to thank you."

"I dare say," replied Marion; "but I mustn't stop here; it's time we
went down, for the clock struck five minutes ago."

Marion was as good as her word, and arranged a party for Aunt Bettie's
that afternoon, taking care, however, to have Florence gain the required
permission, as she knew she should want the same favor the next day. She
managed to make Aunt Bettie understand in a few words all that was
necessary of her daughter's story, leaving it for Jemima to make up
deficiencies, and hurried off, overtaking her companions before they had
missed her.

The next day, finding out at what hour the train in which Jemima was
coming would arrive, she walked to the village, made arrangements with
a man who was in the habit of doing errands for Miss Stiefbach, to have
a comfortable covered wagon ready to take Jemima and her trunk to the
farm, and then went to the station to await the arrival of the cars. As
she sat waiting, the station-master came into the room, and planting
himself in front of her, with both hands in his pockets, and chewing a
toothpick suddenly accosted her with:--

"Goin' deown?"

"Going where?" asked Marion, not overpleased at his advances.

"Deown--deown to Boston;" jerking his thumb over his shoulder, as if
that city was situated in the room directly behind him.

"No, sir."

"No? 'spectin' someun p'raps."

Marion made no reply.

"S'pose you're one o' them gals up t'the schule?"

Marion still observed a dignified silence.

"Spectin' one o' the gals?" queried the man, who, being a true Yankee,
was not at all abashed by the coldness with which his questions, or
rather comments, were received.

"No, sir," replied Marion.

"You ben't?--_not_ one o' the gals; you're marm, p'raps?"

"No, sir."

"Did you say as how you b'longed up t'the schule?"

"No, I did not say so," replied Marion, too irritated to be amused at
his persistency.

"Oh, you didn't; wall, I didn't know but p'raps you did, an' ef so, I
hed somethin' to tell yer, that's all;" and whistling a tune he was
about to walk off, when Marion exclaimed:--

"I didn't say whether I belonged to the school or not, because you
didn't ask me."

"Didn't I jest say I s'posed you was one o' them gals up t'the schule?"
demanded the man, still chewing his toothpick, and looking at her as if
his last remark was a poser.

"So you did," replied Marion; "you stated the fact, and as I didn't say
anything took it for granted I was one of the scholars. When you ask a
direct question perhaps I'll answer it."

"Aint you a smart un?" exclaimed the man. "Wall now, that's what I call
right deown smart; jest answer to the pint, an' then yer don't git
cornered;" and he nodded his head at her in real admiration. "Wall, I
s'pose I must put it pretty sharp ef I expect to git an answer. Neow,"
taking his hat off and rubbing his hands through his hair as if to
collect his ideas, "be you one o' them gals as goes t'the schule jest
abeout tew miles from here?"

"Yes, I am," replied Marion, who, now that she saw the man had some
motive besides idle curiosity, descended from her loftiness.

"Wall, I've got a box in here that came deown in the express train, an'
I didn't kneow but what you'd come to see 'bout it. It's fur one o' them
gals, an' 's I haint bin here long I haint much used to the business,
an' I didn't know heow to git it up there."

"Who is it for?" asked Marion.

"I don't remember; one o' yer highfalutin sort o' names. But you jest
come and see it;" and he led the way into the "gentleman's room," and
pointed to a large box standing in the corner.

Marion walked up to it, and glancing at the address exclaimed: "Why, it
is for me!"

"Wall, neow du tell!" exclaimed the station-master; "neow I call that
quite a coincydance, I du!"

"Well, I call it a very nice box," laughed Marion; "and there comes a
man I've engaged to do a job for me, and he can take it in his wagon,
and leave it at the school."

"You're a smart un, I tell you," remarked the man as he lifted the box
and carried it to the door; "you know how to do the bisness, an' no
mistake."

Before Marion could reply, or take any notice of his remark, the whistle
of an engine was heard, and as she went out on to the platform the train
whizzed up and stopped If it had not have been for her mother's
preparation, she would never have recognized in the thin, subdued, pale
young woman who stepped from the cars, the bright, rosy country girl she
had seen so many times at Aunt Bettie's.

She welcomed Jemima most cordially, making no allusions that could
embarrass the poor girl, and rattled on a string of good-natured
nothings, as she delivered the little hair trunk into the hands of her
charioteer, and then placed Jemima on the back seat.

"Aint you goin', miss?" asked the driver.

"Oh, no! I prefer to walk. Good-by, Jemima. Give my love to your mother,
and tell her I wish her a happy thanksgiving."

Jemima grasped the hand Marion held out to her, and exclaimed under her
breath, just loud enough for Marion to catch the words, "God bless you,
miss!" It was the first time she had spoken since she arrived; but I
think Marion was satisfied.

As Marion turned away from the wagon, her eyes fell upon the
station-master, who, with his legs planted at a most respectful distance
from each other, his hands still in the depths of his pockets, and his
head cocked on one side, had been watching all the proceedings with the
deepest interest. As she passed him he nodded his head slowly three
times in the most serious manner, and remarked, with even more than his
former emphasis, "You're a smart un!"



CHAPTER XIV.

MARION'S THANKSGIVING PARTY.


"Where have you been?" exclaimed half-a-dozen girls as Marion entered
the gate; "here's a splendid great box just come for you."

"And who do you think was with the man that brought it?" asked one.
"Why, Mimy Dobbs, as sure as you're born; you know she's been away ever
so long, and the cook told me people thought she'd run away, and was
never coming back at all, because she hated living with her mother up at
that poky old farm."

"Stuff and nonsense!" exclaimed Marion. "I advise cook to pay more
attention to our dinners, and let other people's affairs alone. But that
is a box worth having, if the inside prove as good as the out. Come,
lend a hand, girls, and help me carry it upstairs, for if Miss Stiffy
sees it I shall have to open it down here, and she'll _advise_ me to put
most of the things in the larder, and that won't suit me at all."

"Hush!" said Florence, as she took hold of one of the rope-handles with
which the box was provided; "don't make a noise. Miss Stiefbach is in
the secret-chamber; she passed through here a minute ago, and we girls
all hustled round the box, and covered it up with our skirts; for it's
such a bouncer we knew she'd make a fuss about it."

"Come, ready now! You go first, and don't step on the back of your dress
and stumble," whispered Marion. "Isn't it heavy though? Sarah Brown, do
put your hands under, and give it a boost;--softly now!"

Amid considerable pulling and tugging, accompanied with half-suppressed
screams, as the corners of the box came in dangerous proximity to the
wall, the two girls managed to get as far as the bend in the stairs,
when, alas! notwithstanding Marion's warning, Florence made a misstep,
and trod on her dress, which threw her violently back on to the stairs,
bringing the box down with full force upon one of her feet.

"Oh, it's half killing me! it's half killing me! take it up quick, or I
shall scream right out!" exclaimed the poor girl, in low but agonized
tones, which ought to have roused the sympathies of the hardest heart;
but Marion and Sarah, notwithstanding they pitied Florence from the
bottom of their hearts, were so full of laughter that, although they
exerted to the utmost the little strength they had left, they could not
move the box an inch.

Poor Florence writhed and moaned in perfect torture, and not being a
saint, but a very human girl, exclaimed, in tones of unmistakable anger,
"I wish the old box was where it came from. If you don't stop laughing,
and take it off my foot I'll yell at the top of my lungs!"

Happily for all parties, Grace Minton and Julia Thayer, who had been
watching them from below, sprang up the stairs, and, lifting the box,
carried it into Marion's room.

Florence could hardly move, and now that their laughter had subsided,
Marion and Sarah helped her up to her room, making up by their devotion
for their apparent thoughtlessness.

"Oh, do be careful, Mab; it's almost killing me!" cried Florence, as she
sat down on the edge of the bed, and Marion proceeded to take off her
boot. "Oh! oh! just wait one minute till I brace myself,--there! Now
give one awful pull, and have it over with."

Marion did as she was told; the boot came off, but poor Florence,
notwithstanding she shut her teeth tight, and clenched the coverlid
with both hands, could not suppress a groan as she threw herself back on
the bed.

"Quick! quick! some camphor! cologne! rum! anything! she's going to
faint!" cried Sarah Brown, clasping her hands, and jumping straight up
and down, without offering to get either herself.

"No, I'm not," said Florence, with considerable more energy than is
generally shown by fainting persons; "but it did hurt terribly! Now pull
off my stocking, please, and see if I've made a fuss about nothing. I
shall be provoked if it isn't black and blue!"

"I know just how you feel," said Marion, as she carefully pulled off the
stocking; "it is a perfect satisfaction when one is hurt to have
something to show for it; but mercy! I never saw such a looking foot;
you'll be laid up for a week!"

And there certainly seemed every reason to think Marion's prediction
likely to prove true, for the edge of the box had made a deep, red
groove across the instep, and the whole of the upper part of the foot
was rapidly turning black and blue.

"Bring the wash-basin full of water, and some towels, and bathe her foot
very gently. I'll get some arnica and a roll of linen mother always has
me bring in case I get hurt. What a lucky thing I happened to have it!
Sarah, hand me a tumbler half full of water, and I'll put some arnica in
it; it won't do for her to have it on clear."

"Marion is right in her element," remarked Florence; "there's nothing
she likes better than fussing over _wounds_."

"Yes, particularly when they're of such a dangerous nature as this one,"
laughed Marion, as she knelt down to apply the arnica.

After some time had been spent in sympathy and bathing, the injured
foot was nicely bound up, and laid tenderly on the bed, but what to do
for a stocking and shoe was the next question, for the foot was so much
swollen that Florence could not possibly get on her own.

"I tell you what I'll do," said Sarah Brown, who, now that there seemed
no danger that Florence would faint, had become as cool as it was
possible for her to be; "I'll just steal into Miss Stiffy's room, and
get a pair of stockings out of her drawer, and a slipper too; she's got
about forty pairs of creepers, and she won't miss 'em for a little
while."

"But suppose you should get caught?" exclaimed Florence; "then it would
all come out, and we had better have told in the first place."

"Not a bit of it! If we did it would spoil all our fun with Marion's
box, for of course she intends to give us a treat."

"Of course," replied Marion; "but why don't you go down into the
laundry, and get Biddy to give you a pair? There are some there, I know,
and she'll never tell of us."

"Why, don't you see, Miss Stiefbach knows exactly how many pairs she
puts into the wash, and if they didn't all come up she'd know it; but
she won't miss 'em if I take them out of the drawer."

"Well, if you really aren't afraid to risk it; and do be quick about it;
don't make a bit of noise, for if Miss Stiefbach should catch you you'd
never hear the last of it, and I should be to blame," said Florence.

Sarah hurried along the entry until she reached Miss Stiefbach's room,
which was directly over the private study, and then it occurred to her
that Miss Christine might be in there; so she spoke and called her by
name. Marion and Grace, who stood at the other door, exchanged glances
with Florence, who was still on the bed, and all three looked like
detected culprits. Sarah spoke again; but receiving no answer gently
pushed the door open. She nodded her head to the girls to let them know
that the coast was clear, and stealthily entered the room. Marion and
Grace heard her as she crossed the room; then followed a moment of
terrible silence; then they heard the creaking of the bureau-drawer as
she slowly opened it.

"Oh!" whispered Marion, "if she _should_ pull it out too far, and the
whole thing come down on the floor with a bang! Miss Stiefbach would
certainly hear it, and know some one was in there."

"Hush!" answered Grace, "don't suggest anything go horrible! There,
she's shutting it; so far so good; now for the slippers,--they're in the
closet."

"I know it, and that closet-door creaks awfully!"

The closet-door did "creak awfully" and no mistake, and it seemed to the
two girls, listening in almost breathless silence, that the noise was
loud enough to be heard all over the house. In a moment they heard Sarah
fumbling over the slippers, of which Miss Stiefbach always kept several
pairs on hand, as she never wore anything else in the house. They felt
comparatively safe now, for no sound was heard from below, except once
in a while a laugh from the girls in the library, and Miss Stiefbach
would not probably leave her study until supper time. They were just
about to turn back into the room to go to Florence, when they heard the
study-door open, and Miss Stiefbach's voice from below, saying, "In one
moment, I am going upstairs to my room."

What if she had heard the noise and was coming up to ascertain the
cause! Marion rushed along the entry, reaching her teacher's room just
as Sarah was carefully closing and latching the closet-door.

"O Sarah, hurry! hurry! she's coming upstairs; she's at the foot of the
stairs! Give me that slipper, and hide the stockings under your apron.
Run for your life! No, no, it's no use, she'll meet us; we must face it
out; don't look conscious."

Sarah tucked the stockings under her apron, Marion slipped her arm
through her friend's, and hiding the slipper between them, with beating
hearts, and almost sure of detection, they walked slowly down the long
entry, directly in the face and eyes of Miss Stiefbach. As they
approached her she stopped, and with more than her usual mildness
remarked:--

"Ah! young ladies, thinking of home, I dare say; but I trust you will
have as pleasant a Thanksgiving here as there, although I am happy to
say there has not been the usual influx of boxes."

The girls laughed slightly in reply, nudging each other quietly as she
passed on, restraining their desire to rush for Marion's room, and not
until the door was fairly closed behind them did their pent-up feelings
find vent, when Marion, tossing the slipper till it hit the ceiling,
shouted:--

"Victory! three cheers for General Brown, the Stonewall Jackson of
Massachusetts!"

"But what in the world should I have done if you hadn't rushed in, and
told me she was coming?" exclaimed Sarah. "Why, I should have run right
into her!"

"Lucky for you you didn't," remarked Grace; "she'd have given you
Jessie; if you know what that is."

"Well, Marion and Sarah," said Florence, "I think you're both perfect
angels!"

"Yes, dear, 'angels in disguise,'" remarked Marion. "Well, this angel
will proceed to put your foot into Miss Stiffy's delicate, little
stocking; the slipper will be a perfect fit, I know; you'll have the
most stylish foot in town. There! now see if you can step on it."

"Take hold of me, please, for I know I shan't be able to bear my whole
weight on it!"

"Don't be in a hurry; lean on my shoulder; put your well foot on the
floor, and set the other down very carefully."

"O Mab, it hurts awfully! I don't see how I can ever get down to tea in
the world; but I shall have to grin and bear it, or else Miss Stiefbach
will find it out."

"Suppose you go down now," suggested Sarah, "and we can help you into
the dining-room before the bell rings, and if we all crowd round you
Miss Stiefbach won't notice the slipper."

"That's a capital plan," said Marion; "now put your arm way over my
shoulder, Flo. Grace, take hold of her that side, and Sallie go in front
as a spy. I think this is growing interesting."

"Very--for you," remarked Florence.

"You poor child! does it hurt terribly? Don't step on it, hobble along
as well as you can, and lean all your weight on us."

With much hopping and halting, and little starts and agitated whispers,
as they thought they heard Miss Stiefbach or Miss Christine behind them,
they proceeded on their way, and after some little time reached the
dining-room in safety, and as the tea-bell rang immediately after, and
the scholars all came in together, nothing unusual was noticed; but they
dreaded the moment when they should have to leave the dining-room on
their way to the study, where Miss Stiefbach always read history aloud
for an hour after supper. Marion had been turning it over in her own
mind during the meal, and decided to make an attempt to get rid of the
reading that night.

"Miss Stiefbach," she asked, as supper was almost over, "didn't you say
you hoped we should all have as pleasant a Thanksgiving as if we were at
home?"

"I believe I said so, Marion. I certainly meant it."

"Well, do you know, when I'm at home, our Thanksgiving begins the night
before, and we _never_ spend the evening reading history."

Miss Stiefbach could not help joining in the general laugh, only her
laugh was a dignified smile, and replied, "I suppose that means that you
would like to give up our history to-night."

"I don't think we should any of us weep if that should be the case."

"No, I suppose not; and for fear you might if the reverse order of
things was to take place, I will dispense with the reading to-night, and
Miss Christine and myself will withdraw from the room, leaving you young
ladies to chat over your supper for a while longer."

"Oh, splendid!" "Thank you, Miss Stiefbach." "Just what we wanted!"
etc., resounded from all sides, as, with a most unusually gracious bow,
Miss Stiefbach left the room with Miss Christine, who nodded and smiled
back at the girls, fully appreciating the pleasure they experienced at
being released from all restraint.

The closing of the door was a signal for a general hubbub; every tongue
was unloosed, and the spirit of mischief reigned supreme. One girl drank
her tea to find it strongly flavored with salt; another raised her
goblet of water to her lips just as a piece of biscuit went splash to
the bottom of the glass, dashing the contents into her face; a third
turned suddenly on hearing her name called from the other side of the
table, only to be hit plump on the nose with a hard cracker; and so it
went on, a perfect Babel of shouts and cries; for the younger girls,
following the example of the older ones, went in for a regular train,
and pieces of bread and broken crackers were soon flying in every
direction.

Marion and Sarah took advantage of the confusion to get Florence up to
her room; having succeeded in doing so, Marion produced a hammer, and
getting down on her knees prepared to open that wonderful Thanksgiving
box.

"I mean to see what there is in it," she said, "and then if I can manage
it, I'll get some of the girls up here, and we'll have a jolly time."

With much hammering, pulling, and chattering, the cover of the box was
at last removed, and Marion proceeded to display its contents to the
eager eyes of her companions.

"First of all, here's a note from mamma; now curb your impatience while
I skim it over."

Marion seated herself on the floor and having glanced down the page
commenced reading it aloud:--

     "BOSTON, Nov. 21st.

     "DEAR MARION:--I have only a moment to spare, for I have been so
     busy getting the box ready, that I have not had time to-day to
     write you a long letter, and only scratch off this bit of a note to
     let you know we are all well, and almost dreading to-morrow,
     because you will not be with us.

     "I hope you will enjoy the contents of your box. I think it would
     be an excellent plan for you to hand over some of the most
     substantial articles to Miss Stiefbach for the use of the
     community; but mind, I only make the suggestion, you can do as you
     please about following it; only don't go too far with your frolic,
     for I am perfectly sure you will have one.

     "Papa has made an addition to the bill of fare, which I submitted
     to him for inspection, of which I am supposed to be entirely
     ignorant; for, as he said, he was not entirely sure I would approve
     if I knew the contents of the brown-paper box, which you will find
     surrounded by your other goodies. As papa superintended the packing
     of it himself, and seemed particularly anxious lest it should not
     be sufficiently wrapped up, I cannot help suspecting that it has
     breakable qualities; whatever it is, my dear daughter, be judicious
     in your use of it.

     "My note has stretched into quite a letter. I am expecting the
     express-man any moment, so must close now with a thousand loving
     good-bys,

     "From your fond

     "MAMMA."

"I wonder what it can be that papa has sent; something nice, I know! He
doesn't think there is anything in the world too good for me,--an idea
which I don't hesitate to encourage him in. Now, Sarah, just clear off
that table, please, and pull it out into the middle of the room, so I
can have a place to put all these things; toss the books and table-cover
on to the bed there, beside of Florence.

"First and foremost here are two loaves of cake, and such cake! Flo, do
look at this one! That is some of Biddy's doings, I know; frosted
elegantly, and 'Marion' in the centre all in quirlyqus; that's just like
Bid! she's about as ridiculous over me as father is. What is the reason,
girls,"--and Marion stopped short with the cake in both hands, and a
change in her bright, joyous manner, "--that they all think so much of
me at home, and hardly any one likes me here?"

"Because you don't--"

"There, Sarah Brown, that will do; I don't want to hear the rest,"
exclaimed Marion, putting up her hand with an impatient gesture. "I
asked a question hastily, without thinking of the consequences. I'll
take your answer for granted, and I know just as well what it would be
as if you'd spoken; so you'll oblige me by keeping quiet."

"Of course when 'Her Royal Highness' commands, her loyal subjects can
have no choice but to obey," replied Sarah, with an air of mock humility
and submission.

"Well, see that you do," laughed Marion, "and put this great turkey on
the table. I guess it will be policy for me to follow mamma's advice,
and that gobbler will be handed over to Miss Stiffy. But see here, as
true as you live, mamma has sent me a pair of cold ducks, and here's a
glass of currant jelly; she knows I must have jell with my ducks. Here
is a bundle of something, I'm sure I don't know what--oh, nuts! ever so
many kinds, all cracked; that's splendid! And here is another of
raisins, and a bundle of candy; take some, girls; hand it to Flo, Sarah,
she can open it. Take some of these cookies, do; they're delicious, and
lots of 'em, put in all round everywhere to fill up the cracks. I wish I
could get out papa's box, but all these things are wedged in round it;
besides, I must be careful not to break it, whatever _it_ is. Here's the
last thing,--a bundle of prunes and dates, and from Fred; he knows I've
a weakness for dates. And _now_ for papa's box; help me lift it out,
Sarah, and take it over to the bed. Oh! oh! it's champagne! it's
champagne, as sure as I'm a sinner; who would have believed it? Here's a
card: 'Miss Marion Berkley, with the compliments of her totally depraved
father.' That is papa right over! We always have a great joke about
champagne, because I never drink it, except a glass with him
Thanksgiving and Christmas day; you know I've always been home before,
and he didn't mean I should be cheated out of it this year. Here it is,
two bottles and a half-a-dozen glasses; we'll have a party to-night, a
regular goose party, and drink the health of the dear, old darling."

"What _would_ Miss Stiefbach say," exclaimed Florence, "if she knew you
were going to have a regular Thanksgiving supper?"

"Hold up her hands in holy horror; and of course it's a dreadful thing.
I haven't the least doubt but what mamma thought it was cider."

"Whom are you going to invite?" asked Sarah.

"Only three besides ourselves; that will be six--a good number. Whom
shall I ask, Flo?"

"That's for you to say, I should think."

"Well, you know it doesn't make much difference to me. I'll ask Grace,
of course; she helped get the box up here."

"And Georgie Graham," dryly suggested Sarah.

"I rather think not," replied Marion. "Grace Minton, Julia Thayer, and
who shall be the third? Come, say some one, Flo."

"I wish you'd ask Rachel Drayton," said Florence, in the tone of one
pleading for a great favor.

