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´╗┐Title: Dora Deane; Or, The East India Uncle
Author: Holmes, Mary Jane, 1825-1907
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 "Dora Deane; Or, The East India Uncle" ***

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DORA DEANE

OR

THE EAST INDIA UNCLE

BY

MRS. MARY J. HOLMES

_Author of "Tempest and Sunshine," "Meadow Brook," "Homestead on the
Hillside," "The English Orphans," "Maggie Miller," etc._



DORA DEANE,

OR,

THE EAST INDIA UNCLE



CHAPTER I.

DORA AND HER MOTHER.


Poor little Dora Deane! How utterly wretched and desolate she was, as
she crouched before the scanty fire, and tried to warm the little bit
of worn-out flannel, with which to wrap her mother's feet; and how hard
she tried to force back the tears which would burst forth afresh
whenever she looked upon that pale, sick mother, and thought how soon
she would be gone!

It was a small, low, scantily furnished room, high up in the third
story of a crazy old building, which Dora called her home, and its one
small window looked out on naught save the roofs and spires of the
great city whose dull, monotonous roar was almost the only sound to
which she had ever listened. Of the country, with its bright green
grass, its sweet wild flowers, its running brooks, and its shady trees,
she knew but little, for only once had she looked on all these things,
and then her heart was very sad, for the bright green grass was broken,
and the sweet wild flowers were trampled down, that a grave might be
made in the dark, moist earth for her father, who had died in early
manhood, leaving his wife and only child to battle with the selfish
world as best they could. Since that time, life had been long and
dreary to the poor widow, whose hours were well-nigh ended, for ere
to-morrow's sun was risen, _she_ would have a better home than that
dreary, cheerless room, while Dora, at the early age of twelve, would
be an orphan.

It was a cold December night, the last one of the year, and the wintry
wind, which swept howling past the curtainless window, seemed to take a
sadder tone, as if in pity for the little girl who knelt upon the
hearthstone, and with the dim firelight flickering over her
tear-stained face, prayed that she, too, might die, and not be left
alone.

"It will be so lonely--so cold without my mother!" she murmured. "Oh,
let me go with her; I _cannot_ live alone."

"Dora, my darling," came faintly from the rude couch, and in an instant
the child was at her mother's side.

Winding her arms fondly about the neck of her daughter, and pushing the
soft auburn hair from off her fair, open brow, Mrs. Deane gazed long
and earnestly upon her face.

"Yes, you are like me," she said at last, "and I am glad that it is so,
for it may be Sarah will love you better when she sees in you a look
like one who once called her sister. And should _he_ ever return----"

She paused, while her mind went back to the years long ago--to the old
yellow farmhouse among the New England hills--to the gray-haired man,
who had adopted her as his own when she was written _fatherless_--to
the dark-eyed girl, sometimes kind, and sometimes overbearing, whom she
had called her sister, though there was no tie of blood between them.
Then she thought of the red house just across the way, and of the three
brothers, Nathaniel, Richard, and John. Very softly she repeated the
name of the latter, seeming to see him again as he was on the day when,
with the wreath of white apple blossoms upon her brow, she sat on the
mossy bank and listened to his low spoken words of love. Again she was
out in the pale starlight, and heard the autumn wind go moaning through
the locust trees as _Nathaniel_, the strange, eccentric, woman-hating
Nathaniel, but just returned from the seas, told her how madly he had
loved her, and how the knowledge that she belonged to another would
drive him from his fatherland forever--that in the burning clime of
India he would make gold his idol, forgetting, if it were possible, the
mother who had borne him! Then she recalled the angry scorn with which
her adopted sister had received the news of her engagement with John,
and how the conviction was at last forced upon her that Sarah herself
had loved him in secret, and that in a fit of desperation she had given
her hand to the rather inefficient Richard, ever after treating her
rival with a cool reserve, which now came back to her with painful
distinctness.

"But she will love my little Dora for _John's_ sake, if not for mine,"
she thought, at last; and then, as if she had all the time been
speaking to her daughter, she continued, "And you must be very dutiful
to your aunt, and kind to your cousins, fulfilling their slightest
wishes."

Looking up quickly, Dora asked, "Have you written to Aunt Sarah? Does
she say I can come?"

"The letter is written, and Mrs. Gannis will send it as soon as I am
dead," answered Mrs. Deane. "I am sure she will give you a home. I told
her there was no alternative but the almshouse;" then, after a pause,
she added: "I wrote to your uncle Nathaniel some months ago, when I
knew that I must die. It is time for his reply, but I bade him direct
to Sarah, as I did not then think to see the winter snow."

"Did you tell him of me?" eagerly asked Dora, on whom the name of Uncle
Nathaniel, or "Uncle Nat," as he was more familiarly called, produced a
more pleasant impression than did that of her aunt Sarah.

"Yes", answered the mother, "it was of you that I wrote, commending you
to his care, should he return to America. And if you ever meet him,
Dora, tell him that on my dying bed I thought of him with
affection--that my mind wandered back to the years of long ago, when I
was young, and ask him, for the sake of one he called his brother, and
for her who grieves that ever she caused him a moment's pain, to care
for you, their orphan child."

Then followed many words of love, which were very precious to Dora in
the weary years which followed that sad night; and then, for a time,
there was silence in that little room, broken only by the sound of the
wailing tempest. The old year was going out on the wings of a fearful
storm, and as the driving sleet beat against the casement, while the
drifting snow found entrance through more than one wide crevice and
fell upon her pillow, the dying woman murmured, "Lie up closer to me,
Dora, I am growing very cold."

Alas! 'twas the chill of death; but Dora did not know it, and again on
the hearthstone before the fast dying coals she knelt, trying to warm
the bit of flannel, on which her burning tears fell like rain, when
through the empty wood-box she sought in vain for chip or bark with
which to increase the scanty fire.

"But I will not tell _her_," she softly whispered, when satisfied that
her search was vain, and wrapping the flannel around the icy feet, she
untied the long-sleeved apron which covered her own naked arms, and
laying it over her mother's shoulders, tucked in the thin bedclothes;
and then, herself all shivering and benumbed, she sat down to wait and
watch, singing softly a familiar hymn, which had sometimes lulled her
mother into a quiet sleep.

At last, as her little round white arms grew purple with the cold, she
moved nearer to the bedside, and winding them lovingly around her
mother's neck, laid her head upon the pillow and fell asleep. And to
the angels, who were hovering near, waiting to bear their sister spirit
home, there was given charge concerning the little girl, so that she
did not freeze, though she sat there the livelong night, calmly
sleeping the sweet sleep of childhood, while the mother at her side
slept the long, eternal sleep of death!

       *       *       *       *       *



CHAPTER II.

THE FIRST AND LAST NEW YEAR'S CALL.


It was New Year's morning, and over the great city lay the deep,
untrodden snow, so soon to be trampled down by thousands of busy feet.
Cheerful fires were kindled in many a luxurious home of the rich, and
"Happy New Year" was echoed from lip to lip, as if on that day there
were no aching hearts--no garrets where the biting cold looked in on
pinching poverty and suffering old age--no low, dark room where Dora
and her pale, dead mother lay, while over them the angels kept their
tireless watch until human aid should come. But one there was who did
not forget--one about whose house was gathered every elegance which
fashion could dictate or money procure; and now, as she sat at her
bountifully-furnished breakfast table sipping her fragrant chocolate,
she thought of the poor widow, Dora's mother, for whom her charity had
been solicited the day before, by a woman who lived in the same block
of buildings with Mrs. Deane.

"Brother," she said, glancing towards a young man who, before the
glowing grate, was reading the morning paper, "suppose you make your
first call with me?"

"Certainly," he answered; "and it will probably be in some dreary attic
or dark, damp basement; but it is well, I suppose, to begin the New
Year by remembering the poor."

Half an hour later, and the crazy stairs which led to the chamber of
death were creaking to the tread of the lady and her brother, the
latter of whom knocked loudly for admission. Receiving no answer from
within, they at last raised the latch and entered. The fire had long
since gone out, and the night wind, as it poured down the chimney, had
scattered the cold ashes over the hearth and out upon the floor. Piles
of snow lay on the window sill, and a tumbler in which some water had
been left standing, was broken in pieces. All this the young man saw at
a glance, but when his eye fell upon the bed, he started back, for
there was no mistaking the rigid, stony expression of the upturned
face, which lay there so white and motionless.

"But the child--the child," he exclaimed, advancing forward--"can she,
too, be dead!" and he laid his warm hand gently on Dora's brow.

The touch aroused her, and starting up, she looked around for a moment
bewildered; but when at last she turned towards her mother, the dread
reality was forced upon her, and in bitter tones she cried, "Mother's
dead, mother's dead, and I am all alone! Oh! mother, mother, come back
again to me!"

The young man's heart was touched, and taking the child's little red
hands in his, he rubbed them gently, trying to soothe her grief; while
his sister, summoning the inmates from the adjoining room, gave orders
that the body should receive the necessary attention; then, learning as
much as was possible of Dora's history, and assuring her that she
should be provided for until her aunt came, she went away, promising to
return next morning and be present at the humble funeral.

That evening, as Dora sat weeping by the coffin in which her mother
lay, a beautiful young girl, with eyes of deepest blue, and locks of
golden hair, smiled a joyous welcome to him whose _first_ New Year's
call had been in the chamber of death, and whose _last_ was to her, the
petted child of fashion.

"I had almost given you up, and was just going to cry," she said,
laying her little snowflake of a hand upon the one which that morning
had chafed the small, stiff fingers of Dora Deane, and which now
tenderly pressed those of Ella Grey as the young man answered, "I have
not felt like going out today, for my first call saddened me;" and
then, with his arm around the fairy form of Ella, his affianced bride,
he told her of the cold, dreary room, of the mother colder still, and
of the noble little girl, who had divested herself of her own clothing,
that her mother might be warm.

Ella Grey had heard of such scenes before--had cried over them in
books; but the idea that _she_ could do anything to relieve the poor,
had never entered her mind. It is true, she had once given a _party
dress_ to a starving woman, and a _pound of candy_ to a ragged boy who
had asked for aid, but here her charity ended; so, though she seemed to
listen with interest to the sad story, her mind was wandering
elsewhere, and when her companion ceased, she merely said, "_Romantic_,
wasn't it."

There was a look of disappointment on the young man's face, which was
quickly observed by Ella, who attributed it to its right source, and
hastened to ask numberless questions about Dora--"How old was she? Did
he think her pretty, and hadn't she better go to the funeral the next
day and bring her home for a waiting-maid?--she wanted one sadly, and
from the description, the orphan girl would just suit."

"No, Ella," answered her lover; "the child is going to live in the
country with some relatives, and will be much better off there."

"The country," repeated Ella. "_I_ would rather freeze in New York than
to live in the dismal country."

Again the shadow came over the gentleman's brow, as he said, "Do you
indeed object so much to a home in the country?"

Ella knew just what he wanted her to say; so she answered, "Oh, no, I
can be happy anywhere with you, but do please let me spend just one
winter in the city after---"

Here she paused, while the bright blushes broke over her childish face.
She could not say, even to him, "after we are married," so he said it
for her, drawing her closer to his side, and forgetting Dora Deane, as
he painted the joyous future when Ella would be all his own. Eleven
o'clock sounded from more than one high tower, and at each stroke poor
Dora Deane moaned in anguish, thinking to herself, "Last night at this
time _she_ was here." Eleven o'clock, said Ella Grey's diamond set
watch, and pushing back her wavy hair, the young man kissed her rosy
cheek, and bade her a fond good-night. As he reached the door, she
called him back, while she asked him the name of the little girl who
had so excited his sympathy.

"I do not know," he answered. "Strange that I forgot to inquire. But no
matter. We shall never meet again;" and feeling sure that what he said
was true he walked away.

       *       *       *       *       *



CHAPTER III.

DORA'S RELATIVES.


There hundred miles to the westward, and the storm, which, on New
Year's eve, swept so furiously over all parts of the State, was
perceptible only in the dull, gray clouds which obscured the wintry
sky, shutting out the glimmering starlight, and apparently making still
brighter the many cheerful lights which shone forth from the handsome
dwellings in the village of Dunwood. Still the night was intensely
cold, and, as Mrs. Sarah Deane, in accordance with her daughter
Eugenia's request, added a fresh bit of coal to the already well-filled
stove, she sighed involuntarily, wishing the weather would abate, for
the winter's store of fuel was already half gone, and the contents of
her purse were far too scanty to meet the necessity of her household,
and at the same time minister to the wants of her extravagant daughters.

"But I can economize in one way," she said, half aloud, and crossing
the room she turned down the astral lamp which was burning brightly
upon the table.

"Don't, pray mother, make it darker than a dungeon!" petulantly
exclaimed Eugenia, herself turning back the lamp. "I do like to have
rooms light enough to see one's self;" and glancing complacently at the
reflection of her handsome face, in the mirror opposite, she resumed
her former lounging attitude upon the sofa.

Mrs. Deane sighed again, but she had long since ceased to oppose the
imperious Eugenia, who was to all intents and purposes the mistress of
the house, and who oftentimes led her mother and weaker-minded sister
into the commission of acts from which they would otherwise have
shrunk. Possessed of a large share of romance, Eugenia had given to
their place the name of "Locust Grove;" and as Mrs. Deane managed to
keep up a kind of outside show by practising the most pinching economy
in everything pertaining to the actual comfort of her family, they were
looked upon as being quite wealthy and aristocratic by those who saw
nothing of their inner life--who knew nothing of the many shifts and
turns in the kitchen to save money for the decoration of the parlors,
or of the frequent meager meals eaten from the pantry shelf, in order
to make amends for the numerous dinner and evening parties which
Eugenia and Alice insisted upon giving, and which their frequent visits
to their friends rendered necessary. Extensive servant-hire was of
course too expensive, and, as both Eugenia and Alice affected the
utmost contempt for anything like _work_, their mother toiled in the
kitchen from morning until night, assisted only by a young girl, whose
mother constantly threatened to take her away, unless her wages were
increased, a thing which seemed impossible.

It was just after this woman's weekly visit, and in the midst of
preparations for a large dinner party, that Mrs. Deane received her
sister's letter, to which there was added a postscript, in a strange
handwriting, saying she was dead. There was a moisture in Mrs. Deane's
eyes as she read the touching lines; and leaning her heated forehead
against the cool window pane, she, too, thought of the years gone
by--of the gentle girl, the companion of her childhood, who had never
given her an unkind word--of _him_--the only man she had ever
loved--and Dora was their child--Fanny's child and John's.

"Yes," she said, half aloud, "I will give her a home," but anon there
came stealing over her the old bitterness of feeling, which she had
cherished since she knew that Fanny was preferred to herself, and then
the evil of her nature whispered, "No, I will not receive their child.
We can hardly manage to live now, and it is not my duty to incur an
additional expense. Dora must stay where she is, and if I do not answer
the letter, she will naturally suppose I never received it."

Thus deciding the matter, she crushed the letter into her pocket and
went back to her work; but there was an added weight upon her spirits,
while continually ringing in her ears were the words, "Care for John's
child and mine." "If I could only make her of any use to me," she said
at last, and then as her eye fell upon _Bridget_, whose stay with her
was so uncertain, the dark thought entered her mind, "Why could not
Dora fill her place? It would be a great saving, and of course the
child must expect to work."

Still, reason as she would, Mrs. Deane could not at once bring herself
to the point of making a menial of one who was every way her equal;
neither could she decide to pass the letter by unnoticed; so for the
present she strove to dismiss the subject, which was not broached to
her daughters until the evening on which we first introduced them to
our readers. Then taking her seat by the brightly burning lamp, she
drew the letter from her pocket and read it aloud, while Alice drummed
an occasional note upon the piano and Eugenia beat a tattoo upon the
carpet with her delicate French slipper.

"Of course she won't come," said Alice, as her mother finished reading.
"It was preposterous in Aunt Fanny to propose such a thing!" and she
glanced towards Eugenia for approbation of what she had said.

Eugenia's quick, active mind had already looked at the subject in all
its bearings, and in like manner with her mother she saw how Dora's
presence there would be a benefit; so to Alice's remark she replied:
"It will sound well for us to have a _cousin_ in the _poorhouse_, won't
it? For my part, I propose that she comes, and then be made to earn her
own living. We can dismiss Bridget, who is only two years older than
Dora, and we shall thus avoid quarreling regularly with her vixenish
mother, besides saving a dollar every week--"

"So make a _drudge_ of Dora," interrupted Alice. "Better leave her in
the poorhouse at once."

"Nobody intends to make a _drudge_ of her," retorted Eugenia. "Mother
works in the kitchen, and I wonder if it will hurt Dora to help her.
Every girl ought to learn to work!"

"Except Eugenia Deane," suggested Alice, laughing, to think how little
her sister's practise accorded with her theory.

At this point in the conversation, Bridget entered, bringing a letter
which bore the India post-mark, together with the unmistakable
handwriting of Nathaniel Deane!

"A letter from Uncle Nat, as I live!" exclaimed Eugenia. "What _is_
going to happen? He hasn't written before in years. I do wish I knew
when he expected to quit this mundane sphere, and how much of his money
he intends leaving me!"

By this time Mrs. Deane had broken the seal, uttering an exclamation of
surprise as a check for $500 fell into her lap.

"Five hundred dollars!" screamed Eugenia, catching up the check and
examining it closely, to see that there was no mistake. "The old miser
has really opened his heart. Now, we'll have some _genuine_ silver
forks for our best company, so we shan't be in constant terror lest
some one should discover that they are only plated. I'll buy that set
of _pearls_ at Mercer's, too, and, Alice, you and I will nave some new
furs. I'd go to Rochester to-morrow, if it were not Sunday. What shall
we get for you, mother? A web of cloth, or an ounce of sewing silk?"
and the heartless girl turned towards her mother, whose face was white
as ashes, as she said faintly: "The money is not ours. It is Dora's--to
be used for her benefit."

"Not ours! What do you mean! It can't be true!" cried Eugenia,
snatching the letter, and reading therein a confirmation of her
mother's words.

After a slight apology for his long silence, Undo Nat had spoken of
Fanny's letter, saying he supposed she must be dead ere this, and that
Dora was probably living with her aunt, as it was quite natural she
should do. Then he expressed his willingness to defray all the expense
which she might be, adding that though he should never see her, as he
was resolved to spend his days in India, he still wished to think of
her as an educated and accomplished woman.

"Accompanying this letter," he wrote, "is a check for $500, to be used
for Dora's benefit. Next year I will make another remittance,
increasing the allowance as she grows older. I have more money than I
need, and I know of no one on whom I would sooner expend it than the
child of Fanny Moore."

"Spiteful old fool!" muttered Eugenia, "I could relieve him of any
superfluous dimes he may possess."

But even Eugenia, heartless as she was, felt humbled and subdued for a
moment, as she read the latter part of her uncle's letter, from which
we give the following extract:

"I am thinking, to-day, of the past, Sarah, and I grow a very child
again as I recall the dreary years which have gone over my head, since
last I trod the shores of my fatherland. You, Sarah, know much of my
history. You know that I was awkward, eccentric, uncouth, and many
years older than my handsomer, more highly gifted brother; and yet with
all this fearful odds against me, you know that I ventured to love the
gentle, fair-haired Fanny, your adopted sister. You know this, I say,
but you do not know how madly, how passionately such as I can love--did
love; nor how the memory of Fanny's ringing laugh, and the thought of
the sunny smile, with which I knew she would welcome me home again,
cheered me on my homeward voyage, when in the long night-watches I
paced the vessel's deck, while the stars looked coldly down upon me,
and there was no sound to break the deep stillness, save the heavy
swell of the sea. At the village inn where I stopped for a moment ere
going to my father's house, I first heard that her hand was plighted to
another, and in my wild frenzy, I swore that my rival, whoever it might
be, should die!

"It was my youngest brother--he, who, on the sad night when our mother
died, had laid his baby head upon my bosom, and wept himself to
sleep--he whose infant steps I had guided, bearing him often in my
arms, lest he should 'dash his foot against a stone.' And _his_ life I
had sworn to take, for had he not come between me and the only object I
had ever loved? There was no one stirring about the house, for it was
night, and the family had retired. But the door was unfastened, and I
knew the way upstairs. I found him, as I had expected, in our old room,
and all alone; for Richard was away. Had he been there, it should make
no difference, I said, but he was absent, and John was calmly sleeping
with his face upturned to the soft moonlight which came in through the
open window. I had not seen him for two long years, and now there was
about him a look so much like that of my dead mother when she lay in
her coffin bed, that the demon in my heart was softened, and I seemed
to hear her dying words again, 'I can trust you, Nathaniel; and to your
protection, as to a second mother, I commit my little boy.'

"The little boy, whose curls were golden then, was now a brown-haired
man--my brother--the son of my angel mother, whose spirit, in that dark
hour of my temptation, glided into the silent room, and stood between
me and her youngest born, so that _he_ was not harmed, and _I_ was
saved from the curse of a brother's blood.

"'Lead us not into temptation,' came back to me, just as I had said it
kneeling at my mother's side; and covering my face with my hands, I
thanked God, who had kept me from so great a sin. Bending low, I
whispered in his ear his name, and in a moment his arms were around my
neck, while he welcomed me back to the home, which, he said, was not
home without me. And then, when the moon had gone down, and the stars
shone too faintly to reveal his blushes, he told me the story of his
happiness, to which I listened, while the great drops of sweat rolled
down my face and moistened the pillow on which my head was resting.

"But why linger over those days of anguish, which made me an old man
before my time? I knew I could not stand by and see her wedded to
another--neither could I look upon her after she was another's wife;
so, one night, when the autumn days were come, I asked her to go with
me out beneath the locust trees, which skirted my father's yard. It was
there I had seen her for the first time, and it was there I would take
my final leave. Of the particulars of that interview I remember but
little, for I was terribly excited. We never met again, for ere the
morrow's daylight dawned, I had left my home forever--"

Then followed a few more words concerning Dora, with a request that she
should write to him, as he would thus be able to judge something of her
character; and there the letter ended.

For a time there was silence, which was broken at last by Eugenia,
whose active mind had already come to a decision. Dora would live with
them, of course--it was best that she should, and there was no longer
need for dismissing Bridget. The five hundred dollars obviated that
necessity, and it was _theirs_, too--theirs by the way of remuneration
for giving Dora a home--theirs to spend as they pleased. And she still
intended to have the _furs_, the _pearls_, and the _silver forks_, just
the same as though the money had been a special gift to her!

"Suppose _Uncle Nat_ should happen to come home, and Dora should tell
him?" suggested Alice, who did not so readily fall in with her sister's
views.

"He'll never do that in the world," returned Eugenia. "And even if he
should, Dora will have nothing to tell, for she is not supposed to know
of the money. If we feed, clothe, and educate her, it is all we are
required to do."

"But would that be exactly just?" faintly interposed Mrs. Deane, whose
perceptions of right and wrong were not quite so blunted as those of
her daughter, who, in answer to her question, proceeded to advance many
good reasons why Dora, for a time at least, should be kept in ignorance
of the fact that her uncle supported her, and not her aunt.

"We can manage her better if she thinks she is dependent upon us. And
then, as she grows older, she will not be continually asking what has
become of the money, which, as I understand the matter, is really
_ours_, and not _hers_."

Still, Mrs. Deane was not quite convinced, but she knew how useless it
would be to argue the point; so she said nothing, except to ask how
Dora was to get there, as she could not come alone.

"I have it," answered Eugenia. "I have long wished to spend a few days
in New York, but that bane of my life, poverty, has always prevented.
Now, however, as old Uncle Nat has kindly furnished us with the means,
I propose that Alice and I start day after to-morrow, and return on
Saturday. That will give us ample time to see the _lions_ and get the
city fashions."

"It will cost a great deal for yon both to stay at those large hotels,"
said Mrs. Deane; and Eugenia replied--

"One hundred dollars will cover all the expense, and pay Dora's fare
besides. What is the use of money, if we can't use it? I shall get my
furs, and jewelry, and forks while I'm there, so I'd better take along
three hundred and fifty dollars, for fear of any accident. We are not
obliged to spend it all, of course;" she added, as she saw the look of
dismay on her mother's face. "And we can bring back whatever there is
left."

For nineteen years Eugenia Deane had been suffered to have her way, and
her mother did not like to thwart her now, for her temper was violent,
and she dreaded an outbreak; so she merely sighed in reply, and when,
on Monday morning, Eugenia started for New York, her purse contained
the desired three hundred and fifty dollars, which, after her arrival
in the city, was spent as freely as if it really belonged to her, and
not to the orphan Dora, who was now staying with Mrs. Grannis, a
kind-hearted woman in the same block where her mother had died. The
furs were bought, the pearls examined, the forks priced, and then Alice
ventured to ask when they were going to find Dora.

"I shall leave that for the last thing," answered Eugenia. "She can't
run away, and nobody wants to be bothered with a child to look after."

So for three more days little Dora looked out of the dingy window upon
the dirty court below, wishing her aunt would come, and wondering if
she should like her. At last, towards the close of Friday afternoon,
there was a knock at the door and a haughty-looking, elegantly dressed
young lady inquired if a little orphan girl lived there.

"That's her--Aunt Sarah," exclaimed Dora, springing joyfully forward;
but she paused and started back, as she met the cold, scrutinizing
glance of Eugenia's large black eyes.

"Are you the child I am looking for?" asked Eugenia, without deigning
to notice Mrs. Grannis's request that she would walk in.

"I am Dora Deane," was the simple answer; and then, as briefly as
possible, Eugenia explained that she had been sent for her, and that
early the next morning she would call to take her to the depot.

"_Did_ you know mother? Are you any relation?" asked Dora, trembling
with eager expectation; and Alice, who, without her sister's influence,
would have been a comparatively kind-hearted girl, answered softly, "We
are your cousins."

There was much native politeness and natural refinement of manner about
Dora, and instinctively her little chubby hand was extended towards her
newly found relative, who pressed it gently, glancing the while at her
sister, who, without one word of sympathy for the orphan girl, walked
away through the winding passage, and down the narrow stairs, out into
the sunlight, where, breathing more freely, she exclaimed, "What a
horrid place! I hope I haven't caught anything. Didn't Dora look like a
Dutch doll in that long dress and high-neck apron?"

"Her face is pretty, though," returned Alice, "and her eyes are
beautiful--neither blue nor black, but a mixture of both. How I pitied
her as they filled with tears when you were talking! Why didn't you
speak to her?"

"Because I'd nothing to say," answered Eugenia, stepping into the
carriage which had brought them there, and ordering the driver to go
next to Stuart's, where she wished to look again at a velvet cloak.

"It is so cheap, and so becoming, too, that I am half tempted to get
it," she exclaimed.

"Mother won't like it, I know," said Alice, who herself began to have
some fears for the three hundred and fifty dollars.

"Fudge!" returned Eugenia, adding the next moment, "I wonder if she'll
have to buy clothes for Dora the first thing. I hope not," and she drew
around her the costly fur, for which she had paid fifty dollars.

Of course the cloak was bought, together with several other articles
equally _cheap_ and becoming, and by the time the hotel bills were
paid, there were found in the purse just twenty-five dollars, with
which to pay their expenses back to Dunwood.

---------------

There were bitter tears shed at the parting next morning in Mrs.
Grannis's humble room, for Dora felt that the friends to whom she was
going were not like those she left behind; and very lovingly her arms
wound themselves around the poor widow's neck as she wept her last
adieu, begging Mrs. Grannis not to forget her, but to write sometimes,
and tell her of the lady who had so kindly befriended her.

"We can't wait any longer," cried Eugenia, and with one more farewell
kiss, Dora went out of the house where she had experienced much of
happiness, and where had come to her her deepest grief.

"Forlorn. What is that old thing going for! Leave it," said Eugenia,
touching with her foot a square, green trunk or chest, which stood by
the side of the long, sack-like carpet-bag containing Dora's wardrobe.

"It was father's--and mother's clothes are in it," answered Dora, with
quivering lips.

There was something in the words and manner of the little girl, as she
laid her hand reverently on the offending trunk, that touched even
Eugenia; and she said no more. An hour later, and the attention of more
than one passenger in the Hudson River cars was attracted towards the
two stylish-looking ladies who came in, laden with bundles, and
followed by a little girl in black, for whom no seat was found save the
one by the door where the wind crept in, and the unmelted frost still
covered the window pane.

"Won't you be cold here?" asked Alice, stopping a moment, ere passing
on to her own warm seat near the stove.

"No matter; I am used to it," was Dora's meek reply; and wrapping her
thin, half-worn shawl closer about her, and drawing her feet up beneath
her, she soon fell asleep, dreaming sweet dreams of the home to which
she was going, and of the Aunt Sarah who would be to her a second
mother!

_God help thee, Dora Deane!_

-----------



CHAPTER IV.

DORA'S NEW HOME.


One year has passed away since the night when, cold, weary and forlorn,
Dora followed her cousins up the graveled walk which led to her new
home. One whole year, and in that time she has somewhat changed. The
merry-hearted girl, who, until a few weeks before her mother's death,
was happier far than many a favored child of wealth, has become a
sober, quiet, self-reliant child, performing without a word of
complaint the many duties which have gradually been imposed upon her.

From her aunt she had received a comparatively welcome greeting, and
when Eugenia displayed her purchases, which had swallowed up the entire
three hundred and fifty dollars, Mrs. Deane had laid her hand on the
little girl's soft, auburn hair, as if to ask forgiveness for the
injustice done her by the selfish Eugenia, whose only excuse for her
extravagance was, that "no one in her right mind need to think of
bringing back any money from New York." And Dora, from her seat on a
little stool behind the stove, understood nothing, thought of nothing,
except that Eugenia looked beautifully in her velvet cloak and furs,
and that her aunt must be very rich, to afford so many handsome
articles of furniture as the parlor contained.

"And I am glad that she is," she thought, "for she will not be so
likely to think me in the way."

As time passed on, however, Dora, who was a close observer, began to
see things in their true light, and her life was far from being happy.
By her cousin Alice she was treated with a tolerable degree of
kindness, while Eugenia, without any really evil intention, perhaps,
seemed to take delight in annoying her sensitive cousin, constantly
taunting her with her dependence upon them, and asking her sometimes
how she expected to repay the debt of gratitude she owed them. Many and
many a night had the orphan wept herself to sleep, in the low, scantily
furnished chamber which had been assigned her; and she was glad when at
last an opportunity was presented for her to be in a measure out of
Eugenia's way, and at the same time feel that she doing something
towards earning her living.

The oft-repeated threat of Bridget's mother that her daughter should be
removed, unless her wages were increased, was finally carried into
effect; and one Saturday night, Mrs. Deane was startled by the
announcement that Bridget was going to leave. In a moment, Dora's
resolution was taken, and coming to her aunt's side, she said:

"Don't hire another girl, Aunt Sarah. Let _me_ help you. I can do
almost as much as Bridget, and you won't have to _pay_ me either. _I_
shall only be paying you."

Unclasping the handsome bracelet which had been purchased with a
portion of the remaining one hundred and fifty dollars, Eugenia, ere
her mother had time to reply, exclaimed:

"That is a capital idea! I wonder how you happened to be so thoughtful."

And so it was decided that Dora should take Bridget's place, she
thinking how much she would do, and how hard she would try to please
her aunt, who quieted her own conscience by saying "it was only a
temporary arrangement until she could find another servant."

But as the days went by, the temporary arrangement bid fair to become
permanent, for Mrs. Deane could not be insensible to the vast
difference which Bridget's absence made in her weekly expenses. Then,
too, Dora was so willing to work, and so uncomplaining, never seeking a
word of commendation, except once, indeed, when she timidly ventured to
ask Eugenia if "what she did was enough to pay for her board?"

"Just about," was Eugenia's answer, which, indifferent as it was,
cheered the heart of Dora, as, day after day, she toiled on in the
comfortless kitchen, until her hands, which, when she came to Locust
Grove, were soft and white as those of an infant, became rough and
brown, and her face gradually assumed the same dark hue, for she could
not always stop to tie on her sunbonnet, when sent for wood or water.

With the coming of summer, arrangements had been made for sending her
to school, though Mrs. Deane felt at first as if she could not be
deprived of her services. Still for appearance' sake, if for nothing
more, she must go; and with the earliest dawn the busy creature was up,
working like a bee, that her aunt and cousins might not have so much to
do in her absence. At first she went regularly, but after a time it
became very convenient to detain her at home, for at least two days in
every week, and this wrung from her almost the only tears she had shed
since the morning, when, of her own accord, she had gone into the
kitchen to perform a servant's duties.

