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´╗┐Title: Alice Wilde: The Raftman's Daughter - A Forest Romance
Author: Victor, Metta V.
Language: English
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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 "Alice Wilde: The Raftman's Daughter - A Forest Romance" ***

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[Illustration: "I must return to the house! There's something in the
garret I must have."--page 34.]



  ALICE WILDE:
  THE
  RAFTSMAN'S DAUGHTER.

  A
  FOREST ROMANCE.

  BY MRS. METTA V. VICTOR.

  NEW YORK:
  IRWIN P. BEADLE AND COMPANY,
  141 WILLIAM ST., CORNER OF FULTON.



  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the Year 1860, by
  IRWIN P. BEADLE & CO.,
  in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
  Southern District of New York.



ALICE WILDE.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I. THE CABIN HOME.
  CHAPTER II. PALLAS AND SATURN.
  CHAPTER III. REJECTED ADDRESSES.
  CHAPTER IV. BEN PERKINS.
  CHAPTER V. AN APPALLING VISITOR.
  CHAPTER VI. THE COLD HOUSE-WARMING.
  CHAPTER VII. SUSPENSE.
  CHAPTER VIII. AWAY FROM HOME.
  CHAPTER IX. A ROLAND FOR AN OLIVER.
  CHAPTER X. RECONCILIATION.
  CHAPTER XI. A MEETING IN THE WOODS.
  CHAPTER XII. FAMILY AFFAIRS.
  CHAPTER XIII. THE TORNADO.
  CHAPTER XIV. GATHERING TOGETHER.
  CHAPTER XV. BEN AND ALICE.



CHAPTER I.

THE CABIN HOME.


"That ar' log bobs 'round like the old sea-sarpint," muttered Ben
Perkins to himself, leaning forward with his pole-hook and trying to
fish it, without getting himself too deep in the water. "Blast the
thing! I can't tackle it no how;" and he waded in deeper, climbed on
to a floating log, and endeavored again to catch the one which so
provokingly evaded him.

Ben was a "hand" employed in David Wilde's saw-mill, a few rods farther
up the creek, a young fellow not without claims to admiration as a
fine specimen of his kind and calling. His old felt-hat shadowed hair
as black as an Indian's, and made the swarthy hue of his face still
darker; his cheeks and lips were red, and his eyes blacker than his
hair. The striped wammus bound at the waist by a leather belt, and the
linen trowsers rolled up to the knees, were picturesque in their way
and not unbecoming the lithe, powerful figure.

Ben had bobbed for saw-logs a great many times in his life, and was
a person too quick and dextrous to meet with frequent accidents; but
upon this day, whether the sudden sight of a tiny skiff turning the
bend of the river just below and heading up the creek threw him off his
guard, or what it was, certain it is, that stretching forward after
that treacherous log, he lost his balance and fell into the water. He
did not care for the ducking; but he cared for the eyes which saw him
receive it; his ears tingled and his cheeks burned as he heard the
silvery laugh which greeted his misfortune. Climbing up on to a log
again, he stood dripping like a merman and blushing like a peony, as
the occupant of the boat rowed nearer.

"Keep out the way them logs, Miss Alice, or ye'll get upsot!" he cried,
glad of an excuse for attracting attention from his own mishap.

"I can take care of myself, thank you," was the gay answer. "Do you see
father's boat coming, anywhere in sight, Ben? He was to be home this
afternoon; and I took a fancy to go down and meet him."

"I don't see nuthin' of it. That war a mighty big raft he took down
to Centre City; the biggest raft that ever floated on that river, I
reckon. He mought not be home for two or three days yet, Miss Alice.
Gorry! but won't he hev a heap of money when he sells that ar' raft!"

"And he'll be sure to bring me something pretty--he always does."

"He knows what's what," responded Ben, stealing a sidelong, admiring
glance at the sweet, young face in the skiff.

If a compliment was intended, it was not understood by the hearer.

"Yes, father always knows _just_ what suits me best. Dear father! I
hope he _will_ come home to-night. I've been out picking blackberries
for supper--just look at my hands," and she held up two pretty, dimpled
hands, as if to show how charming they were, instead of to betray the
purple-tipped fingers.

But Alice Wilde did not know they were pretty, in sober truth, for she
had never been praised, flattered, nor placed in a situation where she
could institute comparisons.

"Well, Ben, good-by. I shall float down the river a few miles, and if I
don't see him, I can row back alone."

"You're mighty pert with the oars, for a gal. I never seed no woman 't
could row a boat like you, Miss Alice."

"Thank you," she said, with a bright smile, as she turned her little
birchen skiff about and struck out into the river again.

Ben watched that graceful form until it was out of sight, heaving a
sigh, as he turned again to his work, which told how absorbed he had
been.

Drifting down the river, under the shadow of precipitous bluffs, while
the sunshine flecked with gold the rolling prairie-land upon the
opposite side, the young girl sang wild negro-melodies which she had
learned of the two old colored people who formed her father's retinue
of house-servants. Rich and clear, her voice floated through those
beautiful solitudes, heard only by the envious birds in the trees which
overtopped the bluffs.

Presently she had listeners, of whom she was unaware. An abrupt bend in
the river hid from her the little boat with its single sail, fluttering
like a butterfly against the current. It held two persons--David Wilde,
the owner and captain of the raft of which Ben had spoken, a rough,
striking-looking man of middle age, attired in a pink calico shirt and
brown linen jacket and trowsers, who sat at the tiller smoking his
pipe; and a young man of four and twenty, extremely good-looking and
fashionably-dressed.

"What's that?" exclaimed the latter, as the sweet voice thrilled over
the water.

"That's herself, sure," replied the raftsman, listening; "she's comin'
to meet me, I reckon. It's just like her."

"And who's 'herself?'" queried the other, laughing.

"My cub, sir. Won't yer take yer flute out of yer pocket and give her a
tune, before she sees us? It'll set her to wonderin' what 'n earth it
is."

The young man put the pieces of his flute together, and joined in the
strain, rising loud and exultant upon the breeze; the voice ceased; he
stopped playing; the voice began, and again he accompanied it; it sang
more exuberently than ever, and the flute blent in with it accordantly.

It was not until they were nearly upon her fairy bark that they came
in sight of the singer, her bright hair flying, her cheeks redder than
roses with the double exercise of rowing and singing. Philip Moore
thought he had never beheld so lovely an apparition.

"Oh, father, I'm so glad you're home again. Did you hear that beautiful
echo?" she asked, her eyes all aglow with surprise and pleasure. "I
never heard any thing like it before. It must be the rocks."

"'Twant the rocks--'twas this here gentleman," said David Wilde,
smiling. "Mr. Moore, this is my daughter Alice."

Unknown to himself, his tone and look were full of pride as he
presented her to his companion, who never paid a more sincere tribute
of admiration to any woman, however accomplished, than he did to the
artless child who returned his deep bow with so divine a blush.

"I thought I'd come to meet you, and run a race home with you," she
said to her father, with a fond look.

"That's just like my little cub--allers on hand. Wall, go ahead! the
breeze is fair, and I guess we'll beat ye. Hope ye'll make good time,
fur I'm beginning to get rather growly in the region of the stomach."

"Pallas expects you," returned Alice, laughing.

"If your skiff were large enough for two, I'd take those oars off your
hands," said the young gentleman.

"Nobody ever touches this, but myself," and away sped the fairy affair
with its mistress, darting ahead like an arrow, but presently dropping
behind as they tacked, and then shooting past them again, the young
girl stealing shy glances, as she passed, at the stranger who was
watching her with mingled curiosity and admiration. So sweetly bashful,
yet so arch and piquant--so rustic, yet so naturally graceful--so
young, he could not tell whether she esteemed herself a child or a
woman--certainly she was very different from the dozen of tow-headed
children he had taken it for granted must run wild about the 'cabin' to
which he was now about to make a visit.

"How many children have you, Mr. Wilde?"

"She's all. That's my mill you see just up the mouth of the creek thar.
We're nigh on to my cabin now; when we've rounded that pint we shall
heave in sight. Seems to me I smell supper. A cold snack is very good
for a day or two, but give me suthin' of Pallas' getting up after it.
Thar's the cabin!"

Philip had been following with his eyes the pretty sailor, who had
already moored her craft to the foot of a huge elm, overhanging the
gravelly shore from a sloping bank above, and now stood in the shadow
of the tree awaiting them.

If it had not been for the blue smoke curling up in thin wreaths
from a stick chimney which rose up in the rear, he would hardly have
discovered the dwelling at first sight--a little one-story log-house,
so completely covered with clambering vines that it looked like a green
mound. Tartarian honeysuckles waved at the very summit of the chimney,
and wild-roses curtained every window.

Taking upon herself the part of hostess, Alice led the way to the
house. Philip was again agreeably surprised, as he entered it. He had
read of squatter life, and considered himself "posted" as to what to
expect--corn-bread and bacon, an absence of forks and table-cloths,
musquitoes, the river for a wash-basin, sand for soap, the sun for
a towel, and the privilege of sharing the common bed. But upon
entering the cabin, he found himself in a large room, with two smaller
apartments partitioned from the side; the cooking seemed to be done in
a shanty in the rear. The table was set in the center of the room, with
a neat cloth, and a great glass plate, heaped with blackberries, stood
upon it, and was surrounded by a wreath of wild-flowers woven by the
same dimpled hands which had managed the oars so deftly.

"'Clar to gracious, masser, you tuk us unbeknown."

The new speaker was an old negro woman, portly and beaming, who
appeared at the back door, crowned with a yellow turban, and bearing in
her left hand that scepter of her realm, the rolling-pin.

"But not unprepared, hey, Pallas?"

"Wall, I dunno, masser. I didn't spec' the pickaninny 'ud eat more 'n
_one_ roas' chicken. But thar's two in de oven; for, to tell de trute,
masser, I had a sense dat you war a comin'; and I know'd if you wasn't,
me and my ole man wouldn't be afraid of two fowls."

"But I've brought home company, Pallas."

"Hev you now, masser? I'se mighty glad to hear it. I'd as soon wait on
masser's frien's as to sing de Land of Canaan. Yer welcome," she added,
dropping a courtesy to the guest with as much importance as if she were
mistress of the house--as, in fact, she had been, in most matters, for
many long years. He made her a deep and gracious bow, accompanied by a
smile which took her old heart by storm.

Retreating to the kitchen outside, where Saturn, her husband, had been
pressed into service, and sat with an apron over his knees pareing
potatoes, buoyed up by the promise of roast chicken from his wife, she
told him as she rolled and cut out her biscuits:

"The finest gentleum she had sot eyes on sence she left ole
Virginny. His smile was enough to melt buttah--jus' de smile what a
sweet-mannered young gentleum ought to have. She was mighty glad," she
added, in a mysterious whisper, "dat ar' pickaninny was no older."

"Wha' for?" queried Saturn, pausing, with a potato on the end of
his knife, and a look of hopeless darkness on his face, barring the
expanding whites of his eyes.

"You nebbah could see tru a grin'-stone till I'd made a hole in it for
yer. It's a wonder I tuk up wid such an ole fool as you is, Saturn. If
yer eyes were wurf half as much as dem pertaters' eyes, yer could see
for yerself. Hasn't masser swore agin dem city gentleum?"

"He's swore--dat's so."

"And he never would forgive one as would come and steal away his
precious child--nebbah!" continued Pallas, lifting her rolling-pin
threatingly at the bare thought. "If he war rich as gold, and lubbed
her to distruction, 'twouldn't make a speck o' difference. He's jealous
of the very ground she walks on; and he hates dem smoof-spoken city
folks."

"Do you suspec' he's a kidnapper--dat ar' vis'ter?" asked Saturn, his
eyes growing still bigger, and looking toward the door as if he thought
of the possibility of the handsome young stranger carrying _him_ off.

"You is born a fool, and you can't help it. Put 'em 'taters in
de pot, and mind yer own bisness. I want some more wood for dis
fiah--immejetly!"

When Pallas said "immejetly!" with that majestic air, there was
nothing left for her worser half save to obey, and he retreated to the
wood-pile with alacrity. On going out he run against Ben Perkins, who
had been standing by the open door, unperceived, for the last five
minutes.

"Why, Ben, dat you?" asked Pallas, good-naturedly, not dreaming that he
had overheard her confidential conversation.

"Yes; I came up to the house to seen if Captain Wilde had any orders
for the mill to-night. I see him when he passed the creek. Who's with
him, Pallas?"

The old colored woman gave a sudden sharp glance at the youth's
troubled face.

"It's a frien' for all I know. What bisness is it of yours to be
askin'?"

"I s'pose I hain't no business. Do you think it's likely it's anybody
as expects to marry Miss Alice?" his voice trembled, and he looked at
his boots as he asked the question.

"Marry Miss Alice! What a simpl'un you is, Ben. Wha's that pickaninny
but a chile yet, I'se like to know? a little chit as don't know nothin'
'bout marryin' nobody. 'Sides that, long as her fadder libs, she'll
never marry, not if it war a king. He'd be mad as fury ef any one was
to dar' to speak of such a thing. Humf! my pickaninny, indeed!" with
an air of scorn and indignation deeply felt by the youth, whose face
was flushing beneath the implied rebuke. "Ef you'll stop a few minutes,
I'll give yer some of dese soda biscuits," she said, after a brief
silence, secretly pitying a trouble at which she had shrewdly guessed,
though she resented the audacity of the hope from which it sprang. "Dat
ar' man-cook what gets up the vittles for the mill-hands can't make
sech biscuits as mine. Stop now, and hab some, won't yer?"

"Thank ye, Pallas, I ain't hungry," was the melancholy
reply--melancholy when proceeding from a hearty, hard-working young
man, who _ought_ to have been hungry at that hour of the day. He
turned away, and without even going to the cabin-door to inquire of
Mr. Wilde as he had proposed, struck into the pine-woods back of the
garden-patch.



CHAPTER II.

PALLAS AND SATURN.


Supper was over, and David Wilde was cutting with his jack-knife the
strings of several packages which had accompanied him on his trip back
from Center City, where he had disposed of his raft. His guest sat upon
a wooden settle, as much interested as the others in the proceedings,
though his eyes were fixed mostly upon the happy girl, who, with
all of her sex's love of finery, was upon her knees on the floor,
assisting, with smiling eyes and eager fingers, at the pleasant task
of bringing forth the contents of these packages. A dark-blue dress
of the finest merino, a rich shawl, and some pretty laces for collars
and ruffles rewarded her search. There was another package which was
all her own, with which she was equally delighted; it was made up of a
dozen of books, whose titles she eagerly read before she continued her
explorations.

"Here's a dress Mr. Moore picked out for you," said the raftsman,
maliciously, unfolding a gorgeous red and yellow calico.

"But I hadn't seen you, you know," returned Philip coloring.

At this moment Pallas, who had an eye upon the bundles, came in on a
pretence of clearing off the table.

"Come and look at my beautiful presents, Pallas," cried her young
mistress.

"You've got little les'n an angel fer a fadder, my dear chile,"
ejaculated that personage, catching sight of the calico from the corner
of her eye while admiring the merino.

Alice looked up into the rough sun-burnt face of her father with a
smile; the idea of his being an angel was not so ludicrous to her as it
was to their guest.

"Here's somethin' to help you along with yer sewing," continued David,
taking a little box containing a gold thimble from his jacket-pocket.
"See if it fits," and he placed it on the little fair hand.

"It sets to your finger like a cup to an acorn," exclaimed Pallas.
"Thar's none like masser to tell per-_cisely_ what a person wants and
is a wishin' fer," and again her covert glance sought the calico.

"Sartainly, old girl; no doubt," chuckled the raftsman. "If that's the
case, jist take them handkerchiefs and that dress-pattern and give
'em to Saturn. You can keep the vest and the tobacker and the boots
yerself, and especially the trowsers--you've allers worn 'em!"

"Laws, masser, ef I _hadn't_, things would a gone to rack and ruin long
ago. Dat nigger of mine no use, but to sleep hisself to deaf. He's
a great cross to me, Saturn is," and with a profusion of smiles and
thanks she carried off her booty to the kitchen, graciously dispensing
his share to her "ole man," and condescending to be unusually affable.

"Ef we only had a camp-meetin' to go to now," she said, spreading out
the new jacket and trowsers beside the calico. "It's four yeer, come
nex' monf, since we went to dat meetin' down de riber. I declar' it's
jes' like de heathen fer decent culled pussons not to have any place to
holler Glory, and show der new clo'es."

"I'd like to go to meetin' wid dese boots," remarked her spouse,
looking down at the immense pair into which he had squeezed his feet.

"Ef you did, all I can say is, dar' wouldn' be no room fer anybody else
dar'," returned Pallas, giving way, by mere force of habit, to her
custom of snubbing her companion.

"Wha' fer?" inquired Saturn.

"No matter, ef yer don't know. My! my!"--hopelessly--"what a fool you
is!"

"Dat's so, wife;" was the humble reply, "but," picking up courage at
the sight of his new rig, "mebbe when I get my new jacket on, I'll know
more."

"You'd bettar put it on quick, den, and nebbar take it off."

When her dishes were washed, Pallas took the calico in her lap and sat
down.

"I've a sense," she said, in a low voice, "dat things is goin' to
happen."

"Wha' fer?"

"I haven't had such a sense fer years," she continued, too preoccupied
to administer her customary rebuke. "And when I've a sense, it allers
comes to suthin'--it never fails. I haven't had such feelin's since
missus died. 'Pears to me dat young gentleum looks like missus' family.
And it's de same name--curus, isn't it?"

"Berry," replied Saturn, at random, lost in the study of his feet; "dem
boots is beauties."

"I dunno what masser brought him here fer, he's allers been so keerful.
He tole me 'twas a pardner in de steam saw-mill dat takes his lumber
off his han's; a young storekeeper in Center City now, though he use
to be a lawyer in New York--bress it! it's a long time since I sot
eyes on dat city now. Our fus' masser, Mortimer Moore, usin to invite
no shop-keepers to _his_ house. My! my! but he was a mighty proud man,
and dat's what made all de trouble. Dem was grand times, wid all de
serbents and de silber--never tought I cud come to dis--but I promised
missus, when she died, I'd stan' by her chile, and I shall stand by
her, long as der's any bref left in dis ole body--bress her! She's
growing up jes' as han'some as ever her mudder was, and she's got her
ways; and as for manners--hi! hi! folks might larf at the idea of ole
Pallas learnin' manners to her missus, but dar ain't nobody knows
better how table ought to be set and sarbed, and things to be done,
than my dear chile now, dis minit. Ef masser _will_ keep her, like de
children of Israel, forty years in de wilderness, she shall be a lady
for all dat, bress her, and a Christian lady, too! She knows all de
bes' part of de psalms by heart, now; and she can sing hymns like a
cherubim. Sometimes I mos' think she's got one of dem golden harps in
her hand. If dat ole fool ain't asleep. Saturn!" kicking his shins,
"wake up yer, and go to bed--immejetly!"

Saturn had a discouraging time getting his new boots off in the sleepy
state which had come upon him; but this being at last accomplished,
and he safely lodged in the bed, which took up the greater portion of
Pallas' "settin'-room," off her kitchen, she stole out to the corner
of the house to "spy out the land," in Bible language, which, to her,
sheltered the deed from opprobrium. Pallas was no mischief-making
listener; she considered herself entitled to know all that transpired
in the family, whose secrets she kept, and whose welfare she had in her
heart.

"My! my! they make a pretty pictur' sittin' dar' in de light ob de
moon," she thought, peeping at the group, now gathered outside of the
door, enjoying the glory of a most brilliant August moon. The young
stranger was telling some story of foreign adventure, his fine face
and animated gestures showing well in the pure light, while the old
raftsman smoked his pipe to keep away musquitoes, as he said--though
they were not particularly troublesome in that neighborhood--and Alice
sat on the step at his feet, her arms folded over his knee, her eager,
girlish face lifted to the story-teller.

"He sartainly belongs to _our_ family of Moores, ef he ain't no nearer
than a forty-second cousin," whispered Pallas to herself. "Masser don't
know 'em, root and branch, as well as I do, else he'd see it right
away. How that pickaninny is a watchin' of him talk! Laws! nobody knows
what their doing in dis yere worl', or we'd all act different."

As she stood there, taking observations, she thought she saw a person
in the shade of the great elm on the bank; and not being afraid of any
thing but "gosstesses" and "sperits," she went back to the kitchen for
a bucket, as an excuse for going down to the river and finding out who
it was.

"Ef it's that yer young Perkins, won't I let him know what a fool he's
making of hisself--he, indeed! Gorry! I'll give a scolding 'at'll
las' him his lifetime." But she had no opportunity of venting her
indignation, as the form, whosever it was, slipped down the bank, and
ran away along the wet sand, taking shelter behind a ledge of rock,
before she could recognize it.

"My! my! dis ole bucket full of silber," she ejaculated, as she lifted
it out of the river, glittering in the moonlight. "Dis yere ribber
looks lubly as de stream of life dat's flowin' round de streets ob
Paradise, to-night;" and the good old creature stood watching the
burnished ripples. The rush of waters and the murmur of the pine-forest
were sweet even to her ears.

"It's a bad night for young folks to be sittin' out-o'-doors," she
reflected, shaking her yellow turban suggestively, as she looked at the
two by the cabin-door.

But let us go back a little way with our story.



CHAPTER III.

REJECTED ADDRESSES.


Through the spacious lengths of a suite of richly-furnished rooms,
a woman was wandering, with that air of nervous restlessness which
betokens a mind ill at ease. The light, stealing in soft tints through
the curtains, fell upon many pictures and objects of taste and art,
and all that lavish richness of plenishing to which wealthy Gothamites
are prone--but upon nothing so beautiful as the mistress of them all,
who now moved from place to place, lifting a costly toy here, pausing
before a picture there, but really interested in neither.

"Virginia!"

Her cousin Philip had come in through the library so silently that she
was unaware of his presence until he spoke, although it was waiting for
him which had made her so uneasy.

"Well, Philip?"

She had started when he spoke her name, but recovered her haughty
self-possession immediately.

"Sit down, please, on this sofa. I can not talk to you when you are
standing. You look too cold and too imperious. I have come to-day for
your answer, Virginia."

They sat upon the sofa together, he turning so as to read her face,
which was bent down as she played with the diamond ring upon her
finger. She looked cool and quiet enough to dampen the ardor of her
lover; but he was so absorbed in his own feelings that he could not and
would not understand it.

"Speak, Virginia! I can not bear this suspense."

Still she hesitated; she _liked_ him too well to take any pleasure in
giving him pain, frivolous coquette though she was.

"I have questioned my heart closely, Philip, as you bade me," she began
after a few moments, "and I have satisfied myself that I can never be
happy as the wife of a poor man."

"Then you do not love me! Love does not put itself in the scales and
demand to be balanced with gold."

"But gold is very necessary to its welfare and long life. No, Philip, I
do not know that I love you--perhaps I do not--since I am not willing
to make this sacrifice. I certainly think better of you than of any
other living man, except my father; I would rather marry you than any
other man, if you had the wealth necessary to support me in the station
for which only I am fitted. A young man, with nothing to rely upon but
the profession of the law, in a great city like this, must expect to
wait some time before he can pour many honors and much wealth into the
lap of the woman he loves."

"You are sarcastic, Virginia!"

"No, only practical. My father is not so rich as in days gone by. His
fortune has dwindled until it is barely sufficient to keep up the house
in the old style. If I would still preserve the family pride, still
rule queen of the circle I have brought around me, I must marry rich."

"And for this you can resign a love like mine."

"It is my nature, Philip--born in me, cherished in me. My father, I
know, would not listen to the match, as highly as he esteems you. I had
a sister, a woman when I was a child--you remember her, do you not?
she married against his will, married poor, and tried this 'love in a
cottage' sentiment--he never forgave her, and she never prospered; she
is dead, poor thing, and I do not care to emulate her."

"Humph! I am to understand that your father then rears his children as
slaves to be sold to the highest bidder--that you hold yourself ready
for the market?"

"Don't provoke me, Philip." The black eyes were fixed upon him
haughtily.

"Forgive me, Virginia. I am half-mad just now, you know. You can not
say that you have not encouraged me."

"Perhaps I have--shown you the affection of a cousin. I have felt
as if you were one of the family. I might even have felt a still
closer interest, had I allowed myself. But I am, what you never will
be--prudent. I may yet see some one whom I can really respect and love,
who has also the fortune you lack; if not, I shall accept some one
for glory's sake, and let the love go! Don't look so scornful, Phil.
I have beauty, fashion, pride of place, family, every thing but the
means wherewith to set these off magnificently; and this has made me
ambitious. Dear Philip, much as I like you, I could never be contented
to wait your slow promotion."

"Prudence is very commendable, Virginia. Its maxims fall with double
force from lips as beautiful as yours. I will try to learn it. I, a
man, upon whom such cold duties are supposed most naturally to devolve,
will be taught by you, a soft, tender woman, who looks as if made for
the better purpose of loving and teaching love. Farewell! when you see
me again, perhaps I shall rival you in prudence."

"You are not going away, cousin Philip?" He was already opening the
door into the hall, as she followed him, and caught his hand.

"Oh, yes, I am. Since only rich men can possess the happiness such
gentle creatures have it in their power to bestow, I must make haste
after wealth," and he looked down bitterly at the proud girl over whose
face was coming a faint expression of remorse and relenting.

"Shall I not hear from you?" she asked, quite humbly.

"No; not until I am in a fair way to achieve that which will recommend
me to your _disinterested affection_!"

He withdrew his hand from her clasp, and went out with a quick,
resounding step which told of the firmness of his resolution. The girl
who had rejected him sank down in the nearest seat. She had never
seen him look more--as a woman is proud to have a man look--handsome,
self-reliant, determined, than in the hour of his disappointment. Two
or three tears trickled through her jeweled fingers; she shook them off
impatiently.

"He is a man who would never have shamed my choice," she whispered.
"But I have decided for the best. I know my own disposition; I should
fret at the chains which limited my power. And I am used to every
indulgence. I am selfish. Poor Phil! if somebody would present you with
a check for half-a-million, I'd marry you to-morrow."

In the mean time Philip Moore, all the dregs stirred up from the bottom
of the fountain in his usually transparent soul, hurried to the office
which he had just set up in Wall-street. There, as if in answer to
the wish which had been aroused, he found a letter from a friend who
had emigrated westward three years previously, forsaking the law for
speculations in pine-lands and lumber, merchandise, etc. He was doing
well, was getting rich in seven-league strides, had married a pretty
western girl, was happy, had gone to housekeeping, wanted a partner in
business as well as domestic affairs--recommended Philip to accept the
chance--a few thousand dollars would be all the capital required.

Philip had seven thousand dollars in stocks; he sold out, shook off the
dust from his feet as he left the great metropolis, and answered his
friend's letter in person, in less than a fortnight.

Virginia Moore missed the convenient escort, the constant attentions,
_and_ the profound worship of her high-hearted cousin; but a rich
Spaniard, ugly and old, was come into the market, and she was among
the bidders. Let us leave Virginia Moore, and return to that western
wilderness, where a certain little girl looks lovelier, in her
blue-gingham dress and wild-flower wreath, than the other in all the
family diamonds.



CHAPTER IV.

BEN PERKINS.