"I don't believe she'd come if I asked her."

"Well, you might try it," said Sarah; "she can't do anything more than
refuse."

"She won't refuse if Marion asks her cordially."

"Well, Flo, I'll do it, considering you've been laid up in the cause."

And Marion ran out of the room, and downstairs, to hunt up the three
girls, and let them know, in as quiet a way as possible, that she wanted
them up in her room in about fifteen minutes. In her inmost heart she
had wanted to ask Rachel Drayton, but did not like to mention her
herself, and she gave the invitation with so much warmth, despite the
necessity of a mysterious whisper, that Rachel accepted at once with a
nod, and a bright smile, such as Marion had never before called up on
that usually serious face.

When Marion got back to her room, Sarah had arranged the various
articles on the table in something like order, although the variety and
quantity prevented them from making a very elegant appearance.

"There! how does that look?" she asked as Marion made her appearance.

"Well, I must say it does not exactly suit me; there's too much on the
table. We couldn't eat it half to-night, if we try; so what's the use of
such a spread? That turkey I'm going to present to Miss Stiefbach; so
that can go into the empty box. Flo, I'm going to appropriate your fancy
basket for the nuts and raisins; it will give a distingué air to the
table, you know. Now what shall we do for plates?"

"Oh, never mind about plates," said Florence; "you can carve the ducks,
and put a bit of jelly on each piece, and we can eat with our fingers;
you mustn't be so particular."

"But I've no idea of putting ducks and cakes, and cookies and dates, all
higgledy-piggledy on to the table together! Sarah, you're such a good
forager you won't mind running down the back way, and getting three or
four plates, now will you?"

"I just as lief as not, and I'll bring some knives and forks, and a
spoon too, for the jelly."

"You're a jewel! and be quick, or I'm afraid the girls will be here
before you get back."

Marion fluttered about, putting such things as she wished to keep for a
future occasion on a shelf in the closet, chattering to Flo all the
time. "Now isn't this jolly, Florence? I mean to have a magnificent time
to-night, no matter what happens. Those bottles give quite a regal air
to the table, don't they? And your basket is equal to the greatest
achievement of the renowned Smith. I must say our supply of china
doesn't look very promising; however, we'll have all the more fun."

"Are they here?" asked Sarah, coming in. "No? Well, I thought I was
pretty quick; here's one of the kitchen platters for the ducks, four
plates, two knives and forks and a spoon; that's the best I could do for
you."

"Capital! Now I believe everything is ready;" and Marion stood back, and
surveyed the scene with perfect satisfaction. "There they are!" she
exclaimed, as a knock was heard at the door. "Stand in front of the
table, Sallie, so that the full splendors of the scene won't burst on
them at once, and I'll let them in,--that's it."

"Hollo, girls! Come in quick; don't make a bit of noise, for fear Miss
Stiefbach should hear you."

"O Mab, how splendid! elegant! what a treat!" exclaimed the girls, as
the full magnificence of the entertainment was revealed to them.

"What a box that was!" said Grace Minton; "no wonder it half killed you,
Flo."

"And how are you now?" asked Rachel Drayton, who naturally felt a little
out of place, for she had never been in the room before. Flo was rarely
if ever there without Marion, and had never invited her there, not
feeling sure of the reception she might meet with from her room-mate.

"I'm feeling nicely now," she answered. "In fact, I've been so
interested in watching Marion, that I've hardly thought of myself. I
wonder if I couldn't get up, and stand by the table."

"No, indeed!" exclaimed Marion; "you mustn't think of such a thing. You
are to be the belle of the party; Miss Drayton comes next on the list of
distinguished guests, and she must sit there;" placing a chair at the
foot of the bed, where Rachel could have a good view of Florence; "the
rest of you may sit where you've a mind to, and I'll do the honors."

"I'll keep Florence company," said Julia Thayer, as she seated herself
on the foot of the bed. "Now, Miss Brown, you can help Miss Berkley open
the champagne."

"Will it pop?" asked Sarah, clapping her hands over her ears.

"Of course it will, if it's worth anything," replied Marion. "But you
needn't be frightened; I'm only going to loosen the wires a little; we
don't want to commence with champagne."

"Wouldn't it be a joke," said Grace Minton, "if Miss Stiefbach should
walk in on us just as you got the cork out?"

But hardly were the words spoken, when the door, which all supposed
locked, suddenly opened, and Miss Stiefbach appeared upon the threshold.
Oh! horror of horrors! Marion's experience in opening wines had not been
sufficient to teach her the force of champagne. As the door opened, she
was standing in the middle of the room, holding the bottle at arms'
length, fumbling at the wires; in her surprise and amazement at the
apparition before her, she gave an extra tug, when pop went the cork,
and with it half the contents of the bottle in Miss Stiefbach's face.

Miss Stiefbach stood with uplifted hands, perfectly electrified with
astonishment at the sight before her. As for the six girls, each in her
turn was a perfect picture of horror; visions of fearful lectures,
perhaps expulsion from school, rising in the minds of all.

But before Miss Stiefbach could collect her scattered senses, and wrap
herself in her mantle of frigid dignity, Marion set the bottle on the
table, and, springing forward, caught up a towel, and with profuse
lamentations and regrets for the accident, commenced wiping the stains
from her teacher's dress.

"O Miss Stiefbach, what did you come so soon for? It was too bad of
you; it has just upset all our plans. We had only this moment got the
table set, and I had not had time to go down and invite you and Miss
Christine. I had no idea that horrid champagne would go off like that;
it frightened us half to death.--Sarah, put your hand over that bottle,
or we shall lose it all.--Now, Miss Stiefbach, _do_ sit down, and I'll
go right off and get Miss Christine."

"Marion Berkley, do you mean to say that you expect me and Miss
Christine to sit down to a supper which you young ladies have secretly
prepared?"

"Why, of course I do!" replied Marion, with an air of perfect simplicity
and confidence, which perfectly amazed her companions, who were
breathlessly awaiting the issue of the conversation; "of course I do!
Why, what did I ask you to give up the history for if it wasn't that I
might have time for my supper? I knew it would never do to have it down
in the dining-room, for then all the little girls would want to come,
and of course we couldn't have them; and I don't care to invite all the
old girls, only just those who would make a pleasant party. Now, Miss
Stiefbach, it would be positively cruel for you to refuse to join us!"
and Marion looked as if her whole future happiness depended on her
teacher's answer.

Miss Stiefbach was in a dilemma; she could hardly bring herself to
believe that the supper was intended as a compliment to herself; but
nevertheless Marion's invitation was given with such apparent sincerity,
and without even a hint of a doubt as to the propriety of the affair,
that she was put quite off her guard, and hardly knew what to say. To
sit down with a parcel of school-girls to a table heaped with good
things, and crowned with champagne, was altogether too much for her
dignity, and a compromise suggested itself to her.

"I thank you, Marion, for your implied compliment," she said with her
usual stately, polite manner, "but I really think it would be unbecoming
in me to enter into any festivities with a part of my scholars, from
which the rest were excluded; but I will send Miss Christine to keep you
company, as I could not think of leaving you alone."

"Of course not," said Marion; "we never thought you would; but please
before you go let us drink your health in a glass of champagne?"

"Might I ask where this champagne came from?" asked Miss Stiefbach,
glancing round the room at the other girls, who still maintained a
discreet silence.

"Oh, papa sent it to me," replied Marion. "I presume mamma thought it
was cider; but papa always has me drink champagne with him Thanksgiving
day, and as I could not be home, the next best thing was to send it, so
I could drink it here. You don't think it was _very_ dreadful in him, do
you?"

"I cannot say that I wholly approve of it; but perhaps under the
circumstances I must waive my objections."

"Oh, please do, Miss Stiefbach, just this once; and oh, I forgot all
about it, here's a great turkey, and a loaf of cake for you; shall I
take it down?"

"Thank you, you are very kind," replied Miss Stiefbach. "You may take it
down after you have finished your supper; but I will go now, and send
Miss Christine."

"No! no! Miss Stiefbach, not yet. Papa would feel dreadfully if he knew
you refused his champagne; it never would do in the world. Here, Sarah,
hand these round to the girls;" and Marion filled the six glasses. "I
shall have to take a tumbler myself, but never mind; now are you all
ready? Well, here's to the health of Miss Stiefbach; may she live many
years at the head of this school, and may every Thanksgiving eve see her
as she is now, smiling encouragement upon the innocent pleasure of her
pupils."

The toast was drank with smiles and bows, and Miss Stiefbach retired
from the room with a bland "Good-evening, young ladies, and a happy
Thanksgiving to you all."

Poor woman! with all her learning, and the terrible dignity with which
she thought it necessary to enshroud herself, as a part of her position
as head of a large school, she was at heart as simple-minded as a child.

"Girls!" exclaimed Marion, as she turned to her companions, and the door
closed after Miss Stiefbach, "you've been taught that there are seven
wonders in the world; after this I think you can add an eighth."

"Indeed we can!" exclaimed Sarah Brown; "and that eighth will be Marion
Berkley!"

"I don't mean myself at all, but the whole thing. Imagine Miss Stiffy
smiling benignly on an affair like this! But keep quiet, Miss Christine
will be here in a minute. She'll see through the whole thing, you may be
sure; but nevertheless we must carry it out just the same. Don't you
betray me; we'll have just as good a time, and better too, if she's
here; besides, no matter what happens now, Miss Stiefbach has
countenanced us. Don't stir off that bed, Julia, and keep your skirts
well over Flo's foot. How do you feel now, dear?"

"All right; in fact, I had forgotten all about it; but here's Miss
Christine."

Miss Christine came in with a comical smile on her face; but whatever
may have been her opinion of the affair, she said nothing, and took
everything just as it came. She was not so old but that she could enter
heartily into the girls' fun and nonsense, and yet her presence was a
restraint upon them, which, although unfelt, kept them from carrying
their hilarity too far.

Mr. Berkley's contribution to the box was certainly a very injudicious
one, which the majority of parents would heartily condemn; and, as
Marion had conjectured, his wife had supposed the bottles contained
nothing more exciting than sweet cider. Fortunately, the unskilful
manner in which they were opened sent more of their contents round the
room than all that went into the glasses; so the amount consumed was
really very small. At ten o'clock the party broke up, and I am inclined
to think that for the rest of their lives those girls never forgot
Marion's Thanksgiving party.



CHAPTER XV.

MISS CHRISTINE GOES TO A PARTY.


Thanksgiving day passed off very quietly, but nevertheless very
pleasantly, at school. The little dissipation of the night previous had
given such perfect satisfaction to all those who participated in it, and
they were the scholars who were generally the ringleaders in every
scheme for fun and frolic, that they were all willing to maintain a most
discreet behavior throughout the day. To be sure they entered into all
the lively conversation of the dinner-table, and amused some of the
younger ones afterwards with games and stories; but there was none of
that general uproar and confusion that one would expect to see in a
school full of all ages, when the whole day was fully understood to be
at their disposal and they were released from any apparent restraint.

The quiet behavior of Marion and her set might have been readily
attributed to the fact of Florence's lameness, had that fact been known;
it took the united energies and tact of the six to get her up and down
stairs, and in and out of rooms so that her limping would not be
noticed, or attention attracted to the sudden growth of one of her feet.
She bore the pain like a martyr, and managed to conceal her sufferings
from the public, only giving vent to her feelings when she was perfectly
sure of not being observed.

Of course Marion's supper could not remain a secret, and she and the
five whom she had honored with invitations were made to feel the scorn
of some of the older scholars, who were not of the favored few.
Mutterings of discontent, contemptuous shrugs of the shoulders, and
glances which were intended to be withering in the extreme, were
levelled at the obnoxious six, who were highly entertained at the
remarks and actions of some of the girls, and in various little ways
added fuel to the flame.

Georgie Graham felt herself especially insulted, and did everything in
her power to rouse her companions to a realizing sense of their injured
dignity.

"Why, really, Georgie," said Mattie Denton, "I don't see as there was
anything so very dreadful in Marion's asking the girls into her room.
She probably had those she wanted, and I don't blame her. I'm sure you
couldn't expect she would invite _you_!"

"Expect she'd invite me!" retorted Georgie, with a scornful toss of her
head; "she knew very well I wouldn't have gone if she had."

"Oh, well," quietly replied Mattie, "I suppose, of course, that was the
only reason she didn't ask you."

"The idea of her having Rachel Drayton," continued Georgie, ignoring
Mattie's remark; "she has hardly treated her decently since she's been
here, and to start out all of a sudden, and be so _dreadfully_ intimate
as to invite her into her room with a _select_ party of friends, is
really too absurd--or would be if it wasn't so easy to see what she is
after!"

"See what she is after! Why, what in the world do you mean?" asked
Mattie. "I don't imagine she's after anything."

"Oh, no! I suppose not," scornfully laughed Georgie, tossing her head
still higher. "Of course not! you know the old saying, Mattie, 'None so
blind as those that won't see.'"

"What in the world do you mean, Georgie Graham? I don't believe you know
yourself!"

"Don't I, though? Well, now, do you suppose that Marion Berkley, who
holds her head so high, and doesn't condescend to take any notice of us
girls, would have whisked round all of a sudden, and been so very sweet
on Rachel Drayton, if she hadn't an object in view?"

"You certainly are the strangest creature I ever saw," indignantly
replied Mattie. "As if Marion ever had been sweet on Rachel! No one but
you would ever have thought of such a thing! I presume she invited her,
because she is a friend of Flo's."

"No such thing," replied Georgie, leaning across the table and speaking
every word slowly and distinctly. "She invited her because she is an
heiress, and Marion intends to toady round her until she gets into her
good graces."

"I don't believe it," flatly declared Mattie.

"She told me so herself."

"What! told you she meant to toady Rachel!--a likely story!"

"No, told me Rachel was an heiress."

"Well, suppose she is an heiress, what of that? You know perfectly well
that Marion Berkley is not a girl to _toady_ any one, and you ought to
be ashamed of yourself for saying so. I'm sure every one could see that
she has not treated Rachel very cordially, and if she invited her into
her room it was on Flo's account, and I'm glad for one she showed her
some kindness. No one but _you_ would ever have put a bad motive on such
a simple action."

"Thank you, Mattie, for defending me," quietly remarked Marion herself,
as she passed through the library where the two girls were sitting, and
went upstairs.

"There, Miss Graham, I hope you feel better now!" exclaimed Mattie, who
was now thoroughly roused.

"Pooh! I don't care; 'listeners never hear any good of themselves;' she
shouldn't have been eaves-dropping."

"That sounds well, Georgie, I must say, coming from you," replied
Mattie. "She was in the school-room, and goodness knows we talked loud
enough. Next time you have any such agreeable insinuations to make
against one of your school-mates, you'll be kind enough to go to some
one else;" and Mattie turned away indignantly, and left Georgie to her
own reflections.

Finding that she had not been able to rouse any ill-will towards Marion
in Mattie's breast, and inwardly provoked with herself for having
proclaimed Rachel to be an heiress,--a fact which for reasons of her own
she would have preferred to have remain a secret,--she left the hall,
and entered the drawing-room, where most of the girls were congregated,
thinking perhaps that there would be a better field for her operations.

Poor Marion had been cut to the quick by Georgie's remark; not on
account of the source from which it came, but because she feared, that,
through Georgie's manoeuvring, it would become the general opinion of
the scholars, and in her inmost heart Marion had hoped that she might
not leave the school at the end of the year, without leaving behind her
a better reputation than she had borne before.

She said nothing of this hope to any one, not even Florence, but had
tried in many little things, principally in her manner, to be more kind
to those of her school-mates who were not in any way attractive to her.

Forgetful of the feelings of others as she so often appeared, she was
herself extremely sensitive, and nothing could have annoyed her more
than to be accused of toadying any one. She could not bear the idea of
having such an imputation fastened upon her, and she secretly resolved
that in the future she would treat Rachel Drayton with the same
coldness and hauteur she had shown in the past. If she had only known
that that was the very object at which Georgie was aiming!

She had been thinking all day of Aunt Bettie's happiness, and the
thought of it had greatly contributed to her own; but now all her peace
of mind was quite destroyed. She knew the resolution she had made was
unworthy of herself; but every time she tried to reason against it, the
thought of how her conduct would be misrepresented if she should treat
Rachel with kindness and consideration, as she had made up her mind the
previous night she would do, proved too much for her sensitive pride,
and she determined to hold firmly to her first resolution.

She knew it was miserably weak in her, to allow herself to be governed
by fear of the misrepresentation of any one whom she held in such utter
contempt as she did Georgie Graham; but she knew that the girl's
influence over some of the scholars was great, and though outwardly she
appeared indifferent to whatever they might think of her, at heart she
really longed for their good opinion.

A still, small voice whispered in her ear, that if she would only follow
the dictates of her better nature she would certainly be worthy of their
good opinion, and in the sight of One who not only sees, but
understands, everything that passes in our minds, she would be doing
right. But she was not in a mood to listen to any such voice; she left
the room, and running down to the parlor, seated herself at the piano,
and for an hour played for the girls to dance, trying in that way to get
rid of the unpleasant thoughts that would force themselves upon her.

"What do you think?" exclaimed Mattie Denton, going up to her almost out
of breath, after a furious gallop; "Miss Christine is going to a party."

"A party!" exclaimed Marion; "when and where?"

"To-night, at Mrs. Dickenson's; she has a family dinner-party, and a
few friends are invited in the evening; of course I don't suppose it's a
regular _party_, but quite an event for our Miss Christine."

"I should think as much," replied Marion. "I am so glad she's going!
Wasn't Miss Stiefbach invited?"

"Oh, yes, of course; but she declined. I suppose she thought it would
never do to leave us alone."

"No, 'while the cat's away the mice _will_ play,' you know."

"Yes, I should think the mice played a little last night," laughed
Mattie.

"So they did; but then the cat was round. Come, I've played enough for
these girls. I mean to ask Miss Christine to let me do her hair. You
come with me, and I'll give you some of the good things the mice
_didn't_ play with."

"O Marion!" wailed half-a-dozen girls; "aren't you going to play any
more?"

"No, I can't. I've most banged my fingers off; ask Fannie."

"But she doesn't play half as well as you do."

"Much obliged for your flattery; but it's all wasted this time,"
answered Marion, as she and Mattie left the room to hunt up Miss
Christine.

"Sallie, do you know where Miss Christine is?" asked Marion, as they met
Sarah Brown on the stairs.

"Yes, she's just gone to her room. Do you know she's going to a party!"

"1 know it; isn't it splendid? I'm going up to ask her to let me do her
hair."

"I don't believe she'll let you."

"Yes, she will; I'll coax her into it, see if I don't."

"Where are you going to do it? Do let me see you."

"In my room, I guess, so that Flo can see me; but not until after tea."

After depositing Mattie in her room with a plateful of goodies, Marion
proceeded to that of Miss Christine, which was directly opposite that of
Miss Stiefbach, and upon knocking was immediately told to "Come in" by
Miss Christine, who at that moment was shaking out the folds of a plain,
but handsome black silk.

"O Miss Christine, isn't it splendid?" cried Marion, clasping her hands;
"you're going to a party!"

Miss Christine laughed her dear, little, good-natured laugh. "Why, it
seems to be considered a most wonderful event. Sarah has just been up
here, and appears almost as pleased as if she were going herself."

"Of course she is, and so am I; and I'm going to do your hair."

"My dear," replied Miss Christine, "it will be too much trouble."

"Trouble! why, I admire to do it. I always do mamma's when I'm home, and
she wants to look _very_ fine."

"But you see I don't want to look very fine."

"Oh, yes, you do; or if you don't I want you to; besides, I promise not
to do it any _fixy_ way,--braid the back _some_thing as you do, only put
it up with a little more style."

Miss Christine laughed. "Well, as you are so very kind as to offer, I'll
let you; but when will you do it?"

"Directly after supper, please; that will be time enough. Will you be
kind enough to bring your brushes into my room? I think the light is
better."

"Very well, it does not make any difference to me. You run out now, and
I will be all ready but putting on my dress, before tea."

Marion ran back to Mattie, and then went down to communicate the success
of her errand to Sarah and Florence. Immediately after supper they
helped Flo upstairs, and had just got her comfortably settled in the
only easy-chair in the room, with her foot on a cricket, and a shawl
thrown carelessly over it, as Miss Christine came in, brushes in hand.

Marion seated her with her back to the glass, saying as she did so, "I
don't want you to see yourself until it is all done."

"Don't make me look too fine," said Miss Christine.

"No fear of that," replied Marion, as she rapidly undid the massive
braids, and brushed them until they shone like burnished gold.

"There is some pleasure in doing such hair as yours," said Marion, with
all the enthusiasm of an Auguste; "no need of rats or yarn here."

For a few moments she worked in silence, as her fingers flew in and out,
until two long shining braids were made; these she twisted gracefully
round at the back of Miss Christine's head, exclaiming as she put in the
last hair-pin:--

"There! who would ever suppose she had as much hair as that? Just look
at it, girls; isn't it lovely?"

"Perfectly lovely!" cried Florence. "Why, Miss Christine, you don't make
any show of it at all."

"I braid it up as tight as possible, and don't care for anything but to
have it stay firm and smooth."

"Now, Miss Christine," said Marion, in a tone which seemed to imply that
she expected opposition, but meant to conquer it, "I'm going to crimp
the front."

"My dear child, are you crazy? Why, I should not think of doing such a
thing!"

"Of course you wouldn't, because you don't know how; but I'll do it now,
and teach you some other time."

"Yes, yes," put in both Florence and Mattie; "your hair will be lovely
crimped, and _so_ becoming; do let her!"

"But I am afraid you'll make me look ridiculous, Marion," said Miss
Christine, in a deprecating tone; "and perhaps you will burn it."

"Indeed I won't; _your_ hair shan't suffer the way poor Meg's did in
'Little Women,' for I'll do it over a hot slate-pencil, and that _never_
burnt mine."

"You don't mean to say you want to friz my hair up the way yours is!"

