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´╗┐Title: St. Elmo
Author: Evans, Augusta J. (Augusta Jane)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "St. Elmo" ***

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ST. ELMO

BY

AUGUSTA J. EVANS

Author of "Beulah," "Macaria," "At the Mercy of Tiberius" "Infelice"
Etc., Etc.


"Ah! the true rule is--a true wife in her husband's house is his
servant; it is in his heart that she is queen. Whatever of the best he
can conceive, it is her part to be; whatever of the highest he can
hope, it is hers to promise; all that is dark in him she must purge
into purity, all that is failing in him she must strengthen into truth;
from her, through all the world's clamor, he must win his praise; in
her, through all the world's warfare, he must find his peace."--JOHN
RUSKIN.



TO

J. C. DERBY,

IN GRATEFUL MEMORY OF MANY YEARS OF KIND AND FAITHFUL FRIENDSHIP, THESE
PAGES ARE

AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.



"Ah! the true rule is--a true wife in her husband's house is his
servant; it is in his heart that she is queen. Whatever of the best he
can conceive, it is her part to be; whatever of the highest he can
hope, it is hers to promise; all that is dark in him she must purge
into purity; all that is failing in him she must strengthen into truth;
from her, through all the world's clamor, he must win his praise; in
her, through all the world's warfare, he must find his peace."--JOHN
RUSKIN.



ST. ELMO.



CHAPTER I.


"He stood and measured the earth: and the everlasting mountains were
scattered, the perpetual hills did bow."

These words of the prophet upon Shigionoth were sung by a sweet, happy,
childish voice, and to a strange, wild, anomalous tune--solemn as the
Hebrew chant of Deborah, and fully as triumphant.

A slender girl of twelve years' growth steadied a pail of water on her
head, with both dimpled arms thrown up, in ancient classic Caryatides
attitude; and, pausing a moment beside the spring, stood fronting the
great golden dawn--watching for the first level ray of the coming sun,
and chanting the prayer of Habakkuk. Behind her in silent grandeur
towered the huge outline of Lookout Mountain, shrouded at summit in
gray mist; while centre and base showed dense masses of foliage, dim
and purplish in the distance--a stern cowled monk of the Cumberland
brotherhood. Low hills clustered on either side, but immediately in
front stretched a wooded plain, and across this the child looked at the
flushed sky, rapidly brightening into fiery and blinding radiance.
Until her wild song waked echoes among the far-off rocks, the holy hush
of early morning had rested like a benediction upon the scene, as
though nature laid her broad finger over her great lips, and waited in
reverent silence the advent of the sun. Morning among the mountains
possessed witchery and glories which filled the heart of the girl with
adoration, and called from her lips rude but exultant anthems of
praise. The young face, lifted toward the cloudless east, might have
served as a model for a pictured Syriac priestess--one of Baalbec's
vestals, ministering in the olden time in that wondrous and grand
temple at Heliopolis.

The large black eyes held a singular fascination in their mild,
sparkling depths, now full of tender, loving light and childish
gladness; and the flexible red lips curled in lines of orthodox Greek
perfection, showing remarkable versatility of expression; while the
broad, full, polished forehead with its prominent, swelling brows,
could not fail to recall, to even casual observers, the calm, powerful
face of Lorenzo de' Medicis, which, if once looked on, fastens itself
upon heart and brain, to be forgotten no more. Her hair, black,
straight, waveless as an Indian's, hung around her shoulders, and
glistened as the water from the dripping bucket trickled through the
wreath of purple morning-glories and scarlet cypress, which she had
twined about her head, ere lifting the cedar pail to its resting-place.
She wore a short-sleeved dress of yellow striped homespun, which fell
nearly to her ankles, and her little bare feet gleamed pearly white on
the green grass and rank dewy creepers that clustered along the margin
of the bubbling spring. Her complexion was unusually transparent, and
early exercise and mountain air had rouged her cheeks till they matched
the brilliant hue of her scarlet crown. A few steps in advance of her
stood a large, fierce yellow dog, with black, scowling face, and ears
cut close to his head; a savage, repulsive creature, who looked as if
he rejoiced in an opportunity of making good his name, "Grip." In the
solemn beauty of that summer morning the girl seemed to have forgotten
the mission upon which she came; but as she loitered, the sun flashed
up, kindling diamond fringes on every dew-beaded chestnut leaf and
oak-bough, and silvering the misty mantle which enveloped Lookout. A
moment longer that pure-hearted Tennessee child stood watching the
gorgeous spectacle, drinking draughts of joy, which mingled no drop of
sin or selfishness in its crystal waves; for she had grown up alone
with nature--utterly ignorant of the roar and strife, the burning hate
and cunning intrigue of the great world of men and women, where, "like
an Egyptian pitcher of tamed vipers, each struggles to get its head
above the other." To her, earth seemed very lovely; life stretched
before her like the sun's path in that clear sky, and, as free from
care or foreboding as the fair June day, she walked on, preceded by her
dog--and the chant burst once more from her lips:

"He stood and measured the earth: and the everlasting mountains were
scattered, the perpetual hills--"

The sudden, almost simultaneous report of two pistol-shots rang out
sharply on the cool, calm air, and startled the child so violently that
she sprang forward and dropped the bucket. The sound of voices reached
her from the thick wood bordering the path, and, without reflection,
she followed the dog, who bounded off toward the point whence it
issued. Upon the verge of the forest she paused, and, looking down a
dewy green glade where the rising sun darted the earliest arrowy rays,
beheld a spectacle which burned itself indelibly upon her memory. A
group of five gentlemen stood beneath the dripping chestnut and
sweet-gum arches; one leaned against the trunk of a tree, two were
conversing eagerly in undertones, and two faced each other fifteen
paces apart, with pistols in their hands. Ere she could comprehend the
scene, the brief conference ended, the seconds resumed their places to
witness another fire, and like the peal of a trumpet echoed the words:

"Fire! One!--two!--three!"

The flash and ringing report mingled with the command and one of the
principals threw up his arm and fell. When with horror in her
wide-strained eyes and pallor on her lips, the child staggered to the
spot, and looked on the prostrate form, he was dead. The hazel eyes
stared blankly at the sky, and the hue of life and exuberant health
still glowed on the full cheek; but the ball had entered the heart, and
the warm blood, bubbling from his breast, dripped on the glistening
grass. The surgeon who knelt beside him took the pistol from his
clenched fingers, and gently pressed the lids over his glazing eyes.
Not a word was uttered, but while the seconds sadly regarded the
stiffening form, the surviving principal coolly drew out a cigar,
lighted and placed it between his lips. The child's eyes had wandered
to the latter from the pool of blood, and now in a shuddering cry she
broke the silence:

"Murderer!"

The party looked around instantly, and for the first time perceived her
standing there in their midst, with loathing and horror in the gaze she
fixed on the perpetrator of the awful deed. In great surprise he drew
back a step or two, and asked gruffly:

"Who are you? What business have you here?"

"Oh! how dared you murder him? Do you think God will forgive you on the
gallows?"

He was a man probably twenty-seven years of age--singularly fair,
handsome, and hardened in iniquity, but he cowered before the blanched
and accusing face of the appalled child; and ere a reply could be
framed, his friend came close to him.

"Clinton, you had better be off; you have barely time to catch the
Knoxville train, which leaves Chattanooga in half an hour. I would
advise you to make a long stay in New York, for there will be trouble
when Dent's brother hears of this morning's work."

"Aye! Take my word for that, and put the Atlantic between you and Dick
Dent," added the surgeon, smiling grimly, as if the anticipation of
retributive justice afforded him pleasure.

"I will simply put this between us," replied the homicide, fitting his
pistol to the palm of his hand; and as he did so, a heavy antique
diamond ring flashed on his little finger.

"Come, Clinton, delay may cause you more trouble than we bargained
for," urged his second.

Without even glancing toward the body of his antagonist, Clinton
scowled at the child, and, turning away, was soon out of sight.

"Oh, sir! will you let him get away? will you let him go unpunished?"

"He cannot be punished," answered the surgeon, looking at her with
mingled curiosity and admiration.

"I thought men were hung for murder."

"Yes--but this is not murder."

"Not murder? He shot him dead! What is it?"

"He killed him in a duel, which is considered quite right and
altogether proper."

"A duel?"

She had never heard the word before, and pondered an instant.

"To take a man's life is murder. Is there no law to punish 'a duel'?"

"None strong enough to prohibit the practice. It is regarded as the
only method of honorable satisfaction open to gentlemen."

"Honorable satisfaction?" she repeated--weighing the new phraseology as
cautiously and fearfully as she would have handled the bloody garments
of the victim.

"What is your name?" asked the surgeon.

"Edna Earl."

"Do you live near this place?"

"Yes, sir, very near."

"Is your father at home?"

"I have no father, but grandpa has not gone to the shop yet."

"Will you show me the way to the house?"

"Do you wish to carry him there?" she asked, glancing at the corpse,
and shuddering violently.

"Yes, I want some assistance from your grandfather."

"I will show you the way, sir."

The surgeon spoke hurriedly to the two remaining gentlemen, and
followed his guide. Slowly she retraced her steps, refilled her bucket
at the spring, and walked on before the stranger. But the glory of the
morning had passed away; a bloody mantle hung between the splendor of
summer sunshine and the chilled heart of the awe-struck girl. The
forehead of the radiant, holy June day had been suddenly red-branded
like Cain, to be henceforth an occasion of hideous reminiscences; and
with a blanched face and trembling limbs the child followed a narrow,
beaten path, which soon terminated at the gate of a rude, unwhitewashed
paling. A low, comfortless looking three-roomed house stood within, and
on the steps sat an elderly man, smoking a pipe, and busily engaged in
mending a bridle. The creaking of the gate attracted his attention, and
he looked up wonderingly at the advancing stranger.

"Oh, grandpa! there is a murdered man lying in the grass, under the
chestnut trees, down by the spring."

"Why! how do you know he was murdered?"

"Good morning, sir. Your granddaughter happened to witness a very
unfortunate and distressing affair. A duel was fought at sunrise, in
the edge of the woods yonder, and the challenged party, Mr. Dent, of
Georgia, was killed. I came to ask permission to bring the body here,
until arrangements can be made for its interment; and also to beg your
assistance in obtaining a coffin."

Edna passed on to the kitchen, and as she deposited the bucket on the
table, a tall, muscular, red-haired woman, who was stooping over the
fire, raised her flushed face, and exclaimed angrily:

"What upon earth have you been doing? I have been halfway to the spring
to call you, and hadn't a drop of water in the kitchen to make coffee!
A pretty time of day Aaron Hunt will get his breakfast! What do you
mean by such idleness?"

She advanced with threatening mien and gesture, but stopped suddenly.

"Edna, what ails you? Have you got an ague? You are as white as that
pan of flour. Are you scared or sick?"

"There was a man killed this morning, and the body will be brought here
directly. If you want to hear about it, you had better go out on the
porch. One of the gentlemen is talking to grandpa."

Stunned by what she had seen, and indisposed to narrate the horrid
details, the girl went to her own room, and seating herself in the
window, tried to collect her thoughts. She was tempted to believe the
whole affair a hideous dream, which would pass away with vigorous
rubbing of her eyes; but the crushed purple and scarlet flowers she
took from her forehead, her dripping hair and damp feet assured her of
the vivid reality of the vision. Every fibre of her frame had received
a terrible shock, and when noisy, bustling Mrs. Hunt ran from room to
room, ejaculating her astonishment, and calling on the child to assist
in putting the house in order, the latter obeyed silently,
mechanically, as if in a state of somnambulism.

Mr. Dent's body was brought up on a rude litter of boards, and
temporarily placed on Edna's bed, and toward evening when a coffin
arrived from Chattanooga, the remains were removed, and the coffin
rested on two chairs in the middle of the same room. The surgeon
insisted upon an immediate interment near the scene of combat; but the
gentleman who had officiated as second for the deceased expressed his
determination to carry the unfortunate man's body back to his home and
family, and the earliest train on the following day was appointed as
the time for their departure. Late in the afternoon Edna cautiously
opened the door of the room which she had hitherto avoided, and with
her apron full of lilies, while poppies and sprigs of rosemary,
approached the coffin, and looked at the rigid sleeper. Judging from
his appearance, not more than thirty years had gone over his handsome
head; his placid features were unusually regular, and a soft, silky
brown beard fell upon his pulseless breast. Fearful lest she should
touch the icy form, the girl timidly strewed her flowers in the coffin,
and tears gathered and dropped with the blossoms, as she noticed a
plain gold ring on the little finger, and wondered if he were
married--if his death would leave wailing orphans in his home, and a
broken-hearted widow at the desolate hearthstone. Absorbed in her
melancholy task, she heard neither the sound of strange voices in the
passage, nor the faint creak of the door as it swung back on its rusty
hinges; but a shrill scream, a wild, despairing shriek terrified her,
and her heart seemed to stand still as she bounded away from the side
of the coffin. The light of the setting sun streamed through the
window, and over the white, convulsed face of a feeble but beautiful
woman, who was supported on the threshold by a venerable, gray-haired
man, down whose furrowed cheeks tears coursed rapidly. Struggling to
free herself from his restraining grasp, the stranger tottered into the
middle of the room.

"O Harry! My husband! my husband!" She threw up her wasted arms, and
fell forward senseless on the corpse.

They bore her into the adjoining apartment, where the surgeon
administered the usual restoratives, and though finally the pulses
stirred and throbbed feebly, no symptom of returning consciousness
greeted the anxious friends who bent over her. Hour after hour passed,
during which she lay as motionless as her husband's body, and at length
the physician sighed, and pressing his fingers to his eyes, said
sorrowfully to the grief-stricken old man beside her: "It is paralysis,
Mr. Dent, and there is no hope. She may linger twelve or twenty-four
hours, but her sorrows are ended; she and Harry will soon be reunited.
Knowing her constitution, I feared as much. You should not have
suffered her to come; you might have known that the shock would kill
her. For this reason I wished his body buried here."

"I could not restrain her. Some meddling gossip told her that my poor
boy had gone to fight a duel, and she rose from her bed and started to
the railroad depot. I pleaded, I reasoned with her that she could not
bear the journey, but I might as well have talked to the winds, I never
knew her obstinate before, but she seemed to have a presentiment of the
truth. God pity her two sweet babes!"

The old man bowed his head upon her pillow, and sobbed aloud.

Throughout the night Edna crouched beside the bed, watching the wan but
lovely face of the young widow, and tenderly chafing the numb, fair
hands which lay so motionless on the coverlet. Children are always
sanguine, because of their ignorance of the stern, inexorable realities
of the untried future, and Edna could not believe that death would
snatch from the world one so beautiful and so necessary to her
prattling, fatherless infants. But morning showed no encouraging
symptoms, the stupor was unbroken, and at noon the wife's spirit passed
gently to the everlasting reunion.

Before sunrise on the ensuing day, a sad group clustered once more
under the dripping chestnuts, and where a pool of blood had dyed the
sod, a wide grave yawned. The coffins were lowered, the bodies of Henry
and Helen Dent rested side by side, and, as the mound rose slowly above
them, the solemn silence was broken by the faltering voice of the
surgeon, who read the burial service.

"Man, that is born of a woman, hath but a short time to live, and is
full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth
as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay. Yet, O Lord God
most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour,
deliver us not into the pains of eternal death!"

The melancholy rite ended, the party dispersed, the strangers took
their departure for their distant homes, and quiet reigned once more in
the small, dark cottage. But days and weeks brought to Edna no oblivion
of the tragic events which constituted the first great epoch of her
monotonous life. A nervous restlessness took possession of her, she
refused to occupy her old room, and insisted upon sleeping on a pallet
at the foot of her grandfather's bed. She forsook her whilom haunts
about the spring and forest, and started up in terror at every sudden
sound; while from each opening between the chestnut trees the hazel
eyes of the dead man, and the wan, thin face of the golden-haired wife,
looked out beseechingly at her. Frequently, in the warm light of day,
ere shadows stalked to and fro in the thick woods, she would steal,
with an apronful of wild flowers, to the solitary grave, scatter her
treasures in the rank grass that waved above it, and hurry away with
hushed breath and quivering limbs. Summer waned, autumn passed, and
winter came, but the girl recovered in no degree from the shock which
had cut short her chant of praise on that bloody June day. In her
morning visit to the spring, she had stumbled upon a monster which
custom had adopted and petted--which the passions and sin fulness of
men had adroitly draped and fondled, and called Honorable Satisfaction;
but her pure, unperverted, Ithuriel nature pierced the conventional
mask, recognized the loathsome lineaments of crime, and recoiled in
horror and amazement, wondering at the wickedness of her race and the
forbearance of outraged Jehovah. Innocent childhood had for the first
time stood face to face with Sin and Death, and could not forget the
vision.

Edna Earl had lost both her parents before she was old enough to
remember either. Her mother was the only daughter of Aaron Hunt, the
village blacksmith, and her father, who was an intelligent, promising
young carpenter, accidentally fell from the roof of the house which he
was shingling, and died from the injuries sustained. Thus Mr. Hunt, who
had been a widower for nearly ten years, found himself burdened with
the care of an infant only six months old. His daughter had never left
him, and after her death the loneliness of the house oppressed him
painfully, and for the sake of his grandchild he resolved to marry
again. The middle-aged widow whom he selected was a kind-hearted and
generous woman, but indolent, ignorant, and exceedingly high-tempered;
and while she really loved the little orphan committed to her care, she
contrived to alienate her affection, and to tighten the bonds of union
between her husband and the child. Possessing a remarkably amiable and
equable disposition, Edna rarely vexed Mrs. Hunt, who gradually left
her more and more to the indulgence of her own views and caprices, and
contented herself with exacting a certain amount of daily work, after
the accomplishment of which she allowed her to amuse herself as
childish whims dictated. There chanced to be no children of her own age
in the neighborhood, consequently she grew up without companionship,
save that furnished by her grandfather, who was dotingly fond of her,
and would have utterly spoiled her, had not her temperament fortunately
been one not easily injured by unrestrained liberty of action. Before
she was able to walk, he would take her to the forge, and keep her for
hours on a sheepskin in one corner, whence she watched, with infantile
delight, the blast of the furnace, and the shower of sparks that fell
from the anvil, and where she often slept, lulled by the monotonous
chorus of trip and sledge. As she grew older, the mystery of bellows
and slack-tub engaged her attention, and at one end of the shop, on a
pile of shavings, she collected a mass of curiously shaped bits of iron
and steel, and blocks of wood, from which a miniature shop threatened
to rise in rivalry; and finally, when strong enough to grasp the
handles of the bellows, her greatest pleasure consisted in rendering
the feeble assistance which her grandfather was always so proud to
accept at her hands. Although ignorant and uncultivated, Mr. Hunt was a
man of warm, tender feelings, and rare nobility of soul. He regretted
the absence of early advantages which poverty had denied him; and in
teaching Edna to read and to write, and to cipher, he never failed to
impress upon her the vast superiority which a thorough education
confers. Whether his exhortations first kindled her ambition, or
whether her aspiration for knowledge was spontaneous and irrepressible,
he knew not; but she manifested very early a fondness for study and
thirst for learning which he gratified to the fullest extent of his
limited ability. The blacksmith's library consisted of the family
Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, a copy of Irving's Sermons on Parables, Guy
Mannering, a few tracts, and two books which had belonged to an
itinerant minister who preached occasionally in the neighborhood, and
who, having died rather suddenly at Mr. Hunt's house, left the volumes
in his saddle-bags, which were never claimed by his family, residing in
a distant State. Those books were Plutarch's Lives and a worn school
copy of Anthon's Classical Dictionary; and to Edna they proved a
literary Ophir of inestimable value and exhaustless interest. Plutarch
especially was a Pisgah of letters, whence the vast domain of learning,
the Canaan of human wisdom, stretched alluringly before her; and as
often as she climbed this height, and viewed the wondrous scene beyond,
it seemed, indeed,

  ...... "an arch where through
   Gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades
   Forever and forever when we move."

In after years she sometimes questioned if this mount of observation
was also that of temptation, to which ambition had led her spirit, and
there bargained for and bought her future. Love of nature, love of
books, an earnest piety and deep religious enthusiasm were the
characteristics of a noble young soul, left to stray through the
devious, checkered paths of life without other guidance than that which
she received from communion with Greek sages and Hebrew prophets. An
utter stranger to fashionable conventionality and latitudinarian
ethics, it was no marvel that the child stared and shivered when she
saw the laws of God vetoed, and was blandly introduced to murder as
Honorable Satisfaction.



CHAPTER II.


Nearly a mile from the small, straggling village of Chattanooga stood
Aaron Hunt's shop, shaded by a grove of oak and chestnut trees, which
grew upon the knoll, where two roads intersected. Like the majority of
blacksmith's shops at country cross-roads, it was a low, narrow shed,
filled with dust and rubbish, with old wheels and new single-trees,
broken plows and dilapidated wagons awaiting repairs, and at the rear
of the shop stood a smaller shed, where an old gray horse quietly ate
his corn and fodder, waiting to carry the master to his home, two miles
distant, as soon as the sun had set beyond the neighboring mountain.
Early in winter, having an unusual amount of work on hand, Mr. Hunt
hurried away from home one morning, neglecting to take the bucket which
contained his dinner, and Edna was sent to repair the oversight.
Accustomed to ramble about the woods without companionship, she walked
leisurely along the rocky road, swinging the tin bucket in one hand,
and pausing now and then to watch the shy red-birds that flitted like
flame-jets in and out of the trees as she passed. The unbroken repose
of earth and sky, the cold, still atmosphere and peaceful sunshine,
touched her heart with a sense of quiet but pure happiness, and half
unconsciously she began a hymn which her grandfather often sang over
his anvil:

  "Lord, in the morning Thou shalt hear
    My voice ascending high;
   To Thee will I direct my prayer,
    To Thee lift up mine eye."

Ere the first verse was ended, the clatter of a horse's hoofs hushed
her song, and she glanced up as a harsh voice asked impatiently:

"Are you stone deaf? I say, is there a blacksmith's shop near?"

The rider reined in his horse, a spirited, beautiful animal, and waited
for an answer.

"Yes, sir. There is a shop about half a mile ahead, on the right hand
side, where the road forks."

He just touched his hat with the end of his gloved fingers and galloped
on. When Edna reached the shop she saw her grandfather examining the
horse's shoes, while the stranger walked up and down the road before
the forge. He was a very tall, strong man, with a gray shawl thrown
over one shoulder, and a black fur hat drawn so far over his face that
only the lower portion was visible; and this, swarthy and harsh, left a
most disagreeable impression on the child's mind as she passed him and
went up to the spot where Mr. Hunt was at work. Putting the bucket
behind her, she stooped, kissed him on his furrowed forehead, and said:

"Grandpa, guess what brought me to see you to-day?"

"I forgot my dinner, and you have trudged over here to bring it. Ain't
I right, Pearl? Stand back, honey, or this Satan of a horse may kick
your brains out. I can hardly manage him."

Here the stranger uttered an oath, and called out, "How much longer do
you intend to keep me waiting?"

"No longer, sir, than I can help, as I like the company of polite
people."

"Oh, grandpa!" whispered Edna, deprecatingly, as she saw the traveller
come rapidly forward and throw his shawl down on the grass. Mr. Hunt
pushed back his old battered woolen hat, and looked steadily at the
master of the horse--saying gravely and resolutely:

"I'll finish the job as soon as I can, and that is as much as any
reasonable man would ask. Now, sir, if that doesn't suit you, you can
take your horse and put out, and swear at somebody else, for I won't
stand it."

"It is a cursed nuisance to be detained here for such a trifle as one
shoe, and you might hurry yourself."

"Your horse is very restless and vicious, and I could shoe two gentle
ones while I am trying to quiet him."

The man muttered something indistinctly, and laying his hand heavily on
the horse's mane, said very sternly a few words, which were utterly
unintelligible to his human listeners, though they certainly exerted a
magical influence over the fiery creature, who, savage as the pampered
pets of Diomedes, soon stood tranquil and contented, rubbing his head
against his master's shoulder. Repelled by the rude harshness of this
man, Edna walked into the shop, and watched the silent group outside,
until the work was finished and Mr. Hunt threw down his tools and wiped
his face.

"What do I owe you?" said the impatient rider, springing to his saddle,
and putting his hand into his vest pocket.

"I charge nothing for 'such trifles' as that."

"But I am in the habit of paying for my work."

"It is not worth talking about. Good day, sir."

Mr. Hunt turned and walked into his shop.

"There is a dollar, it is the only small change I have." He rode up to
the door of the shed, threw the small gold coin toward the blacksmith,
and was riding rapidly away, when Edna darted after him, exclaiming,
"Stop, sir! you have left your shawl!"

He turned in the saddle, and even under the screen of her calico bonnet
she felt the fiery gleam of his eyes, as he stooped to take the shawl
from her hand. Once more his fingers touched his hat, he bowed and said
hastily:

"I thank you, child." Then spurring his horse, he was out of sight in a
moment.

"He is a rude, blasphemous, wicked man," said Mr. Hunt as Edna
reentered the shop, and picked up the coin, which lay glistening amid
the cinders around the anvil.

"Why do you think him wicked?"

"No good man swears as he did, before you came; and didn't you notice
the vicious, wicked expression of his eyes?"

"No, sir, I did not see much of his face, he never looked at me but
once. I should not like to meet him again; I am afraid of him."

"Never fear, Pearl, he is a stranger here, and there's little chance of
your ever setting your eyes on his ugly, savage face again. Keep the
money, dear; I won't have it after all the airs he put on. If, instead
of shoeing his wild brute, I had knocked the fellow down for his
insolence in cursing me, it would have served him right. Politeness is
a cheap thing; and a poor man, if he behaves himself, and does his work
well, is as much entitled to it as the President."

"I will give the dollar to grandma, to buy a new coffee-pot; for she
said to-day the old one was burnt out, and she could not use it any
longer. But what is that yonder on the grass? That man left something
after all."

She picked up from the spot where he had thrown his shawl a handsome
morocco-bound pocket copy of Dante, and opening it to discover the name
of the owner, she saw written on the fly-leaf in a bold and beautiful
hand, "S. E. M., Boboli Gardens, Florence. Lasciate ogni speranza voi
ch' entrate."

"What does this mean, grandpa?"

She held up the book and pointed out the words of the dread inscription.

"Indeed, Pearl, how should I know? It is Greek, or Latin, or Dutch,
like the other outlandish gibberish he talked to that devilish horse.
He must have spent his life among the heathens, to judge from his talk;
for he has neither manner nor religion. Honey, better put the book
there in the furnace; it is not fit for your eyes."

"He may come back for it if he misses it pretty soon."

"Not he. One might almost believe that he was running from the law. He
would not turn back for it if it was bound in gold instead of leather.
It is no account, I'll warrant, or he would not have been reading it,
the ill-mannered heathen!"

Weeks passed, and as the owner was not heard of again, Edna felt that
she might justly claim as her own this most marvellous of books, which,
though beyond her comprehension, furnished a source of endless wonder
and delight. The copy was Gary's translation, with illustrations
designed by Flaxman; and many of the grand, gloomy passages were
underlined by pencil and annotated in the unknown tongue, which so
completely baffled her curiosity. Night and day she pored over this new
treasure; sometimes dreaming of the hideous faces that scowled at her
from the solemn, mournful pages; and anon, when startled from sleep by
these awful visions, she would soothe herself to rest by murmuring the
metrical version of the Lord's Prayer contained in the "Purgatory."
Most emphatically did Mrs. Hunt disapprove of the studious and
contemplative habits of the ambitious child, who she averred was
indulging dreams and aspirations far above her station in life, and
well calculated to dissatisfy her with her humble, unpretending home
and uninviting future. Education, she contended, was useless to poor
people, who could not feed and clothe themselves with "book learning;"
and experience had taught her that those who lounged about with books
in their hands generally came to want, and invariably to harm. It was
in vain that she endeavored to convince her husband of the impropriety
of permitting the girl to spend so much time over her books; he finally
put the matter at rest by declaring that, in his opinion, Edna was a
remarkable child; and if well educated, might even rise to the position
of teacher for the neighborhood, which would confer most honorable
distinction upon the family. Laying his brawny hand fondly on her head,
he said, tenderly:

"Let her alone, wife! let her alone! You will make us proud of you,
won't you, little Pearl, when you are smart enough to teach a school? I
shall be too old to work by that time, and you will take care of me,
won't you, my little mocking-bird?"

"Oh, Grandy; that I will. But do you really think I ever shall have
sense enough to be a teacher? You know I ought to learn everything, and
I have so few books."

"To be sure you will. Remember there is always a way where there's a
will. When I pay off the debt I owe Peter Wood, I will see what we can
do about some new books. Put on your shawl now, Pearl, and hunt up old
Brindle, it is milking time, and she is not in sight."

"Grandpa, are you sure you feel better this evening?" She plunged her
fingers in his thick white hair, and rubbed her round, rosy cheek
softly against his.

"Oh! yes, I am better. Hurry back, Pearl, I want you to read to me."

It was a bright day in January, and the old man sat in a large
rocking-chair on the porch, smoking his pipe, and sunning himself in
the last rays of the sinking sun. He had complained all day of not
feeling well, and failed to go to his work as usual; and now, as his
grandchild tied her pink calico bonnet under her chin, and wrapped
herself in her faded plaid shawl, he watched her with a tender, loving
light in his keen gray eyes. She kissed him, buttoned his shirt collar,
which had become unfastened, drew his homespun coat closer to his
throat, and springing down the steps bounded away in search of the cow,
who often strayed so far off that she was dispatched to drive her home.
In the grand, peaceful, solemn woods, through which the wintry wind now
sighed in a soothing monotone, the child's spirit reached an exaltation
which, had she lived two thousand years earlier, and roamed amid the
vales and fastnesses of classic Arcadia, would have vented itself in
dithyrambics to the great "Lord of the Hyle," the Greek "All," the
horned and hoofed god, Pan. In every age, and among all people--from
the Parsee devotees and the Gosains of India to the Pantheism of Bruno,
Spinoza, and New England's "Illuminati"--nature has been apotheosized;
and the heart of the blacksmith's untutored darling stirred with the
same emotions of awe and adoration which thrilled the worshipers of
Hertha, when the veiled chariot stood in Helgeland, and which made the
groves and grottoes of Phrygia sacred to Dindymene. Edna loved trees
and flowers, stars and clouds, with a warm, clinging affection, as she
loved those of her own race; and that solace and amusement which most
children find in the society of children and the sports of childhood
this girl derived from the solitude and serenity of nature. To her
woods and fields were indeed vocal, and every flitting bird and
gurgling brook, every passing cloud and whispering breeze, brought
messages of God's eternal love and wisdom, and drew her tender,
yearning heart more closely to Jehovah, the Lord God Omnipotent.
To-day, in the boundless reverence and religious enthusiasm of her
character, she directed her steps to a large spreading oak, now
leafless, where in summer she often came to read and pray; and here
falling on her knees she thanked God for the blessings showered upon
her. Entirely free from discontent and querulousness, she was
thoroughly happy in her poor humble home, and over all, like a
consecration, shone the devoted love for her grandfather, which more
than compensated for any want of which she might otherwise have been
conscious. Accustomed always to ask special favor for him, his name now
passed her lips in earnest supplication, and she fervently thanked the
Father that his threatened illness had been arrested without serious
consequences. The sun had gone down when she rose and hurried on in
search of the cow. The shadows of a winter evening gathered in the
forest and climbed like trooping spirits up the rocky mountain side,
and as she plunged deeper and deeper into the woods, the child began a
wild cattle call that she was wont to use on such occasions. The echoes
rang out a weird Brocken chorus, and at last, when she was growing
impatient of the fruitless search, she paused to listen, and heard the
welcome sound of the familiar lowing, by which the old cow recognized
her summons. Following the sound, Edna soon saw the missing favorite
coming slowly toward her, and ere many moments both were running
homeward. As she approached the house, driving Brindle before her, and
merrily singing her rude 'Ranz des vaches', the moon rose full and
round, and threw a flood of light over the porch where the blacksmith
still sat. Edna took off her bonnet and waved it at him, but he did not
seem to notice the signal, and driving the cow into the yard, she
called out as she latched the gate:

"Grandy, dear, why don't you go in to the fire? Are you waiting for me,
out here in the cold? I think Brindle certainly must have been cropping
grass around the old walls of Jericho, as that is the farthest off of
any place I know. If she is half as tired and hungry as I am, she ought
to be glad to get home." He did not answer, and running up the steps
she thought he had fallen asleep. The old woolen hat shaded his face,
but when she crept on tiptoe to the chair, stooped, put her arms around
him, and kissed his wrinkled cheek, she started back in terror. The
eyes stared at the moon, the stiff fingers clutched the pipe from which
the ashes had not been shaken, and the face was cold and rigid. Aaron
Hunt had indeed fallen asleep, to wake no more amid the storms and woes
and tears of time.

Edna fell on her knees and grasped the icy hands. "Grandpa! wake up!
Oh, grandpa! speak to me, your little Pearl! Wake up! dear Grandy! I
have come back! My grandpa! Oh!--"

A wild, despairing cry rent the still evening air, and shrieked
dismally back from the distant hills and the gray, ghostly
mountain--and the child fell on her face at the dead man's feet.

Throughout that dreary night of agony, Edna lay on the bed where her
grandfather's body had been placed, holding one of the stiffened hands
folded in both hers, and pressed against her lips. She neither wept nor
moaned, the shock was too terrible to admit of noisy grief; but
completely stunned, she lay mute and desolate.

For the first time in her life she could not pray; she wanted to turn
away from the thought of God and heaven, for it seemed that she had
nothing left to pray for. That silver-haired, wrinkled old man was the
only father she had ever known; he had cradled her in his sinewy arms,
and slept clasping her to his heart; had taught her to walk, and
surrounded her with his warm, pitying love, making a home of peace and
blessedness for her young life. Giving him, in return, the whole wealth
of her affection, he had become the centre of all her hopes, joys and
aspirations; now what remained? Bitter, rebellious feelings hardened
her heart when she remembered that even while she was kneeling,
thanking God for his preservation from illness, he had already passed
away; nay, his sanctified spirit probably poised its wings close to the
Eternal Throne, and listened to the prayer which she sent up to God for
his welfare and happiness and protection while on earth. The souls of
our dead need not the aid of Sandalphon to interpret the whispers that
rise tremulously from the world of sin and wrestling, that float up
among the stars, through the gates of pearl, down the golden streets of
the New Jerusalem. So we all trust, and prate of our faith, and deceive
ourselves with the fond hope that we are resigned to the Heavenly Will;
and we go on with a show of Christian reliance, while the morning sun
smiles in gladness and plenty, and the hymn of happy days and the dear
voices of our loved ones make music in our ears; and lo! God puts us in
the crucible. The light of life--the hope of all future years is
blotted out; clouds of despair and the grim night of an unbroken and
unlifting desolation fall like a pall on heart and brain; we dare not
look heavenward, dreading another blow; our anchor drags, we drift out
into a hideous Dead Sea, where our idol has gone down forever--and
boasted faith and trust and patience are swept like straws from our
grasp in the tempest of woe; while our human love cries wolfishly for
its lost darling. Ah! we build grand and gloomy mausoleums for our
precious dead hopes, but, like Artemisia, we refuse to sepulchre--we
devour the bitter ashes of the lost, and grimly and audaciously
challenge Jehovah to take the worthless, mutilated life that his wisdom
reserves for other aims and future toils. Job's wife is immortal and
ubiquitous, haunting the sorrow-shrouded chamber of every stricken
human soul, and fiendishly prompting the bleeding, crushed spirit to
"curse God and die." Edna had never contemplated the possibility of her
grandfather's death--it was a horror she had never forced herself to
front; and now that he was cut down in an instant, without even the
mournful consolation of parting words and farewell kisses, she asked
herself again and again: "What have I done, that God should punish me
so? I thought I was grateful, I thought I was doing my duty; but oh!
what dreadful sin have I committed, to deserve this awful affliction?"
During the long, ghostly watches of that winter night, she recalled her
past life, gilded by the old man's love, and could remember no
happiness with which he was not intimately connected, and no sorrow
that his hand had not soothed and lightened. The future was now a
blank, crossed by no projected paths, lit with no ray of hope; and at
daylight, when the cold, pale morning showed the stony face of the
corpse at her side, her unnatural composure broke up in a storm of
passionate woe, and she sprang to her feet, almost frantic with the
sense of her loss:

"All alone! nobody to love me; nothing to look forward to! Oh. grandpa!
did you hear me praying for you yesterday? Dear Grandy--my own dear
Grandy! I did pray for you while you were dying--here alone! Oh, my
God! what have I done, that you should take him away from me? Was not I
on my knees when he died? Oh! what will become of me now? Nobody to
care for Edna now! Oh, grandpa! grandpa! beg Jesus to ask God to take
me too!" And throwing up her clasped hands, she sank back insensible on
the shrouded form of the dead.

  "When some beloved voice that was to you
   Both sound and sweetness, faileth suddenly,
   And silence against which you dare not cry,
   Aches round you like a strong disease and new--
   What hope? what help? what music will undo
   That silence to your senses? Not friendship's sigh,
   Not reason's subtle count. Nay, none of these!
   Speak Thou, availing Christ! and fill this pause."



CHAPTER III.


Of all that occurred during many ensuing weeks Edna knew little. She
retained, in after years, only a vague, confused remembrance of keen
anguish and utter prostration, and an abiding sense of irreparable
loss. In delirious visions she saw her grandfather now struggling in
the grasp of Phlegyas, and now writhing in the fiery tomb of Uberti,
with jets of flame leaping through his white hair, and his shrunken
hands stretched appealingly toward her, as she had seen those of the
doomed Ghibelline leader, in the hideous Dante picture. All the
appalling images evoked by the sombre and embittered imagination of the
gloomy Tuscan had seized upon her fancy, even in happy hours, and were
now reproduced by her disordered brain in multitudinous and aggravated
forms. Her wails of agony, her passionate prayers to God to release the
beloved spirit from the tortures which her delirium painted, were
painful beyond expression to those who watched her ravings; and it was
with a feeling of relief that they finally saw her sink into
apathy--into a quiet mental stupor--from which nothing seemed to rouse
her. She did not remark Mrs. Hunt's absence, or the presence of the
neighbors at her bedside. And one morning, when she was wrapped up and
placed by the fire, Mrs. Wood told her as gently as possible that her
grandmother had died from a disease which was ravaging the country and
supposed to be cholera. The intelligence produced no emotion; she
merely looked up an instant, glanced mournfully around the dreary room,
and, shivering slightly, drooped her head again on her hand. Week after
week went slowly by, and she was removed to Mrs. Wood's house, but no
improvement was discernible, and the belief became general that the
child's mind had sunk into hopeless imbecility. The kind-hearted miller
and his wife endeavored to coax her out of her chair by the
chimney-corner, but she crouched there, a wan, mute figure of woe,
pitiable to contemplate; asking no questions, causing no trouble,
receiving no consolation. One bright March morning she sat, as usual,
with her face bowed on her thin hand, and her vacant gaze fixed on the
blazing fire, when, through the open window, came the impatient lowing
of a cow. Mrs. Wood saw a change pass swiftly over the girl's face, and
a quiver cross the lips so long frozen. She lifted her head, rose, and
followed the sound, and soon stood at the side of Brindle, who now
furnished milk for the miller's family. As the gentle cow recognized
and looked at her, with an expression almost human in the mild, liquid
eyes, all the events of that last serene evening swept back to Edna's
deadened memory, and, leaning her head on Brindle's horns, she shed the
first tears that had flowed for her great loss, while sobs, thick and
suffocating, shook her feeble, emaciated frame.

"Bless the poor little outcast, she will get well now. That is just
exactly what she needs. I tell you, Peter, one good cry like that is
worth a wagon-load of physic. Don't go near her; let her have her cry
out. Poor thing! It ain't often you see a child love her granddaddy as
she loved Aaron Hunt. Poor lamb!"

Mrs. Wood wiped her own eyes, and went back to her weaving; and Edna
turned away from the mill and walked to her deserted home, while the
tears poured ceaselessly over her white cheeks. As she approached the
old house she saw that it was shut up and neglected; but when she
opened the gate, Grip, the fierce yellow terror of the whole
neighborhood, sprang from the door-step, where he kept guard as
tirelessly as Maida, and, with a dismal whine of welcome, leaped up and
put his paws on her shoulders. This had been the blacksmith's pet, fed
by his hand, chained when he went to the shop, and released at his
return; and grim and repulsively ugly though he was, the only playmate
Edna had ever known; had gamboled around her cradle, slept with her on
the sheepskin, and frolicked with her through the woods, in many a long
search for Brindle. He alone remained of all the happy past; and as
precious memories crowded mournfully up, she sat upon the steps of the
dreary homestead, with her arms around his neck, and wept bitterly.
After an hour she left the house, and, followed by the dog, crossed the
woods in the direction of the neighborhood graveyard. In order to reach
it she was forced to pass by the spring and the green hillock where Mr.
and Mrs. Dent slept side by side, but no nervous terror seized her now
as formerly; the great present horror swallowed up all others, and,
though she trembled from physical debility, she dragged herself on till
the rude, rough paling of the burying-ground stood before her. Oh,
dreary desolation; thy name is country graveyard! Here no polished
sculptured stela pointed to the Eternal Rest beyond; no classic marbles
told, in gilded characters, the virtues of the dead; no flowery-fringed
gravel-walks wound from murmuring waterfalls and rippling fountains to
crystal lakes, where trailing willows threw their flickering shadows
over silver-dusted lilies; no spicy perfume of purple heliotrope and
starry jasmine burdened the silent air; none of the solemn beauties and
soothing charms of Greenwood or Mount Auburn wooed the mourner from her
weight of woe. Decaying head-boards, green with the lichen-fingered
touch of time, leaned over neglected mounds, where last year's weeds
shivered in the sighing breeze, and autumn winds and winter rains had
drifted a brown shroud of shriveled leaves; while here and there
meek-eyed sheep lay sunning themselves upon the trampled graves, and
the slow-measured sound of a bell dinged now and then as cattle browsed
on the scanty herbage in this most neglected of God's Acres. Could
Charles Lamb have turned from the pompous epitaphs and high-flown
panegyrics of that English cemetery, to the rudely-lettered boards
which here briefly told the names and ages of the sleepers in these
narrow beds, he had never asked the question which now stands as a
melancholy epigram on family favoritism and human frailty. Gold gilds
even the lineaments and haunts of Death, making Pere la Chaise a
favored spot for fetes champetres; while poverty hangs neither veil nor
mask over the grinning ghoul, and flees, superstition-spurred, from the
hideous precincts.

In one corner of the inclosure, where Edna's parents slept, she found
the new mounds that covered the remains of those who had nurtured and
guarded her young life; and on an unpainted board was written in large
letters:

"To the memory of Aaron Hunt: an honest blacksmith, and true Christian;
aged sixty-eight years and six months."

Here, with her head on her grandfather's grave, and the faithful dog
crouched at her feet, lay the orphan, wrestling with grief and
loneliness, striving to face a future that loomed before her
spectre-thronged; and here Mr. Wood found her when anxiety at her long
absence induced his wife to search for the missing invalid. The storm
of sobs and tears had spent itself, fortitude took the measure of the
burden imposed, shouldered the galling weight, and henceforth, with
undimmed vision, walked steadily to the appointed goal. The miller was
surprised to find her so calm, and as they went homeward she asked the
particulars of all that had occurred, and thanked him gravely but
cordially for the kind care bestowed upon her, and for the last
friendly offices performed for her grandfather.

Conscious of her complete helplessness and physical prostration, she
ventured no allusion to the future, but waited patiently until renewed
strength permitted the execution of designs now fully mapped out.
Notwithstanding her feebleness, she rendered herself invaluable to Mrs.
Wood, who praised her dexterity and neatness as a seamstress, and
predicted that she would make a model housekeeper.

Late one Sunday evening in May, as the miller and his wife sat upon the
steps of their humble and comfortless looking home, they saw Edna
slowly approaching, and surmised where she had spent the afternoon.
Instead of going into the house she seated herself beside them, and,
removing her bonnet, traces of tears were visible on her sad but
patient face.

"You ought not to go over yonder so often, child. It is not good for
you," said the miller, knocking the ashes from his pipe.

She shaded her countenance with her hand, and after a moment said, in a
low but steady tone:

"I shall never go there again. I have said good-bye to everything, and
have nothing now to keep me here. You and Mrs. Wood have been very kind
to me, and I thank you heartily; but you have a family of children, and
have your hands full to support them without taking care of me. I know
that our house must go to you to pay that old debt, and even the horse
and cow; and there will be nothing left when you are paid. You are very
good, indeed, to offer me a home here, and I never can forget your
kindness; but I should not be willing to live on anybody's charity; and
besides, all the world is alike to me now, and I want to get out of
sight of--of--what shows my sorrow to me every day. I don't love this
place now; it won't let me forget, even for a minute, and--and--"

Here the voice faltered and she paused.

"But where could you go, and how could you make your bread, you poor
little ailing thing?"

"I hear that in the town of Columbus, Georgia, even little children get
wages to work in the factory, and I know I can earn enough to pay my
board among the factory people."

"But you are too young to be straying about in a strange place. If you
will stay here, and help my wife about the house and the weaving, I
will take good care of you, and clothe you till you are grown and
married."

"I would rather go away, because I want to be educated, and I can't be
if I stay here."

"Fiddlestick! you will know as much as the balance of us, and that's
all you will ever have any use for. I notice you have a hankering after
books, but the quicker you get that foolishness out of your head the
better; for books won't put bread in your mouth and clothes on your
back; and folks that want to be better than their neighbors generally
turn out worse. The less book-learning you women have the better."

"I don't see that it is any of your business, Peter Wood, how much
learning we women choose to get, provided your bread is baked and your
socks darned when you want 'em. A woman has as good a right as a man to
get book-learning, if she wants it; and as for sense, I'll thank you,
mine is as good as yours any day; and folks have said it was a blessed
thing for the neighborhood when the rheumatiz laid Peter Wood up, and
his wife, Dorothy Elmira Wood, run the mill. Now, it's of no earthly
use to cut at us women over that child's shoulders; if she wants an
education she has as much right to it as anybody, if she can pay for
it. My doctrine is, everybody has a right to whatever they can pay for,
whether it is schooling or a satin frock!"

Mrs. Wood seized her snuff-bottle and plunged a stick vigorously into
the contents, and, as the miller showed no disposition to skirmish, she
continued:

"I take an interest in you, Edna Earl, because I loved your mother, who
was the only sweet-tempered beauty that ever I knew. I think I never
set my eyes on a prettier face, with big brown eyes as meek as a
partridge's; and then her hands and feet were as small as a queen's.
Now as long as you are satisfied to stay here I shall be glad to have
you, and I will do as well for you as for my own Tabitha; but, if you
are bent on factory work and schooling, I have got no more to say; for
I have no right to say where you shall go or where you shall stay. But
one thing I do want to tell you, it is a serious thing for a poor,
motherless girl to be all alone among strangers."

There was a brief silence, and Edna answered slowly:

"Yes, Mrs. Wood, I know it is; but God can protect me there as well as
here, and I have none now but Him. I have made up my mind to go,
because I think it is the best for me, and I hope Mr. Wood will carry
me to the Chattanooga depot to-morrow morning, as the train leaves
early. I have a little money--seven dollars--that--that grandpa gave me
at different times, and both Brindle's calves belong to me--he gave
them to me--and I thought may be you would pay me a few dollars for
them."

"But you are not ready to start to-morrow."

"Yes, sir, I washed and ironed my clothes yesterday, and what few I
have are all packed in my box. Everything is ready now, and, as I have
to go, I might as well start to-morrow."

"Don't you think you will get dreadfully homesick in about a month, and
write to me to come and fetch you back?"

"I have no home and nobody to love me, how then can I ever be homesick?
Grandpa's grave is all the home I have, and--and--God would not take me
there when I was so sick, and--and--" The quiver of her face showed
that she was losing her self-control, and turning away, she took the
cedar piggin, and went out to milk Brindle for the last time.

Feeling that they had no right to dictate her future course, neither
the miller nor his wife offered any further opposition, and very early
the next morning, after Mrs. Wood had given the girl what she called
"some good motherly advice," and provided her with a basket containing
food for the journey, she kissed her heartily several times, and saw
her stowed away in the miller's covered cart, which was to convey her
to the railway station. The road ran by the old blacksmith's shop, and
Mr. Wood's eyes filled as he noticed the wistful, lingering, loving
gaze which the girl fixed upon it, until a grove of trees shut out the
view; then the head bowed itself, and a stifled moan reached his ears.

The engine whistled as they approached the station, and Edna was
hurried aboard the train, while her companion busied himself in
transferring her box of clothing to the baggage car. She had insisted
on taking her grandfather's dog with her, and, notwithstanding the
horrified looks of the passengers and the scowl of the conductor, he
followed her into the car and threw himself under the seat, glaring at
all who passed, and looking as hideously savage as the Norse Managarmar.

"You can't have a whole seat to yourself, and nobody wants to sit near
that ugly brute," said the surly conductor.

Edna glanced down the aisle, and saw two young gentlemen stretched at
full length on separate seats, eyeing her curiously.

Observing that the small seat next to the door was partially filled
with the luggage of the parties who sat in front of it, she rose and
called to the dog, saying to the conductor as she did so:

"I will take that half of a seat yonder, where I shall be in nobody's
way."

Here Mr. Wood came forward, thrust her ticket into her fingers, and
shook her hand warmly, saying hurriedly:

"Hold on to your ticket, and don't put your head out of the window. I
told the conductor he must look after you and your box when you left
the cars; said he would. Good-by, Edna; take care of yourself, and may
God bless you, child."

The locomotive whistled, the train moved slowly on, and the miller
hastened back to his cart.

As the engine got fully under way, and dashed around a curve, the
small, straggling village disappeared, trees and hills seemed to the
orphan to fly past the window; and when she leaned out and looked back,
only the mist-mantled rocks of Lookout, and the dim, purplish outline
of the Sequatchie heights were familiar.

In the shadow of that solitary sentinel peak her life had been passed;
she had gathered chestnuts and chincapins among its wooded clefts, and
clambered over its gray boulders as fearlessly as the young llamas of
the Parime; and now, as it rapidly receded and finally vanished, she
felt as if the last link that bound her to the past had suddenly
snapped; the last friendly face which had daily looked down on her for
twelve years was shut out forever, and she and Grip were indeed alone,
in a great, struggling world of selfishness and sin. The sun shone
dazzlingly over wide fields of grain, whose green billows swelled and
surged under the freshening breeze; golden butterflies fluttered over
the pink and blue morning-glories that festooned the rail-fences; a
brakeman whistled merrily on the platform, and children inside the car
prattled and played, while at one end a slender little girlish figure,
in homespun dress and pink calico bonnet, crouched in a corner of the
seat, staring back in the direction of hooded Lookout, feeling that
each instant bore her farther from the dear graves of her dead; and
oppressed with an intolerable sense of desolation and utter isolation
in the midst of hundreds of her own race, who were too entirely
absorbed in their individual speculations, fears and aims, to spare
even a glance at that solitary young mariner, who saw the last headland
fade from view, and found herself, with no pilot but ambition, drifting
rapidly out on the great, unknown, treacherous Sea of Life, strewn with
mournful human wrecks, whom the charts and buoys of six thousand years
of navigation could not guide to a haven of usefulness and peace.
Interminable seemed the dreary day, which finally drew to a close, and
Edna, who was weary of her cramped position, laid her aching head on
the window-sill, and watched the red light of day die in the west,
where a young moon hung her silvery crescent among the dusky tree-tops,
and the stars flashed out thick and fast. Far away among strangers,
uncared for and unnoticed, come what might, she felt that God's
changeless stars smiled down as lovingly upon her face as on her
grandfather's grave; and that the cosmopolitan language of nature knew
neither the modifications of time and space, the distinctions of social
caste, nor the limitations of national dialects.

As the night wore on, she opened the cherished copy of Dante and tried
to read, but the print was too fine for the dim lamp which hung at some
distance from her corner. Her head ached violently, and, as sleep was
impossible, she put the book back in her pocket, and watched the
flitting trees and fences, rocky banks, and occasional houses, which
seemed weird in the darkness. As silence deepened in the car, her sense
of loneliness became more and more painful, and finally she turned and
pressed her cheek against the fair, chubby hand of a baby, who slept
with its curly head on its mother's shoulder, and its little dimpled
arm and hand hanging over the back of the seat. There was comfort and a
soothing sensation of human companionship in the touch of that baby's
hand; it seemed a link in the electric chain of sympathy, and, after a
time, the orphan's eyes closed--fatigue conquered memory and sorrow,
and she fell asleep with her lips pressed to those mesmeric baby
fingers, and Grip's head resting against her knee.

Diamond-powdered "lilies of the field" folded their perfumed petals
under the Syrian dew, wherewith God nightly baptized them in token of
his ceaseless guardianship, and the sinless world of birds, the "fowls
of the air," those secure and blithe, yet improvident, little gleaners
in God's granary, nestled serenely under the shadow of the Almighty
wing; but was the all-seeing, all-directing Eye likewise upon that
desolate and destitute young mourner who sank to rest with "Our Father
which art in heaven" upon her trembling lips? Was it a decree in the
will and wisdom of our God, or a fiat from the blind fumbling of
Atheistic Chance, or was it in accordance with the rigid edict of
Pantheistic Necessity, that at that instant the cherubim of death
swooped down, on the sleeping passengers, and silver cords and golden
bowls were rudely snapped and crushed, amid the crash of timbers, the
screams of women and children, and the groans of tortured men, that
made night hideous? Over the holy hills of Judea, out of crumbling
Jerusalem, the message of Messiah has floated on the wings of eighteen
centuries: "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know
hereafter."

Edna was awakened by a succession of shrill sounds, which indicated
that the engineer was either frightened or frantic; the conductor
rushed bare-headed through the car; people sprang to their feet; there
was a scramble on the platform; then a shock and crash as if the day of
doom had dawned--and all was chaos.



CHAPTER IV.


Viewed by the aid of lanterns and the lurid, flickering light of
torches, the scene of disaster presented a ghastly debris of dead and
dying, of crushed cars and wounded men and women, who writhed and
groaned among the shattered timbers from which they found it impossible
to extricate themselves. The cries of those who recognized relatives in
the mutilated corpses that were dragged out from the wreck increased
the horrors of the occasion; and when Edna opened her eyes amid the
flaring of torches and the piercing wails of the bereaved passengers,
the first impression was, that she had died and gone to Dante's "Hell;"
but the pangs that seized her when she attempted to move soon dispelled
this frightful illusion, and by degrees the truth presented itself to
her blunted faculties. She was held fast between timbers, one of which
seemed to have fallen across her feet and crushed them, as she was
unable to move them, and was conscious of a horrible sensation of
numbness; one arm, too, was pinioned at her side, and something heavy
and cold lay upon her throat and chest. Lifting this weight with her
uninjured hand, she uttered an exclamation of horror as the white face
of the little baby whose fingers she had clasped now met her astonished
gaze; and she saw that the sweet coral lips were pinched and purple,
the waxen lids lay rigid over the blue eyes, and the dimpled hand was
stiff and icy. The confusion increased as day dawned and a large crowd
collected to offer assistance, and Edna watched her approaching
deliverers as they cut their way through the wreck and lifted out the
wretched sufferers. Finally two men, with axes in their hands, bent
down and looked into her face.

"Here is a live child and a dead baby wedged in between these beams.
Are you much hurt, little one?"

"Yes, I believe I am. Please take this log off my feet."

It was a difficult matter, but at length strong arms raised her,
carried her some distance from the ruins, and placed her on the grass,
where several other persons were writhing and groaning. The collision
which precipitated the train from trestle-work over a deep ravine, had
occurred near a village station, and two physicians were busily engaged
in examining the wounded. The sun had risen, and shone full on Edna's
pale, suffering face, when one of the surgeons, with a countenance that
indexed earnest sympathy and compassion, came to investigate the extent
of her injuries, and sat down on the grass beside her. Very tenderly he
handled her, and after a few moments said gently:

"I am obliged to hurt you a little, my child, for your shoulder is
dislocated, and some of the bones are broken in your feet; but I will
be as tender as possible. Here, Lennox! help me."

The pain was so intense that she fainted, and after a short time, when
she recovered her consciousness, her feet and ankles were tightly
bandaged, and the doctor was chafing her hands and bathing her face
with some powerful extract. Smoothing back her hair, he said:

"Were your parents on the cars? Do you know whether they are hurt?"

"They both died when I was a baby."

"Who was with you?"

"Nobody but Grip--my dog."

"Had you no relatives or friends on the train?"

"I have none. I am all alone in the world."

"Where did you come from?"

"Chattanooga."

"Where were you going?"

"My grandpa died, and as I had nobody to take care of me, I was going
to Columbus to work in the cotton factory."

"Humph! Much work you will do for many a long day."

He stroked his grayish beard, and mused a moment, and Edna said timidly:

"If you please, sir, I would like to know if my dog is hurt?"

The physician smiled, and looked round inquiringly.

"Has any one seen a dog that was on the train?"

One of the brakemen, a stout Irishman, took his pipe from his mouth,
and answered:

"Aye, aye, sir! and as vicious a brute as ever I set eyes on. Both his
hind legs were smashed--dragged so--and I tapped him on the head with
an axe to put him out of his misery. Yonder he now lies on the track."

Edna put her hand over her eyes, and turned her face down on the grass
to hide tears that would not be driven back. Here the surgeon was
called away, and for a half hour the child lay there, wondering what
would become of her, in her present crippled and helpless condition,
and questioning in her heart why God did not take her instead of that
dimpled darling, whose parents were now weeping so bitterly for the
untimely death that mowed their blossom ere its petals were expanded.
The chilling belief was fast gaining ground that God had cursed and
forsaken her; that misfortune and bereavement would dog her steps
through life; and a hard, bitter expression settled about her mouth,
and looked out gloomily from the sad eyes. Her painful reverie was
interrupted by the cheery voice of Dr. Rodney, who came back,
accompanied by an elegantly-dressed middle-aged lady.

"Ah, my brave little soldier! Tell us your name."

"Edna Earl."

"Have you no relatives?" asked the lady, stooping to scrutinize her
face.

"No, ma'am."

"She is a very pretty child, Mrs. Murray, and if you can take care of
her, even for a few weeks, until she is able to walk about, it will be
a real charity. I never saw so much fortitude displayed by one so
young; but her fever is increasing, and she needs immediate attention.
Will it be convenient for you to carry her to your house at once?"

"Certainly, doctor; order the carriage driven up as close as possible.
I brought a small mattress, and think the ride will not be very
painful. What splendid eyes she has! Poor little thing! Of course you
will come and prescribe for her, and I will see that she is carefully
nursed until she is quite well again. Here, Henry, you and Richard must
lift this child, and put her on the mattress in the carriage. Mind you
do not stumble and hurt her."

During the drive neither spoke, and Edna was in so much pain that she
lay with her eyes closed. As they entered a long avenue, the rattle of
the wheels on the gravel aroused the child's attention, and when the
carriage stopped, and she was carried up a flight of broad marble
steps, she saw that the house was very large and handsome.

"Bring her into the room next to mine," said Mrs. Murray, leading the
way.

Edna was soon undressed and placed within the snowy sheets of a
heavily-carved bedstead, whose crimson canopy shed a ruby light down on
the laced and ruffled pillows. Mrs. Murray administered a dose of
medicine given to her by Dr. Rodney, and after closing the blinds to
exclude the light, she felt the girl's pulse, found that she had fallen
into a heavy sleep, and then, with a sigh, went down to take her
breakfast. It was several hours before Edna awoke, and when she opened
her eyes, and looked around the elegantly furnished and beautiful room,
she felt bewildered. Mrs. Murray sat in a cushioned chair, near one of
the windows, with a book in her hand, and Edna had an opportunity of
studying her face. It was fair, proud, and handsome, but wore an
expression of habitual anxiety; and gray hairs showed themselves under
the costly lace that bordered her morning head-dress, while lines of
care marked her brow and mouth. Children instinctively decipher the
hieroglyphics which time carves on human faces, and, in reading the
countenance of her hostess, Edna felt that she was a haughty, ambitious
woman, with a kind but not very warm heart, who would be scrupulously
attentive to the wants of a sick child, but would probably never dream
of caressing or fondling such a charge. Chancing to glance towards the
bed as she turned a leaf, Mrs. Murray met the curious gaze fastened
upon her, and, rising, approached the sufferer.

"How do you feel, Edna? I believe that is your name."

"Thank you, my head is better, but I am very thirsty." The lady of the
house gave her some iced water in a silver goblet, and ordered a
servant to bring up the refreshments she had directed prepared. As she
felt the girl's pulse, Edna noticed how white and soft her hands were,
and how dazzlingly the jewels flashed on her fingers, and she longed
for the touch of those aristocratic hands on her hot brow, where the
hair clustered so heavily.

"How old are you, Edna?"

"Almost thirteen."

"Had you any luggage on the train?"

"I had a small box of clothes."

"I will send a servant for it." She rang the bell as she spoke.

"When do you think I shall be able to walk about?"

"Probably not for many weeks. If you need or wish anything you must not
hesitate to ask for it. A servant will sit here, and you have only to
tell her what you want."

"You are very kind, ma'am, and I thank you very much--" She paused, and
her eyes filled with tears.

Mrs. Murray looked at her and said gravely:

"What is the matter, child?"

"I am only sorry I was so ungrateful and wicked this morning."

"How so?"

"Oh! everything that I love dies; and when I lay there on the grass,
unable to move, among strangers who knew and cared nothing about me, I
was wicked, and would not try to pray, and thought God wanted to make
me suffer all my life, and I wished that I had been killed instead of
that dear little baby, who had a father and mother to kiss and love it.
It was all wrong to feel so, but I was so wretched. And then God raised
up friends even among strangers, and shows me I am not forsaken if I am
desolate. I begin to think He took everybody away from me, that I might
see how He could take care of me without them. I know 'He doeth all
things well,' but I feel it now; and I am so sorry I could not trust
Him without seeing it."

Edna wiped away her tears, and Mrs. Murray's voice faltered slightly as
she said:

"You are a good little girl, I have no doubt. Who taught you to be so
religious?"

"Grandpa."

"How long since you lost him?"

"Four months."

"Can you read?"

"Oh! yes, ma'am."

"Well, I shall send you a Bible, and you must make yourself as
contented as possible. I shall take good care of you."

As the hostess left the room a staid-looking, elderly negro woman took
a seat at the window and sewed silently, now and then glancing toward
the bed. Exhausted with pain and fatigue, Edna slept again, and it was
night when she opened her eyes and found Dr. Rodney and Mrs. Murray at
her pillow. The kind surgeon talked pleasantly for some time, and,
after giving ample instructions, took his leave, exhorting his patient
to keep up her fortitude and all would soon be well. So passed the
first day of her sojourn under the hospitable roof which appeared so
fortuitously to shelter her; and the child thanked God fervently for
the kind hands into which she had fallen. Day after day wore wearily
away, and at the end of a fortnight, though much prostrated by fever
and suffering, she was propped up in bed by pillows, while Hagar, the
servant, combed and plaited the long, thick, matted hair. Mrs. Murray
came often to the room, but her visits were short, and though
invariably kind and considerate, Edna felt an involuntary awe of her,
which rendered her manner exceedingly constrained when they were
together. Hagar was almost as taciturn as her mistress, and as the girl
asked few questions, she remained in complete ignorance of the
household affairs, and had never seen any one but Mrs. Murray, Hagar,
and the doctor. She was well supplied with books, which the former
brought from the library, and thus the invalid contrived to amuse
herself during the long, tedious summer days. One afternoon in June,
Edna persuaded Hagar to lift her to a large, cushioned chair close to
the open window which looked out on the lawn; and here, with a book on
her lap, she sat gazing out at the soft blue sky, the waving elm
boughs, and the glittering plumage of a beautiful Himalayan pheasant,
which seemed in the golden sunshine to have forgotten the rosy glow of
his native snows. Leaning her elbows on the window-sill, Edna rested
her face in her palms, and after a few minutes a tide of tender
memories rose and swept over her heart, bringing a touching expression
of patient sorrow to her sweet, wan face, and giving a far-off wistful
look to the beautiful eyes where tears often gathered but very rarely
fell. Hagar had dressed her in a new white muslin wrapper, with fluted
ruffles at the wrists and throat; and the fair young face, with its
delicate features, and glossy folds of soft hair, was a pleasant
picture, which the nurse loved to contemplate. Standing with her
work-basket in her hand, she watched the graceful little figure for two
or three moments, and a warm, loving light shone out over her black
features; then nodding her head resolutely, she muttered:

"I will have my way this once; she shall stay," and passed out of the
room, closing the door behind her. Edna did not remark her departure,
for memory was busy among the ashes of other days, exhuming a thousand
precious reminiscences of mountain home, chestnut groves, showers of
sparks fringing an anvil with fire, and an old man's unpainted
head-board in the deserted burying-ground. She started nervously when,
a half hour later, Mrs. Murray laid her hand gently on her shoulder,
and said:

"Child, of what are you thinking?"

For an instant she could not command her voice, which faltered; but
making a strong effort, she answered in a low tone:

"Of all that I have lost, and what I am to do in future."

"Would you be willing to work all your life in a factory?"

"No, ma'am; only long enough to educate myself, so that I could teach."

"You could not obtain a suitable education in that way, and beside, I
do not think that the factory you spoke of would be an agreeable place
for you. I have made some inquiries about it since you came here."

"I know it will not be pleasant, but then I am obliged to work in some
way, and I don't see what else I can do. I am not able to pay for an
education now, and I am determined to have one."

Mrs. Murray's eyes wandered out toward the velvety lawn, and she mused
for some minutes; then laying her hands on the orphan's head, she said:

"Child, will you trust your future and your education to me? I do not
mean that I will teach you--oh! no--but I will have you thoroughly
educated, so that when you are grown you can support yourself by
teaching. I have no daughter--I lost mine when she was a babe; but I
could not have seen her enter a factory, and as you remind me of my own
child, I will not allow you to go there. I will take care of and
educate you--will see that you have everything you require, if you are
willing to be directed and advised by me Understand me, I do not adopt
you; nor shall I consider you exactly as one of my family; but I shall
prove a good friend and protector till you are eighteen, and capable of
providing for yourself. You will live in my house and look upon it as
your home, at least for the present. What do you say to this plan? Is
it not much better and more pleasant than a wild-goose chase after an
education through the dust and din of a factory?"

"Oh, Mrs. Murray! You are very generous and good, but I have no claim
on you--no right to impose such expense and trouble upon you. I am--"

"Hush, child! you have that claim which poverty always has on wealth.
As for the expense, that is a mere trifle, and I do not expect you to
give me any trouble; perhaps you may even make yourself useful to me."

"Thank you! oh! thank you, ma'am! I am very grateful! I can not tell
you how much I thank you; but I shall try to prove it, if you will let
me stay here--on one condition."

"What is that?"

"That when I am able to pay you, you will receive the money that my
education and clothes will cost you."

Mrs. Murray laughed, and stroked the silky black hair.

"Where did you get such proud notions? Pay me, indeed! You poor little
beggar! Ha! ha! ha! Well, yes, you may do as you please, when you are
able; that time is rather too distant to be considered now. Meanwhile,
quit grieving over the past, and think only of improving yourself. I do
not like doleful faces, and shall expect you to be a cheerful,
contented, and obedient girl. Hagar is making you an entire set of new
clothes, and I hope to see you always neat. I shall give you a smaller
room than this--the one across the hall; you will keep your books
there, and remain there during study hours. At other times you can come
to my room, or amuse yourself as you like; and when there is company
here, remember, I shall always expect you to sit quietly, and listen to
the conversation, as it is very improving to young girls to be in
really good society. You will have a music teacher, and practice on the
upright piano in the library, instead of the large one in the parlor.
One thing more, if you want anything, come to me, and ask for it, and I
shall be very much displeased if you talk to the servants, or encourage
them to talk to you. Now, everything is understood, and I hope you will
be happy, and properly improve the advantages I shall give you."

Edna drew one of the white hands down to her lips and murmured:

"Thank you--thank you! You shall never have cause to regret your
goodness; and your wishes shall always guide me."

"Well, well; I shall remember this promise, and trust I may never find
it necessary to remind you of it. I dare say we shall get on very
happily together. Don't thank me any more, and hereafter we need not
speak of the matter."

Mrs. Murray stooped, and for the first time kissed the child's white
forehead; and Edna longed to throw her arms about the stately form, but
the polished hauteur awed and repelled her.

Before she could reply, and just as Mrs. Murray was moving toward the
door, it was thrown open, and a gentleman strode into the room. At
sight of Edna he stopped suddenly, and dropping a bag of game on the
floor, exclaimed harshly:

"What the d--l does this mean?"

"My son! I am so glad you are at home again. I was getting quite uneasy
at your long absence. This is one of the victims of that terrible
railroad disaster; the neighborhood is full of the sufferers. Come to
my room. When did you arrive?"

She linked her arm in his, picked up the game-bag, and led him to the
adjoining room, the door of which she closed and locked.

A painful thrill shot along Edna's nerves, and an indescribable
sensation of dread, a presentiment of coming ill, overshadowed her
heart. This was the son of her friend, and the first glimpse of him
filled her with instantaneous repugnance; there was an innate and
powerful repulsion which she could not analyze. He was a tall, athletic
man, not exactly young, yet certainly not elderly; one of anomalous
appearance, prematurely old, and, though not one white thread silvered
his thick, waving, brown hair, the heavy and habitual scowl on his
high, full brow had plowed deep furrows such as age claims for its
monogram. His features were bold but very regular; the piercing,
steel-gray eyes were unusually large, and beautifully shaded with long
heavy, black lashes, but repelled by their cynical glare; and the
finely formed mouth, which might have imparted a wonderful charm to the
countenance, wore a chronic, savage sneer, as if it only opened to
utter jeers and curses. Evidently the face had once been singularly
handsome, in the dawn of his earthly career, when his mother's
good-night kiss rested like a blessing on his smooth, boyish forehead,
and the prayer learned in the nursery still crept across his pure lips;
but now the fair, chiseled lineaments were blotted by dissipation, and
blackened and distorted by the baleful fires of a fierce, passionate
nature, and a restless, powerful, and unhallowed intellect. Symmetrical
and grand as that temple of Juno, in shrouded Pompeii, whose polished
shafts gleamed centuries ago in the morning sunshine of a day of woe,
whose untimely night has endured for nineteen hundred years, so, in the
glorious flush of his youth, this man had stood facing a noble and
possibly a sanctified future; but the ungovernable flames of sin had
reduced him, like that darkened and desecrated fane, to a melancholy
mass of ashy arches and blackened columns, where ministering priests,
all holy aspirations, slumbered in the dust. His dress was costly but
negligent, and the red stain on his jacket told that his hunt had not
been fruitless. He wore a straw hat, belted with broad black ribbon,
and his spurred boots were damp and muddy.

What was there about this surly son of her hostess which recalled to
Edna's mind her grandfather's words, "He is a rude, wicked, blasphemous
man." She had not distinctly seen the face of the visitor at the shop;
but something in the impatient, querulous tone, in the hasty, haughty
step, and the proud lifting of the regal head, reminded her painfully
of him whose overbearing insolence had so unwontedly stirred the ire of
Aaron Hunt's genial and generally equable nature. While she pondered
this inexplicable coincidence, voices startled her from the next room,
whence the sound floated through the window.

"If you were not my mother, I should say you were a candidate for a
straight-jacket and a lunatic asylum; but as those amiable proclivities
are considered hereditary, I do not favor that comparison. 'Sorry for
her,' indeed! I'll bet my right arm it will not be six weeks before she
makes you infinitely sorrier for your deluded self; and you will treat
me to a new version of 'je me regrette!' With your knowledge of this
precious world and its holy crew, I confess it seems farcical in the
extreme that open-eyed you can venture another experiment on human
nature. Some fine morning you will rub your eyes and find your acolyte
non est; ditto, your silver forks, diamonds, and gold spoons."

Edna felt the indignant blood burning in her cheeks, and as she could
not walk without assistance, and shrank from listening to a
conversation which was not intended for her ears, she coughed several
times to arrest the attention of the speakers, but apparently without
effect, for the son's voice again rose above the low tones of the
mother.

"Oh, carnival of shams! She is 'pious' you say? Then, I'll swear my
watch is not safe in my pocket, and I shall sleep with the key of my
cameo cabinet tied around my neck. A Paris police would not insure your
valuables or mine. The facts forbid that your pen-feathered saint
should decamp with some of my costly travel-scrapings! 'Pious' indeed!
'Edna,' forsooth! No doubt her origin and morals are quite as
apocryphal as her name. Don't talk to me about 'her being
providentially thrown into your hands,' unless you desire to hear me
say things which you have frequently taken occasion to inform me
'deeply grieved' you. I dare say the little vagrant whines in what she
considers orthodox phraseology, that 'God tempers the wind to the shorn
lamb!' and, like some other pious people whom I have heard canting,
will saddle some Jewish prophet or fisherman with the dictum, thinking
that it sounds like the Bible, whereas Sterne said it. Shorn lamb,
forsooth! We, or rather you, madame, ma mere, will be shorn--thoroughly
fleeced! Pious! Ha! ha! ha!"

Here followed an earnest expostulation from Mrs. Murray, only a few
words of which were audible, and once more the deep, strong, bitter
tones rejoined:

"Interfere! Pardon me, I am only too happy to stand aloof and watch the
little wretch play out her game. Most certainly it is your own affair,
but you will permit me to be amused, will you not? And with your
accustomed suavity forgive me, if I chance inadvertently to whisper
above my breath, 'Le jeu n'en vaut pas la chandelle?' What the deuce do
you suppose I care about her 'faith?' She may run through the whole
catalogue from the mustard-seed size up, as far as I am concerned, and
you may make yourself easy on the score of my 'contaminating' the
sanctified vagrant!"

"St. Elmo! my son! promise me that you will not scoff and sneer at her
religion; at least in her presence," pleaded the mother.

A ringing, mirthless laugh was the only reply that reached the girl, as
she put her fingers in her ears and hid her face on the window-sill.

It was no longer possible to doubt the identity of the stranger; the
initials on the fly-leaf meant St. Elmo Murray; and she knew that in
the son of her friend and protectress, she had found the owner of her
Dante and the man who had cursed her grandfather for his tardiness. If
she had only known this one hour earlier, she would have declined the
offer, which once accepted, she knew not how to reject, without
acquainting Mrs. Murray with the fact that she had overheard the
conversation; and yet she could not endure the prospect of living under
the same roof with a man whom she loathed and feared. The memory of the
blacksmith's aversion of this stranger intensified her own; and as she
pondered in shame and indignation the scornful and opprobrious epithets
which he had bestowed on herself, she muttered through her set teeth:

"Yes, Grandy! he is cruel and wicked; and I never can bear to look at
or speak to him! How dared he curse my dear, dear, good grandpa! How
can I ever be respectful to him, when he is not even respectful to his
own mother! Oh! I wish I had never come here! I shall always hate him!"
At this juncture, Hagar entered, and lifted her back to her couch; and,
remarking the agitation of her manner, the nurse said gravely, as she
put her fingers on the girl's pulse:

"What has flushed you so? Your face is hot; you have tired yourself
sitting up too long. Did a gentleman come into the room a while ago?"

"Yes, Mrs. Murray's son."

"Did Miss Ellen--that is, my mistress--tell you that you were to live
here, and get your education?"

"Yes, she offered to take care of me for a few years."

"Well, I am glad it is fixed, so--you can stay; for you can be a great
comfort to Miss Ellen, if you try to please her."

She paused, and busied herself about the room, and remembering Mrs.
Murray's injunction that she should discourage conversation on the part
of the servants, Edna turned her face to the wall and shut her eyes.
But for once Hagar's habitual silence and non-committalism were laid
aside; and, stooping over the couch, she said hurriedly:

"Listen to me, child, for I like your patient ways, and want to give
you a friendly warning; you are a stranger in this house, and might
stumble into trouble. Whatever else you do, be sure not to cross Mass'
Elmo's path! Keep out of his way, and he will keep out of yours; for he
is shy enough of strangers, and would walk a mile to keep from meeting
anybody; but if he finds you in his way, he will walk roughshod right
over you--trample you. Nothing ever stops him one minute when he makes
up his mind. He does not even wait to listen to his mother, and she is
about the only person who dares to talk to him. He hates everybody and
everything; but he doesn't tread on folks' toes unless they are where
they don't belong. He is like a rattlesnake that crawls in his own
track, and bites everything that meddles or crosses his trail. Above
everything, child, for the love of peace and heaven, don't argue with
him! If he says black is white, don't contradict him; and if he swears
water runs up stream, let him swear, and don't know it runs down. Keep
out of his sight, and you will do well enough, but once make him mad
and you had better fight Satan hand to hand with red-hot pitchforks!
Everybody is afraid of him, and gives way to him, and you must do like
the balance that have to deal with him. I nursed him; but I would
rather put my head in a wolf's jaws than stir him up; and God knows I
wish he had died when he was a baby, instead of living to grow up the
sinful, swearing, raging devil he is! Now mind what I say. I am not
given to talking, but this time it is for your good. Mind what I tell
you, child; and if you want to have peace, keep out of his way."

She left the room abruptly, and the orphan lay in the gathering gloom
of twilight, perplexed, distressed, and wondering how she could avoid
all the angularities of this amiable character, under whose roof fate
seemed to have deposited her.



CHAPTER V.


At length, by the aid of crutches, Edna was able to leave the room
where she had been so long confined, and explore the house in which
every day discovered some new charm. The parlors and sitting-room
opened on a long, arched veranda, which extended around two sides of
the building, and was paved with variegated tiles; while the
stained-glass doors of the dining-room, with its lofty frescoed ceiling
and deep bow-windows, led by two white marble steps out on the terrace,
whence two more steps showed the beginning of a serpentine gravel walk
winding down to an octagonal hot-house, surmounted by a richly carved
pagoda-roof. Two sentinel statues--a Bacchus and Bacchante--placed on
the terrace, guarded the entrance to the dining-room; and in front of
the house, where a sculptured Triton threw jets of water into a
gleaming circular basin, a pair of crouching monsters glared from the
steps. When Edna first found herself before these grim doorkeepers, she
started back in unfeigned terror, and could scarcely repress a cry of
alarm, for the howling rage and despair of the distorted hideous heads
seemed fearfully real, and years elapsed before she comprehended their
significance, or the sombre mood which impelled their creation. They
were imitations of that monumental lion's head, raised on the
battle-field of Chaeroneia, to commemorate the Boeotians slain. In the
rear of and adjoining the library, a narrow, vaulted passage with high
Gothic windows of stained-glass, opened into a beautifully proportioned
rotunda, and beyond this circular apartment with its ruby-tinted
skylight and Moresque frescoes, extended two other rooms, of whose
shape or contents Edna knew nothing, save the tall arched windows that
looked down on the terrace. The door of the rotunda was generally
closed, but accidentally it stood open one morning, and she caught a
glimpse of the circular form and the springing dome. Evidently this
portion of the mansion had been recently built, while the remainder of
the house had been constructed many years earlier; but all desire to
explore it was extinguished when Mrs. Murray remarked one day:

"That passage leads to my son's apartments, and he dislikes noise or
intrusion."

Thenceforth Edna avoided it as if the plagues of Pharaoh were pent
therein. To her dazzled eyes this luxurious home was a fairy palace, an
enchanted region, and, with eager curiosity and boundless admiration,
she gazed upon beautiful articles whose use she could not even
conjecture. The furniture throughout the mansion was elegant and
costly; pictures, statues, bronzes, marble, silver, rosewood, ebony,
mosaics, satin, velvet--naught that the most fastidious and cultivated
taste or dilettanteism could suggest, or lavish expenditure supply, was
wanting; while the elaborate and beautiful arrangement of the extensive
grounds showed with how prodigal a hand the owner squandered a princely
fortune. The flower garden and lawn comprised fifteen acres, and the
subdivisions were formed entirely by hedges, save that portion of the
park surrounded by a tall iron railing, where congregated a motley
menagerie of deer, bison, a Lapland reindeer, a Peruvian llama, some
Cashmere goats, a chamois, wounded and caught on the Jungfrau, and a
large white cow from Ava. This part of the inclosure was thickly
studded with large oaks, groups of beech and elm, and a few enormous
cedars which would not have shamed their sacred prototypes sighing in
Syrian breezes along the rocky gorges of Lebanon. The branches were low
and spreading, and even at mid-day the sunshine barely freckled the
cool, mossy knolls where the animals sought refuge from the summer heat
of the open and smoothly-shaven lawn. Here and there, on the soft,
green sward, was presented that vegetable antithesis, a circlet of
martinet poplars standing vis-a-vis to a clump of willows whose long
hair threw quivering, fringy shadows when the slanting rays of dying
sunlight burnished the white and purple petals nestling among the
clover tufts. Rustic seats of bark, cane and metal were scattered
through the grounds, and where the well-trimmed numerous hedges divided
the parterre, china, marble and iron vases of varied mould, held rare
creepers and lovely exotics; and rich masses of roses swung their
fragrant chalices of crimson and gold, rivaling the glory of Paestum
and of Bendemer. The elevation upon which the house was placed
commanded an extensive view of the surrounding country. Far away to the
northeast purplish gray waves along the sky showed a range of lofty
hills, and in an easterly direction, scarcely two miles distant,
glittering spires told where the village clung to the railroad, and to
a deep rushing creek, whose sinuous course was distinctly marked by the
dense growth that clothed its steep banks. Now and then luxuriant
fields of corn covered the level lands with an emerald mantle, while
sheep and cattle roamed through the adjacent champaign; and in the
calm, cool morning air, a black smoke-serpent crawled above the
tree-tops, mapping out the track over which the long train of cars
darted and thundered. Mr. Paul Murray, the first proprietor of the
estate, and father of the present owner, had early in life spent much
time in France, where, espousing the royalist cause, his sympathies
were fully enlisted by the desperate daring of Charette, Stofflet, and
Cathelineau. On his return to his native land, his admiration of the
heroism of those who dwelt upon the Loire, found expression in one of
their sobriquets, "Le Bocage," which he gave to his country residence;
and certainly the venerable groves that surrounded it justified the
application. While his own fortune was handsome and abundant, he
married the orphan of a rich banker, who survived her father only a
short time and died leaving Mr. Murray childless. After a few years,
when the frosts of age fell upon his head, he married a handsome and
very wealthy widow; but, unfortunately, having lost their first child,
a daughter, he lived only long enough to hear the infantile prattle of
his son, St. Elmo, to whom he bequeathed an immense fortune, which many
succeeding years of reckless expenditure had failed to materially
impair. Such was "Le Bocage," naturally a beautiful situation, improved
and embellished with everything which refined taste and world-wide
travel could suggest to the fastidious owner. Notwithstanding the
countless charms of the home so benevolently offered to her, the
blacksmith's granddaughter was conscious of a great need, scarcely to
be explained, yet fully felt--the dreary lack of that which she had yet
to learn could not be purchased by the treasures of Oude--the priceless
peace and genial glow which only the contented, happy hearts of its
inmates can diffuse over even a palatial homestead. She also realized,
without analyzing the fact, that the majestic repose and boundless
spontaneity of nature yielded a sense of companionship almost of
tender, dumb sympathy, which all the polished artificialities and
recherche arrangements of man utterly failed to supply. While dazzled
by the glitter and splendor of "Le Bocage," she shivered in its silent
dreariness, its cold, aristocratic formalism, and she yearned for the
soft, musical babble of the spring-branch, where, standing ankle-deep
in water under the friendly shadow of Lookout, she had spent long,
blissful July days in striving to build a wall of rounded pebbles down
which the crystal ripples would fall, a miniature Talulah or Tuccoa.
The chrism of nature had anointed her early life and consecrated her
heart, but fate brought her to the vestibule of the temple of Mammon,
and its defiling incense floated about her. How long would the
consecration last? As she slowly limped about the house and grounds,
acquainting herself with the details, she was impressed with the belief
that happiness had once held her court here, had been dethroned, exiled
and now waited beyond the confines of the park, anxious but unable to
renew her reign and expel usurping gloom. For some weeks after her
arrival she took her meals in her own room, and having learned to
recognize the hasty, heavy tread of the dreaded master of the house,
she invariably fled from the sound of his steps as she would have
shunned an ogre; consequently her knowledge of him was limited to the
brief inspection and uncomplimentary conversation which introduced him
to her acquaintance on the day of his return. Her habitual avoidance
and desire of continued concealment was, however, summarily thwarted
when Mrs. Murray came into her room late one night, and asked:

"Did not I see you walking this afternoon without your crutches?"

"Yes, ma'am, I was trying to see if I could not do without them
entirely."

"Did the experiment cause you any pain?"

"No pain exactly, but I find my ankle still weak."



 "Be careful not to overstrain it; by degrees it will strengthen if
you use it moderately. By the by, you are now well enough to come to
the table; and from breakfast to-morrow you will take your meals with
us in the dining-room."

A shiver of apprehension seized Edna, and in a frightened tone she
ejaculated:

"Ma'am!"

"I say, in future you will eat at the table instead of here in this
room."

"If you please, Mrs. Murray, I would rather stay here."

"Pray, what possible objection can you have to the dining-room?"

Edna averted her head, but wrung her fingers nervously.

Mrs. Murray frowned, and continued gravely:

"Don't be silly, Edna. It is proper that you should go to the table,
and learn to eat with a fork instead of a knife. You need not be
ashamed to meet people; there is nothing clownish about you unless you
affect it. Good-night; I shall see you at breakfast; the bell rings at
eight o'clock."

There was no escape, and she awoke next morning oppressed with the
thought of the ordeal that awaited her. She dressed herself even more
carefully than usual, despite the trembling of her hands; and when the
ringing of the little silver bell summoned her to the dining-room, her
heart seemed to stand still. But though exceedingly sensitive and shy,
Edna was brave, and even self-possessed, and she promptly advanced to
meet the trial.

Entering the room, she saw that her benefactress had not yet come in,
but was approaching the house with a basket of flowers in her hand; and
one swift glance around discovered Mr. Murray standing at the window.
Unobserved, she scanned the tall, powerful figure clad in a suit of
white linen, and saw that he wore no beard save the heavy but
closely-trimmed moustache, which now, in some degree, concealed the
harshness about the handsome mouth. Only his profile was turned toward
her, and she noticed that, while his forehead was singularly white, his
cheeks and chin were thoroughly bronzed from exposure.

As Mrs. Murray came in, she nodded to her young protegee, and
approached the table, saying:

"Good morning! It seems I am the laggard to-day, but Nicholas had
mislaid the flower shears, and detained me. Hereafter I shall turn over
this work of dressing vases to you, child. My son, this is your
birthday, and here is your button-hole souvenir."

She fastened a few sprigs of white jasmine in his linen coat, and, as
he thanked her briefly, and turned to the table, she said, with marked
emphasis:

"St. Elmo, let me introduce you to Edna Earl."

He looked around, and fixed his keen eyes on the orphan, whose cheeks
crimsoned as she looked down and said, quite distinctly:

"Good morning, Mr. Murray."

"Good morning, Miss Earl."

"No, I protest! 'Miss Earl,' indeed! Call the child Edna."

"As you please, mother, provided you do not let the coffee and
chocolate get cold while you decide the momentous question."

Neither spoke again for some time, and in the embarrassing silence Edna
kept her eyes on the china, wondering if all their breakfasts would be
like this. At last Mr. Murray pushed away his large coffee-cup, and
said abruptly:

"After all, it is only one year to-day since I came back to America,
though it seems much longer. It will soon be time to prepare for my
trip to the South Sea Islands. The stagnation here is intolerable."

An expression of painful surprise flitted across the mother's
countenance, but she answered quickly:

"It has been an exceedingly short, happy year to me. You are such a
confirmed absentee, that when you are at home, time slips by unnoticed."

"But few and far between as my visits are, they certainly never
approach the angelic. 'Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest,'
must frequently recur to you."

Before his mother could reply he rose, ordered his horse, and as he
drew on his gloves, and left the room, looked over his shoulder, saying
indifferently, "That box of pictures from Munich is at the warehouse; I
directed Henry to go after it this morning. I will open it when I come
home."

A moment after he passed the window on horseback, and with a heavy sigh
Mrs. Murray dropped her head on her hand, compressing her lips, and
toying abstractedly with the sugar-tongs.

Edna watched the grave, troubled countenance for some seconds, and then
putting her hand on the flower-basket, she asked softly:

"Shall I dress the flower-pots?"

"Yes, child, in four rooms; this, the parlors, and the library. Always
cut the flowers very early, while the dew is on them."

Her eyes went back to the sugar-tongs, and Edna joyfully escaped from a
room whose restraints and associations were irksome.

Impressed by Hagar's vehement adjuration to keep out of Mr. Murray's
path, she avoided those portions of the house to which he seemed most
partial, and thus although they continued to meet at meals, no words
passed between them, after that brief salutation on the morning of
presentation. Very often she was painfully conscious that his searching
eyes scrutinized her; but though the blood mounted instantly to her
cheeks at such times, she never looked up--dreading his gaze as she
would that of a basilisk. One sultry afternoon she went into the park,
and threw herself down on the long grass, under a clump of cedars, near
which the deer and bison were quietly browsing, while the large white
merinoes huddled in the shade and blinked at the sun. Opening a
pictorial history of England, which she had selected from the library,
she spread it on the grass, and leaning her face in her palms, rested
her elbows on the ground, and began to read. Now and then she paused as
she turned a leaf, to look around at the beautiful animals, each one of
which might have served as a model for Landseer or Rosa Bonheur.
Gradually the languor of the atmosphere stole into her busy brain; as
the sun crept down the sky, her eyelids sunk with it, and very soon she
was fast asleep, with her head on the book, and her cheeks flushed
almost to a vermilion hue. From that brief summer dream she was aroused
by some sudden noise, and starting up, she saw the sheep bounding far
away, while a large, gaunt, wolfish, grey dog snuffed at her hands and
face.

Once before she had seen him chained near the stables, and Hagar told
her he was "very dangerous," and was never loosed except at night;
consequently, the expression of his fierce, red eyes, as he stood over
her, was well calculated to alarm her; but at that instant Mr. Murray's
voice thundered:

"Keep still! don't move! or you will be torn to pieces!" Then followed
some rapid interjections and vehement words in the same unintelligible
dialect which had so puzzled her once before, when her grandfather
could not control the horse he was attempting to shoe. The dog was
sullen and unmanageable, keeping his black muzzle close to her face,
and she grew pale with terror as she noticed that his shaggy breast and
snarling jaws were dripping with blood.

Leaping from his horse, Mr. Murray strode up, and with a quick movement
seized the heavy brass collar of the savage creature, hurled him back
on his haunches, and held him thus, giving vent the while to a volley
of oaths.

Pointing to a large, half-decayed elm branch, lying at a little
distance, he tightened his grasp on the collar, and said to the still
trembling girl:

"Bring me that stick, yonder."

Edna complied, and there ensued a scene of cursing, thrashing, and
howling, that absolutely sickened her. The dog writhed, leaped, whined,
and snarled; but the iron hold was not relaxed, and the face of the
master rivaled in rage that of the brute, which seemed as ferocious as
the hounds of Gian Maria Visconti, fed with human flesh, by Squarcia
Giramo. Distressed by the severity and duration of the punishment, and
without pausing to reflect, or to remember Hagar's warning, Edna
interposed:

"Oh! please don't whip him any more! It is cruel to beat him so!"

Probably he did not hear her, and the blows fell thicker than before.
She drew near, and, as the merciless arm was raised to strike, she
seized it with both hands, and swung on with her whole weight,
repeating her words. If one of his meek, frightened sheep had sprung at
his throat to throttle him, Mr. Murray would not have been more
astounded. He shook her off, threw her from him, but she carried the
stick in her grasp. "D--n you! how dare you interfere! What is it to
you if I cut his throat, which I mean to do!"

"That will be cruel and sinful, for he does not know it is wrong; and
besides, he did not bite me."

She spoke resolutely, and for the first time ventured to look straight
into his flashing eyes.

"Did not bite you! Did not he worry down and mangle one of my finest
Southdowns? It would serve you right for your impertinent meddling, if
I let him tear you limb from limb!"

"He knows no better," she answered, firmly.

"Then, by G-d, I will teach him! Hand me that stick!"

"Oh! please, Mr. Murray! You have nearly put out one of his eyes
already!"

"Give me the stick, I tell you, or I--"

He did not finish the threat, but held out his hand with a peremptory
gesture.

Edna gave one swift glance around, saw that there were no other
branches within reach, saw too that the dog's face was swelling and
bleeding from its bruises, and, bending the stick across her knee, she
snapped it into three pieces, which she threw as far as her strength
would permit. There was a brief pause, broken only by the piteous
howling of the suffering creature, and, as she began to realize what
she had done, Edna's face reddened, and she put her hands over her eyes
to shut out the vision of the enraged man, who was absolutely dumb with
indignant astonishment. Presently a sneering laugh caused her to look
through her fingers, and she saw "Ali," the dog, now released, fawning
and whining at his master's feet.

"Aha! The way of all natures, human as well as brute. Pet and fondle
and pamper them, they turn under your caressing hand and bite you; but
bruise and trample them, and instantly they are on their knees licking
the feet that kicked them. Begone! you bloodthirsty devil! I'll settle
the account at the kennel. Buffon is a fool, and Pennant was right
after all. The blood of the jackal pricks up your ears."

He spurned the crouching culprit, and as it slunk away in the direction
of the house, Edna found herself alone, face to face with the object of
her aversion, and she almost wished that the earth would open and
swallow her. Mr. Murray came close to her, held her hands down with one
of his, and placing the other under her chin, forced her to look at him.

"How dare you defy and disobey me?"

"I did not defy you, sir, but I could not help you to do what was wrong
and cruel."

"I am the judge of my actions, and neither ask your help nor intend to
permit your interference with what does not concern you."

"God is the judge of mine, sir, and if I had obeyed you, I should have
been guilty of all you wished to do with that stick. I don't want to
interfere, sir. I try to keep out of your way, and I am very sorry I
happened to come here this evening. I did not dream of meeting you; I
thought you had gone to town."

He read all her aversion in her eyes, which strove to avoid his, and
smiling gently, he continued: "You evidently think that I am the very
devil himself, walking the earth like a roaring lion. Mind your own
affairs hereafter, and when I give you a positive order, obey it, for I
am master here, and my word is law. Meddling or disobedience I neither
tolerate nor forgive. Do you understand me?"

"I shall not meddle, sir."

"That means that you will not obey me unless you think proper?"

She was silent, and her beautiful soft eyes filled with tears.

"Answer me!"

"I have nothing to say that you would like to hear."

"What? Out with it!"

"You would have a right to think me impertinent if I said any more."

"No, I swear I will not devour you, say what you may."

She shook her head, and the motion brought two tears down on her cheeks.

"Oh, you are one of the stubborn sweet saints, whose lips even
Torquemada's red-hot steel fingers could not open. Child, do you hate
or dread me most? Answer that question."

He took his own handkerchief and wiped away the tears.

"I am sorry for you, sir," she said in a low voice.

He threw his head back and laughed heartily.

"Sorry for me! For me! Me? The owner of as many thousands as there are
hairs on your head! Keep your pity for your poverty-stricken vagrant
self! Why the deuce are you sorry for me?"

She withdrew her hands, which he seemed to hold unconsciously, and
answered:

"Because, with all your money, you never will be happy."

"And what the d--l do I care for happiness? I am not such a fool as to
expect it; and yet after all, 'Out of the mouths of babes and
sucklings.' Pshaw! I am a fool nevertheless to waste words on you.
Stop! What do you think of my park, and the animals? I notice you often
come here."

"The first time I saw it I thought of Noah and the ark, with two of
every living thing; but an hour ago it seemed to me more like the
garden of Eden, where the animals all lay down together in peace,
before sin came into it."

"And Ali and I entered, like Satan, and completed the vision? Thank
you, considering the fact that you are on my premises, and know
something of my angelic, sanctified temper, I must say you indulge in
bold flights of imagery."

"I did not say that, sir."

"You thought it nevertheless. Don't be hypocritical! Is not that what
you thought of?"

She made no reply, and anxious to terminate an interview painfully
embarrassing to her, stepped forward to pick up the history which lay
on the grass.

"What book is that?"

She handed it to him, and the leaves happened to open at a picture
representing the murder of Becket. A scowl blackened his face as he
glanced at it, and turned away, muttering:

"Malice prepense! or the devil!"

At a little distance, leisurely cropping the long grass, stood his
favorite horse, whose arched forehead and peculiar mouse-color
proclaimed his unmistakable descent from the swift hordes that scour
the Kirghise steppes, and sanctioned the whim which induced his master
to call him "Tamerlane." As Mr. Murray approached his horse, Edna
walked away toward the house, fearing that he might overtake her; but
no sound of hoofs reached her ears, and looking back as she crossed the
avenue and entered the flower-garden, she saw horse and rider standing
where she left them, and wondered why Mr. Murray was so still, with one
arm on the neck of his Tartar pet, and his own head bent down on his
hand.

In reflecting upon what had occurred, she felt her repugnance increase,
and began to think that they could not live in the same house without
continual conflicts, which would force her to abandon the numerous
advantages now within her grasp. The only ray of hope darted through
her mind when she recalled his allusion to a contemplated visit to the
South Sea Islands, and the possibility of his long absence. Insensibly
her dislike of the owner extended to everything he handled, and much as
she had enjoyed the perusal of Dante, she determined to lose no time in
restoring the lost volume, which she felt well assured his keen eyes
would recognize the first time she inadvertently left it in the library
or the greenhouse. The doubt of her honesty, which he had expressed to
his mother, rankled in the orphan's memory, and for some days she had
been nerving herself to anticipate a discovery of the book by
voluntarily restoring it. The rencontre in the park by no means
diminished her dread of addressing him on this subject; but she
resolved that the rendition of Caesar's things to Caesar should take
place that evening before she slept.



CHAPTER VI.


The narrow, vaulted passage leading to Mr. Murray's suit of rooms was
dim and gloomy when Edna approached the partly opened door of the
rotunda, whence issued a stream of light. Timidly she crossed the
threshold and stood within on the checkered floor, whose polished tiles
glistened under the glare of gas from bronze brackets representing
Telamones, that stood at regular intervals around the apartment. The
walls were painted in Saracenic style, and here and there hung
specimens of Oriental armor--Turcoman cimeters, Damascus swords,
Bedouin lances, and a crimson silk flag, with heavy gold fringe,
surmounted by a crescent. The cornice of the lofty arched ceiling was
elaborately arabesque, and as Edna looked up she saw through the glass
roof the flickering of stars in the summer sky. In the centre of the
room, immediately under the dome, stretched a billiard-table, and near
it was a circular one of black marble, inlaid with red onyx and lapis
lazuli, which formed a miniature zodiac similar to that at Denderah,
while in the middle of this table sat a small Murano hour-glass, filled
with sand from the dreary valley of El Ghor. A huge plaster Trimurti
stood close to the wall, on a triangular pedestal of black rock, and
the Siva-face and the writhing cobra confronted all who entered. Just
opposite grinned a red granite slab with a quaint basso-relievo taken
from the ruins of Elora. Near the door were two silken divans, and a
richly carved urn, three feet high, which had once ornamented the
facade of a tomb in the royal days of Petra, ere the curse fell on
Edom, now stood an in memoriam of the original Necropolis. For what
purpose this room was designed or used Edna could not imagine, and
after a hasty survey of its singular furniture, she crossed the
rotunda, and knocked at the door that stood slightly ajar. All was
silent; but the smell of a cigar told her that the owner was within,
and she knocked once more.

"Come in."

"I don't wish to come in; I only want to hand you something."

"Oh! the deuce you don't! But I never meet people even half-way, so
come in you must, if you have anything to say to me. I have neither
blue blazes nor pitchforks about me, and you will be safe inside. I
give you my word there are no small devils shut up here, to fly away
with whomsoever peeps in! Either enter, I say, or be off."

The temptation was powerful to accept the alternative; but as he had
evidently recognized her voice, she pushed open the door and
reluctantly entered. It was a long room, and at the end were two
beautiful fluted white marble pillars, supporting a handsome arch,
where hung heavy curtains of crimson Persian silk, that were now partly
looped back, showing the furniture of the sleeping apartment beyond the
richly carved arch. For a moment the bright light dazzled the orphan,
and she shaded her eyes; but the next instant Mr. Murray rose from a
sofa near the window, and advanced a step or two, taking the cigar from
his lips.

"Come to the window and take a seat."

He pointed to the sofa; but she shook her head, and said quickly:

"I have something which belongs to you, Mr. Murray, which I think you
must value very much, and therefore I wanted to see it safe in your own
hands."

Without raising her eyes she held the book toward him.

"What is it?"

He took it mechanically, and with his gaze fixed on the girl's face;
but as she made no reply, he glanced down at it, and his stern, swarthy
face lighted up joyfully.

"Is it possible? my Dante! my lost Dante! The copy that has travelled
round the world in my pocket, and that I lost a year ago, somewhere in
the mountains of Tennessee! Girl, where did you get it?"

"I found it where you left it--on the grass near a blacksmith's shop."

"A blacksmith's shop! where?"

"Near Chattanooga. Don't you remember the sign, under the horse-shoe,
over the door, 'Aaron Hunt'?"

"No; but who was Aaron Hunt?"

For nearly a minute Edna struggled for composure, and looking suddenly
up, said falteringly:

"He was my grandfather--the only person in the world I had to care for,
or to love me--and--sir--"

"Well, go on."

"You cursed him because your horse fretted, and he could not shoe him
in five minutes."

"Humph!"

There was an awkward silence; St. Elmo Murray bit his lip and scowled,
and, recovering her self-control, the orphan added:

"You put your shawl and book on the ground, and when you started you
forgot them. I called you back and gave you your shawl; but I did not
see the book for some time after you rode out of sight."

"Yes, yes, I remember now about the shawl and the shop. Strange I did
not recognize you before. But how did you learn that the book was mine?"

"I did not know it was yours until I came here by accident, and heard
Mrs. Murray call your name; then I knew that the initials written in
the book spelt your name. And besides, I remembered your figure and
your voice."

Again there was a pause, and her mission ended, Edna turned to go.

"Stop! Why did you not give it to me when you first came?"

She made no reply, and putting his hand on her shoulder to detain her,
he said, more gently than she had ever heard him speak to any one:

"Was it because you loved my book and disliked to part with it, or was
it because you feared to come and speak to a man whom you hate? Be
truthful."

Still she was silent, and raising her face with his palm, as he had
done in the park, he continued in the same low, sweet voice, which she
could scarcely believe belonged to him:

"I am waiting for your answer, and I intend to have it."

Her large, sad eyes were brimming with precious memories, as she lifted
them steadily to meet his, and answered:

"My grandfather was noble and good, and he was all I had in this world."

"And you can not forgive a man who happened to be rude to him?"

"If you please, Mr. Murray, I would rather go now. I have given you
your book, and that is all I came for."

"Which means that you are afraid of me, and want to get out of my
sight?"

She did not deny it, but her face flushed painfully.

"Edna Earl, you are at least honest and truthful, and those are rare
traits at the present day. I thank you for preserving and returning my
Dante. Did you read any of it?"

"Yes, sir, all of it. Good-night, sir."

"Wait a moment. When did Aaron Hunt die?"

"Two months after you saw him."

"You have no relatives? No cousins, uncles, aunts?"

"None that I ever heard of. I must go, sir."

"Good-night, child. For the present, when you go out in the grounds, be
sure that wolf, Ali, is chained up, or you may be sorry that I did not
cut his throat, as I am still inclined to do."

She closed the door, ran lightly across the rotunda, and regaining her
own room, felt inexpressibly relieved that the ordeal was over--that in
future there remained no necessity for her to address one whose very
tones made her shudder, and the touch of whose hand filled her with
vague dread and loathing.