The day after her father's return, Alice Wilde sat down to try her new
thimble in running up the skirt of her merino dress. The frock which
she wore, and all her others, probably, were fashioned in the style of
twenty years ago--short under the arms; a belt at the waist; low in
the neck; full, puffed, short sleeves; narrow skirt, and no crinoline.
Her profuse hair, when it was not allowed to fall in a golden torrent
around her neck, was looped up in the quaint style which marked the
fashion of her dress. She looked like the portrait, come to life, of
some republican belle and beauty of long ago. Quite unconscious that
this ancient style had been superseded by the balloons of to-day, she
measured off the three short breadths which, when hemmed, would leave
her pretty ankles exposed, even as they now, with the slippered feet,
peeped from beneath her gingham.

If Philip Moore had understood the mantua-maker's art, and had
possessed "patterns" of the latest mode, he would not have instructed
his hostess in any changes, she looked so picturesque and quaint as
she was. But he did not let her sew very steadily that day. He wanted
to explore the surroundings of the cabin, and she was his ready,
intelligent guide.

They went back into the forest, through which thundered, ever and anon,
the crash of a falling tree; for many men were busy cutting timber for
another raft, on which, at its completion, Philip was to return to
Center City. His business would not have detained him more than three
or four days, but he was in no haste; he wanted to hunt and fish a
little, and he liked the novelty of the idea of floating down the river
on a raft of logs in company with a score of rough fellows. Although
David Wilde sawed up some of his timber himself, his old-fashioned mill
was not equal to the supply, and he sent the surplus down to the steam
saw-mills, one of which was owned by Philip and his partner.

It called forth all his affability to conquer the shyness of his
pretty guide, who at last dared to look full into his face with those
brilliant blue eyes, and to tell him where the brooks made the sweetest
music, where the fawns came oftenest to drink, where the violets
lingered the latest, and where there was a grape-vine swing.

Both of them looked very happy when they came in, just in time to meet
Mr. Wilde at the supper-table, who had been at the mill all day. _He_
did not seem in such good spirits. Some new thought troubled him. His
keen, gray eyes scanned the countenance of his child, as if searching
for something hitherto undiscovered; and then turned suspiciously to
the stranger, to mark if he, too, held the same truth. For the first
time it occurred to him, that his "cub," his pet, was no longer a
little girl--that he might have done something fatally foolish in
bringing that fine city aristocrat to his cabin. Had he not always
hated and despised these dandified caricatures of men?--despised
their vanity, falsehood, and affectation?--hated their vices, their
kid-gloves, their perfumed handkerchiefs, and their fashionable
nonsense? Yet, pleased with one of them, and on a mere matter of
business, he had, without the wisdom of a fool, much less of a father,
brought one of that very class to his house. How angry he was with
himself his compressed lip alone revealed, as he sharply eyed his
guest. Yet the laws of hospitality were too sacred with him to allow of
his showing any rudeness to his guest, as a means of getting rid of him.

Unconscious of the bitter jealousy in her father's heart, Alice was
as gay as a humming-bird. She had never been happier. We are formed
for society; children are charmed with children, and youth delights in
youth. Alice had been ignorant of this sweet want, until she learned
it now, by having it gratified. For, although she had passed pleasant
words with such young men as chanced to be employed by her father, they
had never seemed to her like companions, and she naturally adopted the
reserve which her father also used with them. His cabin was his castle.
No one came there familiarly, except upon invitation. The "hands" were
all fed and lodged in a house by themselves, near the mill. The gloom
of the host gradually affected the vivacity of the others; and the
whole household retired early to rest.

The next day, Philip set off to the mill with Mr. Wilde, carrying on
his shoulder the excellent rifle of the latter, as he proposed, after
business was over, to make a search for deer, now nearly driven away
from that locality by the sound of the ax in those solitudes once so
deep and silent.

"Tell Aunt Pallas I'll bring her a haunch of venison for supper," he
said gayly to the young girl, touching his straw hat with a grace that
quite confused her.

She looked after them wistfully as they went away. She felt lonely; her
sewing fatigued her; the sun was too hot to go out on the water; she
didn't know what to do. Even her new books failed for once to keep her
interested many hours. When Pallas looked for her to help pick over
berries to dry, she was not to be found. She had sought that delightful
refuge of early youth--the garret; which in this instance was but a
loft over the main story, reached by a ladder, and seldom resorted
to by any one, except when the raftsman stored away a bear-skin, a
winter's store of nuts, or something of the kind. To-day Alice felt
powerfully attracted toward a certain trunk which had stood in that
garret ever since she could remember. It was always locked; she had
never seen it open; and did not know its contents. Now, for a wonder,
the key was in the lock; she never thought of there being any thing
wrong in the act, as she had never heard the trunk mentioned, and had
never been forbidden access to it, and lifting the lid, she sat down
beside it and began an examination of its mysteries. Lifting up a
napkin spread over the top, she was met by a lovely face, looking up at
her from the ivory upon which it was so exquisitely painted. The breath
died upon her lips.

"It must be my mother's; how very beautiful she was--my mother!"

Hot tears rushed up into her eyes at this life-like vision of a being
she did not remember, of whom old Pallas often spoke, but whom her
father seldom mentioned--never, save in the most intimate moments of
their association. She was sorry she had opened the trunk, realizing
at once that if her father had desired her to know of the miniature
he would have shown it to her years ago; she had a glimpse of a
white-silk dress, some yellow lace, a pair of white-silk slippers, and
long white-kid gloves, but she would not gratify the intense curiosity
and interest which she felt. She remembered hearing her father descend
from the garret late in the preceding night; and she guessed now the
purpose of his visit.

An impulse was given to her thoughts which drove away her restless
mood; she retreated from the loft, and set very quietly to work helping
Pallas with the blackberries. She was sitting in the kitchen-door, an
apron on, and a huge bowl in her lap, when Philip Moore came through
the pines, dragging after him a young deer which he had slain. Pallas
was on a bench outside the shanty, and it was at her feet the hunter
laid his trophy.

"Bress you, masser Moore, I'se mighty glad you went a huntin'. Miss
Alice she laugh and say de deer needn't be afraid of you, 'cause you
was a city gentleum, but I tol' her she didn't know nuffin' about it.
I was afeard you'd get tired of white-fish and salmon, and bacon and
fowls,--dis ven'sen jes' de meat I want."

"Well, Aunt Pallas, I shall claim one of your best pies as my reward,"
said the amateur hunter, laughing. "But little Alice here mustn't think
no one can do any thing right except foresters and lumbermen."

"Oh, I don't!" exclaimed she, blushing. "I think you do every thing
beautifully, Mr. Moore, that you've been brought up to do, you
know--but shooting deer--they don't do that in cities, do they?"

"Not exactly in cities; but there are wild woods near enough New York
yet for young men to have a chance at gaining that accomplishment. I
suppose you wouldn't trust me to take you out sailing, to-morrow, would
you?"

"If she would, yer couldn't do it, for I want the boat myself. Captain
Wilde's goin' to send me down to the pint with it."

Mr. Moore looked up in surprise at the speaker, who had just come up
from the river, and whose looks and tones were still ruder than his
words.

"Hi, Ben! yer as surly as a bar," spoke up Pallas; "yer haven't a grain
of perliteness in yer body," she added, in a lower tone.

"I leaves perliteness to them as is wimmen enough to want it," answered
Ben, throwing back a glance of defiance and contempt at the innocent
stranger, as he stepped into the shanty. "I want them new saws as came
home with the capt'n."

"There's somebody that looks upon me in the same light you do," laughed
Philip, when the youth had secured the saws and departed.

"Oh, Mr. Moore, you don't know how I look upon you!" she exclaimed,
earnestly; neither did he, any more than he knew how the fate of that
black-eyed, heavy-browed mill-hand was to be mixed and mingled with his
own.

He admired Alice Wilde as he would have done any other pretty and
singular young creature; but he never thought of loving her; she was
a child in his eyes, ignorant and uncultivated in many things, though
always graceful and refined; a child, who would be out of place in
any other sphere except that peculiar one in which she now moved. He
did not guess that in her eyes he was a hero, almost supernatural,
faultless, glorious--such as an imaginative girl who had seen nothing
of the world, but who had read many poems and much fiction, would
naturally create out of the first material thrown in her way.

No! all through that happy fortnight of his visit he talked with her
freely, answering her eager questions about the world from which she
was so secluded, roamed the woods with her, sailed the river, played
his flute, sang favorite love-songs, and all without reflecting upon
the deathless impression he was making. Keen eyes were upon him, and
saw nothing to justify censure; he would have laughed at the idea of
that little wild girl falling in love with him, if he had thought of it
at all; but he did not think of it; sometimes he frolicked with her, as
if they were both children; and sometimes he kindly took upon himself
the pleasant task of teaching her in matters about which she showed an
interest. He was touched by her beauty and innocence; and was extremely
guarded in her presence not to let a hint of evil be breathed upon
that young soul--her father, Pallas, all who approached her, seemed
naturally to pay her purity the same deference.

The raft for which Philip was waiting was now in readiness, and was
to commence its drifting journey upon the next day. Alice had fled
away into the pine-woods, after dinner, to anticipate, with dread, her
coming loneliness; for her father was also to accompany it, and would
be absent nearly three weeks. Her footsteps wandered to a favorite
spot, where the grape-vine swing had held her in its arms, many and
many a frolic hour. She sat down in it, swinging herself slowly to
and fro. Presently a footfall startled her from her abstraction, and,
looking up, she saw Ben Perkins coming along the path with a cage in
his hand, of home manufacture, containing a gorgeous forest-bird which
he had captured.

"I reckon I needn't go no further, Miss Alice," he said; "I war a
bringin' this bird to see if you'd be so agreeable as to take it. I
cotched it, yesterday, in the wood."

"Oh, Ben, how pretty it is!" she cried, quickly brushing away her
tears, that he might not guess what she had been crying about.

"It sings like any thing. It's a powerful fine singer, Miss Alice--I
thought mebbe 't would be some comfort to ye, seein' yer about to lose
that flute that's been turnin' yer head so."

"What do you mean?--you speak so roughly, Ben."

"I know I ain't particularly smooth-spoken; but I mean what I say,
which is more 'n some folks do. Some folks thinks it good sport to be
telling you fine fibs, I've no doubt."

"Why do you wish to speak ill of those of whom you have no reason to,
Ben? It isn't generous."

"But I _have_ reason--O Alice, you don't know how much!" he set the
bird-cage down, and came closer to her. "I've got suthin' to say that I
can't keep back no longer. Won't you set down 'side of me on this log?"

"I'd rather stand, Ben," she said, drawing back as he was about to take
her hand.

The quivering smile upon his lip when he asked the question changed to
a look which half frightened her, at her gesture of refusal.

"You didn't object to settin' by that town chap; you sot here on this
very log with him, for I seen you. Cuss him, and his fine clothes, I
say!"

"I can not listen to you, Ben, if you use such language; I don't know
what's the matter with you to-day," and she turned to go home.

"I'll tell you what's the matter, Alice Wilde," and he caught her hand
almost fiercely. "I can't keep still any longer and see that feller
hangin' 'round. I didn't mean to speak this long time yet, but that
stranger's driven me crazy. Do you 'spose I kin keep quiet and see him
smirking and bowin' and blowin' on that blasted flute, around _you_;
and you lookin' at him as if yer couldn't take yer eyes off? Do you
s'pose I kin keep quiet and see him making a simpleton of the purtiest
girl that ever growd? You needn't wince--it's true; jist as soon as
he'd got away from here he'd forget all about you, or only think of you
to laugh at your hoosier ways with some proud lady as fine as himself."

"Oh, I am afraid it's too true!" burst forth Alice, involuntarily.

"Yer may bet yer life on that, Alice Wilde! Or, at the best, he'd take
yer away from yer own old father as loves the ground you tread, and
try and make a lady of you, and never let you speak to your own flesh
and blood agin. While I--I wouldn't do nuthin' but what yer father
wanted; I'd settle down side of him, work for him, see to things, and
take the care off his mind when he got old. Yer father hates them proud
peacocks, Alice--he _hates_ 'em, and so do I! I know he'd ruther have
me. Say yes, do now, that's a good girl."

"I don't understand you, Ben," said Alice, coldly, trying to pass, for
she was troubled and wanted to get away.

"I'll tell you then," he said, "I want you to marry me, Alice. I've
been thinking about it these two years--night and day, night and day."

"Why, Ben," cried the startled child, "_I_ never thought of it--never!
and I can not now. Father will be very angry with you. Let go of my
hand; I want to go home."

"You ain't a little girl any longer, Alice Wilde, and I guess yer
father 'll find it out. He may be mad for a spell; but he'll get over
it; and when he comes to think of the chances of his dyin' and leavin'
yer alone, he'll give his consent. Come, Alice, say yes, do, now?"

The intense eagerness of his manner made her tremble, from sympathy,
but she looked into his blazing eyes firmly, as she replied, "Never! so
long as I live, never! And you must not speak of it again, unless you
want to be discharged from--"

"Don't you threaten me, Miss Alice. I ain't the stuff to be threatened.
If I'd have said what I've said this day, three weeks ago, you wouldn't
have been so mighty cool. Not that I think I'm good enough for
ye--there ain't the man livin' that's that; but I'm as good as some as
thinks themselves better--and I won't be bluffed off by any broadcloth
coat. I've loved you ever since you were a little girl, and fell in the
mill-pond onct, and I fished ye out. I've loved ye more years than he's
seen ye weeks, and I won't be bluffed off. Jes' so sure as I live, that
man shall never marry you, Alice Wilde."

"He never thought of it; and it hurts me, Ben, to have you speak of it.
Let me go now, this instant."

She pulled her hand out of his, and hurried away, forgetful of the bird
he had given her.

Love, rage, and despair were in the glance he cast after her; but
when, a few moments later, as he made his way back toward the mill, he
passed Philip Moore, who gave him a pleasant, careless nod, _hate_--the
dangerous hate of envy, jealousy, and ignorance, darkened his swarthy
brow.

Poor Alice, nervous almost to sobbing, pursued her homeward way.
She had never thought of marriage except as a Paradise in some far,
Arcadian land of dreams which she had fashioned from books and the
instincts of her young heart; and now to have the idea thrust upon her
by this rude, determined fellow, who doubtless considered himself her
equal, shocked her as a bird is shocked and hurt by the rifle's clamor.
And if this young man thought himself a fit husband for her, perhaps
others thought the same--perhaps her father would wish her to accept
him, some time in the far future--perhaps Philip--ah, Philip! how
almost glorified he looked to her vision as at that moment he came out
of the forest-shadows into the path, his straw-hat in his hand, and the
wind tossing his brown hair.

"Here is the little humming-bird, at last! was it kind of her to fly
away by herself on this last afternoon of my stay?"

How gay his voice, how beaming his smile, while _she_ was so sad! she
felt it and grew sadder still. She tried to reply as gayly, but her lip
trembled.

"What's the matter with the little Wilde-rose?" he asked, kindly
looking down into the suffused eyes.

"I've been thinking how very lonely I shall be. My father is going
away, too, you know, and I shall have no one but good old Pallas."

"And that handsome young man I just saw parting from you," he said,
mischievously, looking to see her blush and smile.

"Oh, Mr. Moore, is it possible you think I could care for _him_?" she
asked, with a sudden air of womanly pride which vanished in a deep
blush the next instant.

"Well, I don't know; you _are_ too good for him," he answered, frankly,
as if the idea had just occurred to him.

An expression of pain swept over Alice's face.

"I know, Mr. Moore, how you must regard me; and I can not blame you
for it. I know that I am ignorant--a foolish, ignorant child,--that my
dress is odd, my manner awkward,--that the world, if it should see me,
would laugh at me--that my mind is uncultivated,--but oh, Mr. Moore,
you do not know how eager I am to learn--how hard I should study! I
wish my father would send me away to school."

"That would just spoil your sweet, peculiar charms, little Alice."

He smoothed her hair soothingly, as he would have done a child's; but
something in her tone had put a new thought in his mind; he looked at
her earnestly as she blushed beneath this first slight caress which he
had ever given her. "Can it be so?" he asked himself; and in his eyes
the young girl suddenly took more womanly proportions. "How very--how
exquisitely beautiful she is now, with the soul glowing through her
face. Shall I ever again see a woman such as this--pure as an infant,
loving, devoted, unselfish, and so beautiful?" Another face, haughty,
clear-cut, with braids of perfumed black hair, arose before his mental
vision, and took place beside this sweet, troubled countenance. One so
unmoved, so determined, even in the moment of giving bitter pain--this
other so confiding, so shy, so full of every girlish beauty. Philip was
touched--_almost_ to saying something which he might afterward regret;
but he was a Moore, and he had his pride and his prejudices, stubborn
as old Mortimer Moore's, nearly. These hardened his heart against the
sentiment he saw trembling through that eloquent countenance.

"You are but a little girl yet, and will have plenty of chance to grow
wise," he continued playfully. "This pretty Wilde-rose 'needs not the
foreign aid of ornament.' When I come again, I hope to find her just as
she is now--unless she should have become the bride of that stalwart
forester."

"Then you are coming again?" she asked, ignoring the cruel kindness of
the latter part of his speech, and thinking only of that dim future
possibility of again seeing and hearing him, again being in his
presence, no matter how indifferent he might be to her.

For Alice Wilde, adoring him as no man ever deserved to be adored,
still, in her forest simplicity, called not her passion love, nor
cherished it from any hope of its being reciprocated. No; she herself
considered herself unworthy of the thought of one so much more
accomplished, so much wiser than herself. Her's was

    "The desire of the moth for the star,
       Of the night for the morrow;"

and now that there was a chance in the future for her to burn her white
wings still more cruelly, she grew a shade happier.

"I have business with your father which will bring me here again,
perhaps this fall, in October, certainly, in the spring. What shall I
bring you when I come again, Alice? You've been a kind hostess, and
I owe you many happy hours. I should like to make you some trifling
return."

She looked up in his face sadly, thinking she should like to ask him to
remember her, but she dared not trust herself.

"If you will select some books--such as you think I ought to study, my
father will buy them for me."

"Don't you love jewelry and such pretty trifles as other girls seek
after?"

"I really don't know; I've no doubt I could cultivate such a liking,"
she replied, with some of her native archness.

"I wouldn't try very hard--you're better without," he said, pressing a
light kiss on her forehead; and the two went slowly home, walking more
silently than was their wont.

Pallas saw them, as they came up through the garden, and gave them a
scrutinizing look which did not seem to be satisfactory.

"Dat chile's troubles jes' began," she murmured to herself. "Ef dese
yer ole arms could hide her away from ebery sorrow, Pallas would be
happy. But dey can't. Things happen as sure as the worl'; and girls
will be girls--it's in em; jes' as sartin as it's in eggs to be
chickens, and acorns to be oaks. Hi! hi!"



CHAPTER V.

AN APPALLING VISITOR.


One bright September day, after David Wilde had been gone about a
week with his raft, a wood-cutter came to the cabin with bad news. He
informed Alice that the woods were on fire two or three miles back,
and that the wind was driving the fire in a broad belt of a mile wide
directly toward the house; that if the wind did not subside with the
setting of the sun, nothing could preserve the place from destruction
by the middle of the next day. Alice had been sitting at the window,
thinking how delicious that soft, dry wind was, but now she prayed
with all her heart that it might speedily die. It was yet many hours
to sunset; and she, with Pallas, went into the forest until they
could see the fire, and were in some danger from the drifting sparks.
The foresters shook their heads and told her to be prepared for the
worst; Pallas groaned and prayed as if she had been at a camp-meeting;
but Alice, although she trembled before the mighty power of the
conflagration, endeavored not to lose her presence of mind.

"I shall hope for the best," she said to the men, "but shall be
prepared for the worst. Go to the mill and bring round by the river all
the skiffs you can muster--there are two or three, are there not? They
will be ready by evening, and if the wind does not change, or go down,
by that time, we will try and save the furniture by means of the boats.
Come, Pallas, let us go home and pack up the smaller things."

"Home!" The word sounded sweet, when destruction hovered so near; but
Alice had a brave heart; she would think of nothing now but of being
equal to the emergency; her calmness had a salutary effect upon the
characteristic excitability of her sable attendant, who followed her
back in quite a composed and serviceable mood.

Moving quietly about, putting her precious books into packages, and
getting into movable shape all those little articles of household use
which become so dear from association, a looker-on would hardly have
guessed how anxiously the young girl waited for sunset--how earnestly
she wished that her father had been at home.

"My! my! dat nigger of mine is a wusser fool 'an ever," said Pallas, as
she bustled about like an embodied storm; "jes' see him, Miss Alice;
he's went and put on his bes' clo'es, and dar' he stands, nebber doin'
a single ting, but jes' holding dem new boots of his."

"What are you dressed up for, Saturn," called Alice, laughing, in spite
of her anxiety, to find that he had made provision for that which
was dearest to him--his new suit would be saved if he was, and if he
perished, it would share his fate.

"Oh, missus," he replied, looking foolish, "it's the easiest way to
carry 'em."

"Better put your boots on, also; then you'll have your hands to work
with," suggested Alice.

"Jes' so, missus; I never tought of dat;" and on went the boots, after
which Saturn was ready to get as much in the way as possible.

At sunset, the boats, consisting of two little skiffs which would hold
but small freightage, and one larger boat which would accomodate the
heavier pieces of furniture, were moored under the stately old elm
which had so long stood sentinel over that forest home. Three or four
men, among whom was Ben Perkins, held themselves in readiness to give
the necessary assistance.

The sun went down in a clear sky; there were no clouds to threaten
a wished-for rain; but that cold, firm wind which sometimes blows
unceasingly three days at a time, in the autumn months, rose higher and
higher. There was no moon, and as twilight deepened into night, the
thick smoke which hung above the earth rendered the darkness intense;
and occasionally when heavy volumes of smoke dropped lower toward the
earth, the atmosphere was suffocating.

Pallas prepared supper for all, with a strong cup of coffee to keep
off drowsiness; and no one retired to bed that night. Shortly after
midnight the fire traveled within sight; the roar of the conflagration
swelled and deepened until it was like the dashing of a thousand
seas; the hot breath of the flames aroused the wind, until it rushed
in fury directly toward the cabin. Light flashes of flame would run
from tree-top to tree-top, while farther back was a solid cone of
fire--trunks from which all the foliage and lesser branches had fallen,
stretching their glowing arms across the darkness, towering up against
the starless background. Frequently these fiery columns would crumble,
with crashes scarcely heard through the continuous roar, sending up a
fitful shower of sparks to be whirled on high by the rushing currents
of air.

Fascinated by the beautiful, appalling scene, Alice sat on the bank
of the river, wrapped in a shawl, from which her pale, excited face
shone like a star, kindling the enthusiasm of the rude men about her
to do something in her service. As for Ben, he scarcely looked at the
fire--his eyes were upon the girl.

"It's no use," he said to her, about two o'clock in the morning,
"waitin' any longer. That fire will be on this very spot by break of
day. The wind's a blowin' a perfect gale. Ain't you cold, Miss Alice?"

"No, no--not at all. If you think it the only way, then let us begin.
My father's desk, with his papers, stands in his bedroom. See to that
first, Ben, and then the other things."

It did not take long for the active fellows engaged to clear the cabin
of all its contents; every thing was put into the boats--and then, as
Ben said, "it was high time to clear out."

The smoke was suffocating, and sparks and small branches of burning
trees were beginning to fall around. Saturn and Pallas were safely
stowed in the largest boat, while Alice paddled out into the stream
in her own tiny canoe. The track of the fire was a mile in width; but
the mill was not threatened by it, nor much troubled by the smoke, the
wind carrying it in another direction. The house then occupied by the
mill-hands must be the present shelter of the captain's family.

Down the river, in the full glare of the conflagration, floated the
little convoy. The smoke was not so dense about them now; it hung high
above, and rolled in dark billows far beyond. The stream was crimson
with the reflection, and the faces of the party looked pallid in the
lurid glare--always excepting those two sable faces, turned, with awe
and dread, toward that sublime picture of devastation.

Suddenly Alice, who was in advance, dropped back.

"I must return to the house," she cried, as she came along side of the
boat containing Ben and the old servants.

"No, you mus'n't," shouted Ben; "it's too late. It's getting mighty
warm here now; and them flyin' branches 'll hit ye."

"I can't help it," replied Alice, firmly. "There's something in the
garret I must have. Father would never forgive us for forgetting that
trunk, Pallas."

"Law, suz! dat trunk! sure enough," groaned Pallas.

"I must get it," said the young girl.

"How can you, chile? it's locked, so yer can't get out the things, and
of course _you_ couldn't carry it down. Come back! oh, come back, dear
chile, won't yer? What's forty trunks to yer own precious life, chile?
and them sparks 'll set your dress on fire, and the heat 'll smother
yer all up."

"I've got a hatchet, and I'll break it open," shouted Alice, now fast
rowing back toward the cabin.

"That girl's right down crazy," said Ben Perkins; "here Saturn, take
these oars, and make 'em fly. I'm goin' after her."

He threw off his jacket and boots, plunged into the stream, swam
ashore, and ran along the bank, keeping pace with the skiff. Both
reached the house at the same instant, they were gone perhaps three
minutes, and came forth again, Ben carrying the trunk upon his
shoulder. One instant they paused to look upon the wall of fire behind
them; but the heat was intolerable.

"These falling bits will sartainly set your clothing a-blaze," said
Ben, hurrying the young girl away, who would fain have lingered yet
around the home which had grown dear to her with her growth--already
the garden was withering, and the vines she had planted were drooping
before their impending ruin.

"My dress is woolen," she said; "but I will go. Oh, Ben, this is
terrible, is it not?"

"Yes, Miss Alice, but if ye get away safe now, you may thank yer
stars. I don't believe the canoe 'll hold you and the trunk both," he
remarked, as he deposited his precious (to Alice) burden in the bottom
of it.

"Yes it will--but you, Ben?"

"Oh, I ain't of as much consequence as a trunk," he replied, bitterly.
"Take car' of yourself--don't mind me."

"I shan't stir from this spot until you come with me, Ben. So get into
the boat, quick."

"Get in yourself, Miss Alice, and make good time. You'll be baked like
a brick, if yer don't get out of this soon. I'm going to swim 'long
side. What's a mile or two, swimmin' down stream?" He threw himself in
the water, and struck out, as he spoke.

She kept beside of him, refusing to go faster than he, that she might
give him aid, in case he became exhausted; the river at this spot was
over a mile in width, and it would have been difficult for him, tired
and heated as he already was, to make the opposite shore.

As they made their way along in this manner, the wind swept the hot
breath of the fire around them in suffocating waves. The cold surface
of the river kept the air comparatively pure for two or three feet
above it, or they would have smothered; but as it was, Alice gasped for
breath convulsively at times.

"Alice! Alice! you are sufferin'--you can't stand it," cried her
companion in a voice which betrayed the agony of his soul--it thrilled
through her, it was so sharp with pain.

"Don't be uneasy, Ben, we're nearly clear of the fire, now;" but
struggle as bravely as she might, she could endure the heat no longer,
and she, too, leaped into the river, and sheltering herself beneath the
shadow of the skiff, swam boldly on, holding a small rope in her hand
which secured it from floating off.

As soon as the advance party had got out of the smoke and heat, they
waited the return of the two, who made their appearance in an alarming
condition, Alice having become exhausted in the water, and Ben having
her in one arm, and swimming with the other, while he towed the skiff
by a rope held between his teeth.