"No, indeed; I'll take more hair, and that will do it in large, soft
waves. Now you'll see how lovely I'll make it look;" and Marion already
had the pencil in the gas, and in a moment more was twisting over it a
lock of Miss Christine's hair. "Now for the other side; then I'll comb
it out, and it will be perfectly stunning!"

"Marion, what an expression!" said Miss Christine, as she sat in
momentary expectation of having her hair singed off her head, or her
forehead blistered. "I wish you would correct yourself of the habit of
using slang words."

"_Slang!_ why, that's not slang!"

"Yes, my dear; I think it is."

"Well, it is certainly a very mild form."

"Mild or not, it is extremely unladylike, and I hope you will get over
the habit soon, or it will become fixed upon you."

"Well, I'll try," said Marion, taking a hair-pin out of her mouth; "but
it will almost kill me. Stunning, and scrumptious, and jolly, and lots
of those things, express so much more than any old, prim, stuck-up
words. There! I suppose that's slang too! Well, never mind now, Miss
Christine; when I come back after Christmas vacation, I'm going to be
'Miss Piety promoted;' see if I'm not! Now look at yourself."

"Why, Marion, haven't you crimped my hair a _little_ too much?"

"No, indeed!" cried the three girls.

"You look just as sweet as you can look," said Florence; "it's not a bit
too much, it's only lovely waves."

"Now I'm to get your dress, and you must put it on in here," said
Marion; and before Miss Christine could utter a word of remonstrance she
was off, and in a moment came back with the dress over her arm, and a
lace collar in her hand. "I wish the skirt was a trifle longer," said
Marion, as she stooped, and pulled it down behind.

"It's long enough for such a plain body as myself; you want to make a
fashionable lady of me."

"I wouldn't have you a fashionable lady for the world! but I do want you
to look your very bestest."

"You have forgotten my pin, dear; it was on the bureau beside my
collar."

"No I haven't forgotten it," said Marion, who was opening and shutting
various boxes in her upper drawer. "Where in the world is that ribbon?
Here it is. Now, Miss Christine, I don't want you to wear the pin; it's
the same you wear every day, and you ought to have some color about you
somewhere; so I want you to wear this knot of blue satin, and I've got a
band to match. Please do, just for my sake!"

"Why, Marion, you will make me absurd; you forget what an old maid I
am."

"Old maid! I should think as much," replied Marion, pinning on the bow
in spite of all remonstrance,--"old maid indeed! You're nothing of the
sort, and what's more you know you never will be;" and Marion gave a
mischievous glance at her teacher.

"Don't be impertinent, Marion," replied Miss Christine; but "old maid"
as she called herself, she could not keep a very girlish blush from
glowing on her cheeks at her pupil's words.

"I think you are just as lovely as you can be!" exclaimed Marion. "Oh! I
forgot; the band for your hair;--there! now you're complete."

"Why, Miss Christine, you'll hardly know yourself," said Florence; "just
look in the glass. Those crimps make you look five years younger."

"I'm going down to get Sallie," said Marion. "Don't put your things on
yet, please; she wants to see you."

Marion ran off, returning in a few moments with Sarah Brown, who, the
moment she saw her teacher, threw open her arms, and gave her a most
emphatic hug.

"Now you look just as you ought. I'm perfectly delighted you're going,
and your hair is beautiful,--that band is so becoming."

"That is all Marion's doings; in fact, I owe all my 'fine feathers' to
her, and without them I should not be such a 'fine bird' as you seem to
think me;" and Miss Christine laughed her dear, little laugh, that her
scholars loved so well, and glanced affectionately at the group of
admiring girls about her.

"You are not a 'fine bird' at all," exclaimed Sarah, in her most
enthusiastic way; "you are just a dear, white dove."

"O Sarah! a white dove in black silk and blue satin--rather
incongruous," said Miss Christine.

The girls all joined Miss Christine in her laugh; but nevertheless
protested that Sarah's simile was not a bit exaggerated.

"Well now, Miss Christine," said Marion, "if you are ready, I'll go down
and tell Biddy to put her things on."

"Biddy isn't going with me," replied Miss Christine, who seemed very
busily engaged enveloping her head in a cloud, bringing it so far over
her face that not a vestige of her hair was visible.

"Why, you're not going alone?"

"No; M. Béranger was invited, and kindly offered to escort me," said
Miss Christine, bending her head to fasten her glove.

"Oh!" said Marion; but she gave a sly glance at her companions, which
was not observed by Miss Christine, whose glove-buttons seemed to be
giving her a great deal of trouble.

"Now, good-night, girls. I thank you a thousand times for all you have
done for me, Marion;" then, as she kissed them all, "I don't believe
there ever was a teacher had such affectionate scholars."

"You mean there never were scholars that had such a perfectly lovely
teacher!" cried Sarah Brown, loud enough to be heard in the hall below.

"'Sh!" said Miss Christine. "Monsieur is down there; he will hear you."

"I guess it won't be any news to him," whispered Marion, as they hung
over the banisters watching the proceedings below. "Do you know, Sallie,
I believe she pulled that cloud over her head on purpose so that Miss
Stiefbach wouldn't see she had her hair crimped. I dare say if she had,
she'd have given her a lecture, when she got back, on the follies and
vanities of this world."

"I dare say," replied Sarah. "She'd like to make Miss Christine just
such a stiff old maid as she is herself; but she won't succeed."

"Not a bit of it," replied Marion.

When Miss Christine came home from the party, and stood before her glass
preparatory to undressing, if she had been one of her own scholars she
would have said she had a "splendid time." Evening companies, even as
small as the one she had just attended, were something in which she
rarely indulged; in fact, she had often remained at home from
preference, sending her sister in her place, thinking she was much more
likely to shine in society than herself. But this night she had really
enjoyed herself. It certainly was very pleasant to know she looked
better than usual; and if the evidence of her own eyes, and the
admiration of her scholars, had not proved that, there had been some one
else who testified to the fact in a few respectful, but very earnest
words.

As she unpinned the blue ribbons, she wondered if it had been foolish
and undignified in her to wear them; but the recollection of the loving
girls who had urged her to do so filled her heart with delight, and she
went to bed feeling that the affection of those young hearts was worth
more than all the elegance of manner, and extreme dignity, for which her
sister was noticeable, which, however it might inspire the awe and
respect of her pupils, never won their love.

The next morning the girls noticed that Miss Christine's crimps were not
entirely "out." When she brushed her hair that morning, her first
impulse had been to straighten out the pretty waves with a dash of cold
water; then she thought, to please Marion, she would leave it as it was.
I wonder if it occurred to her that the only lesson for the day was
French?



CHAPTER XVI.

THE HOLIDAYS.


The days and weeks at Miss Stiefbach's school quickly succeeded each
other, all passing very much as those I have already described, and the
Christmas holidays were close at hand.

Shortly after Thanksgiving there had been another musicale, at which
Marion played without dropping her music, or making any mistakes, and
won universal admiration for the delicacy of her touch, and above all
for the depth and beauty of her expression. Not that so-called
expression which has lately become the fashion, which seems to consist
in playing half the piece in pp., rushing from that to ff., with a
rapidity which certainly astonishes the hearer, if it does nothing more;
but carefully noting the crescendos and diminuendos, which are to music
what the lights and shadows are to painting, and rendering the whole in
a manner that appealed to the heart rather than the senses.

Marion was gradually, and without any noticeable effort on her part,
obtaining a different footing in the school. The girls who had admired
but feared her might now be said to only admire; for the cutting
sarcasms, the withering scorn, which had formerly led them to fear her,
were now very rarely observable in either her conversation or her
manners.

Once or twice some of the scholars had spoken of the difference in
Marion's behavior, and, as one of them expressed it, "wondered what had
come over the spirit of her dreams;" but the answer to the query was
generally accepted as a fact, "that it was only one of her odd freaks,
and very likely would not last long."

But it was not one of her freaks; far from it. A change was coming over
her whole character; slowly but surely it was approaching; manifesting
itself at present in certain ways, or perhaps not so much in certain
ways as in the absence of certain other ways, which had before been the
dark spots in a nature which God had intended to make broad, intense,
and noble. God had intended?--no, not that; for what could God intend
and not perform? The nature was there, heart and soul bearing the
impress of the Maker's hand; but like a beautiful garden having within
its borders flowers of surpassing beauty and luxurious growth, but
twined and intertwined with rank weeds and choking briers, which the
gardener must clear away,--not tearing them apart with rough and
ruthless hands, and by so doing killing the tender plant; but
delicately, carefully, as a mother would tend her babe; untwining
tendril after tendril, leaf after leaf, propping and sustaining the
flowers as he works, until at last the weeds lay withered and broken,
but a few moments trailing their useless branches on the ground, ere the
gardener with a firm grasp wrenches them from the soil. His hands may be
scratched and bleeding from contact with the briers; but what of that?
If the plants are rescued; if they raise up their drooping heads, and
gladden his eyes with the sight of their buds and blossoms, do you
suppose he will murmur or complain for any wounds he may have received?
Not he! The weeds and briers are gone, the blooming plants are
saved,--that is enough.

Such a garden was Marion's heart, and she had already commenced the work
of the gardener; but so slowly did she proceed that sometimes she was
almost willing to let the work go, so hopeless did it seem to her; only
a few tendrils untwined, only a few leaves saved from the briers whose
roots as yet remained untouched. But such moments of discouragement did
not come to her often, or if they did, she tried not to yield to them.
The great trouble with her was the determination with which she held to
her resolution in regard to Rachel; she still treated her with the same
coldness, the same formal politeness, which she had shown her on her
first arrival; she had not succeeded in quieting the still, small voice,
which persisted in whispering in her ear; but though she could not help
hearing it, she resolutely forbore to heed it.

Poor Florence had built high hopes on the easy, friendly manner with
which Marion had treated Rachel the night of the famous Thanksgiving
party, and had thought the pain she suffered with her foot but a small
price to pay for the bringing together of her old friend and her new;
but she had seen those hopes vanish one by one. As the friendship
between herself and Rachel increased, Marion's coldness became the more
distressing to both parties; for although Marion had never abated one
jot of her affection for Florence, there was a certain barrier between
them, which each from her heart deplored, but which seemed destined for
the present to remain uncrossed.

But, my dear reader, I'm afraid you think I am growing fearfully prosy,
and if you don't I am sure I do; so I will hurry on with my story.

It was the 23d of December, and the young ladies of Miss Stiefbach's
school were starting off en masse for their various homes; indeed, some
living at the West had already gone, having been called for by parents
or friends, and not a few by their older brothers on their way home from
college, who were not at all averse to spending one night in "that
stupid old town," for the sake of a peep at the pretty girls of the
school.

Marion Berkley, Mattie Denton, the two Thayers, Florence Stevenson, and
Rachel Drayton, all went by the Boston train, and I don't believe a
merrier party ever started on a journey together.

Florence, finding that Rachel was intending to spend the holidays at the
school, had written to her father, and obtained his permission to take
her new friend home with her. Rachel had at first demurred, dreading to
again encounter strangers; but Florence had plead so earnestly,
representing to her how forlorn and stupid it would be for her at the
school, at the same time promising that she should not see any company,
or participate in any gayety,--"they would just have a quiet time at
home and enjoy each other,"--that she had at last yielded.

It was a most excellent thought of Florence, for anniversaries of any
kind were likely to prove very trying to Rachel; making her realize more
forcibly than ever the loss of her father,--a loss to which she had
tried to reconcile herself; but, strive hard as she would, it was ever
present in her mind, and if she had been left in that great house, with
none of the pupils with whose laughter, fun, and frolic the walls had so
often resounded, it is probable that the melancholy which had at first
seemed fixed upon her, but which the presence of so many bright young
lives around her had done much towards dispelling, would have returned
to her with double force, and taken a stronger hold upon her than ever.

When Florence had communicated her intention to Marion, she answered not
a word; but no one knew what a hard struggle it was for her to keep
silent.

Christmas vacation was always looked forward to by them both, with
greater anticipations of pleasure than any other, for Florence always
spent several days in the city with Marion in a round of pleasure. Not
balls and parties, but theatres, concerts, picture-galleries, etc., were
visited; in fact, every new thing that came to the city that week, and
was worth seeing, Mr. Berkley always made it a point to take the girls
to see, and those good times were talked over for weeks and weeks after
they were back at school.

Marion had been looking forward to the holidays with more than her usual
eagerness, for then she thought she and Florence would be together just
as they used to be, without any barrier whatever between them; but when
she heard that Rachel would spend the vacation with Florence, she knew,
of course, that there would be an end to all the merry-makings; for even
if she and Rachel had been on good terms, the latter would not of course
have participated in such gayety.

The girls were all met at the depot by their respective papas, mammas or
"big brothers," and after great demonstrations of delight at meeting,
and good-byes, and "Come round soon," etc., from the girls as they
parted, they all separated on their way to their various homes.

"Marion," asked Mr. Berkley at the breakfast-table the next morning, as
he helped his daughter to the best chop on the platter, "who was that
young lady with Florence last night?"

"Miss Drayton," replied Marion, with the slightest possible change of
manner,--"Rachel Drayton."

"Rachel Drayton. That's rather an uncommon name. I don't think I ever
heard of a real bona fide Rachel before; handsome, isn't she?"

"No, not exactly; perhaps she would be if she were well."

"She's uncommon-looking," continued Mr. Berkley, as he helped himself to
another slice of toast; "didn't you notice her, Margaret?--tall, with
jet-black hair and eyes. Rachel is just the name for her."

"I noticed her; in fact, Florence introduced her, but I was attracted
towards her first by the unusually sad expression of her face. I never
saw it so noticeable in one so young; and I suppose she is young, though
she looks much older than you or Florence."

"She is only seventeen," replied Marion, busily engaged in giving
Charley sips of her coffee.

"Oh, well," said Mr. Berkley in his hearty way, "we'll soon get rid of
that sad look; we'll have her in with Flo, and I guess after she's seen
Warren once or twice she'll learn how to laugh. What do you think,
Marion?"

"It won't be any use for you to invite her, papa. She wouldn't come;
she's in deep mourning,--she lost her father just before she came to
school."

"Poor child!" said Mrs. Berkley, whose heart always warmed towards any
one in trouble; "poor child! Where does her mother live?"

"She has no mother either; she died when Rachel was a baby. In fact, she
has no relations at all except an uncle, who has been abroad for ten
years, and will not be at home until school closes next spring."

"Well, I do pity the poor thing!" said Mr. Berkley, who, although death
had never robbed him of his own dear ones, felt the deepest sympathy for
all those who had been so stricken. "I think it is one of the saddest
cases I ever knew. I suppose Flo--bless her heart!--could sympathize
with her even more than the rest of you, having lost her mother too."

"She and Rachel are great friends," replied Marion, wishing the subject
would ever be changed.

"Is she well provided for?" asked Mr. Berkley.

"She is immensely wealthy," replied Marion; "will have two or three
millions in her own right, when she is twenty-one."

"Whew!" exclaimed Mr. Berkley; "pretty well provided for, I should
think. Well, I'm glad of it; she has had trouble enough already, without
having to worry about money matters. Marion, have another chop?"

"No, I thank you, papa, I've had quite enough," replied Marion, rousing
herself, and speaking with her usual energy, the absence of which had
not escaped her mother's ear. "How soon will Fred be home? I'm crazy to
see him."

"In about an hour, I expect," replied Mrs. Berkley; "he is quite as
anxious to see you as you are to see him."

"I tell you what, Mab," said Mr. Berkley, "Fred is a pretty important
member of society since he got into college; you ought to hear him talk
about 'the men of our class;' it makes me feel old."

"Oh! he'll get over that," laughed Marion. "I suppose he feels
particularly grand, because he's younger than most of his class."

"Yes, I dare say," said Mrs. Berkley, with a little motherly anxiety in
her voice. "I wish he had waited a year; it would have been much better
for him."

"Oh, nonsense!" answered Mr. Berkley, as he pushed his chair back from
the table; "the sooner he sows his 'wild oats' the better; besides, he's
sound enough, never fear. But I forgot, Marion; I'm getting to be almost
too old a beau for you; so I told Fred to bring some one home from
college to pass the vacation. He has invited a Mr. Thornton; he took a
great fancy to Fred, though _he is_ a junior; so you can't turn up your
nose at him."

"I don't want to turn up my nose at him; but junior or not, he will not
be my escort. I'll hand him over to mamma; but wherever I go, you'll
have to take me, do you understand?"

"Oh, yes, I understand perfectly. That all sounds very pretty, no doubt;
but you wait till you see Arthur Thornton. Such _heavenly_ eyes!"
exclaimed Mr. Berkley, disengaging himself from Marion, and clasping his
hands in the most enthusiastic manner, "and such a _magnificent_ figure!
and such a _stunning_ mustache, and such--such a--such a surprising
appetite!"

"Now, papa," said Marion, laughing at her father's romantic gestures,
and the very unromantic conclusion of his sentence, "you know I never
rave so over young men; it's so silly!"

"Now, mamma, just hear her," said Mr. Berkley, turning to his wife; "she
never raves over young men; oh, no! Wasn't little Bob Jones the
_loveliest_ dancer she ever saw? and didn't Walter Hargate sing the
'rainy day' so as to make one weep _oceans_ of tears? and wasn't Jack
Richards' profile 'enough to make one _wild_'? and wasn't--"

"Stop! stop!" cried Marion, jumping up and putting her hand over her
father's mouth; "you shan't say another word; it isn't fair. That was
nearly two years ago, when I was young and foolish; now I am almost
eighteen, and, as Fred says, 'I'm going to come the heavy dignity.'"

"All right," replied her father, as he gave her a kiss; "only don't come
it over me, that's all. Here they are now! Marion! Marion!" he cried, as
she broke from him, and made a rush for the front door, "that's very
undignified, very undignified indeed; you should receive them in the
parlor."

But Marion paid no heed to his admonition, and in a moment more had her
arms round Fred's neck, utterly oblivious to the fact that a young
six-footer stood behind him.

"Come in, Marion; what do you mean by keeping Mr. Thornton standing out
there in the cold?" said Mr. Berkley, with a mischievous twinkle in his
eyes. "I'm surprised at you! Come in, Mr. Thornton; glad to see you; my
daughter, _Miss_ Berkley."

Mr. Thornton raised his hat, and bent that "magnificent figure" in the
most profound salutation, while Marion responded with a bow, which, as
her father whispered to her, "was dignity itself."

After the usual bustle accompanying an arrival was over, and some little
time had been spent in chatting, Mr. Berkley said:--

"Come, Fred, you and Mr. Thornton must be hungry; go out and get some
breakfast; we have had ours, but Marion will do the honors."

"We breakfasted before we left," answered Fred. "I knew we should be
late; but we'll do double duty at dinner."

"I'm sorry for that," whispered Mr. Berkley to Marion, as he handed her
his meerschaum to fill, "for I wanted to prove the last part of my
description. I know you've accepted the first part already as perfect."

"Hush, papa! don't be silly," answered Marion, as she dipped her fingers
into the tobacco-box.

"Miss Berkley, can you fill a pipe?" asked Mr. Thornton.

"Why, of course she can," said her father; "she's filled mine ever since
she was so high. I should have given up smoking long ago if it hadn't
been for her."

"That's all nonsense, papa; you'll never stop smoking till the day of
your death; so I suppose I shall always fill your pipe."

"Miss Berkley," said Mr. Thornton, with a graceful little bow, "I wish
while I am here I might be allowed the pleasure of having _my_ pipe
filled by those fair fingers."

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Thornton," said Marion, with the least possible
toss of her head; "but I never fill any one's but papa's."

Mr. Thornton bowed, flushing slightly as he rose to follow Fred to his
room, mentally resolving never to waste pretty speeches again on that
girl; and Mr. Berkley observed as he left the room, "A perfect scorcher,
Marion! If you keep that dignity up for the rest of his visit, there
won't be a piece of him left as big as a chicken's wing."

The following morning was as bright and beautiful as ever a Christmas
morning could be, and indoors the merry party at Mr. Berkley's was quite
in keeping with the weather; such strife as to who could wish "Merry
Christmas" first, such an exhibition of presents, and such general
jollification, could only be found where every one was in the best of
spirits, and all determined to enjoy themselves to the utmost.

The Christmas gifts had been arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Berkley the
previous night in the parlor, where the door was kept fastened until
directly after breakfast, when Mr. Berkley unlocked it, and let in the
whole family. Marion was in a perfect state of excitement over her
presents, quite forgetting the talked-of dignity in her admiration of
them; and the charming way in which she thanked Mr. Thornton for a
bouquet, bearing his card, quite did away with the effect of her hauteur
of the previous day. From her father and mother she received what she
had long expressed a wish for,--"Goethe's Female Characters illustrated
by Kaulbach," a book which her intense love for art enabled her to fully
appreciate; from Fred a beautiful amethyst ring; a pretty necktie from
Charley, which, as he said, "he choosed hisself;" a bust of Clytie from
her Uncle George; besides gloves, bows, embroidered handkerchiefs, etc.,
too numerous to mention, from various aunts and cousins.

"But, Marion, there is something else," said her mother; "lift up that
handkerchief and see what is under it."

"Oh, is that for me? I didn't understand," said Marion, as she took up
the handkerchief that hid something from view. "O mamma, how perfect!
Isn't it lovely? She couldn't have given me anything I would have liked
half so well;" and the tears started to her eyes, for the present was
from Florence, and Marion had thought she had nothing from her, and was
cut to the quick; for they had always exchanged Christmas gifts ever
since they were children. This one was an exquisitely colored photograph
of Florence herself, beautifully framed in blue velvet and gilt.

"She had it taken just before she went back to school," said Mrs.
Berkley, "and I colored it for her; isn't the frame lovely? She had it
made to order. I never saw one like it."

"It is lovely; just exactly like her;" and Marion looked fondly at the
eyes that smiled into hers with such a sweet, affectionate expression,
and as she did so thoughts of the past and present flitted quickly
through her mind, and further speech just then was quite impossible.