Possessing naturally a fondness for books, and feeling ambitious to
keep up with her class, she at last conceived the idea of studying at
home; and many a night, long after her aunt and cousins were asleep,
she sat up alone, poring over her books, sometimes by the dim light of
a lamp, and again by the light of the full moon, whose rays seemed to
fall around her more brightly than elsewhere. It was on one of these
occasions, when tracing upon her map the boundary lines of India, that
her thoughts reverted to her uncle Nathaniel, whose name she seldom
heard, and of whom she had never but once spoken. Then in the presence
of her aunt and cousins she had wondered why he did not answer her
mother's letter.

"Because he has nothing to write, I presume," said Eugenia, who would
not trust her mother to reply.

And Dora, wholly unsuspecting, never dreamed of the five hundred
dollars sent over for her benefit, and which was spent long ago--though
not for her--never dreamed of the letter which Eugenia had written in
reply, thanking her uncle again and again for his generous gift, which
she said "was very acceptable, for _ma_ was rather poor, and it would
aid her materially in providing for the wants of Dora," who was
represented as being "a queer, old-fashioned child, possessing but
little affection for any one and who never spoke of her uncle
Nathaniel, or manifested the least gratitude for what he was doing!"

In short, the impression left upon the mind of Uncle Nat was that Dora,
aside from being cold-hearted, was uncommonly dull, and would never
make much of a woman, do what they might for her! With a sigh, and a
feeling of keen disappointment, he read the letter, saying to himself,
as he laid it away, "Can this be true of Fanny's child?"

But this, we say, _Fanny's_ child did not know; and as her eyes
wandered over the painted map of India, she resolved to write and to
tell him of her mother's dying words--tell him how much she loved him,
because he was her father's brother, and how she wished he would come
home, that she might know him better.

"If I only had some keepsake to send him--something he would prize,"
she thought, when her letter was finished. And then, as she enumerated
her small store of treasures, she remembered her mother's beautiful
hair, which had been cut from her head, as she lay in her coffin, and
which now held a place in the large square trunk. "I will send him a
lock of that," she said; and kneeling reverently by the old green
trunk, the shrine where she nightly said her prayers, she separated
from the mass of rich, brown hair, one long, shining tress, which she
inclosed within her letter, adding, in a postscript, "It is mother's
hair, and Dora's tears have often fallen upon it. 'Tis all I have to
give."

Poor little Dora! Nathaniel Deane would have prized that simple gift
far more than all the wealth which he called his, but it was destined
never to reach him. The wily Eugenia, to whom Dora applied for an
envelope, unhesitatingly showing what she had written, knew better than
to send that note across the sea, and feigning the utmost astonishment,
she said: "I am surprised, Dora, that after your mother's ill-success,
you should think of writing to Uncle Nat. He is a suspicious, miserly
old fellow, and will undoubtedly think you are after his money!"

"I wouldn't send it for the world, if I supposed he'd fancy such a
thing as that," answered Dora, her eyes filling with tears.

"Of course you wouldn't," continued Eugenia, perceiving her advantage
and following it up. "You can do as you like, but my advice is that you
do not send it; let him write to _you_ first if he wishes to open a
correspondence!"

This decided the matter, and turning sadly away, Dora went back to her
chamber, hiding the letter and the lock of hair in the old green trunk.

"How can you be so utterly void of principle?" asked Alice, as Dora
quitted the room; and Eugenia replied: "It isn't a lack of principle,
it's only my good management. I have my plans, and I do not intend they
shall be frustrated by that foolish letter, which would, of course, be
followed by others of the same kind. Now I am perfectly willing that
Uncle Nat should divide his fortune between us and Dora, but
unfortunately he is a _one idea_ man, and should he conceive a fancy
for our cousin, our hopes are blasted forever; so I don't propose
letting him do any such thing. Mother has given up the correspondence
to me, and I intend making the old gentleman think I am a most perfect
specimen of what a young lady should be, saying, of course, an
occasional good word for _you!_ I believe I understand him tolerably
well, and if in the end I win, I pledge you my word that Dora shall not
be forgotten. Are you satisfied?"

Alice could not say yes, but she knew it was useless to reason with her
sister, so she remained silent; while a curious train of thoughts
passed through her mind, resulting at last in an increased kindness of
manner on her part towards her young cousin, who was frequently
relieved of duties which would otherwise have detained her from school.
And Dora's step grew lighter, and her heart happier, as she thought
that Alice at least cared for her welfare.

On New Year's Day there came a letter from Uncle Nat, containing the
promised check, which Eugenia held up to view, while she read the
following brief lines:

"Many thanks to Eugenia for her kind and welcome letter, which I may
answer at some future time, when I have anything interesting to say."

"Have you written to Uncle Nat, and did you tell him of me, or of
mother's letter?" exclaimed Dora, Who had been sitting unobserved
behind the stove, and who now sprang eagerly forward, while her cheeks
glowed with excitement.

Soon recovering her composure, Eugenia answered, "Yes, I wrote to him,
and of course, mentioned you with the rest of us. His answer you have
heard."

"But the other paper," persisted Dora. "Doesn't that say anything?"

For a moment Eugenia hesitated, and then, deciding that no harm could
come of Dora's knowing of the money, provided she was kept in ignorance
of the object for which it was sent, she replied, carelessly, "Oh
that's nothing but a _check_. The old gentleman was generous enough to
send us a little money, which we need badly enough."

There was not one particle of selfishness in Dora's disposition, and
without a thought or wish that any of the money should be expended for
herself, she replied, "Oh, I am so glad, for now Aunt Sarah can have
that shawl she has wanted so long, and Alice the new merino."

Dear little Dora! she did not know why Eugenia's eyes so quickly sought
the floor, nor understand why her aunt's hand was laid upon her head so
caressingly. Neither did she know that Alice's sudden movement towards
the window was to hide the expression of her face; but when, a few days
afterwards, she was herself presented with a handsome merino, which
both Eugenia and Alice volunteered to make, she thought there was not
in Dunwood a happier child than herself. In the little orphan's pathway
there were a few sunny spots, and that night when, by the old green
trunk, she knelt her down to pray, she asked of God that he would
reward her aunts and cousins according to their kindnesses done to her!

Need we say that childish prayer was answered to the letter!



CHAPTER V.

ROSE HILL.


A little way out of the village of Dunwood, and situated upon a slight
eminence, was a large, handsome building, which had formerly been owned
by a Frenchman, who, from the great profusion of roses growing upon his
grounds, had given to the place the name of "Rose Hill." Two years
before our story opens, the Frenchman died, and since that time Rose
Hill had been unoccupied, but now it had another proprietor, and early
in the summer Mr. Howard Hastings and lady would take possession of
their new home.

Of Mr. Hastings nothing definite was known, except that he was a man of
unbounded wealth and influence--"and a little peculiar withal," so said
Mrs. Leah, the matron, who had come up from New York to superintend the
arrangement of the house, which was fitted up in a style of elegance
far surpassing what most of Dunwood's inhabitants had seen before, and
was for two or three weeks thrown open to the public. Mrs. Leah, who
was a servant in Mr. Hastings's family and had known her young
mistress's husband from childhood, was inclined to be rather
communicative, and when asked to explain what she meant by Mr.
Hastings's peculiarities, replied "Oh, he's queer every way--and no
wonder, with his kind of a mother. Why she is rich as a Jew, and for
all that, she made her only daughter learn how to do all kinds of work.
It would make her a better wife, she said, and so, because _Ella_ had
rather lie on the sofa and read a nice novel than to be pokin' round in
the kitchen and tending to things, as he calls it, Mr. Hastings looks
blue and talks about _woman's_ duties, and all that nonsense. Recently
he has taken it into his head that late hours are killing her--that it
isn't healthy for her to go every night to parties, concerts, operas,
and the like o' that, so he's going to bury her in the stupid country,
where she'll be moped to death, for of course there's nobody here that
she'll associate with."

"The wretch!" exclaimed Eugenia, who formed one of the group of
listeners to this precious bit of gossip; but whether she intended this
cognomen for the cruel husband, or Mrs. Leah, we do not know, as she
continued to question the old lady of Mrs. Hastings herself, asking if
her health were delicate and if she were pretty.

"Delicate! I guess she is," returned Mrs. Leah. "If she hasn't got the
consumption now, she will have it. Why, her face is as white as some of
them lilies that used to grow on the ponds in old Connecticut; and then
to think her husband won't let her take all the comfort she can, the
little time she has to live! It's too bad," and the corner of Dame
Leah's silk apron went up to her eyes, as she thought how her lady was
aggrieved. Soon recovering her composure, she reverted to Eugenia's
last question, and hastened to reply, "_pretty_, don't begin to express
it. Just imagine the least little bit of a thing, with the whitest
face, the bluest eyes and the yellowest curls, dressed in a light blue
silk wrapper, all lined with white satin, and tied with a tassel as big
as my fist; wouldn't such a creature look well in the kitchen, telling
Hannah it was time to get dinner, and seeing if Tom was cleaning the
vegetables!"

And Mrs. Leah's nose went up at the very idea of a blue silk wrapper
being found outside of the parlor, even if the husband of said wrapper
_did_ have to wait daily at least two hours for his badly cooked dinner!

"Oh, but you ought to see her dressed for a party," continued Mrs.
Leah, "she looks like a queen, all sparkling with diamonds and pearls;
but she'll never go to many more, poor critter!"

And as the good lady's services were just then needed in another part
of the building, she bade good morning to her audience, who commented
upon what they had heard, each according to their own ideas--some
warmly commending Mr. Hastings for removing his delicate young wife
from the unwholesome atmosphere of the city, while others, and among
them Eugenia, thought he ought to let her remain in New York, if she
chose. Still, while commiserating Mrs. Hastings for being obliged to
live in "that _stupid village_," Eugenia expressed her pleasure that
she was coming, and on her way home imparted to Alice her intention of
being quite intimate with the New York lady, notwithstanding what "the
spiteful old Mrs. Leah" had said about there being no one in Dunwood
fit for her to associate with. In almost perfect ecstacy Dora listened
to her cousin's animated description of Rose Hill, its handsome rooms
and elegant furniture, and while her cheeks glowed with excitement, she
exclaimed, "Oh, how I wish I could _really_ live in such a house!"

"And I shouldn't wonder if you did. Your present prospects look very
much like it," was Eugenia's scornful reply, which Dora scarcely heard,
for her thoughts were busy elsewhere.

She had an eye for the beautiful, and, strange to say, would at any
time have preferred remaining in her aunt's pleasant parlor, to washing
dishes from off the long kitchen table; but as this last seemed to be
her destiny, she submitted without a murmur, contenting herself the
while by building _castles_, just as many a child has done before her
and will do again. Some how, too, Dora's castles, particularly the one
of which she was mistress, were always large and beautiful, just like
Eugenia's description of Rose Hill, to which she had listened with
wonder, it seemed so natural, so familiar, so like the realization of
what she had many a time dreamed, while her hands were busy with the
dish towel or the broom.

Dora was a strange child--so her mother and her aunt Sarah both had
told her--so her teachers thought, and so her companions said, when she
stole away by herself to _think_, preferring her own thoughts to the
pastime of her schoolmates. This _thinking_ was almost the only
recreation which Dora had, and as it seldom interfered with the
practical duties of her life, no one was harmed if she did sometimes
imagine the most improbable things; and if for a few days succeeding
her cousin's visit to Rose Hill, she did seem a little inattentive, and
somewhat abstracted, it was merely because she had for a time changed
places with the fashionable Mrs. Hastings, whose blue silk
morning-gown, while discussed in the _parlor_, was worn in fancy in the
_kitchen_.

Dream on Dora Deane, dream on--but guard this, your last imagining,
most carefully from the proud Eugenia, who would scarce deem you worthy
to take upon your lips the name of Mrs. Hastings, much less to be even
in fancy the mistress of Rose Hill.



CHAPTER VI.

MR. AND MRS. HASTINGS.


In blissful ignorance of the gossip which his movements were exciting
in Dunwood, Mr. Hastings in the city went quietly on with the
preparations for his removal, purchasing and storing away in divers
baskets, boxes and bags, many luxuries which he knew he could not
readily procure in the country, and which would be sadly missed by his
young girl-wife, who sat all day in her mother's parlor, bemoaning her
fate in being thus doomed to a life in the "horribly vulgar country."
She had forgotten that "she could live anywhere with _him_," for the
Ella Hastings of to-day is the Ella Gray of little more than a year
ago, the same who had listened to the sad story of _Dora Deane_,
without ever thinking that some day in the future she should meet the
little girl who made such an impression upon her husband.

Howard Hastings was not the only man who, with a grand theory as to
what a wife ought to be, had married from pure fancy; finding too late
that she whom he took for a companion was a mere plaything--a doll to
be dressed up and sent out into the fashionable world, where alone her
happiness could be found. Still the disappointment to such is not the
less bitter, because others, too, are suffering from the effect of a
like hallucination, and Howard Hastings felt it most keenly. He loved,
or fancied he loved, Ella Grey devotedly, and when in her soft flowing
robes of richly embroidered lace, with the orange blossoms resting upon
her golden curls, and her long eyelashes veiling her eyes of blue, she
had stood at the altar as his bride there was not in all New York a
prouder or a happier man. Alas, that in the intimate relations of
married life, there should never be brought to light faults whose
existence was never suspected! Yet so it is, and the honeymoon had
scarcely waned ere Mr. Hastings began to feel a very little
disappointed, as, one after another, the peculiarities of his wife were
unfolded to his view.

In all _his_ pictures of domestic bliss, there had ever been a home of
his own, a cheerful fireside, to which he could repair, when the day's
toil was done, but Ella would not hear of housekeeping. To be sure, it
would be very pleasant to keep up a grand establishment and give
splendid dinner-parties, but she knew that Howard, with his peculiar
notions, would expect her to do just as his "dear, fussy old mother
did," and that, she wouldn't for a moment think of, for she really "did
not know the _names_ of one-half the queer-looking things in the
kitchen."

"She will improve as she grows older--she is very young yet, but little
more than eighteen," thought Mr. Hastings; and his heart softened
towards her, as he remembered the kind of training she had received
from her mother, who was a pure slave of fashion, and would have deemed
her daughters degraded had they possessed any knowledge of work.

And still, when the aristocratic Howard Hastings had sued for Ella's
hand, she felt honored, notwithstanding that both his mother and sister
were known to be well skilled in everything pertaining to what she
called "drudgery." To remove his wife from her mother's influence, and
at the same time prolong her life, for she was really very delicate,
was Mr. Hasting's aim; and as he had always fancied a home in the
country, he at last purchased Rose Hill farm in spite of Ella's tears,
and the frowns of her mother, who declared it impossible for her
daughter to live without society, and pronounced all country people
"rough, ignorant and vulgar."

All this Ella believed, and though she was far too amiable and
sweet-tempered to be really angry, she came very near _sulking_ all the
way from New York to Dunwood. But when at the depot, she met the new
carriage and horses which had been purchased expressly for herself, she
was somewhat mollified and telling her husband "he was the best man in
the world," she took the reins in her own little soft, white hands, and
laughed aloud as she saw how the spirited creatures obeyed her
slightest wish. From the parlor windows of Locust Grove, Eugenia and
her sister looked out upon the strangers, pronouncing Mr. Hastings the
most elegant-looking man they had ever seen, while his wife, the
girlish Ella, was thought far too pale to be very beautiful.

Near the gate at the entrance to Rose Hill, was a clear limpid stream,
where the school-children often played, and where they were now
assembled. A little apart from the rest, seated upon a mossy bank, with
her bare feet in the running water, and her rich auburn hair shading
her brown cheeks, was Dora Deane, not dreaming this time, but watching
so intently a race between two of her companions, that she did not see
the carriage until it was directly opposite. Then, guessing who its
occupants were she started up, coloring crimson as she saw the lady's
eyes fixed upon her, and felt sure she was the subject of remark.
"Look, Howard," said Ella. "I suppose that is what you call a rural
sight--a barefoot girl, with a burnt face and huge sunbonnet?"

Ere Mr. Hastings could reply, Dora, wishing to redeem her character,
which she was sure she had lost by having been caught with her feet in
the brook, darted forward and opening the gate, held it for them to
pass.

"Shall I give her some money?" softly whispered Ella, feeling for her
purse.

"Hush-sh!" answered Mr. Hastings, for he knew that money would be an
insult to Dora, who felt more than repaid by the pleasant smile he gave
her as he said, "Thank you, miss."

"I have seen a face like his before," thought Dora, as she walked
slowly down the road, while the carriage kept on its way, and soon
carried Ella to her new home.

Not to be pleased with Rose Hill was impossible, and as the young
wife's eye fell upon the handsome building, with its cool,
vine-wreathed piazza--upon the shaded walks, the sparkling fountains
and the thousands of roses which were now in full bloom, she almost
cried with delight, even forgetting, for a time, that she was in the
"horrid country." But she was ere long reminded of the fact by Mrs.
Leah, who told of the "crowds of gaping people," who had been up to see
the house. With a deprecating glance at the village where the "gaping
people" were supposed to live, Ella drew nearer to her husband,
expressing a wish that the good folks of Dunwood would confine their
calls to the house and grounds, and not be troubling her. But in this
she was destined to be disappointed, for the inhabitants of Dunwood
were friendly, social people, who knew no good reason why they should
not be on terms of equality with the little lady of Rose Hill; and one
afternoon, about a week after her arrival at Dunwood, she was told that
some ladies were waiting for her in the parlor.

"Dear me! Sophy," said she, while a frown for an instant clouded her
pretty face, "tell them I'm not at home."

"But I just told them you were," answered Sophy, adding that "the
ladies were well-dressed and fine-looking," and suggesting that her
young mistress should wear down something more appropriate than the
soiled white muslin wrapper in which she had lounged all day, because
"it was not worth her while to dress, when there was no one but her
_husband_ to see her."

This, however, Ella refused to do. "It was good enough for country
folks," she said, as she rather reluctantly descended to the parlor,
where her first glance at her visitors made her half regret that she
had not followed Sophy's advice. Mrs. Judge Howell and her
daughter-in-law were refined, cultivated women, and ere Ella had
conversed with them five minutes, she felt that if there was between
them any point of inferiority, it rested with herself, and not with
them. They had traveled much, both in the Old and New World; and though
their home was in Boston, they spent almost every summer in Dunwood,
which Mrs. Howell pronounced a most delightful village, assuring Ella
that she could not well avoid being happy and contented. Very
wonderingly the large childish blue eyes went up to the face of Mrs.
Howell, who, interpreting aright their expression, casually remarked
that when she was young, she fell into the foolish error of thinking
there could be _nobody_ outside the walls of a city. "But the
experience of sixty years has changed my mind materially," said she,
"for I have met quite as many refined and cultivated people in the
country as in the city."

This was a new idea to Ella, and the next visitors, who came in just
after Mrs. Howell left, were obliged to wait while she made quite an
elaborate toilet.

"Oh, Ella, how much better you are looking than you were an hour or two
since," exclaimed Mr. Hastings, who entered the chamber just as his
wife was leaving it.

"There's company in the parlor," answered Ella, tripping lightly away,
while her husband walked on into the dressing-room, where he stepped
first over a pair of slippers, then over a muslin wrapper, and next
over a towel, which Ella in her haste had left upon the floor, her
usual place for everything.

This time the visitors proved to be Eugenia and Alice, with the first
of whom the impulsive Ella was perfectly delighted, she was so refined,
so genteel, so richly dressed, and assumed withal such a _patronizing_
air, that the shortsighted Ella felt rather overawed, particularly when
she spoke of her "uncle in India," with whom she was "_such_ a
favorite." During their stay, _servants_ were introduced as a topic of
conversation, and on that subject Eugenia was quite as much at home as
Mrs. Hastings, descanting at large upon the many annoyances one was
compelled to endure, both from the "ignorance and impertinence of hired
help." Once or twice, too, the words "my waiting-maid" escaped her
lips, and when at last she took her leave, she had the satisfaction of
knowing that Mrs. Hastings was duly impressed with a sense of her
importance.

"Such charming people I never expected to find in the country, and so
elegantly dressed too," thought Ella, as from her window she watched
them walking slowly down the long avenue. "That silk of Miss Eugenia's
could not have cost less than two dollars a yard, and her hands, too,
were as soft and white as mine. They must be wealthy--those Deanes: I
wonder if they ever give any parties."

And then, as she remembered sundry gossamer fabrics which were
dignified by the title of party dresses, and which, with many tears,
she had folded away as something she should never need in the country,
she exclaimed aloud, "Why, can't _I_ have a party here as well as at
home? The house is a great deal larger than the long narrow thing on
which mama prides herself so much. And then it will be such fun to show
off before the country people, who, of course, are not all as refined
as the Deanes. I'll speak to Howard about it immediately."

"Speak to me about what?" asked Mr. Hastings, who had entered the
parlor in time to hear the last words of his wife.

Very briefly Ella stated to him her plan of giving a large party as
soon as a sufficient number of the village people had called.

"You know you wish me to be sociable with them," she continued, as she
saw the slightly comical expression of her husband's face; "and how can
I do it better than by inviting them to my house?"

"I am perfectly willing for the party," answered Mr. Hastings, "but I
do rather wonder what has so soon changed your mind."

"Oh, nothing much," returned Ella, "only the people don't seem half as
vulgar as mama said they would. I wish you could see Eugenia Deane.
She's perfectly magnificent--wears a diamond ring, Valenciennes lace,
and all that. Her mother is very wealthy, isn't she?"

"I have never supposed so--if you mean the widow Deane, who lives at
the place called 'Locust Grove,'" answered Mr. Hastings; and Ella
continued, "Yes, she is, I am sure, from the way Eugenia talked. They
keep servants, I know, for she spoke of a waiting-maid. Then, too, they
have an old bachelor uncle in India, with a million or more, and these
two young ladies will undoubtedly inherit it all at his death."

"Miss Deane must have been very communicative," said Mr. Hastings, who
understood the world much better than his wife, and who readily guessed
that Miss Eugenia had passed herself off for quite as much as she was.

"It was perfectly natural for her to tell me what she did," answered
Ella, "and I like her so much! I mean to drive over there soon, and
take her out riding."

Here the conversation was interrupted by the ringing of the door-bell,
and it was not again resumed until the Monday morning following, when,
at the breakfast-table, Ella asked for the carriage to be sent round,
as "she was going to call at Mrs. Deane's, and take the young ladies to
ride."

"But it is washing-day," suggested Mr. Hastings, wishing to tease his
wife. "And nothing, I am told, mortifies a woman more than to be caught
with her hair in papers, and her arms in the suds. So, if you value
your friend Eugenia's feelings, you had better wait until to-morrow."

"_Suds_, Howard! What do you mean?" asked the indignant Ella. "Eugenia
Deane's hands never saw a wash-tub! Why, they are almost as white as
mine." And the little lady glanced rather admiringly at the small snowy
fingers, which handled so gracefully the heavy knife and fork of silver.

"You have my permission to go," said Mr. Hastings, "but I am inclined
to think you'll have to wait a long time for your friends to make their
appearance."

Mentally resolving not to tell him if she did, Ella ran up to her room,
where, leaving her morning dress in the middle of the floor, and
donning a handsome plaid silk, she descended again to the parlor, and
suggested to her husband the propriety of bringing the young ladies
home with her to dinner, alleging, as one reason, that "there was no
use of having a silver dining set and nice things, unless there was
somebody to see them."

"And am not _I_ somebody?" asked Mr. Hastings, playfully winding his
arm around the little creature, who answered, "Why, yes--but mama never
thought it worth her while always to have _the best things_ and fix up
when there was no one to dinner but us and father; and I don't think I
need to be so particular as when I was Ella Grey and you were Mr.
Hastings, for now I am your wife, and you are---"

Here she paused, while she stooped down to caress a huge Newfoundland
dog, which came bounding in. Then, remembering she had not finished her
sentence, she added after a moment, "And you are _only Howard!_"

Silenced, if not convinced, Mr. Hastings walked away, wondering if
every husband, at the expiration of fifteen months, reached the
enviable position of being "only Howard!" Half an hour later, and Ella
Hastings, having left orders with Mrs. Leah for a "company dinner," was
riding down the shaded avenue into the highway, where she bade the
coachman drive in the direction of Locust Grove.



CHAPTER VII.

THE VISIT.


The plain though comfortable breakfast of dry toast, baked potatoes and
black tea was over. This morning it had been eaten from the kitchen
table; for, as Mr. Hastings had surmised, it was _washing day_, and on
such occasions, wishing to save work, Mrs. Deane would not suffer the
dining-room to be occupied. To this arrangement the proud Eugenia
submitted the more readily, as she knew that at this hour they were not
liable to calls; so she who had talked of her _waiting-maid_ and
wealthy uncle to Mrs. Hastings, sat down to breakfast _with_ her
waiting-maid eating her potatoes with a knife and cooling her tea in
her saucer; two points which in the parlor she loudly denounced as
positive marks of ill breeding, but which in the kitchen, where there
was no one to see her, she found vastly convenient! Piles of soiled
clothes were scattered over the floor, and from a tub standing near, a
volume of steam was rising, almost hiding from view the form of Dora
Deane, whose round red arms were diving into the suds, while she to
herself was softly repeating the lesson in History, that day to be
recited by her class, and which she had learned the Saturday night
previous, well knowing that Monday's duties would keep her from school
the entire day.

In the chamber above--her long, straight hair plaited up in braids, so
as to give it the wavy appearance she had so much admired in Mrs.
Hastings--her head enveloped in a black silk apron and her hands
incased in buckskin gloves, was Eugenia, setting her room to rights,
and complaining with every breath of her hard lot, in being thus
obliged to exert herself on hot summer mornings.

"Don't you wish yon were rich as Mrs. Hastings?" asked Alice, who
chanced to come in.

"That I do," returned Eugenia. "I have been uncomfortable and
discontented ever since I called upon her, for I can't see why there
should be such a difference. She has all the money, servants and
dresses which she wants, besides the handsomest and most elegant man
for a husband; while I, Eugenia Deane, who am ten times smarter than
she, and could appreciate these things so much better, am obliged to
make all sorts of shifts, just to keep up appearances. But didn't I
impress her with a sense of my _greatness!_" she added, after a pause,
and Alice rejoined, "Particularly when you talked of your
_waiting-maid!_ I don't see, Eugenia, how you dare do such things, for
of course Mrs. Hastings will eventually know that you mean Dora."

"I'm not so sure of that," returned Eugenia; "and even if she does, I
fancy I have tact enough to smooth it over with her, for she is not
very deep."

For a moment Alice regarded her sister intently, and then said, "I
wonder from whom you take your character for deception."

"I've dwelt upon that subject many a time myself," answered Eugenia,
"and I have at last come to the conclusion that as father was not
famous for sense of any kind, I must be a second and revised edition of
mother--but hark, don't you hear the roll of wheels?" And springing up,
she reached the window just as Mrs. Hastings alighted from her carriage
which stood before the gate.

"Great goodness!" she exclaimed, "there's Mrs. Hastings coming here to
call--and _I_ in this predicament. What _shall_ I do?"

"Let her wait, of course, until we change our dresses," answered Alice,
and rushing down the Stairs, Eugenia bade Dora "show the lady into the
parlor," adding, "and if she asks for me, say I am suffering from a
severe headache, but you presume I will see her."

Perfectly delighted at the idea of standing face to face with a person
of whom she had heard so much, Dora removed her high-necked apron, and
throwing it across the tub so that the sleeves trailed upon the floor,
was hurrying away, when her foot becoming accidentally entangled in the
apron, she fell headlong to the floor, bringing with her _tub_, _suds_,
_clothes_ and all! To present herself in this drenched condition was
impossible, and in a perfect tremor lest Mrs. Hastings should go away,
Eugenia vibrated, brush in hand, between her own chamber and the head
of the kitchen stairs, scolding Dora unmercifully in the one place, and
pulling at the long braids of her hair in the other.

At last, just as Mrs. Hastings was about despairing of being heard, and
was beginning to think that possibly her husband might be right and
Eugenia in the _suds_ after all, a chubby, brown-faced girl appeared,
and after giving her a searching, curious glance, shewed her into the
parlor.

"Are the young ladies at home?" asked Mrs. Hastings; and Dora, who had
never told a falsehood in her life, and had no intention of doing so
now, replied that they were and would soon be down; after which, with a
low courtesy she went back to the scene of her late disaster, while
Mrs. Hastings busied herself awhile by looking around the room which,
though small, was very handsomely furnished.

At last, beginning to grow sleepy, she took up a book and succeeded in
interesting herself so far as to nod quite approvingly, when the rustle
of female garments aroused her, and in a moment Eugenia and Alice swept
into the room. Both were tastefully dressed, while about Eugenia there
was an air of languor befitting the _severe headache,_ of which Mrs.
Hastings was surprised to hear.

"Then _that girl_ didn't tell you as I bade her to do," said Eugenia;
adding, that "Mrs. Hastings must have thought her very rude to keep her
so long waiting."

But Mrs. Hastings was too good-natured to think anything, and, after a
few commonplace remarks, she told the object of her call, saying, that
"the fresh air would, undoubtedly, do Eugenia good." In this opinion
the young lady fully concurred, and, half an hour later, she was slowly
riding through the principal streets of Dunwood, wondering if her
acquaintances did not envy her for being on such terms of intimacy with
the fashionable Mrs. Hastings. Very politely were the young ladies
received by Mr. Hastings, on their arrival at Rose Hill, and throughout
the entire day their admiration, both for the place and its owner,
increased, though Eugenia could not conceal from herself the fact, that
she stood very much in fear of the latter, whose keen black eyes seemed
to read her very thoughts. How such a man came to marry Ella Grey, was
to her a puzzle; and if occasionally she harbored the thought that
Eugenia Deane was far better suited to be the mistress of Howard
Hastings's home than the childish creature he had chosen, she was only
guilty of what had, in a similar manner, been done by more than one New
York belle. Dinner being over, Ella led the way to an upper balcony,
which opened from her chamber, and which was a cool, shaded spot.
Scarcely were they seated, when remembering something she had left in
the parlor, she went back for it, and, in returning, she ran up the
stairs so swiftly that a sudden dizziness came over her, and with a low
cry she fell half fainting into the arms of her husband, who bent
tenderly over her, while Eugenia made many anxious inquiries as to what
was the matter, and if she were often thus affected.

"Yes, often," answered Ella, who began to revive; then, as the
perspiration gathered thickly about the white lips, she pressed her
blue-veined hand upon her side, and cried, "The pain--the pain! It has
come again. Country air won't do me any good. I shall die of
consumption, just as mother said." And as if she saw indeed the little
grave, on which the next summer's sun would shine, she hid her face in
her husband's bosom, and sobbed aloud. Instantly a dark thought flashed
upon Eugenia--a thought which even _she_ would not harbor, and casting
it aside, she drew nearer to the weeping Ella, striving by an increased
tenderness of manner to atone for having dared to think of a time when
the little willow chair on the balcony would be empty, and Howard
Hastings free. Soon rallying, Ella feigned to smile at her
discomposure, saying that "consumption had been preached to her so much
that she always felt frightened at the slightest pain in her side,"
thoughtlessly adding, as she glanced at her husband, "I wonder if
Howard would miss me any, were I really to die."

A dark shadow settled upon Mr. Hastings's face, but he made no reply;
and Eugenia, who was watching him, fancied she could read his thoughts;
but when they at last started for home, and she saw how tenderly he
wrapped a warm shawl around his delicate young wife, who insisted upon
going with them, she felt that however frivolous and uncompanionable
Ella might be, she was Howard Hastings's wife, and, as such, he would
love and cherish her to the last.

By her window in the attic sat Dora Deane, poring over to-morrow's
lessons; but as the silvery voice of Ella fell upon her ear, she arose,
and going to her cousin's chamber, looked out upon the party as they
drew near the gate.

"How beautiful she is!" she whispered to herself, as, dropping her
shawl, and flinging back her golden curls, Ella sprang up to reach a
branch of locust blossoms, which grew above her head.

Then, as she saw how carefully Mr. Hastings replaced the shawl, drawing
his wife's arm within his own, she stole back to her room, and,
resuming her seat by the window, dreamed, as maidens of thirteen will,
of a time away in the future, when she, too, might perhaps be loved
even as was the gentle Ella Hastings.

       *       *       *       *       *



CHAPTER VIII.

THE PARTY.


One pleasant July morning, the people of Dunwood were electrified by
the news that on Thursday evening, Mrs. Howard Hastings would be at
home to between one and two hundred of her _friends_. Among the first
invited was Eugenia, who had been Mrs. Hastings's chief adviser, kindly
enlightening her as to the _somebodies_ and _nobodies_ of the town, and
rendering herself so generally useful, that, in a fit of gratitude,
Mrs. Hastings had promised her her brother Stephen, a fast young man,
who was expected to be present at the party. To appear well in his eyes
was, therefore, Eugenia's ambition; and the time which was not spent in
giving directions at Rose Hill, was occupied at home in scolding,
because her mother would not devise a way by which she could obtain a
new pink satin dress, with lace overskirt, and flowers to match.