Alice fainted away when she found herself safe in Pallas' motherly
arms; and Ben might have followed her example had not one of his
comrades been ready with a flask of spirits. It was thought best to
administer the same restorative to the young girl, who soon revived,
murmuring: "Father will be so glad the trunk is safe, Pallas."

As the morning broke, the party reached the shelter of the mill. It was
two or three days before Alice was well enough to visit the ruins of
her beloved home; and then she could only row along the river and gaze
upon the blackened and smoking mass, for the earth was still too hot to
be ventured upon. The cabin smoldered in a heap; the top of the great
elm was blackened and the foliage gone, but it had not fallen, and the
grass was crisped and withered to the edge of the river.

The tears streamed down her cheeks as she gazed; but with the
hopefulness of youth, she passed on, seeking a new spot to consecrate
as a second home. It was vain to think of rebuilding in the same
vicinity, as all its beauty was destroyed, and it would take some years
for it to renew itself. She knew that her father did not wish to live
too near to his mill, as he had always kept his home aloof from it;
that he would be satisfied with such a spot as she liked; and she was
ambitious to begin the work, for she knew the winter would be upon them
before they could complete a new house, if plans were not early made.
There was a lovely spot just beyond the ravages of the fire, where the
river made a crescent which held in its hollow a grove of beech and elm
and a sloping lawn, standing in advance of the dark pines stretching
back into the interior. As her father owned the land for some distance
along the shore she was at liberty to make her choice, and she made it
here.

Ben Perkins, when necessity demanded, was the carpenter of the place.
He had a full set of tools, and there were others of the men capable
of helping him. There was timber, plenty of it, already sawed, for
the frame of the new house, and while a portion went to work upon
it, boards were sawed for the siding, and shingles turned out of the
shingle-machine. As the "hands" said, Alice made an excellent captain.

A little sleeping-apartment had been constructed for her off the main
cabin, at the mill, and her own bed put up in it; but she did not like
the publicity of the table and the place, and longed for the new home
to be completed.

The emotions of David Wilde were not enviable when, upon his return,
he came in sight of the blackened ruins of his home. He did not so much
heed the vast destruction of valuable timber, as he did the waste of
that snug little, vine-covered cabin, with the garden, the flowers, and
the associations clustering about all. The first question he asked when
he clasped his child to his heart, and found _her_ safe, was of old
Pallas: "That trunk in the garret--was it saved?"

"Pickaninny saved dat ar' trunk, masser. She tought you had suthin'
important in it, and she _would_ go back;" and Alice felt repaid for
all the risk she had run, when she saw the look of relief upon her
father's face.

Ben Perkins had planned the new house, the frame of which was ready to
be raised the day after the captain's return. Whether he had cunningly
calculated that the family would some time be increased, or not,
certain it is that he made liberal allowance for such a contingency. He
had much natural talent as an architect, and from some printed plans
which had fallen into his possession, he contrived a very pretty rustic
cottage, with sharp-pointed gables something in the Gothic style, and a
porch in front. Alice was charmed with it.

"We'll get the house in livin' order in a month or two; but yer can't
have all the fixin's over the windows and the porch afore spring; I'll
have to make 'em all by hand, through the winter, when thar' ain't much
else a-doin'."

Ben was ambitious to conciliate Alice, and to make her feel how useful
he could be to her and her father. Love prompted his head and hands to
accomplish wonders. Poor Ben! work as he might, gain her expressions
of gratitude and admiration as he might, that was the most. There was
always a reserve about her which held his fiery feelings in check. His
was not a nature, either to check and control its own strong passions,
or to give up an object upon which they were once set.

A settled gloom came over his olive face, and his eyes burned like
smoldering fires beneath their black brows. He no longer had pleasant
remarks to make; no longer brought daily gifts of fish, birds, berries,
squirrels, venison, or grapes to Alice; no longer tried to break down
her reserve--he just worked--worked constantly, perseveringly, moodily.

Alice herself was scarcely more gay. He guessed whose image filled
her mind, when she sat so long without moving, looking off at the
frost-tinted forests; and the thought was bitterness.

It was necessary for Captain Wilde to go again to some settlement down
the river, to get hinges, locks, window-sashes, glass, etc., for the
new house, which was to be ready for those finishing touches, by the
time of his return. He did not know, when he set out, whether he would
go as far as Center City, or stop at some smaller point nearer home.

One day, about the time of his expected return, Ben had gone for Alice,
to get her opinion about some part of the house. They stood together,
on the outside, consulting about it, so interested in the detail that
they neither of them noticed the boat upon the river, until it was
moored to the bank, and the voice of the raftsman was heard calling to
them.

Both turned at the same moment and saw that Philip Moore was in company
with Mr. Wilde. Ben's eyes fixed themselves instantly upon Alice's
face, which was first pale and then red. He saw the great throb her
heart gave, heard the sudden catch in her breath; and he was still
looking at her when Philip sprang gayly up the path and seized her
hand--the man who loved her better than life saw all the blushes of
womanhood coming and going upon her face at the touch of another's hand.

A threatening blackness clouded his brow; Alice saw it, and knew
that he read her secret by the light of his own passion; she almost
shuddered at the dark look which he flashed upon Philip; but her father
was calling for assistance to unload his craft, and Ben went forward
without speaking.

"What a surly fellow that is, for one so good-looking and young,"
remarked Philip, carelessly, looking after him.

"He is not always so surly," Alice felt constrained to say in his
defense: "he's vexed now about something."

"But that's an ill-tempered look for a youthful face, Alice. I'm afraid
he'd hardly make a woman very happy--eh, Alice?"

"That's a matter which does not interest me, Mr. Moore, I assure you,"
answered the young girl, with an unexpected flash of pride.



CHAPTER VI.

THE COLD HOUSE-WARMING.


"It's an ill-wind dat blows nobody no good; and dat yar wind dat blowed
de fire right down on our cabin did us some good ater all. Masser 'ud
libbed in dat log-house till de day he died, hadn't been for dat fire
dat frighted me so, and made me pray fasser 'n eber I prayed afore.
Lord! Miss Alice, it looked like de judgment-day, when we sailed down
de ribber in de light ob de pine-woods. 'Peared to me de worl' was all
on fire. I see Saturn a shakin' in his boots. He tole me, nex' day, he
tought it was de day of judgment, sure 'nuff. I heard him askin' de
good Lord please forgib him fur all de 'lasses he'd taken unbeknown.
My! my! I larfed myself to pieces when I tought of it arterward, case
I'd never known where de 'lasses went to hadn't been for dat fire.
Dis new house mighty nice. Ben didn't forget ole niggers when he
built dis--de kitchen, and de pantry, and my settin'-room is mighty
comfor'able. Ben's a handy young man--smart as a basket o' chips.
He's good 'nuff for _most_ anybody, but he's not good 'nuff for _my_
pickaninny, and he ought to hab sense 'nuff to see it. Ye'd best be
kerful, Miss Alice; he's high-tempered, and he'll make trouble. 'Scuse
me for speakin'; I know ye've allers been so discreet and as modest
as an angel. None can blame you, let what will happen. But I wish
dat Mr. Moore would go way. Yes, I _do_, Miss Alice, for more 'n one
reason. Don't tink ole Pallas not see tru a grin'-stone. Ef he wants
to leab any peace o' mind behind him, he'd better clar out soon. Thar!
thar, chile, nebber mind ole nigger. My! how purty you has made de
table look. I'm much obleeged for yer assistance, darlin'. I'se bound
to hab a splendid supper, de fust in de new house. 'Taint much of a
house-warmin', seein' we'd nobody to invite, and no fiddle, but we've
done what we could to make things pleasant. Laws! ef dat nigger ob
mine wasn't sech a fool he could make a fiddle, and play suthin' for
us, times when we was low-sperited."

Pallas' tongue did not go any faster than her hands and feet. It was
the first day in the new house, and Alice and herself had planned to
decorate the principal apartment, and have an extra nice supper. Ever
since her father left for the mill, in the middle of the day, after
the furniture was moved in, while Pallas put things "to rights," she
had woven wreaths of evergreens, with scarlet dogberries and brilliant
autumn-leaves interspersed, which she had festooned about the windows
and doors; and now she was busy decorating the table, while the old
colored woman passed in and out, adding various well-prepared dishes to
the feast.

Pallas had been a famous cook in her day, and she still made the best
of the materials at her command. A large cake, nicely frosted, and
surrounded with a wreath, was one of the triumphs of her skill. A
plentiful supply of preserved strawberries and wild-plum marmalade,
grape-jelly, and blackberry-jam adorned the board. A venison-pie was
baking in the oven, and a salmon, that would have roused the envy of
Delmonico's, was boiling in the pot, while she prepared a sauce for it,
for which, in times gone by, she had received many a compliment.

Philip had been taken into the secret of the feast, as Alice was
obliged to depend upon him for assistance in getting evergreens. He was
now out after a fresh supply, and Alice was beginning to wish he would
make more haste, lest her father should return before the preparations
were complete.

Again and again she went to the door to look out for him; and at last,
six o'clock being come and past, she said with a pretty little frown of
vexation:

"There's father coming, and Mr. Moore not back!"

The feast waited until seven--eight--and yet Philip had not returned.

Several of the men who had been busy about the house during the day
were invited into supper; and at eight o'clock they sat down to it, in
something of silence and apprehension, for every one by this time had
come to the conclusion that Philip was lost in the woods. Poor Alice
could not force herself to eat. She tried to smile as she waited upon
her guests; but her face grew paler and her eyes larger every moment.
Not that there was any such great cause for fright; there were no wild
animals in that vicinity, except an occasional hungry bear in the
spring, who had made his way from some remote forest; but she was a
woman, timid and loving, and her fears kept painting terrible pictures
of death by starvation, fierce wolves, sly panthers, and all the
horrors of darkness.

"Poh! poh! child, don't look so scart," said her father, though he was
evidently hurrying his meal, and quite unconscious of the perfection
of the salmon-sauce, "there's no cause. He's lost; but he can't get so
fur in the wrong direction but we'll rouse him out with our horns and
lanterns and guns. We'll load our rifles with powder and fire 'em off.
He hasn't had time to get fur."

"Likely he'll make his own way back time we're through supper,"
remarked one of the men cheerfully, as he helped himself to a second
large piece of venison-pie. "'Tain't no use to be in a hurry. These
city folks can't find thar way in the woods quite like us fellers,
though. They ain't up to 't."

Alice looked over at the speaker; and, albeit she was usually so
hospitable, wished he _would_ make more speed with his eating. Pallas
waited upon the table in profound silence. Something was upon her
mind; but when Alice looked at her anxiously she turned her eyes away,
pretending to be busy with her duties.

Ben Perkins had been asked to supper, but did not make his appearance
until it was nearly over. When he came in he did not look anybody
straight in the face, but sitting down with a reckless, jovial air,
different from his usual taciturn manner, began laughing, talking, and
eating, filling his plate with every thing he could reach.

"Have you seen any thing of Mr. Moore?" was the first question put to
him, in the hope of hearing from the absent man.

"Moore? no,--ain't he here? Thought of course he'd be here makin'
himself agreeable to the women;" and he laughed.

Whether Alice's excited state exalted all her perceptions, or whether
her ears were more finely strung than those around her, this laugh,
short, dry, and forced, chilled her blood. He did not look toward
her as he spoke, but her gaze was fixed upon him with a kind of
fascination; she could not turn it away, but sat staring at him, as if
in a dream. Only once did he lift his eyes while he sat at the table,
and then it was toward her; they slowly lifted as if her own fixed gaze
drew them up; she saw them clearly for an instant, and--such eyes!
His soul was in them, although he knew it not--a fallen soul--and the
covert look of it through those lurid eyes was dreadful.

A strange tremulousness now seized upon Alice. She hurried her father
and his men in their preparations, brought the lanterns, the rifles,
the powder-horns; her hands shaking all the time. They laughed at
her for a foolish child; and she said nothing, only to hurry them.
Ben was among the most eager for the search. He headed a party which
he proposed should strike directly back into the wood; but two or
three thought best to go in another direction, so as to cover the
whole ground. When they had all disappeared in the wood, their lights
flashing here and there through openings and their shouts ringing
through the darkness, Alice said to Pallas:

"Let us go too. There is another lantern. You won't be afraid, will
you?"

"I'll go, to please you, chile, for I see yer mighty restless. I don't
like trabelling in de woods at night, but de Lord's ober all, and I'll
pray fas' and loud if I get skeered."

A phantom floated in the darkness before the eyes of Alice all through
that night spent in wandering through forest depths, but it was
shapeless, and she would not, dared not give shape to it. All night
guns were fired, and the faithful men pursued their search; and at
daybreak they returned, now really alarmed, to refresh their exhausted
powers with strong coffee and a hastily-prepared breakfast, before
renewing their exertions.

The search became now of a different character. Convinced that the
missing man could not have got beyond the hearing of the clamor they
had made through the night, they now anticipated some accident, and
looked closely into every shadow and under every clump of fallen trees,
behind logs, and into hollows.

Drinking the coffee which Pallas forced upon her, Alice again set
forth, not with the others, but alone, walking like one distracted,
darting wild glances hither and thither, and calling in an impassioned
voice that wailed through the wilderness, seeming to penetrate every
breath of air,--"Philip! Philip!"

And now she saw where he had broken off evergreens the day before,
and fluttering round and round the spot, like a bird crying after its
robbed nest, she sobbed,--"Philip! Philip!"

And then she saw _him_, sitting on a log, pale and haggard-looking, his
white face stained with blood and his hair mottled with it, a frightful
gash across his temple and head, which he drooped upon his hand; and he
tried to answer her. Before she could reach him he sank to the ground.

"He is dead!" she cried, flying forward, sinking beside him, and
lifting his head to her knee. "Father! father! come to us!"

They heard her sharp cry, and, hastening to the spot, found her, pale
as the body at her feet, gazing down into the deathly face.

"Alice, don't look so, child. He's not dead--he's only fainted. Here,
men, lift him up speedily, for he's nigh about gone. Thar's been
mischief here--no mistake!"

Captain Wilde breathed hard as he glared about upon his men. The
thought had occurred to him that some one had attempted to murder
the young man for his valuable watch and chain and the well-filled
purse he was supposed to carry. But no--the watch and money were
undisturbed;--may be he had fallen and cut his head--if he should
revive, they would know all.

They bore him to the house and laid him upon Alice's white bed in
the pretty room just arranged for her comfort; it was the quietest,
pleasantest place in the house, and she would have him there. After the
administration of a powerful dose of brandy, the faint pulse of the
wounded man fluttered up a little stronger; more was given him, the
blood was wiped away, and cool, wet napkins kept around his head; and
by noon of the same day, he was able to give some account of himself.

He was sitting in the very spot where they had found him, on the
previous afternoon, with a heap of evergreens gathered about him,
preoccupied in making garlands, so that he saw nothing, heard nothing,
until _something_--it seemed to him a club wielded by some assailant
who had crept up behind him--struck him a blow which instantly deprived
him of his senses. How long he lay, bleeding and stunned, he could only
guess; it seemed to be deep night when he recalled what had happened,
and found himself lying on the ground, confused by the pain in his head
and faint from loss of blood. He managed to crawl upon the log, so
as to lean his head upon his arms, and had been there many hours. He
heard the shouts and saw the lights which came near him two or three
times, but he could not make noise enough to attract attention. When he
heard Alice's voice, he had lifted himself into a sitting posture, but
the effort was too great, and he sank again, exhausted, at the moment
relief reached him.

His hearers looked in each other's faces as they heard his story. _Who_
could have done that murderous deed? What was the object? the pleasant
young stranger had no enemies,--he had not been robbed; there were no
Indians known to be about, and Indians would have finished their work
with the scalping-knife.

Alas! the terrible secret preyed at the heart of Alice Wilde. She knew,
though no mortal lips had revealed it, who was the would-be murderer.
A pair of eyes had unconsciously betrayed it. She had read "_murder_"
there, and the wherefore was now evident.

Yet she had no proof of that of which she was so conscious. Should she
denounce the guilty man, people would ask for evidence of his crime.
What would she have to offer?--that the criminal loved her, and she
loved the victim. No! she would keep the gnawing truth in her own
bosom, only whispering a warning to the sufferer should he ever be well
enough to need it; a matter by no means settled, as David Wilde was
doctor enough to know.

Despite of all the preventives within reach, a fever set in that
night, and for two or three days, Philip was very ill, a part of the
time delirious; there was much more probability of his dying than
recovering. Both Mr. Wilde and Pallas had that skill picked up by the
necessity of being doctors to all accidents and diseases around them;
and they exerted themselves to the utmost for their unfortunate young
guest.

Then it was that Mr. Wilde found where the heart of his little girl
had gone astray; and cursed himself for his folly in exposing her
to a danger so probable. Yet, as he looked at her sweet face, worn
with watching and trouble, he could not but believe that the hand of
the proudest aristocrat on earth was none too good for her, and that
Philip would recognize her beauty and worth. If she _must_ love, and be
married, he would more willingly resign her to Philip Moore than to any
other man. Alice lacked experience as a nurse, but she followed every
motion of the good old colored woman, and stood ready to interfere
where she could be of any use.

Sitting hour after hour by Philip's bedside, changing the wet cloths
constantly to keep them cool, she heard words from his delirious
lips which added still more to her despair--fond, passionate words,
addressed not to her, but to some beloved woman, some beautiful
"Virginia," now far away, unconscious of her lover's danger, while to
her fell the sad pleasure of attending upon him.

"Oh, that he may live, and not die by the hand of an assassin, so
innocent a victim to a needless jealousy. Oh, that he may live to save
this Virginia, whoever she may be, from the fate of a hopeless mourner.
It will be joy enough for _me_ to save his life," she cried to herself.

The crisis passed; the flush of fever was succeeded by the languor and
pallor of extreme prostration; but the young man's constitution was
excellent, and he recovered rapidly. Then how it pleased Pallas to cook
him tempting dishes; and how it pleased Alice to see the appetite with
which he disposed of them. Women love to serve those who are dear to
them; no service can be so homely or so small that their enthusiasm
does not exalt it.

Yet the stronger Philip grew, the more heavily pressed a cold horror
upon the soul of Alice. Ben Perkins had not been to the house since
the wounded man was brought into it; and when Alice would have asked
her father of his whereabouts, her lips refused to form his name. She
hoped that he had fled; but then she knew that if he had disappeared,
her father would have mentioned it, and that the act would have fixed
suspicion upon him. She felt that he was hovering about, that he often
beheld her, when she was unaware of the secret gaze; she could not
endure to step to the door after dark, and she closed the curtains of
the windows with extremest care, especially in Philip's room.

The first light snow of November had fallen when the invalid was
able to sit up all day; but, although he knew that his long absence
would excite consternation among his friends at Center City, and that
business at home required his attention, he found each day of his
convalescence so pleasant, that he had not strength of will sufficient
to break the charm. To read to his young friend while she sewed; to
watch her flitting about the room while he reclined upon a lounge; to
talk with her; to study her changing countenance, grew every day more
sweet to him. At first he thought it was gratitude--she had been so
kind to him. But a thrilling warmth always gathered about his heart
when he remembered that passionate voice, crying through the pine-woods
with such a sobbing sound--"Philip! Philip!"

Finding himself thus disposed to linger, he was the more chagrined
to perceive that Alice was anxious to have him go; she gave him no
invitation to prolong his visit, and said unequivocally, that if he did
not wish to be ice-bound for the winter, he would have to depart as
soon as his strength would permit. Her father had promised him, when
he came up, to take him down the river again when he was ready, as he
should be obliged to go down again for his winter stores; and he now
waited his visitor's movements.

No words had passed between Alice and Pallas on the subject of the
attempted murder, yet the former half knew that the truth was guessed
by the faithful servant who also hastened the departure of their guest.

"I declare, Aunt Pallas, I believe I have worn out my welcome. I've
been a troublesome fellow, I know; but it hurts my vanity to see you
getting so tired of me," he said, laughingly, one day, when they were
alone together, he sitting on the kitchen-steps after the lazy manner
of convalescents, trying to get warmth, both from the fire within and
the sun without.

"Ole folks never gets tired of young, bright faces, masser Philip. But
ole folks knows sometimes what's fer de best, more 'n young ones."

"Then you think Miss Alice wants to get rid of me, and you second your
darling's wishes--eh, Pallas?" and he looked at her, hoping she would
contradict him.

"I'd do a' mos' any thing for my pickaninny--I lub her better den life;
an' dar' never was anudder such a chile, so pretty and so good, as _I_
know as has been wid her sence she drew her firs' bref. If I tought
she wanted you to go, I'd want you to go, too, masser, not meanin' any
disrespeck--and she _do_ want you to go; but she's got reasons for it;"
and she shook her yellow turban reflectively.

"Do you think she is getting to dislike me?"

"Dat's her own bisness, ef she is; but dat ain't de main reason.
She don't like de look of that red scar down your forrid. She knows
who made dat ugly scar, and what fer they did it. She tinks dis a
_dangerous_ country for you, Masser Moore, and Pallas tink so too. Go
way, masser, quick as you can, and nebber come back any more."

"But I _shall_ come back, Aunt Pallas, next spring, to bring you
something nice for all you've done for me, and because--because--I
shan't be able to stay away," he answered, though somewhat startled and
puzzled by her revelation.

"Why not be able to stay 'way?" queried she, with a sharp glance.

"Oh, you can guess, Aunt Pallas. I shan't tell you."

"People isn't allers satisfied with guessing--like to have things
plain, and no mistake 'bout 'em," observed Pallas.

"Just so. _I_ am not satisfied with guessing who tried to kill me, and
what their object was. I am going to ask Alice, this evening. She's
evidently frightened about me; she won't let me stir a step alone. So
you think your pickaninny is the best and the prettiest child alive, do
you?"

"Dat I do."

"So do I. What do you suppose she thinks of such a worthless kind of a
person as myself? Do, now, tell me, won't you, auntie?"

"You clar out, young masser, and don't bozzer me. I'se busy wid dis
ironin'. You'd better ask _her_, if yer want to find out."

"But can't you say something to encourage me?"

"You go 'long. Better tease somebody hain't got no ironin' on hand."

"You'll repent of your unkindness soon, Aunt Pallas; for, be it known
to you, to-morrow is set for my departure, and when I'm gone it will be
too late to send your answer after me;" and the young man rose, with a
very becoming air of injured feeling which delighted her much.

"Hi! hi! ef it could only be," she sighed, looking after him. "But we
can't smoof tings out in dis yere worl' quite so easy as I smoof out
dis table-cloth. He's one ob de family, no mistake; and masser's found
it out, too, 'fore dis."

That night the family sat up late, Pallas busy in the kitchen putting
up her master's changes of linen and cooked provisions for the next
day's journey, and the master himself busied about many small affairs
demanding attention.

The two young people sat before a blazing wood-fire in the front room;
the settle had been drawn up to it for Philip's convenience, and his
companion at his request had taken a seat by his side. The curtains
were closely drawn, yet Alice would frequently look around in a timid,
wild way, which he could not but notice.

"You did not use to be so timid."

"I have more reason now;" and she shuddered. "Until you were hurt, Mr.
Moore, I did not think how near we might be to murderers, even in our
house."

"You should not allow it to make such an impression on your mind.
It is passed; and such things scarcely happen twice in one person's
experience."

"I do not fear for myself--it is for you, Mr. Moore."

"Philip, you called me, that night in the woods. Supposing I _was_ in
danger, little Alice, what would you risk for me?"

She did not answer.

"Well, what would you risk for some one you loved--say, your father?"

"All things--my life."

"There are some people who would rather risk their life than their
pride, their family name, or their money. Supposing a man loved a woman
very much, and she professed to return his love, but was not willing to
share his meager fortunes with him; could not sacrifice splendor and
the passion for admiration, for his sake--what would you think of her?"

"That she did not love him."

"But you do not know, little Alice; you have never been tempted; and
you know nothing of the strength of fashion in the world, of the
influence of public opinion, of the pride of appearances."

"I have guessed it," she answered, sadly.

He thought there was a shadow of reproach in those pure eyes, as if she
would have added, that she had been made to feel it, too.

"I loved a woman once," he continued; "loved her so rashly that I would
have let her set her perfect foot upon my neck and press my life out.
She knew how I adored her, and she told me she returned my passion. But
she would not resign any of her rank and influence for my sake."

"Was her name Virginia?"

"It was; how did you know?"

"You talked of her when you were ill."

"I'll warrant. But _she_ wouldn't have sat up one night by my bedside,
for fear her eyes would be less brilliant for the next evening's ball.
She drove me off to the West to make a fortune for her to spend, in
case she did not get hold of somebody else's by that time. Do you think
I ought to make it for her?"

There was no answer. His companion's head was drooping. He lifted one
of her hands, as he went on:

"I was so dazzled by her magnificence that, for a long time, I could
see nothing in its true light. But my vision is clear now. Virginia
shall never have my fortune to spend, nor me to twist around her
jeweled finger."

The hand he held began to tremble.

"Now, little Alice, supposing I had told _you_ of such love, and you
had professed to answer it, what sacrifices would you have made? Would
you have given me that little gold heart you wear about your neck--your
only bit of ornamentation?"

"I would have made a sacrifice, full as great in its way, as the
decline in pomp and position might have been to the proud lady," she
replied, lifting her eyes calmly to his face. "I would have _refused_
the offered happiness if, by accepting it, I thought I should ever,
by my ignorance of proprieties, give him cause to blush for me--if I
thought my uncultivated tastes would some time disappoint him, that
he would grow weary of me as a friend and companion because I was not
truly fitted for that place--if I thought I was not worthy of him, I
would sacrifice _myself_, and try to wish only for his best happiness."

Her eyes sank, as she ceased speaking, and the tears which would come
into them, gushed over her cheeks.

"Worthy! you are more than worthy of the best man in the world, Alice!
far more than worthy of _me_!" cried Philip, in a rapture he could not
restrain. "O Alice, if you only loved _me_ in that fashion!"

"You know that I do," she replied, with that archness so native to her,
smiling through her tears.

"Then say no more. There--don't speak--don't speak!" and he shut her
mouth with the first kiss of a lover.

For a while their hearts beat too high with happiness to recall any of
the difficulties of their new relation.

"We shall have small time to lay plans for the future, now. But I shall
fly to you on the first breezes of spring, Alice. Your father shall
know all, on our way down the river. Oh, if there was only a mail
through this forlorn region. I could write to you, at least."

"I shall have so much to do, the winter will speedily pass; I must
study the books you brought me. But I shall not allow myself to hope
too much," she added, with a sudden melancholy, such as sometimes is
born of prophetic instinct.

"_I_ can not hope too highly!" said Philip, with enthusiasm. "Here
comes your father. Dear Alice, your cheeks are so rosy, I believe he
will read our secret to-night."



CHAPTER VII.

SUSPENSE.


What was the consternation of Alice when her father returned the
evening of the day of his departure and told her he had concluded he
could not be spared for the trip, and so, when they reached the mill,
he had chosen Ben to fill his place! Every vestige of color fled from
her face.

"O father! how could you trust him with Philip?" burst forth
involuntarily.

"Trust Ben? Why, child, thar ain't a handier sailor round the place.
And if he wan't, I guess Moore could take care of himself--he'll manage
a craft equal to an old salt."

"Can't you go after them, father? oh, do go, now, this night--this
hour!"