But it is useless to attempt a description of each of those many merry
days; they all passed only too quickly. Mr. Thornton proved himself to
be a very valuable addition to the home circle, as well as a most hearty
participator in all their schemes for going about here, there, and
everywhere. During the holidays Mr. and Mrs. Berkley received several
invitations to large parties, in which 'Miss Berkley' was included; but
all were declined, for Mrs. Berkley had no idea of having Marion go
into society for more than a year yet. Her father had said, in his
jolly, easy way, "Oh, let her go, it won't hurt her; why, you and I did
most of our courting before you were as old as she is."

"I can't help it, my dear; because you and I were foolish is no reason
we should let her be," replied her mother. "I have no objections to her
going to the little 'Germans' given by girls of her age; but regular
balls and parties I can't allow."

But Marion was not at all disturbed about the party question; she was
enjoying her vacation to the utmost. At first she missed Florence very
much. She had been out to see her once or twice. The first time she saw
her alone for a few moments, and thanked her warmly for her photograph,
receiving Florence's thanks in return for her present of a lovely
locket, and promising to have her own picture taken to put in it.

"Marion," said Mrs. Berkley one day, "don't you intend to invite
Florence and Miss Drayton in here to spend the night?"

"I don't think Rachel would come, if I asked her, mamma. You know we are
pretty gay now that Mr. Thornton is here."

"But you need not ask any one else, and I don't believe she would mind
him;--he seems like one of the family."

"I don't think she would come, mamma."

"Very well, my dear, you know best;" and Mrs. Berkley did not again
refer to the subject. She felt instinctively that Marion did not
entertain the same friendship for Rachel that Florence did; but she said
nothing about it, never wishing to force herself into her daughter's
confidence, knowing well enough that, if she waited, that confidence
would come of its own accord.

Everything must come to an end at last, and so did those Christmas
holidays, and Marion went back to school, and Fred and Mr. Thornton to
college; the latter young gentleman, if we might judge from a little
scrap of conversation he had with his chum on his return, not quite
heart-whole.

"You see, Sam, I went home with Berkley more to please him than myself.
To be sure I knew I should have a stupid time loafing round here, and I
had no idea of going home; for the house is all shut up while the old
gentleman and mother are in Europe. So I thought, as Berk really seemed
to want me, I'd go, and I tell you I never had a jollier time in my
life;" and Arthur Thornton watched the wreaths of smoke as they curled
about his head, quite lost in recollections of the past two weeks.

"What did you do?" asked his companion, knocking the ashes out of his
pipe.

"Oh! went to the theatre, museum, concerts,--everything! Stayed at home
once or twice, and had a 'candy-scrape.' It's the best place in the
world to visit, and the most delightful family."

"All of whom unite, I suppose, in worshipping Master Freddy."

"Not by a long shot!" replied Arthur Thornton, energetically; "_he_
unites with the rest of the family in worshipping at quite another
shrine."

"And that is--"

"His sister Marion; the most perfectly bewitching girl I ever saw in my
life!"

"Arty, my boy, has it come to that?" solemnly asked his companion, as he
removed his pipe from his mouth, and looked at his friend with a face
expressive of the deepest dejection; "do you mean to say that you've
surrendered, and gone over to the enemy?"

"I haven't gone over at all; but she certainly is the best specimen of a
girl I ever saw! None of your sentimental, simpering kind! I just wish
you'd seen her when I tried to make a pretty speech to her; didn't she
toss her head up, and flash those eyes at me? By Jove! I never felt so
small in my life!"

"If she has the power of producing that effect upon you, she must be
something fearful," replied his friend, coolly surveying the six feet of
human frame which lay stretched on the sofa before him. "She flashes her
eyes, does she?"

"Doesn't she? and such eyes!--great, dark-brown eyes with long black
lashes; and such hair!--golden hair! Do you hear? golden hair and dark
eyes, and--"

"My dear fellow," replied Sam, languidly waving his hand before him,
"forbear! I entreat you to forbear; half of that description is enough
to do away with the quieting influences of this pipe; if you should
continue, I don't know what would become of me, to say nothing of
yourself. I see that you are lost to me forever. Farewell, my once
loved, never-to-be-forgotten friend; I see that you are--in for it."

"Don't be a fool, Sam, and just wait till you've seen her yourself."

"Until that blissful time arrives," replied his friend, rising to leave
the room, "I will occupy all my spare hours in hunting up an armor that
will be proof against the 'flashes' of those eyes."

"You're an old idiot!" shouted Arthur; but Sam had dodged back, and
slammed the door, just in time to escape being hit by a boot-jack, which
his friend threw at him.

To tell the truth, Mr. Thornton was just the least bit in the world
touched. Marion had done her best to entertain her brother's friend, and
indeed that was not a very severe task, when the individual in question
was a handsome young fellow, intelligent and agreeable, and not
possessing quite the usual amount of conceit that young men of his age
are troubled with. In fact, she succeeded so well in making herself
agreeable to him, that Fred told his mother in confidence, that "it was
easy enough to see Thornton was dead smashed with Mab, and 'twouldn't be
a bad thing for her if she should fancy him, for he was a 'regular
brick,' and hadn't he got the rocks!"

For which inelegant expressions his mother most seriously reproved him,
at the same time saying that she thought Marion had taken a fancy to Mr.
Thornton, and that was all she ever would care for him; and it was very
silly to be talking about anything serious now, when she was nothing but
a child.

Of course when the scholars all met again at school nothing was talked
of but the vacation; presents were shown and admired, and for days and
days after their return, as soon as study hours were over, little knots
of girls might be seen scattered all over the house, chattering away as
fast as their tongues could go, rehearsing again and again the delights
of the holidays.

The first thing Marion did was to make a visit to Aunt Bettie's to thank
the good woman for her present of a barrel of as rosy-cheeked apples as
ever grew. She found the old lady well and happy, rocking away in the
sunshine, while Jemima made bread in the pantry, singing in a clear,
bright voice, which gave excellent proof of her recovered health and
contentment.

She carried Jemima a couple of bright ribbons, and a pretty embroidered
linen collar, and Aunt Bettie a neat lace cap, which unexpected gifts
quite overpowered them, and caused Aunt Bettie to remark, "Seemed as how
some folks was a-doin' and a-doin' all the time, and could never do
enuff;" which remark, Marion declared, as she ran out of the house,
certainly did not apply to her.



CHAPTER XVII.

MARION'S MIDNIGHT WALK.


It was a clear, cold day, in the latter part of February; the ground had
been covered with snow ever since Christmas week, and seemed likely to
be so for some time yet; even quite a heavy rain had failed to melt away
King Winter's snowy mantle, for being followed by a freezing night it
had only served to crust everything with a thin coating of ice, and set
upon the old fellow's head a crown, which glittered and sparkled in the
sunlight rivalling in beauty that of many a lesser monarch.

A sleigh was standing at the gate of the school, and Martin, the
Irishman who sawed the wood, built the fires, and did all the little odd
jobs generally of the establishment, stood with the reins in his hands;
evidently very much pleased with his new position as coachman.

Miss Stiefbach was going away, fifteen miles into the country, to see a
friend who was very ill, and had sent her a very pressing letter, asking
her to come to her as soon as possible; and the most feasible way for
her to get there and back seemed to be, to hire a horse and sleigh in
the village, take Martin as driver, and return the next day.

Nothing but the very urgent request of a sick friend would have called
Miss Stiefbach away from school just at this time; for the cook was sick
abed with a terribly sore throat; the laundress could hardly speak, on
account of a bad cold, and Bridget, the housemaid, was almost worn out
with doing a part of everybody's work, for the last three days. But
Miss Christine begged her sister to go; she would get the older girls to
help her with the extra work, and as it was only for one night, there
certainly seemed no danger but what they could get along without her; so
at two o'clock Miss Stiefbach started. Marion, Julia, and Sarah offered
their services to wash the dinner-dishes, and with sleeves rolled up,
and long aprons on, went into the business in earnest, laughing and
chattering like magpies. While they were at work Rachel Drayton came
into the room for a glass of water, and Sarah Brown, looking up,
exclaimed:--

"Why, Rachel, what in the world is the matter with you? You look like a
ghost!"

"Only one of my headaches," said Rachel, making a feeble attempt to
smile. "I've had it all day."

"But you are hoarse; you can hardly speak," said Julia.

"Don't say anything about it; but my throat is terribly sore. Please
don't tell Miss Christine; there are enough sick in the house already
without me."

"But you ought to do something for it, indeed you ought," said Sarah. "I
wish I could tell you of something; don't you know of anything for a
sore throat, Marion?"

"I always gargle mine with salt and water," answered Marion
indifferently, without looking up from the buffet-drawer, where she was
arranging the silver.

"Well, do try it, Rachel," said Julia; "it can't hurt you certainly;
here's some salt. How much do you put in a tumbler of water, Marion?"

"I really don't know," replied Marion, still busy with the silver; "I
never measured it."

"Well, can't you give me any idea?" asked Julia, rather impatiently.

"Don't trouble Miss Berkley," said Rachel, in a voice which she tried
in vain to render steady, for, sick and suffering as she was, Marion's
indifference cut her to the heart. She turned away to leave the room,
the blinding tears rushed to her eyes, her head swam, and she staggered
forward, as Sarah cried: "Quick, Julia! catch her; she's fainting!"

Marion started up in time to see Rachel, with a deathly white face and
closed eyes, stretch out her hands helplessly before her, as Julia and
Sarah caught her in their arms, and saved her from falling.

The sight of that white face struck Marion with horror; but still she
did not move from the spot where she had stood ever since Rachel entered
the room; it seemed as if she _could_ not move, until Sarah exclaimed:--

"Marion, hand me a glass of water, for Heaven's sake; she'll faint
away."

"No, I shan't," said Rachel, in a feeble voice, trying to raise her
head; "it was only a sudden dizziness. I often have it when my head
aches, only to-day it was worse than usual."

"Lie still there," said Julia, as they led her to the sofa, "and keep
perfectly quiet; I'll go call Miss Christine."

"No! no!" cried Rachel, jumping up, but sinking back again as the sudden
movement sent her head whizzing round; "please don't; she has gone up to
give cook her medicine, and indeed I shall be better soon."

"I won't call her, if you'll promise to go to bed as soon as you are
able to walk."

"Well, I will," answered Rachel. "I can go in a few minutes; would you
mind asking Florence to come here?"

Sarah ran off to get Florence, and Julia sat down by Rachel, bathing her
head with cold water. Marion went on quietly putting away the dishes;
only now and then glancing at the white face in such fearful contrast
with its surroundings of black hair and dress.

Florence came in, and, as soon as Rachel was able, helped her up to her
room, where she laid down on the bed without undressing, hoping to feel
well enough to go down to tea; but that was out of the question; her
head grew worse instead of better, and at last Florence insisted upon
calling Miss Christine.

When Miss Christine came up, she told Marion to take Rachel into Miss
Stiefbach's room, and help her to undress at once, while she went to get
some hot water in which to bathe her feet. Very soon Rachel was in bed,
and begged Miss Christine to "go away and not mind her, for she knew she
should feel all right in the morning."

But of this Miss Christine did not feel at all sure; the deadly pallor
of Rachel's face had been succeeded by a bright red spot in each cheek,
and the palms of her hands were burning hot. Leaving Florence to sit
with her friend, she went down to attend to her other duties. She went
into the dining-room to set the tea-table; but Marion and Sarah were
there before her.

"How is Rachel?" asked Sarah; "do you think she is going to be ill?"

"I hope not; indeed I think not, for you know she often has these
dreadful headaches; still she has a bad sore throat, and seems feverish.
I almost wish Miss Stiefbach had not gone."

"It was too bad," said Sarah; "just now when everybody is sick! I don't
see why that lady had to send for her!"

"Well, my dear, she could not possibly know that it was not convenient
for us to have Miss Stiefbach away, and she wanted to see her about
something very important; it could not be helped. I dare say everything
will come out right in the end. I must go now and help Bridget, or she
will get discouraged. O Marion," she said, as she was about to leave the
room, "will you please sleep with Rose? She'll be afraid to sleep alone,
and I have put Rachel into Miss Stiefbach's room, where I can be near
her if she should want anything in the night."

"Oh, I don't want to," replied Marion, much to Miss Christine's
surprise. "Rose kicks awfully. Ask Florence."

"Will she be any less likely to kick Florence than you?" asked Miss
Christine, quietly.

"No, I suppose not; but you know Florence won't mind, as long as it's
for Rachel."

"And you would, I am sorry to say."

"I suppose it's no use for me to offer," said Sarah, "for that would
leave Jennie all alone, and she's an awful coward."

"No, I thank you," said Miss Christine, as she left the room; "I will
ask Florence."

Marion said nothing; she went on setting the table and talking to Sarah,
never in any way alluding to Rachel, and doing her best not to think of
her, or reproach herself for having treated her so unkindly; but no
matter what she did, she could not stifle the voice of conscience, and
its whisperings were far from pleasant to hear.

That night, as she went up to bed, her better nature prompted her to
step into Rachel's room, and ask her if she felt any better; but "No,"
she said to herself, "she will think it's all hypocrisy, and I won't do
it."

She hurried and undressed herself as quickly as possible, so that she
was already in bed when Florence came in to get her night-clothes to
carry into Rose's room; but she did not speak or open her eyes. Florence
moved round as quietly as possible, getting her things together, and
then stepping to the bedside stooped down and kissed her friend; but
Marion did not speak or move; so Florence, thinking she was asleep,
turned out the gas, and left the room. When she was gone Marion buried
her head in the pillow, and wept bitter, bitter tears.

It was a long time before she went to sleep, and then her rest was
disturbed by frightful dreams; she thought the house was on fire; that
she was safe, but Rachel and Florence were in the attic, where no one
could reach them, and they must burn to death while she stood looking
on.

She awoke with a start, to see a bright light in the entry; springing
out of bed, she ran to the door just as Miss Christine, with a candle in
her hand, and a wrapper over her night-dress was passing by.

"O Miss Christine," she cried, in an excited whisper, "is the house on
fire?"

"No, indeed, dear, nothing of the sort; but Rachel is very ill, and I am
going down to make her some lemonade. Won't you please put something on,
and go in and sit with her? I cannot bear to leave her alone."

Marion did not stop to answer; but running back into her room, threw a
shawl over her shoulders, and hastily thrusting her feet into her
slippers, hurried into Miss Stiefbach's room. There was only a dim light
in the chamber. Marion went up to the bed, and, leaning over, called
Rachel by name; but she made no answer, only moaned feebly, and tossed
her arms over her head, rolling her great black eyes from side to side.

"Rachel," said Marion, thoroughly frightened, "don't you know me?"

The voice seemed to rouse her, for she started up, and looked fixedly at
Marion; then putting her hands before her eyes, as if to shut out some
horrible sight, she cried, in a hoarse voice, "Go away! go away! you
hate me! you hate me! you're going to kill me!"

Marion shuddered, for she knew Rachel must be delirious; she tried to
soothe her, but the sound of her voice only seemed to make her more
excited. She seemed to have a vague idea who she was, and that she was
there to do her harm. Once she sat up in bed, and, laying her hand on
Marion's arm, said in the most grieved, beseeching tone, "What makes you
hate me so? I never did you any harm."

Marion, with tears in her eyes was about to speak, when suddenly the
tender, supplicating expression left Rachel's face, and one of intense
horror and grief took its place, as she grasped Marion's arm tightly
with one hand, stretching out her other arm, and pointing into a dark
corner of the room, exclaiming, in a voice that made her companion
shudder from head to foot: "See! see! you see they're taking it off!
they're taking it off! don't you see? It's my father! O father! father!"
she wailed, stretching out her arm as if entreating some person seen
only by herself, "don't leave me; for there'll be no one to love me
then. I'm all alone! all alone! all alone!"

Marion's tears fell thick and fast, as the exhausted girl threw herself
back on the pillow and sobbed aloud; every unkind thought, every cold
glance, and every act of neglect which she had shown the poor, desolate
creature beside her pictured itself before her. Remorse was doing its
work, and her greatest fear was that Rachel would die while yet
delirious, and before she had an opportunity to ask her forgiveness, and
atone by her kindness in the future for her neglect of the past. But
although these thoughts passed rapidly through her mind, they were but
as the undercurrent of her immediate anxiety; it seemed as if Miss
Christine would never come, and Rachel still moaned and sobbed in a
heart-rending manner.

When Miss Christine did at last enter the room, bringing the lemonade,
Marion hurried towards her, and whispered:--

"Oh, do you think she's going to die? Can't we do anything for her?
Can't _I_ do anything?"

"I think she seems very ill indeed," replied Miss Christine, going to
the bedside, and laying a cloth wet in cold water on Rachel's head; then
coming back to Marion, "Will you stay with her while I go for the
doctor?"

"Can't you send Bridget?"

"No, the poor thing is half worn out with all she has had to do this
week. I would not call her up for anything. If you will stay with
Rachel, and keep changing the cloth on her head, I will go, for I dare
not wait until morning."

"O Miss Christine!" exclaimed Marion, in a trembling whisper, "I can't
stay; indeed I can't, and hear her rave about her father; it is
dreadful! it goes right through me; you stay and _I'll_ go."

"Marion, do you know it is almost midnight? You will be afraid."

"You were not."

"No, because I'm not nervous."

"Well, I won't be nervous; if there's no danger for you, there is none
for me. I shall go."

"Any _real_ danger I do not think there is, but of imaginary danger a
plenty, and if you should get seriously frightened I never should
forgive myself."

"But I won't be frightened or nervous," said Marion, resolutely. "Here,
feel my hand; when Rachel was raving a moment ago, I _could_ not keep it
still; now it is as steady as yours. O Miss Christine, if you only
_knew_, you would let me go."

"My dear child," said Miss Christine, laying her hand tenderly on
Marion's cheek, "I _do_ know, and if you really are courageous enough,
you may go. It is no use for me to wake up any of the girls; there is
not one of them that would dare go with you, I know."

"I'll go alone, Miss Christine, and I know nothing will happen to me."

Marion hurried back into her room, and dressed herself as quickly as
possible, putting on her thickest cloak, furs, and a warm hood. Miss
Christine stepped into the entry, and kissed her good-by, saying:--

"Don't be afraid, darling; you know nothing ever happens round here, and
if you bring the doctor back with you it may be the means of saving
Rachel's life."

Marion made no reply, except by a glance full of meaning, and went
quietly downstairs, looking back as she reached the door, and nodding at
Miss Christine, who stood at the head of the stairs, holding a candle;
then she opened the door, and went out into the night alone.

There were two roads which led to the village. By the road proper, on
which several residences bordered, the distance was about two miles; but
there was a shorter one, called the bridge road, which led through
several open fields, and crossed the B---- River, which was rarely
frequented except by the school-girls and farmers on their way to and
from market. This road kept a perfectly straight course to the village,
and although far more lonely than the other, on that account Marion
chose it.

It was a perfect night; clear and cold, very cold; but of that Marion
thought nothing; she had braved New England winters all her life, and
was almost as hardy as a backwoodsman. The moon was full, and shone down
on as lovely a scene as one would wish to see; the trees with their
delicate coating of ice glistened and gleamed in its beams, as though
covered with myriads of jewels, and threw their fantastic shadows on the
shining snow.

Marion hurried along the road, not giving herself time for fear, until
she had left the school-house some distance behind her. At any other
time she would have been wildly enthusiastic over the beauty of the
night; but looking at the moon from a comfortable sleigh, snugly tucked
up in buffalo robes, the stillness of the night broken by the jolly
jingling of bells and the laughter of merry friends, is a very different
thing from contemplating it on a lonely country road, no house in sight,
with your loudly beating heart for your only companion, and the hour
near midnight.

At least Marion found it so; and, brave as she was, she could not keep
her heart from thumping against her side, or her hands from trembling
nervously, as she clasped them inside of her muff. Every bush she passed
took some fantastic shape, and as she strained her eyes before her to
make it assume some rational form, it seemed to move stealthily as if
about to spring upon her; the trees appeared to be stretching out their
naked branches, like long arms with ghostly fingers to clutch her as she
passed; now and then a twig, too heavily freighted with ice, would snap
off and come crackling to the ground, the sudden noise making her heart
stand still for an instant, only to start on again, beating more
violently than before.

But still she pressed on, and soon the river, which was on the very
verge of the town, gleamed before her, and she quickened her pace,
thankful that so much of her journey was past; but who can describe the
horror and dismay she felt, when, upon reaching its banks, she found the
bridge was gone! The little river wound in and out for several miles,
doubling and redoubling itself, as it flowed among the woods and
fields, and was as quiet and placid a little river as ever could be,
with the exception of a number of rods above and below the bridge; here
its bed was filled with a quantity of rocks and stones, and the water,
rushing over and between them, formed innumerable cascades and
whirlpools, never freezing in the coldest weather. For some time the
bridge had been considered rather unsafe, and that afternoon the workmen
had taken away the floor, leaving the stays and beams still standing.

Marion looked at the skeleton frame in utter despair. There lay the town
directly before her, the doctor's house being one of the first, and the
only means of getting to it were gone. To go up the bank of the river
and cross on the ice seemed out of the question, for there it was
bordered by thick woods, in which she could easily lose her way, and to
go back, and round by the regular road would take at least an hour
longer. Meanwhile Rachel might be dying, for aught she knew. She went
nearer the bridge, and inspected it more closely; the railings were
perfectly secure, and built upon two broad, solid beams which spanned
the river; the idea came into her head to cross the river on one of the
beams, holding firmly to the railing with both hands. She tied her muff
by the tassels round her neck, tightened the strings of her hood, and
stepped cautiously on to the beam. It seemed a fearful undertaking; her
heart almost misgave her; but the delirious cries of Rachel rang in her
ears and spurred her on. Step by step, slowly and carefully, as a little
child feels its way along a fence, she crept along; gaining confidence
with every movement, until she reached the middle of the bridge; then
she happened to look down. The black water seethed and foamed beneath
her, touched into brightness here and there by the moonlight. For an
instant her brain whirled, and she almost lost her balance. She shut her
eyes, and with a tremendous effort of her will was herself again.
Looking up to heaven, and inwardly beseeching God to sustain her, she
kept on, slowly and carefully as ever, moving first one foot then the
other, with both hands still firmly clasping the railing, until at last
the opposite side was reached, and she stepped upon the snow.