It was in vain that Mrs. Deane sought to convince her daughter how
impossible it was to raise the necessary funds. Eugenia was determined;
and at last, by dint of secretly selling a half-worn dress to one Irish
girl, a last year's bonnet to another, and a broche shawl to another,
she succeeded in obtaining enough for the desired purchase, lacking
five dollars, and this last it seemed impossible to procure. But
Eugenia never despaired; and a paragraph read one evening in a city
paper, suggested to her a plan which she resolved to execute
immediately.

It was nearly dark: her mother and sisters were in the village; Dora
was gone on an errand, and she was alone. Half reluctantly, she opened
the stair door which led to Dora's room, the low room in the attic. Up
the steep staircase, and through the narrow hall she went, treading
softly, and holding her breath, as if she feared lest the dead, from
her far-off grave in the great city, should hear her noiseless
footfall, and come forth to prevent the wrong she meditated. But no,
Fanny Deane slept calmly in her coffin, and Eugenia kept on her way
unmolested, until the chamber was reached. Then, indeed, she hesitated,
for there was, to her, something terrifying in the darkness which had
gathered in the corners of the room, and settled like a pall upon the
old green trunk. To reach that and secure the treasure it contained,
would have been the work of a moment; but, wholly powerless to advance,
Eugenia stood still, while the cold perspiration started from every
pore.

"I can do anything but _that,_" she said, at last, and, as if the words
had given her strength to move, she turned back, gliding again through
the narrow hall, and down the steep stairway, out into the open air;
and when, that night, as she often did, Dora looked for her mother's
beautiful _hair,_ it lay in its accustomed place, unruffled and
unharmed; and the orphan child, as she pressed it to her lips, dreamed
not of the danger which had threatened it, or of the snare about to be
laid for herself by Eugenia, who could not yet give up the coveted
dress.

Next morning, as Dora stood before the mirror, arranging her long,
luxuriant hair, which she usually wore in braids, hanging down her
back, Eugenia came up, and with an unusual degree of kindness in her
manner, offered to fix it for her, commenting the while on the
exceeding beauty of the rich auburn tresses, and saying, that if she
were in Dora's place she would have it _cut off,_ as by this means she
would, when grown up, have much handsomer hair than if it were suffered
to remain long. Dora remembered having heard her mother say the same;
but she had a pride in her hair, which was longer and thicker than any
of her companions'; so she said nothing until Eugenia, who, to serve
her own purpose, would not hesitate to tell a falsehood, and who knew
how much Dora admired Mrs. Hastings, spoke of that lady's beautiful
curls, saying they were all the result of her having worn her hair
quite short until she was sixteen years of age. Then, indeed, Dora
wavered. She had recently suffered much from the headache, too, and it
might relieve that; so that when Eugenia offered her a coral bracelet
in exchange for her hair, she consented, and Alice entered the room
just as the last shining braid dropped upon the floor.

"What upon earth!" she exclaimed, stopping short, and then bursting
into a loud laugh at the comical appearance which Dora presented; for
Eugenia had cut close to the head, leaving the hair so uneven that
shingling seemed the only alternative, and to this poor Dora finally
submitted. When at last the performance was ended, and she glanced at
herself in the mirror, she burst into a paroxysm of tears, while Alice
tried to soothe her by saying that it really would eventually benefit
her hair, and that she would not always look so strangely.

But Dora, who began to suspect that it was pure selfishness on
Eugenia's part which had prompted the act, felt keenly the injustice
done her, and refused to be comforted, keeping her room the entire day,
and weeping until her eyelids were nearly blistered. Meantime, Eugenia
had hurried off to the city with her ill-gotten treasure, on which the
miserly old Jew, to whom it was offered, looked with eager longing
eyes, taking care, however, to depreciate its value, lest his customer
should expect too much. But Eugenia was fully his equal in management,
and when at night she returned home, she was in possession of the
satin, the lace and the flowers, together with several other articles
of finery.

The next day was the party, and as Dora, besides being exceedingly
tasteful, was also neat, and handy with her needle, she was kept from
school, stitching the livelong day upon the dainty fabric, a portion of
which had been purchased with her hair! Occasionally, as Eugenia
glanced at the swollen eyelids and shorn head, bending so
uncomplainingly over the cloud of lace, her conscience smote her for
what she had done; but one thought of _Stephen Grey_ and the impression
she should make on him, dissipated all such regrets; and when at length
the hour for making her toilet arrived, her jaded cousin was literally
made to perform all the offices of a waiting-maid. Three times was the
tired little girl sent down to the village in quest of something which
the capricious Eugenia _must_ have, and which, when brought, was not
"the thing at all," and must be exchanged. Up the stairs and down the
stairs she went, bringing pins to Alice and powder to Eugenia,
enacting, in short, the part of a second Cinderella, except that in her
case no kind old godmother with her potent wand appeared to her relief!

They were dressed at last, and very beautifully Eugenia looked in the
pink satin and flowing lace, which harmonized so well with her
complexion, and which had been bought with the united proceeds of a
velvet bonnet, a delaine dress, a broche shawl, and Dora's hair!

"Why don't you compliment me?" she said to the weary child, who, sick
with yesterday's weeping, and the close confinement of to-day, had laid
her aching head upon the arm of the lounge.

Slowly unclosing her eyes, and fixing them upon her cousin, Dora
answered--

"You do look beautifully. No one will excel you, I am sure, unless it
be Mrs. Hastings. I wish I could see how she will dress."

"You might go up and look in at the window; or, if I'd thought of it, I
could have secured you the office of door-waiter," said the thoughtless
Eugenia, adding, as she held out her shawl for Dora to throw around
her, "Don't you wish you could attend a party at Rose Hill?"

There was a sneer accompanying this question, which Dora felt keenly.
Her little swelling heart was already full, and, with quivering lips
and gushing tears, she answered, somewhat bitterly--

"I never expect to be anybody, or go any where;" then, as her services
were no longer needed, she ran away to her humble room, where from her
window she watched the many brilliant lights which shone from Rose
Hill, and caught occasional glimpses of the airy forms which flitted
before the open doors and windows. Once she was sure she saw Eugenia
upon the balcony, and then, as a sense of the difference between
herself and her cousins came over her, she laid her down upon the old
green trunk, and covering her face with her hands, cried out, "Nobody
cares for me, or loves me either. I wish I had died that winter night.
Oh, mother! come to me, I am so lonely and so sad."

Softly, as if it were indeed the rustle of an angel's wings, came the
evening air, through the open casement, cooling the feverish brow and
drying the tears of the orphan girl, who grew strangely calm; and when
at last the moon looked in upon her, she was sleeping quietly, with a
placid smile upon her lips. Years after, and Dora Deane remembered that
summer night, when, on the hard green trunk, she slept so soundly as
not to hear the angry voice of Eugenia, who came home sadly out of
humor with herself and the world at large.

At breakfast, next morning, she was hardly on speaking terms with her
sister, while _Stephen Grey_ was pronounced "a perfect bore-a baboon,
with more hair than brains."

"And to that I should not suppose you would object," said Alice,
mischievously. "You might find it useful in case of an emergency."

To this there was no reply, save an angry flash of the black eyes,
which, it seems, had failed to interest Stephen Grey, who was far
better pleased with the unassuming Alice, and who had paid the haughty
Eugenia no attention whatever, except, indeed, to plant his patent
leather boot upon one of her lace flounces, tearing it half off, and
leaving a sad rent, which could not well be mended. This, then, was the
cause of her wrath, which continued for some time; when really wishing
to talk over the events of the evening, she became a little more
gracious, and asked Alice how she liked _Mrs. Elliott_, who had
unexpectedly arrived from New York.

"I was delighted with her," returned Alice; "she was such a perfect
lady. And hadn't she magnificent hair! Just the color of Dora's" she
added, glancing at the little cropped head, which had been so suddenly
divested of its beauty.

"It wasn't all hers, though," answered Eugenia, who invariably saw and
spoke of every defect. "I heard her telling Ella that she bought a
braid in Rochester as she came up. But what ails you?" she continued,
speaking now to Dora, whose eyes sparkled with some unusual excitement
and who replied--

"You said Mrs. Elliott, from New York. And that was the name of the
lady who was so kind to me. Oh, if I only thought it were she, I'd----"

"Make yourself ridiculous, I dare say," interrupted Eugenia, adding,
that "there was more than one Mrs. Elliott in the world, and she'd no
idea that so elegant a lady as Mr. Hastings's sister ever troubled
herself to look after folks in such a miserable old hovel as the one
where Dora had lived."

This, however, did not satisfy the child, who, during the week that
Mrs. Elliott remained in the neighborhood, cast many longing glances in
the direction of Rose Hill, gazing oft with tearful eyes upon a female
figure which sometimes walked upon the balcony, and which, perhaps, was
her benefactress. One night it was told at Locust Grove that Mrs.
Elliott had gone, and then, with a feeling of desolation for which she
could not account, Dora again laid her face on the old green trunk and
wept.

Poor Dora Deane! The path she trod was dark, indeed, but there was
light ahead, and even now it was breaking upon her though she knew it
not.

-------------------



CHAPTER IX.

DORA AT ROSE HILL.


Summer was over. The glorious September days were gone. The hazy
October had passed away, and the autumn winds had swept the withered
leaves from the tall trees which grew around Rose Hill; when one cold,
rainy November morning, a messenger was sent to Mrs. Deane, saying that
Mrs. Hastings was sick, and wished to see her.

"Mrs. Hastings sent for mother! How funny! There must be some mistake,"
said Eugenia, putting her head in at the door. "Are you sure it was
mother?"

"Yes, quite sure," answered the man. "Mrs. Hastings thought she would
know what to do for the baby, which was born yesterday, and is a puny
little thing."

This silenced Eugenia, who waited impatiently until nightfall, when her
mother returned with a sad account of affairs at Rose Hill. Mrs.
Hastings was sick and nervous, Mrs. Leah was lazy and cross, the
servants ignorant and impertinent, the house was in disorder; while Mr.
Hastings, with a cloud on his face, ill befitting a newly-made father,
stalked up and down the sick-room, looking in vain for an empty chair,
so filled were they with blankets, towels, baby's dresses, and the
various kinds of work which Ella was always beginning and never
finishing.

"Such an ignorant, helpless creature I never saw," said Mrs. Deane,
"Why, she _don't know anything_--and such looking rooms! I don't wonder
her servants give her so much trouble; but my heart ached for him, poor
man, when I saw him putting away the things, and trying to make the
room a little more comfortable."

It was even as Mrs. Deane had said. Ella, whose favorite theory was, "a
big house, a lot of things, and _chairs_ enough to put them in," was
wholly unprepared for sickness, which found her in a sad condition. To
be sure there were quantities of French embroidery, thread lace and
fine linen, while the bed, on which she lay, cost a hundred dollars,
and the rosewood crib was perfect of its kind, but there was a great
lack of neatness and order; and as day after day Mr. Hastings stood
with folded arms, looking first from one window and then from the
other, his thoughts were far from being agreeable, save when he bent
over the cradle of his first-born, and then there broke over his face a
look of unutterable tenderness, which was succeeded by a shade of deep
anxiety as his eye rested upon his frail young wife, whose face seemed
whiter even than the pillow on which it lay.

After a few weeks, during which time Ella had gained a little strength
and was able to see her friends, Eugenia came regularly to Rose Hill,
sitting all day by the bedside of the invalid, to whom she sometimes
brought a glass of water, or some such trivial thing. Occasionally,
too, she would look to see if the baby were asleep, pronouncing it "a
perfect little cherub, just like its mother;" and there her services
ended, for it never occurred to her that she could make the room much
more cheerful by picking up and putting away the numerous articles
which lay scattered around, and which were a great annoyance to the
more orderly Mr. Hastings. Once, when Ella, as usual, was expatiating
upon her goodness, asking her husband if she were not the best girl in
the world, and saying "they must make her some handsome present in
return for all she had done," he replied, "I confess, I should think
more of Miss Deane, if she did you any real good, or rendered you any
actual service; but, as far as I can discover, she merely sits here
talking to you until you are wearied out."

"Why, what would you have her do?" asked Ella, her large blue eyes
growing larger and bluer.

"I hardly know myself," answered Mr. Hastings; "but it seems to me that
a genuine woman could not sit day after day in such a disorderly room
as this."

"Oh, Howard!" exclaimed Ella, "you surely cannot expect Eugenia Deane
to do a servant's duty. Why, she has been as delicately brought up as
I, and knows quite as little of work."

"More shame for her if this is true," answered Mr. Hastings somewhat
bitterly, and Ella continued.

"You've got such queer ideas, Howard, of _woman's duties._ I should
suppose you would have learned, ere this, that few ladies are like your
mother, who, though a blessed good soul, has the oddest notions."

"But they make a man's home mighty comfortable, those odd notions of
mother's," said Mr. Hastings; then, knowing how useless it would be to
argue the point, he was about changing the subject, when the new nurse,
who had been there but a few days (the first one having quarreled with
Mrs. Leah, and gone home), came in and announced her intention of
leaving also, saying, "she would not live in the same house with old
mother Leah!"

It was in vain that Mr. Hastings tried to soothe the angry girl--she
was determined, and for a second time was Ella left alone.

"Oh, what will become of me?" she groaned, as the door closed upon her
late nurse. "Do, pray, Howard, go to the kitchen and get me
some--some--_I don't know what,_ but get me _something!_"

With a very vague idea as to what he was to get or to do, Mr. Hastings
left the room just as it was entered by Eugenia, to whom Ella detailed
her grievances. "Her head ached dreadfully, Howard was cross, and her
nurse gone. Oh, Eugenia!" she cried, "what shall I do? I wish I could
die. Don't ever get married. What shall I do?"

And hiding her face in the pillow, poor Ella sobbed bitterly. For a
time Eugenia stood, revolving the propriety of offering Dora as a
substitute in the place of the girl who had just left. "Mother can work
a little harder," she thought. "And Alice can help her occasionally. It
will please Mr. Hastings, I know. Poor man, _I pity him!_"

So, more on account of the _pity_ she felt for Mr. Hastings, than for
the _love_ she bore his wife, she said at last, "We have a little girl
at our house, who is very capable for one of her years. I think she
would be quite handy in a sick-room. At all events, she can rock the
baby. Shall I send her up until you get some one else?"

"Oh, if you only would," answered Ella. "I should be so glad,"

So, it was arranged that _Dora_ should come next morning, and then
Eugenia, who was this time in a hurry, took her leave, having first
said that Mrs. Hastings "needn't think strange if Dora called _her_
cousin and her mother _aunt,_ for she was a poor relation, whom they
had taken out of charity!"

At first Mrs. Deane objected to letting her niece go, "for she was
needed at home," she said; but Eugenia finally prevailed, as she
generally did, and the next morning Dora, who was rather pleased with
the change, started bundle in hand for Rose Hill. She had never been
there before, and she walked leisurely along, admiring the beautiful
house and grounds, and thinking Mrs. Hastings must be very happy to
live in so fine a place. Ella was unusually nervous and low-spirited
this morning, for her husband had gone to Rochester; and when Dora was
shown into the room she was indulging in a fit of crying, and paid no
attention whatever when Mrs. Leah said, "This is the new girl." "She'll
get over it directly," muttered the housekeeper, as she went from the
room, leaving Dora inexpressibly shocked at witnessing such grief in
one whom she had thought so happy.

"Can I do anything for you?" she said at last, drawing near, and
involuntarily laying her hand on the golden curls she had so much
admired.

There was genuine sympathy in the tones of that childish voice, which
touched an answering chord in Ella's heart, and lifting up her head she
gazed curiously at the little brown-faced girl, who stood there neatly
attired in a dress of plain dark calico, her auburn hair, which had
grown rapidly, combed back from her open brow, and her dark-blue eyes
full of tears. No one could mistake Dora Deane for a menial, and few
could look upon her without being at once interested; for early sorrow
had left a shade of sadness upon her handsome face, unusual in one so
young. Then, too, there was an expression of goodness and truth shining
out all over her countenance, and Ella's heart yearned towards her at
once as towards a long-tried friend. Stretching out her white, wasted
hand, she said, "And you are _Dora._ I am glad you have come. The sight
of you makes me feel better already," and the small, rough hand she
held was pressed with a fervor which showed that she was sincere in
what she said. It was strange how fast they grew to liking each
other--those two children--for in everything save years, Ella was
younger far than Dora Deane; and it was strange, too, what a change the
little girl's presence wrought in the sick-chamber. Naturally neat and
orderly, she could not sit quietly down in the midst of disorder, and
as far as she was able, she put things in their proper places; then, as
her quick-seeing eye detected piles of dust which for days had been
unmolested, she said, "Will it disturb you if I sweep?"

"Not at all. Do what you like," answered Ella, her own spirits rising
in proportion as the appearance of her surroundings was improved.

Everything was in order at last. The carpet was swept, the furniture
dusted, the chairs emptied, the curtains looped back, and the hearth
nicely washed. Fresh, clean linen was put upon the pillows, while
Ella's tangled curls were carefully brushed and tucked under her
tasteful cap, and then for the first time Dora took the baby upon her
lap. It was a little thing, but very beautiful to the young mother, and
beautiful, too, to Dora, when she learned that its name was "Fannie."

"_Fannie!_" how it carried her back to the long ago, when her father
had spoken, and her precious mother had answered to that blessed name!
And how it thrilled her as she repeated it again and again, while her
tears fell like rain on the face of the unconscious infant.

"Why do you cry?" asked Ella, and Dora answered, "I am thinking of
mother. Her name was Fannie, and I shall love the baby for her sake."

"Has your mother long been dead? Tell me of her," said Ella; and
drawing her chair close to the bedside, Dora told the sad story of her
life, while Ella Hastings's tears fell fast and her eyes opened wide
with wonder as she heard of the dreary room, the dead mother, the
bitter cold night, and of the good lady who brought them aid.

Starting up in bed and looking earnestly at Dora, Ella said, "And _you_
are the little girl whom Howard and Mrs. Elliott found sleeping on her
mother's neck that New Year's morning. But God didn't let you freeze.
He saved you to live with me, which you will do always. And I will be
to you a sister, for I know you must be good."

And the impulsive creature threw her arms around the neck of the
astonished Dora, who for some time could not speak, so surprised and
delighted was she to learn that her benefactress was indeed the sister
of Mr. Hastings, After a moment, Ella continued, "And you came to live
with some distant relatives--with Mrs. Deane?"

"Yes, with Aunt Sarah," answered Dora, stating briefly the
comparatively double relationship that existed between herself and her
cousins, and casually mentioning her uncle Nathaniel, whom she had
never seen.

"Then he is _your_ uncle, too--the old East India man, whose heir
Eugenia is to be. I should think he would send _you_ money."

"He never does," said Dora, in a choking voice. "He sent some to
Eugenia once, but none to me," and a tear at her uncle's supposed
coldness fell on the baby's head.

Ella was puzzled, but she could not doubt the truth of what Dora had
said, though she wisely refrained from betraying Eugenia, in whom her
confidence was slightly shaken, but was soon restored by the appearance
of the young lady herself, who overwhelmed her with caressess, and went
into ecstasies over the little Fannie, thus surely winning her way to
the mother's heart. Owing to a severe cold from which Eugenia was
suffering, she left for home about dark, and soon after her departure,
Ella began to expect her husband.

"If you will tell me where to find his dressing-gown and slippers, I'll
bring them out for him," said Dora, wheeling up before the glowing
grate the large easy-chair which she felt almost sure was occupied by
Mr. Hastings.

"His gown and slippers!" repeated Ella. "It's an age since I saw them,
but I guess they are in the dressing-room, either behind the door, or
in the black trunk, or on the shelf--or, stay, I shouldn't wonder if
they were on the _closet floor._"

And there, under a promiscuous pile of other garments, Dora found them,
sadly soiled, and looking as if they had not seen the light for many a
day. Shaking out the gown, and brushing the dust from off the slippers,
she laid them in the chair, and Ella, who was watching her, said,
"Pray, what put that into your mind?"

"I don't know," returned Dora; "only I thought, perhaps, you did so,
when you were well Ever so long ago, before pa died, mother made him a
calico dressing-gown, and he used to look so pleased when he found it
in his chair."

"Strange I never thought of such things," softly whispered Ella,
unconsciously learning a lesson from the little domestic girl, who
brushed the hearth, dropped the curtains, lighted the lamp, and then
went out to the kitchen in quest of milk for Fannie.

"He will be so happy and pleased!" said Ella, as, lifting up her head,
she surveyed the cheerful room.

And happy indeed he was. It was the first time he had left his wife
since her illness, and with a tolerable degree of satisfaction he took
his seat in the evening cars. We say _tolerable_, for though he was
really anxious to see Ella and the baby, he was in no particular haste
to see the room in which he had left them; and rather reluctantly he
entered his handsome dwelling, starting back when he opened the door of
the sick chamber, and half thinking he had mistaken another man's house
for his own. But Ella's voice reassured him, and in a few moments he
had heard from her the story of Dora Deane, who ere long came in, and
was duly presented. Taking her hand in his, and looking down upon her
with his large black eyes, he said, "I have seen you before, I believe,
but I did not then think that when we met again I should be so much
indebted to you. I am glad you are here, Dora."

Once before had he held that hand in his, and now, as then, the touch
sent the warm blood bounding through her veins. She had passed through
much since that wintry morning, had grown partially indifferent to
coldness and neglect, but the extreme kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Hastings
touched her heart; and stammering out an almost inaudible reply, she
turned away to hide her tears, while Mr. Hastings, advancing towards
the fire, exclaimed, "My double gown! And it's so long since I saw it!
To whose thoughtfulness am I indebted for this?"

"'Twas Dora," answered Ella. "She thinks of everything. She is my good
angel, and I mean to keep her always, if she will stay. Will you, dear?"

"Oh, if I only could," answered Dora; "but I can't. They need me at
home!"

"Why need you? They have servants enough," said Ella, who had not yet
identified Eugenia's waiting-maid with the bright, intelligent child
before her.

"We have no servants but _me,_" answered the truthful Dora. "We are
poor, and I help Aunt Sarah to pay for my board; so, you see, I can't
stay. And then, too, I must go to school."

Perfectly astonished at this fresh disclosure, Ella glanced towards her
husband, whose quizzical expression kept her silent, for it seemed to
say, "I told you all the time, that Miss Eugenia was not exactly what
you supposed her to be."

"How could she deceive me so?" thought Ella, while Mr. Hastings was
mentally resolving to befriend the child, in whom he felt such a strong
interest.

Wishing to know; something of her education, he questioned her during
the evening concerning her studies, and the books she had read, feeling
surprised and pleased to find how good a scholar she was, considering
her advantages.

"There's the germ of a true, noble woman there. I wish my sister could
have the training of her," he thought, as he saw how animated she
became when he mentioned her favorite books, and then watched her as
she hovered round the bedside of his wife.

Very swiftly and pleasantly passed the three following days, and during
all that time Eugenia did not once appear; but at the close of the
fourth day, a note was brought to Ella, saying that both Eugenia and
her mother were sick, and Dora must come home.

"Oh, how can I let you go?" cried Ella, while Dora crept away into a
corner and wept.

But there was no alternative, and just at dark she came to say good-by.
Winding her feeble arms around her neck, Ella sobbed out her adieu, and
then, burying her face in her pillow, refused to be comforted. One kiss
for the little Fannie--one farewell glance at the weeping Ella, and
then, with a heavy heart, Dora went out from a place where she had been
so happy--went back to the home where no one greeted her kindly, save
the old house cat, who purred a joyous welcome, and rubbed against her
side as she kindled a fire in the dark, dreary kitchen, where, on the
table, were piles of dishes left for her to wash. That night, when, at
a late hour, she stole up to bed, the contrast between her humble room
and the cozy chamber where she had recently slept, affected her
painfully, and, mingled with her nightly prayer, was the petition, that
"sometime she might go back and live with _Mr. Hastings._"

Meantime at Rose Hill there was sorrowing for her, Ella refusing to be
comforted unless she should return, Mr. Hastings, who had spent the day
in the city, and did not come home until evening, felt that something
was wrong the moment he entered the door of his chamber. The fire was
nearly out, the lamp was burning dimly, and Ella was in tears.

"What is it, darling?" he asked, advancing towards her; and laying her
aching head upon his bosom, she told him of her loss, and how much she
missed the little brown-faced girl, who had been so kind to her.

And Howard Hastings missed her too--missed the tones of her gentle
voice, the soft tread of her busy feet, and more than all, missed the
sunlight of comfort she had shed over his home. The baby missed her,
too; for over her Dora had acquired an almost mesmeric influence, and
until midnight her wailing cry smote painfully upon the ear of the
father, who, before the morning dawned, had concluded that Rose Hill
was nothing without Dora Deane. "She shall come back, too," he said,
and the sooner to effect this, he started immediately after breakfast
for the house of Mrs. Deane. Very joyfully the deep blue eyes of Dora,
who met him at the door, looked up into his, and her bright face
flushed with delight when he told her why he had come. Both Eugenia and
her mother were convalescent, and sitting by the parlor fire, the one
in a shilling calico, and the other in a plaid silk morning gown. At
first Mrs. Deane objected, when she heard Mr. Hastings's errand,
saying, with a sudden flash of pride, that "it was not necessary for
her niece to work out."

"And I assure you, it is not our intention to make a servant of her,"
answered Mr. Hastings, "We could not do otherwise than treat so near a
relative of yours as an equal."

This last was well timed, and quite complacently Mrs. Deane listened,
while he told her that if Dora were allowed to stay with them until his
wife was better, she should be well cared for, and he himself would
superintend her studies, so she should lose nothing by being out of
school. "Come, Miss Eugenia," he continued, "please intercede for me,
and, I assure you, both Ella and myself will be eternally grateful."

He had touched the right cord at last. Rumor said that Ella Hastings
would never see another summer, and if before her death the husband was
eternally grateful, what would he not be after her death? Then, too,
but the day before they had received a remittance from Uncle Nat, and
with that they could afford to hire a servant; so, when Eugenia spoke,
it was in favor of letting "_Mr. Hastings have Dora just when he wanted
her_, if it would be any satisfaction to poor dear Ella!"

A while longer Mr. Hastings remained, and when at last he arose to go,
he was as sure that Dora Deane would again gladden his home as he was
next morning, when from his library window he saw her come tripping up
the walk, her cheeks flushed with exercise, and her eyes sparkling with
joy, as, glancing upward, she saw him looking down upon her. In after
years, when Howard Hastings's cup was full of blessings, he often
referred to that morning, saying "he had seldom experienced a moment of
deeper thankfulness than the one when he welcomed back again to his
fireside and his home the orphan Dora Deane."

------------



CHAPTER X.

ELLA.


Very pleasantly to Dora did the remainder of the winter pass away. She
was appreciated at last, and nothing could exceed the kindness of both
Mr. and Mrs. Hastings, the latter of whom treated her more like a
sister than a servant, while even Eugenia, who came often to Rose Hill,
and whose fawning manner had partially restored her to the good opinion
of the fickle Ella, tried to treat her with a show of affection, when
she saw how much she was respected. Regularly each day Dora went to the
handsome library where she recited her lessons to Mr. Hastings, who
became deeply interested in watching the development of her fine
intellectual mind.

One thing, however, troubled her. Ella did not improve, and never since
Dora came to Rose Hill had she sat up more than an hour, but lay all
day on her bed, while her face grew white almost as the wintry snow,
save when a bright red spot burned upon her cheeks, making her, as Dora
thought, even more beautiful than she had been in health. Once in the
gathering twilight, when they sat together alone, she startled Dora
with the question, "Is everybody afraid to die?"

"Mother was not," answered Dora, and Ella continued, "But she was good,
and I am not. I have never done a worthy act in all my life. Never
thought of _death_, or even looked upon it, for mother told us there
was no need of harrowing up our feelings--it would come soon enough,
she said; and to me, who hoped to live so long, it has come _too
soon_--all too soon;" and the hot tears rained through the transparent
fingers, clasped so convulsively over her face.

For many weeks Dora had felt an undefined presentiment of coming
evil--had seen it in Ella's failing health--in the increased tenderness
of Mr. Hastings's manner, whenever he bent over the pillow of his young
wife, or bore her in his arms, as he sometimes did, to the window, that
she might look out upon, the garden, and the winding walks which she
would never tread again. And now Ella herself had confirmed it--had
spoken of death as something very near.

"Oh, she must not die!" was Dora's mental cry of anguish, as moving
nearer to the bedside she grasped the little wasted hand which lay
outside the counterpane, and this was her only answer, for she could
not speak. There was a numbness at her heart, a choking sensation in
her throat, which prevented her utterance. But Ella understood her, and
returning the warm pressure, she continued, "You, too, have seen it
then, and know that I must die; but oh! you do not know how I dread the
lonesome darkness of the grave, or the world which lies beyond. If
somebody would go with me, or teach me the way, it wouldn't be so hard."

Poor Ella! Her life had been one round of fashionable folly, and now
that the world was fading from her view, her fainting soul cried out
for light to guide her through the shadowy valley her feet were soon to
tread. And light came at last, through the word of God and the
teachings of the faithful clergyman, who was sent for at her request,
and who came daily up to see her. There was no more fear now--no more
terror of the narrow tomb, for there was _One_ to go with her--one
whose arm was powerful to save; and on Him Ella learned to lean,
clinging still with an undying love to her husband, with whom she often
talked of the time when he would be alone and she be far away.

"It is so hard to give you up," she said one day, when as usual he was
sitting by her side; "so hard to say good-by forever, and know that
though you will miss me at first, and mourn for me too, there _will_
come a time when another will take my place--another than Ella can call
you hers; but I am willing," she continued, as she saw him about to
speak, "willing that it should be so. I have loved you, Howard, more
than you can know, or I can ever tell; but I am not worthy of you. I do
not satisfy the higher feelings of your heart; I am not what _your_
wife should be, and for this I must die. Many a night, when you were
sleeping at my side, have I lain awake, asking myself why _I_, to whom
the world was so beautiful and bright, must leave it so soon; and as I
thought over the events of our short married life, the answer came to
me, 'I cannot make you happy as you ought to be, and for your sake I am
taken away.'"

"Oh, Ella, Ella!" groaned Mr. Hastings, laying his head beside hers,
upon the pillow.

From his inmost soul he knew that what she said was true; but for this
he would not that she should die. She had been to him a gentle, loving
wife, the one he had chosen from all others to share his home; and
though he had failed to find in her the companion he had sought, she
was very dear to him--was the mother of his child; and the strong man's
heart was full of anguish as he thought of giving her up so soon. Who
would comfort him when she was gone or speak to him words of love?

Softly the chamber door unclosed, and Dora Deane looked in; but seeing
them thus together she stole away into the garden, where the early
spring grass was just starting into life, and there, weeping bitterly,
she too prayed that Ella might not die. But neither tears nor prayers
were of avail to save her. Still for weeks she lingered, and the soft
June air, stealing in through the open window, had more than once
lifted the golden curls from off her fading brow, and more than one
bouquet of sweet wild blossoms had been laid upon her pillow, ere the
midnight hour, when, with anguish at their hearts, Howard Hastings and
Dora Deane watched together by her side, and knew that she was dying.
There had been long, dreary nights of wakefulness, and the worn-out
sufferer had asked at last that she might die--might sleep the
dreamless sleep from which she would never waken. And Howard Hastings,
as night after night went by, and the laughing blue eyes which had won
his early love grew dim with constant waking, had felt that it would be
better when his loved one was at rest. But death, however long
expected, is sudden at the last, and so it was to him, when he saw the
shadow creeping over her face, which cometh once to all. She would not
suffer them to rouse the household, she would rather die with them
alone, she said, with Dora standing near, and her husband's arms about
her so that the tones of his voice should be the last sound which would
fall upon her ear, and Dora's hand the last to minister to her wants.

"I have loved you so much, Howard, oh, so much!" and the white clammy
fingers, so soon to be laid away beneath the summer flowers, strayed
lovingly through the raven locks of her husband, who could answer only
with his tears, which fell fast upon her face. "And you too, Dora," she
continued, motioning the weeping girl to advance, "I have loved you
too, for you have been kind to me, and when I am gone, you will live
here still and care for my child, whom we have called _Fannie_. It is a
beautiful name, Dora--your mother's name, and for your sake, I would
fain let her keep it--but," turning to Mr. Hastings, and laying her
hand caressingly upon his head, "when I no longer live, I would rather
you should call my baby _Ella Grey;_ and if my husband"--here she
paused to gather strength for what she was about to say, and after a
moment continued, "if, in coming years, another sits beside you in my
chair, and the voices of other children shall call you father, you will
not forget your first-born, I know, but will love her better, and
think, perchance, the oftener of me, if she bears my name, for,
however, truly you may hereafter love, it was Ella Grey that won your
first affection."