"Why, child, you're crazy!" replied the raftsman, looking at her in
surprise. "I never saw you so foolish before. Go after a couple of
young chaps full-grown and able to take care of themselves? They've
the only sail-boat there is, besides--and I don't think I shall break
my old arms rowing after 'em when they've got a good day's start," and
he laughed good-naturedly. "Go along, little one, I'm 'fraid you're
love-cracked."

Got the only sail-boat there was! There would be no use, then, in
making her father the confidant of her suspicions. It seemed as if
fate had fashioned this mischance. Several of the men had got into a
quarrel, at the mill, that morning; some of the machinery had broken,
and so much business pressed upon the owner, that he had been obliged
to relinquish his journey. He had selected Ben as his substitute
because he was his favorite among all his employees; trusty, quick,
honest, would make a good selection of winter stores, and render a fair
account of the money spent. Such had been the young man's character;
and the little public of Wilde's mill did not know that a stain had
come upon it--that the mark of Cain was secretly branded upon the
swarthy brow which once could have flashed back honest mirth upon them.

They say "the devil is not so black as he is painted;" and surely
Ben Perkins was not so utterly depraved as might be thought. He was
a heathen; one of those white heathen, found plentifully in this
Christian country, not only in the back streets of cities, but in the
back depths of sparsely-settled countries.

He had grown up without the knowledge of religion, as it is taught,
except an occasional half-understood sensation sermon from some
travelling missionary--he had never been made to comprehend the
beauty of the precepts of Christ--and he had no education which would
teach him self-control and the noble principle of self-government.
Unschooled, with a high temper and fiery passions, generous and
kindly, with a pride of character which would have been fine had it
been enlightened, but which degenerated to envy and jealousy of his
superiors in this ignorant boy-nature--the good and the bad grew
rankly together. From the day upon which he "hired out," a youth of
eighteen, to Captain Wilde, and saw Alice Wilde, a child of twelve,
looking shyly up at him through her golden curls, he had loved her.
He had worked late and early, striven to please his employer, shown
himself hardy, courageous, and trustworthy--had done extra jobs that he
might accumulate a little sum to invest in property--all in the hope
of some time daring to ask her to marry him. Her superior refinement,
her innate delicacy, her sweet beauty were felt by him only to make
him love her the more desperately. As the sun fills the ether with
warmth and light, so she filled his soul. It was not strange that he
was infuriated by the sight of another man stepping in and winning so
easily what he had striven for so long--he saw inevitably that Alice
would love Philip Moore--this perfumed and elegant stranger, with his
fine language, his fine clothes, and his fine manners. He conceived
a deadly hate for him. All that was wicked in him grew, choking down
every thing good. He allowed himself to brood over his wrongs, as
he regarded them; growing sullen, imprudent, revengeful. Then the
opportunity came, and he fell beneath the temptation.

Chance had saved him from the consummation of the deed, though not
from the guilt of the intent. He had thought himself, for half a day,
to be a murderer,--and during those hours the rash boy had changed into
the desperate man. Whether he had suffered so awfully in conscience
that he was glad to hear of the escape of his intended victim, or
whether he swore still to consummate his wish, his own soul only knew.

Everybody at Wilde's mill had remarked the change in him, from a gay
youth full of jests and nonsense to a quiet, morose man, working more
diligently than ever, but sullenly rejecting all advances of sport or
confidence.

If he _was_ secretly struggling for the mastery over evil, it was
a curious fatality which threw him again upon a temptation so
overwhelming in its ease and security of accomplishment.

Ah, well did the unhappy Alice realize how easily now he could follow
his intent--how fully in his power was that unsuspicious man who had
already suffered so much from his hands. Appetite and sleep forsook
her; if she slept it was but to dream of a boat gliding down a river,
of a strong man raising a weak one in his grasp and hurling him,
wounded and helpless, into the waters, where he would sink, sink, till
the waves bubbled over his floating hair, and all was gone. Many a
night she started from her sleep with terrified shrieks, which alarmed
her father.

"'Tain't right for a young girl to be having the nightmare so, Pallas.
Suthin' or another is wrong about her--hain't no nerves lately. I do
hope she ain't goin' to be one of the screechin', faintin' kind of
women folks. I detest sech. Her health can't be good. Do try and find
out what's the matter with her; she'll tell you quicker 'an she will
me. Fix her up some kind of tea."

"De chile ain't well, masser; dat's berry plain. She's getting thin
every day, and she don't eat 'nuff to keep a bird alive. But it's
her _mind_, masser--'pend on it, it's her mind. Dese young gentleum
make mischief. Wish I had masser Moore under my thumb--I'd give him a
scoldin' would las' him all his life."

"Cuss Philip Moore, and all others of his class," muttered the
raftsman, moodily.

Both Mr. Wilde and Pallas began to lose their high opinion of the
young man, as they witnessed the silent suffering of their darling. His
going down the river without his expected company had cheated Philip
out of the revelation he had desired to make; and Alice, with that
excessive delicacy of some timid young girls, had not even confided her
secret to her good old nurse.

Much better it would have been for her peace of mind, had she told all
to her friends--her love and her fears. Then, if they had seen good
reason for her apprehensions, they might have chased the matter down,
at whatever trouble, and put her out of suspense. But she did not do
it. She shut the growing terror in her heart where it fed upon her life
day by day.

There was no regular communication between Wilde's mill and the lower
country, and in the winter what little there had been was cut off. The
lovely, lingering Indian-summer days, in the midst of which the two
voyagers had set out, were over, and ice closed the river the very day
after the return of Ben.

A sudden agony of hope and fear convulsed the heart of Alice, when her
father entered the house one day, and announced Ben's arrival.

"Did he not bring me a letter? was there no letter for you, father?"

It would be so natural that he should write, at least to her father,
some message of good wishes and announcement of his safe journey--if
she could see his own handwriting, she would be satisfied that all was
well.

"Thar' was none for me. If Ben got a letter for you, I s'pose he'll
tell you so, as he's coming in with some things."

"Have you any thing for me--any message or letter?"

It was the first time she had met Ben, face to face, since that
never-to-be-forgotten night of the house-warming; but now he looked her
in the eyes, without any shrinking, and it appeared to her as if the
shadow which had lain upon him was lifted. He certainly looked more
cheerful than he had done since the day of Philip's unexpected arrival
at the new house. Was it because he felt that an enemy was out of the
way? Alice could not tell; she waited for him to speak, as the prisoner
waits for the verdict of a jury.

"Thar' ain't any letter, Miss Alice," he replied, "but thar's a
package--some presents for you, and some for Pallas, too, from Mr.
Moore. He told me to tell you that he was safe and sound, and hoped
you'd accept the things he sent."

His eyes did not quail as he made this statement, though he knew
that she was searching them keenly. Perhaps there was a letter in
the bundle. She carried it to her own room and tore it open. No! not
a single written word. The gifts for the old servant--silk aprons,
gay-colored turbans, and a string of gold beads--were in one bundle.
In another was a lady's dressing-case, with brushes, perfumeries, and
all those pretty trifles which grace the feminine toilet, a quantity of
fine writing materials, paper-folder, gold-pen, some exquisite small
engravings, and, in a tiny box, a ring set with a single pure pearl.
That ring! was it indeed a betrothal ring, sent to her by her lover,
which she should wear to kiss and pray over? or was it intended to help
her into a bond with his murderer? Eagerly she scanned every bit of
wrapping-paper to find some proof that it was Philip's own hand which
had made up the costly and tasteful gifts. She could find nothing to
satisfy her. They might have been purchased with his money, but not
by him. The ring which she would have worn so joyfully had she been
certain it had come from him, she put back in its case without even
trying it on her finger.

"O God!" she murmured, throwing herself upon her knees, "must I bear
this suspense all this endless winter?"

Yes, all that endless winter the weight of suspense was not to be
lifted--nor for yet more miserable months.

December sat in extremely cold, and the winter throughout was one of
unusual severity.

As the Christmas holidays drew near, that time of feasting so precious
to the colored people raised in "ole Virginny," Saturn bestirred
himself a little out of his perpetual laziness. If he would give due
assistance in beating eggs and grinding spices, chopping suet and
picking fowls, as well as "keep his wife in kindling-wood," Pallas
promised him rich rewards in the way of dainties, and also to make him
his favorite dish a--woodchuck pie.

"'Clar' to gracious, I don't feel a bit of heart 'bout fixin' up
feastesses dis yere Chris'mas," said she to him, one evening in the
midst of the bustle of preparation. "We've allers been Christian folks
'nuff to keep Chris'mas, even in de wilderness; but what's de use of
cookin' and cookin' and dar's Miss Alice don't eat as much as dat
frozen chick I brought in and put in dat basket by de fire."

"But dar's masser, _he_ eat well 'nuff,--and I--I'se mighty hungry dese
days. Don't stop cookin', Pallas."

"You hain't got no more feelin's den a common nigger, Saturn. Nobody'd
tink you was brought up in one de best families. If I could only tink
of somethin' new dat would coax up pickaninny's appetite a little!"

"P'raps she'll eat some my woodchuck pie," suggested Saturn.

It was a great self-denial for him to propose to share a dish which he
usually reserved especially to himself, but he, too, felt as tender as
his organism would permit, toward his youthful mistress.

"Our missus eat woodchuck pie! you go 'long, Saturn; she wouldn't
stomach it. Dat's nigger's dish. I declar' our chile begins to look
jus' as missus did de year afore she died. I feel worried 'bout her."

"Does you? Mebbe she's got de rheumatiz or de neurology. I got de
rheumatiz bad myself dis week pas'. Wish you'd fix up some of yer
liniment, wife."

"Wall, wall, eberybuddy has der troubles, even innocen' ones like our
chile. Dis is a wicked and a perwerse generation, and dat is de reason
our woods tuk fire and our house burn up; and now our dear chile mus'
go break her heart 'bout somebody as won't say wedder he lubs her
or not. She'll go of consumption jes' as missus went. Lor'! who'd
a thought our family wud ever come to sech an end? I remember when
Mortimer Moore kep' up de plantation in gran' style 'fore he sol' ebery
buddy but you and I, Saturn, and kep' us cause we wouldn't leab de
family, and tuk us to New York. Mebbe it was wicked of me to take sides
with my young missus, and help her to get married way she did, and run
'way wid her, and see to her tru thick and thin. But I see her die,
and now, likely, I'll be resarbed to see her chile die. Dun know what
poor old woman lib for to bury all her children for. When I tink of
all de mince-pies and de chicken-pies I use to make, and see eat, for
Chris'mas, I don't feel no heart for to lif' dis choppin'-knife anodder
time."

Yet the preparations progressed, and on Christmas and New Year's
day the men at the mill were supplied with a feast; but Alice could
not bring herself to decorate the house with wreaths of evergreen,
according to custom--it brought back hateful fears too vividly. The
unceasing cry of her heart was for the river to open. She counted the
hours of the days which must drag on into weeks and months.

Ben now came frequently to the house. If Alice would not talk to
him, he would make himself agreeable to the old servants; any thing
for an excuse to linger about where he could obtain glimpses of the
face growing so sad and white. Mr. Wilde had always favored him as a
work-hand, and now he invited him often to his home. He hoped that
even Ben's company would amuse his daughter and draw her away from her
"love-sickness."

It was a few weeks after the holidays that, one evening, Mr. Wilde took
Alice upon his knee, smoothing her hair as if she were a baby, and
looking fondly into her face.

"I've some curious news for you, little one," he said, with a smile.
"Would you believe that any one had been thinking of my little cub for
a wife, and had asked me if he might talk to her about it?"

"Was it Ben, father?"

"Yes, it was Ben. No doubt you knew of it before, you sly puss!"

"I refused him long ago, father. Didn't he tell you that?"

"No."

"Would you be willing I should marry a person like him?"

"No, not willing. Once I'd have set him afloat if he'd had the
impudence to mention it. But you're failing so, Alice, and you're
so lonesome and so shut up here. I know how it is. The young must
have their mates; and if _you_ want him, I shan't make any serious
objection. He's the best there is in these parts. He's better than a
flattering, deceiving _gentleman_, Alice. I _was_ fool enough once
to imagine you'd never marry, but live your lifetime with yer old
father; but I ought to have known better. 'Tain't the way of the world.
'Twasn't my way, nor your mother's way. No, Alice, if yer ever in love,
and want to marry, unless I know the man's a villain, I shall make no
objections. Ben loves you, my dear, desperately. A girl should give two
thoughts before she throws away such a love as his. 'Tain't every man
is capable of it."

"But I'm engaged to Philip Moore, father. _We_ love each other." Her
blushing cheek was pressed against his that he might not see it.

"Alice, my child," said the raftsman very gently, in a voice full of
pity and tenderness; "Mr. Moore is a rascal. He may have told you that
he loved you, but he don't. He don't intend to marry you. He's a d----
proud aristocrat!" waxing wrathy as he went on. "There! there! don't
you feel hurt; I know all about him. Knew't he made fun of us, after
all we'd done for him, in his store down to Center City, when he didn't
know Ben was listenin'. Besides, he advised Ben to marry you, to keep
you from breakin' your heart about _him_; said you expected him back in
the spring, but he was goin' on East to marry a girl there. So you see
you must think no more of that rascally fellow, Alice. If he ever does
come back here I'll whip him."

"Ben told you this?" cried Alice, her eyes flashing fire and her white
lips quivering. "And you believed the infamous lie, father? No! no! Ben
has _murdered_ him, father--he has murdered my Philip, and has invented
this lie to prevent our expecting him. O Philip!"--her excitement
overpowered her and she fainted in her father's arms.

Now that the tension of suspense had given way, and she deemed herself
certain of the fate of her lover, she yielded for a time to the
long-smothered agony within her, going from one fainting-fit to another
all through that wretched night.

The next day, when composed enough to talk, she told her father
all--Ben's offer of marriage, his threats, the circumstantial evidence
which fixed the guilt of the assault in the woods upon him, and her
belief now that Philip had been made away with. The raftsman himself
was startled; and to quiet and encourage his child, he promised to
set off, by to-morrow, upon the ice, and _skate_ down to Center City,
that her fears might be dispelled or confirmed. But that very night
the weather, which had been growing warm for a week, melted into rain,
and the ice became too rotten to trust. There was nothing to do but to
wait.

"'Tain't by no means certain he's done sech a horrible thing. And if
you'll pick up courage to think so, and make yerself as easy as you
can, I'll start the very first day it's possible. Likely in March the
spring 'll open. You may go 'long with me, too, if you wish, so as to
learn the news as soon as I do. I'll say nothing of my suspicions to
young Perkins, but try to treat him the same as ever, till I know he
desarves different."



CHAPTER VIII.

AWAY FROM HOME.


A quaint party were to be seen passing through some of the streets
of Center City one April day of the following spring. A tall and
vigorous man, with a keen, intelligent face, clad in a calico shirt,
a blue-woolen hunter's frock and buckskin breeches, strode on as if
anxious to reach his destination; or, rather, as if used to making
good time over endless prairies and through unsurveyed forests. By his
side walked a young girl whose dress, though of the best materials,
was antique as our grandmothers'; a broad-brimmed hat shaded a face
the loveliest ever beheld in that city; her little slippers with their
silver buckles peeped out from beneath her short frock. Those who were
fortunate enough to see her as she passed did not know which to admire
most--the exquisite, unstudied grace of her manners, which was as
peculiar as her beauty, or the seraphic innocence of her expression.
She kept pace with her companion, looking gravely forward with those
great blue eyes, only occasionally giving the crowd a fawn-like,
startled look, when it pressed too near. A few paces behind trudged an
ancient colored couple, the man short, and white-eyed, rolling smiles
as he passed, evidently supposing all the attention of the lookers-on
to be concentrated on his flaming vest, his flowered coat, and bran-new
boots; the woman a perfect black Juno, really superb in her air and
physique, wearing her neatly-folded yellow turban as if it were a
golden crown. She seldom took her eyes off the young mistress whom she
followed, except occasionally to frown at some impudent fellow who
stared too hard.

The group wended their way onward until they read the names of "Raymond
& Moore," in gilt letters over a new four-story brick store of this
thriving new town, and here they disappeared from the view of outsiders.

"Captain Wilde! how do you do? you're down early this spring. Well, the
mill's waiting for you to feed it. Come down on a raft?"

"Yes, Mr. Raymond, a thundering big one. Brought my family this time to
give 'em a chance to pick out a few things for themselves. My daughter,
sir."

The merchant gave the young lady a chair. She took it, mechanically,
but her heart, her eyes, were asking one question of the smiling,
curious man, the friend and partner of her own Philip, who for the
first time began to suspect the cause which had kept the latter so
long, "hunting and fishing" up at Wilde's mill. Could he look so
smiling, so assured, and her Philip be dead? The cry: "Where is he?"
trembled silently on her lips.

"Yes, a thundering big raft we got out this spring. Wood-choppers to
work all winter," continued the raftsman, walking along farther from
his daughter, and speaking with apparent carelessness. "By the way,
where's Mr. Moore? did he get home safe, after his spell of sickness,
at our house last fall?"

"Oh, yes! he got home safe and in fine spirits. He was soon as well or
better than ever. I expect he got pretty good care," and the merchant
glanced over at the young girl respectfully.

Mr. Raymond was a good-hearted, refined young married man; but if
he had been gross or impure, or not over-fastidious, or fond of a
jest, there was something about both father and child to suppress all
feelings but those of respect and wondering admiration, Alice Wilde's
beauty was of a kind to defy criticism. She might have worn sackcloth
and ashes, or flannel and thick boots, or a Turkish dress, or a Puritan
maiden's, or a queen's robe, it would have made but small difference;
her loveliness was of that overmastering kind which draws the hearts of
high and low, and makes every man feel in her presence, forgetful of
every lesser consideration--lo! here is a beautiful woman! Such charms
as hers have had great power whenever they have been found--they have
exalted peasant women to thrones, and led men of genius and rank, as if
they were children, hither and thither. It is not strange that Alice's
personal loveliness, added to her still more unusual unconsciousness
of it, and infantile innocence, should at once have commanded the
reverence of people of the world, in spite of the quaintness of manner
and attire, in themselves pretty and piquant.

Although her father had spoken in a low voice, Alice had heard his
question and the answer. The splendor of happiness broke over her
countenance--blushes rose to her cheeks and smiles to her eyes; she
hardly dared to glance in any direction lest she should see her lover
unexpectedly, and betray her joy to strangers.

"Is he about the store this morning; or will I have to go to the mill
to see him?" asked the raftsman.

"You will not see him at all, this trip, I'm afraid. Mr. Moore has
gone on East; he's been away several weeks now, and I hardly know when
to expect him. He was called there quite unexpectedly, upon business
connected with his uncle, and their relatives in England. It would not
surprise me at all if he should bring a bride home--that is, if he can
persuade his fair cousin that the West is not such a terrible savage
wilderness as she supposes."

Mr. Raymond was perfectly honest in this remark. He knew that Virginia
Moore used to be the idol of his friend; and as Philip had not
communicated the change in his ideas, he still supposed that Philip was
only waiting to get rich enough to go home and marry her; and as Philip
was now doing so well with his western enterprises, he had planned it
all out in his own imagination--fortune, acceptance, and the happy
_finale_ of a grand wedding. He could not help looking over at the
pretty forester to see how she received the news, but the portly person
of the old colored woman had come between them, and he could not see
her face.

"Laws, Miss Alice, do see them yere calikers--they're sruperb! Look
at that red one with the blue flowers--'tain't so handsome though, as
this with the yaller. My! my! thar's a jewerlly shop across the way.
Yer fadder ought to take yer in dar', fust place. Young gals likes them
places. Laws, darlin', dis don't compare wid New York City. Le's have a
drink of water, and step over de street."

All this volubility was to screen the young girl from scrutiny. A
pitcher of water stood on the counter, near her, and she poured a glass
for her mistress. But Alice waved the glass away, and arose without any
signs of grief and pain in her face; but the expression had changed--an
icy pride composed every feature; she asked the merchant to show her
some of his goods in a clear, low tone as sweet as it was passionless.
Her hand did not tremble as she turned over silks and laces.

"Good for her! She's got her father's grit," thought the raftsman to
himself, while his own throat swelled almost to choking with anger and
grief, and he felt that if he only had Philip Moore within sight he
would have the satisfaction of thrashing a little conscience into him.

Neither he nor Alice any longer doubted the statements of Ben
Perkins. Mr. Moore _had_ ridiculed them--_had_ mockingly given
another permission to console her whom he had forsaken--_had_ said
that he was going East to marry a more fit companion. As the raftsman
looked in the quiet face of his child which repelled sympathy with a
woman's pride--that pride so terrible because it covers such tortured
sensibilities--his blood boiled up with ungovernable rage. He was not
accustomed to concealing his sentiments upon any subject.

"Let them finnified fixin's alone, Alice," he said, taking her hand and
drawing her away. "Men that make it a business to handle that sort of
thing, grow about as flimsy as their wares. I despise 'em. I want you
to understand, Mr. Raymond, that all connection between me and this
firm, business or other, is dissolved. I won't even take your cussed
money. When Mr. Moore returns, tell him that the laws of hospitality
practised by your four-story-bricks ain't known in squatters' cabins,
and if he ever comes on my premises again I'll consider myself at
liberty to shoot him down for a dog;" and before the surprised merchant
could reply he had strode forth.

"Come 'long, Saturn! don' stan' dar' starin'; don't yer see masser's
gone? I shall be sorry I brought yer 'long ef yer don't behabe wid more
propisciousness. What der s'pose folks 'll tink your missus and masser
is, ef you don't act like a fust-family nigger? Ef yer don't do credit
to Miss Alice, I'll nebber bring you 'way from home agin;" and Pallas
took "her nigger" by the elbow and drew him away from the fascinating
array of dry-goods and ready-made clothing.

That afternoon Captain Wilde and his daughter sat in a little private
sitting-room of the hotel, overlooking the street. Every thing was
novel to Alice. This was absolutely her first experience away from her
forest home. Yet upon all the busy, bustling scene beneath her she
gazed with vacant eyes.

About the rapid rise and growth of some of our western cities there is
an air peculiar to themselves--an experience unique in the history of
civilization. Situated amid scenes of unparalleled beauty, they seem
to jar upon and disturb the harmony of their surroundings; brick and
plaster, new shingles, and glowing white paint, unsubdued by time, rise
up in the midst of fairy-land; rude wharves just over the silver waters
where erst the silent canoe of the Indian only glided; wild roses flush
the hill-sides crowned with sudden dwellings; stately old forests loom
up as backgrounds to the busiest of busy streets. The shrill cry of
the steam-whistle startles the dreamy whippoorwill; the paddle-wheel
of the intrusive steamboat frightens the indolent salmon from his
visions of peace. As the landscape, so the people; curiously mixed of
rough and refined. Center City was one of the most picturesque of these
young towns; and, at present, one of the most prosperous. Broken-down
speculators from the East came thither and renewed their fortunes; and
enterprising young men began life with flattering prospects.

It was upon the principal street that Alice sat and looked. Streams of
people hurried by, like the waves of the river past her cabin in the
wood. She saw ladies dressed in a fashion differing widely from her
own; across the way, in a suite of parlors in the second story, she
saw, through the open blind, a young girl of about her own age sitting
at a musical instrument, from which she drew, as if by magic, music
that held her listener as by golden chains. New thoughts and aims came
into the mind of the raftsman's daughter. Pride was struggling to heal
the wounds which love had made.

"Father, will you send me to school?"

For a long time there was no answer; his head was bent upon his hand.
She crept upon his knee, in her little-girl way, and drew away the hand.

"It'll be undoin' the work of sixteen year to send you to one of them
boarding-schools. They'll learn you plenty of vanity and worse things,
my child; they'll make you unfit to be happy and contented with yer
plain old father. But that you are already. I've made a failure. You're
too good for them that's about you, and not good enough for them you
wish to be like. Go to school if you want to, child; go, and learn to
put on airs and despise those who would give their heart's blood for
ye. I shall make no objections."

"Do you think I could learn to be so very bad, father? If you can not
trust me, I will not go. So let us say no more about it," and she
kissed him.

"Thar', thar', child, I didn't mean to deny ye. But I feel bitter
to-day--hard and bitter--as I used to in days gone by, when your
mother died, turned off by them that were ashamed of yer father. If
you'll only keep like yer mother, you may do what you will. _She_ went
to school, and she knew more than a dozen fine-lady scholars; but it
didn't spoil her. May be I've done wrong to bring you up the way I
have--to visit my experience and my doubts on your young head. We must
all live and learn for ourselves. Go to school, if you want to. I'll
try and get along without my little cubbie for a year or two."

"It's hard, father--hard for me--but I wish it." Pride was steeling the
heart of the forest maiden. "But are you able, father; can you pay the
expense."

This thought never came to her until after she had his promise.

"Yes, I'm able--and if it's done, it shall be done in the best style.
I haven't cut down all the pine timber I've set afloat for the last
fifteen year, without laying up something for my cub. I want you to
dress as well as any you see, and study whatever you like, and play
lady to yer heart's content. You'd better find a dress-maker, the first
thing, and not be stared at every time you step out of the door. Get
yourself silks and satins, girl, and hold your head up like the queen
of the prairie."

When Captain Wilde returned up the river, he and his sable suite made
a melancholy journey; for the light of their eyes, the joy of their
hearts, was left behind them.

A young ladies' seminary, "a flourishing young institution, beautifully
located in a healthy region, with spacious grounds enjoying the
salubrious river-breezes," etc., etc., held prisoner, the wild bird of
the forest.

"Where's your daughter?" asked Ben Perkins of his employer, when he
saw the returning party land without Alice. His face was blanched to
a dead-white, for he expected certainly to hear that she had been
claimed as his bride by Philip Moore.

"Yer story was true, Ben, though I did ye the wrong to doubt it. Alice
will never be the wife of that counter-jumper. But she'll never be
yours, neither; so you might as well give up, first as last. Go off
somewhere, Ben, and find somebody else; that's my advice."

"Look-a-here, Captain Wilde, I know you mean the best, and that my
chance is small; but I tell you, sir, jest as long as Alice is free to
choose, and I've got breath and sense to try for her, I shan't give her
up. Never, sir! I'll work my fingers off to serve you and her--I'll
wait years--I'll do any thing you ask, only so you won't lay any thing
in my way."

The raftsman looked pityingly in the haggard face of the speaker--the
face which a year ago was so bright and boyish. He saw working in those
dark lineaments, in the swart blood coursing under the olive skin, in
the gleam of the black eyes, passions difficult to check, which might
urge him in future years to yet other crimes than the one into which he
had already been betrayed.

"You're high-tempered, Ben, my boy, and a little too rough to suit a
girl like mine. She knows what your temper has already led you to do;"
and he looked straight at the youth as he spoke, whose eyes wavered
and sunk to the ground--it was the first intimation he had had that
his guilt was suspected. "Why not go off, and find some one more like
yourself--some pretty, red-cheeked lass who'll think you the best and
handsomest fellow on the earth, and be only too happy to marry you?
Thar's plenty such chances--and you'd be a deal happier."