Her first impulse was to throw herself upon the nearest rock, for now
that she had fairly crossed in safety, the extreme tension to which her
nerves had been subjected relaxed itself, and she was more inclined to
be alarmed at the loneliness of her situation than before. When on the
bridge all her thoughts had been concentrated upon getting over safely;
by force of will she had conquered her nervous fear, calling up all
sorts of imaginary dangers, which disappeared before the actual danger
which assailed her, and which, by presence of mind, she had been able to
overcome. But she would not indulge any of her wild fancies, though they
crowded themselves upon her against her will. She felt herself growing
weaker and weaker as she approached the end of her walk. The shadows
made by the trees and houses seemed even more gloomy than those of the
open road. Once a dog, chained in the neighborhood, broke the stillness
of the night by a long, mournful howl, which echoed through the air,
making Marion shudder as she heard it. At last the house was reached;
running up the steps she gave the bell a tremendous pull. She could hear
it ring through the house; then all was still again. She waited, what
seemed to her, standing there alone on the door-step, which did not even
offer the friendly shadow of a porch, a very long time; then rang again,
even more violently than before. In a moment she heard a window opened
above, and looking up beheld a night-capped head, and the doctor's voice
asked, "What's the row down there? Seems to me you're in a terrible
hurry."

"Some one's sick, do let me in quick, Dr. Brown!--it's Marion Berkley."

"Marion Berkley!" exclaimed the doctor, in astonishment. "Here, catch
this key; it's got a long string tied to it, and let yourself in; I'll
be down directly."

Marion caught the key, and in a moment unlocked the door; once inside,
her strength forsook her, and she sank on the door-mat in total
darkness, perfectly thankful to be in a place of safety. Pretty soon she
heard a movement above, a light gleamed down the stairway, and she heard
the doctor's voice calling to some one in the back of the house to have
the horse harnessed, and brought round to the door immediately.

In a few moments the doctor himself appeared, bearing a light in his
hand, and exclaiming, as he made his way downstairs, "How, in the name
of sense, did you come here at this time of night?"

"I walked by the road," answered Marion, her teeth chattering with
nervousness.

"By the town road," said the doctor; "and who came with you?"

"I came alone, by the bridge road."

"By the bridge road!" exclaimed the doctor, stopping short, as he was
putting on his great-coat. "Why, the bridge is down!"

"I didn't know until I got to it," said Marion, wishing he would hurry,
and not stop to question her; "then it was too late to go back; so I
crossed on the beam."

"The devil you did!" exclaimed the doctor; then catching up the candle
in one hand, he led her by the other into the dining-room. "There! just
sit down there! Your hands are shaking like old Deacon Grump's, and your
teeth chatter as if they were going to drop out. Now drink every drop of
that, while I go and wrap up."

While he had been talking, the doctor had gone to the sideboard, and
poured out a generous glass of sherry, which he handed to Marion; she
took it and drank it all. It sent a genial warmth through her trembling
frame, and by the time the doctor called out to her that he was ready,
she felt quite like herself.

After they were seated in the sleigh, and well tucked up with robes, the
doctor said, "Well now, young lady, if it's agreeable to you, I should
like to know who is sick enough to send you chasing over country roads,
across broken bridges, to rout up an old fellow like me."

"Rachel Drayton, sir," said Marion; "she's had a bad cold for some time;
this afternoon she went to bed with a terrible headache and sore throat,
and now she's in a high fever, and out of her head."

"Rachel Drayton; that's the one with the great black eyes, isn't it?"
said the doctor. "H'm! I remember her; very nervous sort of girl, isn't
she?"

"No, I shouldn't think she was," replied Marion; "she has always seemed
very calm and quiet; you know she's an orphan."

"Yes, I remember her. I saw her the last time I was there. She's just
the one to be delirious with even a very slight illness."

"Then you don't think she's going to be very sick?" asked Marion,
eagerly.

"My dear child," said the doctor, looking down at Marion, "how can I
tell until I've seen her? But good heavens! what's the matter with
you?"

Marion had burst into a fit of laughter, and the doctor sat and looked
at her in perfect amazement.

"What _is_ the matter, child? What are you laughing at?"

But Marion laughed and laughed; throwing her head down into her muff as
if to control herself, and then looking up at the doctor, and laughing
harder than before.

"What's the matter with you, child?" cried the poor man, really growing
uneasy. "Have you gone crazy, or was the wine too much for you?"

"It isn't that, doctor, but you--you--"

"What in the devil's the matter with me, I should like to know!"

"You've--you've--got on your nightcap!" cried Marion, as well as she
could speak.

The doctor dropped the reins, and put both hands to his head. Sure
enough, in the hurry of dressing he had forgotten to take off the
immense bandanna handkerchief he wore tied round his head every night;
and over it he had put his cloth cap, which, fitting tight to his head,
left the ends of the handkerchief sticking out each side like great
horns, giving an indescribably funny appearance to the doctor's jolly
round face.

Now Dr. Brown, although he always considered himself privileged to say
and do anything he had a mind to, was excessively particular about his
toilet, and to take a moonlight drive with a young lady, with his
nightcap on, was quite contrary to his usual habits. However, it was
altogether too ridiculous a situation to do anything but laugh, and the
doctor could enjoy a joke even against himself.

"Laugh on, Marion; I don't blame you a bit," he said. "I must cut a
pretty figure."

"Just look at your shadow; then you'll see for yourself."

The doctor looked over his shoulder. "The devil!" he exclaimed. "Why, I
look just like him, don't I? Depend upon it, that's what it is; I've
called upon his Satanic majesty so often, that now he's after me in good
earnest. Well, old fellow, I'll deprive you of your horns at any rate;"
and the doctor brought the ends of the handkerchief down, and tucked
them under his chin.

"Marion, don't let me go into the house with this thing on. I won't take
it off now, as long as you've seen it, for it's very comfortable this
cold night; but I shouldn't like to shock Miss Stiefbach's dignity by
appearing before her in such a rig."

"Miss Stiefbach is away," replied Marion.

"You don't say so! And the cook sick abed too. Well, Miss Christine has
her hands full."

"And both the other servants are half sick, and Martin went with Miss
Stiefbach."

"And that accounts for your coming out on such a wild-goose chase."

"I was chasing after you, sir," answered Marion, mischievously.

"No insinuations, miss! There's the school-house; get up, Beauty; you're
growing lazy."

Marion found the door unlocked, and entering the house quietly, only
stopping long enough for the doctor to divest himself of his fantastic
head-dress, she led the way upstairs.

"How is she?" anxiously asked Marion of Miss Christine, who met them at
the chamber-door.

"She is more quiet, but I am _very_ glad the doctor is here."

The doctor took off his gloves, rubbed his hands together two or three
times, then went to the bedside.

Rachel looked at him; but seemed to pay no attention to him or any one
else. He felt of her head and pulse, then asked Miss Christine if she
had ever seen her in a fever before.

"No," replied Miss Christine; "but she often has severe headaches; she
has a sore throat now."

"Bring the light nearer," said the doctor. "Now, my dear young lady,
will you please open your mouth?"

But Rachel only moved her head, and showed signs of becoming restless.
The doctor stooped down, opened her mouth himself, and tried to look
down her throat; but she resisted him, and commenced sobbing and
muttering incoherently. The doctor soothed her as he would a little
child, and she became quiet.

"Has she complained of pain in her back and limbs?"

"None at all," replied Miss Christine. "I asked her particularly."

"Give her a teaspoonful of this mixture every half hour until the fever
abates," handing a glass to Miss Christine, "I will come again to-morrow
morning."

"O doctor," whispered Marion, who had silently watched every movement,
"is it scarlet fever?"

Miss Christine said nothing, but her eyes asked the same question.

"Of course I cannot tell yet," said the doctor, rising and drawing on
his gloves, "but I hardly think it is. I noticed her the other day, when
I was here, and remember thinking at the time that even a slight illness
would seem more severe with her than with most persons. She looks like a
person who had suffered and endured without complaint. I don't like to
see that sort of look on a young face. When she is ill this unnatural
self-control gives way, and she's out of her head, when any other
person would be all straight. However, I advise you to keep all the
scholars away from her for the present. As for this young lady," taking
hold of Marion's hand, "the best place for such adventurous young
females, who go about crossing broken bridges at midnight, is bed."

"What do you mean by broken bridges, doctor?" asked Miss Christine.

"Only that the bridge was down, and she crossed on the beams, that's
all. My prescription for her is a glass of hot lemonade with a drop of
something in it to keep it; you understand, Miss Christine;" and the
doctor nodded his head significantly as he left the room.

"My dear Marion," whispered Miss Christine, as she threw her arms around
her, "you are the bravest girl I ever knew!"

"Nonsense!" replied Marion, "and please don't say anything about it
downstairs in the morning; I won't be talked about."

"I understand," said Miss Christine; "but now you must go straight to
bed. I'll heat the lemonade over the gas, and bring it in to you."

"Miss Christine, you go and lie down yourself, and I'll sit up; indeed,
I couldn't sleep if I went to bed."

"Yes, you will, and don't talk of sitting up, for I won't allow it; go
right away."

Marion obeyed; in a very few moments she was in bed, had drank the
lemonade, and, before she knew she was even drowsy, was fast asleep.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE VICTORY.


The next day the scholars were all very much astonished to find Rachel
was really ill, so much so that the doctor had been sent for in the
night; but none were aware of Marion's midnight adventure, for Miss
Christine had kept her promise to say nothing about it.

Recitations were given up until Miss Stiefbach should return, and the
scholars were all requested to keep as quiet as possible. Every one went
about with noiseless steps and hushed voices; some learning that Rachel
had been delirious, and had a fever, were seriously frightened lest it
should prove to be contagious, and it was as much as the older girls
could do to keep the little ones in order.

About ten o'clock the doctor came, and the scholars all collected in the
school-room and library, waiting to hear his verdict. Marion and
Florence went to their own room, leaving the door ajar, that they might
hear the doctor when he went down, and learn from his own lips his
opinion of the case.

He came at last, and Florence beckoned him into the room; she tried to
ask the question uppermost in her mind, but could not. The doctor knew
what she wanted, and said:--

"She is not so bad as I feared; the fever is not so high, and she is not
at all delirious."

"Then you don't think it's scarlet fever?" anxiously asked Marion.

"No, nor typhoid; I feared one or the other, but now I am confident it
is nothing contagious. She is pretty sick, but not dangerously so; but
how are you, Miss Marion? Walking over broken bridges at twelve o'clock
at night isn't a very good thing for red cheeks, is it?"

"What did he mean?" asked Florence, as he left the room.

"Some of his nonsense," replied Marion, from whose heart a great weight
had been lifted.

"Marion, you don't put me off in that way," said Florence, laying her
hands on Marion's shoulders, and looking straight into her eyes.
Suddenly an idea seemed to flash into her head: "Did you go for the
doctor?"

Marion nodded assent.

"Tell me about it."

"There is nothing to tell. I woke up in the night, and saw Miss
Christine, with a light in her hand, going downstairs. She told me
Rachel seemed very ill, and I went in and stayed with her while Miss
Christine was gone. Then she wanted to go for the doctor, for she would
not call Biddy; but I preferred going to being left with Rachel; so I
went; that's all."

"But what about the broken bridge?" asked Florence.

"The bridge was half down, and I crossed on the beams."

"Marion, how could you? How did you dare?" said Florence, throwing her
arms round Marion, as if to shield her from present danger; "if your
feet had slipped you would certainly have fallen in, and there would not
have been a soul there to save you."

"But my feet did not slip," said Marion. "I was frightened; I don't
pretend to say I wasn't; and once when I got to the middle of the bridge
I came near falling; but I shut my eyes, and the thought of Rachel gave
me strength and courage. O Florence! if you had heard her raving, and
talking about her father as I did, you would not wonder I went;" and
Marion bowed her head on her friend's shoulder, and gave vent to the
tears which she had been struggling to keep back.

Florence held her close in her arms, saying nothing, but bending her own
head until it rested against Marion's cheek, and lightly passing her
hand over her hair until the violence of her emotion had passed away,
and she looked up, with a faint smile, saying, "Don't think me a baby,
Flo, but I haven't had a good cry with you for ever so long, and I
believe I needed it."

"Think you a baby, darling! Indeed I don't; I think you're the noblest
girl I ever knew."

"Yes, very noble, I should think!" exclaimed Marion, bitterly; "the way
I have treated Rachel has been nobleness itself!"

"But, my dear Marion, you have been acting against your better nature
all the time. I knew you would come out all right."

For a moment Marion was silent, then looking up suddenly, she said,
"Flo, I've been awfully wicked; I might as well have it all out now, and
done with it. When I heard Rachel was coming here I was provoked,
because I didn't like the idea of having a new scholar, that was all;
but when Miss Christine came in, and told us she was an orphan, it
flashed into my head, like a presentiment, that your heart would warm
towards her; that you would make her your friend; and from that moment I
determined to hate her. Don't look so shocked, dear, or I can't go on,
and I want to say it all now. It wasn't a very easy thing, you may be
sure, after I saw her; but I would not listen to my conscience, and only
steeled myself against her all the more, when I saw she had every
quality that would make her lovable, and many that were particularly
attractive to me. It was hard, you can't tell how hard, to see her day
by day taking the place with you that had always been mine. I knew it
was my own fault, because, if I had treated her as I ought, as I really
wanted to, we might all three have been warm friends; but I wanted you
all to myself. I was jealous, and I might as well say so! However, the
night before Thanksgiving I determined to overcome my wicked feelings,
and yield to my better nature. You know how I treated her that night,
and I should have done the same ever since if I hadn't been a
contemptible coward! I heard Georgie Graham tell Mattie Denton that I
was _toadying_ Rachel, because she was an heiress; and I was afraid if I
began to treat her kindly the whole school would think the same thing.
There! it is all out now; do you think I am a perfect wretch?"

At first Florence made no answer; then she said very gently, "'He that
conquereth himself is greater than he that taketh a city.'"

"I know it, Flo," answered Marion, with tears in her eyes; "I've thought
of that so many times. But this is such a _little_ victory, and there
really ought not to have been anything to conquer."

"But there was, and you conquered it; if it were possible I should say I
love you more than ever."

"Then Rachel has never taken my place entirely away?"

"No, darling, never! I love Rachel very much, very much indeed; but
still it is not exactly as I love you. I can't explain the difference,
but I know it is there."

"I am satisfied," said Marion, kissing her friend softly. "Do you think
Rachel will ever learn to love me?"

"I know she will," replied Florence; "only act your own self; _follow_
your good impulses instead of driving them away from you, and you will
make her love you whether she wants to or not."

       *       *       *       *       *

For many days Rachel was very ill, and Miss Stiefbach and Miss Christine
were very anxious about her; still the doctor assured them there was no
cause for alarm; her illness would be likely to prove a tedious one, but
after she was fairly recovered she would be much stronger than she had
been for a long time. It seemed very sad to think of the poor girl, so
ill, without a relative near her, for Miss Stiefbach knew there was no
one for whom she could send, who would seem any nearer to Rachel, if as
near, as herself and Miss Christine. They procured an excellent nurse to
assist in taking care of her, but nevertheless devoted themselves to her
as much as it was possible to do, without neglecting their other duties.
It was a pity Miss Stiefbach's scholars could not have entered that
sick-room, and seen their teacher as she appeared there; they would have
learned to love her then as Rachel did. No one would have recognized, in
the gentle-voiced, tender-hearted woman who bent over the orphan girl
with almost a mother's watchful care, the cold, dignified superintendent
of the school.

After a while the fever subsided, but Rachel was still very weak, and
the doctor's prediction, that her convalescence would be very slow, soon
proved itself true. She was very patient, yielding herself entirely to
those who so kindly watched over her. As soon as the fever was past,
Florence had begged permission to sit with her, promising not to talk,
as perfect rest and silence were most especially enjoined by the doctor.
One day when the nurse had gone to lie down, and Miss Stiefbach and Miss
Christine both had something which needed their immediate attention,
Marion offered to sit with her. She had not been in the room since the
first night of Rachel's illness, and was not prepared for the change
which had taken place in her: then a bright color burned in her cheeks;
now her face was so thin and pale as to be pitiable to look at. She was
sleeping quietly; so Marion seated herself at the foot of the bed, not
going any nearer for fear of disturbing her. She sat there some time,
her thoughts busy with the past, when she was very much startled at
hearing Rachel say, in a weak voice:--

"Miss Christine, is that you?"

"No," answered Marion, rising, and going quickly to the bedside; "it's
Marion; can I do anything for you?"

"You, Marion!" said Rachel, holding out her hand. "I'm so glad!"

"Why?" asked Marion, kneeling by the bed, and taking Rachel's hand in
both of hers.

"Because I wanted to see you so much. Miss Christine told me who went
for the doctor for me that night. I want to thank you."

"Don't Rachel! don't!" said Marion, her voice trembling despite her
efforts to keep it steady. "Forgive me for all the unkind things I have
done; that is what I want."

"Forgive you, Marion! As if after that night there could be anything to
forgive! I'll do better than that; I'll love you."

Marion could not speak, but she bent forward and pressed a kiss upon
Rachel's lips. That kiss was the seal upon a bond of friendship which
was never broken by either.

And so a few words, a silent action, cleared away all the unkindness and
doubt of the past. Why is it, that so often, in the lives of all of us,
such words are left unspoken, such actions go undone, the want of which
clouds not only our own happiness, but that of others?

Soon after this, Rachel was able to be moved on to a lounge, and every
spare hour that Marion and Florence could get from their studies was
devoted to her. Marion would seat herself on the floor by the couch, and
Florence lean over the back as they talked of everything that was going
on downstairs, or made plans for their summer vacation. Sometimes their
conversation drifted on to quieter and graver subjects; then, as the
twilight gathered round them, they would draw nearer together, and hand
in hand sit in silence until Marion, fearing lest too much thinking
would have a bad effect upon Rachel, with some jesting remarks, would
jump up and light the gas.

Lying there, in the daily companionship of her two friends, Rachel
regained her health and strength, and passed happier hours than she had
known since her father's death.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE WEDDING.


"I've got the greatest piece of news for you, you ever heard!" cried
Marion, bursting into the room where Florence, Rachel, Mattie, and Sarah
were sitting one morning in the early part of June. "Guess who's
engaged?"

"Engaged!" echoed Sarah; "I'm sure I don't know."

"Yourself," said Mattie.

"Oh, pshaw! don't be ridiculous!" said Marion. "Come now, girls, guess
somebody rational."

"Well, aren't you rational, I should like to know?" asked Rachel.

"I shouldn't be if I were engaged," retorted Marion; "but guess now;
every one but Florence, for I think she would guess right."

"Oh, tell us, Flo, do," urged Sarah; "Marion will keep it all night."

"No, I won't," cried Marion; "it's _Miss Christine_."

"Miss Christine!" shouted every girl, jumping to her feet in
astonishment,--"to whom?"

"Why, M. Béranger, of course," said Florence; "who else could it be?"

"Why, I never thought of such a thing," said Rachel.

"Well, I don't know where your eyes have been," said Marion; "for I've
suspected it a long time, and so has Florence."

"Oh, I thought he liked her, and she him; but I never thought of
_that_."

"Well, I think it is perfectly horrid!" declared Sarah.

"Why, Sallie, what do you mean?" said Marion; "I think it's splendid."

"Oh, of course, it's all very nice for you girls who are going away at
the end of the term; but here I've got to stay another year, and I shall
_die_ without Miss Christine!"

"But you'll have her just the same," said Marion; "they're going to live
here for a year at least; it almost makes me want to come back again."

"Going to live here?" cried Sarah, clasping her hands with delight;
"then I _do_ think it's perfectly magnificent!"

"Tell us all about it, Marion," asked Mattie; "how did you know it?"

"Miss Christine told me herself. You ought to have seen how pretty she
looked! She blushed like any girl, and I just threw my arms round her
and gave her a good hug. She told me I might tell the girls who were
going to leave this term; but she didn't want the others to know it at
present, and here I've been, and let the cat out of the bag; for I
didn't see Sallie when I came in, and never dreamed she was here.
Sallie, if you lisp a word of it, I'll have you shut up, and kept on
bread and water for a week, and you shan't go to the wedding."

"Is she going to be married during school?"

"I shouldn't wonder; but I couldn't get it out of her when. Now, girls,
we must give her a handsome present."

"It ought to be from the whole school," suggested Florence.

"Yes, so I think; but don't you think it would be nice if we six girls,
who have been here four years together, should all work her something?
My idea is to make an ottoman: one work the middle, four the corners,
and the other fill it up; what do you say?"

"A capital idea!" said Mattie; "and I choose the filling up, for that's
the only part I like to do."

"You're welcome to it," said Marion, "for we all hate it."

"Mab, couldn't you design it yourself?" asked Florence; "it would be so
much handsomer, and Miss Christine would think all the more of it."

"Nothing I should like better, if you'll all trust me."

"Of course we will," said Mattie; "you designed your carpet-bag, didn't
you? It is a perfect beauty!"

"Let me see it," said Sarah. "It's a new one, isn't it?"

"Oh, what handsome letters!" said Rachel. "There, now I see for the
first time why the girls call you Mab. I always thought it was such a
queer nickname for Marion."

"Why, didn't you know?" answered Marion. "M. A. B., Marion Ascott
Berkley; but I never write my whole name; I like just the two, Marion
Berkley, a great deal better."

"Do you know," said Sarah, in the most serious way, "I don't think 'Mab'
seems to suit you so well as it used to? then you were sort
of--well--but now you're kind of--I don't exactly know what, but
different from the other."