Again she paused, and there was no sound heard in the chamber of death,
save the sobs of those about to be bereaved, and the faint rustling of
the leaves without, which were gently moved by the night wind.

"Bring me my baby," she said at last; and Dora laid the sleeping child
in the arms of the young mother, who, clasping it fondly to her bosom,
breathed over it a dying mother's blessing, and with a dying mother's
tears baptized it Ella Grey.

There was a long, deep silence then, and when at last Howard Hastings
lifted up his head from the pillow where it had been resting, and Dora
Deane came timidly to his side, they gazed together on the face of the
sweetly sleeping dead.

----------------



CHAPTER XI.

THE HOUSE OF MOURNING.


Ella Hastings was dead. The deep-toned bell proclaimed it to the people
of Dunwood, who, counting the nineteen strokes, sighed that one so
young should die. The telegraphic wires carried it to her childhood's
home, in the far-off city; and while her tears were dropping fast for
the first dead of her children, the fashionable mother did not forget
to have her mourning in the most expensive and becoming style. The
servants in the kitchen whispered it one to the other, treading softly
and speaking low, as if aught could disturb the slumber of her who lay
so motionless and still, unmindful of the balmy summer air which kissed
her marble cheek. The grief-stricken husband repeated it again and
again as he sat by her side in the darkened room; and only they who
have felt it, can know with what a crushing weight they fell upon his
heart, the three words--"She is dead!"

Yes, Ella was dead, and Eugenia Deane, with hypocritical tears, upon
her cheek, gathered fresh, white rosebuds, and twining them in the
golden curls which shaded the face of the beautiful dead, dared even
there to think that _Howard Hastings was free_; and as she saw the
silent grief of the stricken man, who, with his head upon the table,
sat hour after hour, unmindful of the many who came to look on what had
been his wife, her lip curled with scorn, and she marveled that one so
frivolous as Ella should be so deeply mourned. Once she ventured to
speak, asking him some trivial thing concerning the arrangement of
affairs, and without looking up, he answered, "Do as you like, until
her mother comes. She will be here to-morrow."

So, for the remainder of the day, Eugenia flitted from the parlor to
the chamber of death, from the chamber of death to the kitchen, and
from the kitchen back again to the parlor, ordering the servants,
admitting visitors, and between times scolding Dora for "being so
foolish as to cry herself sick for a person who, of course, cared
nothing for her, except as a waiter!"

Since the night of her mother's death, Dora's heart had not been half
so sore with pain. The girlish Ella had been very dear to her, and the
tears she shed were genuine. To no one else would the baby go, and
after dinner was over, the dinner at which Eugenia presided, and of
which Mr. Hastings could not be induced to partake, she went into the
garden with her little charge, seating herself in a pleasant
summer-house, which had been Ella's favorite resort. It was a warm,
drowsy afternoon, and at last, worn out with weeping, and the fatigue
of the last night's watching, she fell asleep, as the baby had done
before. Not long had she sat thus, when Mr. Hastings, too, came down
the graveled walk, and stood at the arbor door. The constant bustling
in and out of Eugenia annoyed him, and wishing to be alone, he had come
out into the open air, which he felt would do him good. When his eye
fell on Dora, who was too soundly sleeping to be easily aroused, he
murmured, "Poor child! she is wearied with so many wakeful nights;"
then fearing lest the slender arms should relax their hold and drop the
babe, he took it gently from her, and folding it to his bosom, sat down
by her side, so that her drooping head could rest upon his shoulder.

For two long hours she slept, and it was not until the baby's waxen
fingers gave a vigorous pull to her short thick hair, that she awoke,
feeling greatly surprised when she saw Mr. Hastings sitting near.

"I found you asleep," he said, by way of explanation, "and knowing how
tired you were, I gave you my arm for a pillow;" then, as the baby
wished to go to her, he gave it up, himself going slowly back to the
lonesome house, from which Ella was gone forever.

The next morning, the mother and her three youngest daughters, all
draped in deepest black, arrived at Rose Hill prepared to find fault
with everything which savored at all of the "horrid country." Even
Eugenia sank into nonentity in the presence of the cold city-bred
woman, who ignored her existence entirely, notwithstanding that she
loudly and repeatedly expressed so much affection for the deceased.

"Perhaps your daughter wrote to you of me (Miss Deane); we were great
friends," she said, when they stood together in the presence of the
dead, and Mrs. Grey's emotions had somewhat subsided.

"Possibly; but I never remember names," returned the haughty lady,
without raising her eyes.

"There are so few people here with whom she could be intimate,"
continued Eugenia, "that I saw a great deal of her."

But to this Mrs. Grey made no reply, except to ask, "Whose idea was it
dressing Ella in this plain muslin wrapper, when she had so many
handsome dresses? But it don't matter," she continued, as Eugenia was
about to disclaim all participation in that affair. "It don't matter,
for no one here appreciates anything better, I dare say. Where's the
baby? I haven't seen that yet," she asked as they were descending the
stairs.

"She's with Dora, I presume," answered Eugenia; and Mrs. Grey
continued--

"Oh, the nurse girl, whom Ella wrote so much, about. Send her in."

But Eugenia was not one to obey orders so peremptorily given, and, for
a long time, Madam Grey and her three daughters waited the appearance
of the nurse girl, who, not knowing that they were in the parlor,
entered it at last, of her own accord, and stood before them with such
a quiet, self-possessed dignity, that even Mrs. Grey treated her with
far more respect than she had the assuming Eugenia, whose rule, for the
time being, was at an end. Everything had been done wrong; and when Mr.
Hastings spoke of having Ella buried at the foot of the spacious
garden, in a quiet, grassy spot, where trees of evergreen were growing,
she held up her hands in amazement at the idea that her daughter should
rest elsewhere than in the fashionable precincts of Greenwood. So Mr.
Hastings yielded, and on the morning of the third day, Dora watched
with blinding tears the long procession winding slowly down the avenue,
and out into the highway towards the village depot, where the shrieking
of the engine, and the rattling of the car bell would be the only
requiem tolled for Ella Hastings, as she was borne rapidly away from a
spot which had been her home for one brief year.

The little Ella was in Dora's arms, and as she, too, saw the handsome
steeds and moving carriages, she laughed aloud, and patted the
window-pane with her tiny baby hands. Dear little one! she did not
know--would never know, how much she was bereaved; but Dora knew, and
her tears fell all the faster when she thought that she, too, must
leave her, for her aunt had said to Mr. Hastings, that after the
funeral Dora must go home, adding, that Mrs. Leah would take care of
Ella until his return. So, when the hum of voices and the tread of feet
had ceased, when the shutters were closed and the curtains dropped,
Eugenia came for her to go, while Mrs. Leah came to take the child, who
refused to leave Dora, clinging so obstinately to her neck, and crying
so pitifully, that even Eugenia was touched, and bade her cousin remain
until Mr. Hastings came home. So Dora stayed, and the timid servants,
as they sat together in the shadowy twilight, felt not half so lonely
when they heard her gentle voice singing the motherless babe to sleep.



CHAPTER XII.

WAYS AND MEANS.


With all the showy parade and empty pomp of a fashionable city funeral,
Ella was laid to rest in Greenwood, and, in their darkened parlor,
arrayed in the latest style of mourning, the mother and sisters
received the sympathy of their friends, who hoped they would try to be
reconciled, and were so sorry they could not now go to the Springs, as
usual. In another parlor, too, far more elegant but less showy than
that of Mrs. Grey, another mother wept for her only son, speaking to
him blessed words of comfort in his bereavement, and telling him of the
better world, where again he would meet the loved and lost. Once she
ventured to hope that he would come back again to her fireside, now
that his was desolate, but he refused. Rose Hill henceforth would be
his home, and though it was lonely and drear, he must in a few days go
back to it; for the sake of the little one, doubly dear to him now that
its mother was gone. Oh, how sad was that journey back, and what a
sense of desolation came over him, as he drew near his home, and knew
that Ella was not there!--that never more would she come forth to meet
him--never again would her little feet stray through the winding walks,
or her fairy fingers pluck the flowers she had loved so well.

It was near the first of July. The day had been rainy and the evening
was dark and cold. Wet, chilly, and forlorn, he entered the hall and
ascended the stairs, but he could not that night go to the old room and
find it empty; and he was passing on to his library, when the sound of
some one singing made him pause, while a thrill of joy ran through his
veins, for he knew that childish voice, knew it was Dora Deane singing
to his child. Another moment and he stood within the room where Ella
had died. All traces of sickness and death had been removed, and
everything was in perfect order. Vases of flowers adorned the mantel
and the stands, seeming little out of place with the rain which beat
against the window, and the fire which burned within the grate. In her
crib lay Fannie, and sitting near was Dora Deane, her rich auburn hair
combed smoothly back, and the great kindness of her heart shining out
from the depths of her clear blue eyes.

There are people whose very presence brings with it a feeling of
comfort, and such a one was Dora. Mr. Hastings had not expected to find
her there; and the sight of her bright face, though it did not remove
the heavy pain from his heart, took from him the sense of utter
desolation, the feeling of being alone in his sorrow.

"Dora," he exclaimed, coming to her side, "I did not expect this! How
happened you to stay?"

"The baby cried so hard," answered Dora, "that Eugenia told me I might
remain until your return."

"It was very kind and thoughtful in her, and I thank her very much.
Will you tell her so?" he said, involuntarily laying his hand on Dora's
head.

Divesting himself at last of his damp overcoat, and donning the warm
dressing gown, which Dora brought him, he sat down before the fire, and
listened while she told him how she had stayed in that room and kept it
in order for him, because she thought it would not seem half so bad to
him if he came into it at once and found it comparatively pleasant.

"You are a very thoughtful girl," he said, when she had finished, "and
I hope I shall some time repay you for your kindness to myself and
Ella."

But Dora did not wish for any pay, and at the mention of Ella's name
her tears burst forth afresh. The next morning, when news of Mr.
Hastings's return was received at Locust Grove, Eugenia at once
suggested that Dora be sent for immediately. "It did not look well,"
she said, "for a good sized girl, fourteen and a half years of age, to
be staying in the same house with a widower. Folks would talk!"

And growing suddenly very careful of her cousin's reputation, she
dispatched a note to Rose Hill requesting her immediate return. Not
that she really thought there would be any impropriety in Dora's
staying with Mr. Hastings, but because she had a plan by which she
hoped herself to see him every day. And in this plan she succeeded. As
she had expected, her note brought down Mr. Hastings himself, who, on
his child's account, objected to parting with Dora, unless it were
absolutely necessary.

"She is as well off there as here," said he; "and why can't she stay?"

"I am perfectly willing she should take care of little Ella," answered
the previously instructed Mrs. Deane, who, in a measure, shared her
daughter's ambitious designs; "but it must be done here, if at all. I
can't suffer her to remain alone with those gossiping servants."

"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Eugenia, speaking as if this were the first she
had heard of it. "That is a good idea. It will be delightful to have
the dear little creature here, and so much better for her too in case
of _croup_, or anything like that, to be with an experienced person
like mother!"

"But," said Mr. Hastings, "this would keep Dora entirely from her
studies, and that ought not to be."

"It need not," hastily interrupted Eugenia. "She can go to school every
day, for nothing will give me greater pleasure than to take care of our
dear Ella's child;" and the pocket-handkerchief went up to her face to
conceal the tears which might have been there, but probably were not.

It was finally arranged, and in the course of a few days the parlor of
Locust Grove was echoing sometimes to the laughter, and sometimes to
the screaming, of little Ella Grey, who, from some unaccountable freak
of babyhood, conceived a violent fancy for Eugenia, to whom she would
go quite as readily as to Dora, whose daily absence at school she at
last did not mind. Regularly each day, and sometimes twice a day, Mr.
Hastings came down to Locust Grove, and his manner was very kind toward
Eugenia, when he found her, as he often did, with his baby sleeping in
her arms. He did not know how many times, at his approach, it was
snatched from the cradle by Eugenia, who, in reality, was not
remarkably fond of baby-tending, and who, in the absence of the father,
left the child almost wholly to the care of her mother and sister.
Management, however, was everything, and fancying she had found the
shortest avenue to Mr. Hastings's heart, she, in his presence, fondled,
and petted and played with his child, taking care occasionally to hint
of neglect on the part of Dora, whom he now seldom saw as, at the hour
of his calling, she was generally in school. It was by such means as
this that Eugenia sought to increase Mr. Hastings's regard for herself,
and in a measure she succeeded; for though his respect for Dora was
undiminished, he could not conceal from himself the fact that Eugenia
was very agreeable, very interesting and very _kind to his daughter_!

As the autumn advanced, and the cold rainy weather precluded out-door
exercise, it was but natural that he should spend much of his time at
Locust Grove, where his tastes were carefully studied, his favorite
books read, and his favorite authors discussed, while Eugenia's
handsome black eyes smiled a welcome when he came, and drooped
pensively beneath her long eyelashes when he went away. Thus the autumn
and the winter passed, and when the spring had come, the village of
Dunwood was rife with rumors concerning the attraction which drew Mr.
Hastings so often to Locust Grove; some sincerely pitying him if,
indeed, he entertained a serious thought of making Eugenia Deane his
wife, while others severely censured him for having so soon forgotten
one whose grave had not been made a twelvemonth. But he had not
forgotten, and almost every hour of his life was her loved name upon
his lips, and the long golden tress his own hand had severed from her
head was guarded as his choicest treasure, while the dark hours of the
night bore witness to his lonely grief. And it was to escape this
loneliness--to forget for a brief time the sad memories of the
past--that he went so often to Locust Grove, where as yet his child was
the greater attraction, though he could not be insensible to the charms
of Eugenia who spared no pains to interest him in herself.

He was passionately fond of music, and many an hour she sat patiently
at the piano, seeking to perfect herself in a difficult piece, with
which she thought to surprise him. But nothing, however admirably
executed, could sound well upon her old-fashioned instrument, and how
to procure a new one was the daily subject of her meditations.
Occasionally, as she remembered the beautiful rosewood piano standing
useless and untouched in the parlors of Rose Hill, something whispered
her to wait "and it would yet be hers." But this did not satisfy her
present desire, for aside from the sweet sounds, with which she hoped
to entrance Mr. Hastings, was the wish to make him think them much
wealthier than they were. From one or two circumstances, she had
gathered the impression that he thought them poor, and, judging him by
herself, she fancied her chances for becoming Mrs. Hastings 2d, would
be greatly increased if by any means he could be made to believe her
comparatively rich. As one means of effecting this, she must and would
have a new piano, costing not less than four hundred dollars. But how
to procure the money was the question; the remittance from Uncle Nat,
which had come on the first day of January, was already half gone, and
she could not, as she had once done before, make Dora's _head_ keep her
out of the difficulty. At last, a new idea suggested itself, and
springing to her feet she exclaimed aloud, for she was alone, "I have
it; strange I didn't think of that before. I'll write to the old man,
and tell him that as Dora is now fifteen, we would gladly send her away
to school, if we had the means, but our expenses are so great it is
impossible, unless the money comes from him. And he'll do it too, the
old miser!--for in his first letter he said he would increase the
allowance as Dora grew older."

Suiting the action to the word, she drew out her writing-desk, and
commenced a letter to her "dearest Uncle Nathaniel," feelingly
describing to him their straitened circumstances, and the efforts of
herself and her sister to keep the family in _necessaries_, which they
were enabled to do very comfortably with the addition of the allowance
he so generously sent them every year. But they wished now to send Dora
to school, to see if anything could be made of her! She had improved
latterly, and they really hoped a change of scene would benefit her.
For Dora's sake, then, would "her dear uncle be so kind as to send
them, on the receipt of that letter, such a sum as he thought best. If
so, he would greatly oblige his loving niece."

"There! That will do," she said, leaning back in her chair, and
laughing as she thought what her mother and Alice would say, if they
knew what she had done. "But they needn't know it," she continued
aloud, "until the money comes, and then they can't help themselves."

Then it occurred to her that if Dora herself were to send some message,
the coming of the money might be surer; and calling her cousin into the
room, she said:

"I am about writing to old Uncle Nat--have you any word or anything to
send him?"

"Oh, yes," answered Dora. "Give him my love, and tell him how much I
wish he would come home--and stay!" she added, leaving the room, and
soon returning with a lock of soft brown hair, which she laid upon the
table. "Give him that, and tell him it was mother's."

Had a serpent started suddenly into life before Eugenia, she could not
have turned whiter than she did at the sight of that hair. It brought
vividly to mind the shadowy twilight, the darkness in the corners, and
the terror which came over her on that memorable night, when she had
thought to steal Dora's treasure. Soon recovering her composure,
however, she motioned her cousin from the room, and, resuming her pen,
said to herself, "I shan't write all that nonsense about his coming
home, for nobody wants him here; but the love and the hair may as well
go."

Then, as she saw how much of the latter Dora had brought, she
continued, "There's no need of sending all this. It would make
beautiful hair ornaments, and I mean to keep a part of it; Dora won't
care, of course, and I shall tell her."

Dividing off a portion of the hair for her own use, she laid it aside,
and then in a postscript wrote, "Dora sends"--here she paused; and
thinking that "Dora's _love_" would please the old man too much, and
possibly give him too favorable an opinion of his niece, she crossed
out the "sends," and wrote, "Dora wishes to be remembered to you, and
sends for your acceptance a lock of her mother's hair."

Thus was the letter finished, and the next mail which left Dunwood bore
it on its way to India, Eugenia little thinking how much it would
influence her whole future life.

----------------



CHAPTER XIII.

UNCLE NAT.


IT was a glorious moonlight night, and, like gleams of burnished
silver, the moonbeams flashed from the lofty domes and minarets of
Calcutta, or shone like sparkling gems on the sleeping waters of the
bay. It was a night when the Hindoo lover told his tale to the dusky
maiden at his side, and the soldier, wearing the scarlet uniform,
talked to his blue-eyed bride of the home across the waters, which she
had left to be with him.

On this night, too, an old man in his silent room, sat thinking of
_his_ home far beyond the shores of "Merrie England." Near him lay a
letter, Eugenia's letter, which was just received. He had not opened it
yet, for the sight of it had carried him back across the Atlantic wave,
and again he saw, in fancy, the granite hills which had girded his
childhood's home--the rock where he had played--the tree where he had
carved his name, and the rushing mountain stream, which ran so swiftly
past the red house in the valley--the home where he was born, and where
had come to him the heart grief which had made him the strange,
eccentric being he was. Thoughts of the dead were with him, too,
to-night, and with his face buried in his broad, rough hands, he
thought of, _her_, whose winsome smile and gentle ways had woven around
his heart a mighty and undying love, such as few men ever felt. Of
Dora, too, he thought--Dora, whom he had never seen--and his heart
yearned towards her with a deep tenderness, because his Fannie had been
her mother.

"I should love her, I know," he said, "even though she were
cold-hearted and stupid as they say;" then, as he remembered the
letter, he continued, "I will open it, for it may have tidings of the
child."

The seal was broken, the letter unfolded, and a tress of shining hair
dropped on the old man's hand, clinging lovingly, as it were, about his
fingers, while a low, deep cry broke the stillness of the room. He knew
it in a moment--knew it was _Fannie's hair_--the same he had so oft
caressed when she was but a little girl and he a grown-up man. It was
Fannie's hair, come to him over land and sea, and his eyes grew dim
with tears, which rained over his thin, dark face as he kissed again
and again the precious boon, dearer far to him than the golden ore of
India. "Fannie's hair!" very softly he repeated the words, holding it
up to the moonlight, and then turning it toward the lamp, as if to
assure himself that he really had it in his possession. "Why was it
never sent before?" he said at last, "or why was it sent at all?" and
taking up the letter, he read it through, lingering long over the
postscript, and grieving that Dora's message, the first he had ever
received, should be comparatively so cold.

"Why couldn't she have sent her _love_ to her poor old uncle, who has
nothing in the wide, wide world to love save this one lock of hair! God
bless you, Dora Deane, for sending that," and again he raised it to his
lips, saying as he did so, "And she shall have the money, too, aye,
more than Eugenia asked; _one golden dollar for every golden hair_,
will be a meet return!" And the old man laughed aloud at the novel
idea, which no one but himself would have conceived.  It was a long,
weary task, the counting of those hairs; for more than once, when he
paused in his work to think of her whose head they once adorned, he
forgot how many had been told, and patiently began again, watching
carefully, through blinding tears, to see that none were lost, for he
would not that one should escape him. It was strange how childish the
strong man became, counting those threads of hair; and when at last the
labor was completed, he wept because there were no more. Fifteen
hundred dollars seemed too small a sum to pay for what would give him
so much joy; and _he_ mourned that the tress had not been larger, quite
as much as did Eugenia, when she heard of his odd fancy.

The moon had long since ceased to shine on the sleeping city, and day
was breaking in the east, ere Nathaniel Deane arose from the table
where he had sat the livelong night, gloating over his treasure, and
writing a letter which now lay upon the table. It was addressed to
Dora, and in it he told her what he had done, blessing her for sending
him that lock of hair, and saying that the sight of it made his
withered heart grow young and green again, as it was in the happy days
when he so madly loved her mother. Then he told her how he yearned to
behold her, to look upon her face and see which she was like, her
father or her mother. Both were very dear to him, and for their sake he
loved their child.

"No one will ever call me _father_," he wrote, "and I am lonely in my
Indian home, lined all over, as it is, with gold, and sometimes, Dora,
since I have heard of you, orphaned thus early, I have thought I would
return to America, and seeking out some pleasant spot, would build a
home for you and me. And this I would do, were I sure that I was wanted
there--that you would be happier with me than with your aunt and
cousins. Are they kind to you, my child? Sometimes, in my reveries, I
have fancied they were not--have dreamed of a girlish face, with locks
like that against which my old heart is beating, and eyes of deep dark
blue, looking wistfully at me, across the waste of waters, and telling
me of cruel neglect and indifference. Were this indeed so, not all
India would keep me a moment from your side.

"Write to me, Dora, and tell me of yourself, that I may judge something
of your character. Tell me, too, if you ever think of the lonesome old
man, who, each night of his life, remembers you in his prayers, asking
that if on earth he may never look on _Fannie's_ child, he may at last
meet and know her in the better land. And now farewell, my _daughter_,
mine by adoption, if from no other cause.

"Write to me soon, and tell me if at home there is one who would kindly
welcome back.

"Your rough old UNCLE NAT."

"She'll answer that," the old man said, as he read it over. "She'll
tell me to come home," and, like a very child, his heart bounded with
joy as he thought of breathing again the air of the western world.

The letter was sent, and with it we, too, will return to America, and
going backward for a little, take up our story at a period three months
subsequent to the time when Eugenia wrote to Uncle Nat.

---------



CHAPTER XIV

MANAGEMENT.


One year had passed away since the night when Ella Hastings died, and
alone in his chamber the husband was musing of the past, and holding,
as it were, communion with the departed, who seemed this night to be so
near that once he said aloud, "Ella, are you with me now?" But to his
call there came no answer, save the falling of the summer rain; and
again, with his face upon the pillow, just as it had lain one year ago,
he asked himself if to the memory of the dead he had thus long been
faithful; if no thought of another had mingled with his love for her;
and was it to ascertain this that she had come back to him to-night,
for he felt that she was there, and again he spoke aloud, "I have not
forgotten you, darling; but I am lonesome, oh, so lonesome, and the
world looks dark and drear. Lay your hand upon my heart, dear Ella, and
you will feel its weight of pain."

But why that sudden lifting of the head, as if a spirit hand had indeed
touched him with its icy fingers? Howard Hastings was not afraid of the
dead, and it was not this which made him start so nervously to his
feet. His ear had caught the sound of a light footstep in the hall
below, and coming at that hour of a stormy night, it startled him, for
he remembered that the outer door had been left unlocked. Nearer and
nearer it came, up the winding stairs, and on through the silent hall,
tin til it readied the threshold of his chamber, where it ceased, while
a low voice spoke his name.

In an instant he was at the door, standing face to face with Dora
Deane, whose head was uncovered, and whose hair was drenched with the
rain.

"Dora," he exclaimed, "how came you here and wherefore have you come?"

"Your child!" was her only answer, and in another moment he, too, was
cut in the storm with Dora Deane, whose hand he involuntarily took in
his, as if to shield her from the darkness.

In a few words she told him how she had been aroused from her sleep by
her aunt, who said the baby was dying with the croup; that the servant
was timid and refused to go either for him or the physician, and so she
had come herself.

"And were you not afraid?" he asked; and the heroic girl answered, "No;
I fancied Ella was with me, cheering me on, and I felt no fear."

Mr. Hastings made no reply, but, when lie reached the house, and saw
the white, waxen lace of the child, he felt that Ella had indeed been
near to him that night; that she had come for her little one, who, with
a faint, moaning cry, stretched its hands towards Dora, as she entered
the room. And Dora took it in her arms, holding it lovingly there,
until the last, painful struggle was over, and the father, standing
near, knew that wife and child had met together in heaven.

At the foot of the garden, beneath the evergreens, where he had wished
to lay his other Ella, they buried the little girl, and then Howard
Hastings was, indeed, alone in the world--alone in his great house,
which seemed doubly desolate now that all were gone. For many weeks he
did not go to Locust Grove, but remained in his quiet rooms, brooding
over his grief, and going often to the little grave beneath the
evergreens. There, once, al the hour of sunset, he found _Eugenia
Deane_ planting flowers above his sleeping child! She had marveled much
that he stayed so long away, and learning that the sunset hour was
always spent in the garden, she had devised a plan for meeting him. It
succeeded, and with well-feigned embarrassment she was hurrying away,
when he detained her, bidding her tarry while he told her how much he
thanked her for her kindness to his child.

"I have wished to come to Locust Grove," he said, "and thank you all,
but I could not, for there is now no baby face to greet me."

"But there are those there still who would welcome you with pleasure,"
softly answered Eugenia; and then with her dark eyes sometimes on the
ground and sometimes looking very pityingly on him, she acted the art
of a consoler, telling him how much better it was for the child to be
at rest with its mother.

And while she talked, darkness fell upon them, so that Howard Hastings
could not see the look of triumph which the dark eyes wore when he
said, "You must not go home alone, Miss Deane. Let me accompany you."

So the two went together very slowly down the long avenue, and when
over an _imaginary_ stone the fair Eugenia stumbled, the arm of Howard
Hastings was offered for her support, and then more slowly still they
continued on their way. From that time Mr. Hastings was often at
Eugenia's side, and before the autumn was gone, he had more than once
been told she was to be his wife. And each time that he heard it, it
affected him less painfully, until at last he himself began to wonder
how it were possible for him ever to have disliked and distrusted a
person so amiable, so intelligent and so agreeable as Eugenia Deane!
Still he could never quite satisfy himself that he loved her, for there
was something which always came up before him whenever he seriously
thought of making her his wife. This something he could not define, but
when, as he sometimes did, he fancied Eugenia the mistress of his
house, there was always in the background the form of Dora Deane,
gliding noiselessly about him, as she did that night when first she
came to Rose Hill. He saw but little of her now, for whenever he
called, Eugenia managed to keep from the room both mother, sister and
cousin, choosing to be alone with the handsome widower, who lingered
late and lingered long dreading a return to his lonely home.

Eugenia was now daily expecting an answer to her letter and feeling
sure that it would bring the money, she began to talk to Mr. Hastings
of her new piano, playfully remarking, that as he was a connoisseur in
such matters, she believed she should call on him to aid in her
selection; and this he promised to do, thinking the while of the unused
instrument in his deserted parlor, and feeling strongly tempted to
offer her its use. Thus the weeks passed on, while Eugenia became more
and more impatient for the letter.

"It is an age since I had anything from the post-office I wish you'd
call and inquire," she said to Dora one afternoon, as she saw her
preparing to go out.

Scarcely was she gone, however, when, remembering something which she
wanted, and, thinking she might possibly meet with Mr. Hastings, she
started for the village herself reaching the office door just as Dora,
accompanied by Mr. Hastings, was crossing the street in the same
direction.

"I shan't have to go in now," said Dora; and fancying her companion
would prefer waiting for her cousin to walking with her, she passed on,
all unconscious of what she had lost by being a minute too late.

"A letter from Uncle Nat--directed to Dora, too!" and Eugenia grew
alternately red and white, as, crushing the missive into her pocket,
she went out into the street, where she was joined by Mr. Hastings.

"Dora left me rather unceremoniously," said he, as he bade her good
evening, "and so I waited to walk with you."

But Eugenia could not appear natural, so anxious was she to know what
the letter contained. Up to the very gate Mr. Hastings went, but for
once she did not ask him to stop; and he turned away, wondering at her
manner, and feeling a little piqued at her unusual coolness. Hastening
to her chamber, and crouching near the window, Eugenia tore open Dora's
letter, and clutching eagerly at the draft, almost screamed with
delight when she saw the amount. FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS! She could
scarcely believe her senses: and drawing still nearer the window, for
the daylight was fading fast, she sought for the reason of this
unexpected generosity. But the old man's childish fancy, which would
have touched a heart less hard than hers, aroused only her deepest
ire--not because he had counted out the hairs, but because there had
not been more to count. Jumping to her feet in her wrath, she
exclaimed, "Fool that I was, to have withheld one, when the old dotard
would have paid for it so richly. But it cannot now be helped," she
continued, and resuming her seat, she read the letter through,
exploding, but once more, and that at the point where Uncle Nat had
spoken of returning asking if there was one who would welcome him home.

"Gracious heavens!" she exclaimed, growing a little faint. "Wouldn't I
be in a predicament? But it shall never be, if I can prevent, it, and I
fancy I can. As Dora will not read this letter, it is not reasonably to
be expected that she will answer it, and it will be some time, I
imagine, before _I_ invite him to come and see if we are kind to her!
What a childish old thing he must be, to pay so much for one little
lock of hair! I'd send him all of mine, if I thought it would bring me
fifteen hundred dollars."

It did seem a large sum to her, that fifteen hundred dollars, more than
she dared to appropriate to herself; but the piano she was determined
to have, and, as she dreaded what her mother might say, she resolved
upon keeping the letter a secret until the purchase was made, and then
Mrs. Deane could not do otherwise than indorse the draft, and let her
have the money.

They had been talking of going to Rochester for some time past, and if
she could manage to have Mr. Hastings go with her, she could leave her
mother at the hotel, or dispose of her elsewhere, while she went with
him to the music rooms, and made the selection. As if fortune were,
indeed, favoring her, Mr. Hastings called the next, night and they
were, as usual, left together alone. She was looking uncommonly well
this evening; and as she saw how often and how admiringly his eyes
rested upon her, hope whispered that the prize was nearly won. After
conversing awhile on different subjects, she spoke of her new piano,
asking him if he remembered his promise of assisting her in a
selection, and saying she thought of going to the city some day that
week. Again Mr. Hastings remembered the beautiful rosewood instrument,
whose tones had been so long unheard in his silent home, and he said,
"Do you not like Ella's piano?" while a feeling, shadowy and undefined,
stole over him, that possibly it might, some day, be hers; and Eugenia,
divining his thoughts, answered artfully, "Oh, very much. I used to
enjoy hearing dear Ella play, but that don't do me any good. It isn't
mine, you know."

Very softly and tenderly the beautiful black eyes looked into his, and
the voice was low and gentle, as it breathed the sacred name of Ella.
It was the hour of Howard Hastings's temptation; and, scarce knowing
what he did, he essayed to speak--to offer _her_ the piano, whose keys
had been so often touched by the fairy fingers, now folded away beneath
the winter snow. But his lips refused to move; there was a pressure
upon them, as if a little hand were laid upon his mouth to prevent the
utterance of words he had better far not speak. Thus was he saved, and
when Eugenia, impatient at his delay, cast towards him an anxious
glance, she saw that his thoughts were not of her, and, biting her lips
with vexation, she half petulantly asked, "if he had any intention of
going to the city that week?"

"Yes--no--certainly," said he, starting up as if from a deep reverie.
Then, as he understood what was wanted of him, he continued, "Excuse
me, Miss Deane. I was thinking of Ella, and the night when she died.
What were you saying of Rochester? I have business there to-morrow, and
if you go down, I will aid you all I can. By the way," he continued,
"that is the night of ----'s grand concert. How would you like to
attend it?"