"Don't, _don't_ talk so!" burst forth Ben, impetuously. "I _can't_ do
it, and that's the end on 't. I've tried to get away, but I'm bound
here. It's like as if my feet were tied to this ground. I've done bad
things in my determination to keep others away. I know it, and I own
up to it. I've been desp'rate-crazy! But I ain't a bad fellow. If Miss
Alice would smile upon me, 'pears to me I _couldn't_ be bad--'pears
to me I'd try to get to be as good as she is. Even if she never would
marry me, if she'd let me stay 'round and work for you, and she didn't
take up with nobody else, I'd be content. But if I have to give her
up entirely, I expect I'll make a pretty bad man, cap'n. I've all
kinds of wicked thoughts about it, and I can't help it. I ain't made
of milk-and-water. I'd rather fight a bar' than court a girl. I shan't
never ask another woman to have me--no, sir! I'd 'ave made you a good
son, if all hands had been willin'. But if Miss Alice means to make
herself a fine lady to catch some other sweet lady-killer like the
one that's given her the mitten, it's her choice. She'll up and marry
somebody that won't speak to her old father, I s'pose."

"Thar's no telling," answered the raftsman, sadly; for, in truth, the
changed manner of his darling before he left her, lay like a weight
upon his memory and heart. He felt a chord of sympathy binding him to
the young man, as if theirs was a common cause. Alice seemed to have
receded from them, as in a dream, growing more cold and reserved, as
she glided into the distance. Her trouble, instead of flinging her
more closely into her father's arms, had torn her from him, and taught
her self-control. She had deserted her home, had left him to care for
himself, while she fitted herself for some sphere into which he could
not come. That "sharper than a serpent's tooth--a thankless child,"
he was tempted to call her. Yet his heart refused such an accusation.
She had been suddenly shaken in her innocent faith in others, had been
wounded in pride and deserted in love--and her present mood was the
high reaction of the blow. Presently she would be herself again, would
come back to her home and her humble friends with the same modest,
affectionate, gentle character as of old.

But he would treat her differently; he would gratify her love of
the beautiful. She should have books, music, fine furniture, fine
clothes. He did not ask himself what all these would be worth without
that paramount necessity of the youthful mind--companionship. Alas!
the raftsman, bringing up his idol in seclusion, had foolishly and
selfishly thought to fix her heart only upon himself; but the little
bird had learned to fly and had gone out of the parent nest, fluttering
out into the untried world, impelled by the consciousness of wings.



CHAPTER IX.

A ROLAND FOR AN OLIVER.


"You are rich, Philip!"

"Yes, Virginia, or soon shall be."

"How like a fairy-story it all sounds."

"Or a modern novel."

"_We can be happy now, Philip!_"

The two young people were leaning over the balustrade of a balcony of
the summer residence of Mortimer Moore. The rich moonlight was still
permeated with the rosy tinges of sunset; the early dew called out the
fragrance of a near meadow in which the grass had been cut that day,
and its odors were mingled with the perfumes of roses and lilies in
the garden beneath the balcony. It was an hour to intoxicate the souls
of the young and loving. If Virginia had been dressing herself for a
ball she would not have used more care than she had shown in the simple
afternoon toilet she now wore--simple, and yet the result of consummate
tact. A single string of pearls looped up the heavy braids of black
hair, an Indian muslin robe, in whose folds lurked precious perfumes,
floated about her form, the wide, full sleeves falling away from the
ivory arms, gave softness to their rounded outlines. A bunch of violets
nestled in the semi-transparent fabric where it was gathered over her
bosom. The creamy tint of her low, smooth forehead just deepened in her
cheek to that faint flush which you see in the heart of a tea-rose;
her straight brows, long lashes, and the deep, dark eyes smiling under
them, all showed to wonderful advantage in the delicious light.

As she uttered the last words, she laid her hand lightly upon Philip's
arm, and looked up into his face. He was fully aware, at that moment,
of her attractions; a smile, the meaning of which she could not fully
fathom, answered her own, as he said:

"I _hope_ we can be happy, my fair cousin. I expect to be very much
blessed as soon as a slight suspense which I endure is done away with."

"Why should you feel suspense, Philip? every thing smiles upon you."

"I see _you_ are smiling upon me, my beautiful cousin; and that is a
great deal, if not every thing. You always promised to smile upon me,
you know, if I ever got gold enough to make it prudent."

"It seems to me as if there was sarcasm in your voice, Philip. You
know that I have always thought more of you than any one else; and if
I would not marry you when poor, it was because I dared not. Now we
are equal--in fortune, youth, health. My father is so much better. He
was out walking this afternoon; the country air has benefited him. The
doctor thinks it may be years before he has another attack. You've been
very kind to him, Philip. When our fortunes are joined, we can live
almost as we please--as well as I care to live. Won't it be charming?"

The tapering white hand slid down upon his own.

"Very. You remember that trite passage in the Lady of Lyons, which
the mob, the vulgar crowd, are still disposed to encore. Supposing
we change the scene from the Lake of Como to the banks of the
Hudson--listen, Virginia! how prettily sentiment sounds in this
moonshine:

    "'A palace lifting to eternal summer
      Its marble walls, from out a glossy bower
      Of coolest foliage, musical with birds,
      Whose songs should syllable thy name! At noon
      We'd sit beneath the arching vines, and wonder
      Why earth should be unhappy, while the heavens
      Still left us youth and love. We'd have no friends
      That were not lovers; no ambition, save
      To excel them all in love--that we might smile
      To think how poorly eloquence of words
      Translates the poetry of hearts like ours.
      And when night came, amidst the breadthless heavens,
      We'd guess what star should be our home when love
      Becomes immortal; while the perfumed light
      Stole through the mist of alabaster lamps,
      And every air was heavy with the sighs
      Of orange-groves and music of sweet lutes,
      And murmurs of low fountains that gush forth
      In the midst of roses! Dost thou like the picture?'

Go on, Virginia, can't you act your part?"

"Let me see, can I recall it?--

    "'Oh, as the bee upon the flower, I hang
      Upon the honey of thy eloquent tongue;
      Am I not blest? And if I love too wildly--
      Who would not love thee like Virginia?'"

"A very passable actress you are, cousin. I'd have thought you really
meant that, once, you put such fervor in your voice. But--

                  "'O false one!
    It is the _prince_ thou lovest, not the _man_.'"

"Nay, Philip, like Pauline, I must plead that you wrong me. Already,
before my father summoned you, before we heard the whisper of your
coming fortune, I had resolved to search you out and take back my
cruel resolution--more cruel to myself than to you. I found that I had
overrated my powers of endurance--that I did not know my own heart.
Dear Philip, will you not forgive me? Remember how I was brought up."

Two tears glimmered in the moonlight and plashed upon his hand. They
ought to have melted a stonier susceptibility than his.

"Willingly, Virginia. I forgive you from my heart--and more, I thank
you for that very refusal which you now regret. If that refusal had
not driven me into the wilds of the West, I should never have met
my perfect ideal of womanhood. But I have found her there. A woman,
a child rather, as beautiful as yourself--as much _more_ beautiful,
as love is lovelier than pride; an Eve in innocence, with a soul as
crystal as a silver lake; graceful as the breezes and the wild fawns;
as loving as love itself; and so ignorant that she does not know the
worth of money, and didn't inquire about the settlements when I asked
her to marry me. Think of that, Virginia!"

"Are you in earnest, Philip?"

"I am. I am sorry for your disappointment, my sweet cousin, and hope
you have not thrown away any eligible chances while waiting for me.
I'm going to-morrow, as fast as steam can carry me, to put an end
to that suspense of which I spoke. My little bird is deep in the
western forests, looking out for me with those blue eyes of hers, so
wistfully, for I promised to be back long ago. Your father's affairs
are in a tangled condition, I warn you, Virginia; and you'd better make
a good match while you've still the reputation of being an heiress.
I've been trying to get my uncle's matters into shape for him; but I'm
quite discouraged with the result."

"Perhaps that's the reason you have forgotten me so easily, Philip."

"I should expect you, my disinterested and very charming cousin,
to entertain such a suspicion; but my pretty forester lives in a
log-cabin, and has neither jewels nor silk dresses. So, you see, I
am not mercenary. _Her_ 'loveliness needs not the foreign aid of
ornament.' She looks better with a wild-rose in her hair than any other
lady I ever saw with a wreath of diamonds."

"You are in a very generous mood, this evening, Philip Moore. You might
at least spare comparisons to the woman you have refused."

"I couldn't inflict any wounds upon your _heart_, cousin; for that's
nothing but concentrated carbon--it's yet beyond the fusible state,
and it's nothing now but a great diamond--very valuable, no doubt, but
altogether too icy cold in its sparkle for me."

"Go on, sir. My punishment is just, I know. I remember when _you_ were
the pleader--yet I was certainly more merciful than you. I tempered my
refusal with tears of regret, while you spice yours with pungent little
peppery sarcasms."

"Don't pull those violets to pieces so, Virginia, I love those
flowers; and that's the reason you wore them to-night. If you'd have
followed your own taste, you'd have worn japonicas. But, seriously, I
must go to-morrow. I have remained away from my business much longer
than I should; but I could not desert my uncle in his sickness and
difficulties until I saw him better. He was kind to me in my boyhood,
he made me much of what I am, and if he did not think me fitted to
carry the honors of his family to the next generation, I can still be
grateful for what he did do."

"You do not give me credit for the change which has come over me--if
you did, you could not leave me so coolly. I'm not so bound up in
appearances as I was once. Ah, Philip! this old country-house will be
intolerably lonely when you are gone."

He looked down into the beautiful face trembling with emotion; he
had never seen her when she looked so fair as then, because he had
never seen her when her feelings were really so deeply touched. The
memory of the deep passion he had once felt for her swept back over
him, tumultuous as the waves of a sea. Her cheek, wet with tears, and
flushed with feeling, pressed against his arm. It was a dangerous hour
for the peace of that other young maiden in the far West. Old dreams,
old habits, old hopes, old associates, the glittering of the waves of
the Hudson, familiar to him from infancy, the scent of the sea-breeze,
and the odors of the lilies in the homestead garden, the beautiful face
upon his arm which he had watched since it was a babe's rosy face in
its cradle,--all these things had power, and were weaving about him a
rapid spell.

"What does that childish, ignorant young thing know of love, Philip?
If some rustic fellow with rosy cheeks, who could not write his own
name, had been the first to ask her, she would have said 'Yes' just
as prettily as she did to you. But I have been tried--I know others,
myself, and you. My judgment and my pride approve my affection. Then
the West is no place for a man like you. You used to be ambitious--to
plan out high things for your future. I adore ambition in a man. I
would not have him sit at my feet day and night, and make no effort
to conquer renown. I would have him great, that I might honor his
greatness. I would aspire with and for him. You might be a shining
light here, Philip, where it is a glory to shine. Why will you throw
yourself away upon a rude and uncultivated community? Stay here a week
or two longer, and think better of the mode of life you have chosen."

The moon hung in the heavens, high and pure, drawing the tides of the
ocean, whose sighs they could almost hear; and like the moon, fair and
serene, the memory of Alice Wilde hung in the heaven of Philip's heart,
calming the earthly tide of passion which beat and murmured in his
breast. He remembered that touching assurance of hers that she would
sacrifice _herself_ for him, at any time, and he could not think her
love was a chance thing, which would have been given to a commoner man
just as readily.

"I have tarried too long already, Virginia; I must go to-morrow."

He did not go on the morrow; for while they stood there upon the
balcony in the summer moonshine, a servant came hastily with word, that
the master of the house was again stricken down, in his library, as he
sat reading the evening paper.

He was carried to his room, and laid upon his bed in an unconscious
state. Everybody seemed to feel, from the moment of his attack, that
this time there was no hope of his recovery. The family physician had
only left him and returned to the city a day or two previously. The
evening boat would be at the landing just below in fifteen minutes;
Philip ordered a trusty servant to proceed on board of her to New York,
and bring back the medical attendant by the return boat in the morning.
Meanwhile he did what little he could for the relief of the unconscious
man, while Virginia, pale as her dress, the flowers in her bosom
withering beneath the tears which fell upon them, sat by the bedside,
holding the paralyzed hand which made no response to her clasp. Hours
passed in this manner; toward morning, while both sat watching for some
sign of returning sensibility to the deathly features, the sufferer's
eyes unclosed and he looked about him with a wandering air--

"Where is Alice? Alice! Alice! why don't you come? I've forgiven you,
quite, and I want you to come home."

"He is thinking of my sister," whispered Virginia, looking with awe
into the eyes which did not recognize her, and drawing her cousin
nearer to her side.

"Don't tell me she is dead--Alice, the pride of my house--not dead!"

"Oh, it is terrible to see him in such a state. Philip, can't you do
something to relieve him?"

"Virginia, poor child! I'm afraid he is beyond mortal aid. Be brave, my
dear girl, I will help you to bear it."

Philip could not refuse, in that sad hour, his sympathy and tenderness
to the frightened, sorrowful woman who had only him to cling to.
Presently the wild look faded out of the sick man's eyes.

"Virginia, is that you? My poor child, I am dying. Nothing can save
me now. I leave you alone, no father, no mother, sister, or brother,
or husband to care for you when I am gone. Philip, are you here?
will you be all these to Virginia? Do not hesitate, do not let pride
control you in this hour. I know that I rejected you once, when you
asked to be my son; but I see my mistake now. You have been very kind
and unselfish to me since I sent for you. You are a man of prudence
and honor. I should die content, if I knew Virginia was your wife, if
you had not a thousand dollars to call your own. Poor girl! she will
have very little, after all my vain seeking of wealth for her. Gold
is nothing--_happiness_ is all. Virginia, take warning by me. I am a
witness of the hollowness of pride. I have been a sad and discontented
man for years. The memory of my cruelty to my Alice has stood like a
specter between me and joy. Choose love--marry for love. Philip is more
than worthy of you; try to make him happy. My boy, you do not speak.
Take her hand, here, and promise me that you will take good care of my
last and only child."

He had uttered all this in a low voice, rapidly, as if afraid his
strength would not last him to say what he wished. Virginia turned to
her cousin and seized his hand.

"Philip! Philip! can you refuse--can you desert me, too? O father! I
shall be alone in this world."

"Why do you not promise me, and let me die in peace?" exclaimed the old
man with some of that stern command in his voice which had become a
part of him; "do you not love my child?"

"Not as I did once. At least--but that's no matter. Do not distress
yourself, uncle, about Virginia. I will be to her a true and faithful
brother. I promise to care for her and share with her as if she were my
sister."

"If I could see her your wife, my boy, I should feel repaid for all I
have done for you, since you were thrown upon my hands, an orphan and
friendless, as my child will soon be. Send for the priest, children,
and make it sure."

Philip was silent; his cousin, too, was silent and trembling.

"Don't you see I'm going?--do you want to let me die unsatisfied?"--the
querulous voice was weak and sinking.

"I promise to be a brother to Virginia--to care for her as if she were
my own, uncle. Is not that enough?"

"No--no--no!" fretted the dying man, who, having been unreasonable and
exacting all his life, could not change his nature at the hour of death.

Distressed and uncertain what to do, tempted by the force of
circumstances, Philip wavered; but the moment when his promise would
have given his uncle any satisfaction had passed--the awful change was
upon his face, the sweat upon his brow, the rattle in his throat.

"O, my father!" sobbed Virginia, sinking upon her knees and flinging
her arms over the heart which had ceased to beat.

The gray morning broke over her as she wept wildly beside the bed.
Philip was obliged to draw her away from the room by force, while
others came to attend upon the dead. To see her so given up to grief,
so desolate, with no one but himself to whom she could turn, touched
him with pity and tenderness.

"Weep, if you will, poor girl, it will be better than choking back all
those tears. Weep in my arms, for I am your brother now," he said, very
gently, as he seated her upon a sofa and drew her head to his shoulder,
soothing her and quieting her excess of emotion, until, from fatigue
and exhaustion, she dropped asleep on his bosom.

"How lovely she is, with her arrogance and vanity all melted away
by some real sorrow," he thought, as he laid her carefully upon the
pillow, and went out to give directions to the disturbed household.

During the next week Philip made himself of use to all, overseeing,
quietly directing and controlling every thing; and when the funeral
was over, the outer excitement subsided, and nothing left but that
emptiness and shadow of the house from which the dead has recently been
borne, then he had to consult with the orphan girl what should be done
for the future.

"Will you stay where you are for the summer, while I go back and attend
to my affairs at the West? If you will, I can come back again in the
autumn, and we can then decide upon some settled plan for the future."

"I can stay here, if you think best. But it seems to me as if I shall
go wild with fear and loneliness in this great house, with no one but
the servants, after you are gone. I don't know _what_ to do, Philip."

"Is there no friend of your own sex who would be comfort and company,
whom you could invite to stay with you till I come back? You will not
wish to go into town this weather. Besides, my dear girl, I must tell
you that the town-house will not be long in your hands. When the estate
is settled up, this property here, and a small annuity possibly, will
be all that I can save for you. Will it not be best for you to break
up, dismiss the expensive array of servants, rent your house, and board
in some agreeable family?"

"Oh, Philip, I don't know. I can't think and I can't decide. I know
nothing of business. I wish you to do every thing for me;" her
helplessness appealed to him strongly.

She could only think of one way with which she should be happy and
content; but he did not propose that way.

"I can only suggest this, then, for the present: stay where you are now
until I go home and arrange matters there. I _must_ go home for a few
weeks. In the mean time the affairs of the estate will be closing up.
When I return, I will see to them; and when all is settled, if you wish
to go to the West with me, you shall go. If I have a home by that time,
you shall share it."

"How share it, Philip?"

He did not reply. He was resolved to see Alice Wilde again, to satisfy
himself her character was all he had dreamed it--her love what he
hoped; if so, nothing should tempt him from the fulfillment of the
sweet promise he had made himself and her--neither gratitude to the
dead nor sympathy with the living.



CHAPTER X.

RECONCILIATION.


Alice Wilde had been taught by her father to "read, write, and cipher,"
and was not ignorant of the rudiments of some of the sciences; for,
curiously enough, considering surrounding circumstances, there
was quite a little library of books at the cabin-home, and some
old-fashioned school-books among the number. If, when she first went
into the seminary at Center City, some of the young ladies were
disposed to ridicule her extreme ignorance upon some matters, they
would be surprised by superior knowledge upon others; and finally were
content to let her assert her own individuality, and be, what she
was--a puzzle; a charming puzzle, too, for her kindness and sweetness
made her beauty so irresistible that they could look upon it without
envy. Another thing which helped her along both with teachers and
pupils was the excellence of her wardrobe and her lavish supply of
pocket-money, for it is tolerably well known that the glitter of gold
conceals a great many blemishes. Before the first term was over she was
the praise, the wonder, and the pet of the school; flying rumors of her
great beauty and her romantic "belongings" having even winged their way
over the pickets which sentineled the seminary grounds, and wandered
into the city.

The evening that Philip Moore reached home, after his eastern journey,
chanced to be the same as that upon which the seminary began its
annual exhibition, previous to closing for the long August holiday. He
would not have thought of attending any thing so tiresome; but, taking
tea with his partner, whose pretty wife was going and urged him to
accompany them, he was persuaded against his inclination.

"As you are already spoken of for mayor, Raymond, and as I am one of
the city fathers, I suppose we must show a becoming interest in all the
various 'institutions' which do honor to our rising town," laughed
Philip, as he consented to attend with his friends.

"It will be very encouraging, especially to the young ladies, to see
your wise and venerable countenance beaming upon them," remarked
Raymond.

"But really, Mr. Moore, there's somebody there worth seeing, I'm
told--somebody quite above the average of blue-ribbon and white-muslin
beauty. I've heard all kinds of romantic stories about her, but I
haven't seen her yet," chatted the young wife. "She's the daughter of
a fisherman, I believe, who's grown enormously rich selling salmon
and white-fish, and who's very proud of her. Or else she's an Indian
princess whose father dug up a crock of buried gold--or something out
of the common way, nobody knows just what."

Philip's heart gave a great bound. "Could it be?" he asked himself.
"No--hardly--and yet"--he was now as anxious to be "bored" by the
stupid exhibition as he had hitherto been to escape it.

They took seats early in the hall, and had leisure to look about
them. Philip bowed to acquaintances here and there. After a time he
began to feel unpleasantly conscious of some spell fastening upon
him--some other influence than his own will magnetizing his thoughts
and movements, until he was compelled to look toward a remote part of
the room, where, in the shadow of a pillar, he saw two burning eyes
fixed upon him. The face was so much in the shade that he could not
distinguish it for some time; but the eyes, glowing and steady as those
of a rattlesnake, seemed to pierce him through and transfix him. He
looked away, and tried to appear indifferent, yet his own eyes would
keep wandering back to those singular and disagreeable ones. At last
he made out the face: it was that of the young man who had brought him
down from Wilde's mill the last autumn. What was Ben Perkins doing in
such a place as this? He began to feel certain who the mysterious pupil
was.

"She has thought to please and surprise me," he mused; "yet I believe I
would rather she would have kept herself just as unsophisticated as she
was, until she learned the world under _my_ tutelage."

Young ladies came on to the stage, there was music and reading--but
Philip was deaf, for _she_ was not amid the graceful throng.

At last she came. His own timid wild-flower, his fawn of the forest,
stole out into the presence of all those eyes. A murmur of admiration
could be heard throughout the hall. She blushed, yet she was
self-possessed. Philip gazed at her in astonishment. Her dress, of
the richest blue silk, the flowers on her breast and in her hair, the
bow, the step, the little personal adornments, were all _a la mode_.
His woodland sylph had been transformed into a modern young lady. He
was almost displeased--and yet she was so supremely fair, such a queen
amid the others, that she looked more lovely than ever. He wondered
if everybody had been teaching her how beautiful she was. There was
nothing of coquetry or vanity in her looks--but a pride, cold and
starry, which was entirely new to her.

He turned to look at Ben Perkins, who had leaned forward into the light
so that his face was plainly visible; and the suspicions he had often
entertained that the youth loved Alice were confirmed by his expression
at that moment.

"Poor boy! how can he help it?" thought the proud and happy gentleman,
regarding the untaught lumberman with a kind of generous compassion. He
now saw that Mr. Wilde was sitting by Ben's side, his heart and eyes
also fixed upon the stage.

"I've seen that face before," whispered Mr. Raymond; "where was it?
Ah, I remember it well, now. I can tell you who she is, Philip. She's
the daughter of Captain Wilde, that queer customer of ours, who hails
from the upper country. She's a glorious, remarkable girl! By the way,
Phil., did you flirt with her? Because I've a message for you. Capt.
Wilde told me to inform you that if you ever set foot on his premises
again he should consider himself at liberty to shoot you."

"Flirt with her! let me tell you, Raymond, I'm engaged to her, and
intend to marry her just as soon as I can persuade her to set a day.
I love her as deeply as I honor her. There's something gone wrong,
somewhere, or her father would not have left such word--he's a stern,
high-tempered man, but he does not threaten lightly. They could not
have received my letters."

"I presume I made part of the mischief myself," confessed Raymond, "for
almost the first thing I told them when they entered my store this
spring, was, that you had gone off to marry your elegant cousin. You
needn't look so provoked, Phil.; I told them in good faith. You used to
love Virginia in the days when you confided in me; and if you'd have
kept up your confidence, as you should, I would have been posted, and
could have given your friends all the information they were in search
of. Don't you see 'twas your own fault?"

"I suppose it was," replied Philip, with a smile, but still feeling
uneasy, and oh, how intensely anxious to get where he could whisper
explanations to the heart, which he now saw, had suffered more in his
absence than he could have dreamed. Henceforth his eyes were fixed only
upon Alice. Soon she perceived him; as their eyes met, she grew pale
for a moment, and then went on with her part more calmly than ever. To
him, it seemed as if they both were acting a part; as if they had no
business in that hour, to be anywhere but by each other's side; he did
not even know what share she had in the performances, except that once
she sung, and her voice, full, sweet, melancholy, the expression of the
love-song she was singing, seemed to be asking of him why he had been
so cruel to her.

The two hours of the exercises dragged by. The people arose to go;
Philip crowded forward toward the stage, but Alice had disappeared. He
lingered, and presently, when she thought the hall was vacated, she
came back to see if her father had waited to speak with her. He was
there; other parties were scattered about, relatives of the pupils, who
wished to speak with them or congratulate them. She did not see him,
but hurried down the aisle to where her father and Ben were standing.
She looked pale and fatigued--all the pride had gone out of her air as
the color had gone out of her cheek.

"Alice! dear Alice!" exclaimed Philip, pressing to her side, just as
she reached her father.

Instantly she turned toward him with haughty calmness.

"Mr. Moore. Allow me to congratulate you. Was that your bride sitting
by your side during the exercises."

"That was Mrs. Raymond, my partner's wife. But what a strange question
for _you_ to ask, Alice. I supposed _you_ had consented to take that
name, if ever any one. Mr. Wilde, I received your message through Mr.
Raymond, but I knew you were once too sincere a friend of mine, and are
always too honorable a man, to refuse me a chance of explanation."

"Say your say," was the raftsman's curt reply.

"You need not speak one word, Philip. It is I who ought to beg _your_
forgiveness, that I have wronged you by doubting you. Love--oh, love,
should never doubt--never be deceived!" exclaimed Alice.

"It would have taken much to have disturbed my faith in you, Alice."

"Because I had every motive for loving you; while you--you had pride,
prejudice, rank, fashion, every thing to struggle against in choosing
me."

"Indeed!" cried Philip. "Yes, every thing, to be sure!" and he cast
such an expressive glance over her youthful loveliness that she blushed
with the delicious consciousness of her own charms. "Old, ugly,
awkward, and ignorant, how ashamed I shall be of my wife!"

"But, Philip!" her tearful eyes, with the smiles flashing through them,
made the rest of her excuses for her.

Holding her hand, which was all the caress the presence of strangers
would permit, Philip turned to the raftsman.

"I asked you for your daughter's hand, in the letter which I sent you
on the return of the young man who brought me from your home, last
autumn, since your sudden change of plans prevented my asking you in
person. I have not yet had your answer."

When he said "letter" Alice's eyes turned to Ben, who had been standing
within hearing all this time; he met her questioning look now with one
of stubborn despair.

"You gave us no letters, Ben."

Philip also turned, and the angry blood rushed into his face.

"Did you not deliver the letters I sent by you, young man?"

"Ha! ha! ha! no, by thunder, I didn't! Did you think a man was such a
fool as to help put the halter round his own neck? I didn't give the
letters, but I told all the lies I could to hurt you, Philip Moore. You
ought to be a dead man now, by good rights. The game's not up yet. Let
me tell you that!" and scowling at the party, he strode away into the
night.

"He ought to be arrested--he is a dangerous fellow," said Mr. Wilde,
looking after him uneasily.

"I am sorry for him," said Philip, "but that can do him no good."

"Look out for him, Philip; you can not be too wary--he will kill you if
he gets a chance. Oh, how much trouble that desperate boy has given me.
I can not be happy while I know he is about."

"Thar', thar', child, don't you go to getting nervous again. We'll take
care of Ben. Don't you trouble your head about him."

"If you could guess what I have suffered this winter past," whispered
Alice, pressing closer to her lover.

"My poor little forest-fawn," he murmured. "But we must stop talking
here; eavesdroppers are gathering about. I suppose this ogre of
a seminary will shut you up to-night; but where shall I see you
to-morrow, and how early? I have yet to explain my absence to you and
your father--and I'm eager, oh, so eager to talk of the future as well
as the past."

"Meet us at the Hotel Washington, at my room," replied Mr. Wilde,
speaking for her. "We will be there at nine o'clock in the morning. And
now good-night, puss. You did bravely to-night. I'm going to see Philip
safe home, so you needn't dream of accidents."

Alice kissed her father good-night. That she wanted to kiss his
companion too, and that he wanted to have her, was evident from the
lingering looks of both; but people were looking askance at them, and
their reluctant hands were obliged to part.