"Sallie, you are a goose!" laughed Marion, as Sarah's lucid description
of the change in her character produced a shout from the girls. "I shall
have to muzzle you until you manage your tongue better;" and quick as a
flash Marion seized her satchel, and clapped it over Sarah's head, who
resisted violently; "will you be a good girl if I let you out?"

"Yes! yes!" cried Sallie, from the inside of the bag, her voice almost
drowned by the laughter of the girls.

"Well now, behave yourself," said Marion, as she released her prisoner,
"and next time don't talk of what you know nothing about."

"Well, you are, any way!" cried Sarah, brushing the hair out of her
eyes.

"Take care!" laughed Marion, shaking the satchel at Sarah; "you know
what you have to expect."

"Come, girls, let's go downstairs and tell the others," said Rachel.

"So we will," said Marion; "they ought to have known it as soon as we
did;" and down they all went.

Miss Christine's engagement did not long remain a secret, and when the
knowledge became general, the little woman was fairly showered with
kisses and caresses. Her scholars had almost worshipped her before, but
now she seemed invested with a new importance, and was quite enveloped
in a perpetual incense of love and admiration. M. Béranger, in the
comparatively short time he had been with them, had won the respect of
all his pupils; but now that he was going to marry their Miss Christine
they made a perfect hero of him.

It came out, at last, that the marriage was to take place the last day
of June, two days later than the usual one for closing school. Miss
Christine's first idea had been to be married very quietly in church,
inviting any of the scholars who chose to do so to remain over; but the
girls all begged her to have a "regular wedding," as they called it, and
she had consented.

Every one of the scholars was perfectly delighted at the idea of staying
over to the wedding, and all were anxiously looking forward to the
important day. Invitations were sent to those of the parents with whom
Miss Christine was personally acquainted, and the girls had great fun
planning and replanning how all the guests were to be accommodated for
the night, as they would have to come the night previous. Great was the
delight of Marion, when Miss Christine told her that she wanted the six
graduates to be her bridesmaids, and she immediately ran off to find the
girls and plan their dresses. They had been as busy as bees ever since
they knew of the engagement; there were but a few stitches more to set
in the ottoman, and it was to be sent the next day to Mrs. Berkley, who
was to get it mounted, and bring it up when she came.

As many of the scholars were very wealthy, while the parents of others
were in moderate circumstances, Marion had suggested that all
contributions for the present, from the whole school, should be put into
a closed box, through a hole in the cover, thus preventing any one from
having an uncomfortable consciousness that she had not been able to give
as much as another. When the box was opened, it was found to contain a
very large sum. This was forwarded by Marion, who seemed by general
consent to be considered chief of the committee of arrangements, to her
mother, with directions to use it in the purchase of a plain, but
handsome, gold watch and chain. There proved to be a surplus fund, with
which Mrs. Berkley bought a large album, in which were placed
photographs of all the girls in the school.

Miss Stiefbach had so much to occupy her mind, that several times during
the week of the wedding she was actually seen to hurry through the hall,
quite forgetful of her usual dignified glide. In fact, she seemed quite
another person; the prospect of her sister's happiness had wrought a
great change in her, and made her quite unbend to those around her.

Aunt Bettie came down several times with butter and eggs, never going
away without getting a glimpse of Marion, and for three or four days
before _the_ day, Jemima was at the house all the time, stoning raisins,
beating eggs, and making herself generally useful.

At last the wedding-day actually arrived. Mr. and Mrs. Berkley, with
several other fathers and mothers, had arrived the night previous, and
every nook and corner of the house was filled to overflowing. Some of
the scholars slept three in a bed, others on mattresses laid on the
floor; but no one thought of complaining, and the more inconvenience
they had to put up with, the better they seemed to like it; for wasn't
it all for their Miss Christine?

The six bridesmaids, with the other older girls, had been busy every
moment of the day before, making wreaths of wild flowers and roses;
these they hung early in the morning all over the lower part of the
house. The folding-doors were festooned, and trimmed with an arch of
flowers, and the walls of the little room back of them, in which Miss
Christine was to stand to receive her friends, were perfectly covered
with wreaths, garlands, and bouquets; so that it looked like a fairy
bower.

They had also decorated the church, although of that neither Miss
Stiefbach nor Miss Christine was as yet aware. The chancel-rail was
trimmed with garlands of white flowers; down the aisle were four arches,
the one at the door being of bright, glowing colors, and each one
growing paler, until the one in front of the altar was of pure, bridal
white, and over that hung a "marriage bell" of marguerites.

The girls had had to work hard, and had scoured the country far and near
for flowers; but they had done everything themselves, and not a bud was
twined in those decorations that did not take with it a loving thought
of the dear little woman in whose honor they were made.

At last everything was completed; the bridesmaids were all dressed, and
collected in Marion's room, putting on their gloves, and Marion had gone
to put on the bridal veil,--a favor which she had begged, and which had
been most readily granted; in a few moments that was done and the party
started for the church, where Miss Stiefbach and her guests were already
arrived. I doubt if it would be possible to find a prettier bridal party
in all the world, than entered that little church that glorious June
morning. First came Mattie Denton and Grace Minton; then Julia Thayer
and Alice Howard; then Marion and Florence, and directly behind them M.
Béranger and Miss Christine. The bridesmaids wore simple white muslins,
short, the upper skirts looped with clematis and rose-buds, and delicate
wreaths of the same in their hair. The bride also wore white muslin,
over which hung the bridal veil of tulle, put on with a wreath of
natural orange-blossoms and myrtle, the work of Marion's hands.

M. Béranger looked, and acted like a prince about to take possession of
his kingdom, and his clear "I vill" could be heard in every part of the
church. But the ceremony was soon over; the bridal party turned and
faced the eager, happy faces before them, and passed slowly down under
the arches of lovely flowers, out into the sunlight, the organ pealing
forth the glorious old wedding-march. Such a wedding-reception was never
seen before! There were no dignified ushers to lead you decorously up to
the bride, and whisk you off again before you got an idea into your
head; and if there had been, they would have been tremendously snubbed
by that throng of impetuous girls, who all crowded round Miss
Christine, or rather Madame Béranger, each one eager for the first kiss.
All formality was set aside; every one was radiantly happy, and,
literally, everything went merry as a marriage bell.

It would be useless to attempt to describe Miss Christine's delight at
her many presents; for, in addition to those I have already mentioned,
almost every girl in the school gave her some little thing she had made
herself. M. Béranger also received many proofs of their regard.

But the time soon arrived when the bride and bridesmaids, who were to
leave in the Boston train that afternoon, had to go and change their
dresses. The girls' trunks were all packed, and there was little enough
time for the adieus which naturally accompanied a final departure from
school. The carriage for the bride was at the door, and behind it
several wagons, of various descriptions, for the bridesmaids and their
friends. Miss Christine came down, looking so lovely, in her gray
travelling-suit, that there was a perfect rush at her for the final
good-by; but the last one was said, and in a moment she and her husband
were in the carriage and off. Sarah Brown threw an old shoe after them
for good luck, the wagons followed on, and the whole party started down
the road, amid the shouts and cheers of the girls, who crowded on to the
piazza, almost hiding poor Miss Stiefbach, as they waved their
handkerchiefs, and threw their farewell kisses in the air.



CHAPTER XX.

THE JOURNEY.


Rachel's intention had been to stay with Miss Stiefbach until the return
of her uncle, whom she expected during the month of October; but Marion
had urged her to go home with her, and join their family party in their
summer trip. Mrs. Berkley seconded the invitation so warmly that Rachel
had accepted with great pleasure.

Finding that Mr. Stevenson's means were not sufficient to enable him to
allow Florence to join the party, Rachel, with the utmost delicacy and
tact, had invited her to go with them,--an arrangement which proved more
than satisfactory to all.

I fear some of my readers have thought that Rachel's uncle must be a
cold, hard-hearted man to leave his orphan niece so long to the care of
strangers, and in justice to that gentleman I must give some explanation
of his seeming neglect.

Although a man of great wealth, he had devoted himself to the study of
surgery, throwing into the pursuit as much energy as if he depended on
his skill for his daily bread. Having become quite famous as a surgeon,
he had for several years given his services to a charity hospital in
Berlin; but having been away from his native land for ten years, he
notified the directors of the hospital, a month previous to his
brother's death, that at the end of a year from that time he must leave
them. He signified his intention of donating to the hospital a sum of
money, the income of which would be sufficient to pay a handsome salary
to any one whom they might find competent to take his place. When the
news of his brother's death reached him, his first impulse had been to
start at once for America, and make a home for the orphan girl so
suddenly bereft of a father's care; but the same steamer brought him
letters from his lawyer and business agent, stating that, according to a
wish expressed in the will of his deceased brother, his niece had been
placed at an excellent boarding-school, where she would remain for a
year, unless other directions were received from him; so he deferred
leaving until the time Rachel's school would close; but as she wrote him
that she was well and happy, and had made such pleasant plans for the
summer, he postponed his return still later, finding that until that
time no surgeon could be procured whom he felt capable of filling his
responsible position.

Mr. and Mrs. Berkley, Marion, Florence, and Rachel, with Fred and Mr.
Thornton, made up the travelling party. Mr. Berkley secured a
drawing-room car for their exclusive use, and in the best possible
spirits they set out for New York. The day after arriving there they
went up the Hudson to West Point, spending a week at that delightful
place, made up of enchanting scenery and still more enchanting cadets.
It would be useless to say the girls did not enjoy the latter quite as
much as the former, for what girl of eighteen ever could resist brass
buttons?

For a day or two, Mr. Thornton and Fred escorted them about town, took
them to the review, and everywhere else that there was anything worth
seeing, but never introducing one of their military acquaintances,
notwithstanding said acquaintances gave them plenty of opportunities for
doing so. But such a state of things was not likely to last long; for
the young women, although apparently unconscious of the admiring
glances with which they were favored, in their secret hearts knew
perfectly well that those spruce cadets never met them whenever they
went out, or passed in front of their hotel-windows so many times a day,
for the sole purpose of getting a bow from Fred or Mr. Thornton.

"The idea," exclaimed Marion, as the three girls were putting on their
hats for their usual walk, "of our going away from West Point without
having been introduced to a single cadet! I think it's outrageous!"

"But, Marion," said Rachel, "don't you suppose if they wanted to know us
very much, they'd find a way to get introduced?"

"How can they, when Fred and Arthur Thornton mount guard over us every
time we go out? Papa doesn't know any one but the old officers. Arthur
Thornton knows ever so many cadets, and I think it's _very_ strange he
doesn't bring them to call on us."

"I'm sure," said Florence, "Mr. Thornton is very polite and attentive
himself; I think he's very nice."

"Oh, so do I," replied Marion; "he's nice enough, but aren't we going to
have _him_ all summer? I tell you just how it is; he doesn't intend to
introduce any one, because he feels so grand taking us everywhere
himself!"

"O Marion," laughed Rachel, "I'm afraid you're growing conceited."

"No, I'm not, but what I say is true. If we didn't dress in the fashion,
and look pretty nice all the time, he'd be only too glad to get us off
his hands."

"Seems to me you're rather hard on Mr. Thornton," said Florence,
smoothing the feather in her hat. "Why is he any more to blame than
Fred?"

"Of course he is! Fred doesn't know any one, but some of the little
fellows, that Arthur Thornton hasn't introduced to him; besides, he's
just the age when it makes him feel important to have three young
females under his charge. But I tell you I'm going to put a stop to
this; I know there are plenty of young men here actually dying to be
presented to us. I think it is positively cruel to let them languish any
longer, and if there isn't more than one cadet introduced to us before
night, then my name is not Marion Berkley."

That morning the whole party went to the armory with an old officer, who
was at West Point making a visit to his son, a member of the graduating
class. When they started from the hotel, Marion took her father's arm,
and joined with him in his conversation with the officer. Before they
reached the armory Col. Stranburg was perfectly delighted with her, and
the interest she evinced for his profession, and quite devoted himself
to her during the morning.

"My dear young lady," he said as they were returning to the hotel, "I
should like to call on you and your friends this evening, and bring my
son with me."

"I should be delighted," replied Marion, who had been wondering how she
should ask him to do that very thing without appearing too eager; "for
as yet we do not any of us know a single cadet."

"What!" exclaimed the old gentleman, in unfeigned astonishment; "you
don't mean to say you've been at West Point three days, and don't know a
cadet! Why, I supposed that by this time you had a whole necklace of
brass buttons."

"I haven't," laughed Marion, "and I don't think I care for one; but I
should like to know some one here."

"Of course you would; and I don't understand it at all. Ah! now I see!"
he exclaimed, with a meaning glance at the two young men who were
walking in front with Florence and Rachel; "you have been monopolized,
but we'll alter the state of things."

Col. Stranburg was as good as his word, and called that evening,
bringing with him, not only his son, but two other cadets, who proved to
be the very young gentlemen the girls had so often noticed. The next day
the young men called again, each bringing a friend, and so it went on;
every evening their parlor was crowded, and the girls were showered with
attentions and bouquets till the end of the week, when Mr. Berkley
carried them off, declaring that their heads would be completely turned
if they remained any longer.

From West Point they went to the Catskills, spending several weeks
there. Marion, who had never travelled to any extent, was perfectly
delighted with everything she saw, but above all with the exquisite
beauty of the scenery. She would often wander away from the others, find
some unfrequented spot, and sit for hours drinking in the loveliness
about her, her whole nature expanding under its influence.

From the Catskills they went to Saratoga, giving only one day and night
to that abode of fashion; from there to Montreal; then down the St.
Lawrence to Niagara, and from there home, arriving in Boston about the
last of September.

It would be useless for me to attempt to give an account of all they saw
and did that summer; it would fill at least one small volume. Suffice it
to say, that every one enjoyed themselves to the utmost; that Rachel
could never thank Mrs. Berkley half enough for inviting her to join
their party; and Florence could never express half her gratitude to
Rachel for inviting her to go with her.

I think I conveyed to my readers the idea that Mr. Thornton was somewhat
in love with Marion the first time he saw her; and the more he saw her
the better he liked her. Every one knows how easily people get
acquainted who are thrown together as they were, and before the summer
was half over, they felt as if they had known each other for years.

Marion liked Mr. Thornton very much; in fact, once or twice she had been
guilty of indulging in certain little day-dreams, in which that young
gentleman figured quite extensively; but she had been heartily ashamed
of herself afterwards, and resolved in the future not to let her
imagination take such ridiculous flights. But she could not help
noticing, that, polite as he was to her friends, he was still more so to
her. There was a difference in the very way he spoke to her; not that he
was ever sentimental or tender; Marion would have had too much good
sense to allow anything of the kind, even if he had been inclined to be
so foolish, which I am happy to say he was not. But she remembered, that
throughout their whole journey she had never expressed a wish to go to
any particular place, or see any lovely view which the rest of the party
considered rather unattainable, but what, somehow or other, Mr. Thornton
cleared away all difficulties, and almost before she was aware of it the
wish was gratified. She would have been something more than human, if
such very chivalrous attentions had not been agreeable to her.



CHAPTER XXI.

RACHEL'S UNCLE RETURNS.


"There, Rachel, I flatter myself that hangs just about right," said
Marion, walking across the room to display the train of her new black
silk.

"And so it does," replied Rachel, turning away from the glass where she
had been putting on her fall hat; "the slope is quite perfect. Why, you
look positively queenly!"

"Don't I though?" laughed Marion, only glancing now and then with an air
of great satisfaction at the folds of her train as it swept gracefully
beside her chair. "I've held out all summer, and would not put on a long
dress until I could have a train, and now I've got one."

"I should certainly say you had," said her mother, entering at that
moment with her bonnet and shawl on. "Come Rachel, are you ready? The
carriage is at the door. I suppose Marion will spend her time, while we
are out, walking up and down the room, learning how to manage her train,
so as not to stumble over it the first time she goes downstairs."

"You horrible mamma!" laughed Marion; "as if I could be so clumsy!
Besides, you know I am staying home on purpose to finish papa's slippers
in time for his birthday."

"Oh, yes, we know," said Rachel, "I don't suppose there's any danger of
your having a caller while we are out."

"No, I don't suppose there is," retorted Marion, knowing well the
meaning of Rachel's mischievous glance, "unless your uncle should
happen to come; if he does, I'll entertain him until you get back."

"Oh, there's no danger of his interrupting the tête-à-tête," laughed
Rachel, as she ran downstairs; "your father said the steamer would not
be in until to-morrow morning."

"O mamma," called out Marion, "won't you please stop on your way back,
and get me a cherry ribbon? I haven't a bright bow to my name, and papa
will have a fit to see me all in black."

"I'll get you one," replied Mrs. Berkley, as she was closing the front
door; "but there's one in my upper drawer you can wear until I get
back."

"It's not worth while," said Marion to herself, as she fastened her
sleeve-buttons; "I'll just put in this jet pin, for I know there won't
be any one here, and I haven't got time to prink."

She seated herself at her work, and sewed away very industriously, only
glancing now and then at the folds of her alpaca, as they swept out so
gracefully beside her chair, looking "almost like a black silk." Her
mother and Rachel had not been gone very long, when Bridget, the cook,
came up, and said there was a gentleman downstairs.

"Who is it, Biddy? didn't he send his name?"

"Indade an' he didn't, miss. Ellen is out, and Sarey's just afther
changin' her dress, an' it's meself as had to go to the door, an' I
always gits so flustered that I laves me wits in the kitchen."

"I should think you did," replied Marion, as she brushed the bits of
worsted off her dress. "Do you think it's Mr. Thornton?"

"Misther Thorington! An' haven't I sane the likes o' him too many times
not to know him? Indade an' it aint, miss; it's a much oulder man than
him."

"Oh, I know who it is!" exclaimed Marion. "I'll go right down;" and she
ran downstairs, not stopping to give a glance at the glass as she
certainly would have done if it had been Mr. Thornton, and thinking to
herself, "It must be Rachel's uncle. I am so glad the old gentleman has
got here at last; I do hope he will be like her father."

She entered the parlor hastily, but before she had a chance to speak, or
even see who was there, she found herself encircled by a pair of strong
arms; a bearded face bent over her, kissing her repeatedly, and a manly
voice exclaimed: "My darling! have I got you at last?"

Marion disengaged herself as quickly as possible, and sprang back,
looking at the stranger with an expression in which astonishment and
indignation were equally blended.

He was a very handsome man, apparently about thirty-five; tall, and of a
commanding figure. His features were fine, that is, his nose and eyes;
the latter, when one could get a good look under the long black lashes
which shaded them, showed themselves to be clear, blue-gray; but the
lower part of his face was concealed by a soft, wavy beard and mustache
of rich, chestnut-brown. There was an air of dignity about him which did
not seem to be assumed for the occasion, and altogether he was the last
man to suspect as an impostor, although such Marion had mentally styled
him, deciding at the first glance that he could not be Rachel's uncle.
Before she could collect her bewildered ideas sufficiently to speak, he
again stretched out his arms as if to embrace her, saying in a
reproachful tone:--

"What! your astonishment at seeing me is greater than your joy? I assure
you, my dear, that is not the case with me."

"Can you wonder at my astonishment, sir?" exclaimed Marion, retreating
as he came near her, and motioning him back with a haughty gesture;
"explain your singular conduct."

"Have not I explained it sufficiently?" he asked. "You are a little
unreasonable, I think, although that queenly manner sets well upon you,
I must confess."

"Sir!" exclaimed Marion, with flashing eyes, "if you do not instantly
leave this house, I will find means to compel you to do so."

"Come, come, my darling," he answered, stepping forward and taking
possession of her hand, "your joke has gone quite far enough. I
acknowledge you're as perfect a little actress as I ever saw; but I want
something more than acting;" and he attempted to kiss her.

But Marion sprang from him, throwing her head up, and looking at him
with a face expressive of the utmost scorn, as she exclaimed, "Sir, you
have the appearance of a gentleman, and for such I first took you, but I
find I was mistaken; if you do not instantly leave the house I will call
a policeman to put you out!" and Marion pointed to the door with a
gesture that would have done honor to a queen, as she stood waiting to
see him obey her command.

But the stranger only looked at her a moment in silence, then said in an
injured, reproachful tone, "I expected to find you changed; a young lady
in fact; but that you should have chosen our first meeting for an
exhibition of what seems to be your favorite accomplishment is more than
I expected. I entreat you to drop this haughty indifference, which I
sincerely hope is assumed for this occasion only, and be once more the
little Rachel I left ten years ago."

At the mention of the word Rachel, Marion's arm dropped to her side;
her haughty bearing gave place to an air of confusion, and she
exclaimed:--

"Rachel! Can it be that you thought I was Rachel Drayton?"

For the first time it occurred to the stranger that he too might be
laboring under a mistake, and he bowed slightly, as he said:--

"I certainly took you for my niece, Rachel Drayton; but I see by your
face I am wrong. I most sincerely beg your pardon for what must have
seemed an act of unparalleled impudence."

Marion bowed, flushing crimson at the recollection of the very
affectionate greeting he had given her; but she said in a charmingly
frank way:--

"No apology is necessary, sir; it was a mistake all round,--you took me
for Rachel, and I took you for an impostor, which certainly was not so
complimentary; but now I know you must be Dr. Robert Drayton."

Dr. Drayton smiled, as he said, "And you are Miss Marion Berkley, I
presume?"

"Yes," replied Marion, offering him a chair, and seating herself at the
same time. "Rachel is staying with me; she has gone out riding with
mamma. She did not expect you until to-morrow morning; but when the
servant told me a gentleman was down here, I thought it must be you, but
was sure I was mistaken when I saw you."

"And why, may I ask?" inquired Dr. Drayton.

"Oh!" laughed Marion, a trifle confused, "because I thought you were
quite an old gentleman; at least old enough to be my father."

"And so I am, almost," replied Dr. Drayton, smiling; "but tell me, does
Rachel want to see me?"

"Indeed she does; she has talked about you every day this summer, and
has hardly been able to wait for you to get here. But how did you
mistake me for her? We are not in the least alike."