When the echo of her retreating footsteps died away, St. Elmo threw his
cigar out of the window, and walked up and down the quaint and elegant
rooms, whose costly bizarrerie would more appropriately have adorned a
villa of Parthenope or Lucanian Sybaris, than a country-house in
soi-disant "republican" America. The floor, covered in winter with
velvet carpet, was of white and black marble, now bare and polished as
a mirror, reflecting the figure of the owner as he crossed it. Oval
ormolu tables, buhl chairs, and oaken and marquetrie cabinets, loaded
with cameos, intaglios, Abraxoids, whose "erudition" would have filled
Mnesarchus with envy, and challenged the admiration of the Samian
lapidary who engraved the ring of Polycrates; these and numberless
articles of vertu testified to the universality of what St. Elmo called
his "world-scrapings," and to the reckless extravagance and archaistic
taste of the collector. On a verd-antique table lay a satin cushion
holding a vellum MS., bound in blue velvet, whose uncial letters were
written in purple ink, powdered with gold-dust, while the margins were
stiff with gilded illuminations; and near the cushion, as if prepared
to shed light on the curious cryptography, stood an exquisite white
glass lamp, shaped like a vase, and richly ornamented with Arabic
inscriptions in ultra-marine blue--a precious relic of some ruined
Laura in the Nitrian desert, by the aid of whose rays the hoary
hermits, whom St. Macarius ruled, broke the midnight gloom chanting,
"Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison," fourteen hundred years before St.
Elmo's birth. Immediately opposite, on an embossed ivory stand, and
protected from air and dust by a glass case, were two antique goblets,
one of green-veined agate, one of blood-red onyx; and into the coating
of wax, spread along the ivory slab, were inserted amphorae, one dry
and empty, the other a third full of Falerian, whose topaz drops had
grown strangely mellow and golden in the ashy cellars of Herculaneum,
and had doubtless been destined for some luxurious triclinium in the
days of Titus. A small Byzantine picture, painted on wood, with a
silver frame ornamented with cornelian stars, and the background
heavily gilded, hung over an etagere, where lay a leaf from
Nebuchadnezzar's diary, one of those Babylonish bricks on which his
royal name was stamped. Near it stood a pair of Bohemian vases
representing the two varieties of lotus--one velvety white with
rose-colored veins, the other with delicate blue petals. This latter
whim had cost a vast amount of time, trouble, and money, it having been
found difficult to carefully preserve, sketch, and paint them for the
manufacturer in Bohemia, who had never seen the holy lotus, and
required specimens. But the indomitable will of the man, to whose
wishes neither oceans nor deserts opposed successful barriers, finally
triumphed, and the coveted treasures fully repaid their price as they
glistened in the gaslight, perfect as their prototypes slumbering on
the bosom of the Nile, under the blazing midnight stars of rainless
Egypt. Several handsome rosewood cases were filled with rare books--two
in Pali--centuries old; and moth-eaten volumes and valuable MSS.--some
in parchment, some bound in boards--recalled the days of astrology and
alchemy, and the sombre mysteries of Rosicrucianism. Side by side, on
an ebony stand, lay an Elzevir Terence, printed in red letters, and a
curious Birman book, whose pages consisted of thin leaves of ivory,
gilded at the edges; and here too were black rhyta from Chiusi, and a
cylix from Vulci, and one of those quaint Peruvian jars, which was so
constructed that, when filled with water, the air escaped in sounds
that resembled that of the song or cry of the animal represented on the
vase or jar. In the space between the tall windows that fronted the
lawn hung a weird, life-size picture that took strange hold on the
imagination of all who looked at it. A gray-haired Cimbrian Prophetess,
in white vestments and brazen girdle, with canvas mantle fastened on
the shoulder by a broad brazen clasp, stood, with bare feet, on a low,
rude scaffolding, leaning upon her sword, and eagerly watching, with
divining eyes, the stream of blood which trickled from the throat of
the slaughtered human victim down into the large brazen kettle beneath
the scaffold. The snowy locks and white mantle seemed to flutter in the
wind; and those who gazed on the stony, inexorable face of the
Prophetess, and into the glittering blue eyes, shuddered and almost
fancied they heard the pattering of the gory stream against the sides
of the brass caldron. But expensive and rare as were these relics of
bygone dynasties and mouldering epochs, there was one other object for
which the master would have given everything else in this museum of
curiosities, and the secret of which no eyes but his own had yet
explored. On a sculptured slab, that once formed a portion of the
architrave of the Cave Temple at Elephanta, was a splendid marble
miniature, four feet high, of that miracle of Saracenic architecture,
the Taj Mahal at Agra. The elaborate carving resembled lacework, and
the beauty of the airy dome and slender, glittering minarets of this
mimic tomb of Noor-Mahal could find no parallel, save in the superb and
matchless original. The richly-carved door that closed the arch of the
tomb swung back on golden hinges, and opened only by a curiously-shaped
golden key, which never left Mr. Murray's watch-chain; consequently
what filled the penetralia was left for the conjecture of the
imaginative; and when his mother expressed a desire to examine it, he
merely frowned and said hastily:

"That is Pandora's box, MINUS imprisoned hope. I prefer it should not
be opened."

Immediately in front of the tomb he had posted a grim sentinel--a black
marble statuette of Mors, modeled from that hideous little brass figure
which Spence saw at Florence, representing a skeleton sitting on the
ground, resting one arm on an urn.

Filled though it was with sparkling bijouterie that would have graced
the Barberini or Strozzi cabinets, the glitter of the room was cold and
cheerless. No light, childish feet had ever pattered down the long rows
of shining tiles; no gushing, mirthful laughter had ever echoed through
those lofty windows; everything pointed to the past--a classic, storied
past, but dead as the mummies of Karnac, and treacherously, repulsively
lustrous as the waves that break in silver circles over the buried
battlements, and rustling palms and defiled altars of the proud cities
of the plain. No rosy memories of early, happy manhood lingered here;
no dewy gleam of the merry morning of life, when hope painted and
peopled a smiling world; no magic trifles that prattled of the
springtime of a heart, that in wandering to and fro through the earth,
had fed itself with dust and ashes, acrid and bitter; had studiously
collected only the melancholy symbols of mouldering ruin, desolation,
and death, and which found its best type in the Taj Mahal, that
glistened so mockingly as the gas-light flickered over it.

A stranger looking upon St. Elmo Murray for the first time, as he paced
the floor, would have found it difficult to realize that only
thirty-four years had plowed those deep, rugged lines in his swarthy
and colorless but still handsome face; where midnight orgies and
habitual excesses had left their unmistakable plague-spot, and
Mephistopheles had stamped his signet. Blase, cynical, scoffing, and
hopeless, he had stranded his life, and was recklessly striding to his
grave, trampling upon the feelings of all with whom he associated, and
at war with a world, in which his lordly brilliant intellect would have
lifted him to any eminence he desired, and which, properly directed,
would have made him the benefactor and ornament of the society he
snubbed and derided. Like all strong though misguided natures, the
power and activity of his mind enhanced his wretchedness, and drove him
farther and farther from the path of rectitude; while the consciousness
that he was originally capable of loftier, purer aims, and nobler
pursuits than those that now engrossed his perverted thoughts, rendered
him savagely morose. For nearly fifteen dreary years, nothing but jeers
and oaths and sarcasms had crossed his finely sculptured lips, which
had forgotten how to smile; and it was only when the mocking demon of
the wine-cup looked out from his gloomy gray eyes that his ringing,
sneering laugh struck like a dagger to the heart that loved him, that
of his proud but anxious and miserable mother. To-night, for the first
time since his desperate plunge into the abyss of vice, conscience,
which he had believed effectually strangled, stirred feebly, startling
him with a faint moan, as unexpected as the echo from Morella's tomb,
or the resurrection of Ligeia; and down the murdered years came wailing
ghostly memories, which even his iron will could no longer scourge to
silence. Clamorous as the avenging Erinnys, they refused to be
exorcised, and goaded him almost to frenzy.

Those sweet, low, timid tones, "I am sorry for you," had astonished and
mortified him. To be hated and dreaded was not at all unusual or
surprising, but to be pitied and despised was a sensation as novel as
humiliating; and the fact that all his ferocity failed to intimidate
the "little vagrant" was unpleasantly puzzling.

For some time after Edna's departure he pondered all that had passed
between them, and at length he muttered: "How thoroughly she abhors me!
If I touch her, the flesh absolutely writhes away from my hand, as if I
were plague-stricken or a leper. Her very eyelids shudder when she
looks at me--and I believe she would more willingly confront Apollyon
himself. Strange! how she detests me. I have half a mind to make her
love me, even despite herself. What a steady, brave look of scorn there
was in her splendid eyes when she told me to my face I was sinful and
cruel!"

He set his teeth hard, and his fingers clinched as if longing to crush
something; and then came a great revulsion, a fierce spasm of remorse,
and his features writhed.

"Sinful? Ay! Cruel? O my lost youth! my cursed and wrecked manhood! If
there be a hell blacker than my miserable soul, man has not dreamed of
nor language painted it. What would I not give for a fresh, pure, and
untrampled heart, such as slumbers peacefully in yonder room, with no
damning recollections to scare sleep from her pillow? Innocent
childhood!"

He threw himself into a chair, and hid his face in his hands; and thus
an hour went by, during which he neither moved nor sighed.

Tearing the veil from the past, he reviewed it calmly, relentlessly,
vindictively, and at last, rising, he threw his head back, with his
wonted defiant air, and his face hardened and darkened as he approached
the marble mausoleum, and laid his hand upon the golden key.

"Too late! too late! I can not afford to reflect. The devil himself
would shirk the reading of such a record."

He fitted the key in the lock, but paused and laughed scornfully as he
slung it back on his chain.

"Pshaw! I am a fool! After all, I shall not need to see them, the
silly, childish mood has passed."

He filled a silver goblet with some strong spicy wine, drank it, and
taking down Candide, brightened the gas jets, lighted a fresh cigar,
and began to read as he resumed his walk:

"Lord of himself; that heritage of woe--That fearful empire which the
human breast But holds to rob the heart within of rest."



CHAPTER VII.


Mrs. Murray had informed Edna that the gentleman whom she had engaged
to instruct her resided in the neighboring town of--, and one Monday
morning in August she carried her to see him, telling her, as they
drove along, that he was the minister of the largest church in the
county, was an old friend of her family, and that she considered
herself exceedingly fortunate in having prevailed upon him to consent
to undertake her education. The parsonage stood on the skirts of the
village, in a square immediately opposite the church, and was separated
from it by a wide handsome street, lined on either side with elm trees.
The old-fashioned house was of brick, with a wooden portico jutting out
over the front door, and around the slender pillars twined honeysuckle
and clematis tendrils, purple with clustering bells; while the brick
walls were draped with luxuriant ivy, that hung in festoons from the
eaves, and clambered up the chimneys and in at the windows. The
daily-swept walk leading to the gate was bordered with white and purple
lilies--"flags," as the villagers dubbed them--and over the little gate
sprang an arch of lattice-work loaded with Belgian and English
honeysuckle, whose fragrant wreaths drooped till they touched the heads
of all who entered. When Mrs. Murray and Edna ascended the steps and
knocked at the open door, bearing the name "Allan Hammond," no living
thing was visible, save a thrush that looked out shyly from the
clematis vines; and after waiting a moment, Mrs. Murray entered
unannounced. They looked into the parlor, with its cool matting and
white curtains and polished old-fashioned mahogany furniture, but the
room was unoccupied; then passing on to the library or study, where
tiers of books rose to the ceiling, they saw, through the open window,
the form of the pastor, who was stooping to gather the violets blooming
in the little shaded garden at the rear of the house. A large white cat
sunned herself on the strawberry bed, and a mocking-bird sang in the
myrtle-tree that overshadowed the study-window. Mrs. Murray called to
the minister, and taking off his straw hat he bowed, and came to meet
them.

"Mr. Hammond, I hope I do not interrupt you?"

"No, Ellen, you never interrupt me. I was merely gathering some violets
to strew in a child's coffin. Susan Archer, poor thing! lost her little
Winnie last night, and I knew she would like some flowers to sprinkle
over her baby."

He shook hands with Mrs. Murray, and turning to her companion offered
his hand saying kindly:

"This is my pupil, Edna, I presume? I expected you several days ago,
and am very glad to see you at last. Come into the house and let us
become acquainted at once."

As he led the way to the library, talking the while to Mrs. Murray,
Edna's eyes followed him with an expression of intense veneration, for
he appeared to her a living original of the pictured prophets--the
Samuel, Isaiah, and Ezekiel, whose faces she had studied in the large
illustrated Bible that lay on a satin cushion in the sitting-room at Le
Bocage. Sixty-five years of wrestling and conquests on the "Quarantma"
of life had set upon his noble and benignant countenance the seal of
holiness, and shed over his placid features the mild, sweet light of a
pure, serene heart, of a lofty, trusting, sanctified soul. His white
hair and beard had the silvery sheen which seems peculiar to
prematurely gray heads, and the snowy mass wonderfully softened the
outline of the face; while the pleasant smile on his lips, the warm,
cheering light in his bright blue eyes, won the perfect trust, the
profound respect, the lasting love and veneration of those who entered
the charmed circle of his influence. Learned without pedantry,
dignified but not pompous, genial and urbane; never forgetting the
sanctity of his mission, though never thrusting its credentials into
notice; judging the actions of all with a leniency which he denied to
his own; zealous without bigotry, charitable yet rigidly just, as free
from austerity as levity, his heart throbbed with warm, tender sympathy
for his race; and while none felt his or her happiness complete until
his cordial congratulations sealed it, every sad mourner realized that
her burden of woe was lightened when poured into his sympathizing ears.
The sage counselor of the aged among his flock, he was the loved
companion of younger members, in whose juvenile sports and sorrows he
was never too busy to interest himself; and it was not surprising that
over all classes and denominations he wielded an influence incalculable
for good.

The limits of one church could not contain his great heart, which went
forth in yearning love and fellowship to his Christian brethren and
co-laborers throughout the world, while the refrain of his daily work
was, "Bear ye one another's burdens." So in the evening of a life
blessed with the bounteous fruitage of good deeds, he walked to and
fro, in the wide vineyard of God, with the light of peace, of faith,
and hope, and hallowed resignation shining over his worn and aged face.

Drawing Edna to a seat beside him on the sofa, Mr. Hammond said: "Mrs.
Murray has intrusted your education entirely to me; but before I decide
positively what books you will require I should like to know what
particular branches of study you love best. Do you feel disposed to
take up Latin?"

"Yes, sir--and--"

"Well, go on, my dear. Do not hesitate to speak freely."

"If you please, sir, I should like to study Greek also."

"Oh, nonsense, Edna! women never have any use for Greek; it would only
be a waste of your time," interrupted Mrs. Murray.

Mr. Hammond smiled and shook his head.

"Why do you wish to study Greek? You will scarcely be called upon to
teach it."

"I should not think that I was well or thoroughly educated if I did not
understand Greek and Latin; and beside, I want to read what Solon and
Pericles and Demosthenes wrote in their own language."

"Why, what do you know about those men?"

"Only what Plutarch says."

"What kind of books do you read with most pleasure?"

"History and travels."

"Are you fond of arithmetic?"

"No, sir."

"But as a teacher you will have much more use for mathematics than for
Greek."

"I should think that, with all my life before me, I might study both;
and even if I should have no use for it, it would do me no harm to
understand it. Knowledge is never in the way, is it?"

"Certainly not half so often as ignorance. Very well; you shall learn
Greek as fast as you please. I should like to hear you read something.
Here is Goldsmith's Deserted Village; suppose you try a few lines;
begin here at 'Sweet was the sound.'"

She read aloud the passage designated, and as he expressed himself
satisfied, and took the book from her hand, Mrs. Murray said:

"I think the child is as inveterate a bookworm as I ever knew; but for
heaven's sake, Mr. Hammond, do not make her a blue-stocking."

"Ellen, did you ever see a genuine blue-stocking?"

"I am happy to be able to say that I never was so unfortunate."

"You consider yourself lucky then, in not having known De Stael, Hannah
More, Charlotte Bronte, and Mrs. Browning?"

"To be consistent, of course, I must answer yes; but you know we women
are never supposed to understand that term, much less possess the jewel
itself; and beside, sir, you take undue advantage of me, for the women
you mention were truly great geniuses. I was not objecting to genius in
women."

"Without those auxiliaries and adjuncts which you deprecate so
earnestly, would their native genius ever have distinguished them, or
charmed and benefited the world? Brilliant success makes blue-stockings
autocratic, and the world flatters and crowns them; but unsuccessful
aspirants are strangled with an offensive sobriquet, than which it were
better that they had mill-stones tied about their necks. After all,
Ellen, it is rather ludicrous, and seems very unfair, that the whole
class of literary ladies should be sneered at on account of the color
of Stillingfleet's stockings, eighty years ago."

"If you please, sir, I should like to know the meaning of
'blue-stocking?'" said Edna.

"You are in a fair way to understand it if you study Greek," answered
Mrs. Murray, laughing at the puzzled expression of the child's
countenance.

Mr. Hammond smiled, and replied: "A 'blue-stocking,' my dear, is
generally supposed to be a lady, neither young, pleasant, nor pretty
(and in most instances unmarried); who is unamiable, ungraceful, and
untidy; ignorant of all domestic accomplishments and truly feminine
acquirements, and ambitious of appearing very learned; a woman whose
fingers are more frequently adorned with ink-spots than thimble; who
holds housekeeping in detestation, and talks loudly about politics,
science, and philosophy; who is ugly, and learned, and cross; whose
hair is never smooth and whose ruffles are never fluted. Is that a
correct likeness, Ellen?"

"As good as one of Brady's photographs. Take warning, Edna."

"The title of 'blue-stocking,'" continued the pastor, "originated in a
jest, many, many years ago, when a circle of very brilliant, witty, and
elegant ladies in London, met at the house of Mrs. Vesey, to listen to
and take part in the conversation of some of the most gifted and
learned men England has ever produced. One of those gentlemen,
Stillingfleet, who always wore blue stockings, was so exceedingly
agreeable and instructive, that when he chanced to be absent the
company declared the party was a failure without the blue stockings,'
as he was familiarly called. A Frenchman, who heard of the
circumstance, gave to these conversational gatherings the name of 'bas
bleu,' which means blue stocking; and hence, you see, that in popular
acceptation, I mean in public opinion, the humorous title, which was
given in compliment to a very charming gentleman, is now supposed to
belong to very tiresome, pedantic, and disagreeable ladies. Do you
understand the matter now?"

"I do not quite understand why ladies have not as good a right to be
learned and wise as gentlemen."

"To satisfy you on that point would involve more historical discussion
than we have time for this morning; some day we will look into the past
and find a solution of the question. Meanwhile you may study as hard as
you please, and remember, my dear, that where one woman is considered a
blue-stocking, and tiresomely learned, twenty are more tiresome still
because they know nothing. I will obtain all the books you need, and
hereafter you must come to me every morning at nine o'clock. When the
weather is good, you can easily walk over from Mrs. Murray's."

As they drove homeward, Edna asked:

"Has Mr. Hammond a family?"

"No; he lost his family years ago. But why do you ask that question?"

"I saw no lady, and I wondered who kept the house in such nice order."

"He has a very faithful servant who attends to his household affairs.
In your intercourse with Mr. Hammond be careful not to allude to his
domestic afflictions."

Mrs. Murray looked earnestly, searchingly at the girl, as if striving
to fathom her thoughts; then throwing her head back, with the haughty
air which Edna had remarked in St. Elmo, she compressed her lips,
lowered her veil, and remained silent and abstracted until they reached
home.

The comprehensive and very thorough curriculum of studies now eagerly
commenced by Edna, and along which she was gently and skilfully guided
by the kind hand of the teacher, furnished the mental aliment for which
she hungered, gave constant and judicious exercise to her active
intellect, and induced her to visit the quiet parsonage library as
assiduously as did Horace, Valgius, and Virgil the gardens on the
Esquiline where Maecenas held his literary assize. Instead of skimming
a few text-books that cram the brain with unwieldy scientific
technicalities and pompous philosophic terminology, her range of
thought and study gradually stretched out into a broader, grander
cycle, embracing, as she grew older, the application of those great
principles that underlie modern science and crop out in ever-varying
phenomena and empirical classifications. Edna's tutor seemed impressed
with the fallacy of the popular system of acquiring one branch of
learning at a time, locking it away as in drawers of rubbish, never to
be opened, where it moulders in shapeless confusion till swept out
ultimately to make room for more recent scientific invoices. Thus in
lieu of the educational plan of "finishing natural philosophy and
chemistry this session, and geology and astronomy next term, and taking
up moral science and criticism the year we graduate," Mr. Hammond
allowed his pupil to finish and lay aside none of her studies; but
sought to impress upon her the great value of Blackstone's aphorism:
"For sciences are of a sociable disposition, and flourish best in the
neighborhood of each other; nor is there any branch of learning but may
be helped and improved by assistance drawn from other arts."

Finding that her imagination was remarkably fertile, he required her,
as she advanced in years, to compose essays, letters, dialogues, and
sometimes orations, all of which were not only written and handed in
for correction, but he frequently directed her to recite them from
memory, and invited her to assist him, while he dissected and
criticised either her diction, line of argument, choice of metaphors,
or intonation of voice. In these compositions he encouraged her to seek
illustrations from every department of letters, and convert her theme
into a focus, upon which to pour all the concentrated light which
research could reflect, assuring her that what is often denominated
"far-fetchedness," in metaphors, furnished not only evidence of the
laborious industry of the writer, but is an implied compliment to the
cultured taste and general knowledge of those for whose entertainment
or edification they are employed--provided always said metaphors and
similes really illustrate, elucidate, and adorn the theme
discussed--when properly understood.

His favorite plea in such instances was, "If Humboldt and Cuvier, and
Linnaeus, and Ehrenberg have made mankind their debtors by scouring the
physical cosmos for scientific data, which every living savant devours,
assimilates, and reproduces in dynamic, physiologic, or entomologic
theories, is it not equally laudable in scholars, orators, and
authors--nay, is it not obligatory on them, to subsidize the vast
cosmos of literature, to circumnavigate the world of belles-lettres, in
search of new hemispheres of thought, and spice islands of
illustrations; bringing their rich gleanings to the great public mart,
where men barter their intellectual merchandise? Wide as the universe
and free as its winds should be the range of human mind."

Yielding allegiance to the axiom that "the proper study of mankind is
man," and recognizing the fact that history faithfully epitomizes the
magnificent triumphs and stupendous failures, the grand capacities and
innate frailties of the races, he fostered and stimulated his pupil's
fondness for historic investigation; while in impressing upon her
memory the chronologic sequence of events he not only grouped into
great epochs the principal dramas, over which Clio holds august
critical tribunal, but so carefully selected her miscellaneous reading,
that poetry, novels, biography, and essays reflected light upon the
actors of the particular epoch which she was studying; and thus through
the subtle but imperishable links of association of ideas, chained them
in her mind.

The extensive library at Le Bocage, and the valuable collection of
books at the parsonage, challenged research, and, with a boundless
ambition, equalled only by her patient, persevering application, Edna
devoted herself to the acquisition of knowledge, and astonished and
delighted her teacher by the rapidity of her progress and the vigor and
originality of her restless intellect.

The noble catholicity of spirit that distinguished Mr. Hammond's
character encouraged her to discuss freely the ethical and
psychological problems that arrested her attention as she grew older,
and facilitated her appreciation and acceptance of the great fact, that
all bigotry springs from narrow minds and partial knowledge. He taught
her that truth, scorning monopolies and deriding patents, lends some
valuable element to almost every human system; that ignorance,
superstition, and intolerance are the red-handed Huns that ravage
society, immolating the pioneers of progress upon the shrine of
prejudice--fettering science--blindly bent on divorcing natural and
revealed truth, which "God hath joined together" in holy and eternal
wedlock; and while they battle a l'outrance with every innovation, lock
the wheels of human advancement, turning a deaf ear to the thrilling
cry;

"Yet I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs, and the
thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns."

If Carlyle be correct in his declaration that "Truly a thinking man is
the worst enemy the prince of darkness can have, and every time such a
one announces himself there runs a shudder through the nether empire,
where new emissaries are trained with new tactics, to hoodwink and
handcuff him," who can doubt that the long dynasty of Eblis will
instantly terminate, when every pulpit in Christendom, from the frozen
shores of Spitzbergen to the green dells of Owhyhee, from the shining
spires of Europe to the rocky battlements that front the Pacific, shall
be filled with meek and holy men of ripe scholarship and resistless
eloquence, whose scientific erudition keeps pace with their evangelical
piety, and whose irreproachable lives attest that their hearts are
indeed hallowed temples of that loving charity "that suffereth long and
is kind; that vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; thinketh no evil;
beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things?"

While Christ walked to and fro among the palms and poppies of
Palestine, glorifying anew an accursed and degraded human nature,
unlettered fishermen, who mended their nets and trimmed their sails
along the blue waves of Galilee, were fit instruments, in his guiding
hands, for the dissemination of his Gospel; but when the days of the
Incarnation ended, and Jesus returned to the Father, all the learning
and the mighty genius of Saul of Tarsus were required to confront and
refute the scoffing sophists who, replete with philhellenic lore, and
within sight of the marvellous triglyphs and metopes of the Parthenon,
gathered on Mars Hill to defend their marble altars to the Unknown God.



CHAPTER VIII.


During the months of September and October Mrs. Murray filled the house
with company, and parties of gentlemen came from time to time to enjoy
the game season and take part in the hunts to which St. Elmo devoted
himself. There were elegant dinners and petits soupers that would not
have disgraced Tusculum, or made Lucullus blush when Pompey and Cicero
sought to surprise him in the "Apollo"; there were billiard-matches and
horse-races, and merry gatherings at the ten-pin alley; and laughter,
and music, and dancing usurped the dominions where silence and gloom
had so long reigned. Naturally shy and unaccustomed to companionship,
Edna felt no desire to participate in these festivities, but became
more and more absorbed in her studies, and her knowledge of the company
was limited to the brief intercourse of the table, where she observed
the deference yielded to the opinions of the master of the house, and
the dread that all manifested lest they should fall under the lash of
his merciless sarcasm. An Ishmael in society, his uplifted hand smote
all conventionalities and shams, spared neither age nor sex, nor
sanctuaries, and acknowledged sanctity nowhere. The punctilious
courtesy of his manner polished and pointed his satire, and when a
personal application of his remarks was possible, he would bow
gracefully to the lady indicated, and fill her glass with wine, while
he filled her heart with chagrin and rankling hate. Since the
restoration of the Dante, not a word had passed between him and Edna,
who regarded him with increasing detestation; but on one occasion, when
the conversation was general, and he sat silent at the foot of the
table, she looked up at him and found his eyes fixed on her face.
Inclining his head slightly to arrest her attention, he handed a
decanter of sherry to one of the servants, with some brief direction,
and a moment after her glass was filled, and the waiter said:

"Mr. Murray's compliments to Aaron Hunt's granddaughter." Observation
had taught her what was customary on such occasions, and she knew that
he had once noticed her taking wine with the gentleman who sat next to
her; but now repugnance conquered politeness, the mention of her
grandfather's name seemed an insult from his lips, and putting her hand
over her glass, she looked him full in the face and shook her head.
Nevertheless he lifted his wine, bowed, and drank the last drop in the
crystal goblet; then turned to a gentleman on his right hand, and
instantly entered into a learned discussion on the superiority of the
wines of the Levant over those of Germany, quoting triumphantly the
lines of M. de Nevers:

"Sur la membrane de leur sens, Font des sillons charmans."

When the ladies withdrew to the parlor he rose, as was his custom, and
held the door open for them. Edna was the last of the party, and as she
passed him he smiled mockingly and said:

"It was unfortunate that my mother omitted to enumerate etiquette in
the catalogue of studies prosecuted at the parsonage."

Instantly the answer sprang to her lips:

"She knew I had a teacher for that branch nearer home"; but her
conscience smote her, she repressed the words, and said gravely:

"My reason was, that I think only good friends should take wine
together."

"This is your declaration of war? Very well, only remember I raise a
black flag and show no quarter. Woe to the conquered."

She hurried away to the library, and thenceforth "kept out of his way"
more assiduously than ever; while the fact that he scrutinized her
closely, rendered her constrained and uncomfortable, when forced to
enter his presence. Mrs. Murray well understood her hostile feeling
toward her son, but she never alluded to it, and his name was not
mentioned by either.

One by one the guests departed; autumn passed, winter was ushered in by
wailing winds and drizzling rains; and one morning as Edna came out of
the hot-house, with a basketful of camellias, she saw St. Elmo bidding
his mother good-bye, as he started on his long journey to Oceanica.
They stood on the steps, Mrs. Murray's head rested on his shoulder, and
bitter tears were falling on her cheeks as she talked eagerly and
rapidly to him. Edna heard him say impatiently:

"You ask what is impossible; it is worse than useless to urge me.
Better pray that I may find a peaceful grave in the cinnamon groves and
under the 'plumy palms' of the far south."

He kissed his mother's cheek and sprang into the saddle, but checked
his horse at sight of the orphan, who stood a few yards distant.

"Are you coming to say good-bye? Or do you reserve such courtesies for
your 'good friends'?"

Regret for her former rudeness, and sympathy for Mrs. Murray's
uncontrollable distress, softened her heart toward him; she selected
the finest white camellia in the basket, walked close to the horse,
and, tendering the flower, said:

"Good-bye, sir. I hope you will enjoy your travels."

"And prolong them indefinitely? Ah, you offer a flag of truce? I warned
you I should not respect it. You know my motto, 'Nemo me impune
lacessit!' Thank you, for this lovely peace-offering. Since you are
willing to negotiate, run and open the gate for me. I may never pass
through it again except as a ghost."

She placed her basket on the steps and ran down the avenue, while he
paused to say something to his mother. Edna knew that he expected to be
absent, possibly, several years, and while she regretted the pain which
his departure gave her benefactress, she could not avoid rejoicing at
the relief she promised herself during his sojourn in foreign lands.

Slowly he rode along the venerable aisle of elms that had overarched
his childish head in the sunny morning of a quickly clouded life, and
as he reached the gate, which Edna held open, he dismounted.

"Edna, if you are as truthful in all matters as you have proved in your
dislikes, I may safely intrust this key to jour keeping. It belongs to
that marble temple in my sitting-room, and opens a vault that contains
my will and a box of papers, and--some other things that I value. There
is no possibility of entering it, except with this key, and no one but
myself knows the contents. I wish to leave the key with you, on two
conditions: first, that you never mention it to any one--not even my
mother, or allow her to suspect that you have it; secondly, that you
promise me solemnly you will not open the tomb or temple unless I fail
to return at the close of four years. This is the tenth of
December--four years from to-day, if I am not here, AND IF YOU HAVE
GOOD REASON TO CONSIDER ME DEAD, take this key (which I wish you to
wear about your person) to my mother, inform her of this conversation,
and then open the vault. Can you resist the temptation to look into it?
Think well before you answer."

He had disengaged the golden key from his watch-chain and held it in
his hand.

"I should not like to take charge of it, Mr. Murray. You can certainly
trust your own mother sooner than an utter stranger like myself."

He frowned and muttered an oath; then exclaimed: "I tell you I do not
choose to leave it in any hands but yours. Will you promise or will you
not?"

The dreary wretchedness, the savage hopelessness of his countenance
awed and pained the girl, and after a moment's silence, and a short
struggle with her heart, she extended her hand, saying with evident
reluctance: "Give me the key, I will not betray your trust."

"Do you promise me solemnly that you will never open that vault, except
in accordance with my directions? Weigh the promise well before you
give it."

"Yes, sir; I promise most solemnly."

He laid the key in her palm and continued:

"My mother loves you--try to make her happy while I am away; and if you
succeed, you will be the first person to whom I have ever been
indebted. I have left directions concerning my books and the various
articles in my rooms. Feel no hesitation in examining any that may
interest you, and see that the dust does not ruin them. Good-bye,
child; take care of my mother."

He held out his hand, she gave him hers for an instant only, and he
mounted, lifted his cap, and rode away.

Closing the ponderous gate, Edna leaned her face against the iron bars,
and watched the lessening form. Gradually trees intervened, then at a
bend in the road she saw him wheel his horse as if to return. For some
moments he remained stationary, looking back, but suddenly disappeared,
and, with a sigh of indescribable relief, she retraced her steps to the
house. As she approached the spot where Mrs. Murray still sat, with her
face hidden in her handkerchief, the touch of the little key, tightly
folded in her palm, brought a painful consciousness of concealment and
a tinge of shame to her cheeks; for it seemed in her eyes an insult to
her benefactress that the guardianship of the papers should have been
withheld from her.

She would have stolen away to her own room to secrete the key; but Mrs.
Murray called her, and as she sat down beside her the miserable mother
threw her arms around the orphan, and resting her cheek on her head
wept bitterly. Timidly, but very gently and tenderly, the latter strove
to comfort her, caressing the white hands that were clasped in almost
despairing anguish.

"Dear Mrs. Murray, do not grieve so deeply; he may come back much
earlier than you expect. He will get tired of travelling, and come back
to his own beautiful home, and to you, who love him so devotedly."

"No, no! he will stay away as long as possible. It is not beautiful to
him. He hates his home and forgets me! My loneliness, my anxiety are
nothing in comparison to his morbid love of change. I shall never see
him again."

"But he loves you very much, and that will bring him to you."

"Why do you think so?"

"He pointed to you, a few moments ago, and his face was full of
wretchedness when he told me, 'Make my mother happy while I am gone,
and you will be the first person to whom I have ever been indebted.' Do
not weep so, dear Mrs. Murray; God can preserve him as well on sea as
here at home."

"Oh! but he will not pray for himself!" sobbed the mother.

"Then you must pray all the more for him; and go where he will, he
cannot get beyond God's sight, or out of His merciful hands. You know
Christ said, 'Whatsoever you ask in my name, I will do it'; and if the
Syrophenician's daughter was saved not by her own prayers but by her
mother's faith, why should not God save your son if you pray and
believe?"

Mrs. Murray clasped Edna closer to her heart, and kissed her warmly.

"You are my only comfort! If I had your faith I should not be so
unhappy. My dear child, promise me one thing, that every time you pray
you will remember my son, and ask God to preserve him in his
wanderings, and bring him safely back to his mother. I know you do not
like him, but for my sake will you not do this?"

"My prayers are not worth much, but I will always remember to pray for
him; and, Mrs. Murray, while he is away, suppose you have family
prayer, and let all the household join in praying for the absent
master. I think it would be such a blessing and comfort to you. Grandpa
always had prayer night and morning, and it made every day seem almost
as holy as Sunday."

Mrs. Murray was silent a little while, and answered hesitatingly:

"But, my dear, I should not know how to offer up prayers before the
family. I can pray for myself, but I should not like to pray aloud."

There was a second pause, and finally she said:

"Edna, would you be willing to conduct prayers for me?"

"It is your house, and God expects the head of every family to set an
example. Even the pagans offered sacrifices every day for the good of
the household, and you know the Jews had morning and evening
sacrifices; so it seems to me family prayer is such a beautiful
offering on the altar of the hearthstone. If you do not wish to pray
yourself, you could read a prayer; there is a book called Family
Prayer, with selections for every day in the week. I saw a copy at the
parsonage, and I can get one like it at the book store if you desire
it."

"That will suit my purpose much better than trying to compose them
myself. You must get the book for me. But, Edna, don't go to school
to-day, stay at home with me; I am so lonely and low-spirited. I will
tell Mr. Hammond that I could not spare you. Beside, I want you to help
me arrange some valuable relics belonging to my son, and now that I
think of it, he told me he wished you to use any of his books or MSS.
that you might like to examine. This is a great honor, child, for he
has refused many grown people admission to his rooms. Come with me, I
want to lock up his curiosities."

They went through the rotunda and into the rooms together; and Mrs.
Murray busied herself in carefully removing the cameos, intaglios,
antique vases, goblets, etc., etc., from the tables, and placing them
in the drawers of the cabinets. As she crossed the room tears fell on
the costly trifles, and finally she approached the beautiful miniature
temple and stooped to look at the fastening. She selected the smallest
key on the bunch, that contained a dozen, and attempted to fit it in
the small opening, but it was too large; then she tried her watch-key,
but without success, and a look of chagrin crossed her sad,
tear-stained face.

"St. Elmo has forgotten to leave the key with me."

Edna's face grew scarlet, and stooping to pick up a heavy cornelian
seal that had fallen on the carpet, she said, hastily:

"What is that marble temple intended to hold?"

"I have no idea; it is one of my son's oriental fancies. I presume he
uses it as a private desk for his papers."

"Does he leave the key with you when he goes from home?"

"This is the first time he has left home for more than a few weeks
since he brought this gem from the East. I must write to him about the
key before he sails. He has it on his watch-chain."

The same curiosity which, in ages long past, prompted the discovery of
the Eleusinian or Cabiri mysteries now suddenly took possession of
Edna, as she looked wonderingly at the shining fagade of the exquisite
Taj Mahal, and felt that only a promise stood between her and its
contents.

Escaping to her own room, she proceeded to secrete the troublesome key,
and to reflect upon the unexpected circumstances which not only
rendered it her duty to pray for the wanderer but necessitated her
keeping always about her a SOUVENIR of the man whom she could not avoid
detesting, and was yet forced to remember continually.

On the following day, when she went to her usual morning recitation,
and gave the reason for her absence, she noticed that Mr. Hammond's
hand trembled, and a look of keen sorrow settled on his face.

"Gone again! and so soon! So far, far away from all good influences!"

He put down the Latin grammar and walked to the window, where he stood
for some time, and when he returned to his armchair Edna saw that the
muscles of his face were unsteady.

"Did he not stop to tell you good-bye?"

"No, my dear, he never comes to the parsonage now. When he was a boy, I
taught him here in this room, as I now teach you. But for fifteen years
he has not crossed my threshold, and yet I never sleep until I have
prayed for him." "Oh! I am so glad to hear that! Now I know he will be
saved."

The minister shook his gray head, and Edna saw tears in his mild blue
eyes as he answered:

"A man's repentance and faith can not be offered by proxy to God. So
long as St. Elmo Murray persists in insulting his Maker, I shudder for
his final end. He has the finest intellect I have ever met among living
men; but it is unsanctified--worse still, it is dedicated to the work
of scoffing at and blaspheming the truths of religion. In his youth he
promised to prove a blessing to his race and an ornament to
Christianity; now he is a curse to the world and a dreary burden to
himself."

"What changed him so sadly?"

"Some melancholy circumstances that occurred early in his life. Edna,
he planned and built that beautiful church where you come on Sabbath to
hear me preach, and about the time it was finished he went off to
college. When he returned he avoided me, and has never yet been inside
of the costly church which his taste and his money constructed. Still,
while I live, I shall not cease to pray for him, hoping that in God's
good time he will bring him back to the pure faith of his boyhood."

"Mr. Hammond, is he not a very wicked man?"

"He had originally the noblest heart I ever knew, and was as tender in
his sympathies as a woman, while he was almost reckless in his
munificent charities. But in his present irreligious state I hear that
he has grown bitter and sour and illiberal. Yet, however repulsive his
manner may be, I can not believe that his nature is utterly perverted.
He is dissipated but not unprincipled. Let him rest, my child, in the
hands of his God, who alone can judge him. We can but pray and hope. Go
on with your lesson."

The recitation was resumed and ended; but Edna was well aware that for
the first time her teacher was inattentive, and the heavy sighs that
passed his lips almost unconsciously told her how sorely he was
distressed by the erratic course of his quondam pupil.

When she rose to go home she asked the name of the author of the Family
Prayers which she wished to purchase for Mrs. Murray, and the pastor's
face flushed with pleasure as he heard of her cherished scheme.

"My dear child, be circumspect, be prudent; above all things, be
consistent. Search your own heart; try to make your life an exposition
of your faith; let profession and practice go hand in hand; ask God's
special guidance in the difficult position in which you are placed, and
your influence for good in Mrs. Murray's family may be beyond all
computation." Laying his hands on her head, he continued tremulously:
"O my God! if it be thy will, make her the instrument of rescuing, ere
it be indeed too late. Help me to teach her aright; and let her pure
life atone for all the inconsistencies and wrongs that have well-nigh
wrought eternal ruin."

Turning quickly away, he left the room, before she could even catch a
glimpse of his countenance.

The strong and lasting affection that sprang up between instructor and
pupil--the sense of dependence on each other's society--rarely occurs
among persons in whose ages so great a disparity exists. Spring and
autumn have no affinities--age has generally no sympathy for the
gushing sprightliness, the eager questioning, the rose-hued dreams and
aspirations of young people; and youth shrinks chilled and constrained
from the austere companionship of those who, with snowy locks gilded by
the fading rays of a setting sun, totter down the hill of life,
journeying to the dark and silent valley of the shadow of death.

Preferring Mr. Hammond's society to that of the comparative strangers
who visited Mrs. Murray, Edna spent half of her time at the quiet
parsonage, and the remainder with her books and music. That under
auspices so favorable her progress was almost unprecedentedly rapid,
furnished matter of surprise to no one who was capable of estimating
the results of native genius and vigorous application. Mrs. Murray
watched the expansion of her mind, and the development of her beauty,
with emotions of pride and pleasure, which, had she analyzed them,
would have told her how dear and necessary to her happiness the orphan
had become.

As Edna's reasoning powers strengthened, Mr. Hammond led her gradually
to the contemplation of some of the gravest problems that have from
time immemorial perplexed and maddened humanity, plunging one half into
blind, bigoted traditionalism, and scourging the other into the dreary
sombre, starless wastes of Pyrrhonism. Knowing full well that of every
earnest soul and honest, profound thinker these ontologic questions
would sooner or later demand audience, he wisely placed her in the
philosophic palaestra, encouraged her wrestlings, cheered her on,
handed her from time to time the instruments and aids she needed, and
then, when satisfied that the intellectual gymnastics had properly
trained and developed her, he invited her--where he felt assured the
spirit of the age would inevitably drive her--to the great Pythian
games of speculation, where the lordly intellects of the nineteenth
century gather to test their ratiocinative skill, and bear off the
crown of bay on the point of a syllogism or the wings of an audacious
hypothesis.

Thus immersed in study, weeks, months, and years glided by, bearing her
young life swiftly across the Enna meads of girlhood, nearer and nearer
to the portals of that mystic temple of womanhood, on whose fair
fretted shrine was to be offered a heart either consumed by the baleful
fires of Baal, or purified and consecrated by the Shekinah, promised
through Messiah.



CHAPTER IX.


During the first year of Mr. Murray's absence his brief letters to his
mother were written at long intervals; in the second, they were rarer
and briefer still; but toward the close of the third he wrote more
frequently, and announced his intention of revisiting Egypt before his
return to the land of his birth. Although no allusion was ever made to
Edna, Mrs. Murray sometimes read aloud descriptions of beautiful
scenery, written now among the scoriae of Mauna Roa or Mauna Kea, and
now from the pinnacle of Mount Ophir, whence, through waving forests of
nutmeg and clove, flashed the blue waters of the Indian Ocean, or the
silver ripples of Malacca; and, on such occasions, the orphan listened
eagerly, entranced by the tropical luxuriance and grandeur of his
imagery, by his gorgeous word-painting, which to her charmed ears
seemed scarcely inferior to the wonderful pen-portraits of Ruskin.
Those letters seemed flecked with the purple and gold, the amber and
rose, the opaline and beryline tints, of which he spoke in telling the
glories of Polynesian and Malaysian skies, and the matchless verdure
and floral splendors of their serene spicy dells. For many days after
the receipt of each, Mrs. Murray was graver and sadder, but the spectre
that had disquieted Edna was thoroughly exorcised, and only when the
cold touch of the golden key startled her was she conscious of a vague
dread of some far-off but slowly and surely approaching evil. In the
fourth year of her pupilage she was possessed by an unconquerable
desire to read the Talmud, and in order to penetrate the mysteries and
seize the treasures hidden in that exhaustless mine of Oriental myths,
legends, and symbolisms, she prevailed upon Mr. Hammond to teach her
Hebrew and the rudiments of Chaldee. Very reluctantly and
disapprovingly he consented, and subsequently informed her that, as he
had another pupil who was also commencing Hebrew, he would class them,
and hear their recitations together. This new student was Mr. Gordon
Leigh, a lawyer in the town, and a gentleman of wealth and high social
position. Although quite young, he gave promise of eminence in his
profession, and was a great favorite of the minister, who pronounced
him the most upright and exemplary young man of his acquaintance. Edna
had seen him several times at Mrs. Murray's dinners, but while she
thought him exceedingly handsome, polite, and agreeable, she regarded
him as a stranger, until the lessons at the Parsonage brought them
every two days around the little table in the study. They began the
language simultaneously; but Edna, knowing the flattering estimation in
which he was held, could not resist the temptation to measure her
intellect with his, and soon threatened to outrun him in the Talmud
race. Piqued pride and a manly resolution to conquer spurred him on,
and the venerable instructor looked on and laughed at the generous
emulation thus excited. He saw an earnest friendship daily
strengthening between the rivals, and knew that in Gordon Leigh's
magnanimous nature there was no element which could cause an objection
to the companionship to which he had paved the way.

Four months after the commencement of the new study, Edna rorse at
daylight to complete some exercises, which she had neglected to write
out on the previous evening, and as soon as she concluded the task,
went down stairs to gather the flowers. It was the cloudless morning of
her seventeenth birthday and as she stood clipping geraniums and
jasmine and verbena, memory flew back to the tender years in which the
grisly blacksmith had watched her career with such fond pride and
loving words of encouragement, and painted the white-haired old man
smoking on the porch that fronted Lookout, while from his lips,
tremulous with a tender smile, seemed to float the last words he had
spoken to her on that calm afternoon when, in the fiery light of a
dying day, he was gathered to his forefathers:

"You will make me proud of you, my little Pearl, when you are smart
enough to teach a school and take care of me, for I shall be too old to
work by that time."

Now, after the lapse of years, when her educational course was almost
finished, she recalled every word and look and gesture; even the thrill
of horror that shook her limbs when she kissed the lips that death had
sealed an hour before. Mournfully vivid was her recollection of her
tenth birthday, for then he had bought her a blue ribbon for her hair,
and a little china cup and saucer; and now tears sprang to her eyes as
she murmured: "I have studied hard and the triumph is at hand, but I
have nobody to be proud of me now! Ah Grandpa! if you could only come
back to me, your little Pearl! It is so desolate to be alone in this
great world; so hard to have to know that nobody cares specially
whether I live or die, whether I succeed or fail ignominiously. I have
only myself to live for; only my own heart and will to sustain and
stimulate me."

Through the fringy acacias that waved their long hair across the
hothouse windows, the golden sunshine flickered over the graceful,
rounded, lithe figure of the orphan--over the fair young face with its
delicate cameo features, warm, healthful coloring, and brave, hopeful
expression. Four years had developed the pretty, sad-eyed child into a
lovely woman, with a pure heart filled with humble unostentatious
piety, and a clear, vigorous intellect inured to study, and ambitious
of every honorable eminence within the grasp of true womanhood.

Edna had endeavored to realize and remember what her Bible first taught
her, and what moralists of all creeds, climes and ages, had
reiterated--that human life was at best but "vanity and vexation of
spirit," that "man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward"; yet as
she stood on the line, narrow and thin as Al-Sirat, that divides
girlhood and womanhood, all seemed to her fresh, pure heart as inviting
and bewitching as the magnificent panorama upon which enraptured
lotophagi gazed from the ancient acropolis of Cyrene.

As Edna turned to leave the hothouse, the ring of horse's hoofs on the
rocky walk attracted her attention, and a moment after, Mr. Leigh gave
his horse to the gardener and came to meet her.

"Good morning, Miss Edna. As I am bearer of dispatches from my sister
to Mrs. Murray, I have invited myself to breakfast with you."

"You are an earlier riser than I had supposed, Mr. Leigh, from your
lamentations over your exercises."

"I do not deny that I love my morning nap, and generally indulge
myself; for, like Sydney Smith, 'I can easily make up my mind to rise
early, but I cannot make up my body.' In one respect I certainly claim
equality with Thorwaldsen, my 'talent for sleeping' is inferior neither
to his nor Goethe's. Do you know that we are both to have a holiday
to-day?"

"No, sir; upon what score?"

"It happens to be my birthday as well as yours, and as my sister, Mrs.
Inge, gives a party to-night in honor of the event, I have come to
insist that my classmate shall enjoy the same reprieve that I promise
myself. Mrs. Inge commissioned me to insure your presence at her party."

"Thank you; but I never go out to parties."

"But bad precedents must not guide you any longer. If you persist in
staying at home, I shall not enjoy the evening, for in every dance I
shall fancy my vis-a-vis your spectre, with an exercise in one hand and
a Hebrew grammar in the other. A propos! Mr. Hammond told me to say
that he would not expect you to-day, but would meet you to-night at
Mrs. Inge's. You need not trouble yourself to decline, for I shall
arrange matters with Mrs. Murray. In honor of my birthday will you not
give me a sprig of something sweet from your basket?"

They sat down on the steps of the dining-room, and Edna selected some
delicate oxalis cups and nutmeg geranium leaves, which she tied up, and
handed to her companion.

Fastening them in the button-hole of his coat, he drew a small box from
his pocket, and said:

"I noticed last week, when Mr. Hammond was explaining the Basilidian
tenets, you manifested some curiosity concerning their amulets and
mythical stones. Many years ago, while an uncle of mine was missionary
in Arabia, he saved the life of a son of a wealthy sheik, and received
from him, in token of his gratitude, a curious ring, which tradition
said once belonged to a caliph, and had been found near the ruins of
Chilminar. The ring was bequeathed to me, and is probably the best
authenticated antique in this country. Presto! we are in Bagdad! in the
blessed reign--

  '... in the golden prime
   Of good Haroun Alraschid!'

I am versed in neither Cufic nor Neskhi lore, but the characters
engraved on this ring are said to belong to the former dialect, and to
mean 'Peace be with thee,' which is, and I believe has been, from time
immemorial, the national salutation of the Arabs."

He unwound the cotton that enveloped the gem, and held it before Edna's
eyes.

A broad band of dusky, tarnished gold was surmounted by a large
crescent-shaped emerald, set with beautiful pearls, and underneath the
Arabic inscription was engraved a ram's head, bearing on one horn a
small crescent, on the other a star.

As Edna bent forward to examine it Mr. Leigh continued: "I do not quite
comprehend the symbolism of the ram's head and the star; the crescent
is clear enough."

"I think I can guess the meaning." Edna's eyes kindled.

"Tell me your conjecture; my own does not satisfy me, as the Arabic
love of mutton is the only solution at which I have arrived."

"Oh, Mr. Leigh! look at it and think a moment."

"Well, I have looked at it and thought a great deal, and I tell you
mutton-broth sherbet is the only idea suggested to my mind. You need
not look so shocked, for, when cooled with the snows of Caucasus, I am
told it makes a beverage fit for Greek gods."

"Think of the second chapter of St. Luke."

He pondered a moment, and answered, gravely: "I am sorry to say that I
do not remember that particular chapter well enough to appreciate your
clew."

She hesitated, and the color deepened on her cheek as she repeated, in
a low voice:

"'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord
came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. And
suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host
praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth
peace, good will toward men.'

"Mr. Leigh, the star on the ram's horn may be the Star of Bethlehem
that shone over the manger, and the Arabic inscription is certainly the
salutation of the angel to the shepherds. 'Peace, good will toward
men,' says St. Luke; 'Peace be with thee,' said Islamism."

"Your solution seems plausible, but, pardon me, is totally
inadmissible, from the fact that it blends crescent and cross, and
ignores antagonisms that deluged centuries with blood."

"You forget, Mr. Leigh, that Mohammedanism is nothing but a huge
eclecticism, and that its founder stole its elements from surrounding
systems. The symbolism of the crescent he took from the mysteries of
Isis and Astarte; the ethical code of Christ he engrafted on the
monotheism of Judaism; his typical forms are drawn from the Old
Testament or the more modern Mishma; and his pretended miracles are
mere repetitions of the wonders performed by our Saviour--for instance,
the basket of dates, the roasted lamb, the loaf of barley bread, in the
siege of Medina. Even the Moslem Jehennam is a palpable imitation of
the Hebrew Gehenna. Beside, sir, you know that Sabeanism reigned in
Arabia just before the advent of Mohammed, and if you refuse to believe
that the Star of Bethlehem was signified by this one shining here on
the ram's horn, at least you must admit that it refers to stars studied
by the shepherds who watched their flocks on the Chaldean plains. In a
cabinet of coins and medals, belonging to Mr. Murray, I have examined
one of silver, representing Astaroth, with the head of a woman adorned
with horns and a crescent, and another of brass, containing an image of
Baal--a human face on the head of an ox, with the horns surrounded by
stars. However, I am very ignorant of these things, and you must refer
the riddle of the ring to some one more astute and learned in such
matters than your humble 'yokefellow' in Hebrew. 'Peace be with you.'"

"I repeat 'Peace be with thee,' during the new year on which we are
both entering, and, as you have at least attempted to read the riddle,
let me beg that you will do me the honor to accept and wear the ring in
memory of our friendship and our student life."

He took her hand, and would have placed the ring on her finger, but she
resisted.

"Thank you, Mr. Leigh, I appreciate the honor, but indeed you must
excuse me, I cannot accept the ring."

"Why not, Miss Edna?"

"In the first place, because it is very valuable and beautiful, and I
am not willing to deprive you of it; in the second, I do not think it
proper to accept presents from--any one but relatives or dear friends."

"I thought we were dear friends? Why can we not be such?"

At this moment Mrs. Murray came into the dining-room, and as she looked
at the two sitting there in the early sunshine, with the basket of
flowers between them; as she marked the heightened color and
embarrassed expression on one fair, sweet face, and the eager pleading
written on the other, so full of manly beauty, so frank and bright and
genial, a possible destiny for both flashed before her; and pleased
surprise warmed her own countenance as she hurried forward.

"Good-morning, Gordon. I am very glad to see you. How is Clara?"

"Quite well, thank you, and entirely absorbed in preparations for her
party, as you will infer from this note, which she charged me to
deliver in person, and for which I here pray your most favorable
consideration."

As Mrs. Murray glanced over the note Edna turned to leave the room; but
Mr. Leigh exclaimed:

"Do not go just yet, I wish Mrs. Murray to decide a matter for me."

"Well, Gordon, what is it?"

"First, do you grant my sister's petition?"

"Certainly, I will bring Edna with me to-night, unless she prefers
staying at home with her books. You know I let her do pretty much as
she pleases."

"Now then for my little quarrel! Here is a curious old ring, which she
will appreciate more highly than any one else whom I happen to know,
and I want her to accept it as a birthday memento from me, but a few
minutes ago she refused to wear it. Can you not come to my assistance,
my dear Mrs. Murray?"

She took the ring, examined it, and said, after a pause:

"I think, Gordon, that she did exactly right; but I also think that
now, with my approval and advice, she need not hesitate to wear it
henceforth, as a token of your friendship. Edna, hold out your hand, my
dear."

The ring was slipped on the slender finger, and as she released her
hand, Mrs. Murray bent down and kissed her forehead.

"Seventeen to-day! My child, I can scarcely believe it! And
you--Gordon? May I ask how old you are?"

"Twenty-five--I grieve to say! You need not tell me--"

The conversation was interrupted by the ringing of the breakfast bell,
and soon after, Mr. Leigh took his departure.

Edna felt puzzled and annoyed, and as she looked down at the ring she
thought that instead of "Peace be with thee," the Semitic characters
must surely mean, "Disquiet seize thee!" for they had shivered the
beautiful calm of her girlish nature, and thrust into her mind ideas
unknown until that day. Going to her own room, she opened her books,
but ere she could fix her wandering thoughts Mrs. Murray entered.

"Edna, I came to speak to you about your dress for to-night."

"Please do not say that you wish me to go, my dear Mrs. Murray, for I
dread the very thought."

"But I must tell you that I insist upon your conforming to the usages
of good society. Mrs. Inge belongs to one of the very first families in
the State; at her house you will meet the best people, and you could
not possibly make your debut under more favorable circumstances.
Beside, it is very unnatural that a young girl should not enjoy parties
and the society of gay young people. You are very unnecessarily making
a recluse of yourself, and I shall not permit you to refuse such an
invitation as Mrs. Inge has sent. It would be rude in the extreme."

"Dear Mrs. Murray, you speak of my debut, as if, like other girls, I
had nothing else to do but fit myself for society. These people care
nothing for me, and I am as little interested in them. I have no desire
to move for a short time in a circle from which my work in life must
soon separate me."

"To what work do you allude?"

"The support which I must make by teaching. In a few months I hope to
be able to earn all I need, and then--"

"Then it will be quite time enough to determine what necessity demands;
in the meanwhile, as long as you are in my house you must allow me to
judge what is proper for you. Clara Inge is my friend, and I can not
allow you to be rude to her. I have sent the carriage to town for Miss
O'Riley, my mantua-maker, and Hagar will make the skirt of your dress.
Come into my room and let her take the measure."

"Thank you for your kind thoughtfulness, but indeed I do not want to
go. Please let me stay at home! You can frame some polite excuse, and
Mrs. Inge cares not whether I go or stay. I will write my regrets and--"

"Don't be childish, Edna; I care whether you go or stay, and that fact
should weigh with you much more than Mrs. Inge's wishes, for you are
quite right in supposing that it is a matter of indifference to her. Do
not keep Hagar waiting."

Mrs. Murray's brow clouded, and her lips contracted, as was their
habit, when anything displeased her; consequently after a quick glance,
Edna followed her to the room where Hagar was at work. It was the first
time the orphan had been invited to a large party, and she shrank from
meeting people whose standard of gentility was confined to high birth
and handsome fortunes. Mrs. Inge came frequently to Le Bocage, but
Edna's acquaintance with her was comparatively slight, and in addition
to her repugnance to meeting strangers she dreaded seeing Mr. Leigh
again so soon, for she felt that an undefinable barrier had suddenly
risen between them; the frank, fearless freedom of the old friendship
at the parsonage table had vanished. She began to wish that she had
never studied Hebrew, that she had never heard of Basilides, and that
the sheik's ring was back among the ruins of Chilminar. Mrs. Murray saw
her discomposure, but chose to take no notice of it, and superintended
her toilet that night with almost as much interest as if she had been
her own daughter.

During the drive she talked on indifferent subjects, and as they went
up to the dressing-room had the satisfaction of seeing that her
protegee manifested no trepidation. They arrived rather late, the
company had assembled, and the rooms were quite full as Mrs. Murray
entered; but Mrs. Inge met them at the threshold, and Mr. Leigh, who
seemed on the watch, came forward at the same instant, and offered Edna
his arm.

"Ah, Mrs. Murray! I had almost abandoned the hope of seeing you. Miss
Edna, the set is just forming, and we must celebrate our birthday by
having the first dance together. Excuse you, indeed! You presume upon
my well-known good nature and generosity, but this evening I am
privileged to be selfish."

As he drew her into the middle of the room she noticed that he wore the
flowers she had given him in the morning, and this, in conjunction with
the curious scrutiny to which she was subjected, brought a sudden surge
of color to her cheeks. The dance commenced, and from one corner of the
room Mr. Hammond looked eagerly at his two pupils, contrasting them
with the gay groups that filled the brilliant apartment.

Edna's slender, graceful figure was robed in white Swiss muslin, with a
bertha of rich lace; and rose-colored ribbons formed the sash, and
floated from her shoulders. Her beautiful glossy hair was simply coiled
in a large roll at the back of the head, and fastened with an ivory
comb. Scrutinizing the face lifted toward Mr. Leigh's, while he talked
to her, the pastor thought he had never seen a countenance half so
eloquent and lovely. Turning his gaze upon her partner, he was
compelled to confess that though Gordon Leigh was the handsomest man in
the room, no acute observer could look at the two and fail to discover
that the blacksmith's granddaughter was far superior to the petted
brother of the aristocratic Mrs. Inge. He was so much interested in
watching the couple that he did not observe Mrs. Murray's approach
until she sat down beside him and whispered:

"Are they not a handsome couple?"

"Gordon and Edna?"

"Yes."

"Indeed they are! I think that child's face is the most attractive, the
most fascinating I ever looked at. There is such a rare combination of
intelligence, holiness, strength and serenity in her countenance; such
a calm, pure light shining in her splendid eyes; such a tender, loving
look far down in their soft depths."

"Child! Why she is seventeen to-day." "No matter, Ellen; to me she will
always seem a gentle, clinging, questioning child. I look at her often
when she is intent on her studies, and wonder how long her pure heart
will reject the vanities and baubles that engross most women; how long
mere abstract study will continue to charm her; and I tremble when I
think of the future to which I know she is looking so eagerly. Now, her
emotional nature sleeps, her heart is at rest--slumbering also, she is
all intellect at present--giving her brain no relaxation. Ah! if it
could always be so. But it will not! There will come a time, I fear,
when her fine mind and pure, warm heart will be arrayed against each
other, will battle desperately, and one or the other must be
subordinated."

"Gordon seems to admire her very much," said Mrs. Murray.

Mr. Hammond sighed, and a shadow crept over his placid features, as he
answered:

"Do you wonder at it, Ellen? Can any one know the child well, and fail
to admire and love her?"

"If he could only forget her obscure birth--if he could only consent to
marry her--what a splendid match it would be for her?"

"Ellen! Ellen Murray! I am surprised at you! Let me beg of you for her
sake, for yours, for all parties concerned, not to raise your little
finger in this matter; not to utter one word to Edna that might arouse
her suspicions; not to hint to Gordon that you dream such an alliance
possible; for there is more at stake than you imagine--"

He was unable to conclude the sentence, for the dance had ended, and as
Edna caught a glimpse of the beloved countenance of her teacher, she
drew her fingers from Mr. Leigh's arm, and hastened to the pastor's
side, taking his hand between both hers:

"O, sir! I am glad to see you. I have looked around so often; hoping to
catch sight of you. Mrs. Murray, I heard Mrs. Inge asking for you."

When the lady walked away, Edna glided into the seat next the minister,
and continued:

"I want to talk to you about a change in some of my studies."

"Wait till to-morrow, my dear. I came here to-night only for a few
moments, to gratify Gordon and now I must slip away."

"But, sir, I only want to say, that as you objected at the outset to my
studying Hebrew, I will not waste any more time on it just now, but
take it up again after a while, when I have plenty of leisure. Don't
you think that would be the best plan?"

"My child, are you tired of Hebrew?"

"No, sir; on the contrary, it possesses a singular fascination for me;
but I think, if you are willing, I shall discontinue it--at least, for
the present. I shall take care to forget nothing that I have already
learned."

"You have some special reason for this change, I presume?"

She raised her eyes to his, and said frankly:

"Yes, sir, I have."

"Very well, my dear, do as you like. Good-night."

"I wish I could go now with you."

"Why? I thought you appeared to enjoy your dance very much. Edna, look
at me."

She hesitated--then obeyed him, and he saw tears glistening on her long
lashes.

Very quietly the old man drew her arm through his, and led her out on
the dim veranda, where only an occasional couple promenaded.

"Something troubles you, Edna. Will you confide in me?"

"I feel as if I were occupying a false position here, and yet I do not
see how I can extricate myself without displeasing Mrs. Murray, whom I
can not bear to offend--she is so very kind and generous."

"Explain yourself, my dear."

"You know that I have not a cent in the world except what Mrs. Murray
gives me. I shall have to make my bread by my own work just as soon as
you think me competent to teach; and notwithstanding, she thinks I
ought to visit and associate as she does with these people, who
tolerate me now, simply because they know that while I am under her
roof she will exact it of them. To-night, during the dance, I heard two
of her fashionable friends criticising and sneering at me; ridiculing
her for 'attempting to smuggle that spoiled creature of unknown
parentage and doubtless low origin into really first circles.' Other
things were said which I can not repeat, that showed me plainly how I
am regarded here, and I will not remain in a position which subjects me
to such remarks. Mrs. Murray thought it best for me to come; but it was
a mistaken kindness. I thought so before I came--now I have
irrefragable proof that I was right in my forebodings."

"Can you not tell me all that was said?"

"I shrink, sir, from repeating it, even to you."

"Did Mr. Leigh hear it?"

"I hope not."

"My dear child, I am very much pained to learn that you have been so
cruelly wounded; but do not let your mind dwell upon it; those weak,
heartless, giddy people are to be pitied, are beneath your notice. Try
to fix your thoughts on nobler themes, and waste no reflection on the
idle words of those poor gilded moths of fashion and folly, who are
incapable of realizing their own degraded and deplorable condition."

"I do not care particularly what they think of me, but I am anxious to
avoid hearing their comments upon me, and therefore I am determined to
keep as much out of sight as possible. I shall try to do my duty in all
things, and poverty is no stigma, thank God! My grandfather was very
poor, but he was noble and honest, and as courteous as a nobleman; and
I honor his dear, dear memory as tenderly as if he had been reared in a
palace. I am not ashamed of my parentage, for my father was as honest
and industrious as he was poor, and my mother was as gentle and good as
she was beautiful."

There was no faltering in the sweet voice, and no bitterness poisoning
it. Mr. Hammond could not see the face, but the tone indexed all, and
he was satisfied.

"I am glad, my dear little Edna, that you look at the truth so bravely,
and give no more importance to the gossip than your future peace of
mind demands. If you have any difficulty in convincing Mrs. Murray of
the correctness of your views, let me know, and I will speak to her on
the subject. Good-night! May God watch over and bless you!"

When the orphan reentered the parlor, Mrs. Inge presented her to
several gentlemen who had requested an introduction; and though her
heart was heavy, and her cheeks burned painfully, she exerted herself,
and danced and talked constantly until Mrs. Murray announced herself
ready to depart.

Joyfully Edna ran upstairs for her wrappings, bade adieu to her
hostess, who complimented her on the sensation her beauty had created;
and felt relieved and comparatively happy when the carriage-door closed
and she found herself alone with her benefactress.

"Well, Edna, notwithstanding your repugnance to going, you acquitted
yourself admirably, and seemed to have a delightful time."

"I thank you, ma'am, for doing all in your power to make the evening
agreeable to me. I think your kind desire to see me enjoy the party
made me happier than everything else."

Gratefully she drew Mrs. Murray's hand to her lips, and the latter
little dreamed that at that instant tears were rolling over the flushed
face, while the words of the conversation which she had overheard rang
mockingly in her ears:

"Mrs. Murray and even Mr. Hammond are scheming to make a match between
her and Gordon Leigh. Studying Hebrew indeed! A likely story! She had
better go back to her wash-tub and spinning-wheel! Much Hebrew she will
learn! Her eyes are set on Gordon's fortune, and Mrs. Murray is silly
enough to think he will step into the trap. She will have to bait it
with something better than Hebrew and black eyes, or she will miss her
game. Gordon will make a fool of her, I dare say, for, like all other
young men, he can be flattered into paying her some little attention at
first. I am surprised at Mrs. Inge to countenance the girl at all."

Such was the orphan's initiation into the charmed circle of fashionable
society; such her welcome to le beau monde.

As she laid her head on her pillow, she could not avoid exclaiming:

"Heaven save me from such aristocrats! and commit me rather to the
horny but outstretched hands, the brawny arms, the untutored minds, the
simple but kindly-throbbing hearts of proletaire!"



CHAPTER X.


When Mr. Hammond mentioned Edna's determination to discontinue Hebrew,
Mr. Leigh expressed no surprise, asked no explanation, but the minister
noticed that he bit his lip, and beat a hurried tattoo with the heel of
his boot on the stony hearth; and as he studiously avoided all allusion
to her, he felt assured that the conversation which she had overheard
must have reached the ears of her partner also, and supplied him with a
satisfactory solution of her change of purpose. For several weeks Edna
saw nothing of her quondam schoolmate; and fixing her thoughts more
firmly than ever on her studies, the painful recollection of the
birthday fete was lowly fading from her mind, when one morning, as she
was returning from the parsonage, Mr. Leigh joined her, and asked
permission to attend her home. The sound of his voice, the touch of his
hand, brought back all the embarrassment and constraint, and called up
the flush of confusion so often attributed to other sources than that
from which it really springs.

After a few commonplace remarks, he asked:

"When is Mr. Murray coming home?"

"I have no idea. Even his mother is ignorant of his plans."

"How long has he been absent?"

"Four years to-day."

"Indeed! so long? Where is he?"

"I believe his last letter was written at Edfu, and he said nothing
about returning."

"What do you think of his singular character?"

"I know almost nothing about him, as I was too young when I saw him to
form an estimate of him."

"Do you not correspond?"

Edna looked up with unfeigned astonishment, and could not avoid smiling
at the inquiry.

"Certainly not."

A short silence followed, and then Mr. Leigh said:

"Do you not frequently ride on horseback?"

"Yes, sir."

"Will you permit me to accompany you to-morrow afternoon?"

"I have promised to make a visit with Mr. Hammond."

"To-morrow morning then, before breakfast?"

She hesitated--the blush deepened, and after a brief struggle, she said
hurriedly:

"Please excuse me, Mr. Leigh; I prefer to ride alone."

He bowed, and was silent for a minute, but she saw a smile lurking
about the corners of his handsome mouth, threatening to run riot over
his features.

"By the by, Miss Edna, I am coming to-night, to ask your assistance in
a Chaldee quandary. For several days I have been engaged in a
controversy with Mr. Hammond on the old battlefield of ethnology, and,
in order to establish my position of diversity of origin, have been
comparing the Septuagint with some passages from the Talmud. I heard
you say that there was a Rabbinical Targum in the library at Le Bocage,
and I must beg you to examine it for me, and ascertain whether it
contains any comments on the first chapter of Genesis. Somewhere in my
most desultory reading I have seen it stated that in some of those
early Targums was the declaration, that 'God originally created men
red, white and black.' Mr. Hammond is charitable enough to say that I
must have smoked an extra cigar, and dreamed the predicate I am so
anxious to authenticate. Will you oblige me by searching for the
passage?"

"Certainly, Mr. Leigh, with great pleasure; though perhaps you would
prefer to take the book and look through it yourself? My knowledge of
Chaldee is very limited."

"Pardon me! my mental vis inertiae vetoes the bare suggestion. I study
by proxy whether an opportunity offers, for laziness is the only
hereditary taint in the Leigh blood."

"As I am very much interested in this ethnological question, I shall
enter into the search with great eagerness."

"Thank you. Do you take the unity or diversity side of the discussion?"

Her merry laugh rang out through the forest that bordered the road.

"Oh, Mr. Leigh! what a ridiculous question! I do not presume to take
any side, for I do not pretend to understand or appreciate all the
arguments advanced; but I am anxious to acquaint myself with the
bearings of the controversy. The idea of my 'taking sides' on a subject
which gray-haired savants have spent their laborious lives in striving
to elucidate seems extremely ludicrous."

"Still, you are entitled to an idea, either pro or con, even at the
outset."

"I have an idea that neither you nor I know anything about the matter;
and the per saltum plan of 'taking sides' will only add the prop of
prejudice to my ignorance. If, with all his erudition, Mr. Hammond
still abstains from dogmatizing on this subject, I can well afford to
hold my crude opinions in abeyance. I must stop here, Mr. Leigh, at
Mrs. Carter's, on an errand for Mrs. Murray. Good morning, sir; I will
hunt the passage you require."

"How have I offended you, Miss Edna?"

He took her hand and detained her.

"I am not offended, Mr. Leigh," and she drew back.

"Why do you dismiss me in such a cold, unfriendly way?"

"If I sometimes appear rude, pardon my unfortunate manner, and believe
that it results from no unfriendliness."

"You will be at home this evening?"

"Yes, sir, unless something very unusual occurs."

They parted, and during the remainder of the walk Edna could think of
nothing but the revelation written in Gordon Leigh's eyes; the
immemorial, yet ever new and startling truth, that opened a new vista
in life, that told her she was no longer an isolated child, but a
woman, regnant over the generous heart of one of the pets of society.

She saw that he intended her to believe he loved her, and suspicious as
gossips had made her with reference to his conduct, she could not
suppose he was guilty of heartless and contemptible trifling. She
trusted his honor; yet the discovery of his affection brought a
sensation of regret--of vague self-reproach, and she felt that in
future he would prove a source of endless disquiet. Hitherto she had
enjoyed his society, henceforth she felt that she must shun it.

She endeavored to banish the recollection of that strange expression in
his generally laughing eyes, and bent over the Targum, hoping to cheat
her thoughts into other channels; but the face would not "down at her
bidding," and as the day drew near its close she grew nervous and
restless.

The chandelier had been lighted, and Mrs. Murray was standing at the
window of the sitting-room, watching for the return of a servant whom
she had sent to the post-office, when Edna said:

"I believe Mr. Leigh is coming here to tea; he told me so this morning."

"Where did you see him?"

"He walked with me as far as Mrs. Carter's gate, and asked me to look
out a reference which he thought I might find in one of Mr. Murray's
books."

Mrs. Murray smiled, and said:

"Do you intend to receive him in that calico dress?"

"Why not? I am sure it is very neat; it is perfectly new, and fits me
well."

"And is very suitable to wear to the Parsonage, but not quite
appropriate when Gordon Leigh takes tea here. You will oblige me by
changing your dress and rearranging your hair, which is twisted too
loosely."

When she re-entered the room, a half-hour later, Mrs. Murray leaned
against the mantelpiece, with an open letter in her hand and dreary
disappointment printed on her face.

"I hope you have no unpleasant tidings from Mr. Murray. May I ask why
you seem so much depressed?"

The mother's features twitched painfully as she restored the letter to
its envelope, and answered:

"My son's letter is dated Philoe, just two months ago, and he says he
intended starting next day to the interior of Persia. He says, too,
that he did not expect to remain away so long, but finds that he will
probably be in Central Asia for another year. The only comforting thing
in the letter is the assurance that he weighs more, and is in better
health, than when he left home."

The ringing of the door-bell announced Mr. Leigh's arrival, and as she
led the way to the parlor, Mrs. Murray hastily fastened a drooping
spray of coral berries in Edna's hair.

Before tea was ended, other visitors came in, and the orphan found
relief from her confusion in the general conversation.

While Dr. Rodney, the family physician, was talking to her about some
discoveries of Ehrenberg, concerning which she was very curious, Mr.
Leigh engrossed Mrs. Murray's attention, and for some time their
conversation was exceedingly earnest; then the latter rose and
approached the sofa where Edna sat, saying gravely:

"Edna, give me this seat, I want to have a little chat with the doctor;
and, by the way, my dear, I believe Mr. Leigh is waiting for you to
show him some book you promised to find for him. Go into the
library--there is a good fire there."

The room was tempting indeed to students, and as the two sat down
before the glowing grate, and Mr. Leigh glanced at the warm, rich
curtains sweeping from ceiling to carpet, the black-walnut book-cases
girding the walls on all sides, and the sentinel bronze busts keeping
watch over the musty tombs within, he rubbed his fingers and exclaimed:

"Certainly this is the most delightful library in the world, and offers
a premium for recluse life and studious habits. How incomprehensible it
is that Murray should prefer to pass his years roaming over deserts and
wandering about neglected, comfortless khans, when he might spend them
in such an elysium as this! The man must be demented! How do you
explain the mystery?"

"Chacun a son gout! I consider it none of my business, and as I suppose
he is the best judge of what contributes to his happiness, I do not
meddle with the mystery."

"Poor Murray! his wretched disposition is a great curse. I pity him
most sincerely."

"From what I remember of him, I am afraid he would not thank you for
your pity, or admit that he needed or merited it. Here is the Targum,
Mr. Leigh, and here is the very passage you want."

She opened an ancient Chaldee MS., and spreading it on the library
table, they examined it together, spelling out the words, and turning
frequently to a dictionary which lay near. Neither knew much about the
language; now and then they differed in the interpretation, and more
than once Edna referred to the rules of her grammar, to establish the
construction of the sentences.

Engrossed in the translation, she forgot all her apprehensions of the
morning, and the old ease of manner came back. Her eyes met his
fearlessly, her smile greeted him cheerily as in the early months of
their acquaintance; and while she bent over the pages she was
deciphering, his eyes dwelt on her beaming countenance with a fond,
tender look, that most girls of her age would have found it hard to
resist, and pleasant to recall in after days.

Neither suspected that an hour had passed, until Dr. Rodney peeped into
the room and called them back to the parlor, to make up a game of whist.

It was quite late when Mr. Leigh rose to say good-night; and as he drew
on his gloves he looked earnestly at Edna, and said:

"I am coming again in a day or two, to show you some plans for a new
house which I intend to build before long. Clara differs with me about
the arrangement of some columns and arches, and I shall claim you and
Mrs. Murray for my allies in this architectural war."

The orphan was silent, but the lady of the house replied promptly:

"Yes, come as often as you can, Gordon, and cheer us up; for it is
terribly dull here without St. Elmo."

"Suppose you repudiate that incorrigible Vandal and adopt me in his
place? I would prove a model son."

"Very well. I shall acquaint him with your proposition, and threaten an
immediate compliance with it if he does not come home soon."

Mrs. Murray rang the bell for the servant to lock up the house, and
said sutto voce:

"What a noble fellow Gordon is! If I had a daughter I would select him
for her husband. Where are you going, Edna?"

"I left a MS. on the library table, and as it is very rare and valuable
I want to replace it in the glass box where it belongs before I go to
sleep."

Lighting a candle, she lifted the heavy Targum, and slowly approached
the suite of rooms, which she was now in the habit of visiting almost
daily.

Earlier in the day she had bolted the door, but left the key in the
lock, expecting to bring the Targum back as soon as she had shown Mr.
Leigh the controverted passage. Now, as she crossed the rotunda, an
unexpected sound, as of a chair sliding on the marble floor, seemed to
issue from the inner room, and she paused to listen. Under the flare of
the candle the vindictive face of Siva, and the hooded viper twined
about his arm, looked more hideous than ever, warning her not to
approach, yet all was silent, save the tinkling of a bell far down in
the park, where the sheep clustered under the cedars. Opening the door,
which was ajar, she entered, held the light high over her head, and
peered a little nervously around the room; but, here, too, all was
quiet as the grave, and quite as dreary, and the only moving thing
seemed her shadow, that flitted slightly as the candle-light flickered
over the cold, gleaming white tiles. The carpets and curtains--even the
rich silk hangings of the arch--were all packed away, and Edna shivered
as she looked through both rooms, satisfied herself that she had
mistaken the source of the sound, and opened the box where the MSS.
were kept.

At sight of them her mind reverted to the theme she had been
investigating, and happening to remember the importance attached by
ethnologists to the early Coptic inscriptions, she took from the
book-shelves a volume containing copies of many of these characters,
and drawings of the triumphal processions carved on granite, and
representing the captives of various nations torn from their homes to
swell the pompous retinue of some barbaric Rhamses or Sesostris.

Drifting back over the gray, waveless, tideless sea of centuries, she
stood, in imagination, upon the steps of the Serapeum at Memphis; and
when the wild chant of the priests had died away under the huge
propylaeum, she listened to the sighing of the tamarinds and cassias,
and the low babble of the sacred Nile, as it rocked the lotus-leaves,
under the glowing purple sky, whence a full moon flooded the ancient
city with light, and kindled like a beacon the vast placid face of the
Sphinx--rising solemn and lonely and weird from its desert lair--and
staring blankly, hopelessly across arid yellow sands at the dim colossi
of old Misraim.

Following the sinuous stream of Coptic civilization to its inexplicable
source in the date-groves of Meroe, the girl's thoughts were borne away
to the Golden Fountain of the Sun, where Ammon's black doves fluttered
and cooed over the shining altars and amid the mystic symbols of the
marvelous friezes.

As Edna bent over the drawings in the book, oblivious for a time of
everything else, she suddenly became aware of the presence of some one
in the room, for though perfect stillness reigned, there was a
consciousness of companionship, of the proximity of some human being,
and with a start she looked up, expecting to meet a pair of eyes
fastened upon her. But no living thing confronted her--the tall, bent
figure of the Cimbri Prophetess gleamed ghostly white upon the wall,
and the bright blue augurous eyes seemed to count the dripping
blood-drops; and the unbroken, solemn silence of night brooded over all
things, hushing even the chime of sheep-bells, that had died away among
the elm arches. Knowing that no superstitious terrors had ever seized
her heretofore, the young student rose, took up the candle, and
proceeded to search the two rooms, but as unsuccessfully as before.

"There certainly is somebody here, but I can not find out where."

These words were uttered aloud, and the echo of her own voice seemed
sepulchral; then the chill silence again fell upon her. She smiled at
her own folly, and thought her imagination had been unduly excited by
the pictures she had been examining, and that the nervous shiver that
crept over her was the result of the cold. Just then the candle-light
flashed over the black marble statuette, grinning horribly as it kept
guard over the Taj Mahal. Edna walked up to it, placed the candle on
the slab that supported the tomb, and, stooping, scrutinized the lock.
A spider had ensconced himself in the golden receptacle, and spun a
fine web across the front of the temple, and Edna swept the airy
drapery away, and tried to drive the little weaver from his den; but he
shrank further and further, and finally she took the key from her
pocket and put it far enough into the opening to eject the intruder,
who slung himself down one of the silken threads, and crawled sullenly
out of sight. Withdrawing the key, she toyed with it, and glanced
curiously at the mausoleum. Taking her handkerchief, she carefully
brushed off the cobwebs that festooned the minarets, and murmured that
fragment of Persian poetry which she once heard the absent master
repeat to his mother, and which she had found, only a few days before,
quoted by an Eastern traveller: "The spider hath woven his web in the
imperial palaces; and the own hath sung her watch-song on the towers of
Afrasiab."

"It is exactly four years to-night since Mr. Murray gave me this key,
but he charged me not to open the Taj unless I had reason to believe
that he was dead. His letter states that he is alive and well;
consequently, the time has not come for me to unseal the mystery. It is
strange that he trusted me with this secret; strange that he, who
doubts all of his race, could trust a child of whom he really knew so
little. Certainly it must have been a singular freak which gave this
affair into my keeping, but at least I will not betray the confidence
he reposed in me. With the contents of that vault I can have no
concern, and yet I wish the key was safely back in his hands. It annoys
me to conceal it, and I feel all the while as if I were deceiving his
mother."

These words were uttered half unconsciously as she fingered the key,
and for a few seconds she stood there, thinking of the master of the
house, wondering what luckless influence had so early blackened and
distorted his life, and whether he would probably return to Le Bocage
before she left it to go out and carve her fortune in the world's noisy
quarry. The light danced over her countenance and form, showing the
rich folds of her crimson merino dress, with the gossamer lace
surrounding her white throat and dimpled wrists; and it seemed to
linger caressingly on the shining mass of black hair, on the beautiful,
polished forehead, the firm, delicate, scarlet lips, and made the large
eyes look elfish under their heavy jet lashes.

Again the girl started and glanced over her shoulder, impressed with
the same tantalizing conviction of a human presence; of some powerful
influence which baffled analysis. Snatching the candle, she put the
gold key in her pocket, and turned to leave the room, but stopped, for
this time an unmistakable sound like the shivering of a glass or the
snapping of a musical string, fell on her strained ears. She could
trace it to no particular spot, and conjectured that perhaps a mouse
had taken up his abode somewhere in the room, and, frightened by her
presence, had run against some of the numerous glass and china
ornaments on the etagere, jostling them until they jingled. Replacing
the book which she had taken from the shelves, and fastening the box
that contained the MSS., she examined the cabinets, found them securely
closed, and then hurried out of the room, locked the door, took the
key, and went to her own apartment with nerves more unsettled than she
felt disposed to confess.

For some time after she laid her head on her pillow, she racked her
brain for an explanation of the singular sensation she had experienced,
and at last, annoyed by her restlessness and silly superstition, she
was just sinking into dreams of Ammon and Serapis, when the fierce
barking of Ali caused her to start up in terror. The dog seemed almost
wild, running frantically to and fro, howling and whining; but finally
the sounds receded, gradually quiet was restored, and Edna fell asleep
soon after the scream of the locomotive and the rumble of the cars told
her that the four o'clock train had just started to Chattanooga.

Modern zoologic science explodes the popular fallacy that chameleons
assume, and reflect at will, the color of the substance on which they
rest or feed; but, with a profound salaam to savants, it is
respectfully submitted that the mental saurian--human
thought--certainly takes its changing hues, day by day, from the books
through which it crawls devouringly.

Is there not ground for plausible doubt that, if the work-bench of
Mezzofanti had not stood just beneath the teacher's window, whence the
ears of the young carpenter were regaled from morning till night with
the rudiments of Latin and Greek, he would never have forsworn planing
for parsing, mastered forty dialects, proved a walking scarlet-capped
polygot, and attained the distinction of an honorary nomination for the
office of interpreter-general at the Tower of Babel?

The hoary associations and typical significance of the numerous relics
that crowded Mr. Murray's rooms seized upon Edna's fancy, linked her
sympathies with the huge pantheistic systems of the Orient, and filled
her mind with waifs from the dusky realm of a mythology that seemed to
antedate all the authentic chronological computations of man. To the
East, the mighty alma mater of the human races--of letters, religions,
arts, and politics, her thoughts wandered in wondering awe; and
Belzoni, Burckhardt, Layard, and Champollion were hierophants of whose
teachings she never wearied. As day by day she yielded more and more to
this fascinating nepenthe influence, and bent over the granite
sarcophagus in one corner of Mr. Murray's museum, where lay a shrunken
mummy shrouded in gilded byssus, the wish strengthened to understand
the symbols in which subtle Egyptian priests masked their theogony.

While morning and afternoon hours were given to those branches of study
in which Mr. Hammond guided her, she generally spent the evening in Mr.
Murray's sitting-room, and sometimes the clock in the rotunda struck
midnight before she locked up the MSS. and illuminated papyri.

Two nights after the examination of the Targum, she was seated near the
book-case looking over the plates in that rare but very valuable
volume, Spence's Polymetis, when the idea flashed across her mind that
a rigid analysis and comparison of all the mythologies of the world
would throw some light on the problem of ethnology, and in conjunction
with philology settle the vexed question.

Pushing the Polymetis aside, she sprang up and paced the long room, and
gradually her eyes kindled, her cheeks burned, as ambition pointed to a
possible future, of which, till this hour, she had not dared to dream;
and hope, o'erleaping all barriers, grasped a victory that would make
her name imperishable.

In her miscellaneous reading she had stumbled upon singular
correspondences in the customs and religions of nations separated by
surging oceans and by ages; nations whose aboriginal records appeared
to prove them distinct, and certainly furnished no hint of an
ethnological bridge over which traditions traveled and symbolisms crept
in satin sandals. During the past week several of these coincidences
had attracted her attention.

The Druidic rites and the festival of Beltein in Scotland and Ireland,
she found traced to their source in the worship of Phrygian Baal. The
figure of the Scandinavian Disa, at Upsal, enveloped in a net precisely
like that which surrounds some statues of Isis in Egypt. The man of
rush sails used by the Peruvians on Lake Titicaca, and their mode of
handling them, pronounced identical with that which is seen upon the
sepulchre of Ramses III. at Thebes. The head of a Mexican priestess
ornamented with a veil similar to that carved on Eastern sphinxes,
while the robes resembled those of a Jewish high-priest. A very quaint
and puzzling pictorial chart of the chronology of the Aztecs contained
an image of Coxcox in his ark, surrounded by rushes similar to those
that overshadowed Moses, and also a likeness of a dove distributing
tongues to those born after the deluge.

Now, the thought of carefully gathering up these vague mythologic
links, and establishing a chain of unity that would girdle the world,
seized and mastered her, as if veritably clothed with all the power of
a bath kol.

To firmly grasp the Bible for a talisman, as Ulysses did the sprig of
moly, and to stand in the Pantheon of the universe, examining every
shattered idol and crumbling, denied altar, where worshipping humanity
had bowed; to tear the veil from oracles and sibyls, and show the world
that the true, good and beautiful of all theogonies and cosmogonies, of
every system of religion that had waxed and waned since the gray dawn
of time, could be traced to Moses and to Jesus, seemed to her a mission
grander far than the conquest of empires, and infinitely more to be
desired than the crown and heritage of Solomon.

The night wore on as she planned the work of coming years, but she
still walked up and down the floor, with slow, uncertain steps, like
one who, peering at distant objects, sees nothing close at hand. Flush
and tremor passed from her countenance, leaving the features pale and
fixed; for the first gush of enthusiasm, like the jets of violet flame
flickering over the simmering mass in alchemic crucibles, had
vanished--the thought was a crystalized and consecrated purpose.

At last, when the feeble light admonished her that she would soon be in
darkness, she retreated to her own room, and the first glimmer of day
struggled in at her window as she knelt at her bedside praying:

"Be pleased, O Lord! to make me a fit instrument for Thy work; sanctify
my heart; quicken and enlighten my mind; grant me patience and
perseverance and unwavering faith; guide me into paths that lead to
truth; enable me in all things to labor with an eye single to thy
glory, caring less for the applause of the world than for the
advancement of the cause of Christ. O my Father and my God! bless the
work on which I am about to enter, crown it with success, accept me as
an humble tool for the benefit of my race, and when the days of my
earthly pilgrimage are ended, receive my soul into that eternal rest
which Thou hast prepared from the foundations of the world, for the
sake of Jesus Christ."



CHAPTER XI.


One afternoon about a week after Mr. Leigh's last visit, as Edna
returned from the parsonage, where she had been detained beyond the
usual time, Mrs. Murray placed in her hand a note from Mrs. Inge,
inviting both to dine with her that day, and meet some distinguished
friends from a distant State. Mrs. Murray had already completed an
elaborate toilet, and desired Edna to lose no time in making the
requisite changes in her own dress. The latter took off her hat, laid
her books down on a table and said:

"Please offer my excuses to Mrs. Inge. I can not accept the invitation,
and hope you will not urge me."

"Nonsense! Let me hear no more such childish stuff, and get ready at
once; we shall be too late, I am afraid."

The orphan leaned against the mantelpiece and shook her head.

Mrs. Murray colored angrily and drew herself up haughtily.

"Edna Earl, did you hear what I said?"

"Yes, madam, but this time I cannot obey you. Allow me to give you my
reasons, and I am sure you will forgive what may now seem mere
obstinacy. On the night of the party given by Mrs. Inge I determined,
under no circumstances, to accept any future invitations to her house,
for I overheard a conversation between Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Montgomery
which I believe was intended to reach my ears, and consequently wounded
and mortified me very much. I was ridiculed and denounced as a 'poor
upstart and interloper,' who was being smuggled into society far above
my position in life, and pronounced an avaricious schemer, intent on
thrusting myself upon Mr. Leigh's notice, and ambitious of marrying him
for his fortune. They sneered at the idea that we should study Hebrew
with Mr. Hammond, and declared it a mere trap to catch Mr. Leigh. Now,
Mrs. Murray, you know that I never had such a thought, and the bare
mention of a motive so sordid, contemptible, and unwomanly surprised
and disgusted me; but I resolved to study Hebrew by myself, and to
avoid meeting Mr. Leigh at the parsonage; for if his sister's friends
entertain such an opinion of me, I know not what other people, and even
Mrs. Inge, may think. Those two ladies added some other things equally
unpleasant and untrue, and as I see that they are also invited to dine
to-day, it would be very disagreeable for me to meet them in Mr.
Leigh's presence."

Mrs. Murray frowned, and her lips curled, as she clasped a diamond
bracelet on her arm.

"I have long since ceased to be surprised by any manifestation of Mrs.
Montgomery's insolence. She doubtless judges your motives by those of
her snub-nosed and excruciatingly fashionable daughter, Maud, who rumor
says, is paying most devoted attention to that same fortune of
Gordon's. I shall avail myself of the first suitable occasion to
suggest to her that it is rather unbecoming in persons whose fathers
were convicted of forgery, and hunted out of the State, to lay such
stress on the mere poverty of young aspirants for admission into
society. I have always noticed that people (women especially) whose
lineage is enveloped in a certain twilight haze, constitute themselves
guardians of the inviolability of their pretentious cliques, and fly at
the throats of those who, they imagine, desire to enter their
fashionable set--their 'mutual admiration association.' As for Mrs.
Hill, whose parents were positively respectable, even genteel, I
expected less nervousness from her on the subject of genealogy, and
should have given her credit for more courtesy and less malice; but,
poor thing, nature denied her any individuality, and she serves 'her
circle' in the same capacity as one of those tin reflectors fastened on
locomotives. All that you heard was excessively ill-bred, and in really
good society ill-breeding is more iniquitous than ill-nature; but,
however annoying, it is beneath your notice, and unworthy of
consideration. I would not gratify them by withdrawing from a position
which you can so gracefully occupy."

"It is no privation to me to stay at home; on the contrary, I prefer
it, for I would not exchange the companionship of the books in this
house for all the dinners that ever were given."

"There is no necessity for you to make a recluse of yourself simply
because two rude, silly gossips disgrace themselves. You have time
enough to read and study, and still go out with me when I consider it
advisable."

"But, my dear Mrs. Murray, my position in your family, as an unknown
dependent on your charity, subjects me to--"

"Is a matter which does not concern Mesdames Hill and Montgomery, as I
shall most unequivocally intimate to them. I insist upon the dismissal
of the whole affair from your mind. How much longer do you intend to
keep me waiting?"

"I am very sorry you cannot view the subject from my standpoint, but
hereafter I cannot accompany you to dinners and parties. Whenever you
desire me to see company in your own house, I shall be glad to comply
with your wishes and commands; but my self-respect will not permit me
to go out to meet people who barely tolerate me through fear of
offending you. It is exceedingly painful, dear Mrs. Murray, for me to
have to appear disrespectful and stubborn toward you, but in this
instance I can not comply with your wishes."

They looked at each other steadily, and Mrs. Murray's brow cleared and
her lip unbent.

"What do you expect me to tell Mrs. Inge?"

"That I return my thanks for her very kind remembrance, but am closely
occupied in preparing myself to teach, and have no time for gayeties."

Mrs. Murray smiled significantly.

"Do you suppose that excuse will satisfy your friend Gordon? He will
fly for consolation to the stereotyped smile and delicious flattery of
simpering Miss Maud."

"I care not where he flies, provided I am left in peace."

"Stop, my dear child; you do not mean what you say. You know very well
that you earnestly hope Gordon will escape the tender mercies of silly
Maud and the machinations of her most amiable mamma; if you don't, I
do. Understand that you are not to visit Susan Montgomery's sins on
Gordon's head. I shall come home early, and make you go to bed at nine
o'clock, to punish you for your obstinacy. By the by, Edna, Hagar tells
me that you frequently sit up till three or four o'clock, poring over
those heathenish documents in my son's cabinet. This is absurd, and
will ruin your health; and beside, I doubt if what you learn is worth
your trouble. You must not sit up longer than ten o'clock. Give me my
furs."

Edna ate her dinner alone, and went into the library to practise a
difficult music lesson; but the spell of her new project was stronger
than the witchery of music, and closing the piano, she ran into the
"Egyptian Museum," as Mrs. Murray termed her son's sitting-room.

The previous night she had been reading an account of the doctrines of
Zoroaster, in which there was an attempt to trace all the chief
features of the Zendavesta to the Old Testament and the Jews, and now
she returned to the subject with unflagging interest.

Pushing a cushioned chair close to the window, she wrapped her shawl
around her, put her feet on the round of a neighboring chair, to keep
them from the icy floor and gave herself up to the perusal of the
volume.

The sun went down in a wintry sky; the solemn red light burning on the
funeral pyre of day streamed through the undraped windows, flushed the
fretted facade of the Taj Mahal, glowed on the marble floor, and warmed
and brightened the serene, lovely face of the earnest young student. As
the flame faded in the west, where two stars leaped from the pearly
ashes, the fine print of Edna's book grew dim, and she turned the page
to catch the mellow, silvery radiance of the full moon, which, shining
low in the east, threw a ghastly lustre on the awful form and floating
white hair of the Cimbrian woman on the wall. But between the orphan
and the light, close beside her chair, stood a tall, dark figure, with
uncovered head and outstretched hands.

She sprang to her feet, uttering a cry of mingled alarm and delight,
for she knew that erect, stately form and regal head could belong to
but one person.

"Oh, Mr. Murray! Can it be possible that you have indeed come home to
your sad, desolate mother? Oh! for her sake I am so glad!"

She had clasped her hands tightly in the first instant of surprise, and
stood looking at him, with fear and pleasure struggling for mastery in
her eloquent countenance.

"Edna, have you no word of welcome, no friendly hand, to offer a man
who has been wandering for four long years among strangers in distant
lands?"

It was not the harsh, bitter voice whose mocking echoes had haunted her
ears during his absence, but a tone so low and deep and mournful, so
inexplicably sweet, and she could not recognize it as his, and, unable
to utter a word, she put her hand in his outstretched palm. His fingers
closed over it with a pressure that was painful, and her eyes fell
beneath the steady, searching gaze he fixed on her face.

For fully a minute they stood motionless; then he took a match from his
pocket, lighted a gas globe that hung over the Taj, and locked the door
leading into the rotunda.

"My mother is dining out, Hagar informed me. Tell me, is she well? And
have you made her happy while I was far away?"

He came back, leaned his elbow on the carved top of the cushioned
chair, and partly shading his eyes with his hand, looked down into the
girl's face.

"Your mother is very well indeed, but anxious and unhappy on your
account, and I think you will find her thinner and paler than when you
saw her last."

"Then you have not done your duty, as I requested?"

"I could not take your place, sir, and your last letter led her to
believe that you would be absent for another year. She thinks that at
this instant you are in the heart of Persia. Last night, when the
servant came from the post-office without the letter which she
confidently expected, her eyes filled with tears, and she said, 'He has
ceased to think of his home, and loves the excitement of travel better
than his mother's peace of mind.' Why did you deceive her? Why did you
rob her of all the joy of anticipating your speedy return?"

As she glanced at him, she saw the old scowl settling heavily between
his eyes, and the harshness had crept back to the voice that answered:

"I did not deceive her. It was a sudden and unexpected circumstance
that determined my return. Moreover, she should long since have
accustomed herself to find happiness from other sources than my
society; for no one knows better my detestation of settling down in any
fixed habitation."

Edna felt all her childish repugnance sweeping over her as she saw the
swift hardening of his features, and she turned toward the door.

"Where are you going?"

"To send a messenger to your mother, acquainting her with your arrival.
She would not forgive me if I failed to give her such good tidings at
the very earliest moment."

"You will do no such thing. I forbid any message. She thinks me in the
midst of Persian ruins, and can afford to wait an hour longer among her
friends. How happened it that you also are not at Mrs. Inge's?"

Either the suddenness of the question, or the intentness of his
scrutiny, or the painful consciousness of the true cause of her failure
to accept the invitation, brought back the blood which surprise had
driven from her cheeks.

"I preferred remaining at home."

"Home! home!" he repeated, and continued vehemently: "Do you really
expect me to believe that a girl of your age, with the choice of a
dinner-party among the elite, with lace, silk, and feathers, champagne,
bon-mot, and scandal, flattering speeches and soft looks from young
gentlemen, biting words and hard looks from old ladies, or the
alternative of a dull, lonely evening in this cold, dreary den of mine,
shut up with mummies, MSS., and musty books, could deliberately decline
the former and voluntarily select the latter? Such an anomaly in
sociology, such a lusus naturae, might occur in Bacon's 'Bensalem,' or
in some undiscovered and unimagined realm, where the men are all brave,
honest, and true, and the women conscientious and constant! But here!
and now? Ah! pardon me! Impossible!"

Edna felt as if Momus' suggestion to Vulcan, of a window in the human
heart, whereby one's thoughts might be rendered visible, had been
adopted; for, under the empaling eye bent upon her, the secret motives
of her conduct seemed spread out as on a scroll, which he read as well.

"I was invited to Mrs. Inge's, yet you find me here, because I
preferred a quiet evening at home to a noisy one elsewhere. How do you
explain the contradiction if you disbelieve my words?"

"I am not so inexperienced as to tax my ingenuity with any such burden.
With the Penelope web of female motives may fates and furies forbid
rash meddling. Unless human nature here in America has undergone a
radical change, nay, a most complete transmogrification, since I
abjured it some years ago; unless this year is to be chronicled as an
Avatar of truth and unselfishness, I will stake all my possessions on
the assertion that some very peculiar and cogent reason, something
beyond the desire to prosecute archaeological researches, has driven
you to decline the invitation."

She made no reply, but opened the book-case and replaced the volume
which she had been reading; and he saw that she glanced uneasily toward
the door, as if longing to escape.

"Are you insulted at my presumption in thus catechising you?"

"I am sorry, sir, to find that you have lost none of your cynicism in
your travels."

"Do you regard travelling as a panacea for minds diseased?"

She looked up and smiled in his face--a smile so bright and arch and
merry, that even a stone might have caught the glow.

"Certainly not, Mr. Murray, as you are the most incorrigible traveller
I have ever known."

But there was no answering gleam on his darkening countenance as he
watched her, and the brief silence that ensued was annoying to his
companion, who felt less at ease every moment, and convinced that with
such antagonism of character existing between them, all her peaceful,
happy days at Le Bocage were drawing to a close.

"Mr. Murray, I am cold, and I should like to go to the fire if you have
no more questions to ask, and will be so kind as to unlock the door."

He glanced round the room, and taking his grey travelling shawl from a
chair where he had thrown it, laid it in a heap on the marble tiles,
and said:

"Yes, this floor is icy. Stand on the shawl, though I am well aware you
are more tired of me than of the room."

Another long pause followed, and then St. Elmo Murray came close to his
companion, saying:

"For four long years I have been making an experiment--one of those
experiments which men frequently attempt, believing all the time that
it is worse than child's play, and half hoping that it will prove so
and sanction the wisdom of their skepticism concerning the result. When
I left home I placed in your charge the key of my private desk or
cabinet, exacting the promise that only upon certain conditions would
you venture to open it. Those contingencies have not arisen,
consequently there can be no justification for your having made
yourself acquainted with the contents of the vault. I told you I
trusted the key in your hands; I did not. I felt assured you would
betray the confidence. It was not a trust--it was a temptation, which I
believed no girl or woman would successfully resist. I am here to
receive an account of your stewardship, and I tell you now I doubt you.
Where is the key?"

She took from her pocket a small ivory box, and opening it drew out the
little key and handed it to him.

"Mr. Murray, it was a confidence which I never solicited, which has
caused me much pain, because it necessitated concealment from your
mother, but which--God is my witness--I have not betrayed. There is the
key, but of the contents of the tomb I know nothing. It was ungenerous
in you to tempt a child as you did; to offer a premium as it were for a
violation of secrecy, by whetting my curiosity and then placing in my
own hands the means of gratifying it. Of course I have wondered what
the mystery was, and why you selected me for its custodian; and I have
often wished to inspect the interior of that marble cabinet; but child
though I was, I think I would have gone to the stake sooner than
violate my promise."

As he took the key she observed that his hand trembled and that a
sudden pallor overspread his face.

"Edna Earl, I give you one last chance to be truthful with me. If you
yielded to the temptation--and what woman, what girl, would not?--it
would be no more than I really expected, and you will scarcely have
disappointed me; for, as I told you, I put no faith in you. But even if
you succumbed to a natural curiosity, be honest and confess it!"

She looked up steadily into his inquisitorial eyes, and answered:

"I have nothing to confess."

He laid his hand heavily on her shoulder, and his tone was eager,
vehement, pleading, tremulous:

"Can you look me in the eye--so--and say that you never put this key in
yonder lock? Edna! more hangs on your words than you dream of. Be
truthful! as if you were indeed in the presence of the God you worship.
I can forgive you for prying into my affairs, but I can not and will
not pardon you for trifling with me now."

"I never unlocked the vault; I never had the key near it but
once--about a week ago--when I found the tomb covered with cobwebs, and
twisted the key partly into the hole to drive out the spider. I give
you my most solemn assurance that I never unlocked it, never saw the
interior. Your suspicions are ungenerous and unjust--derogatory to you
and insulting to me."

"The proof is at hand, and if I have indeed unjustly suspected you,
atonement full and ample shall be made."

Clasping one of her hands so firmly that she could not extricate it, he
drew her before the Taj Mahal, and stooping, fitted the key to the
lock. There was a dull click as he turned it, but even then he paused
and scrutinized her face. It was flushed, and wore a proud, defiant,
grieved look; his own was colorless as the marble that reflected it,
and she felt the heavy, rapid beating of his blood, and saw the cords
thickening on his brow.

"If you have faithfully kept your promise, there will be an explosion
when I open the vault."

Slowly he turned the key a second time; and as the arched door opened
and swung back on its golden hinges, there was a flash and sharp report
from a pistol within.

Edna started involuntarily notwithstanding the warning, and clung to
his arm an instant, but he took no notice of her whatever. His fingers
relaxed their iron grasp of hers, his hand dropped to his side, and
leaning forward, he bowed his head on the marble dome of the little
temple. How long he stood there she knew not; but the few moments
seemed to her interminable as she silently watched his motionless
figure.

He was so still, that finally she conjectured he might possibly have
fainted from some cause unknown to her; and averse though she was to
addressing him, she said timidly:

"Mr. Murray, are you ill? Give me the key of the door and I will bring
you some wine."

There was no answer, and in alarm she put her hand on his.

Tightly he clasped it, and drawing her suddenly close to his side, said
without raising his face:

"Edna Earl, I have been ill--for years--but I shall be better
henceforth. O child! child! your calm, pure, guileless soul can not
comprehend the blackness and dreariness of mine. Better that you should
lie down now in death, with all the unfolded freshness of your life
gathered in your grave, than live to know the world as I have proved
it. For many years I have lived without hope or trust or faith in
anything--in anybody. To-night I stand here lacking sympathy with or
respect for my race, and my confidence in human nature was dead; but,
child, you have galvanized the corpse."

Again the mournful music of his voice touched her heart, and she felt
her tears rising as she answered in a low, hesitating tone:

"It was not death, Mr. Murray, it was merely syncope and this is a
healthful reaction from disease."