That night the store of Raymond & Moore was discovered to be on fire;
the flames were making rapid headway when the alarm was given; it was
the hour of night when sleep is soundest, but the alarm spread, and
persons were thundering at the door and windows in two minutes.

"Does any one sleep in the store?" shouted one.

"Yes! yes! young Moore himself--he has a room at the back."

"Why don't he come out then? He'll be burned alive. Burst in the doors.
Let us see what has happened him."

"The fire seems to come from that part of the building. He will surely
perish."

The crowd shouted, screamed, battered the doors in wild
excitement--some ran round to the back, and a ladder was placed at the
window of his room, which was in the second story. Light shone from
that room. David Wilde, whose hotel was not far distant, mingling with
others who rushed out at the alarm, as is the custom in provincial
towns, was the first to place his foot upon the ladder; his strength
was great, and he broke in the sash with a stroke of his fist, leaped
into the building, appearing in a moment with the young man, whom he
handed down to the firemen clambering up the ladder after him.

"He's nigh about suffocated with the smoke--that's all. Dash water on
him, and he'll be all right presently," he cried to those who pressed
about. "It's that Ben, I know--cuss me, if I don't believe the boy's
crazy," he muttered to himself.

Philip soon shook off the stupor which had so nearly resulted in the
most horrible of deaths, and was able to help others in rescuing his
property. The fire was got under without much loss to the building,
though its contents suffered from smoke and water. The young firm was
not discouraged by this, as all loss was covered by insurance; they had
the promise of a busy time "getting to rights" again, but that was the
worst.

It was apparent, upon examination, that the fire was the work of an
incendiary; Philip felt, in his heart, what the guilty intention was,
and shuddered at his narrow escape. It was decided by him and Mr. Wilde
to put the authorities upon the proper track; but the perpetrator had
fled, and no clue could be got to him in the city. Mr. Wilde at once
suspected he had gone up the river, and feeling that they should have
no peace until he was apprehended, and not knowing what mischief he
might do at the mill, he took the sheriff with him and started for
home, leaving Alice, for the present, at the school, with permission
of the principal to see her friends when she chose, as it was now
vacation. Before he left there was a long consultation between the
three--Philip, Alice, and her father. Philip explained his absence. As
he went on to speak of Mortimer Moore and his daughter, of his death,
the troubled state of the family affairs, etc., the raftsman betrayed
a keener interest than his connection with those affairs would seem to
warrant.

"Poor Virginia! she is all alone, and she is your cousin, Philip," said
Alice.

"She tried hard to get back her old power over me, Alice. You must
beware how you compassionate her too much. But when we are married,
and have a home of our own, we will share it with her, if you consent.
I've no doubt she can find somebody worthy of her, even in this savage
West, as she thinks it. And, by the way, I think we ought to get a home
of our own as soon as possible, in order to have a shelter to offer my
cousin--don't you, Alice?"

"She's tongue-tied. Girls always lose their tongues when they need 'em
the most."

"Now, father, I should think you might answer for me," said Alice,
trying to raise her eyes, but blushes and confusion would get the
better of her, and she took refuge in her father's lap.

"Well, puss, I s'pose you want to go to school five or six years
yet--tell him you've made your cacklations to keep in school till
you're twenty-two."

"School! I'll be your teacher," said Philip.

"Choose for yourself, puss. I s'pose the sooner you shake off yer old
father, the better you'll like it."

"I shan't shake you off, father. Neither shall I leave you alone up
there in the woods. That matter must be settled at the start. I shall
never marry, father, to desert you, or be an ungrateful child."

"Suppose we arrange it this way then. We will live with your father in
the summer, and he shall live with us in the winter. I don't want a
prettier place than Wilde's mill to spend my summers in."

"Oh, that will be delightful," exclaimed the young girl; and then she
blushed more deeply than ever at having betrayed her pleasure.

"Then don't keep me in suspense any longer, but tell me if you will get
ready to go back to New York with me in the latter part of September.
We will be gone but a few weeks, and can be settled in the new mansion
I've given orders for, before the winter is here. Shall it be so?"

"Say 'yes,' cubbie, and done with it, as long as you don't intend to
say 'no.' I see she wants to say 'yes,' Mr. Moore, and since it's got
to be, the sooner the suspense is over, the better I'll like it;"
and with a great sigh, the raftsman kissed the forehead of his child
and put her hand in that of Philip. With that act he had given away
to another the most cherished of his possessions. But children never
realize the pang which rends the parent heart, when they leave the
parent nest and fly to new bowers. "All I shall be good for now, will
be to keep you in spending-money, I s'pose. You're going to marry a
fashionable young man, you know, cubbie, and he'll want you tricked out
in the last style. How much can you spend before I get back?" and he
pulled his leather money-bag out of his pocket.

"I haven't the least idea, father."

"Sure enough, you haven't. You'll have to keep count of the dollars,
when you get her, Mr. Moore; for never having been indulged in the
pastime of her sex, going a-shopping, she won't know whether she ought
to spend ten dollars or a hundred. Like as not, she'll get a passion
for the pretty amusement, to pay for having been kept back in her
infancy. You'd better get some of your women friends to go 'long with
you, puss. Here's, then, for the beginning." He poured a handful or
more of gold into her lap.

"Nay, Mr. Wilde, you need not indulge her in any thing beyond your
means, upon _my_ account, for--although she may have to conform to more
modern fashions, as she has already done, since moving among others
who do--she will never look so lovely to me in any other dress, as in
those quaint, old-fashioned ones she wore when I learned to love her.
And Alice, whatever other pretty things you buy or make, I request
you to be married in a costume made precisely like that you wore last
summer--will you?"

The raftsman heard, two or three times, on his way up the river, from
boatmen whom he hailed, of Ben's having been seen only a little way
ahead of him, and he, with the sheriff, had little doubt but they
should capture him immediately upon their arrival at Wilde's mill. But
upon reaching their destination they could not find him. The men had
seen him hovering about the mill, and Pallas had given him his dinner
only a few hours before, when he came to the house, looking, as she
said, "like a hungry wild beas', snatching what I give him and trotting
off to de woods agin."

Help was summoned from the mill and the woods scoured; but no farther
trace of the fugitive could be discovered. They kept up the search for
a week, when the sheriff was obliged to return. David Wilde wished to
believe, with the officer, that Ben had fled the country and gone off
to distant parts; but he could not persuade himself to that effect. He
still felt as if the unseen enemy was somewhere near. However, nothing
further could be done; so cautioning the house-servants to keep a good
watch over the premises, and the mill-hands to see that the property
was not fired at night, or other mischief done, he returned for his
daughter.

"Give Pallas this new dress to be made up for the occasion, and tell
her to be swift in her preparations, for the time is short. It will
be a month, Alice, before I see you again--a whole, long month--and
then I hope for no more partings. I shall bring Mr. and Mrs. Raymond
to the wedding, with your permission," said Philip, with other parting
words, which being whispered we can not relate, as he placed her on
the sail-boat, well laden down with boxes and bales containing the
necessary "dry-goods and groceries" for the fete.

"We'll charter a steam-tug next time," growled the raftsman, looking
about him on the various parcels.



CHAPTER XI.

A MEETING IN THE WOODS.


Pallas was in "her elements." There's nothing a genuine cook likes
so well as to be given _carte blanche_ for a wedding. If the Wildes
had invited a hundred guests to stop with them a fortnight, she would
hardly have increased the measure of her preparations. No wonder the
old soul was happy in the prospect of the really excellent match her
darling was to make, as well as in the promise that she was to go with
her and take the culinary department of the new household under her
charge.

"We's goin' to lib soon whar' de clo'es massa gives us 'll do us some
good, Saturn. We can go to meetin' once more like 'spectable colored
quality should. An' de house 'll be bran new, and I'm to keep de keys
of all de closets myself--and young missus will set at de head ob de
table, wid plenty of silber, as my missuses have allers done. An'
you'll have to have some pride about you, and get ober bein' so sleepy.
Nebber hear nor see any ting so cur'us as we goin' back into dat berry
family. Now, Saturn, don't you let me cotch you cookin' or eatin' a
single egg, 'cause I want 'em all for cake. Masser only brought home
twenty dozen, which ain't near enough. I want ebery one dem pullets
lays. An' you feed em chickens up good and fat an' dem wild turkeys
in de pen. Dis isn't a bad country for a cook, arter all. I've been
reck'nin' up, an' I find we can have wild turkey and partridges and
salmon and ven'sen and chicken, and masser's brought home ebery ting
from de grocery-stores a pusson could ask. Whar's dat citron now?
Saturn, has you been in dat citron? Laws, I cotch you in _dat_, you'll
nebber forget it! Stop eatin' dem raisins! I declar' to gracious, ef I
trus' you to chop a few raisins for me, you eat half of 'em up. Cl'ar
out de kitchen--immejetly! I'd rudder get 'long alone."

Poor Saturn had to "fly round" more than was agreeable to his
temperament; but he contrived to keep up his strength and his spirits
upon stolen sweets, and he tried to be excessively useful.

"Wall, wall, his arpetite does beat all; he's gettin' ole and childish,
my nigger is and I s'pose I mus' humor him a little. His heart is set
on de good tings ob dis worl'. I'se 'fraid he'll hate to gib up eatin'
and sleepin' when he comes to die. Dar ain't no eatin' and drinkin'
_thar_, Saturn; no marryin' nor givin' in marriage."

"Wha' for? is eatin' wicked, Pallas?"

"Not on dis yearth, where it is a necessary evil. But _dar_--dar's
better tings. We'll sing dar, Saturn," she continued, anxious to
rekindle the religious ardor which she was fearful of cooling by her
picture of the purely spiritual pleasures of the next world. "We'll set
under de tree ob life, by side de beautiful ribber, and sing all de
hymns and psalms;" and she struck up, in a voice of rich melody,

    "O Canaan, my happy home,
       Oh, how I long for thee!"

while her husband joined in the strain with equal fervor.

Alice loved to hear them singing at their work; not only because of
their musical voices, but the enthusiasm, the joy and expectation
swelling through them, awakened her own young soul to hope and prayer.

A happier face than hers, as she sat in the little parlor, sewing
upon the wedding-garments, it would be difficult to find--a kind of
intense radiance from the utter content and love within shone through
her features. When a young girl is about to marry the man she loves,
with the full approval of her judgment and conscience, the consent of
parents and friends, when her heart is full of hopes, when she blushes
in solitude at her own happy thoughts, as she sits quietly sewing upon
rich and delicate fabrics which are to enhance her beauty in _his_
eyes, then she experiences the most blessed portion of her life.

The sunshine of promise rested upon the house. All its delightful
activity was pervaded by thrilling anticipations. And yet there was a
shadow--a light shadow, which at times would darken and again entirely
disappear. It was the dread of Ben. The men at the mill reported having
caught glimpses of some one whom they were quite sure was him, at
different times, in different lonely places in the forest.

Saturn came in, one day, with the whites of his eyes of frightful
circumference, averring that a ghost had run after him in the
woods. What could be the purpose of a person thus hovering about in
concealment? surely nothing good. Alice was not herself, personally,
much afraid. She did not think Ben would harm her, but she felt that
he was hanging about, that his eyes watched every preparation, that he
would know when Philip came, and she was afraid he would have another
opportunity to attempt his life. The courage which would not quail on
the battle-field will fail before a secret and unknown evil. Even the
raftsman, brave and powerful as he was, felt that uneasiness which
springs from such a source. Many a time he went out with his rifle on
his shoulder, resolved that if he met with the wretched and desperate
youth, he would deal with him severely. His search was always in vain.
Alice gave up all her rambles, much as she longed to get again into the
heart of the whispering pine-forest.

One afternoon, when her father was at the mill, and Pallas, as usual,
busy in the kitchen, as she sat sewing and singing to herself in a low
voice, the bright room suddenly grew dark, and looking up at the open
window, she saw Ben standing there gazing at her. If she had not known
of his vicinity, she would not have recognized him at the first glance;
his face was haggard, his eyes bloodshot, his hair long and tangled,
his clothing soiled and worn.

"Don't scream!" he begged, as he saw that she perceived him, in a voice
so hollow that it checked the cry rising to her lips. "I ain't going to
harm you. I wouldn't harm a hair of your head--not to save the neck yer
so anxious to see hanging from the gallows. I know where your father
is, and I just crept up to have a look at you. You look happy and
content, Alice Wilde. See me! how do you like your work?"

"It is _not_ my work, Ben, and you know it. Do not blame me. I pity
you; I pray for you. But do go away from here--do go! I would rather
you would harm me than to harm those I love. Oh, if you really care
for me, go away from this spot--leave me to my happiness, and try and
be happy yourself. Be a man. Go, Ben--let us alone. If you do _not_ go,
you will certainly be taken by others, and perhaps punished."

"Catch a weasel asleep, but you can't catch me. You may put twenty men
on the watch. How pleasant it must be for you to sit here making your
weddin'-clothes; I think of it nights, as I lay on the hemlock boughs,
with my eyes wide open, staring up at the stars. What's that song I
used to like to hear you sing so well, Alice?

    "'They made her a grave too cold and damp
        For a soul so warm and true;
      And she's gone to the lake of the Dismal Swamp,
      Where, all night long, by the fire-fly lamp,
        She paddles her light canoe.'"

The maiden shuddered to her heart's core as his voice rose wild and
mournful in the sweet tune to which the ballad was set, "Ha! ha! Alice,
it's the same little canoe that you used to come up to the mill in so
often, in those pleasant old times--

    "'And her fire-fly lamp I soon shall see,
        Her paddle I soon shall hear;
      Long and loving our life shall be,
      And I'll hide the maid in a cypress-tree,
        When the footstep of death is near.'"

Alice seemed to be listening to her own dirge;

    "'Away to the Dismal Swamp he speeds--
        His path was rugged and sore:
      Through tangled juniper, beds of reeds,
      Through many a fen, where the serpent feeds,
        And man never trod before!'"--

and with an unearthly shriek he bounded away through the garden and
into the woods, leaving Alice so overcome, that Pallas, who had been
attracted to the door by the strange voice, brought her the "camfire"
bottle to restore her.

"He's a ravin' maniac, that poor boy is, my chile. He ought to be
cotch'd and put in de 'sylum at onct 'fore harm's done. Mercy, chile,
I was jus' goin' to take down de rifle to 'fend my pickaninny. I was
'fraid he'd t'ar you all to pieces, like a ragin' wild beas'."

"You wouldn't have had courage to fire, would you? I'm sure I
shouldn't."

"In course I should have had courage. S'pose I'd stan' by and see my
chile toted off into the woods by a madman? Tush! even a hen'll fight
for her chickens. Ef I hadn't a rifle, I'd spring on 'em, tooth and
nail, ef he laid a hand on my chile;" and the old negro woman breathed
hard, holding herself erect, and looking so determined, that she
inspired courage in the one who regarded her.

"Then I shall choose you for my body-guard," said Alice, "for I begin
to feel like a poor little chick in a big field, with an unseen hawk
in the air which might pounce on it at any time. Oh, Pallas, didn't he
look fearful?"

"Awful, missus, awful! We can't be too kerful of a fanatick--and poor
Ben's got to be one, sure 'nuff. Poor Ben! a year ago he was as merry
a young pusson as dese yere ole eyes car' for to see; and so willin'
and kind, allers lookin' out to do a little sarvice, bringin' us game
and berries, and makin' us furnitur' and fixin's about de house,--ready
to work all day, jus' to hab you say, 'Tank you, Ben,' or gib him one
smile. I jes' wish dis weddin' was safe ober. I has a sense as suthin'
is goin' to happen. And you know, chile, when ole Pallas has a sense,
it allers comes to suthin'."

"Don't tell me of it, if you have, Pallas, for I'm nervous enough
already. There comes father now. I feel safe when he is near."

Upon hearing her account of Ben's looks and words, the raftsman
resolved more firmly than ever to take him into custody if possible.
Leaving Pallas, who was a better man than her husband, with a
double-barreled gun, to defend the house, if necessary, in their
absence, he summoned his full force and hunted the woods for
twenty-four hours without success. He then stationed two men in the
outskirts, in view of the house, to be relieved every eight hours by
two others, and to keep up the watch, on double wages, day and night,
till the enemy was taken or the wedding over.

On the third day of his watch, one of the men, while standing by the
garden-fence, eating his lunch, his rifle leaning against the rails
beside him, was suddenly knocked down, and by the time he got upon
his feet again, he saw Ben Perkins vanishing into the forest with
the weapon on his shoulder. The news of this mishap was any thing but
encouraging, for the chances of his doing mischief were increased
tenfold by the fact of his having possession of a loaded gun. Yet Alice
sung and sewed, praying silently to Heaven that all might be well, and,
happy in the faith and hope of youth, went on with her preparations;
and Pallas finished shelves full of frosted cake and other niceties;
and Saturn hewed wood and brought water, receiving his reward as he
went, from his wife's benevolent hand; and Mr. Wilde was alert and
vigilant, ready for all emergencies.

It was now near the middle of September; the blackberries were gone;
and the grapes were yet green and unpalatable. Pallas was in want of
wild-plums to pickle, and of wild-mint to flavor some of the dressings
for dishes yet to be cooked. She set forth into the woods, having no
occasion for personal fears, and not finding what she desired, wandered
further into their depths than she had intended. Suddenly she started,
with a--"Hi! hi! what's this?"

"If you've any thing in that basket a starving man can eat, give it to
me." It was Ben Perkins who spoke, from behind a fallen tree, where he
was crouching, lifting his emaciated face to her view.

"I hab nothin' at all; and ef I had, why should I gib it to you, when
you'se makin' us all de trouble you can?"

"You've turned against me, too, Aunt Pallas," he said, in so hopeless a
tone, that she paused from her purpose of getting away as fast as she
could. "I've done you many favors in days gone by; I've never refused
to lend you a helpin' hand, and I've never done nothin' to injure you;
but you, too, will try to get me on to the gallows. Go and tell 'em
where I am, if you want to. I don't know as I've strength to get away
any longer. It's a week sence any thing has passed my lips but a nest
full of bird's-eggs I climbed up after yesterday. Say, won't you bring
me a piece of bread?"

"You go home wid me, and behabe yourself, and you shall hab all de
bread you want. Nobody's starving you but yourself."

"Ha! ha! you're a cute 'un, ain't you now? I don't think I shall put my
foot into that trap."

"Well, den, you gib me dat gun what you've got thar'. Gib me dat gun
and I'll bring you suthin' to eat, and won't tell where you are."

"No--no! you can't come that game."

"You doesn't s'pose I'd bring you any ting to eat or help keep you
alive, when you're tryin' yer bes' to kill my masser's frien's, do ye?
It's _you_ is foolish, Ben. What for you be so bad, so wicked for, Ben?
You use to be a nice boy. I like you berry much a year ago. I can't
bar' to see you hurtin' yerself so--let alone odders. Come, now, yer
gib me back dat gun, an' ac' like a man 'stid of a wil' beas', and I'll
do all I can for you, sartain sure, Ben."

"Pallas, I tell you, I'm starving. I want somethin' to eat. Let that
gun alone. I swear to you, I won't use it on any of your family. I
wouldn't hurt a hair of Alice's head--nor her father's. But I want that
rifle--it's none of your business why. Won't ye give me suthin' to eat,
for the sake of old times, Pallas?"

That miserable, hungry, beseeching look--how could she refuse it?

"You've acted like a crazy man, Ben, and you've done berry wrong to
yourself as well as odders. I can't help you, 'less you promise to do
better. Gib me dat gun, and take yer Bible oath you'll never try to
hurt him that's to be Miss Alice's husband, an' I'll help you all I
can."

"Why should I promise not to harm him? hasn't he done all he could to
injure me? hadn't I _ought_ to kill him if I can? wouldn't it be right
and justifiable for me to take his heart's blood?--as he's taken mine,
but in a different way. I was a homeless, poor, hard-workin' young man,
with nuthin' but my hands to rely on. I hadn't no education, I hadn't
no money, but I loved the captain's daughter--I worshiped her shadow.
She'd have been mine--I know she would--if he hadn't come along and got
her away from me. He, who had every thing, came and robbed me of the
only thing I cared to have. He used his education and his money and his
fine ways to steal my only hope. As soon as he come hangin' round I was
nuthin'--Miss Alice walked right over me to get in his arms. I tell ye,
that man has robbed me and wronged me and murdered me, as it were. I
_ought_ to be revenged."

"You is wuss den crazy, Ben Perkins; and I'll tell ye de trute, if ye
get as mad as fire at me for it. 'Tain't noways likely my missus would
eber 'ave taken up wid ye, if Philip Moore had neber seen her. She's
a lady, born and bred; she came of a high family--and it was in her
blood. She wouldn't neber have taken up wid you. She liked you, and
we all liked you; but she wouldn't a married you. You'd no business
to 'spect she would. It's you is all de wrong. Den when a young man
what is suitable to her comes along, and can't no more help fallin' in
love wid her sweet face den you can, when he loves her, and wants to
marry her, and she loves him, as she naturally would, you get wicked
and ugly, and want to kill him. Fie, man! you _don't_ love her! Ef
you did, you couldn't neber break her heart, killing her husband as
is to be. What would you gain by it? 'Stid of likin' and pityin' you,
she'd shudder to hear your name, and she'd wilt away and die, and
you'd be her murderer, well as his. For shame! call dat love? Why, ef
you _really_ loved her, you'd try to make her happy, and seein' you
couldn't hab her, you'd be glad she got de man she like bes'. You is a
bad fellow, Ben Perkins, and you jus' show how lucky it is Miss Alice
didn't take up wid you."

"_She_ thinks I'm so bad, too, doesn't she?--oh, yes, of course she
must; she must hate me, and wish me dead. I know it, but I couldn't
help it. Oh, Pallas, tell her not to think too hard of me. I was never
well brought up. I'd only my wild passions to guide me. I've done wrong
only because my heart was so set upon her. Yet I've struggled against
temptation--I've tried to wish she could be happy without me. Tell her,
when I was on the river alone with Philip Moore, I might have put him
out of the way, but for her sake I wouldn't do it. Often and often as
we sat together in that little boat, alone on the water, the devil in
my heart set me on to strangle him and throw him overboard, I don't
know why I didn't do it, 'ceptin' it seemed as if Alice's eyes was
lookin' at me and wouldn't let me do it. One night he was asleep, his
head on his arm, and I was bending over him--my hand was on his throat,
when _she_ took hold of me and held me back. I seen her as plain as I
see you now. She had on a long, white dress, and her hair was streamin'
down her shoulders, and her feet was bare. She looked at me _so_--I
couldn't stand it; and I made up my mind never to lay hands on that
person again. And I felt so much more like a man, I could look her
straight in the face agin, when I got back. But I told lies, and tried
to get in her good graces. Do you think that was so very bad, under the
circumstances, Aunt Pallas? I never meant to do nuthin' worse; but when
I seen all my plans knocked in the head, and that person meeting her
agin and making up, and she lookin' so like an angel, and so proud and
happy, and all of 'em casting scornful eyes on me, the devil broke out
again worse 'an ever, and I set fire to Philip Moore's store, hopin' to
burn him up; and since then I've been about as desp'rate as a man ever
gets to be. Part the time I'm as good as crazy, I think such thoughts
out here in the woods alone--and agin I'm quite cool and reflect all
over my bad conduct. I'd take it all back, if I could, for _her_ sake;"
and he burst out weeping.

"Yer poor, mis'able soul, I pity you. But I mus' say you did wrong.
'Tain't too late to repent and be saved. Gib up all dose wil', wicked
feelin's, be resigned to de will ob Providence which doesn't allow of
your having the girl you happen to love fust. 'Tain't for us to hab
all we want in dis yere worl'. 'Tain't for us to revenge our enemies.
Chris' says do good to dem dat despitefully use yer. And nobody has
used you bad. He says love your enemies. O Ben! Ben! ef, instid of
bein' de wicked bein' you has, you had prayed to de Lord Jesus to sabe
yer from temptation, and sence yer couldn't be happy in dis life, to
make yer good, yer wouldn't be hidin' here in dis state. People has had
troubles 'fore yer. Don't tink yer de only one, poor boy. Dar's plenty
of tears for Chris' to wipe away on dis yearth."

"I don't know nuthin about it. I've never been taught. 'Tain't nateral
for a man to love his enemies. I can't do it. But if I thought you'd
pity me and pray for me--if I thought Miss Alice would pray for me, I'd
give up wicked thoughts, and try to govern myself."

"She does pray for yer, Ben, wid all her heart every time she prays.
I've seen her cry about yer many time. She'd gib her right hand mos',
to hab you good and happy. Masser's sorry for yer, too; he tought so
much of you once; but course he can't let you kill his friends. Come,
now, Ben, you promise to do right, and I'll stan' by yer tru thick and
thin."

"Some of the time I'm good, and agin I'm bad. I didn't use to be so.
It's only wretchedness has made me so ugly. I don't know how to try to
be better."

"May I pray for you, Ben?"

"Yes--if you want to be such a fool," he said, reluctantly.

The good old colored woman went down on her knees there upon the mossy
cushion of the earth, pouring out her soul in prayer for the haggard
being, who sat, with his chin in his hands, listening to her appeal
in his behalf. Tears streamed down her cheeks; the earnestness, the
pathos of her sincere petitions to that great Father whom she seemed
to believe had power to comfort and take care of him and adopt him as
a child, touched his lonely, sullen, misanthropic nature--his sobs
accompanied her "Amen!"

"I shouldn't be such a baby as to cry," he said, when she had finished,
"if I wasn't so weak; but when a fellow's fasted a week he ain't none
of the bravest. I thank you, though, for your prayer, Aunt Pallas--I'll
remember it to my dyin' day. Here's the gun--take it. P'raps if I keep
it an hour longer, I'll want to do some mischief with it. Take it,
while you can get it; and bring me some food, as you promised. If you
break your promise, and bring them men here to take me up, I shan't
never have no faith in prayers. If you want to make a Christian of me,
you mus'n't fool me."

"Neither will I," said Pallas; "I'll be back here in an hour wid bread
and meat. You'd better make up your mind, by dat time, to go home wid
me, gib yerself up to masser, and let him do as he feels is best wid
yer. He'll act for de bes', be sure."

She took the gun and hastened off with it, glad to get that means of
harm away from him. She was firmly resolved not to break her promise
to him, much as she desired that he might be put in safe quarters, and
this uncomfortable suspense be done away with. As he had confessed
himself so changeable in his moods, she did not rely much upon his
present one. Reaching home, she stowed the rifle away, saying nothing
about it, and filling her basket with substantial food, she returned to
the appointed spot. To her surprise, Ben was not there. She waited a
few minutes, but he did not come.

"I can't bar to know a human critter is starving to def," she muttered,
setting the basket in a branch of the fallen tree. "I'll leave dis
here--and now I've kep' my promise I'll go straight home and tell
masser all 'bout it, and he can take sech steps as he tinks bes'."

She gave a graphic account of the whole interview to the raftsman as
soon as he came in to tea. When she came to that part of his confession
where he spoke of being about to choke Philip, while on the river,
Alice turned pale, saying with a shudder--as she recalled one of those
visions which haunted her dreams during that terrible period of the
journey of her lover with his deadly enemy:

"Yes! yes! I did--but it was in a dream. I beheld the skiff gliding
along in the starlight, Philip sleeping, his arm under his head, and
his carpet-bag for a pillow; Ben was stooping over him, his face was
white as ashes, his teeth were clenched, his hands were creeping toward
Philip's throat--I sprang upon him--I held his hands--I drew him
back--I screamed--and the scream awoke me, and father rushed into my
room to see what was the matter. You ridiculed my nightmare, father,
don't you recollect?"