"You must remember it is ten years since I saw her; then she was a
little, dark-eyed thing with golden hair, something like yours; your
black dress, too, misled me."

"Golden hair!" exclaimed Marion, wishing she had put on her mother's
bright bow, thus saving herself all her embarrassment,--"golden hair, I
can't imagine such a thing; she has jet-black now."

"I dare say I don't remember it very correctly; has she grown much?"

"She is very tall; much taller than I am."

"I thought you were very tall just now when you ordered me out of the
house," said Dr. Drayton, with an amused smile.

"I beg you will never allude to the subject again," said Marion, raising
her head involuntarily, with a slightly haughty gesture, as she
invariably did when she was annoyed, but did not wish to appear so; "it
was a mistake for which I sincerely beg your pardon."

"As you said to me," replied Dr. Drayton, "no apology is needed. I
promise never to allude to the subject again without your permission."

"Which I certainly shall never grant," laughed Marion, ashamed of her
unnecessary hauteur. "Now I shall be able to apply to you my one great
test of the worth of humanity, that is, try your powers of keeping a
secret."

"I am willing to stand the test," laughed Dr. Drayton, "and feel sure
that before morning I shall have no secret to keep, for by that time you
will have told Rachel all about it."

"I shall do no such thing," replied Marion, warmly; "but there is the
carriage. Excuse me, Dr. Drayton, and I will tell Rachel you are here."

The meeting between Dr. Drayton and Rachel was far different from his
interview with Marion. Rachel had longed for his coming, for although
she could not remember him very distinctly, she could not feel him to be
a stranger to her; her father was very fond of his younger brother, and
had always been in the habit of talking with his daughter a great deal
about her Uncle Robert, until he had become almost a hero in her eyes.
She had been in the habit of associating him in her mind with her
father, so that she had quite forgotten he was many years his junior,
and was not prepared to find so young a man; in fact, only thirty-two,
although his beard gave him the appearance of being a few years older.
There was a certain sense of strength and power about him, which led her
to look upon him with the same feelings of deference and respect with
which she would look upon an older man, while at the same time, the fact
of his being younger put her upon an easier, more familiar footing with
him; in short, Rachel was delighted with him, and felt she would receive
from him all the affection and watchful care of a father, combined with
the more demonstrative attentions of an elder brother.



CHAPTER XXII.

DR. DRAYTON'S HOUSE-KEEPER.


"Mrs. Berkley, I'm in a dilemma," said Dr. Drayton, as he entered the
library one morning where that lady was sitting, and took a chair near
her.

"Can I help you out of it?"

"If you can't, I don't know of any one else to go to," said Dr. Drayton,
who had become a daily visitor at the Berkleys'. "I have bought a house,
and now I want a house-keeper. Even if I felt inclined to brave the
opinion of Mrs. Grundy, and settle down with Rachel at the head of my
establishment, I would not do it; she is too young to have so much care
on her shoulders; I want the rest of her life to be as bright and happy
as it is possible for me to make it. My idea is to get some cultivated,
refined, middle-aged lady to come and take the care of the
house-keeping, and be a person who would make it pleasant for Rachel,
and any young friends she might wish to have with her. But how can I get
such a person? I answered two advertisements last week, and had
interviews with the females themselves at the Tremont House. One of them
was old and thin, and had a sharp voice that sent a chill through me
every time she spoke,--would be about as cheerful a member of society as
an animated skeleton; the other fair, fat, and forty, but an incessant
talker, and looked as if she had not brushed her hair for a week. Now,
Mrs. Berkley, what shall I do? Here I am, a poor, forlorn bachelor, who
throws himself on your hands. You must help me somehow or other."

"Well, the best thing I can advise," replied Mrs. Berkley, with an
amused smile, "is for you to cease to be a bachelor."

Dr. Drayton shrugged his shoulders. "Impossible, madame!"

"And why, I should like to know? You certainly are not bad-looking; your
name is quite surrounded by a fast-increasing halo of fame,--something
which is always attractive to the young ladies, you know,--and, what
would be above all to many, you have money."

"Exactly," replied Dr. Drayton, with considerable energy. "When I first
settled down in Berlin, through some very influential friends the very
first society of the place was open to me, and I found myself the
recipient of marked attention from the heads of several families. I was
delighted with them. Such cordiality! such hospitality! I really felt
proud of myself for calling it forth, for then I was young, and the
little halo which you speak of had not shed its benign influence over
me; of course it was to my personal attractions, and nothing else, I
owed my popularity. I happened to speak to a young American friend of
mine, of the attentions I was constantly receiving,--invitations to
this, that, and the other house, and wondered why it was he was not
equally fortunate. 'My dear fellow,' said he, 'don't you know I haven't
got any money?' His answer was certainly a damper to my feelings; but it
was a good thing for me. I gave less time to balls and parties, and more
to my profession; gradually, as I showed myself less and less in
society, I received fewer invitations, and those from gentlemen all
having marriageable daughters. No, Mrs. Berkley, don't ask me to get
married; at least not at present. I don't know anything about American
girls; but I suppose they are all very much the same as other young
ladies, and not until I can find one who will love me for myself, and
not my money, will there ever be a Mrs. Drayton at the head of my
table."

"That is certainly a good resolution," replied Mrs. Berkley, laughing;
"but I am afraid I could find you a wife much easier than a
house-keeper, such as you want. Of course you will want to put your
house in order, and furnish it; meanwhile we are delighted to keep
Rachel with us."

"You are very kind, very kind indeed, and I certainly shall benefit
myself by your offer, for I don't like the idea of taking her to a
hotel. But you haven't asked me where my house is."

"Sure enough," replied Mrs. Berkley; "but my mind has been too full of
your house-keeper to think of your house. Where is it?"

"That house on the corner of Beacon Street and the street just below
here, I can't recall the name."

"The free-stone house we noticed for sale the other day?" inquired Mrs.
Berkley.

"Yes, that is the one. It is larger than I really need; but the
arrangement of the ground-floor suits me admirably, for I must have an
office."

"Then you intend to practise?"

"Certainly, I should be ashamed of myself if I gave up my profession;
but I do not intend to do anything out of office-hours, so it will not
confine me at all. I intend to take the entire charge of Rachel's
property until she is of age; meanwhile I want to give her a clear idea
of the value of money, so that she may be able to make a good use of her
immense fortune."

"I will look about me," said Mrs. Berkley, "and if I hear of any lady
that I think will suit you in every way, I will let you know; but here
come the girls; they have been out to see Florence Stevenson."

Rachel was delighted with the house her uncle had bought, for it was
only a few moments' walk from Mr. Berkley's, and she would be able to be
with Marion every day. The two girls commenced making plans for the
winter, Rachel deciding that the first thing she would do, when they got
into their new house, would be to have Florence in for a long visit.

A few days after the conversation between Mrs. Berkley and Dr. Drayton,
Mr. Berkley received a letter from a distant cousin of his, a lonely
widow, who having lost her property, had written to him to see if he
could get her a situation as house-keeper in some refined family. Upon
showing this letter to his wife, she at once exclaimed that the lady was
the very person for Dr. Drayton.

The necessary arrangements were soon made; the house was put in perfect
order, and elegantly furnished; and Dr. Drayton took his niece to as
delightful a home as one could wish to have, for Mrs. Marston proved to
be all that he desired. Cultivated and agreeable, she soon won his
heartfelt esteem, and Rachel loved her from their very first meeting.

After the new household had got fairly settled, Dr. Drayton proposed to
Rachel that she should continue her German and French under his
direction. He spoke both languages as fluently as he did English, and
suggested that the lessons should consist entirely of conversation, and
reading aloud from some of the best French and German authors. Rachel
was very much pleased at his proposition, and asked if Marion might not
join with them.

"Yes, if she likes," replied Dr. Drayton, in answer to her request; "but
I'm afraid her head will be too full of balls and parties, for her to
ever keep up a regular course of studies."

"Why, Uncle Robert!" indignantly cried Rachel; "you don't know Marion at
all, or you would not say that!"

"I don't pretend to," quietly replied the doctor; "but I suppose she is
very much like all other young ladies."

"Indeed she is not," replied Rachel, energetically. "I don't know of a
girl that has as much strength of character as Marion."

"Not even excepting Miss Florence?"

"No, not even excepting her. I love Florence dearly; she is a lovely
girl, but there is something about Marion which _she_ has not got."

"I should say so, decidedly," replied Dr. Drayton, with provoking
coolness.

"Why, Uncle Robert, I never dreamed you didn't like Marion!"

"Did I say I did not?" asked her uncle, as he unfolded the newspaper,
and glanced down its columns.

"No, you didn't say exactly those words, but you implied it."

"I was not aware of the fact," said the doctor, as he lighted his cigar.
"You said there was something about her different from Florence, and I
agreed with you. I suppose, with feminine perversity, you would have
preferred that I should have disagreed, thus giving you an opportunity
to make an argument in favor of your side of the question; next time
I'll remember."

"Uncle Robert, you are perfectly provoking!" exclaimed Rachel, jumping
up, and taking the paper away from him; "there!--you shan't have it
until you've said something in Marion's favor."

"Very well," replied her uncle, slightly raising his eyebrows; "you
enumerate the catalogue of her virtues, and I'll subscribe to all I
can."

"In the first place, she's very handsome," commenced Rachel.

"Well, no, not exactly what I call handsome," said the doctor in a
deliberating tone; "she's not large enough for that."

"Beautiful then; that's better still."

"Well, yes,--I suppose you think so."

"But it isn't to be what I think," impatiently replied Rachel. "You
certainly _must_ acknowledge she has beautiful eyes; true as steel; the
kind of eyes you could trust!"

"I'll examine them the next time I see her," replied Dr. Drayton, as he
laid back in his chair, and puffed a cloud of smoke into the air.
"Excellence No. 3, if you please, Rachel."

"She's very intelligent, and an excellent scholar," replied Rachel,
tapping the floor with her foot, and trying not to get provoked.

"As yet I have never had any conversation with her of any deeper import
than the shade of your window-curtains; but I've no doubt she's at home
with any subject, and is a perfect walking 'Encyclopædia Americana.'"

"Uncle Robert, you are incorrigible! you are determined _not_ to see any
good in her."

"Not at all, my dear; the difficulty is, that after a six weeks'
acquaintance, you expect me to be as enthusiastic over her as you are
after a lengthy _school-girl_ intimacy."

"I know what you mean to insinuate by a 'school-girl intimacy,' and I
agree with you that as a general thing they don't amount to anything;
but just let me tell you what Marion did for me, and then see if you'll
wonder that I'm '_enthusiastic_' over her."

"Go on; I am prepared for anything. I suppose she rescued you from a
'watery grave' in true novel fashion."

"She did more than that; she risked finding one herself. She walked all
alone, at midnight, from our school to the doctor's house, which is at
least a mile and a half, and crossed the river on a bridge _that the
flooring was taken off, and nothing for her to walk on but the beam
where the railing was_!"

"A heroine, as I live!" cried the doctor, holding up both hands;
"something of which I've always had an innate horror."

"Uncle Robert," said Rachel, really hurt, "I thought after that you'd at
least show some regard for her, if only for my sake."

"My dear girl," he replied, drawing her towards him, "I certainly will
acknowledge that it was very brave in her; now give me my newspaper."

"You don't deserve it, but you shall have it, if you will let Marion
join our lessons."

"I should be delighted to have her; and Miss Florence too."

"Florence won't be able to give her time to it, I know. She can't come
to make me a visit until spring, for she was away all summer, and her
father can't spare her yet."

"Very well; you arrange everything with Mrs. Berkley; only the time must
not interfere with office-hours; before or after that I am at your
service."

"You're the dearest uncle in the world!" exclaimed Rachel, kissing him.

"Even if I don't worship your heroine."

"Oh, don't call her a _heroine_, for mercy's sake! and above all don't
ever let her know that I told you."

"My lips shall be sealed on the subject. Now run off, and let me read my
paper in peace."

Marion was very much pleased with the plan for the French and German
lessons, and it was arranged that they should devote two hours, twice a
week, to each language, meeting alternately at Marion's and Rachel's
houses. Marion was a very good French scholar, and could manage to make
herself understood in German; but she was really afraid of Dr. Drayton,
and never did herself justice at the lessons. He was very patient and
kind, but nevertheless very critical, and corrected the pronunciation of
their German so many times, that Marion at last declared she never would
say another word, for she knew she never could suit him; but she found
him even more determined than M. Béranger, and soon learned, that if the
lessons went on at all, his directions must be strictly attended to; and
after a while the girls never thought of speaking English, during their
French and German hours. Mr. Berkley, who happened to look in upon them
one day when they were carrying on quite an excited argument, declared
they were all jabbering just to hear themselves talk, for he knew
perfectly well they couldn't any one of them understand a word the
others were saying.

       *       *       *       *       *

The intimacy between the two families increased daily, and the Berkleys
welcomed Dr. Drayton most cordially to their family circle, finding him
in every way a most delightful companion. Intelligent, cultivated, and
refined, and having travelled over almost every country in Europe, he
had the rare gift of describing everything he had seen in such a manner
as to bring it vividly before the minds of his hearers, without
incessantly introducing the personal pronoun, which, as a general thing,
finds its way so often into a traveller's account of his journeyings.

He became a general favorite with the family. Charley always ran to
meet him, and commenced a raid upon his pockets, sure of finding
something stowed away there for his especial benefit; the baby crowed
with delight whenever he came near him; and Fred bestowed upon him,
after their first meeting, the highest compliment he could pay a
man,--"he was a regular brick!" But Marion declared "she thought they
made altogether too much fuss over him, and she did not intend to join
with the family in setting him up as a perfect hero; she must say she
thought he was rather conceited, for he never paid her any attention,
and when young people were there, and they were all having a nice time
in the parlor, he always sat off with papa and mamma, in the library, as
if he thought himself above such childish follies."



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE DÉBUT INTO SOCIETY.


"And so it is to be a regular 'come-out party,'" said Dr. Drayton one
evening as he sat smoking with Mr. Berkley in the library, the rest of
the family being in the parlor.

"Yes, a regular 'come-out party,'" repeated Mr. Berkley; "but I don't
intend to dash out, and make a great spread; hire Papanti's hall, etc. I
don't like that sort of thing. I shall invite enough to fill the house,
and yet not have it a perfect jam; have half-a-dozen pieces of music,
and a good supper; that's my idea of a party."

"And a very correct idea, I should say," said the doctor.

"Mrs. Berkley rather objected to giving it at all this winter. Marion is
still so young, she wanted me to wait another year; but you see, doctor,
I'm pretty proud of my only daughter, and I want her to go about in
society, before I get too old to go with her."

"How old is Miss Marion?" asked Dr. Drayton.

"Eighteen last May."

"Older than Rachel; I thought her younger."

"She looks younger, I think myself, and sometimes seems younger still;
but there's good stuff there. She's like her mother, and if I do say it,
she'll make a noble woman."

"If she proves to be like her mother, she certainly will," replied Dr.
Drayton. "Mrs. Berkley is just my idea of what a wife and mother ought
to be."

"That remark proves you a man of sense and discernment," said Mr.
Berkley, highly gratified, both by Dr. Drayton's words, and the warmth
of his tone. "But about this party; of course you will come, and dance
the 'German.'"

"I certainly agree to come. It will be my first real entrance into
Boston society; but as for dancing, that's quite another thing; I gave
that up years ago."

"Why, man alive!" exclaimed Mr. Berkley; "any one would think, to hear
you talk sometimes, you were a perfect Methuselah! Here, Marion!" he
cried, calling her in from the other room, "I want you to give Dr.
Drayton private lessons in dancing, so that he will be able to get
through the 'German' at your party."

"I am much obliged to Miss Marion," said Dr. Drayton, quietly; "but it
is too late for me to begin now; I must decline her services."

"Perhaps it would be as well if you waited until I offered them,"
replied Marion, haughtily, piqued at the coolness of his manner. "I
certainly had no intentions of becoming a dancing-mistress for you or
any one else!"

The doctor made no reply, but Mr. Berkley laughed aloud, as he
exclaimed: "Look here, Marion, that Thornton has spoiled you! You are so
used to having him consider it an honor to be allowed to pick up your
handkerchief, that you begin to think that every one else must do the
same."

"Papa, how unkind!" said Marion, flushing to the roots of her hair; "I
don't know as Mr. Thornton ever picked up my handkerchief in his life,
and he wouldn't be so foolish as to consider it an honor if he had."

"No?" replied her father, in the most provoking way; "but there,--you
shan't be teased any more! Just turn round, and smile sweetly on the
doctor, and tell him you don't think he's too old to come to your
party, and you'll let him, if he'll promise to be a good boy."

"I don't care whether he comes or not," cried Marion, struggling to get
away from her father.

"If that is the case," said Dr. Drayton, "I shall certainly come, simply
for my own amusement. I didn't know but my presence might be
particularly disagreeable to you; but as you seem so thoroughly
indifferent, I shall come, and look on with the other old folks."

Marion bit her lips, and said nothing; but as her father still held her
hand, so that she could not get away, she seated herself on the arm of
his chair with her face turned towards the fire.

"Doctor," said Mr. Berkley, "why don't you shave off that beard? It
makes you look five years older than you are."

"That is my mask," replied the doctor, stroking his beard with his right
hand; "I could not part with it."

"What, in the name of sense, do you want of a mask?"

"Unluckily for me, my mouth is the telltale feature of my face. I found,
when I first became a surgeon, that my patients could tell by its
expression whether they were to live or die; so I covered it up with
this beard. After I had been at the hospital several years, and had seen
sights that the very telling of them would make you shudder; when I
performed operation after operation without flinching, or even having
the slightest feeling of repugnance, I thought I must have got my mouth
under perfect control, and so ventured to trim my mustache and shave my
beard. That very morning I had to attend a poor fellow who had had his
leg amputated the day before; during the examination I never looked at
him, for I felt his eyes were fixed on my face. Suddenly he exclaimed:
'It's no use, doctor; you can keep your eyes down, but you can't hide
your mouth,--that says death.' It was the truth; mortification had set
in, and he died the next morning. After that I let my beard grow, and so
long as I remain a surgeon, which I shall so long as my hand is steady
enough to guide the knife, it will stay as it is."

"Well, I think you are right," said Mr. Berkley; "but by and by, when
you get a wife, perhaps she will think differently, and the beard, and
the profession too, may have to go. The last, I hear, pays you nothing."

"If ever I get a wife," replied Dr. Drayton, "she will probably think as
I do,--that, as I have been blessed with more than an ample fortune, I
should be a heartless wretch, if I did not devote my skill to the relief
of the suffering poor."

Marion, who had listened silently to the above conversation, finding her
father had released his hold of her hand, slipped quietly away.

The weeks flew past, and the eventful day, when Marion was to make her
dêbut into fashionable society, at last arrived.

Rachel, of course, would not go to the party, as she was still in deep
mourning; but Florence was to stay all night with Marion, and Rachel
went round early with her uncle, that she might see her two friends in
the full splendor of their first ball-dresses. She went directly to the
drawing-room, where she heard the voices of the girls, leaving her uncle
to find his way to the dressing-room.

"Hands off these two pieces of dry-goods!" cried Fred, who was capering
round his sister and Florence, in a perfect state of delight, and all
the glories of his first dress-coat, when Rachel entered the room. "You
may admire as much as you please; but you can't touch 'em with a
ten-foot pole."

"Get out of the way, Fred," said Marion, putting him aside as she went
forward to meet Rachel; "she shall touch me as much as she pleases. How
do you like it, Rachel? Is it just the thing?"

"I should say it certainly was!" exclaimed Rachel, enthusiastically. "I
never saw anything so lovely in my life; and you two look so pretty
together!"

"You see our dresses are made just alike," said Florence, buttoning her
gloves; "only my flowers are pink, and hers white."

The two girls certainly did look lovely. Their dresses were of white
tarlatan, puffed and ruffled sufficiently to be quite à la mode, but
still so light and delicate as to give them a floating, airy appearance,
and not make them look like exaggerated fashion-plates. Marion's was
caught, here and there, with white daisies and delicate grasses, a
wreath of the same in her hair; while Florence's was trimmed with pink
roses and buds.

"May I be allowed to come in at this early hour?" inquired Dr. Drayton,
as he appeared on the threshold.

"Yes, indeed," laughed Marion, advancing to meet him, and stopping in
the centre of the room, to drop him a profound courtesy; "you are my
first arrival."

"And as such claim your acceptance of this bouquet, which I hope you
will honor me by carrying during the evening."

Marion looked up very much surprised, as he held towards her an
exquisite bouquet. He was the last man from whom she would have expected
such an attention.

"I am very sorry, Dr. Drayton, but you see Fred has one in his hand
which I promised a week ago I would carry to-night; but I am just as
much obliged, and will set it on the stand close to where I sit in the
'German.'"

"No, indeed," replied the doctor, without the slightest appearance of
annoyance; "my poor bouquet shall not be so set aside. Mrs. Berkley,
will you honor me?"

"I say, Marion," exclaimed Fred, as Marion took her bouquet from his
hand, "what a pity you promised Thornton you'd carry his! The doctor's
is twice as handsome!"

"So it's Mr. Thornton who has got ahead of me?" said the doctor. "Miss
Florence, I hope I am not to be equally unfortunate with you;" and he
presented her with a beautiful bouquet, which he had until that moment
held behind him.

"Oh, thank you!" cried Florence, perfectly delighted; "you know it's not
my dêbut, and no one else has thought of honoring me; it was very kind
of you. See, Marion, isn't it lovely?"

"Yes, very," replied Marion, as she bent over it, inwardly provoked with
herself for being annoyed because the doctor had not only handed over
her bouquet to her mother with such perfect nonchalance, but had also
brought one for Florence.

       *       *       *       *       *

But guests were soon seen passing through the hall on their way to the
dressing-rooms, and Rachel was obliged to hurry off; soon the rooms
began to fill, and before long the wonderful "German" was at its height.