"Oh, so much!" answered Eugenia, her fine eyes sparkling with delight.

"But stop," said he, "now I think of it, I have an engagement which may
possibly prevent me from attending it, as I would like to do with you,
for I know you would enjoy it. Still, it may be that I can, and if so,
I'll call for you at the hotel. We can come home on the eleven o'clock
train."

So, ere Mr. Hastings departed, it was arranged that Eugenia and her
mother should next morning go down with him to the city, and that in
the evening he would, perhaps, accompany them to the concert.

"I am progressing fast," thought Eugenia, as she sat alone in her
chamber that night, after Alice had retired, "but still I wish he'd
come to the point, and not keep me in such suspense. I thought once he
was going to, and I believe now he would if he hadn't gone to thinking
of Ella, and all that nonsense; but never mind, he's worth waiting for,
with his fine house and immense wealth; I shan't care so much about
Uncle Nat's money then, though goodness knows I don't want him turning
up here some day and exposing me, as I dare say the meddlesome old
thing would do."

This reminded her of the letter, and, as Alice was asleep, she thought
this as favorable an opportunity for answering it as she would probably
have. Opening her writing-desk, and taking her pen, she framed a reply,
the substance of which was, that _ma, Alice_ and _herself_ were very,
very thankful to her dear uncle for his generous gift to Dora, who,
strange to say, manifested no feeling whatever!

"If she is grateful," wrote Eugenia, "she does not show it in the
least. I hardly know what to make of her, she's so queer. Sometime,
perhaps, she will appreciate your goodness, and meanwhile, rest assured
that I will see that your gift is used to the best advantage."

Not a word of coming home to the expectant old man, whose heart each
day grew lighter as he thought of the letter which _Dora_ would write
bidding him to come to the friends who would welcome him back. Not one
line from Dora to the kind uncle who, when he read the cruel lines,
laid his weary head upon his pillow and wept bitterly that this, his
last fond hope, was crushed!

There is such a thing as Retribution, and Eugenia Deane, sitting there
alone that night, shuddered as the word seemed whispered in her ear.
But it could not deter her from her purpose. Howard Hastings must be
won. "The object to be gained was worthy of the means used to gain it,"
she thought, as she sealed the letter; then, placing the draft for the
$1,500 safely in her purse, she crept softly to bed, sleeping ere long
as soundly as if the weight of a guilty conscience had never rested
upon her.



CHAPTER XV.

THE NEW PIANO.


The next morning, at the appointed time, Mr. Hastings, Mrs. Deane and
her daughter stood together in the Dunwood Depot, awaiting the arrival
of the train. Eugenia was in high spirits, chatting gaily with Mr.
Hastings, whose manner was so unusually lover-like, that more than one
looker-on smiled meaningly, as they saw how very attentive he was. On
reaching the city he parted from the ladies for a time, telling
Eugenia, as he bade her good morning, that he should probably not see
her again until about three o'clock in the afternoon, when he would
meet her at the music-rooms.

"Meet you at the music-rooms for what?" asked Mrs. Deane, who, though
she had frequently heard her daughter talking of a new piano, had never
for a moment believed her to be in earnest.

"What do you suppose he would meet me for, unless it were to look at
pianos?" answered Eugenia, and her mother replied, "Look at pianos! A
great deal of good that will do, I imagine, when both of us together
have but twenty-five dollars in the world!"

A curious smile flitted over Eugenia's face, as she thought of the
draft, but she merely replied, "And suppose we haven't any money, can't
I _make believe_, and by looking at expensive instruments induce Mr.
Hastings to think we are richer than we are? I don't accuse him of
being at all mercenary, but I do think he would have proposed ere this,
if he hadn't thought us so wretchedly poor."

Mrs. Deane could not understand how merely looking at a costly piano
indicated wealth; but feeling herself considerable interest in her
daughter's success, she concluded to let her pursue her own course, and
the subject was not resumed again until afternoon, when, having
finished their shopping, they sat alone in a private room, opening from
the public hall, and opposite the ladies' parlor in the hotel. They had
taken this room, because in case she attended the concert, Eugenia
would wish to rearrange her hair, and make some little change in her
personal appearance. "Then, too, when Mr. Hastings came," she said,
"they would be by themselves, and not have everybody listening to what
they said. By the way, mother," she continued, as she stood before the
glass, "if Mr. Hastings can attend the concert, suppose you go home at
half-past six. You don't care for singing, you know, and besides that,
you stumble so in the dark, that it will be so much pleasanter for Mr.
Hastings to have but one in charge."

"And much pleasanter for you, too, to be alone with him," suggested
Mrs. Deane, who really cared but little for music, and was the more
willing to accede to Eugenia's proposal.

"Why, yes," answered the young lady. "I think it would be
pleasanter--so if he says he can accompany me, you go home, like a dear
good old woman as you are." And tying on her bonnet, Eugenia went out
to keep her appointment, finding Mr. Hastings there before her, as she
had expected.

Several expensive pianos were examined, and a selection at last made of
a very handsome one, whose cost was $450. "I care but little what price
I pay, if it only suits me," said Eugenia, with the air of one who had
the wealth of the Indies at her disposal. "You will see that it is
carefully boxed and sent to Dunwood, will you not?" she continued,
turning to the man in attendance, who bowed respectfully, and stood
waiting for the money, while Mr. Hastings, too, it may be, wondered a
very little if it would be forthcoming. "I did not know certainly as I
should make a purchase," continued Eugenia, "so I left the money with
mother at the hotel: I will bring it directly;" and she tripped
gracefully out of the store, followed by Mr. Hastings, who felt almost
as if he had done wrong in suffering her to buy a new piano, when
_Ella's_ would have suited her quite as well, and the name upon it, "E.
Hastings," would make no difference!

Once, in the street, he thought to say something like this to her and
prevent the purchase, but again an unseen hand, as it were, sealed his
lips; and when he spoke, it was to tell her that he could probably
escort her to the concert, and would see her again about dark. Here
having reached the hotel, he left her, and walked on a short distance,
when, remembering something concerning the concert, which he wished to
tell her, he turned back, and, entering the hotel, went to the parlor,
where he expected to find her. But she was not there, and thinking she
had gone out for a moment and would soon return, he stepped into the
hall, and as the day was rather cold, stood over the register, which
was very near Eugenia's room. He had been there but an instant, when he
caught the sound of his own name, and looking up, he saw that the
ventilator over the door opposite was turned back, so that everything
said within, though spoken in a low tone, could be distinctly heard
without. It was Eugenia who was speaking, and not wishing to listen, he
was about turning away, when the words she uttered aroused his
curiosity and chained him to the spot.

They were, "And what if Mr. Hastings _did_ give it to me? If he marries
me, and I intend that he shall, 'twill make no difference whether the
piano was bought afterward or a little in advance. He knows, or ought
to know, that I would not use Ella's old one."

"But has he ever said a word to you on the subject of marriage?"
queried Mrs. Deane, and Eugenia answered, "Not directly, perhaps, but
he has had it in his mind a hundred times, I dare say. But pray don't
look so distressed. I never knew before that scheming mothers objected
to their daughters receiving costly presents from the gentlemen to whom
they were engaged."

"You are not engaged," said Mrs. Deane, and Eugenia replied, "But
expect to be, which is the same thing;" then after a pause, she
continued, "but, jesting aside, Mr. Hastings did not buy the piano. I
bought it myself and expect to pay for it, too, that is, if you will
indorse this draft. Look!" and she held to view the draft, of which
Mrs. Deane was, until that moment, wholly ignorant.

Wiping from his white brow the heavy drops of perspiration which had
gathered thickly upon it, Mr. Hastings attempted to leave the place,
but the same hand which twice before had sealed his lips, was
interposed to keep him there, and he stood silent and immovable, while
his surprise and indignation increased as the conversation proceeded.

In great astonishment Mrs. Deane examined the draft, and then
questioned her daughter as to how she came by it. Very briefly Eugenia
told of the letter she had sent her Uncle Nat. "I knew there was no
surer way of gaining his goodwill," said she, "than by thrusting Dora
in his face, so I asked her if she had any message, and she sent her
love, together with a lock of her mother's hair, which I verily believe
turned the old fellow's heart. I have not the letter with me which he
wrote in reply and directed to Dora, but it was a sickish, sentimental
thing, prating about his love for her mother, and how much he prized
that lock which he said he would pay for at the rate of one dollar a
hair! And, don't you believe, the silly old fool sat up all night,
crying over and counting the hairs, which amounted to fifteen hundred!
'Twould have been more if I hadn't foolishly kept back some for hair
ornaments. I was so provoked, I could have thrown them in the fire."

"But if the letter was directed to Dora, how came you by it?" asked
Mrs. Deane, who, knowing Eugenia as well as she did, was still wholly
unprepared for anything like this.

"'Twas the merest chance in the world," answered Eugenia, stating the
circumstances by which the letter came into her possession, and adding
that "Mr. Hastings must have thought her manner that night very
strange; but come," she continued, "do sign your name quick, so I can
get the money before the bank closes."

But this Mrs. Deane at first refused to do, saying it was not theirs,
and Dora should no longer be defrauded; at the same time, she expressed
her displeasure at Eugenia's utter want of principle.

"Grown suddenly very conscientious haven't you!" scornfully laughed the
young lady, reminding her of the remittances annually sent to them for
Dora's benefit, but which had been unjustly withheld; "very
conscientious indeed; but I am thankful I parted company with that
commodity long ago."

Then followed a series of angry words, and bitter recriminations, by
which the entire history of Eugenia's selfish treatment of her cousin,
even to the cutting off her hair more than two years before, was
disclosed to Mr. Hastings, who, immeasurably shocked and sick at heart,
turned away just as Mrs. Deane, to avoid further altercation, expressed
her readiness to indorse the draft, on condition that the balance,
after paying for the piano, should be set aside for Dora.

"And haven't I told you repeatedly that the piano was all I wanted? and
I shouldn't be so particularly anxious about that, if I did not think
it would aid me in securing Mr. Hastings."

"Which you never shall, so help me Heaven!" exclaimed the indignant
man, as he strode noiselessly down the hall, and out into the open air,
where he breathed more freely, as if just escaping from the poisonous
atmosphere of the deadly upas.

It would be impossible to describe his emotion, as he walked on through
one street after another. Astonishment, rage, horror, and disgust each
in turn predominated, and were at last succeeded by a deep feeling of
thankfulness that the veil had been removed, and he had escaped from
the toils of one, who, slowly but surely, had been winding herself
around his fancy--he would not say affections, for he knew he had never
loved her. "But she might have duped me," he said, "for I am but
human;" and then as he thought what a hardened, unprincipled woman she
was, he shuddered and grew faint at the mere idea of taking such a one
to fill the place of his gentle, loving Ella. "I cannot meet her
to-night," he continued, as he remembered the concert. "I could not
endure the sound of her voice, for I should say that to her which had
better not be said. I will go home--back to Dunwood, leaving her to
wait for me as long as she chooses."

With him, to will was to do, and having finished his business, he
started for the depot, whither Mrs. Deane had preceded him, having been
coaxed by Eugenia to return at half-past six, and thus leave her the
pleasure of Mr. Hastings's company alone. The piano had been paid for,
and as it was quite dark, and beginning to rain, the now amiable young
lady accompanied her mother to the depot, and having seen her safely in
the cars, which would not start in some minutes, was on her way back to
the hotel, her mind too intently occupied with thoughts of coming
pleasure to heed the man who, with dark lowering brow, and hat drawn
over his face, met her on the sidewalk, and who at sight of her started
suddenly as if she had been a crawling serpent.

"Will the Deanes always cross my path?" he exclaimed, as, opening the
car door, he saw near the stove the brown satin hat and black plumes of
the mother, who was sitting with her back towards him, and consequently
was not aware of his presence.

To find a seat in another car was an easy matter, and while Eugenia, at
the hotel, was alternately admiring herself in the glass, and peering
out into the hall to see if he were coming, he was on his way to
Dunwood, breathing more and more freely, as the distance between them
increased.

"Yes, I have escaped her," he thought, and mingled with thankfulness
for this, was a deep feeling of sympathy for Dora, to whom such
injustice had been done.

He understood perfectly her position--knew exactly the course of
treatment, which, from the first, she had received, and while trembling
with anger, he resolved that it should not continue. "I _can_ help her,
and I _will_," he said emphatically; though how, or by what means he
could not, in his present state of excitement, decide. Arrived at
Dunwood, he stepped hastily from the car and walked rapidly down the
street until he came opposite Locust Grove. Then, indeed, he paused,
while an involuntary shudder ran through his frame as he thought of the
many hours he had spent within those walls with one who had proved
herself unworthy even of the name of woman.

"But it is over now," he said, "and when I cross that threshold again,
may----"

The sentence was unfinished, for a light flashed suddenly out upon him,
and a scene met his view which arrested his footsteps at once, and,
raining as it was, he leaned back against the fence and gazed at the
picture before him. The shutters were thrown open, and through the
window was plainly discernible the form of Dora Deane, seated at a
table on which lay a book which she seemed to be reading. There was
nothing elegant about her dress, nor did Howard Hastings think of this;
his mind was intent upon _her_ who had been so cruelly wronged, and
whose young face, seen through the window on that winter night, looked
very fair, so fair that he wondered he had never thought before how
beautiful was Dora Deane.

At this point, Mrs. Deane, who had been slower in her movements,
reached the gate, and, resigning his post near the fence, Mr. Hastings
walked slowly home, bearing in his mind that picture of Dora Deane as
he saw her through the window, with no shadows on her brow, save those
left there by early grief, and which rendered her face still more
attractive than it would otherwise have been. That night, all through
the silent hours, there shone a glimmering light from the room where
Howard Hastings sat, brooding upon what he had heard, and meditating
upon the best  means for removing Dora from the influence of her
heartless cousin. Slowly over him, too, came memories of the little
brown-faced girl who, when his home was cheerless, had come to him with
her kindly acts and gentle ways, diffusing over all an air of comfort
and filling his home with sunlight. Then he remembered that darkest
hour of his desolation--that first coming home from burying his dead;
and, now as then he felt creeping over him the icy chill which had lain
upon his heart when he approached the house whence they had borne his
fair girl wife. But he had found _her_ there--Dora Deane--folding his
motherless baby to her bosom, and again in imagination he met the soft
glance of her eye as she welcomed him back to Ella's room which seemed
not half so lonely with Dora sitting by his side. Again he was with her
in the storm which she had braved on that night when his child lay
dying--the child whom she had loved so much, and who had died upon her
lap. Anon, this picture faded too, and he saw her as he had seen her
but a few hours before--almost a woman now, but retaining still the
same fair, open brow, and sunny smile which had characterized her as a
child. And _this_ was the girl whom Eugenia would trample down--would
misrepresent to the fond old uncle, far away. "But it shall never be,"
he said aloud; "I will remove her Iron them by force if need be." But
"where would she go?" he asked. Then as he remembered Ella's wish that
he should care for her--a wish which his foolish fancy for Eugenia had
for a time driven from his mind, he felt an intense longing to have her
there with him; there, in his home, where he could see her every
day--not as his wife, for at that time Howard Hastings had never
thought it possible for him to call her by that name, she seemed so
much a child; but she should be his sister, and his manly heart
throbbed with delight, as he thought how he would watch over and
protect her from all harm. He would teach her and she would learn,
sitting at his feet as she sat two years before; and life would seem no
longer sad and dreary, for he would have a pleasant home and in it
_Dora Deane!_ Ere long, however, his better judgment told him that the
censorious, curious world would never suffer this to be; _she couldn't
come as his sister--she couldn't come at all_--and again there came
over him a sense of desolation, as if he were a second time bereaved.

Slowly and steadily the raindrops pattered against the window pane,
while the lamp upon the table burned lower and lower, and still Mr.
Hastings sat there, pondering another plan, to which he could see no
possible objection, provided Mrs. Deane's consent could be obtained:
"and she shall consent," he said, "or an exposure of her daughter will
be the consequence."

Then, it occurred to him that, in order to succeed, he must for a time
at least appear perfectly natural--must continue to visit at Locust
Grove, just as he had been in the habit of doing--must meet Eugenia
face to face, and even school himself to listen to the sound of her
piano, which he felt would grate so harshly on his ear. And all this he
could do if in the end Dora would be benefited.

For the more immediate accomplishment of his purpose, it seemed
necessary that he should visit New York, and as in his present
excitement, he could not rest at home, he determined upon going that
very morning, in the early train. Pushing back the heavy drapery which
shaded the window he saw that daylight was already breaking in the
east, and, after a few hurried preparations, he knocked at Mrs. Leah's
door, and telling her that important business  required his presence in
New York, whither he should be gone a few days, he started for the
depot, just as the sun was rising; and, that night, Mrs. Elliott, his
sister, was surprised to hear that he was in the parlor, and wished to
see her.

"Why, Howard!" she exclaimed, as she entered the room and saw how pale
and haggard he was, "what is the matter, and why have you come upon me
so suddenly?"

"I have come, Louise, for aid," he answered, advancing towards her, and
drawing her to his side. "Aid for an injured orphan. Do you remember
Dora Deane?"

"Perfectly well," answered Mrs. Elliott. "I was too much interested in
her to forget her soon. Ella wrote me that she was living in Dunwood,
and when next I visited you, I intended seeking her out. But what of
her, and how can I befriend her?"

In as few words as possible, Mr. Hastings told what he knew of her
history since his sister saw her last, withholding not even the story
of his own strange fancy for Eugenia. "But that is over, thank Heaven,"
he continued; "and now, Louise, you must take Dora to live with you.
You have no child, no sister, and she will be to you both of these. You
must love her, educate her, make her just such a woman as you are
yourself; make her, in short, what that noble-hearted old man in India
will wish her to be when he returns, as he shall do, if my life is
spared; and Louise," he added, growing more and more earnest, "she will
well repay you for your trouble. She brought sunshine to my home; she
will bring it to yours. She is naturally refined and intelligent. She
is amiable, ingenuous, open-hearted, and will one day be beautiful."

"And you, my brother, love her?" queried Mrs. Elliott, looking him
steadily in his face, and parting the thick, black hair from off his
high, white forehead.

"_Love her_, Louise!" he answered, "_I love Dora Deane!_ Why, no. Ella
loved her, the baby loved her, and for this I will befriend her, but to
_love her_, I never thought of such a thing!" and walking to the
window, he looked out upon the night, repeating to himself, "_Love Dora
Deane_. I wonder what put that idea into Louise's brain?"

Returning ere long to his seat, he resumed the conversation, which
resulted at last in Mrs. Elliott's expressing her perfect willingness
to give Dora a home, and a mother's care, to see that she had every
possible advantage, to watch over and make her not only what Uncle Nat
would wish to find her, but what Howard Hastings himself desired that
she should be. Of Mrs. Elliott, we have said but little, neither is it
necessary that we should dwell upon her character at large. She was a
noble, true-hearted woman, finding her greatest happiness in doing
others good. Widowed in the second year of her married life, her home
was comparatively lonely, for no second love had ever moved her heart.
In Dora Deane, of whom Ella had written so enthusiastically, she felt a
deep interest, and when her brother came to her with the story of her
wrongs, she gladly consented to be to her a mother, nay, possibly a
sister, for, with woman's ready tact, she read what Mr. Hastings did
not even suspect, and she bade him bring her at once.

A short call upon his mother, to whom he talked of Dora Deane; a hasty
visit to Ella's grave, on which the winter snow was lying; a civil bow
across the street to Mrs. Grey, who had never quite forgiven him for
having _killed her daughter_; and he started back to Dunwood bearing
with him a happier, healthier, frame of mind, than he had experienced
for many a day. There was something now worth living for--the watching
Dora Deane grow up into a woman, whose husband would delight to honor
her, and whose children would rise up and call her blessed. This
picture, however, was not altogether pleasing, though why the thoughts
of Dora's future husband should affect him unpleasantly, he could not
tell. Still it did, and mentally hoping she would never marry, he
reached Dunwood at the time and took his departure from it. And here we
leave him while, in another chapter, we look in upon Eugenia, whom we
left waiting for him at the hotel.



CHAPTER XVI.

FAILURE AND SUCCESS.


In a state of great anxiety, which increased each moment, Eugenia
looked for the twentieth time into the long hall, and seeing no one,
went back again to the glass, wondering if her new hat, which, without
her mother's knowledge, had that afternoon been purchased, and now
adorned her head, were as becoming as the milliner had said, and if
fifteen dollars were not a great price for one in her circumstances to
pay for a bonnet. Then she thought if Mr. Hastings proposed soon, as
she believed he would, she should never again feel troubled about the
trivial matter of money, of which she would have an abundance. But
where was he and why did he not come? she asked herself repeatedly,
caring less, however, for the delay, when she considered that if they
were late, more people would see her in company with the elegant Mr.
Hastings, who was well known in the city.

"Eight o'clock as I live," she exclaimed at last, consulting her watch,
"and the concert was to commence at half-past seven. What can it mean?"
and with another glance at her bonnet, she walked the length of the
hall, and leaning far over the balustrade looked anxiously down into
the office below, to see if by any chance he were there.

But he was not, and returning to her room, she waited another half
hour, when, grown more fidgety and anxious, she descended to the
office, inquiring if Mr. Hastings had been there that evening. Some one
thought they had seen him in the ladies' parlor that afternoon, but
further information than that she could not obtain, and the discomfited
young lady went back to her room in no very enviable frame of mind,
particularly as she heard the falling of the rain and thought how dark
it was without.

"What can have kept him?" she said, half crying with vexation. "And how
I wish I had gone home with mother!"

Wishing, however, was of no avail, and when that night at half-past
ten, the hotel omnibus as usual went to the depot, it carried a very
cross young lady, who, little heeding what she did, and caring less,
sat down beneath a crevice in the roof, through which the rain crept
in, lodging upon the satin bows and drooping plumes of her
fifteen-dollar hat, which, in her disappointment, she had forgotten to
exchange for the older one, safely stowed away in the bandbox she held
upon her lap. Arrived at Dunwood station, she found, as she had
expected, no omnibus in waiting, nor any one whose services she could
claim as an escort, so, borrowing an umbrella, and holding up her dress
as best she could, she started, band-box in hand, for home, stepping
once into a pool of water, and falling once upon the dirty sidewalk,
from which the mud and snow were wiped by her rich velvet cloak, to say
nothing of the frightful pinch made in her other bonnet by her having
crushed the band-box in her fall.

In a most forlorn condition, she at last reached home, where to her
dismay she found the door was locked and the fire gone out, her mother
not having expected her to return on such a night as this. To rouse up
Dora, and scold her unmercifully, though for what she scarcely knew,
was under the circumstances quite natural, and while Mr. Hastings at
Rose Hill was devising the best means of removing Dora from her power,
she at Locust Grove was venting the entire weight of her pent-up wrath
upon the head of the devoted girl, who bore it uncomplainingly.
Removing at last her bonnet, she discovered the marks of the omnibus
leak, and then her ire was turned towards him as having been the cause
of all her disasters.

"I'll never speak to him again, never," she exclaimed, as she crept
shivering to bed.

But a few hours' quiet slumber dissipated in a measure her wrath, and
during the next day she many times looked out to see him coming, as she
surely thought he would, laden with apologies for his seeming neglect.
But nothing appeared except the huge box containing the piano, and in
superintending the opening of that her mind was for a time diverted.
Greatly Alice and Dora marveled whence came the money with which the
purchase had been made, and both with one consent settled upon Mr.
Hastings as having been the donor. To this suggestion Eugenia made no
reply, and feeling sure that it was so, Dora turned away and walking to
the window sighed as she wondered what Ella would say if she could know
who was to take her place in the heart of Howard Hastings.

The instrument was finely toned, and Eugenia spent the remainder of the
day in practising a very difficult piece, which she knew Mr. Hastings
admired, and with which she intended to surprise and charm him. But he
did not come, either that day or the next, and on the morning of the
next, which was Saturday, feigning some trivial errand to Mrs. Leah,
she went herself to Rose Hill, casting anxious glances towards the
windows of his room to see if he were in sight. Dame Leah was a shrewd
old woman, and readily guessing that Eugenia's visit was prompted from
a desire to see her master, rather than herself, she determined to
tantalize her by saying nothing of him unless she were questioned.
Continually hoping he would appear, Eugenia lingered until there was no
longer a shadow of excuse for tarrying, and then she arose to go,
saying as she reached the door, "Oh, now I think of it, Mr. Hastings
has a book in his library which I very much wish to borrow. Is he at
home?"

"No," answered Mrs. Leah, "he went to New York, Thursday morning, on
the early train."

"To New York!" repeated Eugenia, "for what? and when will he be home?"

"He said he had important business," returned Mrs. Leah, adding that
"maybe he'd be home that night."

Eugenia had heard all she wished to know, and forgetting entirely the
_book_, bade Mrs. Leah good-morning, and walked away, feeling in a
measure relieved, for the _business_ which took him so suddenly to New
York, had undoubtedly some connection with his failing to call at the
hotel for her! He had never called upon Sunday evening, but thinking
that after so long an absence he might do so now, she sat in state from
six o'clock till nine, starting nervously at every sound, and once,
when sure she heard him, running from the room, so he would not find
her there, and think she had been waiting for him. But he did not come,
and the next day, feeling exceedingly anxious to know if he had
returned, and remembering the book, which she had failed to get, and
_must_ have, she towards night sent _Dora_ to Rose Hill, bidding her if
she saw Mr. Hastings tell him that her piano had come and she wished
him to hear it.

In the long kitchen by a glowing stove, Dame Leah sat, busy with her
knitting, which she quickly suspended when she saw Dora, who was with
her a favorite.

"So Eugenia sent you for that book?" she said, when told of Dora's
errand. "I'll see if he will lend it."

Mr. Hastings was alone in his library. All that day he had been making
up his mind to call at Locust Grove, where he knew Eugenia was
impatiently expecting him, for Mrs. Leah had told him of her call,
winking slily as she spoke of the _forgotten book_!

"Yes, I will go and have it over," he thought, just as Mrs. Leah
entered, telling him that "Miss Deane wanted that book."

Thinking that Eugenia was in the house, he answered hastily. "Take it
to her, and pray don't let her in here."

"It's Dora, not Eugenia," said Mrs. Leah, and instantly the whole
expression of his countenance changed.

"_Dora!_" he exclaimed. "It's a long time since I saw her in this room.
Tell her to come up."

Very gladly Dora obeyed the summons, and in a moment she stood in the
presence of Mr. Hastings.

"I am glad to see you," he said, motioning her to the little stool, on
which she had often sat when reciting to him her lessons, and when she
now sat down, it was so near to him that, had he chosen, his hand could
have rested on her beautiful hair, for she held her hood upon her lap.

Two months before and he would not have hesitated to smooth these
shining tresses, but the question of his sister, "Do you love her?" had
produced upon him a curious effect, making him half afraid of the
child-woman who sat before him, and who, after waiting a time for him
to speak, looked up into his face, and said, "Do you want me for
anything in particular, Mr. Hastings?"

"Want you, Dora? Want you?" he said, abstractedly, as if that question,
too, had puzzled him; then remembering himself, and why he had sent for
her, he answered, "I want to talk with you, Dora--to tell you
something. Do you remember my sister Mrs. Elliott?"

The eager, upward glance of Dora's eyes, was a sufficient answer, and
he continued, "I saw her last week and talked with her of you. She
wishes you to come and live with her. Will you go?"

Dora could never tell why she cried, but the thought of living with
Mrs. Elliott, whom she regarded as an almost superior being, overcame
her, and she burst into tears, while Mr. Hastings looked at her, quite
uncertain as to what, under the circumstances, it was proper for him to
do. If his sister had never bothered him with that strange question, he
would have known exactly how to act; but now in a state of perplexity,
he sat motionless, until, thinking he must do something, he said
gently, "_Dora, my child_" The last word removed his embarrassment
entirely. She _was a child_, and as such he would treat her. So he said
again, "Dora, my child, why do you cry?" and Dora answered impulsively,
"It makes me so glad to think of living with Mrs. Elliott, for you do
not know how unhappy I have been since she found me four years ago."

"I know more than you suppose. But it is over now," he said; and
stretching out his arm, he drew her nearer to him, and resting her head
upon his knee, he soothed her as if she were indeed the child he tried
to believe she was, and he her gray-haired sire, instead of a young man
of twenty-seven!

And Dora grew very calm sitting there with Mr. Hastings's hand upon her
head, and when he told her it was all arranged, and she should surely
go, she sprang to her feet, and while her cheeks glowed with
excitement, exclaimed, "It is too good to come true. Something will
happen, Aunt Sarah will not let me go."

"Yes, she will," said Mr. Hastings decidedly. "I am going there
to-night to talk with her."

Then, as it was already growing dark, he rose to accompany Dora home,
both of them forgetting the book, which Eugenia seemed destined never
to receive. But she did not think to ask for it in her joy at meeting
Mr. Hastings, who succeeded in appearing natural far better than he had
expected, telling her not that he was sorry for having failed to keep
his appointment, but that it was not consistent for him to do so, and
adding that he hoped she was not very much disappointed.

"Oh, no," she said, "I know of course that business detained
you;"--then, as she saw him looking at her piano, she advanced towards
it, and seating herself upon the stool, asked, "if he would like to
hear her play?"

He could not conscientiously answer "yes," for he felt that the sound
would sicken him; but he stood at her side and turned the leaves of her
music as usual, while she dashed through the piece she had practised
with so much care.

"How do you like it?" she said, when she had finished; and he answered,
"I always admired your playing, you know, but the tone of the
instrument does not quite suit me. It seems rather muffled, _as if the
wires were made of hair!_" and his large black eyes were bent
searchingly upon her.

Coloring crimson, she thought, "Can he have learned my secret?" then,
as she remembered how impossible it was for him to know aught of the
money, she answered, "Quite an original idea," at the same time seating
herself upon the sofa. Sitting down beside her as he had been in the
habit of doing, he commenced at once upon the object of his visit,
asking if her mother were at home, and saying he wished to see her on a
matter of some importance; then, knowing who was really the ruling
power there, he added, as Eugenia arose to leave the room in quest of
her mother, "perhaps I had better speak of my business first to you!"

Feeling sure now of a proposal, the young lady resumed her seat,
involuntarily pulling at her fourth finger, and mentally hoping the
_engagement ring_ would be a diamond one. What then was her surprise
when she found that not herself, but Dora was the subject of his
remarks! After telling her of his visit to his sister, and of her
wishes with regard to Dora, he said, "since the death of my wife and
baby, I have felt a deep interest in your family for the kindness shown
to me in my affliction. I promised Ella that I would befriend Dora, and
by placing her with Louise, I shall not only fulfil my word, but shall
also be relieved of all care concerning her. Do yon think I can
persuade your mother to let her go?"

Eugenia did not know. She would speak to her about it after he was
gone, and tell him on the morrow.

"I shall rely upon you to plead my cause," he continued; "Louise's
heart is quite set upon it, and I do not wish to disappoint her."

"I will do my best," answered Eugenia, never suspecting that Mr.
Hastings was quite as anxious as his sister, who, she presumed,
intended making a half companion, half waiting-maid of her cousin.

"But it will be a good place for her, and somewhat of a relief to us,"
she thought, after Mr. Hastings had gone. "She is getting to be a young
lady now, and growing each year more and more expensive, I presume Mrs.
Elliott will send her to school for a time at least, and in case our
families should be connected, it is well for her to do so. I wrote to
Uncle Nat that we wished to send her away to school, and this is the
very thing. Mother won't of course insist upon her having all that
money, for she will be well enough off without it, and if Mr. Hastings
ever does propose, I can have a handsome outfit! Fortune does favor me
certainly."

Thus Eugenia mused, and thus did she talk to her mother and she was the
more easily persuaded when she saw how eager Dora was to go.

"I shall be sorry to leave you, Aunt Sarah," said Dora, coming to her
side, and resting her hand upon her shoulder, "but I shall be so happy
with Mrs. Elliott, that I am sure you'll let me go."

Mrs. Deane was naturally a cold, selfish woman, but the quiet,
unassuming Dora had found a place in her heart, and she would be very
lonely without her; still it was better for her, and better for them
all that she should go; so she at last gave her consent, and when the
next day Mr. Hastings called he was told that Dora could go as soon as
he thought best.

"Let it be immediately, then," he said. "I will write to Louise
to-night, and tell her we shall come next week."

"I wish I could go to New York with her," said Eugenia. "It's so long
since I was there."

"You had better wait till some other time, for I could not now show you
over the city," answered Mr. Hastings, who had no idea of being
burdened with Eugenia.