"No, it will not last. It is but an ignis fatuus that will decoy to
deeper gloom and darker morasses. I have swept and garnished, and the
seven other devils will dwell with me forever! My child, I have tempted
you, and you stood firm. Forgive my suspicions. Twenty years hence, if
you are so luckless as to live that long, you will not wonder that I
doubted you, but that my doubt proved unjust. This little vault
contains no skeleton, no state secrets; only a picture and a few
jewels, my will, and the history of a wrecked, worthless, utterly
ruined life. Perhaps if you continue true, and make my mother happy. I
may put all in your hands some day, when I die; and then you will not
wonder at my aimless, hopeless, useless life. One thing I wish to say
now, if at any time you need assistance of any kind--if you are
troubled--come to me. I am not quite so selfish as the world paints me,
and even if I seem rude and harsh, do not fear to come to me. You have
conferred a favor on me, and I do not like to remain in anybody's debt.
Make me repay you as soon as possible."

"I am afraid, sir, we never can be friends."

"Why not?"

"Because you have no confidence in me, and I would much sooner go for
sympathy to one of your bronze monsters yonder on the doorsteps, than
to you. Neither of us likes the other, and consequently a sham
cordiality would be intolerably irksome. I shall not be here much
longer; but while we are in the same house, I trust no bitter or unkind
feelings will be entertained. I thank you, sir, for your polite offer
of assistance, but hope I shall soon be able to maintain myself without
burdening your mother any longer."

"How long have you burdened her?"

"Ever since that night when I was picked up lame and helpless, and
placed in her kind hands."

"I should like to know whether you really love my mother?"

"Next to the memory of my grandfather, I love her and Mr. Hammond; and
I feel that my gratitude is beyond expression. There, your mother is
coming! I hear the carriage. Shall I tell her you are here?"

Without raising his face, he took the key of the door from his pocket,
and held it toward her. "No; I will meet her in her own room."

Edna hastened to the library, and throwing herself into a chair, tried
to collect her thoughts and reflect upon what had passed in the
"Egyptian Museum."

Very soon Mrs. Murray's cry of joyful surprise rang through the house,
and tears of sympathy rose to Edna's eyes as fancy pictured the happy
meeting in the neighboring room. Notwithstanding the strong antipathy
to Mr. Murray which she had assiduously cultivated, and despite her
conviction that he held in derision the religious faith, to which she
clung so tenaciously, she was now disquieted and pained to discover
that his bronzed face possessed an attraction--an indescribable
fascination--which she had found nowhere else. In striving to analyze
the interest she was for the first time conscious of feeling, she
soothed herself with the belief that it arose from curiosity concerning
his past life, and sympathy for his evident misanthropy. It was in vain
that she endeavored to fix her thoughts on a book; his eyes met hers on
every page, and when the bell summoned her to a late supper, she was
glad to escape from her own confused reflections.

Mrs. Murray and her son were standing on the rug before the grate, and
as Edna entered, the former held out her hand.

"Have you seen my son? Come and congratulate me." She kissed the girl's
forehead, and continued:

"St. Elmo, has she not changed astonishingly? Would you have known her
had you met her away from home?"

"I should certainly have known her under all circumstances."

He did not look at her, but resumed the conversation with his mother
which her entrance had interrupted, and during supper Edna could
scarcely realize that the cold, distant man, who took no more notice of
her than of one of the salt cellars, was the same whom she had left
leaning over the Taj. Not the faintest trace of emotion lingered on the
dark, stony features, over which occasionally flickered the light of a
sarcastic smile, as he briefly outlined the course of his wanderings;
and now that she could, without being observed, study his countenance,
she saw that he looked much older, more worn and haggard and hopeless,
than when last at home, and that the thick, curling hair that clung in
glossy rings to his temples was turning grey.

When they arose from the table, Mrs. Murray took an exquisite bouquet
from the mantelpiece and said:

"Edna, I was requested to place this in your hands, as a token of the
regard and remembrance of your friend and admirer, Gordon Leigh, who
charged me to assure you that your absence spoiled his enjoyment of the
day. As he seemed quite inconsolable because of your non-attendance, I
promised that you should ride with him to-morrow afternoon."

As Edna glanced up to receive the flowers, she met the merciless gaze
she so much dreaded, and in her confusion let the bouquet fall on the
carpet. Mr. Murray picked it up, inhaled the fragrance, rearranged some
of the geranium leaves that had been crushed, and, smiling bitterly all
the while, bowed, and put it securely in her hand.

"Edna, you have no other engagement for to-morrow?"

"Yes, madam, I have promised to spend it with Mr. Hammond."

"Then you must excuse yourself, for I will not have Gordon disappointed
again."

Too much annoyed to answer, Edna left the room, but paused in the hall
and beckoned to Mrs. Murray, who instantly joined her.

"Of course, you will not have prayers to-night, as Mr. Murray has
returned?"

"For that very reason I want to have them, to make a public
acknowledgment of my gratitude that my son has been restored to me. Oh!
if he would only consent to be present!"

"It is late, and he will probably plead fatigue."

"Leave that with me, and when I ring the bell, come to the library."

The orphan went to her room and diligently copied an essay which she
intended to submit to Mr. Hammond for criticism on the following day;
and as the comparative merits of the Solonian and Lycurgan codes
constituted her theme, she soon became absorbed by Grecian politics,
and was only reminded of the events of the evening, when the muezzin
bell sounded, calling the household to prayer.

She laid down her pen and hurried to the library, whither Mrs. Murray
had enticed her son, who was standing before one of the book-cases,
looking over the table of contents of a new scientific work. The
servants came in and ranged themselves near the door, and suddenly Mrs.
Murray said:

"You must take my place to-night, Edna; I can not read aloud."

The orphan looked up appealingly, but an imperative gesture silenced
her, and she sat down before the table, bewildered and frightened. Mr.
Murray glanced around the room, and with a look of wrath and scorn
threw down the book and turned toward the door; but his mother's hand
seized his--

"My son, for my sake, do not go! Out of respect for me, remain the
first evening of your return. For my sake, St. Elmo!"

He frowned, shook off her hands, and strode to the door; then
reconsidered the matter, came back, and stood at the fireplace, leaning
his elbow on the mantel, looking gloomily at the coals.

Although painfully embarrassed as she took her seat and prepared to
conduct the services in his presence, Edna felt a great calm steal over
her spirit when she opened the Bible and read her favorite chapter, the
fourteenth of St. John.

Her sweet, flexible voice, gradually losing its tremor, rolled
soothingly through the room; and when she knelt and repeated the prayer
selected for the occasion--a prayer of thanks for the safe return of a
traveller to the haven of home--her tone was full of pathos and an
earnestness that strangely stirred the proud heart of the wanderer as
he stood there, looking through his fingers at her uplifted face, and
listening to the first prayer that had reached his ears for nearly
nineteen weary years of sin and scoffing.

When Edna rose from her knees he had left the room, and she heard his
swift steps echoing drearily through the rotunda.



CHAPTER XII.


"I do not wish to interrupt you. There is certainly room enough in this
library for both, and my entrance need not prove the signal for your
departure."

Mr. Murray closed the door as he came in, and walking up to the
book-cases, stood carefully examining the titles of the numerous
volumes. It was a cold, dismal morning, and sobbing wintry winds and
the ceaseless pattering of rain made the outer world seem dreary in
comparison with the genial atmosphere and the ruddy glow of the cosy,
luxurious library, where choice exotics breathed their fragrance and
early hyacinths exhaled their rich perfume. In the centre of the
morocco-covered table stood a tall glass bowl, filled with white
camellias, and from its scalloped edges drooped a fringe of scarlet
fuchsias; while near the window was a china statuette, in whose daily
adornment Edna took unwearied interest. It was a lovely Flora, whose
slender fingers held aloft small tulip-shaped vases, into which fresh
blossoms were inserted every morning. The head was so arranged as to
contain water, and thus preserve the wreath of natural flowers which
crowned the goddess. To-day golden crocuses nestled down on the
streaming hair, and purple pansies filled the fairy hands, while the
tiny, rosy feet sank deep in the cushion of fine, green mosses, studded
with double violets.

Edna had risen to leave the room when the master of the house entered,
but at his request resumed her seat and continued reading.

After searching the shelves unavailingly, he glanced over his shoulder
and asked:

"Have you seen my copy of De Guerin's 'Centaur' anywhere about the
house? I had it a week ago."

"I beg your pardon, sir, for causing such a fruitless search; here is
the book. I picked it up on the front steps, where you were reading a
few afternoons since, and it opened at a passage that attracted my
attention."

She closed the volume and held it toward him, but he waved it back.

"Keep it if it interests you. I have read it once, and merely wished to
refer to a particular passage. Can you guess what sentence most
frequently recurs to me? If so, read it to me."

He drew a chair close to the hearth and lighted his cigar.

Hesitatingly Edna turned the leaves.

"I am afraid, sir, that my selection would displease you."

"I will risk it, as, notwithstanding your flattering opinion to the
contrary, I am not altogether so unreasonable as to take offense at a
compliance with my own request."

Still she shrank from the task he imposed, and her fingers toyed with
the scarlet fuchsias; but after eyeing her for a while, he leaned
forward and pushed the glass bowl beyond her reach.

"Edna, I am waiting."

"Well, then, Mr. Murray, I should think that these two passages would
impress you with peculiar force."

Raising the book she read with much emphasis:

"Thou pursuest after wisdom, O Melampus! which is the science of the
will of the gods; AND THOU ROAMEST FROM PEOPLE TO PEOPLE, LIKE A MORTAL
DRIVEN BY THE DESTINIES. In the times when I kept my night-watches
before the caverns, I have sometimes believed that I was about to
surprise the thoughts of the sleeping Cybele, and that the mother of
the gods, betrayed by her dreams, would let fall some of her secrets.
But I have never yet made out more than sounds which faded away in the
murmur of night, of words inarticulate as the bubbling of the rivers.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

"Seekest thou to know the gods, O Macareus! and from what source men,
animals, and the elements of the universal fire have their origin? The
aged ocean, the father of all things, keeps locked within his own
breast these secrets; and the nymphs who stand around sing as they
weave their eternal dance before him, to cover any sound which might
escape from his lips, half opened by slumber. Mortals dear to the gods
for their virtue have received from their hands lyres to give delight
to man, or the seeds of new plants to make him rich, but from their
inexorable lips--nothing!"

"Mr. Murray, am I correct in my conjecture?"

"Quite correct," he answered, smiling grimly.

Taking the book from her hand he threw it on the table, and tossed his
cigar into the grate, adding in a defiant, challenging tone:

"The mantle of Solomon did not fall at Le Cayla on the shoulders of
Maurice de Guerin. After all, he was a wretched hypochondriac, and a
tinge of le cahier vert doubtless crept into his eyes."

"Do you forget, sir, that he said, 'When one is a wanderer, one feels
that one fulfills the true condition of humanity'? and that among his
last words are these, 'The stream of travel is full of delight. Oh! who
will set me adrift on this Nile?'"

"Pardon me if I remind you, par parenthese, of the preliminary and
courteous En garde! which should be pronounced before a thrust. De
Guerin felt starved in Languedoc, and no wonder! But had he penetrated
every nook and cranny of the habitable globe, and traversed the vast
zaarahs which science accords the universe, he would have died at last
as hungry as Ugolino. I speak advisedly, for the true Io gad-fly,
ennui, has stung me from hemisphere to hemisphere, across tempestuous
oceans, scorching deserts, and icy mountain ranges. I have faced alike
the bourrans of the steppes and the Samieli of Shamo, and the result of
my vandal life is best epitomized in those grand but grim words of
Bossuet: 'On trouve au fond de tout le vide et le neant.' Nineteen
years ago, to satisfy my hunger, I set out to hunt the daintiest food
this world could furnish, and, like other fools, have learned finally,
that life is but a huge, mellow, golden Osher, that mockingly sifts its
bitter dust upon our eager lips. Ah! truly, on trouve au fond de tout
le vide et le neant!"

"Mr. Murray, if you insist upon your bitter Osher smile, why shut your
eyes to the palpable analogy suggested? Naturalists assert that the
Solanum, or apple of Sodom, contains in its normal state neither dust
nor ashes, unless it is punctured by an insect (the Tenthredo), which
converts the whole of the inside into dust, leaving nothing but the
rind entire, without any loss of color. Human life is as fair and
tempting as the fruit of 'Ain Jidy,' till stung and poisoned by the
Tenthredo of sin."

All conceivable suaviter in modo characterized his mocking countenance
and tone, as he inclined his haughty head and asked:

"Will you favor me by lifting on the point of your dissecting-knife
this stinging sin of mine to which you refer? The noxious brood swarm
so teasingly about my ears that they deprive me of your cool, clear,
philosophic discrimination. Which particular Tenthredo of the buzzing
swarm around my spoiled apple of life would you advise me to select for
my anathema maranatha?"

"Of your history, sir, I am entirely ignorant; and even if I were not,
I should not presume to levy a tax upon it in discussions with you;
for, however vulnerable you may possibly be, I regard an argumentum ad
hominem as the weakest weapon in the armory of dialectics--a weapon too
often dipped in the venom of personal malevolence. I merely gave
expression to my belief that miserable, useless lives are sinful lives;
that when God framed the world, and called the human race into it, he
made most munificent provision for all healthful hunger, whether
physical, intellectual, or moral; and that it is a morbid, diseased,
distorted nature that wears out its allotted years on earth in bitter
carping and blasphemous dissatisfaction. The Greeks recognized this
immemorial truth--wrapped it in classic traditions, and the myth of
Tantalus constituted its swaddling-clothes. You are a scholar, Mr.
Murray; look back and analyze the derivation and significance of that
fable. Tantalus, the son of Pluto, or Wealth, was, according to Pindar,
'a wanderer from happiness,' and the name represents a man abounding in
wealth, but whose appetite was so insatiable, even at the ambrosial
feast of the gods, that it ultimately doomed him to eternal unsatisfied
thirst and hunger in Tartarus. The same truth crops out in the legend
of Midas, who found himself starving while his touch converted all
things to gold."

"Doubtless you have arrived at the charitable conclusion that, as I am
endowed with all the amiable idiosyncrasies of ancient cynics, I shall
inevitably join the snarling Dives Club in Hades, and swell the howling
chorus. Probably I shall not disappoint your kind and eminently
Christian expectations; nor will I deprive you of the gentle
satisfaction of hissing across the gulf of perdition, which will then
divide us, that summum bonum of feminine felicity, 'I told you so!'"

The reckless mockery of his manner made Edna shiver, and a tremor crept
across her beautiful lips as she answered sadly:

"You torture my words into an interpretation of which I never dreamed,
and look upon all things through the distorting lenses of your own
moodiness. It is worse than useless for us to attempt an amicable
discussion, for your bitterness never slumbers, your suspicions are
ever on the qui vive."

She rose, but he quickly laid his hand on her shoulder, and pressed her
back into the chair.

"You will be so good as to sit still, and hear me out. I have a right
to all my charming, rose-colored views of this world. I have gone to
and fro on the earth, and life has proved a Barmecide's banquet of just
thirty-eight years' duration."

"But, sir, you lacked the patience and resolution of Shacabac, or, like
him, you would have finally grasped the splendid realities. The world
must be conquered, held in bondage to God's law and man's reason,
before we can hope to levy tribute that will support our moral and
mental natures; and it is only when humanity finds itself in the
inverted order of serfdom to the world, that it dwarfs its capacities,
and even then dies of famine."

The scornful gleam died out of his eyes, and mournful compassion stole
in.

"Ah! how impetuously youth springs to the battlefield of life! Hope
exorcises the gaunt spectre of defeat, and fancy fingers unwon trophies
and fadeless bays; but slow-stepping experience, pallid, blood-stained,
spent with toil, lays her icy hand on the rosy veil that floats before
bright, brave, young eyes, and lo' the hideous wreck, the bleaching
bones, the grinning, ghastly horrors that strew the scene of combat! No
burnished eagles nor streaming banners, neither spoils of victory nor
paeans of triumph, only silence and gloom and death--slow-sailing
vultures--and a voiceless desolation! Oh, child! if you would find a
suitable type of that torn and trampled battlefield--the human
heart--when vice and virtue, love and hate, revenge and remorse, have
wrestled fiercely for the mastery--go back to your Tacitus, and study
there the dismal picture of that lonely Teutoburgium, where Varus and
his legions went down in the red burial of battle! You talk of
'conquering the world--holding it in bondage!' What do you know of its
perils and subtle temptations--of the glistening quicksands whose
smooth lips already gape to engulf you? The very vilest fiend in hell
might afford to pause and pity your delusion ere turning to
machinations destined to rouse you rudely from your silly dreams. Ah!
you remind me of a little innocent, happy child, playing on some
shining beach, when the sky is quiet, the winds are hushed, and all
things wrapped in rest, save

   'The water lapping on the crag,
    And the long ripple washing in the reeds'--

a fair, fearless child, gathering polished pearly shells with which to
build fairy palaces, and suddenly, as she catches the mournful murmur
of the immemorial sea, that echoes in the flushed and folded chambers
of the stranded shells, her face pales with awe and wonder--the
childish lips part, the childish eyes are strained to discover the
mystery; and while the whispering monotone admonishes of howling storms
and sinking argosies, she smiles and listens, sees only the glowing
carmine of the fluted reels, hears only the magic music of the sea
sirens--and the sky blackens, the winds leap to their track of ruin,
the great deep rises wrathful and murderous, bellowing for victims, and
Cyclone reigns? Thundering waves sweep over and bear away the frail
palaces that decked the strand, and even while the shell symphony still
charms the ear, the child's rosy feet are washed from their sandy
resting-place; she is borne on howling billows far out to a lashed and
maddened main, strewn with human drift; and numb with horror she sinks
swiftly to a long and final rest among purple algae! Even so, Edna, you
stop your ears with shells, and my warning falls like snow-flakes that
melt and vanish on the bosom of a stream.

"No, sirs I am willing to be advised. Against what would you warn me?"

"The hollowness of life, the fatuity of your hopes, the treachery of
that human nature of which you speak so tenderly and reverently. So
surely as you put faith in the truth and nobility of humanity, you will
find it as soft-lipped and vicious as Paolo Orsini, who folded his
wife, Isabella de Medici, most lovingly in his arms, and while he
tenderly pressed her to his heart, slipped a cord around her neck and
strangled her."

"I know, sir, that human nature is weak, selfish, sinful--that such
treacherous monsters as Ezzolino and the Visconti have stained the
annals of our race with blood-blotches, which the stream of time will
never efface; but the law of compensation operates here as well as in
other departments, and brings to light a 'fidus Achates' and Antoninus.
I believe that human nature is a curious amalgam of meanness, malice
and magnanimity, and that an earnest, loving Christian charity is the
only safe touchstone, and furnishes (if you will tolerate the simile)
the only elective affinity in moral chemistry. Because ingots are not
dug out of the earth, is it not equally unwise and ungrateful to
ridicule and denounce the hopeful, patient, tireless laborers who
handle the alloy and ultimately disintegrate the precious metal? Even
if the world were bankrupt in morality and religion--which, thank God,
it is not--one grand shining example, like Mr. Hammond, whose
unswerving consistency, noble charity, and sublime unselfishness all
concede and revere, ought to leaven the mass of sneering cynics, and
win them to a belief in their capacity for rising to pure, holy, almost
perfect lives."

"Spare me a repetition of the rhapsodies of Madame Guyon! I am not
surprised that such a novice as you prove yourself should, in the
stereotyped style of orthodoxy, swear by the hoary Tartuffe, that
hypocritical wolf, Allan Hammond--"

"Stop, Mr. Murray! You must not, shall not use such language in my
presence concerning one whom I love and revere above all other human
beings! How dare you malign that noble Christian, whose lips daily lift
your name to God, praying for pardon and for peace? Oh! how ungrateful,
how unworthy you are of his affection and his prayers!"

She had interrupted him with an imperious wave of her hand, and stood
regarding him with an expression of indignation and detestation.

"I neither possess nor desire his affection or his prayers."

"Sir, you know that you do not deserve, but you most certainly have
both."

"How did you obtain your information?"

"Accidentally, when he was so surprised and grieved to hear that you
had started on your long voyage to Oceanica."

"He availed himself of that occasion to acquaint you with all my
heinous sins, my youthful crimes and follies, my--"

"No, sir! he told me nothing, except that you no longer loved him as in
your boyhood; that you had become estranged from him; and then he wept,
and added, 'I love him still; I shall pray for him as long as I live.'"

"Impossible! You can not deceive me! In the depths of his heart he
hates and curses me. Even a brooding dove--pshaw! Allan Hammond is but
a man, and it would be unnatural--utterly impossible that he could
still think kindly of his old pupil. Impossible!"

Mr. Murray rose and stood before the grate with his face averted, and
his companion seized the opportunity to say in a low, determined tone:

"Of the causes that induced your estrangement I am absolutely ignorant.
Nothing has been told me, and it is a matter about which I have
conjectured little. But, sir, I have seen Mr. Hammond every day for
four years, and I know what I say when I tell you that he loves you as
well as if you were his own son. Moreover, he--"

"Hush! you talk of what you do not understand. Believe in him if you
will, but be careful not to chant his praises in my presence; not to
parade your credulity before my eyes, if you do not desire that I shall
disenchant you. Just now you are duped--so was I at your age. Your
judgment slumbers, experience is in its swaddling-clothes; but I shall
bide my time, and the day will come ere long when these hymns of
hero-worship shall be hushed, and you stand clearer-eyed,
darker-hearted, before the mouldering altar of your god of clay."

"From such an awakening may God preserve me! Even if our religion were
not divine, I should clasp to my heart the system and the faith that
make Mr. Hammond's life serene and sublime. Oh! that I may be 'duped'
into that perfection of character which makes his example beckon me
ever onward and upward. If you have no gratitude, no reverence left, at
least remember the veneration with which I regard him, and do not in my
hearing couple his name with sneers and insults."

"'Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone!'" muttered the master of
the house, with one of those graceful, mocking bows that always
disconcerted the orphan.

She was nervously twisting Mr. Leigh's ring around her finger, and as
it was too large, it slipped off, rang on the hearth, and rolled to Mr.
Murray's feet.

Picking it up he examined the emerald, and repeating the inscription,
asked:

"Do you understand these words?"

"I only know that they have been translated, 'Peace be with thee, or
upon thee.'"

"How came Gordon Leigh's ring on your hand? Has Tartuffe's Hebrew
scheme succeeded so soon and so thoroughly?"

"I do not understand you, Mr. Murray."

"Madame ma mere proves an admirable ally in this clerical matchmaker's
deft hands, and Gordon's pathway is widened and weeded. Happy Gordon!
blessed with such able coadjutors!"

The cold, sarcastic glitter of his eyes wounded and humiliated the
girl, and her tone was haughty and defiant--

"You deal in innuendoes which I cannot condescend to notice. Mr. Leigh
is my friend, and gave me this ring as a birthday present. As your
mother advised me to accept it, and indeed placed it on my finger, her
sanction should certainly exempt me from your censure."

"Censure! Pardon me! It is no part of my business; but I happen to know
something of gem symbols, and must be allowed to suggest that this
selection is scarcely comme il faut for a betrothal ring."

Edna's face crimsoned, and the blood tingled to her fingers' ends.

"As it was never intended as such, your carping criticism loses its
point."

He stood with the jewel between his thumb and fore-finger, eyeing her
fixedly, and on his handsome features shone a smile, treacherous and
chilling as arctic snowblink.

"Pliny's injunction to lapidaries to spare the smooth surface of
emeralds seems to have been forgotten when this ring was fashioned. It
was particularly unkind, nay, cruel to put it on the hand of a woman,
who of course must and will follow the example of all her sex, and go
out fishing most diligently in the matrimonial sea; for if you have
chanced to look into gem history, you will remember what befell the
fish on the coast of Cyprus, where the emerald eyes of the marble lion
glared down so mercilessly through the nets, that the fishermen could
catch nothing until they removed the jewels that constituted the eyes
of the lion. Do you recollect the account?"

"No, sir, I never read it."

"Indeed! How deplorably your education has been neglected! I thought
your adored Dominie Sampson down yonder at the parsonage was teaching
you a prodigious amount?"

"Give me my ring, Mr. Murray, and I will leave you."

"Shall I not enlighten you on the subject of emeralds?"

"Thank you, sir, I believe not, as what I have already heard does not
tempt me to prosecute the subject."

"You think me insufferably presumptuous?"

"That is a word which I should scarcely be justified in applying to
you."

"You regard me as meddlesome and tyrannical?"

She shook her head.

"I generally prefer to receive answers to my questions. Pray, what do
you consider me?"

She hesitated a moment, and said sadly and gently:

"Mr. Murray, is it generous in you to question me thus in your own
house?"

"I do not claim to be generous, and the world would indignantly defend
me from such an imputation! Generous? On the contrary, I declare
explicitly that, unlike some 'whited supulchres' of my acquaintance, I
do not intend to stand labeled with patent virtues! Neither do I parade
mezuzoth on my doors. I humbly beg you to recollect that I am not a
carefully-printed perambulating advertisement of Christianity."

Raising her face, Edna looked steadfastly at him, and pain, compassion,
shuddering dread filled her soft, sad eyes.

"Well, you are reading me. What is the verdict?"

A long, heavily-drawn sigh was the only response.

"Will you be good enough to reply to my questions?"

"No, Mr. Murray. In lieu of perpetual strife and biting words, let
there be silence between us. We can not be friends, and it would be
painful to wage war here under your roof; consequently, I hope to
disarm your hostility by assuring you that in future I shall not
attempt to argue with you, shall not pick up the verbal gauntlets you
seem disposed to throw down to me. Surely, sir, if not generous you are
at least sufficiently courteous to abstain from attacks which you have
been notified will not be resisted?"

"You wish me to understand that hereafter I, the owner and ruler of
this establishment, shall on no account presume to address my remarks
to Aaron Hunt's grandchild?"

"My words were very clear, Mr. Murray, and I meant what I said, and
said what I meant. But one thing I wish to add: while I remain here, if
at any time I can aid or serve you, Aaron Hunt's grandchild will most
gladly do so. I do not flatter myself that you will ever require or
accept my assistance in anything, nevertheless I would cheerfully
render it should occasion arise."

He bowed and returned the emerald, and Edna turned to leave the library.

"Before you go, examine this bauble."

He took from his vest pocket a velvet case containing a large ring,
which he laid in the palm of her hand.

It was composed of an oval jacinth, with a splendid scarlet fire
leaping out as the light shone on it, and the diamonds that clustered
around it were very costly and brilliant. There was no inscription, but
upon the surface of the jacinth was engraved a female head crowned with
oak leaves, among which serpents writhed and hissed, and just beneath
the face grinned a dog's head. The small but exquisitely carved human
face was savage, sullen, sinister, and fiery rays seemed to dart from
the relentless eyes.

"Is it a Medusa?"

"No."

"It is certainly very beautiful, but I do not recognize the face.
Interpret for me."

"It is Hecate, Brimo, Empusa--all phases of the same malignant power;
and it remains a mere matter of taste which of the titles you select. I
call it Hecate."

"I have never seen you wear it."

"You never will."

"It is exceedingly beautiful."

Edna held it toward the grate, flashed the flame now on this side, now
on that, and handed it back to the owner.

"Edna, I bought this ring in Naples, intending to ask your acceptance
of it, in token of my appreciation of your care of that little gold
key, provided I found you trustworthy. After your pronunciamento
uttered a few minutes since, I presume I may save myself the trouble of
offering it to you. Beside, Gordon might object to having his emerald
over-shadowed by my matchless jacinth. Of course, your tender
conscience will veto the thought of your wearing it?"

"I thank you, Mr. Murray; the ring is, by far, the most beautiful I
have ever seen, but I certainly can not accept it."

"Bithus contra Bacchium!" exclaimed Mr. Murray, with a short, mirthless
laugh that made his companion shrink back a few steps.

Holding the ring at arm's length above his head, he continued:

"To the 'infernal flames,' your fit type, I devote you, my costly Queen
of Samothrace!"

Leaning over the grate, he dropped the jewel in the glowing coals.

"Oh, Mr. Murray! save it from destruction!"

She seized the tongs and sprang forward, but he put out his arm and
held her back.

"Stand aside, if you please. Cleopatra quaffed liquid pearl in honor of
Antony, Nero shivered his precious crystal goblets, and Suger pounded
up sapphires to color the windows of old St. Denis! Chacun a son gout!
If I choose to indulge myself in a diamond cremation in honor of my
tutelary goddess Brimo, who has the right to expostulate? True, such
costly amusements have been rare since the days of the 'Cyranides' and
the 'Seven Seals' of Hermes Trismegistus. See what a tawny, angry glare
leaps from my royal jacinth! Old Hecate holds high carnival down there
in her congenial flames."

He stood with one arm extended to bar Edna's approach, the other rested
on the mantel; and a laughing, reckless demon looked out of his eyes,
which were fastened on the fire.

Before the orphan could recover from her sorrowful amazement the
library door opened and Henry looked in.

"Mr. Leigh is in the parlor, and asked for Miss Edna."

Perplexed, irresolute, and annoyed, Edna stood still, watching the red
coals; and after a brief silence, Mr. Murray smiled, and turned to look
at her.

"Pray, do not let me detain you, and rest assured that I understand
your decree. You have entrenched yourself in impenetrable silence, and
hung out your banner, 'noli me tangere!' Withdraw your pickets; I shall
attempt neither siege nor escalade. Good morning. Leave my De Guerin on
the table; it will be at your disposal after to-day."

He stooped to light a cigar, and she walked away to her own room.

As the door closed behind her, he laughed and reiterated the favorite
proverb that often crossed his lips, "Bithus contra Bacchium!"



CHAPTER XIII.


The darling scheme of authorship had seized upon Edna's mind with a
tenacity that conquered and expelled all other purposes, and though
timidity and a haunting dread of the failure of the experiment prompted
her to conceal the matter, even from her beloved pastor, she pondered
it in secret, and bent every faculty to its successful accomplishment.
Her veneration for books--the great eleemosynary granaries of human
knowledge to which the world resorts--extended to those who created
them; and her imagination invested authors with peculiar sanctity, as
the real hierophants annointed with the chrism of truth. The glittering
pinnacle of consecrated and successful authorship seemed to her longing
gaze as sublime, and well-nigh as inaccessible, as the everlasting and
untrodden Himalayan solitudes appear to some curious child of Thibet or
Nepaul; who gamboling among pheasants and rhododendrons, shades her
dazzled eyes with her hand, and looks up awe-stricken and wondering at
the ice-domes and snow-minarets of lonely Deodunga, earth's loftiest
and purest altar, nimbused with the dawning and the dying light of the
day. There were times when the thought of presenting herself as a
candidate for admission into the band of literary esoterics seemed to
Edna unpardonably presumptuous, almost sacrilegious, and she shrank
back, humbled and abashed; for writers were teachers, interpreters,
expounders, discoverers, or creators--and what could she, just
stumbling through the alphabet of science and art, hope to donate to
her race that would ennoble human motives or elevate aspirations? Was
she, an unknown and inexperienced girl, worthy to be girded with the
ephod that draped so royally the Levites of literature? Had God's own
hand set the Urim and Thummim of Genius in her soul? Above all, was she
mitred with the plate of pure gold--"Holiness unto the Lord?"

Solemnly and prayerfully she weighed the subject, and having finally
resolved to make one attempt, she looked trustingly to heaven for aid
and went vigorously to work. To write currente calamo for the mere
pastime of author and readers, without aiming to inculcate some
regenerative principle, or to photograph some valuable phase of protean
truth, was in her estimation ignoble; for her high standard demanded
that all books should be to a certain extent didactic, wandering like
evangels among the people, and making some man, woman, or child
happier, or wiser, or better--more patient or more hopeful--by their
utterances. Believing that every earnest author's mind should prove a
mint, where all valuable ores are collected from the rich veins of a
universe--are cautiously coined, and thence munificently
circulated--she applied herself diligently to the task of gathering,
from various sources the data required for her projected work: a
vindication of the unity of mythologies. The vastness of the cosmic
field she was now compelled to traverse, the innumerable ramifications
of polytheistic and monotheistic creeds, necessitated unwearied
research, as she rent asunder the superstitious veils which various
nations and successive epochs had woven before the shining features of
truth. To-day peering into the golden Gardens of the Sun at Cuzco;
to-morrow clambering over Thibet glaciers, to find the mystic lake of
Yamuna; now delighted to recognize in Teoyamiqui (the wife of the Aztec
God of War) the unmistakable features of Scandinavian Valkyrias; and
now surprised to discover the Greek Fates sitting under the Norse tree
Ygdrasil, deciding the destinies of mortals, and calling themselves
Nornas; she spent her days in pilgrimages to mouldering shrines, and
midnight often found her groping in the classic dust of extinct
systems. Having once grappled with her theme, she wrestled as
obstinately as Jacob for the blessing of a successful solution, and in
order to popularize a subject bristling with recondite archaisms and
philologic problems, she cast it in the mould of fiction. The
information and pleasure which she had derived from the perusal of
Vaughan's delightful Hours with the Mystics, suggested the idea of
adopting a similar plan for her own book, and investing it with the
additional interest of a complicated plot and more numerous characters.
To avoid anachronisms, she endeavored to treat the religions of the
world in their chronologic sequence, and resorted to the expedient of
introducing pagan personages. A fair young priestess of the temple of
Neith, in the sacred city of Sais--where people of all climes collected
to witness the festival of lamps--becoming skeptical of the miraculous
attributes of the statues she had been trained to serve and worship,
and impelled by an earnest love of truth to seek a faith that would
satisfy her reason and purify her heart, is induced to question
minutely the religious tenets of travellers who visited the temple, and
thus familiarized herself with all existing creeds and hierarchies. The
lore so carefully garnered is finally analyzed, classified, and
inscribed on papyrus. The delineation of scenes and sanctuaries in
different latitudes, from Lhasa to Copan, gave full exercise to Edna's
descriptive power, but imposed much labor in the departments of
physical geography and architecture.

Verily! an ambitious literary programme for a girl over whose head
scarcely eighteen years had hung their dripping drab wintry skies, and
pearly summer clouds.

One March morning, as Edna entered the breakfast-room, she saw unusual
gravity printed on Mrs. Murray's face; and observing an open letter on
the table conjectured the cause of her changed countenance. A moment
after the master came in, and as he seated himself his mother said:

"St. Elmo, your cousin Estelle's letter contains bad news. Her father
is dead; the estate is wretchedly insolvent; and she is coming to
reside with us."

"Then I am off for Hammerfest and the midnight sun! Who the deuce
invited her I should like to know?"

"Remember she is my sister's child; she has no other home, and I am
sure it is very natural that she should come to me, her nearest
relative, for sympathy and protection."

"Write to her by return mail that you will gladly allow her three
thousand a year, provided she ensconces herself under some other roof
than this."

"Impossible! I could not wound her so deeply."

"You imagine that she entertains a most tender and profound regard for
both of us?"

"Certainly, my son; we have every reason to believe that she does."

Leaning back in his chair, St. Elmo laughed.

"I should really enjoy stumbling upon something that would overtax your
most marvellous and indefinitely extensible credulity! When Estelle
Harding becomes an inmate of this house I shall pack my valise, and
start to Tromso! She approaches like Discord, uninvited, armed with an
apple or a dagger. I am perfectly willing to share my fortune with her,
but I'll swear I would rather prowl for a month through the
plague-stricken district of Constantinople than see her domesticated
here! You tried the experiment when she was a child, and we fought and
scratched as indefatigably as those two amiable young Theban bullies,
who are so often cited as scarecrows for quarrelsome juveniles. Of
course, we shall renew the battle at sight."

"But, my dear son, there are claims urged by natural affection which it
is impossible to ignore. Poor Estelle is very desolate, and has a right
to our sympathy and love."

"Poor Estelle! Hoeredipetoe! The frailties of old Rome survive her
virtues and her ruins!"

Mr. Murray laughed again, beat a tattoo with his fork on the edge of
his plate, and, rising, left the room.

Mrs. Murray looked puzzled, and said: "Edna, do you know what he meant?
He often amuses himself by mystifying me, and I will not gratify him by
asking an explanation."

"Hoeredipetoe were legacy-hunters in Rome, where their sycophantic
devotion to people of wealth furnished a constant theme for satire."

Mrs. Murray sighed heavily, and the orphan asked:

"When do you expect your niece?"

"Day after to-morrow. I have not seen her for some years, but report
says she is very fascinating, and even St. Elmo, who met her in Europe,
admits that she is handsome. As you heard him say just now, they
formerly quarreled most outrageously and shamefully, and he took an
unaccountable aversion to her; but I trust all juvenile reminiscences
will vanish when they know each other better. My dear, I have several
engagements for to-day, and I must rely upon you to superintend the
arrangement of Estelle's room. She will occupy the one next to yours.
See that everything is in order. You know Hagar is sick, and the other
servants are careless."

Sympathy for Miss Harding's recent and severe affliction prepared
Edna's heart to receive her cordially, and the fact that an
irreconcilable feud eristed between the stranger and St. Elmo, induced
the orphan to hope that she might find a congenial companion in the
expected visitor.

On the afternoon of her arrival, Edna leaned eagerly forward to catch a
glimpse of her countenance, and as she threw back her long
mourning-veil, and received her aunt's affectionate greeting, the first
impression was, "How exceedingly handsome--how commanding she is!" But
a few minutes later, when Mrs. Murray introduced them, and the
stranger's keen, bright, restless eyes fell upon the orphan's face, the
latter drew back, involuntarily repelled, and a slight shiver crept
over her, for an unerring instinctive repulsion told her they could
never be friends.

Estelle Harding was no longer young; years had hardened the outline of
her features, and imparted a certain staidness or fixedness to her calm
countenance, where strong feeling or passionate impulse was never
permitted to slip the elegant mask of polished suavity. She was
surprisingly like Mrs. Murray, but not one line of her face resembled
her cousin's. Fixing her eyes on Edna, with a cold, almost stern
scrutiny more searching than courteous, she said:

"I was not aware, Aunt Ellen, that you had company in the house."

"I have no company at present, my dear. Edna resides here. Do you not
remember one of my letters in which I mentioned the child who was
injured by the railroad accident?"

"True. I expected to see a child, certainly not a woman."

"She seems merely a child to me. But come up to your room; you must be
very much fatigued by your journey."

When they left the sitting-room Edna sat down in one corner of the
sofa, disappointed and perplexed.

"She does not like me, that is patent; and I certainly do not like her.
She is handsome and very graceful, and quite heartless. There is no
inner light from her soul shining in her eyes; nothing tender and
loving and kind in their clear depths; they are cold, bright eyes, but
not soft, winning, womanly eyes. They might, and doubtless would, hold
an angry dog in check, but never draw a tired, fretful child to lean
its drooping head on her lap. If she really has any feeling, her eyes
should be indicted for slander. I am sorry I don't like her, and I am
afraid we never shall be nearer each other than touching our
finger-tips."

Such was Edna's unsatisfactory conclusion, and dismissing the subject,
she picked up a book, and read until the ladies returned and seated
themselves around the fire.

To Mrs. Murray's great chagrin and mortification her son had positively
declined going to meet his cousin, had been absent since breakfast, and
proved himself shamefully derelict in the courtesy demanded of him. It
was almost dark when the quick gallop of his horse announced his
return, and, as he passed the window on his way to the stables, Edna
noticed a sudden change in Estelle's countenance. During the next
quarter of an hour her eyes never wandered from the door, though her
head was turned to listen to Mrs. Murray's remarks. Soon after, Mr.
Murray's rapid footsteps sounded in the hall, and as he entered she
rose and advanced to meet him. He held out his hand, shook hers
vigorously, and said, as he dropped it:

"Mine ancient enemy, declare a truce and quiet my apprehensions; for I
dreamed last night that, on sight, we flew at each other's throats, and
renewed the sanguinary scuffles of our juvenile acquaintance. Most
appallingly vivid is my recollection of a certain scar here on my left
arm, where you set your pearly teeth some years ago."

"My dear cousin, as I have had no provocation since I was separated
from you, I believe I have grown harmless and amiable. How very well
you look, St. Elmo."

"Thank you. I should like to return the compliment, but facts forbid.
You are thinner than when we dined together in Paris. Are you really in
love with that excruciating Brummell of a Count who danced such
indefatigable attendance upon you?"

"To whom do you allude?"

"That youth with languishing brown eyes, who parted his 'hyacinthine
tresses' in the middle of his head; whose moustache required
Ehrenberg's strongest glasses--and who absolutely believed that Ristori
singled him out of her vast audiences as the most appreciative of her
listeners; who was eternally humming 'Ernani' and raving about
'Traviata.' Your memory is treacherous--as your conscience? Well, then,
that man, who I once told you reminded me of what Guilleragues is
reported to have said about Pelisson, 'that he abused the permission
men have to be ugly.'"

"Ah! you mean poor Victor! He spent the winter in Seville. I had a
letter last week."

"When do you propose to make him my cousin?"

"Not until I become an inmate of a lunatic asylum."

"Poor wretch! If he only had courage to sue you for breach of promise,
I would, with pleasure, furnish sufficient testimony to convict you and
secure him heavy damages; for I will swear you played fiancee to
perfection. Your lavish expenditure of affection seemed to me
altogether uncalled for, considering the fact that the fish already
floundered at your feet."

The reminiscence evidently annoyed her, though her lips smiled, and
Edna saw that, while his words were pointed with a sarcasm lost upon
herself, it was fully appreciated by his cousin.

"St. Elmo, I am sorry to see that you have not improved one iota; that
all your wickedness clings to you like Sinbad's burden."

Standing at his side, she put her hand on his shoulder.

As he looked down at her, his lips curled.

"Nevertheless, Estelle, I find a pale ghost of pity for you wandering
up and down what was once my heart. After the glorious intoxication of
Parisian life, how can you endure the tedium of this dullest of
humdrum--this most moral and stupid of all country towns? Little
gossip, few flirtations, neither beaux esprits nor bons vivants--what
will become of you? Now, whatever amusement, edification, or warning
you may be able to extract from my society, I here beg permission to
express the hope that you will appropriate unsparingly. I shall, with
exemplary hospitality, dedicate myself to your service--shall try to
make amends for votre cher Victor's absence, and solemnly promise to do
everything in my power to assist you in strangling time, except parting
my hair in the middle of my head, and making love to you. With these
stipulated reservations, command me ad libitum."

Her face flushed slightly, she withdrew her hand and sat down.

Taking his favorite position on the rug, with one hand thrust into his
pocket and the other dallying with his watch-chain, Mr. Murray
continued:

"Entire honesty on my part, and a pardonable and amiable weakness for
descanting on the charms of my native village, compel me to assure you,
that, notwithstanding the deprivation of opera and theatre, bal masque
and the Bois de Bologne, I believe you will be surprised to find that
the tone of society here is quite up to the lofty standard of the
'Society of Areueil,' or even the requirements of the Academy of
Sciences. Our pastors are erudite as Abelard, and rigid as Trappists;
our young ladies are learned as that ancient blue-stocking daughter of
Pythagoras, and as pious as St. Salvia, who never washed her face. For
instance, girls yet in their teens are much better acquainted with
Hebrew than Miriam was, when she sung it on the shore of the Red Sea
(where, by the by, Talmudic tradition says Pharaoh was not drowned),
and they will vehemently contend for the superiority of the Targum of
Onkelos over that on the Hagiographa, ascribed to one-eyed Joseph of
Sora! You look incredulous, my fair cousin. Nay, permit me to complete
the inventory of the acquirements of your future companions. They quote
fluently from the Megilloth, and will entertain you by fighting over
again the battle of the school of Hillel versus the school of Shammai!
Their attainments in philology reflect discredit on the superficiality
of Max Muller; and if an incidental allusion is made to archaeology,
lo! they bombard you with a broadside of authorities, and recondite
terminology that would absolutely make the hair of Lepsius and
Champollion stand on end. I assure you the savants of the Old World
would catch their breath with envious amazement, if they could only
enjoy the advantage of the conversation of these orthodox and erudite
refugees from the nursery! The unfortunate men of this community are
kept in pitiable terror lest they commit an anachronism, and if, after
a careful reconnoissance of the slippery ground, they tremblingly
venture an anecdote of Selwyn or Hood, or Beaumarchais, they are
invariably driven back in confusion by the inquiry, if they remember
this or that bon mot uttered at the court of Aurungzebe or of one of
the early Incas! Ah! would I were Moliere to repaint Les Precieuses
Ridicules!"

Although his eyes had never once wandered from his cousin's face,
toward the corner where Edna sat embroidering some mats, she felt the
blood burning in her cheeks, and forced herself to look up. At that
moment, as he stood in the soft glow of the firelight, he was handsomer
than she had ever seen him; and when he glanced swiftly over his
shoulder to mark the effect of his words, their eyes met, and she
smiled involuntarily.

"For shame, St. Elmo! I will have you presented by the grand jury of
this county for wholesome defamation of the inhabitants thereof," said
his mother, shaking her finger at him.

Estelle laughed and shrugged her shoulders.

"My poor cousin! how I pity you, and the remainder of the men here,
surrounded by such a formidable coterie of blues."

"Believe me, even if their shadows are as blue as those which I have
seen thrown upon the snow of Eyriks Jokull, in Iceland, where I would
have sworn that every shade cast on the mountain was a blot of indigo.
Sometimes I seriously contemplate erecting an observatory and
telescope, in order to sweep our sky and render visible what I am
convinced exist there undiscovered--some of those deep blue nebulae
which Sir John Herschel found in the southern hemisphere! If the
astronomical conjectures be correct, concerning the possibility of a
galaxy of blue stars, a huge cluster hangs in this neighborhood and
furnishes an explanation of the color of the women."

"Henceforth, St. Elmo, the sole study of my life shall be to forget my
alphabet. Miss Earl, do you understand Hebrew?"

"Oh, no; I have only begun to study it."

"Estelle, it is the popular and fashionable amusement here. Young
ladies and young gentlemen form classes for mutual aid and 'mutual
admiration' while they clasp hands over the Masora. If Lord Brougham,
and other members of the 'Society for the Diffusion of Useful
Knowledge,' could only have been induced to investigate the
intellectual status of the 'rising generation' of our village, there is
little room to doubt that, as they are not deemed advocates for works
of supererogation, they would long ago have appreciated the expediency
of disbanding said society. I imagine Tennyson is a clairvoyant, and
was looking at the young people of this vicinage, when he wrote:

'Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.'

Not even egoistic infallible 'Brain Town'--that self-complacent and
pretentious 'Hub,' can show a more ambitious covey of literary
fledgelings!"

"Your random firing seems to produce no confusion on the part of your
game," answered his cousin, withdrawing her gaze from Edna's tranquil
features, on which a half smile still lingered.

He did not seem to hear her words, but his eyebrows thickened, as he
draw a couple of letters from his pocket and looked at the
superscription.

Giving one to his mother, who sat looking over a newspaper, he crossed
the room and silently laid the other on Edna's lap.

It was post-marked in a distant city and directed in a gentleman's
large, round business handwriting. The girl's face flushed with
pleasure as she broke the seal, glanced at the signature, and without
pausing for a perusal, hastily put the letter into her pocket.

"Who can be writing to you, Edna?" asked Mrs. Murray, when she had
finished reading her own letter.

"Oh! doubtless some Syrian scribe has indited a Chaldee billet-doux,
which she can not spell out without the friendly aid of dictionary and
grammar. Permit her to withdraw and decipher it. Meantime here comes
Henry to announce dinner, and a plate of soup will strengthen her for
her task."

Mr. Murray offered his arm to his cousin, and during dinner he talked
constantly, rapidly, brilliantly of men and things abroad; now hurling
a sarcasm at Estelle's head, now laughing at his mother's
expostulations, and studiously avoiding any further notice of Edna, who
was never so thoroughly at ease as when he seemed to forget her
presence.

Estelle sat at his right hand, and suddenly refilling his glass with
bubbling champagne, he leaned over and whispered a few words in her ear
that brought a look of surprise and pleasure into her eyes. Edna only
saw the expression of his face, and the tenderness, the pleading
written there astonished and puzzled her. The next moment they rose
from the table, and as Mr. Murray drew his cousin's hand under his arm,
Edna hurried away to her own room.

Among the numerous magazines to which St. Elmo subscribed was one
renowned for the lofty tone of its articles and the asperity of its
carping criticisms, and this periodical Edna always singled out and
read with avidity.

The name of the editor swung in terrorum in the imagination of all
humble authorlings, and had become a synonym for merciless critical
excoriation.

To this literary Fouquier Tinville, the orphan had daringly written
some weeks before, stating her determination to attempt a book, and
asking permission to submit the first chapter to his searching
inspection. She wrote that she expected him to find faults--he always
did; and she preferred that her work should be roughly handled by him,
rather than patted and smeared with faint praise by men of inferior
critical astuteness.

The anxiously expected reply had come at last, and as she locked her
door and sat down to read it, she trembled from head to foot. In the
centre of a handsome sheet of tinted paper she found these lines:

"MADAM: In reply to your very extraordinary request I have the honor to
inform you, that my time is so entirely consumed by necessary and
important claims, that I find no leisure at my command for the
examination of the embryonic chapter of a contemplated book. I am,
madam,

"Very respectfully,

"DOUGLASS G. MANNING."

Tears of disappointment filled her eyes and for a moment she bit her
lip with uncontrolled vexation; then refolding the letter, she put it
in a drawer of her desk, and said sorrowfully:

"I certainly had no right to expect anything more polite from him. He
snubs even his popular contributors, and of course he would not be
particularly courteous to an unknown scribbler. Perhaps some day I may
make him regret that letter; and such a triumph will more than
compensate for this mortification. One might think that all literary
people, editors, authors, reviewers, would sympathize with each other,
and stretch out their hands to aid one another! but it seems there is
less free-masonry among literati than other guilds. They wage an
internecine war among themselves, though it certainly can not be termed
'civil strife,' judging from Mr. Douglass Manning's letter."

Chagrined and perplexed she walked up and down the room, wondering what
step would be most expedient in the present state of affairs; and
trying to persuade herself that she ought to consult Mr. Hammond. But
she wished to surprise him, to hear his impartial opinion of a printed
article which he could not suspect that she had written, and finally
she resolved to say nothing to any one, to work on in silence, relying
upon herself. With this determination she sat down before her desk,
opened the MS. of her book, and very soon became absorbed in writing
the second chapter. Before she had finished even the first sentence a
hasty rap summoned her to the door.

She opened it, and found Mr. Murray standing in the hall, with a candle
in his hand.

"Where is that volume of chess problems which you had last week?"

"It is here, sir."

She took it from the table, and as she approached him, Mr. Murray held
the light close to her countenance, and gave her one of those keen
looks which always reminded her of the descriptions of the scrutiny of
the Council of Ten, in the days when "lions' mouths" grinned at the
street-corners in Venice.

Something in the curious expression of his face, and the evident
satisfaction which he derived from his hasty investigation, told Edna
that the book was a mere pretext. She drew back and asked:

"Have I any other book that you need?"

"No; I have all I came for."

Smiling half mischievously, half maliciously, he turned and left her.

"I wonder what he saw in my face that amused him?"

She walked up to the bureau and examined her own image in the mirror;
and there, on her cheeks, were the unmistakable traces of the tears of
vexation and disappointment.

"At least he can have no idea of the cause, and that is some comfort,
for he is too honorable to open my letters."

But just here a doubt flashed into her mind.

"How do I know that he is honorable? Can any man be worthy of trust who
holds nothing sacred, and sneers at all religions? No; he has no
conscience; and yet--"

She sighed and went back to her MS., and though for a while St. Elmo
Murray's mocking eyes seemed to glitter on the pages, her thoughts ere
long were anchored once more with the olive-crowned priestess in the
temple at Sais.



CHAPTER XIV.


If the seers of geology are correct in assuming that the age of the
human race is coincident with that of the alluvial stratum, from eighty
to one hundred centuries, are not domestic traditions and household
customs the great arteries in which beat the social life of humanity,
linking the race in homogeneity? Roman women suffered no first day of
May pass without celebrating the festival of Bona Dea; and two thousand
years later, girls who know as little of the manners and customs of
ancient Italy, as of the municipal regulations of fabulous "Manoa," lie
down to sleep on the last day of April, and kissing the fond, maternal
face that bends above their pillows, eagerly repeat:

"You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear:
To-morrow'll be the happiest time of all the glad new-year; Of all the
glad new-year, mother, the maddest, merriest day, For I'm to be Queen
o' the May, mother; I'm to be Queen o' the May."

For a fortnight Edna had been busily engaged in writing colloquies and
speeches for the Sabbath-school children of the village, and in
attending the rehearsals for the perfection of the various parts.
Assisted by Mr. Hammond and the ladies of his congregation, she had
prepared a varied programme, and was almost as much interested in the
success of the youthful orators, as the superintendent of the school,
or the parents of the children. The day was propitious--clear, balmy,
all that could be asked of the blue-eyed month--and as the festival was
to be celebrated in a beautiful grove of elms and chestnuts, almost in
sight of Le Bocage, Edna went over very early to aid in arranging the
tables, decking the platforms with flowers, and training one juvenile
Demosthenes, whose elocution was as unpromising as that of his Greek
model.

Despite her patient teaching this boy's awkwardness threatened to spoil
everything, and as she watched the nervous wringing of his hands and
desperate shuffling of his feet, she was tempted to give him up in
despair. The dew hung heavily on grass and foliage, and the matin carol
of the birds still swelled through the leafy aisles of the grove, when
she took the trembling boy to a secluded spot, directed him to stand on
a mossy log, where two lizards lay blinking, and repeat his speech.

He stammered most unsatisfactorily through it, and, intent on his
improvement, Edna climbed upon a stump and delivered his speech for
him, gesticulating and emphasizing just as she wished him to do. As the
last words of the peroration passed her lips, and while she stood on
the stump, a sudden clapping of hands startled her, and Gordon Leigh's
cheerful voice exclaimed:

"Encore! Encore! Since the days of Hypatia you have not had your equal
among female elocutionists. I would not have missed it for any
consideration, so pray forgive me for eavesdropping." He came forward,
held out his hand and added: "Allow me to assist you in dismounting
from your temporary rostrum, whence you bear your 'blushing honors
thick upon you.' Jamie, do you think you can do as well as Miss Edna
when your time comes?"

"Oh! no, sir; but I will try not to make her ashamed of me."

He snatched his hat from the log and ran off, leaving his friends to
walk back more leisurely to the spot selected for the tables. Edna had
been too much disconcerted by his unexpected appearance, to utter a
word until now, and her tone expressed annoyance as she said:

"I am very sorry you interrupted me, for Jamie will make an ignominious
failure. Have you nothing better to do than stray about the woods like
a satyr?"

"I am quite willing to be satyrized even by you on this occasion; for
what man, whose blood is not curdled by cynicism, can prefer to spend
Mayday among musty law books and red tape, when he has the alternative
of listening to such declamation as you favored me with just now, or of
participating in the sports of one hundred happy children? Beside, my
good 'familiar,' or rather my sortes Proenestinoe, told me that I
should find you here; and I wanted to see you before the company
assembled: why have you so pertinaciously avoided me of late?"

They stood close to each other in the shade of the elms, and Gordon
thought that never before had she looked so beautiful, as the mild
perfumed breeze stirred the folds of her dress, and fluttered the blue
ribbons that looped her hair and girdled her waist.

Just at that instant, ere she could reply, a rustling of the
undergrowth arrested further conversation, and Mr. Murray stepped out
of the adjoining thicket, with his gun in his hand, and his grim pet
Ali at his heels. Whatever surprise he may have felt, his countenance
certainly betrayed none, as he lifted his hat and said:

"Good morning, Leigh. I shall not intrude upon the Sanhedrim, on which
I have happened to stumble, longer than is necessary to ask if you are
so fortunate as to have a match with you? I find my case empty."

Mr. Leigh took a match from his pocket, and while Mr. Murray lighted
his cigar, his eyes rested for an instant only on Edna's flushed face.

"Are you not coming to the children's celebration?" asked Gordon.

"No, indeed! I own that I as lazy as a Turk; but while I am
constitutionally and habitually opposed to labor, I swear I should
prefer to plough or break stones till sundown, sooner than listen to
all the rant and fustian that spectators will be called on to endure
this morning. I have not sufficient courage to remain and witness what
would certainly recall 'the manner of Bombastes Furioso making love to
Distaffina!' Will you have a cigar? Good morning."

He lifted his hat, shouldered his gun, and calling to his dog,
disappeared among the thick undergrowth.

"What an incorrigible savage!" muttered Mr. Leigh, replacing the
match-case in his pocket.

His companion made no answer and was hurrying on, but he caught her
dress and detained her.

"Do not go until you hear what I have to say to you. More than once you
have denied me an opportunity of expressing what you must long ago have
suspected. Edna, you know very well that I love you better than every
thing else--that I have loved you from the first day of our
acquaintance; and I have come to tell you that my happiness is in your
dear little hands; that my future will be joyless unless you share it;
that the one darling hope of my life is to call you my wife. Do not
draw your hand from mine! Dear Edna, let me keep it always. Do I
mistake your feelings when I hope that you return my affection?"

"You entirely mistake them, Mr. Leigh, in supposing that you can ever
be more to me than a very dear and valued friend. It grieves me very
much to be forced to give you pain or cause you disappointment; but I
should wrong you even more than myself, were I to leave you in doubt
concerning my feeling toward you. I like your society, and you have my
entire confidence and highest esteem; but it is impossible that I can
ever be your wife."

"Why impossible?"

"Because I never could love you as I think I ought to love the man I
marry."

"My dear Edna, answer one question candidly. Do you love any one else
better than you love me?"

"No, Mr. Leigh."

"Does Mr. Murray stand between your heart and mine?"

"Oh! no, Mr. Leigh."

"Then I will not yield the hope of winning your love. If your heart is
free, I will have it all my own one day! O Edna! why can not you love
me? I would make you very happy. My darling's home should possess all
that fortune and devoted affection could supply; not one wish should
remain ungratified."

"I am able to earn a home; I do not intend to marry for one."

"Ah! your pride is your only fault, and it will cause us both much
suffering, I fear. Edna, I know how sensitive you are, and how deeply
your delicacy has been wounded by the malicious meddling of
ill-mannered gossips. I know why you abandoned your Hebrew recitations,
and a wish to spare your feelings alone prevented me from punishing
certain scandal-mongers as they deserved. But, dearest, do not visit
their offences upon me! Because they dared ascribe their own ignoble
motives to you, do not lock your heart against me and refuse me the
privilege of making your life happy."

"Mr. Leigh, you are not necessary to my happiness. While our tastes are
in many respects congenial, and it is pleasant to be with you
occasionally, it would not cause me any deep grief if I were never to
see you again."

"O Edna! you are cruel, unlike yourself!" "Forgive me, sir, if I seem
so, and believe me when I assure you that it pains me more to say it
than you to hear it. No woman should marry a man whose affection and
society are not absolutely essential to her peace of mind and heart.
Applying this test to you, I find that mine is in no degree dependent
on you; and, though you may have no warmer friend, I must tell you it
is utterly useless for you to hope that I shall ever love you as you
wish, Mr. Leigh, I regret that I can not; and if my heart were only
puppet of my will, I would try to reciprocate your affection, because I
appreciate so fully and so gratefully all that you generously offer me.
To-day you stretch out your hand to a poor girl, of unknown parentage,
reared by charity--a girl considered by your family and friends an
obscure interloper in aristocratic circles, and with a noble
magnanimity, for which I shall thank you always, you say, 'Come, take
my name, share my fortune, wrap yourself in my love, and be happy! I
will give you a lofty position in society, whence you can look down on
those who sneer at your poverty and lineage.' O, Mr. Leigh! God knows I
wish I loved you as you deserve! Ambition and gratitude alike plead for
you; but it is impossible that I could ever consent to be your wife."

Her eyes were full of tears as she looked in his handsome face,
hitherto so bright and genial; now clouded and saddened by a bitter
disappointment; and suddenly catching both his hands in hers, she
stooped and pressed her lips to them.

"Although you refuse to encourage, you cannot crush the hope that my
affection will, after a while, win yours in return. You are very young,
and as yet scarcely know your own heart, and unshaken constancy on my
part will plead for me in coming years. I will be patient, and as long
as you are Edna Earl--as long as you remain mistress of your own
heart--I shall cling fondly to the only hope that gladdens my future.
Over my feelings you have no control; you may refuse me your hand--that
is your right--but while I shall abstain from demonstrations of
affection, I shall certainly cherish the hope of possessing it.
Meantime, permit me to ask whether you still contemplate leaving Mrs.
Murray's house? Miss Harding told my sister yesterday that in a few
months you would obtain a situation as governess or teacher in a
school."

"Such is certainly my intention; but I am at a loss to conjecture how
Miss Harding obtained her information, as the matter has not been
alluded to since her arrival."

"I trust you will pardon me the liberty I take, in warning you to be
exceedingly circumspect in your intercourse with her, for I have reason
to believe that her sentiments toward you are not so friendly as might
be desired."

"Thank you, Mr. Leigh. I am aware of her antipathy, though of its cause
I am ignorant; and our intercourse is limited to the salutations of the
day, and the courtesies of the table."

Drawing from her finger the emerald which had occasioned so many
disquieting reflections, Edna continued:

"You must allow me to return the ring, which I have hitherto worn as a
token of friendship, and which I cannot consent to retain any longer.
'Peace be with you,' dear friend, is the earnest prayer of my heart.
Our paths in life will soon diverge so widely that we shall probably
see each other rarely; but none of your friends will rejoice more
sincerely than I to hear of your happiness and prosperity, for no one
else has such cause to hold you in grateful remembrance. Good-bye, Mr.
Leigh. Think of me hereafter only as a friend."

She gave him both hands for a minute, left the ring in his palm, and,
with tears in her eyes, went back to the tables and platforms.

Very rapidly chattering groups of happy children collected in the
grove; red-cheeked boys clad in white linen suits, with new straw hats
belted with black, and fair-browed girls robed in spotless muslin,
garlanded with flowers, and bright with rosy badges. Sparkling eyes,
laughing lips, sweet, mirthful, eager voices, and shadowless hearts.
Ah! that Mayday could stretch from the fairy tropic-land of childhood
to the Arctic zone of age, where snows fall chilling and desolate,
drifting over the dead but unburied hopes which the great stream of
time bears and buffets on its broad, swift surface.

The celebration was a complete success; even awkward Jamie acquitted
himself with more ease and grace than his friends had dared to hope.
Speeches and songs were warmly applauded, proud parents watched their
merry darlings with eyes that brimmed with tenderness; and the heart of
Semiramis never throbbed more triumphantly than that of the delighted
young Queen of May, who would not have exchanged her floral crown for
all the jewels that glittered in the diadem of the Assyrian sovereign.

Late in the evening of that festal day Mr. Hammond sat alone on the
portico of the old-fashioned parsonage. The full moon, rising over the
arched windows of the neighboring church, shone on the marble monuments
that marked the rows of graves; and the golden beams stealing through
the thick vines which clustered around the wooden columns, broidered in
glittering arabesque the polished floor at the old man's feet.

That solemn, mysterious silence which nature reverently folds like a
velvet pall over the bier of the pale, dead day, when the sky is

  "Filling more and more with crystal light,
  As pensive evening deepens into night,"

was now hushing the hum and stir of the village; and only the
occasional far-off bark of a dog, and the clear, sweet vesper-song of a
mocking-bird singing in the myrtle tree, broke the repose so soothing
after the bustle of the day. To labor and to pray from dawn till dusk
is the sole legacy which sin-stained man brought through the flaming
gate of Eden, and, in the gray gloaming, mother Earth stretches her
vast hands tenderly over her drooping, toil-spent children, and
mercifully murmurs nunc dimillis.

Close to the minister's armchair stood a small table covered with a
snowy cloth, on which was placed the evening meal, consisting of
strawberries, honey, bread, butter and milk. At his feet lay the white
cat, bathed in moonshine, and playing with a fragrant spray of
honeysuckle which trailed within reach of her paws, and swung to and
fro, like a spicy censer, as the soft breeze stole up from the starry
south. The supper was untasted, the old man's silvered head leaned
wearily on his shrunken hand, and through a tearful mist his mild eyes
looked toward the churchyard, where gleamed the monumental shafts that
guarded his mouldering household idols, his white-robed, darling dead.

His past was a wide, fair, fruitful field of hallowed labor, bounteous
with promise for that prophetic harvest whereof God's angels are
reapers; and his future, whose near horizon was already rimmed with the
light of eternity, was full of that blessed 'peace which passeth all
understanding.' Yet to-night, precious reminiscences laid their soft,
mesmeric fingers on his heart, and before him, all unbidden, floated
visions of other Maydays, long, long ago, when the queen of his boyish
affections had worn her crown of flowers; and many, many years later,
when, as the queen of his home, and the proud mother of his children,
she had stood with her quivering hand nestled in his, listening
breathlessly to the Mayday speech of their golden-haired daughter,

"Why does the sea of thought thus backward roll? Memory's the breeze
that through the cordage raves, And ever drives us on some homeward
shoal, As if she loved the melancholy waves That, murmuring shoreward,
break o'er a reef of graves."

The song of the mocking-bird still rang from the downy cradle of myrtle
blossoms, and a whip-poor-will answered from a cedar in the churchyard,
when the slamming of the parsonage gate startled the shy thrush that
slept in the vines that overarched it, and Mr. Leigh came slowly up the
walk, which was lined with purple and white lilies whose loveliness,
undiminished by the wear of centuries, still rivaled the glory of
Solomon.

As he ascended the steps and removed his hat, the pastor rose and
placed a chair for him near his own.

"Good evening, Gordon. Where did you immure yourself all day? I
expected to find you taking part in the children's festival, and hunted
for you in the crowd."

"I expected to attend, but this morning something occurred which
unfitted me for enjoyment of any kind; consequently I thought it best
to keep myself and my moodiness out of sight."

"I trust nothing serious has happened?"

"Yes, something that threatens to blast all my hopes, and make my life
one great disappointment. Has not Edna told you?"

"She has told me nothing relative to yourself, but I noticed that she
was depressed and grieved about something. She was abstracted and
restless, and went home very early, pleading fatigue and headache."

"I wish I had a shadow of hope that her heart ached also! Mr. Hammond,
I am very wretched, and have come to you for sympathy and counsel. Of
course you have seen for a long time that I loved her very devotedly,
that I intended if possible to make her my wife. Although she was very
shy and guarded, and never gave me any reason to believe she returned
my affection, I thought--I hoped she would not reject me, and I admired
her even more because of her reticence, for I could not value a love
which I knew was mine unasked. To-day I mentioned the subject to her,
told her how entirely my heart was hers, offered her my hand and
fortune, and was refused most decidedly. Her manner more than her words
distressed and discouraged me. She showed so plainly that she felt only
friendship for me, and entertained only regret for the pain she gave
me. She was kind and delicate, but oh! so crushingly positive! I saw
that I had no more place in her heart than that whip-poor-will in the
cedars yonder. And yet I shall not give her up; while I live I will
cling to the hope that I may finally win her. Thousands of women have
rejected a man again and again and at last yielded and accepted him;
and I do not believe Edna can withstand the devotion of a lifetime."

"Do not deceive yourself, Gordon. It is true many women are flattered
by a man's perseverance, their vanity is gratified. They first reproach
themselves for the suffering they inflict, then gratitude for constancy
comes to plead for the inconsolable suitor, and at last they persuade
themselves that such devotion can not fail to make them happy. Such a
woman Edna is not, and if I have correctly understood her character,
never can be. I sympathize with you, Gordon, and it is because I love
you so sincerely that I warn you against a hope destined to cheat you."

"But she admitted that she loved no one else, and I can see no reason
why, after a while, she may not give me her heart."

"I have watched her for years. I think I know her nature better than
any other human being, and I tell you, Edna Earl will never coax and
persuade herself to marry any man, no matter what his position and
endowments may be. She is not a dependent woman; the circumstances of
her life have forced her to dispense with companionship, she is
sufficient for herself; and while she loves her friends warmly and
tenderly, she feels the need of no one. If she ever marries, it will
not be from gratitude or devotion, but because she learned to love,
almost against her will, some strong, vigorous thinker, some man whose
will and intellect masters hers, who compels her heart's homage, and
without whose society she can not persuade herself to live."

"And why may I not hope that such will, one day, be my good fortune?"

For a few minutes Mr. Hammond was silent, walking up and down the wide
portico; and when he resumed his seat, he laid his hand affectionately
on the young man's shoulder, saying:

"My dear Gordon, your happiness as well as hers is very dear to me. I
love you both, and you will, you must, forgive me if what I am about to
say should wound or mortify you. Knowing you both as I do, and wishing
to save you future disappointment, I should, even were you my own son,
certainly tell you. Gordon, you will never be Edna's husband, because
intellectually she is your superior. She feels this, and will not marry
one to whose mind her own does not bow in reverence. To rule the man
she married would make her miserable, and she could only find happiness
in being ruled by an intellect to which she looked up admiringly. I
know that many very gifted women have married their inferiors, but Edna
is peculiar, and in some respects totally unlike any other woman whose
character I have carefully studied. Gordon, you are not offended with
me?"

Mr. Leigh put out his hand, grasped that of his companion, and his
voice was marked by unwonted tremor as he answered:

"You pain and humiliate me beyond expression, but I could never be
offended at words which I am obliged to feel are dictated by genuine
affection. Mr. Hammond, might not years of thought and study remove the
obstacle to which you allude? Can I not acquire all that you deem
requisite? I would dedicate my life to the attainment of knowledge, to
the improvement of my faculties."

"Erudition would not satisfy her. Do you suppose she could wed a mere
walking encyclopaedia? She is naturally more gifted than you are, and,
unfortunately for you, she discovered the fact when you were studying
together."

"But, sir, women listen to the promptings of heart much oftener than to
the cold, stern dictates of reason."

"Very true, Gordon; but her heart declares against you."

"Do you know any one whom you regard as fully worthy of her--any one
who will probably win her?"

"I know no man whose noble, generous heart renders him so worthy of her
as yourself; and if she could only love you as you deserve, I should be
rejoiced; but that I believe to be impossible."

"Do you know how soon she expects to leave Le Bocage?"

"Probably about the close of the year."

"I cannot bear to think of her as going among strangers--being buffeted
by the world, while she toils to earn a maintenance. It is
inexpressibly bitter for me to reflect, that the girl whom I love above
everything upon earth, who would preside so gracefully, so elegantly
over my home, and make my life so proud and happy, should prefer to
shut herself up in a school-room, and wear out her life in teaching
fretful, spoiled, trying children! Oh, Mr. Hammond! can you not prevail
upon her to abandon this scheme? Think what a complete sacrifice it
will be."

"If she feels that the hand of duty points out this destiny as hers, I
shall not attempt to dissuade her; for peace of mind and heart is found
nowhere, save in accordance with the dictates of conscience and
judgment. Since Miss Harding's arrival at Le Bocage, I fear Edna will
realize rapidly that she is no longer needed as a companion by Mrs.
Murray, and her proud spirit will rebel against the surveillance to
which I apprehend she is already subjected. She has always expressed a
desire to maintain herself by teaching, but I suspect that she will do
so by her pen. When she prepares to quit Mrs. Murray's house I shall
offer her a home in mine; but I have little hope that she will accept
it, much as she loves me, for she wants to see something of that
strange mask called 'life' by the world. She wishes to go to some large
city, where she can command advantages beyond her reach in this quiet
little place, and where her own exertions will pay for the roof that
covers her. However we may deplore this decision, certainly we can not
blame her for the feeling that prompts it."

"I have racked my brain for some plan by which I could share my fortune
with her without her suspecting the donor; for if she rejects my hand,
I know she would not accept one cent from me. Can you suggest any
feasible scheme?"

Mr. Hammond shook his head, and after some reflection answered:

"We can do nothing but wait and watch for an opportunity of aiding her.
I confess, Gordon, her future fills me with serious apprehension; she
is so proud, so sensitive, so scrupulous, and yet so boundlessly
ambitious. Should her high hopes, her fond dreams be destined to the
sharp and summary defeat which frequently overtakes ambitious men and
women early in life, I shudder for her closing years and the almost
unendurable bitterness of her disappointed soul."

"Why do you suppose that she aspires to authorship?"

"She has never intimated such a purpose to me; but she can not be
ignorant of the fact that she possesses great talent, and she is too
conscientious to bury it."

"Mr. Hammond, you may be correct in your predictions, but I trust you
are wrong; and I can not believe that any woman whose heart is as warm
and noble as Edna's, will continue to reject such love as I shall
always offer her. Of one thing I feel assured, no man will ever love
her as well, or better than I do, and to this knowledge she will awake
some day. God bless her! she is the only woman I shall ever want to
call my wife."

"I sympathize most keenly with your severe disappointment, my dear
young friend, and shall earnestly pray that in this matter God will
overrule all things for your happiness as well as hers. He who notes
the death of sparrows, and numbers even the hairs of our heads, will
not doom your noble, tender heart to life-long loneliness and hunger."

With a long, close clasp of hands they parted. Gordon Leigh walked
sadly between the royal lily-rows, hoping that the future would redeem
the past; and the old man sat alone in the serene, silent night,
watching the shimmer of the moon on the marble that covered his dead.



CHAPTER XV.


"It is impossible, Estelle! The girl is not a fool, and nothing less
than idiocy can explain such conduct!"

Flushed and angry, Mrs. Murray walked up and down the floor of the
sitting-room; and playing with the jet bracelet on her rounded arm,
Miss Harding replied:

"As Mrs. Inge happens to be his sister, I presume she speaks ex
cathedra, and she certainly expressed very great delight at the failure
of Gordon Leigh's suit. She told me that he was much depressed in
consequence of Edna's rejection, and manifested more feeling than she
had deemed possible under the circumstances. Of course she is much
gratified that her family is saved from the disgrace of such a
mesalliance."

"You will oblige me by being more choice in the selection of your
words, Estelle, as it is a poor compliment to me to remark that any man
would be disgraced by marrying a girl whom I have raised and educated,
and trained as carefully as if she were my own daughter. Barring her
obscure birth, Edna is as worthy of Gordon as any dainty pet of fashion
who lounges in Clara Inge's parlors, and I shall take occasion to tell
her so if ever she hints at 'mesalliance' in my presence."

"In that event she will doubtless retort by asking you in her bland and
thoroughly well-bred style, whether you intend to give your consent to
Edna's marriage with my cousin, St. Elmo?"

Mrs. Murray stopped suddenly, and confronting her niece, said sternly:

"What do you mean, Estelle Harding?"

"My dear aunt, the goodness of your heart has strangely blinded you to
the character of the girl you have taken into your house, and honored
with your confidence and affection. Be patient with me while I unmask
this shrewd little intrigante. She is poor and unknown, and if she
leaves your roof, as she pretends is her purpose, she must work for her
own maintenance, which no one will do from choice, when an alternative
of luxurious ease is within reach. Mr. Leigh is very handsome, very
agreeable, wealthy and intelligent, and is considered a fine match for
any girl; yet your protegee discards him most positively, alleging as a
reason that she does not love him, and prefers hard labor as a teacher
to securing an elegant home by becoming his wife. That she can decline
so brilliant an offer seems to you incredible, but I knew from the
beginning that she would not accept it. My dear Aunt Ellen, she aspires
to the honor of becoming your daughter-in-law, and can well afford to
refuse Mr. Leigh's hand, when she hopes to be mistress of Le Bocage.
She is pretty, and she knows it, and her cunning handling of her cards
would really amuse and interest me, if I were not grieved at the
deception she is practicing upon you. It has, I confess, greatly
surprised me that, with your extraordinary astuteness in other matters,
you should prove so obtuse concerning the machinations which the girl
carries on in your own house. Can you not see how adroitly she natters
St. Elmo by pouring over his stupid MSS., and professing devotion to
his pet authors? Your own penetration will show you how unnatural it is
that any pretty young girl like Edna should sympathize so intensely
with my cousin's outre studies and tastes. Before I had been in this
house twenty-four hours, I saw the game she plays so skillfully, and
only wonder that you, my dear aunt, should be victimized by the cunning
of one on whom you have lavished so much kindness. Look at the facts.
She certainly has refused to marry Mr. Leigh, and situated as she is,
how can you explain the mystery by any other solution than that which I
have given, and which I assure you is patent to every one save
yourself?"

Painful surprise kept Mrs. Murray silent for some moments, and at last
shaking her head, she exclaimed:

"I do not believe a word of it! I know her much better than you
possibly can, and so far from wishing to marry my son, she fears and
dislikes him exceedingly. Her evident aversion to him has even caused
me regret, and at times they scarcely treat each other with ordinary
courtesy. She systematically avoids him, and occasionally, when I
request her to take a message to him, I have been amused at the
expression of her face, and her manoeuvres to find a substitute. No!
no! she is too conscientious to wear a mask. You must tax your
ingenuity for some better solution."

"She is shrewd enough to see that St. Elmo is satiated with flattery
and homage; she suspects that pique alone can force an entrance into
the citadel of his heart, and her demonstrations of aversion are only a
ruse de guerre. My poor aunt! I pity the disappointment and
mortification to which you are destined, when you discover how complete
is the imposture she practices."

"I tell you, Estelle, I am neither blind nor exactly in my dotage, and
that girl has no more intention of--"

The door opened, and Mr. Murray came in. Glancing round the room, and
observing the sudden silence--his mother's flushed cheeks and angry
eyes, his cousin's lurking smile, he threw himself on the sofa, saying:

"Tantoene animis coelestibus iroe? Pray what dire calamity has raised a
feud between you two? Has the French Count grown importunate, and does
my mother refuse her consent to your tardy decision to follow the
dictates of your long outraged conscience, and bestow speedily upon him
that pretty hand of yours, which has so often been surrendered to his
tender clasp? If my intercession in behalf of said Victor is considered
worthy of acceptance, pray command me, Estelle, for I swear I never
keep Runic faith with an ally."

"My son, did it ever occur to you that your eloquence might be more
successfully and agreeably exercised in your own behalf?"

Mrs. Murray looked keenly at her niece as she spoke:

"My profound and proverbial humility never permitted the ghost of such
a suggestion to affright my soul! Judging from the confusion which
greeted my entrance, I am forced to conclude that it was mal apropos.
But prudent regard for the reputation of the household urged me to
venture near enough to the line of battle to inform you that the noise
of the conflict proclaims it to the servants, and the unmistakable
tones arrested my attention even in the yard. Family feuds become
really respectable if only waged sotto voce."

He rose as if to leave the room, but his mother motioned him to remain.

"I am very much annoyed at a matter which surprises me beyond
expression. Do you know that Gordon Leigh has made Edna an offer of
marriage, and she has been insane enough to refuse him? Was ever a girl
so stupidly blind to her true interest? She can not hope to make half
so brilliant a match, for he is certainly one of the most promising
young men in the State, and would give her a position in the world that
otherwise she can never attain."

"Refused him! Refused affluence, fashionable social stains! diamonds,
laces, rose-curtained boudoir, and hot-houses! Refused the glorious
privilege of calling Mrs. Inge 'sister,' and the opportunity of
snubbing le beau monde who persistently snub her. Impossible! You are
growing old and oblivious of the strategy you indulged in when throwing
your toils around your devoted admirer, whom I, ultimately had the
honor of calling my father. Your pet vagrant, Edna, is no simpleton;
she can take care of her own interests, and, accept my word for it,
intends to do so. She is only practising a little harmless
coquetry--toying with her victim, as fish circle round and round the
bait which they fully intend to swallow. Were she Aphaea herself, I
should say Gordon's success is as fixed as any other decree--

'In the chamber of Fate, where, through tremulous hands, Hum the
threads from an old-fashioned distaff uncurled, And those three blind
old women sit spinning the world!'

Be not cast down, O my mother! Your protegee is a true daughter of Eve,
and she eyes Leigh's fortune as hungrily as the aforesaid venerable
mother of mankind did the tempting apple."

"St. Elmo, it is neither respectful nor courteous to be eternally
sneering at women in the presence of your own mother. As for Edna, I am
intensely provoked at her deplorable decision, for I know that when she
once decides on a course of conduct neither persuasion nor argument
will move her one iota. She is incapable of the contemptible coquetry
you imputed to her, and Gordon may as well look elsewhere for a bride."

"You are quite right, Aunt Ellen; her refusal was most positive."

"Did she inform you of the fact?" asked Mr. Murray.

"No, but Mr. Leigh told his sister that she gave him no hope whatever."

"Then, for the first time in my life, I have succeeded in slandering
human nature! which, hitherto, I deemed quite impossible. Peccavi,
peccavi! O my race! And she absolutely, positively declines to sell
herself? I am unpleasantly startled in my pet theories concerning the
cunning, lynx selfishness of women, by this feminine phenomenon! Why, I
would have bet half my estate on Gordon's chances; for his handsome
face, aided by such incomparable coadjutors as my mother here and the
infallible sage and oracle of the parsonage constituted a 'triple
alliance' more formidable, more invincible, than those that threatened
Louis XIV. or Alberoni! I imagined the girl was clay in the experienced
hands of matrimonial potters, and that Hebrew strategy would prove
triumphant! Accept, my dear mother, my most heartfelt sympathy in your
ignominious defeat. You will not doubt the sincerity of my condolence
when I confess that it springs from the mortifying consciousness of
having found that all women are not so entirely unscrupulous as I
prefer to believe them. Permit me to comfort you with the assurance
that the campaign has been conducted with distinguished ability on your
part. You have displayed topographical accuracy, wariness, and an
insight into the character of your antagonist, which entitle you to an
exalted place among modern tacticians; and you have the consolation of
knowing that you have been defeated most unscientifically, and in
direct opposition to every well-established maxim and rule of strategy,
by this rash, incomprehensible, feminine Napoleon! Believe me--"

"Hush, St. Elmo! I don't wish to hear anything more about the miserable
affair. Edna is very obstinate and exceedingly ungrateful after all the
interest I have manifested in her welfare, and henceforth I shall not
concern myself about her future. If she prefers to drudge through life
as a teacher, I shall certainly advise her to commence as soon as
possible; for if she can so entirely dispense with my counsel, she no
longer needs my protection."

"Have you reasoned with her concerning this singular obliquity of her
mental vision?"

"No. She knows my wishes, and since she defies them, I certainly shall
not condescend to open my lips to her on this subject."

"Women arrogate such marvellous astuteness in reading each other's
motives, that I should imagine Estelle's ingenuity would furnish an
open sesame to the locked chamber of this girl's heart, and supply some
satisfactory explanation of her incomprehensible course."

Mr. Murray took his cousin's hand and drew her to a seat beside him on
the sofa.

"The solution is very easy, my dear cynic. Edna can well afford to
decline Gordon Leigh's offer when she expects and manoeuvres to sell
herself for a much higher sum than he can command."

As Miss Harding uttered these words, Mrs. Murray turned quickly to
observe their effect.

The cousins looked steadily at each other, and St. Elmo laughed
bitterly, and patted Estelle's cheek, saying:

"Bravo! 'Set a thief to catch a thief!' I knew you would hit the nail
on the head! But who the d--l is this fellow who is writing to her from
New York? This is the second letter I have taken out of the office, and
there is no telling how often they come; for, on both occasions, when I
troubled myself to ride to the post-office, I have found letters
directed to her in this same handwriting."

He drew a letter from his pocket and laid it on his knee, and as
Estelle looked at it, and then glanced with a puzzled expression toward
her aunt's equally curious face, Mr. Murray passed his hand across his
eyes, to hide their malicious twinkle.

"Give me the letter, St. Elmo; it is my duty to examine it; for as long
as she is under my protection she has no right to carry on a
clandestine correspondence with strangers."

"Pardon me if I presume to dispute your prerogative to open her
letters. It is neither your business nor mine to dictate with whom she
shall or shall not correspond, now that she is no longer a child.
Doubtless you remember that I warned you against her from the first day
I ever set my eyes upon her, and predicted that you would repent in
sackcloth and ashes your charitable credulity? I swore then she would
prove a thief; you vowed she was a saint! But, nevertheless, I have no
intention of turning spy at this late day, and assisting you in the
eminently honorable work of waylaying letters from her distant swain."

Very coolly he put the letter back in his pocket.

Mrs. Murray bit her lip, and held out her hand, saying peremptorily:

"I insist upon having the letter. Since you are so spasmodically and
exceedingly scrupulous, I will carry it immediately to her and demand a
perusal of the contents, St. Elmo, I am in no mood for jesting."

He only shook his head, and laughed.

"The dictates of filial respect forbid that I should subject my
mother's curiosity to so severe an ordeal. Moreover, were the letter
once in your hands, your conscience would persuade you that it is your
imperative duty to a 'poor, inexperienced, motherless' girl, to inspect
it ere her eager fingers have seized it. Beside, she is coming, and
will save you the trouble of seeking her. I heard her run up the steps
a moment ago."

Before Mrs. Murray could frame her indignation in suitable words, Edna
entered, holding in one hand her straw hat, in the other basket, lined
with grape leaves, and filled with remarkably large and fine
strawberries. Exercise had deepened the color in her fair, sweet face,
which had never looked more lovely than now, as she approached her
benefactress, holding up the fragrant, tempting fruit.

"Mrs. Murray, here is a present from Mr. Hammond, who desired me to
tell you that these berries are the first he has gathered from the new
bed, next to the row of lilacs. It is the variety he ordered from New
York last fall, and some roots of which he says he sent to you. Are
they not the most perfect specimens you ever saw? We measured them at
the parsonage and six filled a saucer."

She was selecting a cluster to hold up for inspection, and had not
remarked the cloud on Mrs. Murray's brow.

"The strawberries are very fine. I am much obliged to Mr. Hammond."

The severity of the tone astonished Edna, who looked up quickly, saw
the stern displeasure written on her face, and glanced inquiringly at
the cousins. There was an awkward silence, and feeling the eyes of all
fixed upon her, the orphan picked up her hat, which had fallen on the
floor, and asked:

"Shall I carry the basket to the dining-room, or leave it here?"

"You need not trouble yourself to carry it anywhere."

Mrs. Murray laid her hand on the bell-cord and rang sharply. Edna
placed the fruit on the centre-table, and suspecting that she must be
de trop, moved toward the door, but Mr. Murray rose and stood before
her.

"Here is a letter which arrived yesterday."

He put it in her hand, and as she recognized the peculiar
superscription, a look of delight flashed over her features, and
raising her beaming eyes to his, she murmured, "Thank you, sir," and
retreated to her own room.

Mr. Murray turned to his mother and said carelessly:

"I neglected to tell you that I heard from Clinton to-day. He has
invited himself to spend some days here, and wrote to say that he might
be expected next week. At least his visit will be welcome to you,
Estelle, and I congratulate you on the prospect of adding to your list
of admirers the most fastidious exquisite it has ever been my
misfortune to encounter."

"St. Elmo, you ought to be ashamed to mention your father's nephew in
such terms. You certainly have less respect and affection for your
relatives than any man I ever saw."

"Which fact is entirely attributable to my thorough knowledge of their
characters. I have generally found that high appreciation and intimate
acquaintance are in inverse ratios. As for Clinton Allston, were he my
father's son, instead of his nephew. I imagine my flattering estimate
of him would be substantially the same. Estelle, do you know him?"

"I have not that pleasure, but report prepares me to find him extremely
agreeable. I am rejoiced at the prospect of meeting him. Some time ago,
just before I left Paris, I received a message from him, challenging me
to a flirtation at sight so soon as an opportunity presented itself."

"For your sake, Estelle, I am glad Clinton is coming, for St. Elmo is
so shamefully selfish and oblivious of his duties as host, that I know
time often hangs very heavily on your hands."

Mrs. Murray was too thoroughly out of humor to heed the dangerous
sparkle in her son's eyes.

"Very true, mother, his amiable and accommodating disposition commends
him strongly to your affection; and knowing what is expected of him, he
will politely declare himself her most devoted lover before he has been
thirty-six hours in her society. Now, if she can accept him for a
husband, and you will only consent to receive him as your son, I swear
I will reserve a mere scanty annuity for my traveling expenses; I will
gladly divide the estate between them, and transport myself permanently
and joyfully beyond the animadversion on my inherited sweetness of
temper. If you, my dear coz, can only coax Clinton into this
arrangement for your own and my mother's happiness, you will render me
eternally grateful, and smooth the way for a trip to Thibet and
Siberia, which I have long contemplated. Bear this proposition in mind,
will you, especially when the charms of Le Bocage most favorably
impress you? Remember you will become its mistress the day that you
marry Clinton, make my mother adopt him, and release me. If my terms
are not sufficiently liberal, confer with Clinton as soon as maidenly
propriety will permit, and acquaint me with your ultimatum; for I am so
thoroughly weary and disgusted with this place that I am anxious to get
away on almost any terms. Here come the autocrats of the neighborhood,
the nouveaux enrichis! your friends the Montgomeries and Hills, than
whom I would sooner shake hands with the Asiatic plague! I hear Madame
Montgomery asking if I am not at home, as well as the ladies! Tell her
I am in Spitzbergen or Mantchooria, where I certainly intend to be ere
long."

As the visitors approached the sitting-room, he sprang through the
window opening on the terrace and disappeared.

The contents of the unexpected letter surprised and delighted Edna much
more than she would willingly have confessed. Mr. Manning wrote that
upon the eve of leaving home for a tour of some weeks' travel, he
chanced to stumble upon her letter, and in a second perusal some
peculiarity of style induced him to reconsider the offer it contained,
and he determined to permit her to send the manuscript (as far as
written) for his examination. If promptly forwarded it would reach him
before he left home, and expedite an answer.

Drawing all happy auguries from this second letter, and trembling with
pleasure, Edna hastened to prepare her manuscript for immediate
transmission. Carefully enveloping it in a thick paper, she sealed and
directed it, then fell on her knees, and, with clasped hands resting on
the package, prayed earnestly, vehemently, that God's blessing would
accompany it, would crown her efforts with success.

Afraid to trust it to the hand of a servant, she put on her hat and
walked back to town.

The express agent gave her a receipt for the parcel, assured her that
it would be forwarded by the evening train, and with a sigh of relief
she turned her steps homeward.

Ah! it was a frail paper bark, freighted with the noblest, purest
aspirations that ever possessed a woman's soul, launched upon the
tempestuous sea of popular favor, with ambition at the helm, hope for a
compass, and the gaunt spectre of failure grinning in the shrouds.
Would it successfully weather the gales of malice, envy and detraction?
Would it battle valiantly and triumphantly with the piratical hordes of
critics who prowl hungrily along the track over which it must sail?
Would it become a melancholy wreck on the mighty ocean of literature,
or would it proudly ride at anchor in the harbor of immortality, with
her name floating for ever at the masthead?

It was an experiment such as had stranded the hopes of hundreds and
thousands; and the pinched, starved features of Chatterton, and the
white, pleading face of Keats, stabbed to death by reviewers' poisoned
pens, rose like friendly phantoms and whispered sepulchral warnings.

But to-day the world wore only rosy garments, unspotted by shadows, and
the silvery voice of youthful enthusiasm sung only of victory and
spoils, as hope gayly struck the cymbals and fingered the timbrels.

When Edna returned to her room, she sat down before her desk to
reperuse the letter which had given her so much gratification; and, as
she refolded it, Mrs. Murray came in and closed the door after her.

Her face was stern and pale; she walked up to the orphan, looked at her
suspiciously, and when she spoke her voice was hard and cold.

"I wish to see that letter which you received to-day, as it is very
improper that you should, without my knowledge, carry on a
correspondence with a stranger. I would not have believed that you
could be guilty of such conduct."

"I am very much pained, Mrs. Murray, that you should even for a moment
have supposed that I had forfeited your confidence. The nature of the
correspondence certainly sanctions my engaging in it, even without
consulting you. This letter is the second I have received from Mr.
Manning, the editor of--Magazine, and was written in answer to a
request of mine, with reference to a literary matter which concerns
nobody but myself. I will show you the signature; there it is--Douglass
G. Manning. You know his literary reputation and his high position. If
you demand it, of course, I can not refuse to allow you to read it;
but, dear Mrs. Murray, I hope you will not insist upon it, as I prefer
that no one should see the contents, at least at present. As I have
never deceived you, I think you might trust me when I assure you that
the correspondence is entirely restricted to literary subjects."

"Why, then, should you object to my reading it?"

"For a reason which I will explain at some future day, if you will only
have confidence in me. Still, if you are determined to examine the
letter, of course I must submit, though it would distress me
exceedingly to know that you can not, or will not, trust me in so small
a matter."

She laid the open letter on the desk and covered her face with her
hands.

Mrs. Murray took up the sheet, glanced at the signature, and said:

"Look at me; don't hide your face, that argues something wrong."

Edna raised her head, and lifted her eyes full of tears to meet the
scrutiny from which there was no escape.

"Mr. Manning's signature somewhat reassures me, and beside, I never
knew you to prevaricate or attempt to deceive me. Your habitual
truthfulness encourages me to believe you, and I will not insist on
reading this letter, though I can not imagine why you should object to
it. But, Edna, I am disappointed in you, and in return for the
confidence I have always reposed in you, I want you to answer candidly
the question I am about to ask. Why did you refuse to marry Gordon
Leigh?"

"Because I did not love him."

"Oh, pooh! that seems incredible, for he is handsome and very
attractive, and some young ladies show very plainly that they love him,
though they have never been requested to do so. There is only one way
in which I can account for your refusal, and I wish you to tell me the
truth. You are unwilling to marry Gordon because you love somebody else
better. Child, whom do you love?"

"No, indeed, no! I like Mr. Leigh as well as any gentleman I know; but
I love no one except you and Mr. Hammond."

Mrs. Murray put her hand under the girl's chin, looked at her for some
seconds, and sighed heavily.

"Child, I find it difficult to believe you."

"Why, whom do you suppose I could love? Mr. Leigh is certainly more
agreeable than anybody else I know."

"But girls sometimes take strange whims in these matters. Do you ever
expect to receive a better offer than Mr. Leigh's?"

"As far as fortune is concerned, I presume I never shall have so good
an opportunity again. But, Mrs. Murray, I would rather marry a poor
man, whom I really loved, and who had to earn his daily bread, than to
be Mr. Leigh's wife and own that beautiful house he is building. I know
you wish me to accept him, and that you think me very unwise, very
short-sighted; but it is a question which I have settled after
consulting my conscience and my heart."

"And you give me your word of honor that you love no other gentleman
better than Gordon?"

"Yes, Mrs. Murray, I assure you that I do not."

As the mistress of the house looked down into the girl's beautiful
face, and passed her hand tenderly over the thick, glossy folds of hair
that crowned the pure brow, she wondered if it were possible that her
son could ever regard the orphan with affection; and she asked her own
heart why she could not willingly receive her as a daughter.

Mrs. Murray believed that she entertained a sincere friendship for Mrs.
Inge, and yet she had earnestly endeavored to marry her brother to a
girl whom she could not consent to see the wife of her own son. Verily,
when human friendships are analyzed, it seems a mere poetic fiction
that--

"Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, passed in music out of sight."



CHAPTER XVI.


One afternoon, about ten days after the receipt of Mr. Manning's
letter, when Edna returned from the parsonage, she found the family
assembled on the front veranda, and saw that the expected visitor had
arrived. As Mrs. Murray introduced her to Mr. Allston, the latter rose,
advanced a few steps, and held out his hand. Edna was in the act of
giving him hers, when the heart-shaped diamond cluster on his finger
flashed, and one swift glance at his face and figure made her snatch
away her hand ere it touched his, and draw back with a half-smothered
exclamation.

He bit his lip, looked inquiringly around the circle, smiled, and
returning to his seat beside Estelle, resumed the gay conversation in
which he had been engaged.

Mrs. Murray was leaning over the iron balustrade, twining a wreath of
multiflora around one of the fluted columns, and did not witness the
brief pantomime; but when she looked around she could not avoid
remarking the unwonted pallor and troubled expression of the girl's
face.

"What is the matter, child? You look as if you were either ill or
dreadfully fatigued."

"I am tired, thank you," was the rather abstracted reply, and she
walked into the house and sat down before the open window in the
library.

The sun had just gone down behind a fleecy cloud-mountain and kindled a
volcano, from whose silver-rimmed crater fiery rays of scarlet shot up,
almost to the clear blue zenith; while here and there, through clefts
and vapory gorges, the lurid lava light streamed down toward the
horizon.

Vacantly her eyes rested on this sky-Hecla, and its splendor passed
away unheeded, for she was looking far beyond the western gates of day,
and saw a pool of blood--a ghastly face turned up to the sky--a
coffined corpse strewn with white poppies and rosemary--a wan, dying
woman, whose waving hair braided the pillow with gold--a wide, deep
grave under the rustling chestnuts, from whose green arches rang the
despairing wail of a broken heart:

"Oh, Harry! my husband!"

Imagination travelling into the past, painted two sunny-haired,
prattling babes, suddenly smitten with orphanage, and robed in mourning
garments for parents whose fond, watchful eyes were closed forever
under wild clover and trailing brambles. Absorbed in retrospection of
that June day, when she stood by the spring, and watched

  "God make himself an awful rose of dawn,"

she sat with her head resting against the window-facing, and was not
aware of Mr. Murray's entrance until his harsh, querulous voice
startled her.

"Edna Earl! what apology have you to offer for insulting a relative and
guest of mine under my roof?"

"None, sir."

"What! How dare you treat with unparalleled rudeness a visitor, whose
claim upon the courtesy and hospitality of this household is certainly
more legitimate and easily recognized than that of--"

He stopped and kicked out of his way a stool upon which Edna's feet had
been resting. She had risen, and they stood face to face.

"I am waiting to hear the remainder of your sentence, Mr. Murray."

He uttered an oath, and hurled his cigar through the window.

"Why the d--l did you refuse to shake hands with Allston? I intend to
know the truth, and it may prove an economy of trouble for you to speak
it at once."

"If you demand my reasons, you must not be offended at the plainness of
my language. Your cousin is a murderer, and ought to be hung! I could
not force myself to touch a hand all smeared with blood."

Mr. Murray leaned down and looked into her eyes.

"You are either delirious or utterly mistaken with reference to the
identity of the man. Clinton is no more guilty of murder than you are,
and I have been led to suppose that you are rather too 'pious' to
attempt the role of Marguerite de Brinvillers or Joanna of Hainault!
Cufic lore has turned your brain; 'too much learning hath made thee
mad.'"

"No, sir, it is no hallucination; there can be no mistake; it is a
horrible, awful fact, which I witnessed, which is burned on my memory,
and which will haunt my brain as long as I live. I saw him shoot Mr.
Dent, and heard all that passed on that dreadful morning. He is doubly
criminal--is as much the murderer of Mrs. Dent as of her husband, for
the shock killed her. Oh! that I could forget her look and scream of
agony as she fainted over her husband's coffin!"

A puzzled expression crossed Mr. Murray's face; then he muttered:

"Dent? Dent? Ah! yes; that was the name of the man whom Clinton killed
in a duel. Pshaw! you have whipped up a syllabub storm in a tea-cup!
Allston only took 'satisfaction' for an insult offered publicly by
Dent."

His tone was sneering and his lip curled, but a strange pallor crept
from chin to temples; and a savage glare in his eyes, and a thickening
scowl that bent his brows till they met, told of the brewing of no
slight tempest of passion.

"I know, sir, that custom, public opinion, sanctions--at least
tolerates that relic of barbarous ages--that blot upon Christian
civilization which, under the name of 'duelling,' I recognize as a
crime, a heinous crime, which I abhor and detest above all other
crimes! Sir, I call things by their proper names, stripped of the
glozing drapery of conventional usage. You say 'honorable
satisfaction'; I say murder! aggravated, unpardonable murder; murder
without even the poor palliation of the sudden heat of anger. Cool,
deliberate, willful murder, that stabs the happiness of wives and
children, and for which it would seem that even the infinite mercy of
Almighty God could scarcely accord forgiveness! Oh! save me from the
presence of that man who can derive 'satisfaction' from the reflection
that he has laid Henry and Helen Dent in one grave, under the quiet
shadow of Lookout, and brought desolation and orphanage to their two
innocent, tender darlings! Shake hands with Clinton Allston? I would
sooner stretch out my fingers to clasp those of Gardiner, reeking with
the blood of his victims, or those of Ravaillac! Ah! well might Dante
shudder in painting the chilling horrors of Cama."

The room was dusky with the shadow of coming night; but the fading
flush, low in the west, showed St. Elmo's face colorless, rigid,
repulsive in its wrathful defiance.

He bent forward, seized her hands, folded them together, and grasping
them in both his, crushed them against his breast.

"Ha! I knew that hell and heaven were leagued to poison your mind! That
your childish conscience was frightened by tales of horror, and your
imagination harrowed up, your heart lacerated by the cunning devices of
that arch maudlin old hypocrite! The seeds of clerical hate fell in
good ground, and I see a bountiful harvest nodding for my sickle! Oh!
you are more pliable than I had fancied! You have been thoroughly
trained down yonder at the parsonage. But I will be--"

There was a trembling pant in his voice like that of some wild creature
driven from its jungle, hopeless of escape, holding its hunters
temporarily at bay, waiting for death.

The girl's hand ached in his unyielding grasp and after two ineffectual
efforts to free them, a sigh of pain passed her lips and she said
proudly:

"No, sir; my detestation of that form of legalized murder, politely
called 'duelling,' was not taught me at the parsonage. I learned it in
my early childhood, before I ever saw Mr. Hammond; and though I doubt
not he agrees with me in my abhorrence of the custom, I have never
heard him mention the subject."

"Hypocrite! hypocrite! Meek little wolf in lamb's wool! Do you dream
that you can deceive me? Do you think me an idiot, to be cajoled by
your low-spoken denials of a fact which I know? A fact, to the truth of
which I will swear till every star falls!"

"Mr. Murray, I never deceived you, and I know that however incensed you
may be, however harsh and unjust, I know that in your heart you do not
doubt my truthfulness. Why you invariably denounce Mr. Hammond when you
happen to be displeased with me, I can not conjecture; but I tell you
solemnly that he has never even indirectly alluded to the question of
'duelling' since I have known him. Mr. Murray, I know you do entirely
believe me when I utter these words."

A tinge of red leaped into his cheek, something that would have been
called hope in any other man's eyes looked out shyly under his heavy
black lashes, and a tremor shook off the sneering curl of his bloodless
lips.

Drawing her so close to him that his hair touched her forehead, he
whispered:

"If I believe in you, my--it is in defiance of judgment, will, and
experience, and some day you will make me pay a most humiliating
penalty for my momentary weakness. To-night I trust you as implicitly
as Samson did the smooth-lipped Delilah; to-morrow I shall realize
that, like him, I richly deserve to be shorn for my silly credulity."

He threw her hands rudely from him, turned hastily and left the library.

Enda sat down and covered her face with her bruised and benumbed
fingers, but she could not shut out the sight of something that
astonished and frightened her--of something that made her shudder from
head to foot, and crouch down in her chair cowed and humiliated.
Hitherto she had fancied that she thoroughly understood and sternly
governed her heart--that conscience and reason ruled it; but within the
past hour it had suddenly risen in dangerous rebellion, thrown off its
allegiance to all things else, and insolently proclaimed St. Elmo
Murray its king. She could not analyze her new feelings, they would not
obey the summons to the tribunal of her outraged self-respect; and with
bitter shame and reproach and abject contrition, she realized that she
had begun to love the sinful, blasphemous man who had insulted her
revered grandfather, and who barely tolerated her presence in his house.

This danger had never once occurred to her, for she had always believed
that love could only exist where high esteem and unbounded reverence
prepared the soil; and she was well aware that this man's character had
from the first hour of their acquaintance excited her aversion and
dread. Ten days before she had positively disliked and feared him; now,
to her amazement, she found him throned in her heart, defying ejection.
The sudden revulsion bewildered and mortified her, and she resolved to
crush out the feeling at once, cost what it might. When Mr. Murray had
asked if she loved any one else better than Mr. Leigh, she thought, nay
she knew, she answered truly in the negative. But now, when she
attempted to compare the two men, such a strange, yearning tenderness
pleaded for St. Elmo, and palliated his grave faults, that the girl's
self-accusing severity wrung a groan from the very depths of her soul.

When the sad discovery was first made, conscience lifted its hands in
horror, because of the man's reckless wickedness; but after a little
while a still louder clamor was raised by womanly pride, which bled at
the thought of tolerating a love unsought, unvalued; and with this
fierce rush of reinforcements to aid conscience, the insurgent heart
seemed destined to summary subjugation. Until this hour, although
conscious of many faults, she had not supposed that there was anything
especially contemptible in her character; but now the feeling of
self-abasement was unutterably galling. She despised herself most
cordially, and the consistent dignity of life which she had striven to
attain appeared hopelessly shattered.

While the battle of reason versus love was at its height, Mrs. Murray
put her head in the room and asked: "Edna! Where are you, Edna?"

"Here I am."

"Why are you sitting in the dark? I have searched the house for you."
She groped her way across the room, lighted the gas, and came to the
window.

"What is the matter, child? Are you sick?"

"I think something must be the matter, for I do not feel at all like
myself," stammered the orphan, as she hid her face on the window-sill.

"Does your head ache?"

"No, ma'am."

She might have said very truly that her heart did.