The doctor felt himself a stranger in a strange land; he had been
introduced to, and conversed with, several young ladies, but now all
conversation was broken up by the "German," and he stood leaning against
the door-way, and watched the dance as it proceeded. He noticed several
men, much older than himself, dancing with fair young girls; and he
wondered within himself if they were really enjoying themselves, and why
it was that he stood like one shut out from all the pleasures of youth,
young in years but old in feelings; in fact, he was getting a trifle
misanthropical, when Marion floated slowly past him, waltzing with
Arthur Thornton. As they passed, so near that her draperies touched him,
he heard Mr. Thornton say, in a low tone full of meaning, "Marion you
are enough to make a man mad, to-night! You are almost too lovely!"

"So," thought the doctor, as he turned away, "it is all settled. Well, I
supposed as much."

He did not see Marion as she abruptly stopped dancing, and looked at
poor, infatuated Arthur with a frigid glance, which made his heart leap
to his throat, as she said, "Mr. Thornton, you forget yourself; will you
lead me to my seat?"

Poor Arthur! it was his first rash act; he had loved Marion so well, and
tried so hard to conceal it until he was sure of her feelings; but
to-night as he said, she was almost too lovely, and before he had
thought of the consequences he had called her by name and told her so.
It was his first act of tenderness and his last, for now he knew as well
that to her he could never be anything more than a friend, as if she had
refused him point-blank. Poor fellow! it was a hard blow, but he did not
stagger under it; he danced the "German" with as much apparent gayety,
and hid his grief under as bright a smile as ever graced a ball-room.
But though he flattered himself that no one knew the pain he suffered,
there was one, who, although she neither heard his remark, nor Marion's
answer, witnessed the little scene between them, saw the frigid look in
Marion's eyes, and the light die out of his, and her heart ached for the
poor fellow, as only the heart of a young girl can ache, over the
sorrows of a man whose happiness is dearer to her than her own.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning Rachel was in the dining-room, waiting for her uncle to
come to breakfast. She had watered and arranged the plants, and now
stood tapping impatiently on the window-pane, and wondering why he was
so late; but he soon made his appearance, coming in with Mrs. Marston.

"O Uncle Robert!" she exclaimed, "I began to think you were never
coming; don't you know I'm dying to hear about the party?"

"My dear, if I had known you were in such a terrible state of mind and
body," replied her uncle, as he seated himself at the table, "I would
have come down at six; but if you will take the trouble to look at the
clock, you will see it is you who are early, not I who am late."

"Well, never mind that," impatiently replied Rachel; "how did Marion
look?"

"Didn't you see for yourself?"

"Oh! that was before any one had got there, and she was not at all
excited; she's always lovelier then, she has such a beautiful color, and
it makes her eyes handsomer than ever."

"I don't think it's necessary for me to say anything, do you, Mrs.
Marston?" said the doctor, as he calmly stirred his coffee; "just
imagine her as you saw her, only a little excited, and you'll know
exactly how she looked."

"Did she have much attention?"

"You could hardly expect anything else, as the party was at her house."

"Oh! of course people would be polite; but wasn't there anybody
particularly attentive? Didn't she get 'taken out' a great deal?"

"'Taken out?'" repeated the doctor, with a puzzled expression. "Mrs.
Marston, can you enlighten me?"

"Oh, yes!" laughed Mrs. Marston; "that is only one of the mysterious
phrases of the 'German,' which being interpreted means, did a great many
gentlemen ask her to dance?"

"Oh, thank you," replied the doctor. "Yes, Rachel, she got 'taken out' a
great deal; in fact she seemed to be out all the time."

"There! _that's_ what I wanted to know," said Rachel, in a tone of
satisfaction; "now tell me about Florence."

"I'll try to answer you in the most approved style. She looked very
charming indeed; seemed to have plenty of admirers, for I noticed that
Miss Marion managed to have her share her honors, and made her the guest
of the evening; she was 'taken out' a great deal, and above all,
continued to carry my bouquet the whole evening without dropping it."

"I'm so glad," cried Rachel, "but wasn't it a shame that Arthur Thornton
should have sent his bouquet to Marion first?"

"A shame? Why, no indeed," answered her uncle, with the utmost
composure; "for if he had not, she would have been obliged to carry
mine, and I know she preferred Mr. Thornton's."

"I don't believe it; yours was a great deal handsomer."

"Oh! that's not the point! Of course you must see that Mr. Thornton is
to be _the_ man."

"Uncle Robert, how absurd! I don't believe Marion would ever have him in
the world!"

"And why not, I should like to know? He is handsome, intelligent,--in
fact, a very good fellow every way, and has plenty of money."

"But Marion never will marry for money!" cried Rachel.

"I don't say she will; but what is your objection to Mr. Thornton?"

"I haven't any at all; I like him very much, but he would never do for
Marion. She wants a much stronger man than he."

"Well, perhaps he will develop his muscle," replied Dr. Drayton, coolly.

"Uncle Robert! you know I don't mean that kind of strength!--mental
strength; some one in every way superior to herself; in fact, some one
that she could feel was her master."

"Master! I can't imagine Miss Marion yielding her own sweet will to any
one."

"Rachel is right," said Mrs. Marston; "when Marion marries she will
choose a man much older than herself."

"Well, time will show," said Dr. Drayton; "but Rachel, if Marion Berkley
is not engaged to Mr. Thornton at the end of six months, I'll give you
the handsomest diamond ring I can buy at Bigelow's."



CHAPTER XXIV.

CONCLUSION.


The days and weeks flew by like hours, and Marion found herself
surrounded by a crowd of admirers, and one of the acknowledged belles of
the season. Balls, parties, receptions, matinées, and formal calls took
up all her time, and what with lying abed in the morning to make up for
her late hours, the days were fairly turned into night, and night into
day. Mrs. Berkley remonstrated as she saw her daughter drifting farther
and farther out on the sea of fashionable society, but it was now too
late; she could not refuse all the invitations that were showered upon
her, and those that she would have been glad to decline, her father
would not allow her to, for fear of giving offence. She had at first
made a struggle to keep up her French and German, but at last gave it up
as useless, for if she had no engagement for those hours, she was too
tired and worn out by her dissipation to attend to them properly.

Rachel felt extremely sorry to be obliged to tell her uncle that his
prediction had proved true; that Marion's time was too much occupied
with balls and parties for her to attend the lessons; but she added a
saving clause, to the effect that when Lent put an end to the extreme
gayeties of the season, Marion would be glad to join them.

"If she wishes to join us then, well and good," said Dr. Drayton; "but
Rachel, I want you to fully understand, that you must never ask her to
do so; she must come back to us as she left us, of her own free will."

Marion felt far from satisfied with the life she was leading. At first
it was very delightful to find herself so much admired; to know that the
honor of her hand for the "German" was sought days in advance by the men
who were considered the bright, particular stars of the fashionable
world; to have hardly a day go by that did not bring her an exquisite
bouquet, or basket of flowers; never go to the theatre or opera that
several young exquisites did not come to her seat for a chat between the
acts! Oh, it was very delightful indeed; and for a while she thought she
had never been so happy in her life. But only for a while; she grew
tired at last of hearing the same things said to her night after night,
over and over again; she knew she was wasting her life; the precious
moments and hours that would never come again. Her health, too, began to
give way under this constant dissipation. She had frequent dull
headaches, and could not keep herself from being irritated at trifles
that she would never have noticed before. Even her father began to
complain that "she was going out almost too much; he never had a quiet
evening at home, and as for her music he had not heard her touch the
piano for weeks."

Just about this time she received a letter from Mme. Béranger. She wrote
in a bright, happy strain, giving an account of what was going on at the
school, alluding with a little conjugal pride to the beneficial
influence which M. Béranger exerted over the scholars, and the respect
which he inspired, not only from them, but from Miss Stiefbach also.

She concluded by saying:--

     "And now, my dear Marion, I am going to speak of yourself, a
     subject about which I know very well you do not care to have much
     said; but you will bear it patiently I feel sure from your old
     teacher, who says with truth, that, dear as all her scholars have
     been to her, none ever came so near, so completely won her love, as
     you have done.

     "I wanted to tell you, before the close of school last autumn, how
     much I rejoiced in the victories which I saw you were daily gaining
     over yourself; but the opportunity never seemed to arrive when I
     could do so without appearing to force myself upon you.

     "It would make you happy, I know, if you could hear yourself spoken
     of as I am almost daily in the habit of hearing your name mentioned
     by one or more of the scholars, in the kindest, most affectionate
     terms.

     "It is a good thing when a girl leaves school carrying with her the
     love and admiration of her school-mates, and leaving behind her
     nothing but regret that she is no longer there to join in their
     studies, or lead them in their fun and frolic.

     "Now you have done with school-days, and it is very probable that
     many of your school-mates you may never meet again; you will form
     new friends wherever you go, and to a certain extent owe some
     duties to society; but I cannot imagine you as among the class of
     young ladies, who, the moment the doors of the school-room close
     behind them, consider their education finished, and so straightway
     give up all sensible occupations, and fritter away their time in
     fashionable dissipation. I have seen too much of you, understand
     your nature too well, to believe you capable of such folly; but
     temptations of various kinds will come to you in the future, as
     they have come in the past, and the same sense of right, the same
     determination to conquer yourself, which helped you to overcome the
     faults of your girlhood, will strengthen and sustain you in your
     endeavors to attain a pure, noble womanhood.

     "But I fear you will think I am writing you a sermon, and that I
     have forgotten that you have passed from under my authority, but
     'the spirit moved me,' and so I have spoken; if I have said more
     than I ought, forgive me, and take it kindly from your old Miss
     Christine.

     "My sister wished to be kindly remembered to you, and my husband
     says: Faites mes amitiés à Mlle. Berkley. Good-by, my dear,

     "From your true friend,

     "CHRISTINE BÉRANGER."

Marion's conscience smote her as she read the letter, and thought how
far short of all Mme. Béranger had hoped she would be, of all she had
determined for herself, was the life she was now leading. Day by day
she became more and more discontented with herself, as she saw how
completely she had given her time to what her teacher had rightly
called, "fashionable dissipation."

Lent at last arrived, and Marion, although not an Episcopalian, welcomed
it with delight, for now there would be few if any, large parties, and
she would have a chance to rest. She was determined to commence a course
of history; practise at least two hours a day, and, if Rachel proposed
it, commence again her French and German, in which her friend had made
such astonishing progress as to make Marion thoroughly ashamed of
herself. But, much to Marion's surprise, Rachel did not propose it,
neither did Dr. Drayton, before whom she had mentioned several times how
sorry she was to find herself so far behind Rachel. She thought it very
strange that the doctor did not again offer to teach her with his niece,
and resolved, if she could ever manage to humble herself sufficiently to
ask a favor of him, she would tell him herself she wanted to rejoin the
class.

An opportunity offered itself sooner than she had expected. The doctor
had a fine baritone voice, and was extremely fond of music. Rachel, as a
general thing, was able to play his accompaniments for him, but now and
then he bought a new song too difficult for her to manage, and he often
brought them, at Mr. Berkley's suggestion, for Marion to play for him.
One evening he made his appearance with a piece of music in his hand,
and said, as he shook hands with her:--

"Miss Marion, I have a song here that is most too much for Rachel: will
you do me the favor of playing the accompaniment?"

"Yes," replied Marion, as she took the music, and glanced over it; "on
one condition."

"And that is?" said the doctor.

"That you will let me come back to the French and German readings."

"Are you quite sure you want to come?" asked the doctor, looking down
upon her, and speaking very much as he would have done to a naughty
child.

"Very sure," replied Marion, almost provoked with herself for not being
able to say the contrary.

"Very well then, come," said the doctor, in a lower tone, as he arranged
the music for her. "You must want to very much, if you would be willing
to ask it as a favor from me."

Marion bit her lips and said nothing. She had intended to make it appear
that she was granting the favor; but the doctor had reversed the order
of things. The next day the old studies were commenced, and Marion took
hold with a will, determined to conquer all difficulties and put herself
by the side of Rachel. She was at first extremely mortified to find how
many mistakes she made, and how much she had forgotten; but the doctor
was more patient than ever before, and she soon made great improvement.

Of late Marion had seen very little of Mr. Thornton, and now that she
was not going about so much, she began to miss his bright, pleasant
face, and many little attentions: and as Saturday after Saturday went
by, and he did not make his appearance with Fred, as he had formerly
been so often in the habit of doing, she asked her brother what had
become of him. Fred's answer was, that "Thornton was cramming like
blazes; he meant to leave college with flying colors."

At first Marion felt a little chagrined that he could so soon have
forgotten her, and had half a mind to write him a charming little note,
inviting him over to spend Sunday; but she knew it would only be holding
out a prospect of encouragement which she never really meant to give
him, and so she refrained.

Summer at last arrived, and the Berkleys and Draytons were making
preparations for spending it among the White Mountains. Fred had urged
them to stay for "Class-day," as Arthur Thornton graduated this year;
but Marion's unusually pale cheeks told too plainly that either the
dissipations of the winter, or some other unexplainable cause, had made
a deep inroad on her health, and her parents were glad to get her away
from the city.

Florence's father had married again, and had taken a cottage at the
beach for the summer; so she had declined Rachel's invitation to again
make one of their party.

They travelled slowly through the mountains, stopping for days at a time
at whatever place seemed to them as particularly pleasant. It was too
early for the great rush of fashionable visitors, and they enjoyed
themselves the more on that account.

After having spent several weeks in this manner, they settled down for
the rest of the summer at a little hotel unknown to fame, and rarely
visited except by pedestrians and artists wandering about in search of
the most beautiful views.

Marion had by this time entirely regained her strength, and could climb
about the mountains, and take as long walks as any of the party; but
still she did not seem the same as in former days. Her father and mother
did not notice the change, for with them she was always as gay as ever,
and they were perfectly happy to see her so well,--slightly tanned with
the summer's sun, and a bright color always glowing in her cheeks.

But Rachel wondered what had come over her, for when they were alone she
seemed so much more quiet and preoccupied, that her friend could hardly
realize it was the same Marion Berkley she had known at school. The
doctor, too, silently noticed her altered manner, and had his own
opinion as to the cause.

One day towards the close of summer, Marion was sitting on a little
piazza, which belonged exclusively to the private parlor used by their
party. A book was in her lap, but her hands lay idly on its open pages,
as she sat lost in a reverie, from which she was roused by Dr. Drayton
as he came round the house, and stood holding a letter over her head,
exclaiming, "See what I have for you, Miss Marion! Can you tell the
writing from here?"

"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Marion, in a delighted tone, reaching up her hand
to take it; "it's from Florence. Do let me have it."

"Not until you promise me," said the doctor, holding the letter out of
her reach, "that you will tell me how you honestly feel about the most
important piece of news this letter contains."

"I promise," said Marion, smiling. "It will probably be that her new
mamma has given her a lovely picture, and she is the dearest mamma in
the world."

"Never mind what it is," said the doctor; "you have promised;" and he
leaned against the pillar opposite Marion, apparently engaged in reading
a letter which he had held open in his hand during their conversation,
but in reality furtively watching the expression of her face, for he
knew what news the letter contained, and wanted to judge of its effect
upon her.

She read on, smiling to herself as Florence went into ecstasies over the
kindness of her new, darling mamma. Then suddenly an expression of
intense surprise passed over her face, which was succeeded by one which
it would be difficult to define, as the letter dropped into her lap, and
she sat looking straight before her, but evidently seeing nothing, and
entirely forgetful of the doctor's presence.

"Poor child!" he thought, as he watched the tears slowly gathering in
her eyes; "it has come at last, and she so young! It is cruel in me to
watch her; but I _must_ know how deeply it affects her."

Suddenly Marion sprang up with the letter in her hand, and was running
through the long parlor-window, when the doctor called to her:--

"Miss Marion, have you forgotten your promise?"

"No, indeed!" answered Marion, without looking round. "Stay there; I'll
be back in a moment."

Dr. Drayton put his letter in his pocket, and folded his arms across his
breast as he leaned against the pillar, like Marion looking straight
before him, but seeing nothing. "If she can hide her wounds so bravely,
cannot I do the same?" thought he; "it would be too cruel for me to make
her tell me herself; I can at least spare her that." He was so lost in
thought, that Marion had again stepped on to the piazza, and stood
beside him before he was aware of her presence.

"Now, doctor," she said, startling him by the brightness of her tone,
"I'm ready to be questioned. There _was_ quite an important piece of
news in the letter."

"You need not tell me," he said very gently, "I know it already."

"And how did you know it?" asked Marion, in a disappointed tone of
voice. "I was to be the first one told, and then _I_ was to tell
Rachel."

"Your letter was delayed probably, and mine from Fred, written the next
day, when every one knew it, came in the same mail."

"But you don't seem a bit glad," said Marion. "_I_ am perfectly
delighted."

He looked down at her silently for a few moments. Could she be acting?
He would put her to the test.

"Miss Marion, I _will_ hold you to your promise; you said you would tell
me honestly how you felt about this piece of news."

"And so I will," replied Marion, surprised at his serious manner. "Mr.
Thornton is as fine a young man as I know, and has always been a good
friend of mine. When I tell you that I think him in every way worthy of
Florence, you may know that is the highest compliment I can pay him; and
I am perfectly delighted they are engaged."

"And this is on your honor?"

"On my honor," answered Marion, looking up at him with her clear,
truthful eyes.

"I believe you," he said; "but forgive me if I ask why, feeling so, the
tears should have come into your eyes when you read the letter?"

"Dr. Drayton," cried Marion, her face flushing, "it was too bad of you
to watch me! It is cruel in you to ask me."

"I know it is cruel," he answered; "but nevertheless I _must_ ask you."

"I will tell you," replied Marion, hurriedly, "or you will misunderstand
me. Florence and I have been very, very dear friends; we have loved each
other all our lives, as I think few girls rarely do love; there has
never been a cloud between us that was not soon cleared away; and when I
first read that she was engaged to Arthur Thornton, I could not help
feeling a little bit of sorrow, in spite of my greater joy, to think
that now she would have some one to take my place away from me. But that
feeling is all gone now--or will be soon," she added, choking down a
sob, that would come in spite of her.

"Marion," he almost whispered, as he bent over her, "are you sure you
never loved Arthur Thornton?"

"Very sure," answered Marion, not daring to raise her eyes, and blushing
crimson as he for the first time called her by name.

He bent lower still, and was about to lay his hand upon her arm, when
Rachel rushed through the parlor-window, exclaiming, "Uncle Robert,
Marion can't marry Mr. Thornton, if she wants to ever so much, and I
want my diamond ring!"

"The six months are past," replied her uncle.

"I don't think that's fair, do you, Marion?" But Marion had slipped
away, and was nowhere to be seen.

A few evenings later the three were sitting on the piazza, enjoying
their last night at the mountains. Mr. and Mrs. Berkley had retired
early, so as to feel bright and fresh for their homeward journey the
next day, but the rest had declared their intention of sitting up to
watch the moon, as it went slowly down behind the distant hills.

"Rachel," said Dr. Drayton, as he threw away his cigar, "how should you
like to go to Europe next spring?"

"Like it!" exclaimed Rachel, clasping her hands with delight. "I should
be perfectly happy!"

"Well, I thought so," replied her uncle, "and I am going to take you."

"O Uncle Robert! you are too good! Marion, isn't that splendid?"

But before Marion could answer, Dr. Drayton went on, as if he had not
heard Rachel's remark. "Of course, it will not do for you to go
travelling over Europe with only me."

"Take Mrs. Marston!" exclaimed Rachel, determined to surmount all
difficulties; "take Mrs. Marston; she's just the one!"

"Oh, no!" replied her uncle, in a very decided tone; "she wouldn't do at
all; she's too old. I've been thinking about it for some time; you want
a young person, and so I am going to get married."

"O Uncle Robert!" cried Rachel, jumping up, and taking hold of his arm;
"don't get married! please don't! I'd rather never go to Europe as long
as I live, than to have you do that!"

"I am sure you are very kind indeed," replied her uncle, "to give up
your pleasure on my account; but really I don't see as I can very well
help being married now, for I've asked the lady, and she said yes."

"O uncle! uncle! to think of your getting married just for the sake of
having some one to go to Europe with me! It's dreadful!"

"Yes, dear, I think it would be, if that were the case; but to tell you
the truth I am very much in love with the lady myself."

"Then I shall hate her!" exclaimed Rachel, dropping her uncle's arm,--"I
know I shall hate her!"

Marion had been sitting perfectly quiet during this conversation, with
her back turned towards the speaker; she now rose, and attempted to pass
by Dr. Drayton into the parlor; but he caught her with both hands, and
turned her round towards his niece, saying, as he did so, "Allow me,
Rachel, to introduce you to your future aunt; if you don't love her for
my sake, try to for her own; she's worth it."

Rachel stood in speechless astonishment, and Marion, also, could not
utter a word.

"This is a pretty state of things, I must say," said the doctor.
"Rachel, won't you kiss your Aunt Marion?"

"Kiss her!" exclaimed Rachel, finding her voice, and throwing her arms
round Marion's neck; "I thought I loved her before, but _now_ I shall
fairly worship her! I never was so happy in my life!"

"Nor I either," whispered Marion, very softly.

"But I don't understand it," cried Rachel, still in a state of
bewilderment. "I never thought of such a thing. I thought you didn't
like Marion at all, Uncle Robert."

"I know it, my dear, and she thought the same; but I have satisfied her
to the contrary, and I guess I can you."

"Ah! Uncle Robert," said Rachel, archly, "I guess I _shan't_ have the
handsomest diamond-ring at Bigelow's; I suppose Marion has that."

"No, she has not," replied the doctor, lifting Marion's left hand, on
which Rachel could see in the moonlight a heavy, plain, gold ring.

"What!--not diamonds?"

"No," replied the doctor, as he held the hand in both his own; "my wife
shall have all the diamonds she wants, but this ring must be plain
gold."

"Are you satisfied, Marion?" asked Rachel.

Marion gave a quick glance up at the doctor, then looked at Rachel, as
she answered, "Perfectly."





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