"Poor boy," said the raftsman, wiping a tear from his cheek, when his
servant had concluded her relation. "I'm right down sorry for the lad.
And when you are married and out of the way, puss, I'll take him in
hand, and try and reclaim him. He'll make a man yet."

"He ain't to blame fer his faults, seeing he's never had no good
broughten' up. I'll teach him the New Testament doctrines ef he'll only
let me, once Miss Alice is 'way," remarked Pallas.

Mr. Wilde went to the spot indicated by Pallas--the basket of food had
been taken away, but no one was in the vicinity.



CHAPTER XII.

FAMILY AFFAIRS.


It was the day before the wedding. The house was in order, to the
full satisfaction of the sable housekeeper. Viands, worthy of the
occasion, filled the store-room to overflowing. Philip, with his suite,
including the minister who was to officiate, was expected to arrive by
supper-time. The last touches were given to the arrangements, and Alice
was dressed to receive her guests, by the middle of the afternoon. The
motherly heart of her old nurse was so absorbed in her, that she came
very near making fatal mistakes in her dressings and sauces. Every
five minutes she would leave her work to speak with the restless young
creature, who, beautiful with hopes and fears, fluttered from room to
room, trying to occupy herself so that her heart would not beat quite
so unreasonably.

"They are coming!" she cried, at last, having stolen out for the
hundredth time to the top of a little knoll which gave her a farther
view of the river. How gladly the ripples sparkled, how lightly the
winds danced, to her joyous eyes. "Oh, Pallas, they are coming! what
shall I do?" and she hid her face on the old woman's bosom, as if
flying from what she yet so eagerly expected.

"Do, darlin'? oh, my chile, you got to be a woman now; no more little
chile to run away and hide. Masser Moore berry proud of his wife dat is
to be. Don't make him 'shamed, darlin'."

Ashamed of her! mortify Philip! the thought was death to Alice's
sensitive spirit. She lifted her head and became calm at once.

"There, nursie, I don't feel so startled any more. I think I can meet
them, clergyman and all, without flinching."

Her father, who had been on the look-out, took a little skiff and went
down to meet the party. Alice stood on the shore, as she had done upon
the day of Philip's first arrival. A soft rose glowed in either cheek,
which was all the outward sign of the inward tumult as she saw her
bridegroom sailing near enough to recognize and salute her. She saw in
the boat Philip, the minister, Mr. and Mrs. Raymond, and a young lady
whom she had never met, and a strange young gentleman.

It was the proudest moment of Philip's life when that young lady turned
and grasped his arm, exclaiming in a low voice:

"I don't wonder you refused _me_, cousin Philip. I did not know such
beings existed except in poetry and painting."

Pallas, standing in the door, in an extra fine turban and the new dress
sent for the occasion, thought her pickaninny did credit to _her_
"broughten' up," as she saw the manner, quiet, modest, but filled with
peculiar grace, with which Alice received her guests.

"Alice," said Philip, placing the fair hand of the proud stranger in
hers; "this is my cousin Virginia."

"I have come to wish you joy, Alice," said Virginia, kissing her cheek
lightly, and smiling in a sad, cold kind of way.

Her mourning attire, and the evident melancholy of her manner, touched
the affectionate heart of her hostess, who returned her kiss with
interest.

"For de law's sake, Saturn, come here quick--quick! Who be dat comin'
up de walk wid masser and de comp'ny? Ef dat ain't little Virginny
Moore, growed up, who is it?"

"It's Virginny, sure 'nuff!" ejaculated her husband.

In the mean time that young lady herself began to look about with
quick, inquiring glances; she peered into the raftsman's face
anxiously, and again toward the old servants, a perplexed look coming
over her face as she neared the house.

"You needn't say a word, Miss Virginny--it's us, sartain--Pallas and
Saturn, your fadder's people, who had you in our arms ebery day till
you was eight year old. You do remember old Pallas, don't you now,
honey? My! my! what a han'some, tall girl you is growed--de picture ob
your fadder. Yer a Moore tru and tru, Missus. My ole eyes is glad to
see you."

"Hi! hi! Miss Virginny!" chuckled Saturn, bowing and scraping.

"Come 'long and let me get your bunnit off. I want to take a good
look at ye, honey. Missus Alice neber was a Moore--she was like _her_
mudder, small and purty and timid-like; but ye's a perfect Moore, Miss
Virginny. My! my! I know 'em all, root and branch. I tol' my ole man
Masser Philip belonged to our Mooreses, but Masser Wilde he neber let
on"--she had the visitor's bonnet off by this time, talking all the
time, and oblivious, in her excited state, of the other guests.

"Yes, Miss Virginia," said the raftsman, drawing his powerful figure up
to its full height, "I am that brother-in-law you have been taught to
detest and be ashamed of. You would hardly have come to the wedding, if
you had known what poor company you were to get in."

All those of the company who knew him looked at him in surprise, for
he had dropped his hoosier form of speech and took on the air of a
superior man. Virginia looked at him a moment calmly, taking, as it
were, an estimate of the mind and heart outside of that athletic frame,
and gleaming through those noble though weather-beaten features.

"I do not see any thing to be ashamed of," she said, with a smile,
giving him her hand, frankly, in a sisterly manner. "I was but a little
child, you know, when your connection with our family commenced.
Doubtless I have been influenced by what I have heard. If my father
wronged you, David Wilde, it is time for you to forgive it--lay up no
hard thoughts against the dead."

Her lip trembled over the last sentence.

"Dear Virginia! is it possible my Alice is to find in you--"

"An aunt? yes, Philip,--and you are about to marry your third cousin.
It's rather curious, isn't it?"

"We'll talk it over after supper," said the host. "Pallas, our guests
are hungry. The river breeze sharpens the appetite."

Pallas wanted no further hint. Perfectly content that she had the means
of satisfying any amount of hunger, she retired, with her subordinate
husband, to dish up the feast.

"I 'spect I'll spile half dese tings, I'se so flusterated. Did you
mind whar' I put dat pepper, Saturn? I declar' I can't say wedder I
put it in de gravy or in de coffee. I jes' turn 'round and put it in
de _suthin'_ on de stove, wile I was tinkin' how cur'us tings happens.
Dear! dear! I put it in de coffee, sure 'nuff, and now dat's all to be
trowed away! 'Spect tings won't be fit to eat. Why don' you fly round
and grin' more coffee? You is de stupidest nigger!"

In spite of small tribulations, however, the supper was served in
due season and with due seasoning. Gay conversation prevailed; but
Alice, though bright and attentive, felt uneasy. Her glance frequently
wandered to the windows and open doors. A certain dark figure had so
often started up in unexpected places, and seemed to hover about so
when least expected, that she could not be entirely at her ease. It was
true that several men were on guard, and that Ben had not been heard
of for a week; but he was so sly, so subtle, she felt almost as if he
might drop out of the roof or come up out of the earth at any instant.

Philip was warned to be on the look-out. He laughed and said he was a
match for Ben in a fair fight, and if the other had no fire-arms, he
could take care of himself.

Long after the rest of the party, fatigued with their journey, had
retired for the night, David Wilde, Alice, Philip, and Virginia sat up,
talking over the past, present, and future.

Alice, who had never known the particulars of her mother's marriage
and death, except as she had gathered hints from her old nurse, now
listened with tearful eyes to brief explanations of the past.

Her father, in his youth, had been a medical student, poor, but
possessed of talent--a charity-student, in fact, who, one day had, at
the risk of his own life, saved the lovely daughter of Mortimer Moore
from the attack of a rabid dog in the street. He had actually choked
the ferocious creature to death in his desperate grip. Grateful for
the noble and inestimable service, the father invited him to the house
to receive a substantial token of his gratitude in the shape of a sum
of money sufficient to carry him through his course of study. But the
courage, the modesty, the fine address and respectful admiration of her
preserver, made a deep impression upon Alice Moore--it was a case of
love at first sight upon both sides--they were young and foolish--the
father opposed the match with contempt and indignation. His rudeness
roused the ire of the proud student; he resolved to marry the woman
he loved, in spite of poverty. They fled, accompanied by Pallas, the
attendant of the young girl; the father refused to forgive them; and
then, when sickness and suffering, untempered by the luxuries of
wealth, came upon his delicate wife, the young husband realized what
he had done in persuading her away from her home and the habits of her
life. If he had first finished his studies and put himself in the way
of gaining even a modest living, and she had chosen to share such a
lot, he would have done right in following the dictates of his heart.
Now he felt that he had been cruelly rash. A year of strange, wild
happiness, mixed with sorrow and privation passed, and the wife became
a mother. Pallas nursed her with tireless assiduity; her husband,
bound to her sick couch, could not exert himself as he might have
done alone; they grew desperately poor--he could not see her suffer
without humbling his pride, and writing to her father to send _her_,
not him, the means necessary to her comfort and recovery. They were
coldly denied. Privation somewhat, but care, grief, and trouble more,
retarded her recovery,--she fell into a decline, and died in his arms,
who swore a great oath over her beloved corpse to forsake a world so
unjust, so cruel, so unhappy. Sending a bitter message to her father,
he disappeared with their infant child. The old colored nurse, who
had also persuaded her husband to accompany them, went with him as
foster-mother to the child. They traveled to the far West--much farther
in those days than now--and when they first settled where they now
were, they were isolated in the wilderness.

Mr. Wilde took up his portion of government land. By the time other
emigrants had made settlements down the river, he had made enough from
it to purchase more. He felled timber with his own hands, and drifted
it down to where it was wanted. As years passed, he employed hands,
built a mill, and as towns grew up within market-distance, found
business increasing upon him. During all this time he had nurtured his
spleen against the civilized world; natures strong and wayward like
his, are subject to prejudice--and because one haughty old aristocrat
had allowed a fair child to perish neglected, he condemned refined
society _en masse_. He adopted the conversation and manners, to a great
degree, of those by whom he was surrounded.

All these things explained to Philip many incongruities in the talk
and habits of Mr. Wilde--the possession of books, the knowledge of
man--which had hitherto challenged his curiosity.

It had been the object of the raftsman to bring up his daughter in
strict seclusion from the world he despised; he had not thought
of further consequences than to keep her innocent, unselfish,
unsuspicious, and free from guile. Chance threw Philip in their way.
His frankness, pleasant temper, and sincerity excused his fashionable
graces in Mr. Wilde's estimation; more intimate association with
him did much to wear away the prejudices he had been heaping up
unchallenged for so long; and when it came to the certainty that his
daughter must choose between one of the rough and uneducated men around
her, or on a man like Philip, he could not conceal from himself that
Philip was his choice.

"And what do you think brought _me_ out here at this critical moment?"
asked Virginia. "I come to throw myself upon Philip's charity--to
become a pensioner upon his bounty. Yes, Mr. Wilde, upon closing up
my father's estate, there was absolutely nothing left for his only
child. He lived up to all that he possessed, hoping, before his poverty
became known, that I would make a brilliant match. A fortnight ago my
lawyer told me there would be nothing left, but a small annuity from
my mother, which they can not touch. It is a sum barely sufficient
to dress me plainly--it will not begin to pay my board. So I, unable
to bear my discomfiture alone, friendless, sorrowful, thought it
less bitter to begin anew among strangers than in the scenes of my
former triumph. I came on to beg Philip to find me some little rural
school where I might earn my bread and butter in peace, unstung by the
coldness of past worshipers. I'll make a good teacher,--don't you think
so?--so commanding!"

Yet she sighed heavily, despite her attempt at pleasantry. It was
easy to be seen that earning her own living would go hard with the
accomplished daughter of Mortimer Moore.

"But Philip will never let you go away from us, I am sure," said
Alice's soft voice, caressingly.

"Until she goes to a home of her own," added her cousin, with a
mischievous smile. "I wouldn't be guilty of match-making; but I own I
had a purpose in asking my friend Irving to stand as groomsman with
Virginia. How do you like him, my sweet cousin?--be honest now."

"Not as well as I have liked some other man, sir?"

"Oh, of course, not yet; but you'll grow to it; and he has no stain
upon his escutcheon--he isn't even a flour-merchant or mill-owner."

"You haven't told me what he is yet," said Virginia, with a slight show
of interest.

"He's my book-keeper."

"Oh, Philip! you're jesting."

"No, indeed, I'm not. He has not a cent, saving his salary; but he's a
gentleman and a scholar, and has seen better days."

"Well, I like him, anyhow," she remarked, presently.

"You ought to encourage him to pay his addresses to you. You could
teach school, and he could keep books. You could take a suite of three
rooms, and wait upon yourselves. I'll promise to furnish the rooms with
dimity, delf, and rag-carpeting."

"You are generous, Philip."

"And to send you an occasional barrel of flour and load of refuse
kindling-wood."

"My prospects brighten."

"Don't tease the girl," said the raftsman, "she'll do better'n you
think for yet. Since my own chick has deserted me for another nest, I
don't know but I shall adopt Virginia myself."

"I wish you would," and the great black eyes were turned to him with a
mournful, lonely look. "Everybody else is so happy and blessed, they do
not need me. But I should love to wait upon you, and cheer you, sir."

It was a great change which misfortune was working in the spirit of the
proud and ambitious girl. Philip, who knew her so well, regarded her
present mood with surprise.

"Well, well, without joking, I intend to adopt this orphan girl. She's
the sister of my own dead wife, and she shall share equally with my
little Alice in all that the rough old raftsman has."

"Which won't be much, father," said Alice, with a smile, glancing
around upon their humble forest home.

"Don't be too sure of that, little one. I haven't felled pine logs
and sawed lumber for fifteen years to no account. Did you think your
two dresses a year, your slippers, and straw-hats had eaten up all
the money-bags I brought home with me upon my trips? Here's a check
for five thousand dollars, puss, to furnish that new house with; and
when Philip gets time to 'tend to it, the cash is ready to put up a
steam saw-mill nigh about here, somewhere--the income to be yours.
It'll bring you in a nice little bit of pocket-money. And if Virginia
concludes to accept that pale-faced book-keeper, thar's an equal sum
laid aside for her--and home and money as much as she wants in the mean
time. It shan't be said the old raftsman's pretty daughters had no
wedding portion."

Virginia took his rough hand in her two white ones, and a tear mingled
with the kiss which she pressed upon it.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE TORNADO.


When Alice came out of her room dressed for the marriage ceremony she
looked quaintly lovely. Old Pallas sobbed as she looked at her, and her
father wiped the dimness again and again from his eyes; for it was as
if the fair young bride of long ago had come to life.

Philip had made it an especial request that she should dress in a
costume similar to that she wore when he first loved her; and her
father had told her to provide no wedding-robe, as he wished her to
wear one of his own choosing. She had been attired in the bridal robe
and vail, the high-heeled satin slippers, the long white gloves which
had lain so many years in the mysterious trunk. Philip's gift, a
bandeau of pearls, shone above a brow not less pure--set in the golden
masses of her hair.

Virginia laid aside her mourning for that day, appearing in a fleecy
muslin robe, as bride-maid, and none the less queenly on account of
the simplicity of her dress. Her face had gained an expression of
gentleness which added very much to her superb attractions, and which
was not unnoticed by her companion in the ceremonies.

The words had been said which made the betrothed pair man and wife.
A more romantic wedding seldom has occurred than was this, in which
wealth and elegance were so intimately combined with the rude
simplicity of frontier life. To see those beautiful and richly-dressed
ladies flitting in and out the modest house buried in the shadows of
the western woods; the luxurious viands of the cook's producing served
upon the plainest of delf, to have the delicate and the rough so
contrasted, made a pretty and effective picture against the sunshine
of that September day. The spirit of the scene was felt and enjoyed
by all, even the venerable clergyman--rich voices and gay laughter
blent with the murmur of the river--fond, admiring eyes followed every
motion of the bride. The bride! where was the bride?

She had been standing on the lawn, just in front of the door with Mrs.
Raymond, who was saying--

    "'Happy is the bride the sun shines on,'"

just the previous moment; Mrs. Raymond had run down to the river-bank,
and was throwing pebbles in the water.

Mr. Wilde, ever apprehensive, ever vigilant, had just missed her, and
was turning to inquire of the bridegroom, when a shriek, wild, sharp,
agonizing, paralyzed for an instant every faculty of the listeners.

"Great God, it is that madman!" burst from the father's lips.

Philip and he sprang out-of-doors together, just in time to see her
borne into the forest, flung like an infant over the shoulder of her
abductor, who was making great leaps along the path with the speed and
strength of a panther. The two men appointed as guards were running
after him. Mr. Wilde sprang for his rifle--the bridegroom waited for
nothing.

"Don't shoot!" he shouted to the men; "you will kill the girl!"

Philip reached and distanced the men; the raftsman, strong and tall,
and accustomed to the woods, passed him even, madly as he exerted
himself.

"If I only dared to fire," he breathed, between his clenched teeth. "If
he would give me just one second's fair and square aim--but my child,
she is his shield!"

Two or three times the two foremost pursuers came in sight, almost
within arm's reach of the terrified girl, crying, "Philip! father!" in
such piercing tones of entreaty.

"Can not you save me, Philip?" once he was so near, he heard the
question distinctly--but the furious creature who grasped her, gave
a tremendous whoop and bound, leaping over logs and fallen trees,
brooks, and every obstacle with such speed, that his own feet seemed
to be loaded with lead, and he to be oppressed with that powerlessness
which binds us during terrible dreams. He flew, and yet to his agony of
impatience, he seemed to be standing still.

"Philip--father--Philip!"

How faint, how far away. At length they heard her no more; they
had lost the clue--they knew not which way to pursue. The forest
grew wilder and denser; it was dim at mid-day under those tall,
thick-standing pines; and now the afternoon was wearing toward sunset.

"Philip," said the raftsman in a hoarse voice, "we must separate--each
man of the party must take a different track. Here is my rifle; I will
get another from the men. Use it if you dare--use it, _at all risks_,
if that devil seeks to harm her. His strength must give up some time."

"Don't despair, father," said the new-made husband, but his own heart
was cold in his bosom, and he felt so desperate that he could have
turned the rifle upon himself.

Not knowing but that he was going farther from instead of nearer to
the objects of his search, with every step, he had to pause frequently
to listen for some sound to guide him. Wandering on in this wild,
unsatisfactory way, his brain growing on fire with horror, suddenly he
heard a sharp voice chanting--

    "'I'll hide the maid in a cypress-tree,
        When the footstep of death is near.'"

The next moment he came face to face with Ben Perkins--but no Alice was
in his arms now, nor was she anywhere in sight.

"Fiend! devil! what have you done with my wife?"

His eyes shone like coals out of a face as white as ashes, as he
confronted his enemy with a look that would have made any sane man
tremble; but the wretch before him only stared him vacantly in the face
with a mournful smile, continuing to sing--

    "'And her fire-fly lamp I soon shall see,
        Her paddle I soon shall hear.'"

"Where is she--answer me, devil?"

The hand of Philip clutched the lunatic's throat, and with the strength
of an anguish as superhuman as the transient power of the other had
been, he shook him fiercely as he repeated the question. The madman
wilted under his grasp, but as soon as the hold was relaxed, he slid
from under it, and sprang away.

    "'They made her a grave too cold and damp,'"

he chanted, darting from tree to tree, as Philip, hopeless of making
him tell what he had done with Alice, tried to shoot him down.

"He has murdered her," he thought; and getting a momentary chance, he
fired, but without effect; Ben climbed a tree, springing from branch to
branch like a squirrel, until he reached the top, and like a squirrel,
chattering nonsense to himself. "If I had another shot I would put
an end to his miserable existence," muttered Philip, turning away to
trace, if possible, the track of the man, and find where he had dropped
Alice.

Soon he came out upon a small, open, elevated space--the river was
upon one side, the woods all around. Something strange was in the
air--nature seemed to be listening--not a breath rippled the water or
made a leaf quiver--he felt hot and suffocated. Despite of all his
mental misery, he, too, paused and listened like the elements--his ear
caught a far-away murmur. The day had been very warm for that season of
the year; it grew, now, oppressive. A low bank of dark clouds lay along
the south and west, hanging over the prairie on the opposite side of
the stream--it was such a bank of clouds as would seem to threaten rain
before midnight; but even while he gazed, a great black column wheeled
up from the mass and whirled along the sky with frightful rapidity.
The distant murmur grew to a roar, and the roar deepened and increased
until it was like the surf-swell of a thousand oceans. Stunned by the
tumult, fascinated by the sublime terror of the spectacle, he followed
with his gaze the course of the destructive traveler, which flew
forward, sweeping down upon the country closer and more close. The air
was black--night fell upon every thing--he saw the tornado--holding in
its bosom dust, stones, branches of trees, roofs of houses, a dark,
whirling mass of objects, which it had caught up as it ran--reach the
river, and with an instinct of self-preservation, threw himself flat
upon the ground, behind a rock which jutted up near him. He could tell
when it smote the forest, for the tremendous roar was pierced through
with the snapping, crackling sound of immense trees, broken off like
pipe-stems and hurled in a universal crash to the earth.

A short time he crouched where he was, held down in fact, pressed,
flattened, hurt by the trampling winds; but nothing else struck him,
and presently he struggled to his feet.

What a spectacle met him, as he looked toward the forest from which he
had so lately emerged! A vast and overwhelming ruin, in the midst of
which it seemed impossible that any life, animal or vegetable, should
have escaped. A desolation, such as poets have pictured as clinging
to the "last man," came over the soul of Philip Moore. Where were his
friends? where that gay party he had invited from their distant homes
to meet this fate? where was Alice, his wife of an hour? His manhood
yielded to the blow; he cowered and sobbed like a child.

The darkness passed over for a brief time, only to come again with the
setting sun, which had sent some lurid gleams of light, like torches
to fire the ruin, through the storm, before sinking from sight. A
drenching rain fell in torrents, the wind blew chilly and rough.

"I will search for her--I will find her, and die beside her mangled
remains," murmured Philip, arising and turning toward the forest.

The incessant flashes of lightning were his only lamps as he struggled
through the intricate mazes of fallen trees. It was a task which
despair, not hope, prompted, to toil through rain and wind and
darkness, over and under and through splintered trunks and tangled
foliage, looking, by the lightning's evanescent glare, for some glimpse
of the white bridal robe of his beloved. The hours prolonged themselves
into days and weeks to his suffering imagination, and still it was not
morning. As if not content with the destruction already wrought, the
elements continued to hurl their anger upon the prostrate wilderness;
ever and anon the sharp tongue of the lightning would lick up some
solitary tree which the wind had left in its hurry; hail cut the fallen
foliage, and the rain fell heavily. It was a strange bridal night.

Not knowing what moment he might stumble upon the crushed body of some
one of his friends, Philip wandered through the storm. He felt more
and more as if he were going mad--reason trembled and shuddered at his
misfortunes. Two or three times he resolved to dash his brains out
against a tree, to prevent himself the misery of going mad and yet
living on in those dismal solitudes, till hunger conquered what grief
refused to vanquish. Then the lightning would glimmer over some white
object, perchance the bark freshly scaled from some shattered trunk,
and he would hurry toward it, calling--"Alice!" as once she had called,
"Philip," through a less wretched night.

It seemed to him that if no other morning began to come before long,
the morning of eternity must open its gates upon the world; the
strength of the tempest was spent; only fitful gushes of wind swept
past; here and there a star looked down hurriedly through the drifting
clouds; the solemn roll of the thunder resounded afar, like the drums
of an enemy beating a retreat.

Exhausted, he sank at the foot of one of those Indian mounds common in
western forests. A gleam of the vanishing lightning flickered over the
scene. Hardly had it faded into darkness before a voice close to his
side whispered his name; a warm hand felt through the night, touching
his; a form glowing with life, soft, and tender, albeit its garments
were cold and drenched, sank into his outstretched arms.

"Yes, Philip, it is I--safe, unhurt. And you--are you uninjured?"

He could not answer; his throat was choked with the sweetest tears
which ever welled from a man's heart; he could only press her close,
close, in the silence of speechless delight.

In that hour of reunion they knew not if they had a friend left; but
the thought only drew them more near in heart than ever they had or
could have been before. Weary and storm-beaten, but filled with a
solemn joy, they clasped each other close and sank upon the wet sod, to
sleep the sleep of exhaustion, until the morning should dawn upon them
to light their search for their friends.



CHAPTER XIV.

GATHERING TOGETHER.


The first ray of morning startled the young couple from their sweet but
troubled sleep.

"You shiver!" exclaimed Philip, looking at the damp, disordered attire
of his wife; "I ought not to have allowed you to fall asleep in those
wet garments."

"It is but a momentary chill, dear Philip. Oh, let us go and find my
father. Certainty will be more endurable than this dreadful suspense."

They arose, pursuing their search through the gray dawn which
brightened soon into as glorious a September day as ever shone. There
was no use in trying to convict Mother Nature of crime and bloodshed;
she appeared totally unconscious of the waste and ruin she had spread
over the land the previous day. Through the wrecked wilderness they
struggled forward, silent, sad, looking in every direction for traces
of their friends, and making their way, as correctly as they could
discern it, with the river for a guide, toward the home which they
expected to find overwhelmed and scattered by the storm.

It was four or five hours before they came in sight of the cabin, so
toilsome was their course; many times Alice had been obliged to rest,
for hunger and fatigue were becoming overpowering, and now Philip had
to support her almost entirely, as she clung to his arm.

"Take courage, dearest,--there is the house, and standing, as I live!"

The storm, sweeping on, had just touched with its scattering edges the
house, which was unroofed and the chimney blown down, and otherwise
shaken and injured, though not totally demolished. As the two came in
sight of it, they perceived old Pallas, sitting on the front step in
an attitude of complete despondency, her apron thrown over her face,
motionless and silent. She did not hear them nor see them until they
stood by her side.

"Pallas! what is the news? where is my father?"

The old woman flung her apron down with a mingled laugh and groan.

"Oh, my chile, my darlin', my pickaninny, is dat you, an' no mistake?"
Springing up, she caught her young mistress to her bosom, and holding
her there, laughed and sobbed over her together. "Sence I seen you safe
agin, and young masser, too, bof of you safe and soun', as I neber
'spected to behold on dis yearth agin, let me go now, 'long wid my ole
man--O Lord! let thy serbent depart in peace!"

"My father--have you heard from him since the storm?"

"No, darlin', not from one single soul, all dis awful night. De ladies
dey were wid me till de mornin' broke, den dey set out, cryin' and
weepin' and wringin' dere han's, to look for all you who was in de
wood. Oh, dis has been a turrible season for a weddin'. I had a sense
all de time suthin' was goin' to happen. My poor ole man!"

"What's become of him?" asked Philip.

"De Lord above alone knows where he be now--oh! oh! He was tuk right
up to glory, wid his weddin' garment on. I see him sailin' off, but I
couldn't help him. Laws! if missus isn't a goin' to faint dead over."

"Give her to me, and get something for her to eat and drink, if you can
find it, Pallas. She's worn out."