"Give me your hand, let me feel your pulse. It is very quick, but shows
nervous excitement rather than fever. Child, let me see your tongue, I
hear there are some typhoid cases in the neighborhood. Why, how hot
your cheeks are!"

"Yes, I shall go up and bathe them, and perhaps I may feel better."

"I wish you would come into the parlor as soon as you can, for Estelle
says Clinton thought you were very rude to him; and though I apologized
on the score of indisposition, I prefer that you should make your
appearance this evening. Stop, you have dropped your handkerchief."

Edna stooped to pick it up, saw Mr. Murray's name printed in one
corner, and her first impulse was to thrust it into her pocket; but
instantly she held it towards his mother.

"It is not mine, but your son's. He was here about an hour ago and must
have dropped it."

"I thought he had gone out over the grounds with Clinton. What brought
him here?"

"He came to scold me for not shaking hands with his cousin."

"Indeed! you must have been singularly rude if he noticed any want of
courtesy. Change your dress and come down."

It was in vain that Edna bathed her hot face and pressed her cold hands
to her cheeks. She felt as if all curious eyes read her troubled heart.
She was ashamed to meet the family--above all things to see Mr. Murray.
Heretofore she had shunned him from dislike; now she wished to avoid
him because she began to feel that she loved him, and because she
dreaded that his inquisitorial eyes would discover the contemptible,
and, in her estimation, unwomanly weakness.

Taking the basket which contained her sewing utensils and a piece of
light needlework, she went into the parlor and seated herself near the
centre-table, over which hung the chandelier.

Mr. Murray and his mother were sitting on a sofa, the former engaged in
cutting the leaves of a new book, and Estelle Harding was describing in
glowing terms a scene in "Phedre," which owed its charm to Rachel's
marvelous acting. As she repeated the soliloquy beginning:

"O toi, qui vois la honte ou je suis descendue, Implacable Venus,
suis--je assez confondue!" Edna felt as if her own great weakness were
known to the world, and she bent her face close to her basket and
tumbled the contents into inextricable confusion.

To-night Estelle seemed in unusually fine spirits, and talked on
rapidly, till St. Elmo suddenly appeared to become aware of the import
of her words, and in a few trenchant sentences he refuted the criticism
on Phedre, advising his cousin to confine her comments to dramas with
which she was better acquainted.

His tone and manner surprised Mr. Allston, who remarked:

"Were I Czar, I would issue a ukase, chaining you to the steepest rock
on the crest of the Ural, till you learned the courtesy due to lady
disputants. Upon my word, St. Elmo, you assault Miss Estelle with as
much elan as if you were carrying a redoubt. One would suppose that you
had been in good society long enough to discover that the fortiter in
re style is not allowable in discussions with ladies."

"When women put on boxing-gloves and show their faces in the ring, they
challenge rough handling, and are rarely disappointed. I am sick of
sciolism, especially that phase where it crops out in shallow
criticism, and every day something recalls the reprimand of Apelles to
the shoemaker. If a worthy and able literary tribunal and critical code
could be established, it would be well to revive an ancient Locrian
custom, which required that the originators of new laws or propositions
should be brought before the assembled wisdom, with halters around
their necks, ready for speedy execution if the innovation proved, on
examination, to be utterly unsound or puerile. Ah! what a wholesale
hanging of socialists would gladden my eyes!"

Mr. Murray bowed to his cousin as he spoke, and rising, took his
favorite position on the rug.

"Really, Aunt Ellen, I would advise you to have him re-christened,
under the name of Timon," said Mr. Allston.

"No, no. I decidedly object to any such gratification of his would-be
classic freaks; and, as he is evidently aping Timon, though,
unfortunately, nature denied him the Attic salt requisite to flavor the
character, I would suggest, as a more suitable sobriquet, that bestowed
on Louis X., 'Le Hutin'--freely translated, The Quarrelsome!' What say
you, St. Elmo?"

Estelle walked up to her cousin and stood at his side.

"That is very bad policy to borrow one's boxing-gloves; and I happened
to overhear Edna Earl when she made that same suggestion to Gordon
Leigh, with reference to my amiable temperament. However, there is a
maxim which will cover your retreat, and which you can conscientiously
utter with much emphasis, if your memory is only good in repeating all
the things you may have heard: Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt!
Shall I translate?"

She laughed lightly and answered:

"So much for eavesdropping! Of all the gentlemen of my acquaintance, I
should fancy you were the very last who could afford to indulge in that
amusement."

"Miss Estelle, is this your first, second or third Punic war? You and
St. Elmo, or rather, my cousin, 'The Quarrelsome,' seem to wage it in
genuine Carthaginian style."

"I never signed a treaty, sir, and, consequently, keep no records."

"Clinton, there is a chronic casus belli between us, the original
spring of which antedates my memory. But at present, Estelle is
directing all her genius and energy to effect, for my individual
benefit, a practical reenactment of the old Papia Poppoea, which
Augustus hurled at the heads of all peaceful, happy bachelordom!"

For the first time during the conversation Edna glanced up at Estelle,
for, much as she disliked her, she regretted this thrust; but her pity
was utterly wasted, and she was surprised to find her countenance calm
and smiling.

Mr. Allston shrugged his shoulders, and Mrs. Murray exclaimed:

"I sound a truce! For heaven's sake, St. Elmo, lock up your learning
with your mummies, and when you will say barbarous things, use language
that will enable us to understand that we are being snubbed. Now, who
do you suppose comprehends 'Papia Poppasa?' You are insufferably
pedantic!"

"My dear mother, do you remember ever to have read or heard the
celebrated reply of a certain urbane lexicographer to the rashly
ambitious individual who attempted to find fault with his dictionary?
Permit me, most respectfully, to offer it for your consideration. 'I am
bound to furnish good definitions, but not brains to comprehend them.'"

"I think, sir, that it is a very great misfortune for those who have to
associate with you now that you were not raised in Sparta, where it was
everybody's privilege to whip their neighbor's vicious, spoiled
children. Such a regimen would doubtless have converted you into an
amiable, or at least endurable member of society."

Miss Harding tapped his hand with her fan.

"That is problematical, my fair cousin, for if my provocative playmate
had accompanied me, I'll be sworn but I think the supply of Spartan
birch would have utterly failed to sweeten my temper. I should have
shared the fate of those unfortunate boys who were whipped to death in
Lacedaemon, in honor of Diana; said whipping-festival (I here remark
parenthetically, for my mother's enjoyment) being known in classic
parlance as Diamastigosis!"

Her mother answered laughingly:

"Estelle is quite right; you contrived to grow up without the necessary
healthful quota of sound whipping which you richly deserved."

Mr. Murray did not seem to hear her words; he was looking down
intently, smiling into his cousin's handsome face, and, passing his arm
around her waist, drew her close to his side. He murmured something
that made her throw her head quickly back against his shoulder and look
up at him.

"If such is the end of all your quarrels, it offers a premium for
unamiability," said Mr. Allston, who had been studying Edna's face, and
now turned again to his cousin. Curling the end of his moustache, he
continued:

"St. Elmo, you have travelled more extensively than any one I know, and
under peculiarly favorable circumstances. Of all the spots you have
visited, which would you pronounce the most desirable for a permanent
residence?"

"Have you an idea of expatriating yourself--of 'quitting your country
for your country's good'?"

"One never knows what contingencies may arise, and I should like to
avail myself of your knowledge; for I feel assured only very charming
places would have detained you long."

"Then, were I at liberty to select a home, tranquil, blessed beyond all
expression, I should certainly lose no time in domesticating myself in
the Peninsula of Mount Athos."

"Ah! yes; the scenery all along that coast is described as surprisingly
beautiful and picturesque."

"Oh, bah! the scenery is quite as grand in fifty other places. Its
peculiar attraction consists in something far more precious."

"To what do you refer?"

"Its marvelous and bewildering charm is to be found entirely in the
fact that, since the days of Constantine, no woman has set foot on its
peaceful soil; and the happy dwellers in that sole remaining earthly
Eden are so vigilant, dreading the entrance of another Eve, that no
female animal is permitted to intrude upon the sacred precincts. The
embargo extends even to cats, cows, dogs, lest the innate female
proclivity to make mischief should be found dangerous in the brute
creation. Constantine lived in the latter part of the third and the
beginning of the fourth century. Think of the divine repose, the
unapproachable beatification of residing in a land where no woman has
even peeped for fifteen hundred years!"

"May all good angels help me to steer as far as possible from such a
nest of cynics! I would sooner confront an army of Amazons headed by
Penthesilea herself, than trust myself among a people unhumanized and
uncivilized by the refining influence and companionship of women! St.
Elmo, you are the most abominable misogamist I ever met, and you
deserve to fall into the clutches of those 'eight mighty daughters of
the plow,' to which Tennyson's Princess consigned the Prince. Most
heartily I pity you!"

"For shame, St. Elmo! A stranger listening to your gallant diatribe
would inevitably conclude that your mother was as unnatural and
unamiable as Lord Byron's; and that I, your most devoted, meek, and
loving cousin, was quite as angelic as Miss Edgeworth's Modern
Griselda!"

Affecting great indignation, Estelle attempted to quit his side; but,
tightening his arm, Mr. Murray bowed and resumed:

"Had your imaginary stranger ever heard of the science of logic, or
even dreamed of Whately or Mill, the conclusion would, as you say, be
inevitable. More fortunate than Rasselas, I found a happy spot where
the names of women are never called, where the myths of Ate and Pandora
are forgotten, and where the only females that have successfully run
the rigid blockade are the tormenting fleas, that wage a ceaseless war
with the unoffending men, and justify their nervous horror lest any
other creature of the same sex should smuggle herself into their
blissful retreat. I have seen crowned heads, statesmen, great military
chieftains, and geniuses, whose names are destined to immortality; but
standing here, reviewing my certainly extended acquaintance, I swear I
envy above all others that handsome monk whom Curzon found at
Simopetra, who had never seen a woman! He was transplanted to the Holy
Mountain while a mere infant, and though assured he had had a mother,
he accepted the statement with the same blind faith, which was required
for some of the religious dogmas he was called on to swallow. I have
frequently wondered whether the ghost of poor Socrates would not be
allowed, in consideration of his past sufferings and trials, to wander
forever in that peaceful realm where even female ghosts are tabooed."

"There is some terrible retribution in store for your libels on our
sex! How I do long to meet some woman brave and wily enough to marry
and tame you, my chivalric cousin! to revenge the insults you have
heaped upon her sisterhood!"

"By fully establishing the correctness of my estimate of their
amiability? That were dire punishment indeed for what you deem my
heresies. If I could realize the possibility of such a calamity, I
should certainly bewail my fate in the mournful words of that most
astute of female wits, who is reported to have exclaimed, in
considering the angelic idiosyncrasies of her gentle sisterhood, 'The
only thought which can reconcile me to being a woman is that I shall
not have to marry one."

The expression with which Mr. Murray regarded Estelle reminded Edna of
the account given by a traveller of the playful mood of a lion, who,
having devoured one gazelle, kept his paw on another, and, amid
occasional growls, teased and toyed with his victim.

As the orphan sat bending over her work listening to the conversation,
she asked herself scornfully:

"What hallucination has seized me? The man is a mocking devil, unworthy
the respect or toleration of any Christian woman. What redeeming trait
can even my partial eyes discover in his distorted, sinful nature? Not
one. No, not one!"

She was rejoiced when he uttered a sarcasm or an opinion that shocked
her, for she hoped that his irony would cauterize what she considered a
cancerous spot in her heart.

"Edna, as you are not well, I advise you to put aside that embroidery,
which must try your eyes very severely," said Mrs. Murray.

So she folded up the piece of cambric and was putting it in her basket,
when Mr. Allston asked, with more effrontery than the orphan was
prepared for:

"Miss Earl, have I not seen you before to-day?"

"Yes, sir."

"May I ask where?"

"In a chestnut grove, where you shot Mr. Dent."

"Indeed! Did you witness that affair? It happened many years ago."

There was not a shadow of pain or sorrow in his countenance or tone,
and, rising, Edna said, with unmistakable emphasis:

"I saw all that occurred, and may God preserve me from ever witnessing
another murder so revolting!"

In the silence that ensued she turned toward Mrs. Murray, bowed, and
said as she quitted the parlor:

"Mrs. Murray, as I am not very well, you will please excuse my retiring
early."

"Just what you deserve for bringing the subject on tapis; I warned you
not to allude to it." As St. Elmo muttered these words, he pushed
Estelle from him, and nodded to Mr. Allston, who seemed as nearly
nonplussed as his habitual impudence rendered possible.

Thoroughly dissatisfied with herself, and too restless to sleep, the
orphan passed the weary hours of the night in endeavoring to complete a
chapter on Buddhism, which she had commenced some days before; and the
birds were chirping their reveille, and the sky blanched and reddened
ere she lay down her pen and locked up her MS. Throwing open the blinds
of the eastern window, she stood for some time looking out, gathering
strength from the holy calm of the dewy morning, resolving to watch her
own heart ceaselessly, to crush promptly the feeling she had found
there, and to devote herself unreservedly to her studies. At that
moment the sound of horse's hoofs on the stony walk attracted her
attention, and she saw Mr. Murray riding from the stables. As he passed
her window, he glanced up, their eyes met, and he lifted his hat and
rode on. Were those the same sinister, sneering features she had looked
at the evening before? His face was paler, sterner, and sadder than she
had ever seen it, and, covering her own with her hands, she murmured:

"God help me to resist that man's wicked magnetism! Oh, Grandpa! are
you looking down on your poor little Pearl? Will you forgive me for
allowing myself ever to have thought kindly and tenderly of this
strange temptation which Satan has sent to draw my heart away from my
God and my duty? Ah, Grandpa! I will crush it--I will conquer it! I
will not yield!"



CHAPTER XVII.


Avoiding as much as possible the society of Mrs. Murray's guests, as
well as that of her son, Edna turned to her books with increased energy
and steadfastness, while her manner was marked by a studied reticence
hitherto unnoticed. The house was thronged with visitors, and families
residing in the neighborhood were frequently invited to dinner; but the
orphan generally contrived on these occasions to have an engagement at
the parsonage; and as Mrs. Murray no longer required, or seemed to
desire her presence, she spent much of her time alone, and rarely saw
the members of the household, except at breakfast. She noticed that Mr.
Allston either felt or feigned unbounded admiration for Estelle, who
graciously received his devoted attentions; while Mr. Murray now and
then sneered openly at both, and appeared daily more impatient to quit
the home, of which he spoke with undisguised disgust. As day after day
and week after week slipped by without bringing tidings of Edna's MS.,
her heart became oppressed with anxious forebodings, and she found it
difficult to wait patiently for the verdict upon which hung all her
hopes.

One Thursday afternoon, when a number of persons had been invited to
dine at Le Bocage, and Mrs. Murray was engrossed by preparations for
their entertainment, Edna took her Greek books and stole away
unobserved to the parsonage, where she spent a quiet evening in reading
aloud from the Organon of Aristotle.

It was quite late when Mr. Hammond took her home in his buggy, and bade
her good-night at the doorstep. As she entered the house she saw
several couples promenading on the veranda, and heard Estelle and
Clinton Allston singing a duet from "Il Trovatore." Passing the parlor
door, one quick glance showed her Mr. Murray and Mr. Leigh standing
together under the chandelier--the latter gentleman talking earnestly,
the former with his gaze fastened on the carpet, and a chilling smile
fixed on his lip. The faces of the two presented a painful
contrast--one fair, hopeful, bright with noble aims, and youthful yet
manly beauty; the other swarthy, cold, repulsive as some bronze image
of Abaddon. For more than three weeks Edna had not spoken to Mr.
Murray, except to say "good-morning," as she entered the dining-room or
passed him in the hall; and now, with a sigh which she did not possess
the courage to analyze, she went up to her room and sat down to read.

Among the books on her desk was Machiavelli's Prince and History of
Florence, and the copy, which was an exceedingly handsome one,
contained a portrait of the author. Between the regular features of the
Florentine satirist and those of the master of the house, Edna had so
frequently found a startling resemblance, that she one day mentioned
the subject to Mrs. Murray, who, after a careful examination of the
picture, was forced to admit, rather ungraciously, that, "they
certainly looked somewhat alike." To-night, as the orphan lifted the
volume from its resting-place, it opened at the portrait, and she
looked long at the handsome face which, had the lips been thinner, and
the hair thicker and more curling at the temples, might have been
daguerreotyped from that one downstairs under the chandelier.

One maxim of the Prince had certainly been adopted by Mr. Murray, "It
is safer to be feared than to be loved"; and, while the orphan detested
the crafty and unscrupulous policy of Niccolo Machiavelli, her reason
told her that the character of St. Elmo Murray was scarcely more worthy
of respect.

She heard the guests take their departure, heard Mrs. Murray ask Hagar
whether "Edna had returned from the parsonage," and then doors were
closed and the house grew silent.

Vain were the girl's efforts to concentrate her thoughts on her books
or upon her MS., they wandered toward the portrait; and, finally
remembering that she needed a book of reference, she lighted a candle,
took the copy of Machiavelli, which she determined to put out of sight,
and went down to the library. The smell of a cigar aroused her
suspicions as she entered, and, glancing nervously around the room, she
saw Mr. Murray seated before the window.

His face was turned from her, and, hoping to escape unnoticed, she was
retracing her steps when he rose.

"Come in, Edna. I am waiting for you, for I knew you would be here some
time before day."

Taking the candle from her hand, he held it close to her face, and
compressed his lips tightly for an instant.

"How long do you suppose your constitution will endure the tax you
impose upon it? Midnight toil has already robbed you of your color, and
converted a rosy, robust child into a pale, weary, hollow-eyed woman.
What do you want here?"

"The Edda."

"What business have you with Norse myths, with runes and scalds and
sagas? You can't have the book. I carried it to my room yesterday, and
I am in no mood to-night to play errand-boy for any one."

Edna turned to place the copy of Machiavelli on the shelves, and he
continued:

"It is a marvel that the index expurgatorius of your saintly tutor does
not taboo the infamous doctrines of the greatest statesman of Italy. I
am told that you do me the honor to discover a marked likeness between
his countenance and mine. May I flatter myself so highly as to believe
the statement?"

"Even your mother admits the resemblance."

"Think you the analogy extends further than the mere physique, or do
you trace it only in the corporeal development?"

"I believe, sir, that your character is as much a counterpart of his as
your features; that your code is quite as lax as his."

She had abstained from looking at him, but now her eyes met his
fearlessly, and in their beautiful depths he read an expression of
helpless repulsion, such as a bird might evince for the serpent whose
glittering eyes enchained it.

"Ah! at least your honesty is refreshing in these accursed days of
hypocritical sycophancy! I wonder how much more training it will
require before your lips learn fashionable lying tricks? But you
understand me as little as the world understood poor Machiavelli, of
whom Burke justly remarked, 'He is obliged to bear the iniquities of
those whose maxims and rules of government he published. His
speculation is more abhorred than their practice.' We are both painted
blacker than--"

"I came here, sir, to discuss neither his character nor yours. It is a
topic for which I have as little leisure as inclination. Good-night,
Mr. Murray."

He bowed low, and spoke through set teeth:

"I regret the necessity of detaining you a moment longer, but I believe
you have been anxiously expecting a letter for some time, as I hear
that you every day anticipate my inquiries at the post-office. This
afternoon the express agent gave me this package."

He handed her a parcel and smiled as he watched the startled look, the
expression of dismay, of keen disappointment that came into her face.

The frail bark had struck the reefs; she felt that her hopes were going
down to ruin, and her lips quivered with pain as she recognized Mr.
Manning's bold chirography on the paper wrapping.

"What is the matter, child?"

"Something that concerns only myself."

"Are you unwilling to trust me with your secret, whatever it may be? I
would sooner find betrayal from the grinning skeletons in monastic
crypts than from my lips."

Smothering a sigh, she shook her head impatiently.

"That means that red-hot steel could not pinch it out of you; and that,
despite your boasted charity and love of humanity, you really entertain
as little confidence in your race as it is my pleasure to indulge. I
applaud your wisdom, but certainly did not credit you with so much
craftiness. My reason for not delivering the parcel more promptly was
simply the wish to screen you from the Argus scrutiny with which we are
both favored by some now resident at Bocage. As your letters subjected
you to suspicion, I presumed it would be more agreeable to you to
receive them without witnesses."

He took a letter from his pocket and gave it to her.

"Thank you, Mr. Murray; you are very kind."

"Pardon me! that is indeed a novel accusation! Kind, I never professed
to be. I am simply not quite a brute, nor altogether a devil of the
most malicious and vindictive variety, as you doubtless consider it
your religious duty to believe. However, having hopelessly lost my
character, I shall not trespass on your precious time by wasting words
in pronouncing a eulogy upon it, as Antony did over the stabbed corpse
of Caesar! I stand in much the same relation to society that King John
did to Christendom, when Innocent III. excommunicated him; only I snap
my fingers in the face of my pontiff, the world, and jingle my
Peter-pence in my pocket; whereas poor John's knees quaked until he
found himself at the feet of Innocent, meekly receiving Langton, and
paying tribute! Child, you are in trouble; and your truthful
countenance reveals it as unmistakably as did the Phrygian reeds that
babbled of the personal beauties of Midas. Of course, it does not
concern me--it is not my business--and you certainly have as good a
right as any other child of Adam, to fret and cry and pout over your
girlish griefs, to sit up all night, ruin your eyes, and grow rapidly
and prematurely old and ugly. But whenever I chance to stumble over a
wounded creature trying to drag itself out of sight, I generally either
wring its neck, or set my heel on it, to end its torment; or else, if
there is a fair prospect of the injury healing by 'first intention,' I
take it gently on the tip of my boot, and help it out of my way.
Something has hurt you, and I suspect I can aid you. Your anxiety about
those letters proves that you doubt your idol. You and your lover have
quarreled? Be frank with me; tell me his name, and I swear upon the
honor of a gentleman I will rectify the trouble--will bring him in
contrition to your feet."

Whether he dealt in irony, as was his habit, or really meant what he
said, she was unable to determine; and her quick glance at his
countenance showed her only a dangerous sparkle in his eyes.

"Mr. Murray, you are wrong in your conjecture; I have no lover."

"Oh, call him what you please! I shall not presume to dictate your
terms of endearment. I merely wish to say that if poverty stands
forbiddingly between you and happiness, why, command me to the extent
of half my fortune, I will give you a dowry that shall equal the
expectations of any ambitious suitor in the land. Trust me, child, with
your sorrow and I will prove a faithful friend. Who has your heart?"

The unexpected question alarmed and astonished her, and a shivering
dread took possession of her that he suspected her real feelings, and
was laughing at her folly. Treacherous blood began to paint confusion
in her face, and vehement and rapid were her words.

"God and my conscience own my heart. I know no man to whom I would
willingly give it; and the correspondence to which you allude contains
not a syllable of love. My time is rather too valuable to be frittered
away in such trifling."

"Edna, would you prefer to have me a sworn ally or an avowed enemy?"

"I should certainly prefer to consider you as neither."

"Did you ever know me fail in any matter which I had determined to
accomplish?"

"Yes, sir; your entire life is a huge, hideous, woeful failure, which
mocks and maddens you."

"What the d--l do you know of my life? It is not ended yet, and it
remains to be seen whether a grand success is not destined to crown it.
Mark you! the grapple is not quite over, and I may yet throttle the
furies whose cursed fingers clutched me in my boyhood. If I am
conquered finally, take my oath for it, I shall die so hard that the
howling hags will be welcome to their prey. Single-handed, I am
fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil, and I want neither
inspection, nor sympathy, nor assistance. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, sir. And as I certainly desire to thrust neither upon you, I will
bid you good-night."

"One moment! What does that package contain?"

"The contents belong exclusively to me--could not possibly interest
you--would only challenge your sarcasm, and furnish food for derision.
Consequently, Mr. Murray, you must excuse me if I decline your
question."

"I'll wager my title to Le Bocage that I can guess so accurately that
you will regret that you did not make a grace of necessity and tell me."

A vague terror overshadowed her features as she examined the seals on
the package, and replied:

"That, sir, is impossible, if you are the honorable gentleman I have
always tried to force myself to believe."

"Silly child! Do you imagine I would condescend to soil my fingers with
the wax that secures that trash? That I could stoop to an inspection of
the correspondence of a village blacksmith's granddaughter? I will give
you one more chance to close the breach between us by proving your
trust. Edna, have you no confidence in me?"

"None, Mr. Murray."

"Will you oblige me by looking me full in the face, and repeating your
flattering words?"

She raised her head, and though her heart throbbed fiercely as she met
his eyes, her voice was cold, steady and resolute.

"None, Mr. Murray."

"Thank you. Some day those same red lips will humbly, tremblingly crave
my pardon for what they utter now; and then, Edna Earl, I shall take my
revenge, and you will look back to this night and realize the full
force of my parting words--voe victis!"

He stooped and picked up a bow of rose-colored ribbon which had fallen
from her throat, handed it to her, smiled, and, with one of those low,
graceful, haughty bows so indicative of his imperious nature, he left
the library. A moment after, she heard his peculiar laugh, mirthless
and bitter, ring through the rotunda; then the door was slammed
violently, and quiet reigned once more through the mansion.

Taking the candle from the table, where Mr. Murray had placed it, Edna
went back to her own room and sat down before the window.

On her lap lay the package and letter, which she no longer felt any
desire to open, and her hands drooped listlessly at her side. The fact
that her MS. was returned rung a knell for all her sanguine hopes, for
such was her confidence in the critical acumen of Mr. Manning that she
deemed it utterly useless to appeal to any other tribunal. A higher one
she knew not; a lower she scorned to consult.

She felt like Alice Lisle on that day of doom, when Jeffreys pronounced
the fatal sentence; and, after a time, when she summoned courage to
open the letter, her cheeks were wan and her lips compressed so firmly
that their curves of beauty were no longer traceable.

"MISS EARL: I return your MS., not because it is devoid of merit, but
from the conviction that were I to accept it, the day would inevitably
come when you would regret its premature publication. While it contains
irrefragable evidence of extraordinary ability, and abounds in
descriptions of great beauty, your style is characterized by more
strength than polish, and is marred by crudities which a dainty public
would never tolerate. The subject you have undertaken is beyond your
capacity--no woman could successfully handle it--and the sooner you
realize your overestimate of your powers, the sooner your aspirations
find their proper level, the sooner you will succeed in your treatment
of some theme better suited to your feminine ability. Burn the enclosed
MS., the erudition and archaisms of which would fatally nauseate the
intellectual dyspeptics who read my 'Maga,' and write sketches of home
life-descriptions of places and things that you understand better than
recondite analogies of ethical creeds and mythologic systems, or the
subtle lore of Coptic priests. Remember that women never write
histories or epics; never compose oratorios that go sounding down the
centuries; never paint 'Last Suppers' and 'Judgment Days'; though now
and then one gives the world a pretty ballad that sounds sweet and
soothing when sung over a cradle, or another paints a pleasant little
genre sketch which will hang appropriately in some quiet corner and
rest and refresh eyes that are weary with gazing at the sublime
spiritualism of Fra Bartolomeo, or the gloomy grandeur of Salvator
Rosa. If you have any short articles that you desire to see in print,
you may forward them, and I will select any for publication, which I
think you will not blush to acknowledge in future years.

"Very respectfully,

"Your obedient servant,

"DOUGLASS G. MANNING."

Unwrapping the MS., she laid it with its death-warrant in a drawer,
then sat down, crossed her arms on the top of her desk, and rested her
head upon them. The face was not concealed, and, as the light shone on
it, an experienced physiogomist would have read there profound
disappointment, a patient weariness, but unbending, resolution and no
vestige of bitterness. The large, thoughtful eyes were sad but dry, and
none who looked into them could have imagined for an instant that she
would follow the advice she had so eagerly sought. During her long
reverie, she wondered whether all women were browbeaten for aspiring to
literary honors; whether the poignant pain and mortification gnawing at
her heart was the inexorable initiation-fee for entrance upon the arena
where fame adjudges laurel crowns, and reluctantly and sullenly drops
one now and then on female brows. To possess herself of the golden
apple of immortality was a purpose from which she had never swerved;
but how to baffle the dragon critics who jealously guarded it was a
problem whose solution puzzled her.

To abandon her right to erudition formed no part of the programme which
she was mentally arranging as she sat there watching a moth singe its
filmy, spotted wings in the gas-flame; for she was obstinately wedded
to the unpardonable heresy that, in the nineteenth century, it was a
woman's privilege to be as learned as Cuvier, or Sir William Hamilton,
or Humboldt, provided the learning was accurate, and gave out no
hollow, counterfeit ring under the merciless hammering of the dragons.
If women chose to blister their fair, tender hands in turning the
windlass of that fabled well where truth is hidden, and bruised their
pretty, white feet in groping finally on the rocky bottom, was the
treasure which they ultimately discovered and dragged to light any the
less truth because stentorian, manly voices were not the first to shout
Eureka?

She could not understand why, in the vineyard of letters, the laborer
was not equally worthy of hire, whether the work was successfully
accomplished in the toga virilis or the gay kirtle of contadina.

Gradually the expression of pain passed from the girl's countenance,
and, lifting her head, she took from her desk several small MSS., that
she had carefully written from time to time, as her reading suggested
the ideas embodied in the articles. Among the number were two, upon
which she had bestowed much thought, which she determined to send to
Mr. Manning.

One was an elaborate description of that huge iconoclasm attributed to
Alcibiades, and considered by some philosophic students of history the
chief cause of the ruin of Athens. In order to reflect all possible
light on this curious occurrence, she had most assiduously gleaned the
pages of history, and massed the grains of truth; had studied maps of
the city and descriptions of travellers, that she might thoroughly
understand the topography of the scene of the great desecration. So
fearful was she of committing some anachronism, or of soaring on the
wings of fancy beyond the realm of well-authenticated facts, that she
searched the ancient records to ascertain whether on that night in May,
415 B. c., a full or a new moon looked down on the bronze helmet of
Minerva Promachus and the fretted frieze of the Parthenon.

The other MS., upon which she had expended much labor, was entitled
"Keeping the Vigil of St. Martin Under the Pines of Grutli"; and while
her vivid imagination revelled in the weird and solemn surroundings of
the lonely place of rendezvous, the sketch contained a glowing and
eloquent tribute to the liberators of Helvetia, the Confederates of
Schweitz, Uri, and Underwalden.

Whether Mr. Manning would consider either of these articles worthy of
preservation in the pages of his magazine, she thought exceedingly
doubtful; but she had resolved to make one more appeal to his
fastidious judgment, and accordingly sealed and directed the roll of
paper.

Weary but sleepless, she pushed back the heavy folds of hair that had
fallen on her forehead, brightened the gaslight, and turned to the
completion of a chapter in that MS. which the editor had recommended
her to commit to the flames. So entirely was she absorbed in her work
that the hours passed unheeded. Now and then, when her thoughts failed
to flow smoothly into graceful sentence moulds, she laid aside her pen,
walked up and down the floor, turning the idea over and over, fitting
it first to one phrase, then to another, until the verbal drapery fully
suited her.

The whistle of the locomotive at the station told her that it was four
o'clock before her task was accomplished; and, praying that God's
blessing would rest upon it, she left it unfinished, and threw herself
down to sleep.

But slumber brought no relaxation to the busy brain that toiled on in
fitful, grotesque dreams; and when sunshine streamed through the open
window at the foot of her bed, it showed no warm flush of healthful
sleep on the beautiful face, but weariness and pallor. Incoherent words
stirred the lips, troubled thought knitted the delicately arched brows,
and the white, dimpled arms were tossed restlessly above her head.

Was the tired midnight worker worthy of her hire? The world would one
day pay her wages in the currency of gibes, and denunciation, and
envious censoriousness; but the praise of men had not tempted her to
the vineyard, and she looked in faith to Him "who seeth in secret," and
whose rewards are at variance with those of the taskmasters of earth.
"Wherefore," O lonely but conscientious student! "be ye steadfast,
unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye
know that your labor is not in vain."

Literary women, whose avocation is selected simply because they fancy,
it easier to write than to sew for bread, or because they covet the
applause and adulation heaped upon successful genius, or desire mere
notoriety, generally barter their birthright of quiet, life-long
happiness in the peaceful seclusion of home for a nauseous mess of
poisoned pottage that will not appease their hunger; and they go down
to untimely graves disappointed, embittered, hating the public for
whose praises they toiled, cheated out of the price for which they
bargained away fireside joys and domestic serenity.

The fondest hope of Edna's heart was to be useful in "her day and
generation"--to be an instrument of some good to her race; and while
she hoped for popularity as an avenue to the accomplishment of her
object, the fear of ridicule and censure had no power to deter her from
the line of labor upon which she constantly invoked the guidance and
blessing of God.

The noble words of Kepler rang a ceaseless silvery chime in her soul,
and while they sustained and strengthened her, she sought to mould her
life in harmony with their sublime teachings:

"Lo! I have done the work of my life with that power of intellect which
thou hast given. If I, a worm before Thine eyes, and born in the bonds
of sin, have brought forth anything that is unworthy of Thy counsels,
inspire me with Thy spirit, that I may correct it. If by the wonderful
beauty of Thy works I have been led into boldness--if I have sought my
own honor among men as I advanced in the work which was destined to
Thine honor, pardon me in kindness and charity, and by Thy grace grant
that my teaching may be to Thy glory and the welfare of all men. Praise
ye the Lord, ye heavenly harmonies! and ye that understand the new
harmonies, praise ye the Lord!"



CHAPTER XVIII.


"Mr. Hammond, are you ill? What can be the matter?"

Edna threw down her books and put her hand on the old man's shoulder.
His face was concealed in his arms, and his half-stifled groan told
that some fierce trial had over-taken him.

"Oh, child! I am troubled, perplexed, and my heart is heavy with a
sorrow which I thought I had crushed."

He raised his head for a moment, looked sadly into the girl's face, and
dropped his furrowed cheek on his hand.

"Has anything happened since I saw you yesterday?"

"Yes, I have been surprised by the arrival of some of my relatives,
whose presence in my house revives very painful associations connected
with earlier years. My niece, Mrs. Powell, and her daughter Gertrude,
came very unexpectedly last night to make me a visit of some length;
and to you, my child, I can frankly say the surprise is a painful one.
Many years have elapsed since I received any tidings of Agnes Powell,
and I knew not, until she suddenly appeared before me last night, that
she was a widow, and bereft of a handsome fortune. She claims a
temporary home under my roof; and, though she has caused me much
suffering, I feel that I must endeavor to be patient and kind to her
and her child. I have endured many trials, but this is one of the
severest I have yet been called to pass through."

Distressed by the look of anguish on his pale face, Edna took his hand
between both hers, and stroking it caressingly, said:

"My dear sir, if it is your duty, God will strengthen and sustain you.
Cheer up; I can't bear to see you looking so troubled. A cloud on your
face, my dear Mr. Hammond, is to me like an eclipse of the sun. Pray do
not keep me in shadow."

"If I could know that no mischief would result from Agnes's presence, I
would not regard it so earnestly. I do not wish to be uncharitable or
suspicious; but I fear that her motives are not such as I could--"

"May I intrude, Uncle Allan?"

The stranger's voice was very sweet and winning, and as she entered the
room Edna could scarcely repress an exclamation of admiration; for the
world sees but rarely such perfect beauty as was the portion of Agnes
Powell.

She was one of those few women who seem the pets of time, whose form
and features catch some new grace and charm from every passing year;
and but for the tall, lovely girl who clung to her hand and called her
"mother," a stranger would have believed her only twenty-six or eight.

Fair, rosy, with a complexion fresh as a child's, and a face faultless
in contour, as that of a Greek goddess, it was impossible to resist the
fascination which she exerted over all who looked upon her. Her waving
yellow hair flashed in the morning sunshine, and as she raised one hand
to shade her large, clear, blue eyes, her open sleeve fell back,
disclosing an arm dazzlingly white and exquisitely moulded. As Mr.
Hammond introduced his pupil to his guests, Mrs. Powell smiled
pleasantly, and pressed the offered hand; but the eyes, blue and cold
as the stalactites of Capri, scanned the orphan's countenance, and when
Edna had seen fully into their depths, she could not avoid recalling
Heine's poem of Loreley.

"My daughter Gertrude promises herself much pleasure in your society,
Miss Earl; for uncle's praises prepare her to expect a most charming
companion. She is about your age, but I fear you will find great
disparity in her attainments, as she has not been so fortunate as to
receive her education from Uncle Allan. You are, I believe, an adopted
daughter of Mrs. Murray?"

"No, madam; only a resident in her house until my education is
pronounced sufficiently advanced to justify my teaching."

"I have a friend, Miss Harding, who has recently removed to Le Bocage,
and intends making it her home. How is she?"

"Quite well, I believe."

Mr. Hammond left the study for a moment, and Mrs. Powell added:

"Her friends at the North tell me that she is to marry her cousin, Mr.
Murray, very soon."

"I had not heard the report."

"Then you think there are no grounds for the rumor?"

"Indeed, madam, I know nothing whatever concerning the matter."

"Estelle is handsome and brilliant."

Edna made no reply; and, after waiting a few seconds, Mrs. Powell asked:

"Does Mr. Murray go much into society now?"

"I believe not."

"Is he as handsome as ever?"

"I do not know when you saw him last, but the ladies here seem rather
to dread than admire him. Mrs. Powell, you are dipping your sleeve in
your uncle's inkstand."

She by no means relished this catechism, and resolved to end it.
Picking up her books, she said to Mr. Hammond, who now stood in the
door:

"I presume I need not wait, as you will be too much occupied to-day to
attend to my lessons."

"Yes; I must give you holiday until Monday."

"Miss Earl, may I trouble you to hand this letter to Miss Harding? It
was entrusted to my care by one of her friends in New York. Pray be so
good as to deliver it, with my kindest regards."

As Edna left the house, the pastor took his hat from the rack in the
hall, and walked silently beside her until she reached the gate.

"Mr. Hammond, your niece is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen."

He sighed heavily, and answered, hesitatingly:

"Yes, yes. She is more beautiful now than when she first grew up."

"How long has she been a widow?"

"Not quite a year."

The troubled expression settled once more over his placid face, and
when Edna bade him good-morning, and had walked some distance, she
happened to look back, and saw him still leaning on the little gate
under the drooping honeysuckle tendrils, with his gray head bent down
on his hand. That Mrs. Powell was in some way connected with Mr.
Murray's estrangement from the minister Edna felt sure, and the
curiosity which the inquiries of the former had betrayed, told her that
she must be guarded in her intercourse with a woman who was an object
of distrust even to her own uncle.

Very often she had been tempted to ask Mr. Hammond why Mr. Murray so
sedulously shunned him; but the shadow which fell upon his countenance
whenever St. Elmo's name was accidentally mentioned, made her shrink
from alluding to the subject which he evidently avoided discussing.

Before she had walked beyond the outskirts of the village, Mr. Leigh
joined her and she felt the color rise in her cheeks as his fine eyes
rested on her face, and his hand pressed hers. "You must forgive me for
telling you how bitterly I was disappointed in not seeing you two days
ago. Why did you absent yourself from the table?"

"Because I had no desire to meet Mrs. Murray's guests, and preferred to
spend my time with Mr. Hammond."

"If he were not old enough to be your grandfather, I believe I should
be jealous of him. Edna, do not be offended, I am so anxious about
you--so pained at the change in your appearance. Last Sunday as you sat
in church I noticed how very pale and worn you looked, and with what
weariness you leaned your head upon your hand. Mrs. Murray says you are
very well, but I know better. You are either sick in body or mind;
which is it?"

"Neither, Mr. Leigh. I am quite well, I assure you."

"You are grieved about something, which you are unwilling to confide to
me. Edna, it is keen pain that sometimes brings that quiver to your
lips, and if you would only tell me! Edna, I know that I--"

"You conjure up a spectre. I have nothing to confide, and there is no
trouble which you can relieve."

They walked on silently for a while, and then Gordon said:

"I am going away day after to-morrow, to be absent at least for several
months, and I have come to ask a favor which you are too generous to
deny. I want your ambrotype or photograph, and I hope you will give it
to me without hesitation."

"I have never had a likeness of any kind taken."

"There is a good artist here; will you not go to-day and have one taken
for me?"

"No, Mr. Leigh."

"Oh, Edna! Why not?"

"Because I do not wish you to think of remembering me. The sooner you
forget me entirely, save as a mere friend, the happier we both shall
be."

"But that is impossible. If you withhold your picture it will do no
good, for I have your face here in my heart, and you cannot take that
image from me."

"At least I will not encourage feelings which can bring only pain to me
and disappointment to yourself. I consider it unprincipled and
contemptible in a woman to foster or promote in any degree an affection
which she knows she can never reciprocate. If I had fifty photographs I
would not give you one. My dear friend, let the past be forgotten; it
saddens me whenever I think of it, and is a barrier to all pleasant,
friendly intercourse. Good-bye, Mr. Leigh. You have my best wishes on
your journey."

"Will you not allow me to see you home?"

"I think it is best--I prefer that you should not. Mr. Leigh, promise
me that you will struggle against this feeling which distresses me
beyond expression."

She turned and put out her hand. He shook his head mournfully, and said
as he left her:

"God bless you! It will be a dreary, dreary season with me till I
return and see your face again. God preserve you till then!"

Walking rapidly homeward, Edna wondered why she could not return Gordon
Leigh's affection--why his noble face never haunted her dreams instead
of another's--of which she dreaded to think.

Looking rigorously into the past few weeks, she felt that long before
she was aware of the fact, an image to which she refused homage must
have stood between her heart and Gordon's.

When she reached home she inquired for Miss Harding, and was informed
that she and Mrs. Murray had gone visiting with Mr. Allston; had taken
lunch, and would not return until late in the afternoon. Hagar told her
that Mr. Murray had started at daylight to one of his plantations about
twelve miles distant, and would not be back in time for dinner; and,
rejoiced at the prospect of a quiet day, she determined to complete the
chapter which she had left unfinished two night previous.

Needing a reference in the book which Mr. Murray had taken from the
library, she went up to copy it; and as she sat down and opened the
volume to find the passage she required, a letter slipped out and fell
at her feet. She glanced at the envelope as she picked it up, and her
heart bounded painfully as she saw Mr. Murray's name written in Mr.
Manning's peculiar and unmistakable chirography.

The postmark and date corresponded exactly with the one that she had
received the night Mr. Murray gave her the roll of MS., and the
strongest temptation of her life here assailed her. She would almost
have given her right hand to know the contents of that letter, and Mr.
Murray's confident assertion concerning the package was now fully
explained. He had recognized the handwriting on her letters, and
suspected her ambitious scheme. He was not a stranger to Mr. Manning,
and must have known the nature of their correspondence; consequently
his taunt about a lover was entirely ironical.

She turned the unsealed envelope over and over longing to know what it
contained.

The house was deserted--there was, she knew, no human being nearer than
the kitchen, and no eye but God's upon her. She looked once more at the
superscription of the letter, sighed, and put it back into the book
without opening the envelope.

She copied into her note-book the reference she was seeking, and
replacing the volume on the window-sill where she had found it, went
back to her own room and tried to banish the subject of the letter from
her mind.

After all, it was not probable that Mr. Murray had ever mentioned her
name to his correspondent; and as she had not alluded to Le Bocage or
its inmates in writing to Mr. Manning, St. Elmo's hints concerning her
MS. were merely based on conjecture. She felt as if she would rather
face any other disaster sooner than have him scoffing at her daring
project; and more annoyed and puzzled than she chose to confess, she
resolutely bent her thoughts upon her work.

It was almost dusk before Mrs. Murray and her guests returned; and when
it grew so dark that Edna could not see the lines of her paper, she
smoothed her hair, changed her dress, and went down to the parlor.

Mrs. Murray was resting in a corner of the sofa, fanning herself
vigorously, and Mr. Allston smoked on the veranda, and talked to her
through the open window.

"Well, Edna, where have you been all day?"

"With my books."

"I am tired almost to death! This country visiting is an intolerable
bore! I am worn out with small talk and back-biting. Society nowadays
is composed of cannibals--infinitely more to be dreaded than the
Fijians--who only devour the body and leave the character of an
individual intact. Child, let us have some music by way of variety.
Play that symphony of Beethoven that I heard you practicing last week."

She laid her head on the arm of the sofa, and shut her eyes, and Edna
opened the piano and played the piece designated.

The delicacy of her touch enabled her to render it with peculiar pathos
and power; and she played on and on, unmindful of Miss Harding's
entrance--oblivious of everything but the sublime strains of the great
master.

The light streamed over her face, and showed a gladness, an exaltation
of expression there, as if her soul had broken from its earthly
moorings, and was making its way joyfully into the infinite sea of
eternal love and blessedness.

At last her fingers fell from the keys, and as she rose she saw Mr.
Murray standing outside of the parlor door, with his fingers shading
his eyes.

He came in soon after, and his mother held out her hand, saying:

"Here is a seat, my son. Have you just returned?"

"No, I have been here some time."

"How are affairs at the plantation?"

"I really have no idea."

"Why? I thought you went there to-day."

"I started; but found my horse so lame that I went no further than
town."

"Indeed! Hagar told me you had not returned, when I came in from
visiting."

"Like some other people of my acquaintance, Hagar reckons without her
host. I have been at home ever since twelve o'clock, and saw the
carriage as you drove off."

"And pray how have you employed yourself, you incorrigible ignis
fatuus? O my cousin! you are well named. Aunt Ellen must have had an
intuitive insight into your character when she had you christened St.
Elmo; only she should have added the 'Fire--' How have you spent the
day, sir?"

"Most serenely and charmingly, my fair cousin, in the solitude of my
den. If my mother could give me satisfactory security that all my days
would prove as quiet and happy as this has been, I would enter into
bonds never to quit the confines of Le Bocage again. Ah! the
indescribable relief of feeling that nothing was expected of me; that
the galling gyves of hospitality and etiquette were snapped, and that I
was entirely free from all danger of intrusion. This day shall be
marked with a white stone; for I entered my rooms at twelve o'clock,
and remained there in uninterrupted peace till five minutes ago; when I
put on my social shackles once more, and hobbled down to entertain my
fair guest."

Edna was arranging some sheets of music that were scattered on the
piano; but as he mentioned the hour of his return, she remembered that
the clock struck one just as she went into the sitting-room where he
kept his books and cabinets; and she knew now that he was at that very
time in the inner room, beyond the arch. She put her hand to her
forehead, and endeavored to recollect the appearance of the apartment.
The silk curtains, she was sure, were hanging over the arch; for she
remembered distinctly having noticed a large and very beautiful golden
butterfly which had fluttered in from the terrace, and was flitting
over the glowing folds that fell from the carved intrados to the marble
floor. But though screened from her view, he must have heard and seen
her, as she sat before his book-case, turning his letter curiously
between her fingers.

She dared not look up, and bent down to examine the music, so absorbed
in her own emotions of chagrin and astonishment, that she heard not one
word of what Miss Harding was saying. She felt well assured that if Mr.
Murray were cognizant of her visit to the "Egyptian museum," he
intended her to know it, and she knew that his countenance would solve
her painful doubt.

Gathering up her courage, she raised her eyes quickly in the direction
of the sofa, where he had thrown himself, and met just what she most
dreaded, his keen gaze riveted on her face. Evidently he had been
waiting for this eager, startling, questioning glance; for instantly he
smiled, inclined his head slightly, and arched his eyebrows, as if much
amused. Never before had she seen his face so bright and happy, so free
from bitterness. If he had said, "Yes, I saw you: are you not
thoroughly discomfited, and ashamed of your idle curiosity? What
interest can you possibly have in carefully studying the outside of my
letters? How do you propose to mend matters?"--he could not have more
fully conveyed his meaning. Edna's face crimsoned, and she put up her
hand to shield it; but Mr. Murray turned toward the window, and coolly
discussed the merits of a popular race-horse, upon which Clinton
Allston lavished extravagant praise.

Estelle leaned against the window, listening to the controversy, and
after a time, when the subject seemed very effectually settled by an
oath from the master of the house, Edna availed herself of the lull in
the conversation to deliver the letter.

"Miss Harding, I was requested to hand you this."

Estelle broke the seal, glanced rapidly over the letter and exclaimed:

"Is it possible? Can she be here? Who gave you this letter?"

"Mrs. Powell, Mr. Hammond's niece."

"Agnes Powell?"

"Yes. Agnes Powell."

During the next three minutes one might have distinctly heard a pin
fall, for the ticking of two watches was very audible.

Estelle glanced first at her cousin, then at her aunt, then back at her
cousin. Mrs. Murray involuntarily laid her hand on her son's knee, and
watched his face with an expression of breathless anxiety; and Edna saw
that, though his lips blanched, not a muscle moved, not a nerve
twitched; and only the deadly hate, that appeared to leap into his
large shadowy eyes, told that the name stirred some bitter memory.

The silence was growing intolerable when Mr. Murray turned his gaze
full on Estelle, and said in his usual sarcastic tone:

"Have you seen a ghost? Your letter must contain tidings of Victor's
untimely demise; for, if there is such a thing as retribution, such a
personage as Nemesis, I swear that poor devil of a Count has crept into
her garments and come to haunt you. Did he cut his white womanish
throat with a penknife, or smother himself with charcoal fumes, or
light a poisoned candle and let his poor homoeopathic soul drift out
dreamily into eternity? If so, Gabriel will require a powerful
microscope to find him. Notwithstanding the fact that you destined him
for my cousin, the little curly creature always impressed me as being a
stray specimen of an otherwise extinct type of intellectual
Lacrymatoria. Is he really dead? Peace to his infusorial soul! Who had
the courage to write and break the melancholy tidings to you? Or
perhaps, after all, it is only the ghost of your own conscience that
has brought that scared look into your face."

She laughed and shrugged her shoulders.

"How insanely jealous you are of Victor! He's neither dead nor dreaming
of suicide, but enjoying himself vastly in Baden-Baden. Edna, did Mrs.
Powell bring Gertrude with her?"

"Yes."

"Do you know how long she intends remaining at the parsonage?"

"I think her visit is of indefinite duration."

"Edna, will you oblige me by inquiring whether Henry intends to give us
any supper to-night? He forgets we have had no dinner. St. Elmo, do
turn down that gas--the wind makes it flare dreadfully."

Edna left the room to obey Mrs. Murray's command, and did not return
immediately; but, after the party seated themselves at the table, she
noticed that the master seemed in unusually high spirits; and when the
meal was concluded, he challenged his cousins to a game of billiards.

They repaired to the rotunda, and Mrs. Murray beckoned to Edna to
follow her. As they entered her apartment she carefully closed the door.

"Edna, when did Mrs. Powell arrive?"

"Last night."

"Did you see her?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Is she very pretty?"

"She is the most beautiful woman I ever met."

"How did Mr. Hammond receive her?"

"Her visit evidently annoys him, but he gave me no explanation of the
matter, which I confess puzzles me. I should suppose her society would
cheer and interest him."

"Oh, pooh! Talk of what you understand. She surely has not come here to
live?"

"I think he fears she has. She is very poor."

Mrs. Murray set her teeth together and muttered something which her
companion did not understand.

"Edna, is she handsomer than Estelle?"

"Infinitely handsomer, I think. Indeed, they are so totally unlike it
would be impossible to compare them. Your niece is very fine-looking,
very commanding; Mrs. Powell is beautiful."

"But she is no longer young. She has a grown daughter."

"True; but in looking at her you do not realize it. Did you never see
her?"

"No; and I trust I never may! I am astonished that Mr. Hammond can
endure the sight of her. You say he has told you nothing about her?"

"Nothing which explains the chagrin her presence seems to cause."

"He is very wise. But, Edna, avoid her society as much as possible. She
is doubtless very fascinating; but I do not like what I have heard of
her, and prefer that you should have little conversation or intercourse
with her. On the whole, you might as well stay at home now; it is very
warm, and you can study without Mr. Hammond's assistance."

"You do not mean that my visits must cease altogether?"

"Oh! no; go occasionally--once or twice a week--but certainly not every
day, as formerly. And, Edna, be careful not to mention that woman's
name again; I dislike her exceedingly."

The orphan longed to ask for an explanation, but was too proud to
solicit confidence so studiously withheld.

Mrs. Murray leaned back in her large rocking-chair and fell into a
reverie. Edna waited patiently for some time, and finally rose.

"Mrs. Murray, have you anything more to say to me tonight? You look
very much fatigued!"

"Nothing, I believe. Good-night, child. Send Hagar to me."

Edna went back to her desk and resolutely turned to her work; for it
was one of the peculiar traits of her character that she could at will
fasten her thoughts upon whatever subject she desired to master. All
irrelevant ideas were sternly banished until such season as she chose
to give them audience; and to-night she tore her mind from the events
of the day, and diligently toiled among the fragments of Scandinavian
lore for the missing links in her mythologic chain.

Now and then peals of laughter from the billiard-room startled her; and
more than once Mr. Murray's clear, cold voice rose above the subdued
chatter of Estelle and Clinton.

After a while the game ended, good-nights were exchanged, the party
dispersed, doors were closed, and all grew silent.

While Edna wrote on, an unexpected sound arrested her pen. She
listened, and heard the slow walk of a horse beneath her window. As it
passed she rose and looked out. The moon was up, and Mr. Murray was
riding down the avenue.

The girl returned to her MS., and worked on without intermission for
another hour; then the last paragraph was carefully punctuated, the
long and difficult chapter was finished. She laid aside her pen, and
locked her desk.

Shaking down the mass of hair that had been tightly coiled at the back
of her head, she extinguished the light, and drawing a chair to the
window, seated herself.

Silence and peace brooded over the world; not a sound broke the solemn
repose of nature.

The summer breeze had rocked itself to rest in the elm boughs, and only
the waning moon seemed alive and toiling as it climbed slowly up a
cloudless sky, passing starry sentinels whose mighty challenge was lost
in vast vortices of blue, as they paced their ceaseless round in the
mighty camp of constellations.

With her eyes fixed on the gloomy, groined archway of elms, where an
occasional slip of moonshine silvered the ground, Edna watched and
waited. The blood beat heavily in her temples and throbbed sullenly at
her heart; but she sat mute and motionless as the summer night,
reviewing all that had occurred during the day.

Presently the distant sound of hoofs on the rocky road leading to town
fell upon her strained ear; the hard, quick gallop ceased at the gate,
and very slowly Mr. Murray walked his horse up the dusky avenue, and on
toward the stable.

From the shadow of her muslin curtain, Edna looked down on the walk
beneath, and after a few moments saw him coming to the house.

He paused on the terrace, took off his hat, swept back the thick hair
from his forehead, and stood looking out over the quiet lawn.

Then a heavy, heavy sigh, almost a moan, seemed to burst from the
depths of his heart, and he turned and went into the house.

The night was far spent, and the moon had cradled herself on the
tree-tops, when Edna raised her face all blistered with tears.
Stretching out her arms she fell on her knees, while a passionate,
sobbing prayer struggled brokenly across her trembling lips:

"O my God! have mercy upon him! save his wretched soul from eternal
death! Help me so to live and govern myself that I bring no shame on
the cause of Christ. And if it be thy will, O my God! grant that I may
be instrumental in winning this precious but wandering, sinful soul
back to the faith as it is in Jesus!"

Ah! verily--

... "More things are wrought by prayer Than this world dreams of.
Wherefore let thy voice Rise like a fountain for him night and day. For
what are men better than sheep or goats, That nourish a blind life
within the brain, If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer Both
for themselves, and those who call them friend?"



CHAPTER XIX.


"Where are you going, St. Elmo? I know it is one of your amiable
decrees that your movements are not to be questioned, but I dare to
brave your ire."

"I am going to that blessed retreat familiarly known as 'Murray's den,'
where, secure from feminine intrusion, as if in the cool cloisters of
Coutloumoussi, I surrender my happy soul to science and cigars, and
revel in complete forgetfulness of that awful curse which Jove hurled
against all mankind, because of Prometheus's robbery."

"There are asylums for lunatics and inebriates, and I wonder it has
never occurred to some benevolent millionaire to found one for such
abominable cynics as you, my most angelic cousin! where the snarling
brutes can only snap at and worry one another."

"An admirable idea, Estelle, which I fondly imagined I had successfully
carried out when I built those rooms of mine."

"You are as hateful as Momus, MINUS his wit! He was kicked out of
heaven for grumbling, and you richly deserve his fate."

"I have a vague recollection that the Goddess Discord shared the fate
of the celestial growler. I certainly plead guilty to an earnest
sympathy with Momus's dissatisfaction with the house that Minerva
built, and only wish that mine was movable, as he recommended, in order
to escape bad neighborhoods and tiresome companions."

"Hospitable, upon my word! You spin some spiteful idea out of every
sentence I utter and are not even entitled to the compliment which
Chesterfield paid to old Samuel Johnson, 'The utmost I can do for him
is to consider him a respectable Hottentot.' If I did not know that
instead of proving a punishment it would gratify you beyond measure, I
would take a vow not to speak to you again for a month; but the
consciousness of the happiness I should thereby bestow upon you, vetoes
the resolution. Do you know that even a Comanche chief, or a Bechuana
of the desert, shames your inhospitality? I assure you I am the victim
of hopeless ennui, am driven to the verge of desperation; for Mr.
Allston will probably not return until to-morrow, and it is raining so
hard that I can not wander out of doors. Here I am shut up in this
dreary house, which reminds me of the descriptions of that doleful
retreat for sinners in Normandy, where the inmates pray eleven hours a
day, dig their own graves every evening, and if they chance to meet one
another, salute each other with 'Memento mori!' Ugh! if there remains
one latent spark of chivalry in your soul, I beseech you be merciful!
Do not go off to your den, but stay here and entertain me. It is said
that you read bewitchingly, and with unrivalled effect; pray favor me
this morning. I will promise to lay my hand on my lips; it is not white
enough for a flag of truce? I will be meek, amiable, docile, absolutely
silent."

Estelle swept aside a mass of papers from the corner of the sofa, and,
taking Mr. Murray's hand, drew him to a seat beside her.

"Your 'amiable silence,' my fair cousin, is but a cunningly fashioned
wooden horse. Timco Danaos et dona ferentes! I am to understand that
you actually offer me your hand as a flag of truce? It is wonderfully
white and pretty; but excuse me, C'est une main de fer, gantee de
velours! Your countenance, so serenely radiant, reminds me of what
Madame Noblet said of M. de Vitri, 'His face looked just like a
stratagem!' Reading aloud is a practice in which I never indulge,
simply because I cordially detest it, and knowing this fact, it is a
truly feminine refinement of cruelty on your part to select this mode
of penance. Nevertheless, your appeal to my chivalry, which always
springs up, armed cap-a-pie 'to do or die'; and since read I must, I
only stipulate that I may be allowed to select my book. Just now I am
profoundly interested in a French work on infusoria, by Dujardin; and
as you have probably not studied it, I will select those portions which
treat of the animalcula that inhabit grains of sugar and salt and drops
of water; so that by the time lunch is ready, your appetite will be
whetted by a knowledge of the nature of your repast. According to
Leeuwenhoek, Muller, Gleichen, and others, the campaigns of
Zenzis-Khan, Alexander, Attila, were not half so murderous as a single
fashionable dinner; and the battle of Marengo was a farce in comparison
with the swallowing of a cup of tea, which contains--"

"For shame, you tormentor! when you know that I love tea as well as did
your model of politeness, Dr. Johnson! Not one line of all that
nauseating scientific stuff shall you read to me. Here is a volume of
poems of the 'Female Poets'; do be agreeable for once in your life, and
select me some sweet little rhythmic gem of Mrs. Browning, or Mrs.
Norton, or L. E. L."

"Estelle, did you ever hear of the Peishwah of the Mahrattas?"

"I most assuredly never had even a hint of a syllable on the subject.
What of him, or her, or it?"

"Enough, that though you are evidently ambitious of playing his
despotic role at Le Bocage, you will never succeed in reducing me to
that condition of abject subjugation necessary to make me endure the
perusal of 'female poetry.' I have always desired an opportunity of
voting my cordial thanks to the wit who expressed so felicitously my
own thorough conviction, that Pegasus had an unconquerable repugnance,
hatred, to side-saddles. You vow you will not listen to science; and I
swear I won't read poetry! Suppose we compromise on this new number of
the--Magazine? It is the ablest periodical published in this country.
Let me see the contents of this number."

It was a dark, rainy morning in July. Mrs. Murray was winding a
quantity of zephyr wool, of various bright colors, which she had
requested Edna to hold on her wrists; and at the mention of the
magazine the latter looked up suddenly at the master of the house.

Holding his cigar between his thumb and third finger, his eye ran over
the table of contents.

"'Who smote the Marble Gods of Greece?' Humph! rather a difficult
question to answer after the lapse of twenty-two centuries. But
doubtless our archaeologists are so much wiser than the Athenian Senate
of Five Hundred, who investigated the affair the day after it happened,
that a perusal will be exceedingly edifying. Now, then, for a solution
of this classic mystery of the nocturnal iconoclasm; which, in my
humble opinion, only the brazen lips of Minerva Promachus could
satisfactorily explain."

Turning to the article he read it aloud, without pausing to comment,
while Edna's heart bounded so rapidly that she could scarcely conceal
her agitation. It was, indeed, a treat to listen to him; and as his
musical voice filled the room, she thought of Jean Paul Richter's
description of Goethe's reading: "There is nothing comparable to it. It
is like deep-toned thunder blended with whispering rain-drops."

But the orphan's pleasure was of short duration, and as Mr. Murray
concluded the perusal, he tossed the magazine contemptuously across the
room, and exclaimed:

"Pretentious and shallow! A tissue of pedantry and error from beginning
to end--written, I will wager my head, by some scribbler who never saw
Athens! Moreover, the whole article is based upon a glaring blunder;
for, according to Plutarch and Diodorus, on the memorable night in
question there was a new moon. Pshaw! it is a tasteless, insipid
plagiarism from Grote; and if I am to be bored with such insufferable
twaddle, I will stop my subscription. For some time I have noticed
symptoms of deterioration, but this is altogether intolerable; and I
shall write to Manning that, if he cannot do better, it would be
advisable for him to suspend at once before his magazine loses its
reputation. If I were not aware that his low estimate of female
intellect coincides fully with my own, I should be tempted to suppose
that some silly but ambitious woman wrote that stuff, which sounds
learned and is simply stupid."

He did not even glance toward Edna, but the peculiar emphasis of his
words left no doubt in her mind that he suspected, nay, felt assured,
that she was the luckless author. Raising her head which had been
drooped over the woolen skeins, she said, firmly, yet very quietly:

"If you will permit me to differ with you, Mr. Murray, I will say that
it seems to me all the testimony is in favor of the full-moon theory.
Beside, Grote is the latest and best authority; he has carefully
collected and sifted the evidence, and certainly sanctions the position
taken by the author of the article which you condemn."

"Ah! how long since you investigated the matter? The affair is so
essentially Paganish that I should imagine that it possessed no charm
for so orthodox a Christian as yourself. Estelle, what say you
concerning this historic sphinx?"

"That I am blissfully ignorant of the whole question, and have a vague
impression that it is not worth the paper it is written on, much less a
quarrel with you, Monsieur 'Le Hutin'; that it is the merest matter of
moonshine--new moon versus full moon, and must have been written by a
lunatic. But, my Chevalier Bayard, one thing I do intend to say most
decidedly, and that is, that your lunge at female intellect was as
unnecessary and ill-timed and ill-bred as it was ill-natured. The
mental equality of the sexes is now as unquestioned, as universally
admitted, as any other well-established fact in science or history; and
the sooner you men gracefully concede us our rights, the sooner we
shall cease wrangling, and settle back into our traditional amiability."

"The universality of the admission I should certainly deny, were the
subject of sufficient importance to justify a discussion. However, I
have been absent so long from America, that I confess my ignorance of
the last social advance in the striding enlightenment of this most
progressive people. According to Moleschott's celebrated
dictum--'Without phosphorus no thought,' and if there be any truth in
physiology and phrenology, you women have been stinted by nature in the
supply of phosphorus. Peacock's measurements prove that in the average
weight of male and female brains, you fall below our standard by not
less than six ounces. I should conjecture that in the scales of
equality six ounces of ideas would turn the balance in favor of our
superiority."

"If you reduce it to a mere question of avoirdupois, please be so good
as to remember that even greater differences exist among men. For
instance, your brain (which is certainly not considered over average)
weighs from three to three and a half pounds, while Cuvier's brain
weighed over four pounds, giving him the advantage of more than eight
ounces over our household oracle! Accidental difference in brain weight
proves nothing; for you will not admit your mental inferiority to any
man, simply because his head requires a larger hat than yours."

"Pardon me, I always bow before facts, no matter how unflattering, and
I consider one of Cuvier's ideas worthy of just exactly eight degrees
more of reverence than any phosphorescent sparkle which I might choose
to hold up for public acceptance and guidance. Without doubt, the most
thoroughly ludicrous scene I ever witnessed was furnished by a 'woman's
rights' meeting,' which I looked in upon one night in New York, as I
returned from Europe. The speaker was a raw-boned, wiry, angular,
short-haired, lemon-visaged female of very certain age; with a hand
like a bronze gauntlet, and a voice as distracting as the shrill squeak
of a cracked cornet-a-piston. Over the wrongs and grievances of her
down-trodden, writhing sisterhood she ranted and raved and howled,
gesticulating the while with a marvelous grace, which I can compare
only to the antics of those inspired goats who strayed too near the
Pythian cave, and were thrown into convulsions. Though I pulled my hat
over my eyes and clapped both hands to my ears, as I rushed out of the
hall after a stay of five minutes, the vision of horror followed me,
and for the first and only time in my life, I had such a hideous
nightmare that night, that the man who slept in the next room broke
open my door to ascertain who was strangling me. Of all my pet
aversions my most supreme abhorrence is of what are denominated 'gifted
women'; strong-minded (that is, weak-brained but loud-tongued),
would-be literary females, who, puffed up with insufferable conceit,
imagine they rise to the dignity and height of man's intellect,
proclaim that their 'mission' is to write or lecture, and set
themselves up as shining female lights, each aspiring to the rank of
protomartyr of reform. Heaven grant us a Bellerophon to relieve the age
of these noisy Amazons! I should really enjoy seeing them tied down to
their spinning-wheels, and gagged with their own books, magazines, and
lectures! When I was abroad and contrasted the land of my birth with
those I visited, the only thing for which, as an American, I felt
myself called on to blush, was my country-women. An insolent young
count who had traveled through the Eastern and Northern States of
America, asked me one day in Berlin, if it were really true that the
male editors, lawyers, doctors and lecturers in the United States were
contemplating a hegira, in consequence of the rough elbowing by the
women, and if I could inform him at what age the New England girls
generally commenced writing learned articles, and affixing LL.D.,
F.E.S., F.S.A., and M.M.S.S. to their signature?"

"'Lay on, Macduff!' I wish you distinctly to understand that my toes
are not bruised in the slightest degree; for I am entirely innocent of
any attempt at erudition or authorship, and the sole literary dream of
my life is to improve the present popular recipe for biscuit glace. But
mark you, 'Sir Oracle,' I must 'ope my lips' and bark a little under my
breath at your inconsistencies. Now, if there are two living men whom,
above all others, you swear by, they are John Stuart Mill and John
Ruskin. Well do I recollect your eulogy of both, on that ever-memorable
day in Paris, when we dined with that French encyclopaedia, Count W--,
and the leading lettered men of the day were discussed. I was
frightened out of my wits, and dared not raise my eyes higher than the
top of my wineglass, lest I should be asked my opinion of some book or
subject of which I had never even heard, and in trying to appear
well-educated, make as horrible a blunder as poor Madame Talleyrand
committed, when she talked to Denon about his man Friday, believing
that he wrote 'Robinson Crusoe.' At that time I had never read either
Mill or Ruskin; but my profound reverence for the wisdom of your
opinions taught me how shamefully ignorant I was, and thus, to fit
myself for your companionship, I immediately bought their books. Lo, to
my indescribable amazement, I found that Mill claimed for women what I
never once dreamed we were worthy of--not only equality, but the right
of suffrage. He, the foremost dialectician of England and the most
learned of political economists, demands that, for the sake of equity
and 'social improvement,' we women (minus the required six ounces of
brains) should be allowed to vote. Behold the Corypheus of the 'woman's
rights' school! Were I to follow his teachings, I should certainly
begin to clamor for my right of suffrage--for the lady-like privilege
of elbowing you away from the ballot-box at the next election.

"I am quite as far from admitting the infallibility of man as the
equality of the sexes. The clearest thinkers of the world have had soft
spots in their brains; for instance, the daemon belief of Socrates and
the ludicrous superstitions of Pythagoras; and you have laid your
finger on the softened spot in Mill's skull, 'suffrage.' That is a
jaded, spavined hobby of his, and he is too shrewd a logician to
involve himself in the inconsistency of 'extended suffrage' which
excludes women. When I read his 'Representative Government' I saw that
his reason had dragged anchor, the prestige of his great name vanished,
and I threw the book into the fire and eschewed him henceforth. Sic
transit."

Here Mrs. Murray looked up and said:

"John Stuart Mill--let me see--Edna, is he not the man who wrote that
touching dedication of one of his books to his wife's memory? You
quoted it for me a few days ago, and said that you had committed it to
memory because it was such a glowing tribute to the intellectual
capacity of woman. My dear, I wish you would repeat it now! I should
like to hear it again."

With her fingers full of purple woolen skeins, and her eyes bent down,
Edna recited, in a low, sweet voice the most eloquent panegyric which
man's heart ever pronounced on woman's intellect:

"To the beloved and deplored memory of her who was the inspirer, and in
part, the author, of all that is best in my writings, the friend and
wife whose exalted sense of truth and right was my strongest
incitement, and whose approbation was my chief reward, I dedicate this
volume. Like all that I have written for many years, it belongs as much
to her as to me; but the work as it stands has had, in a very
insufficient degree, the inestimable advantage of her revision; some of
the most important portions having been reserved for a more careful
re-examination, which they are now never destined to receive. Were I
but capable of interpreting to the world one half the great thoughts
and noble feelings which are buried in her grave, I should be the
medium of a greater benefit to it than is ever likely to arise from
anything that I can write unprompted and unassisted by her all but
unrivalled wisdom."

"Where did you find that dedication?" asked Mr. Murray.

"In Mill's book on liberty."

"It is not in my library."

"I borrowed it from Mr. Hammond."

"Strange that a plant so noxious should be permitted in such a
sanctified atmosphere! Do you happen to recollect the following
sentences? 'I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical
questions!' 'There is a Greek ideal of self-development which the
Platonic and Christian ideal of self-government blends with but does
not supersede. It may be better to be a John Knox than an Alcibiades,
but it is better to be a Pericles than either.'"

"Yes, sir. They occur in the same book; but, Mr. Murray, I have been
advised by my teacher to bear always in mind that noble maxim, 'I can
tolerate every thing else but every other man's intolerance'; and it is
with his consent and by his instructions that I go like Ruth, gleaning
in the great fields of literature." "Take care you don't find Boaz
instead of barley. After all, the universal mania for match-making
schemes and manoeuvers which continually stir society from its dregs to
the painted foam-bubble dancing on its crested wave, is peculiar to no
age or condition, but is an immemorial and hereditary female
proclivity; for I defy Paris or London to furnish a more perfectly
developed specimen of a 'manoeuvring mamma' than was crafty Naomi, when
she sent that pretty little Moabitish widow out husband-hunting."

"I heartily wish she was only here to outwit you!" laughed his cousin,
nestling her head against his arm as they sat together on the sofa.

"Who? The widow or the match-maker?"

"Oh! the match-maker, of course. There is more than one Ruth already in
the field."

The last clause was whispered so low that only St. Elmo heard it, and
any other woman but Estelle Harding would have shrunk away in utter
humiliation from the eye and the voice that answered:

"Yourself and Mrs. Powell! Eat Boaz's barley as long as you like--nay,
divide Boaz's broad fields between you; and you love your lives, keep
out of Boaz's way."

"You ought both to be ashamed of yourselves. I am surprised at you,
Estelle, to encourage St. Elmo's irreverence," said Mrs. Murray,
severely.

"I am sure, Aunt Ellen, I am just as much shocked as you are; but when
he does not respect even your opinions, how dare I presume to hope he
will show any deference to mine? St. Elmo, what think you of the last
Sibylline leaves of your favorite Ruskin? In looking over his new book,
I was surprised to find this strong assertion ... Here is the volume
now--listen to this, will you?"

"'Shakespeare has no heroes; he has only heroines. In his labored and
perfect plays you find no hero, but almost always a perfect woman;
steadfast in grave hope and errorless purpose. The catastrophe of every
play is caused always by the folly or fault of a man; the redemption,
if there be any, is by the wisdom and virtue of a woman, and failing
that, there is none!'"

"For instance, Lady Macbeth, Ophelia, Regan, Goneril, and last, but not
least, Petruchio's sweet and gentle Kate! De gustibus!" answered Mr.
Murray.

"Those are the exceptions, and of course you pounce upon them. Ruskin
continues: 'In all cases with Scott, as with Shakespeare, it is the
woman who watches over, teaches and guides the youth; it is never by
any chance the man who watches over or educates her; and thus--'"

"Meg Merrilies, Madge Wildfire, Mause Headrigg, Effie Deans, and Rob
Roy's freckle-faced, red-haired, angelic Helen!" interrupted her cousin.

"Don't be rude, St. Elmo. You fly in my face like an exasperated wasp.
I resume: 'Dante's great poem is a song of praise for Beatrice's watch
over his soul; she saves him from hell, and leads him star by star up
into heaven--'"

"Permit me to suggest that conjugal devotion should have led him to
apostrophize the superlative charms of his own wife, Gemma, from whom
he was forced to separate; and that his vision of hell was a faint
reflex of his domestic felicity."

"Mask your battery, sir, till I finish this page, which I am resolved
you shall hear: 'Greek literature proves the same thing, as witness the
devoted tenderness of Andromache, the wisdom of Cassandra, the domestic
excellence of Penelope, the love of Antigone, the resignation of
Iphigenia, the faithfulness of--'"

"Allow me to assist him in completing the list: the world-renowned
constancy of Helen to Menelaus, the devotion of Clytemnestra to her
Agamemnon, the sublime filial affection of Medea, and the bewitching--"

"Hush, sir! Aunt Ellen, do call him to order! I will have a hearing,
and I close the argument by the unanswerable assertion of Ruskin: 'That
the Egyptians and Greeks (the most civilized of the ancients) both gave
to their spirit of wisdom the form of a woman, and for symbols, the
weaver's shuttle and the olive!"

"An inevitable consequence of the fact, that they considered wisdom as
synonymous with sleepless and unscrupulous cunning! Schiller declares
that 'man depicts himself in his gods'; and even a cursory inspection
of the classics proves that all the abhorred and hideous ideas of the
ancients were personified by woman. Pluto was affable, and beneficent,
and gentlemanly, in comparison with Brimo; ditto might be said of Loke
and Hela, and the most appalling idea that ever attacked the brain of
mankind, found incarnation in the Fates and Furies, who are always
women. Unfortunately the mythologies of the world crystallized before
the age of chivalry, and a little research will establish the
unflattering fact that human sins and woes are traced primarily to
female agency; while it is patent that all the rows and squabbles that
disgraced Olympus were stirred up by scheming goddesses!"

"Thank heaven! here comes Mr. Allston; I can smooth the ruffled plumes
of my self-love in his sunny smiles, and forget your growls. Good
morning, Mr. Allston; what happy accident brought you again so soon to
Le Bocage and its disconsolate inmates?"

Edna picked up the magazine which lay in one corner, and made her
escape.

The gratification arising from the acceptance and prompt publication of
her essay, was marred by Mr. Murray's sneering comments; but still her
heart was happier than it had been for many weeks, and as she turned to
the Editor's Table and read a few lines complimenting "the article of a
new contributor," and promising another from the same pen for the
ensuing month, her face flushed joyfully.

While she felt it difficult to realize that her writings had found
favor in Mr. Manning's critical eyes, she thanked God that she was
considered worthy of communicating; with her race through the medium of
a magazine so influential and celebrated. She thought it probable that
Mr. Manning had written her a few lines, and wondered whether at that
moment a letter was not hidden in St. Elmo's pocket.

Taking the magazine, she went into Mrs. Murray's room, and found her
resting on a lounge. Her face wore a troubled expression, and Edna saw
traces of tears on the pillow.

"Come in, child; I was just thinking of you."

She put out her hand, drew the girl to a seat near the lounge, and
sighed heavily.

"Dear Mrs. Murray, I am very, very happy, and I have come to make a
confession and ask your congratulations."

She knelt down beside her, and, taking the white fingers of her
benefactress, pressed her forehead against them.

"A confession, Edna! What have you done?"

Mrs. Murray started up and lifted the blushing face.

"Some time ago you questioned me concerning some letters which excited
your suspicion, and which I promised to explain at some future day. I
dare say you will think me very presumptuous when I tell you that I
have been aspiring to authorship; that I was corresponding with Mr.
Manning on the subject of a MS. which I had sent for his examination,
and now I have come to show you what I have been doing. You heard Mr.
Murray read an essay this morning from the--Magazine, which he
ridiculed very bitterly, but which Mr. Manning at least thought worthy
of a place in his pages. Mrs. Murray, I wrote that article."

"Is it possible? Who assisted you--who revised it, Mr. Hammond? I did
not suppose that you, my child, could ever write so elegantly, so
gracefully."

"No one saw the MS. until Mr. Manning gave it to the printers. I wished
to surprise Mr. Hammond, and therefore told him nothing of my ambitious
scheme. I was very apprehensive that I should fail, and for that reason
was unwilling to acquaint you with the precise subject of the
correspondence until I was sure of success. Oh, Mrs. Murray! I have no
mother, and feeling that I owe everything to you--that without your
generous aid and protection I should never have been able to accomplish
this one hope of my life, I come to you to share my triumph, for I know
you will fully sympathize with me. Here is the magazine containing Mr.
Manning's praise of my work, and here are the letters which I was once
so reluctant to put into your hands. When I asked you to trust me, you
did so nobly and freely; and thanking you more than my feeble words can
express, I want to show you that I was not unworthy of your confidence."

She laid magazine and letters on Mrs. Murray's lap, and in silence the
proud, reserved woman wound her arms tightly around the orphan,
pressing the bright young face against her shoulder, and resting her
own cheek on the girl's fair forehead.

The door was partly ajar, and at that instant St. Elmo entered.

He stopped, looked at the kneeling figure locked so closely in his
mother's arms, and over his stern face broke a light that transformed
it into such beauty as Lucifer's might have worn before his sin and
banishment, when God--

   "'Lucifer'--kindly said as 'Gabriel,'
    'Lucifer'--soft as 'Michael'; while serene
     He, standing in the glory of the lamps,
     Answered, 'My Father,' innocent of shame
     And of the sense of thunder!"

Yearningly he extended his arms toward the two, who, absorbed in their
low talk, were unconscious of his presence; then the hands fell heavily
to his side, the brief smile was swallowed up by scowling shadows, and
he turned silently away and went to his own gloomy rooms.



CHAPTER XX.


"Mrs. Powell and her daughter to see Miss Estelle and Miss Edna."

"Why did you not say we were at dinner?" cried Mrs. Murray,
impatiently, darting an angry glance at the servant.

"I did, ma'am, but they said they would wait."

As Estelle folded up her napkin and slipped it into the silver ring,
she looked furtively at St. Elmo, who, holding up a bunch of purple
grapes, said in an indifferent tone to his mother:

"The vineyards of Axarquia show nothing more perfect. This cluster
might challenge comparison with those from which Red Hermitage is made,
and the seeds of which are said to have been brought from Schiraz. Even
on the sunny slopes of Cyprus and Naxos I found no finer grapes than
these. A propos! I want a basketful this afternoon. Henry, tell old
Simon to gather them immediately."

"Pray what use have you for them? I am sure the courteous idea of
sending them as a present never could have forced an entrance into your
mind, much less have carried the outworks of your heart!"

As his cousin spoke she came to the back of his chair and leaned over
his shoulder.

"I shall go out on the terrace and renew the obsolete Dionysia,
shouting 'Evoe! Eleleus!' I shall crown and pelt my marble Bacchus
yonder with the grapes till his dainty sculptured limbs are bathed in
their purple sacrificial blood. What other use could I possibly have
for them?"

He threw his head back and added something in a lower tone, at which
Estelle laughed, and put up her red, full lip.

Mrs. Murray frowned, and said sternly:

"If you intend to see those persons, I advise you to do so promptly."

Her niece moved toward the door, but glanced over her shoulder.

"I presume Gertrude expects to see Edna, as she asked for her."

The orphan had been watching Mr. Murray's face, but could detect no
alteration in its expression, save a brief gleam as of triumph when the
visitors were announced. Rising, she approached Mrs. Murray, whose
clouded brow betokened more than ordinary displeasure, and whispered:

"Gertrude is exceedingly anxious to see the house and grounds; have I
your permission to show her over the place? She is particularly anxious
to see the deer."

"Of course, if she requests it; but their effrontery in coming here
caps the climax of all the impudence I ever heard of. Have as little to
say as possible."

Edna went to the parlor, leaving mother and son together.

Mrs. Powell had laid aside her mourning garments and wore a dress of
blue muslin which heightened her beauty, and as the orphan looked from
her to Gertrude she found it difficult to decide who was the loveliest.
After a few desultory remarks she rose, saying:

"As you have repeatedly expressed a desire to examine the park and
hothouses, I will show you the way this afternoon."

"Take care, my love, that you do not fatigue yourself," were Mrs.
Powell's low, tenderly spoken words as her daughter rose to leave the
room.

Edna went first to the greenhouse, and though her companion chattered
ceaselessly, she took little interest in her exclamations of delight,
and was conjecturing the probable cause of Mrs. Murray's great
indignation.

For some weeks she had been thrown frequently into the society of Mr.
Hammond's guests, and while her distrust of Mrs. Powell, her aversion
to her melting, musical voice, increased at every interview, a genuine
affection for Gertrude had taken root in her heart.

They were the same age, but one was an earnest women, the other a
fragile, careless, gleeful, enthusiastic child. Although the orphan
found it impossible to make a companion of this beautiful, warm-hearted
girl, who hated books and turned pale at the mention of study, still
Edna liked to watch the lovely, radiant face, with its cheeks tinted
like sea-shells, its soft, childish blue eyes sparkling with
joyousness; and she began to caress and to love her, as she would have
petted a canary or one of the spotted fawns gamboling over the lawn.

As they stood hand in hand, admiring some goldfish in a small aquarium
in the centre of the greenhouse, Gertrude exclaimed:

"The place is as fascinating as its master! Do tell me something about
him; I wonder very often why you never mention him. I know I ought not
to say it; but really, after he has talked to me for a few minutes, I
forget every thing else, and think only of what he says for days and
days after."

"You certainly do not allude to Mr. Murray?" said Edna.

"I certainly do. What makes you look so astonished?"

"I was not aware that you knew him."

"Oh! I have known him since the week after our arrival here. Mamma and
I met him at Mrs. Inge's. Mr. Inge had some gentlemen to dinner, and
they came into the parlor while we were calling. Mr. Murray sat down
and talked to me then for some time, and I have frequently met him
since; for it seems he loves to stroll about the woods almost as well
as I do, and sometimes we walk together. You know he and my uncle are
not friendly, and I believe mamma does not like him, so he never comes
to the parsonage; and never seems to see me if I am with her or Uncle
Allan. But is he not very fascinating? If he were not a little too old
for me, I believe I should really be very much in love with him."

An expression of disgust passed swiftly over Edna's pale face; she
dropped her companion's hand, and asked coldly:

"Does your mother approve of your walks with Mr. Murray?"

"For heaven's sake, don't look so solemn! I--she--really I don't know!
I never told her a word about it. Once I mentioned having met him, and
showed her some flowers he gave me; and she took very little notice of
the matter. Several times since he has sent me bouquets, and though I
kept them out of uncle's sight, she saw them in my room, and must have
suspected where they came from. Of course he can not come to the
parsonage to see me when he does not speak to my uncle or to mamma; but
I do not see any harm in his walking and talking with me, when I happen
to meet him. Oh! how lovely those lilies are, leaning over the edge of
the aquarium! Mr. Murray said that some day he would show me all the
beautiful things at Le Bocage; but he has forgotten his promise, I am
afraid and I--"

"Ah! Miss Gertrude, how could you doubt me? I am here to fulfill my
promise."

He pushed aside the boughs of a guava which stood between them, and,
coming forward, took Gertrude's hand, drew it under his arm, and looked
down eagerly, admiringly, into her blushing face.

"Oh, Mr. Murray! I had no idea you were anywhere near me. I am sure I
could--"

"Did you imagine you could escape my eyes, which are always seeking
you? Permit me to be your cicerone over Le Bocage, instead of Miss Edna
here, who looks as if she had been scolding you. Perhaps she will be so
good as to wait for us, and I will bring you back in a half-hour at
least."

"Edna, will you wait here for me?" asked Gertrude.

"Why can not Mr. Murray bring you to the house? There is nothing more
to see here."

"Allow us to judge for ourselves, if you please. There is a late Paris
paper, which will amuse you till we return."

St. Elmo threw a newspaper at her feet, and led Gertrude away through
one of the glass doors into the park.

Edna sat down on the edge of the aquarium, and the hungry little fish
crowded close to her, looking up wistfully for the crumbs she was wont
to scatter there daily; but now their mute appeal was unheeded.

Her colorless face and clasped hands grew cold as the marble basin on
which they rested, and the great, hopeless agony that seized her heart
came to her large eyes and looked out drearily.

It was in vain that she said to herself:

"St. Elmo Murray is nothing to me; why should I care if he loves
Gertrude? She is so beautiful and confiding and winning. Of course, if
he knows her well he must love her. It is no business of mine. We are
not even friends; we are worse than strangers; and it can not concern
me whom he loves or whom he hates."

Her own heart laughed her words to scorn, and answered defiantly: "He
is my king! my king! I have crowned and sceptred him, and right royally
he rules!"

In pitiable humiliation she acknowledged that she had found it
impossible to tear her thoughts from him; that his dark face
followed--haunted her, sleeping and waking. While she shrank from his
presence, and dreaded his character, she could not witness his fond
manner to Gertrude without a pang of the keenest pain she had ever
endured.

The suddenness of the discovery shocked her into a thorough
understanding of her own feelings. The grinning fiend of jealousy had
swept aside the flimsy veil which she had never before fully lifted;
and looking sorrowfully down into the bared holy of holies, she saw
standing between the hovering wings of golden cherubim an idol of clay
demanding homage, daring the wrath of conscience, the high priest. She
saw all now, and saw, too, at the same instant, whither her line of
duty led.

The atmosphere was sultry, but she shivered; and if a mirror could have
been held before her eyes, she would have started back from the gray,
stony face so unlike hers.

It seemed so strange that the heart of the accomplished
misanthrope--the man of letters and science, who had ransacked the
world for information and amusement--should surrender itself to the
prattle of a pretty young thing, who could sympathize in no degree with
his pursuits, and was as utterly incapable of understanding his nature
as his Tartar horse or his pet bloodhound.

She had often heard Mrs. Murray say, "If there is one thing more
uncertain even than the verdict of a jury--if there is one thing which
is known neither in heaven, earth, or hell, and which angels and demons
alike waste time in guessing at--it is what style of woman any man will
fancy and select for his wife. It is utterly impossible to predict what
matrimonial caprice may or may not seize even the wisest, most
experienced, most practical, and reasonable of men; and I would sooner
undertake to conjecture how high the thermometer stands at this instant
on the crest of Mount Copernicus up yonder in the moon, than attempt to
guess what freak will decide a man's choice of a bride."

Sternly Edna faced the future, and pictured Gertrude as Mr. Murray's
wife; for if he loved her (and did not his eyes declare it?), of course
he would sweep every objection, every obstacle to the winds, and marry
her speedily. She tried to think of him--the cold, harsh scoffer--as
the fond husband of that laughing child; and though the vision was
indescribably painful, she forced herself to dwell upon it.

The idea that he would ever love any one or anything had never until
this hour occurred to her; and while she could neither tolerate his
opinions or respect his character, she found herself smitten with a
great, voiceless anguish at the thought of his giving his sinful bitter
heart to any woman.

  "Why did she love him? Curious fool be still!
   Is human love the growth of human will?"

Pressing her hand to her eyes she murmured:

"Gertrude is right; he is fascinating, but it is the fascination of a
tempting demon! Ah! if I had never come here, if I had never been
cursed with the sight of his face! But I am no weak, silly child like
Gertrude Powell; I know what my duty is, and I am strong enough to
conquer, and if necessary to crush my foolish heart. Oh! I know you,
Mr. Murray, and I can defy you. To-day, shortsighted as I have been, I
look down on you. You are beneath me, and the time will come when I
shall look back to this hour and wonder if I were temporarily bewitched
or insane. Wake up! wake up! come to your senses, Edna Earl! Put an end
to this sinful folly; blush for your unwomanly weakness!"

As Gertrude's merry laugh floated up through the trees the orphan
lifted her head, and the blood came back to her cheeks while she
watched the two figures sauntering across, the smooth lawn. Gertrude
leaned on Mr. Murray's arm, and as he talked to her his head was bent
down, so that he could see the flushed face shaded by her straw hat.

She drew her hand from his arm when they reached the greenhouse, and
looking much embarrassed, said hurriedly:

"I am afraid I have kept you waiting an unconscionable time; but Mr.
Murray had so many beautiful things to show me that I quite forgot we
had left you here alone."

"I dare say your mother thinks I have run away with you; and as I have
an engagement, I must either bid you good-bye and leave you here with
Mr. Murray, or go back at once with you to the house."

The orphan's voice was firm and quiet; and as she handed the French
paper to St. Elmo, she turned her eyes full on his face.

"Have you read it already?" he asked, giving her one of his steely,
probing glances.

"No, sir, I did not open it, as I take little interest in continental
politics. Gertrude, will you go or stay?"

Mr. Murray put out his hand, took Gertrude's, and said:

"Good-bye till to-morrow. Do not forget your promise."

Turning away, he went in the direction of the stables.

In silence Edna walked on to the house, and presently Gertrude's soft
fingers grasped hers.

"Edna, I hope you are not mad with me. Do you really think it is wrong
for me to talk to Mr. Murray, and to like him so much?"

"Gertrude, you must judge for yourself concerning the propriety of your
conduct. I shall not presume to advise you; but the fact that you are
unwilling to acquaint your mother with your course ought to make you
look closely at your own heart. When a girl is afraid to trust her
mother, I should think there were grounds for uneasiness."

They had reached the steps, and Mrs. Powell came out to meet them.

"Where have you two runaways been? I have waited a half hour for you.
Estelle, do come and see me. It is very dreary at the parsonage, and
your visits are cheering and precious. Come, Gertrude."

When Gertrude kissed her friend, she whispered:

"Don't be mad with me, dearie. I will remember what you said, and talk
to mamma this very evening."

Edna saw mother and daughter descend the long avenue and then running
up to her room, she tied on her hat and walked rapidly across the park
in an opposite direction.

About a mile and a half from Le Bocage, on a winding and unfrequented
road leading to a sawmill, stood a small log-house containing only two
rooms. The yard was neglected, full of rank weeds, and the gate was
falling from its rusty hinges.

Edna walked up the decaying steps, and without pausing to knock,
entered one of the comfortless-looking rooms.

On a cot in one corner lay an elderly man in the last stage of
consumption, and by his side, busily engaged in knitting, sat a child
about ten years old, whose pretty white face wore that touching look of
patient placidity peculiar to the blind. Huldah Reed had never seen the
light, but a marvellous change came over her countenance when Edna's
light step and clear, sweet voice fell on her ear.

"Huldah, how is your father to-day?"

"Not as well as he was yesterday; but he is asleep now, and will be
better when he wakes."

"Has the doctor been here to-day?"

"No, he has not been here since Sunday."

Edna stood for a while watching the labored breathing of the sleeper,
and, putting her hand on Huldah's head, she whispered:

"Do you want me to read to you this evening? It is late, but I shall
have time for a short chapter."

"Oh! please do, if it is only a few lines. It will not wake him."

The child rose, spread out her hands, and groped her way across the
room to a small table, whence she took an old Bible.

The two sat down together by the western window, and Edna asked:

"Is there any particular chapter you would like to hear?"

"Please read about blind Bartimeus sitting by the roadside, waiting for
Jesus."

Edna turned to the verses and read in a subdued tone for some moments.
In her eager interest Huldah slid down on her knees, rested her thin
hands on her companion's lap and raised her sweet face, with its wide,
vacant, sad, hazel eyes.

When Edna read the twenty-fourth verse of the next chapter, the small
hands were laid upon the page to arrest her attention.

"Edna, do you believe that? 'What things soever you desire, when ye
pray believe that ye receive them, AND YE SHALL HAVE THEM!' Jesus said
that: and if I pray that my eyes may be opened, do you believe I shall
see? They tell me that--that pa will not live. Oh! do you think if I
pray day and night, and if I believe, and oh! I do believe, I will
believe! do you think Jesus will let me see him--my father--before he
dies? If I could only see his dear face once, I would be willing to be
blind afterward. All my life I have felt his face, and I knew it by my
fingers; but oh! I can't feel it in the grave! I have been praying so
hard ever since the doctor said he must die; praying that Jesus would
have mercy on me, and let me see him just once. Last night I dreamed
Christ came and put his hands on my eyes, and said to me, too, 'Thy
faith hath made thee whole'; and I waked up crying, and my own fingers
were pulling my eyes open; but it was all dark, dark. Edna, won't you
help me pray! And do you believe I shall see him?"

Edna took the quivering face in her soft palms, and tenderly kissed the
lips several times.

"My dear Huldah, you know the days of miracles are over, and Jesus is
not walking in the world now to cure the suffering and the blind and
the dumb."

"But he is sitting close to the throne of God, and he could send some
angel down to touch my eyes, and let me see my dear, dear pa once--ah!
just once. Oh! he is the same Jesus now as when he felt sorry for
Bartimeus. And why won't He pity me, too? I pray and believe, and that
is what He said I must do."

"I think that the promise relates to spiritual things, and means that
when we pray for strength to resist temptation and sin, Jesus sends the
Holy Spirit to assist all who earnestly strive to do their duty. But,
dear Huldah, one thing is very certain, even if you are blind in this
world, there will come a day when God will open your eyes, and you
shall see those you love, face to face; 'for there shall be no night
there' in that city of rest--no need of sun or moon, for 'the Lamb is
the light thereof.'"

"Huldah--daughter!"

The child glided swiftly to the cot, and, looking round, Edna doubted
the evidence of her senses; for by the side of the sufferer stood a
figure so like Mr. Murray that her heart began to throb painfully.

The corner of the room was dim and shadowy, but a strong, deep voice
soon dispelled all doubt.

"I hope you are better to-day, Reed. Here are some grapes which will
refresh you, and you can eat them as freely as your appetite prompts."

Mr. Murray placed a luscious cluster in the emaciated hands, and put
the basket down on the floor near the cot. As he drew a chair from the
wall and seated himself, Edna crossed the room stealthily, and, laying
her hand on Huldah's shoulder, led her out to the front steps.

"Huldah, has Mr. Murray ever been here before?"

"Oh! yes--often and often; but he generally comes later than this. He
brings all the wine poor pa drinks, and very often peaches and grapes.
Oh! he is so good to us. I love to hear him come up the steps; and many
a time, when pa is asleep, I sit here at night, listening for the
gallop of Mr. Murray's horse. Somehow I feel so safe, as if nothing
could go wrong, when he is in the house."

"Why did you never tell me this before? Why have you not spoken of him?"

"Because he charged me not to speak to any one about it--said he did
not choose to have it known that he ever came here. There! pa is
calling me. Won't you come in and speak to him?"

"Not this evening. Good-bye. I will come again soon."

Edna stooped, kissed the child hastily, and walked away.

She had only reached the gate, where Tamerlane was fastened, when Mr.
Murray came out of the house.

"Edna!"

Reluctantly she stopped and waited for him.

"Are you not afraid to walk home alone?"

"No, sir; I am out frequently even later than this."

"It is not exactly prudent for you to go home now alone; for it will be
quite dark before you can possibly reach the park gate."

He passed his horse's reins over his arm, and led him along the road.

"I am not going that way, sir. There is a path through the woods that
is much shorter than the road and I can get through an opening in the
orchard fence. Good evening."

She turned abruptly from the beaten road, but he caught her dress and
detained her.

"I told you some time ago that I never permitted espionage in my
affairs; and now with reference to what occurred at the greenhouse, I
advise you to keep silent. Do you understand me?"

"In the first place, sir, I could not condescend to play spy on the
actions of any one; and in the second, you may rest assured I shall not
trouble myself to comment upon your affairs, in which I certainly have
no interest. Your estimate of me must be contemptible indeed, if you
imagine that I can only employ myself in watching your career. Dismiss
your apprehensions, and rest in the assurance that I consider it no
business of mine where you go or what you may choose to do."

"My only desire is to shield my pretty Gertrude's head from the wrath
that may be bottled up for her."

Edna looked up fixedly into the deep, glittering eyes that watched
hers, and answered quietly:

"Mr. Murray, if you love her half as well as I do, you will be more
careful in the future not to subject her to the opening of the vials of
wrath."

He laughed contemptuously, and exclaimed:

"You are doubtless experienced in such matters, and fully competent to
advise me."

"No, sir; it does not concern me, and I presume neither to criticise
nor to advise. Please be so good as to detain me no longer, and believe
me when I repeat that I have no intention whatever of meddling with any
of your affairs, or reporting your actions."

Putting his hands suddenly on her shoulders, he stooped, looked keenly
at her, and she heard him mutter an oath. When he spoke again it was
through set teeth:

"You will be wise if you adhere to that decision. Tell them at home not
to wait supper for me."

He sprang into his saddle and rode toward the village; and Edna hurried
homeward, asking herself:

"What first took Mr. Murray to the blacksmith's hovel? Why is he so
anxious that his visits should remain undiscovered? After all, is there
some latent nobility in his character? Is he so much better or worse
than I have thought him? Perhaps his love for Gertrude has softened his
heart, perhaps that love may be his salvation. God grant it! God grant
it!"

The evening breeze rose and sang solemnly through the pine trees, but
to her it seemed only to chant the melancholy refrain, "My pretty
Gertrude, my pretty Gertrude."

The chill light of stars fell on the orphan's pathway, and over her
pale features, where dwelt the reflection of a loneliness--a silent
desolation, such as she had never realized, even when her grandfather
was snatched from her clinging arms. She passed through the orchard,
startling a covey of partridges that nestled in the long grass, and a
rabbit that had stolen out under cover of dusk; and when she came to
the fountain, she paused and looked out over the dark, quiet grounds.

Hitherto duty had worn a smiling, loving countenance, and walked gently
by her side as she crossed the flowery vales of girlhood; now, the
guide was transformed into an angel of wrath, pointing with drawn sword
to the gate of Eden.

As the girl's light fingers locked themselves tightly, her beautiful
lips uttered mournfully:

  "What hast thou done, O soul of mine
   That thou tremblest so?
   Hast thou wrought His task, and kept the line
   He bade thee go?
   Ah! the cloud is dark, and day by day
   I am moving thither:
   I must pass beneath it on my way--
   God pity me! Whither?"

When Mrs. Murray went to her own room later than usual that night, she
found Edna sitting by the table, with her Bible lying open on her lap,
and her eyes fixed on the floor.

"I thought you were fast asleep before this. I sat up waiting for St.
Elmo, as I wished to speak to him about some engagements for to-morrow."

The lady of the house threw herself wearily upon the lounge, and sighed
as she unclasped her bracelets and took off the diamond cross that
fastened her collar.

"Edna, ring for Hagar."

"Will you not let me take her place to-night? I want to talk to you
before I go to sleep."

"Well, then, unlace my gaiters and take down my hair. Child, what makes
you look so very serious?"

"Because what I am about to say saddens me very much. My dear Mrs.
Murray, I have been in this house five peaceful, happy, blessed years;
I have become warmly attached to everything about the home where I have
been so kindly sheltered during my girlhood, and the thought of leaving
it is exceedingly painful to me."

"What do you mean, Edna? Have you come to your senses at last, and
consented to make Gordon happy?"

"No, no. I am going to New York to try to make my bread."

"You are going to a lunatic asylum! Stuff! nonsense! What can you do in
New York? It is already overstocked with poor men and women, who are on
the verge of starvation. Pooh! pooh! you look like making your bread.
Don't be silly."

"I know that I am competent now to take a situation as teacher in a
school, or family, and I am determined to make the experiment
immediately. I want to go to New York because I can command advantages
there which no poor girl can obtain in any Southern city; and the
magazine for which I expect to write is published there. Mr. Manning
says he will pay me liberally for such articles as he accepts, and if I
can only get a situation which I hear is now vacant, I can easily
support myself. Mrs. Powell received a letter yesterday from a wealthy
friend in New York who desires to secure a governess for her young
children, one of whom is deformed. She said she was excessively
particular as to the character of the woman to whose care she committed
her crippled boy, and that she had advertised for one who could teach
him Greek. I shall ask Mrs. Powell and Mr. Hammond to telegraph to her
to-morrow and request her not to engage any one till a letter can reach
her from Mr. Hammond and myself. I believe he knows the lady, who is
very distantly related to Mrs. Powell. Still, before I took this step,
I felt that I owed it to you to acquaint you with my intention."

"It is a step which I cannot sanction. I detest that Mrs. Powell--I
utterly loathe the sound of her name, and I should be altogether
unwilling to see you domesticated with any of her 'friends.' I am
surprised that Mr. Hammond could encourage any such foolish scheme on
your part."

"As yet he is entirely ignorant of my plan, for I have mentioned it to
no one except yourself; but I do not think he will oppose it. Dear Mrs.
Murray, much as I love you, I cannot remain here any longer, for I
could not continue to owe my bread even to your kind and tender
charity. You have educated me, and only God knows how inexpressibly
grateful I am for all your goodness; but now, I could no longer
preserve my self-respect or be happy as a dependent on your bounty."

She had taken Mrs. Murray's hand, and while tears gathered in her eyes,
she kissed the fingers and pressed them against her cheek.

"If you are too proud to remain here as you have done for so many
years, how do you suppose you can endure the humiliations and affronts
which will certainly be your portion when you accept a hireling's
position in the family of a stranger? Don't you know that of all
drudgery that required of governesses is most fraught with vexation and
bitterness of spirit? I have never treated you as an upper servant, but
loved you and shielded you from slights and insults as if you were my
niece or my daughter. Edna, you could not endure the lot you have
selected; your proud, sensitive nature would be galled to desperation.
Stay here and help me keep house; write and study as much as you like,
and do as you please; only don't leave me."

She drew the girl to her bosom, and while she kissed her, tears fell on
the pale face.

"Oh, Mrs. Murray! it is hard to leave you! For indeed I love you more
than you will ever believe or realize; but I must go! I feel it is my
duty, and you would not wish me to stay here and be unhappy."

"Unhappy here! Why so? Something is wrong, and I must know just what it
is. Somebody has been meddling--taunting you. Edna, I ask a plain
question, and I want the whole truth. You and Estelle do not like each
other; is her presence here the cause of your determination to quit my
house?"

"No, Mrs. Murray; if she were not here I should still feel it my duty
to go out and earn my living. You are correct in saying we do not
particularly like each other; there is little sympathy between us, but
no bad feeling that I am aware of, and she is not the cause of my
departure."

Mrs. Murray was silent a moment, scrutinizing the face on her shoulder.

"Edna, can it be my son? Has some harsh speech of St. Elmo's piqued and
wounded you?"

"Oh! no. His manner toward me is quite as polite, nay, rather more
considerate than when I first came here. Beside, you know, we are
almost strangers; sometimes weeks elapse without our exchanging a word."

"Are you sure you have not had a quarrel with him? I know you dislike
him; I know how exceedingly provoking he frequently is; but, child, he
is unfortunately constituted; he is bitterly rude to everybody, and
does not mean to wound you particularly."

"I have no complaint to make of Mr. Murray's manner to me. I do not
expect or desire that it should be other than it is. Why do you doubt
the sincerity of the reason I gave for quitting dear old Bocage? I have
never expected to live here longer than was necessary to qualify myself
for the work I have chosen."

"I doubt it because it is so incomprehensible that a young girl, who
might be Gordon Leigh's happy wife and mistress of his elegant home,
surrounded by every luxury, and idolized by one of the noblest,
handsomest men I ever knew, should prefer to go among strangers and
toil for a scanty livelihood. Now I know something of human nature, and
I know that your course is very singular, very unnatural. Edna, my
child! My dear, little girl! I can't let you go. I want you! I can't
spare you! I find I love you too well, my sweet comforter in all my
troubles! My only real companion!"

She clasped the orphan closer and wept.

"Oh! you don't know how precious your love is to my heart, dear, dear
Mrs. Murray! In all this wide world whom have I to love me but you and
Mr. Hammond? Even in the great sorrow of leaving you, it will gladden
me to feel that I possess so fully your confidence and affection. But I
must go away; and after a little while you will not miss me; for
Estelle will be with you, and you will not need me. Oh, it is hard to
leave you! it is a bitter trial! But I know what my duty is; and were
it even more difficult, I would not hesitate. I hope you will not think
me unduly obstinate when I tell you, that I have fully determined to
apply for that situation in New York."