"He expects me to go with him sometime, or he would never have said
that," thought Eugenia, and this belief kept her good-natured during
all the bustle and hurry of preparing Dora for her journey.

The morning came at last on which Dora was to leave, and with feelings
of regret Mrs. Deane and Alice bade her good-by, while Eugenia
accompanied her to the depot, where she knew she should see Mr.
Hastings.

"I've half a mind to go with you as far as Rochester," she said to
Dora, in his presence, as the cars came up, but he made no reply, and
the project was abandoned.

Kissing her cousin good-by, she stood upon the platform until the train
had moved away, and then walked slowly back to the house, which even to
her seemed lonesome.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE QUESTION ANSWERED.


It was late in the evening when our travelers reached the city, which
loomed up before Dora like an old familiar friend. They found Mrs.
Elliott waiting to receive them, together with Mr. Hastings's mother,
who, having heard so much of _Dora Deane_, had come over to see her.
Very affectionately did Mrs. Elliott greet the weary girl, and after
divesting her of her wrappings, she led her to her mother, whose keen
eyes scrutinized her closely, but found no fault in the fair childish
face which looked so timidly up to her. Half bewildered, Dora gazed
about her, and then, with her eyes swimming in tears, whispered softly
to Mr. Hastings, "I am so afraid it will prove to be a dream."

"I will see that it does not," said Mrs. Elliott, who had overheard
her, and who, as time passed on, became more and more interested in the
orphan girl.

For several days Mr. Hastings lingered, showing her all over the city,
and going once with her to visit the room where he had found her. But
the elements had preceded them--fire and water--and not a trace of the
old building remained. At the expiration of a week, Mr. Hastings
started for home, half wishing he could take Dora with him, and
wondering if his sister were in earnest, when she asked him _if he
loved her?_

A new world now seemed open to Dora, who never thought it possible for
her to be so happy. The ablest instructors were hired to teach her, and
the utmost care bestowed upon her education, while nothing could exceed
the kindness both of Mrs. Elliott and Mrs. Hastings, the latter of whom
treated her as she would have done a young and favorite daughter. One
evening when Mrs. Elliott was dressing for a party, Dora asked
permission to arrange her soft glossy hair, which she greatly admired.

"It's not all my own," said Mrs. Eliott, taking off a heavy braid and
laying it upon the table. "I bought it in Rochester, nearly two years
ago, on the day of Ella's party. I have often wished I knew whose it
was," she continued, "for to me there is something disagreeable in
wearing other people's hair, but the man of whom I purchased it,
assured me that it was cut from the head of a young, healthy girl."

For a moment Dora stood thinking--then catching up the beautiful braid
and comparing it with her own she exclaimed, "_It was mine! It was
mine!_ Eugenia cut it off, and sold it the day before the party. Oh, I
am so glad," she added, "though I was sorry then, for I did not know it
would come to you, the dearest friend I ever had," and she smoothed
caressingly the shining hair, now a shade lighter than her own.

Mrs. Elliott had heard from her brother the story of Dora's shorn
locks, and the braid of hair was far more valuable to her, now that she
knew upon whose head it had grown. In her next letter to her brother,
she spoke of the discovery, and he could not forbear mentioning the
circumstances to Eugenia, who, not suspecting how much he knew of the
matter, answered indifferently, "Isn't it funny how things do come
round? Dora had so much of the headache that we thought it best to cut
off her hair, which she wished me to sell for her in Rochester, I think
she was always a little penurious!"

Wholly disgusted with this fresh proof of her duplicity, Mr. Hastings
could scarcely refrain from upbraiding her for her perfidy, but
thinking the time had not yet come, he restrained his wrath, and when,
next he spoke, it was to tell her of a _foreign tour_ which he intended
making.

"I have long wished to visit the old world," said he, "and as there is
nothing in particular to prevent my doing so, I shall probably start
the first of June. I should go sooner, but I prefer being on the ocean
in the summer season."

For a moment Eugenia grew faint, fancying she saw an end of all her
hopes, but soon rallying, she expatiated largely upon the pleasure and
advantages to be derived from a tour through Europe, saying, "it was a
happiness she had herself greatly desired, but should probably never
realize."

"Not if you depend upon me for an escort," thought Mr. Hastings, who,
soon after, took his leave.

Much Eugenia wondered whether he would ask the important question, and
take her with him, and concluding at last that he would, she secretly
made some preparations for the expected journey! But alas for her
hopes! The spring went by the summer came, and she was still Eugenia
Deane, when one evening towards the middle of June, Mr. Hastings came
over to say good-by, as he was intending to start next morning for New
York, or rather for his sister's country seat on the Hudson, where she
was now spending the summer. This was a death-blow to Eugenia, who
could scarcely appear natural. Tears came to her eyes, and once when
she attempted to tell him how lonely Rose Hill would be without him,
she failed entirely for want of voice.

"How hoarse you are. Have you a cold," said Mr. Hastings, and that was
all the notice he took of her emotion.

Fearing lest he should suspect her real feelings, she tried to compose
herself, and after a time said, jokingly, "I shouldn't wonder if you
were going to take you a wife from some of the city belles."

"Oh, no," he answered lightly. "Time enough to think of that when I
return."

This gave her hope, and she bore the parting better than she could
otherwise have done.

"You will not forget me entirely, I trust," she said, as she gave him
her hand.

"Oh, no," he answered. "That would be impossible. I have many reasons
which you do not perhaps suspect, for remembering you! By the way," he
continued, "have you any message for Dora! I shall probably see her as
she is with my sister."

"Give her my love," answered Eugenia, "and tell her to write more
definitely of her situation. She never particularizes, but merely says
she is very happy. I do hope Mrs. Elliott will make something of her!"

The next moment Mr. Hastings's good-by was ringing in her ears, and he
was gone. Seating herself upon the stairs, and covering her face with
her hands, Eugenia wept bitterly, and this was their parting.

One week later and at the same hour in the evening, Mr. Hastings sat in
his sister's pleasant parlor, looking out upon the blue waters of the
Hudson, and wondering why, as the time for his departure drew near, his
heart should cling so fondly to the friends he was to leave behind. "I
shall see them again if I live," he said, "and why this dread of
bidding them farewell?"

At this moment his sister entered the room, bringing to him a letter
from a rich old Texan bachelor, who was spending the summer with some
friends in the vicinity of her home. It was directed to the "Guardians
of Dora Deane," and asked permission to address her! He had seen her
occasionally at Mrs. Elliott's house, had met her frequently in his
morning rambles, and the heart which for forty-five years had withstood
the charms of northern beauties and southern belles, was won by the
modest little country girl, and he would make her his wife, would bear
her to his luxurious home, where her slightest wish should be his law.
With a curious smile upon her lip, Mrs. Elliott read this letter
through, and then without a word to Dora, carried it to her brother,
watching him while he read it, and smiling still more when she saw the
flush upon his brow, and the unnatural light in his eye.

"Have you talked with Dora?" he said, when he had finished reading.

"No, I have not," answered his sister. "I thought I would leave that to
you, for in case she should ask my advice, my fear of losing her might
influence me too much."

"_Louise_" he exclaimed, leaning forward so that his hot breath touched
her cheek, "you surely do not believe that Dora Deane cares aught for
that old man. She is nothing but a child."

"She is seventeen next November," said Mrs. Elliott, "almost as old as
Ella was when first you were engaged, and how can we tell how often she
has thought of matrimony? Mr. _Trevors_ is a man of unexceptionable
character, and though old enough to be her father, he is immensely
wealthy, and this, you know, makes a vast difference with some girls."

"But not with her--not with Dora Deane, I'm sure," he said. "Where is
she? Send her to me, and I will see."

Dora's governess, who had accompanied them to the country, was
sometimes very exacting, and this day she had been unusually cross, on
account of her pupil's having failed in one or two lessons.

"I'll report you to Mr. Hastings, and see what he can do," she had said
as she hurled the French Grammar back upon the table.

This threat Dora had forgotten, until told that Mr. Hastings had sent
for her; then, fancying he wished to reprimand her, she entered the
parlor reluctantly, and rather timidly took a seat upon an ottoman near
the window, where he was sitting.

During Dora's residence with Mrs. Elliott, she had improved much, both
in manner and personal appearance, and others than the Texan planter
called her beautiful. The brownish hue, which her skin had acquired
from frequent exposure, was giving way to a clearer and more brilliant
complexion, while the peculiarly sweet expression of her deep blue eyes
would have made a plain face handsome. But Dora's chief point of beauty
lay in her _hair_--her beautiful hair of reddish brown. It had grown
rapidly, fully verifying Alice's prediction, and in heavy shining
braids was worn around her classically shaped head. And Dora sat there
very still--demurely waiting for Mr. Hastings to speak, wondering if he
would be severe, and at last laughing aloud when, in place of the
expected rebuke, he asked if she knew Mr. Trevors.

"Excuse me," she said, as she saw his look of surprise, "Miss Johnson
threatened to report me for indolence, and I thought you were going to
scold me. Yes, I know Mr. Trevors. I rode horseback with him last week."

A pang shot through Mr. Hastings's heart, but he continued, holding up
the letter, "He has sued for your hand. He asks you to be his wife.
Will you answer yes?"

And trembling with excitement, he awaited her reply, while the
revelation of a new light was faintly dawning upon him.

"Mr. Trevors wish _me_ to be his wife--that old man?" she exclaimed,
turning slightly pale. "It cannot be; let me read the letter." And
taking it from his hand, she stood beneath the chandelier, and read it
through, while Mr. Hastings scanned her face to see if he could detect
aught to verify his fears.

But there was nothing, and breathing more freely, he said, as she
returned to him the letter, "Sit down here, Dora, and tell me what I
shall say to him. But first consider well, Mr. Trevors is rich, and if
money can make you happy, you will be so as his wife."

Dora did not know why it was, but she could not endure to hear him talk
in such a calm, unconcerned manner of what was so revolting. It grieved
her, and laying her head upon the broad window seat, she began to cry.
Mr. Hastings did not this time say "Dora, my child," for Louise had
told him she was not a child, and he began to think so, too. Drawing
his chair nearer to her, and laying his hand upon her hair, he said
gently, "will you answer me?"

"Yes," she replied, somewhat bitterly. "If Mrs. Elliott is tired of me,
I will go away, but not with Mr. Trevors. I would rather die than marry
a man I did not love, because of his gold."

"Noble girl!" was Mr. Hastings's involuntary exclamation, but Dora did
not hear it, and looking him in his face, she said, "do you wish me to
marry him?"

"Never, never," he answered, "him, nor any one else!"

"Then tell him so," said she, unmindful of the latter part of the
remark. "Tell him I respect him, but I cannot be his wife."

And rising to her feet she left the room, to wash away in another fit
of tears the excitement produced by her first offer.

Very still sat Mr. Hastings when she was gone, thought after thought
crowding fast upon him, and half bewildering him by their intensity. He
could answer Louise's question now! It had come to him at last, sitting
there with Mr. Trevor's letter in his hand, and Dora at his feet.
_Dora_ who was so dear to him, and his first impulse was to hasten to
her side, and sue for the love she could not give the gray-haired Texan.

"And she will not tell me nay," he said. "It will come to her as it has
to me--the love we have unconsciously borne each other."

He arose to leave the room, but meeting his sister in the door, he
turned back, and seating himself with her in the deep recess of the
window, he told her of the mighty love which had been so long maturing,
and of whose existence he did not dream until another essayed to come
between him and the object of his affection.

"And, Louise," he said, "Dora Deane must be mine. Are you willing--will
you call her sister, and treat her as my wife?"

And Mrs. Elliott answered, "I know, my brother, that you love Dora
Deane. I knew it when I asked you that question, and if to-night I
tried to tease you by making you believe it possible that she cared for
Mr. Trevors, it was to show you the nature of your feelings for her.
And I am willing that it should be so--but not yet. You must not speak
to her of love, until you return. Hear me out," she continued, as she
saw in him a gesture of impatience, "Dora is no longer a child--but she
is too young to be trammeled with an engagement. And it must not be.
You must leave her free till she has seen more of the world, and her
mind is more mature."

"Free till another wins her from me," interrupted Mr. Hastings,
somewhat bitterly; and his sister answered, "I am sure that will never
be, though were you now to startle her with your love she probably
would refuse you."

"_Never_" he said emphatically; and Mrs. Elliott replied, "I think she
would. She respects and admires you, but as you have looked upon her as
a child, so in like manner has she regarded you as a father, or, at
least the husband of Ella, and such impressions must have time to wear
away. You would not take her with you, and it is better to leave her as
she is. I will watch over her and seek to make her what your wife ought
to be, and when you return she will be older, will be capable of
judging for herself, and she will not tell you no. Do you not think my
reasoning good?"

"I suppose it is," he replied, "though it is sadly at variance with my
wishes. Were I sure no one would come between us, I could more easily
follow your advice, and were it not that I go for _her_ I would give up
my journey at once, and stay where I could watch and see that no one
came near."

"This I will do," said Mrs. Elliott, "and I fancy I can keep her safe
for you."

Awhile longer they talked together, and their conversation was at last
interrupted by the appearance of Dora herself who came to say good
night.

"Come and sit by me, Dora," said Mr. Hastings, unmindful of his
sister's warning glance. "Let me tell you what I wish you to do while I
am gone," and moving along upon the sofa, he left a place for her at
his side.

Scarcely was she seated when a servant appeared, wishing to speak with
Mrs. Elliott, and Mr. Hastings was left alone with Dora, with whom he
merely talked of what he hoped to find her when he returned. Once,
indeed, he told her how often he should think of her, when he was far
away, and asked as a keepsake a lock of her soft hair.

Three days afterwards he went to New York accompanied by Mrs. Elliott
and Dora. He was to sail next morning, and wishing to see as much of
the latter as possible, he felt somewhat chagrined when, soon after
their arrival, his sister insisted upon taking her out for a time, and
forbade him to follow. For this brief separation, however, he was amply
repaid when, on the morrow, his sister, who went with him on board the
vessel, placed in his hand at parting a daguerreotype, which she told
him not to open till she was gone. He obeyed, and while Dora in his
sister's home was weeping that he had left them, he in his state-room
was gazing rapturously on a fair young face, which, looking out from
its handsome casing, would speak to him many a word of comfort when he
was afar on the lonely sea.



CHAPTER XVIII.

MR. HASTINGS IN INDIA.


It was night again in Calcutta, and in the same room where we first
found him was Nathaniel Deane--not alone this time, for standing before
him was a stranger--"an American," he called himself, and the old East
Indiaman, when he heard that word, grasped again the hand of his
unknown guest, whose face he curiously scanned to see if before he had
looked upon it. But he had not, and pointing him to a chair, he too sat
down to hear his errand. Wishing to know something of the character of
the individual he had come so far to see, Mr. Hastings, for he it was,
conversed awhile upon a variety of subjects, until, feeling sure that
'twas a noble, upright man, with whom he had to deal, he said, "I told
you, sir, that I came from New York, and so I did; but my home is in
Dunwood."

One year ago, and Uncle Nat would have started with delight at the
mention of a place so fraught with remembrances of _Dora_, but
Eugenia's last cruel letter had chilled his love, and now, when he
thought of Dora, it was as one incapable of either affection or
gratitude. So, for a moment he was silent, and Mr. Hastings, thinking
he had not been understood, was about to repeat his remark, when Uncle
Nat replied, "My brother's widow lives in Dunwood--Mrs. Richard
Deane--possibly you may have seen her!" And with a slight degree of
awakened interest, the little keen black eyes looked out from under
their thick shaggy eyebrows at Mr. Hastings, who answered, "I know the
family well. Dora is not now at home, but is living with my sister."

Many and many a time had Uncle Nat repeated to himself the name of
_Dora_, but never before had he heard it from other lips, and the sound
thrilled him strangely, bringing back in a moment all his olden love
for one whose mother had been so dear. In the jet black eyes there was
a dewy softness now, and in the tones of his voice a deep tenderness,
as, drawing nearer to his guest, he said in a half whisper,

"Tell me of _her_--of _Dora_--for though I never saw her, I knew her
mother."

"And loved her too," rejoined Mr. Hastings, on purpose to rouse up the
old man, who, starting to his feet exclaimed, "How knew _you_ that?
_You_, whom I never saw until to-night! Who told you that I loved
Fannie Deane? Yes, it is true, young man--true, though _love_ does not
express what I felt for her; she was my _all_--my very _life_, and when
I lost her the world was a dreary blank. But go on--tell me of the
child, and if she is like her mother. Though how should you know? You,
who never saw my Fannie?"

"I _have_ seen her," returned Mr. Hastings, "but death was there before
me, and had marred the beauty of a face which once must have been
lovely. Five years ago last January I found her dead, and at her side
was Dora, sweetly sleeping with her arms around her mother's neck."

_"You--you,"_ gasped the old man, drawing near to Mr. Hastings--"you
found them thus! I could kneel at your feet, whoever you may be, and
bless you for coming here to tell me this; I never knew before how
Fannie died. They never wrote me that, but go on and tell me all you
know. Did Fannie freeze to death while in India I counted my gold by
hundreds of thousands?"

Briefly Mr. Hastings told what he knew of Mrs. Deane's sad death, while
the broad chest of Uncle Nat heaved with broken sobs, and the big tears
rolled down his sunken cheeks.

"Heaven forgive me for tarrying here, while she was suffering so much!"
he cried; "but what of _Dora_ She did not die. I have written to her,
and sent her many messages, but never a word has she replied, save
once"--here Uncle Nat's voice grew tremulous as he added, "and then she
sent me this--look--'twas Fannie's hair," and he held to view a silken
tress much like the one which lay next Howard Hastings's heart! "Oh,
what a child it made of me, the first sight of this soft hair," he
continued, carefully returning it to its hiding-place, without a word
of the generous manner in which it had been paid for.

"Shall I tell him now?" thought Mr. Hastings, but Uncle Nathaniel spoke
before him, and as if talking with himself, said softly, "Oh, how I
loved her, and what a wreck that love has made of me. But I might have
known it. Twenty-one years' difference in our ages was too great a
disparity, even had my face been fair as John's. She was seventeen, and
I was almost forty; I am _sixty_ now, and with every year added to my
useless life, my love for her has strengthened."

"Could you not transfer that love to her daughter? It might make you
happier," suggested Mr. Hastings, and mournfully shaking his head,
Uncle Nat replied, "No, no, I've tried to win her love so hard. Have
even thought of going home, and taking her to my bosom as my own
darling child--but to all my advances, she has turned a deaf ear. I
could not make the mother love me--I cannot make the child. It isn't in
me, the way how, and I must live here all alone. I wouldn't mind that
so much, for I'm used to it now, but when I come to die, there will be
nobody to hold my head, or to speak to me a word of comfort, unless God
sends Fannie back to me in the dark hour, and who knows but He will?"

Covering his face with his hands, Uncle Nathaniel cried aloud, while
Mr. Hastings, touched by his grief, and growing each moment more and
more indignant, at the deception practised upon the lonesome old man,
said slowly and distinctly: "_Dora Deane never received your
letter--never dreamed how much you loved her--never knew that you had
sent her money, She has been duped--abused--and you most treacherously
cheated by a base, designing woman! To tell you this, sir, I have come
over land and sea! I might have written it, but I would rather meet you
face to face--would know if you were worthy to be the uncle of Dora
Deane!_"

Every tear was dried, and bolt upright, his keen eyes flashing gleams
of fire, and his glittering teeth ground firmly together, Nathaniel
Deane sat, rigid and immovable, listening to the foul story of Dora's
wrongs, till Mr. Hastings came to the withholding of the letter, and
the money paid for Fannie's hair. Then, indeed, his clenched fists
struck fiercely at the empty air, as if Eugenia had been there, and
springing half way across the room, he exclaimed, "_The wretch! The
fiend! The beast! The Devil!_ What _shall_ I call her? Help me to some
name which will be appropriate."

"You are doing very well, I think," said Mr. Hastings, smiling in spite
of himself at this new phase in the character of the excited man, who,
foaming with rage, continued to stalk up and down the room, setting his
feet upon the floor with vengeance, and with every breath denouncing
Eugenia's perfidy.

"Curse her!" he muttered, "for daring thus to maltreat Fannie's child,
and for making me to believe her so ungrateful and unkind. And she once
cut off her hair to buy a party dress with, you say," he continued,
stopping in front of Mr. Hastings, who nodded in the affirmative, while
Uncle Nat, as if fancying that the few thin locks, which grew upon his
own bald head, were Eugenia's long, black tresses, clutched at them
savagely, exclaiming, "The selfish jade! But I will be avenged, and
Madam Eugenia shall rue the day that she dared thus deceive me. That
mother, too, had not, it seems, been wholly guiltless. She was jealous
of my Fannie--she has been cruel to my child. I'll remember that, too!"
and a bitter laugh echoed through the room, as the wrathful old man
thought of revenge.

But as the wildest storm expends its fury, so Uncle Nat at last grew
calm, though on his dark face there were still traces of the fierce
passion which had swept over it. Resuming his seat and looking across
the table at Mr. Hastings, he said, "It is not often that _old Nat
Deane_ is moved as you have seen him moved to-night; but the story you
told me set me on fire, and for a moment, I felt that I was going mad.
But I am now myself again, and would hear how you learned all this."

In a few words, Mr. Hastings told of his foolish fancy for Eugenia, and
related the circumstance of his having overheard her conversation at
the hotel in Rochester.

"And Dora, you say, is beautiful and good," said Uncle Nat; "and I
shall one day know her and see if there is in her aught like her angel
mother, whose features are as perfect to me now as when last I looked
upon them beneath the locust trees."

Bending low his head, he seemed to be thinking of the past, while Mr.
Hastings, kissing fondly the picture of Dora Deane, laid it softly upon
the table, and then anxiously awaited the result. Uncle Nathaniel did
not see it at first, but his eye ere long fell upon it, and, with a cry
like that which broke from his lips when first he looked on his dead
Fannie's hair, he caught it up, exclaiming, "'Tis _her_--'tis
Fannie--my long-lost darling, come back to me from the other world. Oh,
Fannie, Fannie!" he cried, as if his reason were indeed unsettled,
"I've been so lonesome here without you. Why didn't you come before?"

Again, for a time, he was silent, and Mr. Hastings could see the tears
dropping upon the face of Dora Deane, who little dreamed of the part
she was acting, far off in Hindostan. Slowly the reality dawned upon
Uncle Nat, and speaking to Mr. Hastings, he said, "Who are you that
moves me thus from one extreme to another, making me first a _fury_ and
then a _child_?"

"I have told you I am Howard Hastings," answered the young man, adding
that the picture was not that of Fannie, but her child.

"I know--I know it," returned Uncle Nat, "but the first sight of it
drove me from my senses, it is so like her. The same open brow, the
same blue eyes, the same ripe lips, and more than all, the same sweet
smile which shone on me so often 'mid the granite hills of New
Hampshire. And it is mine," he continued, making a movement to put it
away. "You brought it to me, and in return, if you have need for gold,
name the sum, and it shall be yours, even to half a million."

Money could not buy that picture from Howard Hastings, and though it
grieved him to do so, he said, very gently, "I cannot part with the
likeness, Mr. Deane, but we will share it together until the original
is gained."

Leaning upon his elbows and looking steadily at his visitor, Uncle
Nathaniel said, "You have been married once?"

"Yes, sir," answered Mr. Hastings, while his countenance flushed, for
he readily understood the nature of the questioning to which he was to
be subjected.

"What was the name of your wife?" was the next query, and Mr. Hastings
replied, "Ella Grey."

"Will you describe her?" said Uncle Nat, and almost as vividly as the
features of Dora Deane were delineated by the artist's power, did Mr.
Hastings portray by word the laughing blue eyes, the pale, childish
face, the golden curls, and little airy form of her who had once slept
upon his bosom as his wife.

"And did you love her, this Ella Grey?" asked Uncle Nat.

"Love her? Yes. But she is dead," answered Mr. Hastings, while Uncle
Nat continued:

"And now if I mistake not, you love Dora Deane?"

"_Yes, better than my life,_" said Mr. Hastings, firmly. "Have you any
objections?"

"None whatever," answered Uncle Nat, "for, though you are a stranger to
me, there is that in your face which tells me you would make my darling
happy. But it puzzles me to know how, loving one as you say you did,
you can forget and love another."

"I have not forgotten," said Mr. Hastings, sadly; "God forbid that I
should e'er forget my Ella; but, Mr. Deane, though she was good and
gentle, she was not suited to me. Our minds were wholly unlike; for
what I most appreciated, was utterly distasteful to her. She was a
fair, beautiful little creature, but she did not satisfy the higher,
nobler feelings of my heart; and she, too, knew it. She told me so
before she died, and spoke of a coming time when I would love another.
She did not mention _Dora_, who then seemed like a child, but could she
now come back to me, she would approve my choice, for she, too, loved
Dora Deane."

"Have you told her this?" asked Uncle Nat--"told Dora how much you
loved her?"

"I have not," was Mr. Hastings reply. "My sister would not suffer it
until my return, when Dora will be more mature. At first I would not
listen to this; but I yielded at last, consenting the more willingly to
the long separation, when I considered that with Louise she was at
least safe from Eugenia, and I hope, safe from any who might seek
either to harm her, or win her from me."

"You spoke of having stopped in Europe on your way hither," said Uncle
Nat. "How long is it since you left New York?"

"I sailed from there the latter part of June, almost ten months ago,"
was Mr. Hastings's answer, adding that, as he wished to visit some
parts of Europe, and left home with the ostensible purpose of doing so,
he had thought it advisable to stop there on his way, for he well knew
that Mr. Deane, after learning why he had come, would be impatient to
return immediately.

"Yes, yes; you are right," answered the old man. "I would go to-morrow
if possible; but I shall probably never return to India, and I must
make some arrangements for leaving my business in the hands of others.
Were Dora still in Eugenia's power, I would not tarry a moment, I would
sacrifice everything to save her, but as you say she is safe with your
sister, and a few weeks' delay, though annoying to me, will make no
difference with her. Do they know aught of this--those _wretches_ in
Dunwood?" he continued, beginning to grow excited.

"They suppose me to be in Europe, for to no one save my mother and
sister, did I breathe a word of India," Mr. Hastings replied; and Uncle
Nat rejoined, "Let them continue to think so, then. I would rather they
should not suspect my presence in America until I meet them face to
face and taunt them with their treachery. It shall not be long, either,
before I do it. In less than a month, we are homeward bound--and then,
Miss Eugenia Deane--_we'll see!_" and his hard fist came down upon the
table, as he thought of her dismay when told that he stood before her.

But alas for Uncle Nat! The time was farther in the distance than he
anticipated. The excitement of what he had heard, told upon a frame
already weakened by constant toil and exposure in the sultry climate of
India, and one week from the night of Mr. Hastings's arrival, the old
man lay burning with fever, which was greatly augmented by the constant
chafing at the delay this unexpected illness would cause. Equally
impatient, Mr. Hastings watched over him, while his heart grew faint
with hope deferred, as weeks, and even months, glided by; while vessel
after vessel sailed away, leaving Uncle Nat prostrate and powerless to
move. He had never been sick before in all his life, and his shattered
frame was long in rallying, so that the summer, and the autumn and a
part of the winter passed away, ere, leaning heavily on Mr. Hastings's
arm, he went on board the ship which was to take him home--take him to
Dora Deane, who had listened wonderingly to the story of her wrongs,
told her by Mrs. Elliott at Mr. Hastings's request.

Indignant as she was at Eugenia, she felt more than repaid for all she
had suffered, by the knowledge that Uncle Nat had always loved her; and
many a cheering letter from her found its way to the bedside of the
invalid, who laid each one beneath his pillow, beside the picture which
Mr. Hastings suffered him to keep. More than once, too, had Dora
written to Mr. Hastings _kind, sisterly notes_, with which he tried to
be satisfied, for he saw that she was the same frank, ingenuous girl he
had left, and from one or two things which she wrote, he fancied he was
not indifferent to her. "She did not, at least, care for another," so
Louise assured him. There was comfort in that, and during the weary
days when their floating home lay, sometimes becalmed and sometimes
tossed by adverse winds, he and Uncle Nat whiled away the tedious
hours, by talking of the happiness which awaited them when home was
reached at last.

During Mr. Deane's illness, Mr. Hastings had suggested that the annual
remittance be sent to Dunwood, as usual, lest they should suspect that
something was wrong, if it were withheld, and to this Uncle Nat
reluctantly consented saying, as he did so, "It's the last dime they'll
ever receive from me. I'll see her starve before my eyes, that girl
Eugenia."

Still, as the distance between himself and the young lady diminished,
he felt a degree of satisfaction in knowing that the draft had as usual
been sent, thus lulling her into a state of security with regard to
himself. Rapturously he talked of the meeting with Dora, but his eye
was fiery in its expression when he spoke of that other meeting, when
Eugenia would be the accused and he the wrathful accuser. The
invigorating sea breeze did him good, and when at last the Cape was
doubled and he knew that the waves which clashed against the ship, bore
the same name with those which kissed the shores of America, he stood
forth upon the deck, tall and erect as ever, with an eager, expectant
look in his eye, which increased as he each day felt that he drew
nearer and Bearer to his home--and _Dora Deane_.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE MEETING.


One bright, beautiful summer morning, a noble vessel was sailing slowly
into the harbor of New York. Groups of passengers stood upon her deck,
and a little apart from the rest were Uncle Nat and Howard Hastings,
the former gazing eagerly towards the city, which had more than doubled
its population since last he looked upon it.

"We are almost home," he said to his companion, joyfully, for though
the roof that sheltered his childhood was further to the northward,
among the granite hills, he knew that it was _America_, the land of his
birth, which lay before him, and as a child returns to its mother after
a long and weary absence, So did his heart yearn towards the shore they
were fast approaching.

A crowd of memories came rushing over him, and when, at last, the plank
was lowered, he was obliged to lean upon the stronger arm of Howard
Hastings, who, procuring a carriage, bade the hackman drive them at
once to his sister's. For some time Mrs. Elliott and Dora had been
looking for the travelers, whose voyage was unusually long, and they
had felt many misgivings lest the treacherous sea had not been faithful
to its trust; but this morning they were not expecting them, and
wishing to make some arrangements for removing to her country seat on
the Hudson, Mrs. Elliott had gone out there and taken Dora with her.
Mr. Hastings's first impulse was to follow them, but knowing that they
would surely be home that night, and remembering how weary Uncle
Nathaniel was, he wisely concluded to remain in the city and surprise
them on their return.

Like one in a dream, Uncle Nat walked from room to room, asking every
half hour if it were not almost time for the train, and wondering if
Dora would recognize him if no one told her who he was. Scarcely less
excited, Mr. Hastings, too, waited and watched; and when, just at dark,
he heard the door unclose, and Dora's voice in the hall without, the
rapid beating of his heart was distinctly audible.

"That's _her_--that's _Dora_. I'll go to her at once," said Uncle Nat;
but Mr. Hastings kept him back, and Dora passed on to her room, from
which she soon returned, and they could hear the sound of her footsteps
upon the stairs, as she drew near.

With his face of a deathlike whiteness, his lips apart, and the
perspiration standing thickly about them, Uncle Nat sat leaning
forward, his eyes fixed upon the door through which she would enter. In
a moment she stood before them--Dora Deane--but far more lovely than
Mr. Hastings had thought or dreamed. Nearly two years before, he had
left her a school girl, as it were, and now he found her a beautiful
woman, bearing about her an unmistakable air of refinement and high
breeding. She knew him in an instant, and with an exclamation of
surprised delight, was hastening forward, when a low, moaning cry, from
another part of the room, arrested her ear, causing her to pause ere
Mr. Hastings was reached. Uncle Nat had recognized her--knew that she
was Dora and attempted to rise, but his strength utterly failed him and
stretching out his trembling arms towards her, he said
supplicatingly,"_Me first, Dora me first._"

It was sufficient, and Dora passed on with a welcoming glance at Mr.
Hastings, who feeling that it was not for him to witness that meeting,
glided noiselessly from the room in quest of his sister. Fondly the old
man clasped the young girl to his bosom, and Dora could hear the
whispered blessings which he breathed over her, and felt the hot tears
dropping on her cheek.

"Speak to me, darling," he said at last; "let me hear your own voice
assuring me that never again shall we be parted until your mother calls
for me to come and be with her."

Looking lovingly up in to his face, Dora answered, "I will never leave
nor forsake you, my father, but whereever your home may be there will
mine be also."

Clasping her still closer in his arms, he said, "God bless you, my
child, for so I will call you, and never, I am sure, did earthly parent
love more fondly an only daughter than I love you, my precious Dora. I
have yearned so often to behold you, to look into your eyes and hear
you say that I was loved, and now that it has come to me, I am willing,
almost, to die."