"I've kep' up a fire in de kitchen, which is low, an' not much hurt.
I'll spread a bed down dar and lay her down on de floor till I make
some right strong tea. Lord be merciful to me a sinner! It's times as
make ole Pallas's heart ache. Come 'long wid her, masser--I'll tro a
mattress on de floor. Dar, lay her down, I'll hab de tea direckly.
Sech sights as I see yesterday is 'nuff to unsettle anybody as sots
dar heart on de tings ob dis worl'. When I heard my chile scream, I
tought a knife went right tru me--I could n' run, nor do nuthin', I was
jes' all weak and trimbling. Dar I stood, lookin' into de woods, wid
eberybody out ob sight, when I hear de storm a comin'. First I tought
it was de ribber broking loose; I looked round, but _dat_ was jes' as
peaceable as a lamb. Here, honey, set up, and drink yer tea. Den I
tought de woods on fire, as dey was onct, when dey made sech a roar,
but dey wan't. Den I looked up to see if de sky was fallin', which was
de fust I saw ob de wind. It war a whirlin' and a roarin' like eber so
many tousend, hundred mill-wheels. It look for all de worl' like a big
funnel wid water pourin' tru. I was so scart, I run back to de house,
hollerin' for my ole man, who was settin' on de fence, lookin' t'odder
way. But he didn' hear me. It went right past, holdin' me up agin de
wall as ef I war nailed. I seen de air all full ob ebery ting, chickens
and pigs and boards and trees, and it tuk my ole man right up off dat
fence an' carried him up to de nex' worl'. I see him, wid my own eyes,
ridin' off in de chariot ob de wind, way over de woods, way off, off,
out ob sight. Oh, missus, when I see him goin' so, I mos' wish I was
'long. I know Saturn was a foolish nigger, and a mighty sleepy-headed.
He was n' no use to me much--he was a great cross; but dar neber was a
better-hearted husband. He min' me like a chile. And he was so fond of
presarbed plums, and such a hand to help 'bout de kitchen--'pears to me
I hain't no heart. But laws, what bus'ness I to speak _my_ troubles,
and you neber to know where your own fadder is. If masser don't come
back, I'll jes' lay down an' die. Poor ole nigger no more use. Dar's
Saturn tuk away in de clouds wid his bes' raiment on, as de Bible
commands; and neber one moufful ob de weddin' feas' which is standin'
on de table, and de rain leaking down upon it--oh! hi! hi!"

"Poor Pallas, I'm sorry for you. But, Philip, I must go--I feel
stronger now."

"No, no, my own darling Alice, you are not fit for further exertion.
Remain here in the hands of your nurse. Pallas, I leave my wife to
your care. She is in a fever now. Change her clothing and give her hot
drinks. I must be off. Keep up heart, dearest, till I get back."

He had hastily disposed of a cup of tea and a few mouthful of food,
kissed his bride, and was hurrying from the house, to go again into the
woods for tidings, when a tumult outside drew all three to the door.
Every one of the missing party, except poor old Saturn, whose own case
was hopeless, and the raftsman himself, were coming up in a group.
Virginia and Mrs. Raymond had encountered them in their search for
the clearing, and had led them out of the woods. Mr. Raymond and the
clergyman had been together overtaken by the tempest; but it was not so
severe where they were, as in that part of the forest reached by Mr.
Wilde and Philip. Trees had fallen before and around them, but they had
escaped unharmed. Night coming on, and the rain and changed character
of the scene bewildering them, they had not been able to make their way
out of the woods; and of course had suffered from anxiety, in common
with their friends. Their astonishment and joy at beholding the bride
and groom in safety were only held in check by the uncertainty which
hung about the fate of their host. Not one would enter the house, until
that fate was known; taking from Pallas the cakes and cold meat she
brought them, they hastened away--all but Alice, who was really too ill
from exposure and surpense, to make any further effort.

"Yes, you rest yourself, and try to be composed, honey. Ef your dear,
good father is really taken away, you hab much to be thankful for, that
yer not left unpertected in this bleak worl'. You've a husband dat
loves you as his heart's blood--and yer father himself will smile in
de heaben above, to tink how glad he is, all was made right, and you
with some one to care for you, 'fore he was tooken away. Dar', dar',
don't hurt yourself a sobbin' so. I cried all night, and now dese poor
ole eyes hab no more tears lef'. When I tought I was lef' all alone--no
masser, no missus, no husband--my heart was like a cold stone. I feel
better now. Ef masser war here, I could almost rejoice, spite of my
'flictions. I mus' bustle round and get suthin' ready for all dese
tired, hungry people to eat, and get dem bed-clo'es dried where de rain
beet in. De table sot, jus' as it wos, when I was out here goin' fer
to put de coffee on, and herd you scream. My poor ole man. He's gone
up, sure, for I saw him go. Saturn 'll neber eat no more woodchuck pie
in dis life--hi! hi! Now, now, pickaninny, guess whose comin', and who
they're a-bringin'. You needn't jump out of yer skin, chile, if it _is_
yer own father--hurt, too, I'm afraid, by the way he looks."

Alice sprang to the door. Philip was lending her father the aid of his
strong young arm. Mr. Wilde walked with difficulty, and his arm hung
down in a helpless manner.

"Oh, father, are you hurt?"

"Nothing to speak of--not worth mentioning,--a little bruised, and my
left arm broken. Positively, I don't feel a bit of pain, since I see
you unharmed, my darling."

"But you'll come to a realizing sense of it, by the time we have set
it, after its going so long unattended to," said Philip.

"If I groan, punish me for it," replied the sturdy raftsman.

The broken limb was soon set and splintered, and the friends had time
to look in each others' faces, and realize they were altogether and
safe.

"You have not told us how you escaped so remarkably," said they to
Alice.

"Not anodder word at presen'," said Pallas, opening the door to
the dining-room. "De weddin'-feas' has not been eaten--sech as it
is, ye mus' stan' in need of it. 'Tain't what it would have been
yesterday,--but I've did my bes' under de circumstances."

"Take my place, Philip; I'll lie here on this lounge, and when puss is
through, she can feed me."

"If missus'll cut up his food, I'll wait on massa."

As the declining energies of the party were recruited by the dinner,
their spirits rose to something of the hilarity of the previous
day;--if it had not been for genuine sympathy with the sorrow of the
old servant, mirth would have prevailed in proportion to their past
distress. An occasional exclamation, smothered in its birth, told them
their host was not quite so easy as he affected to be; but he would let
no one pity him, bearing his pain with fortitude.

In the center of the table stood the bride's-cake, a snowy pyramid, the
triumph of Pallas's skill, wreathed about with garlands. It was fair to
look upon, within and without, and sweet to the taste as agreeable to
the eyes.

"Dar' was de whites of fifty eggs beaten up in dat cake," its maker
declared, in an aside to Virginia.

"Then I should call it a very egg-spensive and egg-stravagant article,"
remarked Mr. Raymond, who had heard the assertion.

"'Tain't any too nice for de bride it was made fer, masser."

"There's a ring in it," said Alice, as she performed the duty of the
occasion by cutting the cake. "Who has it?"

Everybody took their piece with curiosity, and finally Mr. Irving held
up the golden circlet, giving, at the same time, a glance towards
Virginia, too expressive to be misunderstood.

"You'll be married next, Mr. Irving, and we hold ourselves all invited
to the wedding," said Mrs. Raymond.

"I hope I may be," replied that gentleman, with a second glance toward
the bride-maid; but she was looking to her plate, and did not seem to
hear him.

Virginia had pursued the art of flirtation too long to abandon it at
once.

As they lingered over the closing cup of coffee, Alice related the
circumstance which had probably saved her life. It seemed she could not
endure to dwell upon the terror of her flight in that wild maniac's
arms, passing it over as briefly as possible.

"When I had given up all hope of rescue, and felt as if actually dying,
from the terror of my situation, my abductor suddenly paused, before
what seemed to be a small ledge of rock, such as frequently juts out of
the ground in these woods, especially near the river. Pushing aside a
vine which trailed thickly before it, he thrust me into the mouth of a
cave, but instead of following me in, as I expected, he drew the vine
carefully over it again, and sprung away, singing,--

    "'I'll hide the maid in a cypress-tree,
        When the footstep of death is near.'

"The feeling of exquisite relief which came to me in that moment was
quickly superseded by the thought of his speedy return. While I stood
there, trembling, waiting for him to get out of sight and hearing,
in the hope that I might creep out and elude him, I heard the roar
of the approaching tempest. Peering through the foliage, I felt my
rocky shelter tremble, and saw the forest fall prostrate. As soon as
the first shock was over, I crept out, thinking nothing but of the
destruction of my friends. Too distracted to feel any personal fear, I
wandered through the storm, I knew not how many hours, until, by the
merest chance, a flash of lightning revealed Philip, not four feet away
from me."

"The first thing you did, I suppose, was to give him a curtain-lecture,
for staying out nights," remarked Mr. Raymond.

"And now, dear father, I think the roof blew off, and the house blew to
pieces almost, and your arm was broken, on purpose to convince you of
the necessity of spending your winter with us. It would be foolish to
try to make this comfortable again, this fall. Your men can put a roof
on, to protect it from the weather, and we'll leave it to its fate."

"Since he's disabled and can't defend himself, we'll take him captive,"
said Philip.

"Have it as you like, children, I expect to be led around by
apron-strings after this. Next spring, I'll take Virginia, and come
back here, and will put up the handsomest mansion that ever graced this
river-side--it shall be large enough to accommodate the whole family,
present and prospective. _You_ needn't color up, little girl,--I was
only thinking of Virginia's future spouse--eh, Virginia,--what's Mr.
Irving blushing for?"

"I don't know--men should never blush--it's a weakness."

"I wish I could be as unmoved as you," he whispered in her ear, for he
sat by her side. "It would be more becoming to me than it is to you.
Women were made to blush and tremble."

"_Were_ they, Mr. Irving, then you'd better leave those things to them,
and not be intruding upon their sphere."

"Perhaps I shall obey you, Miss Moore," he said, recovering all his
coolness.

She felt that he was a man not to be trifled with. Sensitive and full
of sensibility as he might be, he was not the man to let a woman put
her foot on his neck. He might worship the foot, but he would not
submit to be trampled upon by it. He would love, truly and deeply,
but he must be respected and loved in return. His was just the spirit
fitted to take the reins and curb the too headstrong and wilful
disposition of Virginia--under the control of a wise and gentle nature
like his, her faults might change into virtues.

Philip was secretly regarding them, delighted to see how soon he
recovered his self-possession, and how quietly he made his companion
feel it. He saw that she fretted under it, and finally, giving up,
exerted herself to be friendly and agreeable.

"They will be well matched. I never saw a better mate for my naughty
cousin. I had an idea of it, when I invited him to act as groomsman.
She'll be a good while giving up, though."

That Virginia would not yield to this new mastership very soon was
evident. When they had left the dining-room, and were standing on the
portico, Mr. Irving desired to place the ring which had fallen to him
upon her finger--but she refused it with considerable hauteur.

"I only desired you to wear it for safe-keeping. It's a lady's ring,
and I don't know what to do with it. Mrs. Raymond, will you accept it?"

He placed it on the finger of the married lady with as pleasant an air,
as if it had been accepted where he first offered it.

"I had not ought to wear it; give it to some fair maiden."

"There is but one, and she will not have it. If there were others, I
should certainly offer it. So you see it is chance only that has left
it to you."

"Well, I'm not very much flattered Mr. Irving--but the ring is just as
pretty, and I ought to be thankful to chance."

So the ring was lost to Virginia, without the satisfaction of her
having annoyed the one who offered it.



CHAPTER XV.

BEN AND ALICE.


"Now that the wedding-feast is disposed of, I must remind you all that
there is yet work to be done. I have not heard from the mill; and poor
old Saturn must be searched for, as well as that unfortunate young man
who has made us so much trouble. It frets me to think I can do nothing.
Philip, you must do service in place of my broken arm."

The party were making ready to go out again, when two or three men
came from the mill, to inquire after the family, and to relate to the
captain the story of the vast damage his property had sustained.

"Oh, what is de riches of dis worl', masser," said Pallas, as she,
too, paused from her work to hear their interesting narrative of wreck
and chaos upon every side, with accounts which had reached them from
people farther down, where the tornado had made a yet more terrible
visitation. "What is de riches of dis worl', when a bref of de Almighty
can sweep 'em away like as dey were dust and trash. My ole masser he
turn you 'way, 'cause yer had no riches, and your chile-wife, she die
of grief; and you come out here and work and work in de wilderness half
as long as de chil'en of Israel--and you set your foot down, _you_ will
be rich, and your chile shall have much to gib her husband when she got
one--and de storm come, and all yer pine-trees is laid low, and yer
mill-wheel is broken at de fountain, and your riches pass 'way in de
whirlwind."

"It's time for me to begin thinking of these things I suppose, Pallas.
But, as to my losses--I can stand 'em. My wood-choppers must work
briskly this winter, among this fallen timber--and as for the old mill,
I think it has gone to pieces to hasten the fulfillment of my plan of
erecting a steam-mill in its place. I've worked for Alice, and now I
must work for Virginia."

"Let us at least," said the clergyman, who was standing by, "be
reminded of our duty by this humble colored woman--let us offer up
thanks for our wonderful preservation."

All knelt, except the disabled raftsman, while the minister offered up
a heartfelt thanksgiving, when the party set forth into the tangled
forest again. Alice, who had been overcome more by anxiety than by
fatigue, was so recruited, that she insisted upon going with Philip.
Her familiarity with the woods she thought would enable her to trace
the way to the spot where Ben would doubtless be found a corpse;
the fact that he was high up in the branches of a tall tree when
the tempest struck the spot, making it almost certain that he was
destroyed. Two or three foresters, Raymond, and Philip, followed their
guide, as she wound through and climbed over matted branches and fallen
trunks, pausing occasionally for some trace of the familiar aspect of
yesterday. In many places the forest looked actually as if a band of
giant reapers had passed that way and mowed down the trees in mighty
swaths. Again, when the tornado had taken a more whirling moment, the
great trunks would be twisted and snapped off in long splinters, ten
or twelve feet from the ground. An overwhelming sense of the terrific
power of their unwelcome visitor oppressed them, as they beheld its
ravages in the broad daylight.

"And yet, dear Philip, it may have been sent by Providence to save
me from a fearful fate--or at least, it _did_ save me, and I am
grateful--oh, so grateful," whispered the young wife, as Philip
assisted her over a huge tree which lay, torn up by the roots, across
their path.

"It must have been somewhere about here," she said, presently.

"I am sure I have no idea of the locality," answered Philip.

"Yes! there is the ledge of rock, and the cavern into which he thrust
me. Poor Ben! I forgive him all. I hardly dare go on--I am afraid I
shall see some dreadful sight;" and she shuddered.

"Perhaps you had better rest yourself, while we search this vicinity
closely."

"Oh, no! I am too nervous to be left alone. I will keep by your side,"
and she clung to his arm, growing paler every moment, and scarcely
daring to look before her.

"Hush!" exclaimed one of the foresters, half-an-hour later, turning
back toward the young couple who were some distance behind. "Don't let
her come near. We've found him; he's dead as a hammer."

Alice sat down upon a fallen tree-trunk, faint and trembling.

"Stay here, dearest, a few moments. I will come back to you," and
Philip went forward with the men to where, amid the ruins of the
forest,--Ben lay, a crushed and senseless human thing. He was
dreadfully mutilated, and to every appearance dead. They dragged him
out from under the heavy branches, and as they did so, a low groan
startled them. One of the men sank down and took the head upon his knee.

"Where's Alice?"

Ben unclosed his eyes, as he asked the question, moving them about from
one face to another with a searching glance.

"I'm dying--bring her quick. Oh, do bring her, won't you?"

The gasping voice was loud and thrilling in the eagerness of its
entreaty. Philip turned away and went for his wife.

"Do you think you can bear the sight?"

"If he wishes to see me, I shall not deny a dying man. He took many a
step for me, in his better days--poor boy."

Ben seemed to distinguish her footsteps as she drew near. He could not
stir, but his eyes turned in that direction.

"Are you cryin' for me?" he asked, as she stood by his side, the tears
flowing down her cheeks like rain. "It's enough to make a man die happy
to see you cryin' for him, Alice."

"O Ben! I wish I could help you," she sobbed.

"I'm past earthly help, and I'm glad of it. It's the best thing could
happen to a used-up fellow like me. I don't blame you for it, Alice,
but I'm to blame for things I've done, and I won't ask you to forgive
me. My head's been on fire for weeks--I've been in a strange state--I
can't recall what I've did or said. Then I got hurt, I don't know
how--and when I could think again, that burning pain in my head was
gone. I knew I was dyin', and I wanted to see you. I wanted to carry
the pictur' of your face to the next world. I shouldn't be ashamed to
show it to the angels--if they'll have any thing to do with a poor,
ignorant fellow like me, as Pallas said they would. You're married,
ain't you?"

"She is my wife," said Philip, gently, taking her hand.

"It made me crazy to think of it once; but it's over now. Alice, you've
my blessin' and my wishes that you may be happy all your life. Forgive
me the trouble I've made ye, and may you and him be happy long after
the grass grows over poor Ben Perkins."

Alice sobbed aloud, and the rough men standing around were grave and
silent. The last sentence had been spoken in a whisper, and it was
evident that life was ebbing away rapidly. He closed his eyes, and the
sweat gathered on the pallid face, but a short time since, rich with
the olive and crimson of health and youth.

"I shan't be twenty-two till next month," he whispered, with shut eyes.
"Put it on my tombstone, and let 'em put on it--

    "'Oh, his heart, his heart was broken
        For the love of Alice Wilde.'"

They stood looking at him.

"Alice--good-by. Alice--where are you? Alice!"

"Here, Ben--here I am;" but she spoke to a corpse.

He died with the name of the woman he had loved with all the power of
his passionate nature trembling upon his last breath.

The next day they buried him in a lovely spot on the bank of the river;
and, spite of all his errors and crimes, he was not unwept and not
unmourned. Once he had been gay and frank, kind and honest, handsome
and merry--and the memory of his good qualities swept away the judgment
passed upon his later actions.

Poor Saturn's remains were not discovered; and Pallas, with the
superstition of her class, was inclined to believe that he had been
translated bodily, in the chariot of the wind, to that better world of
which they had spoken so much together. It was a pleasant belief, and
afforded her great consolation.

"He allers was so fond of dressin' and good clo'es; and he'd been taken
up in his new suit as if a-purpose to please him. Ef he'd only a
partaken of de weddin'-feas', he couldn't hab been better prepared 'an
he was. Hi! hi!"

It was a picturesque-looking party which sailed away from Wilde's mill
one brilliant day in September.

"One doesn't see such a bridal-party every day, or take such a bridal
tour," remarked Virginia to the groomsman by her side. "It's better
than six fashionable weddings, with the usual routine. I used to have a
contempt for the romantic--but I'm beginning to like it."

Yes, even the aristocratic Virginia, the beautiful metropolitan, began
to be infatuated with the romance of the forest.

We may yet hear of more remarkable changes than her change of opinion.
We may yet see a villa, charming as those which grace our lordly
Hudson, rising amid the elms and beeches on the banks of that fairer
Western river--for love, beauty, taste, and money can accomplish
wonders more surprising than making the wilderness blossom like a
rose--and "out West" Aladdin's lamp is no myth.

But, for the present, we will leave this picturesque party sailing down
this broad, silver river in the purple and gold of an autumn day--leave
it to its joyous light, and leave that one new-made grave to its
silence and shadow.


THE END.



THE GOLDEN BELT



CHAPTER V.

THE CARIB'S PLEDGE.


The next day Hernando mounted his charger, and went forth to the
forest. Guarcia's flower had withered, though he had kept its stem in
crystal water all night. He was impatient to hear her voice again,
athirst for the sweet words that told him of her love. As he galloped
through the forest, followed by the hounds that had learned to crouch
at Guarcia's feet and play lovingly with her fawns, a figure stepped
suddenly across his path and seized his horse by the bit. The horse,
restive at feeling a strange hand near his head, made an attempt to
rear, but the Carib savage drew him back to the earth with a wrench
of his strong arm, and, before Hernando could speak, was looking him
gravely in his face.

"Come with me, stranger, there is a black cloud over this path."

"I am used to danger, chief, as some of your tribe may know," said
Hernando, smiling, as he touched the hilt of his sword.

"Vipers are not killed with weapons like that," answered the chief; "it
is with them you have to deal."

"Well, what of them? I prefer an open foe, like the warriors of your
tribe. You are an enemy to our people, but now and straightforward what
other assailant need I fear?"

"We are foes to the Spaniard, but not to you. Come, and I will show you
the snares which white men lay for each other."

"But what if this were itself a snare?"

The Indian drew a knife from his belt, and seizing Hernando's hand in
his iron grasp, pierced a vein with the point. Applying his lips to the
cut, he drew a mouthful of blood and swallowed it. Then dashing one
clenched hand against his broad chest, he exclaimed, with vehemence:

"The blood of my pale brother flows here. What Carib ever betrayed his
own blood?"

Hernando knew that this was a sacred pledge, and turning to the Indian,
with a smile, bade him lead on.

The Indian did not smile, but his eyes broke into a blaze of delight,
and, with a gesture, he plunged into the forest.

Some four or five miles from the place of the encounter lay a stretch
of swampy land, dark and dismal as stagnant water and the slimy growth
of swamp vegetation could render it. Many a rough passage and deep
gully lay between the broad savannas and this dreary spot; but the
savage passed them without halting, and Hernando followed, though his
good steed grew restive with the broken path. At last they came out on
a precipice which it was impossible that the horse could descend.

"Leave your beast here--he will be safe," said the Indian pointing to a
footpath which wound like a black serpent down the precipice.

Hernando dismounted, tied his horse to a sapling, and prepared to
follow his guide on foot. With a step as firm and more rapid than a
wild goat's, the savage took to the path. Hernando followed. With
a fearless and steady step, they wound their way still on the edge
of the precipice, till the moon had risen, and flung her luxuriant
gilding upon every object. They now walked more rapidly, and soon took
a southern course, and began to descend. Hernando now understood where
he was going. The continual and monotonous cries of the frogs, and the
tall trees with their long festoons of Spanish moss--which hung over
the alluvial bottom, like the curtains of a funeral pall--indicated
sufficiently that they were approximating, or had already reached the
Cypress Swamp. Many a slimy toad hopped croaking out of their way, as
they advanced in the swamps, and the angry scream of some huge "swamp
owl," as it flapped its broad wings, and malignantly snapped its bill
at them, gave him a hint that it was time to tread warily in the tracks
of his guide, or he might suddenly be precipitated headlong into the
mud and slime, for they were approaching the interior of the swamp.

After walking for some time, till even the Indian, whose knowledge
of that country was unlimited, was constrained to step with extreme
caution, for fear of sinking into the deceptive mud, they stopped. The
scene around bore a terrifying appearance--not one step further could
they advance, without being overwhelmed in mud and water. As far as
the eye could see, by the imperfect light which penetrated that dismal
spot, was but one sickening sight of the green mud and water, where no
human foot could tread without sinking ten feet or more, to find death
at the bottom.

"Look upon that spot," said the savage, pointing with his finger to
a pool of stagnant water; it had the appearance of being deep, and a
large green frog sat on a broken stump that floated there, with his
gray eyes fixed upon them, and with his hind legs drawn under him, as
if preparing to leap into their faces. Hernando turned his eyes away
from this loathsome sight. "That spot," continued the savage, still
pointing toward it--"that spot was to have been my white brother's
grave."

"What!" exclaimed Hernando, recoiling; "what you say can not be
true--who could make that spot my grave? Is this a time for trifling
with me, chief?"

"It is not, my white brother! I did not bring you here to play with
your feelings, but to save your life; you look at me,--you would
inquire what interest I have in saving your life. Listen: It was a
great many summers ago, when a Carib chief went out to shoot deer; he
walked all day--no deer--he sat on a log, tired and hungry; while he
sat there, weak and tired, almost asleep, a crouching panther sprang
upon him and bore him to the earth; the Carib fought hard, for he was
fighting for his life, but he was weak and hungry, and the panther
seized him and was bearing him off, when a white man, who heard the
noise, came running to the spot. He, drawing his knife like a true
warrior, jumped upon the enraged animal's back, and stabbed him to the
heart. The Indian was saved. The white man had a warrior's heart--he
took from his wallet some provisions, which he gave to his starving
brother, and bade him eat, then he walked off. The Carib's heart
swelled, and when the pale man had disappeared, he fell upon one knee,
and called the Great Spirit to witness, and he swore an oath; he swore
in the presence of that mighty Spirit to protect all in whom that pale
man's blood flowed."

"That man was my father," interrupted Hernando; "I have heard him tell
that story many times; and what became of the Carib?"

"He stands before you! Now will my pale brother suspect me of playing
with his feelings? But stay. The Carib became a great chief in his
nation, and sat in the councils of Caonabo. He still hunted in these
woods, and as he hunted three suns ago, sounds came to his ears, more
terrific than the swamp owl's, for it was not the sound of defiance,
but of cowardly murder. Two men advanced; your brother, who did not
wish to be seen, stepped behind a tree. It was a big Captain of the
fort, and a man whom I have seen taking care of the horses at the
fort--a slim-faced Spaniard, with eyes like a snake's; their looks were
black, and they talked of murder; your brother understood, for he had
learned their language in trading with them; they struck upon the track
that we have just passed--what would they in this track, for no game
can live here? Your brother followed them cautiously, and the slim one
cursed my white brother, because he loved a daughter of the Spaniard
whose mother was a Carib princess, and he swore he should be killed,
and hid from his comrades in the black heart of the cypress swamp. I
left them, and hunted you--here we are!"

Hernando was thunderstruck at what he heard; a feeling of horror
pervaded his frame, as he looked around on that dismal spot. The tall
trees above them bore no other verdure than the rank Spanish moss,
which swept the swamp far and wide, and the dark green water, with its
thousand loathsome reptiles, was horrible to look upon.

"My brother must keep a sharp eye about him--he must play the fox, and
if the Spaniards are too strong, send this belt to Orazimbo, and he
will find your brother, who will come to your help though he must bring
as many warriors as there are leaves on the trees."

Hernando took the belt, which glittered richly even in that murky
light; for it was a girdle of virgin gold, flexible, from its own
purity, with a rivulet of burning opal stones, rough emeralds, and rude
gems running through it like a rainbow.

READY AUGUST 15TH.

BEADLE'S DIME NOVELS, NO. 5.--"THE GOLDEN BELT; OR, THE CARIB'S
PLEDGE," COMPLETE.



Transcriber's Notes:


Added table of contents.

Italics are represented with _underscores_.

Retained some unusual (presumed archaic) spellings (e.g. "musquitoes").

Page 10, added missing quote after "no older."

Page 13, added missing quote after "new clo'es."

Page 15, changed "a a watchin'" to "a watchin'" and added missing
period after "right away."

Page 32, the line "The sun went down in a clear sky; there were no
clouds to" appeared several lines above its intended position; it has
been moved down.

Page 51, changed "your love-cracked" to "you're love-cracked."

Page 54, added missing period after "her fears."

Page 63, changed "of of thrashing" to "of thrashing."

Page 65, changed "somethimg" to "something."

Page 88, added missing period after "dis worl'."

Page 91, removed extra quote after "sure 'nuff."

Page 96, changed period to question mark in "May I pray for you, Ben?"

Page 104, changed comma to period after "groomsman with Virginia."
Added missing period after "rag-carpeting."

Page 105, changed period to question mark after "upon my trips?"

Page 113, changed comma to period after "in de wood."

Page 124, changed "begining" to "beginning."





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