Mrs. Murray pushed the girl from her, and, with a sob, buried her face
in her arms.

Edna waited in vain for her to speak, and finally she stooped and
kissed one of the hands, and said brokenly as she left the room:

"Good-night--my dearest--my best friend. If you could only look into my
heart and see how it aches at the thought of separation, you would not
add the pain of your displeasure to that which I already suffer."

When the orphan opened her eyes on the following morning, she found a
note pinned to her pillow:

"MY DEAR EDNA: I could not sleep last night in consequence of your
unfortunate resolution, and I write to beg you, for my sake if not for
your own, to reconsider the matter. I will gladly pay you the same
salary that you expect to receive as governess, if you will remain as
my companion and assist at Le Bocage. I cannot consent to give you up;
I love you too well, my child, to see you quit my house. I shall soon
be an old woman, and then what should I do without my little orphan
girl? Stay with me always, and you shall never know what want and toil
and hardship mean. As soon as you are awake, come and kiss me
good-morning, and I shall know that you are my own dear, little Edna.
"Affectionately yours,
                  "ELLEN MURRAY."

Edna knelt and prayed for strength to do what she felt duty sternly
dictated; but, though her will did not falter her heart bled, as she
wrote a few lines thanking her benefactress for the affection that had
brightened and warmed her whole lonely life, and assuring her that the
reasons which induced her to leave Le Bocage were imperative and
unanswerable.

An hour later she entered the breakfast-room, and found the members of
the family already assembled. While Mrs. Murray was cold and haughty,
taking no notice of Edna's salutation, Estelle talked gayly with Mr.
Allston concerning a horseback ride they intended to take that morning;
and Mr. Murray, leaning back in his chair, seemed engrossed in the
columns of the London Times which contained a recent speech of
Gladstone's. Presently he threw down the paper, looked at his watch and
ordered his horse.

"St. Elmo, where are you going? Do allow yourself to be prevailed upon
to wait and ride with us."

Estelle's tone was musical and coaxing as she approached her cousin and
put one of her fingers through the button-hole of his coat.

"Not for all the kingdoms that Satan pointed out from the pinnacle of
Mount Quarantina! I have as insuperable an objection to constituting
one of a trio as some superstitious people have to forming part of a
dinner-party of thirteen. Where am I going? To that 'Sea of Serenity'
which astronomers tell us is located in the left eye of the face known
in common parlance as the man in the moon. Where am I going? To Western
Ross-shire, to pitch my tent and smoke my cigar in peace, on the brink
of that blessed Loch Maree, whereof Pennant wrote."

He shook off Estelle's touch, walked to the mantel-piece, and, taking a
match from the china case, drew it across the heel of his boot.

"Where is Loch Maree? I do not remember ever to have seen the name,"
said Mrs. Murray, pushing aside her coffee-cup.

"Oh! pardon me, mother, if I decline to undertake your geographical
education. Ask that incipient Isotta Nogarole, sitting there at your
right hand. Doubtless she will find it a pleasing task to instruct you
in Scottish topography, while I have an engagement that forces me most
reluctantly and respectfully to decline the honor of enlightening you.
Confound these matches! they are all damp."

Involuntarily Mrs. Murray's eyes turned to Edna, who had not even
glanced at St. Elmo since her entrance. Now she looked up, and though
she had not read Pennant, she remembered the lines written on the old
Druidic well by an American poet. Yielding to some inexplicable
impulse, she slowly and gently repeated two verses:

  "'Oh, restless heart and fevered brain!
    Unquiet and unstable.
   That holy well of Loch Maree
    Is more than idle fable!
   The shadows of a humble will
    And contrite heart are o'er it:
   Go read its legend--"TRUST IN GOD"--
    On Faith's white stones before it!'"



CHAPTER XXI.


"While your decision is very painful to me, I shall not attempt to
dissuade you from a resolution which I know has not been lightly or
hastily taken. But, ah, my child! what shall I do without you?"

Mr. Hammond's eyes filled with tears as he looked at his pupil, and his
hand trembled when he stroked her bowed head.

"I dread the separation from you and Mrs. Murray; but I know I ought to
go; and I feel that when duty commands me to follow a path, lonely and
dreary though it may seem, a light will be shed before my feet, and a
staff will be put into my hands. I have often wondered what the
Etrurians intended to personify in their Dii Involuti, before whose
awful decrees all other gods bowed. Now I feel assured that the chief
of the 'Shrouded Gods' is Duty, veiling her features with a
silver-lined cloud, scorning to parley, but whose unbending figure
signs our way--an unerring pillar of cloud by day, of fire by night.
Mr. Hammond, I shall follow that stern finger till the clods on my
coffin shut it from my sight."

The August sun shining through the lilac and myrtle boughs that rustled
close to the study-window glinted over the pure, pale face of the
orphan, and showed a calm mournfulness in the eyes which looked out at
the quiet parsonage garden, and far away to the waving lines against
the sky, where--

  "A golden lustre slept upon the hills."

Just beyond the low, ivy-wreathed stone wall that marked the boundary
of the garden ran a little stream, overhung with alders and willows,
under whose tremendous shadows rested contented cattle--some knee-deep
in water, some browsing leisurely on purple-tufted clover. From the
wide, hot field, stretching away on the opposite side, came the clear
metallic ring of the scythes, as the mowers sharpened them; the mellow
whistle of the driver lying on top of the huge hay mass, beneath which
the oxen crawled toward the lowered bars; and the sweet gurgling
laughter of two romping, sunburned children, who swung on at the back
of the wagon.

Edna pointed to the peaceful picture, and said: "If Rosa Bonheur could
only put that on canvas for me, I would hang it upon my walls in the
great city whither I am going; and when my weary days of work ended, I
could sit down before it, and fold my tired hands and look at it
through the mist of tears till its blessed calm stole into my heart,
and I believed myself once more with you, gazing out of the
study-window. Ah! blessed among all gifted women is Rosa Bonheur!
accounted worthy to wear what other women may not aspire to--the Cross
of the Legion of Honor! Yesterday when I read the description of the
visit of the Empress to the studio, I think I was almost as proud and
happy as that patient worker at the easel, when over her shoulders was
hung the ribbon which France decrees only to the mighty souls who
increase her glory, and before whom she bows in reverent gratitude. I
am glad that a woman's hand laid that badge of immortality on womanly
shoulders--a crowned head crowning the Queen of Artists. I wonder if,
when obscure and in disguise, she haunted the abattoir du Roule, and
worked on amid the lowing and bleating of the victims--I wonder if
faith prophesied of that distant day of glorious recompense, when the
ribbon of the Legion fluttered from Eugenie's white fingers and she was
exalted above all thrones? Ah, Mr. Hammond! we all wear our crosses,
but they do not belong to the order of the Legion of Honor."

The minister enclosed in his own the hand which she had laid on his
knee, and said gently but gravely:

"My child, your ambition is your besetting sin. It is Satan pointing to
the tree of knowledge, tempting you to eat and become 'as gods.' Search
your heart, and I fear you will find that while you believe you are
dedicating your talent entirely to the service of God, there is a
spring of selfishness underlying all. You are too proud, too ambitious
of distinction, too eager to climb to some lofty niche in the temple of
fame, where your name, now unknown, shall shine in the annals of
literature and serve as a beacon to encourage others equally as anxious
for celebrity. I was not surprised to see you in print; for long, long
ago, before you realized the extent of your mental dowry, I saw the
kindling of that ambitious spark whose flame generally consumes the
women in whose hearts it burns. The history of literary females is not
calculated to allay the apprehension that oppresses me, as I watch you
just setting out on a career so fraught with trials of which you have
never dreamed. As a class they are martyrs, uncrowned and uncanonized;
jeered at by the masses, sincerely pitied by a few earnest souls, and
wept over by the relatives who really love them. Thousands of women
have toiled over books that proved millstones and drowned them in the
sea of letters. How many of the hundreds of female writers scattered
through the world in this century, will be remembered six months after
the coffin closes over their weary, haggard faces? You may answer,
'They made their bread.' Ah, child! it would have been sweeter if
earned at the wash-tub, or in the dairy, or by their needles. It is the
rough handling, the jars, the tension of the heartstrings that sap the
foundations of a woman's life and consign her to an early grave; and a
Cherokee rose-hedge is not more thickly set with thorns than a literary
career with grievous, vexatious, tormenting disappointments. If you
succeed after years of labor and anxiety and harassing fears, you will
become a target for envy and malice, and, possibly, for slander. Your
own sex will be jealous of your eminence, considering your superiority
an insult to their mediocrity; and mine will either ridicule or barely
tolerate you; for men detest female competitors in the Olympian game of
literature. If you fail, you will be sneered down till you become
embittered, soured, misanthropic; a curse to yourself, a burden to the
friends who sympathize with your blasted hopes. Edna, you have talent,
you write well, you are conscientious; but you are not De Stael, or
Hannah More, or Charlotte Bronte, or Elizabeth Browning; and I shudder
when I think of the disappointment that may overtake all your eager
aspirations. If I could be always near you, I should indulge less
apprehension for your future; for I believe that I could help you to
bear patiently whatever is in store for you. But far away among
strangers you must struggle alone."

"Mr. Hammond, I do not rely upon myself; my hope is in God."

"My child, the days of miraculous inspiration are ended."

"Ah! do not discourage me. When the Bishop of Noyon hesitated to
consecrate St. Radegund, she said to him, 'Thou wilt have to render thy
account, and the Shepherd will require of thee the souls of his sheep.'
My dear sir, your approbation is the consecration that I desire upon my
purpose. God will not forsake me; He will strengthen and guide me and
bless my writing, even as He blesses your preaching. Because He gave
you five talents and to me only one, do you think that in the great day
of reckoning mine will not be required of me? I do not expect to 'enter
into the joy of my Lord' as you will be worthy to do; but with the
blessing of God, I trust the doom of the altogether unprofitable
servant will not be pronounced against me."

She had bowed her head till it rested on his knee, and presently the
old man put his hands upon the glossy hair and murmured solemnly:

"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your
heart and mind through Christ Jesus."

A brief silence reigned in the study, broken first by the shout of the
haymakers and the rippling laugh of the children in the adjacent field,
and then by the calm voice of the pastor:

"I have offered you a home with me as long as I have a roof that I can
call my own; but you prefer to go to New York, and henceforth I shall
never cease to pray that your resolution may prove fortunate in all
respects. You no longer require my direction in your studies, but I
will suggest that it might be expedient for you to give more attention
to positive and less to abstract science. Remember those noble words of
Sir David Brewster, to which, I believe, I have already called your
attention, 'If the God of love is most appropriately worshipped in the
Christian temple, the God of nature may be equally honored in the
temple of science. Even from its lofty minarets the philosopher may
summon the faithful to prayer, and the priest and the sage may exchange
altars without the compromise of faith or of knowledge.' Infidelity has
shifted the battlefield from metaphysics to physics, from idealism and
rationalism to positivism or rank materialism; and in order to combat
it successfully, in order to build up an imperishable system of
Christian teleology, it is necessary that you should thoroughly
acquaint yourself with the 'natural sciences,' with dynamics, and all
the so-called 'inherent forces of nature,' or what Humboldt terms
'primordial necessity.' This apotheosis of dirt, by such men as
Moleschott, Buchner, and Voght, is the real Antaeus which, though
continually over-thrown, springs from mother earth with renewed vigor,
and after a little while some Hercules of science will lift the boaster
in his inexorable arms and crush him."

Here Mrs. Powell entered the room, and Edna rose and tied on her hat.

"Mr. Hammond, will you go over to see Huldah this afternoon? Poor
little thing! she is in great distress about her father."

"I fear he cannot live many days. I went to see him yesterday morning,
and would go again with you now, but have promised to baptize two
children this evening."

Edna was opening the gate when Gertrude called to her from a shaded
corner of the yard, and turning, she saw her playing with a fawn, about
whose neck she had twined a long spray of honeysuckle.

"Do come and see the beautiful present Mr. Murray sent me several days
ago. It is as gentle and playful as a kitten, and seems to know me
already."

Gertrude patted the head of her pretty pet and continued:

"I have often read about gazelle's eyes, and I wonder if these are not
quite as lovely? Very often when I look at them they remind me of
yours. There is such a soft, sad, patient expression, as if she knew
perfectly well that some day the hunters would be sure to catch and
kill her, and she was meekly biding her time to be turned into venison
steak. I never will eat another piece! The dear little thing! Edna, do
you know that you have the most beautiful eyes in the world, except Mr.
Murray's? His glitter like great stars under long, long black silk
fringe. By the way, how is he? I have not seen him for some days and
you can have no idea how I do want to look into his face, and hear his
voice, which is so wonderfully sweet and low. I wrote him a note
thanking him for this little spotted darling; but he has not answered
it--has not come near me, and I was afraid he might be sick."

Gertrude stole one arm around her companion's neck and nestled her
golden head against the orphan's shoulder.

"Mr. Murray is very well; at least, appears so. I saw him at breakfast."

"Does he ever talk about me?"

"No; I never heard him mention your name but once, and then it occurred
incidentally."

"Oh, Edna! is it wrong for me to think about him so constantly? Don't
press your lips together in that stern, hard way. Dearie, put your arms
around me, and kiss me. Oh! if you could know how very much I love him!
How happy I am when he is with me. Edna, how can I help it? When he
touches my hand, and smiles down at me, I forget everything else! I
feel as if I would follow him to the end of the earth. He is a great
deal older than I am; but how can I remember that when he is looking at
me with those wonderful eyes? The last time I saw him, he said--well,
something very sweet, and I was sure he loved me, and I leaned my head
against his shoulder; but he would not let me touch him; he pushed me
away with a terrific frown, that wrinkled and blackened his face. Oh!
it seems an age since then."

Edna kissed the lovely coral lips, and smoothed the bright curls that
the wind had blown about the exquisitely moulded cheeks.

"Gertrude, when he asks you to love him, you will have a right to
indulge your affection; but until then you ought not to allow him to
know your feelings, or permit yourself to think so entirely of him."

"But do you believe it is wrong for me to love him so much?"

"That is a question which your own heart must answer."

Edna felt that her own lips were growing cold, and she disengaged the
girl's clasping arms.

"Edna, I know you love me; will you do something for me? Please give
him this note. I am afraid that he did not receive the other, or that
he is offended with me."

She drew a dainty three-cornered envelope from her pocket.

"No, Gertrude; I can be a party to no clandestine correspondence. I
have too much respect for your uncle, to assist in smuggling letters in
and out of his house. Beside, your mother would not sanction the course
you are pursuing."

"Oh! I showed her the other note, and she only laughed, and patted my
cheek, and said, 'Why, Mignonne! he is old enough to be your father.'
This note is only to find out whether he received the other. I sent it
by the servant who brought this fawn--oh dear me! just see what a hole
the pretty little wretch has nibbled in my new Swiss muslin dress!
Won't mamma scold! There, do go away, pet; I will feed you presently.
Indeed, Edna, there is no harm in your taking the note, for I give you
my word mamma does not care. Do you think I would tell you a story?
Please, Edna. It will reach him so much sooner if you carry it over,
than if I were to drop it into the post-office where it may stay for a
week; and Uncle Allan has no extra servants to run around on errands
for me."

"Gertrude, are you not deceiving me? Are you sure your mother read the
other note and sanctions this?"

"Certainly; you may ask her if you doubt me. There! I must hurry in;
mamma is calling me. Dear Edna, if you love me! Yes, mamma, I am
coming."

Edna could not resist the pleading of the lovely face pressed close to
hers, and with a sigh she took the tiny note and turned away.

More than a week had elapsed since Mr. Hammond and Mrs. Powell had
written, recommending her for the situation in Mrs. Andrews's famity;
and with feverish impatience she awaited the result. During this
interval she had not exchanged a word with Mr. Murray--had spent much
of her time in writing down in her note-book such references from the
library as she required in her MS.; and while Estelle seemed unusually
high-spirited, Mrs. Murray watched in silence the orphan's preparations
for departure.

Absorbed in very painful reflections, the girl walked on rapidly till
she reached the cheerless home of the blacksmith, and knocked at the
door.

"Come in, Mr. Murray."

Edna pushed open the door and walked in.

"It is not Mr. Murray this time."

"Oh, Edna! I am so glad you happened to come. He would not let me tell
you; he said he did not wish it known. But now you are here, you will
stay with me, won't you, till it is over?"

Huldah was kneeling at the side of her father's cot, and Edna was
startled by the look of eager, breathless anxiety printed on her white,
trembling face.

"What does she mean, Mr. Reed?"

"Poor little lamb, she is so excited she can hardly speak, and I am not
strong enough to talk much. Huldah, daughter, tell Miss Edna all about
it."

"Mr. Murray heard all I said to you about praying to have my eyes
opened, and he went to town that same evening, and telegraphed to some
doctor in Philadelphia, who cures blindness, to come on and see if he
could do anything for my eyes. Mr. Murray was here this morning, and
said he had heard from the doctor, and that he would come this
afternoon. He said he could only stay till the cars left for
Chattanooga, as he must go back at once. You know he--hush! There!
there! I hear the carriage now. Oh, Edna! pray for me! Pa, pray for my
poor eyes!"

The sweet, childish face was colorless, and tears filled the filmy,
hazel eyes as Huldah clasped her hands. Her lips moved rapidly, though
no sound was audible.

Edna stepped behind the door, and peeped through a crack in the planks.

Mr. Murray entered first and beckoned to the stranger, who paused at
the threshold, with a case of instruments in his hand.

"Come in, Hugh; here is your patient, very much frightened, too, I am
afraid. Huldah, come to the light."

He drew her to the window, lifted her to a chair, and the doctor bent
down, pushed back his spectacles, and cautiously examined the child's
eyes.

"Don't tremble so, Huldah; there is nothing to be afraid of. The doctor
will not hurt you."

"Oh! it is not that I fear to be hurt! Edna, are you praying for me?"

"Edna is not here," answered Mr. Murray, glancing round the room.

"Yes, she is here. I did not tell her, but she happened to come a
little while ago. Edna, won't you hold one of my hands? Oh, Edna! Edna!"

Reluctantly the orphan came forward, and, without lifting her eyes,
took one of the little outstretched hands firmly in both her own. While
Mr. Murray silently appropriated the other, Huldah whispered:

"Please both of you pray for me."

The doctor raised the eyelids several times, peered long and curiously
at the eyeballs, and opened his case of instruments.

"This is one of those instances of congenital cataract which might have
been relieved long ago. A slight operation will remove the difficulty.
St. Elmo, you asked me about the probability of an instantaneous
restoration, and I had begun to tell you about that case which Wardrop
mentions of a woman, blind from her birth till she was forty-six years
of age. She could not distinguish objects for several days--"

"Oh, sir! will I see? Will I see my father?" Her fingers closed
spasmodically over those that clasped them, and the agonizing suspense
written in her countenance was pitiable to contemplate.

"Yes, my dear, I hope so--I think so. You know, Murray, the eye has to
be trained; but Haller mentions a case of a nobleman who saw distinctly
at various distances, immediately after the cataract was removed from
the axis of vision. Now, my little girl, hold just as still as
possible. I, shall not hurt you."

Skilfully he cut through the membrane and drew it down, then held his
hat between her eyes and the light streaming through the window.

Some seconds elapsed and suddenly a cry broke from the child's lips.

"Oh! something shines! there is a light, I believe!"

Mr. Murray threw his handkerchief over her head, caught her in his arms
and placed her on the side of the cot.

"The first face her eyes ever look upon shall be that which she loves
best--her father's."

As he withdrew the handkerchief Mr. Reed feebly raised his arms toward
his child, and whispered:

"My little Huldah--my daughter, can you see me?"

She stooped, put her face close to his, swept her small fingers
repeatedly over the emaciated features, to convince herself of the
identity of the new sensation of sight with the old and reliable sense
of touch; then she threw her head back with a wild laugh, a scream of
delight.

"Oh! I see! Thank God I see my father's face! My dear pa! my own dear
pa!"

For some moments she hung over the sufferer, kissing him, murmuring
brokenly her happy, tender words, and now and then resorting to the old
sense of touch.

While Edna wiped away tears of joyful sympathy which she strove in vain
to restrain, she glanced at Mr. Murray, and wondered how he could stand
there watching the scene with such bright, dry eyes.

Seeming suddenly to remember that there were other countenances in the
world beside that tear-stained one on the pillow, Huldah slipped down
from the cot, turned toward the group, and shaded her eyes with her
fingers.

"Oh, Edna! a'n't you glad for me? Where are you? I knew Jesus would
hear me. 'What things soever ye desire, when ye pray believe that ye
receive them, and ye shall have them.' I did believe, and I see! I see!
I prayed that God would send down some angel to touch my eyes, and He
sent Mr. Murray and the doctor."

After a pause, during which the oculist prepared some bandages, Huldah
added:

"Which one is Mr. Murray? Will you, please, come to me? My ears and my
fingers know you, but my eyes don't."

He stepped forward and putting out her hands she grasped his, and
turned her untutored eyes upon him. Before he could suspect her design
she fell at his feet, threw her arms around his knees, and exclaimed:

"How good you are! How shall I ever thank you enough? How good." She
clung to him and sobbed hysterically.

Edna saw him lift her from the floor and put her back beside her
father, while the doctor bandaged her eyes; and waiting to hear no
more, the orphan glided away and hurried along the road.

Ere she had proceeded far, she heard the quick trot of the horses, the
roll of the carriage. Leaning out as they overtook her, Mr. Murray
directed the driver to stop, and swinging open the door, he stepped out
and approached her.

"The doctor dines at Le Bocage; will you take a seat with us, or do
you, as usual, prefer to walk alone?"

"Thank you, sir; I am not going home now. I shall walk on."

He bowed, and was turning away, but she drew the delicately perfumed
envelope from her pocket.

"Mr. Murray, I was requested by the writer to hand you this note, as
she feared its predecessor was lost by the servant to whom she
entrusted it."

He took it, glanced at the small, cramped, school-girlish handwriting,
smiled, and thrust it into his vest pocket, saying in a low, earnest
tone:

"This is, indeed, a joyful surprise. You are certainly more reliable
than Henry. Accept my cordial thanks, which I have not time to
reiterate. I generally prefer to owe my happiness entirely to Gertrude;
but in this instance I can bear to receive it through the medium of
your hands. As you are so prompt and trusty, I may trouble you to carry
my answer."

The carriage rolled on, leaving a cloud of dust which the evening
sunshine converted into a glittering track of glory, and seating
herself on a grassy bank, Edna leaned her head against the body of a
tree; and all the glory passed swiftly away, and she was alone in the
dust.

As the sun went down, the pillared forest aisles stretching westward,
filled first with golden haze, then glowed with a light redder than
Phthiotan wine poured from the burning beaker of the sun; and only the
mournful cooing of doves broke the solemn silence as the pine organ
whispered its low coranach for the dead day; and the cool shadow of
coming night crept, purple-mantled, velvet-sandaled, down the forest
glades.

"Oh! if I had gone away a week ago! before I knew there was any
redeeming charity in his sinful nature! If I could only despise him
utterly, it would be so much easier to forget him. Ah! God pity me! God
help me! What right have I to think of Gertrude's lover--Gertrude's
husband! I ought to be glad that he is nobler than I thought, but I am
not! Oh! I am not! I wish I had never known the good that he has done.
Oh, Edna Earl! has it come to this? How I despise--how I hate myself!"

Rising, she shook back her thick hair, passed her hands over her hot
temples, and stood listening to the distant whistle of a partridge--to
the plaint of the lonely dove nestled among the pine boughs high above
her; and gradually a holy calm stole over her face, fixing it as the
merciful touch of death stills features that have long writhed in
mortal agony. Into her struggling heart entered a strength which comes
only when weary, wrestling, honest souls turn from human sympathy, seek
the hallowed cloisters of Nature and are folded tenderly in the loving
arms of Mother Cybele, who "never did betray the heart that loved her."

  "Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
   And the round ocean and the living air,
   And the blue sky * * * 'Tis her privilege,
   Through all the years of this our life, to lead
   From joy to joy, for she can so inform
   The mind that is within us, so impress
   With quietness and beauty, and so feed
   With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
   Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
   Nor greetings where no kindness is--nor all
   The dreary intercourse of daily life,
   Shall e'er prevail against us or disturb
   Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
   Is full of blessing"

To her dewy altars among the mountains of Gilead fled Jephthah's
daughter, in the days when she sought for strength to fulfill her
father's battle-vow; and into her pitying starry eyes looked stricken
Rizpah, from those dreary rocks where love held faithful vigil,
guarding the bleaching bones of her darling dead, sacrificed for the
sins of Saul.



CHAPTER XXII.


"Mrs. Andrews writes that I must go on with as little delay as
possible, and I shall start early Monday morning, as I wish to stop one
day at Chattanooga."

Edna rose and took her hat from the study table, and Mr. Hammond asked:

"Do you intend to travel alone?"

"I shall be compelled to do so, as I know of no one who is going on to
New York. Of course, I dislike very much to travel alone, but in this
instance I do not see how I can avoid it."

"Do not put on your hat--stay and spend the evening with me."

"Thank you, sir, I want to go to the church and practice for the last
time on the organ. After to-morrow, I may never sing again in our dear
choir. Perhaps I may come back after awhile and stay an hour or two
with you."

During the past year she had accustomed herself to practising every
Saturday afternoon the hymns selected by Mr. Hammond for the services
of the ensuing day, and for this purpose had been furnished by the
sexton with a key, which enabled her to enter the church whenever
inclination prompted. The church-yard was peaceful and silent as the
pulseless dust in its numerous sepulchres; a beautiful red-bird sat on
the edge of a marble vase that crowned the top of one of the monuments,
and leisurely drank the water which yesterday's clouds had poured
there, and a rabbit nibbled the leaves of a cluster of pinks growing
near a child's grave.

Edna entered the cool church, went up into the gallery and sat down
before the organ. For some time the low, solemn tones whispered among
the fluted columns that supported the gallery, and gradually swelled
louder and fuller and richer as she sang:

  "Cast thy burden on the Lord."

Her sweet, well-trained voice faltered more than once, and tears fell
thick and fast on the keys. Finally she turned and looked down at the
sacred spot where she had been baptized by Mr. Hammond, and where she
had so often knelt to receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

The church was remarkably handsome and certainly justified the pride
with which the villagers exhibited it to all strangers. The massive
mahogany pew-doors were elaborately carved and surmounted by small
crosses; the tall, arched windows were of superb stained glass,
representing the twelve apostles; the floor and balustrade of the
altar, and the grand Gothic pillared pulpit, were all of the purest
white marble; and the capitals of the airy, elegant columns of the same
material, that supported the organ gallery, were ornamented with rich
grape-leaf moulding; while the large window behind and above the pulpit
contained a figure of Christ bearing his Cross--a noble copy of the
great painting of Solario, at Berlin.

As the afternoon sun shone on the glass, a flood of ruby light fell
from the garments of Jesus upon the glittering marble beneath, and the
nimbus that radiated around the crown of thorns caught a glory that was
dazzling.

With a feeling of adoration that no language could adequately express,
Edna had watched and studied this costly painted window for five long
years; had found a marvellous fascination in the pallid face stained
with purplish blood-drops; in the parted lips quivering with human pain
and anguish of spirit; in the unfathomable, divine eyes that pierced
the veil and rested upon the Father's face. Not all the sermons of
Bossuet, or Chalmers, or Jeremy Taylor, or Melville, had power to stir
the great deeps of her soul like one glance at that pale, thorn-crowned
Christ, who looked in voiceless woe and sublime resignation over the
world he was dying to redeem.

To-day she gazed up at the picture of Emmanuel till her eyes grew dim
with tears, and she leaned her head against the mahogany railing and
murmured sadly:

"'And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not
worthy of me!' Strengthen me, O my Saviour! so that I neither faint nor
stagger under mine!"

The echo of her words died away among the arches of the roof, and all
was still in the sanctuary. The swaying of the trees outside of the
windows threw now a golden shimmer, then a violet shadow over the
gleaming altar pavement; and the sun sunk lower, and the nimbus faded,
and the wan Christ looked ghastly and toil-spent.

"Edna! My darling! my darling!"

The pleading cry, the tremulous, tender voice so full of pathos, rang
startlingly through the silent church, and the orphan sprang up and saw
Mr. Murray standing at her side, with his arms extended toward her, and
a glow on his face and a look in his eyes which she had never seen
there before.

She drew back a few steps and gazed wonderingly at him; but he
followed, threw his arm around her, and, despite her resistance,
strained her to his heart.

"Did you believe that I would let you go? Did you dream that I would
see my darling leave me, and go out into the world to be buffeted and
sorely tried, to struggle with poverty--and to suffer alone? Oh, silly
child! I would part with my own life sooner than give you up! Of what
value would it be without you, my pearl, my sole hope, my only love, my
own, pure Edna--"

"Such language you have no right to utter, and I none to hear! It is
dishonorable in you and insulting to me. Gertrude's lover can not, and
shall not, address such words to me. Unwind your arms instantly! Let me
go!"

She struggled hard to free herself, but his clasp tightened, and as he
pressed her face against his bosom, he threw his head back and laughed:

"'Gertrude's lover!' Knowing my history, how could you believe that
possible? Am I, think you, so meek and forgiving a spirit as to turn
and kiss the hand that smote me? Gertrude's lover! Ha! ha!! Your
jealousy blinds you, my--"

"I know nothing of your history; I have never asked; I have never been
told one word! But I am not blind, I know that you love her, and I
know, too, that she fully returns your affection. If you do not wish me
to despise you utterly, leave me at once."

He laughed again, and put his lips close to her ear, saying softly,
tenderly--ah! how tenderly:

"Upon my honor as a gentleman, I solemnly swear that I love but one
woman; that I love her as no other woman ever was loved; with a love
that passes all language; a love that is the only light and hope of a
wrecked, cursed, unutterably miserable life; and that idol which I have
set up in the lonely gray ruins of my heart is Edna Earl!"

"I do not believe you! You have no honor! With the touch of Gertrude's
lips and arms still on yours, you come to me and dare to perjure
yourself! Oh, Mr. Murray! Mr. Murray! I did not believe you capable of
such despicable dissimulation! In the catalogue of your sins, I never
counted deceit. I thought you too proud to play the hypocrite. If you
could realize how I loathe and abhor you, you would get out of my
sight! You would not waste time in words that sink you deeper and
deeper in shameful duplicity. Poor Gertrude! How entirely you mistake
your lover's character! How your love will change to scorn and
detestation!"

In vain she endeavored to wrench away his arm, a band of steel would
have been as flexible; but St. Elmo's voice hardened, and Edna felt his
heart throb fiercely against her cheek as he answered:

"When you are my wife you will repent your rash words, and blush at the
remembrance of having told your husband that he was devoid of honor.
You are piqued and jealous, just as I intended you should be; but,
darling, I am not a patient man, and it frets me to feel you struggling
so desperately in the arms that henceforth will always enfold you. Be
quiet and hear me, for I have much to tell you. Don't turn your face
away from mine, your lips belong to me. I never kissed Gertrude in my
life, and so help me God, I never will! Hear--"

"No! I will hear nothing! Your touch is profanation. I would sooner go
down into my grave, out there in the churchyard, under the granite
slabs, than become the wife of a man so unprincipled. I am neither
piqued nor jealous, for your affairs cannot affect my life; I am only
astonished and mortified and grieved. I would sooner feel the coil of a
serpent around my waist than your arms."

Instantly they fell away. He crossed them on his chest, and his voice
sank to a husky whisper, as the wind hushes itself just before the
storm breaks.

"Edna, God is my witness that I am not deceiving you; that my words
come from the great troubled depths of a wretched heart. You said you
knew nothing of my history. I find it more difficult to believe you
than you to credit my declarations. Answer one question: Has not your
pastor taught you to distrust me? Can it be possible that no hint of
the past has fallen from his lips?"

"Not one unkind word, not one syllable of your history has he uttered.
I know no more of your past than if it were buried in mid-ocean."

Mr. Murray placed her in one of the cushioned chairs designed for the
use of the choir, and leaning back against the railing of the gallery,
fixed his eyes on Edna's face.

"Then it is not surprising that you distrust me, for you know not my
provocation. Edna, will you be patient? Will you go back with me over
the scorched and blackened track of an accursed and sinful life? It is
a hideous waste I am inviting you to traverse! Will you?"

"I will hear you, Mr. Murray, but nothing that you can say will justify
your duplicity to Gertrude, and--"

"D--n Gertrude! I ask you to listen, and suspend your judgment till you
know the circumstances."

He covered his eyes with his hand, and in the brief silence she heard
the ticking of his watch.

"Edna, I roll away the stone from the charnel house of the past, and
call forth the Lazarus of my buried youth, my hopes, my faith in God,
my trust in human nature, my charity, my slaughtered manhood! My
Lazarus has tenanted the grave for nearly twenty years, and comes
forth, at my bidding, a grinning skeleton. You may or may not know that
my father, Paul Murray, died when I was an infant, leaving my mother
the sole guardian of my property and person. I grew up at Le Bocage
under the training of Mr. Hammond, my tutor; and my only associate, my
companion from earliest recollections, was his son Murray, who was two
years my senior, and named for my father. The hold which that boy took
upon my affection was wonderful, inexplicable! He wound me around his
finger as you wind the silken threads with which you embroider. We
studied, read, played together. I was never contented out of his sight,
never satisfied until I saw him liberally supplied with everything that
gave me pleasure. I believe I was very precocious, and made
extraordinary strides in the path of learning; at all events, at
sixteen I was considered a remarkable boy. Mr. Hammond had six
children; and as his salary was rather meagre I insisted on paying his
son's expenses as well as my own when I went to Yale. I could not bear
that my Damon, my Jonathan, should be out of my sight; I must have my
idol always with me. His father was educating him for the ministry, and
he had already commenced the study of theology; but no! I must have him
with me at Yale, and so to Yale we went. I had fancied myself a
Christian, had joined the church, was zealous and faithful in all my
religious duties. In a fit of pious enthusiasm I planned this
church--ordered it built. The cost was enormous, and my mother
objected, but I intended it as a shrine for the 'apple of my eye,' and
where he was concerned, what mattered the expenditure of thousands? Was
not my fortune quite as much at his disposal as at mine? I looked
forward with fond pride to the time when I should see my idol--Murray
Hammond--standing in yonder shining pulpit. Ha! at this instant it is
filled with a hideous spectre! I see him there! His form and features
mocking me, daring me to forget! Handsome as Apollo! treacherous as
Apollyon!"

He paused, pointing to the pure marble pile where a violet flame seemed
flickering, and then with a groan bowed his head upon the railing. When
he spoke again, his face wore an ashy hue, and his stern mouth was
unsteady.

"Hallowed days of my blessed boyhood! Ah! they rise before me now, like
holy, burning stars, breaking out in a stormy, howling night, making
the blackness blacker still! My short happy springtime of life! So full
of noble aspirations, of glowing hopes, of philanthropic schemes, of
all charitable projects! I would do so much good with my money! my
heart was brimming with generous impulses, with warm sympathy and care
for my fellow-creatures. Every needy sufferer should find relief at my
hands as long as I possessed a dollar or a crust! As I look back now at
that dead self, and remember all that I was, all the purity of my life,
the nobility of my character, the tenderness of my heart--I do not
wonder that people who knew me then, predicted that I would prove an
honor, a blessing to my race! Mark you! that was St. Elmo Murray--as
nature fashioned him; before man spoiled God's handiwork. Back! back to
your shroud and sepulchre, O Lazarus of my youth! and when I am called
to the final judgment, rise for me! stand in my place, and confront
those who slaughtered you! * * * My affection for my chum, Murray,
increased as I grew up to manhood, and there was not a dream of my
brain, a hope of my heart which was not confided to him. I reverenced,
I trusted, I almost--nay, I quite worshipped him! When I was only
eighteen I began to love his cousin, whose father was pastor of a
church in New Haven, and whose mother was Mr. Hammond's sister. You
have seen her. She is beautiful even now, and you can imagine how
lovely Agnes Hunt was in her girlhood. She was the belle and pet of the
students, and before I had known her a month I was her accepted lover.
I loved her with all the devotion of my chivalric, ardent, boyish
nature; and for me she professed the most profound attachment. Her
parents favored our wishes for an early marriage, but my mother refused
to sanction such an idea until I had completed my education and visited
the old world. I was an obedient, affectionate son then, and yielded
respectfully; but as vacation approached, I prepared to come home,
hoping to prevail on mother to consent to my being married just before
we sailed for Europe the ensuing year, after I left Yale. Murray was my
confidant and adviser. In his sympathizing ears I poured all my fond
hopes, and he insisted that I ought to take my lovely bride with me; it
would be cruel to leave her so long; and, beside, he was so impatient
for the happy day when he should call me his cousin. He declined coming
home, on the plea of desiring to prosecute his theological studies with
his uncle, Mr. Hunt. Well do I recollect the parting between us. I had
left Agnes in tears--inconsolable because of my departure; and I flew
to Murray for words of consolation. When I bade him good-bye my eyes
were full of tears, and as he passed his arm around my shoulders, I
whispered, 'Murray, take care of my angel Agnes for me! watch over and
comfort her while I am away.' Ah! as I stand here to-day, I hear again
ringing over the ruins of the past twenty years, his loving musical
tones answering:

"'My dear boy, trust her to my care. St. Elmo, for your dear sake I
will steal time from my books to cheer her while you are absent. But
hurry back, for you know I find black-letter more attractive than
blue-eyes. God bless you, my precious friend. Write to me constantly.'

"Since then, I always shudder involuntarily when I hear parting friends
bless each other--for well, well do I know the stinging curse coiled up
in those smooth liquid words! I came home and busied myself in the
erection of this church; in plans for Murray's advancement in life, as
well as my own. My importunity prevailed over my mother's sensible
objections, and she finally consented that I should take my bride to
Europe; while I had informed Mr. Hammond that I wished Murray to
accompany us; that I would gladly pay his travelling expenses--I was so
anxious for him to see the East, especially Palestine. Full of happy
hopes, I hurried back earlier than I had intended, and reached New
Haven very unexpectedly. The night was bright with moonshine, my heart
was bright with hope, and too eager to see Agnes, whose letters had
breathed the most tender solicitude and attachment, I rushed up the
steps, and was told that she was walking in the little flower-garden.
Down the path I hurried, and stopped as I heard her silvery laugh
blended with Murray's; then my name was pronounced in tones that almost
petrified me. Under a large apple-tree in the parsonage-garden they sat
on a wooden bench, and only the tendrils and branches of an Isabella
grape vine divided us. I stood there, grasping the vine--looking
through the leaves at the two whom I had so idolized; and saw her
golden head flashing in the moonlight as she rested it on her cousin's
breast; heard and saw their kisses; heard--what wrecked, blasted me! I
heard myself ridiculed--sneered at--maligned; heard that I was to be a
mere puppet--a cat's paw, that I was a doting, silly fool--easily
hoodwinked; that she found it difficult, almost impossible, to endure
my caresses; that she shuddered in my arms, and flew for happiness to
his! I heard that from the beginning I had been duped; that they had
always loved each other--always would; but poverty stubbornly barred
their marriage--and she must be sacrificed to secure my fortune for the
use of both! All that was uttered I can not now recapitulate; but it is
carefully embalmed, and lies in the little Taj Mahal, among other
cherished souvenirs of my precious friendships! While I stood there, I
was transformed; the soul of St. Elmo seemed to pass away--a fiend took
possession of me; love died, hope with it--and an insatiable thirst for
vengeance set my blood on fire. During those ten minutes my whole
nature was warped, distorted; my life blasted--mutilated--deformed. The
loss of Agnes's love I could have borne, nay--fool that I was!--I think
my quondam generous affection for Murray would have made me relinquish
her almost resignedly, if his happiness had demanded the sacrifice on
my part. If he had come to me frankly and acknowledged all, my insane
idolatry would have made me place her hand in his, and remove the
barrier of poverty; and the assurance that I had secured his lifelong
happiness would have sufficed for mine. Oh! the height and depth and
marvellous strength of my love for that man passes comprehension! But
their scorn, their sneers at my weak credulity, their bitter ridicule
of my awkward, overgrown boyishness, stung me to desperation. I
wondered if I were insane, or dreaming, or the victim of some horrible
delusion. My veins ran fire as I listened to the tingling of her
silvery voice with the rich melody of his, and I turned and left the
garden, and walked back toward the town. The moon was full, but I
staggered and groped my way, like one blind, to the college buildings.
I knew where a pair of pistols was kept by one of the students, and
possessing myself of them, I wandered out on the road leading to the
parsonage. I was aware that Murray intended coming into the town, and
at last I reeled into a shaded spot near the road, and waited for him.
Oh! the mocking glory of that cloudless night! To this day I hate the
cold glitter of stars, and the golden sheen of midnight moons! For the
first time in my life, I cursed the world and all it held; cursed the
contented cricket singing in the grass at my feet; cursed the blood in
my arteries, that beat so thick and fast I could not listen for the
footsteps I was waiting for. At last I heard him whistling a favorite
tune, which all our lives we had whistled together, as we hunted
through the woods around Le Bocage; and, as the familiar sound of 'The
Braes of Balquither' drew nearer and nearer, I sprang up with a cry
that must have rung on the night air like the yell of some beast of
prey. Of all that passed I only know that I cursed and insulted and
maddened him till he accepted the pistol, which I thrust into his hand.
We moved ten paces apart--and a couple of students, who happened
accidentally to pass along the road and heard our altercation, stopped
at our request, gave the word of command, and we fired simultaneously.
The ball entered Murray's heart, and he fell dead without a word. I was
severely wounded in the chest, and now I wear the ball here in my side.
Ah! a precious in memoriam of murdered confidence!"

Until now Edna had listened breathlessly, with her eyes upon his; but
here a groan escaped her, and she shuddered violently, and hid her face
in her hands.

Mr. Murray came nearer, stood close to her, and hurried on.

"My last memory of my old idol is as he lay with his handsome,
treacherous face turned up to the moon; and the hair which Agnes had
been fingering, dabbled with dew and the blood that oozed down from his
side. When I recovered my consciousness Murray Hammond had been three
weeks in his grave. As soon as I was able to travel, my mother took me
to Europe, and for five years we lived in Paris, Naples, or wandered to
and fro. Then she came home, and I plunged into the heart of Asia.
After two years I returned to Paris, and gave myself up to every
species of dissipation. I drank, gambled, and my midnight carousals
would sicken your soul were I to paint all their hideousness. You have
read in the Scriptures of persons possessed of devils? A savage,
mocking, tearing devil held me in bondage. I sold myself to my
Mephistopheles on condition that my revenge might be complete. I hated
the whole world with an intolerable, murderous hate; and to mock and
make my race suffer was the only real pleasure I found. The very name,
the bare mention of religion maddened me. A minister's daughter, a
minister's son, a minister himself, had withered my young life, and I
blasphemously derided all holy things. Oh, Edna! my darling! it is
impossible to paint all the awful wretchedness of that period, when I
walked in the world seeking victims and finding many. Verily,

  'There's not a crime
   But takes its proper change out still in crime,
   If once rung on the counter of this world,
   Let sinners look to it.'

Ah! upon how many lovely women have I visited Agnes's sin of hypocrisy!
Into how many ears have I poured tender words, until fair hands were as
good as offered to me, and I turned their love to mockery! I hated and
despised all womanhood; and even in Paris I became notorious as a
heartless trifler with the affections I won and trampled under my feet.
Whenever a brilliant and beautiful woman crossed my path, I attached
myself to her train of admirers, until I made her acknowledge my power
and give public and unmistakable manifestation of her preference for
me; then I left her--a target for the laughter of her circle. It was
not vanity; oh! no, no! That springs from self-love, and I had none. It
was hate of every thing human, especially of every thing feminine. One
of the fairest faces that ever brightened the haunts of fashion--a
queenly, elegant girl--the pet of her family and of society, now wears
serge garments and a black veil, and is immured in an Italian convent,
because I entirely won her heart; and when she waited for me to declare
my affection and ask her to become my wife, I quitted her side for that
of another belle, and never visited her again. On the day when she bade
adieu to the world, I was among the spectators; and as her mournful but
lovely eyes sought mine, I laughed, and gloried in the desolation I had
wrought. Sick of Europe, I came home...

  'And to a part I come where no light shines.'

My tempting fiend pointed to one whose suffering would atone for much
of my misery. Edna, I withhold nothing; there is much I might conceal,
but I scorn to do so. During one terribly fatal winter, scarlet-fever
had deprived Mr. Hammond of four children, leaving him an only
daughter--Annie--the image of her brother Murray. Her health was
feeble; consumption was stretching its skeleton hands toward her, and
her father watched her as a gardener tends his pet, choice, delicate
exotic. She was about sixteen, very pretty, very attractive. After
Murray's death, I never spoke to Mr. Hammond, never crossed his path;
but I met his daughter without his knowledge, and finally I made her
confess her love for me. I offered her my hand; she accepted it. A day
was appointed for an elopement and marriage; the hour came; she left
the parsonage, but I did not meet her here on the steps of this church
as I had promised, and she received a note that announced my inability
to fulfill the engagement. Two hours later her father found her
insensible on the steps, and the marble was dripping with a hemorrhage
of blood from her lungs. The dark stain is still there; you must have
noticed it. I never saw her again. She kept her room from that day, and
died three months after. When on her deathbed she sent for me, but I
refused to obey the summons. As I stand here, I see through the window
the gray, granite vault overgrown with ivy, and the marble slab where
sleep in untimely death Murray and Annie Hammond, the victims of my
insatiable revenge. Do you wonder that I doubted you when you said that
afflicted father, Allan Hammond, had never uttered one unkind word
about me?"

Mr. Murray pointed to a quiet corner of the church-yard, but Edna did
not lift her face, and he heard the half-smothered, shuddering moan
that struggled up as she listened to him.

He put his hand on hers, but she shivered and shrank away from him.

"Years passed. I grew more and more savage; the very power of loving
seemed to have died out in my nature. My mother endeavored to drag me
into society, but I was surfeited, sick of the world--sick of my own
excesses; and gradually I became a recluse, a surly misanthrope. How
often have I laughed bitterly over those words of Mill's: 'Yet nothing
is more certain than that improvement in human affairs is wholly the
work of the uncontented characters!' My indescribable, my tormenting
discontent, daily belied his aphorism. My mother is a woman of stern
integrity of character and sincerity of purpose; but she is worldly and
ambitious, and inordinately proud, and for her religion I had lost all
respect. Again I went abroad, solely to kill time; was absent two
years, and came back. I had ransacked the world, and was disgusted,
hopeless, prematurely old. A week after my return I was attacked by a
very malignant fever, and my life was despaired of, but I exulted in
the thought that at last I should find oblivion. I refused all
remedies, and set at defiance all medical advice, hoping to hasten the
end; but death cheated me. I rose from my bed of sickness, cursing the
mockery, realizing that indeed:

        'The good die first,
   And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust
   Burn to the socket.'

Some months after my recovery, while I was out on a camp-hunt, you were
brought to Le Bocage, and the sight of you made me more vindictive than
ever. I believed you selfishly designing, and I could not bear that you
should remain under the same roof with me. I hated children as I hated
men and women. But that day when you defied me in the park, and told me
I was sinful and cruel, I began to notice you closely. I weighed your
words, watched you when you little dreamed that I was present, and
often concealed myself in order to listen to your conversation. I saw
in your character traits that annoyed me, because they were noble and
unlike what I had believed all womanhood or girlhood to be. I was aware
that you dreaded and disliked me; I saw that very clearly every time I
had occasion to speak to you. How it all came to pass I can not tell--I
know not--and it has always been a mystery even to me; but, Edna, after
the long lapse of years of sin and reckless dissipation, my heart
stirred and turned to you, child though you were, and a strange,
strange, invincible love for you sprang from the bitter ashes of a dead
affection for Agnes Hunt. I wondered at myself; I sneered at my idiocy;
I cursed my mad folly, and tried to believe you as unprincipled as I
had found others; but the singular fascination strengthened day by day.
Finally I determined to tempt you, hoping that your duplicity and
deceit would wake me from the second dream into which I feared there
was danger of my falling. Thinking that at your age curiosity was the
strongest emotion, I carefully arranged the interior of the Taj Mahal,
so that it would be impossible for you to open it without being
discovered; and putting the key in your hands, I went abroad. I wanted
to satisfy myself that you were unworthy, and believed you would betray
the trust. For four years I wandered, restless, impatient, scorning
myself more and more because I could not forget your sweet, pure,
haunting face; because, despite my jeers, I knew that I loved you. At
last I wrote to my mother from Egypt that I should go to Central
Persia, and so I intended. But one night as I sat alone, smoking, amid
the ruins of the propylon at Philas, a vision of Le Bocage rose before
me, and your dear face looked at me from the lotus-crowned columns of
the ancient temple. I forgot the hate I bore all mankind; I forgot
every thing but you; your pure, calm, magnificent eyes; and the longing
to see you, my darling--the yearning to look into your eyes once more,
took possession of me. I sat there till the great, golden, dewless dawn
of the desert fell upon Egypt, and then came a struggle long and
desperate. I laughed and swore at my folly; but far down in the abysses
of my distorted nature hope had kindled a little feeble, flickering
ray. I tried to smother it, but its flame clung to some crevice in my
heart, and would not be crushed. While I debated, a pigeon that dwelt
somewhere in the crumbling temple fluttered down at my feet, cooed
softly, looked in my face, then perched on a mutilated red granite
sphinx immediately in front of me, and after a moment rose, circled
above me in the pure, rainless air and flew westward. I accepted it as
an omen, and started to America instead of to Persia. On the night of
the tenth of December, four years after I bade you good-bye at the park
gate, I was again at Le Bocage. Silently and undiscovered I stole into
my own house, and secreted myself behind the curtains in the library. I
had been there one hour when you and Gordon Leigh came in to examine
the Targum. Oh, Edna! how little you dreamed of the eager, hungry eyes
that watched you! During that hour that you two sat there bending over
the same book, I became thoroughly convinced that while I loved you as
I never expected to love any one, Gordon also loved you, and intended
if possible to make you his wife. I contrasted my worn, haggard face
and grayish locks with his, so full of manly hope and youthful beauty,
and I could not doubt that any girl would prefer him to me. Edna, my
retribution began then. I felt that my devil was mocking me, as I had
long mocked others, and made me love you when it was impossible to win
you. Then and there I was tempted to spring upon and throttle you both
before he triumphantly called you his. At last Leigh left, and I
escaped to my own rooms. I was pacing the floor when I heard you cross
the rotunda and saw the glimmer of the light you carried. Hoping to see
you open the little Taj, I crawled behind the sarcophagus that holds my
two mummies, crouched close to the floor, and peeped at you across the
gilded byssus that covered them. My eyes, I have often been told,
possess magnetic or mesmeric power. At all events, you felt my eager
gaze, you were restless, and searched the room to discover whence that
feeling of a human presence came. Darling, were you superstitious, that
you avoided looking into the dark corner where the mummies lay?
Presently you stopped in front of the little tomb, and swept away the
spider-web, and took the key from your pocket, and as you put it into
the lock I almost shouted aloud in my savage triumph! I absolutely
panted to find Leigh's future wife as unworthy of confidence as I
believed the remainder of her sex. But you did not open it. You merely
drove away the spider and rubbed the marble clean with your
handkerchief, and held the key between your fingers. Then my heart
seemed to stand still, as I watched the light streaming over your
beautiful, holy face and warm, crimson dress; and when you put the key
in your pocket and turned away, my groan almost betrayed me. I had
taken out my watch to see the hour, and in my suspense I clutched it so
tightly that the gold case and the crystal within all crushed in my
hand. You heard the tingling sound and wondered whence it came; and
when you had locked the door and gone, I raised one of the windows and
swung myself down to the terrace. Do you remember that night?"

"Yes, Mr. Murray."

Her voice was tremulous and almost inaudible.

"I had business in Tennessee, no matter now, what, or where, and I went
on that night. After a week I returned, that afternoon when I found you
reading in my sitting-room. Still I was sceptical, and not until I
opened the tomb, was I convinced that you had not betrayed the trust
which you supposed I placed in you. Then, as you stood beside me in all
your noble purity and touching girlish beauty,--as you looked up half
reproachfully, half defiantly at me--it cost me a terrible effort to
master myself--to abstain from clasping you to my heart, and telling
you all that you were to me. Oh! how I longed to take you in my arms
and feed my poor famished heart with one touch of your lips! I dared
not look at you, lest I should lose my self-control. The belief that
Gordon was a successful rival sealed my lips on that occasion; and ah!
the dreary wretchedness of the days of suspense that followed. I was a
starving beggar who stood before what I coveted above everything else
on earth, and saw it labelled with another man's name and beyond my
reach. The daily sight of that emerald ring on your finger maddened me;
and you can form no adequate idea of the bitterness of feeling with
which I noted my mother's earnest efforts and manoeuvres to secure for
Gordon Leigh--to sell to him--the little hand which her own son would
have given worlds to claim in the sight of God and man! Continually I
watched you when you least expected me; I strewed infidel books where I
knew you must see them; I tempted you more than you dreamed of; I
teased and tormented and wounded you whenever an opportunity offered;
for I hoped to find some flaw in your character, some defect in your
temper, some inconsistency between your professions and your practice.
I knew Leigh was not your equal, and I said bitterly, 'She is poor and
unknown, and will surely marry him for his money, for his position--as
Agnes would have married me.' But you did not! and when I knew that you
had positively refused his fortune, I felt that a great dazzling light
had broken suddenly upon my darkened life; and, for the first time
since I parted with Murray Hammond, tears of joy filled my eyes. I
ceased to struggle against my love--I gave myself up to it, and only
asked, How can I overcome her aversion to me? You were the only tie
that linked me with my race, and for your sake I almost felt as if I
could forget my hate. But you shrank more and more from me, and my
punishment overtook me when I saw how you hated Clinton Allston's
blood-smeared hands, and with what unfeigned horror you regarded his
career. When you declared so vehemently that his fingers should never
touch yours--oh! it was the fearful apprehension of losing you that
made me catch your dear hands and press them to my aching heart. I was
stretched upon a rack that taught me the full import of Isaac Taylor's
grim words, 'Remorse is man's dread prerogative!' Believing that you
knew all my history and that your aversion was based upon it, I was too
proud to show you my affection. Douglass Manning was as much my friend
as I permitted any man to be; we had travelled together through Arabia,
and with his handwriting I was familiar. Suspecting your literary
schemes, and dreading a rival in your ambition, I wrote to him on the
subject, discovered all I wished to ascertain, and requested him, for
my sake, to reconsider and examine your MS. He did so to oblige me, and
I insisted that he should treat your letters and your MS. with such
severity as to utterly crush your literary aspirations. Oh, child! do
you see how entirely you fill my mind and heart? How I scrutinize your
words and actions? Oh, my darling--"

He paused, and leaned over her, putting his hand on her head, but she
shook off his touch and exclaimed:

"But Gertrude! Gertrude!"

"Be patient, and you shall know all; for as God reigns above us, there
is no recess of my heart into which you shall not look. It is, perhaps,
needless to tell you that Estelle came here to marry me for my fortune.
It is not agreeable to say such things of one's own cousin, but to-day
I deal only in truths, and facts sustain me. She professes to love me!
has absolutely avowed it more than once in days gone by. Whether she
really loves anything but wealth and luxury, I have never troubled
myself to find out; but my mother fancies that if Estelle were my wife,
I might be less cynical. Once or twice I tried to be affectionate
toward her, solely to see what effect it would have upon you; but I
discovered that you could not easily be deceived in that direction--the
mask was too transparent, and beside, the game disgusted me. I have no
respect for Estelle, but I have a shadowy traditional reverence for the
blood in her veins which forbids my flirting with her as she deserves.
The very devil himself brought Agnes here. She had married a rich old
banker only a few months after Murray's death, and lived in ease and
splendor until a short time since, when her husband failed and died,
leaving her without a cent. She knew how utterly she had blasted my
life, and imagined that I had never married because I still loved her!
With unparalleled effrontery she came here, and trusting to her
wonderfully preserved beauty, threw herself and her daughter in my way.
When I heard SHE was at the parsonage, all the old burning hate leaped
up strong as ever. I fancied that she was the real cause of your
dislike to me, and that night, when the game of billiards ended, I went
to the parsonage for the first time since Murray's death. Oh! the
ghostly thronging memories that met me at the gate, trooped after me up
the walk, and hovered like vultures as I stood in the shadow of the
trees, where my idol and I had chatted and romped and shouted and
whistled in the far past, in the sinless bygone! Unobserved I stood
there, and looked once more, after the lapse of twenty years, on the
face that had caused my crime and ruin. I listened to her clear laugh,
silvery as when I heard it chiming with Murray's under the apple-tree
on the night that branded me and drove me forth to wander like Cain;
and I resolved, if she really loved her daughter, to make her suffer
for all that she had inflicted on me. The first time I met Gertrude I
could have sworn my boyhood's love was restored to me; she is so
entirely the image of what Agnes was. To possess themselves of my home
and property is all that brought them here; and whether as my wife or
as my mother-in-law I think Agnes cares little. The first she sees is
impracticable, and now to make me wed Gertrude is her aim. Like mother,
like daughter!"

"Oh! no, no! visit not her mother's sins on her innocent head! Gertrude
is true and affectionate, and she loves you dearly."

Edna spoke with a great effort, and the strange tones of her own voice
frightened her.

"Loves me? Ha! ha! just about as tenderly as her mother did before her!
That they do both 'dearly love'--my purse, I grant you. Hear me out.
Agnes threw the girl constantly and adroitly in my way; the demon here
in my heart prompted revenge, and, above all, I resolved to find out
whether you were indeed as utterly indifferent to me as you seemed. I
know that jealousy will make a woman betray her affection sooner than
any other cause, and I deliberately set myself to work to make you
believe that I loved that pretty cheat over yonder at the
parsonage--that frolicsome wax-doll, who would rather play with a
kitten than talk to Cicero; who intercepts me almost daily, to favor me
with manifestations of devotion, and shows me continually that I have
only to put out my hand and take her to rule over my house, and trample
my heart under her pretty feet! When you gave me that note of hers a
week ago, and looked so calmly, so coolly in my face, I felt as if all
hope were dying in my heart; for I could not believe that, if you had
one atom of affection for me, you could be so generous, so unselfish
toward one whom you considered your rival. That night I did not close
my eyes, and had almost decided to revisit South America; but next
morning my mother told me you were going to New York--that all
entreaties had failed to shake your resolution. Then once more a hope
cheered me, and I believed that I understood why you had determined to
leave those whom I know you love tenderly--to quit the home my mother
offered you and struggle among strangers. Yesterday they told me you
would leave on Monday, and I went out to seek you; but you were with
Mr. Hammond, as usual, and instead of you I met--that curse of my
life--Agnes! Face to face, at last, with my red-lipped Lamia! Oh! it
was a scene that made jubilee down in Pandemonium! She plead for her
child's happiness--ha, ha, ha!--implored me most pathetically to love
her Gertrude as well as Gertrude loved me, and that my happiness would
make me forget the unfortunate past! She would willingly give me her
daughter, for did she not know how deep, how lasting, how deathless was
my affection? I had Gertrude's whole heart, and I was too generous to
trifle with her tender love! Edna, darling! I will not tell you all she
said--you would blush for your sisterhood. But my vengeance was
complete when I declined the honor she was so eager to force upon me;
when I overwhelmed her with my scorn, and told her that there was only
one woman whom I respected or trusted; only one woman upon the broad
earth whom I loved; only one woman who could ever be my wife, and her
name was--Edna Earl!"

His voice died away, and all was still as the dead in their grassy
graves.

The orphan's face was concealed, and after a moment St. Elmo Murray
opened his arms, and said in that low winning tone which so many women
had found it impossible to resist: "Come to me now, my pure, noble
Edna. You whom I love, as only such a man as I have shown myself to be
can love."

"No, Mr. Murray; Gertrude stands between us."

"Gertrude! Do not make me swear here, in your presence--do not madden
me by repeating her name! I tell you she is a silly child, who cares no
more for me than her mother did before her. Nothing shall stand between
us. I love you; the God above us is my witness that I love you as I
never loved any human being, and I will not--I swear I will not live
without you! You are mine, and all the legions in hell shall not part
us!"

He stooped, snatched her from the chair as if she had been an infant,
and folded her in his strong arms.

"Mr. Murray, I know she loves you. My poor little trusting friend! You
trifled with her warm heart, as you hope to trifle with mine; but I
know you; you have shown me how utterly heartless, remorseless,
unprincipled you are. You had no right to punish Gertrude for her
mother's sins; and if you had one spark of honor in your nature, you
would marry her, and try to atone for the injury you have already done."

"By pretending to give her a heart which belongs entirely to you? If I
wished to deceive you now, think you I would have told all that hideous
past, which you can not abhor one half as much as I do?"

"Your heart is not mine! It belongs to sin, or you could not have so
maliciously deceived poor Gertrude. You love nothing but your ignoble
revenge and the gratification of your self-love! You--"

"Take care, do not rouse me. Be reasonable, little darling. You doubt
my love? Well, I ought not to wonder at your scepticism after all you
have heard. But you can feel how my heart throbs against your cheek,
and if you will look into my eyes, you will be convinced that I am
fearfully in earnest, when I beg you to be my wife
to-morrow--to-day--now! if you will only let me send for a minister or
a magistrate! You are--"

"You asked Annie to be your wife, and--"

"Hush! hush! Look at me. Edna, raise your head and look at me."

She tried to break away, and finding it impossible, pressed both hands
over her face and hid it against his shoulder.

He laughed, and whispered:

"My darling, I know what that means. You dare not look up because you
cannot trust your own eyes! Because you dread for me to see something
there which you want to hide, which you think it your duty to conceal."

He felt a long shudder creep over her, and she answered resolutely:

"Do you think, sir, that I could love a murderer? A man whose hands are
red with the blood of the son of my best friend?"

"Look at me then."

He raised her head, drew down her hands, took them firmly in one of
his, and placing the other under her chin, lifted the burning face
close to his own.

She dreaded the power of his lustrous, mesmeric eyes, and instantly her
long silky lashes swept her flushed cheeks.

"Ah! you dare not! You can not look me steadily in the eye and say,
'St. Elmo, I never have loved--do not--and never can love you!' You are
too truthful; your lips can not dissemble. I know you do not want to
love me. Your reason, your conscience forbid it; you are struggling to
crush your heart. You think it your duty to despise and hate me. But,
my own, Edna--my darling! my darling! you do love me! You know you do
love me, though you will not confess it! My proud darling!"

He drew the face tenderly to his own, and kissed her quivering lips
repeatedly, and at last a moan of anguish told how she was wrestling
with her heart.

"Do you think you can hide your love from my eager eyes? Oh! I know
that I am unworthy of you! I feel it more and more every day, every
hour. It is because you seem so noble--so holy--to my eyes, that I
reverence while I love you. You are so far above all other women--so
glorified in your pure, consistent piety--that you only have the power
to make my future life--redeem the wretched and sinful past. I tempted
and tried you, and when you proved so true and honest and womanly, you
kindled a faint beam of hope that, after all, there might be truth and
saving, purifying power in religion. Do you know that since this church
was finished I have never entered it until a month ago, when I followed
you here, and crouched downstairs--yonder, behind one of the pillars,
and heard your sacred songs, your hymns so full of grandeur, so full of
pathos, that I could not keep back my tears while I listened. Since
then I have come every Saturday afternoon, and during the hour spent
here my unholy nature was touched and softened as no sermon ever
touched it. Oh! you wield a power over me--over all my future, which
ought to make you tremble! The first generous impulse that has stirred
my callous, bitter soul since I was a boy, I owe to you. I went first
to see poor Reed, in order to discover what took you so often to that
cheerless place; and my interest in little Huldah arose from the fact
that you loved the child. Oh, my darling! I know I have been sinful and
cruel and blasphemous; but it is not too late for me to atone! It is
not too late for me to do some good in the world; and if you will only
love me, and trust me, and help me--"

His voice faltered, his tears fell upon her forehead, and stooping he
kissed her lips softly, reverently, as if he realized the presence of
something sacred.

"My precious Edna, no oath shall ever soil my lips again; the touch of
yours has purified them. I have been mad--I think, for many, many
years, and I loath my past life; but remember how sorely I was tried,
and be merciful when you judge me. With your dear little hand in mine
to lead me, I will make amends for the ruin and suffering I have
wrought, and my Edna--my own wife, shall save me!" Before the orphan's
mental vision rose the picture of Gertrude, the trembling coral mouth,
the childish wistful eyes, the lovely head nestled down so often and so
lovingly on her shoulder; and she saw, too, the bent figure and white
locks of her beloved pastor, as he sat in his old age, in his
childless, desolate home, facing the graves of his murdered children.

"Oh, Mr. Murray! You can not atone! You can not call your victims from
their tombs. You can not undo what you have done! What amends can you
make to Mr. Hammond, and to my poor little confiding Gertrude? I can
not help you! I can not save you!"

"Hush! You can, you shall! Do you think I will ever give you up? Have
mercy on my lonely life! my wretched, darkened soul. Lean your dear
head here on my heart, and say, 'St. Elmo, what a wife can do to save
her erring, sinful husband, I will do for you.' If I am ever to be
saved, you, you only can effect my redemption; for I trust, I reverence
you. Edna, as you value my soul, my eternal welfare, give yourself to
me! Give your pure, sinless life to purify mine."

With a sudden bound she sprang from his embrace, and lifted her arms
toward the Christ, who seemed to shudder as the flickering light of
fading day fell through waving foliage upon it.

"Look yonder to Jesus, bleeding! Only his blood can wash away your
guilt. Mr. Murray, I can never be your wife. I have no confidence in
you. Knowing how systematically you have deceived others, how devoid of
conscientious scruples you are, I should never be sure that I too was
not the victim of your heartless cynicism. Beside, I--"

"Hush! hush! To your keeping I commit my conscience and my heart."

"No! no! I am no vicegerent of an outraged and insulted God! I put no
faith in any man whose conscience another keeps. From the species of
fascination which you exert, I shrink with unconquerable dread and
aversion, and would almost as soon entertain the thought of marrying
Lucifer himself. Oh! your perverted nature shocks, repels, astonishes,
grieves me. I can neither respect nor trust you. Mr. Murray, have mercy
upon yourself! Go yonder to Jesus. He only can save and purify you."

"Edna, you do not, you can not intend to leave me? Darling--"

He held out his arms and moved toward her, but she sprang past him,
down the steps of the gallery, out of the church, and paused only at
sight of the dark, dull spot on the white steps, where Annie Hammond
had lain insensible.

An hour later, St. Elmo Murray raised his face from the mahogany
railing where it had rested since Edna left him, and looked around the
noble pile which his munificence had erected. A full moon eyed him
pityingly through the stained glass, and the gleam of the marble pulpit
was chill and ghostly; and in that weird light the Christ was
threatening, wrathful, appalling.

As St. Elmo stood there alone, confronting the picture--confronting the
past-memory, like the Witch of Endor, called up visions of the departed
that were more terrible than the mantled form of Israel's prophet; and
the proud, hopeless man bowed his haughty head, with a cry of anguish
that rose mournfully to the vaulted ceiling of the sanctuary:

  "It went up single, echoless, 'My God! I am forsaken!'"



CHAPTER XXIII.


The weather was so inclement on the following day that no service was
held in the church; but, notwithstanding the heavy rain, Edna went to
the parsonage to bid adieu to her pastor and teacher. When she ascended
the steps Mr. Hammond was walking up and down the portico with his
hands clasped behind him, as was his habit when engrossed by earnest
thought; and he greeted his pupil with a degree of mournful tenderness
very soothing to her sad heart.

Leading the way to his study, where Mrs. Powell sat with an open book
on her lap, he said gently:

"Agnes, will you be so kind as to leave us for a while? This is the
last interview I shall have with Edna for a long time, perhaps forever,
and there are some things I wish to say to her alone. You will find a
better light in the dining-room, where all is quiet."

As Mrs. Powell withdrew he locked the door, and for some seconds paced
the floor; then, taking a seat on the chintz-covered lounge beside his
pupil, he said eagerly:

"St. Elmo was at the church yesterday afternoon. Are you willing to
tell me what passed between you?"

"Mr. Hammond, he told me his melancholy history. I know all now--know
why he shrinks from meeting you, whom he has injured so cruelly; know
all his guilt and your desolation."

The old man bowed his white head on his bosom, and there was a painful
silence. When he spoke, his voice was scarcely audible.

"The punishment of Eli has fallen heavily upon me, and there have been
hours when I thought that it was greater than I could bear--that it
would utterly crush me; but the bitterness of the curse has passed
away; and I can say truly of that 'meekest angel of God,' the Angel of
Patience:

  'He walks with thee, that angel kind,
   And gently whispers, Be resigned;
   Bear up, bear on; the end shall tell,
   The dear Lord ordereth all things well!'

"I tried to train up my children in the fear and admonition of the
Lord; but I must have failed signally in my duty, though I have never
been able to discover in what respect I was negligent. One of the sins
of my life was my inordinate pride in my only boy--my gifted, gifted,
handsome son. My love for Murray was almost idolatrous; and when my
heart throbbed with proudest hopes and aspirations, my idol was broken
and laid low in the dust; and, like David mourning for his rebellious
child Absalom, I cried out in my affliction, 'My son! my son! would God
I had died for thee!' Murray Hammond was my precious diadem of earthly
glory; and suddenly I found myself uncrowned, and sackcloth and ashes
were my portion."

"Why did you never confide these sorrows to me? Did you doubt my
earnest sympathy?"

"No, my child; but I thought it best that St. Elmo should lift the veil
and show you all that he wished you to know. I felt assured that the
time would come when he considered it due to himself to acquaint you
with his sad history; and when I saw him go into the church yesterday I
knew that the hour had arrived. I did not wish to prejudice you against
him; for I believe that through your agency the prayers of twenty years
would be answered, and that his wandering, embittered heart would
follow you to that cross before which he bowed in his boyhood. Edna, it
was through my son's sin and duplicity that St. Elmo's noble career was
blasted, and his most admirable character perverted; and I have hoped
and believed that through your influence, my beloved pupil, he would be
redeemed from his reckless course. My dear little Edna, you are very
lovely and winning, and I believe he would love you as he never loved
any one else. Oh! I have hoped everything from your influence! Far, far
beyond all computation is the good which a pious, consistent, Christian
wife can accomplish in the heart of a husband who truly loves her."

"Oh, Mr. Hammond! you pain and astonish me. Surely you would not be
willing to see me marry a man who scoffs at the very name of religion;
who wilfully deceives and trifles with the feelings of all who are
sufficiently credulous to trust his hollow professions--whose hands are
red with the blood of your children! What hope of happiness or peace
could you indulge for me, in view of such a union? I should merit all
the wretchedness that would inevitably be my life--long portion if,
knowing his crimes, I could consent to link my future with his."

"He would not deceive you, my child! If you knew him as well as I do,
if you could realize all that he was before his tender, loving heart
was stabbed by the two whom he almost adored, you would judge him more
leniently. Edna, if I whom he has robbed of all that made life
beautiful--if I, standing here in my lonely old age, in sight of the
graves of my murdered darlings--if I can forgive him, and pray for him,
and, as God is my witness, love him! you have no right to visit my
injuries and my sorrows upon him!"

Edna looked in amazement at his troubled earnest countenance, and
exclaimed:

"Oh! if he knew all your noble charity, your unparalleled magnanimity,
surely, surely, your influence would be his salvation! His stubborn,
bitter heart would be melted. But, sir, I should have a right to expect
Annie's sad fate if I could forget her sufferings and her wrongs."

Mr. Hammond rose and walked to the window, and after a time, when he
resumed his seat, his eyes were full of tears, and his wrinkled face
was strangely pallid.

"My darling Annie, my sweet, fragile flower, my precious little
daughter, so like her sainted mother! Ah! it is not surprising that she
could not resist his fascinations. But, Edna, he never loved my pet
lamb. Do you know that you have become almost as dear to me as my own
dead child? She deceived me! she was willing to forsake her father in
his old age; but through long years you have never once betrayed my
perfect confidence."

The old man put his thin hand on the orphan's head and turned the
countenance toward him.

"My dear little girl, you will not think me impertinently curious when
I ask you a question, which my sincere affection for and interest in
you certainly sanction? Do you love St. Elmo?"

"Mr. Hammond, it is not love; for esteem, respect, confidence, belong
to love. But I can not deny that he exerts a very singular, a wicked
fascination over me. I dread his evil influence, I avoid his presence,
and know that he is utterly unworthy of any woman's trust; and yet--and
yet--Oh, sir! I feel that I am very weak, and I fear that I am
unwomanly; but I can not despise, I can not hate him as I ought to do!"

"Is not this feeling on your part one of the causes that hurry you away
to New York?"

"That is certainly one of the reasons why I am anxious to go away as
early as possible. Oh, Mr. Hammond! much as I love, much as I owe you
and Mrs. Murray, I sometimes wish that I had never come here! Never
seen Le Bocage, and the mocking, jeering man who owns it!"

"Try to believe that somehow in the mysterious Divine economy it is all
for the best. In reviewing the apparently accidental circumstances that
placed you among us, I have thought that, because this was your
appointed field of labor, God in his wisdom brought you where he
designed you to work. Does Mrs. Murray know that her son offered to
make you his wife?"

"No! no! I hope she never will; for it would mortify her exceedingly to
know that he could be willing to give his proud name to one of whose
lineage she is so ignorant. How did you know it?"

"I knew what his errand must be when he forced himself to visit a spot
so fraught with painful memories as my church. Edna, I shall not urge
you; but ponder well the step you are taking; for St. Elmo's future
will be colored by your decision. I have an abiding and comforting
faith that he will yet lift himself out of the abyss of sinful
dissipation and scoffing scepticism, and your hand would aid him as
none other human can."

"Mr. Hammond, it seems incredible that you can plead for him. Oh, do
not tempt me! Do not make me believe that I could restore his purity of
faith and life. Do not tell me that it would be right to give my hand
to a blasphemous murderer? Oh! my own heart is weak enough already! I
know that I am right in my estimate of his unscrupulous character, and
I am neither so vain nor so blind as to imagine that my feeble efforts
could accomplish for him what all your noble magnanimity and patient
endeavors have entirely failed to effect. If he can obstinately resist
the influence of your life, he would laugh mine to scorn. It is hard
enough for me to leave him, when I feel that duty demands it. Oh, my
dear Mr. Hammond! do not attempt to take from me the only staff which
can carry me firmly away--do not make my trial even more severe. I must
not see his face; for I will not be his wife. Instead of weakening my
resolution by holding out flattering hopes of reforming him, pray for
me! oh! pray for me! that I may be strengthened to flee from a great
temptation! I will marry no man who is not an earnest, humble believer
in the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Rather than become the wife
of a sacrilegious scoffer, such as I know Mr. Murray to be, I will, so
help me God! live and work alone, and go down to my grave, Edna Earl!"

The minister sighed heavily.

"Bear one thing in mind. It has been said, that in disavowing
guardianship, we sometimes slaughter Abel. You can not understand my
interest in St. Elmo. Remember that if his wretched soul is lost at
last, it will be required at the hands of my son, in that dread
day--Dies Irae! Dies Illa!--when we shall stand at the final judgment!
Do you wonder that I struggle in prayer, and in all possible human
endeavor to rescue him from ruin; so that when I am called from earth,
I can meet the spirit of my only boy with the blessed tidings that the
soul he jeopardized, and well-nigh wrecked, has been redeemed! is safe!
anchored once more in the faith of Christ? But I will say no more. Your
own heart and conscience must guide you in this matter. It would pour a
flood of glorious sunshine upon my sad and anxious heart, as I go down
to my grave, if I could know that you, whose life and character I have
in great degree moulded, were instrumental in saving one whom I have
loved so long, so well, and under such afflicting circumstances, as my
poor St. Elmo."

"To the mercy of his Maker, and the intercession of his Saviour, I
commit him."

  'As for me, I go my way, onward, upward.'"

A short silence ensued, and at last Edna rose to say good-bye.

"Do you still intend to leave at four o'clock in the morning? I fear
you will have bad weather for your journey."

"Yes, sir, I shall certainly start to-morrow. And now, I must leave
you. Oh, my best friend! how can I tell you good-bye!"

The minister folded her in his trembling arms, and his silver locks
mingled with her black hair, while he solemnly blessed her. She sobbed
as he pressed his lips to her forehead, and gently put her from him;
and turning, she hurried away, anxious to escape the sight of
Gertrude's accusing face; for she supposed that Mrs. Powell had
repeated to her daughter Mr. Murray's taunting words.

Since the previous evening she had not spoken to St. Elmo, who did not
appear at breakfast; but when she passed him in the hall an hour later,
he was talking to his mother, and took no notice of her bow.

Now as the carriage approached the house, she glanced in the direction
of his apartment, and saw him sitting at the window, with his elbow
resting on the sill, and his cheek on his hand.

She went at once to Mrs. Murray, and the interview was long and
painful. The latter wept freely, and insisted that if the orphan grew
weary of teaching (as she knew would happen), she should come back
immediately to Le Bocage; where a home would always be hers, and to
which a true friend would welcome her.

At length, when Estelle Harding came in with some letters, which she
wished to submit to her aunt's inspection, Edna retreated to her own
quiet room. She went to her bureau to complete the packing of her
clothes, and found on the marble slab a box and note directed to her.

Mr. Murray's handwriting was remarkably graceful, and Edna broke the
seal which bore his motto, Nemo me impune lacessit.

"EDNA: I send for your examination the contents of the little tomb,
which you guarded so faithfully. Read the letters written before I was
betrayed. The locket attached to a ribbon, which was always worn over
my heart, and the miniatures which it contains are those of Agnes Hunt
and Murray Hammond. Read all the record, and then judge me, as you hope
to be judged. I sit alone, amid the mouldering, blackened ruins of my
youth; will you not listen to the prayer of my heart, and the
half-smothered pleadings of your own, and come to me in my desolation,
and help me to build up a new and noble life? Oh, my darling, you can
make me what you will. While you read and ponder, I am praying. Aye,
praying for the first time in twenty years! praying that if God ever
hears prayer, He will influence your decision, and bring you to me.
Edna, my darling! I wait for you. "Your own,
                     "ST. ELMO."

Ah! how her tortured heart writhed and bled; how piteously it pleaded
for him, and for itself!

Edna opened the locket, and if Gertrude had stepped into the golden
frame, the likeness could not have been more startling. She looked at
it until her lips blanched and were tightly compressed, and the memory
of Gertrude became paramount. Murray Hammond's face she barely glanced
at, and its extraordinary beauty stared at her like that of some
avenging angel. With a shudder she put it away, and turned to the
letters that St. Elmo had written to Agnes and to Murray, in the early,
happy days of his engagement.

Tender, beautiful, loving letters, that breathed the most devoted
attachment and the purest piety; letters that were full of lofty
aspirations, and religious fervor, and generous schemes for the
assistance and enlightenment of the poor about Le Bocage; and
especially for "my noble, matchless Murray." Among the papers were
several designs for charitable buildings: a house of industry, an
asylum for the blind, and a free school-house. In an exquisite ivory
casket, containing a splendid set of diamonds, and the costly betrothal
ring, bearing the initials, Edna found a sheet of paper around which
the blazing necklace was twisted. Disengaging it. she saw that it was a
narration of all that had stung him to desperation on the night of the
murder.

As she read the burning taunts, the insults, the ridicule heaped by the
two under the apple-tree upon the fond, faithful, generous, absent
friend, she felt the indignant blood gush into her face; but she read
on and on, and two hours elapsed ere she finished the package. Then
came a trial, a long, fierce, agonizing trial, such as few women have
ever been called upon to pass through; such as the world believes no
woman ever triumphantly endured. Girded by prayer, the girl went down
resolutely into the flames of the furnace, and the ordeal was terrible
indeed. But as often as Love showed her the figure of Mr. Murray, alone
in his dreary sitting-room, waiting, watching for her, she turned and
asked of Duty, the portrait of Gertrude's sweet, anxious face; the
picture of dying Annie; the mournful countenance of a man, shut up by
iron bars from God's beautiful world, from the home and the family who
had fondly cherished her in her happy girlhood, ere St. Elmo trailed
his poison across her sunny path.

After another hour, the orphan went to her desk, and while she wrote, a
pale, cold rigidity settled upon her features, which told that she was
calmly, deliberately shaking hands with the expelled, the departing
Hagar of her heart's hope and happiness. "To the mercy of God, and the
love of Christ, and the judgment of your own conscience, I commit you.
Henceforth we walk different paths, and after to-night, it is my wish
that we meet no more on earth. Mr. Murray, I cannot lift up your
darkened soul; and you would only drag mine down. For your final
salvation I shall never cease to pray till we stand face to face before
the Bar of God. "EDNA EARL."

Ringing for a servant, she sent back the box, and even his own note,
which she longed to keep, but would not trust herself to see again; and
dreading reflection, and too miserable to sleep, she went to Mrs.
Murray's room, and remained with her till three o'clock.

Then Mr. Murray's voice rang through the house, calling for the
carriage, and as Edna put on her bonnet and shawl, he knocked at his
mother's door.

"It is raining very hard, and you must not think of going to the train,
as you intended."

"But, my son, the carriage is close and--"

"I can not permit you to expose yourself so unnecessarily, and, in
short, I will not take you, so there is an end of it. Of course I can
stand the weather, and I will go over with Edna, and put her under the
care of some one on the train. As soon as possible send her down to the
carriage. I shall order her trunks strapped on."

He was very pale and stern, and his voice rang coldly clear as he
turned and went downstairs.

The parting was very painful, and Mrs. Murray followed the orphan to
the front door.

"St. Elmo, I wish you would let me go. I do not mind the rain."

"Impossible. You know I have an unconquerable horror of scenes, and I
do not at all fancy witnessing one that threatens to last until the
train leaves. Go upstairs and cry yourself to sleep in ten minutes;
that will be much more sensible. Come, Edna, are you ready?"

The orphan was folded in a last embrace, and Mr. Murray held out his
hand, drew her from his mother's arms, and taking his seat beside her
in the carriage, ordered the coachman to drive on.

The night was very dark, the wind sobbed down the avenue, and the rain
fell in such torrents that as Edna leaned out for a last look at the
stately mansion, which she had learned to love so well, she could only
discern the outline of the bronze monsters by the glimmer of the light
burning in the hall. She shrank far back in one corner, and her fingers
clutched each other convulsively; but when they had passed through the
gate and entered the main road Mr. Murray's hand was laid on hers--the
cold fingers were unlocked gently but firmly, and raised to his lips.

She made an effort to withdraw them, but found it useless, and the
trial which she had fancied was at end seemed only beginning.

"Edna, this is the last time I shall ever speak to you of myself; the
last time I shall ever allude to all that has passed. It is entirely
useless for one to ask you to reconsider? If you have no pity for me,
have some mercy on yourself. You can not know how I dread the thought
of your leaving me, and being roughly handled by a cold, selfish,
ruthless world. Oh! it maddens me when I think of your giving your
precious life, which would so glorify my home and gladden my desolate
heart, to a public, who will trample upon you if possible, and, if it
can not entirely crush you, will only value you as you deserve, when,
with ruined health and withered hopes, you sink into the early grave
malice and envy will have dug for you. Already your dear face has grown
pale, and your eyes have a restless, troubled look, and shadows are
gathering about your young, pure, fresh spirit. My darling, you are not
strong enough to wrestle with the world; you will be trodden down by
the masses in this conflict, upon which you enter so eagerly. Do you
not know that 'literati' means literally the branded? The lettered
slave! Oh! if not for my sake, at least for your own, reconsider before
the hot irons sear your brow; and hide it here, my love; keep it white
and pure and unfurrowed here, in the arms that will never weary of
sheltering and clasping you close and safe from the burning brand of
fame. Literati! A bondage worse than Roman slavery! Help me to make a
proper use of my fortune, and you will do more real good to your race
than by all you can ever accomplish with your pen, no matter how
successful it may prove. If you were selfish and heartless as other
women, adulation and celebrity and the praise of the public might
satisfy you. But you are not, and I have studied your nature too
thoroughly to mistake the result of your ambitious career. My darling,
ambition is the mirage of the literary desert you are anxious to
traverse; it is the Bahr Sheitan, the Satan's water, which will ever
recede and mock your thirsty, toil-spent soul. Dear little pilgrim, do
not scorch your feet and wear out your life in the hot, blinding sands,
struggling in vain for the constantly fading, vanishing oasis of happy
literary celebrity. Ah! the Sahara of letters is full of bleaching
bones that tell where many of your sex as well as of mine fell and
perished miserably, even before the noon of life. Ambitious spirit,
come, rest in peace in the cool, quiet, happy, palm-grove that I offer
you. My shrinking violet, sweeter than all Paestum boasts! You cannot
cope successfully with the world of selfish men and frivolous,
heartless women, of whom you know absolutely nothing. To-day I found a
passage which you had marked in one of my books, and it echoes
ceaselessly in my heart:

  "'MY FUTURE WILL NOT COPY FAIR MY PAST.'
    I wrote that once; and thinking at my side
    My ministering life-angel justified
    The word by his appealing look upcast
    To the white throne of God, I turned at last,
    And there instead saw thee, not unallied
    To angels in thy soul! * * Then I, long tired
    By natural ills, received the comfort fast;
    While budding at thy sight, my pilgrim's staff
    Gave out green leaves with morning dews impearled.
    I seek no copy of life's first half:
    Leave here the pages with long musing curled,
    Write me new my future's epigraph.
    New angel mine--unhoped-for in the world!'"

He had passed his arm around her and drawn her close to his side, and
the pleading tenderness of his low voice was indeed hard to resist.

"No, Mr. Murray, my decision is unalterable. If you do really love me,
spare me, spare me, further entreaty. Before we part there are some
things I should like to say, and I have little time left. Will you hear
me?"

He did not answer, but tightened his arm, drew her head to his bosom,
and leaned his face down on hers.

"Mr. Murray, I want to leave my Bible with you, because there are many
passages marked which would greatly comfort and help you. It is the
most precious thing I possess, for Grandpa gave it to me when I was a
little girl, and I could not bear to leave it with any one but you. I
have it here in my hand; will you look into it sometimes if I give it
to you?"

He merely put out his hand and took it from her.

She paused a few seconds, and as he remained silent, she continued:

"Mr. Hammond is the best friend you have on earth. Yesterday, having
seen you enter the church and suspecting what passed, he spoke to me of
you, and oh! he pleaded for you as only he could! He urged me not to
judge you too harshly; not to leave you, and these were his words:
'Edna, if I, whom he has robbed of all that life made beautiful; if I,
standing here alone in my old age, in sight of the graves of my
murdered darlings, if I can forgive him, and pray for him, and, as God
is my witness, love him! you have no right to visit my injuries and my
sorrows upon him!' Mr. Murray, he can help you, and he will, if you
will only permit him. If you could realize how dearly he is interested
in your happiness, you could not fail to reverence that religion which
enables him to triumph over all the natural feelings of resentment. Mr.
Murray, you have declared again and again that you love me. Oh, if it
be true, meet me in heaven! I know that I am weak and sinful; but I am
trying to correct the faults of my character, I am striving to do what
I believe to be my duty, and I hope at last to find a home with my God.
For several years, ever since you went abroad, I have been praying for
you; and while I live I shall not cease to do so. Oh! will you not pray
for yourself? Mr. Murray, I believe I shall not be happy even in heaven
if I do not see you there. On earth we are parted--your crimes divide
us; but there! there! Oh! for my sake, make an effort to redeem
yourself, and meet me there!"

She felt his strong frame tremble, and a heavy shuddering sigh broke
from his lips and swept across her cheek. But when he spoke his words
contained no hint of the promise she longed to receive:

"Edna, my shadow has fallen across your heart, and I am not afraid that
you will forget me. You will try to do so, you will give me as little
thought as possible; you will struggle to crush your aching heart, and
endeavor to be famous. But amid your ovations the memory of a lonely
man, who loves you infinitely better than all the world for which you
forsook him, will come like a breath from the sepulchre, to wither your
bays; and my words, my pleading words, will haunt you, rising above the
paeans of your public worshippers. When the laurel crown you covet now
shall become a chaplet of thorns piercing your temples, or a band of
iron that makes your brow ache, you will think mournfully of the days
gone by, when I prayed for the privilege of resting your weary head
here on my heart. You can not forget me. Sinful and unworthy as I
confess myself, I am conqueror, I triumph now, even though you never
permit me to look upon your face again; for I believe I have a place in
my darling's heart which no other man, which not the whole world can
usurp or fill! You are too proud to acknowledge it, too truthful to
deny it; but, my pure Pearl, my heart feels it as well as yours, and it
is a comfort of which all time can not rob me. Without it, how could I
face my future, so desolate, sombre, lonely? Edna, the hour has come
when, in accordance with your own decree, we part. For twenty years no
woman's lips, except my mother's, have touched mine until yesterday,
when they pressed yours. Perhaps we may never meet again in this world,
and, ah! do not shrink away from me, I want to kiss you once more, my
darling! my darling! I shall wear it on my lips till death stiffens
them; and I am not at all afraid that any other man will ever be
allowed to touch lips that belong to me alone; that I have made, and
here seal, all my own! Good-bye."

He strained her to him and pressed his lips twice to hers, then the
carriage stopped at the railroad station.

He handed her out, found a seat for her in the cars, which had just
arrived, arranged her wrappings comfortably, and went back to attend to
her trunks. She sat near an open window, and though it rained heavily,
he buttoned his coat to the throat, and stood just beneath it, with his
eyes bent down. Twice she pronounced his name, but he did not seem to
hear her, and Edna put her hand lightly on his shoulder and said:

"Do not stand here in the rain. In a few minutes we shall start, and I
prefer that you should not wait. Please go home at once, Mr. Murray."

He shook his head, but caught her hand and leaned his cheek against the
soft palm, passing it gently and caressingly over his haggard face.

The engine whistled; Mr. Murray pressed a long, warm kiss on the hand
he had taken, the cars moved on; and as he lifted his hat, giving her
one of his imperial, graceful bows, Edna had a last glimpse of the
dark, chiselled, repulsive yet handsome face that had throws its
baleful image deep in her young heart, and defied all her efforts to
expel it. The wind howled around the cars, the rain fell heavily,
beating a dismal tattoo on the glass, the night was mournfully dreary,
and the orphan sank back and lowered her veil, and hid her face in her
hands.

Henceforth she felt that in obedience to her own decision, and fiat

  "They stood aloof, the scars remaining
   Like cliffs that had been rent asunder;
   A dreary sea now flows between;
   But neither heat nor frost nor thunder
   Shall wholly do away, I ween,
   The marks of that which once hath been."



CHAPTER XXIV.


As day dawned the drab clouds blanched, broke up in marbled masses, the
rain ceased, the wind sang out of the west, heralding the coming blue
and gold, and at noon not one pearly vapor sail dotted the sky. During
the afternoon Edna looked anxiously for the first glimpse of "Lookout,"
but a trifling accident detained the train for several hours, and it
was almost twilight when she saw it, a purple spot staining the clear
beryl horizon; spreading rapidly, shifting its Tyrian mantle for gray
robes; and at length the rising moon silvered its rocky crest, as it
towered in silent majesty over the little village nestled at its base.
The kind and gentlemanly conductor on the cars accompanied Edna to the
hotel, and gave her a parcel containing several late papers. As she sat
in her small room, weary and yet sleepless, she tried to divert her
thoughts by reading the journals, and found in three of them notices of
the last number of ---- Magazine, and especial mention of her essay:
"Keeping the Vigil of St. Martin under the Pines of Grutli."

The extravagant laudations of this article surprised her, and she saw
that while much curiosity was indulged concerning the authorship, one
of the editors ventured to attribute it to a celebrated and very able
writer, whose genius and erudition had lifted him to an enviable
eminence in the world of American letters. The criticisms were
excessively flattering, and the young author, gratified at the complete
success that had crowned her efforts, cut out the friendly notices,
intending to enclose them in a letter to Mrs. Murray.

Unable to sleep, giving audience to memories of her early childhood,
she passed the night at her window, watching the constellations go down
behind the dark, frowning mass of rock that lifted its parapets to the
midnight sky, and in the morning light saw the cold, misty cowl drawn
over the venerable hoary head.

The village had changed so materially that she could scarcely recognize
any of the old landmarks, and the people who kept the hotel could tell
her nothing about Peter Wood, the miller. After breakfast she took a
box containing some flowers packed in wet cotton, and walked out on the
road leading in the direction of the blacksmith's shop. Very soon the
trees became familiar, she remembered every turn of the road and bend
on the fences; and at last the grove of oak and chestnut shading the
knoll at the intersection of the roads met her eye. She looked for the
forge and bellows, for the anvil and slack-tub; but shop and shed had
fallen to decay, and only a heap of rubbish, overgrown with rank weeds
and vines, marked the spot where she had spent so many happy hours. The
glowing yellow chestnut leaves dropped down at her feet, and the oaks
tossed their gnarled arms as if welcoming the wanderer whose head they
had shaded in infancy, and, stifling a moan, the orphan hurried on.

She saw that the timber had been cut down, and fences enclosed
cultivated fields where forests had stood when she went away. At a
sudden bend in the narrow, irregular road when she held her breath and
leaned forward to see the old house where she was born and reared, a
sharp cry of pain escaped her. Not a vestige of the homestead remained,
save the rocky chimney, standing in memoriam in the centre of a
cornfield. She leaned against the low fence, and tears trickled down
her cheeks as memory rebuilt the log-house, and placed the
split-bottomed rocking-chair on the porch in front, and filled it with
the figure of a white-haired old man, with his pipe in his hand and his
blurred eyes staring at the moon.

Through the brown corn-stalks she could see the gaping mouth of the
well, now partly filled with rubbish; and the wreaths of scarlet
cypress which once fringed the shed above it and hung their flaming
trumpets down until they almost touched her childish head, as she sang
at the well where she scoured the cedar piggin, were bereft of all
support and trailed helplessly over the ground. Close to the fence, and
beyond the reach of plough and hoe, a yellow four-o'clock with closed
flowers marked the location of the little garden; and one tall larkspur
leaned against the fence, sole survivor of the blue pets that Edna had
loved so well in the early years. She put her fingers through a
crevice, broke the plumy spray, and as she pressed it to her face, she
dropped her head upon the rails and gave herself up to the flood of
painful yet inexpressibly precious memories.

How carefully she had worked and weeded this little plat; how proud she
once was of her rosemary and pinks, her double feathery poppies, her
sweet-scented lemon-grass; how eagerly she had transplanted wood
violets and purple phlox from the forest; how often she had sat on the
steps watching for her grandfather's return, and stringing those
four-o'clock blossoms into golden crowns for her own young head; and
how gayly she had sometimes swung them over Brindle's horns, when she
went out to milk her.

  "Ah! sad and strange, as in dark summer dawns
   The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
   To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
   The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
   So sad, so strange, the days that are no more."

With a sob she turned away and walked in the direction of the
burying-ground; for there, certainly, she would find all unchanged;
graves at least were permanent.

The little spring bubbled as of yore, the brush creepers made a tangled
tapestry around it, and crimson and blue convolvulus swung their
velvety, dew-beaded chalices above it, as on that June morning long ago
when she stood there filling her bucket, waiting for the sunrise.

She took off her gloves, knelt down beside the spring, and dipping up
the cold, sparkling water in her palms, drank and wept, and drank
again. She bathed her aching eyes, and almost cheated herself into the
belief that she heard again Grip's fierce bark ringing through the
woods, and the slow, drowsy tinkle of Brindle's bell. Turning aside
from the beaten track, she entered the thick grove of chestnuts, and
looked around for the grave of the Dents; but the mound had
disappeared, and though she recognized the particular tree which had
formerly overhung it, and searched the ground carefully, she could
discover no trace of the hillock where she had so often scattered
flowers. A squirrel leaped and frisked in the boughs above her, and she
startled a rabbit from the thick grass and fallen yellow leaves: but
neither these, nor the twitter of gossiping orioles, nor the harsh,
hungry cry of a bluebird told her a syllable of all that had happened
in her absence.

She conjectured that the bodies had probably been disinterred by
friends and removed to Georgia; and she hurried on toward the hillside,
where the neighborhood graveyard was situated. The rude, unpainted
paling still enclosed it, and rows of headboards stretched away among
grass and weeds; but whose was that shining marble shaft, standing in
the centre of a neatly arranged square, around which ran a handsome
iron railing? On that very spot, in years gone by, had stood a piece of
pine board: "Sacred to the memory of Aaron Hunt, an honest blacksmith
and true Christian."

Who had dared to disturb his bones, to violate his last resting-place,
and to steal his grave for the interment of some wealthy stranger? A
cry of horror and astonishment broke from the orphan's trembling lips,
and she shaded her eyes with her hand, and tried to read the name
inscribed on the monument of the sacrilegious interloper. But bitter,
scalding tears of indignation blinded her. She dashed them away, but
they gathered and fell faster; and, unbolting the gate, she entered the
enclosure and stepped close to the marble.

              ERECTED
            IN HONOR OF
             AARON HUNT:
     BY HIS DEVOTED GRANDDAUGHTER.

These gilded words were traced on the polished surface of the pure
white obelisk, and on each corner of the square pedestal or base stood
beautifully carved vases, from which drooped glossy tendrils of ivy.

As Edna looked in amazement at the glittering shaft, which rose twenty
feet in the autumn air; as she rubbed her eyes and re-read the golden
inscription, and looked at the sanded walks, and the well-trimmed
evergreens, which told that careful hands kept the lot in order, she
sank down at the base of the beautiful monument, and laid her hot cheek
on the cold marble.

"Oh, Grandpa, Grandpa! He is not altogether wicked and callous as we
once thought him, or he could never have done this! Forgive your poor
little Pearl, if she can not help loving one who, for her sake, honors
your dear name and memory! Oh, Grandpa! if I had never gone away from
here. If I could have died before I saw him again! before this great
pain fell upon my heart!"

She knew now where St. Elmo Murray went that night, after he had
watched her from behind the sarcophagus and the mummies; knew that only
his hand could have erected this noble pillar of record; and most fully
did she appreciate the delicate feeling which made him so proudly
reticent on this subject. He wished no element of gratitude in the love
he had endeavored to win, and scorned to take advantage of her devoted
affection for her grandfather, by touching her heart with a knowledge
of the tribute paid to his memory. Until this moment she had sternly
refused to permit herself to believe all his protestations of love; had
tried to think that he merely desired to make her acknowledge his
power, and confess an affection flattering to his vanity. But to-day
she felt that all he had avowed was true; that his proud, bitter heart
was indeed entirely hers; that this assurance filled her own heart with
a measureless joy, a rapture that made her eyes sparkle through their
tears and brought a momentary glow to her cheeks. Hour after hour
passed; she took no note of time, and sat there pondering her past
life, thinking how the dusty heart deep under the marble would have
throbbed with fond pride, if it could only have known what the world
said of her writings. That she should prove competent to teach the
neighbors' children had been Aaron Hunt's loftiest ambition for his
darling; and now she was deemed worthy to speak to her race through the
columns of a periodical that few women were considered able to fill.

She wondered if he were not really cognizant of it all; if he were not
watching her struggles and her triumph; and she asked herself why he
was not allowed, in token of tender sympathy, to drop one palm-leaf on
her head, from the fadeless branch he waved in heaven?

                   "Oh! how far,
   How far and safe, God, dost thou keep thy saints
   When once gone from us! We may call against
   The lighted windows of thy fair June heaven
   Where all the souls are happy; and not one,
   Not even my father, look from work or play,
   To ask, 'Who is it that cries after us,
   Below there, in the dark?"

The shaft threw a long slanting shadow eastward as the orphan rose,
and, taking from the box the fragrant exotics which she had brought
from Le Bocage, arranged them in the damp soil of one of the vases, and
twined their bright-hued petals among the dark green ivy leaves. One
shining wreath she broke and laid away tenderly in the box, a hallowed
souvenir of the sacred spot where it grew; and as she stood there,
looking at a garland of poppy leaves chiselled around the inscription,
neither flush nor tremor told aught that passed in her mind, and her
sculptured features were calm, as the afternoon sun showed how pale and
fixed her face had grown. She climbed upon the broad base and pressed
her lips to her grandfather's name, and there was a mournful sweetness
in her voice as she said aloud:

"Pray God to pardon him, Grandpa! Pray Christ to comfort and save his
precious soul! Oh, Grandpa! pray the Holy Spirit to melt and sanctify
his suffering heart!"

It was painful to quit the place. She lingered, and started away, and
came back, and at last knelt down and hid her face, and prayed long and
silently.

Then turning quickly, she closed the iron gate, and without trusting
herself for another look, walked away. She passed the spring and the
homestead ruins, and finally found herself in sight of the miller's
house, which alone seemed unchanged. As she lifted the latch of the
gate and entered the yard, it seemed but yesterday that she was driven
away to the depot in the miller's covered cart.

An ancient apple-tree, that she well remembered, stood near the house,
and the spreading branches were bent almost to the earth with the
weight of red-streaked apples, round and ripe. The shaggy, black dog,
that so often frolicked with Grip in the days gone by, now lay on the
step, blinking at the sun and the flies that now and then buzzed over
the golden balsam, whose crimson seed glowed in the evening sunshine.

Over the rocky well rose a rude arbor, where a scuppernong vine
clambered and hung its rich, luscious brown clusters; and here, with a
pipe between her lips, and at her feet a basket full of red
pepper-pods, which she was busily engaged in stringing, sat an elderly
woman. She was clad in blue and yellow plaid homespun, and wore a white
apron and a snowy muslin cap, whose crimped ruffles pressed caressingly
the grizzled hair combed so smoothly over her temples. Presently she
laid her pipe down on the top of the mossy well, where the dripping
bucket sat, and lifted the scarlet wreath of peppers, eyed it
satisfactorily, and, as she resumed her work, began to hum "Auld Lang
Syne."

  "Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And never brought to mind?
   Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And days o' lang syne?"

The countenance was so peaceful and earnest and honest, that, as Edna
stood watching it, a warm, loving light came into her own beautiful
eyes, and she put out both hands unconsciously, and stepped into the
little arbor.

Her shadow fell upon the matronly face, and the woman rose and
courtesied.

"Good evening, miss. Will you be seated? There is room enough for two
on my bench."

The orphan did not speak for a moment, but looked up in the brown,
wrinkled face, and then, pushing back her bonnet and veil, she said
eagerly:

"Mrs. Wood, don't you know me?"

The miller's wife looked curiously at her visitor, glanced at her
dress, and shook her head.

"No, miss; if ever I set my eyes on you before, it's more than I
remember, and Dorothy Wood has a powerful memory, they say, and seldom
forgets faces."

"Do you remember Aaron Hunt, and his daughter Hester?"

"To be sure I do; but you a'n't neither the one nor the other, I take
it. Stop--let me see. Aha! Tabitha, Willis, you children, run
here--quick! But, no--it can't be. You can't be Edna Earl?"

She shaded her eyes from the glare of the sun and stooped forward, and
looked searchingly at the stranger; then the coral wreath fell from her
fingers, she stretched out her arms, and the large mouth trembled and
twitched.

"Are you--can you be--little Edna? Aaron Hunt's grandchild?"

"I am the poor little Edna you took such tender care of in her great
affliction--"

"Samson and the Philistines! Little Edna--so you are! What was I
thinking about, that I didn't know you right away? God bless your
pretty white face!"

She caught the orphan in her strong arms and kissed her, and cried and
laughed alternately.

A young girl, apparently about Edna's age, and a tall, lank young man,
with yellow hair full of meal dust, came out of the house, and looked
on in stupid wonder.

"Why, children! don't you know little Edna that lived at Aaron
Hunt's--his granddaughter? This is my Tabitha and my son Willis, that
tends the mill and takes care of us, now my poor Peter--God rest his
soul!--is dead and buried these three years. Bring some seats, Willis.
Sit down here by me, Edna, and take off your bonnet, child, and let me
see you. Umph! umph! Who'd have thought it? What a powerful handsome
woman you have made, to be sure! to be sure! Well! well! The very
saints up in glory can't begin to tell what children will turn out!
Lean your face this way. Why, you a'n't no more like that little
bare-footed, tangle-haired, rosy-faced Edna that used to run around
these woods in striped homespun, hunting the cows, than I, Dorothy
Elmira Wood, am like the Queen of Sheba when she went up visiting to
Jerusalem to call on Solomon. How wonderful pretty you are! And how
soft and white your hands are! Now I look at you good I see you are
like your mother, Hester Earl; and she was the loveliest, mild little
pink in the county. You are taller than your mother, and
prouder-looking; but you have got her big, soft, shining, black eyes;
and your mouth is sweet and sorrowful, and patient as hers always was,
after your father fell off that frosty roof and broke his neck. Little
Edna came back a fine, handsome woman, looking like a queen! But,
honey, you don't seem healthy, like my Tabitha. See what a bright red
she has in her face. You are too pale; you look as if you had just been
bled. A'n't you well, child?"