Releasing her after a moment, and holding her off at a little distance,
he looked earnestly upon her, saying, as he did so, "Yes, you _are_
like her--like your mother, Dora. Some, perhaps, would call you even
more beautiful, but to me there is not in all the world a face more
fair than hers."

In his delight at seeing her, he forgot for the time being how deeply
she had been injured, and it was well that he did, for now nothing
marred the happiness of this meeting, and for half an hour longer he
sat with her alone, talking but little, but looking ever at the face so
much like her whom he had loved and lost. At last, as if suddenly
remembering himself, he said, "Excuse me, Dora; the sight of you drove
every other thought from my mind, and I have kept you too long from one
who loves you equally well with myself, and who must be impatient at
the delay. He is worthy of you, too, my child," he continued, without
observing how the color faded from Dora's cheek. "He is a noble young
man, and no son was ever kinder to a father than he has been to me,
since the night when I welcomed him to my home in India. Go to him,
then, my daughter, and ask him to forgive my selfishness."

From several little occurrences, Dora had received the impression that
a marriage between herself and Mr. Hastings would not be distasteful to
his sister, but she had treated the subject lightly as something
impossible. Still the thought of his loving another was fraught with
pain, and when at last she knew that he was on the stormy sea, and felt
that danger might befall him--when the faces of his mother and sister
wore an anxious, troubled look as days went by, bringing them no
tidings--when she thought it just possible that he would never return
to them again, it came to her just as two years before it had come to
him, and sitting alone in her pleasant chamber, she, more than once had
wept bitterly, as she thought how much she loved him, and how
improbable it was that he should care for her, whom he had found almost
a beggar girl.

In the first surprise of meeting him she had forgotten everything, save
that he had returned to them in safety, and her manner towards him then
was perfectly natural; but now when Uncle Nat, after telling what he
did, bade her go to him, she quitted the room reluctantly, and much as
she wished to see him, she would undoubtedly have run away upstairs,
had she not met him in the hall, together with Mrs. Elliott, who was
going to pay her respects to Uncle Nat.

"I have not spoken with you yet, Dora," he said, taking her hand
between both his. "Go in there," motioning to the room he had just
left, "and wait until I present Louise to your uncle."

It was a habit of Dora's always to cry just when she wished to least,
and now entering the little music room, she threw herself upon the sofa
and burst into tears. Thus Mr. Hastings found her on his return, and
sitting down by her side, he said gently, "Are you, then, so glad that
I have come home?"

Dora would not, for the world, let him know her real feelings, and she
answered, "Yes, I am glad, but I am crying at what Uncle Nat said to
me."

Mr. Hastings bit his lip, for this was not exactly the kind of meeting
he had anticipated, and after sitting an awkward moment, during which
he was wishing that she had not answered him as she did, he said: "Will
you not look up, Dora, and tell me how you have passed the time of my
absence? I am sure you have improved it both from your own appearance
and what Louise has told me."

This was a subject on which Dora felt that she could trust herself, and
drying her tears, she became very animated as she told him of the books
she had read, and the studies she had pursued. "I have taken music
lessons, too," she added. "Would you like to hear me play?"

Mr. Hastings would far rather have sat there, watching her bright face,
with his arm thrown lightly around her waist, but it was this very act,
this touch of his arm, which prompted her proposal, and gracefully
disengaging herself she crossed over to the piano, which was standing
in the room, and commenced singing the old, and on that occasion very
appropriate, song of "Home again, home again, from a foreign shore."
The tones of her voice were rich and full, and they reached the ear of
Uncle Nat, who in his eagerness to listen, forgot everything, until
Mrs. Elliott said, "It is Dora singing to my brother. Shall we join
them?"

Leading the way she ushered him into the music room, where, standing at
Dora's side, he listened rapturously to her singing, occasionally
wiping away a tear, called forth by the memories that song had
awakened. The sight of the piano reminded him of Eugenia, and when Dora
had finished playing, he laid his broad hand upon her shoulder and
said, "Do you ever hear from them--the villains?"

Dora knew to whom he referred, and half laughing at his excited manner,
she replied, as she stole a mischievous glance towards Mr. Hastings, "I
received a letter from Eugenia not long since, and she seemed very
anxious to know in what part of Europe Mr. Hastings was now traveling,
and if he were ever coming home!"

"Much good his coming home will do _her_, the _trollop!_" muttered
Uncle Nat, whispering incoherently to himself as he generally did, when
Eugenia was the subject of his thoughts. "Don't answer the letter," he
said at last, "or, if you do, say nothing of me; I wish to meet them
first as a stranger."

Near the window Mr. Hastings was standing, revolving in his own mind a
double surprise which he knew would mortify Eugenia more than anything
else. But in order to effect this, Uncle Nat must remain _incog._ for
some time yet, while Dora herself must be won, and this, with the
jealous fears of a lover, he fancied might be harder to accomplish than
the keeping Uncle Nat silent when in the presence of Eugenia.

"To-morrow I will see her alone, and know the worst," he thought and
glancing at Dora, he felt a thrill of fear lest she, in all the
freshness of her youth, should refuse her heart to one, who had called
another than herself his wife.

But Ella Grey had never awakened a love as deep and absorbing as that
which he now felt for Dora Deane, and all that night he lay awake,
wondering how he should approach her, and fancying sometimes that he
saw the cold surprise with which she would listen to him, and again
that he read in her dark blue eyes the answer which he sought. The
morrow came, but throughout the entire day, he found no opportunity of
speaking to her alone, for Uncle Nat hovered near her side, gazing at
her as if he would never tire of looking at her beautiful face. And
Dora, too, had much to say to the old man, on this the first day after
his return. With his head resting upon her lap, and her soft white hand
upon his wrinkled brow, she told him of her mother, and the message she
had left for him on the sad night when she died. Then she spoke of her
Aunt Sarah, of Eugenia and Alice, and the wrath of Uncle Nat was
somewhat abated, when he heard _her_ pleading with him not to be so
angry and unforgiving--

"I can treat Alice well, perhaps," he said, "for she, it seems, was
never particularly unkind. And for your sake, _I_ may forgive the
mother. But Eugenia _never!_--not even if Fannie herself should ask me!"

Thus passed that day, and when the next one came, Uncle Nat still
stayed at Dora's side, following her from room to room, and never for a
moment leaving Mr. Hastings with her alone. In this manner nearly a
week went by, and the latter was beginning to despair, when one evening
as the three were together in the little music room, and Mrs. Elliott
was with her mother, who was ill, it suddenly occurred to Uncle Nat
that he had appropriated Dora entirely to himself, not giving Mr.
Hastings a single opportunity for seeing her alone.

"I have wondered that he did not tell me he was engaged," he thought,
"but how could he when I haven't given him a chance to speak to her,
unless he did it before me; strange, I should be so selfish: but I'll
make amends now--though I do hope he'll be quick!"

Rising up, he walked to the door, when thinking that Mr. Hastings might
possibly expect him to return every moment, and so keep silent, he
said, "I've been in the way of you young folks long enough, and I feel
just as if something might happen if I left you together! Call me when
you want me?" so saying he shut the door, and Mr. Hastings was alone at
last with Dora Deane!

Both knew to what Uncle Nat referred, and while Dora fidgeted from one
thing to another, looking at a book of prints wrong side up, and
admiring the pictures, Mr. Hastings sat perfectly still, wondering why
he was so much afraid of her. Two years before he felt no fear; but a
refusal at that time would not have affected him as it would do now,
for he did not then know how much he loved her. Greatly he desired that
she should speak to him--look at him--or do something to break the
embarrassing silence; but this Dora had no intention of doing, and she
was just meditating the propriety of _running away_, when he found
voice enough to say, "Will you come and sit by me, Dora?"

She had always obeyed him, and she did so now, taking a seat, however,
as far from him as possible, on the end of the sofa. Still, when he
moved up closely to her side, and wound his arm about her, she did not
object, though her face burned with blushes, and she thought it quite
likely that her next act would be to cry! And this she did do, when he
said to her, "Dora, do you remember the night when Ella died?"

He did not expect any answer yet, and he continued, "She told me, you
know, of a time when, though not forgetting her, I should love
another--should seek to call another my wife. And, Dora, she was right,
for I do love another, better, if it be possible, than I did my lost
Ella. 'Tis four years since she left me, and now that I would have a
second wife, will the one whom I have chosen from all the world to be
that wife, answer me _yes?_ Will she go back with me in the autumn to
my long deserted home, where her presence always brought sunlight and
joy?"

There was no coquetry about Dora Deane, and she could not have
practised it now, if there had been. She knew Mr. Hastings was in
earnest--knew that he meant what he said--and the little hand, which at
first had stolen partly under her dress, lest he should touch it, came
back from its hiding-place, and crept slowly along until his was
reached, and there she let it lay! _This_ was her answer, and he was
satisfied!

For a long long time they sat together, while Mr. Hastings talked, not
wholly of the future when she would be his wife, but of the New Year's
morning, years ago, when he found her sleeping in the chamber of
death--of the bright June afternoon, when she sat with her bare feet in
the running brook--of the time when she first brought comfort to his
home--of the dark, rainy evening, when the sight of her sitting in
Ella's room, with Ella's baby on her lap, had cheered his aching
heart--of the storm she had braved to tell him his baby was dying--of
the winter night when he watched her through the window--of the dusky
twilight when she sat at his feet in the little library at Rose
Hill--and again in his sister's home on the Hudson, when he first knew
how much he loved her. Of all these pictures so indelibly stamped upon
his memory, he told her, and of the many, many times his thoughts had
been of her when afar on a foreign shore.

And Dora, listening to him, did not care to answer, her heart was so
full of happiness, to know that she should be thus loved by one like
Howard Hastings. From a tower not far distant, a city clock struck
_twelve_, and then, starting up, she exclaimed, "_So late!_ I thought
'twas only ten! We have kept Uncle Nat too long. Will you go with me to
him?" and with his arms still around her, Mr. Hastings arose to
accompany her.

For half an hour after leaving the music-room Uncle Nat had walked up
and down the long parlors, with his hands in his pockets, hoping Mr.
Hastings _would_ be brief, and expecting each moment to hear Dora
calling him back! In this manner an hour or more went by, and then
grown very nervous and cold (for it was a damp, chilly night, such as
often occurs in our latitude, even in summer) he began to think that if
_Dora_ were not coming, a fire would be acceptable, and he drew his
chair near to the register, which was closed. Wholly unaccustomed to
furnaces, he did not think to open it, and for a time longer he sat
wondering why he didn't grow warm, and if it took everybody as long to
propose as it did Mr. Hastings.

It "didn't take me long to tell my love to Fanny," he said, "but then
she refused, and when they accept, as Dora will, it's always a longer
process, I reckon!"

This point satisfactorily settled, he began to wish the atmosphere of
the room would moderate, and hitching in his chair, he at last sat
directly over the register! but even this failed to warm him, and
mentally concluding that although furnaces might do very well for New
Yorkers, they were of no account whatever to an East India man, he fell
asleep. In this situation, Dora found him.

"Poor old man," said she, "'twas thoughtless in me to leave him so
long," and kissing his brow, she cried, "Wake up, Uncle Nat--wake up!"
and Uncle Nat, rubbing his eyes with his red stiff fingers, and looking
in her glowing face, thought "that something had happened!"



CHAPTER XX.

THE SPRINGS.


Mr. Hastings and Dora were engaged. Mrs. Hastings, the mother, and Mrs.
Elliott, the sister, had signified their entire approbation, while
Uncle Nat, with a hand placed on either head of the young people, had
blessed them as his children, hinting the while that few brides e'er
went forth as richly dowered as should Dora Deane. The marriage was not
to take place until the following October, as Mr. Hastings wished to
make some improvements at Rose Hill, which was still to be his home
proper, though Uncle Nat insisted upon buying a very elegant house in
the city for a winter residence, whenever they chose thus to use it. To
this proposal Mr. Hastings made no objection, for though he felt that
his greatest happiness would be in having Dora all to himself in
Dunwood, he knew that society in the city would never have the effect
upon her which it did upon Ella, for her tastes, like his own, were
domestic, and on almost every subject she felt and thought as he did.

Immediately after his engagement he imparted to Uncle Nat a knowledge
of the double surprise he had planned for Eugenia, and the old
gentleman at last consented, saying though, that "'twas doubtful
whether he could hold himself together when first he met the young
lady. Still with Mr. Hastings's presence as a check, he would try."

So it was arranged that in Dunwood, where Mr. Hastings's return was
still unknown, Uncle Nat should pass as a _Mr. Hamilton_, whom Mr.
Hastings had picked up in his travels. Four years of his earlier life
had been spent in South America, and whenever he spoke of any
particular place of abode it was to be of _Buenos Ayres_, where he had
once resided. By this means he could the more easily learn for himself
the character and disposition of his relatives, and feeling now more
eager than ever to meet them, he here started with Mr. Hastings for
Dunwood. It was morning when they reached there, and with a dark,
lowering brow, he looked curiously at the house which his companion
designated as _Locust Grove_. It was a pleasant spot, and it seemed
almost impossible that it should be the home of a woman as artful and
designing as Eugenia. About it now, however, there was an air of
desertion. The doors were shut and the blinds closed, as if the inmates
were absent.

On reaching Rose Hill, where he found his servants overwhelmed with
delight at his unexpected return, Mr. Hastings casually inquired of
Mrs. Leah if the Deanes were at home. A shadow passed over the old
lady's face, and folding her arms, she leaned against the door and
began: "I wonder now, if you're askin' after them the first thing! I
don't know but they are well enough, all but Eugenia, I believe I never
disliked anybody as I do her, and no wonder, the way she's gone on. At
first she used to come up here almost every week on purpose to ask
about you, though she pretended to tumble over your books, and mark 'em
all up with her pencil. But when that scapegrace _Stephen Grey_ came,
she took another _tack_, and the way she and he went on was scandalous.
She was a runnin' up here the whole time that he wasn't a streakin' it
down there."

"_Stephen Grey been here?_ When and what for?" interrupted Mr.
Hastings, who, as his father-in-law, during his absence, had removed to
Philadelphia, knew nothing of the family.

"You may well ask that," returned Mrs. Leah, growing very much excited
as she remembered the trouble the fast young man had made her. "Last
fall in shootin' time, he came here, bag, baggage, gun, dogs and
all--said it didn't make a speck of difference, you being away--'twas
all in the family, and so you'd a' thought, the way he went on,
drinkin', swearin', shootin', and carousin' with a lot of fellers who
stayed with him here a spell, and then, when they were gone, he took a
flirtin' with Eugenia Deane, who told him, I'll bet, more'n five
hundred lies about an old uncle that, she says, is rich as a Jew, and
has willed his property to her and Alice."

"The viper!" muttered Uncle Nat to himself; and Mrs. Leah continued, "I
shouldn't wonder if old Mr. Grey was gettin' poor, and Steve, I guess,
would marry anybody who had money; but Lord knows I don't want him to
have her, for though he he ain't an atom too good, I used to live in
the family and took care of him when he was little. I should a' written
about his carryin's on to Mrs. Elliott, only I knew she didn't think
any too much of the Greys, and 'twould only trouble her for nothin'."

"But where are they now--Mrs. Deane and her daughters?" asked Mr.
Hastings; and Mrs. Leah replied. "Gone to Avon Springs: and folks do
say they've done their own work, and ate cold victuals off the pantry
shelf ever since last November, so as to save money, to cut a swell. I
guess Eugenia'll be mighty glad if that old uncle ever dies. For my
part, I hope he won't! or, if he does, I hope he won't leave her a
dollar."

"_Not a dime!_" thought Uncle Nat, who, not being supposed to feel
interested in Eugenia Deane, had tried to appear indifferent, holding
hard the while upon the rounds of his chair "to keep himself together."

Alone with Mr. Hastings, his wrath burst forth, but after a few
tremendous explosions, he grew calm, and proposed that they too should
go at once to Avon. "We shall then see the lady in all her glory," said
he, "and maybe hear something about her old uncle, though you'll have
to keep your eye on me, or I shall go off on a sudden, and shake her as
a dog would a snake! We'll send for Mrs. Elliott and Dora to join us
there," he continued; "it will be fun to bring them together, and see
what Eugenia will do."

"I am afraid you could not restrain yourself," said Mr. Hastings; but
Uncle Nat was sure he could, and after a few days they started for
Avon, where "Miss Eugenia Deane, the heiress," was quite a belle.

For a long time after Mr. Hastings's departure for Europe, she had
remained true to him, feeding on the remembrance of his parting words,
that "he had more reasons for remembering her than she supposed;" but
when, as months went by, he sent her neither letter, paper nor message,
she began to think that possibly he had never entertained a serious
thought concerning her, and when Stephen Grey came, she was the more
ready to receive his attentions, and forgive his former neglect. He was
a reckless, unprincipled fellow, and feeling this time rather pleased
with the bold dashing manner of Eugenia, backed as it was by the
supposed will of Uncle Nat, he made some advances, which she readily
met, making herself and him, as Mrs. Leah had said, "perfectly
ridiculous." When he left Dunwood he went west, telling her playfully,
that, "if he found no one there who suited him better than she, he
would the next summer meet her at Avon, and perhaps propose! He was
disgusted with Saratoga, Newport, Nahant, and all those stupid places,"
he said, "and wished to try something new."

To spend several weeks at Avon, therefore, was now Eugenia's object.
She had succeeded in coaxing her mother to withhold from Dora the
thousand dollars, a part of which was safely invested for their own
benefit, but this alone would not cover all their expenses, for Mrs.
Deane, growing gay and foolish as she grew older, declared her
intention of going to Avon also. "The water would do her good." she
said, "and 'twas time she saw a little of society."

To this plan Eugenia did not particularly object, for it would indicate
wealth, she thought, for the whole family to spend the summer at a
watering place. Still it would cost a great deal, and though Uncle
Nat's remittance came at the usual time, they did not dare to depend
wholly upon that, lest on their return there should be nothing left
with which to buy their bread. In this emergency, they hit upon the
expedient of dismissing their servant, and starving themselves through
the winter and spring, for the purpose of making a display in the
summer; and this last they were now doing. Eugenia fluttered like a
butterfly, sometimes in white satin, sometimes in pink, and again in
embroidered muslin; while her mother, a very little disgusted with
_society_, but still determined to brave it through, held aside her
cambric wrapper and made faces over _three glasses_ of spring water in
the morning, drowned herself in a hot bath every other day, rode twice
a day in crowded omnibuses to and from the springs, through banks of
sand and clouds of dust, and sat every evening in the heated parlors
with a very red face, and a very tight dress, wondering if everybody
enjoyed themselves as little in society as she did, and thinking ten
dollars per week a great deal to pay for being as uncomfortable as she
was!

For her disquietude, however, she felt in a measure repaid when she saw
that Eugenia was the most showy young lady present, and managed to keep
about her a cross-eyed widower, a near-sighted-bachelor, a medical
student of nineteen, a broken-down merchant, a lame officer, a
spiritualist, and Stephen Grey! This completed the list of her
admirers, if we except a gouty old man, who praised her dancing, and
would perhaps have called her beautiful, but for his better half, who
could see nothing agreeable or pleasing in the dashing belle. True to
his promise, Stephen Grey had met her there, and they were in the midst
of quite a flirtation, when Mr. Hastings and Uncle Nat arrived; the
latter registering his name as _Mr. Hamilton_; and taking care soon
after to speak of _Buenos Ayres_, as a place where he formerly lived.
The ruse was successful, and in less than half an hour, it was known
through the house, that "the singular looking old gentleman was a South
American, a bachelor, and rich undoubtedly, as such men always were!"

The Deanes were that afternoon riding with Stephen Grey, and did not
return until after supper, a circumstance which Eugenia greatly
lamented when she learned that their numbers had been increased by the
arrival of an elegant looking stranger from New York, together with an
old South American, whose name was Hamilton. The name of the other
Eugenia's informant did not know, for he had not registered it, but "he
was a splendid looking man," she said, and with more than usual care,
Eugenia dressed herself for the evening, and between the hours of eight
and nine, sailed into the parlor with the air of a queen.

From his window in an upper chamber Uncle Nat had seen the ladies, as
they returned from their ride; and when Mr. Hastings, who at that time
was absent from the room, came back to it, he found the old gentleman
hurriedly pacing the floor and evidently much excited.

"_I've seen her_," said he, "_the very one herself--Eugenia Deane!_ I
knew her mother in a moment, and I knew her too, by her evil eyes. I
could hardly refrain from pouncing upon her, and I believe I did shake
my fist at her! But it's over now," he continued, "and I am glad I have
seen her, for I can meet her and not betray myself; though, Hastings,
if at any time I am missing, you may know that I've come up here to let
myself off, for my wrath must evaporate somehow."

Feeling confident that he could trust him, Mr. Hastings ere long
accompanied him to the parlor, where his gentlemanly manners, and
rather peculiar looks procured for him immediate attention; and when
Eugenia entered the room, he was conversing familiarly with some
gentlemen whose notice she had in vain tried to attract. At a little
distance from him and nearer the door was Mr. Hastings, talking to
Stephen Grey. Eugenia did not observe him until she was directly at his
side, then, turning pale, she altered an exclamation of surprise, while
he, in his usual polite, easy manner, offered his hand, first to her
mother, and then to herself and Alice, saying, in reply to their many
inquiries as to when he returned, that he reached Dunwood a few days
before, and finding they were all at Avon, had concluded to follow. At
this remark the pallor left Eugenia's cheek, and was succeeded by a
bright glow, for "Mr. Hastings must feel interested in her, or he would
not have followed her there;" and the black eyes, which a few hours
before had smiled so bewitchingly upon Stephen Grey, now shone with a
brighter lustre, as she talked with Mr. Hastings of his European tour,
asking him why he had stayed so long, and telling him how natural it
seemed to have him home once more.

"By the way," she continued, "they say there is an old South American
here--a queer old fellow--did he come with you?"

"Yes," answered Mr. Hastings, glancing towards Uncle Nat, whose eyes
had never for a moment lost sight of Eugenia; "I found him in my
travels, and liking him very much, brought him home with me. Allow me
to introduce you, for though rather eccentric, he's a fine man, and
quite wealthy, too."

"_Wealth is nothing!_ I wouldn't think any more of him for that,"
returned Eugenia, taking Mr. Hastings's arm, and advancing toward Uncle
Nat, whose left hand grasped tightly one side of his blue coat, while
the other was offered to Eugenia.

With a slight shudder, he dropped her hand as soon as it was touched;
then, pressing his fingers together so firmly, that his long nails left
marks in his flesh, he looked curiously down upon her, eyeing her
furtively as if she had been a wild beast. Nothing of all this escaped
Eugenia, who, feeling greatly amused at what she thought to be his
embarrassment, and fancying he had never before conversed with so fine
a lady as herself, she commenced quizzing him in a manner excessively
provoking to one of his excitable temperament. Lifting up first one
foot, and then the other, he felt his patience fast giving way, and at
last, as her ridicule became more and more marked, he could endure it
no longer, but returned it with a kind of sarcasm far more scathing
than anything she could say. Deeply chagrined, and feeling that she had
been beaten with her own weapons, she was about to leave the "old bear"
as she mentally styled him, when remembering that he was Mr. Hastings's
friend, and, as such worthy of more respect than she had paid him, she
said playfully, "I have a mother and sister here, whom you may like
better than you do me. I'll introduce them," and tripping across the
room, she made known her wishes to her mother, adding that "there was a
chance for her, as he was an old bachelor."

Long and searchingly the old man looked in the face of the widow,
thinking of the time when she had called _Fannie_ her sister; but of
this Mrs. Deane did not know; and remembering what Eugenia had said,
she blushed crimson, and as soon as possible, stole away, leaving him
alone with Alice, with whom he was better pleased, talking with her so
long that Eugenia, who was hovering near Mr. Hastings, began to laugh
at what she called her _sister's conquest_. Nothing had escaped Mr.
Hastings, and thinking this a good opportunity for rebuking the young
lady, he spoke of Mr. Hamilton in the highest terms, saying that, "he
should consider any disrespect paid to his friend a slight to himself."
This hint was sufficient, and wishing to make amends for her rudeness,
Eugenia ere long sought the stranger, and tried to be very agreeable;
but there was no affinity between them, and to Mr. Hastings, who was
watching them, they seemed much like a fierce mastiff, and a spiteful
cat, impatient to pounce upon each other!

During the evening the three were standing together, and Eugenia
suddenly remembering Dora, asked Mr. Hastings how she was, saying she
seldom wrote to them, and when she did, her letters amounted to
nothing. With a warning glance at Uncle Nat, whose face grew very dark,
Mr. Hastings replied that she was well, and had, he thought, improved
under his sister's care.

"I am glad," said she, "for there was need enough of improvement. She
was so unrefined, always preferring the kitchen to the parlor, that we
couldn't make anything of her."

A sudden "_Ugh!_" from Uncle Nat stopped her, and she asked him what
was the matter.

"Nothing, nothing," said he, wiping his face, "only I am getting pretty
warm, and must cool off."

The next moment he was gone, and when, at a late hour, Mr. Hastings
repaired to his room, he knew by the chairs, boots, brushes, and books
scattered over the floor, that Uncle Nat, snoring so loudly in bed, had
cooled off!

"I had to hold on, to keep from falling to pieces right before her," he
said, next morning, in speaking of the last night's adventure; "but I
shall do better next time. I am getting a little accustomed to it."

And he was right, for only twice during the entire day and evening did
he disappear from the room. Once when Eugenia sat down to play, and
once when he heard her telling Stephen Grey, who asked her to ride
again, that, "he really must excuse her, as she had a letter to write
to _Uncle Nat_, who undoubtedly wondered why she was so tardy. And you
know," she said, "it won't do to neglect him!"

Uncle Nat knew it was a farce to get rid of Stephen Grey, who was
nothing compared with his brother-in-law, but his indignation was not
the less; and Mr. Hastings, when he saw the long blue coat flying up
the stairs, smiled quietly, though he pitied the poor old man, who was
thus kept vibrating between his chamber and the parlor.

In this manner several days passed away, during which time Uncle Nat's
temper was severely tested, both by Eugenia's remarks concerning Dora,
and by what she said of himself, for he more than once heard her
speaking of _"Old Uncle Nat,"_ who sent her money to buy the various
articles of jewelry which she wore. On such occasions it seemed almost
impossible for him to restrain his anger, and he often wished he had
never promised to keep silent; but by frequent visits to his chamber,
which witnessed many a terrific storm, he managed to be quiet, so that
Eugenia had no suspicion whatever, though she disliked him greatly, and
wished he had never come there. Mr. Hastings troubled her, too, for she
felt very uncertain as to the nature of his feelings towards her. He
treated her politely, but that was all, and no management on her part
could draw from him any particular attention.

"Maybe he's jealous of Stephen Grey," she thought, and then she became
so cold towards the latter individual, that had he not remembered
_Uncle Nat's will_, in which he firmly believed, he would have packed
his trunk at once, and left her in disgust.

But Stephen's necessities were great. There was standing against him a
long list of bills, which his father refused to pay, and he was ready
to marry the first purse which was offered. Had Eugenia been altogether
agreeable to him, he would have proposed ere this, but without knowing
why, he felt afraid of her. Added to this was the memory of his
mother's threat, that his father should disinherit him if he disgraced
them by marrying _that Deane girl_, in whose expected fortune she did
not believe. So halting between two opinions, he allowed himself to be
taken up and cast off whenever the capricious Eugenia chose.

In the meantime, Uncle Nat had cultivated the acquaintance of Mrs.
Deane and Alice, finding the latter quite a pleasant girl, and feeling
disposed to think more favorably of the former when he heard her speak
kindly of Dora, as she always did. Matters were in this state, when,
one afternoon, in compliance with her brother's written request, Mrs.
Elliott arrived, together with Dora. Most of the visitors were at the
springs, and as Eugenia never let an opportunity pass for showing
herself to the guests of the different houses, she too was there, and
thus failed to see how tenderly Dora was greeted by Mr. Hastings, and
how fondly Uncle Nat clasped her in his arms, holding her hand all the
way up the stairs, and only releasing her when she reached the door of
the room, which had been previously engaged for them by Mr. Hastings.
Feeling slightly indisposed, Mrs. Elliott did not go down to supper,
and as Dora chose to remain with her, neither of them were seen until
evening. Eugenia had heard of the arrival of two aristocratic looking
ladies, one of whom was young and very beautiful, and this aroused her
fears at once. Hitherto she had reigned without a rival, for aside from
her beauty, the generally believed rumor of her being an heiress,
procured for her attention for many who otherwise would have been
disgusted with her overbearing manner and boisterous conduct; for, like
many others, she had fallen into the error of thinking that to be
_fashionable_, she must be bold and noisy, and no voice in the
drawing-room ever reached so high a note as hers. Still she was
tolerated and flattered, and when the friend, who told her of the new
arrivals, and who had caught a view of Dora's face, laughingly bade her
beware lest her star should begin to wane, she curled her lip in scorn,
as if anything in Avon could compete with her, who "had spent so many
seasons at _Saratoga_ and _Newport_, and who would have gone there this
summer, only she wanted a change, and then it was more quiet for _Ma_!"

This was one of her stereotyped remarks until Mr. Hastings came, but he
knew her, and in his presence she was less assuming. She had heard that
the new arrivals were his friends, and thinking they must of course be
_somebody_, she arrayed herself for the evening with unusual care,
wearing her white satin and lace bertha, the most becoming and at the
same time the most expensive dress she had.

"I wish I had some pearls," she said, glancing at her raven hair; "they
would look so much richer than these flowers."

"I should think an heiress like _you_ would have everything she
wanted," suggested Alice, mischievously, and Eugenia replied, "Oh,
pshaw! We shall never get more than five hundred a year from Uncle Nat,
but I don't much care. Old Mr. Grey is wealthy, and if Mr. Hastings
don't manifest any more interest in me than he has since he came here,
I shall let that foolish _Steve_ propose, much as I dislike him."

So saying, she clasped upon her arm a heavy bracelet, for which the sum
of forty dollars had been paid, and descended with her mother and
sister to the parlor. Mrs. Elliott and Dora were there before her--the
former leaning on Mr. Hastings's arm, while the latter was already
surrounded by a group of admirers, a few of whom had met her before.
She was standing with her back towards Eugenia, who singled her out in
a moment, as her rival, noticing first her magnificent hair, in which
an ornament of any kind would have been out of place, and which was
confined at the back of the head by a small and elegantly wrought gold
comb. Her dress was perfectly plain, consisting simply of white India
muslin, which fitted her admirably and seemed well adapted to her
youthful form.

"Who is she?" inquired Eugenia of Uncle Nat, who had stationed himself
near the door, on purpose to see how the first sight of Dora would
affect her.

"Who is she!" he replied. "Strange you don't know your own cousin _Dora
Deane_," and a look of intense satisfaction danced in his keen eyes, as
he saw the expression of astonishment which passed over Eugenia's face.

"Impossible!" she exclaimed, while a pang of envy shot through her
heart. "That stylish looking girl can't be Dora! Why, I always supposed
Mrs. Elliott made a half servant, half companion of her. She never told
us any different;" and with a vague hope that the old South American
might be mistaken, she took a step or two forward just as Dora turned
round, disclosing to view her face.

There was no longer any doubt, and with mingled feelings of surprise,
mortification, jealousy, and rage, Eugenia advanced to meet her, wisely
resolving as she did so to make the best of it, and never let her
cousin know how much annoyed she was. Both Mrs. Deane and Alice were
greeted kindly by Dora, who could scarcely be more than polite to
Eugenia, and when the latter made a movement to kiss her, she
involuntarily drew back, feeling that she could not suffer it.

"Grown suddenly very proud," muttered Eugenia, at the same time
determining that her mother should insist upon taking Dora home with
them, and secretly exulting as she thought how she should again work in
the dark kitchen at Locust Grove, as she had done before. "That'll
remove some of her fine airs, I reckon," she thought, as, with bitter
hatred at her heart, she watched her young cousin, who, throughout the
entire evening, continued to be the center of attraction.

Everybody asked who she was; everybody pronounced her beautiful, and
everybody neglected Eugenia Deane, who, greatly enraged, retired early,
and vented her wrath in tears, to think that the once despised Dora
should now be so far above her.

"But it shall not be," she said, and then to her mother she unfolded
her plan of having Dora go home with them immediately. "I'd as soon be
in Joppa as to stay here with her for a rival," she said. "Mr. Hastings
don't care for me, I know, and I hate that old codger of a Hamilton,
with his sarcastic remarks and prying eyes. I've been here long enough,
and I mean to go home."