Mrs. Wood felt the girl's arms and shoulders, and found them thinner
than her standard of health demanded.

"I am very well, thank you, but tired from my journey, and from walking
all about the old place."

"And like enough you've cried a deal. Your eyes are heavy. You know,
honey, the old house burnt down one blustry night in March, and so we
sold the place; for when my old man died we were hard-pressed, we were,
and a man by the name of Simmons, he bought it and planted it in corn.
Edna, have you been to your Grandpa's grave?"

"Yes, ma'am, I was there a long time to-day."

"Oh! a'n't it beautiful! It would be a real comfort to die, if folks
knew such lovely gravestones would cover 'em. I think your Grandpa's
grave is the prettiest place I ever saw, and I wonder, sometimes, what
Aaron Hunt would say if he could rise out of his coffin and see what is
over him. Poor thing! You haven't got over it yet, I see. I thought we
should have buried you, too, when he died; for never did I see a child
grieve so."

"Mrs. Wood, who keeps the walks so clean, and the evergreens so nicely
cut?"

"My Willis, to be sure. The gentleman that came here and fixed
everything last December, paid Willis one hundred dollars to attend to
it, and keep the weeds down. He said he might come back unexpectedly
almost any time, and that he did not want to see so much as a blade of
grass in the walks; so you see Willis goes there every Saturday and
straightens up things. What is his name, and who is he anyhow? He only
told us he was a friend of yours, and that his mother had adopted you."

"What sort of a looking person was he, Mrs. Wood?"

"Oh, child! if he is so good to you, I ought not to say; but he was a
powerful, grim-looking man, with fierce eyes and a thick mustache, and
hair almost pepper-and-salt; and bless your soul, honey! his shoulders
were as broad as a barn-door. While he talked I didn't like his
countenance, it was dark like a pirate's, or one of those prowling
cattle-thieves over in the coves. He asked a power of questions about
you and your Grandpa, and when I said you had no kin on earth, that I
ever heard of, he laughed, that is, he showed his teeth, and said, 'So
much the better! so much the better!' What is his name?"

"Mr. Murray, and he has been very kind to me."

"But, Edna, I thought you went to the factory to work? Do tell me how
you fell into the hands of such rich people?"

Edna briefly acquainted her with what had occurred during her long
absence, and informed her of her plans for the future; and while she
listened Mrs. Wood lighted her pipe, and resting her elbow on her knee,
dropped her face on her hands, and watched her visitor's countenance.

Finally she nodded to her daughter, saying: "Do you hear that, Bitha?
She can write for the papers and get paid for it! And she is smart
enough to teach! Well! well! that makes me say what I do say, and I
stick to it, where there's a will there's a way! and where there's no
hearty will, all the ways in creation won't take folks to an education!
Some children can't be kicked and kept down; spite of all the world
they will manage to scuffle up somehow; and then again, some can't be
cuffed and coaxed and dragged up by the ears! Here's Edna, that always
had a hankering after books, and she has made something of herself; and
here's my girl, that I wanted to get book-learning, and I slaved and I
saved to send her to school, and sure enough she has got no more use
for reading, and knows as little as her poor mother, who never had a
chance to learn. It is no earthly use to fly in the face of blood and
nature! 'What is bred in the bone, won't come out in the flesh!' Some
are cut out for one thing and some for another! Jerusalem artichokes
won't bear hops, and persimmons don't grow on blackjacks!"

She put her brawny brown hand on Edna's forehead, and smoothed the
bands of hair, and sighed heavily.

"Mrs. Wood, I should like to see Brindle once more."

"Lord bless your soul, honey! she has been dead these three years! Why,
you forget cows don't hang on as long as Methuselah, and Brindle was no
yearling when we took her. She mired down in the swamp, back of the
millpond, and before we could find her she was dead. But her calf is as
pretty a young thing as ever you saw; speckled all over, most as thick
as a guinea, and the children call her 'Speckle.' Willis, step out and
see if the heifer is in sight. Edna, a'n't you going to stay with me
to-night?"

"Thank you, Mrs. Wood, I should like very much to do so, but have not
time, and must get back to Chattanooga before the train leaves, for I
am obliged to go on to-night."

"Well, any how, lay off your bonnet and stay and let me give you some
supper, and then we will all go back with you, that is, if you a'n't
too proud to ride to town in our cart? We have got a new cart, but it
is only a miller's cart, and may be it won't suit your fine fashionable
clothes."

"I shall be very glad to stay, and I only wish it was the same old cart
that took me to the depot, more than five years ago. Please give me
some water."

Mrs. Wood rolled up her sleeves, put away her pretty peppers, and
talking vigorously all the time, prepared some refreshments for her
guest.

A table was set under the apple-tree, a snowy cotton cloth spread over
it, and yellow butter, tempting as Goshen's, and a loaf of fresh bread,
and honey amber-hued, and buttermilk, and cider, and stewed pears, and
a dish of ripe red apples crowned the board.

The air was laden with the fragrance it stole in crossing a hayfield
beyond the road, the bees darted in and out of their hives, and a
peacock spread his iridescent feathers to catch the level yellow rays
of the setting sun, and from the distant millpond came the gabble of
geese, as the noisy fleet breasted the ripples.

Speckle, who had been driven to the gate for Edna's inspection, stood
close to the paling, thrusting her pearly horns through the cracks, and
watching the party at the table with her large, liquid, beautiful,
earnest eyes; and afar off Lookout rose solemn and sombre.

"Edna, you eat nothing. What ails you, child! They say too much
brainwork is not healthy, and I reckon you study too hard. Better stay
here with me, honey, and run around the woods and get some red in your
face, and churn and spin and drink buttermilk, and get plump, and go
chestnutting with my children. Goodness knows they are strong enough
and hearty enough, and too much study will never make shads of them:
for they won't work their brains, even to learn the multiplication
table. See here, Edna, if you will stay a while with me, I will give
Speckle to you."

"Thank you, dear Mrs. Wood, I wish I could; but the lady who engaged me
to teach her children, wrote that I was very much needed; and,
consequently, I must hurry on. Speckle is a perfect little beauty, but
I would not be so selfish as to take her away from you."

Clouds began to gather in the southwest, and as the covered cart was
brought to the gate, a distant mutter of thunder told that a storm was
brewing.

Mrs. Wood and her two children accompanied the orphan, and as they
drove through the woods, myriads of fireflies starred the gloom. It was
dark when they reached the station, and Willis brought the trunks from
the hotel, and found seats for the party in the cars, which were
rapidly filling with passengers. Presently the down-train from
Knoxville came thundering in, and the usual rush and bustle ensued.

Mrs. Wood gave the orphan a hearty kiss and warm embrace, and bidding
her "Be sure to write soon, and say how you are getting along!" the
kind-hearted woman left the cars, wiping her eyes with the corner of
her apron.

At last the locomotive signalled that all was ready; and as the train
moved on, Edna caught a glimpse of a form standing under a lamp,
leaning with folded arms against the post--a form strangely like Mr.
Murray's. She leaned out and watched it till the cars swept round a
curve, and lamp and figure and village vanished. How could he possibly
be in Chattanooga? The conjecture was absurd; she was the victim of
some optical illusion. With a long, heavily-drawn sigh, she leaned
against the window-frame and looked at the dark mountain mass looming
behind her; and after a time, when the storm drew nearer, she saw it
only now and then, as

  "A vivid, vindictive, and serpentine flash
   Gored the darkness, and shore it across with a gash."



CHAPTER XXV.


In one of those brown-stone, palatial houses on Fifth Avenue, which
make the name of the street a synonym for almost royal luxury and
magnificence, sat Mrs. Andrews's "new governess," a week after her
arrival in New York. Her reception, though cold and formal, had been
punctiliously courteous; and a few days sufficed to give the stranger
an accurate insight into the characters and customs of the family with
whom she was now domesticated.

Though good-natured, intelligent, and charitable, Mrs. Andrews was
devoted to society, and gave to the demands of fashion much of the time
which had been better expended at home in training her children, and
making her hearth-stone rival the attractions of the club, where Mr.
Andrews generally spent his leisure hours. She was much younger than
her husband, was handsome, gay, and ambitious, and the polished hauteur
of her bearing often reminded Edna of Mrs. Murray; while Mr. Andrews
seemed immersed in business during the day, and was rarely at home
except at his meals.

Felix, the eldest of the two children, was a peevish, spoiled, exacting
boy of twelve years of age, endowed with a remarkably active intellect,
but pitiably dwarfed in body and hopelessly lame in consequence of a
deformed foot. His sister Hattie was only eight years old, a bright,
pretty, affectionate girl, over whom Felix tyrannized unmercifully, and
whom from earliest recollection had been accustomed to yield both her
rights and privileges to the fretful invalid.

The room occupied by the governess was small but beautifully furnished,
and as it was situated in the fourth story, the windows commanded a
view of the trees in a neighboring park, and the waving outline of Long
Island.

On the day of her arrival Mrs. Andrews entered into a minute analysis
of the characters of the children, indicated the course which she
wished pursued toward them, and, impressing upon Edna the grave
responsibility of her position, the mother gave her children to the
stranger's guardianship and seemed to consider her maternal duties
fully discharged.

Edna soon ascertained that her predecessors had found the path
intolerably thorny, and abandoned it in consequence of Felix's
uncontrollable fits of sullenness and passion. Tutors and governesses
had quickly alternated, and as the cripple finally declared he would
not tolerate the former, his mother resolved to humor his caprice in
the choice of a teacher.

Fortunately the boy was exceedingly fond of his books, and as the
physicians forbade the constant use of his eyes, the governess was
called on to read aloud at least one half of the day. From eight
o'clock in the morning till eight at night the whole care of these
children devolved on Edna; who ate, talked, drove with them,
accompanied them wherever their inclination led, and had not one quiet
moment from breakfast until her pupils went to sleep. Sometimes Felix
was restless and wakeful, and on such occasions he insisted that his
governess should come and read him to sleep.

Notwithstanding the boy's imperious nature, he possessed some redeeming
traits, and Edna soon became much attached to him; while his affection
for his new keeper astonished and delighted his mother.

For a week after Edna's arrival, inclement weather prevented the
customary daily drive which contributed largely to the happiness of the
little cripple; but one afternoon as the three sat in the schoolroom,
Felix threw his Latin grammar against the wall and exclaimed:

"I want to see the swans in Central Park, and I mean to go, even if it
does rain! Hattie, ring for Patrick to bring the coupe round to the
door. Miss Earl, don't you want to go?"

"Yes, for there is no longer any danger of rain, the sun is shining
beautifully; and besides, I hope you will be more amiable when you get
into the open air."

She gave him his hat and crutches, took his gray shawl on her arm, and
they went down to the neat carriage drawn by a handsome chestnut horse,
and set apart for the use of the children.

As they entered the park, Edna noticed that the boy's eyes brightened,
and that he looked eagerly at every passing face.

"Now, Hattie, you must watch on your side, and I will keep a good
lookout on mine. I wonder if she will come this evening?"

"For whom are you both looking?" asked the teacher.

"Oh! for little Lila, Bro' Felix's sweetheart!" laughed Hattie,
glancing at him with a mischievous twinkle in her bright eyes.

"No such thing! Never had a sweetheart in my life! Don't be silly,
Hattie! mind your window, or I guess we shan't see her."

"Well, any how. I heard Uncle Gray tell Mamma that he kissed his
sweetheart's hand at the party, and I saw Bro' Felix kiss Lila's last
week."

"I didn't, Miss Earl!" cried the cripple, reddening as he spoke.

"Oh! he did, Miss Earl! Stop pinching me, Bro' Felix. My arm is all
black and blue, now. There she is! Look, here on my side! Here is 'Red
Ridinghood!'"

Edna saw a little girl clad in scarlet, and led by a grave, middle-aged
nurse, who was walking leisurely toward one of the lakes.

Felix put his head out of the window and called to the woman.

"Hannah, are going to feed the swans?"

"Good evening. Yes, we are going there now."

"Well, we will meet you there."

"What is the child's name?" asked Edna.

"Lila Manning, and she is deaf and dumb. We talk to her on our fingers."

They left the carriage, and approached the groups of children gathered
on the edge of the water, and at sight of Felix, the little girl in
scarlet sprang to meet him, moving her slender fingers rapidly as she
conversed with him. She was an exceedingly lovely but fragile child,
apparently about Hattie's age; and as Edna watched the changing
expression of her delicate features, she turned to the nurse and asked:

"Is she an orphan?"

"Yes, miss; but she will never find it out as long as her uncle lives.
He makes a great pet of her."

"What is his name, and where does he live?"

"Mr. Douglass G. Manning. He boards at No.--Twenty-third street; but he
spends most of his time at the office. No matter what time of night he
comes home, he never goes to his own room till he has looked at Lila,
and kissed her good-night. Master Felix, please don't untie her hat,
the wind will blow her hair all out of curl."

For some time the children were much amused in watching the swans, and
when they expressed themselves willing to resume their drive, an
arrangement was made with Hannah to meet at the same place the ensuing
day. They returned to the carriage, and Felix said:

"Don't you think Lila is a little beauty?"

"Yes, I quite agree with you. Do you know her uncle?"

"No, and don't want to know him; he is too cross and sour. I have seen
him walking sometimes with Lila, and mamma has him at her parties and
dinners; but Hattie and I never see the company unless we peep, and,
above all things, I hate peeping! It is ungenteel and vulgar; only poor
people peep. Mr. Manning is an old bachelor, and very crabbed, so my
uncle Grey says. He is the editor of the--Magazine, that mamma declares
she can't live without. Look! look, Hattie! There goes mamma this
minute! Stop, Patrick! Uncle Grey! Uncle Grey! hold up, won't you, and
let me see the new horses!"

An elegant phaeton, drawn by a pair of superb black horses, drew up
close to the coupe, and Mrs. Andrews and her only brother, Mr. Grey
Chilton, leaned forward and spoke to the children; while Mr. Chilton,
who was driving, teased Hattie by touching her head and shoulders with
his whip.

"Uncle Grey, I think the bays are the handsomest."

"Which proves you utterly incapable of judging horseflesh; for these
are the finest horses in the city. I presume this is Miss Earl, though
nobody seems polite enough to introduce us."

He raised his hat slightly, bowed, and drove on.

"Is this the first time you have met my uncle?" asked Felix.

"Yes. Does he live in the city?"

"Why! he lives with us! Haven't you seen him about the house? You must
have heard him romping around with Hattie; for they make noise enough
to call in the police. I think my uncle Grey is the handsomest man I
ever saw, except Edwin Booth, when he plays 'Hamlet.' What do you say?"

"As I had barely a glimpse of your uncle, I formed no opinion. Felix,
button your coat and draw your shawl over your shoulders; it is getting
cold."

When they reached home the children begged for some music, and placing
her hat on a chair, Edna sat down before the piano, and played and
sang; while Felix stood leaning on his crutches, gazing earnestly into
the face of his teacher.

The song was Longfellow's "Rainy Day," and when she concluded it, the
cripple laid his thin hand on hers and said:

"Sing the last verse again. I feel as if I should always be a good boy,
if you would only sing that for me every day. 'Into each life some rain
must fall?' Yes, lameness fell into mine."

While she complied with his request, Edna watched his sallow face, and
saw tears gather in the large, sad eyes, and she felt that henceforth
the boy's evil spirit could be exorcised.

"Miss Earl, we never had a governess at all like you. They were old,
and cross, and ugly, and didn't love to play chess, and could not sing,
and I hated them! But I do like you, and I will try to be good."

He rested his head against her arm, and she turned and kissed his pale,
broad forehead.

"Halloo, Felix! flirting with your governess? This is a new phase of
school life. You ought to feel quite honored, Miss Earl, though upon my
word I am sorry for you. The excessive amiability of my nephew has
driven not less than six of your predecessors in confusion from the
field, leaving him victorious. I warn you he is an incipient Turenne,
and the schoolroom is the Franche Comte of his campaigns."

Mr. Chilton came up to the piano, and curiously scanned Edna's face;
but taking her hat and veil, she rose and moved toward the door, saying:

"I am disposed to believe that he has been quite as much sinned against
as sinning. Come, children, it is time for your tea."

From that hour her influence over the boy strengthened so rapidly that
before she had been a month in the house he yielded implicit obedience
to her wishes, and could not bear for her to leave him, even for a
moment. When more than usually fretful, and inclined to tyrannize over
Hattie, or speak disrespectfully to his mother, a warning glance or
word from Edna, or the soft touch of her hand, would suffice to
restrain the threatened outbreak.

Her days were passed in teaching, reading aloud, and talking to the
children; and when released from her duties she went invariably to her
desk, devoting more than half the night to the completion of her MS.

As she took her meals with her pupils, she rarely saw the other members
of the household, and though Mr. Chilton now and then sauntered into
the schoolroom and frolicked with Hattie, his visits were coldly
received by the teacher; who met his attempts at conversation with very
discouraging monosyllabic replies.

His manner led her to suspect that the good-looking lounger was as vain
and heartless as he was frivolous, and she felt no inclination to
listen to his trifling, sans souci chatter; consequently, when he
thrust himself into her presence, she either picked up a book or left
him to be entertained by the children.

One evening in November she sat in her own room preparing to write, and
pondering the probable fate of a sketch which she had finished and
dispatched two days before to the office of the magazine.

The principal aim of the little tale was to portray the horrors and sin
of duelling, and she had written it with great care; but well aware of
the vast, powerful current of popular opinion that she was bravely
striving to stem, and fully conscious that it would subject her to
severe animadversion from those who defended the custom, she could not
divest herself of apprehension lest the article should be rejected.

The door bell rang, and soon after a servant brought her a card: "Mr.
D.G. Manning. To see Miss Earl."

Flattered and frightened by a visit from one whose opinions she valued
so highly, Edna smoothed her hair, and with trembling fingers changed
her collar and cuffs, and went downstairs, feeling as if all the blood
in her body were beating a tattoo on the drum of her ears.

As she entered the library, into which he had been shown (Mrs. Andrews
having guests in the parlor), Edna had an opportunity of looking
unobserved at this critical ogre, of whom she stood in such profound
awe.

Douglass Manning was forty years old, tall, and well built; wore
slender, steel-rimmed spectacles which somewhat softened the light of
his keen, cold, black eyes; and carried his slightly bald head with the
haughty air of one who habitually hurled his gauntlet in the teeth of
public opinion.

He stood looking up at a pair of bronze griffins that crouched on the
top of the rosewood bookcase, and the gas-light falling full on his
face, showed his stern, massive features, which, in their granitic
cast, reminded Edna of those Egyptian Androsphinx--vast, serene,
changeless.

There were no furrows on cheek or brow, no beard veiled the lines and
angles about the mouth, but as she marked the chilling repose of the
countenance, so indicative of conscious power and well-regulated
strength, why did memory travel swiftly back among the "Stones of
Venice," repeating the description of the hawthorn on Bourges
Cathedral? "A perfect Niobe of May." Had this man petrified in his
youth before the steady stylus of time left on his features that subtle
tracery which passing years engrave on human faces? The motto of his
magazine, Veritas sine clementia, ruled his life, and, putting aside
the lenses of passion and prejudice, he coolly, quietly, relentlessly
judged men and women and their works; neither loving nor hating,
pitying nor despising his race; looking neither to right nor left;
laboring steadily as a thoroughly well-balanced, a marvellously perfect
intellectual automaton.

"Good evening, Mr. Manning. I am very glad to meet you; for I fear my
letters have very inadequately expressed my gratitude for your
kindness."

Her voice trembled slightly, and she put out her hand. He turned,
bowed, offered her a chair, and, as they seated themselves, he examined
her face as he would have searched the title-page of some new book for
an insight into its contents.

"When did you reach New York, Miss Earl?"

"Six weeks ago."

"I was not aware that you were in the city, until I received your note
two days since. How long do you intend to remain?"

"Probably the rest of my life, if I find it possible to support myself
comfortably."

"Is Mrs. Andrews an old friend?"

"No, sir; she was a stranger to me when I entered her house as
governess for her children."

"Miss Earl, you are much younger than I had supposed. Your writings led
me to imagine that you were at least thirty, whereas I find you almost
a child. Will your duties as governess conflict with your literary
labors?"

"No, sir. I shall continue to write."

"You appear to have acted upon my suggestion, to abandon the idea of a
book, and confine your attention to short sketches."

"No, sir. I adhere to my original purpose, and am at work upon the
manuscript which you advised me to destroy."

He fitted his glasses more firmly on his nose, and she saw the gleam of
his strong white teeth, as a half smile moved his lips.

"Miss Earl, my desk is very near a window, and as I was writing late
last night, I noticed several large moths beating against the glass
which fortunately barred their approach to the flame of the gas inside.
Perhaps inexperience whispered that it was a cruel fate that shut them
out; but which heals soonest, disappointed curiosity or singed wings?"

"Mr. Manning, why do you apprehend more danger from writing a book than
from the preparation of magazine articles?"

"Simply because the peril is inherent in the nature of the book you
contemplate. Unless I totally misunderstand your views, you indulge in
the rather extraordinary belief that all works of fiction should be
eminently didactic, and inculcate not only sound morality but
scientific theories. Herein, permit me to say, you entirely
misapprehend the spirit of the age. People read novels merely to be
amused, not educated; and they will not tolerate technicalities and
abstract speculation in lieu of exciting plots and melodramatic
denouements. Persons who desire to learn something of astronomy,
geology, chemistry, philology, etc., never think of finding what they
require in the pages of a novel, but apply at once to the text-books of
the respective sciences, and would as soon hunt for a lover's
sentimental dialogue in Newton's 'Principia,' or spicy small-talk in
Kant's 'Critique,' as expect an epitome of modern science in a work of
fiction."

"But, sir, how many habitual novel readers do you suppose will educate
themselves thoroughly from the text-books to which you refer?"

"A modicum, I grant you; yet it is equally true that those who merely
read to be amused will not digest the scientific dishes you set before
them. On the contrary, far from appreciating your charitable efforts to
elevate and broaden their range of vision, they will either sneer at
the author's pedantry, or skip over every passage that necessitates
thought to comprehend it, and rush on to the next page to discover
whether the heroine, Miss Imogene Arethusa Penelope Brown, wore blue or
pink tarlatan to her first ball, or whether on the day of her elopement
the indignant papa succeeded in preventing the consummation of her
felicity with Mr. Belshazzar Algernon Nebuchadnezzar Smith. I neither
magnify nor dwarf, I merely state a simple fact."

"But, Mr. Manning, do you not regard the writers of each age as the
custodians of its tastes as well as its morals?"

"Certainly not; they simply reflect and do not mould public taste.
Shakespeare, Hogarth, Rabelais, portrayed men and things as they found
them; not as they might, could, would, or should have been. Was Sir
Peter Lely responsible for the style of dress worn by court beauties in
the reign of Charles II.? He faithfully painted what passed before him.
Miss Earl, the objection I urge against the novel you are preparing
does not apply to magazine essays, where an author may concentrate all
the erudition he can obtain and ventilate it unchallenged; for review
writers now serve the public in much the same capacity that cup-bearers
did royalty in ancient days; and they are expected to taste strong
liquors as well as sweet cordials and sour light wines. Moreover, a
certain haze of sanctity envelops the precincts of 'Maga,' whence the
incognito 'we' thunders with oracular power; for, notwithstanding the
rapid annihilation of all classic faith in modern times which permits
the conversion of Virgil's Avernus into a model oyster-farm, the
credulous public fondly cling to the myth that editorial sanctums alone
possess the sacred tripod of Delphi. Curiosity is the best stimulant
for public interest, and it has become exceedingly difficult to conceal
the authorship of a book while that of magazine articles can readily be
disguised. I repeat, the world of novel-readers constitute a huge
hippodrome, where, if you can succeed in amusing your spectators or
make them gasp in amazement at your rhetorical legerdemain, they will
applaud vociferously, and pet you, as they would a graceful danseuse,
or a dexterous acrobat, or a daring equestrian; but if you attempt to
educate or lecture them, you will either declaim to empty benches or be
hissed down. They expect you to help them kill time, not improve it."

"Sir, is it not nobler to struggle against than to float ignominiously
with the tide of degenerate opinion?"

"That depends altogether on the earnestness of your desire for
martyrdom by drowning. I have seen stronger swimmers than you go down,
after desperate efforts to keep their heads above water."

Edna folded her hands in her lap, and looked steadily into the calm,
cold eyes of the editor, then shook her head, and answered:

"I shall not drown. At all events I will risk it. I would rather sink
in the effort than live without attempting it."

"When you require ointment for singed wings, I shall have no sympathy
with which to anoint them; for, like most of your sex, I see you
mistake blind obstinacy for rational, heroic firmness. The next number
of the magazine will contain the contribution you sent me two days
since, and, while I do not accept all your views, I think it by far the
best thing I have yet seen from your pen. It will, of course, provoke
controversy, but for that result, I presume you are prepared. Miss
Earl, you are a stranger in New York, and if I can serve you in any
way, I shall be glad to do so."

"Thank you, Mr. Manning. I need some books which I am not able to
purchase, and can not find in this house; if you can spare them
temporarily from your library, you will confer a great favor on me."

"Certainly. Have you a list of those which you require?"

"No, sir, but--"

"Here is a pencil and piece of paper; write down the titles, and I will
have them sent to you in the morning."

She turned to the table to prepare the list, and all the while Mr.
Manning's keen eyes scanned her countenance, dress, and figure. A
half-smile once more stirred his grave lips when she gave him the
paper, over which he glanced indifferently.

"Miss Earl, I fear you will regret your determination to make
literature a profession; for your letters informed me that you are
poor; and doubtless you remember the witticism concerning the 'republic
of letters which contained not a sovereign.' Your friend, Mr. Murray,
appreciated the obstacles you are destined to encounter, and I am
afraid you will not find life in New York as agreeable as it was under
his roof."

"When did you hear from him?"

"I received a letter this morning."

"And you called to see me because he requested you to do so?"

"I had determined to come before his letter arrived."

He noticed the incredulous smile that flitted across her face, and,
after a moment's pause, he continued:

"I do not wish to discourage you, on the contrary, I sincerely desire
to aid you, but Mill has analyzed the subject very ably in his
'Political Economy,' and declares that 'on any rational calculation of
chances in the existing competition, no writer can hope to gain a
living by books; and to do so by magazines and reviews becomes daily
more difficult.'"

"Yes, sir, that passage is not encouraging; but I comfort myself with
another from the same book: 'In a national or universal point of view
the labor of the savant or speculative thinker is as much a part of
production, in the very narrowest sense, as that of the inventor of a
practical art. The electro-magnetic telegraph was the wonderful and
most unexpected consequence of the experiments of Oersted, and the
mathematical investigations of Ampere; and the modern art of navigation
is an unforseen emanation from the purely speculative and apparently
meekly curious inquiry, by the mathematicians of Alexandria, into the
properties of three curves formed by the intersection of a plane
surface and a cone. No limit can be set to the importance, even in a
purely productive and material point of view, of mere thought.' Sir,
the economic law which regulates the wages of mechanics should operate
correspondingly in the realm of letters."

"Your memory is remarkably accurate."

"Not always, sir; but when I put it on its honor, and trust some
special treasure to its guardianship, it rarely proves treacherous."

"I think you can command better wages for your work in New York than
anywhere else on this continent. You have begun well; permit me to say
to you be careful, do not write too rapidly, and do not despise adverse
criticism. If agreeable to you, I will call early next week and
accompany you to the public libraries, which contain much that may
interest you. I will send you a note as soon as I acertain when I can
command the requisite leisure; and should you need my services, I hope
you will not hesitate to claim them. Good-evening, Miss Earl."

He bowed himself out of the library, and Edna went back to her own
room, thinking of the brief interview, and confessing her
disappointment in the conversation of this most dreaded of critics.

"He is polished as an icicle, and quite as cold. He may be very
accurate and astute and profound, but certainly he is not half so
brilliant as--"

She did not complete the parallel, but compressed her lips, took up her
pen, and began to write.

On the following morning Mrs. Andrews came into the schoolroom, and,
after kissing her children, turned blandly to the governess.

"Miss Earl, I believe Mr. Manning called upon you last evening. Where
did you know him?"

"I never saw him until yesterday, but we have corresponded for some
time."

"Indeed! you are quite honored. He is considered very fastidious."

"He is certainly hypercritical, yet I have found him kind and
gentlemanly, even courteous. Our correspondence is entirely
attributable to the fact that I write for his magazine."

Mrs. Andrews dropped her ivory crochet-needle and sat, for a moment,
the picture of wild-eyed amazement.

"Is it possible! I had no idea you were an author. Why did you not tell
me before? What have you written?"

Edna mentioned the titles of her published articles, and the lady of
the house exclaimed:

"Oh! that 'Vigil of Grutli' is one of the most beautiful things I ever
read, and I have often teased Mr. Manning to tell me who wrote it. That
apostrophe to the Thirty Confederates is so mournfully grand that it
brings tears to my eyes. Why, Miss Earl, you will be famous some day!
If I had your genius, I should never think of plodding through life as
a governess."

"But, my dear madam, I must make my bread, and am compelled to teach
while I write."

"I do not see what time you have for writing. I notice you never leave
the children till they are asleep; and you must sleep enough to keep
yourself alive. Are you writing anything at present?"

"I finished an article several days ago which will be published in the
next number of the magazine. Of course, I have no leisure during the
day, but I work till late at night."

"Miss Earl, if you have no objection to acquainting me with your
history, I should like very much to know something of your early life
and education."

While Edna gave a brief account of her childhood, Felix nestled his
hand into hers, and laid his head on her knee, listening eagerly to
every word.

When she concluded, Mrs. Andrews mused a moment, and then said:

"Henceforth, Miss Earl, you will occupy a different position in my
house; and I shall take pleasure in introducing you to such of my
friends as will appreciate your talent. I hope you will not confine
yourself exclusively to my children, but come down sometimes in the
evening and sit with me; and, moreover, I prefer that you should dine
with us, instead of with these nursery folks, who are not quite capable
of appreciating you--"

"How do you know that, mamma? I can tell you one thing, I appreciated
her before I found out that she was likely to be 'famous'! Before I
knew that Mr. Manning condescended to notice her. We 'nursery folk'
judge for ourselves, we don't wait to find out what other people think,
and I shan't give up Miss Earl! She is my governess, and I wish you
would just let her alone!"

There was a touch of scorn in the boy's impatient tone, and his mother
bit her lip, and laughed constrainedly:

"Really, Felix! who gave you a bill of sale to Miss Earl? She should
consider herself exceedingly fortunate, as she is the first of all your
teachers with whom you have not quarrelled most shamefully, even fought
and scratched."

"And because she is sweet, and good and pretty, and I love her, you
must interfere and take her off to entertain your company. She came
here to take care of Hattie and me, and not to go down-stairs to see
visitors. She can't go, mamma! I want her myself. You have all the
world to talk to, and I have only her. Don't meddle, mamma."

"You are very selfish and ill-tempered, my poor little boy, and I am
heartily ashamed of you."

"If I am, it is because--"

"Hush, Felix!"

Edna laid her hand on the pale, curling lips of the cripple, and
luckily at this instant Mrs. Andrews was summoned from the room.

Scarcely waiting till the door closed after her, the boy exclaimed
passionately:

"Felix! don't call me Felix! That means happy, lucky! and she had no
right to give me such a name. I am Infelix! nobody loves me! nobody
cares for me, except to pity me, and I would rather be strangled than
pitied! I wish I was dead and at rest in Greenwood! I wish somebody
would knock my brains out with my crutch! and save me from hobbling
through life. Even my mother is ashamed of my deformity! She ought to
have treated me as the Spartans did their dwarfs! She ought to have
thrown me into the East River before I was a day old! I wish I was
dead! Oh! I do! I do!"

"Felix, it is very wicked to--"

"I tell you I won't be called Felix. Whenever I hear the name it makes
me feel as I did one day when my crutches slipped on the ice, and I
fell on the pavement before the door, and some newsboys stood and
laughed at me. Infelix Andrews! I want that written on my tombstone
when I am buried."

He trembled from head to foot, and angry tears dimmed his large,
flashing eyes, while Hattie sat with her elbows resting on her knees,
and her chin in her hands, looking sorrowfully at her brother.

Edna put her arm around the boy's shoulder, and drew his head down on
her lap, saying tenderly:

"Your mother did not mean that she was ashamed of her son, but only
grieved and mortified by his ungovernable temper, which made him
disrespectful to her. I know that she is very proud of your fine
intellect, and your ambition to become a thorough scholar, and--"

"Oh! yes, and of my handsome body! and my pretty feet!"

"My dear little boy, it is sinful for you to speak in that way, and God
will punish you if you do not struggle against such feelings."

"I don't see how I can be punished any more than I have been already.
To be a lame dwarf is the worst that can happen."

"Suppose you were poor and friendless--an orphan with no one to care
for you? Suppose you had no dear, good little sister like Hattie to
love you? Now, Felix, I know that the very fact that you are not as
strong and well-grown as most boys of your age, only makes your mother
and all of us love you more tenderly; and it is very ungrateful in you
to talk so bitterly when we are trying to make you happy and good and
useful. Look at little Lila, shut up in silence, unable to speak one
word, or to hear a bird sing or a baby laugh, and yet see how merry and
good-natured she is. How much more afflicted she is than you are!
Suppose she was always fretting and complaining, looking miserable and
sour, and out of humor, do you think you would love her half as well as
you do now?"

He made no reply, but his thin hands covered his sallow face.

Hattie came close to him, sat down on the carpet, and put her head,
thickly crowned with yellow curls, on his knee. Her uncle Grey had
given her a pretty ring the day before, and now she silently and softly
took it from her own finger, and slipped it on her brother's.

"Felix, you and Hattie were so delighted with that little poem which I
read to you from the Journal of Eugenie de Guerin, that I have tried to
set it to music for you. The tune does not suit it exactly, but we can
use it until I find a better one."

She went to the piano and sang that pretty nursery ballad, "JOUJOU, THE
ANGEL OF THE PLAYTHINGS."

Hattie clapped her hands with delight, and Felix partly forgot his woes
and grievances.

"Now, I want you both to learn to sing it, and I will teach Hattie the
accompaniment. On Felix's birthday, which is not very distant, you can
surprise your father and mother by singing it for them. In gratitude to
the author I think every little child should sing it and call it
'Eugenie's Angel Song.' Hattie, it is eleven o'clock, and time for you
to practice your music-lesson."

The little girl climbed upon the piano-stool and began to count aloud,
and after a while Edna bent down and put her hand on Felix's shoulder.

"You grieved your mother this morning and spoke very disrespectfully to
her. I know you regret it, and you ought to tell her so and ask her to
forgive you. You would feel happier all day if you would only
acknowledge your fault. I hear your mother in her own room; will you
not go and kiss her?"

He averted his head and muttered:

"I don't want to kiss her."

"But you ought to be a dutiful son, and you are not; and your mother
has cause to be displeased with you. If you should ever be so
unfortunate as to lose her, and stand as I do, motherless, in the
world, you will regret the pain you gave her this morning. Oh! if I had
the privilege of kissing my mother, I could bear almost any sorrow
patiently. If it mortifies you to acknowledge your bad behavior, it is
the more necessary that you should humble your pride. Felix, sometimes
I think it requires more nobility of soul to ask pardon for our faults
than to resist the temptation to commit them."

She turned away and busied herself in correcting his Latin exercise,
and for some time the boy sat sullen and silent.

At length he sighed heavily, and taking his crutches, came up to the
table where she sat.

"Suppose you tell my mother I am sorry I was disrespectful."

"Felix, are you really sorry?"

"Yes."

"Well, then go and tell her so, and she will love you a thousand times
more than ever before. The confession should come from your own lips."

He stood irresolute and sighed again:

"I will go if you will go with me."

She rose and they went to Mrs. Andrew's room. The mother was superbly
dressed in visiting costume, and was tying on her bonnet when they
entered.

"Mrs. Andrews, your son wishes to say something which I think you will
be glad to hear."

"Indeed! Well, Felix, what is it?"

"Mamma--I believe--I know I was very cross--and disrespectful to
you--and oh, mamma! I hope you will forgive me!"

He dropped his crutches and stretched out his arms, and Mrs. Andrews
threw down the diamond cluster, with which she was fastening her
ribbons, and caught the boy to her bosom.

"My precious child! my darling! Of course I forgive you gladly. My dear
son, if you only knew half how well I love you, you would not grieve me
so often by your passionate temper. My darling!--"

She stooped to kiss him, and when she turned to look for the girlish
form of the governess, it was no longer visible; mother and son were
alone.



CHAPTER XXVI.


During the first few months after her removal to New York, Edna
received frequent letters from Mrs. Murray and Mr. Hammond; but as
winter advanced they wrote more rarely and hurriedly, and finally, many
weeks elapsed without bringing any tidings from Le Bocage. St. Elmo's
name was never mentioned, and while the girl's heart ached, she crushed
it more ruthlessly day by day, and in retaliation imposed additional
and unremitting toil upon her brain.

Mr. Manning had called twice to escort her to the libraries and art
galleries, and occasionally he sent her new books, and English and
French periodicals; but his chill, imperturbable calmness oppressed and
embarrassed Edna, and formed a barrier to all friendly worth in their
intercourse. He so completely overawed her that in his august presence
she was unable to do herself justice, and felt that she was not gaining
ground in his good opinion. The brooding serenity of his grave, Egyptic
face was not contagious; and she was conscious of a vague disquiet, a
painful restlessness, when in his company and under his cold,
changeless eyes.

One morning in January, as she sat listening to Felix's recitations,
Mrs. Andrews came into the school-room with an open note in one hand,
and an exquisite bouquet in the other.

"Miss Earl, here is an invitation for you to accompany Mr. Manning to
the opera to-night; and here, too, is a bouquet from the same
considerate gentleman. As he does me the honor to request my company
also, I came to confer with you before sending a reply. Of course, you
will go?"

"Yes, Mrs. Andrews, if you will go with me."

Edna bent over her flowers, and recognizing many favorites that
recalled the hothouse at Le Bocage, her eyes filled with tears, and she
hastily put her lips to the snowy cups of an oxalis. How often she had
seen just such fragile petals nestling in the buttonhole of Mr.
Murray's coat.

"I shall write and invite him to come early and take tea with us. Now,
Miss Earl, pardon my candor, I should like to know what you intend to
wear? You know that Mr. Manning is quite lionized here, and you will
have to face a terrific battery of eyes and lorgnettes; for everybody
will stretch his or her neck to find out, first, who you are, and
secondly, how you are dressed. Now I think I understand rather better
than you do what is comme il faut in these matters and I hope you will
allow me to dictate on this occasion. Moreover, our distinguished
escort is extremely fastidious concerning ladies' toilettes."

"Here are my keys, Mrs. Andrews; examine my wardrobe and select what
you consider appropriate for to-night."

"On condition that you permit me to supply any deficiencies which I may
discover? Come to my room at six o'clock, and let Victorine dress your
hair. Let me see, I expect a la Grec will best suit your head and face."

Edna turned to her pupils and their books, but all day the flowers in
the vase on the table prattled of days gone by; of purple sunsets
streaming through golden starred acacia boughs; of long, languid,
luxurious Southern afternoons dying slowly on beds of heliotrope and
jasmine, spicy geraniums and gorgeous pelargoniums; of dewy, delicious
summer mornings, for ever and ever past, when standing beside a
quivering snowbank of Lamarque roses, she had watched Tamerlane and his
gloomy rider go down the shadowy avenue of elms.

The monotonous hum of the children's voices seemed thin and strange and
far, far off, jarring the sweet bouquet babble; and still as the hours
passed, and the winter day waned, the flower Fugue swelled on and on,
through the cold and dreary chambers of her heart; now rising stormy
and passionate, like a battle-blast, from the deep orange trumpet of a
bignonia; and now whispering and sobbing and pleading, from the pearly
white lips of hallowed oxalis.

When she sat that night in Mr. Manning's box at the Academy of Music,
the editor raised his opera-glass, swept the crowded house, scanning
the lovely, beaming faces wreathed with smiles, and then his grave,
piercing glance came back and dwelt on the countenance at his side. The
cherry silk lining and puffing on her opera-cloak threw a delicate
stain of color over her exquisitely moulded cheeks, and in the braid of
black hair which rested like a coronal on her polished brow, burned a
scarlet anemone. Her long lashes drooped as she looked down at the
bouquet between her fingers, and listening to the Fugue which memory
played on the petals, she sighed involuntarily.

"Miss Earl, is this your first night at the opera?"

"No, sir; I was here once before with Mr. Andrews and his children."

"I judge from your writings that you are particularly fond of music."

"Yes, sir; I think few persons love it better than I do."

"What style do you prefer?"

"Sacred music--oratorios rather than operas."

The orchestra began an overture of Verdi's, and Edna's eyes went back
to her flowers.

Presently Mrs. Andrews said eagerly:

"Look, Miss Earl! Yonder, in the box directly opposite, is the
celebrated Sir Roger Percival, the English nobleman about whom all
Gotham is running mad. If he has not more sense than most men of his
age, his head will be completely turned by the flattery heaped upon
him. What a commentary on Republican Americans, that we are so dazzled
by the glitter of a title! However, he really is very agreeable; I have
met him several times, dined with him last week at the Coltons. He has
been watching us for some minutes. Ah! there is a bow for me; and one I
presume for you, Mr. Manning."

"Yes, I knew him abroad. We spent a month together at Dresden, and his
brain is strong enough to bear all the adulation New Yorkers offer his
title."

Edna looked into the opposite box, and saw a tall, elegantly-dressed
man, with huge whiskers and a glittering opera-glass; and then as the
curtain rose on the first act of "Ernani," she turned to the stage, and
gave her entire attention to the music.

At the close of the second act Mrs. Andrews said:

"Pray who is that handsome man down yonder in the parquet, fanning
himself with a libretto! I do not think his eyes have moved from this
box for the last ten minutes. He is a stranger to me."

She turned her fan in the direction of the person indicated, and Mr.
Manning looked down and answered:

"He is unknown to me."

Edna's eyes involuntarily wandered over the sea of heads, and the
editor saw her start and lean forward, and noticed the sudden joy that
flashed into her face, as she met the earnest, upward gaze of Gordon
Leigh.

"An acquaintance of yours, Miss Earl?"

"Yes, sir, an old friend from the South."

The door of the box opened, and Sir Roger Percival came in and seated
himself near Mrs. Andrews, who in her cordial welcome seemed utterly to
forget the presence of the governess.

Mr. Manning sat close to Edna, and taking a couple of letters from his
pocket he laid them on her lap, saying:

"These letters were directed to my care by persons who are ignorant of
your name and address. If you will not consider me unpardonably
curious, I should like to know the nature of their contents."

She broke the seals and read the most flattering commendations of her
magazine sketches, the most cordial thanks for the pleasure derived
from their perusal; but the signatures were unknown to her.

A sudden wave of crimson surged into her face as she silently put the
letters into Mr. Manning's hand, and watched his grave, fixed,
undemonstrative features, while he read, refolded, and returned them to
her.

"Miss Earl, I have received several documents of a similar character
asking for your address. Do you still desire to write incognito, or do
you wish your name given to your admirers?"

"That is a matter which I am willing to leave to your superior
judgment."

"Pardon me, but I much prefer that you determine it for yourself."

"Then you may give my name to those who are sufficiently interested in
me to write and make the inquiry."

Mr. Manning smiled slightly, and lowered his voice as he said:

"Sir Roger Percival came here to-night to be introduced to you. He has
expressed much curiosity to see the author of the last article which
you contributed to the magazine; and I told him that you would be in my
box this evening. Shall I present him now?"

Mr. Manning was rising, but Edna put her hand on his arm, and answered
hurriedly:

"No, no! He is engaged in conversation with Mrs. Andrews, and,
moreover, I believe I do not particularly desire to be presented to
him."

"Here comes your friend; I will vacate this seat in his favor."

He rose, bowed to Gordon Leigh, and gave him the chair which he had
occupied.

"Edna! how I have longed to see you once more!"

Gordon's hand seized hers, and his handsome face was eloquent with
feelings which he felt no inclination to conceal.

"The sight of your countenance is an unexpected pleasure in New York.
Mr. Leigh, when did you arrive?"

"This afternoon. Mr. Hammond gave me your address, and I called to see
you, but was told that you were here."

"How are they all at home?"

"Do you mean at Le Bocage or the Parsonage?"

"I mean how are all my friends?"

"Mrs. Murray is very well, Miss Estelle, ditto. Mr. Hammond has been
sick, but was better and able to preach before I left. I brought a
letter for you from him, but unfortunately left it in the pocket of my
travelling coat. Edna, you have changed very much since I saw you last."

"In what respect, Mr. Leigh?"

The crash of the orchestra filled the house, and people turned once
more to the stage. Standing with his arms folded, Mr. Manning saw the
earnest look on Gordon's face as, with his arm resting on the back of
Edna's chair, he talked in a low, eager tone; and a pitying smile
partly curved the editor's granite mouth as he noticed the expression
of pain on the girl's face, and heard her say coldly:

"No, Mr. Leigh; what I told you then I repeat now. Time has made no
change."

The opera ended, the curtain fell, and an enthusiastic audience called
out the popular prima donna.

While bouquets were showered upon her, Mr. Manning stooped and put his
hand on Edna's:

"Shall I throw your tribute for you?"

She hastily caught the bouquet from his fingers, and replied:

"Oh! no, thank you! I am so selfish, I can not spare it."

"I shall call at ten o'clock to-morrow to deliver your letter," said
Gordon, as he stood hat in hand.

"I shall be glad to see you, Mr. Leigh."

He shook hands with her and with Mr. Manning, to whom she had
introduced him, and left the box.

Sir Roger Percival gave his arm to Mrs. Andrews, and the editor drew
Edna's cloak over her shoulders, took her hand and led her down the
steps.

As her little gloved fingers rested in his, the feeling of awe and
restraint melted away, and looking into his face she said:

"Mr. Manning, I do not think you will ever know half how much I thank
you for all your kindness to an unknown authorling. I have enjoyed the
music very much indeed. How is Lila to-night?"

A slight tremor crossed his lips; the petrified hawthorn was quivering
into life.

"She is quite well, thank you. Pray, what do you know about her? I was
not aware that I had ever mentioned her name in your presence."

"My pupil, Felix, is her most devoted knight, and I see her almost
every afternoon when I go with the children to Central Park."

They reached the carriage where the Englishman stood talking to Mrs.
Andrews, and when Mr. Manning had handed Edna in, he turned and said
something to Sir Roger, who laughed lightly and walked away.

During the drive Mrs. Andrews talked volubly of the foreigner's ease
and elegance and fastidious musical taste, and Mr. Manning listened
courteously and bowed coldly in reply. When they reached home she
invited him to dinner on the following Thursday, to meet Sir Roger
Percival.

As the editor bade them good-night he said to Edna:

"Go to sleep at once; do not sit up to work to-night."

Did she follow his sage advice? Ask of the stars that watched her
through the long winter night, and the dappled dawn that saw her
stooping wearily over her desk.

At the appointed hour on the following morning Mr. Leigh called, and
after some desultory remarks he asked, rather abruptly:

"Has St. Elmo Murray written to you about his last whim?"

"I do not correspond with Mr. Murray."

"Everybody wonders what droll freak will next seize him. Reed, the
blacksmith, died several months ago and, to the astonishment of our
people, Mr. Murray has taken his orphan, Huldah, to Le Bocage; has
adopted her I believe; at all events, is educating her."

Edna's face grew radiant.

"Oh! I am glad to hear it! Poor little Huldah needed a friend, and she
could not possibly have fallen into kinder hands than Mr. Murray's."

"There certainly exists some diversity of opinion on that subject. He
is rather too grim a guardian, I fancy, for one so young as Huldah
Reed."

"Is Mr. Hammond teaching Huldah?"

"Oh! no. Herein consists the wonder. Murray himself hears her lessons,
so Estelle told my sister. A propos! rumor announces the approaching
marriage of the cousins. My sister informed me that it would take place
early in the spring."

"Do you allude to Mr. Murray and Miss Harding?"

"I do. They will go to Europe immediately after their marriage."

Gordon looked searchingly at his companion, but saw only a faint,
incredulous smile cross her calm face.

"My sister is Estelle's confidante, so you see I speak advisedly. I
know that her trousseau has been ordered from Paris."

Edna's fingers closed spasmodically over each other, but she laughed as
she answered:

"How then dare you betray her confidence? Mr. Leigh, how long will you
remain in New York?"

"I shall leave to-morrow, unless I have reason to hope that a longer
visit will give you pleasure. I came here solely to see you."

He attempted to unclasp her fingers, but she shook off his hand and
said quickly:

"I know what you are about to say, and I would rather not hear what
would only distress us both. If you wish me to respect you, Mr. Leigh,
you must never again allude to a subject which I showed you last night
was exceedingly painful to me. While I value you as a friend, and am
rejoiced to see you again, I should regret to learn that you had
prolonged your stay even one hour on my account."

"You are ungrateful, Edna! And I begin to realize that you are utterly
heartless."

"If I am, at least I have never trifled with or deceived you, Mr.
Leigh."

"You have no heart, or you certainly could not so coldly reject an
affection which any other woman would proudly accept. A few years
hence, when your insane ambition is fully satiated, and your beauty
fades, and your writings pall upon public taste, and your
smooth-tongued flatterers forsake your shrine to bow before that of
some new and more popular idol, then Edna, you will rue your folly."

She rose and answered quietly:

"The future may contain only disappointments for me, but however
lonely, however sad my lot may prove, I think I shall never fall so low
as to regret not having married a man whom I find it impossible to
love. The sooner this interview ends the longer our friendship will
last. My time is not now my own, and as my duties claim me in the
school-room, I must bid you good-bye."

"Edna, if you send me away from you now, you shall never look upon my
face again in this world!"

Mournfully her tearful eyes sought his, but her voice was low and
steady as she put out both hands, and said solemnly:

"Farewell, dear friend. God grant that when next we see each other's
faces they may be overshadowed by the shining, white plumes of our
angel wings, in that city of God, 'where the wicked cease from
troubling and the weary are at rest.' 'Never again in this world,' ah!
such words are dreary and funereal as the dull fall of clods on a
coffin-lid; but so be it. Thank God! time brings us all to one
inevitable tryst before the great white throne."

He took the hands, bowed his forehead upon them and groaned; then drew
them to his lips and left her.

With a slow, weary step she turned and went up to her room and read Mr.
Hammond's letter. It was long and kind, full of affection and wise
counsel, but contained no allusion to Mr. Murray.

As she refolded it she saw a slip of paper which had fallen unnoticed
on the carpet, and picking it up she read these words:

"It grieves me to have to tell you that, after all, I fear St. Elmo
will marry Estelle Harding. He does not love her, she can not influence
him to redeem himself; his future looks hopeless indeed. Edna, my
child! what have you done! Oh! what have you done!"

Her heart gave a sudden, wild bound, then a spasm seemed to seize it,
and presently the fluttering ceased, her pulses stopped, and a chill
darkness fell upon her.

Her head sank heavily on her chest, and when she recovered, her memory
she felt an intolerable sensation of suffocation, and a sharp pain that
seemed to stab the heart, whose throbs were slow and feeble.

She raised the window and leaned out panting for breath, and the
freezing wind powdered her face with fine snowflakes, and sprinkled its
fairy flower-crystals over her hair.

The outer world was chill and dreary, the leafless limbs of the trees
in the park looked ghostly and weird against the dense dun clouds which
seemed to stretch like a smoke mantle just above the sea of roofs; and,
dimly seen through the white mist, Brooklyn's heights and Staten's
hills were huge outlines monstrous as Echidna.

Physical pain blanched Edna's lips, and she pressed her hand repeatedly
to her heart, wondering what caused those keen pangs. At last, when the
bodily suffering passed away, and she sat down exhausted, her mind
reverted to the sentence in Mr. Hammond's letter.

She knew the words were not lightly written, and that his reproachful
appeal had broken from the depths of his aching heart, and was intended
to rouse her to some action.

"I can do nothing, say nothing! Must sit still and wait
patiently--prayerfully. To-day, if I could put out my hand and touch
Mr. Murray, and bind him to me for ever, I would not. No, no! Not a
finger must I lift, even between him and Estelle! But he will not marry
her! I know--I feel that he will not. Though I never look upon his face
again, he belongs to me! He is mine, and no other woman can take him
from me."

A strange, mysterious, shadowy smile settled on her pallid features,
and faintly and dreamily she repeated:

"And yet I know past all doubting, truly--A knowledge greater than
grief can dim--I know as he loved, he will love me duly, Yea, better,
e'en better than I love him. And as I walk by the vast, calm river, The
awful river so dread to see, I say, 'Thy breadth and thy depth for ever
Are bridged by his thoughts that cross to me.'"

Her lashes drooped, her head fell back against the top of the chair,
and she lost all her woes until Felix's voice roused her, and she saw
the frightened boy standing at her side, shaking her hand and calling
piteously upon her.

"Oh! I thought you were dead! You looked so white and felt so cold. Are
you very sick? Shall I go for mamma?"

For a moment she looked in his face with a perplexed, bewildered
expression, then made an effort to rise.

"I suppose that I must have fainted, for I had a terrible pain here,
and--" She laid her hand over her heart.

"Felix, let us go down-stairs. I think if your mother would give me
some wine, it might strengthen me."

Notwithstanding the snow, Mrs. Andrews had gone out; but Felix had the
wine brought to the school-room, and after a little while the blood
showed itself shyly in the governess's white lips, and she took the
boy's Latin book and heard him recite his lesson.

The day appeared wearily long, but she omitted none of the appointed
tasks, and it was nearly nine o'clock before Felix fell asleep that
night. Softly unclasping his thin fingers which clung to her hand, she
went up to her own room, feeling the full force of those mournful words
in Eugenie de Guerin's Journal:

"It goes on in the soul. No one is aware of what I feel; no one suffers
from it. I only pour out my heart before God--and here. Oh! to-day what
efforts I make to shake off this profitless sadness--this sadness
without tears--arid, bruising the heart like a hammer!"

There was no recurrence of the physical agony; and after two days the
feeling of prostration passed away, and only the memory of the attack
remained.

The idea of lionizing her children's governess, and introducing her to
soi-disant "fashionable society," had taken possession of Mrs.
Andrews's mind, and she was quite as much delighted with her
patronizing scheme as a child would have been with a new hobby-horse.
Dreams at which even Macaenas might have laughed floated through her
busy brain, and filled her kind heart with generous anticipations. On
Thursday she informed Edna that she desired her presence at dinner, and
urged her request with such pertinacious earnestness that no
alternative remained but acquiescence, and reluctantly the governess
prepared to meet a formidable party of strangers.

When Mrs. Andrews presented Sir Roger Percival, he bowed rather
haughtily, and with a distant politeness, which assured Edna that he
was cognizant of her refusal to make his acquaintance at the opera.

During the early part of dinner he divided his gay words between his
hostess and a pretty Miss Morton, who was evidently laying siege to his
heart and carefully flattering his vanity; but whenever Edna, his
vis-a-vis, looked toward him, she invariably found his fine brown eyes
scrutinizing her face.

Mr. Manning, who sat next to Edna, engaged her in an animated
discussion concerning the value of a small volume containing two essays
by Buckle, which he had sent her a few days previous.

Something which she said to the editor with reference to Buckle's
extravagant estimate of Mill, brought a smile to the Englishman's lip,
and bowing slightly, he said:

"Pardon me, Miss Earl, if I interrupt you a moment to express my
surprise at hearing Mill denounced by an American. His books on
Representative Government and Liberty are so essentially democratic
that I expected only gratitude and eulogy from his readers on this side
of the Atlantic."

Despite her efforts to control it, embarrassment unstrung her nerves,
and threw a quiver into her voice, as she answered:

"I do not presume, sir, to 'denounce' a man whom Buckle ranks above all
other living writers and statesmen, but, in anticipating the inevitable
result of the adoption of some of Mill's proposed social reforms, I
could not avoid recalling that wise dictum of Frederick the Great
concerning philosophers--a saying which Buckle quotes so triumphantly
against Plato, Aristotle, Descartes--even Bacon, Newton, and a long
list of names illustrious in the annals of English literature.
Frederick declared: 'If I wanted to ruin one of my provinces I would
make over its government to the philosopher.' With due deference to
Buckle's superior learning and astuteness, I confess my study of Mill's
philosophy assures me that, if society should be turned over to the
government of his theory of Liberty and Suffrage, it would go to ruin
more rapidly than Frederick's province. Under his teachings the women
of England might soon marshal their amazonian legions, and storm not
only Parnassus but the ballot-box, the bench, and the forum. That this
should occur in a country where a woman nominally rules, and certainly
reigns, is not so surprising, but I dread the contagion of such an
example upon America."

"His influence is powerful, from the fact that he never takes up his
pen without using it to break some social shackles; and its strokes are
tremendous as those of the hammer of Thor. But surely, Miss Earl, you
Americans can not with either good taste, grace, or consistency,
upbraid England on the score of woman's rights' movements?"

"At least, sir, our statesmen are not yet attacked by this most
loathsome of political leprosies. Only a few crazy fanatics have fallen
victims to it, and if lunatic asylums were not frequently cheated of
their dues, these would not be left at large, but shut up together in
high-walled enclosures, where, like Sydney Smith's 'gramnivorous
metaphysicians,' or Reaumur's spiders, they could only injure one
another and destroy their own webs. America has no Bentham, Bailey,
Hare or Mill, to lend countenance or strength to the ridiculous clamor
raised by a few unamiable and wretched wives, and as many embittered,
disappointed, old maids of New England. The noble apology which Edmund
Burke once offered for his countrymen always recurs to my mind when I
hear these 'women's conventions' alluded to: 'Because half-a-dozen
grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate
chink, while thousands of great cattle repose beneath the shade of the
British oak, chew the cud, and are silent, pray do not imagine that
those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field; that,
of course, they are many in number, or that, after all, they are other
than the little, shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and
troublesome insects of the hour.' I think, sir, that the noble and true
women of this continent earnestly believe that the day which invests
them with the elective franchise would be the blackest in the annals of
humanity, would ring the death-knell of modern civilization, of
national prosperity, social morality, and domestic happiness! and would
consign the race to a night of degradation and horror infinitely more
appalling than a return to primeval barbarism."

"Even my brief sojourn in America has taught me the demoralizing
tendency of the doctrine of 'equality of races and of sexes,' and you
must admit, Miss Earl, that your countrywomen are growing dangerously
learned," answered Sir Roger, smiling.

"I am afraid, sir, that it is rather the quality than the quantity of
their learning that makes them troublesome. One of your own noble seers
has most gracefully declared: 'A woman may always help her husband,'
(or race,) 'by what she knows, however little; by what she half knows
or misknows, she will only tease him.'"

Sir Roger bowed, and Mr. Manning said:

"Very 'true, good, and beautiful,' as a mere theory in sociology, but
in an age when those hideous hermaphrodites, ycleped 'strong-minded
women,' are becoming so alarmingly numerous, our eyes are rarely
gladdened by a conjunction of highly cultivated intellects; notable,
loving hearts; tender, womanly sensibilities. Can you shoulder the anus
probandi?"

"Sir, that rests with those who assert that learning renders women
disagreeable and unfeminine; the burden of proof remains for you."

"Permit me to lift the weight for you, Manning, by asking Miss Earl
what she thinks of the comparative merits of the 'Princess,' and of
'Aurora Leigh,' as correctives of the tendency she deprecates?"

Hitherto the discussion had been confined to the trio, while the
conversation was general, but now silence reigned around the table, and
when the Englishman's questions forced Edna to look up, she saw all
eyes turned upon her; and embarrassment flushed her face, and her
lashes drooped as she answered:

"It has often been asserted by those who claim proficiency in the
analysis of character, that women are the most infallible judges of
womanly, and men of manly natures; but I am afraid that the poems
referred to would veto this decision. While I yield to no human being
in admiration of, and loving gratitude to Mrs. Browning, and regard the
first eight books of 'Aurora Leigh' as vigorous, grand and marvellously
beautiful, I can not deny that a painful feeling of mortification
seizes me when I read the ninth and concluding book, wherein 'Aurora,'
with most unwomanly vehemence, voluntarily declares and reiterates her
love for 'Romney.' Tennyson's 'Princess' seems to me more feminine and
refined and lovely than 'Aurora'; and it is because I love and revere
Mrs. Browning, and consider her not only the pride of her own sex, but
an ornament to the world, that I find it difficult to forgive the
unwomanly inconsistency into which she betrays her heroine. Allow me to
say that in my humble opinion nothing in the whole range of literature
so fully portrays a perfect woman as that noble sketch by Wordsworth,
and the inimitable description in Rogers's 'Human Life.'"

"The first is, I presume, familiar to all of us, but the last, I
confess, escapes my memory. Will you be good enough to repeat it?" said
the editor, knitting his brows slightly.

"Excuse me, sir; it is too long to be quoted here, and it seems that I
have already monopolized the conversation much longer than I expected
or desired. Moreover, to quote Rogers to an Englishman would be
equivalent to 'carrying coal to Newcastle,' or peddling 'owls in
Athens.'"

Sir Roger smiled as he said:

"Indeed, Miss Earl, while you spoke, I was earnestly ransacking my
memory for the passage to which you allude; but I am ashamed to say, it
is as fruitless an effort as 'calling spirits from the vasty deep.'
Pray be so kind as to repeat it for me."

At that instant little Hattie crept softly to the back of Edna's chair,
and whispered:

"Bro' Felix says, won't you please come back soon, and finish that
story where you left off reading last night?"

Very glad to possess so good an excuse, the governess rose at once; but
Mrs. Andrews said:

"Wait, Miss Earl. What do you want, Hattie?"

"Bro' Felix wants Miss Earl, and sent me to beg her to come."

"Go back and tell him he is in a hopeless minority, and that in this
country the majority rule. There are fifteen here who want to talk to
Miss Earl, and he can't have her in the schoolroom just now," said Grey
Chilton, slyly pelting his niece with almonds.

"But Felix is really sick to-day, and if Mrs. Andrews will excuse me, I
prefer to go."

She looked imploringly at the lady of the house, who said nothing; and
Sir Roger beckoned Hattie to him, and exclaimed:

"Pray, may I inquire, Mrs. Andrews, why your children do not make their
appearance? I am sure you need not fear a repetition of the sarcastic
rebuke of that wit who, when dining at a house where the children were
noisy and unruly, lifted his glass, bowed to the troublesome little
ones, and drank to the memory of King Herod. I am very certain 'the
murder of the innocents' would never be recalled here, unless--forgive
me, Miss Earl! but from the sparkle in your eyes, I believe you
anticipate me. Do you really know what I am about to say?"

"I think, sir, I can guess."

"Let me see whether you are a clairvoyant!"

"On one occasion when a sign for a children's school was needed, and
the lady teacher applied to Lamb to suggest a design, he meekly advised
that of 'The Murder of the Innocents.' Thank you, sir. However, I am
not surprised that you entertain such flattering opinions of a
profession which in England boasts 'Squeers' as its national type and
representative."

The young man laughed good-humoredly, and answered:

"For the honor of my worthy pedagogical countrymen, permit me to assure
you that the aforesaid 'Squeers' is simply one of Dickens's inimitable
caricatures."

"Nevertheless I have somewhere seen the statement that when 'Nicholas
Nickleby' first made its appearance, only six irate schoolmasters went
immediately to London to thrash the author; each believing that he
recognized his own features in the amiable portrait of 'Squeers.'"

She bowed and turned from the table, but Mrs. Andrews exclaimed:

"Before you go, repeat that passage from Rogers; then we will excuse
you."

With one hand clasping Hattie's, and the other resting on the back of
her chair, Edna fixed her eyes on Mrs. Andrews's face, and gave the
quotation.

"His house she enters, there to be a light Shining within when all
without is night; A guardian angel o'er his life presiding, Doubling
his pleasures and his cares dividing; Winning him back, when mingling
in the throng From a vain world we love, alas! too long, To fireside
happiness and hours of ease, Blest with that charm, the certainty to
please. How oft her eyes read his! her gentle mind To all his wishes,
all his thoughts inclined; Still subject--ever on the watch to borrow
Mirth of his mirth, and sorrow of his sorrow."



CHAPTER XXVII.


Flowery as Sicilian meads was the parsonage garden on that quiet
afternoon late in May, when Mr. Hammond closed the honeysuckle-crowned
gate, crossed the street, and walked slowly into the church-yard, down
the sacred streets of the silent city of the dead, and entered the
enclosure where slept his white-robed household band.

The air was thick with perfume, as if some strong, daring south wind
had blown wide the mystic doors of Astarte's huge laboratory, and
overturned the myriad alembics, and deluged the world with her fragrant
and subtle distillations.

Honey-burdened bees hummed their hymns to labor, as they swung to and
fro; and numbers of Psyche-symbols, golden butterflies, floated
dreamily in and around and over the tombs, now and then poising on
velvet wings, as if waiting, listening for the clarion voice of
Gabriel, to rouse and reanimate the slumbering bodies beneath the
gleaming slabs. Canary-colored orioles flitted in and out of the
trailing willows, a redbird perched on the brow of a sculptured angel
guarding a child's grave, and poured his sad, sweet, monotonous notes
on the spicy air; two purple pigeons, with rainbow necklaces, cooed and
fluttered up and down from the church belfry, and close under the
projecting roof of the granite vault, a pair of meek brown wrens were
building their nest and twittering softly one to another.

The pastor cut down the rank grass and fringy ferns, the flaunting
weeds and coreopsis that threatened to choke his more delicate flowers,
and, stooping, tied up the crimson pinks, and wound the tendrils of the
blue-veined clematis around its slender trellis, and straightened the
white petunias and the orange-tinted crocaes, which the last heavy
shower had beaten to the ground.

The small, gray vault was overrun with ivy, whose dark, polished leaves
threatened to encroach on a plain slab of pure marble that stood very
near it; and as the minister pruned away the wreaths, his eyes rested
on the black letters in the centre of the slab: "Murray Hammond. Aged
21."

Elsewhere the sunshine streamed warm and bright over the graves, but
here the rays were intercepted by the church, and its cool shadow
rested over vault and slab and flowers.

The old man was weary from stooping so long, and now he took off his
hat and passed his hand over his forehead, and sighed as he leaned
against the door of the vault, where fine, fairy-fingered mosses were
weaving their green arabesque immortelles.

In a mournfully measured, yet tranquil tone, he said aloud:

"Ah! truly throughout all the years of my life I have never heard the
promise of perfect love, without seeing aloft amongst the stars,
fingers as of a man's hand, writing the sacred legend: 'Ashes to ashes!
dust to dust!'"

Age was bending his body toward the earth with which it was soon to
mingle; the ripe and perfect wheat nodded lower and lower day by day,
as the Angel of the Sickle delayed; but his noble face wore that
blessed and marvellous calm, that unearthly peace which generally comes
some hours after death, when all traces of temporal passions and woes
are lost in eternity's repose.

A low, wailing symphony throbbed through the church, where the organist
was practising; and then out of the windows, and far away on the
evening air, rolled the solemn waves of that matchlessly mournful
Requiem which, under prophetic shadows, Mozart began on earth and
finished, perhaps in heaven, on one of those golden harps whose
apocalyptic ringing smote St. John's eager ears among the lonely rocks
of Aegean-girdled Patmos. The sun had paused as if to listen on the
wooded crest of a distant hill, but as the Requiem ended and the organ
sobbed itself to rest, he gathered up his burning rays and disappeared;
and the spotted butterflies, like "winged tulips," flitted silently
away, and the evening breeze bowed the large yellow primroses, and
fluttered the phlox; the red nasturtiums that climbed up at the foot of
the slab shuddered and shook their blood-colored banners over the
polished marble. A holy hush fell upon all things save a towering
poplar that leaned against the church, and rustled its leaves
ceaselessly, and shivered and turned white, as tradition avers it has
done since that day, when Christ staggered along the Via Dolorosa
bearing his cross, carved out of poplar wood.

Leaning with his hands folded on the handle of the weeding hoe, his
gray beard sweeping over his bosom, his bare, silvered head bowed, and
his mild, peaceful blue eyes resting on his son's tomb, Mr. Hammond
stood listening to the music; and when the strains ceased, his thoughts
travelled onward and upward till they crossed the sea of crystal before
the Throne, and in imagination he heard the song of the four and twenty
elders.

From this brief reverie some slight sound aroused him, and lifting his
eyes, he saw a man clad in white linen garments, wearing oxalis
clusters in his coat, standing on the opposite side of the monumental
slab.

"St. Elmo! my poor, suffering wanderer! Oh, St. Elmo! come to me once
more before I die!"

The old man's voice was husky, and his arms trembled as he stretched
them across the grave that intervened.

Mr. Murray looked into the tender, tearful, pleading countenance, and
the sorrow that seized his own, making his features writhe, beggars
language. He instinctively put out his arms, then drew them back, and
hid his face in his hands; saying in low, broken, almost inaudible
tones:

"I am too unworthy. Dripping with the blood of your children, I dare
not touch you."

The pastor tottered around the tomb, and stood at Mr. Murray's side,
and the next moment the old man's arms were clasped around the tall
form, and his white hair fell on his pupil's shoulder.

"God be praised! After twenty years' separation I hold you once more to
the heart that, even in its hours of deepest sorrow, has never ceased
to love you! St. Elmo!--"

He wept aloud, and strained the prodigal convulsively to his breast.

After a moment Mr. Murray's lips moved, twitched; and with a groan that
shook his powerful frame from head to foot, he asked:

"Will you ever, ever forgive me?"

"God is my witness that I freely and fully forgave you many, many years
ago! The dearest hope of my lonely life has been that I might tell you
so, and make you realize how ceaselessly my prayers and my love have
followed you in all your dreary wanderings. Oh! I thank God that, at
last! at last you have come to me, my dear, dear boy! My poor, proud
prodigal!"

A magnificent jubilate swelled triumphantly through church and
churchyard, as if the organist up in the gallery knew what was
happening at Murray Hammond's grave; and when the thrilling music died
away St. Elmo broke from the encircling arms, and knelt with his face
shrouded in his hands and pressed against the marble that covered his
victim.

After a little while the pastor sat down on the edge of the slab, and
laid his shrunken fingers softly and caressingly upon the bowed head.

"Do not dwell upon a past that is fraught only with bitterness to you,
and from which you can draw no balm. Throw your painful memories behind
you, and turn resolutely to a future which may be rendered noble and
useful and holy. There is truth, precious truth in George Herbert's
words:

'For all may have, If they dare choose, a glorious life or grave!'

and the years to come may, by the grace of God, more than cancel those
that have gone by."

"What have I to hope for--in time of eternity? Oh! none but Almighty
God can ever know the dreary blackness and wretchedness of my
despairing soul! the keen sleepless pain of my remorse! my utter
loathing of my accursed, distorted nature!" "And His pitying eyes see
all, and Christ stretches out his hands to lift you up to Himself, and
His own words of loving sympathy and pardon are spoken again to you:
'Come unto Me, all ye weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'
Throw all your galling load of memories down at the foot of the cross,
and 'the peace that passeth all understanding' shall enter your
sorrowing soul, and abide there for ever. St. Elmo, only prayer could
have sustained and soothed me since we parted that bright summer
morning twenty long, long years ago. Prayer took away the sting and
sanctified my sorrows for the good of my soul; and, my dear, dear boy,
it will extract the poison and the bitterness from yours. That God
answers prayer and comforts the afflicted among men, I am a living
attestation. It is by His grace only that 'I am what I am'; erring and
unworthy I humbly own, but patient at least, and fully resigned to His
will. The only remaining cause of disquiet passed away just now, when I
saw that you had come back to me. St. Elmo, do you ever pray for
yourself?"

"For some weeks I have been trying to pray, but my words seem a
mockery; they do not rise, they fall back hissing upon my heart. I have
injured and insulted you; I have cursed you and yours, have robbed you
of your peace of mind, have murdered your children--"

"Hush! hush! we will not disinter the dead. My peace of mind you have
to-day given back to me; and the hope of your salvation is dearer to me
than the remembered faces of my darlings, sleeping here beside us. Oh,
St. Elmo, I have prayed for you as I never prayed even for my own
Murray; and I know, I feel that all my wrestling before the Throne of
Grace has not been in vain. Sometimes my faith grew faint, and as the
years dragged on and I saw no melting of your haughty, bitter spirit, I
almost lost hope; but I did not, thank God, I did not! I held on to the
precious promise, and prayed more frequently, and, blessed be his holy
name! at last, just before I go hence, the answer comes. As I see you
kneeling here at my Murray's grave, I know now that your soul is
snatched 'as a brand from the burning!' Oh! bless my merciful God, that
in that day when we stand for final judgment, and your precious soul is
required at my son's hands, the joyful cry of the recording angel shall
be, 'Saved! saved! for ever and ever, through the blood of the Lamb!'"

Overwhelmed with emotion, the pastor dropped his white head on his
bosom; and once more silence fell over the darkening cemetery.

One by one the birds hushed their twitter and went to rest, and only
the soft cooing of the pigeons floated down now and then from the lofty
belfry.

On the eastern horizon a thin, fleecy scarf of clouds was silvered by
the rising moon, the west was a huge shrine of beryl whereon burned
ruby flakes of vapor, watched by a solitary vestal star; and the
sapphire arch overhead was beautiful and mellow as any that ever
vaulted above the sculptured marbles of Pisan Campo Santo.

Mr. Murray rose and stood with his head uncovered and his eyes fixed on
the nobbing nasturtiums that glowed like blood-spots.

"Mr. Hammond, your magnanimity unmans me; and if your words be true, I
feel in your presence like a leper and should lay my lips in the dust,
crying, 'Unclean! unclean!' For all that I have inflicted on you, I
have neither apology nor defence to offer; and I could much better have
borne curses from you than words of sympathy and affection. You amaze
me, for I hate and scorn myself so thoroughly, that I marvel at the
interest you still indulge for me; I can not understand how you can
endure the sight of my features, the sound of my voice. Oh! if I could
atone! If I could give Annie back to your arms, there is no suffering,
no torture that I would not gladly embrace! No penance of body or soul
from which I would shrink!"

"My dear boy, (for such you still seem to me, notwithstanding the lapse
of time,) let my little darling rest with her God. She went down early
to her long home, and though I missed her sweet laugh, and her soft,
tender hands about my face, and have felt a chill silence in my house,
where music once was, she has been spared much suffering and many
trials; and I would not recall her if I could, for after a few more
days I shall gather her back to my bosom in that eternal land where the
blighting dew of death never falls; where

'Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown.'

Atone? Ah, St. Elmo! you can atone. Save your soul, redeem your life,
and I shall die blessing your name. Look at me in my loneliness and
infirmity. I am childless; you took my idols from me, long, long ago;
you left my heart desolate; and now I have a right to turn to you, to
stretch out my feeble, empty arms, and say, Come, be my child, fill my
son's place, let me lean upon you in my old age, as I once fondly
dreamed I should lean on my own Murray! St. Elmo, will you come? Will
you give me your heart, my son! my son!"

He put out his trembling hands, and a yearning tenderness shone in his
eyes as he raised them to the tall, stern man before him.

Mr. Murray bent eagerly forward, and looked wonderingly at him.

"Do you, can you mean it? It appears so impossible, and I have been so
long sceptical of all nobility in my race. Will you indeed shelter
Murray's murderer in your generous, loving heart?"

"I call my God to witness, that it has been my dearest hope for dreary
years that I might win your heart back before I die."

"It is but a wreck, a hideous ruin, black with sins; but such as I am,
my future, my all, I lay at your feet! If there is any efficacy in
bitter repentance and remorse; if there is any mercy left in my Maker's
hands; if there be saving power in human will, I will atone! I will
atone!"

The strong man trembled like a wave-lashed reed, as he sank on one knee
at the minister's feet, and buried his face in his arms; and spreading
his palms over the drooped head, Mr. Hammond gently and solemnly
blessed him.

For some time both were silent, and then Mr. Murray stretched out one
arm over the slab, and said brokenly:

"Kneeling here at Murray's tomb, a strange, incomprehensible feeling
creeps into my heart. The fierce, burning hate I have borne him seems
to have passed away; and something, ah! something, mournfully like the
old yearning toward him, comes back, as I look at his name. Oh, idol of
my youth! hurled down and crushed by my own savage hands! For the first
time since I destroyed him, since I saw his handsome face whitening in
death, I think of him kindly. For the first time since that night, I
feel that--that--I can forgive him. Murray! Murray! you wronged me! you
wrecked me! but oh! if I could give you back the life I took in my
madness! how joyfully would I forgive you all my injuries! His blood
dyes my hands, my heart, my soul!"

"The blood of Jesus will wash out those stains. The law was fully
satisfied when He hung on Calvary; there, ample atonement was made for
just such sins as yours, and you have only to claim and plead his
sufferings to secure your salvation. St. Elmo, bury your past here, in
Murray's grave, and give all your thoughts to the future. Half of your
life has ebbed out, and yet your life-work remains undone, untouched.
You have no time to spend in looking over your unimproved years."

"'Bury my past!' Impossible, even for one hour. I tell you I am chained
to it, as the Aloides were chained to the pillars of Tartarus! and the
croaking fiend that will not let me sleep in memory! Memory of sins
that--that avenge your wrongs, old man! that goad me sometimes to the
very verge of suicide! Do you know, ha! how could you possibly know?
Shall I tell you that only one thought has often stood between me and
self-destruction? It was not the fear of death, no, no, no! It was not
even the dread of facing an outraged God! but it was the horrible fear
of meeting Murray! Not all eternity was wide enough to hold us both!
The hate I bore him made me shrink from a deed which I felt would
instantly set us face to face once more in the land of souls. Ah! a
change has come over me; now if I could see his face, I might learn to
forget that look it wore when last I gazed upon it. Time bears healing
for some natures; to mine it has brought only poison. It is useless to
bid me forget. Memory is earth's retribution for man's sins. I have
bought at a terrible price my conviction of the melancholy truth, that
he who touches the weapons of Nemesis effectually slaughters his own
peace of mind, and challenges her maledictions, from which there is no
escape. In my insanity I said, 'Vengeance is mine! I will repay!' and
in the hour when I daringly grasped the prerogative of God, His curse
smote me! Mr. Hammond, friend of my happy youth, guide of my innocent
boyhood! if you could know all the depths of my abasement, you would
pity me indeed! My miserable heart is like the crater of some extinct
volcano: the flames of sin have burned out, and left it rugged, rent,
blackened. I do not think that--"

"St. Elmo, do not upbraid yourself so bitterly--"

"Sir, your words are kind and noble and full of Christian charity; they
are well meant, and I thank you; but they cannot comfort me. My
desolation, my utter wretchedness isolate me from the sympathy of my
race, whom I have despised and trampled so relentlessly. Yesterday I
read a passage which depicts so accurately my dreary isolation, that I
have been unable to expel it; I find it creeping even now to my lips:

"'O misery and mourning! I have felt--Yes, I have felt like some
deserted world That God hath done with, and had cast aside To rock and
stagger through the gulfs of space, He never looking on it any more;
Unfilled, no use, no pleasure, not desired, Nor lighted on by angels in
their flight From heaven to happier planets; and the race That once
hath dwelt on it withdrawn or dead. Could such a world have hope that
some blest day God would remember her, and fashion her Anew?'"

"Yes, my dear St. Elmo, so surely as God reigns above us, He will
refashion it, and make the light of His pardoning love and the
refreshing dew of his grace fall upon it! And the waste places shall
bloom as Sharon, and the purpling vineyards shame Engedi, and the
lilies of peace shall lift up their stately heads, and the 'voice of
the turtle shall be heard in the land!' Have faith, grapple yourself by
prayer to the feet of God, and he will gird, and lift up, and guide
you."

Mr. Murray shook his head mournfully, and the moonlight shining on his
face showed it colorless, haggard, hopeless.

The pastor rose, put on his hat, and took St. Elmo's arm.

"Come home with me. This spot is fraught with painful associations that
open afresh all your wounds."

They walked on together until they reached the parsonage gate, and as
the minister raised the latch, his companion gently disengaged the arm
clasped to the old man's side.

"Not to-night. After a few days I will try to come."

"St. Elmo, to-morrow is Sunday, and--"

He paused, and did not speak the request that looked out from his eyes.

It cost Mr. Murray a severe struggle, and he did not answer
immediately. When he spoke his voice was unsteady.

"Yes, I know what you wish. Once I swore I would tear the church down,
scatter its dust to the winds, leave not a stone to mark the site! But
I will come and hear you preach for the first time since that sunny
Sabbath, twenty years dead, when your text was, 'Cast thy bread upon
the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days.' Sodden, and
bitter, and worthless from the long tossing in the great deep of sin,
it drifts back at last to your feet; and instead of stooping tenderly
to gather up the useless fragments, I wonder that you do not spurn the
stranded ruin from you. Yes, I will come."

"Thank God! Oh! what a weight you have lifted from my heart! St. Elmo,
my son!"

There was a long, lingering clasp of hands, and the pastor went into
his home with tears of joy on his furrowed face, while his smiling lips
whispered to his grateful soul:

"In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand;
for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or
whether they both shall be alike good."

Mr. Murray watched the stooping form until it disappeared, and then
went slowly back to the silent burying ground, and sat down on the
steps of the church.

Hour after hour passed and still he sat there, almost as motionless as
one of the monuments, while his eyes dwelt as if spellbound, on the
dark, dull stain where Annie Hammond had rested, in days long, long
past; and Remorse, more powerful than Erictho, evoked from the charnel
house the sweet girlish features and fairy figure of the early dead.

His pale face was propped on his hand, and there in the silent watches
of the moon-lighted midnight, he held communion with God and his own
darkened spirit.

"What hast thou wrought for Right and Truth, For God and man, From the
golden hours of bright-eyed youth, To life's mid-span?"

His almost Satanic pride was laid low as the dead in their mouldering
shrouds, and all the giant strength of his perverted nature was
gathered up and hurled in a new direction. The Dead Sea Past moaned and
swelled, and bitter waves surged and broke over his heart, but he
silently buffeted them; and the moon rode in mid-heaven when he rose,
went around the church, and knelt and prayed, with his forehead pressed
to the marble that covered Murray Hammond's last resting-place.

"Oh! that the mist which veileth my To Come Would so dissolve and yield
unto mine eyes A worthy path! I'd count not wearisome Long toil nor
enterprise, But strain to reach it; ay, with wrestlings stout Is there
such a path already made to fit The measure of my foot? It shall atone
For much, if I at length may light on it And know it for mine own."



CHAPTER XXVIII.


"On! how grand and beautiful it is! Whenever I look at it, I feel
exactly as I did on Easter-Sunday when I went to the cathedral to hear
the music. It is a solemn feeling", as if I were in a holy place. Miss
Earl, what makes me feel so?"

Felix stood in an art gallery, and leaning on his crutches looked up at
Church's "Heart of the Andes."

"You are impressed by the solemnity and the holy repose of nature; for
here you look upon a pictured cathedral, built not by mortal hands, but
by the architect of the universe. Felix, does it not recall to your
mind something of which we often speak?"

The boy was silent for a few seconds, and then his thin, sallow face
brightened.

"Yes, indeed! You mean that splendid description which you read to me
from 'Modern Painters'? How fond you are of that passage, and how very
often you think of it! Let me see whether I can remember it."

Slowly but accurately he repeated the eloquent tribute to "Mountain
Glory," from the fourth volume of "Modern Painters."

"Felix, you know that a celebrated English poet, Keats, has said, 'A
thing of beauty is a joy forever'; and as I can never hope to express
my ideas in half such beautiful language as Mr. Ruskin uses, it is an
economy of trouble to quote his words. Some of his expressions are like
certain songs which, the more frequently we sing them, the more
valuable and eloquent they become; and as we rarely learn a fine piece
of music to be played once or twice and then thrown aside, why should
we not be allowed the same privilege with verbal melodies? Last week
you asked me to explain to you what is meant by 'aerial perspective,'
and if you will study the atmosphere in this great picture, Mr. Church,
will explain it much more clearly to you than I was able to do."

"Yes, Miss Earl, I see it now. The eye could travel up and up, and on
and on, and never get out of the sky; and it seems to me those birds
yonder would fly entirely away, out of sight, through that air in the
picture. But, Miss Earl, do you really believe that the Chimborazo in
South America is as grand as Mr. Church's? I do not, because I have
noticed that pictures are much handsomer than the real things they
stand for. Mamma carried me last spring to see some paintings of scenes
on the Hudson River, and when we went travelling in the summer, I saw
the very spot where the artist stood when he sketched the hills and the
bend of the river, and it was not half so pretty as the picture. And
yet I know God is the greatest painter. Is it the far-off look that
everything wears when painted.

"Yes, the 'far-off look,' as you call it, is one cause of the effect
you wish to understand; and it has been rather more elegantly expressed
by Campbell, in the line:

''Tis distance lends enchantment to the view.'

I have seen this fact exemplified in a very singular manner, at a house
in Georgia, where I was once visiting. From the front door I had a very
fine prospect or view of lofty hills, and a dense forest, and a pretty
little town where the steeples of the churches glittered in the
sunshine, and I stood for some time admiring the landscape; but
presently, when I turned to speak to the lady of the house, I saw, in
the glass sidelights of the door, a miniature reflection of the very
same scene that was much more beautiful. I was puzzled, and could not
comprehend how the mere fact of diminishing the size of the various
objects, by increasing the distance, could enhance their loveliness;
and I asked myself whether all far-off things were handsomer than those
close at hand? In my perplexity I went as usual to Mr. Ruskin,
wondering whether he had ever noticed the same thing; and of course he
had, and has a noble passage about it in one of his books on
architecture. I will see if my memory appreciates it as it deserves:
'Are not all natural things, it may be asked, as lovely near as far
away? Nay, not so. Look at the clouds, and watch the delicate sculpture
of their alabaster sides and the rounded lustre of their magnificent
rolling. They are meant to be beheld far away; they were shaped for
this place, high above your head; approach them, and they fuse into
vague mists, or whirl away in fierce fragments of thunderous vapors.'
(And here, Felix, your question about Chimborazo is answered.) 'Look at
the crest of the Alps, from the far-away plains over which its light is
cast, whence human souls have communion with it by their myriads. The
child looks up to it in the dawn, and the husbandman in the burden and
heat of the day, and the old man in the going down of the sun, and it
is to them all as the celestial city on the world's horizon; dyed with
the depths of heaven and clothed with the calm of eternity. There was
it set for holy dominion by Him who marked for the sun his journey, and
bade the moon know her going down. It was built for its place in the
far-off sky; approach it, and the glory of its aspect fades into
blanched fearfulness; its purple walls are rent into grisly rocks, its
silver fretwork saddened into wasting snow; the stormbrands of ages are
on its breast, the ashes of its own ruin lie solemnly on its white
raiment!' Felix, in rambling about the fields, you will frequently be
reminded of this. I have noticed that the meadow in the distance is
always greener and more velvety, and seems more thickly studded with
flowers, than the one I am crossing; or the hillside far away has a
golden gleam on its rocky slopes, and the shadow spots are softer and
cooler and more purple than those I am climbing and panting over; and I
have hurried on, and after a little, turning to look back, lo! all the
glory I saw beckoning me on has flown, and settled over the meadow and
the hillside that I have passed, and the halo is behind! Perfect beauty
in scenery is like the mirage that you read about yesterday; it fades
and flits out of your grasp, as you travel toward it. When we go home I
will read you something which Emerson has said concerning this same
lovely ignis fatuus; for I can remember only a few words: 'What
splendid distance, what recesses of ineffable pomp and loveliness in
the sunset! But who can go where they are, or lay his hand, or plant
his foot thereon? Off they fall from the round world forever.' Felix, I
suppose it is because we see all the imperfections and inequalities of
objects close at hand, put the fairy film of air like a silvery mist
hides these when it a distance; and we are charmed with the heightened
beauties, which alone are visible."

Edna's eyes went back to the painting, and rested there; and little
Hattie, who had been gazing up at her governess in curious perplexity,
pulled her brother's sleeve and said:

"Bro' Felix, do you understand all that? I guess I don't; for I know
when I am hungry (and seems to me I always am); why, when I am hungry
the closer I get to my dinner the nicer it looks! And then there was
that hateful, spiteful old Miss Abby Tompkins, that mamma would have to
teach you! Ugh! I have watched her many a time coming up the street,
(you know she never would ride in stages for fear of pickpockets,) and
she always looked just as ugly as far off as I could see her as when
she came close to me--"

A hearty laugh cut short Hattie's observation; and, coming forward, Sir
Roger Percival put his hand on her head, saying:

"How often children tumble down 'the step from the sublime to the
ridiculous,' and drag staid, dignified folks after them? Miss Earl, I
have been watching your little party for some time, listening to your
incipient art-lecture. You Americans are queer people; and when I go
home I shall tell Mr. Ruskin that I heard a little boy criticizing 'The
Heart of the Andes,' and quoting from 'Modern Painters.' Felix, as I
wish to be accurate, will you tell me your age?"

The poor sensitive cripple imagined that he was being ridiculed, and he
only reddened and frowned and bit his thin lips.

Edna laid her hand on his shoulder, and answered for him.

"Just thirteen years old; and though Mr. Ruskin is a distinguished
exception to the rule that 'prophets are not without honor, save in
their own country,' I think he has no reader who loves and admires his
writings more than Felix Andrews."

Here the boy raised his eyes and asked:

"Why is it that prophets have no honor among their own people? Is it
because they too have to be seen from a great distance in order to seem
grand? I heard mamma say the other day that if some book written in
America had only come from England everybody would be raving about it."

"Some other time, Felix, we will talk of that problem. Hattie, you look
sleepy."

"I think it will be lunch time before we get home," replied the yawning
child.

Sir Roger took her by her shoulders, and shook her gently, saying:

"Come, wake up, little sweetheart! How can you get sleepy or hungry
with all these handsome pictures staring at you from the walls?"

The good-natured child laughed; but her brother, who had an
unconquerable aversion to Sir Roger's huge whiskers, curled his lips,
and exclaimed scornfully:

"Hattie, you ought to be ashamed of yourself! Hungry, indeed! You are
almost as bad as that English lady--, who, when her husband was
admiring some beautiful lambs, and called her attention to them,
answered, 'Yes, lambs are beautiful--boiled!'"

Desirous of conciliating him, Sir Roger replied:

"When you and Hattie come to see me in England, I will show you the
most beautiful lambs in the United Kingdom; and your sister shall have
boiled lamb three times a day, if she wishes it. Miss Earl, you are so
fond of paintings that you would enjoy a European tour more than any
lady whom I have met in this country. I have seen miles of canvas in
Boston, New York and Philadelphia, but very few good pictures."

"And yet, sir, when on exhibition in Europe this great work here before
us received most extravagant praise from transatlantic critics, who are
very loath to accord merit to American artists. If I am ever so
fortunate as to be able to visit Europe, and cultivate and improve my
taste, I think I shall still be very proud of the names of Allston,
West, Church, Bierstadt, Kensett and Gifford."

She turned to quit the gallery, and Sir Roger said:

"I leave to-morrow for Canada, and may possibly sail for England
without returning to New York. Will you allow me the pleasure of
driving you to the park this afternoon? Two months ago you refused a
similar request, but since then I flatter myself we have become better
friends."

"Thank you, Sir Roger. I presume the children can spare me, and I will
go with pleasure."

"I will call at five o'clock."

He handed her and Hattie into the coupe, tenderly assisted Felix, and
saw them driven away.

Presently Felix laughed, and exclaimed:

"Oh! I hope Miss Morton will be in the park this evening. It would be
glorious fun to see her meet you and Sir Roger."

"Why, Felix?"

"Oh! because she meddles. I heard Uncle Grey tell mamma that she was
making desperate efforts to catch the Englishman; and that she turned
up her nose tremendously at the idea of his visiting you. When Uncle
Grey told her how often he came to our house, she bit her lips almost
till the blood spouted. Sir Roger drives very fine horses, uncle says,
and Miss Morton hints outrageously for him to ask her to ride, but she
can't manage to get the invitation. So she will be furious when she
sees you this afternoon. Yonder is Goupil's; let us stop and have a
look at those new engravings mamma told us about yesterday. Hattie, you
can curl up in your corner, and go to sleep and dream of boiled lamb
till we come back."

Later in the day Mrs. Andrews went up to Edna's room, and found her
correcting an exercise.

"At work as usual. You are incorrigible. Any other woman would be so
charmed with her conquest that her head would be quite turned by a
certain pair of brown eyes that are considered irresistible. Come, get
ready for your drive; it is almost five o'clock, and you know
foreigners are too polite, too thoroughly well-bred not to be punctual.
No, no, Miss Earl; not that hat, on the peril of your life! Where is
that new one that I ordered sent up to you two days ago? It will match
this delicate white shawl of mine, which I brought up for you to wear;
and come, no scruples if you please! Stand up and let me see whether
its folds hang properly. You should have heard Madame De G--when she
put it around my shoulders for the first time, 'Juste ciel! Madame
Andrews, you are a Greek statue!' Miss Earl, put your hair back a
little from the left temple. There, now the veins show! Where are your
gloves? You look charmingly, my dear; only too pale, too pale! If you
don't contrive to get up some color, people will swear that Sir Roger
was airing the ghost of a pretty girl. There is the bell! Just as I
told you, he is punctual. Five o'clock to a minute."

She stepped to the window and looked down at the equipage before the
door.

"What superb horses! You will be the envy of the city."

There was something in the appearance and manner of Sir Roger which
often reminded Edna of Gordon Leigh; and during the spring he visited
her so constantly, sent her so frequently baskets of elegant flowers,
that he succeeded in overcoming her reticence, and established himself
on an exceedingly friendly footing in Mrs. Andrews's house.

Now, as they drove along the avenue and entered the park, their spirits
rose; and Sir Roger turned very often to look at the fair face of his
companion, which he found more and more attractive each day. He saw,
too, that under his earnest gaze the faint color deepened, until her
cheeks glowed like sea-shells; and when he spoke he bent his face much
nearer to hers than was necessary to make her hear his words. They
talked of books, flowers, music, mountain scenery, and the green lanes
of "Merry England." Edna was perfectly at ease, and in a mood to enjoy
everything.

They dashed on, and the sunlight disappeared, and the gas glittered all
over the city before Sir Roger turned his horses' heads homeward. When
they reached Mrs. Andrews's door he dismissed his carriage and spent
the evening. At eleven o'clock he rose to say good-bye.

"Miss Earl, I hope I shall have the pleasure of renewing our
acquaintance at an early day; if not in America in Europe. The
brightest reminiscences I shall carry across the ocean are those that
cluster about the hours I have spent with you. If I should not return
to New York, will you allow me the privilege of hearing from you
occasionally?"

His clasp of the girl's hand was close, but she withdrew it, and her
face flushed painfully as she answered:

"Will you excuse me, Sir Roger, when I tell you that I am so constantly
occupied I have not time to write, even to my old and dearest friends."

Passing the door of Felix's room, on her way to her own apartment, to
boy called to her: "Miss Earl, are you very tired?"

"Oh, no. Do you want anything?"

"My head aches and I can't go to sleep. Please read to me a little
while."

He raised himself on his elbow, and looked up fondly at her.

"Ah! how very pretty you are to-night! Kiss me, won't you?"

She stooped and kissed the poor parched lips, and as she opened a
volume of the Waverly Novels, he said:

"Did you see Miss Morton?"

"Yes; she was on horseback, and we passed her twice."

"Glad of it! She does not like you. I guess she finds it as hard to get
to sleep to-night as I do."

Edna commenced reading, and it was nearly an hour before Felix's eyes
closed, and his fingers relaxed their grasp on hers. Softly she put the
book back on the shelf, extinguished the light, and stole upstairs to
her desk. That night, as Sir Roger tossed restlessly on his pillow,
thinking of her, recalling all that she had said during the drive, he
would not have been either comforted or flattered by a knowledge of the
fact that she was so entirely engrossed by her MS. that she had no
thought of him or his impending departure.

When the clock struck three she laid down her pen; and the mournful
expression that crept into her eyes told that memory was busy with the
past years. When she fell asleep she dreamed not of Sir Roger but of Le
Bocage and its master, of whom she would not permit herself to think in
her waking hours.

The influence which Mr. Manning exerted over Edna increased as their
acquaintance ripened; and the admiring reverence with which she
regarded the editor was exceedingly flattering to him. With curious
interest he watched the expansion of her mind, and now and then warned
her of some error into which she seemed inclined to plunge, or wisely
advised some new branch of research.

So firm was her confidence in his nature and dispassionate judgment,
that she yielded to his opinions a deferential homage, such as she had
scarcely paid even to Mr. Hammond.

Gradually and unconsciously she learned to lean upon his strong, clear
mind, and to find in his society a quiet but very precious happiness.
The antagonism of their characters was doubtless one cause of the
attraction which each found in the other, and furnished the
balance-wheel which both required.

Edna's intense and dreamy idealism demanded a check, which the
positivism of the editor supplied; and his extensive and rigidly
accurate information, on almost all scientific topics, constituted a
valuable treasury of knowledge to which he never denied her access.

His faith in Christianity was like his conviction of the truth of
mathematics, more an intellectual process and the careful deduction of
logic than the result of some emotional impulse; his religion like his
dialectics was cold, consistent, irreproachable, unanswerable. Never
seeking a controversy on any subject, he never shunned one, and, during
its continuance, his demeanor was invariably courteous, but unyielding,
and even when severe he was rarely bitter.

Very early in life his intellectual seemed to have swallowed up his
emotional nature, as Aaron's rod did those of the magicians of Pharaoh,
and only the absence of dogmatism, and the habitual suavity of his
manner, atoned for his unbending obstinacy on all points.

Edna's fervid and beautiful enthusiasm surged and chafed and broke over
this man's stern, flinty realism, like the warm, blue waters of the
Gulf Stream that throw their silvery spray and foam against the
glittering walls of sapphire icebergs sailing slowly southward. Her
glowing imagery fell upon the bristling points of his close phalanx of
arguments, as gorgeous tropical garlands caught and empaled by bayonets
until they faded.

Merciless as an anatomical lecturer, he would smilingly take up one of
her metaphors and dissect it, and over the pages of her MSS. for "Maga"
his gravely spoken criticisms fell withering as hoar frost.

They differed in all respects, yet daily they felt the need of each
other's society. The frozen man of forty sunned himself in the genial
presence of the lovely girl of nineteen, and in the dawn of her
literary career she felt a sense of security from his proffered
guidance, even as a wayward and ambitious child, just learning to walk,
totters along with less apprehension when the strong, steady hand it
refuses to hold is yet near enough to catch and save from a serious
fall.

While fearlessly attacking all heresy, whether political, scientific,
or ethical, all latitudinarianism in manners and sciolism in letters,
he commanded the confidence and esteem of all, and became in great
degree the centre around which the savants and literati of the city
revolved.

Through his influence Edna made the acquaintance of some of the most
eminent scholars and artists who formed this clique, and she found that
his friendship and recommendation was an "open sesame" to the charmed
circle.

One Saturday she sat with her bonnet on, waiting for Mr. Manning, who
had promised to accompany her on her first visit to Greenwood, and, as
she put on her gloves, Felix handed her a letter which his father had
just brought up.

Recognizing Mrs. Murray's writing, the governess read it immediately,
and, while her eyes ran over the sheet, an expression, first of
painful, then of joyful, surprise, came into her countenance.

"MY DEAR CHILD: Doubtless you will be amazed to hear that your quondam
lover has utterly driven your image from his fickle heart; and that he
ignores your existence as completely as if you were buried twenty feet
in the ruins of Herculaneum. Last night Gordon Leigh was married to
Gertrude Powell, and the happy pair, attended by that despicable
mother, Agnes Powell, will set out for Europe early next week. My dear,
it is growing fashionable to 'marry for spite.' I have seen two
instances recently, and know of a third which will take place ere long.
Poor Gordon will rue his rashness, and, before the year expires, he
will arrive at the conclusion that he is an unmitigated fool, and has
simply performed, with great success, an operation familiarly known as
cutting off one's nose to spite one's face! Your rejection of his
renewed offer piqued him beyond expression, and when he returned from
New York he was in exactly the most accommodating frame of mind which
Mrs. Powell could desire. She immediately laid siege to him. Gertrude's
undisguised preference for his society was extremely soothing to his
vanity, which you had so severely wounded, and in fine, the
indefatigable manoeuvres of the wily mamma, and the continual flattery
of the girl, who is really very pretty, accomplished the result. I once
credited Gordon with more sense than he has manifested, but each year
convinces me more firmly of the truth of my belief, that no man is
proof against the subtle and persistent flattery of a beautiful woman.
When he announced his engagement to me, we were sitting in the library,
and I looked him full in the face, and answered: 'Indeed! Engaged to
Miss Powell? I thought you swore that so long as Edna Earl remained
unmarried you would never relinquish your suit?' He pointed to that
lovely statuette of Pallas that stands on the mantelpiece, and said
bitterly, 'Edna Earl has no more heart than that marble Athena.'
Whereupon I replied, 'Take care, Gordon. I notice that of late you seem
inclined to deal rather too freely in hyperbole. Edna's heart may
resemble the rich veins of gold, which in some mines run not near the
surface but deep in the masses of quartz. Because you can not obtain
it, you have no right to declare that it does not exist. You will
probably live to hear some more fortunate suitor shout Eureka! over the
treasure.' He turned pale as the Pallas and put his hand over his face.
Then I said, 'Gordon, my young friend, I have always been deeply
interested in your happiness; tell me frankly, do you love this girl
Gertrude?' He seemed much embarrassed, but finally made his confession:
'Mrs. Murray, I believe I shall be fond of her after a while. She is
very lovely, and deeply, deeply attached to me, (vanity you see, Edna,)
and I am grateful for her affection. She will brighten my lonely home,
and at least I can be proud of her rare beauty. But I never expect to
love any woman as I loved Edna Earl. I can pet Gertrude; I should have
worshipped my first love, my proud, gifted, peerless Edna! Oh! she will
never realize all she threw away when she coldly dismissed me.' Poor
Gordon! Well, he is married; but his bride might have found cause of
disquiet in his restless, abstracted manner on the evening of his
wedding. What do you suppose was St. Elmo's criticism on this
matrimonial mismatch? 'Poor devil! Before a year rolls over his head he
will feel like plunging into the Atlantic, with Plymouth Rock for a
necklace! Leigh deserves a better fate, and I would rather see him tied
to wild horses and dragged across the Andes.' These pique marriages are
terrible mistakes; so, my dear, I trust you will duly repent of your
cruelty to poor Gordon."

As Edna put the letter in her pocket, she wondered whether Gertrude
really loved her husband, or whether chagrin at Mr. Murray's heartless
desertion had not goaded the girl to accept Mr. Leigh.

"Perhaps after all, Mr. Murray was correct in his estimate of her
character, when he said that she was a mere child, and was capable of
no very earnest affection. I hope so--I hope so."

Edna sighed as she tried to assure herself of the probability that the
newly married pair would become more attached as time passed; and her
thoughts returned to that paragraph in Mrs. Murray's letter which
seemed intentionally mysterious: "I know of a third instance which will
take place ere long."

Did she allude to her son and her niece? Edna could not believe this
possible, and shook her head at the suggestion; but her lips grew cold,
and her fingers locked each other as in a clasp of steel.

When Mr. Manning called, and assisted her into the carriage, he
observed an unusual preoccupancy of mind; but after a few desultory
remarks she rallied, gave him her undivided attention, and seemed
engrossed by his conversation.

It was a fine, sunny day, bright but cool, with a fresh and stiffening
west wind ripping the waters of the harbor.

The week had been one of unusual trial, for Felix was sick, and even
more than ordinarily fretful and exacting; and weary of writing and of
teaching so constantly, the governess enjoyed the brief season of
emancipation.

Mr. Manning's long residence in the city had familiarized him with the
beauties of Greenwood, and the history of many who slept dreamlessly in
the costly mausoleums which they paused to examine and admire; and when
at last he directed the driver to return, Edna sank back in one corner
of the carriage and said: "Some morning I will come with the children
and spend the entire day."

She closed her eyes, and her thoughts travelled swiftly to that pure
white obelisk standing in the shadow of Lookout; and melancholy
memories brought a sigh to her lips and a slight cloud to the face that
for two hours past had been singularly bright and animated. The silence
had lasted some minutes, when Mr. Manning, who was gazing abstractedly
out of the window, turned to his companion and said:

"You look pale and badly to-day."

"I have not felt as strong as usual, and it is a great treat to get
away from the schoolroom and out into the open air, which is bracing
and delightful. I believe I have enjoyed this outing more than any I
have taken since I came North; and you must allow me to tell you how
earnestly I thank you for your considerate remembrance of me."

"Miss Earl, what I am about to say will perhaps seem premature, and
will doubtless surprise you; but I beg you to believe that it is the
result of mature deliberation--"

He paused and looked earnestly at her.

"You certainly have not decided to give up the editorship of 'Maga,' as
you spoke of doing last winter. It would not survive your desertion six
months."

"My allusion was to yourself, not to the magazine, which I presume I
shall edit as long as I live. Miss Earl, this state of affairs cannot
continue. You have no regard for your health, which is suffering
materially, and you are destroying yourself. You must let me take care
of you, and save you from the ceaseless toil in which you are rapidly
wearing out your life. To teach, as you do, all day, and then sit up
nearly all night to write, would exhaust a constitution of steel or
brass. You are probably not aware of the great change which has taken
place in your appearance during the last three months. Hitherto
circumstances may have left you no alternative, but one is now offered
you. My property is sufficient to render you comfortable. I have
already purchased a pleasant home, to which I shall remove next week,
and I want you to share it with me--to share my future--all that I
have. You have known me scarcely a year, but you are not a stranger to
my character or position, and I think that you repose implicit
confidence in me. Notwithstanding the unfortunate disparity in our
years, I believe we are becoming mutually dependent on each other, and
in your society I find a charm such as no other human being possesses;
though I have no right to expect that a girl of your age can derive
equal pleasure from the companionship of a man old enough to be her
father. I am not demonstrative, but my feelings are warm and deep; and
however incredulous you may be, I assure you that you are the first,
the only woman I have ever asked to be my wife. I have known many who
were handsome and intellectual, whose society I have really enjoyed,
but not one until I met you whom I would have married. To you alone am
I willing to entrust the education of my little Lila. She was but six
months old when we were wrecked off Barnegat, and, in attempting to
save his wife, my brother was lost. With the child in my arms I clung
to a spar, and finally swam ashore; and since then, regarding her as a
sacred treasure committed to my guardianship, I have faithfully
endeavored to supply her father's place. There is a singular magnetism
about you, Edna Earl, which makes me wish to see your face always at my
hearthstone; and for the first time in my life I want to say to the
world, 'This woman wears my name, and belongs to me for ever!' You are
inordinately ambitious; I can lift you to a position that will fully
satisfy you, and place you above the necessity of daily labor--a
position of happiness and ease, where your genius can properly develop
itself. Can you consent to be Douglass Manning's wife?"

There was no more tremor in his voice than in the measured beat of a
base drum; and in his granite face not a feature moved, not a muscle
twitched, not a nerve quivered.

So entirely unexpected was this proposal that Edna could not utter a
word. The idea that he could ever wish to marry anybody seemed
incredible, and that he should need her society appeared utterly
absurd. For an instant she wondered if she had fallen asleep in the
soft, luxurious corner of the carriage, and dreamed it all.

Completely bewildered, she sat looking wonderingly at him.

"Miss Earl, you do not seem to comprehend me, and yet my words are
certainly very explicit. Once more I ask you, can you put your hand in
mine and be my wife?"

He laid one hand on hers, and with the other pushed back his glasses.

Withdrawing her hands, she covered her face with them, and answered
almost inaudibly:

"Let me think--for you astonish me."

"Take a day, or a week, if necessary, for consideration, and then give
me your answer."

Mr. Manning leaned back in the carriage, folded his hands, and looked
quietly out of the window; and for a half hour silence reigned.

Brief but sharp was the struggle in Edna's heart. Probably no woman's
literary vanity and ambition has ever been more fully gratified than
was hers, by this most unexpected offer of marriage from one whom she
had been taught to regard as the noblest ornament of the profession she
had selected. Thinking of the hour when she sat alone, shedding tears
of mortification and bitter disappointment over his curt letter
rejecting her MS., she glanced at the stately form beside her, the
mysteriously calm, commanding face, the large white, finely moulded
hands, waiting to clasp hers for all time, and her triumph seemed
complete.

To rule the destiny of that strong man, whose intellect was so
influential in the world of letters, was a conquest of which, until
this hour, she had never dreamed; and the blacksmith's darling was,
after all, a mere woman, and the honor dazzled her.

To one of her peculiar temperament wealth offered no temptation; but
Douglass Manning had climbed to a grand eminence, and, looking up at
it, she knew that any woman might well be proud to share it.

He filled her ideal, he came fully up to her lofty moral and mental
standard. She knew that his superior she could never hope to meet, and
her confidence in his integrity of character was boundless.

She felt that his society had become necessary to her peace of mind;
for only in his presence was it possible to forget her past. Either she
must marry him, or live single, and work and die--alone.

To a girl of nineteen the latter alternative seems more appalling than
to a woman of thirty, whose eyes have grown strong in the gray, cold,
sunless light of confirmed old-maidenhood; even as the vision of those
who live in dim caverns requires not the lamps needed by new-comers
fresh from the dazzling outer world.

Edna was weary of battling with precious memories of that reckless,
fascinating cynic whom, without trusting, she had learned to love; and
she thought that, perhaps, if she were the wife of Mr. Manning, whom
without loving she fully trusted, it would help her to forget St. Elmo.

She did not deceive herself; she knew that, despite her struggles and
stern interdicts, she loved him as she could never hope to love any one
else. Impatiently she said to herself:

"Mr. Murray is as old as Mr. Manning, and in the estimation of the
public is his inferior. Oh! why can not my weak, wayward heart follow
my strong, clear-eyed judgment? I would give ten years of my life to
love Mr. Manning as I love--"

She compared a swarthy, electrical face, scowling and often repulsively
harsh, with one cloudless and noble, over which brooded a solemn and
perpetual peace; and she almost groaned aloud in her chagrin and
self-contempt, as she thought, "Surely, if ever a woman was
infatuated--possessed by an evil spirit--I certainly am."

In attempting to institute a parallel between the two men, one seemed
serene, majestic, and pure as the vast snowdome of Oraefa, glittering
in the chill light of midsummer-midnight suns; the other fiery,
thunderous, destructive as Izalco--one moment crowned with flames and
lava-lashed--the next wrapped in gloom and dust and ashes.

While she sat there wrestling as she had never done before, even on
that day of trial in the church, memory, as if leagued with Satan,
brought up the image of Mr. Murray as he stood pleading for himself,
for his future. She heard once more his thrilling, passionate cry, "Oh,
my darling' my darling! come to me!" And pressing her face to the
lining of the carriage to stifle a groan, she seemed to feel again the
close clasp of his arms, the throbbing of his heart against her cheek,
the warm, tender, lingering pressure of his lips on hers.

When they had crossed the ferry and were rattling over the streets of
New York, Edna took her hands from her eyes; and there was a rigid
paleness in her face and a mournful hollowness in her voice, as she
said almost sorrowfully:

"No, Mr Manning! We do not love each other, and I can never be your
wife. It is useless for me to assure you that I am flattered by your
preference, that I am inexpressibly proud of the distinction you have
generously offered to confer upon me. Sir, you can not doubt that I do
most fully and gratefully appreciate this honor, which I had neither
the right to expect nor the presumption to dream of. My reverence and
admiration are, I confess, almost boundless, but I find not one atom of
love; and an examination of my feelings satisfies me that I could never
yield you that homage of heart, that devoted affection which God
demands that every wife should pay her husband. You have quite as
little love for me. We enjoy each other's society because our pursuits
are similar, our tastes congenial, our aspirations identical. In
pleasant and profitable companionship we can certainly indulge as
heretofore, and it would greatly pain me to be deprived of it in
future, but this can be ours without the sinful mockery of a
marriage--for such I hold a loveless union. I feel that I must have
your esteem and your society, but your love I neither desire nor ever
expect to possess; for the sentiments you cherish for me are precisely
similar to those which I entertain toward you. Mr. Manning, we shall
always be firm friends, but nothing more."

An expression of surprise and disappointment drifted across, but did
not settle on the editor's quiet countenance.

Turning to her, he answered with grave gentleness:

"Judge your own heart, Edna; and accept my verdict with reference to
mine. Do you suppose that after living single all these years I would
ultimately marry a woman for whom I had no affection? You spoke last
week of the mirror of John Galeazzo Visconte, which showed his beloved
Correggia her own image; and though I am a proud and reticent man, I
beg you to believe that could you look into my heart you would find it
such a mirror. Permit me to ask whether you intend to accept the love
which I have reason to believe Mr. Murray has offered you?"

"Mr. Manning, I never expect to marry any one, for I know I shall never
meet your superior, and yet I can not accept your most flattering
offer. You fill all my requirements of noble, Christian manhood; but
after to-day this subject must not be alluded to."

"Are you not too hasty? Will you not take more time for reflection? Is
your decision mature and final?"

"Yes, Mr. Manning--final, unchangeable. But do not throw me from you! I
am very, very lonely, and you surely will not forsake me?"

There were tears in her eyes as she looked up pleadingly in his face,
and the editor sighed and paused a moment before he replied:

"Edna, if under any circumstances you feel that I can aid or advise
you, I shall be exceedingly glad to render all the assistance in my
power. Rest assured I shall not forsake you as long as we both shall
live. Call upon me without hesitation, and I will respond as readily
and promptly as to the claims of my little Lila. In my heart you are
associated with her. You must not tax yourself so unremittingly, or you
will soon ruin your constitution. There is a weariness in your face and
a languor in your manner mournfully prophetic of failing health. Either
give up your situation as governess or abandon your writing. I
certainly recommend the former, as I can not spare you from 'Maga.'"

Here the carriage stopped at Mrs. Andrews's door, and as he handed her
out Mr. Manning said:

"Edna, my friend, promise me that you will not write to-night."

"Thank you, Mr. Manning; I promise."

She did not go to her desk; but Felix was restless, feverish,
querulous, and it was after midnight when she laid her head on her
pillow. The milkmen in their noisy carts were clattering along the
streets next morning, before her heavy eyelids closed, and she fell
into a brief, troubled slumber; over which flitted a Fata Morgana of
dreams, where the central figure was always that tall one whom she had
seen last standing at the railroad station with the rain dripping over
him.



CHAPTER XXIX.


"Let thy abundant blessing rest upon it, O Almighty God! else indeed my
labor will be in vain. 'Paul planted, Apollos watered, but thou only
can give the increase.' It is finished; look down in mercy, and
sanctify it, and accept it."

The night was almost spent when Edna laid down her pen, and raised her
clasped hands over the MS., which she had just completed.

For many weary months she had toiled to render it worthy of its noble
theme, had spared neither time nor severe trains of thought; by day and
by night she had searched and pondered; she had prayed fervently and
ceaselessly, and worked arduously, unflaggingly to accomplish this
darling hope of her heart, to embody successfully this ambitious dream,
and at last the book was finished.

The manuscript was a mental tapestry, into which she had woven
exquisite shades of thought, and curious and quaint devices and rich,
glowing imagery that necked the groundwork with purple and amber and
gold.

But would the design be duly understood and appreciated by the great,
busy, bustling world, for whose amusement and improvement she had
labored so assiduously at the spinning-wheels of fancy--the loom of
thought? Would her fellow-creatures accept it in the earnest, loving
spirit in which it had been manufactured? Would they hang this Gobelin
of her brain along the walls of memory, and turn to it tenderly,
reading reverently its ciphers and its illuminations; or would it be
rent and ridiculed, and trampled under foot? This book was a shrine to
which her purest thoughts, her holiest aspirations travelled like
pilgrims, offering the best of which her nature was capable. Would
those for whom she had patiently chiselled and built it guard and prize
and keep it; or smite and overturn and defile it?

Looking down at the mass of MS. now ready for the printer, a sad,
tender, yearning expression filled the author's eyes; and her little
white hands passed caressingly over its closely-written pages, as a
mother's soft fingers might lovingly stroke the face of a child about
to be thrust out into a hurrying crowd of cold, indifferent strangers,
who perhaps would rudely jeer at and browbeat her darling.

For several days past Edna had worked hard to complete the book, and
now at last she could fold her tired hands, and rest her weary brain.

But outraged nature suddenly swore vengeance, and her overworked nerves
rose in fierce rebellion, refusing to be calm. She had so long
anticipated this hour that its arrival was greeted by emotions beyond
her control. As she contemplated the possible future of that pile of
MS., her heart bounded madly, and then once more a fearful agony seized
her, and darkness and a sense of suffocation came upon her. Rising, she
strained her eyes and groped her way toward the window, but ere she
reached it fell, and lost all consciousness.

The sound of the fall, the crash of a china vase which her hand had
swept from the table, echoed startlingly through the silent house, and
aroused some of its inmates. Mrs. Andrews ran upstairs and into Felix's
room, saw that he was sleeping soundly, and then she hastened up
another flight of steps, to the apartment occupied by the governess.
The gas burned dazzlingly over the table where rested the roll of MS.
and on the floor near the window lay Edna.

Ringing the bell furiously to summon her husband, and the servants,
Mrs. Andrews knelt, raised the girl's head, and rubbing her cold hands,
tried to rouse her. The heart beat faintly, and seemed to stop now and
then, and the white, rigid face was as ghastly as if the dread kiss of
Samael had indeed been pressed upon her still lips.

Finding all her restoratives ineffectual, Mrs. Andrews sent her husband
for the family physician, and with the assistance of the servants, laid
the girl on her bed.

When the doctor arrived and questioned her, she could furnish no clew
to the cause of the attack, save by pointing to the table, where pen
and paper showed that the sufferer had been at work.

Edna opened her eyes at last, and looked around at the group of anxious
faces, but in a moment the spasm of pain returned. Twice she muttered
something, and putting his ear close to her mouth, the doctor heard her
whispering to herself:

"Never mind; it is done at last! Now I can rest."

An hour elapsed before the paroxysms entirely subsided, and then, with
her ivory-like hands clasped and thrown up over her head, the governess
slept heavily, dreamlessly.

For two days she remained in her own apartment, and on the morning of
the third came down to the schoolroom, with a slow, weary step and a
bloodless face, and a feeling of hopeless helplessness.

She dispatched her MS. to the publisher to whom she had resolved to
offer it, and, leaning far back in her chair, took up Felix's Greek
grammar.

Since the days of Dionysius Thrax, it had probably never appeared so
tedious, so intolerably tiresome, as she found it now, and she felt
relieved, almost grateful when Mrs. Andrews sent for her to come to the
library, where Dr. Howell was waiting to see her.

Seating himself beside her, the physician examined her countenance and
pulse, and put his ear close to her heart.

"Miss Earl, have you had many such attacks as the one whose effects
have not yet passed away?"

"This is the second time I have suffered so severely; though very
frequently I find a disagreeable fluttering about my heart, which is
not very painful."

"What mode of treatment have you been following?"

"None, sir. I have never consulted a physician."

"Humph! Is it possible?"

He looked at her with the keen, incisive eye of his profession, and
pressed his ear once more to her heart, listening to the irregular and
rapid pulsations.

"Miss Earl, are you an orphan?"

"Yes, sir."

"Have you any living relatives?"

"None that I ever heard of."

"Did any of your family die suddenly?"

"Yes, I have been told that my mother died while apparently as well as
usual, and engaged in spinning; and my grandfather I found dead,
sitting in his rocking-chair, smoking his pipe."

Dr. Howell cleared his throat, sighed and was silent.

He saw a strange, startled expression leap into the large shadowy eyes,
and the mouth quivered, the wan face grew whiter, and the thin fingers
grasped each other; but she said nothing, and they sat looking at one
another.

The physician had come like Daniel to the banquet of life, and solved
for the Belshazzar of youth the hideous riddle scrawled on the walls.

"Dr. Howell, can you do nothing for me?"

Her voice had sunk to a whisper, and she leaned eagerly forward to
catch his answer.

"Miss Earl, do you know what is meant by hypertrophy of the heart?"

"Yes, yes, I know."

She shivered slightly.

"Whether you inherited your disease, I am not prepared to say, but
certainly in your case there are some grounds for the belief."

Presently she said abstractedly:

"But grandpa lived to be an old man."

The doctor's eyes fell upon the mosaic floor of the library; and then
she knew that he could give her no hope.

When at last he looked up again, he saw that she had dropped her face
in her palms, and he was awed by the deathlike repose of her figure,
the calm fortitude she evinced.

"Miss Earl, I never deceive my patients. It is useless to dose you with
medicine, and drug you into semi-insensibility. You must have rest and
quiet; rest for mind as well as body; there must be no more teaching or
writing. You are overworked, and incessant mental labor has hastened
the approach of a disease which, under other circumstances, might have
encroached very slowly and imperceptibly. If latent (which is barely
possible) it has contributed to a fearfully rapid development. Refrain
from study, avoid all excitement, exercise moderately but regularly in
the open air; and, above all things, do not tax your brain. If you
carefully observe these directions you may live to be as old as your
grandfather. Heart diseases baffle prophecy, and I make no predictions."

He rose and took his hat from the table.

"Miss Earl, I have read your writings with great pleasure, and watched
your brightening career with more interest than I ever felt in any
other female author; and God knows it is exceedingly painful for me to
tear away the veil from your eyes. From the first time you were pointed
out to me in church, I saw that in your countenance which distressed
and alarmed me; for its marble pallor whispered that your days were
numbered. Frequently I have been tempted to come and expostulate with
you, but I knew it would be useless. You have no reader who would more
earnestly deplore the loss of your writings, but, for your own sake, I
beg you to throw away your pen and rest."

She raised her head and a faint smile crept feebly across her face.

"Rest! rest! If my time is so short I can not afford to rest. There is
so much to do, so much that I have planned, and hoped to accomplish. I
am only beginning to learn how to handle my tools, my life-work is as
yet barely begun. When my long rest overtakes me, I must not be found
idly sitting with folded hands. Since I was thirteen years old I have
never once rested; and now I am afraid I never shall. I would rather
die working than live a drone."

"But, my dear Miss Earl, those who love you have claims upon you."

"I am alone in this world. I have no family to love me, and my work is
to me what I suppose dear relatives must be to other women. For six
years I have been studying to fit myself for usefulness, have lived
with and for books; and though I have a few noble and kind friends, do
you suppose I ever forget that I am kinless? It is a mournful thing to
know that you are utterly isolated among millions of human beings; that
not a drop of your blood flows in any other veins. My God only has a
claim upon me. Dr. Howell, I thank you for your candor. It is best that
I should know the truth; and I am glad that, instead of treating me
like a child, you have frankly told me all. More than once I have had a
singular feeling, a shadowy presentiment that I should not live to be
an old woman, but I thought it the relic of childish superstition, and
I did not imagine that--that I might be called away at any instant. I
did not suspect that just as I had arranged my workshop, and sharpened
all my tools, and measured off my work, that my morning sun would set
suddenly in the glowing east, and the long, cold night fall upon me,
'wherein no man can work'--"

Her voice faltered and the physician turned away, and looked out of the
window.

"I am not afraid of death, nor am I so wrapped up in the mere happiness
which this world gives; no, no; but I love my work! Ah! I want to live
long enough to finish something grand and noble, something that will
live when the hands that fashioned it have crumbled back to dust;
something that will follow me across and beyond the dark, silent
valley; something that can not be hushed and straightened and bandaged
and screwed down under my coffin-lid--oh! something that will echo in
eternity! that grandpa and I can hear 'sounding down the ages,' making
music for the people, when I go to my final rest! And, please God! I
shall! I will! Oh, doctor! I have a feeling here which assures me I
shall be spared till I finish my darling scheme. You know Glanville
said, and Poe quoted, 'Man doth not yield himself to the angels, nor
unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will.'
Mine is strong, invincible; it will sustain me for a longer period than
you seem to believe. The end is not yet. Doctor, do not tell people
what you have told me. I do not want to be watched and pitied, like a
doomed victim who walks about the scaffold with a rope already around
his neck. Let the secret rest between you and me."

He looked wonderingly at the electric white face, and something in its
chill radiance reminded him of the borealis light, that waves its
ghostly banners over a cold midnight sky.

"God grant that I may be in error concerning your disease; and that
threescore years and ten may be alloted you, to embody the airy dreams
you love so well. I repeat, if you wish to prolong your days, give
yourself more rest. I can do you little good; still, if at any time you
fancy that I can aid or relieve you, do not hesitate to send for me. I
shall come to see you as a friend, who reads and loves all that has yet
fallen from your pen. God help and bless you, child!"

As he left the room she locked the door, and walked slowly back to the
low mantelpiece. Resting her arms on the black marble, she laid her
head down upon them, and ambition and death stared face to face, and
held grim parley over the coveted prey.

Taking the probable measure of her remaining days, Edna fearlessly
fronted the future, and pondered the possibility of crowding into two
years the work which she had designed for twenty.

To tell the girl to "rest," was a mockery; the tides of thought ebbed
and flowed as ceaselessly as those of ocean, and work had become a
necessity of her existence. She was far, far beyond the cool, quiet
palms of rest, far out on the burning sands; and the Bahr-Sheitan
rippled and glittered and beckoned, and she panted and pressed on.

One book was finished, but before she had completed it the form and
features of another struggled in her busy brain, and she longed to put
them on paper.

The design of the second book appeared to her partial eyes almost
perfect, and the first seemed insignificant in comparison. Trains of
thought that had charmed her, making her heart throb and her temples
flush; and metaphors that glowed as she wrote them down, ah! how tame
and trite all looked now, in the brighter light of a newer revelation!
The attained, the achieved tarnished in her grasp. All behind was dun;
all beyond clothed with a dazzling glory that lured her on.

Once the fondest hopes of her heart had been to finish the book now in
the publisher's hands; but ere it could be printed, other characters,
other aims, other scenes usurped her attention. If she could only live
long enough to incarnate the new ideal!

Moreover, she knew that memory would spring up and renew its almost
intolerable torture the moment that she gave herself to aimless
reveries; and she felt that her sole hope of peace of mind, her only
rest, was in earnest and unceasing labor. Subtle associations,
merciless as the chains of Bonnivard, bound her to a past which she was
earnestly striving to forget; and she continually paced as far off as
her shackles would permit, sternly refusing to sit down meekly at the
foot of the stake. She worked late at night until her body was
exhausted, because she dreaded to lie awake, tossing helplessly on her
pillow; haunted by precious recollections of days gone by forever.

Her name was known in the world of letters, her reputation was already
enviable; extravagant expectations were entertained concerning her
future; and to maintain her hold on public esteem, to climb higher, had
become necessary for her happiness.

Through Mr. Manning's influence and friendship she was daily making the
acquaintance of leading men in literature, and their letters and
conversation stimulated her to renewed exertion.

Yet she had never stooped to conciliate popular prejudices, had never
written a line which her conscience did not dictate and her religious
convictions sanction; had bravely attacked some of the pet vices and
shameless follies of society, and had never penned a page without a
prayer for guidance from on High.

Now in her path rose God's Reaper, swinging his shining sickle,
threatening to cut off and lay low her budding laurel wreath.

While she stood silent and motionless in the quiet library, the woman's
soul was wrestling with God for permission to toil a little while
longer on earth, to do some good for her race, and to assist in saving
a darkened soul almost as dear to her as her own.

She never knew how long that struggle for life lasted; but when the
prayer ended, and she lifted her face, the shadows and the sorrowful
dread had passed away, and the old calm, the old sweet, patient smile
reigned over pale, worn features.

Early in July, Felix's feeble health forced his mother to abandon her
projected tour to the White Mountains; and in accordance with Dr.
Howell's advice, Mr. Andrews removed his family to a seaside
summer-place, which he had owned for some years, but rarely occupied,
as his wife preferred Newport, Saratoga, and Nahant.

The house at the "Willows" was large and airy, the ceilings were high,
windows wide, and a broad piazza, stretching across the front, was
shaded by two aged and enormous willows, that stood on either side of
the steps, and gave a name to the place.

The fresh matting on the floors, the light cane sofa and chairs, the
white muslin curtains and newly-painted green blinds imparted an
appearance of delicious coolness and repose to the rooms; and while not
one bright-hued painting was visible, the walls were hung with soft,
gray, misty engravings of Landseer's pictures, framed in carved ebony
and rosewood and oak.

The gilded splendor of the Fifth Avenue house was left behind; here
simplicity and quiet comfort held sway. Even the china wore no glitter,
but was enamelled with green wreaths of vine-leaves; and the vases held
only plumy ferns, fresh and dewy.

Low salt meadow-lands extended east and west, waving fields of corn
stretched northward, and the slight knoll on which the building stood
sloped smoothly down to the ever-moaning, foam-fretted bosom of the
blue Atlantic.

To the governess and her pupils the change from New York heat and
bustle to seaside rest, was welcome and delightful; and during the long
July days, when the strong ocean breeze tossed aside the willow boughs,
and swept through the rustling blinds, and lifted the hair on Edna's
hot temples, she felt as if she had indeed taken a new lease on life.

For several weeks her book had been announced as in press, and her
publishers printed most flattering circulars, which heightened
expectation, and paved the way for its favorable reception. Save the
first chapter, rejected by Mr. Manning long before, no one had seen the
MS., and while the reading public was on the qui vive, the author was
rapidly maturing the plot of a second work.

Finally, the book was bound; editors' copies winged their way
throughout the country; the curious eagerly supplied themselves with
the latest publication; and Edna's destiny as an author hung in the
balance.

It was with strange emotions that she handled the copy sent to her, for
it seemed indeed a part of herself. She knew that her own heart was
throbbing in its pages, and wondered whether the great world-pulses
would beat in unison.

Instead of a preface she had quoted on the title-page those pithy lines
in "Aurora Leigh":

"My critic Belfair wants a book Entirely different, which will sell and
live; A striking book, yet not a startling book--The public blames
originalities. You must not pump spring-water unawares Upon a gracious
public full of nerves--Good things, not subtle--new, yet orthodox; As
easy reading as the dog-eared page That's fingered by said public fifty
years, Since first taught spelling by its grandmother, And yet a
revelation in some sort: That's hard, my critic Belfair!"

Now, as Edna nestled her fingers among the pages of her book, a tear
fell and moistened them, and the unvoiced language of her soul was,
"Grandpa! do you keep close enough to me to read my book? Oh! do you
like it? are you satisfied? Are you proud of your poor little Pearl?"

The days were tediously long while she waited in suspense for the
result of the weighing in editors' sanctums, for the awful verdict of
the critical Sanhedrim. A week dragged itself away; and the severity of
the decree might have entitled it to one of those slips of blue paper
upon which Frederick the Great required his courts to inscribe their
sentences of death. Edna learned the full import of the words:

"He that writes, Or makes a feast, more certainly invites His judges
than his friends; there's not a guest But will find something wanting
or ill-drest."

Newspapers pronounced the book a failure. Some sneered in a gentlemanly
manner, employing polite phraseology; others coarsely caricatured it.
Many were insulted by its incomprehensible erudition; a few growled at
its shallowness. To-day there was a hint at plagiarism; to-morrow an
outright, wholesale theft was asserted. Now she was a pedant; and then
a sciolist. Reviews poured in upon her thick and fast; all found
grievous faults, but no two reviewers settled on the same error. What
one seemed disposed to consider almost laudable the other denounced
violently. One eminently shrewd, lynx-eyed editor discovered that two
of her characters were stolen from a book which Edna had never seen;
and another, equally ingenious and penetrating, found her entire plot
in a work of which she had never heard; while a third, shocked at her
pedantry, indignantly assured her readers that they had been imposed
upon, that the learning was all "picked up from encyclopaedias";
whereat the young author could not help laughing heartily, and wondered
why, if her learning had been so easily gleaned, her irate and insulted
critics did not follow her example.

The book was for many days snubbed, buffeted, browbeaten; and the care
fully-woven tapestry was torn into shreds and trampled upon; and it
seemed that the patiently sculptured shrine was overtured and despised
and desecrated.

Edna was astonished. She knew that her work was not perfect, but she
was equally sure that it was not contemptible. She was surprised rather
than mortified, and was convinced, from the universal howling, that she
had wounded more people than she dreamed were vulnerable.

She felt that the impetuosity and savageness of the attacks must
necessitate a recoil; and though it was difficult to be patient under
such circumstances, she waited quietly, undismayed by the clamor.

Meantime the book sold rapidly, the publishers could scarcely supply
the demand; and at last Mr. Manning's Magazine appeared, and the
yelping pack of Dandie Dinmont's pets--Auld Mustard and Little Mustard,
Auld Pepper and Little Pepper, Young Mustard and Young Pepper, stood
silent and listened to the roar of the lion.

The review of Edna's work was headed by that calm retort of Job to his
self-complacent censors, "No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom
shall die with you"; and it contained a withering rebuke to those who
had so flippantly essayed to crush the young writer.

Mr. Manning handled the book with the stern impartiality which gave
such value to his criticisms--treating it as if it had been written by
an utter stranger.

He analyzed it thoroughly; and while pointing out some serious errors
which had escaped all eyes but his, he bestowed upon a few passages
praise which no other American writer had ever received from him, and
predicted that they would live when those who attempted to ridicule
them were utterly forgotten in their graves.

The young author was told that she had not succeeded in her grand aim,
because the subject was too vast for the limits of a novel, and her
acquaintance with the mythologies of the world was not sufficiently
extensive or intimate. But she was encouraged to select other themes
more in accordance with the spirit of the age in which she lived; and
the assurance was given to her, that her writings were destined to
exert a powerful influence on her race. Some faults of style were
gravely reprimanded, some beauties most cordially eulogized and held up
for the admiration of the world.

Edna had as little literary conceit as personal vanity; she saw and
acknowledged the errors pointed out by Mr. Manning, and resolved to
avoid them in future. She felt that some objections urged against her
book were valid, but knew that she was honest and earnest in her work,
and could not justly be accused of trifling.

Gratefully and joyfully she accepted Mr. Manning's verdict, and turned
her undivided attention upon her new manuscript.

While the critics snarled, the mass of readers warmly approved; and
many who did not fully appreciate all her arguments and illustrations,
were at least clear-eyed enough to perceive that it was their
misfortune, not her fault.

Gradually the book took firm hold on the affections of the people; and
a few editors came boldly to the rescue, and ably championed it.

During these days of trial, Edna could not avoid observing one
humiliating fact, that saddened without embittering her nature. She
found that instead of sympathizing with her, she received no mercy from
authors, who, as a class, out-Heroded Herod in their denunciations, and
left her little room to doubt that--

"Envy's a sharper spur than pay, And unprovoked 'twill court the fray;
No author ever spared a brother; Wits are gamecocks to one another."



CHAPTER XXX.


"Miss Earl, you promised that as soon as I finished the 'Antiquary' you
would read me a description of the spot which Sir Walter Scott selected
for the scene of his story. We have read the last chapter; now please
remember your promise."

"Felix, in your hunger for books you remind me of the accounts given of
cormorants. The 'Antiquary' ought to satisfy you for the present, and
furnish food for thought that would last at least till to-morrow;
still, if you exact an immediate fulfillment of my promise, I am quite
ready to comply."

Edna took from her workbasket a new and handsomely illustrated volume,
and read Bertram's graphic description of Auchmithie and the coast of
Forfarshire.

Finding that her pupils were deeply interested in the "Fisher Folk,"
she read on and on; and when she began the pathetic story of the widow
at Prestonpans, Hattie's eyes widened with wonder, and Felix's were dim
with tears:

"We kent then that we micht look across the sea; but ower the waters
would never blink the een that made sunshine around our hearths; ower
the waters would never come the voices that were mair delightfu' than
the music o' the simmer winds, when the leaves gang dancing till they
sang. My story, sir, is dune. I hae nae mair tae tell. Sufficient and
suffice it till say, that there was great grief at the Pans--Rachel
weeping for her weans, and wouldna be comforted. The windows were
darkened, and the air was heavy wi' sighin' and sabbin'."

The governess closed the book, laid it back in her basket, and raising
the lid of the piano, she sang that sad, wailing lyric of Kingsley's,
"The Three Fishers."

It was one of those rare and royal afternoons late in August, when
summer, conscious that her reign is well-nigh ended, gathers all her
gorgeous drapery, and proudly robes the world in regal pomp and
short-lived splendor. Pearly cloud islets, with silver strands,
clustered in the calm blue of the upper air; soft, salmon-hued cumulus
masses sailed solemnly along the eastern horizon--atmospheric ships
freighted in the tropics with crystal showers for thirsty fields and
parched meadows--with snow crowns for Icelandic mountain brows, and
shrouds of sleet for mouldering masts, tossed high and helpless on
desolate Arctic cliffs. Restless gulls flashed their spotless wings, as
they circled and dipped in the shining waves; and in the magic light of
evening, the swelling canvas of a distant sloop glittered like
plate-glass smitten with sunshine. A strong, steady, southern breeze
curled and crested the beautiful, bounding billows, over which a
fishing-smack danced like a gilded bubble; and as the aged willows
bowed their heads, it whispered messages from citron, palm, and orange
groves, gleaming far, far away under the white fire of the Southern
Crown. Strange tidings these "winged winds" waft over sea and land; and
to-day, listening to low tones that traveled to her from Le Bocage,
Edna looked out over the ever-changing, wrinkled face of the ocean, and
fell into a reverie.

Silence reigned in the sitting-room; Hattie fitted a new tarlatan dress
on her doll, and Felix was dreaming of Prestonpans.

The breeze swept over the cluster of Tuscan jasmine and the tall, snowy
phlox nodding in the green vase on the table, and shook the muslin
curtains till light and shadow chased each other like waves over the
noble Longhi engraving of Raphael's "Vision of Ezekiel," which hung
just above the piano. After a while Felix took his chin from the
windowsill, and his eyes from the sparkling, tossing water, and his
gaze sought the beloved countenance of his governess.

"The mouth with steady sweetness set, And eyes conveying unaware The
distant hint of some regret That harbored there."

Her dress was of white mull, with lace gathered around the neck and
wristbands; a delicate fringy fern leaf was caught by the cameo that
pinned the lace collar, and around the heavy coil of hair at the back
of her head, Hattie had twined a spray of scarlet tecoma.

Save the faint red on her thin, flexible lips, her face was as
stainless as that of the Hebrew Mary, in a carved ivory "Descent from
the Cross," which hung over the mantelpiece.

As the boy watched her he thought the beautiful eyes were larger and
deeper, and burned more brilliantly than ever before and the violet
shadows beneath them seemed to widen day by day, telling of hard study
and continued vigils. Pale and peaceful, patiently sad, without a trace
of bitterness or harshness, her countenance might have served as a
model for some which Ary Scheffer dimly saw in his rapt musings over
"Wilhelm Meister."

"Oh! yonder comes mamma and--Uncle Grey! No; that is not my uncle Grey.
Who can it be? It is--Sir Roger!"

Hattie ran out to meet her mother, who had been to New York; and Felix
frowned, took up his crutches, and put on his hat.

Edna turned and went to her own room, and in a few moments Hattie
brought her a package of letters, and a message from Mrs. Andrews,
desiring her to come back to the sitting-room.

Glancing over the directions the governess saw that all the letters
were from strangers, except one from Mrs. Murray, which she eagerly
opened. The contents were melancholy and unexpected. Mr. Hammond had
been very ill for weeks, was not now in immediate danger, but was
confined to his room; and the physicians thought that he would never be
well again. He had requested Mrs. Murray to write, and beg Edna to come
to him, and remain in his house. Mrs. Powell was in Europe with
Gertrude and Gordon, and the old man was alone in his home, Mrs. Murray
and her son having taken care of him thus far. At the bottom of the
page Mr. Hammond had scrawled almost illegibly: "My dear child, I need
you. Come to me at once."

Mrs. Murray had added a postscript to tell her that if she would
telegraph them upon what day she could arrange to start, Mr. Murray
would come to New York for her.

Edna put the letter out of sight, and girded herself for a desperate
battle with her famishing heart, which bounded wildly at the tempting
joys spread almost within react. The yearning to go back to the dear
old parsonage, to the revered teacher, to cheer and brighten his
declining days, and, above all, to see Mr. Murray's face, to hear his
voice once more, oh! the temptation was strong indeed, and the cost of
resistance bitter beyond precedent. Having heard incidentally of the
reconciliation that had taken place, she knew why Mr. Hammond so
earnestly desired her presence in a house where Mr. Murray now spent
much of his time; she knew all the arguments, all the pleadings to
which she must listen, and she dared not trust her heart.

"Enter not into temptation!" was the warning which she uttered again
and again to her own soul; and though she feared the pastor would be
pained, she felt that he would not consider her ungrateful--knew that
his warm, tender heart would understand hers.

Though she had always studiously endeavored to expel Mr. Murray from
her thoughts, there came hours when his image conquered; when the
longing, the intense wish to see him was overmastering; when she felt
that she would give ten years of her life for one long look into his
face, or for a picture of him.

Now, when she had only to say, "Come!" and he would be with her, she
sternly denied her starving heart, and instead of bread gave it stones
and serpents.

She took her pen to answer the letter, but a pang which she had learned
to understand told her that she was not now strong enough; and,
swallowing some medicine which Dr. Howell had prescribed, she snatched
up a crimson scarf and went down to the beach.

The serenity of her countenance had broken up in a fearful tempest, and
her face writhed as she hurried along to overtake Felix. Just now she
dreaded to be alone, and yet the only companionship she could endure
was that of the feeble cripple, whom she had learned to love, as woman
can love only when all her early idols are in the dust.

"Wait for me, Felix!"

The boy stopped, turned, and limped back to meet her, for there was a
strange, pleading intonation in her mournfully sweet voice.

"What is the matter, Miss Earl? You look troubled."

"I only want to walk with you, for I feel lonely this evening."

"Miss Earl, have you seen Sir Roger Percival?"

"No, no; why should I see him? Felix, my darling, my little brother! do
not call me Miss Earl any longer. Call me Edna. Ah, child! I am utterly
alone; I must have somebody to love me. My heart turns to you."

She passed her arm around the boy's shoulders and leaned against him,
while he rested on his crutches and looked up at her with fond pride.

"Edna! I have wanted to call you so since the day I first saw you. You
know very well that I love you better than every thing else in the
world. If there is any good in me, I shall have to thank you for it; if
ever I am useful, it will be your work. I am wicked still; but I never
look at you without trying to be a better boy. You do not need me--you
who are so great and gifted; whose writings everybody reads and
admires; whose name is already famous. Oh! you can not need any one,
and, least of all, a poor little helpless cripple! who can only worship
you, and love the sound of your voice better than all the music that
ever was played! If I thought that you, Miss Earl--whose book all the
world is talking about--if I thought you really cared for me--Oh, Edna!
Edna! I believe my heart would be too big for my poor little body!"

"Felix, we need each other. Do you suppose I would have followed you
out here, if I did not prefer your society to that of others?"

"Something has happened since you sang the 'Three Fishers' and sat
looking out of the window an hour ago. Your face has changed. What is
it, Edna? Can't you trust me?"

"Yes. I received a letter which troubles me. It announces the feeble
health of a dear and noble friend, who writes begging me to come to
him, and nurse and remain with him as long as he lives. You need not
start and shiver so--I am not going. I shall not leave you; but it
distresses me to know that he has asked an impossible thing. Now you
can understand why I did not wish to be alone."

She leaned her cheek down on the boy's head, and both stood silent,
looking over the wide heaving waste of immemorial waters.

A glowing orange sky overarched an orange ocean, which slowly became in
turn ruby, and rose, and violet, and pearly gray, powdered with a few
dim stars. As the rising waves broke along the beach, the stiffening
breeze bent the spray till it streamed like silvery plumes; and the low
musical murmur swelled to a monotonous moan, that seemed to come over
the darkening waters like wails of the lost from some far, far "isles
of the sea."

Awed by the mysterious solemnity which ever broods over the ocean,
Felix slowly repeated that dirge of Tennyson's, "Break, break, break!"
and when he commenced the last verse, Edna's voice, low and quivering,
joined his.

Out of the eastern sea, up through gauzy cloud-bars, rose the moon,
round, radiant, almost full, shaking off the mists, burnishing the
waves with a ghostly lustre.

The wind rose and fluttered Edna's scarlet scarf like a pirate's
pennon, and the low moan became a deep, sullen, ominous mutter.

"There will be a gale before daylight; it is brewing down yonder at the
southwest. The wind has veered since we came out. There! did you notice
what a savage snort there was in that last gust?"

Felix pointed to the distant water-line, where now and then a bluish
flash of lightning showed the teeth of the storm raging far away under
southern constellations, extinguishing for a time the golden flame of
Canopus.

"Yes, you must go in, Felix. I ought not to have kept you out so long."

Reluctantly she turned from the beach, and they had proceeded but a few
yards in the direction of the house when they met Mrs. Andrews and her
guest.

"Felix, my son! Too late, too late for you! Come in with me. Miss Earl,
as you are so fond of the beach, I hope you will show Sir Roger all its
beauties. I commit him to your care."

She went toward the house with her boy, and as Sir Roger took Edna's
hand and bent forward, looking eagerly into her face, she saw a pained
and startled expression cross his own.

"Miss Earl, did you receive a letter from me written immediately after
the perusal of your book?"

"Yes, Sir Roger, and your cordial congratulations and flattering
opinion were, I assure you, exceedingly gratifying, especially as you
were among the first who found anything in it to praise."

"You have no idea with what intense interest I have watched its
reception at the hands of the press, and I think the shallow, flippant
criticisms were almost as nauseous to me as they must have been to you.
Your book has had a fierce struggle with these self-consecrated,
red-handed, high-priests of the literary Yama; but its success is now
established, and I bring you news of its advent in England, where it
has been republished. You can well afford to exclaim with Drayton:

  'We that calumnious critic may aschew,
    That blasteth all things with his poisoned breath.
   Detracting what laboriously we do
    Only with that which he but idly saith.'

The numerous assaults made upon you reminded me constantly of the
remarks of Blackwood a year or two since: 'Formerly critics were as
scarce and formidable, and consequently as well known as mastiffs in a
country parish; but now no luckless traveller can show his face in a
village without finding a whole pack yelping at his heels.'
Fortunately, Miss Earl, though they show their teeth, and are evidently
anxious to mangle, they are not strong enough to do much harm. Have you
answered any of these attacks?"

"No, sir. Had I ever commenced filling the sieve of the Danaides, I
should have time for nothing else. If you will not regard me as
exceedingly presumptuous, and utterly ridiculous by the comparison, I
will add that, with reference to unfavorable criticism, I have followed
the illustrious example of Buffon, who said, when critics opened their
batteries, 'Je n'ai jamais repondu a aucune critique, et je garderai le
meme silence sur celle-ci.'"

"But, my dear Miss Earl, I see that you have been accused of
plagiarizing. Have you not refuted this statement?"

"Again I find Buffon's words rising to answer for me, as they did for
himself under similar circumstances, 'Il vaut mieux laisser ces
mauvaises gens dans l'incertitude!' Moreover, sir, I have no right to
complain, for if it is necessary in well-regulated municipalities to
have inspectors of all other commodities, why not of books also! I do
not object to the rigid balancing--I wish to pass for no more than I
weigh; but I do feel inclined to protest sometimes, when I see myself
denounced simply because the scales are too small to hold what is
ambitiously piled upon them, and my book is either thrown out
pettishly, or whittled and scraped down to fit the scales. The storm,
Sir Roger, was very severe at first--nay, it is not yet ended; but I
hope, I believe I shall weather it safely. If my literary bark had
proved unworthy and sprung a leak and foundered, it would only have
shown that it did not deserve to live; that it was better it should go
down alone and early, than when attempting to pilot others on the rough
unknown sea of letters. I can not agree with you in thinking that
critics are more abundant now than formerly. More books are written,
and consequently more are tabooed; but the history of literature proves
that, from the days of Congreve,

  'Critics to plays for the same end resort
   That surgeons wait on trials in a court;
   For innocence condemned they've no respect
   Provided they've a body to dissect.'

After all, it cannot be denied that some of the best portions of
Byron's and Pope's writings were scourged out of them by the scorpion
thongs of adverse criticism; and the virulence of the Xenien Sturm
waged by Schiller and Goethe against the army of critics who assaulted
them, attests the fact that even appreciative Germany sometimes nods in
her critical councils. Certainly I have had my share of scourging; for
my critics have most religiously observed the warning of 'Spare the rod
and spoil the child'; and henceforth if my writings are not model,
well-behaved, puritanical literary children, my censors must be
exonerated from all blame, and I will give testimony in favor of the
zeal and punctuality of these self-elected officials of the public
whipping-post. The canons have not varied one iota for ages; if authors
merely reflect the ordinary normal aspect of society, without
melodramatic exaggeration or ludicrous caricature, they are voted
trite, humdrum, commonplace, and live no longer than their
contemporaries. If they venture a step in advance, and attempt to lead,
to lift up the masses, or to elevate the standard of thought and extend
its range, they are scoffed at as pedants, and die unhonored prophets;
and just as the tomb is sealed above them, people peer more closely
into their books, and whisper, 'There is something here after all;
great men have been among us.' The next generation chants paeans, and
casts chaplets on the graves, and so the world rings with the names of
ghosts, and fame pours generous libations to appease the manes of
genius slaughtered on the altar of criticism. Once Schiller said,
'Against public stupidity the gods themselves are powerless.' Since
then, that same public lifted him to the pedestal of a demi-god; now
all Germany proudly claims him; and who shall tell us where sleep his
long-forgotten critics? Such has been the history of the race since
Homer groped through vine-clad Chios, and poor Dante was hunted from
city to city. If the great hierarchs of literature are sometimes
stabbed while ministering at the shrine, what can we humble acolytes
expect but to be scourged entirely out of the temple? We all get our
dues at last; for yonder, among the stars, Astraea laughs at man's
valuations, and shakes her infallible balance and re-weighs us."

She had crossed her arms on the low stone wall that enclosed the lawn,
and bending forward, the moon shone full on her face, and her eyes and
her thoughts went out to sea. Her companion stood watching her
countenance, and some strange expression there recalled to his mind
that vivid description:

  "And then she raised her head, and upward cast
   Wild looks from HOMELESS EYES, whose liquid light
   Gleamed out between the folds of blue-black hair,
   As gleam twin lakes between the purple peaks
   Of deep Parnassus, at the mournful moon."

After a short silence, Sir Roger said:

"Miss Earl, I can find no triumph written on your features, and I doubt
whether you realize how very proud your friends are of your success."

"As yet, sir, it is not assured. My next book will determine my status
in literature; and I have too much to accomplish--I have achieved too
little, to pause and look back, and pat my own shoulder, and cry, Io
triumphe! I am not so indifferent as you seem to imagine. Praise
gratifies, and censure pains me; but I value both as mere gauges of my
work, indexing the amount of good I may or may not hope to effect. I
wish to be popular--that is natural, and, surely, pardonable; but I
desire it not as an end, but as a means to an end--usefulness to my
fellow-creatures;

  'And whether crowned or crownless, when I fall,
   It matters not, so as God's work is done.'

I love my race, I honor my race; I believe that human nature,
sublimated by Christianity, is capable of attaining nobler heights than
pagan philosophers and infidel seers ever dreamed of. And because my
heart yearns toward my fellow-creatures, I want to clasp one hand in
the warm throbbing palm of sinful humanity, and with the other hold up
the lamp that God gave me to carry through this world, and so struggle
onward, heavenward, with this generation of men and women. I claim no
clear Uriel vision, now and then I stumble and grope; but at least I
try to keep my little lamp trimmed, and I am not so blind as some, who
reel and stagger in the Maremme of crime and fashionable vice. As a
pilgrim toiling through a world of sinful temptation, and the night of
time where the stars are often shrouded, I cry to those beyond and
above me, 'Hold high your lights, that I may see my way!' and to those
behind and below me, 'Brothers! sisters! come on, come up!' Ah! these
steeps of human life are hard enough to climb when each shares his
light and divides his neighbor's grievous burden. God help us all to
help one another! Mecca pilgrims stop in the Valley of Muna to stone
the Devil; sometimes I fear that in the Muna of life we only stone each
other and martyr Stephen. Last week I read a lecture on architecture,
and since then I find myself repeating one of the passages: 'And
therefore, lastly and chiefly, you must love the creatures to whom you
minister, your fellow-men; for if you do not love them, not only will
you be little interested in the passing events of life, but in all your
gazing at humanity, you will be apt to be struck only by outside form,
and not by expression. It is only kindness and tenderness which will
ever enable you to see what beauty there is in the dark eyes that are
sunk with weeping, and in the paleness of those fixed faces which the
earth's adversity has compassed about, till they shine in their
patience like dying watch-fires through twilight.' In some sort I think
we are all mechanics--moral architects, designing as apprentices on the
sands of time that which, as master builders, we shall surely erect on
the jasper pavements of eternity. So let us all heed the noble words."

She seemed talking rather to herself, or to the surging sea where her
eyes rested, than to Sir Roger; and as he noticed the passionless
pallor of her face, he sighed, and put his hands on hers.

"Come, walk with me on the beach, and let me tell you why I came back
to New York, instead of sailing from Canada, as I once intended."

A half hour elapsed, and Mrs. Andrews, who was sitting alone on the
piazza, saw the governess coming slowly up the walk. As she ascended
the steps, the lady of the house exclaimed:

"Where is Sir Roger?"

"He has gone."

"Well, my dear! Pardon me for anticipating you, but as I happen to know
all about the affair, accept my congratulations. You are the luckiest
woman in America."

Mrs. Andrews put her arm around Edna's waist, but something in the
countenance astonished and disappointed her.

"Mrs. Andrews, Sir Roger sails to-morrow for England. He desired me to
beg that you would excuse him for not coming to bid you good-bye."

"Sails to-morrow! When does he return to America?"

"Probably never."

"Edna Earl, you are an idiot! You may have any amount of genius, but
certainly not one grain of common sense! I have no patience with you! I
had set my heart on seeing you his wife."

"But, unfortunately for me, I could not set my heart on him. I am very
sorry. I wish we had never met, for indeed I like Sir Roger. But it is
useless to discuss what is past and irremediable. Where are the
children?"

"Asleep, I suppose. After all, show me 'a gifted woman, a genius,' and
I will show you a fool."

Mrs. Andrews bit her lip, and walked off; and Edna went upstairs to
Felix's room.

The boy was sitting by the open window, watching gray clouds trailing
across the moon, checkering the face of the mighty deep, now with
shadow, now with sheen. So absorbed was he in his communing with the
mysterious spirit of the sea, that he did not notice the entrance of
the governess until he felt her hand on his shoulder.

"Ah! have you come at last? Edna, I was wishing for you a little while
ago, for as I sat looking over the waves, a pretty thought came into my
mind, and I want to tell you about it. Last week, you remember, we were
reading about Antony and Cleopatra; and just now, while I was watching
a large star yonder making a shining track across the sea, a ragged,
hungry-looking cloud crept up, and nibbled at the edge of the star, and
swallowed it! And I called the cloud Cleopatra swallowing her pearl!"

Edna looked wonderingly into the boy's bright eyes, and drew his head
to her shoulder.

"My dear Felix, are you sure you never heard that same thought read or
quoted? It is beautiful, but this is not the first time I have heard
it. Think, my dear little boy; try to remember where you saw it
written."

"Indeed, Edna, I never saw it anywhere. I am sure I never heard it
either; for it seemed quite new when it bounced into my mind just now.
Who else ever thought of it?"

"Mr. Stanyan Bigg, an English poet, whose writings are comparatively
unknown in this country. His works I have never seen, but I read a
review of them in an English book, which contained many extracts; and
that pretty metaphor which you used just now, was among them."

"Is that review in our library?"

"No, I am sure it is not; but you may have seen the lines quoted
somewhere else."

"Edna, I am very certain I never heard it before. Do you recollect how
it is written in the Englishman's poem? If you can repeat it, I shall
know instantly, because my memory is very good."

"I think I can give you one stanza, for I read it when I was in great
sorrow, and it made an impression upon me:

  'The clouds, like grim black faces, come and go;
    One tall tree stretches up against the sky;
   It lets the rain through, like a trembling hand
    Pressing thin fingers on a watery eye.
   The moon came, but shrank back, like a young girl
    Who has burst in upon funereal sadness;
   One star came--Cleopatra-like, the Night
    Swallowed this one pearl in a fit of madness!'

"Well, Felix, you are a truthful boy, and I can trust you!"

"I never heard the poetry before, and I tell you, Edna, the idea is
just as much mine as it is Mr. Biggs's!"

"I believe you. Such coincidences are rare, and people are very loath
to admit the possibility; but that they do occasionally occur, I have
no doubt. Perhaps some day when you write a noble poem, and become a
shining light in literature, you may tell this circumstance to the
world; and bid it beware how it idly throws the charge of plagiarism
against the set teeth of earnest, honest workers."

"Edna, I look at my twisted feet sometimes, and I feel thankful that it
is my body, not my mind, that is deformed. If I am ever able to tell
the world anything, it will be how much I owe you; for I trace all holy
thoughts and pretty ideas to you and your music and your writings."

They sat there awhile in silence, watching heavy masses of cloud darken
the sea and sky; and then Felix lifted his face from Edna's shoulder,
and asked timidly:

"Did you send Sir Roger away?"

"He goes to Europe to-morrow, I believe."

"Poor Sir Roger! I am sorry for him. I told mamma you never thought of
him; that you loved nothing but books and flowers and music."

"How do you know that?"

"I have watched you, and when he was with you I never saw that great
shining light in your eyes, or that strange moving of your lower lip,
that always shows me when you are really glad; as you were that Sunday
when the music was so grand; or that rainy morning when we saw the
pictures of the 'Two Marys at the Sepulchre.' I almost hated poor Sir
Roger, because I was afraid he might take you to England, and then,
what would have become of me? Oh! the world seems so different, so
beautiful, so peaceful, as long as I have you with me. Everybody
praises you, and is proud of you, but nobody loves you, as I do."

He took her hand, passed it over his cheek and forehead, and kissed it
tenderly.

"Felix, do you feel at all sleepy?"

"Not at all. Tell me something more about the animalcula that cause the
phosphorescence yonder--making the top of each wave look like a fringe
of fire. It is true that they are little round things that look like
jelly--so small that it takes one hundred and seventy, all in a row, to
make an inch; and that a wineglass can hold millions of them?"

"I do not feel well enough to-night to talk about animalcula. I am
afraid I shall have one of those terrible attacks I had last winter.
Felix, please don't go to bed for a while at least; and if you hear me
call, come to me quickly. I must write a letter before I sleep. Sit
here, will you, till I come back?"

For the first time in her life she shrank from the thought of suffering
alone, and felt the need of a human presence.

"Edna, let me call mamma. I saw this afternoon that you were not well."

"No, it may pass off; and I want nobody about me but you."

Only a narrow passage divided her room from his; and leaving the door
open, she sat down before her desk to answer Mr. Hammond's appeal.

As the night wore on, the wind became a gale; the fitful, bluish glare
of the lightning showed fearful ranks of ravenous waves scowling over
each others' shoulders; a roar as of universal thunder shook the shore,
and in the coral-columned cathedral of the great deep, wrathful ocean
played a wild and weird fugue.

Felix waited patiently, listening amid the dead diapason of wind and
wave, for the voice of his governess. But no sound came from the
opposite room; and at last, alarmed by the omnious silence, he took up
his crutches and crossed the passage.

The muslin curtains, blown from their ribbon fastenings, streamed like
signals of distress on the breath of the tempest, and the lamplight
flickered and leaped to the top of its glass chimney.

On the desk lay two letters addressed respectively to Mr. Hammond and
Mrs. Murray, and beside them were scattered half a dozen notes from
unknown correspondents, asking for the autograph and photograph of the
young author.

Edna knelt on the floor, hiding her face in the arms which were crossed
on the lid of the desk.

The cripple came close to her and hesitated a moment, then touched her
lightly:

"Edna, are you ill, or are you only praying?"

She lifted her head instantly, and the blanched, weary face reminded
the boy of a picture of Gethsemane, which, having once seen, he could
never recall without a shudder.

"Forgive me, Felix! I forgot that you were waiting--forgot that I asked
you to sit up."

She rose, took the thin little form in her arms, and whispered:

"I am sorry I kept you up so long. The pain has passed away. I think
the danger is over now. Go back to your room, and go to sleep as soon
as possible. Good-night, my darling."

They kissed each other and separated; but the fury of the tempest
forbade all idea of sleep, and thinking of the "Fisher Folk" exposed to
its wrath, governess and pupil committed them to Him who calmed the
Galilean gale.

  "The sea was all a boiling, seething froth,
   And God Almighty's guns were going off,
   And the land trembled."



CHAPTER XXXI.


The Greek myth concerning Demophoon embodies a valuable truth, which
the literary career of Edna Earl was destined to exemplify. Harsh
critics, like disguised Ceres, plunged the young author into the
flames; and fortunately for her, as no short-sighted, loving Metanira
snatched her from the fiery ordeal, she ultimately obtained the boon of
immortality. Her regular contributions to the magazine enhanced her
reputation, and broadened the sphere of her influence.

Profoundly impressed by the conviction that she held her talent in
trust, she worked steadily, looking neither to the right nor left, but
keeping her eyes fixed upon that day when she should be called to
render an account to Him who would demand His own with interest.
Instead of becoming flushed with success, she grew daily more cautious,
more timid, lest inadvertence or haste should betray her into errors.
Consequently as the months rolled away, each magazine article seemed an
improvement on the last, and lifted her higher in public favor. The
blacksmith's grandchild had become a power in society.

Feeling that a recluse life would give her only partial glimpses of
that humanity which she wished to study, she moved in the circle of
cultivated friends who now eagerly stretched out their arms to receive
her; and "keeping herself unspotted from the world," she earnestly
scrutinized social leprosy, and calmly watched the tendency of American
thought and feeling.

Among philosophic minds she saw an inclination to ignore the principles
of such systems as Sir William Hamilton's, and to embrace the modified
and subtle materialism of Buckle and Mill, or the gross atheism of
Buchner and Moleschott. Positivism in philosophy and pre-Raphaelitism
in art, confronted her in the ranks of the literary,--lofty idealism
seemed trodden down--pawed over by Carlyle's "Monster Utilitaria."

When she turned to the next social stratum she found altars of
mammon-groves of Baal, shining Schoe Dagonset up by business men and
women of fashion. Society appeared intent only upon reviving the
offering to propitiate evil spirits; and sometimes it seemed thickly
sprinkled with very thinly disguised refugee Yezidees, who, in the
East, openly worshipped the Devil.

Statesmen were almost extinct in America--a mere corporal's guard
remained, battling desperately to save the stabbed constitution from
howling demagogues and fanatics, who raved and ranted where Washington,
Webster, and Calhoun had once swayed a free and happy people. The old
venerated barriers and well-guarded outposts, which decorum and true
womanly modesty had erected on the frontiers of propriety, were swept
away in the crevasse of sans souci manners that threatened to inundate
the entire land; and latitudinarianism in dress and conversation was
rapidly reducing the sexes to an equality, dangerous to morals and
subversive of all chivalric respect for woman.

A double-faced idol, fashion and flirtation, engrossed the homage of
the majority of females, while a few misguided ones, weary of the
inanity of the mass of womanhood and desiring to effect a reform,
mistook the sources of the evil, and, rushing to the opposite extreme,
demanded power, which as a privilege they already possessed, but as a
right could not extort.

A casual glance at the surface of society seemed to justify Burke's
conclusion, that "this earth is the bedlam of our system"; but Edna
looked deeper, and found much that encouraged her, much that warmed and
bound her sympathies to her fellow-creatures. Instead of following the
beaten track she struck out a new path, and tried the plan of
denouncing the offence, not the offender; of attacking the sin while
she pitied the sinner.

Ruthlessly she assaulted the darling follies, the pet, velvet-masked
vices that society had adopted, and called the reading world to a
friendly parley; demanding that men and women should pause and reflect
in their mad career. Because she was earnest and not bitter, because
the white banner of Christian charity floated over the conference
ground, because she showed so clearly that she loved the race whose
recklessness grieved her, because her rebukes were free from scorn, and
written rather in tears than gall, people turned their heads and
stopped to listen.

So it came to pass that finally, after toiling over many obstacles, she
reached the vine-clad valley of Eshcol.

Each day brought her noble fruitage, as letters came from all regions
of the country, asking for advice and assistance in little trials of
which the world knew nothing. Over the young of her own sex she held a
singular sway; and orphan girls of all ranks and ages wrote of their
respective sorrows and difficulties, and requested her kind counsel. To
these her womanly heart turned yearningly; and she accepted their
affectionate confidence as an indication of her proper circle of useful
labor.

Believing that the intelligent, refined, modest Christian women of the
United States were the real custodians of national purity, and the sole
agents who could successfully arrest the tide of demoralization
breaking over the land, she addressed herself to the wives, mothers,
and daughters of America; calling upon them to smite their false gods,
and purify the shrines at which they worshipped. Jealously she
contended for every woman's right which God and nature had decreed the
sex. The right to be learned, wise, noble, useful, in woman's divinely
limited sphere; the right to influence and exalt the circle in which
she moved; the right to mount the sanctified bema of her own quiet
hearthstone; the right to modify and direct her husband's opinions, if
he considered her worthy and competent to guide him; the right to make
her children ornaments to their nation, and a crown of glory to their
race; the right to advise, to plead, to pray; the right to make her
desk a Delphi, if God so permitted; the right to be all that the phrase
"noble, Christian woman" means. But not the right to vote; to harangue
from the hustings; to trail her heaven-born purity through the dust and
mire of political strife; to ascend the rosta of statesmen, whither she
may send a worthy husband, son, or brother, but whither she can never
go, without disgracing all womanhood.

Edna was conscious of the influence she exerted, and ceaselessly she
prayed that she might wield it aright. While aware of the prejudice
that exists against literary women, she endeavored to avoid the outre
idiosyncrasies that justly render so many of that class unpopular and
ridiculous.

She felt that she was a target at which observers aimed random shafts;
and while devoting herself to study, she endeavored to give due
attention to the rules of etiquette, and the harmonious laws of the
toilette.

The friendship between Mr. Manning and herself strengthened, as each
learned more fully the character of the other; and an affectionate,
confiding frankness marked their intercourse. As her popularity
increased she turned to him more frequently for advice, for success
only rendered her cautious; and day by day she weighed more carefully
all that fell from her pen, dreading lest some error should creep into
her writings and lead others astray.

In her publisher--an honorable, kind-hearted, and generous
gentleman--she found a valued friend; and as her book sold extensively,
the hope of a competency was realized, and she was soon relieved from
the necessity of teaching. She was a pet with the reading public; it
became fashionable to lionize her; her pictures and autographs were
eagerly sought after; and the little, barefooted Tennessee child had
grown up to celebrity.

Sometimes, when a basket of flowers, or a handsome book, or a letter of
thanks and cordial praise was received from an unknown reader, the
young author was so overwhelmed with grateful appreciation of these
little tokens of kindness and affection, that she wept over them, or
prayed tremulously that she might make herself more worthy of the good
opinion entertained of her by strangers.

Mr. Manning, whose cold, searching eye was ever upon her, could detect
no exultation in her manner. She was earnestly grateful for every kind
word uttered by her friends and admirers, for every favorable sentence
penned about her writings; but she seemed only gravely glad, and was as
little changed by praise as she had been by severe animadversion. The
sweet, patient expression still rested on her face, and her beautiful
eyes beamed with the steady light of resignation rather than the starry
sparkle of extravagant joy.

Sometimes when the editor missed her at the literary reunions, where
her presence always contributed largely to the enjoyment of the
evening, and sought her in the schoolroom, he was often surprised to
find her seated beside Felix, reading to him or listening to his
conversation with a degree of interest which she did not always offer
to the celebrities who visited her.

Her power over the cripple was boundless. His character was as clay in
her hands, and she was faithfully striving to model a noble, hallowed
life; for she believed that he was destined to achieve distinction, and
fondly hoped to stamp upon his mind principles and aims that would
fructify abundantly when she was silent in the grave.

Mrs. Andrews often told her that she was the only person who had ever
controlled or influenced the boy--that she could make him just what she
pleased; and she devoted herself to him, resolved to spare no toil in
her efforts to correct the evil tendencies of his strong, obstinate,
stormy nature.

His fondness for history, and for all that involved theories of
government, led his governess to hope that at some future day he might
recruit the depleted ranks of statesmen--that he might reflect lustre
upon his country; and with this trust spurring her ever one, she became
more and more absorbed in her schemes for developing his intellect and
sanctifying his heart. People wondered how the lovely woman, whom
society flattered and feted, could voluntarily shut herself up in a
schoolroom, and few understood the sympathy which bound her so firmly
to the broad-browed, sallow little cripple.

One December day, several months after their return from the seaside,
Edna and Felix sat in the library. The boy had just completed
Prescott's "Philip II.," and the governess had promised to read to him
Schiller's "Don Carlos" and Goethe's "Egmont," in order to impress upon
his memory the great actors of the Netherland revolution. She took up
the copy of "Don Carlos," and crossing his arms on the top of his
crutches, as was his habit, the pupil fixed his eyes on her face.

The reading had continued probably a half-hour, when Felix heard a
whisper at the door, and, looking over his shoulder, saw a stranger
standing on the threshold. He rose; the movement attracted the
attention of the governess, and, as she looked up, a cry of joy rang
through the room. She dropped the book and sprang forward with open
arms.

"Oh, Mrs. Murray! dear friend!"

For some moments they stood locked in a warm embrace, and as Felix
limped out of the room he heard his governess sobbing.

Mrs. Murray held the girl at arm's length, and as she looked at the
wan, thin face, she exclaimed:

"My poor Edna! my dear little girl! why did not you tell me you were
ill? You are a mere ghost of your former self. My child, why did you
not come home long ago? I should have been here a month earlier, but
was detained by Estelle's marriage."

Edna looked vacantly at her benefactress, and her lips whitened as she
asked:

"Did you say Estelle--was married?"

"Yes, my dear. She is now in New York with her husband. They are going
to Paris--"

"She married your--" The head fell forward on Mrs. Murray's bosom, and
as in a dream she heard the answer:

"Estelle married that young Frenchman, Victor De Sanssure, whom she met
in Europe. Edna, what is the matter? My child!"

She found that she could not rouse her, and in great alarm called for
assistance.

Mrs. Andrews promptly resorted to the remedies advised by Dr. Howell;
but it was long before Edna fully recovered, and then she lay with her
eyes closed, and her hands clasped across her forehead.

Mrs. Murray sat beside the sofa weeping silently, while Mrs. Andrews
briefly acquainted her with the circumstances attending former attacks.
When the latter was summoned from the room and all was quiet, Edna
looked up at Mrs. Murray, and tears rolled over her cheeks as she said:

"I was so glad to see you, the great joy and the surprise overcame me.
I am not as strong as I used to be in the old happy days at Le Bocage,
but after a little I shall be myself. It is only occasionally that I
have these attacks of faintness. Put your hand on my forehead, as you
did years ago, and let me think that I am a little child again. Oh, the
unspeakable happiness of being with you once more!"

"Hush! do not talk now, you are not strong enough!"

Mrs. Murray kissed her, and tenderly smoothed the hair back from her
blue-veined temples, where the blood still fluttered irregularly.

For some minutes the girl's eyes wandered eagerly over her companion's
countenance, tracing there the outlines of another and far dearer face,
and finding a resemblance between mother and son which she had never
noticed before. Then she closed her eyes again, and a half smile curved
her trembling mouth, for the voice and the touch of the hand seemed
indeed Mr. Murray's.

"Edna, I shall never forgive you for not writing to me, telling me
frankly of your failing health."

"Oh! scold me as much as you please. It is a luxury to hear your voice
even in reproof."

"I knew mischief would come of this separation from me. You belong to
me, and I mean to have my own, and take proper care of you in future.
The idea of your working yourself to a skeleton for the amusement of
those who care nothing about you is simply preposterous, and I intend
to put an end to such nonsense."

"Mrs. Murray, why have you not mentioned Mr. Hammond? I almost dread to
ask about him."

"Because you do not deserve to hear from him. A grateful and
affectionate pupil you have proved, to be sure. Oh, Edna! what has come
over you, child? Are you so intoxicated with your triumphs that you
utterly forget your old friends, who loved you when you were unknown to
the world? At first I thought so. I believed that you were heartless,
like all of your class, and completely wrapped up in ambitious schemes.
But, my little darling, I see I wronged you. Your poor white face
reproaches me for my injustice, and I feel that success has not spoiled
you; that you are still my little Edna--my sweet child--my daughter. Be
quiet now, and listen to me, and try to keep that flutter out of your
lips. Mr. Hammond is no worse than he has been for many months, but he
is very feeble, and can not live much longer. You know very well that
he loves you tenderly, and he says he can not die in peace without
seeing you once more. Every day, when I go over to the parsonage, his
first question is, 'Ellen, is she coming?--have you heard from her?' I
wish you could have seen him when St. Elmo was reading your book to
him. It was the copy you sent; and when we read aloud the joint
dedication to him and to myself, the old man wept, and asked for his
glasses, and tried to read it, but could not. He--"

Edna put out her hand with a mute gesture, which her friend well
understood, and she paused and was silent; while the governess turned
her face to the wall and wept softly, trying to compose herself.

Ten minutes passed, and she said: "Please go on now, Mrs. Murray, and
tell me all he said. You can have no idea how I have longed to know
what you all at home thought of my little book. Oh! I have been so
hungry for home praise! I sent the very earliest copies to you and to
Mr. Hammond, and I thought it so hard that you never mentioned them at
all."

"My dear, it was my fault, and I confess it freely. Mr. Hammond, of
course, could not write, but he trusted to me to thank you in his name
for the book and the dedication. I was really angry with you for not
coming home when I wrote for you; and I was jealous of your book, and
would not praise it, because I knew you expected it. But because I was
silent, do you suppose I was not proud of my little girl? If you could
have seen the tears I shed over some of the eulogies pronounced upon
you, and heard all the ugly words I could not avoid uttering against
some of your critics, you could not doubt my thorough appreciation of
your success. My dear, it is impossible to describe Mr. Hammond's
delight, as we read your novel to him. Often he would say: 'St. Elmo,
read that passage again. I knew she was a gifted child, but I did not
expect that she would ever write such a book as this.' When we read the
last chapter he was completely overcome, and said, repeatedly, 'God
bless my little Edna! It is a noble book, it will do good--much good!'
To me it seems almost incredible that the popular author is the same
little lame, crushed orphan, whom I lifted from the grass at the
railroad track, seven years ago."

Edna had risen, and was sitting on the edge of the sofa, with one hand
supporting her cheek, and a tender, glad smile shining over her
features, as she listened to the commendation of those dearer than all
the world beside. Mrs. Murray watched her anxiously, and sighed, as she
continued:

"If ever a woman had a worshipper, you certainly possess one in Huldah
Reed. It would be amusing, if it were not touching, to see her bending
in ecstasy over everything you write; over every notice of you that
meets her eye. She regards you as her model in all respects. You would
be surprised at the rapidity with which she acquires knowledge. She is
a pet of St. Elmo's, and repays his care and kindness with a devotion
that makes people stare; for you know my son is regarded as an ogre,
and the child's affection for him seems incomprehensible to those who
only see the rough surface of his character. She never saw a frown on
his face or heard a harsh word from him, for he is strangely tender in
his treatment of the little thing. Sometimes it makes me start when I
hear her merry laugh ringing through the house, for the sound carries
me far back into the past, when my own children romped and shouted at
Le Bocage. You were always a quiet, demure, and rather solemn child;
but this Huldah is a gay little sprite. St. Elmo is so astonishingly
patient with her, that Estelle accuses him of being in his dotage. Oh,
Edna! it would make you glad to see my son and that orphan child
sitting together reading the Bible. Last week I found them in the
library; she was fast asleep with her head on his knee, and he sat with
his open Bible in his hand. He is so changed in his manner that you
would scarcely know him, and oh! I am so happy and so grateful, I can
never thank God sufficiently for the blessing!"

Mrs. Murray sobbed, and Edna bent her own head lower in her palms.

For some seconds both were silent. Mrs. Murray seated herself close to
the governess, and clasped her arms around her.

"Edna, why did you not tell me all? Why did you leave me to find out by
accident that which should have been confided to me?"

The girl trembled, and a fiery spot burned on her cheeks as she pressed
her forehead against Mrs. Murray's bosom, and said hastily:

"To what do you allude?"

"Why did you not tell me that my son loved you, and wished to make you
his wife? I never knew what passed between you until about a month ago,
and then I learned it from Mr. Hammond. Although I wondered why St.
Elmo went as far as Chattanooga with you on your way North, I did not
suspect any special interest, for his manner betrayed none when, after
his return, he merely said that he found no one on the train to whose
care he could commit you. Now I know all--know why you left Le Bocage;
and I know, too, that in God's hands you have been the instrument of
bringing St. Elmo back to his duty--to his old noble self! Oh! Edna, my
child! if you could know how I love and thank you! How I long to fold
you in my arms--so! and call you my daughter! Edna Murray--St. Elmo's
wife! Ah! how proud I shall be of my own daughter! When I took a little
bruised, moaning, homespun-clad girl into my house, how little I
dreamed that I was sheltering unawares the angel who was to bring back
happiness to my son's heart, and peace to my own!"

She lifted the burning face, and kissed the quivering lips repeatedly.

"Edna, my brave darling! how could you resist St. Elmo's pleading? How
could you tear yourself away from him? Was it because you feared that I
would not willingly receive you as a daughter? Do not shiver so--answer
me."

"Oh! do not ask me! Mrs. Murray, spare me! This is a subject which I
cannot discuss with you."

"Why not, my child? Can you not trust the mother of the man you love?"

Edna unwound the arms that clasped her, and rising, walked away to the
mantelpiece. Leaning heavily against it, she stood for some time with
her face averted, and beneath the veil of long, floating hair Mrs.
Murray saw the slight figure sway to and fro, like a reed shaken by the
breeze.

"Edna, I must talk to you about a matter which alone brought me to New
York. My son's happiness is dearer to me than my life, and I have come
to plead with you, for his sake, if not for your own, at least to--"

"It is useless! Do not mention his name again! Oh, Mrs. Murray! I am
feeble to-day; spare me! Have mercy on my weakness!"

She put out her hand appealingly, but in vain.

"One thing you must tell me. Why did you reject him?"

"Because I could not respect his character. Oh! forgive me! You force
me to say it--because I knew that he was unworthy of any woman's
confidence and affection."

The mother's face flushed angrily, and she rose and threw her head back
with the haughty defiance peculiar to her family.

"Edna Earl, how dare you speak to me in such terms of my own son? There
is not a woman on the face of the broad earth who ought not to feel
honored by his preference--who might not be proud of his hand. What
right have you to pronounce him unworthy of trust? Answer me!"

"The right to judge him from his own account of his past life. The
history which he gave me condemns him. His crimes make me shrink from
him."

"Crimes? take care, Edna! You must be beside yourself! My son is no
criminal! He was unfortunate and rash, but his impetuosity was
certainly pardonable under the circumstances."

"All things are susceptible of palliation in a mother's partial eyes,"
answered the governess.

"St. Elmo fought a duel, and afterward carried on several flirtations
with women who were weak enough to allow themselves to be trifled with;
moreover, I shall not deny that at one period of his life he was
lamentably dissipated; but all that happened long ago, before you knew
him. How many young gentlemen indulge in the same things, and are never
even reprimanded by society, much less denounced as criminals? The
world sanctions duelling and flirting, and you have no right to set
your extremely rigid notions of propriety above the verdict of modern
society. Custom justifies many things which you seem to hold in utter
abhorrence. Take care that you do not find yourself playing the
Pharisee on the street corners."

Mrs. Murray walked up and down the room twice, then came to the hearth.

"Well, Edna, I am waiting to hear you."

"There is nothing that I can say which would not wound or displease
you; therefore, dear Mrs. Murray, I must be silent."

"Retract the hasty words you uttered just now; they express more than
you intended."

"I cannot! I mean all I said. Offences against God's law, which you
consider pardonable--and which the world winks at and permits, and even
defends--I regard as grievous sins. I believe that every man who kills
another in a duel deserves the curse of Cain, and should be shunned as
a murderer. My conscience assures me that a man who can deliberately
seek to gain a woman's heart merely to gratify his vanity, or to wreak
his hate by holding her up to scorn, or trifling with the love which he
has won, is unprincipled, and should be ostracized by every true woman.
Were you the mother of Murray and Annie Hammond, do you think you could
so easily forgive this murderer?"

"Their father forgives and trusts my son, and you have no right to sit
in judgment upon him. Do you suppose that you are holier than that
white-haired saint whose crown of glory is waiting for him in heaven??
Are you so much purer than Allan Hammond that you fear contamination
from one to whom he clings?"

"No--no--no! You wrong me! If you could know how humble is my estimate
of myself, you would not taunt me so cruelly; you would only--pity me!"

The despairing agony in the orphan's voice touched Mrs. Murray's proud
heart, and tears softened the indignant expression of her eyes, as she
looked at the feeble form before her.

"Edna, my poor child, you must trust me. One thing I must know--I have
a right to ask--do you not love my son? You need not blush to
acknowledge it to me."

She waited awhile, but there was no reply, and softly her arm stole
around the girl's waist.

"My daughter, you need not be ashamed of your affection for St. Elmo."

Edna lifted her face from the mantel, and clasping her hands across her
head, exclaimed:

"Do I love him? Oh! none but God can ever know how entirely my heart is
his! I have struggled against his fascination--oh! indeed I have
wrestled and prayed against it! But to-day--I do not deceive myself--I
feel that I love him as I can never love any other human being. You are
his mother, and you will pity me when I tell you that I fall asleep
praying for him--that in my dreams I am with him once more--that the
first thought on waking is still of him. What do you suppose it cost me
to give him up? Oh! is it hard, think you, to live in the same world
and yet never look on his face, never hear his voice? God only knows
how hard! If he were dead, I could bear it better. But, ah! to live
with this great sea of silence between us--a dreary, cold, mocking sea,
crossed by no word, no whisper, filled only with slowly, sadly sailing
ghosts of precious memories! Yes, yes! despite all his
unworthiness--despite the verdict of my judgment, and the upbraiding of
my conscience--I love him! I love him! You can sympathize with me. Do
not reproach me; pity me, oh! pity me in my feebleness!"

She put out her arms like a weary child and dropped her face on Mrs.
Murray's shoulder.

"My child, if you had seen him the night before I left home, you could
not have resisted any longer the promptings of your own heart. He told
me all that had ever passed between you; how he had watched and tempted
you; how devotedly he loved you; how he reverenced your purity of
character; how your influence, your example, had first called him back
to his early faith; and then he covered his face and said, 'Mother!
mother! if God would only give her to me, I could, I would be a better
man!' Edna, I feel as if my son's soul rested in your hands! If you
throw him off utterly, he may grow desperate, and go back to his old
habits of reckless dissipation and blasphemy; and if he should! oh! if
he is lost at last, I will hold you accountable, and charge you before
God with his destruction! Edna, beware! You have a strange power over
him; you can make him almost what you will. If you will not listen to
your own suffering heart, or to his love, hear me! Hear a mother
pleading for her son's eternal safety!"

The haughty woman fell on her knees before the orphan and wept, and
Edna instantly knelt beside her and clung to her.

"I pray for him continually. My latest breath shall be a prayer for his
salvation. His eternal welfare is almost as precious to me as my own;
for if I get to heaven at last, do you suppose I could be happy even
there without him? But, Mrs. Murray, I can not be his wife. If he is
indeed conscientiously striving to atone for his past life, he will be
saved without my influence; and if his remorseful convictions of duty
do not reform him, his affection for me would not accomplish it. Oh! of
all mournful lots in life, I think mine is the saddest! To find it
impossible to tear my heart from a man whom I distrust, whom I can not
honor, whose fascination I dread. I know my duty in this matter--my
conscience leaves me no room to doubt--and from the resolution which I
made in sight of Annie's grave, I must not swerve. I have confessed to
you how completely my love belongs to him, how fruitless are my efforts
to forget him. I have told you what bitter suffering our separation
costs me, that you may know how useless it is for you to urge me. Ah!
if I can withstand the wailing of my own lonely, aching heart, there is
nothing else that can draw me from the path of duty; no, no! not even
your entreaties, dear Mrs. Murray, much as I love and owe you. God, who
alone sees all, will help me to bear my loneliness. He only can comfort
and sustain me; and in His own good time He will save Mr. Murray, and
send peace into his troubled soul. Until then, let us pray patiently."

Flush and tremor had passed away, the features were locked in rigid
whiteness; and the unhappy mother saw that further entreaty would
indeed be fruitless.

She rose and paced the floor for some moments. At last Edna said:

"How long will you remain in New York?"

"Two days. Edna, I came here against my son's advice, in opposition to
his wishes, to intercede in his behalf and to prevail on you to go home
with me. He knew you better it seems than I did; for he predicted the
result, and desired to save me from mortification; but I obstinately
clung to the belief that you cherish some feeling of affectionate
gratitude toward me. You have undeceived me. Mr. Hammond is eagerly
expecting you, and it will be a keen disappointment to the old man if I
return without you. Is it useless to tell you that you ought to go and
see him? You need not hesitate on St. Elmo's account; for unless you
wish to meet him, you will certainly not see him. My son is too proud
to thrust himself into the presence of any one, much less into yours,
Edna Earl."

"I will go with you, Mrs. Murray, and remain at the parsonage--at least
for a few weeks."

"I scarcely think Mr. Hammond will live until spring; and it will make
him very happy to have you in his home."

Mrs. Murray wrapped her shawl around her and put on her gloves.

"I shall be engaged with Estelle while I am here, and shall not call
again; but of course you will come to the hotel to see her, and we will
start homeward day after to-morrow evening."

She turned toward the door, but Edna caught her dress.

"Mrs. Murray, kiss me before you go, and tell me you forgive the sorrow
I am obliged to cause you to-day. My burden is heavy enough without the
weight of your displeasure."

But the proud face did not relax; the mother shook her head, disengaged
her dress, and left the room.

An hour after Felix came in, and approaching the sofa where his
governess rested, said vehemently:

"Is it true, Edna? Are you going South with Mrs. Murray?"

"Yes; I am going to see a dear friend who is probably dying."

"Oh, Edna! what will become of me?"

"I shall be absent only a few weeks--"

"I have a horrible dread that if you go you will never come back! Don't
leave me! Nobody needs you half as much as I do. Edna, you said once
you would never forsake me. Remember your promise!"

"My dear little boy, I am not forsaking you; I shall only be separated
from you for a month or two; and it is my duty to go to my sick friend.
Do not look so wretched! for just so surely as I live, I shall come
back to you."

"You think so now; but your old friends will persuade you to stay, and
you will forget me, and--and--"

He turned around and hid his face on the back of his chair.

It was in vain that she endeavored, by promises and caresses, to
reconcile him to her temporary absence. He would not be comforted; and
his tear-stained, woe-begone, sallow face, as she saw it on the evening
of her departure, pursued her on her journey South.



CHAPTER XXXII.


The mocking-bird sang as of old in the myrtle-boughs that shaded the
study-window, and within the parsonage reigned the peaceful repose
which seemed ever to rest like a benediction upon it. A ray of sunshine
stealing through the myrtle-leaves made golden ripples on the wall; a
bright wood-fire blazed in the wide, deep, old-fashioned chimney; the
white cat slept on the rug, with her pink paws turned toward the
crackling flames; and blue and white hyacinths hung their fragrant
bells over the gilded edge of the vases on the mantelpiece. Huldah sat
on one side of the hearth peeling a red apple; and, snugly wrapped in
his palm-leaf cashmere dressing-gown, Mr. Hammond rested in his
cushioned easy-chair, with his head thrown far back, and his fingers
clasping a large bunch of his favorite violets, His snowy hair drifted
away from a face thin and pale, but serene and happy, and in his bright
blue eyes there was a humorous twinkle, and on his lips a
half-smothered smile, as he listened to the witticisms of his Scotch
countrymen in "Noctes Ambrosianae."

Close to his chair sat Edna, reading aloud from the quaint and
inimitable book he loved so well, and pausing now and then to explain
some word which Huldah did not understand, or to watch for symptoms of
weariness in the countenance of the invalid.

The three faces contrasted vividly in the ruddy glow of the fire. That
of the little girl, round, rosy, red-lipped, dimpled, merry-eyed; the
aged pastor's wrinkled cheeks and furrowed brow and streaming silver
beard; and the carved-ivory features of the governess, borrowing no
color from the soft folds of her rich merino dress. As daylight ebbed,
the ripple danced up to the ceiling and vanished, like the pricked
bubble of a human hope; the mocking-bird hushed his vesper-hymn; and
Edna closed the book and replaced it on the shelf.

Huldah tied on her scarlet-lined hood, kissed her friends good-bye, and
went back to Le Bocage; and the old man and the orphan sat looking at
the grotesque flicker of the flames on the burnished andirons.

"Edna, are you tired, or can you sing some for me?"

"Reading aloud rarely fatigues me. What shall I sing?"

"That solemn, weird thing in the 'Prophet,' which suits your voice so
well."

She sang 'Ah, mon fils!' and then, without waiting for the request
which she knew would follow, gave him some of his favorite Scotch songs.

As the last sweet strains of "Mary of Argyle" echoed through the study,
the pastor shut his eyes, and memory flew back to the early years when
his own wife Mary had sung those words in that room, and his dead
darlings clustered eagerly around the piano to listen to their mother's
music. Five fair-browed, innocent young faces circling about the
idolized wife, and baby Annie nestling in her cradle beside the hearth,
playing with her waxen fingers and crowing softly. Death had stolen his
household jewels; but recollection robbed the grave, and music's magic
touch unsealed "memory's golden urn."

  "Oh! death in life, the days that are no more!"

Edna thought he had fallen asleep, he was so still, his face was so
placid; and she came softly back to her chair and looked at the ruby
temples and towers, the glittering domes and ash-gray ruined arcades
built by the oak coals.

A month had elapsed since her arrival at the parsonage, and during that
short period Mr. Hammond had rallied and recovered his strength so
unexpectedly that hopes were entertained of his entire restoration; and
he spoke confidently of being able to reenter his pulpit on Easter
Sunday.

The society of his favorite pupil seemed to render him completely
happy, and his countenance shone in the blessed light that gladdened
his heart. After a long, dark, stormy day, the sun of his life was
preparing to set in cloudless peace and glory.

Into all of Edna's literary schemes he entered eagerly. She read to him
the MS. of her new book as far as it was written, and was gratified by
his perfect satisfaction with the style, plot, and aim.

Mrs. Murray came every day to the parsonage, but Edna had not visited
Le Bocage; and though Mr. Murray spent two mornings of each week with
Mr. Hammond, he called at stated hours, and she had not yet met him.
Twice she had heard his voice in earnest conversation, and several
times she had seen his tall figure coming up the walk, but of his
features she caught not even a glimpse. St. Elmo's name had never been
mentioned in her presence by either his mother or the pastor, but
Huldah talked ceaselessly of his kindness to her. Knowing the days on
which he came to the parsonage, Edna always absented herself from the
invalid's room until the visit was over.

One afternoon she went to the church to play on the organ; and after an
hour of mournful enjoyment in the gallery so fraught with precious
reminiscences, she left the church and found Tamerlane tied to the iron
gate, but his master was not visible. She knew that he was somewhere in
the building or yard, and denied herself the pleasure of going there a
second time.

Neither glance nor word had been exchanged since they parted at the
railroad station, eighteen months before. She longed to know his
opinion of her book, for many passages had been written with special
reference to his perusal; but she would not ask; and it was a sore
trial to sit in one room, hearing the low, indistinct murmur of his
voice in the next, and yet never to see him.

Few women could have withstood the temptation; but the orphan dreaded
his singular power over her heart, and dared not trust herself in his
presence.

This evening, as she sat with the firelight shining on her face,
thinking of the past, she could not realize that only two years had
elapsed since she came daily to this quiet room to recite her lessons;
for during that time she had suffered so keenly in mind and body that
it seemed as if weary ages had gone over her young head. Involuntarily
she sighed, and passed her hand across her forehead. A low tap at the
door diverted her thoughts, and a servant entered and gave her a
package of letters from New York. Every mail brought one from Felix;
and now opening his first, a tender smile parted her lips as she read
his passionate, importunate appeal for her speedy return, and saw that
the closing lines were blotted with tears. The remaining eight letters
were from persons unknown to her, and contained requests for autographs
and photographs, for short sketches for papers in different sections of
the country, and also various inquiries concerning the time when her
new book would probably be ready for press. All were kind, friendly,
gratifying, and one was eloquent with thanks for the good effect
produced by a magazine article on a dissipated, irreligious husband and
father, who, after its perusal, had resolved to reform, and wished her
to know the beneficial influence which she exerted. At the foot of the
page was a line penned by the rejoicing wife, invoking heaven's
choicest blessings on the author's head.

"Is not the laborer worthy of his hire?" Edna felt that her wages were
munificent indeed; that her coffers were filling, and though the "Thank
God!" was not audible, the great joy in her uplifted eyes attracted the
attention of the pastor, who had been silently watching her, and he
laid his hand on hers.

"What is it, my dear?"

"The reward God has given me!"

She read aloud the contents of the letter, and there was a brief
silence, broken at last by Mr. Hammond.

"Edna, my child, are you really happy?"

"So happy that I believe the wealth of California could not buy this
sheet of paper, which assures me that I have been instrumental in
bringing sunshine to a darkened household; in calling the head of a
family from haunts of vice and midnight orgies back to his wife and
children; back to the shrine of prayer at his own hearthstone! I have
not lived in vain, for through my work a human soul has been brought to
Jesus, and I thank God that I am accounted worthy to labor in my Lord's
vineyard! Oh! I will wear that happy wife's blessing in my inmost
heart, and like those old bells in Cambridgeshire, inscribed, 'Pestem
fungo! Sabbata pango!' it shall ring a silvery chime, exorcising all
gloom, and loneliness, and sorrow."

The old man's eyes filled as he noted the radiance of the woman's
lovely face.

"You have indeed cause for gratitude and great joy, as you realize all
the good you are destined to accomplish, and I know the rapture of
saving souls, for, through God's grace, I believe I have snatched some
from the brink of ruin. But, Edna, can the triumph of your genius, the
applause of the world, the approval of conscience, even the assurance
that you are laboring successfully for the cause of Christ--can all
these things satisfy your womanly heart--your loving, tender heart? My
child, there is a dreary look sometimes in your eyes, that reveals
loneliness, almost weariness of life. I have studied your countenance
closely when it was in repose; I read it I think without errors; and as
often as I hear your writings praised, I recall those lines, written by
one of the noblest of your own sex:

          'To have our books
   Appraised by love, associated with love,
   While we sit loveless! is it hard, you think?
   At least, 'tis mournful.'

Edna, are you perfectly contented with your lot?"

A shadow drifted slowly over the marble face, and though it settled on
no feature, the whole countenance was changed.

"I can not say that I am perfectly content, and yet I would not
exchange places with any woman I know."

"Do you never regret a step which you took one evening, yonder in my
church?"

"No, sir, I do not regret it. I often thank God that I was able to obey
my conscience and take that step."

"Suppose that in struggling up the steep path of duty one soul needs
the encouragement, the cheering companionship which only one other
human being can give? Will the latter be guiltless if the aid is
obstinately withheld?"

"Suppose the latter feels that in joining hands both would stumble?"

"You would not, oh, Edna! you would lift each other to noble heights!
Each life would be perfect, complete. My child, will you let me tell
you some things that ought to--"

She threw up her hand, with that old, childish gesture which he
remembered so well, and shook her head.

"No, sir; no, sir! Please tell me nothing that will rouse a sorrow I am
striving to drug. Spare me, for as St. Chrysostom once said of Olympias
the deaconess, I 'live in perpetual fellowship with pain.'"

"My dear little Edna, as I look at you and think of your future, I am
troubled about you. I wish I could confidently say to you, what that
same St. Chrysostom wrote to Pentadia: 'For I know your great and lofty
soul, which can sail as with a fair wind through many tempests, AND IN
THE MIDST OF THE WAVES ENJOY A WHITE CALM.'"

She turned and took the minister's hand in hers, while an indescribable
peace settled on her countenance, and stilled the trembling of her low,
sweet voice:

"Across the gray stormy billows of life, that 'white calm' of eternity
is rimming the water-line, coming to meet me. Already the black
pilot-boat heaves in sight; I hear the signal, and Death will soon take
the helm and steer my little bark safely into the shining rest, into
God's 'white calm.'"

She went to the piano and sang, as a solo, "Night's Shade no Longer,"
from Moses in Egypt.

While the pastor listened, he murmured to himself:

  "Sublime is the faith of a lonely soul,
    In pain and trouble cherished;
   Sublime is the spirit of hope that lives
    When earthly hope has perished."

She turned over the sheets of music, hunting for a German hymn of which
Mr. Hammond was very fond, but he called her back to the fireplace.

"My dear, do you recollect that beautiful passage in Faber's 'Sights
and Thoughts in Foreign Churches'? 'There is seldom a line of glory
written upon the earth's face but a line of suffering runs parallel
with it; and they that read the lustrous syllables of the one, and
stoop not to decipher the spotted and worn inscription of the other,
get the least half of the lesson earth has to give.'"

"No, sir; I never read the book. Something in that passage brings to my
mind those words of Martin Luther's, which explain so many of the
'spotted inscriptions' of this earth: 'Our Lord God doth like a
printer, who setteth the letters backward. We see and feel well His
setting, but we shall read the print yonder, in the life to come!' Mr.
Hammond, it is said that, in the Alexandrian MS, in the British Museum,
there is a word which has been subjected to microscopic examination, to
determine whether it is oe, who, or thC--which is the abbreviation of
theoz, God Sometimes I think that so ought we to turn the lens of faith
on many dim, perplexing inscriptions traced in human history, and
perhaps we might oftener find God."

"Yes, I have frequently thought that the MS of every human life was
like a Peruvian Quippo, a mass of many colored cords or threads, tied
and knotted by unseen, and, possibly, angel hands. Here, my dear, put
these violets in water, they are withering. By the way, Edna, I am glad
to find that in your writings you attach so much importance to the
ministry of flowers, and that you call the attention of your readers to
the beautiful arguments which they furnish in favor of the Christian
philosophy of a divine design in nature. Truly,

  'Your voiceless lips, O flowers' are living preachers,
    Each cup a pulpit, and each leaf a book,
   Supplying to my fancy numerous teachers
    From lowliest nook'"

At this moment the door-bell rang, and soon after the servant brought
in a telegraphic dispatch, addressed to Mr. Hammond.

It was from Gordon Leigh, announcing his arrival in New York, and
stating that he and Gertrude would reach the parsonage some time during
the ensuing week.

Edna went into the kitchen to superintend the preparation of the
minister's supper; and when she returned and placed the waiter on the
table near his chair, she told him that she must go back to New York
immediately after the arrival of Gordon and Gertrude, as her services
would no longer be required at the parsonage and her pupils needed her.

Two days passed without any further allusion to a subject which was
evidently uppermost in Mr. Hammond's mind.

On the morning of the third, Mrs. Murray said, as she rose to conclude
her visit, "You are so much better, sir, that I must claim Edna for a
day at least. She has not yet been to Le Bocage; and as she goes away
so soon, I want to take her home with me this morning. Clara Inge
promised me that she would stay with you until evening. Edna, get your
bonnet. I shall be entirely alone to-day, for St. Elmo has carried
Huldah to the plantation, and they will not get home until late. So, my
dear, we shall have the house all to ourselves."

The orphan could not deny herself the happiness offered she knew that
she ought not to go, but for once her strength failed her, she yielded
to the temptation.

During the drive Mrs. Murray talked cheerfully of various things, and
for the first time laid aside entirely the haughty constraint which had
distinguished her manner since they travelled south from New York.

They entered the avenue, and Edna gave herself up to the rushing
recollections which were so mournfully sweet. As they went into the
house, and the servants hurried forward to welcome her, she could not
repress her tears. She felt that this was her home, her heart's home;
and as numerous familiar objects met her eyes, Mrs. Murray saw that she
was almost overpowered by her emotions.

"I wonder if there is any other place on earth half so beautiful!"
murmured the governess several hours later, as they sat looking out
over the lawn, where the deer and sheep were browsing.

"Certainly not to our partial eyes. And yet without you, my child, it
does not seem like home. It is the only home where you will ever be
happy."

"Yes, I know it; but it cannot be mine. Mrs. Murray, I want to see my
own little room."

"Certainly; you know the way. I will join you there presently. Nobody
has occupied it since you left, for I feel toward your room as I once
felt toward the empty cradle of my dead child."

Edna went up-stairs alone and closed the door of the apartment she had
so long called hers, and looked with childish pleasure and affection at
the rosewood furniture.

Turning to the desk where she had written much that the world now
praised and loved, she saw a vase containing a superb bouquet, with a
card attached by a strip of ribbon. The hothouse flowers were arranged
with exquisite taste, and the orphan's cheeks glowed suddenly as she
recognized Mr. Murray's handwriting on the card: "For Edna Earl." When
she took up the bouquet a small envelope similarly addressed, dropped
out.

For some minutes she stood irresolute, fearing to trust herself with
the contents; then she drew a chair to the desk, sat down, and broke
the seal:

"My DARLING: Will you not permit me to see you before you leave the
parsonage? Knowing the peculiar circumstances that brought you back, I
cannot take advantage of them and thrust myself into your presence
without your consent. I have left home to-day, because I felt assured
that, much as you might desire to see 'Le Bocage,' you would never come
here while there was a possibility of meeting me. You, who know
something of my wayward, sinful, impatient temper, can perhaps imagine
what I suffer, when I am told that your health is wretched, that you
are in the next room, and yet, that I must not, shall not see you--my
own Edna! Do you wonder that I almost grow desperate at the thought
that only a wall--a door--separates me from you, whom I love better
than my life? Oh, my darling! Allow me one more interview! Do not make
my punishment heavier than I can bear. It is hard--it is bitter enough
to know that you can not, or will not trust me; at least let me see
your dear face again. Grant me one hour--it may be the last we shall
ever spend together in this world. "Your own, ST. ELMO."

"Ah, my God! pity me! Why--oh! why is it that I am tantalized with
glimpses of a great joy never to be mine in this life! Why, in
struggling to do my duty, am I brought continually to the very gate of
the only Eden I am ever to find in this world, and yet can never
surprise the watching Angel of Wrath, and have to stand shivering
outside, and see my Eden only by the flashing of the sword that bars my
entrance?"

Looking at the handwriting so different from any other which she had
ever examined, her thoughts were irresistibly carried back to that
morning when, at the shop, she saw this handwriting for the first time
on the blank leaf of the Dante; and she recalled the shuddering
aversion with which her grandfather had glanced at it, and advised her
to commit it to the flames of the forge.

How many such notes as this had been penned to Annie and Gertrude, and
to that wretched woman shut up in an Italian convent, and to others of
whose names she was ignorant?

Mrs. Murray opened the door, looked in, and said:

"Come, I want to show you something really beautiful."

Edna put the note in her pocket, took the bouquet, and followed her
friend down-stairs, through the rotunda, to the door of Mr. Murray's
sitting-room.

"My son locked this door and carried the key with him; but after some
search, I have found another that will open it. Come in, Edna. Now look
at that large painting hanging over the sarcophagus. It is a copy of
Titian's 'Christ Crowned with Thorns,' the original of which is in a
Milan church, I believe. While St. Elmo was last abroad, he was in
Genoa one afternoon when a boat was capsized. Being a fine swimmer, he
sprang into the water where several persons were struggling, and saved
the lives of two little children of an English gentleman, who had his
hands quite full in rescuing his wife. Two of the party were drowned,
but the father was so grateful to my son that he has written him
several letters, and last year he sent him this picture, which, though
of course much smaller than the original, is considered a very fine
copy. I begged to have it hung in the parlor, but fearing, I suppose,
that its history might possibly be discovered (you know how he despises
anything like a parade of good deeds), St. Elmo insisted on bringing it
here to this Egyptian Museum, where, unfortunately, people can not see
it."

For some time they stood admiring it, and then Edna's eyes wandered
away to the Taj Mahal, to the cabinets and book-cases. Her lip began to
quiver as every article of furniture babbled of the By-Gone--of the
happy evenings spent here--of that hour when the idea of authorship
first seized her mind and determined her future.

Mrs. Murray walked up to the arch, over which the curtains fell
touching the floor, and laying her hand on the folds of silk, said
hesitatingly:

"I am going to show you something that my son would not easily forgive
me for betraying; for it is a secret he guards most jealously--"

"No, I would rather not see it. I wish to learn nothing which Mr.
Murray is not willing that I should know."

"You will scarcely betray me to my son when you see what it is; and
beside, I am determined you shall have no room to doubt the truth of
some things he has told you. There is no reason why you should not look
at it. Do you recognize that face yonder, over the mantelpiece?"

She held the curtains back, and despite her reluctance to glancing into
the inner room, Edna raised her eyes timidly, and saw, in a
richly-carved oval frame, hanging on the opposite wall, a life-size
portrait of herself.

"We learned from the newspapers that some fine photographs had been
taken in New York, and I sent on and bought two. St. Elmo took one of
them to an artist in Charleston, and superintended the painting of that
portrait. When he returned, just before I went North, he brought the
picture with him, and with his own hands hung it yonder. I have noticed
that since that day he always keeps the curtains down over the arch,
and never leaves the house without locking his rooms."

Edna had dropped her crimsoned face in her hands, but Mrs. Murray
raised it forcibly and kissed her.

"I want you to know how well he loves you--how necessary you are to his
happiness. Now I must leave you, for I see Mrs. Montgomery's carriage
at the door. You have a note to answer; there are writing materials on
the table yonder."

She went out, closing the door softly, and Edna was alone with
surroundings that pleaded piteously for the absent master. Oxalis and
heliotrope peeped at her over the top of the lotos vases; one of a pair
of gauntlets had fallen on the carpet near the cameo cabinet; two or
three newspapers and a meerschaum lay upon a chair; several theological
works were scattered on the sofa, and the air was heavy with lingering
cigar-smoke.

Just in front of the Taj Mahal was a handsome copy of Edna's novel, and
a beautiful morocco-bound volume containing a collection of all her
magazine sketches.

She sat down in the crimson-cushioned armchair that was drawn close to
the circular table, where pen and paper told that the owner had
recently been writing, and near the ink-stand was a handkerchief with
German initials, S. E. M.

Upon a mass of loose papers stood a quaint bronze paper-weight,
representing Cartaphilds, the Wandering Jew; and on the base was
inscribed Mr. Murray's favorite Arabian maxim: "Ed dunya djifetun ve
talibeha kilabi": "THE WORLD IS AN ABOMINATION, AND THOSE WHO TOIL
ABOUT IT ARE DOGS."

There, too, was her own little Bible; and as she took it up it opened
at the fourteenth chapter of St. John, where she found, as a book-mark,
the photograph of herself from which the portrait had been painted. An
unwithered geranium sprig lying among the leaves whispered that the
pages had been read that morning.

Out on the lawn birds swung in the elm-twigs, singing cheerily, lambs
bleated and ran races, and the little silver bell on Huldah's pet fawn,
"Edna," tinkled ceaselessly.

"Help me, O my God! in this the last hour of my trial."

The prayer went up meaningly, and Edna took a pen and turned to write.
Her arm struck a portfolio lying on the edge of the table, and in
falling loose sheets of paper fluttered out on the carpet. One caught
her eye; she picked it up and found a sketch of the ivied ruins of
Phyle. Underneath the drawing, and dated fifteen years before, were
traced, in St. Elmo's writing, those lines which Henry Soame is said to
have penned on the blank leaf of a copy of the "Pleasures of Memory":

  "Memory makes her influence known
   By sighs, and tears, and grief alone.
   I greet her as the fiend, to whom belong
   The vulture's ravening beak, the raven's funereal song!
   She tells of time misspent, of comfort lost,
   Of fair occasions gone forever by;
   Of hopes too fondly nursed, too rudely crossed,
   Of many a cause to wish, yet fear to die;
   For what, except the instinctive fear
   Lest she survive, detains me here,
   When all the 'Life of Life' is fled?"

The lonely woman looked upward, appealingly, and there upon the wall
she met--not as formerly, the gleaming, augurous, inexorable eyes of
the Cimbrian Prophetess--but the pitying God's gaze of Titian's Jesus.

When Mrs. Murray returned to the room, Edna sat as still as one of the
mummies in the sarcophagus, with her head thrown back, and the long,
black eyelashes sweeping her colorless cheeks.

One hand was pressed over her heart, the other held a note directed to
St. Elmo Murray; and the cold, fixed features were so like those of an
Angel of Death sometimes sculptured on cenotaphs, that Mrs. Murray
uttered a cry of alarm.

As she bent over her, Edna opened her arms and said in a feeble, spent
tone:

"Take me back to the parsonage. I ought not to have come here; I might
have known I was not strong enough."

"You have had one of those attacks. Why did you not call me? I will
bring you some wine."

"No; only let me go away as soon as possible. Oh! I am ashamed of my
weakness."

She rose, and her pale lips writhed as her sad eyes wandered in a
farewell glance around the room.

She put the unsealed note in Mrs. Murray's hand, and turned toward the
door.

"Edna! My daughter! you have not refused St. Elmo's request?"

"My mother! Pity me! I could not grant it."



CHAPTER XXXIII.


"They have come. I hear Gertrude's birdish voice."

The words had scarcely passed Mr. Hammond's lips ere his niece bounded
into the room, followed by her husband.

Edna was sitting on the chintz-covered lounge, mending a basketful of
the old man's clothes that needed numerous stitches and buttons, and,
throwing aside her sewing materials, she rose to meet the travellers.