To this proposition Mrs. Deane assented willingly; but she expressed
her doubts concerning her ability to make Dora accompany them.

"Of course she'll go," said Eugenia. "Her mother placed her under your
control, and she is bound to obey."

Yielding at last, as she generally did, Mrs. Deane promised to see what
she could do, and the next day she announced to Mrs. Elliott her
intention of taking _Dora_ home with her. "I am grateful for all you
have done for her," said she; "but we need her, and cannot spare her
any longer, so, Dora dear," turning to her niece, "pack up your things,
and we will start to-morrow morning."

Had Uncle Nat been there, he would, undoubtedly, have exploded at once;
but he was not present, neither was Mr. Hastings, and it remained for
Mrs. Elliott alone to reply, which she did firmly and decidedly. "No,
Mrs. Deane, Dora cannot go. She was committed to your care, I know, but
you gave her up to me, and I shall not part with her unless I am
legally compelled to do so, or she wishes to go. She can answer this
last for herself," and she turned towards Dora, who, drawing nearer to
her, replied, "I am sorry to disobey you, Aunt Sarah, but I cannot
leave Mrs. Elliott."

Mrs. Deane was not very courageous, and unwilling to press her claim,
she turned away and reported her ill-success to Eugenia, who heaped a
torrent of abuse upon both Mrs. Elliott, Dora, the old South American,
and Mr. Hastings, who, she declared, were all leagued against them.

"But I don't care," said she, "old Mr. Grey is quite as wealthy as Mr.
Hastings, and by saying the word, I can marry _Steve_ at any time; and
I will do it, too," she continued, "and that proud Mrs. Elliott shall
yet be obliged to meet me on terms of equality, for she will not dare
to neglect _the Greys!_"

Somewhat comforted by this thought, she dried her tears, and signified
her willingness to start for home on the morrow, even if Dora did not
accompany her. As yet, she had no suspicion whatever of the engagement
existing between Mr. Hastings and her cousin. There was nothing in the
manner of either to betray it, and when, next morning, attired in her
traveling dress, she stood with them upon the piazza, she little
thought how and where she would next meet them. At her side was Stephen
Grey. He had been won over by her gracious smiles the night previous,
and was now going with her as far as Rochester, where, if a favorable
opportunity were presented, he intended offering himself for her
acceptance. Uncle Nat was not present, and Eugenia was glad that it was
so, for there was something about him exceedingly annoying to her, and
she always felt relieved at his absence.

"Why do you go so soon? I thought you were intending to spend the
summer," said one of her old admirers; and with a scornful toss of her
head, she replied, "It is getting so insufferably dull here, that I
can't endure it any longer."

Just then the omnibus was announced, and with a hurried good-by, she
followed her baggage down the stairs, and amid a cloud of dust was
driven rapidly away, while Uncle Nat, from his chamber window, sent
after her a not very complimentary or affectionate adieu. Arrived at
the hotel in Rochester, where Eugenia had once waited in vain for Mr.
Hastings, Stephen Grey managed to hear from her again, that she had
well founded hopes of being one of the heirs of Nathaniel Deane, who,
she said, sent them annually a sum of money varying from five to
fifteen hundred dollars. This was quite a consideration for one whose
finances were low, and whose father, while threatening to disinherit
him, was himself on the verge of bankruptcy, and thinking the annual
remittance worth securing, even if the _will_ should fail, Stephen
found an opportunity to go down on his knees before her after the most
approved fashion, telling her that "she alone could make him happy, and
that without her he should be wretched;" and she, knowing just how much
in earnest he was, promised to be his wife, intending the while to
break that promise if she saw in Mr. Hastings any signs of renewed
interest. So when Stephen pressed her to name an early day, she put him
off, telling him she could not think of being married until near the
middle of autumn, and at the same time requesting him to keep their
engagement a secret, for she did not wish it to be a subject of remark,
as engaged people always were. To this, Stephen consented willingly, as
he would thus escape, for a time, his mother's anger. And so when,
tired, jaded, cross and dusty, Eugenia Deane reached Locust Grove, she
had the satisfaction of knowing that her trip to the Springs had been
successful, inasmuch as it procured for her "_a husband such as he
was_."



CHAPTER XXI.

THE DOUBLE SURPRISE.


The Deanes had been home about two weeks when Mr. Hastings returned to
Rose Hill, accompanied by the "Old South American," who seemed to have
taken up his abode there. Being naturally rather reserved, the latter
visited but little in the village, while at Locust Grove he never
called, and seldom saw Eugenia when he met her in the street.

Mr. Hastings, too, was unusually cool in his manner towards her, and
this she imputed wholly to the fact of her having been rude to his
friend on the night of her introduction. "He was never so before," she
thought, and she redoubled her efforts to be agreeable, to no effect,
as he was simply polite to her and nothing more. So after a series of
tears and headaches, she gave him up, comforting herself with the
belief that he would never marry anybody. After this, she smiled more
graciously upon Stephen Grey, who, pretending to be a lawyer, had,
greatly to her annoyance, hung out his sign in Dunwood, where his
office proper seemed to be in the bar-room, or drinking-saloon, as in
one of these he was always to be found, when not at Locust Grove.

One evening, towards the last of September, when he came as usual to
see her, he startled her with the news, that there was ere long to be a
new bride at Rose Hill! Starting involuntarily, Eugenia exclaimed, "A
new bride! It can't be possible! Who is it?"

It was months since Stephen had been in New York, and he knew nothing,
except that the lady was from the city, and he mentioned a _Miss
Morton_, with whom he had several times seen Mr. Hastings walking, and
who was very intimate with Mrs. Elliott. At first Eugenia refused to
believe it, but when she had remembered how extensively Mr. Hastings
was repairing his place, and heard that the house was being entirely
refurnished, and fitted up in a princely style, she wept again over her
ruined hopes, and experienced many a sharp pang of envy, when from time
to time she saw go by loads of elegant furniture, and knew that it was
not for herself, but another. The old South American, too, it was said,
was very lavish of his money, purchasing many costly ornaments, and
furnishing entirely the chamber of the bride. For this the fair Eugenia
styled him "a silly old fool," wondering "what business it was to him,"
and "why he need be so much interested in one who, if she had any
sense, would, in less than two weeks, turn him from the house, with his
heathenish ways." Still, fret as she would, she could not in the least
retard the progress of matters, and one morning towards the last of
October, she heard from Mrs. Leah, whom she met at a store in the
village, that the wedding was to take place at the house of the bride
on Tuesday of the next week, and that on Thursday evening following,
there was to be a grand party at Rose Hill, far exceeding in splendor
and elegance the one given there some years before.

"Crowds of folks," she said, "are coming from the city with the bridal
pair, who would start on Wednesday, stay in Syracuse all night, and
reach Dunwood about three o'clock on Thursday afternoon. The
invitations for the village people," she added, "were already written
and were left with her to distribute on Wednesday morning."

Eugenia would have given much to know if she were invited, but she was
too proud to ask, and assuming an air of indifference she casually
inquired the name of the bride.

With the manner of one in a deep study, Mrs. Leah replied, "Let me see!
It's a very common name. Strange I don't speak it!"

"_Morton?_" suggested Eugenia, but Mrs. Leah affected not to hear her,
and, having completed her purchases, she left the store and walked
slowly homeward, dropping more than one tear on the brown paper parcel
she held in her hand.

Crying, however, was of no avail, and mentally chiding herself for her
weakness, she resolved to brave it through, comforting herself again
with the thought that _the Greys_ were as aristocratic as the
_Hastings_, and as Stephen's wife she should yet shine in the best
society, for in case she married him she was resolved that he should
take her at once to Philadelphia, where she would compel his proud
mother to notice her. This helped to divert her mind, and in the course
of the day she was talking gaily of the party, and wondering if she
should be as intimate with the second Mrs. Hastings as she had been
with the first!

That night, Alice went down to the post-office, from which she soon
returned, evidently much excited; and rushing into the room where her
mother and sister were sitting, she said, as she threw a letter into
the lap of the latter, "It's from _Uncle Nat_, and postmarked _New
York_."

Turning whiter than ever she was before, Eugenia could scarcely command
herself to break the seal, and read the few brief lines which told her
that Uncle Nat had, at last, concluded to come home, that a matter of
some importance would keep him from Locust Grove for a few days; but if
nothing occurred, he would be with them on Saturday evening of next
week! In the postscript, he added, that "he should expect to find Dora
with them, and he hoped her going away to school had been a benefit to
her."

So great was their consternation that for some minutes neither of them
uttered a word, but each waited for the other to suggest some way of
acting in the present emergency. As Eugenia's mind was the most active
of the three she was the first to speak. After venting her indignation
upon Uncle Nat, for intruding himself where he was not wanted, she
continued: "We are in a sad dilemma, but we must make the best of it,
and inasmuch as he is coming, I am glad that Dora is what she is. We
can tell him how rapidly she has improved, and how rejoiced we are that
it is so. I am glad I have said nothing about her for the last two
years, except that she was away at school. I'll write to her to-night,
and tell her to meet him here, and come immediately. You know, she is
good-natured, and on my bended knees I'll confess what I have done, and
beg of her not to betray me to him, or let him know that we did not pay
for her education, and if she refuses, you, mother, must go down on
your knees, too, and we'll get up between us such a scene that she will
consent, I know--if not, why, we must abide the consequence"--and with
the look of one about to be martyred, Eugenia sat down and wrote to
Dora, beseeching her to "come without delay, as there was something
they must tell her before meeting Uncle Nat!"

This was Friday night, and very impatiently she awaited an answer,
which, though written on Monday, did not come until the Wednesday
following.

"What does she say?" cried Mrs. Deane and Alice, crowding around her,
while with a rueful face she read that Dora would be delighted to meet
Uncle Nat at Locust Grove, but could not come quite so soon as they
wished to have her.

 "You have undoubtedly heard," she wrote, "of Mr. Hastings's
approaching marriage, at which I wish to be present. Mrs. Elliott will
accompany the bridal party to Rose Hill on Thursday, and she thinks I
had better wait and come with her. I shall probably see you at the
party.

"Yours in haste, "DORA DEANE."

On Eugenia's mind there was not a shadow of suspicion that _Dora
Deane_, appended to that letter, had ere this ceased to be her cousin's
name--that Mr. Hastings, who, together with Uncle Nat, had the Saturday
previous gone down to New York, had bent fondly over her as she wrote
it for the last time, playfully suggesting that she add to it an H, by
way of making a commencement, nor yet that Uncle Nat, with an immense
degree of satisfaction in his face, had read the short note, saying as
he did so, "We'll cheat 'em, darling, won't we?"

Neither did she dream that last night's moon shone down on Dora Deane,
a beautiful, blushing bride, who, with orange blossoms in her shining
hair, and the deep love-light in her eye, stood by Mr. Hastings's side
and called him her husband. Nothing of all this she knew, and hastily
reading the letter, she exclaimed, "Plague on her! a vast deal of
difference _her_ being at the wedding would make. But no matter, the
old codger will not be here until Saturday night, and there'll be time
enough to coax her."

Just then the cards of invitation were left at the door, and in the
delightful certainty of knowing that she was really invited, she forgot
in a measure everything else. In the evening she was annoyed as usual
with a call from Stephen Grey. He had that day received news from home
that his father's failure could not long be deferred, and judging
Eugenia by himself, he fancied she would sooner marry him now, than
after he was the son of a bankrupt. Accordingly he urged her to consent
to a private marriage at her mother's on Friday evening, the night
following the party.

"There was nothing to be gained by waiting," he said--an opinion in
which Eugenia herself concurred, for she feared lest in some way her
treachery should be betrayed, and she should lose Stephen Grey, as well
as Mr. Hastings.

Still she could hardly bring herself to consent until she had seen
Dora, and she replied that she would think of it, and answer him at the
party. Thursday morning came, and passed, and about half-past two,
Eugenia saw Mr. Hastings's carriage pass on its way to the depot,
together with two more, which had been hired to convey the guests to
Rose Hill. Seating herself by her chamber window, she waited
impatiently for the cars, which came at last, and in a few moments the
roll of wheels announced the approach of the bridal party. Very eagerly
Eugenia, Alice, and their mother gazed out through the half closed
shutters upon the carriage in front, which they knew was Mr. Hastings's.

"There's Mrs. Elliott looking this way. Don't let her see us,"
whispered Alice, while her mother singled out old Mrs. Hastings for
Dora, wondering why she didn't turn that way.

But Eugenia had no eye for any one, save the figure seated next to Mr.
Hastings, and so closely veiled as entirely to hide her features.

"I wouldn't keep that old brown thing on my face, unless it was so
homely I was afraid of having it seen," she said; and hoping the bride
of Howard Hastings might prove to be exceedingly ugly, she repaired to
Dora's room, and from the same window where Dora once had watched the
many lights which shone from Rose Hill, she now watched the travelers
until they disappeared within the house. Then, rejoining her mother and
sister she said, "I don't see why Dora can't come over here a little
while before the party. There's plenty of time and I do want to have it
off my mind. Besides that, I might coax her to assist me in dressing,
for she has good taste, if nothing more; I mean to write her a few
lines asking her to come."

The note was accordingly written, and despatched by the Irish girl, who
soon returned, bearing another tiny note, which read as follows:

"I cannot possibly come, as I have promised to be present at the
dressing of the bride.                                    "DORA."


Forgetting her recent remark, Eugenia muttered something about, "folks
thinking a great deal of her taste," then turning to the servant girl,
she asked "how Dora looked, and what she said?"

"Sure, I didn't see her," returned the girl; "Mistress Leah carried
your letter to her, and brought hers to me. Not a ha'p'orth of anybody
else did I see." And this was all the information which Eugenia could
elicit concerning the people of Rose Hill.

The time for making their toilet came at last, and while Eugenia was
missing the little _cropped head_ girl, who, on a similar occasion, had
obeyed so meekly her commands, a fair young bride was thinking also of
that night, when she had lain upon her mother's old green trunk, and
wept herself to sleep. Wishing to be fashionable, Eugenia and her party
were the last to arrive. They found the parlors crowded, and the
dressing-room vacant, so that neither of them received the slightest
intimation of the surprise which awaited them. In removing her veil,
Eugenia displaced one of the flowers in her hair, and muttering about
Alice's awkwardness, she wished she could see Dora just a minute, and
have her arrange the flowers!

But Dora was busy elsewhere, and pronouncing herself ready, Eugenia,
took the arm of Stephen Grey, and followed her mother and sister
downstairs. At a little distance from the door was Mr. Hastings, and at
his side was Dora, wondrously beautiful in her costly bridal robes. She
had gracefully received the congratulations of her Dunwood friends,
who, while expressing their surprise, had also expressed their delight
at finding in the new mistress of Ross Hill, the girl who had ever been
a favorite in the village. Near her was Uncle Nat, his face wearing an
expression of perfect happiness, and his eye almost constantly upon the
door, through which Eugenia must pass. There was a rustle of silk upon
the stairs, and drawing nearer to Dora, he awaited the result with
breathless interest.

Mrs. Deane came first, but scarcely had she crossed the threshold, ere
she started back, petrified with astonishment, and clutching Alice's
dress, whispered softly, "am I deceived, or _is it Dora?_"

And Alice, with wild staring eyes, could only answer "_Dora_;" while
Eugenia, wondering at their conduct, strove to push them aside. Failing
in this, she raised herself on tiptoe, and looking over their heads,
saw what for an instant chilled her blood, and stopped the pulsations
of her heart. It was the _bride_, and fiercely grasping the arm of
Stephen Grey to keep herself from falling, she said, in a hoarse,
unnatural voice, "_Great Heaven--it is Dora!_ DORA DEANE!"

Fruitful as she had hitherto been in expedients, she was now utterly
powerless to act, and knowing that in her present state of excitement,
she could not meet her cousin, she turned back and fleeing up the
stairs, threw herself upon a chair in the dressing-room, where, with
her hands clasped firmly together, she sat rigid as marble until the
storm of passion had somewhat abated.

"And _she_ has won him--_Dora Deane_, whom I have so ill treated," she
said at last, starting at the sound of her voice, it was so hollow and
strange. Then, as she remembered the coming of Uncle Nat and the
exposure she so much dreaded, she buried her face in her hands, and in
the bitterness of her humiliation cried out, "It is more than I can
bear!"

Growing ere long more calm, she thought the matter over carefully, and
decided at last to brave it through--to greet the bride as if nothing
had occurred, and never to let Mr. Hastings know how sharp a wound he
had inflicted. "It is useless now," she thought, "to throw myself upon
the mercy of Dora. She would not, of course, withhold my secret from
her husband, and I cannot be despised by him. I have loved him too well
for that. And perhaps he'll never know it," she continued, beginning to
look upon the brighter side. "Uncle Nat may not prove very
inquisitive--may not stay with us long; or if he does, as the wife of
Stephen Grey, I can bear his displeasure better," and determining that
ere another twenty-four hours were gone, she would cease to be Eugenia
Deane, she arose and stood before the mirror, preparatory to going down.

The sight of her white haggard face startled her, and for a moment she
felt that she could not mingle with the gay throng below, who would
wonder at her appearance. But the ordeal must be passed, and summoning
all her courage, she descended to the parlor, just as her mother and
Alice, alarmed at her very long absence, were coming in quest of her.
Crossing the room mechanically she offered her hand to Dora, saying,
while a sickly smile played around her bloodless lips, "You have really
taken us by surprise, but I congratulate you; and you too," bowing
rather stiffly to Mr. Hastings, who returned her greeting so
pleasantly, that she began to feel more at ease, and after a little,
was chatting familiarly with Dora, telling her she must be sure and
meet, "Uncle Nat," on Saturday evening, and adding in a low tone, "If
I've ever treated you badly, I hope you won't tell him." "I shall tell
him nothing," answered Dora, and comforted with this answer, Eugenia
moved away.

"You are looking very pale and bad to-night. What is the matter?" said
Uncle Nat, when once he was standing near her.

"Nothing but a bad headache," she replied, while her black eyes flashed
angrily upon him, for she fancied he saw the painful throbbings of her
heart, and wished to taunt her with it.

Supper being over, Stephen Grey led her into a little side room, where
he claimed the answer to his question. It was in the affirmative, and
soon after, complaining of the intense pain in her head, she begged to
go home. Alone in her room, with no one present but her mother and
Alice, her pent-up feelings gave away, and throwing herself upon the
floor she wished that she had died ere she had come to this humiliation.

"That Dora, a beggar as it were, should be preferred to _me_ is
nothing," she cried, "compared to the way which the whole thing was
planned. That old wretch of a Hamilton had something to do with it, I
know. How I hate him, with his sneering face!"

Becoming at length a little more composed, she told her mother of her
expected marriage with Stephen Grey.

"But why so much haste?" asked Mrs. Deane, who a little proud of the
alliance, would rather have given a large wedding.

Sitting upright upon the floor, with her long loose hair falling around
her white face, Eugenia answered bitterly, "Stephen Grey has no more
love for me than I have for him. He believes that we are rich, or we
will be when Uncle Nat is dead. For _money_ he marries me, for money I
marry him. I know old Grey is wealthy, and as the wife of his son, I
will yet ride over Dora's head. But I must be quick, or I lose him, for
if after Uncle Nat's arrival our real situation should chance to be
disclosed, Steve would not hesitate to leave me.

  'So to-morrow or never
  a bride I shall be,'"

she sang with a gaiety of manner wholly at variance with the worn,
suffering expression of her countenance. Eugenia was terribly expiating
her sins, and when the next night, in the presence of a few friends,
she stood by Stephen Grey, and was made his wife, she felt that her own
hands had poured the last drop in the brimming bucket, for, as she had
paid, there was not in her heart a particle of esteem or love for him
who was now her husband.

"It's my destiny," she thought; "I'll make the best of it," and her
unnatural laugh rang out loud and clear, as she tried to appear gay and
happy.

Striking contrast between the gentle bride at Rose Hill, who felt that
in all the world, there was not a happier being than herself--and the
one at Locust Grove, who with bloodshot eyes and livid lips gazed out
upon the starry sky, almost cursing the day that she was born, and the
fate which had made her what she was. Ever and anon, too, there came
stealing on her ear the fearful word _retribution_, and the wretched
girl shuddered as she thought for how much she had to atone.

Marveling much at the strange mood of his bride, Stephen Grey, on the
morning succeeding his marriage, left her and went down to the village,
where he found a letter from his father, telling him the crisis had
come, leaving him more than one hundred thousand dollars in debt!
Stephen was not surprised--he had expected it, and it affected him less
painfully when he considered that his wife would inherit a portion of
Uncle Nathaniel's wealth.

"I won't tell her yet," he thought, as he walked back to Locust Grove,
where, with an undefined presentiment of approaching evil, Eugenia
moved listlessly from room to room, counting the hours which dragged
heavily, and half wishing that Uncle Nat would hasten his coming, and
have it over!

       *       *       *       *       *


The sun went down, and as darkness settled o'er the earth, a heavy load
seemed pressing upon Eugenia's spirits. It wanted now but a few minutes
of the time when the train was due, and trembling, she scarcely knew
why, she sat alone in her chamber, wondering how she should meet her
uncle, or what excuse she should render, if her perfidy were revealed.
The door bell rang, and in the hall below she heard the voices of Mr.
Hastings and Dora.

"I must go down, now," she said, and forcing a smile to her face, she
descended to the parlor, as the shrill whistle of the engine sounded in
the distance.

She had just time to greet her visitors and enjoy their surprise at the
announcement of her marriage, when her ear caught the sound of heavy,
tramping footsteps, coming up the walk, and a violent ringing of the
bell announced another arrival.

"You go to the door, Stephen," she whispered, while an icy coldness
crept over her.

He obeyed, and bending forward in a listening attitude she heard him
say, "Good evening, Mr. Hamilton."

Just then, a telegraphic look between Mr. Hastings and Dora caught her
eye, and springing to her feet, she exclaimed, "_Mr. Hamilton!_" while
a suspicion of the truth flashed like lightning upon her. The next
moment he stood before them, Uncle Nat, his glittering black eyes fixed
upon Eugenia, who quailed beneath that withering glance.

"_I promised you I would come to-night_" he said, "_and I am here,
Nathaniel Deane! Are you glad to see me?_" and his eyes never moved
from Eugenia, who sat like one petrified, as did her mother and sister.
"Have you no word of welcome??" he continued. "Your letters were wont
to be kind and affectionate. I have brought them with me, as a passport
to you friendship. Shall I show them to you?"

His manner was perfectly cool and collected, but Eugenia felt the sting
each word implied, and, starting up, she glared defiantly at him,
exclaiming, "Insolent wretch! What mean you by this? And what business
had you thus to deceive us?"

"The fair Eugenia does not believe in _deceit_, it seems. Pity her
theory and practise do not better accord," he answered, while a
scornful smile curled his lips.

"What proof have you, sir, for what you say?" demanded Eugenia; and
with the same cold, scornful smile, he replied, "Far better proof than
you imagine, fair lady. Would you like to hear it?"

Not suspecting how much he knew, and goaded to madness by his calm,
quiet manner, Eugenia replied, "I defy you, old man, to prove aught
against me."

"First, then," said he, "let me ask you what use you made of that
fifteen hundred dollars sent to Dora nearly three years ago? Was not
this piano," laying his hand upon the instrument, "bought with a part
of that money? Did Dora ever see it, or the five hundred dollars sent
annually by me?"

Eugenia was confounded. He did know it all, but how had she been
betrayed? It must be through Dora's agency, she thought, and turning
fiercely towards her, she heaped upon her such a torrent of abuse,
that, in thunder-like tones, Uncle Nat, now really excited, bade her
keep silent; while Howard Hastings arose, and confronting the angry
woman, explained briefly what he had done, and why he had done it.

"Then you, too, have acted a traitor's part?" she hissed; "but it shall
not avail, I will not be trampled down by either you, or this
gray-haired--"

"Hold!" cried Uncle Nat, laying his broad palm heavily upon her
shoulder. "I am too old to hear such language from you, young lady. I
do not wish to upbraid you farther with what you have done. 'Tis
sufficient that I know it all, that henceforth we are strangers;" and
he turned to leave the room, when Mrs. Deane, advancing towards him
said pleadingly, "Is it thus, Nathaniel, that you return to us, after
so many years? Eugenia may have been tempted to do wrong, but will you
not forgive her for her father's sake?"

"_Never!_" he answered fiercely, shaking off the hand she had lain upon
his arm. "Towards Alice I bear no ill will; and you, madam, who
suffered this wrong to be done, I may, in time, forgive, but _that
woman_," pointing towards Eugenia, "_Never!_" And he left the room,
while Eugenia, completely overwhelmed with a sense of her detected
guilt, burst into a passionate fit of tears, sobbing so bitterly that
Dora, touched by her grief, stole softly to her side, and was about to
speak, when, thrusting her away, Eugenia exclaimed, "Leave me, Dora
Deane, and never come here again. The sight of you mocking my
wretchedness is hateful and more than I can bear!"

There were tears in Dora's eyes, as she turned away, and offering her
hand to her aunt and cousin, she took her husband's arm, and went out
of a house, where she had suffered so much, and which, while Eugenia
remained, she would never enter again.

Like one in a dream sat Stephen Grey. He had been a silent spectator of
the exciting scene, but thought had been busy, and ere it was half
over, his own position was clearly defined, and he knew that, even as
he had cheated Eugenia Deane, so Eugenia Deane had cheated him. It was
an even thing, and unprincipled and selfish as he was, he felt that he
had no cause for complaint. Still the disappointment was not the less
severe, and when the bride of a day, looking reproachfully at him
through her tears, asked, "why he didn't say to her a word of comfort?"
he coolly replied, "because I have nothing to say. You have got
yourself into a deuced mean scrape, and so have I!"

Eugenia did not then understand what he meant, and, when, an hour or
two later, she dried her tears, and began to speak of an immediate
removal to Philadelphia, where she would be more effectually out of
Uncle Nat's way, she was surprised at his asking her, "what she
proposed doing in the city, and if she had any means of support."

"Means of support!" she repeated. "Why do you ask that question, when
your father is worth half a million, and you are his only son?"

With a prolonged whistle, he answered, "Father worth a copper cent and
I a precious fool comes nearer the truth!"

"What do you mean?" she asked, in unfeigned astonishment; and he
replied, "I mean that three days ago father _failed_, to the tune of
one hundred thousand dollars, and if you or I have any bread to eat
hereafter, one or the other of us must earn it!"

Eugenia had borne much to-day, and this last announcement was the one
straw too many. Utterly crushed, she buried her face in her hands, and
remained silent. She could not reproach her husband, for the deception
had been equal, and now, when this last hope had been swept away, the
world indeed seemed dreary and dark.

"What shall we do?" she groaned at last, in a voice so full of despair,
that with a feeling akin to pity, Stephen, who had been pacing up and
down the room, came to her side, saying, "Why can't we stay as we are?
I can average a pettyfogging suit a month, and that'll be better than
nothing."

"I wouldn't remain here on any account after what has happened," said
Eugenia; "and besides that, we couldn't stay, if we would, for now that
Uncle Nat's remittance is withdrawn, mother has nothing in the world to
live on."

"Couldn't you take in _sewing_," suggested Stephen, "or _washing_, or
_mopping_?"

To the sewing and the washing Eugenia was too indignant to reply, but
when it came to the _mopping_, she lifted up her hands in astonishment,
calling him "a fool and a simpleton."

"Hang me, if I know anything about woman's work," said Stephen,
resuming his walk, and wondering why the taking in of _mopping_ should
be more difficult than anything else. "I have it," he said at length,
running his fingers over the keys of the piano. "Can't you teach music?
The piano got you into a fix, and if I were you, I'd make it help me
out."

"I'll use it for kindling-wood first," was her answer, and Stephen
resumed his cogitations, which resulted finally in his telling her,
that on the prairies of Illinois there were a few acres of land, of
which he was the rightful owner. There was a house on it, too, he said,
though in what condition he did not know, and if they only had a little
money with which to start, it would be best for them to go out there at
once. This plan struck Eugenia more favorably than any which he had
proposed.

Humbled as she was, she felt that the further she were from Dunwood,
the happier she would be, and after a consultation with Mrs. Deane, it
was decided that the beautiful rosewood piano should be sold, and that
with the proceeds, Stephen and Eugenia should bury themselves for a
time at the West. Two weeks more found them on their way to their
distant home, and when that winter, Dora Hastings, at Rose Hill, pushed
aside the heavy damask which shaded her pleasant window, and looked out
upon the snow-covered lawn and spacious garden beyond, Eugenia Grey, in
her humble cabin, looked through her paper-curtained window upon the
snow-clad prairie, which stretched away as far as eye could reach, and
shed many bitter tears, as she heard the wind go wailing past her door,
and thought of her home far to the east, towards the rising sun.



CHAPTER XXII

CONCLUSION


Three years have passed away, and twice the wintry storms have swept
over the two graves, which, on the prairies of Illinois, were made when
the glorious Indian summer sun was shining o'er the earth, and the
withered leaves of autumn were strewn upon the ground. Stephen and
Eugenia are dead--he, dying as a drunkard dies--she, as a drunkard's
wife. Uncle Nat had been to visit the western world, and on his return
to Rose Hill, there was a softened light in his eye, and a sadness in
the tones of his voice, as, drawing Dora to his side, he whispered, "I
have forgiven her--forgiven Eugenia Deane."

Then he told her how an old man in his wanderings came one day to a
lonely cabin, where a wild-eyed woman was raving in delirium, and
tearing out handfuls of the long black hair which floated over her
shoulders. This she was counting one by one, just as the old East India
man had counted the silken tress which was sent to him over the sea,
and she laughed with maniacal glee as she said the numbering of all her
hairs would atone for the sin she had done. At intervals, too, rocking
to and fro, she sang of the fearful night when she had thought to
_steal_ the auburn locks concealed within the old green trunk; on which
the darkness lay so heavy and so black, that she had turned away in
terror, and glided from the room. In the old man's heart there was much
of bitterness towards that erring woman for the wrong she had done to
him and his, but when he found her thus, when he looked on the new-made
grave beneath the buckeye tree, and felt that she was dying of
starvation and neglect, when he saw how the autumn rains, dripping from
a crevice in the roof, had drenched her scanty pillows through and
through--when he sought in the empty cupboard for food or drink in
vain, his heart softened towards her, and for many weary days he
watched her with the tenderest care, administering to all her wants,
and soothing her in her frenzied moods, as he would a little child, and
when at last a ray of reason shone for a moment on her darkened mind,
and she told him how much she had suffered from the hands of one who
now slept just without the door, and asked him to forgive her ere she
died, he laid upon his bosom her aching head, from which in places the
long hair had been torn, leaving it spotted and bald, and bending
gently over her, he whispered in her ear, "As freely as I hope to be
forgiven of Heaven, so freely forgive I you."

With a look of deep gratitude, the dark eyes glanced at him for a
moment, then closed forever, and he was alone with the dead.

Some women, whose homes were distant two or three miles, had
occasionally shared his vigils, and from many a log cabin the people
gathered themselves together, and made for the departed a grave, and
when the sun was high in the heavens, and not a cloud dimmed the canopy
of blue, they buried her beside her husband, where the prairie flowers
and the tall rank grass would wave above her head.

This was the story he told, and Dora listening to it, wept bitterly
over the ill-fated Eugenia, whose mother and sister never knew exactly
how she died, for Uncle Nathaniel would not tell them, but from the
time of his return from the West his manner towards them was changed,
and when the New Year came round, one hundred golden guineas found
entrance at their door, accompanied with a promise that when the day
returned again, the gift should be repeated.

       *       *       *       *       *


On the vine-wreathed pillars, and winding walks of Rose Hill, the
softened light of the setting sun is shining. April showers have
wakened to life the fair spring blossoms, whose delicate perfume,
mingling with the evening air, steals through the open casement, and
kisses the bright face of Dora, beautiful now as when she first called
him her husband who sits beside her, and who each day blesses her as
his choicest treasure.

On the balcony without, in a large-armed willow chair, is seated an old
man, and as the fading sunlight falls around him, a bright-haired
little girl, not yet two years of age, climbs upon his knee, and
winding her chubby arms around his neck lisps the name of "Grandpa,"
and the old man, folding her to his bosom, sings to her softly and low
of _another Fannie_, whose eyes of blue were much like those which look
so lovingly into his face. Anon darkness steals over all but the new
moon, "hanging like a silver thread in the western sky," shows us where
Howard Hastings is sitting, still with Dora at his side.

On the balcony, all is silent; the tremulous voice has ceased; the
blue-eyed child no longer listens; old age and infancy sleep sweetly
now together; the song is ended; the story is done.

THE END.





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