At sight of her Gordon Leigh stopped suddenly and his face grew
instantly as bloodless as her own.

"Edna! Oh! how changed! What a wreck!"

He grasped her outstretched hand, folded it in his, which trembled
violently, and a look of anguish mastered his features, as his eyes
searched her calm countenance.

"I did not think it would come so soon. Passing away in the early
morning of your life! Oh, my pure, broken lily!"

He did not seem to heed his wife's presence, until she threw her arms
around Edna, exclaiming:

"Get away, Gordon! I want her all to myself. Why, you pale darling!
What a starved ghost you are! Not half as substantial as my shadow, is
she, Gordon? Oh, Edna! how I have longed to see you, to tell you how I
enjoyed your dear, delightful, grand, noble book! To tell you what a
great woman I think you are; and how proud of you I am. A gentleman who
came over in the steamer with us, asked me how much you paid me per
annum to puff you. He was a miserable old cynic of a bachelor,
ridiculed all women unmercifully, and at last I told him I would bet
both my ears that the reason he was so bearish and hateful, was because
some pretty girl had flirted with him outrageously. He turned up his
ugly nose especially at 'blue stockings'; said all literary women were
'hopeless pedants and slatterns,' and quoted that abominable Horace
Walpole's account of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's 'dirt and vivacity.' I
really thought Gordon would throw him overboard. I wonder what he would
say if he could see you darning Uncle Allan's socks. Oh, Edna, dearie!
I am sorry to find you looking so pale."

All this was uttered interjectionally between vigorous hugs and warm,
tender kisses, and as Gertrude threw her bonnet and wrappings on the
lounge, she continued:

"I wished for you just exactly ten thousand times while I was abroad,
there were so many things that you could have described so beautifully.
Gordon, don't Edna's eyes remind you very much of that divine picture
of the Madonna at Dresden?"

She looked round for an answer, but her husband had left the room, and,
recollecting a parcel that had been stowed away in the pocket of the
carriage, she ran out to get it.

Presently she reappeared at the door, with a goblet in her hand.

"Uncle Allan, who carries the keys now?"

"Edna. What will you have, my dear?"

"I want some brandy. Gordon looks very pale, and complains of not
feeling well, so I intend to make him a mint-julep. Ah, Edna! These
husbands are such troublesome creatures."

She left the room jingling the bunch of keys, and a few moments after
they heard her humming an air from "Rigoletto," as she bent over the
mint-bed, under the study window.

Mr. Hammond, who had observed all that passed, and saw the earnest
distress clouding the orphan's brow, said gravely:

"She has not changed an iota; she never will be anything more than a
beautiful, merry child, and is a mere pretty pet, not a companion in
the true sense of the word. She is not quick-witted, or she would
discern a melancholy truth that might overshadow all her life. Unless
Gordon learns more self-control, he will ere long betray himself. I
expostulated with him before his marriage, but for once he threw my
warning to the winds. I am an old man, and have seen many phases of
human nature, and watched the development of many characters; and I
have found that these pique marriages are always mournful--always
disastrous. In such instances I would with more pleasure officiate at
the grave than at the altar. Once Estelle and Agnes persuaded me that
St. Elmo was about to wreck himself on this rock of ruin, and even his
mother's manner led me to believe that he would marry his cousin; but,
thank God! he was wiser than I feared."

"Mr. Hammond, are you sure that Gertrude loves Mr. Leigh?"

"Oh! yes, my dear! Of that fact there can be no doubt. Why do you
question it?"

"She told me once that Mr. Murray had won her heart."

It was the first time Edna had mentioned his name since her return, and
it brought a faint flush to her cheeks.

"That was a childish whim which she has utterly forgotten. A woman of
her temperament never remains attached to a man from whom she is long
separated. I do not suppose that she remembered St. Elmo a month after
she ceased to meet him. I feel assured that she loves Gordon as well as
she can love any one. She is a remarkably sweet-tempered, unselfish,
gladsome woman, but is not capable of very deep, lasting feeling."

"I will go away at once. This is Saturday, and I will start to New York
early Monday morning. Mr. Leigh is weaker than I ever imagined he could
be."

The outline of her mouth hardened, and into her eyes crept an
expression of scorn, that very rarely found a harbor there.

"Yes, my dear; although it grieves me to part with you, I know it is
best that you should not be here, at least for the present. Agnes is
visiting friends at the North and when she returns, Gordon and Gertrude
will remove to their new house. Then, Edna, if I feel that I need you,
if I write for you, will you not come back to me? Dear child, I want
your face to be the last I look upon in this world."

She drew the pastor's shrunken hand to her lips, and shook her head.

"Do not ask me to do that which my strength will not permit. There are
many reasons why I ought not to come here again; and, moreover, my work
calls me hence, to a distant field. My physical strength seems to be
ebbing fast, and my vines are not all purple with mellow fruit. Some
clusters, thank God! are fragrant, ripe, and ready for the wine-press,
when the Angel of the Vintage comes to gather them in; but my work is
only half done. Not until my fingers clasp white flowers under a pall,
shall it be said of me, 'Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little
folding of the hands to sleep.' In coelo quies! The German idea of
death is to me peculiarly comforting and touching, 'Heimgang'--GOING
HOME. Ah, sir! humanity ought to be homesick; and in thinking of that
mansion beyond the star-paved pathway of the sky, whither Jesus has
gone to prepare our places, we children of earth should, like the
Swiss, never lose our home-sickness. Our bodies are of the dust--dusty,
and bend dustward; but our souls floated down from the sardonyx walls
of the Everlasting City, and brought with them a yearning maladie du
pays, which should help them to struggle back. Sometimes I am tempted
to believe that the joys of this world are the true lotos, devouring
which, mankind glory in exile, and forget the Heimgang. Oh! indeed,
'here we have no continuing city, but seek one to come.' Heimgang!
Thank God! going home for ever!"

The splendor of the large eyes seemed almost unearthly as she looked
out over the fields, where in summers past the shout of the merry
reapers rose like the songs of Greek harvesters to Demeter! Nay, nay,
as a hymn of gratitude and praise to Him who "feedeth the fowls of the
air," and maketh the universe a vast Sarepta, in which the cruse never
faileth the prophets of God. Edna sat silent for some time, with her
slender hands folded on her lap, and the pastor heard her softly
repeating, as if to her own soul, those lines on "Life":

  "A cry between the silences,
   A shadow-birth of clouds at strife
   With sunshine on the hills of life;
   Between the cradle and the shroud,
   A meteor's flight from cloud to cloud!"

Several hours later, when Mr. Leigh returned to the study, he found
Edna singing some of the minister's favorite Scotch ballads; while
Gertrude rested on the lounge, half propped on her elbow, and leaning
forward to dangle the cord and tassel of her robe de chambre within
reach of an energetic little blue-eyed kitten, which, with its paws in
the air, rolled on the carpet, catching at the silken toy. The
governess left the piano, and resumed her mending of the contents of
the clothes-basket.

In answer to some inquiries of Mr. Hammond, Mr. Leigh gave a brief
account of his travels in Southern Europe; but his manner was
constrained, his thoughts evidently preoccupied. Once his eyes wandered
to the round, rosy, dimpling face of his beautiful child-wife, and he
frowned, bit his lip, and sighed; while his gaze, earnest and
mournfully anxious, returned and dwelt upon the weary but serene
countenance of the orphan.

In the conversation, which had turned accidentally upon philology and
the MSS. of the Vatican, Gertrude took no part; now and then glancing
up at the speakers, she continued her romp with the kitten. At length,
tired of her frolicsome pet, she rose with a half-suppressed yawn, and
sauntered up to her husband's chair. Softly and lovingly her pretty
little pink palms were passed over her husband's darkened brow, and her
fingers drew his hair now on one side, now on the other, while she
peeped over his shoulder to watch the effect of the arrangement.

The caresses were inopportune, her touch annoyed him. He shook it off,
and, stretching out his arm, put her gently but firmly away, saying,
coldly:

"There is a chair, Gertrude."

Edna's eyes looked steadily into his, with an expression of grave,
sorrowful reproof--of expostulation; and the flush deepened on his face
as his eyes fell before her rebuking gaze.

Perhaps the young wife had become accustomed to such rebuffs; at all
events she evinced neither mortification nor surprise, but twirled her
silk tassel vigorously around her finger, and exclaimed:

"Oh, Gordon! have you not forgotten to give Edna that letter, written
by the gentleman we met at Palermo? Edna, he paid your book some
splendid compliments. I fairly clapped my hands at his praises--didn't
I, Gordon?"

Mr. Leigh drew a letter from the inside pocket of his coat, and, as he
gave it to the orphan, said with a touch of bitterness in his tone:

"Pardon my negligence; probably you will find little news in it, as he
is one of your old victims, and you can guess its contents."

The letter was from Sir Roger; and while he expressed great grief at
hearing, through Mr. Manning's notes, that her health was seriously
impaired, he renewed the offer of his hand, and asked permission to
come and plead his suit in person.

As Edna hurriedly glanced over the pages, and put them in her pocket,
Gertrude said gayly, "Shame on you, Gordon! Do you mean to say, or,
rather to insinuate, that all who read Edna's book are victimized?"

He looked at her from under thickening eyebrows, and replied with
undisguised impatience:

"No; your common sense ought to teach you that such was not my meaning
or intention. Edna places no such interpretation on my words."

"Common sense! Oh, Gordon, dearie! how unreasonable you are! Why, you
have told me a thousand times that I had not a particle of common
sense, except on the subject of juleps; and how, then, in the name of
wonder, can you expect me to show any? I never pretended to be a great
shining genius like Edna, whose writings all the world is talking
about. I only want to be wise enough to understand you, dearie, and
make you happy. Gordon, don't you feel any better? What makes your face
so red?"

She went back to his chair, and leaned her lovely head close to his,
while an anxious expression filled her large blue eyes.

Gordon Leigh realized that his marriage was a terrible mistake, which
only death could rectify; but even in his wretchedness he was just,
blaming only himself--exonerating his wife. Had he not wooed the love
of which, already, he was weary? Having deceived her at the altar, was
there justification for his dropping the mask at the hearthstone? Nay,
the skeleton must be no rattling of skull and crossbones to freeze the
blood in the sweet laughing face of the trusting bird.

Now her clinging tenderness, her affectionate humility, upbraided him
as no harsh words could possibly have done. With a smothered sigh he
passed his arm around her, and drew her closer to his side.

"At least my little wife is wise enough to teach her husband to be
ashamed of his petulance."

"And quite wise enough, dear Gertrude, to make him very proud and
happy; for you ought to be able to say with the sweetest singer in all
merry England:

  'But I look up and he looks down,
    And thus our married eyes can meet;
   Unclouded his, and clear of frown,
    And gravely sweet.'"

As Edna glanced at the young wife and uttered these words, a mist
gathered in her own eyes, and collecting her sewing utensils she went
to her room to pack her trunk.

During her stay at the parsonage she had not attended service in the
church, because Mr. Hammond was lonely, and her Sabbaths were spent in
reading to him. But her old associates in the choir insisted that,
before she returned to New York, she should sing with them once more.

Thus far she had declined all invitations; but on the morning of the
last day of her visit, the organist called to say that a distinguished
divine, from a distant State, would fill Mr. Hammond's pulpit; and as
the best and leading soprano in the choir was disabled by severe cold,
and could not be present, he begged that Edna would take her place, and
sing a certain solo in the music which he had selected for an opening
piece. Mr. Hammond, who was pardonably proud of his choir, was anxious
that the stranger should be greeted and inspired by fine music, and
urged Edna's compliance with the request.

Reluctantly she consented, and for the first time Duty and Love seemed
to signal a truce, to shake hands over the preliminaries of a treaty
for peace.

As she passed through the churchyard and walked up the steps, where a
group of Sabbath-school children sat talking, her eyes involuntarily
sought the dull brown spot on the marble.

Over it little Herbert Inge had spread his white handkerchief, and
piled thereon his Testament and catechism, laying on the last one of
those gilt-bordered and handsome pictorial cards, containing a verse
from the Scriptures, which are frequently distributed by Sabbath-school
teachers.

Edna stooped and looked at the picture covering the blood-stain. It
represented our Saviour on the Mount, delivering the sermon, and in
golden letters were printed his words:

"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye
shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to
you again."

The eyes of the Divine Preacher seemed to look into hers, and the
outstretched hand to point directly at her.

She trembled, and hastily kissing the sweet red lips which little
Herbert held up to her, she went in, and up to the gallery.

The congregation assembled slowly, and as almost all the faces were
familiar to Edna, each arrival revived something of the past. Here the
flashing silk flounces of a young belle brushed the straight black
folds of widow's weeds; on the back of one seat was stretched the rough
brown hand of a poor laboring man; on the next lay the dainty fingers
of a matron of wealth and fashion, who had entirely forgotten to draw a
glove over her sparkling diamonds.

In all the splendor of velvet, feathers, and sea-green moire, Mrs.
Montgomery sailed proudly into her pew, convoying her daughter Maud,
who was smiling and whispering to her escort; and just behind them came
a plainly-clad but happy young mechanic, a carpenter, clasping to his
warm, honest heart the arm of his sweet-faced, gentle wife, and holding
the hand of his rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed, three-year old boy, who
toddled along, staring at the brilliant pictures on the windows.

When Mr. Leigh and Gertrude entered there was a general stir, a lifting
of heads and twisting of necks, in order to ascertain what new styles
of bonnet, lace, and mantle prevailed in Paris.

A moment after Mrs. Murray walked slowly down the aisle, and Edna's
heart seemed to stand still as she saw Mr. Murray's powerful form. He
stepped forward, and while he opened the door of the pew, and waited
for his mother to seat herself, his face was visible; then he sat down,
closing the door.

The minister entered, and, as he ascended the pulpit, the organ began
to breathe its solemn welcome. When the choir rose and commenced their
chorus, Edna stood silent, with her book in her hand, and her eyes
fixed on the Murrays' pew.

The strains of triumph ceased, the organ only sobbed its sympathy to
the thorn-crowned Christ, struggling along the Via Dolorosa, and the
orphan's quivering lips parted, and she sang her solo.

As her magnificent voice rose and rolled to the arched roof, people
forgot propriety, and turned to look at the singer. She saw Mrs. Murray
start and glance eagerly up at her, and for an instant the grand, pure
voice faltered slightly, as Edna noticed that the mother whispered
something to the son. But he did not turn his proud head, he only
leaned his elbow on the side of the pew next to the aisle, and rested
his temple on his hand.

When the preliminary services ended, and the minister stood up in the
shining pulpit and commenced his discourse, Edna felt that St. Elmo had
at last enlisted angels in his behalf; for the text was contained in
the warning, whose gilded letters hid the blood-spot, "Judge not, that
ye be not judged."

As far as two among his auditory were concerned, the preacher might as
well have addressed his sermon to the mossy slabs, visible through the
windows. Both listened to the text, and neither heard any more. Edna
sat looking down at Mr. Murray's massive, finely-poised head, and she
could see the profile contour of features, regular and dark, as if
carved and bronzed.

During the next half-hour her vivid imagination sketched and painted a
vision of enchantment--of what might have been, if that motionless man
below, there in the crimson-cushioned pew, had only kept his soul from
grievous sins. A vision of a happy, proud, young wife reigning at Le
Bocage, shedding the warm, rosy light of her love over the lonely life
of its master; adding to his strong, clear intellect and ripe
experience, the silver flame of her genius; borrowing from him broader
and more profound views of her race, on which to base her ideal
aesthetic structures; softening, refining his nature, strengthening her
own; helping him to help humanity; loving all good, being good, doing
good; serving and worshipping God together; walking hand and hand with
her husband through earth's wide valley of Baca, with peaceful faces
full of faith, looking heavenward.

  "God pity them both! and pity us all,
   Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.
   For of all sad words of tongue or pen
   The saddest are these, 'It might have been!'"

At last, with a faint moan, which reached no ear but that of Him who
never slumbers, Edna withdrew her eyes from the spot where Mr. Murray
sat, and raised them toward the pale Christ, whose wan lips seemed to
murmur:

"Be of good cheer! He that overcometh shall inherit all things. What I
do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter."

The minister, standing beneath the picture of the Master whom he
served, closed the Bible and ended his discourse by hurling his text as
a thunderbolt at those whose upturned faces watched him:

"Finally, brethren, remember under all circumstances the awful
admonition of Jesus, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged!'"

The organ peals and the doxology were concluded; the benediction fell
like God's dew, alike on sinner and on saint, and amid the solemn
moaning of the gilded pipes, the congregation turned to quit the church.

With both hands pressed over her heart, Edna leaned heavily against the
railing.

"To-morrow I go away for ever. I shall never see his face again in this
world. Oh! I want to look at it once more."

As he stepped into the aisle, Mr. Murray threw his head back slightly,
and his eyes swept up to the gallery and met hers. It was a long,
eager, heart-searching gaze. She saw a countenance more fascinating
than of old; for the sardonic glare had gone, the bitterness, "the
dare-man, dare-brute, dare-devil" expression had given place to a stern
mournfulness, and the softening shadow of deep contrition and manly
sorrow hovered over features where scoffing cynicism had so long
scowled.

The magnetism of St. Elmo's eyes was never more marvellous than when
they rested on the beautiful white face of the woman he loved so well,
whose calm, holy eyes shone like those of an angel, as they looked
sadly down at his. In the mystic violet light with which the rich
stained glass flooded the church, that pallid, suffering face, sublime
in its meekness and resignation, hung above him like one of Perugino's
saints over kneeling mediaeval worshippers. As the moving congregation
bore him nearer to the door, she leaned farther over the mahogany
balustrade, and a snowy crocus which she wore at her throat, snapped
its brittle stem and floated down till it touched his shoulder. He laid
one hand over it, holding it there, and while a prayer burned in his
splendid eyes, hers smiled a melancholy farewell. The crowd swept the
tall form forward, under the arches, beyond the fluted columns of the
gallery, and the long gaze ended.

  "Ah! well for us all some sweet hope lies
   Deeply buried from human eyes;
   And in the hereafter, angels may
   Roll the stone from its grave away."



CHAPTER XXXIV.


"I am truly thankful that you have returned! I am quite worn out trying
to humor Felix's whims, and take your place. He has actually lost ten
pounds; and if you had staid away a month longer I think it would have
finished my poor boy, who has set you up as an idol in his heart. He
almost had a spasm last week, when his father told him he had better
reconcile himself to your absence, as he believed that you would never
come back to the drudgery of the schoolroom. I am very anxious about
him; his health is more feeble than it has been since he was five years
old. My dear, you have no idea how you have been missed! Your admirers
call by scores to ascertain when you may be expected home; and I do not
exaggerate in the least when I say that there is a champagne basketful
of periodicals and letters upstairs, that have arrived recently. You
will find them piled on the table and desk in your room."

"Where are the children?" asked Edna, glancing around the sitting-room
into which Mrs. Andrews had drawn her.

"Hattie is spending the day with Lila Manning, who is just recovering
from a severe attack of scarlet fever, and Felix is in the library
trying to sleep. He has one of his nervous headaches to-day. Poor
fellow! he tries so hard to overcome his irritable temper and to grow
patient, that I am growing fonder of him every day. How travel-spent
and ghastly you are! Sit down, and I will order some refreshments. Take
this wine, my dear, and presently you shall have a cup of chocolate."

"Thank you, not any wine. I only want to see Felix."

She went to the library, cautiously opened the door, and crept softly
across the floor to the end of the sofa.

The boy lay looking through the window, and up beyond the walls and
chimneys, at the sapphire pavement, where rolled the sun. Casual
observers thought the cripple's face ugly and disagreeable; but the
tender, loving smile that lighted the countenance of the governess as
she leaned forward, told that some charm lingered in the sharpened
features overcast with sickly sallowness. In his large, deep-set eyes,
over which the heavy brows arched like a roof, she saw now a strange
expression that frightened her. Was it the awful shadow of the Three
Singing Spinners, whom Catullus painted at the wedding of Peleus? As
the child looked into the blue sky, did he catch a glimpse of their
trailing white robes, purple-edged--of their floating rose-colored
veils? Above all, did he hear the unearthly chorus which they chanted
as they spun?

"Currite ducentes, subteinina currite fusi!"

The governess was seized by a vague apprehension as she watched her
pupil, and bending down, she said, fondly:

"Felix, my darling, I have come back! Never again while I live will I
leave you."

The almost bewildering joy that flashed into his countenance mutely but
eloquently welcomed her, as kneeling beside the sofa she wound her arms
around him, and drew his head to her shoulder.

"Edna, is Mr. Hammond dead?"

"No, he is almost well again, and needs me no more."

"I need you more than anybody else ever did. Oh, Edna! I thought
sometimes you would stay at the South that you love so well, and I
should see you no more; and then all the light seemed to die out of the
world, and the flowers were not sweet, and the stars were not bright,
and oh! I was glad I had not long to live."

"Hush! you must not talk so. How do you know that you may not live as
long as Ahasuerus, the 'Everlasting Jew'? My dear little boy, in all
this wide earth, you are the only one whom I have to love and cling to,
and we will be happy together. Darling, your head aches to-day?"

She pressed her lips twice to his hot forehead.

"Yes; but the heartache was much the hardest to bear until you came.
Mamma has been very good and kind, and staid at home and read to me;
but I wanted you, Edna. I do not believe I have been wicked since you
left; for I prayed all the while that God would bring you back to me. I
have tried hard to be patient."

With her cheek nestled against his, Edna told him many things that had
occurred during their separation, and noticed that his eyes brightened
suddenly and strangely.

"Edna, I have a secret to tell you; something that even mamma is not to
know just now. You must not laugh at me. While you were gone I wrote a
little MS., and it is dedicated to you! and some day I hope it will be
printed. Are you glad, Edna? My beautiful, pale Edna!"

"Felix, I am very glad you love me sufficiently to dedicate your little
MS. to me; but, my dear boy, I must see it before I can say I am glad
you wrote it."

"If you had been here, it would not have been written, because then I
should merely have talked out all the ideas to you; but you were far
away, and so I talked to my paper. After all, it was only a dream. One
night I was feverish, and mamma read aloud those passages that you
marked in that great book, Maury's Physical Geography of the Sea, that
you admire and quote so often; and of which I remember you said once,
in talking to Mr. Manning, that 'it rolled its warm, beautiful,
sparkling waves of thought across the cold, gray sea of science, just
like the Gulf Stream it treated of.' Two of the descriptions which
mamma read were so splendid that they rang in my ears like the music of
the Swiss Bell-Ringers. One was the account of the atmosphere, by Dr.
Buist of Bombay, and the other was the description of the Indian Ocean,
which was quoted from Schleiden's Lecture. My fever was high, and when
at last I went to sleep, I had a queer dream about madrepores and
medusae, and I wrote it down as well as I could, and called it 'Algae
Adventures, in a Voyage Round the World.' Edna, I have stolen something
from you, and as you will be sure to find it out when you read my
little story, where there is a long, hard word missing in the MS., I
will tell you about it now. Do you recollect talking to me one evening,
when we were walking on the beach at The Willows, about some shell-clad
animalcula, which you said were so very small that Professor Schultze,
of Bonn, found no less than a million and a half of their minute shells
in an ounce of pulverized quartz, from the shore of Mo la di Gaeta?
Well, I put all you told me in my little MS.; but, for my life, I could
not think of the name of the class to which they belong. Do you
recollect it?"

"Let me think a moment. Was it not Foraminifera?"

"That's the identical word--'Foraminifera!' No wonder I could not think
of it! Six syllables tied up in a scientific knot. Phew! it makes my
head ache worse to try to recollect it. How stoop-shouldered your
memory must be from carrying such heavy loads! It is a regular camel."

"Yes; it is a meek, faithful beast of burden, and will very willingly
bear the weight of that scientific name until you want to use it; so do
not tax your mind now. You said you stole it from me, but my dear,
ambitious authorling, my little round-jacket scribbler, I wish you to
understand distinctly that I do not consider that I have been robbed.
The fact was discovered by Professor Schultze, and bequeathed by him to
the world. From that instant it became universal, common property,
which any man, woman, or child may use at pleasure, provided a tribute
of gratitude is paid to the donor. Every individual is in some sort an
intellectual bank, issuing bills of ideas (very often specious, but not
always convertible into gold or silver); and now, my precious little
boy, recollect that just as long as I have any capital left, you can
borrow; and some day I will turn Shylock, and make you pay me with
usury."

"Edna, I should like above all things to write a book of stories for
poor, sick children; little tales that would make them forget their
suffering and deformity. If I could even reconcile one lame boy to
being shut up indoors, while others are shouting and skating in the
sunshine, I should not feel as if I were so altogether useless in the
world. Edna, do you think that I shall ever be able to do so?"

"Perhaps so, dear Felix; certainly, if God wills it. When you are
stronger we will study and write together, but to-day you must compose
yourself and be silent. Your fever is rising."

"The doctor left some medicine yonder in that goblet, but mamma has
forgotten to give it to me. I will take a spoonful now, if you please."

His face was much flushed; and as she kissed him and turned away, he
exclaimed:

"Oh! where are you going?"

"To my room, to take off my hat."

"Do not be gone long. I am so happy now that you are here again. But I
don't want you to get out of my sight. Come back soon, and bathe my
head."

On the following day, when Mr. Manning called to welcome her home, he
displayed an earnestness and depth of feeling which surprised the
governess. Putting his hand on her arm, he said in a tone that had lost
its metallic ring:

"How fearfully changed since I saw you last! I knew you were not strong
enough to endure the trial; and if I had had a right to interfere, you
should never have gone."

"Mr. Manning, I do not quite understand your meaning."

"Edna, to see you dying by inches is bitter indeed! I believed that you
would marry Murray--at least I knew any other woman would--and I felt
that to refuse his affection would be a terrible trial, through which
you could not pass with impunity. Why you rejected him I have no right
to inquire, but I have a right to ask you to let me save your life. I
am well aware that you do not love me, but at least you can esteem and
entirely trust me; and once more I hold out my hand to you and say,
give me the wreck of your life! oh! give me the ruins of your heart! I
will guard you tenderly; we will go to Europe--to the East; and rest of
mind, and easy travelling, and change of scene will restore you. I
never realized, never dreamed how much my happiness depended upon you,
until you left the city. I have always relied so entirely upon myself,
feeling the need of no other human being; but now, separated from you I
am restless, am conscious of a vague discontent. If you spend the next
year as you have spent the last, you will not survive it. I have
conferred with your physician. He reluctantly told me your alarming
condition, and I have come to plead with you for the last time not to
continue your suicidal course, not to destroy the life which, if
worthless to you, is inexpressibly precious to a man who prays to be
allowed to take care of it. A man who realizes that it is necessary to
the usefulness and peace of his own lonely life; who wishes no other
reward on earth but the privilege of looking into your approving eyes,
when his daily work is ended, and he sits down at his fireside. Edna! I
do not ask for your love, but I beg for your hand, your confidence,
your society--for the right to save you from toil. Will you go to the
Old World with me?"

Looking suddenly up at him, she was astonished to find tears in his
searching and usually cold eyes.

Scandinavian tradition reports that seven parishes were once
overwhelmed, and still lie buried under snow and ice, and yet
occasionally those church-bells are heard ringing clearly under the
glaciers of the Folge Fond.

So, in the frozen, crystal depths of this man's nature, his long
silent, smothered affections began to chime.

A proud smile trembled over Edna's face, as she saw how entirely she
possessed the heart of one, whom above all other men she most admired.

"Mr. Manning, the assertion that you regard your life as imperfect,
incomplete, without the feeble complement of mine--that you find your
greatest happiness in my society, is the most flattering, the most
gratifying tribute which ever has been, or ever can be paid to my
intellect. It is a triumph indeed; and, because unsought, surely it is
a pardonable pride that makes my heart throb. This assurance of your
high regard is the brightest earthly crown I shall ever wear. But, sir,
you err egregiously in supposing that you would be happy wedded to a
woman who did not love you. You think now that if we were only married,
my constant presence in your home, my implicit confidence in your
character, would fully content you; but here you fail to understand
your own heart, and I know that the consciousness that my affection was
not yours would make you wretched. No, no! my dear, noble friend! God
never intended us for each other. I can not go to the Old World with
you. I know how peculiarly precarious is my tenure of life, and how
apparently limited is my time for work in this world, but I am content.
I try to labor faithfully, listening for the summons of Him who notices
even the death of sparrows. God will not call me hence, so long as He
has any work for me to do on earth; and when I become useless, and can
no longer serve Him here, I do not wish to live. Through Christ I am
told, 'Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.' Mr.
Manning, I am not ignorant of, nor indifferent to, my physical
condition; but, thank God! I can say truly, I am not troubled, neither
am I afraid, and my faith is--

  'All as God wills, who wisely heeds,
   To give or to withhold,
  And knoweth more of all my needs
   Than all my prayers have told.'"

The editor took off his glasses and wiped them, but the dimness was in
his eyes; and after a minute, during which he recovered his old
calmness, and hushed the holy chime, muffling the Folge Fond Bells, he
said gayly and quietly:

"Edna, one favor, at least, you will grant me. The death of a relative
in Louisiana has placed me in possession of an ample fortune, and I
wish you to take my little Lila and travel for several years. You are
the only woman I ever knew to whom I would entrust her and her
education, and it would gratify me beyond expression to feel that I had
afforded you the pleasure which can not fail to result from such a
tour. Do not be too proud to accept a little happiness from my hands."

"Thank you, my generous, noble friend! I gratefully accept a great deal
of happiness at this instant, but your kind offer I must decline. I can
not leave Felix."

He sighed, took his hat, and his eyes ran over the face and figure of
the governess.

"Edna Earl, your stubborn will makes you nearly akin to those gigantic
fuci which are said to grow and flourish as submarine forests in the
stormy channel of Terra del Fuego, where they shake their heads
defiantly, always trembling, always triumphing, in the fierce lashing
of waves that wear away rocks. You belong to a very rare order of human
algae, rocked and reared in the midst of tempests that would either bow
down, or snap asunder, or beat out most natures. As you will not grant
my petition, try to forget it; we will bury the subject. Good-bye! I
shall call to-morrow afternoon to take you to drive."

With renewed zest Edna devoted every moment stolen from Felix, to the
completion of her new book. Her first had been a "bounteous
promise"--at least so said criticdom--and she felt that the second
would determine her literary position, would either place her
reputation as an author beyond all cavil, or utterly crush her ambition.

Sometimes as she bent over her MS., and paused to reread some passage
just penned, which she had laboriously composed, and thought
particularly good as an illustration of the idea she was striving to
embody perspicuously, a smile would flit across her countenance while
she asked herself:

"Will my readers see it as I see it? Will they thank me for my high
opinion of their culture, in assuming that it will be quite as plain to
them as to me? If there should accidentally be an allusion to classical
or scientific literature, which they do not understand at the first
hasty, careless, novel-reading glance, will they inform themselves, and
then appreciate my reason for employing it, and thank me for the hint;
or will they attempt to ridicule my pedantry? When will they begin to
suspect that what they may imagine sounds 'learned' in my writings,
merely appears so to them because they have not climbed high enough to
see how vast, how infinite is the sphere of human learning? No, no,
dear reader, shivering with learning-phobia, I am not learned. You are
only a little, a very little more ignorant. Doubtless you know many
things which I should be glad to learn; come, let us barter. Let us all
study the life of Giovanni Pico Mirandola, and then we shall begin to
understand the meaning of the word 'learned.'"

Edna unintentionally and continually judged her readers according to
her own standard, and so eager, so unquenchable was her thirst for
knowledge, that she could not understand how the utterance of some new
fact, or the redressing and presentation of some forgotten idea, could
possibly be regarded as an insult by the person thus benefited. Her
first book taught her what was termed her "surplus paraded erudition,"
had wounded the amour propre of the public; but she was conscientiously
experimenting on public taste, and though some of her indolent,
luxurious readers, who wished even their thinking done by proxy,
shuddered at the "spring-water pumped upon their nerves," she
good-naturedly overlooked their grimances and groans, and continued the
hydropathic treatment even in her second book, hoping some good effects
from the shock. Of one intensely gratifying fact she could not fail to
be thoroughly informed, by the avalanche of letters which almost daily
covered her desk; she had at least ensconced herself securely in a
citadel, whence she could smilingly defy all assaults--in the warm
hearts of her noble countrywomen. Safely sheltered in their sincere and
devoted love, she cared little for the shafts that rattled and broke
against the rocky ramparts, and, recoiling, dropped out of sight in the
moat below.

So with many misgivings, and much hope, and great patience, she worked
on assiduously, and early in summer her book was finished and placed in
the publisher's hands.

In the midst of her anxiety concerning its reception, a new and
terrible apprehension took possession of her, for it became painfully
evident that Felix, whose health had never been good, was slowly but
steadily declining.

Mrs. Andrews and Edna took him to Sharon, to Saratoga, and to various
other favorite resorts for invalids, but with no visible results that
were at all encouraging, and at last they came home almost
disheartened. Dr. Howell finally prescribed a sea-voyage, and a sojourn
of some weeks at Eaux Bonne in the Pyrennes, as those waters had
effected some remarkable cures.

As the doctor quitted the parlor, where he held a conference with Mr.
and Mrs. Andrews, the latter turned to her husband, saying:

"It is useless to start anywhere with Felix unless Miss Earl can go
with us; for he would fret himself to death in a week. Really, Louis,
it is astonishing to see how devoted they are to each other. Feeble as
that woman is, she will always sit up whenever there is any medicine to
be given during the night; and while he was ill at Sharon, she did not
close her eyes for a week. I can't help feeling jealous of his
affection for her, and I spoke to her about it. He was asleep at the
time, with his hand grasping one of hers; and when I told her how
trying it was for a mother to see her child's whole heart given to a
stranger, to hear morning, noon, and night, 'Edna,' always 'Edna,'
never once 'mamma,' I wish you could have seen the strange, suffering
expression that came into her pale face. Her lips trembled so that she
could scarcely speak, but she said meekly, 'Oh! forgive me if I have
won your child's heart; but I love him. You have your husband and
daughter, your brother and sister; but I--oh! I have only Felix! I have
nothing else to cling to in all this world!' Then she kissed his poor
little fingers, and wept as if her heart would break, and wrung her
hands, and begged me again and again to forgive her if he loved her
best. She is the strangest woman I ever knew; sometimes, when she is
sitting by me in church, I watch her calm, cold, white face, and she
makes me think of a snow statue; but if Felix says anything to arouse
her feelings and call out her affection, she is a volcano. It is very
rarely that one finds a beautiful woman, distinguished by her genius,
admired and courted by the reading public, devoting herself as she does
to our dear little crippled darling. While I confess I am jealous of
her, her kindness to my child makes me love her more than I can
express. Louis, she must go with us. Poor thing! she seems to be
failing almost as fast as Felix; and I verily believe if he should die,
it would kill her. Did you notice how she paced the floor while the
doctors were consulting in Felix's room? She loves nothing but my
precious lame boy."

"Certainly, Kate, she must go with you. I quite agree with you, my
dear, that Felix is dependent upon her, and would not derive half the
benefit from the trip if she remained at home. I confess she has cured
me to a great extent of my horror of literary characters. She is the
only one I ever saw who was really lovable, and not a walking parody on
her own writings. You would be surprised at the questions constantly
asked me about her habits and temper. People seem so curious to learn
all the routine of her daily life. Last week a member of our club
quoted something from her writings, and said that she was one of the
few authors of the day whose books, without having first examined, he
would put into the hands of his daughters. He remarked: 'I can trust my
girls' characters to her training, for she is a true woman; and if she
errs at all in any direction, it is the right one, only a little too
rigidly followed.' I am frequently asked how she is related to me, for
people can not believe that she is merely the governess of our
children. Kate, will you tell her that it is my desire that she should
accompany you? Speak to her at once, that I may know how many
staterooms I shall engage on the steamer."

"Come with me, Louis, and speak to her yourself."

They went upstairs together, and paused on the threshold of Felix's
room to observe what was passing within.

The boy was propped by pillows into an upright position on the sofa,
and was looking curiously into a small basket which Edna held on her
lap.

She was reading to him a touching little letter just received from an
invalid child, who had never walked, who was confined always to the
house, and wrote to thank her, in sweet, childish style, for a story
which she had read in the Magazine, and which made her very happy.

The invalid stated that her chief amusement consisted in tending a few
flowers that grew in pots in her windows; and in token of her
gratitude, she had made a nosegay of mignonette, pansies, and geranium
leaves, which she sent with her scrawling letter.

In conclusion, the child asked that the woman whom, without having
seen, she yet loved, would be so kind as to give her a list of such
books as a little girl ought to study, and to write her "just a few
lines" that she could keep under her pillow, to look at now and then.
As Edna finished reading the note, Felix took it, to examine the small,
indistinct characters, and said:

"Dear little thing! Don't you wish we knew her? 'Louie Lawrence.' Of
course, you will answer it, Edna?"

"Yes, immediately, and tell her how grateful I am for her generosity in
sparing me a portion of her pet flowers. Each word in her sweet little
letter is as precious as a pearl, for it came from the very depths of
her pure heart."

"Oh! what a blessed thing it is to feel that you are doing some good in
the world! That little Louie says she prays for you every night before
she goes to sleep! What a comfort such letters must be to you! Edna,
how happy you look! But there are tears shining in your eyes, they
always come when you are glad. What books will you tell her to study?"

"I will think about the subject, and let you read my answer. Give me
the 'notelet'; I want to put it away securely among my treasures. How
deliciously fragrant the flowers are! Only smell them, Felix! Here, my
darling, I will give them to you, and write to the little Louie how
happy she made two people."

She lifted the delicate bouquet so daintily fashioned by fairy
child-fingers, inhaled the perfume, and, as she put it in the thin
fingers of the cripple, she bent forward and kissed his fever-parched
lips. At this instant Felix saw his parents standing at the door, and
held up the flowers triumphantly.

"Oh, mamma! come smell this mignonette. Why can't we grow some in boxes
in our window?"

Mr. Andrews leaned over his son's pillows, softly put his hand on the
boy's forehead, and said:

"My son, Miss Earl professes to love you very much, but I doubt whether
she really means all she says; and I am determined to satisfy myself
fully. Just now I can not leave my business, but mamma, intends to take
you to Europe next week, and I want to know whether Miss Earl will
leave all her admirers here, and go with you and help mamma to nurse
you. Do you think she will?"

Mrs. Andrews stood with her hand resting on the shoulder of the
governess, watching the varying expression of her child's countenance.

"I think, papa--I hope she will; I believe she--"

He paused, and, struggling up from his pillows, he stretched out his
poor little arms, and exclaimed:

"Oh, Edna! you will go with me? You promised you would never forsake
me! Tell papa you will go."

His head was on her shoulder, his arms were clasped tightly around her
neck. She laid her face on his, and was silent.

Mr. Andrews placed his hand on the orphan's bowed head.

"Miss Earl, you must let me tell you that I look upon you as a member
of my family; that my wife and I love you almost as well as if you were
one of our children; and I hope you will not refuse to accompany Kate
on the tour she contemplates. Let me take your own father's place; and
I shall regard it as a great favor to me and mine if you will consent
to go, and allow me to treat you always as I do my Hattie. I have no
doubt you will derive as much benefit from travelling, as I certainly
hope for Felix."

"Thank you, Mr. Andrews, I appreciate your generosity, and I prize the
affection and confidence which you and your wife have shown me. I came,
an utter stranger, into your house, and you kindly made me one of the
family circle. I am alone in the world, and have become strongly
attached to your children. Felix is not merely my dear pupil, he is my
brother, my companion, my little darling! I can not be separated from
him. Next to his mother he belongs to me. Oh! I will travel with him
anywhere that you and Mrs. Andrews think it best he should go. I will
never, never leave him."

She disengaged the boy's arms, laid him back on his pillows, and went
to her own room.

In the midst of prompt preparations for departure Edna's new novel
appeared. She had christened it "SHINING THORNS ON THE HEARTH," and
dedicated it "To my countrywomen, the Queens who reign thereon."

The aim of the book was to discover the only true and allowable and
womanly sphere of feminine work, and, though the theme was threadbare,
she fearlessly picked up the frayed woof and rewove it.

The tendency of the age was to equality and communism, and this, she
contended, was undermining the golden thrones shining in the blessed
and hallowed light of the hearth, whence every true woman ruled the
realm of her own family. Regarding every pseudo "reform" which struck
down the social and political distinction of the sexes, as a blow that
crushed one of the pillars of woman's throne, she earnestly warned the
Crowned Heads of the danger to be apprehended from the unfortunate and
deluded female malcontents, who, dethroned in their own realm, and
despised by their quondam subjects, roamed as pitiable, royal exiles,
threatening to usurp man's kingdom; and to proud, happy mothers,
guarded by Praetorian bands of children, she reiterated the assurance
that

  "Those who rock the cradle rule the world."

Most carefully she sifted the records of history, tracing in every
epoch the sovereigns of the hearth-throne who had reigned wisely and
contentedly, ennobling and refining humanity; and she proved by
illustrious examples that the borders of the feminine realm could not
be enlarged, without rendering the throne unsteady, and subverting
God's law of order. Woman reigned by divine right only at home. If
married, in the hearts of husband and children, and not in the gilded,
bedizened palace of fashion, where thinly veiled vice and frivolity
hold carnival, and social upas and social asps wave and trail. If
single, in the affections of brothers and sisters and friends, as the
golden sceptre in the hands of parents. If orphaned, she should find
sympathy and gratitude and usefulness among the poor and the afflicted.

Consulting the statistics of single women, and familiarizing herself
with the arguments advanced by the advocates of that "progress," which
would indiscriminately throw open all professions to women, she
entreated the poor of her own sex, if ambitious, to become sculptors,
painters, writers, teachers in schools or families; or else to remain
mantau-makers, milliners, spinners, dairymaids; but on the peril of all
womanhood not to meddle with scalpel or red tape, and to shun rostra of
all description, remembering St. Paul's injunction, that "IT IS NOT
PERMITTED UNTO WOMEN TO SPEAK"; and even that "IT IS A SHAME FOR WOMEN
TO SPEAK IN THE CHURCH."

To married women who thirsted for a draught of the turbid waters of
politics, she said: "If you really desire to serve the government under
which you live, recollect that it was neither the speeches thundered
from the forum, nor the prayers of priests and augurs, nor the iron
tramp of glittering legions, but the ever triumphant, maternal
influence, the potent, the pleading 'My son!' of Volumnia, the mother
of Coriolanus, that saved Rome."

To discontented spinsters, who travelled like Pandora over the land,
haranguing audiences that secretly laughed at and despised them, to
these unfortunate women, clamoring for power and influence in the
national councils, she pointed out that quiet, happy home at "Barley
Wood," whence immortal Hannah More sent forth those writings which did
more to tranquilize England, and bar the hearts of its yeomanry against
the temptations of red republicanism than all the eloquence of Burke,
and the cautious measures of Parliament.

Some errors of style, which had been pointed out by critics as marring
her earlier writings, Edna had endeavored to avoid in this book, which
she humbly offered to her countrywomen as the best of which she was
capable.

From the day of its appearance it was a success; and she had the
gratification of hearing that some of the seed she had sown broadcast
in the land fell upon good ground, and promised an abundant harvest.

Many who called to bid her good-bye on the day before the steamer
sailed, found it impossible to disguise their apprehensions that she
would never return; and some who looked tearfully into her face and
whispered "God-speed!" thought they saw the dread signet of death set
on her white brow.

To Edna it was inexpressibly painful to cross the Atlantic while Mr.
Hammond's health was so feeble; and over the long farewell letter which
she sent him, with a copy of her new book, the old man wept. Mrs.
Murray had seemed entirely estranged since that last day spent at Le
Bocage, and had not written a line since the orphan's return to New
York. But when she received the new novel, and the affectionate,
mournful, meek note that accompanied it, Mrs. Murray laid her head on
her son's bosom and sobbed aloud.

Dr. Howell and Mr. Manning went with Edna aboard the steamer, and both
laughed heartily at her efforts to disengage herself from a
pertinacious young book-vender, who, with his arms full of copies of
her own book, stopped her on deck, and volubly extolled its merits,
insisting that she should buy one to while away the tedium of the
voyage.

Dr. Howell gave final directions concerning the treatment of Felix, and
then came to speak to the governess.

"Even now, sadly as you have abused your constitution, I shall have
some hope of seeing gray hairs about your temples, if you will give
yourself unreservedly to relaxation of mind. You have already
accomplished so much that you can certainly afford to rest for some
months at least. Read nothing, write nothing (except long letters to
me), study nothing but the aspects of nature in European scenery, and
you will come back improved to the country that is so justly proud of
you. Disobey my injunctions, and I shall soon be called to mourn over
the announcement that you have found an early grave, far from your
native land, and among total strangers. God bless you, dear child! and
bring you safely back to us."

As he turned away, Mr. Manning took her hand and said:

"I hope to meet you in Rome early in February; but something might
occur to veto my programme. If I should never see you again in this
world, is there anything that you wish to say to me now?"

"Yes, Mr. Manning. If I should die in Europe, have my body brought back
to America and carried to the South--my own dear South, that I love so
well--and bury me close to Grandpa, where I can sleep quietly in the
cool shadow of old Lookout; and be sure, please be sure, to have my
name carved just below Grandpa's, on his monument. I want that one
marble to stand for us both."

"I will. Is there nothing else?"

"Thank you, my dear, good, kind friend. Nothing else."

"Edna, promise me that you will take care of your precious life."

"I will try, Mr. Manning."

He looked down into her worn, weary face and sighed, then for the first
time he took both her hands, kissed them and left her.

Swiftly the steamer took its way seaward; through the Narrows, past the
lighthouse; and the wind sang through the rigging, and the purple hills
of Jersey faded from view, proving Neversink a misnomer.

One by one the passengers went below and Edna and Felix were left on
deck, with stars burning above, and blue waves bounding beneath them.

As the cripple sat looking over the solemn, moaning ocean, awed by its
brooding gloom, did he catch in the silvery starlight a second glimpse
of the rose-colored veils, and snowy vittae, and purple-edged robes of
the Parcae, spinning and singing as they followed the ship across the
sobbing sea? He shivered, and clasping tightly the hand of his
governess, said:

"Edna, we shall never see the Neversink again."

"God only knows, dear Felix. His will be done."

  "How silvery the echoes run--
   Thy will be done--Thy will be done."



CHAPTER XXXV.


"Worthy? No, no! Unworthy! most unworthy! But was Thomas worthy to tend
the wandering sheep of Him, whom face to face he doubted? Was Peter
worthy to preach the Gospel of Him, whom he had thrice indignantly
denied? Was Paul worthy to become the Apostle of the Gentiles, teaching
the doctrine of Him whose disciples he had persecuted and slaughtered?
If the repentance of Peter and Paul availed to purify their hands and
hearts, and sanctify them to the service of Christ, ah! God knows my
contrition has been bitter and lasting enough to fit me for future
usefulness. Eight months ago, when the desire to become a minister
seized me so tenaciously, I wrestled with it, tried to crush it;
arguing that the knowledge of my past life of sinfulness would prevent
the world from trusting my professions. But those who even slightly
understand my character, must know that I have always been too utterly
indifferent to, too unfortunately contemptuous of public opinion, to
stoop to any deception in order to conciliate it. Moreover, the world
will realize that in a mere worldly point of view, I can possibly hope
to gain nothing by this step. If I were poor, I might be accused of
wanting the loaves and fishes of the profession; if unknown and
ambitious, of seeking eminence and popularity. But when a man of my
wealth and social position, after spending half of his life in
luxurious ease and sinful indulgence, voluntarily subjects himself to
the rigid abstemiousness and self-sacrificing requirements of a
ministerial career, he can not be suspected of hypocrisy. After all,
sir, I care not for the discussion, of nine days' gossip and wonder,
the gibes and comments my course may occasion. I am hearkening to the
counsel of my conscience; I am obeying the dictates of my heart.
Feeling that my God accepts me, it matters little that men may reject
me. My remorse, my repentance, has been inexpressibly bitter; but the
darkness has passed away, and to-day, thank God! I can pray with all
the fervor and faith of my boyhood, when I knew that I was at peace
with my Maker. Oblivion of the past I do not expect, and perhaps should
not desire. I shall always wear my melancholy memories of sin, as
Musselmen wear their turban or pall--as a continual memento of death.
Because I have proved so fully the inadequacy of earthly enjoyments to
satisfy the demands of a soul; because I tried the alluring pleasures
of sin, and was satiated, ah! utterly sickened, I turned with panting
eagerness to the cool, quiet peace which reigns over the life of a true
Christian pastor. I want neither fame nor popularity, but peace! peace
I must have! I have hunted the world over and over; I have sought it
everywhere else, and now, thank God! I feel that it is descending
slowly, slowly, but surely, upon my lonely, long-tortured heart. Thank
God! I have found peace after much strife and great weariness--"

Mr. Murray could no longer control his voice; and as he stood leaning
against the mantelpiece at the parsonage, he dropped his head on his
hand.

"St. Elmo, the purity of your motives will never be questioned, for
none who knows you could believe you capable of dissembling in this
matter; and my heart can scarcely contain its joy when I look forward
to your future, so bright with promise, so full of usefulness. The
marked change in your manner during the past two years has prepared
this community for the important step you are to take to-day, and your
influence with young men will be incalculable. Once your stern
bitterness rendered you an object of dread; now I find that you are
respected, and people here watch your conduct with interest, and even
with anxiety. Ah, St. Elmo, I never imagined earth held as much pure
happiness as is my portion to-day. To see you one of God's anointed! To
see you ministering in the temple! Oh! to know that when I am gone to
rest you will take my place, guard my flock, do your own work and poor
Murray's, and finish mine! This, this is indeed the crowning blessing
of my old age."

For some minutes, Mr. Hammond sobbed; and lifting his face, Mr. Murray
answered:

"As I think of the coming years consecrated to Christ, passed
peacefully in endeavoring to atone for the injury and suffering I have
inflicted on my fellow-creatures; oh! as the picture of a calm, useful,
holy future rises before me, I feel indeed that I am unworthy, most
unworthy of my peace; but, thank God!

  'Oh! I see the crescent promise of my spirit hath not set;
   Ancient founts of inspiration well through all my fancy yet.'"

It was a beautiful Sabbath morning, just one year after Edna's
departure, and the church was crowded to its utmost capacity, for
people had come for many miles around to witness a ceremony, the
announcement of which had given rise to universal comment. As the hour
approached for the ordination of St. Elmo Murray to the ministry of
Jesus Christ, even the doors were filled with curious spectators; and
when Mr. Hammond and St. Elmo walked down the aisle, and the old man
seated himself in a chair within the altar, there was a general stir in
the congregation.

The officiating minister had come from a distant city to perform a
ceremony of more than usual interest; and when he stood up in the
pulpit, and the organ thundered through the arches, St. Elmo bowed his
head on his hand, and sat thus during the hour that ensued.

The ordination sermon was solemn and eloquent, and preached from the
text in Romans:

"For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have
your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life."

Then the minister, having finished his discourse, came down before the
altar and commenced the services; but Mr. Murray sat motionless, with
his countenance concealed by his hand. Mr. Hammond approached and
touched him, and, as he rose, led him to the altar, and presented him
as a candidate for ordination.

There, before the shining marble pulpit which he had planned and built
in the early years of his life, for the idol of his youth, stood St.
Elmo; and the congregation, especially those of his native village,
looked with involuntary admiration and pride at the erect, powerful
form, clad in its suit of black--at the nobly proportioned head, where
gray locks were visible.

"But if there be any of you who knoweth any impediment or crime, for
the which he ought not to be received into this holy ministry, let him
come forth, in the name of God, and show what the crime or impediment
is."

The preacher paused, the echo of his words died away, and perfect
silence reigned. Suddenly St. Elmo raised his eyes from the railing of
the altar, and, turning his face slightly, looked through the eastern
window at the ivy-draped vault where slept Murray and Annie. The world
was silent, but conscience and the dead accused him. An expression of
intolerable pain crossed his handsome features, then his hands folded
themselves tightly together on the top of the marble balustrade, and he
looked appealingly up to the pale Jesus staggering under his cross.

At that instant a spotless white pigeon from the belfry found its way
into the church through the open doors, circled once around the
building, fluttered against the window, hiding momentarily the crown of
thorns, and, frightened and confused, fell upon the fluted pillar of
the pulpit.

An electric thrill ran through the congregation; and as the minister
resumed the services, he saw on St. Elmo's face a light, a great joy,
such as human countenances rarely wear this side of the grave.

When Mr. Murray knelt and the ordaining hands were laid upon his head,
a sob was heard from the pew where his mother sat, and the voice of the
preacher faltered as he delivered the Bible to the kneeling man, saying:

"Take thou authority to preach the word of God, and to administer the
holy sacraments in the congregation."

There were no dry eyes in the entire assembly, save two that looked
out, coldly blue, from the pew where Mrs. Powell sat like a statue,
between her daughter and Gordon Leigh.

Mr. Hammond tottered across the altar, and knelt down close to Mr.
Murray; and many who knew the history of the pastor's family, wept as
the gray head fell on the broad shoulder of St. Elmo, whose arm was
thrown around the old man's form, and the ordaining minister, with
tears rolling over his face, extended his hands in benediction above
them.

"The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts
and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ
our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Ghost, be among you, and remain with you alway."

And all hearts and lips present whispered "Amen!" and the organ and the
choir broke forth in a grand "Gloria in excelsis."

Standing there at the chancel, purified, consecrated henceforth
unreservedly to Christ, Mr. Murray looked so happy, so noble, so worthy
of his high calling, that his proud, fond mother thought his face was
fit for an archangel's wings.

Many persons who had known him in his boyhood, came up with tears in
their eyes, and wrung his hand silently. At last Huldah pointed to the
white pigeon, that was now beating its wings against the gilded pipes
of the organ, and said, in that singularly sweet, solemn, hesitating
tone, with which children approach sacred things:

"Oh, Mr. Murray! when it fell on the pulpit, it nearly took my breath
away, for I almost thought it was the Holy Ghost."

Tears, which till then he had bravely kept back, dripped over his face,
as he stooped and whispered to the little orphan:

"Huldah, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, came indeed; but it was not
visible, it is here in my heart."

The congregation dispersed. Mrs. Murray and the preacher and Huldah
went to the carriage; and, leaning on Mr. Murray's arm, Mr. Hammond
turned to follow, but observing that the church was empty, the former
said:

"After a little I will come."

The old man walked on, and Mr. Murray went back and knelt, resting his
head against the beautiful glittering balustrade, within which he hoped
to officiate through the remaining years of his earthly career.

Once the sexton, who was waiting to lock up the church, looked in, saw
the man praying alone there at the altar, and softly stole away.

When St. Elmo came out, the churchyard seemed deserted; but as he
crossed it, going homeward, a woman rose from one of the tombstones and
stood before him--the yellow-haired Jezebel, with sapphire eyes and
soft, treacherous red lips, who had goaded him to madness and blasted
the best years of his life.

At sight of her he recoiled, as if a cobra had started up in his path.

"St. Elmo, my beloved! in the name of other days stop and hear me. By
the memory of our early love, I entreat you!"

She came close to him, and the alabaster face was marvelously beautiful
in its expression of penitential sweetness.

"St. Elmo, can you never forgive me for the suffering I caused you in
my giddy girlhood?"

She took his hand and attempted to raise it to her lips; but shaking
off her touch, he stepped back, and steadily they looked in each
other's eyes.

"Agnes, I forgive you. May God pardon your sins, as He has pardoned
mine!"

He turned away, but she seized his coat-sleeve and threw herself before
him, standing with both hands clasping his arm.

"If you mean what you say, there is happiness yet in store for us. Oh,
St. Elmo! how often have I longed to come and lay my head down on your
bosom, and tell you all. But you were so stern and harsh I was afraid.
To-day when I saw you melted, when the look of your boyhood came
dancing back to your dear eyes, I was encouraged to hope that your
heart had softened also toward one, who so long possessed it. Is there
hope for your poor Agnes? Hope that the blind, silly girl, who,
ignorant of the value of the treasure, slighted and spurned it, may
indeed be pardoned, when, as a woman realizing her folly, and sensible
at last of the nobility of a nature she once failed to appreciate, she
comes and says--what it is so hard for a woman to say--'Take me back to
your heart, gather me up in your arms, as in the olden days,
because--because I love you now; because only your love can make me
happy.' St. Elmo, we are no longer young; but believe me when I tell
you that at last--at last--your own Agnes loves you as she never loved
any one, even in her girlhood. Once I preferred my cousin Murray to
you; but think how giddy I must have been, when I could marry before a
year had settled the sod on his grave? I did not love my husband, but I
married him for the same reason that I would have married you then. And
yet for that there is some palliation. It was to save my father from
disgrace that I sacrificed myself; for money entrusted to his
keeping--money belonging to his orphan ward--had been used by him in a
ruinous speculation, and only prompt repayment could prevent exposure.
Remember I was so young, so vain, so thoughtless then! St. Elmo, pity
me! love me! take me back to your heart! God is my witness that I do
love you entirely now! Dearest, say, 'Agnes, I will forgive all, and
trust you and love you as in the days long past.'"

She tried to put her arms up around his neck and to rest her head on
his shoulder; but he resisted and put her at arm's length from him.

Holding her there, he looked at her with a cold scorn in his eyes, and
a heavy shadow darkening the brow that five minutes before had been so
calm, so bright.

"Agnes, how dare you attempt to deceive me after all that has passed
between us? Oh, woman! In the name of all true womanhood I could blush
for you!"

She struggled to free herself, to get closer to him, but his stern
grasp was relentless; and as tears poured down her cheeks, she clasped
her hands and sobbed out:

"You do not believe that I really love you! Oh! do not look at me so
harshly! I am not deceiving you; as I hope for pardon and rest for my
soul--as I hope to see my father's face in heaven--I am not deceiving
you! I do--I do love you! When I spoke to you about Gertrude, it cost
me a dreadful pang; but I thought you loved her because she resembled
me; and for my child's sake I crushed my own hopes--I wanted, if
possible, to save her from suffering. But you only upbraided and heaped
savage sarcasms upon me. Oh, St. Elmo! if you could indeed see my poor
heart, you would not look so cruelly cold. You ought to know that I am
terribly in earnest when I can stoop to beg for the ruins of a heart,
which in its freshness I once threw away, and trampled on."

He had seen her weep before, when it suited her purpose, and he only
smiled and answered: "Yes, Agnes, you ruined and trampled it in the
mire of sin; but I have rebuilt it, and, by the mercy of God, I hope I
have purified it. Look you, woman! when you overturned the temple, you
crumbled your own image that was set up there; and I long, long ago
swept out and gave to the hungry winds the despised dust of that broken
idol, and over my heart you can reign no more! The only queen it has
known since that awful night twenty-three years ago, when my faith,
hope, charity were all strangled in an instant by the velvet hand I had
kissed in my doting fondness--the only queen my heart has acknowledged
since then, is one who, in her purity soars like an angel above you and
me, and her dear name is--Edna Earl."

"Edna Earl!--a puritanical fanatic! Nay, a Pharisee! A cold prude, a
heartless blue! A woman with some brain and no feeling, who loves
nothing but her own fame, and has no sympathy with your nature. St.
Elmo, are you insane! Did you not see that letter from Estelle to your
mother, stating that she, Edna, would certainly be married in February
to the celebrated Mr. Manning, who was then on his way to Rome to meet
her? Did you see that letter?"

"I did."

"And discredit it? Blindness, madness, equal to my own in the days gone
by! Edna Earl exists no longer; she was married a month ago. Here, read
for yourself, or you will believe that I fabricate the whole."

She held a newspaper before his eyes and he saw a paragraph, marked
with a circle of ink, "Marriage in Literary Circles":

"The very reliable correspondent of the New York--writes from Rome that
the Americans now in that city are on the qui vive concerning a
marriage announced to take place on Thursday next at the residence of
the American Minister. The very distinguished parties are Miss Edna
Earl, the gifted and exceedingly popular young authoress, whose works
have given her an enviable reputation, even on this side of the
Atlantic, and Mr. Douglass G. Manning, the well-known and able editor
of the--Magazine. The happy pair will start, immediately after the
ceremony, on a tour through Greece and the Holy Land."

Mr. Murray opened the paper, glanced at the date, and his swarthy face
paled as he put his hands over his eyes.

Mrs. Powell came nearer, and once more touched his hand; but, with a
gesture of disgust, he pushed her aside.

"Away! Not a word--not one word more! You are not worthy to take my
darling's name upon your lips! She may be Manning's wife--God forbid
it!--or she may be in her grave. I have lost her, I know; but if I
never see her dear angel face again in this world, it will be in
consequence of my sins, and of yours; and with God's help I mean to
live out the remainder of my days, so that at last I shall meet her in
eternity! Leave me, Agnes! Do not make me forget the vows I have to-day
taken upon myself, in the presence of the world and of my Maker. In
future, keep out of my path, which will never cross yours; do not rouse
the old hate toward you, which I am faithfully striving to overcome.
The first time I went to the communion-table, after the lapse of all
those dreary years of sin and desperation, I asked myself, 'Have I a
right to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper?--can I face God and say I
forgive Agnes Powell?' Finally, after a hard struggle, I said, from the
depths of my heart, 'Even as I need and hope for forgiveness myself, I
do fully forgive her.' Mark you, it was my injuries that I pardoned,
your treachery that I forgave. But recollect there is a mournful truth
in those words--THERE IS NO PARDON FOR DESECRATED IDEALS! Once, in the
flush of my youth, I selected you as the beau ideal of beautiful,
perfect womanhood; but you fell from that lofty pedestal where my
ardent, boyish love set you for worship, and you dragged me down, down,
almost beyond the pale of God's mercy! I forgive all my wrongs, but
'take you back, love you?' Ah! I can never love anyone, I never, even
in my boyhood, loved you, as I love my pure darling, my own Edna! Her
memory is all I have to cheer me in my lonely work. I do not believe
that she is married; no, no, but she is in her grave. For many days
past I have been oppressed by a horrible presentiment that she has gone
to her rest in Christ--that the next steamer will bring me tidings of
her death. Do not touch me, Agnes! If there be any truth in what you
have to-day asserted so solemnly (though I can not believe it, for if
you ridiculed and disliked me in my noble youth, how can you love the
same man in the melancholy wreck of his hopes?), if there be a shadow
of truth in your words, you are indeed to be pitied. Ah! you and I have
learned at a terrible price the deceitfulness of riches, the hollowness
of this world's pleasures; and both have writhed under the poisonous
fangs that always dart from the dregs of the cup of sin, which you and
I have drained. Experience must have taught you, also, what I was so
long in learning--the utter hopelessness of peace for heart and soul
save only through that religion, which so far subdues even my sinful,
vindictive, satanic nature, that I can say to you--you who blasted all
my earthly happiness--I forgive you my sufferings, and hope that God
will give you that pardon and comfort which after awful conflicts I
have found at last. Several times you have thrust yourself into my
presence; but if there remains any womanly delicacy in your nature you
will avoid me henceforth when I tell you that I loath the sight of one
whose unwomanliness stabbed my trust in womanhood, and sunk me so low
that I lost Edna Earl. Agnes, go yonder--where I have spent so many
hours of agony--yonder to the graves of your victims as well as mine.
Go down on your knees yonder, and pray for yourself, and may God help
you!"

He pointed to the gray vault and the slab that covered Annie and Murray
Hammond; and disengaging her fingers, which still clutched his sleeve,
he turned quickly and walked away.

Her mournful eyes, strained wide and full of tears, followed him till
his form was no longer visible; and sinking down on the
monument--whence she had risen at his approach--she shrouded her fair,
delicate features, and rocked herself to and fro.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


"How lovely! Oh! I did not think there was any place half so beautiful
this side of heaven!"

With his head on his mother's bosom, Felix lay near the window of an
upper room, looking out over the Gulf of Genoa.

The crescent curve of the olive-mantled Apennines girdled the city in a
rocky clasp, and mellowed by distance and the magic enamelling of
evening light, each particular peak rose against the chrysoprase sky
like a pyramid of lapis lazuli, around whose mighty base rolled soft
waves of golden haze.

Over the glassy bosom of the gulf, where glided boats filled with gay,
pleasure-seeking Italians, floated the merry strains of a barcarole,
with the silvery echo of "Fidulin" keeping time with the silvery gleam
of the dipping oars.

  "And the sun went into the west, and down
   Upon the water stooped an orange cloud,
   And the pale milky reaches flushed, as glad
   To wear its colors; and the sultry air
   Went out to sea, and puffed the sails of ships
   With thymy wafts, the breath of trodden grass."


"Lift me up, mamma! higher, higher yet. I want to see the sun. There!
it has gone--gone down into the sea. I can't bear to see it set to-day.
It seemed to say good-bye to me just then. Oh, mamma, mamma! I don't
want to die. The world is so beautiful, and life is so sweet up here in
the sunshine and the starlight, and it is so cold and dark down there
in the grave. Oh! where is Edna? Tell her to come quick and sing
something to me."

The cripple shuddered and shut his eyes. He had wasted away, until he
looked a mere shadow of humanity, and his governess stooped and took
him from his mother's arms as if he were a baby.

"Edna, talk to me! Oh! don't let me get afraid to die. I--"

She laid her lips on his, and the touch calmed their shivering; and,
after a moment, she began to repeat the apocalyptic vision of heaven:

"And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither
light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall
reign for ever and ever."

"But, Edna, the light does not shine down there in the grave. If you
could go with me--"

"A better and kinder Friend will go with you, dear Felix."

She sang with strange pathos "Motet," that beautiful arrangement of
"The Lord is my Shepherd."

As she reached that part where the words, "Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death," are repeated, the weak, quavering
voice of the sick boy joined hers; and, when she ceased, the emaciated
face was placid, the great dread had passed away for ever.

Anxious to divert his thoughts, she put into his hand a bunch of orange
flowers and violets, which had been sent to her that day by Mr.
Manning; and taking a book from the bed, she resumed the reading of
"The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain," to which the invalid had never
wearied of listening.

But she soon saw that for once he was indifferent; and, understanding
the expression of the eyes that gazed out on the purple shadows
shrouding the Apennines, she closed the volume, and laid the sufferer
back on his pillow.

While she was standing before a table, preparing some nourishment to be
given to him during the night, Mrs. Andrews came close to her and
whispered:

"Do you see much change? Is he really worse, or do my fears magnify
every bad symptom?"

"He is much exhausted, but I trust the stimulants will revive him. You
must go to bed early, and get a good sound sleep, for you look worn
out. I will wake you if I see any decided change in him."

Mrs. Andrews hung for some time over her child's pillow, caressing him,
saying tender, soothing, motherly things; and, after a while, she and
Hattie kissed him, and went into the adjoining room, leaving him to the
care of one whom he loved better than all the world beside.

It was late at night before the sound of laughter, song and chatter
died away in the streets of Genoa the magnificent. While the human tide
ebbed and flowed under the windows, Felix was restless, and his
companion tried to interest him by telling him the history of the
Dorias, and of the siege during which Massena won such glory. Her
conversation drifted away, even to Ancona, and that sad, but touching
incident, which Sismondi records, of the noble, patriotic young mother,
who gave to a starving soldier the milk that her half-famished babe
required, and sent him, thus refreshed and strengthened, to defend the
walls of her beleaguered city.

The boy's fondness for history showed itself even then, and he listened
attentively to her words.

At length silence reigned through the marble palaces, and Edna rose to
place the small lamp in an alabaster vase.

As she did so, something flew into her face, and fluttered to the edge
of the vase, and as she attempted to brush it off, she started back,
smothering a cry of horror. It was the Sphinx Atropos, the Death's Head
Moth; and there, upon its breast, appallingly distinct, grinned the
ghastly, gray human skull. Twice it circled rapidly round the vase,
uttering strange, stridulous sounds, then floated up to the canopy
overarching Felix's bed, and poised itself on the carved frame, waiting
and flapping its wings, vulture-like. Shuddering from head to foot,
notwithstanding the protest which reason offered against superstition,
the governess sat down to watch the boy's slumber.

His eyes were closed, and she hoped that he slept; but presently he
feebly put out his skeleton hand and took hers.

"Edna, mamma cannot hear me, can she?"

"She is asleep, but I will wake her if you wish it."

"No, she would only begin to cry, and that would worry me. Edna, I want
you to promise me one thing--" He paused a few seconds and sighed
wearily.

"When you all go back home, don't leave me here; take me with you, and
lay my poor little deformed body in the ground at 'The Willows,' where
the sea will sing over me. We were so happy there! I always thought I
should like my grave to be under the tallest willow, where our canary's
cage used to hang. Edna, I don't think you will live long--I almost
hope you won't--and I want you to promise me, too, that you will tell
them to bury us close together; so that the very moment I rise out of
my grave, on the day of judgment, I will see your face! Sometimes, when
I think of the millions and millions that will be pressing up for their
trial before God's throne, on that great, awful day, I am afraid I
might lose or miss you in the crowd, and never find you again; but, you
know, if our coffins touch, you can stretch out your hand to me as you
rise, and we can go together. Oh! I want your face to be the last I see
here, and the first--yonder."

He raised his fingers slowly, and they fell back wearily on the
coverlet.

"Don't talk so, Felix. Oh, my darling' God will not take you away from
me. Try to sleep, shut your eyes; you need rest to compose you."

She knelt down, kissed him repeatedly, and laid her face close to his
on the pillow; and he tried to turn and put his emaciated arm around
her neck.

"Edna, I have been a trouble to you for a long time, but you will miss
me when I am gone, and you will have nothing to love. If you live long,
marry Mr. Manning, and let him take care of you. Don't work so hard,
dear Edna; only rest, and let him make you happy. Before I knew you I
was always wishing to die; but now I hate to leave you all alone, my
own dear, pale Edna."

"Oh, Felix, darling! hush! Go to sleep. You wring my heart!"

Her sobs distressed him, and, feebly patting her cheek, he said:

"Perhaps if you will sing me something low, I may go to sleep, and I
want to hear your voice once more. Sing me that song about the child
and the rose-bush, that Hattie likes so much."

"Not that! anything but that! It is too sad, my precious little
darling."

"But I want to hear it; please, Edna."

It was a painful task that he imposed, but his wishes ruled her; and
she tried to steady her voice as she sang, in a very low, faltering
tone, the beautiful, but melancholy ballad. Tears rolled over her face
as she chanted the verses; and when she concluded, he repeated very
faintly:

  "Sweetly it rests, and on dream-wings flies,
   To play with the angels in paradise!"

He nestled his lips to hers, and, after a little while, murmured:

"Good-night, Edna!"

"Good-night, my darling!"

She gave him a stimulating potion, and arranged his head comfortably.
Ere long his heavy breathing told her that he slept, and, stealing from
his side, she sat down in a large chair near the head of his bed, and
watched him.

For many months he had been failing, and they had travelled from place
to place, hoping against hope that each change would certainly be
beneficial.

Day and night Edna had nursed him, had devoted every thought, almost
every prayer to him; and now her heart seemed centred in him. Scenery,
music, painting, rare MSS., all were ignored; she lived only for that
poor dependent boy, and knew not a moment of peace when separated from
him. She had ceased to study aught but his comfort and happiness, had
written nothing save letters to friends; and notwithstanding her
anxiety concerning the cripple, the frequent change of air had
surprisingly improved her own health. For six months she had escaped
the attacks so much dreaded, and began to believe her restoration
complete, though the long banished color obstinately refused to return
to her face, which seemed unable to recover its rounded outline. Still,
she was very grateful for the immunity from suffering, especially as it
permitted more unremitting attendance upon Felix.

She knew that his life was flickering out gently but surely; and now,
as she watched the pale, pinched features, her own quivered, and she
clasped her hands and wept, and stifled a groan.

She had prayed so passionately and continually that he might be spared
to her; but it seemed that whenever her heart-strings wrapped
themselves around an idol, a jealous God tore them loose, and snatched
away the dear object, and left the heart to bleed. If that boy died,
how utterly desolate and lonely she would be; nothing left to care for
and to cling to, nothing to claim as her own, and anoint with the
tender love of her warm heart.

She had been so intensely interested in the expansion of his mind, had
striven so tirelessly to stimulate his brain, and soften and purify his
heart; she had been so proud of his rapid progress, and so ambitious
for his future, and now the mildew of death was falling on her fond
hopes. Ah! she had borne patiently many trials, but this appeared
unendurable. She had set all her earthly happiness on a little
thing--the life of a helpless cripple; and as she gazed through her
tears at that shrunken, sallow face, so dear to her, it seemed hard!
hard! that God denied her this one blessing. What was the praise and
admiration of all the world in comparison with the loving light in that
child's eyes, and the tender pressure of his lips?

The woman's ambition had long been fully satisfied, and even exacting
conscience, jealously guarding its shrine, saw daily sacrifices laid
thereon, and smiled approvingly upon her; but the woman's hungry heart
cried out, and fought fiercely, famine-goaded, for its last vanishing
morsel of human love and sympathy. Verily, these bread-riots of the
heart are fearful things, and crucified consciences too often mark
their track.

The little figure on the bed was so motionless that Edna crept nearer
and leaned down to listen to the breathing; and her tears fell on his
thick, curling hair, and upon the orange-blossoms and violets.

Standing there she threw up her clenched hands and prayed sobbingly:

"My Father! spare the boy to me! I will dedicate anew my life and his
to thy work! I will make him a minister of thy word, and he shall save
precious souls. Oh! do not take him away! If not for a lifetime, at
least spare him a few years! Even one more year, O my God!"

She walked to the window, rested her forehead against the stone facing,
and looked out; and the wonderful witchery of the solemn night wove its
spell around her. Great, golden stars clustered in the clear heavens,
and were reflected in the calm, blue pavement of the Mediterranean,
where not a ripple shivered their shining images. A waning crescent
moon swung high over the eastern crest of the Apennines, and threw a
weird light along the Doria's marble palace, and down on the silver
gray olives, on the glistening orange-groves, snow-powdered with
fragrant bloom, and in that wan, mysterious, and most melancholy light--

  "The old, miraculous mountains heaved in sight,
   One straining past another along the shore
   The way of grand, dull Odyssean ghosts,
   Athirst to drink the cool, blue wine of seas,
   And stare on voyagers."

From some lofty campanile, in a distant section of the silent city,
sounded the angelus bell; and from the deep shadow of olive, vine, and
myrtle that clothed the amphitheatre of hills, the convent bells caught
and reechoed it.

        "Nature comes sometimes,
   And says, 'I am ambassador for God';"

and the splendor of the Italian night spoke to Edna's soul, as the
glory of the sunset had done some years before, when she sat in the
dust in the pine glades at Le Bocage; and she grew calm once more,
while out of the blue depths of the starlit sea came a sacred voice,
that said to her aching heart:

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world
giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it
be afraid."

The cup was not passing away; but courage to drain it was given by Him
who never calls his faithful children into the gloom of Gethsemane
without having first stationed close at hand some strengthening angel.
The governess went back to the bed, and there, on the pillow, rested
the moth, which at her approach flew away with a humming sound, and
disappeared.

After another hour she saw that a change was stealing over the boy's
countenance, and his pulse fluttered more feebly against her cold
fingers. She sprang into the next room, shook his mother, and hastened
back, trying to rouse the dying child, and give him some stimulants.
But though the large, black eyes opened when she raised his head, there
was no recognition in their fixed gaze; for the soul was preparing for
its final flight, and was too busy to look out of its windows.

In vain they resorted to the most powerful restoratives; he remained in
the heavy stupor, with no sign of animation, save the low irregular
breath, and the weak flutter of the thread-like pulse.

Mrs. Andrews wept aloud and wrung her hands, and Hattie cried
passionately, as she stood in her long white nightgown at the side of
her brother's bed; but there were no tears on Edna's cold, gray face.
She had spent them all at the foot of God's throne; and now that He had
seen fit to deny her petition, she silently looked with dry eyes at the
heavy rod that smote her.

The night waned, the life with it; now and then the breathing seemed to
cease, but after a few seconds a faint gasp told that the clay would
not yet forego its hold on the soul that struggled to be free.

The poor mother seemed almost beside herself, as she called on her
child to speak to her once more.

"Sing something, Edna; oh! perhaps he will hear! It might rouse him!"

The orphan shook her head, and dropped her face on his.

"He would not hear me; no, no! He is listening to the song of those
whose golden harps ring in the New Jerusalem."

Out of the whitening east rose the new day, radiant in bridal garments,
wearing a star on its pearly brow; and the sky flushed, and the sea
glowed, while silvery mists rolled up from the purple mountain gorges,
and rested awhile on the summits of the Apennines, and sunshine
streamed over the world once more.

The first rays flashed into the room, kissing the withered flowers on
the bosom of the cripple, and falling warm and bright on the cold
eyelids and the pulseless temples. Edna's hand was pressed to his
heart, and she knew that it had given its last throb; knew that Felix
Andrews had crossed the sea of glass, and in the dawn of the Eternal
day wore the promised morning-star, and stood in peace before the Sun
of Righteousness.

       *       *      *       *       *       *       *

During the two days that succeeded the death of Felix, Edna did not
leave her room; and without her knowledge Mrs. Andrews administered
opiates that stupefied her. Late on the morning of the third she awoke,
and lay for some time trying to collect her thoughts.

Her mind was clouded, but gradually it cleared, and she strained her
ears to distinguish the low words spoken in the apartment next to her
own. She remembered, as in a feverish dream, all that passed on the
night that Felix died; and pressing her hand over her aching forehead,
she rose and sat on the edge of her bed.

The monotonous sounds in the neighboring room swelled louder for a few
seconds, and now she heard very distinctly the words:

"And I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are
the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth."

She shivered, and wrapped around her shoulders a bright blue shawl that
had been thrown over the foot of the bed.

Walking across the floor, she opened the door, and looked in.

The boy's body had been embalmed, and placed in a coffin which rested
in the centre of the room; and an English clergyman, a friend of Mr.
Manning's, stood at the head of the corpse, and read the burial service.

Mrs. Andrews and Hattie were weeping in one corner and Mr. Manning
leaned against the window, with his hand on Lila's curls. As the door
swung open and Edna entered, he looked up.

Her dressing gown of gray merino trailed on the marble floor, and her
bare feet gleamed like ivory, as one hand caught up the soft merino
folds sufficiently to enable her to walk. Over the blue shawl streamed
her beautiful hair, making the wan face look even more ghastly by
contrast with its glossy jet masses.

She stood irresolute, with her calm, mournful eyes riveted on the
coffin, and Mr. Manning saw her pale lips move as she staggered toward
it. He sprang to meet and intercept her, and she stretched her hands in
the direction of the corpse, and smiled strangely, murmuring like one
in a troubled dream:

"You need not be afraid, little darling, 'there is no night there.'"

She reeled and put her hand to her heart, and would have fallen, but
Mr. Manning caught and carried her back to her room.

For two weeks she hovered on the borders of eternity; and often the
anxious friends who watched her, felt that they would rather see her
die than endure the suffering through which she was called to pass.

She bore it silently, meekly, and when the danger seemed over, and she
was able to sleep without the aid of narcotics, Mrs. Andrews could not
bear to look at the patient white face, so hopelessly calm.

No allusion was made to Felix, even after she was able to sit up and
drive; but once, when Mr. Manning brought her some flowers, she looked
sorrowfully at the snowy orange-blossoms, whose strong perfume made her
turn paler, and said faintly:

"I shall never love them or violets again. Take them away, Hattie, out
of my sight; put them on your brother's grave. They smell of death."

From that day she made a vigorous effort to rouse herself, and the
boy's name never passed her lips; though she spent many hours over a
small manuscript which she found among his books, directed to her for
revision. "Tales for Little Cripples," was the title he had given it,
and she was surprised at the beauty and pathos of many of the
sentences. She carefully revised and rewrote it, adding a brief sketch
of the young writer, and gave it to his mother.

About a month after Felix's death the governess seemed to have
recovered her physical strength, and Mrs. Andrews announced her
intention of going to Germany. Mr. Manning had engagements that called
him to France, and, on the last day of their stay at Genoa, he came as
usual to spend the evening with Edna.

A large budget of letters and papers had arrived from America; and when
he gave her the package containing her share, she glanced over the
directions, threw them unopened into a heap on the table, and continued
the conversation in which she was engaged, concerning the architecture
of the churches in Genoa.

Mrs. Andrews had gone to the vault where the body of her son had been
temporarily placed, and Edna was alone with the editor.

"You ought to look into your papers; they contain very gratifying
intelligence for you. Your last book has gone through ten editions, and
your praises are chanted all over your native land. Surely, if ever a
woman had adulation enough to render her perfectly happy and pardonably
proud, you are the fortunate individual. Already your numerous readers
are inquiring when you will give them another book."

She leaned her head back against her chair, and the little hands
caressed each other as they rested on her knee, while her countenance
was eloquent with humble gratitude for the success that God had
permitted to crown her efforts; but she was silent.

"Do you intend to write a book of travels, embracing the incidents that
have marked your tour? I see the public expect it."

"No, sir. It seems now a mere matter of course that all scribblers who
come to Europe, should afflict the reading world with an account of
what they saw or failed to see. So many noble books have been already
published, thoroughly describing this continent, that I have not the
temerity, the presumption to attempt to retouch the grand old
word-pictures. At present, I expect to write nothing. I want to study
some subjects that greatly interest me, and I shall try to inform and
improve myself, and keep silent until I see some phase of truth
neglected, or some new aspect of error threatening mischief in society.
Indeed, I have great cause for gratitude in my literary career. At the
beginning I felt apprehensive that I was destined to sit always under
the left hand of fortune, whom Michael Angelo designed as a lovely
woman seated on a revolving wheel, throwing crowns and laurel wreaths
from her right hand, while only thorns dropped in a sharp, stinging
shower from the other; but, after a time, the wheel turned, and now I
feel only the soft pattering of the laurel leaves. God knows I do most
earnestly appreciate His abundant blessing upon what I have thus far
striven to effect; but, until I see my way clearly to some subject of
importance which a woman's hand may touch, I shall not take up my pen.
Books seem such holy things to me, destined to plead either for or
against their creators in the final tribunal, that I dare not lightly
or hastily attempt to write them; and I can not help thinking that the
author who is less earnestly and solemnly impressed with the gravity,
and, I may almost say, the sanctity of his or her work, is unworthy of
it, and of public confidence. I dare not, even if I could, dash off
articles and books as the rower shakes water-drops from his oars; and I
humbly acknowledge that what success I may have achieved is owing to
hard, faithful work. I have received so many kind letters from
children, that some time, if I live to be wise enough, I want to write
a book especially for them. I am afraid to attempt it just now; for it
requires more mature judgment and experience, and greater versatility
of talent to write successfully for children than for grown persons. In
the latter, one is privileged to assume native intelligence and
cultivation; but the tender, untutored minds of the former permit no
such margin; and this fact necessitates clearness and simplicity of
style, and power of illustration that seem to me very rare. As yet I am
conscious of my incapacity for the mission of preparing juvenile books;
but perhaps, if I study closely the characteristics of young people, I
shall learn to understand them more thoroughly. So much depends on the
proper training of our American youth, especially in view of the great
political questions that now agitate the country, that I confess I feel
some anxiety on the subject."

"But, Edna, you will not adhere to your resolution of keeping silent.
The public is a merciless task-master; your own ambition will scourge
you on; and having once put your hand to the literary plough, you will
not be allowed to look back. Rigorously the world exacts the full quota
of the author's arura."

"Yes, sir; but 'he that plougheth should plough in hope'; and when I
can see clearly across the wide field, and drive the gleaming share of
truth straight and steady to the end, then, and not till then, shall I
render my summer-day's arura. Meantime, I am resolved to plough no
crooked, shallow furrows on the hearts of our people."

At length when Mr. Manning rose to say good-night, he looked gravely at
the governess, and asked:

"Edna, can not Lila take the vacant place in your sad heart?"

"It is not vacant, sir. Dear memories walk to and fro therein, weaving
garlands of immortelles--singing sweet tunes of days and years--that
can never die. Hereafter I shall endeavor to entertain the precious
guests I have already, and admit no more. The past is the realm of my
heart; the present and future the kingdom where my mind must dwell, and
my hands labor."

With a sigh he went away, and she took up the letters and began to read
them. Many were from strangers, and they greatly cheered and encouraged
her; but finally she opened one, whose superscription had until this
instant escaped her cursory glance. It was from Mr. Hammond, and
contained an account of Mr. Murray's ordination. She read and re-read
it, with a half-bewildered expression in her countenance, for the joy
seemed far too great for credence. She looked again at the date and
signature, and passing her hand over her brow, wondered if there could
be any mistake. The paper fell into her lap, and a cry of delight rang
through the room.

"Saved--purified--consecrated henceforth to God's holy work? A minister
of Christ? O most merciful God! I thank Thee! My prayers are answered
with a blessing I never dared to hope for, or even to dream of! Can I
ever, ever be grateful enough? A pastor, holding up pure hands! Thank
God! my sorrows are all ended now; there is no more grief for me. Ah!
what a glory breaks upon the future! What though I never see his face
in this world? I can be patient indeed; for now I know, oh! I know that
I shall surely see it yonder!"

She sank on her knees at the open window, and wept for the first time
since Felix died. Happy, happy tears mingled with broken words of
rejoicing, that seemed a foretaste of heaven.

Her heart was so full of gratitude and exultation that she could not
sleep, and she sat down and looked over the sea while her face was
radiant and tremulous. The transition from patient hopelessness and
silent struggling--this most unexpected and glorious fruition of the
prayers of many years--was so sudden and intoxicating, that it
completely unnerved her.

She could not bear this great happiness as she had borne her sorrows,
and now and then she smiled to find tears gushing afresh from her
beaming eyes.

Once, in an hour of sinful madness, Mr. Murray had taken a human life,
and ultimately caused the loss of another; but the waves that were
running high beyond the mole told her in thunder-tones that he had
saved, had snatched two lives from their devouring rage. And the
shining stars overhead grouped themselves into characters that said to
her, "Judge not, that ye be not judged"; and the ancient mountains
whispered, "Stand still, and see the salvation of God!" and the
grateful soul of the lonely woman answered:

  "That all the jarring notes of life
   Seem blending in a psalm,
   And all the angels of its strife
   Slow rounding into calm."



CHAPTER XXXVII.


Immediately after her return to New York, Edna resumed her studies with
renewed energy, and found her physical strength recruited and her mind
invigorated by repose. Her fondness for Hattie induced her to remain
with Mrs. Andrews in the capacity of governess, though her position in
the family had long ceased to resemble in any respect that of a
hireling. Three hours of each day were devoted to the education of the
little girl, who, though vastly inferior in mental endowments to her
brother, was an engaging and exceedingly affectionate child, fully
worthy of the love which her gifted governess lavished upon her. The
remainder of her time Edna divided between study, music, and an
extensive correspondence, which daily increased.

She visited little, having no leisure and less inclination to fritter
away her morning in gossip and chit-chat; but she set apart one evening
in each week for the reception of her numerous kind friends, and of all
strangers who desired to call upon her. These reunions were brilliant
and delightful, and it was considered a privilege to be present at
gatherings where eminent men and graceful, refined, cultivated
Christian women assembled to discuss ethical and aesthetic topics,
which all educated Americans are deemed capable of comprehending.

Edna's abhorrence of double entendre and of the fashionable sans souci
style of conversation, which was tolerated by many who really disliked
but had not nerve enough to frown it down, was not a secret to any one
who read her writings or attended her receptions. Without obtruding her
rigid views of true womanly delicacy and decorum upon any one, her
deportment under all circumstances silently published her opinion of
certain latitudinarian expressions prevalent in society.

She saw that the growing tendency to free and easy manners and
colloquial license was rapidly destroying all reverence for womanhood;
was levelling the distinction between ladies' parlors and gentlemen's
clubrooms; was placing the sexes on a platform of equality which was
dangerous to feminine delicacy, that God-built bulwark of feminine
purity and of national morality.

That time-honored maxim, "Honi soit qui mal y pense," she found had
been distorted from its original and noble significance, and was now a
mere convenient India-rubber cloak, stretched at will to cover and
excuse allusions which no really modest woman could tolerate.
Consequently, when she heard it flippantly pronounced in palliation of
some gross offense against delicacy, she looked more searchingly into
the characters of the indiscreet talkers, and quietly intimated to them
that their presence was not desired at her receptions. Believing that
modesty and purity were twin sisters, and that vulgarity and vice were
rarely if ever divorced, Edna sternly refused to associate with those
whose laxity of manners indexed, in her estimation, a corresponding
laxity of morals. Married belles and married beaux she shunned and
detested, regarding them as a disgrace to their families, as a blot
upon all noble womanhood and manhood, and as the most dangerous foes to
the morality of the community, in which they unblushingly violated
hearthstone statutes and the venerable maxims of social decorum.

The ostracized banded in wrath, and ridiculed her antiquated prudery;
but knowing that the pure and noble mothers, wives, and daughters,
honored and trusted her, Edna gave no heed to raillery and envious
malice, but resolutely obeyed the promptings of her womanly intuitions.

Painful experience had taught her the imprudence, the short-sighted
policy of working until very late at night; and in order to take due
care of her health, she wisely resorted to a different system of study,
which gave her more sleep, and allowed her some hours of daylight for
her literary labors.

In the industrial pursuits of her own sex she was intensely interested,
and spared no trouble in acquainting herself with the statistics of
those branches of employment already open to them; consequently she was
never so happy as when the recipient of letters from the poor women of
the land, who thanked her for the words of hope, advice, and
encouragement which she constantly addressed to them.

While the world honored her, she had the precious assurance that her
Christian countrymen loved and trusted her. She felt the painful need
of Mr. Manning's society, and even his frequent letters did not fully
satisfy her; but as he had resolved to remain in Europe, at least for
some years, she bore the irreparable loss of his counsel and sympathy,
as she bore all other privations, bravely and quietly.

Now and then alarming symptoms of the old suffering warned her of the
uncertainty of her life; and after much deliberation, feeling that her
time was limited, she commenced another book.

Mr. Hammond wrote begging her to come to him, as he was now hopelessly
infirm and confined to his room; but she shrank from a return to the
village so intimately associated with events which she wished if
possible to forget; and, though she declined the invitation, she proved
her affection for her venerable teacher, by sending him every day a
long, cheerful letter.

Since her departure from the parsonage, Mrs. Murray had never written
to her; but through Mr. Hammond's and Huldah's letters, Edna learned
that Mr. Murray was the officiating minister in the church which he had
built in his boyhood; and now and then the old pastor painted pictures
of life at Le Bocage, that brought happy tears to the orphan's eyes.
She heard from time to time of the good the new minister was
accomplishing among the poor; of the beneficial influence he exerted,
especially over the young men of the community; of the charitable
institutions to which he was devoting a large portion of his fortune;
of the love and respect, the golden opinions he was winning from those
whom he had formerly estranged by his sarcastic bitterness.

While Edna fervently thanked God for this most wonderful change, she
sometimes repeated exultingly:

  "Man-like is it to fall into sin,
   Fiend-like is it to dwell therein,
   Christ-like is it for sin to grieve,
   God-like is it all sin to leave!"

One darling rose-hued dream of her life was to establish a free-school
and circulating library in the village of Chattanooga; and keeping this
hope ever in view, she had denied herself all superfluous luxuries, and
jealously hoarded her savings.

She felt now that, should she become an invalid, and incapable of
writing or teaching, the money made by her books, which Mr. Andrews had
invested very judiciously, would at least supply her with the
necessities of life.

One evening she held her weekly reception as usual, though she had
complained of not feeling quite well that day.

A number of carriages stood before Mrs. Andrews's door and many friends
who laughed and talked to the governess little dreamed that it was the
last time they would spend an evening together in her society. The
pleasant hours passed swiftly; Edna had never conversed more
brilliantly, and the auditors thought her voice was richer and sweeter
than ever, as she sang the last song and rose from the piano.

The guests took their departure--the carriages rolled away.

Mrs. Andrews ran up to her room, and Edna paused in the brilliantly
lighted parlors to read a note, which had been handed to her during the
evening.

Standing under the blazing chandelier, the face and figure of this
woman could not fail to excite interest in all who gazed upon her.

She was dressed in plain black silk, which exactly fitted her form, and
in her hair glowed clusters of scarlet geranium flowers. A spray of red
fuchsia was fastened by the beautiful stone cameo that confined her
lace collar; and, save the handsome gold bands on her wrists, she wore
no other ornaments.

Felix had given her these bracelets as a Christmas present, and after
his death she never took them off; for inside he had his name and hers
engraved, and between them the word "Mizpah."

To-night the governess was very weary, and the fair sweet face wore its
old childish expression of mingled hopelessness, and perfect patience,
and indescribable repose. As she read, the tired look passed away, and
over her pallid features, so daintily sculptured, stole a faint glow,
such as an ivory Niobe might borrow from the fluttering crimson folds
of silken shroudings. The peaceful lips stirred also and the low tone
was full of pathos as she said:

"How very grateful I ought to be. How much I have to make me happy, to
encourage me to work diligently and faithfully. How comforting it is to
feel that parents have sufficient confidence in me to be willing to
commit their children to my care. What more can I wish? My cup is
brimmed with blessings. Ah! why am I not entirely happy?"

The note contained the signature of six wealthy gentlemen, who
requested her acceptance of a tasteful and handsome house, on condition
that she would consent to undertake the education of their daughters,
and permit them to pay her a liberal salary.

It was a flattering tribute to the clearness of her intellect, the
soundness of her judgment, the extent of her acquirements, and the
purity of her heart.

While she could not accede to the proposition, she appreciated most
gratefully the generosity and good opinion of those who made it.

Twisting the note between her fingers, her eyes fell on the carpet, and
she thought of all her past; of the sorrows, struggles, and
heart-aches, the sleepless nights and weary, joyless days--first of
adverse, then of favorable criticism; of toiling, hoping, dreading,
praying; and now, in the peaceful zenith of her triumph, popularity,
and usefulness, she realized

  "That care and trial seem at last,
   Through Memory's sunset air,
   Like mountain ranges overpast,
   In purple distance fair."

The note fluttered to the floor, the hands folded themselves together,
and she raised her eyes to utter an humble, fervent "Thank God!" But
the words froze on her lips; for as she looked up, she saw Mr. Murray
standing a few feet from her.

"God has pardoned all my sins, and accepted me as a laborer worthy to
enter His vineyard. Is Edna Earl more righteous than the Lord she
worships?"

His face was almost as pale as hers, and his voice trembled as he
extended his arms toward her.

She stood motionless, looking up at him with eyes that brightened until
their joyful radiance seemed indeed unearthly; and the faint, delicate
blush on her cheeks deepened and burned, as with a quivering cry of
gladness that told volumes, she hid her face in her hands.

He came nearer, and the sound of his low, mellow voice thrilled her
heart as no other music had ever done.

"Edna, have you a right to refuse me forgiveness, when the blood of
Christ has purified me from the guilt of other years?"

She trembled and said brokenly:

"Mr. Murray--you never wronged me--and I have nothing to forgive."

"Do you still believe me an unprincipled hypocrite?"

"Oh! no, no, no!"

"Do you believe that my repentance has been sincere, and acceptable to
my insulted God? Do you believe that I am now as faithfully endeavoring
to serve Him, as a remorseful man possibly can?"

"I hope so, Mr. Murray."

"Edna, can you trust me now?"

Some seconds elapsed before she answered, and then the words were
scarcely audible.

"I trust you."

"Thank God!"

There was a brief pause, and she heard a heavily-drawn sigh escape him.

"Edna, it is useless to tell you how devotedly I love you, for you have
known that for years; and yet you have shown my love no mercy. But
perhaps if you could realize how much I need your help in my holy work,
how much more good I could accomplish in the world if you were with me,
you might listen, without steeling yourself against me, as you have so
long done. Can you, will you trust me fully? Can you be a minister's
wife, and aid him as only you can? Oh, my darling, my darling! I never
expect to be worthy of you! But you can make me less unworthy! My own
darling, come to me."

He stood within two feet of her, but he was--too humble? Nay, nay, too
proud to touch her without permission.

Her hands fell from her crimson cheeks, and she looked up at the
countenance of her king.

In her fond eyes he seemed noble and sanctified, and worthy of all
confidence; and as he opened his arms once more, she glided into them
and laid her head on his shoulder, whispering:

"Oh! I trust you! I trust you fully!"

Standing in the close, tender clasp of his strong arms, she listened to
a narration of his grief and loneliness, his hopes and fears, his
desolation and struggles and prayers during their long separation. Then
for the first time she learned that he had come more than once to New
York, solely to see her, having exacted a promise from Mr. Manning that
he would not betray his presence in the city. He had followed her at a
distance as she wandered with the children through the Park; and, once
in the ramble, stood so close to her that he put out his hand and
touched her dress. Mr. Manning had acquainted him with all that had
ever passed between them on the subject of his unsuccessful suit; and
during her sojourn in Europe, had kept him regularly advised of the
state of her health.

At last, when Mr. Murray bent his head to press his lips again to hers,
he exclaimed in the old, pleading tone that had haunted her memory for
years:

"Edna, with all your meekness you are wilfully proud. You tell me you
trust me, and you nestle your dear head here on my shoulder--why won't
you say what you know so well I am longing, hungering to hear? Why
won't you say, 'St. Elmo, I love you'?"

The glowing face was only pressed closer.

"My little darling!"

"Oh, Mr. Murray! could I be here."

"Well, my stately Miss Earl! I am waiting most respectfully to allow
you an opportunity of expressing yourself."

No answer.

He laughed as she had heard him once before, when he took her in his
arms and dared her to look into his eyes.

"When I heard your books extolled; when I heard your praises from men,
women, and children; when I could scarcely pick up a paper without
finding some mention of your name; when I came here to-night, and paced
the pavement, waiting for your admirers to leave the house; whenever
and wherever I have heard your dear name uttered, I have been
exultingly proud! For I knew that the heart of the people's pet was
mine! I gloried in the consciousness which alone strengthened and
comforted me, that, despite all that the public could offer you,
despite the adulation of other men, and despite my utter unworthiness,
my own darling was true to me! that you never loved any one but S. Elmo
Murray! And as God reigns above us, His happy world holds no man so
grateful, so happy, so proud as I am! No man so resolved to prove
himself worthy of his treasure! Edna, looking back across the dark
years that have gone so heavily over my head, and comparing you, my
pure, precious darling, with that woman, whom in my boyhood I selected
for my life-companion, I know not whether I am most humble, or
grateful, or proud!

  'Ah I who am I, that God hath saved
   Me from the doom I did desire,
   And crossed the lot myself had craved
   To set me higher?
   What have I done that he should bow
   From heaven to choose a wife for me?
   And what deserved, he should endow
   My home with THEE?'"

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

As Mr. Hammond was not able to take the fatiguing journey North, and
Edna would not permit any one else to perform her marriage ceremony,
she sent Mr. Murray home without her, promising to come to the
parsonage as early as possible.

Mr. and Mrs. Andrews were deeply pained by the intelligence of her
approaching departure, and finally consented to accompany her on her
journey.

The last day of the orphan's sojourn in New York was spent at the quiet
spot where Felix slept his last sleep; and it caused her keen grief to
bid good-bye to his resting-place, which was almost as dear to her as
the grave of her grandfather. Their affection had been so warm, so
sacred, that she clung fondly to his memory; and it was not until she
reached the old village depot, where carriages were waiting for the
party, that the shadow of that day entirely left her countenance.

In accordance with her own request, Edna did not see Mr. Murray again
until the hour appointed for their marriage.

It was a bright, beautiful afternoon, warm with sunshine, when she
permitted Mrs. Murray to lead her into the study where the party had
assembled. Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, Hattie, Huldah, and the white-haired
pastor, were all there, and when Edna entered, Mr. Murray advanced to
meet her, and received her hand from his mother.

The orphan's eyes were bent to the floor, and never once lifted, even
when the trembling voice of her beloved pastor pronounced her St. Elmo
Murray's wife. The intense pallor of her face frightened Mrs. Andrews,
who watched her with suspended breath, and once moved eagerly toward
her. Mr. Murray felt her lean more heavily against him during the
ceremony; and, now turning to take her in his arms, he saw that her
eyelashes had fallen on her cheeks--she had lost all consciousness of
what was passing.

Two hours elapsed before she recovered fully from the attack; and when
the blood showed itself again in lips that were kissed so repeatedly,
Mr. Murray lifted her from the sofa in the study, and passing his arm
around her, said:

"To-day I snap the fetters of your literary bondage. There shall be no
more books written! No more study, no more toil, no more anxiety, no
more heartaches! And that dear public you love so well, must even help
itself, and whistle for a new pet. You belong solely to me now, and I
shall take care of the life you have nearly destroyed in your
inordinate ambition. Come, the fresh air will revive you."

They stood a moment under the honeysuckle arch over the parsonage gate,
where the carriage was waiting to take them to Le Bocage, and Mr.
Murray asked:

"Are you strong enough to go to the church?"

"Yes, sir; the pain has all passed away. I am perfectly well again."

They crossed the street, and he took her in his arms and carried her up
the steps, and into the grand, solemn church, where the soft, holy,
violet light from the richly-tinted glass streamed over gilded
organ-pipes and sculptured columns.

Neither Edna nor St. Elmo spoke as they walked down the aisle; and in
perfect silence both knelt before the shining altar, and only God heard
their prayers of gratitude.

After some moments Mr. Murray put out his hand, took Edna's, and
holding it in his on the balustrade, he prayed aloud, asking God's
blessing on their marriage, and fervently dedicating all their future
to His work.

The hectic flush of the dying day was reflected on the window high
above the altar, and, burning through the red mantle of the Christ,
fell down upon the marble shrine like sacred, sacrificial fire.

Edna felt as if her heart could not hold all its measureless joy. It
seemed a delightful dream to see Mr. Murray kneeling at her side; to
hear his voice earnestly consecrating their lives to the service of
Jesus Christ.

She knew from the tremor in his tone, and the tears in his eyes, that
his dedication was complete; and now to be his companion through all
the remaining years of their earthly pilgrimage, to be allowed to help
him and love him, to walk heavenward with her hand in his; this--this
was the crowning glory and richest blessing of her life.

When his prayer ended, she laid her head down on the altar-railing, and
sobbed like a child.

In the orange glow of a wintry sunset they came out and sat down on the
steps, while a pair of spotless white pigeons perched on the
blood-stain; and Mr. Murray put his arm around Edna, and drew her face
to his bosom.

"Darling, do you remember that once, in the dark days of my reckless
sinfulness, I asked you one night, in the library at Le Bocage, if you
had no faith in me? And you repeated so vehemently, 'None, Mr. Murray!'"

"Oh, sir! do not think of it. Why recur to what is so painful and so
long past? Forgive those words and forget them! Never was more implicit
faith, more devoted affection, given to any human being than I give now
to you, Mr. Murray; you, who are my first and my last and my only love."

She felt his arm tighten around her waist, as he bowed his face to hers.

"Forgive? Ah, my darling! do you recollect also that I told you then
that the time would come when your dear lips would ask pardon for what
they uttered that night, and that when that hour arrived I would take
my revenge? My wife! my pure, noble, beautiful wife! give me my
revenge, for I cry with the long-banished Roman:

  'Oh! a kiss--long as my exile
   Sweet as my revenge!'"

He put his hand under her chin, drew the lips to his, and kissed them
repeatedly.

Down among the graves, in the brown grass and withered leaves, behind a
tall shaft, around which coiled a carved marble serpent with hooded
head-there, amid the dead, crouched a woman's figure, with a stony face
and blue chatoyant eyes, that glared with murderous hate at the sweet
countenance of the happy bride. When St. Elmo tenderly kissed the pure
lips of his wife, Agnes Powell smothered a savage cry, and Nemesis was
satisfied as the wretched woman fell forward on the grass, sweeping her
yellow hair over her eyes, to shut out the vision that maddened her.

Then and there, for the first time, as she sat enfolded by her
husband's arm, Edna felt that she could thank him for the monument
erected over her grandfather's grave.

The light faded slowly in the west, the pigeons ceased their fluttering
about the belfry, and as he turned to quit the church, so dear to both,
Mr. Murray stretched his hand toward the ivy-clad vault, and said
solemnly:

"I throw all mournful years behind me; and, by the grace of God, our
new lives, commencing this hallowed day, shall make noble amends for
the wasted past. Loving each other, aiding each other, serving Christ,
through whose atonement alone I have been saved from eternal ruin. To
Thy merciful guidance, O Father! we commit our future."

Edna looked reverently up at his beaming countenance, whence the
shadows of hate and scorn had long since passed; and, as his splendid
eyes came back to hers, reading in her beautiful, pure face all her
love and confidence and happy hope, he drew her closer to his bosom,
and laid his dark cheek on hers, saying fondly and proudly:

  "My wife, my life. Oh! we will walk this world,
   Yoked in all exercise of noble end,
   And so through those dark gates across the wild
   That no man knows. My hopes and thine are one;
   Accomplish thou my manhood, and thyself,
   Lay thy sweet hands in mine and trust to me."

THE END.





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